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A Stranger in the Promised Land Chapter VII(part5)  

2009-07-17 19:40:06|  分类: HP转载 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Harry regarded her coldly for a second, before turning back to stare at the forest.

"Can I join you?" she asked, unperturbed.

"Can I stop you?" he muttered under his breath.

He felt the log wobble slightly as Katie hopped up, walk along the length of it, and sit down astride it facing him. She sat staring at him for nearly a minute, and Harry could feel her eyes boring into the side of his head. He refused to turn around.

"What do you want?" he asked finally, his voice emotionless.

"To see if you were alright," she replied casually.

"As you can see, I’m fine," he muttered.

"Clearly," she said sarcastically. "Have you also chosen to take a vow of silence and solitude?"

Harry turned to face her, his eyes narrowed. He felt his blood boil and struggled to remain calm, but didn’t grace her with a retort. Whatever pity he might have felt towards her earlier was gone – he was too wrapped up in his own anger at Dumbledore to care.

"You are anything but fine," she stated, ignoring the glare he was giving her. "You still seemed pretty cut up about something, and I’m willing to bet it was what Grindelwald said. It was about Dumbledore?"

"Whatever gave you that idea?" he asked sarcastically, turning back to the forest. She may have worked it out, but Harry didn’t want to talk to anyone. The sooner she got that message and left, the better.

"You’re quiet, brooding, snappy, wanting to be alone," she replied as if he required an answer. "And if that wasn’t enough, there is always the big ‘piss off’ stamped on your forehead." She smiled, irking Harry even more that she seemed to know him so well.

"If it’s so obvious I want to be alone, then why have you come to stick your nose in?"

Katie ignored the question. "Let me guess," she said. "Whatever you’ve discovered, you are wondering why he didn’t tell you. You feel betrayed that he kept it from you, and you feel as if you have been taken for a ride. In addition, you feel that your guiding light all these years was a fraud and now you feel lost."

Harry turned to face her again. He was furious at Dumbledore, but now even more angry at Katie for being right, and more so at himself for not hiding it. Still, he refused to give her the satisfaction of admitting she had hit the bullseye. Instead he just looked out placidly over the forest, trying to ignore her.

"So, I’m right," Katie declared when he didn’t respond. She reached over and made him turn towards her, pinning him with a gaze he couldn’t escape from. "You see Harry, I can help. I’ve been through this before."

"Are you taking the piss?" asked Harry, his tone aggressive. "You don’t know anything."

"Oh, God!" sighed Katie, leaning backward until she was lying on the log. She raised her hands to wipe imaginary weariness from her face. "It’s like dealing with a four?year?old."

"What’s that supposed to mean?"

"You honestly think you are the first one to go through this?" she said with a dry laugh as she sat back up. "You think no one can understand?"

"And you can?"

"Yes," said Katie as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. "Let’s not forget, Harry, that last night you did exactly the same to me. Riddle, the one person I have counted on all my life. You tore his reputation to shreds. Riddle has always been my guide and you showed me he was once a Dark Lord. And if you remember, you did it with a damn smile on your face. So how does it feel when the tables have turned?"

"You came all this way to gloat?" Bitterly, he turned back to the forest. He realised she had a point, but his anger only made him resentful.

"I’m not that petty," she replied, and for some reason he believed her. "I came all this way to try to knock some sense into you, you dolt!"

"Because you are so wise in these matters," hissed Harry, his voice oozing sarcasm.

"Harry," she said wearily, "like it or not, we are in the same boat. We both had mentors whose reputations have been called into question, and we have both been lied to and deceived. You and Riddle didn’t tell me about the Prophecy or Voldemort, and Dumbledore didn’t tell you about the Prophecy or Grindelwald’s big secret."

"And because you have never hidden information from me," Harry reasoned, "that somehow makes you better?"

"That’s not what I’m trying to say," replied Katie, sounding impatient. "What I am trying to get you to understand is the same thing you spent nearly an hour trying to tell me last night. Like it or not, there is a lot that we can learn from each other."

"Really," he said with a doubtful snort. "You were fairly adamant all last night that you didn’t want my kind of help. And what, may I ask, do I get?"

"You really are determined to isolate yourself, aren’t you?" she said with a shake of her head and ignoring the jibe.

"Am not," he retorted coldly, realising how immature that sounded. He took a deep breath and grounded himself. "It’s not like I do it on purpose."

"Oh grow up," she sighed. "Who do you think is isolating you? You are! Stop feeling sorry for yourself. ‘Oh, I’m all alone, just a weapon, once he’s dead no one will need me.’ How can you be so blind? For God’s sake, get your story straight!"

"Straighten it out," Harry challenged her.

"Very well," said Katie serenely, crossing her arms. "You think you are just a weapon and that no one really cares. You think once Voldemort is dead, you will be cast aside and everyone will forget you. Where is the proof of that? Let’s look to the past. As you told me last night, once you arrived at Hogwarts and Dumbledore saw you, he cared about you so much he screwed up his entire plan for the great weapon. He jeopardised everything by not telling you about the Prophecy, and all because he cared about you. Riddle did the same for me. Again in your own words, you met your family and finally felt at home. That is a luxury I haven’t had."

"So you think you are worse off than me?" he said, hating the defensive tone his voice had taken.

"This isn’t a game of one?upmanship. I’m not trying to prove who’s suffered the most, you know," she replied exasperatedly. "The point is that Dumbledore – whatever Grindelwald told you, whatever happened to him – he changed, just like Riddle has done. Your mentor was a good man, the man you remembered, and he clearly cared about you. Whatever your past dealings with Riddle in your world, here in my world he is a good man. Remember what you said this morning about Sirius and the Women’s Auxiliary Balloon Corps? Whatever happened in his past, doesn’t make what you had any less real, Harry – your own words. Why is it that people who insist on giving advice can never take it?"

Harry shot her a glare.

"As for me," she continued. "Yes, we have argued. Yes, we have issues, but we can put those aside, Harry. Today I saw what you were willing to do for me, and okay, maybe I was wrong to be so hostile last night. Riddle’s willing to accept you, to help you, and I know I am, too. You are not alone, and trying to convince yourself that you are is not going to help."

As she finished, Harry stared back out over the forest. Her words had hit home and she had a point. Despite his failings, Dumbledore had always been there and in later years, he had been a good man. As he was always saying, it is our choices that show what we really are, and he had chosen to return to the light and leave Grindelwald. In this universe, he had even given his life to that cause.

"I’m not going to ask what Grindelwald told you," said Katie. "If you want to tell me then you will, I just want you to know that I am here for you. I’m your friend."

"To stop me falling into that precipice of darkness?" asked Harry, turning to face her.

Katie’s eyebrows flickered, but she managed to keep calm.

"I heard you," he admitted. "You think I am a walking time?bomb, a monster."

Katie paused and sighed. "I think you have the capacity to be one," she admitted. That sounded rather like bottling the answer to Harry. "You were close to killing that man in black. And I’ve seen the coldness inside you, this defence mechanism. But at the same time I’ve seen the person underneath, and he is worth fighting for. He took two Cruciatus Curses for me today, and followed me into the Ministry instead of going home."

"Actually," Harry corrected her, "I don’t have a key yet. I can’t go home."

"Shut up and take the compliment," said Katie, laughing. "My point is that this so?called Dark Knight doesn’t control you. He’s just an imprint left by another person. You, Harry, are in control and you are my friend, not that other guy. Every time you say no to the Dark Knight you get stronger, but you are still so scared to let anyone in."

"What if they don’t like what they find?" he said in a small voice, suddenly fearful. He hadn’t even realised that he even felt like that until she brought it up. It was a revelation to him, and he was mystified how she had seen it when he had clearly missed it.

"That’s their choice to make," she said with a shrug. "But if you don’t try, you’ll never know."

Harry paused, considering what she had just said.

"Why are you trying to help me?" he asked finally. "Last night you hated me, this morning you distrust me. You complained to Riddle that I am untrustworthy and you can never feel safe around me. But here you are being nice to me. Why?"

"Because I’ve seen into your eyes, Harry, and the Dark Knight’s," she replied. "You are stronger than you think. Sure I may be angry about Sirius, and I may not like or trust this cold soldier persona, but I’ve seen what’s underneath all that and it’s you, Harry. The real you. Despite everything, I think I like that person. And besides, I guess it’s just nice to have someone around who can understand what it’s like to be me."

"Snap," muttered Harry.

"I guess I just want someone to trust and talk to, and when you are not acting like you’re made of ice you fit the profile," she admitted . "And I know I was wrong to blame you for Sirius’ death. I don’t want to fight any longer, I just want to be friends, okay?"

Harry stared her in the eye for a moment, before nodding.

"Friends," he said simply.

Katie shot him a small smile and then climbed to her feet. Harry did likewise, and they stood facing each other on the log. It was time to head back for dinner, and Harry found that his appetite had mysteriously returned.

"I’m going back now," he said as he stepped closer.

"Before you do," said Katie. "There’s one more thing I wanted to say."

Harry paused and stared at her, waiting.

"I wanted to say sorry for the way I acted earlier," she said. "I was just angry about Sirius, and I didn’t mean to try to take him away from you. And generally I’ve been really rude to you." She stepped closer to him. "I just wanted to say sorry, and I’ll try not to be such a bitch from now on."

"You’re not a b..."

"There’s more," said Katie, cutting him off with a finger to the lips. "I wanted to say thanks, not only for saving my life and all you did at Versailles, but also for the way you were earlier. I'm sorry I lost control in Riddle's office, I..."

Hey," Harry interrupted gently, moving her hand away from his lips and clutching it to his chest. It felt oddly right there for some reason and he was loath to move it. "You have nothing to apologise for. After what you have endured in your life, you deserve a break. You waited years to cry, taking everything that was thrown at you. You couldn't show the pain, and just had to struggle on, presenting a brave face to the world. Any normal person would have crumbled years ago."

"You didn't," she said timidly.

"Dumbledore once told me that the fact I can still feel pain is what makes me human," said Harry. "The fact I feel Sirius' loss so profoundly is an emotion to be proud of, and is what makes me better than Voldemort." Harry realised as he spoke that his statement was no longer true. He realised that Katie knew this as well, judging by her conversation with Riddle at Versailles. A nagging doubt rose in the back of Harry's mind, one that could not be silenced.

"I doubted him at the time," continued Harry, "but looking back he was right. Look at me now. I kill and I feel nothing but anger. I can silence those voices of conscience in the back of my mind, push friends away, isolate myself and just keep fighting. Am I still human?"

"Hey," said Katie, taking her turn to interrupt. She raised her other hand to gently touch his cheek causing a strange shiver to run through his body. "You heard me in Versailles. I am not giving up on you this easily. We are who we chose to be – you are not beyond saving."

"Not giving up on me?" He grinned.

"Never," she said with a small smile. She pulled away before turning around and heading back along the log. "Come on, oh great Knight of Darkness," she called back playfully. "Race you back!"

As he made to follow her, Harry felt somewhat relieved that at least someone had faith in him, even if he did not. However, he couldn't understand how she had gone from deadly serious to provocatively mocking him in a heartbeat.

"Women," muttered Harry exasperatedly, as he set off in pursuit, determined to not let her beat him back to the castle.

~~~~ + ~~~~

Harry was awoken the next morning by Ron getting up to go for a shower. His response to this was to swear, and then roll over and go back to sleep after making the tactical decision that it was too early to wake up yet. Unfortunately for him this was not to be, as a few minutes later he was awoken by a loud squawk next to his bed. Cracking open one eye, Harry parted the curtains to find an unfamiliar owl sitting on the dresser.

He groggily reached over and removed the letter from the owl’s foot, keeping an eye on the creature's beak just in case. With the letter in hand, Harry retreated inside his curtains, crawled back under the covers, and opened the letter.

Dear Mr Potter,

Due to your role in recent events Rufus Scrimgoeur, Commanding Officer of the Aurors, requests your presence at an emergency meeting to take place in the Ministry of Magic tomorrow, Tuesday, February 27th, at 1300. Please be discrete, as this meeting is of a sensitive nature.

RSVP via return owl.

Kind Regards,

A. Hughes

P.P. Rufus Scrimgoeur

Department of Magical Law Enforcement

Harry groaned and threw the parchment down – the last thing he needed was a sleazy politician giving him the tenth degree, especially if all Harry could think about was killing him in another dimension. If Kingsley was right, the man would spend two minutes on preparations for the future and then an hour trying to get Harry to endorse him as the next Minister. Fat chance.

Not only was this letter bad news, but it also meant he needed to get up and show the letter to Riddle. In a foul mood, Harry threw the duvet off him and opened the curtains. To his further annoyance, the owl was still perched on the dresser, staring at him. The bird clearly wanted a reply.

"You can go, I’ll reply later," said Harry as he crossed to the dresser. He reached out to open a drawer for some clothes, but the owl lashed out and tried to bite his fingers. Harry’s reflexes allowed him to whip his hand out of range.

"I said I’d reply later, now go away!" he snapped at the bird, which stared defiantly back.

"I don’t normally condone cruelty to animals," said Harry, summoning his wand. "But you are pushing it, featherbrain. Now, sod off," he said firmly, pointing his wand at the bird. The owl looked indignant for a minute and then with a loud screech flapped it wings and flew out of the window.

Once the bird had gone, Harry threw on some clothes, and headed down the stairs. To his surprise he found Katie emerging alone from her dorm as he arrived in the Common Room.

"Morning," she said, eyeing what was in his hand. "You got one too?"

"If you are referring to a request to join the Scrimgoeur arse kissers club, then yes," he muttered cynically.

"Did anyone ever tell you, you have a wonderfully charming way with words?" Katie teased, heading towards the door,

"Once," he replied grumpily. "I told him to f?off."

Katie laughed as they made their way out into the hall.

"Was your owl really vicious?" asked Harry. "When you didn’t respond?"

"No, mine was fine," she replied. "What, did yours bite you?" she asked, trying not to laugh.

"No," answered Harry slightly embarrassed, "but it wasn’t through lack of trying, little git."

"So what did you do? Swear at it and threaten to hex it?" she asked, openly laughing.

Harry grimaced, that he was so predictable. "Something like that," he said, trying to pass it off as a joke. Katie just shook her head.

They walked in silence, but unlike in the past this was not an awkward silence. In fact, it was quite comfortable. Yesterday they had reached a crossroads and drawn a line under past conflicts. Things were looking up and Harry liked it. Almost without realising it he found his mood improving.

They arrived at Riddle’s office a few minutes later and entered without knocking since the door was already ajar. Riddle was leaning back in his chair talking to the head of Kingsley Shacklebolt in the fireplace.

"Ah, the very people," said the Auror, noticing their arrival.

"Morning," said Harry congenially.

"Received your letters?" asked Kingsley.

Harry nodded and Katie held hers up.

"I think it best that, should a meeting happen," said Kingsley, "it be on neutral soil. I wouldn’t put it past him to use your presence as a coup, before you even have a chance to speak."

"We’ll get to that," said Riddle, "For now, just carry on as before. And remind the Weasley twins that time is of the essence."

Kingsley nodded and with a wave at Harry and Katie, disappeared in the fireplace.

"Take a seat," said Riddle as the green flame disbursed. "Tea?"

Neither Harry nor Katie accepted.

"You need not worry about Rufus," Riddle informed them. "I will deal with him for you, and keep you both out of the spotlight. However, it is fortunate that you are both here, as we have something important to discuss."

There was a pause and when neither Katie nor Harry interrupt him, Riddle continued.

"Grindelwald made the point of removing his school records from Durmstrang, but under their school rules their Ministry of Magic also keep records, though this is not widely known. I have received this morning the information they have on the student, Gellert Gaunt."

Harry leaned forward, suddenly alert and interested.

"Harry, how much do you know about his past?"

"Very little," said Harry. "I was always more interested in someone else’s past. He’s not my Dark Lord, is he?"

Riddle ignored the stab and opened the file.

"Well, now that we know his real name a good deal more information has come to light," replied Riddle. "We were wildly mistaken when we estimated his date of birth. I say, we. What I meant was the British Ministry of Magic assumed he was born around 1915. However, it appears he was born in 1883, which makes him one hundred and fourteen this year."

"And he’s still going strong," muttered Harry. "Then man is seven times my age, but he’s still like hitting a brick wall."

"Is that a result of the Horcrux?" asked Katie hopefully. "Is he now weaker?"

"Unfortunately, no," replied Riddle. "Horcruxes don’t affect magical or physical strength. I think there is some other magic that keeps him from aging. Strength enhancement is a common field of magic. Witches and wizards are lazier these days, and prefer to let magic do all the work."

"What do we know about his early years?" asked Katie, steering the conversation back to the topic at hand.

"From the school records he was bright, brilliant in fact, but wildly reckless," replied Riddle. "This led to his expulsion in the year 1899, after which these records are useless. It is simple to work out that at this point he changed his name from Gaunt to Grindelwald and came to England."

"But he was born a Gaunt?" asked Harry. "He’s your...what is he?"

"I am unsure," confessed Riddle. "To the best of my knowledge, my uncle never married. But our grandfather may have had siblings. Some time before him the family tree must have branched."

"He doesn’t have to be directly related," Katie pointed out. "There’s probably hundreds of Gaunts around."

"Grindelwald opened the Chamber of Secrets," Riddle pointed out. "He is a Parselmouth, which means a close link to Salazar Slytherin. Apparently, my mother’s family spoke Parseltongue at home as their first language. No, he is definitely related. I will look into the family tree and see if I can identify where it branched. According to his Birth Certificate here, he was born in England, moved to Germany when he was four, and then to Romania before starting at Durmstrang."

"What was he expelled for?" asked Katie.

"Suspected involvement with another student’s death," replied Riddle. "According to this it was known that he was involved so he was expelled and arrested, but there was no evidence to convict him. As such, he was released and fled abroad."

"So if there was no evidence," said Katie thoughtfully. "Why was he expelled?"

"They knew he had done something, and he had many detentions for violence," replied Riddle. "In the end they were glad to be rid of him, and thus used the fact that he was out of bounds after curfew, defacing school property, as an excuse."

"Defacing school property?" scoffed Harry. "Not exactly a glamorous crime, scribbling whatever ‘Gellert waz ere’ is in German on something."

"Actually," said Riddle. "It appears he carved what was for a short time to become his symbol into the wall, and it is still there today." He held a photo out to Harry and Katie, which showed an eye inside a triangle.

"Illuminati?" asked Katie, raising an eyebrow. "Is that the all?seeing eye?"

Harry had no idea what she meant and glanced from Riddle to her and back, which was not lost on Riddle. "The Illuminati, or Illuminted Ones..."

"Professor Binns said Enlightened Ones," added Katie.

"...are allegedly an ancient Order that cropped up in both Magical and Muggle history, which are always at odds with the Church and Wizard authorities of the day, and are also at the end of most conspiracy theories."

"I know roughly who they are, I just didn’t know about the symbol," replied Harry defensively.

"The all?seeing eye," Riddle continued, "is an eye inside a triangle that is the symbol of this alleged Order. They crop up everywhere, and there are so many versions of the legend that you can get lost in it all. Anyhow, that is not the Illuminati there," said Riddle.

"How can you be sure," asked Katie,

"Because it is from the Peverell Family Crest," replied Riddle. "Who in turn are another descendant of Salazar Slytherin."

"I thought he was a Gaunt," interrupted Harry, no seeing the relevance of the Peverells.

"He was," explained Riddle. "The Gaunts are descended from the Peverells, and so this was briefly his symbol before he changed it in favour of the Dark Mark."

"The skull and serpent is slightly more awe inspiring," replied Katie.

"There was a time when I would have loved to have heard you say that," replied Riddle.

"You designed the Dark Mark?" asked Harry jumping ahead. He had wandered why Grindelwald’s signal was the same as Voldemort’s. Now it made perfect sense.

"Yes," replied Riddle. "I was rather proud of it at the time, but then...imagine my horror when it started appearing where people had died."

"I always thought that was the point," Harry said icily with a raised eyebrow.

Katie rolled her eyes. "Don’t start," she warned them sternly. "This is about Grindelwald’s past, not yours."

There was an awkward pause before Riddle changed the subject. "Anyhow, he fled to Britain at the beginning of the century. There he met the young Albus Dumbledore."

Harry froze at the words, remembering all that Grindelwald had said.

"They were...close," said Riddle. Harry's body involuntarily clenched. Riddle had known the entire time. Looking back on his odd behaviour whenever the subject came up, Riddle had known all along and not told him. He had deliberately avoided the questions. Damn him! Harry deeply wanted to scream at the man, but Katie was right, this was not the time. Soon though, Riddle would answer for his past.

"For a time, at least," continued Riddle. "We know from police records that Albus’ sister, Ariana, was killed in a confrontation between Albus, Gellert Grindelwald, and Albus’ brother, Aberforth. If I had to guess, I would say that this confrontation was what brought Albus into the war, and why he started hunting Grindelwald. They spoke about it during that final conflict, but I do not know enough about what happened to make sense of it. However, it seems certain that this was Albus’ motivation. However close they had once been, that was something not even Albus could forgive."

Just as Riddle was about to continue, a silver tabby?cat glided through the solid door to the office and soared up onto Riddle’s desk. The cat stared at Riddle and then spoke with the familiar Scottish accent of the Gryffindor Head of House.

"Headmaster, our new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher has arrived," the cat said.

Harry still found it odd to be talking to a Patronus, and the tone in the cat’s voice and the expression on its ghostly features were Professor McGonagall to a tee. Harry managed to hide the grin as the cat dissolved into nothing.

Riddle picked up his wand from the desktop and flicked it. With a whoosh, a plume of white vapour erupted from his wand and surged out the door, but it had sailed through the door before solidifying into a shape. Harry was mildly curious about what form Riddle’s Patronus took. The Voldemort he had always known was incapable of a happy thought and so didn’t have one, nor have need of one, as Dementors already feared him.

"That reminds me," said Riddle conversationally. "I need to teach you both that charm. It is a variation on the Patonus and is used to carry a message. The message you need to have reading in your head to begin with is the trick. Harry, you first. Think of a simple message and its recipients. For example, ‘what colour socks are you wearing’, to Kathryn."

Harry raised an eyebrow, at Riddle. He had the distinct impression he was being patronised. He glanced across at Katie who was looking expectantly at him. Harry sighed. It was a childish message, and he wasn’t sure if Riddle was teasing him.

"Now," Riddle continued, "with that message in your head, point your wand in any direction but give yourself space. You need the following incantation ? Crypto?Patonum. Crypto meaning secret, as in Cryptography, and Patronum from Expecto Patronum. Now, please, ask Miss Bell what colour socks she is wearing."

Harry was still dubious about the glimmer of amusement in Riddle’s eye, but he tried his best. Ever aware of the headmaster’s eyes on him, Harry aimed his wand at Katie.

"CRYPTO PATRONUM"

The stag erupted from Harry’s wand and trotted around to Katie. It stood regarding her for a second before opening its mouth.

The stag mumbled something that sounded vaguely like words before vanishing. Feeling slightly deflated, Harry resisted the childish urge to insist on another go. Instead, to preserve dignity he turned back to Riddle.

"A little more emphasis on the message, but otherwise good," replied Riddle. "You may wish to practice in your own time. Kathryn?"

"What shall I say?" she asked, as she removed her wand from her pocket.

"Why not answer the question," suggested Riddle.

Katie readied herself, and then after a deep breath pointed her wand and said the words. A plume of white light shot out of her wand towards the far wall where she was pointing. In mid?air the mist began to solidify, and out of a cloud leapt an animal that for a second Harry thought was a dog, but it was sleeker and wilder with a large brush of a tail.

"A fox?" said Harry aloud as the animal padded up to him and leapt up into his lap, it’s ghostly bushy tail dangling over his legs. It was an odd sensation as he could see and hear it but he felt no weight on his knees, only the cold of the mist and the tingle of the magic.

"A vixen," corrected Katie, as the creatures opened its mouth. Both Harry and Katie braced themselves as the vixen began to speak.

"Green and blue stripes," whispered the vixen softly. With that the animal faded into nothing. Katie looked partially annoyed and partially relieved at the same time. That could have been worse, he supposed.

"Fox, eh?" asked Harry, picturing the creature in his mind.

"Vixen," said Katie, somewhat defensively.

"Okay," conceded Harry, restraining the sarcastic comment that leapt to mind. "A female fox. Your father was an Animagus, no?"

"My mother," replied Katie. "Cunning as a fox."

"Oh," said Harry, making a mental note, though he wasn’t sure why he felt it was important.

Knock! Knock!

"Ah, perfect timing," said Riddle, conversationally. He waved a hand in the direction of the door and there was a click as it unlocked. Riddle rose to his feet, presumably out of manners, while Harry and Katie turned towards the door. As it opened, a figure stepped into the room, a figure cloaked in black.

Harry’s jaw dropped as he stared at the man before him. He knew that face!

The newcomer was tall with a thin and pale face framed in thick black hair. He was clean?shaven, but the course of his journey had left him with stubble. He wore black trousers, boots, and a black set of robes above which the collar of a white shirt was visible. Hovering behind him was a trunk on which a cage containing a large lizard was perched. The man looked about as trust?worthy as Mundungus Fletcher.

"Ah, welcome to Hogwarts," said Riddle, stepped around the table to greet the newcomer.

Harry continued to stare at the new arrival. It was the same man he had met in the Department of Mysteries, the man who had saved him from a gorilla?like Death Eater. At that time he appeared on be on their side, but had been cloaked as a Death Eater. Harry remembered Riddle raising an eyebrow when Harry had said anyone would be better than Umbridge. To make matters worse, Harry was sure he had met the man long before he had arrived in this world. Who the hell was he?

Just then a voice hissed his name. Harry leaned back so Katie could whisper in his ear. "Is it just me or does he look kind of familiar to you?" She had clearly been thinking the same thing.

McGonagall had appeared behind the new arrival and had closed the door. Riddle instantly conjured two chairs and offered them to the man and Professor McGonagall.

"Please, take a seat," he said returning to his own. "I have ordered some drinks to be served once you had arrived." He stared at the fireplace for a moment then turned back to the room. "But forgive me, I am forgetting my manners: Minerva McGonagall you know, this is Kathryn Bell as I am sure you can tell, and next to her is Harry Potter."

The professor nodded to each of them in turn.

"I know you," said Harry, before Riddle had managed to start the other side of the introduction.

The headmaster hesitated for a moment, and Harry felt a tense silence descend over the room. The new professor seemed not to notice. Not taking his eyes off Harry, he leaned forward and spoke with a soft and calm voice.

"Yes, Mister Potter," he said politely. "We met briefly in the Department of Mysteries where I believe I was of some assistance."

Harry paused. The man had admitted he was a Death Eater and that he had helped him. Was he a spy? Better to be safe and not mention the Order, he decided. Still, something else about the man was familiar.

"No," said Harry, certain he was right. "We’ve met before then, I’m sure."

"I don’t think so," he replied, studying Harry critically. "At least, not that I recall."

"Who are you, then?" asked Harry.

"This," announced Riddle with a flourish, "is our new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Regulus Black."

Harry and Katie’s jaws dropped at the mention of the name.

"I thought you were dead," said Harry, before he could stop himself.

"Not that I’m aware of," said Regulus with a small smile.

"Must have imagined it," said Harry quickly, realising how foolish it had been to highlight a difference between worlds.

"You’re Sirius’ brother," said Katie next to him. Her voice was shaking and as Harry turned, he saw that she was sitting bolt upright and looking very pale.

"I am," replied Regulus, a sad look crossing his face.

"And a Death Eater," continued Katie. Black shot a quick look at Riddle who nodded.

"That depends on who you ask," replied Regulus. "I have for the last few years been an active member of the Order of the Phoenix, though no one knew it. So much so that I had to take down Alastor Moody two nights ago as he tried to hex me."

"So he’s the best choice you have for Defence teacher?" asked Harry, outraged. "We are supposed to be teaching defence, not the Dark Arts themselves."

"But he has actually been there," said Riddle. "He has seen it from both sides."

"So you are publicly acknowledging Regulus as joining our side?"

"After a fashion," said Riddle. "And best of all, it was not my idea. Regulus?"

"Right," said Regulus, making himself comfy. "Following on from that night in the Ministry, the Dark Lord had two priorities. First was his trip to France, whatever that was about, and the second was to re?establish his eyes and ears inside Hogwarts and the Ministry. Now, from my brother I assume you know that the Ancient and Most Noble House of Black has always had leanings towards the Dark Arts. The Dark Lord gave me the task of playing the grieving brother."

"Playing?" asked Katie angrily.

"His words," replied Regulus calmly. "Anyhow, on his instructions I am here to throw myself at the mercy of the Order. And on Tom’s orders, I am here where he can keep an eye on me. The Dark Lord expects me to collect information from his young fans and pass it to him."

"What about Sirius?" asked Katie. "Why didn’t you help him? Why didn’t you warn us?"

Regulus sighed and shook his head. When he spoke, his voice was slow and sad, "Not even being able to tell my own brother was perhaps the hardest part of being a spy," he said. "He died hating me, and nothing can ever change that."

"That doesn't answer the question," said Katie bluntly.

"Because I didn’t know what was happening until it was too late," said Regulus, his tone more firm. "I got the message to go to the Department of Mysteries less than five minutes before we actually got there. The next thing I know we’re in the middle of a fire fight. Please know that I attempted to get the children out."

"So you are the best spy we have, and you didn’t know this was happening?" asked Harry incredulously.

"No one knew about that mission," replied Regulus. "Only perhaps Lucius Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange. I found out two minutes before I arrived, when it was already too late. I did what I could without blowing my cover. Luckily for you, Tom here was already forewarned."

"Hang on," said Harry. "If Regulus didn’t tell you and only Malfoy and Lestrange knew of the plan, then surely that means only one of them could have warned you?"

"Ah, yes," said Riddle. "We have hit upon another great mystery of this saga. Who sent that message? It was delivered by a Patronus, which can only be conjured by a member of the Order. However, it was no Patronus that I have ever encountered before that night."

"What Patronus?" asked Katie curiously. "What form did it take?"

"Yeah," said Harry. "I might have encountered it."

Riddle paused for a moment before answering:

"The message was delivered by a deer," replied Riddle. "A silver doe."


 

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AUROR’S NOTES

Sorry this one has taken so long, and thanks for sticking with me. Quite a lot has been revealed in this chapter, and there was quite a lot of information to take in. Hope you enjoyed it.

Special thanks must go to Kathy who has once again assisted me throughout, and her embellishments are still there for all to see. Basically, any moment that makes you go "awwww, bless" is her.

Jono

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