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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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."
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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?"
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!