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I opened my eyes as Ron cried out in pain, clutching his side as he fell to the ground. Harry dropped down beside him, lifting up his shirt. There was so much blood! I cursed, silently, pulling the dirty sweater from around my waist at Harry's command and watched him press the clean side of it against Ron's wound as Hermione rummaged in her bag. "What happened?"
"Ron's been Splinched. Aha!" Hermione said, pulling out a bottle and passing it to me. I kneeled down beside Harry, dabbing the potion onto Ron's side with a clean sleeve. He squirmed and hissed, but the potion worked and soon he had stopped bleeding, the wound healing itself.
"Thanks," he said to me, rubbing his side gently.
"Er, Hermione, where are we?" Harry asked, getting to his feet.
"Where the Quidditch World cup was held," she explained. "Yaxley grabbed a hold of me when I Apparated us back to Grimmuald Place so we had to leave."
"And now we can't go back," Ron said, angrily.
"Well, what was I supposed to do, let Yaxley catch us?"
"How are we supposed to get food now, Hermione? What about shelter? We're in the middle of nowhere!"
"Is that all you ever think about, Ron? Your stomach?"
"There's no use arguing about it," I said, interrupting Ron's comeback. "We'll figure something out. Right, Harry?"
I looked to Harry who was looking back at me. "Yeah, we'll figure something out. We're all tired and cranky. We'll set up camp here tonight."
I sat down on a log and reached into Hermione's bag as she began to set up the protective charms around our camp. I pulled out a tent and some other supplies, my hand brushing against something cold and hard.
The locket came up in my hand as I set the bag down. A chill ran up my spine and I got a really bad feeling, a frown coming to my face. I tried to open the locket and only succeeded in breaking my nail.
"You okay?" Harry asked, because I had cried out.
My finger was in my mouth now and I could taste the metallic taste of blood. "Yeah, I'm fine."
I didn't want to seem like such a wimp, I realized later as I wiped blood on my dirty clothes. 'I broke a nail' just sounded like a little spoiled brat and I didn't want to be that.
Moments later the four of us sat around a small fire, passing the locket back and forth but to no avail; we all failed to open it. "How do we destroy it, then?" I asked as Ron passed it to Harry.
"Maybe it's a spell?" Hermione said as Harry handed it to me.
I turned the locket over in my hands, that same awful feeling running up and down my spine. But still. . . . "We should wear it, I suppose, so that we don't lose it," I said.
My friends watched as I slipped the necklace over my head. It felt like there was this horrible weight on my shoulders. Almost immediately I felt bad and depressed and mad and just . . . awful. "Rather festive, don't you think?" I said, slouching forward.
"Joey, are you alright?" Hermione asked, leaning forward concerned.
I realized that there was a frown on my face. It felt permanent. "Fine," I said.
Even that sounded grouchy to my ears.
What was going on?
"So what's the plan, Harry?" Ron asked. "Where do we look first?"
Harry visibly hesitated, looking around at us. "I'm, er, not sure."
He grimaced, lifting a hand to his scar, his eyes snapping shut.
"Harry?" I said, putting my hand on his shoulder.
"Oh, no, not again," Hermione said, getting to her feet, looking angry. "He just won't listen to reason will he?"
I glanced up at Hermione, who was giving me this look that was clearly saying, 'Make him stop', but I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do. I looked back to Harry, who looked in pain. "Harry can you hear me?"
Harry's eyes opened after a moment and he gasped for breath. "Harry what did you see?"
"Oh for Heavens' sake," Hermione muttered storming off into the tent.
Harry looked to Ron and me, saying, "It doesn't make any sense at all."
"What doesn't make sense, mate?" Ron asked.
"Voldemort went to Gregorovitch to get a wand, but Gregorovitch said it was stolen, which I guess it was, because Voldemort looked into Gregorovitch's mind and saw the wand being stolen. But then he killed Gregorovitch. It just doesn't make sense. Why would he kill the wand maker if what he needed was a wand?"
Harry gazed into the fire while Ron and I cast glances at each other. "We should get some rest, Harry, it's been a long day," I said.
He took my hand as he stood to his feet and we headed towards the tent.
I was beginning to worry, and that didn't help the way that I already felt.
We Apparated to another new campsite, about the seventh one. Joey stumbled forward, collapsing against a nearby tree. "So tired," she mumbled.
I gently grabbed her arms, pulling her back near the group. "Come on, Joey. It'll be okay."
Ron was in a foul mood as usual, kicking bramble out of the way. We were all tired and hungry and . . . well, without a plan. But Ron seemed to take it to the extreme. Every time I almost snapped back at him, though, Joey would remind me of the necklace around his neck, but he acted the same way even when he wasn't wearing the necklace. There was no excuse for the way he acted.
Since Joey had put the necklace on that first day, we had figured out that it blocked any sort of positive emotions (explaining why I couldn't produce a Patronus when I needed to the other day).
"Goodness it's been an incredibly long day, hasn't it?" Hermione said, slowly pulling our camping things from her bag.
"Yeah, incredibly productive," Ron said, angrily. "Got a lot done didn't we? Oh wait, I forgot, we haven't gotten anything done since we started!"
"Ron, don't start."
"Don't start what, Hermione? I'm so tired of this! We've been doing nothing except running and hiding since the beginning and –"
"Shh," Joey said, suddenly, moving over to some bushes.
"Don't shush me!"
"Shut up, Ron, I think I heard something."
Forgetting the argument that had been going on, the rest of us snuck forward next to Joey to listen in on the present conversation.
"I'm glad to see that Dean, Mr. Thomas, and that goblin are okay," Joey said later. "And at least we know that Ginny, Neville, and Luna are continuing the resistance inside the school too."
"At least their doing something," Ron muttered.
"Oh, I've just thought of something," Hermione said, ignoring Ron as she pulled her bag towards her. "We can find out information from Phineas."
"Won't he give away where we're at?" I asked.
Joey moved into the tent and came back out with a sweater. As soon as Hermione had pulled the portrait from her bag, Joey tied the sweater around it.
"Oh well this is ridiculous!" Phineas argued. "As if I would even care to try and blackmail you!"
"Enough, Phineas," I said, scooting forward. "We have some questions for you. First off, did you know about the sword in Dumbledore's office?"
"Who didn't," the portrait said. "It was Gryffindor's sword and all that bloody nonsense."
"Did you see Dumbledore ever replace it or take it out of his office?"
"Hmm. . . . The last time I saw Dumbledore use the sword was to destroy this ring. It gave a great big blast, that small ring, almost knocked me off the wall."
Hermione stuck the portrait back into her bag ("Can't you at least remove the blindfold?"), and we sat there in silence for a moment.
"Obviously," Hermione started, "he was talking about the Horcrux, right?"
"Why is the sword powerful enough to destroy the Horcruxes?" Joey asked.
"It may be because I used it to kill the basilisk in second year," I answered. "It probably has basilisk poison in it."
"So, Dumbledore probably left the sword to his will to let you know that you should have it," Joey said. "He knew they wouldn't actually give you the sword, but . . . at least this way you know that it's important."
"Oh, well thank Merlin for that, right?" Ron said, hopping to his feet. "It does wonders to know what we need even though we don't have it, don't you think?"
"Give it a rest, Ron," I said, angrily.
"No, Harry, I will not give it a rest! We haven't eaten anything decent in days! We've been running around like escapees from Azkaban for almost two weeks! At least when we were at Grimmuald Place we were comfortable."
"What do you want me to do, Ron? It's not my fault that we're out here!"
"You're supposed to have a plan! You were supposed to know what we were going to do when we got out here! But so far all you've done is lead us on a whim! We haven't destroyed a single Horcrux, not even this stupid locket!" He ripped the necklace over his head, throwing it to the ground.
"Well if you're so fed up, why don't you leave?" I shouted.
"Maybe I will leave! I'll do a better job at home than you're doing out here!" Ron looked to Joey for a minute, glared at her actually, asking a silent, but very loud question. Joey stared back at him before looking away. He looked to Hermione instead. "Come on Hermione, we're leaving."
Hermione reached down and picked up the locket. "I –"
"Are you coming or not?"
"I – not."
"I'm not going, Ron. I'm – I'm going to stay here and help Harry."
Ron seemed shocked for a moment before glaring at all of us and saying, "Fine."
And with that he was gone.
We stood there in silence, in shock. Quiet tears streamed down Hermione's face as she clutched the necklace to her chest.
"Well," Joey said, "I need some tea. Does anyone else want some tea?"
I was angry now and I looked to Joey, needing to displace my anger somewhere. "This isn't funny, Malfoy."
"I never said it was. I was just –"
"I don't care what you were trying to do! It isn't helping! You're not helping! You're not even supposed to be out here; Ron is! You're the one who insisted on coming out here with us and you haven't done anything to help! So if you have to be here, quit acting like a stupid little pureblood princess!"
It didn't make sense what I had just said, none of it did. She had been nothing but help and had kept me sane for the most part when Ron acted the way he did. I expected her to yell back at me, hex me, curse, something. . . .
But she only stared at me for a moment before turning on her heel and marching into the tent.
"That wasn't even close to necessary," Hermione said, angrily. "She was just trying to help. Don't chase her off too."
"Hermione –" I called after her, but she ignored me, her silent tears turning into loud sobs.
I sighed. Merlin I was just making this worse. First, I would apologize to Joey and then I'd go talk to Hermione.
Moving into the tent I saw Joey standing on her toes, trying to reach a glass mug way above her head. She was coughing again but it sounded worst than her fits before.
"Joey?" I said, concerned.
I watched, almost in slow motion as Joey took a great gasp of air, grabbing onto the shelf of mugs as she passed out, falling to the ground.
I ran forward as the mugs fell, covering Joey as they crashed around us, glass splintering everywhere. "Joey," I said, sitting back. "Joey can you hear me?"
I slipped my hand under her head, lifting her up some. "Come on, Jo, wake up. Please wake up."
"What happened?" I looked up as Hermione came in, wiping tears from her face.
"I don't know – she just sort of passed out." Leaning closer, I could hear her sallow breathing. She shivered in my arms.
"So . . . tired," she mumbled before slipping into unconsciousness once more.
I looked to Hermione who looked back at me.
Something was seriously wrong with Joey, and I was beginning to think it was fatal.