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A Stranger in the Promised Land Chapter VII(part4)  

2009-07-17 19:39:56|  分类: HP转载 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Suddenly Katie guessed that this calm and slight battiness must have been inherited from Dumbledore, as both Harry and Riddle used it when it suited them. Harry sidestepped Grindelwald and stepped past him to look at the others gathered. "So are these English Death Eaters, or French Death Eaters?" he asked. "What is the French word for Death Eater anyway? ‘Manger’ is to eat, I know that. That was the first word my cousin, Dudley, wanted to learn when he did his year abroad. By anyway, what’s the French word for death?"

"Morte," supplied Riddle, still standing next to Katie.

"Mangé de Morte," scoffed Harry. "That doesn’t exactly sound scary."

"Your grammar is appalling," said Riddle mildly.

Katie turned to look Riddle in the eye, guessing that he, too, was none the wiser about what Harry was up to; however, she was surprised that Riddle was willing to let Harry continue. He was making no move to intervene. Did he know something she didn’t?

"Oh well," shrugged Harry. "’Death Eater’ in English is a bit cheesy to begin with, isn’t it? It’s cliché, really." He turned and pointed and finger at both Grindelwald and Riddle in turn. "Out of interest, which one of you thought it up?"

The Dark Lord raised an eyebrow and stared at the headmaster, a sneer on his face. "They know?" he asked victoriously. "They know about what happened fifty years ago? About your past?"

"Oh, there are no secrets between friends," said Harry, waving the interruption aside. "Well, that’s not entirely true. For instance, where did Albus Dumbledore die?"

Grindelwald’s eyebrows narrowed and he glared at Harry, but Harry seemed not to care. Katie watched in fascination as they stared at each other.

"Over there," said Riddle after a few seconds, pointing towards the area to the left of the door where he had knelt earlier.

Harry crossed over to where Riddle had pointed. "Right here?" he asked Grindelwald. "This is where you murdered him? He tracked you all over Europe and then finally he caught up with you, and you murdered him," said Harry, his cold persona returning. "He was better than you, more powerful, too. He hated you and everything you stood for, didn’t he? So poor little Gellert got scared and killed him."

Katie had been expecting Grindelwald to lash out and curse Harry again, but he didn’t. A smile spread slowly over the Dark Lord’s blackened lips and he laughed softly, cruelly, as he stepped closer to Harry. They were about ten metres away from Katie and Riddle, and Harry stood perfectly still as he approached. Katie felt Riddle gently take hold of her arm, presumably to hold her back.

"I did not murder him," said Grindelwald quietly, stepping nearer. "You have got the whole story wrong, boy. Your great hero was nothing of the sort."

Grindelwald stepped up to Harry until they were almost nose?to?nose, except for Grindelwald being taller. As the Dark Lord towered over him with a smug look on his face, Harry continued to smile back amiably.

Katie could see Grindelwald’s lips moving, as he whispered to Harry. Katie was too far away to hear what was being said, but whatever it was it had Harry’s attention. Katie watched as the smile vanished from Harry’s face and Grindelwald’s face became even more smug and victorious.

Katie’s heart fell as Harry stepped back and shook his head defiantly. Grindelwald stepped in closer again, bearing down on Harry, as he continued to whisper.

"No!" Katie heard Harry gasp.

Grindelwald’s head nodded as he continued.

"No!" Harry said again, "LIAR!"

Harry moved forward to strike Grindelwald but he was too slow. The curse launched him off his feet and his back slammed into a mirror. He fell away and hit the ground hard, leaving a spider’s web of cracks on the glass. His body thrashed and writhed as he struggled against the curse. Katie could see a flash of red above his eyebrow from where he had hit the floor.

"You see, boy?" sneered Grindelwald as Harry writhed under the curse. "You know nothing! You are over your head in a situation you cannot comprehend. You thought your flippancy could unseat me? You thought you could throw me off guard with talk of Albus. WRONG! How pathetic."

"NO!"

Katie escaped Riddle’s grip and ran forward. "STOP!"

Katie saw Harry struggle to raise a hand towards her, warning her off.

"NO!" he gasped. "S?stay out of this."

Grindelwald turned to her, his teeth gritted with anger as Harry continued to suffer.

"Please," shouted Katie, "stop it!"

Grindelwald looked back to Harry who was still writhing in agony under the curse. With a flick of his wand, Harry was thrown upwards and slammed into the wall. He was no longer writhing and appeared barely conscious as Grindelwald held him against the wall.

"I stop when I am ready." With another flick of his wand, Harry fell forwards to the floor and landed with a sickening thud. As he struggled to move, Grindelwald advanced again, levelling his wand at Harry’s head.

Suddenly there was a woosh and a pop and a man dressed all in black appeared out of thin air clutching a can of lager. He instantly looked around the room, his body crouched, ready to pounce like a cat. A second later, having seen no danger, he drew himself up to his full height and slipped the can into his pocket. Whoever this man was, he was different from the other Death Eaters. His mask was not white but black, and it appeared to be made of metal. It looked almost Egyptian in that it resembled a death mask. Then again, it could have been samurai, or from any culture. All Katie knew was that is sent chills down her spine.

Grindelwald turned to the new arrival, his attention leaving Harry. The new arrival walked towards Grindelwald, standing tall and unafraid. As Katie watched, the Dark Lord’s face grew into a smile. He turned to Katie, and shot her a cold look.

"Pick up your beau," he said, turning his back on Harry.

Katie didn’t hesitate and ran over to Harry, kneeling next to him.

"Hey," said Harry weakly as Katie held his head in her arms. "I messed up, I let him get to me, I lost..."

"Shh," said Katie softly, wiping the blood from his eye. "You’re alright now."

Katie helped Harry up into a sitting position, and they both turned to look at the new arrival.

"Him!" said Harry, his voice full of venom.

"You know him?" whispered Katie in astonishment. "Who is he?"

"No idea," Harry replied. "He tried to kidnap a girl on the first day of term, and I think he’s the one who killed my parents... in this world anyway."

"How do you know it’s him?" Katie whispered.

"It’s in the way he moves," Harry replied. "...The way he is. I just know it’s him."

"You have it?" asked the Dark Lord as he approached the figure in black. Katie struggled to hear the conversation.

The figure in black extended his hand and opened it, showing something to the Dark Lord. The fingers of his gloved hand concealed whatever it was from Katie’s eyes. The Dark Lord’s lips drew back into a small smile as he stared at the item.

"How many more?"

"One," replied the figure. His voice was low and rumbling, but at the same time clipped and precise, yet it was so indistinct. Katie was positive that something was altering his voice, making it sound distorted in order that no one recognise him. Who the hell would do that? Was it for the Death Eater’s benefit of theirs? Either way, she knew the Dark Lord had succeeded in whatever he was doing. Was this all a distraction? If Grindelwald had known they would be here, had he only come in order to lead them away from the real goal? What had the figure in black found?

"Just one?"

The figure nodded.

Grindelwald seemed satisfied. "Good," he said, turning back to Harry. "Now, let us be done here, and leave. We have wasted enough time. Watch them."

The figure in black drew his wand from within his robes, holding it towards Katie with a gloved hand. Katie’s eyes followed Grindelwald as he crossed the room to a mirror on the far side. He stared at his reflection for a moment before pointing the tip of his wand at the palm of his hand. Katie watched as the Dark Lord made an incision on his hand, and then reached up towards the mirror. In the giant mirror, his reflection mimicked his movements, and as both Grindelwald and his reflection touched, he stepped through the mirror and disappeared. There was a gasp around the room as the Dark Lord appeared to vanish into nothing.

As the Death Eaters stirred uneasily, Katie looked around for a way out. However, the figure in black remained unfazed as he stood before them.

With a pop the Dark Lord emerged from the mirror, stepping back out into the room. To Katie’s surprise, he was holding a pair of golden half?moon spectacles. He handled them carefully, as if they were really delicate, and the expression on his face showed how precious the object was to him. Katie felt a chill go down her spine. Inside those glasses was a piece of the Dark Lord’s soul, a piece of evil.

"Help me up," whispered a voice in her ear.

Katie stood up and helped drag Harry to his feet. He continued to lean on her as he watched the exchange.

"Come," said Grindelwald to the room at large. "We are leaving. I will dispose of these three and then we shall return."

"They were Dumbledore’s," said Harry, stepping forward and leaving Katie, only to halt when the figure in black moved the wand to cover him. Harry stared at the figure in black for a moment. "Oh, it’s you again, is it?" asked Harry a grin breaking across his face. "I’d wondered where you’d got to, my slippery little friend. Did I tell you that I saw your film? I saw you blow up St Mungo’s. That was you, wasn’t it? My parents died in that blast."

The figure cocked his head.

"And all so you could kill one healer?" scoffed Harry. "The others didn’t need to die! Why did you do it? Do you feel manly killing defenceless people?" Harry turned to Grindelwald. "And he works for you, running errands? What was that in his hand? What has he done?"

"Nothing that concerns you," snapped Grindelwald.

"Why?" asked Harry. "Worried I’ll scupper another plan?"

"You won’t ‘scupper’ anything ever again," said Grindelwald. "Goodbye."

He levelled his wand at Harry. "AVADA..."

"All this because he saw you for what you really are," muttered Harry with a shrug, though Katie saw him tense, ready to move – this was a dangerous bluff. As the Dark Lord hesitated, Harry pressed his advantage. "I don’t know what you two were, but he was better than you. You are just a spoilt little rich kid on a power trip. But you have all these minions to do your dirty work. And this guy, the lieutenant or whatever you call him. Your most loyal? Of course not, because he’s English. You’ll leave them all behind one day. Trust me I know. Dark Lord’s never appreciate their second in commands. I..."

"He’s stalling," said the figure in black simply. "Someone is coming!"

Of course, thought Katie. Harry was only interested in buying time. But who was he waiting for?

Suddenly there was a scraping sound and a figure in black coveralls, armour, a gasmask and holding a machine gun dropped down onto the balcony outside. Katie’s jaw hung limp as the window shattered and the man dived in, rolling back up to his feet.

Startled by the movement, the figure in black turned to the window. Katie recognised the man on the balcony for what he was – an armed policeman. All this time Harry had been stalling, allowing Grindelwald to feel in control until he had the Horcrux. And all the time, he was waiting for the Muggles.

"AVADA..."

Harry’s tiredness seem to vanish, and he instantly raised a foot and kicked the figure in back off balance. Unfortunately, another Death Eater managed to complete the curse. The Policeman fell in a flash of green light just as three more came crashing through the other windows. Grindelwald recovered quickly and aimed his wand at Harry,

"AVADA KEDAVRA!"

Harry instantly flicked his coat backwards and drew from within the concealed stun baton. He threw it up in front of him to parry the curse. As he swung, the baton absorbed the power of the curse and burst into light, glowing a sickly green. Harry raised it high, the figure in black on the floor at his feet defenceless.

Katie watched in horror as the scene played out in slow motion before her. Surely he wouldn’t kill the man in cold blood? Whatever he had done, Harry wasn’t a murderer. She remembered what Riddle had said in the hallway, about slippery slopes and Harry being on the edge of a precipice.

"HARRY! NO!" shouted Katie.

Just as the baton started to descend, Harry froze at the sound of her voice. He paused for a split second and then turned to face her. Katie could only stare pleadingly at him, as he stared at her emotionlessly, his jaw set and his whole body tense. Their eyes met and Katie saw only emerald green ice.

Please, Harry!

Suddenly he moved, turning back around and with all his strength, he threw the baton high up into the air. The glowing green rod spun as it flew up towards the huge chandelier that hung over their heads. Harry held out a hand to the Death Eater who had taken his wand. Instantly two wands flew from the man’s hand into Harry’s, and he raised them both towards the baton, pressing the tips together.

"SECTUMSEMPRA!"

The spell hit its target and the combined magic was too much for the baton. With a thunderous explosion the magic in the baton erupted outwards, vaporising the chandelier, knocking everyone in the room off their feet and shattering every window in the room. The police outside recoiled as glass erupted outwards, cascading down into the courtyard like a waterfall of razors. Katie was forced violently to the floor as the shockwave passed straight through her. Her ears were ringing from the explosion, but she managed to sit up in time to see the Stun Baton fall back to the floor, dormant. Harry quickly summoned it back to him, and lit it with a Stunner. With a flick of his wand, Katie’s wand came flying free from the Death Eater’s grip.

"Catch!" yelled Harry.

Katie caught her own wand as it sailed through the air and immediately sent a Stunner at the Death Eater nearest her. The room was in pandemonium. As the windows had shattered outwards, the Muggles were free to enter, and six had repelled in through the window. Their gasmasks and helmets made them look inhuman as they aimed their weapons at the occupants. Katie knew they didn’t know friend from foe, and so they had to get out of there. She threw herself to the floor as a crackle of gunfire sounded over her head. With a thud a Death Eater landed near her, his hollow eyes staring into hers and a trail of blood seeping out through the mask and the holes that had been ripped in his chest.

With a scream, Katie saw a Muggle get hit by a curse and fly backwards out of the window. Christ! It was carnage.

Suddenly she was aware of a man standing over her, his machine gun aimed down at her. The man hesitated as he came across a young woman in a room of monsters. That was enough, for a second later, an arm wrapped itself around his neck and in a flash of red light the man went limp as Harry arrived by her side.

"The glasses," gasped Harry. "Get them!"

Katie jumped to her feet. "Accio spectacles!" she shouted.

Grindelwald had almost made it to the door when the glasses were ripped from his hands. A look of horror appeared on his face as his soul was dragged from his gasp. He reached out for them and screamed as they sailed across the room. Katie grabbed them as they flew through the air.

Suddenly a tremendous crackle of gunfire filled the room, and the wizards threw themselves to the floor. Katie looked out to see three men in black assault gear carrying automatic weapons burst through the double doors. Already two Death Eaters were lying in puddles of their own blood. There was another flash of green light and a Policeman shot backward out through the window and disappeared through the curtains. Suddenly Riddle was by their side.

"We have to go!" he shouted above the racket as he took his wand from Katie.

"The man in black..." protested Harry.

"...can wait!" insisted Riddle, picking up piece of debris. "We have the Horcrux. Portus!"

"RIDDLE!" screamed a voice.

They all turned to see Grindelwald unleash a jet of green light at them. Suddenly they all felt a tug behind their naval and landed in a heap on the Headmaster’s office floor.

~~~~ + ~~~~

"Are you alright?" asked a weak voice.

Harry merely groaned in response. He had ended up face down on the cold hard floor of Riddle’s office and as he rolled over, his eyes unaccustomed to the gloom, he found Katie looking down at him, a look of concern etched into her features. Harry blinked a few times, trying to let his eyes adapt, but was then forced to cover them as Riddle lit a lamp. Groaning, and trying to ignore the dull throb of pain all over his body, Harry tried to sit up, but after the shooting pain that followed, thought better of it. In all honesty he felt like he’d been run over by an eighteen?wheeler; his limbs were aching, he was completely drained and he just wanted to go to bed.

Still, at least I haven’t been shot, he thought gratefully. That was one saving grace at least, and they had been successful after all. Katie had gotten the glasses, hadn't she?

"Did we get it," he asked, propping himself up on his elbows.

"Yeah we got it," said Katie impatiently, "now are you alright?"

"More or less," answered Harry truthfully, managing to sit up properly. The adrenaline was gone now, and the pain was setting in. He began rubbing his head, trying to drive it out. "Just a headache, I think."

"Here," said Riddle, offering Harry some chocolate.

Harry accepted it and took a bite as Riddle put the kettle on – even the drive to fight Riddle was gone, such was his exhaustion.

Katie sat down by his side and looked him up and down, pausing on his busted eyebrow. "We need some water and a towel," she told Riddle. Taking hold of his arm, she practically dragged him up into a chair. Harry was surprised at her strength, but was in no position to resist. Riddle set a bowl of water in front of Harry as Katie deposited him in the chair.

"Oh please don’t fuss over me," groaned Harry. "I’ll survive." His cut seemed less of less importance to him than what he had learned this afternoon. Grindelwald had to be lying! Harry felt his rage building once again, but he didn't know who it was directed at: Dumbledore, Grindelwald, Riddle, or even Katie now that she was being all......female. He didn’t want her attention or her pity. He didn’t want anyone’s pity. Anger seemed to bring some of his strength back with it.

"Survival isn’t always enough," Katie corrected him gently as she dabbed at his face.

Holding back a spiteful comment Harry reached for the towel, but Katie pushed his hand aside. She dipped it in the water again and then began to dab it on Harry’s cut forehead.

Harry grimaced and tried to sit still as Katie cleaned up the cut on his forehead, but it wasn’t easy. The frustration pumping through his veins made it hard to sit still. He just wanted to get out of here, to be alone.

"Why are you doing this"? he asked impatiently, staring into her eyes. He tried to keep his face neutral, to not betray the inner pain he felt at her ministrations, but he failed.

"You took those curses to protect me," she said gently. "Don’t try to deny it – somewhere in there you believed you were saving me. And you did save my life."

Harry grimaced again but said nothing, lost in his own thoughts. He didn’t want or need her thanks, just time to be alone.

"Have some tea," Riddle offered as he placed a tray down between them.

Harry ignored the tray for now and stared at the recovered half moon spectacles . Katie followed his gaze to the Horcrux.

"So it was worth it then?" asked Katie. "We got it."

"That we did," said Riddle, lowering himself into his chair. "Thanks largely to Harry’s efforts. I was dubious about allowing your charade to continue, Harry. It was a dangerous game, but luckily it worked."

Harry didn’t respond – Riddle’s gratitude was way down on his list of priorities. Instead he just stared angrily at the glasses.

"So if we destroy this," asked Katie, swabbing at Harry’s cut once again, "what’s to stop Grindelwald from making another one?"

"Nothing," said Riddle slowly. "However I do not believe he would risk splitting his soul further. As he has likely seen, such things are not fool?proof. I believe he will not risk making another one as long as people who know about it survive."

"At least we hope," said Harry flatly. As Katie released him, he leaned forward nonchalantly and poured himself a cup of tea.

"So, how do we destroy this one?" asked Katie, putting the towel and water back on the desk.

Riddle rose to his feet and moved to the bookcase behind him. He reached up and removed the jewel?encrusted sword from its glass case. Harry watched without emotion as Riddle held out the weapon.

"The sword of Godric Gryffindor," he said, offering it to Katie. "The stage is yours – you have earned that right."

Harry continued to watch in silence as Katie took the sword from Riddle. The glasses were perched on the edge of the desk, ready to strike. Katie held the sword high above her head, taking aim at the glasses on the edge of the desk.

Harry watched intently, willing her to make that blow.

"Will he feel this?" she asked hesitantly.

Don’t worry about him, just do it! thought Harry.

"Unlikely," said Riddle.

"Okay." She visibly braced herself and took a deep breath.

Suddenly there was a flash as the glasses began to glow. The misty shape of a man began to materialise in front of Katie not unlike a Patronus becoming corporeal as it glided towards her, it's eyes fixed on her. As the shape solidified, Harry could see that the man was tall with mousy brown hair that came down to below his ears and a determined look on his face. His eyes were bright and locked onto Katie, who lowered the sword.

"Kathryn?" asked the figure as it become more opaque. "Is that you?" The voice was distant, but sounded kind and gentle.

"Daddy?" gasped Katie as she lowered the sword. Harry suddenly realised what was happening – the Horcrux was trying to defend itself, playing on her deepest fears.

"It’s a trick, Katie," said Harry, resisting the urge to take the sword himself. This was her task, her trial.

"You wouldn’t kill me again, would you my daughter?" asked the figure. "We can still be together. Help me!"

"Katie..." said Harry again. She didn't respond, but just continued to stare at the man, her eyes wide and glistening with tears and the sword hanging lamely at her side. She was rooted to the spot and tears began to stream down her cheeks as she stared longingly at the figure. The silence seemed to last for ages, and afforded Harry the chance to glance at Riddle. The headmaster made no move to help, but stood to the side of the room, watching Katie intently.

Come on, Katie, thought Harry, realising what Riddle was doing. This was her trial and she alone could face it. It was all up to her now, and neither Harry nor Riddle had the right to intervene.

Suddenly, Katie made her decision. Swinging the sword violently back over her shoulder, her eyes hardened. "You’re not my father," she screamed.

Before she could swing, the figure changed into an exact mirror image of Katie, and stood sneering at her from a few feet away.

"Poor scared girl," hissed the copy. "You’ve spent all your life hiding, hoping those around wouldn’t notice what a coward you are, but deep down you know... you know that you can never win. All you have accomplished has been for nothing! You will die and the Dark Lord will live again! All your friends will burn in the fires of wrath, just like your dead parents!"

"Katie, do it!" snapped Harry urgently, rising to his feet.

"And the prodigal son," hissed the copy, turning on Harry, "...the killer of his own world, which he left to burn in the hands of the enemy. You shall never see them again!"

"Kathryn," said Riddle firmly. "This thing is playing on basic fears, it’s reading your thoughts. It is not real. You must destroy it!"

"And the orphan, still clawing at the memories of greater men, struggling to deny a past of darkness now masked behind the cloak of valour and peace. You can never be what he was....you can never outrun your past..."

"Katie!" Harry shouted again, urging her to do it.

It worked. With a scream of anguish, Katie brought the blade down as hard as she could on the glasses. The spectacles shattered as the blade sliced through the middle of them, sending a lens flying in each direction. There was a blinding flash and a shockwave passed through Harry, as the copy exploded into sparkling dust. Katie turned under the force of the explosion, dropping the sword with a clatter, and stepped backwards, losing her balance. Harry moved instantly to catch her as the light from the destroyed Horcrux faded. He caught her easily as she turned towards him, but he hadn't been expecting her head to burrow into his shoulder, as she cried into his coat.

Harry got the distinct impression that her strong persona had finally broken. She had been forced to present a strong, unfazed persona to the world. She had refused to let herself cry until now, not allowing herself that weakness, but now it was gone. Years worth of pain and frustration were all coming out at once as she cried into his shoulder.

Harry wasn't entirely sure what to do. He could feel her shaking as he wrapped his arms around her. Her head rested on his shoulder as she wept, and he gently rested his cheek on her head. With his left hand, he rubbed her back in what he hoped was a soothing way, feeling his anger with the whole world subside slightly as he held her in his arms. How could he continue to resent everything with her like this? It wasn’t often that he felt emotion like this, and oddly there were no thoughts of telling her to ‘grow up’ or ‘deal with it’. The Dark Knight was absent, and Harry felt a wall within his heart shatter.

Over her shoulder he saw Riddle staring at him with a look that he couldn’t quite read, and then nod slowly before sitting down behind his desk. The headmaster scooped the remains of the Horcrux up and silently dropped them into a drawer.

Harry turned his attention back to Katie, and he gently began to rock her slightly as he supported her in his arms.

"It’s okay," he whispered. "It’s gone now. I’ve got you." He stroked the back of her head gently as she sobbed, desperately trying to comfort her. He had no idea how to deal with weeping girls and so just stood there, gently swaying.

"It’s over now, I'm here, you’re safe," he whispered, wondering whether it was appropriate to kiss her forehead. He decided against it, and continued to gently rub her back, hoping the tears would subside soon. Harry didn't know how long they stood there, but eventually, she stopped burying her head in his coat and raised it enough to look into his eyes.

Her face was pink, and her eyes bloodshot from the tears. Her blue eyes sparkled, but not with the intensity he had come to know, but with pain and anguish. She looked almost as defeated as after Grindelwald has possessed her. The look of pain was heartbreaking, and Harry could only give her an encouraging squeeze and hope he never saw her like this again.

"I’m sorry," she mumbled in an embarrassed voice as she wiped her eyes.

"Don’t be," said Harry, trying to be sensitive. "That thing played out your worst fears. It was teasing you, nothing more, but you beat it. It isn't real and it's gone forever."

She gave a weak smile and before Harry could react, she reached both her arms around his neck and lightly kissed him on the cheek, before pulling him into a proper hug. "Thank you," she whispered as she released him.

As Katie, sank into a chair and reached for some chocolate, Harry could only stare open mouthed into space. The skin in his cheek where her lips had touched him still tingled and it was all he could do to stop himself raising his hand to touch it. Suddenly Harry realised he had been standing stone still, looking as gormless as Goyle with his jaw open. He quickly closed it before anyone saw him and turned his attention back to Katie and Riddle.

"Well done," said Riddle taking a seat, as Katie bit off a bit of chocolate. "With his Horcrux destroyed, not only is Grindelwald now vulnerable, but he has also been shown how strong you are, and more importantly, how strong you are together. Against one of you he may have won, but together, he fears you. Also, we have had a glimpse at what he is up to. We don’t know who this figure in black is, but we know he is collecting something. We are further on than we were this morning, and you both have performed admirably, far beyond anything I would expect from mere students your age. Take fifty points each for Gryffindor. While I know such rewards mean little when compared with today's events, it is the least I can do, and what your housemates need the most is a symbol. For now, though, let me deal with this mess at both the British and French ministries, and clear up issues from this morning. You've both earned a rest, so may I recommend that you take the rest of the day off to recover?"

Harry nodded and Katie did the same.

Katie seemed to be all right now and the tears at least had subsided. Another few bits of chocolate, and she would be fine. Harry on the other hand was still feeling hollow inside, and was overcome once again by the desire to be alone, to think things through.

"I’m off, then," he announced. "I, ah... need a shower."

"Of course," Riddle said kindly. Harry noticed that Katie didn’t make a move to join him so he guessed she wanted some time to herself as well.

He nodded to each of them in turn, and then headed for the door. He hadn’t even reached it when he heard his name.

Harry turned back to face Katie.

"What did Grindelwald say to you?" she asked. "What made you snap?"

Harry paused, staring levelly at her. In his mind he played back the conversation, remembering exactly what Grindelwald had claimed, suddenly feeling sick as the words echoed over and over in his mind. He struggled to keep the pain and confusion from showing.

"It..." he began slowly, pausing, knowing he couldn’t go there just yet. "It was personal."

Fifteen minutes later Harry was standing under a warm shower, staring blankly into space as the warm water washed away the dirt and pain. He was alone in the bathroom and grateful for it. As the water trickled off his body, the steam cleared his head and his muscles relaxed, taking away the majority of the pain from the Cruciatus Curse. Time seemed to melt away as Harry stood there, his mind miles away. Unwillingly, he closed his eyes and found himself back in the Hall of Mirrors.

"I did not murder him!" said Grindelwald, stepping nearer. "You have got the whole story wrong. Your great hero was nothing of the sort."

Grindelwald stepped up to Harry, until they were almost nose?to?nose, except for Grindelwald being taller. As the Dark Lord towered over him with a smug look on his face, Harry continued to smile back amiably, hoping to put the Dark Lord off balance. He could see his smugness was infuriating the Dark Lord, but for the last few seconds it had been the Dark Lord’s turn to look smug, and that was worrying. When Grindelwald spoke, it was scarcely a whisper.

"Dumbledore was once on my side," he whispered softly. "He once believed as I did."

"Never," said Harry, still grinning. It was such an obvious attempt to unbalance him that Harry couldn’t help but smile.

"Oh yes," whispered Grindelwald, his voice almost a purr. "We once planned to rule Muggles for the greater good, me and him... side by side, hand in hand."

"He’d never join you," Harry scoffed, the smile vanishing from his face. But there was something in the Dark Lord’s eyes that laid a small seed of doubt. Harry wasn’t an accomplished Legilimens, but there was something in Grindelwald’s eyes that almost bordered on regret.

"No," said Grindelwald, "he did not join me in the end, and I did not convert him or trick him – I loved him. We planned this together. We were partners. We loved each other deeply, in the most literal sense."

Harry hesitated. Loved? Surely he didn’t mean that in the way Harry thought he did.

"You are incapable of love," Harry sneered.

"Now, perhaps," said Grindelwald. "I learned my lesson from Albus. You see, however well you know someone, however long your relationship..."

"Relationship?" interrupted Harry in disbelief, keeping his voice low.

Grindelwald raised an eyebrow.

"No!" Harry trailed off. "You mean you and he were..."

"As much as you can love someone," continued Grindelwald, "they can still betray you. He didn’t hunt me down because of my so?called atrocities. He hunted me down to try and save his lover from himself. But I didn’t need saving."

"So you killed him, the man you claimed to..." Harry couldn’t bring himself to say it.

"I was aiming at Riddle," said Grindelwald, appearing angry for the first time. "Albus was an accident. I never wanted to kill him. I wanted us to rule this country together..."

"LIAR!" screamed Harry, lashing out at Grindelwald, but he was too slow. The curse hit him in the stomach and he didn’t have time to prepare himself for the onslaught of pain that followed. He was vaguely aware of his feet leaving the floor as his whole body contorted in agony as the curse swept through his nervous system.

Harry gasped and his eyes flew open: the daydream was over.

"Harry?"

Harry looked around, taken in his surroundings. His body tensed, ready to fight; at the same time his heart was pounding and he felt sick. As he came to his senses Harry relaxed, taking a deep breath and wiping the water from his face and trying to forget.

Dumbledore? Grindelwald? Never! It was impossible, he thought, shivering despite the warm water.

"Harry?" repeated Neville. "Is that you in there?"

"It’s me," replied Harry, moving his head out of the stream. "Did you need something?"

"Are you alright?" Neville asked, concern in his voice. "You’ve been in there a long time."

Harry didn’t have a wristwatch on and didn’t know if he was right or not, but he probably had been.

"I’m alright," he called back. "I’ll be out in a minute, thanks."

That seemed to satisfy Neville and he left, leaving Harry to shut off the taps and dry himself. Back in his dormitory, he dressed for running. He needed to get away from everyone and be alone. Part of him considered Flaming to the far side of the world, but somehow a run seemed better – the physical exertion, the pain was what he deserved.

Ten minutes later he was racing up the side of the mountain where he had run on his first day in this world. He needed to get away... away from the mindless chatter, to where he could think. The words of the conversation were drumming through his mind. It was as if everything he believed in was wrong, tainted by Grindelwald’s words. Harry knew he had no reason to trust Grindelwald, but somehow he knew that it was true. Had Dumbledore once planned on becoming a Dark Lord? That couldn’t be, but at the same time he was certain that it was true on some level.

Harry ran faster and harder, his lungs protesting at the effort. Good, he thought bitterly, welcoming the pain. He deserved this because he had failed to see it for himself.

Dumbledore and Grindelwald.

Harry shook his head. No, it couldn’t be true...

Surely Dumbledore had seen him for what he was? He was an excellent judge of character. He had seen Sirius as innocent the second he met him again, and as much as Harry hated to admit it, he was also right about Severus Snape. How could Dumbledore be so stupid?

Harry reached the fallen tree where he had sat on his first day and came to a stop, panting deeply. Here he had hatched his plan to get home, a plan that had since gone sideways, but it was a good quiet place to think. Harry walked out along the fallen trunk, held up by the canopy of the forest below. He sat down, dangling his legs over the edge, some eighty?foot drop beneath him.

In turmoil he stared out over the forest and the lake beyond, but his vacant eyes saw only Grindelwald’s gloating face.

Dumbledore was a homosexual... He and Grindelwald were lovers.

It wasn’t the gay thing that bothered him – Harry wasn’t homophobic – but the statement was still met with horror for two reasons. One, why had Dumbledore never told him; and two, of all the people in the world, why Gellert Grindelwald... Gaunt, or whatever name he used at the time?

Harry thought back to Dumbledore’s office at the end of last year.

"Sit down, Harry," Dumbledore had said, "I am going to tell you everything."

No, you bloody didn’t! he thought resentfully. He felt the sudden need to lash out at something, to hit a wall or kick something, but there was nothing to hit. He began to sway with pent up frustration, not even realising he was doing it.

All his wizarding life Dumbledore had been there – a rock, a pillar, a symbol of good. And all the time...

He was supposed to be a force for good, not a reformed Dark Lord. Dumbledore had once wanted to rule Muggles, and rule alongside Grindelwald? What right did he have to lecture Harry on fighting for good, equality, and all that bollocks when he himself once wanted to sit on the throne? Was it all a lie? For six years, had Harry just been taken for a ride?

He felt so betrayed, as if Dumbledore has stabbed him in the back.

Why didn’t you tell me?

In his mind’s eye he could see Grindelwald standing there, smirking at him. That knowing smirk only served to infuriate Harry even more. Looking back he felt so stupid standing there, trying to defend Dumbledore, when it had all been a lie. He had been played for a fool, and now Grindelwald was out there laughing at him. Harry longed to wipe that smirk off his face. The way he felt right now, he could quite happily wrap his fingers around that throat and squeeze the life out of him, with a big smile in his face.

He clenched his fists in frustration.

Why?

"I thought I might find you up here," said a familiar, warm feminine voice.

Harry turned to see Katie standing at the end of the fallen tree, still on the path. She had her hair tied back and, like Harry, was dressed for running. She wore black tracksuit bottoms with a white stripe down the side, white trainers and a white sports vest. Harry noticed she was covered in a thin film of sweat and her cheeks were pink, indicating that she had also run up the mountain path.

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