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A Stranger in the Promised Land Chapter V (part4)   

2009-07-17 18:42:02|  分类: HP转载 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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The now Turkish island of Tenedos was not as Harry had imagined it would be. It had the classic appearance of the Mediterranean: all houses were white or cream coloured to reflect the heat, roofs were almost always flat and populated by the owner, dozing in the warmth as his or her washing dried in the baking sun. The terracotta tiles appeared all over the town as far as Harry could see, and the residents, all well tanned and many wearing white with various hats and sunglasses, pottered slowly about their business. This Mediterranean paradise was not in an inexplicable hurry like the hustle and bustle of London. On his way to the hearing before his fifth year, Harry had been shocked to see Londoners running out in front of four lanes of oncoming traffic, or running up escalators apparently always in a hurry. Here, the way of life was slower, more relaxed and friendlier.

Looking past the end of the street, Harry could see the green fields spanning out before him until a mile away, where they gave way to the magnificent blue sea which sparkled in the afternoon sun. Harry had never been on holiday abroad before. When the Dursleys had gone anywhere more exotic than Bognor Regis, they had always dumped Harry on Yvonne or Mrs. Figg. This was his first real taste of a holiday abroad. He took a moment to relax, to let the tranquillity of the island penetrate his armour.

He was most relieved to find that he was once again able to Flame in and out of places. Harry felt free again, and standing in the sun on an island in the Mediterranean Sea, he truly felt at peace. It was his first holiday abroad ever, and although it would only last two hours, he was determined to enjoy it. Sadly this was not the time for sunbathing or relaxing; he had work to do, but that shouldn't mean he couldn't enjoy the moment.

Harry collected his thoughts for a moment. The diary had described the house being at the top of the cliff, which meant near the sea. A quick glance at the map he had torn from the Atlas in the library told him that he needed to head due west from this town. Luckily the Dark Knight had found a way to remove the Trace from his body, so he was able to check with a quick Point Me spell. Having his bearing, Harry set off along the street with the cliffs in the distance.

He passed a number of houses on the way ? small, compact, and oddly enough with doors wide open. Apparently, it was normal not to lock up around here. Harry shrugged. He could see the tiled floors of various rooms and he passed, but didn’t stop and look properly as he didn’t want to look suspicious. As he passed the last house, he noticed a young girl sitting on the doorstep.

"Merhaba," she said as he passed. Harry didn’t speak a word of Turkish and merely nodded, suspecting that she had said hello. As the shelter of the city was left behind him, Harry suddenly felt the full power of the sun which beat down on him.

"Black was a bad decision," he muttered to himself, suddenly aware of how odd he must look to the locals in his wizard attire. He pulled off his cloak and robes, leaving him with trousers and a white shirt. He pulled his tie off as well, curling them all up into a ball. With a quick glance around to check that no one was watching, he shrunk the bundle down and put it in his pocket. That done, he put his wand away and began to roll his sleeves up as he advanced along a dry dirt track, heading for the cliffs. The path was uneven and made of cracked stones and mud which had been baked by the sun, leaving an ornate matrix of cracks. Harry walked on the grass to the side of the path, not wanting to twist his ankle. The grass was thicker and rougher than grass back home for it had to deal with a warmer, dryer climate. Harry couldn't imagine lying down on such rough foliage as he had done countless times as Privet Drive. Such a simple observation about grass was fascinating to Harry, who had never left the country before.

Once he had finished with his sleeves and his hands were free once more, Harry pulled the map from his pocket and checked it. If his navigation was any good, then up ahead should be the bay where Lockhart had landed. He needed to head over there and apparently he should be able to see the house from the top of the cliffs. It should be fairly obvious, as Lockhart had apparently found it at night and he couldn’t navigate his way out of a paper bag.

As he neared the sea the smell of salt water invaded Harry's nostrils. He took a deep breath, taking in the sea air.

So much cleaner than the smog of London, he thought in amazement

Hogwarts air amid the highlands was fresh as in it was clear and chilled by the snow?topped mountains, but this was a different kind of fresh. Harry suddenly understood why Aunt Petunia had wanted those little blue Sea Breeze smelly things in the upstairs toilet in Privet Drive.

The walk took him nearly twenty minutes to reach the top of the cliffs. As he stood atop the rocks with nothing but open sea stretched out in front of him, a gentle sea breeze swept in, brushing over his body. Harry was grateful, for he was hot and sticky, and the breeze was a welcome relief. He spread his arms and closed his eyes, enjoying the relaxing caress of the breeze for a moment in contrast to the beating sun. He reminded himself that he mustn’t spend too long here. Randomly gaining a tan in the middle of February while apparently not leaving Hogwarts would look suspicious, or create rumours that he was a poser who used instant?tan. Neither option was desirable.

Looking down, the waves were gently moving back and forth, licking at the base of the cliff. Harry had no idea about tides or the sea, but it appeared calm and tranquil. He had a sudden urge to go swimming, probably fuelled by the heat. He wanted to submerge himself in the cool waters of the Mediterranean, to wash away the sweat and grim, but knew that he couldn’t.

He was standing on an outcrop of rock which divided two bays on the edge of the island. One was tiny and had no real beach, but it did have a relatively flat area of rock pools. He could see a few children searching for crabs while their parents sunbathed, their mother wearing not quite enough, Harry noticed with embarrassment.

This wasn’t the time to stare. He pulled his eyes away and turned to his right, towards the larger bay. This one had a beautiful white sand beach which curved around the bottom of the cliff and stretched out towards the sea. This was certainly big enough to hide an armada. There were various people on the beach, playing and relaxing. Groups of children were running around, playing games or building sandcastles. He could see a group of older lads playing a version of volleyball that looked more like Rugby from where Harry stood. He could see games of cricket and rounders going on, and in the water itself there were loads of people paddling, swimming, and splashing around. From the look of it, there was a kayaking lesson going on at the far end.

As much as he would love to join in, Harry had work to do. He looked up along the cliff top path, which rose with the land towards a hill on top of the cliff, searching for a house. According to the diary, the building should be somewhere along here, but all Harry could see was a small white structure on top of the hill which looked suspiciously like a church.

Was that it? Did Lockhart not think to put that it was a church in his diary? Did the pictures of Jesus not give it away? It was to Harry’s eyes the only place around here that could be seen from down in the bay area. He decided to try it. If nothing else, it was a hill from which he would be able to see further than he could from here.

He headed quickly up the grassy hill, ignoring the path, towards the Church. It was made from white stone, pretty and small. The double doors were open, allowing the air to enter the hall. Peering in, Harry could see eight rows of pews with an aisle down the middle. The alter was modest, though the crucifix behind it was made of gold and the stain?glass window looked far from cheap. The sun shone in through the windows creating patches of light, but in contrast, much of the room was in shadow.

Harry stepped inside, his eyes searching for any sign of life. His eyes were used to the bright sun and as he stepped inside, he found he couldn't see a thing. There seemed to be a large, translucent red dot over his vision making it impossible to see in the shadows.

"Yard?mc? olabilir miyim?" said a voice.

Harry spun on the spot, his hand flying to his pocket. A young priest was standing in the corner, a duster in one hand and a spray of some sort in another. He looked like Harry had caught him cleaning. The priest wore the traditional black with a white dog collar, and although he looked fine, Harry couldn't help but wonder how he wasn't boiling in that uniform. Realising he wasn't a threat, Harry released the grip on his wand and drew himself up to his full height. He had unfortunately encountered another problem. He didn't speak a word of Turkish. How had he not thought of this earlier? He had just assumed that they would speak English. How arrogant!

"Err...?" stammered Harry, trying to think of a way around this.

The priest repeated his sentence causing Harry to groan inwardly.

"This is a long shot," he said slowly and clearly. "But you wouldn’t happen to speak English would you?"

The priest launched into another long sentence in Turkish of which Harry understood nothing. He had no knowledge of translation spells, and he and the priest clearly could not understand each other. This was going nowhere. Would he need to return home and then get someone who knew Turkish to write down his questions on parchment so he could hand it to the priest? Then again, who did he know who spoke Turkish? Harry grimaced, kicking himself internally for not anticipating this glaring flaw in the plan. He decided before he left to make one last?ditch attempt to communicate.

"You don’t happen to know of the Order of Ge?Gnosis do you?" asked Harry, reading from the note he had made on the top of map.

Suddenly, the priest’s eyes went wide with fear and surprise. He gaped for a second and the dropped his cleaning materials with a clatter. As they hit the ground there was a sudden flash of movement and a wand appeared in his pale, shaking hand.

The spell was thickly accented, but it was still more than enough to do its purpose. Harry reacted instantly, diving to the side, just narrowly avoiding the surge of red light. He withdrew his own wand as he rolled back to his feet, and turned to face the priest. The man had moved to his right and fired another curse as Harry had rolled. Before Harry could adjust his aim, he was forced to duck again by the second curse.

"Damn it," he hissed, as he moved quickly along the back of a pew, crouching down to stay under cover. He poked his head out swiftly to see where his attacker had moved to. The priest had indeed moved again, now standing to Harry's left. Thinking quickly, Harry aimed his wand at the front pew. The priest’s eyes grew wide as the bench leapt off the floor and flew towards him. He gasped and managed to duck the incoming object, but this distraction had already given Harry time. As the priest scrambled back to his feet, he was ready with a spell.

Levicorpus!

The priest was instantly dangling by his ankle in midair, swinging like a pendulum beneath an invisible pivot, his wand on the floor. Harry cautiously approached the suspended man, his eyes darting around the room in case there were any more. The man was cursing fluently in Turkish by the sound of it. Harry kicked his dropped wand away into the shadows as he approached, making sure the man had no access to a weapon. As Harry neared the priest, he got his first clear look at the man and his jaw dropped.

"You!" gasped Harry. He had seen the priest once before, the last time he had been dressed as a monk. The priest had appeared in St. Mungo’s apparently searching for Lockhart's diary, but had Disapparated or Portkeyed out when Harry had confronted him. Whoever this man was, he clearly knew something about the diary and about why Harry was here. He had also been to England, so did that mean that he was pretending not to speak English?

"Now, Father," said Harry coldly, raising his wand to the dangling priest. "Are you going to tell me who you are?"

The priest stared up at him with frightened eyes, his lips shaking and his face becoming red as the blood rushed to his head.

"Quickly Father, before you pass out," prompted Harry.

The priest replied in a long string of Turkish.

Harry grimaced. He had no way to tell if the man was trying to comply, whether he understood in the first place, of if he was trying to convince Harry he knew nothing. Harry hesitated for a few moments, trying to decide what to do. If he left and came back, chances were that the priest would be gone. He had to do something now. The question was what..

"Let him go," said a crackly female voice behind him.

Harry whipped around, drawing his other wand and levelling it in the direction of the voice. He held one wand on the priest still dangling, while the other was aimed at whoever had spoken. His eyes were still unaccustomed to the darkness, but he could see something moving in the shadows. There was the sound of a footstep and then another as someone approached through the darkness.

"Show yourself!" ordered Harry.

A second later, an old woman stepped out of the shadows. She was small and bent with white hair, which contrasted starkly against her bronzed skin. Her face was weathered, but her eyes sharp. She wore white with a woollen cardigan around her shoulders, and she walked with a cane.

"You can release him," she repeated in accented English, pointing to the priest with her stick.

Harry made a note that she could stand without the stick. What appeared to be a walking aid may be a concealed weapon. He wished he had brought his Stun?Baton. He hesitated, wondering whether to trust this new arrival.

The woman then gestured to the wands he held. "And put those away, you have no need of them here."

"How do you know?" asked Harry. "How do you know what I am here for?"

"Because we know who you are," said the woman smiling knowingly. "And where you come from, where you really come from."

There was something in the woman’s voice and stare that conveyed exactly what she meant. It seemed he had found people in the know. Harry hesitated and then gently lowered the priest to the ground but did not pocket his wands. The woman spoke to the priest in rapid Turkish and he scrambled away, leaving the two of them alone.

"My grandson," said the woman, watching him leave. "You must forgive his rudeness. He did not recognize you, and as a rule anyone looking for the Order of Ge?Gnosis are generally those who must never get their hands on our secrets."

"Yet, you seem not to view me as a threat?" Harry pointed out. He placed his second wand back in pocket, but kept his original wand in his hand.

"But I have a different way of seeing things," said the woman, chuckling to herself. Slowly, awkwardly, she turned around. "Come, stranger, come."

"I thought you knew who I was," said Harry, his voice full of mistrust. "Not a stranger."

"I have no idea what your earthly name is," said the woman without turning around. "I know what you are though, and that is more important."

She made her way back towards the shadows, clearly meaning Harry to follow. He paused for a second, staring into the darkness, debating about what to do. There could be more of them in there, it could be a trap. He had no idea where the priest had gotten to either. This old woman didn't seem to be dangerous, but the same could be said for any lure in an trap. After a moment’s hesitation Harry decided to take a chance and followed her into the shadows. In the dimness, he was vaguely able to make out that she was heading for a door at the far end of the church.

"You speak as if you knew I was coming," said Harry once he had caught up to her. "As if you expected me. Am I about to find out about a certain prophecy?"

"Circumstantial nonsense," the woman said, waving her withered old hand dismissively. She reached past him and opened the door, revealing a parlour. Immediately she headed over towards the fire, above which Harry could see a kettle boiling. The room was stifling hot, as the day was quite warm. The woman on the other hand didn't seem to notice how hot the parlour was with the fire blazing.

"Did I expect you?" she asked rhetorically as she crossed to the mantle. "Yes, I was, we were. But not because of a prophecy. Simply because I knew you had arrived, and that you need to find a way home. I arranged for you to find your way here by leaving a trail of breadcrumbs that would lead you here. My only problem was setting you on the trail to begin with."

"Anyone could have followed those clues," said Harry. "You could have ended up with anyone coming here." Was she implying that he was a simpleton and they had led him here with a carrot on a stick? He felt a flush of anger at her, but managed to keep calm as he didn't even know if it was true. Besides, how had they led him here? He didn't recall a trail of bread?crumbs, in fact, he had only met the priest once before. "What signs did you leave?"

The old lady turned to face him with knowledge in her eyes before sinking into an armchair by the fire. Her wrinkled face was stretched into a smug smile as she stared at him.

"My boy, did you not find it at all strange that just as you were inquiring about the diary, someone appeared out of the blue and draws your attention to it?" asked the woman.

"Of course," said Harry hotly, angered by the implication that he was that thick. "I knew that grandson of yours was up to no good. I knew whatever was in the damn book was suspect."

"Yet you still came," the woman stated, the fire reflecting in her dark eyes. Harry got the distinct impression she was patronising him.

"I couldn't afford to discard any clue," said Harry defensively.

"Exactly," said the women, inclining her head. "That is how we knew you would come here. Whether by gullibility or by thoroughness you could not ignore the diary, which would leave anyone with an ounce of intelligence right to our front door. The trouble was getting the diary to you in the first place. We have followed you every time you have left the school. You may think that impossible with your special means of transportation, but people from off?world are surprisingly easy to track, if you know how. It was then just a matter of giving you the diary. We almost succeeded in Knockturn Alley, but someone else arrived before we could make contact, and to top it all, by pure chance, you found another book that put you on the path. That, I believe is called karma."

"You forged an entire diary just to get me here?" asked Harry, stepping further into the parlour. While he continued to make conversation, his mind was racing ahead on another fragment of information. He could be easily tracked by someone who knew how. Did Grindelwald know? Unlikely, and even if he did, he had no reason to track Harry. No, when it came to spying, Riddle was a greater threat than Grindelwald.

"Come in and sit down," said the woman, beckoning him in. "In answer to your question, you never looked at the other dates did you?"

"I had no need," said Harry, suddenly feeling stupid as he crossed the floor. It seemed like such a basic mistake looking back on it. "And stop answering a question with another one."

"As you wish," she said. "There is a mild charm on the diary derived from the Confundus family of spells. It is similar in principle to the anti?Muggle wards that are so often used these days. It makes sure that you see they are full when you flick through, but keeps you from looking closer. If you tried, you would feel as though it was pointless, or unnecessary, and suddenly lose interest."

Harry felt his anger rising again, probably helped by the uncomfortably hot room. He hated the idea that he had fallen for such a basic trick, that he had been lead across the world by an obvious hoax, that he had failed to see it. He felt like kicking himself.

"You tricked me!" he said indignantly. "You manipulated me into coming here."

"You can hardly claim I have kidnapped you, dear boy," said the woman, laughing once more. "I gave you hints, ones which you could follow if you were intelligent or motivated enough. I have made no move to keep you here. If you wish to go back to wherever you’ve made your makeshift home here feel free to leave. But if you want to get back to your true home, then take a seat."

Harry was still too tense to move any further. He stood behind the sofa that faced the fire. The woman sat in an armchair six feet to his right. The door was only a few feet behind him and still open. He could bolt if he wanted and never return. Then again, this woman did seem to know what she was talking about. Maybe it would be best to hear her out. As long as he was careful and didn’t tell her too much of his own past, she couldn’t hurt him. What to do? Did he trust her? He just wasn't sure.

"What if someone else had found the diary?" he asked petulantly. "What if you had led the wrong person here?"

"Only someone looking for us could make sense of the story in the diary," replied the woman. "Only someone already on the path to finding us would recognise the clues and realise its true value. Now, please...sit."

Cautiously, and with his hand inches from his wand, Harry rounded the large red settee and sank into it, sitting on the end nearest the lady. As he did so, she waved a hand at the fire. Flames receded into a small flickering glow, rather than the inferno that had boiled the kettle. With a flick of her fingers, the kettle floated out of the fireplace and poured tea into the two bowls on the table before them. It seemed they drank tea black in Turkey, or at least this woman did, and from a bowl no less, not a mug.

"You are being very open with me," said Harry, wary of her hospitality. "How could you know I am not one of those people you mentioned earlier who shouldn’t get their hands on the Node?"

"Like I said, I have a different way of seeing things," said the woman chuckling to herself. She raised the bowl to her lips and breathed in the herbal aroma before sipping the hot liquid. Harry was sweating profusely from the hot, stuffy room and dared not touch a hot drink. Instead he sat back, waiting for the old woman to speak.

"Now, let us hear how you came to be lost here," she said, leaning back in the chair and interlocking her fingers. "Tell me how it was that you first left your world."

Harry hesitated. It was undoubtedly a test of trust. Harry considered lying, but then decided it was pointless. She knew more than he did at any rate, and seemed to be able to manipulate and see right through him. Was she in league with Grindelwald? Harry didn't think so. She seemed most unconcerned with the world around her. He decided to be honest.

"I was in a duel," he explained, sticking to the facts. "I had the sword of Godric Gryffindor inside a chalk circle protecting me. It shielded me from my enemy's attacks. But then my attacker tried the Killing Curse. When it hit the shield there was a massive surge of energy. I don't remember much, just a flash, pain and then I woke up in another world in the body of my counterpart."

"Fascinating," said the woman, her brow furrowed in thought. "I would have guessed that The Killing Curse would be involved. That is one of the few magics strong enough to punch a hole in the world as we know it."

"The Killing Curse rips a hole in the world?" asked Harry, sure he had misunderstood.

"Do you know what the words Avada Kedavra mean, or where they come from?"

"The deepest layer of Hell?" suggested Harry, already bored of the woman's riddles.

"Actually it comes from Aramaic and means, 'let this thing be destroyed'," she informed him. "Let a person's life energy be destroyed. What is the first law of physics?"

Harry shrugged, realising it was a rhetoric question.

"Energy cannot be destroyed or created, only moved from one form to another... or more importantly, from one place to another. When the curse is cast, where does all that life energy go?"

Harry paused, contemplating her words. He remembered when Cedric had been hit. There was no explosion of energy, no bang or balls of fire, just the sound of rushing death and then nothing. She had a point. Where did that energy go? Maybe, thought Harry, it wasn't the sound of the curse sizzling the air around it, but rather the sound of the life force rushing to go....where?

Then it hit him. What was this woman's area of expertise?

"Another world," breathed Harry, suddenly understanding.

"To heaven or hell," confirmed the woman as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. "Whatever name you give the afterlife, it must be a place and must conform to the rules of physics. If it doesn't, it means we do not possess the level of understanding of physics to explain it."

"So the afterlife is just another world?" asked Harry.

"In a manner of speaking," replied the woman.

Harry grimaced at the annoying vagueness of her answer.

"It is not a world you can reach from the gate, or Node, or doorway, whatever you have come to call it. It is just another plane of existence. Were it not, there would be no communicating with the dead. No séances, no ghosts, and no items such as the legendary Resurrection Stone would not work. Understand?"

"Roughly," said Harry, only catching about half her meaning. He didn’t really care how it worked, so long as she knew enough to get him home.

"But I digress," said the woman, shaking her head. She seemed to sense Harry’s impatience. "You were in a duel, and the Killing Curse hit the chalk circle. Oh, how powerful that sword must have been... But for you to trade bodies, rather than to end up transported there in addition to your counterpart, that is truly baffling. To my mind, it would suggest that something happened to your counterpart at the exact moment that the curse hit your shield. There is more to this than meets the eye."

Harry sat in silence, again contemplating her words. The woman was a shrewd as they came, and had already put together more of the puzzle that Harry had in several months. What had his other self been doing at the time they swapped? Was it all the other one's fault? Harry sat for nearly two minutes, trying to imagine what his other self might have been doing, though given his reputation, part of Harry didn't want to know. At length, the woman spoke again.

"The world you arrived in, it wasn’t this one though, was it?" she asked, her eyes fixed on his.

"How could you..." Was she a Legilimens? Was she plucking thoughts from his mind or was she really that clever she could piece it all together?

"You arrived here through the doorway, not by jumping," said the woman, clearly pleased at his shock. She was smiling benignly at him as she continued. "That is how I knew someone from off?world had arrived, and that is how I know who you are. How many worlds have you visited?"

"Two," answered Harry, seeing no point in lying. She would probably know it was a lie before he did. "Mine, this one, and the one I ended up in after the duel."

"I see," said the woman, looking thoughtful. "And what do you want?"

Harry hesitated. What kind of question was that? Wasn't it obvious?

"To get home," said Harry, trying to leap the sarcasm from his voice.

"Of course," said the woman, smiling knowingly. "But what do you want to take with you?"

"Nothing," said Harry, shrugging. He wasn't in this for material gains, or for fame or glory. He only wanted to return home. They needed him there. It was his duty to fight Voldemort, and so he would. He felt angry that she might think he was trying to get rich out of this. "I just want to go home."

"Throughout history whenever the gate has been opened, all that mankind has on the brain is conquest and material gains," said the woman, her tone accusatory.

"Not me," said Harry firmly, trying to keep his temper in check. "I’m sick of other worlds and staring into the faces of friends who don’t recognise me. I just want to go back where I belong."

"You would never use the gate again?" the woman pressed.

"No, why would I?"

"There is nothing on either this world or the other that would tempt you to return?"

Harry hesitated. Yes there were things he had liked in the Unholy Land. Part of him had thought that if he could find both keys, he could travel back and forth to visit his mother and family from time to time. Flamel had even suggested he do so, and it had always been part of his long?term plan. Maybe spend his holiday with his family this summer. Dumbledore couldn't argue the fact that it was safe ? Voldemort would never find him if he wasn't even on the same planet. It seemed to Harry like a dream solution. But it wasn't for material gains. He wasn't planning on getting rich or powerful by it, and no one would know of it. Surely there was no harm in it?

"Well, I wouldn’t say that," he admitted.

"Then how long could you resist?" she asked. "How long before your temptation leads you to use the Node once more? Is it, by chance, a woman that lure you back there?"

"My mother," said Harry coldly.

The woman nodded, a sad expression on her face, as if she had expected this. "You would turn down a mother’s love to return home?" she asked. "You would shut her out forever? There isn’t a little boy born who wouldn’t tear the world apart to find his mother. You, my dear boy, have the power to rip a hole in the world to find your mother. Home is where the heart is, but you can only have one world, remember. Can you honestly place your hand on your heart and say that once home, you will never use the gate again?"

"Where is this going?" asked Harry, avoiding the question. He knew the answer, and so did the woman.

"My job is to restore balance," the woman announced. "Just by being here, you have tipped the scales. I could solve this by sending you home, but...so many people were seduced in the old days, by the power of it. How can I know you are safe?"

"But you said you had been expecting me," said Harry. "You invited me in, with no fear or anything, then question whether I am trust worthy?" He couldn't handle her jumping from one foot to the next. Would she help or not?

"I had been expecting you because I led you here," said the woman, her voice firm. "I recognised you because I can see that you are not from this world by looking at you. You give off the wrong light. I see that you are a good person, but it is always the best that fall so spectacularly."

"Are you going to help me or not?" asked Harry, his anger getting the better of him.

She hesitated and when she spoke, her words were slow and thoughtful.

"With your mother just a short trip away," said the woman. "How could any child resist? That is how it starts. First it’s just to see something, but then you bring something back, some flowers maybe or a toy. Suddenly there are two of an item in one world and the balance is tipped. But soon it isn’t just a toy or a flower, it's gold, and money, and power. Soon it is all out of control and it started by the simplest of gestures. My choice will govern the fate of two worlds."

Harry could see the truth in what she said. He already had two identical wands and the other sword of Gryffindor he had seen in Riddle's office. He turned his attention back to the old woman, be she was just staring absently into the fire.

"You spoke of balance," said Harry, his voice almost pleading. "In my world I am linked to another, to the Dark Lord. There was a prophecy, depicting a duel of fates. One of us must die at the hands of the other. I am the only one who can stop him. With me not there, the scales are already tipped, especially if another version of me, an evil version, was swapped with me. You are denying my world the only chance of stopping the Dark Lord."

"Perhaps your departure was part of your destiny, and the prophecy you speak of was meant to be fulfilled in another world," she suggested. "Remember, prophecies come from another plane of existence, another world. Does your prophecy specify what world it pertains to? Has nothing happened on another world that might be related to the Prophecy?"

"I need to go back," repeated Harry, desperate to make her see. "I need to right what has been wronged. I need to restore my own balance."

His words died out and the only sound came from the crackling of the fire. Harry was sweltering, but the old woman seemed perfectly comfortable. She stared at the flames for what seemed like an age before speaking again.

"Very well," she said after a long pause. "You came by accident, and so you should be returned to your home world."

"Thank you," said Harry, relaxing once more.

"To do so, you will need the key and the seven digits derived from your blood and magic," she explained. "Since you have used the gate before, I expect you know how to use the equations. The key I can help you with."

"Where is it?" he asked, looking around for possible hiding places.

"My dear boy," she said, laughing aloud. "Do you expect me to produce it from my pocket, or reach into a drawer?" She dissolved into laughter for several second before regaining her composure while Harry managed to keep his temper in check. "I would not leave the key anywhere as obvious as here. It was safely buried behind many safe?guards. It has been sought by many over the centuries, and has been moved several times. The last move was to a place that at the time, was known as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon."

"Where is that?" asked Harry, thinking of the gardens as nothing but myth.

"In the middle of the country you know as Iraq," said the woman, her face serious.

"You’re kidding," said Harry, his mind full of images of the Gulf War. Was he supposed to walk into a warzone to get this key?

"Oh don't look so horror?struck," said the woman dismissively. "You won't have to wander around on the surface. The tomb is underground."

"Oh," muttered Harry, breathing a sigh of relief. The woman gave him a small smile, and the leaned in close, her eyes fixed on Harry's.

"Now listen carefully," she said, her tone urgent. "It is not simply a case of you walking into the tomb and taking the key. The tomb was designed to protect it again those who must not use it."

"Booby?traps?" asked Harry, already thinking about flaming through them.

The woman shot him an impatient look before continuing. "These are not tripwires and false steps designed to stop petty?thieves," she replied, her tone bordering on aggressive. "Remember, we hid it from those who would use it for personal gain. The tests get inside your mind ? they test your understanding and your commitment to your goal. I can offer you only two pieces of advice. One, remember why you are there, and what you must do. Do not become distracted. Two, whatever you see in there, it is not real, but, it is solid and it can hurt you ? be careful."

Harry gulped as she finished her last sentence. Suddenly he didn't feel so confident.

"So how do I get there?" he asked.

"This Portkey," she handed him a kettle, "will take you to the entrance of the tomb. Remember that it is but the first step. From there, you are on your own, and there are safe?guards."

Harry reached out and took the kettle, slipping it inside his bundle of robes. He didn’t have time at the moment to visit Iraq. Once he had the key he still needed the equations, so he still needed to be at Hogwarts. That meant he had to get back to avoid suspicion. Soon, he would use the Portkey, but for now, he had to return to Hogwarts before anyone discovered he was missing.

He rose from his seat and, with one final glance around, he turned to leave, glad to be heading away from the hot fire.

"What’s your name, by the way, stranger," asked the woman as he neared the door.

"Harry," he replied without looking back.

"Good luck, Harry."

He turned back to see her silhouette against the firelight, her gaze steady but thoughtful. He nodded curtly and then stepped back out into the main part of the church, which despite the very hot day was refreshingly cool compared to the parlour. The priest was back to the cleaning duties, polishing a table in the corner. He looked up at Harry as he entered. Their eyes met for a second, and Harry's hand instantly went to his wand. The priest however merely nodded and resumed his cleaning. Harry walked the aisle in the opposite direction and headed out into the sunlight and the blissful breeze. He had to shield his eyes from the blinding light. He was so glad to be outside. It was like he could breathe again as the sea breeze washed away the stuffiness of the parlour. He peeled his shirt away from his sweaty back to which it had stuck, and shook it in the breeze. Feeling better, he relaxed for a moment, soaking up the rays. There was not a single cloud in the perfect blue sky, and the sea stretch out before him like a vast shining jewel of pure blue. The grass atop the cliffs swayed gently in the breeze and the smell of salt and sand filled his nostrils. Sadly, he had to leave this behind and head back to dreary old Scotland.

He would allow himself five minutes, and then he would have to return.

~~~~ + ~~~~

As expected, it was raining as he arrived back on the roof of the Astronomy Tower. He had gone from baking hot and not a cloud in the sky to a torrential downpour, and he was still dressed in just his rolled up shirt and trousers.

"Bugger!" Harry cursed aloud. He quickly pulled his cloak from his pocket, enlarged it, and draped it over his head to keep the rain off. He shivered in the relative cold and wished he was back in Turkey. The back of his shirt that was still wet with sweat was now chilled by the icy Scottish air. Harry shivered as the cold material touched his back. Pulling his cloak tightly around him, he wrenched opened the door and stepped inside out of the rain. He took a moment to dry his clothes and charm them to smell lightly of heather, rather than of sweat and salt. Satisfied, though still planning to take a shower as soon as possible, Harry began the journey back up to the Gryffindor Tower.

He now had the location and a Portkey to the place where the key was hidden. He needed one more trip, to Iraq of all places, to retrieve the key and then it was just a matter of finding an Unspeakable to convince to solve the equations, and then he was home?free. Harry suddenly felt a lot further on and a lot more cheerful than he had in some time. The light at the end of tunnel was suddenly closer.

I’m going home, he told himself. Wouldn’t be hard, wouldn’t be long. He was grinning like a Cheshire cat as he headed back up to the common room. The words 'one more trip' repeated over and over in his mind all the way up.

The Tower was alive with chatter as he entered, but Harry was too preoccupied to pay any notice. He crossed to the stairs and hurried up to his dorm, thinking of a nice warm shower and a nice fluffy towel. The dorm was empty as he entered, which was fortunate as he did not want everyone to see what he was up to. He emptied the contents of his pockets, including the map and kettle, into his trunk on top of Flamel’s notes, and closed the lid, making sure it was locked. He ate a few sweets to keep his blood sugar levels up, and poured himself a drink from the tap in the bathroom.

I’m going home, he said to his reflection in the bathroom mirror. One little trip was all it would take. He was too tired to travel anymore tonight and besides that, he would be missed. His best chance to get away with enough time for Iraq was the weekend. By the way, he mused, what was the time difference for the Middle East? Harry had no idea, but made a mental note to look it up.

He walked back down the stairs and headed for the fire, intending to curl up and relax. Finding an empty chair, he plopped down and to his surprise to see a Daily Prophet discarded next to it. He picked it up and pulled his feet and knees up on the soft cushion, spreading the paper over his lap. It was full of the usual drivel and half?truths, but the fire was nice and warm and Harry was still buzzing off his discovery. He was vaguely aware that the rest of the Common Room was alive with conversation and he couldn’t help but hear snippets of it as his mind kept wandering from the Prophet.

"Forget it, mate, she’s only got eyes for..." he heard from the direction of some fourth years.

"I don’t get it, how can one spell have two..."

Ah, the homework club was in full swing, but it wasn’t Hermione giving advice. She was probably off with Katie snooping around. Come to think of it, he couldn’t see Ron, Neville, or anyone of that group about. Maybe they were having a little meeting or working out how to contact the Order. It didn’t really matter ? Harry wasn't their keeper. Also, judging by the latest Prophecy, it would be better to keep his distance. Katie would be fine without him ? she was safe as long as she was in the castle.

Then he heard something that made his blood run cold.

"Honestly, she just keeled over and hit the floor, clutching her scar and screaming her damn head off." The voice floated over the conversation through his ears and into his mind, sending shivers down his spine.

Harry’s head whipped around, his locking on to the speaker. Lindsay, the seventh year, was sitting with the other two female finalists deep in conversation not far to his right.

Katie had passed out with her scar hurting? That sounded like a Legilimency attack. Suddenly the absence of Ron and Neville made sense. Harry’s stomach clenched, his jaw tensed, and chills shot to every nerve in his body. It couldn’t be....

"What was that?" he called to Lindsay, nearly shouting to make himself heard. "Who keeled over clutching a scar?" He dived out of the chair, throwing the paper aside, nearly knocking over a pair of gossiping girls as he passed through but he didn’t even stop to apologise.

"Who has a scar of note?" asked one of the girls in a patronising voice as Harry arrived before them. He opened his mouth to demand and answer, but Lindsay replied politely before he could. "Bell," she told him. "She just collapsed last lesson."

"What happened?" asked Harry urgently. "Tell me everything." Tell me I’m imagining it! Tell me it isn’t happening again!

"There’s not much to tell," said Lindsay shrugging. "We were in a Charms Lesson and she was dozing, and then suddenly she screamed. I looked around, she screamed again, and fell off her chair. She looked like she was having a fit and wouldn’t stop screaming for a few moments and then nothing, she just lay still."

Yes, it was definitely her scar, definitely Legilimency.

"Then what?" he demanded in an impatient, harsh voice.

"Flitwick came over," said Lindsay, recoiling at the force of his voice. "Bell woke up before he got near her, though. She sat up, mumbling to herself. She was disorientated, hallucinating probably."

"Why do you say that?" asked Harry quickly.

"She mumbled something about danger, mysteries, and something about it being serious."

"Serious?" echoed Harry, realising how close the word sounded to Sirius. NO! No, not again!

"Flitwick sent her to the Hospital Wing. I guess she’s still there."

"When was this?" asked Harry, blood draining from his face.

"An hour ago," she said. "Are you alright? You look like you’ve seen a ghost."

Harry didn’t answer. His knees felt weak, as if they would buckle out from underneath him. His stomach was so tight that he felt he might be sick as fear took hold of him. It was the same fear he had felt when he saw Hermione nearly die in that Department of Mysteries, when he had seen Sirius being tortured; it was the fear that he had gotten a friend killed. It was a memory that was shortly about to be relived.

Jesus Christ, it was happening again.

Harry placed two fingers in the corner of his mouth and blew. A hissing mess of spit and spluttering followed. He wished he could whistle like that. Cursing himself, he took out his wand and held it up to the ceiling.

BANG!

The sudden crack caused everyone to fall silent and face him in an instant.

"Has anyone seen Katie Bell, the Weasleys, Granger, or Longbottom?" he called to the silent room in a hard, aggressive voice.

He watched as various people around the room looked at each other for reference, before shaking their heads.

"Not since last lesson," said a seventh year in a small, timid voice.

"Mary, Mother of God," breathed Harry.

He knew what was happening, he knew where they were, he knew what was about to happen, and he knew who would pay the price. History was repeating to itself and blood would be spilt this night. This was not Harry’s world, not his fight, but they were his friends out there and not all of them would come back tonight.

Katie was walking into a trap, and he already knew how it ended. Riddle, the Order, none of them would make it in time. There was only one thing that could save Sirius and Katie...

The Stranger from the Unholy Land.


 

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AUROR’S NOTES

Well, things are beginning to heat up now. More will be explained in the next chapter, along with many of the questions you have been asking on the group. Stay tuned.

I hope that answers most of the phoenix questions ? any others, post on the group and if it will not spoil future events, I will answer. There is more to come on the Riddle front next chapter as more of his dark past is revealed.

For anyone who does speak Turkish, please forgive any mistakes. It was meant to be ‘hello‘ and ’can I help you?’. I checked on http://www.linguanaut.com/english_turkish

Jono

 

 

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