Chapter 76 : En Route
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A/N: Lots to read here, we're moving along nicely :) Read, Review and Enjoy!
Ginny jumped back, startled as both Draco and Harland tore away their amulets and transformed before her eyes. She'd had no idea what was occurring within the force field, but once they'd started walking away, she'd immediately followed along with all the others. Before her brain could fully comprehend what she'd just seen, the barrier was gone and Draco and Harland had run off into the woods so fast that no one was prepared.
“Damn it!” Lupin yelled, ripping off his own amulet and tossing it toward Luna before racing off after them.
“Should we follow?” Adam asked uncertainly as Ottan, Calidia and the other Bunyips came up to them.
“The rest of the werewolves are gone or destroyed.” Ottan said with immense satisfaction. “What is going on with Harland and your two wolves?” He asked, more curious than concerned.
“Nothing good.” Harry muttered. “Can you watch over our friends while some of us go after them?”
“Which 'some of us' were you planning to leave behind?” Ginny asked angrily, already knowing he'd only planned to bring Luna, Jacey, Nanami and Adam. But she wasn't about to be left behind to sit and drive herself crazy wondering what was happening.
“We'll all go, come on!” Fred declared, raising his wand and rushing off while still attempting to be careful of his weakened leg. Hermione sighed in frustration, rolling her eyes at Harry and Ron as they all three ran after him. The others quickly followed, including Ottan and Calidia who were curious to see what would happen. Luna and Ginny were the only ones left standing at the tree line.
“I thought you wanted to follow...” Luna said quietly.
“I do.” She answered, though she couldn't make her feet move forward no matter how desperate she was not to fall too far behind. She knew what was holding her back... she was scared of what she would witness. “Is he going to live?” She asked desperately.
Luna bent down and picked up Draco's discarded amulet and the force field device, putting both in her pocket before giving a reluctant answer. “I haven't seen that Draco won't make it through this... but I also haven't yet seen that he will. The more of us there to help and support him, the better chance he has... but I understand if you don't want to be there. I'll stay here with you.”
Ginny took a deep breath and shook her head. “No. I'm going.” She answered decisively, while glancing back at Laurel's body still lying a few yards back. Reaching out to take Luna's hand before she could change her mind, they ran off together toward the unknown.
Draco's heart was racing wildly and he felt so alive! For a moment, the joy of running blocked out the fact that he was actually being chased, it just felt so good to relieve the pressure that staying human had put on him. The low, aggressive growl from somewhere close behind him brought him back to the present moment and the reality that he was running for his life. He tried to think as he moved swiftly through the trees, knowing that once he either grew tired or was caught by Harland he would need a plan. In the barrier, his only concern had been moving this fight as far as possible from everyone he cared about... now he needed to focus on his own well-being.
Draco! Harland's voice was still hammering away at his mind, trying to will him into giving up. He was doing his best to ignore it, but it was becoming more angrily insistent and he realized that he was unconsciously slowing down. Redoubling his efforts, he pushed himself to keep going while desperately searching for a solution.
Whoa. He thought to himself as the trees disappeared, revealing a large grassy area and the edge of a very high cliff. He'd just barely managed to stop himself, digging his claws into the ground to ensure he didn't tumble over into the ocean so far below.
He turned quickly, not wanting to have his back to Harland... it was bad enough he'd let himself be chased into a trap. Harland had been here for awhile and had most likely learned the surroundings. It was now obvious he'd herded Draco to this very spot as he was now coming forward, his muzzle twisted into an unnaturally devious canine smile. Give in Draco. Loyalty to me is better than death.
I doubt that, at least death would be over quickly. He thought back, getting into position to be ready to fight.
Not if I make sure to draw it out. Harland returned fiercely. He was clearly furious that Draco was putting up such a battle and was ready to right the wrong he'd made so many months before by accidentally doing the very thing that was making him such a difficult foe now.
Seeing him prepare to attack, Draco responded... they clashed together, a tangle of claws and teeth. Pain shot down his arm and he heard himself yelp as he rolled away. Harland had bitten him badly, his fangs gouging into his shoulder so deep that it wasn't able to heal instantly. Give up! Harland demanded.
A rustling of leaves to their left drew their attention as they were both alert to intruders. Without further warning, Lupin burst through the bushes and leapt at Harland, knocking him to the ground before coming to stand with Draco. They had no mental connection, but as they locked eyes and nodded, it was clear they had the same idea. Together they moved forward, growling threateningly as they herded Harland toward the edge of the cliff. Now he was the one digging in his claws, trying to refuse to be intimidated. I'll destroy you both. Draco heard him in his mind though it only came out in a menacing howl of defiance.
Harland pounced but they were ready with their claws out, both digging into any fleshy area they could reach. Lupin yowled in agony when Harland bit a chunk out of his side but he didn't relent in his own attack and buried his claws in Harland's back until he released them. They all three stood and crouched again, circling each other and waiting for the chance to attack. You are fighting with the wrong one. I made you! Obey me Draco! The voice echoed painfully around in his head, reverberating down his spine as he was caught up in the enemy's gaze. Turn and attack him! Do what you're meant to do and obey me!
Draco froze in place, struggling against the sudden desire to knock Lupin to the ground. If he couldn't keep fighting Harland's influence, then he was going to at least fight himself. He refused to move toward either of the other two werewolves as they continued to circle around him, trying to maintain a sense of himself and expel Harland entirely from his mind. But even as he continued to challenge Lupin, his voice was relentlessly invading Draco's thoughts to the point where he felt he may just go insane.
Once again Harland and Lupin leapt through the air towards each other, only this time Harland, who was much larger, came out of it on top. He was swinging his claws, continually creating deep scratches all over his foe. But Lupin wasn't backing down, doing his best to both defend himself and inflict damage of his own. Draco couldn't take it anymore and jumped into the fray, landing on Harland's back and digging in. He bucked up and howled, reaching back with one powerful arm and knocking Draco several feet away. Then he raised his hand to deliver a brutal blow to Lupin-
“No!” Potter cried out as he emerged from the trees with Fred, Granger and Weasley right behind him. Harland flew back as Potter unleashed his power, sliding to within inches of the cliff's edge. He regained himself quickly as the others showed up along with Ottan and Calidia... Ginny and Luna were the last to join them. Seeing them all there brought back a bit of forced control over himself and Draco leapt to his feet along with Lupin, both quickly moving to block Harland from going after anyone else.
That was when Draco heard the sound of several wolves, racing toward them from all directions. Apparently, Harland had called out for help from some of the wolves he hadn't brought with him to the village. It's okay, focus on beating him. Luna's soft, comforting voice soothed his troubled mind as it invaded and wiped away a bit of Harland's gruffer, more demanding tone. You can do this. Potter's strong, sure tone joined Luna's... and then he felt all five coven members entering his head, each offering words of support while working together to block his mind from Harland who was even now still struggling to maintain the tenuous hold he'd already claimed. Meeting Harland's eyes, Draco could see the fury he felt against the others for interfering... but there was something else there, some kind of sinister gleam that sent a shiver down his spine... Harland had a plan.
Hearing the other wolves coming, Luna knew it may be enough of a distraction for Harland to make some sort of attempt. Through the mental link she'd established with the human part of Draco's mind, she could feel that Harland's wheels were turning... he was close to making a decision and she could almost see what it was. Pulling out the force field device, she studied the three buttons carefully, willing the one she wanted to jump out at her; she didn't want to trap them within it as that wouldn't do anyone any good... what she wanted was to create a barrier between them all and the tree line. The button on the right was calling to her and so she pushed it and placed the device on the ground just as the first werewolf made itself known. She smiled in satisfaction as the wolf hit the invisible barrier and fell back.
“What's he doing?” Ginny asked.
Luna turned back to find Harland searching the ground while still maintaining his defensive position. Her eyesight wavered and blacked out for a moment as the possible future played out before her... possible only if Harland wasn't stopped. “Don't let him find Harry's amulet!” She yelled to the others, knowing that's what he was looking for. Unlike Draco, Harland hadn't thrown the amulet or his wand away when they'd changed... but he must have dropped them both here while they were struggling.
“Accio amulet!” Hermione cried, having caught sight of it on the ground... but it was too late. Harland had found and scooped it up along with his wand. The moment it was in his hand the transformation back into a man had begun and he raised his wand to shield the barrage of spells they all hurled at him.
“Nice try.” He laughed from behind his strong protection charm, not at all unnerved by facing them in his naked human form. Jacey raised her hands and flung her fire. Luna, Harry, Nanami and Adam withdrew their minds from Draco's to help strengthen her powers until at last her flames shattered through Harland's shields, engulfing him completely. He screamed in pain, waving his wand to try and use a water spell to put himself out but normal magic couldn't hold up to the power all five coven members were throwing at him as one entity. “Attack me!” He screamed at Draco.
“No!” Luna and Ginny yelled together, both very well aware that he'd just been given the one order he didn't care to fight against. Harry tried to break off his connection with them to use his own power to stop Draco, but still in his werewolf form, he was far too fast and had instantly and eagerly leapt forward to comply. Harland, still ablaze, grabbed hold of him and together, they went over the cliff.
They all raced forward just as the sound of a giant splash resounded from far below. “Ginny don't!” Fred and Ron were trying to stop their sister who in her panic, was trying to jump after them.
“If we help, he will recognize us as allies?” Ottan asked as he stretched his limbs.
“Of course.” Luna assured them, though she wasn't nearly as certain as she wanted to be.
Ottan turned to Lupin who was practically whining at the edge of the cliff. “You'll dive too? In case Harland is an issue?”
In response, Lupin merely nodded his canine head and dove, entering the ocean as smoothly as one could in his form. Ottan and Calidia shared a look before quickly following. “Come on!” Harry shouted, rushing off to try and find a path down to them. Luna released the barrier before he could crash into it, waving her wand with the others to fend off the werewolves waiting in the trees. Ginny ran without care as to what was around her, forcing her brothers to protect her as well as themselves.
Luna tried to focus on what was happening around her while also attempting to bring some sort of vision that would tell her how to proceed and whether they'd be able to help Draco in time. Nothing was coming which could be because she didn't have the time to really focus... or because the outcome could still go in either direction.
There was pain the moment Draco hit the water. Having not been prepared, his body had tensed upon impact and he felt as if he'd shattered through the water, leaving him dazed and confused as he attempted to fight his way back up to surface. He wished he was in his human form... as naturally as swimming may have come to the wolf, it was still difficult to drag himself back up from the depths Harland had dragged him down to. Ignoring the sting, he left his eyes open underwater, wanting to be able to see an attack coming. But the enemy didn't seem to be around. Apparently Harland had taken the high road and hoped everyone would be too worried about Draco to focus on going after him. He must have been severely injured by Jacey's fire to have given up... that or he figured he'd always have another chance to torture him into submission.
At last his surroundings lightened as the moon's rays pierced the murky, seaweed filled cove. After what felt like forever but was really only a few seconds, he broke through the surface and gasped for air, trying to tread water and finding it nearly impossible. His limbs were numb with pain and he wasn't sure how he'd make it back to land. A loud splash sounded to his left and he caught a glimpse of Lupin before two more splashes caught his attention. Ottan and Calidia had come to help as well and he couldn't have been more grateful that the blob-like creatures were around. Lupin surfaced near him, nudging him gently to ensure he was okay. Draco did his best to nod in reassurance as the Bunyips easily swam up to them.
“Just relax and let us tow you in. Don't worry, we can hold your weight.” Ottan instructed. He and Calidia once more submerged themselves and Draco jumped in surprise when he felt one of them come up under him. Not having much of a choice but to put his trust in them, he allowed himself to rest on top of the demon. Lupin quickly did the same and within moments they were on their way toward the sandy shore of the cove. With his heightened sense of sight, he could make out Ginny and the others making their way down the side of the cliff to meet them on the beach and couldn't wait to get there. He wanted to collapse on the ground, take back his amulet and be done with this night. Unfortunately the things that had happened wouldn't be easy to forget for any of them... this would stay emblazoned in their memories just like every other horrible thing that had happened. Laurel may have been most important to Ginny, but in her death, they'd all lost another ally and it could have easily been any of them in her place had Harland been successful in reaching him. He took little solace in the fact that he'd been able to fight off his creator's influence... after all, if it hadn't been for the coven showing up to protect his mind when they did, he may have finally lost the fight. It had been so close that he'd actually felt the desire to attack Lupin when he was told to... he never wanted anything like that to be forced upon him again and so a stab of anger pierced through him knowing Harland was still out there somewhere.
Ginny held herself together as the Bunyips brought Draco and Lupin to the shore. They both stepped onto the sand, shaking the water from their fur before collapsing on the sand in exhaustion. She could see that they both had severe looking wounds that were only now appearing to be slightly healing themselves. Doing her best not to panic and remain as tensely calm as everyone else, she waved her wand to magic up blankets while Luna handed their amulets back to them. Within moments they were back to their human forms, both battered, bruised and bleeding under the blankets they wrapped around themselves.
“We will have the others meet us here.” Ottan declared. “We will take you back to your ship and you will give us these amulets.”
“Yes.” Harry tiredly agreed. “We'll keep to our deal.”
Ginny sat next to Draco while they waited, reaching out and taking his hand in the desire to feel close to someone she loved. She forced herself to remain in the comfortable haze she'd wrapped herself in since watching him go over that cliff, not wanting to put the grief she felt on display. Lost in her own thoughts, she barely realized what was happening around her. She was vaguely aware when she was helped onto the back of one of the Bunyips and closed her eyes to enjoy the feel of the wind as the creature quickly skimmed through the water and around the coast.
“There it is.” She heard Lupin call out. Opening her eyes, she was relieved more than words could express to see the Tamesis. The Bunyips brought them to shore and she stood there impatiently as Harry and Lupin explained to Murdo the necessity of having an enemy demon breed swim with them until Fred and Hermione could complete the amulets.
“Fine.” Murdo reluctantly agreed though he made his displeasure completely clear. “As long as I don't have to talk to the ugly bastards. And they aren't setting one blob of a foot on my ship.”
“I think they'll be fine with that.” Adam smiled affably. “While I find you delightful, they don't really speak too well of your kind either.”
“I can only imagine.” Murdo grunted.
Leaving it to them to figure out their travel plans, Ginny followed Draco onto the ship and down to their room. He collapsed on the bed without bothering to search for clothes. Instead, he simply wrapped the blanket more tightly around himself and shut his eyes, as if he could somehow turn everything that had happened into some nightmare that never happened. She could only imagine how he felt after what he'd gone through... but as much as she wanted to be there for him, the knowledge that she was finally in private was overwhelming. The loss of someone who had become so important to her was ripping at her heart, making the hole already started by losing Neville, George and Percy even bigger and more painful. Hot tears streamed down her face as her silent guilt ate away at her. Laurel had died trying to protect her... why?! Laurel had known that she was wearing the amulet... why did she have to throw herself in harms way knowing that she wasn't wearing the same protection? Because she cared about you. Ginny answered herself before fully giving into crying.
She felt Draco wrap his arms around her as soon as she uttered the first sob and she turned, clinging to him so tightly she feared she was strangling him. But he didn't complain, simply holding her for as long as she needed. As last she felt herself calm down, exhaustion drying her tears long before her sorrow was ready to stop them. Still keeping one arm around her, Draco used the edge of the blanket to wipe her face before lightly kissing her forehead. “I'm sorry you lost her.” He whispered.
“Me too.” She whispered back. “I really, really liked her.” She added lamely, knowing her words were insufficient to describe how she felt about the woman who had a hand in pulling her back from the edge of insanity. Laurel had forced her way into Ginny's life and was the only one able to make it better every time they met. What would she do now, knowing that one person she could always be honest with was now gone forever? What would Laurel's other patients do?
“I overheard Calidia talking while they were all bringing us back here.” Draco said with quiet uncertainty. “She and the other Bunyips are going to give Laurel a proper burial when they get back to the village. It seems they all cared about her too.”
She knew he'd hoped the news would be comforting, but it wasn't. Rather than let him see the full extent of her distress, she focused her concern on him and what he'd been through that night. “Are you okay? Is there anything that isn't healing properly?”
“Yeah, my pride.” He muttered, getting up and moving to his bag to dig out some clothes. “But it's not like I had that much to begin with after everything that's happened before tonight, so I guess it's not too different.”
“You fought him from getting into your head.” She argued. “That's something important to note.”
He pulled on his pants and stared at her a moment before shifting his gaze to the floor. “I fought it for awhile. But it was getting to be too much.” He admitted. “If Potter and the other coven members hadn't gotten there in time to help protect my mind... I might not have been able to stop myself. He wanted me to attack Lupin instead of him and for a moment, it took everything I had not to give in until you all showed up.”
“But you didn't.” She insisted, doing her best to ignore the long angry gashes across his chest. “And now that you know what to expect, you know you can do even better should we ever have the misfortune of seeing Harland again.”
“Hopefully he drowned.” He replied in a low, dangerous voice. He pulled on his shirt and sat to put on his shoes as the ship finally began moving. “I think Jacey's fire hurt him pretty badly... he's not impervious to it like Tristan and Talena.”
“Where are you getting ready to go?” She asked, startled into realizing he wasn't just getting ready for bed. “You need to rest so everything heals like it's supposed to.”
“As much as I want to I can't. The wolf is still very much awake.” He complained. “I can smell everyone together up on deck... I don't want to miss anything important that they may be talking about.”
“Okay fine.” She reluctantly agreed. Being around the others would force her to pretend to be strong. Maybe she could fake it long enough until she got past this intense sense of loss to actually feel like herself again.
“Wow.” Adam said as he stared at the papers tracing his lineage. After Draco and Ginny came up on deck, everyone made sure he was okay before Fred and Hermione disappeared to begin working on amulets for the Bunyips. Lupin and Murdo had gone together up into the captain's box. In the hour since, everyone had done their best to fill Adam in on everything he was signing up for by agreeing to join them. “Who'd have thought my ancestor was so important... Meskhenet. It's strange to go from thinking you have no family to finding out your family is actually very important.”
“I know the feeling well.” Harry empathized. “You were never given a reason for why your mother left you?”
“Only that she was young and thought she was doing what was best for me.” Adam shrugged. “But that's what they told most of the kids at the orphanage. I always figured she just didn't want kids and I was an accident. It's nice to know all these years later that I was a pretty important accident to have.” He grinned. Harry leaned back in his chair, unsettled with the ease with which Adam seemed to take his life. He felt envious, wishing he could as easily get past the wrongs committed against him.
“I am sure if you were to go to the ministry in Cairo, you would be able to find information about your parents and what happened to them.” Jacey suggested.
He shrugged and smiled. “Maybe some day. Let's focus on what's important. Tell me more about Voldemort, Elise and Talena.” He urged, already having had experience with Harland.
Harry, Luna, Ron, Draco and Ginny did their best to fill him in on both Tom Riddle's rise to becoming Lord Voldemort and all the things they'd been through because of him since his return to the wizarding world. Jacey jumped in to help explain Elise, Sarah, Elanya, Talena and the recently deceased Cho Chang. Nanami and Mai didn't have much to add, but after everyone else was done, they somberly told the story of Kage somehow joining Nerezza. “We'll be able to know more from him once we can wake him.” Nanami added hopefully when they were finished explaining.
Adam was staring off thoughtfully, taking in everything that was told to him. “You said this Elise woman had wanted to recruit me... that she said she took one look at me and decided I wasn't what she was looking for...”
“That's what we found out.” Harry agreed. Having met the guy, he could see why Elise wouldn't want him... he was of a more positive nature, like Luna.
He shook his head and grinned uneasily at them all. “That's not exactly true. She spoke to me, we had a pretty long conversation actually. I remember her well because in my business it's important to have a good memory for names and faces... it helped that she was very pretty, even if she was a few years older than me.”
“What did she talk to you about?” Luna asked, eager for any information they could get on the still somewhat mysterious Elise McKinney.
“Well, she started by trying to seduce me.” Adam laughed. “Luckily I can see past a pretty face. She knew of my power and was careful to never touch me, but with her mind so tightly closed up, I knew she was someone I couldn't trust. Over the years, I've developed a pretty keen sense of when someone's lying to me. It's helped my career greatly... it's also how I knew I could trust you all. I didn't agree to go with her, but I felt compelled to join you.”
“So she did try to recruit you.”
“She certainly did.” He nodded, sitting down in one of the deck chairs and sighing. “We were in one of the bars in Shadwick Hill and she was trying to sell me on this better world she envisioned. When I told her it sounded more like giving up some inequalities for others, she got mad. She said I didn't have the vision necessary to become my greatest self, that I was standing in my own way. I continued to be resistant to her mocking and taunting... then she seemed to see someone across the room, some other girl- also very pretty and a few years younger. She must have been this Elanya Delamora you told me about. Elise went over to her and I pretended to be talking to someone else while watching them. They spoke until the bar closed... I was curious so I followed her back to her hotel and camped out. I wasn't sure why I was so interested, I guess I thought maybe I could get an article out of her and her actions. The next day, she walked to another hotel and went up to some guy's room. Probably that Professor Erebos. She stayed in there long enough for me to guess they were up to 'intimate matters' and so I left. Never heard from her again and when I went to check on her at her hotel a few days later, she'd checked out.”
“And Talena wasn't with her at all?” Harry prodded, wanting to see just how much they'd been lied to.
“Not as far as I could tell. Australia has long been the domain of werewolves, demon breeds and trolls. Vampires rarely show up and are either dealt with quickly or run out of town.” Adam shrugged.
“Pureborns are different.” Nanami spoke up. “They have no fear. They feel they are invincible.”
“You talk like you know Talena.” Ron said accusingly.
“Actually, I was speaking of pureborns of any humanoid.” She answered quietly. “But in Japan, there have been three known pureborn vampires in our history. They were all born centuries apart, but the magical communities at each point in time did their best to note what was occurring.”
“We learned in school that nearly all information currently known about pureborn vampires comes from Japan's ancient scholars.” Mai added. “Except for the part about Ash wood being the only thing to pierce their skin. That was learned somewhere in the ancient United Kingdom.”
“Yes, we learned about it from the man who figured it out.” Harry said before briefly describing Professor Binns.
“What else did you all learn about pureborn vampires?” Luna asked suddenly. He could see her mind whirling as some intuitive idea caught hold.
“Many of the things you already know.” Nanami replied casually. “They can fly, their skin is impenetrable, they can perform psychic vampirism-”
“What's that?” Ginny interrupted. There was a pause as they all waited... Harry smiled to himself as he realized that even Nanami had learned to wait for Hermione to jump in with an explanation for something they didn't know. But Hermione was below deck with Fred, rushing to finish the amulets for the remaining thirty-four Bunyips.
“Oh,” Nanami regathered herself, “it's when someone is able to feed off of their victims psychic abilities, briefly taking on their energy as their own. I didn't realize you weren't aware of it... we coven members seem to be able to do it with each other all the time.”
“Yes, but it's different with pureborns.” Mai argued. “You said when you share energy with them, it only strengthens your own power or theirs depending on the situation. Pureborn vampires can briefly take on the actual powers of their victim.”
That's how she was able to see me in my visions. Luna thought to herself. But with so many coven members present, they hadn't been able to adjust for the increase in ability and her shields weren't strong enough to keep it back from them.
“What do you mean?” Jacey asked aloud before Harry could. Ron, Ginny, Draco and Mai looked on in confusion.
“Talena... that's how she was able to see me in my vision of her and her friends.” Luna sighed, making it clear for everyone. “It was just about the time she would have killed Cordelia King. That poor girl... she must have been precognative. It's probably why they chose her as their victim to make us think they'd killed Kiara.”
“Well, isn't that just terrifying to think about.” Adam said with a nervous laugh. “Werewolves are going after demons and vampires are hunting psychics. Looks like this Lord Voldemort has certainly stirred things up with his return.”
“Soon everyone will be forced to take a side in this war.” Jacey said, stifling a yawn. “I just hope enough of them choose us.”
“I just hope we're the right side.” Nanami added. “There seem to be a lot of people who don't think we are.”
“Look, the sun's coming up.” Draco pointed out happily as he had the most reason to be searching for it.
Luna smiled in relief, glad that soon they would all be able to go to sleep. They had unconsciously stretched out their conversation on deck to support those of them who couldn't let themselves rest yet- Draco who was dealing with the last of the full moon and Fred and Hermione who were toiling away to create the amulets before they got too far from Australia and the Bunyips home.
Adam stood and stretched, grabbing up his backpack and smiling around at the group. “Well, I think it's officially time for me to call it a night. Who wants to show me where I'm going to sleep?”
“We can.” Nanami said with a yawn as she and Mai stood. “There's an empty room next to ours.”
They all three bid the group goodnight and headed below deck as Lupin finally emerged from the Captain's box. “Everyone still okay?” He asked, wincing a bit as he reached to rub his sore shoulders.
“As much as we can be.” Ginny quietly answered. Luna could see that she was desperately trying to keep her thoughts from turning to Laurel, which was much harder for her now that there wasn't anything else to focus on.
“Hermione and Fred are almost done.” Harry wearily reported.
“Good, Murdo is uncomfortable having Ottan following us for so long.” Lupin nodded and slumped down into one of the empty chairs. “It's been a long night.”
“How long until we get to Greece?” Luna asked eagerly. Finding Miles Papadopoulos was now to become her main focus... he was the one who could help her develop these other powers that were only becoming stronger with every person they added to their group. She desperately wanted to understand it... she also was desperate to know if he shared her power of precognition. If he did... well, it would be nice having someone else around who could understand the frustration.
“According to Murdo, it would take almost a month in any other ship. He claims the Tamesis can do it in half the time, even with dodging the energy spots.” He replied with a tired grin. “I tend to believe him.”
“Still, two whole weeks stuck on a ship with nothing to do but wait.” Jacey shook her head unhappily. “It may just drive some of us up the wall.”
“We'll just have to do our best.” Harry said, knowing he was one of the ones most likely to lose their head. “We knew traveling this way would take awhile. But it's the safest way. Apparating into places we don't know is dangerous, even if we know we can't be traced. And we can't count on everyone being able to fly for so long.”
“Especially if they aren't used to being on a broom.” Luna added, remembering how sore she was after prolonged time in the air. Still, with how much she was looking forward to meeting Miles, two weeks seemed taxing even to her somewhat more extended patience.
“We're done!” Fred announced as he jumped up on deck and rushed to the railing, practically hopping in anticipation. Hermione followed behind him, looking much more understandably exhausted.
“He drank some sort of energy concoction he came up with.” She explained to the rest of them. “After seeing how it had him jittering around, I wisely refused.”
“It just needs a few tweaks.” He said in defense as he fidgeted uncontrollably.
Lupin got up and took the two handfuls of amulets Fred was holding before he could accidentally drop them. Then he turned to Ron and Harry. “Hey, run up and tell Murdo to slow it down so we can hand these off. Harry, you go ready the lifeboat.”
“I'll help.” Fred offered instantly. “I want to go down there with you.”
“He'll probably wind up tipping the boat.” Hermione said, obviously grumpy after dealing with Fred alone for so long while he was so excitable.
“I'll be careful.” He promised. “They are my amulets.”
“Okay, but you have to be still.” Lupin reluctantly agreed.
Harry, of course, jumped in with them and they were quickly lowered down to the water where Ottan and his brethren were waiting. The exchange went smoothly and the Bunyips seemed truly grateful for the gifts. With a wave, they all turned as one and disappeared beneath the waves to make their way back home. As soon as the lifeboat was pulled back up everyone scattered to go rest and Luna collapsed gratefully onto her bed without bothering to change her clothes. She was too tired to worry about anything so silly and simply shifted under the covers as Harry climbed in beside her. Sighing in contentment, she put everything horrible from the night far from her mind and focused on the future. She wanted to be open to any visions of Miles that may come to her so that she could be prepared... because as certain as she was that she wanted very badly to meet him, there was a small, doubtful part of her that said she wouldn't totally like the person he would present himself as. Not everyone could be as instantly likable as Adam though, so she pushed aside the doubts as well, chalking them up to how nervous she was to finally get some answers about a part of herself she didn't yet fully understand- her ability to sense and manipulate energy.
“Aren't you coming?” Ginny asked as Draco lingered on the deck.
He glanced at Lupin who was busy making sure the lifeboat was secure. Everyone else had already gone to their rooms. “You go ahead. I'll be down in a little bit.” He turned and smiled tensely. “I just want to watch the rest of the sunrise... you know, make sure there's no way the wolf can fully come back.”
“Okay.” She readily agreed. That may be the reason he was giving and she was sure it was true, but she also knew he wanted to talk privately with Lupin and decided to let him. After all, she had her own private conversation to attend to. Rushing down the stairs, she caught up to Jacey just as she was about to close the door to her room. “Sorry.” She breathlessly apologized for her harried appearance. “I was just wondering if... well, can I borrow the ring?”
Jacey looked her over skeptically before shrugging and going into her room to retrieve the piece of jewelry from her bag. “Just be careful.” She warned.
“I promise to be quick.” Ginny said eagerly, grabbing the ring and rushing back to her room. There was no telling how long Draco would talk with Lupin and she didn't want him to know what she was up to.
Settling on her bed, she put the ring on and focused on every memory she had of Laurel. She held her breath, willing the woman to come into existence. But nothing happened... Laurel didn't appear. Opening her eyes, she felt tears of defeat slide down her face. She wasn't sure which was worse, thinking she wasn't strong enough to call the healer back or that Laurel may not be there to call at all. She needed a release, to talk to someone who would be clear and honest with her. Her first thought was George but she went with her second thought, figuring he would be easier to see given her current emotional state.
Within seconds Neville appeared, floating in the air before her. He smiled kindly down at her. “Hello Ginny.”
“Hi.” She replied, holding back the sobs that wanted to burst out of her. “Cho's dead.” She blurted out. Not knowing what else to say, she must have thought to start with letting him know that his murder had been avenged.
“Yes, she is.” He said quietly.
“Is she... is she there with you?” She asked, horrified that he may now have to be subjected to her in the afterlife.
“Not as far as I can tell.” He shrugged nervously. “What's wrong?”
She sighed and shook her head. “I don't know... tonight someone else I cared about died. She died while trying to protect me.”
“I'm sorry.” Neville said sadly as he floated closer.
“Yeah, well... I was hoping she was wherever you are. But I guess she isn't.”
He looked down, thinking hard about what he wanted to say.. “I can't tell you that I understand any of this afterlife stuff any better than I understood real life... but maybe it's good that your friend isn't here. Maybe she's somewhere even better... or maybe her soul just hasn't made it here yet.” His tone was so light and hopeful that Ginny couldn't help but feel slightly better. He was still the same Neville- sweet, nervous and with a strong desire to help in some way.
“I guess it's something I'll just have to get used to, that I can't find closure with everything that happens.” She sighed again, feeling tired and years older than she was.
“Why don't you call me back later, after you've had a few days to rest and think. Then we can talk about whatever you want.” He suggested carefully.
“Okay.” She agreed while trying to stifle a huge yawn. Then she smiled up at him. “Thanks Neville... you know, for just being you.”
“It's all I can do.” He smiled back.
Ginny let him go and took off the ring. Sitting and staring down at it as she played with it in her hands she thought hard about what he'd suggested... Maybe it did take time for one's soul to travel, maybe it was just too soon to try and find Laurel. Or... maybe she really did go somewhere else, somewhere her soul could finally find peace. Taking her own selfish desires out of the mix, she decided that she wanted the second scenario to be true. Laurel had helped many in her life, and probably many more in lives past. It was better to think that she was finally able to rest.
She went to give the ring back to Jacey who had opened the door with the look of expecting someone else. She saw how disappointed the other girl was to once again find only her waiting in the hall. Stealing a glance past her, Ginny realized Ron must be in his own room as Jacey was alone. “Thanks again.” She said as she handed the ring over.
“Anytime I suppose.” She answered edgily before turning and closing the door.
While she wasn't sure what was going on between her brother and Jacey, Ginny decided it was better if it remained none of her business until her advice or opinion was actually sought out. She had her own problems to sort out... and Draco's as well considering she wasn't the only one to have a traumatizing experience that night. Taking a deep breath to steady herself, she went back to her room to wait for him.
Draco remained in his chair as Lupin finished tying down the lifeboat, staring down at the deck as he came over to sit next to him. “You're really okay?” He asked quietly.
“Yes... and no.” Draco slowly answered, looking up to stare at the rising sun. “I was close to losing... he almost got in my head.”
Lupin leaned forward and nodded. “I wish I could give you advice, but this is something I've never had to deal with. The one who bit me died the same day, almost in the same moment. And I'm sure Harland is much stronger than he was... he'd have to be for you to have turned out so strong.”
“Stop.” He interrupted, reaching out to grab his shoulder and make Draco look him in the face. “You'll go crazy if you think about all the 'ifs' that could have occurred last night. Things went the way they did and that's what we have to deal with. Personally, I think the fact that you were able to hold off his influence at all is impressive. Before I had you to think of, I had bent under his will twice, once when the ministry started regulating our kind and again at Lairmore. I nearly lost my life because of it... since learning of what he did to you, I've felt a new drive to go against him. And I'm happy that the feeling of wanting to defeat him seems even stronger in you.”
“It may not go so well next time.” He hung his head, not wanting to hear words of praise or encouragement. He knew how close he'd come to being forced to do things that would have devastated him. “He knows my mind now, he's been in there...”
“And you know what his presence feels like. Maybe next time it will go even better because you know what to expect.” Lupin argued.
“I almost attacked you.” Draco admitted, wanting him to fully understand how scared he was and why thinking about what could have happened was all he could focus on. “Right before everyone else showed up... he kept pounding his way into my head and he wanted me to turn and attack you. For a moment I had to use every ounce of my concentration to stand still and keep myself from obeying.”
“And you managed it.” He answered with a shrug and a helpless smile. “Nothing is going to make this better. But you have to put faith in the fact that you were successful last night, even if it doesn't totally feel like it.”
“It won't be over until one of us dies.” Draco said miserably.
“Harry said the same thing to me once about Voldemort.” Lupin mused. He leaned back in his chair and tiredly crossed his arms. “Harland marked you very much like Voldemort marked Harry... we're all going to do our best to ensure you both come out the victors. You aren't alone in this Draco, not any more than Harry is. You each may have captured the sole focus of your enemies' attention when in battle, but the rest of us are there to back you up and boost your confidence. Let us.”
He once again stared out at the sun as he thought, really taking in what was said. It was hard to imagine he wasn't alone in fighting Harland after the intense inner struggle he'd experienced just a few short hours ago. But it was true that no one had abandoned him out there, even when he'd tried to run away from them to keep them out of danger. They had trusted him to be stronger than Harland, and they trusted themselves and their abilities should he have failed. He sat up straighter, feeling suddenly that he had achieved a small victory. After all, as much as he wanted to give in at the end he hadn't, he'd dug in his heels and stopped himself from doing the unthinkable- turning on the one man who had been there for him from the beginning of this mess. “Okay.” He said at last, turning to look at Lupin once more. “I can do this.”
“I never said you couldn't.” He grinned. “Come on, let's head off and get some sleep so we can get the rest of these wounds healed up.”
They both stood with a loud groan as the aches and pains gathered throughout the night protested against any sort of movement. Draco stumbled downstairs to his room and found Ginny already tucked in bed and staring wistfully out the window. She turned and offered him a half-hearted smile, but he could see that she had been crying. He climbed in next to her and they quickly wrapped their arms around each other, just wanting the feel of close intimacy to wipe away all other feelings. He closed his eyes and breathed in her scent, focusing on nothing but her heart beating against his. He felt himself drifting off to sleep much faster than he would have thought possible and gave in, wanting to sleep away as much time as he could to put last night's events as far from his present as possible.
“It is very hard to ignore someone on a ship... but I feel like for the last few days, that's exactly what you're trying to do with me.” Jacey said as she cornered Ron outside his room. She had been waiting for him to wake up and started talking the minute he opened the door. She did not like feeling ignored and she was not about to let him get away with it. “Having second thoughts about our friendship? What have I done now to upset you?”
He stared at her for a moment as his brain was startled into registering this early morning argument. “You haven't done anything.” He said quickly. “I've been avoiding everyone.”
“Why?” She demanded. They both knew that at this point, his shields would never be strong enough to keep her out, but she was trying very hard to respect his and everyone else's privacy by keeping her own mind locked up from wandering. Still, it was frustrating to not know what Ron was thinking... especially since most of the time, his thoughts only made sense to himself.
“Well, I was giving you, Harry and Luna space to get to know Nanami and Adam. Hermione and Fred are holed up in their room working away on potions so I've been keeping away from them. Ginny and Draco... well, they've sort of become their own team, haven't they? They don't really want the rest of us around too much so I'm for once, giving in to what my sister wants. Until we get to Greece and I have to do the translation spells again, no one needs me around so I've been spending most of my time with Murdo, learning about sailing.” He shrugged and smiled but wouldn't meet her eyes.
“I am sorry.” Jacey softened her attitude as she realized he had not been ignoring her... it was actually the other way around and he had simply been dealing with it on his own.
“Hey, I figured it would happen.” He shrugged again, as if he weren't bothered. “Back at Hogwarts, you, Luna and Harry could get so wrapped up in each other, I knew it would only get worse the more people you found.”
“Maybe... but I have missed you.” She admitted. As much time as she had spent with the others in the coven over the past few days, she had felt something was missing by not having Ron around.
“Really?” He finally looked at her.
“Of course.” She smiled warmly before reaching out to hug him. She felt his arms wrap around her and sighed in contentment, glad that he was not becoming all moody again like he had before they had left London. “I am sorry to come here accusing you.” She said as they broke apart. “I guess I am nervous to be returning to Greece and it is affecting my confidence in parts of the new life I have built since leaving.”
“Harry said Miles lives no where near Athens.” He assured her. “And Fred could make you a glamour if you're worried about being recognized.”
“That may not be a bad idea.” She said sadly. “You all would be much safer if no one knew I was traveling with you. I have made many enemies in my home country.”
“Ron!” Murdo called from the top of the stairs. “The open sea waits for no man!”
“Coming!” He called back. He turned back to Jacey, unable to hide his happy grin.
“You really like all this sailing stuff, huh.” She smiled back at him.
“It's a welcome distraction to boredom.” He said with a laugh.
“Well, I will not hold you up any longer. I just wanted you to know that I have missed you.” She leaned in and kissed his cheek and was delightfully surprised when he turned to capture her lips instead.
“I'll see you later.” He promised before rushing up the stairs to join their captain.
Smiling to herself and feeling a lot better, Jacey made her way to the kitchen for some breakfast. “Good morning, see you later!” Fred called as he and Hermione brushed past her, their arms loaded up with whatever food they needed to keep them going on whatever they were working on in their room. Feeling amused, she went on into the kitchen to find Nanami and Adam talking excitedly about attempting to see Kage's past. They both stopped to smile and greet her, but Harry was staring grumpily down at his plate and played with his food.
“Something wrong?” She asked him in concern as she joined them at the table. “Where's Luna?”
“In the room fiddling with Gwen's mirror.” He muttered. “She wants to try to get some vision of what's going to happen when we get to Greece and is frustrated that nothing's coming to her.”
“Well, maybe more decisions need to be made before she'll see anything.” Adam suggested helpfully.
“That's what I said. She wasn't interested in hearing it.” Harry pushed his plate away in disgust. “She's too hopeful about meeting Miles. I can easily see that it's all she can think about.”
“Well, hopefully he can give her the answers she is looking for.” Jacey offered while trying to hide her smile of amusement. It was clear that jealousy was driving Harry's mood... maybe he had a reason to worry, but she very much doubted it. Luna was simply lost in the excitement of finally understanding her other powers, Miles could have been named Melinda and her obsession would still be the same. Unfortunately, it seemed Harry could not see it the same way. Jacey felt sorry for Miles, having a sense that his reception into the group would not be as warm as Adam's had been... at least not from Harry. And if she had learned anything in her time with them all, Harry's mood could easily trickle through and affect the rest of the group. “In the meantime, you need to relax.” She warned, not wanting to upset the small bit of stability they had managed to find.
“Yeah, yeah.” He brushed off her warning, knowing full well he would feel however he felt and there was nothing anyone could do about it.
“Adam has agreed to try and see into Kage's past.” Nanami said, wanting a distraction from the sudden tenseness. “He's going to try and find out how he came into contact with Mr. Nerezza. Do you two want to come with?”
“Sure.” Jacey readily agreed, very much interested to see Adam's powers at work. “Where is Mai? Is she not interested to know?”
Nanami shook her head and smiled. “Mai has always been less practical than I am. She is up on deck lying in the sun and daydreaming her next big idea. She has no interest in anything dark, she knows I'll tell her anything we find out.”
“Well let's go see Kage.” Harry stood, welcoming anything that will take his mind off the unnecessary fear that Luna had tired of him. He, Adam and Nanami put their plates in the sink as Jacey grabbed a few pieces of toast and an apple. Then they hurried down to try and solve one more mystery.
“Very good, didn't even feel the shift when you turned.” Murdo said approvingly, patting Ron on the back. “At this rate, I may have to start worrying about losing my title as best captain of all seven seas.” He laughed.
Ron grinned happily, glad to have found something he was good at. Steering the ship and learning about all the work that goes into sailing, he found it was a way to feel in charge, to feel like the leader, the one in control of other's destinies. Turning the wheel over to Murdo, he stepped back and rubbed his arms. “Thanks... I think I'm still sore from yesterday.”
“Well, you're the one who insisted on manning the wheel almost all day. I told you it's a strength that has to be built up.” He scolded. “You're using entirely different muscles than you're used to.”
“Yeah, yeah. It just felt so good to be steering in open water... peaceful, you know?”
“Of course I know.” Murdo laughed again. “Why don't you go take a break, get something to eat.”
“Yeah, okay.” Ron reluctantly agreed as his stomach rumbled. It was late enough that everyone else should be out of the kitchen, he could get in, eat quickly and get out and back to the captain's box in no time.
He stretched out his shoulders as he climbed down on deck, liking the feeling of his sore limbs. They meant that he had done work, that he was earning his keep as well as providing a reason for him to be here, a way for him to actually be of use to the others. Going around to the back of the ship, he caught sight of Mai, wearing shorts and sunglasses, laying in one of the chairs with a book resting open across her chest. It was hot out and it seemed she'd fallen asleep. Worried she may get sunburned, he went to wake her only to jump back startled as she sighed and reached to take off her sunglasses. “I'm awake.” She told him, sitting up and closing her book. “I guess I should move to the shade though... I didn't exactly have time to pack a bathing suit and I don't want to get a funny tan.” She smiled and extended a hand, expecting him to help her up.
He obliged, taking her small, soft hand in his and helping her to her feet. “What were you reading?” He asked, unsure why he felt so nervous.
“Oh this?” She picked up the book and made a face. “Your friend Hermione lent it to me when I said I was bored. I have no idea what it's about, something to do with rare crystals... but it sure is boring.” She smiled in amusement. “But I do like learning, I guess I'll give it another chance.”
“Just don't throw it overboard in frustration.” He half-joked. “Hermione doesn't take kindly to the destruction of literature.”
“I'll keep that in mind.” She laughed again. “It just gets so boring... I'm tired of hanging around Nanami since all she talks about now is this coven stuff. Though, I guess it's important that she focus on it. But I'm just along for the ride, like you and your sister Ginny.”
“Right.” He said, not liking the reminder that his place here was as a hanger-on with little to nothing to offer.
“Oh, don't take it that way.” She said teasingly, reaching out to pat his cheek. “We're all important to someone, right? Someday when this war is all over, you and I will get our friends back. They'll have time to focus on us again. Until then, it is rather important that they ignore us in favor of saving the world, don't you think?” She smiled and continued on, clearly in a chatty mood now that she'd found a willing ear. “I mean, I get how you must feel... I've always known Nanami was destined for greater things than me, and sometimes I downright resented her for it. But I still love her... I just hope Kage doesn't disappoint her too greatly when he wakes up.” She added with a frown as her thoughts continued to jump around. Then she shrugged and smiled again. “But hey, we all have to deal with disappointment, don't we? It's just sad because he's the only family she has left, besides her uncle I mean. But he's in prison for the rest of his life. But that's all just so sad to think about, you know? Anyway, I've noticed you working around the ship... are you planning a career at sea when things settle down? I think it would be exciting, like always having an adventure! I was just laying here thinking... well, I always come up with crazy ideas, but this one I think is great! Magic cruises... but with a theme! Each voyage will go somewhere different and-” Her face fell as her mouth must have finally caught up with her thoughts. “You know what? Never mind. That's a stupid idea... but I know one of these days I'll hit on something good. I think I'll go get something to eat, you know, fuel the brain. Were you heading that way?” She looked up a him expectantly.
Ron froze, unsure whether he wanted to admit that the kitchen had been exactly where he was going. Never had a conversation left him feeling so dizzy and exhausted. But then, there was a part of him that found her entertaining... after all, he hadn't really had anyone to talk to the past few days except for Murdo, and he was a demon of few words. Listening to Mai babble may be an improvement over having another meal alone. “Yeah, I was about to make myself a late breakfast.”
“Well, it's as easy to cook for two as it is for one, right?” She smiled happily, linking her arm in his and practically dragging him down the stairs. “Come on, it's time those of us on the outside of this whole mess get to know each other.”
“Um, yeah. Okay, sure.” He said nervously as he stumbled after her. As they passed one of the rooms, he heard a small explosion and Hermione yelling at Fred through one of the doors. Certain that they'd open the door, he hurried Mai along... he wasn't sure why, but he didn't want anyone to know that he was befriending her.
“I told you not to mix those!” Hermione coughed out, opening the porthole before going to throw open the door in hopes of airing out the cloudy room.
Fred grinned at her sheepishly, his face smudged with soot. “Hey, at least we're still in one piece.”
“Well, excuse me if my standards of success are measured a bit higher than 'are we still breathing?'” She returned angrily. “I warned you-”
“And I wanted to see what happened.” He interrupted with a shrug, offering his curiosity as his only defense.
She crossed her arms, wanting to stay mad. But the longer she stood there glaring at him and his deviously innocent expression, she couldn't help but smile. “Next time you feel so radically experimental, just remember that an educated guess can go a long way.”
“Aw, now where's the death-defying fun in that?” He grinned again, this time with more confidence as he realized he'd been forgiven.
“So, after all that, what happened?” She asked smugly as he inspected the still smoking contents of the cauldron.
Using tongs, he pulled out the large, still intact Fireblood crystal. “Okay, so you were right. Mixing the brews didn't break it down.” He sighed in frustration. “We've got to figure it out, though. It's not like there's tons of these to harvest like Rowena's crystals. Right now, we don't even have enough to make an amulet for everyone on this ship let alone having any to run tests on.”
Hermione went and picked up his notebook, scanning it again in the faint hope that they'd missed the answer before. “You're sure the book never mentioned how to break the crystals?”
“No. These Firebloods are so different from any other stone I've worked with. I knew I should have asked Chion.”
“He was already suspicious.” She reminded him. “Plus, we don't even know that he's the one who harvested them. He could have gotten them through trade, whether by honest means or illicitly.” Seeing that he was still unconvinced, she offered up a compromise. “Maybe Lupin will know... or Murdo. They've both dealt with odd, sinister things.”
“Crystals aren't sinister.” He argued. “Only the way they're used can distinguish them as good or bad.”
“It doesn't stop me from getting an eerie feeling every time I have to touch one.” She returned. “Come on, let's go find Lupin and see what he says about it. If he and Murdo can't help us, then you can continue trying to blow the stupid things up, okay? I'm being as supportive as I can be here.”
“I know.” He sighed again before looking up at her and smiling. Grabbing the edge of his shirt, he walked over to gently wipe the soot from her nose and cheeks. “I'm just frustrated. It took us months to figure out the Wolfie potion... I guess I'm just feeling more anxious now that we're actually out facing danger in the real world. I want a solution to Talena as soon as possible.”
“So do I. But not at the risk of our own health and sanity.” She pulled him down to sit on the bed with her, grabbing the blanket to return the favor of cleaning his face. “We can do this, and maybe it'll take time. But I'd rather we be sure and do everything the right way than chance making something inferior to what you're actually capable of.”
“Okay.” He leaned in and kissed her nose. “No more explosions. But we've got to come up with something different if Lupin can't help.”
“Well, go find out.” Sh e gave him a playful push.
“Alone?” He asked in mock horror. “And what pray tell will you be doing in my absence?”
“Reveling in the few moments of quiet.” She teased, getting up and walking to the door. “I wanted to talk to Luna, see if she could see or sense anything about Gabby. I'm really getting worried that we haven't heard from her.”
Fred unconsciously leaned down to rub his leg. She'd noticed how he'd been limping more since his run through the Australian wilderness and she was worried that he'd continue on until he couldn't walk at all. To stave off an argument, she'd kept quiet about her concerns. But if Gabby didn't find them soon, she knew she'd have to sit him down and let him know that caution was more important than his pride or desire to prove he was okay when he clearly wasn't.
Leaving him to go find Lupin, Hermione made her way down the hall to knock on Luna's door. She answered looking harried and frustrated, her mirror clenched tightly in her hand. “Hey, what's going on?” She asked distractedly.
“Are you okay?” Hermione asked automatically, following her back into the room and closing the door.
“Just tired.” She said with an awkward smile.
“Well, I don't want to bother you... I was just wondering if you knew anything about Gabby or when we'd all see her again.”
Luna shook her head and laughed hollowly. “I don't know. Apparently I can't have any visions about any of the things I want to see anymore.”
“Are you that worried about us being in Greece?” She asked, knowing that going to look for Miles was the elusive event Luna had been trying to see for the past few days.
“Just excited.” She answered with a shrug. “I can try to see Gabby. Maybe she's decided to come find us... she should have gotten that letter by now.” She held up the mirror and clearly said, “Gabriella Hernandez.” Hermione anxiously leaned in to see what would appear. Sure enough, Gabby appeared in the glass and it seemed she was standing at the railing of a ship. There was a strange man next to her, holding her hand and they were both staring out at the ocean as the wind gently whipped through their hair. “That must be her husband Philip.” Luna guessed the man's identity.
“But there's no way to tell where they are?”
She shook her head unhappily. “Nope, just that they're on a ship... at least, five minutes from now they are.”
“Well, hopefully they plan to meet up with us somewhere in Greece.” Hermione said, trying to see this in the best possible light.
“I'll let you know if anything else comes to me... how's Fred?” Luna asked, once more having the uncanny ability to know exactly what someone's motives were in coming to her.
“Stubborn as usual. But he'll be fine.” She assured her. “Thanks for the help.”
“What little of it I could give.” Luna muttered. “I just feel so close to seeing... something. Apparently there's still some decision to be made before it's clear... but I've forced myself into visions before. Shouldn't it be easier now that we've added Nanami and Adam?” She looked up expectantly, now taking her turn to ask for answers.
“Maybe there's just too many decisions to be made.” She suggested. “And it's not like the five of you sat there and tried to focus on you having a vision. Maybe you should ask them for help.”
“I don't know. I don't want Harry to get even more irrationally upset with me.”
“Irrational anger is the only kind he knows how to feel with any of us.” Hermione joked. “We all know how much you want to find Miles and ask him questions... As much as he hates being the center of attention, Harry can't stand when someone's focus moves to someone else... especially yours.” She smiled. “He'll relax if Miles proves to be a hunchback with warts all over his face.”
Luna smiled in return, lightening up a bit of the heaviness she'd been carrying on herself. “Then let us hope he has a face only a mother could love.”
“And if he doesn't?” She asked, suddenly feeling the desire to play devil's advocate. She may not be in love with Harry anymore, but she did still love him and she wanted to be sure he wouldn't be hurt.
She shrugged and laughed. “My affection isn't swayed so easily, if that's what you're worried about. Whatever connection I feel to Miles, it's only slightly stronger than what I feel for Jacey, Gabby, Nanami and Adam... and then, only because we share pieces of our abilities. It's still nothing to what I feel for Harry.”
Hermione smiled and reached out to pat her on the shoulder. “You don't have to convince me.”
“I shouldn't have to convince him either.” She sighed. “Of course, he knows he's wrong... that's why he hasn't said anything about it yet.”
“Oh yes, he'll simply sit and stew about it until it all comes out for the wrong reason and against the wrong person.” She shook her head, baffled at how even with Luna, Harry could be so immature. “Where is he now?”
“With Nanami, Jacey and Adam. They're trying to see if Adam can use his powers to see why Kage teamed up with Nerezza.” Luna got up and put her mirror away. “They aren't having much luck yet. From what I can sense, Adam can't seem to get past early childhood memories to anything more recent. I'm about to go tell them that I think it's because that's where Kage is hiding while keeping himself unconscious.”
“Couldn't you all just go in and get him... you know, like you and Harry did for me in Hogsmeade?”
She smiled and shook her head. “You wanted to wake up. Kage doesn't. Plus you got stuck in your memories by accident... I'm almost positive that he got lost in his head on purpose.”
“Well, I guess that's even more reason to hope Gabby finds us soon.” Hermione said as she followed her out into the hall. She noticed Luna lean heavily against the wall and hurried to help hold her up. “What's wrong?”
Luna seemed dazed, her eyes were unfocused. “All this talking about Gabby... I think I had focused too much on Greece... something else is coming to me...” And then she was out and Hermione nearly dropped her as she went limp in her arms. As carefully as she could, she laid Luna down on the floor and waited impatiently to find out when they would see Gabby.
“We can try again later.” Adam offered apologetically as Nanami stared thoughtfully at her cousin while distractedly toying with her necklace.
Seeing how defeated he looked, Harry went over to pat Adam on the shoulder. “It's fine, Kage is hiding in there, making it more difficult for all of us.”
“It may get easier very soon.” Luna announced as she and Hermione came down the stairs to join them. “I just had a vision... Gabby will be crossing paths with our ship within the next three days.”
“We already warned Murdo.” Hermione added excitedly. “He said he'll keep a lookout and when he spots the boat Luna saw, he'll lower the cloaking charms so Gabby can find us.”
“Oh shoot!” Nanami cried in frustration as she dropped to the ground and began frantically searching for something. “I can't believe it broke again! I really thought I'd fixed it.”
“What?” Harry asked as they all instinctively tried to help her look.
“My necklace.” She pouted. “It's been in my family forever so the chain is very weak. But I was warned not to replace it, that it was part of the whole.”
“Here it is.” Luna stood triumphantly, a gold necklace firmly in her hand as it's jade pendant swung in the air. She stopped suddenly and stared at it as some intuitive flash flew through her. “How long did you say this has been in your family?” She asked as she handed it over.
Nanami held it tightly, clearly upset at not having it somewhere on her person. “A few generations. From what my father told me, my great, great, great grandmother was a master jewelry maker and she crafted this as a family heirloom-” She stopped and looked at Luna who was nodding encouragingly. “So that's why my powers have always felt so intensified.”
“It's your artifact?” Harry asked happily. They had briefly talked about the coven artifacts the other night after Adam asked why Luna kept carrying around her mirror. If Nanami already had hers, that was one less problem to solve.
“It has to be.” She smiled, laughing at herself. “Now that I think back on it, I always felt less somehow whenever I wasn't wearing it. That's why I can always tell when it breaks... I sense immediately that I'm weaker somehow and it sends me into a bit of a panic.”
Jacey came forward, examining the necklace as Nanami held it out. “Maybe you could talk to Fred, see if he knows anything that may strengthen the chain without damaging the integrity of whatever your ancestor instilled in it. He has become a rather skilled alchemist.”
“So, how am I supposed to figure out my artifact?” Adam interrupted. “It's something I've been thinking about since you guys brought it up the other day... I didn't even know my parents names until you showed me the files you used to trace me. I don't want to have to go back to Cairo for information... I left for a reason. I was fine not knowing my past.” He sat in the corner and hung his head. For the first time they saw a slight dimming of the bright aura he seemed to always carry with him.
“We can go with you to the Cairo ministry.” Harry offered, unsure how else to help. “We can go there after Greece.” He added, liking the idea of having an important reason to leave Greece as soon as possible. Hopefully Miles had a life that he couldn't leave right away and they would simply agree to have him meet them at the Shrieking Shack.
Adam shook his head and ran his hands over his face. Then he smiled up at them all and stood, once again his normal self. “That's okay. It's not nearly as important as ensuring we find all the people. Artifacts and history can come later. Let's not lose our main focus.”
“Right.” Jacey stepped forward, sensing his desire to move past his moment of uncertainty. “Gabby will be with us within days. In a little over a week, we will be in Greece with Miles. So where do we go after that?”
“I say we go around to the United States.” Nanami suggested. “You did say there were two of them there, right?”
“Zachary Hill and Jie Chen... but they're living on opposite coasts.” Hermione affirmed, pulling the information from her memory faster than anyone else.
“I say we go to Ireland.” Harry argued. “We can find Ajala Kapoor and look for Hidden Falls.”
“I agree.” Jacey said quickly. He knew she had her own secret reasons for wanting to go to Ireland, but they'd all been trying very hard not to intrude in each other's heads. So he pushed aside his suspicions and simply accepted the fact that he had one vote on his side.
“But, wouldn't it make more sense to save Ireland for last since it's so close to home?” Hermione asked.
“If there's something to learn about the scrolls at Hidden Falls, then it's equally important that we go there and make sure Voldemort can never find it.” He reasoned.
But she knew him well, crossing her arms and looking at him in amusement. “And if there's something to learn about Jennitha August, then that's important too.”
“Hey, Adam's the one who said artifacts and history can wait. I'm far more curious.” He grinned and shrugged.
Hermione rolled her eyes and scoffed before giving into the idea. “Well, I suppose if we go to Ireland, we'll be close enough for Tonks to come see us and bring news from home. Remember, Lupin said it's been hard to reach anyone in London because there's so much going on and keeping them busy.”
“I don't really care where we go.” Adam said with a laugh, leading the way back up to the kitchen for lunch. “All I know is when this is all over, I'm going to write one heck of a book.” He turned and bowed dramatically before sitting at the table. “With all of your permission of course.”
“It might be nice to have someone actually print the truth of whatever happens.” Harry smiled, hiding what he and everyone else was really thinking... hopefully Adam would survive to write his book, and they would survive to read it.
Luna woke up to the sun hitting her face as it beamed through the porthole. She smiled as she felt Harry pull her closer, kissing her cheek before leaning to whisper in her ear. “Happy Birthday.”
She turned to him in surprise, having completely lost track of the days. “It's February 13th already?” She sat up, a bit unnerved that her own birthday had snuck up on her.
Harry laughed and reached out to brush her hair out of her face. “Sorry, I didn't think I would have to be the
one to break the news to you.”
She smiled and shook her head in amusement. “I guess I've been too distracted to remember what day or month it is.” She watched a dark shadow pass his eyes as he was reminded that her distraction involved trying to receive a vision of another boy. She smiled even wider, slightly amused that he could be so worried for no reason at all. His shift in moods passed quickly and he turned his attention back fully on her.
“Well, then I guess it's a good thing I was keeping track.” He grinned, reaching under the bed and pulling out a box. He handed it over and waited impatiently for her to open it.
“Are these holes on the top of the box?” She asked hesitantly.
He laughed again. “Well, maybe I had Hagrid help me.”
“I'm not sure whether or not that scares me.” She teased. The thing in the box chirped loudly, causing them both to jump in surprise. Curious, Luna opened the lid and sat back as a small colorful bird flew out. “Is that really a Whisperill?” She asked in delight. Knowing how tame the nearly extinct birds were, she held out her hand and laughed in delight when it lightly landed on her finger. She gently pet it's bright blue and green feathers as it happily chirped out a song.
“Hagrid said it would be the perfect pet for you... he said Whisperills are the familiars most associated with those who see the future.” He also reached out to pet the bird and she could see that he was missing Hedwig and Robin. Hermione hadn't been happy to leave Crookshanks behind either and Luna felt a momentary pang of guilt now that she had an animal to love and look after and they didn't.
She smiled and nodded. “It's because they can lead you into meditation with their songs.” She said, already noting how relaxed she was feeling as the bird chirped on. “They help clear the mind to make way for visions.”
“Well, this one is only a few weeks old and she's a girl. Hagrid sent her yesterday morning... it was odd seeing an owl deliver a bird to a ship.” He grinned. “Do you like her?”
“You know I've always wanted a pet.” She moved her hand, letting the bird once more take flight around the room. It flew through the open porthole and came right back in, exploring it's new boundaries. “When I was younger, my father said we moved around too much for the magazine to get one... then when school started, he said it was too much of a hassle to bring an animal back and forth every year.”
“Well, that's another benefit of this little bird.” Harry grabbed her hand, holding it out so the Whisperill would land on her again. The bird landed just as gently as the last time and looked up at her with a happy awareness. “She'll be glad to go wherever you go and she doesn't take up much space... just be careful. Hagrid warned me that as small and cute as Whisperills are, they can become vicious if they or their owners feel threatened.”
Sure enough, someone knocked on the door and sent the bird into a tizzy as it flew from her hand and squeaked unhappily at whoever was intruding before landing protectively on her shoulder. Harry got up and opened up to find Lupin. “Good morning.” He greeted them. “And happy birthday!” He added, looking past Harry to her and smiling warmly. “You may want to come up on deck... I think there's something here for you.” He winked and turned to walk back up the stairs.
Feeling excited, she jumped up and put the bird in the large cage Harry produced before quickly changing clothes. Once they were both presentable, she raced up the stairs half expecting that the surprise was Gabby's arrival. It had been two days since she'd gotten the vision and knew it was only a matter of time before it came true. Instead, she found everyone lounging around and enjoying the morning. They all wished her a good birthday and gathered round as Lupin produced a box larger than the one Harry had given her. “This just arrived through the mail system Arthur and I had set up. It's from your father.”
“Really?” She excitedly tore away the packaging and found several items from both her father and grandmother... clothes, a couple of books and some homemade cookies, all the things she normally received in care packages from them. There was also a large envelope at the bottom... and that was all it took to ruin her good mood. Already knowing it would be an advanced copy of the Quibbler, she wondered what story her father thought important enough to warn her about. Holding her breath and pulling the magazine out, she stared at the cover as the words announcing the main story bored uncomfortably into her head. “Oh no...” She muttered as everyone crowded around to see what had upset her. She looked at Lupin accusingly as he was the only one able to have direct contact with London. “How did he even find out about this?”
NOTE: What is in the Quibbler? Will Gabby show up safely? How will things go with Miles? Find out in the next chapter, coming soon!
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