A/N: When I posted the first couple chapters, this one was halfway done. Hit a bit of inspiration for just how to finish off the chapter so here's the update on it (don't expect most updates to be this prompt… it was mostly fluke and circumstance XD )
In response to a question on the Life Debt… within this story I work under the idea that Life Debts can be called in like any other debt, but a Life Debt is bound with magic, just like an Unbreakable Oath. The wizard is bound by the terms of the debt until magic deems the debt paid or until such time as the person owing the debt pays it in full (saves the person's life). I'm perfectly aware that this isn't how it works in canon (though Life Debts are not a fully explored aspect of the story, so there's really no telling the specifics on how they work), but in the context of this story, the way that Snape and Pettigrew got away with all their shenanigans without suffering consequences (silver suicide hand not withstanding as it hasn't occurred yet in this) is because the debts weren't called in. I don't think my Harry would use up such a trump card on Pettigrew if he honestly thought he could get away from the graveyard. Having Pettigrew be unable to kill him would seem to be the more useful use of the debt at the time.
"Hai, Hebi! You and your Shadow are to go and deliver this to the Bold Knife! And keep an eye out this time, will ya? Don't want anyone to try and snatch you up!"
"Hai, Brono. I'll be back in a few."
Harry took the paper message and turned towards the wall with the hidden door that led out to the Thieves' Road. Behind him he could feel the nameless Shadow follow in his wake. As he stepped out into the pitch darkness of the tunnels he didn't even bother to cast a light before heading in the direction of the Bold Knife pub. Less than a week after he'd arrived here he'd been blind folded and taught to find his way around the tunnels by hand and counts alone. Now after three years, guiding his way around the Road was almost as second nature to him as breathing.
Three years. It had been three years since he'd come to this world. Three years of knives, a stiff drink called bol, dark tunnels, and darker plots.
But all things considered, his lot in life could have been much worse. Despite the rather poor first impression Shin had made on Harry, overall the man seemed to be rather fair handed. Better by far than some of the other Thieves Harry had the displeasure of meeting on occasion. Certainly the man was a bastard, and several of the other Thieves reported he had a borderline unhealthy obsession with the young mage, but at least he wasn't homeless or working the streets (though it had been threatened a couple times. But they both knew it would never happen—that would mean he would have to share. And Shin didn't share with anyone).
"Hebi! Long time no see!" said the bartender as they approached the bar in the Bold Knife.
Hebi. His name amongst Thieves. Only a couple people knew his real name, and they were forbidden to speak it, as he was forbidden to speak theirs. Apparently most thieves took on a second name, usually one associated with an animal of some kind. Shin had decided to name him Hebi. When he'd asked what it meant, Shin had explained it was a blood red serpent with vivid green stripes running the length of its body that while small held the strongest venom of the serpents native to Kyralia. Neither the irony nor the coincidence of the situation was lost on Harry.
Harry gave a strained smile as he shook the bartender's hand, leaving the message in his palm as he did so. He knew what was on the paper, just not who. He'd learned long ago it was better not to look.
Harry figured it probably had to do with his old habit of running to save the day. In all honesty, most of the people the Thieves had sent 'messengers' to that he knew of had deserved what was coming to them. In fact, on many occasions he'd been the one hired to do the 'visiting.' He had but one rule that even Shin knew not to cross—no women, and no children.
As he and his Shadow sat at the bar and ordered a bol for appearances sake Harry took a look around the room. Other than he and the Shadow, there were 5 other Thieves that he knew of. Likely one of them was going to be the one to receive the name he'd just passed off to the tender. Harry sighed as he turned back around and looked into the dark drink before him, his reflection gazing back at him from tired green eyes.
He'd always been naturally pale, even during the summers when he spent nearly all his time outdoors either gardening or at the park escaping Dudley and his gang; but now with his almost nocturnal lifestyle the paleness had taken on a nearly Malfoy-esque quality and level of permanence. His hair had grown out quite a bit. Enough so that he now could pull it back with a tie if he wanted to. While the added length and weight managed to keep it from sticking up in odd directions like it used to, it still managed to look disheveled in a way Ron might have described as a 'recently shagged' look, which did nothing to squelch the rumors the Thieves liked to throw out there about he and Shin from time to time.
Fortunately, that's all there was to it—rumors. Oh he wasn't fooled, he knew of Shin's other inclinations towards him. He occasionally wondered if the man hadn't hoped he'd take the other track back when he had been given a choice of services to him. But he'd made his choice and the man could add no more stipulations to their agreement, thank god. So no, Shin couldn't have his way with him… but he could damn well make sure no one else did.
Harry sent a sideways glance at his Shadow and gave a small sigh. The Shadows served as both his watchers and his guardians. Shin of course trusted nobody, and for good reason. As far as he knew, Harry was plenty capable of trying to run away. And in fact Harry would have bolted at the first chance he got if it weren't for the damn Debt, but he'd never actually explained the true depth of the debt to Shin out of fear of what the man would have tried to make him do. As long as he believed Harry had some measure of free will, he would continue to tread carefully on what exactly he required of him. Therefore, Harry took the good with the bad and acquiesced to being chaperoned at all times. It also didn't help that, no matter what reasons were behind it, Shin was attached to Harry. So needless to say, when someone had attempted to abduct Harry a few months after he'd arrived, Shin had not taken kindly to it. Harry was fairly certain it was that man's body that was found floating in the marina three days later. It had happened several times over the first year and a half until finally Shin decided to make a public spectacle out of the body of the next person who tried. Word got around quick, and soon all attempts to approach the small fair faced new boy were stopped.
And thus were born the Shadows—Harry's personal guard.
Speaking of which, a tap on his arm warned Harry it was time for them to go.
"Don't be a stranger!" cried the bar keep as they walked back out the door. A couple other voices from within echoed the tender while a few others muttered insults at his retreating back. Harry just waved vaguely back over his shoulder in farewell.
He wasn't sure how or when it happened, but somehow at sometime he'd become well known by the local populace. Even with all the hubbub that went on amongst Thieves, he was certain he shouldn't be this well recognized. Shin said it was because, despite his clothes, he looked like an aristocrat. Harry thought it was just his rotten luck crossing over from home.
"Hebi! Wait up!"
Harry turned and saw a young boy running in his direction. Despite his general ill will for the day so far, he couldn't help but smile. Ceryni was several years younger than him, around 11 or 12 if he were to guess, and was the son of a former Thief. Harry's smile faltered for a moment as he remembered the man's unfortunate fate.
Shin had not lied about rule number one—never cross the Thieves.
In but a moment Harry had been nearly plowed over in the boy's excitement.
"I haven't seen you in ages! Where have you been?"
"You know how things are… work comes first," said Harry.
Ceryni nodded solemnly. Despite the fact that they had killed his father, Cery still held a high respect for the Thieves, which at first had shocked Harry near senseless and left him contemplative for many days after.
"Are you free right now? There's a new girl who moved in next door I want you to meet! Her name's Sonea and she's really great, especially for a girl! She can even scrap with Harrin!"
Harry glanced back at his silent guard in question, but the Shadow shook his head. With a sigh Harry turned back to Cery, "I'm sorry Cery… guess they've got something else for me to do today. But I'll be sure to stop by soon and you can introduce us then, alright?" Harry said, ruffling the boy's hair with a smile.
"Hebi!" complained Cery as he tried to fix his hair. "I'll hold you too that! And you know why!"
Harry laughed as he walked away…
Indeed he knew why… whatever else that could be said about them, good or bad a Thief always kept their word.
"About time you showed back up."
Harry rolled his eyes. "Yes, because it's not suspicious at all if someone walks into that pub, hands the bar keep a note and walks right back out without so much as a drink. All things considered, I made good time."
"Not all things considered. Some things have come up today, and we may need your…expertise," said Shin.
Harry quieted at that. No one other than Shin knew of Harry's magic. All that the others knew was that Hebi had talents. Have a deadbolt you need unlocked? Get Hebi. Suspect someone of squimping on you? Ask Hebi. Need to convince someone to separate themselves from their valued possessions? Hebi's your man.
The last one was so well known that it had earned him a third name amongst the Thieves—the Silver Tongued Serpent.
"What's going on?" asked Harry warily.
"We've been had," said Shin. "Some former clients of ours backed out on a deal. We have one of them, but he's not talking. We need to hunt down the other two before they jump ship, as it were."
Harry nodded. "Very well, where is he?"
"Down the right 30 paces, left 15."
"I'm not telling nuthin', ya hear!"
Harry had just arrived, Shadow in tote though remaining outside for the duration of the interrogation.
The man was obviously Kyralian judging by his coloring, but he had a bit more color to his skin than the average citizen of Imardin. That combined with Shin's off hand statement led Harry to believe this man was likely a ship crewman.
"Torture me all ya want, ya greedy bastards still won' get nuthin'!"
'How to go about this…' thought Harry as he circled the man from the shadows. 'Lets try the gentle approach first and see where it takes us…'
Harry finally stepped forward into the light of the lamp with a soft smile as he knelt down in front of the man tied to a chair, so as to be on eye level with him.
"Hello sir, how are you this afternoon?"
Instead of responding, the man's eyes grew cold and he begun to chew on his tongue.
That was all well and good as long as he kept his eyes open.
"I'm sorry if you've been treated unfairly down here while you've waited—"
The man snorted. Harry couldn't even fault him for it. They both knew it was a load of bull.
"Alright, I'll be straight with you—"
"I doubt you could be if you tried."
Harry paused. Slowly he felt his rage building inside, but he pushed it away behind his barriers.
"If you don't give them the information they seek, you are most certainly dead."
"I was dead the moment they captured me, princess."
"No you were dead the moment you decided to squimp," said Harry said, voice chilling, his green eyes eerie in the off light.
The man shivered.
"I'm going to give you a choice. Either you give me the answers I seek easily, or I take them from you the hard way."
"I'd like to see you try," growled the man.
"Alright then, terror or blunt force?"
The man gave him a strange look. Harry sighed and stood.
"You're too thick and stubborn. Blunt force would take too much effort and leave me with a migraine. Therefore… terror it is."
The light in the single lamp went out.
Five minutes later the screams began.
Three minutes after that Harry left the room with a sigh and began the short trek back to the room Shin was last occupying, task complete.
"Both are in the west quarter near the marina. He didn't know the name of the buildings, but I know the directions."
"Good. It's almost sundown now, we'll leave after then," said Shin.
"While we're waiting I'm going to go have a lie down."
Shin nodded and turned back to his work.
As Harry closed the door to the next room over behind him he leaned against it and closed his eyes, trying to steady his mind.
He hated it. He absolutely hated that he could do that. When he'd first learned about mind magic and the things it could do all those years ago he'd been fascinated by it, and he'd set out to learn all he could of it, even the darker aspects. Hermione had been a bit more wary of such uses, but had agreed that learning them on an academic basis would be alright.
Harry collapsed onto the pallet and stretched out, throwing his arm over his eyes.
If he'd known then what he'd be forced to do with such knowledge… would he have taught himself still? Back then, was his curiosity—his absolute need to know about the cause of his parents' death—heavier or at least equal to the guilt and responsibility he held now?
Snape would almost be proud, of that Harry was certain. Either proud… or mildly horrified.
'Oh how the Golden Boy has fallen,' thought Harry in a suspiciously Snape-like voice, dripping with sarcasm. He couldn't help but chuckle a little.
And oh he had fallen… he hadn't realized how far gone he really was until the day Cery had chastised him for verbally denouncing the Thieves for Ceryni's father's death.
"My father made a choice! He made a bad decision! He knew the danger when he joined the Thieves and he knew the chance he was taking when he decided to squimp. My father didn't die because of hate, he died on principle. Besides, when it comes down to it, they didn't betray him… he betrayed them."
The boy's argument in defense of the killers was so… bloody logical it had shaken the very foundations of Harry's perspective, because in the end it did in fact make perfect sense to him. Accepting this meant accepting that he had changed since arriving here, and meant he needed to reevaluate everything… leaving him to think and consider…
And after much thought he had come to a realization—
He could not hate Voldemort for the death of his parents. Pettigrew absolutely, being the traitorous bastard he was. But Voldemort… Morality be damned, the truth is war is hell. One enemy kills the other until one side claims victory. That's a fact of life.
Even though he'd been but a baby at the time, he had become a perceived threat to their war effort. In order to actively combat the threat, it was decided to take out the possibility before it could become one.
A strategic mistake on their part, and an action he personally would not approve of, but the logic had been sound.
Did that mean Harry intended to step aside if he someday returned to his world? Hell no! The man was off his immortal rocker and needed to be dealt with once and for all. Prophesy or not, Harry intended to use every power at his disposal to bring an end to Tom Riddle's madness. For everyone's sake… even the Dark Lord's.
"Come at me."
Harry hesitated a moment too long and next thing he knew he was lying face first on the ground.
"Never hesitate or they'll have already retrieved their dagger back from your gullet before you could blink."
Harry groaned as he rose back up to his feet, brushing off his breeches. Despite having had these training sessions for almost 5 months now he still tended to hesitate before he attacked. He knew it was foolish. All it did was earn him a bruise on his backside as he landed on his ass. Besides, it wasn't like he would really hurt the man across from him even if he did land a hit. Shin may have only been of medium build, but every inch of him was pure muscle. Meanwhile, Harry with his slim seeker build had quickly come to the realization that despite his quidditch training, he was terribly out of shape overall. The only thing that had been up to par when Shin had tested him was his speed and reflexes, which he'd said were top rate.
"Harry, you continue to hesitate. Why?" asked Shin. When the man had used his given name Harry knew he was about to receive a lecture. Simultaneously Harry had to dodge and duck as Shin continued with his assault. Apparently this was going to be what Shin called 'a lesson against distraction.' Harry just called it multi-tasking.
"With your emphasis on lethal force is it any wonder I hesitate? Perhaps I'm just not comfortable with the idea of taking a life." He blocked a punch and threw a succession of kicks as a follow up, forcing Shin back. "Ever consider that?"
"Better to stand and be judged than to be laid to rest," said Shin, catching a punch thrown by Harry and twisting it painfully behind his back. "Half the people out in those streets would gut you just for a little spare coin. That or worse. Between that and your knack to find trouble—don't give me that look, you've told me the stories—it is an absolute necessity for you to be able to deal with any threats quickly and effectively."
"I don't go looking for trouble—it finds me."
"And I don't expect you to start trouble unless I order you to, but even if you aren't the one who starts it I damn well expect you to be the one to finish it! And if you can not or will not defend yourself, you are putting yourself and thus my property at risk, and I will have none of that!" He released Harry's arm and threw him away, giving the mage a moment to catch himself from stumbling before launching another attack.
Harry felt a deadened feeling consume him as he digested those words. They rang of truth—here in this place, under these circumstances, he was naught more than a possession to be used at the other's whim…
But when it came down to it, was it really all that much different than what he was before? Shin intended to use him as a weapon against his enemies, the same as Dumbledore. The only thing that had changed was the hand that held his leash. At least Shin intended to train him up properly before setting him off on the world. Harry dodged an open palm swipe at his face.
"Pay attention! Focus!"
Harry sprung back, flicking a knife into his hand. It was time to up the ante.
In two seconds Shin had his own knife and the two clashed. With the combined force between the two, Harry was surprised sparks didn't fly. Harry glared into Shin's eyes, glimpsing satisfaction within the man's mind. Harry may hesitate, but once his mind was set, he was a force to be reckoned with and they both knew it. This aspect of Harry was what Shin was attempting to draw out.
The two continued to circle one another, occasionally making a swipe and cut when they thought the other had left an opening unattended. Harry had found that knives were the one mode of fighting he could use and be at an advantage. Knives were light and quick—like him—and were easier to work into the style of dueling he was accustomed to. He had forced himself to be able to use a knife almost equally as well with both his left and his right hands so that, should he ever manage to control his magic or find his wand, he would be able to use both at once.
Not that he was ever going to find his wand stuck down in these damn passages…
Well, no time like the present to experiment with some thoughts he'd had concerning his magic. In the past his volatile emotions had sometimes caused his magic to spring to his will, causing some rather impressive cases of accidental magic. If he could learn to instigate such reactions and harness that power…
He switched the blade to his left hand, feinting a swipe to Shin's right side, causing the man to open himself just briefly, long enough for Harry to lunge in with his right palm forward—
"Your parents were useless, drunk layabouts, Boy!"
"Undoubtedly as arrogant as your contemptible father…"
"You'll see your worthless mudblood mother soon…"
"You can not escape this destiny, my boy. It is your duty—"
Harry felt as the magic pooled in his palm then burst forward in a flash of blue light to collide with Shin's chest. For a moment the man stared wide-eyed before he was thrown away and across the room to crash into the opposing wall. As Shin slid down into a heap on the floor Harry had a moment of déjà vu as he remembered Professor Snape in a similar state after taking three spells from Harry and his friends. But in this case, it had been Harry alone to cause such damage.
Harry's eyes widened in horror at that thoughts and he quickly ran over to check the man's vitals. How much damage had he done? If Shin died by his hand, even on accident, the result for him would be catastrophic.
Fortunately he felt a strong pulse. Shin was just knocked out.
As relief flooded Harry, so did a round of vertigo and he had to sit down quickly to keep from falling. Apparently he'd put a little too much into that spell. His benefactor was knocked out cold and the sudden drain on his magic had left him light headed. Also, the negative focus in the use of the spell had left him with a cold and hollow feeling within his chest. If such anger and pain was what was necessary to use his magic in this world, Shin's plans be damned, he'd just do without it.
So the question was… what did he do now?
If he'd had his wand, a quick enervate would have done the trick. As it was, Shin would want him to sit and wait for him to wake.
A dim spark of defiance lit itself within Harry. He could sit and wait for Shin to come around and decide to take a lashing into the wizard for his unexpected magical assault… or he could use these precious moments to escape and take a look at the surface. He had seen neither sunlight nor starlight since his arrival several months back and he was itching to breathe a little fresh air again. Besides, as long as he didn't wander far and stayed to the shadows he'd be fine.
He stood slowly, shaking off the last vestiges of the vertigo that had gripped him moments ago, before quietly slipping out the door and toward the nearest exit off the Road.
It was dark out as Harry stepped through a loose grate in a wall and found himself in a small alley between two buildings. Slowly he walked to the end of the alley to get his first look at the world he had landed himself in.
His first impression of the area was that it was rather dirty. Most of the buildings around him were shabby and shoddily built at best and a haze of dust floated from the dirt road as people passed by in the crowd. Beyond everything was a wall and beyond it were what appeared to be mansions and a palace. Obviously the area Harry found himself in was the slums of Imardin, the home of Thieves and 'dwells' as the lower class were referred to. Not that Harry minded, of course. If he'd popped out of the wall of somewhere high class it would have been problematic to say the least.
Harry took a deep breath. Despite the dust and the tinge of something unpleasant in the air, it was wonderful to feel the breeze on his face and see stars above him in the sky. The night held a crisp chill that had Harry pulling his jacket closed against the wind, but overall it seemed like a nice night in fall. Not wanting to waste a moment of his stolen time and worried that Shin would wake at any moment and send someone after him, Harry quickly left the alley and headed out onto the main road.
Everywhere there were people milling about, coming and going between the night and the fire lit buildings and homes. A little ways down raucous laughter and song floated out from a brightly lit establishment—undoubtedly the local pub, or bolhouse as Shin called it. Harry bit his lip, wanting to investigate but knowing from Shin just how dangerous some of the local places could be. And he only had a couple coins he had found along the passages during his underground travels.
Harry sighed as he moved his steps in the direction of the pub, pulling up his hood as he went. In for a penny, in for a pound…
The inside was just as grimy as the outside had looked, but the air was warm and the atmosphere was light, and the promise of conversation outside of Shin was just too much for Harry to pass up.
"Hey there lad! What can I get ya? You are a paying customer, right?" the barkeep asked, giving him a slightly suspicious look.
"Yes, so long as I have enough to pay. What will this get me?" Harry asked, pulling out a coin and laying it on the bar.
"That there will get you a couple mugs of our slum famous bol. Drink up lad."
A wooden mug of dark liquid was placed in front of Harry. He took a hesitant first sip and immediately broke into a fit of coughs as the afterburn got the better of him.
"First time drinking, boy?" laughed the barkeep and a couple others sitting nearby.
"Err—yeah… that obvious?"
"Just a tad… not from around here are ya?"
"Came into the area a little while ago. Haven't had much of a chance to get out. Thought I'd stop by and try the local fare."
"You've come to the right place, lad. Won't find any better grub or bol in the slums than that at the Bold Knife. Where you from? I don't recognize the accent and you look a bit out of place…"
"Eh... You wouldn't have heard of it. It's a ways away from here. I'm only here by accident, really."
"Well, welcome to the area. Mind you, not sure how good a fortune it is to find yourself here. Imardin slums aren't the best place to find employment."
"I'm not too worried about that. I've already managed to land myself in the middle of something."
"If it doesn't work out, you could always come and work for me," said a man to Harry's left with a leer that made his skin crawl.
"Err… I think I'll be fine, thanks," said Harry uneasily. The looks some of the others at the bar were sending the man gave Harry no reassurances.
"Now don't be like that, it's an honest job—"
"Well there's only so much lying they can try, ain't there? A whore is a whore, after all…" said a man further down.
"Leave the boy alone, Jeb. I'll not have you propositioning kids right in front of me in my bolhouse," said the barkeep with a frown. "What you do in your place is your own business, but I don't want you running off my customers, ya hear?"
"Whatever, just givin' the boy options is all. I'll be on my way. The bol here has turned sour," said Jeb, throwing down a couple coins on the bar before he turned to leave, casting one last stare at Harry as he left.
"Don't mind him. He's a pile of scum, but he's nowhere near the worst of the lot you'll find here," said a man to his right. "Now the Thieves Guild, thems the ones you need to look out for. Keep your nose clean and stay out of their business and you'll do just fine."
Harry gulped down a swallow of bol nervously, only slightly coughing at the taste this time. Stay clear of the Thieves… it was a little too late for that.
Though he'd paid enough for two mugs of bol, he knew better and stuck to only the one. He still needed to find his way back through the tunnels later (if Shin didn't come knock him out and drag him back before then), and the idea of wandering the slums drunk just didn't seem like a good idea. So after he finished his drink he waved off the offer of another and bid his goodnights to his fellows at the bar before wandering back out into the night.
In the time he had been in the bolhouse most of the traffic wandering the street had cleared out, giving the area a cold and abandoned feeling that had Harry checking behind him every few paces, thinking that perhaps he should consider heading back to Shin's place now…
He had only wandered a couple blocks and was about to trace his steps back to the hole in the wall he had come from earlier when a muffled scream came from a side street nearby. Either because of instinct or habit he quickly ran in that direction with no thought to what sort of danger he was running towards.
When he got there it was to see a familiar face forcefully griping a small girl with dark hair, holding her pressed against a wall. And though the girl looked to be giving it a fair go at fighting the man off, she was a very small girl and he was a much larger man with a knife.
"You're not who I'd like tonight, but with that hair and those eyes, you'll make do," said Jeb with a lecherous snarl.
Harry didn't think twice. In a moment he had pulled out his own knife he had kept since the sparing earlier, sprinted across the small distance and wrenched the armed hand back before stabbing his own blade through the man's back. Jeb's eyes widened as he fell back away from the girl.
He fell to the ground, his words turning to gurgles as the blood began to flood his lungs, and then he was gone.
Harry stared at the body in shock. All of that fretting during the spars with Shin, all his talk of not knowing if he could bring himself to deliver a killing blow, and on his first night out he has another kill to add to his body count.
Crying off to his side drew his attention back to the young girl who lay curled up on the ground in tears. He knelt in front of her and slowly touched her head where he knew Jeb had hit her against the wall.
"Are you all right?"
Next thing he knew he had an armful of crying girl and all he could do was sit there as she got the terror out of her system.
Once she had calmed down he let go of her and walked back over to the body, giving it a forceful shove as he pulled the blade from the back. For a moment the girl gave him a terrified look, obviously thinking that she wasn't quite as safe as she thought, but all Harry did was wipe the blade clean on his clothes before handing the knife handle first towards the girl.
"Go on, take it."
Hesitantly she reached out and took it from his hand, before looking at him in question.
"Murder is wrong, but defending your life is not. When a time comes that someone tries to harm you or the ones you love, don't hesitate."
She gave him a long look before finally she nodded.
"Can you make it home from here?"
"Yes, it's just on the next block. I was on my way home from work when…" she looked over at the body.
"Alright, you go on ahead then," said Harry, pulling her up as he stood.
"Thank you," she said before she quickly dashed out of the alley and down the street.
Clapping echoed from shadows further down the alley. Harry spun around to see Shin standing there with a smile.
"I knew you had it in you."
Harry jolted awake. He couldn't even remember when exactly he had begun to doze off.
"I'm awake, what's wrong?"
"Shin says it's time to move out. We're going to pay a couple squimps a house call."
Harry sighed as he swung his legs off his bed and sat up. Time to go and do what he did best.
And just how sad was that?