The morning sunlight flooded the lounge, bathing Camille in warm light. She was staring out the window counting down the minutes until she had to wake Dumbledore.
A door slamming and two voices echoing down the hall interrupted her counting. She quickly left the lounge and made her way down the cooler hall towards the voices.
“She wasn’t zere. Something must ‘ave ‘appened,” Camille heard her mistress say. She stopped just outside the entrance hall.
“You didn’t take Hermione from her house, did you.” Dumbledore’s voice rang through the manor. It wasn’t a question.
Aria sighed, but didn’t respond. “Is she well enough to be transported?” she asked instead.
Dumbledore’s back faced Camille so she couldn’t see if he reacted to her mistress’s dismissal of his question. But he didn’t answer her right away. “If she is still under the sleep potion, I believe that it may be safe. But I would not move her for some hours yet.”
“Only a few more ‘ours, Dumbledore,” Aria said. “I do not know ‘ow much longer zis manor can protect ‘er.”
Ginny had fallen asleep in her brother’s arms at nearly four in the morning; Ron soon followed resting his head on her shoulders. Harry, on the other hand, hadn’t slept a bit.
He lay on his back, staring up at the blank ceiling. Memories from the last six years of his life played out in his mind. The white ceiling played the part of backdrop to the numerous scenes of his life at Hogwarts with Hermione. Fun, laughter, lazy days by the lake, studying in the library…so many moments of friendship. There were also many, many scenes of danger. Each one, though, always displayed Hermione as the smart, loyal, caring girl that she was.
She always worried about him and continuously told him that he should be careful. Yet she always managed to get her self in just as bad a shape or worse than he whenever she followed him into another crazy adventure: the scar she carries because of the curse a Death Eater threw at her in the Department of Mysteries, becoming petrified, and getting beat up by the Whomping Willow trying to save Ron in third year. But she was always there for him… always. Never wavering, never faltering.
Like last year.
…last year she had followed him to the very jaws of death. Last year she had saved his life at great risk to her own. Last year she had saved him from Voldemort.
“You are mine, Potter. No wand, no Dumbledore, no parents, nothing to protect you,” Voldemort sneered. Harry stood frozen. His wand was so close and yet so far from him. There was no way for him to get it. If only Dumbledore would show up.
Harry looked over to his friends. They were trapped as well. Their wands taken away, and cornered by six Death Eaters, all they could do was watch in horror. Harry reaffixed his eyes on the Dark Lord.
“Tell your little friends goodbye Potter,” Voldemort said, a smile starting to creep across his tight face. He raised his wand and Harry closed his eyes to brace for death.
“NO!” someone screamed.
Suddenly he felt someone plow into him as he heard Voldemort utter the killing cures. He hit the hard ground and his head began to spin. The person was still on top of him, shielding him.
“Get off of him you stupid Mudblood!” Voldemort screamed. Hermione! She didn’t move. She didn’t have to; as soon as the words had left Voldemort’s lips Harry could hear Death Eaters start to yell in surprise.
He raised his head out of the ground, straining to see what was going on, but Hermione’s bushy hair was in the way. All he could see were the feet of cloaked figures running around attacking fleeing Death Eaters.
A loud crack told him that Voldemort had escaped.
“Harry,” he heard Hermione whisper. “Harry, are you all right?” Her words weren’t registering. All he could think about were the new cloaked figures that were now attacking the Death Eaters.
“Who are those people?” he whispered to her. He could feel her weight shifting so she could look around more. It gave him the chance to do the same.
“I don’t know, Harry. But whoever they are, we are in their debt,” she answered. The cloaked people were everywhere. It seemed as though more and more of them were appearing at every moment. But who were they?
“What are they doing?” Harry asked. There was a pause, and then he felt Hermione roll off of him.
“Sorry,” she whispered. He finally looked over to his friend who saved him. There were tears mixed with the blood that was stained on her cheeks. She wasn’t looking at him; instead she was clutching the ground, her eyes darting from one place to another, watching their unknown saviors.
Harry couldn’t take his eyes off of her. She had saved his life. She had put his life above her own and got him out of the way. He owed her his life. He scooted himself across the cold ground and put his arm around her waist. Together they watched the scene unfolding before them.
Only a few minutes later Ron had joined them on the ground to watch the Death Eaters get stunned and dragged off into the night.
That night was a very strange night. It wasn’t until Dumbledore and some of the other Order members had showed up that he, Hermione and Ron left the cold ground. The only thing that Dumbledore had said to them that night was to tell them that it was safe, and to ask if they were all right. Neither he, Hermione nor Ron had said anything. They had only nodded and followed Dumbledore to a portkey.
Harry owed her his life, and just when it was in danger, he couldn’t do anything to save her. All he could do was sit and wait.
This was unacceptable. He could not just sit by and do nothing. There had to be a way to help.
He looked at his sleeping friends. There were still remnants of tears on both of their faces. They might be able to sleep, but Harry knew that he wouldn’t be able to sleep until Hermione was safe.
He looked at his watch; it was almost six in the morning, and he hadn’t heard any stirring from down stairs. Maybe they are all asleep yet, Harry thought.
He tiptoed around the two sleeping forms of Ron and Ginny. He opened the door without a sound and slipped out into the dark, silent hall.
Dumbledore and Aria were hovering over the sleeping form of Hermione quietly debating whether or not it was safe to move the young witch.
“She is still too weak to move,” Dumbledore stated. This argument was getting old. Hermione could not be moved yet. She was still much too weak.
Aria shook her head. “Ze protection zat zis estate is giving ‘er is failing. She must leave. If she does not, ze Death Eaters will find ‘er.” He was beginning to frustrate her. She knew this manor better than he, and she knew that the Death Eaters were trying to get into her estate.
Dumbledore sighed in defeat. She was right. If the defenses of the estate failed, within minutes the grounds would be crawling with Death Eaters.
“We will take it slowly. This estate will protect her long enough to leave it’s boundaries by horseback, correct?” Dumbledore asked gazing at the sleeping girl.
“Oui,” Aria answered following his gaze to the girls face. It was not a peaceful face, as one would expect of a sleeping person. Instead, the girl’s brow was slightly furrowed as if in concentration. “If we are to move ‘er safely I would suggest now as a good time, Dumbledore.”
He nodded in agreement, and pulled the covers back from Hermione’s body.
“I will fetch ze ‘orses,” Aria said as she rose from the bedside.
As soon as Dumbledore heard her leave he took a hold of Hermione’s hand and murmured one last spell, “Hathané.” The result was one that was needed; yet it had a most unexpected occurrence.
Hermione’s brow relaxed and she seemed to fall into a much calmer, deeper, peaceful sleep. But something caught Dumbledore’s eye. Something had flashed brightly for only a moment. It was then that he noticed the chain of her necklace.
He moved the very top of her blouse to reveal the jet black pendent lying against her white skin.
Refocusing on getting her out of the manor, Dumbledore reached for a blanket and wrapped it around her. He picked her up and carried her through the wall to the entrance hall where he found Camille waiting for him. Fawkes was perched on the cloak rack gazing at the sleeping form of Hermione.
“Here my friend,” he said to the Phoenix as he handed it a small piece of parchment. “Take this to Minerva.” Fawkes gave a small squawk of understanding and vanished with a loud crack.
“Be careful, Dumbledore,” Camille told him as she handed him his cloak. “Mistress Aria has been acting strangely lately.” Dumbledore raised and eyebrow and nodded.
He found Aria waiting for him just beyond the stairs.
“Zese are my two swiftest stallions. We will make it in time if we go quickly.”
Dumbledore examined the stallion that was to carry him and the girl. There was something different about this horse. Very different. In fact, Aria’s horse was acting different as well. Both horses were gazing at Hermione, as if they knew her plight and saw something in her that the witch and wizard did not.
The palomino stallion slowly walked up to Dumbledore and nuzzled Hermione’s cheek. He looked at Aria for an explanation, but she was confused as well.
“I have never seen zis before.” Aria mounted her grey stallion and looked to the horizon. “We don’t have much time, Dumbledore,” she reminded him.
Dumbledore’s stallion knelt down on his front legs, offering an easier mount to the two magical humans. As soon as Dumbledore was seated, the horse stood and the two stallions began their trek across the grounds.
“Zere is somezing about zis girl, Dumbledore,” Aria said.
“There certainly is, Aria,” he agreed. Much more than any of us know.
Eight hooded figures were huddled in a circle. They were arguing.
“How could this have happened?” one of them asked angrily.
“She is much more powerful than we were told,” a tall one said.
“Much more indeed! And because of that my wife is dead!” the first one yelled.
“Hold your tongue, Lestrange! She died in the service of the Dark Lord, doing his bidding. Her sacrifice will not go un-rewarded,” the tall one told him.
“You only say that because it wasn’t your wife who died, Lucius. Bellatrix is dead because of that stupid mudblood. She will pay for this!” Lestrange spat.
“Indeed she will,” a deep raspy voice stated from the darkness. The eight Death Eaters spun around to meet the new comer.
“My lord!” Lucius announced surprised. The Death Eaters all lowered their heads in respect to the Dark Lord.
“Bellatrix’s death will not go unanswered. The mudblood will pay for what she has done.” Lestrange smirked at the remark. The Dark Lord noticed. “You think I am lying, Lestrange?” he asked menacingly.
“N-no, my lord,” the Death Eater stammered. “Never! I know that you will avenge Bella’s death.” A small smile crossed the Dark Lord’s face.
“I will indeed. The mudblood is in France under the protection of a powerful witch. But that protection is faltering. Soon it will fail, and we will have her,” he informed his followers.
“But my lord, there is rumor that Dumbledore is with her,” a young Death Eater said. The older Death Eaters turned to the boy. Voldemort’s red eyes reduced to slits as he glared at him.
“How dare you speak to the Dark Lord in that manner!” Lucius bellowed at him. The young Death Eater shrank as Lucius advanced on him with his wand outstretched.
“Leave him be, Lucius,” Voldemort commanded. Lucius stopped a foot from the boy and reluctantly relented. But he did not spare the boy a deathly glare.
The Dark Lord advanced on the newest Death Eater. “How did you hear this, boy?” he asked, his face mere inches from the boy’s.
“I just came from France, my lord. I had been sent there to search for the mudblood. Marede told me that she had just seen Dumbledore ride across the countryside,” he whispered as his body shook of fear.
“Then we will have to give the muggle lover a battle he will not forget, won’t we?” The boy nodded still shaking. The Dark Lord backed away from the young Death Eater and turned to his loyal servants. “Go to France. Find Dumbledore. If the girl is with him, kill him and bring her to me.” The Death Eaters nodded, and with a few loud cracks they were all gone, save Lucius.
“What is it Malfoy?”
“Do you truly think that they can defeat Dumbledore?”
Voldemort smirked. “Of course not, Malfoy. Their battle with Dumbledore is to test their loyalty to me. If they face him bravely, I will call them back. If they do not, then I will punish them.”
“And the girl?”
“We will deal with her later.” Lucius was about to protest, but Voldemort spoke. “The Seer spoke of my obtaining her. I will have the mudblood! How and when, is not of your concern.”
Harry made his way down the dark staircase of his Godfather’s house until he reached the main floor. The lights were out and there wasn’t even the sound of whispers between order members.
Strange, he thought. Normally Mrs. Weasley was downstairs with the other members discussing any new information that was received throughout the night. And wasn’t there normally a night watch set up?
Harry was taken out of his thoughts by the sound of a crackling fire. Why would you have a fire in the middle of summer? He followed the sound to the small lounge at the back of the house.
The door was slightly ajar, just enough for Harry to peak in. All he could see was a high back chair sitting in front of a small hearth.
He slowly pushed the door open a little more and stepped in.
He could see a person’s arm resting on the arm of the chair. The arm was cloaked in emerald green.
“Professor McGonagall?” She quickly glanced around the high back of the chair.
“Mr. Potter?” She stood. “What are you doing up?” There was no coldness in her voice, and her face was not in the usual stern appearance that she usually wore. Her tone was of concern and her eyes portrayed that as well.
“I couldn’t sleep, and I thought that perhaps someone might have heard something about Hermione.” It was strange to see his stern Transfiguration professor so soft. She gave him a weak smile.
“It seems as though we have something in common, Mr. Potter. I could not sleep either.”
“Oh.” Harry felt a little awkward. “I’m sorry if I disturbed you Professor,” he said. Harry turned to leave the room when he felt a hand on his shoulder.
“Albus is doing everything he can for her, Mr. Potter,” she told him. He had never heard her refer to Professor Dumbledore by his first name in front of a student before. “If any of us hear anything, I will tell you as soon as we know. And if I don’t, I am sure your friends will fill you in on anything they hear over those Extendable Ears of theirs.”
“Thank you, Professor. That means a lot.” Her smile grew a bit more. She took her hand from his shoulder and turned back to face the fire. Something about her smile made Harry stay in the room.
“You’re worried about Professor Dumbledore, aren’t you?” It came out before he could stop himself.
He heard her sigh. “Yes, I am. I am concerned about the position he is putting himself and Miss Granger in by going himself.” Harry thought of this for a moment. Then he heard Hermione’s voice.
Dumbledore is the most powerful wizard in the world, Harry. He’ll make it through. He always does.
“To be perfectly honest, Professor, Dumbledore is the only person I trust with Hermione. If it were anyone else, I wouldn’t just be sitting here, waiting, worrying; doing absolutely nothing…if it were anyone else…” He trailed off and returned his gaze to the fire. The sudden flame-up of the coals mimicked Harry’s sudden feeling of fury. He hated sitting in this dark, cold, miserable house. Harry had never been a person who sat around waiting for others to do the work.
Professor McGonagall did not respond to his statement. She touched his shoulder again, and Harry felt some of the tension and fury seep away.
A few more quiet moments passed before Harry broke the silence and asked a question that would take them off subject, if only slightly.
“Other than what Ritha told me, is there anything else that Dumbledore thinks might have happened to Hermione?” She sighed again.
“Sit down, Mr. Potter,” she told him motioning towards the other high back chair that faced her own. He sat in the plush brown chair; McGonagall did the same. Harry stared into the bright red coals as his professor took the time to assemble what she was about to say.
“The only facts I can tell you are ones you already know, Mr. Potter. So I don’t know what information you expect from me.” Harry tore his eyes from the coals to match with his professor.
“I’m sure that there are theories that the Order has come up with,” he said eagerly.
“There are many,” she agreed. “Most of them come from the American members who do not know Miss Granger or her parents. But there are a few that are plausible.”
“I myself do not understand much of what happened to Miss Granger. Professor Dumbledore is also very confused. His theories are the only ones I would ever trust, but he has hardly mentioned any thought of what might have happened. ” They sat there in silence for a few minutes until a crash was heard in the kitchen.
“It sounds as though Tonks has tried to get a head start on breakfast,” Professor McGonagall said. “I should probably go and keep her from burning down the manor.” She rose to leave, but she stopped when she got to the door. “Miss Granger will be safe, Mr. Potter. Professor Dumbledore will see to it.”
Harry leaned out of the chair to face the old professor. “Thank you, Professor.” The same small smile appeared on her face briefly to accompany the nod she gave him.
It was nice to know that there was a soft interior underneath the iron frame she wore.
“HEY HARRY!” someone yelled. Harry jumped out of the chair and ran through the doorway…right smack into Ron.
“What’s up, Ron?” Harry asked after getting over the initial dizziness caused by the impact of hitting the hard floor.
“Fawkes just showed up in the kitchen!” exclaimed Ron.
“What did the note say?”
“Dumbledore’s bringing Hermione here! Today!”
“When?” asked Harry, unable to believe what he was hearing.
“It didn’t say. All it said was that Hermione was well enough to be moved so he was bringing her today,” Ron answered. Harry couldn’t believe it. Hermione was truly going to be all right if Dumbledore was bringing her back so soon. He stared at his best friend. Ron’s face showed just as much excitement as his own.
“Let’s get some breakfast, mate. I’m starving, and maybe Fawkes will come back with more news,” Ron said as his stomach rumbled. Harry smiled in agreement and the two friends walked into the kitchen feeling, for the first time in a day, very happy.
Dumbledore and Aria were making good time. They had allowed the stallions to move into a light canter, and so far Hermione was fairing well.
“Do you zink zat we might be able to move into somezing a bit faster, Dumbledore?” Aria called out to him. “Ze protection is failing much faster zan I had originally thought.”
Dumbledore glanced down at Hermione. She looked to still be under the sleeping drought, and he didn’t sense anything to hinder the increase in speed. “I believe we may be safe with a faster canter.” His mare bolted forward as soon as he finished the sentence. But he was going much quicker than a fast canter.
“Dumbledore!” he heard Aria call to him. He heard her speed up and soon she was within his peripheral view.
“Christophe! Non! Arrête!” she yelled at the horse. She wasn’t listening to her. The stallion was still accelerating. Something was wrong. Dumbledore took his eyes off the horizon and glanced behind him.
They were being chased. The manor’s defenses had already fallen. Dumbledore released his hindering pull of the reins and allowed the stallion to run as fast as it could go.
“Albus what…?” Aria began.
“We are being chased. Four Death Eaters are behind us. We must go faster!” he answered. His mare was pulling ahead of Aria’s. The boundary was still too far off. He pulled his wand out and whispered an acceleration charm and the stallion responded immediately to the spell’s jolt of energy.
Dumbledore glanced down at Hermione. What little color she had before the trip was now gone. He strengthened his hold on her as she jostled harshly in the saddle. He placed a spare hand on her forehead.
The fever was returning. It was worse now than before.
Christophe jerked abruptly as a jet of green light whizzed past his head. Another barely missed Dumbledore. This was getting too dangerous. After muttering a quick binding spell to Hermione so she would not fall from the horse, Dumbledore twisted his body as far around as it could go.
He sent three well-aimed stunning spells at the chasing Death Eaters. He hit two of them squarely in the chest and one of the steeds, sending its rider hurling to the ground.
Aria was still falling behind. Her horse was becoming tired even with her constant energy boosts. She wasn’t paying attention to what was happening behind her. She never saw the Death Eater take aim for her.
The green jet of light left the Death Eater’s wand a fraction of a second before Dumbledore’s own hit the Death Eater in the chest.
“ARIA!” Dumbledore yelled. His stallion only sped up at the sound of his distress. Dumbledore watched in horror as the green killing curse struck Aria in the back. Her stallion stopped in the fright of feeling his mistress’s sudden loose grip of the reins.
Dumbledore pulled back on the reins with all of his strength. She finally slowed. Galloping back to the falling form of Aria, Dumbledore reached his friend in time to catch her.
“No,” he whispered as he held her limp body. She was dead. With cautious care Dumbledore dismounted from his stallion and slid her body down from her horse. He gently laid her down on the ground and turned his attention to the two tired stallions.
“Return to your manor,” he told them. Dumbledore released Hermione from the binding charm and laid her on the ground next to Aria. He took Aria’s cloak from her body and placed it on the saddle of her stallion, “Camille must see this cloak. She will know of her mistress’s fate and will know that I have taken her with me as well.” The horses bowed their heads in sad understanding and took off across the grounds with renewed speed.
Boundary or no boundary; if the Death Eaters were able to enter the estate he could get out of it. With one very loud crack, the three disappeared from France.
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