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A Stranger in the Promised Land Chapter III (part3)  

2009-07-17 13:24:13|  分类: HP转载 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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"Three hundred and seventy-five galleons," said Borgin happily to himself. Gowan was a simpleton, a thug, and a loser, but he was damn good at what he did. He had managed to convince Alison Swinley to part with her family's diamond timepieces for less than four hundred galleons, when he knew full well that they were worth nearer to one thousand. A small smirk crept across his lips. He checked his watch; it was just past five.

The sun faded behind the rooftops, extinguishing the last source of light and plunging the shop into shadow. Borgin raised his wand lazily, and a lamp burst into life, illuminating the room. Borgin loved the way that gold sparkled in firelight at the best of times, and the contents of his till now glistened as he crossed to the door to flip the sign to 'Closed'. He turned back to the till and the diamond timepieces that stood on the counter beside them. In the firelight, they reflected spots of light all over the shop like a disco ball.

It had been a good day, mused Borgin. He would put it all in the safe and then nip down to the pub for a quick drink, and then maybe Hockden's Corner, or hooker's den as it was known. Why should he not treat himself tonight, after such a profitable day?

Tap! Tap!

Borgin turned around and stared at his front door. Through the glass he could see a figure in a black cloak and hood. The man was short and thin. His face was completely hidden by the cloak, but he stood unmoving just outside the door.

"For Merlin's sake," cursed Borgin. "CAN'T YOU READ? I'M CLOSED!" he shouted through the glass to the figure in black. Borgin slid the till closed with a bang, and then began to move the diamonds. All the time he was watching the figure in his peripheral vision. After ten seconds, the man had still not moved. As Borgin looked up at the stranger once more, the figure raised a gloved hand and rapped again upon the glass of the door.

Borgin slammed his fist down in frustration. He turned to face the figure and approached the door. The stranger stood motionless as he approached, completely unfazed by Borgin's hostile manner or tone.

"WHAT?" snapped Borgin as he neared the door. "THE SIGN TOO SMALL? I'M CLOSED!"

"You have something I need," said the figure softly, though the whisper seemed to pass straight through the glass. His voice was soft and sounded young - he was barely more than a boy. Borgin could have laughed. Whoever this tosser was, he was hardly intimidating and hardly a threat.

"And I'll still have it tomorrow," said Borgin icily. "Come back then, now piss off!" He pointed through the glass and up the road towards the exit. "Go!"

"Very rude for a shopkeeper," said the figure coldly. "Last chance."

"What are you going to do?" asked Borgin, resisting the urge to laugh at this kid. "Tell mummy?" The boy thought he could threaten and intimidate Borgin? Hardly. Borgin had powerful friends - if this kid did so much as graffiti a window, Borgin would see to it that he spent the rest of the year in agony. Still, better safe than sorry; Borgin reached under his robes, grasping his wand just in case the foolish kid tried something.

To his great surprise, the figure took two steps back into the gloom and disappeared into the shadows on the far side of the narrow street. Borgin stared into the gloom where the boy had stood seconds before. It seemed deserted.

Ha! thought Borgin. I knew he was bluffing. The kid had run away. If he returned, then Borgin would break his legs, but for now, the kid wasn't worth a second thought. He tucked his wand back into his pocket. Smirking to himself, he turned back to the till.

OOF!

He turned straight into the figure in black. Borgin didn't have time to think before the figure hurtled into him, forcing him back against the wall, a forearm pressed into Borgin's neck. The shopkeeper didn't even have the breath to cry out as the figure drove a knee into his stomach. Borgin lost his bearings as the figure pulled him away from the wall. He was vaguely aware of the room spinning before he landed painfully on his back, the impact sending up a cloud of dust.

Borgin coughed feebly as the boot weighed into his chest. The figure stood over him, the black cloak concealing the intruder's face. Borgin stared helplessly up at the kid, no, the man, wishing he could get his hand to his wand.

The intruder lifted his boot and Borgin moved slowly backwards along the floor, his eyes never leaving the stranger. The man took a step closer, towering over Borgin, who was retreating on hands and knees like a crab.

DONK!

Borgin's head hit the counter. He cursed loudly and fell backwards, clutching his head. The figure stood over him, staring down, unmoving, unrelenting.

Borgin turned around, grabbing the counter to help himself to his feet. With his back to the stranger, he dusted himself off in a big gesture, disguising the fact that his hand was heading to his wand. As his fingers grasped the wood, he spun around, his arm coming up to aim at the intruder, but he never made it.

In the whirl of a cloak, the stranger clamped his gloved hand over Borgin's arm, twisting sharply. Borgin felt his wrist snap and the smooth wood slide helplessly through his fingers. He cried out in pain as the stranger withdrew his wand. There was a flash of light and Borgin felt his feet leave the ground before his back slammed into a glass cabinet.

The pane shattered under his weight and his head hit the wooden shelf inside. Crying out in pain, he fell forward, his broken wrist doing nothing to absorb his landing. As he hit the cold hard floor face first, objects from the cabinet began to rain down around him, some of them highly cursed.

Borgin lay covered in dust, bleeding from where the glass had cut his face on its way to the floor. He clutched his useless hand, whimpering in the darkness as the stranger took another step towards him, broken glass splintering under his feet. The crunching of his footsteps echoed around the shop, even drowning out the throbbing of Borgin's wrist and the thundering beats of his heart which pounding in his chest.

The stranger raised a hand and Borgin was yanked up by his collar and dangled helplessly in front of the intruder.

~~~~ + ~~~~

Harry stood before Borgin, who was secured in midair, unable to move. Harry's cloak was pulled in tightly around him. He had folded his bandana out and wrapped it around the bottom half of his face like the Scarlet Pimpernel. It was enough to protect his identity from the shopkeeper, who in this world would never have met him anyway, but it was best to play it safe.

He hadn't actually wanted any of this. He had been to Flourish and Blotts first, but naturally they didn't stock the sort of books he needed. He had checked Knockturn Alley for any bookshops and had not found one. That left only one option in Harry's mind - the conniving, swindling crook, Borgin. Harry knew what the man was like and the suffering he had caused others, with his dodgy deals and intimidation. As such, he felt no pity for the man now dangling in front of him like a worm on a hook. He hadn't even felt bad as he had felt the man's wrist break under his grasp.

Borgin's eyes were wide as he stared at Harry, his eyes filled with fear and rage. Harry looked around the shop. The shelves were full of various paraphernalia, and at the back he could clearly see a few lines of bookshelves. However, there were too many for him to go through alone. He would need Borgin's help. That meant he needed to convince him to help. He had already built up a Death Eater persona, so it was probably best to continue intimidating Borgin. The man was probably a Death Eater anyway, so if he thought he was working in the service of the Dark Lord, he might be reasonable.

"You have something I need," said Harry, making his voice a hoarse whisper, and much deeper than his own. He wanted to appear both older and completely different from his true self. Hopefully Borgin wouldn't have sussed his youth.

"Go to hell!" spat Borgin. He leaned his head back and then flung it forward trying to spit at Harry. The ball of phlegm landed on Harry's cloak, but he didn't care. Harry flicked his wrist upwards and Borgin rocketed towards the ceiling, slamming his head into the plaster, unleashing a cloud of dust. It seemed that Borgin was not going to play ball.

With that, Harry, twisted his hand in a flicking motion and Borgin fell forward, and hurtled upside down through the air, his back slamming into the far wall. Free from the spell, he crumpled head-first to the ground. He had only a second's pause before once again he was yanked up by his collar.

"You have a book that I need," repeated Harry. "And I need your help to find which one."

"I ain't helpin' you!" sneered Borgin. Harry hesitated; he had hoped it wouldn't come to this. He didn't like deliberately causing pain and highly disapproved of torture, having been on the receiving end himself. However, this was an emergency. He had to get home. His hand shot out and grabbed Borgin's broken wrist, squeezing it hard.

Borgin's head whipped back and his eyes bulged. He screamed in agony. Harry felt the bones move beneath the flesh as he gripped. He felt Borgin tense and begin to shake as the screams echoed in his ears. Someone will hear this!

"Hush!" said Harry, concentrating on a Silencing Charm. Borgin's voice left him; he screamed and screamed but no sound came out. After a few seconds, Harry released Borgin, not wishing to cause further suffering. However, he had to keep up the pretence.

"Think carefully about your next answer, Borgin, it may be your last," said Harry, his tone icy cold. It was the Dark Knight speaking. "I need a book. It is Greek, dating back perhaps two millennia. It concerns dark and experimental magic of the time, specifically to do with the nature of the world, time, and space."

Borgin looked up at him and then around the room.

"Look at me, Borgin!" hissed Harry, stepping closer. He grabbed Borgin's chin and twisted his head so that Borgin was looking at Harry, or rather at a pair of eyes visible beneath a hood and above a mask. "Stop focusing on escape. Where is the book?"

Borgin's eyes flicked left and right in panic and then back to Harry. He seemed to have realised that escape was impossible. He took a deep breath. Harry released the Silencing Charm.

"I don't have anything Greek."

"DON'T LIE TO ME!" hissed Harry dangerously, raised his wand to Borgin's arm in the threatening gesture.

"I'm not!" begged Borgin, his body beginning to shake. "I don't have anything Greek." Harry felt the sinking feeling return. First, Hermione couldn't help him and now he was failing to get his hands on the key. This plan was ruined and he would never get out of this world. He felt anger and frustration boil inside him.

"Then I have no further use for you," said Harry icily, moving his wand to Borgin's chest, the tip mere inches from the man's heart. He hoped Borgin would come out with something. This was a deadly bluff. If Borgin called it, this conversation was over. Showing a refusal to kill would undermine his persona.

"Wait!" cried the shopkeeper to Harry's relief. "I don't have anything Greek, but I may have something on time and space." Harry's ears pricked up. He had something useful after all. This day may not have been a complete disaster.

"What?" he asked, stepping closer.

"It's a journal," spluttered Borgin, his mouth now full of blood. Harry must have hit him harder than he had thought. "I came by it a few months back. Some old bird who had the finest pair of…"

"The book, Mr Borgin," said Harry firmly, raising his wand in a threatening manner.

"Anyway, her husband was into all that weird stuff; time, space, the universe, beyond," he continued. "Like a hobby, she said. More like an obsession - the guy was nuts. Anyway, the book catalogues his research." That sounded promising. A scientist doing research into time and space. If he was in the least bit competent, he might have something useful in his diary.

"Where is it?" he hissed.

"It's in the back," said Borgin, gesturing with his eyes to the back room.

Alarm bells went off in Harry's mind. This didn't feel right. The shop front was open, safe, but the back was Borgin's territory. Harry certainly didn't trust him. Dare he risk entering the back rooms? There could be spells, traps, other people, and only God knew what else. Harry hesitated for a second. At worst, he could flame out.

"Show me," he said after a second. It was a risk, but he needed that book. If he left without it, Borgin would have it destroyed, or worse, let someone know that someone was after it. Harry didn't think he had a choice. He released the spell and Borgin fell to his feet. Holding his broken arm close to protect it, Borgin staggered off towards the back.

"Be careful, Borgin," Harry reminded him. "If I smell a rat, you'll be dead before you hit the floor, got it?"

Borgin squeaked in response.

The back of Borgin and Burkes was a complete contrast to the front. The shop floor was dank, dusty, and cold, which created the perfect mood for a shop selling what it did. The back, however, was cleaner and more orderly. There was a large oak desk topped with a sheet of red leather. A lamp was burning, casting flickering orange shadows around the room. There was a pile of parchment on the desk piled high and the shelves above the desk were filled with folders and files. On the far wall were more shelves, this time full of various artefacts. On the desk there was also a metal toolbox and in the middle, various pieces that looked like the inside of clock. There were various cogs and screws neatly arranged and several small and highly irregular-looking spanners laid around the parts. It was so easy to forget that aside from being a heartless and greedy businessman, Borgin was also highly skilled at what he did. If a mind so bright had a slightly stronger conscience, he would have been a good ally.

"Where?" asked Harry.

Borgin crossed to the far side of the room where there was a low table covered in piles of books. He began to rummage as best he could considering the pain and that he only had use of one arm. Harry kept his wand aimed at him. He silently stepped five feet to his left. If Borgin suddenly turned to try to curse him, his memory would have him cursing in the wrong direction.

"Here," croaked the shopkeeper after a few minutes. He held a small red book out towards Harry. The pages were rumpled and it looked as if it had been in the wars. It did look like a diary, and in that respect, it made Harry suspicious. He remembered the last diary he had come across. He wasn't going to make the same mistake again.

"Open it," he said, aiming the wand at Borgin. The shopkeeper did so without hesitation.

"Read," Harry instructed. Borgin looked puzzled and then began to comply, his eyes zipping across the page.

"Aloud," Harry ordered.

"When one takes into account the colossal power at work, this material would merely crumble to dust. It is not a question of being hard or solid, but being a good conductor of temporal energy. If we take Forendus' second law of magical conductivity to be true, then…"

"Enough," Harry cut him off. If it was cursed, it would have affected him by now. He reached out and plucked the book from Borgin's hand. He slid it into his pocket, his eyes never leaving Borgin. "Any more?"

"Not that I can think of," said Borgin. In that case, there was no reason to stay.

Harry took a step closer. The shopkeeper had outlived his usefulness. It was time to….

The hairs on the back of his neck suddenly pricked up. A feeling seemed to come into his mind. He felt a tingle of magic. He felt…someone was here. A chill ran down his spine.

Harry glanced at the open door that led into the darkness of the shop front and then at Borgin. They were not alone.

"Come here!" he hissed, gesturing for Borgin to approach. The man stepped closer and Harry moved behind Borgin, using him as a human shield. Harry gestured for him to walk out onto the shop floor. Borgin, looking terrified, stepped towards the door, the sound of the floorboards creaking under his steps echoing around the still room. Was it Harry's paranoia, or was there someone else here? He stood behind Borgin with a wand in each hand; one wand was pressed into Borgin's back, the other, the twin of his original, held in his right hand, pointing out into the room. Harry gave the shopkeeper a poke and he moved out into the storefront.

Borgin stopped as he reached the counter; Harry was a pace behind him. He cocked his head to listen, but it was pointless as the sound of his heart, pounding in his chest, was deafening. His eyes swept the room looking for any sign of movement. There was a glimmer of light coming in through the window as the sun set over the rooftops of Knockturn Alley. In the fast-fading light, Harry could see dust on the air. Something had disturbed it more recently than Harry's own scuffle with Borgin. There was definitely someone here. The trouble was that he couldn't see a thing as the light of the back room had ruined his night vision.

He swept his wand over the room as the light faded. The only thing that lit the room was the reflected light from the back, which cast eerie shadows around the room, the reflected light from the glass cabinets shimmering against the walls. There was no sound, no movement, no breathing. The room was perfectly still.

Suddenly there was a thunderous bang and Borgin hurtled to the side, forced away by a surge of magic. Harry stepped back in surprise, his peripheral vision catching a flash of sudden movement. Harry instinctively ducked, turning as he did. The spell sheared past his head, missing by inches as he sank. Harry sprung back up to his feet, both wands aimed towards the intruder.

Two parallel streams of blue light shot out the tips and rocketed towards the shadows from which the spell had come. In the fleeting light of the curses, Harry saw that the shadows were empty - the intruder had relocated. Harry didn't waste time: he jumped up and over the counter and then, bending his knees as he landed, sprang off sideways and rolled into the shadows, rising back up against the wall, deep in the gloom.

His eyes scanned the darkness, searching for a target. He needed a sign; movement, a sound, anything. The room was still and silent again. The sun had set and the light was gone. Suddenly, he had an idea. Aiming both his wands at the floor in the centre of the room and putting the tips together, Harry muttered the spell.

BOOM!

It was only a simple bang, but strong enough for the resounding shockwave to shatter every pane of glass in the room. Harry covered his face as thousands of shards of glass were launched into the air. In the blizzards of razors Harry heard a gasp of pain.

There!

He ran forwards, wands aimed.

STUPEFY!

The figure in black spun away from the first spell, batting the second away with his shield as he crossed its path. As he came back around to face Harry he unleashed a curse of his and then another. Harry jumped the first, ducked the second and rose just in time to find a third coming at him. Harry tried to sidestep it, but slipped on the sea of glass. He clattered to the floor as his feet slid out from under him. By a lucky twist of fate, the curse soared over his head. Harry bit back a gasp of pain as he slid on broken glass, but managed to aim another curse at the intruder.

The man calmly batted it away and flicked his wand. Harry was launched backwards into the air. His experience at this was such that he could control his fall. Open his cloak into a sail, trapping air and allowing him to turn. Harry flipped backwards, and as he hit the far wall feet first, managed to kick off, somersaulting in the air and landing on his feet, a curse having already left his wand. The figure was so surprised that he didn't have time to move before the blue bolt of electricity hurtled into his body. He cried out as blue lightening snaked over his body. Harry ran forwards, thinking of a harder spell for a more deadly opponent.

For enemies….now he had one!

"SECTUMS…"

The intruder had recovered enough to parry to spell, plucking it from his lips. Harry tried again.

"SECT…" again the intruder parried, and was back on his feet now. Harry jumped, aiming to plant both his feet in the intruder's chest, enough to force him back into the remains of the glass case. If magic wasn't working, it was time for something simple.

The intruder sidestepped, battling his legs away. As Harry landed he turned back to face the intruder. As the man jabbed his wand at Harry, the tip glowing red with a curse, Harry grabbed the man's arm with his left hand and swung his right elbow up into the man's jaw. It connected, but not as strongly as Harry would have liked. The man grunted in pain before swinging his other arm at Harry's head. Harry ducked; the fist missing by millimetres, skimming over his head, but exposing the man's ribs. Harry drove his right knee hard into the man's ribcage, knocking the air out of him, hopefully. The man cried out in pain and spun away from Harry in a swirl of his black cloak and a flicker of silver.

Harry hissed in pain. He had felt something slide along his left tricep. He turned back instantly, not letting the hostile out of his sight. The man held a silver dagger in his hand. Harry quickly glanced down at his arm to see a hole in the back fabric and a trickle of red blood. Looking back, he could see a drop of red at the end of the dagger.

NO!

Scourgify! he thought, casting the silent spell. He couldn't leave any DNA behind!

Harry was relieved to see the red disappear, but his use of that spell left him open for one of the intruder's. The jet of muddy brown light hit him in the chest. Instantly he felt his neck and chest tighten, his throat becoming narrower, and his lungs being crushed. Harry tried to take a breath but found his windpipe blocked. The air was being choked out of him.

Without oxygen, his muscles couldn't operate. Harry dropped his wand and clasped his hands to his throat as his legs gave way beneath him. He couldn't breathe and coloured spots were starting to appear over his vision from the lack of air. He was vaguely aware of the intruder stepping closer.

Harry began to panic. He's got me. It's over. The Dark Knight held him firm. Think. Concentrate, what can you use?

Suddenly, Harry had an idea. He flicked his wrist and a large piece of glass jumped up and streaked towards the intruder, burying itself in his leg.

"AHH!" The man cried out, and Harry found himself able to breathe again as the man lost concentration. Harry ducked away into the shadows as the man pulled the glass from his leg and dropped it to the floor. Harry moved behind the remains of a cabinet, hiding in the shadows.

This guy was good, whoever he was. Harry had a feeling that he was the same person he had fought in the forest. He may not be a Death Eater, but whoever he was, he was dangerous. He was using Dark magic, visiting Borgin at night and could clearly hold his own in a duel. Harry checked his arm. The blood had clotted. He had managed to clean the dagger, so the intruder had no DNA from which to identify Harry.

Harry peered out from the shadows. Where was he? The man had disappeared again. Harry took a step forwards, but his foot landed on something hard. He looked down.

Of course!

He had just trodden on the Hand of Glory. Harry picked it up and lit it with his wand. He then aimed it at the back room. With a swish of his wand, the door slammed shut, blocking off the light from within. The shop was in total darkness, except for Harry whose path was lit by the hand.

However, this did not get him off the hook. The other man could still hear his movement. Harry stepped cautiously out of the shadows, one step at a time, looking around and trying to find the figure.

Harry slowly circled the remains of a cabinet. He passed Borgin's unconscious body, which lay against the wall where the intruder had cast him aside.

Suddenly Harry saw him. There was a flicker of movement as a black cloak billowed across the room, its owner making no sound as he glided across the room. For a second Harry thought he might be a Dementor. Harry moved to intercept him, stepping lightly to his left around some shelves and towards where the figure was heading. On his way, his stooped to pick up a piece of glass, an idea having occurred to him.

Harry stepped around the edge of the bookcase to see the man in black with his back to the shelves. He peered cautiously out, looking for his target. Having found nothing, he turned back into the cover. Whoever he was, he was very cautious, meticulously precise and utterly silent.

Harry didn't like the idea of attacking from behind, but with this guy, he had no choice. Harry flicked the piece of glass with his thumb. It soared across the room, landing with a soft tinkle on the other side of the room. The figure instantly turned to look out again, exposing his back just as Harry raised his wand.

Stupef…!

Without warning, the figure spun around and his hand locked around Harry's wrist. He was so surprised that the words escaped him. The spell stopped short of being completed. How the hell had the man known he was here? Had he heard him breathing? Had he sensed it was a distraction?

Harry didn't have time to think. There was a flash of steel and a silver dagger was streaking up towards his face. Harry stepped back, shifting his weight to steady himself. Harry used the metal on the Hand of Glory to parry the dagger, dripping hot wax onto the man's skin in the process, then drawing his arm back, he slammed the heel of his palm into the man's chest, concentrating on a blasting charm at the same time. The man was launched backwards off his feet and into the remains of a glass cabinet. He cried out in pain as he landed - definitely a man.

Harry raised his wand and attempted the full body bind - he wanted to know who this was. The figure swept it aside as he rose back to his feet.

"Sectumsempra!"

The curse left Harry's wand before the man was upright. He tried to move but was too slow. The curse struck his shoulder, rolling the torso back and to the side, spraying the pale wall behind him with blood.

"AHH!" the man cried in pain. Harry stepped forward, sensing victory as the man cradled his bleeding arm. Harry flicked his wand and several shards glass flew off the floor and soared towards the intruder. The flurry of razors swept up from the floor like a tornado and swept towards the figure in black, who had swapped his wand to the other arm. As the tornado rampaged towards the figure, a green curse erupted from his wand into the swirls of razors. As the curse struck the spiralling shards of glass, they flew in all directions and the tornado collapsed.

Harry didn't waste time, jabbing his wand towards the floor. A stream of red light hit the floor and skimmed along the floorboards like a snake in the direction of the intruder. As it reached his feet, the floor around him exploded. The figure's feet left the ground under the force; he twisted in mid-air and landed on his back.

He grunted in pain and, still cradling his arm which was still gushing crimson, he swept his wand at Harry and flicked it like a whip. The next thing Harry knew, there was a fiery whip wrapped around his ankle. The magic increased the intruders strength, so when he pulled on the whip, Harry's feet were swept out from under him with the force of a freight train.

Harry landed painfully on his back in a sea of glass. The intruder tugged again and before Harry could move, he was pulled forcefully towards his opponent. Harry slid over the broken glass, his thick cloak offering limited protection from the glass. The intruder was reeling him in like a fish on a hook. He had dropped his wand as he had hit the ground and his other while being choked. Where the hell were they?

As he was dragged along the floor, Harry frantically looked around for his wands. His eyes found one on either side of the room. Harry took a deep breath and concentrated hard.

Suddenly the wands flew off the floor and sailed through the air. Harry caught one in each hand. He instantly aimed them at the whip and pressed the tips together, doubling the power of the spell.

A beam of white light shot out of the wands and shattered the whip with a tremendous bang. Harry and the intruder were both blown backwards by the force of the explosion. The intruder was forced backwards against the wall. He bounced off and landed face first on the floor. Harry was not so lucky. As he shot backwards across the floor he felt a sudden blinding pain in his arm.

His whole body tensed. He felt the blood brain from his face and his body break into a cold sweat. He was lucid enough to recognise shock symptoms when he saw them. Looking down, he saw what had happened. A spike from a tribal warrior's mask had gone straight through his arm. As he had fallen back, he had impaled himself.

His entire body shook in shock as the chemicals in his blood assaulted his capacity for rational thought. He looked down at the mask, his bleeding arm and then over to the intruder on the far side of the room, who was climbing shakily to his feet. The figure has a relatively small gash at the top of his arm. Harry was impaled and couldn't move his arm at all. He also couldn't move the mask, which was attached to the remains of the shelves. He was pinned in place.

I can't win, Harry realised. Not in this state. He tried to twist his body, to look down at where he had been lying. He aimed his wand at the puddle of his own blood.

Scourgify!

He couldn't leave anything that might identify him. He had the book he had come for - he could find out about this stranger any other time. For now, his own survival was a more pressing need. He checked one more time that he had not left any blood.

On the other side of the room, the intruder was back on his feet.

"CRUCIO!"

The spell shot out of his wand and soared across the room. It slammed into the wall where a second earlier a boy had disappeared in a ball of flames.

~~~~ + ~~~~

The room came slowly into focus. The first thing that Borgin was aware of was the throbbing pain in his wrist and his head.

"Erg…what?" he managed to stutter.

As his eyes adapted to the dim light, he was suddenly aware that there was a figure in black bending over him. His memory came rushing back.

"Merlin!" he gasped in panic. He was still here! Borgin tried to back away but it was not easy with one hand.

"Peace, Borgin," said the figure softly. That voice! It wasn't the young man who had attacked him earlier. It was an older voice, wiser, colder. He pulled back his sleeve to reveal a mark emblazed on his flesh: a skulls with a snake for a tongue - the Dark Mark. This was someone else. "He's gone."

Borgin stared up at the man. He was taller than the other one, clearly older, and he moved with a different manner. Only the cloaks were similar. Borgin also noticed that the man's left shoulder was bandaged and that crimson blood was starting to seep through.

"Who was he?" asked Borgin sitting up and cradling his broken wrist.

"Let me see it," said the figure, ignoring the question. Borgin held out his wrist. The figure swished his wand and cords shot from the end, binding Borgin's wrist to the splint he held in his other hand. Borgin whimpered in pain as the bone realigned to the splint.

"That will hold it for now. We need to move swiftly. Take this." He offered Borgin a phial of red liquid. Borgin looked suspicious. "It's a painkiller, but it will keep you wide awake. Hurry up, we need to move you!"

"You came to help me?" asked Borgin, confused, as he swallowed the liquid. He felt a cool soothing feeling creep to his arm.

"I came for information," said the figure, his face still hidden. "And I believe our mystery guest had the same idea. That is why we need to move you."

"Who was he?" repeated Borgin.

"I have no idea," replied the intruder, helping Borgin to his feet by his good wrist. "Are you ready to leave?"

"But…"

Suddenly the demeanour of the figure changed. "Borgin," his tone was like ice. "Whoever that was wants you for information you may hold. I do not know what that information might be, but it seems clear to me that he should not have it. That leaves me with two options. I either take you with me, or you never leave this room alive. Make your choice, Borgin."

The shopkeeper gulped. This man was clearly not to be messed with. Few people could really intimidate Borgin, but this was definitely one of them. His eyes never left the figure's wand. Borgin nodded in agreement.

"Good," said the man. "First, let us see if our young friend has left any evidence." As Borgin watched, his guest headed around between the remains of two cabinets. He was bent over and his eyes were scanning the floor.

"What are you looking for?" asked Borgin after a minute. To his horror, the man pulled out a silver dagger.

"Blood," said the man simply. "I cut him, but he made sure to clear it away, even from my knife. Why do you suppose he did that, Borgin? Impress me with your logic."

"He didn't want to leave behind anything that could identify him," said Borgin simply. It wasn't a great stretch.

"Which is precisely why I want to know who he was," said the hooded man.

"How do you know he wasn't just some crazy?" said Borgin, pulling on a coat.

"We've met before," said the figure. "Twice I've fought him and twice he has disappeared in a geyser of flames through an anti-Apparation ward."

"Who is he?"

"What is he would be a better question," said the man. "The very question that led me here tonight, or rather one of the reasons. Is it perhaps too great a coincidence that he too came here? Perhaps he planned to remove you, to remove the one who may know who he is?" The tone was accusing, hostile and cold. His wand was held in his hand, ready to curse Borgin in a second. The shopkeeper gulped.

"He didn't want me," said Borgin. "He wanted a book."

"A book?"

"An old Greek one," said Borgin quickly. "I didn't have it. He wanted something about time and space. I gave him an old diary I got from some old bird."

"Interesting," said the man. "But it does not shed any light on who that was, or how he knew about me at Hogsmeade."

"He must be one of Riddle's men," said Borgin. "Who else would be so cloak and dagger? Why not grab a few of them, kick over a few stones?"

"That, Borgin," scoffed the figure, "is why you were never invited deeper."

"But why…?" began Borgin indignantly.

"Think, moron," hissed the man. "Every body we leave, every theft we make draws the attention of the Aurors. That is why I didn't kill him when I had the chance, and now I am glad I did not - this man fascinates me."

"But we don't need to hide our footprints from the Aurors," said Borgin, trying to sound superior. "The Ministry is ignoring everything."

"The Minister is ignoring everything," said the figure. "It is in an Auror's nature to be suspicious. The more evidence we leave behind, the more they have to go on. The Dark Lord appreciates the need for subtlety. For now, our aim is zero loss of life, zero evidence - not until he has what he seeks. Position the pieces, then move to checkmate. Only a complete idiot shows his hand too early."

"What about this?" asked Borgin, gesturing around at the destruction. "This is evidence."

"The disappearance of a cheating, conniving, deceitful conman will be considered karma," said the man. Borgin felt a rush of anger, but was not stupid enough to anger the man. "The Ministry will conclude that you were robbed or taken by someone you had ripped off, and let us be honest, Borgin, the list of suspects will not be small."

"So what happens now?" asked Borgin.

"You return with me to the manor," said the figure. "There, we shall discuss our new friend."

~~~~ + ~~~~

"ARGH!"

Harry knelt at the shore of the Great Lake. He threw off the cloak as best he could. He was breathing very quickly, and was covered in a cold sweat. His heart was racing, though the beats were shallow. His skin was clammy and he felt sure that if he had a mirror, he would appear pale. Classic shock symptoms. He began to shiver. He had been cut before, often worse than this, but he realised that after having been nearly choked beforehand, his brain was already suffering from lack of oxygen. It was little wonder he was in shock. The trouble was, he wasn't a healer or first-aider.

He reached his right arm across his chest and carefully pulled back the fabric of his jumper. He could see his pale skin through the hole, now caked with blood. Harry gritted his teeth and pulled the fabric, trying to rip it.

"ARGH!"

Pulling it pressed the fabric into the wound and moved the spike that was still imbedded in his arm. Since the mask was stuck to the cabinet in the shop, Harry had severed the spike before he left. Harry released the fabric he was pulling and wiped the involuntary tears from his eyes. He picked up his wand and vanished the fabric around the wound. He then aimed his wand at the spike. He took a deep breath, bracing himself for the pain - this was really going to hurt!

"Win…" he said, but the words failed him. He took a deep breath. Come on Harry, he thought, you have to do this.

"Wingardium Leviosa!"

The spike shot upwards in one quick motion, wrenching itself cleanly from Harry's flesh, unleashing a small spray of blood as it did.

"JESUS!" cried Harry, his voice breaking halfway through the word. He clutched his arm as the mask landed with a clatter. Harry gritted his teeth, willing the pain to go away. He had to move quickly. He was in shock and if he didn't get lots of oxygen and blood back into his system soon, he would pass out and then he really would be in trouble.

He gently pulled his hand away to inspect the wound. It had gone right through. There was a steady trickle of free-flowing blood oozing out of the two holes. Harry used his wand to sever a section of the cloak he had been wearing. Gritting his teeth, he wrapped it around his arm, using his teeth and good arm. From there he pulled it tight, swearing loudly as he did. His arm was in agony and he could hardly move it.

He needed to get something for this. Harry picked up the cloak and covered himself, holding his arm close to protect it. Summoning his strength, he managed another trip by flame up to a classroom near the hospital wing. Groggily, he stepped out of the cupboard. The shock had caused his body to slow down as blood was rerouted to his vital organs. He could feel himself weakening.

Harry stumbled into the hospital wing, trying to keep silent. Luckily he found the whole place silent and deserted. There was no one here yet, which was unsurprising considering it had been less than a week since the beginning of term. Not even Harry had ever been that bad. Harry crossed to the office and peered inside. It was dark and empty. Of course, it was dinner time. Pomfrey would be down having dinner. Harry opened the door. He took one pace and then fell to the floor.

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