Three Days of the Weasley (Part Three)
The following are the accounts of September 22nd, 1995, as told by Harry James Potter and Hermione Jean Granger along with memories extracted from Dolores Umbridge. The facts have been verified by others that witnessed the events of that fateful day. This was the last of the days that are known now and forever as "Three Days of The Weasley".
September 22nd, 1995 (Day Three)
Harry looked around at the vast grassy field as the wind ripped through his robes. He spun slowly in a circle, as though he was searching for something; though what it was he wasn't certain. Clouds gathered overhead and mountains encompassed the vast field and Harry suddenly realized that he was standing in some sort of valley.
He began to walk towards the only break he saw in the mountainous region beyond; the wind now billowing all about him. The closer he got the more tired he felt, as though leaving the valley was draining his strength. Harry shielded his face against the wind with his robes, willing himself to press on.
Suddenly, Harry heard a creaking noise behind him. He spun on the spot, his wand drawn, to find an iron gate and a long fence extending in both directions. The vast grassy field was gone, replaced by a shorter field beyond the iron fence; a dirt path leading away from the gate towards the mountains. The weather had also changed, as large snowflakes began to fall and a northern wind froze him to the bone. Harry wrapped his arms about himself in an attempt to stay warm.
Another noise caught Harry's attention and he turned around to see trees before him, leafless and baron, beyond the trees there were rows and rows of grave stones; he was in a graveyard. It wasn't the same graveyard that he had witnessed the rebirth of Lord Voldemort, but this graveyard gave him unnatural chills just the same. He slowly edged closer to the grave stones until he could read the names.
Harry's mouth became dry and he lost the ability to scream as he began to read the grave markers. Neville Longbottom, Seamus Finnigan, Ginnevra Weasley, Ronald Weasley, Fred Weasley, George Weasley and Bill Weasley; the names and markers went on as far as he could see. The longer he looked, the more the realization came to him that Hermione's name wasn't in this graveyard. Guilt swept over him as a tiny ounce of relief filled his mind; Hermione was still alive.
A cracking sound behind Harry had him spinning once more; this time to stare into the cold, scarlet eyes of Lord Voldemort. Harry would have raised his wand, but somehow he knew he wasn't there to kill him; not yet.
"Enjoying your handiwork, Harry Potter?" asked Voldemort softly.
"If my friends are dead, it's because of YOU!" growled Harry.
"Oh no, Harry." hissed Voldemort. "All that you see here is because of you. If you had never asked them to fight, they would all still be alive."
"I've never asked anyone to fight for me!" shouted Harry. "They fought and died to stop YOU!"
"Then they failed, Harry." sighed Voldemort. "Just as you will fail also in the end. Until then, how many more will die for you? How many families will suffer? How much more magical blood must be shed?"
"NONE!" screamed Harry as he raised his wand. "AVEDA KEDAVRA!"
Green light burst from the end of his wand as Voldemort faded into a black mist. Suddenly, the scenes around him began to fade into a bright blinding light.
"HARRY!" shouted Neville into Harry's ear.
Harry blinked rapidly as he looked around to see himself standing in the middle of his bed. All the curtains had been ripped down and he was pointing his empty wand hand at the far wall. Seamus, Ron, and Dean were staring at him with stunned faces.
"Wh-What happened?" asked Harry as he wiped sweat from his forehead.
"Thought you could tell us, mate." replied Ron. "You stood up in your bed and started turning in circles, ripping down curtains as you went, before screaming in parseltongue."
"Yeah, mate." interjected Seamus. "We were trying to decide whether you were awake. You had a wild look about your eyes too. Neville finally decided to see before we stunned you."
"Thanks Neville." said Harry, patting him on the shoulder. "I prefer to be awake before I get knocked out."
The boys laughed as Harry shakily stepped down from his bed. He was trying to play it off, but the nightmare was etched into his mind. All his fears had formed into one terrifying image, being intensified by the taunting image of Lord Voldemort.
"What had you going so?" asked Dean.
"Just a little too hyped up as we approach Saturday I guess, mate." replied Harry, shrugging.
Neville didn't look as though he believed Harry, but thankfully did not press the issue.
"Don't you three have somewhere to be?" asked Harry, pointing at Seamus, Dean, and Neville.
"Not yet, Harry." replied Neville. "It's only six in the morning."
"Might as well get going." said Ron. "I have a feeling that this is going to be an exciting day."
Ron whistled as he gathered his things and made for the bathroom. Between the nightmare and the ominous shadows that the purple fog cast through the windows, Harry felt the pit of his stomach knot up. As he stood there, he wondered if they were all making a huge mistake.
Hermione woke early that Friday morning and dressed quickly before heading down to the common room. She had not slept well; images of a woman whispering things to her in a place that seemed odd yet strangely familiar kept creeping into her dreams. She had tried hard several times to remember what the woman looked like, but she could not recall her face once she woke.
When Hermione entered the common room she found Harry waiting on her, along with Ron and the twins. She noted that the twins looked as relaxed as she had ever seen them and it was disturbing. Last night during their meeting and practice, they had referred to today as the Grand Event.
"Are we ready to head down for breakfast?" asked Hermione as she joined Harry on the sofa.
"Not yet." replied Harry. "We're waiting for Neville to come back before we go."
Before Hermione could ask, she heard the portrait hole open and looked to see Neville entering the common room along with Seamus and Dean.
"Did it work?" asked Harry as the three joined them around the fireplace.
"Brilliantly!" exclaimed Seamus.
"My Gran said that she would invite everyone over tomorrow evening." said Neville smiling. "Seamus contacted his mum and she said she would stop by and pickup Dean's mum on her way to Gran's tomorrow."
"Excellent." said Harry. "That was a brilliant idea Neville to have your Gran throw a party tomorrow evening and invite all of the Alliance's family."
"Well, Gran has always told me that Longbottom Manor is protected by ancient wards and sensory charms." said Neville. "You can't sneak up on Gran and this way they'll at least stand a fighting chance."
"What did you tell your Gran?" asked Hermione.
"Just that the Alliance is causing all kinds of trouble and we have reason to believe that our families may be in danger this weekend because of it." replied Neville. "That and the fact that we were using Professor McGonagall's floo was all that Gran needed. She will be sending formal invites to all families, speaking of how closely knit their children have become at Hogwarts and how it would do well for the families to get better acquainted. Susan's aunt was already coming over tomorrow evening for tea anyways, so Gran is just expanding her plans. We'll know later whether everyone accepted their invitations."
"Well, now that has been addressed, shall we make our way down for breakfast?" asked Ron, gesturing towards the portrait hole.
"Excellent idea, brother mine." said George smiling.
"Indeed, we must not keep the day waiting any longer." said Fred in a pompous heir.
Harry rolled his eyes and Hermione just shook her head as they made their way out of the common room. Hermione noticed as they made their way downstairs that Harry was paying her more attention this morning. He helped her through the portrait hole, extended his hand for her to hold, and kept glancing at her all the way down; smiling every time she looked at him. Not that she minded, but her paranoia made her wonder if there was something that she didn't know about.
When they reached the bottom of the stairs, she looked up to see that the message was still above the doorway to the Great Hall. Padma, Parvati, and Lavender were standing in the doorway and Hermione noted immediately that they looked worried.
"What's wrong?" asked Harry, as he and Hermione approached the trio.
"It's Susan." said Parvati. "She said she wasn't feeling well this morning and was going to stop by the hospital wing."
"Could just be a bug." shrugged Hermione.
"That's just it." said Lavender. "We went up to the hospital wing to see how she was doing, but Madam Pomphrey said that she never saw her."
"Has anyone checked her dorm?" asked Harry. "Maybe she went there to lay down."
"Hannah said she would check on her after breakfast." replied Padma.
"What else is going on?" asked Hermione, noting the strained looks on their faces.
"Umbridge was asking Terry a lot of questions." said Lavender. "He didn't tell her anything, however the questions she was asking were – troubling."
"Like what?" asked Harry.
"Stuff about secret rooms and private meetings." replied Parvati.
Harry sighed, "We're going to have to be more careful. If she was to find out what we're up to, it would be bad." Harry glanced at Hermione. "Let us know how Susan is doing when you hear from Hannah and remember to stay in groups. Umbridge isn't our only concern."
"Will do, Harry." said Lavender. "We're going to go for a walk before lessons. You two wanna join us?"
"Are you hungry, Hermione?" asked Harry.
"Not the slightest." replied Hermione, her stomach in knots. "Let's go."
Walking with the gossip trio was the first normal feeling she'd felt in a long time. Hermione wondered if it would be their last in that castle.
By the time lunch rolled around, Hermione was thoroughly regretting skipping breakfast. As they took a seat at Gryffindor table, she noticed that Harry had suddenly become rigid. She looked at him to see that he was staring at the Staff table and it didn't take her long to realize why. Umbridge was sitting at the table, staring directly at Harry and looking happy; manic even.
Hermione quickly scanned the Great Hall looking for something out of place, but the only thing that stood out was that Susan was still nowhere to be seen. The trio had told Harry after morning lessons that Hannah had found Susan laying down in her dorm room. When she asked Susan how she was doing, she immediately ran off to see Professor Sprout about something. A small pang of fear twisted inside her stomach and as if on cue, her wand began to become warm inside her robes.
"Warn the others, Hermione, that something is wrong." whispered Harry.
Hermione reached inside her robes and pressed her thumb to the fake galleon and focused on the word, 'Trouble'. To Hermione's horror, she watched as Umbridge reached inside her own pocket and held up a galleon between her thumb and index finger. She somehow had one of the fake galleons and Hermione instantly knew who's galleon it was. Umbridge then rose to her feet and walked around the Staff table to address the student body.
"Everyone, may I have your attention." simpered Umbridge and slowly the Great Hall fell silent. "This afternoon I would like to announce that we are much closer to apprehending those that have made chaos inside this school over the last few days. I would also like to announce the expulsion of several students for plotting against this school and the Ministry –"
Umbridge stopped and stared at the doors to the Great Hall. Hermione looked, but noticed nothing unusual nor heard anything that would make her stop.
"As I was saying, several students and one teacher have been plotting against this school and –" began Umbridge, but halted again; staring at the doors that led to the Grand Staircase.
Murmurs erupted as Umbridge slowly made her way towards the entrance to the Great Hall, her wand drawn at her side as though approaching something dangerous. Hermione looked around at the Weasley twins to see a complex look upon their faces. Ron kept glancing at the Staff table and she then noted that Bill Weasley was nowhere to be seen either. Umbridge finally reached the doors to the Great Hall and opened them slowly before exiting.
The next moment she heard Umbridge cry, "HARRY POTTER!"
Professors McGonagall and Flitwick were already making their way towards the doorway when Harry rose slowly, glancing at Hermione.
"I'm coming with you." whispered Hermione as she pulled on his arm to wait for her.
"HARRY POTTER!" shouted Umbridge once more.
Hermione walked with Harry towards the doorway and saw that Malfoy looked jubilant. When she and Harry reached the doorway, they could see Umbridge standing facing a large stone toad.
"Harry Potter, please explain this at once!" snapped Umbridge; her face full of rage.
"How can I explain this, Headmistress?" retorted Harry.
"Mr. Potter, I am quite aware that you and your Alliance have been holding secret meetings at night while plotting the downfall of myself and the Ministry." seethed Umbridge, her girlish tones gone. "Now, why does this statue keep saying my name?"
"I don't hear anything." said Professor Flitwick staring hard at the statue."Are you feeling well?" asked Professor McGonagall, biting her lower lip.
Hermione stared at the statue and listened, but heard nothing coming from it. Apparently, only Umbridge could hear whatever the statue was saying. She then heard footsteps behind her and turned to see Bill and the Curse Breakers walking towards them.
"I feel perfectly fine, Minerva!" shouted Umbridge.
"Headmistress," said Hughes "please do not touch the statue until my team has had a chance to inspect it."
"I am Headmistress of Hogwarts, Mr. Hughes." retorted Umbridge. "I will decide what needs to be done with this talking statue. You need to deal with this cursed fog like you were brought here to do!" She then rounded on the statue and shouted, "I AM NOT A TOAD!"
Quicker than anyone could react, Umbridge took two steps back, withdrew her wand, and attempted to destroy the statue with a blasting hex. When the spell struck the statue, it was like a bomb exploded within the castle. Harry, Flitwick, and McGonagall barely got their shield charms up in time, though they really weren't necessary.
The blast shook the halls of Hogwarts as it sent Umbridge flying through the air, though nothing within the vicinity of the blast was damaged; all the force of the blast seemed to be concentrated on her. Just when it looked as though Umbridge was about to smash into the entrance doors to the castle, they swung open; allowing her to sail through the purple fog and land on the hard grassy grounds beyond.
Umbridge opened her eyes and looked around as a pain in the back of her head made her eyes water. She sat up in the grass and stared up at the castle. All the purple fog had somehow disappeared. She stood up gingerly and brushed herself off. 'I'm going to hang Potter for this', thought Umbridge savagely. 'I will make sure that he and his –'
A creaking noise somewhere behind her cut off her musings. Umbridge turned around slowly to look down at the Black Lake. A small shriek escaped her lips as she beheld a large black ship anchored to the shoreline. The ship was as black as night and had large sails which were dropped and tucked like a ship that was in harbour. The creaking noise had been coming from a long gang plank that was being lowered to the shore; by whom, Umbridge wasn't sure for there was no sign of life.
Umbridge picked up her wand and slowly made her way through the grounds towards the Black Lake. Upon reaching the shore of the lake, Umbridge crept towards the apparition while looking for a clue as to where it had come from. 'Another elaborate stunt from Potter and his Alliance, no doubt. They have caused me grief for the last time', mused Umbridge silently. 'I will finish this once and for all.'
When Umbridge reached the ship, she was startled to find that the ship was very much so, real. She had been anticipating the ship to be another soot apparition, like the snakes, but found it to be an old wooden ship. The ship had been stained black and looked pristine. Umbridge slowly boarded the ship, making her way up the gang plank and onto its topside.
There were no signs of life, but Umbridge maintained a firm grip on her wand. 'Time to expose these pirates and see whom else has been assisting Potter', thought Umbridge, as she eyed what must be the entrance to the captain's quarters. As she began to walk towards the door, the sky above grew unnaturally darker.
Suddenly, Umbridge heard footsteps behind her and she spun around; a curse on the tip of her tongue. To her shock, and slight horror, there was no one there. Umbridge did not care for these games.
"Show yourself, Pirates of Black Lake, or should I say Potter's Alliance!" demanded Umbridge, completely fed up with playing along. "I know it is you that has been tormenting this school!"
"Umbridge." called a hissing voice, high and cold. "You torment this school."
Umbridge shook as she looked around for the source of the voice, but could not find one. Suddenly, more footsteps were heard behind her and she spun around to see three cloaked and hooded people standing there.
"Lower those hoods slowly and let's just see who you are." said Umbridge savagely, pointing her wand at the figures.
Slowly the figures raised their hands to their hoods. Umbridge noted as they did so that their hands were pale white, as though they hadn't seen the sun in quite some time. When the hoods dropped, Umbridge let out an almighty scream of terror. The three figures had no faces. Their skin had lines where the eyes, nose, and mouth should be, however there was none. The three figures tilted their heads to one side, as though they found her scream interesting.
"Mummy? Is that you?" came three childish voices that sounded innocent yet terrifying to Umbridge.
The three figures took a step closer and Umbridge stumbled backwards, her breath catching in her chest and her body shaking violently from fear.
"S-S-Stay away!" demanded Umbridge, her voice shaking in fear. "Potter! I d-demand you stop this at once!"
"Mummy? Why are you scared of us mummy?" called one of the voices.
"I am not your mummy!" growled Umbridge through the fear. "Stay back or I'll curse you!"
"Mummy?" called a voice behind her.
Umbridge spun half way around to see three more figures with no faces walking towards her. In panic, Umbridge let fly three blasting curses at the figures. To her horror, the curses had no effect on the figures. Her horror intensified when three more figures appeared to her right.
"Mummy? Is that you, mummy?" called the figures in high childish voices.
Umbridge began casting curses and hexes as fast as she could, looking frantically for a way out. Finally, she saw the gang plank and made a break for it, running as fast as her legs would carry her. The figures followed her, walking as though there was no need to hurry; as though she couldn't get away. This terrified Umbridge further. She slipped on the grass as she made shore, stumbling slightly and casting curses at the figures behind her. She ran up the hill towards the castle as fast as she could. The figures were following and she could hear them chanting, "Mummy? Where are you going mummy? We're scared mummy. Please help us."
Just as the entrance to the castle was in clear view, Umbridge slid to a halt in horror. There, standing in the doorway to the castle were more faceless figures. She let out a groaning scream of terror. She looked back behind her to see the figures from the ship making their way through the grounds towards her.
"Mummy? Is that you mummy? Why won't you help us?" chimed childish voices from the figures, both in front of and behind her.
"I'M NOT YOUR MUMMY AND I DON'T WANT TO HELP YOU!" screamed Umbridge in terror, as she cast curses randomly at the figures.
The curses had no effect on the figures that continued to draw closer.
Harry followed Professors McGonagall and Flitwick out into the school grounds. The purple fog that had surrounded the school for the last two days was gone. Somehow, when Umbridge passed through the fog and into the grounds, it had followed her like a great cloud of bees. The fog looked as though Umbridge was absorbing it into her skin. Unfortunately, Harry had run to the doorway and witnessed the very disturbing image of Umbridge swatting at the fog as it penetrated her body.
Hermione, Hughes, and Maxwell caught up with Harry, just as he and the professors reached Professor Umbridge. She was thrashing around on the ground, muttering to herself; her eyes closed tight and look of intense fear on her face. Harry looked round to see that the Alliance had raced out ahead of the rest of the school to join them; the Weasley twins and Ron had satisfied expressions upon their faces.
"Bloody hell!" exclaimed Hughes. "Did that statue blast her all the way out here?"
"You told her not to touch it." said Hermione to Hughes. "Professor Umbridge didn't listen."
"Well, nobody touch her until we can determine what just happened." said Hughes. "We'll need to levitate her to the hospital wing. By-the-way," added Hughes, looking around "what happened to the purple fog?"
"The blast must have blown it away." said the Weasley twins in unison.
More students were pouring out of the castle and into the grounds; awestruck as they peered around at the bright sun-filled grounds, then at Umbridge who was now lying completely still.
"Hermione, where's Bill and Neville?" asked Harry, as he looked around.
"Neville said something about Susan and they took off up into the castle." replied Hermione distractedly.
"You lot," said McGonagall, pointing at the Alliance "form a circle around Professor Umbridge and do not let any other student get too close, including yourselves. We have no idea what has happened to her."
Harry saw McGonagall's mouth twitch as she glanced at the twins and Ron. The Alliance did as they were told and formed a barrier around the Curse Breakers and the professors.
"Sonorace." said McGonagall. "Students," echoed McGonagall's magically magnified voice "please return to the school and to the Great Hall. We are not sure as to whether the grounds are safe yet."
Somehow, one of the Creevey brothers slipped through the Alliance's guard and prodded Umbridge.
"Collin! NO!" shouted Seamus, and Collin darted back towards the castle.
The moment Collin touched Umbridge, she sat straight up and her eyes flew open. Where there were normally cold gray eyes was a set of purple eyes; the same color as the fog. Everyone slowly backed away from Umbridge, as they were unsure what might happen next.
"Professor Umbridge?" queried McGonagall, sounding unsure of what to say or do.
Umbridge let out a blood curdling scream and jumped to her feet. She made for her wand, but Harry was too fast.
"Expelliarmus!" shouted Harry, as Umbridge's wand flew high into the air before being caught by Maxwell.
All the students that had yet to make it back into the castle froze and stared at Umbridge.
"Back into the castle! All of you!" shouted McGonagall, waving her hands.
All students, except for the Alliance, sprinted into the castle. Harry looked around to see that every member, save Neville and Susan, were accounted for and they all had their wands trained on Umbridge.
"Professor Umbridge. Can you hear me?" asked Harry, stepping closer to her; Hermione and the Weasley twins followed, keeping their wands trained on Umbridge.
Umbridge looked around wildly in terror. She was completely surrounded by figures that she now recognized as students and staff members, yet none of them had faces. The faceless figure of Harry Potter stepped forward, accompanied by the figures of Hermione Granger and the Weasley twins.
"Mummy? Is that you, mummy?" asked Harry Potter in a childish voice.
"NO!" screamed Umbridge, as she tore past them; shoving the faceless figures aside. "LEAVE ME ALONE!"
Umbridge ran into the castle, but skidded to a halt as she stared into the Great Hall which was full of faceless figures. She shrieked as she turned back to see the faceless figures of Harry Potter, Professors McGonagall and Flitwick, and the Curse Breakers running into the castle behind her. Umbridge bolted up the stairs for her office where she could barricade herself inside. Her spare wand was in her top drawer and she desperately needed it.
She skidded to a halt and shoved the door open to her office, then slammed the door behind her. Umbridge stumbled her way to her desk, grabbed her spare wand, and magically sealed the door to her office. She tore at her hair as she sat at her desk, trying to make sense of it all. "I am not going mad. I am not going mad." repeated Umbridge aloud.
"Hello Dolores." said a male voice from in front of her.
She jerked her head up and froze at the sight before her. There, sitting in the chair in front of her desk was another faceless figure, wearing black dress robes and a matching fedora.
"I know that you're not my mummy, Dolores." said the figure in a deep masculine voice, tilting his head to one side.
"H-How did you get in here and w-what do you want from me?" squeaked Umbridge as she stared at the figure before her.
The figure flicked his left hand and Umbridge's wand flew from her and landed in front of the figure. The figure casually picked up the wand and placed it inside his robes. Umbridge pushed her chair away from the desk, trying to add space between her and the faceless figure. The figure snapped his fingers and chains erupted from the arms of the chair, binding her arms to it. Umbridge screamed and struggled against the chains, but it was no use.
"Relax Dolores." said the figure. "The more you fight, the worse it will be."
"W-What are you going to do to me?" cried Umbridge.
The figure stood up and walked around the desk to face her. He reached out and grasped her face, pushing it up and back with tremendous strength.
"Your tongue has done much damage throughout your life, Dolores, much like a snake's bite." said the faceless figure, leaning closer to her. "Just like the snakes you serve, its venom is also the cure."
Umbridge looked on in horror as the figure forced her mouth open and held up a small poisonous looking snake in the other hand. She pulled and tugged against the chains until she felt the blood pouring from her wrists.
"This is a rare Egyptian snake, Dolores." said the figure. "It will nest in the dying carcass of an animal and slowly eat away at the animal from the inside then lay its eggs inside the colon. Like some frogs it can be asexual when necessary. Now, I've always wanted to see how it would react inside a human carcass."
Umbridge began screaming at the top of her lungs as the figure positioned the head of the small snake above her mouth.
"It's funny when you think about it." chuckled the figure darkly. "A toad swallowing a snake."
"She ran this way!" shouted Hughes, as he ran up the Grand Staircase.
Harry, Hermione, and the Alliance followed Hughes, McGonagall, Flitwick, and Maxwell up the stairs.
"Bloody hell!" shouted Snape, his robes billowing as he ran up the Grand Staircase, pushing his way past Hermione, and the Alliance; drawing even with Harry. "What have you done now, Potter?"
"Umbridge has been cursed by the fog, Severus." shouted Flitwick from ahead. "We're trying to catch her so we can help her."
Snape gave Harry an accusing glare before shoving past and joining Flitwick and McGonagall. When they reached the third floor, Hermione realized that Umbridge must have headed for her office. 'No telling what she might have in there', pondered Hermione. 'What in Merlin had the Weasleys done to Umbridge?'
When they reached Umbridge's office, Hermione could hear her screaming at the top of her lungs inside.
"You lot, return to the Great Hall NOW!" shouted Snape at the Alliance.
"They are here on my orders, Severus." said McGonagall firmly. "Mr. Potter, let no other students onto this floor while we deal with this."
"Will do, Professor." replied Harry.
"Minerva, she has sealed the door to her office shut." said Professor Flitwick.
"Then we'll have to blast it open." replied McGonagall. "Mr. Hughes, Mr. Maxwell, please assist us."
Snape looked murderous, but turned his attention back to the task at hand as he, Flitwick, McGonagall, Hughes, and Maxwell all raised their wands towards the office door. With an almighty boom that sounded like a cannon blast they blew the door completely off of its hinges. When the dust settled, Hermione saw something that she immediately tried to forget, but failed to miserably. Umbridge was standing inside her office screaming, covered in blood, and trying to swallow a wand.
Professor McGonagall stepped forward and immediately stunned Umbridge who then slumped into the chair behind her. Maxwell quickly moved forward to remove the wand from her mouth before tossing it onto her desk. Professor McGonagall then waved her wand over Umbridge before muttering, "Pig blood."
Umbridge blinked rapidly as she lifted her head up. She was lying in an unfamiliar bed. As she looked around she realized that she was in the hospital wing. The horrors of what had just happened came rushing back to her, causing her to stiffen with rage. 'I'm going to tear the heart out of Potter for this', thought Umbridge furiously. She tried to sit up, but she was far too dizzy to do so.
"Madam Pomphrey, come here at once!" bellowed Umbridge while covering her eyes with her hand.
Umbridge scrambled to sit up, however two sets of hands forcefully shoved her back down by the shoulders. Her breath caught in her chest as she beheld two faceless figures holding her down upon the bed.
"Try to relax mummy. We're going to take good care of you." said the figures in unison.
"Leave me alone." said Umbridge, barely above a whisper.
"What was that, Dolores?"
Umbridge looked down at the end of the bed while she continued to struggle against the faceless figures. There, sat the faceless man in the black fedora.
"S-Stay away!" cried Umbridge, kicking her feet.
"We can't do that, Dolores." said the figure. "Not until you feel better. Can you cough for us?"
Suddenly, Umbridge had the uncontrollable urge to cough. As she coughed, she felt as though she might vomit. Then, with an almighty upheaval, something long and black slithered out of her throat and mouth. A long slimy snake curled up on her chest as she screamed in horror.
"See what's inside you, Dolores?" asked the faceless figure.
"It will be okay, mummy." said the two faceless figures in unison. "We're going to help you mummy get all the bad poison out."
The faceless man suddenly appeared next to her head, holding some vile smelling potion. He grabbed her face with one hand and forced her mouth open once more.
"It's okay, Dolores." said the faceless man as he tipped the potion into her mouth. "This won't burn too much if you swallow quickly."
Umbridge screamed as the purple liquid burned her throat while struggling helplessly against her captors.
Harry paced anxiously in the Room of Requirement as he waited for news of Susan. Once Umbridge had been taken to the hospital wing, Professor McGonagall had ordered that all students return to their common rooms except for the Alliance. After the hallways had cleared of all students and Snape, McGonagall told them to wait for her in the Room of Requirement. Bill and Neville had found Susan unconscious; tied to a chair inside an empty classroom. They had taken her to the hospital wing to be checked over by Madam Pomphrey. McGonagall went to check on Susan and told them to wait for her there.
The other members sat at the table, talking rapidly amongst each other as Harry paced a hole in a large floor rug. A hand grasped him by the shoulder and he turned to see Hermione.
"Why are we waiting in here, Hermione?" growled Harry. "Why didn't I demand to go to the hospital wing with them? Why hasn't anyone returned yet?"
"Stop right there, Harry James Potter." snapped Hermione. "I will not allow you to tear yourself up over this. Whatever happened to Susan is not your fault."
"Hermione, you're the smartest witch I know, but you're wrong." said Harry. "This is my fault. There's no bloody telling what that bitch did to her, and nothing would have happened to her if she hadn't been helping the Alliance."
"They'll be back soon, mate." said Ron, walking over to them with Luna. "If anything happened to Susan, it's my fault."
"You mean our fault." said the twins in unison.
"This is not anyone's fault in this room!" shouted Hermione, causing all to fall silent. "It's Umbitch's fault, plain and simple. No one forced the bloody bitch to do what she's been doing! She's a monster, just like Voldemort. How many physical and emotional scars will Hogwarts students have from her short time here? The answer is too many. The Ministry sent her here, knowing what she was. They are as much to blame as the Dark Lord, for they have caused all of this because Fudge refuses to believe that he has come back."
Hermione did not break down crying like Harry expected. Instead, she folded her hands into fists and set her face with such fury and determination that she looked as though she might explode. Harry always thought she looked even more beautiful when she was angry, but this time she looked quite scary.
"Hermione, Voldemort is only doing this to the Weasleys and to you because of me." said Harry. "If it wasn't for me –"
"Voldemort would have taken over the entire Wizarding world years ago." interrupted Ron.
"Wrong Harry!" spat Hermione. "If it wasn't for that damned prophecy and all the bloody fools that were too thick to see if for what it really was, then your parents would possibly still be alive and you would have never been the Boy-Who-Lived!"
"Hermione," said Lavender "we know that you don't take stock in Divination, but many Seers have –"
"Yes Lavender, I am fully aware that you believe in the studies of Divination," interrupted Hermione "as do many witches and wizards, however I'm not so certain that what was relayed to Voldemort and caused the death of Harry's parents was truly a prophecy."
"Hermione, I heard Professor Trelawney with my own ears predict the return of Voldemort with the help of Peter Pettigrew." said Harry solemnly.
"Which may just prove my point." said Hermione. "Harry, what if someone used Trelawney to send Voldemort after you? Think Harry, isn't it convenient that she has no memories of giving the prophecy?"
Harry scratched his chin while he pondered Hermione's words. 'What if this is all part of Dumbledore's grand scheme to destroy Voldemort', wondered Harry. He knew that Dumbledore was one of the most powerful Wizards of all time. He could easily manipulate Trelawney by any number of methods to produce the desired effect. 'Could Dumbledore have known that his mother would sacrifice herself to save him? Would he have known that Pettigrew would betray his mum and dad?' Harry knew that Dumbledore was brilliant, however he doubted that even he was that intelligent. No, Dumbledore was an opportunist that had taken full advantage of the situation, manipulated or not.
"Why would someone do that?" asked Seamus, joining the conversation.
"To find Voldemort's weakness." replied Hermione. "If Voldemort was paranoid enough to believe that a child could defeat him, then he could be manipulated into anything."
"But Harry did defeat him." interjected Ron.
"Only because his mother sacrificed herself!" spat Hermione. "It's his courage, determination, and care for others that has helped him defeat Lord Voldemort since! I believe in Harry, but not because he's the Boy-Who-Lived! Whoever is behind that damned prophecy is the reason that Voldemort is out to destroy Harry! If he had never heard the prophecy, then it would have never come to pass. And before you ask, it's important that we figure this out 'cause if someone did this, they are not our friend. We're getting ready to thoroughly hack off Voldemort, so we need to know who is on our side."
"Excellent point." said Dean, as the rest of the Alliance gathered round. "You think it was Dumbledore?"
"Let me pose a question." replied Hermione. "In the four years here under the Headmaster, do you ever recall him taking the personal interest that he did in Harry in any other student?"
"He is the Boy-Who-Lived." replied Terry. "I mean, it seemed only natural that he would take special interest."
"Did anything dangerous ever happen at Hogwarts before Harry arrived?" asked Hermione.
"Besides Peeves, it was actually rather a bore round here." replied Angelina.
"Hermione, if you're right, should we be including Dumbledore in our plans?" asked Padma.
"Absolutely." said Harry, hearing enough. "I've faced Voldemort how many times? It's about time the great and powerful Dumbledore has to face the darkest wizard in history."
The group nodded their heads in agreement.
"Too bad we can't cast a disillusionment charm, like that Death Eater." said Seamus thoughtfully.
"It's advanced magic, Seamus." said Hermione. "But we could practice it while we wait."
"No one knows the spell, Hermione." said Fred.
"It's in one of my books." replied Hermione. "I can go get it and we can practice."
"I don't think you should be strolling about the castle right now." said Ron. "McGonagall said that old Fudge and his Ministry scum would be poking around. That's why we're in here."
"I think I could slip over to Gryffindor tower undetected." said Hermione. "I'll just need to borrow Harry's cloak."
Harry considered arguing with her that it was too dangerous; however the look in her eyes told him that it would be a losing effort.
Hermione slipped out of the Room of Requirement while Harry watched the corridor on the Marauder's Map. Once out in the corridor she slipped under the invisibility cloak and began to make her way towards Gryffindor tower. She was almost there when a door opened to her left. Hermione had to jerk to her right to avoid the witch exiting the empty classroom. It was Professor Sinistra and Hermione watched as she looked around as though not wanting to get caught. Hermione snuck a peek inside the classroom as the door closed, but it was completely empty.
Hermione tried to let it go, but Professor Sinistra was acting so out of character that Hermione had to follow. She followed at a distance, so as not to give herself away, as Professor Sinistra made her way down the grand staircase to the fifth floor. There, she entered another classroom and Hermione was just able to slip inside before the door closed.
Once inside, Professor Sinistra took off her traditional teacher's hat that she wore so religiously and let down her long hair with a shake of her head. Her face looked tired and unrested, as though she had been through great turmoil. She took a seat at the teacher's desk and slumped forward, placing her head in her hands.
"I know that you're here." said Professor Sinistra.
Hermione froze; her heart clenching in her chest. Before Hermione could move, another figure appeared in the room, as though stepping from the shadows.
"You wished to see me, Aurora?" inquired Snape silkily as he approached the desk.
"The Dark Lord wishes to speak with you in person." replied Professor Sinistra. "He did not summon you directly for he knew that you would be under much scrutiny right now, with the Ministry here and all."
"Thank you, Aurora." said Snape. "I can assume that he was pleased with your report?"
"Very." replied Professor Sinistra. "I wouldn't keep the Dark Lord waiting, Severus."
Snape sneered then inclined his head before sweeping past Hermione and out the door. Hermione could not believe what she had just heard. She just could not comprehend that Professor Sinistra was a – a Death Eater; a female Death Eater. Slowly, as comprehension dawned, Hermione's shock was replaced with anger; fury that this was the Death Eater that they had been searching for.
Hermione took one step to the side and the floor creaked. Hermione swallowed hard as Professor Sinistra's face turned as stone before a smile slowly traced her face.
"Clever, very clever." murmured Professor Sinistra, looking over towards the door. "I've heard you have a cloak, Potter." She said as she drew her wand. "Why not come out here and we'll have a little chat. Accio Cloak!"
Hermione grabbed the cloak, however it did not budge. It was amazing and she wondered what other enchantments Harry's cloak possessed.
"I could have sworn." murmured Professor Sinistra. "Homenum Revelio!"
Hermione could feel the spell wash over the cloak and waited for the worst. She knew that it would identify her presence to Professor Sinistra. Oddly enough, Hermione watched as Sinistra frowned, twirling her wand in between her fingers.
Just when Hermione thought that she was safe, a sudden overwhelming urge to sneeze came over her. She fought it off as best she could, however a small gasp escaped her lips and Professor Sinistra leaped to her feet at once; her wand pointed in Hermione's direction. Red light burst from the tip and the spell struck the wall behind Hermione's head, causing Hermione to scream.
Hermione withdrew her wand, threw off the cloak, then shouted, "Stupefy!"
Professor Sinistra deflected the spell and countered with a jet of purple light. Hermione dodged the spell and cast several stinging hexes at Professor Sinistra, who deflected them into the far wall; shattering several mirrors and picture frames. She then countered with a series of hexes and curses which Hermione deflected and dodged while looking for her opening. Professor Sinistra fired a blasting curse and Hermione dove behind a student table to avoid the blast as the table behind her shattered; causing Hermione to shield her face with her robes.
"Come now, Granger." chided Professor Sinistra. "You did better than this in the Owlery."
At that moment, something inside Hermione snapped. She rose to her feet and began casting curse after curse at Professor Sinistra; hatred guiding her steps. Professor Sinistra seemed to delight in the change as she deflected, dodged, and countered; her curses becoming more sinister as well. When a jet of green light just missed Hermione, blowing her hair; she let loose a series of curses before intentionally blasting the desk beside Professor Sinistra. The momentary distraction was all Hermione needed. She hit Professor Sinistra's wand hand with a blasting hex; shattering her wand within its grasp. Professor Sinistra screamed in pain before Hermione hit her with a powerful hex that sent her sailing into the wall behind her.
Hermione walked up to the fallen Professor and pointed her wand directly at her heart.
"Go ahead, Granger." spat Professor Sinistra. "You know the curse, so stop holding back! You know you want revenge."
"I used to want revenge." growled Hermione. "However, your Master has given me a new cause. Now, answer me one question: why?"
"You're supposed to be the brightest student here." replied Professor Sinistra. "You know who I am. You know what I've done. You know I'm responsible for Cho Chang's death. I saw the horror on your face as you held her bloody lifeless body in your arms, or have you forgotten that night already?"
"I'LL NEVER FORGET!" screamed Hermione. "Aveda –"
"NO!" shouted Harry as he burst into the classroom and shoved Hermione's wand hand down.
Moments later, Ron, Luna, Seamus, and the rest of the Alliance piled into the classroom, looking around as though expecting to be running into a fight.
"WHY DID YOU STOP ME?" shouted Hermione, only inches from Harry's face.
"Killing in cold blood when your opponent is defeated and lying on the floor is murder, Hermione." said Harry calmly. "You're not a murderer; I know you."
Hermione did not respond, though her eyes still burned with fury as she stared at Harry. Hermione would not risk the lives of her friends by allowing this Death Eater to live.
"Go ahead then and give her a wand." spat Hermione. "I will not allow her to harm anyone else!"
"Once this witch has told all she knows; then we'll let someone else decide her fate." said Harry.
"This witch?" repeated Professor Sinistra, still slumped against the wall. "Of course you'll let someone else do your dirty work, Potter. You don't have the guts to do it yourself."
"MERLIN!" shouted Professor McGonagall, as she, Dean, and Bill Weasley entered the classroom.
"Got here as soon as we could, Harry." panted Dean. "Luckily, Fudge had already left when I got to the hospital wing."
"Bloody hell!" hissed Bill, staring at Professor Sinistra. "I don't understand. Why you?"
"So surprised." laughed Professor Sinistra. "I'm sure you're not surprised, Minerva."
All eyes darted from Professor Sinistra to McGonagall.
"Ms. Johnson, please seal the door to this room." said McGonagall firmly.
Angelina immediately sealed the door and rejoined the group.
"How very disappointing." sighed Professor McGonagall in a tone that expressed sadness. "No Aurora, I'm not. Sad... disappointed... yes. I thought you had risen above this potential."
McGonagall raised her wand and pointed it at Professor Sinistra. Ropes shot from it's tip and laced themselves around Professor Sinistra, like snakes; binding her from shoulders to ankles.
"B-But why?" asked Angelina as she stared at Professor Sinistra.
"Professor Sinistra's father is a Pureblood Supremacist." replied McGonagall, still staring at Professor Sinistra. "She had convinced me and Dumbledore that she did not share her family's views. Isn't that correct, Aurora?"
"I didn't lie, Minerva." replied Professor Sinistra. "I had turned my back on my Pureblood family values years before I came to work here."
"Then what happened?" asked McGonagall.
"Granger and Potter happened." spat Sinistra. "Because of them, my aunt suffered a fate worse than death!"
"What did we do?" scoffed Harry.
"Have you forgotten her already, Potter?" replied Sinistra. "You used to hate going to her home, so I guess you were really pleased when you heard what happened."
Hermione saw the dawning comprehension on Harry's face as he took a step back away from the fallen Sinistra. She too had realized who Sinistra's aunt must be.
"Arabella Figg was your aunt?" gasped McGonagall, her hand clutching her chest.
"Minerva, you need to ask yourself how many things Dumbledore didn't tell you." retorted Sinistra. "Yes, she was my aunt. She was kind and intelligent. My mother and I would go visit her when my father was out of the country on business. He resented her being a Squib. He believed that she was a shame upon our Pureblood heritage."
"Even so, you cannot possibly blame Mr. Potter and Ms. Granger for what happened to your aunt!" said McGonagall in disbelief. "They would have never knowingly allowed your aunt to face those Dementors alone! None of us would have!"
"That's where you're wrong, Minerva." spat Sinistra. "Dumbledore knew that watching over Harry Potter was a dangerous post, so he put someone expendable there to do it. She could keep an eye on Potter without arousing any unwanted attention and if something happened, well she wasn't much loss to Dumbledore."
"That is where you are wrong, Aurora." said McGonagall. "Professor Dumbledore regretted what happened to your aunt and held himself personally responsible. She was his friend."
"Then why didn't he tell me?" asked Sinistra. "My mother was the one that sent word to me of what had happened. I was here at the castle preparing this year's lessons when it happened! I saw Dumbledore – spoke to him in the hallways and at supper! He purposely hid the attack on my aunt from me! At that moment, I realized that the so-called Leader of The Light was no different than the Dark Lord and his followers. Why continue to alienate myself from my family when Dumbledore was no better? What was there to gain from standing against those that bore me no ill will if the supposed heroes were just as bad? So, I vowed my allegiance to the Dark Lord and when my opportunity arose for revenge, I took it."
"You think Voldemort cares what happened to your aunt?" asked Harry coldly.
"No, but he would have never enlisted her to do his dirty work." replied Sinistra.
"Why are you telling us this?" asked Hermione, wondering what she had to gain.
"So that you know what you've done!" spat Sinistra. "If it wasn't for you, my aunt and your Cho Chang would still be alive! An eye for an eye."
"What do we do with her?" asked Bill, who looked quite vengeful.
"Well, the Minister has temporarily left me in charge of Hogwarts while Umbridge is treated for her condition." said McGonagall. "So until I can finish my investigation we will place Professor Sinistra in the topmost tower under the sanctions of the school." McGonagall gave a wry grin then glanced at Harry. "I believe the earthy Muggle phrase for this is 'house arrest'."
Bill, Fred, and George escorted Professor Sinistra up to the topmost tower for detainment until after the weekend. If their rescue mission was a success, then they would have Hughes present Professor Sinistra to the Ministry as Cho's real killer and clear Ginny's name. Of course if all went to plan, the entire world would know of Lord Voldemort's return.
Harry, Hermione and members of the Alliance made their way down to the hospital wing to visit Susan. Upon arriving, Hermione was shocked to find that Hughes and Maxwell were involved in an intense discussion with Madam Pomphrey.
"Until we know the complete contents of the potion that was in that fog, we will have no real clue – now will we, Mr. Hughes?" said Madam Pomphrey defensively. "My findings will be complete by tomorrow evening. It was a very complex potion indeed."
"Sorry, Madam Pomphrey, but I'm just concerned for the safety of the students." said Hughes firmly.
"She will not be moved from this wing and my care until I can determine whether it is the affects of the potion or something else entirely." retorted Madam Pomphrey. "No matter how vile, she is still a human being. Place whatever wards necessary around her... tie her to the bed if you must, but she stays here!"
Hermione glanced at Harry who looked as concerned as she felt. They both turned to look at Fred and George who looked just as perplexed.
"Excuse me, Madam Pomphrey," said Luna "is it safe for us to visit Susan?"
Madam Pomphrey started, as though she was just now aware of their presence in the room.
"Normally, I would say only four at a time, however normal has taken a holiday around here." sighed Madam Pomphrey. "You may see her, but stay on this end of the wing. Go nowhere near Professor Umbridge, understand?"
The group nodded before heading over to see Susan, who looked to be sitting up in bed; Neville in a chair next to her.
"Sorry I wasn't able to come help." said Neville, standing up to greet them. "Professor McGonagall told me to stay here and watch out for Susan in case Umbitch went mental again."
Hermione looked down the wing at the curtained off area where Hughes and Maxwell now stood guard.
"What did she do to you, Susan?" asked Lavender.
"T-The Cruciatus curse." shivered Susan.
"That bloody bitch! Ouch!" hissed Ron, as Luna jabbed him in the side.
"Language Ron." said Luna dreamily.
"When that didn't work, she turned to Veritaserum." continued Susan.
The mood about Susan's bed became very solemn. Hermione glanced around to see that everyone, including Harry, looked murderous. Harry took her hand in his for comfort and she could feel his silent rage as his magic pulsed angrily.
"Then fate be giving the bitch her reward." growled Seamus.
"Well, at least that's two witches out of commission." sighed Parvati.
"What happened? Did you catch the Death Eater?" asked Susan, leaning forward.
"Yeah, Hermione caught the Death Eater." replied Harry coldly. "It was Professor Sinistra."
"WHAT?" squeaked Susan, signalling a visit from Madam Pomphrey.
"I will not have you lot exciting Ms. Bones." said Madam Pomphrey firmly.
"Sorry, Madam Pomphrey." said Susan, leaning back. "Please don't send them away. I promise to remain calm."
Madam Pomphrey looked from Susan to the Alliance with the sourest of expressions.
"Very well," said Madam Pomphrey "but one more disturbance and I will insist that all of you leave. Understood?"
"It won't happen again." promised Harry.
Madam Pomphrey bustled away back to her office, glancing two or three times over her shoulder at them along the way.
"I cannot believe that Professor Sinistra was the Death Eater!" whispered Susan.
"Believe it." said Ron. "She confessed the whole thing before they took her up to the topmost tower. My brother Bill is standing guard. He and the other Curse Breakers will be taking turns watching her."
"He's our brother too, Ron." said Fred, in a mischievous tone.
"Don't tell me the truce is off already." said Dean.
"There's no truce." said George.
"We respect our younger sibling now." said Fred.
"Besides, now I can take a joke." said Ron grinning mischievously.
"Good, cause we're all going to have to be on top of our game." said Harry.
"I agree, Mr. Potter." said Madam Bones, striding up beside Susan's bed.
"Aunt Amelia!" squeaked Susan. "What are you doing here?"
Hermione looked nervously at Harry; however he was staring at Madam Bones with determination. She then realized that Madam Bones had only glanced in Susan's direction before returning her gaze to Harry.
"While it is clear that Professor Umbridge has temporarily taken leave of her senses," began Madam Bones "I would like to know why Madam Longbottom has turned a simple evening tomorrow night with just myself into a dinner party. It is completely unlike her to do such at short notice. Do you believe that I, along with the immediate family members of your group are in danger?"
Harry stared at Susan's aunt; however he did not say a word. Hermione could tell that he was weighing what to say very carefully. The silence that spread through the group around Susan's bed was deafening.
"No need to answer, Mr. Potter." continued Madam Bones with a smile. "You do not need to convince me. I will be attending the dinner party and at the very least, have an enjoyable evening. Madam Longbottom asked me to inform you that all will be in attendance."
Madam Bones then turned her attention to Susan.
"Why?" asked Harry, to Hermione's horror.
"Forgive me?" retorted Madam Bones, turning back to look at Harry.
"Why ask, then say I do not need to reply?" asked Harry.
"Your expressions were all the answers I needed." replied Madam Bones. "Besides, I'm trusting the word of an old friend that my presence is most needed." With another smile she turned back to Susan. "Now Susan, how –"
Harry, Hermione, and the Alliance whipped around as a terrible crashing sound came from the end of the hospital wing, followed by the most mentally scarring sound Hermione had ever heard – Umbridge laughing.
Madam Bones sprinted down the wing alongside Madam Pomphrey with the Alliance close behind. The scene that befell them was as disturbing as any Muggle horror movie. The curtained off area was in shambles; Hughes and Maxwell with their wands pointed at Umbridge, who sat on the floor smiling broadly and laughing joyfully; her now purple eyes staring off merrily.
"What happened?" asked Madam Bones.
"She... she... she..." stammered Hughes, as though reliving a vile moment.
"What man? What did she do?" demanded Madam Bones.
"She jumped out of her bed and hugged him from behind." said Maxwell, staring at Umbridge.
Madam Bones' mouth slackened at the thought.
"MY CHILDREN LOVE ME!" shouted Umbridge, a manic look upon her face; laughing joyfully. "They love me, they really do. All my children love me. All my faceless children love me. Why shouldn't they love me? I'M THEIR MUMMY!"
"Bloody hell." muttered Luna.
Harry decided against meeting again with the Alliance that night to train, so he told them to try and get some rest and that they would meet up first thing in the morning before breakfast to go over the plans one last time. Many thankful nods told him he had made the right decision. Today had been both stressful and triumphant at the same time, however after three days of tension a little decompression was needed before the task at hand.
Attempting to clear his head, Harry asked Hermione to go for a walk with him before returning to Gryffindor Tower. She happily accepted, though Harry could see the troubled thoughts behind those beautiful eyes that he loved. For over a half hour they wandered the school, hand-in-hand, slipping behind suits of armour or into side passages whenever they heard someone approaching. Hermione suggested using his invisibility cloak, but Harry did not want the constraints of hiding under it while they walked.
"Are we making a mistake?" whispered Hermione as they made their way down a sixth floor corridor.
"I dunno." whispered Harry. "I mean, I know it's risky, but what other choice do we have? Who else is going to rescue them and we cannot do it alone."
"I meant us." whispered Hermione, staring at the floor as they walked.
Harry furrowed his brow as he realized what Hermione was inferring. He immediately spotted a nearby classroom and dragged her inside; closing the door and casting the now normal set of spells upon it.
"What do you mean by us being a mistake?" asked Harry calmly, though his heart was racing.
"You heard Professor Sinistra." replied Hermione through tear filled eyes. "Her aunt died because I gave in to Malfoy's manipulation. Then she became a Death Eater which resulted in Cho's death and will possibly result in Ginny's as well. I've put everyone at risk over my parents and they may not even still be alive! Worst of all, I was selfishly jubilant that all of this brought me and you together!"
Hermione fell to her knees, sobbing into her hands.
"I would have killed her if you hadn't showed up!" sobbed Hermione. "I don't deserve you!"
Harry knelt down in front of her before wrapping his arms around her tightly. Hermione wailed into his shoulder, wrapping her arms around his waist. He patiently waited for her to calm down before speaking.
"Hermione," began Harry, causing her to hold him tighter "this morning I had a nightmare. In my nightmare, everyone that I knew was dead – everyone except you. When I realized this, I felt relief sweep over me that you were alive then guilt for being happy. If you being happy that this brought us together is wrong, then I'm no better than you."
Hermione slowly pushed away from Harry, so that she could look at him face-to-face. Tears were streaking his face now, as he looked into the sorrowful face of the only girl he could possibly ever see himself with.
"What if... what if my parents and Ginny are already dead? What if we're leading our friends to their doom?" asked Hermione, gazing hard into his eyes.
"Our friends are the Alliance, and they want to fight." replied Harry solemnly. "Together, we stand a chance. We either wait for Voldemort to fulfill his plans or we strike."
"What if this is what he wants?" asked Hermione firmly.
Harry took her hands in his, as a cold feeling filled his chest. "If this is what he wants, then next time I won't stop you."
They stared into each other's eyes, their chests rising and falling in unison. Finally, Harry pulled her into another embrace. He knew that she was the brightest witch he had ever met and he also knew that he was sharing her doubt. If this was all in vain and merely a plot to draw him out, no Death Eater he met would walk away if he could help it. Hermione shifted slightly in his arms and he knew she felt his rage pulsing his magic.
Hermione pulled away from him and wiped her eyes as she pushed herself to her feet. She then reached out an open hand to him.
"Harry, will you come with me?" asked Hermione.
"What's wrong?" asked Harry as he took her hand; standing up as well.
"Nothing." replied Hermione. "But will you come with me? Please don't ask any questions."
Harry nodded, and followed her out of the classroom and up the grand staircase. It wasn't until they reached the seventh floor that Harry thought he understood where they were going. She stopped in front of the blank stretch of wall that hid the entrance to the Room of Requirement, then turned, closed her eyes, and paced back and forth in front of the wall three times. Immediately upon the third pass a door appeared.
Hermione took Harry by the hand and led him through the door. The room looked unlike any form of the room that he had seen before. It was larger than normal, with rows of books all about. Only a solitary corner of the room was untouched by books. In this corner sat a small sofa and a large four-poster bed.
"Harry, if this is the last night we have left then I don't want to spend it alone." said Hermione. "If all we do is hold each other then that will be okay with me. I just want to be with you."
Harry pulled Hermione into another hug; kissing the top of her bushy brown hair. The stress of the task ahead bore down on his chest like a heavy iron fist; yet holding her in his arms eased the pain.
"Okay, but given the circumstances I think we need to let someone know where we are." said Harry into the top of her bushy head.
"Okay, Harry." replied Hermione into his chest, clearly not wanting to let go.
"Dobby." said Harry.
"Master Harry called for Dobby?" asked the tiny elf excitedly.
Hermione released her hold from around Harry's waist and took a hold of his hand instead.
"Yes, Dobby, I did." replied Harry. "I was wondering if you could inform Neville Longbottom that if the Alliance needs us, we will be in the Room of Requirement, though not the usual room. Because of this, they will need to send word by either the fake galleons or by you. Would you do this for me?"
"Awe sir! Dobby has such a wonderful master!" squeaked Dobby, bouncing on his heels. "He asks of Dobby when he could command Dobby to do anything. Of course, Master Harry. Dobby will inform Neville Longbottom. Is there anything else that Master Harry needs?"
"No Dobby, I believe that everything I need is right here. Thank you." replied Harry, smiling at Hermione.
Dobby smiled as he bowed low, then with another CRACK he was gone. Harry guided Hermione over to the sofa, where they removed only their robes before sitting down. Hermione chose to sit in his lap and wrap her arms around his neck while laying her head on his shoulder. Harry didn't mind and wrapped his arms around her waist.
"Promise me that you'll stay the Harry I love, no matter what." said Hermione into his ear.
"I promise that no matter what happens, I'll always be your Harry." said Harry.
Not much else was said between them; not much was needed. Harry knew that Hermione knew him well enough to understand a promise was all she needed. Promises were the most important things to Harry, for so many had been made to him and broken in his life. When he made a promise, he kept it. Dobby returned long enough to inform him that Neville was told and that he in turn sent word that he would be staying in the hospital wing as long as he could until Madam Pomphrey chucked him out. Harry requested Dobby to wake them at five-thirty in the morning, though adjusted it to six when Hermione hissed in his ear.
Later that evening, Harry and Hermione retired to the four-poster bed. It felt natural to hold Hermione in his arms; to feel her breathing as her chest rose and fell. When they finally fell asleep or how long they slept, he wasn't sure. All he knew was that he fell asleep feeling her fingers intertwined with his and thinking that anyone who tried to take this from him would die.
Night fell upon a sleepy little town in Northern Scotland. Up and down the streets, post lights flickered into being. The haze of the day still lingered in the air. The bustle of motor cars slowly faded away as more and more people achieved their destinations. In the outskirts the sound of greetings could be heard as many neighbours waved at fellow weary travellers after a long day.
In an alley near Durget Drive a cat shrieked and leapt from it's perch atop a crate. A man dressed in robes and wrapped in a hooded travelling cloak had suddenly appeared. He stepped quickly from the alley and proceeded up Durget Drive. At the top of the Drive sat a stately manor house encompassed by a massive stone wall. The way into the grounds was impeded by tall rout iron kissing gates.
The cloaked figure approached the gate and pressed his left forearm against the middle. There were a number of metallic clicks and the gates swung inward. As he travelled up the garden path he could hear the crashing of the waves from the cliff-side that rose just above the manor house. Atop the cliff-side sat the ruins of an old castle; no doubt built centuries ago to protect the coast from invaders.
The man approached the front door of the manor. Just as he reached it, the door swung open to bid him pass. He stepped inside the foyer and was cast into shadow by the numerous gas lamps that lit the massive house. A grand staircase rose up in front of him to the upper landing. To the right of the staircase glowed the light of a crackling fireplace emanating from the study door that sat uncharacteristically ajar. As he approached the study he could hear three male voices, deep conversation. He paused outside the door and cleared his throat to announce his arrival.
"Ah, Severus." said the high cold voice of Lord Voldemort. "Do come in and join us."
Immediately, the three Death Eaters in the room fell silent as Snape entered. He instantly recognized McNair and Rookwood, while the third Death Eater was unfamiliar to him.
"My Lord," said Snape, approaching the desk and sweeping into a low bow "you summoned me?"
"Leave us." said Voldemort to the other Death Eaters, who did not waste any time vacating the room.
Snape stared at the floor, as he prepared his mind for the onslaught attack that was about to begin.
"Severus, since my return in the graveyard I've been contemplating the errors in judgment I made in the past." said Voldemort.
Snape glanced at Lord Voldemort, then let his eyes fall back to the floor. It wasn't like the Dark Lord to admit when he was wrong. This simple fact scared Snape more than anything Voldemort had ever done before. At that moment he wondered if he would leave Slytherin Manor that night still breathing.
"My Lord, I know of no –" began Snape, but Voldemort cut him off.
"Three times I have attempted to kill the boy and yet I have been unsuccessful." said Voldemort coldly. "Do you know why, Severus?"
"No, my Lord. I do not." replied Snape, his mouth dry.
"In my haste to destroy the thing that threatened I, Lord Voldemort, the greatest wizard of all time; I missed the simple magic." said Voldemort. "Now, I understand. You see, Potter is my opposite. While I, Lord Voldemort, seek to unravel the secrets of magic and tap the core power of life itself; Potter seeks to love – and be loved. Potter draws from all those around him to feed his magic; old magic."
Voldemort rose and circled the desk; stopping mere inches from Snape.
"You understand old magic, Severus." said Voldemort softly.
"My Lord?" questioned Snape, not lifting his eyes from the floor.
"What do you think of my new statue, Severus?" asked Voldemort.
Snape lifted his eyes to see Voldemort pointing to something behind him. Cautiously, Snape turned around to see what the Dark Lord was speaking of. The moment his eyes fell upon the statue he felt a stabbing pain in his chest. The eyes; the hair; the face; those lips. Snape nearly staggered as he took in the statue of Lily Evans that stood nearest the fireplace.
"Severus." said Voldemort softly.
As Snape turned to face the Dark Lord, he realized – a little too late, that his Occlumency shields had faltered. Before he could stop, it was over.
"Lucius explained to me what I had missed fourteen years ago, Severus." said Voldemort, folding his hands together in front of his chest. "I, Lord Voldemort, who only desired one thing, had missed your feeble desire. You allowed that desire, Severus, to poison you against me. But I offer you one last chance; for you can still be of use to me."
Snape felt broken, as he stood defenceless before the darkest wizard in history. The Dark Lord knew everything now. His vows to Lily's grave to keep her son safe had been exposed. His life as Dumbledore's spy was over, yet he was still alive. Voldemort still had need of him and now he had to make a choice; to honour his love for Lily and die, or close his heart and do whatever the Dark Lord wished.
"What would you have me do, my Lord?" asked Snape, as he bowed his head and closed his eyes.
"First, you will take a vow, Severus; then there is someone I need you to kill." hissed Lord Voldemort.
"Whatever you command, my Lord." said Snape, as a single tear traced his greasy face.