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Chapter 73 : Treading Dangerous Waters
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A/N: Read, Review and Enjoy!
Luna dodged as Rick lunged at her... it was clear since Talena had thrown both their wands in the hall that she intended the man to try and kill her with his bare hands. Cradling Gwen's mirror, she quickly leapt over the bed and grabbed her bag, turning to swing it at Rick's head. He stumbled back a few steps and she tried to make it to the door but the handle wouldn't turn... Talena must have broken it off. She tensed as she felt him grab her by her hair and yank her back, tossing her to the floor where the mirror slid out of her grasp. He pulled back his fist, but she managed to roll to the side and heard his howl of pain as he connected with the floorboards instead of her. Scrambling to her feet, she once more grabbed her bag and turned to swing again... but he was ready, grabbing the bag and roughly pulling it from her grasp before throwing it over his shoulder as he reached down and pulled a long knife from his boot. She ducked away but he caught the back of her shirt, pulling and flinging her down on the bed before letting his arm fly forward. Luna shrieked and grabbed the pillow, holding it out in an attempt to stop the knife from reaching her... the blade cut right through the fabric and stopped inches from her face.
Using all her strength, she pushed at his arm as he tried to bring the knife down... she flailed her legs in panic and managed to kick him hard in the knee, dropping him to the ground. She rolled and crawled across the bed but he reached out and grabbed her foot, dragging her back to him. With a grunt of frustrated anger, he tossed the knife and pillow aside and flipped her over before wrapping his hands around her throat, letting his untamed fury at being foiled drive him. She stared into his eyes while gasping for air... there was only anger and hatred, no sign of mercy at all.
Her mind was swirling, desperately grasping at anything that may save her life. She couldn't breathe... it was like the island all over again, only that time Elise had been the one to order a man to end her life... the island... the dragons... the dragon claw! She wanted to weep in relief as she recalled the claw she'd fastened into a necklace, certain that it was something she would need someday. Well, the day had come and so she stopped trying to pry his hands from her neck and instead reached under her shirt to grab the claw. Breaking the necklace's chain, she gripped the end and with as much strength as she could muster, jammed the sharp point through the man's eye. He screamed in agony, instantly releasing her as he grabbed his face. Coughing and sputtering, she rolled away and stood to look at him, horrified by what she had done yet knowing it had been necessary.
Rick cried out again as he managed to dislodge the claw from his eye... He stumbled as the remaining poison worked it's way through him and yet still he came after her, driven by Talena's will. She kicked him again and hurried away, but the room was small and there were only so many places she could go. Her only chance was to remain out of his grasp until the poison overtook him and he finally stilled.
“Luna!” She heard Harry yell desperately through the door and her heart clenched with hope and relief. Before she could call out to him, Rick made another lunge for her and she had to dive out of the way, landing hard on the ground. Seeing the handle of Gwen's mirror sticking out from under the bed, she grabbed it up and flipping it around to protect the glass, she swung and connected with the side of his head just as the door burst into pieces and Harry entered with his wand out and his eyes wild with terrified fury as he searched for her.
“This doesn't have to end in tragedy.” Elise said slowly as the small lifeboat rocked against the waves. “We can use our time out here alone to come to an alliance and apparate back to the ship together.”
“You already know apparation onto that ship is an impossibility... at least for you.” Jacey answered confidently. “There will be no alliance, I have been clear on this every time we have met. This will be the last.”
“I suppose it will.” She sighed with disappointment. “I had high hopes for you... that's why I had to try one more time to convince you.”
Not wishing to talk any longer and desperate to get back to the ship to help her friends, Jacey simply flicked her wrists, sending twins streams of fire. To her surprise, Elise did not retaliate, instead focusing her own fire around herself to try and protect against the attack. But they both knew that Jacey was stronger and it was only a matter of seconds before she overcame her... and in those seconds, she realized the woman had a plan.
Before she could stop her, Elise reached into her pocket and flew forward still engulfed in flame, knocking into her and causing them both to fall. Jacey's back burst out in pain as she landed in the bottom of the boat and then she felt a sharp sting in her shoulder as Elise grinned maniacally from above her. “It's really too bad it had to end this way.” She said, at last dropping her fire and standing triumphantly .
Jacey struggled to stand and looking at her shoulder, she realized she had been stabbed with some sort of needle. “What have you done?” She asked in horror, instantly fearing the worst. They had already used Psychohemia once against Harry, what if they had some left over from what that Snape man had brewed against his will? She could already feel her thoughts slow and her head become groggy.
“It's just a simple and very powerful paralytic of the mind. I wanted to be sure once we were out of that stupid energy field that you would be unable to fight but your captain shifted direction and got you all out of there faster than we'd hoped.” Elise waved her wand and knocked her back down. “There may be something special about you that makes you stronger than me, but without being able to make that connection to your powers, you are nothing and I'm the one to come out on top!” She shouted.
Jacey raised her hand and focused everything she had, sending one last blast of fire before she felt that part of her mind shut down entirely. Elise laughed, turning and diving into the water and swimming a few yards out before turning around and waving her wand. Seeing what she intended to do, Jacey flipped over the side and into the water herself just as the boat shattered to pieces. She wanted to follow Elise as the woman made her way back to the boat, but she couldn't... she didn't know how to swim. Gasping and choking, she struggled to reach a piece of floating wood and clung to it as she tried to figure out what to do. She attempted to apparate herself back to the ship but found she could not... her head felt like a dead weight on her shoulders and she felt her body relax as her mind began to go to sleep. But she would not give up, she could not... her life depended on it.
She forced herself to kick her legs as she concentrated on keeping her hold on the piece of boat that was the only thing stopping her from sinking below the surface. Staring off, she suddenly felt hopeless... the ship was so far and only growing further away. There was no way she would be able to catch up. Her legs were like lead and she had to constantly remind herself to keep them moving... but why when it seemed so useless?
She thought she heard someone calling in the distance and strained to hear better. “Ginny!” At last she realized it was Draco calling out. How he or Ginny came to be out here, Jacey had no idea. But she needed their help before she was no longer able to fight off the paralytic and her mind turned off completely. She tried to reach him telepathically but it just was not happening and so she gathered everything she had in her and yelled for help at the top of her lungs.
Ron had thought himself a good swimmer, but even with Murdo's help, he was exhausted by the time they caught up to the ship. Now he had to climb back on board using the ladder the water demon had just conjured. “You two go on up... I'm sensing there are others in the water who could use my help.” He told them before turning and diving beneath the waves.
Lupin went first, using his keen sense of smell to ensure there wasn't anyone waiting to ambush them on deck. After helping Ron over the railing, he sniffed the air and grew tense. “Talena and Elanya are below deck and so are Harry, Luna, Hermione and Fred. Get to the captain's box and find a way back in there... it's where I left my communication device. Find it and use it to call your father.” He instructed before rushing off to help the others.
Though tempted to follow, Ron decided to do as he was told since he was worried that rushing down there could potentially only make things worse. Besides, he was wondering where everyone else was... Lupin hadn't mentioned anything about Ginny, Jacey or Draco and Elise and Cho were also unaccounted for. He ran around to the front of the ship and up to the Captain's box, but Talena had damaged the door badly and no matter what spell he cast, he couldn't fix it. He tried shattering the glass, but none of those spells worked either... the charms she had placed were still holding strong and he quickly realized magic wasn't going to help him. But maybe he could get in the old-fashioned way... he began looking for something heavy enough to break the thick glass in the door.
Going back down to the deck he went to grab a chair... catching sight of someone standing at the railing, he fell back into the shadows. It was Cho and it seemed like she was casting out at sea for some reason... he crept closer, realizing he could hear someone yelling from the water. “GINNY!”
Instantly recognizing Draco's voice, Ron knew that his sister was in trouble and Cho was making it more difficult for anyone to help her. He waved his wand, casting a strong binding that sent the girl tumbling to the ground. He raced over to the railing and desperately looked around, but other than Draco's voice as he called for Ginny, there was nothing... he couldn't see either of them. And then his heart skipped a beat as another voice screamed into the night, calling to Draco for help and it wasn't Ginny... Ron would know Jacey's voice among hundreds of others.
He had to do something. Making sure Cho was secure, he conjured ropes to wrap around her and ignoring the angry words and curses she hurled at him, he picked up her wand and threw it into the water before using his wand to float her into the storage closet and slam the door shut. Then he ran to the lifeboats, eager to get out there with his sister and Jacey. One of the small boats was gone, but two more were there waiting to be lowered. He quickly climbed in and threw the switch, hanging on tight as the boat dropped down with a rough splash. Grabbing the oars, he began making his way towards the voices calling out to each other while straining to hear the one he hadn't yet... where was Ginny?
Harry made it to the lower hallway and sensed danger all around him. He rushed over to the cabin he shared with Luna, stopping when he saw two wands laying discarded right outside the door. Picking them up, he instantly recognized the one that belonged to Luna... but he had no idea who the other one belonged to. He went to open the door but the handle was broken off. “Luna!” He called anxiously. Pressing his ear to the door, he heard sounds of struggle and the voice of a man screaming out in pain. Desperate to know what was going on, he stepped back and gathered his focus, pushing out with his mind and pushing the door in as it broke into pieces. Stepping inside, he was just in time to see Luna on the ground swinging her heavy mirror at a man who seemed to have one of his eyes gouged out.
As the mirror made contact, the man fell back and Luna jumped to her feet looking disheveled and bruised but otherwise okay except for her badly bleeding arm. They both approached the man as he gasped painfully. “What happened?” Harry asked breathlessly.
She reached down and picked something up off the floor, holding it out for him to see. It was the necklace she'd made and insisted on wearing; the dragon's claw at the end was covered in blood. “I didn't have a choice... I think the poison is spreading.” She looked so guilty about the man now laying at their feet and gasping his last dying breaths. In all the battles and fights she'd taken part in, never had she come close to taking a life... ignoring the man, Harry grabbed her and pulled her in his arms before leading her out the door.
“Wait here.” He kissed her forehead and handed her wand back to her. Then he went back into the room with a purpose, striding right up the man and beginning to search his pockets. He found what he was looking for... the man's wallet.
“His name is Rick Levin.” Luna said quietly from the hall.
Not bothering to look through the wallet, he put it in his pocket and went back to join her. “I just want to be sure that we have information on him. Come on.” He said, instantly heading for Fred and Hermione's room where he sensed Talena to be. Keeping Luna behind him, he burst through the door to find the vampire standing over his friends, offering not to kill Hermione if they told her who helped him kill Tristan. “I did it alone.” He announced, drawing all attention on him.
Talena stood up straight and hissed at him. “Harry!” Fred called, quickly rolling over a piece of ash wood. Rather than risk picking it up, he used his powers to call it into his hand and felt much better holding the only thing that could hurt the vampire.
“You want to know about Tristan? Then come ask me.” He challenged, wanting only to get her away from the others. Ignoring Luna calling for him to stop, he turned and ran, certain that Talena would follow. Sure enough, she was right behind him as he raced back up on deck where there was more room.
“Harry!” Lupin was on the stairs ahead of him but Harry shoved him out of the way for his own good.
“Fred and Hermione's room!” He shouted over his shoulder, hoping Lupin would go help the others instead of chasing them... It was his fault Talena had such a strong vendetta, and so he felt it was his responsibility to get rid of her and make sure his friends no longer suffered for his choices.
“Are you guys okay?” Luna asked as she hurried to their side.
“Her arm's broken.” Fred instantly pointed her attention towards Hermione though it was clear he was injured as well.
“It's fine.” She said through clenched teeth, trying not to show just how much pain she was in.
“Just sit still.” Luna instructed, gently taking her arm and waving her wand to create a splint until more could be done.
“Here.” Fred pulled his pain pills out of his pocket and handed her two before swallowing down a couple himself. She gratefully took the pills and waited to begin feeling better.
“Come on, we have to go after Harry before he does something stupid.” Luna stood and picked up both her mirror and her wand.
“Is everyone okay in here?” Lupin demanded, appearing at the door. He was soaking wet, clearly having spent some time in the water. “No one's been bitten, have they?”
“Not yet.” Fred muttered with a groan as he climbed to his feet and tested his leg.
“Okay then.” Lupin nodded grimly. “I'm going to get more pieces of ash wood from my room... stay together and don't go looking for trouble.” He instructed them before rushing away. Clearly he was as eager to get to Harry and Talena as Luna was.
Hermione allowed Fred and Luna to help her to her feet and she quickly searched for her wand, only feeling secure once it was in her good hand. “Hey, you're all still alive.” They all three jumped and turned in surprise to see Elanya, who had unfortunately regained consciousness. While Hermione had been distracted with getting her arm broken, the binding she had cast had relented and the girl they'd completely forgotten about was now sneering at them with her wand held high. “I must say, some of you are really starting to annoy us with this unwillingness to just shrivel up and die.”
“Right back at you.” Fred angrily replied before shooting a spell. Hermione and Luna followed his lead, giving Elanya little choice but to continually shield herself.
Suddenly Luna cried out in pain and fell back holding her shoulder. Turning they saw Elise and Sarah standing in the doorway looking angry and evil. One of them, probably Elise, had snuck up and shot a gouging spell, hitting Luna who was closest to the door... her shoulder was gushing blood and she was desperately trying to close the wound. “Episkey!” Hermione yelled out to help her friend before training her wand directly at Elise who she deemed the most dangerous of the three women now standing before them.
“Hmm, it seems we have a bit of a stand-off here.” Sarah said with a cackling laugh. “Three against three.”
“Although at least two of you should have been dead by now.” Elise added. “I must say, I'm not surprised that Harry managed to distract Talena away from you two.” She looked to Fred and Hermione before turning to glare at Luna. “But you... you are just a little bundle of surprises, aren't you? We just came from your room, expecting to find your body... what a surprise to find the corpse of our seer instead.”
Hermione was surprised and knew that if it was true that Luna had killed someone, it was because she'd had no other choice in the matter... looking her friend over and seeing the bruises all over her, she knew whatever had happened, Luna had only acted in self-defense. Yet still, it was impossible not to see the guilt pooling in her eyes. “It wasn't my fault.” She said quietly, her voice quivering with emotion.
“Of course not.” Elise cooed soothingly. “It was you or him... I just hadn't expected you to make the choice you did. Maybe we were wrong about you... maybe we could take you onto our side as well.”
“Especially if it meant Harry would come running after you.” Sarah added. “You can make this easy on the rest of your friends... leave with us- you, Fred, Harry and Draco... come with us now and the others will never have trouble from us again.”
“What about Jacey?” Fred asked, picking up on the one name missing from their list that they all knew the women desperately wanted.
“She's been entirely uncooperative and has been taken care of.” Elise smiled.
“You're lying.” Luna said instantly. “I know you are.”
“If she's not dead yet, she will be soon.” The woman argued, raising her hands and allowing her flames to burst free. “So what will it be? Come with us, or join Jacey at the bottom of the ocean?”
“They chose neither.” Someone growled from the hallway.
“The old wolf!” Sarah warned her two friends, her tone carrying fear for the first time. Hermione saw Lupin crouch low, dropping the bundle of ash wood he'd been carrying to free his hands. Gripping his amulet, he ripped it from his neck and put it in his pocket before emitting another low growl of anger.
“Cast!” Hermione yelled, waving her wand at Elise who had been about to curse Lupin. And then they were all in motion at once, dueling while trying to dodge the man with the wolf's mind. At last Lupin tackled Sarah to the floor and snarled in her face. “No!” Hermione shouted, seeing what he was about to do. “Don't bite her! It's what she wants!” She wasn't sure if he had just intended to bite her to keep her down or whether he was going to simply end her altogether, but they couldn't take the chance. Luckily the full moon was still a couple of days away and her words were able to reach the human still very much within him. Rather than continue his attack, he leapt at Elanya who was dueling heavily with Fred and Luna. Distracted watching them, Hermione wasn't paying enough attention to her own duel and flew back as Elise was finally able to hit her.
She landed hard against the wall and fell to the ground... her arm was aching dully, now in too much pain to be entirely taken away by the potion pills. Seeing what had happened, Fred and Luna left Elanya to Lupin and stood protectively in front of her as she climbed back to her feet. Rejoining the duel against Elise, she also tried to help Lupin who was ducking and dodging Sarah who had regained her wand... the woman may not be a talented caster, but with her distracting him, Elanya had been able to recover from his attack on her and was also trying to cast at Lupin. “We have to get up on deck!” Luna called suddenly. “Harry needs help with Talena!”
“That's our cue to retreat!” Elise laughed, as she and her two friends ducked through the doorway. With a stream of fire, she blocked their escape... but it didn't deter Lupin. He simply scooped up the ash wood, leaving enough pieces for them each to have one before leaping through the flames licking at the doorway, not caring whether he was singed.
“Aguamenti!” Hermione cried out shooting a stream of water from her wand. Fred and Luna joined her until it was safe for them to pass, then with their makeshift stakes, they hurried up to the deck to see what new horrors awaited.
“Ginny!” Draco called out desperately, screaming her name over and over... but she wasn't answering and he hadn't seen her since that last wave. Cho had stopped casting, but he couldn't tell if it was because someone had stopped her or if he was just too far from the ship.
“Draco!” He heard someone call out to him... someone who wasn't Ginny. “Please I am needing your help!”
It was Jacey, it had to be. The salt water was messing with his sense of smell and he couldn't pinpoint her location in the dim light of the crescent moon. “Where are you?!” He yelled back. Maybe she had found Ginny unconscious and was keeping her afloat... at this point, that was all he could hope for.
“Here!” She screamed, though her voice seemed to be tired or strained... almost as if she was having trouble making the words come out.
“Keep calling!” He began swimming toward the sound of her voice until at last he saw her clinging weakly to what looked like a broken piece of a boat, her legs barely kicking behind her.
“Are you okay? Have you seen Ginny?” He asked anxiously.
“No to both of your questions.” She answered through lips that seemed to be frozen. “Elise injected me with some sort of paralytic of the mind... it has been all I can do not to give in and fall asleep.”
“Okay... here.” He held her above water while slipping the life preserver he'd grabbed around her. “Just hang on and I'll pull you... but I have to find Ginny.” He didn't want to give up... he couldn't give up on Ginny, he had just had to find her, there was absolutely no other option.
“Look.” Jacey feebly pointed into the distance. Draco looked to see something dive between the waves, it's giant tail and fins flashing silver in the faint moonlight. “It is Murdo.” Jacey mumbled. Glancing at her, he realized she was fighting to keep her eyes open... hopefully Fred would have or know how to brew the antidote to whatever she was given because the small part of him that wasn't scared to death for Ginny was now worried about whether or not one of the coven members would make it through this.
“Over here!” He yelled as loudly as he could once he saw the water demon surface once more. It seemed he had been heard and using one arm, Murdo gracefully swam toward them. As he came closer, Draco's heart skipped a beat when he realized the man wasn't alone... it had to be Ginny, who else was out here? Sure enough, she was cradled in his other arm... she seemed dazed and was coughing up water, but she was alive and as soon as they were in reach, he pulled her from Murdo's arms into his own, treading water as they clung to each other. “Are you okay?” He demanded to know.
“I think so.” She answered shakily.
“She was about to drown... and this one doesn't look any better.” Murdo gestured to Jacey who was staring at them all with glassy, unfocused eyes.
“She's been poisoned.” Draco informed them as it seemed Jacey was no longer able to speak for herself.
“Okay, you two grab onto the preserver and make sure she doesn't slip away. I'll bring us all back to the ship.” He waited to be sure they did as he told them before grabbing the end of the rope attached to the life preserver and diving below the water.
They stopped short when a rowboat appeared from the dark... Weasley was anxiously calling out for them. “Over here!” Murdo shouted as he resurfaced, dragging them all closer to the small boat.
“Are you all okay?” Weasley demanded.
“Jacey isn't.” Ginny pointed out as Draco and her brother helped her climb in. Draco turned to see Jacey hanging limply from the life preserver, now completely unconscious. With Murdo's help, they carefully got her into the rowboat and gently lay her down.
“What happened?” Weasley demanded.
“She said Elise shot her up with some sort of paralytic.” He answered, pulling himself into the boat now that the two girls were safely aboard. “Hopefully it'll wear off or Fred will have something to counter it.”
“You all relax.” Murdo told them as he attached the rope from the preserver to the front of the lifeboat. “I'll tow you in... you may need your strength once we get back.”
Nodding in agreement, they all settled around Jacey. And then they were being pulled along, racing back to their friends... hopefully, they would be there to return to.
Harry ran on deck, knowing he had nowhere to go... he was trapped, but at least they were out in the open now and he didn't have to worry about someone else getting hurt. He turned and faced Talena as she flew after him. They circled each other warily... Killing Tristan Macnair had been difficult and in the end, it was luck that aided him in ending the pureborn vampire. But Talena didn't know that and he could see in her eyes that she was unsure what to make of him. Surely she and her brother had thought themselves untouchable and now faced with someone she thought had brought her twin down alone, it was clear she was trying to figure out how he'd done it. However, having been there himself that night, Harry knew fighting Tristan had been one of the most difficult things he'd ever done and now Talena had fury and vengeance to help drive her... unless he got very lucky again, this wasn't going to turn out well.
He closed his mind up tight as he felt her trying to pry her way in... he would never allow her or anyone outside his group of friends to know what happened that night in the woods and he certainly wasn't going to let Talena find out that Draco and Jacey had been there as well. “You can't hide your secrets from me forever.” She told him.
“I don't need to... right now is what counts.” He returned, grabbing her in his mind and flinging her against the wall while using his wand to fire spell after spell.
She broke free of his hold and leapt high into the air before flying down at him. He ducked as she tried to grab him up by his hair, rolling to the side and stopping just short of the edge of the deck. “Harry!”
He looked down into the water to see Ron, Draco, Ginny and an unconscious Jacey being towed up to the ship by Murdo. “Draco! Murdo! Get up here!” He shouted, thinking it best that two other humanoids be there to help him fight this mighty vampiric one.... especially if one was of a demon breed.
“Look out!” Ginny yelled up at him.
Harry felt himself be grabbed by the back of his neck, Talena's claws digging into his skin before she threw him back across the deck to the other side of the ship. “I'll take on all of your friends, no matter what they are and I'll kill them without a second thought.” She hissed out angrily before straightening and standing tall over him. His body ached but it was nothing compared to what he'd suffered before... he easily got up to face her, hiding any pain or discomfort he felt. “I'll kill you too someday, just like I know you killed Tristan.” She threatened. “But that day doesn't have to be today... prove you deserve my mercy, join Elise and Sarah and live to fight another day... I'll let your friends sail off happily. Though, I'm really hoping you say no... I could use a good massacre.”
Sensing Lupin sneaking up the stairs, Harry didn't bother to give her an answer and instead, cast at her as fast as he could to keep her distracted from noticing anyone else. She was angrily shielding, waiting for her chance to curse him to death... and then Lupin was there, pouncing and knocking her to the ground as he pulled back his arm and made to jam his piece of ash wood through her heart. Harry retrieved his own ash wood from where he'd dropped it and raced forward to help just as Talena caught Lupin's arm, getting her feet under him and kicking him off of her. Harry dove forward, desperately trying to stab her any place her could... but she was faster, dodging his attempts until she was able to swing her fist and knock him away. His face exploded in pain, he felt like his entire jaw had been broken by the contact but again, he pushed it back to focus... Murdo had just leapt on deck and he and Talena were now circling each other, his long silvery tail whipping at her as Draco made his way over the railing to join them. Now with two werewolves, a water demon and Harry all surrounding her... he thought Talena would give up. Instead, she smiled in amusement.
“Am I supposed to be scared now?” She taunted.
Before anyone could move, Elise, Sarah and Elanya came running up on deck followed by Luna, Hermione and Fred who all looked worse for the wear. “Plan B!” Elise shouted at Talena as she and her two friends dove into the water and disappeared below the waves.
Talena looked directly at Harry now that her friends were entirely out of earshot. “Next time, there will be no offer, no conversation. The next time we meet, I will end you without a care as to who's plans it upsets.” She threatened with a cackling laugh before leaping high above their heads and diving gracefully into the ocean.
“All of you stay on the ship!” Murdo yelled as he jumped over the railing to chase the women.
“Wait!” Lupin called... but it was too late, their captain had disappeared.
Ginny sat in the lifeboat with Ron and Jacey, waiting until it was safe to bring their unconscious friend back up onto the ship. They listened to everyone yelling from above them... and then three loud splashes sounded from the other side of the ship followed quickly by two more. “Hey!” Draco called down to them.
“We're still here!” She assured him, though she was nervous as to who may now be swimming below them.
“Okay, just relax.” Lupin told them... and then she, Ron and Jacey were all floating through the air until they were placed safely on the deck. Looking at all her friends sitting around in silence, Ginny saw they were all injured, weary and upset.
“They got away again.” Harry groaned unhappily as he wiped blood from the back of his neck. Then he saw Jacey laying unconscious and crawled over. “What happened?”
Draco tiredly explained what Jacey had told him as everyone else gathered around. Fred carefully pulled down her shirt to inspect the puncture site on her shoulder... there seemed to be a pink stain on her skin. “It's not Psychohemia.” He informed them all with visible relief. “Wait here, I think I brought something that will do the trick.” He got up and limped off before anyone could stop him or offer to help.
While they waited, Lupin conjured up towels for everyone who had spent time in the chilly water and Ginny gratefully allowed Hermione to wave her wand and dry their clothes before wrapping one of the towels around herself for warmth and comfort. “What happened?” She asked, noticing the make-shift splint on the other girl's arm.
“Talena took exception to my attempting to stake her with a piece of ash wood.” She grimaced as Lupin came over to take a look.
“Just hold still... I'm not as good at this as Drake would be, but I still remember how to fix a broken bone or two.” He assured her with a smile, tenderly unwrapping her arm before carefully waving his wand. Hermione grit her teeth against the pain as her bones realigned and then it was over and Lupin was once more wrapping her arm tightly and instructing her to be careful with it until they could find a real healer to take a look.
“Here!” Fred rushed up and excitedly knelt back down next to Jacey. “Ron, hold her up... we have to get her to drink this.” He held up a vial filled with a milky liquid. “What Elise gave her was essentially the potion version of a stunner. This should be able to counter the effects pretty quickly. George and I came up with it a few years ago when we were trying to find an immunity to the stunner spell... it didn't work for that but we found it could take someone out of a stun and ever since I always keep some just in case.”
Ron carefully cradled Jacey into a seated position and with Harry's help, they got her head back so Fred could pour the counterpotion down her throat. They all waited anxiously but nothing seemed to be happening. “Maybe you needed a fresher batch.” Draco suggested.
Suddenly Jacey sat up coughing and spitting up water... they all jumped back in surprise before talking over each other to make sure their friend was okay. “I am fine.” She managed to choke out, laying back down to catch her bearings.
With a sigh of relief, Lupin stood and took stock of the rest of them. “Okay, let's keep patching you guys up and make sure nothing is serious enough that I need to call Arthur about.”
“You aren't going to tell him about this?” Harry asked in surprise as Lupin began inspecting the deep scratches in the back of his neck.
“Not until we get to Japan. No need to worry him while we're still at sea... he'll hear the news better knowing we're on land and near a friendly ministry.” He answered with a smile. “These marks are deep, but luckily nothing serious was severed.” He waved his wand to clean and wrap the wounds before moving on to do the same to Luna who's arm and shoulder were both bleeding.
“We have to do something about Rick.” She said quietly after she was all bandaged up.
“Rick? The seer?” Ginny asked in confusion. “He's still on the ship?”
“Sort of.” Harry answered with a meaningful look. It was her or him... she made the right choice and there's nothing more to talk about. He thought out to her. She nodded to show she understood completely and wouldn't judge... after all, they may all be faced with that decision very soon.
Helping each other to their feet, they went below deck as a group. Luna chose to wait in the hall as Harry led the way into their room. But there was nothing to see... at least, not anymore. The floor was charred, indicating that someone had set fire to the evidence that Luna had apparently been forced to kill someone to save her own life. “Good thing I grabbed this when I did.” Harry pulled a wallet from his pocket and opened it up. “Let's see if there's anything useful we can learn about him.”
They had all decided to look through the wallet up on the deck while waiting for Murdo to return. Harry had dumped the entire contents out, a pile of cards, folded papers and money and they were all going through everything for a clue to... well, anything really. Luna ignored everything else to stare down at the ID in her hands. Richard Lewis Levin, age 42, height 5 feet 10 inches, weight 204 pounds, eye color brown, hair color brown, address 2187 Mayfield Ave, Benton Mississipi. It was all information that would forever be burned into her memory, all the basic facts of a man who was no more because of a decision forced upon her. He was from America... there was no visa, no passport... so had Elise gone to the States at some point? Or had they met because Rick was on the run and out of his country illegally? She couldn't know... she couldn't see the past.
“Here's a list of some kind.” Hermione announced, holding out the piece of paper she'd been reading. “They're all names, but I have no clue who any of these people are.”
“I know this one.” Jacey said, her eyes growing wide. “Stavros Petras... but he is dead, I saw it happen with my own eyes.”
“You're sure?” Harry pressed.
She looked at Ron quickly before answering. “Yes, he was burned to death for his beliefs and actions. I know his killer very well.”
Luna picked up something dark and regretful from the other girl... knowing how she felt after taking a life, she instantly recognized what Jacey was hiding. She had been the one to kill whoever this Stavros was. Jacey turned to her sharply upon realizing one of her secrets had been discovered, pleading with her eyes for both understanding, forgiveness and a promise of continued secrecy. Luna simply nodded, not willing to judge until and unless she knew the whole story.
“Well other than that list, there's nothing else here.” Draco said unhappily. “They got away again and now we know Talena is with them.”
“But she's not necessarily in line with their plans.” Harry pointed out. “She was perfectly willing to make her own deals with me to try and get information about Tristan.”
“Same with us.” Hermione added from her place a bit away from the group. She was holding her injured arm and had been lost deep in her own thoughts before joining the conversation. “When she was sure Elanya was passed out and couldn't hear, she was offering to let me go even though it wasn't what they wanted her to do.”
“Well, that just makes her more dangerous.” Lupin shook his head and sighed. “We already know those women don't stick to plans and routines... if Talena is willing to go rogue from them, who knows what's coming.”
“I'm just so tired of being worried about Elise, Sarah, Elanya and Cho!” Ginny announced dramatically. “It's so frustrating that they keep getting away.”
“Wait!” Ron leapt to his feet in excitement. “They didn't all get away! I stopped Cho from conjuring waves and tied her up! She should still be in the closet!”
They all followed him as he rushed to the door and pulled it open, sure enough, Cho was still sitting there wrapped in the thick ropes Ron had trapped her in. Luna held Gwen's mirror tightly as they all stared at the girl, feeling that something was about to come to her.
“Hello Cho.” Draco said with a cruel smile. “We have some questions for you.”
“There.” Fred stepped back in satisfaction as Cho tried to spit out the truth potion she'd just been forced to drink. Draco hoped she choked on it, regardless whatever information she may have locked away in her head. His anger with her since reading those letters had only intensified now that they were once again face to face... he hated her with everything he had inside of him. “Now whether you three are in her head or not, she can't lie to us.” Fred added proudly as he sat down to rest his leg.
They had recovered and repaired the deck chairs and were all sitting around Cho, waiting for the potion to take effect. Not wanting to push Potter, Luna or Jacey any further, Fred had insisted he had something to ensure the girl could only tell the truth... a serum he'd been working on that he believed stronger than anything currently available. Draco hoped it worked and that they got everything they could from Cho before shipping her off to whatever magical prison was closest. Potter nodded, indicating that Draco could begin the questioning... they had all agreed to allow him to be the one to interrogate Cho since he had the most questions for her. “Why Harland?” He blurted out.
“Why not?” She grinned back before her face contorted into a mask of pain.
“That will be the potion... you'll definitely want to cooperate or it will only get worse.” Fred warned.
“Why did you create an alliance with Harland?” Draco repeated insistently.
“Because I knew Sarah wanted him and what he could offer.” Cho said through gritted teeth, clearly trying hard not to answer but finding it impossible.
“So she did want him to bite her.” Granger shook her head, unsettled by the goals of the women they were continually forced to fight.
“But why did Harland agree to join you all and leave Voldemort?” Draco pressed.
“Because Elise and Sarah found Elanya.” Cho answered against her will. “Since Jayalina Delamora was the one to set Julian Heath free, Harland figured her daughter would know where to find him if he was still alive to find.”
“And why does he want to find Julian Heath?” Potter asked in confusion.
“I don't know.” She shrugged.
Draco looked to Luna who nodded in encouragement as she searched the girl's head... Cho wasn't fighting the potion, she really didn't know. “Why would Harland agree with your plan to turn me instead of just killing me outright when he had the chance?”
“Because he thinks you may know something about Julian as well.” Cho glared. “After all, it was your house the man disappeared from... he assumed you heard or saw something in the years since that means nothing to you but will tell him where to find this Julian guy. So when he was upset to be ordered by Voldemort and Lucius to kill you, I came up with an alternative that made him happy. When Sarah also agreed to help him find Julian in exchange for being bitten, a total alliance was struck and Harland became a spy for them against Voldemort... he feeds us information from that side all the time.”
“Where is Harland now?” Draco asked, hiding his nervousness. The last thing he wanted was to chance running into the one person who could control his mind this close to the full moon and force him to turn on everyone.
“Ireland. Sarah received information that Julian's mother had been seen there and figured he may be nearby.” She reluctantly admitted.
“Jennitha August?” Potter sat up with even more interest. “She's alive? Was Sarah sure she was in Ireland?”
“I don't know. She could have just been saying it to string him along. The trail for Julian went cold a long time ago.”
We'll go to Ireland after Greece. Draco heard Luna's voice in his head as she silently spoke to them all. We have to go there to find Ajala Kapoor anyway.
Among others. Jacey thought out before realizing she hadn't kept it to herself.
“Who else is there to find in Ireland?” Granger was startled into asking aloud.
“Nevermind.” She replied edgily as Cho looked on in confusion.
Figuring it was best to get this over with as soon as possible so he wouldn't have to be near Cho any longer than necessary, Draco moved on with his questions. “Are Elise, Sarah, Elanya and Talena going to Japan?”
“Yes.” She spit out.
“What are they going there for?”
“To find some woman... apparently she's psychic like them... some kind of influential telepath. They'll be heading there now as they'd hoped to at least distract you all with this attack so they could beat you there. Rick had told them that you all were going to find the woman first and they weren't happy about it.”
Lupin moved to the railing to look out. “I wish Murdo would get back so we can start moving again.”
“Maybe he caught up with them.” Ginny suggested. “As a water demon, he's got to be a better swimmer than any of them, even if they are using spells to help them stay underwater.”
“Where else are they planning to go looking for psychics?” Jacey asked, returning Cho's glare with such intensity that the other girl had to turn away before answering.
“I don't know. They never told me things that far in advance. I don't know how they plan things, but they seem to wait until the last minute to make decisions... it's to keep Luna from seeing them but it's getting harder to keep her visions out every time they meet with you all. That's why they finally brought out Talena.”
“Where has she been? Why didn't she go to Hogwarts with Tristan?” Draco was extremely curious... certainly it would have been easier to accomplish their goals with two pureborn vampires keeping Potter busy.
“They had her out brokering an alliance with vampires around the world.” Cho told them. “They wanted to be sure to spread their message of a third alternative in the war far and wide... I guess they thought Tristan would be enough to challenge you all up at the school.”
“He almost was.” Potter muttered under his breath.
“Wait!” Luna was tightly holding her mirror and staring off into space... when she came back, her eyes were full of awareness and curiosity. “Crystal-Belle... why did Elise kill her and burn the Shrieking Shack?”
“Oh that.” Cho stalled. But once again her face twisted in pain as the potion forced her to answer truthfully. “All I know about that is Harland sent her there. Apparently the old woman knew something that they both wanted to know and when she wouldn't tell them, Elise got angry and killed her.”
“She knew where Julian and Jennitha were.” Luna said with certainty. “Nothing was taken from the store because what they wanted was in her head... Why would she know about them or where they were?”
“Maybe Lily mentioned Jennitha to her when she started looking into my family.” Potter suggested.
“Maybe they did trade with her.” Fred put in. “She had some pretty strange and unique things in that store and neither she nor Twizzle seemed the type to want to stray far from home... all that stuff had to come from somewhere, right?”
“Whatever the case, we need to get rid of her and fast.” Luna pointed at Cho. “I think they wanted her to be caught... I think they plan to use her as a way of tracking where we are.”
“Why?” Granger asked though it was clear she instantly believed her.
“Because it makes sense.” Potter was the one to answer as he picked up on whatever Luna was thinking. “They escaped us at the train and yet managed to somehow go back for her... and they were careful to try and get rid of Rick's body. It seems unnaturally careless that they leave Cho now... especially since they had a chance to find and free her while half of us were below deck with Talena and the rest were out in the ocean.”
“Well?” Ginny asked Cho. “Do you have some sort of tracking device on you?”
“No.” She answered with a sneer of a smile this time as she gladly told the truth.
“The astral projection.” Luna said. “Sarah was going to look in on us through Cho while she was sleeping.”
“Sure, she already tried to get in my head before they boarded the ship.” Granger revealed.
“As soon as Murdo gets back, we'll arrange to have her dropped of with the nearest Auror watch. I'm not sure which country we're closest to at the moment, but he knows these routes better than anyone.” Lupin sighed, tiredly rubbing his face. “In the meantime, we'll take turns making sure Cho doesn't go to sleep.”
“I'll watch her first so you guys can go change and clean up.” Draco offered. “There's a few more things I want to ask her about.”
Both Potter and Lupin seemed unsure until Ginny volunteered to also stay... clearly they were worried about what would happen if he and Cho were left alone and Draco wasn't sure they weren't right to be concerned. He waited until they all went below deck before setting his chair directly in front of Cho while Ginny went to the railing to keep an eye out for Murdo, giving them privacy while remaining close enough to stop him from doing anything he may regret. “Is Kiara Smythe alive?” He asked pointedly.
“As far as I know. I wasn't lying before... she should be in Wales.”
“With Lucius?” He pressed.
“Of course... they were delighted to be reunited.” She grinned, knowing what she was being forced to tell wasn't anything he wanted to hear. “Elise had to get Lucius's word that he would hear his mother out before killing her... whatever the woman said, it only made her son want to know more of her.”
“So she's like him then...” He sat back in disappointment.
“We couldn't tell. For a muggle, she has a very strong mind and for some reason, Elise was unwilling to do anything against her.” Cho said in disgust. “Even Sarah couldn't get her to admit why she cared about Kiara Smythe.”
“Is Lucius helping Harland invade the ministry in Wales?”
“You all know so much and so little at the same time.” She laughed and shook her head before the potion once more worked against her. “Lucius intends to run the Wales ministry once they finally breach their Department of Mysteries. It's his reward for helping Elise and Sarah find each other again.”
“He helped bring them together?” He asked in surprise.
“When Voldemort recruited Elise, she and Lucius almost instantly began conspiring. I'm not sure who thought who was using the other more but they both had the same goal- obtaining power. When she told him she wanted to start an army of psychics, humanoids and other outcasts, he gave her a list of names and Sarah's was on it. She offered to help him take over his very own ministry in exchange for finding Sarah who had gone off the grid. Once those two met up, they pretty much took over the whole operation and Lucius was moved to the bottom of their list of allies... unless they needed something from him of course.”
“Was it the same list of names that we found in Rick's wallet?”
Cho slowly nodded her head, but that wasn't enough of an answer to appease Fred's potion. “Yes, more or less. They are all people Lucius knew to have strong psychic ability and since Rick knew most of the same people and also knew how to scry, he was tasked with hunting them all down.”
“Rick was a scrier too?” He said without thinking.
“Yes... but when he couldn't pinpoint the exact location of this stupid ship for them in addition to not seeing the future as well as Luna, they decided he wasn't nearly as useful as they'd thought and since Sarah had failed to get into that stupid mudblood's head, they had Talena put him under her influence right up until little Loony Luna killed him.”
Draco sat back and thought, ignoring the slights against his friends... after all, Granger may be a mudblood but she was anything but stupid and Luna's loony act was just that, an act she put on to keep those who didn't know her from suspecting her power. But what about everything else that was said? Could he now give up on Kiara without feeling guilty? He wasn't sure... the desire to at least meet her was still strong within him.
Deciding he was done with Cho, he waved his wand to first blindfold and then deafen and mute her. He certainly didn't want to hear anything else she may have to say nor did he want her to have the advantage of hearing or seeing anything they all did. With a sigh he got up and went to join Ginny at the railing. “Any sign of him?”
“No... the water seems completely still and empty. Though I guess there's actually a whole different world living down there... someday when we have time, we should go on a diving trip.” She was letting her mind wander as she often did when faced with things she didn't really want to think about.
“You didn't get enough of a taste of being underwater?” He teased while wrapping his arms around her, more happy than words could describe that she hadn't drowned.
“Yeah, well... next time I want to be more prepared for it.” She smiled, leaning up to kiss him before becoming more serious. “So, did she have anything to say?”
“Lots... I'll tell Potter and Lupin what I found out about all that other stuff...”
“But?” She looked up at him knowingly.
He sighed again and quickly told her what was said about Lucius and Kiara. “At least she's alive though, right?” He reasoned when he was done. “Unless she is somehow bad like Lucius.”
“You can't know for sure until you meet her.” She argued lightly.
“And when I do, I'll have to have one of the coven members or Fred's potion to be sure she's whatever she says she is.... what if she's not even a muggle? What if she had to lie for some reason like Potter's grandparents?”
“Again, that's not something you can know without either speaking to her or finding her records.” She held him more tightly, trying to offer comfort. “If Lucius plans to stay in Wales, then Kiara most likely will as well. Once we're back in London, we can make the trip to find them... I'm sure Lupin and Tonks would be happy to go as well. Especially if it gives Tonks the chance to arrest Lucius.”
“We'll see.” He shook his head uncertainly. “Who knows what will have happened by the time we find ourselves back that way... maybe its better not to think so far in advance.”
She offered up another sweet smile. “Hey, living in the moment has more or less worked for us so far. Why change now?”
“You two can switch into my room.” Lupin kindly offered Harry and Luna as he gathered his things and rejoined them in the hallway.
“Thanks.” They said at the same time. Luna went into their new room while Harry went to get their bags... hers was torn slightly and he knew it had happened while she'd been fending off Rick. Harry felt bad that the man had met his end because he'd been influenced by the strongest of vampires, but he just couldn't regret the outcome. Luna was alive and if it meant the person attacking her wasn't then he was perfectly fine with it. But she wasn't fine with it and he knew it... and he also knew that this was part of Elise and Sarah's plan, that even if Luna had passed their test and lived, she would forever regret the actions she was forced into taking. But she had been insistent that she needed the dragon's claw... so somewhere deep in her head, she had seen this coming and had prepared herself for the worst night of her life while not consciously realizing it.
He returned to Lupin's room, their room now, and found her sitting on the bed with her arms wrapped around her legs as she stared off at nothing. For the first time since finding her with Rick, she had let go of her mirror and it was sitting innocently next to her. “I've got everything. No need to ever go back in there.”
“Thanks.” She absently replied, reaching into the bag he placed beside her and pulling out whatever clothing was on top.
He wanted to tell her that it wasn't her fault, that she hadn't been given a choice... but even if it were true, he knew it would sound hollow in her ears. So he tried to change the subject instead. “Hopefully we'll be in Japan in no time...”
She nodded and stood to begin changing clothes. “First Nanami, then to Australia for Adam, Greece for Miles and Ireland for Ajala and possibly Jennitha... Rick was from the States you know.” She added abruptly. Clearly she wanted to talk about it.
“Maybe when we're there looking for Zachary and Jie, we can go to Mississippi and see what we can find on him there.”
Harry took her hands in his and forced her to be still. “Why would we do that? There's nothing more we need to know about other than that list in his pocket... and Draco is talking to Cho about that right now. Anything else you find out will only weigh on you.”
She took a deep breath and nodded. “I know... I just can't help but be curious. Somewhere, there's someone who loved him and I... I just...”
“What? You want to find his family and tell them what happened?” He asked in surprise. “Rick picked his side in the war just like we did and now he's suffered the consequences of his decisions. He chose to side with untrustworthy people who never had his best interests at heart... there's no need for you to chase down people you don't know to explain his fate. Especially since you don't know what kind of family he comes from... just look at how Tristan's family is reacting. I have vampires chasing me, you don't need vengeful wizards after you. As much as we hate to admit it, Elise did you a favor by getting rid of the body.”
“Or she was making sure he stayed dead.” Luna said thoughtfully as she squeezed his hands. “What if Talena was in the process of turning him? What if she only burned him to be sure he wouldn't rise again?”
“Whatever the reason, it's all done and over with. You, yourself prepared for the moment by keeping that claw... you knew it was for a purpose and now that time has come and gone. You can't beat yourself up over doing what you had to do to survive.” He hesitated, sitting back down and pulling her to sit next to him. “And what's more... you may have to do it again if we're to keep to our plan. Elise and her friends aren't the only ones out to get us... we have to be ready to strike first.”
She took another deep breath and let it out slowly. “I know that too. I certainly don't want to die... I just don't want anyone else to either.”
He reached out to stroke her cheek before wrapping his arms around her and holding her tightly. “We'll do our best... but if it comes down to it, we all have to know we can do what is necessary. Now you know that you can, even if you aren't happy about it.”
“I can't wait for this all to be over... if it ever is.” She buried her head in his shoulder. “I used to see it all the time... an image of us all together and happy. It hasn't come to me in a long time and at first I thought it was because we were all in an upheaval and there were more important things that needed to come to me... but now... what if there is no end to any of this?”
“There has to be.” He assured her... he couldn't stand the thought of living like this for the rest of his life... the excitement wasn't worth the constant fear and anxiety and he wasn't sure how much longer any of them could go on without breaking down entirely.
“Are you okay?” Ron demanded of Jacey as soon as they were in their room together. His heart hadn't stopped pounding since he'd first realized she and Ginny were in the water and now that there was time to breathe, his worn nerves were getting the better of him.
“I think so.” She answered, holding up her hand and concentrating. Within seconds, five flames danced above her fingertips completely in her control. “My head is confused but I am thinking that will go away once I am able to rest.”
“What happened? I thought you didn't know how to swim... what were you doing out there?” He asked while digging through his bag.
“I was being stupid.” She answered, her tone showing how upset she was with herself. “Luna's earlier vision warned that I would somehow be out at sea with Elise and I decided it would be best so the ship would not be burned... I should have guessed Murdo would have protected against such a thing.”
“Well, from now on, don't take on anyone by yourself. We're traveling in a group for a reason.” He insisted.
She turned to him with a sly smile. “You were worried about me Ron?”
“Of course I was.” He replied, suddenly feeling nervous for no reason as she approached him.
“I like that you care about me.” She whispered, leaning in to kiss him. Before he could react or possibly even deepen the kiss she had moved away, intent on keeping their boundaries until the time was right... but as he watched her first undress and then redress, he couldn't help but feel the right time was that moment.
He shook himself out of it and quickly dressed himself before sitting on the bed to wait while she ran a brush through her hair. “You know... if they're all off helping Harry find Jennitha while we're in Ireland, it'll be easier for us to sneak off to try and find Vincent and the vampire colony.”
“If they are there to find... we still are not completely sure, are we?” She replied.
“It's our best guess and I'm willing to go with it until proven wrong.” He shrugged.
“Why do you think Stavros's name was on that list in Rick's wallet?” She asked suddenly, turning from the small wall mirror to look right at him. “Even if the list is of people they were hoping to recruit, Stavros has been dead for a few years... I know this is true.”
“You're sure you set him on fire that day? I mean, you did try to warn him, maybe he got out of the way in time.” He suggested.
Jacey shook her head angrily. “No, I know what I saw... it is a sight I will never forget.”
“Maybe they don't know he died.” He tried a different argument.
But again she shook her head. “I suppose the resistance may have tried to cover Stavros's death since he was so important to them... but how long could they keep such a secret?”
“Not long if his name is on that list... unless it's an old list, or maybe even something completely different than what we think it is.” Ron got up and moved to the door. “We can go try asking Cho.”
“No, she does not know much...” She said with a far off look in her eyes. “Draco is asking her about it now. Maybe Luna can get some clue.”
“Maybe... until then, are you going to tell the others about Stavros?”
“I may have to.” She said unhappily, sinking down onto the bed and letting her head hang. “Luna already caught on while we were talking to Cho... it is only a matter of time before Harry accidentally sees something of it in her head. It is better that I explain than let them come to their own conclusions.”
“I doubt they would ever think badly of you... especially for something like that. I mean, you did try to warn the guy... Stavros is the one who decided to become a martyr for his cause.”
“For our cause.” She stiffly corrected him. “He was also trying to rise up against the Death Eaters. Make sure you stay away from Luna until she is less sensitive about Rick.”
“Meaning what?” He asked defensively.
“Meaning you lack tact.” She stood back up and came to stand in front of him. “What happened with Stavros is something I have thought long and hard about and it is to this day something that haunts me... whether or not he and I had a choice as to what happened, a good man is dead by my hand.”
“Okay, I'm sorry.” He relented as he saw her point. “I was careless with my words. But if he is dead, he chose to let you end his life. He must have felt it served some greater purpose.”
“I am hoping so.” She said sadly.
Fred and Hermione returned to their room in a heavy silence that continued as they closed the door and began pulling out fresh, non-battle destroyed clothing. He watched as she struggled to pull off her sweater with her one good arm and hesitantly stepped closer. “Need help?” He carefully offered.
“No thanks.” She said as she finally managed the task, glaring at him as she grabbed an easier sweatshirt that she could simply slip on and zip up. Fred let out the breath he'd been holding and nodded before sadly turning to dress himself, sitting on the bed to do so as his leg was throbbing in pain. The silence resumed, leaving the room thick with tension. “Why didn't you just tell me?” She at last demanded an answer to the question he knew she'd been dying to ask since Elanya opened her big mouth.
“Because it wasn't important.” He once again tried the same excuse he'd given earlier.
“Bull.” She came over to stand in front of him and look him in the eye so she could tell if he was lying to her. “I hate agreeing with Elanya but she was right, if it wasn't important you wouldn't have kept it a secret.”
“Well why would I have mentioned it?” He argued, standing to defend himself. “It happened before the costume ball and when I went up there it was to see you, not spill my whole sad tale about how I'd been duped into being trapped in some crazy plot. I was there trying to be with you... why in the world would I have told you that a mere week before, some insane girl I had absolutely no interest in had kissed me? It wasn't even anything! I shoved her away as soon as it started!”
“And after you and I were together? I was trying to find a way to keep you from having to leave the country with a girl who was and is horribly fixated on you and you didn't think to mention that she had already tried to kiss you once?”
“Why, so you could assume that I had welcomed her advances?”
“I wouldn't have had to assume anything if you'd told me the truth... I would have believed you then that it was nothing, that it meant nothing to you.”
“Then? So you don't believe me now?” He asked, incredulous that one moment months ago had come back to bite him.
“I don't know... you were on an abandoned island with her for almost an entire month...”
“After you and I were already together! I'm not that kind of guy and I thought you'd know that.” He yelled before realizing he'd raised his voice.
“I'm just trying to understand!” Hermione yelled back. And then she shook her head and sat on the edge of the bed as she struggled to think. “You told me everything else, every other little detail about the weeks before and during the island...” She looked up at him, her eyes wide with emotion. “I'm just scared as to the reason you didn't tell me about the kiss.” She quietly admitted.
He sat next to her and took her hand... why hadn't he just told her? He didn't know and therefore wasn't quite sure how to explain. “It's not like we were on the island playing house... when I wasn't avoiding her, I was outright ignoring her until she didn't give me a choice... and by then you had come to tell me that you were all on your way to help. By the time we got back to Hogwarts, that stupid kiss was so far in the past I... I forgot about it.”
“Did you?” She pulled her hand free and shook her head again. “Every time we've talked about Elanya you dance around how you feel about her... sometimes it seems like you really hate her, but then sometimes.... sometimes it seems you wish you could help her be different just like Willem does.”
“What are you asking?” He cut straight to the point, not liking at all where this was going. “Are you asking me how I feel about her compared to you? Because there is no comparison... I love you.”
“You know... Harry said almost the same thing after Ginny kissed him. But at least he told me about it right away.”
He stood and angrily turned to face her. “I'm not Harry.”
“And I'm not Elanya!” She returned.
“Yeah, well, the difference is I was never in love with Elanya!”
“No, just in lust, right?” She pushed, matching his level of angry hurt. “I'm not blind, I see what Elanya looks like.”
“Who cares what she looks like?!” He threw his hands up in the air in frustration. “I don't want to be with her- then, now or ever! Just because I and every other guy had a crush on her when we were twelve doesn't mean I haven't grown up since then! She could be named the world's most beautiful witch and I still wouldn't care! She's an insane nutcase who's threatened to kill you and my brother and sister... there's nothing she could say or do that would make me want to be with her! I'm sorry okay! I'm sorry I didn't tell you... I'm sorry you have trouble trusting me because of what happened with Harry and Ginny, I'm sorry that I can't make you believe that you're the only girl I want!”
She quietly wiped away the few tears that had fallen down her face. “I'm sorry for the same things... but how do we make it better?”
“Trust.” He said, placing his hands on her shoulders and looking her right in the eye. “We're still building it... and maybe I broke what we'd already made somehow by keeping such a stupid secret... but I want to fix it. I just don't know how other than to give you my word that for me, there's only you, Hermione. You are the most beautifully brave and brilliantly witty girl I could have ever hoped to meet and I'm better for knowing you.”
“I'm better for knowing you too.” She softly replied. “I like me when I'm with you, I like the way you make me think and feel about myself. I love you Fred, I really, really do. I'm just so tired of being scared into thinking I'm not good enough to deserve what I have. I guess it's my issue... it always has been, with you and Harry.”
“And like Harry, I have no interest in the other girl pursuing me. Unlike him, I'm certain that I love you more than just as my friend. No one will turn my head, I promise because when you decided to accept me, you sealed my fate. I'm yours until you grow tired of me.” He grinned, hoping the mood had lightened a bit.
She offered a slight smile in return. “I grow tired of you daily.” She teased. “Luckily, you usually do something sweet to change my mind.”
“And what can I do to change your mind right now?” He asked mischievously, grabbing her around her waist and pulling her close.
“Hey! Murdo's coming back!” They heard Ginny call down from the deck before Hermione could answer.
“Of course.” Fred groaned. “He would pick this moment to return.”
She laughed and playfully shoved him away. “We'll pick this up later.” She promised coyly, giving him hope that he'd been forgiven... at least for the moment.
They ran into Harry, Luna, Ron, Jacey and Lupin in the hall as they all hurried up to see their captain and hear his story as to what had happened since chasing after the girls. By the time they got up there, Murdo had regained his human form and was inspecting the damage to his ship... it was relatively minor considering all that had taken place. “So where did they swim to?” Lupin asked his friend as he moved to stand next to Draco and Ginny.
Murdo shook his head. “I'm not sure... they were fast, aided by some spell or potion. What's going on with this one?” He asked, going up to Cho and pulling away the blindfold Draco must have magicked over her eyes. She glared around at them all but they ignored her.
“She's the only one who didn't get away... though they do plan to try and use her to track us.” Harry answered unhappily.
“Ah, but she's not the only one.” Murdo grinned, going to the railing and grabbing the end of a silver rope that hadn't been there before. He hoisted up a large, glittering silver net and revealed Elanya trapped inside. Fred went very still, nearly seeing red in his fury. He had just worked hard to make Hermione forget about Elanya and her weird obsession with him... and now it seemed they were about to be trapped on the boat with the girl. “This one couldn't get away from my net, so I gave up the chase on the other two before I got too far from the Tamesis and brought her back to do with as you will.” Murdo told them. “Careful though, I didn't have my wand to disarm her.”
Lupin stepped forward to take Elanya's wand from her but before he could, she pulled it out and waved it past them all “Cho!” Elanya screamed out as the other girl became free of her bindings. “Do your duty and free me at all costs!”
With a shriek of aggression, Cho raced past them all and directly at Murdo... but he was ready, catching her with his hands before spitting out a black foam from his mouth. She dropped to the ground in agony... apparently water demons had acidic spit, a random thought Fred tucked away for later as they watched Cho roll around in pain, too shocked to react. “Fix it!” Lupin urged.
“I can't.” Murdo shrugged. “It's an instinctual reaction to being attacked. The only thing we can do is put her out of her misery.” He took Lupin's wand and waved it expertly. “Avada Kedavra!” He shouted. Cho instantly stilled.
They all stared down at her body in stunned silence, unable to believe what had just taken place. “Cho Chang is dead.” Draco finally said aloud with something almost like bewildered amusement in his tone.
“Well, Harland isn't going to be happy about this.” Elanya said from the net she was still entangled in, reminding them all that they still had one psychotic prisoner on board.
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