Bakura sat down in the seat/platform construct that the Duellists were required to occupy for this round. This four-way preliminary that would decide who Duelled against whom in the semi-finals.
Neither the spirit or Harry knew why Seto bothered with this. Everybody knew that he wanted to Duel Yugi first, and Harry and Bakura didn't care who they Duelled – because they would win no matter who they faced. Harry's Duelling tactics were just that good. No, it wasn't arrogance, mostly anyway. Harry was capable of being bested, but that generally happened when it was just a fun Duel with friends in the classroom and he wasn't too worried about whether he won or not, even if he was always competitive. Official Duels were different though.
"Take points in a clock-wise manner," Harry's voice whispered in their mind, and Bakura nodded in agreement. What did they care who they Duelled first after all?
"And lay traps liberally," Bakura added silently. He was rather fond of traps after all, and they were so useful. The expressions on opponents faces when the trap was sprung were always entertaining as well.
And he'd be Duelling with his own deck. Not any of Harry's. He didn't get to Duel much any more, against people who weren't Harry anyway. He was going to enjoy this, even with the Landlord back-seat Duelling a little. After all, he was never pushy, Harry was the better Duellist between them now, and Bakura had gotten over his ego-tripping somewhere between being charged with pseudo-parenthood and the first time Harry had defeated him in Duel Monsters.
Well, Seto got what he wanted. Mostly because Harry also really wanted to sort out Mad Max – and the Thief King was more than happy to oblige his exhausted host. So what if he was blatantly rigging his own position? Everybody else was trying to as well, they were just not having as much success as the Thief King was.
"I'd say that we've done this before," Bakura commented as he walked around the arena at the top of the tower. "But that was Marik against my host. This time it's you against me," he said with a slightly sinister smile. "How appropriate."
"Indeed," the other agreed with a sneer.
"You lose, Marik gets control of his body back," Bakura said calmly.
"I win, I get all your Millennium Items, the Winged Dragon of Ra, and you get sent to the Shadow Realm!" was the counter-offer.
"You have a Shadow Game," Bakura agreed.
Mad Max's deck was best described as a 'torture' deck, and he was very good at using it. The problem, however, was that torture took time. Against the Thief King – or more to the point, against Harry – opponents weren't given time. Opponents were swiftly and decisively dealt with when Harry Duelled, and while that wasn't really Bakura's style, he had to admit that it worked.
"Don't take this the wrong way," Bakura informed the collapsed form of the blonde Egyptian. "I don't really like or care about you at all. I just have this thing against self-important, self-righteous psychos bent on world domination. Or throne fetishists."
"How the hell do you put up with Kaiba then?" Jounouchi asked from where he and everybody else had been watching the Duel.
"He's not a psycho and he only wants to dominate the world of Duel Monsters," Bakura answered with a shrug. "Great as the game is, it's mostly just a game these days. Besides, it's not me who puts up with him most of the time."
The Duel between Seto and Yugi was interesting, just as the Duels between them in the past had been. What was really interesting was when Obelisk the Tormentor was pitted against Slifer the Sky Dragon. Really, showing off much? Bakura couldn't help but scoff just a little bit at the two teens his host shared day-time classes with. They really were a bit ridiculous in how competitive they were, especially since he and his landlord were rather sure that it was a cover. Yugi had feelings for Seto, Seto had feelings for Yugi, the Pharaoh was a wild-card that just confused the whole thing, and no one said anything because Yugi was too shy, Seto too proud, and again the Pharaoh was a wild-card that confused the whole thing.
Really, the whole thing felt like a re-hashing of Duellist Kingdom. The results were the same in any event, and left Bakura – and Harry by consequence – in possession of the three Egyptian god cards, not that he particularly cared. Still, if he got very bored (or unaccountably desperate) with his business over in England, then he might use them then. It could be amusing at least. Possibly.
Harry stood on English soil for the first time in almost six years and looked around.
"And you want me to save these people?" he asked the dour man who had travelled with him, his tone mildly incredulous.
Severus Snape nodded, though he didn't seem all that pleased either.
"For free?" Harry questioned again.
Snape shrugged uncomfortably.
Harry sighed. "Right, I'll just empty Dumbledore's account while I'm here then as payment," he decided with a wave of his hand, dismissing the man with the same gesture.
It didn't take all that long, with help from the Ring and a little bit of Shadow Magic, to find all of the horcruxes that were anchoring Voldemort to this world. Especially since Sirius had already made a very good beginning and found three – on his own and having to work around Dumbledore actually trying to stop him – before the old coot had even shown up in Domino. A simple extraction ritual, then the pieces were fed to a morphing jar summoned from the Shadow Realm, which the Thief King found immensely satisfying. He had only been wanting to do that since Harry was an infant and he'd realised the horrid magic the creep had used to tether himself to this plane.
The most interesting of the trinkets that the madman had used Harry kept, the others were left in Sirius' care, if he wanted them. Really, what use did he have for a tacky necklace or a golden mug? None. The Resurrection Stone was quite the keepsake however. Very nice. Besides, it filled out the set, since he already had the Invisibility Cloak and the Elder Wand – the former from his vault prior to his leaving England, and the latter from when the Thief King had... concluded his business with the crazy old man.
Of course, Harry couldn't leave until he'd dealt with the self-important murderer who had created the anchors in the first place. Should probably have a proper visit with his godfather as well, since he was in the country and all, rather than just stopping by about the anchors the man had found.
As Harry stood before Voldemort, he couldn't help but wonder just what was so terrifying about the man. Okay, he was ugly, but being ugly didn't automatically make people scary. Maybe it was just conditioning. Yeah, that had to be it. Or maybe it was that Harry was the only magical person currently in the country who had gotten any sort of education outside of it apart from this malformed person. The British education was, for magical people, depressingly poor.
Then the git started posturing and flicked Harry's "overkill switch". Just like Para and Dox had, just like Peggy had – though Marik and Mad Max hadn't. They hadn't postured quite enough to warrant that reaction from Harry. They were self-important and stupid, but they hadn't postured at him immediately before a Duel. Much.
Conveniently, Harry had an utterly suitable Duel Monster. Not Slifer the Sky Dragon, not Obelisk the Tormentor, not the Winged Dragon of Ra – though he had all three. Not Exodia, not the Blue Eyes or the Red Eyes or the Yellow Eyes. No, cute little Kuribo would be enough to get rid of this posturing pustule. It was overkill as well. Harry could have just shot him, since guns and bullets were very convenient things that were readily available to anybody – especially to anybody who cared to make a pit-stop in Russia on their way through.
Not that he had. Of course not! Well... maybe he had... He was sure his godfather wouldn't mind sharing a bottle of vodka with him later...
As for the bits that got left behind, well, the Thief King's Man-Eater Bug hadn't been fed for a while. For the record, any Death Eaters still hanging about counted as 'bits that got left behind'.
In the words of the Thief King: "Modern day humans are so much fun to torment."
Sirius Black and Remus Lupin had both been mildly unnerved to hear that comment, but they'd stuck with the boy anyway, even helped him master the animagus transformation that he'd been having trouble with. They couldn't understand why Harry was a cat of all things, but they'd given him a "Marauder Nickname" to go with it all the same: Garfield, in honour of the muggle comic that they were both fond of since Lily had introduced them to it. Never mind that Harry wasn't a ginger cat, and certainly not a fat one, he was now stuck with Garfield regardless. Like he was going to tell anybody back home in Domino that nickname though.
Harry was home, in Domino, in time for his sixteenth birthday and the new school year to begin. It seemed that, in his absence, Seto and Mokuba had gotten together with Ryou to plan him a little celebration. Nothing too grand. Harry was, after all, a very rich person who generally liked to live quietly. This also cut down on the present front. Seto claimed that it should be gift enough that he was bothering to participate in something so plebeian as a birthday celebration – Harry assured him, with a laugh, that it was. Mokuba gave Harry a picture that he'd drawn, and like the image on the Yellow Eyes Grey Dragon card, Harry admired and praised the boy's artistic skill liberally.
Ryou gave him a kiss.
"That," the white-haired boy said when they finally broke apart, "is the first part of your birthday present." Then he lowered his voice and whispered in Harry's ear. "You can unwrap the rest later."
Harry ginned, happily pulling Ryou into his lap.
It was a fantastic birthday party. Not even the news of all the things he'd missed while he was on the other side of the world could ruin it for the green-eyed teen. Really, the mischief that the friendship squad got up to when he wasn't there to keep an eye on things! On the other hand, he was a little disappointed to have missed the Duel between Yugi and the Pharaoh. It sounded like it would have been an impressive thing to watch.
It was a bit interesting, later in the evening, when Ryou finally did touch the Ring – which Harry had promised he could once the England business was done. There was a bright light, and then the Thief King was standing there, translucent but definitely there, and visible to Ryou's sight as well if the way he was staring was anything to go by.
A golden scale appeared, also translucent, and held in the hands of a being that could only be Anubis, with obviously Osiris beside him placing a white feather on one side of the scale.
"BaKuRa of Kul Elna," Osiris intoned gravely. "The time has come for your judgement."
Bakura visibly steeled himself. "I am ready," he answered, his voice as steady as he could make it.
With a gesture from Anubis, Bakura's heart came out of his spectral chest in a flash of light, landing on the still empty side of the scale. It dipped. It sank. It fell low on its side of the scale and was watched by the gods, boys and spirit attentively. Then it began to rise again. Upwards and upwards until the side of the scale with the feather on was dipped low. A breath of a moment later, and the scales were balanced perfectly.
Anubis grinned – not a pretty sight, with all those sharp teeth of his.
"Very good," Osiris declared with an indifferent sniff. "Come now, the afterlife awaits you."
"Goodbye," Harry called as the gods, the scale, and spirit began to fade away. "Thief King."
"Live well," the Thief King answered softly. "My friend."
"I'm sorry," Ryou said softly when they were gone, genuinely apologetic for apparently being the cause of Harry losing a friend who had been with him for all his life.
"Don't be," Harry answered, kissing Ryou softly. "He's been hanging around for thousands of years. He's finally earned his peace."
Ryou, tentatively, smiled in acceptance of this view.
"Now, I have a present to unwrap, don't I?" Harry teased, then pressed a kiss to Ryou's throat.
A laugh, and an appreciative moan were his answer as Ryou tugged Harry's shirt from his trousers.
"Now, if only we could set Seto up with Yugi," Harry commented as he lay, nude beneath the sheets, with his arm wrapped around his equally naked boyfriend.
Ryou laughed, and kissed Harry's shoulder – the nearest part of him to Ryou's mouth.
"Just you wait until my dogfather finds out you've deflowered me," Harry growled playfully, rolling over so that he was above Ryou.
"We'll just have to set him up with that werewolf friend you mentioned," Ryou countered. "Then he'll be too busy to do anything to me."
Harry laughed. "An excellent idea," he agreed, then bent down to kiss Ryou's smiling mouth.