Disclaimer: I don't own any of the four puppies that served as an inspiration.
Shout Out: I don't know whether to laugh, cry or sulk. It seems that some of you are scarily insightful, but dear me, no dice. But at least you got half the dice, considering your guesswork of which assassin got which Element under their belt, so to speak. Some of it will be revealed in this chapter. As for next one, it will be posted next week on Tuesday, my time. I self-beta this, so this is one of the reasons the chapters will be slow in coming for this story.
Warnings: AU on multiple scales, time jump, and not everything is what it seems to be.
A million roads, a million fears
A million suns, ten million years of uncertainty
I could speak a million lies, a million songs,
A million rights, a million wrongs in this balance of time
('A Thousand Years' by Sting)
If you were Harry Potter, then your life inevitably sucked. Of course, there were grand adventures each year without fail, ever since he had been accepted into that magic school, but the pitfalls were mortal danger at every corner, his name being dragged through the month every few months, whether or not he was guilty of the things they were accusing him of, and his friends were of a wishy-washy sort that didn't really support him.
It didn't help that ever since some time long ago, something was gnawing in his chest cavity, dark, cold, hollow and alone. Hermione and the twins had filled the gap a little, but they were small, desperately flickering candles in the vastness of the starless space. Ron wasn't really his friend - Harry could speak with him about chess and Quidditch and food, but they simply didn't click. The fourth year also broke that particular camel's back irreparably - if Harry held onto his illusions of Ron being an understanding, decent sort of person, they were dashed the moment his so called 'best mate' accused him of being a glory hog and selfishly entering the Triwizard Tournament, leaving poor, widdle Ronnie behind.
His headaches were also becoming steadily stronger - strong enough that even the strongest potions he had swiped from Madam Pomfrey failed to quell the inferno in his skull.
He couldn't even hold food down in his stomach. Every time he tried his innards rebelled with a surprising force, forcing him into drinking copious amounts of water in hopes to quell the searing heat within his skull. However, it didn't help a whit - even if the liquid was straight-from-pipe fresh, to him, it smelled and tasted of dirt and worms.
Right now, he was outside sitting on the bench, dry heaving and fervently wishing for the silence and relative cold of his cupboard under the stars.
"Hey, dudes, look what we got here." Dudley's smarmy voice caused Harry to twitch, but he didn't bother with raising his head from between his knees. It was bad enough that everything around him spun like crazy, the surroundings blurring in and out of focus, causing Harry to close his eyes in an attempt to quail the sickly rolling in his stomach. Vomiting on an empty stomach was not something he cared to experience ever again.
Carefully, he inhaled, and promptly gagged on the scent of sweat and strong odor of deodorant his pursues used to appear 'cooler'. "Ugh."
"Hey, why don't we have Harry Hunting for the old times' sake?" The high, whiny voice that belonged to Piers suggested and Harry shuddered. Piers' voice was oily, like the worst kind of sludge. At the risk of sounding clichéd, it was enough to make Harry want to vomit… again.
"Don't want." He snapped out, almost biting his tongue in the process. "Big D, he thinks he has some kind of a choice," Another kid jeered, and Harry felt an inexplicable urge to snap the brat's jaw shut. Their hyenish laughter didn't really help his mood, causing his headache to become even worse.
"Piss off." He grunted, glaring with one bleary eye at his stupid cousin. "Go 'way." He grunted out. Was it really so hard to get just a little bit of peace? The heartbeat echoed in his ears, pounding through his skull painfully, gorging itself on the crested waves of agony that was coming and going with horrible regularity. Harry gritted his teeth. The pain was like Cruccio, but instead of melting his nerves with feeling of hot knives poking at every little individual strand, it was like acid and fire eating through his sanity, causing his mouth to water with excess saliva. He swallowed - a futile action, but done nonetheless.
The jeering and poking of his tormentors became distant whispering sound in his mind when the cold came.
He knew that cold.
'Not Harry! Not my son!' A woman's voice begged in his ears, a flash of red dancing in front of him –
'Get away from him, Kiritsugu.' A foreign voice called out sharply, dark, sunken eyes glaring at Harry like he was the lowest, most disgusting thing in the world, causing him to cringe with self-deprecation and loathing. The wisps of red and dark violet reached for him desperately
'But otousan, he's mi – ' A boyish voice protested, and there was a messy-haired silhouette of a small boy standing in front of him, cloaked in sanguine red and indigo blue. A moment later, he and the colors were torn from Harry's grasp like they never existed at all, causing him to choke with the pain the hitherto unknown action caused him -
'Stand aside, my son.' An elderly voice instructed, both firm and regretful and Harry felt dread, because he knew this scene and yet, it was so unfamiliar and strange, which made its juxtaposition all the more jarring.
'He is my friend! You said I can have friends, why - ' Another young, desperate voice echoed through his head, all violet and sun-gold, the two colors comfortable and protective shield around him for the shortest of moments, before they were being torn away from him and it hurthurthurt –
'I am sorry.' Another voice, this time toneless, with almost unseen shape in the darkness, with dark, dead eyes staring at Harry and the one in front of him, a tall boy clad in dark grey.
'You are not. And I will kill you for it.' The young voice spoke out flatly, holding not an empty threat, but a certainty. A flash of grey, blue and green, snuffed out as if they weren't even there to begin with and Harry screamed.
He couldn'thavethecolors and it hurthurthurt, because he didn't have his heart and warmth and theywerenotthereanymore - !
The sound that came out of his throat was so raw and animal-like that made the members of Dudley's gang, as petrified as they were, tear themselves out of reminiscing their own worst memories, flinch out of it as if they were whipped causing them to make a run for it, and making the freezing cold concentrate solely on Harry, invisible ice picks penetrating each and every pore of his body, reaching bone- and then soul-deep –
Green colored eyes snapped open, looking right at the veiled form of the thing that encroached upon him and then, everything vanished in golden and orange colored storm.
He was always empty. Since he could remember, his chest cavity was empty. Of course, his heart beat was still here, but he couldn't feel anything.
No joy. No sadness. Only a profound and always existent sense of wrongness.
It was a disconcerting feeling, being so very different from everyone else.
He had excelled in his studies, but his success didn't bring him the feeling of accomplishment like it did to his colleagues. The most alive he could feel, it was in the middle of the fight, when his senses were heightened to the razor-sharpness, always on the outlook for his opponent aiming to trick or confuse him, his mind running rampant with plans and counter-plans for whatever they cooked up to doom him.
Sometimes, he was tempted to just let them have their own way.
Sometimes, he purposefully let them injure him, the flashes of pain bright splashes of feeling across his mind.
- he could almost see the (sun) yellow and violet and that glorious shade of orange, but the last one always skittered away from his fingertips like some kind of ethereal, skittish animal -
The loss was even more profound after those little episodes, prompting him to grudgingly heal whatever little scrapes he had gained from his opponents and head back to his lodgings (never home).
Always when he saw orange, he looked, hoping to catch that elusive shade which danced at the edge of his consciousness. However, there was always something that was fundamentally wrong with the shade.
Too bright. Too dirty. Too loud - could the colors even be described as loud? – Too… wrong.
And too cold.
The world around him still turned around, leaving him feeling bereft, like a particularly heavy rock in the river that moved around it. Changing, yet unchangeable. Smoothing his edges out, yet unable to move him along the current.
He knew what mercy was, what forgiveness should be, even the notion of beauty, he knew the textbook definition of it by heart. But knowledge alone wasn't enough. It was never enough.
He had been walking from the local library, when he felt it.
And not the usual cold he had gotten used to in his time of doing missions with Executors, but the kind of cold that seeped out of the very marrow of his bones outward, spilling into his muscles and nerves and chilling his skin like some kind of an inverted supernova of despair.
"… why I can't have friends?"
He shook his head.
He never said that.
(But he did.)
His head began throbbing and he unconsciously began walking and then running straight to the source of that unnatural cold.
"Please. No. Not him. I beg of you!"
He choked on the feeling when he heard - remembered? - That voice.
"Stand aside, my son."
No. He wouldn't.
(But he did.)
And then, darkness.
And loss – of something so very precious that –
He heard a scream of fear, anger and despair, the anguish given voice, so similar to his own, except that he didn't scream, prompting him to practically fly toward the source of the sound, his vision edged in violet and yellow –
He saw the cloaked things - four of them - advance toward someone, their skeletal hands reaching out, and then, a brilliant storm of beautiful orange flames with golden edges broke out, snapping toward the unnatural beings like cornered animal, causing them to flinch back before they attempted to get to its source once again.
He saw red. Those abominations dared to attempt to kill the owner of this precious fire and this was unacceptable. Swiftly, his hands reached into his cassock, pulling out all too familiar hilts and igniting them in one breath, before the yellow and violet shining blades - no time to wonder just why were they a mix of those two particular colors - were thrown straight at the foul beings, causing them to shriek and disintegrate, leaving behind only their cloaks and their victim.
The victim in question was still standing, his spine unflinchingly straight, even when his body was trembling like a leaf in hurricane. The slight form was clad in too large clothes, drab gray and washed-out black, more likening to a prisoner than a free person, his messy black hair sticking every-which way rebelliously, like a fur of a wet kitten.
"Are you – " He began to speak, when the victim - a boy, he found out – began to shake even more and it was only his reflexes that allowed him to intercept the crumpling form and unconsciously snatch it to his chest –
The word (- question - ) lodged itself in the back of his throat.
It was only a moment, and not even that, but those eyes behind the awkward bottle glasses were unmistakably, even if confusingly, familiar green.
"Do you accept the contract?"
The messy-haired teenager frowned. This client was very persistent. And the information offered on his target was shifty at best and outright false at worst.
He looked at the manila folder in front of him.
Anything, just to shut that headache from hell out of his head.
His return to consciousness was slow and muddled, like swimming out of the Black Lake, only with more gray and black-toned colors involved, weaving in and out of themselves in front of his mental eyes like lazily rotating kaleidoscope.
Shivering, he tried to further curl into the source of warmth, willingly delaying the moment of waking and realization that the world was once again cold, cruel and wrong.
The warmth - there was never enough warmth - concentrated itself on a new spot on his forehead, causing him to desperately nuzzle into it, greedily sucking in the small particles of heat like precious jewels to be stored for a later time, when he would be cold and alone once again.
But he had to wake up, and regretfully, he initiated the process of opening up his eyes. His eyelids felt heavy, as if someone had cursed them to be extra heavy and difficult to move.
The first slit of light was dull, the color of watered-down milk that slowly separated itself in shades of dark blue, brown and green. As he shifted his body, he found himself lying in a bed - not the sickeningly soft one at Hogwarts, but it was not the Dursley–given one either. The covers were thick, and, he supposed, warm, even if his body still felt like half-warmed icicle. His nose caught the scent of a laundry detergent, myrrh, and surprisingly, iron and sunshine. He didn't know how sunshine could have a scent, but this one did, and for some reason, it was alright.
The sounds were sparse – his movements, sluggish as they were, susurrating against the fabric of the covers and mattress, along with the occasional movement and breathing of someone also present in the room. This bit of knowledge jolted him, causing his body to tense and his awareness, feeble as it was, snap to attention.
"You're safe." An unfamiliar voice said, its tone just shy of indifferent.
Harry made a half-inquisitive, half-disbelieving sound. The warmth on his forehead vanished, causing him to shiver and frown in discontent, but in exchange, he felt the glasses being put on his nose, causing him to blink at his benefactor. It - or more appropriately he, was young man, somewhere between his late teens and early adulthood. He was clad in ensemble of black - black shirt with black tab collar and likewise colored trousers, the color interrupted only by a simple golden cross glinting on his chest. His hair was short medium brown, with bangs falling messily on his forehead. His eyes were an ordinary brown color, but the eyebrows made Harry blink – they were split on their ends into two little forks each, like someone had played a permanent joke on him at his birth.
"Uh?" His query wasn't intelligent in the slightest. He squeezed his eyes shut and he saw the younger version of the face above him – more childlike, with gentler and deeper brown eyes but this was just –
Involuntarily, his eyes opened themselves once again.
"Think I should've known you." His voice rasped out, and Harry had to swallow against the pain, like he used to, in a strange, unfamiliar movement that was somehow as easy as breathing. The priest's closed-off face didn't change much, but somehow, Harry knew, it brightened considerably, before those strange eyebrows scrunched in confusion. "I feel the same." The response was quiet.
The golden cross swayed into Harry's eyesight as the priest bent forward, those dead brown eyes staring straight into Harry's bewildered viridian orbs.
"Not to sound rude, but who are you?" Harry barely managed to stop his voice from squeaking out. The man was creepy and yet, Harry didn't really feel danger from him, which was a disconcerting feeling all on his own, having his instinct blunder about uselessly, begging for any scrap of information it could be provided to act on.
The priest paused in his intense perusal of Harry's person. "Indeed. My apologies. My name is Kotomine Kirei and I would like to be your friend."
Those unusual green eyes behind all too familiar glasses widened surprise. Kirei just about bit his own tongue at his own haste. That last tidbit about him wanting to be the small teen's friend was completely unintentional, yet still real and familiar, like an old, comfortable jumper, the kind that was worn in rainy days, warming the body and uplifting the spirit.
Once upon a time, Kirei had owned one. It was almost obnoxiously red color, which had thankfully mellowed out after some wash cycles, the thing was too big for his then-twelve-year old frame, but it was just loose and comfortable enough for his now eighteen-year old one. He hadn't worn it often, but wherever he went, the old jumper was always at the bottom of his small satchel of personal belongings, until it was too worn out to be wearable and delegated to serve as some kind of makeshift pillow.
In his mind's eye, he saw a small boy, with same green eyes and the similarly bewildered face, clad in too big red and yellow clothes staring at the younger him in the same panicked confusion before accepting his offer –
He blinked at the call. Those green eyes stared at him, as if trying to read his very soul.
"Why?" A simple question. Kirei swallowed. Once again, he felt as if he was at the edge of precipice, and one wrong step, and he would stumble into the darkness. But this time, there was no enjoyment, no thrill, and no excitement. However, there was something within him that desperately pushed for acknowledgement of the asker of this particular question.
But which answer would be the right one?
He closed his eyes. "I just have a feeling that I would regret it if I don't ask you. " The words tumbled past his lips like oil-slick marbles, not allowing them to be caught in the net of the prettied up reasons. Unconsciously, his hand reached for the so very familiarly calloused one, holding and squeezing it gently, as if it were a fragile bird.
He twitched at the gentle squeeze of his hand from the slender fingers resting within it. Slowly, he looked up into exhausted, still wary, yet faintly smiling green eyes.
With that single word, the until then unknown gates within Kirei were opened and he was home.
Harry didn't know what prompted him to trust this strange priest, the flashes of the little boy who grew up into the person sitting beside him be damned.
But he was tired. Tired of all the duplicity he suffered, tired of being betrayed and tired of being alone. Harry didn't know the priest, nor did he know his motives, but something nudged him to accept this, accept that strangely familiar bond between them, however small and fragile it was.
In the space of an exhale, he allowed himself to let go. Screw the consequences; it couldn't have been worse than it already was.
"Yes." Before he had a time to think it over and to regret what would surely be his stupidest decision ever, Harry assented, squeezing the broad strong palm supporting his fragile one.
And the strange wall in the back of his mind crumbled, letting in the sunlight and gentlest wisps of violet.
Harry never knew it, but that was false - he had known about it once upon a time, before it had been taken from him and sealed down behind that now-crumbling wall, he knew this gentle feeling just as well as his own hand.
He was home.
The reprieve, however, was only momentary, before his mind was assaulted with the memories from before, causing his eyes to widen with shock, horror and betrayal.
It couldn't be true.
He couldn't have done that to him, could he?
Harry had never seen him before –
Lies, something within him said, warm and reassuring and so very, very sad.
"They didn't – " He choked out, feeling his eyes blur with unshed tears, but right then, he couldn't be arsed.
The priest's - Kirei's - hand clutched his own in mirrored sympathy, as his own face contorted into a frown.
"But they did. Father – " Dark, emotionless eyes narrowed with anger, as he bit off the honored title "- helped. I don't know how, but somehow, they managed to erase our memories of each other."
"But I was told I was never out of England! Why would Dursleys lie to me like this?" Harry protested, bewildered, his heart hammering within his chest painfully.
"I don't know." Kirei's other hand was squeezed into an unforgiving fist. "But I intend to find out."
"We." Harry's voice interrupted the tailspin the young priest's dark thoughts wound themselves into, causing him to blink at the teen boy lying in the bed.
Green eyes, still swimming with tears and hurt held a glint of determination within them, causing them to glisten like polished emerald green diamonds, what with how hard they were.
Involuntarily, Kirei felt a cord of warmth curl around his heart, cocooning it once again within the feeling of wholeness he had missed for so, so many years.
His lips twitched upward into a small, awkward smile.
"Yes. We will."
"So, what happened? Why are you here?" Both of them were sitting in a small kitchenette, Harry drinking hot chocolate, while Kirei was sipping his own mug of tea. The tiny gray and white kitchenette was small, barely enough to house two chairs, a small table and stove with a tiny fridge and cupboard for the barest of kitchen aids and some food.
Dark brown eyes looked at the messy haired green-eyed teen curled on the chair, wrapped in the blanket as he made a sip of the heavenly liquid known as hot chocolate. "I had to deliver a message to the priest here from my superiors. Seems that there was some kind of abnormal activity and they sent me to investigate it along the way." Kirei took a sip of tea from his own cup, his eyes still trained on Harry; as if afraid the youth would vanish the moment he took his eyes off of him, like some kind of a mirage.
Green eyes blinked, confused as Harry nursed the mug between his hands. He was already feeling a bit better, but if pressed, he would admit he was still pretty much woozy. At least that horrible gnawing feeling within him was appeased a little. Harry could've cried with relief when he found out that his stomach was apparently settled enough to not protest his intake of the sweet goods. It was nothing short of a miracle in his humble opinion. "What kind of abnormal activity?" He instead queried back, curious about the issue.
Kirei shrugged his shoulders. Harry couldn't help but notice their width with a small bit of jealously. It was really unfair that Kirei was only three years older, and already buffer than Harry could ever hope to be. Even Ron, who was all awkward and gangly, looked more of a growing man than Harry himself. Although the green-eyed wizard refused to acknowledge it, Fleur's little jab of him being a 'leetle boy' was a little too close to the truth still.
"Unknown. The reports were a bit unclear on that, but they suppose there was a magical activity around these parts for a long time." Kirei muttered, his eyes hooded in thought.
Harry's breath caught in his throat. "For how long?" He tried to steady his voice, but a small quiver escaped him.
'You shall not suffer a witch to live!'
He still remembered that sentence being thundered down from the pulpit one dreary Sunday afternoon. He wasn't religious – he wasn't, because witches and wizards weren't, but there was still a small bit of primordial fear tucked in the innermost back of his heart because he was a witch - wizard, actually, - and he was wrong enough not to warrant mercy in holy eyes.
"You know something." Kirei observed, causing the small teen to flinch and attempt to shrink back in the uncomfortable chair. His own heart sunk at the obvious fear those green eyes held within when Harry looked at him.
"I – " Harry cut himself off. Closing his eyes, he inhaled painfully as he remembered the days he spent in front of the wooden cross, praying for mercy and absolution for his undoubtedly numerous sins like Dursleys always accused him to have.
"I do." Despair and dejection made themselves once again home in his heart, because surely, Kirei would reject him, just like Dursleys and Ron and it would hurt. But Harry was told not to lie, and lie he wouldn't.
"I am a witch." The damning words slipped from his suddenly heavy tongue, like ashes and brimstone, awaiting condemnation.
Kirei stared. Of all the things he expected his little friend to admit, this was the one he would never, ever suspect. The tiny ball of misery on the chair opposite him didn't even dare to lift his head to look in his eyes, reminding Kirei uncomfortably of the abused animal expecting the next hit.
"Why?" He set the cup on the table, the accompanying clank uncomfortably loud in the small space between them. Standing up, he stepped toward the boy, who shrunk even further back, if that was even possible. "Harry, look at me. Why do you think I would condemn you for being a witch?"
Gently, he cupped the small jaw, tugging the face upward. "Harry. Look at me." He ordered softly, and reluctantly, he got a view of those unforgettably green eyes - but the view was wrong. Those eyes shouldn't ever be filled with fear like they were right now.
"B-Because I am? Or at least, I am a wizard. And Bible said that you shall not suffer a witch to live." The admission was quiet, almost too quiet for Kirei to discern it, but his ears, sharpened as they were, had no trouble with catching the miserable whisper. The green irises hid themselves back behind the veil of the eyelids shamefully, and Kirei suppressed the urge to twitch.
"You are a Magus?" His question caused the miserable wizard in front of him still and blink.
"Um. What is a Magus?"
Dark, emotionless brown eyes looked in green ones. 'So he isn't.' Kirei concluded mentally. 'But he isn't lying either.'
He had the experience with the Magi, simply because he was born with the gift of Healing and his superiors had decided he could've been an even better asset if he complimented his natural abilities with Magus abilities. Luckily, Church had a pact of tolerance toward Magi Association, and as consequence, Kirei's experiences on the side of supernatural were far vaster than ones of his ordinarily schooled holy brethren.
"A person with ability to use energy, called mana. For example, I use mine for healing."
Harry's face scrunched from his hesitant and scared expression into a confused one. "You… do?" He tilted his head, as if trying to remember something. "Like glowy stuff?"
If Kirei had been anybody else, he would have been offended at the description of the healing arts as 'glowy stuff'. It simply wasn't done. Instead, he nodded and with a small exhale, his right hand arose in front of Harry's face and glowed with a soft turquoise-white glow, causing Harry's own hand to involuntarily jerk up and cover his throat.
"You… healed my throat once." Green eyes were wide with astonishment at the revelation of that particular memory.
"I did." Kirei nodded, blinking as his still glowing hand was hesitantly being touched by the small, calloused fingers.
"Oh. It's… Warm." The small comment ignited something of a similar feeling in Kirei's hollow chest, likening its empty cavity to a small, but still vast space, being slowly filled with a warm candlelight.
"So it is." He agreed, and for some reason, his heartbeat felt different than before.
"What are you?" Green eyes stared at the glowing hand before they flickered up to the calm brown orbs of the priest.
"I am a priest." Kirei's reply was simple. "With a small gift in healing." Harry deflated. Mentally, he berated himself for raising his hopes that Kirei was same than him. But instead, he was just a Squib… probably. "Like Magus?" His mouth inquired impulsively, earning him a sharp look.
"No. I am not a Magus. I was trained by one because of my gift, but I am, first and foremost, a priest." The light was extinguished, and Kirei moved away, back to his chair.
"Why?" Harry asked the next question.
"Why what?" Kirei volleyed the question back at him.
"Why are you a priest? You could've become anything." Dark eyebrows furrowing a little, Harry's face scrunched with confusion. His memory was still a little fuzzy on some details aside that horrible betrayal, but the young boy he had known once upon a time didn't seem to be priest material for some reason.
"Because the answers I sought were most likely to be found through walking the way I chose." The priest's voice was even as he picked up his cup once again and made a sip.
"And did you? Find the answers, I mean?" Harry shifted on his chair, making his own sip and grimacing at the cooled down liquid swishing in his mouth. Hot chocolate, when cooled down, just wasn't good to enjoy.
"No. Just ugliness." Kirei looked through the window, though he was aware of Harry's shoulders dropping at his proclamation.
Harry sighed. Kirei could turn logic around to make his opponent question his very existence, but when it came to his own little dilemma, he was still that little boy wondering why he wasn't beautiful like Father Risei wanted him to be.
"You are you." He muttered, exasperated. "Isn't that enough?"
"But why am I me? Why am I so different from everyone? Why can't I rejoice in my success and am instead happier enjoying other people's misery?" Kirei demanded, clutching the cup in his hand so hard its body broke under the immense pressure exerted upon it. "This is not how a priest should act!"
Harry's eyes widened at the mess that was Kirei's hand. "You're hurt!" He exclaimed, scrambling off the chair, and wincing at the cold of the floor under his bare feet. Hurriedly, he reached for Kirei's hand. "Come here; let's get that mess sorted out."
But Kirei dodged him. "Not until you answer me!" He snapped, usually dull eyes glaring at Harry with a spark of challenge and anger as he clenched his wounded hand, driving some of the shards deeper in the flesh, causing Harry to wince in sympathetic pain.
But Harry also reached the end of the rope, named patience. "You could just as easily ask me why are the sky blue, birds fly and fishes can live only in water!" He growled out, this time successfully snatching Kirei's wounded hand in his own ones. "And did you ever think that maybe you weren't meant to be a priest in the first place? There is also a nifty little title for people who enjoy inflicting pain on others – they are called sadists, and you, mister, are not the poor, lonely little exception in the whole wide world like you seem to think you are! Now let me tend to your hand and be still!" He harshly tugged Kirei's wrist to affirm his command as he led the gaping man to the tiny sink in the corner.
"But – " Kirei tried to say something, only for Harry's glare to silence him once again.
"Kirei. Being good is subjective." Harry opened the water pipe and gently pulled Kirei's wounded palm under its mouth, letting the stream wash away the blood and some of the shards into the sink. "People do good things out of purely selfish motives, just like they do bad ones. At its core, humankind is selfish." His mouth twisted into self-deprecating grimace when he remembered the fiasco that was his schooling at Hogwarts. Gently, he began to squeeze the flesh as to force some of the smaller shards out of their temporary lodgings, letting the water to help him in his endeavor. The sickly sweet scent of iron wafted in the air. "Ideals are more of a guideline than law in this world of ours. We could be kind, but never completely. We could be cruel, but once again, cruelty we can inflict is not infinite. We can be kind to be cruel, and we can be cruel to be kind. The only thing that differs between the two is our choice what we want ourselves to be. Some enjoy being kind, and just the same, there are people who enjoy the most when they are cruel."
"But you don't condone cruelty." Kirei's voice was flat as he watched Harry fuss over his palm.
"I don't." Harry agreed easily. "At least, I don't condone the pain that cruelty can bring." He reached for the towel near the sink, carefully wiping out the moisture off Kirei's palm. "Do you have any tweezers around here? There are some pieces lodged in too deep for me to dig them out without causing you more pain than you are currently feeling."
"Why do you care? You established that you see me as a cruel being. Why are you so concerned with causing me the least amount pain imaginable? Shouldn't you punish me for my enjoyment of others' pain?" Kirei asked, befuddled. The boy didn't make sense. He knew - he remembered that the boy wasn't the one to enjoy violence, that much was clear, but still, why?
"You weren't cruel to me." Harry's answer was almost stupid in its simplicity. "And I chose to be kind to you because friends are supposed to be kind to each other."
"I won't be a good friend then." Kirei muttered, looking to the floor. "And no, there are no tweezers." 'Liar', his sub consciousness mocked him, but Kirei ignored it with an expert ease. He was surprised by a gentle squeeze of his hand.
"Let me be the judge of it, okay?" Harry smiled at him, before he grimaced. "Any needles?"
"No." Kirei replied, only to earn a flat look in return. "Now I know you are lying to me." Harry glared at him. "Where. Do. You. Keep. The. Needles?"
A moment later and a small trek in Kirei's room, the priest sulkily handed over a small pack of the required materials to Harry.
"Now that wasn't so hard now, was it?" Harry beamed at him, causing a warm glow settle into Kirei's stomach before he commenced his little self-imposed mission of getting the tiny porcelain shards out of Kirei's flesh.
Harry kept his promise. But for Kirei, each jolt of pain, if however unintended from Harry's side, was a bloom of ecstasy.
He let Harry to wrap the bandages around his hand, never mind that he could've healed himself in few scant moments if he wanted to.
But in that moment, the feeling of being cared for was worth more than the almost instant use of healing gifts.
At the edge of his vision, he saw the gentle orange and golden flames dance around his own sun gold and deep indigo ones.
Maybe it was okay to be himself… just this once.