Harry was lying in his bed at Number Four Privet Drive. It was three in the morning, and the house was quiet except for the soft snoring that could be heard from his cousin. Harry’s window was open, inviting Hedwig, his owl, to come home when she was finished with her deliveries to Ron and Hermione.
This was Harry’s favorite time of the day. The early morning was the only time it was ever quiet at Number Four Privet Drive. His aunt and uncle Dursley were downstairs asleep and his cousin, Dudley, in the room next to his. When they were asleep, they couldn’t find fault with him.
Harry gazed through the open window. He would be seventeen in four days. Four miserable days. The Dursley’s, as usual, would completely ignore it. But Harry had his friends’ gifts to look forward to and the thought of leaving this godforsaken place on his seventeenth birthday gave him a small ounce of hope. His calendar had red x’s on every day of the summer so far. Four more open dates to go, then only a month more and he would start his last year at Hogwarts.
He rolled over and soon fell asleep, the comforting thoughts of leaving the Dursleys pushing away any would-be nightmares.
He awoke a few hours later to the sound of breaking glass, pans hitting the floor and shouts of "WATCH THAT GREASE!". Not knowing what had happened and not caring to be blamed for whatever mess had just been created, Harry took each step down the stairs slowly.
He opened the door to the kitchen to find his aunt Petunia whimpering and Dudley howling in pain. They were covered in hot, sticky grease; red welts were already popping up on their exposed skin. Two large frying pans were lying face down on Aunt Petunia’s otherwise pristine kitchen floor. Scrambled eggs and bacon littered the stove, floor and even the wall.
Uncle Vernon was cursing. Eyeing Harry’s jet-black hair poking behind the door, he scowled.
“Get in here, Boy!” he barked. Harry quickly complied. “Clean this up!” Harry found a rag and started to mop up the horrible mess.
It took him the rest of the morning and some of the afternoon to get every spot of grease out of the kitchen. Dudley shuffled back into the sitting room sometime into Harry’s cleaning job. He was covered in red welts that reminded Harry of the Chicken Pox. Dudley sat on the sofa whimpering as he watched television.
Uncle Vernon soon appeared guiding a very red and sore aunt Petunia into the living room. She squeezed next to Dudley on the sofa. As soon as she was seated, uncle Dursley rounded on Harry.
“I didn’t do it!” was Harry’s automatic response.
“Don’t be stupid, Boy,” Vernon spat. “Go up stairs to your room. Petunia doesn’t want to be bothered by the sight of you, so she won’t be bothered.” Harry happily went up stairs. He would have done anything to stay in his room all day. There he had his homework, Hedwig, all his wizard books, and his bed. He had been studying for is apparition test. Once he turned seventeen he was considered an adult in the wizard world and was allowed to do magic outside of school. He was also allowed to apparate; disappear and reappear in a different place. He was scheduled to take his test the day after his birthday. That was the day the Weasley’s were going to pick him up.
He couldn’t wait to see them again.
His thoughts were interrupted by Hedwig’s ruffled appearance coming through the window as he entered his room. His letter to Hermione was still clutched in her talons.
“Hedwig! Why didn’t you deliver this?” he asked confused. Her large brown eyes stared at him with fear. Not fear of him, but something else. She looked as though she had flown for her life.
He took the letter from her talons and opened her cage. She promptly hopped inside for a much needed drink. He soothed her trembling body with a few affectionate pets and then sat on his bed staring at the undelivered letter.
Why would Hedwig not deliver his letter? She never failed to deliver before, why now?
His stomach rumbled. He hadn’t had lunch or breakfast because of the grease mess. It was almost 4:30.
“I’ll eat something. I can always think better on a full stomach,” he thought aloud.
The doorbell rang just as he reached his door. He could hear Uncle Vernon cursing as he rumbled down the hall and opened the door.
There was silence.
Harry slowly opened the door to hear the conversation between the visitor and his uncle.
“I need to speak with Harry Potter,” said a stern female voice. Harry opened the door wide so not to miss a word. When a stranger came to this house and mentioned his name, it usually meant trouble.
“There is no one by that name here!” Uncle Vernon said furious that any human being would dare speak Harry’s name. He moved down the stairs a little to see what the woman looked like.
“Yes, there is,” he heard her say. He saw her step in. She was tall, and wearing normal muggle clothing. “There is an emergency that concerns his friend and his presence has been requested.”
Harry took one more step down the stairs…and it creaked. The woman and uncle Vernon’s head twisted to see where the noise came from. “I told you to stay upstairs!” Dursley roared. Harry ignored him and looked to the woman.
“You must get everything packed. You are to leave with me. There has been an attack,” Harry’s ears perked up at the word ‘attack.’ “Dumbledore has asked me to get you.”
“I will not have one of you Freaks invading my house! Now GET OUT!” Uncle Vernon yelled. The woman fixed her narrowed eyes on Uncle Vernon’s red face.
“Freak?” Her voice was low and menacing. She pulled out a long black wand. Uncle Vernon flattened himself against the wall. It was then that Harry noticed that his aunt and cousin had poked their burned faces around the corner to see who the visitor was. Aunt Petunia was trying to shove Dudley’s beady eyes out of view, in fear of some form of attack.
The woman turned her eyes back to Harry. “Get packed. Use magic. We don’t have time to dabble with anything the muggle way.” He lingered on the steps a bit more, scrutinising this strange woman who had come for him. Should he trust her? After all that had happend these past few years, could he really just run off with the first person who came to get him?
She seemed to sense his trepidation and answered his unasked question. "Don't forget Sirius' mirror." His eyes widened in surpirse at the mention of his mirror, but accepted her offered password and dashed up the stairs and into his room. He found his wand under his pillow, and after a few flicks with his wand everything was packed.
He turned to throw his trunk down the stairs but found his doorway filled with the figure of the woman. She flicked her wand twice and all of his Hogwarts things disappeared. “This way,” she said. He followed her down the stairs.
“Have a nice life,” he told the Dursley’s after he grabbed his jacket from the hall closet. He shut the door of Number 4 Privet Drive behind him, and didn’t look back.
A sleek black car sat in the Dursley’s driveway. The doors opened as the woman neared the driver’s side.
Harry still stood on the front stairs. Even after her 'password,' he felt suspicious of just entering her car and driving off to who knew where.
“Harry,” she called from her car. “I realize that this is strange and a little suspicious. But you have got to trust me.”
He hesitated, fingering his wand in his jacket, but soon joined her in the car. “Put your seat belt on,” she told him. “This is no muggle car.”
She defiantly wasn’t exaggerating. The car jerked backwards and screeched to a stop in the street. It then shot forward like a bullet down the street, faster than any car Harry had ever heard of.
Recovering from the sudden speed, Harry finally had the opportunity to ask his questions.
“Who are you?”
“I am Ritha Davison,” she said without taking her eyes from the road. “I'm an Auror from the United States.” That explains the accent, he mused.
“Where are we going?”
“You said earlier that something had happened to my friends, what happened?” Ritha took a longer than was comfortable for Harry to answer his question.
“I am going to have to ask you to stay calm about this. I will tell you all that I know, but I must say, is not going to be nearly as much as you will like.” He tried to brace himself for her continuation. Was it Ron? Hermione?
“Almost exactly a half an hour ago, two Death Eaters arrived at the Grangers house in Kent,” she began. Harry sucked in a shot of suddenly cold air.
“Hermione was not at home,” she continued. “A shopkeeper in London told us that he had seen her only minutes before the occurrence. Her parents died the moment they opened the door.”
“The rest of the details are rather sketchy. Even Dumbledore is unsure how the rest happened, so it is all speculation,” Harry braced himself for the worst. “Somehow she was able to get back to her house a few seconds later. She was confronted by her parents’ murderers: Bellatrix Lestrange and some other Death Eater that has yet to be identified.
“The state of the house proved there was a very large struggle. Lestrange was found near the kitchen, her neck broken. The other Death Eater was found in the sitting room.”
It took a few minutes for Ritha’s words to sink in. Hermione killed two Death Eaters? Hermione wasn’t a killer, someone else must have done it and taken her.
“How did the other Death Eater die?” Harry asked, still in a state of shock.
“Apparently his killing curse rebounded upon himself. There is no evidence that Hermione was hurt at all.”
“What do you mean there is no evidence?” A state of utter dread washed over him. “Isn’t Hermione with the Order?”
“No. She disappeared following the incident. No one knows where she is. Key contacts in your ministry and friends on the continent are looking for her.”
This was more than confusing. Hermione appears in front of her house after her parents are murdered. She kills two Death Eaters; then disappears. None of it made sense.
“No person should have been able to do what she did,” Ritha muttered, more to herself than Harry. “Her parents were murdered, only seconds later she appears in front of her house without apparating and then disappears without apparating either?” She sighed in frustration.
“She didn’t apparate?” he repeated.
She shook her head. “No. Ministry crews and Order members surveyed the house; the only apparation that was done was by the two Death Eaters. All we know is that she disappeared from the street in London, and appeared in front of her house in Kent.
“Not to mention the fact that she killed two Death Eaters with no wand. Lestrange’s neck was broken. And, the other Death Eater’s death is a mystery. There was nothing magical in the room with enough power to repel the killing curse. Yet somehow, it bounced off of something and killed the Death Eater.” Ritha’s face revealed as much confusion as Harry’s. Where could she have gone? Why would she leave her house? Nothing made any sense.
“So that is why Hedwig didn’t deliver my letter to Hermione,” he whispered. No wonder Hedwig looked so ragged. She must have seen the Death Eaters.
“I don’t mean to sound rude, Ms. Davis...”
“Please, Harry, no formalities. Just Ritha.”
“Alright…Ritha…I don’t mean to sound rude, but why did you come to pick me up? And why didn’t we just apparate?” She laughed softly.
“This is my car,” she said patting the front dash. “Remus believed it wouldn’t be safe to apparate in case Death Eaters were on the watch and my car is the safest alternative. This thing is so magically protected…well, let’s just say Death Eaters would have a hard time getting their slimy little hands on it.
“There is a catch to using my car, though, and that's me. It won’t run unless I drive it. And as you can see…” she waved her hand about, “this is a two seater, so no room for anyone else. I hope you aren’t too disappointed.”
“Of course, Moody did mention that the guard could pick you up by broom…”
“This is much better,” he said quickly, remembering the freezing cold trip to Number Twelve two years ago. She glanced at him through the corner of her eye and an amused smile touched her face.
They sped along in silence for the rest of the trip. Harry let his vision blur as he thought of Hermione alone somewhere. Lost, and probably confused. Agonizing over her dead parents.
Please be all right, Hermione. Please be all right.
Hermione was running through the forest. Her silk gown and cape flowed behind her. The vision of symbols, still glowing blue, was guiding her along the path. She had chosen her course, and now she had to reach its destination.
Suddenly the ring turned red. Hermione stopped. She could hear galloping hooves. Something was coming for her. She readied herself with her left hand resting on the hilt of the sword. But what came for her was no threat. A white horse came galloping around the bend to meet her. The ring of symbols became a comforting violet. It warmed her vision and she smiled.
Slowing, the horse walked up to her and nuzzled her cheek. Hermione was safe.
This was her next step in the journey down the path. The horse. She would find the horse.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Hermione awoke in a dimly lighted room. Her head was throbbing with pain. Where was she? She tried to lift her head up, but didn’t get very far. The room started to spin. She closed her eyes again.
“Where is she?” asked a male voice beyond her room
Hermione let her eyelids drift open. The voice was familiar.
“What are you talking about?” asked a French woman’s voice.
“Hermione Granger. She is here. I know she is,” the male voice said.
“Who is zis, Ermione Granger?” the French woman asked.
“Don’t play games with me, Camille,” said the man. “This is of the utmost urgency.”
“I do not know what you are talking about, Dumbledore. Zer is no one here apart from myself and ze other servants,” Camille tried to explain. There were a few moments of silence. Hermione tried to call out to Dumbledore, but her voice wouldn’t corporate. Her eyelids became heavier, they closed.
She fell into a deep sleep before she could hear anymore of the conversation.
“Has your mistress been here, Camille?” Dumbledore asked the housekeeper.
“She left over eight ‘ours ago. I have not seen her since.”
Dumbledore sighed with confusion. The last seven hours had proved to be most distressing. He knew that Hermione was somewhere in France. This was the only estate within fifty miles that was owned by a witch. And he knew that Hermione had not simply disappeared after her ordeal with the Death Eaters.
“Did she tell you where she was going?” he asked her.
“Non. She rarely does. She is the mistress of zis estate. She does not have to tell me everywhere she travels to,” Camille told him. Dumbledore’s eyes sparked.
“She doesn’t have to, but she does,” he said calmly. Camille was lying about something. But he could not just storm the house in search of the 17-year-old witch.
“Not zis time.” Camille gazed into his blue eyes. “I am telling you ze truth, Dumbledore. I have not seen my mistress since she left over eight hours ago, and I have ‘eard nothing of zis Ermione Granger. I will inform you immediately if I hear or see of anyzing else,” she promised him.
Dumbledore eyed her, “Very well Camille. When your mistress arrives please tell her that I am most anxious to speak with her.” Camille nodded in agreement. With a swish of his cloak he vanished.
“Why does no one ever believe me?” she asked herself out loud.
“Because you often lie, Camille,” said a voice behind her. Camille jumped at the sound of her mistress’s voice.
“Mistress! When did you get back?” she asked surprised.
“Only a few moments ago,” the woman said. “I need you to go to number twelve Grimmauld Place. Tell Dumbledore zat ‘Ermione is ‘ere and zat I will need ‘is ‘elp in saving ‘er.” Camille nodded and disappeared out the front door.
The mistress of the house turned and walked through the wall behind her. Dimming the light even more, she took off her cloak and set it on the small table.
She sat at the edge of the bed looking at the young witch lying in it, dreading the ordeal that was about to take place.
Harry and Ritha arrived and number twelve after six hours of driving in silence. Very sullen, he got out of the car and took a good long look at his godfather’s, Sirius Black, family house.
Sirius had died at the end of Harry’s fifth year, trying to save Harry from a band of Death Eaters in the Department of Mysteries at the Ministry of Magic. Ever since then, Harry has felt a great weight around him every time he entered the house.
Ritha had his luggage hovering in front of her. “Ready?” she asked him. He nodded. For all the reasons to come back to this place, waiting for news of Hermione was not one that he liked.
They entered the gloomy place to find Mr. and Mrs. Weasley waiting for them. Harry couldn’t help but smile at their loving faces.
“Oh, Harry, I hope your ride wasn’t too rough,” Mrs. Weasley said as she hugged him. It was common knowledge that Mrs. Molly Weasley disliked automobiles. Muggle or Magic.
“It was fine. Have you heard anything?” he asked anxiously. Ritha was right. What she knew wasn’t nearly enough to satisfy him.
“Nothing other than what Ritha probably told you,” Mr. Weasley said to his disappointment. “Your room is upstairs with Ron. You will be happy to know that the house is dark magic and creature free.” Mr. Weasley gave him a reassuring smile hoping to lift his spirit.
Harry smiled back at him. He heard footsteps running down the stairs, and he was eventually greeted with the sight of Ron, his sister, Ginny, and the twins, Fred and George.
“Hullo, Harry,” Ron said somewhat glumly.
Ginny gave him a warm sisterly hug. “I hope you had a good summer up until now,” she said as she pulled away. Harry nodded slightly.
“Come upstairs, Harry. We can show you some of our new items that we want to put in our shop,” George told him.
Harry followed his four friends upstairs.
“I’ll have a snack out in about an hour, dears,” Mrs. Weasley called after them.
As soon as the door was closed the Weasleys started telling him everything they knew through the overheard conversations between the adults.
Downstairs Ritha and the Weasley’s were talking with Remus Lupin. “I have never seen Dumbledore so confused in my life,” Lupin was telling them. “He has been desperately searching for Hermione everywhere. I just don’t understand it.”
“No one does Remus,” Mrs. Weasley said.
“How Hermione could have gotten from London to Kent without apparating is beyond me,” Mr. Weasley said. “From what I have seen from Dumbledore, he doesn’t either.” The four adults nodded.
“I find it amazing that he has been able to coordinate such a search party,” Ritha said. “I understand that what she did is strange and confusing, but why the urgency to find her. It is as if Dumbledore is determined to find her before the day is over.”
“With what she has done, and the present state of Voldemort’s power, we can’t let her fall into his hands. Whatever she did, however she did it, showed great power. We have to find her before Voldemort does,” Remus told her.
The front door opened and closed with a creak. They all turned to see who had arrived. Remus stood up in surprise.
“Dumbledore!” The remaining three stood to face the aging man.
“Did you find anything?” Mrs. Weasley asked in earnest. He only shook his head.
The door opened and closed again. A woman entered the hall. Dumbledore looked surprised.
“Camille! I take it you have news?” he asked her. She nodded her head.
“My mistress arrived shortly after you left, Dumbledore,” she told him. “She says zat she has Ermione and zat she will need your ‘elp to save ‘er.” Dumbledore turned to Lupin.
“Remus, send out word to Severus and Minerva. Tell them to get here as soon as possible. Arthur,” he looked to Mr. Weasley. “Go to the Ministry and tell our contacts that she has been found and is in friendly hands. Have them call off all searches.” He spoke next to Ritha, “Tell our counterparts in your country that she has been found. Thank them for their efforts. They are much appreciated. Molly, you may update your children and Harry.” The adults all nodded with affirmation and soon enough only Molly Weasley was left in the room.
She dashed to the bottom of the stairs, “Harry, Ron, Ginny, George, Fred, get down here!” She heard the five pairs of feet running down the hall to the top of the stairs.
“What is it mum? What happened?” Ron asked her as they all hurried down the stairs.
“Hermione has been found,” she said beaming.
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