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A Stranger in the Promised Land Chapter IV (part3)  

2009-07-17 18:36:20|  分类: HP转载 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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...

Harry!

Har-ry!

"HARRY!"

Harry’s eyes flew open. It felt like he had only just closed them, but as he looked at the clock it was already 0825. Shaking his head, he reached for his false-glasses. His mouth was dry, he felt exhausted, his head was pounding, but at least he didn’t feel like throwing up. His limbs felt like they were made of lead, though, and his insides as if they were on fire.

He yawned, and as he did his head gave another powerful throb. Groaning, he sat up.

Looking up he saw Seamus and Dean standing over him, his curtains drawn and light pouring in.

"Eh?" grunted Harry, shaking the sleepiness from his mind.

"It’s the first of February," announced Dean, grinning broadly.

"Wow," said Harry nonplussed, sitting up. Aside from the fact that he had been here a month, there was nothing special about today, was there? "Pinch punch first of the month. What’s so special about today?"

"Slytherin vs. Ravenclaw," announced Seamus. "Get something blue on, grab breakfast, and then to the stadium, Harry."

"Riiight," said Harry, swinging his legs over the edge of the bed. He wondered why Quidditch really didn’t interest him these days.

"It doesn’t really matter which one wins," said Dean. "As long as neither of them score more than three hundred points."

"Which is pretty unlikely," said Seamus, shrugging. "Both sets of Chasers are apparently on form at the moment."

As Harry pulled on some trousers and a blue t-shirt, Seamus spotted the corner of the Quibbler poking out from under the pillow and immediately made a move for it.

"What’ve we got here," asked Dean loudly, as Seamus pulled it out. "A dirty magazine?"

Harry froze in horror, remembering what was on the cover.

"Nah," said Seamus. "Just the Quibbler. It’s the...oh...something we should know Harry?"

Harry glared at him as he began to read aloud.

"Eamon Barrister, formerly of the Aurors, tells all about the oppression suffered by homosexuals in the Ministry of Magic’s finest..." Harry made a grab for it, but Seamus was too quick. "1989, specially ordered. Well this is a turnout for the books."

"For your information," said Harry coldly, "that is not the article that interests me."

"It’s nothing to be ashamed of," said Dean, unable to hold in his laughter. He caught Seamus’ glance and they both howled.

Harry was becoming impatient. This sleepiness had left him, but his tiredness was making him ratty. He picked up his wand from the table beside him and turned to face Seamus.

"I’m going to ask once more nicely," said Harry, his tone icy and firm. "Give it back."

Settling down, Dean and Seamus exchanged a glance before conceding. Seamus passed him back the magazine which Harry threw into his trunk, slamming the lid in frustration. He was glad he hadn’t had to show his power by getting it back by force. While emotional Harry Potter would have been quite happy to hex the hell out of the pair of them, the methodical Dark Knight knew he had to keep a low profile and kept his emotions in check.

"We’ll see you downstairs," said Seamus heading towards the door. As the boys went downstairs, Harry heard Seamus pipe up, "They’re shite, they’re scum, they take it up the bum. Sly-ther-in! Sly-ther-in!"

Harry shook his head in a grimace and then pulled on a cloak, just as his head gave another hard throb. Before he did anything else, he was off to the Hospital Wing.

Wearing jeans, a woolly jumper over his blue t-shirt, a blue scarf, and a plain black cloak without the Hogwarts insignia, as well as his false glasses and hastily re-applied make-up to mask his scar, Harry headed up to the lair of Madam Pomfrey. He headed straight into the hospital wing and crossed the polished floor, heading for the office, nodding to a Hufflepuff boy he recognised who occupied a bed to his left as he passed. The student had what looked like a bite mark on his cheek that had turned violent green.

As Harry arrived at the door he knocked. There was a pause and then Madam Pomfrey emerged, looking mildly surprised and rather tired. For a second Harry thought he saw fear in her eyes, but it was gone a second later.

"Can I help you, Potter?" she asked briskly.

"Yeah," said Harry. "For the last couple of days I’ve had this constant headache."

"Please tell me that this is not alcohol induced," she said, eying him suspiciously.

Harry gave her an ‘oh, please’ look. "It isn’t," he reassured her. "I just feel awful. It’s probably the flu, but have you got something to clear my head?"

She apprised him for a second before speaking.

"Sit up on one of the beds," she said, gesturing around the room. She turned and disappeared into her office.

As Harry hopped up onto the nearest bed, she emerged again carrying a small bag which she placed next to him on the bed. She opened it and removed a small wad of cotton wool, which she held in forceps. Harry watched as she dipped it into a pinkish paste that the matron produced from the bag, coating the cotton wool liberally in the goo. That done, she held the wad up to his mouth.

Harry recoiled, as the paste smelt like paint-thinner.

"Breathe out, please," she said formally.

Harry hesitated for a second before leaning forward and breathing out the pink paste. When his lungs were empty, he leaned back and Madam Pomfrey inspected the cotton wool expectantly.

"Well, it isn’t blue," she said, sounding surprised. She vanished the wool with a flick of her wand and returned the forceps to her bag along with the pot of pink paste.

"What does that mean?" he asked.

"There was no alcohol on your breath," she replied, her tone businesslike.

"I did tell you," said Harry impatiently. But as his anger grew his blood pressure increased, and his head pounded harder. He took a breath to calm himself.

Pomfrey then raised her wand to Harry’s head and began to mutter various spells. Harry sat still as she moved the wand around his head, muttering to herself the entire time. Her wand emitted various coloured lights several times, and as she continued her brow furrowed in thought.

"Interesting," she said after nearly a minute of spellwork.

"What?" asked Harry, hopeful of a cure.

"No viruses as far as I can see," she said, looking pensive. "It doesn’t appear to be the flu, as there are no influenza microbes in your system, but you are symptomatic. Tell me, what other symptoms have you had? Sickness?"

"Not been sick, but felt it," said Harry, unwilling to make it sound bad, as he had no desire to spend a month in bed. He paused for a second but then decided that pride would be his downfall. He needed to recover quickly and get home so he decided to come clean. "Correction, I was sick last night."

"Hmm," said Pomfrey, looking thoughtful. "Cold shivers? Fever?"

"Not really," said Harry. "Bit of a temperature though."

Pomfrey raised the back of her hand and pressed it to his forehead.

"You are hot," she said pensively.

Harry resisted the urge to say ‘why thank you, you aren’t bad looking yourself’ as this wasn’t the time for jokes.

"Merlin, you're burning up." She raised her wand to his head again and he saw a small glow of light in his peripheral vision.

"Forty-one point four?" she echoed, her voice raised in upward inflection. "You’re hyperthermic, but not symptomatic of hyperthermia."

"I thought hyperthermia was extreme cold," said Harry confused.

"Hypothermia is cold," she said. "With an ‘o’, Potter. Hyperthermia, spelt with 'er', is extreme heat. Your body should be thirty-six point nine degrees Celsius, in what we call homeostasis."

"So what’s a few degrees?" asked Harry, shrugging. "I’ve heard my Aunt say Dudley had a temperature of one hundred and two."

"Fahrenheit," said Madam Pomfrey impatiently. "Yours would be one hundred and seven degrees on that scale."

"Oh," said Harry feeling stupid. He felt himself blush, which only served to increase his headache.

"The point is that your body is outside its comfort zone," said Pomfrey, pacing back and forward in front of him. "If you were hyperthermic ? that is to say, if you had heatstroke ? I would expect you to be dehydrated, erratic, tired, disorientated, weak and incoherent. However, you seem fine. You are not confused, irrational or disorientated, you aren't staggering or weak, your blood sugar level is fine and even the level of water in your body is normal. It’s strange. Normally, anything over forty Celsius, is considered to be life threatening."

"Perhaps I just have a high tolerance?" suggested Harry.

"Unlikely," said Pomfrey at length. She paused again deep in thought.

Harry knew that this was the time to offer a potential explanation. There was no use suffering in silence ? he needed to get fit quickly.

"Could someone have done this to me?"

"How do you mean?"

Harry hesitated, wondering how much to tell. She would undoubtedly inform Riddle of his condition. It was not that he wanted to protect Malfoy, it was more that he didn't want Riddle snooping around or taking any more interest in him than necessary.

"I think I was cursed a few days ago," he replied. "Just before it started."

"Cursed? Who did it? What curse?" she asked instantly, summoning a quill and parchment.

"I don't know," he replied, aware that she was writing down everything he said. "I didn’t see."

He did not want an investigation launched in case it revealed more about him that he wanted to.

"It just made my insides burn," he said. "Made me feel like my organs were on fire, like chillies in my eyes but all over my torso."

"Okay," said Pomfrey, writing rapidly on the parchment. "Who was it?"

"I told you I don’t know," said Harry. "Besides, what does it matter? It's over now."

"My dear boy, it is clearly not over," insisted Pomfrey, sounding angry for the first time. "A spell that burns you, and now you have heat stroke? Surely you can see the link? We need to know who did this curse so we can find out what it is and what it has done to you."

Harry began to panic slightly.

"But it's gone now," he argued. "Maybe it just lowered my immune system, allowing this cold or whatever to get in."

"Maybe," she replied doubtfully, "but we still need to know what it was just in case. There are many pain curses in this world, Potter, and none of them are pleasant. Who knows what internal damage you may have. Whatever this is could kill you."

She had a point, except he didn’t think Malfoy would have gone so far as that in front of witnesses. "No one is going to commit murder in Hogwarts," he replied.

"Unless they didn't know the full effect of the curse," she shot back instantly. "It’s happened before."

"Look, I don't know alright," he replied, deciding to end the argument here. "They came from behind. Could have been anyone, most likely a Slytherin. You can tell Riddle he can start by investigating his old House. He may not find the one who did it but I’m sure his time won’t be wasted. He’s likely to turn up something with that lot."

Pomfrey paused, looking at him with narrowed eyes. Harry was sure she suspected he was lying, but she had no proof.

"Very well, Potter, be like that," she said. "If you end up back here in a week with this having worsened, don't blame me! I will give you something to treat the symptoms, but if it doesn’t clear up in the next two days you must come back to see me, do I make myself clear?"

"Crystal," agreed Harry, grateful that he might get something to finally relieve his head.

"I’m dead serious, Potter," she said a little more firmly. "I would expect someone with your temperature to be near death. If things deteriorate we need to get you into stasis as soon as possible, understand?"

Harry gulped, suddenly not so confident. He had no desire to face the reaper this soon; he had so much yet to do. It was amazing how much the threat of death made people see sense and their own humility, and he was no exception. Harry nodded obediently and promised her he would come back if it got worse.

"Right," she said, summoning two bottles from inside her office. One was a liquid, and one contained what Harry initially thought were slugs. She held out the liquid to him and a small cup no bigger than a shot-glass with measuring marks up the side.

"This will take your temperature down," she assured him. "Take two full measures when you wake up and before bed."

She then held out the bottle containing what Harry had thought were slugs but now saw were large pills.

"Take one of these with every meal. That should sort your head out. Chew one for a full minute and then swallow. And for goodness sake, take it easy for a few days. We don’t need you dying on us again."

Harry removed the top of the potion bottle gingerly and sniffed it. It smelt like vinegar. He poured a measure from the brown bottle into the clear measuring-cup. The liquid was thin and a deep red colour that looked like the medicine Aunt Petunia had given Dudley for his ear infection when he was eight. Harry took a deep breath and swallowed it.

It tasted like salad dressing. He had embarrassingly scrunched up his face as he had drunk it, and even with his eyes closed he could almost sense Madam Pomfrey smirking at him in satisfaction. He opened his eyes to find that he was right. He quickly took a second cup and then put a pill into his mouth with the same confidence.

"ERG!"

That had been a mistake. The potion was nice, whereas the pills tasted like ink and burned hair. Harry forced himself to chew on the pill under Madam Pomfrey’s watchful gaze.

"The pills will work in minutes," she told him, "whereas the potion will take two days to return you to normal."

Swallowing the pill, Harry thanked her and rose to his feet. He wondered why she wasn’t keeping him here for observation, which was in itself highly unusual since bed-rest was normally her cure for everything. His thoughts were drawn back to the flash of fear he had seen in her eyes as he had arrived. Did she and Riddle know something he didn’t? Hmmm. This was troublesome. So as to not arouse even more suspicion, he smiled to Pomfrey and the Hufflepuff on his way out and headed back down to rejoin the school.

As he descended the stairs, one thought repeated over in his mind. I am ill and my arm is useless and my magic is weak, he thought. Am I strong enough to make the trip to St. Mungo’s?

~~~~ + ~~~~

An hour later, having had a quick breakfast, he headed down to the stands which were already packed even though there was still forty-five minutes before the 10:00 start. Already he was feeling a bit better and all set to face the day.

The crowd was a sea of green and silver at one end, and blue at the other. Those in the middle in their ordinary clothes divided the two groups of supporters. Harry climbed up the steps to the Ravenclaw end and emerged from the top of the thin wooden stairs onto the balcony. There was a rail four feet in front of him over which numerous flags and banners had been draped, displaying the house insignia for all to see. Up behind him, the rows of seats ascended into the stands. A group of seventh years were standing on the seats at the back, leaning against the rear wall on which they would bang their support. Harry noticed the bags from Hogsmeade tucked behind the seats. He was well aware that they contained a copious amount of alcohol which, judging by the singing, (the likes of which Harry would certainly not repeat in front of his mother) some of it had already done the rounds. There were no teachers here yet, so the singing went on.

"GREEN ARMY, GREEN ARMY!" sang the Slytherins with such force that the stadium seemed to reverberate.

A smile crossed Harry’s face as he was caught up in the excitement. This was what he had missed throughout this war. He could feel the stamping of feet as the crowd cheered in anticipation long before the players had even taken to the pitch. This banter was what the game was all about. It all seemed so innocent compared to the circles Harry now travelled in.

"Dra-co Mal-foy, wherever you may be," sang Ravenclaw at the top of their voices. "You are the king of porn-o-graph-y!"

The rest of the words were lost amongst the jeers from the green end of the pitch. Harry couldn’t quite make out the response, but he doubted it was polite. It certainly made a change from ‘Weasley is our King’.

Harry stood at the front of the balcony overlooking the pitch and the lower tier below him. The sun was shining and the air was crisp. It was a good day for Quidditch.

"Good conditions," said a voice over Harry’s shoulder as if reading his mind. His whole body tensed instantly, for he knew that voice all to well, and he made certain his Occlumency shields were strong. He turned slowly, his hand near his wand, to find Tom Riddle stood behind him. Harry was aware that the singing was now no longer rude. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a flash of pink as Dolores Umbridge made her way into the teacher’s box, a nasty smirk on her toad-like face.

"Seems like it," said Harry cautiously, knowing that Riddle hadn’t sought him out to discuss the weather. "And who’s side are you supporting, Professor?" he asked making polite conversation for the sake of the students nearby, but keeping his guard up. His good arm dangled close to his wand, ready to move in an instant.

"As Headmaster, I cannot be seen to be biased in any direction," he said, turning to the pitch. "Though being human, I must confess a small preference for my former house."

"Your great ancestor would expect nothing less," said Harry icily.

"Touché," said Riddle, leaning over the barrier. "I was wondering Harry, if you would like to have tea with me this evening, for a quick chat."

Harry hesitated. It was a show of kindness but he felt uncomfortable with it. He had no desire to step into the dragon’s den. Also, he thought back to Pomfrey’s behaviour. He couldn’t help but suspect that Riddle knew something and was planning to test him. He had this strange feeling that he was being manipulated. This was clearly a fact-finding mission. To refuse proved that he was hiding; to accept meant he could possibly expose himself unduly. Harry stood motionless, weighing his options carefully.

"Sure," he said at last, albeit reluctantly.

"Excellent," said Riddle with an almost kind smile. "Seven o’clock, then."

"I look forward to it," said Harry with a small nod, making sure his eyes never left the Headmaster’s.

Riddle returned the nod with a small frown then turned and made his way over to the teacher’s box, leaving Harry alone. Harry stood motionless for a moment contemplating Riddle’s motives. He had a feeling he was being played, but he couldn’t say why or to what end. Still, he would have to be careful this evening.

Just then a roar went up from the crowd as the Ravenclaw team took to the sky for a lap of honour.

Am I strong enough? wondered Harry, his thoughts returning to the present and his objective. Ill, weak magic, and an injured arm...Is it sensible to go?

No it was not sensible, but then again, he was not a target in this world. He was not on Grindelwald’s hit-list. Death Eaters would ignore him, and he didn’t think St. Mungo’s was a particularly dangerous place. Also, he could Flame out of there easily enough if something went wrong. Harry reached his decision.

Time to make my move.

As the balls were released and the game began, no one saw a single figure in black slip away from the stands and disappear in a ball of flames.

~~~~ + ~~~~

Harry reappeared in central London, inside a tube-station just around the corner from St. Mungo’s. Nobody seemed to notice his arrival. He was in the same station in which he had evaded an Auror in the Unholy Land while on the run.

Hmmm, he mused. What goes around comes around. He hurried up the steps and out into the sunlight.

As he walked along the street in the bright February sunshine he was aware that the potions had worked a bit. His head was no longer pounding, although he still had a bit of a twinge; it had given a harsh throb as he Flamed but generally it was vastly improved from earlier in the day. He couldn’t tell about his temperature ? he still felt hot, he thought ? but she had said it wouldn’t work instantly.

The shop window that concealed the entrance to the hospital was no more than half a mile down the road. Harry walked it in less than five minutes and addressed the dummy in the window. He stepped through into the lobby, taking in the sterile smell of the hospital. His last few trips here had not been pleasant. They ranged from as a prisoner where he had accidently killed a man, to a near death Mr. Weasley at Christmas. No, St. Mungo's didn’t hold happy memories for Harry.

He walked across the room to the help desk hoping for some information. It may very well be that the person he was looking for wasn’t even here. The cheery sign behind the desk read, Any question? Our staff will be happy to help. This message had obviously not been conveyed to the bored looking witch at the desk.

"I’m here to see Gilderoy Lockhart," he said to the clerk politely.

"Up you go then," said the witch without looking up. "Sixth floor."

Harry was going to point out the sign to her, but refrained, unwilling to attract attention. Instead he headed past the witch into the hospital and made for the lift. By luck the lift opened as he approached and he boarded along with two witches who leaned against the side with disinterested expressions on their ordinary faces, gossiping about some wizard named Phil.

"Which floor d'ya want?" said one of them in a brummy accent.

"Six, please," said Harry.

The woman pressed the button for him and then turned back to her mate. Not wanting to earwig, Harry stared into the eyes of his own reflection in the polished door. In no time the doors slid open and the voice announced that this was the sixth floor.

Harry stepped out into another white corridor. In front of him was a wooden topped counter that was so high it looked more like a bar. Behind it sat a witch making notes on some parchment. Behind her were rows of shelves covered in beige files. Every few seconds one of the folders flew off the shelves of its own accord, rolled itself into a scroll and disappeared up a pipe. As Harry looked up he noted that along the roof ran many such pipes. As he watched he could see the shadows of files making their way along to where they were needed. It was like a complex traffic system.

"Clever," muttered Harry to himself, mildly impressed as always by the innovation of magic.

Around him there were people walking along the corridor. Some were in a hurry, some were ambling, and some were wandering around looking lost. Not having a clue where to go and feeling like one of the lost ones, Harry stepped up to the counter and peered over, coughing slightly. The witch looked up with a frown.

"I’m here to see Gilderoy Lockhart," said Harry politely.

"Ward 49," said the witch pointing down the corridor to the right. "Last door on the left."

"Thanks," said Harry, turning to leave.

"Wait!" said the witch suddenly.

Harry turned back, his insides twisting.

"Do I know you? You seem really familiar?"

Harry stared at the witch for a second, not knowing her from Eve.

"I don’t think so," he said, and turned to leave before she could answer, just in case he should know her.

As Harry headed down the corridor, he approached a set of double doors on the left. He noted that, as well the smell of antiseptic, there was also the smell of fresh paint. Still, it was hardly something to be concerned about.

He pushed open the heavy double doors and stepped in. The room beyond was pure white and the sun shone in through the windows glistened off the floor, shooting up into Harry’s eyes and temporarily blinding him. He blinked as his eyes adjusted to the light. The room was long and quite thin, with seven beds along each side of the ward and a long table with chairs in the middle. Each bed was surrounded by a curtain rail, one of which was drawn closed, surrounding the bed in a veil of turquoise. Harry also noted that there was a small black globe the size of a golf ball embedded in the ceiling a few feet in front of him ? a recording orb. He had seen this version of Magical CCTV before at the Ministry when he had been held by the Aurors in the Unholy Land. He briefly considered pulling his hood up, but most likely the orb would have caught him the moment he stepped into the room. Doing it now would look suspicious.

Outside, Harry could see the busy London street and the Muggles running around like ants. He stepped further into the room, looking left and right at the beds, searching for his old teacher. Of the fourteen beds, most were empty. He didn’t know if they permanently were, or if the occupants were off elsewhere. The fourth bed along on the left had the curtains partially pulled, blocking much of it off from view. Looking down to conceal his face from the orb, Harry crossed to the bed.

As he stepped through the curtains, a familiar sight greeted him. A nurse was sitting on a chair to the side of the bed, as Gilderoy Lockhart sat cross-legged, madly signing photographs of himself. Some things never changed. He wore cream robes with magenta borders and he was holding a magnificent peacock quill with a large pile of photos yet to be signed to his right.

Harry paused, debating his approach. He had the choice of honesty, flattery, or force. Honest was no good with someone else there, and neither was force for the same reason. Flattery seemed best, as it would hopefully result in Lockhart wanting to help. No choice there; flattery it was, then.

"Hello," he said softly.

Both Lockhart and the nurse looked up.

"I’m here to see Mr Lockhart," Harry added, stepping inside the curtains. Lockhart’s smile only broadened.

"Of course you are," he beamed. "After all, who wouldn’t?"

"Indeed, who wouldn’t?" repeated Harry, forcing a smile.

"And who are you?" asked the nurse warily.

"No one important," said Harry with a shrug. "Just a fan."

"Then for Merlin’s sake, boy," said Lockhart excitedly, "pull up a chair. Make yourself comfy. You’ve travelled far and wide to see me, the least I can do is make my fans comfortable."

"Thank you," said Harry, sliding into the chair that Lockhart offered and trying not grimace at the man's attitude.

The former professor had dropped his quill which was now secreting a nicely sized blob of black into the white linen of the bed sheet. He sat with his legs swinging over the side of the bed flashing that award-winning smile at Harry, which was another way to say he was grinning inanely.

"It’s okay, nurse," said Lockhart, dismissing her with a flick of his wrist. "Off you go."

Who did he think he was, royalty? Not far off, probably, mused Harry.

"The boy doesn’t want to meet his hero with half of Florence Nightingale's School of Medicine leaning over our shoulders," Lockhart told the nurse in an impatient, pompous voice Harry remembered all too well.

The nurse looked slightly abashed, but rose to leave. As she passed she whispered to Harry, "Half an hour, he is not to leave this room. And whatever you do, don’t give him sugar."

Harry could only nod. In all honesty, he thought that the sight of Lockhart buzzing off the E-numbers would be rather amusing, but knew that he wasn’t here for his amusement. As she left, Harry turned back to face Lockhart only to see a black and white image of the man an inch from his eyes, a loopy signature scrawled all over it. By reflex he instantly recoiled at the invasion of his personal space.

"Err...thanks," said Harry, taking the proffered photograph and moving back a few feet.

"And some for your friends," said Lockhart shoving a pile of at least fifty towards him.

"Wow," said Harry at a loss. Unable to think of anything else, he added, "They’ll be thrilled."

"Excellent," said Lockhart happily. "So, you’ve come all this way to meet me, have you? What do you want to know?" The eagerness in his voice would be almost pathetic had he not known the man before his accident. As it was, it was downright disgusting. Still, it was a good indication that he wasn’t all barmy ? any more than usual, at least.

"Well," said Harry, grateful that Lockhart had opened the door for him to begin the questions. "I must admit, that in your books ? I’ve read them all by the way ? I..."

But Lockhart cut him off. "They are brilliant, aren’t they?" he said dreamily. "I even amaze myself, sometimes."

"Yes, well," said Harry, trying to steer him back onto the topic he needed. "I...."

Again he was cut off.

"Which was your favourite?" asked Lockhart enthusiastically.

"Err..." said Harry, panicking, unable to remember a single title. "The Werewolf one?"

"Ah yes," said Lockhart, staring absently at the ceiling, grinning as if reliving a pleasant memory, "My finest work."

Harry breathed a sigh of relief. "I did want to ask you though..." he began again trying to move the conversation forward, but Lockhart was a match for his attempt.

"How I do it?" he finished Harry’s sentence with a flourish.

The former professor sat bolt upright and turned to Harry, his eyes wide and wild, his jaw set. When he spoke, his voice was deep and melodramatic, like a Shakespearean actor. "There comes a time when you are in the claws of death, when all hope hath faded, that every man is faced with a choice. Give up and die, or fight to your dying breath. I must be a fighter. I silence the voice of fear and soldier on ? defeating tremendous odds, victorious in the face of adversity, never giving up..."

"WOW!" said Harry loudly with a tone of false admiration, cutting him off just to shut him up. "That’s impressive."

Despite Harry’s best attempt at flattery, Lockhart looked like he had been slapped as Harry interrupted his speech, which if Harry's suspicions were correct, he had rehearsed many times in front of a mirror. Lockhart stared at him for a second before he jerked his head, flicking a golden lock of hair out of his face and practically pouted. "Yes, it was rather impressive of me wasn’t it?"

"I was actually going to ask you about an article in 1989," said Harry, trying to be less subtle as Lockhart obviously couldn’t take a hint. "It was published in the Quibbler. You went looking for a legend about travelling to other worlds."

Lockhart’s face took on that dreamy expression again, not a positive sign. "Did I?" asked Lockhart with renewed gusto.

Harry’s heart fell ? he had no memory of it at all. Damn.

"Sounds like the sort of thing I would have done," smiled Lockhart merrily. There was a pause. "Did I find it?"

"No idea," answered Harry, disheartened. "That’s what I wanted to ask you about. Do you remember anything about that?" he asked hopefully. "Anything at all?"

"Not a thing," said Lockhart, looking abashed for the first time. He quickly recovered though and the inane smile crept back onto his lips. "Do you have a copy of the article? I would love to add it to my collection." He pulled a huge scrap book out down the side of the bed. It was about a metre high and over half of one long. It was quite thick and Harry could see the edges of newspaper clippings stuck in there. Lockhart passed the book proudly to Harry who took it and opened it with trepidation.

As expected it was full of pictures and clippings all of which were about Lockhart. Harry flicked through, encountering nothing but endless pages of articles and hundreds of photos of the git.

"They are helping to bring back my memories," said Lockhart proudly. "That and my journal."

"Your what?" asked Harry, whipping his head upwards to stare at the former professor. A glimmer of hope flickered in his eyes and heart.

"My journal," replied Lockhart as if speaking to a simpleton. "My dear boy, even someone as profoundly brilliant as myself cannot remember every detail. I write things down."

He made notes, thought Harry with elation. The imbecile made notes. He needed to see that book. If Lockhart had made a note of who he had met, who had done that research, then hope remained.

"May I see it?" asked Harry hungrily. "You see, I want to be a writer too, and I could learn so much from a brilliant man like you. I’d love to see how your mind works."

"Well," said Lockhart in a cagey manner, his eyes darting to and fro frantically. His voice dropped to a conspiratorial whisper. "Not as such. They take it away. They don’t want to give me too much too soon, they say." He glanced at the door and then picked up his quill and frantically began signing photos again, presumably trying to appear to the orb as if he was doing his usual.

Harry however was completely focused on the diary. Did it hold the key?

"How far back does it go?" asked Harry in a soft voice to appease the obviously paranoid Lockhart. Would it go back as far as 1989?

"Since I first started," said Lockhart proudly, suddenly normal again and throwing Harry for a loop. "It expands, so I will never need a new one. Right back to the early eighties."

Harry’s heart skipped a beat. It covered the year in question! It would show where he had been. Fantastic!

"Professor, may I see it?" asked Harry again carefully so as to not spook him further. He was taking a chance that Lockhart might go spare again, but he didn’t have a choice. He had to see that diary. "Please?"

"I don’t have it," said Lockhart looking up with a bored expression. "They keep it. Too much too soon, they say, too much too soon."

He had to get his hands on the diary. Whether that simply meant asking for it, or if it meant breaking into the...wherever it was kept, Harry didn’t know, but he had to get his hands on that journal.

"Professor," said Harry gently. "Do you know where it is now?"

"They keep it," he said unhelpfully repeating himself.

"Where do they keep it?" asked Harry, a little more firmly.

"Somewhere safe," said Lockhart. "They promised."

"But where, exactly?" said Harry struggling to hide his impatience.

"I don’t know," said Lockhart, and then looked around in panic and went back to frantically signing pictures. "I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know," he repeated over and over again, rocking back and forth slightly.

Suddenly the doors burst open. Harry’s hand shot to his wand. A rather plump nurse stood in the doorway carrying a small bottle of what Harry assumed was a potion for Lockhart, and also a large fluffy blue towel. "Right, Gilderoy, it’s time for your medicine!"

A look of horror crossed Lockhart’s face as the nurse marched across to him. All thoughts of the diary, the photographs, and Harry seemed to be forgotten. The woman took Lockhart by the hand and pulled him to his feet.

"Just a quick check up," she announced, "and then a bath."

Lockhart’s face fell. He began to pull on the nurse’s arm, trying to beak free like a petulant child. As Harry watched, he realised that Lockhart really was just a child. Harry had seen him learning to write last time in St. Mungo’s, but now he saw it for real. Lockhart’s mind had been wiped, leaving a blank canvas just like a newborn baby; the nurses were raising a fully-grown child. That was a job and a half. His tantrums must be a nightmare...

Lockhart’s frantic protests didn’t stop until he had been dragged outside by the witch. Harry sat in silence for a second, watching Lockhart disappear out into the corridor. He didn’t need to stop them. Lockhart was no longer useful. All he needed now was that damned diary. Maybe he could ask the nurse for it. Would she give it to him? Unlikely, but she may give away where it was kept.

He rose to his feet and headed towards the door with a rough plan in his head. If he told her that Lockhart just wanted one of his possessions to show him, then the witch might get it, or at least confirm it was in storage. If he could gently push her into telling him where the journal was kept, he could get hold of it. No lock would keep him out.

Harry got to his feet and headed towards the door but he hadn’t gone three feet when he froze. He felt a tingle on the back of his neck, a feeling that he was not alone. It was the same tingle of magic he had felt in Borgin and Burkes. Someone had appeared in the room.

Harry spun around, pulling his wand free from the harness.

The turquoise curtains around Lockhart’s bed were still drawn, sheltering it from view. Harry crept back to the curtains and then, having braced himself, pulled them open. As he did, he saw a figure in a brown cloak bending over Lockhart’s bed. He looked like a monk in the brown robes and hood, and his face was well tanned. His eyes were shining blue, and his expression was one of shock as he saw Harry turn.

"FREEZE!" barked Harry, levelling his wand at the man. The newcomer glanced back and forth looking terrified before his hand moved inside his robes. He was going for a wand!

"Stupefy!"

The curse left Harry’s wand, but again it was little more than a weak orange sparkle. By the time it reached the man he had disappeared. As he had cast the spell, Harry's head had given another painful throb ? his headache was returning.

Cursing loudly, Harry ran over to the bed where the man had been. Hang on...there was an Anti-Apparition ward here. How had he managed to...

Oh, thought Harry in sudden understanding. The man must’ve had a Portkey inside his robes. It was the logical assumption. That didn’t answer the question of just what a stranger was doing snooping through Lockhart’s stuff, though. Harry didn’t know for a fact that he was snooping, but the man had entered when Lockhart was out, and he had run rather than explain himself, which was suspicious at the very least. Harry stood where the stranger had been second before and looked around, perplexed.

"What were you searching for?" he mused aloud.

It had not been the man he had fought in Borgin’s or in the forest - that was certain. Who was he, then?

Harry’s eyes scanned the area, searching for clues. The bed was unmade and covered in photos of a smiling Lockhart. These even spilled over on to the floor. On the table at the side was a lamp, a box of tissues, a large bowl of fruit, and more stacks of pictures. Harry opened the drawer, hoping to find something useful. Inside were various bits and pieces of Lockhart paraphernalia. Nothing seemed to be of value or importance. He rummaged through and found nothing. Frustrated, he closed the drawer and turned his attention back to the bed. He lifted the pillow, but found nothing underneath.

Come on, he thought. People don’t sneak into a person’s room to look for nothing.

Harry pulled the sheet right off the bed and checked the mattress beneath. No rips, pockets or anywhere to hide anything. He threw the sheets onto the floor and then dropped into a press-up position to look under the bed. Shining his wand up into the frame of the bed, Harry checked the corners. It was there that he found it ? a small leather-bound book.

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