Sakura frantically dashed down the winding corridors, hoping to reach the classroom before Gohan did. But while her legs were furiously pumping back and forth, her head was frozen. She just couldn't get that small, broken boy out of her mind. He seemed so... devastated.
It was hard to believe that the boy who had fearlessly stared down over four thousand wizards, inviting them to attack him, was the same boy who couldn't look his mother in the eyes. Just what had happened to break someone so strong, so completely?
As she rounded the last corner, she skid to a halt. The entire class was waiting outside the door. That's strange, I could have sworn that I was late for class, she thought.
Without missing a step, the medic-nin took a practiced breath, quickly expelling any adrenaline that may have made it into her system. She didn't want to look like she had just been running. And she really didn't want to look like she had been running from Gohan's office.
Forcing her posture into a relaxed stance, she casually approached her fellow classmates.
"Hey guys," She greeted with a warm smile. "What are you all doing outside?"
"Gohan hasn't arrived yet." Lavender answered in a soft voice, rubbing her crossed arms nervously.
Looking around the group, it seemed Lavender wasn't the only one. The others were just as subdued as the Gryffindor girl. Hermoine stared at the door, opening her mouth periodically as though she had thought of something to say. Dean and Ernie kept their eyes on the floor, darting up only when someone else spoke. Alice kept fidgeting with her fingers...
Probably just anxious, Sakura concluded. After all, it wasn't everyday that you saw someone's head crushed in your first class. They were all, no doubt, afraid of what his next class had in store for them.
And speaking of Gohan, where was he? And why wouldn't he show up for class? Just how effective was Naruto's diversion?
The demi-saiyan in question was unconscious, lying in an uncomfortable, twisted position, inside the crater his impact with the castle wall had created. His precious Hogsmeade mementos scattered around him.
A frying pan, of all things, laying innocently at his feet. Or at least it would have looked innocent if it wasn't for the ominous indentation right in the middle of the piece of cookware.
The reason for his unconsciousness, however, was neither the wall nor the ever growing crowd of students gathering around him. It wasn't even the frying pan. Instead, the reason for his unconsciousness had more to do with the thin stream of blood, dripping out of his nose.
"Geez, Naruto." One Gryffindor girl remarked. "What did you do to him? Ram him into the castle with a bus?"
"Hehe," was Naruto's only reply as he rubbed the back of his head. Truth be told, he had no idea what had happened.
As far as he could remember, they were still racing towards his classroom, when he noticed that Gohan was winning. It was only a slight lead, but he could tell that the youth was still withholding the lion's share of his speed. So, not wanting to lose, he used the most powerful weapon in his arsenal: The Sexy-no-Jutsu.
Gohan had immediately turned beet-red, closed his eyes and ran head first into the castle... But where the crater, or frying pan, came from... only Kami knew.
"Dude!" Ron shouted as he and Harry joined the group standing around the unconscious teacher. "You've landed the first hit that anyone's been able to get on Gohan! You know what this means? You might actually win the competition!"
"I don't know about that." Naruto admitted. "I didn't actually do anything."
"Are you kidding!" A second year Ravenclaw boy shouted. "Haven't you guys ever read Hogwarts: A History! The school is magically fortified. You don't smash through its walls by accident!"
Harry, who had moved to examine Gohan's crater, couldn't help but agree. Already the smaller, hairline cracks where starting to disappear. If the castle had enough magic to heal itself, surely it had enough magic to prevent a great deal of damage. Rubbing his hand over the minute cracks, he couldn't help but marvel at the strange feeling of magical Ki drifting through the wall. Although his sensing skill was still in its infancy, he could make out distinct swells of magic moving just beneath his fingers.
The magical energy, however, was nowhere nearly as pronounced as the life force that Gohan had taught him to detect in people. It was subtle, almost to the point of being invisible. If he had to make a comparison, he would say that the magic inside Hogwarts was visible in the same way that clouds were visible in the night sky. Wizards, in contrast, were like bright candles in the dark.
If the ancient magic that protected the greatest magical creation in wizarding history, was this faint in comparison to the magic that dwelled in wizards, did that meant that they were only scratching the surface of their potential? Gohan had certainly seemed shocked at the enormous changes that his pathetic "Ki blast" had wrought on a simple rock.
Harry shuddered as he remembered the overwhelming feeling of pressure Gohan had exuded when he 'increased his Ki'. It completely dwarfed the combined feeling of everyone inside Hogwarts, and if that was any indication of what he could teach Harry to achieve...
"Huh?" Harry looked up to see that only Ron and Naruto where left. Apparently the others had decided an unconscious person could only be intriguing for only so long.
"Don't zone out like that, I was starting to worry that your brain had been addled by magic." Harry almost laughed at that statement, it seemed like a ludicrous idea in the bright sunlight. But, Harry caught himself just before he did as his eye flicked over the scar that just barely poked out of Ron's school robes. Those scars, that were stubbornly resisting Madam Pomfrey's weekly treatings, were the result of their little excursion to the Department of Mysteries last year. An excursion that he had started himself, because his "brain had been addled", as Ron put it, well within the safe limits of Hogwarts.
"Sorry, Ron." Harry apologized. "What were you saying?"
"We need to get him to the infirmary." Ron repeated in a tone that suggests he had repeated it at least three times in last few minutes.
"Right," Harry stooped down, seized one of Gohan's wrists and pulled.
But the wrist, and the small blue weighted band wrapped around it, stubbornly refused to budge.
Almost immediately, Naruto seized the other wrist, with similar results.
After several fruitless minutes, neither Harry nor Naruto had managed to get either weight to shift by the tiniest fraction. Naruto knew that he was no where near Sakura's level with using Chakra to increase strength, but he should at least get the damn thing to budge!
Following Harry's lead, he collapsed onto the grass panting heavily.
"Damn, just how strong is he?" He asked no one in particular, wiping the thin layer of sweat from his forehead..
"I don't know." Harry answered, looking just as exhausted. "But I'm starting to get a new appreciation for what he's capable of." Naruto only nodded in agreement, too tired to speak.
"Well, you know what this means?" Ron asked from the spot he had retired to several minutes before the others.
When neither Harry, nor Naruto, answered he pulled out his wand. "We need to cast a spell on a Professor." He said with a grin that suggested a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Shooting another glance at the innocent, blue wrist band, Harry couldn't help but think back to the incredible pressure that Gohan had exuded. Although, he couldn't identify it at the time, he now knew what it was: Power.
"If we want to get him to the infirmary, we're going to need help." Harry said after a few minutes of quiet reflection. He wasn't sure why, but he was certain a levitation spell wouldn't be any more effictive than their own efforts had been.
"Help! That's it!" Naruto shouted happily. "Why didn't I think of it before?"
"What are you talking about?" Harry asked, pulling himself upright.
But, if Naruto heard him, he ignored it completely. Instead, he pulled himself into the meditative position that Jiraya had taught him. Manifesting himself in his own mindscape, he went directly to the fox's cage.
"Hey fox!" He shouted into the darkness.
What is it brat? The words echoed through the gigantic room, part sound, part thought.
"Do you want to know how strong Gohan is?"
Oh, I see. The fox said, a trace of humor in its voice. You want to use my power to test him? Very well. Take all the power you want.
The fox's sinister Chakra seeped through the cage, swirling around Naruto. Layer upon layer, the Chakra flowed out of the cage in an ever growing pool. Naruto fought to keep his mind rational in the torrent of hate as the fox's Chakra flooded his system. The fox had never, willingly, given him this much Chakra before!
On the outside, Naruto's nails and fangs grew as the fox's Chakra flowed through his Chakra coils. His whiskers darkened and underneath his closed eyelids his eyes took on a deadly red colour. Slowly, a boiling red cloak of Chakra started to bubble around his body. Gohan watched the process in fascination.
"What are you doing?" The demi-saiyan asked, completely fascinated by the changes Naruto was undergoing.
"I'm getting some extra help." Naruto explained, still focused on controlling the bloodthirsty Chakra. Suddenly his eyes shot open. "HEY! You're supposed to be unconscious!"
"I am?" Gohan asked, scratching the back of his head. "Sorry."
"Aren't you supposed to be teaching Hermoine's class?" Harry asked, coughing slightly.
The color drained from Gohan's face in a heartbeat, almost matching Ron's fearful gaze. His eyes widened into a facial expression that seemed to scream: Oh Shit!
"SorryI'vegottago!" Gohan shouted in a single breath, and then he was gone. He didn't run away. He was just gone. One minute he was there, and the next was gone.
"How does he do that?" Harry asked, collapsing back onto the soft grass. Naruto stared at the space that Gohan had just occupied for several long seconds, until he released a furious roar. Harry looked up at the sound. What started as a transparent, bubbling energy covering Naruto, was now a solid red, well defined body.
"What the bloody hell is..." The question died on Ron's lips as the red thing, that was Naruto speared him with the most ferocious expression Harry had ever seen. Slowly, his hand reached for the flimsy piece of magical wood. Though, he doubted that it would be of much help against the four tailed demon that was sizing up his best friend.
Suddenly the air returned to its previous temperature, and the red-fox-thing, shook its head as if to clear away an unpleasant thought. And then it took off like a missile running at an impossible speed towards the Forbidden Forest.
Harry and Ron looked at each other for a few seconds. Harry even opened his mouth to say something, but after looking back to the tiny red speck that was Naruto, decided against it.
Sakura's limited patience was starting to run out. Scratch that, her limited patience had run out twenty minutes ago
What the hell am I still doing here? She fumed mentally. Class was supposed to have started thirty minutes ago! He's obviously not going to show.
But despite her restlessness, she couldn't bring herself to leave. Perhaps, it was concern for the other students. Or, maybe, it was guilt from breaking into his private memories. It might even have been, curiosity. But whatever it was that was keeping her from leaving the locked classroom, it seemed to have sunk its hooks into the other students as well. All nine Muggle Studies students were still faithfully hovering around the locked door.
The students were all broken out of their stupor by the clicking of a lock. They all turned their attention to the heavy wooden door as it swung open to reveal the youthful professor.
"Sorry I'm late." He said, bowing apologetically. "I, uhm, ran into a wall." He admitted, blushing with embarrassment. "But, come in. We have a lot to cover and not a lot of time left."
The nine students obediently filed into the room, though he couldn't help but notice that they seemed more subdued than they did on their first lesson.
As soon as they were seated, he sat down on the polished professor's desk. Facing his nine charges, he smiled warmly.
"So," he asked, looking from student to student. "Who can tell me where we left off last time?"
Predictably, Hermoine's hand shot into the air first. Judging by the far-away look in her eyes, her reaction was more out of instinct than an actual desire to answer.
"Well, you showed us that memory." She said, carefully organizing her thoughts. "About Sixteen. You said that he was a machine, created to kill your father. And then you asked us if he had less rights than us, because he wasn't born. And, uhm..." She paused, trying to recall exactly what had happened next. "You said that he gave his life to protect nature."
"Thank you, Hermoine. That was very concise." He looked to the other students, noting that with the exception of Sakura, they were all avoiding eye contact. "So, now that you've all had a few days to think about it, I want to know. What do you think? Was Sixteen alive? Does he deserve to live?"
An awkward silence settled over the room like a thick blanket. The four boys Dean, Ernie, Shaun and Philip kept their eyes down, focused on their own tables. The girls' reaction was slightly more varied. Sakura kept her eyes on Gohan, but seemed to be thinking along other lines. Hermoine's gaze jumped from person to person, hoping someone else was going to answer. Lavender kept mumbling under her breath, but didn't seem to want to answer the terrible question. Alice and Petal kept shooting glances at each other, silently daring the other to speak first.
The silence seemed to stretch, until it swallowed all concept of time. But, Gohan's penetrating gaze still darted from person to person. It was quickly becoming clear that he would not answer this question for them.
Surprisingly Philip's hand was the first to rise.
"Yes, Philip?" Gohan asked, nodding towards the older boy.
"Uhm... I don't really know if Sixteen was alive, or just... you know... a very realistic imitation of life. But, I kept thinking of my father." He paused, hesitantly. But his silent question went unanswered, so he decided to plough on through his story.
"My father was a muggle. An, uhm, carpenter. And he would always tell us that we should always take pride in the things we make, because a part of you lives in everything you make..." He looked around uncertainly, but only Gohan was making eye contact, and he showed no signs of either agreeing or disagreeing. So, deciding that he wasn't going to get any moral support, he pushed on.
"So, I just thought, that maybe if that was true. Then, maybe it doesn't matter if he's alive or not. Maybe it matters more how we think and feel about him?"
Gohan looked up thoughtfully, mulling over the statement.
"Interesting." He said eventually. "So, you're saying that whether we think of him as a living being, is more important than whether he actually is alive?"
"Uhm... Yes." He said hesitantly.
"I haven't actually thought of it like that before." Gohan admitted. "But its a beautiful summary."
The young professor stood up from his table and started writing on the black board. While his hand quickly scribbled across the green surface, he asked the class in general. "So, what does this have to do with muggle studies?"
He stepped away from the board to reveal in full glory... three columns.
At the top of the first column, the words "Death Eaters" were written. Above the second, "Hogwarts Teachers" and "Ministry" above the last.
"I was originally planning on doing a comparison between our perception on Sixteen and the way wizards see muggles. But after Philip's elegant answer, I think this fits in better."
"Uhm... Professor?" Petal asked, biting her lip nervously.
"The time's up."
"What?" Gohan checked his watch, and was surprised to find that he had already continued fifteen minutes into the next period.
And that was saying something, when one considers that the next period was supper...
"Okay, well that's all for today. But for homework. I want you all to make a similar list comparing three groups' views on a particular subject. Then we will see how the way that they 'feel about' the topic influences their actions."
The sound of scraping chairs filled the room as all nine students stood up simultaneously, grabbing their bags from the floor.
"And before you leave my classroom for the weekend, I want to leave you with a final thought about Android Sixteen: He gave his life to save my planet, not because he saw himself as powerful, or a hero. But because he saw Earth as worth saving. What do you consider worth saving?"
When Gohan walked into the dining hall, most students had already finished eating. But despite his disappointment at missing supper he couldn't help but notice the different atmosphere. Usually, students were whispering to each other about the "Muggle Professor", and ways to catch him off guard. Tonight, however, the discussion was far more somber as students furiously discussed something about a red monster inside Hogwarts.
With his sensitive hearing, he could pick up snippets of conversation that were spoken slightly louder than the usual background chatter:
"... completely destroyed..."
"Hogwarts... no longer safe."
"Where the hell is Dumbledore!"
By the time he took his seat at the Professors' table, all the teachers were present. Even Professor Trelawny and Hagrid had decided to make an appearance. The only member of staff not present was Dumbledore...
Taking his seat as at the table seemed to be some sort of unspoken signal, as Professor McGonagall chose that moment to rise up from her seat. Pulling out her wand, she released several loud bangs to quiet the increasingly frantic discussions that were being held all over the long wooden tables.
"QUIET PLEASE!" She commanded in her most authoritative voice. "PLEASE QUIET DOWN!"
The noise faded to only a handful of worried whispers before she continued.
"As I'm sure you have all heard, a red creature has been sighted on Hogwarts grounds. And although it is uncertain how it managed to get through the protective enchantments protecting Hogwarts, we urge you not to panic. Currently, the new security consultant Hatake Kakashi, as well as the new potions master have gone to ensure that this new development does not prove harmful to either the school, or the students therein."
Immediately the whispering started to pick up again. This time, the whispering seemed to focus around a single question.
Reading the atmosphere as only she could, McGonagall continued. "Professor Dumbledore is away on urgent business. He has, however, not left the school defenseless. While Kakashi and Gai ensure that this mysterious beast does not endanger the lives of the students in this school, we will be taking additional measures."
"We have not ruled out the fact that this is an attack on Hogwarts itself. So, to ensure the safety of everyone in this school, we will not be allowing you to return to your dormitories after supper. Instead, you will remain here for the night. All of us," she gestured towards the other professors, "will remain here through the night to protect you should we find ourselves in the worst case scenario."
Judging by the varied expressions of the teachers sitting on either side of him, Gohan guessed that he wasn't the only lecturer to be out-of-the-loop. He thought a handful looked prepared for the news, but the vast majority looked taken aback.
Only Professors Snape and Flitwick, seemed to be completely neutral to the news. Not quite surprised, but at the same time Gohan could feel their magical Ki become slightly agitated in response. Turning his attention back towards the other teachers, he was surprised to see the determination that had taken hold of the other teachers. Apparently their dedication stretched further than the academics of their respective subjects, because it seemed to him that they were perfectly prepared to defend their students with their lives, even if it was on such short notice...
"Yeh ready fir this?" Hagrid asked him. Looking up, Gohan launched his brightest smile at the gigantic man.
"You can count on me."
Looking at his watch, Gohan was surprised to see that it was still an hour till midnight. Time seemed to have crawled to a standstill. Nearly four thousand students laid on the floor of the Great Hall in sleeping bags, neatly arranged into groups.
The excitement had lasted for a good three hours after the announcement, but eventually the students started dropping off, one by one. Gohan had even heard one boy jokingly ask his friend to wake him if they were all about to die.
But despite the relaxed quiet that had settled in the hall, Gohan couldn't completely surrender himself to the peaceful atmosphere. There were several things that he couldn't quite ignore. Firstly, all the ninja were absent. Shouldn't they be present, considering that they were hired to protect the school? Secondly, Dumbledore was absent as well. What could be so important that he would leave the safety of his school in the hands of obviously less capable wizards and witches?
But most of all, he couldn't help but wonder if the red beast had been Naruto. He had seen the red cload that had slowly started to envelop him, but Naruto had seemed to be in perfect control by the time he left. And, besides, he said that he was "asking for help", so that meant whatever he was doing, it was voluntary. Gohan just couldn't picture Naruto doing anything that would endanger others by choice...
"You can go rest now."
Gohan looked up at the speaker, or rather, down at the speaker. It was Professor Flitwick. Apparently Flitwick had come to relieve him of duty. McGonagall had decided that the teachers would take shifts, allowing each to sleep for two hours before returning to the Great Hall.
"Thanks," the youth replied. Rubbing his sleepy eyes, he slowly started walking through the masses of students towards the passage that led to his room.
"Yes," He asked, turning around.
"You really don't have to stay up with us, you know. I'm sure the rest of us can handle anything that decides to wander in tonight."
"Then, why are you here?" Professor Flitwick asked. "On the frontlines, I mean. Why are you so determined to fight in an adult's war?"
Gohan thought silently for several long seconds, thankful for the fact that the miniature Professor chose to wait patiently for his answer. Eventually, he gave his answer and started the long walk to his room, leaving the Charms teacher with a lot to think about.
Despite his body's unparalleled ability to keep going, his mind was slowly starting to shut down. His thoughts became less coherent as he approached his bedroom, each thread of thought eventually snapping under a mind that was no longer able to review each relevant detail.
Rather than bring peace to the demi-saiyan, it instead left him with worries that he couldn't quite pinpoint. He knew that he was worried about a lot of things, but those worries refused to coalesce into clearly defined problems.
Unlocking his bedroom door, Gohan didn't even notice the fact that his small Ki-shield was missing. He did, however, notice the new closet next to his fireplace, rattling mysteriously. He would have opened it, but somehow, he couldn't bring himself to care about an old rattling closet. Not when fifteen teachers were patrolling through nearly four thousand sleeping studetns, ready to die defending them.
Taking off his weights, clearing the Ki stored in them, and placing them in the reinforced safe, Gohan flopped down on the bed.
But after a painfully long five minutes, he realized that it was impossible to surrender to unconsciousness. The unidentifiable nagging at the back of his head simply wasn't going to allow him. And it would be a lot easier to keep his senses attuned to the Great Hall while he was working, than it would be while sleeping.
So, pulling himself out of bed, he seated himself in-front of the mahogany desk. Pulling a few papers closer, he decided that he might as well get started on the Muggle Studies project. Even with 5 classes helping, it was going to take a lot of effort to build another ship that could take him home.
He started by considering the options in creating the ship's power system. But twenty five minutes later, he had made no progress. His exhausted mind just couldn't quite figure out how to lower the voltage that the power supply provided to a safer voltage for the sensitive electronics that were needed to steer the ship, without wasting the electricity in the conversion process.
Opening the top drawer, he took out his capsule case, in the hope that the busted escape pod that he landed in would provide some clue on how Bulma had solved the problem. The capsules were all color coded and labeled according to the items that they held inside. After a quick scan, he reached for the capsule that contained the tiny time-machine.
His fingers froze just above the capsule. He had been so accustomed to quickly identifying the capsule that he needed that he had never bothered with the other capsules that he couldn't recognize. But now that he thought about it, Bulma had added several capsules to his case in preparation for this journey. Originally there were two additional time-machines, incase something went wrong with the main ship. A sleeping bag. Two yellow capsules that obviously contained vehicles, though he didn't recognize the model numbers.
His eyes however, were drawn to the capsule on the far right of the case. It was marked with a soft orange, with a single red star in the middle. Just like the dragon balls...
He hesitated for a second, before deciding that he probably wasn't going to get anything productive done this late at night anyway, and reached for the capsule. Not sure of the size of its contents, Gohan clicked and threw the capsule into the widest open space in his room. Whatever he had been expecting, it certainly wasn't a shoe-box.
The shoebox looked strangely small in the centre of the room. He had been expecting something else. Or at least, something bigger.
Picking up the box, he was even more surprised to find that it was a box for women's shoes. Fearing the worst, he carefully placed the box on his desk, and carefully pulled the lid off.
Instead of shoes, however, there was a small package, tightly wrapped up in a velvet cloth. To the left of the velvet bundle, there was a small note. Picking it up, he was not surprised to find Bulma's handwriting.
Bet you weren't expecting to hear from me again so soon. I didn't want to give this to you in front of Vegeta, but I thought you should have it. It's something I found in the woods just before I met your father. I didn't know what it was at the time, except that it was technological. But, when I found it this morning looking through my old things, I knew what it was, and that it should really belong to you.
Gohan felt his heart beat slightly faster. He knew that it had to be old technology, if it predated his father's twelfth birthday. But what could possibly be so important that she didn't want to give it to him in front of Vegeta?
It's in pretty bad shape, however. I could probably fix it, but after studying it for a few hours this morning, I realised that the circuitry is pretty messed up. A little imbalance in the power supply, and it could all go up in smoke. So, I thought I'd give it you as is. Then you can decide if you want to take the risk of repairing it.
Hope your enjoying your holiday,
Breath catching in his throat, Gohan carefully pulled the velvet package open, inside was a small black box, with an angular piece of red glass attached at one end of the device.
"A scouter?" Gohan whispered to himself, almost afraid to touch the fragile device. Because, despite the fact that Bulma had gone through some trouble to make it presentable, it still seemed to be extremely old. Carefully lifting the smooth plastic-like case.
A million thoughts raced through Gohan's mind, as he gingerly held the device. Where did Bulma find one? All those that made their way to Earth had been destroyed eventually, and they never took one of the devices they encountered on Namek. They had no use for them by then, as their ability to sense Ki far outstripped the limitations of these devices.
And, if Bulma had this device before she encountered his father, did that mean that his dad wasn't the first alien to come to Earth? And why did she think the precious device needed to go to him? Then, it hit him like a ton of bricks:
THIS WAS HIS FATHER'S SCOUTER!
The demi-saiyan froze, staring at the small package in his hands. He had never thought about it before, but his father came to earth to destroy it. As a saiyan, he obviously came with a scouter. But, of course he lost his memories, so he wouldn't remember it...
Looking at it more closely, it was clearly different from the other models he had seen. The ear piece was pitch black for one, and the glass had sharp angular corners instead of the smooth corners of what he now knew where the newer models.
But what intrigued Gohan most of all, was the slight burn marks where the glass and ear piece came together. Gohan knew a Ki burn when he saw one.
Doing the math, Gohan realised that by the time Bulma had found it, it had been lying abandoned for roughly a decade. The decade that Grandpa Gohan had spent raising Goku... And yet, despite being abandoned by its owner soon after landing, it had clearly seen battle already. Did that mean that the scouter was second hand when it was handed to Goku?
If so, did that mean it once belonged to his father's father? His grandpa, he corrected mentally. Or was it simply a fact of life that 3rd class saiyans got the old, unwanted equipment?
Letting out a breath he didn't know he was holding in, he carefully explored the exterior with his fingers. If he remembered correctly, Dumbledore had mentioned that electronics didn't work inside of Hogwarts, so it would probably be best not to turn the device on, inside of the magical enivornment. There was no telling what its age (not to mention a decade left to weather the elements) combined with magic would do to the poor device. Even the more modern devices seemed to explode under the smallest strains...
Gohan nearly dropped the device in shock as he felt a small amount of Ki rocket into his room. His first reaction being a hostile attack, he quickly leaned to the side. But, instead of exploding on contact with his wall, the silver spell instead gracefully landed on its desk and took the form of a silvery glowing cat.
"Professor Son, you are requested to join us in the teacher's conference room for an urgent meeting." McGonagall's voice said through the cat, before it faded to nothing.
Blinking at the spot that the strange cat had stood minutes before, the word 'urgent' finally registered with the shocked teen. Jumping up, he quickly and carefully wrapped the scouter up in its velvet cloth and deposited it in his top drawer, before running towards the conference room at a speed that would have put an Olympic medalist to shame.
Knocking on the door, he was only slightly surprised when it opened for him. Perhaps it was enchanted to only let lecturers through...
"Ah, welcome Gohan. It seems that we are all present now." Dumbledore said in a somber whisper. "Please, take a seat."
"If I may, Professor." This time it was Snape who spoke. "The entire school is on high alert, is it really wiseto withdraw all the Professors," Gohan couldn't help but notice the placement he placed on the word Professors, shooting him a condescending glare, "from the Great Hall?"
"I understand your concern," Dumbledore said in a nodding towards him. "However, Kakashi informs me that the creature was detained and will not be posing any further threat to this school. And while we do not yet know what, or who, this creature is, it seems unlikely to me that it was an attack sent by Voldemort. His plans are usually either more subtle and co-ordinated."
"Perhaps it was simply a stroke of fortune on our part." Professor McGonagall suggested. "Perhaps this creature, was meant to be part of a greater attack force, but sprang the trap early."
"I have not yet ruled out that consideration," Dumbledore agreed. "However, the reason I have called this meeting is because there has been a more troubling development. Lord Voldemort has made a move to seize London. Kingsly notified me a few minutes ago that they have identified a group of giants, accompanied by dementors marching towards London."
"What!" Gohan shouted in surprise. "He's attacking, now? We have to do something!"
"As much as I'd hate to agree with, Professor Son. He does have a point. If London should fall, there will no way that we can keep the wizarding world a secret from the muggles any longer."
"Agreed!" Professor Sprout almosted shouted. "Why are we wasting time here?"
"Because," Dumbledore said solemnly, "I believe that this is simply a diversion."
There was a stunned silence around the room before McGonagall asked the question that was on everyone else's lips: "What is his real target, Hogwarts?"
"No," was the headmaster's decisive answer. "While he views Hogwarts as a pivotal milestone to conquering the wizarding world, he cannot ignore the fact that the school is simply that. A school. To really seize control, he needs to create confusion of such a degree that there will be no united uprising against him. And Hogwarts will not fall easily, especially with half his army busy causing a ruckus in London. Rather, I believe that his real target is the Ministry of Magic."
There was a stunned silence of disbelief, which was finally broken by Snape. "It would match his style. All the Auror's will be immediately dispatched to head off the giant problem, leaving the Ministry completely open to attack."
"But, can we truly rule out the idea that he might be targeting Hogwarts?" Professor Sprout asked, "After all, there was a magical beast sighted within Hogwarts territory. If Voldemort has found a way to fabricate monsters, then it might be entirely plausible that he could attack the school without his dementors and giants."
"Precisely, that's why I called this meeting. We have to decide how we are going to react to this new development, and we may also have to consider changing the tatics we have been using up to this point. With Voldemort's new disregard for secrecy, keeping the wizarding world hidden from muggles may no longer be possible."
"If I may be so bold, headmaster. If these 'ninjas' have been hired to protect the school, why are they not present at this meeting. And why have we not heard of them even trying to intercept this 'beast'. Surely a creature that appeared right next to, what do they call him now? Oh, that's right, 'the chosen one', should be considered highly dangerous."
Gohan was torn in two. On the one hand, he had clearly seen Naruto transform into that red thing. And although he hadn't thought much of it at the time, it seemed that some very important decisions were about to be made on the false assumption that it was a hostile creature.
But, on the other hand, he liked to think that he and Naruto had some sort of friendship. While he might not know much about the ninja, it was hard to shake off the bonding experience they had shared earlier in this very day. Perhaps it was stupid, but he felt that he had some responsibility to help keep whatever secret the blond was keeping.
He was somewhat surprised when he started talking, some portion of his brain already having decided for him.
"Professor Dumbledore," he heard his gentle voice venture into the silence. "If I may, I don't know what Voldemort is planning to do. But Hogwarts is already well defended, and if Professor Snape is correct, the giants will attract a very strong defensive reaction from the Aurors. It is the Ministry that is currently left defenseless. But, unlike Hogwarts, the Ministry does carry as many protective enchantments. Why don't we just send them a message that Voldemort is coming, so they can evacuate?"
"But that would leave the Department of Mysteries completely undefended!" Professor Flitwick said in realization.
"But Voldemort has already penetrated the ministry to a very large degree, it is unlikely that we can prevent him from taking anything from even the Department of Mysteries."
The room quickly fell into a thoughtful silence, everyone coming to the same realization. It would be almost impossible to perfectly protect four potential targets. The silence was finally broken by Dumbledore's decisive tone.
"Very well. Filius, take Gohan with you to the Ministry. You two will focus on getting as many people out of the building as possible. Cause a bit of a stir..." His eyes lit up with bemusement for a second, before settling in its usual serious gaze. "I will see to the threat that faces London myself. The rest of you will ensure that Hogwarts remains secure."
Judging by their faces, Gohan could tell that although they had their reservations, none of the Professors were prepared to contradict Dumbledore on such an important decision.
Professor Flitwick's small form floated two feat off the ground, suspended by his own charm and moving forward at an impressive speed. Gohan, jogging next to him, couldn't bring himself to break the silence that had formed between them.
It wasn't the awkward silence that so often enveloped muggles and wizards. Rather, it was the solid, comforting silence that rested between comrades.
"We're here." Gohan pulled himself to a stop next to the floating half-goblin. He already knew what 'here' meant. They were outside of Hogwarts's protective charms. It would be safe to apparate now.
"So, how does this work?" He asked, a little bit nervous. He was going to be disappearing after all, and the thought that he might not reappear with all of his body parts, was unsettling.
"Just take hold of my arm." The tiny wizard instructed. Doing as he was told, Gohan soon felt Flitwick twist away from him. He increased his grip slightly, and then the world went black...
Hey everybody! *Hides behind a rocky outcrop* Please don't kill me.
I know this update has been a teensy bit later than I promised, but so much has happened... But I'll try to be more consistent now that things have settled down a little.
I want to give a quick heads up to Divine Saiyan Psyagon, without whom this chapter would probably still be incomplete. His constant pushing for me to finish this has breathed new life into a story that I almost gave up on. So, to thank him, please check out his stories and give them a review.
And to everyone else, I'm REALLY REALLY sorry for not replying to the numerous encouraging messages and reviews that I have received over the last few months. I don't really have a good excuse, but I'm fully back now, and would love to hear from all of you. So, send me message, or a review, and let me know what you think of this chapter.
And for those who are interested, I've put my YIM details on my profile. I'm always looking for interesting people to chat with, so feel free to add me and say hello. ((Please note, that I have changed to a new Yahoo address, and I've removed my MSN details as I no longer use MSN.))