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A Stranger in the Promised Land Chapter VI(part2)  

2009-07-17 18:47:09|  分类: HP转载 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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"It was foolish to come here tonight, Grindelwald," said Harry calmly, quoting Dumbledore as he stepped down off the fountain. He only hoped he could live up to what Dumbledore had done. His mentor had made the statues come to life, whereas Harry had merely levitated one. He hoped he was up to this task, otherwise both he and Katie would end up dead. Would Riddle arrive in time to help? Was he even coming? Harry doubted it.

"The Aurors are on their way," Harry bluffed in a firm voice, keeping his wand aimed at the man people called The Assassin. As he stood in the entrance hall not twenty feet away, Harry got his first clear look at the 'Deadliest Man On Earth'. He wore long black robes with a pointed hood, the shadow of which covered the top half of his face. His skin was deathly pale and his eyes dark, yet sparkling. The Dark Lord lowered his hood, revealing a surprising face. He had long black hair, much as Riddle did, except his face was very different. Grindelwald had a long, pointed face and a long, thin nose. In contrast to an almost white complexion, he had black lips and his eye sockets seemed very dark as well, giving him a haunted look, almost like a skeleton.

The Assassin stared unblinkingly at Harry, appraising his new foe. He was an imposing figure, more so that Voldemort in some respects. The icy feeling of dread one feels in one's stomach in the presence of Voldemort was there, but without the inhuman face, the glowing red eyes, Grindelwald looked...incomplete. He looked human, and that somehow made him less scary than Voldemort. However, Grindelwald also had an edge about him. Voldemort was cold and calculating, but a very slow presence. Every move was slow and clinically precise, and then suddenly out of the blue he attacked, much like a snake. Grindelwald seemed as though he might snap any minute. His movements against Katie had been quick and fluid, like fire, not the ice of Voldemort. Also Grindelwald was not as thin as Voldemort, with broader shoulders and a bigger build. While Voldemort’s fingers were like spiders, Grindelwald’s look easily capable of crushing the life out of a man.

"The Aurors will be too late to save you, child," said Grindelwald, his voice no more than a whisper. He spoke not in the high-pitched shriek of Voldemort, but in a lower, softer voice that was almost a hiss. He turned to Harry, raising has wand sharply. "And it is not I who was foolish to come here. There is no hope of saving the girl, or yourself for that matter."

"Harry!" gasped Katie. "No! Run!"

Harry looked over at Katie, lying where she had fallen from the blast, her eyes wide with fear and surprise. He had to get her away from here. Unfortunately he didn't know how to make the statues come to life to guard her. He’d have to improvise. With a banishing charm, Harry caused Katie to slide away across the floor. Another spell sent the statue of the Goblin flying in the same direction. It landed on top of her, pinning her down and shielding her from attack. She couldn't move, but she was in cover.

"The girl is safe enough," said Harry without emotion, turning back to Grindelwald and stepping closer to the Dark Lord. "But saving her was only one of my reasons for coming here tonight. The other reason is on behalf of a man I believe you once knew, Albus Dumbledore."

Grindelwald's eyebrows narrowed. He shot a piercing stare at Harry. "Who are you?" he asked in an icy cold voice that concealed all emotion.

"I've been hearing that a lot recently," answered Harry with a shrug. "My name is Harry Potter."

"Ahh," breathed Grindelwald, a look of comprehension on his face. He looked over to where Bellatrix was cowering by a pillar, watching the exchange intently. "The prodigal son returns. How are your parents?"

"At peace," said Harry with a pointed glance at Bellatrix. With a flick of his wand, Harry sent Bellatrix soaring backwards into the chair behind the guard's desk. The witch lost her grip on her wand, and only just had time to scream before chords shot out of his wand and bound her to the chair.

"Run, Harry!" Katie shouted desperately from her prison in the corner.

"I was told that you too, were dead," continued Grindelwald conversationally, ignoring Katie's interruption.

"I died, certainly," acknowledged Harry. "But dead is not quite right."

"Most people have the courtesy to stay dead," replied the Assassin.

"That's rich coming from you," said Harry, stepping over a piece of statue as he began to circle the Dark Lord. "But you needed a Horcrux to beat the Reaper. I, on the other hand, am just plain brilliant."

At the word Horcrux, Harry saw Grindelwald's eyebrows shoot for the sky. Even the master Occlumens could not shield his surprised reaction. Harry suspected that the Dark Lord's world had suddenly shrunk, and he didn't feel quite as immortal as he had ten seconds ago. Someone else knew about Horcruxes. Right now he would be asking himself if he was sure it was safe, the seeds of doubt had been sown.

This was a potentially dangerous game trying to infuriate the Dark Lord. Harry had one card to play ? surprise ? and he had to get it right. His eyes darted around, taking in his surroundings as well as watching The Assassin. Grindelwald thought he was dealing with a schoolboy with no experience. Malfoy had thought Harry was a wimp, nearly a squib, and if he reported to his father, who was a servant of the Dark Lord, then Grindelwald would think that Harry didn't know his wand from his quill. The Dark Lord would never consider a schoolboy to be a threat to him, and the lack of concern was clearly visible in the Dark Lord's eyes. Harry knew that Grindelwald's arrogance was something he could use. Grindelwald would never expect him to be as strong or as fast as he was, so it all came down to surprise. Harry's heart was pounding in his chest, his stomach tight, and he was sweating. Somehow, he managed to keep his face neutral, and appear calm.

"And what would you know of such magic?" sneered The Assassin after a lengthy pause. Harry knew he now had the Dark Lord's full attention, but he had to be careful.

"Enough," replied Harry easily, avoiding an answer.

"Then you will also know that I cannot allow you to walk out of here alive," said the Dark Lord, his voice suddenly loosing the hiss and becoming lower and colder as he extending his wand threateningly towards Harry.

"Fine," said Harry in a flippant tone. "Have it your way."

He raised his wand and empty hand, bending his legs slightly, adopting a good fighting stance roughly ten feet from the Dark Lord. Grindelwald made no such move, standing tall, his arm outstretched towards Harry.

"Your move, boy," sneered Grindelwald in a low, gravelly voice. "Sporting chance."

"Too kind," said Harry, nodding. He had a rough plan worked out ? now it was a matter of actually putting it into practice. He took a deep breath and prepared to strike. Here we go.

STUPEFY!

Grindelwald casually flicked Harry's spell aside.

"Crucio," he hissed.

Harry instantly sidestepped, flicking his wand as he did.

"Reducto!" He took a step forward to close the gap between them.

Grindelwald was not expecting this sudden burst of speed and only just managed to raise a shield in time. Harry didn't even break stride. He sent another Stunner heading towards the Dark Lord who sidestepped, sweeping his wand in an arc, unleashing a wave of purple light towards Harry.

Harry spun out of the way, stepping closer to the Dark Lord now only a few feet from him. Holding back his more advanced magic for just a few more seconds, Harry tried again.

"Expelliarmus!"

Grindelwald looked almost bored as he batted the charm away with the back of his hand and lowered his wand to his side. He seemed most unimpressed with Harry. Now was a good time to act.

"Crucio!" hissed Grindelwald lazily.

NOW!

Harry reacted instantly with all the fury of the Dark Knight. He spun out of the way, raising his right leg, and swept the Dark Lord's wand aside with a parrying kick, then levelled his wand at the Dark Lord's throat before he had even finished spinning.

Sectumsempra!

Grindelwald managed to sidestep, but not quite quickly enough. Harry saw a spray of crimson shoot up as the Dark Lord spun away, a look or sheer disbelief on his face. He stopped after two complete revolutions, his face contorted with rage and a line of crimson above his left ear. Harry was ready for him.The ring of blue light was already in his hand, ready to capture the Dark Lord's own spell.

The Dark Lord instantly moved his wand in a slashing motion and a beam of yellow light surged towards Harry. Harry sidestepped, bringing the ring up to meet the curse. His aim was true and the yellow ball of light was trapped inside the blue ring. Harry hurled the ring back at the Dark Lord, curse and all. Harry saw the expression of shock on his face as his own curse zoomed back towards its caster, the blue ring still circling it. Grindelwald raised a shield in time, but it was no use. As the joint curse hit the shield, it exploded in a shower of blue sparks, shattering the shield and sending several smaller beams of yellow light in various directions. One of them grazed across the Dark Lord's thigh. He hissed in pain and surprise as several more drops of crimson fell to the floor.

Harry didn't let up. "Electrio!"

A bolt of lightning erupted out of his wand and fifty thousand volts of electricity surged towards the Dark Lord, who this time managed to block it.

This was no childish duel. Not only was Harry throwing back hard curses at the Dark Lord, he had also drawn blood. He had landed a hit on The Assassin, something that only two men had previously managed: Tom Riddle and Albus Dumbledore. Harry saw the look of surprise turn to anger. From the little he knew of Grindelwald, no one did this to the Dark Lord and lived.

BANG!

The ground in front of Harry exploded and he was forced backwards, skidding away across the floor. Harry sprung off his shoulders back to his feet, and to his surprise found that the Dark Lord had lowered his wand and was standing motionless, staring at Harry appraisingly. Part of Harry wanted to attack, but something made him hesitate. Was it, perhaps, honour?

"Impressive," hissed Grindelwald, sweeping his wand over his leg. The gash on his thigh closed itself like a zip, shrinking into nothing. He repeated the same movement on his head. "Riddle must be so proud."

"Actually, I'd just as soon as see him hanging from a rope," shot back Harry, "as I would you. Funny old world, isn’t it?"

He remained guarded in case the Dark Lord made a move, but somehow he felt sure he wouldn't. Why was he distilling honour onto a man who deserved none? Harry didn't know, but it seemed wrong to attack him.

Lowering his wand, Grindelwald reached up and unfastened the cloak that had been wrapped around his shoulders. The cloak fell to the floor, leaving the Dark Lord free to move about unencumbered. He wore all black, ranging from the boots and trousers to the tunic he wore over the top. Only his hands and face were visible ? pale, white flesh which contrasted sharply against the jet-black colour of his attire.

Harry followed suit, removing the black cloak he wore and dropping it along with the sword he was carrying on his back, exposing the glowing white underneath. He noticed that he was similarly dressed to the Dark Lord, except he was covered in white, not midnight black. Before leaving Hogwarts he had pulled out his old combat gear, but turned them all white as they had been the last time he had worn them. This was the White Knight, the one who had defeated Voldemort. He wore a long-sleeved jumper, which concealed his armour beneath, as well as combats held up by a belt from which two wands descended, and finished with white boots and gloves.

Now that both opponents were free of their bothersome clothing, they once again turned to face each other. Harry saw Grindelwald's neck and back arch forward as he sank into a small bow, his eyes never leaving Harry's own. Grindelwald was honouring the old traditions of Duelling, and guided by the Dark Knight, Harry followed suit, bowing ever so slightly. He was not stupid enough to trust The Assassin, and kept his wand arm tense and his eyes glued on his opponent.

"Until death?" hissed the Dark Lord menacingly.

Harry hesitated. While he was mortal, the Dark Lord effectively wasn't, so there was little point. Then again, he couldn't let himself appear as weak. He had one chance ? to bluff.

"Since neither of us can die, that seems pointless," he replied evenly.

He was satisfied to see the Dark Lord raise an eyebrow as he debated the possibility of duelling someone who claimed to be immortal.

Slowly a small smirk appeared across the Dark Lord's lips. "Then I give you one last chance, boy. Join me. Stand at my side, and you will live."

Harry managed to keep his face straight and in mock seriousness he spoke again. "Well that does sound fair," he said, sounding pensive. "But I've got a better deal. How about you surrender, and then I don't have to beat seven shades of shit out of you and drag whatever's left off to Azkaban? Sound fair?"

Grindelwald's eyebrows narrowed and Harry saw his body tense in anger and determination. This time Grindelwald knew what was coming. Harry faced The Assassin in a fighting stance, bracing himself for battle, and took a deep breath, psyching himself up.

There was an awkward pause. Was the Dark Lord waiting for him, or should he wait? In chess white moves first, but...

Suddenly The Assassin moved. His wand flicked and a bolt of green light came hurtling towards Harry who dropped instantly to one knee, his wand aimed at the floor. Harry sent a bolt of red light into the marble, which snaked quickly across the polished stone towards the Dark Lord no more than ten feet away. It reached him in half a second. Just as the Killing Curse passed over Harry's head, the floor around Grindelwald's feet erupted like a circle of geysers. Grindelwald's feet left the ground as he sailed gracefully forward and landed three feet in front of Harry, not a scratch on him. Harry rose instantly to his feet.

"Crucio!" snapped the Dark Lord.

"Sanctius!" shouted Harry, raising his wand up to Grindelwald's as if parrying a sword. The two tips collided just as the spells left them. A massive ball of turquoise and red sparks erupted with a deafening bang, the force of the collision pushing both their hands away. Grindelwald used this momentum to circle his wand around for another strike, this one lower. Again, Harry thrust his wand at Grindelwald's, slamming his shield into the wand. The explosion was bigger this time, and more powerful. Harry felt his feet leave the ground as he was propelled away from the Dark Lord. Throwing his weight backwards, he somersaulted and landed on his feet in the kneeling position, looking up in time to see Grindelwald soar gracefully backwards and land calmly on his feet.

"Oxrempo!" shouted Harry, rising to his feet also. He sent a bone-breaking curse at the Dark Lord's neck. The curse would shatter every vertebra in his neck if it hit, but Grindelwald ducked to the side. Harry stepped forward, parrying another curse as he did, and attacked once more.

SECTUMSEMPRA!

"CRUCIO!"

The two beams of light connected in mid-air, forging a link between Harry and Grindelwald. He felt a wave of heat on his face from the power of the magic. Suddenly the connection was gone as Grindelwald let go and stepped to the side, unleashing another stream of blue light towards Harry.

Sanctius!

It was the strongest shield he knew, though it was still small. The blue curse hit the shield with the force of a cannon ball, and Harry only just managed to keep his balance. He felt his feet slide along the polished floor as the force of the curse bore down on him. Grindelwald continued to press, forcing him further backwards under the seemingly infinite weight of the curse. The Assassin stepped forward, increasing the pressure on the shield, which was all that protected Harry from the curse... whatever it was.

Harry felt himself break into a sweat as the force on the shield increased. He knew he had to concentrate for this was his magic, not his physical strength, keeping the curse at bay. If his shield failed then God only knew what that curse might do to him.

Come on Harry, concentrate! Your will was stronger than Voldemort's in the graveyard. You forced his wand to submit. Concentrate!

Summoning up all his determination, all his power, Harry pushed against Grindelwald’s attack as hard as he could, thrusting his shield forward. The stream of blue light was thrown back towards its creator. With a cry of anger, Grindelwald crossed his arms across his stomach and then threw them outwards, standing in a star-jump position. A wall of red light appeared in front of him, absorbing the curse as if it were nothing.

Before Harry could recover, Grindelwald had sent another Killing Curse in his direction. Quickly Harry summoned a piece of debris, which flew up into the path of the curse, shattering as it collided with the jet of green light. As Grindelwald prepared his next spell, Harry brandished his wand like a whip in a manner similar to what Dumbledore had done last year. The fiery whip sprung out from the end of his wand and wrapped itself around Grindelwald's leg before The Assassin could move. Harry gave it a sharp tug and the Dark Lord was swept off his feet just as another Killing Curse left his wand. As The Assassin lost balance, the curse flew up towards the ceiling, shattering the chandelier, which plummeted to the ground between them. Harry jumped backwards up onto the edge of the fountain to avoid being crushed as the huge mass of flames and crystals crashed onto the polished floor. The falling light may have missed him, but in jumping out of the way he had lost concentration on the spell and the fiery whip had vanished.

As he turned his attention back to Grindelwald, there was already a huge ball of dragon-fire zooming towards him with alarming speed. It was too late to move so Harry did the only thing he could think of ? he dived backwards into the icy waters of the fountain with a tremendous splash. Lying on his back beneath the water, he saw the sky turn orange as the fire passed over his head. The freezing water assaulted his skin as he lay there, and he felt his lungs instantly tighten as the cold pierced his clothing. Luckily for Harry the water also washed away the fatigue of the earlier fight and helped to focus his mind. It didn't exactly give him time to rest though, for no sooner had the orange glow faded when he saw the figure of the Dark Lord appear on the edge of the pool looking down at him. Harry couldn’t speak as he was underwater, but his concentration was enough.

He fired a blasting curse up at The Assassin from underwater. The glowing orange light burst out of the water like a missile, and the Dark Lord only just managed to conjure a shield at the last moment. Grindelwald, shield and all, were launched high into the air and slammed into the wall fifteen feet away by the force of the curse as Harry immerged from the water once more, dripping wet, but ready. A quick glance around the room showed him that the statue of the wizard was now on fire, and a large section of the fountain was now charcoal black.

Harry quickly climbed out of the fountain back on to dry land and held out his hand to where he had discarded his cloak and tools. The sword obediently leapt from the scabbard into his waiting hand, and Harry crossed the sword and his wand. The incantation seemed to come to him from nowhere, from deep inside the Dark Knight’s arsenal, but it was terrifyingly effective. As Harry thrust the weapons towards the Dark Lord, a white bolt of lightning shot out of where the wand and sword joined and surged towards The Assassin. The lightning missed Grindelwald, snaking into the wall behind him, but it did not vanish. Harry moved the wand and sword to his right, and the continuous lightning followed suit, twisting and crackling across the room, along the wall behind Grindelwald, leaving jagged, scorched trails of black on the tiled surface.

As the lightning snaked towards where Grindelwald had climbed back to his feet, The Assassin swept his wand in a large circle at arm’s length and a thick green shield formed in front of him. The lightning didn't seem to harm that shield. Harry saw Grindelwald sneer at him from behind the shield before turning his back and holding his arms up high.

Suddenly the tiles on the wall detached themselves from the cement and hovered in midair. Harry realised what was about to happen less than a second before it actually did and he reacted instantly.

"Accio Centaur!"

The giant golden centaur statue flew off the fountain and sailed towards Harry, only fractionally quicker than the incoming tiles. Harry dived behind the statue as all around him jagged tiles slammed into the floor and the centaur, like a monsoon of knives. He could feel the continuous thuds of the tiles embedding themselves into the solid stone floor, splitting the stone and turning a once polished floor into a lawn of jagged blades. It sounded like a stampede as the constant thudding continued to assault his ears.

As the hailstorm of tiles subsided, Harry levitated the whole centaur, the far side of which was covered in embedded tiles, and threw the whole thing at Grindelwald. It had gone perhaps halfway when it exploded into a shower of sand. The Dark Lord flicked his wand and another spell was released. Harry didn't see it until a bolt of purple light came zooming through the sandstorm towards his face. He recognised it as the same spell that had put Hermione in hospital for a week the last time he had been here. He dived to the side and rolled.

As he came back up to his feet, he realised his mistake. The very spell he had used earlier was now being used against him. The fiery whip wrapped itself around his wrist. Harry gave it a tug, but he wasn't strong enough. The Dark Lord gave his wand a casual flick; the magic increased the pull one hundred fold. He felt his feet leave the ground as he was violently tugged back towards Grindelwald. Landing painfully on his front, he lost his grip on his wand and sword as sharp fragments of debris dug into his flesh where his armour did not protect him. He had less than a second to register that he had hit the floor before he found himself being dragged helplessly towards The Assassin, who as Harry watched, reached into his robes and pulled out what looked like a torch.

He flicked it as though it were one of those telescopic batons that the Muggle police now carried, and out of the handle shot a shimmering silver blade nearly a metre long. As the sword came sweeping down towards Harry's head, he wandlessly summoned his own sword from where it had fallen and thrust it upwards with his free hand to parry the attack. The blades connected with a thunderous clang that echoed around the room and the whip dissolved into nothing. Harry had just enough time to note the surprise in Grindelwald's eyes before he sprang off his shoulders, landing on his feet just in time to parry another attack. Harry quickly, sidestepped and circled, keeping The Assassin, clearly a skilled swordsman, in his line of sight. The Dark Lord lunged again and Harry made to parry, but The Assassin was too quick. It was only a feint and as Harry raised his blade, he felt Grindelwald’s weapon slash across his stomach. Thankfully, his dragon scale chest-plate protected him.

Harry recoiled a few paces and looked down at his chest. There was a large slash across his stomach from which trails of white fabric were hanging. Through the gaping hole, his black dragon-scale armour was clearly visible.

Idiot! Harry cursed himself. It was a schoolboy error ? he should have seen the feint coming a mile away! Come on, concentrate; you're better than this.

The Dark Lord lunged again, aiming to stab this time rather than a slash. Harry kept his hands high and twisted his wrists, sweeping the blade downwards to parry the strike. Guiding Grindelwald's sword away from him and using The Assassin's own momentum to guide him, Harry spun quickly on the spot. As he came back around he slashed horizontally, aiming at Grindelwald's back. The Assassin was a match for this and scooped his blade to the side to block Harry, but the Dark Knight was a dirty fighter. As Grindelwald moved to block, the Dark Knight released his right hand from the weapon and delivered a hard punch to Grindelwald's left cheek. It was The Assassin's turn to recoil in surprise and curse himself for not having seen such a simple move coming.

Harry twirled the sword about his wrist and smirked at the surprised Assassin, mocking him. Since they seemed an even match, he reckoned the best solution was to try to aggravate him and hope he made a mistake in his anger. Grindelwald lunged at Harry once again, slashing first to the left and then the right. As Harry parried, the older man used his strength to push Harry backward. The Dark Lord swung again and again, each time driving him backwards. He was clearly stronger than Harry, but Harry was experienced enough to know that it was not always strength that mattered ? it was skill, and an enemy’s strength could ultimately be their weakness.

Grindelwald's sword came crashing down towards Harry's head once more and Harry jumped backwards out of range. However, in stepping back he felt his back come up against the cold hard wall: he was trapped.

The Dark Lord thrust the point of the sword, aiming it straight at Harry's stomach. Harry reacted more out of instinct than anything. He jumped, casting a hovering charm on himself as he did, giving himself an extra boost. The sword sank deep into the wall, giving Harry the perfect point from which to jump. He kicked off the protruding sword as he rose and sailed gracefully over the Dark Lord's head in a front flip, landing easily behind the startled Assassin. He turned as he landed, swinging the sword at The Assassin's head before the man had to a chance to defend himself. Grindelwald stepped back out of range with lightening speed and Harry's blade met nothing but air.

Harry saw Grindelwald's wrist move and only just had time to register that something was hurtling towards his head before instinct took over. He swung his sword at the object out of pure reflex. The blade connected with a resounding clang as Harry batted the incoming knife out of the air and launching it across the room at a speed Babe Ruth would have been proud of. He swung again at Grindelwald, who ducked and spun out of reach, moving back into the centre of the room.

Being next to the sword that Grindelwald had left embedded in the wall presented an opportunity to the Dark Knight. Without taking his eyes off the unarmed Assassin, Harry yanked the sword out of the wall. He now had one in each hand and twirled them around his wrists simultaneously. Throwing them both lightly into the air, he swapping them around so that he held his own in his left hand and Grindelwald's in his right. Then in a sudden motion, he lunged with the two points aimed right at Grindelwald's chest. The Dark Lord was ready and moved in a blur of black fabric and steel as he twisted his sword free from Harry's grip and in one fluid motion slashed Harry across the back with it. Harry's armour once again protected him from injury, but his jumper was torn to shreds and was becoming a nuisance. He took the Katana back in his right hand.

Grindelwald lunged again and Harry parried, but the Dark Lord did not withdraw his blade. He continued to press it towards Harry, driving him back again. He had clearly noticed that he was stronger, if not more skilled than Harry, and was pressing his advantage. Harry kept his sword still, using all his strength to keep The Assassin's blade away from his body. Grindelwald moved again, releasing his left hand from the sword, and a split second too late Harry realised that he had summoned his knife back to him. He saw a flash of silver as the blade was thrust towards his face and whipped his head backwards to avoid the attack, but not fast enough. The blade connected with the underside of his jaw, slicing cleanly through the soft flesh. Luckily it missed his throat and jugular, just slicing into the bottom of his chin. He felt a flow of blood as the sticky crimson liquid oozed out of the cut and down his front. Looking down he saw what had once been brilliant white was now covered in dust, black marks, and most disturbingly, what remained of the jumper's chest was now a bright shade of crimson.

The Dark Lord lunged again, and again Harry parried. This time it was Harry's turn to strike.

"Conjunctivus!" he croaked.

The curse hit the Dark Lord in his eyes, who roared in pain and retreated. Harry stepped back, bringing a hand up to inspect his throat. His hand came away red. He was bleeding heavily, and to make it worse the Dark Lord had managed a counter curse and was now able to see again. Harry didn't have more than a few seconds of rest. Every muscle in him ached. Where was help? Riddle should have been here by now.

Grindelwald raised the sword, ready to lunge again.

"Expelliarmus!" coughed Harry as best he could as he extended his hand towards Grindelwald. The Dark Lord moved forward into the oncoming charm, and casually threw the sword lightly up into the air. The spell struck him in the chest, but passed straight through without any effect. Once it had passed, he effortlessly caught the sword and brought it crashing down towards Harry's head in one move. Harry stepped out of range and brought his leg up. As the sword missed and headed towards the floor, he brought his foot down hard on the flat side of Grindelwald's blade. The Assassin couldn't hold onto the sword as Harry kicked downwards. He lost his grip as Harry held the sword flat to the ground with his foot. Before Grindelwald could even stand upright again, Harry had spun and thrust a hard sidekick into The Assassin's ribs.

The Dark Lord slid away over the polished floor then jumped back to his feet and wandlessly summoned his wand back to him. He must have realised that his best chance at winning was magic, at which he was clearly more powerful than Harry.

"AVADA KEDAVRA!"

The curse came hurtling towards Harry, who quickly dove out of the way, summoning his primary wand back to him as he slid.

"SECTUMSEMPRA!"

Harry sprang off his shoulders onto his feet again just as the Dark Lord sent another Killing Curse toward him.

Gravitae Invertus!

As he swished his wand, he felt the familiar sensation of his stomach reaching his throat as gravity turned upside down. His body inverted and he 'fell' up to the ceiling, narrowly avoiding the curse which smashed into the wall behind where he had stood, launching a cloud of dust into the air as the plaster exploded. Harry landed gently on his feet on a false skylight, and looked calmly 'up' at the ground. He was standing upright amongst the rafters, with gravity holding him 'down' on the ceiling. Blood was not running to his head, and even his hair was not dangling. He saw Grindelwald standing on the floor aiming his wand into the cloud of dust where Harry had stood moments before. It was quite an odd experience staring 'up' at the ground.

Harry decided to rest for a few seconds. The duel was tiring and he didn't think he could go on much longer. He was breathing heavily and the bleeding on his jaw had not stopped. He had several other scratches from the storm of tiles, and it was entirely possible that his hip might even have a fragment of tile embedded in it. Blood dripped 'down' onto the ceiling from various wounds including his neck, which was still free-flowing. He bent over, placing his hands on his knees, trying to get his breath back. Below him, or above from his perspective, the dust had cleared. The Dark Lord was still pointing his wand at the dust, wondering where Harry had gone. Harry watched silently as the Dark Lord glanced around, aimed his wand in all directions except the one that was correct, as he was obviously thinking two dimensionally. Harry waited for a few more seconds before acting as he tried to get his energy back, which wasn't easy when suffering from blood-loss. Then, when he was sure the Dark Lord was about to look up, he summoned his second wand and aimed both down at Grindelwald simultaneously to increase the power of the curse.

"REDUCTO!" he shouted.

The curse left his two wands and zoomed towards The Assassin who looked up at the sound of his voice. Harry ended the spell that held him on the ceiling and he fell gently back to earth, landing on his feet on the ground. The spells had struck the ground where Grindelwald had stood less than a second earlier, sending up another storm of plaster which made it impossible to see and hard to breath. Harry saw a flash of green through the dust and knew what was coming his way.

He dived to his right, rolling as fast as he could behind the fountain where he could not be seen. He glanced over at Katie who was struggling to get out from underneath the centaur statue. Their eyes connected and in that instance Harry saw a myriad of emotions flicker through her ? shock, anger, sadness, relief, and staunch determination. She pointed her wand over towards the other side of the room, presumably where Grindelwald was, and Harry could almost read her mind. He shook his head emphatically, every protective instinct he had aimed at her. She mustn't get involved. He might kill her.

‘Stay where you are,’ he mouthed to her silently. She shot him an annoyed look that clearly showed her displeasure at being tossed aside, but he couldn’t worry about that now. He had a battle to win or they’d both be dead.

"You do not seek to kill me?" called Grindelwald as Harry sat with his back against the edge of the pond. From beyond the fountain he could hear footsteps on the rubble. He judged that the Dark Lord was at his seven o'clock, and coming around that side of the pool.

"There are worse things than death," called back Harry, his voice echoing eerily off the stone walls.

"Then you will not mind this: AVADA..."

Arachnis!

"...KEDAVRA."

A thin chord shot out of Harry's wand and adhered itself to the ceiling high above him. Harry held the wand tightly as the chord retracted, pulling him sharply upwards and across the room, out of the path of the incoming curse. Harry swung across the room and once out of danger, released his grip on the ceiling. His momentum carried him into a back-flip before he landed on the ground, rolling to protect his legs.

He turned towards the Dark Lord, brandishing his wand, but Grindelwald was on him already. A powerful arm knocked his wand aside, and Harry saw a glowing green wand surge up towards his face. Harry brought an arm up to force Grindelwald's wand away from his face, pulling free from the Dark Lord's grip. He ducked under the next swing and then tried his own, jabbing his wand at The Assassin. Grindelwald sidestepped, pushing Harry's arm away across his body and driving his elbow into Harry's ribs.

Harry cried out in pain as the other elbow came up towards his face. As Grindelwald's elbow smashed into his face, Harry felt a warm trickle as his left eyebrow burst, and blood began to cascade down his cheek. He managed to jump back, ducking under Grindelwald's next swing. The wand, its tip glowing green, missed his head by millimetres. Harry jumped, thrusting his wand over Grindelwald's guard and driving it towards his neck, a curse already on the tip of the wand.

Grindelwald reacted instantly. He turned, grabbing Harry's wand arm with his left hand and his left lapel with his right. Swinging him around, The Assassin slammed him into the wall hard. Harry lost his grip on his wand as his head rammed into the concrete.

Grindelwald looked livid, and there was a mad gleam in his eyes as his hands closed around Harry's throat and pinned him to the wall, his feet several inches off the ground.

"No wands," Grindelwald seethed, his anger consuming him. "I want to choke the air out of you with my bare hands. I want to see the life leave your eyes and feel your body grow limp as you pass from this earth forever."

Harry thrashed as the vice-like fingers tightened on his throat. He tried to kick, to punch, to hurt Grindelwald in any way he could to make him go, but The Assassin was too strong. Despite his advanced years, his physical prowess far excelled Voldemort's, maybe even the Dark Knight's. Harry lashed out again with his foot. His boot connected sharply where he had cut The Assassin earlier. Grindelwald had healed himself so he hardly noticed. In response, he pulled Harry away from the wall, and slammed him back again, his head connecting sharply with the concrete. Coloured blobs splattered over his vision as the air was choked out of him.

Harry didn't know what made him think of the spell that now came to mind, but it was all he could think of.

"LEGILIMENS!"

Harry was suddenly in a montage of memory. He saw a castle, similar to Hogwarts, but definitely not. The place seemed darker, creepier. There was a chill in the air. There were people moving around, people in robes. He recognised the uniform that he had once seen around the shoulders of Victor Krum. This was Durmstrang.

Then Harry saw him. A boy no older than he was wearing the same uniform with a prefect badge glistening on his lapel. He had mousy blond hair and a pointed face. The hair was different, the eyes were lighter, but there was no mistaking him: this was Grindelwald.

The image lasted only a second or two before it changed. Images flashed before Harry's eyes in a blurry montage that assaulted his vision. Image after image of lessons, meetings, conversations, and all sorts of seemingly meaningless information flicked past Harry's eyes. An image of a Quidditch match flashed into his mind, and he saw Grindelwald diving through the air on a broomstick, but the image was gone a second later. Harry wasn't a skilled Legilimens and could not control the images. There was no order to the memories. The next image showed Grindelwald duelling with Katie in a graveyard, and then a second later he was back at Durmstrang. The scene changed again. A young Grindelwald was sat at a desk in what Harry assumed was a classroom, and as Harry peered over his shoulder, he found that he was close enough to read the name on the inside of the cover.

Property of Gellert Gaunt

The scene changed again...images came and went, not lasting long enough for Harry to make sense of them all. Next he found himself looking down a lavishly decorated hallway with high arching ceilings, huge French windows down the left side and giant mirrors down the other. Enormous crystal chandeliers hung from the ceiling, and between each window stood a golden candlestick over a metre high with sculpted babies climbing to reach the candles at the top. The image lasted only a second before Harry found himself staring down the same corridor in ruins. Mirrors were shattered, chandeliers were in pieces on the floor, the windows had been blown out, and large chunks of the walls were missing. In the middle of the corridor on the ornate wooden floor lay a bloody figure in magenta robes lying face down in a pool of crimson. Kneeling over him was another familiar figure with flowing black hair and a thin determined face that Harry had once seen rise from a diary.

Suddenly the montage froze and Harry's jaw dropped. Surely it wasn't possible. It couldn't be.

Grindelwald was walking down the street of Hogsmeade, a young man now, his hair still mousy blond but his eyes seemed darker than in his youth, older, and slightly creepy. He was laughing, smiling, and seemed to be having a good time. What caused Harry's heart to miss a beat was not the man himself, but his companion, a smiling Albus Dumbledore.

Suddenly the image vanished and was consumed by fire. The whole vision had not lasted ten seconds, but now the images were blocked and all Harry saw were dancing flames. Occlumency! Grindelwald had regained control.

Harry opened his eyes to find a pair of black wells boring into his own. If Grindelwald was angry before, that was nothing to how livid he seemed now. His grip tightened on Harry's throat, the exertion evident on the Dark Lord's sweating brow.

CRASH!

Suddenly a large piece of debris slammed into Grindelwald's back, forcing him into the wall. He lost his grip on Harry who, no longer supported, fell to the floor in a heap. The debris landed next to him with a thud. Grindelwald hissed in pain and turned on the spot.

Behind the Dark Lord stood Katie, her jaw set and her face a mask of grim resolve. She had slammed that chunk of concrete into his back saving Harry's life, but she was now defenceless. Grindelwald glared at her, a look of pure malice, before raising his wand to strike her down.

"Excalibus!" Harry cried.

Instantly, a spike appeared at the end of his wand. It was silver in colour and about six inches long. It was only one centimetre thick at its base but the point was razor sharp. As The Assassin raised his wand to strike Katie, Harry thrust it into Grindelwald's side just under his ribcage. The Assassin screamed in pain as Harry wrenched his wand out of Grindelwald's abdomen and the spike disappeared. Harry's hand was covered in blood, but not his own. The Dark Lord dropped his wand and clasped his hands to his side, blood flowing between his fingers. Harry wasted no time in sending a banishing charm towards him at point blank range, thrusting him to the side so as to not hit Katie.

The Dark Lord was propelled off his feet. He landed hard on his wounded side and slid along the polish floor now littered with debris, coming to a stop in one of the many fireplaces that lined the wall. Harry had an idea and summoned both his wands back to him, and placed both tips together to double the intensity of the spell.

"Reducto!" he shouted, pointing both wands at the inactive fireplace.

CRASH!

The curse blew apart the whole fireplace and debris rained down the chimney, burying the Dark Lord beneath a ton of rubble.

When the avalanche of plaster and concrete had ended all that was left behind was a pile of rubble and an ominous cloud of dust. Harry could hardly see the fireplace at all. Had he succeeded, was Grindelwald dead? There was nothing moving amongst the rubble.

"Harry?" came a strong but confused voice.

He looked up to see Katie standing a few feet away from him brandishing her own wand in his direction. Her face was a mixture of terror, shock, and awe. She stared at him for a moment, her eyes scanning his body, before she settled on his eyes again. He didn’t turn away from her steady gaze, but met it with one of his own that mirrored the bundle of mixed emotions he saw behind her eyes. After a moment she seemed to come to some conclusion, but Harry had no idea what that meant.

"Is he...?" she trailed off as she turned away and looked towards the carnage that had been the fireplace.

"Dead?" offered Harry, stepping towards her hesitantly. He paused to consider the question. "I doubt it," he answered truthfully. Suddenly a chill went down his spine.

"Get down!" he hissed to Katie, withdrawing his second wand again. He pointed them in opposite directions, his arms out to the sides like a crucifixion, a wand in each. His eyes darted around rapidly, determined not to let Grindelwald sneak up on him again.

"What is it?" whispered Katie. She had crouched down into a kneeling position, her back to him and her wand ready, searching the empty room for signs of trouble.

Harry’s mind barely had time to register that she was attempting to cover him from the rear while he covered their front and sides with his duel wands, a good tactical move on her part.

"Does your scar hurt?" Harry whispered.

He remembered what had happened next when he was in her position, but he didn't know if Grindelwald would do what Voldemort had done. The Assassin had a link to her just as Voldemort did to Harry, but would he think to use it? He had detected the truth when Katie had told him the Prophecy was destroyed, which meant he was a Legilimens. If he saw Harry watching her, he might reappear and curse Harry. He didn't know what to do. Was this what Dumbledore had felt? He seemed so calm about it, but Harry was so unsure of himself. He kept turning, looking for any sign of the Dark Lord.

Suddenly Katie screamed.

Harry spun to face Katie who was writhing on the ground, her face contorted with pain and droplets of blood having appeared along her scar. Harry felt a flush of pity for her, remembering what it had felt like, remembering the pain as Voldemort has forced his way into his mind. He hoped she had the sense and strength to think of Sirius, to drive him out as Harry once had. Then again it hadn't been sense, he was praying for an end when he had thought of Sirius. He just hoped she could do it. He levelled both wands at her, or rather at Grindelwald, but he knew he couldn't do a thing because he would only end up killing Katie. It was all up to her now.

"Kill her, Potter," sneered Katie, her face a mocking smirk then abruptly contorted in pain.

He knew what it felt like, he wanted to help her end it but he couldn't do a God-damned thing.

"If Death is nothing," Katie hissed, "then kill the girl!"

Katie's hands grabbed the lapels of her jacket and tore them apart, revealing her bra-clad chest and exposing her heart. Harry felt compelled to avert his eyes for Katie's dignity, but he dared not turn his back on the Dark Lord.

"Come on, Potter, do it! Kill her...end her suffering! She wants you to do it. She’s begging for it to end..."

Katie screamed, a high-pitched wail that confirmed the agony Harry knew she was in. His heart twisted with a similar agony but one born of compassion and pity. He had to do something... anything.

He took a step closer and levelled the wands helplessly, knowing he couldn’t do it. He also knew that Grindelwald knew he couldn't do it, which made him weak in the Dark Lord’s eyes ? a weakness that could be exploited later.

Your compassion will always be your Achilles’ heel, the Dark Knight sneered.

Then something happened. A look of surprise appeared on Katie’s face, which quickly turned to panic as she looked down at her body. Suddenly she threw her head back,

"SIRIUS!"

Her voice echoed around the deserted room, a cry of pain and anguish, but to Harry it was hope. That was Katie; she was still in there.

Yes, thought Harry, Come on Katie. Think of Sirius, think of your parents, drive him out!

Katie clutched at her temples, her face contorted with pain. Harry hoped that that was Grindelwald in pain and not Katie. Come on, concentrate on Sirius, thought Harry, forgetting his anger at her for loving him. You can do it! Suddenly Katie’s hands flew to her heart, clutching her chest in what appeared to be agony.

"SIRIUS!"

Her head shot up and she stared at Harry desperately.

"What is this magic?" she cried in desperation as Grindelwald struggled to remain in control. She screamed once more and suddenly there was a flash of blinding white light and a tremendous bang. Harry covered his eyes and recoiled under the force of the eruption of magic. When he opened them, Katie and Grindelwald were both lying on the floor struggling to move.

"Freeze!" yelled Harry, aiming at Grindelwald. "INCARCERUS".

Bonds shot out of Harry wand as The Assassin shakily got to his feet. Grindelwald raised a hand and the ropes disintegrated in midair. With a flick of his wrist, a knife was flying towards Harry, who tried to move but was not fast enough. The blade stuck point first into his armour, but thankfully did not penetrate. Suddenly the doors to the atrium burst open and in poured no less than ten Aurors, Dawlish and Kingsley amongst them, and Fudge standing to the rear of the charge. Grindelwald glared at the Minister for a second before summoning his wand back to him. He then grabbed Bellatrix and with one final glare at Harry Disapparated.

"Don't move!" ordered a voice. "You... hands in the air!"

Harry turned to see Dawlish and a squad of Aurors pointing their wands at him. He grimaced but complied, dropping his wand and the sword he had just picked up. The clang echoed around the remains of the entrance hall as the Aurors encircled Harry and Katie. Standing there with his hands in the air, he took a moment to assess the damage. The room was in ruins. Every tile had been ripped from the wall; the chandelier and one of the fireplaces had been demolished along with the fountain of the Magical Brethren. There were vast chunks missing from walls and the floor where curses had hit, and the floor was littered with debris. The place was a mess.

"Dawlish?" called Fudge’s shaky voice as he pushed his way past the Aurors. "What’s going on?"

Harry glanced up to see the Minister of Magic looking around in amazement, his jaw hung low and a mournful, gobsmacked expression on his withered face. His countenance suggested that he was hoping this was all a hoax.

"Minister, it was him, it was You-Know-Who!" answered one of the men Harry had never seen before dressed in the scarlet robes of the Aurors. "I saw him with my own eyes, Sir. It was him!"

"I know," stammered Fudge reluctantly, looking from Harry, to Katie, to the chaos around the room. He let out a short whimper as his eyes fell on the remains of the fountain. "Merlin’s beard..." he muttered to himself. "The Dark Lord, in the Ministry of Magic..."

"Is it really so hard to believe, Cornelius?" came another steady voice just as Tom Riddle appeared behind the Minister.

Fudge spun around at the sound of the familiar voice, his eyes wide and his jaw shaking. He instantly recoiled two paces in panic, crashing into two Aurors and pulling them in front of him as a barrier. For the first time ever, Harry was glad to see the Headmaster, though he was far too late in his opinion. Where was he when Harry needed some support?

"Riddle!" Fudge gasped from behind the Aurors. "What...I...seize him!"

Dawlish and the other Aurors raised their wands to comply, but Riddle only looked bored.

"And watch him!" added Fudge pointing at Harry angrily. He seemed to have recovered his confidence now he was behind Aurors, and Riddle was not trying to get him. Harry instinctively raised his own wand to protect himself as several Aurors turned to him, following the Minister's command. Riddle on the other hand made no move to defend himself.

"Cornelius," said Riddle calmly, gesturing for the Aurors to step aside. To Harry's surprise, they did. "We have been in this position once before," the Headmaster continued. "I am willing to fight your Aurors again if I must, but I think we can both agree that the time has come to see sense. You have seen with your own eyes that Kathryn and I have been telling the truth for six months. He is back."

Fudge stood gaping like a goldfish as the gravity of these words hit home.

"Furthermore," continued Riddle, pretending not to notice. "If you look in the Department of Mysteries you will find that there are several of your missing Death Eaters, held captive down there by an anti-Apparition jinx. Is this proof enough for you that we are not just troublemakers?"

"I...well...you see...it's just that..." stuttered Fudge, as the fact that he was in a hole dawned on him. He appeared to recover slightly, however, as he barked out an order. "Dawlish, go to the Department of Mysteries. Arrest the Death Eaters."

Dawlish gestured to a few of his fellow Aurors and they moved off to comply with Fudge’s orders.

Fudge turned back to face Harry and Riddle. "And the boy?" he asked Riddle, gesturing to Harry.

"You have just witnessed him nearly defeating the Dark Lord single-handedly," said Riddle with a smile that Harry might have mistaken for pride, were it not on the face of Lord Voldemort. "Do you really want to place him under arrest?"

"But he can't be Potter," protested Fudge. "He's dead. You, yourself, testified to that. Not to mention the fact that Harry Potter was by all accounts a mediocre wizard at best."

Harry felt a glimmer of annoyance, but he didn't have the strength or patience to try to argue the point with Fudge.

"Whatever has happened will make for a fascinating tale," Riddle said. "One I hope Harry will share with me upon our return to Hogwarts." He placed a comforting hand on each of Harry's shoulders then turned and spoke to Harry directly. "Could you please check on Miss Bell, Harry? I think she needs to see a friendly face right about now."

Harry nodded, grateful that Riddle had given him an excuse to leave.

As much as he would like to see Fudge sweat and suffer, Harry was relieved as he walked away from the conversation. He had more important things to take care of right now rather than dealing with an idiotic politician. Katie was still lying where she had fallen staring up at the ceiling, her arms held limply out to the side, one leg straight and the other bent with her body twisted slightly. She looked half dead. A medi-witch and an Auror were crouching next to her, attempting to help her. Harry knew from experience that they could do no good.

"Back off," he ordered, standing over the pair. They both looked up and their jaws dropped. Harry realised that he must look a sight. His hands were covered in blood and his jaw housed a deep cut, which was bleeding down his once-white front. He had a knife protruding from his chest, or so it seemed since his armour was hidden beneath his robes. He wrenched this out now and dropped it on the floor with a clatter.

"I said back off," said Harry again, this time more firmly. "There is nothing wrong with her that you can fix. There are injured people in the Department of Mysteries. Go on... they need you, she doesn't."

They exchanged uncertain looks before the Auror nodded. The two of them scurried out of the room. Harry watched them go and then, after a quick glance at Riddle who was still arguing with Fudge, he knelt next to Katie, noticing that she was on the edge of consciousness. Her eyes were unfocussed, her breathing shallow, she could hardly move. Harry removed his gloves and then slowly reached out and took hold of her torn robes, pulling them gently together to cover up her exposed chest, averting his eyes in the process. With some of her dignity restored, Harry raised his hand and gently laid it on her forehead, covering the infamous scar. A thin film of sweat and blood covered her skin, and she was very hot. Her breathing became faster at his touch and she groaned softly.

Her head rolled over to face him, her eyes coming into focus.

"Harry," she managed to say, her broken voice no more than a whisper.

Harry smiled kindly down at her.

"Shhh," he whispered, brushing the hair away from her eyes. "It's over now. He's gone."

A look of fear and then relief crossed her face as she gave a small nod. Harry felt such a wave of pity for her as he stared into her glistening blue eyes. She had a soft, kind face beneath the stony mask she was forced to present day after day. Such was her exhaustion this evening that any form of mask had vanished. There was no sign of the teacher of the RA, not a trace of the warrior destined to face the Dark Lord. This was pure, naked, Kathryn Bell.

Poor Katie, he thought. He remembered losing Sirius, nearly getting his friends killed, discovering his fate... and all of that after being ignored for a year. She didn't deserve this. If Harry had known a way to spare her this torment, he would have done so. He stared into those deep blue eyes for what seemed like an eternity, wishing he could have protected her from all that pain. Maybe he had been wrong not to tell her about this in advance. Maybe he should have warned her, maybe even told her the truth from the very beginning. Maybe he’d had a hand in tonight's events ? maybe this was his failure as much as anyone else's.

Just like Sirius.

He had died all over again, and this time it really was Harry's fault. He had managed to convince himself that the first time hadn't been his fault, but undeniably, this time it was. If only he had kept his mouth shut, if only he had done something to help him. The image flashed across his mind, and a shiver ran up his spine.

It's my fault.

Katie groaned again, shifting her head slightly, and diverting Harry’s thoughts from Sirius. She was shivering despite having a fever. Her eyes darted around the room before coming to rest on Harry once more.

"He was in my head," she croaked, barely able to speak. "It was him. I could feel...so much pain."

"Shhh," said Harry kindly. "I know. You wished you were dead and that you would see your parents and Sirius again, didn't you?" he asked, gently stroking her cheek with the back of his fingers.

The smallest smile appeared on her lips, and ever so slightly she nodded.

"That’s what defeated him," whispered Harry. "Your love for Sirius, your parents, and your friends drove him out. He can never take that from you."

Katie's eyebrows narrowed and for a second the suspicious RA mistress was back, but then she dissolved into the despairing, defeated girl she had been seconds before. "What's happening?" she asked, trying to sit up and look around. She managed to raise her head and shoulders before the exertion became too much and she sunk back down.

Harry caught her, and slipping a knee behind her back, he held her into his chest. Her body was soft and warm, yet trembled constantly. Her limbs were limp, as if there was no strength left in her. Harry remembered how defeated he had felt, how he hadn't had the strength of will to go on fighting. He also remembered what came next. He wished he could protect her from it, but it was something that she needed to know.

"Shhh, it's okay," he whispered again, gently rubbing her other arm as her head lopped against his shoulder. "It's over. Riddle is just saying 'I told you so' to Fudge."

"What about you?" asked Katie, raising her head with tear-stained eyes and looking him in the eye. "Who...what are you?"

Harry sighed, tensing slightly.

"I will tell you the truth when we return to Hogwarts," he promised. "You have my word."

Harry saw a glimmer of frustration cross her eyes, but she was obviously too tired to argue. He gently released her from his grip, laying her back down.

"I'll just get us a Portkey."

He wasn't ready to show Fudge or Riddle that he could Flame through any anti-Apparition ward on the planet ? that information was to be kept as a surprise for later if he needed it. He picked up the discarded dagger which he had pulled out of his armour moments ago and headed over to Riddle, who was still arguing with Fudge.

"Professor," he said, interrupting the Minister's conversation without any thought for manners. "We need to get Katie back to Hogwarts. We need a Portkey."

He held out the dagger to Riddle, who took it with a nod and tapped it sharply with his wand. "Portus!"

"Now see here, Riddle," blurted out the Minister as the dagger glowed blue. "That's an unauthorised Portkey. You can't do that in front of the Minister of Magic!"

"He just did," said Harry rudely, taking the dagger back and glaring at Fudge. "Now stop the petty politics and do something useful for a change. Tell the world that Grindelwald is back, take steps to protect households, and have the Aurors kick over a few stones. First, though, you will remove the old hag, Dolores Umbridge, from Hogwarts by tomorrow morning or I will remove her by force."

"You can't speak to me like that, young man!" seethed Fudge, his face magenta with rage.

"While Harry's manners leave a lot to be desired," said Riddle calmly. "His point is certainly valid, Cornelius. I will give you perhaps half an hour of my time this evening to cover the relevant points of what has happened here tonight. If you need further assistance, you can contact me at Hogwarts. Letters addressed to Headmaster shall find me."

Harry turned on his heel and marched over to Katie. Kneeling down, he scooped her up in a bridal carry, her head resting against his chest. She was heavier than she looked, but not too much to carry. Her whole body trembled as he held her, and he could feel her rapid breathing even through his armour. Harry held the Portkey in one hand, and moved his hand to make sure it was touching Katie.

"Is it really over?" asked Katie softly, raising her head from his shoulder and staring at him once more.

"No," sighed Harry with regret, shaking his head sadly. "I'm so sorry, Katie. There’s more to come tonight, I’m afraid. This nightmare isn’t over yet. There are things you need to know, and I’m going to make sure Riddle tells you everything. Activate!"

~~~~ + ~~~~

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