The snake was staring at her again.
Harry sat on the opposite side of the dining table from it, not breaking eye contact from the snake in front of her. The thing was enormous, at least six or seven feet long, with bright red eyes and shimmering silver scales. It flickered its tongue, hissing occasionally, but always just staring back at her.
“My, my, what do we have here?” A hissing voice - one that constantly haunted her nightmares - chuckled from behind her. Pale cold hands grasped her throat, gently stroking almost like a lover. “Little Miss Potter, shouldn’t you be in bed?”
The clang of silverware against ceramic rang through the expanse of the dark dining room, and Harry looked down in front of her to see a bloody, beating heart pulsing on her plate.
“Mornin’,” she muttered to Blaise Zabini, who raised an eyebrow at her as other members of the auror force started clearing the perimeter of the crime scene.
“Lovely day for a gruesome murder, I agree,” Blaise snorted as he snapped on some sterile gloves and handed her a similar pair. “Hope you didn’t have bacon for breakfast.”
“I don’t eat meat,” Harry automatically said. She squinted towards where the body was and, seeing it was a rather portly man that had been found practically cooking under the sun for the past day, rolled her eyes at Blaise’s poor joke.
“There you are,” Kingsley appeared beside them. He gestured to the crime scene with his head, “I’d like your opinion immediately, Potter.”
“Right, got it,” Harry took a deep breath and sighed. “I’ll need some space, as you know.”
“As the lady wishes,” Blaise smirked.
The closer Harry approached the decomposing body, the stronger the smell of decaying flesh permeated the air. The portly man was a gruesome sight, with wide gashes all over his half-naked body. From first glance it looked like a crime of passion - a scorned lover taking their revenge. Fingers could easily point to the wife, who looked distraught at her husband’s death but not overly so.
Well, it was Harry’s job to find out.
She took a deep breath once again, closing her eyes and focusing on the tick-tock of her analog watch. She imagined a full length mirror in front of her, its surface foggy but twisting at each tick-tock tick-tock .
“Show me,” she whispered, almost seemingly to herself. “Show me your heart’s desire.”
The mirror’s fog moved, shaping itself to a silhouette of a young slim man. The figure’s head tilted to the side and reached out to Harry with his palm against the surface of the mirror. Harry overlapped her hand with his and, suddenly, her surroundings changed.
It was past midnight, in the same clearing they would find the body in after a day of Sir Hartwood being missing. Harry had drugged the man with a sleeping potion with his dinner, and the Knockturn potioneer she had bought it from assured that it would be flushed out of Sir’s system naturally, even after death. As it was, Sir was snoring on the ground, heedless to the danger that he was in. And if he woke up, well. Purebloods were rather defenseless without wands.
She started by tying the wrists and the ankles, amusedly thinking about how it was kind of like tying up a pig to roast. She almost wished she had an apple to put in Sir’s mouth rather than the regular rope.
Harry was selecting her cleaver of choice when Sir finally woke up, groggily taking in his surroundings before the panic actually set in. Sir wiggled like a worm, both parts angry and afraid at the sight of Harry with the cleaver just a few feet away from him. Harry couldn’t help but smile.
“You shouldn’t have touched my sister,” she said, before rage overtook any sense of calm and with a pounce, started hacking at the abhorrent pig in front of her.
At the end of it, Sir Hartwood was a butchered mess of blood and fat, shit and piss. It was disgusting, but it was also very, very satisfying.
“This,” Harry smiled, “is my heart’s desire.”
With an intake of breath, Harry became herself again and returned back to the real world. Kingsley and Blaise were off to her side, watching her blink back to reality and reorient her sense of self back to its rightful place.
“I am Harriet Jamie Potter,” she muttered to herself, looking at her watch, “And it is 11:29 am, August 28.”
Kingsley wisely said nothing else but a patient, “Well?”
Harry tiredly stared at the body in front of her, the echoes of the killer’s rage still lingering inside. “Did he have a male house servant? Human, not house elf.”
“A few,” Kingsley said. “All of them were accounted for and had strong alibis.”
“One of them is a young one, unassuming.” Harry paused. “Muggleborn, if it needs to be said. Has a younger sister that is likely a house servant as well. I’m assuming he was taking revenge for her.”
Kingsley’s mouth twisted in distaste at the implication, reminding Harry once again why she kept helping him in these kinds of cases, despite the toll it took on her. Most pureblood Aurors just tutted and looked the other way whenever the subject of sexual harassment of Muggleborn witches was even hinted at. “I know which one fits, we’ll take him in for further questioning. Thanks again, Potter.” Kingsley then peered at her. “How have you been sleeping?”
Harry grimaced. “It’s fine,” she said unconvincingly. “I manage.”
Her pseudo-boss looked clearly skeptical, “Have you thought about my offer?”
“I don’t need a mind healer,” she grumbled. “I’m a perfectly functioning member of society.”
A few feet away, Blaise snorted as he took pictures of the crime scene. “And my mother is a saint, Potter.”
“Your mother is a lovely woman,” Harry said, “if only she would stop setting us up.”
Kingsley cleared his throat. “Harry,” he sighed, and the use of her first name meant he was talking in a friend-capacity rather than as her boss. “Seriously, consider it. You’ve been looking worse lately.”
‘Of course I have,’ she wanted to say. ‘The anniversary is in two months.’ “I rather don’t fancy having judgemental doctors trapezing through my mindscape, thanks.” Is what she said instead.
“Healer Riddle comes recommended,” Kingsley insisted.
“My list of past mental trauma does not come recommended for anyone,” Harry pushed back. “Especially not to mind healers.”
“Just one,” Kingsley bargained. “One proper session. On my tab. If you decide that you hate it and you hate him, then I’ll drop it until you have your inevitable mental breakdown.”
Blaise whistled and Harry flinched a little. “Wow, okay, I deserved that last bit.” Harry gave an aggravated sigh, “Yeah, sure. Fine. One session.”
“Well now that you’ve resolved your personal issues,” Blaise deadpanned, “you guys do remember that there’s a body here and we have a killer to catch, right?”
Harry thought the murder was sort of justified, when further questioning revealed that the culprit, a Muggleborn named Jason Samuels, killed Sir Hartwood for raping his younger sister this past summer. Miss May Samuels had just started Hogwarts last year.
That left Harry with a bad taste in her mouth and a constant feeling of ‘ I should’ve made that bastard hurt more ’ - the echoing remains of Jason in her. Hermione, she was sure, was going to rant to the high events when the details of the case broke out in the morning. Abuse of Muggleborn minors was, sadly, still too common even in today’s society even with the combined efforts of Hermione and her legal team trying to amend the laws to be harsher to the abusers. It was fortunate that her best friend was assigned to the Diggory’s as her host family, otherwise she possibly wouldn’t be here where she was today.
“You look like crap, mate,” Ron greeted her when she showed up at his and Hermione’s doorstep for dinner. “Bad day?”
“You’ll hear about it soon enough,” Harry said dryly. “Hermione is gonna have a field day with this one.”
“Yikes,” Ron flinched, immediately understanding what she was saying.
“I agree with Kingsley on this one,” Hermione frowned at her after their plates were cleaned up. “We love you, Harry, but you’re being unnecessarily stubborn about this. You need professional help.”
“I’ve been fine,” Harry repeated, a bit tiredly. “I can cope.”
“A bottle of firewhiskey a week ain’t coping, sorry to say,” Ron apologetically sided with his wife. “I’m an Auror, too, remember? I’ve seen some guys breakdown on less stress, and we don’t want to see you like that, Harry.”
“I already agreed to one session,” Harry muttered. “We’ll see how it goes. But if he starts looking too enthusiastic about having the famous Harriet Potter as a patient, then I reserve the right to kick him in the nuts.”
Harry shifted uncomfortably in Healer Riddle’s waiting room. The place looked suspiciously homey, with the wooden everything and fancy decor. It also looked ridiculously expensive. Pureblood expensive. Kingsley hadn’t told Harry anything about the man she was supposed to confess some deep dark secrets to, but from what Harry could gather, Healer Riddle found success at a young age, graduating top of his Hogwarts class and Head Boy of his time. He was also ridiculously handsome and successful enough that pureblooded ladies have been hoping to catch his eye for the past almost-three decades, despite his questionable heritage. Riddle wasn’t a magical family name, after all.
Harry looked up from inspecting her fingernails to see - well, wow. No wonder the ladies have been clamoring for his attention since he hit puberty. For a man practically twice her age, Healer Riddle was incredibly attractive.
“Miss Potter?” Harry snapped out of her staring and noticed the amused tilt of the Healer’s lips and the raised eyebrow. “Are you ready for your session?”
“Uh, yeah,” Harry squeaked, almost stumbling out of her chair. Inwardly mortified at her own incapability of keeping herself straight at the face of a handsome older man, she kept her head down as she followed him into the office. The door behind her clicked shut almost ominously.
“I’m Healer Tom Riddle,” the man in front of her smiled genially, a striking juxtaposition to surprisingly cold, dark eyes. “Nice to meet you, Harriet Potter.”
And suddenly, Harry was filled with an overwhelmingly dreadful feeling that she had met this man before.