Chapter 78 : Familiar Faces
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A/N: Read, Review and Enjoy!
Harry could hear Hermione crying out in surprised fear as he slid and tumbled after her through the seemingly never ending dirt tunnel. He tried to stop his progress but Adam, Ginny and Ron slammed into him, and so the terrifying ride through the darkness continued until at last they landed in a heap. “Is everyone okay?” He groaned out as they all attempted to disentangle themselves and take stock of their injuries. The ground was covered in sharp sticks and soft leaves, leaving him feeling as if he were sitting in a nest.
“Just really bruised I think.” Adam reported, his voice tense.
“Where are we?” Ginny asked. They all pulled out their wands and lit them, casting a soft glow around what seemed to be a large cavern. There were several tunnel entrances around them, as if this was the central location of whatever this underground traveling system was. Ginny stood and brushed herself off before stumbling over to the entrance they had just come through. “Draco!” She called and they all listened intently, but there was no reply.
Harry and Adam linked minds, attempting to call out silently to Luna, Jacey, Gabby and Nanami but they couldn't find them which only made them all panic more. “Oh no...” Hermione said quietly as she shone her wand around, lighting everything so she could study it.
“What is it?” Ron asked with trepidation. Like Harry, he knew Hermione well enough to recognize that her tone was indicating that she knew they were in some pretty serious trouble.
“I think we're in the furies' hive.” She looked at them in horror.
“Looks more like a giant nest to me.” Harry said, repeating his earlier thought.
“So where are the furies?” Ginny asked as she nervously looked around.
“Probably making their way back down now that we are trespassing here... but they aren't our main worry anymore.” Hermione said grimly. “The real questions we should be asking are, where is the queen and how do we get out of here before she finds us?”
Draco watched as Miles picked up one of the dazed furies and studied it closely. “Strange, they have never been down this long when I have had to knock them out before.” He said before carelessly tossing the creature aside. “It usually only lasts as long as it takes to get a head start back to my house.”
“It is because you are being near us.” Gabby explained with a glare as she went to make sure the fury hadn't suffered any injury by Miles manhandling it. After all, it was still a living being and it couldn't help what it had to do to feed itself.
“Like we wanted to explain before, we need you to join our coven.” Jacey said from her place next to Fred and Luna, who was still trying to send her mind down the tunnel after Potter. “The more of us there are, the stronger our powers become... but we need all twelve working together to stop Voldemort and his Death Eaters who, by the way, are no longer the only ones looking to do harm.”
“And like I told you before, I have no interest in anything outside this forest.” Miles smirked back.
Draco couldn't take it anymore, shaking off Lupin and grabbing Miles up by his shirt to slam him against the nearest tree trunk. “That's it!” He shouted, practically snarling in the other boy's face and actually enjoying the flash of fear in his eyes. “We get it, you're an asshole and you only care about yourself. Believe me, my old self can relate. But I don't care about you or anything you feel the world owes you to make you act this way... what I do care about is what's happening to our friends. Now you can either shut up and take us to wherever this hive is, or I'll knock you out just to not have to hear your voice and go find the hive myself even if it does take longer.” He let go of Miles and turned to face Luna, Gabby and Nanami. “All of your coven bull can wait until we find Ginny and the others.”
Luna nodded and stood, walking over and gently moving him aside so she could face Miles. “Please.” She said quietly, exuding a feeling of hopeful collaboration that they could all feel. “I know that you know how to get us there. Please take us and help us calm the furies long enough to get our friends out.”
With her now between himself and Draco, Miles straightened up and regained some of his aloof confidence. “Fine.” He replied testily, smoothing out the wrinkles in his shirt. “But it is not because you are begging and attempting to manipulate me of all people with your energy. You may be the better seer, but you can not come close to what I can do. And it is also not because your little wolf friend threatened me. I just want you all to get out of my forest and away from me as soon as possible. Come on, it is this way.” He brushed past them all and began walking.
Draco shared an uncertain glance with Luna who merely nodded and turned to follow. He was reluctant to walk away from the hole knowing that it was the most direct way to get to Ginny, Potter and Granger... the three down there that he'd come to care for most. But tumbling down without a plan wasn't going to help them... the part of his mind not gripped with horror was able to understand that completely. Plus Lupin, Luna and Fred, the three he cared for most up here, may need his help, especially if Miles was the one leading them. It would be most beneficial to all if they could find a safe way in and out... but the other part of his mind that was terrified that Ginny was hurt or dead was unfortunately much louder and left him feeling careless. It took a lot of effort, but he forced himself to go along with the others as they followed Miles. He'd instantly disliked the guy... but he trusted Luna beyond a doubt and if she somehow knew this was the way to proceed, then he believed her.
“Hey, you're going the wrong way on purpose.” Luna suddenly accused as they came to a fork in their path.
Miles turned and looked at her quizzically. “How would you know?”
“Because I saw a brief flash of what the entrance we're searching for looks like and my intuition is telling me that it's this way.” She pointed the left. Miles had begun leading them to the right.
“Then maybe you should just go find your friends yourself and let me go home.” He crossed his arms and stared at her in a gloating, predatory manner that Draco didn't care for... and he knew for a fact Potter wouldn't have appreciated it either. “Or, you can trust that I know this forest better than you, even with your special sight.”
“Meaning?” Lupin asked, passing around the magical, never-empty canteen so they could all hydrate themselves.
“Meaning that yes, the left path is the more direct way. But it is also more dangerous.” Miles sneered knowingly. “The closer we get to the hive's main entrance, the more traps the furies have set... and I am not talking about more hidden tunnels to take their victims captive. If you want to end up maimed or dead, please, feel free to go to the left.”
“You can understand why I would question you.” Luna said steadily rather than apologize for her previous accusation that he was leading them astray. Apparently, despite her gentle handling of Miles, she was with Draco and everyone else in not liking him very much. “Let's just get there both as safely and quickly as possible.”
“Fine.” He returned angrily. “Who's up for a run?”
“We can all keep up.” Mai assured him. “We just want to get to our friends.”
Miles nodded, clearly unhappy to find himself roped into all of this. With a grunt of contempt, he turned and began running down the path to the right, leading them around the damaging fury traps. Draco forced himself to keep pace with everyone, though he very much wanted to run ahead and use his own sense of smell to find the entrance to the hive. It was already taking too long, who knew what Ginny and the others were going through underground... he took small comfort knowing she was with Potter, but really, what could any of them do against a herd of furies? Unfortunately, Miles was the only one able to calm the creatures and so Draco had no choice but to stay with him. Hopefully the other boy would get over himself and learn to work at least with the others in the coven... after all, if the furies gathered in their hive in the numbers he told them, then he would most likely have to link up with them to enhance his power to it's highest degree. Unless of course he was somehow fooling Luna and leading them somewhere else entirely.
“I think it may be too late to find a way out.” Adam said, his voice full of uncertain fear as the sounds of scratching and squealing echoed through the tunnels all around them.
“The furies are coming back to their nest.” Hermione pointed out unnecessarily. The others could see for themselves that the creatures had begun to enter the cavern, pooling in and encircling them... thousands of tiny creatures covering the ground. They stood there staring at her and her friends, as if they were waiting for some signal before attacking.
“Not that I'm not grateful, but why aren't they trying to bite us?” Ron asked.
“Maybe we aren't scared or angry enough.” Harry suggested, extinguishing the light spell and raising his wand in preparation.
“No, don't put out the light!” Hermione warned desperately, rushing over and moving his arm to attempt to light his wand again.
“Okay, relax.” He took her hand and squeezed it in comfort before relighting the wand himself.
“Sorry, it's just... we don't have to worry about them so much.” She gestured to all the small creatures. “It's the queen, we're a meal meant for her. Unlike the rest of them, she is doesn't go above ground because she is sensitive to light. It's the only thing we have to keep her at bay.”
“So which one is the queen?” Ginny asked, looking around warily.
Hermione opened her mouth to reply but was interrupted by a loud rumbling that seemed to fill the cavern. Dirt sprinkled down on them as the whole world seemed to shake. Looking to the biggest tunnel, she pointed at the large creature now coming towards them. “That's the queen.” She said, terror gripping her and rendering her unable to move. Like the smaller furies the queen had long spindly legs and rows of razor sharp teeth... only she towered over them all, standing at least twice Ron's height. Hermione felt herself reach out and grab Harry's arm, assuring herself that he was still there.
“Run!” Ginny yelled as the queen lunged at them. As a group they turned to the nearest tunnel, but the furies had piled on top of each other to block their way.
“Come on!” Harry grabbed Hermione's hand and, extinguishing the light, he waved his wand at a different tunnel across from them to try and clear the way. She could tell that he was also using his ability to move things with his mind as hundreds of the creatures went flying in all directions. But no matter how many he moved, more were there to block their way, an unending parade of furies looking to keep them trapped with their queen.
“Look out!” Adam yelled in warning, breaking his rule about touching anyone and grabbing Ron to pull him away as the queen attacked.
“Over here!” Ginny called from the corner. She had found a small crevice for them all to slip into... it wasn't small enough to keep out the furies, but it would keep the queen's far more deadly teeth from reaching them. Hermione, Harry, Ron and Adam raced to join her, ducking through the queen's legs and just barely making it out of biting range.
“Now what?” Ron gasped out as they squeezed together. Harry and Adam were using their wands to keep the furies at bay while Hermione and Ginny continued to shine their lights as brightly as possible.
“We could get past the furies if the queen was distracted.” Harry lamented. “But our wand lights aren't enough to drive her away.”
“Wait!” Hermione said in excitement, handing her wand to Ron so she could maneuver her bag from her shoulders. “I have just the thing!” She dug through until she felt the rough velvet fabric. Pulling out the bundle she put her bag back on and held out the wrapped object in triumph.
“What is it?” Adam asked.
“My star.” She smiled. “Cover your eyes, it's about to get very bright in here.” As soon as she was sure they had all averted their gazes, she unwrapped the jar and let the star Fred made her shine with all it's intensity. The queen, who had been trying to dig her way to them, shrieked in agony and fell back.
“Go ahead, we'll take care of the furies.” Harry told her as he and Ron each grabbed one of her shoulders to make sure they stayed together while Ginny and Adam protected them all from behind. Hermione forced herself to take a step back out into the openness of the cavern as the others did whatever they had to in order to keep the tiny creatures at bay. The further out she went, the more light the star gave off and she was feeling victorious as the queen shrank back from them, hissing and squealing her displeasure.
“Hermione! Ginny! Ron!” They all suddenly heard Fred calling out to them, followed quickly by Luna, Draco, Jacey and Lupin who were also desperately calling for them, Harry and Adam.
“Oh no.” Harry muttered as the queen perked her head and instantly went in the direction of the distant voices. Light your wands, turn around and run back! Hermione heard him think out to the others. Gripping her star more tightly in her hands, she followed as he and Adam ran after the queen.
“This will be it then.” Miles said, brushing aside some hanging leaves to reveal a small cave entrance. “Just go straight down and you will be there in no time. Good luck.” He grinned meanly and turned to leave.
Before she knew what she was doing, Luna lunged and roughly grabbed his arm, tired of trying to play nice. “You said you would help us calm the furies.” She reminded him.
“I have changed my mind.” He shrugged. “I brought you where you wanted to go and now I am choosing to leave you all here rather than risk my life for people I could care less about.”
“Do you know who is down there?” Jacey demanded, changing tactics and hoping the notoriety of their group would be enough to change his view on the situation. “Harry Potter is down there. If you do not care about the fate of any of the others, you should care what happens to him.”
“Why?” Miles pulled his arm from Luna's grasp so suddenly she stumbled. “As far as I know, he brought down evil as an infant only to allow it to once more join the living world. If anyone could handle himself, I would assume it would be Harry Potter.”
“I don't know why I hoped you would be so different from what my intuition told me you were.” Luna said in disappointment. “I had thought you would have something to teach me about energy manipulation, but there isn't anything I care to learn from someone so cold and unfeeling.”
“You are strangers to me.” He turned back to her to argue. “Just because you all have big bleeding hearts does not mean that I have to be the same. There is no reason in the world for me to care about any of you.” He once again turned to leave only to find his way completely blocked by a sudden wall of fire.
“We do not care about you either.” Jacey said fiercely, flames still flickering in her hands as Miles faced her with an accusing glare. “But Ron, Harry, Hermione, Ginny and Adam are down there and we will do whatever is necessary to save them.”
“You cannot force me to use my power.” He replied, his tone threatening.
“But you want to help us.” Nanami said in a low, soothingly suggestive voice.
“No, I do not.” He crossed his arms and stared her down. “You can try to influence my mind all you want, but surely you all must have realized that if we really do have this connection to each other, then you will not be able to as easily manipulate my thoughts as those outside of us.”
“Just let him go.” Luna sighed, grabbing Jacey's arm so she would drop her fire. “We're wasting too much time. I'll do my best to try and calm the furies and we'll have to hope it'll be enough... Thanks for nothing.” She glared at Miles.
“No problem.” He smiled.
“You are a very selfish young man.” Philip admonished.
“No, I am a very smart young man.” Miles returned. “I know how to stay out of situations that may kill me.”
“Come on! Luna was right, we're wasting time!” Draco said impatiently, turning and striding into the cave entrance while practically dragging Lupin along with him as he tried to stop him.
With one last disappointed look at Miles, Luna followed, putting him entirely out of her mind to focus on finding Harry. As soon as they felt they were far enough underground, they all started calling for their friends while she, Jacey, Nanami and Gabby sent their minds ahead in search of the others.
“What is that?” Draco asked as a blinding white light shot up through their tunnel while some kind of large creature could be heard shrieking in angry defiance.
“It's the star I made.” Fred answered, instantly recognizing something he must have given to Hermione.
“The queen is sensitive to light, it's why she lives so far underground.” Lupin quickly explained.
Light your wands, turn around and run back! Harry's voice rang through their minds, warning them that the queen of the furies was currently barreling towards them. We're following, I promise I'll see you above ground... just go. His message continued, but Luna knew he'd confined it solely to her, to ensure she fled.
“Let's go!” Lupin insisted, lighting his wand just as the tiny furies began swarming around their feet. They all ran back up to the entrance, coming out into the dying sunlight while shaking off the furies that were attempting, and in some cases succeeding, to bite them. “The queen won't come all the way out while the sun is still out.” He told them all as they waited. “But it's probably darker out here now than the star she's running from so we have to be ready.”
Jacey turned and lit all the trees around them, keeping a tight control over the flames to keep them from spreading. Everyone else put as much focus as they could into their wandlight, making the area around the cave entrance as bright as possible while hiding in the shadows beyond the trees. They spread out to surround the place on all sides, preparing to cast whatever they had to in order to stop the queen from attacking.
“She's coming.” Luna warned them, using everything she had to try and cast a calm, happy aura.
“It will not work no matter how hard you try.” A whispered voice said from behind her.
She jumped in surprise and turned to find Miles, his expression stuck between gloating and concern. “I thought you left.” She returned tensely.
“I came back because I was curious to see what would happen. There is only so much entertainment to be found out here.” He grinned meanly before sighing and becoming serious. “Look, I think it is fair to warn you that nothing you do will calm the queen. Even I was not able to when I first accidentally fell into one of the tunnels.” He bent and pulled up his pant leg to show her a long scar running along his calf. “I was fast enough to get away into the sun, but she almost got me anyway. I can calm the furies, but she is a stronger creature than they are.”
Luna forced herself to be civil, hoping that somewhere inside he was capable of being empathetic to others. After all, he had come and warned her, so he had to have something in him to tell him what was right. “And with us, you could be stronger than her. You've tried to take her on yourself, why not try it with us helping you? It wouldn't hurt to learn that there are people you can actually count on. You aren't the only one of us who has had a difficult life and we're all still learning how to be better people. You may not have a reason to care about us, but we need you right now. Please, help us by letting us help you use your power.”
With a loud squeal of displeasure, the queen burst from the tunnel entrance, deciding the light behind her was more painful than the dusk, flames and wandlight outside. Luna spun around to find Harry and the others slowly emerging behind her while Hermione held up a blinding object in a clear jar. Everyone but Miles stepped forward, casting in an attempt to subdue the queen... but nothing was working. Their spells bounced or rolled off of her thick skin, leaving her completely unaffected and even angrier.
“Look out!” Ron yelled as the queen turned to snap at Jacey who was attempting to fling around her fire. She ducked out of the way in time, but the giant creature turned on a new victim, trying to attack anyone she could reach.
“Okay.” Miles came up to Luna and put a hesitant hand on her shoulder. “Tell them all to feed me their energy... I will see what I can do.”
Luna smiled happily, pleased to see him actually give her a genuine smile back. Guys, help Miles so he can calm the queen! She quickly thought out to Harry, Jacey, Gabby, Nanami and Adam. She felt an overwhelming wave of doubt return to her, but they did as she said anyway and through his grip on her shoulder, she could sense the rush of power now surging within him. As soon as she also sent her mind into his to strengthen it, he let her go and stepped forward toward the queen.
Miles and the creature eyed each other warily, slowly circling around as everyone else watched. The smaller furies had instantly dropped to the ground in sated serenity the moment he had wrapped the area in an aura of calmness. But he had been right, the queen was much stronger and putting up a greater fight against the influence. Still, her movements were becoming more languid and she had quieted a great deal... seeing this, Hermione finally put away her star to stop causing any pain as the coven doubled their efforts in pushing Miles' power outward.
At last the queen's eyes rolled up in her head and she collapsed in a tired heap, calmly sleeping away the trauma of her day. Moving together as a group, they carefully yet quickly left the cave entrance while Miles continued to manipulate the energy around them as they made their getaway. “It would be best if you all got out of the forest as soon as possible. At night is when the queen hunts and when she wakes, it will be all of you she will be hunting.” He told them.
“Just show us the way, we're more than happy to get out of here.” Harry returned crossly, walking over to Luna and taking her hand in relief.
Are you okay? She thought out only to him. Luckily, they had discovered that when they focus on speaking only to each other, no one else could hear them no matter how many coven members were added. Apparently, the connection they'd forged between themselves was stronger than the one woven into the coven.
Just the normal scrapes and bruises. He returned, giving her hand a squeeze of reassurance. Are you okay?
Of course... just ready to go to Hogsmeade for a day or two. She mentally sighed. It'll be nice to be somewhere familiar and relatively safe.
“Here we are.” Miles announced, presenting them a large clearing and a small village beyond it. “That is Rouley, well outside the boundaries of the furies.”
“You are really not going to come with us?” Jacey demanded.
“No, I am really not.” He turned to leave, but Luna let go of Harry and hurried to block his way.
“Wait.” She held up her hands, trying to keep him from brushing past her. “Just think about it. We'll head back to our ship... I'll think you the location and since you know this place better than we do, you can meet us there.”
“What makes you so sure I even want to consider changing my mind?” He asked harshly.
“Because... I still haven't been shown the outcome of you not joining us.” She told him quietly, speaking only loud enough for him to hear. “Somewhere inside of you, you must want to come along. It's up to you to decide whether you're stronger than whatever is holding you back.”
“Or maybe you are holding yourself back from receiving a vision by grasping on to the hope that I will change my mind.” He returned in a smug whisper, leaning in closer to her as he challenged her.
Mentally telling the others and especially Harry to stay back, Luna held her ground, refusing to be intimidated. “Maybe you don't believe in yourself, and that's okay.” She told him, seeing in his eyes that she'd touched on some kind of nerve. “I believe in you enough for both of us. You know what fate is telling you... I believe you are strong enough to answer the call to your destiny despite the hardships you've had to face because of it. We all have and if you let us, we'll be there for you like no one else has been able to. Our ship is docked in Messini... I really hope we'll see you there.” She reached out to gently pat him on the shoulder before walking past him and back to her friends. “Come on, let's start figuring out our way back to the Tamesis.” She said, forcing herself not to look back. She knew Miles had returned to the forest and wherever he called home, but until she saw something to tell her different, she refused to believe he wouldn't return to join them... whether they really wanted him to or not.
No sooner had she had that thought about visions than the roaring in her ears started and her eyesight blurred into nothingness. She reached out and grabbed Hermione and Fred who had been closest to her while for the first time in the last two weeks, she hoped whatever she was about to see had nothing to do with Miles.
Jacey rushed over with Harry as soon as Luna fell into Fred and Hermione's arms. They all knew the signs and what was happening, but with their adrenaline still pumping, they could not help but feel panicked. After carefully laying her on the ground, they four knelt around her while everyone else stood in a protective circle. “Is it just me or is this taking longer than usual?” Jacey asked after several minutes had passed.
“It must be something very detailed.” Hermione suggested.
“Whatever it is, she fell into it so suddenly and deeply that I can't see it with her.” Harry lamented, holding Luna's hand as he looked down at her with concern.
“She is fine.” Gabby assured everyone as she and Philip sat in the grass to wait. “Her mind is frenzied though, so I am not sure that we will like what she will have to be telling us when she comes back.”
“He's not dead!” Luna yelled suddenly, sitting up and staring directly at Jacey, her eyes wide and filled with confused horror.
“Who?” Harry and Lupin asked at the same time.
Luna shook her head, refusing to answer. “Never mind, that's not important right now... we have to get ready. Those Death Eaters I saw before are on a direct path to run into us.”
“How many?” Draco asked, gripping his wand and looking around warily.
She again looked at Jacey almost guiltily. “Seven right now... but one of them is-”
“Expelliarmus!” Someone shouted, cutting off Luna's warning. Harry and Fred's wands went flying off into the distance and into the hand of one of seven masked figures who had emerged from the village.
At once the clearing erupted into a frenzy of spells, fire and flying debris as everyone engaged in casting and/or using their powers. Jacey prepared another fireball in her hand, aiming for the Death Eater in the center who was by far the biggest and most capable. But he seemed prepared, as if he had somehow known exactly what to expect from her. He ducked her flames before firing a water spell at her, taking her by surprise and leaving her drenched on the ground. Feeling furious, she sprung to her feet and flung fireball after fireball at him. He desperately tried to protect himself, his shields just barely holding up against her assault. At last it became apparent that he would not be able to keep it up much longer and so he dodged and rolled before expertly flinging a spell, sending her flying back and gasping for air as she felt the wind get knocked out of her. She could hear him laughing as he approached her... something in the tone of his voice was horribly familiar and while she could not force her brain to place it, it made something full of hateful rebellion rise within her.
Mentally demanding that all of her friends stay away with such conviction that they were startled into staying back and focusing on the two other Death Eaters still needing to be subdued. Jacey waited until the tall man was standing over her, letting him feel triumphant as she dramatized the damage done to her. As soon as he was close enough she kicked out her leg, tripping him up long enough for her to get to her feet and engulf her entire body in fire. Then she rushed at him, tackling him to the ground and setting his robes ablaze. She rolled away and dropped her fire, smiling in confused satisfaction as she heard him shriek in pain while he attempted to put himself out. Ron came over and offered his hand which she gratefully took, allowing him to help her to her feet.
With the other six Death Eaters detained, everyone else gathered around as Lupin casually cast a water spell to subdue the last of the flames the large man had been unable to put out himself. The feeling that she knew and hated this person was stronger than ever... Jacey limped over to the man while her friends all kept their wands pointed at him. With a feeling of grim determination surging within her, she reached out and pulled off his mask. “Alexandros!” She gasped, falling back in disgust as she was once more forced to take in the sight of her ex-husband.
“Hello Jacinda.” He glared up at her, his eyes as cold and distant as ever.
“I did not think you would ever return here.” She glared back, biting her tongue against all the other things she truly wished to say to him.
“I could say the same of you.” He shot back, sitting up and dusting himself off angrily as if he were unaware of the group of people surrounding him and watching his every move. “I am welcomed because I have redeemed myself of my sins... unfortunately, it seems you have only fallen deeper into yours.”
“Meaning?” She asked. She could feel the tenseness from everyone around her as they held their breath and waited to see how she wanted to proceed. Even those who were unaware of who this man was to her could sense what the connection was and Ron, who knew everything about her history with Alex, was standing stiffly beside her and trying very hard to hide his emotions on the matter.
“Him!” Alex pointed directly at Harry, causing everyone to grip their wands tighter in preparation. “You have been in constant contact with someone who if handed over to Lord Voldemort, would completely buy your way back into the impressive life you built here. But you failed... just as you failed with Stavros Petras!”
Jacey reacted without thinking, flames bursting from her hands and forcing Ron, Luna and Mai to jump back as they were standing right next to her. His words had struck the wrong nerve and in that second, she had wanted to kill him for it. Only the realization that she had nearly hurt her friends had pulled her back. “You know that I did not fail with Stavros.” She spat out through clenched teeth as she tried to control her temper. “Killing him was the worst thing I've ever done... a piece of myself died that day with him so do not taunt me with questions of what happened.”
“His body was never found!” Alex shouted.
“You know why!” She yelled back, raising her hands and allowing her fire to flare once more. “Would you like a demonstration?!”
“Jacey.” Luna said quietly, reminding her that none of them would allow her to torture herself by giving into a moment of fury and ending her ex-husband's life.
She took several deep breaths and forced herself to calm down. Alex grinned up at her, proud to have upset her so badly. “I know that you ran from the hill after you set him ablaze.” He said slyly. “I was there, watching to be sure that you actually went through with it. I saw you flee... but I stayed. His followers rushed in and mobbed his body and so I had to force my way to the center to be sure the deed was done. By the time I got to where his body should have been, nothing was there. Nothing at all, Jacinda... not even his ashes.”
“That means nothing.” She said, uncertainty creeping in for the first time ever. She had run when she had seen Stavros completely engulfed. But the night before when she had tried to warn him of what she had been ordered to do, he had told her to go ahead and do it... had he known he would survive? Had they been right in guessing that he was perhaps precognative? Whether or not he was dead, his name was on the list of psychics Elise wanted to recruit so he had to have some sort of ability...
“It means that I decided to trust you anyway since you had gone through with it. I knew I should never have helped you get a wand, but for a moment I believed you were like the rest of us.” Alex shook his head in disappointment. “But we have been tracking Stavros and believe him to be there in Rouley. When you showed up with Potter, we knew we had to be right.”
“Guys, more of them are coming.” Luna said suddenly, turning and pointing her wand out at nothing as if she were waiting for an invisible army.
Adam leaned in and touched Alex's shoulder quickly. His eyes briefly rolled up into his head and he swayed on his feet before coming back. “He had some sort of communication device and as soon as he saw you in the clearing, he told his contacts in Athens.” He informed Jacey.
“Accio communication device.” Hermione demanded, waving her wand with expert flourish. Alex yelled out in protest as a small silver disk flew from his pocket and into her hand.
“Give it here.” Ron eagerly went over and grabbed it from her, waving his wand at his throat and uttering an unfamiliar incantation before speaking into the device. “Nevermind, they got away.” He said, his words still in Greek and his voice identical to Alex's. Apparently that book on vocal manipulation and translation spells was the only thing he had ever seriously studied.
“It is too late. They will be there to help you look. Potter, Lovegood and Nicolau are to be taken alive if at all possible.” Another voice answered through the device. “Word from London is they have someone with them named Nanami Aoki... she is also wanted alive to be brought to Lord Voldemort.”
Ron cut off the communication and looked around at everyone in concern. “Well, I guess Auror Nerezza has told his boss what happened in Japan.” Nanami said, careful to hide how scared she was.
The air around them crackled with the arrival of an untold number of Death Eaters. Jacey had never let her attention waiver from Alex, knowing how sneaky he could be. But her focus was definitely needed elsewhere as everyone spread out to meet the coming enemy, so she cast the strongest binding she knew before encircling him in flames to ensure none of his Death Eater friends could help him. She could feel Harry, Luna, Nanami, Adam and Gabby sending her their energy to help feed her fire, sending the flames high into the sky and strengthening them against any water spell that may be tried to subdue them. Feeling confident that Alex would not escape, she allowed herself to focus on the forty or so Death Eaters now filling the clearing. Still, she made sure to keep an eye on Alex whenever possible.
Ron felt panicked... there were so many Death Eaters, even with Harry flinging them around and Jacey flinging fire, it seemed an almost impossible task to overcome. Despite his doubts, he fought on, dueling with everything he had to subdue or restrain the enemy. From the corner of his eye, he saw Nanami stand back in satisfaction as two Death Eaters suddenly turned on each other before she moved to use her influence on the next pair who came after her. Mai was standing nearby, fearlessly wielding her wand at anyone who dared come near her.
“Ron! Look out!” He heard Jacey yell out to warn him just as the heat of her fire flew past him to engulf the masked figure who had been about to cast on him while he was distracted. “Are you okay? I did not get you by accident?” She demanded, coming up to him to be sure he wasn't scorched.
“I'm fine, keep going.” He urged, knowing she would be of more use to everyone than he would. She gave him an uncertain look before turning to help Harry who had the majority of the Death Eaters going against him and making it clear who their main target was here. Ron went to go help as well but his attention was once again drawn to Mai and Nanami. Other Death Eaters had caught on to what was happening and were going after them in the same droves as they were attacking Harry and now Jacey, sensing that Nanami was just as dangerous to them. Everyone else's attention was divided elsewhere and so the two girls were on their own. With a thrill of adrenaline rushing through him, he went to go help them, casting a spell to send several of the Death Eaters flying.
Nanami continued to work her power, slowly turning the enemy against each other as Ron and Mai did their best to keep the rest at bay. “Oh no.” Mai muttered as the air once again crackled around them. More Death Eaters apparated in, their number so great it was impossible to know. “I guess one of the others here had a communication device as well.” She added, gritting her teeth and enforcing her shield around them both as Ron continued to cast.
“Yeah, and reporting that Harry, Luna, Jacey and Nanami were trapped here was sure to bring them running.” He replied grimly, using his wand to break off a heavy branch from the trees behind them and hurl it at four Death Eaters who had been trying to break through her shielding spell. Nanami had been cut off from them, and was now dueling with Adam and Lupin at her side while she continued to slowly cause discord among everyone not fighting with her.
“This is never going to work...” Mai said slowly, glancing behind them at the forest. “We're going to need more help.”
“If you're thinking of Miles, I'd forget about it. No matter how much Luna wants to think he'll come around, I really doubt the guy could care less if we all died here tonight.” He grumbled.
“Actually, I had a completely different idea.” She grabbed his hand and smiled, pulling him along while keeping them shielded from attack as they ran together back into the woods.
“What are you doing?” He demanded at last, realizing that they had just abandoned their friends. He made himself stop, gripping her hand tighter to force her to halt as well.
“Come on, we have to draw them out!” She insisted.
“Who? The furies?!” He finally caught on to her plan and gaped at her in horror.
“Well, yes... them and her.” Mai pointed behind him, her eyes wide with uncertainty and fear.
Ron slowly turned around to see the queen once more towering over him, saliva dripping from her jaws as she glared down at them in hungry desperation. “Run.” He said simply. This time it was him pulling her along as they fled deeper into the forest. Tiny furies appeared around them, snapping at their heels while the queen bounded after them.
“We have to turn around and lead them back to the clearing!” Mai yelled as she stumbled after him, gripping his hand so tightly that her nails were digging painfully into his skin.
With so many Death Eaters, surely the queen and her furies would be enough of a distraction for him and his friends to get away... and it wasn't like they had a better plan. So making the decision, he made a wide arc through the trees, ensuring the queen remained far enough behind them while they did their best to return to their friends with the only form of aid available to them.
Harry felt entirely mobbed. As soon as the second wave of Death Eaters apparated in, the majority of them had immediately sought him out. He, Luna and Jacey were together at the center of the melee as the rest of their friends were at the fringes attempting to fight their way to helping them. Jacey quickly threw a circle of fire around the three of them, keeping the enemy back physically so that they could focus on the spells being cast at them from all directions. Luna put all her focus into shielding them while Jacey dueled and Harry flung bodies and tree branches around. But the longer he had to fight the more tired he was... and he could feel that Luna, Jacey, Gabby, Adam and Nanami were tired as well. They had been either using their powers or sending energy to aid the others since this began back in the woods with the furies and dividing their focus in so many directions was finally taking it's toll.
“I cannot keep the flames going around us and Alex.” Jacey warned, her voice wavering with exhaustion as she finally felt compelled to tell them of her dilemma. It was clear she was unwilling to let her ex-husband escape, but the fire around them was the only thing keeping them from being entirely overwhelmed.
“Ron and Mai...” Luna grabbed onto Harry's shoulder as she stumbled with a sudden vision. He quickly waved his wand to take up the shield she had inadvertently dropped, wrapping his other arm around her waist to keep her steady and on her feet. She came out of it quickly, looking at Jacey. “It's okay, keep Alex contained.” She told her with conviction. “Ron and Mai are bringing help.”
Waves of doubt radiated from Jacey, mirroring Harry's own feelings on the matter. But they both trusted Luna and so they gripped their wands and prepared to fight like they've never fought before, rallying a second wind as best they could. As soon as she let her flames fall, the Death Eaters rushed in and Luna returned to focusing on shielding them as Harry and Jacey used their wands and powers to take out as many was they could.
“Move!” Luna shouted suddenly, tackling Harry into Jacey and knocking them all out of the way as the ground where they had been standing exploded.
Harry tried to untangle himself from the girls and get back on his feet, but there were hands everywhere reaching for them and they did their best to fight them off. “Idiot! These three are to be taken alive!” A Death Eater screamed at the other one who had tried to blow them up while the rest all mobbed in.
Luna shrieked as she was finally scooped up and dragged away by three of the masked men. Harry lunged, desperately grabbing her hand as she reached out to him. He refused to let her go, even as he felt several more Death Eaters take hold of him, trying to wrench them apart. Looking back, he saw Jacey once again engulf her entire body in fire, ensuring that no one would be taking her by force... but as she tried to fight her way to them, a line of defense held her back.
Feeling Luna's fingers slipping away from his, heightened Harry's desperation. They both held on to each other as best they could while kicking and biting and doing whatever possible to be released. “Give up!” A gruff voice demanded of him just as he felt someone's fist connect with his stomach, knocking the wind out of him and causing him to flinch in pain.
“No!” He screamed as he felt Luna's hand finally torn away from him and she disappeared into a sea of black cloaks and masked faces. His head was pounding, pulsating with power as he gathered every bit of energy he had, focusing on it and rolling it into one giant mass of intention. And then he let it go, pushing it outward with everything he had in him. He fell to his knees as he felt hands ripped away from him... every body within his radius flew through the air, landing in crumpled heaps several yards away. He was on his feet in an instant, searching for Luna and finding her still struggling against three people who were trying to get a good enough grip to apparate away with her. Jacey had hurried over to help and was quickly making progress... but not quickly enough.
Grinning in satisfaction as Luna was at last able to free her wand arm and cast a stunner at one of her would-be captors, Harry rushed forward, holding out his hands and using his power to push back anyone who attempted to stop him. Stepping up next to Jacey, he used the last bit of his energy to clear her way and allow her to set the remaining two Death Eaters on fire. They let go of Luna immediately, dropping and rolling on the ground in pain as they tried to extinguish themselves.
More cries of surprise drew Harry's attention back toward the clearing as a stream of furies suddenly invaded, swarming on the Death Eaters who were amassed in greater numbers. “Hermione! Your star!” Ron yelled as he raced from the trees, dragging Mai behind him as they fled something very large that was barreling after them. Across the field, Hermione once again pulled the jar from her bag, removing the velvet cloth to shine a blinding beacon of light for protection against the hungry and rage-filled fury queen.
Everyone moved to stand behind her and her star, making them all a less desirable target than the Death Eaters who were attempting and failing to subdue the queen with useless spells. Catching on quickly, many of them lit their wands, but the light they were emitting wasn't enough and between the queen and the furies, the ground was quickly becoming littered with victims. “Come on.” Harry grabbed Luna and Jacey each by an arm, ready to race across the field and join their friends before any of the creatures caught sight of them... but before they could move more than a few steps, three more masked figures appeared before them, cutting off their path and taking them all by surprise.
Harry fell to his knees as one of them hit him with a binding spell. He struggled desperately, doing his best to gather any last reserves of energy he had within him. Wait! Luna warned both him and Jacey who was also summoning the last of her strength to call on her fire. Both girls had been bound as well and he didn't like their situation at all. But something in the certainty in Luna's silent voice held him back from further attempts to free himself. This is going to be okay. She added without any other clarification.
Before anything more could be said either silently or aloud, each of the three figures grabbed one of them and quickly apparated away from the clearing.
Seeing Jacey, Harry and Luna get caught up by three Death Eaters who had just arrived, Ron abandoned the others and the safety of the star, dropping Mai's hand to race forward with the intention of helping. But just as he raised his wand to cast, the whole group disappeared before his eyes. “Jacey!” All he could do was scream her name in desperation... she was no longer there and neither were Harry and Luna.
Adam and Ginny came up behind him, looking around desperately. “The rest of the Death Eaters have fled... for now.” She said quietly.
“Don't worry, Harry and the girls are still close.” Adam assured them.
“You're sure?” Lupin demanded as the rest of the group joined them. He waved his wand and cast a stream of fire to separate them from the furies and hopefully drive the creatures back into the forest now that they had been able to sate their appetites.
“I can feel them nearby too.” Nanami offered in support.
“Where?” Ron asked desperately.
“There.” Gabby pointed toward the village of Rouley along with Adam and Nanami. “And I am not sensing that they are in any way being injured.” She added, relief evident in her voice.
“Well come on!” He insisted, rushing toward the buildings and trusting the coven members to know the right one.
“Wait!” Gabby called, running instead to one of the bodies moaning pitifully on the ground. Rolling his eyes and feeling tempted to go on by himself, Ron forced himself to remember that if Jacey really needed help, then he best not arrive alone. He quickly made his way over to the group with plans to hurry them along.
Upon approach, he saw a badly charred man attempting to crawl away as both Gabby and Adam knelt beside him. “Is that Alexandros?” Ron asked in disbelief.
Adam nodded, removing his hand from the man and rubbing it on the ground in disgust. “Once the binding spell wore off, he tried to make his way through Jacey's fire to escape.” He looked down at Alex in admonishment. “Foolish man, you knew what she's capable of.”
“I can be fixing him.” Gabby said confidently as her husband stood behind her supportively.
“Why?” Ron asked impatiently. “Just leave him here... we have to go save Jacey, Harry, and Luna!”
“Jacey wouldn't want him to die of his wounds.” Nanami said slowly, putting a soothing hand on his shoulder but respectfully keeping her mind to herself. “You know that it's true. She wouldn't want his death to come because of her.”
“Besides, it'll be beneficial to bring him with us since we are heading back towards London from here.” Lupin added. “Tonks and her Aurors can interrogate him and hopefully find some weaknesses in the stronghold the Death Eaters have created in Athens.”
“Just hurry.” Ron crossed his arms unhappily.
“She has already started.” Philip said, drawing their attention to Gabby who had laid her hands on Alex and was slowly restoring his burnt skin. “She has trouble leaving behind those who need her.” He added with a proud smile.
“It's okay I think.” Nanami said, looking to Adam for confirmation. He nodded in agreement to her silent question. “We aren't sensing that Harry and the girls are in immediate mortal danger. Whoever has them wishes to speak with them first.”
“You'll understand if we don't exactly find that comforting.” Fred muttered, his own impatience making him nearly as hostile as Ron felt. “We'd like to find them and make sure for ourselves that they're okay.”
“She only needs a few more moments.” Philip assured them.
“Anything could happen within a few minutes.” Ron complained, his concern for Jacey making his head pound painfully and his chest tighten in anticipation and fear. Recalling that Harry and Luna were going through whatever was happening with her... it nearly drove him insane that they weren't already doing something to make things right and restore their group. The desperation was overwhelming and with the way he felt, he thought he could take on whoever stood between him and his missing friends all by himself. And so without a word to anyone, he turned and started walking toward the village with determination. The guilt he felt over choosing not to stay near her during the battle and that he'd run off with Mai and left Jacey to be overwhelmed by the very people who were looking to capture her along with Harry, Luna and now Nanami... it was too much to bear. What would he do if he'd already missed his chance to make it right? Harry was his best friend... Jacey was that and so much more. To lose either of them would be devastating. But losing Jacey before they had a chance to really know what they could mean to each other... he couldn't let that happen.
“Ron, wait!” He heard Ginny yell for him, and he ignored her. Either they would follow him or they wouldn't, but he wasn't going to be stopped.
Jacey was released as soon as they arrived and she sank to her knees next to Harry and Luna, still bound by a spell and unable to move. She very much wanted to raise her wand and curse the three masked people before her... or even better, use the last of her power to set them ablaze so she and her friends could escape. But Luna had been very sincere in wanting them to hold off on a counter attack and Jacey had to admit to herself, she was curious to know why.
“Please just relax.” An uncomfortably familiar, female voice said from the under the mask to the right. “We are not going to hurt you.”
“Then why bring us here?” Harry demanded.
The female removed her mask and smiled uncomfortably. “Daphne?!” Jacey exclaimed in confused surprise.
“We're sorry for all of this, but dressing like a Death Eater is the easiest way to go unnoticed around here these days.” She quickly explained. “We were following you, figuring that somehow Alexandros would learn that you were in the country and would show up... especially since you were traveling with two other people Lord Voldemort so desperately wanted besides yourself.”
“We?” Jacey asked doubtfully.
The figure on the left removed his mask to reveal himself as Thomas, Daphne's older brother and Jacey's failed successor as the head hunter. “I was surprised it was so easy to capture you after watching the fight you all put up out there.” He taunted.
“Shut up.” Daphne scolded before turning her attention back to them. “We knew we had to wait for you to get tired, so you would not attack us before we had the chance to show you who we really were.”
“We could still easily get free and take you out if necessary.” Harry half bluffed.
“I told them it was okay.” Luna further explained, implying that one word from her would set him and Jacey immediately against them. And she was completely right.
“Understood.” Daphne smiled, this time in friendly amusement. “Perhaps it is time to build some trust.” She waved her wand and removed their bindings, allowing them to rise and stretch their aching and tired limbs.
“We brought you here for your own protection. We keep our ears close to the ground and hear a lot of secrets from the Death Eaters.” Thomas said gruffly. “As soon as we saw you in Messini we knew they would be after you. We were not the only ones to notice your arrival. There are spies everywhere in the country, under every rock and behind every tree within every village and city. So before the ones who got away just now could regroup and return with more, we made sure to hide their three main targets.”
“But we can't just leave the rest of our friends out there.” Harry protested. “If more Death Eaters are coming, then we all have to get out of here as a group. We aren't the type to leave anyone behind.”
“Well, then Jacinda has changed a lot since she left us.” Thomas sneered, once more deliberately taunting her.
“Us who?” Jacey asked, ignoring his comment and focusing on the figure in the middle who was still masked and had yet to say anything.
The figure turned to Daphne and nodded, allowing her to speak for him. “We need to talk to you... we have heard a lot about you from the Death Eaters lately and we know that since you have taken up with Harry Potter and his allies, you have fully devoted yourself to the same fight we've been quietly promoting this whole time.” She said quickly.
“We who?” Jacey asked again, refusing to ignore the gnawing feeling in her stomach that told her she knew the person who was trying very hard to hide his identity.
“We who have always believed in you.” He said from behind his mask, his voice wavering with age.
“No... it cannot be you.” Jacey stepped back in disbelief. She knew that voice, it had haunted her nightmares for years, tormenting her with memories of the horrible things she had done in the name of her own survival. She felt Harry and Luna reach out to hold her in comfort, but her eyes never moved from the man who even now, was reaching to remove his mask and at last confirm who he was without a doubt.
“So, you do remember me.” He smiled kindly, holding out a hand to her.
Moving away from her friends, she grasped his hand in hers, needing to touch him and be reassured of his realness. “I could never forget.” She said, dropping to her knees in front of him as her legs gave out beneath her. “How is this possible?” She whispered.
Stavros Petras looked down at her with patient sympathy, allowing her to adjust to the fact that he was very much alive. “There is much to explain.” He gently told her.
Jacey could feel Luna holding her breath along with Harry behind her as she came to realize that the biggest regret of her life was a falsehood... that she had tormented herself for years for no reason. “You are damn right there is a lot to explain!” She exploded just as her friends had been expecting, her awe over seeing Stavros finally wiped out by her anger at being so thoroughly deceived. She leapt back to her feet to face him. “How could you not have told me that you had plans to survive? How could you let me think that I had done such a horrible thing?”
“Because you needed the guilt to become the person I knew you were meant to be.” Stavros calmly answered. “I knew you were unhappy in the life you were living... you may have been able to fool those Death Eaters you took up with, but the moment I laid eyes on you I saw who you really were beneath the shell you had created in order to survive. I knew you needed something to give you a kick, to wake you up to the fact that if you continued the way you were, you would only be forced to compromise yourself more and more until the real you withered and died.”
“Who are you to judge what I needed?” She demanded.
“He's one of the three people who protects the secret of the location of Tereus and the scrolls.” Luna said quietly. “And these two are his secret keepers.”
“How do you know that?” Thomas growled out protectively, making a move toward her only to go flying back against the wall as Harry stepped forward to block his path to Luna.
“Enough!” Stavros shouted, stopping Thomas from his attempt to retaliate. “We are trying to promote a peaceful alliance.” He turned to Luna and addressed her directly. “I can neither confirm nor deny your accusation... but we both know that you do not need me to. And I know you are not the type to go looking for such evil as those scrolls can produce nor provide my name to anyone who does wish to read them. What is important here is that it is time for our Order of Athena to join forces with your Order of the Phoenix.”
“We can't authorize any such thing.” Luna replied carefully. “We work with the Order, Albus Dumbledore is the one who leads it and it's up to him whether he trusts your group enough to form an alliance.”
“I understand, but I had hoped Harry Potter would have some sway with the decision.” He turned to Harry. “Albus had come to me years ago with a warning that Lord Voldemort would find a way to return and offered us a place beside him and his allies in protecting you so as to keep any prophesies from being fulfilled and perhaps keep the world from going through the war that is now brewing. But with the remaining Death Eaters settling in Athens along with scores of vampires, I felt the difficulty lie in my own country and declined joining forces. I now know I was foolish to have done this as we have been cut off from requesting assistance ever since.”
“All I can do is help put you in contact with the right people.” Harry answered uncertainly. “Like Luna said, we don't run the Order... and it's only because they hold their meetings in a house left to me that we were ever allowed to be part of it in the first place.”
“Why did you not use your ability to see what is coming to decide to join the Order of the Phoenix?” Jacey asked crossly, upset to have been cast aside in favor of more important conversation. Her emotions were raging at the moment and regardless how selfish it made her, she wanted attention.
Stavros laughed and laid a hand on her shoulder. “Is that how you think I escaped your fire? By seeing the future?”
“How else?” She countered. “How else would you know you would survive?”
“I did not know that you would not be successful in ending my life.” He replied with a heavy sigh. “I had only hoped that my power to control fire was stronger than yours... and I was very wrong in assuming it was.” He raised a hand to show five small flames dancing above his fingertips.
“You are pyrokinetic?” She asked doubtfully even as he presented evidence.
“An ability I spent my whole life hiding while you flashed yours around as your greatest strength. I had assumed that one so young and showy could not possibly overcome my age and wisdom. Well, you know what they say about those who assume.” Stavros smiled. “That day on the hill, I realized that the reason you did not hide your power was because your ability to wield it was beyond what any other like you was capable of. I almost did not survive that day.” He removed his robe and rolled up his sleeves to show that his arms were badly scarred before bending to show his legs which had been burned just as badly. “I was only just barely able to put myself out in time and I suspect it is only because you fled and with distance, your control grew weaker. As soon as I was extinguished, one of my fellow Order of Athena members picked me up and dressed me in a cloak to hide me from any Death Eaters. While the rest of my listeners that day mobbed us and kept Alexandros from coming too close too quickly, I made my getaway to begin the long healing process.”
“I am sorry.” She said softly... they were the three words she never thought she would have the chance to say to him. After seeing the scars she had inflicted, she realized the fact that he had survived her attack was not necessarily better for him.
“Oh but Jacinda,” He reached out to lift her chin, bringing her gaze back to his. “I am not sorry at all. I knew that with the news of my death, I would receive ultimate freedom. For years I have been able to secretly gather more people to join our Order and our cause... we have been able to plan with impunity and we are now ready for a rebellion against those who have taken Athens hostage. But we cannot do it alone.”
“So why haven't you approached Dumbledore yourself in the years since?” Harry asked, unable to help feeling suspicious.
“I had planned to do just that last year. We were finally in a place to accept outside aid... and then Alexandros returned to the country. He saw me one day while I was preparing to board a ship to London and so I had to flee back here to Rouley before he could make certain that I was who he thought. But apparently the glimpse was enough. My photo is with every Death Eater patrolling every dock in Greece.”
“That is how they knew you were all in the country.” Daphne put in. “After you left Messini, we heard the Death Eaters hidden there report back to their base and immediately went to Stavros to see what we should do.”
“I was overjoyed to hear that you had returned, Jacinda.” Stavros insisted. “To learn that you had brought Harry Potter with you meant that we finally had another way to reach the outside world for help. For the last year, there have been no letters or packages allowed in or out of Greece and all other forms of communication have been outlawed and destroyed.”
“So if the Death Eaters are watching every port, how are we supposed to get out of here?” Harry asked.
“They change their guard at dawn in Messini.” Thomas grumbled out. “We can take you there and create an additional distraction so you can return to your ship and sail away.”
“But we must insist that you carry news of our predicament back to Albus.” Stavros added. “If you will convey a letter and a communication device back to him, I would be ever so grateful.”
“We may have a way for you to be in contact with our Minister of Magic Arthur Weasley, he works closely with Dumbledore.” Luna offered. “But you're going to have to let our friends find us. Remus Lupin has a direct line to London and he is with the others, searching the village for us right now.”
Stavros nodded to Daphne who went out to fetch the others. Then he turned back to them with an apologetic smile. “I have done everything in my power to ensure that those who come looking for this house are never able to find it.” He said before turning back to Jacey with a supportive smile. “Just ask me, Jacinda. I can see the unhappiness and anger in your face.”
“Why did you not tell me that you were like me?” She demanded, hot tears welling in her eyes as she did everything in her power to hold them back. “You must have known that the reason I warned you was because I did not want the path I was going down with Alex. Now I see that you took in Thomas and Daphne... why did you not tell me of your plan to fake your death? Why did you not offer me a different path to walk instead of making me think I had no other choice but to become someone I loathed?!”
“No, it is okay.” Stavros held up his hands to keep Harry and Luna back as they came to comfort her. “Thomas, perhaps you should take Mr. Potter and Miss Lovegood out to their friends while Jacinda and I talk about a few things.” Jacey nodded in answer to her friends' questioning looks, letting them know she would be okay.
“We'll be right outside.” Harry assured her as they moved to the door. “And I'll fill Lupin in so he can call up Arthur for us.”
Stavros thanked him and waited for them to leave before turning his attention back to Jacey. He rested his hands on her shoulders and looked deeply into her eyes. “I confess, I had thought about offering you a place in the Order of Athena even after realizing that you had to think you had killed me to wake yourself up to the horrors of the path you were on... but I knew of your vendetta against the vampires that destroyed Messini before it was rebuilt. I was scared that you were too unstable, that your desire for revenge could compromise everything we were trying to accomplish. Believe me, I saw how lost you were when you came to me and I wanted to help you so badly... but I had the entire magical community of Greece to think of, not to mention the poor clueless muggles who have little idea why they have been living their lives in fear for more than a decade. It would not have been fair for me to put your welfare above all others... especially since I knew that you were strong enough to eventually find your way all on your own. And you have.” He smiled proudly before going on. “And I suspect, you are even stronger and more sure of who you really are after what you have experienced. I can see now that offering you a place with us back then would only have been giving you a place to hide. You clearly have a big destiny to fulfill and like all of our Greek heroes, you had to overcome several obstacles on your way, with many more to come I am sure. An easy life is not one worth living because it only means you have spent your time walking this world without growing from your experiences and without making a difference.”
“All I was looking for was somewhere to belong.” She said quietly.
“And because I did not take you in with us, you have found it.” He insisted. “You were not meant to be stuck here, trapped in Greece with us. You are meant to be out there, making it so no one winds up living like we do here.”
She nodded, not sure what else to say. She was not sure that she would not still have found her way to Harry and Luna had she been given a chance at a better life... after all, they came here looking for Miles. Would they not have always found her? And would she not have been a better companion after having spent her time growing up around this concept of not only surviving, but fighting to make things right? “I am glad you lived. It had plagued me that I thought I took your life.” She said at last, knowing her hurt and anger were useless, that there was no way to change the past. So she was trying to put it behind her... but she could not help but feel betrayed.
“And if it helped you realize you needed to begin to live your life differently, then I am glad to have fooled you.” He smiled once more, this time with melancholy and a bit of guilt.
“I think I will let Harry, Luna and Lupin discuss all this joining of Orders business with you. I need a few moments to myself.” She moved to the door, feeling drained and numb.
“I understand. You may send them in.” Stavros answered supportively. “Goodbye Jacinda. I hope the next time we meet, you will think better of me.”
“Me too.” She whispered before walking out into the night.
Ron hadn't been happy to be approached by Daphne and then told that they couldn't yet enter the house to see Jacey, Harry or Luna. He sure didn't appreciate learning that they had been fooled into thinking their friends had been taken by Death Eaters, but all he could do was glower at her as she stood defensively in front of the strange door. She, in turn, was glaring at Alex who was bound as their hostage. His health had been restored due to Gabby, but they had immediately cast a silencing charm as none of them were interested in anything he had to say until Tonks got in front of him.
Adam, Nanami and Gabby had led them to this spot which at first had been empty, claiming they weren't mistaken in knowing that their friends were there. And then Daphne had appeared out of nowhere, bringing the house with her as she attempted to explain what was going on. But it was clear that she was uncertain how much she was supposed to disclose to them. Thankfully, Harry and Luna finally emerged and told them everything that had happened despite the disapproving looks from both Daphne and Thomas. But Ron could only focus on thoughts of Jacey after learning she was still in there, with Stavros Petras of all people. He'd seen how devastated she'd been when telling him of the day she thought she'd murdered the man... how was she feeling now?
Harry, Luna and Lupin walked off a bit to try and get a hold of Arthur, leaving everyone else to stand around uncomfortably and wait. “You okay?” Mai asked quietly as she came up next to him. “You look awfully upset for having just found out that not only are your friends alright, there is a whole network of allies here waiting to join the war.”
“I'm worried about Jacey.” He admitted. “I can't imagine what she must be thinking right now.”
“She seems like a strong girl. I'm sure she'll be able to move past this in no time.” Mai replied with a friendly smile. “I mean, it must be a relief to learn she didn't kill this Mr. Petras.”
Ron perked up as the door opened once again and Jacey herself finally emerged looking like a shell of her former self. “I am fine.” She said immediately, holding out her hands against the barrage of questions and concerns they were all about to unload on her. “Harry, he is ready to talk to Arthur if you and Lupin are.” Having spotted Alex, she was careful not to say Stavros's name.
“Tonks will have him on the line in moments.” Lupin assured her as he and Harry moved to go into the house.
“I will be back in a bit.” Jacey told everyone else while completely ignoring her captive ex-husband. She walked off between two houses, clearly wanting some time to herself.
Ron wasn't sure she wanted him to, but he immediately set out to follow her. Everyone let him, figuring he was the best chance of reaching out to her at the moment. And he wanted to be there for her, to try and make things better if that were at all possible. He found her crouching in someone's garden, her head in her hands as she quietly cried. Without saying anything, he went and sat next to her before wrapping his arms around her. For once she allowed herself to be vulnerable, clinging to him and crying on his shoulder until her tears dried up at last. “I just do not know anything anymore.” She said softly, her voice wavering with emotion.
“But you must feel relieved that he's alive.” He offered, thinking of what Mai had said a few moments ago.
Jacey let out a small laugh of contempt as she sat up and ran her hands through her hair in agitation.“Yeah, relieved... and angry, hurt, betrayed, confused, overwhelmed, sad... I feel all of these and it is making me so tired.” She sighed and wiped away the few remaining tears of exhaustion that had escaped.
“This has been a long and difficult night.” He agreed, reaching out and rubbing her back soothingly. “But you already tortured yourself enough believing Stavros had died. Don't torture yourself now by allowing everything his lie brought about to consume you. You got yourself out of that life, you realized all on your own what you believed and were willing to fight for and you turned it all around. And I like who you are... even if you do aggravate me to no end.” He teased, taking her hand and kissing her fingers.
She offered a weak smile. “You are not the easiest to deal with all the time either.” She teased back before letting out another heavy sigh and staring off into the distance. “Eventually I will be able to accept everything I have learned today. But right now, I just do not know what to do or feel or how to be.”
“You don't have to do, feel, or be anything that isn't true to you. We all understand how hard it was for you to come back here in the first place. Now after capturing Alex and finding out about Stavros... we're here for you Jacey. You don't have to go through anything alone anymore.”
She smiled again, this one more genuine and confident. “Thank you. It is nice to be reminded after such a strange foray into my past.”
“Soon we'll be on our way back towards London... we all need a day or two to breathe and rest in a place that's comfortable and familiar.”
“And then we'll be going to Ireland.” She reminded him, once more turning sour. “Where we may or may not find Vincent Riley and his vampire colony... yet another face from a time I would like to forget.”
Ron closed his eyes and tried not to think of Parvati and the guilt that still continually gnawed at him. He wanted his focus to be on Jacey, she needed him to be the strong one this time and despite her part in allowing Parvati to become what she is, he wanted to be the better person... to move past the blame he placed on her and concentrate on what she has done for him and his friends since. Rather than say anything, he simply reached out and held her again, offering physical comfort in place of words that would sound hollow because of everything still unresolved between them.
Harry was satisfied that Arthur was well aware of the situation here in Greece and as he listened in to the conversation, he was glad to learn that plans would immediately be set in motion to liberate any allies from their country-wide prison. He welcomed any help they could get and if Stavros had recruited as many as he claimed, there was a small army of witches and wizards here ready to defend their homes and way of life no matter what it took. As always, he found himself feeling sorry for those forced into fighting this war... it was all so unfair that the power-grab of a few could adversely affect so many.
At last it was agreed that they would not only bring Alexandros Verga back to Hogsmeade with them to hand over to Tonks, they would also convey Stavros's communication device and give it to Dumbledore to finalize any agreements between the two Orders. “Thank you all.” Stavros said kindly. “Daphne and Thomas will escort you all back to Messini and from there, they know what to do to help you get safely to your ship and out to sea.”
“Thank you.” Lupin returned, reaching out to shake the older man's hand in respectful gratitude.
Together, he and Harry walked back out to the rest of their friends, ready to do whatever it took to get out of Greece as soon as possible. “Where are Jacey and Ron?” Harry asked in concern.
“They're just over there. I'll tell them it's time to leave.” Luna offered while looking at him meaningfully. It had been clear that this was all very hard for Jacey to take in and they were willing to give her all the time she needed to come to terms with it.
Fred and Adam roughly pulled Alex to his feet, ensuring the silencing charm and arm binding spell were both still intact before pushing him forward. As soon as they were all together again, everyone silently followed Thomas and Daphne toward a concealed path in the opposite side of the woods not belonging to the furies. Harry knew they were all lost in their own thoughts and he did his best not to accidentally eavesdrop, knowing they were expecting to have privacy. But Luna... her thoughts were impossible to ignore as she was so lost in them she wasn't even trying to hide anything from him, the one most able to see into her head at any time. He knew she was wondering about Miles and whether the fact that she still hadn't had a vision of him meant he would change his mind and join them. Luckily, he could also see that after meeting him, there was a part of her that didn't want Miles to give in... that made Harry very happy. He'd been so worried that because of the powers they shared and their ancient ancestors' romance, there would a connection between her and Miles even stronger than the one he felt with her. It was now clear that wasn't possible... at least, not in the present. But what would happen if Miles joined them and got to have constant contact with Luna? Everyone seemed to warm to Luna more quickly than anyone else because of the welcoming aura she exuded... and he'd already seen briefly how Miles had been slightly nicer and more interested in her than any of the rest of them.
“How much further?” Hermione asked with a yawn. They had been walking for a long time and they could now see the sky lightening with soft blues, pinks and oranges of the coming dawn.
“We are leading you directly to the docks. We should get there right before the Death Eaters change their guard.” Thomas stiffly answered, obviously unhappy with the task he'd been given of seeing them safely off.
Luckily Daphne was more friendly than her older brother. “As soon as we get there, Thomas and I will gather some of the others in the village and create a distraction by blowing up the Huntsman.”
“What's the Huntsman?” Nanami asked.
“A Death Eater ship.” She returned with a grin. “They keep two at the docks in Messini, but the Huntsman is their prize. It is faster and more weaponized than the Shadowkeeper... but as soon as we make our move, you have to sail out. The Shadowkeeper is still capable of doing damage.”
“I'm sure the Tamesis is well-protected against any attack.” Lupin said quietly, not bothering to mention the attack they'd already been through with Elise, Sarah and Talena.
“The Tamesis?” Daphne asked in surprised interest. “I have heard much of it and it's captain. I know he is a pirate, but is he really a breed of water demon too?”
“Focus on the task and not gossip.” Thomas scolded as they at last reached the edge of the trees. With everyone staying hidden, they were afforded a view of the docks and Harry was able to notice something he hadn't before... a small, hidden boat house covered in vines and shrubs. He saw four Death Eaters emerge as four more walked up to the house to meet them. “That way.” Daphne whispered, showing them the best path to sneak onto their boat.
“You guys will be okay?” Jacey asked hesitantly.
“As okay as we can be here.” She smiled. “Now go, before you all get just as stuck here as we are. We do not have much time for opportunity.”
Jacey clasped hands with Daphne to say goodbye and then the group split up with Daphne and Thomas running to town to gather allies while everyone else returned to the Tamesis as stealthily as possible. At Lupin's urging, Harry silently called out to Murdo, letting him know that they were going to board and to get ready to leave as soon as they were all on deck and the explosion went off. Someone has already told me that we need to leave... the Tamesis is ready to sail whenever you all are. Murdo thought back, his voice smug with secrecy.
Did you already warn Murdo? Harry asked Luna as they all silently crept up the dock.
No, he did. She pointed up to top of the ladder where Miles was waiting, gloating down at them as he was already on board. He must have gotten some sort of vision and knew to be here.
Harry could hear the uncertain happiness in her voice and felt himself grow sour. One by one, they all quickly climbed up the ladder. Lupin hurried to secure Alex below deck before rejoining them.
“So much for not changing your mind.” Harry muttered to Miles as they all waited for the Huntsman to be blown up.
He simply grinned before turning to address Luna. “What can I say? I guess you know more about the future than I do.”
“Fine, but you have to be nice to everyone.” She told him, hesitantly accepting him on board along with all the others.
“I do not have to do anything I do not want to.” Miles returned crossly.
“Then why are you here?” Jacey asked, her aggravation with him quite evident.
Before he could reply, the air was filled with fire as a loud bang went off to their left. A large ship several docks away flew apart, showering debris everywhere within the small cove. Death Eaters were suddenly coming out of hiding in droves to discover what had happened, but Murdo had already begun steering the Tamesis out to sea.
“Everyone stay down.” Lupin tried to warn them... but just as they were entering open water, the entire world suddenly felt like it was moving beneath their feet and Harry quickly grabbed onto the railing to keep from being thrown over as their ship took on a direct hit- from what he didn't yet know. Checking to be sure everyone else had managed to hang on, he looked out to see the Shadowkeeper come up next to them staffed by several Death Eaters.
“Prepare to fire again!” The one who was clearly the captain ordered.
“Oh it's a fight you want!” Murdo called back with a gleam in his eye. “Then it's a fight you shall have.”
“No, not with them all on board.” Lupin protested, gesturing to the teens and coven members. “Just get us out of here as fast as you can.”
“I'm sorry Remus, but you know who and what I am... a water demon first and a pirate second, there is no other side to me. The Tamesis has been hit, I cannot simply ignore it and allow the my reputation as well as the ship's to be destroyed.” He answered gruffly before addressing the rest of his make-shift crew. “Ron, prepare the cannons I showed you! Everyone else, prepare your wands! This is going to get very interesting.”
NOTE: More to come as soon as I finish writing it!
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