Chapter 24 : Lead Us Not Astray...
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A bounty on my girlfriend…what next?
Harry Potter was sifting through the reports in the S.T.A.R. Elite ‘office’, if it could be called that. This was the place he met Sol and the others, the very same office he unwittingly set afire when Malfoy joined a few months later. The paint still bore soot marks where the damage was not totally repaired by Draco’s Infernus Counter- spell.
All this paperwork….
Harry could not concentrate properly while reading these days. English text was somehow now hard to read, as if his vocabulary and grammar usage was slipping from him little by little every day. For that reason alone, he spoke rarely, and only when he had to. Nearly a month had passed since the Ministry function celebrating the first anniversary of the new minister of magic. In her speech she said one of the best decisions she had made was to recall the services of Alastor Moody’s squad: the Special Tactics And Rescue Elitist division; Combat Specialist Sol DeFontaine, Interrogation Specialist Steven Warshire, Secret Operative Rebecca Lestrange, the Summoner Draco Malfoy, and himself- the so-called ‘Commander’.
Harry cursed in frustration. Right now he was having several doubts about his position, and if he really was the right man for the job. Seven wizards and two muggles were already dead since he took the post around five months ago. And there was more. Luna Lovegood abducted, Dudley Dursley missing and wanted in connection with the murder of Arabella Figg as well as Ministry Police officers Henry Vane and Jefferson McLain. His uncle, alongside his aunt, now murdered by that madman Rodulphus Lestrange- who has been very adept at covering his tracks, except of course, the ones he wanted them to find. Harry swore under his breath, running his hands through his shoulder-length hair in frustration.
Abducting Luna right under their nose- it was more a slap in the face than anything else. Immobilizing a ghost to relay the message, a very tongue in cheek way of showing that he was proficient in extremely advanced Dark magic. The command of the realm of the supernatural was very tricky business. If Rodulphus could manipulate ghosts, that meant he knew how to command the lost spirits and maybe even the demons that lingered in the limbo area between the physical and the spiritual.
Which was a bad thing.
And now Harry was kicking himself for bringing upon another very serious situation: good and bad wizards alike wanted to use Hermione’s ability, be it to cure a sickly child or on the completely opposite end of the scale, to perform Unholy Revival spells on the dead which would give the deceased a temporary mockery of life- complete with a soul. And the worst thing was, both parties were willing to pay anyone good enough to capture her.
After doing some investigation, he realized that Hermione had barely scraped her true potential. As with anything else, there was a dark side to her branch of the summoning ability. Case in point, when Macnair had stolen the Halo of life- they had used his mother’s Divine Protection Charm from his aunt Petunia as a source of magic to resurrect Voldemort from the dead. If they had gotten Hermione as they had originally planned- they would have probably been able to do much worse than that, maybe resurrect Amagammon or Grindelwald as well, or whoever was the reigning Dark Lord at times long past. Right now, everyone wanted her for her healing abilities. He dreaded the day she left Hogwarts- she’ll no longer have Dumbledore and the physical protection of the school to keep her safe. And for some reason, every time they went out together, something bad happened to her. In fact, horrible things happened to everyone who stuck around him too much, or showed any sort of tenderness towards him. It wasn’t fair. He wished that this war could be over and done with. He wanted to be happy again.
“Potter.” Kingsley had just entered the room, holding a few scrolls of parchment in his hand. “Malfoy has brought back another report on the progress of the detention facility. Head Ergomancer Archibald Silus has completed the Siphoning Wards to control the Veil’s power. Magical density down to fifty percent on almost the entire two-mile radius needed. Progress is remarkably quick, don’t you think?”
“When will it be nil?” Harry asked.
“By late this year Siren’s Asylum will be fully functional.”
Harry nodded, remembering when he and Malfoy had stormed recklessly into Voldemort’s lair almost two years ago, only to find out that all of their standard magical spells had been nullified. The Dark Lord had found a way to manipulate the Veil such that only he was able to use his wand, while nullifying the entire Order of the Phoenix’s ability to do so. If it weren’t for the Sword and Hermione’s and Draco’s summoning ability, they would all have been dead. The scary thing was, Voldemort only needed a month to figure it out. The entire Magical Accident Reverse Squad, including the Ergomancers from the Unmentionable squad needed approximately ten months to accomplish the same feat.
“And about Rodulphus Lestrange, has Malfoy made any headway?” Harry asked tiredly.
“I don’t know. Malfoy keeps to himself unless he needs to make a report. I‘m assuming his periodic disappearances have been in search of him, he has been frequenting some places where many of those who secretly favored Voldemort go and drink- but other than that, you’ll have to ask him yourself.”
“I’ll mention it to him next time I see him,” Harry agreed. “What is that you’ve got there?”
“Something we’ve been waiting a long time for. We’ve found William Hargreaves' hidden lab, and finally got a conclusive lead on Ash,” Kingsley muttered. He frowned at the parchment. “But-“ Kingsley tapped the paper- “there’s been a very serious mix-up.”
“What is it?”
“The Summoner girl who we had under detention in the stasis room- we supposedly executed her by the Veil of the unknown nearly a month ago. However, it has come to our attention that she is not Jacqueline Ramellie. Now that we’ve got the magical signature identification ward working, we found that no Elemental magical trace has been found passing through the Veil at that point in time. The dead person is actually a previous Azkaban detainee- Leah Judith-King, a woman posing as a muggle since the mass escape last year.”
“You’re telling me we’ve had another breach of security?” Harry demanded. “There was a switch?”
“It seems so. Ramellie is at large-“
“FUCK!” Harry snapped. “ Who was in charge of watching her?!”
“Archibald Silus- he overseas who comes in and out of Siren’s rock-“ Kingsley said, his voice contemplative. “Wait-“ he said.
“Yeah…you’re thinking what I am aren’t you?” Harry groused. “His military rank can technically be overruled by Malfoy. Do you think…?” Harry said dangerously.
“You tell me. You were the one who said you trusted him…” Kingsley countered. “Why would Malfoy allow her to escape?”
“I didn’t think he allowed her to ‘escape’ per say.” Harry got up abruptly, and grabbed the cloak of the Order of the Phoenix and wrapped it around his Ministry cloak. Pulling the hood of his uniform over his head, he headed towards the door, his face barely visible under the shadows created by the lone lamp flickering in the center of the room. “ I’m going to check something out, before I make wild accusations. When Sol and the others return from the raid in Edinburgh, tell them to report to me. When they arrive, we’re going to follow up on Logan Ash’s whereabouts.”
“Done.” Kingsley agreed. He paused for a fraction of a second, and then opened his mouth. “Be careful.”
Harry paused, nodding once as he left. He couldn’t let anyone know, but he had to visit Hermione. Only she would know what to do about his deteriorating condition.
“You may not realize it yet, but you’re quite talented, Ronald. You just needed some work on technique,” Randalf Ravenclaw commended his protégé as they practiced in their fourth Saturday training session. Ron was laying flat on his back, his side slightly smoking from the Paralysis Venom curse Randalf had just used on him. His shield took the brunt of it, but the sheer force of his mentor’s spell was enough to shatter it and poison him with a paralyzing effect that may well kill him if left unattended. Right now, he couldn’t move his left foot as he lay there on the ground.
“You always...say something like that when I’m on...my back- Jeez, this hurts!” Ron said as he began incanting the counter spell in his mind. Gradually, he felt the damage ease away and was once again totally mobile. And as instructed, he conjured the antidote for the poison without even concocting a potion- a neat trick in this Sansferi style, manipulating known objects into a final product just by memorizing formula. The potion flask manifested in his palm, and he took a swig. It tasted horrible, but it beat slaving hours over a cauldron in a dingy dungeon hands down. He just wished he could have shown it off towards Hermione. She’ll have her nut. Seven years of potions- for what? Hah!
Touching his mended ribs and feeling the antidote immediately taking effect, he grinned. Now we’re learning some real magic!
“Come on, I’m going to show you something new today. We’ll take a little walk into the woods shall we?” Ravenclaw said amicably, already trotting off. Ron pocketed the flask and followed Randalf into the forbidden forest. Feeling much more confident of his abilities even though they only scraped the bare fundamentals of Sansferi he strolled into the usually foreboding darkness of the magical forest. After nearly half an hour of walking, Ravenclaw stopped under a large clearing, looking up at the brilliant afternoon sky.
“Here’s fine,” Ravenclaw said simply. Ron looked about, not seeing anything really out of the ordinary other than they were in a clearing devoid of trees. Randalf Ravenclaw abruptly took of his cloak from his shoulders, and with a snap of his fingers, it disappeared. “There’s a reason why the Ravenclaw clan was known as the thinkers of the time. It’s not because of any superior intelligence trait or gene, it’s more the fact that we do not do things without weighing the possibilities fully. Tradesmen, Craftsmen, Scholars, Teachers, that is what you may have thought were our favoured professions, which may be true in a sense, but the ultimate test of wits is to be put in a situation where in a split second, a wrong decision may mean the difference of life and death. The Slytherins were cunning in their duels, Hufflepuffs were feared for their extreme persistence and Gryffindors were always noted for their bravery and raw magical ability. However, the Gryffindors had a high mortality rate over the years. And do you know why is that?”
Ron was a bit taken back. “Er...nope...”
“Because they were too temperamental, too eager to fight. Well, to put it bluntly, a bit too arrogant for their own good.” Ravenclaw sat down smoothly, crossing his legs Indian style. He closed his eyes. "The Ravenclaw family were, and still are, strategists. They knew what they were getting into before they entered a duel, and allowed the opponent reveal their weaknesses or flaws by allowing them to attack first. We gave the opponent the impression that we were vulnerable.”
“But isn’t that dangerous? What if you don’t get another chance? You may well be dead!” Ron complained.
“If your enemy could defeat you with their first attack, you most likely won’t survive anyway, even if you attacked first. Their level will be much greater than yours. Would you play your trump card on the first play? The Avada Kedavra curse is very lethal, but unfortunately, it needs a wand, and an audible incantation. It is a line of sight attack, and is quite predicable if used by amateurs. However, very good if you like attack people from behind, as is the Slytherins’ tendency.”
“Yeah, those cowardly bast-“
“Don’t criticize a technique before you truly understand it. That method of dueling has the highest efficiency rate. You conceal your presence, and attack them when they aren’t looking,” Ravenclaw said, still not opening his eyes. “Oldest trick in the book.”
“I guess…” Ron agreed.
“However, any wizard who can properly defend themselves can detect the murderous intent involved in creating that spell beforehand, even if it’s only a fraction of a second- and will realize that someone is sneaking up on them. That way of dispatching an opponent was usually used on lesser wizards. When facing an opponent close to or better than your own ability, that method will have a far lesser chance of being successful. The killing curse is an opportunistic method of dispatching an enemy, nothing more, nothing less. Anyway, back on topic- I think you’ll like this…” Randalf smiled, his eyes still closed.
The dirt around Ravenclaw began to twitch, then jump as if there was miniature earthquake beneath his area of personal space. The white shirt he wore faded away, and revealed a pale, aged torso fitting for a fifty year old man, even though Ravenclaw was the same age as the headmaster. But as Ron looked closely, there was the tattoed head of a large bird covering his left shoulder and chest, the elaborate body art expanding backwards over his collarbone and covering a large portion of his back. “Listen closely. This spell will be your ultimate objective, and the sign that you have reached an accomplished level of the art of Sansferi,” Ravenclaw said calmly as he sat there on the forest floor.
“What is this?” Ron asked, as the very forest around him came alive with magic.
“Our opponents, (if it comes down to a battle, mind you) are extremely powerful. We will need to cross the gap in raw ability.” Randalf said, his facial expression hardening. Ron squinted at him. Did the tattoo just blink? The air suddenly became very heavy, and small leaves and tiny rocks began to fall upwards into the sky. Ron took a few steps back, feeling an incredible surge of magic encompass the clearing. Birds flew off from the nearby trees as they too sensed that something very important was happening.
“Harry Potter can summon two mythical beings- the Serpent of Slytherin himself, Shalingini; and the fabled Omen of Death- the Grim. Both of these beings are extremely powerful servants of the Dark Arts. Draco Malfoy controls the magical element of Fire, as you already know. He should not be underestimated. Henceforth, we will also need a trump card to even the odds. That is why I am here.”
Randalf Ravenclaw brought his hands together, and began his incantation.
“From the depths of the Tenth tier of Magicke, through the era of the Ten centuries of Drought to the year of eternal fruit, the call of the Raven will be heard- From blood to blood… grant me the sight beyond sight- and strength beyond strength-“ Ravenclaw’s eyes snapped open, a deep purple fire blazing in eyes. “Dexa Ramnifera !”
With him in the epicentre, a ten-sided figure etched itself into the soil, the magical lines glowing purple with an icy cold fire. Ron immediately jumped out of the eerily flaming Decagram.
“GRIFFYNDO PATRONUM !” Ravenclaw bellowed, his voice echoing throughout the forest.
For a moment, Ron thought nothing was happening. Suddenly, a huge shadow blocked out all the sunlight, accompanied by a huge crashing noise. So abrupt was the tremendous noise Ron jumped a foot of the ground. Feeling that something very big had just appeared he looked up, and then wished he didn’t. There was the huge beak of a gigantic black eagle pointing down at the both of them, the head taking up the entire window the clearing made to the sky. Six feet foot long talons were visible through the huge trees it sat perched upon, bending the centuries old fifty-feet tall oaks and mahogany as if they were nothing but young saplings. In a peculiar birdlike habit, the eyes flicked in between Randalf and Ron, it’s beak clicking together in sharp movements.
“[ …good afternoon…]” a surprisingly gentle feminine voice greeted. “[…randalf, who is this…?] “
“ Sansa Ferri- meet Ronald Weasley. Hopefully, you’ll be getting to know each other quite well. He’s my chosen apprentice,” Randalf explained. The huge eagle studied Ron, who was halfway hidden behind a tree, peering fearfully at the huge magical creature.
“[… randy, are you mad …he’s a gryffindor through and through…. it will be more fitting to show him how to summon leo instead…]” Sansa said disdainfully.
“You may not believe it, but he is the ‘Knight of the Order’ the old books speak about. And to think, they never even had a ‘Knight’ of anything at that time, far less something called the ‘Order of the Phoenix’. It all fits, Sansa-“
“[…you mean to tell me the era of Dark Ones…. the time has arrived…?]” Sansa said in mild surprise. “[…I take it you are not mistaken…]” Randy shook his head solemnly. In a very human gesture, the huge bird sighed. “[ …very well…come here boy… let me see you…]”
Ron looked at the intelligent eyes of the huge eagle and gulped. Squaring his shoulders, he stepped out into the clearing. Sansa peered at him for a moment, then amazingly agile and dexterous for a creature so large; she lowered her head into the clearing. Using her huge beak; she nipped off some of Ron’s hair. Ron nearly had a heart attack as he felt a few strands of his hear quickly pulled out of his scalp. The eagle clipped it between the razor sharp edges of her beak, tasting and testing. As she did so, her huge eyes narrowed in recognition.
“[…pardon me sir ronald…you really are one of the two heroes the seers heralded about… my rudeness earlier was unacceptable…please forgive me…]”
Randalf smiled grimly. “That’s more like it. So you will accept him once he has gone through the trials?”
“[…if he matures the magic potential he harness…of course, …but what about the heir of gryffindor … ]
“I fear he is dead. Neville Longbottom has fallen in battle. This would not be as straightforward as foretold.” Sansa frowned at Randalf, as if emphasizing her earlier statement that he had gone mad. She began to argue.
“[…nonsense!… there will be two champions of the light….and there will be the two dark sons of magic… that is how it will be…and no other way…]” Sansa retorted in that wise female voice. […there needs to be balance…]”
“I know, however, another champion has emerged, and only now do we see that there is yet another twist. I have in my possession the most recent prophecy, one from this century to be precise- the most up to date we’ve heard yet.”
“[… pray, do tell…]”
Randalf told her of the prophecy given to him since in his teenage years. After he was finished explaining how Gryffindor’s heir; Solidus, came into the picture, he continued on. “A muggleborn wields the Halo of Life. Her name is Hermione Granger, and she is the deciding factor.”
“[… as you well now, it is not possible for me to laugh like you mortals do…but your statement makes my feathers rustle in amusement… a muggleborn wielding one of the legendary artifacts…?]”
“No funnier than a Gryffindor summoning the Patron God of all birds- a trait held only by those of Ravenclaw heritage….” Randalf mused.
“[…touché…]” Sansa conceded.
“And another thing- one of the dark sons, Harry Potter, has Shalingini-“ Ravenclaw stated, but was abruptly cut off by Sansa.
“[…am I supposed to be frightened…? ….shalingini knows not to challenge me…]” she said indignantly, feeling insulted.
“- And can also summon the Grim,” Randalf finished. At this, Sansa abruptly shut her beak. She remained quiet, lost in contemplation for a few seconds.
“[…that being doesn’t exist… 'tis only a children’s tale passed from generation to generation…]” she said flatly, denying such a ridiculous statement.
“It does,” Ron said solemnly. “I saw it, twice. At first, I thought it was an Animagus named Sirius Black, but recently I found out the truth. It exists, trust me.” Sansa studied Ron, and instinctively knew he was not lying.
“[…well, we have a slight problem…]” Sansa chirped.
“[…we will need the Archangel to aid us in battle... powerful I may be, however, I cannot stop death incarnate….]” Sansa said simply. Randalf smiled.
“Don’t worry, our trump card in this game has that covered. Young miss Granger is the first fully fledged Divine Summoner since Florence Nightingale. In fact, at age eighteen, she’s quite the magical prodigy and already is revered as the next great witch of this generation. It is our hope that she will succeed in exorcising young Potter.”
“[…indeed?…I must meet this extraordinary young woman…very well ravenclaw…I expect you to be efficient… this young man still has a lot of work to do…]” Sansa said wisely. “[ …your magic is shaky, randy…too much of peace has weakened you…not even fifteen minutes and already I must make my leave…farewell young knight…when next we meet… you will be ready for your mission…]
Straightening her neck, the Bird God Sansa Ferri took off in a huge gust of flapping wings. When the dust had settled, Ravenclaw grabbed his cloak and re-materialized his shirt.
“You’ll need to summon her at will to complete your training. Until then, you are bound by magic not to tell a soul about this. Let’s head back,” Ravenclaw said, his voice faint and his face showing the signs of age. “I’m tired. These old bones don’t work as they used to,” he laughed, donning his shirt and robe. Ron walked a few paces behind him, inspecting his wand, wondering how the hell was he supposed to summon something so powerful. Even though he had doubts, he knew he wouldn’t give up so easily.
I’ll definitely get stronger, Harry- just you wait.
The door to the pub opened, and a lone figure stood in the doorway, his cloak covered with snow. The bartender froze, his pallid skin tone and androgenous features of his face clearly indicating that he was caught by surprise. The low hum of murmuring voices came to a standstill as the patrons slowly laid down their mugs, looking intently at this stranger. Some of the more… daring individuals had already begun their distinctive transformation of their canines.
The robed figure threw back his hood, and glared at the full den of vampires haughtily.
“Greetings. I am Draco Malfoy. I have come to offer you a proposition. Who amongst you will speak on the behalf of your kind?”
The whole atmosphere tensed as more and more of the vampires shifted in their seats, some opening their mouths in a blatant display of animosity. Some of them were about to rise from their seats, ready to pounce, when a soft, almost feminine voice spoke up, the command in his voice recognizable at once.
“Wait, my brethren.”
There were a few turning of heads in mild annoyance, but for the most part, all the vampires present settled back down grudgingly. Draco tried to discern who was the owner of that voice. After scanning the crowd, he found him, the lone man sitting at the end of the bar, still staring down into his mug. He was the only one who did not move since Draco made his announcement. The young wizard focused his attention on him.
“Will you be their spokesperson?” Draco asked.
“Well, kindly introduce yourself.”
The man got up from the stool, eyeing Draco coldly. He was of slight build, and medium height, his jet-black hair curling at the line of his jaw. Dressed casually in a tweed jacket and leather coat, he did not appear to be anybody of significant importance until you looked into his eyes. The pupils of his eyes were a fathomless black, and Draco could already feel the hypnotic effects pulling at him.
“I am the vampire Rechaux Lestat. And you, my good sir, do not value your life.”
Draco grinned, his eyes twinkling. He thought Lestat would have been more, well, impressive- in a way. Oh well. Life was full of disappointments. “Do you consider yourself their representative? I would like to speak of- “ Draco paused- “ important matters with you.”
“Oh really?” Lestat said, his tone soft.
“Is there somewhere private we may speak?” Draco said cordially.
“If it is privacy you want, we can grant it to you. You can have all the solitude you want in your grave. Kill him.” Lestat ordered, and the whole pub of vampires pounced, ready for the kill. Malfoy smiled, igniting both hands in fire.
“Very well,” Draco sighed, his eyes coming alive. “Have it your way.”
Four minutes later, Malfoy was walking through the smoldering ruins of the mountainside pub, searching for the one he left alive. Making his way over numerous corpses and ashen pieces of wood in the unforgiving snow, he continued his search for a particular individual. Finding him laying face down on top of another corpse, he grinned. Using his boot, he rolled the half-alive body of Rechaux Lestat unto his back. The vampire was severely burned, but Malfoy had made sure that his injuries were not of the fatal kind. He was breathing, but just barely. No matter- vampires were tough. Once they had an ounce of life in them, they’ll recuperate to full health in a few weeks. Grabbing the front of his overcoat he hauled him up so that he could talk directly in his face.
“What… are you?” Lestat breathed, his eyelids burnt so badly he could not open them further than just a fraction.
“You may address me as Lord Malfoy, Mr. Lestat. The reason for my presence here still holds.” Draco looked around at the carnage around him, the smell of burning flesh and wood raking his nostrils. He smiled scornfully. “As you are the only one alive, I assume you will be the one to speak on their behalf once more.”
“Return to whatever hell you came out from-“ Lestat whispered, turning away his face. “And don’t come back,” he added, his limbs hanging limply at his sides.
“I see.” Malfoy reached into his pocket, and retrieved an artist’s rendition of a young girl, probably eight or nine years. “Quite a lovely home you have. Your daughter is quite beautiful. It will be a shame….” The vampire turned his horror struck face towards Draco. Lestat eyed the framed photograph, then back at his tormentor's unlined face.
“What- have you done to her?”
“Nothing.” Draco smiled. “As yet.”
“What do you want from me?”
“Kiss the ring on my finger, and swear allegiance to me.” Lestat eyes flickered shiftily. This man does not have even a scratch on him. What sort of being is he?
“Will my daughter be spared?” Lestat said, his voice conceding defeat.
“That decision will be entirely up to you,” Draco responded. Letting his grip of Lestat go, Draco stood back, awaiting the vampire’s response. After an intense inner struggle, Lestat bent on one knee and brushed his lips against the ring on Draco’s hand.
“Lord Malfoy,” Lestat acknowledged. “I recognize your strength. But let this be a warning- my kind will remember this day.”
“As they should,” Draco agreed. “Now, tell me what you know of a man you once associated with in Azkaban. A man named Rodulphus Lestrange. I am quite interested in this person.”
“You speak of the one that bends reality to suit his own mind? We do not have dealings with such a demented individual,” Lestat shot back.
“Yet, you will still tell me where he is, or has your daughter become suddenly expendable to you?” Draco said softly, clasping his hands behind his back. Lestat bristled.
“Your ways are frighteningly similar to the one who rose to power two decades ago," Lestat said disdainfully. "Very well, I will send our trackers to find him.”
“Excellent,” Draco responded. “I will be back in a month’s time, and I expect results. Your daughter has my signature on her palm. It will tell me exactly where she is, and how she is feeling, all the time. If in a month’s time I do not have the information, know that I will be displeased.” Drawing a symbol with his finger on Lestat’s right forearm, the seal of the Infernus was branded unto the vampire’s skin. “Enjoy the rest of your day,” Draco said politely. Turning his back on the vampire, he made his way down the steep mountain path disappeared in the thick snow.
That very same night, Harry secretly stole his way into Hogsmeade, a black scarf wrapped completely around his face. He was wearing regular wizard’s robes, his hood covering his thick black hair. Not even risking leaving a magical trial behind, he had rented a motorbike and driven to the town’s outskirts, making sure that no one saw him enter. He had told Hermione to use his cloak to sneak out and meet him at eleven o’clock that night at the Lizard Wizard. He just hoped that she got his owl post in time.
Taking a seat in the furthest table from the door, he motioned the bartender for a firewhiskey. He hated this drink, but did not want to order something untoward to attract attention. The bartender nodded, and pointed his wand at the glass three quarter way full of the smoking liquid. The drink materialized soundlessly on Harry’s table, and Harry wrapped his fingers around it, staring into the amber liquid.
He checked the time. It read fifteen minutes to elev-
Harry jumped. Staring directly in front of him, he saw nothing. Now he knew that he was really going mad.
“It’s me,” the voice said again. Harry relaxed, apparently staring into open space. Now he knew how that felt like. She was sitting right in front of him, and he didn’t know a thing. Her Occlumens ability has gotten even better, he remarked to himself. “Do you think we can talk here?” she whispered.
Harry shook his head slightly. Taking a small sip of his drink, he took out the fare and left it on the table. Getting up casually, he walked out of the door, instinctively knowing that Hermione was following him. When they were a respectable distance down the road, Hermione began to remove the cloak, but Harry stopped her.
“No. Keep it on until I say,” Harry said softly, not even turning to look in her direction.
“I want absolutely no one to spot you- I sense that there are wizards nearby, and if I could sense them, they can sense us. I rather someone just sees a lone stranger walking than a couple, even if they’re only mildly curious,” Harry explained softly, even though he was very worried. Every time they got together something bad happened. And now that she was on a black market list for her services, some unlucky bloke may even try and kidnap her.
And he knew what eventually happened to any idiot who dared to try cross his path.
Right now, he wanted no reason to have to lose his temper in a fight. Therefore, total anonymity was the best choice as a precaution.
“So, where are we going?”
“I need to talk to you, and I think the best place right now is by the rock overlooking the Hogsmeade lake, you know, the place we went to last year.”
“Oh,” Hermione stated, her footsteps crunching softly on the cobblestones. After a minute of silence, Hermione simply stepped closer, and took his hand in hers. By doing so, she felt his magical ability literally screaming at her, so volatile was his control over his potential. The last time they saw each other, he was dead on his feet, yet he managed to lead the aurors to victory. Now that he was fully recuperated, she could feel magic seeping from him in waves.
And that scared her.
Before, she thought Randalf and Dumbledore were exaggerating on the dark potential Harry and Malfoy had. Now that her eys were opened, she knew they were right. If she couldn’t save him, who knows what may happen in the future?
“You can take it off now,” Harry said as they entered the little wood leading to the lake. Hermione took off his invisibility cloak, and Harry looked at her closely. She wore a plain black sweater and jeans, blending in seamless with the night. However, her face was more beautiful than ever. He wished he could just sit down and stare at her whole night.
“Harry- I was so happy when I got your mail. I understand why you told me to sneak out and keep it secret- you have enemies. I know that. But- we can still make time to see each other,” she offered.
“Er- I’ll try, Hermione. I’ve got a lot going on in the ministry, with Luna’s abduction and my cousin murdering three wizards. It’s just, I- I..” I can’t risk being close to you. I cant stand it. Why does this keep happening to me? To us?
“What? You what, Harry?” Hermione prodded.
“You know that spell you do, the one that sort of sends me back to square one, inhibits my magic, can you do it again? Except, like, a hundred times stronger?” Harry asked.
“You mean the Occlumency spell? What is it, are you having troubles sleeping with the nightmares again?”
“Yeah, sorta. That and I’m having ..well... daymares..” Harry said uncertainly.
“ ‘Day’mares?” Hermione repeated. She began to feel very nervous, because she knew what he was talking about, yet did not have the confidence to really tell him that his soul was in danger of being lost. She was too scared to tell herself that, in fact. All she knew was that she had to stop it, before the Order turned on one of their own. No matter what, she just couldn’t see anyone trying to attack Harry ‘for the greater good’. It just did not compute in her mind.
“I see myself- like...years into the future, and I have a huge scar on my face in the mirrors sometimes. Usually it would be just a flash or something, but now it talks back to me, and is..well..real… it can damage things in the real world, it could talk...well I can talk, well you know ‘I’ can talk, but not I, it’s me, in the future, talking back to me- but it’s not me, it’s not my future, it’s Solidus speaking, and I th-th-think I’m losing my mind.”
There was a stretch of silence for a few seconds, where Hermione’s eyes just searched his own. Harry’s eyes were haunting, there was something missing, something eh should have, but it was not there anymore. She didn’t know what to say. Instead she took him in her arms and hugged him.
“Oh Harry- I’m …here for you. Always will,” she said softly, burying her face into his robes. “We'll help you, I swear. I’ll make everything better.”
Potter, do not listen to her. She will only make you weak, and helpless. True strength comes from within, your own flesh, your own spirit. Cut loose these emotional ties, that path leads to misery.
Harry scrunched his eyes, and hugged her even more tightly. “Can you do it? Can you do the spell?”
Hermione knew about the spell he was referring to- the spell she used to seal his mind and nullify the effects of magical injuries, but she could not do that now. He was in perfect health. There was nothing to fix. Only something deep inside to destroy.
“Yes, I can, but I will need some time to prepare,” she said, bending the truth a bit. Her research on Siren’s curse was taking some more time. It was one of the hardest choices she would have to make, but according to the books she read- there were two ways to modify one’s soul. Either you split it and find a host, or basically extract it out- effectively killing the host, as the Dementors do.
However, there was a way. In the moment of true sexual exhilaration, the human soul is at it’s most vulnerable state. The sirens used that way to extract the highest soul density from their victims. If she could do something similar, except only take out Solidus’ presence from inside of Harry using her Divine Summoning ability, he may be saved. But she couldn’t risk it now, she needed to prepare herself properly.
If done wrong, Harry could well die in her arms.
“I know, I’m counting on you,” Harry said softly. He peered into her face, and kissed her softly on the lips. His eyes held hers, and he tried valiantly to hold back tears. His life was falling apart before his very eyes. How could he have allowed this to happen? She would no longer be safe. Her name was all over the Daily Prophet. Threatening letters were intercepted by secretive ministry wards placed at the owlery, on behalf on Madame Diggory herself. They did not want her to realize the sort of danger she was in, not as yet.
Thinking back on it, he weighed the choice he took. Was Rebecca’s condition worth risking the lives of a civilian student- his girlfriend for? Was there no other way than to take her into London even though he knew that there was a leak in the ministry? Did he really believe he was strong enough to protect her no matter what happened?
But you are, young Potter. You are…but if you try to stop me...she will eventually die..
“SHUT UP!” Harry screamed suddenly, Hermione jumping back from him in shock.
“Harry? What is it?”
“I- I…don’t know,” he panted, rubbing the corners of his eyes with this thumb and forefinger. When he reopened them, his eyes were now slightly glowing blue.
“Don’t worry about me. I just have a slight headache. I’ll just go get a potion whipped up. I’m fine.”
“No, you’re not,” Hermione reprimanded.
“Did you hear me, woman? I said I am fine,” Harry said quietly, peering down at her.
“Harry..?” she ventured. “Maybe we should go to the professor, come on, he’ll help you,” she offered, reaching her hand out towards him-
Hermione! Stay back! Get away from here!
“Don’t touch me, I know what you are!” Harry retorted, bracing himself further away from her. “Begone, woman,” he said, and pulled out his wand, pointing it at her.
Don’t you dare hurt her!
There was a slight uncertainty in his eyes, then Harry awkwardly fell unto his hands and knees, panting heavily. Hermione immediately bent to make sure he was okay. He was sweating profusely, even though a second ago he was perfectly dry. As sweat dripped off his nose, Harry formed a fist into the loose soil under his palm. Not again! And not when he was around her! That was too close...way too close…
“I..” Harry puffed, trying to catch back his breath. “I have to get away from here…” he wheezed, turning over flat on his back. He gripped the center of his chest painfully, squeezing over his heart. The pain came on like direct adrenaline shots to his heart, making it beat faster and faster. “Hermione!” he looked desperately towards her. “G-get back..” He needed…he needed…
His eyes began to glow, and the last thing Hermione knew was the sound of trees nearby vaporizing into dust.
“She’s awake, professor,” came Madame Pompfrey’s voice. Hermione’s eyes fluttered opened, instantly recognizing the familiar setting of Hogwarts hospital wing.
“Huh? What happened?” Hermione shot up in bed, her pupils wide with adrenaline.
“I’ll leave you two alone,” Madame Pompfrey said as she left.
“Miss Granger, are you feeling all right?” Dumbledore asked solemnly.
“Did Randalf not warn you explicitly to stay away from him?” Dumbledore cut her off abruptly, a fierce look in his eyes.
“Here, come look at this-“ Dumbledore ordered, motioning towards the window. Hermione got out of bed, and took the little telescope from Dumbledore’s hand. “Look there, behind Hogsmeade…what do you see?”
“I see the lake-“ she froze. Oh no…
“And what else do you see?” Dumbledore asked.
“Nothing,” Hermione whispered.
“And do you know why you can only see the lake and nothing else?” Dumbledore questioned her, his tone very angry. Hermione knew the reason, but stayed mute. “Harry has inadvertently destroyed the entire wood, including three lakeside lodges using an uncontrolled Reducto Ultima blast. Luckily, there was no one inside of the dwellings at the time.” He rounded on her, locking her eyes with his. “You are extremely fortunate, Hermione. If he had not somehow protected you at the final moment, all would have been lost!”
“I- I- I’m so sorry!” she sobbed. Dumbledore turned away from her, his anger radiating in waves.
“At this stage, ‘being sorry’ is not enough. You are too valuable to be taking such foolish chances. If things had turned out differently, we would have no chance of saving Harry, and would need to find other means of stopping Solidus from possessing one of the most powerful wizards of our time. I will say this again- you are not to see him until you are ready! Do you understand me?”
“Yes sir,” Hermione said softly.
“Very well. I trust you do comprehend that this is not a game. Many future lives hang in the balance. Do not forget that.” And with those final words, Dumbledore strode out of the hospital wing, leaving Hermione to shed her tears alone.
Author’s note: To you H/hr shippers who feel that I’m treating them unfairly, I‘m just reminding you that this is more of an epic, and not just another romance. There’s a method to the mayhem, er sorta. (just kidding, I know what I’m doing!) Lol! Anyway, thanks for reading, and stay tuned for the next chapter!
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