They did not save any time at Ollivander's. There had been a dozen wands that had made sparks for Harry and seemed exactly as functional as his willow wand, but none of these had satisfied the wandmaker. Harry must have spent thirty minutes in the shop, ever-cognisant of Petri's increasingly impatient stare burning into his back, waving wands until his arm and brain went numb. He was shaken out of his tired stupor very soundly, however, by the old man's closing remark.
"Do you think it's just a coincidence?" Harry blurted out as soon as they were back in the loud, bustling atmosphere of Diagon Alley. "That my wand has the same core as the Dark Lord's?"
Petri, who was walking slightly behind him, grunted in the back of his throat. "It most likely has something to do with that hand. It's his, after all."
Harry grimaced. Ollivander had insisted that he try wands with his right hand, despite Harry's protests that he was planning on using his left to cast.
"Your wand hand is more than just the hand that holds your wand," the batty old man had whispered nonsensically, pressing wand after wand into his silver hand before snatching them away just as quickly. At the time, the reason for these rejections had eluded him, but he could not deny now that there was something about his new holly and phoenix feather wand that felt right in a way that Horst's wand never had. The wood was pleasantly warm to the touch, perhaps because of the phoenix feather encased within, and just holding it made him feel empowered and confident, which sounded daft out loud but was simply true.
When he moved it to his left hand, that feeling suddenly vanished, leaving him breathlessly bereft.
"Can I use this one with my right hand, and my old one with my left? It feels better that way," Harry asked as they returned to the coffin house, half expecting Petri to scold him for being delusional.
But Petri shrugged. "As long as you do not interchange them, it should hardly matter which wand you use with which hand in the end. Your new wand will learn quickly enough. It is left-handed casting in general that you may have difficulty with. Your magical flow is likely weaker on your left side and you won't be developing the dexterity for proper wandwork overnight."
Harry winced at the thought, remembering how long it had taken him to master waving his wand in a decent circle, even with his dominant hand.
"So do I swish in the same or opposite direction?" Harry asked, taking out his willow wand.
"What do you think? The standard wand movement does not change just because you're using a different hand," Petri told him.
Harry frowned. "Why can't I use the same wand for both hands, if it's the same?"
Petri rolled his eyes. "Think for a moment, boy! Unless you believe you can achieve exactly the same motion with both hands, the same movement will not actually be the same movement. Your two hands may not even have compatible styles."
Harry looked pensively down to the wand in his right hand. He really had put it there because it had felt off in his left, had he not? Perhaps Petri had a point.
Harry was a little bit excited to cast with his left hand, imagining what it would be like if he could wield two wands at once in a duel. It was ridiculous—he'd probably get tongue tied trying to alternate hands while he had only one mouth to say incantations with, but the idea still brought a grin to his face.
He took a piece of parchment and sketched the simple slash of the severing charm. "Diffindo!"
A small perforation opened up in the centre, but the parchment did not tear in two as he had envisioned. Harry sighed. This was going to take a while.
A cascade of colourful packages landed on top of his practise parchment. Harry blinked at them. "Are these—"
"The rest of your Christmas presents," Petri said. "Open them and put them away before you practise. They've been taking up space for days."
Harry felt a lump suddenly come into his throat. Petri eyed him knowingly.
"They're not cursed. I've checked."
"How would I check though, in the future? Spell-revealing doesn't work on strong curses right? And what about structure sight? How can I tell whether something's a curse?" Harry blurted. Petri blinked.
"You've learned structure sight at school, then?" he asked, and Harry realised that this was the first time he had ever mentioned it to Petri. He wanted to smack himself in the face for not asking his literal enchanting master to help him with the charm before.
"Yeah," he mumbled.
"Show me," said Petri. Harry glanced doubtfully down at his silver limb, then at his willow wand in his flesh hand. With an impatient noise, Petri said, "Try a few basic spells then. Get used to your new wand."
Harry took out the holly wand and levitated one of his presents. Fortunately, the new wand was exactly the same length as his old one, so it wasn't at all awkward in his hand. Though the spell was a little wobbly at first, after just two tries it grew perfectly steady. The severing charm worked to cut a ribbon, and now Harry really wanted to know what was in the package, even as his hand prickled with phantom pain.
Petri gave an approving nod. "It shouldn't take long to adapt to common spells as long as your wand movement is reasonably standard. Try the structure sight now."
Harry tried the spell on himself first to remind himself of how it was supposed to go. The whole room dissolved into a soup of reds, yellows, and blues—right, his glasses were also enchanted. He cancelled the spell and pointed his wand at Petri, who indicated for him to proceed.
"Structuram vedo," he cast.
Harry winced as Petri made a funny sound in the back of his throat. "Didn't they teach you spatial remapping?"
"No?" Harry said, flummoxed. He couldn't remember reading about anything like that in the basic Compendium entry. Petri sighed and cancelled the spell, before sketching the complex wand movement at Harry.
Immediately, Harry's vision was filled with a network of orbs that pulsed in a rainbow of colours. When he turned his head, the colours and configuration changed fluidly, some orbs brightening or winking out, some connections flaring to life and others sizzling away.
"I find this format much preferable to the natural mapping," Petri said. "Trying to let shape and size represent both physical properties and magical properties simultaneously is extremely messy and confusing. Here the intensity represents distance from you, which is the only relevant physical measure. The hue reveals the effect of the magic, and the size its current level of activity. You will also see connectors showing which effects are enchanted together and which are independent charms. Take off your spectacles and look at your thief's hand. If you see anything like that, it's probably cursed."
Harry pulled off his glasses and held up his hand. He was immediately greeted by a bright indigo constellation which settled into neat spiral, out of the centre of which sprouted intertwined red and blue strands that ended in tiny but brilliant bursts of orange, like a firework. It was strangely pretty.
"When there are both blue and red connections between two points, that's usually an activation condition. You see the yellow on the other end?"
Harry nodded, causing the image to wobble bewilderingly. He pressed his hand up to his face to steady it.
"It may be difficult to distinguish, but if you look closely there is a separate red configuration caged inside the yellow. What shape do you see?"
"Sort of a figure eight," Harry said, squinting reflexively, as if that would help him focus better.
"The hallmark of a physical compulsion. The more you attempt to fight it, the stronger it becomes. At a guess, it will force your hand to turn against you under some condition. You also see that everything cascades into a single, central point?" Petri asked.
"A preferred curse structure. It's relatively easy to modify or even undo the peripheral effects, but in order to break the core spell, you need to remove every other layer one at a time. Because of the depth, it is resistant to finite, and the most dangerous aspects of the curse will activate long before you can begin to counter them," Petri explained.
Harry tried to apply these learnings to his presents, but most of them turned out to be non-magical. The only spells he saw were tiny and simple, with none of the edges and layers featured in his silver hand.
"They're probably spelled sweets," Petri told him.
Indeed, Harry opened up the packages to find chocolate frogs and fizzing whizbees from his roommates. He set them aside for later. A slightly more magical package had come from Neville.
It was a fancy pounce pot with silver filigree vines. The note said that it was spelled to distribute just the right amount to size any paper to standard. There was also a second note, or rather, letter, from Neville:
I hope you're all right now. I read about what happened in the paper, but I'm sure it isn't the whole story. Gran says it's indecent that they printed anything about it all. You don't have to tell me anything if you don't want to. I just wanted to check if you're okay, and send you some rue. It's supposed to increase your sensitivity to danger if you keep a bit of leaf in your mouth (I know it sounds inconvenient, but you can use a sticking charm to keep it under your tongue). It's not much, and you don't have to use it if you don't want to, but maybe it'll help.
Harry flipped over the letter and spotted a folded up bit of newsprint spellotaped to the back. Peeling it back revealed a handful of greyish leaves. A pungent odour immediately rushed into his nostrils, and he reeled.
"What is it?" Petri asked. He narrowed his eyes and gave a sniff. "What's next—poison?"
"I hope not," Harry muttered weakly, but Petri had a point. His first instinct was to think that of course Neville would never try to kill him, but he had thought the same exact thing about Vince. Granted, Vince had always been flaky where Neville was reliable, but they had been friends all the same.
Harry still felt terrible for running to his trunk for Ingrid's Ingredient Index and One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi, heart thudding in his ears. He felt himself flush all the way up to his ears when the books told him, in more academic terms, exactly what Neville had written. Biting his lip, Harry compared the leaf to the sketch in his text, before finally snipping off a leaflet and sticking it under his tongue.
His mouth immediately went dry at the awful bitterness, and he had to swallow several times in rapid succession and hold his breath to avoid spitting it out. He distracted himself by returning to his presents, setting Neville's letter aside to reply to later.
The final package was a square one from Luna Lovegood. He blinked, not having expected anything from her and not having got her anything himself. He peeled back the radish-patterned wrapping paper, unsurprised to see that it was a book.
"The Tales of Beedle the Bard," he read. The cover was illustrated—as he watched, a white rabbit hopped across the page, disappearing behind a large stump. The image melted slowly into that of an elaborate fountain. Harry's gaze flickered up to where a knotted cord poked over the spine.
He tilted the book up and it fell open to the marked page. The left side was printed in runes, but fortunately the right was in modern English. "The Tale of the Three Brothers," it read, and Harry recalled now the story that Luna had started telling him when he had shown her his invisibility cloak. Below the title, somebody had drawn a strange symbol—a circle inscribed in a triangle, bisected by a vertical line.
Noticing that the bookmark wasn't a bookmark at all, but a wooden pendant with the same symbol inscribed into it, Harry picked it up, bemused.
"Who sent you that?" Petri demanded with sudden vigour. Harry dropped the pendant in surprise, and Petri summoned it and held it up to the nearest bluebell flame. "Das Wappen des Blutes," he murmured.
The crest of blood?
"What does it mean?" Harry asked. Petri didn't seem alarmed, but rather, astonished.
"It's Gellert's—Grindelwald's signature. You've learned of him at school, have you not?" Petri said, and Harry nodded, even though Binns was useless and the only substantial information he knew had actually come from Lord Voldemort. Petri continued, "Those of us who made blood oaths to him received pendants like this one. Not exactly like this, but this is certainly the same symbol. Who sent this to you?"
"Luna Lovegood," Harry said. "She's a first year. It's in this book, too."
Harry showed Petri the book, and he furrowed his brow as he took it, thumbing through the pages.
"It's a children's book," he said finally. "Perhaps it's only a coincidence?"
He did not sound like he quite believed it himself. Harry finally spotted a folded note lying in the remains of the packaging. He snatched it up.
Happy Christmas Harry!
Here's the book with the 'Tale of the Three Brothers' in it. I never did get around to telling you the whole story. You should read the other stories too, if you haven't heard of them already. Let me know if you think your cloak could be Death's cloak! Wouldn't that be nifty? You can join the Seekers of the Deathly Hallows, and you'll even be ahead by one Hallow. If you wear that pendant, it'll let others know that you're a believer.
Even more confused, Harry held the note out to Petri. "Luna's sort of… strange. I think her father runs a periodical full of conspiracy theories. Maybe it really is just a coincidence."
But Petri wasn't listening to him—he seemed to be reading the book in detail. A deep frown had crept onto his face.
"The wand," he muttered under his breath, blinking rapidly. "Could it be? But no. If he could not have failed to win the duel, then…"
Harry had to bite deeply into his lip to keep from demanding what Petri was talking about. That was a sure-fire way to get hexed.
"Read this story," Petri told him after a minute, passing the book back, still opened to 'The Tale of the Three Brothers'.
Harry remembered the first part. It was just as Luna had told it—three brothers, accomplished wizards, conjured a bridge to cross an otherwise impassable river, where Death, enraged at their survival and full of trickery, gave them each a reward of their choosing. Then came the moral of the story, the part Luna had left out. The two older brothers, who had arrogantly thought to cheat Death, quickly lost their lives, while the youngest evaded him for a long while. But in the end, he, too, died.
"And then he greeted Death as an old friend, and went with him gladly, and, equals, they departed this life," Harry read aloud, his breath quickening suddenly as he drew an unwelcome parallel with Lord Voldemort's offer.
'When the time comes that you tire of this life, then you will seek me out, and I shall kill you.'
Heedless of this dark thought, Petri said, eyes shining, "I understand exactly why somebody would believe that the objects in this fairy tale are real. Do you see it?"
Harry frowned. The objects seemed mythical enough to him, even with his limited understanding of what could and couldn't be done with magic. A wand that could win any duel? Fanciful. Bringing back the dead? True resurrection was beyond what anybody had ever accomplished. And the cloak… well, Harry wasn't sure the cloak in the story actually did anything.
"No," he finally admitted, after along pause. "Could I have a hint?"
"Does the stone remind you of something?" Petri asked.
"Well, a resurrection stone, like it says," Harry said immediately. He'd had that thought the first time Luna had told him the story. "But a resurrection stone doesn't actually 'recall the dead' that way."
"Of course not," said Petri, rolling his eyes. "But it could appear to. A skilled conjurer with a well-made resurrection stone might seem to have spirits at his beck and call."
"But what about the wand? How can a wand make you win a duel when you still have to cast all the spells? Even if the brother in the story was a real person, isn't it more likely that he was just lying about it?" Harry protested.
"Necromancy," said Petri.
"What?" Harry blurted, thrown. Petri did not like to use this word, out of what Harry had gathered was pedantic insistence that it referred only to a small part of the 'other arts', a part that emphatically did not include creating inferi and conjuring spirits, so he had no idea how it could relate to winning duels.
"Changing fate. If you walk into a duel where your opponent is fated to die, then you will be the winner, yes?" Petri said. Harry's jaw dropped. His mind raced.
"Could that work on my fate?" he couldn't help asking.
"It's magic, not a miracle," Petri told him with a flat look. "You remember how onerous it is to change someone's fate, do you not? Recall also that it is even more difficult on a living target, and only temporary. You might increase your odds, but I should think even a tenfold increase will do you no good against the Dark Lord."
Harry flushed. Petri was probably right. Ten times zero was still zero.
"What if I had that wand?" Harry asked, unable to escape the frantic current of his wishful thinking. Petri snorted.
"If that wand is real, then its master is Albus Dumbledore," he said.
Harry was gaping again, completely astonished by this crash landing of fiction into reality. "Because he's never lost a duel?" he asked, speculating wildly.
"Because he won it from Gellert Grindelwald," Petri corrected.
"In a duel?" Harry checked, and Petri nodded. "But that's not even possible, right? If Grindelwald had an unbeatable wand, wouldn't he have won?"
A pensive look came over Petri's face. "If the wand exists and works through manipulating fate—and I can think of no other way for it to work—then it is only unbeatable if you are duelling to kill. And Gellert… Gellert never duelled to kill. He preferred words, or failing that, to lay traps and hazards for his enemies to end themselves."
Harry's eyes widened as something Dumbledore had said suddenly came to mind. He had claimed with confidence that he could beat Lord Voldemort in a duel, but only if he were aiming to kill. And then, in the same breath, he had told Harry that he never would, that he could under no circumstances take a life.
"What's the point of having a theoretically unbeatable wand if you never actually use it?" Harry mumbled, flummoxed. If the wand really was real, it seemed like Dumbledore wasn't even the first to avoid exercising its power, so it couldn't be a matter of ethics.
"I don't know," Petri said. "Perhaps this is all nothing more than a foolish flight of fancy. Gellert might have simply taken a liking to this fairy tale, or even invented his signature independently. Still, I am curious. Your invisibility cloak once belonged to your father, yes? So it must be at least thirteen years old, likely older. I would expect some signs of wear or fading at this point. Could I take a look at it?"
Harry was leery of experimenting on his cloak, but he had to admit that he, too, was curious. So he ran into the bedroom and back, cloak draped over his arm.
"Put it on and move around a bit," said Petri, and peered carefully at Harry once he did. "I don't see anything, not even a shimmer."
"What about structure sight?" Harry asked.
"Structure sight is fooled by spells that interfere with your ordinary sight, but if you take it off first, it should be visible," Petri said. Harry removed the cloak, only for Petri to make a soft sound of surprise as he cast the charm on himself. "I stand corrected. I see nothing."
"What does that mean?" Harry demanded, a little excited despite himself.
Petri cancelled his spell. "Normally I would say it means it's made from natural materials, like demiguise hair, rather than imbued with disillusionment or bedazzlement, but I've never heard of demiguise fabric remaining invisible for longer than a few years without some sort of enchantment to preserve it. Additionally, if you simply examine the material," he said, picking up a corner of the cloak and pulling taut in the light, "you can see that the fibres are extremely fine, closer to silk than animal hair."
Harry, knowing nothing about textiles, took his word for it. "You don't think it's really Death's cloak?" he joked.
Worryingly, Petri did not respond for a long, considering moment. "If it is, then it should hide you from Death's sight. Put it on again."
"You're not going to try to kill me, are you?" Harry asked, edging away a little. To his relief, Petri scoffed.
"Of course not—that's not what that means at all. Haven't you been paying attention? Death's sight clearly refers to necromancy."
"Oh." Mollified, Harry draped the cloak over himself and pulled up the hood. Petri reached into his sleeve pocket, pulling out a vial of what was probably blood. Harry eyed it suspiciously. "Is that my blood?"
"Of course," said Petri, like he didn't see what was wrong with this picture.
"When did you get that?" Harry demanded.
Petri glanced in his general direction with incredulity. "We sleep in the same room."
Harry's jaw dropped, but no sounds came out. Did Petri seriously draw his blood at will while he was asleep? He made a face.
An oblivious Petri next extracted a leather-bound book from his sleeve and summoned a quill, which he caught deftly between two fingers. Putting his wand away, he sat down, opened the book to a seemingly random page, and dipped the quill into Harry's blood. Then he positioned his hand over the parchment, as if preparing to write, but did not actually do so for a long time. Instead, he stared sullenly into the distance before springing into a sudden frenzy, tearing across the page and pausing only to load the quill with more blood. As suddenly as it had started, it ended; Petri sat back with a gasp, as if waking from a dream.
"What was that?" Harry blurted when it seemed that he was finished.
In lieu of answering, Petri read what he had written aloud: "Es dämmert um Mitternacht. Der falsche Freund sät den Verrat. Sein Garten wächst wie des Dunklen Lords Macht. Er erntet zu spät, hat alles schon gesagt—"
Petri slammed the book shut abruptly, a deep frown etched onto his face. Harry tried furiously to grasp the strange poem—there was something about sowing betrayal and the Dark Lord's power, and somebody had said something too late?
At this point, he noticed that the book resting under Petri's tense palm looked rather familiar.
"That's—that's not the cursed book is it? The one I told you about?" Harry choked out, his voice unexpectedly high.
"I volunteered to examine it for Dumbledore," Petri said, his shoulders slowly descending to a more relaxed position.
Harry didn't think his jaw could open any further without unhinging itself. "And he let you?"
"I'm to understand that he appreciates my help and my expertise in the dark arts, as he is very busy these days," said Petri levelly, though Harry detected a sardonic glint in his eye.
"With what?" Harry demanded.
"With running his little vigilante group for fighting the Dark Lord," Petri said. Harry blinked at this, suddenly understanding better what Lupin had said about 'people who oppose Lord Voldemort'.
Not to be so easily distracted, he said, "You're not going to die from that book too, are you?" It would serve him right, but unfortunately, Petri probably knew what he was doing.
"Everybody dies," he said. "This book simply helps you discover how. I'm extremely impressed with it so far. It turns one of the least useful forms of necromancy into something almost viable."
"And what's that?" Harry asked, scowling at the way Petri always managed to reveal just enough information to bait him into asking for a lesson.
"Psychography, or spirit writing. It's done while you're awake, with no material connection to the dead required, so you can see already that it should yield only mediocre results. You hold a quill and pray that the dead write you a meaningful message," Petri said, disdain dripping from his voice. "I haven't wasted your time with it so far, but perhaps you can try it with this book."
"No way!" Harry cried immediately, stepping back as if the book might leap up to attack him. "In case you forgot, that book killed someone at school."
"He killed himself," Petri corrected. "This book contributed to his motivation as much as any words might have. It isn't cursed, and I would scarcely consider it a dark artefact."
"I don't understand," Harry muttered. "How could you possibly read something in a book that makes you want to kill yourself? And what about Penelope—that other girl who had it, and got depressed?"
Petri hummed. "I don't know for certain, but I imagine that some people might find it unpleasant to learn that they are fated to die in the near future. They might wonder what point there is in accomplishing anything now, if it will never lead to anything greater. Then, they discover the fates of those around them. Perhaps their loved ones will die young, and they can't face them with that knowledge, carry the secret inside themselves without going mad. The dead do not impart random information. They reveal that which is most likely to drive you to join them. It is simply the price of necromancy."
Harry frowned. "So Penelope found out how she was going to die, too? Is that really that bad? I know I'm going to die at the Dark Lord's hand and… all right, so it's pretty bad, but I'm not just lying around moping about it." He glanced to the book again and it suddenly occurred to him that it wasn't just a piece of reusable parchment, but an actual book, with many pages. "Is everything that anybody's ever written in there still in there?"
"Yes," Petri said.
"Can I read it?" Harry asked.
"You can, but you won't understand it," Petri warned him. "Most of what's in there would have been incomprehensible rubbish even to the diviner, let alone someone without any of the relevant context. You'll most likely also be compelled to write in it."
"What?" Harry demanded. "How is that not dark magic?"
Petri rolled his eyes. "It's not intended to harm the user. It's simply a feature to induce effective psychography. I'd like to replicate it, in fact, or perhaps Dumbledore will allow me to keep the book. Anyway, remove your cloak. We aren't finished."
Harry, who had forgotten that he was still invisible, sheepishly shrugged the cloak off his shoulders.
"Stand there, and I'll try again," Petri said, taking position with the quill and blood once more. Harry crept closer this time so he could read over Petri's shoulder as the words spilled out. They were in English this time.
Child of summer, end at winter's hand. Beware the word that is not a command. Wands will cross that should never be crossed. A soul will be found that should never have been lost. Winter's child, by summer's demand, tips the hourglass, spills the sand.
They made no sense, and yet, these words struck a chord of deep foreboding inside Harry's chest. Petri jerked back to awareness a moment later, dropping the quill and studying the poem.
"It's not proof," he murmured, glancing at the discarded pile of silky cloth by Harry's feet, "but it is evidence. While you were under the cloak, writing with your blood still resulted in my fate. But now that you are visible, your blood reveals your fate, as one should expect."
"But what does it mean?" Harry asked. "What's the 'word that is not a command'?"
"A prophecy," Petri answered without even thinking. "Perhaps the hypothetical one that drove the Dark Lord to attempt to kill you. You remember?"
How could he not? Harry grimaced and nodded. Petri was lucky not to know how not-hypothetical it was.
"This is largely worthless," Petri said, gesturing to the words. "It will likely only make sense after the fact. One tenet of responsible grammatica is to know when not to attempt an interpretation at all." He shut the book with a decisive snap.
"So you were saying that my cloak stopped you from telling my future?" Harry asked, picking up the garment in question and folding it up properly.
"So it seems," Petri confirmed. "We might do other tests later, though most other forms of necromancy are significantly more onerous."
"Is that actually useful for anything, though?" Harry wondered. "I mean, I can't hide under it all the time, or even most of the time, so it wouldn't stop anybody for long, if they wanted to change my fate or something."
Petri looked pensive. "I'm not sure. It's possible that it does more than negate necromancy. It might actually shield you from fate."
"You mean, as long as I'm under it, I can't die?" Harry asked.
Petri shrugged. "You could still die, but the cause could no longer be predetermined. It isn't something that can be tested," he pointed out. "I wouldn't count on that theory."
It was too late. Harry's imagination was already running away from him. It all fit with the story. The third brother had taken off the cloak when he was ready to die, and not before. If hiding under the cloak actually made him no longer destined to be killed by the Dark Lord, Harry would happily revise his opinion about how impossible it was to stay under it indefinitely.
A tapping from above interrupted his fantasies—an owl.
"It'll be Vlaicu again," Petri said as he summoned the letter to him, before even looking at it.
"Again?" Harry asked.
"He's been bombarding me with demands to see you," Petri explained. Harry didn't need to ask to know that the man hadn't bothered replying.
"At least let him know I'm okay," Harry said, but Petri only snorted.
"Your tragic circumstances and miraculous survival are all over the paper. He can read the news like everybody else. Despite what he thinks, he has no claim over you."
Petri had equally little claim over him, Harry thought, if they were going to discount magical connections. With a huff, he snatched up the fallen letter and tore it open, blinking in surprise at its contents.
"It's an invitation to a New Year's party," he said, "put on by the Coffin House for all the tenants."
"So now he's employing oblique methods," Petri said, rolling his eyes.
"Hey, it's a real party, and we do live here," Harry pointed out. "Did this happen last year?"
Petri gave a curt nod. "I had no desire to rub elbows with beasts."
Harry realised that he was talking about all their vampire neighbours. He glanced to the invitation again, noting the handwritten scrawl at the bottom. "There's a message from Shy, too."
"Who?" said Petri
"Shyverwretch, the poison shop lady. Our neighbour," Harry clarified. "We're friends." He wasn't sure that was completely true, but it was satisfying to see Petri's face screw up in disdain. Shy had written that he absolutely had to come to the party, because the other Harry would be there. It took a moment for Harry to remember that the other Harry was a giant snake.
"You'll be attending, then?" Petri asked.
Harry blinked at him. "I can go?"
"I see no reason to prohibit it," Petri said, a long-suffering look on his face. "The Dark Lord has taken you once, and you aren't dead. What more do you have to fear? Perhaps you should, as they say, 'live a little.' Before you really die."
Harry regarded him with suspicion, but his desire to attend the party won out, so he nodded.