Chapter 9 - Matters of Life and Death
Chapter Nine – Matters of Life and Death
Emilia, Caius and Peter had moved from Emilia's old home to an even more remote coastal location. Caius had decided they'd stayed long enough and it was too risky that someone could discover the connection between Emilia and Peter.
Peter was madder than ever. He could barely hold a coherent conversation, and he continually spoke to himself in disjointed half sentences. Emilia tried to avoid being in the same room with him for too long.
One night in June, Emilia slipped in from collecting supplies and screamed. It was a blood-curdling sound, and made the dirty man wielding the knife jump up from the bloody body. Caius was lying on the floor with a dark red stain spreading out from his chest; Emilia could see from his glassy expression that he was already dead. Emilia stopped screaming, the sound was lost in her horror at the situation.
Peter dropped the bloody knife, it seemed to fall in slow motion until it clattered loudly on to the stone floor. They stood staring at each other, sizing each other up, anticipating who would make the first move. Emilia noticed that Peter was clutching a wand. A round of sick rose in her throat, this must have been why he killed Caius.
Peter shot a spell at her, but luckily his years of wandlessness had made him sloppy and his spell missed. It woke her from her stilted horror and she realised the full extent of what Peter with a wand would mean.
She raised her own wand but before she could cast a spell she realised what was about to happen. Abandoning any attack, and keeping tight hold of her wand, Emilia dived forward and grabbed on to Peter a millisecond before a loud crack reverberated around the room and they disappeared.
Sirius and James had come back late the night they had gone to Emilia's mother's derelict house, and the girls had waited up, eager to hear where they'd been.
"She's helping Peter?" Lily asked incredulously.
"We don't know that." Sirius said irritably.
James looked at Sirius and sighed in exasperation. "Wake up Padfoot! How do you explain the photograph?"
"What photograph?" Mary asked. She'd been back less than a night and she was already embroiled in the dark mysteries she'd spent all those years trying to escape.
James gave her the old tattered photograph as he flopped on the sofa next to Lily. Sirius didn't sit, he paced the living room frowning.
"I wrote that message!" Mary exclaimed. All eyes turned to her. She felt a wave of rage sweep over her. "I was trying to console that utter bastard!"
"Why did you write it?" James asked, he found it difficult to remember anything but the most monumental events of the war. Everything else had become just a blurred and painful feeling.
To Mary's horror she felt her eyes burn, it was all coming back. She'd been able to distance herself from the idea of Peter helping destroy their friends until she saw her words to him. Feel better Wormy and come home to us, remember what we're fighting for.
"I wrote this to him after Marlene died." Mary wasn't sure if her tears were for the loss of her dear friend or anger for the traitor whom she had tried to help. "He disappeared for days, remember? I thought it had all become too real for him but he was already working for Voldemort!"
Marlene's death was the first time that the dark forces penetrated the Gryffindor circle. Lily, James and baby Harry had already been in hiding in this very cottage when the news broke.
It had been as ordinary a night as any in wartime. In fact that night was supposed to have been a celebration, it was Mary's twenty-first birthday and everyone was gathered and waiting for Marlene in the Potter's cosy cottage.
"I miss your old house, Prongs." Sirius had said from where he sprawled out on the floor. "There really isn't enough room for everyone here."
James hadn't been listening. He was pacing the room trying to get Harry to go back to sleep. Lily watched them from the sofa where she was sat with her head drooping on Peter's shoulder. She had never been more tired but she needed to stay awake, she knew she wouldn't be able to sleep until Marlene arrived and Remus sent word that he'd returned safely from his Order work.
"Is this the wild twenty-first party you imagined?" Alice asked Mary, with a small yawn. Alice felt like Lily looked, utterly exhausted.
"Pretty much." Mary smiled weakly. "What with everyone looking like they'd rather be in bed." Mary's sentence was drowned out by Harry's sudden cry. Mary and Sirius caught each other wincing at the horrible noise and grinned.
"Try rocking him over your shoulder," Frank told James. "Rub his back in circles, no not like that – no not that either- do you just want me to show you?"
James was too exhausted to argue, he handed the struggling baby over to Frank who began soothing him as he walked around the room. Gradually the noise stopped. "You're like the baby whisperer." James told him in amazement.
"Nah, it's just trial and error," Frank told James as he handed the baby back to him. "It's the only thing that works when Neville's screaming, you see."
"Right," James nodded, trying to copy what Frank had been doing, and after another few minutes Harry had fallen back to sleep. James could have cheered in triumph but instead he quietly took the baby back upstairs.
"Are you feeling left out?" Sirius asked Mary.
Mary looked around at the exhausted new parents. She felt tired enough as it was, and she remembered how difficult her pregnant friends had been. "Nope, are you?" Mary replied.
"Intolerably." Sirius grinned and went back to lounging in front of the fire. "I had big plans for our birthdays out of Hogwarts, ones that didn't involve screaming babies and knackered parents." Sirius told the room at large. Lily narrowed her eyes at him. "Not that I don't love my godson," Sirius quickly amended and Lily closed her eyes again.
"You had big enough plans for our birthdays while we were there," Lily said, causing Peter to jump in alarm, he'd assumed she was asleep. When James re-joined them she swapped Peter's shoulder for his.
"I thought our birthdays there were quite tame," Sirius retorted.
"What about your seventeenth?" Mary rolled her eyes. "I thought McGonagall's lecture would never end."
Sirius, James, Peter and Frank smiled.
"It was a fun night." Peter said. "Even if we did spent the next week cleaning the common room."
"Lily told some first years, who she caught doing magic in the corridors, that she wouldn't deduct house points if they kept leaving more mess for you." said Alice.
Sirius sat up and stared at Lily like he was seeing her in a whole new light. "That was very underhand, Evans!"
"You deserved it," Lily said without opening her eyes. "It was so funny watching you and James look incredulous every morning when the mess had gotten bigger."
"Huh." James sighed. "Well that explains it, Padfoot, we weren't just terrible at cleaning."
"You were," Frank said. "Remus, Peter and I did all the work while you two chucked things at each other."
"And we charmed butter beer bottles to multiply every time you tried to vanish them." Mary chortled.
Frank looked mockingly appalled. "That was why it took so long! We had to do the whole thing like muggles."
"I can't believe you didn't realise it was us." Alice laughed.
"We should have done." Sirius shook his head smiling. "The whole thing reeks of McKinnon."
"It was my idea actually." Lily smiled, finally opening her eyes. "You'd annoyed me the week before for one thing or another."
"I didn't think you were so devious." James said in an appreciative voice.
The door creaked. "Ah finally, there's Marls!" Alice sighed. "We can have cake and celebrate . . . and then go to bed." She muttered the last bit but wasn't sure anyone heard.
Remus entered the living room and closed the door behind him.
None of the sleepy eyes had registered his face. "Ah Moony, you made it!" James yawned. "We didn't expect you!"
"We thought you were Marlene, she's late." Mary explained.
All eyes turned to him and his news was etched on his face. He was pale and his eyes were bloodshot, his hands shook and his lip quivered as he shook his head.
"Remus?" Sirius asked in an odd voice. "Has something happened?"
A few tears escaped down Remus's cheek. "Marlene's d-dead."
No one spoke. Lily thought she was going to be sick, James felt like he'd had a body-bind curse placed on him, Alice squeezed her body into a ball and began hyperventilating, Frank wrapped his arms around her, Mary started sobbing and Sirius buried his head in his hands. Peter went pale and left, murmuring that he couldn't be here. No one tried to stop him. Remus assumed his empty space on the couch and Lily grabbed his hand.
"Death eaters attacked her home, her whole family were there, they were taken off guard and-" Remus gulped, "they killed them all."
"No!" Lily's voice was full of horror. The room was horribly quiet, only Mary's sobs and Alice's ragged breath could be heard. There were tears drenching everyone's faces, Lily had never seen Sirius cry before. There were no offered words of comfort, they were left to face the impossible idea that Marlene would never enter the room again, never laugh with them or bring order or make decisions. They would never see her smiling face ever again.
"We've got to go," Alice said through her sobs. She tugged Frank's hand. She needed to go and see her baby. "I'm sorry." She dragged Frank who didn't argue.
Mary was sobbing so much her entire body was shaking and she was struggling to catch her breath. Sirius climbed on to the armchair with her and held her tightly; she tried to steady her breathing.
"When is this going to end?" She squeaked. "We need to stop this!"
"We're trying." Sirius replied.
"We're not doing well enough! They're killing more and more of us every day! I'm less scared on Order duty than I am in my own home, where I'm just a sitting duck."
No one disagreed with her.
"Do you know who did it, Remus?" It was the first time that James had spoken.
"Dumbledore thinks it was a few of them, he says he thinks the Lestranges were involved because of the-" he gulped, he couldn't say the last part, it was too horrible.
Sirius thought he was going to be sick. He didn't need Remus to finish the sentence, if Bellatrix had been involved he could imagine what end Marlene had met. Hatred poured over him. "I want to be the one to kill Bellatrix." He growled.
"I wish we could get them all," James's voice was uncharacteristically harsh. "They don't even deserve death, that's too kind, it should be far worse, they should suffer."
No one disagreed.
Remus tried to leave. "I just need to go. I'll come back tomorrow."
"No," barked Sirius. "You're not going alone. We shouldn't be alone."
Mary nodded and she let him draw her to her feet and grasp her hand.
"We'll go to mine, these don't have the room." Sirius insisted. Remus was still too deep in shock to argue. Sirius grabbed him by the elbow and led Mary by the hand. "We'll come back tomorrow." He told Lily and James who hadn't moved. "James, don't leave the house. You need to think about Harry."
"There's one more thing." Remus sighed, rubbing his temple. He looked towards Sirius. "Dumbledore told me that your brother went missing and is presumed dead. It looks like he wanted out and one of their side killed him."
Sirius thought about this for a moment. He considered his spineless brother, it was a pity he'd changed his mind too late. Sirius felt no great rush of emotion though; he was too consumed with grief at the loss of Marlene, someone, who unlike his brother, he loved like family.
"Right." Was all Sirius could say.
They all reconvened the next day, all except Peter who was absent for a week. That was when Mary found the old photograph and wrote that note. They needed to stick together and keep going, Marlene's death had to mean something.
"This was definitely his Sirius. There is no way she could get this if he wasn't with her." Mary insisted harshly.
"But it doesn't make sense." Sirius retorted.
"It makes perfect sense!" James exclaimed. "It explains everything. It explains all her odd behaviour; she would have known Peter was a Death Eater because she knew Regulus! She lied about her name Sirius, she lied about everything, she wanted to get close to you."
"Why? What did I have to offer about Peter? Why would she want to help Peter?" Sirius shouted. "None of this makes any sense."
"Look, we know her name now, why don't we do some digging?" Lily raised her voice so that Sirius and James had to stop bickering and listen to her. "Let's find out more about her and see if we can fill in the holes of the story."
This was exactly what they'd done. Over the weeks since that night, the four friends had pieced together fragments from any record of Emilia. Since Mary was currently jobless and homeless, she did the bulk of the investigating while she slept in Sirius's spare room. It was Mary that made the final connection between Peter and Emilia.
"Cousins?" Sirius repeated in disbelief, he sat down opposite her at his breakfast bar.
"Look!" Mary pointed to the makeshift family tree she had drawn. "Second-cousins, granted, but they're family. Emilia is Peter's mum's sister's granddaughter."
"But they're only two years apart in age!"
"Yes but Emilia's Grandma is twenty years older than Peter's mum, so Emilia's mum and Peter's mum are only five years apart in age, that's why the generations blur. All the dates are there and I've triple checked it."
"Well that would explain the connection." Sirius said quietly. "They definitely didn't know each other at Hogwarts."
"Maybe they met later, after Peter had left." Mary shrugged. "I don't know, but I think this is an awfully big coincidence."
"No you must be right." Sirius nodded. "This is all amazing work."
Mary beamed. "Thank you. It's actually been quite fun." Sirius looked at her. "Well you know, if it were under different circumstances it would have been fun." He laughed and Mary told him her other piece of news. "I also did some digging on her husband."
"Were they really married?"
"Yes. His name's Caius Hunt. He was heavily suspected of being a death eater, but like Malfoy and the others, no one could prove it, so he walked." Mary turned to an extensive article about Gringotts written over three years ago. "He became very important in the bank, managing the accounts of the oldest families and clients."
Sirius shrugged, he didn't understand her point.
"Sirius, come on." Mary begged him, her eyes shining with excitement. "Some of the oldest families were right inline with Voldemort and look how many of them are in Azkaban."
Sirius considered his own family, Bellatrix and her husband, their fortune was gathering dust, accumulating interest, while they were in Azkaban. Suddenly Mary's point hit him. "He can visit Azkaban!"
Mary nodded enthusiastically. "Exactly!"
"They plotted his escape." Sirius was saying this more to himself than Mary. The pieces were slotting into place, all except one. "I still don't understand what I had to do with this."
Mary looked back at Sirius helplessly. "That's the last piece of the puzzle."
Sirius sighed. "I guess I won't know until they're found."
"Are you going to tell Dumbledore?"
"And Fudge. They're both going to be at the hearing." Sirius checked his watch. "I should get going actually, or I'll be late."
"Good luck." Mary said, "give Hagrid my love."
"I will. See you tomorrow."
"You're staying the night?"
"It's the full moon, we were planning a bit of an event." Sirius smiled deviously.
Mary rolled her eyes. "You're still fifteen then? Be careful."
Mary went back to sorting through the records and Sirius disapparated.
James was already in Remus's office and they were looking at the map.
"I can't believe the little rascal had it all along!" James exclaimed as he examined the parchment, which currently showed him that Harry was in the Gryffindor common room with Ron and Hermione. "How did he work out how to use it?"
Remus shrugged. "I have no idea. He insists he didn't take it from Filch's office but he wouldn't say who gave it to him. I could take a good guess though."
"The twins?" James asked and Remus nodded, smiling.
"They're carrying on the legacy left by you and Sirius."
James grinned. "Speaking of old Padfoot, he's late as usual."
"Well we can't wait, let's go down before we miss the whole thing." Remus rolled up the map and put it in his robe pocket. "Are you sure we shouldn't tell Lily about Hogsmeade?"
"Definitely, there's just no point. I'm going to give him a stern talking to after dinner."
Remus laughed. "Stern James?"
"Well, maybe not stern, maybe just serious." James jumped the trick step and they strolled out of the Entrance Hall chortling.
Narcissa Malfoy had fled into the dungeons moments before James and Remus walked out into the grounds. Narcissa knocked urgently on a door, praying nobody had seen her enter, she knew she should have cast a disillusionment charm.
"Enter." Snape's voice drawled. Narcissa hurried in, closing the door behind her. "Narcissa, what a-"
"Severus please, you've got to help me."
"What's happened? Is it Lucius?"
"Lucius is perfectly well." Snape couldn't miss the slight cutting tone she used when she said his name. "It's Draco."
"Draco is fine, Narcissa, I saw him this morning."
"He's not fine, Severus." Narcissa shook her head. "He's turning into Lucius, he's going to be a monster." With shaking hands Narcissa reached into her robes and pulled out a letter.
I keep spotting the oaf crying in lessons over the beast. I heard the mudblood Granger talking about appeals, surely you won't allow the thing to get off? If we can't get the blundering oaf sacked this is the next best thing.
Speaking of the mudblood, she slapped me like a common muggle! I considered going to professor Snape but you know what Dumbledore's like, he loves the mudbloods and wouldn't see what a disgrace this is. I was wondering what you thought I should do.
Potter got caught out of bounds in Hogsmeade and Lupin covered for him! Can you believe that he got off without any sort of punishment? I wish the Dark Lord was back and then the right order would be re-established. The mudbloods and sympathisers wouldn't be so smug then, would they?
Snape was silent for a moment after he read Draco's letter. He was thinking very quickly. Narcissa had placed him in a rather difficult position, his alliance with Lucius was vital, and yet Dumbledore had said Narcissa deflecting was also important.
"I see." Snape finally said.
"What do I do Severus?" Narcissa pleaded. "I don't want my son to turn into a monster! Lucius has never seen this note, I took it before he could read it. I dread to think what he might have done if he had seen it." Narcissa looked on the verge of hysterics; it was the least composed Snape had ever seen her. "He wants the Dark Lord to come back, Severus, even Lucius does not want the Dark Lord back. Draco doesn't know how dangerous what he's saying is. I don't know what to do! You've got to help me."
Snape calculated every word he replied. "What would you like me to do?"
"Talk to him, he respects you, he'd listen."
"Narcissa," Snape replied delicately. "If you want to – ah – change your lives, it is you who must speak to Draco. If you wait here, I can summon him for you."
Narcissa hesitated. It had taken the majority of her courage to speak to Snape, she wasn't sure if she had enough left to confront Draco. She knew she wouldn't win the battle if Draco had a choice between her and Lucius, Draco would choose his father. "That won't be necessary," she said finally. She stood up. "I'm sorry Severus, this has all been a mistake." Narcissa made for the door.
"Narcissa," Snape said before she left, and she turned to face him. "If you are concerned, it would be wiser to act in the current climate than any future one." Snape registered the look of horror she gave him. He knew that she took his words as what they truly meant, that the time before Voldemort rose again was running out.
"Thank you for your time. I'm sorry to have wasted it." Narcissa hurried out of the room and scampered across the grounds.
Emilia and Peter appeared just outside of the school boundaries. Peter barely pushed her away before stowing his wand into his pocket and shrinking down into the small rat, he raced towards the old haunted house in the village. Emilia followed him, ignoring any cursory stares she gained as she raced up the high street.
She climbed over the fence the little rat ran under and let herself into the Shrieking Shack, trying to swallow her fear of the violent spirits who lived there, there were more important things. Emilia briefly lost sight of her rodent cousin; she explored the house further and found a tunnel that led underground. This must be where he had gone. She followed the path and crawled as quickly as possible for what felt like hours. When she emerged out the other end, to her utter astonishment, she had to avoid the homicidal branches of the Whomping Willow. She did not have time to marvel over this, she had seen the little rat in the distance. Keeping her wand steady, Emilia shot a well-aimed spell and the little rat became the little man.
"Peter you can't!" She held her wand steady, ready to jinx him should he move. This had gone on too long, it was all a terrible misguided mistake, and he had tricked her.
Peter reached into his pocket, but Emilia got there first. "Accio!" His wand flew into her hand.
"No." Emilia repeated. She pointed her wand at his chest. "No more. It's over."
"This is what we planned Emilia." He hissed. "This is what we wanted."
"NO!" Emilia explained. "No it's not! You told me you were going to be killed! That because I couldn't find the locket the Dark Lord would kill you if you stayed in Azkaban!"
"He will." Peter pleaded. "He will kill me, unless I kill Harry Potter, then I can prove my loyalty."
"No!" Emilia repeated, "You can't!" Her wand hand drooped slightly. This was all Peter needed, he capitalised on her moment's hesitation to shrink and run off. Emilia followed, she was so focussed on Peter that she didn't notice Narcissa Malfoy until she had run in to her.
"YOU!" Narcissa exclaimed. "What are you doing?"
"Get out of the way!" Emilia shrieked, she tried to push past her while she could still see Peter, but Narcissa pushed back.
"Why are you here?"
"There's no time!" Emilia made to get past her again, Peter was almost out of sight.
"Where are you-" Narcissa never finished her sentence. Emilia had shot a stunning spell at her. Narcissa collapsed into a heap on the floor. Emilia looked back to the grass but Peter had completely vanished. She made a distressed noise, what was she going to do now? Trembling, Emilia dragged Narcissa's inanimate body into the forest to hide it, and to make up a plan.
Hagrid's cabin was too small to host all of the people who came to Buckbeak's hearing, so the proceedings had to take place outside. Remus took over consoling a weeping Hagrid, while James, Sirius and Dumbledore attempted to make Fudge see reason. The problem with Fudge was that he often refused to see what was right in front of him, if it didn't fit in with his vision of the world.
"Minister please," James pleaded. "There is a class full of witnesses that say the attack was not unprovoked."
"You can't just execute it." Sirius added. "You know the committee was bribed!"
James inwardly cursed Sirius; they could have had a chance if he'd just kept his big mouth shut. James saw the dark look pass over Fudge's face. That was it. Whatever chance they had was gone. James saw Macnair's gloating face from the corner of his eye, he wanted nothing more than to curse that smug expression.
"Black, once again you fail to grasp that you cannot instruct the Minister for Magic on what he can and cannot do!" Fudge's face flashed in anger.
James surreptitiously stamped on Sirius's foot to stop him responding.
"Perhaps it's better if you two wait in the castle." Dumbledore said quietly.
"Professor, I need a word."
"Afterwards Sirius." Dumbledore said curtly. "I shall wait here with Remus and Hagrid, we will find you afterwards."
James practically dragged Sirius away. He hadn't been this frustrated with him since they'd been teenagers. They marched silently across the grounds, unknowingly passing Ron, Hermione and Harry, who were hidden by the Invisibility Cloak.
"You absolute prat!" James fumed when they were out of earshot. "You can't talk like that to Fudge!"
"But he's useless!" Sirius protested.
"Of course he's useless, which is why you can't point it out to him if you want him to do you a bloody favour." The swept passed the Whomping Willow and the bushes, where Emilia and Narcissa were concealed, and stormed into the castle.
"I'm sorry." Sirius said after a long pause. "That was such a stupid thing to do."
"Well there's nothing we can do now, the Hippogriff is going to be executed." James replied grimly.
"Did you see Macnair?"
"Yep." James ground his teeth. They hopped up the last few steps to Remus's office. "Still an evil bastard."
"The world is still full of Death Eaters." Sirius said bitterly. "Speaking of which, you'll never guess what Mary found out." Sirius had only just finished speaking when Remus joined them.
"So she was helping him!" James exclaimed. "Is that what you needed to tell Dumbledore?"
"Telling Dumbledore will have to wait." Remus said darkly. "He's comforting Hagrid, he's a mess." Remus shot a look at Sirius, who had the good grace to look ashamed.
"Let's find Harry." James sighed. "I want a word before we go to the shack."
Remus placed the map on the desk. "I solemnly swear that I'm up to no good."
"When did we get this back?" Sirius sounded delighted, and ran a hand over it like it was a lost treasure.
"Harry found it."
"Blimey. What are the chances?"
"I can't find him in the common room."
"He's not in the Great Hall either."
"Look he's there on the grounds." Sirius pointed to three small dots, with a fourth approaching. The three men watched in horror as the fourth dot collided with the other three and began dragging the dot labelled Harry Potter towards a familiar location.
Leaving the map open on the table, the three men rushed into the grounds.
Harry, Ron and Hermione had paused when they heard that awful thump of the axe. They looked back on to Hagrid's hut.
"We should go to him." Hermione said.
"He's with Dumbledore and Remus." Ron reasoned. "They'd be fuming if they knew we'd come out."
"We can't just leave him." Hermione's eyes were brimming with tears.
"Let's just wait a moment." Harry said. "If Dumbledore leaves him, we can go in." The three of them waited in silence. Remus hurried past them into the castle, but after a further five minutes it appeared that Dumbledore was not leaving Hagrid alone.
"Come on," Harry told them. "Let's go to dinner."
They began trudging up to the castle, careful to keep their feet hidden beneath the folds of the Cloak.
Peter had heard their voices as he waited on the outskirts of the Whomping Willow. He followed them, keeping his rat form until he was certain. Making sure no one could see, he transformed and broke into a run, knocking over what was apparently solid air.
"Argh!" Harry, Ron and Hermione gasped as they were knocked to the floor in a heap. It wasn't until the Invisibility Cloak was yanked from them that they understood what was happening.
Hermione screamed at the sight of Pettigrew and he shoved a dirty hand over her mouth to stop her. Harry and Ron dived at him, breaking his contact with Hermione, but Peter was too desperate to allow teenagers to stop him. He cursed himself for allowing Emilia to confiscate his wand. Without any other options, Peter swung at Ron who fell backwards knocking Hermione off balance. Peter grabbed Ron's wand as he fell and held it against Harry.
"Come with me quietly." He told Harry in his squeaky voice. "Or I'll kill them."
Harry didn't have any argument, he caught Hermione's eye, warning her not to act.
Peter caught this glance and shouted, "Petrificus Totalus!" Hermione became immobile and toppled to the ground. Ron rushed to her and Peter began dragging Harry off. Harry tried to reach for his wand but Peter caught him and confiscated it. He held a wand to Harry's head and told him to crawl into the earthy tunnel.
It took Ron a few moments to perform the counter jinx on Hermione using her wand.
"Where have they gone?" Hermione shrieked.
"I think they went into the Whomping Willow." Ron said uncertainly.
"Don't be ridiculous, you can't go into the tree!" Hermione paced nervously.
Ron became more assured. "They did!" He dragged her arm. "Hermione come on. We don't have time to go for help, he's going to kill him."
Hermione agreed with him, the urgency upon them that meant she didn't call for a teacher. They ran forward, getting battered and scratched by the lesser branches until a spell Hermione shot at an oncoming branch happened to hit the tree trunk. All of a sudden the tree froze. Ron and Hermione didn't question this, they ran forwards until they found a narrow, earthy passage. Hermione and Ron looked at each other in equal terror. Nodding determinedly, one after the other they descended into the tunnel.