“You’re going to go on little wars, Harry.
And a war no matter how small changes people, the one with your own kind. It will lay a labyrinth in you where your personal demons will act in the guise of angels. Every instance of attack and defense, charm and curse will bring you the deafening agonies of orphaned children and weeping widows.
And of having taken a voiceless life.
Or having failed to save one,” said Hagrid. His hands were shivering partly due to old age, readily waiting for the scythe of Death to seize him.
“To be in a war is to die, Harry. Death is not a matter of when but a count of how many.
So you must remember, whatever you do, you do it as a child of humanity. As I and all in Hogwarts.”
“I still remember his words to this day” Harry smiled to himself in a melancholy sense of when one misses someone.
Twenty-one years. It had been twenty-one years since Lord Voldemort had died.
When the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry finally received the heaven it deserved, it was only a matter of time when everyone’s hand sought to extend to the muggles.
Nothing in the practicalities and truculence of life is truly black and white.
Harry knew it well the time he was allotted his 17th, the Project Afghanistan.
Harry having never traveled to the abandoned prison of Kabul, supposedly the hut of a man called Insane Lavladen, needed someone who knew every corner of Afghanistan to cast the spell of Apparition – the magical action of traveling by having the user focus on a desired location in their mind.
Sayed Salim who always seemed to smell of a certain kind of royal attar, comprised of notes of roasted cinnamon and light musk with undertones of vanilla and exciting bitterness of cashmere woods, was precisely the right man for the job. An Afghani Hogwartian, expertly versed in spells and decently in defense against dark arts.
After all the hugs and kisses, and the throws of ‘good-lucks’, it was time -“Apparition!”
Apparition felt like being forced through a tight rubber tube with unjagged twists and turns that defied the procedures of Physics. Like being a needle near a neodymium magnet except with a longer continuity and nonlinearity.
There they were, Harry and Salim, in the dilapidated Kabul prison hall that once was a cage to animals far beyond what nature could evolutionize.
There he stood, the infamous Insane Lavladen, a man of short stature. His tattered clothes, structured by his bent atrophied spine, complimented his crooked smile with teeth that rot like a pig’s carcass.
The orders were to kill him, no questions asked.
And so Harry did, with a movement of his wand and the words –
No grand chase, no clichés of gloating or final words.
Just a clean stoic kill without a trace of it. Like crushing an ugly roach under the sole of your foot.
Sad and pathetic.
Before leaving, Harry and Salim checked the abandoned Kabul prison. It was a moonless night – shattered windows, black corners, floors like an unfinished jigsaw puzzle made from marble, jail bars eaten by junk and weakened by the strains of time.
The last aisle of the jail blocks-numbered 666 traversed longer than a gaze could ‘Allow’. It was a narrow lane, barely lit by the peripheral lights that the dusty broken windows allowed to enter.
They walked on and in.
A pungent smell suddenly wafted through the air. It felt like a hand that somehow clawed their intestines out through the nostrils.
A heavy-duty metal door.
They opened it to enter what once was the supervision chamber.
Harry stood there beside Sayed, staring at the infants that hung inverse from wires of steel tied around their twisted ankles. Gravity seduced the strings of congealing blood and phlegm that escaped their mangled mouths. Infants, one after another, hung systematically, obsessive compulsively.
Their lifeless bodies hung in eerie silence. An expression of an endless sleep on their faces.
A typical case of Rigor Mortis.
Harry’s soul thrashed against the walls of his skin. He heaved for air only to be filled by the smell of decay and viscera.
Sayed kept walking till the end of the room. His tormented face struggled to look like one.
Dismembered little limbs casually lay on the table with joints cracked out of their sockets.
Sayed’s sanity seemed to hang from the fleeting strength of outstretched strings.
Neither had the courage to go on. It was time to go.
Harry cried himself to sleep that night. Goosebumps covered his skin like hyper acne vulgaris.
Sayed too realized that heroism was never a black and white – a victory and defeat thing. Sometimes you could win carrying a sense of defeat that munches through your heart like a parasite on steroids.
And so it was all grey. Varying shades of grey.
Grey like Potter’s jaded heart.
Grey like the sulfur smog when you look down before leaping from the brooding towers of silence.
Written by: Japjit Singh N.