A.N. Delay due to my internship which keeps me working 12-15 hours a day including some weekends, yes, working in the city and not particularly enjoying it. Shorter chapter, but then, this is truly the second part of a very long chapter. Hasn't been edited by my beta-reader as I doubt I'll have time to repost again until another 2 weeks.
"There is something off about that troll," muttered Draco finally. "It's eyes. It is enchanted."
"Bagman!" Harry spat.
"At least… at least it is aiding Hermione and Mat," said Draco but he held a troubled look on his face as well.
"Say hello to Treebeard!" said Hermione ecstatically. "He likes that name."
"Can you smell that?" Cedric asked with glinting eyes. "Victory, it will be ours," he muttered as they all faced the ominous skull face.
Chapter 10 - Mage and Warrior
'Sometimes one likes foolish people for their folly better than wise people for their wisdom.' - Elizabeth Gaskell.
The morning sun beat down heavily upon the six Hogwarts Contestant standing at the entrance of the skull keep. Despite being inside a Simulation Zone, the heat of the sun and the ominous exhilaration of being near the keep felt very real to all the participants, it felt as if they were truly standing before the fortress in a high hill. They had fought their way to their destination, beating their adversaries and overcoming their rivals, and they cheered their success.
As they stared at the entrance of the skull face of the keep, a rumbling noise came from within and a small circular hole emerged. It revealed no light but it was clear to the Hogwarts contingent that they were supposed to go in.
"This is the final stretch," said Cedric, as he marched purposefully towards the newly opened entrance. "For Hogwarts and Britain."
'Harry, what's bothering you?' asked Ginny in their mind when she saw Harry constantly dart his head back towards the field.
'Nothing. Just seeing if Fleur is able to beat back the rest of the goblins,' replied Harry with a smile to his girlfriend, as Draco and Hermione entered, one after the other.
Ginny smiled back, saying, 'It's only a tournament, Harry. Now that they have lost, I'm sure somebody will take them out before long.' As she finished, she ran towards the hole and climbed inside.
Harry nodded at her words and moved to follow, waiting for Mat to walk in. He glanced back one final time to see Fleur stand defiantly against a dozen or so goblins that remained, the last of her team still able to fight. Neville, the twins and Angelina were fighting the remainder of the goblins in another part of the field and hadn't seen her situation. Sighing, Harry turned around and his eyes widened with worry. The portal door was beginning to get smaller and smaller. Flinging his hands forward, he ran to the entrance but it had narrowed down soundlessly and closed the instant Mat entered.
'Ginny!' he called out frantically. 'The entrance is closed!'
'What!' Ginny shouted back. 'What do you mean it is closed! How could it be closed! It was open just… oh damn!' After a few moments of silence, Ginny said, 'Perhaps… perhaps they only require half the team in, and there are five of us here.'
'Perhaps,' replied Harry uncertainly, as he tried to pry the door open with his fingers. When that didn't work, he used magic. When that didn't work either, he was about to destroy the door, when Ginny interrupted him.
'Don't,' she called out. 'How hard can this be? Besides, Draco, Cedric and Mat are quite good in dueling. Hermione and I are here as well. Don't worry, we'll handle this. Go, help Fleur.'
Still slightly disturbed, Harry however sent a mental nod and turned towards the green fields. As an eagle, he swiftly flew to Fleur's aid, who had fallen down against her three final adversaries, and dug his claws at the one closest to her. Dodging a spear and an arrow, he landed on the ground and stunned another one. But before he could turn his attention to the final goblin, the goblin collapsed to the ground and Neville's welcome face was visible from behind the goblin, grinning at Harry.
"Could I offer you a hand, good lady?" Harry asked with a grin, looking at Fleur's sweat-drenched face, staring at him from . He gave her his hand and pulled her up.
"Arry!" she cried out, brushing the grass and mud off her robes. "You shouldn't waste time on us. Go back to your team!" Then she wavered looking at the goblins he had knocked down and hugged him. "But… I thank you, my friend."
Harry grinned and nodded, patting her back. He sighed at the devastation around the Beauxbatons team and said, "Some of them are hurt severely. Neville will look after your wounds. I'm sorry your Standard is destroyed. You were worthy opponents. Anything could have happened in these past twenty minutes."
"That it could," agreed Fleur with a sigh. "We 'ave some good duelists and enchanters in our team. But you and Ginny are something special, Arry. What do we do now?" she asked the last question to her teammates, some of whom appeared disgruntled by the loss of their Standard, while others were impressed by the sportsmanship of the Hogwarts team. By then, Angelina and the Weasley twins had also joined them and they were all sitting on the grass, weary and restless at the same time, wondering what might be happening to the rest of their team inside the keep.
'It's all dark and empty inside, Harry,' spoke Ginny in his mind. 'Something is wrong.'
Harry's insides churned as his mother's fears from earlier resonated within him. He jumped up. It was all becoming clear to him. They were lured by Bagman's incessant aid to be unable to perceive any malcontent towards them, and with the enchantment on the troll, they almost had a free ticket to the keep - a keep, with horrors and traps designed specifically by Ludo Bagman and his two aides. And the entrance closed the instant Mat walked in. His mother's fears were justified. Somebody wanted Mat Potter inside the keep. Somebody wanted the boy-who-lived. They also had Ginny with them.
"You know, Arry," commented Fleur from beside him, "That skull looks incredibly like the Dark Mark from my 'istory book. That British Dark Lord's symbol whose curse on your brother backfired. The drawbridge is like a snake out of its mouth…"
But Harry had frozen. He was no longer listening to her words as he gazed the keep in a new light. 'I'm coming, Ginny!' he yelled in his mind, as he ran towards the keep again.
"Arry!" shouted Fleur from behind, following after, joined by Neville and the rest of the Hogwarts and Beauxbatons team still capable of moving.
But Harry wasn't even aware of them, for as he ran his senses were completely fixed in Ginny's mind, trying to make sense of the pitch black darkness that whirled around. 'There's someone else there. No. There are several others there. You are surrounded. Ginny! Transform into a phoenix and come out now! NOW!' Harry shouted frantically.
'Sorry, Harry,' came Ginny's sad response. 'You know I am not capable of teleporting others as yet and I cannot leave Hermione and the others inside. You wouldn't either. Please hurry. I'm scared.'
Harry cursed then. He cursed a phoenix's ability to teleport only to places they had personally been before. With his fear, came a rage and a determination that manifested in his fingers. Sparks shot out of his fingers and a gust of wind whirled around him, sending him faster than eyes could see, and in barely a heartbeat, he had moved fifty yards, dropping right in front of the skull face of the keep. He drew his hand back, making a ball, and pushed forward, sending a mighty wave of wind crashing against the door, which shook against its hinges. But unfortunately, the magic that held the door was too strong and it held. Harry repeated his blow, but to no avail. Darting his head around, he saw the troll sitting nearby, scratching its head and looking at Harry in confusion, and at that moment, Ginny's presence was lost in his mind.
Harry took a deep breath. She was alive, he could feel her presence, but she was stunned. Calming his nerves as best as he could, Harry turned to the troll and said, "I suppose now I find out whether love is truly a more powerful force than enchantments and magic. Treebeard!" he yelled. "Hermione! Inside! Danger!" He waved his hands about, trying to explain in sign language as best as he could. "Hermione! Her! Mine! Ee! Her! Mine! Ee!" he slid a finger across his neck, indicating danger, and stared in amazement as the troll jumped up with fury in its eyes. "Break the door!" he shouted, flaying his hand in the direction of the door.
Harry observed in fascination as the troll moved towards the door, and he chose that moment to transform to a tiger, and with all the strength of the ferocious beast, slammed against the door while sending another mighty gale of wind at it. At that very moment, the troll also slammed its fists against the door, and the magic gave way, sending the door flying inside.
Harry wasted no time. He leapt in, roaring with fury, and found himself in a strange passage, completely dark. He ran inside and reached an even stranger room. Even as a tiger, his insides shivered at the sight that was in front of him. A cauldron bubbled and the form of a hideous serpentine man emerged from it. Cold, crimson slits gazed at him in the pale face of the man and bony fingers pointed at him.
"He is the one!" the man said coldly. "You fools, he is the one."
Harry growled and looked around the room. His brother was tied against a pillar while the rest of his friends were on the floor, and Harry hoped they were all merely stunned and not dead. But they weren't alone. The room was arranged as a courtroom with a throne in a far end while dark robed men sat around in chairs, or were standing with their wands in his direction. Harry slowly took a step towards his teammates.
"He is the one! Why don't you show your true face to me, my dear boy-who-lived?"
Harry heard his brother gasp in disbelief and slowly resumed his human form. He had no doubt as to whom he was facing. He had seen that face in his memory, though it was no longer even remotely human in appearance. Harry opened his mouth and said simply, "Hello, Riddle."
Lord Voldemort's nostrils flared and his face contorted in fury. "You impudent fool. Wormtail, my wand!"
Harry watched as Peter Pettigrew stumbled forward and handed his master a wand. Harry knew the story of Peter Pettigrew and how he betrayed the Potters. But what more could he expect from a friend of James Potter? He turned his attention to the other Death Eaters. Their faces were hidden behind white masks, but he could recognize at least one of them. Silver strands of hair could be seen jutting out of the mask and the man was standing closest to his friends. With a quick wave, he pointed at his mind, and Harry understood.
'Lord Malfoy, speak swiftly. What is going on?'
'Summons, an hour ago. Bagman, Death Eater. This chamber, beyond Hogwarts. Simulation Zone a portal. All alive. Distract him, I have portkeys.'
'Understood,' Harry sent back, before withdrawing from Lucius Malfoy's mind, glad that the pureblood aristocrat chose family and Harold Blackwolf over Lord Voldemort. But outwardly, Harry didn't show any indication of having had a mental communication with Lord Voldemort's chief Death Eater. Instead, he fixed his attention towards the newly resurrected Dark Lord as he stepped out of the cauldron.
"Your blood would have served me better, Harry Potter," hissed Voldemort as he took a step towards the boy. "But no matter, we will have our fun now. Let us duel. Let us match the strength of the Heir of Slytherin against Gryffindor and Dumbledore's puppet."
Harry paused for a moment and laughed mockingly. "Gryffindor and Dumbledore? I am no more a Gryffindor than you are. Where have you been for the past few years, Tom? Dead? Oh, hang on, you were dead…"
"Silence!" screamed Voldemort. "You will show respect to me. Crucio!"
Harry leapt to the sky as an eagle, allowing the torturing curse sail by harmlessly beneath him, before he returned to a firm footing on the ground as a human again.
"An eagle and a tiger," said Voldemort contemplatively. "Perhaps I have indeed underestimated you."
Harry fingered his wand nervously, fully aware from his heightened senses that the rest of the Beauxbatons and Hogwarts team had arrived behind him and were staring at the unbelievable sight.
"Ah, an audience," said Voldemort appreciatively. "How fitting. Perhaps I might let some of them survive and spread the tale of how Lord Voldemort dueled with the true boy-who-lived. How one Parselmouth fared against another. Name yourself a master or a mentor and I will judge whether you be worthy to face the Heir of Slytherin in duel, or undeserving of such an honorable means of death."
"Honor?" Harry said with a guffaw. "Where was your honor when you attempted to murder a mere toddler? I remember that night, Riddle. I remember it very well. It was my accidental magic that defeated you then. How then do you rate your chances any higher at a fair duel between us?"
He laughed as Voldemort's nostrils flared. Harry was fully extending his attention to keep Voldemort occupied as Malfoy was working in the darkness to silently create and place more portkeys around the other stunned Hogwarts students. In that moment, Harry felt a strange wonder in the pit of his stomach that raised his faltering confidence tenfold. Lucius Malfoy chose Harold Blackwolf over Lord Voldemort. That must mean something.
"But since you asked nicely," Harry continued almost instantly, "I name myself Harold Blackwolf, Mage and Warrior, first of my ilk and heir to none, son of Lily, pupil of Salazar Slytherin and Filius Flitwick. I accept your challenge, Tom Riddle, in the name of Blackwolf, Hogwarts and Britain. Diffindo!" He shouted the final word out loud, slashing against the air in front of him.
Voldemort, however, merely flicked the curse aside with his hand and laughed. "An eagle, a tiger and a wolf, you might be, Harold Blackwolf, but Lord Voldemort is much greater than any of those." In that instant, Voldemort's body began shrinking and in place of the hideous snake faced man remained a purple headed vulture, that appeared to be sneering at Harry as it swooped down on him. But Harry managed to revert to a tiger in time. Growling, he pounced on the vulture with his claws menacingly stretched forward.
The vulture evaded the tiger's attack by lifting itself to the air and out of reach.
'Don't interfere,' Harry sent his awareness towards the general direction where all the remaining Hogwarts and Beauxbatons contingent had arrived. By then the vulture had flown back and transformed into a massive crocodile that was gaining slowly towards Harry. 'I have the best shot against him. Neville, the others have portkeys. See to the safety of those with you. Escape if you can. If something happens and I don't… if I don't make it, tell mum, Ginny and Luna… tell them I love them… and you. Tell Flitwick I kept my honor.' With that thought, Harry turned towards the crocodile as it pounced on him, and roaring as a griffin, threw the massive reptile aside. But the weight of the crocodile was enough to send Harold the black griffin to his knees. Breathing and panting, the griffin managed to raise itself to brace for yet another attack by the crocodile, but instead faced the human form of Lord Voldemort.
"So you have a magical creature as well," muttered Voldemort in interest. "Perhaps I have been too easy on you. A griffin is mighty indeed. But it is no match for a basilisk."
As a human, Harry took a step back with fear in his eyes. "Close your eyes!" he shouted. "Close your eyes!" He didn't wait to see if his instructions were being followed and focused his eyes forward. He was immune to the death glare of the king of serpents and a phoenix could heal a basilisk's venom but Harry was used to keeping things to himself and he would keep his phoenix form a secret for as long as necessary. Instead, he pointed his wand towards his tied twin brother and released him. "Take the others to safety. Leave those who are stunned to me. Hurry! There is little time!" To Neville, he sent mentally, 'You must leave too. It will be hard for me to fight and keep you safe as well.'
But before Mat and the others could completely disappear in the direction of the passageway that led to the resurrection chamber, there was a wild rumbling noise, and the troll Treebeard made yet another appearance. The troll's eyes fell on the limp form of Hermione, the human that had befriended him and he charged towards the Death Eaters around her. At that moment, the Triwizard Contestants still standing decided to join in the fray and sent dozens of spells and curses to aid the troll. Some even attempted to bring down Voldemort's basilisk form, but Harry swiftly changed into a griffin and kept the basilisk's gaze occupied in a direction far from the students.
'Now!' sent Harry urgently to Lucius Malfoy, and could see the barest movement behind the mask of the pureblood as he muttered an inaudible, "Activate!" As the stunned bodies disappeared, Harry turned to Mat and Neville and shouted, "Go! Get the Aurors and Professors!" When the others refused to budge, Harry's eyes widened in fear - the basilisk was turning towards them. With all the strength he could muster, Harry sent a powerful gale of wind - a turbulent whirlwind that personified Harry's desperation, and it took the students away from the chamber. The effort took nearly all the strength left in Harry and he fell to the ground just as a shrill scream emerged from the basilisk.
Seeing most of his captives returned or returning to safety while his own followers were plunged in disarray and chaos, Voldemort diverted his attention towards Harry and flew towards the fallen boy.
Harry closed his eyes, no longer retaining the strength to fight, move or even transform. 'I love you, Gin, and I'm so sorry,' was his last thought as Ginny's presence returned in his mind, full of terror, and Harry waited for the inevitable impact as the serpent became bigger and bigger, filling Harry's entire vision.
But the impact never happened and instead Harry heard a painful guttural noise. He opened his eyes in a flash and saw the troll holding back the serpent with its bare hands, standing between Harry and the basilisk. Wonder filled Harry's eyes, turning instantly into dread as the troll turned into stone. The basilisk then plunged at the stone, shattering it into millions of pieces.
As he saw the troll being demolished, a profound sadness made Harry's gut wrench. The troll had been an innocent casualty. A creature that lived by instincts rather than any deep thinking, it had managed to rise above the enchantment of Ludo Bagman for the simple affection showed by a young girl, something that most humans would be incapable of. For Treebeard's death to be so unceremonious, so utterly unnecessary and disrespectful changed something within Harry. With heavy eyes, Harry raised his wand towards Voldemort and shouted, "For the death of Treebeard I curse you. Let your own death be a complete opposite to his - let your death be futile, bereft of honor and filled with ridicule, with no human left to shed a single tear or spare a moment of grief over you. I curse you, Tom Riddle."
'Shut up, Harry!' Ginny yelled in his mind. 'Look out! You're not going to die! I won't let you!'
With that, Harry felt Ginny enter his mind and take control of him as he had done for her during their disastrous duel with Mat and Ron, and she transformed him into Astika, a snake of minute particulate size. He remained still and unmoving in the dark and quiet chamber as Voldemort's screams made it apparent that he thought Harry had somehow disappeared. As Voldemort ravaged the room in fury, Harry as Astika made it into Lucius Malfoy's boot and reached up to his pocket. He slid in and closed his eyes, focusing his complete awareness in Ginny's mind.
Some time later, Harry opened his eyes in Ginny's mind and felt her relief and love wash his entire being with such ferocity yet tenderness that he sighed contentedly. They were in their mindscape, surrounded by their respective animal forms, beside the river and in full sight of the fortress. Harry walked to Ginny and took her in his arms. No words were exchanged as they remained clinging to each other. In some corner of Ginny's consciousness, Harry could hear and see Madam Pomfrey telling people to leave her and the others alone.
"I'm in Malfoy's care now," said Harry, without preamble. He led Ginny to a stone and they both sat down, facing each other. "For better or worse. I am too tired to do anything."
"He chose you," reminded Ginny, resting her head against Harry's shoulder. "He chose you over Riddle. By saving us he redeemed his past."
"I love you,' said Harry, again without any preamble, and raised her face to kiss her. "I love you so much," he said again.
"I don't want to lose you ever," said Ginny, and she kissed him. "I won't survive it."
Reaching forward, he kissed her again and let his lips rest against hers. With one breath, they remained together for a long time until somewhere in Ginny's consciousness, they heard Lily Potter's frantic voice.
"Mum," said Harry, suddenly moving his head up. "Ginny, could you?"
Nodding, Ginny closed her eyes and the mindscape faded away from around them. The peaceful beauty of the valleys disappeared into the grey and painful Hospital Wing of Hogwarts. The butterflies flying in the bright sunlight vanished and transformed into dozens of people - teachers, Aurors, ministry officials - all frantic and frenzy with the recent occurring. Next to Ginny, Lily Potter and Molly Weasley were sitting on either side. Before opening her eyes, Ginny allowed herself and Harry to listen to their conversation.
"Ron was right," was saying Molly Weasley with some harshness and much grief in her voice. "Your son Harry is nothing but trouble. Look what has happened to my daughter…"
Lily's eyes were downcast and her face transfixed on Ginny's as she rubbed the girl's wrist and ignored her mother's diatribe. Instantly, Ginny got up and hugged Lily. "He's all right," she whispered quietly, and pried her hands away when her own mother tried to embrace her.
"Ginny!" called out Molly in shock. "What did he do to you?"
Ignoring her mother, Ginny turned her attention to the others in the room. Nearly all the students were gathered there and Mat seemed to be trying hard to convince Dumbledore about something. Ginny turned her attention to Fleur, who was conversing rapidly with her own Headmistress and the French Minister, whose face had become very pale.
"It appears," said Dumbledore out loud and everyone lapsed into silence, "that Lord Voldemort has finally returned." His face had lost much color, and for the first time, he truly appeared his age. He slowly got up and said, "The portal was destroyed when the students emerged from it, blocking us from going to the aid of Harry Potter. I fear…" He trailed off and turned his face away from the scrutiny of others.
'Harry?' asked Ginny quietly. The question was clear to both of them.
'No,' responded Harry. 'He is grieving for the true boy-who-lived, not for me. He is ruing his mistake in identifying the wrong twin but nothing else.'
Monsieur Pierre broke the silence with his heavily accented voice. "But what is this about Harry Potter being the true boy-who-lived?"
There were startled gasps from everyone, including Lily Potter, who looked at Ginny with wide eyes. Ginny shrugged helplessly, confirming to none but Lily that it was true. Lily took a deep breath and placed her arm around Ginny. Dumbledore shook his head and said, "It is merely Voldemort's method of spreading chaos, confusion and discord among those who should be united against him. Harry Potter was a brave boy who put aside his petty jealousies and aided his brother in his time of need. For that we must honor him. Matthew Potter remains the true boy-who-lived."
'IS HE INSANE?' yelled Ginny in their mind and sent an apologetic glance when Harry winced. 'At least your brother isn't looking much pleased with that either. I should tell them the truth and…'
'No, Ginny!' interrupted Harry urgently. 'Let this play out. I want to see what Dumbledore is up to now. Avoid his eyes but keep him in your vision.' So saying, Harry looked out of Ginny's eyes, but while her gaze was fixed on Mat, Harry's was on Dumbledore. Slowly, he sent threads of his awareness towards the Headmaster, like thin tendrils reaching out into Dumbledore's mind.
The moment contact was established, the image of Sybill Trelawney came to Harry's mind. There was an aura of foreboding around her as she screamed in a hoarse and unearthly voice:
'The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches... born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies... and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not... his brother's happiness must be the cost of his power… the one will acquire power that his brother is denied… a new order will rise behind the one… he, his friends and mentors will rule the new world under a benign hand of peace, justice and prosperity… the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches…'
'Hogwash!' said Harry to Ginny, who had been shocked by the prophecy. 'Utter nonsense! Dumbledore is confused as to what went wrong with his efforts. Until then, he will keep the status quo about Mat being the boy-who-lived.'
'What will you do?' asked Ginny in concern.
"Ridiculous! Preposterous!" yelled a red-faced Cornelius Fudge as he barged into the hospital wing. "I do not know what you and your staff is playing at and how you managed to hoodwink Mat Potter, but enough! You Know Who has not returned and you will not spread chaos in my country!"
'Hmm,' said Harry thoughtfully. 'Looks like Dumbledore might have some trouble ahead. Gin, you up for a vacation?'
'What do you have in mind, Lord Blackwolf?' asked Ginny with a hint of playfulness.
'Entirely up to you, Lady Blackwolf,' said Harry, mouthing the last two words with awe and wonder.
"… in that case we have reached a parting of ways, Cornelius," Dumbledore was saying in a tired voice, but still permeating much confidence and authority in his voice, from which the Minister of Magic balked. "Minister Pierre, I hope I can count on you?"
Monsieur Pierre was looking disgustedly at Cornelius Fudge, something that Albus Dumbledore might have taken to signify a willingness to support Dumbledore's authority. But the question merely made Pierre look disgustedly at Dumbledore. Shaking his head, he said, "You British are too hasty for your own good. Is there no Pensieve in this school or country? I would like to see for myself what the students of my country had to endure due to the inefficiency of you people."
'A wise man finally speaks among a crowd of fools.'
There was a long moment of grating silence as everyone realized how utterly foolish they had been acting with their bickering when the resolution was most simple and obvious. As Dumbledore dispatched Filch and Snape to bring a Pensieve from his office, albeit with some chagrin and unease, he turned to Ginny and Lily, and said in a condoling voice, "Please allow me to express my heartfelt sympathy over the loss of Harry Potter. We might have had some altercations but the safety of my students is my foremost priority."
"Then why did you dismiss me and permit Bagman monopoly over the arrangement of the final task?" asked Lily Potter sharply, and several people looked at Dumbledore for a response.
"Lily," said Dumbledore in a grandfatherly voice. "I know you are hurting but throwing accusations like this will be of little help. Please calm down and understand that over here we are all on the same side, of justice and light."
Harry scoffed in Ginny's mind and said, 'Have fun with the Defenders of the Light, while I pay heed to my own position. Malfoy seems to be alone in his study for now. Keep my survival a secret from all save Neville, Luna and Flitwick. Perhaps Draco, Hermione and Cedric as well, but tell them to avoid eye contact with Dumbledore and Snape. I will see you soon, Gin. Stay safe.'
'You stay safe too, Harry,' sent Ginny back to Harry, as Harry left her mind and returned to his own body, and slid out of Lucius Malfoy's pocket.
There was dim light in the library, illuminated solely by three candles in a stand. Shelves of books were arrayed all around and Lucius Malfoy was sitting on his desk, leaning back against his mammoth arm chair and breathing heavily.
Growing in size, Astika crawled over the desk, ignoring Malfoy's sudden intake of breath and raising of his wand. He fell to the floor and emerged as Harry Potter. "I apologize and thank you, Lord Malfoy, for taking refuge in your pocket."
Malfoy observed Harry keenly for a few moments and then nodding once, fell back against his chair again. "How can this be happening again?"
Harry took a seat opposite the desk and looked out of the window. It was twilight and raindrops were falling lightly. Nodding, Harry said, "Do you remember the diary you pushed in Ginny Weasley's books a few years ago?"
Malfoy's eyes widened guiltily and he nodded. Turning his gaze out of the window, he said hoarsely, "I have many regrets about my past, and I have made many mistakes in my life. All I can say is I am trying to make up for them."
"You saved four innocent students today despite the grave danger over your own life and that of your family," commented Harry.
"I did," drawled Malfoy slowly, as if realizing that for the first time. Then he grinned at Harry and said, "You held your own against the Dark Lord marvelously, Lord Blackwolf."
"Please, sir," said Harry, "call me Harry or Harold." When Malfoy nodded, Harry continued, "So my secrets are all laid bare before you now. I am a Natural Occlumens, a Parselmouth and an Air Elemental. That diary was a horcrux, a soul vessel. He has several others as well. For all practical matters, Lord Voldemort is currently immortal. But the question is… what happens now?"
"The Dark Lord claims his body is weakened due to Bagman luring your twin inside, instead of you. He will require some time to recuperate. That gives me some leeway to decide how to proceed," said Malfoy quietly.
"You have me in your power now," commented Harry. "I too am weak after dueling Voldemort. You could easily deliver me to him and become his favorite Death Eater."
"I could," agreed Malfoy, with a weak smile. "But I forsook that path the moment I created the first portkey. You were correct, there is not an ounce of honor in that imbecile. He is not fit to restore magic to its rightful place."
Relieved and pleased, Harry relaxed a bit more and said, "Dumbledore is convinced that I am dead. He is trying to retain his control over things by squashing all doubts about Mat being the boy-who-lived."
Malfoy nodded. "Your brother is his greatest tool. With the boy-who-lived beside him, Dumbledore can yet rally a force to challenge and perhaps outmatch the Dark Lord. But if his errors are revealed… if you are revealed, then it will cripple his efforts significantly."
"Do we want that?" asked Harry with a doubtful face. "Until now, it was us against Dumbledore. Now that Voldemort is here…"
"That makes no difference," said Lucius Malfoy. "Both Dumbledore and Voldemort have their own agenda. Neither of them care about magic or honor. They are unfit to lead this society. But enough for now. I take it that you wish to remain dead to the world for now. But I am loathe to have you reside in my home, for Death Eaters will come and go frequently. It will not do to place such great risk on you."
Harry sighed and leaned back again, recalling the ominous words of the prophecy he had recently acquired. "I do not know why but I get a strong warning to stay away from Dumbledore for the time being. He will try his hardest to bring me under his control. Perhaps it is for the best that Harry Potter should die."
"And for Harold Blackwolf to rise," added Malfoy. "The Eyerie will make an adequate residence but not for some time. I will have it remade and furnished. Until then, you might wish to travel to France with Monsieur Pierre and Remus Lupin."
Harry's eyes widened and for the first time since the Third Task's disastrous ending, he smiled happily. "That is a remarkable idea. But where does Monsieur Pierre stand in this whole issue?"
"Like us, Pierre stands for magic, and magic alone," said Malfoy.
Harry nodded and said, "Then Harry Potter must fade away for the time being." He closed his eyes for a moment and his features altered. He smiled at Malfoy's surprise and said, "You can add Metamorphmagus to that list as well, Lord Malfoy. I am Remy Leblanc, it is a pleasure to meet you. Perhaps you will indulge me a few moments of rest." So saying, he closed his eyes and leaned against the chair, content with the knowledge that he was safe for the time being.
Harry woke up with a start and looked around himself in surprise. He was no longer in the archaic library of Malfoy Manor but in a brightly lit room. He moved slightly and smiled at the comfortable bed he was on. His body was sore and the bed made him reluctant to get up but he shook himself and sat upright. There was a window on a wall to his right and he looked outside. The view made him gasp.
Outside, he could see a wonderful sight of mountains, he himself being at a considerable height. Lush green valleys were abound, separating stony cliffs and peaks. For miles and miles as far as his vision could stretch there was little sign of human life or settlement and Harry's smile widened further. He got up and walked to the window, opening it slightly. He sighed when a cold wind touched his face gently.
'So that is the Eyerie,' came Ginny's voice in his head.
'Good morning, Gin,' replied Harry peacefully. 'I'm sorry, I didn't mean to sleep an entire night.'
'You didn't,' said Ginny, with concern and a hint of irritation in her voice. 'You slept for three nights.'
'WHAT!' Harry exclaimed in disbelief, and his eyes fell on a skulking form of a house elf, standing by the door and waiting for Harry to notice him. "Hello," Harry called out in greeting.
"Master Harold is awake," said the creature with much elation. "Dobby welcomes Master Harold to his new home. Master Lucius tells Dobby to look after Master Harold while he is here. Bad men came to the Manor and Master Lucius is worried they will discover he is not bad like them. Not anymore, thanks to Master Harold. Dobby is much honored to be in the service of a great wizard such as Master Harold."
"Oh," said Harry, sitting down on his bed. "That is good, I guess," said Harry with some confusion. "Did he leave any message for me?"
Dobby nodded his head and said, "Master Harold is to get ready to meet guests, and Dobby is to notify Master Lucius when Master Harry wakes up. Would you like breakfast now?"
"Sure," said Harry. Looking around, he asked curiously, "Is this the Eyerie? Lord Malfoy managed to rebuild it so quick?"
"This is the Eyerie," said Dobby, nodding vigorously. "But it is not rebuilt yet. Only three rooms are done. This, the kitchen, the servants' quarters where Dobby sleeps and the bathroom. Dobby will make breakfast now. Would Master Harold prefer his eggs boiled, fried or poached?"
"Poached sounds lovely, Dobby," said Harry absent-mindedly, as he sat on a chair facing the window and looked at the scenic view. "And some toast if you don't mind. Make some for yourself and join me, if you haven't eaten already." The praising words of Dobby the House-elf about how kind a master he was serving faded into silence as the elf retreated to the kitchen, leaving young Harry contentedly look into the Welsh countryside as the warmth of Ginny's affection glowed in his heart and mind as a stubborn flame that refused to ever fade away.
Harold Blackwolf had survived - narrowly, true - but he had survived and he was healing.