Chasing the Dragon

Chapter Thirty Four

While They Were Sleeping

- Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus -

As often as words like Fate and Destiny were bandied about there was really very little that could not change, given the right circumstance.

The world worked within a system of semi-ordered chaos, topple a domino and watch them all fall. It all, really, just depended on which domino, which direction and who did the toppling, so to speak.

It was beautifully complex. Masterful in the infinite possibilities it presented. A player down to their last chip could win the whole game and a high-roller could lose everything in the course of one hand. It was the leveler of all things great and small.

Most human beings played with the hands that were dealt to them, bemoaning their Fates. Those with the inclination strategized and utilized every card they were dealt; they made the system work for them.

And then there were the others.

They ignored the cards, the deck, the chips and the game itself. They'd take one look at the hand they were dealt and they'd say, "Poker? I'm more of a chess man, myself."

They saw the game for what it was, an opportunity, and if they were clever enough - they did not play the game, they played the players.

He slept.

Empires rose and fell. The world turned, stars died, more were born. There were wars, thousands of them, big and small. The blood of the fallen seeped deep into the bones of the earth. Life progressed. The world forgot.

He slept.

They dug up his bones but they were not his bones, per say. They were the bones of his kingdom, his world. They marveled and whispered and theorized. They deduced what they could from science, pieced together the mysteries of his world with wonder. He was a marvel of the ancient world.

He was a story. A whisper. A legend. They talked about him in classrooms and he became an allegory; the night sky, a desert storm, the Sha-headed man in a chipped painting on the side of a tomb. (1.)

He slept.

A million trivial things happened: Death, life, love, murder and betrayal. Just as it always had, the world moved on.

A child was born. He was brilliant and knife-sharp and emerged triumphant, unbeaten by even the ugly hand fate dealt him. He had a brother that he loved more than life itself, twice over. He will change the world, the magazines said.

They didn't know just how right they were.

He opened his eyes and they were blacker than the night itself.

Yuugi Mutou was carried, unconscious, into the evacuated London headquarters of Kaiba Corp between the sturdy shoulders of Ron Weasley and Harry Potter. They neatly avoided the police cordon, the fire department and the hundreds of onlookers and evacuees by the sheer luck of half-a-dozen masked lunatics in dark robes appearing in the middle of a crowded city street and opening fire. What kind of luck it was, however, they had yet to determine.

Harry had known, really, that he was tempting fate in leaving the protection of Grimmauld Place without so much as a by your leave.

That they had managed to escape into the building had been a miracle in itself but as they squelched across waterlogged carpet (Ron's chanted mantra of, "Bugger, bugger, bugger," keeping time with every step) and ducked behind the thick marble-topped reception desk, Harry finally realized that they were very much alone.

They propped Yuugi (still unconscious) against the desk and exchanged grim looks.

"This is going well," Ron ventured at last as he turned to peer cautiously around the edge of the desk.

"Did you see which way the others went?" Harry asked, shifting his wand back to its rightful hand now that it was unemployed.

"I was a bit busy trying not to get blown to pieces," Ron retorted, his eyes shifting briefly back to Yuugi (still out cold) before his lips pressed into a thin line. "Bloody marvelous."

"I think Hermione and Ginny were behind us," Harry continued, edging his head carefully around the edge of the desk before hurriedly pulling back at the flash of black that caught his eye.

Ron grimaced.

"We should probably –" Harry nodded his head awkwardly in Yuugi's direction.

"Brilliant," Ron muttered as he shrugged an arm beneath Yuugi's shoulders.

Harry followed suit, shifting his wand back to his other hand with a grimace before catching Ron's eye, "On three?"

"Three," Ron replied.

They ran.

To Rabastan's mind, Malik Ishtar was the rough equivalent of a particularly troublesome cursed object. The kind that no matter how hard you tried to ditch it, once you'd laid hands on it, it was unequivocally yours until the day that you managed to break the curse or it finally got you killed.

Everywhere he went Malik brought the worst kind of luck with him and ever since their first unfortunate meeting it just so happened that wherever Rabastan went, Malik was sure to follow. It was a vicious cycle.

There were those that would assume that Rabastan's former life as a Curse Breaker would make him a uniquely suited individual to weather Malik's undoubtedly cursed company. Rabastan would not agree.

Rabastan didn't really need the additional bad luck, he had quite enough of his own to be going on with.

"You're the worst thing that's ever happened to me," Rabastan informed him bluntly, back pressed hard to the wall as he tried to catch his breath (and damn, maybe all those cigarettes had been a bad idea.)

"Worse than that lot trying to kill you?" Malik inquired brightly.

"Definitely," Rabastan confirmed without hesitation. "They weren't even bloody interested in me until I helped you."

"Betrayal does tend to have that effect on people," Malik agreed, pausing to consider Rabastan for a moment before adding, "And you hardly light up my life either, for the record."

Rabastan grimaced, "Glad to hear it."

"You're welcome." Malik twisted his head to peer back down the corridor they had just barreled down, he sounded decidedly pleased as he announced, "I think we lost them."

"I doubt it." Rabastan picked at his nails and shifted uncomfortably, his shoes squelching in the sodden carpet. "Bellatrix has a nose like a blood-hound."

He paused, his lips curling in a brief, vaguely amused smile before adding, "I mean, have you seen that profile?"

Malik sent him a mildly perturbed look, "Sorry. Was too busy being tortured when I met her to make the comparison."

Rabastan waved a hand airily in a manner that seemed to imply, apology accepted.

Malik scowled. "I may have some idea of why everybody wants to kill you."

"I never claimed to be likable," Rabastan retorted, he rubbed a hand over his chest with a frown and stood to attention. "Perhaps we should keep moving."

"Find Bakura," Malik confirmed.

Rabastan quirked an eyebrow, "Or get the hell out of here."

"Bakura," Malik replied firmly.

The slightly unhinged twitching of his sole, remaining eye was enough for Rabastan to shift nervously backwards and raise his hands placatingly. Water dripped down the back of his neck and he scowled.

"Of course, of course, we'll find your crazy-cakes little friend first," he muttered beneath his breath as they cautiously resumed their trek down their chosen corridor, "It's not like I don't have a wand and there are boat-loads of people trying to kill me or anything is it?"

"I have an eye that can suck your soul out and trap it in a card game," Malik offered conversationally.

"Right you are then," Rabastan replied uneasily, "Lead away."

They'd stopped to rest, the Death Eater that had been tailing them successfully ditched when they'd taken to the stairs. Ron was hunched over on the steps, breathing heavily, Harry leaning against the railing and pressing a hand to the stitch in his side.

Yuugi was propped up against a wall, carefully out of the way should they need to start firing spells again.

The stairwell was eerily quiet save for the sound of their heavy breathing, the steps slippery with water beneath their feet. Harry was buzzing with adrenaline, his hands trembling as he gripped the railing tight.

"Where do you think Kaiba would be?" he wondered aloud once he'd caught his breath.

Ron shot him a blank, vaguely incredulous look.

"Right, well, obviously," Harry muttered and looked away.

Ron was edgier than usual with worry for Hermione and Ginny and the silence between them dragged awkwardly. Harry's trainers squeaked on the stairs as he shifted uncomfortably.

"How do you reckon the Death Eaters knew we were here?" Ron asked at length.

"I don't know," Harry replied. "Lestrange, maybe?"

Ron made an angry noise in the back of his throat and stared hard at the wall, "Knew we shouldn't trust him."

"We didn't," Harry replied tiredly before sinking down onto the step beside Ron and sighing. "This is probably the worst rescue mission ever."

Ron snorted back a laugh. "Worse than the Department of Mysteries?"

Harry shot him a look, his lips twitching slightly. "Maybe not the Department of Mysteries."

"Oh, worse than the Chamber of Secrets then?" Ron insisted.

"No, definitely not worse than the Chamber of Secrets," Harry replied with a visible shudder. "Bloody Lockhart."

Ron echoed his sentiments with an almost fond, "Stupid sod."

They sat in companionable silence for a while, the mood lifted considerably, before Ron murmured, "Could be worse then."

"Yeah, I reckon," Harry replied with a grin. "So, find Kaiba?"

"Sounds reasonable," Ron replied as he got to his feet and winced at the sloshing of his shoes. "Hold on a second."

Harry turned curious eyes on him, "What?"

"Wasn't Yuugi there before?"

Harry turned to look at the empty space where they had definitely dumped their unconscious burden earlier and frowned. "Apparently not."

They exchanged vaguely worried looks, before Ron muttered, "That's a bit rude."

"Yeah," Harry sighed back. "A bit."

They were in trouble, which, Ginny figured, just about summed up the usual state of being when you hung around Harry Potter. One big, never-ending string of troubles wherever you turned.

In the chaos that had unfolded the moment that Death Eaters had apparated into the crowded street beneath Kaiba Corp, Ginny had latched onto Hermione's hand and started running.

The crowds had been confused at first, staring bewildered at the robed figures in masks standing, quite improbably, in the middle of the street. Then they had opened fire.

It had taken one, maybe two, to fall before they'd started running, a stampede of people, pushing and shoving and slamming into one another.

Ginny had seen a flash of white and had shoved and pushed and shouldered her way after, Hermione bouncing around behind her.

The sound of police officers trying to take control, the screams of those caught amidst the crushing wall of people and hit by flying spells rose over the roar of the storm.

It was chaos of the worst kind and, as they ran, Ginny scrabbled for her wand to join Hermione's haphazard attempts to disarm the Death Eaters.

In retrospect, it hadn't been the brightest of ideas. It had simply made them targets.

Currently they were squished together beneath an office desk on the third floor of Kaiba Corp, having lost track of Ryou Bakura somewhere between the stairwell and the chaos of ricocheting spells that had driven them back into the floor space.

Hermione was pressing a handkerchief against her arm, her face grim as she readjusted her bloody grip on her wand. Ginny was biting down on her own lip, trying to stifle her very breath at the sound of more squelching footsteps and heavy, dark laughter.

"This is not good," she mouthed at Hermione.

The scathing look she received quite clearly said, You think?

"I know you're here," their pursuer spoke, his voice deceptively soft.

"Dolohov," Hermione mouthed, her face suddenly very pale. (2.)

There were more footsteps, a heavy sigh, "You can't hide forever, you know."

Ginny gripped her wand, listening intently for a clue which direction he was coming from.

"We're here for Lestrange," was the low, bored reminder from another voice entirely, accompanied by the squelching of shoes.

"That's Potter's friend," Dolohov replied intently.

"Ah," the other replied, sounding no less bored for the explanation, a desk nearby creaked with additional weight.

"Left," Ginny mouthed, jerking her head backwards in an indication.

Hermione nodded in agreement.

Ginny shifted carefully, mindful of the waterlogged carpet as she moved on her toes. Hermione shot her a warning look.

"Come on little Gryffindors," Dolohov drawled out, "Show us how brave you are."

"Right," Ginny mouthed.

Hermione shook her head violently, her eyes sharp with warning.

"You take the left then," Ginny hissed in annoyance.

The footsteps stopped.

Hermione glared.

Ginny froze.

"Ah," Dolohov murmured softly. "There you are."

Ignoring Hermione's obvious dismay, Ginny inched further out of the desks shelter and pointed her wand in the direction of another desk just to the right. She heard the footsteps moving swiftly in their direction and took a deep breath before muttering, "Reducto!"

The desk exploded in a flurry of paper and metal and she heard a roar of surprise behind her as she grabbed Hermione by her good arm and hauled her out.

A quick glance as she was running showed one Death Eater on the ground. Another, enormous figure had his wand out and was turning on them and Ginny gaped, eyes wide until Hermione tugged her sideways.

The cubicle they'd ducked behind exploded in a storm of wood and plastic, but they kept on running, weaving in and out of the long rows of dividers. The loud bangs of walls and desks and everything in between being blasted out of the way cataloged the path of their pursuer.

"Bad idea," Hermione snarled at Ginny as they pushed through the fire doors into the stairwell, the large Death Eater's footsteps pounding in their ears.

Hermione spun on her heel and jerked her wand at the door and with a strange glow and an uncomfortable sucking sound it sealed behind them.

She let out a low puff of air, something between relief and exasperation before rounding on Ginny only to find her already halfway up the next flight of stairs.

"That door isn't going to hold forever," Ginny called down at her.

Hermione huffed back, her lips twisting in annoyance before she began to climb.

Millennia may have passed. May have traveled by in the hazy blink of his eyes. He remembered waking maybe, opening his eyes for a moment, just a brief glimpse and thinking how strange it all was.

How strange this world must be, where he sleeps and the rest of the world carried on.

The world was a passing curiosity around him, the air thick and damp. Smoke in his nostrils, water in his hair (not his nostrils, not his hair, not of consequence). His fingers brushed the charred remains of what had once been doors and he watched, fascinated, as they came back blackened.

He heard thunder, wind, the lashing of rain. Screaming, somewhere in the distance. Black dribbled from his fingertips.

So similar, he admired, pressed the fingers together and watched water spill, down, down. Just like rain, only inside.

He moved on. There was a door at the end of the hallway, up a flight of stairs, he pressed a hand to the surface and watched it crumble away to ashes. The wind kicked up the dust and sent it tumbling away through the air, a burst of ash lost to the miserable weather almost immediately. The wind found him next, it pulled at his hair, whipped the strange material the body was wrapped in to dramatic angles with great effect.

The rain (real rain, that is, not the kind that happened indoors) hammered at his skin.

He smiled, lifted his head, breathed for what felt like the first time in, how long had it been? Too long.

It was cold. The world around him was a miserable palette of grey-on-grey, blocks of stone and metal dropped into a dreary landscape. He stood on top of the world, a stone empire stretched out around him.

It was wrong.

There was the smell of blood on the wind, sharp and familiar amidst the strong, chemical stench of industry that the wind whipped up around him. There was a child lying on the ground, blood pooling around him, eyes half-closed and mouth gaping.

"Se-Seto," it rasped, fingers stretching for him.

He paused, stared. His mind told him, brother, but that wasn't right. This child was human, pitifully so. His spirit quiet, dimmed by the slow passing of his insignificant little life and yet he struggled on.

"Set-," the child gasped again, his breath hitching in his chest.

Yet, that was his name, one of them, at least. A name he had been called once.

Brother, his mind insisted.

"Asar," he spoke with slow disbelief, his low voice echoed by the lazy roll of thunder overhead.

The child sobbed.

The realization that he was angry came as a surprise, punctuated by another snarl of thunder overhead and the deluge of rain that pounded down around him.

"Asar," he repeated.

Beneath his feet, the building trembled.

Brother, his mind sobbed.

"Brother," he echoed, brow wrinkled in confusion.

"Help me," the child gasped.

'Brother, won't you help me?' he gasped, hand outstretched for the knife that already dripped with red, staining the sand at his feet dark.

There was no knife in his hand this time but the blood was there, floating away on the water that puddled beneath his feet.

It was the sheer excess of it all; the water, the rain, the blood that stains it red, it was incomprehensible to him. So much, too much, the world was spoiled for it. Fat for it. Such luxury, such opulence was unthinkable, wasteful in the extreme.

"Enough," he snapped.

The rain dispersed with a suddenness that should have been alarming, the wind petering out with barely a sigh. The sky overhead churned threateningly, dark and miserable, he considered it through dark eyes and tried not to hear the gasping breaths that the child was now emitting, all the clearer for the stillness that now enfolded the rooftop.

"Se- to," the child pleaded.

There was an uncomfortable twinge somewhere inside of him, quickly squashed by the breathless rush of recognition that tugged at his very core.

"There you are."

He turned, black eyes cold and considering as they rose to the open doorway and the figure that stood there. His lips creaked, painfully slow, into something that might have been a smile to greet his own kindred, boxed in a form as unfamiliar and unwieldy as his own.

"I've been waiting," he reproached the newcomer.

"So have I," Horus pointed out, his eyes cast towards the turbulent skies and the sweeping view of the city with unrestrained curiosity before they settled on the child.

He didn't understand it, the compulsion that had him shifting accordingly, an obstacle between Horus's gaze and the child, as if he sought to protect this odd, sniveling creature that his mind calls brother.

Horus's unguarded curiosity moved obligingly onto him, swept over him with interest that only the distance of time could have brought. Horus's voice was dry, reminded him of endless miles of desert and clear, brilliant skies, "You have changed."

"You seem," Set frowned, his head canted to the side in study of his old rival before deciding on, "Smaller."

A chagrined expression flooded Horus's face, his eyes cast toward the churning masses of dark skies with annoyance worrying his brow.

His lips curled further in response, stiff and resistant against the motion.

"Seto," the child rasped.

The body turned before he could even think to have ignored it, twisting in obedience to the child's call. There was something in the child that he recognized, an air of command, a presence that he couldn't ignore.

The stillness of the rooftop had given way to other noises now, a bristling anger and a storm that came from within. Fury. Rage. Love.

It was distracting.

Brother, his mind snarled.

"It is time," he said instead, turned back to the quiet, curious figure that was his caged kindred. "One last time, Horus?"

He got a considering, quiet tilt of a head in response. "If we must."

Set slept.

It was dark where he lay, the world draped heavy over his weary head. It was still, the space outside muffled and distant.

He thought that he liked it there or that given time he could come to. It was peaceful there with time, thick and dark, wrapped around him like a blanket. He liked the quiet - it made for a nice change.

But something was missing.

It niggled and wormed his way into his dozing mind, the unease, countering the soothing silence and the dark that was so like before.

Before. That was wrong. He hadn't liked before. Remembered only shreds of the thousands of years trapped in darkness. He remembered loneliness, the ache of madness that came from keeping company with only the whispers of lost souls. He remembered shadows curled up inside until he became as much a part of them as they a part of him.

This was wrong.

The dark that surrounded him was not shadow at all, it was thick and heavy, stretched out like taffy around him, holding him down. Dragging him down.


He woke.

Seto would not sleep.

The suggestion lay heavy-handed overhead, thick like the black that surrounded him. This was nothing he'd faced before. It was the night, he thought, sticky as tar and filled with the promise of oblivion, of a peaceful end, if only he would just sleep.

But Seto would not sleep.

He could feel the weight of power behind that will, vast and overwhelming. Something so immense, cosmic in its reach, he could hardly comprehend it at all. It curled around him, snug and secure in its superiority, in its strength.

He was uncowed.

Seto had learned a long time ago, when he'd bartered his way into the legal custody of Gozaburo Kaiba, the power of the insignificant, the underdog. He had been reminded many times over since then, when he'd grown complacent and overconfident, the power of the individual against the most overwhelming of odds. The way that even a god damned Kuribo could overthrow a dragon.

It was a matter of strategy, of confidence, of sheer stubbornness. These were things Seto had in bucket-loads.

But, most of all, it was a matter of desire and Seto had never wanted anything so much in his life as he wanted to save his brother.

So he fought.

The wind had snuck up again, curling the wisps of hair against his neck.

Horus was ever patient, watching and waiting. It had been long enough now, enough battles passed for them to know how this would end. Neither would give up. Neither would back down. They were two of a kind, so very similar and so very different all at once.

This wasn't hesitation, he told himself. They had never had any need to rush things.

If he looked down he could see the tinge of pink mingling with the puddle at his feet. He didn't understand why he was so distracted by it.

He had changed, though he didn't understand how.

The longer he waited, the more he felt. A snuffling warmth of breath against his neck, the soft chuffing noises as a creature shifts, it's sharp talons digging into his shoulder. Sensation slowly returning to a being long deprived of anything other than the void.

Horus sucked in a long breath of air, head tilted to the wind, his eyes slipping shut.

It was almost companionable.

"You will not win."


His head snapped up, found a lazy smile drifting on Horus' face, eyes closed and utterly relaxed. He seemed entirely unaware of Setekh's indignation.

"Neither will I, if you were wondering," Horus added, almost an afterthought, as one eye cracked open to regard him. "The world doesn't belong to us anymore."

Horus gestured blandly at the panoramic view of the city, his eyes flicking towards the sky as it rumbled unhappily. He was silent, pensive, before eventually his lips quirked in a small, wry smile. "They're enterprising little things, aren't they? Amazing."

Horus even looked genuinely impressed, his eyes lingering on the sight of a great wheel, towering over the structures around it, spinning lazily on the horizon. He admired it, head tipped for a better view before eventually, not even deigning to look away from the sight, he sighed, "Oh don't sulk, Setekh, it doesn't suit you at all."

He stared hard at Horus, as if he could somehow force him to explain himself.

"They quite forgot about us," Horus murmured instead, turning his head only briefly to peer up at the towering KC that stood atop their rooftop.

Then there was only silence, the plunk of the odd individual raindrop against steel as Setekh's focus shifted inward, distracted by something else entirely.

It had built slowly, beneath his notice until it began to pull at him, louder and louder, until the sound was akin to someone hammering at the inside of his skull. Until he wanted to pull at his borrowed hair, beat his hands on the side of his borrowed head, to snarl and curse and command the noise to silence.

It was persistent. Agonizing. He wanted it to stop.

Horus watched, silent and observant. Lips curved in an infuriating line that suggested he knew something that Setekh didn't.

"You are crying," Horus observed, keen interest following the path of said tears in their course down his cheeks.

He frowned, touched a hand to his face and stared, fascinated when it came back wet. Licked the moisture from his fingers and found it warm, salty. His fury was sudden, rising violently from within, over the roaring in his ears that sounded like nothing but the word Mokuba.

"Then we will make them remember," he snarled.

Thunder crashed around them, so loud that the building beneath them shuddered on it's foundations and on the streets below, the people continued to flee.

Bakura took his chances where he could get them.

The arrival of the wizards had been an unexpected but not unwelcome distraction, an opportunity that had been far too good to turn down. He had taken it.

Slipping away through the crowd had been easy, a breath of, Show me, stirring the Ring to life. Shaada was clever, perhaps even a worthy adversary, but even he could not hide from the Ring's power.

It was just a matter now, of time.

He had slipped the pursuit of the two girls easily, scornfully ignoring Ryou's admonishments that they were in danger and that they should go back. Help them. Ryou's sentimentality had been growing steadily more irritating by the hour. There were much more important things to consider.

Ryou let out a soft cluck of disapproval from the corner of his mind and Bakura scoffed, bit back a snarl only because it wasn't worthy of it.

"You are soft, Yadunoshi." He consulted the Ring again, watched the sway of pendants point him right and followed their direction. "Shaada is much worthier of my attention than useless children in need of a babysitter."

Ryou sighed, entirely unsurprised that all thoughts of the plan they had set into motion back at Grimmauld Place had been thrown to the wind at the first glint of treasure. He really should've seen it coming.

"Not just treasure," Bakura reprimanded him as he slunk around another corner, eyes gleaming with the thrill of the hunt. "The Ankh. The Scales. Both under the same roof, this is an opportunity, Yadunoshi."

Bakura's voice was wickedly amused, taunting and knowing as he hissed, "You wish for retribution, do you not Yadunoshi? I can feel it. All that anger you're feeling. Vengeance for all your poor little friends, wound up in Shaada's strings."

He laughed, vicious and excited, as the Ring burned his fingertips and shuddered with proximity to its target. "As you wish, Yadunoshi."

Malik should have known that it would end like this.

Really, he was a teenager. He was supposed to be playing Xbox and being, by and large, surly and disagreeable with everything that couldn't plug into it. He wasn't supposed to be waiting out the end of the world by fleeing through Kaiba's stupid glass tower with an additional, murderous personality prowling his subconscious and an equally murderous, if somewhat pathetic, dark wizard from his former-fellow henchmen.

He had spent his entire life hunted by the ancient world. Surrounded by myths and legends and silly prophecies that had only ever led him into trouble.

It was a source of never ending irony that the further he tried to run from the myths and the legends and the prophecies, the harder they bit him in the ass when they inevitably popped up around him.

"This really sucks," he panted as he slammed a hand miserably against the dead-end they'd been herded down. The floor-length pane of glass shuddered against his hand as thunder rolled, deafeningly loud around them.

He should have known it would end like this.

"Oh, it sucks for you," Rabastan sneered back as he stared miserably at the two Death Eaters leisurely advancing on them. "They're going to make mittens from my skin, do you understand?"

Malik's nose wrinkled.

"I've seen what they do to deserters," he groaned, panicked eyes flicking in all directions for an unseen exit. "Hell, I've done what they do to deserters. It isn't a bloody picnic."

"Alright, Lestrange?" came the light, bordering on gleeful greeting from one of the pair as they languidly approached.

"Mulciber," Rabastan groaned, a hand tugging ruefully at his dark hair. "Bollocks. He'll probably wear my ears as a necklace."

"Wouldn't dream of it," Mulciber replied amicably. "Perhaps your toes. Bellatrix seemed quite set upon keeping your head for her mantle."

Rabastan groaned low in the back of his throat and leaned back against the floor-length window and the enclosed walls that all equated to the same thing, no way out.

"Ah," Mulciber was rolling back the sleeve of his long robes, "Shall I do the honors, Lestrange, or would you like to do it yourself? No? Very well."

He pressed the pad of his thumb hard against a black smudge that Malik hadn't thought much of until Rabastan let out a hiss, his own hand clutching at his arm in precisely the same spot. The second Death Eater who had waited silently, tapping his wand cheerily in his hands, rubbed ruefully at his flesh through the sleeve of his robe.

They appeared like wraiths, with sharp crack!s in the air. Three, four, five then six, but still more were arriving, seven, eight, nine.

Rabastan made a strangled, awful noise as he pressed back against the glass and Malik winced, felt the hiss of dark laughter echoing in his mind.

The end, it sang.

Malik only hoped that they would live long enough to see it.

"I want you," Otogi said with the air of someone about to reveal a terribly interesting secret, "To hand me over to your Minister of Magic."

He was greeted by the kind of absolute silence that only came from someone having said something either remarkably stupid or shockingly awful.

It had gone better than expected.

"You want us to hand you over to the Ministry," Kingsley clarified slowly, his expression dubious at best.

"The Minister," Otogi corrected.

"The Minister," Kingsley repeated with disbelief.

"The Minister," Otogi agreed. "You know? Funny little man in an ugly hat."

"We know who the Minister is," Bill replied, amused. "That wasn't really the point."

"It's a brilliant idea," Otogi assured the long line of stricken faces that all seemed to read with some variant of, he's lost all his marbles, poor soul, "Trust me, I have them all the time."

"That is," Remus began before his vocabulary seemed to entirely fail him and he resorted to staring at the ceiling and shaking his head silently, as if he was alternately praying to and cursing some distant higher being.

Otogi turned his head slowly down the line of faces looking for one bright spark of understanding against the gloomy oppression of their collective disbelief. He clucked his tongue with annoyance when he finally met Dumbledore's sharp, interested stare at the end of the line. They didn't see.

"You're all so blind to your own flaws," he groaned, smacking his palms against the table with irritation as he rose to his feet and leaned across the wood to stare hard at Remus Lupin's face. "Think, you're the one who told me."

Lupin stared back at him, his forehead creased in thought as he searched for the answer in his brain before, with a soft, oh, his eyes widened and there, he understood.

"Fear," he murmured in understanding, his growing smile drawing lines around his eyes and cheeks and oh, he was almost laughing. "That is brilliant."

"I told you," Otogi replied, pleased that those who still hadn't caught on were now sharing their pitying must be mad looks out with Lupin too. "All the time. It's why I'm rich."

"Smarter than he looks," Sirius agreed, from where he was holding up a wall, inspecting his nails and waiting for the rest of the room to catch up. He fielded Otogi's indignant look with a shrug, "It's that daft-looking headband."

Otogi's hand reached reflexively for the item in question, before defending it with a snide, "Headbands are cool." (3.)

"For eight-year-old girls maybe," Bill interjected.

Otogi glared, "For everyone."

"Not really the time," Lupin intervened; though from the twitching in his cheeks it was clear he found the whole thing terribly amusing.

"Terrible," Charlie gasped out suddenly, as if he had only just remembered how to use his tongue. "Seriously, that has to be the worst plan ever. Are you drunk?"

Otogi frowned. "How can you possibly be that dense?"

"No, I get your plan alright. You think you can scare Fudge into setting you all loose," Charlie rose both eyebrows as if daring Otogi to prove him wrong before concluding, "I'm still sticking with terrible."

"Terribly brilliant," Otogi assured him.

Charlie didn't appear convinced.

"Fudge is afraid of his own shadow," Sirius threw into the conversation, "It's as good a plan as any."

"It's reckless," Mrs Weasley interrupted, seeming genuinely concerned as she stared down the table at Otogi. "You'll get yourself thrown back into Azkaban and this time no one will be able to break you out."

"Audaces Fortuna iuvat," Otogi retorted promptly, "Hiding away in this dank little house isn't going to get me my life back." (4.)

Half-a-dozen voices tangled together, struggling to be heard in the aftermath of his words, growing steadily louder until Dumbledore rose from his seat at the end of the table, his eyes fixed on Otogi as he raised his hands and said, "Enough."

"It is Mr. Otogi's decision, which he may make however he so chooses," Dumbledore's eyes scanned the breadth of the table and the complete silence of those assembled was almost unnatural. "And unless I am very much, mistaken, there is something of great importance that he has not yet told us."

Under the intent stares of the entire room Otogi shifted somewhat uncomfortably and hurriedly regained his feet.

"Right, well, we may just need to make a small detour on the way," Otogi added cheerfully as he shrugged his jacket on and watched suspicion start to line the faces that surrounded him. "Your boy-heroes gone and got himself involved in the apocalypse is all."

AN: You may be asking yourself: Who is this crazy bitch, updating and whatnot? My answer: It would have been quicker if it hadn't been for these damn earthquakes. No more, earth, we get it already. Next chapter is where it all happens folks! Enjoy. ETA: Oh god, the tense fail! How did I miss that after the million and one edits? Fixed now.

Sha being the name of a wild dog-like creature that was the totemic animal of Set.
2. For the record, I don't think Hermione's easily intimidated. Her reaction is based on the fact that Dolohov was barely prevented from killing her in the battle of the Department of Mysteries (which timeline-wise would only be a few months prior at this point).. And he's scary. Very, very scary.
3. Uh, shameless Doctor moment?
4. Fortune favors the bold. ETA: Cheers, Reikson.

"It's a fez. I wear a fez now. Fezes are cool."