"Harry!" Cho shrieked as she desperately tried to hold on to him. She glanced over shoulder to see the fiery depths below her, and her panic began to take over. Terror filled her dark eyes as she looked back up to Harry's tense face.
He struggled to pull her up, without losing his balance on the small tile. His shoulders and arms ached from the strain as he held on tightly.
"You need to help me Cho, try to put your foot on the stone. Help me pull you up." After several long strenuous moments Cho managed to swing her foot up to catch the edge of the stone. Her eyes locked with Harry's as he carefully balanced himself while pulling her the rest of the way up. When both feet were firmly planted on the small stone, he wrapped his arms around her. Both of them were panting and trembling, from the emotional as well as the physical strain that they had just endured.
After several moments, Harry murmured into her ear. "We have to keep going." Nodding in agreement, she turned around carefully to resume their original position., her back to Harry's front. She wordlessly pointed out the next letter, which was thankfully close to them. They stepped together.
The remaining few stones were crossed with relative ease. Within a few moments they were standing on a ledge that looked similar to the one they had started on, on the other side of the dreaded stones. An empty space with the exception of a flaming torch affixed to the wall next to a large old door. Harry looked at Cho questioningly; she pulled her wand out to the ready as Harry did the same. She nodded quickly, a sharp determined glint reflected in her ebony eyes. With a deep breath, Harry pulled the door open and he stepped through with Cho right behind him.
The heavy wooden and wrought iron door slammed shut behind them. The ominous sound echoed through out the cavern, which was much larger than the previous two. Tall stone pillars reached up to the ceiling 20 feet above. Harry instinctively pulled Cho behind him in a protective manner. Both of them had their wands at the ready while they looked around the huge dim cavern.
Suddenly the torches at the opposite side of the cave flared up and burned high. And from the solid rock wall, a figure emerged. The figure was clad in a long dark robe and hood that obscured their face from Harry and Cho's vision.
Harry quickly surveyed the room and saw nothing but a barren empty space. Not an ideal place for a fight. There was nothing to use for cover. It would be a true duel. The quickest and most accurate would win. However Harry had the advantage of having Cho with him. Having another person greatly helped his odds.
Yet, it could be a huge disadvantage, Harry knew he would be more concerned about protecting her than himself.
"Who are you?" Harry called out to the figure. A malevolent laugh rang out through the empty cave echoing off the solid rock.
"Still trying to be the hero, aren't you, Potter?" The last word was spit out with revulsion. "But only when it suits you! You have this façade that you show to the world. The poor little hero who does everything you can to save those around you. The real you has only been revealed to a select few. Those of us you have destroyed."
Harry's mind tried to place the voice but the acoustics of the cave made it impossible to figure it out. While trying to distinguish the voice he also tried to formulate a plan to apprehend this madman, without putting Cho into harms way.
"Destroyed? The only person I ever destroyed was Voldemort. Are you one of his followers?" Harry tried to keep him talking while he thought things through. Again the evil laugh echoed through out the cave."
"The only one? What about Quirrell, Diggory, Black, the list goes on and on. Potter, if only you had the brains that your little girlfriend here has. I bet she knows who I am."
Harry looked to Cho and could see by her pallid face and the tears shimmering in her eyes that she had in fact figured things out. He looked back to the dark cloaked man standing on the other side of the room.
"Let me tell you a little story Potter… During the epic war between the Dark Lord's army and that of the Order, there were many casualties. People were murdered, captured… some were even tortured. I fought by your side through many brutal battles and you led me to believe that I was a friend. … that I mattered. I was captured by the Death Eaters and I was tortured. I was tortured everyday, mercilessly for hours at a time. It was a risk that I knew that I would have to face if I was involved in battle. But you never deemed me worthy enough to rescue. I was a disposable pawn in your war." The dark figure reached up and pulled back the dark hood.
Michael Corner stared at Harry with a look of pure loathing. "Did you know that the dark side has come up with potions and spells that make the Cruciatus feel like a tickle? They tested each and every one of them out on me. Whenever I would lose consciousness they would give me another potion that would not only revive me but would leave me unable to pass out for hours. There was another potion that made the pain last for ages. The healers say that is a pain I will have to live with, there is no antidote for that one."
Harry staggered back in disbelief. "Michael?" He choked out. It felt as though someone has sucked all the air out of the room. He couldn't breath. Michael couldn't be the one behind it all. They were friends. "We tried to find you and Lavender. We looked everywhere we could think of, but the war was raging on around us. I never gave up looking though Michael. I thought you knew…"
"Shut up Potter! Do you think I haven't heard all of these lies before? I was forced to listen to your rubbish while I was 'recovering' in St Mungo's. You… you… you… that's all you ever think about isn't it? That's why Lavender is dead you pompous ass! She was the sweetest kindest woman who bravely faced the dangers of war because she believed in what you stood for. She was sure you would save us right up ‘til the end. She was wrong. You only saved us when it was convenient to you." Michael's blue eyes glared at Harry, his voice full of rage and hatred.
"You were in love with her weren't you?" Cho asked softly.
"I… yes… but she's gone and it’s his fault." Michaels’ wand flashed briefly, and with a bellow, a jet of green light shot towards Harry. His Auror trained instincts took over as he jumped and rolled out of the path of the curse. The blast hit the wall where Harry had been standing moments before; rocks and stones crumbled from the wall and ceiling. He quickly took aim and let his own curse loose on Corner. "Stupefy!"
The shimmering blue hex flew across the room, Corner jumped aside but not quick enough to avoid it all. The curse hit his left shoulder knocking backwards against the stone wall. He bounced back quickly, his eyes flashing with anger and frustration. "Avada Kedavra!" His voice shook with rage as the green light blasted towards Harry.
Harry's eyes widened as he dove out of the line of fire. Michael growled in frustration as Harry avoided the killing curse. He quickly aimed his wand and barked, "Crucio!"
Cho's screams of pain echoed throughout the cave. Her body dropped to the floor convulsing in agony. Harry's eyes flew to Cho's writhing body for a moment, then anger and rage made his blood boil. He raced across the cave and both men grunting as Harry's shoulder collided with Michael's stomach, the pair tumbling to the ground in a tangle of flying fists. Rolling on the hard ground, Michael pinned Harry to the ground and jammed his wand into Harry's throat.
"You are so pathetic, Potter!" Michael pushed his face right up to Harry's. Harry could feel his hot breath on his face.
"Why not just come after me? Why murder all those others?" Harry snarled.
"You stupid prat, what better way to hurt you? Each of those deaths was your fault. Just more people that you failed to save. Some hero you turned out to be. You were more worried about getting involved with that tramp again." He gestured towards Cho's motionless figure.
"But how did you get into Hogwarts to kill Abby? You would have been spotted by someone."
"Potter, how dimwitted can you be? You have been fooled with this one before! Triwizard Tournament. Mad Eye Moody?" Michael laughed derogatively.
"Polyjuice potion." Harry growled.
"That's right! My, you really are slow, aren't you? You probably wouldn't have gotten this far without the lovely Cho Chang leading you by the hand through each and every riddle. Merlin, it was sure lucky that she came along isn't it?" He laughed again. "You lot are a simple bunch to manipulate. All it took was a simple comment or two to Kingsley about getting Cho to look at the first riddle and he has her flooing back to England before the first body is cold."
"You wanted Cho here?" Harry asked in surprise.
"She dumped me because she wasn't over you, you arrogant ponce. Do you think I wouldn't want her to suffer as well? I never meant to kill her I just wanted her to get close to you again so she would endure the pain of losing you, but death will work just as…” Michael's body flew off to the left side as foot came out of no where and connected to the side of his head. A solid thud sounded and Harry looked up to see Cho standing over top of Michael with her foot jammed into the back of his neck.
"You miserable git! I didn't dump you because of Harry. I was just not in love with you. You did this to get at Harry? Destroy his reputation, ruin his life and then kill him? And you planned all the riddles and codes to get me involved just to hurt me?" Cho chuckled softly, "You are a sad, weak little man. And you are about to spend the rest of your miserable existence rotting in Azkaban. I hope it was worth it!"
"Incarcerous!" Thin, strong ropes flew out of the tip of Harry's wand and wound their way around Michael securing him. Harry then pulled out his enchanted mirror to contact Colin and Hannah, telling them to bring brooms to get past the cave with pit of flames. He turned to Cho and pulled her into his arms. She rested her head on his shoulder. Harry kept his eye on Michael over her head. Ten minutes later, Colin and Hannah arrived finding them still in the cozy embrace.
As Michael was apparated out accompanied by his former coworkers, Cho pulled back to look up at Harry.
"You know part of his plan did work, Harry." She spoke softly. He looked into her dark eyes. He lifted his hand to brush a stray lock of her cheek; tucking it behind her ear. Her voice was barely above a whisper, as though she was afraid to say it. "I am falling in love with you again."
Harry's hand lingered on her cheek. He lowered his face to hers, capturing her lips in a soft tender kiss. A kiss filled with passion and promise. He pulled back just slightly breaking the kiss.
"I knew I still loved you the moment you came back into my life." He smiled at her as he rested his forehead against hers. "You know, I have always wanted to visit Egypt." Smiling at her, he apparated them back to his office with her still safely tucked into his arms.
Through the dark dank air, he could barely make out the wall beside him where he had been carving little marks to count off the days he had been here. At least what he thought were the days he had been here. The days blended all together. Things in Azkaban had a way of melding together. The cell was a tiny room. The ceiling was so low that he had to duck his head when he stood up. A dirty mat and a threadbare blanket were in one corner of the room. In another corner was a filthy, smelly toilet that only flushed occasionally. There was a tiny window that was so filthy that it let in no light.
This was now his home.
All thanks to Potter. Michael sneered at the thought of Harry. He will pay and that little tramp too! His mind working over on his plan. His eyes shone with an evil gleam. It wouldn't be long before he exacted his revenge.