Board a Train

He saw the mouth move and a flash of green light, and everything was gone.

oOo

"I've got to back, haven't I?"

"That is up to you."

"I've got a choice?"

"Oh yes." Dumbledore smiled at him. "We are in King's Cross, you say? I think that if you decided not to go back, you would be able to…let's say…board a train."

"And where would it take me?"

Dumbledore's smile twisted mischievously, and his eyes twinkled their familiar twinkle. "A most fascinating place. I do think there is something there you ought to see. And perhaps…" the old man cocked his head to one side, contemplating, "perhaps he ought to see you as well."

The sifting silence was broken by a bright, clear train whistle. Harry and Dumbledore turned together to see a gleaming black steam engine glide smoothly up to the platform. As they watched, a carriage door opened of its own accord, beckoning.

Harry looked questioningly up at Dumbledore, who nodded. "I believe this is your ride, my dear boy."

Harry began to walk slowly toward the train. He felt as though he was being magnetically pulled toward it, as though a desire was building up in his chest, egging him to walk faster. He was desperate to get on the train! It was suddenly very, very important that he board the train as quickly as possible.

"But, Harry," Dumbledore called over the train's whistle. His voice had risen in pitch, and also, it seemed, in desperation. Harry leaned out the carriage window to hear. "Don't lose your faith in yourself, and remember where you belong!" This last bit was shouted over the chugging of the train's engine. It pulled forward out of the pristine white station, and vanished in a flash of light.

oOo

The journey seemed to last a lifetime, but a moment. Harry felt ages and ages of joy and heartbreak, of wisdom and foolishness, of boredom and inspiration, dancing around his memory, filling his soul with the Earth's history, and yet the ride was over in a second. He boarded, and leant out the window to hear Dumbledore's last words, just barely audible over the chugging engine, something about remembering, and faith. Faith in what?

The train did not shake and rattle as an ordinary one did. It moved as smoothly as though slipping over ice, with not a tremor or creak. Everything was dead silent.

And from that silence, a voice spoke. It was not from a single source, Harry could tell. It emanated from all around him, as though from the very walls of the train, and it said in a soft whisper, "Harry, you are so loved. You are so loved. Mama loves you…Daddy loves you." Over and over again it whispered. You are so loved. You are so loved, until it wasn't around his anymore, but inside, as though the words had become miniscule strands of gossamer silk which formed inside his body and wove themselves into his heart, still echoing, you are so loved, you are so loved. He had to hold onto that. A primal instinct from an uncharted part of his mind or his heart knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that if he lost those words, he lost everything. He had to hold on. Wherever he was going, he had to hold on.

The windows of the train were completely obscured by the same bright whiteness as the train station had been, but now and again, Harry saw flickers of other things, dark shapes, colors. A car. A face. A building. More and more frequently, familiar images flashed past him, until they became a steady stream, and the train was speeding through downtown London.

Harry pressed his face against the window. It looked the same as he'd ever seen it, bustling with people, crammed with cars and shops. The sky above was a dull, rainy grey, and a fine mist coated the outside of the window. None of the Muggles even looked up as the great black steam engine sped past, but that was to be expected. Harry was well used to their complete and utter blindness to the magical world, although had never seen it extend quite as far as a train hurtling through the center of a London street. Or crashing in one.

The deafening screech of metal on metal met Harry's ears, the floor of the train lurched, and he was thrown forward into-

"Ow!"

The color orange. And something soft beneath him. A person, he realized, and scrambled upright, his brain already churning through a dozen different excuses to fling at the Muggle with whom he'd collided.

His arms were twisted painfully behind his back by an impossibly strong grip, and a voice snarled in his ear, "Who the hell are you?"

"Ah!" Harry cried in pain. "No one! I'm sorry. I wasn't looking and I-" WHAM!

Harry's head snapped to the left, but his glasses remained on his face. No, he realized. He still wasn't wearing them, and yet he could see. A face came up right in front of his, angry and suspicious. And beautiful, and wonderfully familiar.

"Ginny!"

His heart seemed to have grown wings, and was soaring right out of his chest and into the clouds. She was alright. In a quick scan, he assessed that she was uninjured, unmarked, and mercifully alive. Forgetting his captor, he tried to move toward her. He longed to embrace her, to kiss her fiercely, to forget the entire world for a shining eternity with his lips pressed against hers.

But her beautiful face was twisted in a scowl. She glared at Harry with the fire he'd come to simultaneously love and fear. She grabbed a handful of his hair and pulled. "I said, who the hell are you!"

"Ginny!" Harry twisted his head, trying to slacken her hold on his hair. "Ginny, it's me! It's Harry!"

"I don't know any Harries, Harry," said Ginny. "Tell me the truth." She pulled harder.

"I'm Harry!" Harry cried. "Harry Potter! Please!"

Ginny release his hair, and ordered the person behind him, "Check his arm." Harry's sleeve was pushed roughly up his arm, and a voice said, "Clean. No mark."

Ginny narrowed her eyes. "It could be hidden. They've been using concealment charms."

"Ginny, what's going on? Where am I? One moment I was on a train, the next it was here."

"I'll ask the questions," Ginny snapped. "Open his mouth." A hand grabbed Harry's lower jaw and yanked it down. From the pocket of her sweatshirt, Ginny removed a small glass vial, which she uncorked and poured into Harry's mouth. He gagged-the stuff tasted like cleaning fluid. The second it was down his throat, his mind went curiously blank. Not blissfully, like with the Imperius Curse, but clinically. Every excuse he'd made up in his mind, every story he'd subconsciously created to tell Ginny, vanished. All that remained were the facts, the ones he knew beyond a doubt to be true.

"Now," said Ginny, "Who are you?"

"I'm Harry James Potter," Harry heard himself say, with the disconcerting feeling that a stranger was speaking with his mouth.

"Do you work for the Ministry?"

"No."

Ginny raised her eyebrows at the person holding Harry's arm. "Alright then. How do you know my name?"

"We met the summer before my second year at Hogwarts and your first, at the Burrow. You are the younger sister of my best friend, Ron Weasly, and last year we started dating." The words spilled out in an emotionless monotone.

This brought another smack in the face. "I do not know you. How do you know about Ron?"

"I met Ron on my first ride on the Hogwarts Express, and we are best friends." Again, the words were spoken in an empty monotone, and Harry felt as though he had no control over his own vocal chords.

Ginny's eyes bore into Harry's. She leaned in, menacing, furious. "Do you have an antidote for Veritaserum?"

"No."

Ginny continued to glare at him, her eyes searching his, he knew, for a trace of a lie. "How did you get here?"

"I was in the forest. And I died. Then Dumbledore was there, and he-"

"Dumbledore!" Ginny hissed. "Dean, back away." From the same pocket as she'd taken the Veritaserum, she now removed a thin wooden wand, and pointed it at Harry. Her chest was heaving.

The grip on Harry's arms didn't loosen. "No killing. Ginny, you know the rules."

"Dumbledore sent him!" Ginny shrilled. "He's a spy! He can't be allowed to live. He's seen our faces."

Harry didn't understand what was happening. He tried to open his mouth, but found it clamped impermeably shut. He could not utter a sound. He was left to wonder silently why Dumbledore's name should induce such a reaction in this stranger Ginny.

"We'll take him back to Oliver," said the voice from behind him.

"We can't take him back!" said Ginny. "We have to kill him."

"No killing," the voice repeated.

"He's working for him!," said Ginny through clenched teeth. Her hand gripped her wand until all the blood went out of it. Her arm trembled.

"If we kill him, we're as bad as Dumbledore."