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A Stranger in the Promised Land Chapter VII(part1)  

2009-07-17 18:59:32|  分类: HP转载 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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A Stranger

in the

Promised Land

~~~~ Chapter VII ~~~~

First Things First

"What would you do if someone told you to fight for freedom?

Would you answer the call or run away like a little pussy

'Cause the only reason that you're here,

Is 'cause folks died for you in the past

So maybe now it's your turn to die kicking some ass!

Freedom isn't free

It costs folks like you and me

And if we don't all chip in

We'll never pay that bill

Freedom isn't free

No, there's a hefty fuckin' fee.

And if you don't throw in your buck 'o five

Who will?"

~ Freedom Isn’t Free (Team America: World Police)

Harry took a deep breath, suddenly nervous about the sea of inquisitive faces that resided beyond the door. He had faced the inquisition once before on another world, and had no wish to go through it again. At least this time it wouldn’t be in an interrogation cell with Veritaserum pumping through his veins. The stares, the hostile looks, the suspicion and people twisting every word he said had been degrading and humiliating, and it was an experience he hoped never to repeat. It wasn't as if he feared the Order in the conventional sense, but it was a horrible experience and he would rather avoid it if he could. But sadly, there was no way around it. Harry's only hope was that Riddle, wanting to keep the facts hidden, would protect him from the barrage of questions he felt sure he would face – especially from Mad?Eye.

He extended his hand towards the door, taking a deep breath as he did so, psyching himself up. Just as his fingers closed around the cold brass knob, a voice behind him called his name. Harry let go and turned to see the headmaster coming along the corridor, flanked by Professor McGonagall who looked very business?like in her silvery?grey robes. Her face was stern, and she carried a sheaf of papers under one arm.

"Ah, good morning," Riddle greeted both Harry and Katie as he arrived. He seemed infuriating happy for this time of the morning, which coupled with Harry's still aching limbs, only served to annoy him. "How are you both feeling?" Riddle asked.

Katie just shrugged and muttered ‘fine’, though she didn’t meet anyone’s eyes. It was a sure sign that she was anything but fine, and after the events of last night, Harry couldn’t blame her. He could see from her slumped shoulders and glazed expression that she was utterly defeated. Harry knew how she felt, having spent many hours wandering these corridors aimlessly, trudging on alone, just him and his guilt. He had taken a long time before he felt up to talking to anyone. He could only wonder how long it would take her.

"I feel like I was trampled by a herd of Hippogriffs," said Harry plainly.

The corner of Riddle’s mouth curled in amusement as he glanced around to make sure they were alone.

"Before we go in," said Riddle softly. "I must ask for discretion from both of you." He paused to let his words sink in before he explained himself. "We broached certain topics last night which, if made public, would cause serious problems."

"As in your colourful past?" asked Harry, his voice flat.

Riddle turned to look Harry in the eye. His face betrayed no anger, only a firm, serious business face.

"Yes," he said, making no attempt to hide or deny it. "In addition, we discussed a device last night, beginning with the letter ‘H’. If even that word became public, then people would soon start asking very difficult questions. My concern is valid. How long before someone thinks to make their own? How long before we are neck deep in bodies because everyone wants what Voldemort once wanted?"

Harry glanced quickly over Riddle’s shoulder as he spoke and saw McGonagall’s raised eyebrow. It was clear to see from her expression that she was none the wiser about Riddle’s past. She showed no sign of recognising the name Voldemort, and looked slightly perplexed at the ‘H?word’.

"Do you understand what I mean?" asked Riddle pointedly. He turned to Katie and then Harry in turn, and they both nodded.

Harry couldn’t deny that he had a point, and was impressed that Riddle had explained his reasons which was something that Dumbledore seldom did.

Satisfied, Riddle continued. "In addition, we must make no mention of Harry’s true origins. Only the four of us, as well as Madam Pomfrey, know the truth. Again, should it be made public, how long before this doorway is found, and what would happen if the Ministry were to take it from you?"

Again Harry had to nod at Riddle’s logic.

"The Prophecy, I would also ask be kept a secret," the headmaster continued. "We do not want to invite further attempts on the lives of either one of you."

Katie nodded, accepting of his decision. Harry didn’t disagree. For some reason he couldn’t explain, he wanted to keep Katie safe as much as Riddle; he cared little about protecting himself and felt confident he could handle himself should he be attacked, but Katie was all new to this and hadn’t had the same advantages he’d had. No, he agreed with Riddle on this one too, but for different reasons.

"And finally, I would ask that you keep the history of Lord Voldemort to yourselves. Such knowledge would destroy confidence in the Order at the time we need it the most. I know I have no right to ask this of either of you, but in the interests of the Order, I ask you to hold your tongues."

"Okay," said Katie, and as Riddle looked at him, Harry nodded as well. As much as he would like to see Riddle laid out for all to see, he knew that what people needed the most now was hope and faith, and if that meant Riddle took the role of guiding light, then so be it. Morale was key. However, that didn’t mean that Riddle could hide behind it forever.

"I will need to know what happened sooner or later," Harry said, not threateningly but firmly enough to be a stern reminder to the headmaster.

Riddle gave a small nod. "Very well. In that case, we can begin. Inside, you will find the Order of the Phoenix. Some you know, others you don’t. In the meeting, if you have anything to say feel free to contribute, but I would advise you to sit back and listen. There will be a lot of information given this morning." He paused dramatically, gesturing to the door, which magically opened for them. "When you’re ready..."

The Room was set out in the form of a large meeting room. The carpet was a deep blue, and the walls were covered in panels of polished wood, except for the wall to Harry's left which appeared to be a window looking out over the Hogwart’s grounds and the lake. There was a fireplace at the far end in which a fire was happily crackling away, and in the middle of the room was a large oval shaped table made of mahogany and topped with several jugs of water and glasses. There were perhaps thirty large high?backed chairs around the edge of the table, several of which were already occupied. Artificial sunlight shone in though the false windows, glistening off the polish wood, and making the room seem inviting, despite Harry's apprehensions.

He stopped a few paces inside and took a moment to look around the faces in room, taking in all the people present. While a few had already taken their seats at the table, the rest were gathered in small groups, deep in conversations which died down as Riddle entered. Or perhaps it was Katie, or even Harry, who was responsible for the stunned silence that filled the room. To Harry, the silence was deafening. His mouth was suddenly dry and he could feel himself sweating as he quickly glanced around at the curious eyes of the Order, which were fixed on him. The old familiars were all present, and Harry could see many of his former friends in various groups around the room, a blend of both the Order he knew and those he had met in the Unholy Land. The only glaring absence he noticed was Severus Snape, much to Harry’s delight. The greasy old sod was probably under a rock somewhere and, as far as Harry was concerned, that was exactly where he should stay. There were also many others who he had never seen before. This did not altogether surprise Harry. For one thing, he was literally in a different world. And secondly, even in his world he had never seen or known about the remainder of the Order of the Phoenix. Harry doubted that anyone except Dumbledore had known every single person in the Order. He could feel their eyes burning into his face as they stared. It was an odd feeling to have such old friends, people he cared about, looking at him so suspiciously. He felt somewhat embarrassed and very claustrophobic.

While Harry stood rooted to the spot, Katie had moved past him apparently unaffected by the stares, and had begun to move around the table looking for her name. Harry took a deep breath and followed her, not looking anyone in the eye.

"Ladies and gentlemen," McGonagall’s shrill voice called over the sudden murmuring in room. "We will be starting in exactly three minutes. Please help yourself to refreshments and take a seat."

Harry decided he would make do without and continued to circle the table, avoiding any hint of eye contact as he moved to find his seat. As soon as he found his name, he dropped into the chair and leaned back, hoping the high back of the chair would hide him from view.

To his left, Mrs. Weasley held Katie in a bone?crushing hug as she fussed over her. Harry felt a rush of sadness as he watched and suddenly felt very alone. It should be him over there, not her. He used to have people who loved him like that instead of staring at him with fear, awe and hatred. Without warning he suddenly felt very homesick. He didn’t care if it was someone back home or his mother in the Unholy Land, but he desperately wanted a hug. He realised how childish that sounded, especially from him, but he have never felt more alone in the world. At times like these he hated the unfairness of it all.

Mrs. Weasley released Katie, and then Mr. Weasley gave her a quick hug and kiss on the cheek. Then Fred, George, Bill, and Charlie were also there to congratulate and console her all at once. Turning away from the scene before his eyes started to well up, Harry turned his gaze to the right. Moody was watching him with both eyes, a look of distrust etched into his scared face. It was clear that the Auror wanted to give Harry a good grilling, and Harry consequently made a mental note to avoid Mad?Eye for the rest of his time here. Kingsley and Tonks were also deep in conversation with Frank Longbottom, while Alice, who stood with them, was looking towards Harry. He met her eye for a second and she nodded, gave him a small smile, and then turned away. Harry guessed that meant "thanks for saving my life yesterday", but he couldn’t be sure. Her hand was clearly healed and she seemed to have recovered from the concussion.

Then Harry heard his name, although it wasn’t directed at him. He turned back to the Weasleys to find them all staring at him.

"...he’s the one you need to thank. He rescued us all," said Katie, gesturing to Harry.

Harry rose to his feet out of politeness. Mrs. Weasley covered the distance to Harry in less than a second, and the next thing he knew the air was being crushed out of his lungs.

"Thank you, thank you," she whispered as she hugged him. "If it wasn’t for you..."

Over her shoulder Harry saw the rest of the Weasley clan holding back, uncertain how to treat him.

As soon as Mrs. Weasley released him and he found himself able to breathe once more, Harry spoke.

"It’s easy to arrive at the eleventh hour, but the person who saved their lives was the person who taught them to defend themselves," he said, pointing at Katie. "If it wasn’t for her, they wouldn’t be here now."

"Thank you both," breathed Mrs. Weasley, her eyes welling up. "I am so glad Ron and Ginny have such good friends."

Harry was unsure of this Harry’s past relationship with the Weasleys, but he doubted he had been invited to a family barbeque. However, he wasn’t in a place to comment ? he was just slightly relieved to be somewhere familiar and not quite so alone.

"You’re Lily and James’ son, aren’t you?" asked Mr. Weasley politely as he shook Harry’s hand.

Harry nodded.

"It’s a pity I have never had the chance to speak to you before. I knew your parents quite well. Lily even baby?sat Bill, Charlie, and Percy a few times." His face grew grim. "Such a shame what happened to them. Our deepest condolences for your loss."

"Oh," said Harry lamely, not sure what else to say. "Thanks." It felt odd talking to Mr. Weasley like this, as if they had never met before, and he suddenly felt the irony of his situation. It wasn’t everyday you met an old friend for the first time ever. "Nice to meet you," he added.

"Good morning," Riddle said clearly, his tone strong enough to silence any idle chatter.

Harry turned to see Riddle round the table to take his place at the head. This was a sure sign that the meeting was about to start and so Harry, along with the rest of those gathered, moved back to the table to sit down. He sank back into the chair and crossed his arms, waiting for Riddle to speak. It was then that he noticed he was sitting directly opposite Katie, with McGonagall to his left. Next to her was Riddle. Opposite McGonagall was Slughorn, and further on down sat the Weasley clan and all the others. He, along with Katie, had been given a place of honour near the head of the table.

"Right," Riddle began.. "Thank you all for coming on a Sunday. We have a lot to get through, and so I hope you can all bear with me. First though, it is my sad duty to inform you that Sirius Black was killed last night during the events in the Ministry of Magic. Sirius was a good and loyal friend with an infinite capacity for fun and joy, a capacity that not even the Dementors of Azkaban could take from him. He was a valuable member of the Order, and Godfather to both Kathryn and Harry."

Katie's eyebrows shot up and her head instantly turned to Harry, her lips narrowed as she stared questioningly at him. She had clearly not known that, and judging by the look on her face, she was not overly pleased about it. Harry didn’t know what to say or do, and so he could only look away as Riddle continued.

"He will be sadly missed by all of us. I would like to hold a minute's silence in loving memory of Sirius Black."

Riddle rose to his feet and bowed his head respectfully. The rest of the room followed suit, their demeanour solemn. To Harry's right, a wizard wearing a flat?cap reached up to remove it from his head.

Harry could have heard a pin drop in the silence that followed. The room was utterly still, utterly silent. Those around the table had their heads bowed, many even had their eyes closed as each person contemplated what Sirius had meant to them. As far as Harry understood, although head?strong, Sirius had been liked amongst the Order. Well, except for Snape...who wasn't even here now. He guessed Snape wasn't in the Order in this world. With no Dumbledore to trust him, Snape most likely hadn't been able to turn spy.

Good, I didn't want him here anyway, he thought bitterly.

Harry cast the thought of the Potions Master aside, as he was supposed to be thinking of Sirius, not his enemy. Reverently, he closed his eyes and thought back to when Sirius had come to see him during the Tournament, hiding in a cave, living off rats. He remembered the feeling of elation when Sirius had offered him a home as they had led Pettigrew up towards the school. He recalled the time when Sirius had wandered around the house singing ‘God Rest Ye Merry Hippogriff’ the Christmas before last. He had barely had time to mourn Sirius before he had been thrust into the Unholy Land. It all seemed so long ago, but last night’s events had brought it all oozing to the surface, and Harry found himself longing for that life with his Godfather. All that was gone now, all hope of a life like that was gone. There was only one thing left – Voldemort.

"Right," said Riddle as the sixty?seconds came to a close. "Now, we can begin. You may have noticed that we have two additions to our number today, one of which is not even of age, but I think we can all agree that after last night, this is the best place for them. Kathryn Bell you all know, or at least know of, and the young man sitting opposite her is Harry Potter." He paused to let the words sink in. Harry heard several excited whispers, including the words 'Lily' and 'James'. He, on the other hand, kept his eyes on Riddle.

"I assume by now you have all read the Special Edition of the Daily Prophet, " he asked, looking around the table. There was a murmur of agreement, which was enough of an answer for Riddle to continue. "Although the details of the article are mainly speculation, the gist of the article is correct. Miss Bell and her friends did enter the Ministry of Magic last night in an attempt to rescue Sirius. They were ambushed in the Department of Mysteries by the Death Eaters, lead by Lucius Malfoy, who is now incarcerated in Azkaban. The object of the exercise was to recover the Prophecy we have been protecting for the last few months. Luckily none of the students were seriously or permanently injured, thanks largely to the efforts of Harry Potter here, who arrived in time to help us bring the conflict to an end."

"And do a lot more besides, according to the Prophet, " added someone down the far end of the table. A mixed murmur of approval circulated the room, while Harry forced himself to look straight ahead and avoid eye contact.

Riddle nodded in acknowledgement, but did not change the subject. "Be that as it may, the main point is that the Prophecy has been destroyed. This naturally means that all guard duties are abandoned, as they are now obsolete. With regards to Harry and Kathryn, their safety is now paramount, and for that reason I will not divulge any more details about what happened last night. There were some finer points, which if made public would be most troublesome. I appreciate your silence."

"Our second order of business," Riddle continued, "is going to be the fallout from last night, of which there is likely to be a lot. Kingsley?" Riddle gestured for the Auror to take over as he sat back down.

The man in question rose to his feet. He wore a crisp grey suit, as opposed to the flowing robes he normally wore. If Harry had to guess, he would say it was Kingsley’s attempt to blend in with Muggles, which made Harry wonder what the Auror had been doing. Kingsley cleared his throat and then began.

"Most of the Ministry is in an uproar," he said, not splitting hairs. "It is believed that Fudge's handling of the situation over the last few months has been... abysmal, I believe was the word used."

"Too right," muttered someone to Harry's right.

"There is a lot of pressure for him to resign, and even whispers of a Vote of No Confidence," continued Kingsley. "In all probability, Fudge is not likely to last another week. They say that he should have told everyone the truth last June and backed yourself, Professor, and young Kathryn here. I believe that Fudge, being a politician, will make one last attempt to keep his office and to do this, he will need to be seen to have the support of Miss Bell."

"Me?" echoed Katie disbelievingly.

"It's politics," answered Tonks sympathetically. "You have been seen to be fighting, and your past speaks for itself. If you were to talk to the Prophet and tell everyone that Fudge was doing a good job and his recent activities were all part of some great plan, he might save his career."

"Sod that," scoffed Katie.

"I couldn't have put it better myself," continued Kingsley, with a wink at Katie. "It is a foregone conclusion that Fudge will be removed from office within a week, though I would expect a letter from him begging for your support." Kingsley then turned his eyes to Harry. "And possibly one for you too, Mr Potter."

"I wouldn’t piss on him if he was on fire," muttered Harry rolling his eyes. Those who heard sniggered while McGonagall gave him a stern look, before steering the conversation back onto the straight and narrow.

"If he does leave," she asked "who is likely to replace him? Is it someone we can trust?"

"Trust is a big word in politics," replied Kingsley. "The most popular choice is Rufus Scrimgoeur."

Harry paused. The name rang a bell in the back of his mind. He had heard it once before, but couldn't think for the life of him where. It was on the tip of his tongue, but he couldn’t quite get there.

"He is currently head of the Auror Division," explained Kingsley, "working for Amelia Bones. He is certainly a stronger man than Fudge, and has seen combat. He is sharper, more intelligent, and more likely to get the job done. His methods are liable to be firmer, but whether they are just or not remains to be seen. As to the question of his trustworthiness, I believe we can expect him to fight for the right side. He is certainly no Death Eater, but I do not believe we can trust him to help us – he, too, will want Kathryn, and possibly Harry, to endorse him. Ironically, it would be better for us if Fudge remained in power, as he would do whatever the Headmaster asks in order to worm his way back into his favour."

"In other words," said Riddle. "We cannot count on the Ministry, even now?"

"No," said Kingsley decisively. "Now that the world knows He is back, more will flock to him in fear. If the Ministry isn't compromised already, it soon will be. I think we have to accept that the Ministry is a haven for Death Eaters. What they know, the Dark Lord will also know in a matter of hours, so all operations are to be conducted beneath the radar, as the Muggles would say. Our communication is secure, but I believe we need to find new ways of transportation, as we are liable to be tracked.

"Furthermore," continued the Auror. "Since we are talking about new additions, it is now necessary for everyone to be able to produce a corporeal Patronus. The jailers report that the Dementors have left Azkaban. We are looking at attacks becoming quite common, especially around North East England and Scotland, so instruct family members and friends on how to do it and spread the word – let's get as many of the general public in a position where they can defend themselves. Also, I would like Fred and George Weasley to see me afterwards to see what we can do about a Wheeze to ward off Dementors, as well as some shield charm bits and pieces for the general public. I’d be interested to hear your ideas, gentlemen."

The twins nodded and George made a note in a brightly coloured notebook bearing the WWW logo.

"On another front, screening is to be carried out on Ministry employees," Kingsley continued, "but it won’t catch everyone, especially since the Magical Law Enforcement department is running an emergency recruitment drive, and that includes the Aurors. We in the MLE department need numbers quickly, but we have to filter out Death Eater sleepers and moles. More tests mean less numbers, and we need to find a balance. I’ll keep you updated as we go."

"What is the Ministry doing about Harry and Kathryn?" asked Riddle.

"With regards to Miss Bell," answered Kingsley, "nothing, besides trying to get her on?side. Mr. Potter is more complicated. Since everyone knows so little about him, they are not sure how to play him. Now that the Prophet has lumped him and Miss Bell together I think we can expect the same sort of treatment. There is just one more thing though." He turned to face Harry instead of the room at large. "You are sixteen correct?" Kingsley asked. Harry nodded, wandering where this was going. "You therefore did a lot of underage magic last night, however the sensors were never tripped. Somehow, the Trace has been blocked or disabled."

"Trace?" asked Harry, bewildered.

"It’s the spell that the Ministry uses to detect underage magic," explained Kingsley. "I have personally checked the Ministry’s records and the Trace was put on Harry James Potter the night you were sent to live with your Aunt and Uncle, and will not be removed until you turn seventeen. The confusing thing is that the Trace was not tripped last night when you performed magic."

"Right", said Harry slowly. He paused for a moment, not answering. Harry had often wondered exactly how the Ministry detected underage magic, but had never really investigated it. To him it seemed a rather flawed method, considering how it had failed to tell the difference between him and Dobby the summer before his second year. As for how the Trace had been removed, it had been applied to Harry from this world and that Harry had not done any magic last night on account of him being dead, so no wonder the Trace had never been tripped. However, Harry couldn’t very well tell that to Kingsley.

"If I may," continued Kingsley. "I would like to do a little test." He walked around the back of the chairs until he stood behind Harry. He was acutely aware of everyone watching him and Kingsley with interest and he struggled not to react.

"Hold still," said the Auror gently, as he swept his wand past Harry’s head. Nothing happened.

"Interesting," said Kingsley. "No wonder no alarms have been tripped, you do not even appear to have the Trace at all."

A murmur went around the room at his. Unable to think of any defence, Harry kept his mouth shut. There were two possible answers in Harry's eyes. One explanation was that the trace that had been applied to this body had been done in the Unholy Land and Kingsley couldn't detect the magic from another world. The other option was also quite probable: perhaps the Dark Knight had found a way to remove the Trace, since he had been able to train in secret and remain at large for so long in his own world. Harry stared around at the sea of inquisitive faces. "Don’t look at me," he said calmly, and hopefully innocently, as Kingsley returned to his seat. "I’d never heard of the Trace until you mentioned it."

Seated once again, Kingsley glanced over at Riddle, who nodded, before continuing.

"However it happened, it isn't an insurmountable problem in my opinion. Most of the Ministry's top brass would not dare touch you because of your political worth," said Kingsley, bringing him back out of his stupor. "On a related note, I have persuaded Brian Carter to drop the assault charge levelled against you." He and Riddle exchanged a knowing glance while the rest of the room looked confused. Harry expelled a deep breath, glad that he didn’t have to deal with that minor complication.

"Thanks," he told Kingsley gratefully.

"Right," interrupted Riddle, moving the conversation forward. "Getting back to the problem at hand, what provisions are being taken to protect people?"

"Well, it is a little too soon for a definitive plan to be ready," replied Kingsley. "It will take at least a week, especially since the backstabbing in the race to be the next Minister has effectively begun. Real work is being pushed aside as department heads scramble to be next in line. Lots of Prophet interviews, not a lot of real work."

"Any ideas Harry?" asked Riddle.

Harry was taken aback at being asked a direct question. He had expected to sit here and listen, but actually being asked his opinion by Riddle was a slight shock. He was suddenly aware of everyone staring at him in surprise and felt himself go red. Feeling pressured but unwilling to look foolish in front of the Order, he shifted slightly in his seat, thinking back to last summer. What had he read in the Prophet?

"Kingsley's right," he said slowly. "Whoever the new Minister is will continue politicking away." Feeling slightly more confident, he continued, remembering the useless purple information pack he had received last summer. "We will all receive a personal safety pamphlet, giving advice on how to protect homes. If any of you in the Ministry can get onto the teams writing them, try to make them of more use than 'run, hide, Apparate away'. The idea is to reassure people, not panic them. Also, I think we are going to see a series of arrests in the near future, but mostly for show. I think some innocent people are going to get caught up in this, simply to raise the number of arrests."

"How do you know all this?" asked a pompous looking witch on the other side of the table. "Why should we trust the word of a teenager?" All around him Harry could hear barely audible mutterings of agreement.

Harry stared levelly back at her, refusing to answer. Luckily for him, Riddle came to his rescue.

"I think Harry’s right," he announced. "If Scrimgoeur does become Minister, his first priority is going to be to re?establish faith in the Ministry, and to be seen to be doing something. This means smoke and mirrors, much like Fudge. There is a part of me that agrees with him. Faith in the system, in the Ministry, is what we need right now. Whatever your private feelings are, please try to reassure those you meet that the Ministry is coping."

"Who is this Scrimgoeur?" asked Harry. "I know I have heard that name before." Where the hell had he heard it? It was there on the tip of his tongue, but he couldn't quite reach it. Scrimgoeur, Rufus Scrimgoeur?

"Here," said a woman to his right. "The Ministry's own file on him."

She slid it file over the polished surface to Harry. He picked it up and opened it. Inside there were several sheets of parchment with various details listed out for him, but what drew Harry's eye was a picture at the top, of a man who largely resembled a lion. As Harry stared at the photo, he suddenly realised where he had seen him before and his blood ran cold. It was in a dream, a memory of the Dark Knight's. He had murdered both Scrimgoeur and his wife in cold blood, cutting them open with his sword and watching them bleed all over the floor. Staring at the picture, he could almost feel the cold steel of the sword in his right hand, and the trembling throat of the woman in his right. Trembling, Harry closed the file, forcing himself to look away from the accusing eyes that stared out of the picture. His stomach clenched tight and he forced himself to take a deep breath to calm himself.

"That was informative," he said flatly, looking up.

"Are you alright?" asked McGonagall. "You look a little pale."

"I'm fine," said Harry quietly. Setting his jaw firmly to betray no emotion, he slid the file back across the table and turned his attention back to Riddle.

"Right," said Riddle, standing again to take charge. "Having established that the Ministry is now considered to be hostile, we must turn our attention to the Death Eaters. A number were apprehended last night, and at the moment are on their way to Azkaban. This would be more encouraging news were it not for the fact that the Dementors have deserted the island. The Prophet has a report of a suspected sighting in Yorkshire. I fear these may become more common; it is a good thing we can all cast a Patronus. For Kathryn and Harry's benefit, this is how we communicate. I will show you the modified Patronus later.

"We are currently watching many suspected Death Eaters and this is to continue," said Riddle. "However, I have it on good account that since his return, the Dark Lord is now even more paranoid. Since no one tried to find him for thirteen years, he has no faith in his Death Eaters. They are expendable assets, though they believe he values them. As such, I don’t want anyone to intervene or take unnecessary risks. If he suspects they are being followed, he will not hesitate to kill them and you. Be careful. He will no longer be restrained."

He paused to let his words sink in. No one in the room said a word, so Harry figured it must have had the desired effect.

"So, what is Grindelwald going to do next?" asked Riddle rhetorically, ignoring the hiss as he mentioned the name. "I am afraid that this is not an easy question to answer. Of course he is going to insert spies into the Ministry. Of course he is going to stage some generalised attacks around the country in order to spread fear, drive people to him through fear and divide the Aurors' manpower. However, I must remind you that he is not out to rule. If he wanted to rule, he would be forced to keep the infrastructure intact. But as it is, he is out to destroy our entire community, meaning no target is off limits."

Harry realised the truth of these words. Voldemort, in order that he could take charge, needed the Ministry. He needed the Department of Magical Transportation to control movement. He needed the Aurors, albeit the Black Watch, in order to police his new kingdom. Grindelwald was out to destroy the country utterly. If Binns had been right, Grindelwald wished to destroy the Ministry of Magic and magical Britain, and then return to the continent, presumably to rule there. He despised anything British, and in his increasing paranoia believed he could only be free if England fell. That meant that he would not exercise restraint. He would kill anything. Even his Death Eaters were not going to be saved. Harry wondered if they knew it yet, or if they believed he would rule this country with them. Binns even raised the possibility that Grindelwald might not even care about purity of blood, but might just be using it to rally the Death Eaters. Harry began to realise more and more that Grindelwald was a completely different kettle of fish to Voldemort, and in some ways, far more terrifying.

"As such," Riddle continued, interrupting Harry’s thoughts, "it will be very hard to see what he is after, probably until it is too late. Our first priority must be information. We need to work out what he is after. I have thought long and hard on this and feel certain his priorities now are going to be a... gathering support; b... inserting spies and collecting information; and c... spreading fear. However, these small goals do not shed light on his big plan."

"Thus far," began Kingsley, jumping in, "the Minister has sent me to keep an eye on the Prime Minister, hence the suit. I keep checking for Imperius curses, Polyjuice and such. Dawlish has also added two others to the Royal Protection Unit at Buckingham Palace."

"Would he really go for Her Majesty?" asked a woman near the back. "A Muggle target?"

"Scrimgoeur clearly thinks so," replied Kingsley.

"And I have to admit I agree," answered Riddle. "Remember, he has spent the last year gunning for Miss Bell, as he believed her to be a threat. However, I fear that now he has moved past that, and has returned to his original plan. If he can kill Kathryn along the way all the better, but his primary plan was always to bring down Britain, and the Royal Family is a symbol of what is it to be British."

"Is that not aiming a little high?" asked a doubtful voice towards the back.

"Perhaps," replied Riddle thoughtfully. "But we are not dealing with a rational man. He is paranoid, more so now that he has no one to trust, and he is very, very clever. I think we are about to be hit by a wave of attacks to mask his primary aim, so we need to take steps to protect ourselves and the Muggles. Cornelius has already dealt with the Queen and Prime Minister. Kingsley needs to make sure he offers the same protection to high profile targets here. However, we need to find out what it is he is after, and that is where our problem lays. He plays his cards very close to his chest. If anyone has any suggestions, I am all ears."

There was silence as everyone racked their brains, but no one seemed to have any idea. Harry stared down the row of blank faces, looking for any sign of inspiration. As it happened, he already knew what Grindelwald’s first priority would be, or at least he had a fair idea. The trouble was that he didn’t dare mention it in front of everyone.

"In that case," continued Riddle, "there is nothing more we can do until he makes a move. Individual instructions shall be arriving shortly for you. Remember what has been discussed as you return to work. As the ‘Art of War’ states, the victor only starts the battle once the war has been won. He will be subtle, so even the slightest suspicion... please report it. Does anyone have any final comments?"

Harry looked round the table. Aside from Mad?Eye's magic eye which was fixed on Harry, the rest of the eyes in the room were fixed on Riddle and no one seemed to have anything to add.

"Then on that note, I close today’s meeting," said Riddle. "Thank you all for coming. Please exit discretely and above all, be careful out there." Riddle lowered himself into his seat as he finished.

There was a clatter as everyone moves their chairs back and rose to their feet. Few words were exchanged as the Order filed out, with only a few hushed goodbyes. Riddle had not been kidding when he had said there would be a lot of information. Harry remained seated, as well as Katie who was eyeing Harry, and McGonagall who was waiting with Riddle. As soon as the room was clear except for the four of them, Harry leaned towards Riddle to whisper.

"We need to talk," he said simply. "Katie too."

Riddle paused for a moment appraisingly and then sat back in the chair. Katie had not moved, and she too leaned in at the sound of her name. McGonagall also hesitated, before Riddle gestured for her to leave. Her lips thinned as she was dismissed, but she knew better than to make a scene in front of students. Harry waited until she had left and the door had closed behind her before he spoke.

"I know what he’s after," said Harry flatly, causing both Riddle and Katie to raise an eyebrow.

"In the Ministry, I mentioned the Horcrux to Grindelwald," explained Harry, certain he was right. "He knows that I know about it and will assume that by now you will too. He suddenly feels a whole lot more vulnerable than he did yesterday. If I were him, I wouldn’t do anything until I had seen with my own eyes that it's still safe."

Riddle leaned back and took a deep breath, his eyes staring into space. "Interesting...." he breathed.

"You're assuming it's still intact," Katie pointed out, though she seemed thoughtful. "He hasn't used it up or anything? Can they be used more than once?"

"No idea," shrugged Harry – to be fair, the question had never come up before. "But there are two hundred and six bones in the male body, two hundred and six 'bones of a father' to be stolen ? that’s a lot of resurrections if it can be used again. Anyhow, the point is that he needs that fail?safe in case anything happens to him and after last night, the first seeds of doubt have been sown. I drew blood, and if I know about his little secret, he is going to play it safe. He won't gamble his life on the fact that we don't know where it is, and so he is going to move it."

"And once he moves and hides it again, it will be lost forever," said Katie, following his line of thought.

"Exactly," replied Harry, bowing his head in agreement. "He needs to fetch it, and that is our chance – when it is in the open. We need to snatch it and destroy it, though God only knows how we are going to do that."

"I know," said Riddle, slowly. Harry raised an eyebrow – he hadn't been expecting that. Reluctantly, he had to admit that Riddle was useful, and he was more reluctant still to admit that he had been impressed with Riddle's meeting. Since Harry had mentioned the Horcrux as a target, Riddle had been staring vaguely into space. "I can destroy the Horcrux," continued the headmaster, "if I can get hold of it." He still seemed distant and thoughtful as he spoke, as if his mind was a million miles away.

"I may be wrong," admitted Harry, though he didn't think so. "But if I am right, then the window of opportunity is closing, so we can't just sit here arguing. Whatever we plan on doing must be done fast, because this is going to be his top priority, and like Katie said, this is a one?time only opportunity."

"Agreed," said Riddle, seeming to come out of his thoughts. He sat back up in his seat, and looked at Harry. "I am impressed by your powers of deduction, Harry," he said interlocking his fingers and resting both hands on the table. "I had completely overlooked the Horcrux as being his first target. I thought he would leave it and forget. But now that you mention it, yes, I believe he would want to check it himself. He would not trust anyone else."

"But that doesn’t help us find it," Katie pointed out. "Surely he would slip away in the dead of night on his own and fetch it," replied Katie. "He wouldn’t want to draw attention to it, especially if he suspects spies and treachery amongst his Death Eaters. We can’t follow him unless we know where he is to begin with, and even then we need to find it first. If I understand it correctly, it could be anything, anywhere....an old boot, a can of coke, anything. A needle in a whole field of haystacks – and we don’t even know which farm."

"That is only if you assume he would pick anything," said Riddle thoughtfully. "I, for one, would not entrust a piece of my soul to just anything. I wanted something grand, not a piece of litter."

"What was it?" asked Harry, considering it a useful titbit. Any information he could gather on Voldemort’s Horcrux would make it easier to find and destroy once he got home.

Riddle sighed deeply and stared at Harry for a few seconds before moving. Raising two hands, he opened his robes and produced a golden locket from inside his robes. The locket was made of gold with a row of green emeralds positioned to form a snake on the front. It was the same snake Harry has seen carved on the tap that served as the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets, and even the locket itself seemed somewhat familiar. Katie came to the same conclusion at the same time.

"Slytherin," they both gasped together.

Riddle nodded, "I had managed to get a job at Borgin and Burkes during the summer holidays, just to escape the Orphanage, and this crossed my path," he told them. "Slytherin's own. It belonged to an elderly lady who bought it at auction and then passed away...I didn't kill her," he added, looking at Harry.

"I didn't ask," replied Harry, though he was fairly pleased to see Riddle looking uncomfortable. His chickens had finally returned to roost.

"It is no longer a Horcrux," continued Riddle, holding the locket up to the light. "Just a locket."

He removed it from around his neck and held it out to them. It was split open as if something had burst out of it, leaving the outside edge tarnish and the locket looking old and battered. Harry could see between Riddle’s robes that the centre of his chest was covered in a large burn scar, in the centre of which, a perfect impression of the locket had been branded into his flesh. He had no idea what had happened, but the Horcrux seemed to have imprinted itself onto his body, and he could see Riddle carried both physical and mental scars from that time. He almost felt a hint of pity for the headmaster. Harry began to wonder why he had never had the scar removed. Riddle seemed to guess what he was thinking.

"I keep it now, as it serves to remind me of just how wrong a person can go, to remind me what I could have been." He took the locket back and replaced it around his neck, tucking it once again into his robes. As it disappeared, Harry had a sneaking suspicion that he had seen it somewhere before. He hated these feelings of déjà vu, but this was no time to centre on anxiety.

"So how do you destroy them?" asked Harry as Riddle re?fastened his top button.

Riddle held up two fingers. "There are two ways to destroy a Horcrux, to the best of my knowledge," he said. "Horcruxes are made with pure hate, i.e. the killing curse, but they are destroyed with the opposite."

"Love?" asked Harry sceptically. He looked over at Katie who seemed equally unconvinced.

"Close," said Riddle with a small smile. "Genuine remorse, and not remorse as in 'I wish I had never split my soul', but remorse as in 'I wish I had never killed'. The regret must pain the soul so much that it can forge it back together, and that is pain I would not wish on anyone." His eyes seemed vacant as he spoke, as if his mind was lost down memory lane. There was a hint of sadness in his voice.

"No hope we can get that out of Grindelwald," muttered Katie, and Riddle seemed to jump at the sound of her voice. "What’s the other method?"

"You of all people should know," said Riddle smugly. "You destroyed the last one."

Harry's jaw dropped. Katie had destroyed a Horcrux? When? How? Why hadn't she mentioned it? Harry stared at Katie, but she looked just as bewildered.

Riddle seemed to enjoy their confusion for a second before speaking again. "You have been in a Pensieve," he said cryptically. "But you couldn't touch or interact with the memories. The memories in turn could not interact with you, or think for themselves. That is not true of all the memories you have encountered." Harry was at a loss, wondering what the hell a memory in a Pensieve has to do with anything, but Katie was quicker off the mark.

"Grindelwald’s Diary," she gasped. Harry suddenly understood.

"A memory thinking for itself?" asked Riddle. "A memory sucking the life out of a person to resurrect itself? It could not be living without some form of soul. In my eyes, this was the first proof of my theory about the existence of Grindelwald's Horcrux."

"The Diary was a Horcrux," said Katie nodding in understanding. "And it was destroyed by a Basilisk fang."

"Or any strong magical object that renders it beyond magical recovery," explained Riddle. "Basilisk venom, fiendfyre, dragon's fire, or even Gryffindor's sword would all suffice. Although in the strictest sense, the diary was not in fact a Horcrux, but we’ll get to that. My point is that you need to make sure that no magic can mend the object once destroyed."

Harry was somewhat relieved that it was that simple. Katie had Gryffindor’s sword, and Harry had the one from his world. They could quite easily destroy the Horcrux once they had it. Harry had visions of them having to climb a volcano and throw it into the molten heart or something like that – by those standards, they had it easy.

"Hang on," said Katie, shaking her head and waking Harry from his stupor. She looked thoughtful, and spoke slowly. Harry could almost see the cogs whirring. "This thing needs to be intact for him to come back to life, right?" she asked.

Riddle nodded.

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