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A Stranger in the Promised Land Chapter VII(part3)  

2009-07-17 19:02:55|  分类: HP转载 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Katie paused at the top of the stairs a few feet in front of the door, not wanting to go in alone. She had no idea what was beyond these doors, but she had a feeling that it would not be pleasant. Harry was a pace or two behind her. He had stopped to wait for Riddle, who Katie saw was standing at the bottom of the steps looking up at the building with a vague pained expression on his face.

Katie had no idea what this Dumbledore was like. She had heard the name, she had come across the Frog Card, but she didn’t know him like her companions had. Judging by Riddle and Harry’s attitudes, he must have been something special. This was where he had died, and it seemed from the conversation last night that Riddle had been there when it happened. She could only imagine how he was feeling. Harry, as always, was hiding any emotion. The soldier was in charge now, Katie realised with a grimace. His eyes were cold and his posture tense and alert. There was no point trying to ask him about Dumbledore in this state.

"Oi!" snapped Harry suddenly, his eyes trained on Riddle who seemed to be lost in memory. "Are you coming or not?"

Katie thought his voice was unnecessarily harsh. Whatever had happened here had obviously affected the headmaster a great deal and Harry, as usual, was not giving Riddle an inch. He was being a complete prat.

The shout, however, had the desired effect and awoke Riddle from his daydream. After a brief pause he followed them up the steps. Katie waited until he had passed and then followed him through the door. Harry waited until they were both inside and brought up the rear, like he was covering their backs. Yes, he was in full soldier mode all right.

The first thing Katie noticed was the high?pitched wail of the fire alarm. Grimacing, she took the opportunity to look around. They stood at the bottom of a small yet ornate staircase, which served as a fire exit. The banister was made of polished steel topped with ornately carved gold. The walls were a pale blue with gold and white borders. Lamps made of gold and silver hung on the walls, casting a bright light up the steps and above them, an ornate wavy pattern embossed into the ceiling. Katie didn’t know for sure, but she suspected that it had been restored to how it had been in Louis Quatorze’s day. The only thing in the room that was modern was the green emergency exit light above the door.

Two men were already coming down the stairs towards them. One was clearly a Muggle and wore a sharp grey suit, while the other wore navy blue robes. If Katie had to guess, that was the uniform of the French Aurors. As they reached the foot of the stairs the wailing siren stopped. That was better, though her ears were still ringing.

"Monsieur Ree?del," greeted the Auror in English. "Bienvenue au Versailles. I am Monsieur Gerard DuPont of ze French Ministry of Magic."

Riddle took the proffered hand and shook it.

"And zis," continued DuPont, "Is Monsieur Calvet, ze head of security ‘ere. ‘E iz fully aware of ze situation, and he does speak Engleesh."

"So what have you done, aside from empty the palace and let everyone in France know we're here?" asked Harry suddenly. His face was set in stone and behind his sunglasses, Katie could tell his eyes were fixed on DuPont. Katie really hoped he didn’t anger the Frenchmen too much. As she watched Harry, she couldn’t help but wonder if deep inside there was still the little boy trying to get out. Was the Harry she had always known a prisoner in there, somewhere? She scarcely recognised the boy who stood before her.

"And who are you?" asked DuPont coldly in Harry’s direction.

"This is Mr Harry Potter, and this is Miss Kathryn Bell," Riddle said introducing them.

"But they are..." Calvet hesitated and turned to Dupont. "Comment dit?on "élève", en anglais?"

"Students," replied Dupont.

"Oui," said Calvet turning back to Riddle. "Zey are just students, n’est pas?"

"They have experience and personal ties to this case," replied Riddle conversationally. "Trust me when I say we are better off with them. Now, please, tell us what you have done so far."

Riddle was playing the diplomat, Katie realised, and Harry the soldier. Katie wasn’t entirely sure what her role was here so she watched the proceedings impartially.

Calvet paused and then took a deep breath. "We ‘ave evacuated ze palace," he began. "We ‘ave a state of ze art security system and cameras in every room, all controlled by ze security hub. My men are currently sweeping ze east wing, making sure zat it iz clear. You can relax monsieur, we are in control."

"I wouldn’t be too sure," said Harry coldly, looking around. "This man can deactivate security systems easily. He can be invisible, slip in and out without you noticing, leaving nothing but dead bodies behind him. Your electronics won’t help you. Trust me when I say, this man is a ghost, and if he is here there is no such thing as safe."

"Let us not forget, Monsieur Potter," interrupted DuPont, "We ‘ave Aurors with them. All basez are covaired."

"Grindelwald..." Harry paused and grimaced as the Auror hissed at the name, "...has evaded every law enforcement agency since the second world war. I somehow doubt a small security force can stop him." Harry shot a quick glance at Katie before muttering quietly to himself, "Let alone a French one."

Katie could see that he was holding back his true opinion in light of what she had said. This so called Dark Knight was heeding her warning. Perhaps there was hope that she could get through to this monster. On the other side both Frenchmen were glaring at Harry, having picked up on what he was suggesting.

"Zese men are ze best in France," said DuPont stepping up to Harry.

Again Katie saw him look to her before answering. He seemed to hesitate for a second before backing down. Yes, the Dark Knight was definitely consulting her before he commented.

"I hope you’re right," he said slowly. "For their sakes."

DuPont looked at him coldly for another few seconds before stepping back.

"Right," Harry said placidly. "First things first. I want to see this security hub, and complete plans of the wing in question. Katie, Professor, get up to the Hall of Mirrors and see if you can find anything. I’ll watch your backs on camera."

"So you are in charge now, eh?" asked Calvet, raising an eyebrow in amusement.

"Until I meet someone who knows what they are doing, yes," said Harry flatly.

"As I said," Riddle remarked in a diplomatic voice, "Mr Potter has experience with this case, as you might imagine if you stay current with world news." He was, of course, referring to last night’s events and it had the desired effect.

Calvet looked from Harry to Riddle and back again before nodding stiffly. ""Very well... for now."

"Then let’s go," replied Harry, stepping past DuPont.

"Not so fast," DuPont called. "One of my men ez coming wiz you to la Galarie to make sure you don’t do anyzing stupid."

Harry didn’t visibly react as far as Katie could see, but she could tell he was not impressed. However, he didn’t object. As Calvet spoke into the radio, there came the sound of footsteps from above. DuPont began to lead them all up the steps and, as they arrived in what was probably the most magnificent bedroom Katie had ever seen, another man in Auror robes appeared behind them. Katie would have liked to have a look around, but there was no time for that.

"This is Touille," DuPont introduced him. "He ez one of our most experienced Aurors."

Again Harry glanced at Katie, and she had a feeling he had bitten back another comment. Both Harry and Katie stared appraisingly at Mister Touille. The man was tall with fair hair and was built like a tank. He had a thick moustache and large nose over which his grey eyes stared coldly down at Katie. She stared defiantly back at him.

"Allez à la Galerie des Glaces avec monsieur Riddle et la fille, s’il vous plaît," said DuPont to the newly arrived Auror.

"La fils?" asked the Auror. Katie’s limited French made the meaning perfectly clear, and she felt a wave of anger at the patronising git. "Mais, s’il y a lui...une petite fils?"

"Who are you calling a little girl?" she asked indignantly, glaring at Touille. It was clear from the shocked expressions that they hadn’t expected her to understand. They both regarded her cautiously for a few seconds. Katie got the impression there was more to it than met the eye, but before she could work it out Touille spoke again.

"I mean no offence, Mademoiselle," said the Auror in English. "But if He?Who?Must?Not?Be?Named is really coming, then better a team of Aurors with experience, n’est pas?"

"Experience?" pressed Katie, stepping closer. "You have experience fighting Grindelwald?"

"Of combat," corrected the Auror uncomfortably, flinching at the name.

"Coming from the French that is laughable," said Harry loudly, apparently unable to contain himself any longer. The three Frenchmen turned to him instantly, their faces hostile.

"Harry!" said Katie in a warning voice.

"He’s the one who called you a little girl," he reminded her. She sent him a look that meant back off and thankfully he did, leaving Katie to fight her own battle. Although in all honesty he didn’t seem happy about it.

"Exactly how much combat experience have you had?" asked Katie coldly, glaring at him. "Grindelwald, whose name you can’t even bear to hear or say, hasn’t been to these shores for nearly half a century. In case you didn’t know, I’ve survived his killing curse, and I’ve fought him more than once during my years at Hogwarts. I’m still standing here. If anyone needs to wake up and smell the coffee it’s you, n’est pas? " she added icily.

"D’accord," nodded DuPont, who had stood passively to the side during this exchange. "Touille, go wiz zem."

Still scowling at Harry, Touille turned angrily and gestured to Katie and Riddle to follow him.

"See in you in a bit," she said to Harry as she and Riddle set off after Touille, leaving him with DuPont and Calvet. Hopefully he would behave himself.

~~~~ + ~~~~

"Zis way," said Calvet to Harry, his tone much colder than it had been.

Harry ignored the tone, not really caring what the Frenchman thought of him. He had little faith in English Aurors, so the French were hardly likely to fare better in his eyes.

Calvet turned sharply on his heel with a precision that to Harry appeared military. He strode off out of the door to the left and into a grand hallway. As he walked, his head was held high, his chest out and shoulders back. His keen eyes continued to scour the passage ahead. The longer they walked, the more certain Harry was the Calvet was ex?military.

For several minutes they walked along the endless halls adorned by works of art and such extravagant architecture that Harry had trouble keeping his mind on the task in hand. The palace was huge, not only in the number of rooms and acres, but on every scale. Ceilings were twenty feet high at least, windows were always huge, nothing was done on a small or cheap scale. Everything just emphasised wealth and power. Freud would have a lot to say about it, but then again it was so sublime, so artistic and ornate at the same time... It was definitely a palace fit for a king.

It occurred to Harry half way round that a king living here must get quite lonely. All this space just for him? Harry’s footsteps echoed around the rooms as he passed, making the rooms feel cavernous, and himself feel so small. To live here permanently in this vast building must have been...impossible for him to comprehend. Growing up in a cupboard, he was used to just enough to survive, used to everything having a purpose. But having one hundred rooms that he could probably never even visit just seemed pointless. Still, that was the rich for you – more money than sense.

With Harry’s mind still on the art, and it occurred to him that that was something that did not happen often, they arrived outside a set of double doors. Next to it, in complete contrast to the décor, was a small silver box with a red light on it through which Calvet swiped a card. There was a buzz and the door clicked open. Calvet held the door opened and ushered DuPont and Harry inside.

"This is the surveillance hub," announced Calvet as he closed the door.

The room was about ten feet squared, and all along the far wall were lots of screens feeding from the cameras all over the building. They were controlled by the machinery beneath them that was being worked by a man in a pale blue shirt with his sleeves rolled up. He had straggly ash coloured hair and thick glasses. There were also several computers along another wall and a coffee machine in the corner. Two other men were in the room aside from the Muggle, and both were dressed as Aurors.

"Merci, Anton," said Calvet. The Muggle at the computer look up, grimaced, and then left without a word.

On the table to the left was a blueprint rolled out and the corners pegged down by four pots of different coffees. Harry didn’t bother with introductions and crossed to the blueprint, examining it carefully.

DuPont stood next to him and pointed.

"’Zis is la Galarie du Glaces," he said, pointing to the blueprint. "We ‘av cleared zis entire wing across all floors. Ze public are still visiting in zese areas ‘ere, but zey are on ze ozer side of ze châteaux. Entrances from zis area are ‘ere, ‘ere, ‘ere and ‘ere, and are all being guarded. External entrances ‘ere and ‘ere are being guarded along wiz zese fire exits. Nozing gets in or out wizout my say?so."

Harry took a minute to assimilate the information and try to create a 3D image of the room in his mind. It was not lost on him that his trail of thought was not ’how can I protect this’ but rather, ‘if I were to break in, how would I do it’ – it was a bothersome reminder of the Dark Knight's influence.

"Apparation and Portkeys?" asked Harry bluntly, his eyes scouring the paper.

"Covaired by wards," replied DuPont. "C’est impossible."

"What about top and bottom?" asked Harry. "The roof, and from underground?"

"As part of ze anti?theft system," interrupted Calvet, "we ’ave seismic sensors underground to detect any tremors, and motion sensors on ze roof."

"Ze roof ez also covered by ze same wards," replied DuPont. "Zey are covaired on all six sides."

"Good," said Harry. "Advise your men to call in the slightest thing. They don’t get creative ? they call for help. If they investigate alone, they will end up dead, okay?"

"I will pass on ze message," said DuPont, nodding.

Harry glanced over the blueprint one more time. The palace did seem to be covered, but Harry couldn’t help but wonder if this was all wrong. What if it wasn’t even here? There were a million places it could be, and all they were betting on was Riddle’s best guess. Admittedly, as far as Dark Lord’s go, it takes one to know one, but Riddle was far from certain. Harry just hoped his shaky trust in the man was justified.

"Right, let’s have a look at your security cameras," he said, pushing the doubts aside.

"Oui, Monsieur," said Calvet, approaching the screens. "Since you know what it iz we are looking for, take a seat s’il vous plaît."

Harry did as he was told, slipping into the spinning chair in front of the desk. Thirty small screens were in front of him, and a large one in the centre.

"You can change ze cameras ‘ere," explained Calvet, pointing to a set of buttons, "and move ze cameras zemselves by zis." He pointed to a joystick.

Harry reached forward and began to flip through the cameras, but all he saw was more grand rooms, now completely deserted. He changed cameras again and saw the courtyard, still full of Muggles now being shepherded away by the police. There were numerous cars present with flashing blue lights on the top. At least Harry thought they were blue, as the screen was black and white. He changed several more times before he saw movement on the camera.

Touille was walking along a corridor. Katie and Riddle followed him.

"You can zoom with zis," Calvet told him.

Harry reached up and pressed the button on the radio in his ear. "Okay, I’m in the hub. I’ve got you on camera."

On screen, Riddle reached up and touched his earpiece. "Thank you, Harry. All secure?"

Harry decided not to voice his doubts, more for Katie’s sake than his. "All locked up," he replied. "All is quiet on the Western Front."

"Let us know if there is anything up ahead," came Riddle’s voice, and then he was gone.

Harry watched them on the screen as they continued to follow Touille along the passage. There was something about Touille that Harry deeply disliked.

"Can I get sound?" he asked, suddenly wanting to listen. The silence of the camera was unnerving. Calvet pressed another button and handed Harry a headset. "Thanks," said Harry as Katie’s words began to emanate from the headset.

~~~~ + ~~~~

Touille was ten metres ahead of them as they walked along the huge hallways, his footsteps echoing off the polished wood. The man seemed to want to march ahead, and as fast as they walked the Auror still seemed to be far ahead. As they walked, Katie couldn’t help but wonder if something was waiting for them. She tried to put the thought out of her mind, but she couldn’t escape the nagging doubt.

"What if he’s already been there?" she wondered aloud. "What if he came here last night and took it?"

"All is possible," replied Riddle as they walked.

Katie would rather Riddle reassured her that it would be all right. If Grindelwald had gotten away he could rise again, even if Katie somehow managed to kill him. He would be invincible.

"If he has, we’re screwed," said Katie. "And he can return any time he dies."

"Best put that thought out of your mind," advised Riddle as they turned a corner. "Don’t dwell on what?ifs, Kathryn. Play the hand that is dealt to you."

"That’s pretty much what Harry said," replied Katie, noting the choice of words. Either Harry and Riddle had been chatting, which was unlikely given Harry’s dislike of the man, or they were both singing from the Albus Dumbledore hymn sheet. "It’s actually one of the few things we agree on," added Katie.

"You don’t like him very much, do you?" asked Riddle, staring down at her. Katie was slightly taken aback by the directness of the question.

"I don’t dislike him," answered Katie carefully, before remembering the ear?piece. "He can’t hear me, can he?" she added in a horrified whisper.

"Not unless you press the transmit button on your earpiece," replied Riddle shaking his head. "No."

"Like I said, I don’t dislike him," began Katie honestly. "I just...don’t know where I stand with him. One second I am talking to a friend who is trying to help, joking, being nice and supportive, and the next I am talking to a soldier who wants me to grow up and fight. I mean, I know he is trying to help, I know he is on our side, but I just don’t feel safe around him. It’s like talking to Jekyll and Hyde."

Riddle did not reply immediately, but continued walking. Katie didn’t know whether Riddle would try to tell her to stay away from him or to try to vindicate Harry. The Headmaster paused for what seemed like an eternity before speaking.

"Harry is in a unique situation," he began slowly. "He has all these skills, ones he did not acquire himself. He is haunted by a horrific past and this is all he knows. He means us no harm. That is to say, he means you no harm. However, he has his own way of doing things, which as you can see at the moment is all about fighting. He does not know any other way."

"But there is another way?" asked Katie hopefully.

"I want to believe there is," answered Riddle. He appeared to be sincere, but it was not the encouraging answer Katie had been looking for. Riddle seemed to sense her disappointment and smiled down at her. "Albus was adamant there was one."

"Did he say what it was?" asked Katie, though she knew better than to hope for a ‘yes’.

"No," replied Riddle, with a small smile. "It was from him I inherited my habit of speaking in riddles, and he was a lot better at it than I. Half the time, I didn’t know what he was talking about or whether to take him seriously. He always said it was love, but at the time I couldn’t understand it."

"And you do now?" asked Katie.

"I’m afraid not," said Riddle to Katie’s disappointment. "Albus told me that when Grindelwald fell it would not be some great warrior, but through an act of love. I had no idea what he meant, and I just assumed that some great witch or wizard would have the ability to use love and magic together, like an anti Avada?Kedavra curse. I even spent considerable time researching it, though I knew that I, myself, with my past could never manage it. So, I watched at Hogwarts for some inherently good person who might be able use love this way. Oddly enough, I actually considered your mother and godmother to be potentials. Unfortunately, I was right on both counts, and both gave their lives for the children whom they love. Anyhow, can you see the flaw in the theory?"

"Not really," said Katie. "Aside from that it is impossible."

"Exactly," said Riddle. "I hear people saying that it should be possible to have an inverse?killing curse, but it isn’t. I have come to realise that you can’t use love as a weapon, because a weapon by definition is not used to love or forgive. Love is more of a shield."

"A shield against the killing curse?"

"Against the darkness inside us all," replied Riddle.

"I don’t understand," replied Katie honestly.

"I didn’t either," replied Riddle with a sad smile. "For a long, long time Albus’ death always puzzled me, but then suddenly I had an epiphany. You see, his death destroyed Lord Voldemort for good and broke his Horcrux. His death brought Grindelwald to his knees. And when Grindelwald finally fell, it was by the act of love from your mother. You have never been tempted to join him, because of your love for your friends, for your parents. It is the darkness within that love can protect you from, Kathryn."

"That still doesn’t help me kill him," replied Katie.

"No, it doesn’t," admitted Riddle. "Albus always said it would, but I never understood it. What I can say is that you must value your friends and the love you hold for your family, because that can protect you. As for Grindelwald, his life must be taken through an act, not of love..."

"But of hate," finished Katie.

Riddle didn’t have to nod, Katie already understood. Sooner or later, she would have to kill.

"So Harry is right," said Katie, trying to keep the misery from her voice. "Despite what you have just told me about love allegedly protecting me, on a practical level it doesn’t help at all. I still have to kill him, and fighting like Harry or using the sword is the only way to do it."

"One way, yes," conceded Riddle. "But not the only way. Killing is not nearly as easy as you might imagine, certainly not for someone with your capacity for love. You once saved Wormtail, a man whom you have no reason to save, all because you did not like killing."

"And look where it got me," muttered Katie. "Look where it got Sirius."

"True," said Riddle. "But what it if had gone the other way? How many sleepless nights would you have had? The road to darkness is just a series of small steps, and it is a slippery slope."

"But there is a line," protested Katie. She knew right from wrong. It was black and white, clear as crystal.

"Really?" asked Riddle. "Very well. If I told you I can cure all the world’s disease, cure third world poverty, and end all wars... is that worth one person’s life?"

"Erm..." began Katie. She knew that logically and statistically yes, but she would sound like such a monster to say it.

"You think that statistically, one life for millions is a good deal," said Riddle, with a small smile. "Don’t worry, I know I am putting you on the spot. It is just food for thought. As soon as you cross that line and kill one, what is wrong with just one more? What about killing two, killing ten... one hundred... one thousand to save millions. Where do you draw the line? And remember also that there is a big difference between condoning a death in this fashion and actually doing it yourself. For example, if I told you the price for this miracle cure was to kill Ginevra Weasley or perhaps Neville Longbottom, could you kill them in cold blood knowing the benefits?"

"I get the point," said Katie defensively.

"What if it was someone you did not like?" asked Riddle. "Could you kill Bellatrix Lestrange in exchange for the miracle cure? I know how you feel about her, and it would seem easier than killing an innocent, but it is the same thing. You still have to look into her eyes and end her life. As I said, a slippery slope. The ‘this is war, there are always casualties, who cares’ attitude is a step along that road, and if you don’t care then you are no better than Grindelwald.

"There are those out there that will look at our position, and think we should," said Riddle. "Those who read about what we do and the horrors of what Grindelwald has done and think that you should kill him for what he has done, that he deserves death. They would say you should. They will welcome it if you could, but they do not get their hands dirty. They are not in that situation, they do not have to look into a man’s eyes and then kill him."

Katie walked on in silence, Riddle’s words echoing in her mind.

"Then we get to Harry," said Riddle. "He has already killed, so we know he can. What stops him killing a few more? He has killed in war because he thought he had to, but what stops him killing every Death Eater he meets? Nothing. Only his ability to love and feel remorse. I fear that even his ability to feel remorse is weakening in him as he shuts everyone out. I do not know to what extent this so?called Dark Knight influences him, but by pushing everyone away he is leaving himself open to that path. When he does find a way home he may not know how to let his friends back in. If he is not careful, he will forever be alone, and that is the true path to darkness."

"So Harry is becoming a monster?"

"He already is a killer," said Riddle, seeming to choose his words carefully. "He can become a monster if he has nothing to hold him back. I think Harry is a ticking bomb, and one severe emotional blow could send him over the edge."

"Is it too late for him, then?" asked Katie, her heart breaking for a boy so much like herself, but yet at the same time so different.

Riddle stopped in his tracks. Katie paused and turned to look at him. He was staring at her, a glowing smile of pride and admiration on his face.

"There is that sense of love that protects you," he said. "Despite all I have told you about him, you still believe in him – you still have faith in the goodness inside him."

After a pause they continued on in silence, each lost in thought.

"I see good in half of him," said Katie honestly after a moment. "But the cold soldier in him is in charge now."

"Yes," admitted Riddle. "Harry has a habit of hiding behind the soldier when pushed. If you challenge him, he is quick to resort to anger or become like ice. It’s like a defence mechanism, and ironically, it only pushes the rest of us away and leaves him more vulnerable."

"Can anything be done?" asked Katie.

"WE’RE ‘ERE!" called Touille before Riddle could answer.

With the question still echoing in her mind, she turned her attention back to Touille. He was waiting twenty feet in front of them, holding open a set of large doors though which Katie could see the gleam of light off the mirrors. She took a deep breath and tried to push her thoughts of Harry aside.

Now, let’s see if we can find that Horcrux, she thought to herself.

She followed Riddle though the doors and into a long hallway. One side was covered by mirrors from the floor to the ceiling, and the other was covered by giant glass windows. The ceiling was ornately painted with an angelic mural and the golden candleholders were exquisitely carved, depicting babies climbing and reaching towards the heavens.

She turned to see Riddle standing a few feet inside the door to the right of it. He had knelt down and was staring vacantly at the floor.

"’Ave you found something?" asked Touille, from the doorway.

Riddle didn’t answer for a moment, but continued to stare at the floor. He then sighed. "This is where he fell," he announced. "This is where both Albus and Voldemort died."

His shoulders were slumped and his head bowed. Katie didn’t know what to say or do as a single tear fell from the end of Riddle’s nose onto the floor.

"I’m so sorry, Albus," he whispered. "I’m so sorry..."

BANG!

Katie and Riddle looked up just in time to see the door slam.

"EXPELLIARMUS!"

~~~~ + ~~~~

Harry sat back in the swivel chair his brow furrowed in thought. Although he was supposed to be watching their progress and checking the rooms in front and behind them to keep them safe, he had ended up listening to their conversation which he had found so enlightening. He had been tempted at times to interrupt over their ear?pieces, but somehow he had resisted the urge and sat back and listened to what they really thought of him. He felt like a fly on the wall.

Katie didn’t think highly of him, did she? Harry scoffed at the idea, trying to school his emotions and squelch the hurt. She was just a scared naïve little girl who could not fathom what she was caught up in, he thought angrily. She can’t be goody two?shoes for ever. Sooner or later, she would have to grow up, and Harry hoped he was there when she realised that fact.

Riddle, on the other hand, understood a bit more. He was right about the Dark Knight. Harry could feel him getting stronger, and all the time he felt so angry and so alone. He could feel the subconscious pull to go home, to war, but it was for Katie, for Neville, for Ginny and his friends that he felt compelled to stay and help. Harry was holding them fast while the Dark Knight wanted to push them away. With his mind torn between two courses of action, Harry felt a bit lost. When he had gone to Lundy and to the Ministry to fight Voldemort, both he and the Dark Knight had had the same objective. United, they had won. Now they were pulling in opposite directions. Harry suddenly felt small and helpless, as if the tide was just carrying him along for the ride.

Am I doing the right thing? he wondered.

I am doing what I can, he thought defensively as the mask fell into place. They don’t know what I have been through. Like Riddle said, any mindless idiot could look at him and say he was a monster, but none of them had ever walked in his shoes. None of them would be the one to actually pull the trigger. So bollocks to Riddle, bollocks to Katie, and bollocks to everyone else! He was doing his best, and that was all they could ask of him.

Crack!

Harry looked up as the camera in the Hall of Mirrors went black. It went out like a light, leaving darkness on the screen. Had the camera failed, or was it blocked? Harry flicked away from that camera and back, but the screen was still black. He glanced quickly around the other screens, his stomach clenching and a chill running down his spine as he did so. Something was very wrong. Riddle and Katie were nowhere to be seen. Someone had destroyed the camera, leading him to only one conclusion: they were in trouble.

Harry glanced back over to the blank screen and his jaw dropped. Because it was dark, he could see a perfect reflection in the polished glass. Behind him, all three Aurors had their wands aimed at him. Calvet was cowering in the corner, while the Aurors advanced.

Harry didn’t move, not wanting to lose the element of surprise. Pretending his attention was on the screen, he carefully slipped his hand into the coat and grasped the Stun Baton, all the while watching the advancing Aurors in the reflection on the blank monitor. Then, as DuPont raised his wand to strike, Harry forced the chair backwards, straight out from under him, and into DuPont’s body. The man cried out in pain and doubled over as the chair knocked the air out of him

The first Auror swished his wand in an attempt to cast a spell, but the Dark Knight was too fast. Harry’s hand clamped over the man’s wrist and twisted, pulling him closer to block any curses from the others, and then drawing back as he thrust his fist into the man’s chest shouting a Blasting Curse. With a bang the Auror was launched off his feet and landed on top DuPont, who crashed to the floor under the unconscious body.

The last Auror flicked his wand and the boiling coffee flew out of the pot towards Harry who dived out of the way of the scalding hot liquid. The coffee splashed all over the computer screens, which began to crackle and fizz as it short?circuited, causing all the screens to turn black. Harry sprung off his shoulders back to his feet just as the Auror approached. He raised his right leg and kicked the wand aside before leaping forward, knee raised. His knee slammed into the man’s chest with the full force of his weight, cracking several ribs as the man fell away. As he crashed to the floor Harry grabbed a pot of instant coffee that was holding down the blueprint and smashed it over the Auror’s head, sending him reeling into unconsciousness.

However, as Harry stepped back, DuPont was back on his feet. Before the man could cast a spell, Harry wandlessly summoned DuPont to him. A look of surprise crossed the older man’s face as he was swept off his feet. But at the last second Harry sidestepped the incoming body, and sent DuPont crashing into the computer screens. The man screamed and thrashed as the electricity conducted through the coffee and up into his body. Harry watched for a second in satisfaction, until the lights exploded into sparks and darkness fell, before he put DuPont out of his misery with a Stunner.

Surveying the three fallen Aurors and the broken equipment, Harry breathed a sigh of relief. Then he glanced back over at the screens again, but they were all blank now: he had no way of knowing how many were out there or what was happening. Grimacing, Harry raised a hand to his ear?piece.

"Katie? Riddle? Can you hear me?"

Silence.

Harry waited for what seemed like ages, but there was only silence.

"Katie, Grindelwald's here, get out now!"

Nothing.

Maybe it’s being blocked, he thought. Maybe they had either been taken off them or they were destroyed. Maybe they couldn’t answer. If Grindelwald was listening, Harry daren’t say any more. He had to assume that Grindelwald had Riddle and Katie, and that he knew Harry was coming. Somehow he had to get them out.

First, he needed to find out what was happening in there. He picked up a map of the Chateaux and ran his finger over it, searching for the Hall of Mirrors. Luckily, English translations were written on it underneath the French words. Right, he knew where he was going. He just had to get there, have a look inside, and plan his next move. He had the surprise card, and he needed to use it.

Calvet was still sitting in the corner, cowering from Harry. The Muggle was clearly not up for a Magical fight, whatever his military background.

"Monsieur Calvet," said Harry, standing over him. "I’m not going to hurt you."

"You killed zem!" the Frenchman managed to stuttered.

"No I didn’t," said Harry, shaking his head. "Check their pulses. They’re just unconscious."

"Why did zey...?"

"Attack me?" finished Harry. "Because they are working for our terrorist. He has infiltrated your government, it seems."

"But..."

"Monsieur," said Harry losing patience. "We don’t have time for long conversations. Look, I need you to contact your police. Our police will be watched, but yours won’t be. I need your armed police to storm the Hall of Mirrors as soon as possible. Do you understand?"

"Mon dieu, Je..."

"Calvet," said Harry sternly. "I can’t do this alone. Just get some armed police in there as soon as possible."

With that, he disappeared in a ball of flames, ready for his rescue.

~~~~ + ~~~~

"EXPELLIARMUS!"

The curse hit Katie in the small of the back, and her wand was ripped from her hand as she was forced forward. She lost her balance and landed on her face on the hardwood floor. Shaking the disorientation from her head, she quickly rolled over to see her wand and Riddle’s land with a clatter at the other end of the hall. She turned to see Touille standing over them, his wand levelled at Riddle who had also been thrown to the floor by the curse.

"What the hell do you think you’re doing?" snapped Katie

"Whatever I tell him to do," said a low voice behind her.

Katie’s heart skipped a beat and a feeling of dread filled her stomach. She knew that voice all too well. For the second time in twenty?four hours, Katie turned to find the Dark Lord had appeared in the room. He was dressed once again in all black and his hood was up, leaving only the bottom half of his pale face visible. His darkened lips were turned upwards in a malicious sneer as he stared with loathing at her.

Idiots, thought Katie angrily. She’d had her mind on Harry, and Riddle had his on Dumbledore. They had both been caught with their knickers down. Why hadn’t Harry warned them? Where was he? She raised her hand to her ear.

"Harry?" she whispered desperately.

Silence.

"If you are calling for the boy?wonder," said Grindelwald calmly as more Death Eaters appeared behind him, "he is indisposed at the moment."

"If you’ve hurt him..." began Katie angrily.

"You’ll do what, exactly?" snapped Grindelwald icily.

He paused for a moment, and Katie realised that she was utterly powerless. She couldn't help her friend, she couldn't even help herself. Grindelwald seemed to read her thoughts, "Accept the futility of your situation and shut up," he sneered.

Katie climbed slowly to her feet as more Death Eaters appeared around the room in a wave of pops. There were perhaps twenty?five or thirty of them now, all hidden behind glowing white masks and jet black cloaks. She and Riddle were completely surrounded.

Grindelwald turned to the Death Eater behind him and spoke in rapid French, which Katie didn’t pick up.

"Oui, Maître," replied the man as he turned and hurried out the far end of the hall.

These weren’t all English Death Eaters, but French as well. It also explained why he had not been detected entering the country or the Chateaux – he had been helped. Was it DuPont? It seemed that his forces on the continent were not as dead as everyone had assumed. If he was already reaffirming his strength on the continent, that meant he was closer to finishing off England than they had realised and was almost ready to return home.

As the Death Eaters moved to encircle them, Grindelwald stepped up to Riddle.

"Tom," he said calmly.

"Gellert," replied Riddle, conversationally. His tone was quite jovial, rather than scared. Katie was suddenly aware that while he accused Harry of going ‘cold’ when threatened, whenever Riddle was threatened or pushed onto a subject he did not wish to talk about he adopted his ‘conversational’ voice and made some odd comment, giving him a slightly barmy, but non?threatening appearance. Katie realised that Riddle was a lot more like Harry than he wanted to admit, and it all came back to the old headmaster, Dumbledore. This Dumbledore must have had quite an influence on both of them, she realised.

"What a nice reunion we have here," said Grindelwald with a smile as if they were old friends, though the venom in his voice suggested that he wasn’t as pleased as he appeared. Riddle on the other hand made no comment, but continued to smile at Grindelwald. The Dark Lord raised two hands and lowered his hood, revealing his haunted?looking face and those icy black eyes.

"We’ve been in this situation once before haven’t we, Lord Voldemort?" he said, his voice almost a purr on the name.

Katie could see he was testing the water, seeing how Riddle would react, and she felt a shiver run down her spine. After all these shocking revelations about Riddle and Voldemort in the last twenty four hours she still had faith in her headmaster, but to hear it said by the Dark Lord himself was chilling. In fact, it shook the very foundations of her faith in him.

"That name no longer has any meaning for me," said Riddle flatly, pulling the locket out from inside his robes.

Grindelwald eyed the locket for a moment before speaking.

"He was right about that," said Grindelwald, nodding his head. "He found a way to destroy them. Sentimental old fool. I show him the path to ultimate power and all he did was destroy it. He was blind."

"There was no need to kill him," said Riddle, shaking his head.

"It was you who I wanted dead!" snapped Grindelwald, leering in front of Riddle like a snake. "He was an accident."

"Just like Ariana?" asked Riddle icily, unable to keep calm any longer.

Katie had no idea who Ariana was, and she never got a chance to ask. Suddenly there was a bang and the doors were thrown open. Harry came rushing in looking flustered, as if he had run the whole way up here.

"KATIE, WE HAVE TO GET OUT OF HERE, IT’S A TRAP! THE AURORS ARE....ohh!"

He froze and looked slowly around the room, taking in the many figures in black that now surrounded him. As twenty?five wands pointed at his chest, Harry turned back to Riddle.

"Never mind," he said flippantly. "It’s clear you already know, so I’ll be going then."

He turned and headed back towards the doors, however several Death Eaters moved to block his way while another closed the doors. He was now surrounded on all four sides. After a pause, Harry gave a dramatic sigh and raised his hands in surrender. "Okay, so maybe not," he said casually. "I guess I can stay a little longer. I do so enjoy reunions."

Katie watched as Harry turned back to face Grindelwald, who was looking at him with a victorious sneer on his face. Grindewald had swept his cloak back, his hand hovering near his wand. He had clearly learned his lesson and was remaining guarded as long as Harry was present. Harry stood facing Grindelwald with his hands up, but still the Dark Lord didn’t relax. He removed his wand and aimed it at Katie’s chest. Katie took a deep breath to calm herself while Grindelwald addressed Harry.

"Surrender your wand or you shall find yourself picking her up with a sponge," he said in that same cold voice.

Trying not to think about the wand aimed at her heart, Katie watched Harry look from Grindelwald to Katie and back again. As he caught Katie’s eye, he gave away nothing. Sighing, he opened his coat with his right hand, displaying the leather holster hanging from his hip with his wand in it, while holding his left hand up in surrender. A Death Eater cautiously moved forward to take the wand. Katie braced herself. It seemed obvious to her that Harry was about to make a move. He wouldn’t take this lying down. It was odd, Katie noticed, that she was now relying on the solider that she hated to get them out of here. Her body tensed, ready to move, ready to retrieve her wand as it all kicked off.

The Death Eater moved closer, stepping up to Harry and reaching for the wand. Harry stood motionless, staring the Death Eater in the eye as he reached for the wand. To Katie’s surprise, he made no attempt to stop the Death Eater. The man retreated a few paces with the wand in his hand and Katie was sure that beneath the mask, his face was one of relief.

"And the other one," snapped Grindelwald icily. "People like you never carry just one."

"Shucks," said Harry flippantly. "You got me. I just can’t fool you, can I?" Harry reached up into his left sleeve with his right hand.

"Slowly!" hissed Grindelwald.

Again Katie tensed, ready to move.

Harry grimaced and slowly removed the wand with two fingers and let it fall to his feet. Katie’s jaw dropped in surprise and she glanced up at Riddle, who met her eyes. Neither of them could understand what Harry was up to. It was clear from his attitude that he was planning something, but neither of them knew what exactly. Katie would have expected Riddle to take the lead, to speak to Grindelwald and negotiate, but with Harry here and clearly up to something Riddle seemed to be erring on the side of caution and waiting for Harry to act.

"Step back," the Death Eater ordered.

Harry did as he was told, and ended up standing next to Katie. He didn’t look at her, but instead kept his eyes on Grindelwald.

"So," said Harry conversationally, "what brings you to this neck of the woods, Grindy? You don’t seem like an art fan to me."

Grindelwald stepped closer to Harry, his eyes burning with anger. He stood perhaps a foot from Harry, towering over him like a king cobra, his unblinking eyes boring into the younger wizard’s with unbridled rage.

"Don’t play the fool with me," hissed Grindelwald, scarcely more than a whisper. "Don’t for a second believe you can outsmart me. Did you think that if you mentioned my invention, that I would be forced to check it with my own eyes? Did you think I would walk headlong into your petty little trap? Did you think I would not find out you have travelled to France?"

"Bait a trap with a big enough piece of cheese and a rat will always bite," said Harry with a shrug. "Wormtail can vouch for that."

Katie watched the two carefully, trying to ignore the fear in the pit of her stomach. Harry’s smug look was enough to infuriate Grindelwald, but Katie didn’t see the point, the objective. What was Harry doing?

"I have allowed this fiasco to play out for one reason only," said Grindelwald.

"You wanted a chance to gloat?" asked Harry flippantly.

"CRUCIO!"

Harry had pushed him a step too far and the curse launched him off his feet. Katie knew he wasn’t wearing the armour and remembered all too well the pain that that word could conjure.

"Gellert!" called Riddle, stepping forward the second the curse had struck, but his way was instantly blocked by several Death Eaters. "Gellert, let him go!" ordered Riddle, the first time she had ever heard him raise his voice in anger.

The Dark Lord ignored him as Harry continued to thrash on the floor. Katie was impressed that he didn’t cry out. She could see his teeth gritted as the pain tore though his body. Katie watched helplessly as Harry writhed on the polished floor.

"NO!" Katie couldn’t take it any longer – it was her friend in there. She surged forwards, but Riddle was just as fast. His hands grabbed her, holding her back, refusing to let her near the danger.

Grindelwald’ head turned at the movement, and he sneered at Katie. He broke the curse on Harry and turned to her instead, levelling his wand at her chest.

"Interrupt me again, my dear, and you will suffer as well," he stated coldly.

Katie looked from Grindelwald down to Harry, who was lying in a ball on the floor. He seemed to be struggling to move and his body was steaming from the curse. His breathing was deep and erratic and he was coughing.

"Don’t just stand there, girl," snapped Grindelwald, jerking his wand towards Harry. "You’re boyfriend requires your assistance."

Riddle released Katie and she knelt next to Harry. With her help, he staggered to his feet. His expression was slightly vacant, and he was leaning on her with nearly all his weight. They were face to face as she helped him to his feet and it was the first time in ages he had looked her in the eye.

"Are you alright?" he asked with a weak smile.

"Me?" asked Katie astonished. "What about you?"

"Chipper," said Harry with a pained smile. "Better me than you."

"Don’t you dare do this to protect me," hissed Katie angrily.

Harry suddenly took his weight off her and pulled her into a hug. His strength as his arms wrapped around her didn’t match his image as he still looked weak from the curse. She suddenly realised that he was playing it up! He wasn’t that badly hurt! Harry had the situation in hand. Katie suddenly felt a whole lot safer and more confident as his arms wrapped around her and he gave her a gentle squeeze. As his cheek rested on the side of her head, he whispered two words into her ear.

"Trust me."

Harry released her and stepped away, taking her hand with him until he was out of reach. Against all reason, her whole body tingled from where his body had been and she found herself smiling slightly. She watched with fascination as he stepped towards Grindelwald once more.

"That was juvenile," he said callously.

As Katie watched, she felt the mood change in the room. Harry had dressed down the Dark Lord in front of everyone and appeared to have more or less shaken off his punishment. He appeared shaken and weak, though Katie was sure he was playing it up, but mentally he had shown everyone he was unbroken. Katie suddenly had new faith in him. She had no doubt that the person who had hugged her was Harry, and he was in charge now. The Dark Knight might be in there somewhere, but this was her Harry. Although why was he being so flippant, so reckless? What was he planning?

"So...," said Harry, drawing the word out conversationally.

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