In the Blink of an Eye

Chapter 2

The past is so familiar,
But that’s why you couldn’t stay.
Too may ghosts, too many haunted dreams.

Dumbeldore. Of course it was Dumbledore. He had to continue convincing himself that it didn’t mean anything – that Dumbledore had been Headmaster a long time before he himself had become a student. It could be any year – any time. Hell, Dumbledore could already be alive in their time – the man was old, that was for sure. And wizards did live an awfully long time ...

“Jack, where are we?” Ah, Lizzie. The little backstabber that she was, he had to admit she would be useful in a situation like this. Properly sweet enough to throw Dumbledore off his guard – because Lord knew the man liked his manipulations enough.

“Jack?” Oh, right. She expected a response, didn’t she?

“A school.” Jack said shortly, throwing her a dark look as he started up the stairs. Clean swept, of course, pristine. Thank goodness these ones didn’t have a trick step, as he had neither the time nor the patience to explain such things to the two muggles following after him.

“What do you-” Elizabeth was cut off as Jack suddenly stopped, his body going ridged as he stared directly in front of him at the man who had appeared around the corner.

White, snowy beard tucked in to his belt, Albus Dumbledore was actually dressed even more flamboyantly than usual; bright blue robes with small stars dancing across their surface, the hat upon his head drooped slightly as usual, though Jack had the niggling suspicion it had been designed to do so; it certainly looked new enough.

The wand currently leveled at his chest, however, left Jack with no illusions as to the aged Professor’s current views toward him. “Stop.”

Jack had the sudden insane urge to laugh, to point out that they had stopped; Will had actually crashed into Elizabeth, if he wasn’t mistaken. He held his tongue for once, however, too dumbfounded to say much of anything.

Dumbledore looked old. Older even than Jack remembered him. Which was, of course, disturbing enough in and of itself, that he could remember the man so clearly in his own mind.

“Your wand. Now.” Jack started at that, glancing down at his hand, and the wand he still clutched tightly. Oh, right. He’d forgotten to put it away. It could have been useful – against anybody else.

Noticing his hesitation, Albus Dumbledore took a step forward, wand never wavering until it stood just inches from Jack’s face, and Jack had to wonder at the stupidity at that. All he had to do was -

It was over before he’d even realized what he was doing – or stopped to think that perhaps, just perhaps, Albus Dumbledore had more of an arsenal than just his wand. However, Jack’s hand had shot out at the first opportunity, and he now held a wand in each hand, both of which he held pointed at Albus Dumbledore.

Right. He had a death wish. Actually, that explained a lot ...

For his part, the Professor seemed shocked into silence, mouth slightly open as he stared at the man before him.

Jack shifted in place, eying the older man warily. As he was wondering how to proceed, however, he found his head making solid contact with the wall to his left, stars dancing before hie eyes. He could vaguely hear Will angry shout, the unsheathing of a sword. And then ... silence.

Oh. Wandless magic. Right. Jack pulled his head from the wall, his body pinned against the wall by an unseen force. Breath coming in sharp, shallow bursts, he squinted to make out the older man through a narrowed gaze.

Oh, this wasn’t good. This wasn’t good at all.

Will and the lovely Lizzie lay on the floor, and Dumbledore was staring down at them now, apparently confused at the lack of fight. Ah, he had expected a wizard’s resistance, had he? Those two had never been capable of magic, for all their ... other ... talents. No, they had no protection against people like Dumbledore – not without proper warning, anyway.

But what would Captain Teague think of him, spending his time analyzing every action of his enemy? “Act, Jackie. Thinkin’s all well’n good, but ye gotta act"

Rather hard, though, when you were pinned immobile by the power of a man’s thoughts alone.

“Who are you?” There was a question in the aged Headmaster’s tone, and his fingers relaxed around his wand as he stepped toward Jack. The only one who had shown any magical aptitude, and even he had been taken down easily.

“An illusion. I’m not actually here. Too many sweets, my dear man.” It was the first thing that came to mind, and Jack nearly burst out laughing at the look on Dumbledore’s face. Well, might as well keep going with it ...

“It’s the muggle candies, really. Too many preservatives.” Albus Dumbledore shook his head, a small smile curling his lips and making his beard shift, eyes crinkling around the edges. “Not one of Tom’s men, then.”

Ah, Voldemort. Of course. Wait. That meant-

Some of his shock must have shown through on his face, for Dumbledore frowned, taking another step forward, until they were nearly toe to toe.

“You’re voice sounds familiar, young man. Have we met?” Jack swallowed thickly at that, averting his gaze down and to the left. Don’t meet his eyes, don’t meet his eyes ... He certainly remembered what had happened whenever Remus or Sirius had made that mistake ...

Huh. Hadn’t thought of them in a while, had he? But no, best not to think of anything incriminating, anything that might give him away ...

“You know Remus Lupin, then? And Sirius Black, I see. They had a rather large circle of friends in their school days, unfortunately, and even larger number of enemies. What is your name, young man? And what are you doing down here, for that matter?” Dumbledore’s voice had become almost conversational at this point, and Jack risked a glance up at the older man. Avoiding his eyes apparently didn’t work – how did one counteract something like that? He’d find out eventually, he was sure – once it no longer mattered. Once it was too late.

That was the way it always worked, wasn’t it?

Jack swallowed thickly, eying the man warily as he wondered just how much the man had seen; how much was still safe.

“Do you have many secrets then?” There was humor in the Headmaster’s voice now, and Jack silently grit his teeth as he watched the older man step forward, the tip of his wand pressed lightly against the underside of Jack’s chin – dangerously close. And for all the humor in the aged headmaster’s words, his eyes were steely and cold, face set with resolution.

This was not a man to be trifled with.

Which meant, of course, he had to try.

Albus Dumbledore was having a Very Bad Day.

And the Fool he had found wandering the school wasn’t helping matters any.

Fighting back the urge to pinch the bridge of his nose, to sigh in exasperation, Albus had the sudden insane urge to laugh. To just throw back his head and burst out laughing.

The man had audacity, that much was for sure. How much of it was true insanity, and how much just random poppycock to avoid answering his questions, however, Albus wasn’t quite sure.

He had been surprised, when that hand had suddenly shot out and grabbed at his wand; he hadn’t been unarmed in a long time, and most wizards certainly didn’t resort to actual physical violence; they worked that out of their systems by the time they left Hogwarts, too used to using magic for any and every thing by that point.

A pity.

“No’ that it aint kinky an’ all, but I’m startin’ to get a cramp here, gramps.” Albus drew a steadying breath and he focused on the ruffian before him, quirking one eyebrow at the name. Gramps? He hadn’t been called that in a long time – not since James had died.

That boy had been the most audacious he had ever met. Until now. He, at least, had had their history to fall back on. This man? He had no such safety net. Yet you would think he did, the way he was acting.

Twirling his reclaimed wand between his fingers, Albus took a step back, turning slightly but still keeping the man in the corner on his sight. While this wizard was an enigma, his two companions were even more so. Even their style of dress confused him; old clothes, clothes he hadn’t seen since he was a boy. Even then, they had been out of style for some time – even among muggles, who were known for dressing in all shapes and variations.

These two were dressed a bit more on the normal side, for the era at least. Not like their wizarding companion, who looked as far from respectable as Albus had thought possible. Perhaps he had even passed that boundary.

Breeches. Actual breeches. How long had it been since he had seen those? And a sword. Nobody carried around swords any more, and while fire arms were, of course, quite a bit more popular, the one the woman had drawn was old. Not the gun itself – no, that looked rather new, now that he got a good look at it. But the style? Did they even make those any more? Let alone the ammunition.

Albus Dumbledore was flighty, as one of his muggleborn students had once termed it. He took to fancies, kept with them for a short while before his attention would be caught by something else. He had the luxury of having such fancies, and usually it was all in good fun.

But for once, those fancies were proving helpful. He had had a thing for muggle weaponry some time back, and done his best to study the different kinds of technological terrors muggles had developed to protect themselves with – and to destroy their fellow man. He hadn’t gone very far back in history – only a hundred years or so. But that was long enough to know that these weapons hadn’t been made in decades.

A long time, for a muggle.

Jack watched the aged professor move away, following his line of sight to Will and Lizzie. Oh. Right. Muggles in Hogwarts – that had to be some sort of record, didn’t it? Especially considering they had appareted in.

To Hogwarts.

Right.

Was the war still on, then? Perhaps he had reappeared at the same instant he had left – wouldn’t that be a hoot? But, no. Dumbledore was too old – older than Jack had ever seen him, actually. So, the future. Not too distant; the man didn’t look that old.

And besides, he had to be reaching the end of his life, right? Everybody died eventually.

Even Albus Dumbledore.

Even James Potter.

Albus had been about to ennervate one of the oddly dressed individuals when the thoughts of his lone conscious prisoner filtered through the open link they still shared, and he swung around so quickly he nearly toppled over. His eyes were wide behind moon-shaped spectacles – which many had speculated he didn’t actually have any need for.

“What do you know of James Potter?” When he received no immediate answer, Albus took the few steps required to be standing toe to toe with the man; their height was similar, and it reminded him suddenly of the various arguments he would have with James, standing in this same position. He’d actually had to immobilize that man on occasion, as well.

Too many similarities; too many ghosts. And for them to appear in this man, as different from James as night from day ...

But he knew James. That was, perhaps, mot surprising of all. That he would know James – and, by conjunction, Remus and Sirius and all the rest of their rag-tag group.

But what else did know? What secrets had James shared with him before his death?

Or was he just becoming paranoid in his old age?

But that still didn’t explain their presence in his school; the most immediate problem. Whatever connection this one might have had to James Potter was moot; no matter his personal feelings on the matter, the safety of his school came first.

Turning swiftly away, Albus took in the sight of the other two intruders once again.

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