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Tip of Your Tongue

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Harry was in a dark hallway lined with shelves bearing glass orbs. They stretched endlessly towards the ceiling, endlessly out in front of and behind him. The only source of light came from the wand in his hand, a pale white-blue glow at the tip. Lumos. The darkness encroached from all sides, empty and vast. It crept closer as if it wanted to snuff out the light, as if it wanted to wrap itself around Harry and never let him go.

He shuddered.

A soft, barely-there hiss somewhere at his back had his spine stiffening, and then there was the thick, heavy slide of scales against the marble floor, distant at first but getting closer. A snake, and a big one too if the sound was anything to go by. Harry moved forward on instinct, his gut shrieking at him to run. But he knew he had to be quiet—if he wasn’t quiet, the snake would find him anyway.

This isn’t right, he thought as he moved as swiftly as he was able down the hallway. It stretched on and on, never once coming to an intersection or a turn. The snake was getting closer, it’s hissing loud in his ears, but he dared not look back to see how close it had gotten. The snake doesn’t belong here.

Then, rising up in the midst of the hallway, stood a statue carved out of black stone in the likeness of a grim reaper. Graveyard, Harry thought instinctively, stumbling back from it. It too was out of place, but Harry had little time to think on it before the statue moved, swinging its scythe down in an arc. He shut his eyes, the hissing louder than before, and threw up his arms in a feeble attempt to protect himself. It would be useless, he knew. He was going to die. He was going to die, again, and there was nothing he could do about it.

Harry Potter, 12 years old, bolted upright in his bed, hair damp from sweat, his nightclothes clinging to him unpleasantly. He blinked the sleep from his eyes and reached for his glasses, settling the ill-fitted frames on the bridge of his nose. The world slid into focus: pale blue walls, light filtering in from the window, Hedwig watching him with golden eyes.

He was, unfortunately, still at the Dursleys, albeit in slightly better conditions than he was used to. The letter from Hogwarts which so clearly knew that Harry had previously slept under the stairs had prompted Vernon and Petunia to give Harry Dudley’s second bedroom. It was terribly, hideously ironic: the Dursleys were perfectly happy to keep Harry in a cupboard, feed him their table scraps, put him to work with the cleaning and gardening and cooking, but god forbid anyone know about it.

For so long, Harry had thought his life was the normal way of things, or at least, it couldn’t be all that awful. The fact that the Dursleys wanted to keep their treatment of him hidden was proof that they knew how they raised Harry was wrong, and Merlin if that didn’t piss him off.

Hedwig hooted from her cage, drawing his attention. Just a few more weeks until Hogwarts, he told himself as he procured a dead mouse for her to eat. It was already August and he was beyond ready to go back to school. He’d even gladly take Snape’s homework assignments and condescending sneers over the Dursleys any day.

And he missed his friends. He hadn’t had any letters from Ron or Hermione, which had been odd and truthfully a bit hurtful—at least until he’d had a chance to call Hermione up on the phone where she’d insisted she’d been sending him one a week, and by the way how come he hadn’t written her any letters? To which Harry had complained that of course he had.

Obviously someone was controlling his mail. The Dursleys? No, they didn’t know how to keep owls from delivering mail, and Vernon would have taunted Harry by destroying the letters in front of him if he could. Voldemort was equally unlikely since they were on somewhat decent terms—a sentiment Harry’s déjà vu brain conceded to with no small amount of incredulity—and because it just felt sort of beneath the Dark Lord to tamper with Harry’s mail.

(“I’ll be in touch,” Voldemort had said, but a month and a half later, there hadn’t been so much as a peep from him.)

Of course, the obvious choice was Dumbledore, but Harry couldn’t figure out what the man would gain from stopping his mail.

At least his friends hadn’t forgotten him.

He glanced at the calendar tacked to his wall, a series of x-marks counting down the days. 2 weeks until September 1st, Harry thought. Just 2 more weeks.



Where would Harry be if his life was easy, he wondered, staring at the house elf standing on his bed.

“Dobby,” he said with a sigh, his déjà vu brain pushing the name forward with a mix of fondness, grief, and no small amount of exasperation.

The house elf stared at him, eyes wide and growing teary. “Mister Harry Potter knows Dobby’s name?”

Well that’s going to be impossible to explain, he thought.

“Um. Yeah,” Harry said eloquently. “It’s a long story.”

That I don’t know.

The house elf squealed happily. “Oh, Dobby heard you were a great wizard. But he never imagined this.”

Harry tried to smile. “I don’t know about all that. Why…why don’t you sit down?”

“Sit down?” Dobby stared. “No wizard has ever asked Dobby to sit down.”


“Well, you mustn’t have known many good wizards.”

“No,” Dobby chuckled. “I haven’t.”

And then proceeded to hit himself on the head with Harry’s lamp while chanting “Bad Dobby.”

The sinking feeling in Harry’s stomach was back with a vengeance.

“Shhhhh,” Harry tried to soothe, carefully wriggling the lamp out of the house elf’s hands. “We have to be quiet, or else my relatives are going to come up.” When Dobby nodded, thank Merlin, Harry offered another weak smile. “Now. Why don’t you tell me what you’re doing here?”

Which is how Harry learned about some vague evil plot destined to plague Hogwarts this year—no surprise there, said the déjà vu brain bitterly—as well as the fact that it had actually been Dobby who stole Harry’s letters.

“Harry Potter must not go back to Hogwarts,” Dobby was insisting, holding the letters hostage.

“I have to. I can’t stay here. My relatives…” Harry didn’t have words for how awful it would be to stay here, away from magic, away from everything that made him feel alive. He couldn’t even consider it.

“The danger is too great!”

This is getting us nowhere, the déjà vu brain said. And it’s going to get worse unless we can convince him that we’re either not going back to school, or that we’ll be fine if we do.

Harry fought back a grimace. It was a shame; Dobby seemed like a good sort, disobeying his master’s orders to protect Harry even if it was annoying. Harry hated lying to good people. But there was nothing else for it.

“I know, Dobby,” Harry whispered conspiratorially. The house elf froze. “I won’t say it out loud, so you won’t get in trouble and they won’t think you told me, okay? But I know.”

Dobby eyed him suspiciously for a moment. “Mister Harry Potter…knows the evil plot?”

Harry nodded. “I do. I have a special sixth sense that warns me about things like this.” Not nearly often enough, in Harry’s opinion, and he would be having words with his déjà vu brain for not tipping him off about whatever this impending doom was. “And it also tells me how to win.”

Dobby’s already large eyes were wide as saucers. “Is this how Harry Potter knew Dobby’s name?”

“Yes,” Harry said eagerly. “Yes exactly.”

“And—” the house elf was frowning, clearly trying to re-plan with this new information “—if it is at Hogwarts, Harry Potter must be at Hogwarts to destroy it.”

Oh good, Harry thought. I’m going to have to destroy something by the sound of it.

“That’s the plan,” he said. Could house elves tell when they were being lied to? He sure hoped not.

Dobby was silent for a few moments, and Harry briefly thought he’d succeeded. He should have known better. He really, really needed to stop being surprised when things didn’t go his way.

“Harry Potter is too young,” the house elf eventually decided. “Harry Potter should not do jobs meant for adults.”

Which, yeah…Harry had been of that opinion for a while now. But damn was it inconvenient right at this moment.

And that was before Dobby dropped the cake on Vernon’s boss’s wife’s head.



Bars. Bars on his windows.


“You’ll never see those freaky friends of yours again,” Vernon had said right before bolting Harry’s door from the outside.

It took less than an hour for the trapped feeling to settle under his skin, wriggle in between his rib cage and wrap poisoned fingers around his heart. He wasn’t sure why the bars on his window made such a difference; he’d been trapped in this hell house for the past six weeks and it wasn’t like his situation was all that different now. He’d never once used the window as an escape route before—for fucks sake, it was on the second story. He was liable to break his neck jumping from this height.

But despite not making any rational sense, he felt like he’d been shackled, caged. It made him want to scream—which he did into his pillow so Vernon wouldn’t come back and make things worse. It made him want to cry in frustration. Made him want to tear down the whole damned house.

He didn’t, but it was touch and go there for a few hours, magic pooling under his fingertips as if it was just waiting for him to give his permission.

The only thing that kept him from unleashing it was the knowledge that he had nowhere else to go.



Getting rescued by a handful of Weasleys in a flying car in the middle of the night felt so much like a bizarre fever dream that even Harry’s déjà vu brain couldn’t convince him with any certainty that it was real. As he stared at the headlights, blinking, he considered for a moment that this was a hallucination he’d drummed up in order to escape the hopeless reality of living with the Dursleys.

Get in the fucking car already, the déjà vu brain said.

When a door slammed down the hall not half a minute later, the lizard brain hissed an urgent, Run. And Harry did, chucking his school trunk into the back of the car and handing Hedwig’s cage much more gently to Ron through the backseat window. If there was even a chance that this was real, he had to take it.

Getting grabbed around the ankle at the last second by a screaming Uncle Vernon? Not great.

Kicking Vernon in the face while Fred shouted, “Floor it!”, thus resulting in the Dursley patriarch falling out a window?

Genuinely a top 10 moment in Harry’s life.

If there’s any sense of cosmic justice in the world, Harry thought unkindly, the fall will kill him.

The drive—er, flight—back to the Weasleys’ home passed in a blur of city lights and cool night air, with the twins bickering over the radio station and Ron’s softly chattering voice going on about his summer hols and quidditch and letters from Hermione.

(“So many bloody letters,” Ron said, holding his hands an exaggerated distance apart. “I don’t know if she’s done anything but write all summer.”)

Somehow, despite the absolute rush of breaking free of the Dursleys, Harry found his eyes drifting shut. Not quite sleeping, but at ease for the first time since he’d gotten off the train at the end of June. Even George shouting “FUCK I forgot we’d have to land” as car careened towards the ground couldn’t totally shatter Harry’s newfound peace.

The Burrow was nothing like Number 4 Privet Drive. For starters, Harry had never seen a house so tall and crooked and delightfully, obviously magical. The pans washed themselves in the sink, socks knitted themselves by the fire, and the whole house creaked as if to say hello when they walked in. But the thing that was the most different was, of course, the people. Despite her yelling, Mrs. Weasley doled out hugs and ushered everyone to the kitchen table where they all sat and had the same food to eat and talked loudly. Mr. Weasley chatted on about work, and the twins laughed at Percy’s hair which was sticking up at odd angles, and Ginny—well, Ginny was blushing and trying not to get caught staring at Harry but it was only slightly weirding him out, so that was okay.

Harry, too, got a hug and a biscuit with eggs, Ron’s arm thrown around his shoulder when the twins challenged them to a two-on-two backyard quidditch match. And for the first time that he could remember, he felt something like a normal kid.



Harry stumbled out of the floo at Flourish & Blott’s, half-tripping over his own feet but, mercifully, in the correct store and in one piece. He straightened, brushed the dust from his robes, and waited for the rest of the Weasleys to appear. Why on Merlin’s green earth they’d had him go through first was a mystery.

“Throw the powder down and speak very clearly,” weren’t exactly great instructions. If he hadn’t had his déjà vu brain whispering that it was going to be fine, telling him not to panic, he might’ve screeched when the green flames swallowed him whole.

At least we didn’t end up in Borgin & Burke’s, his déjà vu brain said, sounding a little too relieved for Harry’s taste. He didn’t know what Borgin & Burke’s was, and by that tone, he figured he probably didn’t want to.

His mystery brain—the part which had known about the diadem and which Harry had an uneasy inkling was connected to the murmuring dark spot in his consciousness—sniffed and said, Borgin & Burke’s is a fine establishment.

Yeah, the déjà vu brain drawled, for a rising dark lord maybe.

It was strange to have arguments inside his head like this—ever since the mystery brain had made itself known, it had decided it liked sharing its opinions every now and then. His déjà vu brain and his lizard brain often agreed on things, but if Harry didn’t know better, he’d say this other part of himself disagreed just to be contrary, provocative. He was reminded of a cartoon he’d seen a glimpse of once while he was vacuuming the sitting room, where a little angel and a little devil sat on the character’s shoulders, arguing with each other and trying to sway the character to do good or evil.

Except in Harry’s case—with all the violent, sometimes homicidal urges flooding him from all sides—he was pretty sure he had two devils.

A moment later, Ron came through, the rest of the Weasley clan not far behind. They made a big crowd—seven of them in total, counting Harry—and a rowdy one at that, and so it was with little surprise that Arthur was left with the four youngest kids while Molly, Percy, and Harry went off on a quick trip to Gringotts.

It was only when Harry entered his vault once again that he was reminded of his conversation with Quirrell—or Voldemort, rather—last year about family artifacts that could limit the effect of compulsion charms. A brief glance around the impressive vault revealed what Harry had already guessed: he simply didn’t have time today to do a search himself, nor would he know what to look for even if he did. Aside from the money itself, there were a few full bookcases, some portraits, and a not-insignificant amount of clutter towards the back.

With some reluctance, he grabbed more than enough galleons for his school supplies and put them in the pocket of his robes, nodding to the goblin as he returned to where Mrs. Weasley and Percy were waiting. He would have to wait until he was at Hogwarts—where no one would hover over his shoulder in a well-meaning bid to mother him—to write Gringotts about getting an inventory of his account. As much as he genuinely liked Mrs. Weasley, she had very firm opinions on what was and wasn’t appropriate business for children, and Harry suspected that almost all of his…independent research projects would fall under the category of the latter.

By the time they made it back to Flourish & Blott’s, the crowd had doubled in size and the Grangers had managed to find the Weasleys. Harry had only just spotted the familiar bushel of brown hair before it was barreling towards him through the mass of people. He barely managed to brace himself before he had an armful of Hermione.

“Oh, I was so worried about you,” she whispered, holding him tighter. Then she pulled back, eyes scanning him from head to toe, lips pursed. Harry blinked and there was a wand in his face. “Occulus reparo.”

“It’s good to see you too,” he said, laughing as she hooked an arm through his and dragged him back over to where the main group was.

“I can’t believe our luck. I mean, I hadn’t known at all that Gilderoy Lockhart himself was going to be here. You know, his whole collection of books are required for defense this year,” Hermione babbled. “I hear he’s absolutely brilliant. He took down a banshee all on his own, so I suppose he’d have to be.”

Harry had mostly stopped listening after Gilderoy Lockhart.

Oh, fuck that guy, the déjà vu brain said vehemently, and the sheer disgust that flooded through Harry had him freezing mid-step. What a fucking moron. Wouldn’t be surprised if he couldn’t even bloody tie his own shoelaces. What was Dumbledore thinking, letting him teach defense?

Of course he’s teaching defense, Harry thought tiredly.

Still, the déjà vu brain had wanted to kill Quirrell and Harry had rather liked the man. Maybe it wasn’t always right.

Though, of course, Quirrell had turned out to be Voldemort, so what did Harry know?

There was no mistaking Lockhart, once Harry, Hermione, and the Weasleys were close enough to see the dais they’d sat him at. He was probably considered a handsome man: wavy golden blond hair and an almost delicate nose, a pale blue eyes and a media smile. He waved at the crowd, grinned for pictures, winked at the flustered women in the crowd. Harry grimaced as he took the man in, reminded too much of a used-car salesman.

And then, because Harry was cursed probably, Lockhart’s eyes landed firmly on him.

“Harry Potter.” The man did little more than mouth the words that made up Harry’s name before a reporter grabbed Harry by the elbow and forcibly hauled him up to the makeshift stage. Lockhart’s arm wrapped around his shoulders, and Harry fought not to immediately shrug him off, rip himself away from the man’s grasp. Lockhart’s hand was cool and a little clammy, but Harry shook it anyway and hoped his own smile didn’t look too strained.

He was barely paying attention, too focused on counting backwards from 100 in his head so he didn’t accidentally curse Gilderoy Lockhart in public, only vaguely aware of talk of books and signing and then Lockhart loosened his grip. Harry had a fleeting thought that he could make a break for it, but then Lockhart was back, setting a hefty stack of books in Harry’s hands before grabbing him by the shoulders again. Another barrage of camera flashes assaulted them, and then finally, Harry was released.

“Mr. Potter.” A blonde woman stepped in front of him before he could make it two steps, blocking his way back to the Weasleys. A quill and notepad floated by her face, red lips curled in what she probably thought was a genial smile. She held out her hand. “Rita Skeeter.”

One look at was all it took for his déjà vu brain to let loose another stream of curses, its commentary even more scathing for her than it had been for Lockhart. The rant was accompanied by a scatter of half-formed images that felt like memories: a broom cupboard, a front-page article in the Daily Prophet, anger and bitterness and…shiny green?

Just my luck, Harry thought—because he never got so much from his sixth sense unless it was important, and usually bad—but he shook her hand anyway. “A pleasure.”

“I write for—”

“The Daily Prophet,” Harry said, trusting his sixth sense and the random bits of information that settled into his brain as if he’d always known it. “Yes, I know.”

She tittered at that. “It’s always nice to meet a fan.”

His déjà vu brain snorted, but Harry didn’t bother to correct her, not wanting to spend a moment more in her presence. “Well, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to my friends.”

“Just one thing,” she said, grabbing his arm as he tried to pass, her fingernails sharp through the thin fabric of his robe. “Would you consider Gilderoy Lockhart something of a role model? He is, after all, one of the most accomplished wizards of his generation, and with having defeated You-Know-Who as a baby, the people want to know if you’ll be aiming for a similarly notable career.”

Harry forced what he hoped was a pleasant smile. “I’m afraid I don’t know him well enough to say.”

The quill next to her head scribbled, and then kept scribbling line after line of who knew what.

Lies, his déjà vu brain spat.

Let me guess, Harry thought dryly. We should kill her too.

The lack of response from any of his internal voices was…telling.

“And your own career?” Skeeter pressed, eyes gleaming in a way that reminded Harry far too much of a starved, wild animal.

“I’m twelve, Miss Skeeter,” Harry said, pointedly taking a step back. “I don’t have any particular plans just yet.”

Before she could drag him into another undoubtedly double-edged question, Harry dodged around her and found Mrs. Weasley waiting for him. She took his books from him with some difficulty, and then urged him to head over towards the exit where the others were waiting in a less crowded area.

Harry wasn’t exactly sure what he missed, but he caught sight of the Weasleys just in time to watch Mr. Weasley full-on tackle a tall, white-blond man that bore such a striking resemblance to Draco Malfoy that it could only be his father. Harry could only stand, staring, as Mr. Malfoy proceeded to grapple with Arthur on the floor, neither of the grown wizards bothering to draw their wands.

It took less than a minute for a disgruntled Flourish & Blott’s employee to break them apart with a forceful flick of their wand, and then Mr. Weasley was being pointed towards the door, his children and the Grangers following after. In a twist that should surprise no one, Mr. Malfoy was receiving a thousand apologies for being attacked, though Harry supposed that wasn’t entirely unfair since Mr. Weasley had been the one to lunge first.

Not my business, he told himself firmly. Now, if Harry could just sneak out—

“Mr. Potter, a moment if you would.”

He turned, suppressing a sigh, and came face to face with Mr. Malfoy, Draco at his side sneering. His luck today was just miserable.

“Ah. Draco. Mr. Malfoy.” He smiled tightly. “I’m in a bit of a hurry, so—”

The top of the elder Malfoy’s cane came down hard on Harry’s shoulder. He refused to wince even as it dug into his skin.

“Now, now. There’s no need to be rude.” Mr. Malfoy stepped forward, encroaching just a little further into Harry’s space in a way which Harry did not like at all. What was with all these adults cornering him? “I only wanted to congratulate you.”

“Congratulate me?” Harry repeated incredulously.

“On your second defeat of the Dark Lord, of course.”

Harry narrowed his eyes. He knew Mr. Malfoy’s story well enough from when he’d researched the first wizarding war: a marked Death Eater who was acquitted because he claimed he’d been under the Imperious the whole time. That kind of claim was difficult to disprove—the Imperious was impossible to trace once it had been lifted, and unlike the Cruciatus, didn’t leave behind any nasty side effects—but popular opinion was that it was all a sham to keep out of Azkaban. Not that that seemed to matter, seeing as Malfoy senior had managed to lay claim to a prestigious Ministry position and keep his Wizengamot seats despite his extremely dubious past.

Hell, if Mr. Weasley was to be believed, Mr. Malfoy had the Minister of Magic all but eating out of his palm.

Harry almost would have been impressed, except the man seemed just as self-important and prat-ish as his son. He wondered if Mr. Malfoy could be rattled just as easily as Draco. And frankly, Harry had reached his limit for being held hostage by strangers.

“I don’t think you really believe that, Mr. Malfoy.”

The older man froze. “What?”

Harry raised a brow and repeated, slower, “I don’t think you really believe that. That I defeated the Dark Lord back in June.”

“I—” Mr. Malfoy struggled to find words, mouth opening and closing, his brow furrowed as he stared hard at Harry. For his part, Harry only smiled pleasantly, and then leaned in a bit closer so that he could speak softly.

“Do give him my regards when you see him.”

Without another word, he batted the cane away and turned swiftly towards the door, leaving a flabbergasted Mr. Malfoy behind him, satisfaction burning pleasantly in his chest.



An imposing wall of brick that sat between platforms nine and ten was the only thing standing between Harry and another ten blissful months at Hogwarts. Never mind what warnings Dobby had for him, or the unsettling gut feeling that he was forgetting something massively important. Hogwarts was home and Harry had missed it.

Don’t go through last, his déjà vu brain warned, so Harry ducked his head and asked Mrs. Weasley if they minded if he and Ron went through before them.

“I know it’s silly, but I have this fear that I’ll miss the gate,” he said, not lying in the slightest. He’d had a horrible feeling this morning when he woke, a cycle of “what ifs” that revolved around missing the train back to Hogwarts and a bone-deep certainty that something would go wrong. He’d learned by now not to discount those warning signs.

“Of course,” Mrs. Weasley said, gently pushing them forward, and Harry’s déjà vu brain breathed a deep sigh of relief when he passed through the wall with no problem.

The train ride was a mostly quiet affair. Ron and Harry had found an unoccupied compartment easily, Hermione joining them just minutes before the train took off, and Harry spent a good portion of the first hour recounting what had happened with Dobby. Along with the ominous warning he’d been given.

“Whatever it is, it’s got to be pretty bad,” Harry said. “I mean, this house-elf really didn’t want me coming to Hogwarts.”

“Well, we can’t do anything about it until we know what the problem is,” Hermione reasoned. “And until then, we might as well focus on our studies. Speaking of, how’s everyone’s occlumency going? I know it’s hard to test without a legilimens, but I think I’ve got the basic organization down.”

And so the conversation drifted on, from occlumency to quidditch to Hermione’s summer with her parents. Which inevitably led to Harry’s living situation.

“Bars on his windows,” Ron said, waving his arms about as Hermione gave Harry a sharp look. He hadn’t mentioned that bit to her. “And I know they’ve not been feeding you enough.” Ron raised a brow as if daring Harry to contradict him.

There was a part of him that wanted to push back, to say that it wasn’t that bad because it wasn’t as though Vernon ever actually hit him. That the bruises he’d had from being gripped around the arm or ankle didn’t really count. That Petunia making sure he only ate after everyone else had been served, making sure he could only go to sleep after his chores were done wasn’t all that unusual. That Dudley chasing him and pushing him down and shoving him into walls was just kids being kids.

(And that wasn’t even counting the Harry Hunting or the time when Dudley had kicked him so hard Harry had cracked a rib.)

Fuck that and fuck them, Harry’s déjà vu brain said. This summer was bad and it’s only going to get worse. Let’s not go back.

And wasn’t that an idea.

A very, very tempting idea.

“I know,” Harry said. “I know. I’ve got all year, though. I’m sure I’ll figure something out.



There were no boats for second-year students, but carriages instead, each pulled by two horrifically beautiful, skeletal horse-like creatures: leathery skin stretched thin over bone, broad wings folded along their sides. And every single one of them was staring at Harry with their white, pupil-less eyes.

What the hell?

Thestrals, hid déjà vu brain answered. They can only be seen by those who’ve seen death.

Okay, but why are they looking at me?

No idea, the déjà vu brain said, sounding almost as perturbed as Harry was. They didn’t do that before.

Before. Again. Last time. It was things like this that his déjà vu brain said—that the sorting hat had said—that made Harry wonder. He tried, most of the time, not to think too hard about why he knew the things he knew. It only made his brain hurt when he tried to apply logic to his sixth sense. And yet it was like an itch that kept coming back, one he was forced to pick at if he wanted to keep what little sanity he had left.

They smell death, the lizard brain hissed, interrupting his thoughts.

As if agreeing with his internal thoughts, the thestral nearest to Harry reached out and nuzzled his arm with its almost-reptilian snout. Hesitantly, Harry patted it on the nose, jumping when the creature let out a sound that was halfway between a whinny and a purr.

“Harry?” Hermione was frowning at him, already seated in the carriage next to Ron.

“Sorry. Got distracted.”

He hopped in, ignoring the feeling of dozens of milky eyes following his every move, the lizard brain’s words echoing around in his head: they smell death, they smell death, they smell death.

Yeah. That wasn’t foreboding at all.