JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница

аааааааа"The evidence is thatyou've been suspicious of him from the beginning," James exclaimed. "But you're wrong. You're both wrong, and I'm going to prove it."

ааааааааScorpius narrowed his eyes at James. "Well, I do hope you pull that off. I suspect a lot of us would take some comfort in that proof. Until then, howeverЕ," Scorpius pointed his wand lazily at the chair next to the couch, "perhaps it would be a good idea to do as Rose says. We have a Defence Club to prepare. And she seems very stubborn about you and JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница Ralph Deedle being a part of it. Still, if sitting in the same room with a Malfoy is too much for you, it's fine by me if you go elsewhere. There's a bed upstairs with your name on it."

ааааааааJames ground his teeth. Nothing had gone right this entire evening. And now he couldn't see any choice but to sit down and plan what Scorpius Malfoy was going to teach them at the next Defence Club meeting. It was singularly humiliating. He almost couldn't bring himself to do it. Hestill had his broom with him, reminding JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница him of his second failure to make the Quidditch team. All he wanted to do was go back upstairs, stuff it back under his bed, and try to forget the whole mess. But Rose was looking at him pleadingly, obviously hoping that James would be able to overcome his innate dislike of the pale boy long enough to give the Defence Club a chance to work.

ааааааааSighing resignedly, James propped his broom by the fireplace and threw himself onto the chair. "Fine," he said. "What do we need to do next?"

ааааааааRose clapped her hands excitedly. "Thank you JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница, James! I knew I could trust you. Scorpius really is a pretty good teacher, but it's hard for some of the Gryffindors to listen to him. There's still a lot of long-term prejudice against a Malfoy in Gryffindor, and having him teach the class just makes matters worse. Still, ifyou're there, it should really help give Scorpius the credibility he needsЕ"

аааааааа"Hey, you guys expecting somebody?" Graham said as he entered the room. "Only, I found this bloke hanging around outside the portrait hole. He says you invited him, Rose."

ааааааааRalph grinned sheepishly as Rose JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница jumped up. "Sorry, Ralph. I hadn't gotten around to telling James about Scorpius, and thenЕ Well, anyway, we're all here, so let's get started!"

ааааааааScorpius looked annoyed as Ralph crammed onto the couch between him and Rose. The big boy kicked his shoes off and propped his feet on the overstuffed footstool. "Good club tonight. Scorpius here may be a skinny bloke, but he knows a few tricks. Some of you Gryffindors may have a bit of an attitude problem about him, but I need all the help I can get," Ralph said breezily. "Oh, and James JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница?"

James glanced up at Ralph, arching an eyebrow.

ааааааааRalph smiled sheepishly. "Albus says to tell you you'll be better as Treus than he'll be as Slytherin Seeker. He was hoping he'd see you tonight. Even Tabitha asked if you were going to come down."

ааааааааJames didn't know what to say. After a moment, Scorpius broke the tension. "This is all very touching," he said dryly, "but I recognize Slytherin smooth-talking when I hear it. I'm a bit of an expert on the subject, as James has already pointed out. Can we discuss Defence JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница Club now?"

ааааааааThe four of them talked for the next hour. James grew grudgingly confident that Scorpius may indeed be able to teach them some decent defensive spells. It turned out that he had, in fact, been tutored from an early age by his grandfather, Lucius Malfoy, who was currently in seclusion and not speaking to the family. Scorpius admitted that he hadn't seen his grandfather for a few years, ever since he and Scorpius' dad had had a rather serious row.

ааааааааThe fire had burned down to glowing coals and the four students were beginning to pack JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница up for the night when Deirdre Finnigan, one of Cameron Creevey's first-year friends, barreled into the common room, panting and red-faced. She glanced wildly around the room, and then pressed through the crowd, heading directly for a rear corner.



аааааааа"What's with her?" Scorpius muttered.

ааааааааRose said, "She's heading for Petra's table."

ааааааааThe entire room hushed as the significance of Deirdre's announcement became known. "It's true!" she was saying. "I saw them leading her to the hospital wing! She could barely stand up!"

ааааааааPetra simply looked at Deirdre, her mouth slightly JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница open.

аааааааа"Who?" Hugo called from across the room. "What happened?"

аааааааа"Josephina Bartlett!" Deirdre cried breathlessly, turning to face the room. "She ate a cursed peppermint and it struck her with a terrible fear of heights! They found her hugging the floor of the balcony outside the Ravenclaw common room. She couldn't even stand up! Her friends saidthe peppermint had come in a box of chocolates from a secret admirer, but it was obviously from some enemy instead. Madam Curio says she'll be a little better by morning, but the effects won't completely wear off for JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница months!"

аааааааа"A fear-of-heights peppermint?" Graham said, screwing up his face. "Does Weasleys' make those?"

аааааааа"I don't think so," Sabrina said. "That sounds like a custom curse."

ааааааааDamien narrowed his eyes. "One guess who Josephina's 'secret admirer' is. I heard all about how she and Corsica went at it during the audition."

аааааааа"You're all missing the point," Deirdre said, nearly bouncing. "Josephina's been cursed with a fear ofheights! She'll hardly be able to climb a curb for months!"

ааааааааSabrina's eyes widened. "She can't climb onto JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница the stage in the amphitheater! If she can't get onto the stageЕ"

аааааааа"She can't play the part of Astra," Damien finished, grinning. "As much as Ihate to see anyone benefit from another's misfortune, let me be the first to congratulate our good friend PetraЕ the new and improved Astra de Beaugois!"

ааааааааPetra looked around, an expression of surprise and disbelief on her face. "Well, I wouldn't have wanted to get the role this way," she said. "But I suppose I wouldn't turn it down either."

ааааааааSabrina whooped happily. A cheer arose from the gathered students JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница and James saw Petra smile for the first time in weeks. Suddenly, he remembered that he was playing the part of Treus, Astra's younger love interest. His face reddened considerably as he looked across the room at Petra. He noticed Rose was smiling knowingly at him.

аааааааа"What?" he said, patting his cheeks. "I'm hot. I'm sitting right next to the fireplace."

аааааааа"Mm-hmm," Rose grinned, nodding. "Oh, this is going to be so much fun, cousin. I expect you'd better start practicing up. Petra's going to have pretty high expectations JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница for 'the kiss of true and everlasting love'."

ааааааааOver the next week, autumn finally descended in full, putting a brisk chill into the air and painting the trees with vibrant oranges, reds, and yellows. Hagrid took his Care of Magical Creatures class into their winter classroom: a huge, ancient barn with stone walls and thick, cobwebbed rafters. There, he'd assembled an impressive array of fantastic creatures, all arranged in order of size. Along the entrance wall was a range of cages and pens, out of which emanated the sounds of amiable snufflings, grunts, squeals, and barks. On the other JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница side of the dirt floor was a line ofstables, each one larger than the last. The nearest one sheltered a hippogriff whose name, according to the sign painted on the gate, was Flintflank. The creature snapped its beak at the nearby cages, apparently hungry for their contents. The larger stables had thick doors, preventing any peek at their occupants. The last two doors were plated with iron and barred with huge crossbeams. They were easily twenty feet tall. Occasionally, an unsettlingly resonant growl or burst of roar would shake the barn.

ааааааааJames shrugged out of his cloak as he JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница walked through the great front door, surprised at the warmth of the space despite the day's crisp chill.

аааааааа"How's he heat a place like this?" Ralph asked, craning his head up at the high, wooden ceiling. "It's right balmy in here."

ааааааааThe students filed into the barn, peering curiously into the cages or tentatively approaching the hippogriff's stable. The great beast stamped its foreleg and tossed its beaked head.

аааааааа"Stay well back now," Hagrid called. "We'll meet old Flintflank a bit later in the year. Until then, it's best if he sees yeh JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница from across the room instead of right in front of 'im. Let's start the season off by gettin' t'know some of the smaller beasts here in the cages an' such."

ааааааааHagrid led the class over to the smaller cages lining the wall. He fiddled with one of the locks as he spoke. "We've been right lucky over the years to come across so many examples of the magical world's most unusual creatures. A former student o' mine has become something of an expert on beast tracking, and she brings me any creatures JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница she finds that've been injured or fallen sick. I do my best to nurse 'em back to health, but a few of 'em never gets to the point of being able to survive in the wild again. I give 'em the best home I can, o' course. The end result is that we'vebecome rather well-known around the magical world for our menagerie," Hagrid turned, cradling a small lump of breathing brown fur in his arm. "Why, experts come from the world over to meet and study our little family. Isn't that right, Punkin?"

ааааааааRalph leaned toward JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница James and whispered, "I talked to Rose this morning. She thinks she's found out something important about Merlin."

ааааааааJames whispered back, "Whatever it is, I don't want to hear it. She's always digging up new dirt from some old legend or crusty history book. We know most of that stuff's not true."

аааааааа"I don't know it's not true," Ralph murmured, "I just know he doesn't quite seem like that anymore. Either way, she says you'll want to hear it. It explains a little bit of where all the stories came from about JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница how he didn't love the Muggle world. She says it 'puts it all in context', whatever that means."

ааааааааJames pressed his lips together doubtfully. He'd told Rose and Scorpius that he intended to prove Merlin wasn't involved in the conspiracy they'd witnessed in the Mirror, but he hadn't yet done it. In fact, the idea of doing so frightened him quite a lot. It wasn't that he didn't have a plan. He did, and it was quite simple. It would require some bravery and the help of Cedric's JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница ghost, and it could get him into quite a lot of trouble if he was caught, but none of those things were what worried him. He felt a strange, pressing reluctance to go ahead with it, mostly because he was secretly afraid of what he might discover. If he was right, then Merlin wasn't involved, and James could prove it to Rose and everyone else. But what if he was wrong? Despite his words to the contrary, James was worried about it. What if he went through with his plan and found that the Headmasterwas, in fact, in league with the JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница former Death Eaters and that horrible, smoky entity? Worse, what if the entity was the thing the cave skeleton, Farrigan, had talked about: the Gatekeeper, which Merlin was supposedly responsible for bringing into the world? The Headmaster had been acting rather secretive and suspicious. He'd forbidden James from telling anyone what the skeleton of Farrigan had said, and that was worrisome in itself. If what the skeleton had said wasn't true, why would Merlin care if James told anyone?

ааааааааJames shook his head. Surely, Merlin had his reasons. Merlin had to be good. He JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница'd come back to help when the school had been threatened by the Muggle reporter, hadn't he? And all because James had asked him.

ааааааааAnd that, James realized with a sinking coldness, was why he couldn't face the idea that Merlin might not be who he claimed he was. Because James was responsible, twice over, for bringing the great wizard here: first, by being manipulated by Madame Delacroix into facilitating Merlin's return to the present day, and second, by sending a message of help to Merlin via the tree sprites, with whom Merlin was able to commune JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница. It had even been James' advice that led his father and uncle to campaign for Merlin to become the new school Headmaster. If Merlin was involved in something evil, then it was on James' head. He would be ultimately responsible for whatever happened. Recognizing that, James knew that hehad to find out what Merlin's intentions really were, no matter what. And if, by some horrible chance, Merlin was in league with evil, then it was up to James to foil him, no matter what it took.

аааааааа"Now then," Hagrid was saying, beaming out over the students, "who wants JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница to come up an' give me a hand feeding li'l Punkin the Tripthroat?"

ааааааааTrenton Bloch raised his hand and Hagrid beckoned him forward. "Here yeh go, Mr. Bloch. Just dangle this wee bit of Lempweed in the air, but not too close. Hold it up an' let me bring Punkin toward yeh."

ааааааааTrenton seemed annoyed at the caution Hagrid was taking with the little ball of panting fur. It looked rather like a kitten, but with no apparent head, tail, or limbs. "What's it going to do, Hagrid?" Trenton asked, holding up the rubbery bit of JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница plant. "Purr me to death?"

ааааааааTrenton's last word turned into a little shriek of surprise as something huge and furry lunged up from the ball in Hagrid's arms. It reared a slobbering, toothless mouth and clamped down on Trenton's entire hand. With a loud slurping sound, it sucked the bit of Lempweed out of Trenton's hand and retreated, disappearing into the tiny, panting ball of fur in Hagrid's arms. Trenton yanked his hand back, shaking it and shuddering visibly.

аааааааа"Nicely done, Mr. Bloch," Hagrid cried, laughing. "Punkin likes yeh! Or else she JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница thinks you're a frog with a bit more Lempweed on yer backside. Normally, Tripthroats live in the marsh where they suck the weed off the little amphibious creatures an' then spit 'em back out. None too pleasant for the frogs, but totally harmless."

ааааааааTrenton stared at his hand, which was coated with a viscous green goo. He looked helplessly at Hagrid.

аааааааа"Yeh might want to go wash that off, Mr. Bloch. Frogskin is immune to the Tripthroat's digestive juices, but yeh might get a bit itchy if yeh leave it there. There's a pump and basin over JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница by the big stables. That's a lad."

ааааааааHagrid placed Punkin back in her cage and locked it. He was just explaining the lifespan of the Tripthroat when a very large roar rumbled the building's foundation. James looked toward the sound of the roar, his eyes wide and his heart suddenly pounding. Trenton was quickly backing away from the huge, ironframed door, his hands still dripping water from the basin.

аааааааа"Oh, she caught yer scent, Mr. Bloch! Silly me, I forgot, she loves a good Tripthroat snack. Stand aside now, that's right. She's about to JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница blow!"

ааааааааSuddenly, an enormous noise filled the barn. To James, it sounded something like a freight train mixed with a cyclone. The barn heated appreciably and the center of the iron door began to glow a dull red.

аааааааа"My apologies, Mr. Bloch," Hagrid said. "Ol' Norberta doesn't get many Tripthroats these days, but she can smell when they're nearby. I should've warned yeh."

аааааааа"So that's how he keeps the barn heated," Ralph said nervously, his eyes wide. "He keeps a dragon! A real, live dragon!"

аааааааа"That's not just any dragon JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница," James said, grinning, "that's like an old family friend. Uncle Charlie's been keeping tabs on her for years. She wounded a wing a few years back and now she can't fly. Not being able to fly is a death sentence in the dragon world. They eat their own, you know."

аааааааа"She's really just a great softie," Hagrid said affectionately. "I've known 'er since she was a hatchling. Still, it doesn't do to stand too near her doors when she's in a flaming mood. We'll take her out this winter, give her a JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница little exercise. She likes a good romp in the snow, does the old dear."

аааааааа"Excellent!" Ashley Doone said from behind James. "Maybe Trenton will volunteer to feed her as well! Slytherins and dragons are supposed to have quite the rapport."

аааааааа"No chance," Trenton said as he rejoined the students, his face flushed and angry. "I wonder if my parents know that this great oaf is keeping a dragon on school grounds. He's been a maniac for years, but this is completely daft."

аааааааа"Shut up, Trenton," James said amiably. "Norberta's safe. Safer than you with JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница a Tripthroat at least."

аааааааа"We'll see about that," Trenton muttered darkly.

ааааааааJames spent most of Muggle Studies in the rather uncomfortable process of being measured for his Treus costume. Gennifer Tellus, in charge of the costume shop, performed the duties herself, a quill behind her ear and a couple of pins clenched between her lips.

аааааааа"Stand still," she said around the pins. "You're not letting me get a good inseam measurement. You want your pantaloons to be saggy?"

аааааааа"It tickles!" James replied, and then asked suspiciously, "What are pantaloons?"

аааааааа"Don't ask me JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница to explain them. It's best if you don't think about it. Just know that you're getting off easy compared to what Petra has to wear."

ааааааааJames wanted to ask but decided not to. He hadn't spoken to Petra since Josephina's peppermint incident. He was a little giddy and excited about the idea of playing Treus to Petra's Astra, but he was trying very hard not to let on.

ааааааааGennifer pulled her measuring tape around James' waist. "Have you read the whole script yet?" she asked.

аааааааа"No," James admitted. "I know the story JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница a little though. Boy falls for girl. Older bloke falls for the same girl. Older bloke sends boy off on a suicide mission to get rid of him. Boy comes back and they duel. Everybody lives happily ever after. The end."

ааааааааGennifer glanced at James sardonically. "I think you'd better read the script," she said around her pins.

аааааааа"I will," James said, annoyed. "I have to know my lines, don't I?"

аааааааа"Yes, but you should also know that they don't 'live happily ever after'. The Triumvirate is a tragedy, you dolt."

ааааааааJames JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница looked at himself in the nearby mirror. "So what's that mean?"

аааааааа"Well," Gennifer mumbled, "generally, it means everybody ends up dead."

ааааааааAs James left Muggle Studies, Rose caught up to him.

аааааааа"Did Ralph tell you what I found out last night?" she asked in a low voice.

аааааааа"He said you found out why some people thought Merlin would hate Muggles," James replied, "but he didn't give me any details."

аааааааа"You'll be interested in this," Rose said earnestly. "Did you ever hear of the Lady of the Lake?"

ааааааааJames thought for a moment. It sounded JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница vaguely familiar, but he couldn't place it. He shrugged and shook his head.

аааааааа"Well, according to all the legends, she was supposed to have been Merlin's downfall. Most of the stories portray her as a nymph or a dryad or a sprite, but they're mostly really fanciful and probably just exaggerations of the truth. Professor Revalvier talked about it last Wizlit, remember? She said that if the legends had been true, Merlin obviously wouldn't be here as Headmaster."

аааааааа"Yeah," James said, recalling the class. "She said that the stories make the Lady of JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница the Lake out to be a sort of magical creature pretending to be all innocent and stuff. She gets Merlin to fall for her, and then, when he teaches her everything he knows, she traps him with his own magic. Obviously, it's just stories. Probably, it was all just a way to explain Merlin's disappearance. We know the truth though, like Revalvier said."

аааааааа"We know a bitmore of the truth now," Rose said enigmatically. "The Lady of the Lake wasn't made-up, but she wasn't what the legends make her out to JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница be. She was a Muggle, and she was almost Merlin's wife."

аааааааа"What?" James said, stopping in the hall. "Where'd you get that?"

аааааааа"The Book of Austramaddux's Histories," Rose said, raising her eyebrows. "Same book where Zane found the account of Merlin's Disapparition last year. Morgan Patonia let me borrow it from the Ravenclaw library. Austramaddux knew Merlin better than almost anyone, although it seems to me that Merlin didn't like him very much."

аааааааа"Merlin sure didn't waste any time on him when he Reapparated," James said, nodding. "It was Austramaddux's JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница ghost who was supposed to watch for the time to be right for Merlin's return. He was bound to the job forever. I got the impression that Merlin thought Austramaddux had hurried his return just to finish his duties. It didn't go very well for him after that."

аааааааа"What'd Merlin do?" Rose asked eagerly. "How do you punish a ghost?"

ааааааааJames shook his head. "Beats me, but Austramaddux was terrified of whatever it was. He screamed like a banshee, but Merlin just sort ofЕ popped him."

аааааааа"Very creepy," Rose said, thinking.

аааааааа"Yeah, whatever JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница. It's old news now. What's the story with the Lady of the Lake?"

аааааааа"Well, according to Austramaddux, she was a Muggle peasant named Judith. She lived on a tiny farm with a little spring lake on it. That's where her name came from. The farm had been managed by Judith and her mother until her mother died. The lord of the fiefdom was a guy named Hadyn. He planned to banish Judith from the farm because she couldn't manage it on her own, but Merlin protected her. He sent away the brutes who'd come JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница to throw her out. Apparently, he gave them donkey ears and told them if they came back he'd finish the job."

аааааааа"See?" James said. "That doesn't sound like the actions of a wizard who hates Muggles. He was helping her, wasn't he?"

аааааааа"Yes, but only because he loved her. The book says that Judith was really beautiful, and Merlin was completely smitten by her. Austramaddux actually said that Merlin was 'under her spell'. Pretty strong words for a wizard to use when describing a Muggle woman."

аааааааа"So what happened?" James asked JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница. "We know they didn't end up together for some reason. Maybe she double-crossed him. That could be where the legends get the story about her trapping him somehow."

ааааааааRose shook her head, her eyes sparkling. "No! Austramaddux thinks she loved him too! It was enough to get Merlin to cease his dealings with the Muggle kingdoms. He stopped hiring himself out as a magical mercenary and abandoned his throne as the Mediator between the Muggle and magical realms. Loads of people were mad about it, and lots of others were eager to step into Merlin's place. Meanwhile JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница, Merlin safeguarded the farm that Judith lived on. He made really thick briars and thorns grow up all around the perimeter, keeping out Hadyn's brutes. Merlin even paid for the property, ten times what the farm was worth. And then, just to be safe, he started teaching Judith some magic."

аааааааа"You can't just teach a Muggle magic, Rose," James interrupted. "You're either born with it or not."

ааааааааRose shook her head. "Merlin's magic is different, isn't it? He gets it as much from nature as he does from his wizarding heritage. He couldn JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница't teach her how to find the magic inside her because there wasn't any there. Judith had no witch in her blood. But he could teach her how to use the magic in nature. A little, at least. She just needed to know enough to be able to protect herself, so Merlin taught her how to alter her appearance. That way, she could go to the markets unnoticed. She had to, because Hadyn had put a price on her capture. Things seemed to be working just fine for them, and it looked like Merlin was going JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница to marry her. But thenЕ well, it gets really awful."

аааааааа"What?" James insisted, enthralled by the story.

аааааааа"Well, they caught her, of course," Rose said breathlessly. "She got careless. The magical disguise was perfect. Nobody knew who she was at the markets in the fiefdom. But someone saw her use a little of Merlin's magic. She fixed a broken wheel on a boy's cart, just by holding the pieces together and saying an incantation Merlin had taught her. The wood knitted back together, fixing the wheel, but someone saw it happen. They told the fiefdom brutes, who were JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница always hanging around the market. They captured Judith and took her to Hadyn in his castle."

аааааааа"I bet Merlin wanted to kill them all," James said meaningfully. "I mean, she was just trying to help. What'd he do?"

аааааааа"He didn't know where she was at first, but he tracked her down. He's apparently very good at that, being able to talk to the birds and creatures and trees. Hadyn knew Merlin would show up. He told the guards to let Merlin through, right into the lord's hall. Merlin didn't even waste JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница time on the guards, though. He just put them all to sleep and stalked right up to Hadyn, demanding the release of Judith. Hadyn was all oily and slick. He told Merlin he had every intention of giving her back, but only if Merlin agreed to return the farm, remove the thorn hedge, and as a tribute of respect, double the fiefdom's lands."

ааааааааJames furrowed his brow. "Double the lands?"

аааааааа"Everything was about land back then. The bigger a lord's fiefdom, the wealthier he was. Hadyn's plan was to use Merlin to steal land JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница from neighboring fiefs. He also made Merlin promise to leave the fief forever and bestow his protection over the castle, which included protection from Merlin himself! Hadyn was really crafty and evil. He knew that as soon as Merlin had Judith back, he'd probably destroy the castle and everyone in it. But with Merlin's spell of protection, not only could the castle never be overtaken, Merlin himself couldn't touch a single brick or harm a singlehair of anyone inside it."

аааааааа"He didn't do it, did he?" James asked.

ааааааааRose nodded. "He did. He was that JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница madly in love with Judith. He left and went out into the neighboring fiefdoms. There is no record of how he did it, but when he came back, he presented Hadyn with the deeds of enough new land to double his fief. I shudder to think how Merlin got allthat land, but it had to have been scary. Lords didn't let go of land without a fight."

ааааааааJames frowned thoughtfully. "So did Hadyn release Judith?"

аааааааа"Well, that's where the story breaks down," Rose said uncomfortably. "Austramaddux writes as if his readers already know the JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница rest of the story. I'd guess that whatever happened, it was legend in that part of the world for a long time. Unfortunately, the legend got lost in all the myths and exaggerations in the centuries since. Either way, it looks like it ended badly. I mean, like Professor Revalvier said, Merlin's here with us now, but not the Lady of the Lake. The important thing is, this could explain why people always believed Merlin might have a grudge against the Muggle world. He was trapped by that Muggle lord, Hadyn, humiliated by him, and wasn't even able to JAMES POTTER AND THE CURSE OF THE GATEKEEPER 20 страница have his revenge. To a wizard like Merlin, that's got to be enough to brew up a case of serious hate."

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