Chapter 24 : Second Time Saved
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Author's Note: Hey everyone! So here is the next chapter - two updates in a week? WHAT IS THIS MADNESS? :) Snow's all melted (and we over a foot, but it dissolved in a day) so I can actually leave my house and do things without freezing or fearing for my life. So wanted to say happy birthday and good luck with your auditions to one of ym reviewers, Teddy. Hope everything goes well! And without any further ado, here is chapter twenty-four!
There was no way to steer the dragon or tell it which way to go, and if we turned sharply or rolled midair, there was no way we'd be able to hang on. I was used to flying now, so I was perfectly at ease. Harry was also pretty calm. Ron and Hermione though...not so much. As far as I could tell, Ron kept swearing at the top of his lungs, and Hermione was sobbing hysterically.
One of Harry's hands reached up tp touch my hip and gently rubbed it. I let myself lean into him and relax even more.
"Is it my imagination or are we losing height?" Ron shouted.
I looked down and saw that we were indeed getting closer and closer to a lake.
"I saw we jump once it gets low enough!" Harry called to everyone. "Straight into the water before it realizes we're here!" Everyone agreed, and just as the dragon's yellow underbelly was visible in the surface of the water, Harry shouted, "NOW!"
I remembered all of the water drills from my training with Moody and immediately put my body into a good form so that when I plunged into the water, it wouldn't hurt. As soon as my skin met the water, I was met with an icy cold sensation.
I quickly kicked my feet and pushed myself back to the surface of the lake, taking a gasp of air before swimming to the nearest land, the others following my lead. As soon as I reached the sandy shore, I flopped down, allowing myself a few moments to be plain ol' exhausted for what could be the last moment in a few days.
As soon as Harry got to the shore, he started casting our usual protective enchantments. When he finished, he flopped down beside me, and for the first time, I noticed the angry red burns all over his skin. I looked over at Ron and Hermione and saw that they had the same things.
I forced myself to sit up and crawl over to each of them, lightly touching all of their burns and focusing on taking each of them away. By the time I was finished, I had a whole new energy inside me from taking the fire and heat from them.
"At least we got the Horcrux," I said, trying to put a positive spin on everything as I stripped out of the sopping robes down to my underwear and bra before casting a drying charm. I redressed in a pair of tight black leggings, a black tank top, a black leather jacket, and high-heeled black leather boots. I wrapped from light blue fabric around my knuckles and tied it before neatly tying my hair up and swinging my bag across my body again.
"But we lost the sword," Ron said quietly as the others dried off and changed as well. Harry let out an exclamation of pain and fell to the ground, pressing his scar. I kneeled beside him, and took his free hand in mine, just waiting for whatever he was seeing in his vision to be over.
"He knows - he knows we're after the Horcruxes and te last one is at Hogwarts," Harry said frantically, standing up. "It's the last place he's going to check because he thinks it's the safest because Snape's there, so he could still be there in a few hours -"
"Did you see where in Hogwarts it is?" Ron asked hopefully, getting to his feet too.
"No, he was concentrating on warning Snape, he wasn't thinking about where it is -"
"Wait!" Hermione cried as Harry pulled out the Invisibility Cloak again. "We can't just go, we haven't got a plan, we need to -"
"Since when do our plans ever work, Hermione?" I asked. We all squeezed underneath the the cloak and Apparated. As soon as our feet touched the ground, a screeching alarm sounded. I knew that if we didn't hide or get some help within the next few seconds, we were as good as dead.
The door of the Three Broomsticks burst open and a dozen Death Eaters came sprinting out with their wands raised. I had to stop Ron and Harry from doing anyhting rash - there were twelve of them and only four of us. I mean, I was incredibly skilled when it came to fighting, but even I didn't like those odds.
"Accio Cloak!" one of the Death Eaters roared, but the spell failed and the Invisibility Cloak didn't move. You have to be really stupid to not be able to do a simple summoning charm. "Not under your wrapper, then, Potter?" the same Death Eater yelled. "Spread out. He's here."
Six Death Eaters came towards us and we all back up as fast as we could down a side street and they missed us by mere inches. We stayed there and listened to the footsteps running up and down, searching for us.
"Let's just leave!" Hermione whispered. "Disapparate now!"
"They already know we're here and they've prepared for that, so we're trapped. We need to find another way," I said immediately, while at the same time trying to listen to the Death Eater's conversation.
"...an' Dementors won't kill him! The Dark Lord wants Potter's life, not his soul. He'll be easier to kill if he's been Kissed first!"
There were noises of agreement, and a feeling of dread filled the pit of my stomach. I grabbed Harry's hand behind me, but I knew he had his wand hand up, getting ready in case they were telling the truth. A feeling of hopelessness overwhelmed me and I knew that the Dementors were coming.
"Expecto Patronum," Harry whispered, and the silver stag burst from the tip of his wand. The Dementors scattered, and then a yell of, "It's him! Down there, down there! I saw his Patronus - it was the stag!" The Dementors had retreated, but we were still stuck. I looked around quickly and realized what little street we were hiding down, and ran to one of the doors and knocked just as the bolts started grinding. It opened and I shoved everyone inside before going inside myself.
"Keep the Cloak on and stay quiet," I whispered as a tall figure passed through the doorway and slammed the door behind us. I led the way behind the counter, through a second doorway, and up a hidden wooden staircase to the bedroom I'd been taken to last year after escaping from Malfoy Manor.
"How do you know it's safe here?" Ron whispered as I continued leading them through the bedroom and into the sitting room beside it, where a portrait of a blonde girl hung near a window looking into the street.
"Because the owner helped me out last year when I escaped from Malfoy Manor," I said and that seemed to silence everything except for the street below. Aberforth was yelling at the Death Eaters about the Caterwauling Charm, saying that he was just putting his cat out, and the Patronus was his goat Patronus because he doesn't like Dementors. He could be an actor, because that was some very good improvisation.
"You bloody fools," Aberforth said as he entered the room, taking time to look at each of us. "What were you thinking, coming here?"
"Thank you," Harry said. "We can't thank you enough - you saved our lives!"
"Wouldn't have been the first time," he muttered, and I smiled at the old man. He was grumpy sometimes, but he definitely had his uses.
"It's your eye I've been seeing in the mirror."
Everything fell silent as Harry and Aberforth stared at each other.
"You sent Dobby."
"There isn't much time. We've got to get into the castle. Dumbledore - I mean, your brother - wanted us -"
"Albus wanted a lot of things," Aberforth said, "and people had a habit of getting hurt while he was carrying out his grand plans. You get away from this school, Potter, and out of the country if you can. Forget my brother and his clever schemes. He's gone where none of this can hurt him, and you don't owe him anything."
"You don't understand," Harry said.
"Oh, don't I?" Aberforth asked quietly. "You don't think I understood my own brother? Think you know Albus better than I did?"
"I didn't mean that," Harry said. "It's just that...he left me a job."
"Did he now?" Aberforth said, and I could hear the sarcasm practically dripping off his voice. "Nice job, I hope? Pleasant? Easy? Sort of thing you'd expect an unqualified wizard kid to be able to do without overstretching themselves?"
Ron gave a grim laugh.
"I - it's not easy, no, but I've got to -"
"Got to? Why got to? He's dead, isn't he?" Aberforth said roughly. "Let it go, boy, before you follow him! Save yourself!"
"Because of them," I answered for Harry, pulling out one of the pictures of Aidan and Nadia. "We can't stop fighitng because we had twins two months ago. We can't stop fighting because Harry was givwen a job to do by your brother, and no matter how many secrets Albus had, he knew what he was talking about when it comes to this. Don't get me wrong, Aberforth, I respect you and your knowledge of your brother, but I knew him too and he knew exactly what he was doing. The secrets he had were for a reason, and a very good reason at that." Everyone was staring at me in shocked silence. "I don't care what anyone thinks - whether you think the Order if finished, or that You-Know-Who has won, or whatever, but we need to get into that castle. Now."
Aberforth turned to the portrait of Ariana, and said, "You know what to do."
Ariana smiled, turned, and wakled away, but unlike normal magic portraits, she disappeared into what looked like a long tunnel.
Ron, Harry, and Hermione all looked at each other confused, but I smiled.
"There's only one way into the school now," Aberforth said. "You must know that they've got all the old secret passageways covered at both ends, Dementors all around the boundary walls, and regular patrols inside the school from what my sources tell me. The place has never been so heavily guarded. How you expect to do anything once you get inside, with Snape in charge and the Carrows as his deputies...well, that's your problem, isn't it? You say you're prepared to die."
"But what...?" Hermione frowned at Ariana's picture.
A tiny dot appeared at the end of the painted tunnel and it continued to grow bigger and bigger, and this time, someone else was with her. This person was limping along, looking excited. His hair was longer than I had ever seen and he looked torn.
The whole portrait swung forward on the wall and out came Neville Longbottom, who gave a roar of delight, leapt down from the mantelpiece and yelled, "I knew you'd come! I knew it, Harry!"
Next time on "The Final Stand"
"Which came first, the phoenix or the flame?"
I tried to remember the answer to this because I was sure I knew it. Harry and Luna kept going back and forth before I burst out, "A CIRCLE HAS NO BEGINNING OR END."
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