Harry reached up and took it, sliding out from under the bed. Back in the light, he could see a word printed into the front: DIARY. Could it be? Harry opened it and swept through, letting the pages ripple through his fingers. He came to a stop in 1989, the year of the article. It was Lockhart’s alright... a complete log of his trips to Greece and Turkey. Harry grinned to himself. He had the diary. Excellent!
Pocketing it, he stood up and headed back for the door and then froze again. It wasn’t due to magic this time, but his own suspicion. Whether it was the Dark Knight or Harry who was suspicious he didn’t know, but something felt wrong. Of all the times to try to steal a diary, the man just happened to have chosen the time when Harry was there? Not sixty seconds after he had asked about the diary, a man had broken in to steal it?
That diary had apparently been confiscated by St. Mungo’s nurses, but Lockhart had it hidden under his bed all the time? Lockhart hadn’t known it was there, or at least hadn’t told Harry. Had he known and had deceived Harry, or did he genuinely not know it was there? If Lockhart didn’t know it was there that meant he hadn’t put it there himself. If he didn’t know it was there, how did the would-be thief know it was there? None of it made sense. The timing was too coincidental. Did that make the diary a suspect source? Had it perhaps been planted? Was it a fake? But who would fake a diary? ...Someone trying to stop Harry finding a way home? But no on
It was too confusing, and his head was starting to pound again from the effort of trying to work it out. He did know that he would have to treat the information he got from it very carefully indeed. Deciding that, in light of this intruder, it was definitely time to leave he headed quickly for the door, but something made him stop and forget all about Lockhart, the stranger, and the journal. He had just noticed a golden plaque above the door.
The Lily and James Potter Memorial Ward.
To the left of the words, a picture of his mother had been etched delicately into the brass and a similar picture of his father on the right. The pictures were exquisite, the artistry divine. It must have taken someone ages. To the side of the door was a smaller plaque with words engraved. Harry moved closer to read it.
"The newly refurbished ward 49 is dedicated to the memory of Lily and James Potter who tragically died in a fire here on 7th December 1996."
Of course! This was the long-term ward, the on
Harry shivered, feeling more lost than ever. He had to concentrate on the weight of the diary in his pocket to remind him that there was still hope. Still, it didn’t stop a feeling of sickness rising in his stomach, though that might have something to do with his returning headache. He had to get out of here.
Harry pushed open the doors and stepped out, heading right, back towards reception.
"Good morning, Mr. Potter," said a voice as Harry passed. He froze. Someone knew him.
The voice was female, but not cold or aggressive ? if anything it was polite and friendly. Harry turned to see the receptionist he had spoken to earlier standing behind the counter and watching him with a smile on her face.
"I knew I recognised you," said the witch.
Harry crossed to the desk so that they were not shouting across a corridor.
As he arrived at the counter, she spoke again. "I thought you were dead, I thought you had died when..." she motioned towards the ward from which he had come. "Then I read in the Prophet about you, and...I’m so glad you’re alright."
"Er...thanks," said Harry, forcing a smile. He didn’t have a clue who she was but she clearly knew him, probably from his numerous visits to his parents. He had to be polite, but at the same time he had to get out of here quickly. If anyone learned he had been here, especially Riddle, it would raise too many questions.
"Visiting them to say goodbye?" asked the witch, coming around the front of the counter.
"Yeah," said Harry, quickly conjuring a story. "And to see Lockhart. He’s an old acquaintance." There was no point denying this as he had asked her earlier where he was. Also, it appeared that he was volunteering information, rather than hiding it.
"Yes, you have visited so many times you would know everyone on that ward," she said sadly. "Gilderoy was the on
"Lucky him," said Harry vaguely, not really caring. "Not everyone was so fortunate. Or perhaps, he was the ill-fated on
"Don’t think like that," said the witch kindly. "It was a tragedy, and the Aurors will find who was responsible."
Harry’s head whipped up at the last words. Aurors were involved? There was an investigation? The witch now had his full attention. Riddle had said it was just a fire, an accident, but now he found that it might not have been. Convenient of him to leave that bit out.
"Oh, you know how long these investigations can take," said the nurse offhandedly, shrugging. "Well, actually you probably don’t. Anyway, they’re always hovering around, taking the recordings from the viewing orbs and still interviewing staff. Between you and me, part of me wishes they would put it down to an accident and leave."
Two months later and Aurors were still coming and going? That was strange if it was an accident. If it wasn’t...well, with Fudge in his current mindset it was no wonder the Prophet hadn’t mentioned anything.
"They suspect foul play?" asked Harry, intrigued.
"No," said the witch suddenly twitchy. She shifted her weight slightly and began to rotate her wedding ring in a nervous gesture. Harry knew that he had stuck gold.
"We have been told not to talk about it," the witch added in a hushed whisper. She looked around, presumably checking for Aurors or anyone listening. After a few seconds she turned back to Harry and sighed. "Then again, I suppose you of all people have a right to know," she said. "You lost more than anyone in that fire." She took a deep breath and looked around on
"Who are they?" asked Harry. "Did they give names?" He had a sneaking suspicion these weren’t ordinary Aurors. If the Ministry had covered it up with a story about a fire, there was on
"They don’t offer names," said the witch shrugging. "Top Secret and all that. I did overhear the leader being called...hang on...it’s..." she stammered looking puzzled.
Was she confounded or just couldn’t remember?
"It’s on the edge of my tongue. Locksmith? No...Chain-something? Bolt head?"
Suddenly Harry understood.
"Shacklebolt?" he asked. "Kingsley Shacklebolt?"
"That’s the on
His suspicions had been confirmed. "We’ve met," said Harry before realising in this world they had not. He hastily offered an explanation. "I mean, he interviewed me after I came back to Hogwarts."
"Sounds about right," she told him, a hint of bitterness in her voice. "All he does is interview people and get in the way."
"That’s the Ministry for you," said Harry with a grin, though inside he was definitely not smiling. "Look, I’ve got to get going," he said "Got to get back to Hogwarts, you know. Lots of studying to do. Nice to see you again. Take care." He waved to the witch as he turned quickly and headed for the lifts as she called out her own friendly good-byes.
That conversation had been most enlightening and he knew what he needed to do next. He had no intention of returning to Hogwarts, not until another of his questions had been answered. He pressed the button for the lift and, as he waited, he scanned the board to the side of the lift which housed a directory of the various floors. As the queue for the lift grew and other people bustled past, Harry scanned the list.
"Where are you?" he muttered. Suddenly he saw what he was after. On the second floor was written the words ‘Security Office’.
The lift doors opened after another few seconds and Harry stepped in and jabbed the button for the second floor with his thumb. Without warning, he was instantly swept to the back by seven other people pushing their way into the cramped compartment after him. With so many people in it, the lift stopped at every floor on the way down. Harry grimaced, but didn’t complain aloud or show his irritation. Better to blend in. At last the doors opened to the second floor and he stepped out, grateful to be able to move again. He had been squished up against an old lady who smelled of wet dog. The cramped lift had done nothing to alleviate his headache, which had returned in force ever since he had cast that Stunning Charm.
Harry raised a hand and rubbed his throbbing forehead for a moment before contemplating the sign on the wall in front of him. He turned left and headed through a set of double doors as directed by the sign and began to walk along the deserted passage. Finally, after about another twenty metres he saw a large door. On the outside was marked ‘Security’. Next to the door was a window through which Harry could see into the Security Office. There were three desks in the small room, and each was equipped identically with a lamp, filing trays, quills and folders. The on
It was time to take a chance. Taking a deep breath Harry concentrated on the window and the other side of the secure door then disappeared in a ball of flames. His jump was accurate and he reappeared in the passage on the far side of the office with the occupants none the wiser.
He instantly crouched down so he couldn’t be seen through the window and looked down the corridor, taking in his surroundings as he steadied himself. The Flaming had made him feel sick. Whatever was wrong with him seemed to respond very badly to magic. Making a connection that had not occurred to him before, Harry realised with a glimmer of fear that every time he used magic his condition got worse. Pomfrey’s pills and potions had controlled it and let him use magic again temporarily, but they hadn’t taken the pain away totally. Now that the potions were wearing off, the pain was returning. Until he was over this...thing, using magic would make him weaker.
He cursed inwardly. That could leave him stuck here if his magic failed from overuse. He made a mental note to use no more magic until he was safely back at Hogwarts.
As he removed the fake glasses, pulled the hood of his cloak up over his head, and secured the scarf up over his chin to block his face, his head gave another powerful throb confirming the point that he shouldn’t linger. Carefully he stood up and headed quickly down the corridor, looking at the signs on the doors as he passed. Cautiously he passed the armoury, WC, storeroom, cells, and staffroom before he came to a door marked monitoring station. This should be it.
Harry opened the door and stepped in quietly, calling up the Dark Knight’s skills at stealth. Inside a man sat at a control panel. In front of him was a giant window on which many images were shown in variously sized circles of light. The bubbles of images moved slowly about the screen as the guard watched them.
The door hadn’t closed silently. The guard turned instantly to find Harry framed in the doorway. An expr
Harry was quicker off the mark than the guard who had no room to manoeuvre in his chair. As the man tried to rise from his chair, Harry surged forward. The guard swished his wand, shooting a jet of red light at Harry who lightly sidestepped. He was so close that the guard tried brute force rather than another spell for his next attack. Going hand to hand with the Dark Knight was a mistake at the worst of times. Even off, Harry was lethal when he needed to be. Harry ducked the blow easily and grabbed the arm as it passed. He swept the man’s legs out from under him with his left foot and as he fell, Harry dropped, driving his knee into the man’s chest with his full weight. The guard spluttered as the air was forced out of him. Harry grabbed his head by the hair and then slammed it into the hard floor. The man went limp.
Harry checked the fallen guard’s pulse to make sure he was alive. Satisfied, he looked around the darkened room again. Aside from the viewing pane, there were rows and rows of shelves with dates printed on the end of them. Luckily, this current year was nearest to them. Harry walked quickly over to last year’s shelf and then moved along until he came to December. There were various bottles of what appeared to be a Penseive like substance, except that it was a dull grey colour not silver. Maybe it was because this was magically generated, rather than from someone’s mind. Harry moved along the section for December of last year, looking for the date of the fire: the bottle was gone.
Cursing, Harry went back over the guard. He knelt next to the unconscious body and then, using the man’s belt, he tied his hands behind his back. He used the man’s own shoelaces to bind his feet. It was far from foolproof, but it was the best he could do without magic. Satisfied that the man couldn’t move, Harry put the wand he had confiscated from the guard well out of the way. He was fairly sure that the guard couldn’t escape.
Harry then picked up the untouched mug of tea, which was stone cold and full to the brim, and calmly threw its contents into the man’s face. The cold liquid instantly brought the guard back to consciousness. The man groaned and opened his eyes a fraction looking groggy, but as the room came into focus and he saw Harry, or rather a hooded figure in black bent over him, and his eyes went wide.
Harry clamped his hand over the man’s mouth so he couldn’t shout out for help.
"Don’t scream," he told the man in a voice muffled by the scarf. "Call for help and the next person who walks through that door will die." He deliberately made his words low and threatening knowing the effect he’d have on the spineless older wizard. "Now, tell me...the records the Aurors took, are there copies?"
Harry released his grip on the man’s mouth cautiously as the guard lay gaping like a fish.
"Tell me!" repeated Harry dangerously, gripping the man’s collar tightly enough to enforce the threat of strangulation.
"N...no," said the guard in a hurried whisper. "All copies were taken."
Damn, thought Harry in frustration. He needed a copy of them. Surely there must be backups or something?
"All of them?"
"Yes, all of them!" the guard repeated, his eyes wide with fear.
"No backups, archives, private copies, or anything?"
"I wouldn’t be allowed to see them if there were," he said shaking his head and looking terrified.
"What do you mean?" asked Harry. Was he suggesting that there might be copies after all?
"If there were any, the top brass would keep them," said the guard. "In his office."
"Where is that?"
"Next door, to the right," mumbled the guard.
"Thanks," said Harry. He gripped the man’s head on
As the guard slumped unconscious, Harry checked to make certain he would be alright then slipped out the door and back into the corridor. It was thankfully deserted and on
Harry knocked gently on the door.
He waited a few seconds in case the room was occupied. Receiving no response, he opened the door which, thankfully, was unlocked. On
Crossing to the filing cabinet first, it was, as he had expected ? locked. He considered trying to open it with his wand, but it was most likely charmed so that it could on
Harry went to the desk and picked up a quill. As expected it was on
Moving back to the cabinet, he pressed the tip of the quill into the lock. Then, pulling the diary from his pocket, he put it across the top of the metal so as to not dig into his hand. That done, Harry clenched his fist and brought it down hard on the diary, forcing the metal tip of the quill into the lock. Again he hit the diary hard, driving the quill tip further into the lock. There was a dull thud and a crack. Harry put the book down and, taking the top drawer by the handle, wrenched the drawer open with force. In the top of the drawer resting on the files was the remains of the lock. Harry pocketed the diary and stood back up. He began to flick through the files, but files were all the drawer contained. No bottles, nothing of value. Harry closed it and opened the bottom drawer. Again, there was nothing but files.
Harry reached up into the corner of the cabinet, putting the lock roughly back in place. He gently closed the drawer. It would be enough to satisfy a quick glance, but nothing more. It didn’t matter if it wasn’t perfect. He didn’t plan on sticking around to get caught. Next he crossed to the desk and opened the drawers to that, searching inside. In the top were various items, including a photo of a girl he assumed was the man’s daughter and a collection of notes. In the middle drawer Harry came across something more useful. There was a small red lockbox.
Harry picked it up and put in on the desk and as he tilted it he heard something move inside. Laying it down on the desk, he took out his quill again. He was about to jam it into the lock when the sound of crisp footsteps sounded outside the door. Someone was coming. Quickly he thrust the box back in the drawer and closed it.
Harry had two choices Flame out, or stay and force the location of the information he was seeking from the security chief. In an instant he made his choice: it would be the latter. He needed to see what had happened that day when his other self had been killed, although he wasn’t exactly sure why. At this point he was being driven by instinct. Something told him it was imp
Crossing to the other side of the room, he hid behind the door. He had on
The man didn’t have time to react before Harry grabbed him by the lapels, swung his foot behind Carter’s knees and swept him over, slamming his body into the floor. The on
"Listen very carefully," whispered Harry, twisting the arm roughly to reinforce the point. "I shall say this on
The man made a rude gesture. Harry sighed and gave the arm a sharp twist. He didn’t dare break the arm, but it would surely hurt. Carter’s eyes went wide and were it not for Harry clamping his free land over his mouth, he would have cried out.
"Answer me," whispered Harry. He raised an arm and concentrated on the letter opener on the desk. The blade suddenly flew across the room. It wobbled in mid-air and landed with a thud a foot short of where Harry was, but it was close enough. Grabbing it, Harry raised the blade to the man’s neck. Carter’s eyes grew wider, but still he shook his head. A man of principle. Harry didn’t like to do this to a good man but desperate times called for desperate measures.
"You are no use to me dead," he said. He raised the knife, placing the tip against the man’s crotch.
He paused as the man’s eyebrows flew upwards in disbelief. Harry began to slowly apply pressure. It wasn’t nice to be doing this, but he needed answers. It took fifteen seconds of slowly increasing pressure before the man began to nod frantically. Harry removed the knife and the chief spoke in an angry but resigned voice.
"Cabinet by the window...inside map of London."
Harry released him, picking up his wand in his right hand as he did and aiming it at Carter’s chest. The chief didn’t know the situation with Harry's magic, so it was enough of a threat.
"Get it for me!"
Carter shot him a glare and then climbed shakily to his feet. He crossed the room to the cabinet under the window slowly. Kneeling down by the cabinet, he opened the door. Inside on the top shelf were several large, rolled-up maps. Each was labelled with the name of a major city. Carter picked up the London on
"I needed it for my investigation," he said, holding up the bottle. "How I can run a security team if I can't learn from my mistakes. They take everything."
"This is the night of the fire?" he asked. "I have been through your desk Mr. Carter, I know where you live. Think very carefully before you try to pull a quick on
"This is the right night," replied the chief, quickly glancing at the drawer, which housed the picture of his daughter. His eyes became wide as he saw that the drawer had indeed been opened.
"Give it to me," instructed Harry, feeling a bit guilty but sticking to his decision. He’d come too far to back out now, not when the answers were right in front of him.
Harry kept the wand in his right hand aimed at the chief, and extended his left. Carter held out the bottle to him. Excellent. Harry reached for the bottle, but as his fingers touched it Carter's other hand clamped over Harry's left arm, pulling him forward and swinging his other arm in a clothesline. Harry instinctively ducked, but Carter still held his arm. The older man yanked him back, nearly pulling his already injured arm out of its socket. Harry managed not to cry out, but was forced back into Carter’s firing line. With an awesome display of strength, Carter’s hand clamped over Harry’s neck. He picked Harry up and, running forward, slammed him hard against the wall, holding him a foot off the ground by his neck. Harry’s hand clamped over Carter’s wrist to stop him from choking the life out of him, but he was too strong.
"Now, boy," sneered Carter angrily. "You will answer me. Who are you?" He reached up and pulled Harry’s hood down, exposing his face. "I said, who are you?" he repeated when Harry didn’t answer ? not that he could with Carter’s hand around his throat.
At least he didn’t recognise me, thought Harry as he struggled to break free.
It was an underhand move, but it was all Harry could think of to do. With monumental effort, he brought his knee up hard into Carter’s groin. The chief roared in pain, but did not let go. Again, Harry’s knee assaulted the family jewels and he felt the grip slacken. Reaching up, he grabbed the vase of flowers off the cabinet and raised it high above his head. The vase came crashing down on Carter’s head with all Harry’s strength, shattering and spilling water everywhere. Lilies rained down on the pair of them. Harry felt his grip slacken as Carter crashed into unconsciousness.
"Sweet dreams," muttered Harry bitterly, stepping over the body and picking up the bottle with the recording in it. He looked back at the remains of the office, every bone in his body aching from the confrontation. So much for leaving no evidence, he thought with a groan.
He glanced back down at Carter who was lying in a pool of soaked carpet covered in bits of vase and flowers. Hopefully he’d be okay. Harry pulled the scarf off from around his neck and quickly wiped down where he had laid his hands, removing fingerprints. That done, he turned to leave.
It took another ten seconds to slip back into the monitoring room. Harry stepped over the fallen guard and poured the contents of his bottle into the grey bowl in the centre of the desk. In front of him a new bubble appeared on the viewing screen. Harry reached out and touched it instinctively. Instantly it grew larger, taking up the whole screen.
The screen showed the old Long Term ward, as if Harry was standing above the doors. The old room was similar to the way it was now, but not as bright. What was now white had on
Harry almost laughed as Lockhart picked up a potted plant and, holding it in front of him, walked towards the door. What a disguise, thought Harry. As he watched, Lockhart disappeared beneath the orb and out into the corridor beyond view. That stupidity had saved his life, Harry realised. Just then, two figures entered the room and headed over to the far two beds on the right hand side. Harry felt a shiver run down his spine and his stomach tense. It was himself! He was actually looking at himself in another universe.
Now he knew why his claim of being from another world had been so hard to accept for those he had told in the Unholy Land. It was just...weird. Also, looking at the other Harry, he could see why Katie was so suspicious of him. Always on the skinny side, this Harry was chubbier than he’d ever been, and his hair was longer and scruffier. But that wasn't the biggest difference though. The main difference that Harry could see was his posture. The Harry on the monitor carried himself with slumped shoulders, his head bowed forward like the world had defeated him. He looked so helpless, so beaten, a complete contrast to how Harry himself walked. If on
Harry stared at the figure on the screen, a curious shiver running down his spine, as if someone had walked over his grave. Was this the feeling he would get when he finally encountered the Harry from the Unholy Land? This Harry was harmless, not a monster and not the Dark Knight. Harry quickly thrust the thought from his mind. It was not the time to worry about what might happen in the future, he was interested in the past here.
On the screen, Harry was accompanied by McGonagall who walked a few paces behind him. As they parted the curtains to enter, Harry caught a brief glimpse of the beds, but no sign of his parents. Instead another man stepped out, a healer by the look of him, dressed in the turquoise green uniform they always wore. He spoke to Harry and McGonagall, shaking the latter’s hand. They held a brief conversation for a few seconds and Harry wished the recording has sound. As it was, he could on
Nothing much happened for the next minute or so. There was general movement from those around the ward, but curtains prevented Harry from seeing what was happening with his parents. Harry’s eyes scanned the picture for any sign of anything that might start a fire. He didn’t spot anything obviously dangerous.
Suddenly another person entered through the bottom of the image. A figure entered dressed all in black, with a cloak pulled high over his head masking his face. He moved cautiously, like a cat, and carried a box under on
Harry felt another shiver run down his spin. That was the same man he had fought twice, and twice had not come out on top. It was in his manner, the way he moved, the caution of his posture. It was definitely him, though he’d never seen his face. Harry realised that his fist had involuntarily clenched. Forcing himself to relax, he turned his attention back to the screen.
The figure in black placed the box on the table in the middle of the room. A second later, the healer came out from the Potters’ area, reading from a clipboard. The figure must have called to the healer, for he looked up and approached the figure in black. Harry really wished there was sound. The figure spoke to the healer for a few seconds before placing on
"The orb was destroyed," he said aloud to no on
Riddle had said it was a fire, but it wasn’t, it was an attack. He thought his parents had died in an accident, but they hadn’t. It was murder, and to make matters worse, they were murdered by the same person who had twice beaten Harry.
I had him, he thought bitterly. I had him and I let him go.
The word was repeating over and over in his mind. This was not an accident.
Sudden comprehension dawned. He realised that his parents and his other self had not been murdered for a purpose. They had been collateral damage. The real target was the healer ? that was who the killer had been interested in, not him and not his parents. They just happened to be there, in the wrong place at the wrong time. Whoever the man in black was, he had been willing to kill a whole ward of innocents just to remove on
Harry felt a flush of rage.
This put a new spin on everything, but what made it worse was Riddle. The Order knew all about this incident, knew that it was murder not an accident, because Shacklebolt was in charge. Riddle had sat him down and told him that his parents had died in a fire when he knew all along that it was murder. Why hadn’t the son-of-a-bitch told him? They were his parents ? he had a right to know.
Harry stood glowering in the darkness, imagining Riddle sitting opposite him, telling him it was all an accident.
Fire? No! It was an explosion, a bomb. Call it what it was: murder. Then again, what did he expect of Lord Voldemort? He knew better than to trust the bastard.
Harry spun round as the lights came on. Another guard was standing in the door. Harry stood blinking in the light, standing over the unconscious body of another guard.
"Freeze, you son of a bitch!"
First things first: welcome aboard Kathy, who has kindly taken over the position of Beta. Her work on chapter 4 has been most helpful and her embellishments are still there for all to see, so she is off to a flying start.
There seemed to be some confusion over this chapter and the next, so I will explain. Originally chapters 4 and 5 were the same chapter, but I had to split them due to length. The joint chapter was originally called Groundhog Day in reference to the Bill Murray film, but now that they have been split, chapter 5 has kept that name, and chapter 4 has a new name - Enigma.
Chapter 5 is already being beta'd, and should be with you soon, barring any annoying 'Update!' posts. Watch this space.