Chapter 15 : The Ritual
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"There was something she had to attend to," Harry stated. He knew full well why Hermione was gone, and he wasn't happy about it.
"I hope it wasn't about that prick, Josiah," Ron spat. "He's had it out for me since the first day. He breaks my arm, steals the girl I l...like. I swear, I think that bloke's gonna kill me."
"Now that's a little mental, don't you think?" Harry asked. "He may be a first class pain in the arse, but I doubt he'll kill you."
"Yeah," Ron replied, unconvinced.
"Besides, you know Hermione likes you, mate," Harry reassured him. "I'm sure she'll forget about him."
"Did you see how happy he made her?" Ron countered. "I never did that."
"Did you see how unhappy he made her, too? How he hurt her and her friends? You never did that either."
"We need to find her, Harry." Harry couldn't argue; he'd been thinking the same thing since shortly after she'd left. It wasn't that Harry thought Hermione couldn't handle herself. He simply believed she needed someone to convince her to forget Josiah. Chasing after him couldn't do her any good.
The asphalt of the small street glistened as the street lamps' light glistened off the early morning dew. The sun hadn't yet risen over London, and the street was oddly quiet. In the distance, a car crossed an intersection, but other than that, everything was silent. The Leaky Cauldron loomed over the road, and Hermione walked to it and went inside.
The room was dimly lit by a single lamp in the far corner. As usual, all of the tables were clean and empty, save for one, where a single figure sat hunched over, muttering quietly to himself. Behind the counter, the innkeeper sat lightly dozing, and Hermione cleared her throat when she reached him.
"Huh?" he asked, startled from his slumber. "Whosawha?"
"Excuse me, sir," Hermione asked as the man's eyes focused.
"I'm looking for a friend. His name's Josiah. Has he stayed here?"
"I dunno," he mumbled. "Wha's 'e look like?"
"Umm...he's this tall," she held her hand up to how tall she thought he was, "Short, dark hair, gray eyes. Muscular." Hermione closed her eyes as she remembered him. She thought about their Christmas break...then snapped them open. She had a job to do.
"Nope," he said. "Haven't seen 'im."
"Are you sure? It's really important."
"I'm absolutely sure," he declared with an air of finality, and Hermione scowled before returning to the street.
Hermione had been searching for Josiah all yesterday. She'd begun first by searching the homes and businesses at Hogsmeade, where she'd found no results. One woman with onyx-colored hair said she vaguely remembered meeting him, but she didn't have any information useful to Hermione.
Exasperated, she found a seat on an isolated, worn bench on the side of the road. She cupped her head in her hands, frustrated that she was unable to find him. She was sure he was in danger, and she didn't want anything to happen to Josiah because of her.
If only I had just told him, she thought. What harm could it possibly have done? Even if Josiah was captured by Death Eaters, she was sure he'd let them kill him before he agreed to betray his friends.
Josiah kneeled in the center of a circle in a dim graveyard. The sun was just below the horizon, giving the world a gray hue. He was wearing black robes, and the hood was over his head. Around him stood Death Eaters in full regalia, and before him was a cauldron filled with a simmering potion. The potion was a sick green.
Lord Voldemort stood over the pot as though he was holding some sinister vigil. His hood was down, and he was watching Josiah.
"Rise," he commanded, and Josiah stood. Something told him to walk up to Voldemort, and he did. He took out his wand, and he presented it to the Dark Lord in open hands.
"I pledge my wand, my allegiance, and my life to serve you, Lord Voldemort, and to uphold the ideals of Salazar Slytherin," Josiah said. The name of the founder of Slytherin left a bitter taste in his mouth.
Voldemort took Josiah's wand, and Josiah dropped his right hand, leaving the left one wrist-up.
The Dark Lord took a knife from the folds of his robe. The knife was small, but Josiah could tell it had a razor's edge. Lord Voldemort placed the cold metal against the skin of his wrist, sending a shiver up Josiah's spine.
In one swift motion, the knife was pulled across Josiah's flesh. He involuntarily gasped a little as his blood began to fall, and Voldemort placed his left arm over the cauldron. As his blood intermingled with the liquid of the potion, the color of the potion changed to match that of the blood now spilling freely from his veins.
Voldemort dipped Josiah's wand into the cauldron, and it came back with a drop of potion clinging to the tip. He held it over the cut in Josiah's arm and tapped it, allowing the drop to fall onto the open wound.
Immediately the cut burned as though acid had entered Josiah's veins. Josiah almost would have preferred the Cruciatus Curse to the agony that now gripped him as excruciating pain radiated from the wound on his arm to every inch of his skin. He dropped to his knees, reeling from the pain.
As his vision began to darken, he heard Lord Voldemort ask, "Do you still pledge yourself to me?"
He'd come this far; there was no backing out now. If he refused, Voldemort would likely kill him, or worse: allow the pain to continue. Through gritted teeth, Josiah replied, "Yes."
The pain stopped, as though some invisible switch had been flipped. Instinctively, Josiah pulled back his sleeve where the cut had been, and he found no scar, no mark to belie the fact that an incision had been made. Instead, a black skull with a snake protruding from its mouth was emblazoned on his arm. Above him, the Dark Lord removed his hood and spoke.
"Arise, Josiah, Death Eater."
A/N So writer's block has been a pain, along with school :/ On the bright side, I'm back with fresh ideas for the rest of the story! Read and please review.
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