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In Essence Divided

By Taure

Chapter 4

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"Stay where you are," said Harry, backing away with her wand pointed at Black. Thirteen Muggles with one curse.

The Death Eater appeared unconcerned. He pulled an apple off a tree and bit into it.

"What's your name, girl?" he said quietly. His voice was deep, casual, and carried a slightly mocking tone. Despite his ragged appearance, he spoke very properly - not unlike Draco Malfoy.

"Ginny," said Harry. "Ginny Weasley. Put the apple down."

Black ignored her.

"Well, then, Ginny Weasley, I apologise for this."

"Apologise for wh-"

Faster than Harry believed possible, Black lunged at her. Instinctively, she pulled her wand back, trying to keep him from snatching it - but he wasn't aiming for her wand. His fist slammed into her face with brutal force, knocking her back, the pain in her nose momentarily blinding. Stunned, she could do nothing but shout out as he punched her again, this time in the stomach, taking the wind out of her, before kicking the back of her knee. She collapsed to the ground, completely disabled.

"Incarcerus," she heard, and suddenly she was bound tightly in ropes. Still gasping for breath, her head ringing, her nose bleeding, she looked up at Black. He was holding her wand.

"Like I said," he said with a grimace, "sorry about that. But I have business in the house, and I don't want any interruptions."

"Don't you dare -" Harry gasped, interrupted by the need to swallow some blood.

Black looked amused. "You've got spunk, I'll give you that," he said. "Silencio. There. Don't want you shouting out now, do we?"

Harry tried to swear at the man, but no sound came out.

"It was nice meeting you, Ginny Weasley."

He then turned and walked away. Lying on her back as she was, he left her vision quickly, leaving Harry staring at the night's sky, swallowing her own blood. It was quite disgusting - metallic, slimy - but it was better than choking on it. She tried to roll onto her side, but she was bound quite thoroughly.

Those minutes were some of the longest of Harry's life. She lay there, imagining what dark deeds Sirius Black was performing within The Burrow, wondering how long it would be until anyone found her. And underneath it all was the ever present worry for her other body.

Footsteps approached much sooner than Harry expected. Black appeared again, looming tall above her. He looked angry.

"Where is he?" he snarled, "where's the rat?"

"What?" Harry said - her voice returned to her with a flick of Black's wand.

"The rat, girl!" He reached into a pocket and removed a worn piece of paper - a page torn from the Daily Prophet - and shoved it in her face. It was dominated by a picture of the Weasley family - all of them except Ginny - standing in the Atrium of the Ministry of Magic. "The pet rat, on the boy's shoulder: where is he?"

Black was frantic now, his hands shaking.

"Scabbers?" said Harry, completely confused. "He's Ron's. He should be in the house."

"Well, he isn't!" spat Sirius, and he took photograph back before beginning to pace, muttering to himself. He was clearly not right.

"Fuck!" he shouted, and there was a loud bang, followed by the sound of wood cracking. Harry couldn't see, but she guessed that the Weasleys now had one less apple tree.

At last, Black stopped pacing and went quiet. After several minutes, he returned to stand over Harry.

"Episky," he said and, with a series of disconcerting crunching sounds, Harry's nose was healed. Black walked away again, and a moment later he said "Evanesco!". The ropes around Harry disappeared. She went to stand immediately, but fell again when her legs were surprisingly weak. The ropes had been quite tight, and had cut off the blood. So she sat on the ground rubbing feeling back into her legs as Black stared at her. He was sitting with his back to a tree, examining her wand.

"What were you doing, before you saw me?" he asked. "Running away from home?"

"Something like that," she muttered. This didn't change anything. She still needed to get to Paris. She still had to rescue herself. But she needed her wand. "Can I have my wand back?" she asked, not really very hopeful.

"I ran away from home, when I was young," said Black softly, still fiddling with her wand. He seemed to be in a different world.

"Went to join your master, did you?" Harry asked. She knew she shouldn't provoke him, but it just slipped out.

He seemed to find that funny. He laughed - a quick, short, laugh, almost like a bark - and then sighed.

"Something of the opposite, little Miss Weasley. I went to join my brother."

Running away from home to join your brother? That didn't make much sense. But what did she care about it? He was a Death Eater.

"Can I have my wand? Please," she asked once more. Normally she'd never beg a Death Eater, but he seemed disinclined to kill her, and she really needed to go. Maybe he would let her.

Black looked up at last, and stared right into her eyes. It was rather uncomfortable.

"What's the rush?" he asked, and he sounded suspicious. "Are you really running away? Or are you running to somewhere?"

All her practice with the horcrux paid off. She felt Black the moment he tried to enter her mind. He lacked both the elegance and power of Voldemort, and Harry found it relatively easy to control her thoughts. She could feel what Black was trying to do: he was trying to make her dwell on why she wanted to run away. She refused to allow it. Unfortunately, while she had the ability to resist Black, she lacked the skill to fool him. He pulled out of her mind with a look of shock.

"Where did you learn Occlumency?" he said. Harry noticed that the wand was now pointing at her once more.

Occlumency. Was that something to do with horcruxes?

"Occlu-what?" she said. Maybe he'd be able to tell her what a horcrux was.

"Don't play stupid," he said, standing up. "Who taught you to defend your mind?"

This Occlumency thing was getting him quite agitated. It reminded Harry that she was dealing with Voldemort's second in command. This wasn't an idle chat - he was dangerous. Very dangerous.

"I learnt it from a book," she said, trying to pacify him. It was a mistake. A look of anger crossed his face and he flicked the wand. A phantom hand slapped Harry with a crack, hard enough to snap her head to one side.

"Don't lie to me! There are no books on Occlumency. Do you think I'm stupid? I can count the number of Occlumens in Britain on my fingers. Which one taught you?"

"How do you know it, then, if there are no books?" said Harry angrily, holding a hand to her stinging cheek.

Black laughed. "Who do you think invented it? The Blacks have always guarded their secrets well. Now, for the last time: who taught you Occlumency? Narcissa? Bellatrix? Snape?"

He spat the last word, and there seemed to be some definite hate there. Harry hesitated. She couldn't say "Voldemort". That would lead to awkward questions, and Black would probably take the diadem from her.

"Honestly, I just kinda... figured it out," she said. It was mostly true. Her ability to defend her mind came from trial by fire, from instincts honed by practice, not through any explanations or lectures.

Black looked impressed.

"A right little Dumbledore, aren't you?" he joked, and he sat back down, his anger passing as quickly as it came. But now it was Harry's turn to be angry. How dare he, a Death Eater, joke about Dumbledore?

"Don't say his name!" she spat, "not you, not now!"

"What am I supposed to call him? You Know Who?"

That was too much for Harry. She screamed and jumped at Black, intending to - well, intending to do something. But it was not to be. Black still had her wand, and he was a grown wizard. Before she could reach him, she was upended and hoisted into the air by an ankle.

"Let me down!" she shouted, angry at her helplessness, not even caring that her dress had fallen and bunched around her ribs, not caring that he was a feared Death Eater.

Surprisingly, he cancelled the spell, and she was dumped unceremoniously onto the ground once more.

"That was unladylike," he said, but he seemed more amused than angry. "What set you off, anyway?"

Harry closed her eyes and tried to calm herself. Anger wouldn't get her anywhere here.

"Just... don't joke about Dumbledore. Not today. Not so soon after-"

"After what?" asked Black intently.

Could he really not know?

"After he was killed," she said, glaring at him.

It was like someone had punched the man in the stomach. He stepped back from her in shock, and put his hand against a tree for balance.

"Dumbledore... he's dead?"

"Yes," said Harry, confused. Surely a Death Eater should be rejoicing at the news?

"No," said Black in disbelief, shaking his head. "No. No-no-no! This isn't how it's supposed to happen. I'm supposed to kill Peter, and Dumbledore gets me a trial, and then I find Harry and -"

"Harry?" she asked. What was he talking about? Who was Peter? And he wanted another trial? None of it made sense.

"Harry Potter," said Black distractedly. He was pacing again. "He's my godson."

Harry stared at Black in shock. She had a godfather? And he was a Death Eater? It was all so crazy.

At last she found her voice.

"Harry... they think he's dead as well."

Sirius' head snapped around so quickly that she was surprised his neck didn't break.

"What?" he said, his voice little more than a whisper.

"He's not though," Harry said, and a plan began to form. "It's where I was going, before you arrived. I was going to rescue him."

"Rescue him?" There was disbelief in Black's voice. "What can a little girl do to rescue him?"

It was a good question. Flamel would take her apart as quickly as he had before. But Sirius Black? That was another matter entirely. He'd killed thirteen Muggles with one curse. He had been Voldemort's second in command. And he seemed to have some twisted desire to help Harry. She could use him, and then, once Flamel was a stain on the wall, she'd hand Black over to the Dementors.

"I know where he is," she said - partly true. As soon as he woke, she'd know. "I can take you there. Together, we can rescue him."

Sirius looked at her for some time. She couldn't tell what he was thinking.

"Tell me where Harry is, and I'll get him," he said at last. "There's no reason for you to come."

"No," said Harry. She didn't trust him. "I'm coming. And I want my wand."

"Persistent little bugger, aren't you?" he said with a laugh. "You must be a Gryffindor." He flipped her wand so that its handle was facing her. She took it. Things were looking up.

"So where is he?" said Black.

"Paris," she said, and she began walking back towards The Burrow. "We'll need to steal another broom for you."

"Wait, Weasley," he said, and he put a hand on her shoulder. She jumped at the close contact. "You were seriously going to fly to Paris? Are you insane?"

"How else are we going to get there?" she said.

"The train, of course!" he said. "Take my arm."

He was going to apparate them, then. This was her last chance to back out. He could be taking her to her death, for all she knew.

She had no choice. She put her arm through his, and they left The Burrow without a sound.


"Rennervate."

Harry jerked awake, the sudden return of dual consciousness making her stop walking in shock.

The black dog trotting beside her looked up and cocked its head. She cleared her head and resumed her walk down Platform Six and a Half, all the while focusing on France.

He was lying in a luxurious four poster bed with silk sheets. To one side of the bed was a large fireplace, around which were two armchairs. Flamel sat in one, Duke Mercado Reya in the other.

"Welcome to my home, Mr. Potter," said Flamel. Harry sat up and took a good look around. The room looked like something from Buckingham Palace. Every piece of furniture was wand crafted by a master, and there was a certain abundance of gold. An ounce more would have been gaudy. The hardwood floor was polished, and a large portrait was hanging above the fire.

"I hope you're well rested," the Frenchman continued with an insufferably smug tone.

"What's your game, Flamel?" Harry asked. He had no patience for playing around. He was tired of politics.

"No game, Potter," said Reya, standing. He was short and thin, his olive coloured skin pockmarked, his greying hair still showing a hint of black. "You are our guest."

Harry snorted. Sure, a "guest" that wasn't allowed to leave.

"I am not a cruel man, Harry," said Flamel, "I do not wish you pain or discomfort. As a show of good faith, I am even letting you have your wand."

Harry blinked in surprise when Flamel reached into his robes before tossing Harry his holly wand. He caught it easily before examining it, hardly believing that it was his. They must really be confident in their abilities, Harry thought.

"You will find that this room would give even the most talented wizards trouble, Harry. I have full confidence in its ability to hold you."

Harry didn't respond to the slight. He'd escaped from Flamel once. He could do it again. He'd have to do it before they could send him to prison with that fake evidence, though.

"And how long will I be your... guest? Until the trial?" he asked.

Flamel and Reya shared a look and, to Harry's great surprise, burst into uproarious laughter.

"You still haven't figured it out?" said Flamel at last, still chuckling occasionally.

Harry tried to think. What could they be talking about?

"Ah, Potter, you have so much still to learn," said Flamel. "What do you think would happen if you had a trial?"

Harry frowned. "I'd tell everyone the truth about you," he said, and as soon as he said it, it was obvious. There would be no trial. Why would Flamel want a trial? He was the Boy Who Lived - his voice still carried weight. People would listen to him. Giving Harry a public platform was the worst possible thing for Flamel right now.

"Did you actually think that you were able to overcome two of my Aurors?" said Flamel, and he looked like he was going to laugh again. "And then avoid capture by twenty more? How bad do you think their aim is?"

Reya chuckled.

"But... the evidence. The ear," Harry said.

"Filed safely in the Auror Office," said Flamel, "without you around to contest it. Rather suspicious activity, attacking two Aurors and then escaping, don't you think, Mr. Potter?"

He'd been played even more thoroughly that he had thought.

"If I hadn't run..." he said, thinking out loud.

"I dare say it would have been rather inconvenient. I would have had to arrest you and arrange a trial. Very messy. I must thank you Harry, for playing your part so perfectly. Your trial shall be held in your absence, since you are unfortunately 'on the run'. Between the Ear and your escape, I'm sure you will be convicted."

Harry wanted to scream. It wasn't fair. This went completely beyond anything he was used to. Compared to these men, Draco Malfoy was a rank amateur.

"And then?" he asked. "I suppose then I'll be "caught" and sent to prison?"

"That is... one possibility," said Reya.

"But risky," added Flamel. It sounded like a conversation they'd had before. "It depends on your behaviour, Harry. If you behave well, you shall remain our guest, and may live out the rest of your days in comfort. We have even provided opportunity for you to continue your education," - here he gestured at the rather well-stocked bookcase - "should you wish to. But if you misbehave, Potter, then - well. My Aurors are quite skilled at tracking down criminals."

The rest of his days.

They planned to keep him in this gilded prison forever. It was insane. Why didn't they just kill him? Not that he wanted to die, of course, but it just made no sense.

"Well then, Potter, we'll leave you to... settle in," said Flamel, and he led Reya from the room. The door made a sucking sound as it closed behind them, as if sealing itself airtight. As soon as they were gone, Harry leapt out of bed. It was time to test Flamel's spells.

The room had a window - a large one at that, filling the place with the bright light of dawn. That would be the place to start, Harry thought. He walked over to it and looked out. There was some kind of clever obscuring charm on it. He thought that he was looking out on a street, but he couldn't really be sure. It was very strange. It wasn't that his vision was blurry, as such: he just found that he couldn't focus on any details in particular. He stared right at what he was sure was a street name, but it was as if he had forgotten how to read. He knew there was writing there, but not what it said. He couldn't even decide if the other buildings in the street were made of stone or wood.

This could be a problem, Harry thought. If he couldn't figure out where he was, how could he be rescued?

"Finite," he said, not expecting much. The image of the street didn't even waver. Perhaps something a bit more specific would be better. Harry thought for a while, trying to think of the best choice. The art of undoing charms was something he wouldn't study properly for years. "Finite Obsfucato!" he tried, drawing a circle in the air. The idea was to create a circle of clear vision. Once more, the window remained unchanged.

Harry suddenly wished he knew a blasting curse. A sure way to break any charm was to destroy the object it was tied to. If he could smash the glass, he would be able to see the street beyond. And maybe even climb out.

He had been given a desk and chair. The chair was a heavy looking thing: wood and red leather; it was almost throne-like.

"Wingardium Leviosa!" he said, flicking his wand. After practicing the charm so much, he'd found the swish was becoming unnecessary. The chair floated into the air under the direction of Harry's will; he wrenched his wand like a fishing rod, throwing it as hard as he could against the window. It bounced off with a boing, the glass acting like a trampoline. He managed to bring the chair under control just before it crashed into the portrait over the fire.

"Dear boy!" the man in the portrait said, looking alarmed, "what do you think you're doing?"

Harry ignored him and, after setting the chair down, walked over to the bookcase. If he couldn't get out of the room with the magic he knew, maybe he could find a spell there to do it. He ran his fingers along the spines, reading the titles.

Stupefaction: An Introduction to the Stunning Charm looked interesting, but it wasn't going to help in this situation. He quickly passed over Unnatural Philosophy by Adalbert Waffling too - it contained no spells. There would be time for books like that later. Simply Smashing Spells looked much more promising. Harry pulled it off the shelf and set it on the desk, tracing his finger down the contents. The first half of the book was devoted to theoretical discussion, but the latter half had extensive explanations of what it called "the four principle blasting curses". Harry sat down to read.

He had work to do.


"Come on, this one's empty," said Harry, picking a compartment. It was small and quite cosy: a bunk bed dominated one side, a small table with two chairs the other. She and Black had boarded the train to Paris covertly - they weren't confident in Harry's ability to buy a ticket without arousing suspicion.

Once the door was closed, Black transformed back into human form.

"It'll do," he said, looking around the pokey cabin, "but we need to make some modifications. Wand."

It wasn't a request. Reluctantly, Harry passed him her wand - just for a few spells. She had never had to share a wand before. There was something about it that felt just wrong. It wasn't natural.

"Obscuro Fentras," he said, holding the wand to the window, before sweeping it around the room. "Colloportus. Repello Malum. Repello Operam. Entrare Waulo. Silencio." The chain of spells finished, he prodded the air in different places with the wand, as if testing something. Whatever he found, he clearly felt it required more spells. "Juncta hexia," he said, and then, "Pegmato. Dissulso."

He tested the spells again, but this time was satisfied.

"That should do it," he said, handing Harry her wand back.

"What do they all do?" she asked, curious. If Black knew about security spells, maybe he would know how to break out of Flamel's cell.

"Oh, a bit of this, a bit of that," he replied, kicking his feet up onto the table. "Mostly they divert attention. Nothing heavy duty, mind. That would just draw suspicion. Better to avoid notice altogether."

"I guess," said Harry, and she climbed onto the top bunk. She didn't want Black sleeping above her. She remembered Dumbledore's protection spells on their house in Paris. "Why didn't you cast them on the door?"

Black cocked his head - a behaviour oddly like his dog form.

"You're a weirdie, you know that? Occlumency, Ideal Wards... barmy. Anyway, it'd take me half an hour to pull off a single Ideal Ward. Time we don't have. These'll do."

He sat down and kicked his feet up on the table. His ratty old boots were falling apart, and Harry was becoming aware that he smelled rather bad. They fell into an uncomfortable silence. Harry was unwilling to relax around Black, and the Death Eater didn't seem very talkative.

"Will you stop staring at me?" he said after five minutes, "it's bloody disconcerting."

"Why would Harry's parents' choose a Death Eater as his godfather?" she asked suddenly. It had been weighing on her mind.

Black removed his feet from the table and stood back up, moving over to the window.

"Why would you care?" he said, bitterness unmistakable. "What does it matter? They're dead, and so's You-Know-Who."

The absurdity of a Death Eater - supposedly Voldemort's second in command - calling him You-Know-Who caught Harry by surprise. She remembered that Lucius Malfoy always called him the Dark Lord.

"He's not dead," she said, and then almost kicked herself. What was she doing, telling a Death Eater that his master still survived?

Black stilled his pacing and looked at her. A mixture of expressions seemed to cross his face: disbelief, fear, and confusion.

"Someday, Miss. Weasley, you're going to have to tell me how a ten year old girl knows the most dangerous secret in the world."

Now it was Harry's turn to cock her head.

"No," she said simply. "I don't."

Black laughed - a short laugh, almost like a cough, before he frowned, peering out the window again.

"What's the time?" he said, sounding suddenly serious.

Harry twirled her wand in a circle. "Tempus," she said. A series of chimes that only she could hear came from behind her ears. "Just past ten thirty. Why?"

"Something's wrong," said Black. "We should have left by now. Wand."

"Maybe we're just -"

Wait. Something was wrong.

Cold. It was getting colder, and the bright summer sun was darkening.

Someone screamed further down the platform. Ice spread across the edges of the window, and their breath misted in the air before them.

Dementors.

"WAND!" Black roared, his eyes wide.

But it was too late. Just as the cabin light flicked out, the first Dementor came into view. There were five of them, floating just above the ground, covered almost entirely in ripped black robes. Only their hands were visible: mottled, scabbed skin covered their skeletal fingers, and each of them wore a ring of rusted iron. Their terrible faces were covered by their hoods, but as they passed Harry could hear the frozen air rattle as they drew it in - not so much breathing as feeding.

A woman was screaming. All of Harry's world was taken up by it. In France, his book lay forgotten, his eyes unseeing as he stared at it.

Not Harry! Take me instead!

Who was that? It was so cold. Why wouldn't anyone help the woman? The cold was digging deep now, right into Harry's blood, right into her mind. Newly developing instincts awoke.

She clenched her jaw and pushed against the cold, separating it and herself. She was Harry. She was here, now. She was master of her own mind, and those memories were her own. She wasn't interested in them now. The screaming faded, and she opened her eyes - she hadn't even realised they were closed.

Black had frozen where he was standing, watching the Dementors pass. His eyes were white, his pupils shrunk to a pinpoint.

"Wand!" Harry shouted, and she threw it to him.

Some part of Black must have still been aware. His arm caught the wand by instinct, and immediately he stood straighter.

"Expecto Patronum!" he said, his voice harsh and cracking, and a soft pearly light filled the compartment as a glowing white dog leapt from the wand tip. It prowled around the compartment, growling at the window.

The cold didn't pass, but it became somehow less intense. Less biting. Less evil.

"Merlin's Balls," said Black, still staring out the window. "It can't be..."

The Warlock's Circle had arrived.

There were twelve of them in total, every one of them dressed in black. They were striding down the platform flanked by yet more Dementors. Their leader, Rufus Scrimgeour, was a tall man with a mane of rust coloured hair. He held his arm aloft, and his finger bore a ring identical to those the Dementors wore.

The wizards and witches behind him were an impressive sight. Black was able to name most of them as they passed.

"Bartemius Burke," he said, indicating a grizzled old man with a pointy grey beard. He was armed to the teeth with medieval-looking weapons - all of them likely enchanted with Dark magic. "He plundered half of Europe in the forties. All those weapons are priceless, one of a kind, artefacts. And that one's Cygnus Thames-"

"The bald one with the bandoliers?" Harry asked.

"That's the one. Potions specialist. Wanted dead or alive in thirty-five sovereign states for poisoning the city of Olm. Got it into the water supply - all for the chance Grindelwald might take a sip. Killed a hundred thousand Muggles - the city's been obliviated from Muggle history."

The idea of such a man walking free made Harry feel sick. She began to understand the uproar caused by the reinstatement of the Warlock's Circle.

"What about him?" she asked, pointing to another. He was the youngest of the bunch, handsome, with light brown hair neatly cut. The air seemed to ripple around him, and each time his boot hit the ground it wobbled, like he was walking on jelly.

"Christ!" Black exclaimed, seeing the man for the first time. An oddly Muggle expression. "No one knows his real name. He goes by Quicksilver. Banished from Britain in the sixties for practising alchemical wizardry. Captured by Dumbledore himself. It was huge."

"What's alchemical wizardry?" asked Harry, staring at the mysterious Quicksilver. He seemed different from the others, somehow.

"Complicated," Black said with a wry smile. "A bit of legilimency, a bit of transfiguration, a bit of potions. But mostly it's about the soul. Don't know much more than that. But there was a string of mysterious deaths right before Quicksilver was brought it. Brutal stuff."

As Quicksilver passed, Harry's eyes were drawn to the man behind him. She gaped. It was mad. They couldn't be controlled.

"What the hell are those?" Black said.

He was pointing at two snakes that were making their way down the platform, each one at least ten feet long and as thick as a man's leg. A wizard was walking between them, brandishing his wand, directing the snakes. They had blinkers covering their eyes.

"Basilisks," said Harry, still disbelieving.

"Fuck," said Black. It was an apt summary of Harry's feelings.

And then they saw the first witch. Black just stared at her. She was beautiful, in a way, with pale skin, red lips, and long, wild dark hair. She swaggered down the platform as if she owned it.

"Bellatrix," said Black. He looked completely shocked. "They let Bellatrix out. They're absolutely insane. Do they want to start a war?"

If this Bellatrix woman shocked Black speechless, it was Harry's turn when she saw the man a few steps behind her. Only one person's robes billowed like that.

"Snape!" she said, pointing wildly.

"Yeah, I see him," Black replied, and if anything he looked even angrier than when he saw Bellatrix. "Neck deep in the Dark Arts, the both of them!"

Harry looked at Voldemort's second in command. He spoke about the Dark magic with such venom.

"Who's Bellatrix?" she asked. She'd never heard the name before.

"Bellatrix Lestrange, official crazy bitch," spat Black. "She was right in You-Know-Who's Inner Circle. Maybe even his second, after Nicolas Volante got the Kiss."

Harry had never heard of Nicolas Volante either, but something wasn't adding up. Was Black trying to trick her?

"But that was you, wasn't it?" she asked, rather boldly. "Voldemort's second?"

Black turned his gaze to her. It was inscrutable. He laughed his bark-like laugh again.

"Is that what they say about me?"

"Are you saying you weren't?" He'd been hinting at it, over and over. Time to ask him to his face.

He turned back to the window.

"Well, this is practically confirmation that Snape was a Death Eater. We always suspected..." he trailed off, completely ignoring her question. She thought about pushing the issue, but honestly, what could she do? Just make a dangerous Dark wizard angry. Flamel had taught her the costs of rash action.

"Wait, Snape's a Death Eater?" she said, allowing Black to direct the conversation. And Snape was a bastard. "But he works at Hogwarts!"

"Snivellus is a teacher?" Black said in surprise. "What was Dumbledore thinking, putting him near children? They might drown in the grease from his hair..."

Harry snorted, before stopping herself. She was not going to joke about Snape with Voldemort's most trusted. She was letting her guard down.

She turned her back on the window and retreated to the bunk bed. She wasn't going to let Black trick her. He was a Death Eater. He was no better than the war criminals outside.

The idea of Death Eaters being freed to avenge Dumbledore's death made Harry's blood boil. Someone was using Dumbledore's death to undo everything he had ever stood for. Using it to weaken the British Ministry and strengthen Dark wizards.

And then Harry's boiling blood ran cold.

Was that the plan? There was only one man that could have killed Dumbledore. Everyone knew it. It was the elephant in the room.

Voldemort had returned, and his attack had already begun.


Pop!

Harry jumped from his seat in surprise, knocking it backwards. His wand was out, ready to cast a hasty hex, but his spell died on his lips when he saw who - or rather, what - had apparated into the room. A House Elf was staring at him, legs shaking, frozen in shock, her eyes impossibly wide. She was holding a tray of steaming food. It smelled beautiful. Was that gravy? It'd been so long since he'd had a proper meal.

"Tipsy is being sorry, Mister Potter sir," she said in a tiny voice, and Harry noticed that she was a lot smaller than Dobby. The tray of food dwarfed her. Was this a House Elf child? He swallowed the urge to apologise back: he had a bit of experience with House Elves now, and wanted to avoid hysterics if possible.

"It's all right," he said, but he didn't put his wand away. "Why don't you put the food on the desk? Orgando." His spell cleared a space on the messy desk, shuffling his notes on blasting spells to one side. Tipsy put the tray down and hopped from one foot to the other nervously. She scrunched her large nose and looked at the ceiling, as if trying to remember something.

"Oh!" she said, and smiled. "Is Mister Potter needing anything else?"

"Well, you could take me out of here," he said flippantly. Tipsy squeaked and her hopping intensified.

"Harry Potter is a great and kind wizard, but Tipsy cannot be doing that. Oh! Oh no! Tipsy is always getting things wrong!"

She looked like she was about to cry.

"It's okay," Harry said, and he patted her awkwardly on the head. "You're doing great."

"Really, Mister Potter sir?"

"Really," Harry said, giving her an encouraging smile. Then something occurred to him. "Er - shouldn't you speak, like, French?"

Tipsy giggled.

"Tipsy is speaking Elfish, like other House Elves," she said.

Before Harry found out about Parseltongue, that would have made a lot less sense. He supposed it was part of the magic of House Elves.

"Okay, well, I guess I don't need anything else," he said. For a moment he had hoped she could take him away. Dobby had been able to go through the protections around Hogwarts, after all, and without his Master's permission.

"Goodnight, Mister Harry!"

Tipsy popped back out, leaving Harry once again in silence. He shook his head and turned to the food. It really did look very good. He sniffed it cautiously, trying to figure out if it contained anything untoward, but they hadn't even started poisons and antidotes in Potions class. It just smelled like the great beef wellington it was. And really, if Flamel wanted to hurt him, he had much more direct means.

He tucked in, eating quickly, wanting to get back to blasting spells. He was almost ready to give it a go, he thought. He was focusing on just one spell, having quickly dismissed the Reductor Curse - it was about as powerful as a strong kick, which wasn't enough for the window. The chair had shown that. The Expulsing Curse was also inappropriate, and the Caesus Curse - if he was even able to manage it, which he doubted - was much too powerful. He'd blow up half the house, and himself besides. No, he needed the Ignition Curse. Derived from the Reductor and Caesus, it produced both powerful force and fire.

No time like the present, he thought as he finished his food. He took one last look over his notes - a mess of diagrams and graphs, equations and flow charts. He didn't understand everything, but he thought he had enough. He was as ready as he'd ever be.

Harry moved as far away from the window as he could. He didn't want to get caught by the spell, after all. Okay, here goes. He raised his wand.

The spell started in the third position. Aggressive stance, a common beginning for many curses. Complex stability depends on the precision of the motion.

Sweep to fifth. Invocation of fire. Angle relative to head will determine balance of fire and force according to Bowman's Law of Thermokinetics. Length of pause inversely proportional to completion speed. A nimbus of red light began to form around the tip of his wand.

Hammer to first, third variant. Casting position. Transitive object taken. Incantation must be left for the final moment.

"CONFRINGO!"

The spell burst from his wand like a firework, fizzing and spluttering in a shower of red sparks and smoke. Quicker than Harry could see, the spell whizzed across the room. It hit the window like a hammer against a gong and bounced right off, shooting straight back at Harry. He ducked just in time. He felt a ripple of hot air pass over his head before the gong sounded again, and the spell was off: ducking by the desk, hands over his ears, Harry watched as it bounced around the room like a pinball, reflecting from wall to wall, each impact adding to the racket. Then -

CRASH!

The crack and snap of splintering wood filled the room as the spell smashed into the bed, flaming shards of wood flying across the room as it was torn asunder. Hidden as he was behind the chair, Harry managed to avoid the shrapnel, but he quickly realised the danger had not yet passed.

The remains of the bed - cracked in two down the centre, as if it had been hit with a sledgehammer - were on fire.

"Corpellus!" Harry shouted, tapping his forehead with his wand. A feeling like a cool breeze rippled over his skin, marking a successful Flame Freezing Charm. For a moment, Harry considered letting the fire continue. If it raged hard enough, maybe it would destroy the room and he could escape.

But that plan was quickly discarded when he began to cough. The room was rapidly filling with smoke. Unfortunately, Harry had no idea how to stop a fire.

"Black!" she shouted, and the Death Eater jumped as she broke the silence. "What's the spell to conjure water? Quickly!"

"The incantation's 'aguamenti', but it's a pretty tricky spell," he said, looking at her in confusion. "Why?"

"Aguamenti!" Harry cried, and a single drip of water came out of his wand. "Damn!" he said, with both his bodies, his concentration rapidly deteriorating. She clamped down on her body, immobilizing it. This was no time for multitasking.

"Wingardium Leviosa!" he shouted, thinking quickly. The tattered and flaming remnants of his bedsheets hoisted up into the hair. Harry flicked his wand, and they flew into the stone hearth.

"Wingardi-" He coughed as he breathed in a mouthful of smoke. His eyes were beginning to sting now. Remembering that smoke rises, Harry crouched down, trying to find cleaner air.

"Wingardium Leviosa!" he repeated, and this time a corner of the bed levitated. Weakened by fire, it tore off from the frame as it lifted up. Crap, thought Harry, gotta hurry. He flicked his wand once more, intending to do the same, but as the wood accelerated into the fireplace, the fire spat and a chunk of wood flew off, landing on a particularly furry rug.

Whoosh!

The dry fur lit up like kindling, and now there were two fires. The smoke was getting bad. He had to get creative.

"Corpellus!" he cried, pointing his wand at the rug. For a moment, the fire flashed a deep blue, but it was otherwise unaffected.

Damn! He hadn't been sure if the Flame Freezing Charm could be adapted like that. What else? He had to think of something!

"Second position, you fool boy!" shouted the portrait suddenly. "You have to use the second position!"

Of course! He wasn't casting on himself, but at a foreign object!

"Corpellus!" he shouted, twisting his wand into second. The fire on the rug froze in place like it was made of ice, turning a deep blue. "Corpellus! Corpellus! Corpellus!"

Harry looked around the half-destroyed room. The bed, the curtains, the bedside cabinet, the rug. All showed the signs of fire damage; all had shards of what looked like blue glass protruding from them. Curious, Harry moved over to the bed and held his hand near one of the frozen flames - it was quite cool. He ripped it out of the wood, and threw it into the fireplace. It smashed in a gout of flame, but did not continue to burn.

He wandered around the room, collecting the frozen flames. Maybe he could keep a few, to use as weapons? It would be risky, though. An image blossomed in his mind of his pocket spontaneously combusting when the charm wore off. He knew it wouldn't last for long - it was his first try with the spell, and you'd need to use Elemental Transfiguration - not taught at Hogwarts - for anything permanent.

The portrait interrupted his deliberations.

"I've been around a long time, boy," he said. "And let me tell you: that was quite possibly the stupidest thing I've ever seen."

Harry looked up at the man. He was youngish, and bore a rather striking familial resemblance to Jean-Francois. And yet it had saved his life.

"Thanks, whoever you are," he said, throwing a handful of blue glass into the hearth.

The portrait sniffed haughtily.

"My name," he said, "is Nicolas Flamel."


Harry sighed in frustration.

"So you can't let me out either?" he said, poking the bed with his wand. He'd found the Repair Charm in one of Flamel's books, but without the time to study it properly it was pretty useless. "I thought you were meant to be Dumbledore's friend?"

Flamel yawned, as if Harry were boring him. Harry was sure it was deliberate. Did portraits even get tired?

"I was commissioned in 1829, boy. If my living self befriended this 'Dumbledore', that was his business, not mine."

That made things a bit more difficult. Harry had hoped that Nicolas Flamel would be eager to help him.

"Reparo!" he repeated. A few shards of wood wobbled. He sighed, wondering what Jean-Francois would do when he saw the state of the room. If he didn't get out first, that was. He turned back to the portrait. It was his only hope. "Okay, so you didn't know Dumbledore," he said, conceding the point. "But you could still help me get out of here, couldn't you?"

"Even if I wanted to, I could not," Flamel replied, somewhat disdainfully. "I am, of course, bound to serve the Flamel line."

That was no real surprise. The portraits at Hogwarts all obeyed the teachers. But maybe he could be tricked into giving out vital information - like the location of the house. Time for a bit of acting.

"But you saved my life!" he said, deliberately whiney. "So you can help me, a bit. Maybe not directly, but you could give me a hint, or something..."

"Ha! It was in the spirit of self-preservation that I came to your aid, not charity, I assure you. And indeed, watching a little boy burn to death would be a most unpleasant way to spend a Saturday afternoon. But help you escape? I think not! I've seen little to justify trusting you with a wand, never mind freedom!"

What a dick, Harry thought. Though it hadn't worked as he had hoped, Harry was rather proud of his blasting curse. There was a plus side, though: someone as stuck up as Nicolas Flamel would be easy to provoke.

"You know what?" Harry said, not entirely needing to fake anger, "I should've let Voldemort take the stone from you! I'd like to see Jean-Francois stand up to him! That'd wipe the smug look off his face."

Flamel had gone very still, and was now looking at Harry intently.

"What's that, boy? What do you know about the stone?"

That was more like it. Harry laughed a bitter laugh.

"You didn't think to ask Jean-Francois why I'm here?" he asked.

"Of course not," said Nicolas. "I'm a portrait."

That caused Harry to pause, and remember for a moment that he was talking to a picture, not a person. What did a portrait care about the affairs of the living? How much of Nicolas Flamel really remained? The portrait had some knowledge - he couldn't have saved Harry otherwise - but it suddenly occurred to Harry that it couldn't be a perfect copy. Otherwise everyone at Hogwarts would be taught by the portraits of great wizards - there'd be no need for living teachers.

"Well, your however-many greats grandson is a Dark wizard, and he's taken me prisoner," said Harry plainly. He was still angry, but the red-hot fury of the day before had passed. It had been replaced with a cool, desperate need to see justice. "All because I saved the Philosopher's Stone. It's not my fault you decided to destroy it. But he's on some kind of crazy mission of revenge."

"Jean-Francois may be many things, boy, but he is not a Dark wizard," said the portrait, "nor is he crazy. No, there's something else going on here. Just what is that boy up to?"

"He's-" Harry began, but he stopped. Flamel had stood up, and walked out of his frame. "Great!" he said, kicking the bed.

"Oi! What's up with you?" Black said, poking her in the face. He was looming over her, his face inches away from her own. "Are you dead?"

"What a stupid question," Harry said irritably, pushing Black back as she sat up. She'd been so focused on Flamel that she forgot to relax her body. It must have looked like she was in a coma or something.

"Finally awake, then?" Black said, looking at her suspiciously. "That was pretty creepy, you know. You want to tell me what's going on?"

For a moment, Harry felt like coming clean. She was so tired. But no. She couldn't trust Black.

"It's none of your business." She slipped off the bunk bed and went over to the window, wanting to stretch her legs.

The sight that met her took her breath away. She'd heard about it of course - it was famous the world over. The Great Aqueduct. It stretched for miles and miles, crossing the Channel between Britain and France, its old stones placed there by ancient Roman warlocks. But seeing it was something else. It was tall - a hundred metres above the roiling sea, and deadly straight. She couldn't see them, but she knew that great stone arches lay beneath them.

"Impressive, isn't it?" said Black, looking over her shoulder.

"Yeah," she replied, looking down. It would be a great place to fly. We should've taken brooms after all, she thought. "But why did they build it?" she asked, curious. It seemed singularly unnecessary.

"For the conquest of Britain," Black said. "Large bodies of sitting water like the Channel disrupt magic, especially stuff like apparition. So they connected the waterways. Of course, it hasn't been active for a thousand years."

That made a lot of sense. She had wondered why they couldn't just apparate to France.

"So if someone ran some water across here...?" she began.

"Then Britain and France would be magically connected, and you could apparate to Paris as easily as Scotland."

The idea unsettled Harry. She liked that there was a barrier between Britain and Flamel's conspiracy.

"Hey!" said Black, and he was pointing at the sky. "What's that?"

Harry squinted, but couldn't see what Black was pointing to. Her eyesight was good, but apparently Black's was better. But then she saw it. She knew immediately what it was.

"Hedwig!" she said, her heart soaring, before she could help herself. She smiled. She'd missed her owl, since she'd lent her to Hermione for the summer. "Open the window!"

Black hesitated, but after seeing Hedwig come closer, he reached up and pulled the window open. The moment it cracked open the roar of freezing wind slammed into the compartment. Harry's hair whipped around her face, but she didn't move, keeping her eyes fixed on the approaching owl.

She barrelled into the train at top speed, barely able to control her landing - the train was moving quite fast. It must have been hard for Hedwig to get in. Harry gave her a moment to right herself, before letting her flap her way onto her lap.

"Hey Hedwig," she said, stroking her head with one finger. Frankly, she was amazed Hedwig knew who she was. Black closed the window.

"She has a letter," he said pointedly. Harry unwound the string carefully. It wasn't a full letter - just a folded square of loose parchment. "Harry Potter" was written on the front, and Harry recognised the writing instantly - Hermione.

Harry

I hope this letter finds you. I know you're alive - Hedwig. I'm coming to Paris immediately. Meet me by the pyramid at the Louvre on Sunday, at noon. Be careful,

Hermione

Harry smiled, a warm feeling feeling her. She could always rely on her friends.

"That," said Black, "is addressed to Harry Potter."

Harry looked up. Black was standing before her. At some point he'd managed get hold of her wand.

"She - she must have known we were going to rescue him," she offered. It was one of the worst lies she'd ever told.

"There's only reason why the owl would bring that letter to you," he said, and he cocked his head.

He lunged towards her. Harry's eyes widened; there was nothing she could do. And then he was hugging her. Harry stiffened - she was being hugged by a Death Eater. A smelly one.

"How?" Black said, pulling back.

"I don't know what you're talking about," she said, her mind panicking. He knew! It was insane, but somehow, he'd figured it out.

"Harry," he said, and Harry's heart stopped at her name. He kneeled down in front of her, and offered her the wand. "I was never a Death Eater. I never killed those Muggles. Please, believe me!"

Ah. So there it was. The denial she'd been waiting for. He'd been acting oddly, for sure. But completely innocent?

"Do you have any proof?" she said, somewhat coldly. Black looked crushed.

"The rat," he said, visibly frustrated. "All the crimes I was accused of - I was framed. Peter Pettigrew - he did it all. I thought he was my friend, but I was wrong! Oh, Harry, we were so wrong! He betrayed James, then faked his death by killing all those Muggles. Framing me. The Weasleys rat - that's him. But he knew, somehow, and ran before I could get him."

It was absurd. A ridiculous story. Convenient, wasn't it, that the proof had disappeared just when he needed it? Harry didn't believe him.

And yet... a faint hope stirred in her heart. The hope that she wasn't alone. What if it was true? She'd have a godfather. She could leave the Dursleys. She wouldn't be alone anymore.

"You have no proof," she said plainly, her voice completely neutral. "Save me from Flamel: that will be your proof."

Sirius nodded.

"You'll see," he promised, before he looked her over. "Now tell me: what the hell is going on with this?" He waved in her general direction.

"It's a complicated story," she said, not sure if she wanted to tell. She was so used to hiding things now. The only person she'd ever considered telling was Dumbledore, and he was -

"We have a lot of time," Sirius pointed out.

"I have two bodies," Harry said simply.

Sirius laughed. It was a deep sound, a rumbling that built up into guffaws. "Apparently not so complicated," he grinned. "Your... other body, you're being held by Nicolas Flamel? That makes no sense. Flamel and Dumbledore were always allies."

"Not Nicolas Flamel," Harry explained. She supposed she was going to tell him everything. It was a liberating feeling. "Nicolas is dead," - she ignored Sirius' look of shock - "no, I'm being held by his... well, one of his descendants. Jean-Francois Flamel."

"And do you know where?" he said. "Where in Paris?"

"His own home, but I don't know where," she said. "I'm working on it. Hang on - the portrait's coming back."

"Where'd you go?" Harry asked Nicolas as he wandered back into his frame. As he spoke, she explained to Sirius about the portrait.

Flamel didn't reply immediately. He settled himself back into his seat, taking his time about it. Finally, he looked up at Harry as if he'd just noticed him.

"Ah. Young Potter. I have seen disturbing things. My own line - no. Even now, I cannot speak of it. Understand, boy, I am still bound."

Yes! Harry thought, inwardly celebrating. Now he was getting somewhere.

"So you want to help me?" he asked.

Flamel opened his mouth to say something, but stopped, wincing.

"Tell me, Potter: what do you know about security spells?"

"Keep him talking," suggested Sirius. "Clearly he can't offer you direct help. He's trying to give you a hint."

Harry thought.

"Not much," he said, honestly, trying to remember everything he knew. "They're mostly Charms. They keep people out of somewhere - or in somewhere. Like all Charms, they break if you destroy the object. And you can cast them on the idea of entry as well as on actual physical things."

"Perhaps you're not so hopeless," said Flamel. "Yes, you're quite right. Security spells are Charms like any other."

Harry frowned. He was trying to draw Harry's attention to something. Something he'd said about Charms: that they break if you destroy their object.

"But I already tried destroying the window," he said, thinking out loud. "You're saying I should try the door?"

Flamel pinched the bridge of his nose.

"You may find this hard to believe, boy, but magic isn't just about bangs and smoke."

"Okay, then, so not the door." Harry looked around the room for ideas.

"I find Muggle culture fascinating," said Flamel, his tone carefully carefree. "Have you heard of the Muggle myth of Father Christmas?"

Harry's eyes settled on the fireplace. The chimney. That was an entrance too. The spells weren't on the window, or the door. They were on the chimney.

She explained the situation to Sirius.

"So... I blow up the chimney?" she asked. Sirius laughed.

"If you blow a hole in a door, does it stop being an entrance?" he said.

And Harry understood. It was an Ideal ward, cast on the idea of entrance and exit. To destroy the object of the spell, he couldn't destroy the fireplace. He had to block it up.

"Wingardium Leviosa!" Harry said, and began levitating the remains of the bed into the fireplace.

"That's more like it," said Flamel. He sounded oddly proud. "But be careful, boy. Remember what my descendent told you, when he gave you your wand."

The room would give the most talented wizards trouble - that's what he'd said. Proper understanding of ideal wards was advanced magic, sure. But was it enough to hold "the most talented wizards"?

"There must be other protections," Sirius said. "I say go for it. It doesn't sound like they want to kill you - worst case, you end up back where you already are."

Harry nodded at the portrait and prepared himself.

"Thank you," he said, and flicked his wand. The bed flew into the fireplace. The door swung open.

And then the bells began - like the fire alarm at Harry's old school, only much, much louder. Harry fled. The door led him out onto a long corridor - just one bedroom among many. Harry chose a direction and started running.

A man in formal wear rounded the corner.

"Expelliarmus!" Harry cried as the man reached into his robes. He was blasted back into the wall, wand flying. Breathing heavily, Harry didn't spare him a glance as he ran past.

The corridor became a stairwell. The choice was obvious. Down. Harry could hear shouting behind him, back down the corridor. He didn't look back. His feet pounded stair after stair, his heart hammering. The stairs led to a door. Harry burst through, and found himself in a large kitchen, filled with House Elves.

The screamed as they saw him barrel through the door, and disapparated in a series of pops. Good. Harry paused for a moment, clutching his chest. Why was he so tired?

There was another door on the other side of the kitchen. He took it, passing into a long dining room, dominated by a table like a Muggle boardroom.

Jean-Francois Flamel was the room's sole occupant, sitting at the head. Harry wanted to scream in frustration.

"I must admit, I'm moderately impressed," he said, sipping a cup of coffee. He looked unworried.

"Hit him with all you've got," said Sirius.

Three. Five. One.

"Confringo!" Harry shouted, slamming his wand to point at Flamel. It flashed orange, but a shimmering shield, almost solid, appeared in front of Flamel, absorbing the spell with ease. Harry staggered, breathing heavily. What was happening to him? Suddenly, he yawned.

"Feeling tired?" said Flamel, standing up. He walked a bit closer. "You didn't think I'd rely entirely on a single spell to keep you here?"

Harry fell to his knees. His eyelids began to droop. He was so sleepy.

"Harry, the location! We need the location!" Sirius shouted.

Three. A yawn. Five. Flamel raised his wand to block. One.

"Confringo!"

The spell shot from his wand, and Flamel shielded again.

But he wasn't aiming for Flamel.

The spell smashed into the dining room wall with a crash, blasting a hole two metres across. Flames licked at its edges, and beyond lay a cobbled street.

Red light shot from Flamel's wand, sending Harry into blissful sleep.

But not before he got what he wanted.

She turned to Sirius, victorious.

"Allée Deschanel," she said. "Right next to the Eiffel Tower!"