Fred felt a faint chill submerge itself into his bones. It was like liquid mercury running down some intricate gears till it got to the core of the crisis. For a moment, it felt like he had been immediately paralysed by those few words. Opening his eyes in shock, he knew he was looking at Lupin but his eyes were seeing nothing, nothing but the faint outline of Missy whimpering at the hands of a dark stranger.
How could he have her?
Fred shook his head in defiance. This couldn’t be happening, he had just been with her. Blinking his eyes to clear them from the haze, he tried to focus on Lupin; he couldn’t let this beast take the only woman who had ever counted on him. He had to do something, if only to get her back for his brother. See her safe again.
It just wasn’t right.
If someone had told him a few years ago that three simple words would be the end of him he would have scoffed in their face. But now, it felt as if the very breath his Mum had given him had been torn out of his lungs harshly, leaving him gasping for air. Finally focussing on Lupin’s sympathetic gaze, he almost felt ashamed for being so readable.
“She’s gone?” he whispered to himself, rubbing his shaking hand through his hair.
“Who’s gone Freddie?” Lee said, not comprehending the seriousness of the situation. Fred pointedly ignored Lee, who was now currently draped across the couch with one leg sticking out at an odd angle. Instead, Fred tried to clear his brain, for a moment he felt like he was the one who was pissed, and not Lee for the way his mind was muddled.
“What’s going to happen?” Fred asked. He was amazed at how level his voice was. It was creepily still, completely the opposite of what he was feeling inside. He wanted to scream, and yell, he wanted the blood of the man who would take her. His hands started to shake piteously as he thought of her in the hands of that man.
“We don’t know, we’re trying all we can do, but, well it’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack.”
“How- how’d it happen?” Fred asked, as time wore on he was finding it increasingly difficult to piece together a sentence.
“He must have come in the night and by the looks of things he hardly had to put up a fight.”
“Fuck,” Fred muttered. He didn’t know how else to respond to this other than to go tearing after that freak and ripping him to pieces. He finally, at this moment, understood Ron and that crazy maniacal desire to run, if only to try and settle things in his own mind.
For a few moments, no one said anything, but Lee, obviously getting annoyed at being ignored, jumped up, startling the two brooding men.
“What in Merlin’s underpants is going on?” He demanded, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. The sobering potion was taking longer than Fred expected but then Lee had always drunk too much.
Fred again ignored his friend, sat down, and heavily placed his head in his hands. He didn’t know what he could do, and least of all what he could do without alerting Ron of his feelings. Anything he could think of would just scream that he had a thing for Missy- Hermione and he knew that Ron would take great offence to it. She was his property, at least, according to Ron that is, and anyone treading on that would be trespassing.
“We know nothing?” Fred asked finally. Lupin nodded his head sadly.
“Not even a speck of dust that could tell us what that man is thinking.” At this news, Fred could nearly feel his blood hollow and his eyes grow vacant. It felt so wrong, so wrong that maybe he wouldn’t be able to do anything but sit back and watch this whole thing play out. If he was going to go on with what he planned and leave her to Ron, then that was the only option he had.
“Fred, I’m really sorry, if things could be differ-“
“Don’t even say it Lupin, if things were different Ron would still be dead.” Fred said through gritted teeth Lupin refrained from saying anything and instead put his hand on Fred’s shoulder in comfort.
“What- what do I do?” Even though Fred knew that helping could very well let Ron in on his little secret Fred knew he would never be able to just sit and watch the futile attempts of the Order.
“I think I’m beginning to understand Ron and why he took off the way he did. Sometimes when a person is at their wits’ end, it’s better to go out alone and catch their dream than having to wait for the ones around them to catch up.” Lupin said, giving Fred a meaningful look.
Fred was taken aback at the gleam in his old mentor’s eyes. “I will not be able to stop the Order from searching tomorrow, but tonight is looking clearer then ever, don’t you think?” With that, Lupin disappeared with a startling pop.
Lee sat up with confusion written across his face, but Fred let his head fall back to hit the cushiony couch and stared at the roof overhead. The flat was nearly empty and silent… too silent for having just heard the news. He hated times like these, hated them because they felt off the beam. Lee had taken the hint and was silently curled up by the wall, but he was watching Fred, maybe trying to make sure that whatever Fred was going to do, that it wasn’t going to be stupid. Fred didn’t blame him; at this rate, Fred almost didn’t trust himself. One small change after the other and well, it wasn’t something he wanted to admit but a Weasley twin was being overwhelmed.
He knew he should call up George or do something productive to keep his mind flowing instead of its current state, which was the vacant despair that was twisting its way through his brain. It was like a tie that was slowly getting tightened, pushing all his thoughts into one giant mess of a ball. He wasn’t able to decipher one from the other and even trying to made his head pulse with agony.
“Mate-?” Lee ventured questioningly. His worry was evident. Fred sucked in a deep breath. Lee was his best mate; he couldn’t keep him in the dark. Lee had been part of the Order once, still was, though he hardly acted it.
“Where would you go if you were a crazy maniac?” Fred asked. Lee had the courtesy not to look taken aback by the question.
“Depends on what this guy wants, everyone has a plan, it’s just a matter of uncovering it.”
Ron was pacing like a wild animal caged in a small chamber for too long. Anyone would be able to tell that he needed to be released. But he had promised Ginny he wouldn’t run off like last time, but doing nothing was his breaking point. His hands felt like they were everywhere yet nowhere all at once, if one could even achieve that.
Everyone in the house had by far silenced themselves for the night, each declaring that they needed a ready mind for the morning, but Ron needed to act now before he got any further away. It was as if they did not see the urgency of the situation, as if they didn’t comprehend that every second that he had her, the harder it would be for them to get her back. Well, they didn’t understand, but he knew. He was probably the only one who knew, who got the gravity of the situation and yet no one was listening to him. Not as clearly as they should anyhow, had he not helped Harry defeat You-Know-Who? Then shouldn’t they be paying attention when he said they act now or forever lose her? He knew.
Ron groaned out loud in annoyance. He didn’t want to be here, he had never meant to be seen by Fred either; he only wanted a glimpse of his brother, of his past. Obviously, that idea had turned sour and he was trapped within the clutch of his family’s suffocating grasp. If only right now he could be working by himself, he would probably be able to get her back. Then she would be back with him and everything would be as it should. That’s all he had to lean on now. Knowing that as soon as they were together everything would be just as it had been. He could settle back into that easy way of the past.
Finally sitting down to calm his nerves he shook his head unconsciously, trying to release his tight neck muscles. It was annoying that this whole thing landed on him again. Everyone else, even though they meant well, were a bunch of dunderheads it seemed. They weren’t acting and that bothered him immensely. It was mostly because of Lupin too, Lupin wanted them to wait the night out for- well only God would know why a werewolf did anything. Scratching his head lethargically, he leaned into the couch.
Feeling his eyes grow heavier Ron tried fighting his growing drowsiness. He wanted to be awake in case something happened. He wanted to be the first to know. He deserved to be the first to know.
“Well, what did she mean to him?” George asked as he was peering over a large piece of parchment. Fred had called George over, knowing that the more people they had to figure this out the better. Lupin had made a strange comment to him. It was as if he had expected Fred to go after her himself. Though as of now, he wasn’t sure why Lupin would say such a thing since he was always about a collaborative effort.
“Well, Ron said something about how this guy would do anything to get her back right?” Fred said. It was hard to calculate this man when they only just heard about him. “I’m assuming and I’m just going to go all out on this, she meant everything to him. If he would go to such great lengths to get her back, then she was the most important thing to him.” He hated saying this. Hated that she meant something to someone else, though it was hard to grasp that in such a twisted mind someone else could matter.
“So where would you take someone that meant everything to you?” George asked again. He was the kind of guy who would ask these questions, point out every angle that could be taken. Although he usually would be talking about products and their effects, not about the cynical mind of Death Eater.
“Somewhere he felt safe,” Lee said. “At least that’s where I would go. Somewhere I feel comfortable.” George started scribbling some notes on the parchment.
“So basically we’ve got that she means the world to him, he’s going to take her somewhere that he feels safe in, and he’s a loon.” George summarised with disappointment. “We only need to know where that safe house is.”
“Guys, let’s take a break, my mind is cracking,” Lee said stretching out his arms. Fred adamantly shook his head, but George was agreeing.
“Fred, you aren’t going to do her any good if you’re half asleep.” Fred started to protest but George cut him off. “Your eyes are bloodshot mate; it looks like you’re hammered.”
“I can’t, Lupin said something to me, something like he’d give me a head start. I think he wanted me to go get her, like I was the only one who could. He meant tonight.”
“So you’re going to do it then?” George asked with a gleam in his eyes.
“Figure out where she is, yes. I will get her back.”
“No, you’re fighting for her,”
Fred got quiet and looked uneasily around the room. He wasn’t fighting for her, he couldn’t. He hated this, hated that he had to watch everything he did so that he wasn’t discovered. He hated this feeling of helplessness too. It ate him up inside and made him feel like he was plunging head first into a dark tunnel, one in which there was no clear end.
“Can’t a guy do the right thing and let it simply be that?” George shook his head sadly.
“One day you’re going to see it Fred, one day you’ll see you’ve been lying to yourself this whole time.”
“Wow, I never thought I’d hear something so logical come out of the mouth of my big oaf of a brother.” All three boys turned to see a scruffy red head appear from the kitchen.
“Ginny, what are you doing here?” Fred sputtered, his face heating up. Ginny smirked at him and sank into one of the kitchen chairs alongside Lee.
“You didn’t think I’d let you have all the fun did you?” Ginny grinned and looked at the parchment. The three boys were speechless. Ginny looked up at their faces and giggled to herself. “One of my good friends came back from the grave; you didn’t think I’d actually be able to sleep?”
“Well, yeah.” Fred muttered stupidly. He wondered how much she had heard. He couldn’t handle if another one in the family knew. “How’d you know we’d be awake?” Ginny snorted as if it were obvious.
“Fred I don’t think you could get any more obvious with your intentions. I think I knew you had a thing for her that first night. I’m surprised Ron hasn’t caught on yet, but then he’s always been kind of slow.” Ginny grinned again. “I knew you’d still be awake for the same reasons that Ron was pacing in the living room like a caged animal.”
“But anyway, that’s hardly important. Let’s see where we are.” Ginny pulled the parchment closer to her and for the next few hours they sat around the table thrashing out ideas as to where he would take her.
Fred started sharing about what she remembered and the horror of it. As Fred reminisced about how scared she had looked in the Hospital, he noticed that Ginny looked sick as well just thinking about what her friend suffered.
The parchment was full of scribbles and theories crossed out. It looked like one giant puzzle that had no distinct picture to follow.
Lee let his face hit the table, surrounding him were cups of tea and crunched up pieces of useless parchment. It was starting into the wee hours of the morning and none of them had gotten a speck of sleep.
“Go to bed Lee,” Fred muttered. He didn’t feel as if they had gotten anywhere. It was a hopeless cause.
“No,” Lee muttered stubbornly. If Lee was anything, he was fiercely loyal to the ones he cared about and would almost go to the moon in order to help them. Fred didn’t argue the point as he took another sip of his tea. No one around the old rickety table was looking much better than a zombie, but that fierce determination was driving each of them on.
“What if… what if this guy was a true loon?” Fred said after a few minutes of thought. George gave Fred a funny look.
“Fred, we already know that he was.”
“No, like truly loony? What if through this whole thing he wasn’t thinking properly.”
“Where are you going with this mate? This man was brilliant, or so it seems anyhow.”
“But maybe in his drive to get her back, he lost it? Anyone, if they are focussed on one thing for so long, become obsessed. Okay, so just imagine this guy for a moment, she obviously was his favourite so he kept coming back, right? As time goes on his lust for her grows abnormally. It feels like he can’t survive without her and it seems as he puts his happiness on her. Then just imagine that strip of happiness being stolen from you, the only thing that you ever really felt as if it was yours is suddenly gone. You’re going to want it back, right? Maybe he wanted her back so bad that in his mad drive in finding her again made him stop thinking clearly.”
“Those are a lot of assumption to make; Death Eaters don’t feel like we do, do they?” Ginny said. “And how does that help us find her?”
“They still feel they still have every normal human capacity any normal person would have. They’re just sick.” Lee said savagely. “Following that maniac… bunch of idiots I say.” George let out a snort at Lee’s animosity.
“It helps, don’t you guys see? Where was the first place he met her?”
“We’re guessing the Headquarters, though we can’t be sure,” Ginny said, though she still couldn’t see where Fred was headed with this.
“Exactly, that was the only place that he felt safe with her. If he met her there, then there is nowhere else he would feel that comfort. Ever since that point, it’s been hectic for him. Somehow she didn’t die in the Death Eater purges after the war, somehow she survived. No one knows how though. Ron said that she had been with him since those purges right. So obviously this guy has been in hiding for five years. Probably running and hiding like Sirius did, but since those times in the Headquarters he never felt the same security. He couldn’t be with her the same way since he was constantly on the run.” Fred looked around at the group. He had never felt so certain of something in his life and for once, he felt like he was on to something.
“So you’re saying that he would have taken her back there. Not thinking that maybe that would be the number one hotspot for us to look for her, he wasn’t thinking about us. He was only thinking about them and what the Headquarters meant to him, security and things going back to the way they were.” George said, the glint catching on in his eyes as well.
“It has an odd ring of truth to it,” Ginny said, though she looked doubtful. “It is kind of like Ron, he is always imagining that things will go back to the way they were. People always look to the past because sometimes that’s the only thing in their life that makes sense.”
“It makes perfect sense!” Fred said.
“This guy seems brilliant Fred, that place would be far too obvious for him to take her.” Ginny replied, her cynicism kicking in. “He’s powerful beyond measure, he got out of St. Mungo’s unharmed and barely seemed to lift a finger! He wouldn’t just waltz into the most obvious place, that’s ludicrous.”
“Well we’ve been here for hours Ginny and we haven’t come up with a better theory so unless you have something better I think this is what I’m going to go by.” Fred said, clearly ticked at his sister’s uncertainty. “You keep saying he’s brilliant and powerful. Maybe he’s become so cocky that he thinks that whoever tries to get her back, he can stop them. I don’t know that, but I do know that I’ve never felt so sure of something in my whole life.”
“Okay, I guess it won’t hurt to try, so should we get some sleep and leave after.” Ginny asked, giving way to her brother’s euphoria.
“No, we leave now.”
She peered into the darkness. No matter how hard she tried, her eyes would not adjust to the poor lighting around her. It scared her not knowing what could be lurking in the shadows, just waiting for the most opportune time to strike. Her body did not know this place. The soft velvety cushions around her were foreign and mystifying. The room was stuffy as if it hadn’t been used it quite some time and if she dug her way out of the blankets around her she would feel the dank chill that hung in air like an unwelcomed disease.
She had been asleep though she was sure it was involuntarily. Some sort of spell had been placed upon her, but now as she was lying awake, she was confused as to where she was or why she was even here. Her mind had that familiar fogginess clouding her brain and the harder she tried to clear it the more it seemed to entangle her.
Flinging the warm blankets off her in annoyance, she pushed herself into a standing position. She wasn’t going to let her mind go again. Ignoring the hairs that pricked on the back of her neck that spoke of the foreboding atmosphere, she felt her way around the room. Her bare feet touched the cold cement floor as she shuffled around slowly, afraid of hitting something unexpected. Curling her toes in she felt her neck stiffen as shivers ran up and down her spine. The warm bed was unexpectedly inviting, but she had no doubt that it was supposed to be that way.
Finally, her outstretched arms reach the wall. Her fingers grasped on to what she assumed were some sort of hanging. She pressed the fabric to her cold cheek and for a moment, let the warm material caress her skin. It was velvet; she was sure of it and probably very, very expensive. Wherever she was, the person who owned the place was disgustingly wealthy.
Pulling herself away from the wall hangings, she followed the wall hoping to come across some sort of door. Her hands brushed more hangings and tapestries on her way but she couldn’t find the door. She knew in her head that it was impossible not to have a door out of a room, but somehow it wasn’t improbable, especially since the way things were going she wouldn’t be surprised if she saw a flying pig.
For a few more minutes, she hunted for the door but only concluded in going in a complete circle a couple times without feeling anything remotely like a way out. Mystified by this new development she stood still, unsure of how to continue. The chill of the room itself was starting to hang onto her bones and the floor’s chill was soaking through her uncomfortably. She became more aware of how the room seemed to beat down the ominous air and the tremors that zipped up her spine were not because of the cold.
Finally deciding that nothing could be done till she had some light, though having a window in here now seemed doubtful as well and electricity seemed to be something in the past. Releasing her touch on the wall, she moved her way across the room hoping to run into the bed. She wanted to cover herself in the folds of the blankets hoping to block out the demons that were chasing her.
Finding the large bed, she crawled up into it; she had never been so thankful that it was empty except for her body. She needed this time to be alone. To think of everything that had transpired these past few months. It was like she had been pushed into this whirlwind of fate and no one had been able to pull her out of it. All except for Fred, that is. For moments in her hectic dance, Fred had stood out from the blur. He had saved her with his quick laughter when she thought she needed condolence.
Shaking her head she buried deeper into the blankets, she didn’t want to think anymore. To feel meant that she could be hurt and she knew that she needed to find that medium again, where her body and soul went numb. She would need it again in order to survive. It was funny what a person would do just to keep breathing, what a person went through in order to still grasp onto the dangling hope. It almost seemed silly to think that even at wits’ end there could be something worth fighting for, but humans were stupid like that. They kept going even when it seemed better to give in.
They had made it. Each one of them stared into the cave that seemed to have an ominous glow to it. Its entrance seemed like a large sea monster opening up its hungry jaws ready to devour anyone who dared to enter. It seemed as if the glow of the moon stopped at the opening and darkness engulfed the light.
Fred looked at the others. He would always feel indebted to them. After trying, however failingly to go alone, they had loyally stood by his side, relaying that he was too much of a blunder head to do this himself.
“Ready?” Lee said as he dropped his wand. They had agreed to go in without lights, hoping that they wouldn’t alert their enemy. As the time had gone on, they had all been fully convinced that this was the place. George had explored it from all angles and by the information they had this was the one that seemed to fit perfectly.
With everyone’s light extinguished, they plunged themselves into the darkness. Quickly the obscurity of the cave seemed to devour each one leaving them to feel as if they were alone and lost.
The telltale crunch under Fred’s feet seemed to grow louder the farther he walked in. He couldn’t believe the anger that was emanating from him the closer he got to this place. He kept imagining everything she went through and couldn’t stop the shiver that ran up his spine. Taking a deep breath in he tried to compose himself. It wouldn’t help if he walked in angry as a hornet.
“Fred?” He heard his sister’s small voice call out to him. She sounded scared and disconnected. This cave seemed to do strange things to a person. He felt so detached from the world right now, as if he was just floating in space aimlessly.
“Where are you?” He whispered, trying to remain quiet. Their best bet was the element of surprise.
“I found the door.” he followed her voice and soon he found her and the rest of them standing by this huge door. There was a glowing torch by the door and Fred was taken aback that he hadn’t seen it till he was almost on top of the door.
“This is really weird guys,” Ginny said as she stared at the door. “It’s not right that a light can hide itself.” They all nodded in unison but knew they had to push on. The place gave them all the creeps.
Slowly Fred lifted up his hand to the handle. They hadn’t really talked about what would happen once they got in. For the stupidest of reasons they pushed on when they should have sat back and at least thought about how three young wizards and one young witch could overtake one powerfully experienced man. Instead, they were winging it.
His shaky hand touched the doorknob and he could almost feel the power radiating from it. It was either that or he was just imagining things, which could be possible because just being in this place seemed to heighten every sense. Finally, he twisted the knob and pushed the heavy, metal barrier open. The door opened without a fuss and led them into the entryway. It was a large, round room with a table in the middle. Fred looked in disgust at the emphasised Slytherin pronouncement it was. There were thick green-carpeted floors with silver lining across the edges. He was sure that the table was used to hold some sort of idol to the late Dark Lord.
Lee whistled deeply at the ornate design across the walls, they looked magnificent even in the dark, shadowy light. Fred stepped in and immediately felt the evil tenor close in around him. It felt as if an invisible hand had come and was trying to strangle the life out of him.
“We need light,” Ginny whispered. They were feeling the same way the Order had felt when they had entered these halls. And evil presence had cascaded down on them and any words that could have been spoken seemed to be taken away. “If he’s here, I bet he already knows we are too.” Nodding in agreement the group lit their wands. Lighting areas they had not been able to see before and casting more deep shadows in those dark corners.
“I don’t like this place,” Lee commented as he walked into the middle of the room, examining the table closely. “There is the symbol of the Death Eaters on this; I’m surprised the Ministry didn’t take this away.”
“Lee come over here, we should stay together. It’s easier to target one lone person than a group.” Ginny said with worry. She kept glancing around nervously as if expecting him to appear from behind one of the tapestries.
“He killed like five Healers with one shot Ginny, I doubt that we would be any harder to get,” Lee said sardonically, though he did come back beside the Weasley’s. Ginny shivered and moved closer to Fred.
“I just don’t have a good feeling about this, not one bit,” Fred put his arm around Ginny protectively. “Walking into danger isn’t what we were taught to do.”
“Sometimes we have no choice but to face it. Sometimes justice demands it.” This came from George who had remained quiet up till now. Ginny nodded though her whole body was tense.
”I just hate this, walking around and not knowing what is lurking just out of your line of vision.” Ginny said her voice was distant as if remembering a long forgotten memory. “With- with Harry, that was the worst part. When we didn’t know who was downstairs and… and he told me to go and he’d follow…” Ginny stopped talking and looked at the ground determinedly. Shaking her head, she stepped out of Fred’s hug and paced forward.
The spent the next hour going through all the rooms and the cells, but the only thing they found was abhorrence. Fred kept feeling like hurling as they did their own little tour of the place, just imagining her in this place made him feel sick.
“I can’t believe there wasn’t one single thing here!” Lee ground out in frustration. They had come back to the entryway; each one had their own disappointment. Fred was shaking his head in disbelief. The flash of eagerness in his eye had disappeared, and for this moment, he looked crushed.
“I was so sure-” He muttered to no one in particular. “I guess it was too much to hope.”
“No Fred, it’s never too much to hope. There will always be other chances. We will find her,” Ginny said, though her voice was devastated as well. “We can never lose that hope, remember Dumbledore always used to say that, that’s what makes us different from them, we have hope.”
“It’s so weird because I can almost feel it in here. Almost feel that foreboding presence here, just we can’t see it.” George said looking around the room. “I would still almost swear that something terrible is here at this moment, like it’s watching us.” Ginny shivered.
“George don’t say that.” George shrugged and turned toward the door.
“I’m just saying what I feel.” The rest of the group turned and started to head out. Ginny, with one last look around, almost hoping that Hermione would pop out and say she was only playing hide and seek with them, but she didn’t. Sighing she turned and headed out.
“Ouch!” Ginny cried as she fell to the ground. The boys turned around to see her head neck convulse as if trying to twist off her body.
“Ginny what the…?” They rushed over to her, wands ready. Ginny stopped and looked at them, for a split second it looked like her eyes were glossy before she stood up, but it was gone within seconds. Everything looked normal; Fred shook his head knowing his eyes were just playing tricks on him. It was this place.
“Sorry,” Ginny said though it looked like she was listening to something only she could hear. “Sorry I tripped over my own feet and hit my head. I’m such a klutz.” Ginny laughed and brushed off her pants.
“You head it looked like it was coming off,” Lee said, his voice sounded an octave higher than usual.
“Don’t be silly it did no such thing.” Ginny scoffed. “My feet were just trying to get out of here too fast and I fell.”
“Well, come on then let’s get out of here.” George said taking her at her word and with a final glance around; they walked out of the Headquarters.