Harry had been at the centre for many months. He couldn’t remember exactly when or how he got there, but that was true of most things that happened to him and everything else these days. The other residents were moving around, shuffling past long clouds of tobacco smoke and into the routine of hushed morning conversations. Harry did not smoke and did not generally talk. He did stand and watch the white ducks.
For anyone not accustomed to the practice of watching these pure creatures, the act itself could appear to be the definition of eternal boredom. Regardless of their fine, white plumage, the ducks were merely ducks. They waddled and quacked and searched the ground for things to nibble on or to sip. Their days were filled with nothing of import nor meaning, yet Harry Potter could not take his mind off them. The other residents ignored both the ducks and Harry.
Nobody mentioned Bacchus.
It was not known if Harry had come from an ordinary family, living an ordinary set of lives, on an ordinary street, in an ordinary town. Harry was just Harry. He kept himself to himself and most of his secrets were kept under lock and key. At times when they would all get together to sit and share, under the watchful eye of Cedrick, Harry would divulge. That was the word they used for talking, divulging. He didn’t like divulging as it had a tendency to make him feel a little anxious. He thought of owls regurgitating semi-digested food for their young and it made him feel a little nauseous. He liked that word; it meant sick.
There had been times when he had divulged. Everybody else listened and some nodded as if it had been their stories he was telling. At those times, Harry had felt as if a great weight had been lifted from him. In the days that followed, he was lighter. But then, little by little, the burden would sneak back upon him and he had to walk in silence. It was then that he went to the ducks.
There were twelve ducks in total and he had given each of them different names. To the others, the ducks were just creatures, pleasant creatures, but creatures all the same. Harry never mentioned the names he had given to the creatures for fear that he would not be understood. In the times when everyone else found something to divulge, he wanted to divulged the names of the ducks, his ducks, but he never did.
One of the residents divulged that she was once a mother with three little ducklings of her own. That was in the time of Bacchus and before the ducklings were rounded up and taken off to some other mother. She cried as she told the story, even after many tellings, and Harry thought that it would take some kind of magic to stop those tears from falling.
Another resident, a muscular man that was painted with tattoos, spoke about his time in the army. He told of a time before Bacchus when he was posted to a desert land and was told to fight insurgents. Harry did not know what an insurgent really was, but he did understand that they were often very bad. The muscular man divulged that he had killed a number of these insurgents and had then discovered that one was only a boy of little more than twelve.
“It was him or me,” the muscular man had said and some of the others nodded.
The muscular man then shared that he had returned from the desert and to his family. He thought he had returned and would be safe, but one night he fell out of his life and took to sleeping on the streets. Bacchus had helped him.
Harry thought about his own life as he watched the ducks. He had turned a hosepipe on, ever so lightly, and was watching as the white flock gathered around the droplets and shared the delights. He would stand there for an hour or so with the rest of the world floating along someplace else. The ducks would need feeding soon and he would be on hand to provide. Each morning, Harry would be up early and down to where they nested for the night. If he was lucky, he would find eggs that were still warm from their brief incubation. The mother ducks would allow him to carefully move them off their charges and take the ovals away. Cedrick said that this was the way of things and Harry reluctantly agreed whilst developing a taste for duck eggs.
Cedrick had his pigs, four of them, and Harry heard him talking to them when it came to feeding time. Cedrick had names for the pigs and would whisper these names. Soon, the pigs would be gone to market and, although Cedrick said this, it too was the way of things. Harry knew that it still made him feel sad. At one point, Harry was sure, Cedrick had had his own piglets. Before Bacchus.
Some day, Harry would recover. He might even be able to return to the world outside of the stone retreat, but he hoped not. What Harry wanted more than anything else, even beyond the utter destruction of Bacchus, was to watch his white ducks for hour after hour after hour…