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A Stranger in the Promised Land Chapter II (part3)  

2009-07-17 13:17:14|  分类: HP转载 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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"Jesus!" breathed Harry. He couldn't help but think that it was a parody of what he had done. He had beheaded the Minister in front of a nation as a sign. This man was a monster, but that implied that Harry was too.

"Most people didn't know about his past," continued Binns, not noticing that Harry had paled. "They only knew about his current wave of attacks. Over the next five years, the pureblood elite flocked to him in droves. We don't know if he genuinely believed in the purity of blood or if he was just using them, but they flocked to him, becoming the new generation of Death Eaters. Dark times, Potter, dark times ? you didn't know who to trust. Professor Riddle, following in his mentor's footsteps, worked tirelessly against the Dark Lord, but nothing could stem his terrorist campaign."

"Terrorism?" asked Harry. "He abandoned his subtle methods?"

"Yes," said Binns. "Do you know what the nature of terrorism is?"

"To kill people?"

"No, that is a method, not the principle," said Binns, clearly enjoying Harry's struggle to find the words.

"To shock people?" he suggested.

"Not quite," said Binns. "The clue is in the name."

"To terrorise," said Harry, not seeing the distinction.

"Exactly, to scare people, to remove the infallibility and credibility of the establishment," said Binns. "To begin with, he wanted to take over the German government but keep the infrastructure intact. This time, his goal had changed. He wasn't out to rule this country, but to destroy those who had betrayed him. He sought one thing - the complete destruction of the British government; both the monarchy and the Ministry of Magic. Remember, he was no story?book villain, bent on destroying for no reason. He wanted to destroy the system of power in this country, and then presumably return to mainland Europe, safe in the knowledge that he had defeated the enemy who made him."

He paused as Harry took a moment to digest that.

"His attacks were designed to cripple this country's ability to function," continued Binns. "He attacked every walk of life. Some attacks were done for show with mass casualties, others were high?profile assassinations, both Magical and Muggle."

"It he was killing specific Muggles, how did the Ministry keep the Muggles from finding us?" asked Harry. If the Dark Lord was knocking off high?profile Muggles as well, surely they would notice. They were not stupid.

"We had a scapegoat," said Binns. "Ilych Ramirez Sanchez."

"Who?"

"Venezuelan terrorist," said Binns. "Nicknamed Carlos the Jackal."

"I've heard of him," said Harry. "He was caught, wasn't he?"

"After twenty?five years, yes," said Binns. "In fact if you look at his career, it shows both luck and incompetence. It shows impulsiveness and rash decisions. He was not the great assassin he was rumoured to be, but rather clumsy and rash. As a result he was caught in Syria and was handed over to the French in 1994. He did have a few unusual high points in his career, the murder of Joseph Sieff in London, for example."

"Who?" asked Harry.

"Joseph Sieff," said Binns, "Vice president of the British Zionist Federation. He was also a wizard and the owner of a few rather special government accounts at Gringotts, accounts so special he was given a security details of Aurors twenty?four hours a day. Do you still believe that he was killed by a Muggle, or that a team of Aurors would be overcome by a man at the door with a gun?"

Harry shook his head.

"Carlos took the rap for his murders," said Binns. "Our world remained hidden, and the Dark Lord remained at large, plotting and scheming."

"We spent so long cleaning up after him, we didn't have the resources to stop him," said Harry, remembering what had happened in the Unholy Land.

"True," said Binns. "He kept on killing, apparently unstoppable. People were terrified. The more Aurors clamped down on people, searching for Death Eaters, the more fear and terrorthey created, inadvertently fuelling his influence. This only fuelled his recruitment. People turned to him in fear. Since he hated anything British, I can only wonder if he had planned to dispose of them all if he was ever successful. Fortunately, he never was. It seemed he would be, until one night."

"Katie Bell," said Harry.

"Yes," said Binns. "After all the hundreds he had killed, after over a decade of terror from 1968 ? 1980, it only took one little baby girl. No one knows why she survived, but she did and his power broke."

"What happened to him?" asked Harry, playing dumb.

"No one knows," said Binns. "All that matters is that he is gone."

"For the second time," said Harry to himself. Once he had gone travelling for nearly twenty years, the other he fell to Katie. But then again, in his world, Voldemort had returned. Could Grindelwald do the same?

"Are we one hundred percent sure he is gone?" asked Harry, unable to think of a subtler way to phrase it.

"As I have said," said Binns, "I am a historian and I deal with fact, not truth, and definitely not rumour and superstition. Some people say he is out there, some say that he is dead, and some people even claim to have seen him shopping for groceries in Sainsbury's. This is hysteria, and it would be stupid to accept this as truth. Since he has gone, there have been no great attacks, and no sign of the Death Eaters."

"So he hasn't risen from the dead?" asked Harry, hoping that history would not have repeated itself.

"No," said Binns. "Well, you will always find people willing to say he has; nutcases, mainly. However, when we look at the facts, not a squeak has been heard in years. We have no proof of his resurrection, but the ramblings of lunatics."

Harry was dubious, but knew that it didn't really affect him. If Grindelwald did have a Horcrux and had survived that night, he could potentially come back. However, the lack of security in the school suggested that this was not the case. Also, there were no signs of him, and no atmosphere of fear. Harry had not seen anything unusual in the Prophet, and there seemed to be no cause for alarm.

Even if Grindelwald did rise again, he wouldn't come after poor, innocent Harry Potter. Harry was safe, and that was what mattered. He was not involved, and had no reason to fear. If Grindelwald ever came back, Harry would be long gone.

"Well, that's good to know," said Harry. "I can remember being told certain parts of that story. I think it helped my memory. Thanks."

"You are most welcome, my boy," said Binns. He seemed rather disappointed that it was over.

Thinking along the same lines, Harry racked his brains for any other questions. This was his best chance to get information. A return visit would show unusual interest, and he didn't want to be labelled a Dark Wizard. It was a little too close to the truth.

Suddenly a thought occurred to him. There was no subtle way to ask, so he may as well try.

"You said that when he went travelling, he was deep in study, searching for the path to immortality?" began Harry, but Binns cut him off.

"No," said the professor sharply. "I said he was rumoured to have gone travelling. All we know is that he disappeared. It is one of the more sound rumours, but there is no proof."

"Sorry," muttered Harry. "Okay, so let's assume that that rumour is true and that he was studying. Do we know if he succeeded?"

Binns took a deep breath and sighed ? not that he needed to breathe. Harry realised that it was rather rude to talk to a ghost about avoiding death, but Harry didn't let it bother him.

"At the time of his reign of terror," said Binns carefully, "The Death Eaters would have said yes. We accept as fact that he learned a lot of dark magic, hence the slight physical transformation I mentioned earlier. However, this may be propaganda. You must understand that I cannot comment with any degree of accuracy or fact."

"Can't or won't?" asked Harry. He could see that Binns was uneasy. Harry could spot a liar at ten paces, even without Legilimency.

"I suppose that since he's dead and gone, it can't hurt," said Binns. "Although Professor Slughorn knows more than I do."

"About what?"

"How much do you know about immortality?" asked Binns. Harry opened his mouth to comment, but then closed it. He would arouse suspicion if he told Binns everything. As it was, Harry knew of two ways: the Philosopher's Stone and a Horcrux.

"Well, I've heard of the fountain of youth," said Harry lamely. Binns shot him a look that said 'what have I told you about believing rumours and legends?'

Harry couldn't blush on demand, so he just tried to look stupid. Some would say it came naturally to him, but at that moment he found it quite hard.

"The only known way is through the use of a Philosopher's Stone," said Binns. "However, there are none in existence at this time. In addition, you have to regularly use it."

"So he made one?" asked Harry.

"I cannot say," said Binns. "Rumour suggests that he did not like this option, presumably because he would be dependent on the stone. Rumour also suggests that he invented something, a piece of magic so dark that no book in this castle will dare speak of it. Whatever it was allegedly meant that he could never be killed."

A Horcrux, thought Harry. Grindelwald invented the Horcrux.

"Apparently he started his research during his time in Germany," said Binns. "The confessions at Nuremburg tell us that he spent a lot of time studying. It would appear that he was forced to put this research on hold once Dumbledore got involved. It seems that after the Dark Lord had come so close to dying, he returned to this research, knowing how precious life was. If it is true, it must have taken him nearly twenty years to get whatever spell it was to work."

Could it be that Grindelwald had invented the damn things? Had Voldemort come across his notes and continued the study during his time out? Did Riddle have the secret here inside this very castle?

"Of course, we know the rumour is not true," said Binns, laughing at Harry's concerned face.

"What?" said Harry. "Why?"

"Because," said Binns, "if he had invented something that stopped him from dying, Kathryn Bell would not have been able to kill him." Binns chuckled softly. "Though it is an intriguing story, and it had you hooked, didn't it, Potter?"

"Yes, sir," said Harry, irritate more at the professor's attitude than at being tricked. He knew that the joke was on the professor, because Horcruxes did exist, and if Harry's suspicions were correct, in a few years, Grindelwald would rise again. Then Binns would be laughing on the other side of his ghostly little face!

Harry took a deep breath and forced himself to calm down. There was another question he needed to ask.

"You said he might not have really cared about purity of blood?" asked Harry, his tone calm.

"He may have done, he may not," said Binns, shrugging. "He provided an outlet for his followers to vent their rage, remember? They hated the Muggleborn community, but that does not mean he did. As long as they served a purpose, he allowed it. In the end, if he was planning on returning to the continent, what did he really have planned for Britain after his victory?"

Harry thought about it for a second. He had no idea, but he certainly had been given a lot to think about.

"Thank you for your time, professor," said Harry, rising to his feet. He had gotten what he needed, and if Binns was making jokes, then it was definitely time to leave. Nothing else useful would come of this meeting.

"You are welcome," said Binns, rising. "It's good to see you again, Mister Potter. If you fancy another little debate, you are always welcome."

"Thanks," said Harry, opening the door to the classroom. "Bye, professor," he added before disappearing out into the corridor.

As he walked back towards the Tower, he replayed the conversation over in his head. So, Grindelwald was most likely still alive. He had beaten Dumbledore, not the other way around, but Dumbledore must have had some effect. Dumbledore scared him so much that he spent years recovering, then spent nearly fifteen more years researching the path to immortality. He invented the Horcrux and then went on to try and kill Katie.

It seemed that this world was similar in some ways. There was a Girl Who Lived and there had been a Dark Lord.

However, Harry remembered, Flamel had said that even the tiniest change could have a major effect on the universe. Just because there was a Dark Lord and there was a Girl Who Lived didn't mean that the worlds were the same. Grindelwald and Voldemort were two different people with different ideas, beliefs, means and motives. Binns had confirmed this - Grindelwald was here to destroy the British government, not to rule it, a stark contrast to Voldemort. Presumably, once he had won, he would have returned to Germany to try and rule there.

All this would have made Grindelwald a more deadly opponent that Voldemort. Riddle had wanted to rule, so he needed to preserve the basic infrastructure of the country, hence, he had inserted people into existing rules. Grindelwald had wanted to destroy, meaning that he would not exercise restraint. Civilians were legitimate targets, though probably not the best phrase to use. He sought to bring the government down, plunge the country that had made and then betrayed him into chaos. Harry was glad he wouldn't be around to see it.

Harry found no reason not to take it on faith that Binns had been right about Grindelwald being gone - if he was gone permanently, or if there was a Horcrux out there, waiting to be activated, Harry didn't know, and, he realised, ultimately didn't care. In this world, he was not the Boy Who Lived and so he had no obligation here. He had tried not to get involved in the Unholy Land, but he had constantly been targeted. Here, he was nobody; he was completely unrelated to the conflict. Even if, by some remote possibility, Grindelwald was still alive, and even if he managed to get the necessary ingredients to be able to return from the dead, he wouldn't come after Harry. He may come back in the future, but Harry was not in danger, and would hopefully be long gone before he managed it. For now, for the next month or so that he would spend here, Grindelwald was for all intents and purposes gone, dead, finished, finito, all done. Harry breathed a sigh of relief.

He had confirmed it - he was not in danger, he was not needed. That gave him time and space to find a way home, something he needed to start on right away. It was time to head to the restricted section of the library. He could do that tomorrow. It was quiet on Sundays, especially since lessons hadn't started yet. He could flame in and nick a book before the old bat even realised he was there.

The next evening, Harry headed up to the library shortly before dinner. He had about an hour until the rest of the students arrived. He wasn't stupid enough to flame to the library directly, in case there was someone there, someone who might see him reappear. He wanted to make sure that no one saw him.

Harry slipped into the library and found the place deserted. It was in darkness, as the sun had disappeared behind the hills, even though it was only just past four in the afternoon. The room was in shadow, the only light coming from under the door to Pince's office. Harry tiptoed across the wooden floor in the direction of the restricted section.

Checking that the coast was clear, Harry slipped in amongst the shelves, not bothering to flame as there was no one around to see him. He lit a faint light at the end of his wand and began to read the titles. Most of them he passed over as being irrelevant, but every now and then he came to one that looked promising. He pulled the book off the shelves and opened it to the contents page. Sliding a finger down the list of contents, his eyes scanned for a few key words.

Harry spent half an hour searching before he found a book that contained a section that was relevant. Harry slipped the book up his oversized jumper and tiptoed out of the library, easing the door closed. Harry grimaced as the door creaked for the last inch as he released the handle.

Harry paused for a second, listening. The only sound he heard was his own heart thumping in his chest and his own breathing. It seemed that Pince hadn't heard. Phew!

Harry breathed a sigh of relief and turned to leave.

"'ello, Potter."

Harry jumped out of his skin as he turned straight into the greasy face of Argus Filch. The man stood not a foot from him, his yellow eyes glaring at Harry. He held a lantern in one hand and a stick in the other. Mrs Norris was standing between his legs, staring up at him; her harsh feline eyes seemed to glare as well.

"Er…" said Harry. "Hello?"

"Think you're funny, boy?" asked Filch, his eyes searching for any sign of a troublemaking. Harry knew he had been caught red?handed stealing a book from the library without signing it out. He hadn't wanted to leave a paper trail, and he also knew that he was not even supposed to have this book. His stomach appeared much bigger than normal thanks to the book up his jumper. Still, the other Harry was expected to be fatter than he was. Hopefully Filch wouldn't notice. He wasn't the sharpest knife in the drawer.

"Not as such," said Harry, not sure if he should offer an excuse, or even what he had been accused of.

"What are you doing in the library?" Filch asked, his eyes scanning Harry for any evidence of wrong?doing.

"What do most people do in the library?" asked Harry before he had a chance to think. He was tempted to ask Filch if he could read, but decided against it. He realised after he had made his first retort that he was supposed to be playing down his character, and arguing with Filch wasn't going to help.

"Now look here, Potter," said Filch. "I can smell trouble from a mile away. I just know you are up to something, boy, and this year I can do something about it."

"Really?" said Harry, used to Filch's threats. Filch couldn't do anything more than refer him to McGonagall.

"Oh yes, Potter," said Filch. "Only been back in the castle for a week and already caught my eye."

"Everyone comes back tonight," said Harry.

"Yes," said Filch, a glimmer of panic and then lust in his eyes. Like a hunter before the hunt, he looked manic. "Bringing Dungbombs, and Fizzing Whizzbees and Merlin knows what else. They think the banned items list is a catalogue."

"Heaven forbid," said Harry, trying not to laugh.

"Must prepare," said Filch to himself. "I'll catch 'em before they even get to the feast. Let them know I mean business, make examples." Harry had no idea what Filch was on about, and he didn't believe for a second that this power trip would last.

"Well, good luck with that," said Harry, turning to leave. "Hope you get them."

"Oh, I will," said Filch, a manic look of desire on his face. Harry walked quickly away and around the corner. Christ, everyone in this world was as mad as a brush. Not wanting to get into any more pointless conversations, Harry headed quickly to the kitchens to grab a baguette and then headed back up to the Tower to start reading. He had an hour before the feast, but he was starving. It wasn't as if the elves would be offended if he didn't clear his plate.

~~~~ + ~~~~

The common room was not empty, but there were so few people that he had plenty of choice of where to sit. He took an armchair in the corner by the window, from which he could see the room, as well as anyone who entered. He also had his back to the wall, so no one could read over his shoulder. He didn't fancy explaining to people what he was doing reading a book about Ancient Greek Dark and Experimental Magic. The disadvantage of his position was that he was a long way from the fire. Harry kicked off his shoes and pulled his feet up, sitting cross?legged on the armchair, his cloak pulled around him. He opened and book and flicked to the contents page.

Looking down the list, the areas were certainly experimental, and by the sound of it mostly dark. He made a note to conceal the book from prying eyes. If it was found in his possession, he would face awkward questions, as if the Girl?Who?Lived wasn't suspicious enough already. After tonight, with the rest of the students back, he would only be able to read after dark, in his bed with the curtains pulled and charmed. Still, as least Riddle and McGonagall would be too busy to keep an eye on him.

Harry looked down the contents page. The list covered such wonderful topics as human to animal transplants, the uses of human hearts, and the advantages of cannibalism. The trouble with something that grim is it sparks a morbid curiosity, and Harry was famed for his curiosity. It took a great deal of effort not to turn to that page. Keeping his mind focussed on the job at hand, Harry turned to chapter seventeen, entitled Space and Time. He tapped the entry in the contents with his wand and the pages suddenly began to turn in quick succession, as if a strong wind was blowing them. Two seconds later, Harry was staring at page four hundred and thirty seven, the beginning of the space and time chapter. The title was written in black, though it had faded to green over the years. The bold letters were followed by an image of sundial against a starry night.

"Space and Time," muttered Harry. "Very artistic."

The first paragraph was an introduction, explaining the basic philosophy of time. It mentioned Socrates' specks of dust falling through the hands of time, and other Greek philosophers of the time. Harry didn't need to read these metaphors, or the ramblings of the great thinkers magical and Muggle of 5000 years ago. After a few sentences, Harry began to skim, rather than read. He got the gist of the words, but didn't read properly. It was all rubbish about 'what is time'. On the next page was an explanation of time and space.

The book explained that a person can move in time, without moving space and vice versa. A person can be seen to disappear by moving in time, when they haven't really moved, not as we understand the word, at least'. It was all about perceptions, and caused Harry's head to spin. On the third page, he found something more useful. It was an explanation of the Multiverse. It explained how there are other worlds in parallel with our own. It took three pages, complete with diagrams, to convey the entire theory, and that was just the introduction. Harry read it carefully, trying to take in as much of the theory as possible. It wasn't until he got to the final paragraph that he found a reference to travelling.

Travelling between universes is highly dangerous. Without such travel, the existence of the Multiverse cannot be proved, and will remain just a theory. However, the dangers associated with such travel are so severe that it raises the questions of whether proving the existence of something that cannot possibly affect this world is worth risking destroying it. Would the knowledge gained be worth the risk? Nature exists all around us in a delicate balance. Forcing a rift in the fabric from which nature is made could have a catastrophic effect on the worlds involved. It is this danger that has forced mankind not to pursue this course of travel. Before further research can be carried out, a safe way to travel must be developed, one that does harm the fabric of space.

Harry looked up. The book wasn't going to tell him any more about it. It was clearly not a common area of magic, nor a well known one. However, there must be a book somewhere, for two reasons: a, Flamel had found one, and b, they had found a safe way to travel - using the Node. Therefore, someone did research, someone built the Node and so someone had to know. However, if it were law that this was not to be pursued as it was too dangerous, then a law?breaker would have done it. This was something to be found in Dark books, not Light ones. Harry closed the book and rose to his feet. He would need to have a closer look in the restricted section.

For the next ten minutes, Harry skimmed the next few pages. Most of it used such long words that it might as well have been in Greek. This was not going to be easy, and none of what he could understand seemed to relate to him. Maybe finding this information wouldn't be as easy as he had expected. He may have over?simplified things. So much for his great plan.

No, that wasn't right. The plan was good; it would just take more time. The plan would still go ahead, but a fortnight to a month may have been a little hopeful. However, he would make the effort, and hopefully get a breakthrough.

BOOM!

There was a deep boom outside, and Harry felt a distant rumble. He spun around instantly, looking for the source. Harry dove across the room, heading for the window. He threw it open and peered out. Smoke was rising from a valley in the trees on the far side of the lake. Harry knew only too well what was down there. Hogsmeade, or more specifically, the train station. The Hogwarts Express was under attack.

Harry dropped the book and rose to his feet. He was about to flame to the train when he paused. This was not his fight, or his world. He wouldn't be here long. Did it matter if he did nothing? The Aurors could handle the Death Eaters. They didn't need him. All it would do would be to draw more attention to him, and that was just what he didn't want to do. He needed to keep his head down and weather his time here. Then again, he didn't know how long he would be here. Still, the point remained that he needed to keep out of the spotlight, and he needed to put his full efforts into leaving.

Even if that meant sacrificing students? Innocents? It was a moral dilemma. Could he stand here and do nothing? Could he let Death Eaters kill people and not care? Hang on, Death Eaters? The Dark Lord hadn't risen from the dead yet, so how could there be attacks? Was this really the Death Eaters? Was Grindelwald already back?

Suddenly, a piercing scream rang out over the forest. Harry scarcely heard it, but it still struck him. It was the sound of terror. Someone needed help. He remembered the last time he was on the train, the panic, the trolley witch, whom he had ordered killed. Harry shivered at the memory.

The image only served to reinforce his first instinct. Harry had made up his mind. He sprinted up the stairs into the boy's dormitory, which thankfully was deserted. He ran to his bed and threw open the trunk that lay underneath it. He threw the book in and pulled out a plain black sock. Using his wand, he enlarged it and cut a hole in the side. He pulled his new balaclava over his head. The window was still open, and Harry felt a chill as he stood back up. Taking a deep breath, Harry ran for the window. He jumped, diving head?first through the window and out into the night.

The air was cold and crisp, and the wind whipped against his clothes as he began to fall. Harry plummeted head first towards the ground, which rose quickly to meet him. Concentrating hard, Harry felt his limbs begin to change. Skin became feathers, toes became claws, and the phoenix took over.

Spreading his wings, Harry pulled out of the dive, gliding over the forest towards the smoke.

Help was on its way.

~~~~ + ~~~~

The tops of the pine trees skimmed beneath his claws as Harry glided over the trees. He could see the column of smoke rising from the station as he neared. The smell of burning filled his nostrils. Harry was aware that he couldn't just appear in the middle of the fray, lest he be attacked by his own side. He swooped down into the forest, coming to a stop fifty metres inside the wood. He turned back into human form a few feet from the ground, dropping and then rolling to protect his legs. Harry stood up, his balaclava protecting him from being seen, and more importantly identified. Harry withdrew his wand as he crept quickly and quietly closer to the orange glow that was lighting the station. As the trees thinned, he could see the station. The explosion had not happened in the train or near it, but in a clearing on the far side of the track. It was an area of muddy grass where no one went, as far as Harry knew. The train was loaded from the near side, not the side where the explosion had happened.

Who wastes time blowing up nothing? he wondered briefly.

Harry could see the students in the windows of the train, terrified looks on their faces. The adults on the platform ? the station staff and a few commuters from Hogsmeade ? were panicking. They were running around like headless chickens, back and forth; no one was sure of who was in control, what was happening, or what to do. There were no teachers to collect the first years, as they went with everyone else in the carriages after Christmas. As such, there was no one in authority here, as far as Harry could see.

To his right, the carriages were waiting, nearly one hundred metres from where the train had stopped. Harry could see the thestrals ready to go, clearly uneasy at the explosion and subsequent fire. It was then that Harry realised that there was something missing.

Where are the Death Eaters? wondered Harry. Where were the bad guys? This was their standard approach ? the bang to disorientate people, then a mass strike. Where the hell were they? Binns had said that the Dark Lord had gone for good. It seemed that might not be so. Then again, this didn't need to be Grindelwald. Maybe Harry was just paranoid and this wasn't the work of the Dark Lord. This was something different - it lacked the swift execution and numbers of the Dark Lord. If he were behind it, there would be white masks everywhere. Anyhow, Harry could investigate motive and perpetrator later. For now, he had to get the students out.

Harry also realised that he couldn't be seen, else he would look like the assailant, dressed all in black and skulking around. Until the Death Eaters, or whoever was behind this, moved, he was stuck. Suddenly a station worker ran towards the train. Finally, one of them had pulled themselves together. Harry had been considering shattering the windows with his wand.

Seconds later the doors of the train opened and students began to spill out, running for the carriages. It was pandemonium. A flood of people in black cloaks were running everywhere in panic, screaming, calling for friends, trying to escape.

Suddenly Harry realised what was about to happen. This was a distraction. Anyone could slip in amongst the students now. In the chaos, who would notice an extra person in the fray, or even one too few? Harry turned and glanced around the edges of the station, looking for anything out of place.

There were two people cowering behind a bench. Threat? Minimal - an old couple and their dog. Too frail to act and too far away. Station staff? Harry counted four, all of whom were shouting for the students to run. Threat? Minimal ? they seemed to be helping. The man in navy blue robes by the trees? Threat? Possible, but he had a suitcase and looked ready to travel.

Snap!

Something moved between the trees behind Harry. Harry ducked into the shadows and turned to face the sound. He stood still, staring into the darkness, his eyes desperately scanning for any sign of movement, his ears pricked for any sound. There was nothing but the sound of the students running and screaming. This was what whoever this was wanted.

Being careful of the roots, Harry made his way quickly but silently deeper into the woods, in the direction he was sure the sound had come from.

Silence. Harry paused, trying to get his bearings in the darkness. His night?vision was improving, but he couldn't see the figure. He cocked his head to listen. He was so far from the station what he could not longer hear the commotion. The only thing that Harry could hear was his own pounding heart.

Suddenly something moved in the darkness, rustling in the icy leaves. Harry froze, his eyes scanning between the trees. The movement of the branches in the wind caused the shadows cast by the lights of the station to dancing, making it seem like there was movement all around him. Harry silently drew his wand.

A shiver ran down his spine. It was like a horror film, as he stood, back to a dying tree in a dark woods in the middle of the night. He knew someone was here, but now where were they?

Crack!

He heard it again. Harry whipped his head around to have a look. There!

He saw a movement amongst the trees, a figure in black. Taking care where he put his feet down, making sure to move in utter silence, hardly daring to breathe, Harry moved slowly closer.

As he neared he realised what he was seeing. A man in black, wearing a balaclava ? just like Harry's although probably not made from a sock ? appeared among the trees, carrying something large and straight over his shoulder. As Harry drew closer, he realised what it was the man was carrying. It was a student, a girl, under the Petrificus Charm, stiff as a board and hoisted over his shoulder. This had been a kidnapping from the start. This wasn't the Death Eaters, just a maniac trying to kidnap a girl. Admittedly, he was a clever maniac; probably an ex?Auror, given the cunning nature of the operation ? create mayhem and then disappear into the shadows.

The man walked as quickly as he could with his baggage away from the mayhem and into the woods. He was approaching from Harry's right. Harry stood against a tree, hopefully concealed by the shadows. It was a large tree, meaning that the roots raised the ground. Harry was a few feet higher than the man, and not in his line of sight.

As the man took another step, he moved into a patch of moonlight. Harry cast an appraising stare at the man. He was quite tall and thin, though he appeared muscular. He was cautious, and his movements were catlike. He made next to no sound as he moved. He was dressed all in black, with no cloak, nothing to flap in the wind lest the movement give away his position. His balaclava covered his face, leaving visible only a pair of dark eyes.

Harry took a step closer.

EEK!

A fox bolted out of the recess in which Harry had tried to step. The animal streaked out of its hole, spraying crisp icy leaves in all directions as it darted into the clearing and then off into the shadows. Unfortunately, it had alerted the kidnapper to his presence.

The man's wand ignited, straight at Harry, framing him in a spotlight and crippling his night vision. Coloured blobs appeared all over his vision, blinding him in an instant.

"AVADA…"

Harry threw himself blindly to the side as the kidnapper finished the spell. He felt the chill as the curse narrowly passed his body, causing the hairs on the back of his neck to stand on end. Harry landed painfully, the gnarled roots digging painfully into his ribs and leg as he landed. He rolled as best he could in an effort to get out of range.

Harry rolled into cover behind a tree and scrambled to his feet. The woods were still around him, and not a sound was in the air. Harry tried to calm his breathing and heart rate so he could hear. The kidnapper had destroyed his night vision, meaning he could hardly see a thing, while the man still had perfect night vision.

Harry peeked out from behind the tree. The darkness was thick and Harry could hardly see five feet in front of him. He ducked back into cover and poked his head out the other side, staring down at where the man had been seconds before.

Where are you? wondered Harry.

His heart pounding, Harry moved quickly between the trees, careful to be as quiet as possible and sticking to the shadows. The kidnapper had seen where he had retreated to, and so he needed to move. Harry ducked behind a nearby tree and peered out.

The figure had put the girl down and disappeared. Harry could see her discarded body lying amongst the roots still unconscious and as stiff as a board. What worried Harry was that her kidnapper was nowhere to be seen. However, Harry wasn't stupid enough to believe he had gone. He waited for nearly a minute in stillness, seeing no sign of movement.

Maybe he has gone, thought Harry. No, not likely.

It was probably best to try and get the girl out of here. No one knew who he was, so he could risk a quick Flame to get her to safety. Harry stepped nearer, moving into cover behind a tree just one away from where the girl lay. Taking a deep breath, he raised his wand, casting one more look around before he dared move.

He had taken one step around the tree when something grabbed him from behind, grasping the hair on his fringe, yanking his head upwards and exposing his neck, just as he felt a blade press against it.

Christ! He had never heard him coming!

There was a pause before felt a pressure in the small of his back as the man pushed him gently. Harry took the hint and stepped forward, careful to avoid the roots as he moved out into the small clearing. The kidnapper kept his blade tight against Harry's throat and a grip on Harry's hair, guiding him. Harry's heart was pounding as the knife pressed against his jugular; the powerful grip had shifted from his fringe to the back of his neck, meaning he couldn't move his neck away from the blade. In silence, the man marched him forward, keeping the knife pressed against him.

Okay, Harry, he thought to himself. Stay calm, breath, relax. You've been in worse than this before. Just relax. Right, focus. What is around you that you can use?

Trying to slow his breathing, Harry looked around. There was nothing but the trees, and the helpless girl. Harry was on his own, and his attacker was so strong. Harry felt the hand tighten on his neck, as if the man knew what he was thinking. He glanced around desperately, before remembering what he could do. The man must have felt him tense, for his grip tightened even more, but it did him no good, as Harry was suddenly engulfed in flame and then gone.

As he reappeared, he saw the man gasp in surprise at his now empty hands. Harry raised his wand.

Stupefy!

His silent spell left his wand as he jumped out from behind the tree. The man turned instantly, conjuring a shield. As soon as the curse hit, he retaliated with another so quickly that Harry was forced to duck. The curse hit just where his head had been a less than a second ago. He dived to the side to avoid another silent curse, rolling behind a tree and out the other side, muttering his own home?made spell. The ring of blue light appeared on his hand as another curse came towards him. Harry scooped it up and spun to gain momentum before hurling the ring back at the man, his own curse contained inside it.

The man raised a shield but as the curse struck it, the ring disappeared along with the shield with a mighty pop. The man's own curse then ran unimpeded into his stomach. The man growled in pain, falling to one knee.

"It came from over here!" shouted a voice to Harry's right. Both he and the kidnapper looked up to see two figures in robes coming through the trees. Harry turned back to the man just in time to see him Disapparate. Cursing, Harry moved back into the shadows.

"Over here!" shouted one of the robed figures. As he stepped into the moonlight, Harry saw that he was an Auror . "We've got another student."

The two Aurors knelt by the girl. Harry heard one say, "You're safe now" to the girl. She was in good hands, and it was time to get out of here. "Search the area," said one of the Aurors. Harry wasted no time in disappearing in a ball of flames.

He had no idea who the man was, who the girl was or why he wanted her, but whatever the reason was, he was gone and Harry could not be caught. He reappeared on the top of the Astronomy Tower, which was thankfully deserted. He quickly removed the sock from his head, and using his wand he fixed the holes and shrank it. No one would liken a boy with a sock in his pocket to a masked figure in the fight - in fact, no one had even seen his battle with the intruder.

Pocketing the sock, Harry raced back to the castle. Once inside, he turned left and then down the stairs at the end of the passage. He came out on the corridor that led up to the library, but turned towards Gryffindor Tower. Should he bump into anyone, he could say he had been heading up to the library, and feign ignorance of the attack. "Well, I heard a slight rumble, but I thought it was just someone playing exploding snap or something," he rehearsed in his head.

He arrived back in the Tower to find it deserted. He got rid of the sock and then changed into his Hogwarts robes. He used his wand to clean the ash, smoke, dirt, and all other evidence of having been in the forest from his trousers, and then put them in the laundry basket. That done, he cleaned himself up and headed back down towards the hall. He needed to get to the hall, and make it look like he had heard what had happened and was as scared as everyone else.

As he walked, his mind raced. Who was that man? He wasn't a Death Eater, as he had no mask, and this wasn't how Death Eaters operated, if they even still existed. Binns may have been right - the Dark Lord may have gone forever. Death Eaters generally went for massive destruction, mass numbers, and mass loss of life. This was just one man trying to kidnap a girl.

Why would he do that? To kill her? Unlikely, since he had tried to take her alive. Was he a paedophile? Maybe, but unlikely, as it seemed like a targeted kidnap, rather than a random event ? he had chosen her. Why? Who was she?

Did it matter? The more Harry thought about it, the more he realised that it was over as far as he was concerned. Aurors would take a statement, she was safe in Hogwarts, the investigation would go ahead at the Ministry. There was no Dark Lord involvement, and even if there was, it wasn't Harry's job to sort it out. He had done more than he had needed to in stopping her kidnap. He had done his part, and now it was over for him.

His own curiosity still had him thinking about the girl as he descended the steps towards the Great Hall, but it was only curiosity. He had no plans to do anything else about it. It was over. Just then he was torn from his thoughts.

"Oh, Mister Potter?" said a sickeningly sweet voice.

Harry's blood went cold, and his stomach clamped tight

Harry froze, his limbs tensing and a thousand vile memories coming to his mind. The back of his hand began to itch at the memory.

It wasn't possible.

Surely not…

Harry turned and found himself looking at Professor Dolores Umbridge.


 

 

Rowling, J. K., (2006) Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, Bloomsbury Books UK LTD, chpt 23, p463

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AUROR’S NOTES

Right, one thing I should really point out. Sorry for such an 'information overload' chapter. Chapter 1: what has happened to Harry. Chapter 2: what he is up against. Chapter 3: the real game begins. Please bear with me - things will start happening next chapter.

With regards to my brief history of the Nazis, bear in mind this is a work of fiction and I am blending fact with fiction. There is a lot more to it, I am simplifying and mixing it up for my own ends. Following on from that references to Bin Laden and more recent history again are used to set the fic into context. While I could rant about this for hours, I will not plunge this fic into a political satire. This is not a parody of Bin Laden or anything of the sort.

Another clear homage of this chapter is the Bourne Identity. I use elements this book as a basis for three of my stories. Here we see the Jackal. If you do a bit of research you will find that he wasn't the legend that Ludlum made him. In fact he was a bit of a imbecile. Don't worry, he's not going to appear. It's just a cheeky little wave at Ludlum's trilogy (I don't count the Bourne Legacy).

Well, I hope that chapter answered some of your questions. Yes, I know we have not seen Dean and a few others yet, but as stated, it is New Years, they are still at home. Well, actually they are on the train. You will see them next chapter.

Jono

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