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Game Theory
Harry P. & Hermione G. - Words: 27,750 - Rated: M - English - Romance & Suspense - Chapters: 10 - Reviews: 99 - Updated: 12-12-2018 - Published: 01-12-2018 - by SallyJAvery (FFN)

. . ~ * Game Theory * ~ . .


Prologue

Haringey, East London
21st December 2007, 1:23am


The goblin's shoulders were slumped and his ragged breaths echoed harshly through the cavernous interior of the warehouse. His wrists had been bound to the arms of the perspex chair with thin nylon cords that were tied tightly enough to leave bloody welts where he had struggled against the restraints.

The quiet was shattered by the screech of old hinges as one of the doors at the far end of the warehouse was wrenched open, admitting a ghostly sliver of moonlight before it fell closed with an echoing boom. The goblin raised his chin, revealing ugly bruising across the bridge of his nose as he peered into the deep gloom, towards the footsteps that made their way across the cement floor.

The feet stopped just outside the pool of sickly blue light cast by the jar of flames that hovered above the goblin's head. For a moment all was silent as the goblin's dark eyes searched the shadows, before they settled on a spot where the darkness seemed to thicken and coalesce.

In spite of his injuries the goblin smiled nastily, showing a row of sharp, even teeth.

"What is this?" he rasped, in faintly-accented English. "What is it that you want?"

The man in the shadows shifted, and for a moment his eyes caught the blue flames in an unearthly glitter, but he made no reply.

The goblin leaned forward, his weight making the cords bite anew against his skin and causing a fresh line of scarlet to well around one wrist. "Do you think that wizards have not tried to learn our secrets before?"

He hawked his disdain, and a glob of bloody phlegm landed just short of the toes of the man's polished shoes.

"Your kind and your never-ending greed." The goblin's lips twisted into a sneer. "You must have a deathwish, boy, to risk the fury of the Horde."

At this, the wizard took a step forward, raising one gloved hand to loosen his collar. As the light revealed his features the goblin's eyes widened slightly, before they quickly focused on the wand that the man held loosely at his side.

"It so happens that I've been marked for death before," the wizard remarked in a bored voice. "So that's really nothing new."

He gestured with his wand, barely more than a flick, but the goblin barked with pain as the spell lashed his cheek.

The wizard smiled, very slightly. "First things first. Don't call me boy."

oOo

They found the body on Christmas Eve, about as far from festive as you could get. Ogden had still been alive, then, and he had met Harry's gaze grimly over the top of the goblin's corpse.

"This is bad," was all he'd said.

They'd both watched as Justin had levitated one of the goblin's hands, turning his wand so that the fingers spread out in mid-air.

"See there?" he'd said, pointing. "All the phalanges broken, even the distals." The air had whistled between his teeth as he'd sucked in a breath. "Goblins are far more dexterous than humans," he'd commented. "It wouldn't surprise me if - yes - here you go -"

Harry had run his eyes along the markedly elongated metacarpal that Justin had gestured at in the goblin's hand, noting where it had been broken in multiple places.

"He was almost certainly still alive for this," Justin had murmured thoughtfully. "Look at the difference in the bruising there. I'm guessing it took a while."

Harry had looked back at Ogden, who hadn't moved. The older man's eyes were fixed on the corpse, his expression murderous.

"Who the fuck would do that?" Harry had asked quietly.

"Someone who wanted answers," Emilius had answered, shaking his head slowly before meeting Harry's gaze. "I suggest we hurry up and find some of our own."


A/N: Christmas! Christmas is coming!

Given my current form, I would say we can expect this story to complete sometime around January 2072. But I will try. Tis the season, kids!

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