Disclaimer: Whelp, i actually don't really want to own Harry Potter, other than for the money of course. Could you imagine how much of it I could, and probably would, screw up!? I'm fine with just dabbling in the universe once in a while.
Chapter Three: A Death for my Conscious
A second within opening the door to the small apartment in the heart of London, Harry was met with a face full of bouncing blond curls and an armful of Cosie Pryce.
"I didn't know you were coming over today!"
Cosette 'Cosie' Pryce was just barely under a year older than Harry, and almost his complete opposite in every way- not just in physical appearances either. Yes, Cosie was blonde, tan, blue-eyed and probably the closest thing to an angel Harry figured anyone would ever see while Harry was pale, dark haired with emerald green eyes, but her sunny disposition countered Harry's solemn one just as much
She was also chatty. It was about the only quality Harry couldn't stand in the girl.
Matt smiled at his daughter, snatching her in for a quick hug and laughing at her squeal of protest. "Come on, Cosie, at least let the boy breath before you decide to smother him to death. Go on in Harry, you know where the guest room is. I'll grab the rest of your bags."
He shuffled awkwardly, "It's okay, really. There's only one of them left, I can just grab it later."
Matt ignored him, rolling his eyes and heading back down the steps from the third floor balcony while Harry was quickly tugged inside by Cosie.
She babbled on, "Come on Harry! You haven't been here in ages! Look- we even painted the kitchen last month-"
He nodded absently, noting the light blue wall standing almost awkwardly against the living room's own deep brown.
The apartment was small, even on an average scale of London apartments. It only had two rooms, a single bathroom, and a combined kitchenette dining room area that was split off from the living room by a small bar counter with three small stools shoved up against it.
The Pryce home was…cozy, not for a lack of a better word, but instead because there was no other word Harry would use to describe the feeling of just- home that permeated the place, wrapping around it like a warm blanket. It was almost intoxicating for Harry to come here, so different from the cold and distant homes that he was used to bouncing around in. It wasn't messy, but there were still odds and ends scattered around the counters and tabletops, family knick-knacks with funny stories dotting the shelves.
Matt, for whatever reason, seemed to think that the more well off the family, the easier it would be for Harry to settle in. While he appreciated the effort the older man must have put into finding those 'rich' families, Harry despised those particular houses with a passion. After moving around so much, he got used to being able to tell a couple by their house. The museum ones tended to be the worst.
And try as hard as he might to ignore it, every time Harry opened the door to the small guest room in the Pryce Apartment, he felt as if he were coming home.
Cosie was still speaking, "You're room is pretty much the same as it was last time- even though we had one kid that stayed and tried to spray paint it this ugly orange color," her nose scrunched up distastefully, "Honestly it was horrid. At least you have a sense of fashion. Now all you need to work on is not being a slob and you'll be golden-"
"Cosie," Harry paused in front of the guest bedroom door, trying to hide a grimace from the girl. He wasn't very good at it. "I really appreciate the update and all, but I'm kind of tired. I'd like to just rest for a bit if you don't mind."
Cosie's mouth snapped shut so quickly, Harry wondered if he'd said that a tad more rudely than he thought; he wasn't the best of judges on what technically counted as 'rude'.
But the girl merely smiled softly, offering him a little pat on the shoulder. "Alright then, I'll just see if dad needs me for anything." And she bounced away, curls bobbing. Harry stared after her odd behavior for a moment, before shaking his thoughts away and facing the door to one of the two bedrooms in the apartment.
Both Matthew and his daughter shared the master bedroom, leaving only other room empty at all times. Leaving the guest room empty was a necessity for Matt's job, and Cosie never complained. Sometimes, a new child case would come up and the kid would have nowhere else to go for a few days so Matt had to make sure there was always room at his own home. It was a sacrifice neither one of the Pryce's ever felt was hard- the family was the picture of saints.
So while it wasn't truly his room, Harry was the most frequent occupant and it showed. Opening the door wide, the walls were still littered with small holes and bits of left-over tacky that refused to come off when a picture or poster of Harry's after an extended stay was taken down. The room itself was still painted the warm forest green he had chosen at six and Harry was sure that if he opened the wardrobe tucked against the back corner, he'd still find his knight figurines safely hidden in the bottom drawer.
Harry set his suitcase on the bed and scuttled around the room, opening the single window to let some air in and to shift the furniture around some.
"You settled in, kid?" asked Matt from the doorway. The second of Harry's two suitcases was resting by his feet and Harry quickly snatched it, tossing it onto the bed by his other one. The mattress made a horrible screech at the extra weight, the lumps in the bed seeming to scoot out of the way like cockroaches, determined not to be squashed. It was a gross, but accurate, comparison. The mattress was older than he was.
Harry looked around at the sparse room and shrugged, flopping down and completely squashing the cockroach lumps. "As much as I'll ever be."
"Good then," Matt shifted awkwardly in the door. "Well, if you don't mind, I'd like to talk to you in the kitchen about the Millers. I've already got their information and I figured you might want a sneak peak."
Harry groaned. "Not now Matt, I just got here!"
"Yes, well, with school starting up again in a month you'll need to move in with the Millers as soon as possible so they can enroll you." Matt replied tiredly.
Cosie's head suddenly popped into view from the door. "Dad, you can't kick Harry out already. He just got here!" She said, incredulous.
Matt threw his hands into the air irritably, "My god, it's not like I'm not kicking him-you- out onto the streets to live life to the fullest as a hobo! It's just another family transfer."
"Yeah but why does he have to go so soon?" Cosie pouted, "Can't he just start school off with me? We've done it before."
It had been the Peterson disaster of '87. It was the first, and only time so far, that one of Harry's foster-care parents had died. Mr. Peterson had been on his way home from work in his office when he was hit by a car- a car that had been in the process of running off with thousands of pounds from a nearby bank robbery a few streets away. There had been million-to-one chances of that actually happening to a quiet family like the Petersons and Matt constantly preached that it was one of those freak accidents- they just happen. Harry firmly believed Mr. Peterson would still be alive had he not stepped foot into their front door.
Afterwards Mrs. Peterson became inconsolable from the loss and Harry found himself once again being moved. The problem, though, was that the murder had happened a week before school was supposed to start. With no other alternate family ready and the widowed Mrs. Peterson unwilling to take him in, Matt had taken Harry for a few weeks and signed him up to attend the same school as Cosie. It had been the most enjoyable time he'd ever spent in that god-forsaken public prison.
Matt shook his head. "That was different Cosie. He only had a week before school started with no alternate family. Now we not only have a few weeks before school starts, but also a family ready and available whenever we need them."
The oddity of another family suddenly appearing popped back into Harry's head at the comment and he squinted at Matt suspiciously, "How did you find a family so quickly anyways, Matt? It usually takes months with records like mine, not to mention all the requirements you have listed on my case."
Matt's face shadowed over. "Harry, drop it. It was a lucky find."
"Oh- oh, you fudged my records, didn't you? That's the only way another family would take me so fast-"
"I said drop it, I did not change your records." He sounded not only frustrated, but defensive and Harry knew he was right. Heck, he wasn't even surprised, he was sure it had happened on more than one occasion. Matt glanced quickly around the small room again, eyeing Harry's tow bags as if they held the answer to the universe. "I'm gonna get you some new cloths tomorrow."
It an abrupt and obvious change of topic; they weren't going to discuss his papers further. It also happened to be a topic Harry didn't appreciate in the least. His back snapped straight and he bristled, "The cloth's I have are fine. I don't need anymore."
It was a sore topic to choose from. Harry didn't appreciate charity. Maybe, being an orphan with next to nothing he ought to value even the least bit of charity he was shown, but he couldn't find it in him to squash down the sickening shame that swelled in his stomach whenever it was offered.
Matt told him it was his inflated pride that stopped him. He'd even been to a bloody psychiatrist that had said much the same, telling himin small, slow, and carefully chosen words what he felt- that his pride was all he had left, and he refused charity because he felt it would giving up the last thing he felt he had. A small, usually well ignored part of his brain gleefully stored this diagnosis away, throwing it up against his thoughts whenever it had the chance, but Harry refused to acknowledge it. It was a shoddy label at best out of a 'Mental Illness' book. He was simply independent and just didn't want to live off of someone else.
Harry stood sharply, avoiding Matt's gaze. "I think I left something in the car." And before either Pryce could say anything, he had moved past them, out of the hallway, and onto the street.
The sun was still bright, out and shinning and Harry paused briefly on the grass in front of the apartment building to just soak it in. Car horns beeped all along the busy road just in front of him, men spouting profanities at each other, but Harry ignored them. It was easy enough.
One sound, though, caught his ear. It was of a great, heaving cough- the kind that rattled the lungs and burned the throat. Across the street in front of a small, run down little flat, was an old man. He was squat, bald with a round face. Currently, he was hunched on the driver's side of his car, breathing heavily in the heat.
The cough had first drawn his attention, but now Death held it and Harry froze in the footsteps he hadn't even realized he was taking towards the old man. It hadn't been the first time he had seen Death hanging over the shoulder of someone he didn't have any connection with, but it didn't happen often and every time it did it had been looming over people much like the man it was shadowing, those old and withered with age.
He really, really shouldn't, Harry knows. He never approached anyone he had seen with Death. It was painful enough to just look at them, knowing that in a few hours, maybe even less, they would be dead, wiped from the world. Harry normally ignored those marked with a stiff neck until the left.
But something about the old man pulled at him. Maybe it was his dead sympathy acting up. It was no wonder why Death was there at all though, the man looked a sickly grey, with a heavy stance and shaking hands. He was bound to die any time now.
But Harry wavered. Still. The man's head swiveled faster than harry would have guessed it to be able to, stopping pointedly in his direction and with a heavy blush, Harry realized he had been staring blatantly, and probably with a bit of an odd sort of sorry nostalgic look too if he as lucky.
But the old man didn't seem to be offended. Instead, he smiled and cheerily waved to Harry. It was kind of a twisted stark contrast to the looming entity standing just behind the man, who was so happily smiling. But it also brought Harry back to reality, and he frowned bitterly. That man was going to die in a few hours. That was a sobering fact if he'd ever heard one, Harry thought, turning away.
And he almost missed it. It was nothing more than a flash, a flicker at the edges of his vision that had him spinning back around so fast he almost got whiplash. He wasn't sure how, but he could see it, a flash in front of his vision- there but at the same time not. And he saw it happen, moments before it would.
A car, careening out of control and swerving violently to one side right in front of a small, ratty flat with an old man out front-
And a split second after the vision faded, Harry heard squealing tires.
The world seemed to slow, the people in the street, a business man and a young mother with her daughter besides the old man, didn't seem to react as fast as they should have. And that same car came shooting into view.
Harry didn't know how it happened. He swore he didn't- one minute he was staring, horrified at the old man and Death who had stretched his cloak out ominously as understanding crashed down onto him, and the next, he was beside the old man, shoving him don and to the side as death never even nicked them, spiraling right by.
It happened in the blink of an eye, in that split second between breaths. Now Harry lay dazed into silence next to the groaning old man on the pavement.
He had saved the old man. He had stopped Death from stealing his next victim. It had never happened before- he had never tried to prevent it from happening before. It just did, and he accepted it. People died and he saw it and there was nothing he could do about it.
But he had! He had just saved a life. Jubilation rose up rapidly in his chest- he had saved someone from Death!- and he turned to check the old man next to him, who was by now blearily blinking up from glazed eyes, clearly not aware of the fact he had just been saved from Death by a preteen with
"Hey, sir, are you alri-"
But as the words left his mouth, a piercing scream split the air, slicing through it with sharp chills. "NO! MARIANNA!"
Harry's blood ran cold. He looked back- he hadn't even followed the path the veering car had taken- to see the young mother, scratched and bleeding, kneeling on the ground, weeping with a small bundle cradled in her arms. She rocked back and forth, a wail tearing itself from her throat as tears streamed down.
Death stood silently above them.
The scene was tormenting and Harry could only watch, horrified as Death bent over, reaching one spindled hand into the small child's chest.
The hand retreated, a small white light gripped firmly in its grasp. Harry wanted to move, so desperately wanted to reach out and protect that small light from such a dark creature, but couldn't move. Nothing is working- MOVE!
Death bored down into Harry's eyes the next moment, suddenly above him like a black shadow sprung from the ground. Behind it, Harry could still hear the mother weeping, crying her little girl's name over and over again, begging her to move, to wake up, to do anything at all.
But Marianna was dead. And Harry knew why.
Death left him shivering violently in the summer's heat. Horror and disgust swirled in his stomach, and Harry could swear he was going to be sick. There was a reason he had never tried to follow those marked by Death, to save them in their inevitable moment of terror. He might not have known why exactly at the time, it was always more of a subconsious revulsion, but the thought always felt so dreadfully wrong, an unforgivable crime against some obscure law.
And now Harry knew that is exactly what it was. A crime. By saving an old man already dying from an early grave, he had condemned an innocent girl to death. He had killed that woman's daughter.
If Matt had ever convinced him he any of those deaths were not his fault, that flicker of hope was gone now.
A/N: Okay, so this was a long time coming and I'm not sure I'm too rpoud of it. Actually, I think its absolutely atrocious, but hey, I had to get it out there to get the story moving. Sorry If it seems like Death is absolutely everywhere in the beginning but I really want to give you guys a basis of how Harry sees Death, because I assure you it will affect how he makes some of his decisions, especially when the Grim, haha like Harry's gonna believe that, comes up in third year.
Also guys, I've started working on some of my previous stories, don't worry, and also on another new story( sorry please don't kill me!) that's a crossover between HP and The Avenger, because Avengers is the greatest movie (second to Harry Potter of cours) of all time. So if any one of you feels like you could make witty come backs worthy of Tony Stark especially well, please contact me! I also recomend that you read the fanfic 'I See The Moon' by hctiB-notsoB. Its one of my favorite stories ever!