A/N: Happy New Year!
Thank you so much for your reviews everyone! Every single one gets blushed and giggled at, so keep them coming! Every notification I get encourages me to keep going, and reaffirms that it was worth posting this story online.
Please spread the love! The more positive encouragement and support us authors receive, the more stories will end up being posted for us to read, and perhaps less would be abandoned! A lot of writers often feel shy or a bit delusional about what they write, so remember to give praise where it's due!
Chapter 12 is still winning the popularity contest! :-D
I own nothing, but I hope you enjoy my rambles anyway, even though I'm not a best-selling author. On with the story!
Oh and thank you once again to thephantomcat, and thank you also to laelruin, who both reviewed on my birthday! You're awesome!
The next day, L instructed Watari to tell the Task Force to take the afternoon off, since the surveillance tapes still hadn't arrived, and were not due to arrive until the following morning. This left L rather frustrated, and he was more than happy to occupy himself with doing the other team members' work for them. However, this only kept him occupied for a few hours, and truthfully, he was still frustrated.
Abandoning his chair in front of the computer, L hopped down and shuffled round the corner, to where Harry was sitting. He'd been quiet for a while now, looking through magic books judging by the occasional sound of pages being turned. Sure enough, slightly round the corner and just out of view, was a disorganised pile of books on the floor. Next to the pile was Harry, sitting on a violently orange beanbag, reading a book the size of his palm with a magnifying glass, squinting as he tried to both read the book, and wrap his mind around what it was telling him. It was times like these he wished he'd taken Arithmancy and Runes at school, instead of having to muddle his own way through everything.
"Why don't you simply enlarge the book? Surely that would be more convenient than what you're doing now."
Harry jerked his head up, looking surprised for a moment before he glared at the book.
"My ancestor decided that if his descendants wanted the knowledge in the book badly enough, then they would put the work in to gain it. He wrote the book and shrunk it before placing a locking charm on the spell so that the book couldn't be resized. Don't touch the magnifying glass, by the way. Only those of my blood can touch it. Plus it can only be read through this glass; another one of his tests. If you're careless enough to lose the glass, then you'd likely be careless with the knowledge."
"What is it about?"
"Magic," replied Harry, grinning. "Family Magic. There are actually thousands upon thousands of pages in this tiny book. It tells me who did what and when, and it's helping me to identify some of the things in my vaults, since they're one of a kind," Harry said with a wan smile. "I'm not even a tenth of the way through it yet, but I've learned quite a bit about a whole lot of dead people."
L nodded, before scratching his ankle with his foot and staring elsewhere. After a few minutes of staring, he spoke, causing Harry – who had given up on getting any form of response after the first thirty seconds – to once again jerk his head up from his book.
"I gave everyone the afternoon off."
Harry stared blankly at L for a moment. "Yes, you did," he agreed.
L nodded, before glancing out of the window for a moment.
"That includes you, on the condition that you wear the belt, and give me your mobile number."
Harry wrinkled his forehead slightly.
"I don't have anything to do."
L stared intensely at Harry. "What do you usually do when you have time off work?" he asked.
"Well I... I suppose I've got a few little projects that I pick up here or there, but usually I'm working. If I'm not with the Aurors, then I'm working with some other department. If you mean by when I go home, then I just fix up the house, or go flying, or spend time with the animals on the island, fixing up their nests and putting protections on them, or going to the mainland to find more food for them. They get greedy when I'm away, I think. I tend to have to go back a few hours to do any of that."
"You've never taken a few days off to simply relax?"
"How utterly and mind-numbingly boring. I'd go crazy with nothing to do. I was supposed to have a whole load of time off; or should I say, I was going to fix it so that I had a whole load of time off after New Years, maybe join Luna in Patagonia for a while. I even squared it all with George so that he had Lee ready to manage the shop, then this whole 'Kira' mess turns up, and turns everything upside down. It's lucky I'd spoken to him actually; otherwise some idiot would no doubt be calling me every minute of the day about something or other. At least George has common sense and knows the meaning of 'delegation'. The last time I took three days off, the idiot they replaced me with had me working non-stop for weeks when I got back, trying to find all of his messes so that I could sort them."
"Surely it can't be that bad? There must be some form of organisation."
"Honestly, the Ministry is barmy. I have no idea how it all works out, but it does. I'd never seen such bizarre things in my life until I started working there! The Muggle-Worthy Excuse Committee, for one. An entire department, specifically for the purpose of telling lies! From what little I knew of the muggle government, they've all got sensible names, and sensible jobs, dealing with sensible things. The Ministry of Magic is about as far from sensible as you can get! For example, elevators don't just go up and down where I work. They go shooting off wherever they need to go; backwards, forwards, left, right, and there's even a bit that goes diagonal, but you didn't hear it from me. Even getting into the place is barmy! Imagine having to flush yourself down a toilet to get to work!"
"That is rather bizarre."
"The cafeteria food is pretty much the same as in the muggle world though - terrible that is. Arthur said he'd see about improving it, but as far as I know, house-elves take care of all that, and I've never met a house-elf that was bad at cooking. Except Kreacher, but that little toerag was doing it on purpose... Anyway, maybe the ones they've got are getting old?"
L, sensing that Harry wasn't really expecting an answer, decided that it would be wise to remain silent. He was rather interested in hearing more about this 'Ministry of Magic', and how they operated.
"Of course, there's no point in me telling much more about the Ministry, since you'd have to sort of see it to believe it. There used to be a Hall of Prophecies, but my friends and I sort of destroyed most of it at the end of our fifth year, along with the Time Room, the Space Room, and the Room of Thought, with the Think Tank in it. Not much of a 'Department of Mysteries' if a group of six half-trained fifteen year olds can walk straight in! You'd think that they would at least have Death Eater alarms or something around the place, but no, a dozen of them managed to walk straight in too. We sort of did them a favour really, since security is a lot tighter round that way these days. They didn't even put an Unbreakable Charm on the Think Tank, which is just asking for trouble."
"So what exactly does your job entail?"
Harry shrugged. "Well, there's a whole bunch of paperwork that I have to get through for starters. Stuff like reports from the public that turn out to be leads on people committing magical crimes, or people who constantly end up having the Aurors called out. They get referred to whatever department deals with that sort of thing, and I pass those on. If raids need to be carried out to remove certain illegal artefacts, then I have the lovely job of co-ordinating all of that. I send out whichever teams need sent out, and if it's a big one then I tag along, especially if there are strong wards that need collapsing. Or if there's nobody that I think will get the job done, I go and do it, like with the Acromantula. The Aurors are trained to go in with their wands blazing, yet the 'diplomats' can't handle the scary spiders, and would end up eaten after attempting their usual bureaucratic speeches."
Here Harry put on a silly, pompous voice, reminiscent of Percy Weasley at his worst. "'I hereby declare, that you, Mr Giant Spider, are making a nuisance of yourself!'... Munch. I also seem to be everyone's favourite go-to guy, for some reason. I'm not sure where they got the impression that I can solve all of their problems, but oh well. Any time another department has a problem, they send a minion to find me, and I end up sorting things out one way or another. It's busy, yet more boring than it sounds. There's a whole bunch of other stuff internationally too that I can't escape from. I bet you that within the week I'll have to disappear off to another country to give a motivational speech or something."
"Actually, I should get started on that package of paperwork that I got sent the other day," Harry remarked, before standing up and rummaging in his pocket. He brought out two tiny trunks, yet kept digging until he found a third, nodding as he threw it on the floor. L watched as the trunk grew in size, and noticed something odd at the same time as Harry. However, Harry merely flicked his hand in irritation. The upside-down trunk righted itself, and landed on the floor with a loud THUD.
The tiny book along with the magnifying glass floated into the trunk, and the package of papers floated out. With the package floating beside him, Harry soon settled down on the sofa near L's computer, a quill and inkpot appearing from nowhere as he took the lid off the box.
To L's mild astonishment, a stack of paper grew from the top of the box, and didn't stop until there was an extra foot of paperwork teetering above the edge. Harry merely sighed and took the topmost piece of parchment, scanning it briefly before grabbing the quill from mid-air and dipping it into the inkpot.
L sat back at his computer and turned away slightly so that he wasn't outright staring, before continuing his observations from behind his messy hair, whilst still appearing to be working on his computer. Harry quickly scribbled something, before the parchment flashed a light green colour and rolled itself into a tube. L watched surreptitiously as this was repeated with parchment after parchment, the frown on Harry's face deepening or lessening, depending on what he was reading. The colours that the parchment flashed were ever-changing, but L noted that they mainly flashed either green or red, with a few ugly yellow ones. The rest of the colours that he noticed only appeared once or twice. Occasionally, Harry would curse out loud and throw his quill, summoning it back before it hit anything. Miraculously - or perhaps magically - no ink was spattered during this process. Around half of the scrolls disappeared as soon as they had rolled themselves up, and L theorised that the ones that hadn't disappeared perhaps required either something else before being sent on their way, or a different method of transportation. Maybe Harry simply needed to keep them, and he was overcomplicating things.
L was actually visibly startled when Harry suddenly burst out laughing. It sounded almost incredulous.
"Merlin's balls Archie! When will you learn, you silly old coot?" Harry exclaimed before throwing his quill across the room yet again, and summoning it back before it hit the floor. He let the quill fall onto the table, took his glasses off, and rubbed the bridge of his nose.
"Hm?" L murmured without fully turning around.
"Remember I mentioned a Wizard who liked wearing women's flowery nightdresses, when we were down in the Chamber?" Harry said wearily, yet his amusement was clear.
"I recall you saying something about a breeze."
"Well, the crazy old nutter has only gone and had an entire Obliviation Squad, three Aurors, the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes, and the Magical Reversal Squad called out to clean up after him. Again, for wearing the wrong clothes, only this time he was wearing bright purple robes, pointy hat and all, in the middle of London at 5.15pm. Not only that, but they were covered in brightly glowing twinkling stars."
"That seems rather careless, although with it being London I doubt many would look twice at him, especially since it is pantomime season."
"Wait, I wasn't done yet! Not only did the barmy old codger have bright purple Wizard robes and twinkly stars - he had the whole flaming solar system in orbit! Complete with a random nebula, an asteroid belt, all of the moons, Saturn's rings – the lot. Guess where the sun was."
"...The top of his hat?"
"Got it in one! Archie you idiot!" Harry exclaimed, rubbing his face. Turning back to L, he added, "Then of course he caused a scene, forcing the Aurors to try and stun him, which then caused two traffic accidents, six craters in the street, and quite a few broken windows. On top of that, three muggles were hit with random spells, one of which involved a partial transfiguration into a stuffed toy cabbage. Fortunately the muggles were released from St Mungo's the same night. The same can't be said for Archie; he was admitted to see the Mind Healers, who decided to keep him in for observation."
There was nothing said for five full minutes, the only sounds being Harry's quill scratching away, and L's fingers tapping furiously, until the tapping paused.
"...Is there a picture?"
Harry looked up from the parchment he was writing on, before bursting into laughter.
"I could probably do one better, and get the memory. It might already be at the bottom of the pile, knowing George!"
"The memory..." L repeated faintly to himself, his mind spinning with the multitude of possibilities unlocked by that statement. He sighed, noting that he wasn't as frustrated as he had been earlier. Even if the case would be at a near standstill until the next day, at least he could still spend time figuring out the puzzle that was Harry Potter, and learning more about the strange world that he belonged to.
Seeing that Harry was once again engrossed in his paperwork, L decided to pick out some sweets for himself. It took three separate trips to collect everything that he wanted, and there was just enough space left over for his teacup and saucer. L didn't even look at the sweets again until he'd prepared his tea to his liking, adding sugar cube after sugar cube until there were so many in the cup, that they were poking out of the surface of the liquid.
Finally with everything prepared to his liking, L picked up one of his sweets and dangled it above his mouth, stuffing the whole thing in at once.
Unbeknownst to L, Harry was sneaking glances at the plates surrounding the other man, trying to figure out what half of them were.
"What is that?" Harry asked L, who was dangling yet another sweet above his mouth, just about to take a bite. L's eyes slowly slid to look at Harry, before he closed his mouth and slowly lowered his treat.
"This is strawberry daifuku."
"Ah, that's what it's called; but what is it exactly?" asked Harry, curiosity practically written into his features.
L looked at the sweet in his hand. "It is a Japanese rice cake, filled with sweet red bean paste, containing a strawberry at its centre."
Harry wrinkled his nose. "I thought rice cakes were supposed to be all puffy?"
"The rice is mashed into a paste."
"Ah. That makes a bit more sense! Although... I've heard of runner beans, baked beans, a whole bunch of magical beans, and jelly beans, but not red sweet beans."
L seemed to be debating with himself, before he reluctantly held out the plate.
Harry looked between L and the plate, before picking out one of the smallest balls. L quickly moved the plate away to what he considered to be a safe distance.
"Well, it can't be all that bad if you're eating it," Harry said doubtfully, eyeing the sweet in his hand warily. L simply stared at him before quickly stuffing another 'strawberry daifuku' in his mouth.
Reluctantly, Harry took a small nibble of the outer edge, and chewed slowly.
"Well, it tastes like food."
L shook his head from side to side. "You eat like a bird."
"Yeah? Well, you sit like one!" Harry said, slightly annoyed. If there was one thing he'd grown to hate in the last few years, it was the regular admonishments for his lack of appetite from almost everyone he met. Nobody seemed to have noticed that by 23 he'd definitely stopped growing, and that no amount of pies in the world could make his bones grow any more. Molly Weasley in particular had become a fierce taskmaster at mealtimes, leaving Harry feeling bloated and sick after a meal at her house, even though the food itself was fantastic. It didn't help that everyone else appeared to agree with her, and gave him that look when he said he was full.
"So this is a sweet that people eat in Japan?"
"So you've finished working then?" Harry asked. L tilted his head in response so Harry explained. "If you're working, you either rudely order Watari around, or you grab things quickly. You took your time, so I figured that you weren't really that busy, or that you were bored. I picked the most likely out of the two and went with it."
"That was rather logical of you."
Harry narrowed his eyes slightly. "Are you making fun of me?"
"No. I was merely stating a fact."
"Ah, but if anyone else were to say that to me, they would definitely be making fun of me." Harry said.
L simply stared blankly.
"Fine, you weren't making fun of me," Harry said, rolling his eyes. "So, you're bored, and you decided to see what I was doing?"
"Yes. The one task that I could be doing, doesn't appeal to me in the slightest."
"What task?" Harry asked curiously, not really expecting much of an answer.
L sighed deeply before answering. "There have been websites created to support Kira's 'cause'. Many people are of the opinion that Kira is doing the right thing by killing these criminals, and they wish to support him."
Harry winced. "That's not good. If he ever wants or needs followers, he won't have to look very far."
L nodded. "I doubt Kira himself would interact with anyone on these websites, or even create an account anywhere, but if I trace a few of the more fanatical supporters and track their movements, the information might come in useful one day."
Harry looked confused. "Wait... so you think one day Kira would create an account on a random forum to collect followers?"
"No. If Kira is as clever as I think he is, he would go to a public forum and pick the most 'devoted' of them if he needed assistance. Kira would research everything about that person before contacting them anonymously. They would likely never see Kira's face, or even hear his real voice."
"I can understand why you wouldn't want to trawl through hundreds of comments cheering on a mass murderer," said Harry in disgust, imagining trawling through comments supporting Voldemort all night. "There's got to be something we can do... I could do with a break from these anyway. I'm about halfway done, maybe just over halfway."
L was just about to attempt to maintain the conversation by asking what the different flashes were before the parchment vanished, and where it vanished to, when Harry jumped up and threw one of his trunks on the floor.
"I know! I haven't told you about wizard sweets!" he exclaimed happily, with a toothy grin.
"I already have sweets," L stated warily.
"Yes I know, but these are magical sweets!"
"Are they useful?" L asked, intrigued yet still wary.
Harry hesitated before answering. "Sometimes?"
"Well, I know it's not really useful to turn into a giant yellow canary for five minutes, but if you flap hard enough, me and George-"
"-George and I."
Harry rolled his eyes "Whatever. Anyway, we found that it's possible to stay in the air for a good five seconds. That's pretty impressive, so they might slow you down if you fall out of a window... Uhm... then when you moult back into a person, I guess the feathers could be stuffed in a pillow, but we usually just vanish them. They taste a lot like muggle custard creams though! Uhm... Blood Pops! Blood Pops might be enough to stop a reasonable vampire from going for your jugular, so they're sort-of useful!"
"Do they contain real blood?"
"As far as I know they're like a really mild Blood Replenisher. Useful for when toddlers refuse to take a proper potion; and they do taste like slightly sweetened blood. They're not a Weasley product, so I'm not certain what ingredients they use," Harry answered, slightly avoiding the question. "I know that the Cockroach Clusters do contain actual cockroaches though. Oh and the Acid Pops, they've got real acid in them, but the damage soon heals, and you don't feel it after a few seconds."
"I will pass."
"I don't like those either. Jelly Slugs are alright! They are like that Haribo stuff, but much bigger, and more wobbly, so you might like those! They can make your tummy wobble too if you eat a few. Makes some fat wizards look pregnant, which is hilarious. One day I might show you the memory of a drunk Ron begging some random guy to reassure him that men were still 'safe' and that it was still just women that could carry 'those baby things'. I remember being rather mortified."
"No real slugs then?"
"I... I don't think so?"
"There's Pepper Imps, they make you breathe fire. Doesn't hurt; and you've to be careful not to set the furnishings on fire... we were lucky there were spells for that already, or Gryffindor tower would have been burnt to the ground long ago, especially with Seamus trying to turn everything into Rum! Chocolate Frogs are literally frogs made of chocolate that have a short spell that makes them jump. Usually you get one good jump from it before the spell wears off, but sometimes they last a bit longer, and you end up chasing the thing."
"Isn't that unhygienic? What if it were to land on the floor?"
"Nah, it could land on dragon dung and nobody would know by the taste. It's magic, see? Harmless magic keeps it clean."
"...Can I see one?"
"Yup, here you go. You get a famous witch or wizard card inside every packet too, and there are loads to collect. You might even get a younger me," Harry said, throwing L a Chocolate Frog and grimacing. "Although, I'm still rare. If I live until twenty-five, they'll update the picture, and make more. Oh! You love strawberries, right? Well I've got some Chocoballs, and they're filled with strawberry mousse and cream."
L's eyes practically lit up, and he immediately dropped the Chocolate Frog onto the bed, still unopened.
"Are there spells on them?"
"Yes, there's a spell on them. This is a spell you will like though! It automatically refills the strawberry and cream filling a few times before the spell runs out."
"Like the toffee sauce in the Great Hall."
"...Can I eat one? Will anything bad happen if I eat magic?"
"No, nothing bad happens if you eat these. Once the magic's gone, it's gone, and it only sticks around long enough to do its job. They look like muggle sweets, but obviously you can't go offering them out to people."
L stared at Harry for a moment before raising his eyebrows and pointedly taking an entire bowl of jellybeans.
"Oh yes, sharing isn't exactly your thing, is it? Although it's funny how you're less bothered about sharing your hotel suite than you are with sharing your dessert sweets. What will you do if you ever meet someone who likes desserts and sweets as much as you do?"
L's eyes widened in horror.
"I would run very quickly to wherever I was based, and secure my confectionary collection with the highest level of security available to me. Then, I would hire armed guards as I seek methods to make my collection even safer; I won't go in to details, I'm sure you understand. After all of this was completed, I would wait for a week or so before devising a strategy that would enable me to raid their collection and add it to my own, legally."
Harry sat in silent astonishment, knowing that the man was being perfectly serious.
"Well... Isn't the world lucky that you devote your time to catching criminals instead, eh?"
"Right... So... Sugar Quills. Quills made of sugar, fully edible... They still look like feathers, but I doubt that will put you off."
"Are they made purely from sugar?"
"Yes, as far as I know. They definitely don't contain real quills. You get pure white ones, pure brown ones, and ones that are every combination in between, depending on the type of sugar used. The only spell on them is a mild charm to stop them from breaking easily. You have to suck them, or bite quite hard. Like a big boiled sweet I suppose, but prettier."
"I suppose that there is a potion for tooth decay?"
"Yes, there are two. One to give the drinker tooth decay, and one to reverse tooth decay."
"Why would anyone want tooth decay?"
"I'm sure that there must be someone who has watched you eat a table full of sweets, and wished tooth decay on you."
"Either that, or a prank. It's also useful for disguises, since it's undetectable to Revealing spells... Now, there's also Ice Mice. They make your teeth chatter and squeak. They're actually quite funny, and there are no real mice involved. They are like a mixture of sugar and mint."
"However, these things are not really useful, are they?"
"Well, no, but then they are mainly for children. There's U-No-Poo, that's useful for giving people constipation. Gets the target out of the way within minutes. Then there's Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans. I mentioned them to George, remember?"
"Well, they really are every flavour, so you shouldn't try those. They look just like your normal jellybeans, but with more colours, and flavours. You get things like chocolate, coconut, strawberry, orange, toffee, pumpkin, carrot - you know; normal flavours. Then there are the nasty ones like grass, dirt, dragon dung, earwax, vomit, and I swear I got one that tasted like Skele-Grow. That's a potion that grows back bones, so if something doesn't heal properly, a Healer would vanish the wonky bones, shove Skele-Grow down the patient's throat, and they'd have a terrible night growing them back. I've taken the stuff a few times before, and it's rough. Can't take a sleeping potion with it either."
"Magic can grow bones." It was a statement.
"What can't magic do?"
Harry smirked. "That I can answer! Number one: magic can NOT bring back the dead. End of story."
L's head snapped up, his wide black eyes boring holes into Harry's green with their intensity, instead of peering dully at him from behind thick tufts of hair.
"Then what about the stone? You said that all you had to do was turn it three times, and think of the person you wanted to summon. That does not sound impossible."
Harry nodded with a grim smile, and resisted the urge to swallow heavily. He'd thought Snape's eyes were black and soulless... they were positively brimming with emotion compared to L's. If L lay down with his eyes open, he would look dead, no doubt about it.
"Once a person is dead, that isn't the end of it. Several things happen at once. The body itself is little more than an empty shell once it is dead, and I advise you to get cremated by the way, just in case another lunatic decides to raise an army of inferi."
"Creatures of the underworld... according to the Romans."
Harry blinked slowly in surprise. "An inferius is a corpse that has been animated by Dark Magic. Its sole purpose is to fulfil the task that it has been set. Fire repels it, returning it to a dormant state, but since it is already dead it can be a bit of a bother to... eradicate, especially when in larger numbers. Plus in a war, some of the dead faces could be people you know."
L's expression hadn't even twitched throughout the explanation.
"It's illegal to impersonate an inferius, so you might want to liven up a bit and put a smile on at least."
Harry saw the very slight tension in L's eyes that betrayed his irritation with the remark, and satisfied, he carried on.
"Anyway, death of the body triggers the natural release of the soul, which then moves on in most cases; but in some cases there is an imprint, or rather a ghost left on this plane due to some unfinished business. The soul itself is not supposed to be here, and it grows more uncomfortable for them the longer they remain on this plane. That's why I don't like using the stone. They are dead, they deserve their peace. I have only used it to summon those who I'm absolutely certain won't mind being dragged here since they have a connection to me personally, but ultimately they do not belong here. Souls that have been consumed by a Dementor or that have been torn apart using Dark Magic can't be summoned, so I'm guessing those lost souls are irreparable somehow and don't end up where the rest do."
"Magic cannot truly bring back the dead."
"Nope. Number two: Magic cannot create true love. There's a potion that creates a sort of infatuation, but that's definitely not love. Number three: Magic can't create food from thin air. Food can be enlarged, or multiplied, or transported from elsewhere, but it can't just appear from nowhere."
"Interesting... if you had one of everything under a stasis charm, you would never run out of food," L said thoughtfully, no doubt calculating how large his food cupboard would have to be if he were able to do such a thing.
"That's a good point actually... I've seen plates of sandwiches that refill themselves, and loads of other things that are self-refillable, but I never thought of how useful they were... Anyway. Number four: You can't change the past. What's done is done, but we've been over this already."
"That's about it," added Harry. "I don't think I forgot anything important. Although what is possible, and what is allowed, are entirely different things. Oh! I can't believe I almost forgot!"
"What is it?"
"Everything must die. Nobody and nothing can live forever. There are ways to prolong life, sometimes drastically, but they have their drawbacks. Everything must die. Even Vampires are eventually killed. That's a rather big rule for me to have missed."
L nodded in understanding. "I expected that most of those rules would apply. Don't you like it?" L added, nodding towards the strawberry daifuku that Harry was still holding.
"Ah, I forgot I was holding it. I like the rice," Harry said, holding it up to show that he'd literally only nibbled the outside.
L reached out his hand, and grabbed Harry's wrist between forefinger and thumb. "Open wide," he stated blandly.
"Wha-? No! I can feed myself!" Harry exclaimed indignantly, leaning backwards.
"Obviously not," L replied, "You're wasting good food." However, he did let go of Harry's wrist.
"No, I'm just holding it. I will eat it, just not as quickly as you!"
L shrugged and turned to his plates. It was a good fifteen minutes before he spoke again, by which time Harry had returned to his work, and the daifuku was gone.
"What determines a witch or wizard's magical strength?"
Harry glanced up quickly before finishing off a sentence with a sharp jab of his quill. He carefully put it down and rubbed his eyes.
"We all have unique magical cores. Usually it mostly depends on the strength of the parents, although not always. Some wizard parents have children with no magic, called squibs, and some muggle parents have magical children, and they are referred to as muggleborn. Nobody really knows why this happens, although it has been suggested that inbreeding causes squibs, and then somewhere down the line two squibs make a muggleborn. Nothing has been proved though. 'Mione's a powerful witch, and her parents are both muggles, and the same was said about my mother. There are ways to increase magical power though."
"Like what happened to you."
Harry laughed a bit and shook his head. "I should be dead. I really should, you know. It's almost absurd how many times I should have died by now. I'm starting to think I should set up a reward for whoever manages it in the end. I have to say though, if I choke on my food and die from it, I won't be happy."
L had to agree that after everything he'd read, Harry choking on food would be rather anticlimactic as far as deaths went. He also couldn't help but hope that the wizard was joking, considering the rather large possibility of Harry being killed in a terribly painful manner... and L's mind was eager to attempt to show him plenty of examples. He got the feeling that when Harry did face death, he'd wish he'd voluntarily choked on his food.
"Anyway, there are plenty of dark rituals to enhance power, speed, endurance, you name it; but it all comes with a rather hefty price. To be at that level, you need to have practiced enough Dark Arts to have already become addicted to it, or you risk killing yourself during the ritual. There are a few Light Magic tricks to increase power, but it takes many years of dedicated study and practice to widen the magical conduits safely. There's also Core Magic, which very few have the aptitude for, and it's extremely dangerous."
"Yours were widened unsafely."
"Yes. Like I said, I really should be dead."
"I appreciate the information, but rather, what would affect magical strength on a day to day basis?"
"Oh! Well, there's magical exhaustion, that's nasty. Self explanatory really. Then there's physical exhaustion, which can weaken spells. Hunger can take away concentration which can be a weakness in a duel. Depression can make spells weaker too. According to the Ministry, the only safe way to contain a magical person is to put them in a cell in a fortress on a godforsaken island surrounded by Dementors day and night, as they suck out all the happy memories, leaving them... well, you know."
L remembered what he'd read about Dementors, and nodded.
"We don't get ill like you do, but there are magical illnesses, and they can make a person's magic go out of control, or weaken it; and I know Dragon Pox killed a lot of people in the seventies. Oh, and of course extreme pain and nerve damage can weaken a person until the nerves are repaired. The Cruciatus Curse is terrible; it basically sets off pain signals from everything that it's possible to feel pain from, and if held too long leads to insanity and severe brain damage. It's all in the mind though, and your body tortures itself. Voldemort liked that one," Harry mused absently.
"Voldemort is dead."
Harry nodded sharply. "Once and for all. Now we have Kira, who is most likely a muggle with something terribly nasty up his sleeve. In a way, if he kills me, at least it will give my world the legal power to stash him in Azkaban. Clever or not, a few weeks in there and his brains would be mush," Harry mused darkly, as he took another sheet of parchment from the box and picked up his quill.
L almost shivered as he subconsciously shielded his mind.
The next morning, the surveillance tapes from the FBI agent's deaths had arrived throughout the day, gradually taking over most of the available floor space in the main room. L had set up five screens in front of his armchair and hadn't left it since the first box full of tapes had arrived that morning. When he finished watching five of the tapes, one of the officers – usually Matsuda, or Ukita if Matsuda was busy making coffee – was swiftly instructed to swap them for five more of L's choosing. Watari kept him supplied with tea and a wide range of confectionary.
All of the officers were doing their best to at least appear as if they were being just as vigilant as L, though they generally picked just one screen to stare at. Harry was lying on a sofa behind the screens, with his arm over his eyes. The Task Force glanced at him every now and then, but mostly left him alone, except for Matsuda who insisted on asking if he was alright every few minutes, or at least that's what it felt like to Harry. Nobody really knew if L was aware that 'Ryuuki' had been lying on the sofa for ninety minutes, so focussed was he on the screens in front of him.
Harry's head ached fiercely, but he couldn't get out a potion, since then he'd probably have to act as though he was still ill for a few hours afterwards. Staring at grainy CCTV footage all morning, on five screens, with thick curtains blocking out any natural light was something that he clearly wasn't accustomed to. There were only four agents whose deaths were recorded, but there was footage of the others leaving their hotel rooms or walking the streets, from many different angles, which all had to be sorted through. A few times Matsuda had offered to fetch some pain relief, but Harry knew that muggle medicine wouldn't do the job, and had refused each time, much to the other's confusion, not that Harry knew this.
In fact Harry didn't sit up until around an hour later, when he heard L say something other than tape numbers through the barbed wire wrapped cotton wool landscape of his mind. By rubbing his hands through his hair, he managed to concentrate enough to cast a temporary wandless pain relieving spell, allowing him to focus on what was being said, well, for the next ten minutes at least.
"...where he gets on the train, and where he dies? I'd like to see those again, next to each other," L was saying slowly, staring at the screens.
Aizawa jumped up and retrieved the tapes, as Harry moved to stand behind the sofa that Aizawa and L were occupying. This was the FBI agent who had been following Light Yagami, and who had been involved in that bus-jacking he'd found in the newspaper... He decided against saying this out loud however; if L didn't say anything, then he probably had a good reason.
Harry watched carefully, as L confirmed that the man on the screen was indeed Raye Penber, and that the time on the tape matched the time that had been on his ticket.
"Very strange..." L mused a few minutes later, resting the tip of his thumb on his bottom lip. "He gets on the train at 15:13. He dies the moment he gets off, at 16:45. One full circle on the Yamanote Line loop takes an hour. And he was on there for an hour and a half... but no other ticket was found on him, and nothing is printed on his prepaid card to indicate he got out and re-entered."
Harry mumbled, "Maybe someone made him stay on there, since it wouldn't make sense for him to want to sit in that contraption any longer than he needed to."
L nodded absently. "Yes... he gets on the train at 15:13, even if he was shadowing someone at the time, this image isn't clear enough to figure out who it may be. And right before he died, Raye Penber received the file with the names and faces of all the FBI agents in Japan on his computer at 15:21. That's just eight minutes after he boarded. Penber sat on that train for an hour and a half with the file on him..."
Harry silently agreed that this was most definitely strange.
"Kira can control people's actions right before they die. So I guess we could say that's the reason any of the Agents acted strangely that day, but... What happened to the envelope?" L suddenly exclaimed, leaning forward in his seat, eyes wide.
Harry stared at the screens and looked for an envelope, but there was only one screen still showing Raye Penber, and he was definitely dead, with no envelope in sight.
Aizawa had exclaimed, "What envelope?" excitedly, and had also leaned forwards in his seat, probably caught up in the excitement that L's outburst had caused. It wasn't an outburst in any normal sense of the word according to Harry; but there was a significant increase in both movement and volume from the lead detective that seemed to prompt a whole flurry of emotions from the others, and the atmosphere had changed from saddened curiosity to a rather morbid hopefulness in anticipation of a possibly vital clue.
Aizawa quickly rewound the tapes, and they all focussed on Penber.
"Hey, you're right! He's definitely holding an envelope," said Aizawa, following Penber with his finger. "He's got it over here too... I can't believe you noticed that, Ryuuzaki!"
L made no comment.
"There was nothing like an envelope on his body, though..." said Chief Yagami, looking at a sheet of paper, presumably a report from the Japanese policemen who dealt with dead bodies... Harry couldn't quite remember the muggle term for that particular job, what with the Dwarves still chipping away at the inside of his skull with their pickaxes, even with the spell... but he'd figure that out later... Perhaps it wasn't Dwarves at all, but a Flibbering Drumbanger, or something else equally obscure that may find its way into Luna's repertoire of strange creatures.
"Which would mean he left it on the train," L replied quickly, his thumb drifting towards his mouth, before being diverted to his knee. Harry wondered if L's knee still hurt. It probably did.
"Maybe that envelope contained a file of the FBI Agents in Japan..." the Chief mused.
"...and Kira got it from him, then made Penber get off and killed him," added Matsuda almost hopefully.
"No," L stated, "Penber only got the file at 15:21, on the train. He couldn't have had it before he boarded."
"Oh yeah..." mumbled Matsuda sheepishly.
L then ordered Aizawa to retrieve all footage from the Yamanote Line for the 27th of December. "And..." he murmured, looking back at the screen, "This last image of Raye Penber... to me..."
Harry stared at the image on the screen; Raye Penber in his final moments, straining to reach... the door of the train? It's unlikely he wanted to get back on board, so why?
"...It looks like he's desperately trying to look into the train," L continued.
"...And if he is, that's a clue?" asked the Chief.
"Wouldn't it be interesting if Kira was in there?" L suggested.
The Chief looked shocked, and stuttered. "You... Couldn't be..."
Harry was thinking that L was onto something, and tried to think of a reason.
"I agree," L replied. "It isn't likely. If Kira can murder from afar, then why would he bother going there?"
"I'm hoping he would go simply to make sure that his plans worked, and nothing more, but if he really does have a God complex then there are probably a few reasons. I can think of some," said Harry slowly, resisting the urge to pull out his trunk there and then for a pain reliever.
L nodded. "If Kira was indeed there at the station, then I doubt he would have let himself be caught on a security camera with the envelope... a public place like this, he would have checked the camera locations in advance and used the blind spots, if any. If not, he'd hide behind someone. But, if he is captured on camera with it, we could call him in as a material witness."
L obviously wasn't too hopeful about that happening, but the others nodded. He hopped down from the sofa and headed towards his stash of sweets before pausing. Glancing over his shoulder, he said, "Okay, so... Aizawa-san, you keep searching for connections between the 11 FBI agents and those heart attack victims, while Yagami-san and Matsuda-san concentrate on what Raye Penber was up to."
"I'm on it."
L continued shuffling towards his sweets, and Harry figured that now would be as good a time as any to sneak away and fetch a potion from his trunk.
As Harry was sneaking past Watari, who was sitting by himself nearer the door, he heard Watari's phone beeping from his pocket. The old man answered it promptly, and Harry couldn't help but be curious.
"Yes... Yes... Please wait a moment. Ryuuzaki, it's from Ukita-san at the other office. He says he's on the line with someone who has interesting information."
To be continued...