A/N: I know, I know. You'll never forgive me a new story when so much unfinished wreckage lies in my wake. But then, I really like this idea. Read and grow fat, ladies and gentlemen, on something a little different... a little whimsical... but still the same old Joe.

Testimony of the Avarice

Chapter One - The Druidstone Passage

Along the coast there is a bay.
Above the bay arch sea-worn cliffs.
Atop the cliffs there rests a pub.
In the pub there sits a man…
…he drinks alone.

The pub was known as the Druidstone, an old limestone building, a haphazard collection of twisted floors and hidden nooks, that stood as a silent sentinel, a lighthouse, against the howling winds blowing in off St. Bride's Bay—gales that rattled windows, that whipped sand and salt across the wilds of Pembrokeshire National Park in coldest, darkest Wales.

The man sat on a worn and wonky barstool, magenta robes flowing over the legs of the velvet-cushioned seat. He could be standing, his long and silvery beard tucked into his lap, but here he sits and here he contemplates his drink. The rain and the wind batter the Druidstone, but the old pub has weathered such storms before. A Jack Russell Terrier, as old as creation, wiry and grey and cross, sleeps curled before the gently flickering fireplace, legs twitching in dream. Save for a few dull bulbs, the fire in the hearth is the only source of light in the small Poet's Bar on the lower level of the Druidstone, built close enough to the cliffs to throw a stone and hit the angry water two hundred feet below.

The dog's name is Charlie, and the man's name, as the bartender is soon to learn, is Albus Dumbledore.

Bryan, the pub landlord and sole wintry bartender, stood behind the long mahogany bar, curved like a horseshoe, against the southern wall of his establishment, the wood stained with glass rings and thirty years of burnt down candles. The power went out often and here, as in most places of influence and confluence, the old ways still held. Fire, chief among them. Ashtrays were no longer allowed indoors, but the dells where the once-heavy weights had worn away the wood still marked the bar top.

Bryan leaned against the spirit shelf polishing wine glasses, the bottles behind him—some of them coated in a decade or more of dust—an army at his back. He had used one of those bottles that night, pouring a dram of Firewhisky for the old, bearded man sitting at the bar. An odd bottle, curiously warm, and one Bryan didn't remember buying any time in the last three decades. But there it had been, amber and aged, nestled between the Lagavulin and the Glenfiddich, as dusty as the rest, when called into service.

Only three customers had made the somewhat treacherous coastal walk to the Druidstone that night. Two regulars, who knew the path along the cliffs so well they could have—and indeed, often did—walk the muddy trail in the dark and the storms blind-drunk. The regulars, Alan and Alan, sat playing chess in one dimly lit corner near the warmth of the fire. Alan from Trenwyth Farm looked a shade worse for wear than Alan from Monmouth, but then the winter had been a cruel, unnaturally long one. Strange fogs, mumblings of the old haunts, of things stirring… His other customer was the old man with the lifelong beard.

This time of year, Bryan was lucky to get the two regulars, let alone a third. The old pub had dozens of rooms and used some of them as beds for weary travellers during the high season, but this deep into winter and the reception desk upstairs had sat disused for a few months. During summer, when the weather was a shade better and the coastal path saw steady foot traffic, Bryan pulled double duty as hotel manager upstairs and pub landlord below. He often joked with the guests that they'd meet his twin brother behind the bar when they shook off their mud-coated boots and jackets and headed down for an ale or two.

"Are you sure you wouldn't like something else, sir?" Bryan asked the old man. No spring chicken himself, hair as white as snow, still Bryan felt an age younger than his customer. A customer who had been staring intently at his dram of whisky for the last half hour, not taking a sip. "Tea? The wife has proper Welsh lamb in the oven, Mr…?"

From behind a pair of half-moon spectacles, the old man's eyes met Bryan's and—if not for the fact that he was already leaning against the spirit shelves—Bryan would have taken a step back. He was considering eyes as deep and as knowing as any he had ever seen. The eyes of a man who had seen some things in his time. Eyes that knew how fragile civilisation was, because they had seen it come crashing down… more than once.

Bryan was reminded of the old fairy stories he had heard in his youth (…things stirring), tales of the Fair Folk, who danced and drank in wild, chaotic merriment, and lured mortals to their doom in the Dark Ages all along St. Bride's Bay. Old Hob, Puck, the trickster menagerie. Here, for no reason he could figure, was a man with eyes who had seen such things. Knowing without knowing, Bryan saw in the old man a knight, a protector, against things as absurd as fairy tales. For a moment, just a heartbeat, Bryan understood and believed it all. Then he blinked, the knowing faded, the night returned.

"Dumbledore," the old man said, as if that were the most normal name in the world "And no, thank you, I have all I require."

Bryan nodded, calling on his wisdom of thirty years behind the bar, seeing folk at their most disarmed, and knowing when to talk and when to shut'thy'clap, as his father used to say.

The single dram of whisky he'd placed in front of Mr. Dumbledore had sat unloved and undrunk for the last half hour. Occasionally, his worn hand, wrinkled with age—the other hidden in the folds of his robe, cradled almost against his stomach—would creep across the bar toward the glass, touch the rim, then pull back.

Here's a man who knows his drink, Bryan thought.

A crash of thunder-struck-lightning rumbled and flashed through the cosy bar. Old Charlie, as loyal and as grumpy a dog as ever there was, grumbled and huffed in his sleep. For a moment, just the moment between heartbeats, Bryan thought he could see right through Mr. Dumbledore as if he were a ghost. He gasped, blinked in the aftershock of the lightning, but the old man seemed as solid as ever, if still oddly dressed in his magenta robe. Bryan shook his head, fanciful fairy tales taking hold too easily that night, and collected the next glass to be polished.

The wooden door toward the cliffs swung open, letting in a blast of cold wind and fat coin-drops of rain across the threshold. A man, hooded and cloaked, stepped into the Druidstone, passing under the original fifteenth-century archway—carved with strange, archaic runes—and hauled the heavy brass-bound oak door closed behind him.

Bryan raised an eyebrow but also found his smile at his second unexpected customer of the evening—albeit another strangely dressed one. He didn't need thirty years of bartending experience to wager a guess that Mr. Dumbledore and the new man, who walked as if he were a lot younger and less bearded, knew one another. The cloaked stranger limped on a simple wooden cane, notched along the hilt, his pale hand gripping the handle as if each step pained him.

He approached the bar, Mr. Dumbledore's stool, and placed his free hand on the old man's shoulder. "Good evening, Professor," he said with genuine, if tired, warmth.

The man with the cane sat at the third stool along the bar, leaving a one stool gap between himself and Dumbledore, perhaps expecting another guest, and lowered his hood. As Bryan had suspected, he was a young man—somewhere in his twenties—a shock of unruly black hair, an angular face, glasses, and… well, he had the eyes of the old man sitting next to him, if not the years. Fairytale eyes. Wearied was the closest word that fit, and wild at the edges. For the second time that evening, Bryan was struck with the certainty he was tending bar to men who had decided the weight of the world, her hidden secrets and darkest evils, was worth carrying—worth sharing.

Again, that certainty faded as if in dream, as swiftly as it had gripped him.

"Harry, dear boy," Mr—Professor—Dumbledore said. "I worried you had been waylaid."

Harry eased himself back on his stool, a storm's worth of rain dripping from his black cloak and onto the old grey flagstones. He leaned his cane against the bar and rubbed at his knee in slow, deep circles. His eyes squinted, but he gave no other sign of discomfort.

"Good evening, young sir," Bryan said. "What can the house do for you this evening?"

Harry eyed the array of bottles on the shelves, the bridge of beer taps, and wrapped his knuckles against the bar. "A glass of red, please. Dealer's choice."

Bryan nodded and collected one of his freshly polished glasses and cracked the cap on a bottle of French red wine. He poured a healthy sized swig into the glass, never one to put his finger on the scale—something else his father used to say.

Harry accepted the glass with thanks and swirled the wine under his nose. He inclined his head once and said softly, "Are you sure you want to do this?"

Professor Dumbledore considered, then nodded. The implied sigh in that single nod spoke to regret, as clear as Bryan had ever seen in a man. He picked up his dram of whisky. "To your health and happiness, Harry."

Harry found half a smile. "And yours, sir, always."

With a well-practiced flick, almost a magic trick, Professor Dumbledore knocked back the dram and made the whisky disappear. He settled the glass back on the bar and didn't wince against the hard liquor, or cough.

"May I request another, please, barman," Dumbledore asked—and it wasn't really a question.

Bryan nodded and retrieved the bottle he didn't remember stocking and poured a neat two-fingers into the glass.

"If you could leave the bottle."

Bryan left the bottle.

An hour later, the storm outside well and truly one to knock down sheep fences and send the whole sorry mess of loose cliffs and quarries along the coast crashing into the dark depths of the sea, Harry still sipped at his first glass of wine and Professor Dumbledore had seen off a third of the whisky bottle before him.

"He should not be much longer now," Dumbledore said, a mild slur to his words.

Harry nodded and tilted his glass in the dull light, so the liquid shone red on the bar in refracted patterns. "I worry some sacrifices are too much to ask," he said.

"Nonsense," Dumbledore replied.

"Only two horcruxes left," Harry mused. "The one we've come for tonight, and the one…" He rubbed at his scar. "Well, not to dwell on sacrifices."

Dumbledore removed his left hand from within the folds of his robe and revealed a blackened, withered husk, fingers curled as if with severe arthritis. Faint green lines shone softly along the path of his veins, cracks in the facade. The infection was spreading, deepening.

"I would drink to that," he muttered, and knocked back another Firewhisky. "Drink and summon the Avarice."

The already dim bar seemed to grow a little dimmer, and Harry supposed the drink had something to do with that. It was like casting a spell, in a way, a slow incantation.

Harry knew little of the Avarice—the demons that preyed on humanity's weaknesses, humanity's addictions. Every human could be influenced by them to some degree, but only magical folk could manifest them into the world. They were something akin to an Obscurus, a manifestation of a wizard's regrets.

Harry had read one of the old tomes in Dumbledore's office and understood the edges of such creatures. The Encyclopaedia Avarice, written by many over the years, an ongoing task that had fallen to Dumbledore half a century ago, and would find another host upon his death, catalogued the demons that plagued humanity. Transcribed and described the Avarice—the unseen race of creatures that fed on people, always, all the time—who seemed to exist to undo the inherent good in the world. The Dark Playground was their home, and they must be fought. One day at a time, as the saying goes.

At the time Harry had read the book, some years ago now, over four hundred and fifty unique demons, belonging to five unique subsets—sub-races, classes—of Avarice had been discovered and recorded. Demons responsible for Hate, Greed, Envy, Depression, Addiction, and other such sadnesses. Unfair to say they were responsible, Harry supposed, but they certainly profited from such misfortune.

Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts, Supreme Mugwump, Grand Sorcerer, Order of Merlin (First Class), was an alcoholic. And he had the liver to prove it. One drink was too many and ten was not enough. For men and women like Dumbledore, having the first drink was like getting hit by a train—it wasn't ever the third carriage you had to worry about.

And if he drank enough, if he let it consume another piece of his soul, well… That's why they were here tonight.

Harry felt the presence over his shoulder before he saw the creature. He stood up a little straighter in his chair, hand reaching for his cane. Dumbledore sighed and didn't turn, but looked into the mirror on the other side of the bar, seeing something that wasn't there.

"Good evening, Josiah," Professor Dumbledore said, as the demon stepped into view and leaned casually against the bar.

"Albus," the creature whispered with a deep nod, almost a bow. The demon had great respect for the man in his thrall. Josiah's eyes flicked to Harry, up to his scar. His eyes widened a fraction and he took a deep breath, exhaling slowly. "And the Master of Death himself. To what do I owe the pleasure of this summons, Albus? It's been half a century since you last touched a drop of drink. I figured I'd never see you again. Not this side of the veil, at least."

Dumbledore swayed gently on his stool—drunk, yes, but drunk was like riding a bike to an alcoholic. You never forgot how, and it was all about balance. The demon between them had used the drink to step into this world, borne on the magic of the greatest sorcerer in the world.

Harry beheld the creature, which looked vaguely human—though one that had been in the ground for a year or more. It, he, Josiah, wore a crumpled suit that hung from his skeletal frame like a wrinkled shirt on a hanger. He wore an old-school top hat on his head, scuffed and torn. Thin strands of straw-like grey hair poked from under the rim. His skin was pale toward green, his cheeks sunken, caved in on the left revealing a smiling jaw of blackened teeth almost to his ear. He had one eye, bloodshot and yellowed. In his right socket was black nothingness, deep and disappearing into the back of his skull. Harry imagined all kinds of worms and legged creatures creeping back there and shuddered.

Josiah took the stool between Harry and Professor Dumbledore, easing into the worn wood with a creak of tired bones and a grimace to his hollow, gaunt face. Josiah sat as if the weight of the world that hung around the shoulders of the men either side of him was an easier weight to bear than another moment leaning against another bar.

Harry stared across the bar into the mirror and saw that the demon cast no reflection. He glanced at the Muggle barkeep, Bryan, doing a crossword down the far end of the bar, but if he noticed anything amiss then he had the best poker face Harry had ever seen.

"Not a social visit, I take it," Josiah said. A low grumbling, a dangerous growl, came from the fireplace. The old Jack Russell had awoken and was snarling, teeth bared, at the 'empty' stool between Harry and Dumbledore. Josiah cast a look over his shoulder and snorted. "I never liked dogs." He reached over the bar and helped himself to a glass and a small bottle of sparkling water. Again, the barkeep didn't seem to notice.

Some sort of perception charm, Harry thought.

"I ask again, why have you summoned me," Josiah waved to Dumbledore, drunk in his seat, "for I feel summoned, yes, indeed."

"I seek passage to the realm of the Fair Folk," Harry said.

Josiah sipped his sparkling water and sighed. "Realm of the who?"

Harry frowned. "The Fae. Faeries. Sometimes known as the Good People."

"No mortal has set foot in those realms in over five hundred years."

"We both know that's not true," Harry said. "Lord Vol—"

Josiah cut his hand down through the air. "That creature is no longer mortal. You know that." He grunted. "Mortals do not return from the Fae. Though," Josiah said idly, a glint in his single, bloodshot eye, "you are the Master of Death." He shook his head. "No, the Fair Folk and the human race have been at war for centuries, sadly. This profits you nothing."

Dumbledore cleared his throat, his cheeks a comfortable drunken red. "According to our research, not so much at war as…" He twirled his hand in slow circles. "At odds."

"I see now why you chose this place to drink your drink, Albus," Josiah said. "We stand almost on top of the old stone circle. One of the old ways between the worlds. The lock is rusty, yes, the key's teeth blunt, but the stones still stand despite being buried."

Harry grasped his cane and held it low against his waist as if it were a sword. "We figured a dimension-hopping being such as yourself would know a few backdoors."

"What's in it for me?" Josiah asked.

Harry frowned. "You're already feeding on my friend, demon. For the first time in fifty years, and him weakened by dark magic already. The price is paid."

Josiah grunted again and took another sip of his sparkling water. Harry thought it idly cruel, wholly ironic, that an alcoholic demon was on the wagon.

"Are you prepared, Harry Potter?" Josiah asked. "Have you done your homework?"

"He is prepared," Dumbledore said, almost disinterested. He looked lost in his regrets, which was the gateway the demon had used, Harry wagered, to step into the Druidstone that evening.

"Cold iron, holy water, salt for circles?" The demon eyed Harry askance. "Church bells, if you can conjure them, send fairies scattering. A true timepiece to measure the passage of minutes in the real world—mortals have spent what felt like an hour in their realms and returned to find centuries have passed. They crumble to dust, if they're lucky, before being driven mad."

Harry simply nodded.

Josiah chuckled, exasperated. Such a human emotion looked off on his ruined face. "They assault and torture and eat, Harry Potter. They will know your true name, magic or not. They are alien and ineffable—you mortals are playthings to them, and any plan, any trick, you think you have… they have seen it all before."

Harry drank the last of his wine. "Lord Voldemort tricked them. He tricked them into taking a piece of his soul, as if it were their idea." Harry clenched his hand into a fist. "I've given a great deal, as has the man next to you, to unmake the Dark Lord's horcruxes. Voldemort thinks the piece left with the Kindly Ones beyond our reach. He is wrong."

"Do you know why you call them the Fair Folk? The Good People? The Kindly Ones?" Josiah asked. "No, you know nothing."


"Because your race learnt a long time ago, when you still feared the setting sun and the rising moon, that to call them something unkind is a sure way to bring their wrath down upon your head. The concept of empathy, Harry, does not occur to them. It simply does not."

"Voldemort must be stopped, and our time is running out. I will go."

Josiah sighed and then shrugged. "So be it. I will grant you this." He clicked his bony fingers and produced a key of bone infused with… iron. He handed the key to Harry.

"What does this unlock?"

Josiah waved the question away. "It'll fit any lock around here—any door in these parts—and open on the realms you're so keen to visit. God save you. Travel safe, Harry, and take the dog with you. Dogs are useful on the other side. Chatty."

Harry glanced at the old Jack Russell, hackles raised, growling in front of the fireplace. He eased himself off the stool and limped over to the dog. The old brown-grey eyes beheld him a touch uncertain until he knelt down on his haunches and offered his hand. The dog—Charlie, read the metal tag on his collar—considered and then licked Harry's fingers.

With a gruff bark, to Harry a sound that said 'let's be getting on with this then', the dog hopped out of his basket and approached the heavy old oak door of the Poet's Bar. Through the dark windows on either side, Harry glimpsed lashing rain and heard grumbling thunder. He eyed the key and, as if it had been made for such a door, slipped the iron-bone teeth into the lock.

He glanced back at Professor Dumbledore slumped in his stool, the creature of the Avarice next to him placed a thin arm around the headmaster's shoulders, and wished for things to be different.

Then he turned the key in the lock, because things could not be different, life was unfair, and the Dark Lord had to be stopped.

The door swung outwards of its own volition—not on St. Bride's Bay or the terrible storm—but on a sunlit forest glade, dotted with wildflowers and heady with the scent of pollen, the sweet syrup of honey, about a million glittering butterflies, and a trickling stream fed from a massive waterfall in the distance, under a twilit sky.

Old Charlie huffed again and looked up at Harry with his Malteser eyes. Come on, that look said. Together they stepped through the door and into the Land of Faerie.

Bryan blinked down at his crossword and realised he'd been staring at the same question, two-down; injures with a pencil, say, eyes unfocused, for a good few minutes. He looked up and scanned the bar—the fire was lower than he remembered it, and Old Charlie had disappeared off somewhere. Unlike him, that. Once that dog was settled he remained settled.

Professor Dumbledore still sat at the bar, holding his head in one hand. His friend, Harry, had disappeared, leaving an empty wine glass with crimson stains around the rim—a kiss on the glass.

Bryan wandered over to see if Dumbledore needed anything and felt the blood in his veins freeze, his heart stop. Out of the corner of his eye, in the stool next to the old professor, he was certain he'd glimpsed a monster—a haggard, ruined figure, gaunt and fresh from the grave, top-hatted and hideous. The creature grinned at him, yellow teeth and a swollen black tongue behind that horrid smile.

Bryan stumbled forward a step, broke his paralysis, and Dumbledore's hazy eyes focused on him. "I say, my dear fellow, are you well?"

Bryan glanced at the stool again and saw it empty, nothing out of place. No demons, no monsters. He licked his lips and nodded. "Anything else I can get for you, sir?"

Dumbledore considered the bottle in front of him and shook his head. "I have everything I need," he said.

"Right you are."

Along the coast there is a bay.
Above the bay arch sea-worn cliffs.
Atop the cliffs there rests a pub.
In the pub there sits a man…
…he does not drink alone.

A/N: Read on, y'all.