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Chapter 21 : A Prisoner's Tale
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A Prisoner's Tale
Harry paced his room for the hour he had to wait, his mind racing. Who to trust, who not to trust...He went over in his head everything he knew. Someone had used the diary to warn him, but of what? and Hermione claimed that his sister was hidden somewhere in this very mansion. He wasn't sure where to look first, but he would start with Dominion. Surely the dragon would have some answers, or insight.
He turned as his door opened quietly, and Hermione slipped in, followed by Narcissa. “Well, Potter,” she drawled, “what trouble are you looking for now?”
“Trouble,” murmured Harry. “I'm not searching out trouble, but knowing me, I'll still be found.”
“Precisely,” she sighed. “Now shouldn't we proceed? Should that butler find us here, it will arouse suspicion.”
Harry nodded absentmindedly, grabbing the diary and tossing it to Hermione. Her eyes widened in understanding. “Last entry,” he told her. She flipped through and began reading.
“Harry,” she gasped, “did I not tell you? That man isn't to be trusted!”
“Don't be jumping to conclusions, Mione,” he said softly. “It's just a clue.”
“A very clear clue,” she pointed out. “Everything that seems innocent here, isn't safe.”
“In any case,” said Harry, “we need to talk to Dominion. Question is, where is the basement?"
“Beneath us, I'd presume,” Narcissa said, and Hermione looked at her impatiently before saying, “That's what we did before coming here. And I've found the entrance. Oddly enough, it's in the parlor.”
“A trap door?” guessed Harry, and she nodded. “So all we have to do is sneak down there, and enter the basement without Balm noticing.”
“Great,” he said. “We have to give a butler the slip. Butlers are quite good at nabbing sneaky squits, from what I hear.”
“Good at nabbing what, young master?” came a mild voice, and they spun to see Balm standing in the doorway, peering curiously at them. He glanced between them. “A tryst?”
Hermione looked worriedly at Harry for a second. “No,” she said, “we had some things to discuss. We're fine.”
“Well, perhaps I can wait outside, then escort you to your room when you have finished?” offered the butler kindly, a warm smile gracing his aged face. “It is my duty, after all, to provide safety and comfort to our guests, as well as the master.”
“No thanks,” Hermione said swiftly. “I think we can find out own way back. It isn't hard.”
“Nonetheless,” said Balm gently, “I would feel more at ease if you allow me to assist you-”
Harry saw Hermione shift her stance, then heard a faint “Immedius Necessito!” He thought he saw a quiver of the air, as though something not quite invisible had passed by, then Balm froze, looking confused. He quickly recovered. “Well then,” he said, sounding thoroughly befuddled, “if you are quite sure making your way back to your rooms will serve no trouble, then I will be going now. It seems there are some tasks I must finish without delay.” With that, the butler briskly departed. Harry stared at the spot where he had been, then looked at Hermione.
“Was that you?” he asked, though he was fairly certain of the answer. She nodded.
“I had to not only get him off of us, but make sure he wouldn't be back soon,” she explained. “That spell, the Spell of Immediate Necessity, causes the victim to suddenly remember something that has to be done right away.” She smiled wanly. “That should keep him busy for an hour or so.”
Harry eyed her appreciatively. “That was well done,” he said. “Now he won't be searching for sneaky squits crawling through the night.”
“I'll thank you not to refer to us as squits, although I'll grant you the sneaky part,” remarked Hermione. She looked at him and Narcissa, then said, “Well, let's get going. We may not have much time.” She looked at him suddenly. “Your Invisibility Cloak?” she inquired.
“It's in your purse, I think,” Harry said. She lifted her purse and peered inside. “Yes,” she murmured, “there it is. All right, let's put it on.”
She pulled out the strange material. Narcissa looked at it, her eyebrows raised. “I can just imagine what mischief you got up to with that,” she said. Harry ignored her comment.
“Here,” he said, reaching out for the cloak. “Let me take it.” Hermione handed it over, and he shook it out, looking at it. He remembered all the adventures he had had with it...
With a jerk of his head, he beckoned for the two women to join him. They did so, coming to stand next to him. Huddling, they waited as Harry cast the cloak over them. They all vanished, and a moment later, the door closed seemingly of its own accord.
There was the sound of footsteps along the hallway, muffled by the carpet. The sounds proceeded to the stairs, then continued down them. A series of patters marked their pace as they traveled down the staircase, finally reaching the front hall. Hermione began to lead the way, and Harry saw where she was going. A realization hit him.
“The sitting room,” muttered Harry. “It wouldn't happen to have a fireplace, would it? And a mirror?”
“Why, yes,” said Hermione, glancing at him. “How did you know?”
“That's where they put me until I woke up,” he explained. “Dominion was somewhere below me, and I didn't even realize...”
“Shhh,” hushed Hermione. “You'll see him soon enough.” They reached the room, and entered. Harry looked around at the furniture, shadowed by the fire flickering low in the fireplace. His eyes, passing over the mirror, noticed a flicker of movement, but looking back at it, he saw nothing. He frowned.
“Something wrong, Harry?” asked Hermione, concerned. He turned to her. “Nothing,” he said quietly. “I thought I saw something, but I guess I was a wrong.”
“Where?” she inquired. He gestured, and she peered at the mirror. “I don't see anything unusual,” she said. “Just an ordinary mirror.”
“Like I said,” he answered, “it was nothing.”
“Are we going to see Dominion, or stand around chatting all night?” asked Narcissa, standing near the couch Harry had lain upon. He walked over, examining the area curiously.
“It's here?” he asked softly. He eyed Narcissa, who nodded silently. She pointed at the floor.
“Under the rug,” she said. Harry studied the rug she was pointing to. It was covered in a beautiful scene, a peaceful garden filled with wildlife. The picture followed the border, closing at the center of the rug unobtrusively.
“Pretty,” he said. “A nice rug.”
“A very nice rug,” said Hermione. “And enchanted to stay put, as well.”
“Enchanted?” asked Harry. “Well, you can remove it, can't you?”
She shook her head. “It's a strong spell,” she said. “I can't. You may be able to, though.”
“Yeah,” Harry snorted humorlessly, “I know more spells than you. Of course I can do what you can't.”
“Oh, don't think like that,” she snapped. “Or we won't get anywhere.”
Harry looked at the rug. As far as he knew, it was the only way through. He sighed. “Tell me the incantation,” he said, drawing his wand.
She smiled. “Teneo Subsido,” she said. “And wave your wand like this.” She made a motion with her hand like a cursive two, and Harry nodded. He aimed his wand, and took a deep breath.
“Teneo Subsido” he commanded. There was a dim flare of light, but nothing happened. He focused harder, and the scars on his hand began to glow. “Teneo Subsido.” Another flash of light, with no effect.
He concentrated with all his mind. “Teneo Subsido!” he snarled, and there was a burst of yellow light. With a wrench, the rug was thrown aside. A trapdoor appeared, wooden and gleaming. Harry looked down at it.
“Well,” he sighed, “let's go.”
Hermione stepped forward, and with a wave of her wand, she muttered, “Patefacium.” The trap door swung open, and she started down, but Harry stopped her.
“Me first,” he stated firmly. “You don't know what traps may be down there.”
She gazed up at him, then said, “Fine.” She got back up and allowed him past. He began to climb down, submerging himself in darkness. He looked up and saw Hermione peering down at him. Then he was completely engulfed. As he descended, he noticed a peculiar lack of the dank coldness one would associate with cellars. A spell? He wondered. Shrugging the mystery aside, he continued to follow the rungs down through the shadows. A scuffling from over his head told him either Narcissa or Hermione was just above him. A moment later, he emerged into torchlight.
“Torches?” he muttered, puzzled, waiting to allow his eyes to adjust. “How do torches stay lit down here?”
“Magical,” answered Hermione, who stepped off the ladder. He moved so she would have room. “Anti-Gust Charms, I'd guess.” The witch looked down at the floor. “Dusty,” she muttered. “If they have magic torches, shouldn't they be able to keep the floors clean?”
“Not now,” whispered Harry. “Is Narcissa down yet?”
“I am here,” came her voice. Harry spotted her coming down the last few rungs. She stepped away from the ladder and joined them, examining the walls with an air of disgust. “So let us keep moving. I have no desire to remain down here.”
“I hear you,” said Harry. He moved along, following the passage. Torches dotted each wall, casting flickering shadows over them. After a short time, they entered a small room, which was well-lit. A torch was mounted by every doorway, providing all-around lighting. Scanning the room, Harry walked the perimeter, searching for every possible exit. After going by two wooden doors which turned out to be locked, he noted a doorway that had no door, gaping like a missing tooth. With a look, he made to pass it, but froze. A strange sense urged him to go through the doorway.
“Harry?” asked Hermione. He didn't look at her, saying simply, “We go through there.” He stepped through the door, finding himself in another passage. He quickly walked along, finding himself at another passage. He looked around. At one end was a door. At the other...a cage door. And beyond the interlocking bars lay Dominion.
“Dominion!” Breathed Harry. He rushed to the cage door. He skidded to a halt and seized the bars. The dragon slowly raised its head.
“Harry...Potter,” it growled. “I'm so...very...sorry.”
“For what?” asked Harry. “None of this was your fault.” He gazed at the dragon. It was sprawled in a manner that implied a great weariness.
“I failed you,” it said. “You nearly died.”
“It's okay,” sighed Harry. “I'm alive, and that's what matters.” He paused, wincing, as he thought of Ron. “Ron wasn't so fortunate.”
“The red-haired boy?” Dominion blinked. “He is alive. I recommended that he stay back. This place is trouble. I can smell it.”
Harry stared at Dominion, then turned and looked at Hermione, who avoided his gaze. That suspicion which had wormed through him on the stairs earlier now flared into life.“You knew,” he said gently. “You knew, and you didn't tell me.”
“Harry, if you had known, we would have lost the only chance we had.” Her eyes pierced him with a desperation for him to understand. “If we had gotten into a fix, he would be able to help us. That's what Dominion was thinking. It did no harm really, did it?”
Harry thought hard. She had a point. And he couldn't blame her for not telling him. He would have given it all away. But still...the fact that his own friend would think to lie to him made him angry. It was like the first step to deception, which could lead to betrayal, and without his friends there to help him, he might very well fail...Harry suddenly shook his head fiercely
“Do you really think it was necessary?” he pleaded, looking toward Dominion. The dragon scowled.
“I am positive,” it answered. “Do you wish to know why? Because they have been poisoning me. No doubt trying to prevent me from being useful. They brought me some meat and water shortly after we arrived, and I indulged only to discover they had slipped potions into it. I am virtually helpless now. Another day, and I would be utterly useless to you. I have no idea what they have given me, but it is powerful. Strong enough to subdue a dragon.”
Harry's eyes narrowed in anger. “So that's why he wanted me to wait until tomorrow,” he murmured. “By then, you wouldn't be able to help me. And then...who knows what might have happened?”
“Do you believe me now, Harry?” asked Hermione. “I told you that they aren't trustworthy, and Narcissa has said as much. And Dominion has just proved it!” Harry looked up at her. There was no denying her logic. There was too much evidence to back her up.
“So,” he said at last, “That means they are up to something. In fact, I found a diary with a warning in it.” Without prompting, Hermione recited it. Dominion listened, and its eyes gleamed.
“Yes,” it said, “there is great danger here, and trouble at work. You were never safe here. We should leave as soon as possible.”
“But I have relatives here-” started Harry, and Dominion said, “Arrange their transportation to safety. I'm sure you can. And even if I weren't sure, it's the only way. It's too risky to remain here!”
“ Hermione said that Hannah was here as well,” protested Harry, looking around at Hermione. She nodded fervently.
“Hannah?” grunted the dragon. “I do not know this Hannah.”
“She's the person we came looking for,” explained Harry. “She's the reason we're here.”
“I do not know, but I have heard movement in that room down there, and there is a scent lingering about it. A scent that is distinctly...human,” Dominion informed them, jabbing with its nose. Harry looked in the direction that was indicated, and saw the door he had noticed before. He studied it, wondering if his sister really lay beyond it.
“Thanks,” he said, and headed for the door. Upon reaching it, he tried to open it, but it did no good. The door seemed to be locked. He tried unlocking it magically, but the door remained shut. He growled. “Hermione,” he said, “silence this passage.”
She obliged, and he raised his wand.“Reducto!” He shouted, and the door was noiselessly blown inward in a shower of wooden splinters. He stepped into the room. There were six cells, three on each side. Looking through the bars, he could see dust, and scattered bones...the remains of dead rats. Narcissa and Hermione entered behind him, the latter repairing the door. He slowly continued along, closely observing every cell, until he spotted a huddled shape in the farthest one on the left.
It shifted as he drew closer, moving aside some things as though searching for something...or hiding it. He stopped before the cage, and a frightened voice asked, “What?” He tried to see more about this person, but the filthy rags they wore obscured almost every detail.
“Show me your face,” he said softly, and the huddled lump twitched. “Why?” asked the voice. He sighed. “Just show me,” he ordered, and the lump lay still. Then, slowly, the rags slid apart, revealing a strange but utterly recognizable face. He gasped.
With black, messy hair and brown eyes framed by a dirt-smudged face, the girl stared at him with a frank curiosity. Her eyes roamed over his face, her eyes widening in wonder. Her lips parted as she breathed faster, until she said, in a lilting Irish accent, “You're him, aren't you? You're Harry!”
“Yeah, I am,” he replied. He gazed with a vicious hunger, absorbing every detail of her face. For so long, he had had no family, and now he was face to face with it.
“You have Mum's face, but Dad's hair and eyes,” he said at last. “And you are definitely my sister.”
“At long last, we meet,” she sighed. “I was beginning to think it would never happen. Then I felt you drawing close. I don't know...maybe it was amplified by that dragon.” she glanced in the direction of Dominion.
Harry cocked his head. “How do you know that dragon was with me?”
“Well, you're here, and the dragon is here, and I assume you haven't been here very long. The dragon hasn't been around long either. I'm guessing you arrived around the same time, so I put it all together.”
Harry nodded, then asked the question that was burning in him. “What happened? How did we get separated?”
“I was kidnapped,” she said bluntly. “I was taken as a baby from the midwife, who was Obliviated by my kidnapper. Then I was brought here, and raised here.” She tilted her haed back to face the ceiling, as though she had written the entire answer up there. “I was raised as though I were Boykotte's. I wasn't lacking for proper care, but he never told me the truth until a few years ago. That was when I started sensing the connection between us. I told him about it, and he explained what had happened. He told me he had been saving me to take your place should you die in the attempt to defeat Darkness. But I knew you could do it. He wasn't so easily convinced. Then, after the dark lord died, he locked me up without warning. I don't know why.” Her head dropped, and hung.
“I've been so miserable, waiting, waiting for the chance to escape,” she whispered. “Hoping that I would be given it. But hope didn't seem enough. Until I sensed you.” She looked up at Harry, her eyes bright. “I knew that you were my chance, my way out. If only I could let you know...so I asked to be loose for an hour or so, and used my magic to get some parchment, and ink, and an owl. I sent you a message, knowing that this would be my one and only opening for freedom's grasp. I used my wits, to set things up. And it worked. Now, you are here. Now, you must free me.” Her eyes sparkled. “Please, brother and twin. Free me!”
“I will,” said Harry, bowled over by what he had just heard. “But first, I have to take care of-”
“Harry!” Hermione said sharply, her eyes intent. “Listen.”
Harry turned his head, focusing. There was silence. Then footsteps. Whistling. Apparently, Balm was coming with Dominion's dose of potion.
“Oh, dragon,” called the butler. “I have a special meal prepared just for you...” The steps grew louder. “Are you hungry? I do hope you are. It's a delicious recipe. I made it myself.”
Harry scowled. He made to stand up, intending to stop the butler. He could handle the man. He had snuffed dragons; a mere butler couldn't stop him. But Narcissa and Hermione grabbed his arms, pulling him back. Hannah shook her head fiercely, an adamant denial of his wishes. He glared and stood still, listening again.
There was a low growl, and a tisking sound. “Now, now,” said Balm. “That isn't the way to treat a specially-made cuisine. I wouldn't like to think I went to all that time and trouble for nothing, now would I? Be a good dragon and eat up.”
There were the sounds of muffled crunching, then lapping at liquid. The butler chuckled. “Good dragon,” he said. “Finish it.” There werew a few more moments of eating noises, then tired silence.
“Good, good,” said Balm. “Now I'll just-” he stopped, and Harry frowned, perplexed. What had the butler's attention now?
“Hmmm,” said Balm. I'm almost certain I never stepped ther. And yet there is a distinctive footprint. It isn't my size either. I wonder who could have made that.”
Harry spun to look at Hermione and Narcissa. They had fearful looks on their faces. “Hermione,” he muttered in a barely audible tone, “you didn't cast a charm to hide our footprints?”
“How was I supposed to know he was that observant?” she demanded. “And besides, it was you who came rushing in here. Just be thankful I repaired that door.”
“The door looks the same...” sadi Balm's voice, approaching the door. “And yet, I still am curious to know what lays beyond it. Our usual guest...or something more?”
Suddenly, the door flew open, revealing Balm standing there, a ghastly grin on his face. “I always knew you were the type to investigate. I knew you'd come visit the dragon, which is why I came early.” He looked at Hannah. “Did you manage to get out a plea for help, girl,” he asked coldly, “or did they stumble upon you by accident?”
“Leave her out of this!” snapped Harry, stepping forward, but Balm whipped out a wand and pointed it at Hannah.
“Not so fast, young Harry,” he said pleasantly. “Or I'll blast off your sister's pretty little head! And none of us want that, now, do we?”
“I don't,” Harry said, “but judging from your lack of heart, I doubt you'd care one wit!”
“Oh, I'm not so heartless as that, Harry,” corrected the butler. “However, I am forced to display a certain cruelty right now.”
“Oh?” said Narcissa, her voice steady.“How so?”
Balm glanced at her. 'Why, by leaving you here, of course,” he said. “Now that you know a margin of the truth, I can't possibly let you wander free. Master would have my head on a platter! Not literally, of course, but you get my point.”
“Let us go,” offered Harry calmly, “and we'll try to help you. Azkaban is no fun.”
“Such a tempting offer,” mocked Balm, “but the truth of the matter is, there is nothing you can do-”
“You don't know what we're capable of!” snapped Harry. “We have wands, and other abilities too!”
“They shall have no effect,” sneered the butler. “The magic is too strong even for you, Master Potter. I am fully confident you are stuck here until we choose to release you, whatever you may believe. So, sit tight, and have fun!” With that he slammed the door shut. It seemed to swell slightly, and Harry knew it had been sealed.
“Try to refrain from slaying each other in there,” called Balm. “My master would be deeply disappointed to learn that his guests had died under his watch.” The sound of footsteps and whistling. “Behave yourself, dragon. You've done well so far, now don't ruin it for yourself.” The footsteps faded to silence, leaving Harry to stare at the door, stunned and dismayed. Great, he thought. Just bloody fantastic.
They had come down to find a solution, or at least some advice. And now, they were all trapped inside the dusty old prison room with no apparent way out.
I'm so sorry. I posted the wrong chapter. I have all the chapters in an actual book I have saved on my computer, and I use that book to keep track of which chapter comes next. I was looking it over, when i saw that i had posted the wrong chapter! So, here's the actual chapter that should be chapter 21. Sorry about that! And now, for the preview...
in the next chapter...
“The least we can do is get out,” said Harry. He stood and approached the door. “I'm sure that if I can get in, I can get out.”
“I doubt it,” his sister said. “That door was merely locked before, whereas now, it is sealed. It is also imbued with magic that will bolster it at need. But by all mean, brother, have at it.”
Harry pursed his lips, studying the door. Hannah undoubtedly knew more about this cell than he did, yet he was unwilling to believe he was helpless in this situation. Stepping forward, he struck out with his mind. There was a dull thud, but the door didn't budge. He struck out again, and the door still remained unmoved.
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