Chapter 40: Enter, Stranger
Enter, stranger, but take heed
Of what awaits the sin of greed,
For those who take, but do not earn,
Must pay most dearly in their turn.
So if you seek beneath our floors
A treasure that was never yours,
Thief, you have been warned, beware
Of finding more than treasure there.
The plaque Harry knew hung just inside the doors of Gringotts never appeared more threatening than it did at this moment. Not once, in all his years of going to the greatest of all wizarding banks, withdrawing the galleons and sickles his parents had left him, had Harry ever guessed that someday he'd be going in as an uninvited guest.
"All right," said Ron, "I say we stand in line and then, once we get down there, we knock out the goblin who's supposed to guide us—"
"And then how would we find where we were going?" Hermione asked in exasperation.
Bakura shook his head and spoke up in his soft voice, but somehow was managing to sound a little more authoritative than usual, "Finding what we're looking for won't be the problem. Please, just leave that to me." He ignored, or perhaps just didn't notice, the slightly skeptical looks the veteran Hogwarts students gave him, and continued. "However...if we're too hasty or don't think through our actions carefully enough, then sooner or later it'll bring a swarm of angry goblin guards down on our heads. But, as it stands now, that can be avoided."
"Then how?" Ron demanded in slightly impatient tones.
A smiled flickered across Bakura's face, and moving silently into the darkest part of the shadows, he motioned for them to follow.
Tentatively, the three previous Hogwarts' sixth years followed and, after a moment of hesitation, Yugi followed as well.
"Like I said, Dumbledore knew I would be a big help to you. In fact, I've already arranged a foolproof way of getting in."
Harry glanced around at the others and he noticed Yugi looking particularly apprehensive.
"Don't worry, you're perfectly safe," said Bakura softly to the four people standing around him. "Trust me."
The gloom kept the others from seeing the pharaoh's frown deepen. 'Said the spider to the fly,' he thought, the spirit's calming words doing more to unsettle him than any open threat ever could have. He had half a mind to warn Harry and the others about the spirit, but somehow he knew it wouldn't do him any good. They weren't about to believe him after what had happened just a little while ago.
"What do you—" Ron started to ask, but he suddenly cut himself off, turning deathly pale.
"What?" Harry asked and all Ron could do was point at something just over Harry's shoulder. Before he could turn around to see what it was however, he felt something that felt oddly like a giant hand seize him around the torso and he was dragged violently downward into the cobbled stone below him. The failing light of the evening sun suddenly vanished from sight and Harry's first dazed thought was, 'But we haven't even broken in yet.'
Miles away, Malik Ishtar stepped out of the airport and onto the streets of London. Rubbing one of his tired eyes, he looked around blearily. His head pounded, and Malik reflected dimly that flying was definitely not high on his list of favorable transportation methods. Having a meat locker for an airport didn't help, especially when he was used to having the hot Egyptian sun beating down on him.
Blinking until his vision cleared up enough so that he could just make out the giant clock Big Ben in the distance, he forced himself to clear his mind and focus on the job at hand.
As he walked, he passed a deserted alleyway and he hesitated, clutching the folded black material of his cloak closer to his side as he considered using the alleyway to put it back on. At all the airports, when he'd had to show his ID and make his way through crowds upon crowds of people, he'd decided to take the cloak off to keep from drawing unnecessary attention to himself.
He didn't know what kind of network the two men with the cloaks had; if it was really big, then they would have people watching the airports and would already know where he was. For all he knew, it had been their plan all along for Malik to lead them straight to Yugi. If so, Malik was doing exactly what they wanted, but he knew he had to see the pharaoh if he could. Their pharaoh must be warned.
He glanced around at the busy street. No, the cloak would probably attract more attention here than was worth the benefits of having his face concealed. He went on.
Malik wondered for about the hundredth time that day if he was doing the best thing. Perhaps Yugi already knew of this problem and was already investigating. And in any case, would he even be able to find Yugi in this enormous country filled with such a multitude of people?
Exhausted from the long flight and starting to feel rather hungry, Malik realized his first priority for the moment should probably involve getting something to eat. A half-hour break probably wouldn't doom the entire world, and he definitely could use one. At the moment, 'Nothing you can do, nothing you can do' was being chanted at him in his head like a funeral march. Malik sighed in frustration.
He stopped in the next café he saw and tentatively took a seat by the window, the furthest one from the other diners. He used his very rudimentary English to figure out what the contents of the menu were and, looking with distaste upon the meat pies and other dishes that he suspected contained other food meant for the more carnivorous members of the human race, he finally settled on some fries, which he figured were probably safe.
After only a few bites, the tomb keeper already began to feel more rejuvenated, so he turned his mind to what his next steps should be.
First of all, it wasn't as though he could just sleep out in the street, so he'd have to find a place to stay. From there, he would start gathering newspapers, and he could watch the news everyday, so that he could get some ideas as to where Yugi might be. After all, his strategy to find Yugi was to go where the trouble was. Of course, trouble was probably everywhere and every incident he heard about might seem suspicious to him, but Malik decided to think about that later.
More importantly, he needed to find himself a translator. He could hope that anything really disastrous would be accompanied by a convenient photo, but that probably wouldn't be the smartest course of action. Malik was starting to wish he'd brought Ishizu along, despite the danger she'd be in. He definitely hadn't thought this through.
Malik shook his head and mentally went on to the next thing. Transportation. Walking would be a far too unhandy way of getting around, so he'd have to rely on taxis, probably. Or he could rent a motorcycle. Malik began to wonder how long the money he'd just had exchanged for London currency was going to last.
Malik took another fry chewing it slowly.
Plus, considering this was probably the base of operations for those cloaks with the masks, Malik would have to keep as low a profile as possible while he was here. The cloak was probably good for some situations, but maybe he should get a real disguise. To start, maybe a cap and a jacket.
Or, he thought sardonically, maybe a trench coat would do better. With all the people wearing them these days, he might be less conspicuous.
Malik started to reach for his cup of water, but something made him hesitate. Malik leaned over and peered down at it. The water in the paper cup was perfectly still and he was about to shrug it off, but then he saw it again—the water rippled in the cup, then went still once more.
Malik glanced around the room, trying to find out what was causing it. He touched the table and looked at the water again and as it rippled, Malik detected a slight tremor in the table beneath his touch. He realized the chair beneath him was moving too, and then he looked down at his feet to realize the entire ground was vibrating beneath him.
Malik looked around the room again and saw that the other diners and the cashier behind the counter had begun to notice it as well. A confused and frightened babble began to rise in the room.
Though Malik couldn't understand what they were saying, he felt he could probably guess what it was, because he was thinking the same thing.
Malik, having lived underground most of his life, wasn't very familiar with world geography, and tried to remember if he'd ever heard anything about London being near a fault line. He didn't know. He also wondered if most earthquakes were start and stop, like this one apparently was. Aftershocks, maybe. Or foreshocks.
Malik heard the sound just at what felt like the very brim of the range of his hearing, and each time he heard it, the water in his cup rippled again. He suddenly had a ominous feeling.
A faraway, high humming sound started up underneath the steady pounding sound and Malik strained his ears, unable to place what it was until it got closer.
Malik realized in horror that it wasn't one sound—it was many sounds, all streaming together. The sound of hundreds of voices screaming in terror. Malik turned his head toward the window and saw people shooting past and running in the streets, all looking positively terrified.
Malik turned his entire body around, trying to see what they were running from and he froze.
A monster, its huge face grotesque and twisted with dimwitted malice, loomed above, the giant feet making cracks in the street with every sluggish step it took. People in the restaurant came to the windows in curiosity to see what was going on soon ducked back the other way again, screaming.
Malik on the other hand just sat there staring, the scene so unreal that he still couldn't find it in him to move as the people in the restaurant made mad dashes to the back, putting as much distance between themselves and the creature as possible. They streamed toward what Malik supposed must lead to a back door somewhere or else broke side windows and climbed out that way, while still others dove behind tables and cowered in booths, hoping the creature would pass them by.
What in the world could it be? Malik wondered. The only thing that made even the slightest sense to Malik was if it was some kind of giant duel monster, brought to life by shadow magic. But if it was, he sure didn't recognize it.
However, Malik suddenly found himself torn from his stunned stupor as he caught sight of several somethings flying along side the giant, coming inevitably closer. From a distance, they had looked like scattered black dots, like stray flies, roaming aimlessly somewhat near the giant's head and arms, attracted by the foul odor, but now Malik could see them for what they were.
Men in black cloaks and white masks which Malik had hoped to never see again flew on what looked like broomsticks. The sound of wild laugher and guffawing seemed to come from behind their masks as they went. Sometimes they zoomed ahead a little ways, but always circled back soon after, as though they were leading the monster on its rampage.
Malik's mouth felt dry as he stared in silent horror at the scene for a moment before he abruptly stood. Running to the counter, he threw himself behind it.
Had the cloaks come looking for him? Was that what this was all about? Malik unfolded his cloak as fast as he could and pulled it on, drawing the hood over his head. Maybe they wouldn't recognize him this way, at a distance at least.
The sound came from nearby—the creature must be right outside, passing by the restaurant—
Malik wrapped his arms around his knees and tried to make himself as small as possible.
The creature's footsteps reverberated through Malik's whole body and through every piece of furniture in the building each time it brought its enormous foot down. He heard glass shatter and he imagined glass shards raining down on the spot he'd been sitting in earlier.
Malik gritted his teeth and he couldn't keep himself from shivering.
Suddenly, something large and heavy hit the tile right next to him with a crash. Thinking that the creature had found him and was reaching in with its giant, ugly hand, Malik jerked wildly away, kicking out in a panic. But as his foot hit something hard that didn't move, he stopped flailing enough to look back over his shoulder to see that his attacker, which he'd imagined to be the monster's enormous grasping appendage, was actually the cash register which had apparently fallen off the counter as a result of the mini earthquakes.
Malik slowly moved back to his previous sitting position. He took several deep breaths, then looked around to make sure that nothing else had been placed somewhere it might fall on his unsuspecting head. He was glad the cash register had missed him; 'death by cash register' was certainly not the most heroic end.
Malik waited tensely until the earthquakes weakened to dull thuds, and the laughter of the cloaks faded. He finally allowed himself to relax a little, not realizing how sore his muscles had gotten from sitting so still and trying to hold his breath until then.
But he still wasn't safe. The creature and the cloaked men might still come back. Which meant it was probably about time he got going.
Malik climbed to his feet and jogged to the back of the restaurant, where the kitchen was. Unfortunately, he saw that his assumption that people earlier had been going to a back door was wrong: he saw no door, not even a fire exit. Perhaps the building was too old, or the builders had thought the building was too small to need more than one exit. They probably didn't consider the possibility that a forty-foot monster tearing down the street might make people want to get out on the opposite side of the building.
Instead, Malik went to one of the windows which had already been bashed out, and pulled himself through. He cut his palms on the jagged pieces of glass still in the window and swore quietly, but a bit of blood was the least of his problems.
He ran through the alleyways, weaving in and out of buildings in a direction almost perpendicular to the path of the monster and masked men. Even when the resounding sound of the monster's own weight cracking the asphalt as it walked and its hands tearing apart buildings it passed moved far into the distance, he didn't stop running.
Malik was gasping for breath by the time all traces of the creature's rampage had all but faded from his hearing. He still didn't stop, but he slowed to a walk, holding the stitch in his side. Almost in the clear. He looked over his shoulder in the direction he'd last heard the monster as he rounded a corner.
When he looked back in front of him, he stopped suddenly, frozen.
He'd just entered what seemed to be some kind of construction zone. From the rusted machinery and old, broken materials strewn about the place, it looked like it had been abandoned for some time. Even the yellow tape that read 'Caution' was dirty and tattered. But none of this was what had made Malik stop.
Standing in the center of the debris was a cluster of figures—figures dressed in long, black cloaks.
Malik took a staggering step back, then he spun around as he attempted to get away.
Too late—one of the cloaks had already noticed his arrival. Malik heard a series of 'cracks' from behind him and before he could get two yards, the cloaks were suddenly encircling him, cutting off his escape.
They appeared out of nowhere, but by this point Malik wasn't much surprised by anything. Nothing seemed beyond the power of the sticks now pointed at him from all directions. Gritting his teeth, Malik slowly brought his hands up in a motion of surrender.
His lavender-gray eyes swept the curving line of cloaked figures in front him, studying each one in turn. Though they didn't have the eerie white skull masks of the two that had attacked his house and the ones he'd just seen, the figures' long black hoods still threw their eyes into shadow, concealing their identities.
A low raspy voice let out a string of speech in what Malik assumed to be English and another snarled something else. Though Malik didn't understand a word they said, he watched them closely, hoping to possibly pick up on some meaning through their physical gestures, as long as both their words and facial expressions were hidden from him.
Another of the cloaks spoke up, jabbing his stick threateningly in Malik's direction.
Malik, unable to understand, decided he would try to guess the turn of this particular conversation himself. It was probably certainly predictable enough.
'Let's just kill him,' Malik supplied for the stick-jabber.
Another said something, probably replying to what the first had said, and Malik thought, 'No, we should take him in and torture him for information.'
The first man kicked the ground and waved the stick back and forth in Malik's direction impatiently. The man pulled at the long sleeve on his own arm, glaring hard at their captive. It suddenly occurred to Malik that they were actually speaking to him. Guess that wasn't what they were saying after all.
"You can order me around all you want, but it won't do much good if I don't understand a thing you're saying," Malik said, deciding at a moment's notice to speak in Japanese. No need to announce that he was the same heritage as the one they were looking for.
Some of the cloaks glanced at each other, seeming to finally understand the problem. In response, they turned to look back at him and one raised his stick higher. He shouted a few words and a bright purple light shot from its tip.
This brought Malik out of his sarcastic mood in a hurry. To his horror, they had decided to attack him after all. But what would it do to him? Kill him like the other cloaks had tried to, or would they take control of his body like the spirit had?
'No way.' At the last possible second, Malik hurtled himself to the ground and rolled out of the way, the light missing him by inches. He was on his feet again in seconds, dodging out of the way as another light shot toward him. Could he keep this up? The cloaks were shouting with frustration.
Malik fell to his knees, narrowly missing an attack from behind him. He saw the light strike one of the cloaks standing before him, but to his surprise, the man seemed unaffected, besides the way the light dispersed into a cloud of purple mist, continuing to hang in the air around him. Perhaps it was the controlling one then. No way could he afford to let himself get hit.
Then a deep, gruff voice spoke from behind him, strong and commanding, and before Malik had a chance to look around or see how to dance away from this one, he felt something strike him in the back, right between his shoulder blades.
A cry escaped his lips, though more from shock than pain. He staggered forward several steps, then stayed frozen for several seconds, waiting for something to happen. He breathed deeply, and he smelled something odd in his nostrils, like burnt roses. He coughed, then felt his throat clear.
After a moment as the cloaks continued to stare at him without doing anything, he wondered what had happened. He tested his fingers and toes, curling and uncurling them, then touching his face with his own hand. There could be no doubt, he was still in control. He turned around to gaze at the cloaks behind him, mystified.
Finally, one of the cloaks stepped forward. Malik watched the man carefully, not letting his guard down for a moment as the cloak threw back his long black hood, revealing a deeply scarred face with a lopsided nose that looked as a piece of it had been carved out with a spoon. However, it wasn't these features that made Malik take a instinctive step back as he watched the man nervously.
One of the man's eyes was a normal human eye, but the other was an electric blue that rolled this way and that inside the man's head. He didn't move any closer, but instead trained his regular eye on Malik's face while the alien blue one flickered to Malik's left arm, which Malik realized was raised ridiculously in front of him, as though that would be enough to ward off this attack.
Then the man spoke, each word as clear as crystal to Malik's Arabian ears, "And who, exactly, might you be, boy?"
Down, down, down they went, through layers upon layers of solid rock. When the reality of what was happening began to dawn on Harry, a thrill of horror shot through him and he thrashed wildly, trying to free himself from whatever it was closed around his torso. Or at least he tried to thrash, but he found he couldn't move. He attempted to yell at the others to find out if the same thing was happening to them, but whatever the thing was, it had gained a tight clamp over his jaw as well as the rest of his body.
He tried to calm himself a little so he could think clearly. He glanced around him and the rocks rushing past told him they were speeding along underground. Trying desperately to get to his wand, he cursed himself for having left it in his pocket instead of having it out, but he couldn't move an inch. He could only shake his head very slightly from side to side and shake his feet sticking out the other side of his prison. Gritting his teeth, he fought wildly to get free, but his body still didn't move.
"Don't panic," came a disembodied voice from the darkness that Harry recognized as Bakura's. "We're almost there."
Then, abruptly, he found himself free from the trap. He was falling, falling...
"Oomph!" He landed hard on a stone surface, the wind knocked from his lungs.
Harry heard similar grunts of protest from Hermione and Ron nearby.
Harry breathed deeply and forced himself to sit up despite the pain in his back and elbow. Looking around as his eyes adjusted to the dim light, he saw Ron and Hermione sprawled out on the floor attempting feebly to right themselves.
Yugi sat a little ways away with a hand pressed to his head and a displeased expression on his face, also not fully recovered from the landing. He lifted his head a little to glare at Bakura, who stood seemingly unaffected nearby.
"When you're ready and you've all had time to recover, let's get going," said Bakura. "Remember, we have quite a long walk ahead of us."
"Recover, yeah right," Ron muttered. "I'm going to be feeling this for a week."
"Hold on," said Harry, trying to get his bearings back. "What just happened?"
"Never mind," answered Bakura vaguely, shaking his head as though he used spells to break into well-guarded wizarding banks every day. "We are in now, aren't we?"
Harry frowned and, struggling with himself, decided to let it go. For now. He had learned over time that, like Dumbledore, people inclined to be mysterious about things rather than just explain them would only explain when they felt like it. Instead, Harry looked over at Hermione. "Did you bring them?" he asked.
Hermione nodded, looking just as shaken as Harry felt. "Yes, just like you said."
"Hermione brought our brooms," Harry explained. "We thought they might come in handy."
Ron's eyes lit up. "You did? Excellent!"
Bakura nodded. "Yes, good thinking. Enough for everyone?"
Hermione nodded as she dug through the same purse in which she'd been keeping their food. "Just enough—Harry said we'd better bring Ron's brothers older brooms too in case something happened to our regular ones. We were only able to find three—Oh, here they are."
"There were only three to start with," Ron assured her. "There used to be four, though. Two of them were the first ones Fred and George ever got, and then the next two were the ones they got when those others got kind of old and hard to fly. But one of the older ones got flown into a tree and never flew right afterwards, so Mum got rid of it."
"You flew one into a tree, huh?" Harry commented perceptively, but was distracted as Hermione handed him his Firebolt. It felt good to hold it again, like being reunited with a long lost friend.
"I didn't say it was me..." Ron muttered as he took his own Cleansweep Eleven from Hermione.
Hermione handed out the three remaining broomsticks, taking the oldest and most beat-up one for herself.
Yugi took his broom and looked at it uncertainly.
Harry glanced at the younger Gryffindor, and remembered that since he'd come so late in the year, he'd probably never flown before.
Harry shrugged to himself and, swinging his leg over the handle of the Firebolt, kicked off from the floor at the same time Ron did. Only Hermione was kind enough to leave Yugi with a few instructions, though in truth, she probably wasn't much better at flying a broom than Yugi. For all her book knowledge and skill with spells, Hermione wasn't much of a flier.
Harry looked ahead to see Bakura in front of them, hovering steadily above the ground.
"I heard you're afraid of heights," Ron told Bakura a little smugly, though the usual edge of dislike he had always had in his tone when speaking to the shy Slytherin first year was absent. Apparently, Ron had been affected more by Bakura's little speech earlier than Harry would have thought thought.
"I had a little trouble with my first flight," Bakura admitted. "I think in was my own senseless fear that handicapped me the most. But I'm not afraid now."
Harry didn't know why, but something in the tone of Bakura's voice and the way the boy had said "my own senseless fear" made it sound as though Bakura was deriding himself. Harry decided to shrug it off.
Finally, everyone was in the air with Yugi looking slightly nervous, but stable. Bakura, taking a deep breath, said, "All right everyone, let's go—"
"Wait!" Hermione called from her place in the air below them. "Maybe we should mark the wall here, and mark our trail as we go along so we'll know where we've been."
"That's a good idea," Harry said and Ron nodded. They were probably both equally keen on any idea that would lessen the chance they'd end up eternally lost in this labyrinth.
Hermione was already going over to the wall nearby when to everyone's surprise Bakura said sharply, "No."
They all turned to look at him and the white-haired teen went on, "Too risky. Don't forget, many people as well as the creatures running this place come down here to get things from the safes. Although it's unlikely we'll run into any of them in this large of an area, for the distance we'll be covering it wouldn't be unlikely for them to run across our trail—and the last thing we need is for anyone to realize we're here and follow that trail right to us."
Ron deflated, but Harry said, "Then let's just mark our starting point."
Bakura shook his head. "Again, it's unlikely they would come across it, but we don't want to leave any kind of evidence of our presence. Besides, there's no need, really. I will get us out." He spoke with a confidence uncharacteristic of Bakura.
"Well...okay," Harry said uncertainly as Hermione moved away from the wall. He trusted Bakura in a way, but he wasn't sure he really trusted the naïve boy to navigate this maze.
As soon as Bakura had turned his back to them and begun to fly away, Harry moved surreptitiously toward the wall with his wand, thinking he'd just scorch the tiniest symbol there—surely no one would notice just one little sign—but Bakura called back without turning around, something like a smile in his tone, "Don't even think about it."
Sighing, Harry took one last glance at the bare wall which looked remarkably like every other wall in the entire maze before reluctantly following.
"Relax," Ron said as they flew along. "Even if we could find our way back to where we started later, do you really think we'd be able to find the way out of this place? We came in through the ceiling. If Bakura can't do that trick again, we'll never get out."
"Thanks, that makes me feel loads better," Harry muttered, but he knew Ron was right. Sighing once again, he turn his eyes to the ground below them. The rails that carried the little box car to all parts of the underground that Harry had once ridden in for the first time seven years ago rushed past below him. He remembered the goblin guide and the horrible complexity of the maze, knowing how you could get lost down there for years, until nothing but your skeleton was left as a warning to other trespassers...
Harry shivered. As Bakura took a sharp turn which they all scrambled to follow, Harry really hoped that Bakura knew where he was going.
Ron must have been thinking the same thing, because at that moment he called up to Bakura, "Uh, you do know where we're going, right?"
"Trust me" was Bakura's only not particularly reassuring response.
Bakura took several more turns until Harry didn't think he could have found his way back to where they'd started if he'd had a hundred years to look. And Ron had been right—he knew that even if by some miracle he found his way back to where they'd started, he would never find the entrance. Their lives were totally in Bakura's hands—or perhaps, more accurately, in his sense of direction.
Bakura went quickly around several more corners, changing direction in the blink of an eye and leaving Harry and the rest to play an impossible game of 'follow the leader.' After a particularly sharp turn, Harry was about to call up to Bakura, demanding to know if the first year Slytherin was trying to lose them, when Bakura reached another split-off in the passage, a main passage with a turn-off which he seemed about to take, he stopped so abruptly that Harry almost ran into him. Ron actually went shooting past down the main corridor while Hermione and Yugi, who had been straggling behind for some time, struggled to keep their balance as they stopped as quickly as they could.
Bakura was staring straight down the wide passage, unblinking.
"What's wrong?" Harry asked, trying to maneuver his Firebolt around Bakura so he could see what Bakura was seeing. "Why did you stop?"
"Well, that certainly wasn't there before," Bakura muttered.
"What are you—?" Harry began, but he stopped as he saw it. By that time, Ron had managed to come back from his overshot, and Yugi and Hermione had come up to hover beside him.
"Blimey," Ron said meekly as they all just stared in disbelief down the dungeon passage.
Deadly yellow eyes stared back. Its long teeth gleamed white, its red scales shifting subtly in the dim light with sparkling flecks of gold, its leathery wings folded close to its body so that it could fit in the confined space—every part of the enormous creature blocking the corridor screamed danger.
"We have to go another way," Harry whispered, hoping against hope the dragon—a giant Chinese Fireball not unlike the one Victor Krum had fought—would let them leave peacefully. The monster's body took up the whole space of the passage and it didn't look like it could move too well. Except Harry could imagine only too easily those clawed hands and feet tearing apart the walls and ceiling as it moved its powerful body to attack them. And it looked hungry.
Out of the corner of his eye, Harry saw Bakura shake his head.
"We can't," Bakura said simply.
"Why not?" Harry hissed, feeling an edge of irritation within his growing panic. "Can't you find the way going a different path?"
"It's not that," Bakura said calmly. "Of course I could find an alternate route—it's just that this corridor happens to be where our destination is."
"What do we do?" Hermione whispered, while Harry grimaced.
"Forget about it," Ron said, keeping his voice low. "There's no way I'm going face to face with that—"
But at that moment, the dragon shifted its huge body and cocked it's head at them, as though it was getting bored. They all went silent, but the dragon didn't take its eyes off them.
"Like I said," Ron said, his voice barely audible this time, "Let's get out of here. We'll wait around and come back later to see it its moved."
"It might never move at all," Hermione pointed out very quietly. "And I didn't bring an unlimited amount of supplies, you know."
"Bakura," Harry said, his voice so soft he could barely hear it himself, "can you do that trick you did to get us in here again? If so, maybe we should retreat for now and then come back in a few days."
"Maybe..." said Bakura, but he didn't look very happy with the idea. He was still looking at the dragon with a slight frown on his face, as though the dragon was merely an unexpected annoyance ruining his plans. For someone who'd apparently been so afraid of dying, Harry didn't think the boy was expressing the proper amount of terror.
"Okay then," said Harry, suddenly aware that everyone except Bakura was looking at him to decide what to do. "Let's do that. We'll go and come back later."
Harry focused all his attention on the dragon. They were all afraid to move, but they had to get away. "Okay," Harry whispered. "On the count of three, we're all going to move slowly—very slowly back that way." His eyes went to the corridor they'd just come from. "Everybody got that? Okay...Ready. One, two—"
So intent on seeing if the dragon would make a move on them or not, the three sixth year Gryffindors didn't see the blurring motion of a trench coat beside them. All they saw was, before Harry had a chance to say 'three,' the creature with all its weight and power suddenly bearing down on them.
It moved far faster that Harry had even imagined, its body sliding gracefully through the passage and in seconds, it towered over them.
Pure adrenaline shot through him as Harry felt the monstrous power and might of the creature through his whole body. Harry barely had to touch his Firebolt before he was shooting off down the passage, keeping to their plan to go back the way they'd come.
But as the moment of utter fear passed and Harry began to come back to his senses, he remembered that the others weren't as good of fliers as he and Ron and that their brooms weren't as good either. He shouldn't be running—he should be trying to distract the beast so the others could get away.
Cursing himself, Harry forced himself to slow down and he turned around in midair. His blood turned cold at what he saw.
The dragon had made it to the place they'd been moments before, its large body blocking the entire turnoff. Ron and Bakura were nowhere in sight, while it seemed Yugi had somehow managed to get behind the dragon, out of its line of vision. The dragon wasn't paying attention to them or Harry, but it was far from being a good thing as the dragon had found something else to distract it.
Hermione sat right in front of the beast, almost directly below the dragon's enormous head, with her back against the wall. She looked sort of dazed, as though she'd hit her head. Her broom lay broken and useless a short ways away, part of the handle caught beneath one of the dragon's immense claws. Hermione pulled out her wand, her eyes still unfocused as she shouted some kind of spell. But the spell hit far from what Harry guessed to be the intended target, the dragon's vulnerable eye, harmlessly bouncing off the creature's thick armor.
The monster opened its jaws to reveal rows upon rows of sharp yellow teeth, each tooth as long as Harry's wand. Fire began to dance in its mouth as the Chinese Fireball prepared to cook its meal alive.
"HERMIONE!" Harry bellowed as he shot down the corridor toward the dragon and his friend, his hand stretched out in front of him. But he was too far away. He'd never make it in time—
They were some of the longest seconds of his life as Harry raced along the corridor, desperate as he had ever felt. He took in everything—the dragon's cold, hungry yellow eyes, Hermione's face frozen in a look of stunned shock as she began to see where she was and fear began to sink in, Yugi moving just out of sight, not toward Hermione, but away...
But then, just as it seemed too late to prevent the terrible thing about to happen, a blinding light engulfed the whole corridor. A stunning array of colors twisted and danced until they came together to form something solid, and the shadow of something incredible loomed up behind the dragon. And the creature that had a moment before seemed an unstoppable force hesitated.
"However, if there is a guardian of the tomb, there must also be a thief to rob the tomb."
A/N: Another long chapter...Sorry if I wasn't as careful in the proofreading/editing this time. I figured it was better to put the chapter out faster and not be so obsessive. XD At least it was less than a year this time, right?
Anyway, we're finally to the chapters I've always thought of in my head as 'the Gringotts chapters.' Haha, I remember first working on these in the spring of tenth grade, sitting on the lawn next to the school building drawing little maps with a dragon on it and jotting down notes, while noise from the outdoor assembly going on in the distance drifted back across the track field to me...Ah, great times. Now I'm about to graduate with my bachelor's degree and here I am, still working on this fanfiction. XD!
Thank you all so, so much for all the reviews and for being patient with me. Please r and r! (: