AN: Thanks for any patience and for the reviews guys. Life has been...well, shitty as usual but particularly shitty financially for a long while. I'm finally almost dug out of that particular pit and I managed to get this done. So yeah...been a year and you get a new chapter, how bout that?
Standard disclaimers apply.
Harry meets Kali mostly by accident. It's the Patil twins' birthday and Parvati somehow gets a hold of his Floo address (he blames Hermione).
"If you leave me with Padma and her work friends I swear to Circe I will hex all your fan mail to skip the sorting room and head straight there," she hisses. She's slowly making a name for herself as a reporter – dragging the rest of the Daily Prophet up from the gutters of trashy gossip and Ministry sludge inch by bloody inch. Granted, she maintains one absurdly populargossip column personally but it's at least a thousand times more tasteful than it used to be.
"You wouldn't," he says and feels something inside wilt when she fixes him with a withering look that says yes, yes she would. Even as a social recluse, Harry receives an absolutely ridiculous amount of mail from people he doesn't know. "I barely even know any of your friends – let alone Padma's."
"You're barely friends with me and yet here I am asking you to come to my birthday and there you are about to say yes," she says – completely pragmatic – and raising a single eyebrow imperiously at him.
Damn her she's right, too. His year's Gryffindors are a large part of the reason he remains unmolested and left alone nowadays. The Battle of Hogwarts had left so many witches and wizards and creatures dead and those that fought in the battle – fewer than is to be believed, in truth – had spent quite a while fending off the general masses who'd escaped any real involvement. Parvati didn't just choose to work at the Daily Prophet because collecting gossip and sniffing out truths from the rumour mill came naturally; she chose to work there because if she'd had to hear second-hand information one more time about the Battle she swore up and down she'd break in and hex the next reporter to print a single bloody word about the day if they hadn't been there themselves.
Really, the Daily Prophet thought they were preserving themselves in hiring her. It's an unfortunate thing for them that Parvati is three times as vicious as she lets on and next in line to be editor if her current career trajectory is any indication.
"So," she says confidently, "I'll see you at six, ta?"
"Six o'clock," she repeats and her eyes are hard and her lips a thin firm line. "You will be there. Everyone is going to be there."
So Harry finds his nicer clothes – dragonhide pants and boots, a green shirt with an actual collar and buttons, and a neat black over-robe that fits more like a long jacket than most wizards would be comfortable with – and Apparates over to the Patil twins' shared house in London.
It certainly feels like everyone is there. They must've got temporary permits for an expansion charm because the dining room normally large enough to fit the entire Weasley clan fairly comfortably is now large enough that Harry finds himself calling it a ballroom in his head.
The twins look beautiful in elegant silver and blue saris. Padma has her hair braided in an elaborate twist held together with shining pins in the shape of beetles and Parvati has her flowing free instead of her usual bun in silky looking curls that bounce merrily with every motion of her head.
"Harry!" Parvati says when she spots him. She holds out her hands and he steps over to take them in his, smiling sheepishly when several of their guests gawp at him upon recognizing whom she's talking to. Padma doesn't scowl, precisely, but the expression on her face dares anyone to turn her and her sister's birthday into something about him. Parvati's eyes gleam knowingly at him when he looks back to her from her sister. "She thinks she's so impressive because she got the Weird Sisters to play later but I got you to come out of hiding so really…"
"Are you using our House affiliation to win in a competition with your sister?" he asks with a bemused quirk to his lips.
"Obviously," she says and beams. "So where's my present?"
"In the pile," he says – referring to the table set up specifically for that purpose over in the corner. "Want to know what it is?"
"Duh," she says.
"Antipodean Opaleye boots," he says and watches her eyes light up. "Charlie pulled some strings since he knew he wouldn't make it."
Her eyes narrow. "I sent those invites three months ago. What has him so busy?"
"Breeding season," Harry hedges and very pointedly does not mention that Charlie extended his stay at the Sydney Breeding grounds by a week or the very attractive Head Keeper there with the big brown eyes, blonde hair, and a penchant for trying to actually ride the dragons. It's a match bound to end in several new burns and some fantastic new breeding pairs arranged between the Romanian and Australian Dragon Reserves but it's wildly unlikely that Parvati will accept that as a reason to miss her party.
"Bribes," she says knowingly but her lips are pulled into a bright grin. "Very nice ones I hope?"
"Of course," he says, "the best gold can buy."
She smiles slyly this time. "Go find a corner to skulk in; Hermione and Ron are going to be here later. I hear the kitchen is empty but for a couple hired House Elves."
"You are a saint," he says and makes a careful getaway through the door tucked away into the corner of the room.
True to her word, there is naught but a pair of House Elves diligently inspecting trays of hors d'oeuvres before sending them floating out into the rest of the party. They glance at him when he comes in and soon he's set up at a tall barstool at the counter with a cup of punch and a plate of samples from several platters before him.
It's where Ron finds him a half hour later. He looks rumpled but tidy and his dress robes are actually a fairly complementary sort of deep blue. Harry suspects Hermione is the cause of both the robes and the bit of hair ruffled oddly near the crown of his head.
"Parvati told me," Ron says when he's halfway through the door. "So don't bugger off in a panic."
"Wasn't going to," he says. "Nibbles?"
"Thank Merlin there's food," Ron mutters and the House Elves smile and produce another platter for him. "I saw those plates out there – I don't think anyone's eating more than a mouthful all night."
"Don't let Parvati hear you say that," he warns with a brief conspiratorial grin at the House Elves. They flash quick amused smiles and return to their work. "Has anyone noticed me missing yet?"
"Couple people," Ron says while trying to figure out if any of the little sandwiches have more than a single slice of cheese, "figure you've got another ten minutes or so before you have to go back out there."
He gets a cup of tea and finishes it just as Hermione sticks her head in the kitchen door and gives him a sympathetic but unyieldingly beckoning look. She tucks her arm in his and pulls him along with her through the crowd until she reaches a small group of people who smile at her approach.
He's roped into a conversation about his Curse Breaking apprenticeship and how it differs from similar work in the Department of Mysteries.
"Mostly I think the difference is I knew the Curses I was dealing with were Curses," he says after Hermione brings up the story of a small wooden staff enchanted with the express purpose of telling whether or not a sheep is carrying twins they'd found in a ruin somewhere and passed along to her department. "You'll get all sorts of spells and curses and enchantments off of artifacts and we did deal with those, of course, but mostly it was breaking into places."
"Like Tombs," someone pipes up with and there's a bit of a laugh at that.
"Certainly," he says when the laughter fades, "but also ruins and caves. Most tombs of any magical significance have been cleared already so it's really mostly just little things."
"You have worked on the Tombs in Egypt though," Hermione says and peers at him curiously. "With Bill."
"Yes, well," he mumbles, not wanting to explain that the only reason he ever got called out to those were because the Elder Wand is vastly unimpressed with Curses and Wards attempting to stop its Master from getting through them. It's been considered polite that he not mention his Deathstick nor use it where others can see – no one likes the reminder and no one wants to be the one to have to actually ask him to put it away.
Hermione, bless her, notices immediately and gestures vaguely across the room. "Look, isn't that your friend? The one with the cottage near yours?" she's lying so blatantly he's astounded that anyone ever believes her ever.
"Oh!" he says and nods quickly. "Yes, excuse me."
He has to put up a couple quick privacy spells because there's absolutely no one nearby he can even pretend to have spotted. He finds the bar and taps his wand against the first scotch he finds listed and watches it appear on the counter between one blink and the next.
It's god-awful scotch after having grown accustomed to the truly ridiculous array Crowley brings through his house and he winces at the first harsh burn of it against his tongue.
"Terrible, isn't it?" a voice purrs at him and he startles badly enough that he nearly drops the glass.
He's under light privacy spells, sure, but they were cast with the Elder Wand. No one should be able to just walk up and talk to him. No one should want to just walk up and do that.
"Er," he says instead and whatever garbled words he might've been able to force out fail miserably when he meets her gaze.
She smiles at him. It's the sort of smile that says his speechlessness is both pleasing and expected – and also, somehow, that if he had been able to muster words after seeing her that she would be most displeased.
She's absolutely gorgeous, he'll admit that readily and repeatedly with no hesitation. Her hair is perfect ebony against smooth warm brown skin. Her lips are painted the deep red of blood and she has shining gold hoops hanging from her ears. When she lifts a manicured hand to push her hair back behind her ears he smells cinnamon and smoke and spices.
And when he meets her gaze again and holds it this time, something ageless and powerful and furious peers out at him from behind burning brown irises.
"Hello," he manages in something he isn't embarrassed to say is more croak than actual language. He clears his throat and tries again and manages something less mangled if the way her smile widens is any indication.
"Harry Potter," she shapes his name as though she intends to own him. It's unnerving but then there's power to be found in names.
Well there would be power in his name, supposing that the Deathstick didn't snarl any time anyone tried to use it against him. There was a subtle shaping to his name now that actually required the Elder Wand in order to articulate it properly anymore.
But damn if this woman doesn't come close.
He scratches at his throat because he doesn't want to be completely obvious about how close she actually is to his True Name or the way his chest feels tight and his magic buzzes under his skin. "That's me," he says instead. "I'm sorry, I don't know…"
"Kali, please," she smiles like a tiger and steps in close. He doesn't move – he barely wants to breathe – and keeps a wary eye on her as she ticks her nails against the collar of his jacket absently while maintaining eye contact. "You know my granddaughters?"
Her granddaughters? Merlin's sweaty balls. "Padma and Parvati?" he ventures.
"Such talented little things, aren't they?" she looks proud and pleased and twists to peer at them. "I'll admit, I wasn't sure how well my gamble with your strange little folk would go but I see it's turned outvery well. Such talented girls – with blood on their hands already too!"
She sounds delighted by the last and it crackles through her voice like fire – deadly and dangerous. He won't put out that he knows Parvati has scarcely told her own Gryffindors about what she went through at the Battle – never mind her family removed from Britain at the time – and so Kali really shouldn't know that. The thing behind her eyes does though, and he's not going to risk waking that up.
"We all grew up quickly for that war," he says instead. She flicks a dismissive look at him and he tries again, "It should have been over years ago but it was a generational war; it really did need to end with us."
"Hm," she tilts her head and then nods approvingly. "I see why Loki likes you," she tells him.
Does he know a Loki? He's pretty sure Gabriel just goes by Trickster but… "He's a bit of a tool," he mutters and she laughs.
"Every tool has its use," she says. "You'll pass on my regards when he asks, won't you." It's not a question.
"Of course, Lady," he says and takes a quick stab in the dark for a title. She looks smug so he must've done something right.
When she leans in and presses a lingering kiss against the corner of his mouth he goes very still. The look in her eyes means his skyrocketing pulse has nothing to do with attraction and everything to do with abject fear. When she strides away to press teasing kisses against Parvati and Padma's cheeks and laughs with them, he manages to find the will to move out of the way and dig around for the cellphone Gabriel pressed into his hands at some point.
"You're going to meet me at home and you're going to bring drinks, yeah?" he hangs up before he gets a reply.
When he turns back to the party, he finds himself staring at Gabriel.
The angel's eyebrows jump up with concern even as he leers and rubs at the lipstick stain near Harry's mouth. "How is she?"
"She's fine. Visiting with her granddaughters."
"Oh," Gabriel says and then, "I forgot she meddled."
"You forgot?" his voice is strangled-sounding again.
"It happens! I'm millions of years old what do you want me to say?"
Harry slaps him with an impotence curse before he Apparates home. It probably won't stick but it's the thought that counts in these sorts of disagreements.