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A Stranger in the Promised Land Chapter VII(part2)  

2009-07-17 19:01:38|  分类: HP转载 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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"Well, the diary was destroyed two years before he came back. Does that mean there is a second?"

She was good; Harry had to admit that. She was smarter than he was, and if there was a second Horcrux, that raised a whole lot of problems for them, and double for Harry as it meant that by the same ilk, Voldemort must have at least two Horcruxes. Harry had destroyed the diary, leaving one still out there. Hopefully Riddle would know what it was, so Harry could at least be prepared.

"Very good, Kathryn," said Riddle, sounding impressed. "It is my belief, that the diary was not a Horcrux in the truest sense. Remember, the magic that lets a wizard split his soul was his invention, and like any invention was developed through trial and error. At the time he created it, I do not think he realised its full potential, and I don't believe the thought of immortality even crossed his mind whilst making it. I believe he simply saw it as a tremendously powerful energy source. Tearing the soul releases a tremendous amount of energy that he could harness, and he was exploring the power of a soul fragment. In the case of the diary, he wanted to see if he could separate his soul and instil it into a memory. The diary was intended as a weapon, which was to be powered by a soul fragment, but it was meant to be found and used."

"How can you know all this?" asked Harry. "In my world is was you who opened the chamber, you that left the diary in the hands of Lucius Malfoy!"

"You believe that I opened the Chamber?" repeated Riddle pensively. "I must confess, Harry, that another few months and I would have had the knowledge to open the Chamber of Secrets. However, someone beat me to it. Sadly it resulted in their own death."

What? Grindelwald was alive, so it couldn’t be him. Who was it who died then?

"Who?" asked Harry.

"Myrtle," answered Katie, having already pieced it together.

Riddle's head sank into a slow nod. "Grindelwald remains to this day the greatest Legilimens I have ever encountered, a skill he no doubt learned from Albus."

"Yes, I saw them together in a memory," interrupted Harry. "Dumbledore and Grindelwald were once friends, weren’t they?"

Riddle's head turned and he stared at Harry, his face deliberately held firm. Whatever was going on in his mind, Tom was determined to keep this a secret. Harry hesitated for a moment – why had Riddle’s demeanour suddenly changed?

"There are very few left alive who know that," said Riddle slowly. "How could you...but of course, in your world..." he trailed off, thinking he had answered his own question.

"Actually no," Harry corrected him. "When we were fighting, I...don't ask me why, but I Legilimised him," said Harry. "He was so angry with me at the time, which was probably why he had no defence. I saw his past, I saw him at Durmstrang, I also saw him laughing and joking with a very young Albus Dumbledore, and most importantly, I saw his name."

"What name did he use?" asked Riddle leaning forward intently.

"Gellert Gaunt," replied Harry. "I guess we might be able to find out a bit about him, now?"

Riddle raised an eyebrow. "Well that certainly answers the question of him being a Parselmouth," he said pensively. He paused for a second, deep in thought before explaining further. "The Gaunts were the last descendants of Salazar Slytherin."

"I thought you were the last," said Harry curiously.

"My mother was Merope Gaunt," explained Riddle. "It seems possible that Grindelwald was related to her father, Marvolo Gaunt. Then again, the family tree could have branched a generation or two earlier. I suspect he changed his name to hide his past once he came to this country. That is why no records exist under the name Grindelwald. I will have Durmstrang send over all records on Gellert Gaunt, if they still exist."

"How will that help?" asked Harry.

"If we know enough about his past, it may reveal an inerrant weakness, or perhaps information about his Horcruxes," replied Riddle.

"But we don't have time," insisted Harry. "He will move it today!"

"Correct," said Riddle. "So back to the Chamber of Secrets. Grindelwald was strong enough, even back then, to possess people. I believe that he cornered Myrtle during the holidays and took control. Hogwarts' medical records show she went to the matron at the time, complaining of inexplicable tiredness, headaches and blackouts. Grindelwald took charge of her and used her to open the Chamber of Secrets, right under Albus' nose. Naturally, Albus blamed me and took to following me around."

"Saw right through you, didn't he?" Harry said with a smile.

"Not exactly," Riddle corrected him. "Let me explain. Grindelwald possessed Myrtle Hubbard in order to open the Chamber, which being a Parselmouth, he was able to do. As a prefect on patrol, I stumbled across Myrtle killing Roosters. Naturally, Grindelwald ordered the basilisk to kill me, and was most upset when it turned and slithered off after I spoke to it. He didn't count on a second heir being present. To keep me in line he offered me a job, so to speak, in return for silence and later for finding someone to blame the whole fiasco on – Rubeus Hagrid. It was a long time before Hagrid would speak to me again. I offered him the teaching job because I have wronged him greatly. I told you, Harry, I have spent the last fifty years trying to right Lord Voldemort's many, many wrongs. Anyhow, once Grindelwald and I began to communicate, it was not hard to get the information on how to split the soul. It is worth noting that at this early point, he did not combine the actual murder with creating the Horcrux – he used the Basilisk to do the killing. It was still a work in progress. He succeeded in splitting his soul and creating the diary, thus his experiment was a success. While he viewed the process solely as a weapon, a source of power, I saw its true potential. I saw that the soul could perhaps lead the way to immortality. Already I thought I was smarter than he was. In a few years, perhaps, I would have killed him and moved on...but luckily, someone intervened.

"Dumbledore wasn't fooled, was he?" replied Harry with a glow of pride.

"No," acknowledged the headmaster, "and looking back now, I am most grateful that he was not. But we have digressed. Once Myrtle had served her purpose he killed her, and it was then that I refused to help any more – not out of regret for her, but as it would have resulted in me having to return to the Orphanage following an expulsion at the time I needed Hogwarts library the most. By then I had the information about how to separate the soul and had seen that it worked. I believed I could better the spell to allow myself to kill, rather than need a secondary, non?magic source of killing, and could anchor the soul to an object. However, I didn't dare try it at school. I waiting until the summer, by which time the locket had crossed my path, and an opportunity to meet my father beckoned. But that is my history and I am moving off topic. As for Grindelwald, I believe that he viewed this Chamber experiment as a success and was ready to try again with a bigger more powerful weapon."

"Hang on," interrupted Katie. "So you knew where the Chamber was all those years ago, but when it was opened again, you pretended you didn’t know."

"No," said Riddle. "As I mentioned, I know what was in it, but I never knew the location. Grindelwald never shared that information with me. But back to his second Horcrux...I knew he was planning to split his soul again, and I saw the possibility of using the soul to anchor oneself to life. But was one enough, and how much power must I sacrifice to get it? It was that knowledge that prompted me to go to Horace Slughorn to ask a question that had been plaguing me at the time. If Grindelwald could have two, could I have more than two? Is seven not the strongest magical number?"

"Seven?" burst out Harry. "Are you telling me that back home I have to find seven sodding Horcruxes to finally finish you off?

Riddle looked at him for a moment, before answer. "I cannot in all honesty say," he replied. "It was a theory and it was my intention to make six Horcruxes, the seventh piece being in my body. It sounds like your Dark Lord is a logical extension of what I once was, Harry. I'm sorry, but I think it is a safe bet."

"We have gone slightly off topic," said Katie, interrupting them. "As fascinating as I find all this, I’m more concerned about my Dark Lord than your Lord Voldemort. Harry said it himself. We have to move very quickly on this if we are to have any hope at all of stopping him."

"You're right," agreed Riddle. "Which leads me on to a confession that I have never breathed to another soul before this day. I created a full Horcrux shortly after leaving Hogwarts, killing my father in the process." He paused for a minute bowing his head. "I was wearing it as I arrived in Versailles the day Albus was killed. Grindelwald recognised it for what it was, and it was from me he stole the notes on my Horcrux research. While he only stole a few ideas and not detailed plans, it was from me he gained the knowledge to create true Horcruxes and a few years later, during his isolation after his duel with Albus, he had his own Horcrux that would keep him alive. And it is all my fault."

"You couldn't have known he would steal it," said Katie sympathetically.

"But did I try to conceal it, fearing others might use it for evil?" asked Riddle, sadly. "No, only to make sure I was the only one to have one. My motives were as selfish and evil as Grindelwald’s. A good person would have concealed the plans for a just reason, preventing others from getting hurt, for example...well, were I capable of that kind of compassion, I would never have been Lord Voldemort, and I would never have made a Horcrux. Albus once told me, that for some of the great acts of evil, it takes knowledge to work out how to do them, but it takes wisdom to work out that one should not do them. No, I developed it based on his techniques with purely selfish intent, and to that end I am just as foolish and wrong as Grindelwald."

"We can assign blame later," said Harry impatiently, though he did find Riddle's guilt mildly satisfying. "We need to find that Horcrux now, and it could be anywhere, even here."

"Here, as in Hogwarts?" asked Katie.

"I can see the appeal of him hiding such an item right under Dumbledore's nose," said Riddle slowly. "Then again, I have already searched the castle. Over the holidays I even had the House Elves bring me any mysterious magical items they found whilst cleaning. Well as you can imagine, being a school there were many trinkets that students had hidden and forgotten. In addition, the Elves were so eager to please they brought me every item they could find. I remember well the expression on Professor McGonagall’s face as she came to reclaim her jewellery box which had been whisked away by an overzealous elf."

"Please tell me it wasn’t Dobby," groaned Katie. Riddle didn’t need to reply, but continued.

"The Horcrux is not here," he said firmly. "If for arguments sake, the Horcrux is in Hogwarts, he cannot get into the castle. Therefore we have it, he does not, and it is not going anywhere. Gringott’s may seem logical, but since he could not open an account himself, it would mean entrusting it to someone else, an Englishman as well, so I find that unlikely. However I do have a theory, and I am fairly sure I know where it is."

"You do?" asked Harry in disbelief.

"Grindelwald is very partial to the ‘eye?for?an?eye’ approach," said Riddle, looking thoughtful. "He wiped out the four men who recruited him to the British government. He wants to destroy the authority that made him. In addition, he encourages the fear of his name, suggesting he is very egotistical. I wonder what you will say when I suggest that perhaps he wanted his Horcrux to lord over the time he came closest to death. The most significant event in his past was his duel with Albus, as he nearly died, and that would make it appealing for him to guard his means of immortality. I think that the Palace of Versailles near Paris would be a good place to start looking."

"Versailles is still a guess, though?" asked Harry doubtfully.

"Yes," confirmed Riddle. "However, unless you know otherwise, it is our best guess and as you quite rightly say, we do not have time. I will have the Order follow known high?ranking Death Eaters here and to watch Gringott’s, but I do not believe that this will reveal anything useful. In addition, my acquaintance in the Death Eaters will let me know if Grindelwald leaves. This is why I believe he hasn’t gone after it yet."

"You seem to be putting all our eggs in one basket," Harry said. "Even if it is in Versailles, it’s a palace and the whole point of a palace is that it's massive. It could be anything in there."

"I'm glad you appreciate the magnitude of the task," said Riddle dryly. "I take it you have never been to Versailles?"

"No," replied Katie and Harry shook his head.

"You are familiar with the Louvre, correct, of how large it is?" Riddle asked.

"Not really," said Katie. "I know of it, and I've seen pictures."

"Louis Quatorze moved the royal court from the Louvre to Versailles," replied Riddle. "He thought the Louvre was too small for a king. The building makes Hogwarts looked like a two?bedroom flat. However, I believe Grindelwald would place the object as close as possible to where Albus died. I think that moment, the moment of Albus’ death, was the most significant in his life. It certainly was in mine."

"Where in the palace did it happen?"

"La Galarie du Glaces," replied Riddle grimly. "The Hall of Mirrors."

"How can we get there?" asked Harry.

"We, as in the three of us?" asked Katie, her eyes wide. "I thought the Order would..."

"We can’t risk Horcruxes becoming public knowledge," said Riddle logically. This was one point Harry definitely agreed with him.

"And let’s face it," Harry added. "If anyone’s earned the right to fight him, it’s you," he said with an encouraging smile.

"I know," she said defensively. "I'm just surprised you’re letting me come, and not wrapping me up in cotton?wool."

"I think that time has passed," said Riddle, which actually impressed Harry, as Dumbledore had never said that to him. "You are in charge of your life now."

Harry was glad to see her give Riddle a small nod and then rise to her feet.

"So, let’s get going, then," she said. "Can you Apparate, Harry?"

Harry paused, as he had still not admitted the situation with the Phoenix to her or Riddle yet.

"Not between countries," replied Riddle, saving Harry the awkwardness of the question. "You cannot Apparate or Portkey across borders without tripping alarms, unless you have permission, which we do not. And you certainly do not Apparate into a crowded Muggle location for all to see. Everything is controlled by the Department of Magical Transportation, even International Floo is diverted via the Ministry’s arrivals lounge."

"So how do we go?" Katie asked.

"I will contact the Department of International Magical Cooperation and they will speak to their French counterparts to arrange a Portkey as soon as possible, and issue orders to the Order members who need them," Riddle announced. "You will need Muggle clothing that is warm but not restrictive. I suggest you both go and get changed, and I will see you in my office in twenty minutes. If everything goes accordingly, we can leave for France within the hour."

"Let's get a move on, then," said Katie, heading for the door.

~~~~ + ~~~~

Harry followed Katie out of the door and then down the stairs in silence, his mind already planning ahead. As he set off in the direction of the Tower, mentally compiling a list of what he would need, he was suddenly aware that she had fallen into pace with him and not the other way around. Out of the corner of his eyes, he was able to see that she was watching him intently. He could practically feel her eyes burning a hole in the side of his face. He ignored it for a minute or so, but it was fast becoming irritating. They had only gotten to the first flight of stairs when Harry couldn’t take it anymore.

"What?" he demanded, halting and turning towards her. Katie’s face was stony and determinedly neutral, but Harry could tell she wasn’t happy about something.

"Sirius," she said simply.

She was clearly expecting a reaction, but to her inconvenience Harry had already had more than enough time to come to terms with Sirius’ death, and so she detected no reaction to the name.

There was an awkward pause before she spoke again. "What was he to you?"

Harry hesitated for a second. Part of him wanted to tell her to shut up, as they had a job to do. The other half wanted to comfort her. He was well aware that once she knew Sirius was his Godfather as well, she would be far from happy. She had lost him less than twenty?four hours ago, and now she would think that Harry was trying to steal him from her. However, more lies would only hurt more later.

"You already know," he said truthfully. There was no point lying, and she would think that any words of kindness were patronising.

"Riddle said he was your Godfather, correct?" she asked, her voice level, but he could detect the hint of anger and possibly pain beneath it.

"He was," admitted Harry, but before Katie could interrupt him, he continued. "In my world, my Sirius was my Godfather. As for your Sirius, I don’t know. I never met him."

Katie stared at him coldly for a minute. "Is that why you don’t care that he died?"

"I do care," said Harry hotly. "I never meant for him to die, and I tried to help him."

"You didn’t do a very good job," she added coldly.

"Neither did you," shot back Harry, before realising exactly what he had said. Her angry eyes immediately glistened and her stony expression wavered a moment before turning cold again.

He sighed. "Katie, I’m sorry, that was out of order. I shouldn’t have said that."

She had turned her back on him and was staring at her feet. At least she wasn't crying, but he still had no idea what he was supposed to do or say.

"Maybe you're right," she said after a pause. "Maybe it was all my fault."

"It wasn’t," said Harry firmly. "Sirius went there knowing the danger. That was his choice."

"So he brought it on himself did he?" she demanded, turning back to face Harry accusingly.

"Sirius was always his own man," Harry countered. "He was always taking risks."

"What would you know about him?" she snapped defensively.

"You thought he was in danger so you risked your life to get him out," Harry replied, recovering his cool. "He did exactly the same for you. You of all people should understand what he was thinking. If I were you, I’d stop complaining and start being proud of him."

"I am," snapped Katie.

Harry just stared levelly at her, and after a few seconds she looked away. She turned on her heel and set off up towards the tower. Harry sighed in relief that the inquisition was over and followed her along the passage. They had gone on for a few minutes before Katie continued her questioning.

"So how come you were his Godson?" she asked, keeping her eyes directly ahead. "What was he to you?"

"He and my father were best friends at Hogwarts," answered Harry. "Him, Sirius, Remis Lupin, and someone named Peter Pettigrew."

"Him, I know," spat Katie.

Harry made a note that Wormtail’s involvement seemed to have been the same in each world. "Pettigrew was my parent’s secret keeper, and he handed them over to Voldemort."

"Sirius is framed and sent to Azkaban until he breaks out?" Katie asked, effectively confirming what he knew to be true: events had unfolded in a similar fashion. However, something had been bothering Harry for a while, and since they were on the subject anyway, he took this opportunity to ask.

"Your father wasn’t at Hogwarts with my parents and Sirius, was he?"

"Nope," answered Katie. "He was three years older."

"So how come...if he wasn’t a Marauder then why...?" began Harry, not knowing how to phrase the question without sounding like a berk.

For some reason Katie began to laugh. "I thought you might be stuck on that," she said with a smile, adopting a patronising tone. "Four boys, so close together that no one else could join their little group, so how could there be a fifth?" she asked, as if guiding a four year old through a simple problem. As she laughed again Harry got the impression she was enjoying his confusion.

"After Hogwarts?" Harry guessed. "He met your dad at work?"

"Typical male," muttered Katie. "It’s all about the boys."

"You mean..."

"Yes," replied Katie as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. "My father never knew Sirius particularly well at school, as he was three years above him. It was my mother who went to school with the so?called ‘Marauders’, albeit one year older. They were an item for several years, in fact. Naturally, Sirius and your father being....Sirius and your father, double?dates followed, so she got to know your parents very well. Sirius was my Godfather, and my Godmother was Lily Potter ? now both deceased," she added bitterly.

Harry shot her a look.

"Sorry, I’ve just realised who I am talking to," she stammered, turning red.

"Remove foot from mouth," muttered Harry.

"Anyway," continued Katie, forcefully moving the conversation on, "Sirius stayed with your father or my mother during school holidays once he ran away. Then, once my mum graduated and started work, she didn’t see him enough since he was still at school, and so they split up. My mum worked at the Ministry and my Dad had just finished his Auror training. You can imagine how the rest goes. Sirius remained a very close friend to her, and when I was born he was named my Godfather."

"So how were you close enough to Pettigrew to let him be secret keeper?"

"The worst decision in the long sad history of bad decisions," muttered Katie. "Of the options, we didn’t trust Dad’s Auror friend, as the Ministry was full of spies. Sirius, James and Lily were too obvious, not to mention that your parents were being hunted to begin with, and Lupin was a werewolf and so not trusted, which left Pettigrew."

"What about your mum’s friends?" asked Harry. "Your Dad’s school friends? I can’t believe I am about to say this, but why not Riddle?"

"Hey, I wasn’t even a year old, remember?" said Katie impatiently. "I wasn’t exactly included in the selection process."

"Sorry," said Harry, laughing at the image that formed in his mind of Pettigrew sitting in a chair in front of an interview panel headed by a baby Katie. They walked on in silence for a few seconds before Katie spoke again, this time her tone much more sober.

"If it had only been someone else," she said.

"Don’t waste your time with what?ifs," said Harry. "You’d go mad. We can’t change the past, we just have to decide what to do from now on."

"I know," muttered Katie. "Sirius spent all those years in Azkaban, two years on the run, another locked in headquarters and now...he’s gone. I’m sorry, I snapped at you, Harry," she added. "I just thought...I don’t know what I thought."

"It’s alright," whispered Harry. "I was once very possessive of him, just like you. But you have to realise that even if he was named your Harry’s Godfather... even if he was once in a line?dancing club, a barbershop?quartet or the Women’s Auxiliary Balloon Corps, he is still the man you knew. It doesn’t mean what you had with him was any less real."

Katie laughed. "You know, I can just picture him in a Barbershop quartet," she said smiling to herself.

They were fast approaching the Fat Lady, and it seemed the sensitive topic was over. Katie changed the subject.

"So what do we need for France?" she asked.

"At a guess," replied Harry, "Muggle clothing. ...It’s February, so probably a coat as well. Hide your wand. If you’ve got them, then bring sunglasses to hide part of your face. You might also want a clothes peg."

"Why?"

"The smell of garlic," replied Harry with a smile.

"Oh God," muttered Katie. "I'm off to France with a xenophobe?"

"A what?"

"You hate foreigners."

"I don’t!" protested Harry. "They’re just...French, and we’re British. I happen to have a fair few French jokes at my disposal."

"Really?" said Katie. "Do you speak French?"

"No," admitted Harry. "Well, hello and goodbye, yes and no, please and thank you. A few words here and there. Dudley did a French Exchange one year and came back with enough cigarettes to last the army a year. You do, I take it?"

"Bits and pieces," answered Katie. "Anyway, Harry, the point is that you need to remember your manners over there."

"Yes, mother," muttered Harry.

As the portrait hole opened and Harry and Katie stepped over the threshold, the room ground to a halt. Harry could see the images from the Daily Prophet plastered up over the walls. There had been an excited chatter, which had now died away to nothing. Harry wasn’t entirely comfortable with the silence, and he had no idea what Katie was thinking. He felt the blood run to his face as the room stood motionless. Time seemed to stop in the sea of stares. Then amidst the silence, a single clap rang out over the still room. Then another, then another, and then more and more as the rest of the Gryffindors broke the spell of silence and joined in with the thunderous applause. Harry and Katie stood surrounded by all of Gryffindor House who were madly cheering, and Harry for one had no idea how to react.

Harry glanced at Katie, who was staring back with an expression what clearly said, what do I do now? Harry shrugged, at a loss himself.

"Katie!"

From the right Neville had emerged from the crowd, still looking fairly bruised but moving ably enough. As he approached, he threw his arms around Katie in a big hug. Harry began to wonder if there was something between Neville and Katie, though he wasn't sure. Anyhow, this was hardly the place...

...Let her go already, Neville, thought Harry impatiently after a minute of watching them hug. After all, they had a job to do and he was holding them up, right?

"Thank Merlin you’re okay," Neville gasped as he hugged Katie.

"Glad to see you walking around," she replied with a grin.

"You were worried?"

Harry hated the hopefulness in his friend’s voice. For some reason he found it extremely irritating.

"Of course," Katie answered, not moving out of his embrace. Harry wanted to wrench them apart and remind her she had a mission to prepare for until she added, "I was worried sick about all of you, Nev. You’re my best friends."

Harry didn’t miss the disappointment on Neville’s face as he released her and stepped towards him.

"Harry," he greeted him coolly but in a friendly way, extending a hand which Harry accepted, gripping it tightly.

"How are you doing, mate?" Harry asked, relieved to see him unharmed.

"We’ll all live," replied Neville nonchalantly. "Largely thanks to the two of you. Ginny and Hermione are being kept over for another night, Luna’s free, and Ron is helping himself to the kitchens."

It seemed that Neville had broken the ice. The rest of the Gryffindors took his example as a cue and advanced to shake hands, clap them on the back, congratulate them, and bombard them with questions. Harry ignored the questions and glanced at his watch. Under any normal circumstances he would have liked to have spent time with the Gryffindors, but time was the one thing they didn’t have at the moment...aside from the elusive Horcrux.

"Katie!" said Harry, load and forcefully enough for the others to halt. Harry tapped his watch. "Tempus fugit."

She nodded, almost looking relieved.

"Sorry guys," she said to the room at large. "We’ve got to get going."

"Go where?" asked a voice. "You just got back."

Harry opened his mouth to tell the speaker to mind their own business, but Katie got there first and was more diplomatic in her response.

"The Ministry," she answered quickly. "They want to ask us a few questions, whatever that means. Typical Fudge, eh? Interrogate the good guys and do nothing about the bad guys." A glimmer of laughter went around the room as she spoke. "Now, if you’ll excuse us, we have to change."

She glanced over at Harry, who could only nod back. He had to admit that she had done a much better job of crowd control that he ever would have, and he was impressed though he tried not to show it.

Harry followed Katie through the gathered crowd and then made his way quickly up to his own dormitory, not missing the fact that the whispering started the second he had started climbing the stairs. He would face more questions later, but for now, at least, he was alone. He removed his cloak and threw it unceremoniously over the bed. His black boots, trousers, and jumper were acceptable for the Muggle world, but it would be cold in France in February. To compensate for this, he picked up Riddle’s coat, which he had yet to return, and slid his arms into the sleeves. Using his wand, he cleared the blood from the collar where his neck had bled last night. He also magically shrank the coat so that it no longer dwarfed him. Riddle was a good eight inches taller than Harry with broader shoulders, and the coat showed it. Once it was smaller it only came down to the back of his knees, and his hands were visible at the end of the sleeves. Harry did not fasten it up at the front so that he could easily access his wand in case he needed it.

As a precaution, he removed his primary wand from his belt loops and tucked it up his left sleeve. He then put his spare in the holster and attached it to his hip, ready to be used. He dug out the concealer he had borrowed from Romilda Vane and once again covered his scar. That done he removed his false glasses from his trunk and transfigured them. Placing his new sunglasses on his nose, he glanced in the mirror.

That’ll do, he thought. Not enough to hide him, but he shouldn’t stick out too much. He looked...presentable, though at the same time dark, mysterious and quite cool in his opinion. Since when have I cared about that? He wondered as he descended the stairs back to the Common Room.

Katie was already there. She was wearing jeans with white trainers and a short black jacket over the top of a dark blue jumper and had tied her hair back into a single pony?tail. She was also wearing a pair of black sunglasses, just like Harry, having taken his advice.

"Isn’t that Riddle’s coat?" asked Katie, as he arrived.

"Borrowed without permission," said Harry with a shrug, "but it’s warm."

"Quite the pair you make," cooed a voice behind them.

Hiding a glimmer of frustration, Harry turned to Romilda Vane who had spoken, managing to keep his poker face as he examined the look in her eyes – which for him spelt trouble.

"I don’t think so," he said flatly.

"Definitely not," said Katie, looking at Harry critically. Their eyes met for a second, and Harry was fairly sure that she was rolling hers behind her glasses.

"Really..." said Romilda looking thoughtful. She stared at Harry for a second, then after a quick glance at Katie, turned and glided away

"Shall we?" asked Katie, gesturing for the door. Harry was grateful to be leaving and didn’t hesitate to slip outside into the corridor. He breathed a sigh of relief as the chatter fell away behind him.

"Looks like you’ve got a not?so?secret admirer," laughed Katie as she drew level with him.

"I believe the appropriate response is ‘Bugger!’," said Harry coldly.

"Really," asked Katie, in mock sincerity. "Why ever not?"

"Not only is she the shallowest person I have ever met," he explained. "But she is, essentially, an oxygen thief."

Katie snorted in laughter as they walked. "Well, I think you’d look cute together."

"Don’t make me slap you," said Harry, shaking his head is exasperation. On the other hand, Harry was relieved that she was smiling at last. It may just be her way of coping, but at least in teasing him she was trying to take her mind off Sirius. Harry thought her teasing was a huge step forward.

They arrived back in Riddle’s office ten minutes later to find Riddle searching through a chest of drawers in the office.

"I have spoken to the French Ministry of Magic," he announced as they entered, though he didn’t look up, "and they are letting us tag along on this recognisance mission, but it is their operation. Naturally I didn’t given them specifics, but I did allude to the fact that Grindelwald or his Death Eaters might attempt something inside the palace, and that there was a good possibility he might show up in person on the premises today. They seemed reluctant to believe me at first, but news of what happened last night has spread and they aren’t willing to take chances. However, they were most adamant that we are there as guests, simply as a courtesy for tipping them off to this potential threat. We are to meet palace authorities and the French Aurors at Versailles, and I have transportation meeting us just outside the palace in five minutes."

"What are you looking for?" asked Katie impatiently when he continued to rummage though his belongings.

"A modified Secrecy Sensor," replied Riddle in a muffled voice. "It might help us to find....ah!"

He pulled what looked like a tuning fork out of the drawer, examined it for a moment, and then slid it in his pocket.

"Right," he said, "you will also need these." He opened a package which had been sitting on the table when they arrived. Out of it he pulled a small black box, which was connected via a wire to an earphone with a microphone attached. "Clip the box onto your belt or trousers, run the wire up your jumper and adjust like so," Riddle demonstrated.

Harry and Katie took one each out of the box and followed the headmaster's example.

"Press here to speak," Riddle showed them, "release and the connection is broken. They don't work inside Hogwarts as there is too much magic, so we shall test them en route. Now, let's sort a Portkey to get up to the gate as fast as possible."

As Riddle was doing this, Harry crossed the room to where his weapons were stacked. The bloody clothes had been disposed of but the weapons remained. He picked up the sword and examined it, wondering if he should take it to Versailles.

"Of course," answered the Dark Knight. "Be prepared. Power through strength of arms."

But was he likely to need it? Probably not, but something told him he should bring it. It felt almost comfortable in his hands, much like his wand had all those years ago as he stood in Ollivander's shop.

"Impressive sword you have there," said Riddle, watching him closely. His words were enough to bring Harry out of his thoughts. "Quite advanced magic."

"Really?" asked Harry mildly surprised, drawing it out of its sheath and looking for evidence of what Riddle was saying. "I just thought it was a normal sword."

"Well," said Riddle. "It seems to be self cleaning, there are no scratches or kinks in it that I can see from here, and I myself was not able to remove it from the scabbard. If I had to guess, I would say that there are protective and strengthening spells on it. I doubt it will ever become blunt, and you are probably the only one who can wield it, or one with your permission, perhaps."

"Ah," breathed Harry. "Understandable."

The Dark Knight wouldn’t want a broken sword. Harry had also batted away minor curses with it, he seemed to remember. Yes, it made sense that it was magical. Chalk another bit of genius up to the Dark Knight. Harry was suddenly quite glad to have it himself, and decided it would be best to have it in France.

"But what I really wanted to ask about," continued Riddle, "was about the other weapon."

"This?" asked Harry, putting the sword down and picking up the Stun Baton. Riddle was watching him intently as he held it up to the light. "It’s derived from a Stun Baton which the Aurors used on another world," explained Harry. "They can store a Stunning Curse so it can be used as a sword, a close quarter weapon that is safer than a wand. However, my other self modified it to hold any curse, including Unforgivables."

"Really?" said Riddle, raising an eyebrow. He seemed unnervingly interested in it all of a sudden, and Harry felt it best to change the subject.

"Don’t bother," replied Harry with an innocent smile. "I don’t know how, and even if I did I wouldn’t tell Lord Voldemort."

Riddle grimaced at the name, but didn’t press him.

"Bring that then, if you must," said Riddle, "but leave the sword behind. You won’t need it."

"But..." protested Harry, adamant Riddle was wrong.

"Trust me," replied Riddle. "You won’t need it. Stunning will be enough if we run into trouble."

Harry resisted the urge to say that trusting him was a tall order. Reluctantly, he left the sword in place and tucked the Baton inside his coat. However, there was one more addition to his armoury that they would need.

"Katie," said Harry, picking up his dragon?scale armour. "You might want to put this on."

Harry threw it across to her and she caught it easily and held it up to examine it.

"I don’t think it will fit," she said, throwing it back to him.

He caught it easily, slightly perturbed. She should be grateful he was giving up this valuable piece of weaponry for her benefit. Girls and their vanity. She probably didn’t think it would match her outfit.

"You aren’t that much smaller than me," he reasoned trying to reign in his temper, "and your jacket will cover it."

"No, Harry," said Katie awkwardly, "it won’t fit me."

"Am I missing something?" asked Harry.

"Er...yes!" said Katie appearing unusually uncomfortable and fidgety. "It won’t fit me. It’s a bit..." she gestured with her hands.

"What?"

"Flat!" she said at last.

"Eh?" said Harry, then he suddenly realised what she meant. "Oh!" he stammered, blushing slightly. "Fair point."

Yes, it hadn’t been designed for a girl and was not...curved in the right places. Since the armour deflected almost all magic including shrinking and transfiguration charms, how could he mould it to her body? Harry was suddenly aware that while considering this, he had been staring at those particular curves and quickly averted his eyes. If Katie had noticed she didn’t comment, but was blushing as well.

Harry placed the armour back on the pile.

Riddle seemed to sense the tension and made a show of picking up a jacket from over the back of his chair. Putting it on, he began to button it up at the front, such that it appeared almost like a cassock. He also produced from the drawer a pair of sunglasses, presumably to blend in with Harry and Katie.

"Let’s go," he said, holding up a small tea?cup. "Portus!"

~~~~ + ~~~~

Magnificent. There was no other word for the sight that lay before them.

Standing in le Grand Appartement du Roi, the great chamber of the king, deep in the heart of Versailles, Margaret was left speechless. Le Grand Appartement was the collective name for the kings chambers, which originally consisted of seven room names after the then known planets, explained the guide book.

Who needs seven bedrooms? wondered Maggie as she gazed around in awe at the lavish décor. According to the leaflet in her hand, centuries ago the salons de Jupiter, Saturn and Mars, as well as a terrace linking the king and queen's Apparentments, had been altered to make room for what was now the Hall of Mirrors. Maggie made a mental note to have a look through there after this room. That was if she ever found that grandson of hers.

"I could do with one of those," came a voice from behind her. Maggie smiled as Barbara returned. "It would look great in the spare room."

She was referring to the huge bed along the far wall, with exquisite curtains draped around it. The bedposts were ornately carved and there was gold filigree worked into the curtains that surrounded the bed, proudly displaying the royal crest.

The artistry on the carving must have taken ages and the patience of a saint, Maggie observed.

Flash!

"Some people!" muttered Babs in frustration. Maggie turned to see a rather round young man in shorts, a red polo?shirt, and a baseball cap holding a camera up to his eye. A mere few feet away from was a sign with the phrase "No Flash Photography" translated into seven languages. Maggie, too, suppressed a glimmer of frustration at the young tourist. The artwork would fade with too much light exposure, and continual flash photography would do just that. Did young people not realise that if they didn’t stop doing foolish things, then future generations would have nothing to look back on? Maybe it was a sign of age, but Maggie thought things like this palace was a key part of history, and the young needed to appreciate it while they still had it.

Maggie was glad when a man in a suit wearing a name?badge appeared from amongst the crowd of tourists and directed the man's attention to the sign. The tourist merely shrugged and moved on.

"Where's Jeremy got to?" asked Babs, looking around the mass of bodies, searching for her companion's grandson.

"No idea," replied Maggie in annoyance. "He knows not to wander off."

"Nan," came a sudden voice as Maggie felt someone give the sleeve of her coat a sharp tug. She looked down to see the missing twelve?year old standing beside her once more. He was wearing baggy jeans with a rip across the left knee, which in Maggie's eyes meant that they needed to be put in the bin, but according to Jeremy, it was 'the fashion'. They were frayed at the bottom where they extended under his shoes. He also wore a black t?shirt bearing a pentagram with ‘Slayer’ written across the front in what she assumed was meant to look like blood. He topped it with a black woolly hat. Maggie really wished he would smarten up when they went out, especially on holidays.

"Can we move on?" he continued impatiently as soon as he had gotten his nana's attention.

Maggie sighed. Jeremy was one of the millions of young people whose only concern was his video game system. Maggie failed to see how he could stand in a room of such splendour, in a building with such history, and be completely unimpressed. He was standing in the room of the king, in a palace that had survived since the mid sixteen hundreds, the place where the treaty that ended World War One had been sighed, and all he saw was "old stuff". That wasn't to say Maggie disliked her grandson, but she took it as times changing that a boy could spend so much time in front of the television – a commodity that, while Maggie and Babs had succeeded in growing up without it , the thought of not having one came under the heading of torture in Jeremy's books. It was a point of frustration for Maggie that her daughter's family no longer did what Maggie considered to be family things. They never sat down to a meal as a family, played games together, or had any family time whatsoever. Everyone was always so busy. It only served to make Maggie feel older.

In absence of a reply, Jeremy had already begun to guide Maggie towards the door which led through the Hall of Mirrors.

"Pardonez?moi," he said loudly as he guided her towards the door. "Come on, Frenchy, out the way."

"Jeremy!" Maggie scolded him, as she was drawn through the crowd. She shot an apologetic look at Babs who seemed more than content to spend more time looking around the king's chambers. Babs sighed and reluctantly followed her friend towards the exit. They had almost reached the door when a shrill siren sounded in their ears.

"Ahh!" Maggie gasped in surprise as her ears began to reverberate, assaulted by the wailing alarm.

"Mesdames et Messieurs," called the attendant over the alarm. "Votre attention s’il vous plaît. Un feu s’est déclaré dans le château! veuillez reste le calme et quitte par les sortie les plus proches, merci."

Maggie's French was not brilliant, but she knew 'feu' meant fire, so it was fairly obvious what was going on. The attendant began to shepherd people towards the emergency exit as the siren continued to fill their ears. Jeremy had already clamped his hands over his own in an effort to block out the noise.

Babs, Maggie, and Jeremy moved with the crowd as they headed out of the king’s chambers, down the stairs, and then into the courtyard outside. Looking around, Maggie could see people pouring out of numerous exits, filling up the courtyard quickly. The gates at the far end had been opened, and the crowd had begun to spill out into the magnificent gardens.

It was nearly ten minutes before the lines of people leaving the building subsided and the palace was clear of people. All around them people were speaking in angry and bitter voices in a multitude of languages. Maggie shivered in the February air and pulled her coat tighter around her. She quickly checked that the other two were close by, hoping it wasn’t a real fire. It would be such a shame if all that history did go up in flames!

Suddenly a horn sounded to their left. As Maggie turned she saw a large black Land Rover make its way slowly through the crowd, tooting its horn to disperse the crowd in its way as it headed towards the steps down which they had exited.

"They aren't fire fighters," said Jeremy, staring at the Land Rover.

"Pardon?" said Maggie.

"They are not firemen," Jeremy repeated, looking thoughtful. "They don't even look like coppers."

Maggie didn't disbelieve him. All his time spent playing various games that involved shooting someone had given him an interest to join the services. Although it changed weekly which branch – from army, to marines, to SAS, to police, to MI5 – Maggie had to admit her grandson knew his stuff. Hours spent on the Internet looking at careers in all these areas, and he was only twelve. He frequently came out with a random fact about one service or another.

As the Land Rover came to a halt by the steps, the doors opened. Out of the front stepped a tall man with long black hair that flowed over his shoulders. He wore a long black coat, which was fastened down the middle not unlike a cassock, and wore dark glasses, presumably to conceal his face. From the door behind him stepped a much younger woman, who appeared to Maggie's eyes no more than twenty at the most. She had hay?coloured hair tied back and also wore dark glasses to conceal her face. With her hair pulled back, Maggie could see something silver in her ear like a head?phone that stretch down towards her mouth. She was wearing jeans and a short black jacket. Maggie could see what Jeremy had meant. These were clearly not firemen, and were dressed too casually for anything else. She had to admit the boy had keen eyes.

From the far side of the vehicle a third person emerged. He looked to be around the same age of the girl, give or take, and wore all black, from his trousers to the black jacket that came down to his knees and the glasses he wore to match the other two. Maggie could also see the ear?phone in his ear, just like the girl.

"DGSE," said Jeremy, firmly.

Again Maggie shrugged, perplexed.

"French secret service," her grandson elaborated for her benefit as the three newcomers shut the doors and stood at the base of the steps. "I saw them in a film, once. Whatever is going on in there, it's not a fire."

The three new arrivals stood at the bottom of the steps looking up at the mighty palace before them. As the boy and girl began to climb the older man stood motionless, staring up at the door. He paused for a few seconds before bowing his head.

~~~~ + ~~~~

Tom Riddle stood at the base of the steps looking up at the walls of Versailles. Anyone else would be taking in the gorgeous architecture of the building and appreciating the art of its construction, but not Tom. As he stood before one of the most beautiful buildings ever built, his mind could only think of one thing: that last time he had stood here.

Lord Voldemort felt the crushing darkness of Apparation leave him as he landed gently on his feet in the bright sunshine. He stood in the middle of the courtyard of Versailles, the ornate exterior walls of the palace surrounding him, and the splendour of the palace towering up before him. As he glanced back through the gate behind him he could see the magnificent gardens stretched out like an ocean of green, but they were not important.

Voldemort turned his attention back to the palace.

Twenty metres from the double doors a hastily erected barrier was still being assembled, and behind it the French Aurors were cowering from the crashes that came from within the palace. Muggles were running screaming from the door at the top of the steps, shepherded by Aurors to the sides. Over to the left, Voldemort could see the British Minister of Magic and his French counterpart deep in frantic conversation as they struggled to gain control of the situation.

CRASH!

Suddenly a window a few floors above the door blew outwards raining shards of glass down to the courtyards and forcing the line of Aurors to duck. Voldemort gazed up at the window in wonder. In that room the two most powerful wizards of the time were fighting. Albus and Grindelwald – who would win? Did it matter? He, Lord Voldemort, would endure, but if either died, he would lose the chance to further his knowledge. He had to get in there.

The fight was symbolic of what was going on inside Voldemort's heart. He could feel the poor, lonely schoolboy inside himself, struggling, growing stronger. Tom Riddle.

‘Get away from me, boy!’ he snarled at the weakling. ‘Lord Voldemort is in control.’

Voldemort ran forward towards the door feeling the weight of the locket around his neck. He had no need to be afraid, for he had taken measures to insure that he could not die. He was more powerful than Grindelwald, had greater knowledge of magic than either man inside. It was his turn now! Voldemort forced his way through the melee, closer to the blockade, each step taking him closer to his prize. With every step, his excitement grew.

As he approached, he found a French Auror blocking his way.

"Non, monsieur," the Auror said, raising a hand to block his passage. "C'est fermé pour tout les monde!"

"RIDDLE!"

Voldemort turned to see the Minister of Magic striding towards him looking deeply flustered. He suppressed his anger at the use of the weakling’s name, for he realised that to take any action was counter?productive. He had bigger problems. Instead, he adopted a cool and polite manner.

"Minister."

"What are you doing here?" snapped the Minister. "I warned you once. Stay away! We can deal with this!"

Voldemort felt a glimmer of anger at the petty man. He was caught up in a battle of the titans and utterly failing to keep up. Fool!

"I came for Albus," replied Voldemort, giving nothing away. "He's inside?"

CRASH!

As another window shattered the Minster ducked and covered his face. Voldemort stood unfazed as the minister straightened back up, glaring at him.

"He's in there alright," replied the Minister. "But we daren't go in after him."

"You daren't," Voldemort corrected him. "I do."

"I can't just let an untrained wizard as young as yourself just go strolling in there," replied the Minister.

Voldemort's eyebrows narrowed and he felt the anger rising inside him. The power that he could gain in that building would not be denied to him by a bureaucratic fool. He had no time for cowards!

CRASH!

Voldemort took his chance. As everyone ducked for cover, he pushed the Minister backwards and with a flick of his wand, launched the Auror into the air. Not waiting for a response, he turned and ran towards the blockade, jumped over the barrier, and sprinted up the steps three at a time, oblivious to the shouts of the French behind him.

Crashing through the doors into the palace, he hurtled up the stairs. At the landing he turned left, ignoring the priceless artwork all around him as he sped towards his goal. Voldemort didn’t slow, blasting the doors ahead of him open and turning right into le Grand Appartement de Roi. He surged out the other side and along the terrace towards the sounds of explosions, bursting through the last set of double doors and arriving at last in the Hall of Mirrors where he ground to a halt.

The floor was covered in razors of shattered glass. The mirror frames were bare, their contents strewn over the floor, leaving only blank wall amongst the network of gold. The ornate candle stands, sculpted in solid gold, were mostly on their sides, and some were even in pieces. Most of the windows had been blown out and the painted ceiling was full of holes.

In front of him stood two men twenty feet apart. At the far end was Grindelwald, wearing long black robes which contrasted sharply with his straw coloured hair. His eyes were dark and his face thin, pointed and pulled back into a sneer. Nearer Voldemort stood Albus Dumbledore, robed in magenta with his greying auburn hair blowing in the breeze, coming in through the shattered window. Both of them were covered in small wounds, sweat and debris, but each looked fresh and ready for more. Both had stopped at the arrival of the newcomer. The question on both Grindelwald and Albus' minds was most likely the same: whom was he here to help?

The answer wasn’t clear, even to him. Tom Riddle was here for his mentor, Albus Dumbledore, while Lord Voldemort was here for the power. Who was in control?

"TOM!" shouted Albus in a worried voice. "NO! RUN!"

Grindelwald moved quickly, sending up the shards of glass in a whirlwind of razors towards Dumbledore. With a flick of his wand the former headmaster sent Voldemort flying backwards out of the way. The golden frames of the mirrors came to life and wrapped themselves around Voldemort, holding him in place.

NO! Voldemort felt a surge of anger that Dumbledore didn't think him capable. No one dismissed Lord Voldemort like that! As the anger boiled in him, the golden metal shattered to pieces and Voldemort was free once more. He rose to his feet and ran forward, wand raised.

Maintaining the shield that was protecting him from the glass, Dumbledore again pushed Voldemort backwards, keeping him out of danger. Dumbledore thrust the shield forward, propelling the glass away from him, and before Grindelwald could react, jabbed his wand into the floor. The solid wooden floor seemed almost like liquid as a wave began to rise up out of the wood and swept towards Grindelwald. As the wave approached Grindelwald, the floor before him erupted with red sparks, and Voldemort once again found himself propelled back at the force of the explosion.

As the Dark Lord tumbled backwards, Albus stepped forward, pressing his advantage. With a swish, a double helix of orange light erupted from his wand with enough force to make Voldemort's hair stand on end. Grindelwald must have seen the spell coming because as he landed he continued to roll out of the way, leaving the curse to slam into the floor, erupting in a geyser of debris. The Dark Lord returned to his feet amid the hailstorm of debris and shattered glass, standing unfazed amidst the carnage.

"You don't plan to kill me, old friend?" hissed the Dark Lord, advancing on the former headmaster. "Is it pity, weakness or do you still wish to save me?"

"I believe in second chances, you know that," replied Albus beginning to circle, his wand level.

"Except for Ariana," shot back Grindelwald.

The look on Dumbledore's face was terrifying, and for once Voldemort felt himself recoil. As Voldemort took a step back, Tom Riddle became stronger, fuelled by faith in his mentor. No! Lord Voldemort was stronger than a poor, scared little orphan! Get away from me, Tom Riddle! He looked back up to Dumbledore, who stared at Grindelwald with a look of rage Voldemort had never thought he’d ever see from his unflappable headmaster.

"There you crossed a line even I can never forgive," replied Dumbledore angrily

"But it took you two years to come for me?" snarled Grindelwald. "Why the wait, old friend? What made you run and hide in a school? Was it fear of seeing me again?"

Dumbledore didn't respond, but stood motionless staring at his opponent.

"Or perhaps," said Grindelwald, lowering his voice to a purr and stepping nearer. "It's because you are afraid to face yourself. You see, I have a theory: if I don't know who cast the curse that killed her, chances are you don't either. You see me as the villain, and have sat safely on your thrown at Hogwarts, blaming me for her death. But what if it was you?"

"Whatever part we played in her death," said Albus, his voice like ice – a tone that made even Voldemort take caution, "we both shall have to pay for her life, starting with you today. But you shall not pay with your own life, Gellert. There are things worse than death!"

"YES!" shrieked Grindelwald victoriously. "There is the man I knew, there is that desire for revenge, to make me suffer! He still lives inside you! For all your high and mighty ways, Albus, you still feel the same darkness as everyone else. You were once a believer, just as I was!"

"I saw the error of my ways," replied Dumbledore, calmer once more, having been mellowed by the harsh words. "For their own good, old friend?"

"That was a long time ago," scoffed the Dark Lord.

Voldemort had no idea what they were on about, but he kept watching, hoping for any sort of information.

"I started out believing it," Grindelwald continued, "but then things escalated, and let us not forget we have your government to thank for that. I was happy to work behind the scenes, to control but to preserve, and all for their own good. Your government wanted me to kill, they wanted me to be what I am. They created the monster and now they want to kill me, because we can't have monsters running loose, can we Albus? But answer me this, if you are so different, why did you come here as my judge, jury, and executioner? Why did you volunteer? Could it be that after all I've done, you still feel it in the pit of your stomach when you look at me, or do you just want to avenge Ariana? Tell me, old friend... for love or hate? "

"It doesn't have to be like this, Gellert," replied Albus after a pause. "No one has to die this evening."

"Die?" shrieked the Dark Lord, "I cannot die! I fear nothing!"

"Exactly, you fear the nothingness," replied Albus. "You fear the unknown beyond death. That is why you failed, Gellert, because you fear and hate what you do not understand. That is why you fear death. That is why you hate lo?."

"The same old argument," cursed Grindelwald, throwing his arms up in the air in anger. "Of all the time we spent together, always the same..."

"You felt it too," replied Albus. "You know of what I speak. A force more powerful, more terrifying, more horrible than any you could wield."

Voldemort's ears pricked up at the mention of this power. What was it that even the mighty Dark Lord could not wield?

"Love!" spat Grindelwald. "What are you going to do, kiss me to death?"

"I could have killed you the moment you stepped through those doors," replied Dumbledore. "You were protected by my capacity to love. I have turned from your path, by the ability to love Ariana. No, old friend... love is not a weapon, but I can guarantee that many years from now when you fall, when your reign of terror comes crashing down in one fell swoop, that it will not be some mighty warrior, nor a trained killer, but by an act of love by the most unlikely person imaginable."

Grindelwald paused for a second. "Very well, Albus," replied Grindelwald. "Let us put your theory to the test." Extending his arm to the side, he pointed his wand at the floor. A large jagged spear of glass rose up from the floor, hovering a few feet above the ground. "Let us see if your famous love can save your young friend."

Before Voldemort could react, Grindelwald flicked his wrist. The blade of glass caught the fading sun that shone in through the shattered windows as it surged towards Voldemort. It seemed to happen in slow motion as the blade inched closer to his throat, Tom Riddle's limbs seemed to freeze in panic. His life began to flash before his eyes. The orphanage, Dumbledore's visit when he had saved Tom and brought him to where he belonged... He saw his classes, Myrtle, the chamber, the diary, the Horcrux he’d made that currently swung around his neck, and tea with Albus.

"Oi!" snapped a voice. "Are you coming or not?"

Tom raised his head as the sharp call broke him out of his stupor. Looking up at the stairs in front of him, Harry Potter stood waiting impatiently. The boy reminded him strongly of another young man who had walked this path once before, and that thought scared him senseless. Which course would Harry choose in the end? Knowing that was a question better left for another day, Tom sighed and began to climb the steps he hadn’t seen in over fifty years.

~~~~ + ~~~~

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