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Introduction:

harry potter
Having spent the entire day avoiding all of his friends, Ron decided to skip dinner completely. Ignoring his rumbling stomach, he changed out of his school robes and into jeans and a sweatshirt before collapsing across his bed and staring angrily at the ceiling. Life wasn’t fair… it was a concept he’d been confronted with over and over, he didn’t understand why it continued to surprise him. He was tired of being offered the promise of happiness only to have it ripped away. Okay, so maybe he’d never had a chance with Hermione… but Luna had been his, they’d been in love and either one or both of them had ruined it. But he’d wanted to pick up the pieces after, she was the one who’d been so convinced it was over. And this year- at one point he’d thought Parvati was just the distraction he’d needed, that he could grow closer with her and make something of it… And then Jacinda Nicolau had walked into his life… It had seemed a miracle that she’d returned his interest in her, but then she left and worse, Parvati had been taken away and was now suffering who knew what fate because he hadn’t been vigilant to her and her needs as he should have been. After all, he’d agreed to begin dating her before he even knew Jacey existed, Parvati should have been his first concern.

Ron slammed his fists down on the bed, tired of feeling guilty and mad and frustrated. Maybe he needed a friend right now after all, someone to talk to and help get some of this off his chest. Harry had claimed to want to listen… but that had been while he’d come to defend Luna’s honor. He didn’t really feel like talking about any of this to the guy who was now in all probability sleeping with his first love.

He sat up at the sudden sharp knock on his door and quickly strengthened the shields around his mind, figuring Harry had somehow picked up on his thoughts and was now coming to hash things out. Taking a deep breath in preparation, he got up and went to the door ready to tell whoever it was to go away… but when he opened it, no one was there.

"Boo!" Jacey’s head suddenly appeared out of nowhere as she laughed heartily at his reaction. Fully pulling off the invisibility cloak, she walked right past him into his room and turned to him with a dazzling smile. "Are you not glad to see me?"

"I’ll let you know as soon as I get my heart going again." He closed the door and faced her nervously. "What are you doing back here?"

"Turns out my business does not take me as far from the castle as I had thought. I was having the opportunity to come see you tonight and so I took it." She answered, suddenly having trouble meeting his gaze. "Harry has told me what happened with Parvati and that you are sad. I am so sorry about this."

"It’s not your fault." Ron sighed, slightly upset to discover that Harry had sent her to see him.

She walked over and took his hand. "It could be though… there is something I should tell you about."

"I don’t want to hear it." He quickly shook his head and squeezed her hand. "I’ve been over it and over it in my head for the last two days, Parvati’s parents arrived today and are staying in the castle until we find her… it’s already too much right now. I don’t want to know anymore unless you can tell me exactly where she is."

"I cannot." She said sadly.

"Then I don’t want to know. You’re here, that’s enough."

"Is it?" Jacey smiled and Ron felt himself blush.

"Well, uh… I mean, um…"

She laughed and put her finger to his lips, silencing his attempt to explain. Then she smiled coyly, staring into his eyes before leaning in to lightly brush her lips against his. "Perfect." She whispered as she leaned back with her eyes closed and a soft smile playing at the corners of her mouth.

"Am I dreaming?" He asked breathlessly, unable to believe what was taking place.

"‘I have had a dream, past the wit of man to say what dream it was.’" She whispered, quoting Shakespeare.

Feeling confident, Ron leaned in and fully captured her lips. His boldness was instantly rewarded as she returned the kiss, wrapping her arms around his neck to press herself against him. And then the carpet was ripped out from under him as she pulled away, ending the best thing he’d ever begun to experience.

"I can not stay." She said, looking away almost guiltily while hugging her arms around herself. "I just wanted to tell you, to let you know that I am not forgetting you."

Recalling that Parvati was still missing, Ron began to feel rather guilty himself for indulging in such brash behavior. "Trust me, I can’t forget about you either." He said, picking up the cloak and handing it to her.

Her hand lingered over his as she took it from him. "Just remember, if you are needing to talk to someone, I am not far… If you call out to me-" She reached out and tapped her finger against his forehead before ruffling his hair. "-I will most likely hear you and if I do, I promise I will answer."

"But you can’t stay tonight?" He asked, both hoping and fearing she would agree to stay.

Jacey shook her head. "It would not be wise I think." She flung the cloak around herself so that only her head remained visible. "Until next time, I hope you think well of me."

"That’s the only way I think of you." He smiled, opening the door so she could walk through. Once in the hallway she pulled up the hood and once more disappeared out of his life… But this time she’d left him with the promise of a way to reach her at any time he wanted, though he wondered if she was aware that he wanted her around all the time.

(BREAK)

"I feel like the worst guardian ever." Lupin sighed as he led the way through the woods. "I mean I’ve been legally bound to ensure your well-being-" He turned to look at Draco, "-and Harry your parents are counting on me to help look after you, yet here we all are on a midnight stroll through the Forbidden Forest to dispose of a body… I can’t keep James and Lily from finding out obviously, but not a word of this gets back to Tonks, got it?" He asked very seriously.

Draco shared an amused grin with Potter as both boys agreed to keep Tonks in the dark. Lupin led them deep into the woods, letting the boys handle the task of floating Tristan along as the man had claimed it to be their mess to clean up, he was simply there to see that they did it right. The corpse was hidden under Draco’s invisibility cloak as Potter had leant his to Jacey, but the further they went, the more difficulty they were having in maintaining the spell to keep it in the air. "Haven’t we gone far enough?" He asked, not wanting to have to actually carry Tristan’s body.

"I suppose we have. No one should be able to see the fire from here." Lupin replied, stopping their progress. "Besides, there’s a big Ash Tree right over there."

Letting the corpse drop to the ground, he went with Potter to help gather enough wood for the task ahead of them. While they did that, Lupin began making a ring of stones around Tristan, instructing the boys to cover the vampire completely with the wood. When they were finished, Draco wiped the sweat from his brow and removed his coat despite the frigid temperature.

"Now we light it?" Potter asked grimly.

"Actually, there’s something else that comes first… It’s pretty gruesome so I think I’ll handle this." Lupin replied unhappily, looking as if whatever he was about to do was the last thing on earth he wanted to be a part of.

Both boys watched with a sort of twisted fascination as he bent down and moved the sticks away from Tristan’s head and pulled the vampire’s mouth open while ignoring the jagged pieces of wood still sticking out of his eyes. Picking up one of the pieces of Ash next to him, Lupin turned away before solidly jamming it down Tristan’s throat. "We have to be sure to get the fire down inside him too." He said, quickly covering the head back up. "And now we light it."

All three pointed their wands and stepped back as the pile of wood exploded within the stone circle. This was the last phase of their dark deed and Draco was glad that Ginny had chosen to follow Luna’s lead and stay behind. He didn’t even really want to be a witness to this, it was better that one of them have the piece of mind to never have to relive this moment. Tristan’s skin seemed to sizzle and almost scream as the Ash wood burned down. Lupin had of course been right about how the wood would weaken the vampire’s natural defenses… but they stayed until there was nothing before them but a glowing pile of embers, just to be sure.

(BREAK)

Fred woke up to his mother pounding on his door. Groaning in displeasure, he buried his head under the pillow and willed her to go away… unfortunately no one’s will was as strong as Molly’s. "Come on Fred, get up!" She called as she continued to bang away on the door.

With a loud grunt he threw his pillow away and unwillingly got out of bed. Flinging open the door, he regarded his mother warily. "What?" He demanded, too tired to care about being rude.

"And a good morning to you too, though it’s nearly lunch time." She returned. "You really should get to bed earlier dear."

"I’ll work on that." He said sarcastically as he rubbed his face and yawned. In all honesty, he never would have fallen asleep if his body hadn’t just given up and passed out on him sometime in the early morning hours. But since he had gone to sleep, he was irritated with her for ruining it. "Was there something you wanted?"

"Something Lee wanted actually." She replied huffily, thrusting an envelope at him. "A ministry guard showed up with this for you a few minutes ago. Said Lee needs you at the shop. The guard is still down there, waiting to take you."

"Okay, I’ll be right down." He promised, suddenly wide awake as a wave of nervous nausea washed over him. Closing the door on her, he tore open the envelope but the note inside wasn’t helpful- it was simply a request that he come to the store as soon as possible. That wasn’t like Lee at all, if there was a problem he wasn’t afraid to complain about it in full detail.

Throwing the useless note aside, he rushed to get dressed and brush his teeth, simply running his fingers through his hair as he hurried down the stairs. Grabbing his coat and kissing his mother goodbye, he left the house and climbed into the waiting ministry car. It took every ounce of self-control he had not to just apparate from the backseat to the store, but not knowing what awaited him he knew it was better to arrive with an actual Auror.

They parked outside the Leaky Cauldron and hurried through to Diagon Alley, trying to rush without being noticeable as they made their way to the store. Fred was surprised to find it closed up, with the shades drawn and the front door locked. "Hey, come in there with me, okay?" Fred asked the guard, pulling out both his wand and his keys.

"What do you think is going on?" He asked as he took out his own wand.

"I don’t know, but it’s not good." Fred unlocked the door and let the other man go in ahead of him. Fear tingled along his nerves as he followed, but the showroom was empty and nothing seemed out of place. "Lee?" He called out nervously.

"Maybe the office?" The guard suggested tensely, heading down the hallway and opening the door. "Hey! He’s in here!"

He rushed over, entering the office to find Lee spread out on the floor and bleeding from a wound on his head. Kneeling beside him, Fred was able to see that his friend was still breathing. "He’s alive." He assured the guard who was busy searching the closet for enemies.

"Okay, apply pressure to his wound." The man replied, moving to the door. "I’ll call for backup."

"I’m sorry, I can’t let you do that." Elanya appeared suddenly from the hallway and before either could react, she drew her wand and cursed the man to death. "Hello Fred." She turned her wand on him as he pointed his at her.

"What are you doing here?" He demanded, trying his best to ignore the now dead man laying a few feet away. "And what did you do to Lee?"

"I never was very good at the Imperious curse, and he fought against it the whole time." She shook her head regretfully. "I mean I got him to write the note and hand it off, but he finally broke free of my influence. I certainly didn’t want to kill one of your friends but I had to shut him up somehow. Don’t worry, it’s just a nasty bump on the head."

"You had no qualms about killing that innocent man." He pointed out, still not looking at the fallen guard.

She shrugged. "Neither of us knew him, what does it matter as long as he’s out of the way?"

"You’re a very cold person."

"Perhaps." She shrugged again. "Perhaps I just need to find the right positive influence."

"And perhaps you’re just bat shit crazy." He replied meanly, wanting to leave her in no doubt as to his opinion of her.

"You could be right… time will tell." She smiled coyly. "Don’t worry, someone will come along to clean up my mess after we leave. Come on, I’m only giving us an hour."

"Come on where? And an hour to do what?" He scrambled to his feet and stood protectively in front of Lee.

"We’re going to your vault in the bank and then I’m giving us a limit of one hour to shop for all the clothes and supplies we’ll need to disappear… and then we’ll disappear." She laughed.

"Today?!" He asked in a panic. "But… but you said Friday… and Willem isn’t here." He argued, desperate for the extra two days she’d promised.

"I see, you want me to play by the rules while you run around breaking them? Thanks to you, Willem can no longer be a part of this…" Elanya scolded. "You didn’t play the game right."

"What are you talking about? What rule did I break?" He asked desperately.

"You told people about all of this… you involved Hermione Granger and so now the rules have changed. We are leaving today Fred and you will play the game correctly from now on or she will serve the penalty."

"If she knows what you’re up to, then she’ll certainly be on guard for you or your spy." He spat out, hating how helpless and angry he felt.

"Everyone must sleep sometime." She sneered.

"Meaning?"

"I’m sure Harry and Luna informed you of the trip to Azkaban and I’m sure they told you that they know it was Sarah working through Cho… All Sarah needs is a location and an unconscious vessel that she could make do anything at all, from hurting someone else to taking a walk off the top of the highest tower at Hogwarts. It doesn’t matter how guarded Hermione Granger is, she can’t stay awake forever."

Fred glared at her as his brain worked overtime trying to figure a way out of this, or at best, a way to warn Hermione and perhaps have Luna or Harry try to help protect her mind while she slept. Feeling the weight of the compact in his pocket, he wondered how long it would be until he could find the time to use it.

"I’ll take your silence as begrudging acceptance." Elanya said, offering him a falsely sweet smile. "And before you get those wheels turning too fast, I won’t be giving you the opportunity to warn your little girlfriend or your special friends about any of this. We’ve thought of everything and neither Harry nor Luna will be given the chance to help." It was almost as if she could read his mind though he knew that wasn’t the case, she was simply being thorough in explaining the hopelessness of his situation. Using extreme will, Fred was able to keep from reaching in his pocket and grabbing the compact to gain a sense of comfort. Instead he used the fact that Luna was already helping and could therefore involve Harry to calm himself.

"Okay." He finally broke his silence. "You got me, I admit it. Let’s go."

Elanya regarded him suspiciously. "Just like that? I expected a little more resistance."

"What more do you want?" He cried, throwing his arms out in frustration. "You win! You’ve beaten all the fight out of me! What am I supposed to do? One wrong move on my part and it means something bad for Ron or Ginny or Hermione… so okay, I agree to the terms. Let’s just go already!"

"Give me your wand." She demanded, holding out her hand. In the only small act of defiance he could manage, Fred threw it at her feet instead. She smirked with amusement as she bent to retrieve it, putting both wands in her purse. "There’s just one more thing." She pulled out a strange looking device with tons of lights and gauges.

"What is that thing?" He asked as she approached him.

"Just relax and stand still." She ordered, waving the thing over him from his head to his feet. It suddenly started lighting up and beeping like crazy as she moved it over his pocket. "You have a communication device." She grinned.

"No I don’t." He lied unconvincingly, even in his own ears.

Elanya nodded. "Put it on the desk."

Fred hesitated. The compact was the only reason he’d so readily agreed to go with her, figuring he’d be able to use it at some point and alert the others to his predicament.

"Come on, you don’t want to start breaking rules already, do you?" She taunted.

She really had won, without giving him a way to warn Hermione, Ron and Ginny, she had his complete obedience and she knew it. Reluctantly he pulled the compact from his pocket and placed it on the desk. Elanya picked up the glass paperweight, leaving Fred to watch as she smashed the compact into pieces. "That’s seven years bad luck." He said numbly.

"Really? Because I feel my luck is starting to change for the better." She laughed as she brushed the pieces to the floor and stepped on them for good measure. "There was no way you were walking out of here with that anyway. I told you, we thought of everything."

 

 

NOTE: Uh oh… now what’s Fred going to do? Stay tuned for more chapters to find out...
Chapter 50: Searching for the Lost

A/N: Well, so much for my hope to have the characters out of Hogwarts by chapter 50 J So much to deal with here so go ahead, Read, Review and Enjoy!

 

Hermione had woken with an uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach. By the end of her last class the feeling had tripled and she was now sick with concern, having been unable to reach Fred all day. "Hey, are you okay?" Harry asked quietly as they walked back to their dorm together.

"I’m fine." She answered tensely.

"Really? Because I can’t feel my hand anymore…" He lightly joked, making her realize she’d had his hand in a death grip.

"Sorry." She loosened her hold and felt him flex his fingers. They’d been at each other’s side all day whenever they were in public, Harry had apparently decided to once more give in to her and Luna with few to no questions. Admittedly his presence at her side was the only thing to give her comfort all day and she was grateful for it.

"Something’s wrong." He pushed as they entered the common room.

"Well-" Fear and concern overwhelmed her and she suddenly felt the need to confess everything if it would help Fred. But just as she was about to spill it all, she felt her pocket grow warm and nearly collapsed in relief. "I’ll tell you about it later." She said quickly before rushing off to her room to be alone.

Nearly dropping the compact as she fumbled to pull it out of her pocket, she eagerly flipped it open only to have her heart drop painfully to her stomach. "Hermione?" Lee stared back at her, though his reflection was fragmented as if the mirror had been broken. "Oh good, I fixed it!" He sighed in relief as he caught sight of her on his side.

"What’s going on, where’s Fred?" She demanded.

"I don’t know!" Lee cried out in frustration. "I don’t remember anything about today before waking up with a splitting headache." He pointed to where his head was now bandaged. "No one was here, nothing was missing… but I found the compact on the floor and smashed to pieces."

"And Fred?" She asked again with more urgency.

"I contacted Molly…"

"You’re killing me here, Lee! Spit it out!" Hermione yelled.

"She said I had sent a note earlier asking him to come to the store and that the ministry guard was supposed to have brought him… I don’t recall any of that." Lee seemed beyond distressed and close to tears.

"Someone must have used a spell and wiped your memory." She shook her head, not knowing how to soothe him when she was so close to panicking herself.

"Probably, it’s what I figured as well. But I didn’t want Molly to start worrying and wind up having Arthur send the whole Auror squad out. It took everything I had to convince her that Fred stopped to pick something up and would be here any minute… So then I tried for the last hour to fix this stupid compact to see if maybe Fred went up there to see you again, but that’s obviously not the case..."

"It’s because she found out he came to see me on Sunday…" Hermione closed her eyes as a sense of dread consumed her. "Elanya must have upped the stakes… she’s made him leave early…"

"What are you talking about?" Lee demanded.

"I don’t have time to explain now, we have to move quickly." Her mind was racing a million miles a minute. "Arthur and Molly can’t know yet… that will only help the girls’ plan. I need you to convince them that Fred went away for some kind of business trip for the store, tell them you’re going with him so maybe they’ll worry less."

"Well, I guess I could disguise my voice and write a talking letter to them pretending to be Fred." He suggested, always eager to become part of their dangerous adventures just like the other boys. "He’s okay, isn’t he?"

"For now… I don’t think hurting him is currently part of their plan." She said grimly. "I’m going to talk to Luna, see if she can shed any light on this and depending on what she can or can’t see we’ll figure out what to do."

"And when do I get to know what’s actually going on?" Lee asked.

"After you find a way to contact Willem Fritz and get him there to the store with you. We’ll be needing to talk to him about his niece." She replied darkly.

"How am I supposed to do that?" He asked incredulously. "No one’s supposed to know the guy’s out of prison."

"I don’t know. You’re the maniacal mastermind who hung around Fred and George all those years, I’m sure you’ll find a way." Hermione brushed him off. "I have to go, the sooner I talk to Luna, the sooner we can hopefully figure all this out."

(BREAK)

"I can’t stand it anymore!" Ginny shouted, throwing her History of Magic book across the room. "It’s just sooo very boring." She flung herself back on the bed and grabbed the pillow to cover her face as she screamed her frustration into it.

"Is this a normal part of your homework process? Because we may have to begin studying alone." Draco teased, ignoring her dramatics and returning to his Potions essay.

She got up and kneeling in front of him, grabbed his textbook and threw it over her shoulder with a sly smile. "We aren’t alone now, so why spend our time studying anyway?"

"Can’t argue with that logic, I guess." He grinned, grabbing her around the waist and pulling her into his lap before kissing her passionately.

Knocking at the door interrupted their impromptu fun before it could really get started and Ginny pulled away in disgust. "You see? This is why I dislike other people…" She groaned.

"I surely hope you have better reasons." He laughed, getting up to answer. He was utterly surprised to find Drake standing there.

"Hello, sorry to interrupt but I’m here on school business. As acting Head of Slytherin House I’ve come to request your presence in the Headmaster’s office." Drake smiled apologetically.

"Some advice in dealing with other Slytherins… Snape wouldn’t have been so nice as to request anything." Draco smiled back. "What’s going on?"

"I have no idea. I was just told to come get you." Drake shrugged.

He felt Ginny coming up behind him and reached for her hand. "Do I have to go alone?"

Drake grinned wider. "I’m sure whatever’s going on, there would be no objection to Miss Weasley coming along for support."

"Very officious." Ginny approved teasingly.

"Yes, I do believe after a few months I’ve begun to get the hang of this whole job." Drake joked back as he began to lead them to Dumbledore’s office.

As they walked, Draco began to feel nervous… what could they possibly want to see him about? Had the headmaster somehow found out about Tristan? Was Troy trying to frame him for Parvati’s disappearance? Several ideas floated around in his head, none of which were good. In fact, he’d never in his life been called to up there to be given good news. At the gargoyle, Drake gestured for them to go up first and as they climbed onto the stairs Draco squeezed Ginny’s hand in tense anticipation.

Dumbledore was in the process of handing a letter off to Fawkes as they entered the office and he turned to them with a grim smile. "Well, none of you ever seem to be alone anymore. Hello Draco, Ginny, why don’t you both have a seat." He spoke informally as he tended to do when he was in private with his favored students. Draco felt almost honored to now be considered one of them. "Roscoe, I need you to bring Professor Trelawney here as she is rather skilled at scrying."

"Who are you trying to find?" Draco blurted out. He knew all about the skill of scrying… it was something Narcissa had mastered and was proud to display. In fact, he knew she had been the one to help Lucius locate several people including Julian Heath.

Dumbledore nodded to Drake who quickly left to carry out the request made of him. With a sigh, the headmaster seated himself before them and looked intently at Draco. "We’ve received intelligence that Lucius has disappeared."

He could feel Ginny staring at him out of the corner of her eye, but Draco couldn’t make his brain work his mouth to form words. "What do you mean he’s disappeared?" She finally asked for him.

"Since the Quibbler article was released, Lucius has been turned away from the Death Eaters and Arthur has had several people watching him. Yesterday morning he managed to slip away from them all and he hasn’t been spotted since."

"Well he certainly hasn’t contacted me!" Draco said, leaping to his feet.

"I wasn’t implying that he had." Dumbledore calmly replied. "I was just wondering if perhaps you knew of somewhere he would go."

So this was it, the moment that he knew would eventually come. He had to decide whether or not to completely turn his back on his father in order to help the people who had so helped him. Now he had to figure out just how much he’d changed, what his morals are from what they were, and whether he could fully give himself over and cut all ties to the two people who had given him life. "I don’t know." He said at last, sinking back down into the chair and feeling horribly confused.

"I see." Dumbledore nodded. "I’m aware of what I’m asking of you and how unfair it is to ask a child to completely turn on their parents. I am sorry for it and only my and Arthur’s desperation drove us to decide to come to you... But you by no means have to answer and I assure you we won’t think less of you for it. I want you to be fully aware that you have a choice here, one that shouldn’t have had to be presented to you and therefore you won’t be judged either way."

"Won’t I?" He asked miserably. How could they not judge him if he chose to remain silent when he could have helped? And how could he not be judged for completely turning on his family? There was no easy way out of this.

"You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do." Ginny said quietly as she reached out to supportively rub his arm.

And he didn’t… not with these people. Recalling his previous way of life, he knew Dumbledore and the others weren’t aware of the truth depth of his father’s evil ruthlessness. Draco had seen Lucius commit many sins without any sign of remorse, what could he be doing out there now that he’d been outcast by the Death Eaters and left on his own? Knowing what the man was capable of when he was in control, Draco hated to think what he was capable of when desperate. "Okay, give me a quill and parchment and I’ll write down the locations of every safe house I know about and any other place he might go."

Dumbledore made no move to fill his request, instead continuing to look on in concern. "Are you sure?"

"If he’s left out there alone, who knows what he’d do or who he’d hurt to ensure his own survival… I can’t have that hanging over my head, if I don’t try to stop him then I can only share the guilt of his actions."

"And with that sentiment, I would like you to know how proud I am of your continued growth." The headmaster smiled with sad encouragement. "But I want you to be assured that not only are you not to blame for your father’s actions, no one would hold it against you if you did feel the need to maintain some form of loyalty to him as your parent."

Draco shook his head. "No, I’ve decided." He firmly insisted. It took a few moments to write down everything he knew and by the time he finished Drake was back with Professor Trelawney. Having no desire to witness them attempt to locate Lucius, he made his wish to be dismissed back to his dorm apparent. Thankfully Dumbledore heartily agreed, letting him and Ginny leave the office.

"You okay?" She asked, linking her arm through his and leaning her head on his shoulder as they walked.

"Sometimes I wish I were the orphan instead of Potter." He muttered.

"I’m sure given the circumstances, Harry would agree to that."

"Of course he would, James and Lily are nothing like Lucius and Narcissa."

"And Ted and Andromeda are nothing like Mr. and Mrs. Dursley." She smiled, reminding him that he did have some family that was worthwhile. "And Tonks is nothing like Dudley."

"With my luck, I would have gone to be raised by Bellatrix." He joked. "I guess Potter and I really are opposites... him rather having been raised by his parents and me wishing I had been with my aunt, uncle and cousin."

"But things happened the way they did and that has brought you to the moment when you had to turn on your father completely… So, are you okay?" She asked again, bringing the conversation back to her original question.

"You’d make a good reporter."

"And you’d make a very difficult interview." She returned. "Quit deflecting."

"I don’t know how I am." He finally answered with a heavy sigh. "Part of me is relieved to wash my hands of Lucius and part of me feels like the worst son ever."

"He’s not exactly father of the year." Ginny squeezed his arm and kissed his shoulder. "There’s no real way to be a good child to a bad parent."

"You don’t have to tell me that. I spent years trying to impress him." He answered glumly.

"And yet he never tried to impress you, never tried to show why he was worthy of your love and respect." She argued against his self-doubt. "You’re going to feel whatever you feel, but just don’t forget- you’ve only turned on someone who turned on you first. He tried to kill you already, he doesn’t deserve your protection."

"You tried to kill me too." Draco pointed out, feeling the sudden irrational need to defend his father.

"The difference being I haven’t tried since." She said stiffly. "And I probably won’t again…" She added the dark threat, letting him know she didn’t appreciate his comment.

"Yeah, okay it was a stupid thing to say." He admitted, stopping in the hall outside the common room and pulling her in for a hug. "I’m sorry, the two things were completely different situations… I just… I don’t know."

Ginny pulled away and smiled, reaching up to place her hands on either side of his face. "You’re just a little messed up in here right now." She playfully shook his head. "It’ll right itself out."

He leaned his forehead against hers and sighed. "I certainly hope so."

(BREAK)

"Find anything interesting yet?" Luna asked as she pushed the files to the end of the bed and got to her feet, stretching away the stiffness caused from sitting too long.

"A few odd things here and there. But I’m just now getting into the nineteenth century." Harry took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes, shoving his files away as well. "I had foolishly thought all the files from the drawer marked ‘Harry Potter’ would be about me, but they actually go all the way back to Lyraline Elderwood… though I will admit, there’s more detail to these files than the regular ministry records."

"They probably started compiling it the minute they figured out that prophesy was about you." She smiled. "It’s a good thing, we should learn everything we can about our ancestors so we don’t wind up repeating their mistakes."

"Oh, and my bloodline was responsible for quite a few big mistakes apparently." He picked up the files, laughing as he shoved them towards her. "Not all of us were the greatest of people."

"Well, no one’s blood is all pure, right? Coven descendants or not, we are all still human." She grinned. And then a sudden wash of panic flooded her, forcing her to once more sit or risk falling over from the force.

"What’s wrong?" Harry asked, instantly feeling what she felt.

Luna shook her head. "It’s not me, it’s Hermione… something’s wrong and now she’s looking for me. She already tried my room, now she’s coming here."

Sure enough, Hermione began to frantically knock at the door and Harry rushed over to let her in. She entered in a daze, her eyes wide with fear and desperation. Not caring whether Harry was in the room, she rushed over to Luna and quickly told her everything about Lee contacting her and her concern that Elanya had forced Fred to leave early.

"So wait, you’re saying Fred’s been kidnapped?" Harry asked incredulously.

"Not exactly. It’s more like he’s been blackmailed into leaving." Luna replied, attempting to remain calm. Knowing what Hermione wanted from her, she prepared her mind and left it to the other girl to fully fill Harry in on what’s been happening.

"So now we have to figure out where they’ve gone." He said when she was done, clearly upset to have been left in the dark about this. But Luna could see that he was fighting the urge to express his anger, knowing Hermione still had no idea about Tristan and therefore he had no room to judge.

"Which I was hoping Luna could help with." Hermione replied. They both turned to look at her.

"I don’t know… I’ve been sitting here trying and I think I strained something the last few days because my mind feels so tired." She watched Hermione’s face fall and quickly turned to Harry. "Maybe you could help me?"

"Are you sure that’s a good idea? I’ve drained myself completely before and it doesn’t feel good." He asked uncertainly, as worried as she was that she could damage herself.

"We have to try. Fred’s out there somewhere and if I can’t find Parvati we can at least try to find him." She argued back.

Harry took a deep breath and let it out. "Okay, let’s do this then."

Luna reached out to take his hand as he and Hermione sat with her on the bed. Closing her eyes, she cleared her mind of everything but Fred and attempted to force the connection. She could feel Harry with her, wrapping his consciousness protectively around hers and adding his own strength, which had completely regenerated since his fight with Tristan.

Again it hit her unlike anything she’d ever experienced before, a blasting of images that came on so quickly they knocked her back with their force. There was no white room, no scene playing out, nothing of any coherency or distinction. Concentrating she slowed them down, displaying each in order as they swirled around her.

First came an image of Hermione, growing larger as it zoomed toward her, focusing in on the girl’s eyes until they became mirrors displaying Sarah staring back at her and wearing an evil grin. Luna shivered in fear, watching as Sarah’s face melted away and began showering down drops of flesh that turned to rain…

Fred was in the rain, quickly trying to erect a rather ordinary tent as Elanya looked on, tapping her foot impatiently as she stood under an umbrella and waited for him to complete their shelter as a flash of lightning tore open the sky…

An explosion of color burst before her eyes, blinding Luna and forcing her to look away. Blinking away the discomfort, she turned back and watched with fascinated awe as several strange, colorful flowers budded and bloomed in front of her.

The pain was swift and sudden and seemed to come from deep inside her head. The next thing Luna knew, she could feel Harry shaking her as he and Hermione called out, telling her to wake up. Letting her eyes flutter open, she stared up at them as they looked down at her in concern. "What happened?" She asked Harry.

"I don’t know. Something felt off and then there was pain so I stopped the vision." He answered nervously.

"Are you okay?" Hermione asked as they helped her sit up.

"My head hurts." She answered honestly, turning to Harry. "You saw everything I saw?"

"I think so…"

"Well, what did you see?" Hermione asked anxiously, once more focused on helping Fred now that she was assured that Luna was somewhat alright. Rather than attempt to explain, Luna told Harry to replay it all for Hermione to see. She would have done it herself, but she was too tired and her mind literally felt fried out. Putting a hand to her head, she could feel that her temperature had risen alarmingly. "Okay, so Fred is definitely with Elanya then." She seemed grimly hopeful.

"The flowers came after, maybe they give some clue to their location." Harry suggested, getting up to pour a glass of water from the pitcher on his dresser. He came back and handed it to Luna though she hadn’t mentioned how parched her throat suddenly was. But as he went back to pour a glass for himself, she realized he knew because her ailments were affecting him… This wasn’t good, they had to figure out a way to keep themselves divided when necessary.

"Hold on, I think Lee is calling." Hermione said, standing to reach into her pocket.

"Ah yes, the compact you and Fred used behind my back." Harry teased.

"Let not start comparing who did what behind each other’s back," Hermione suggested wryly, "I’m pretty sure I’ll be the one to come out ahead."

She flipped open the compact and Lee’s voice immediately floated out of it. "Hey! Turns out I’m better than I thought. Willem’s here already."

"I’m with Harry and Luna."

"What’s going on?!" Willem’s frantic voice demanded.

Hermione gave him a brief version of current events up to describing the short vision Luna just had. "Well, what kind of flowers were they?" Lee asked when she was finished.

"How are we supposed to know?" Harry replied. "They’re clearly exotic or why else would they be a clue."

"Well, what about the first part then?" Willem pressed.

Luna saw Hermione shiver and knew the other girl had probably come to the same conclusion she had. "I’m pretty sure that’s telling us how they got Fred to cooperate…" She said quietly.

"Yeah, they threatened to have Sarah do her stupid astral projection thing to invade me and make me do who knows what." Hermione added bitterly.

"We won’t let that happen." Harry assured her.

"Oh yeah? What, is everyone going to sleep in shifts to ensure it doesn’t?" She asked despondently.

"If that’s what it takes." He insisted. "In the mean time we can look up the flowers, maybe even ask Professor Sprout."

"Or Neville." Luna suggested out of nowhere. She didn’t know why she’d suggested their lost friend, it had come to her suddenly and she had spoken before she even realized it… And now they were staring at her. Well, she’d come this far, she might as well finish her thought. "Or George… maybe he knows where Fred is."

Harry nodded and went to his desk to retrieve the ring. "We can call them both at the same time." He said excitedly.

"Well we have to do something. And the faster the better." Lee agreed through the compact. "What do you want us to do while you three are doing that?"

"Willem, Fred told me you two snuck into the ministry to delete those recordings… do you remember how he got you guys in?" Hermione stared at Luna as she spoke, silently asking if she had any sense that this was a worse idea than it seemed and to stop her if she did. Luna shook her head, nothing was poking at her intuition.

"Yes. Why?" He demanded.

"Tonight, you and Lee need to go back and find the archives. Get everything you can on Elise, Sarah and Elanya." Hermione instructed. "They know all about us, we need to know everything about them."

"But Arthur has Mad-eye looking after all the records and files." Harry reminded her.

"Don’t worry about that. All we need is a distraction to ensure everyone’s attention is away from the ministry." Lee answered mischievously.

"Just don’t get yourselves arrested." Hermione said, rolling her eyes. "I’ll call you back if we learn anything."

"And I’ll call you after the heist." He returned before they both ended the call.

"Well, should we contact George and Neville now?" Hermione asked eagerly as Harry came back over to sit with them.

He reached out and placed a hand over Luna’s forehead. "Maybe you should just sit back and let us call them up." He suggested in concern, clearly feeling that she had a fevered headache.

"You do look rather pale." Hermione agreed, leaning in to look at her better. "Maybe we should go to another room, let you rest for a bit…"

"I’m fine to just sit here and watch." Luna insisted, just as anxiously curious to know what had happened to Fred as they were.

Harry seemed uncertain but she made it clear that he wouldn’t be able to change her mind. "Okay, let’s hope they can tell us something." He put on the ring and closed his eyes to concentrate as Hermione reached out to feed her own energy into the ring. Luna attempted to close herself off from them, not wanting her own limited store of energy to be accidentally tapped. She could feel Harry also attempting to shield off from her and she hoped his split focus wouldn’t affect his ability to use the ring.

(BREAK)

Fred watched the ocean waves crash against the boat as it sliced through the water toward the sun setting on the horizon. It would have been an amazing experience had he been there under different circumstances, but when he’d woken that morning he had no idea a boat ride into the Atlantic was in his future. He sighed and leaned on the railing, debating what chances he and his friends would have if he just flung himself overboard.

"You don’t have to look so sad and defeated." Elanya remarked from beside him. She hadn’t let him out of her sight since they’d gone to empty his bank account and proceed on a frenzied shopping spree. He hadn’t chosen to speak to her since they’d secured passage on this boat. "You could just enjoy your surroundings. It is quite peaceful out here." She went on, trying to goad him into conversation.

Instead he continued to ignore her and moved further along the deck, but she followed wherever he went. "Come on Fred… I half agreed with your plan. Castellumshire is no place for us, but there are plenty of small uncharted islands there that will suit us just fine."

"There is no us!" He finally exploded. "There you and me, your hostage. We aren’t in this together, this isn’t some holiday for us to get away from our lives for a bit! So quit acting like this is anything other than what it is, you forcing me to come along with you."

"I was just trying to make the experience a bit friendlier, less hostile." She pouted. But he wasn’t fooled for a minute, he knew exactly what kind of snake she was.

"Now that you’ve completely severed my communication to my friends, how can I trust that you’ll keep your word and not let Sarah or your spy or anyone else hurt them?" He asked.

"My word isn’t good enough?" Elanya smiled, leaning her back against the railing so she could face him. He had the sudden desire to lunge forward and shove her, to make her disappear beneath the waves and end this nightmare… of course he had no idea what kind of communication she had set up with her friends and he couldn’t take the chance. Surely they would have planned for him attempting to get rid of her.

"Of course it isn’t. Nothing you’ve said has been true."

She smiled and crossed her arms. "Of course some of it was true. I know you’re well aware that the most convincing lies are rooted in honesty."

"Okay, I’ll bite… what was true?" He dared her.

"That I don’t want to hurt anyone now that Edmund is gone. Of course I will if I have to… I’d just really rather the situation didn’t come up, which is why I’m relieved that you’ve decided to play so nicely." She smiled again, this time with a bit of teasing coyness. "You must really love your brother and sister… and this Hermione must be pretty important too."

"What else were you being honest about?" He pressed, ignoring her attempt to goad him into revealing anything.

"That I want nothing to do with Voldemort or his plan to turn us immortal, and that Sarah and Elise were actually interested… not in Voldemort mind you, but in the vampire curse."

"We’ll be dropping anchor in five minutes." One of the boat’s crew members came over to announce. "As you are the only two being let off at the entrance islands, we’ll row you in. Do you already have your return plans booked?"

"Our stay will be indefinite." Elanya answered him while still looking at Fred.

"But miss, it’s mighty hard to flag someone down if you haven’t already arranged a pick up." The crew member protested.

"We’ll take our chances." She finally turned her attention to the man, reaching out to run her fingers up his arm. "Why don’t you go start loading our things into the rowboat?" She suggested, lowered her voice and drawing the man in. "You look strong enough to accomplish the task… and many others I’m sure." She added with a twinkling laugh.

"Right away miss." The man smiled and hurried off to do as he asked.

"Now why couldn’t you have been that easy?" Elanya turned back to Fred.

"I’m better at sensing a wolf in sheep’s clothing." He replied, turning to follow the crew member she’d so easily bewitched.

Within a half an hour, they had been rowed ashore and left all alone with the many things she had made him buy for this little excursion. "Great, it looks like rain." Fred muttered as the dark clouds rolled in with the coming night. Brief flashes of lighting tore through the sky as ripples of thunder roared overhead.

Elanya casually reached down and pulled out an umbrella. "Well, I guess that just gives you more incentive to get the tent up quickly then, doesn’t it?"

(BREAK)

"Believe me, I wish I could help you." George said miserably as he and Neville floated before them. "It’s not exactly like we can actually see you guys up here, it’s more like we have a sense of what you’re doing." He added glumly.

"What did the flowers look like?" Neville asked.

Harry tried to think the image to him, but apparently his power was unable to bridge the gap between the living and the dead. He, Luna and Hermione attempted to describe the exact flowers from Luna’s vision. "Does any of that sound familiar?" He asked when they were done.

Neville appeared thoughtful. "You might want to double check, but they sound like Colorsplosions… they’re flowers that sort of explode in color during the day when they bloom and then shrivel away at night. I know they’re rare, I just can’t remember where they’re found… mostly islands I think."

"That’s okay. As long as we know what they are, we can look up where to find them." Hermione assured him. "You’ve been very helpful."

"Just make sure you find Fred as soon as possible, okay?" George pleaded with them. "I still can’t believe he got himself into something like this."

"He didn’t have a choice. Elanya was threatening Ron and Ginny." Luna argued, her voice weak and strained. Harry turned to her in concern, ignoring the discomfort of wearing the ring to focus in on her. Inside her head was dark and shadowy, as if someone had turned off the lights… though he could still see sparks in the back, letting him know she hadn’t fried herself out completely.

"Just, find a way for me to talk to him when you help him straighten all this out okay?" George insisted, clearly worried for his twin.

"We will." Harry promised. They said their goodbyes and the two ghostly figures of their lost friends disappeared. He went over to his desk to put the ring away, already disliking the familiar pull it had on him and his energy vibrations.

"Are you okay?" He heard Hermione once more ask Luna and turned to see what had her so worried. Luna seemed even more pale than she had before… except for the feverish pink spreading across her cheeks and forehead.

"I just feel a little dizzy. I think I just need to eat something." She answered in a daze as she carefully got up. Even as Harry made his way over to help, he watched her attempt to take a step before her legs buckled, forcing Hermione to reach out and catch her. He rushed over to help get Luna back onto the bed, sitting beside her and running his much cooler hand over her heated forehead.

"How about if I bring something up for you from dinner?" Hermione suggested.

"Maybe that’s a better idea." She replied with a faint smile.

"I’m sorry for pushing you to have those visions." She said quietly, clearly feeling guilty for the position Luna was now in.

"You don’t have to be, we needed to find Fred."

"I’ll be right back with something to eat." Hermione promised, hurrying out of the room to do what she could to try and make things better.

"You going to make it?" Harry asked gently once they were alone, smiling to hide the large amount of concern he felt.

"I think the chances are good." Luna joked back as she took his hand in hers. "I guess I pushed too far too fast… but I had too."

"I know the feeling." He sympathized, kissing her fingers. "I just wish you hadn’t let what Ron said get to you so much… many people have warned me about pushing myself too far too fast, yourself included. You didn’t have to burn yourself out to prove to anyone that you’re ‘useful’."

"I had to prove it to myself." She protested with a faint smile. "I hate being at the whim of my visions, it’s about time they worked for me."

"Yeah, okay. Too bad they worked a little too hard. Some food and sleep will do wonders though."

"I hope so… you aren’t feeling it, are you?" Luna asked in concern.

"Don’t worry about what I’m feeling." He told her, not wanting her to know that he was in fact going through a lot of the same symptoms she was… to the point where it almost felt as if he’d been the one to drain his power and overextend his energy output.

"This isn’t good… we have to find a way to be separate sometimes." She said through a loud yawn.

"Yes we do." He agreed. Harry knew he did dangerous things far more often than she did and that due to his desire for victory, he got hurt a lot. The last thing he wanted was for Luna to suffer every time someone challenged him, to share his pain every time he did something stupid. There had to be a way, they just had to figure it out.

(BREAK)

Jacey looked into the mirror carefully to ensure the potion had entirely worn away. Once assured she was herself with no trace of Tristan, she took a deep breath and picked up Harry’s invisibility cloak, nervously settling it around herself. Ron had called out and asked her to come see him just before dinner, and she was anxious about what she would say. The guilt was eating her alive, she knew she had to tell him about Parvati… and how she had not warned anyone in time to stop the girl’s fate. It would not be easy, but it had to be done and Harry had agreed to let her be the one to tell Ron everything about his missing girlfriend.

She crept through the common room, careful not to get too close to any of the students still milling around. Her stomach clenched painfully as she entered the Gryffindor wing and she only hoped Ron would not hate her after tonight. Standing outside his door, she took a moment to gather herself before knocking. As soon as he opened up, she brushed past him and waited until he closed the door again before flinging off the cloak. "You really came!" He seemed surprised.

"I had told you that I would if I was able." She smiled, sitting awkwardly at his desk. "There are some things we need to talk about."

"Yes there are." He agreed. "Will you go out into the woods with me tonight?"

"Excuse me? The woods?"

"I want to go looking for Parvati." Ron sighed and went to look out his window. "I know Dumbledore has sent a lot of people out there, all with beasts and gadgets meant to find people. But it’s been three days and they still haven’t found her."

"And you think we will be more successful?" She asked gently. "I know Dumbledore is doing everything he can, nothing is working. He has sent people to look, he has had people scrying, he has the beasts of the forest keeping an eye out… there is nothing more that can be done."

"Well I have to do something!" He cried, turning to face her. "I can’t stand worrying like this anymore, I can’t handle not knowing what’s happened to her, or the guilt that it’s my fault."

"I know why their efforts to locate her have failed." Jacey looked away, unable to meet his gaze. "It is because all of their efforts are spent attempting to locate a human, which Parvati no longer is."

"What are you saying?" He asked quietly, his voice tense with emotion.

"She has been turned, we are sure of it. Parvati is a vampire and unless they alter their devices and coordinate their search accordingly, they will never find her. Especially if she does not want to be found." She blurted out in one swift breath.

"What do you mean you’re sure? What’s going on?" He demanded, coming over so that she had to look at him.

She shook her head and began her story, telling him everything that involved Parvati while leaving out the parts that gave away that they had killed Tristan. When she was done, Ron simply grunted and walked back over to the window, leaning heavily on the sill. "So why didn’t you tell anyone what you thought?" He asked.

"I told you, I was not sure…" She swallowed hard, waiting to see what would happen.

"Better safe than sorry!" He shouted, turning to face her again. "I’m so tired of all this secrecy! Look what’s happened now because of it!"

"I did not want to accuse without proof!" She argued in her defense.

"So you had to wait until she disappeared and Luna saw her as a vampire?! When was there going to be enough proof… when she showed up bearing her fangs in your face?"

"Hey! You knew there was something wrong with her, you could have just as easily tried to figure it out instead of letting the girl convince you it was just a cold." She said in anger. She already knew she shared some blame in this, but she would not accept it all.

Ron seemed to deflate before her as he turned and slumped down on the edge of his bed. "You’re right." He said quietly. "I wasn’t paying attention… but what now? What can anyone possibly tell Padma, or their parents?"

"It will not be easy." She got up and went to sit beside him, placing a hand on his knee in comfort. "But just because she is a vampire does not mean she is like Tristan or Troy. As long as she is away from the will of her creator, there is nothing to say she will be bad."

"And what if they are around?"

"Then if her will to fight them is stronger, she will be able to overcome… just like Draco and his creator."

Ron shook his head. "Yeah, Harland- he’s as bad as Tristan."

Jacey wished she could tell him that Tristan was one being he no longer had to fear, but anyone that was apart of the vampire’s death could be in danger and there were enough of her new friends already in that position. She could not let Ron be put at risk as well.

"I guess the first thing we have to do is find her… until then it’s probably best that we continue to let her family think she’s only missing." He lamented.

"Probably." She agreed, moving closer and putting her arm around his shoulders, wanting to make him feel better.

"Do you think she hates me now?" He whispered.

"What?"

Ron shrugged her off and stood uncertainly before her. "Parvati, do you think she blames me for not protecting her? Do you think she hates me?"

"No one can know what she is thinking." Jacey replied uneasily as certain thoughts of his became clearer in her mind. "But I can see what you are thinking and you are blaming me… you think I distracted you from her!" She stood and crossed her arms, waiting for an explanation.

"First of all, stay out of my head!" He shouted. "And secondly, just because I think that doesn’t mean I blame you. I blame myself! I let myself be distracted by you when I should have either paid attention to Parvati or been honest with her about how I really felt."

"And how do you really feel?" She pushed, taking a step closer to him.

"Like you don’t know." He answered bitterly. "As if I could even help it after seeing you."

Without warning, she grabbed his face and pressed her lips to his, giving into what they both wanted. At first he was astonished, but he quickly overcame it and wrapped his arms tightly around her to return the kiss with an equal depth of passion. He walked forward until she felt the edge of the bed against her legs. Letting her knees collapse she fell back, pulling him along with her. It had been so long since she had experienced any kind of intimacy and even longer since she had done so with someone who craved her as much as she craved them. And oh how she wanted Ron… She had no explanation as to why he had so captivated her but he had, and to now feel his lips on her skin, the weight of him as he hovered over her, and the heat of his desire… it was everything she’d thought it would be and more. She had wanted this ever since she’d laid eyes on him and had come close to giving in last night. Her own guilt had stopped her then, as his seemed to stop him now.

"Wait." Ron said in a strangled voice as he pulled away. "I’m sorry I can’t do this." He gently rolled away from her and sat up, anxiously running his hands through his hair. "I just can’t let myself be happy while Parvati is out there."

She sat up and reached out to rub his back. "I understand." She said quietly.

"I know you do." He smiled sadly.

"I am going to leave. It will be easier for us both I think." Jacey suggested, moving to climb off the bed.

"Will you stay?" He asked, his eyes wide and hopeful. "Will you just lay here and sleep next to me so I won’t feel so alone?"

She studied him carefully before giving in. "Okay, I do not want to be alone either. But I must leave very early in the morning."

"I don’t care. Some time with you is better than none." He agreed, climbing under the covers and motioning her to join him.

He turned out the light and lay back, both of them left staring at the ceiling as nervous tension descended on them. Taking the initiative, she turned to Ron and wrapped her arm around him, resting her head on his shoulder. She smiled in the dark as he responded, placing his own arms securely around her and pulling her close. For the first time in her life, Jacey felt safe… that there was someone who could care for her more than they cared for themselves. It was a feeling he was bringing out in her that she was beginning to treasure and as she snuggled in closer to him, she knew she would do anything to keep it.

(BREAK)

After more than a week had passed, Hermione felt like she was at the end of her rope. After a disappointing conversation with Professor Sprout, she’d learned that Colorsplosions were so rare they were thought to be extinct. But Luna was sure of what she’d seen and Neville had been pretty sure of what they’d described. Hermione had spent every free moment in the library trying to find out anything about the exotic flowers but so far her search had yielded nothing. Just as she thought she was going to lose her mind, she decided to shift her focus… but she needed to use one of the invisibility cloaks in order to get into the restricted area of the library where she knew the information she wanted was being kept.

Harry had been her first stop but Jacey was still in possession of his cloak and so Hermione had gone to Draco who had gladly handed his over with no questions. Now all she had to do was wait for the castle to shut down for the night. Locked away in her room, she pulled out the compact to check in with Lee for the millionth time. "No, we haven’t found anything interesting yet!" He said right away, clearly agitated with her constant nagging.

She’d been glad to learn he and Willem had been able to sneak into the ministry and abscond with the necessary files. But that had been several days ago and she knew had she been the one in possession of those documents, she would have been able to have gone through them quite a few times by now. "Why not?" She demanded.

"I don’t know, maybe because I also have to keep forging letters to Molly pretending they’re from Fred… Maybe because there’s a million things to read in these stupid files… and maybe it’s because you keep calling every five minutes to distract me!" He said loudly. "What about you? Have you figured out where those flowers grow yet?"

"No, but I have plans to get into the restricted part of the library tonight… while I’m there I’ll look to see if there’s anything about Colorsplosions."

"Well what else are you going there for?"

Hermione shook her head. "Don’t worry about it. How’s Willem coming along in finding Elanya’s grandmother?"

"Not so good. Turns out the ministry didn’t actually know too much about Jayalina Delamora… we can’t even find her parents names." Lee answered in frustration. "But he’s having Arthur see what he can do about helping expand the search past our ministry’s information. Willem told him that he wants to try and find any family he may have and thankfully Arthur hasn’t questioned his motives too much."

"We have to find them." She insisted. "If Jayalina really did have her parents keeping Elanya safe, then they may be able to give Willem insight into their granddaughter."

"As soon as he knows who and where, he intends to go see them." Lee assured her. "In the meantime, give me a few hours of peace and I might actually make headway into all of this information… trust me, if there was a way I could send it all to you without anyone finding out I would."

"Sorry I’m being pushy." She sighed and fought back the angry tears threatening to fall. "It’s just that it’s been a week and none of us have heard from him…"

"I know, Hermione. I’m worried too." He said gently. "How’s Luna? Is she able to have visions yet?"

"She’s been trying but every time she does, she gets a terrible headache… I hope I didn’t break her or anything by pushing her so much last week." Hermione was actually quite worried about Luna and feeling very guilty for letting the girl force herself that last time when she’d already looked so exhausted. And worse, they still hadn’t been able to figure out the vision she’d clearly hurt herself to have for them. "She has said she’s been having dreams about Fred and that so far she believes he’s okay."

"Well, I guess if it’s coming from Luna I can accept it as fact… I’m glad he’s okay, but I wonder how he’s doing otherwise, you know?"

"I try not to think about it." She muttered. "Call me back if you or Willem find anything okay? Otherwise I’ll just talk to you again in the morning."

"Will do." He promised.

They ended their communication, leaving her with nothing to do except wait. When she finally felt it was time, the clock had already struck midnight. Carefully wrapping Draco’s cloak around herself, Hermione crept through the common room and out into the hallway. She tried not to make a single noise as she made her way to the library, not wanting to alert Filtch, his cat Mrs. Norris, the ghosts or anyone else who may be awake and also wandering the halls. She’d never felt so nervous before, sneaking out with one of her friends was one thing but she rarely did it on her own for the sheer fact that she just wasn’t as comfortable being sneaky like the others. But she had to push aside her discomfort… being sneaky seemed to be the only way to accomplish anything these days, it had certainly worked for Elanya, Sarah and Elise.

At last she came to the library doors and she hoped Madame Pince hadn’t locked them for the night. She let out a huge sigh of relief when she reached out and pulled, finding the door had easily opened. Moving over to the librarian’s desk, Hermione grabbed the keys and a small lantern before rushing over to the restricted section. She unlocked the gate and with as little noise as possible, began making her way through the stacks in search of what she wanted. Stopping to grab a text on lost and uncharted islands, she quickly moved on to the metaphysical section.

The Advanced Art of Astral Projection. It was the first title to grab her eye and she instantly grabbed the book, figuring she could figure out the basics of something she had little time to learn. Besides, she’d always found it easier to learn things from a harder perspective than to be talked down to during the easier steps. Banned Acts of Astral Projection. Hermione grabbed that book too, figuring a few of the tricks Sarah had mastered would be covered there.

Hearing a noise, she quickly extinguished the lantern and stood as still as a statue, not daring to even breathe. Even though she was able to see that she was still alone, her furiously beating heart could no longer stand the paranoia that comes from breaking so many rules. Tucking all three books under her arm, she hurried to lock the gate and return the key before rushing back to her room. She had a lot of reading to do and she wanted to learn as fast as possible… She wanted to be able to do everything Sarah was capable of doing and while it may have taken the woman years to master her skills, Hermione was certain she could achieve a certain level of mastery within days. Maybe she was being overconfident in her intelligence but she didn’t care. They were always saying she was the smart one, in Luna’s vision even Elanya and Sarah had said so… Now it was time she prove it.

More than learning how to protect her own mind from Sarah’s invasion, she wanted to learn how to leave her body and travel to other places so that she could finally have a way to communicate with Fred once more. She knew it was different than apparating, but since she had picked that up so quickly and astral projection was a part of it, she had high hopes that she could pull it off. Now it was just a matter of how quickly she could get through and apply the material covered in those books. Putting aside the one on islands until tomorrow, Hermione picked up The Advanced Art of Astral Projection and began reading, eager to begin learning the desired skill.

(BREAK)

"I don’t want to go." Harry turned and buried his head under his pillow. He and Luna had been up late last night going through the ministry documents as they were the only thing able to distract her from the fact that she hadn’t been able to have a vision since draining herself out last week. Despite the fact that they’d figured out two of the three remaining coven members, he’d barely been able to keep his eyes open by the end and the last thing he wanted to do so very early the next morning was get up and get ready to go to Hogsmeade.

"It’s your last trip there as a student." Luna tried as she sat up and began going through the papers they’d read last night.

"And there’s nothing there I want." He emerged from under the pillows to put his head in her lap and look up at her with a devilish smile. "In fact everything I want is right here and if I have to be awake I’d rather spend my time doing something I want to do."

"I’m sure you would." She rolled her eyes. "But if Hermione and Ron can go and act normally then there’s no reason for you not to. Besides, I’m going so you’d be left here all alone anyway." She bent over to kiss him before rudely moving out from under him to begin dressing for the day. "You better get going before anyone is awake enough to see you leaving my room." She teased.

"You’re mean." He said simply as he forced himself to get up.

"I prefer tough love." Luna smiled.

Reluctantly Harry left to go to his own room, which felt very cold and lonely. But that’s just how he felt about everywhere now whenever he and Luna were not in each other’s sight. As he dressed, he realized it was a feeling he’d just have to get used to… after all, they couldn’t be next to each other all of the time.

He had just finished tying his shoes when someone came knocking on his door. "Harry?" He heard Ron call through the door. While they’d all just sort of decided to get along, no one had yet attempted to make things right after the things he’d said and the way he’d been acting… And Harry was of the mind that they wouldn’t be able to sort things out while Parvati was still missing. Ron had been going out of his way to avoid his friends- except for Jacey who said she was spending most nights with him, apparently just sleeping. Harry was confused as to why Ron was coming to him now.

"Hey." He said, opening the door and remaining passive until he could figure out his friend’s motives.

"You remember when you said you were willing to do whatever I wanted to help find Parvati?" Ron asked immediately as he pushed his way into the room.

"Yes…" He answered cautiously.

"Well, according to what Jacey overheard Troy say, the last place he saw her was by Hogsmeade, right? He thought she was heading into the mountains…?"

Harry hesitated. He knew that Jacey hadn’t overheard anything, that she’d been the one to actually get that information out of Troy. But Ron still didn’t know about Tristan or Jacey having to become him. He knew what his friend was about to ask of him and he worried what could happen if he refused such a ridiculous idea. "We can’t just sneak out of the village." He tried.

"Why not? We sneak out of and into everywhere else." Ron crossed his arms. "I can’t find any peace of mind until we find her Harry. I don’t care if she’s a vampire, I just want to bring her back to her family!"

"And what if she doesn’t want to come back?" He countered.

"Then at least I’ll know it’s her choice… and at least I’ll have had a chance to talk her out of it." He was close to begging. "I just need to at least talk to her…"

Harry didn’t know what to do… he had a feeling that if he didn’t agree to go help find Parvati then Ron would simply attempt it on his own. He supposed it would be better if they could find Parvati before Luna’s vision came true, after all, Troy would surely be looking for her and the last thing they needed was two newborn vampires out scuffling in the woods… especially if Troy came out the victor. "Okay." He agreed, having talked himself into it. At least now he had a reason to go to Hogsmeade, though he knew Luna probably wouldn’t be thrilled with the idea.

"Really?" Ron seemed surprised, as if he’d expected to have to put up more of an argument.

"Really, but we’re asking Lupin to come with us." He insisted, figuring that would appease both Luna and his own misgivings about the plan. "And everyone else stays behind inside the village walls. The last thing we need is someone else getting bitten, even by accident."

"Do you think Jacey will be able to meet us out there?" He asked hopefully.

Harry knew she had already taken the potion and had to go into the village as Tristan. Being reminded of that, he felt a sudden pang of guilt. With first Parvati’s disappearance then Fred’s, with Luna frying herself out, with Draco dealing with his father, none of them had focused on releasing Jacey from the obligation of playing their dead enemy. Whether or not they found Parvati today, he knew the next thing he had to do was focus on how to make Tristan disappear for good.

(BREAK)

Jacey climbed into one of the waiting carriages, feeling immensely uncomfortable with having to pretend to be someone else outside of Hogwarts. She had never been to this Hogsmeade village, but Tristan had and he would be familiar with the places and the things he had done there… she was not. Harry and Luna had tried to fill her in during breakfast, thinking her all sorts of memories from their own time spent there. It was overwhelming and as Troy climbed in behind her, she suddenly felt very alone. A sense of foreboding washed over her when Troy turned to Pansy and the others who had been about to also get in their carriage. "You guys do find another one. Tristan and I need to talk."

They all looked to her and she simple nodded in agreement, sending them scattering to find an empty carriage. She and Troy sat in silence until the caravan of students began moving. "I don’t appreciate being cornered like this." She said sternly, hoping to maintain her grip on Tristan’s tone.

"And I don’t appreciate being lied to. Something is different about you." He accused, turning to look at her. There wasn’t a drop of fear in his eyes and Jacey realized he was somehow on to her.

Not knowing what else to do, she quickly reached out and grabbed the boy by the throat, violently shoving him back against his seat. She brought her face close to his and allowed her teeth to grow. "How dare you question me?" She demanded angrily. "I made you, I can just as easily unmake you."

"And Parvati Patil?" Troy choked out. Thankfully he did not try to break away from her as she knew her strength was nothing compared to Tristan’s. Her performance seemed to have rattled him, making him less certain that he had figured her out.

"What about her?" She asked harshly, releasing her hold on the boy and once more settling comfortably in her seat as if nothing had happened.

"What are your plans for finding her? Surely you are going to find her?" He pressed.

"I don’t have to explain myself or my actions to you or anyone else." She answered nonchalantly as she gazed out the window, trying to pretend to be disinterested.

"No, but you are supposed to be telling me what to do, remember?" Troy sneered. "So I am I going looking for Parvati on my own today?"

"You do nothing without me!" She roared.

"And what of the plan to get Luna?" He went on, ignoring her fury. Jacey felt shaken, certain he didn’t believe her to be Tristan because if he did, he would never have dared act so boldly. "The others are all waiting for your instructions, I’ve told them you intend to go through with it today no matter what and they’re all wetting themselves in their excitement to prove themselves to you. Unless you give them a specific plan, right now it’s going to be a free-for-all once we get to the village to see which Slytherin will get Luna for you first." He was so clearly setting a trap, testing her to see what she would do as Tristan.

Forcing herself to remain calm, Jacey shrugged. "Good, let them. That will leave you and I free to go look for Parvati."

Troy raised an eyebrow. "Really?"

Again she shrugged. "I don’t hold out much hope for them, but if one does find success then all the better. If not, then I’ll simply take care of Luna myself once we’ve set things right with our new little vampire."

"Okay then. I guess you and I will be taking a little trip through the woods alone." He grinned viciously.

Hiding the shiver of fear that went through her, Jacey silently called out to Harry, Luna and Draco. Hey, I think we have a big problem.

(BREAK)

Okay, new plan. Harry linked his mind to Luna, Jacey, Draco and Ginny so that all of the conspirators could be in on the conversation. Luna, you’re going to come with me, Ron and Lupin… there’s no way in hell you’re staying in Hogsmeade today. Draco, can you follow Jacey and Troy and help her out if she needs it?

"Why is everyone so quiet?" Padma asked, having chosen to ride to the village with them. "I feel like I’m losing my mind in the silence in here."

Ron took her hand and squeezed it in comfort. "What is there to say?" He asked.

"Don’t worry, we’ll be there soon enough." Lupin sighed. He’d agreed to come help look for Parvati, but he wasn’t pleased with the idea or the secrecy.

Yeah, I can follow them. Draco replied once they all descended into silence again.

Are you sure you and Jacey could take on Troy alone? Ginny asked in concern.

Do not worry, he is much weaker than Tristan was. Jacey reminded her.

Harry wondered how she was managing to hold herself together riding alone with Troy while knowing he suspected she wasn’t who she claimed to be. For all their sakes, the coaches couldn’t get to the village soon enough. Ginny, I need you to make sure you and Hermione keep out in the open, preferably near the Aurors… Lupin said Kingsley is supposed to be there today. He suggested.

Ginny nodded slightly before glancing at Padma. We should probably keep an eye on her too… Padma looks a wreck. I can’t imagine what she must be feeling not knowing where her sister is.

Harry felt a slight shiver of guilt run through him and Luna at the same time. Neither Ginny nor Ron were yet aware of Fred’s predicament as they hadn’t wanted to alarm them until they knew exactly where their brother was being forced to stay. Plus Ron was already overwhelmed with Parvati’s disappearance, both he and Hermione had worried what telling him about Fred might make him do.

"Finally… We’re here." Hermione announced from her place beside the window. She took Harry’s hand as they exited the carriage, both still wary of the fact that should Elanya’s spy be watching they had to appear as a couple. She was certain Fred was going to maintain her insignificance to him while he was away and Harry was sure that the less of a target she seemed, the better off they’d be when they were finally able to go looking for Fred.

Together, they led the way behind the nearest building attempting to not draw too much attention to themselves. "Well, are we all ready?" Lupin asked nervously.

"You guys be careful." Hermione told them, having only been informed that they intended to look for Parvati. "Ginny and I will do our best to cover the fact that you aren’t here."

"We’ll try not to go out of range. If you need us, call out and we’ll come right back." Harry squeezed her hand as she nodded in agreement.

Indicating that it was time, Luna took Draco’s hand as Harry grabbed Ron and Lupin. As one they all apparated away with Harry and Luna pushing through the barriers attempting to hold them back. They landed about a half a mile outside the village wall. "Is everyone okay?" Harry asked, wanting to be sure they’d all made it through in one piece.

"There was so much pressure that at one point I thought I was going to burst." Lupin answered, shaking himself off and ensuring his amulet still hung around his neck. Ron and Draco agreed but Harry and Luna remained unaffected by the trip.

"Well, I better be off." Draco said.

"Where?" Lupin asked in confusion as he and Ron had no idea Jacey was out there with Troy.

Leaving Luna to silently fill him in, Harry ignored the question and turned to Draco who was absently clutching his amulet as it hung around his neck. "Are you sure you can find them?"

"This close to the full moon, I’ll catch their scent in no time… well hers anyway." He amended, clearly unsure whether even his heightened senses could detect Troy if he didn’t want to be found. He’d already said as much about Parvati a week ago when Harry had asked if he thought he’d be able to find her.

"Who are you talking about?" Ron asked in total confusion, having no clue as to anything involving Tristan, Jacey or Troy… other than Troy had admitted to being the one to turn Parvati. Ignoring him, Draco merely turned and ran off with more speed than a normal human was capable of.

"Well, let’s try to find Parvati." Luna suggested, trying to get Ron’s focus back onto their own mission.

Allowing Lupin to lead the way just in case he was able to catch the girl’s scent, Harry and Luna both sent their minds out in search of any signs of consciousness. Even as it began to snow, no one suggested the group turn back. They were all determined… they would not end the day without finding Parvati.

(BREAK)

"Well, let’s go see where Padma went." Ginny suggested right after the others left.

"I suppose… do you think at some point we could quickly duck into the bookstore?" Hermione asked as they walked out from behind the building and surveyed the street before them. Students and villagers milled around as storekeepers shouted out their holiday sales, attempting to bring in customers. "There she is!" She pointed out Padma, walking toward the Three Broomsticks with Susan, Dean, Seamus and Hannah.

"Well, I guess she’s in good hands." Ginny remarked. "So, to the bookstore then?"

"I’ll be quick, I promise." She insisted as they began walking together down the road. An awkward silence descended over them and Hermione knew Ginny was as aware as she was that this was the first time the two girls had been left alone together since they’d had that fight at Harry’s house during the summer. She also knew they were both aware that they were different people from who they were then… but it didn’t make things any less tense between them.

"Great, and now it’s starting to snow." Ginny muttered before turning her attitude around and attempting to get along. "So, what are you looking for?"

"Anything about exotic flowers or Astral Projection." She answered simply as they entered the shop and began browsing the shelves.

"Jeez, are they giving something away in here or what?" Ginny grumbled as they pushed their way through the large crowd.

"More likely this is a just a good place for them to stop and get warm before heading back out into the snow." She muttered while she scoured the titles before her. Ginny walked off a bit, trying to help speed things along by searching out a different aisle. Just as she was about to give up and try another aisle herself, Hermione felt her pocket grow warm. Lee must have found something….

Quickly making sure Ginny wouldn’t notice, Hermione ducked out of the store and around the back away from prying eyes and ears. She didn’t want to have to explain to any of Fred’s family that he was missing and so the last person she needed overhearing her was his sister. To her dismay it began to snow harder… she felt her heart clench as her thoughts returned to Halloween night, when she and Fred had shared their first kiss in the snow covered courtyard. She shook her head, ready to focus on bringing him home. "Lee?" She asked as soon as she opened the compact.

"Yeah, I think I may have figured something out from these files." He answered uncertainly.

"What?" She demanded eagerly.

"Well, I think I know who they’re using as a spy… and it’s definitely not Simon McKinney." Lee hesitated, clearly uncomfortable as he furrowed his brow in her broken image of him in the mirror. "You’re not going to believe this… I’m not sure I believe it and I’m looking at the proof in front of me."

"So, who is it?" Hermione was on edge, unable to stand the anticipation any longer.

"Well… It seems Elise knows one of the professors up there at Hogwarts very well." He answered breathlessly.

(BREAK)

It didn’t take long for Draco to catch Jacey’s scent despite the falling snow, she had promised to touch as many trees as possible to help lead him to her… Troy he was unable to detect at all. I think I’m close. He thought out, hoping she would respond.

Come quick, I think he’s working up the nerve to make a move. Jacey’s worried voice came back to him.

Pulling off his amulet, he shoved it in his pocket and stopped to close his eyes and concentrate. Draco focused on her smell while eliminating all the others. His ears picked up something to the west and he immediately set off, careful to make as little noise as possible. At last he saw them walking and snuck up as close as he could to determine what the situation was.

"Somehow, I have a feeling Parvati is nowhere near here… I thought you said you’d be more capable to find her." Troy was saying.

Draco waited for Jacey to strike out at the boy as Tristan would have had his word been questioned. But she didn’t, instead attempting to keep him in line with threats alone. He began to see why Troy had become suspicious, apparently the only thing Jacey wasn’t able to properly imitate was Tristan’s ruthlessness.

Sure enough, Troy stopped and violently grabbed Jacey’s arm. "You aren’t Tristan Macnair, are you?!" He demanded. "What Parvati said on Halloween was true wasn’t it? Potter and Malfoy somehow managed to kill Tristan and you must be that sneaky little girl they’ve been hiding up at the castle!" He bared his teeth, his canines growing to sharp points. While not nearly as scary as Tristan’s, Troy’s fangs looked just as dangerous.

Draco was moving in an instant, rushing the vampire and tackling him to the ground as Jacey pulled herself free. The two boys snarled at each other, each very much wanting to come out the dominant force as they began taking swings at each other. Just as Draco was sure he’d hit hard enough to shatter the other’s nose, Troy managed to connect as well, hitting with enough force to knock Draco back. Rising to his feet with his nose dripping blood, Troy was greeted by the sight of Jacey with her hands up and cupping balls of flame. "What the hell are you?" He marveled.

Sensing Draco getting up behind him, Troy must have figured his best chance was to run. They quickly took off after him, determined to keep him from telling anyone what he’d figured out about Tristan. Jacey, being quite properly human, fell behind quickly as the two boys raced through the woods as fast as their hybrid speed allowed. While Troy wasn’t exactly able to fly, he seemed to hover over the ground as he went and was therefore able to move a bit faster and with less care than Draco who had to be wary of the multitude of obstacles covering the forest floor. But never once did he let the vampire out of his sight… the hunt was on and not only did he not know how to turn it off, he didn’t want to.

(BREAK)

"Hey, here’s one on astral projection." Ginny grabbed the book and turned to find Hermione but the other girl wasn’t where she’d been a second ago. Quickly scanning the store, she caught sight of her just as she was ducking out the door. What is she up to? Ginny thought to herself. She debated whether or not to follow, knowing if alone it was safer to be here in this crowded store. But Hermione knew that too, so what had drawn her to do something as dangerous as walk the streets alone?

Curious and slightly worried, she made her way towards the door before she could talk herself out of it. Besides, if she was quick she’d be able to catch up to Hermione in no time. Stepping outside, she looked up and down the now deserted streets, but the other girl was nowhere to be seen. Trying to remain calm and logical, she figured Hermione must have ducked into another store as it had begun to snow even harder. And then she saw footprints leading around to the back of the bookstore. They were quickly being filled in with new snow and pulling her hood lower over her face, she set out to follow them, suddenly certain they were Hermione’s. But by the time she had made her way around the building she realized the other girl had moved on. The footprints seemed to stop and then start again as she must have decided to get out of the snow after all.

With a sigh of frustration, Ginny began to make her way back to the front. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught some movement and turning to look, she was able to make out a figure in the distance walking toward the orchard. Maybe she’d read the footprints wrong… after all the snow was now practically coming down in thick, heavy sheets.

"Hey! Hermione!" She took off after the figure, moving as fast as possible as she slipped and slid through the snow. But as she got closer she saw that she had made a mistake. The person ahead of her was far too tall to be her friend, and from the way they moved, she was certain it was a man. Fear washed over her out of nowhere and she tried to turn around before he noticed her.

But it was too late, he had heard her calling. He turned, revealing himself to be Lucius Malfoy. "You!" He narrowed his eyes and sneered at her as he raised his wand. Hers was tucked away in her coat pocket, he would see any move she made to retrieve it. Panic flooded through her. "I know who you are, you’re the little girl who bedded and bewitched my son into turning on us, on me!"

"And you’re the one who tried to kill him and allowed Harland to be sent after him." She returned, determined not to let him see that she was afraid.

"Two failed attempts to end his life, but I’ve come to finish things today. Where is he?" He demanded, taking several long strides closer to her.

Unable to stop herself she tried to back away but he lunged and grabbed her arm, waving his wand in her face. "Where’s Draco?" He asked harshly, leering at her.

"I don’t know." She answered honestly.

"Well you better figure it out soon because if I can’t find him, you’re just as good a catch… hell I might even be able to buy my way back in by bringing the minister’s only daughter to the Dark Lord…" Lucius grinned.

"I doubt it." She kept her voice even, determined to be brave. "Nothing you do will change who your parents are, as Draco had the misfortune to learn."

His eyes darkened and he gripped her arm tighter. "If I have to drag you through the streets as bait, I will see my son today." He threatened. "Now, do you know where he is or not?"

(BREAK)

"There are signs that someone has come this way very recently." Lupin said, bringing them to a stop a he examined the ground. "Since I can’t pick up on any scent other than decaying earth, I can only assume it must be Parvati."

Ron shivered at the words the man used to describe what he smelled… it reminded him that Parvati was in all actuality dead, that what she was now something entirely other than human.

"Why wouldn’t the Aurors have picked up on it?" Luna pondered dreamily though her gaze was sharp and focused.

"Because they don’t know what they’re looking for." Lupin answered grimly. "There are ways for them to find a vampire, but they believe they are searching for a student… and as we don’t know how Parvati has taken to it, it’s much better that we find her before they do."

"Meaning what? That she could attack?" Harry asked.

Lupin shrugged. "She’s a newborn that has been left to wander on her own through nature for close to two weeks. Environment can absolutely affect the way someone can come out of this. For example, had Draco been bitten and left on his own in the woods there’s no telling whether he would have retained as much of his humanity as he had. The same goes for me, Parvati and any other human infected by a humanoid."

Determining she’d been there less than half an hour before, they quickly moved on. Ron’s stomach was tied in knots as they all started calling out for Parvati hoping the girl would show herself. "Over there!" Luna pointed as her attention was suddenly drawn to a small grove of trees.

"Parvati!" Ron cried out desperately, taking a few steps in that direction.

And then he saw her. She peeked her head out first before fully stepping away from the tree she’d been hiding behind, still wearing the long dress she used as a costume for the dance. It was in tatters now, her hair was hanging in tangles around her shoulders and her skin, normally a dark creamy caramel, was now ashy and pale. She dropped to her knees in the snow in front of them and hung her head. "I’m sorry." She whispered. "I never wanted this."

Ron took off his coat and moved to wrap it around her shoulders but she held out a hand to stop him. "Don’t come near me!" She shouted fearfully before once more falling into despair. "It wouldn’t help anyway. I don’t really feel the cold."

"Parvati?" Lupin tentatively stepped forward, tightly gripping his amulet. Ron, Harry and Luna all stepped to the side, letting their professor attempt to handle things. "We have to take you back, Dumbledore, your family, Arthur and the ministry… they can all help you."

"NO!" She leapt to her feet. "I don’t want to go back, I can’t! Not like this!"

"Please understand Parvati, this doesn’t have to mean-" Lupin stopped and whipped his head to the side at the same time Parvati did, both obviously picking up on something the others couldn’t.

Harry and Luna must have caught whatever it was next because they both instantly had their wands out and had taken a few steps in front of Ron as if to protect him… Though Harry had been sure to place himself at the front, keeping both Ron and Luna corralled behind him. Seconds later Troy burst into their little clearing, his eyes quickly washing over them all as he took in the situation. "I’ve been looking for you!" He said, zeroing in on Parvati. "I’ll take care of you if it’s the last thing I do!" He screamed, rushing at her faster than Ron could perceive.

Parvati was ready but before he could even reach her, Draco came out of nowhere, tackling Troy mid-strike. Ron watched in stunned horror along with the others as the two boys tumbled to the ground, both quickly getting back on their feet and crouching low as they circled each other, waiting for the chance to attack.

"Whoa, look out!" Ron yelled, catching sight of Tristan running through the trees towards them. He raised his wand and took aim.

"Ron, no! That’s not Tristan!" Luna shouted, knocking his arm just as he released his spell. Not quite understanding what she meant, he turned back in horror to find out whether she had stopped him in time.





NOTE: Who’s the professor spy? What will Lucius do? What will happen with vampires Troy and Parvati? Did Ron mistakenly hit Jacey with a spell? What’s going on with Fred? Find out next chapter!

________________________________________
Chapter 51: A Dangerous Day in Hogsmeade

A/N: So in this chapter I name a professor as a possible spy… just to let you know, I am changing things up from how they were in the real books yet again by using an OC in place of an semi-established character. Let’s all go with the flow on this :) Read, Review and Enjoy!



Hermione entered the gardening shed next to the flower shop and sat on the floor among the flower pots before once more eagerly pulling out the compact. "Lee?"

"What happened? Why’d you cut me off?" He demanded.

"I heard someone coming and had to move." She explained. Just as the snow had begun to fall harder, she’d heard the unmistakable sound of footsteps crunching around the bookstore to where she’d originally gone to talk to him. She’d had to close the compact and quickly hide herself behind the woodpile before the tall figure of a man walked past her toward the orchard. She hadn’t bothered to question who he was or where he was going, she’d been too anxious to resume talking to Lee. Instead she’d waited until the man was a few yards from her before dashing out and around the other side of the building toward the now deserted streets. Figuring the shed was her best bet not to run into anyone else while still getting out of the snow, she’d rushed there and closed herself in. "You were saying the spy might be a professor?" She asked incredulously.

"Yeah, I’m pretty sure. Seems Elanya had a secret fling that the ministry actually knew all about… According to the files, she and the professor involved had to attend disciplinary hearings years ago before she graduated but they were able to convince everyone that they were mistaken… or at least no one could prove the affair." He answered, flipping through the documents to be sure of what he was telling her.

"None of that was in her Hogwarts file." Hermione argued.

"Maybe not in so many words, but if you go back and read it now, you might see that they alluded to it… What I have here seems to indicate that Dumbledore had wanted the professor to be banned from teaching but as they were unable to prove anything beyond a doubt, he had to keep the guy in employment and keep both their records clean."

"So, who is it?"

"Dolos Erebos." He grimly announced.

"The Arithmancy professor? Are you sure?" Hermione had always enjoyed his class, had been the only one in her house to attempt an OWL in the subject. She couldn’t believe he would have an affair with a student let alone offer to spy on and kill one.

"That’s what it says. And from what I’m seeing of her recent travels, I’m pretty sure they’re still in touch- there was a report of them being seen together this summer in Australia. Let’s see… she had entered the country to reportedly attend a family funeral. I have no idea why he was there obviously. You might want to look into the guy’s files up at school because I’m sure as hell not breaking back into the ministry… nearly had heart failure the last time, I was so nervous someone would catch us." He shuddered as he recalled the experience.

"I’ll do that. Let me know if you manage to find anything else." She answered distractedly as her mind whirled, trying to remember everything she knew of Professor Erebos. While serious with a very no-nonsense attitude in his class, he was also very approachable and spent time ensuring each of his students completely understood the material, even if he did issue mile long essays every week. He always offered a friendly smile in the hallways and was willing to listen when a student had a problem. Hermione had always considered Erebos to be a very good teacher and nothing she could think of now reconciled him with the image of a murderous spy. But then… it was right there in his name, wasn’t it? Dolos Erebos, a name full of trickery... at least according to the Ancient Greeks.

(BREAK)

Luna watched in horror as her previous vision of this event came to life before her eyes with a few new changes now that they had attempted to interfere with the future and people were making their own decisions. No one seemed to know what to do as Draco and Troy circled each other waiting for the opportune time to strike. And then Jacey, still disguised as Tristan had come running up and Ron perceiving the danger had mistakenly taken aim to try and help. She shouted and tried to shove his arm in time before quickly whippng around to see whether she’d saved Jacey… she had, the other girl was still coming towards them.

"What do you mean that’s not Tristan?" Ron demanded. Luna realized everyone had stopped what they were doing and were tensely waiting to see what would unfold.

"Now is not the time to explain." Harry said quickly.

"I think it’s the perfect time to explain!" Troy yelled, taking a step closer to Draco. Harry and Ron instantly pointed their wands, almost daring the vampire to make a move.

At last remembering that these were students and he was a professor, Lupin came to his senses and stepped forward. "Everyone stop!" He shouted. Draco bristled at the command but Troy gave no indication that he heard.

Instead he turned to Parvati. "Come on, snap out of it! Do what you were made to do and help me avenge what they did to Tristan."

Parvati seemed unsure, her face showed she was concentrating hard. "No." She said at last. "There’s nothing to avenge. He’s not my master."

"But I am!" Troy hissed. "Now do as I say!"

"Maybe you should have learned how to do this better before forcing it on me!" She screamed. "I’ll do nothing you say!"

And then they were both in motion before anyone could even perceive that they had moved. Parvati and Troy clashed together, a tangle of teeth and claws. "Stop!" Luna shouted, knowing neither had heard her.

"Harry! Help me separate them!" Lupin yelled, waving his wand. Harry stepped forward and focused, using his own powers to grab hold of Troy and rip him from Parvati’s grasp as Lupin pulled her away. Harry pinned Troy to the ground, allowing Luna to cast and bind him in place.

"Hey!" Draco shouted. Luna spun around in time to see Parvati lunge and attack him. She was on top of him on the ground and he was trying desperately not to hurt her while still keeping her nails and snapping fangs away from him.

Harry, Ron and Lupin rushed over to help but the girl was in a feral state and any time anyone got too close, she’d snap at them as well. "Stop now!" Jacey shouted. Still bearing Tristan’s appearance, she stepped forward and allowed the flames to burst from her hands in warning.

Unlike Tristan, Parvati’s skin wasn’t impenetrable and could easily be burned. Her eyes were on Jacey’s hands, transfixed by the fire. At last she seemed to come back to her senses, giving up her attack on Draco and rolling to the side to allow him to stand. He quickly pulled his amulet from his pocket and put it on as he backed away from her, holding it firmly in his hand. Luna knew they were lucky that he’d managed to hang on to himself, it had to have been difficult for him to separate Parvati from the vampire she now was. It was clear she’d lost herself and attacked him simply for what he was, her natural enemy… thankfully Draco had been given more time to get used to his werewolf self.

"I’m sorry." Parvati said sadly as she sat before them in the snow.

"It wasn’t your fault." Lupin reasoned, though he was sure to keep his distance from her as he also clutched his amulet.

Seeing that the situation was under control, Jacey released the fire she’d been holding, her hands now hanging at her sides and smoking slightly. Luna held her breath along with the rest of her friends as Ron approached her.

"Jacey?" He asked hesitantly, clearly unsure as the person before him looked everything like Tristan. "What the hell is going on?"

(BREAK)

Ginny tried to pull her arm free, but Lucius dug his fingers in, refusing to let her escape so easily. "This is your last chance, where’s Draco?" He growled.

"He’s out in the woods somewhere, he’s not here in the village!" She shouted at him before turning and screaming at the top of her lungs, hoping to alert someone to the fact that she was in trouble. But they were so far from the buildings, and the thickly falling snow muffled her voice even more.

"Stupid girl!" He shook her and once more pointed his wand in her face. "Do that again and I’ll cut your tongue right out." He threatened.

And not doubting that he would, she kept her mouth shut. Panic was quickly settling in as she realized her silent calls for help were going as unanswered as her actual screams. Harry, Luna and Jacey must be too far into the forest and had gone out of range… at least that’s what she hoped. Not wanting to make herself feel even worse, she refused to think that they weren’t answering because something had happened to them out there.

"So, he’s out in the woods." Lucius stared off thoughtfully, gripping her arm even tighter. "That’s right, the full moon is only two days away… they probably don’t want him mixing with the students too much. Let me guess, he’s out there with Remus Lupin." He sneered. Ginny remained silent, neither wanting to confirm nor deny anything he thought. He had no idea that Fred had found a way to help with those amulets so she was perfectly willing to let Lucius believe Draco was more out of control than he was. "Alright, we’re going to sneak out of the village and go looking for them. It’s better we go out into the woods anyway, less chance of being seen." He licked his lips, eager to have this showdown with his son.

She didn’t fight as he pulled her along to whatever break in the fence he’d snuck in through. Ginny very much wanted him to take her out there and closer to Harry and Luna… she had to tell them to warn Draco. The last thing she was going to do was let Lucius have the element of surprise.

(BREAK)

Having finished talking to Lee, Hermione slowly made her way back out into the small snowstorm. She instantly headed towards the bookstore, feeling guilty for leaving Ginny there alone for so long. As she walked, she began preparing her excuse for the other girl, trying to decide what to say to her and still not alert her to the fact that her brother was missing. It was cold and wet out, and Hermione was eager to get inside and warm up despite having to lie to one of her friends once she got there... But just as she was approaching the door, she could have sworn she heard someone scream for help. What’s more, she thought it sounded like Ginny.

The snow was growing deeper, making it hard for her to maneuver her way around to the back of the building once more. She fell twice as she tried to run, and she shivered as her pants where now completely soaked. Even though she hadn’t heard another scream, she was suddenly certain that it was Ginny and she kept moving forward in time to see two figures far ahead of her, one dragging the other into the orchard. Hermione forced herself not to call out, waiting until they were completely in the trees before going to follow, pulling out her wand as she went.

"Hey!" She heard someone call from behind her.

Turning, she found Crabbe and Goyle standing together. "What do you two want?" She asked impatiently, gripping her wand tighter.

"That’s not Lovegood! It’s Granger." Goyle shoved Crabbe.

"How was I supposed to be able to tell through the snow?" He argued.

"I really don’t have time for an act from Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum." She called over the wind. "Why don’t you two just run along?"

"Where’s Luna? We need to talk to her." Crabbe took a few menacing steps towards her, forcing her to raise her wand.

"Do you see her anywhere? I have no idea where she is." Hermione answered nervously. "And I doubt you have any reason to talk to her since neither of you are supposed to be in the village. You’re supposed to be under house arrest back at school."

"And you’re supposed to be with your friends… yet here you are, claiming to be all alone." Goyle taunted.

"You really expect us to believe the others aren’t close by?" Crabbe leered.

"I have always expected very little from either of you. And yet you still have the ability to disappoint." She shot back, refusing to show fear in front of these two idiots. "And I don’t need anybody’s help to be able to take care of you." To prove her point, she shot a spell at their feet, causing the snow to violently explode up into their faces.

It was clear they would have liked to retaliate, but their uncertainty that they could really take her on was too much. After all, they’d had years to see what she was capable of in class. "Come on, let’s go back to the village and look for Lovegood." Crabbe suggested. "Granger’s useless to us at the moment anyway since Potter’s not around." He added, as if they were leaving only because she wasn’t worth their time.

She let them go simply because she knew Luna was nowhere near the village, though she did intend to warn both her and Harry that the Slytherins were looking for her. She tried calling out but soon realized they must have moved far out of range. Waving her wand, she dried her clothes as best she could before turning and continuing on to the orchard, following the deep impressions Ginny and her captor had left in the snow. At last, with her teeth chattering and her legs all but numb, she came to a small cluster of bushes that was hiding a newly made hole in the wall surrounding the village.

Hermione didn’t know what to do. The thought of going out into the woods alone while Parvati and Troy were out there wasn’t too appealing, not to mention she wasn’t sure just how dangerous this mystery man was who had taken Ginny. But looking behind her, the thought of going back to the village alone while the Slytherins were out on the hunt for Luna didn’t seem like the greatest plan either. She had no idea where any of her friends were or how long it would take before she was in range to contact them… and even if she did go after them, she was already so cold, how long would it be until she actually caught pneumonia or frostbite? But going back to the village to warm herself would mean giving up on Ginny and would make her feel like the worst person ever.

Tears of frustration slid down her cheeks, instantly freezing to her skin… she felt so tired, so ready to give up. She didn’t know what to do. She sat down in the snow, giving into the numbness spreading over her. Pulling out the compact, she held it in her gloved hands wishing she could just open it and see Fred’s face… to talk to him and have him tell her it was alright and that she had to get up and go on. But that wasn’t going to happen, only Lee waited at the other end and he had nothing comforting to offer. Never had she felt so alone.

(BREAK)

Harry had been off with Lupin trying to decide what to do next when they heard Luna scream. He turned to see Draco pull her out of the way as Parvati tore past them to attack Troy, sinking both her claws and teeth into his neck. He and Lupin rushed over at the same time Draco did and they all grabbed an arm to pull one vampire off the other. Troy, still bound in Lupin’s spell, could only writhe in pain as blood spewed from his neck... she’d torn his throat out. Parvati was fighting them, trying to get back to her prey but they held on tight… though Harry could clearly see they’d been too late.

As soon as Troy stopped moving, his eyes glazing over with death, Parvati went limp and gave up her struggle to get away. "I was so hungry…" She said quietly, both sad and determined as the boy’s blood dripped down her chin and stained her fingers. "Better it was him than any of you."

Harry shook his head… Luna hadn’t described any of this in her vision. Apparently Parvati was making her own choices right along with everyone else and changing the future- hopefully for the better.

Lupin appeared dazed. I’ve never known of a newborn to turn so quickly on their creator. He thought to Harry, trying to make logic of what he’d just witnessed. I suppose he did abandon her out here… and he was a newborn himself. He took out his handkerchief and handed it to Luna to give to Parvati so she could attempt to clean herself up.

"Now what?" Ron asked as he and Jacey rushed over. The potion had worn off as she hadn’t had the chance to take another dose and so she was once more looking like herself… which only seemed to make Ron more upset, as if being confronted with evidence of everything they’d told him suddenly made it all true to him.

"Just calm down." Harry said, his mind whirling as he attempted to make sense of the things he’d just seen. "Let’s all think about this rationally."

Ron shook his head angrily. "Okay, how do we rationally explain Troy not coming back to the castle with everyone else?"

"Why would we have to? The last person he was seen with was Tristan." Draco argued.

"Exactly." Harry said grimly as it clicked together, how they could use this tragedy to their advantage. "Tristan will be the one to have to answer for Troy, if Jacey plays it right, she could give Dumbledore a way to finally expel him for just cause."

"And me?" Parvati asked miserably. "How are you going to tie up this loose end?"

"You must come back with us." Lupin once more insisted. "There are many who live almost completely normal lives with the vampire curse, there’s no reason you can’t do the same."

Parvati shook her head. "I can’t, and I won’t let you make me. Tell my parents, Dumbledore and everyone else I’m dead... I may as well be anyway."

"What about Padma?" Ron asked quietly as he slowly approached the girl.

She turned to look up at him with tears in her eyes. "Yes, I do want to see her one more time before I disappear…"

"I can’t in good conscience let you just run off on your own." Lupin sighed. "There is a place I know of where you can go… a colony that takes in new vampires and helps them adapt to a normal life. I will not tell your family you are dead, but I am willing to let them continue to think you are missing until you are in a better frame of mind to decide how you would like to proceed."

"Where is this place? And how do you know about it?" Ron asked doubtfully.

"I don’t know where it is, for obvious reasons my kind would never be told no matter how in control we are. But it is my business to know these things exist and I know exactly who to contact to take her there." Lupin replied defensively before turning back to Parvati. "I can have them meet you outside Hogsmeade by morning."

She nodded slowly, clearly having no better plan. "Okay."

Harry sighed in relief before realizing they still had the matter of disposing of yet another body. "What about him?" He gestured to Troy.

"Well, I suppose we spread out and find an Ash tree." Lupin said slowly. "Any wood could work for him, but let’s get Ash just to be sure."

Draco was the first to spot the group of trees they needed and they quickly went to help gather enough wood to cover Troy’s body. Once they’d accomplished the task, Jacey stepped up and pointed her finger, emitting a stream of fire that instantly lit their gruesome bonfire.

Harry? Luna? He vaguely heard Ginny’s voice whisper through his mind. Turning to Luna he saw her nod to indicate she had heard it too. Reaching out to place a hand on her shoulder, he was nearly knocked off his feet as their combined energy amplified Ginny’s distant call. HARRY? LUNA? Can you hear me yet?

Ginny? What’s wrong? Luna answered anxiously.

Lucius Malfoy found me while he was in the village looking for Draco. I told him he was out in the woods so now we are too. I can’t get away from him! She desperately reported.

Where’s Hermione? Harry asked.

I have no idea. Ginny said quickly. She walked out of the bookstore and I haven’t seen her since.

Can you get Ron and Jacey back to Hogsmeade by yourself? Harry asked Luna.

I believe so. She replied uncertainly, not happy with the idea of splitting up their group even more.

Okay, when you get there stay near Jacey if you can and try to avoid the places you know the Slytherins might be. Try and find Hermione and Kingsley and stick with them. He was uneasy about Luna going back to the village without him but he couldn’t exactly have her and the others stand out here in the woods with a vampire who was barely in control of herself. Hey, guys? We have a slight problem. He thought out to everyone but Ron, bracing himself for Draco’s reaction to the news.

(BREAK)

Jacey watched as Ron walked away from the others and knew he was beyond angry… there may not even be a word strong enough for what he was feeling. It was a dark mixture of fury, betrayal, disgust, guilt and outrage. He knew as everyone prepared to leave that there was now something else he was not being told… but seeing how he was reacting, she felt Harry had made the right decision in not telling him that his sister was in the clutches of her boyfriend’s father. For all they knew, Ron would turn his emotional tirade on Draco and blame him for what Lucius had chosen to do. And seeing how badly Draco himself had taken the news, Jacey knew it would be bad if Ron tried to start anything. "Hey, I am sorry I did not tell you I was pretending to be Tristan." She said softly as she approached him.

Ron shook his head. "All those nights you came to see me as yourself… and I had no idea that I was still with you everyday… how could I have not known it was you? How could you have lied to me so easily?"

"It was not easy. And I did not lie exactly."

"You said you were leaving the castle!" He angrily turned on her. "That you were doing things for the coven! And really you were taking over the life of the vampire you helped kill!"

"I said I had to go away but that I would be close by... that was entirely true was it not?" She argued. "Once I was Tristan I was not myself and therefore I was gone, but I was never farther than a few hallways from you. And I did do this for the coven… Harry and Luna are coven members are they not? Tristan wanted to turn Luna and hand her over to Voldemort- not only would that have been bad for the coven, it would have destroyed Harry, how could I not have tried to help stop it?"

He let out a bitter laugh. "Yeah, Harry, Luna, Hermione, Fred, Ginny… you’re just like everyone else, always able to find justification. I’m tired of being on the outside!"

"We wanted to keep you safe… I wanted to keep you safe. This is why we did not tell you!" She said, knowing he did not think it a good enough reason.

"And what’s everyone not telling me now? Why are Harry, Malfoy and Lupin really staying out here?" He countered.

"They already told you, they’re staying to help me." Parvati said quietly from behind them. They spun around to face her, both surprised by how easily she had crept up on them… Jacey more than Ron as she had not sensed the vampire to be anywhere near them. "Sorry to interrupt, I couldn’t help but overhear."

Thank you for keeping the secret about Ginny. She thought out.

He’s already dealing with enough right now. Parvati thought back, her voice tense and full of venom. Jacey was quick to realize the other girl did not like her at all, and it was directly as a result of the familiarity she seemed to share with Ron… A jealous vampire… She did not know what to think, though she was struck by the ridiculous idea that Parvati had laid claim to him first. And seeing how he instantly softened his attitude, it was clear the guilt he felt over the girl’s fate was strong, bonding him to her in an obligatory alliance.

"I can stay too." Ron offered.

Parvati shook her head. "No, you go help find Hermione. She and Luna are going to need you to look after them… but will you do me a favor? Will you please meet me outside Hogwarts tonight with Padma so I can talk to her before I leave?"

"Yes." He instantly agreed. "Whatever you want."

Jacey felt uneasy knowing he would probably do anything Parvati asked now… that his own conflict would make it nearly impossible to deny her. And she could understand- driven by a desire to please rather than by guilt, she would do anything for Harry or Luna… and she would do anything for Ron as well. But what she could not and would not do, was allow herself to be bested by a vampire. As soon as she was done being Tristan she intended to make things right with Ron and impatient to make that happen, she was prepared to begin ruining the Macnair reputation the minute they returned to school.

(BREAK)

"Be careful." Harry warned one last time, reaching out to grasp Luna’s hand. They were standing alone, Lupin had pulled Draco aside and they were talking quietly to each other while Ron, Jacey and Parvati conversed off in the distance. Taking the opportunity, Luna wrapped her arms around Harry’s waist and held herself close against him, already hating that they were about to be separated. He ran his hands up her back, taking her face in his hands and leaning down to kiss her deeply.

"We will." She promised quietly as they broke apart and rested their heads together. Wanting to hide her own discomfort, she offered a small smile to try and relieve his worries. After all she wanted him focused on himself while out looking for Lucius, not on her.

"Well, I drank the potion, I guess it’s time to head back." Jacey announced as she, Ron, and Parvati returned. "I will do my best to talk to the Slytherins." She promised.

Parvati stood near Ron though she didn’t allow herself to get too close. "Don’t forget what you promised." She said quietly.

He nodded and shuffled his feet. "I won’t. We’ll be there tonight."

Luna felt bad that they hadn’t told him exactly what was going on, having not wanted to alarm him with the fact that Ginny could be in trouble. In fact, he’d only been told that Harry, Draco and Lupin were staying behind to ensure Parvati could find her way back to the castle and she couldn’t help but feel it was a bad idea not to tell Ron. But at the same time she didn’t want him to tag along and possibly get hurt in his desperation to help his sister… It was bad enough Harry and Lupin would have to be keeping Draco in check.

Luna quickly leaned up to kiss Harry again and assured that Jacey had completely turned back into Tristan, she reached out to grab her and Ron and whisk them back to the village before she could change her mind. They arrived outside the Shrieking Shack, the only place she was certain there would be no students. Sure enough the place was deserted, and even though the snow began to let up as they walked they soon saw the streets of Hogsmeade were pretty much clear of people.

The first thing Luna wanted to do was find Hermione, she was worried about what had happened to her friend and she knew Harry was too. Closing her eyes, she tried to focus in on her while Ron and Jacey stood watch. "Well?" Ron asked after a few moments. "We can’t stand here all day and let people see us hanging out with ‘Tristan’." He added, clearly still bitter about being kept in the dark.

"She’s in the orchard and we’d better hurry. Something’s really wrong." She told them, coming back to herself after a dark and lonely trip through Hermione’s head.

They ran off, letting her take the lead as she followed the girl’s dim stream of consciousness. Running through the trees and right up to the wall, Luna frantically pushed the bushes aside to reveal Hermione huddled into herself as she sat in a hole. Her teeth were chattering and her lips were blue, her face red and raw from the cold. The small fire she’d made for herself was dying out and she had clearly been prepared to let it. "Hermione!" Ron rushed to pull her to her feet, wrapping his arms around her in an attempt to offer warmth.

I couldn’t decide what to do, leave or stay. Hermione looked at Luna, unable to make her mouth form words as she shivered. Her eyes were so despondent, so lost and unsure.

It’s okay, you aren’t alone anymore. Luna assured her, stepping up to throw her arms around the girl as well. Jacey quickly broke off several branches, laying them down and lighting them in a giant blaze, her magic fire yet again rendering the snow inconsequential and therefore making her flames stronger than the ones Hermione had attempted to use to keep herself warm. Luna and Ron moved her closer, wanting to help their friend thaw out.

Why is Tristan here and lighting things on fire? Hermione asked, her eyes wide with fear while her voice maintained a numb indifference.

It is me, Jacey. She answered for herself.

It’s a long story I’ll tell you about later. Luna added.

Again Hermione looked to her and her alone. Please don’t leave again. She begged. Her mind was a jumble of a mess, even she didn’t know what she was thinking anymore other than that she was scared, cold and alone.

I won’t. She promised, holding her friend tighter as they edged her even closer to the fire for more warmth.

Once certain her flames were properly contained, Jacey turned to them. "I will go gather as many Slytherins as I can and try to get them to give up their search for you." She told Luna. "Once I have I will let you know that it is safe to come back into the village."

"Well be quick about it." Ron said angrily. "Hermione needs to get indoors."

"F-feet f-fr-frozen. C-can-n’t w-walk." Hermione stammered out through her chattering teeth. Jacey took off in a rush with more than her concern driving her. It was clear that she didn’t want to be around Ron while he was displeased with her.

"What were you doing out here anyway? And where’s Ginny?" Ron demanded as he fed more wood to the fire. Luna and Hermione looked away from each other, neither wanting to come up with an answer to that. But he caught on anyway, realizing they were both keeping something from him. Luna watched as a shadow passed over his face and she knew he had reached his breaking point with secrecy, that this was the last straw. He balled his hands into fists at his sides and strode up to tower menacingly over her. "I said, where’s my sister?" He said in a quiet yet threatening tone.

(BREAK)

The minute Potter had told him what Ginny had said, Draco saw red. He had to walk away from the group to gather himself, to come to terms with the fact that today may just be the day he had to kill his father… And it would sure as hell come to that before he’d let Ginny get hurt. Taking several deep breaths, he urged the others to plan faster, wanting nothing more than to find Lucius and let him know what a mistake it was to put anyone, especially Ginny, in the middle of their familial feud.

He felt Lupin come up behind him and turned to face him. "Just remember to try and keep yourself in control." Lupin said gently as he reached out to reassuringly squeeze Draco’s shoulder. "And remember, Harry and I are going to be with you… nothing is going to happen to Ginny and we won’t let you or Lucius do anything either of you will regret."

"Why is he here?" Draco asked miserably. "I gave Dumbledore all the ways I knew how to find him, why haven’t they caught him yet? Why is he still free to come here and torture me?"

He shook his head. "I have no idea. But when we catch him, we’ll hand him over to the Aurors in the village."

"That’s if everything goes well. Lucius isn’t one to play by the rules."

"Neither are you and Harry." He reminded him. "There’s a lot about you that your father won’t be expecting Draco, and that’s his own fault because he placed limits on you in his own mind. I’m just glad you’ve managed to prove to yourself that you’re more than he ever thought you could be. Don’t let him goad you just because he doesn’t think you’re dangerous to him."

"I just want him to leave Ginny alone and disappear out of my life." He said, shrugging him off and crossing his arms defiantly.

"And we will make that happen, but in a way that doesn’t end with anyone else dying today." Lupin insisted.

"Hey, they left for Hogsmeade." Potter said as he and Parvati cautiously approached them. "I’m pretty sure I’ve caught Ginny’s consciousness… if you’re ready."

"Of course I’m ready, she’s already been with him too long." Draco took a deep breath and prepared himself.

"And you’re sure you can get back to Hogwarts?" Lupin asked Parvati.

She nodded eagerly. "Yes, just go so that I can be alone to get ready." Draco knew what she meant… she was going to find something to eat before coming face to face with humans again.

Potter reached out and grabbed hold of him and Lupin, apparating them away and to where he sensed Ginny to be. Within seconds they were miles away back near the village, but no one was there. "We must have just missed them." Lupin pointed out the deep footprints in the snow.

Draco sniffed the air and instantly picked up the faint scent of the coconut lotion Ginny used. He raced ahead of the other two, grimly eager to once more face his father. Seeing them ahead in the distance he slowed and waited for Lupin. Leaving Potter to cover them, the two werewolves removed their amulets and placed them carefully in their pockets where they wouldn’t make contact with their skin. Draco could still feel the effects of it and longed to throw the thing far away from him… but he knew better. Without the Wolfsbane, the amulets were the only thing keeping them sane in these last two days before the moon and he needed that in order to ensure he kept his wits and didn’t accidentally hurt the wrong person.

Without a word to each other, they allowed the wolf to waken within them, heightening their senses and setting out to do what they were meant to- hunt. Breaking off from each other they noiselessly moved over the snow in opposite directions before running parallel, looking to encircle their prey and leave no escape. Ginny, we’re here. Draco heard Potter silently call out to assure her as Lucius continued to drag her unwillingly along behind him.

As soon as he was assured they were all properly situated, Draco gave the signal and he and Lupin leapt from behind their trees with their wands out, trapping Lucius from either side and the front. He leapt back in surprise, clutching Ginny closer to him and spinning around to find Potter behind him brandishing his wand with several heavy branches circling in the air around him. Backing up against a tree as they all three closed ranks, Lucius swung Ginny into his body and crushed his arm against her throat to keep her from escaping while using her as a sort of human shield. He waved his wand at all of them threateningly though his eyes were locked on Draco. "I’ve been looking for you, son." He said as a dangerous smile spread across his face.

Draco could see Ginny shivering and knew it was more than the cold, she was clearly scared about what was going to happen. He wanted to keep himself together, to keep her worried about herself and not him… but facing Lucius, seeing the hatred his father now had for him, he couldn’t stop himself. Pulling the amulet from his pocket, he angrily tossed both it and his wand in the snow and threw his arms out tauntingly. "I’m right here."

(BREAK)

Crabbe and Goyle were the first two Jacey found, which made sense seeing as how they were forced to wander the streets in order to not be seen and thus reported for breaking their house arrest. As Tristan, she ordered them to gather as many of the others as they could and have them meet her in the Shrieking Shack. Quickly going from building to building, she found the rest of the Slytherins and gave them all her orders before heading up to the deserted house herself.

When she entered the dusty parlor, she saw that most everyone was already there. A few stragglers came in after her and she was sure to stare daggers at them to let them know she was displeased. "Everyone pay close attention because I’ve already had a bad day and I’d hate to have to make it worse by repeating myself." She looked around to ensure all attention was on her. "Troy and I ran into some problems while out looking for Parvati Patil. Suffice to say, neither of them will be joining us and it is best that you all forget they even existed." A low murmur of confused voices rang out and she knew she’d have to give them more. "All you need to know about the situation is that they became unruly and I was forced to deal with them."

"None of us can find Lovegood." Pansy said cautiously. She was clearly as eager as the others to ask about Troy, but thankfully they weren’t as perceptive as the vampire had been and her threats were enough to hold them in check… for now.

"It’s just as well." Jacey waved her off. "I had arranged a meeting in order to hand her off only to learn that my mission has changed."

"The Dark Lord doesn’t want Lovegood anymore?" Millicent asked doubtfully.

"I didn’t say that." She snapped, startling the other girl into silence. "There are a lot of things going on that none of you can even begin to comprehend. I suggest you stop trying and simply listen and follow orders, lest you wind up like Troy and Parvati." No one dared speak and she nodded in approval. "That’s more like it. Now, our main objective is no longer Luna Lovegood… instead it is being left to us to figure out who the mystery girl is that Potter and Dumbledore are hiding at the castle. It seems the Dark Lord has taken a particular interest in her."

Jacey knew Harry and Luna were going to be upset that she was turning their attention on herself… but she figured this was the best way to keep everyone safe until they could leave school at last. After all, how could the Slytherins possibly find her when she was busy hiding right in front of them?

(BREAK)

Luna was stunned into taking a step back, away from Ron. She’d never seen him so angry before. "I don’t know where Ginny is." She answered honestly.

"You better not be lying to me." He said, stepping forward and forcing her to take another step back.

"I’m not!" She yelled, upset to be so scared of one of her friends… of someone she’d once loved. "I don’t know where she is, but Harry, Draco and Lupin are with her." She admitted, hoping that would be enough to appease him. But of course it wasn’t.

"So wait, they lied about why they were staying out there?" He roared, shouting in her face. "What the bloody hell is going on?! And how does my sister fit into it?"

"St-stop yell-yelling!" Hermione shouted out of nowhere. Having been so involved in their argument, they’d forgotten she was still there, hunched over the fire with her hands spread out over it. "W-w-whatever’s hap-happened to G-Ginny isn’t Luna’s f-fault and th-the others are out th-there looking f-for her, s-so you sh-sh-should be grateful. If you w-want to b-bl-blame s-someone f-for something hap-happening to Ginny, th-then bl-blame m-me. I’m th-the one w-who ab-b-bandoned her in th-the bookstore." She stammered out as she shivered.

Ron was nearly shaking as he attempted to control his rage. "And why did you do that?" He asked through clenched teeth.

"T-to t-talk t-to Lee." Hermione looked directly at him. "Fred s-sent him up h-here w-with s-some quest-t-tions ab-about th-the quickcures and I st-st-stepped outside t-to help f-figure it out." She lied smoothly, her anger helping drive her into remaining calm and believable. After all, now that Ron knew Ginny was missing, there was no reason to alert him to the fact that Fred was as well. He’d been exposed to enough truths today… one too many actually, if his rapidly reddening face and darkening eyes were any indication.

"Don’t talk to me, either of you. Not unless it’s to let me know Jacey has given the all clear to go back to the village. And after, I don’t want to talk to any of you at all." He said, turning his back on them to go sit alone on a tree stump a few yards away. Clearly he still cared enough not to abandon them, but the aura of his anger was suffocating.

Luna carefully sat beside Hermione in the area Jacey had cleared away of snow. "Are you okay?" She asked the other girl who’s teeth were still chattering as puffs of air passed through her blue lips.

"J-just re-really c-c-cold." She answered. Lee figured out who the spy is. She thought, not wanting to expend energy talking.

And? Luna prompted.

It’s Professor Erebos. He had an affair with Elise while she was here at school though no one can prove it. Lee believes there’s evidence that they’ve continued to stay in contact. Hermione quickly explained.

Well, I could certainly see him more capable of killing someone than Simon. Luna answered. Nothing came to her saying they were wrong and so she had no reason not to accept Lee’s research as a plausibility. But Simon is working for them somehow… That she was certain of. Intuition had been poking at her since she’d agreed to dance with him at the Costume Ball, now it was downright shoving her in it’s insistence that there was something off about that boy.

After awhile, Jacey finally called out to silently tell Luna that it was as safe to enter the village as it was going to get. She helped Hermione to her feet and left it to her to tell Ron that it was time to go. Despite his continued fury, he silently stomped over to help Hermione walk. Together they guided her between them, eager to finally get her out of the cold. Glancing behind her past the wall, Luna hoped Harry was alright out in the woods though she was more than positive that she would know instantly if he weren’t.

(BREAK)

Ginny tried not to look directly at Draco as Lucius pressed his arm against her throat, not wanting him to see just how scared she was. After all, she wasn’t being hurt, Lucius seemed more interested in using her as a hostage or shield than hurting her. But seeing Draco remove his amulet and throw it away, seeing the fury in his eyes that had built up after years of dealing with his father… she had no idea what was about to happen but she was horribly afraid that this wasn’t going to end well.

"I’m right here." Draco taunted his father, clearly trying to get him to take the bait and release Ginny.

But Lucius was no idiot, he’d been surviving for a long time and knew that she was the only thing keeping Draco, Harry and Lupin at bay. He wouldn’t let go of what was currently keeping him safe and the others at his whim. "Yes you are, wandering in the woods like an animal." He sneered at his son. "I’d have thought Potter would have put you out of your misery by now… Apparently he’s no different that his foolish father and your mother’s moronic cousin, keeping around a wild beast because they’re too spineless to do the right thing."

Ginny couldn’t help the tiny shriek that escaped her as Lucius dragged her along to the side to duck away from the thick branch Harry had sent flying at him as he insulted James, Sirius and Lupin. Looking up, she saw several more branches still dancing in the air around Harry as he glared down Lucius, almost daring the man with his gaze to say something else derogatory about the people he loved. "Careful!" Draco shouted, upset that Ginny could have been hit as well.

"It was just a warning." Harry said with false calm. "It didn’t even get near them."

"It is my understanding that you allowed Harland Myers to reside secretly in your house for a decade." Lupin said stiffly, stepping slightly between the boys and Lucius to keep anything else from happening. He appeared calm, only his eyes indicated the loathing he had for the other man. "Where was your spine then? Why would you have let someone so dangerous to you and your family infiltrate your life?"

"Make no mistake, if I had a choice in the matter, Myers would have never come near my house." Lucius answered bitterly. "As it is, he proved useful all these years later… except none of you did what you were supposed to! I should have figured they’d let Draco live, after all, they kept you around all these years. Quite outlived all your friends, haven’t you?" He taunted. Lupin remained silent but Ginny could see the fury written in every line of his face. Draco and Harry were holding their breath as they stood alert, waiting… they were all waiting for their chance. Lucius went on, his own anger slowly leaving his control. "Of course there always more to still take away- your friend’s son and his friends, your blushing bride… your new make-shift son. You think I don’t know that you signed your name to papers claiming guardianship of Draco?"

"What do you care?" Draco snapped.

"I care!" Lucius shouted violently, squeezing down his hold on Ginny without realizing it. She reached up to pull at his arm and return her full flow of oxygen, but his grip was tight and all she could do was struggle to continue breathing as the others closed ranks further. "Stay back!" Lucius warned them as he turned his wand on her. "Two words and her life is over before any of you can stop me." He turned his attention back on Draco. "Whatever happens, you are a part of me, my flesh and bones, my genes. And now not only have you willingly allowed another family to be responsible for you, you’ve completed your betrayal by telling the Minister where to find me! I may have tried to kill you Draco, but I expected more of you. You should have come and found me yourself if you wanted revenge, but I see spending so much time with these people has made you weak."

"No, you were right. I am still your son and here we are face to face… but you’re the one who’s still hiding behind someone else. Are you that scared of me now?" Draco yet again taunted his father, wanting him to release Ginny and come after his real target. She shivered, scared that he’ll lose and even more scared about the more likely outcome- that he’ll win. Either way, after today, she knew Draco was going to be different.

(BREAK)

Ron sat opposite Luna and Hermione in front of the fire in the Three Broomsticks. Despite the revelry and loud voices all around them, they three remained silent each lost in their own thoughts. Again he wished he could have been the one to read minds, that he could rip open those girls heads and learn all the secrets they were still keeping from him. He felt torn in a million different pieces and didn’t know what to feel first, which resulted in a continuous shift of anger, sadness, guilt, obligation, jealousy, betrayal, and confusion.

His mind still couldn’t fully comprehend what had happened to Parvati or what he’d seen her do to Troy. He’d never stopped blaming himself since she’d disappeared, and then finding out Jacey had been to blame as well… that she had known what was possibly wrong with Parvati and hadn’t said anything… it had been overwhelming. Today had sufficiently blown his mind. How could Jacey have slept beside him each night knowing that she was lying to him everyday? And her reason for keeping him in the dark was the same bull Harry and Dumbledore had been feeding them for years- to keep him safe. But he didn’t feel very protected.

Worse than his anger and confusion over Jacey, it felt there would never come a time when he’d find peace over Parvati’s fate… how was he supposed to live his life knowing he’d allowed hers to be destroyed. She’d seemed so hopeless out there in the woods, so resigned to an eternal life of loneliness. How could he forgive himself or Jacey for any of it? Tristan and Troy, the two really responsible were dead and the only ones left to blame were the living who had allowed it to happen. Ron dropped his head in his hands, unsure of everything except that he was tired of thinking.

"Hey, have you guys seen Dean and Padma?" Seamus asked, walking up to their silent trio and taking in their somber faces. "Whoa, who died?"

"I haven’t seen them, but I think they’re at Honeydukes." Luna answered softly, never raising her gaze from the floor.

"I’ll go with you to look for them." Ron offered, needing a moment away from the girls. After all, one had left his sister and let who knows what happen to her and the other was Luna, who he just couldn’t make heads or tails of anymore… he was torn, wondering if perhaps he was actually starting to hate her. After all she was the easiest to blame for everything going wrong, from her visions or lack of them to her untouched ability to keep a secret to her swooping in on Harry and shaking up their whole group. It didn’t matter if Hermione claimed that without Luna she and Harry would have still broken up because he knew it wouldn’t have happened. Fred nor anyone else could have turned her head if she wasn’t certain Harry no longer wanted her and Ron didn’t care how much they protested to the contrary. And now because Hermione was busy chasing Fred’s approval, she’d left Ginny to an uncertain fate… He turned to look at both girls, trying to hide some of what he was feeling about them. "You two are planning on staying here in these exact spots, right?"

"I’m certainly not going back outside until it’s time to go back to school." Hermione muttered, sinking further into her seat to get her feet closer to the fire. She was examining her fingers, which were the same bright pink as her cheeks, nose and forehead. Ron found he was relieved to not to see any obvious signs of frostbite… hopefully she’d warm up and at worst, come out of this with a bad cold.

Satisfied that they were safe in the crowded inn until the others came back, Ron left without another word to either of them. He walked past Jacey who was sitting as Tristan at a table by the door with Pansy and Millicent. It was clear she’d come there to help keep an eye on him, Luna and Hermione should anything go wrong. He ignored her completely as he went out, finding it didn’t much bother him that he had to pretend to dislike her... after all, there wasn’t much pretending at the moment. Lost in his own head, he followed Seamus down the road to the candy store.

The snow had stopped and Ron looked around, hoping to catch sight of his sister as people once more began filling the streets. But of course she wasn’t here safe in the village. She was out there in the woods in some kind of untold danger and his friends had decided he didn’t need to know about it. He took a few deep breaths to try and calm himself, not wanting to alert anyone to the fact that Harry and Ginny weren’t where they were supposed to be unless he had to. As mad as he was, Ron trusted Harry to take care of Ginny… and push come to shove, he trusted Draco to as well. With Lupin completing the trio, he knew his sister’s welfare was in good hands- he just wished he knew what was going on.

"There they are…" Seamus said as they entered Honeydukes, pointing to a back wall where Dean and Padma were standing and talking very close together. Ron let out an involuntary shiver as he recalled the last time he’d been in this store. They’d avoided it the last few times they’d come to Hogsmeade for a reason after all, none of them wanted to remember what had happened there last year or anything else about that battle. Ron straightened himself up and prepared what he was going to say to convince Padma to leave the castle with him tonight without right out telling her about Parvati…

(BREAK)

Harry held his breath as Draco continued to taunt his father but again Lucius refused to take the bait. All any of them needed was one chance, one moment where Ginny could break free but it was apparent he wasn’t going to give it to them. For all his hard talk, it was clear Lucius was the one who was most scared as none of them were hiding behind anyone else… Draco had even thrown his wand away, though Harry wished he had held onto the amulet. After all they wanted to capture Lucius, not kill him.

"I’m not scared of you." Lucius sneered.

"Prove it!" Draco shouted. "Stop hiding behind a girl and come try to end my life if that’s what you want! I’m not scared of you either!"

"I suppose that’s why you told them about the safe houses?!" He yelled back. "Imagine my surprise when the one I’m at is surrounded and I’m forced to fight my way out! And then every single place I go to after is already swarming with Aurors. Your mother would never dare, but you! You’re just spineless enough to send someone else to clean up for you. So I came here to show you what it’s like to be a man and face your demons… I came here looking for you Draco. Send your new friends away and I’ll let the Minister’s daughter go with them."

"That’s not going to happen." Lupin said quickly. Neither he nor Harry was going to leave Draco alone with Lucius. "You have no move to make here, think about it. You can’t apparate without leaving a trace and these woods are already swarming with Aurors looking for a missing student. It won’t take much for them to find you wherever you go. No one is going to let you hurt Ginny or try to hurt your son. And no one is going to let Draco hurt you either, that’s something he shouldn’t have to deal with."

"As if he could hurt me." Lucius spat out. "I know my son better than you ever could. I find it laughable that within a few months you seem to think you can just waltz in and foster parent the little snake. Keep one thing in mind, he may now be a stray dog like you, but you are not his family. I am."

"And so is Nymphadora Tonks-Lupin." Draco shot back. "For better or worse, he married into this family… in fact, he’s your nephew by marriage which makes him my cousin and a member of the only part of this family I wish to belong to. I don’t even know you, and I don’t care to any longer."

Harry watched a dark shadow pass over Lucius’s face. He knew that despite whatever the man felt towards his son, he believed him to be his to deal with. "You’ve disappointed me your whole life, I don’t know why I expected today to be any different. Look at how weak you’ve let yourself grow… Tell me, if I ended all of their lives right now what would you do? Would you violently avenge them or would you just sit down in the snow and cry?" It was clear he was upset to learn that there were people Draco was willing to put before him. Even more, he was upset to learn that there were people who actually cared about what happened to Draco while he was left completely alone and on the run.

"That’s an impossibility and there’s no need to ponder the impossible." Harry said. His mind was growing tired with keeping the branches in the air and though he could feel Luna sending him her strength and energy, he knew something had to be done soon. Okay, we need this to end. He thought out to his friends.

I couldn’t agree more. Draco’s strangled reply reached him. He was clearly having trouble holding himself in check and Harry could almost see the more primal and instinctual thoughts of the wolf inside him as it prepared for it’s chance.

"I’ve lived long enough to know that there is no such thing as the impossible." Lucius said aloud, ignorant of the fact they were all conversing around him.

"So then the question is, how much longer you’ll be living." Draco returned.

When I give the signal, I’ll throw another branch. When he ducks, Ginny, I want you to kick, bite whatever you have to do to get him to loosen his grip if not let go completely. Harry told her.

I have absolutely no problem with that. She replied though her consciousness seemed dimmer.

Draco instantly picked up on the distress in her voice. So let’s do this then!

Wait! I want to be sure we cover all the angles so no one gets hurt by accident. Harry insisted, trying to remain calm himself. Lupin, as soon as he moves, disarm him. And Draco… just don’t kill him, okay?

We’ll see what happens. He thought back darkly.

I’m ready when you are. Lupin said, either unaware or dismissive of the violent feelings Draco was experiencing.

"The same question could be posed to you." Lucius replied to Draco’s spoken words. "Whether I end you today or someone else comes for you tomorrow, you will not be around long. There are too many looking to destroy you my son. You’ve made far too many of the wrong kind of enemy. Clearly you were better off when it was only Potter’s hollow threats you had to deal with."

"I’m still breathing." Draco replied coolly as an explosion of revenge swirled within him. "Clearly I’m not as bad off as you might think."

Now! Harry shouted in his mind, whipping the biggest tree branch directly at Lucius so he could see it coming. Like before the man tried to duck out of the way, dragging Ginny with him. But this time she was ready for it. As soon as Lupin shouted "Expelliarmus!" she bit down on Lucius’s arm. Moving with the grace of a dancer, she swung her elbow back at the same time she kicked her leg, catching him in both the gut and kneecap and sending the man sprawling. Luckily she managed to roll out from under him and before he’d fully touched the ground, Draco was on him and wrapping his hands tightly around his father’s throat.

"No!" Harry raced forward with Lupin, both desperately pulling at Draco’s iron grip. Nothing they were saying could reach him, he was in his own world now. Glancing behind him, Harry saw Ginny furiously digging in the snow and knew she was trying to find the amulet they’d all foolishly let Draco throw away.

Pulling Lupin away, Harry wrapped Draco protectively in his mind before pulling with everything he had, sending the boy flying through the air to land gently a few yards away. Then he quickly turned to bind Lucius in place. Lupin rushed over to Draco, pulling off his amulet and kneeling to place it over the boy’s head before leaning down to quietly talk to him. Harry reached out to stop Ginny from going over. "I don’t care how sure we both are that he won’t hurt you, this is something Lupin needs to help him with." Harry said gently, wrapping his arms around her as they both watched their friend attempt to bring Draco back from the edge.

"They should have drank the Wolfsbane before coming out here." She shook her head angrily. "Drake should have had it ready."

"Draco wasn’t supposed to take the amulet off, they didn’t think they’d need it until tomorrow and we weren’t exactly expecting Lucius." Harry answered. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, my arm hurts a bit from being dragged around but I don’t think he was very interested in hurting me, it was clearly Draco he wanted. I just let him think he was out here alone." She said with a small smile.

Something poked at Harry’s intuition and he turned to see Lucius had rolled himself several feet to grab hold of Draco’s discarded wand and free himself of the binding placed on him. "Petrificus Totalus!" Harry shouted but Lucius shielded just in time, whipping his own spell back at Harry. He shielded, protecting both him and Ginny as she pulled her wand out and shot a stunner. Again Lucius shielded before pointing the wand at the tree next to them. Harry grabbed Ginny’s hand and pulled her out of the way, shoving her to the ground and throwing himself over her before casting a shield as a shower of wood and snow rained down from the explosion.

Lupin rushed forward with his own wand out sending spells so fast Lucius could only shield himself. Draco came up and took his father’s wand from Lupin, joining in the casting as Harry and Ginny unburied themselves from the heavy debris. Harry caught the glint of light from the corner of his eye and turned to see Lucius pull out and throw two small daggers with great speed and accuracy from behind his shield.

Harry couldn’t follow both and was only able to intercept the one that had been flying straight at Draco’s heart, using his mind to push it off course where it buried its entire length harmlessly in a tree. The second hit its target, embedding itself in Draco’s leg. He fell to the side with a grunt of pain. Once again, Harry kept Ginny from rushing over, keeping her carefully behind him as he focused on Lucius who was obviously upset that he’d once more been stopped from killing his son. The man waved his wand with a flourish while shouting an unfamiliar incantation.

"Harry!" Ginny shrieked. He turned to see her fighting off the tree that had suddenly come to life and reached down to grab her. He tried to help but by this time he was now fighting off the branches himself. Lucius had bewitched the trees to help him, keeping Harry and Ginny busy while he quickly turned back to Draco.

"Look out!" Harry shouted a warning to Lupin who was crouched over Draco trying to make sure he was okay. Hearing him, they both looked up to see Lucius pointing his wand at them.

"I will not allow you to have my son. He is mine to let live or die." Lucius sneered down at Lupin before waving his wand. "Avada-"

"NO!" Draco roared, shoving Lupin away and ripping the dagger from his own leg while ripping the amulet from his neck and hurling it far away. Fuelled by wild human fury and calculating animal instinct, he leapt to his feet and lunged at his father, driving the blade deep into the man’s belly.

Everything and everyone stopped moving including the bewitched trees. Harry saw Lucius’s eyes grow wide with shock and something almost like pride. Draco still had his hand on the handle of the dagger as he glared his father down. "Guess I’m capable after all." He said quietly.

Harry felt Ginny drop to the ground and once more look for the amulet and he let her, figuring it was best both werewolves had them back. Besides, it kept her busy. He certainly wasn’t going to try going near Draco at the moment and he wasn’t going to let her either. Lupin picked himself up off the ground and being the only one in the position to reach out to Draco he did. "Come on." He said gently. "Now we can take him to Albus."

"You’ll take me nowhere!" Lucius burbled out. "Now my son and I will finish this!" Before anyone could stop him, he grabbed Draco’s shoulder and they were gone in a flash as he apparated them both away.

"Draco!" Ginny leapt to her feet and ran to the empty spot where they’d just been standing.

"That was stupid." Lupin muttered. "We have to find them before the Aurors do. And they’ll be sure to be heading this way now that they’ll have an energy trace to investigate."

"Why not let them find Lucius and Draco?" Harry asked. "They’ll be able to take Lucius into custody and we’ll be done with it."

Lupin shook his head. "No, they’ll take Draco too. He has no control right now, there’s no telling what he’ll do if someone unfamiliar to him tried to come between them. They won’t look at him like we do, all they’ll see is a humanoid out of control… trust me, I’ve been arrested several times for much less in my younger years."

"Dumbledore wouldn’t let that happen." Ginny said, more to assure herself than them.

"He won’t have a choice." Harry answered grimly.

"Exactly. And if they find Draco out of control so close to both Hogsmeade and the school, they’ll blame me and revoke mine and Tonks guardianship… I won’t be able to help him and he’ll be lost in the endless red tape of bureaucracy."

"So, where did they go then?" Harry asked. "I mean, Lucius was hurt, he couldn’t have gone far." He sent out his mind and caught a faint trace of Draco.

Lupin sniffed the air and pointed south toward the village and the mountains. "That way. I can faintly smell Lucius’s blood."

(BREAK)

And that’s it, there’s nothing else you’re leaving out? Hermione asked.

After Ron had left with Seamus, Luna had taken it upon herself to silently tell Hermione everything that had been happening. After all, if Ron now knew there was no reason she couldn’t… especially if they were planning to make Tristan disappear as soon as possible. She could tell the other girl wasn’t mad, that she knew she was guilty of keeping secrets just as large involving the whole thing with Fred and Elanya. But she was hurt that they hadn’t trusted her and there was nothing Luna could do to make that better.

That’s it. So now Jacey just has to take the blame as Tristan for Troy’s disappearance and hopefully we can end this… until or unless someone connects it to us. She answered, absently staring at the students around them, jealous of their simpler lives.

Poor Parvati… no wonder Ron feels so terrible. Hermione took another sip of her hot chocolate.

There are a lot of reasons for why he’s so upset, she is one of them. She said glumly before turning things around and focusing on her friend. "So, are you okay?" She asked aloud.

"Finally starting to feel warm and I can wiggle all my fingers and toes so I think I’m okay." She answered, staring off into the fire. "I don’t know what happened to me… it was like I couldn’t make a decision so I just chose to do nothing at all."

"We all lose ourselves for a little while and we’re all dealing with so much… even you had to break eventually." Luna reached out to rub Hermione’s shoulder in comfort.

"Do you think Ginny’s okay?" She asked quietly, her guilt over leaving the other girl alone quite apparent.

"I have no reason to think otherwise-" She cut herself off as the roaring started in her ears.

"I guess you spoke too soon." Hermione said, having recognized the signs of a coming vision.

Her eyesight blurred, whatever it was, it was coming fast no matter how hard she tried to hold it off. I can’t do this out here in front of everyone. She thought out desperately. Hermione took her arm and guided her through the building and down a long hall to the back bathrooms, settling her down on the small waiting couch before locking the door.

Luna let herself go, giving into the vision… her first since she’d fried out her mind. She was excited in a way, as this had to mean she hadn’t broken herself. It was the white room, a sharper, brighter version than ever before. Harry was beside her and instantly Sarah, Elise and Elanya were there, reaching out their arms and beckoning them to come over. She felt a pull, a desire to go and see what they had to offer. Simon suddenly walked by, much closer than the others and grinning at her menacingly as he too reached out a hand to her and her alone. Harry disappeared from her side and she recoiled, once more aware of herself and the fact that she wanted nothing they had to offer. But that moment of uncertainty, she knew that was a clue as much as anything she was being shown… This entire warning was clearly for her alone and she had to pay close attention to everything.

Coming out of it, she felt dizzy and extremely thirsty. "Hold on, just wait here and get your bearings." Hermione said, looking at her in concern. "I’ll go get you some juice or something equally sweet, I think your blood sugar might have dropped… you’re awfully pale."

Luna lay back down and gratefully let her go, trying to breathe through the discomfort she was feeling. But Hermione had only been gone a few moments when a deep sense of foreboding washed over her. Forcing herself to her feet and ignoring the dizziness, she suddenly felt the need to be back in the main room with lots of people. Opening the door she peeked her head out and instantly felt someone else nearby. She rushed to close the door, but someone collided against it and began trying to push their way in. "Come on Luna! I just want to talk to you!"

She recognized Simon’s voice and shoved harder against the door to keep him out. "Go away!" She pleaded.

He managed to get his foot in the door, ensuring she wouldn’t be able to lock him out. "Just a simple conversation, that’s it, I promise."

Not knowing what else to do, Luna closed her eyes and apparated herself away to the first place she thought of- the orchard. It was clear right away that she’d made the wrong choice as her coat was still sitting on the couch by the nice warm fire at the Three Broomsticks… but she’d wanted to get as far from Simon as possible and this was where she’d wound up. Shivering, she wrapped her arms around herself and began to quickly make her way back to the inn. No one was supposed to be able to apparate around the village and luckily she’d figured out that the traces she and Harry left when they did so went unnoticed by the Aurors… But still, she couldn’t just appear back at the inn, anyone could see her do it and she knew it was always best to hide your strengths as well as your weaknesses. Quickly linking minds with Hermione, she told the girl what had happened so that she wouldn’t be caught unawares by Simon. Jacey, keep an eye on Hermione. I had to duck out but I’m on my way back. She thought out, wanting as many people to know the situation as possible.

She had just reached the bookstore when two people jumped out in front of her. She leapt back, startled to find Crabbe and Goyle, both looking half frozen as they’d clearly spent all of their time outside. "Hey look, we finally found Lovegood!" Goyle nudged Crabbe.

"Yeah, when we aren’t supposed to be looking for her anymore." He grumbled. Luna remained silent, not wanting to draw their attention as she reached in her back pocket for her wand… but it wasn’t there. Either she’d left it with her coat or she’d dropped it in the bathroom while struggling to keep Simon out.

"Aren’t we?" Goyle countered. "Tristan said she’s not the main priority, but she’s still a target isn’t she?"

"I don’t know… I suppose." Crabbe scratched his head.

Letting them figure out whether or not they were supposed to apprehend her, she slowly backed away before turning and full out running back toward the orchard. "Hey! Get her!" She heard one of them shout, not stopping to look back and see which one or whether they were gaining on her. Panic set in and with the cramp in her side, her frozen limbs and her racing heart, she knew she wouldn’t be able to outrun them no matter how lightly her slight stature let her fly across the snow. She could hear them barreling after her, it was only a matter of time before they caught her. Seeing the wall ahead, she closed her eyes and thought herself on the other side of it. Within moments she was back outside the village and running through the woods with no idea where she was or how far she’d sent herself.

Sudden intuition flooded through her and she knew she was going the wrong way. Her feet toppled out from under her as she tried to stop them and she slid forward down hill through the trees. She raised her arms to protect her face, wildly trying to grab onto a branch to slow her progress. They all broke in her hands and she let out a loud scream as she felt the ground fall out from beneath her as she slid right over a large cliff. Turning she made a desperate grab and caught the end of a jagged tree root sticking out from the face of the cliff. Staring down, she felt her stomach leapt into her throat as she perceived the ground a few hundred feet below her. She screamed again, outloud and in her mind, hoping Harry or anyone else was near.

Taking a few deep, shaky breaths, she tried to calm herself and apparate away but the panic wouldn’t let her focus. Looking up, she saw the top of the cliff only about six feet above her with a few other smaller roots poking through the frozen dirt. Fixing her grip, she swung her legs up, trying to catch onto the branch she currently dangled from. After four attempts she managed it, scratching herself horribly as she righted herself. Not daring to stop now, she carefully stood and flexed her numb fingers before reaching up for the next branch, ensuring she also found a sturdy foothold to help hoist herself up. It seemed to take forever but at last she was eye-level with the ground and was surprised to see two large boots standing before her. Looking up, she felt the last of her strength leave her as she took in Lucius Malfoy’s vicious grin, his face marred with jagged scratches.

"I know who you are." He said quietly, his grin widening even as he was slightly doubled over holding his bleeding stomach. "Oh how funny fate can be… You’re Lovegood’s daughter aren’t you? You don’t have to answer, I know that you are. I already had his offices burned down for that article but I had no idea just how much a few words would ruin my life. I think it’s only fair now that I completely ruin his… say with the loss of his other child."

"Don’t." Was all she could say, her fear and loathing of this man overwhelming her.

"Why not? I already killed your brother, and in a very similar fashion might I add." He laughed cruelly before lifting his foot and bringing it down on her frozen fingers. She screamed feeling her already tenuous grip loosen even more.

(BREAK)

As soon as they arrived wherever it was in the woods that his father had brought him, Draco viciously pulled the dagger from Lucius’s body. The man staggered back, a demented grin across his face that couldn’t mask the pain in his eyes. "You think I haven’t had worse." He spat out.

"I think I’m about to give you worse." Draco threatened, throwing the dagger away and crouching in preparation of the attack. Now they were both completely weaponless, both wounded by the other and both on equal ground. Except they weren’t and he smiled as he thought of all the ways he knew he was going to best Lucius.

"If you think you can." Lucius challenged, reaching in his pocket and pulling out a third dagger… apparently they weren’t both weaponless, well it didn’t bother Draco as he was still certain he would come out on top. "I was saving this one just for you son." He lunged forward and swung, forcing Draco to jump back.

Ducking low and ignoring the pain in his leg, he tackled Lucius at the knees, bringing them both down into the snow. He shouted in agony as he felt the dagger pierce his shoulder blade, his father had stabbed him as they fell. Slashing out, his fingernails violently ripped across Lucius’s face, tearing his flesh. Stumbling to his feet, Draco reached behind him and pulled out the dagger. The human in him wanted to jam it down Lucius’s throat… the wolf in him had no idea what the weapon was for and wanted to throw it away simply so it wouldn’t be used on him again. He tossed it aside… there were no amulets here, no potions to control him. The humanity grew dimmer and he let it, already feeling the flow of blood from his wounds slow as he began healing himself.

He could smell the fear from the man as he climbed to his feet, vaguely he had a sense that this man was kin to him… but Draco also knew that the man had been cast out, banned from the pack and was therefore an enemy. A low warning growl escaped him as the man faced him down. "That’s it Draco, act like the animal you now are." He smiled.

The words meant nothing. He could barely interpret their meaning any longer, all he knew was that he had to end this threat to his pack. There was blood in the air, and it wasn’t all his own. Baring his teeth, he crouched low and enjoyed the wide look of panic in the man’s eyes. Draco was about to strike when a sudden scream tore through the air.

He perked up instantly, recognizing the voice as one belonging to him, someone he cared for. It was a hard fight, but Draco managed to bring a small piece of himself back and was almost startled to see his father before him. A moment ago, he’d been unrecognizable as anything other than prey. "Well, let’s go see what that’s about, shall we?" Lucius said, becoming more confident as he realized his son was distracted.

He rushed forward but he was too late. Lucius had apparated away. Another scream tore through the silence, forcing Draco to move. He ran faster than he ever had before, hoping whichever of the girls were in trouble he got there in time to help. As he went he forced his mind to get control over itself but that was impossible. Without the amulet, it was just too close to the full moon to turn off the wolf completely. So putting it to his advantage, he used his senses to guide him, at last catching Luna’s scent. Carefully making his way down the steep slope she’d clearly slid down, he arrived in time to see Lucius hovering over her as she struggled to hang on to the side of the cliff. "Don’t." Draco heard her plead.

"Why not? I already killed your brother, and in a very similar fashion might I add." Lucius laughed, throwing his previous evil against her family in her face as he lifted his foot and stomped down on her fingers.

"No!" He ran forward. Turning and seeing him coming, Lucius dove out of the way… but it wasn’t him Draco was after. Lunging down to the ground, he reached over the side of the cliff and caught Luna just as she lost her grip completely. Her hand was icy cold, her fingers too stiff to properly hold onto him. Feeling himself begin to slide over as well, he quickly kicked out and hooked his foot on one of the trees before reaching down to firmly grab her wrist.

"Well, well. What a compromising situation." Lucius sneered as he walked over to leer down at them. "Looks like now I get two for the price of one. Revenge on Xeno and the final end of my treacherous son." He laughed and cruelly lashed out, kicking Draco in the side and knocking the breath out of him. Luna screamed again as his grip on her slipped and he struggled to maintain his hold. "As much as I would love to draw this out, unfortunately I don’t have all day. Your new guardian was right, I can let the Aurors trace me… especially not before I pay a visit to the Tonks and Lupin households and personally give them my thanks for their participation in turning my son so thoroughly against me."

Draco looked down into Luna’s terrified face. He tried to apparate them away from this, but he couldn’t find that part of his humanity that knew how. The wolf was too awake and at the same time he had too much of himself in him to do anything useful. His instinct was to free up one hand and lash out at Lucius to hopefully knock him over, but he also knew he couldn’t hold onto Luna with one hand… he couldn’t justify her death for his father’s. Lucius kicked him again and he felt his foot begin to slip. If something didn’t happen soon, he and Luna were both going over… but if that happened, he sure as hell was going to bring Lucius down with them.

(BREAK)

"How much farther?" Ginny asked anxiously as Harry suddenly stopped.

So many things didn’t feel right to him at the moment, he was inexplicably panicked, scared and very cold. "I think I sense them over this way." He answered distractedly, letting Lupin take over the hunt now that they were closer. Before they’d left in search of Draco, they’d been sure to recover both amulets… he hoped they were in time for them to prove useful.

HARRY! Luna’s voice tore through his mind at the same time her scream echoed through the trees. He was moving in an instant, at last realizing everything he’d been feeling was because of her. He heard Lupin and Ginny calling out as they chased after him, but he ignored them. His heart was in his throat as he heard her scream again and then again. He was an idiot not to have paid attention to what he’d been feeling simply because he’d thought her to be safely back in the village… he should know by now that none of them were safe, ever.

He let his instinct guide him as her scream once more echoed around him, seeming to come from all directions… and then he heard Draco too, shouting in pain. Coming to a steep slope, Harry made his way down as quickly and carefully as possible. It was clear a few people had come this way and he knew he was in the right place.

Through the trees, he was able to see the edge of the cliff before him. Lucius was standing there, staring down with a demented grin as he yet again kicked Draco in the side as he dangled headfirst over the edge. Hearing Luna scream again, Harry nearly had a heart attack as he realized why Draco wasn’t retaliating… Luna was dangling from his hands. "Lucius!" Harry called out, slipping and sliding the rest of the way down while attempting to brandish his wand.

"Too late Potter!" He yelled. This time he kicked his son’s leg, loosening his hold on the tree and sending him and Luna over the side. Draco whipped around to grab his father’s ankle, pulling the man over with them.





NOTE: Wow… next chapter, the results of the Hogsmeade visit and the search for Fred, look for it soon!

________________________________________
Chapter 52: Coping With Disappointment

A/N: Read, Review and Enjoy!



Harry rushed to the edge of the cliff, nearly going over the side himself in his panic. He’d sent his mind out in an attempt to catch Luna and Draco as soon as he saw they were going over… the elder Malfoy was an after thought. Peering down, he sighed in relief to see that he’d caught them all, though as he felt the drain on his energy, he was more than willing to let Lucius go to save the other two. But using everything he had left in him and tapping into a bit of Luna’s energy, he was able to float them all up and back on solid ground, his wand instantly out and pointed at Lucius. He couldn’t allow himself to be distracted with his concern over Luna and Draco until the threat to them all was fully neutralized. "It’s over now." He said with authority.

"It’s never over Potter. Let the Aurors trace me, I will live to fight again!" He shouted. Draco lunged at the same time Harry cast in an attempt to keep the man there, but they were both too late. Lucius had apparated away.

"Harry!" He heard Lupin and Ginny calling after him.

"Over here!" He yelled back before turning to his two friends still on the ground. "Are you okay?"

"I’ve been better." Draco muttered, obviously upset that his father had escaped.

Luna simply nodded though she was huddled into herself, with no coat and her face, arms and hands covered with small scratches. Unzipping his coat, Harry helped her to her feet and pulled her into his body, wrapping the jacket around her small, shivering form. He could feel the iciness of her skin through his clothes and hoped his own body heat and coat would help thaw her out. He held her tightly, trying to make himself really believe she was alive so that his heart would stop racing so painfully. "What the hell happened? What are you doing out here?" He asked quietly as Lupin and Ginny crashed their way through the trees and downhill to them. She shook her head and merely pulled herself closer against him.

Ginny ran up to Draco, kneeling and throwing her arms around him as her relief at finding him alive overwhelmed her. He held her back, his eyes at last softening as he reached to take the amulet Lupin quickly held out to him. Pulling away to slip it over his neck gave Ginny the opportunity to take stock of him and finding her hands bloody she immediately inspected his shoulder. "He stabbed you again?" She asked, her voice heavy with concern.

"It was nothing, I barely feel it anymore." He answered glumly, rising to his feet and wrapping his good arm around her.

"Where’s Lucius?" Lupin demanded as he looked them all over for serious injury.

Harry and Draco both shrugged, each feeling different waves of anger and disappointment. "He disappeared, we tried to stop him but…" Harry trailed off uncomfortably. They had been too distracted to focus on the enemy as they should have and as much as he hated that Lucius got away, he was also grateful that Draco had enough control over himself to put Luna’s safety above his deep desire for vengeance against his father.

Lupin shook his head. "It’s okay. I’d rather it end this way with you both breathing." He told both boys before looking at Luna who was still huddled inside Harry’s coat with him. "And what are you doing back out here?"

They all turned to Luna, interested to know what Harry had been desperate to find out since he’d first heard her scream. "I had a vision." She said quietly before letting it all come out in a jumble of words, her relief pushing her into full disclosure. "Hermione, she brought me somewhere so no one else would see and when I came out of it I wasn’t feeling well so she went to get me something… Almost as soon as she left I got a bad feeling and so I made myself get up and start back to the dining area but Simon was waiting in the hall. The vision had involved him so I panicked and tried to lock him out. But he kept forcing his way in and I knew I wasn’t going to be strong enough to hold the door so I just apparated away and wound up in the orchard… probably because it was the last place I’d been. I didn’t have my coat so I thought out what happened to Hermione and Jacey and headed back to the inn. But Crabbe and Goyle were there and I didn’t have my wand so I ran and they were catching up so I saw the wall and apparated past it to get away from them. And then I was just running, I didn’t know where I was and then I just knew I was going the wrong way but I tripped and fell down the hill anyway and wound up going all the way over and luckily was able to grab that root down there. I couldn’t apparate anymore so I climbed up and Lucius was waiting at the top… he recognized who I was and he was so mad about the Quibbler article…" Here she broke down, letting tears slide freely down her face. "…he admitted it… He admitted he killed Kane." She buried her head in Harry’s shoulder and allowed herself to cry. He held her tightly, not knowing what to say or do to make anything better.

"He admitted it because he planned on killing her too." Draco angrily told Harry. "He threw it in her face that he killed her brother and then stomped on her fingers as she hung there. Then I’m trying to pull her back up and all he can do is kick me until I can’t hold on anymore… You should have let him fall." He added in an almost accusatory manner. Knowing Draco had been the one to ensure Lucius went over with them, Harry excused his tone, unable to imagine what the other boy was feeling and unwilling to invade his head to find out. Besides, after hearing what he and Luna had to say, Harry also believed he should have let Lucius plummet to his death.

"That wouldn’t have solved anything and as much as you might like to think it would, it wouldn’t make any of you feel any better." Lupin said seriously.

"We won’t know until it happens." Draco shot back. "I’m willing to take the chance to see and I bet it would make me feel a lot better to know that I nor anyone else ever has to deal with him ever again."

"And that’s something we can discuss later." Lupin answered quietly. "Right now we have to get out of here before the Aurors come and try to blame all the disturbances in the woods on us."

(BREAK)

It was a miserably silent ride back to the castle and an insufferable time spent in the Headmaster’s office. Lupin had insisted they go to inform Dumbledore of Lucius’s appearance in the village today if nothing else and so rather than closing himself into his room as he wanted, Draco put up with a million questions while Drake poked and prodded at his shoulder and leg. As soon as was possible, he escaped and hurried off back to the dorms. He didn’t want to be around anyone at the moment, he wanted to feel what he felt and not have to make excuses or explanations for it.

Locking the door to his room, he stripped off the now ruined clothes he’d been wearing and threw them in the corner before putting on the first things in his drawer. Collapsing back on his bed, he thought about his life, his decisions, his newly found family and his father. Lucius was the connecting factor ruining everything else and Draco wished more than anything that Potter had just let him fall. He’d come so close to getting rid of his father by pulling him over the edge with him and Luna… It wasn’t fair that Potter’s sense of decency got in the way, after all, it would have been the perfect time to kill the man as no one would have had to feel guilty after everything his father had done that day. As grateful as he was to have his own life and Luna’s saved, he couldn’t help but blame Potter for whatever Lucius was going to do next.

"Draco!" He heard Ginny call softly through the door. He sighed and thought about pretending he wasn’t there. Even her company was more than he could handle right now… They hadn’t spoken since she and Lupin found them by the cliff and while he’d remained protectively at her side until returning to the castle, he just wasn’t ready to face her and the knowledge that he was the reason she’d been in danger today.

But of course it wasn’t in him to ignore her, she certainly hadn’t done anything wrong and he didn’t want her to think he was mad at her. "Hey." He said as he opened the door and walked back to slump down on his bed.

"Hey." She returned gently, closing the door and coming to sit beside him. "So Drake cleared you, huh?" She asked, clearly trying to dance around the subject she really wanted to bring up.

"He didn’t have to do much. I’d already healed myself over mostly… it’s easier to do that the closer it is to the moon." He explained what he didn’t really understand.

"Well thank Merlin because seeing your blood on my hands…" She shuddered as she held her hands in front of her and stared at them in remembrance.

"Don’t think about it." He said quietly, reaching out take her hands in his.

"Are you okay?" Ginny asked in concern, no longer able to hold herself back. "I mean I know that’s the stupidest question in the world right now, but…" She trailed off, not needing to say anything else.

"You know, I think I’m so far from okay that I couldn’t even tell you what that word means." He laughed bitterly. Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath and got a hold of himself and his misery, remembering who was with him and how grateful he was that she was able to be there. "I’m just glad you’re okay." He turned to her and softened his tone. "Nothing else matters right now and I really don’t want to talk about it… Drake did clear you, didn’t he?"

"Yes he did. I’m perfectly fine, not even a scratch." She smiled tensely, as if she were trying to hide something. "Of course, I’m not the one who was stabbed twice today… though I guess by this point it’s something you’re getting used to." She added, her smile turning genuine as she teased him.

"Yeah, thanks for your help in getting me prepared by getting in the first strike." He teased back.

She reached out and caressed his cheek before grabbing his chin to pull his face down and lightly trace his lips with hers. "I was so worried about you out there." She whispered.

"Right back at you." He returned, silencing her response by kissing her again. He didn’t want to talk about Lucius or what today had meant. He just wanted to be grateful that his father hadn’t taken away the one thing that currently meant more than his own life… he wanted to love her and be grateful for the privilege. There was always tomorrow to deal with his inner demons, new and old.

They both jumped as a sudden knock on the door interrupted them. "Hey! Is Ginny in there or what?" They heard Ron yell out.

Before Draco could move, Ginny leapt of the bed and strode over to answer the door herself. "What?" She demanded of her brother.

"What do you mean ‘what’?" Ron returned, walking himself into the room uninvited. "It’s not till we’re all up in Dumbledore’s office that I find out you were taken hostage by this creep’s father?! Are you okay?"

"I was a lot better off before you came in here with that attitude you’ve been sporting all day." She shot back, clearly upset that he was doing this here in front of Draco.

"And I’m sure I was a lot better off before you wiped my memory!" He shouted accusatorily. "That’s right, they had to tell me everything out in the woods today. I know you helped them keep the plan about Tristan a secret!"

"So what?" She yelled back. "You know now so get over it!"

"I’m sure that’s exactly what you would do if the situations were reversed." Ron said darkly.

"Maybe, maybe not. But getting mad and yelling at everyone isn’t going to solve anything. Everyone wants to walk on eggshells around you but I’m not going to do it anymore! Didn’t you tell me that once? Why is okay for you to act out your pain but when I do it I must be losing my mind?!" She yelled.

"Because nothing I’ve done is stupidly dangerous, unlike the things you still continue to do." Ron returned.

"Look, it’s been a long and difficult day for all of us, you aren’t alone in feeling hurt and angry. You want me to say I’m sorry for wiping away your memory, well I won’t. It was what needed to happen at that moment. Let’s face it, you weren’t handling the news well to begin with and this is a very delicate plot they’ve got going here. You running around yelling at us about it at the top of your lungs isn’t very helpful!" Ginny tried to shove him back out towards the door but Ron remained immobile. Draco shifted uncomfortably, suddenly overcome with gladness that he was an only child. This sibling squabbling was something he never wanted to have to experience let alone be witness to. He wished Ron would just leave already.

"You really expect me to feel bad for being upset that everyone was lying to me?" He asked incredulously.

"I expect you to take your head out of your ass every once in awhile to see what’s going on with other people!" She shouted. "I had to learn that the world doesn’t revolve around me, it’s time you do the same big brother! Didn’t you hear the story up there in the office? Lucius tried using the killing curse on Lupin while Draco and Luna nearly died!"

"Oh I see, so I’m supposed to feel bad that his father is a psychopath!" Ron yelled, pointing at Draco. "It’s not my fault his father decided to drag everyone else into their fight! It’s not my fault you continued your sick relationship with him and therefore made yourself a target! And it’s not my fault Luna’s dad put that story in the paper in the first place, remember? That was Harry’s brilliant idea and if Luna almost died because of it then he’s the one to blame! You all knew the risk of exposing Lucius and you took it on! Besides, it’s Luna’s fault she was even back out there today anyway!"

"Get out." Ginny demanded darkly.

"Excuse me?"

"I said get out!" She repeated. "You’re talking about us all like we mean nothing to you, like we’re your enemies. Whatever’s wrong with you, I don’t want to talk to you again until you’ve straightened out your head."

"Maybe I’m just thinking clearly for the first time." He said in a low voice, puffing himself up and using his height to tower over her. "Harry, Hermione and I all became friends because we had no one else. That’s not really true anymore is it, so maybe now I’m just starting to see everyone clearly for the first time."

Ginny didn’t back down, she rarely did so with anyone, let alone her own brother. "Yeah? Does that include me and Fred? How about Bill and Charlie? If you want to hate everybody right now then fine, do whatever you have to do. Just go away!" She once more reached out to shove him at the door.

"I’ll go when I’m good and ready!" Ron yelled. Draco could see he was quickly losing his control and rose to his feet just in case this got too out of hand.

"I said get out! I don’t want you in here!" She pushed him again, also losing herself in her anger.

"And I said no!" He finally snapped, shoving her back without knowing his own strength.

She stumbled, losing her footing in her surprise and Draco quickly reached out to catch her, steadying her on her feet before turning to Ron. "She told you to leave." He said with false calm. "I suggest you do so before I’m forced to make you."

"Stay out of this Malfoy. This is between me and my sister and unlike your family, we know how to keep our disputes to ourselves." Ron shot back.

He clutched his amulet, remembering his promise to Ginny from months before that he wouldn’t fight with Ron again if he could help it. The other boy was making it very difficult to keep that promise at the moment. "Except this is my room and if you’re going to have your little family dispute here then I get to say how far it goes and I’ve certainly had enough of it."

"You two deserve each other." Ron muttered, glaring at them both before stalking out, slamming the door behind him.

Taking a deep breath to calm himself he turned to see how Ginny was dealing with this latest development of familial lunacy. "I’m sorry." She said quietly as angry tears brimmed her eyes.

"Don’t be. By now I’m used to him having a tantrum of some kind when things go wrong." He assured her, reaching out to pull her in for a hug.

"He really should have learned some better coping skills by now…" She said, resting her head against his shoulder. "Maybe it’s time dad forced him to go see Laurel. Either way I don’t want to talk about it anymore than you want to talk about today."

"Okay then." He agreed fully. "Let’s just go to sleep and wake up tomorrow pretending nothing ever happened."

"You really think we’ll be able to pull that off?" She looked up at him doubtfully.

"No, but it might make it easier to find comfort later if we fool ourselves now."

She smiled and leaned up to kiss his cheek, his chin, his mouth. "Just being able to lay next to you is all the comfort I need." Taking his hand she led him back to the bed, pulling back the sheets to climb in and gesturing for him to join her. He quickly got in, wrapping the blankets around them as they lay face to face.

"I love you Ginny." He whispered, kissing the tip of her nose.

She smiled and brushed the hair back from his eyes. "Well then you’re lucky because I love you too."

He caressed her cheek before leaning in to gently capture her lips. Running his hand down her shoulder, he felt her wince though he had a sense she was trying to hide it. He pulled back and looked at her in concern. "What’s wrong?"

She shook her head and smiled uncomfortably. "Nothing." She assured him, reaching out to wrap her arms around him and pressing herself against him as a distraction. Draco caught her arm and sat up. She tried to pull away but he maintained a gentle but firm hold as he carefully rolled up her sleeve, ignoring her protests. Several dark finger-shaped bruises lined her arm from her elbow up to her shoulder. "Drake already put something on that, he said it’ll all be gone by tomorrow." She said, trying to sound casual but betraying her nervousness. It was obvious she hadn’t wanted him to know that not only had his father nearly killed him and Luna, he’d left evidence of his harshness with her. But there they were, the marks that showed him that Lucius had been none to gentle while pulling Ginny along as his intended hostage. "It’s certainly not as bad as being stabbed." She added, as he remained angrily silent.

Draco took a deep breath and nodded. "Okay." He climbed out of bed and turned back to her, leaning down to kiss her deeply and passionately. Then he grabbed his shoes, sitting down in the desk chair to put them on before rising to grab his coat.

"Where are you going?" She asked anxiously, crawling to the edge of the bed and kneeling as she looked at him, her eyes wide and full of concern. "You aren’t mad at me for not telling you… are you?"

His heart pushed against his anger as she stared at him like that. Going back over, he wrapped his arms around her waist and kissed her again. "No, I’m not mad at you at all." He told her in a strangled voice as emotion overwhelmed him. He wasn’t mad at her, but how could he possibly explain that her presence was making him want to shout in fury? That being around her at that moment made him want to tear everything apart? That he couldn’t handle the feelings of fear and concern that came with loving someone as much as he loved her? That all he wanted was to go back in time and find a way to force Potter to let Lucius fall? He couldn’t explain any of it, to her or himself.

"I’m going to find Lupin. I think I need to go for a run in the woods." He said at last, turning and walking out before she could protest. He had no intentions of finding the professor as Lupin was a whole other person he couldn’t be around at the moment. After all, what could he say to the man who had acted more like a father to him out there than Lucius ever had in his entire life? But he’d lied and told Ginny that to keep her from worrying. He really did need a run through the woods to clear his head… but he needed to do it alone and though he didn’t intend for any trouble, Merlin help the man or beast that chose to get in his way out there.

(BREAK)

Hermione had only enough patience to have Drake and Madame Pomfrey check her over for hypothermia before rushing back to her room. She’d told them her only ailment was a slight headache but she had lied and she had a feeling they knew it. They were healers after all. They’d given her several herbal supplements to take but she ignored it all, putting them on her desk and grabbing the invisibility cloak she still had in her possession. She felt like she was burning alive with fever, but she did her best to put that at the back of her mind as she threw the cloak around herself and hurried back out into the hallway and toward the records room. She felt there was no time to waste, she’d already let herself become overwhelmed once today by the distraction of Fred’s disappearance… she couldn’t let it happen again. Thankfully Ginny was okay, but next time her mistake could have fatal consequences and that thought was enough to drive her forward into solving the puzzle. This time she disregarded the student files and went to the door leading to the faculty records, knowing they detailed the lives of every professor who had ever taught in Hogwarts. She found Erebos’s information in no time and tucking the file carefully under her arm she snuck back out, ensuring she locked the door behind her.

Hearing voices, Hermione flattened herself against the wall and tried not to so much as breath as the two seventh year Hufflepuff prefects came down the hallway, talking quietly to themselves as they made their last rounds of the castle for the night. As soon as she was sure they’d passed, she allowed herself to breathe, gulping in air to her burning lungs while trying not to cough. Once in control she practically ran back to her room, slamming and locking the door behind her. Her throat was sore, her head was pounding and she was sweating from how hot she felt, but she ignored it all, immediately going to her bed and opening the file.

She knew what she was looking for and flipped right over to his medical records, aware that any time a professor left the country they had to be examined by a healer upon their return to Hogwarts. And there it was, in Madame Pomfrey’s barely legible scribble. Did patient leave the country? Yes. Places the patient visited? Sydney, Australia. Reason for trip out of the country? Family funeral. Has patient displayed symptoms of any disease contracted in travel? No.

A family funeral, the same reason Lee said Elise had given. Either one or both of them had lied… that left many options. The first was that there had been a funeral and they both attended the same one, which had it’s own long list of implications. The second was that one of them had gone to the funeral and the other had lied simply so they could both be in the same place at the same time. The third of course was that there was no funeral at all and they’d both used that as their reason to go to Sydney, which begged the question- Why Sydney Australia?

But what did any of this mean? Nothing with these girls was simple, so had they uncovered their spy or just another one of their many plots? Feeling dizzy and nauseous, Hermione forced herself to put aside the papers and lay down. Tomorrow she’d try again, but her body was making it clear to her now that she needed to rest. After all, she wouldn’t be any help to Fred if she pushed herself while sick and put herself out on her death bed.

(BREAK)

Luna had been dismissed back to her room as soon as she was done giving her version of events regarding Lucius. It was the second time she’d had to tell it and Harry had to hear it and it wasn’t any easier for either of them to realize yet again how close she’d come to being another of Lucius’s victims. The fact that Draco had without hesitation backed up her claim that his father had admitted to murdering Kane meant a lot to her as she knew he was struggling deeply with what had occurred out in the woods that day. Dumbledore had agreed to instantly relay the information to Arthur and assured them all that this would also go a long way in helping to clear Willem’s name. After telling Drake that she was fine and that her own herbal remedy would clear up the small scratches she’d received, she returned to her room feeling an odd sense of relief. One secret that had been plaguing her for years was finally being set right, Kane’s death would be cleared up and her family could find a bit of closure.

Quickly changing clothes and applying a dose of the herbal ointment, Luna was left feeling alone and anxious. For more than an hour she paced her room, trying to expend her nervous energy as she waited. She wasn’t quite sure what she was waiting for until at last she heard the insistent knocking on her door. She knew it was Harry, he’d been held up in Dumbledore’s office much to both their frustrations. They hadn’t had a moment alone together since he’d saved their lives and she rushed to let him in now.

As soon as she answered he reached out to grab her face, desperately pressing his lips to hers as he kicked the door closed behind him. Their hands quickly explored each other, checking for serious injury as they continued to kiss with uncontrolled passion. Luna felt grounded, rooted to the earth in a way that made her feel that she belonged, that she finally had someplace she could be safe in every sense of the word. Once more cupping her face, he pulled away to really get a good look at her. "I’m sorry I didn’t get there sooner." Harry said breathlessly as his thumb traced the scratch on her cheek.

"I’m sorry I panicked and put myself there in the first place." She smiled, repressing the shudder that wanted to run through her as she recalled what it had been like dangling precariously from Draco’s hands as her own remained frozen and useless. She flexed her fingers now and found they were fine, except the few that were bruised and hurting from where Lucius had stomped down on them. Sensing her discomfort, he took her hand and studied it while carefully hiding his emotions with a blank face. But there was no hiding from her. "Letting him fall wouldn’t have changed the things he’d already done." She quietly responded to his dark thoughts.

"But it would have stopped all the things he’s now out there free to do." He said with a sigh, lightly kissing her fingers before going to sit on the edge of the bed. He hung his head and stared at the floor. "It should have been easier…"

"Why, because you killed Tristan? It’s a good thing that you aren’t becoming more comfortable with taking lives." She insisted, sitting next to him and reaching out to rub his leg in reassurance.

"And if he decides to come after you or Draco again? Then what? It’ll be my fault, I could have ended it… And Draco thinks so to." He lay his head down in her lap and looked up at her, imploring her to make sense of it for him.

"You can’t trust anything Draco is thinking right now." She answered, running her fingers through his hair. "We’re all disappointed things couldn’t be resolved with Lucius but I’m very happy that neither of you succeeded in killing the man. The Aurors are tracking him, that’ll have to be enough… until or unless Lucius comes around again we have to focus on finishing this thing with Tristan and more importantly, finding Fred."

He sighed and nodded. "You’re right… I know you are. We have to find him before Arthur and Molly become even more suspicious than I’m sure they already are of this business trip excuse Lee dreamed up. I couldn’t stand to see their faces if they found out one of their surviving children was in so much danger…"

"Yeah, and if we think Ron’s mad now, just think if he finds out we kept this from him as well."

"Don’t worry about Ron." Harry said, toying with the ends of her hair as he ran the strands through his fingers. "He’ll calm down once we can all start acting like ourselves again… Jacey will bring him around."

"Maybe." She wasn’t so sure. He seemed just as mad at Jacey as he was at the rest of them. But she didn’t want to think about Ron or anything else. Without another word to each other, she and Harry climbed under the covers, content in the assurance of each other’s safety. Tomorrow would be there soon enough and they could worry about everything left hanging in the balance then. Tonight they simply held each other, regenerating their energy as they linked themselves together through their minds, not wanting to be separated even by sleep. It was a more intimate act than any other Luna had ever experienced as they opened themselves up to each other and vulnerably bared everything that had ever passed through their heads, hoping to not only know each other completely, but to be able to dream together as well. She smiled as she drifted off, knowing it would only be a matter of moments before she saw him again.

(BREAK)

"Okay, we’re out here. Now what’s this surprise you just had to show me in the middle of the night?" Padma asked grumpily as she and Ron stood out in the Forbidden Forest a little ways past Hagrid’s hut.

"Relax. It’ll be any minute now." He replied, wondering if maybe Parvati had lost her nerve. He shifted from foot to foot, hoping she’d come along soon… though this arranged meeting was the only thing keeping his mind off the rather intense fight he’d gotten into with Ginny.

"Okay, you have exactly two minutes and then I’m going back in because I’m freezing." She insisted, wrapping her arms around herself while retreating further into her hood. "I don’t know why you brought me out here only to stand around waiting. What are we waiting for anyway?"

"For me." Parvati said quietly as she emerged from the trees. She must have stolen some clothes in Hogsmeade because she was now dressed in pants and a light T-shirt. "I’m sorry, I just wasn’t sure if I could go through with this." She said, her eyes tearing up.

Padma’s mouth was hanging open in shock. And then without a word she flung herself forward, wrapping her arms around her sister who stood with her own arms stiffly at her sides as she stared in terror at Ron. "No! Don’t get too close!" Parvati cried, disentangling herself from her twin and taking several steps back. "You don’t understand."

"You’re damn right I don’t. Where have you been? Mum and Dad are up at the castle, they’ve come to stay until you’re found… they’ll be thrilled to see you! Come on, let’s get you inside, you’re skin is like ice. Where’s your coat?" Padma let out in one breath, once more moving toward her sister who only moved further away.

"You didn’t warn her?" Parvati asked Ron incredulously.

"I didn’t want to tell her anything about it. It would all be better coming from you." He insisted. He wanted to leave but knew he had to stay, that he couldn’t risk leaving Padma alone with Parvati while she was still so out of control of herself.

"I can’t come back to the school with you." She sadly told her twin. "And you can’t tell our parents that you saw me… I just wanted the chance to tell you…"

Ron walked off to let them have a bit of privacy. He was sure to keep his wand out and both girls in his sight, but he already had his own reactions to Parvarti’s predicament to deal with, he didn’t want to stand there and bear witness to Padma’s. There was no way to tell how the girl would take the news, but judging from his distant view it wasn’t good.

Choosing to ignore them only let him dwell on his own misery. He hadn’t intended to fight with Ginny, but finding her in Draco’s room just after being kidnapped by the guy’s father was a bit more than he’d been ready to handle. His concern for her had been quickly overshadowed by his anger with her. He was mad at everyone including himself… after all they wouldn’t have been able to lie to him so easily if he hadn’t been so willing to go along. After Jacey came to him and confessed to possibly knowing that Tristan and Troy were trying to turn Parvati, he should have insisted to know the rest- he’d known she was still holding back. Instead he’d let his need to feel comforted outweigh his need for the truth. Perhaps he needed a break from everyone he knew. His feeling for and about everyone were a jumbled mess, he knew he needed to take Ginny’s advice and straighten himself out before he could clearly see his friends again. As it was right now… maybe his sister had also been right about how he was beginning to feel about everyone, maybe he did regard them as the enemy and that was something he wasn’t happy about. Something needed to change.

So he decided, starting tomorrow he’d completely distance himself from his friends as he’d already started with his sister. He was tired of feeling hurt, and pushing away everyone was the only way he could see that would make it stop.

(BREAK)

It’ll be okay. Jacey heard Lupin think out to her as she entered the Headmaster’s
office, answering an early morning summons that had arrived for Tristan. She had been sure to take enough of the Polyjuice potion, having been warned by Harry and Luna that the old wizard was a lot sharper than most wanted to give him credit for… Though, it had made her feel better to learn that Dumbledore had been fooled by the potion before, and with someone he knew way better than Tristan. Harry had insisted that if the man hadn’t been able to tell the difference between a fake and real Auror Moody three years earlier, then it should be that much easier to fool him now.

"Mr. Macnair, please come in and have a seat." Dumbledore said tensely, studying her a little too close for comfort.

Jacey forced herself to remain calm and focused on keeping the shields up high around her mind. She could feel Harry and Luna helping her shield, as they were wide awake and aware of what she was doing… she had burst in on them in a panic as soon as she had received the note, suddenly uncertain that she could pull this off. Remembering the pep talk they had given her, she offered an easy smile and walked confidently across the room to sit in the chair next to the one being offered, knowing Tristan would relish in even that small bit of defiance. "You wanted to see me sir?" She asked with false innocence.

"It has just this morning come to my attention that Troy Mason is yet again missing. It seems he didn’t return from Hogsmeade with everyone else. I was wondering if you could tell me where he is." Dumbledore replied steadily.

"And I’m wondering why it would take you all night to notice that one of your students has gone missing." Jacey shot back coolly as she maintained Tristan’s attitude.

"It seems a calculated effort was conducted by the entire Slytherin house to cover up the fact that Mr. Mason never returned. They are all currently on probation while we investigate their possible involvement. Of course none of them have pointed the finger at you."

"Then why am I here?" She asked, keeping hold of her casual grin. "I don’t stay in the Slytherin dorm and they haven’t cited my involvement in anything. So what makes you so sure that I can tell you anything about Troy?"

"Ah, because Professor Lupin was in the village yesterday and it seems the last person he saw Mr. Mason with was you." Dumbledore said, looking back and forth between her and Lupin. "Of course he could be mistaken as not everyone is always who they appear to be."

"So what, you’re automatically going to blame the vampire?" She was defensive, trying to focus the old wizard’s attention on her as she reached out to help protect Lupin’s mind from invasion as well, leaving Harry and Luna to protect hers. "I’m not so sure that one rather biased witness is enough to warrant accusations to… what exactly? What is it you think may have happened to Troy? After all, he’s disappeared all on his own before."

"I have no idea as to Mr. Mason’s fate. Which is why I brought you here hoping to clear a few things up. When did you last see him?"

"In the village." She shrugged.

"Can you be more specific?"

"Hogsmeade village?" She laughed cruelly, fully embracing the part she had to play as it was the only way to get through this.

Dumbledore sat back and brought his hands together, staring at her over his fingertips. "Okay Mr. Macnair. Where and what time would you say you last saw Troy Mason yesterday in Hogsmeade?"

"That’s hard to say, there were so many people there and we all had to split up and go indoors when that snowstorm hit…" She dragged on being purposely difficult.

A knock on the door interrupted them and Healer Drake entered. She’d only met the man once as herself and she knew nothing about him other than that the others seemed to trust him. "I’ve brought the truth potion you asked for sir." He said, holding up a vial as he crossed the room.

"You can’t use that on a student." She said right away, trying to hide her panic. There was no telling what the headmaster would ask if she were under the influence of that potion, and she certainly did not want to give him the chance of letting her find out.

"Really? The Headmistress who took my place here a couple of years ago found that using several unauthorized spells and potions against students served her better purpose. And I do believe Dolores Umbridge was a member of your family’s rather powerful friends at one point." Dumbledore said, obviously testing her.

"That was then and this is now." She had very little idea as to the person he was referring to. She had seen blurred images of an ugly woman in Harry’s mind… after the horrid detentions he had served with the woman, he had lumped her in with his aunt and uncle in his memories under the informal heading People Who Have Wronged Me… Otherwise, she knew only that Umbridge had tried and failed to take over the school. "If you use that on me I’ll report you faster than you can pack your bags. I’m not Potter, I won’t suffer in silence for the greater good."

"You can be made to drink this if you’re no longer a student." Dumbledore returned. "If I expel you-"

"Under what grounds? So what if I was the last one seen with Troy. He’s a big boy and he makes his own decisions." Jacey sneered.

"There’s also the matter of Professor Lupin seeing both you and Mr. Mason outside the village limits while he was investigating a rather serious disturbance with some other students and an escaped Death Eater." Dumbledore smiled and leaned forward on his desk. "This places you in direct violation of school codes and as a student has come up missing as a result of your actions, this has been elevated to a very serious issue of safety. As this is a time of war, the disciplinary matter in which you are involved carries the recommendation of immediate expulsion and therefore I am allowed as Headmaster to use any non-violent means necessary to procure the information I require as it relates to the possible well-being of another student. It’s all right there in the Hogwarts Code of Conduct under the provision for running the school while under distress. Wartime is certainly classified and defined as being under distress and so I am granted more liberties than I would normally be willing to take advantage of. But I promise you Mr. Macnair, we can find our way through and around as many legal loopholes as you and your friends have in the pursuit to keep you here."

The potion won’t work. She heard Drake’s unfamiliar voice drift through her head. Remus came to me this morning and with Harry’s permission told me who you are Miss Nicolau. I fixed up a placebo, there is no truth serum in there. All you have to do it play along and give him what he wants to hear so that he can legally and without question send Tristan away.

She was careful not to look at him as he stood at Dumbledore’s side, keeping her gaze steady on the headmaster. "Fine." She said at last, deciding to trust the healer if everyone else did. After all, the man seemed to feel more loyalty to Harry and the others than he did to any of the adults. "Give me your stupid potion, but don’t think for a second I won’t be telling everyone about this."

"Tell whoever you like. As I’ve explained we are perfectly within our rights." Dumbledore answered simply as he watched her roughly take the vial from Drake and swallow it down. She felt something start to happen and hoped the healer knew what he was talking about. The older wizard was looking at her carefully, watching for some sign of the potion beginning to work. Apparently he saw what he was waiting for and stood to deliver the test questions given to everyone who was subjected to truth potions. "What is your name?"

"Tristan Beauford Macnair." Jacey was sure to answer without hesitation, fighting hard to not smile as she said Beauford… after all, she doubted that Tristan would have found the name funny.

"Now try to tell me that your name is Albus Dumbledore." He instructed.

"My name is…" She pretended to struggle before seeming to give into the potion. "Tristan Macnair."

Dumbledore nodded happily. "Where is Troy Mason?"

Again she pretended to struggle. "He’s out in the woods where I left him." She said at last before indignantly rising to her feet. After all, Tristan would not give in easily and as much as she wanted this to end, she knew she had to make it look real. She felt Harry sigh and then give his reluctant approval as he realized she was about to continue playing her part. Both he and Luna understood the need to keep Dumbledore’s hands clean of this. They had all hoped for a more definite end today... but they all also knew that Tristan would never roll over so easily and that alone could raise suspicion. "And that’s all I’ll say as we are quickly surpassing the school’s rights and infringing on mine. Anything else you’d like to ask about Troy can be asked through my representation, should you decide to pursue a legal matter on Troy’s behalf. Otherwise it’s clear I’ve been as cooperative as possible here, above and beyond what was required if I do say so myself. Now, is there anything else, sir?" She shot him a pleasant smile, as if they had been chatting like old friends this whole time.

"I guess not. You may return to your room and begin packing your things. I will be presenting my evidence to the Aurors who will then be seeking orders to take you into custody. Until they procure these orders, you are confined to your dorm and the Great Hall for meals and banned from attending any classes. As Head of the Slytherin house, Professor Drake will be keeping a close eye on you. A warning, should you feel the need to seek retaliation for your present predicament." Dumbledore answered sternly, clearly at the end of his patience.

"Well, I suppose I’ll have to deal with that as I live it up here these last few days." She said threateningly, hoping that any wrongdoing while she was still here was immediately blamed on Tristan. "I assume I’m dismissed?"

"Yes, Professor Drake will see you back to your dorm." He gave an exhausted look at the other man who simply nodded in reply and moved to carry out his task, ushering Jacey along with him.

"Boy I hope you kids know what you’re doing." Drake said quietly as they walked the halls.

"So do we." She answered seriously.

(BREAK)

Harry and Luna spent a good half an hour assuring Jacey that she’d done just fine with Dumbledore, that they wouldn’t have expected much different had Tristan himself been there. After she finally seemed to relax, Harry sent out a message to all his friends, asking them to meet in his room so they could all discuss a few things. More than anything, he wanted to suggest to them all that they put the past few weeks behind them and look only toward the future… And he and Luna planned to start by telling them all of the two other coven members they’d discovered before Hogsmeade happened and tore everything apart.

Hermione was the first to answer the call as her room was the closest and she entered looking like death warmed over. Her nose was red, her cheeks pink and her eyes glazed over with a slight fever. She had wrapped her blanket around herself for the short walk over and instantly went to lay down on Harry’s bed as fatigue overwhelmed her. "You look well." He teased.

"Shut up." She grumbled from beneath the mountain of covers. "Does Jacey know about Fred?"

"That he is missing?" Jacey asked from her spot on top of his trunk, still looking very much like Tristan. "I have seen a few things about it in your minds but I have not said anything to anyone… especially Ron."

"Well thank you for that." Hermione offered a half-hearted smile before instantly going into telling them of what she and Lee had pieced together, as if she had to get it out before she forgot.

"Professor Erebos…" Harry had seen something of this in Luna’s recollection of a conversation between her and Hermione the night before, just as he had been able to see pieces of all of her memories. Thinking of Quierrell, the false Moody and Snape, he could see how a professor could go so long without anyone knowing what they were really up to. "Do you think he knows where Elanya took Fred? And why would Elanya call him her contact if Elise is the one who supposedly knows him so well?"

"I have no idea if he knows where Fred is, but I think maybe these girls are playing each other as well as everyone else." Hermione said as she propped herself up into a sitting position.

"No, I get the sense Elise and Sarah are very much in it together… it’s Elanya and Cho who are more on the outside." Luna replied thoughtfully. "Maybe she was telling Fred the truth about some things…"

"Ginny and Draco are on their way here." Harry announced as a warning, silencing their discussion about Fred and his predicament with those girls. He got up to let them in, noticing the friction between them. Draco was wearing his coat. "Going somewhere?"

"He just got back." Ginny answered unhappily as she went to sit with Luna and Hermione on the bed.

"I needed to go for a run." Draco said simply, pulling off his coat and going to sit in the desk chair away from everyone else. An all night run. Ginny added in her head, her voice carrying both hurt and concern.

"Where’s Ron?" Harry asked. "He’s the only one we’re waiting for."

"I doubt he’ll be joining us." Ginny rolled her eyes and told them of the fight they’d gotten into the night before, leaving out most of the details in an attempt to spare their feeling for what Ron had said and simply summing up the gist of the argument.

"Okay then, well I guess we’ll just talk to him later." He replied, uncomfortable that his friend suddenly felt the need to avoid them all. "Listen, yesterday was a horrible disaster of a day for everyone. But we need to do as we always do and keep going past it, right? I know we all have our own things to focus on… but we’ll be leaving school in a few weeks and we need to seriously start looking at searching for the coven as a reality. Luna and I went through some more of the documents and found two more names, Adam Azibo and Ajala Kapoor."

"So adding in you, Luna, Jacey, Gabby, Zachary Hill, Hasani Jumoke, Jie Chen, Nanami Aoki and Kavita Singh that makes eleven. There’s only one more name." Hermione reasoned. "Where are we going to find these two? Who are they?"

"Ajala is a thirty year old woman who has recently moved from India to Ireland for her work, which happens to be as weapons manufacturer. Her company creates all the tools and weapons used by Aurors and with the surge of activity in and around England, they’ve doubled their efforts in the closest factory, which happened to be in Dublin. Oh and she’s a Levithon." Luna recited from memory.

"A what?" Draco asked.

"A Levithon, someone with the power of self-transport. Basically it’s like being able to fly." Luna shrugged.

"I seem to remember from my muggle religious studies class that there was a saint who had that power only they called it a miracle… St. Theresa of Avila, if I remember correctly, during the 16th century." Hermione looked at them all as they stared at her. She smiled and grabbed for a tissue to blow her nose. "What? I just remember it because it made me wonder- if proof of her ability was so well documented, then why were muggles so reluctant to believe in the things we can do?"

"Okay, Ajala can fly, that’s pretty cool. And the other guy?" Ginny prompted, moving them along from Hermione’s brief theological history lesson.

Harry’s own memory was vaguer than Luna’s and so he picked up the papers to be sure he didn’t leave anything out. "The other one, Adam, he’s twenty-three and originally from Egypt. His power is postcognition and he currently lives in Sydney, Australia working as an investigative journalist."

Sydney? Hermione perked up.

"Well, I suppose it’s handy to be able to see the past when you’re a reporter." Ginny said aloud as she rose to her feet. "Listen, I appreciate that you want to help us all focus on other important things, but after last night, I think I’d just rather have a few minutes alone." She added pointedly as she breezed past Draco and walked out. He sighed heavily and got up, leaving without saying a word as he presumably went to fix whatever he’d done wrong.

"I have a thought." Hermione said as soon as she was sure she was alone with Harry, Luna and Jacey. "When exactly did Elise find Elanya and bring her into the fold?"

"Sometime at the beginning of summer, before she torched Fred’s shop." Luna answered, remembering her and Harry’s trip through Sarah’s head. "Voldemort unknowingly brought her to Sarah after the girls were already plotting together."

"And according to Erebos’s records, he left for Sydney the same day school let out last year… what if he met up with Elise down there because they were looking for a postcognative to pull off whatever plan they have going? What if they found Adam before Elanya and approached him first? If he really is supposed to be a good guy then he would have of course turned them down, but Elanya had her own reasons to join them, right?" Hermione’s eyes were wide as she tried to push aside her fever in an attempt to make her mind connect things together.

"Even if that were all true, how does it help us find Fred?" Harry asked gently.

"It doesn’t, but it does offer more proof that Erebos is the spy, doesn’t it?" She returned excitedly. "Who knows what he and Elise could have told Elanya, they could have pretended not to even know each other in order to ensure they hooked the girl. What if he even approached Elanya alone? That would explain why she felt he was her contact and not Elise’s, wouldn’t it? And in Luna’s vision, Sarah had teased Elise about a previous relationship, but not in a way that made it clear who she was talking about, right?"

"I admit that it all seems to fit, but that does not mean it is true." Jacey said slowly. "These girls you have been dealing with seem to be very tricky. It would be foolish to make assumptions."

"You don’t know Hermione like we do." Harry was defensive on Hermione’s behalf. "I’m willing to bet she’s right about most of it if not everything… and there’s a way to find out."

Luna shook her head. "If he is the spy, don’t you think he’d be expecting that? Simon is getting help keeping his mind closed against us and I’m sure Erebos is much more proficient at it even if he’s getting help as well. Even if the three of us work together, there’s nothing to say he won’t feel us in there."

"Edmund didn’t." He argued.

"And he wasn’t aware that we would try to get in his head. I’m sure it’s something Erebos would anticipate… if he is the spy, which I’m inclined to believe he is." She returned.

"Well it is worth trying, is it not?" Jacey joined Harry’s side of the debate. "If we think he is aware then so what? What can he do about it other than tell those girls that we may be on to him? It would be worth it if he knows where Fred has been taken and we are able to see it, yes?"

"Yes!" Hermione instantly agreed. "Tristan and I are the only ones in seventh year who attend Erebos’s class. Jacey can try it tomorrow while he’s teaching and even if he figures out we know, we’re out of here in a few weeks… there’s nothing he can do about it."

"Dumbledore banned Tristan from attending classes so Jacey wouldn’t be able to get close enough." Luna tried a different argument.

"Since when would that stop Tristan? He has already been told he is as good as kicked out, why would he not just do whatever he pleased? I will go to that class tomorrow." Jacey answered for herself.

""I don’t know." Harry said, suddenly coming around to Luna’s more cautious way of thinking.

"If he did find out we were on to him, I would never let him hurt Hermione or myself while we’re trapped away in a classroom with him." Jacey said in reassurance as she picked up on his fears and doubts.

"Oh, I believe you, I’d just rather it not have to come to that." He sighed. "But I guess all we can deal with right now is speculation until we get something more solid to lead us."

"Fine." Luna gave in as well. "But we have to be very careful."

"Well that goes without saying." He agreed, moving to the door.

"Where are you going?" Hermione asked.

"Well, I was going to let you three braniacs try to keep piecing things together while I went to talk to Ron." He answered. He’d felt distracted this whole time, half-worried about and half-angry with his absent friend.

"You should probably not do that." Jacey said quietly.

"Why because he’s mad at us? What else is new?" Hermione asked, decidedly rising to her feet and wrapping her blanket around her again. "I’ll go with you."

"Well I want no part in it until he is ready to come talk to me." Jacey insisted. "I will be in Tristan’s room if you need me later." She waved goodbye and left the room.

"What do you think?" He asked Luna and Hermione.

Luna shrugged. "I agree with Jacey that it’s a bad idea, but I’ll go with you both to see if maybe we can reach out to him anyway… he’s very confused about everything right now."

So in reluctant agreement, they left Harry’s room and walked the short way down the hall to Ron’s. He answered after the third knock, staring daggers at them. "What do you three want?" He asked meanly.

"To talk to you… why didn’t you come join everyone?" Harry asked, walking past him into the room.

"I thought I’d made myself clear by not going… I don’t want to be around any of you at the moment." Ron glowered, slamming the door shut after Hermione and Luna followed Harry in. "I do have my own free will you know. I don’t have to be at your beck and call like everyone else."

"Whatever you say Ron." He tried to remain calm, to remember that his friend was hurting and needed them to be there for him.

"Yeah, it is whatever I say because I’m tired of it always being whatever Harry says." He shot back.

"What is your problem? Just tell us what’s wrong?" Hermione demanded softly.

"You! All of you are what’s wrong!" Ron shouted, startling them all.

"You can’t blame everyone else for what’s bothering you." She shouted back. "At some point you have to stop and consider that it’s not always everyone else that’s the problem, sometimes it’s you!"

"I can feel whatever I want just like the rest of you." He replied. "You’re not so high and mighty Hermione. You’re the one we had to pull out of a hole yesterday nearly frozen… and why? Because you lost your head over my brother which, oh yeah, also allowed Lucius Malfoy to capture my sister! In a sense, everything Lucius was able to accomplish yesterday is your fault since you practically handed Ginny over to him to use as a hostage. Do you think Fred would be impressed with that?"

"Hey!" Harry yelled, interrupting the spew of hate Ron had been hurling at Hermione. Seeing her stung expression and the tears of hurt in her eyes, it was hard to keep in mind that the other boy didn’t know Fred was missing. "That was completely uncalled for and entirely untrue!"

"It’s all true and she knows it!" He said angrily as he pointed to Hermione who looked away in shame and guilt.

"Ron, please-" Luna started.

"Please? Please what?" He interrupted as he mocked her. "Always so willowy and fragile aren’t you Luna… always the eternal victim…"

"What’s that supposed to mean?" She asked defensively while mentally telling Harry to back off and let Ron get it off his chest.

"Like you don’t know? Everything that happened to you yesterday was your own fault! Maybe it’s time you start considering your own choices before lecturing everyone else on theirs." He sneered down at her. Harry was itching to make it stop but again Luna held him back, telling him it was better that Ron not hold this all in no matter how much it may hurt their feelings. Ron went on, his back now to Harry as he fully faced Luna to continue berating her. "You’re the one who decided to get away from Simon by apparating to the orchard instead of somewhere safer. You’re the one who chose to get away from Crabbe and Goyle by returning to the woods where, surprise, damsel in distress Luna slides over a cliff!"

"That was a series of circumstances! How is any of that her fault?" Harry finally let out, unable to keep quiet any longer.

Ron whipped around to face him. "Hey, she’s the one who decided it was in her best interest to leave the inn! She was entirely safe when I left her with Hermione."

"Exactly! You left! Where were you to help?" He shot back.

"Talking to Padma, trying to figure out how I was going to bring her to meet up with her now vampire twin!" Ron roared out. "Luna is no longer my responsibility to look after remember? She’s yours! And if it weren’t for you, Lucius probably wouldn’t have even had any interest in her anyway!"

"Excuse me?" Harry asked darkly.

"The Quibbler article… Lucius was very specific that the article was the reason he was ready to hurl her off a cliff. You’re the one who came up with the idea and contacted her father about it without her knowledge. You’re the one who made sure Xeno had all the information and you’re the one who talked her into going along with it. If I recall, Luna wasn’t too happy about the article, thought it was a bad idea… Well you’re the one who chose not to listen to her! So putting it all together, it was your decision that nearly got her killed yesterday!"

Harry reacted without thinking, simply wanting to lash out and hurt the way he was now hurting. He hadn’t even realized he’d swung his fist until he saw Ron laying on the floor before him, glaring up as he rubbed his jaw. "What’s the matter Harry? Does the truth hurt?" He taunted.

"Stop it! Everyone just stop!" Hermione shouted, her voice growing hoarse as she continued to strain it.

"You’re the ones who barged in here to bother me." Ron said, rising to his feet and pushing past her to look at his face in the small mirror hanging over his dresser.

Harry shook his head and simply walked out, going back to his own room and closing the door tightly behind him, wanting to shut out the world. To her credit, Luna gave him nearly an entire hour to himself before coming to demand he open up and face her. He sighed and went to let her in, once again finding it impossible to deny her even as his shame and fury with himself made him only want to hide from her. "You were right, going to talk to him was a bad idea… you were right every time you said something was a bad idea…" He told her, going to sit at his desk.

"Harry-"

"I’ve learned my lesson though… I’ll listen when you say that from now on." He interrupted as he hung his head and stared at his hands.

She walked over and moved his arms, settling herself in his lap as she comfortingly ran her fingers through his hair. "The truth needed to come out about Lucius." She said gently. "I may not have liked the way you chose, but after seeing my father survive an attack only to still be so assured that he’d done the right thing… I long ago came to terms with the fact that it was dangerous. Everything we do now is dangerous, there’s no getting around that. You can’t blame yourself for what Lucius chooses to do. And without coming face to face with him yesterday, we wouldn’t have his confession about Kane."

"It was too close for comfort… I thought I was literally having a heart attack when I saw you and Draco go over the side…" He leaned to rest his forehead on her shoulder, unable to meet her eyes.

"Hey, I may have been scared, but I never for a minute thought I was going to die. I knew you were coming to help us." She reassured him, still delicately stroking his hair.

"How could you know I would get there in time?"

"Harry…" She laughed and made him look at her. "Don’t you think I of all people would know? Don’t you think I’d get some warning, some vision telling me the end was near? Nothing at all came to me while Draco was holding onto me, that’s how I knew you’d get there in time." She kissed his cheek and he quickly turned to capture her lips. With one graceful movement, she turned herself and was now straddling him, throwing her arms around his shoulders as she deepened the kiss. He wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her closer against him, needing to feel that the wholeness that only she could bring as her light filled every empty place inside of him.

For a moment there he’d felt the world collapse down around him as he’d taken in the truth of Ron’s harsh words, that his own actions months ago had put Lucius standing over Luna with the decision to let her live or die… The fact that the man would have probably gone ahead and crushed her fingers anyway simply because she’d seen him there meant nothing because Lucius had been very clear in his reasons for attempting to help her fall to her death. But she had come and just made it better with kind words of her own… She had been able to take away the power his guilt had over him by simply asserting her belief in him and in herself.

Ron had no idea what he was talking about, Luna had never allowed anything to keep her from fighting on and she was far from playing the victim. In fact in that moment, she was his hero, bringing him back from the torturous shackles of self-doubt. He felt her smile against his lips as she picked up his thoughts and knew that she liked how he saw her in his mind. I love you. He thought to her, a simple statement that held more truth and depth of emotion than anything he’d ever before uttered in his entire life.

No more than I love you. She assured him, breaking the kiss to look him in the eyes. And then there were no more words left to say, nothing left that could express what either of them was feeling. And so he reached up to take her lips again, eager to let their minds and bodies say what their words and thoughts were unable to articulate.

(BREAK)

Ginny walked into her room, leaving the door open as she was sure Draco had picked up on her non-to-subtle hint. Sure enough he came in a few minutes after her, quietly closing the door behind him and leaning against it, waiting to see what was to come. "Really? You stay out all night knowing that Parvati was still out there? That Lucius could have come back? I stayed up waiting for you, worrying myself crazy thinking of everything that could have happened only to find you sauntering in after Harry calls us all together! You’re bad for my nerves." She scolded.

"I’m sorry you were worried." He said, shuffling his feet. "I didn’t mean to be gone all night but once I was out there, it just felt so good… running made me not think, made me feel free I guess."

"And I made you feel trapped?" She asked, hurt by the implication.

"Not in the way you’re thinking." He insisted. "The full moon is tomorrow night and so I already feel like I’m crawling out of my skin… like my entire body is a cage that’s just barely keeping me inside. No crystal or potion can take away that feeling. On top of that, it was too much to be presented with the idea that my own father could have taken you away from me so easily… that I had something to lose that would completely destroy me. I’m not used to caring Ginny, but you make it easier… And now it feels like I care too much, you know? Like my entire existence rests on your welfare…"

"You think I don’t know what that’s like? I’m the one who had your blood all over my hands yesterday." She reminded him. "You think I wasn’t ready to collapse at the thought that you’d been fatally injured? I never expected to care this much about someone, let alone you. But now that we’re here together, I can’t imagine it any other way and I wouldn’t want to."

He nodded and crossed his arms across his chest as a sort of shield. "As long as you know that I love you and that I don’t blame you for any of this… I just can’t be here, stuck in this castle right now…"

"Meaning what?"

"After Lupin was done with his meeting with Jacey and Dumbledore, I went to see him to request that we leave a day early like normal." He seemed to brace himself as he waited for her reaction.

"I thought the point of the amulet was that you didn’t have to leave at all." She said slowly.

"That’s what Lupin said… But I don’t think I’ll wear that tomorrow… I think I would kind of like to let the wolf run free for a bit, under the restraint of the Wolfsbane of course."

"Be honest… Should I be worried about you?" She asked quietly.

Draco seemed to shake himself off a bit, uncrossing his arms and putting on a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. "Yesterday was a lot to take in… I just need some time."

"I knew… yesterday even while it was all happening, I knew you were going to come out of this different." She walked over and took his hand, looking up at him and feeling very much like she was pleading with him. "I understand why… I just don’t want you to be different with me. For better or worse I like who you are with me. Show the rest of the world whatever you want Draco, but please just stay honest with me."

"I’m trying." He whispered sadly, pulling her against him as he hugged her close. "I just need this time away… from you and myself. That’s why I don’t want to wear the amulet tomorrow… I don’t want to stay myself right now."

"And when you come back?" She asked, looking up at him hopefully.

"It’s not like I can walk away from you forever, you know." He offered a genuine smile this time. "It seems I can’t really picture any sort of life without you in it."

"Good. Because I’m scared you’re going to try and do something misguidedly noble like leaving to ensure Lucius won’t target me again." Ginny said seriously. "Regardless what happened yesterday with him, I feel safer when you’re around me."

"What you feel and what is the actual reality are two different things." He reached out to brush her hair back before kissing her forehead. "It’s always going to be more dangerous for you to be around me… but I’ve long ago realized you’re pretty much a target for danger with the decisions you make and the people you associate with. Unless you’re ready to agree to live your life in a bubble, I’m in it for the long haul to ensure that not only do you not get yourself killed, that no one ever again tries to hurt you to get at me… My leaving for good wouldn’t keep Lucius from using you again to flush me out, and it would work just as well as it did yesterday because nothing as simple as distance can change the way I feel about you. But I need these two days now Ginny. For my own sanity."

She looked at him carefully, before letting out a deep breath. "Okay." She agreed now that she felt she believed he would come back. But part of her was still reluctant, still fearful that while out there he would change his mind and decide she was better off without him after all. "Just remember, I’d fall apart if you didn’t come back."

"Tuesday morning I’ll be here." He promised. She wanted to believe him completely. But that small nagging voice that always seemed to shout out that she wasn’t meant to be happy kept her from fully allowing herself to trust that the lure of the world beyond Hogwarts was weaker than the desire to return to someplace he’d admitted he felt entirely trapped in.

(BREAK)

Ron waited until late Sunday night, wanting to be sure that everyone else had gone to bed in preparation for their classes the next day. As soon as his clock read midnight he got out of bed, still fully dressed, and made his way across the common room to the Slytherin wing. He knew Tristan’s door was just past Draco’s and as he raised his hand to knock, he hoped Jacey answered looking like the vampire as it would make it easier to say the things he’d decided he needed to say to her. To the disappointment of his mind but not his eyes, she opened the door looking very much like herself. It was amazing that she could look so stunning in simple pajamas, but the silky shirt and pants seemed to hug her body just right, making her appear soft and curvy. Her hair was hanging in wild curls around her shoulders, making it tantalizingly clear that she’d just rolled out of bed. "Was there something you wanted?" She asked softly, clearly aware of the tension and anger he felt towards her.

He shook himself a bit, remembering that he’d made a decision and that he was determined to stick with it. "I need to talk to you for a moment."

She gestured him in and closed the door, turning to face him with nervous concern. "Have you heard anything about Parvati yet?" She looked down, and he began to wonder if she already knew why he’d come to see her.

"Lupin told me before he and Draco left that his contact had gotten a hold of him to report that she had gotten Parvati to the colony and they were well." He crossed his arms and stared her down, almost daring her to meet his eyes. "As well as can be expected anyway, given the fact that she had to be taken away from her friends and family to learn how to be a better vampire."

"It is not all my fault!" She protested, once more raising her gaze. "I am sorry for the part I played in it by not saying what I suspected, but I am not the one who targeted her, I am not the one who turned her and I am not the one who is letting my guilt destroy my life!"

"Of course I feel guilty!" Ron shouted. "I was all wrapped up in thoughts of you while she was off being fed on or whatever it takes to turn someone! She relied on me and I let her down, well I won’t do it anymore."

"Meaning what? Have you come to tell me off the same way you did all your other friends?"

"I don’t have to. You aren’t my friend, I barely know you." He saw that she was hurt badly by this and it hurt him to see it. He may not know her well, but this was certainly proving to be harder than it had been to say the things he knew would make his friends mad at him. He wondered how Harry had been able to keep this act up for so long last year when he was already prepared to throw in the towel at the sight of Jacey’s upset with him. But if he wanted to be left alone, he had to ensure no one wanted to bother him. "For a moment I thought I wanted to know you, but you’re as big a liar as Harry, Luna and Hermione. Besides, if I can barely stand to be around myself, how can I possibly be near you when the sight of you makes me think of everything that Parvati is going through because you didn’t warn anyone?"

"Okay, you have made your point." She said crossly. "I think you should go before you say something I really cannot forgive. Remember Ron, eventually you will find a way to move past what you are feeling… you do not want to completely burn every bridge you have."

"Maybe I do." He countered. "It would make it that much easier to start over from scratch."

"Why would you want to do that?" She pushed. "Your friends, your family… they have always been there for you. Maybe not always in ways that you approve of, but you can only really fault them for doing what they thought was best for you. I know the things you said to them today, the way you made them feel about themselves. I know that it is easier for you to make them think badly of themselves so that they will forget they are mad at you for putting those thoughts in their heads in the first place. But what you are doing is cruel. Harry already feels so much responsibility for everyone’s welfare, making him think almost losing Luna was his fault was a horrible thing to do."

"I wasn’t wrong." He shot back, trying to prove that he was unmoved by her words. "He’s the genius behind Xeno releasing that story, everything that happens as a result of it is in some way his fault. He provided the catalyst."

"And even now after you have made that clear and nearly crushed him with that knowledge, he would lay down his life to save yours." She said angrily. "You are letting what you feel make you act selfishly. However true the things you say may be, how is bringing it to anyone’s attention a positive thing to do? Everyone needs a bit of denial to go on after so much mindless and unending tragedy, even you. Taking theirs away from them, exposing all the things they had repressed in order to keep moving forward… you are hurting them more than they realize. And more than you realize. You have no idea what is going on between Hermione and Fred right now and the therefore the things you said to her were devastating for her to hear. After finding her in that hole so completely lost, you should have realized that she is in a very fragile place at the moment."

"You’re right, I have no idea what’s going on between Hermione and Fred. You know why? Because no one tells me anything anymore!" He shouted. "That’s kind of my whole point here!" He stalked over to the door, more angry with her now than when he’d come in. He wanted the luxury of focusing on his own emotional state, he didn’t want to have to become aware of anyone else’s. Of course he knew they were all hurting after recent events… but he wanted his pain to take center stage for once. He didn’t want to have to realize that to each of them, their own pain was the most important… he didn’t want to have to admit that there were those among his friends who may have deserved to feel worse than he did. So what if that made him selfish… he was seventeen and this was the time to be selfish, to be young and responsibility-free, to not have to care about anyone but himself before growing up and having to get a job and start a family. He was tired and wanted the life of a normal teen and the best way to achieve that was to distance himself from those that by design or desire were now forced to be more mature.

"Please do not just walk out." Jacey said softly as he breezed past her.

"There’s nothing more to say and nothing more I want to hear." He answered meanly, opening the door and walking out.

It wasn’t until he reached his own room that he finally allowed himself to breathe. Facing Jacey had been harder than the others, perhaps because he’d been disappointed in her the most. Harry and the others he was used to getting the run around from, but he’d expected more from her. Ron had thought she was feeling the same way for him that he felt for her, but then she had so easily lied to him, siding with his friends against him immediately. And meanwhile, he’d lost a girl who really had tried to care about him to a dreadful fate… A fate that had been allowed to go on by the girl he’d allowed himself to be distracted by. Until he could forgive himself, he’d never be able to forgive Jacey… and at this point, he wasn’t entirely sure he wanted to.

(BREAK)

Hermione lay in bed and stared at the ceiling. She was too hot to sleep, though once she kicked off her covers she found she was suddenly too cold. She’d tried taking the herbs given to her by the healers but they had only relieved her sore throat and stuffed nose. The headache remained, and she began to suspect that it had nothing to do with the cold she’d caught. Ron’s words were echoing in her head, making her doubt so many things… but she wouldn’t let herself be swept up in it. She’d have plenty of time to feel bad once she was sure Fred was safe.

As a distraction, she focused her mind on finding a solution. At first they’d all agreed that finding out where Fred was being kept was the most important thing, but she was starting to think otherwise. What good would finding him do if they didn’t figure out a way to disentangle him from the trap that had forced him to leave in the first place? Nailing down the spy was the key… Erebos and Simon, it was important that they figure out how these two were actually connected to Elanya, Elise and Sarah. Once they were discovered, their threats would no longer hold weight and Fred could be freed of the fear of Ron and Ginny being killed if he didn’t cooperate. The next step was something Lee and Willem could do for her in London… they had to be absolutely sure there was no proof to tie Fred to Edmund’s death, nothing that Elanya could use to prove he’d helped her in any way. The last step was finding a way to end the threat Sarah had hung over Hermione’s own head. Once that was done, there was nothing to force Fred to continue to cooperate and then they could find him and bring him home.

There was only one way she had been able to think of overcoming Sarah’s skill with Advanced Astral Projection and that was to become a comparable opponent. She’d already read the books she’d gotten from the library once… now it was time to read through them again to be sure she hadn’t missed anything and then it would be time to practice. She turned on the light and picked up one of the books, figuring it was a better use of her insomnia than staring at the ceiling and worrying endlessly. She was determined that by the end of this week she would know everything Sarah knew about astral projection… That they will have neutralized the threats presented by Erebos and Simon… And that they will not only have found where Elanya took Fred, but also have a solid plan for how to bring him back.

 

NOTE: Next chapter, the hunt for Fred and some more things are brought to light. Stay tuned to find out what happens next!

Reference to Moody and the polyjuice potion from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling.
Reference to Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling.
Reference to Quierrell from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

________________________________________
Chapter 53: And the Plot Thickens

A/N: Wow did this chapter take a turn I wasn’t expecting as I was writing, thus the title of the chapter… I guess we’ll all see where this takes us now. Read, Review, Enjoy!





"You’re sure about this?" Lupin asked as they watched the moon rise from beneath the trees.

"I am." Draco answered steadily, clutching his amulet tightly as he waited for himself to be ready to remove it. They had hiked all day in silence yesterday, both content to let the other be lost in their own thoughts as they left any trace of civilization far behind them. He’d been grateful that Lupin had allowed the silence to continue into the night and next day… he felt awkward around the man and didn’t know how to talk to him anymore. Lucius had been ready to kill Lupin simply for agreeing to legally look after Draco and worse, he’d threatened to go after Andromeda, Ted and Tonks as well before he’d escaped. His father’s inexplicable anger and jealousy was obviously something Potter hadn’t anticipated when he’d suggested this whole guardianship thing for them… none of them had. "You don’t have to come with, you know. You can keep your amulet on and stay human… I took the potion, I’ll be fine."

"I know. But I want to go with." He insisted. "I’ve had to do this by myself for many years, and even when you think you don’t want anyone else there, I’ve found it’s always better not to go through it alone. I had James and Sirius… and because they kept me going, now you have me to help you."

Draco shook his head. "School’s over in a few weeks, I’ll be moving back in with Potter I guess, since that’s where everyone seems to go. I have the amulet and a sense of some sort of control… you don’t have to be there for me anymore. You can take back your guardianship and erase all traces that tie yours and Tonks name to mine."

"I could, but why would I?" Lupin smiled. "You can’t always expect that people will just give up on you when things get too hard Draco. Not everyone is like that. You may think that it’s difficult to open yourself up to caring about others… but that’s the easy part. It can be far more difficult to open yourself up to letting others care about you."

"I just don’t want it to be my fault if Lucius decides to go after you guys!" He said angrily, taking a few steps away.

"And it wouldn’t be." He said gently. "What your father chooses to do is up to him, but the bad blood between him and Andromeda goes back to before you were born. Her recent kindness to you is only the latest excuse for him to seek vengeance against her. Tonks has been in his sights for years as she was a part of several different investigations seeking to bring him down. And after what happened in the Ministry of Magic, after losing Sirius, she had already sworn to help get Lucius and the others if it was the last thing she did. I know you don’t know your cousin very well, but it takes a lot for her to back down from anything." He smiled as he thought of his wife. "As for me, well, you’ve kind of grown on me. I’m certainly not scared of Lucius, and I wouldn’t let him be the thing that has you pushing me away when it’s clear you’d rather have me around."

"I guess you’ve grown on me too." Draco mumbled. "Which is why the last thing I want to be is a burden."

"And you aren’t." Lupin insisted. "My family was always cold and distant, and they became even more so after I became afflicted with this curse. My whole life I had to make my own family, which is what I managed to do with James, Lily and Sirius. After I lost them, I thought I was finished caring about people… And then I got the chance to not only meet and be near Harry, but to help clear Sirius’s name as well. Since then I’ve opened myself up and began making my own family again, up to and including falling in love with and marrying Tonks. I care about all of you kids… and I certainly love Harry as if he were my own son. But you Draco, you have become someone important to me as well, someone I can share the most horrible part of my life with, someone who makes this curse easier to bear because now I have the responsibility of guiding you through living your life with it. I’m not revoking my guardianship, and it’s not just because I think you still need me and Tonks and the semblance of family we can offer you, it’s also because I need you to be in my life."

He didn’t know what to say or even how he felt. He was still getting used to what it was like to love Ginny, how was he also supposed to handle the feelings that came with having normal family members who not only cared about him, but actually wanted him around? Lupin was related to him through marriage and a slip of paper, but in that moment it felt as if he were everything Draco had always wanted but never had… father, brother, uncle, cousin and best friend all wrapped up in one package and waiting for him to accept it. "Okay." He said, not trusting himself to say anything else without betraying how emotional he felt.

Lupin laughed and patted his shoulder. "Come on, let’s let ourselves go for the night and just enjoy the run. We’ll head back towards Hogwarts so we won’t have as far to travel in the morning."

Draco nodded in silent agreement. Together they removed their amulets, storing them safely in their bags, of which they’d loosened the straps to accommodate their soon to be larger forms. Stepping out into the moonlight, he wasn’t quite sure what to expect… the transformation wasn’t as painful as he remembered, though perhaps it was because this time he fully embraced it, wanting the wolf to be free. Still retaining their own minds, they were now in foreign bodies and had to be careful as they remembered to strap the bags to their backs. They shared a look before Lupin threw his head to the moon and let out a wild howl. And then they were off, allowing the wolves to run and play while they attempted to turn off their human thoughts.

(BREAK)

As had become his custom, Fred woke early, just before the sun rose. Of course he had no idea what time that was, just as he had no idea how long he’d actually been on this island… he’d forced himself to stop counting days after the fifth one, finding it far too depressing. Instead he had learned to focus on finding what little enjoyment he could while he was imprisoned. Those odd flowers growing here had become one of those things he actually liked and so he’d begun getting up before the sun, gladly leaving the splendor of the interior of their massive tent that seemed so ordinary on the outside. As he now normally did, he walked up the beach to where a small patch of the strange blooms grew wild.

Looking off into the horizon as he waited for the sun to peek over it, he let his mind wander… Wondering what his friends were up to, what Hermione must be thinking about his disappearance, whether his parents knew he was in trouble, and most prominently... how was he going to get himself out of this? Hearing a loud squawking sound that still terrified him no matter how many times he heard it, he glanced up into the quickly brightening sky and saw the dark outline of those weird creatures that enjoyed flying through the dawn. He didn’t know what they were and they never came close enough for him to really see them, which was fine by him as he wasn’t about to go looking for them. They seemed to stick to the tall mountains that made up most of this island and Fred had been sure to keep far away from there, choosing instead to remain near the beach where the vast sea reminded him of freedom.

At last the sun came up, breaking entirely free of the horizon to begin it’s ascent through the sky. He eagerly turned back to the flowers, waiting for that first beam of light to touch them. At last it happened and his eyes danced as bud after bud bloomed in an explosion of color- vibrant pinks and purples, neon blues and green, deeply saturated oranges and yellows. It was breathtaking to behold, like a work of art coming to life right in front of him.

"Well, I figured I’d find you here again." Elanya said as she came up behind him. He ignored her as he’d been doing since that first night… he hadn’t spoken a single word to her since setting up the tent. In fact, he felt like he was beginning to forget how to talk at all as he’d never in his life been able to maintain silence for more than a few minutes let alone however long he’d been stuck here… Though in a sense, it did make him happy to know that his stubbornness and willpower were so strong. He knew it was beginning to bother her that she was basically left talking to herself and as that was the only sort of victory he could achieve, he was careful to keep up his silence. "Don’t you get tired of watching them day after day?" She goaded.

He wanted to tell her that he’d be able to find more stimulating ways to pass his time had she not forced him onto this island where the only form of entertainment was the strange beauty of nature… But he didn’t. He simply got up and brushed the sand from his shorts before stripping off his shoes and T-shirt and heading down to the water for a swim. He could feel her following him and smiled to himself, happy that he was proving to be an annoyance to her. "You have to talk to me sometime!" She called as he walked right into the water, letting the inexplicable warmth of it sooth away the tension he carried at all times now. "Hey!" She shouted loudly.

He turned to find her ankle-deep in the water. She’d taken off her clothes and was standing there in a revealing bathing suit that he hadn’t even seen her purchase with his money. The fabric was gold, nearly blending in with the deep tan she’d acquired while they’d been there and illuminating the honey-gold color of her eyes. The sun shone through her loose auburn hair, casting a lustrous aura around her. He bit the inside of his cheek, needing the pain to remind him that as good as she may look she wasn’t safe to let one’s guard down around. "Mind if I join you for a swim?" She asked slyly as she posed effortlessly in front of him like a golden statue.

It was clear she wanted some response and it didn’t matter whether it was a denial or acceptance of her offer. She was clearly starting to act out in an attempt to manipulate him into doing what she wanted, which was speak to her. As a skilled liar and manipulator himself, he knew the things to look for and so he willfully kept his silence. Pretending he hadn’t even seen her, he turned and dove into the soft waves before moving his arms and legs, gliding easily through the water without looking back. Everyday he managed to get further from the shoreline… not that he had any illusions about being able to swim his way across the ocean. But as Elanya never went more than waist-deep into the water, he’d come to realize she was probably not a very strong or confident swimmer. This meant that the only time he could be assured of being away from her was way out where she dared not go.

Feeling his side begin to cramp and his limbs slow down, he stopped and treaded water, turning to ensure she had in fact remained on the beach. Even at this far distance, he could tell she was angry as she strode back towards the tent. Breathing a sigh of relief Fred flipped over onto his back and floated, careful to mind that he didn’t let the current pull him further than he thought he could swim back. Allowing his head to dip so that his ears were below water where everything was muffled and staring at the endless blue sky, he felt relaxed… peaceful… and very lonely. As much as he would like to look on the bright side and enjoy the scenery of where he was, the idea that so many people were probably worried about him kept him from doing so. He wished he were stuck on the island with Hermione, that this was some post-graduation holiday and she could be out here to enjoy this quiet moment with him.

He was worried that he didn’t know what was going on at Hogwarts, but there was nothing he could do about it. Still, it was easier to think of the unknown danger the others were going through than to focus on his own captivity… But he knew he had to start doing something to change his situation. As much as he wanted to keep up this silent treatment that was making Elanya so mad, he knew he needed answers from her. His hands were completely tied while he was here, cut off from everyone and all information. But if he could find out when they were leaving and when she planned on going back to London to attempt to use him against his friends and family, then he’d be better positioned to come up with a plan. Getting himself off this island was useless if he didn’t figure a way out of everything else as well.

Feeling hungry, Fred turned and swam back to shore. Letting the sun dry him as he walked back to the tent, he decided to give himself one more day to enjoy making Elanya mad… Tomorrow he would see how he felt about breaking his silence. After all, as much as he wanted to reason with himself, it was hard to give up the only small bit of power he had at the moment.

(BREAK)

"Good morning everyone!" Charlie greeted his class. Since Lupin and Draco had decided to leave, an impromptu switch up of class schedules was arranged to make up for the missing professor, making for an entirely confusing Monday that Hermione had missed out on by staying in bed sick. Unfortunately, Lupin hadn’t made it back in time Tuesday morning and that left the seventh year advanced program class to enjoy Care of Magical Creatures as the first lesson of the day. Normally Hermione enjoyed Charlie’s class, even if she did have to call him Professor Weasley. But between her concern over Fred, her still lingering illness and Ron glaring at her and Harry the whole time, she just wasn’t in the mood for anything that distracted her from practicing astral projection. Perhaps she should have taken Harry’s advice and stayed in bed again today, but being so close to the end of her time in school she’d forced herself to get up, not wanting to miss out on anything that could present itself on a test. But her head just wasn’t in it and as Charlie began handing out little books to them all, she debated asking if she could be excused.

"Now, my coming to teach here was a very last minute decision and so I didn’t have time to get my say on your reading lists for this class." Charlie announced as he finished passing the books around and stood before them all. "Today we start learning about creatures I have a particular specialty in- Dragons." He smiled, clearly excited to teach on something he knew so well. "Obviously I can’t bring any of them in to show you, though I’m aware that some of you have had rather close encounters with a few different species." He grinned at Harry.

"Charlie, this book has your name on it." Ron interrupted, not bothering to raise his hand.

"That’s Professor Weasley while we’re in class Ron." Charlie reminded him with a smirk. "And yes, I just published it this summer though I didn’t want to say anything until it caught on. A few years ago, I and a few of my colleagues were lucky enough to stumble upon a species of dragon that had long been thought to have gone extinct. We lived near and studied them and after, I wrote down what we learned. You are now all holding the results of that effort."

He went on and suddenly too curious and interested to consider leaving class, Hermione began flipping through the book, eager to get a sense of Charlie as an author. The text was informative but it was the bright photographs of the island where the dragons had been found and of the creatures themselves that really made the book spectacular. Drawn in by a bright burst of color in the corner of one of the photos, she leaned in closer and was struck as she recognized the flowers from Luna’s vision. Her hand instantly shot into the air as she desperately waved it to get Charlie’s attention.

"Yes Miss Granger?" He grinned at her.

"I was looking through the book… these flowers in this picture here, are they Colorsplosions?" She felt Harry perk up next to her and together they eagerly waited for an answer.

"Why, yes as a matter of fact. As it turned out, these dragons weren’t the only thing we found on the island that had been thought to be extinct. Good job recognizing them" He nodded encouragingly. "There were several other plant and animal species on this island-"

"What island?" Harry interrupted, throwing his hand in the air as an afterthought.

"One of the gateway islands that protect the route to Castellumshire." He answered suspicious of the sudden interest. "I’m no sailor, I simply rode with a bunch of them and they knew how to get there. I personally couldn’t even point it out on a map."

"And are the dragons that live there dangerous?" Hermione asked, suddenly terrified for Fred.

"Yes, but only if you disturb them." Charlie answered seriously. "This species is called the Double-Clawed Winghorn, so named for the pair of very sharp claws they use to perch and grip prey and the horns protruding from the tips of their wings. They live in high places, generally mountains… Which is where we found these last few. Our camp was down at the base and as long as we remained down there, the Winghorns didn’t bother us. It was only after we climbed up to study them more closely that they became vicious and highly protective of what they considered their borders. They attack in pairs and are highly intelligent and extremely proficient, though we only saw ten of them in all. However, when left on their own it became clear that they only came out to hunt in the very early morning. The rest of the time they were content to remain in their den."

Hermione pretty much tuned him out after that, not needing or wanting to hear more. Surely she had to be mistaken, surely Colorspolosions had to grow elsewhere in the world… She knew all it would take to find out the truth was to run the idea by Luna and the girl’s intuition would tell them if this was the island where Fred was being held… but she was already pretty sure that it was. Of course it had to be, why wouldn’t Elanya insist they go one of the few places anyone else dared to? What were the odds another team of dragon hunters would be stopping by now that they knew what was there?

As soon as Charlie ended his class, Hermione raced back to her room, throwing aside the books on astral projection to find the one about mysterious islands that she’d also stolen/borrowed. She flipped through the pages until she found an entry on the gateway islands… there were two some thirty kilometers apart that were estimated to be about a hundred kilometers from Castellumshire. Despite this wide area, the book explained that for some reason, these islands proved to be unchartable and only a very seasoned sailor knew how to find them.

Feeling excited, nervous and terrified, she rushed into the common room where Harry and Luna were sitting on the couch, apparently waiting for her. "Is this it? Is this where Fred is?" She thrust the book at Luna, begging her to say she was wrong… that Fred wasn’t on an untraceable island that was occupied by dragons.

"You’ve lost Fred?" Draco asked as he emerged from the Slytherin wing.

They all froze, unsure what to say or how to explain. "When did you get back?" Harry asked calmly as both a distraction and a way to buy time.

"A few minutes ago. I was just on my way to tell Ginny before we all have to go to class." He answered, looking around at the three of them suspiciously. "What’s going on with Fred?"

"He’s on a business trip." Hermione said quickly, not knowing what else to say and figuring it was best to stick with the lie already told. They may not have discussed it, but she, Harry and Luna had clearly come to a silent agreement not to tell Draco anything about Fred so that he wouldn’t be put in the position of keeping it from Ginny.

"Yeah, Ginny mentioned something about that. Apparently Mrs. Weasley sent a letter complaining all about it and the abrupt way he left." Draco said slowly. He was anything but dimwitted and it was clear he’d picked up on something being wrong. "What does that have to do with you all not knowing where he is?"

"Hermione had been talking to him through those compacts… you know, keeping in touch." Luna blurted out.

"Right, but she came to us this morning saying she accidentally broke the compact." Harry agreed, picking up effortlessly on Luna’s thought. "She was freaking out because she had no idea where he was actually staying and therefore no way to contact him."

"I had a vision that showed him on an island, though I wasn’t sure which one so she went to look up the things I described to see if she could figure it out." Luna added, rounding out their lie.

Draco ignored them and looked at Hermione before smirking and shaking his head. He’d gotten to know them all well since joining with them, and had spent years before that spying on them to learn all their secrets. He knew of the three, Harry was the gifted liar, though Luna was capable when pressed… he also knew Hermione not only didn’t like to lie, she wasn’t always the most convincing at it. Letting Harry and Luna speak for her had obviously given him a clue that things weren’t exactly as they were telling him. "I see." He said at last. "This is one of those, I’m-better-off-not-knowing, types of things… is that because Ginny is better off not knowing?"

"Let’s just say everything’s fine and stick with that." Harry said.

"Okay, I don’t need to know the particulars." Draco agreed. "But if you need help, I’ve been looking for a reason to practice scrying."

"Why?" Hermione asked.

He shrugged. "You all said we need to focus on getting ready to find the coven… Figured I’d like to have something useful to bring to the table. Scrying is a skill that runs in my family so I thought I could use it to help you locate all those people."

"Good to know you plan to come along." Harry smiled in encouragement.

"I don’t really have anything planned once we’re released from here." He admitted. "I just think it’s best I prepare for anything. Let me know if you need my help. I won’t mention to Ginny that Fred is currently… off the grid?"

"I guess that’s the best way to put it." Hermione nodded. "Thanks." He waved her off and continued on his way to tell Ginny that he had returned.

"Yes, I think that’s the place." Luna said, answering Hermione’s earlier question once she was sure they were alone.

"Good, so if we know what island he’s on and Draco thinks he can find where the island is, then there’s no need for you and Jacey to go to Erebos’s class today so she can try to get into his head." Harry said happily.

"That was your idea in the first place!" Hermione reminded him.

"I’ve had time to reflect on it." He answered defensively.

"Either way, we still have to determine whether he’s really the spy. We can’t go rescue Fred until we’re sure we’ve shut down everything they’re holding over his head." She argued.

"I agree." Jacey said, emerging from the Slytherin wing as Tristan, properly dressed in school robes and carrying a backpack. "Are you ready to go Miss Granger?"

Hermione looked at Harry and saw that he was extremely unhappy. She felt free in that moment… she didn’t have to care what Harry thought anymore. She was willing to do whatever she had to in order to help Fred, just as she’d done in the past for Harry, no matter how dangerous or stupid. They had to know if Erebos was the spy so that they could stop him from carrying out Elanya’s threats… if that meant placing herself in front of the professor while Jacey tried to get into his mind, then so be it. "I’m ready." She answered confidently.

(BREAK)

Ginny answered the knock on her door right away and threw her arms around Draco, more than relieved that he’d returned as he’d promised. "I wasn’t even gone a full two days." He teased, leaning down to kiss her.

"It felt like much longer." She sighed, taking his hand and leading him into her room, closing the door for privacy. "Are you okay?"

"As much as I can be I guess." He answered honestly, taking a seat on the bed. "I talked a few things over with Lupin and it made me feel better… sort of. I’m just tired of everything always being so difficult."

"You and everyone else." She smiled, climbing behind him and rubbing his shoulders. She could feel how much stress he was carrying and did her best to ease the extreme tension in his muscles. "But I guess if things weren’t difficult, we wouldn’t appreciate the times when everything is easy."

He relaxed into her hands, letting his head hang down as she massaged his neck. "When has anything ever been easy? We’ve all had to struggle to get where we are and now we’re struggling to stay there while the entire world seems to plot against us."

"Being with you isn’t such a struggle." She wrapped her arms around him and kissed the back of his neck. "In fact, loving you might be the easiest thing I’ve ever done even after all we’ve gone through together. I don’t care how hard I have to fight for us Draco, I think it’s worth it."

He took her arms and turned to face her, studying her very closely. "None of this… nothing I’m questioning or doubting has anything to do with you or us." He said very seriously before at last breaking into a smile. "You don’t have to convince me that you love me, it’s probably the only thing I’m sure of anymore."

She nodded. "I just thought you needed to hear it again. I can’t imagine what you must be feeling after everything that happened with Lucius on Saturday… I just don’t want you to go back to thinking that everyone is like him, that everyone will hurt or disappoint you in the long run."

He let out a small laugh. "Lupin said something similar."

"Well, we can’t both be wrong, right?" She grinned.

"It’s just a strange thing to get used to, having people campaign to stay in my life… especially when it’s proven so dangerous." He shook his head and turned away from her again. "I tried to give Lupin an out. I told him to erase all traces that linked his and Tonks’s names to mine… but he wanted to stay on as my guardian."

"Of course he did! You don’t think you’re helping him deal with this whole werewolf thing the same way he’s helping you?" She asked, once more wrapping her arms around him and resting her chin on his shoulder. "Face it Draco… once people get to know you, you’re a pretty likable guy. And I hope you weren’t planning to try and make me the same offer as Lupin because you’re as stuck with me as you are with him."

"Don’t I know it." He teased, turning to kiss her cheek.

"You’re lucky to have us both." She went on, smiling widely.

"Yeah, I know that too." He laughed.

"Well here’s the part you don’t seem to know yet… we’re lucky to have you as well." She reached up and turned his face so that she could lightly kiss his lips. "Maybe that’s the part you shouldn’t forget." She whispered before fully capturing his mouth once more, ready to welcome him back and show him just how much she’d missed him.

(BREAK)

"Mr. Macnair! I was told not to expect you in class today." Professor Erebos said as soon as Jacey entered his classroom. Hermione had been sure to arrive a few minutes before her as usual so that nothing would seem suspicious.

"I’m of the mind that my position here is still to be determined." She replied as Tristan, coolly taking a seat in the back row of the nearly empty classroom. Erebos simply shook his head and began his lesson. Clearly the man was going to leave the act of disciplining the vampire to those with more power than he had. Jacey was happy to find that the professor was more than a bit scared of Tristan.

Remember, keep him busy. Ask questions so he is focused on you and therefore less able to focus on shielding his mind. She reminded Hermione.

I think I can handle it. She replied in amusement.

They waited until the lesson was half over, hoping that Erebos would be lulled into a false sense of security. You ready? Jacey thought out to Harry and Luna. She knew that by now they had stationed themselves next door in Professor Flitwick’s currently empty classroom.

Let’s just try to be really careful, okay? Harry asked desperately.

Giving Hermione the signal, Jacey watched in fascinated amusement as the other girl raised her hand and assaulted Erebos with rapid-fire questions. No sooner had the man answered her once than she was asking for more information, more clarification or more detail. Watching him become flustered, Jacey waited until she was sure he was completely distracted by his eager student. Feeling Harry and Luna’s presence mingle in with hers, she propelled all three of them forward into the professor’s head. Sure enough, they found a fortress around his mind, as high and mighty as any of theirs. Picturing the three of them tiptoeing through the man’s subconscious, she helped search for some way in.

There! Luna whispered excitedly. Focusing on her, Jacey was able to see what she saw and cautiously zoomed toward the crack in the foundation. They slipped their way in, careful not to leave a trace of themselves. Flipping through the man’s mind as quickly as possible, they at last found what they were looking for.

*****

Erebos put the key in the door and entered the hotel room. Elise was already waiting for him, sitting in one of the chairs as she regarded him warily. "It’s been a long time Dolos." She said, offering a sly and seductive smile.

"And I had thought it would be much longer. I thought we had agreed years ago to just be happy that we got away with having our short time together." He replied, angrily dropping his suitcase to the ground. He didn’t like being summoned like this, but the girl had a lot of dirt on him and she was entirely capable of ruining his life.

"You thought a lot of things about me, haven’t you?" She teased.

He cleared his throat and remained steady in his resolve. "I’m married now."

She laughed. "Actually you’re in the process of getting divorced. Didn’t you think I would check up on you before making contact? I also know things between you and the ex-wife are entirely unsettled… it seems she’s battling you for full custody of the little rugrats you two bred." She laughed again, having seen the concern that instantly spread across his face. "Relax Dolos, I didn’t call you here to rekindle old flames or to threaten your estranged family."

"Then why did you call, and why have us meet here, in Australia of all places?" He asked nervously.

"To make a proposition." She rose and walked over to the window, letting the sun shine through her sundress and bare a shadow of the figure underneath. "It seems you and I are in the position to help each other yet again." She added, looking at him over her shoulder. Everything about her was as appealing as it had been all those years ago, from her rather attractive appearance to the small star tattoo that drew him into her eyes to the hint of danger she always promised to provide.

"I’m listening." He said, entertaining the idea that perhaps rekindling old flames wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

She turned fully to him, leaning against the balcony railing as she spoke. "I came here looking for someone… turns out the first one wasn’t all that I needed him to be. But I have found a girl with the right power and a desperate need for revenge. My friends and I need her… after speaking with the girl, we’ve already come up with a plan on how to use her to our best advantage. The only thing is, she feels she has nothing to offer us. As it turns out, the girl does have some annoying morals and while she very much liked that we could give her the way to kill her father, she was also hesitant in joining with us when she had no way to repay us."

"She seems smart, doesn’t want to be left in anyone’s debt." He interrupted, thinking of his own situation. He was entirely indebted to Elise for how she was able to cover up their affair all those years ago… it was why he had come here.

"Whatever the case, you need to be the thing she can provide us… which works out wonderfully since I was eventually going to contact you on our behalf anyway." She grinned.

"You keep saying our and we. Who else are you plotting with?"

"A dear old friend… perhaps you remember Sarah Elaine?" She waited as he nodded, indicating he vaguely remembered the girl who he’d only ever met during the trial. "She has her own fish on the hook, but her girl is useless as long as she’s locked away."

"So what do you need me to do?" He asked, again feeling nervous.

"Elanya Delamora… very young and very pretty… she’s staying in this hotel. I need you to make it your business to run into her. I’m sure you won’t have a problem convincing her that you find her very attractive and would do anything she wanted of you. Then I need you to casually slip into conversation that you work at Hogwarts… she’ll take care of the rest."

"How can you be sure?"

Elise smiled again, this time like a lioness toying with her prey. "Because I’ll see to it that she thinks you are exactly what we need. Imagine her delight when she stumbles into you! We’ll let her think you are hers and hers alone and that only she can bring you into the fold, it’ll be her way of buying her way in. Later if she tries to use you against us, we’ll simply tell her how things really came about and that she hasn’t even come close to coming up even for what we’re going to help her do."

"So you want me to help you fool and trap this girl?" He shook his head. "How naïve is she?"

"Not at all actually. She is very well aware of how things work in my world, but like you she prefers to live on the outer edges of it, only dipping a toe in when it suits her." Elaine teased. "That is why we have to not only set up this elaborate farce, but also be entirely convincing about it."

"Which is why you told me to use a funeral as my excuse for being in the country."

"Well, death makes most people feel awkward and therefore there are less uninvited questions."

He sighed and sat down in the chair. "And, what do I get out of this?"

"Besides the pleasure of a renewed acquaintance with me?" She grinned. "We will guarantee that you get whatever you want out of this little divorce fight."

"How? I don’t want Lilah hurt." He had a sudden sense of protectiveness come over him as he thought of his children’s mother being killed.

"Relax. We have plenty of ways of doing anything we want. It’s all about knowing the right people and calling in the right favors." She assured him. "After we deliver, all I’ll need you to do is keep playing along with the girl. Once you get back to school, all you’ll have to do is keep an eye on a few choice students so that we know what’s going on at all times. So, are you in?"

"I don’t know, are you leaving anything out?" He asked suspiciously.

"You know me too well, Dolos." She said, once again offering a coy smile as she walked back into the room to stand before him. "How do you feel about hurting students, possibly even killing one?"

"I’d rather it didn’t come to that…" He swallowed hard. Sure he’d taken a few lives back during the last war, but that had been because he thought he was doing right, protecting a way of life. After, when he’d gotten to know Elise and seen what the war had done to the children of his opposition he began to wonder if he did belong on Dumbledore’s side. It was a question that had haunted him for years after. Perhaps this was his time to find out… if he was able to threaten an innocent student, then surely he belonged on Elise’s side of the war, on Voldemort’s side.

"No one wants it to come to that, and if everyone does exactly what they’re supposed to then it won’t. But I need someone who can do what is necessary should the occasion arise." She was studying him closely, obviously looking for signs of weakness.

"If you can guarantee Lilah won’t be able to take my kids away, then I’m your man." He replied steadily. There were a lot of shady things in his past, some of them had been what finally pushed his wife away and forced her to seek sole-custody. He knew he’d do whatever it took to get what he wanted, and Elise knew it too… that’s why after all these years, she’d come back to him. He could and would do this, and what’s more, he felt like he’d enjoy it.

*****

Well, I guess that answers a lot. Harry said once they all cleared out of Erebos’s head.

We’re back. Jacey thought to Hermione. She saw that the girl was having trouble keeping up her barrage of questions and wanted to assure her that she could stop.

Suddenly the classroom door swung open and Healer Drake entered with an apologetic smile. "Sorry to interrupt." He said politely. "I need to borrow Mr. Macnair. He’s wanted up in the Headmaster’s office."

"Go on Macnair. I told you that you weren’t supposed to be here." Erebos crossed his arms and waited impatiently.

Jacey reluctantly got up, hearing Harry in her head telling her and Hermione that he and Luna were staying where they were until the class was over. She followed Drake down the hall, wondering what was going to happen. "I hope this is somehow part of your plan, because Dumbledore is really mad." He said as they walked.

"In a sense. We want Tristan in as much trouble as possible." She answered, hoping she could withstand the headmaster’s anger. The healer left her at the gargoyle and she now had to face Dumbledore’s wrath alone.

But of course the older wizard knew how to control his emotions and as she entered his office, she saw him regarding her with hardened eyes while speaking in a calm voice. "Mr. Macnair. May I ask why you openly defied my orders and went to class today?"

"I got lonely." She shrugged, mimicking Tristan’s nonchalant way of dealing with authority.

"I see." He leaned forward and spoke softly. "The Aurors have decided to take your case Mr. Macnair. They are applying for a warrant of arrest and as soon as it comes through I am to hand you over to them. Unfortunately, it may take a few days as we are still caught up looking for both Parvati Patil and Troy Mason. Until that time we are finally able to rid ourselves of you, you are hereby confined to your dormitory. I suggest you use your last few days here to figure out exactly what you’re going to tell the courts. You are dismissed." With a flourish, he disappeared, apparently not wanting to give Tristan a chance to respond. She was left sitting alone in the office, contemplating what life was going to be like once she was once more entirely free to be herself.

(BREAK)

Harry nervously waited for Hermione to exit the classroom, hating the thought of her being alone with someone who wasn’t quite sure whether or not he was a psychopath. Luna was next to him and more than anything he wanted to reach out and take her hand, to feel the comfort she could bring him… but with so many students walking the halls, that was impossible. Not only had they both agreed it was best no one but their friends knew about them, he was supposed to still be pretending to be with Hermione in an attempt to fool Erebos, Simon and anyone else who may think she was a little too close to Fred. "Well?" He asked as soon as she emerged.

"Nothing happened, it was an ordinary class. I can’t be sure, but I don’t think he felt you guys in his head." She quietly assured them.

He’s coming. Luna warned them as she turned and walked away. Harry pulled Hermione to him, wrapping his arm around her shoulders just as Erebos came into the hallway.

"Well, you were certainly inquisitive in class today Miss Granger." He said, stopping to grin at them.

"NEWTs are coming up, I just want to be prepared." She answered quickly.

"You know Hermione, always one to question all." Harry said proudly, leaning in to kiss her temple as she pushed herself closer against him.

"Too bad I could never interest you in the subject Mr. Potter. I think I would have enjoyed having you in my class as well." He said with a tight smile. "You seem to have so many talents, I’m sure you could just pluck the answers to any test right out of my head." He added meaningfully.

Harry felt himself panic. "I would never do something like that. It’s cheating." He answered steadily, not wanting the professor to receive any validation of his suspicions.

"Come on, we have to go or we’ll miss lunch and I’m starving." Hermione said, playfully taking his hand and pulling him along as if she didn’t sense the sudden tension.

He quickly followed her, gripping her hand so tight he was afraid he would break it. "You are definitely going to have to request something to get you out of that class." He said as they walked toward the Great Hall.

"What happened? Is he the spy?" She asked, though it was clear the professor’s behavior had already confirmed what she feared.

"Yeah, to say the very least… we may not just be going to save Fred anymore." He answered. "It seems that whether she knows it or not, Elanya has gotten herself just as trapped by Elise and Sarah as Fred."

(BREAK)

"When are we leaving?" Fred asked unceremoniously as soon as Elanya emerged from the tent.

"And a good morning to you too!" She said happily. "I see you’ve decided to come to your senses and talk to me."

"When are we leaving?" He asked again, having decided those were the only words he would allow himself to say until he received a definite answer.

"I don’t see why you’re in such a big hurry to get back… it seems your friends are already starting to forget about you." She taunted.

He was curious, he wanted to ask what she meant… but he refused to take the bait. "When are we leaving?" He asked for the third time.

"Don’t you want to know what I’ve heard from my sources?" She asked coyly.

At this point, he was more concerned with how she’d heard from her sources and filed away in his mind that he needed to find the chance to search for her communication device. "When are we leaving?" He smiled to himself as he saw her frown. Apparently this could have the potential to annoy her as much as his silence.

"If you’re concerned about getting back to Hermione Granger, I’d forget about it if I were you." She said cruelly. "My source within Hogwarts has told me that he’s witnessed several things to tell him that she and Harry Potter have mended their broken relationship. It seems she didn’t quite appreciate you up and leaving her without a word of warning."

Fred held himself together, forcing himself not to react. He knew that Hermione knew Elanya had already planned to force him away… he truly believed she was smart enough to put two and two together once she was unable to reach him and figure out he’d been forced away sooner. But then… wouldn’t she have done something to try and find him? He may have stopped counting days after five, but he knew he’d been here for a long time… a few weeks at least. Shouldn’t someone have come looking for him? Whether or not what she said was true, he was determined not to let Elanya know she had shaken him. He stared her right in the eye and grinned. "When are we leaving?"

(BREAK)

Ron had spent four days successfully keeping his friends at bay. It seemed his words against them had worked and for better or worse, they were leaving him to sort it out himself. Of course, they all probably had some big secret to focus on and help keep their minds off of him, but the longer he went, the harder it was for him to continue to defend the stance he had taken. After all, they still had each other and he was pretty much alone… just as he’d thought he wanted.

Not caring to sit by himself at dinner yet again, he’d decided to spend his Thursday night in the library. He really did try to do homework, but he just couldn’t focus and eventually found himself writing a letter to Parvati with the hope that Lupin could find a way to get it to her. He was three pages into explaining how sorry he was when someone’s shadow fell over him.

"Here you are!" Seamus exclaimed, pulling out a chair and sitting across from him. "I’ve been looking for you all over, you know we have our first game Saturday, don’t you?"

"Yeah, I know. What is there to do until practice tomorrow?"

"Practice tonight." He grinned. "I got McGonagall to agree to let us have a nighttime practice so long as we had it wrapped up by ten. That only gives us three and a half hours! Come on, I already told the team to meet us down there."

Ron looked down at his letter and sighed. Perhaps he did need a distraction, something that was now entirely his as he was the only one of his close friends allowed to participate in quidditch in any way. "Alright. Help me put these books back, Madame Pince had a fit the last time I was here and left them lying all over the place." Shoving his own things in his backpack, he and Seamus grabbed the few books he’d taken out in hopes of completing his potions essay and went into the stacks to put them away.

"Hey, do you hear that?" Seamus whispered suddenly.

Both boys stopped and listened. At last Ron picked up on whatever Seamus had heard… a soft thud and quiet moaning. Curious, they followed the sounds a little deeper into the rows of shelves. Turning the corner they gasped in shock at who they saw and what they were doing. "I’d have thought you’d have better taste Padma." Seamus teased.

She and Dean leapt apart, wiping their mouths and straightening their clothes as they realized they’d been caught. "He was helping me find something." She said defensively.

"In your mouth?" Ron laughed.

"Shut up." Dean said angrily.

"I’ve been under a lot of stress lately…" Padma argued her case.

"And he was just helping to relieve some of it?" Seamus asked innocently as a wide, evil grin spread across his face. She rolled her eyes and walked away in a huff.

"Thanks jerks." Dean grumbled.

"Aren’t you supposed to be heading down to the quidditch pitch?" Ron took his turn to tease their friend. Shooting them each a dirty look, Dean brushed past them to go down to practice.

"Well, that was interesting." Seamus grinned.

"Seeing his face get all red like that… it totally made my day." He agreed, smiling back.

They put away the books and hurried outside to the field. Ron felt lighter than he had in days and was surprised to find that he could really enjoy himself with other friends. Dean and Seamus and the whole Gryffindor team were his outlet, his way of continuing to avoid Harry, Hermione, Luna and Ginny. Once they left here, he would have to figure something else out, especially since his family was currently living in Harry’s house for an undetermined amount of time. But he still had a little over two weeks to think on it. In the meantime, he was content to allow himself to enjoy the rare, completely worry-free moment he was experiencing.

(BREAK)

"Come on, we’re going to be late for class!" Luna grabbed Ginny’s arm and pulled her off the couch, barely giving her enough time to grab her books before dragging her out of the common room where she and Draco had been lounging.

As soon as they were gone, Granger came and took Ginny’s vacated spot. "Here." She spread a map out in front of Draco and pointed to a small dot of an island. "I finally found a map that shows Castellumshire. Somewhere within a hundred kilometers is the island we think Fred is on."

"And you want me to do what?" He asked, looking up at her. Potter was standing behind her and it was clear they had been waiting for Luna to get Ginny out of the room before approaching him. "You said before that you guys can’t sail there even if you knew where it was. Isn’t that the mystery of this island, that only certain people can find it?"

"Only certain people can find it- by sea." Potter argued.

"We’re thinking that if you can pinpoint it on a map, we can use the photos in Charlie’s book to apparate there." Granger added hopefully.

Realizing they were serious, he took the map and stood. "Okay, I’ll try. But I’d rather do this in private if you don’t mind." He strode past them to the Slytherin wing and down to his room. The last thing he wanted was the added pressure of Potter and Granger watching him try and fail. He wished he had never offered to help, that he’d kept his mouth shut and stayed out of it… especially since it seemed whatever was going on, they were desperate that Ginny and Ron not get wind of it. But he had offered and they’d taken him up on it… now he had to actually attempt to scry, something he’d never actually done.

Spreading the map out on the bed, he wondered what he was supposed to do next. Of course he didn’t have a pendulum, but remembering a time when Narcissa had lost hers, he still thought that maybe he could do this. Copying everything he’d seen his mother do, he pulled out a single strand of his hair… a piece of the seeker. Now he needed a piece of the sought after. Taking Charlie’s book, he ripped out the picture of the Colorsplosions and made a hole through the scrap. Looping his hair through it, he let it dangle in front of him ready for testing. With his mind, he focused on the paper moving itself north… he was truly surprised when it began to swing and at first thought there must be a breeze. He quickly focused on moving the paper to the east and nearly dropped it in shock when it froze in midair and instantly swung the way he’d asked. So it had worked. He was thrilled but knew he had to be careful not to become overconfident.

Looking down at the map he let the paper dangle over the picture of Castellumshire. "Okay, time to really put you to the test." He said under his breath as he began focusing on narrowing down the search for the mysterious gateway islands.

The paper fluttered for a moment before swinging in a wide arch, making more and more precise circles until it stopped dead, pointing directly at what appeared to be empty ocean. He tried it three more times, always with the same result. You guys should come and see this. He thought out to Potter, excited in spite of himself that he may have just solved something that even Granger had been unable.

He opened the door just as they both were about to knock, hurrying them inside. Picking up his strand of hair, he once more demonstrated what the paper pointed to on the map, confident enough in himself that he could do it with an audience. Sure enough he got the same result and Granger rushed to circle the spot and write down the coordinates. "And it’s seems to be within one hundred kilometers. Thank you Draco, well done!" She exclaimed, leaping up to hug him

He awkwardly patted her back before extricating himself. "Think nothing of it. And if Ginny ever finds out what you are all up to, I had nothing to do with it."

"Agreed." Potter grinned. And then suddenly his expression turned to one of anger.

"Harry, are you okay?" Granger asked, having also witnessed the speed with which Potter’s mood had changed.

"I’ve got to go." He said quickly before racing from the room.

"Harry!" Granger called after him, looking out the door as he dashed down the hall. "What do you think that was about?" She asked, once more turning to face Draco.

He shrugged. "Only he knows at this point."

"I’d better go see if I can catch up to him somehow…" She paused and offered a smile. "Thanks again Draco. You have no idea how much you’ve just helped us." And then she was gone, off to chase down Potter. He briefly entertained the thought of going with, but he just as quickly dismissed it. Clearly whatever the situation was, it was one Potter either thought he could handle alone or wanted to handle alone. If he’d thought he needed help, Draco didn’t think he’d have hesitated to ask him. After all, they’d been finding it a lot more beneficial to work together lately. Instead he lay back in his bed to wait for Ginny to be done with class, happily reflecting on his unexpected success. If this was what it was like to have things go your way, then he was prepared to sit back and let it. But he would remain prepared and ready should Lucius show his face again.

(BREAK)

Luna ensured Ginny made it to class before making up an excuse for why she wouldn’t be joining her. Claiming a severe stomachache as they approached the Gargoyle, she’d blamed food poisoning and urged the other girl to go on up. She’d told Ginny that she had a great herbal remedy back in her room and it was her own fault for not taking it when the symptoms had first begun to present themselves.

Once alone in the hall, Luna straightened up and hoped she hadn’t made her friend too worried about her. But she had no time for class right now, she wanted to get back to the common room and find out whether Draco was able to locate the island. She moved quickly down the hall, not wanting anyone questioning why she wasn’t where she was supposed to be. And then it suddenly struck her, the feeling of an oncoming vision. She quickly ducked through the nearest door feeling completely disoriented. Before her eyesight blurred, she was able to make out that she was in an empty classroom. Dropping to her knees, she crawled forward, feeling her way to the professor’s desk and hiding herself behind it. She couldn’t let anyone find her alone while having a vision, it was too easy for them to take advantage of her being so completely vulnerable. There were still far too many enemies walking the halls to let one of them find her in a compromising situation in which she’d be unable to fight. The last thing she wanted was to make it easy for them to hand her over to Voldemort.

Giving into the vision, she was surprised to find it was the same warning as before. Once again she and Harry were side by side in the white room and she felt the same draw as Sarah, Elise and Elanya beckoned to them. And then again Harry was gone and she was recoiling in horror as Simon approached, reaching out to her. Only this time, the ending was different. She was frozen in place as Simon grew taller and taller before turning to stomp down on his sister and her friends who were now the size of mice. He turned and grinned as a pool of blood emerged from beneath his shoe and it was clear he had wanted her to watch. And then the room was spinning and once more Simon looked normal as he stood before her, reaching out to her as she shook in fear. Now it was Elise, Sarah and Elanya who grew large, crushing Simon to death beneath their feet. Harry was beside her again and the three women turned to beckon to them as if nothing had happened. Instantly she felt drawn into them again and only then did she realize it wasn’t her feeling it. It was Harry who was so willing to listen to what these awful women had to say while neither of them seemed to have interest in Simon’s message…

She shook her head as she came back to herself already attempting to think this through. If she was being warned that Harry was willing to listen to something those girls had to say, then what was Simon going to do that made him turn to them. Her head was spinning with possibilities and she suddenly wasn’t sure what anything in the vision had been trying to tell her. She hated the white room, where nothing was clear and everything was a puzzle. But this time the warning had definitely felt more intense and as her mind switched completely back into consciousness, a sharp sting of intuition stabbed at her. She felt for her wand in her pocket only to realize she’d put it in her bag, which she’d dropped somewhere after she’d entered the classroom. She felt another person in there with her and reaching out her mind, she sensed it was the very last person in the world she wanted to find… Simon McKinney. She tried to remain as still as possible.

"I know you’re in here Luna. I saw you." He called. "I just want the chance to talk to you about a few things… why don’t you come on out and we can have a nice, civil conversation?" She held her breath and continued to remain still, hoping he somehow didn’t know where exactly she was. "Please? This is the last time I’m going to ask nicely." He warned. Still she remained silent, praying he’d just go away. "Alright then, looks like you’re choosing the hard way."

Luna shrieked as she felt the desk roughly slide away from her, leaving her completely out in the open. She leapt to her feet, not wanting to have to face him from the ground. He stood before her with a demented grin, brandishing his wand in one hand while tauntingly dangling hers from the other. "It seems you dropped something when you came in." He smirked.

"How nice of you to retrieve it… may I have it please?" She asked carefully, trying not to show that she was scared of him.

"No, I think it’s better if I hold onto it for you while we talk. I’d hate for you to get trigger happy and make a mistake before hearing me out." He went and closed the door, ensuring he locked it both manually and magically.

Harry, I think I may need some help here. Simon has me cornered in a classroom and he has my wand. She thought out quickly.

I’m on my way. He replied instantly, his voice dark and dangerous. The last thing she wanted was Harry overreacting to this situation, but she wasn’t sure she had another option… she was unarmed and unlike Harry and Jacey, her extra powers lent her no protection. "So, what do you want to talk about?" She asked aloud, trying to keep her voice low and calm.

"Quite a few things actually. Why don’t you take a seat?" He waved his wand, bringing the professor’s chair up behind her so quickly that she stumbled back into it. "Incarcerous!" He shouted as she grabbed the arms of the chair in an attempt to scramble to her feet. Before she knew what was happening, ropes appeared out of nowhere, binding her wrists and waist to the chair.

"You can’t do this, you’ll get expelled." She tried to reason with him. "Stop whatever this is now and I won’t report you."

"I just want to make sure you aren’t going to run anywhere." He assured her, putting her wand in his pocket and pulling up another chair to sit in front of her. "You and I, we may be able to help each other."

"I don’t need any help from you." She argued, beginning to lose the calmness she’d been clinging to.

"Maybe you don’t see it yet. But you and Harry Potter both could benefit from listening to what I have to tell you. It might make you both see things in a whole new light." Simon returned. "I don’t want to hurt you, I want to be your friend."

"This isn’t the best way to make friends." She pulled against the bindings but they were tied tight. Her wrists began to burn as she continued to struggle, the skin becoming raw as it rubbed against the ropes… but she couldn’t just give up.

"And I apologize for the inconvenience." He laughed, pulling out his trusty flask and taking a swig. "But like I said, I want to make sure you really listen to what I have to tell you without you making the mistake of cursing me first."

"Okay, well… you have my wand and my undivided attention. What do have to tell me?" She wanted to cry in frustration as she felt the rope on her left wrist loosen slightly. She continued to struggle, trying not to draw focus to the fact that she was making progress.

"But it’s not just your attention that I need."

"Meaning what?"

He stood and came towards her. "Hmm, looks like you’re getting loose there." He reached to fix the ropes and she desperately kicked at him, trying to keep him away as she attempted to wrench her left wrist free. She could feel her skin scraping against the rough texture but she ignored it, continuing to fight him off as she tried to free herself.

He finally gave up struggling with her and took a few steps back, waving his wand to tie her legs to the chair as well so that he could approach her without being kicked. Fixing the rope on her arm, he sat back in his chair and let out a deep breath. "Whew. You know, you’re making this harder than it has to be. I’m not trying to hurt you, you know. You very much need to hear what I have to tell you."

"So say it already!" She shouted angrily.

"I will." He grinned and took another swig from his flask. "I’m just waiting for Harry to get here. I figured I’d talk to you first but after the way you acted in Hogsmeade and how you are right now, it’s clear that you aren’t quite as level-headed as I thought. And knowing that him and Hermione are a farce, I figured you’d be the best bait to keep him listening without bashing my brains in for confining you here. You did call for him to help, didn’t you?"

"No." She said quickly.

"Hmm, well I think you’re lying." He got up and turned to face the door as the knob began jiggling furiously. Simon lifted his wand in preparation, turning to look at her over his shoulder. "If fact, this must be him now."

Harry, he’s waiting for you! She tried to warn him as Simon moved to unlock the door. But she wasn’t sure she was in time as she quickly turned her face away to avoid the shower of wood, brick and plaster that came flying forward as Harry forced his way through, too impatient to wait for the door to be opened.

(BREAK)

Hermione couldn’t find Harry anywhere. He’d run off so quickly that she’d lost him before she’d even begun to give chase. Hoping he would call if he needed help, she returned to her room and once more spread out the map. Looking at the spot they’d marked as the island, she decided now was as good a time as any to try her new abilities with astral projection. She wanted to be able to see Fred, even if she wasn’t yet strong enough for him to see her back or for them to speak to each other.

Forcibly clearing her mind, she focused on the photos in Charlie’s book… imagining herself on the island, on the beach, next to Fred. Closing her eyes, she began to feel weightless. Letting go of everything holding her down, she felt herself come free from her body and shoot through time and space. When she opened her eyes again, she was under the bright sun and had to squint to make anything out. That was when she noticed she was transparent, as she was able to take in the landscape through her arm. It was disconcerting, but the sight beyond herself made her realize that she had done it. She was far from Hogwarts and on an island… or at least her consciousness was.

"Great. Now I’m seeing mirages." She heard someone mutter behind her. Whipping around she cried out in relief, running towards Fred until she remembered that she wasn’t able to touch him. "Fred! It’s really me! I’m really here, sort of." She said happily, stopping just in front of him.

"A talking mirage?" He smiled, still not quite sure what he was seeing.

She rolled her eyes. "No moron, it’s really me. I’d reach out and pinch you but I’m not sure how yet."

"I don’t understand… How is this possible?" He nervously glanced over his shoulder. "Is it really you?" He whispered.

"I promise." She assured him. "I’m just sorry it took so long. But we know where you are now and we have a plan to come get you… tomorrow. Can you make it one more day?"

He shook his head. "I can’t leave-"

"Yes you can, we’ve figured it all out!" She said happily wanting to explain as quickly as possible. "I knew Elanya must have made you leave early and Luna forced herself to have a vision. Draco scryed and now we can come get you! You don’t have to worry about the spy, we know who it is… Professor Erebos. And in Luna’s vision, she saw what Sarah planned for me, so I learned all about astral projection to protect myself. Lee and Willem made sure there was absolutely nothing to tie you to Edmund… there’s nothing for you to worry about anymore."

Fred hesitantly reached out, but his hand went right through her. He shook his head. "I don’t know. It can’t be that easy."

"It’s not… Elanya may be just as much a victim of the other girls’ treachery as you are. She thinks she’s their equal but Harry, Luna and Jacey went in Erebos’s head and found the truth. Either way it doesn’t matter. We’re coming for you tomorrow. She can stay and rot for all I care."

"Fred!" They head Elanya call off in the distance.

"You have to go, she can’t see you here… if you’re really here." He grinned, obviously trying to put her at ease. But she saw the discomfort he tried to hide and wanted to take him with her right that moment. Rather than leave completely, she glided over to the trees to watch.

"Here you are. I thought I heard voices." Elanya exclaimed, looking exotic with her untamed hair, deep tan and flowing strapless dress.

"When are we leaving?" He asked.

"So what, you were here talking to yourself? You’d rather talk to no one than me?" She asked indignantly.

"When are we leaving?" Fred asked again, clearly ignoring everything the girl had to say.

"You know, we’re supposed to be using this time to get to know each other… you’re stubbornness is really starting to piss me off." She glared at him, clearly having reached the end of her rope. "I didn’t want to have to resort to threats again, I was so hoping this would be a pleasant stay. But you better say something when I’m done talking and it had better be something other than "When are we leaving" or I swear everyone you care for will suffer for the aggravation you’re causing me."

Fred looked uncertain, clearly wanting to continue pushing her buttons. Plus if he chose to believe his own eyes and ears, Hermione had just told him that everyone he cared about was safe. "How long will we be staying here?" He asked at last, unable to keep back his grin as he challenged her. Hermione could understand the sick amusement he was getting out of this… after all, she probably would have lost her mind had she been trapped for weeks on an island.

"You really want to push me Fred?" Elanya asked threateningly.

He sighed and shook his head. "I had wondered how long it would take for you to show your true colors. I mean you get a little annoyed and right away you’re back to threatening innocent bystanders."

"It seems the best way to get what I want." She grinned triumphantly as he at last broke the semi-silence he seemed to have been keeping.

Hermione felt a strong tug and knew her body was calling her back. She’d been gone too long and as much as she wanted to say good-bye to Fred, she knew she couldn’t hold on any longer. Against her will she was whipped back, her entire body bouncing as she reentered it. Opening her eyes, she adjusted to the feeling of being solid once more. She felt dizzy, her head hurt and her stomach was growling in hunger. She felt she’d just walked for days without stopping to rest or eat, she was exhausted and every part of her was sore.

Taking a moment to relax, she collected herself before carefully rising from her bed. Looking at the clock, she saw that she’d come back just in time for lunch and feeling deep hunger pains, she rushed down to the Great Hall hoping Harry and Luna were there so she could tell them what she’d just done. But as she entered the room, she realized at once that something was wrong. Only Hagrid and Charlie remained at the Head Table to chaperone the students’ meal while her classmates all talked excitedly to themselves, some of them looking at her and raising a hand to whisper with more fervor. Taking a seat across from Ginny and Draco she looked at them inquisitively. "What’s going on?"

"No one knows for sure… but rumor is, Potter severely damaged a classroom before disappearing with Luna and Simon McKinney." Draco replied, looking more than a little worried.

"What? What do mean they disappeared?" She demanded.

He shrugged and Ginny took up the narrative. "All anyone seems to know is that there was a loud noise and when the Ravenclaw prefect went to investigate she saw Harry standing in the classroom with Simon while Luna sat in a chair in the back. She didn’t get too good a look because suddenly the two boys started dueling and she went to get help. By the time they came back, everyone was gone."

"It seems Tristan has disappeared as well." Draco added. "The Aurors came to arrest him and he was just gone. I hope wherever Potter and Luna are, Jacey is with them."

"Me too." Hermione replied distractedly. They’d just found Fred and now they were missing three coven members. Whatever was going on, it clearly wasn’t good.

(BREAK)

Dumbledore had shown up unexpectedly at Tristan’s door less than an hour ago to make it known that the Aurors had finally secured their arrest warrant and would be around shortly to take the vampire into custody. Jacey listened as she was warned as Tristan not to run, since charms had been placed around the school meant to detect the vampire hominoid species specifically. She had not let herself panic… she, Harry and Luna had planned for this. Having discovered that not only were they capable of apparating within the barriers but also that the Aurors could not trace them, it had been decided that when it was time she would apparate to the Shrieking Shack. She would let the potion wear off and then remain there until it was time to go to London. Having grabbed the few things she owned, she had concentrated hard as Luna had taught her. And then she had felt a pull and when she opened her eyes again she was in the parlor of the Shrieking Shack.

Now looking around at the depressing décor, Jacey thought the place in desperate need of a sprucing up. She wondered if the Aurors had come yet and whether anyone realized Tristan was gone. Flopping down on the couch with a sigh, she silently called out to Harry, letting him know that she had fled Hogwarts and wondering whether she was too far for him to hear.

We’re on our way to you and we need some help. Was his panicked reply.

She sat up in alarm. Apparently Hogwarts was still very much within their range. What do you want me to do?

Hide. Then when you find the opportunity, help us however you can. He simply replied.

(BREAK)

Harry stalked his way quickly through the halls, focusing in on Luna’s energy to guide him to where she was. Ignoring the few students down the hall from him, he desperately tried to turn the handle of the classroom door. It wouldn’t budge. He knew this was the right place, that she was behind that door and he certainly wasn’t going to let a stupid piece of wood stand in his way. Taking a step back, he focused his power, rolling it around in his mind before pushing outward. He watched the door bend against the force and pushed harder. Harry, he’s waiting for you! Luna tried to warn him just as the wood shattered inward, exploding off it’ hinges and taking parts of the wall with it. Ignoring the screams from down the hall, he raised his wand and entered the classroom

"Expelliarmus!" Simon shouted, forcing Harry to shield right away. But he’d heard Luna’s warning and had been prepared. Simon fired spell after spell at him while he focused on his shield and waited for the right moment. Pushing his mind out, he grabbed hold of the other boy and whipped him back against the wall. Stepping through the debris, Harry waved his wand in an attempt to bind Simon in place, but he quickly shielded as he rolled to his feet and ducked behind the chair Harry now realized Luna was tied to. "I just want to talk!" Simon called as he crouched behind Luna, tightly clutching her so that he wouldn’t use his mind to throw him around again.

"You have a funny way of showing it." Harry replied angrily. Are you okay? He thought out to Luna who was even now still attempting to pull herself free.

Yeah. He hasn’t done anything other than not let me leave… he keeps saying there’s something he needs to tell us. She replied, her voice carrying more anger and curiosity than fear now.

"I know what you both think of me now that you know I’m related to Elise!" Simon reasoned, poking his head out over Luna’s shoulder. "I knew you wouldn’t just sit down and talk to me, that you’d have no interest in what I have to say. But like I told her, we can help each other Harry."

"So help out now by untying her." He carefully replied, keeping his wand up in case the boy decided to restart their duel.

"I can’t do that until I’m sure you aren’t going to hurt me."

Harry, I’m at the Shrieking Shack. The Aurors were coming for Tristan so I followed through on our plan. Jacey’s voice entered his head unexpectedly. Hearing footsteps running down the hall, Harry made a fast decision.

We’re on our way to you and we need some help. He told Jacey in a panic.

What do you want me to do? She answered instantly.

Hide. Then when you find the opportunity, help us however you can. He said before turning his attention back to Simon. "Well, we can’t talk here… people are coming to see what’s going on. Shall we go somewhere more private?" He asked quickly.

"Like where?"

"Touch my shoulder and I’ll bring you there." Luna told him, having picked up on Harry’s plan. Now able to hear people shouting in the hall, Simon was forced to trust them and reached out to grab her shoulder. Together Harry and Luna apparated away, only to arrive in the apparently empty Shrieking Shack. To his disappointment, the chair and ropes had come as well, leaving her bound as Simon’s human shield.

"This is all so unnecessary." Harry angrily told the other boy. "I don’t know what kind of people you grew up around, but if you had come to us and asked to talk, we would have heard you out… you didn’t need to trick us into it."

"That’s doubtful considering I’ve overheard Luna talking to Hermione about the visions she’s had of me." Simon returned before moving his attention to Luna in genuine confusion. "I have no idea why you see me as an enemy in those visions, but I assure you I’m not."

"And holding me against my will is the way to prove it?" She asked gently, far more in control of herself than Harry was. He saw that she was thinking one of them needed to remain calm and he felt guilty that it had fallen to her when she was the one currently tied up with blood trickling from her wrists where the rope had cut into her skin. He caught sight of Jacey as she slowly crept in from the hall.

Simon looked at Luna for a moment before nodding to himself. "It had to be that way, it’s the only way to get anyone’s attention… with a big gesture. That’s what my father always said, before he was killed. And it’s certainly worked for Elise."

"We aren’t like the people you know. We’re willing to listen. We’ll pay attention to you." Luna practically cooed as she softly reasoned with him. Clearly she’d caught onto something in the boy’s head that wasn’t yet clear to Harry.

Simon stood and took a few steps to the side, unsure whether he felt the situation was enough in his control to actually let her go. Harry wasn’t going to give him the opportunity to make the wrong choice. He silently gave Jacey the signal and she stepped out, drawing Simon’s attention as balls of fire erupted from her hands. He threw up a shield as she flung the first fireball at him before attempting to hit her back with a water spell. Taking advantage of the boy’s distraction, Harry quickly waved his wand to undo the ropes and lunged forward, grabbing Luna’s hand and pulling her out of the way just as the chair burst into flames. Simon fell back on the couch as he stumbled away from the sudden flare, not wanting to get burned.

Harry whipped around and instantly shot a binding spell, ensuring the other boy wouldn’t move. Leaping to his feet, he made his way over to the couch. Jacey extinguished her flames, waving her wand to put out the bits of the house that had caught on fire. "Come on Simon, time to back to Hogwarts and face the music." Harry insisted.

"No!" Luna came over and placed a blood-soaked hand on his arm, forcing him to lower his wand. "I want to hear what he has to say."



NOTE: Okay then, next chapter we find out what Simon has to say and the clues finally lead us to rescuing Fred.

________________________________________
Chapter 54: Who to Believe?

A/N: Sorry for the delay in getting this out, I had an accident with my flash drive and everything on it was deleted including the first draft of this chapter. But things are on track now, so getting back in the swing of things, a rewrite of the chapter from the beginning… Read, review and enjoy!





After taking Simon’s wand and returning Luna’s to her, Harry left the boy magically bound on the couch with Jacey to watch over him. Allowing him to gently pull her down the hall to the dusty bathroom, Luna perched on the edge of the deep Victorian-style tub and watched as he searched the tiny cabinets. At last he came up with an ancient first aid kit, pulling out gauze and tape before reaching out to turn the faucet on the sink. They were both surprised when water actually came sputtering out, a rusty color at first that quickly turned refreshingly clear. She took the hand he offered her and let him carefully clean the blood from her wrists… she knew he was angry and did her best not to wince or let on that the cuts stung like crazy. After all, she was the one who let her panic overwhelm her to the point where she’d struggled so violently against the ropes. Simon hadn’t seemed at all intent on injuring her, she could have just sat and patiently waited to see what was going to happen rather than fight her bindings to the point where she cut into her skin. It was her own fault she’d gotten hurt at all.

He shouldn’t have gone so far as to tie you up in the first place. Harry argued with her thoughts as he leaned down to kiss her now freshly bandaged wrists.

Well, let’s go see what he so badly wanted to tell us. She softly suggested, reaching out to run her fingers through his hair in that way she knew he found soothing. She needed him to calm down and realize the need to fight was over, to have an open mind and really listen to what Simon had to say. Her vision was becoming clearer to her now that she been able to sneak a few peeks into the boy’s mind. He was out to betray his sister before she could betray him and apparently the victor of their little sibling squabble would become Harry’s ally. From her warning she knew Harry was already leaning toward Elanya if not Elise and Sarah… and that had to be because of what they’d seen in Erebos’s head. But they obviously needed the whole story and Simon seemed willing to provide it.

Together they walked back into the parlor and Luna was relieved to find that Jacey was back to being herself as the potion had completely worn off. If Simon was alarmed by the fact that a strange girl now stood where Tristan once was he gave no indication. "I’m sorry Luna." He blurted out as soon as he saw her.

"That’s easy to say now that you’ve been caught." Harry muttered, glaring at the boy as he slumped down on the other couch. "So? Let’s hear it, what’s this big revelation you have to share with us?"

"Can’t you undo the binding spell? I promise I’ll just sit here, I won’t do anything." Simon pleaded.

"Your word doesn’t mean much to me at the moment." Harry returned, refusing to release the spell.

Simon sighed and nodded. "Yeah, I guess I can see why."

"Just tell us what you have to say..." Luna said, sitting next to Harry and locking her gaze on Simon. She pushed the feelings she wanted to project outward and watched as both boys visibly relaxed, though Harry alone knew what she was doing as he was the only one aware of this little extra power of hers. She just wished she had better control of it.

"And why don’t you start with what the hell you were thinking when you decided taking us hostage was the best way to make your point." Harry crossed his arms, refusing to be lulled into calmness and shaking off the effects she was trying to spread around the room.

"Big gestures are the only way to get people to listen." Simon said quietly repeated himself from earlier. "Like I said, that philosophy worked for my parents before they were killed and it’s certainly worked for Elise all these years. I wasn’t going to hurt either of you… I needed you both there and so I figured I could use Luna to keep you listening rather than attacking me… I guess I figured that if you saw how serious I was you would believe me. I was going to let you into the classroom, but you let yourself in first." He looked at Harry almost accusingly, clearly implying that he blamed Harry’s rashness for so many things going wrong.

"What did you really expect me to do when you go around tying people up?" He returned angrily. Luna reached out and grabbed his arm to keep him from leaping to his feet in indignation… she knew they all had to stay rational and sort through this, it was important.

"It doesn’t matter, you’ll never believe me now."

"Why? Because you are now the captive one instead of them?" Jacey scoffed from her place leaning against the wall.

"You can trust that one or all of us will know whether you’re telling the truth." Luna quietly assured him.

Simon slowly nodded. "Yeah, I guess you’re right… I do know that about you. And so does Elise, which is why she had to plan so carefully. I know you figured out the spy is Erebos. But what you don’t know is that she wanted you to figure it out… so that you would search his head and find the memory of her asking him to set up Elanya. She knows about your powers and so she’s decided to use them against you." He said with a sly smile before looking right at Jacey. "Except for you, they have no idea about you. Elise has had Erebos trying to find out, but apparently Dumbledore has been very careful to keep you and other visitors a secret from those professors he doesn’t trust. I promise, whoever you are, they still have no idea about you though they’d very much like to find out."

"You don’t need to worry about her or who she is." Harry said, noting to Luna and Jacey that they had to be careful not to say her name in front of the boy. "Just tell us why you’ve apparently decided to turn on your sister."

"You have to understand… I never fit into Elise’s life." Simon looked down sadly. "I was less than a year old when our parents were killed… even after Voldemort was gone they, like so many others, refused to stop fighting and were cornered. Rather than be captured by the Ministry, they forced the Aurors to kill them. Elise was sixteen at the time and the only living family I had. Rather than take care of me, she decided to dump me at the orphanage, but she would at least come visit every year on my birthday. When I was ten she came back for me, ready to take her place as my guardian. But it was only because she knew I was about to be heading off to school and she was hoping to mold me into someone she could use to start setting up her plans. I guess she knew Voldemort was attempting to come back and that his followers were doing everything in their power to make it happen. She saw this war coming and decided long ago that she would be no one’s follower, that she would make her own place in the world. When I came to Hogwarts and wasn’t sorted into Slytherin like everyone else in our family, she was livid. But then she figured Hufflepuff was better as no one would suspect me there. For years I did everything she asked me to do because she threatened to leave me again if I didn’t and all I knew was that I never wanted to go back to the orphanage. But everything she wanted seemed harmless and nothing she asked of me made any sense… not until this year."

Simon shook his head and sighed before continuing on. "I received a letter the last week of school this past summer from Elise telling me we would be departing for Australia the minute I got back. Well, she wasn’t waiting for me at the train station so I went home and wound up overhearing a meeting between her and Voldemort. I listened as she completely manipulated the Dark Lord into thinking it was his idea to find Sarah Elaine… and then I heard her tell him that she planned to kill me as I was going to prove more useful to them dead. I didn’t know what to do, I was more terrified of my sister in that moment than I’d ever been of Voldemort- after all which is scarier, the sword or the expert hand wielding it? And she knows how to play him very well. So I went with her to Australia and I continued to follow her orders hoping she would change her mind. But she didn’t because a few days before I was supposed to come back to school I heard her talking to Sarah… they plan to kill me while I’m home for the holiday break and make it look like someone else did it. My own sister was going to kill me and use my corpse to start a fight. What could I do? Even if I ran away, they’d just bring me right back to her, I’m only sixteen. And who besides the people involved in this whole scheme would believe the long ridiculous story I have to tell? So the only thing I could do was expose her to the people she was trying to overcome… I chose you guys over Voldemort. Maybe Dumbledore was right about the sorting hat always knowing where people are supposed to go… maybe I’m a good guy, maybe I’m just a bad guy who’s looking for the best means of survival, I have no idea either way. I may not the happiest person in the world, but I’m not ready to die either. So I’ll tell you whatever you want to know about her and her plans."

"You said she wanted us to go looking in Erebos’s head, that we were supposed to see her set up Elanya… why?" Luna asked, her gut telling her this was an important question in terms of Fred’s fate. She was trying not to sympathize with Simon, but he seemed to have gotten stuck with a pretty miserable life… but still, there was something about him she found unsettling and so that allowed her to keep some sort of an emotional detachment.

He nodded and offered a smile. "You wouldn’t believe how long Elise has been plotting. A long while ago, after your group and Voldemort’s destroyed the Ministry, she snuck in during the confusion and looked up the files on every major player on either side. Using that information, she was able to figure out not only what you and Harry here can do, but also how you, your friends and Voldemort’s allies would react in any situation. Originally we went to Australia this summer to find a guy named Adam who was apparently postcognative. We traced him to a little pub where he liked to write his articles but we never even talked to him… it was like the minute she saw him, she knew he wasn’t what she wanted. That’s when Elanya approached us. Apparently she’d been living there with her grandmother who had recently passed away and when those two girls met it was like fate had brought them together. She fit in perfectly and Elise instructed her on how to handle Erebos who arrived at the hotel later that day. I guess it didn’t matter whether it was Elanya or that Adam guy, Elise had already planned Erebos’s part in all of this… but clearly a young pretty girl would gain more sympathy. The point was that when you all figured out he was the spy, you were meant to see Elise talking him into using Elanya, you were meant to think she’d been set up and blackmailed the same way they’d done it to your friend Fred. She’s probably on that island right now, telling him her sob story so that he’ll take her side and help talk you guys into helping her. She was supposed to be a mole, to learn all the secrets about you that they didn’t already know. And then Elanya was supposed to begin causing discord among you all to weaken you and make it more likely that you and Harry will abandon your alliance to Dumbledore and the Ministry and come join them."

"So what you’re saying is basically that they want to create their own army of psychics?" Harry asked, his voice heavy with doubt as he tried to hide the fact that they were doing something very similar with the coven. Luna felt both his and Jacey’s horror at finding out how close Elise had been to getting her hands on Adam, another coven member. She knew it was crucial that they leave as soon as possible to begin approaching people themselves, before they could be scooped up by someone else.

"Yes, as ridiculous as that sounds. Why do you think I thought no one else would believe me? But she wants the both of you to join her and Sarah… and she has big plans to use your friend Fred to do it."

"Except that Fred isn’t just going to accept whatever Elanya tells him. He’s no idiot." Harry argued.

Simon laughed. "You underestimate Elanya… She can become whatever she has to be in order to convince someone of something. If she, Elise and Sarah have been able to fool Voldemort for so long, then who is Fred Weasley to withstand them?"

"They won’t have a chance. We’re going to save him from that island." He returned darkly. Luna still had a hold of his arm and she could feel him become even tenser as he felt more things were growing beyond his control.

"I wish you luck with that. I really do." Simon grinned.

(BREAK)

Fred had skipped out on lunch and intended to walk the beach until well after dark in hopes of avoiding Elanya until tomorrow… tomorrow when Hermione had claimed they would be coming to get him. But had she been here? He just didn’t know what was real anymore. But whether he’d seen her in his mind or in real life, one thing had become clear… he couldn’t stay here anymore. No matter what, this was going to be his last night on the island. Should Hermione’s presence prove to be a delusion and no one came for him, then he would find his own way out and go to her. He knew he couldn’t apparate, he’d already tried and discovered that like Castellumshire, the Gateway Islands also carried anti-apparation charms and the only people he knew could get around them were Harry and Luna.

A delicious smell wafted through the air, allowing his rumbling stomach to interrupt his planning. Looking up at the sky and using the sun, he was able to determine that while it was well past lunch, it was still too early for dinner… clearly she knew he’d skipped meals that day and cooked such great smelling food for a reason. He was tempted to go into the water to catch a fish to fry just to upset her plans but decided he was being ridiculous. He knew Elanya was trying to tempt him back to the campsite, but just because he went didn’t mean he was letting her win. They both knew he was more than capable of providing for himself, but at the moment he was too hungry to wait long enough to catch and cook his own meal. Besides, he’d just decided that no matter what, this was his last night here… what could it hurt to spend some of it with her? He would simply go, eat and then leave again.

Arriving at the camp he saw that neither the food nor Elanya were outside. With a heavy sigh, he opened the flap of the ordinary looking tent and entered the impossibly spacious glamour of the inside. "Well, I guess it’s true what they say… the fastest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach." She said upon seeing him, gesturing to the delectable spread on the ornate table as she sat down. Toying with her seashell necklace, she shot him a seductive smile.

"Whatever you say." He muttered, sitting as far from her as he could before beginning to pile his plate. "Thanks." He said without looking at her, too well trained by Molly to be completely rude. They ate in silence and he could feel her becoming irritated, it only made him more comfortable.

"Well, I’ve decided that in the interest of continuing a civilized conversation we will play a game of sorts." She announced after a short while.

"Boy, it sure is easier not to have to think for myself… I wish someone had been making my decisions for me my whole life." He answered sarcastically.

"Putting your snarkiness aside, I’m offering you a one in a million chance to understand me better."

"Who says I want to?"

She smiled, ignoring his attitude. "I’m going to let you ask me whatever you want about anything and I promise to tell you the truth."

"And I’m supposed to believe you?" He raised an eyebrow. "Exactly which one of us do you think is the crazy one, because I’ve been casting my vote for you for awhile now."

"Humor can be a great way to deflect anything real from reaching you." She replied steadily. "Come on, I know you’re curious…."

And he was. There were quite a few things he’d like her to clear up for him, but how could he trust anything she said? The only way was to test her by throwing in questions he already knew the answer to. "Okay, I’ll play your little game. But if I think you’re lying to me, I’ll just go resume my solitary walk."

"Fair enough." She rested her chin on her hand and stared at him expectantly, wearing a genuine smile that reached all the way to her golden eyes. "So?"

"Why are you doing this to me?" He blurted without thinking it through. It was the thing that was most on his mind and so the question had burst out of him before he could really plan what he wanted to say.

"Oh Fred… I’m not doing this to you, I’m doing this for you." She dropped her gaze slightly as a hint of sadness overcame her. "Everyone is trapped by something… We’re both prisoners right now, so why not make our cage the best it can be- a beautiful island paradise?"

"And how exactly are you trapped?" He asked though he felt she’d crafted her answer in order to manipulate his next question. Apparently there was something she specifically wanted to talk about and was in the process of directing the conversation. He allowed it simply because he was curious, but he forced himself to remember that he knew what she was doing.

"I thought I had fairly bought my way into something when really it was all set up to ensure my future alliance and obedience." She answered, lowering her eyes to hide the flash of embarrassment that passed through them.

"Meaning what?" He pushed, intrigued despite himself.

Elanya sighed and shook her head. "I’ve always considered myself to be pretty clever… I’m sure you used to think the same about yourself. Well, let’s just say that Elise and Sarah have humbled us both the last few months with the grand scheme they’ve wrapped around us."

"The difference being that you helped them do it to me." He said angrily, brushing off her attempt to get him to empathize with her.

"Only because I had no choice!" She protested. "When they told me that I had to take you away while they set up things in London I tried to get out of it, I really did. But that’s when Elise told me the truth, that she’d tricked me and I wasn’t even close to coming up even for the assistance they gave me in getting rid of Edmund."

Pushing his plate aside, Fred leaned forward on the table and decided it was time for him to turn the conversation his way so that he could test her honesty. "And what did you think you had already done to repay them?"

She hesitated as if she really didn’t want to tell him. But then she shrugged, remembering that this had all been her idea in the first place. "I thought I had provided the spy… but it turns out he and Elise have a long history together and bringing him into things had always been a part of her plan. They set it up so that he and I would run into each other… I had thought I was being so careful, making sure I would go into this not owing anyone anything."

"Who’s the spy?" He pushed, already knowing the answer… that is if Hermione’s brief visit hadn’t been some sort of delusional mirage.

Elanya met his eyes and offered a sad smile. "Well, what can it hurt? It’s not like you’ll be able to warn anyone back at Hogwarts. It’s Professor Dolos Erebos."

He made sure to show an appropriate amount of surprise, letting his eyes widen and his jaw drop slightly as if this was the first time he was hearing this. "Really? A professor?"

She nodded slowly as she carefully studied him. "I met with him in Australia and he was everything Elise had told me she’d been looking for. I had thought I was the one convincing him to join us but it was all part of their plan to trap me."

"And why would they go through such elaborate measures?" Fred was almost sure she was telling the truth so far… Hermione had certainly indicated that Elanya may be in trouble and now the girl was confirming it. He just didn’t know why she was telling him all of this, but he may as well use the situation to his advantage and learn as much as he could.

"Because Elise and Sarah truly believe they can make their own place in this war and that if they have the right kind of people on their side they’ll be able to take on both Voldemort and the Ministry." She shook her head angrily. "I was appalled to learn that Voldemort’s idea to collect a psychic army was actually Elise’s brainchild. It was how she got him to help her find Sarah. But they planned to make allies of the people he gathered, to get them to work towards taking over completely."

"So that’s how they learned about Luna?"

She nodded. "And Harry Potter too. At first Elise and Sarah didn’t care who lived or died in battle while they quietly plotted their own uprising. But when Harry started showing his potential and they learned Luna Lovegood was a seer, they knew they wanted them. It’s why Elise burned your shop in Diagon Alley during the summer."

He sat up, suddenly extremely interested. He’d been wondering for a long time the real reason Elise had targeted his store. "What do you mean?"

Elanya sighed deeply as a look of remorse settled over her. "Voldemort had a seer named Jasper, he was old and not as good as Luna seems to be. But that didn’t matter to Elise, he was all she had and so she’d already convinced him to give his ultimate loyalty to her over Voldemort. He told her that he’d had a vision that something was going to bring Harry to Diagon Alley alone and that Voldemort was going to make his move against the boy. She worried about the outcome as she wanted Harry on her side, working with Sarah specifically since they share the same power… of course, she’d only just found Sarah at that time. So not knowing what else to do, Elise decided to set your shop of fire, ensuring not only that Harry wouldn’t be alone, but that there would be several Aurors in the area. After all, the minister would be sure to respond in full force to a report of arson at his son’s store."

He took a steadying breath, trying to look on the bright side as he argued with himself… had something brought Harry to Diagon Alley alone that day to face Voldemort, his Death Eaters and the Dementors, there’s no way he could have survived. At least Elise’s destruction had kept the unthinkable from happening… he’d much rather have his shop ruined than his friend dead. After all, they’d already rebuilt the shop… there wasn’t another Harry Potter laying around. "I remember reading in the paper that Jasper died rather mysteriously." He said at last. Of course he hadn’t read anything about it, but he recalled Hermione telling him about it during one of their secret conversations.

"There was nothing mysterious about it. Jasper made the same mistake I did by thinking he was an equal in their plans. I guess he was scared enough to want to tell someone about his vision, but he chose the wrong people. He saw his own death though not the hand that brought it to him, and then he saw your friends up at Hogwarts using that silly ring to try and contact him from beyond for information. He thought it was Voldemort that was going to end his life so he went to Elise who saw her opportunity. Sarah may not have a wand, but she has mastered many other skills, first and foremost her astral projection. They decided to kill him so that she could merge with his consciousness and send herself in his place when they called him… When it never happened, they guessed that Luna must have seen something and stopped her friends from using the ring. It only made them want her on their side more, especially since they’d so hastily gotten rid of Jasper."

Fred’s mind was reeling. So many things were coming together now, it was impossible that she wasn’t telling him the truth. But his instincts were screaming at him that something deeper was going on. "Why are you telling me all of this?"

"I don’t really know." She smiled, crossing her arms and leaning forward. "I guess I’m tired of you thinking badly of me. I’ve never gone so long being so thoroughly ignored. Maybe I figured that if you saw that I was as much a victim of their plotting as you are, then perhaps you’d treat me better while we’re stuck here together."

"You made yourself a victim." He stated firmly, once more determined to keep himself from empathizing with her. He remembered her once telling him that the best way to pull of a lie was by mixing in the truth… It was clearly a skill she had mastered.

Elanya looked away, but even in profile he could see a mixture of shame, regret and anger settle over her features. "Yes, I suppose I did."

He couldn’t help himself, he had to know. "If you were so intent on killing your father, then why didn’t you do it yourself, without involving them?"

"You think I haven’t tried before?!" She yelled as she leapt to her feet and began pacing in agitation. "Edmund Fritz was a high-profile man who was extremely paranoid… and rightly so. I certainly wasn’t the only one who wanted him dead and he made sure that it was nearly impossible to get to him. I was scared to use my true identity as his daughter to reach out to him… I knew that my mother had sent me away and died trying to protect me because he wanted to use me, to hand me over to Voldemort in a never-ending quest to gain favor from a man who favored no one. I didn’t want her to die in vain but it soon became clear that my real name was going to be the only thing to get me near him. But I knew I couldn’t go in alone, that I needed someone strong backing me up in case something went wrong."

"And that’s what Elise and Sarah promised you." He said quietly, watching her grow more upset as her story went on.

"It was only after the deed was done that I found out they had wanted to get rid of Edmund anyway. Apparently he’d become jealous of the attention Voldemort was giving the girls and so he was doing his best to undermine them. They figured there was too good a chance he’d figure out some part of what they were up to and so they knew he needed to go. They must have tracked me down, found me in Australia… my grandmother had just died and I’d just gone back there to spend her last few days with her… I was in a vulnerable place and Elise showed up offering me the chance to do the thing I’d been wanting for years."

Fred had been careful during the whole conversation, wanting to pick up on any signs of dishonesty. For the first time he found one… her voice had gone up slightly in volume. It could be due to her gathering excitement as she recalled these events, but he had the nagging feeling that things hadn’t happened exactly as she described. What did it matter how she and Elise came to join forces? Why lie about it? But he couldn’t ask these questions and expect any kind of answer. His only hope was to go on and hope he could piece it all together himself. "Do you regret killing your father?"

She stopped pacing and turned to look him straight in the eye. "Not for a single moment." She steadily replied. "I only regret that I couldn’t have been more patient and found a way to do it by myself. When I tried to back out of this whole thing, when I told them I didn’t want to be a part of kidnapping you… Elise made it very clear that despite the false evidence I left at the scene, she could very easily tie me to my father’s death. I have no doubt that she would send me to Azkaban without a second thought. So I had to choose, a jail cell locked away with the giants or stranded on an island with you. I took the better sounding punishment."

"But if you hadn’t killed Edmund, you never would have had to make that choice." He argued.

"Maybe, maybe not. They could have found another way of ensuring my cooperation if they really wanted to. The important thing to note here Fred, is that regardless of whether it was me or someone else, you would have always wound up on this island." She seemed frustrated. Clearly this wasn’t going the way she wanted, he wasn’t giving her the response she’d expected…

But then he wasn’t going to allow himself to be like all the other people she’d been able to wrap around her finger, he’d always been determined to be stronger than that from the first moment she’d walked into his shop. "You’re probably right… We’ll never know though will we?"

"Do you hate me?" She asked quietly, taking him by surprise.

"I thought I was the one who got to ask the questions." He said with a nervous laugh.

Elanya smiled. It was a slow coyly confident smile as she reveled in the fact that she’d finally unsettled him. "And I’ve answered them all. Can’t you answer just one for me?"

"That wasn’t part of the deal." He stalled.

She slowly walked over to lean on the edge of the table in front of him. "You know, there’s only two reasons you won’t answer. Either you do hate me but you’re too much of a gentleman to say it… though we both know that you’re more than willing to tell anyone exactly how you feel about them. So the only other explanation is that you’ve realized you don’t hate me and just can’t bring yourself to admit it for some mysterious reason."

He leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms as he regarded her with false confidence. "Or I’ve simply decided it’s best not to go through life hating anyone. Of course, I could always make an exception if you’d care to push the issue."

"Has anyone ever told you that you’re completely frustrating?" She asked with a tight smile.

"Many times over." He grinned easily, once more enjoying that he’d managed to ruffle her feathers by not playing directly into her hand.

"I’m going for a walk." She announced, standing up and taking a deep breath. "I cooked, you can clean." She added before leaving the tent.

Fred looked around feeling completely off guard. She’d never left him alone in the tent before, which had only led him to believe that she had things to hide from him here. But clearly her frustration with his lack of gullibility had caused an oversight on her behalf and he knew he needed to take advantage of it. He raced to her room, pulling back the flap that separated the space from the rest of the tent and taking a cursory look around before carefully proceeding to go through everything. Ensuring he returned things to the way he’d found them, he went through all of her stuff hoping to come across a communication device of some kind… or even better, his wand. After a long and thorough search, he came up with neither.

(BREAK)

Harry stared at Simon, trying to determine exactly what he thought of the other boy. He just wasn’t sure… he couldn’t get past the extremes the guy had gone through in order to have a simple conversation. But then, had Simon been right? Would they have listened had he simply approached them and asked to talk? He shook himself out of his thoughts, refusing to let his anger and confusion make him do anything stupid. "How do we know that having you tell us all of this isn’t part of the plan?" He asked. After all, if Elise had gone through so much, then why wouldn’t she go even a step further and send in the clown? Surely she didn’t expect them to take Simon seriously even if they did know he thought he was telling the truth… or at least the truth as she wanted him to know it.

He sighed and shook his head. "I had a feeling you’d ask me that. All I can say is that I only know what I’ve seen and heard. She certainly hasn’t told me to come to you and I doubt she realizes I know that she wants to kill me. But has she somehow directed things so that I would come talk to you, I just don’t know… anything is possible with her."

"So as far as you know, Elise’s whole plan is to gather as many psychics as she can and then fight both sides of the war, hoping to come out on top?" Luna asked quietly and with far more control over herself than Harry could manage. But he tried to remain calm, to remember that they needed to know what they were up against… she still had her hand on his arm, trying in vain to help him be successful in relaxing though he could sense her uneasiness at what she was hearing.

"It’s part of her plan." Simon seemed a bit uncertain for the first time since he’d begun talking. "I guess even I don’t know everything, but I figured if I told you enough, you’d be able to at least stop her doing me in. And yes, I really believe she’d murder me if it helped her cause… She ensured they got rid of Jasper simply because she wanted you Luna, she knows you’re a better seer than that old man ever was, you’ve already helped thwart hers and Sarah’s plans a few times. She was trying to help Voldemort capture you, though she had no intentions of handing you over… she wants to convince you and Harry both to join her." Again he looked directly at Jacey. "And if she knew you were a firestarter like her, she’d want you too."

"I am not anything like your miserable sister." Jacey said defensively as she cupped her hands together and began rolling them until she had developed a sizable fireball between them. She lifted it over her head and brought it down, engulfing her entire body in flames as she stood there smiling at them. "I am much more powerful." She laughed, extinguishing herself and leaving no indication that anything out of the ordinary had just transpired.

Simon swallowed hard as he stared at her in disbelief… clearly he’d never seen his sister do something like that before. "Good." He said at last. "Someone should be. They already knew Harry was stronger than Sarah, that’s why they had to make sure he lost his powers before they tried to talk to him."

"You’re talking about what happened at Azkaban? How could they possibly know that they weren’t going to kill me with that Psychohemia potion?" Harry asked in exasperation. They all knew Simon was telling them the truth, but he just didn’t like what he was hearing anymore now that it was going against what he knew had happened. But then, he was quickly learning from the other boy that there lots of things he didn’t know about the things that had been happening to him, his friends and his enemies. Elise had apparently been pulling several different strings for quite awhile.

"Because they’d convinced Jasper to work for them long before then." Simon answered carefully. "True the old guy told Voldemort that some decision was going to lead you to the prison and right in front of Cho, but it was Elise who made the Dark Lord think it was his idea to use Sarah’s talents to try and take you out. But Jasper assured her it wasn’t going to kill you, that you were going to get help in time to save your life but not your power."

"Except Sarah did nearly kill us at my aunt and uncle’s house." Harry replied, hiding the phantom pain he felt in his hand and leg where he’d been stabbed all those months ago. Glancing at Luna out of the corner of his eye, he remembered her face covered in blood after Sarah kicked her and how her arm had been broken while trying to keep Sarah from killing him. "She didn’t seem too concerned with convincing us to join her then." He added angrily as everything from that night came back to him including Ron nearly being burnt to a crisp.

"Yeah well, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, the only problem Elise has in partnering with Sarah is that the woman is more than a little unbalanced. She was only supposed to torture you, it was your muggle family she was supposed to kill in front of you… on Voldemort’s orders, not Elise’s. But I guess something about them reminded her of all those people she was forced to live with growing up and she came to resent you for putting up with it… She began to really see you as weaker than her and so she alone decided in that moment that she didn’t want you to join them. At least, that’s how she explained it to Elise after they broke her out of the hospital and woke her from the coma. Trust me, Elise let her have it for deviating from the plan and nearly killing you both. Anyway, Sarah said she really lost control when Luna came in with the ring… she wanted it and they all knew Voldemort wanted it and so obtaining the ring became her main priority above all else, including her safety as well as yours. By the way, after finding out that you all got out and managed to capture her for a short time as well as get your power back, she no longer thinks you’re weak."

"I’m flattered." Harry said sarcastically.

"Does she know that we went into her memories while she was unconscious?" Luna asked, squeezing his arm as concern overwhelmed her.

But Simon stared back at her in surprise, allowing them to instantly relax. "No, not that I’m aware of. I certainly had no idea you’d done that… what did you see?"

"Do not worry about that, we will be the ones to ask the questions." Jacey said with authority.

"What about Cho? Where does she fit into all of this?" Harry picked up where they’d just left off, thinking that what they had seen in Sarah’s head at least confirmed that the girls were working together behind Voldemort’s back.

He sighed and nodded. "Well, she’s plotting with Sarah only. But whatever plan those two had going, it was in place long before Elise reconnected with Sarah. In fact, I remember Elise trying to talk Sarah into dropping Cho but she had insisted the girl would be valuable again once they broke her out of Azkaban. My guess is that if they manage to get Cho out, Elise will find the opportunity to get rid of her as soon as possible. Just because she and Sarah are close confidants doesn’t mean they wouldn’t betray each other in a second if it meant furthering their own agenda. Loyalty means nothing to them." Simon said bitterly as he struggled against the spell holding him in place. "Will you let me go now? Please?" He pleaded.

We have to get back anyway… Dumbledore is looking for us and I think we’re in a lot of trouble. Luna said. Harry turned to look at her and realized she had that far off expression that meant she wasn’t completely present in the room.

"Fine." He waved his wand and released the other boy from the binding.

Simon leapt to his feet to quickly stretch before eagerly reaching into his pocket and pulling out his flask from which he took a long gulp. "Phew, I needed that." He said, wiping his mouth with his sleeve. After another gulp he seemed less shaky and nervous.

"We have to get back to the school, are you going to be okay?" Harry asked Jacey.

"I will be just fine." She assured him with an easy smile.

"What are you going to tell them about me?" Simon asked, suddenly scared again. "I never intended it to turn out this way! I was going to unlock the door, I didn’t mean for you to actually damage the school!"

"Yeah, this is all my fault." Harry rolled his eyes. "Just keep your mouth shut when we get back there and let me do all the talking." He reached out and roughly grabbed the boy’s arm before apparating back to Hogwarts with Luna a few moments behind them. They were sure to arrive behind Hagrid’s hut where the chances of being seen were very slim.

Silently, they all three made their way up to the castle, running into Hermione in the courtyard. "Where have you been? And what are you doing with him?" She demanded, eyeing Simon suspiciously.

"It’s a long story, Mione." Harry sighed. "We’ll tell you after we deal with Dumbledore."

She nodded and led the way through the halls to the Headmaster’s office. "Just so you’re aware, Dumbledore has all the prefects out looking for you guys but I think he knows you left school grounds." She warned them. Sharing a look with Luna, she and Harry both decided to let Hermione enter first, hoping the sight of a good student would soften the old wizard’s mood. "Sir? I’ve found Harry, Luna and Simon."

"See them in Miss Granger and then you are dismissed." He replied from behind his desk. Hermione let them walk past her before she closed the door and bolted down the stairs. Dumbledore gestured to the three chairs in front of him and waited until they settled themselves. He looked at all of them, but it was clear he was addressing Harry alone. "What did you think you were doing damaging the school like that?"

"It was an accident." He quietly answered.

"I have no doubt that it was." Dumbledore said, his voice quivering as he tried to hide his anger. "Why would you do this Harry, when you’re so close to being done here? This isn’t something I can cover up for you."

"So don’t. I’ll go fix it."

He shook his head. "It’s not that simple. Like the ministry and certain other buildings, magic isn’t enough to repair the damage. It must be rebuilt by hand to maintain the strength of the charms we place upon our school. And even if you did fix it, my hands are tied in regards to how we can handle this, especially after I’ve pushed so hard to have the recently disappeared Tristan Macnair expelled."

"What are you saying?" Luna asked nervously.

He sighed sadly. "I’m saying that after having Miss Patil, Mr. Mason and Mr. Macnair go missing, after the destruction Cho Chang caused last year, and after all the cumulative trouble that has been caused… I have no choice but to expel you all from Hogwarts for your unfavorable actions, effective immediately."

"You can’t!" Harry protested.

"You all were involved in an incident that resulted in severe damage to one of our classrooms and then you all left school grounds in direct violation of the code of conduct. I have to take this action before the less reliable of the Aurors out there decide to try and say that you had something to do with Tristan’s escape and attempt to take you all into custody for questioning. Should that happen, it’s not guaranteed that Arthur will be able to see that you get into the right hands." Dumbledore seemed to slump down in his seat. "You’ve put us all in a tight place and we must be careful how we proceed."

"But wouldn’t it be better to find a way to keep us here? The Aurors and anyone else could still come after us once we leave, but if we’re here then we’re more protected." Luna argued.

"I agree, but if I didn’t go through with this, it would be far too easy for them to accuse me of favoritism and things are too fragile right now. The slightest thing could give them the excuse to oust me from here and put anyone they choose in place as Headmaster. As you saw last time, there are too many impressionable young minds here to allow that to happen. I refuse to let this school become a training ground for the next wave of Death Eaters. Everyone must be free to choose the life they want."

"So instead you just throw away our futures?" Simon asked incredulously, not knowing anything of the Order and therefore unable to comprehend the need to keep things a certain way so that the power didn’t shift in the enemy’s favor.

Suddenly the office door swung open behind them and Lupin came rushing in. "Stop! It’s not their fault, it’s mine!"

"And do you really expect anyone to believe that?" Dumbledore asked tiredly.

"Does it matter as long as there’s someone to blame?" He pressed. "Tell them whatever you want… tell them that the kids were working on a project for me and things went wrong. They left the school to come looking for me because they knew that I had snuck out to see Tonks and didn’t want me to get in trouble. That story should be good enough."

"You realize what will happen if you decide to go through with this… given what you are, the parents already have a low threshold of tolerance for you. If you take the blame for the destruction to the classroom, if you insist these students only left school to cover up for you… then I’ll have no choice but to terminate your employment here."

"No!" Harry protested, leaping to his feet.

Lupin reached out to grab his shoulder, using his considerable strength to force Harry back into his chair. "I understand the consequences. I accept it."

Why are you doing this to yourself? Harry asked pleadingly.

Because, I feel I owe it to James and Lily to do everything in my power to have you finish school. I can’t just let you screw it up with two weeks to go. He answered with a grin. It’ll be okay, Harry. I promise.

He held his breath and glanced at Luna and Simon out of the corner of his eye and realized Lupin wasn’t just doing this for him. The other two were only in their sixth year and he felt guilty that his brash actions may cause them to lose out on their education. Letting out the breath slowly, he turned to look at the older wizard, awaiting his decision along with everyone else.

Dumbledore took his time studying Lupin before at last shaking his head and rising from his seat. "Okay, if this is the way you want it to be. I’ll see to it that you are able to finish out the final two weeks of this semester, as it will be impossible to replace you on such short notice. It’s been a pleasure to have you here."

"It’s been wonderful being here." Lupin assured him before quickly ushering the teens from the office before the headmaster could change his mind. Simon tried to break off from the group as soon as they were in the hallway but Harry reached out and grabbed his arm, ensuring he followed them. He still had a few things to say to the other boy. They walked silently down to Lupin’s office, though the older man was the only one who seemed to be in a good mood.

"Are you sure about this?" Harry asked as soon as Lupin closed the door.

"Of course I’m sure. Otherwise I wouldn’t have done it." He grinned. "I had planned on resigning at the end of this year anyway. I really like teaching, but I’m certainly needed elsewhere and like you Harry, I hate feeling locked away here when there are so many things happening out in the world. And with you and Draco leaving, there’s really nothing to keep me here any longer. Plus I don’t like being away from Tonks for so long, her job already keeps us apart so why should I continue to let mine add to the strain when I have another choice? So you see, I’m entirely positive that this is the right thing to do."

"But you won’t exactly be leaving here on the best of terms if you take the blame for this." Luna argued.

Lupin reached out to reassuringly pat her shoulder. "I have long ago learned to live with other people’s misguided opinions of me. As long as I am in good standing with the people who know me, that’s all that matters." He went to sit behind his desk and pulled out a roll of blank parchment and a fresh quill. "Besides if I were to stay here, then who would be out there looking after you all when you get yourselves stuck in a corner?" He teased, reminding them that this wasn’t the first time he’d helped get them out of their own mess. "Plus Draco is going to need guidance in navigating life out in the real world where people don’t take as kindly to what we are so I’m actually glad to have a reason to leave my position early. The fact that it helps you kids out is just a bonus."

"Well I certainly appreciate it." Simon said gratefully. "I mean because I have no where else to go besides Hogwarts so I’m glad I get to come back." He added quickly when he saw the glare Harry had shot him for speaking at all.

Lupin nodded and smiled. "Think nothing of it."

"It just seems unfair that we can’t simply explain what really happened." Luna said absently as wrapped her arms around herself.

"What happened to you?" Lupin asked, finally noticing the bandages that peeked out from the sleeves of her school robes.

She and Harry shared a glance as Simon looked down at the floor and shuffled his feet. "Just a slight accident caused by a simple misunderstanding." She said at last, lowering her arms and pulling the hems of her sleeves down.

"I see." He shook his head and sighed. "To answer your earlier musing… no one would listen if you tried to explain what really happened. It’s a play for power out there and no one is interested in the truth unless it gets them what they want. Too many things have been happening here, no one would take a student’s word on anything when they barely trust what the professors and Dumbledore have to say."

"Especially if one of the students is me, right?" Harry asked miserably.

"It’s a sad but true fact that adding your name to anything will instantly make it more complicated. But don’t let it bother you, having enemies only means that you’ve stood up for something important." Lupin answered with a gentle smile. "Now if you’ll excuse me, I must write to my wife and inform her that we are soon to become a one income household for awhile."

"You know that you and Tonks always have your room at my house." Harry offered, feeling it was the least he could do.

"And we may just have to take you up on that." He laughed. "The price of rent is ridiculous these days."

Leaving him to write his letter, the teens all stepped out into the hall. As soon as the door closed behind them, Harry grabbed Simon up by the front of his robes and shoved him back against the wall. "If I find out that you’re somehow setting us up I swear to you that your sister won’t have the chance to murder you because she’ll never find your body." He threatened, wanting to scare the boy into revealing whether he was truly trustworthy.

"I promise I’m not setting you up!" He instantly replied, his eyes wide and his heart banging wildly in his chest.

"We’ll see." Harry muttered before bringing his face in close to Simon’s, tightening his grip and pushing against the boy’s throat. "From now on, if you think you have something you need to tell someone, come straight to me because going anywhere near Luna or any of my other friends would certainly be the biggest mistake you’ll ever make in your life."

Simon nodded in agreement, clearly seeing in Harry’s eyes just how much he meant his threats. "I’ll come right to you!" He gasped out, reaching up to try and push Harry away.

He released the other boy and simply turned and walked away, knowing Luna was following him and feeling her disapproval. He waited until they were all the way back to his room before speaking to her. "I’m not sorry about how I dealt with him."

She looked at him a moment before nodding slowly. "Okay." She said quietly.

"I know you’re mad at me…" He began pacing, feeling all of the energy and adrenaline he’d been building up since she’d first called out to him begin to bubble over as it tried to find some way to escape.

"Of course I’m not mad… I’m not sure what I am. This has been a very strange day and I’m still trying to process it." Luna argued, sitting comfortably on the edge of the bed as she watched him walk around the room, allowing him to get out some of his pent up frustration.

Harry went to the window and clutched the sill as he stared out over the school grounds. He took several deep breaths before turning back to her. "But you really are okay, right?"

"I’m fine, just a bit troubled by what we’ve learned." She gently assured him. "I guess it’s even more important that we go get Fred before Elanya has the chance to convince him that her version of events is the truth."

"Couldn’t it be?" He debated. "I mean, I know Simon was telling us his version of the truth and I believe Elise and Sarah are that cunning. But what if their whole plan was tricking him into telling us all of this so we wouldn’t believe what Elanya had to say? What if they really are setting her up and what we saw in Erebos’s head is true? Maybe they did know we’d figure out who the spy was and that we’d want to look in his head… what if they used Simon to spread around doubt so that we wouldn’t know what to believe?"

"Well, if that’s the case then it seems to have worked, at least on you." She pointed out, smiling as he stared at her in utter confusion. "Personally, I think I believe him even though there’s something about him that unsettles me… but despite that, I truly think Elanya is very much working with Elise and Sarah."

Harry nodded in hesitant acceptance. He’d learned his lesson about questioning her intuition, if she thought Elanya wasn’t the victim they were trying to portray her to be then that was most likely the way it was. "Okay, so we go on with the assumption that she’s against us."

"I think that’s the safest for us… to assume she and Simon both are the enemy until they can definitively prove otherwise." She stood and came over to wrap her arms around his waist and hug herself against him.

He kissed the top of her head and returned the embrace. "I have no problem with that."

She pulled away and looked at the door. "Hermione knows we’re done with Dumbledore, she’s on her way over here."

Sure enough an insistent knocking came at the door and Harry went to let her in. "So? What happened?" She demanded, walking in and turning to face them both. Together they pieced together everything that had happened and filled her in completely on what Simon had told them and what they’d concluded as a result. "You’re sure Elanya isn’t being set up?" She asked, her face going white as she began to panic.

"Almost completely positive, what’s wrong?" Luna went over to lead Hermione to a chair.

"It’s just that… I so badly wanted to see Fred, to make sure he was okay. I decided to practice my astral projection and to my surprise, not only did it work, he was able to see me." She answered, nearly shaking as she tried not to cry.

"You talked to Fred? Did you let him know we were coming to get him?" Harry asked, kneeling next to her and taking her hand in comfort.

"Yes, but I also told him everything else! I wanted to assure him that we’d taken care of everything so he could leave without worrying… including that we knew who the spy was! I told him that you guys found out that Elanya was a victim of Elise and Sarah’s plots too… he thinks she isn’t the enemy!"

"It’ll be fine, Hermione." Luna said softly. "We’re going to get him tomorrow."

"No!" Hermione leapt to her feet and turned to them in anguish. "She’s making him talk to her now! He’d been refusing this whole time but I saw her threaten to send Erebos after Ron and Ginny if he didn’t start speaking to her. Don’t you see? I led him to believe that she was just another pawn in Elise and Sarah’s game… what if he lets his guard down? What if she’s able to convince him to believe her?" She stared at them in horror as every implication of Fred trusting Elanya ran through her head. "What have I done?" She whispered.

(BREAK)

As soon as it was dark, Fred grabbed his entire bed roll and went down to the beach. Ensuring he was far enough from the tide, he set everything up and built a small fire, silently thanking his father for teaching him how to do so the muggle way- without a wand. Sure it was the more difficult way to do things, but at last his father’s obsession with learning the why’s and how’s of all things muggle had paid off. Once sure the blaze had caught, he lay back to look at the stars. He didn’t know where Elanya had gone, nor did he care… she hadn’t returned from her walk and the longer she was gone the more certain he was that he didn’t want to be there when she did show up.

She’d told him so many things and enough of it had seemed not only to be likely but made too much sense not to be true. He was confused… If Hermione had really been on the island, then she’d told him things that Elanya had completely admitted to. Did it matter? And if it did, then why did it matter? Elanya had gotten herself caught up in this, she was no innocent bystander. Had she not wanted so badly to kill her father, the other girls wouldn’t have had anything to tempt her into accepting their offer. On the other hand, he was now able to put himself in her shoes… why wouldn’t she want to kill the man who murdered her mother and was trying to use his own daughter to buy his way into the good graces of an evil man like Voldemort? Even Willem had come to terms with the fact that his niece had killed his brother and was still willing to reach out to the girl as it was clear even to him that she needed to be rescued… if not from Elise and Sarah, then from herself. So if Willem could forgive her, then who was he to judge her?

Clearly he didn’t think as badly of her as he’d thought anyway… why else wouldn’t he have just told her hated her? It was the one thing that bothered him more than anything else. She’d been right in saying that he had no problem telling people that he didn’t like them, so why couldn’t he just say it? Annoyingly she had picked up on the only reason… because he didn’t hate her. But so what? Not hating someone wasn’t exactly the same as liking them. After all, he knew he couldn’t trust her as far as he could throw her, but then, did that matter either?

"So, you’ve decided to sleep under the stars."

He sat up and whipped around to find Elanya standing in the trees as if his thoughts of her had forced her to materialize there. Her hair and dress were dancing softly in the slight breeze and her eyes glowed even more brilliantly in the faint firelight. "Well, aren’t you the observant one." He said sarcastically.

"I’m sorry I walked out on you earlier." She said, taking a few hesitant steps towards him.

"Think nothing of it. I’m pretty sure our conversation was about done anyway." He brushed her off and lay back down again, closing his eyes and acting as if she were nothing more than a pesky disturbance to him.

"It’s so beautiful out here… and so relaxing. You have the right idea sleeping here on the beach. Mind if I join you?" She called, her voice carrying her amusement.

"Sleep wherever you want, what do I care?" Fred made sure to sound annoyed, hoping that if she did sleep on the beach, she would choose to do it far from him. He heard her soft footsteps as she glided through the sand and then felt her attempt to climb under the covers with him. He sat straight up and scrambled away from her as he got to his feet. "What the hell do you think you’re doing?" He demanded angrily.

"Well, my blankets are all the way back at the campsite and I’m tired now." She looked up at him with a coy smile.

"Fine, take my stuff, it’s all yours. I want to go for a swim anyway." He turned and walked straight toward the water, repeating Hermione’s name over and over in his head lest he allow himself to go back and do something stupid.

"You can’t go out there now!" Elanya called as she ran after him. "It’s dark! There could be sharks or any number of other dangerous things and you’d never see them coming!"

Despite the genuine concern for his safety that he heard in her voice, he ignored her and walked straight into the water fully dressed. He continued on until his feet could just barely touch the bottom before deciding that was far enough to deter her from following him. Turning, he began swimming parallel with the shoreline hoping to go down far enough that she wouldn’t care to walk after him. He could barely see his hand in front of him and realized that is was more than the exercise that was making his heart race. It was very dark out here, and Elanya had been right… He’d never see an underwater attack coming. Quickly deciding he’d gone far enough, he began swimming towards land, crawling up onto the sandy beach and allowing himself to lie there and rest for a moment.

Now more than ever, he was determined to leave the island tomorrow. He couldn’t spend one more day alone with Elanya, he was beginning to forget what was real and it was becoming more difficult not to fall into her stories. All he had to do was get through tonight. Climbing to his feet, he brushed off as much sand as he could and made his way into the trees to look for some kind of shelter. Coming to the base of the tallest mountain, he found a shallow cave. Gathering leaves, he quickly made himself a place to sleep before gathering enough wood to start a fire to keep him warm. Once again he silently thanked his father while hoping that he would get the chance to thank him in person very soon.

(BREAK)

Draco woke already feeling nervous… he didn’t like lying to Ginny and while he may not know the exact details of what was going on, he had pieced enough together to know that she’d be mad to learn they’d kept Fred’s possibly being in trouble from her. But today was supposed to be the day it would all end and no one would have to lie anymore… at least not about this. It was simple really, while the professors and most of the students were down at the quidditch pitch enjoying the game between Gryffindor and Ravenclaw, Potter, Luna and Granger were going to whisk themselves away to rescue Fred from whatever mess he’d gotten himself into. Draco’s job was to make sure neither Ginny nor Ron found out they were gone and more importantly, to keep them both away from Professor Erebos who Potter had said was a spy and more than willing to hurt someone.

Taking a deep breath, he knocked on Ginny’s door. "Ready to go down to breakfast?" He asked as soon as she opened up. Seeing that she was still in her robe and pajamas, he realized she hadn’t done much since she’d left his room earlier. "I guess not." He said in response to the silent look she gave him, closing the door as he walked in.

"I don’t want to go watch that stupid game today." She said, climbing onto the bed and grabbing her pillow to clutch to her body. "I don’t want to be a part of anything to do with Ron at the moment."

"I guess I can understand that." He said slowly.

"It’s been almost a week!" She was clearly frustrated and had her pillow been Ron’s neck, she’d have already squeezed the life out of him. "I just can’t believe he hasn’t come around to apologize to everyone for what he said."

"Why would he?" Taking in the glowering look she shot him, he quickly went on in hopes of fixing his mistake. "I mean, he clearly wanted space and said the things he knew would push you all away… after all, he saw how well it worked for Potter last year. So why would he come apologize unless he’s ready to be around you all again?"

"Well, thank you Healer Draco, the Psychology Boy Wonder!" She said sarcastically as she rolled her eyes.

"And since I like you so much, I’ll only charge you half my normal rates for the excellent wisdom I have to bestow." He teased, quickly moving to catch the pillow she whipped at him.

"Well from now on you can keep your two galleons to yourself because your wisdom isn’t even worth half that!" She taunted back, laughing as he ran over to return the pillow assault. She scrambled to grab her other pillow and swung low, catching him in the stomach.

"Oh! Direct hit!" He shouted and fell across the bed.

"Go in for the kill!" She laughed, quickly kneeling over him and battering him over and over with the pillow. Unable to hold back his own laughter, he tried his best to return the attack. Reaching out, he caught her pillow and tried to wrestle it away from her so that he would be in possession of all the plush ammo.

A knock on the door interrupted their battle and they both looked at each other in surprise as they tried to catch their breath. Ginny lay back on the bed and stared up at him with a coy smile. "See who that is, would you darling? I’m not dressed to receive company."

He leaned down to kiss her before quickly swinging his pillow one last time, jumping off the bed with a wicked grin as he avoided her return assault. He opened the door and instantly tensed having already been warned that the person on the other side was interested in harming Ginny. "Can we help you professor?" He asked, closing the door slightly so that the man couldn’t see inside.

"Isn’t it a bit inappropriate for Miss Weasley to have a male visitor this early?" Erebos asked as he warily regarded Draco.

"Isn’t is a bit inappropriate for a male teacher to come unsupervised to a female student’s room this early? Especially one who already has a cloud of suspicion around his name?" He shot back, having been informed of the professor’s relationship to Elise McKinney.

"I’ve come with a message from the Headmaster." Erebos answered defensively. "Not that I owe an explanation to any student."

"Well, Ginny isn’t feeling well. She’ll be in her room all day today… and I’ll be here with her, taking care of her." He said meaningfully, allowing a small growl to escape his throat lest the man forget what exactly he was. "You can give me the message, I’ll be sure she gets it." With his senses heightened, he was able to hear rustling behind him as Ginny got out of bed and curiously made her way over to the door. Thankfully she was careful enough to keep herself hidden behind it, but still, a violently protective surge rushed through him and he knew only one thing, the only way the professor was getting in the room was over his dead body.

"The Headmaster wishes to speak to Miss Weasley in person." Erebos persisted. "I am to escort her up to his office."

"And why wouldn’t he send Professor McGonagall?" Draco asked suspiciously. "She is the head of the Gryffindor house and a much more likely candidate to approach Ginny on the Headmaster’s behalf than some professor wholly unrelated to her. She isn’t even in any of your classes. Why would Dumbledore send you?" He knew Ginny probably barely recognized the professor as she’d rather chew her own arm off than study Arithmancy.

"Again, not that I owe an explanation to a student-" He said tightly, clearly frustrated with this song and dance they were engaged in. "But she is already down at the quidditch pitch assisting Madame Hooch with getting the field ready for today’s game. I was in the Headmaster’s office for a meeting and so he simply sent me."

"Well, Ginny is just too ill to leave her room. I’m sure Dumbledore wouldn’t want to risk her getting even sicker by forcing herself through these drafty hallways. If he needs to tell her something important, I’m sure he would have no problem paying her a visit." Draco said smugly. He grabbed the edge of the door to close it but the professor reached out to stop it from swinging shut.

"If Miss Weasley is in fact that ill, then perhaps she should go see Madame Pomfrey." Erebos suggested slyly. "I know that if I go and tell her there is a sick student she will insist on seeing her."

"That’s unnecessary." Draco said calmly while holding the door so tightly in his hand he thought the wood would shatter in his grip. "I asked Healer Drake to stop by earlier. He said it’s a bad cold and recommended bed rest." He added in order to thwart the professor’s newest attempt to get Ginny out of her room. He was sure Drake would cover for them if necessary, after all, he’d done it many times before. Rather than allow Erebos to come up with something else, he used his above normal strength to slam the door shut despite the man’s attempts to keep it open.

"What was that about?" Ginny asked immediately.

Draco quickly pulled his wand out of his pocket and cast a silencing charm on the room, both as a precaution and to try and stall before answering her. "Professor Erebos is a spy for Elise, Sarah and Elanya." He decided to start with honesty and go with it until he couldn’t. "They want him to get to you and Ron."

"Why?" She asked, sinking down onto her bed in horror and confusion.

"Well… because they have plans to take over the ministry. What better way than to use the Minister’s children against him?" He held his breath. Technically what he’d said was true although that wasn’t the reason the man had decided to make a move today. But why worry her further by bringing Fred into it? Especially since he didn’t really know the full story or what exactly her brother was involved in, only that Erebos was one of the loose ends the others had had to tie up in order to go after Fred at all. He knew they were connected, just not how… but he’d be damned if he let her get hurt or killed because of any of it. Surely if she knew Fred was involved, she would insist on doing something dangerously reckless in an attempt to help.

Ginny shook her head sadly. "Poor dad… all he wants to do is make a difference and now he has to live in constant fear for us all because of it."

"Seems to me the same could be said for everyone." He sat next to her and wrapped his arm around her shoulders. "I’ve guess that’s just the price you have to pay if you want to stand up for something… the fear of losing everything."

We may have a problem. Draco thought out to Potter and Luna.

What happened? Potter immediately answered.

Draco quickly told them of Erebos’s visit and the fact that he wouldn’t be leaving Ginny’s room at all that day. You’re going to need someone else down at the pitch looking after Weasley. He concluded definitively, implying that there would be no arguing with his decision to barricade himself in with Ginny.

(BREAK)

Harry had a horrible feeling about everything after talking to Draco. Why would Erebos have come to try and get Ginny to go somewhere with him? What were Elise, Elanya and Sarah planning now? Whatever it was, it seemed they were just in time to go rescue Fred. At least the problem of who was going to watch over Ron had been quickly resolved… after a quick call to Jacey, she had agreed to don an invisibility cloak and hang around the quidditch pitch, just in case Erebos tried to get a hold of a different Weasley.

"I heard the whistle. The game’s started, can we go now?" Hermione asked eagerly. She was nearly beside herself with worry and had been since discovering that she’d given Fred misinformation. She’d attempted to project herself back to the island several times during the night but hadn’t been able to find him again.

"Both of you grab one of those brooms." Harry told her and Luna as he tightly gripped his own Firebolt. They had gone down to the pitch with everyone else only to sneak off into the equipment shed to keep from being seen.

"Why?" Hermione demanded impatiently.

"Because Charlie wrote a book all about how there are flying dragons on the island. I can’t fit you both on my broom and we need to have some way of escaping quickly if necessary… especially since you said you’ve read that there are anti-apparation charms. You and Fred won’t be able to apparate without one of us." He insisted, wishing the whole time that both girls would just let him go by himself. But he knew Luna wouldn’t allow that any more than he’d let her do anything like this without him… the argument wouldn’t be worth it as they’d both just end up angry and she’d wind up coming along anyway. As for Hermione- he knew better than to even suggest she stay behind, despite them all being aware of how emotionally distracted she was. Luckily he trusted they were both capable and tried to let that thought ease his discomfort.

"As long as we stay out of the mountains, it shouldn’t be a problem." She replied, eyeing the old practice brooms warily as Luna stepped up to select one without hesitation. It was obvious which of them was more confident in their ability to fly.

"Just take one anyway." He pressed with a grin. "At the very least, Fred will know how to fly it should the need arise."

"Fine." She agreed with a heavy sigh, grabbing the one closest to her. "Can we go now?"

Harry took out his wand and waited as they did the same. They had no idea where they’d wind up having only coordinates and pictures to use to inspire their apparation to the island. He wanted them to be ready for anything.

As one he and Luna reached out to each take one of Hermione’s hands and they all focused on the island. With a loud crack, they apparated away from the equipment shed and arrived somewhere else entirely. Feeling hard rocky ground beneath his feet, Harry hesitantly opened his eyes to look around. His breath caught in his throat as he took in their surroundings. Um, I think we may have just picked the worst possible place to land. He thought out to the girls, not wanting to make any noise lest they wake the ten dragons currently sleeping around them. As quietly as possible, they all three mounted their brooms, each suddenly glad that he’d insisted they brought them with. Going slow for their sake, he carefully led the way, lightly pushing off from the ground and rising into the air.

Flying away from the mountain top and down toward the beach, he looked over his shoulder to check on the girls. Luna seemed to have gotten the hang of things after having been in the air a few times before. But Hermione, who always chose to keep her feet on the ground if it was an option, was clearly showing her inexperience. She tried to lower the broom and suddenly lost control, letting out a loud scream as she suddenly zoomed toward the ground.

"Pull up!" He shouted as he raced after her. She tried to do as he instructed but couldn’t quite accomplish it and she raised her arms to cover her face as she went down through the trees.

"Harry! Look out!" He heard Luna yell. Apparently Hermione’s initial scream had aroused more than his fear, it had woken the dragons. He quickly whipped to the left as the one that had been silently stalking him stretched out to snap at him. "They hunt in pairs." Charlie’s voice filled his head and he instinctively pulled up, just barely missing the other dragon that had been waiting for him.

"Luna!?" He turned to search the sky for her and found her far out over the water as she tried her best to dodge the four dragons chasing her while she clung to the broom.

He raced forward to help only to realize that the other six dragons had chosen to gang up on him as they perceived him to be the better flyer and therefore the more dangerous to them. One popped up in front of him, forcing him to go low. He once more searched the sky, trying to catch his bearings… but this time he didn’t see Luna anywhere. Both she and Hermione had disappeared and now he was alone with eight dragons. Wait… eight! He quickly began racing around the island, looking for any sign of Luna and the two dragons that were obviously still chasing her. He flew between two of the beasts but unfortunately he wasn’t quick enough and he felt one’s tail knock into the back of his broom followed by the sound of a deep cracking sound. The broom started to come apart in his hands and he did his best to hold it together as he raced toward the ground. He landed roughly on the beach, shaking off the pain as he picked himself up and ran toward the cover of the trees.

He could hear the animals landing heavily behind him, too large to make their way through the dense woods. Suddenly tripping, Harry tucked into himself to break his fall. Glancing back at what had knocked him over, he found the shattered remains of another broom though he had no idea whether it was Luna’s or Hermione’s. He looked around desperately but there was no one there.

(BREAK)

Fred woke to a loud scream. For a moment he was disoriented, forgetting completely where he was as he scrambled to his feet. Looking around, he remembered making a temporary shelter out of the cave after escaping from Elanya. Another series of ear-splitting shrieks filled the sky and he looked up to see those mysterious creatures circling in the bright morning sunshine. They never came out this late… and they never flew so low. One swept over the trees above him, giving him a frighteningly clear view of what the creature actually was… a very large dragon with sharp claws, long teeth and wide wings tipped with dangerous looking horns.

Panic gripped him as he stood there frozen, trying to remember everything Charlie had ever told him about these beasts. More than anything, he recalled his brother saying that dragons were creatures of habit… So why were they acting differently now? He didn’t waste time trying to figure it out, he had to make sure Elanya was okay, he couldn’t let the only other person on this island die… he didn’t want to be here completely alone with these things. He raced through the trees back to the campsite, suddenly upset that he’d decided to travel so far from it in the first place.

Being sure to keep himself deep under the cover of the trees, he approached their tent and heard Elanya’s voice as she argued with someone. Careful of where he stepped, Fred snuck up as close as he dared… she was standing with her back to him and completely alone, but he could tell that she was holding something up to her mouth. "What do you mean Malfoy won’t let you near Ginny?!" She cried out angrily. "I gave you one simple task this morning… Well, you know what to do next."

Not waiting to hear more, Fred leapt out from the tree he’d been hiding behind. "What are you doing?" He demanded as he stalked up to her.

She turned to him and dropped her hands, showing him they were empty. "Nothing." She said innocently.

"Who were you talking to and how? And why are you talking about my sister?" He tried to hide his panic, reminding himself that whatever was happening at least Draco was doing his part in protecting Ginny from it.

More shrieks filled their air and they both glanced up in panic. Then she stared directly at him, her eyes filling with sadness. "I have no choice, you broke the rules." She looked away, closing her eyes against her regret.

"What are you talking about?!"

She pointed up at the dragons now circling dangerously low. "The only reason they would leave their nest was if someone disturbed them… clearly we are no longer alone on this island. You were right, your friends came after you… but that means you all have broken the rules and if I don’t bring about the punishment for it then I’ll be the one to receive it. I like you Fred, but your siblings’ lives just aren’t more important to me than my own."

"Don’t do it." He insisted, pleading with her to give in and be the better person he wasn’t quite sure she could be. "I’ll help protect you from Elise and Sarah, we can all keep you safe. Just don’t let them force you into hurting my brother and sister."

"You’d really do that?" She asked, taking an uncertain step toward him. "You’d convince your friends to give me a chance?"

"No! That’s part of her plan!"

They both whipped around to see who had snuck up on them. Fred couldn’t believe his eyes as his heart raced with joy. "Hermione?" She was standing there before him, looking far more real than the last time he’d seen her as she had her wand out and pointed at Elanya. Forgetting everything else in his relief, he raced forward and threw his arms around her.

"We have to find Harry and Luna and get out of here now!" She quietly insisted. "I was wrong yesterday, she’s no victim… they’re all working together to make us want to help her so she can get in and convince Harry and Luna to join them."

"Who told you that?" Elanya demanded, reminding Fred that she was actually still there. She now had her wand out as well and was pointing it directly at them.

"What does it matter if it’s true?" He returned, placing himself between her and Hermione despite the fact that he was the only one unarmed.

"Well, I suppose you can’t really argue with that logic… I take it you’re just going to automatically believe her over me?" Elanya asked with false sweetness.

"You aren’t exactly giving me a reason not to at the moment." Fred replied, gesturing to the wand she still had pointed at them. He felt Hermione reach out and take his hand as she used her other to continue wielding her own wand. Squeezing her fingers, he hoped they found a way out of this.

Elanya nodded, a wicked smile spreading slowly across her face. "I thought as much… I guess it’s time to move to plan B." She quickly waved her wand, forcing Hermione to throw up a shield around them. It was enough of a distraction for her to grab the seashell necklace she’d been wearing since they arrived and rip it from her neck before speaking quickly into it. "Tell Elise and Sarah that Harry and Luna are here and kill Ron." She instructed.

"No!" Fred started forward but Elanya waved her wand and sent him flying away. He landed hard on his back but barely felt anything as he forced himself to get up. "Take it back!" He demanded.

"Why should I? You were warned of the consequences… Just because you have a werewolf protecting one doesn’t mean we can’t get to the other. Your brother will die."

"Call Erebos and tell him to leave Ron alone!" Hermione ordered, pointing her wand threateningly.

Elanya simply dropped the necklace to the ground and stomped on it, effectively destroying the communication device. "What’s done is done. You want revenge, come and take it." She dared them.



NOTE: Provided there are no more horrible accidents with my computer or flash drive, look for the next chapter soon!

________________________________________
Chapter 55: An Island Escape

A/N: Without further delay… Read, Review, Enjoy!





After crash landing Hermione sat up and was pleased to discover nothing worse that a few scrapes and scratches. Unfortunately the broom hadn’t survived as well and lay a few feet away in pieces. Glad that it hadn’t been her to wind up that way, she shook herself off and got to her feet. She looked around nervously and called out to Harry and Luna but they didn’t answer her… A quick glance up through the treetops let her know why. Several dragons seemed to be swooping around in the air while letting out horrifying shrieking sounds. With a broken broom she knew she couldn’t do much to help them and they certainly were too distracted to come help her… it was up to her to figure out what to do and she was determined that this not end up like Hogsmeade. She wasn’t going to freeze up with indecision, there were too many people counting on her and more than that, she wanted to prove to herself that she was capable of branching out on her own.

It was much hotter here than it was back at school and so the first thing she did was strip off her jacket before she fainted of heat exhaustion. She knew that she had to start moving and preferably with a purpose. Using her wand as a locator, she made her way through the woods, trying not to look anywhere but right in front of her. She didn’t want to become distracted, she just wanted to get Fred and get the hell off this island. Within ten minutes of walking, she found herself at Fred and Elanya’s campsite. The two were talking and she heard Fred offering to help the other girl if she would promise to call off whatever she’d just threatened him with.

"No! That’s part of her plan!" She yelled, racing forward without thinking. Her wand was already out and so she quickly pointed it at the other girl to keep her at bay. It seemed she’d arrived just in time to stop Fred from getting even more caught up in all of this.

She stopped short as she saw Elanya pull her own wand out… realizing that Fred was unarmed, Hermione worried that he would get caught in the middle if they started dueling. He stood there and looked at her as if she were the greatest thing he’d ever seen, making her feel more confident in the face of the other girl. "Hermione?" He asked hesitantly before rushing over and wrapping his arms around her. As good as it felt to have him hold her, she was careful to keep her wand up lest Elanya decide to use the distraction to her advantage.

"We have to find Harry and Luna and get out of here now!" She quietly insisted, forcing herself to believe they would have time to properly reunite later if they got themselves out of this now. "I was wrong yesterday, she’s no victim… they’re all working together to make us want to help her so she can get in and convince Harry and Luna to join them."

"Who told you that?" Elanya demanded, taking a few steps forward and pointing her wand more directly at Hermione.

"What does it matter if it’s true?" Fred asked quietly as he turned and placed himself between the girls.

"Well, I suppose you can’t really argue with that logic… I take it you’re just going to automatically believe her over me?" Elanya offered them a sweet smile that dripped with poisonous intentions.

"You aren’t exactly giving me a reason not to at the moment." He answered her as he gestured to the fact the she was waving her wand at them. Hermione realized in that moment that he hadn’t completely given into believing Elanya, that he’d mostly managed to trust his own instincts. Feeling proud of him, she reached out her free hand to take his, wanting him to know that they were in this together now. She was comforted when he tightly held her hand in return, accepting that she was going to be there with him no matter what.

"I thought as much." Elanya said meanly. "I guess it’s time to move to plan B." She quickly waved her wand, giving Hermione only seconds to throw up a shield around herself and Fred to deflect the spell. Before she could return fire, the girl ripped off her seashell necklace and was already talking into it. "Tell Elise and Sarah that Harry and Luna are here and then kill Ron." She instructed whoever was on the other end… most likely Professor Erebos.

"No!" Fred started forward but Elanya waved her wand and sent him flying. Hermione took her opportunity and shot several stunners in quick succession but the other girl was fast, raising her shield in time before attempting to fire back and disarm her. By this time Fred had gotten to his feet and back into the thick of things, forcing Hermione to halt her attack so he wouldn’t get hit by mistake. "Take it back!" He demanded, stalking towards Elanya.

"Why should I?" She pointed her wand at him, keeping him from getting too close to her. "You were warned of the consequences… Just because you have a werewolf protecting one doesn’t mean we can’t get to the other. Your brother will die."

"Call Erebos and tell him to leave Ron alone!" Hermione said in as authoritative voice as she could muster.

Elanya looked directly at her and dropped the necklace to the ground, stomping on it and ruining their only chance to call off the professor from killing Ron. "What’s done is done. You want revenge, come and take it." She dared them.

Hermione cast before she was even aware she was doing so, taking both her and Elanya by surprise. The girl had to dodge rather than shield, sending Hermione’s spell to shatter the trees behind her. Seeing what a serious spell she’d tried to use against her, Elanya stood and wiped the dirt from her dress. "Well, I suppose we’ve moved past stunners then." She laughed wildly and searched for the wand she’d dropped in her haste to move out of the way.

Hermione felt Fred grab her arm and pull her into the tent. "Shield it!" He yelled at her.

She quickly waved her wand, yelling "Protego Totalum!" and a few other incantations, turning the tent into their own small fortress... they were advanced spells she’d only practiced once in the safety of a classroom setting. She was truly surprised that she’d been able to accomplish it here while her heart was racing and panic gripped her mind. They could hear Elanya screaming at them from the outside, uselessly hurling spell after spell at the tent as she tried to get at them. "I’m not sure how long this will hold." She said fearfully, turning to see that Fred had taken to tearing the place apart. "What are you doing?"

"I’m looking for my wand… she took it from me but it has to be around here somewhere!" He replied desperately as he threw things over his shoulder. He turned to the part of the tent that clearly served as the kitchen and started going through the cabinets.

"You really have a stove in here?" She asked incredulously as he struggled to flip the thing over.

"When it came to spending my money, Elanya spared no expense. Top of the line everything… it’s supposed to be like camping in the comfort of your home." Fred answered bitterly as he upended the icebox next. "Aha!" He shouted, bending down to scoop up a folded towel. Sure enough, his wand was wrapped up inside it and Hermione instantly felt a shot of relief knowing that she wouldn’t be the only one armed. His own relief was evident as he tightly gripped his wand and sighed deeply. Then he turned to her and gave her a look that sent tingles through her body. Without a word he strode up to her and eagerly placed his hand around her neck, pulling her face to his so that he could passionately capture her lips. He kissed her with such depth and hunger that she was left feeling dizzy and had to reach out and grab him to keep her legs from collapsing beneath her. Wrapping his arms around her waist he deepened the kiss even more before breaking it off and resting his head against hers. They were both left breathless and happy to once more be so close. "I’m really glad to see you." He whispered.

"I couldn’t tell." She teased, leaning up to kiss his cheek.

"Yeah, well, I’ll make it clearer when I have more time to make my point." Fred grinned before turning serious once more. They could still hear Elanya out there, doing everything she could to breach the protection charms Hermione had cast. "We have to get out of here without her seeing." He said, letting her go and turning to survey their temporary stronghold.

"I’m open to suggestions."

He scratched his head and turned to stare at her a moment before breaking into a smile. "Of course! If I can fool my own mother then it should be easy to fool Elanya."

"What are you talking about?" Hermione asked, watching as he waved his wand over himself.

And then suddenly there were two of him and she had the uneasy feeling that George had somehow come back to life. Shaking it off, she tried to smile in support. "You really think she’ll go after our doubles?"

"Why wouldn’t she?" He asked, waving his wand over her to conjure her up a double of her own. Moving hers to stand next to his, he studied them both closely. "They look good enough to me." He shrugged.

"Well, I certainly don’t have a better idea." She moved to hide herself behind the turned-over stove, as Fred took their silent doubles and instructed them to exit the tent and just run as far and fast as they could.

Knowing that her charms would be broken as soon as the barrier was breached, he shoved them through the opening and quickly came over to crouch beside her just in case Elanya wasn’t fooled and decided to come search the tent. "Here goes nothing." He whispered.

(BREAK)

Being able to stand down on the field, Ron almost felt like he really was part of the game and was grateful to McGonagall for letting him have this one small piece of what made him happy. He watched his team fly together and was thrilled to see them pull ahead in the score, cheering them along as any good coach would do. The snow had been magically cleared off the field but he didn’t need it to be reminded that winter was on it’s way, the day was clear and very cold. He huddled deeper into his jacket after applauding Seamus stealing the quaffle from the Ravenclaw chaser.

When the score jumped far enough ahead in Gryffindor’s favor, he decided it was safe to take a break and go down to the refreshment stand for some hot chocolate to warm his insides. Making his way through the locker rooms, he took the exit leading outside the arena and nearly ran into someone trying to make their way in. "Oh, excuse me sir." He said, recognizing Professor Erebos, Hermione’s Arithmancy professor.

"Not at all Mr. Weasley. It was you I was actually coming to find." Erebos replied with what was clearly an attempt at a friendly grin… but the tightness at the corners of his mouth indicated to Ron that something was troubling the man.

"What about?" He asked suspiciously though he didn’t know why he felt that way. Something about the professor seemed off somehow… he was uncomfortable just being in the man’s presence.

"I’m not exactly sure. There is a young woman out in the woods who flagged me down and asked me to come find you." Erebos said, looking over his shoulder at the Forbidden Forest. "She wouldn’t allow me to see her face, so I can’t be sure… but she looked very much like Miss Patil, who has gone missing. I’ve come to find you because she was so insistent but I think I must also go to the Headmaster and inform him that one of his missing students has returned."

"No! Wait!" Ron pleaded, wondering what Parvati was doing back here so soon. He’d only sent a letter off yesterday through Lupin, he wasn’t even sure it had enough time to arrive to her so that couldn’t be what drove her to come back. He had to talk to her before Dumbledore or anyone else could show up and send her running. "Just let me go see her first."

Erebos shook his head. "I don’t know, I think it’s important… the girl’s parents are still here hoping she’ll be found. It’s cruel to not tell them and take the chance that she’ll run again."

"Please, I’ll convince her to stay." He promised with his fingers crossed.

"Okay, how about this? I’ll go with you into the woods to see her, I’ll let you two have your moment of privacy and then we can all go to Dumbledore together." He offered. "It’s the only way I’m assured that Miss Patil will return to where she belongs."

Ron reluctantly agreed, following the professor around the back of the arena to the Forbidden Forest. They walked pretty far into the trees, deepening Ron’s suspicions to the point where he was ready to turn back. "Parvati got your attention from way back here? Why were you in the woods?" He asked carefully.

Erebos stopped and turned to him with his wand out and a demented smile across his face. "Sorry for the deception Mr. Weasley, but Parvati isn’t out here. I just needed a reason for you to come into the woods with me."

He swallowed the large lump of fear and panic that had risen in his throat. "Why?" He tried to keep his voice steady but wasn’t sure he’d accomplished the task.

"To kill you." The professor said simply as he prepared to cast the ultimate unforgivable curse. And then the man was screaming in pain as his wand burst into flames in his hand, forcing him to drop it to the ground.

Ron instantly reached into his pocket for his wand before turning to find Jacey standing a few yards behind him, her own wand in one hand and a large ball of fire in the other as she angrily stared down the professor. "What are you doing out here?" He asked in his surprise.

"Saving you it seems." She returned, seeming hurt that those were the first words he’d chosen to speak at the sight of her.

They both whipped around as the sound of someone clapping filled the air. Ron’s eyes widened in shock as Elise McKinney stepped out from behind a large tree, slowly applauding them. "Well done." She laughed.

"The little bitch burned my hand!" Erebos shouted as he held the now useless appendage close to his body.

"Relax Dolos, I’ve burned you worse than that when you’ve angered me less." Elise giggled before turning her attention specifically to Jacey. "I had hoped you’d come. I was so very curious to find out who you are… but to see that you’re like me, well that brings on a whole new dimension doesn’t it? But I’m not as easy to dispatch as Dolos." She said, throwing out her arms and producing her own fireballs in her hands. "So come on, let’s see what you’re made of… we’ll consider this your audition." She taunted.

(BREAK)

Luna just couldn’t shake off the last two dragons chasing her. They forced her to fly away from the island, zooming so far over the ocean she could see Castellumshire on the horizon… still the creatures wouldn’t give up the chase. She tried calling out to Harry but he didn’t answer, making her very nervous. She could feel that he wasn’t hurt… but that was all, it was like a part of her brain had shut off and she was completely unable to communicate with him… It was almost as if there was something blocking them from using their powers, or more precisely, their telepathy. The way she was flying, the way she was able to know where to go to avoid being hit by claws, teeth and tails… that told her that her precognative instincts were well in tact as she knew she certainly wasn’t the best flier.

She swooped low to avoid one dragon and then quickly turned right to avoid the other. Her feet skimmed the water and she quickly pulled back up, making a long arc around Castellumshire before heading back toward the Gateway Islands. Becoming distracted by a strange sound below her, she took the chance and looked down only to find a small speedboat zooming through the water headed the same direction she was. Feeling the dragons right behind her, she decided to dip low, flying close enough only to see that there seemed to one person on board… a female wearing a hat and large sunglasses. Intuition shot through her and she raced ahead, desperate to warn Harry.

At last she had returned to the island but he was nowhere in the sky… though the other eight dragons were. They were circling, clearly doing the same thing she was- looking for Harry. Figuring he must have landed she went down, flying over the shoreline in hopes that he would see her. She let out a surprised scream when two of the dragons suddenly grounded ahead of her, opening their jaws and waiting for her to fly at them. Fixing her grip as she’d seen Harry do, she made a sharp left and headed back out over the water where four more dragons waited. Once again changing her grip, she zoomed straight up. "LUNA! LOOK OUT!" She heard Harry scream from far below her. Apparently he had seen her and ran out onto the beach to call out.

It took a second too long for her to see what he’d tried to warn her about and so the pair of dragons that had been laying in wait among the treetops had taken her by surprise. She raced upwards, high over the island hoping to lose them among the fluffy white clouds. But before she could get herself quite that high, she felt one of the creatures grab the end of her broom and pull her through the air. She lost her grip completely and felt herself begin to free fall. Thinking as quickly as she could, she pointed her wand down and slowed her descent until she was able to lightly place her feet on the ground. Her relief quickly gave way to all out terror as she realized she landed right back where they had started… the dragons’ nest. Only this time she had no broom and she was completely alone.

(BREAK)

Harry had just used his wand to piece the broom he’d found in the woods back together when Luna’s scream echoed around him. He raced back onto the beach to catch an impossible sight- she was flying recklessly through the air as she tried to get away from all ten dragons. Seeing two of the beasts break off from the group and hide themselves among the trees he realizing what the rather intelligent creatures were planning to do. He tried calling out to her with his mind but while he could still feel that constant connection to her, it was as if someone had cut a wire somewhere and all he could hear was a dial tone. Throwing everything he had into it, he cupped his hands around his mouth and screamed out a warning to her, hoping she was able to hear him. If she did, it was too late. The other dragons had forced her to fly toward their trap and the two hiding leapt out to surprise her. She shot upwards but to no avail as one reached out and grabbed her broom. She fell off as the creature snapped the broom like a toothpick, making Harry’s heart stop for a moment. But this time she had her wand and was able to slow her fall, but when he saw where she landed his heart dropped entirely into his stomach. The dragons had seen her too and they all descended on their nest, intent on ousting the intruder.

Panic swept through him and he hurried to finish the final repairs on the broom. Hearing a motorized sound he quickly ducked out of the way as a boat carelessly drove up into the sand, allowing a familiar woman to jump down and face him. "Hello Harry." Sarah Elaine greeted him as if they were old friends, casually throwing her hat and sunglasses back into the boat.

"I don’t have time for you." He said. Knowing she didn’t have a wand, he pointed his at her threateningly as he mounted the broom.

"So I saw… seems your little friend fell into the wrong place." She grinned. "Care to have some help in retrieving her?"

Harry eyed her warily. "Why, so you can just kill us both?"

"Come now, let’s put the past behind us. We all act a bit irrationally sometimes. Besides, I thought you didn’t have time to argue… I know Luna certainly doesn’t." She pointed to the remains of his Firebolt, long forgotten a few yards down the beach. "Fix that up and lets go."

He had no choice, he needed help distracting the dragons so he could fly in and grab Luna. Handing Sarah the broom he’d been holding, he ran over and waved his wand, fixing his own broom as best he could… at least it was in flying condition if not properly calibrated for the best flight possible. Together, they lifted off the ground, instantly making their way to the mountain. Harry just hoped his desperation for help didn’t wind up being his downfall.

(BREAK)

Jacey wrapped Harry’s invisibility cloak tightly around herself and closed her eyes, doing her best to concentrate on apparating to just outside the quidditch pitch at Hogwarts. Of course, she was still getting the hang of the whole thing and so while she did get herself to Hogwarts, she was no where near the arena. In fact, she wound up inside the castle, just beyond the doors to the Great Hall. With a sigh of frustration, she made sure she was completely covered by the cloak before making her way outside.

Of course she had agreed to help keep an eye on Ron… she just had no idea why. He had made himself very clear that he wished to handle things on his own for awhile and she was tempted to back off and let him learn just how much he needed his friends. But she could never do that and not only because she truly believed this man Erebos would kill him… She also could not abandon Ron because some part of her knew that his end would mean her own as well. He had made a valid point the other night, they did not know each other, they had only just met and under the tensest of circumstances. And yet… clearly they were drawn to each other. She was more than willing to see what came of that attraction as she had already admitted that his letter is what ultimately made her decide to come here in the first place… she only hoped he would come to his senses long enough to-

She stopped dead in her tracks as she realized she may have arrived too late. Just beyond the arena, she saw two figures slip quickly into the Forbidden Forest and she was sure of at least one of their identities. The other she only feared she knew. Racing forward, she let the cloak fall away as soon as she was within the tree line so that she could run with more speed and less hindrance. At last she came upon them and realized she had been correct on both accounts, Ron and Erebos were a few yards ahead of her. She could feel Ron’s suspicion and uncertainty as he was led further into the trees.

"Parvati got your attention from way back here? Why were you in the woods?" He asked. Jacey was angry on his behalf, upset that the professor was willing to use such an open wound to trick him into coming out here.

Erebos turned around wearing a cruel and evil smile. "Sorry for the deception Mr. Weasley, but Parvati isn’t out here. I just needed a reason for you to come into the woods with me."

"Why?" Ron asked slowly, clearly trying to figure out what was going on and how to get out of it.

"To kill you." Erebos replied. Jacey saw his intention a moment before he raised his wand and did the first thing that came into her mind… She set his wand on fire. He screamed in pain, dropping the thing as he cradled his injured hand to his body.

Ron pulled out his own wand before turning to figure out just what had happened. "What are you doing out here?" He asked as his gaze locked in on her.

"Saving you it seems." She said stiffly, feeling hurt to still see anger under the surprise in his eyes as he stared at her.

The sound of someone slowly clapping filled the air. Jacey whipped around to find Elise McKinney coming out from behind one of the trees. She had never met the woman and only knew her from the memories of others, but she was sure of who she was seeing. "Well done." Elise laughed with genuine amusement.

"The little bitch burned my hand!" Erebos shouted, glaring at them all.

"Relax Dolos, I’ve burned you worse than that when you’ve angered me less." She laughed again. Then ignoring both males, she spoke directly to Jacey. "I had hoped you’d come. I was so very curious to find out who you are… but to see that you’re like me, well that brings on a whole new dimension doesn’t it? But I’m not as easy to dispatch as Dolos." She said, waving her hands and producing her own fire. "So come on, let’s see what you’re made of… we’ll consider this your audition."

Putting her wand in her pocket so that both of her hands were free, Jacey let the flames flare out of her bigger and with more of a flourish than Elise’s. Seeing that she had been one-upped, the woman did not hesitate to begin her attack, hurling balls of flame one after the other. Engulfing her entire body in fire, Jacey was able to absorb whatever Elise threw at her though she was starting to feel very warm. Run before this spreads! She thought out to Ron, not wanting him to get burnt.

I’m a bit busy at the moment. He answered. She glanced over to find him alternatively trying to put out the flames spreading through the forest and dueling Erebos who had retrieved the burnt remains of his wand and was trying to make it work with his undamaged hand. It seemed that every once in awhile the man was able to get the wand to perform his spell which only distracted Ron from his impromptu attempt at being a firefighter.

She tried reaching for her wand but Elise only renewed her efforts, making it clear that she intended this fight to be non-magical and leaving Jacey no choice but to fight fire with fire. It was more than Ron’s water spell could keep up with and if they didn’t find a way to end this soon, there was no telling how far the flames would spread. She did her best to focus on controlling and containing them to their small area but it lessened the amount of concentration she could give to the actual fight and found herself more on the defensive that she would have thought herself to be. She knew the fact that Elise didn’t care where the fire spread was giving the woman an edge over her but there was nothing she could do about that, she had to do her best to control the damage her power caused. Realizing they were going to need assistance and taking even more attention away from the battle, she called out to Draco as he was the only one left here that she trusted to ask for help. She hoped he made it in time.

"Jacey!" Ron yelled, bringing her full attention back to the moment at hand. Seeing that she’d been momentarily distracted, Elise had taken her chance and used everything she had to shoot a jet stream of fire directly at her. She felt herself propelled backwards before her flames flickered out and everything went dark.

(BREAK)

"What do you mean you have to go help Jacey?" Ginny demanded as Draco grabbed his coat. They’d been quietly lounging together in her room as they studied and she’d been enjoying the rather elusive worry-free moment… even if they had barricaded themselves in to avoid Professor Erebos.

Looking at his face, she could tell he wasn’t any more pleased with the idea of him leaving than she was. "Apparently Elise made it onto the school grounds and she and Erebos have your brother cornered out in the woods." He answered honestly, in too much of a hurry to attempt lying. "Trust me, the only reason I’m going is because I know that Erebos is out there too. Even so, stay in here and don’t open the door to anyone until I get back, okay?"

"Not okay. I want to go with." She insisted, moving to grab her coat as well.

"Please Ginny." He grabbed her by the shoulders and forced her to look at him. "I’ll be much more effective in providing the help Jacey and Ron need if I don’t have the same problem out there that she does."

"Meaning?" She demanded stubbornly.

"Meaning she’s in trouble because she’s distracted by thoughts of Ron and anyone else being hurt… I can’t be of much help if we add your welfare to our list of concerns."

"Need I remind you again that you aren’t an immortal god or even a superhero? You’re a normal guy who got stuck with a being a werewolf and are just as capable of burning to death as I am." She gripped his arms, unwilling to let him leave her sight.

"We don’t have time to argue. For once just humor me and stay here." He pleaded.

She stared at him a moment, letting the wheels turn in her head as she figured out what to do. "Fine, go. I promise I won’t follow you. Just be careful." She agreed at last, too worried about Ron and Jacey to keep him any longer.

He seemed suspicious but he had no choice other than to accept her agreement. Leaning in to quickly kiss her goodbye, he then turned and fled the room. Walking over to her window, she waited until she saw him zip across the school grounds… he was faster than any human she’d ever seen and she could understand why he liked going out to run so much- it must be impossible to think when moving so quickly.

Picking up her coat she fled her room, rushing through the halls and out the front door. She would keep her promise not to follow after him… but she wasn’t going to allow him to go alone. She entered the quidditch stands, climbing up to where the school staff sat. Unfortunately, the person she wanted to talk to was also sitting next to the person she’d hoped to avoid… but she couldn’t go back, three lives might be at stake, her brother’s among them. "Can we help you with something?" Lupin asked with a friendly smile as she approached him and Dumbledore.

Warily eyeing the Headmaster, she took a deep breath and spoke to Lupin. She knew it was best to keep mention of Jacey and Elise out of things with so many ears around and so she made her point as clear and concise as possible. "Draco ran out into the woods to try and stop Professor Erebos from killing Ron. They need help."

(BREAK)

Fred waited a good two minutes to be sure Elanya was gone before turning to lift the bottom of the tent behind them. "It’s now or never." He told Hermione. She nodded solemnly and taking her hand, he led the way as they ran from the only thing that had been able to protect them. He tried to repeatedly call out for Harry and Luna but neither of them answered. "It’s like they can’t hear me at all!" He said aloud in frustration as they carefully made their way through the trees, keeping an ear out for any sign of Elanya closing in on them.

"I think it has something to do with the energy field generated within all three islands." Hermione answered thoughtfully. "I read about it in that book… it interferes with most navigation tools, even the magical ones. It’s the main reason it’s so hard for people to find these islands. Maybe it also interrupts that certain brainwave frequency Harry and Luna use to channel their telepathic abilities."

"Whatever you say. All I heard is that we’re stuck finding them the old fashioned way." He tried to use his wand to direct him towards the nearest living human but the stupid thing kept pointing up. "Or not." He muttered, finally giving up.

"Unless…" She looked upward and he followed her gaze. There were several dragons still out and they seemed to be attacking their own nest. "You don’t think…?"

"I do now." He answered grimly, figuring the only answer was that their friends were up there and in a lot of trouble. "I guess we try to climb it." He walked toward the base of the mountain until he heard a small shriek of surprise that told him that Hermione wasn’t following. Turning he found her struggling to free her foot from a rather ugly looking plant. Originally mistaking it for some kind of shrub, they had walked by unaware… but now the thing had spread it’s leaves apart and was shooting out several tentacle-like protrusions that were attempting grab Hermione and pull her in. He raced back over, wildly waving his wand. But the plant seemed to be immune to magic and nothing he tried would make it stop.

"Let go!" She yelled as she kicked at the plant. Not knowing what else to do, Fred picked up a large rock and began slamming it down on the tentacles. The plant let out a pitiful sound, indicating it could feel pain. In an attempt to free herself, Hermione reached for another rock and helped him beat the tentacles away. Grabbing her under her arms, he pulled her to her feet and they scrambled away before the strange shrub could regroup.

"Well, that was something new." He said as they caught their breath. He’d certainly never come across a plant like this before in all his time wandering the island though he’d definitely found some weird ones. Of course, other than last night when he’d fled Elanya he hadn’t ever come this close to the base of the mountains. He gave silent thanks that he hadn’t passed by this thing in the dark.

"Let’s just keep going." Hermione seemed shaky but determined and so he nodded and went on, this time ensuring they remained side by side. It was a short walk and looking towards the sky, they were able to see that the way to the top of the mountain wasn’t exactly straight up… that was a good thing, making it less likely that they would fall to their deaths while attempting this. "Okay, we just need to find the right place to start." She said logically as she stood back and studied the rocky wall and several different paths up.

Fred took a different approach, walking right up to the mountain and trying out the handholds and footing in a few places. Taking a few more steps to the left, he reached to climb up only to feel the rocks give way under his hands. And then he was falling… falling… he slammed into the ground, knocking the breath out of him and sending shooting pains up and down his leg. "Fred!" He heard Hermione screaming his name.

"Yeah!" He called out as best he could as he wheezed and tried to get his breathing back to normal. "I’m alive!" He assured her more loudly once he was able.

"Yes, but are you okay?" She yelled down to him.

"I think my leg broke my fall." He shouted back, groaning in pain as he sat up to take a look at himself. Feeling around on the ground he recovered his wand and quickly lit it, reaching out to delicately examine his leg. "I don’t think anything’s broken!" He assured her. No, not broken… just really banged up. He’d definitely landed on it wrong and he could see the entire thing swelling from his knee down to his ankle.

"I’m going to float you up."

"Just give me a minute to gather myself." Putting as little weight on it as possible, he slowly climbed to his feet. Only once he was standing did he realize he seemed to hurt everywhere including the shoulder that had been broken last year during the quidditch match against Cho. It felt like it had popped out of place… stuffing the bottom of his shirt in his mouth to muffle any sounds of pain he might make, he grabbed his arm and roughly pushed upward. It hurt so badly that for a moment he was able to forget all about his leg, but then came the sense of relief that told him that he’d achieved the result he’d wanted, his shoulder was back in it’s proper place. Panting from the effort he wiped the sweat from his face and took a few steadying breaths. "Okay, ready!" He called out.

Instantly his feet carefully left the ground, leaving him to feel as though he were softly cradled in the hands of some invisible giant. He put his wand in his pocket as he rose up, wanting to have both hands free to help pull himself clear of the surprisingly small opening he’d fallen through. At last he was able to see Hermione, using her wand to direct his progress. Reaching up, he grabbed the edges of the rocky opening. "I need you to keep propelling me forward, I hurt my leg so I can’t get a good grip with my feet." He told her. She nodded and doubled her concentration, trying to only give him an extra boost as he struggled to pull himself free. Now being forced to use all the strength in his arms, he was glad that he’d gone swimming so much while he was trapped here and built up his muscles a bit.

"Expelliarmus!" Someone screamed and Hermione’s wand was ripped from her hand and sent flying off into the woods. Without her spell to aid him, he lost a bit of his grip and struggled through the pain to find a foothold lest he fall back down into the cavern. He scrambled to hold onto the rocks despite how sharp they were… once he felt steady, he was able to look up and see Elanya staring at them with a wide smile as she tauntingly waved her wand. "I’m sorry it took so long to dispatch those doubles you sent running out… it seems you’re a better conjurer than I thought."

"What do you want?" Hermione tried to reason with her as Fred struggled to use his injured leg to help push him through the hole. But the more pressure he tried to put on it, the more numb it seemed to grow… almost to the point where he wasn’t even sure it was there anymore. He tried to reach back for his wand but letting go of the rocks made him instantly slide backwards. He would need all the strength in his arms to pull himself out and until he did, Hermione was left to face Elanya alone and weaponless. Feeling a new determination, he decidedly placed his feet and pushed off with them, gritting his teeth against the pain. From there he was able to reach out a bit further… slowly but surely he began pulling himself out.

(BREAK)

"Jacey!" Ron shouted but he was too late. Something had distracted her long enough for Elise to get in a direct hit, sending her flying through the air and leaving her crumpled in the snow. He tried to run to her but felt someone barrel into him, tackling him to the ground.

"That’s between them!" Erbos yelled, pointing his destroyed wand directly in Ron’s face as he pinned him to the ground. "This here is between us!"

"I don’t even know who the hell you really are!" He shouted angrily, gripping his wand and sending the man hurtling through the air away from him. "Jacey!" He yelled again as he sat up and saw Elise bending over her.

"She’s indisposed at the moment." Elise called, straightening herself and turning to face him. He scrambled to his feet and pointed his wand with a water spell on the tip of his tongue and ready to be used. "So, her name is Jacey then is it?" She grinned and pulled out her own wand. "What else can you tell me about her?"

Ron, I am okay. I just need a moment to regain and focus my energies. He heard Jacey’s voice whisper through his head. Do not engage her… Draco is on his way to help.

Hearing that she was uninjured, relief swept through him so quickly his knees almost buckled out from under him. "Nothing to say?" Elise asked, bringing his attention back to her. "Dolos told me how you were the only one to be seen with the mysterious castle guest at the Costume Ball… he also told me how close you two appeared to be so I know you can tell me everything I want to know. Of course, seeing how reluctant you seem, I feel it’s best I remind you that I could always force you to tell me. Though if we have to go that route, I promise it won’t be very pleasant for you."

"What do you want to know?" He asked, hoping to buy time.

"Everything about her that you know."

"I know she’s a liar." He said quickly. "I know I can’t trust anything she’s ever told me and so I’ll gladly repeat every lie she’s ever said and leave it to you to sort out the facts." He pushed himself to feel as genuinely angry as possible, wanting the woman to believe there was no reason to think she’d be successful in using Jacey against him and vice versa... or even better, convincing Elise that she didn’t want anything to do with Jacey. He felt horrible, not just for what he’d said now, but also for the things he’d said in the past… and even after he’d uttered such horrible nonsense, she’d still come to try and help him. I’m sorry. He thought out. I’m sorry I said those things, I just want us both to get out of this.

I know. Jacey replied calmly.

"A good liar can be of great use." Elise nodded approvingly. "Unfortunately, it seems you are of no use at all."

GET OUT OF THE WAY! Jacey screamed in his head and he saw her leap to her feet behind Elise who had once again raised her hands to conjure her fire. Before he could wave his wand to shield, someone roughly crashed into him, practically lifting him off his feet and carrying them both away faster than Ron thought possible. It only took him a moment to realize who had just may have saved his life.

"We have to go back for Jacey!" He yelled to Draco who immediately turned them around.

As they approached the two girls still whipping fire at each other without much care as to what was around them, someone shouted "Impedimenta!" forcing Draco to trip and sending both boys sprawling to the ground.

Tightly gripping his wand, Ron leapt to his feet as Draco fought the spell he’d been hit with which was currently keeping him from moving any closer to fray. Erebos stood there, waving Jacey’s wand tauntingly. "Looks like your friend dropped this." He grinned. "Time to see how much you’ve really learned while you’ve been here at Hogwarts Mr. Weasley."

There was no time to be nervous, he instantly cast a shield having seen the man ready to throw a spell at him. Within a second he had retaliated by sending a freezing hex, but the professor took a page from Jacey and Elise’s book shooting a stream of fire from his wand that met the spray of ice coming from Ron’s. Using all of his concentration he repeated the spell, attempting to strengthen his position… but Erebos was just as determined and unrelenting.

"ENOUGH!" A booming voice surrounded them.

And then suddenly the duel was over as Erebos was bound from head to toe in front of him. Ron took several deep breaths and lowered his wand as Dumbledore and Lupin came forward. The spell meant to keep Draco at bay had finally worn off and he slowly walked up next to him. "Thanks." Ron said only loud enough for him to hear.

"Don’t mention it." He answered grimly.

Dumbledore walked over to stare down at his disgraced professor. "Well Dolos, it seems I’ve finally caught you in something you won’t be able to talk your way out of." He said with a slight yet triumphant smile.

(BREAK)

Looking around quickly, Luna spotted a small opening across the nest the seemed to lead into the mountain. She instantly ran towards it though she was uncertain even her short and slight frame could squeeze through. Intuition burned in her gut and she flung herself to the ground with a small scream of panic as she felt one of the massive beasts fly over her. Flipping onto her back she shot a stunner at the beast’s partner as it swooped in to make it’s own attempt at catching her. The spell seemed to bounce off the dragon’s hide, having no effect other than to anger the creature even more. Luna quickly rolled to the side as it snapped at her before flying off to give the next pair their turn with her.

Scrambling to her feet, Luna shot toward the cave opening. She was tempted to use her wand and blast the hole open wider, but she worried that might possibly disrupt the stability of the mountain. The last thing she wanted was to escape the beasts only to be buried in a landslide or cave-in. Throwing herself forward, she was just barely able to squeeze through, turning her body sideways to make it.

She screamed as she felt a sharp stab of pain and turned, using her wand to burn the dragon who had grabbed her arm before she could fully hide herself. This seemed to have more effect than anything else as the beast let out a mighty shriek of pain and let her go. Pulling herself further into the crevice, she was led down a bit into a larger cave where she tripped over something that rattled and rolled away from her foot. With a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach, she lit her wand and covered her mouth to hold back the scream of horror she wanted to unleash. Several bones littered the floor of the cave, and they seemed to belong to both animals and humans.

Remaining near the opening, she turned her back so she wouldn’t have to see any of it and instead focused on checking the damage done to her arm. Seeing two large bloody gashes in the sleeve of her coat, she shrugged it off feeling far too warm anyway. Tearing off the rest of the ruined sleeve of the shirt she had on underneath, she examined her skin and found that, while painful, the scratches didn’t seem to go too deep… While it had been happening, it had felt like her arm was nearly severed and she was more than a little relieved to learn that wasn’t the case. She quickly used the scrap of fabric that had once been her sleeve to wrap the wound and quell the bleeding.

"LUNA!" She heard Harry yelling desperately for her.

"I’M HERE!" She shouted back, forcing herself up through the narrow opening to return to the nest. Peering out from the hole, she caught the impossible sight of not only Harry, but also Sarah Elaine as they both zoomed through the air, working together to distract and divide the dragons. Luna watched in amazement as Sarah flew past several boulders, using her telepathy to knock them over onto the pair of dragons that had been pursuing her.

"Luna!" Turning her attention back to Harry, she saw that he kept swooping back and forth until he was able to taunt all of the dragons back into the air. They may not be able to communicate in their heads at the moment, but she knew him well enough to guess what he wanted her to do. As soon as the last dragon had taken flight, she ran out into the open where Harry could see her. Putting her wand between her teeth, she threw her hands in the air as he passed over and struggled to hold on as he reached out and grabbed her. Her arm was on fire with pain as she struggled to climb up onto the broom with him as they’d done at Lairmore, but she tried to push it out of her mind until she was safely seated behind him.

"You got it?" Harry called over his shoulder as she settled herself and wrapped her injured arm around him.

"Just fly, I’ll cast." She assured him, taking her wand from her mouth and turning to shoot a stream of fire at the two dragons that were just a few scant feet behind them, sending the beasts to dive away.

"This way!" Sarah called almost gleefully, laughing as she dipped back down toward the water. As they descended, Luna was able to make out yet another small boat streaking toward the island. Sarah flew them down towards it and with ten dragons fast behind them, Harry had no choice but to follow. Squinting a bit, Luna thought she was able to recognize the two people on the boat and as soon as she made the connection she knew she was right. "That’s impossible…" She said breathlessly.

"What?" Harry asked, turning his head slightly to hear her better. She could feel his frustration at not experiencing the complete access to her thoughts that he’d become used to having… she knew he felt this way because it was the same exact way she was feeling and it made them both uncomfortable.

"Watch where you fly!" Sarah happily called out a warning as the air suddenly exploded in a shower of flames all around them.

(BREAK)

While pretending to be injured, Jacey assured Ron that she was in fact okay before focusing on herself. She went into her own head, trying to gather her energies and refuel her fire. Sending her mind out, she heard him apologizing to her… I know. She answered him, and she did know that he genuinely felt bad for the way he had spoken to her only to discover that she would come to his rescue anyway.

And then Elise’s thoughts overpowered his and she was able to see that the woman intended to get rid of the only person there to witness whatever she had planned. GET OUT OF THE WAY! She screamed at Ron, as she lurched to her feet. She watched in horror as Elise unleashed a fiery blaze in his direction… which is the exact moment Draco swooped in, grabbing Ron and taking them both far beyond the fight. Jacey was thankful that she now had one less thing to worry about. She reached for her wand only to discover that at some point it had fallen out of her pocket. Cupping her hand, she formed a fast fireball and threw it at Elise, knocking the woman square in the back before she could light herself on fire to absorb the contact. This caused her not only to scream in pain but more importantly, to completely forget about chasing after the boys.

She quickly lit and extinguished herself before turning to Jacey. "And I thought it was only those on Voldemort’s side who struck people in the back."

"You do not know me or what I have been capable of in the past… I could have just as easily joined the other side." Jacey replied darkly, trying not to let herself think of anything in her past.

"Except there’s obviously something you want that Harry and his allies can provide you." Elise grinned. "Tell me what it is and I promise I can get it to you faster and with less difficulty that they ever could."

"I highly doubt that." She thought of what she wanted and knew the only way to get any of it was to remain loyal and trustworthy to those who had so totally accepted her. She had already lived the life Elise was offering and had only recently been able to throw off the shackles of that kind of existence… The one where you could trust no one and everyone used everyone else to further themselves, the one where you always felt alone and scared and were forced into being someone you are not in order to survive. She was ready for the life that came with being Harry’s ally and a member of the coven… She was ready for the kind of friendship you would risk your life for even after arguing and she was ready for the freedom of being able to say and do what she wanted, of being able to care about anything and everything, of being able to be herself.

"Come now, there must be something." Elise prodded. "Just imagine if you joined us, imagine the world after we win this war… we’ll be able to shape it into anything we want it to be. It’ll no longer be about wizards and muggles, it’ll be about those like us… those with power. It will be about psychics and non-psychics. You and I, we can cause as much destruction as we like here… but I truly think it would be in the best interest of all if we could reach some sort of agreement."

"So then you concede the fight." Jacey challenged, brushing off the woman’s poorly composed sales pitch.

"I’m dong no such thing." She assured her, once more lighting herself on fire in case Jacey decided to throw another ball of flame. She stared past her and smiled before once more meeting her eyes. "It looks like Dolos is about to wipe out Ron."

Not wanting to give Elise the satisfaction of distracting her, she quickly conjured the largest fireball she could and sent it flying at the woman at top speed, knocking her to the ground. Circling around so as to never have her back to Elise, she scanned the trees for Ron and saw him and Erebos dueling as Draco paced nearby, desperately trying to fight off whatever spell was keeping him from moving forward to help.

Checking on her own foe in this fight, she saw Elise reach out from the ground and point. Jacey leapt out of the way and used her arms to shield her head as the tree next to her exploded in flames. "ENOUGH!" A loud, authoritative voice reverberated through the trees. Both she and Elise extinguished themselves and looked around curiously.

Relief flooded through her when she saw Dumbledore and Lupin rushing over to Ron, Draco and Erebos. "Well, I guess this means it’s time to go." Elise smiled, shooting one more surprise blast of fire before turning and running off through the trees.

Jacey quickly dodged before running off after her. "No! Stop her!" She shouted as the woman passed within a few feet of Dumbledore. But Elise was prepared and quickly set several trees on fire as a distraction to keep them busy. Leaving it to the others to keep the flames from spreading, Jacey never slowed her pace and continued on in her pursuit. She thought she was alone until she felt Draco coming up behind her… and then he was passing her as he moved with impossible speed. Do not let her make it past the school’s boundaries! She called out to him. Unlike her, Harry and Luna, Elise was unable to apparate into or away from someplace protected by the protection charms… but if she made it past Hogwarts’ borders, she’d be able to go anywhere.

Seeing that Elise was only yards away from escaping, Draco pushed himself a little harder and mad a wild dive, tackling the woman around her legs and bringing her to the ground. Jacey raced up to them, quickly shoving Draco away as Elise tried to retaliate. He threw up a shield around himself to throw off the flames. "You have to let me leave, Harry and Luna’s lives may depend on my helping them." Elise said after calming her anger at being stopped so roughly.

"What do you mean?" Jacey and Draco demanded at the same time.

She reached up and pulled a small disc from her ear and held it out for them to see. "I’ve been in constant communication with Sarah since Elanya contacted Dolos and told him to let us know that your friends had finally arrived on the island to save Fred. Now she’s telling me that the dragons are awake and very much after Harry and Luna. We researched that island well before choosing it and learned everything we could about the dragons including reading the new book written by Charlie Weasley… those dragons aren’t the kind that breath fire, they’re scared of it. Now Sarah is trying to help, but they’re only three people against a horde of beasts. If I don’t go and help, two of your friends and one of mine might just become some pitiful creature’s meal." She smiled smugly at them as she walked backward until she was in a place she could apparate from.

Draco uncertainly raised his wand to stop her but Jacey grabbed his arm. "No." She said quietly.

Elise only grinned wider as she extended a hand out to her. "Come with me Jacey. We can work together just this once in the interest of saving our friends’ lives. After we can go right back into another firefight if you’d like... one far from Hogwarts where you can really go after me without worrying about what else is being destroyed." She offered.

Don’t do it… it’s got to be a trap. Draco silently warned her.

I know it is. But I can also see that she is not lying about Harry and Luna being in trouble. Jacey replied. Quickly making her choice, she rushed to take Elise’s hand and allowed the woman to whisk them away before Draco could stop them.

(BREAK)

Harry dodged to the left to escape the dragon only to have to swerve immediately right to dodge the fireball that shot past them. Luna had abandoned her attempt to use her wand and now held onto him tightly with both arms as it was clear that his flying was the only thing that was going to get them through this. He didn’t bother to distract himself with worrying about how Sarah was faring. She could be swallowed by a dragon or plummet into the ocean for all he cared, as long as he and Luna got out of this with their lives… Oh yeah, and Jacey who was inexplicably down on a boat with Elise as both girls flung fire in the air to chase off the creatures. He wished he could talk to Luna without turning and shouting, he wished they could discuss their options and what they thought it meant that Sarah and Elise were there seemingly to help. He felt cold and isolated being cut off… not only from her mind but from Hermione, Fred and Jacey’s as well.

"Head down to the boat!" Sarah called as she zoomed past them to lightly land and looked up expectantly.

"What do you think?" He called to Luna as he continued to make his way though fire and dragons.

"Jacey’s down there alone with the both of them!" She yelled back. "Like it or not, we have to go."

"I can’t be sure to dodge dragons with all three of us on the broom!"

"Then we’ll have to land and take the other broom back from Sarah! Then we can go find Fred and Hermione and get the hell out of here!" Luna squeezed him tightly in reassurance and buried her face in his back in preparation for the sharp drop he was about to make. Fixing his grip he shot straight down, streaking past several dragon until he was low enough for Jacey and Elise to send out fire flares to keep the beasts at bay as he softly set his feet down on the bow of the small boat. Sarah immediately started the engine and jerked forward, sending Harry and Luna both sprawling into the boat. She turned the wheel and swung around, speeding away from the island.

"What are you doing?!" Harry demanded as he and Luna helped each other to their feet.

"Getting us away from here, what does it look like?" She stared at him as if he were stupid before gesturing to the rear of the boat where Jacey and Elise were still using their power to fend off the four dragons intent on pursuing them beyond the island.

"No, we have to go back." He insisted. "Hermione and Fred are still there."

"So what?" Elise called over her shoulder. "They’re dead weight around your neck. Let them go."

"Elanya is still there too." Luna argued.

Elise fully turned to them and smiled. "So what?" She asked again. "Unlike you, I trust that my allies are more than capable of taking care of themselves… and unlike you, I could care less whether they live or die."

"I think this is far enough." Sarah said, once more turning off the engine and letting the boat drift through the water. They had apparently gone far enough to assure the dragons that they had no intentions of returning to their nest. The beasts had finally given up the pursuit and headed back home. "I didn’t think it would take all of this to get you to the island." She grinned.

"You wanted us to come here?" Harry asked doubtfully.

"Of course." Elise laughed. "We knew you’d want to come after Fred and so he proved his first use to us… there’s still more for him to do though."

"We just never thought it would take you this long to figure things out… Tristan must have kept you all pretty preoccupied." Sarah taunted. "Seems he’s disappeared from the castle though. Can’t wait to see where he turns up next."

Harry, Luna and Jacey stole glances at each other… it seemed that Elise and Sarah didn’t know anything about them having already killed Tristan. Yet again he wished he still had the power to go into their minds to see if it was true. "I thought he was supposed to making you both immortal in Voldemort’s name." He said, not wanting to give himself away while at the same time hoping to get a few more answers than Simon had been able to provide.

"We haven’t yet decided whether we’ll go through with that." Elise shared a smile with Sarah as if they were sharing some private joke. "We’re still weighing the pros and cons of immortality… but it’s important to always appear agreeable to Lord Voldemort." She laughed.

"But we’re getting off topic." Sarah reminded her. "I do believe they were about to ask why we wanted them here."

"It’s simple, we wanted to show just how capable we are in getting what we want and how strategic it would be for you three to join us." Elise explained to them. We figured someplace far from the influence of Dumbledore and your other friends would give us the chance to really make ourselves listened to rather than just heard."

"Big gestures are the only way to make people listen..." Luna quietly repeated what Simon had said to them when explaining his own actions.

Elise stared at her in surprise. "I’m glad you see my point. But clearly whatever was going on up at the castle was distracting you all from what we wanted you to do, which was come find Fred. It was taking so long that we figured sending in Dolos to rough up Ginny Weasley would make you focus… plus Elanya had told us she was having trouble getting Fred to cooperate so we figured it would be a win-win situation. Of course the stupid man is terrified of both Draco Malfoy and your friend Lupin for what they are, though he’s too proud to admit it. When Draco refused access to Ginny, making it clear that the only way Dolos was reaching her was through a fight with him, our less than courageous spy gave up. But then, to our delight we received word that you all had come to the island today anyway and we knew it was the perfect opportunity so Elanya ordered Dolos to kill Ron. Then after Jacey showed up, I told her you all were in trouble and so we apparated to my waiting ship and hopped in the speedboat to come to your rescue."

"So what happened back at Hogwarts?" Harry asked nevously, this time turning to address Jacey who he’d left in charge of looking after Ron.

"He is fine." She assured him and Luna. "Erebos may not be… last I saw, Dumbledore seemed extremely pleased to have him in custody."

"It doesn’t matter in the least." Elise assured them. "Why else do you think I left the idiot behind to whatever fate befell him? Even if he decided to turn on me, he knows nothing of any consequence… I’ve seen to that personally. And with only two weeks left for you all to be at Hogwarts, the man was entirely expendable." She stopped to smile at the faces they were all making. "Oh don’t look at me like that. He and I had a deal, I provided my part and he provided his. Just because he got caught doesn’t mean I had any obligation to help… he made his choice to become involved in this and now he knows he was dealing in things far above his head."

"A poor lesson to learn the hard way." Sarah lamented, shaking her head in mock grief before smiling brightly. "In any case, we got exactly what we wanted even if we had to sacrifice Dolos. Now we know Jacey."

"It’s okay, Dolos was very good at his job when he wanted to be." Elise cooed, reaching out to comfort Jacey who shoved her away. She went on as if Jacey wasn’t staring daggers of hatred at her. "He saw you and Ron at the Costume Ball, and putting two and two together, he figured you were the same mysterious person Dumbledore had been keeping in his office… the one Harry and all his friends made special trips up there to visit. We knew putting Ron’s life in danger would bring you running, especially if Harry and Luna were busy elsewhere."

"But Erebos really intended to kill Ron!" Jacey protested.

"So?" Sarah shrugged. "Who is he in all of this? He has no power or claim to greatness."

"Regardless your opinion of our friends," Harry stepped in to stop Jacey from punching Sarah in the face as it was clear she very much longed to do, "you’ve done all of this for no reason. We obviously want nothing to do with you." He looked at Luna, hoping their connection to each other was strong enough for her to understand what he wanted her to do. Sure enough he saw her nod slightly and take a small step sideways toward the broom Sarah had abandoned when she’d gotten on the boat. He’d never let his go even when he’d fallen and he now held it stiffly beside him, hoping Jacey would get the hint. Apparently, they didn’t entirely need their telepathy to communicate with each other… just a total understanding of how they all thought. Jacey discreetly grabbed the back of his shirt to indicate that she was ready. It had taken a matter of seconds but they were ready and so he quickly swung his broom so they could hop on as Luna lunged for the other one and together they zoomed up into the sky, sure to move fast enough to outrun Elise’s firing range.

"Let’s go find Fred and Hermione and go home!" Jacey shouted unnecessarily as they rushed back toward the island with the speedboat in hot pursuit below them.

(BREAK)

"What do you want?" Hermione asked, trying to hide the fact that she was scared.

"If I knew that I would already have it, wouldn’t I?" Elanya sneered. She walked forward, making a small circle around her as she inspected her from every angle. "So, you’re the reason Fred never gave in to me…" She came to stand directly in front of her, her golden eyes glaring with a deadly fire. "I just don’t get it. There must be something here that I’m just not seeing." She said with intentional meanness.

Hermione kept quiet, though there were about a million things that she would have liked to say in return. But without her wand, the last thing she wanted was to give the girl another reason to wish her dead.

"Nothing to say?" Elanya asked quietly. "That’s okay, I have my own way of finding things out." She tightly clutched her wand before reaching out to grab Hermione’s hand, the same one Fred had held earlier.

Hermione watched in horror as the girl’s eyes rolled up into her head and she fell forward. Elanya still had her hand in a death grip and dragged her down to her knees as she hit the ground… clearly she was having some sort of vision of the past. Hermione tumbled back as she wrenched herself free. For a brief moment she considered going into the bushes to look for her wand but remembering her last encounter with strange foliage, she decided it would be best to take Elanya’s before she woke up. She crawled over and tried to pry the girl’s fingers apart.

"Not so fast!" Elanya screamed, coming out of her trance or whatever she was doing, tackling Hermione to the ground and shoving her wand against her throat. Choking and coughing, she pushed against the wand as she struggled to breath but Elanya had locked her arms and was unrelenting. She leaned in close to Hermione with an evil smile. "I saw all the memories you shared together. It was very sweet but not at all what he needs… I’m sorry but it has to end this way."

Reaching deep inside herself, Hermione gathered every bit of strength she had and getting her legs under the other girl, she kicked out and managed at last to get her off. Grabbing at her throat in relief as air once more made it’s way to her lungs, she struggled to her feet, not wanting to be caught unaware. Elanya was already standing and pointing her wand. "You’re right, what fun is it to just end your life like that?" She sneered as she dusted herself off. "It’s much more fun if you have the illusion of escape isn’t it… go ahead, I’ll give you a head start. Run."

"No." She coughed out. Being forced to give all of her attention to the psychotic girl, she had no idea whether Fred had fallen again and broken his neck, but she couldn’t just leave… especially when it was most likely that Elanya would catch her anyway.

"Well, that’s your prerogative." She smiled with demented delight and got ready to cast. "I wish I could say it’s been nice knowing you."

Hermione closed her eyes and waited for impact. "Protego!" Fred shouted suddenly from behind her before shooting another spell straight at Elanya that sent her flying several yards back through the trees until she hit one hard enough to knock her out. She turned to find him sprawled on the ground, sweating and panting from the effort of pulling himself free with a leg that even from here looked extremely swollen. "Accio wand." He called tiredly in the direction Hermione’s wand had flown earlier. It shot into his hand, which he held out to her as she rushed over.

"Are you okay?" She asked, taking the wand and kneeling next to him.

"I’m really not sure." He answered, groaning in pain as she helped him sit up. His hands were bleeding from the rocks, but other than that and his leg, nothing else seemed too serious.

"Ferula." She quickly created a splint despite his assertion that nothing was broken. After all she couldn’t exactly carry him, she needed him to be able to walk. "That should help. And we’ll find an old branch or something for you to use as a cane to help put your weight on it."

"Wonderful." He agreed, tightly closing his eyes as he presumably thought of the torment of being forced to move at all, let alone to walk.

"We have to find Harry and Luna. They’re the only ones who can get us out of here." She pressed.

He nodded weakly. "I know. Go find a branch and let’s do this." He said, trying to rally himself.

They both kept an eye on the spot Elanya had landed as she ventured into the trees to look for a piece of wood long and sturdy enough for their purpose. At last she found one and rushed back over to help Fred climb to his feet. Throwing his other arm around her shoulders, he was eventually able to find a way to use both her and the make-shift walking stick to his best advantage as he hobbled along. "Should we call out for them since they can’t seem to hear us in their heads?" She asked looking up at the sky and finding it empty.

"I don’t know… either it’ll bring them to us, it’ll bring someone else to us or it’ll be useless because they were eaten by the dragons that now seem to have calmly returned to their nest." He answered gloomily.

"Well, that’s the kind of attitude that’ll get us through this." She said sarcastically.

"Sorry." He muttered. "I think our best bet is to go down to the beach. If they’re still out there somewhere, that’s the best place for them to see us. Calling out would only tell Elanya exactly where we are."

"Okay then." She smiled.

He wrapped his arm more tightly around her shoulders and sighed. "I’m glad you came to rescue me… I’m not used to playing the damsel." He grinned.

"Yeah well, it’s no picnic being the white knight either." She laughed. "It’s far too much pressure."

They walked on in comfortable silence, as happy as they could be given their situation. To his credit, Fred didn’t request that they stop to rest until they’d actually made it all the way down to the beach and out in the open. Moving over to a group of small boulders, she helped him sit while keeping the rocks and water at their backs and their eyes able to see the tree line and anyone who may wander out of it. "Did you hear that?" He asked after a short while, shading his eyes as he searched the afternoon sky.

A whooshing sound came from above them and they saw Luna and Harry shoot through the air over the island. "Is there someone on Harry’s broom?" She asked, trying to figure out who it could be.

"Who cares? Now is the time to yell and get their attention." He said, struggling to use the rock to help push himself to his feet. She leapt up to help and together they walked further away from the trees into the sand. "Here they come again!"

They yelled and waved their hands until at last Harry caught sight of them and began flying towards them. Feeling something moving over her foot, Hermione looked down and gave a small shriek as several large sea crabs scuttled across the sand towards them. "Oppugno!" Elanya yelled from the trees, pointing her wand at Fred and sending the tiny creatures she’d conjured after him.

Hermione tried to help fend them off but suddenly found herself dragged backwards by an invisible force only to end up at Elanya’s feet. "That should keep him busy enough for us to finish what we started." She leered down at her.

(BREAK)

These stupid crabs just weren’t behaving normally, acquiring a mob mentality as they swarmed over each other to reach Fred. He tried to limp after Hermione and Elanya who had taken to dueling each other further up the beach but between his already injured leg and the sharp claws continually piercing the skin of the good one, it was all he could do to keep from falling over. Using his wand and the stick he’d been carrying as a crutch to fend the little pests off, he slowly persisted forward while looking to the sky to see why Harry and Luna hadn’t landed to help them yet. He saw that they’d become involved in their own battle out over the ocean as a boat raced toward the beach. Once of the people aboard was shooting fireballs and streaks of flame into the air while the person riding with Harry returned the fiery attack. Luna was swooping in, waving her wand and stirring up some waves in an attempt to keep the boat from reaching the island… but it was clear the person driving cared nothing about the boat, damaging it beyond repair as it was battered by Luna’s spells. He was so busy watching them that he wasn’t quite watching where he was going anymore… pain shot through his foot as he felt himself step on one of the crabs. Using the walking stick, he tried to regain his balance but his foot sank into the sand and feeling himself going down, he stretched out his arms to break his fall.

Quickly flipping over on his back, he dropped the stick and wildly waved his wand but to no avail. The creatures were all over him in an instant, looking much larger and more angry now that he was eye-level with them. There were so many, he felt as if he were being crushed under their weight as they piled on top of each other, all trying to pinch and pierce his skin. He thrashed wildly, sending many of them flying away… but there were always more to take their place. Panic settled over him as he realized that he was unable to get up and the crabs were taking the opportunity to bury him.

(BREAK)

Luna gripped the broom tightly, terrified that she was going to fall off as the smallest of visions suddenly washed over her to give a warning of what was coming. It was brief enough that she didn’t completely lose consciousness but detailed enough to save her life. Quickly dodging to the left away from Harry and Jacey, she turned to see a fireball explode where she’d been only a moment ago.

"You okay?" Harry called as Jacey gripped him tighter before turning to return the flames Elise was sending.

"I’m fine!" She yelled back as she swerved another fireball. The boat had snuck up on them and Luna was amazed to discover that her vision had served not only to warn her of the fire, but that for some reason those girls had decided they no longer cared if she lived or died. She wasn’t sure what had changed, but from the way Elise continued to throw fire at her alone assured Luna that at some point, her life became less valuable to them than Harry and Jacey’s… And so they were attacking her to distract them all from the fact that they were approaching the island where Hermione and Fred were clearly having trouble.

Deciding to do what she could to keep them from once more reaching the beach and carry out whatever they had planned next, Luna swooped in low and used her wand to conjure up some violent waves that tossed the little boat around. She grinned in satisfaction to see Elise nearly fall overboard… unfortunately it wasn’t enough to deter Sarah who drove on despite the destruction being caused to her boat. She waved her wand again, strengthening the charm and creating bigger and more brutal waves… and then she saw the larger ship on the horizon, quickly heading in their direction. Distracted, she hovered in the air for a moment as she tried to figure out who could be aboard.

"Luna look out!" Jacey yelled at the same time her intuition screamed in her head to turn. She was less than a second too late and the very back of her broom was caught in the fiery stream.

Feeling herself begin to plummet, she shot toward the beach. As soon as there was solid ground below her, she rolled off the broom only to find herself surrounded by tons of crabs. She quickly got to her feet but the creatures didn’t seem to have any interest in her and following their progress with her eyes she was able to see Fred further away, thrashing about as all of the crabs went about attacking him. Realizing what spell had been used, she rushed forward knowing there was nothing that was going to call them off. Ignoring the ones that pinched her as she reached down to help him get up, she saw that one of his legs was in a makeshift splint. Throwing his arm over her shoulder, she got a better hold and together they were able to lift him off the ground and get him standing.

"Thanks." He panted out, trying to catch his breath as they both used their wands to keep the crabs at bay. He pointed ahead of them, his eyes wide with concern. "Now forget about me and go help Hermione… I can’t move quickly enough."

She looked over to see the girl dueling heavily with Elanya. They both looked tired but other than a few scrapes and bruises they hadn’t seemed to make any headway against each other… The landscape around them was a different story as shattered and uprooted trees littered the beach. Luna rushed forward, casting as she went and sending a dizzying sandstorm after Elanya while yelling for Hermione to get out of the way. But before her spell could reach it’s target, it was suddenly pushed harmlessly out to sea.

Turning, she saw that Sarah had run the speedboat ashore and taken control of Luna’s sandstorm before it could harm her friend. Harry and Jacey grounded as Elise jumped down from the boat to join Sarah on the sand. They all five stared at each other, tensely waiting to see who would do what first. On one side of their group, Hermione and Elanya had resumed their duel as they now each were trying to keep the other from going to assist their friends… on the other side, Fred was still stuck fighting with nature while struggling to keep himself from falling over again.

The blaring sound of a ship’s horn shattered the air and Luna nervously looked up to see how the dragons took to it. Several loud shrieks erupted from the nest but apparently they had sensed there was no direct threat to them and remained safely where they were. "It seems our ride out of here has arrived." Sarah grinned. "Who’s coming with us?"

(BREAK)

Harry tried to follow Luna right away as he saw her broom catch fire, forcing her to land, but clearly Elise was having her fun and kept him dodging flames as Jacey tried to retaliate from the back of the broom. "They are about to pull ashore!" Jacey pointed out, yelling in his ear.

"Keep our path clear!" He instructed, tightening his grip and heading straight for the beach as she ensured Elise wasn’t able to hit them. He landed as lightly as he could so that Jacey could get her feet under her before hurrying over to Luna who had been trying to help Hermione until Sarah stepped in.

He tried to think, to figure out what to do next… it was impossible to plan without knowing what everyone was thinking and as he, Luna and Jacey stared down Elise and Sarah, Harry found himself wondering how he’d ever managed before fully awakening that part of himself. A loud horn startled him from his thoughts and he looked out over the water to see a large ship anchored and three rowboats full of people making their way to the beach. "It seems our ride has arrived. Who’s coming with us?" Sarah asked, looking around at them all with a mad grin.

Jacey and Luna looked at each other and then to him, it was clear they were as upset as he was that they were unable to plan. "Can we discuss this among ourselves?" He boldly asked… after all, as far as Elise and Sarah knew, they were all bound to the island by the anti-apparation charms and thought they could provide the only way out.

Elise eyes him warily. "I’d be quick about making a decision." She reluctantly agreed, gesturing over her shoulder. "Whether they like it or not, everyone aboard that ship is under our control… not to mention your two friends seem to be struggling quite a bit."

Carefully grabbing Luna’s uninjured arm he pulled her and Jacey further away and lowered his voice so only they could hear him. "Okay, Luna when I give the signal, run and grab Fred and get yourselves back to Hogwarts. Jacey and I will go get Hermione and follow right behind you." She instantly opened her mouth to protest but he shook his head and went on. "If we haven’t come back in ten minutes, then go get Lupin and Draco… go get Dumbledore if it makes you feel better… Just bring them back here to help."

She stared at him for a moment, clearly unsure that this was the best plan. But it was the only one they had and she must have realized it. "Fine, ten minutes and not a second more." She finally agreed.

"Okay then." Harry took her hand and held it tightly before turning to Jacey. "I need you to keep Sarah and Elanya back as best you can while I go help out Hermione… as soon as we’re able, apparate to the Shrieking Shack okay?" Jacey nodded and rubbed her hands together as she prepared to unleash more of her power than she’d been able to in a more populated place.

"Well?" Elise impatiently called from behind them. "What’s it going to be? Come with us voluntarily or wait until our little minions row ashore to force you to onboard with us against your will?"

"Seeing as how there’s still much about us that you don’t know, we’re going with option C." Harry answered. He felt Luna tense next to him as she prepared to run. "Now!" He shouted. Jacey unleashed a towering wall of fire, sending it to encircle Elise and Sarah. The flames raged, flickering over seven feet high and with more strength than anything he’d seen her conjure before.

"That will take her a minute to deal with." Jacey grinned.

Harry watched Luna rush over to Fred and waited until she had grabbed his arm and apparated them both away before turning to help Hermione. "Just keep them busy." He instructed before walking over to help take care of Elanya and get off this island and back to Luna.

"Harry!" He heard Jacey yell out a warning and turned to see several large boulders flying at him. He ducked to the ground and threw a shield around himself but it became quickly clear that Sarah hadn’t been trying to kill him as the rocks settled and entombed him.

"Cave Inimicum!" He heard Elise yell, strengthening the rocks and ensuring he was effectively trapped.



NOTE: More to come soon!

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