Love is like a mountain,
hard to climb,
but once you get to the top
the view is beautiful.
- Daniel Monroe Tuttle
Harry let out a powerful cry of fury as he kicked his school truck out of his path. Swishing his wand, he slammed the door to his dormitory shut, but this gave him no satisfaction. There was too much anger, hate, and loss inside of him to dispel it with ordinary outbursts and assaults on his room. He was too wrapped up in his agony to notice that Ron was on his four-poster bed, struggling to copy down notes from his potions textbook.
“Harry?” Ron asked tentatively.
Harry started at his friend’s voice, but once glancing up to acknowledge his presence, he turned away and fell flat onto his bed. He covered his face with his hands and moaned loudly, still trying to push back the stream of tears threatening to cascade down his face.
“Harry, mate, what’s wrong?” Ron’s voice was louder now, telling Harry he had moved closer.
“Go away, Ron. I can’t talk about it.” His voice had become lifeless, defeated.
“You think I’d leave you alone when you’re in this state?” Ron asked incredulously. “Come on, Harry; you know you can tell me anything. What haven’t we gone through together?”
“What’s wrong with him?”
Harry sat up at the sound of her voice. Hermione had quietly entered the room without either boys noticing. She was carrying her overflowing book bag, but she frowned and set it down when she noticed the paleness of Harry’s face. She approached the two of them slowly.
“I was worried when you didn’t come to Potions today, Harry,” she said. “I…heard what happened in Charms class earlier. I wanted to talk to you about it.”
Ron scowled. “What happened during Charms?”
Harry shook his head angrily. “I don’t want to talk about it, okay?”
“You’re going to have to at some time,” Hermione replied, sitting next to him on the bed. “There are rumors flying all over the school now.”
Harry groaned at this news. How had his world so quickly deteriorated when it was perfect a few days ago?
“You can’t be that surprised, Harry, honestly.” Hermione tried to take his hand only to be shunned. She sighed wearily. “After the news spread that you and Kiana were dating, everyone was curious to see how you two would get on. There are…rumors that you got in a fight with her, but I wanted to hear the truth from you. Please, Harry. I don’t like to see you like this.”
Furiously, Harry pulled himself off the bed and stalked toward the window. Folding his arms across his chest, he tried to push the memories from his mind, but they were as clear and horrid as the visions Voldemort sent him. They also hurt ten times more than any pain in his scar.
“I’ll tell you,” he murmured after a moment’s debate. “But you two must swear not to mention a word of this to anyone, even a professor. Understood?”
Ron and Hermione nodded hesitantly.
Harry inhaled deeply, hoping it would ease his anguish to release the secret. He told them everything: how he had been worried about Kiana for weeks, but when he was with her, her attitude never seemed as bad as he had thought. There was never any reasonable explanation for her behavior. Then he told them how scared he was in Charms class when he saw the hatred in her eyes, and how she had fled the class without speaking to anyone. Ron and Hermione both looked appalled when they heard of Kiana’s Dark Mark, and a tear slipped from Harry’s eye when he spoke about locking her in the classroom.
“I tried going to Dumbledore, but his office was locked.” The fury came back like the ocean’s tide. The one time he had really needed the Headmaster and he had failed him! “Kiana’s still in that room, but I don’t know what to do now. I won’t go to any professor because they’ll immediately call the Ministry of Magic. Despite what I said to her, I don’t want her sent to Azkaban. I…I just can’t understand how this could happen. She was…she was…”
The words failed him as he collapsed beside the window, shielding his face from his friends as he showed the depth of his distress through his tears. Hermione was the first to approach him. Leaning against him, she rubbed his back until he had a handle over his tears.
“Harry, you’re right to be looking for Dumbledore. This is not something we can deal with on our own. I know Kiana almost as well as you, and I, too, believe that this is beyond abnormal for her. There’s something horrible happening that goes beyond her Dark Mark...she must be wrapped up in something we don't know about. If you searched your heart, Harry, you would agree with me.”
Harry nodded after awhile, glancing up at the descending sun as it spilled warmth into their dormitory. The rays warmed his chilled body, but it could never warm his heart.
“Let’s go back to his office again,” Ron suggested. “If he’s still not there, we’ll owl him. Dumbledore won’t ignore us when he understands how important this is.”
Harry gave his friends a smile, though it never reached his eyes. “Thank you. I now remember why I tell you guys everything.”
Ron grinned. “And we’re glad to listen to all your many, many problems. Though they sometimes get mixed up in my head…what was your problem again? Something about potions?”
Hermione whacked him on the arm as all three headed for the door.
Ron winced. “Sorry, Harry; I meant that’s my problem.”
Harry glanced back at the window before leaving his dorm. He noticed a dark shape glide across the grass toward the Forest, but he shook it off as a trick of the light.
Kiana pulled her black hood closer to her face as she jutted across the field. The sun was slowly creeping toward the horizon, ending the last day the Dark Lord had given her to complete her assignment, but that didn’t matter any longer. Voldemort already knew that she’d never be able to complete the task now, but that wasn’t going to stop her from seeking him out.
The Dark Lord was the only person she could go to now, anyway. And hopefully he would be so irritated with her that he’d kill her off quickly and painlessly. There was nothing left in the world for her, so why not willingly track down death?
Kiana had fallen asleep in the empty classroom, desperate for some escape from her painful world. When she had awoken, the previously locked classroom door was open and her wand had been returned to her pocket. Her Dark Mark burned on her wrist, telling her what she already knew: the Dark Lord was expecting her. She had to answer his call.
Kiana stopped dead in her tracks when she noticed Severus Snape waiting for her among the entangled branches of the trees. She wasn’t completely surprised to see him; he had a Dark Mark, too, did he not? All the Death Eaters were probably aware of her eventful day by now. It was one of those mysteries of the Dark Mark.
Snape frowned when he observed her tear-stained cheeks and swollen eyes. “You are aware of the consequences of your failure?”
Kiana clenched her jaw. Like what she had been through in the last hour hadn’t been consequence enough? She bit back the retort.
“You wish to disappear from Hogwarts without explanation.”
It was a statement, not a question. He recognized her dilemma but was aware of her determination to face the future. She had nothing with her except her wand and cloak and had told no one where she was going.
“So you’ve made your choice,” Snape murmured, glancing once at Hogwarts Castle before taking her arm and Apparating them far away from the source of Kiana’s agony.
They did not arrive in the graveyard as Kiana had expected. Instead, she found herself being dragged through another cluster of trees, although these woods were far different than the Forbidden Forest. The trees were spaced further apart, allowing the weakening sun to flow through the branches and cast pools of light onto the piles of dead leaves littering the ground. There were not any signs of human habitation for many miles as far as Kiana could tell.
After swerving around dozens of trees and avoiding numerous mud pits, Snape halted her. She scowled, wondering how this particular patch of grass was different from the rest.
After a minute of waiting, Bellatrix Apparated alongside them. She didn’t take time to draw breath before launching herself at Snape.
“You call this taking control?!” she shrieked, glaring at Snape with that wide-eyed, insane expression Kiana knew so well. “What are we to do about her? Even with the Dark Mark’s power she allowed herself to be caught. How is she to fulfill the Dark Lord’s commands now? You’ve seen how close she is to Potter, Snape. Shall I take more extreme measures?”
Bella motioned to Kiana’s head with her wand, causing Kiana to step back involuntarily.
“No,” Snape snapped abruptly. “We shall do nothing until the Dark Lord arrives.”
“Nonsense!” Bella hissed. “The Dark Lord placed me in charge of the girl’s teaching, so therefore I have the only say in her punishment.”
“You were relieved from your post the day your spell lost effectiveness.”
Fear entered Bellatrix’s eyes as Voldemort approached them. His face was calm though his eyes held a noticeable warning. Kiana knew they had to tread carefully around the Dark Lord now; any more slip-ups could lead to a death among them.
Voldemort scrutinized Bellatrix carefully. “You clearly did not alter enough in her mind, which surprises me considering how easy it is to penetrate the girl’s pitiful thoughts.”
Kiana’s jaw clenched despite the trepidation Voldemort’s presence created in her.
Voldemort ignored the girl as if she were another tree. “Snape will be the one to punish the girl so that she is prepared for her final act tonight.”
“Tonight, my lord?” Bellatrix asked, clearly taken aback.
“Of course. You did not think I would let Potter roam free another minute when we possess the weapon to finish him off? Dumbledore is already aware of my intentions if Potter reveals his visions like he always does. The fool will try and assemble the Order of the Phoenix, and we shall attack on Hogwarts’ grounds. But you’ve put me ahead of myself, Bella. That information was to be divulged at the meeting tonight.”
Voldemort motioned to Snape, who was staring at Kiana with unreadable eyes. “Severus will bring the girl to the meeting once she has been altered. But do be careful, Severus. I want the girl prepped and physically prepared for tonight. Go as far as you wish, but she must be conscious and alert by the hour of the meeting. Is that understood?”
“Yes, my lord.”
“Good. Come, Bella; we have a lot to prepare.” Voldemort and Bellatrix Disapparated without a moment’s hesitation.
Kiana bit her lower lip to hold back a scream of fury as she rounded on Snape. “You’re just like the rest, aren’t you? You’re not really a double spy; you just pretend to be to gain Dumbledore’s favor. Why else would you have let Bellatrix invade my mind, or agree to Voldemort’s orders just now? I bet you’re eagerly anticipating the moment I curse Harry to his death…”
“Silence!” Snape roared, summoning her wand the moment she reached for it. “Don’t talk about things you don’t understand! It is not my responsibility to explain my intentions to you, nor do I have to defend myself. Everything will occur just as the Dark Lord intends, but Dumbledore had foreseen this long ago. The Headmaster has his own plans.”
Kiana was prepping herself to run, although she knew it was foolish seeing as he had two wands and she had none. The minute she had twisted around to escape behind the foliage of the nearest tree, he had muttered a spell that sent her falling at his feet, unable to move or speak.
“You do not understand the importance of your task,” Snape continued, kneeling at her head. “If you did, you would have tried even a little not to fall at Potter’s feet in blind adoration. You would have taken Bellatrix’s lessons seriously instead of keeping Potter in your mind every second. For this, you must be punished.”
Before she could prepare for it, a great pressure appeared in her head, and suddenly the past few weeks played in front of her eyes like a film reel set in fast forward. Then, with such pain she thought her head would explode, Snape destroyed the tender moments with Harry she had always looked back on when she was depressed. The memories were altered so that she no longer felt joy at the recollection of his smile or his kiss, and a great annoyance and disgust filled her body at the thought of her dating that useless, ignorant boy. She knew she was screaming, but the sound came from far, far away, almost like a memory.
The unbearable ache in her head did not lessen until minutes later, when Snape released her from his hold and she lay, trembling, on the cold earth. She could not open her eyes or move a single limb, her body ached so. It was a pain worse than the magic Voldemort had used to plant the Dark Mark on her arm, for Snape’s magic had directly hit the vulnerable area of her heart. How cold the world was now, how unbearably cold.
She didn’t know when Snape left her, for the minutes and hours blurred together as she tried to regain her energy and inner strength. She fought to regain consciousness to fulfill her ultimate desire: to destroy Harry Potter forever.
“Get up, girl. Your tardiness has hindered all of us.”
Kiana struggled to make Bellatrix’s face out of the flying colors and ghostly figures floating across her vision. She felt Bella grab her arm painfully and haul her to her feet.
“Walk, Karn! You’re not a cripple.”
Hot irritation burned through her, but Kiana resisted the urge to use her wand. There would be plenty of time to battle later.
“Where are we going, my lady?”
“Where do you think?” Bella snapped.
“I mean, where is the meeting being held?”
Bellatrix glowered at Kiana’s icy tone. “In a deserted farmhouse not a kilometer from here. The Dark Lord had executed certain…preparations before the gathering tonight.”
Kiana found it curious how Bella wouldn’t state out-right what Voldemort had done to the occupants of the house. After all the murders the Death Eaters had committed, why were they now afraid to speak of their crimes?
Bellatrix didn’t speak to her again until they had entered the run-down farmhouse and found the Death Eaters seated around a long wooden table.
“You will seat yourself beside Snape. Hold that quick tongue of yours until you are spoken to, understood?”
“Yes, my lady.”
Kiana studied the chipped paint on the walls and the crumbling ceiling as she sat in the empty chair beside Snape at the far end of the table. The floor was covered in old, muddy straw and the dried remains of cow dung. The farmhouse seemed to have been recently inhabited for the place reeked of animal dander and hay.
Voldemort had seated himself in a high-backed chair at the front of the table. He was stroking the head of his “pet” snake, Nagini, with an absentminded expression. When Kiana’s presence was acknowledged by everyone in the room, Voldemort clasped his stark white hands together and met the eye of each member in the room. Even from far away, Kiana saw the glimmer of anticipation in the Dark Lord’s normally cold eyes.
“My friends, we have come to a very important moment in our history.” He did not have to raise his voice much to be heard. “Because of the excellent work Severus Snape has been accomplishing inside Hogwarts School, we now have in our possession the key to Potter’s demise.” He motioned slightly to Kiana, and every eye in the room fixed its gaze upon her. Kiana merely lowered her eyebrows and stared back determinedly.
“As all of you are aware, this girl has developed a connection with Potter that goes beyond any of his other relationships. Although the events of prior have made the ultimate goal harder to achieve, I have no doubt that the girl will succeed. He will fall at her hand, and finally we will rid the world of Harry Potter forever.”
“May I comment, my lord?”
Voldemort appeared irritated at the sudden comment, but he nodded at Lucius Malfoy.
Draco’s father pushed silky strands of hair out of his face as he turned toward Kiana. “I do not have any doubt in the girl’s magical ability, my lord, but how will her mishaps affect tonight?” He gazed at Kiana with disapproval, as if she were a small child being reprimanded for misbehaving. “If Potter believes that her true allegiances lie with us, then it will be difficult for him to experience the full effect of the mortacious curse. How do we know he still cares for the girl after what happened? And besides, even if the Order of the Phoenix does appear upon our advancement tonight, how do we know Potter will be among them? Dumbledore will want to keep him hidden.”
“You doubt my careful plans, Lucius?” Voldemort admonished.
“No, my lord,” Lucius replied hastily. “I simply meant…”
“Dumbledore will not be able to stop Harry from appearing tonight once he learns Kiana is among us,” Voldemort explained calmly. “It is apparent from my assaults on his mind that he has misgivings about his girlfriend’s loyalties. He will come to see what she does when the Death Eaters battle against Dumbledore’s fools. We shall distract the Order and allow Kiana to separate him from the group. If Dumbledore is foolish enough to show, not even he will be able to stop Harry from following her.”
Several members at the table cast each other doubtful glances, but Voldemort was too wrapped up in his thoughts to notice or care.
Snape turned to Kiana and whispered, “While the rest prepare for battle, you will follow Bellatrix behind the house.”
It was such a vague order that Kiana glanced questionably at him, but Snape shoved her out of her chair, hissing, “Don’t ask questions!”
Kiana obeyed, although the idea of going anywhere alone with Bellatrix terrified her. She would rather adventure alone with Snape, because he at least didn’t seem to possess an unfailing need to torture her for every slip-up.
“I do not trust that Snape completed the task correctly.” Bellatrix paced over the fallen leaves behind the old farmhouse, inspecting Kiana thoroughly as if trying to analyze her strength. “You’ve failed twice now, Karn; how do I know you won’t fail tonight?”
“It’s different now, my lady,” Kiana murmured, keeping her sullen gaze straight ahead at the clustering of trees. “I won’t fail tonight. There’s nothing I want more than to see Potter suffer. He will die if I can get him alone.”
Bellatrix raised her eyebrows mockingly. “And if he gives you one of his heartfelt speeches? Will you crumble to the floor in desperate repentance like earlier? You are so resolute in your task when speaking to me, but once you glimpse the compassion in his eyes it all disappears like smoke.”
Kiana tried to hide her amazement at how accurate her teacher’s allegation was. “Tonight is different. I understand that if I don’t kill him tonight then worse destruction will follow. Trust me, my lady.”
“I cannot trust you,” Bella shot back. “I cannot trust someone who is incapable of keeping her own promises. Most of all, I do not trust that Snape altered your mind well enough. Perhaps if you proved yourself…”
Contemplatively, Bellatrix swished her wand in the air, but nothing happened. Kiana thought the witch was not aware of her wand movements until something stirred in the woods beyond. Kiana narrowed her eyes at the trees, clutching her wand in her left hand. Leaves crackled as a figure approached, and Kiana’s heart raced when she made out the tall, muscular form of Harry. His face was pale and tense as he approached the pair, although his eyes lingered longer on Kiana. She knew what was going to happen before it did.
“Kiana, please listen to me,” Harry urged, holding out his hands like a beggar. “This is not how you want to live. Come with me and I can…”
Her wand hand shook, but her voice was clear and confident. “Mortacus!”
Harry crumbled to the ground in a scream of pain, writhing as he lay suffering among the fallen leaves. Kiana slowly approached him, wand raised as she prepared to cast the final curse…
The boy disappeared in a haze of smoke. Kiana stood, dazed and disturbed, at the patch of grass where Harry had lain. She had forgotten Bellatrix was there, her wand hovering over the same spot. Kiana glanced up at her, questioning her for the reason behind it all, but Bellatrix merely smiled.
“Well done, Karn,” she spoke softly. “You have proved yourself worthy of the task set before you.”
“Of course I am worthy!” Kiana surprised herself at the amount of anger she possessed. It gnawed at her like a living demon. “I have prepped and prepped for this day and nobody is going to take it away from me. I loathe Potter for existing, for it is because of him that I am here before you. It’s because of him I can never return to Hogwarts. I hate him!”
Kiana’s voice had risen intensely as she spoke, but this only made Bella’s smile widen. “Say it again,” she demanded.
“I hate him!” Kiana shrieked, feeling the invigorating blood pulse through her limbs and pound in her head. It carried the energy and strength she longed for, and nothing could take it away now. “I want nothing more than to torture him under my own hold. Don’t take this opportunity away from me, Bellatrix, or I shall surely die from suppressed rage.”
Bella nodded as a horrible sneer grew on her face. “No. You will kill Potter as the Dark Lord desires. You are ready.”
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