(An hour earlier)
It was dark, but warm. When Hermione came too, she felt herself lying on something scratchy and rough, irritating her skin. As she tried to open her eyes her head burst with pain.
“Does Potter know yet…” a scratchy high -pitched voice sounded from somewhere very near.
Immediately Hermione closed her eyes once again, suddenly aware that she was not alone. The events of the last hour came back to her mind in a rush of sound and vision. The man at the game, asking her questions about Harry, fooling her into thinking he was interested in him because of the game… then he had a wand on her; she had escaped far enough ahead of him to hide in the only place she could see in the near distance, Hagrid’s house. But he found her there… the wand fight; he had finally subdued her. She remembered being tossed unceremoniously over his shoulder…he stepped into Hagrid’s unlit fireplace, threw some powder, and they disappeared in a cloud of green smoke and fire. She must’ve passed out again, because here she was, in this strange place, with no idea where he’d taken her…
“No my lord, he’s still in the game. B..But he will know soon enough…”
The voice was the voice of her captor, but the other…who did it belong to? She had never actually heard Voldemort’s voice; it had only been described to her by Harry, and then not with much detail, as Harry never liked to talk much about the dark lord or his experiences with him. Her mind wouldn’t allow her to process such horrible information. Surely her captor had taken her for other reasons… he wasn’t in with Voldemort… not him… He didn’t seem the type, although in reality, neither had Professor Quirrel.
“And the cloaking spell… has it held out?”
The servant paused for a moment. He knew it never boded well to lie to Voldemort. He always saw right through it…especially when the lie was coming from one of his own. Somehow coming into allegiance with the dark lord gave him a hold on the person’s mind, not in the controlling sense, but as if he could tell what you were thinking, and feeling. So, as the cloaking spell no longer mattered, the servant opted for the truth.
“I…I forgot to recast it, my lord…but he never saw my face. I was outside of the Gryffindor common area early this morning, and I heard him scream…I knew the password, so I peeked in to look, and the boy was on the floor, clutching at his forehead…I…I know he felt my presence, b..but he didn’t see me…I made sure of that…”
“Fool! You could have ruined everything!” The other’s voice screeched in an unearthly roar, “Had Potter decided to run to his door, at that very instant the plan would have fallen apart!”
Hermione heard a swish, but curiously no footsteps as the obvious head of the operation crossed the room to where his accomplice stood.
“M…my lord!” the servant stuttered, obviously backing away a bit, “B…but he didn’t! I…I captured Granger without a hitch! And by now, surely he knows she’s gone, and from what I understand of their relationship… Th…they’re very close… He’ll be looking for her right now!”
When he replied, the head conspirator’s voice was low, and very dangerous. “And that fact is the only thing that’s keeping you alive at this moment.”
“Y…yes, my lord…I understand…I’m sorry, I should have been m…more careful…b..but she is here, and no one is the wiser…”
“Yes, and now for the rest of the plan,” said the scratchy high pitched voice. “Return to Hogwarts, and tell Potter that I have Granger. Lead him back to me. Remember, if you succeed, I have the ability to give you power beyond anything you’ve ever experienced, as my right hand… but if you fail… the consequences will be dire indeed.”
The servant stuttered a reply, and walked quickly over to the unlit fireplace, stepping into it. With a whoosh of green flames and smoke he was gone, leaving Hermione alone with the head captor.
Through barely opened eyes, she saw him get up, and point his wand towards the fireplace. The energy that shot out of the wand was a deep red, and it immediately kindled a fire that glowed a deep, unearthly ruby. Then he moved towards a doorway that obviously led to a different room. If only she could see his face; he wore a long black cloak with a large hood that completely covered his features. She would feel much better prepared to fight if she could see her captor.
The mysterious man took one glance in her direction, and moved silently out of the room.
Hermione lay for some time, making sure that he was not coming back anytime soon. Finally, when he didn’t re-emerge, she pulled herself up to her knees, her first and immediate thought being of escape. As soon as she fully opened her eyes, though, her head burst again with a fresh wave of pain. She brought trembling fingers to her forehead, probing, and they came back sticky and red with blood.
As her vision began to focus more clearly, she found herself on a scratchy, dirty wool rug just a few feet from the hearth.
The fire, which could have been warm and inviting like the ones at Hogwarts, instead gave off an extra-ordinary heat and crackled and danced a glowing deep ruby, throwing the whole room into an eerie red glow.
As her eyes focused on the fire, she finally noticed something horrible that made her instantly recoil.
A large python slept curled up near the hearth, only feet away from her. Its diamond shaped head told her all she needed to know about whether or not it was poisonous. The snake was capable of crushing, or poisoning its prey to death, but thankfully, it still had not stirred.
As deathly still as possible, Hermione began to take in the rest of her surroundings.
The cabin was medium sized, with two wooden pillars on either side of the main door. Only a few chairs adorned the room she was in, along with a small pantry, a bookshelf full of spell books, a few barrels and boxes, and a broom and cauldron.
As she was in the library so often at Hogwarts, she recognized most of the books as Dark Arts copies, that were usually in the restricted section.
Hermione’s eyes rested on the door between the pillars, and her thoughts turned toward her wand. As she put her hand to the pocket of her robe, she realized that it wasn’t there. Frantically she began to pat herself down, and found nothing. Of course he would have taken it…
She closed her eyes as a wave of nausea washed over her. She was defenseless.
As she slowly stood to her feet, keeping her eyes peeled for her captor, she darted her eyes around the room, finally focusing above her at the mantle, high above the fireplace.
There, blessedly sticking out a bit over the lip was her wand. She felt her heart flip anxiously. If she could just find something to stand on she may be able to reach it.
Still sensing no one around her, she found a short, hollow barrel on the far side of the room, and tip-toed over to it, carrying it as quietly as she could back to the fireplace. She climbed on top of it, precariously balancing as her fingers reached for the tip of her wand.
“That wouldn’t be wise.” The hoarse high-pitched voice sounded from a dark corner of the room. Voldemort smiled mirthlessly in the dark. He had apparated there a few minutes ago, having spotted Hermione trying to make her escape, and watched her in mild amusement. After all, why not have a little fun while he waited for Potter?
Startled, Hermione felt herself tipping off of the barrel and screamed, trying to regain her balance. But before she could, her captor held out his wand and bellowed, his voice like fingernails on a blackboard.
The barrel under Hermione exploded into fragments and she fell with a hard thud to the floor.
As she struggled to pick herself back up she shook so hard she could barely make her body obey, besides the fact that the fall had split open a large gash on her left knee.
Willing her body to move, she turned to peer into the dark corner, searching for the face that owned the voice. She saw nothing in the blackness until two red slits began to open and focused their unearthly gaze in her direction.
Hermione backed away, stumbling in panic. It couldn’t be…so close to school grounds… But if she hadn’t known the voice, the eyes were unmistakable…Harry had told both her and Ron about the eyes that no one else in the wizarding world could own…
The face of her captor began to take form as he rose and began to glide toward her, his feet not seeming to hit the floor.
The hideous red eyes seemed to be widening in pleasure. The ghostly pale face held a pair of slits for nostrils and a sickening skeletal like grin.
Hermione backed away, glancing left and right for something… anything to help her. She felt herself back into a corner, being able to go no further, and cowered back as far as she could.
Voldemort chuckled as he remembered a ridiculous Muggle expression…”deer in the headlights.” Granger seemed to personify just that at the moment.
Gasping for air and shuddering violently, Hermione forced herself to glare bravely into his eyes.
“I know who you are, Tom Riddle…I know why I’ve been brought here. If you think Harry’s gonna be foolish enough to come out here alone to face you, you’re out of your mind!”
“Oh, but he will…” said Voldemort cackling again in a throaty, scratchy voice. Then he simply pointed at her chest with his wand.
Hermione glanced down to see the necklace that Harry had given her just a couple of nights ago glowing brightly in the already reddish glare of the room.
Quickly she grabbed the pendant shielding the light from Voldemort as if somehow she could protect Harry by doing so.
Voldemort smiled mirthlessly. “I already know about it… My servant, worthless as he may seem, did make it a point to follow Potter around the school… He’s filled me in on all of his exploits. It glows when Potter thinks of you…It actually hasn’t stopped since you’ve been here. Quite touching, really.”
Hermione gripped the pendant tighter, forcing the point of the heart to dig painfully into her palm.
Voldemort glided closer to her until he was only yards away.
“I know he will come for you. And when he does, he’ll be out of school grounds and out of Dumbledore’s protection. When he’s dead, I’ll be restored to my full power. So you see… I will kill him.” Again he grinned, delighted in his own plan.
“No!” Hermione began to sob. She looked up at Voldemort with pleading eyes. “Take me…take me instead…Don’t hurt him…”
Voldemort had had enough. Again he raised his wand angrily.
The curse hit Hermione in the chest, splitting the chain from her neck and smashing her back against the corner. She slid to the floor in a heap, her school robes billowing around her like a blanket.
Voldemort turned with a swish of his cloak and floated to his chair, throwing himself into it angrily.
As she lay on the floor, struggling to breathe, Hermione willed herself to reach out as far as she could with her hand and grasp her necklace, dragging it back to her.
Having no more strength, she held it to her face, only vaguely aware that the pendant had become so hot due to the constant glowing that her tears hissed off of it as water would when dropped on a hot stove.
With a last glance at the ruby colored heart, Hermione closed her eyes and let blackness engulf her.
Nagini lifted his diamond shaped head and hissed to Voldemort.
“You’re right Nagini…she is a fool. No one matters but Potter…no one.”
Harry skidded to a halt in front of the fat lady and spoke in a hoarse voice, his heart beating wildly.
“Well it’s about time,” replied the lady haughtily, “The new curfew was an hour ago…”
“Just open up!” Harry yelled angrily. He dropped his gaze and looked at her almost in warning.
The portrait gaped. She’d never in her whole existence been spoken to in such a manner… But feeling curiously intimidated, she complied.
“I never in all my life…” she sputtered as she creaked open, “How rude and insolent…”
Harry almost threw himself through the doorway. Instantly he was set upon by as throng of Gryffindors; students and Quidditch teammates alike.
“Harry, I’m so sorry…”
“Did you find her? Any trace?”
“The teachers questioned everyone…Every body turned out clean…”
“Is that her scarf your holding!?” This was Ginny Weasley, who had become very close to Hermione in the past year. Her voice was so tight with emotion that it came out in a squeak.
Harry looked at her and nodded. His eyes were haunted enough that she knew something terrible had happened.
“Where’s Dumbledore?” began the questioners again.
“I heard about Hagrid’s hut…What happened?”
“Where’s Ron!?” It came out in more of a roar than Harry had intended, but everyone seemed to understand, and backed off a bit.
“He’s upstairs,” said George Weasley, “He hasn’t been able to talk to anyone…He’s bloody messed up…”
Harry nodded curtly and wove his way through the crowd, taking the steps to the boys dorms two at a time.
He ran over to Ron’s bed and yanked the curtains back.
“C’mon Ron…We need to go to the library, now.” It was more of a demand than a request.
Ron, sitting Indian-style on his bed, just continued to stare down at his hands. If Harry’s voice was strident, he didn’t notice.
“I’m so sorry, Harry.” His voice came out in a high-pitched croak, in-between breathing and sobbing. “I’m so sorry.”
“No time for that,” said Harry quickly, “Let’s go…I need you…”
Ron looked up at him numbly. “What for… I failed you…I failed her…”
“Don’t be daft!” Harry almost yelled. He grabbed Ron’s arm and yanked him up.
Ron was approximately the same height and weight as Harry. If he had wanted to fight, he certainly could have given Harry a challenge.
Instead he continued to stare at him numbly.
Harry gritted his teeth and began to shake his best friend.
“Ron this isn’t like you!…C’mon, snap out of it…I need you!”
Ron just shook his head.
“Don’t make me hit you!” Harry yelled, mindless of the frustrated tears beginning to spill down his face. He balled up a fist and held it back to strike him, but dropped it just as quickly, knowing he’d never do it.
“Ron, Dumbledore said something to me tonight…He said grief can be used to help you, but despair will take away all hope.”
Fresh tears welled up in Ron’s eyes and he swiped at them absently.
“Ron, I need your help…Dumbledore said that we should search out our answer, just like we always have… I think he’s right.”
Slowly Ron looked up, regaining some of his old fire as he saw it burn in Harry.
“In the library…”
Harry nodded, searching Ron’s face.
“I think you’re right.” Ron smiled a little and Harry was reassured. He needed his friend to be strong. He needed it to help him be strong…for Hermione.
Harry began to run out of the door, Ron at his heels until Ron skidded to a halt.
Ron jogged back to his bed and reaching his school trunk, he thrashed it open and grabbed his crystal ball, a parchment and a quill.
“Somehow I think we might actually use this.”
Harry gave him a quizzical look but nodded.
Both ran downstairs and towards the common room, but Harry ran to Ginny before leaving and placed his hands on her shoulders, looking at her intently.
“I know you’ve been asked this Ginny, but you really didn’t recognize the man you left Hermione with?”
Ginny turned red-rimmed eyes up to Harry. “I didn’t see his face. After I bought Hagrid’s food, Hermione was already talking to him. She was over by the field gate, but he was mostly hidden behind part of the tower. She saw me coming over and waved me back. She said she’d be back up in a few minutes.”
A fresh sob escaped her lips. “How I wish I’d have gone over anyway to see who she was talking to… I should’ve known… No one else was down there and the concession stand was turned away from them…no one saw them but me…”
Harry grabbed her in a swift hug, releasing her quickly. “Don’t do that…You’re not responsible.”
Ron walked over and put a hand on his sister’s cheek.
“We’ll find her Ginny…just keep your hopes up.”
Ginny nodded mutely and watched as her brother and Harry once again wove their way past the mob of Gryffindor students and pushed open the portrait door, letting it slam shut behind them.
Harry had had the foresight to grab his father’s old invisibility cloak as he knew that it was after curfew. Even if it wasn’t he knew the Hogwarts drill. Whenever anything really bad happened, students were usually confined to their common rooms, as was the case now.
Holding the cloak up over he and Ron, they tried to jog as silently and in sync as possible towards the library, making sure to keep an eye out for Filch and Mrs. Norris.
As they finally reached the library and looked around silently for anyone else, they make their way to the restricted section of the huge room, both secretly feeling that the answer would lie there.
The wrought iron gate that separated the section from the other part of the library was kept locked, although neither Harry or Ron knew why, as it was easily charmed open.
Harry pulled out his wand as Ron’s arms were full and whispered.
The lock on the gate fell into Harry’s outstretched hand and he placed it quietly on a table.
He swung open the gate, which creaked a little too loudly for their comfort, and he and Ron entered.
As Harry removed the cloak and Ron and he were visible again, both realized with a shudder just how much they hated the library’s restricted section. Even the feel of the area was different; almost darker somehow.
Both boys muttered Lumos, the tips of their wands lighting, and both decided to take different paths through the section.
“What’m I looking for,” asked Ron flatly, his pale face barely illuminated by his wand.
“I don’t know,” said Harry, “I really don’t. Maybe a book on summoning charms…anything.”
Ron swallowed roughly. He had really hoped that Harry had a plan, but Harry looked just as lost as he was. Ron suddenly looked down at Harry’s left hand.
“What’d you still have that for?”
Harry glanced down, and with a start, he realized that he hadn’t let go of Hermione’s scarf since grabbing it back from Dumbledore.
“I…I don’t know.”
With a haunted expression, Harry fingered the scarf, unwilling still to put it down.
Ron nodded in understanding. “See you in a bit.”
As he watched Ron round the corner of one of the bookshelves, Harry faced the one beside him, bringing his wand up to look at the titles.
Goblin Uprisings of the 1650’s…The Dark Arts: A History of Evil…Lost and Found: Magical Incantations for the Unknown…
The third book caught his attention. Hermione’s whereabouts were unknown. She was lost…at least to them. Maybe this was what they were looking for. His heart gave a hopeful leap as he pulled the book from the shelf and placed it on the table.
Not willing to call Ron back yet for fear that he was wrong, Harry sat down and opened the book, gently placing Hermione’s scarf down on the table beside him.
And that’s when it began.
Harry’s eyes were on the first page of the dusty volume, scanning the index when he saw a flash of red light beside his left hand.
Slowly he lifted his gaze, moving it over towards the glow and saw it coming from the scarf.
He was too startled to speak. Four or five brilliant red strands of light began running in straight lines and twisting together, forming themselves into what appeared to be a small note, secured with a thread of the red light, fastened to one corner of the scarf.
When the paper was through materializing, the only light that remained was that of his wand and the thready beam that attached the note.
Not caring what dark magic might have produced it, Harry tore the note off of the scarf and unfolded it, his eyes greedily eating the words, which again were written in a strange electrical red.
As you are reading this, it is safe to assume that you are finally alone with the scarf, or else the note would not have materialized. It is for you, and you alone.
I am a servant of the dark lord Voldemort. As per his instructions, I have taken what he has determined to be most precious to you.
If you want her back alive, you must meet him alone past the Forbidden Forest in the dark forest of Kavan.
If anyone else accompanies you, he will kill her immediately, for as you know, her life is of no consequence. It is up to you to decide, but do not delay too long. My lord is not a patient one.
Do not try to find me. Concern yourself only with Voldemort.”
The letter was unsigned. Harry reeled in his chair and squashed the letter in his fist.
In his mind, he saw flashes of what must’ve taken place. Hermione struggled. She tried to hide in Hagrid’s cabin but was found. A wand fight ensued…Hermione lost…The flame drock ashes…the jars had been labeled. They were used for either the man or Hermione. Hermione lost…She lost…Were they for her?
Harry gripped the sides of the small table fighting back wave after wave of panic. So it was Voldemort…What could be happening to ‘Mione right now…
“Ron…” Harry could only croak out a whisper. His knuckles began to turn white from the death-like grip he had on the table.
“Ron…” Louder…no answer.
“Ron!” This time he yelled, not caring if Filch or anyone else were near at the moment.
He heard a scuffle and turned to see Ron rounding the corner quickly, an armload of books in his hands and a startled glare on his face.
“Harry, are you daft!?” he hissed, coming closer, “Be quiet or we’ve both had it…”
But as he approached Harry and saw the look of horror on his face, he quickly dropped the books on a nearby table and rushed to his side.
“What is it…”
Harry sat slumped in his seat and mutely handed Ron the crumpled note without bothering to look at him.
Ron smoothed it out and began to scan it. The more he read, the more ashen he became, until finally he took a seat beside Harry and stared into the darkness of the library.
“Where the bloody hell is Kavan…”
Harry’s jaw had tightened so much that he felt like his teeth would break.
“It’s past the Forbidden Forest apparently… but exactly where…we’ve got to find out.” His voice had moved beyond panic and had now settled into the grim determination that Ron knew so well.
“Dumbledore would know,” began Ron, “He knows all about Hogwarts’ surrounding areas… It’s a sure bet ‘Mione’s not too far away…”
“We can’t go to Dumbledore,” said Harry flatly. For the first time he let his gaze meet Ron’s face.
Ron was taken aback. Harry always consulted Dumbledore if he could… Especially about anything like this.
“You can’t be serious…Harry, we’ll need help.”
“You read the note. If we tell Dumbledore he won’t let me go… at least not alone. And if I don’t go alone, Hermione’s dead.” The last part came out in a strangled choke, but Harry struggled not to lose his resolve.
“Well then how…”
“I think it’s time to get out the old Hogwarts: A History book again,” said Harry evenly.
The way back to the common room was precarious at best, as Harry and Ron kept running into one Hogwarts teacher or another, moving at a fast pace to secure whatever part of the school Dumbledore had assigned them to. Luckily, the invisibility cloak did its job, though they did have one particularly close call with Filch and his cat, Mrs. Norris, who seemed to be able to see through the cloak. She turned her pink, lantern like eyes up to them. They froze as she tottered up to them, looking up and meowing insistently.
“Is someone there, my sweet?” Filch swiped long greasy hair from his forehead and came to stand directly in front of Ron and Harry.
They both held their breath as he squinted suspiciously in front of him but saw only wall.
He swiped one hand in front of him, and came so close to hitting Ron that it ruffled his hair. Harry saw him freeze with a trapped look on his face.
Filch, disappointed at Mrs. Norris, finally picked her up and moved back down the hallway. The cat’s neon pink eyes never left Harry and Ron as they watched her bob out of sight in the caretaker’s arms.
“Too close…” breathed Ron raggedly.
But Harry didn’t feel relaxed or in the clear. If Dumbledore came around a corner and they were there, he knew the Headmaster would see right through the cloak. And as they had seen at least three teachers roaming the halls since they left the library, he knew that the meeting was over.
“Hurry…” was the only word that Harry hissed out to Ron.
They made their way much more quickly to the common room.
When they finally reached it and stepped inside, they noticed that most of Gryffindor had gone up to their rooms, probably to continue their conversations there as it was still relatively early in the evening.
Harry grabbed the crystal ball, parchment and quill from Ron and plopped down on the couch, immediately opening the incantation book they had taken and scanning it intensely. He could see why the book had been in the restricted section; most of the spells in the index had dangerous consequences if performed wrong.
“I’ll go get the Hogwarts book,” said Ron, making his way up to the boy’s dorms, two steps at a time.
After much searching he finally found it and bounded back down the stairs. Harry was sitting on the edge of the couch, staring intently at one passage of the incantation book, obviously deep in thought.
Ron opened the Hogwarts history book and began scanning as well.
After an hour of intense and frustrating searching by both, and some unwanted interruption from well meaning Gryffindor’s, Ron finally stabbed the final chapter of his book.
“Harry! I found it…Kavan…”
Quickly Harry dropped his book and scooted closer to Ron. Taking one half of the Hogwarts book in his hand, he read the passage out loud.
“…the darkest and most menacing area surrounding the school was long thought to be the Forbidden Forest, which stretched for some fifty miles directly outside of school grounds. But in 1959, the forest was broken into two sections. The first thirty miles being still known as the Forbidden Forest, with the last twenty much darker and dangerous miles now referred to as Kavan.
That fateful year on a dare, Stuart Kavan, a student from Hogwarts, entered the forest determined to go as far into it as he dared, spend the night, and re-emerge the next day.
Two days later, when the students from his house finally revealed the reason for his absence, a search party formed comprised of only the most powerful witches and wizards at the school.
A day later, they re-emerged, carrying only the boy’s broom.
From then on, and only beknownst to the faculty of Hogwarts, the thirty miles in where the broom was discovered and beyond that were to be renamed ‘Kavan’, in memory of the student.
To this day, no trace of him has ever been recovered…”
“Wicked…” breathed out Ron as he and Harry tossed the book down, “Now I know why the final chapter of Hogwarts: A History was torn from all the copies in the library… Lucky for us Hermione got this at Flourish and Blotts before we got here.”
“Lucky…” hissed out Harry, deep in thought.
Neither said anything else until Ron glanced over to Harry and saw the grim look plastered on his face, and the way his arms were crossed tightly across his chest.
Ron started slowly. “Well, now we know where Kavan is… but twenty miles is an awful lot of ground to cover…”
“You mean I know where Kavan is,” said Harry quietly.
Ron breathed in angrily and sat up straighter, his fingers gripping the arm of the couch. Somehow he had known it would come to this…
“Harry, don’t you dare think you’re gonna fly in there playing the bleeding hero without me…I care just as much about Hermione as you do.”
Harry sighed deeply and rose determinedly to his feet beginning to pace.
“It’s not about that Ron; it’s not your fight…Besides I have to go alone…”
“I don’t care what the bloody hell that note says!” Ron shouted, standing up and striding over to Harry. “She’s my friend too…”
“She’s more than a friend to me!” Harry shouted back, “Besides that, if anyone else comes he’ll KILL her!”
“I’ll hide until you need me!” replied Ron furiously, “You’ll need help; you can’t do this on your own!”
A few of the students upstairs had crept down to see what the shouting was about, along with those who were still downstairs, and stared dumbly at them. Ron and Harry never fought this hard.
“Ron, we can’t take the risk!” Harry bellowed angrily, inches from Ron’s face, “You know Voldemort senses other people when they’re around…”
A collective gasp went around the room at the mention of Voldemort’s name. Most still feared it, and still referred to him as He-who-must-not-be-named.
“Then we’ll find some way to sneak me out there with you!” Ron replied, “Some charm or something that hides my presence! I want to help you find her; we’ve always been a team…”
“I CAN’T RISK IT!” Harry sounded out the words and balled up his fists reflexively.
“Then how’re you gonna find her!?”
Harry took a step back and tried to calm himself, and Ron. “I’m gonna find his servant first…I think he’s still here…I can feel it…” He pressed a hand to his forehead and fingered his scar absently.
Ron set his jaw again, even more angrily than before, vaguely aware of the audience gaping at them from the stairs.
“There’s no time to go searching for him too!” he began hotly.
“Yes there is…I found an incantation that might help. It won’t take that long, and when I find him he can lead me directly to her…”
“Harry let’s just go and get Voldemort!” (The audience flinched again) ” He’s the one that has her now! Forget about the servant…”
“The BLOODY HELL I will!” Harry roared, whirling around. The fury blazing in his eyes made Ron furious as well.
“Because I LOVE HER!…and no one gets away with this…”
At this revelation, another collective gasp, louder this time, went around the room, causing Harry to blink rapidly. He finally noticed the crowd of faces staring at he and Ron. As he focused back on his friend, he saw the naked shock that rested on his ruddy features. Ron’s jaw was working but he seemed not to be able to form any words.
Harry blinked again and shook his head, stumbling back a bit.
Finally, his fell back on the arm of one of the overstuffed chairs.
“Wh…what did I just say…What did I say….”
Ron stumbled back too, finding no words to speak to Harry at the moment.
I said I loved her, thought Harry. A blur of emotions began to swirl around in his head the moment he had uttered those words;…confusion, affection, fear, rage, but mostly a deep, glaring desperation.
No. Whoever had helped Voldemort by taking Hermione would answer to Harry too. And damn anyone who got in his way.
But Ron was not the enemy. He just cared for Hermione too, and wanted to help as he always had. He was part of the team, one part of a triangle that was now missing a very strong link.
Harry knew what it felt like to sit by and feel helpless to do anything, but he could do nothing about that even if he wanted to.
To take anyone else along was to risk Hermione’s life, so Harry determined to himself to go alone… no matter what the cost.
He looked over to Ron to see that he had sat himself down rather heavily on the couch and was peering into the fire, a troubled expression playing on his face.
Harry joined him.
“Ron, I’m sorry…I have to go alone.”
After a minute of intense silence, Ron finally nodded. Slowly he turned a deliberately steady look on Harry.
“You… You love her?”
Harry took a deep breath and roughly clawed his fingers through his hair, breathing out raggedly.
“Y…Yeah…I do, I…I guess I didn’t really realize it until now.”
Ron hesitated, and nodded, not taking his eyes from his best friend. He seemed to be searching Harry’s face for the whole truth, but what he saw gave him no room for doubt. He swallowed roughly, unsure of his feelings about the situation. He knew he didn’t feel that way about Hermione, of that he was certain. But the three of them were so tight that he feared what this new revelation might bring.
Quickly, he shoved the thought from his mind. No time for that now… They had to find, No… he swallowed… Harry had to find Hermione.
“Ok then. Show me the incantation you found.”
Harry closed his eyes and nodded gratefully at Ron, glad to be finished fighting. He grabbed the book and turned to the middle, stabbing a page.
“It’s right here. It’s called the ‘Unknown Charm’.”
Ron looked puzzled as he scanned the page. “It’s in Latin!”
“All spells are Ron,” said Harry patiently. “Read it.”
Ron frowned over the obvious fact, to him, that some things are made much more difficult than they had to be and read the spell out loud.
“Fluo fervens aqua eluvies crystallus orbis and inviso; nomen adeo fiendo aperio cunctus aenigma. Oh, here’s what it means,” he said running his finger down the paragraph, “Pour hot water over the crystal ball and see the name that will clear all mystery.”
Harry grabbed the book from Ron and continued scanning the passage. “So it says all I have to do is hold the crystal ball under hot water, chant the spell, and ask it who Voldemort’s man is.”
Ron nodded slowly, obviously in thought and took time to write the spell on a piece of parchment.
“Ok then. Just go take a shower and take the crystal and your wand; and take this.” He handed Harry the incantation.
Harry grabbed the paper and frowned at his friend. “I don’t have time for a shower! I’m just gonna hold it under the tap…”
Ron raised his eyebrows at Harry, reminiscent of Hermione. “Kill two birds with one stone, Harry. You haven’t showered since the match… It won’t take any longer and you’ll need to be refreshed to face Voldemort.”
Harry opened his mouth to retort but Ron cut him off. “Just go…and if you don’t come back I’ll know you’ve already gone after him. Just be careful…he’ll be dangerous too.”
Harry could see how much it was costing Ron to stay back at the school and wait. He nodded gratefully to his friend and stood quickly, grabbing the crystal.
“Talk to everyone… Tell them not to mention this to any of the teachers or anyone else. They’ll understand…” Harry took another look at Ron’s suffering face. “I promise…I won’t come back until I have her.”
Ron closed his eyes briefly and swallowed, nodding heavily. “I know…Go.”
Harry flew up the steps to his bed and grabbed a fresh change of clothes, and then quickly raced back down again. He grabbed his wand from Ron’s outstretched hand and raced out of the portrait door, letting it slam shut behind him.
Ron sat in front of the fire, staring at the door. The only emotion running through him was pure, blinding fear.