Chapter 56: Battle on the Beach
A/N: Get ready for some more action… Read, Review, Enjoy!
"We have to go back, you know that don’t you?" Fred asked as soon as he and Luna arrived at the Shrieking Shack.
"Perhaps we should make sure you can walk first, I’ve just called Drake to come out here… I showed him the secret way in his head, he’s running over here at top speed I promise." She replied, helping him to sit on the couch and looking him over carefully. "Besides, I promised Harry ten minutes and it’s barely been one."
"I don’t care if I can walk or if it’s been thirty seconds… we shouldn’t have left." He protested angrily, upset that so much was going wrong because they’d all had to come save him. "Hermione and Harry are still there, don’t you care?"
"Of course I do, but Jacey’s still there with them and I trust that Elise and Sarah don’t want to hurt them." She sighed and sat next to him, putting her head in her hands. Clearly she was keeping up a brave face for his sake, but he could now see that she was as worried and scared for the others as he was.
"Maybe they don’t want to hurt Harry or Jacey, but Elanya’s already tried to kill Hermione." He argued.
She turned her face up to him and regarded him sadly. "I know. But what can you do to help if you’re half hobbled?"
"Whatever I have to, just the same as you and Harry." He argued as he heard the trapdoor open down the hall. "I saw you both after fighting Sarah at the Dursley’s house… nothing stopped you two from helping each other in there. Leg or no leg, I have to go back!" He felt it was his fault any of them were on the island in the first place, how could he possibly sit here in safety while they were all there risking their lives… especially Hermione.
"I’ll be the judge of where you can go." Drake said from the doorway with a grim smile. "I wasn’t expecting to see you again until we returned to London."
"Surprise." Fred muttered, as Luna shivered next to him. He suddenly realized he was freezing as well, it was much colder here than on the island where she’d left her coat and he’d left everything. Putting that discomfort to the back of his mind, he held out his leg for the healer. "I don’t think I broke it… I was able to walk."
"That means nothing, extreme circumstances and adrenaline can make people do extraordinary things." Drake said as he knelt and removed the splint before gently feeling the injury. "I take it you won’t be telling me what happened or why you’re here?"
"It’ll be easier for everyone that way." Luna said quietly before smiling at the man. "You want to have deniability later, don’t you?"
"I suppose." He laughed lightly. "Alright, I agree with you Fred, nothing’s broken. But you twisted it really bad. I’m going to send in some energy to straighten things out… but it’s going to hurt for a bit until I can get everything right again."
"Do what you have to do." He instructed. He closed his eyes as the healer began his work. Sharp, electric pain shot up his leg and he grit his teeth. Feeling Luna take his hand, he gratefully squeezed it… she may not be Hermione, but she was a close friend and it was wonderful to be around someone he trusted completely after so long with Elanya. Has it been ten minutes yet? He asked her eagerly as Drake worked his magic and the pain began to subside.
Just about… I’m already calling Lupin and Draco to come help us. She answered gently. We’ll bring Harry, Hermione and Jacey home, I promise. Fred let out a deep breath and hoped she was right.
Draco sat in Dumbledore’s office with all eyes on him as they waited for him to give them answers. But he had none to give, nothing that wasn’t supposition based on what little Potter, Granger and Luna had told him. He certainly didn’t want to say anything about Fred, not with Ginny sitting next to him. The fact that he had guessed her brother was in trouble and hadn’t told her was a fight he’d much rather they had in private (Ron standing angrily across the room was yet another reason not to say anything). All he had left to talk about was Erebos… and he was fully willing to give up the man’s secrets to save his own. "Luna and Potter told me to be on the lookout because Professor Erebos was looking to hurt Ginny and Ron."
"Why?" Ron demanded before Dumbledore could.
"Because he’s acting as a spy for Elise, Sarah and Elanya." He answered as simply as he could.
"That’s a lie!" Erebos protested angrily from the chair he was currently tied to while they waited for the Aurors to arrive from Hogsmeade.
"Then what is the truth Dolos?" Dumbledore asked, clearly upset at the betrayal by one of his staff. "Remus and I were out there, we saw Elise McKinney run off. You two may have gotten away with that deplorable affair, but I refuse to let you get away with attacking and attempting to murder students."
"I never tried to kill anyone." Erebos argued.
"Ron Weasley claims you threatened his life after luring him into the Forbidden Forest and I shudder to think of what would have happened had his friend not come to his rescue." Dumbledore’s voice rose with his anger. Draco saw Weasley look down and shuffle his feet, obviously feeling guilty that Jacey had been the one to help him… good, he hoped the other boy felt like an idiot for the way he’d been talking to her, Ginny and the others who actually cared about him. "A student placed his trust in you as a professor and you tried to kill him… there’s no getting out of this for you. Elise has obviously abandoned you to your fate."
"We’ll see." Erebos answered smugly, clearly thinking better of the woman than anyone else… Either she had played him good or as someone who previously fought with the ministry, he really had no idea what people on the other side of the war were like.
Draco, Lupin! Fred and I are at the Shrieking shack and I need you guys to come here. Drake is healing Fred, but I may need you two to come with me to help Harry, Hermione and Jacey. Luna voice filled Draco’s head and he turned to Lupin who slightly nodded to indicate he’d heard too. Hurry! She added with a deep sense of urgency.
There was a knock on the door and McGonagall strode in, shooting a look of complete disgust at Erebos before addressing Dumbledore. "Headmaster, the Aurors have arrived. They’d like to take Weasley and Malfoy’s statements before placing Erebos under arrest."
Draco looked to Lupin who quickly spoke up. "Sir? I’d like to ask that Draco and I may be excused on an urgent family matter. There’s so much that must be done before Erebos is removed from the castle, I give my word that I’ll bring Draco back to give his full statement before the Aurors make their arrest."
Dumbledore regarded Lupin suspiciously. "I wasn’t aware there was an emergency."
"It was only brought to my attention moments ago." He answered meaningfully.
The headmaster nodded solemnly. "I expect to see them all in my office when you get done dealing with whatever it is." He said in a tone that wasn’t meant to be argued with.
"Yes sir." Lupin agreed before quickly moving to the door and motioning Draco to come along. Careful not to look at Ginny lest he give something away, he followed and they rushed down the stairs and through the halls. Not bothering to stop for coats, they hurried outside and to the Whomping Willow. "Wait here." He instructed before rushing in, moving more with the grace of a cat than a wolf as he dodged branches and leapt for the lever. At last the tree stopped thrashing around and they went through to the secret tunnel. "What’s going on?" Lupin asked as they headed toward the Shrieking Shack.
Draco shook his head. "I wish I could tell you. All I know for sure is they went looking for Fred on an island, most likely because he was in some kind of trouble with Elise, Sarah and Elanya."
"So then I’m to understand that Harry, Hermione and Jacey are still on this island?" He asked, tensing as he began preparing himself for the unexpected.
"I guess." Draco shrugged. "I just hope we get there in time to bring them all back."
It took only seconds for Sarah to send those heavy rocks and Elise to cast her spell to trap Harry, leaving Jacey to face the two women alone. Thankfully they were still stuck behind the wall of fire she had surrounded them with, giving a few precious moments to figure out what to do. She tried to call out to Harry to see if he was okay but just like every other time since she had gotten here, her telepathy just was not working.
"You like the little oven we made for your friend?" Elise called, her voice full of frustration as she was unable to use her own power to overcome Jacey’s. "Drop your flames or I swear I’ll set those rocks on fire and let him burn."
"No you will not. I know you do not want him dead." She shouted confidently. This was the only thing she was sure of… even if those girls had for some reason turned on Luna, Jacey knew that they still very much wanted her and Harry joining whatever little schemes they had planned.
"You can torture someone without killing them." Elise shot back with an evil grin, pointing her finger.
Jacey turned in horror as the rocks surrounding Harry burst into flame. She was moving in an instant, using her power to overwhelm and consume Elise’s fire before being able to extinguish it completely. "Harry? Can you hear me? Are you okay?" She yelled, placing her ear close to the hot stones.
"I’m fine, just really warm!" He called back, sounding very far away. "Don’t worry about me, get yourself and Hermione off the island if you can!"
Jacey looked around but neither Hermione nor Elanya were anywhere to be seen on the beach, meaning she had to go looking. But first… She got up and walked back to Elise and Sarah who were glaring at her through the flames. She smiled at them, allowing the darker side of her past to come out. "We are not in or around Hogwarts any longer so there is no need to control my power. You silly woman," She looked directly at Elise, "you should never assume you are the strongest until you have fought all others like you."
Like clouds moving across the sky in a gathering storm, Jacey gathered every bit of her energy together in her mind. Raising her hands, she mentally pushed as hard as she could and sent an explosion of fire in the women’s direction. They were both hit squarely in the chest and propelled back, flying over the water to land with a grand splash within a few yards of the rowboats still making their way ashore. Seeing what she had just done, she truly believed Harry would be able to move those stones despite the spell protecting them. Besides, he had made his wishes pretty clear… still, she was reluctant to leave him alone on the beach. Hopefully Luna would be back soon with Draco and Lupin.
A scream tore through the air, ending her indecision and sending her running through the trees. Harry was certainly more than capable of taking care of himself, even under the worst of circumstances because like her, he was able to bring himself to that dark place where things got done. But like Luna, Hermione’s darker side was nearly non-existent… it took quite a lot to push her too far and by then, it was almost too late. She knew Elanya had already made at least one attempt on Hermione’s life back on the beach, who knew how many other tries she has had at it? And still she knew that Hermione was unwilling to return the favor, that the girl would rather win the fight by skill and capture than by such permanent means as death. Luckily Jacey held no such qualms and just as she now hoped Elise and Sarah were drowning in the ocean, she hoped she had the chance to make sure Elanya never bothered her new friends ever again.
Hermione caught sight of Luna and Fred disappearing and was grateful that they’d chosen to get him out of here. He was too injured to help and he’d been here far too long. With one less thing to concern her, she doubled her concentration on her duel with Elanya hoping to fight her way to helping Harry and Jacey or at the very least, keep the other girl from helping Elise and Sarah. "Descendo!" She yelled, finally able to hit Elanya before she could get her shields up. She watched in satisfaction as the other girl began desperately trying to claw her way out as she sank beneath the sand.
Then she heard Jacey call out a warning to Harry and she was distracted long enough to turn and see him duck to the ground and become surrounded by heavy stones… and that was all she had time to see. "Expulso!" Elanya cried out behind her.
Hermione felt the sand explode beneath her feet, sending her flying through the trees until she hit one and fell to the ground. Groaning in pain, she sat up feeling more than a little dizzy. Her head was aching terribly and as she touched her forehead, she realized she was bleeding. Turning back to the beach, she saw Elanya at last pulling herself completely from the sand and dragging herself towards the trees. "Engorgio!" Hermione pointed her wand at the trees nearest the other girl and watched as their trunks swelled in size, growing both taller and wider as they trapped Elanya and created a wall around her. Holding her breath, she hoped she’d at last stopped the girl from coming after her.
"Confringo!" Elanya screamed out angrily. Hermione ducked and covered her face as the trees surrounding the girl exploded in flames and a shower of wood flew in all directions.
Not wanting to wait long enough for Elanya to get her bearings, Hermione got to her feet and keeping low, she ran further into the woods hoping to find someplace to hide. Within moments she was back at the campsite and seeing the tent in front of her, she decided to try and use it again. After all, it had sufficiently protected her and Fred before.
"Impedimenta!" Elanya yelled from behind her. Hermione felt the spell hit her and her feet fly out from under her. Before she’d hit the ground, she cast a shield to deflect the next spell the girl tried to throw at her which was a lot more serious. She tried crawling to the tent, but thanks to the charm she’d been hit with, she was unable to make any progress towards it. "Incendio!" Elanya called out and Hermione watched as the tent went up in flames. She quickly turned and tried to scramble to her feet but the other girl was already standing over her with her wand drawn. "There’s nowhere for you to hide now." She laughed. "I guess Fred won’t be getting that deposit back on the tent after all."
"He’s not here anymore. Luna got him off the island, whatever you were all trying to do, you’ve failed." Hermione tried to keep her voice steady and confident but she was starting to really get scared.
"That remains to be seen." Elanya grinned viciously. "But you’re still here and so is Harry. I’m sure Luna has plans to come back for him… and I’d bet my life that Fred will come back for you though I’m still not sure why. Either way, as long as I stick close to you, it’s a guarantee that I’ll see him again."
"Obscuro!" She yelled, taking them both by surprise. A blindfold instantly appeared over Elanya’s eyes and as she struggled to pull it away, Hermione got to her feet and prepared to cast again, hoping to bind the other girl and take her wand.
"CRUCIO!" She yelled before Hermione could cast, wildly waving her wand and hoping to hit her target.
Hermione quickly shielded and trying to be as quiet as possible so as not to give away her location as the girl repeatedly screamed the unforgivable curse, she moved around the flaming tent hoping to escape into the forest. It was clear Elanya wasn’t going to give her the chance to capture her and so the only thing she could do was attempt to outrun and outsmart her.
"There you are!" She heard Elanya roar behind her as she must have found a way to end the blindfold charm. "Crucio!" She called again, just half a second faster than Hermione could shield. Letting out a terrified scream, she dropped to the ground as wave after wave of agony rolled through her. She tightly clutched her wand, trying to force herself to focus through the unbearable pain as Elanya approached her. "As much fun as this is, I have other plans for you… and we’d better get ready before Fred gets back." She reached down and took Hermione’s wand before releasing the curse.
She felt instant relief as Elanya’s spell ended and could do nothing more than gasp for air as her muscles involuntarily twitched while they relaxed from having been tensed up from so much pain. "Why?" She heard herself ask… she wasn’t in control of much at the moment including whether or not her thoughts were internalized.
"Why what?" Elanya sneered. "Why am I doing this to you? Because you’re in my way. The why’s of the rest of my decisions are my own and I don’t feel the need to share them with you." She pointed her wand and carefully said. "Imperio!" with force and passion.
Instantly it felt like a fog was rolling in over her mind… it was soothing to not have to think and part of her very much wanted to give in to the harsh voice telling her to get to her feet. But Hermione had seen Harry defeat the Imperious Curse before… and Lee had struggled against Elanya’s influence to the point where she had to incapacitate him after getting him to lure Fred to the store. She knew it was possible to overcome the curse and so she held onto that even as she did as Elanya said and stood up.
"Stop!" They both turned to see Jacey across the clearing with her wand pointed at Elanya. "End the curse." She demanded.
"I don’t think I’ll be doing that." Elanya laughed, placing Hermione’s wand back in her hand and ordering her to attack Jacey.
She instantly shot a stunner at her friend unable to do anything else and was glad to see her shield in time. But in her head Hermione was fighting hard against the influence of the Imperious Curse, trying to use the fortress walls that she’d built to keep Harry and Luna out of her mind to also block out Elanya’s influence.
Rather than return fire for the barrage of spells Hermione was unable to stop hurling at her, Jacey used her wand to keep her shield up and pointed high above Elanya’s head, setting a heavy branch on fire in an explosion of flames and causing it to dislodge and fall. Elanya dove out of the way as the fiery branch just barely missed her head.
"Kill her!" She screamed at Hermione, raising her wand and shooting spells at Jacey along with her.
Avada Kedavra… The words repeated themselves in Hermione’s head, horrifying her with the implication of their meaning. She didn’t want to say them, the two words she’d wished she’d never learned. She wasn’t willing to use them against anyone, let alone Jacey. No… No… No… She kept focusing on that one tiny word that held so much power, so much defiance. Avada Kedavra… No… Avada Kedavra… NO. She screamed at herself as the battle raged on in her head. "NO!" She finally yelled aloud, wrenching herself to the side and pointing her wand at Elanya. It hurt to go against the curse but she pushed on, telling herself over and over that her thoughts and actions where her own… that her rationally sane mind was more powerful and controlled than Elanya’s chaotically crazy one. But still she couldn’t bring herself to send a spell against the person trying so hard to control her and Elanya knew it, grinning wickedly as she ignored her outburst to continue dueling Jacey. Instead of continuing the struggle of cursing the one cursing her, Hermione took an earlier cue from Jacey and pointed her wand up to the trees. "Diffindo!" She cried, severing several high branches and watching with a twisted sense of satisfaction as they crashed down on Elanya’s head.
Hermione fell to her knees as the feeling of needing to fight something left her along with the other girl’s consciousness. "Are you okay?" Jacey asked, rushing over and dropping down beside her.
"I’m not sure yet." She answered shakily.
"Well, unfortunately we do not have time to make sure. Harry asked me to get you home and so we have to hurry so I can come back to help him."
She shook her head to clear it and looked at Jacey in horror. "What do you mean? You didn’t help him already… he’s still under those rocks?!" She lurched to her feet, stumbling a bit so the Jacey had to reach out and steady her.
"I had no choice, he told me to. I briefly neutralized Elise and Sarah, but not for long as they and the people in the rowboats will be ashore any minute. We have to go." She insisted.
"Yes, to help Harry. We can’t just leave him all alone here!" Hermione protested.
She shook her head. "Luna will be coming back with Draco and Lupin. We are wasting time arguing." She reached out to take Hermione’s hand to that she could apparate them back to Hogwarts.
She ducked away and started running back toward the beach, wanting to keep out of Jacey’s grasp so she couldn’t force her to leave. She just couldn’t abandon Harry… as much as she wanted to go back and rest her aching body, as much as she wanted to see Fred and make sure he was alright… She just couldn’t until she was sure there was someone else to stand with Harry. Once Luna got here with help she would let Jacey take her wherever she wanted… until then, there was nothing anyone could do to convince her to leave.
Harry knew the rocks had been set on fire as soon as it happened. Smoke came in through the cracks between the stones, both blinding and choking him. He was surrounded by an inferno and he felt like his skin was melting off. And then came the relief that told him Jacey had regained control of the situation. Hearing her worriedly calling out to him, he wiped the sweat from his face and sent her to find Hermione. He knew he just needed a minute to gather himself and he’d rather Jacey spend her time helping someone who really needed her than wasting it waiting for him to free himself. He’d never forgive himself if Hermione was hurt because too many people were worried about him.
Even through the rocky barrier, he was able to hear a loud scream echo through the air. He knew it was Hermione and he knew he had to do something fast as it became clear Jacey hadn’t reached her in time. Closing his eyes, he ignored how sweltering hot it was and focused his mind on nothing but his power. Picturing the rocks bursting away from him, he took that image and pushed it outward. He could feel the stones vibrating around him as his power shoved against the spell Elise had used to trap him. Redoubling his efforts, he pushed harder and harder until he felt his brain was going to explode from the effort. And then with a loud crack, he was free. Leaping to his feet, he luxuriated in the feeling of the light, salty breeze against his flushed and sweaty skin. Looking out over the water, he gripped his wand tighter as he saw three rowboats come ashore all full of people pointing their wands at him. Elise and Sarah were on the first boat to hit the sand and they jumped down and walked over to him wearing triumphant smiles.
"Did you two decide to go for a swim to cool off a bit?" He asked tauntingly, taking in the fact that they were both drenched and their clothes burnt. He tried to remain confident, but there were now about twenty people on the beach, all looking to go against him. In the back of his mind, he hoped that the fact that neither Jacey nor Hermione were around meant they had successfully gotten themselves off the island so that if he wound up having to blow this whole place up, he could do it guilt free.
"Yes, courtesy of your friend Jacey." Elise answered almost proudly. "She’s quite the little firestarter when you get her angry enough."
"Pay no attention to our friends here, they won’t do anything unless we tell them to." Sarah grinned, seeing that Harry was warily eyeing the crowd as he waited for someone to make a move. "But keep in mind that they are innocent people we’ve simply put under our spell… I know you’d hate to be forced to hurt them."
Harry stared around in horror as he finally realized that he was surrounded by so many blank faces. These people were all under the Imperious curse and probably had no idea why they were now being forced to this island. Taking a deep breath he hardened himself, preparing for whatever may come. Sure he wouldn’t want to hurt anyone innocent, but it was clear he couldn’t allow Elise and Sarah to get away and continue on in their twisted plots. "There are always casualties in war." He returned with conviction, hoping that if they truly thought him capable of hurting others to get to them, they wouldn’t bother using these people as pawns.
"Really?" Elise asked though she didn’t seem all that surprised by his answer. "But… think of all their families who will be left to blame you." She taunted.
"I’m used to people not thinking the best of me." He returned. His stomach was in knots as he tried to prepare himself to do the unthinkable and hurt innocent people if he had to. After all, they weren’t themselves and would gladly kill him if either woman told them to… he just had to remember that and if it came down to him or them, he would have no choice but to choose himself. "I’ve had innocent people taken away from me, their families will learn to move on, just like I did." He added callously, working hard to put himself in a place where he could focus without remorse or guilt… at least until it was all over.
Elise and Sarah shared a look and nodded in approval. "And that sentiment solidifies our belief that you are on the wrong side of the war Harry." Elise smiled. "Even if the ministry and all your friends win, the life they can offer will never satisfy you because you aren’t completely like them. Join us and see what it’s like to give into yourself without the fear of judgement."
"I already told you, we want nothing to do with you!" He yelled, raising his wand. He’d rather fight than stand here and talk… it only gave them a chance to get into his head.
"And why not? We aren’t as different as you might think." Elise raised her own wand as Sarah bristled beside her, ready to use her power against him. "You, me, Sarah, Jacey, Elanya… we’re all capable of equal bouts of complete honesty and total treachery, of all-consuming love and devastating hatred, of generous mercy and selfish revenge. None of us belongs with Voldemort and his Death Eaters or with Dumbledore and the Ministry because we are stronger than they are. You know why? Because we can understand the highs and lows of everything both sides hold dear. We are capable of understanding and committing utter evil while also knowing and embracing the completely good. That dark place that you take yourself to in order to do the things you feel you must do… there’s no place for that part of you with them. But there is with us, we can offer you total acceptance and the chance to fight and make your life and the world anything you want it to be. You want mercy for muggles? Done. You want your loved ones to live the rest of their lives in peace? Done and with pleasure. Anything and everything you want can be yours."
"As long as I agree to turn on everyone and everything I know." He shook his head.
"What have they really done for you Harry?" Sarah asked. "All they’ve given you is the illusion of their help. Dumbledore plucked you from the hell of a life that he’d actually helped arrange for you… He showed you a whole new world where you were wanted and where there were even some who feared you, only to then repeatedly send you back to a place where you continued to be unwelcome and unloved. And the Weasleys, is it really their family still doing for you, or are you the one doing for them now. After all, we understand that thanks to you their entire family has somewhere safe to live without having to pay any kind of rent. Not to mention I doubt Arthur Weasley would have been seriously considered for the position of Minister had his youngest son’s constant involvement with you not continually thrown their family right in the middle of the war. By befriending them, you’ve given credence to their name and elevated them to the point where they are finally being taken seriously. And without your investment, Fred and George would have never been able to open their store which means the family would have been just as destitute as they were before you came along. You’re the Weasleys’ golden goose… I would think Ron would treat you better."
"You two certainly think you know a lot about my life." He answered stiffly.
"More than you know… especially since we can look in with a fresher perspective than you currently have." Sarah laughed.
"Think about it Harry… you join us and convince Jacey to do so as well and we can go out and find more like us… Can you imagine? We’ll rise up and conquer both sides of the war and you’ll never again have to worry for the lives of anyone you love. And meanwhile, you, me, Sarah, Jacey and Elanya, we can rule the world."
"What about Luna?" He asked tensely, noticing for the second time that they’d excluded her.
Again the women shared a look only this time they didn’t seem as confident. Clearly they knew he wasn’t going to like what they were going to say and were each trying to figure out the best way to put it. He struggled to see into their minds but that power remained inexplicably elusive. "After getting to meet and see her in person, we knew right away that we didn’t want her anymore. There are other seers in the world we can find… as powerful as she seems, Luna just isn’t like us." Sarah said at last. "If Voldemort still wants her, that’s up to him."
"It doesn’t matter whether Voldemort still wants her, she doesn’t have the darkness inside that the rest of us do." Elise quickly explained, nudging Sarah to imply that she wasn’t handling this right. "She is on the side she is supposed to be."
Harry stared at them a moment before uncontrollable laughter escaped him, making him feel half insane. "So let me get this straight… you want me to not only join you, but then turn around and help you crush Luna and everyone fighting with her? I promise you that will never happen."
"No one said you would have to go against her… I doubt she’d go against you." Sarah replied calmly. "Once we overcome, you two can be friends again and skip off into the sunset for all we care. But she isn’t anything more than a burden now because she is nearly incapable of doing the things we would need her to do… and I say nearly because let’s face it, as humans we’re all capable of anything under the right circumstances. But even in the face of her own death and possibly yours she was unable to do what was necessary. Think about that night at your aunt and uncle’s house… I had you pinned so to speak and she came in with that ring, but did she actually hit me? No, instead she chose to create a fiery barrier between us to protect you. But when I was ready to take her life, you threw me against the wall and dropped a corner of the house on me. I bet you even wished I was dead for a brief moment. Don’t you see? She was willing to risk her life to protect you but not kill me whereas you were completely willing to take my life if it meant saving hers. She doesn’t have it in her to succeed against those with dark intentions."
"It’s best if you leave her behind now and join us. Then having made the world in your image, you can find her again and live whatever life you want." Elise took a step closer, trying to have him focus on her. He could tell she was upset with Sarah, and he realized she must be the brains of their operation as it was clear she knew what to say to people to get them to listen to her. "But even if you deny us and stay with her Harry, you’ll only wind up ruining her life because even if you all manage to win the war, you’ll never be happy with the strict and structured life that comes with living by someone else’s rules. It’s not in you to give up the excitement and adventure and you’ll wind up chasing the last of Voldemort’s evil around the world... do you really want to expose Luna to a life of constant danger? Wouldn’t it be better to create the kind of world you can live in happily so that you can give those you care for the kind of life you think they deserve?"
"Come on Harry." Sarah also took a step closer. "Join us. Without you on that side, Luna will be safer because not only will she not want to fight, she’ll have no reason to. Let her close herself up in a room somewhere, foretelling the future and staying out of battle… along with your friend Ron. He’s strong but not strong enough to do what is necessary. Fred and Hermione have potential, but we have other things in mind for them… Well for Fred anyway"
"Meaning?" He moved closer to them, pretending he was being reeled in by their pitch. He already knew that Luna was one of those people who exuded a beacon of light, he didn’t need them to tell him she had no darker side from which she gained the will to do unspeakable things… because her actions were never unspeakable. Her guilt over things she had done or let happen may be as deep as the rest of them, but that wasn’t the same thing as this darkness Elise was talking about. He knew she was safer away from all of these people… they all were. But the last thing he would do was walk away and leave her to face it all alone, no matter how convincing their arguments. "Why do you guys want Fred so badly?" He pushed the issue, hoping to gain something useful while driving their focus away from telling him how horrible he would make Luna’s life no matter what happened… he had those fears all on his own, he didn’t need these women feeding them.
"He will help us against the Ministry. Arthur will never do anything that would endanger another of his children and having Fred ensures his cooperation. We can’t tell you how yet… but if you joined us, it would guarantee that you were there to look out for him."
"You can’t tie him to Edmund and we’ve uncovered your spy. Fred has already left the island and there’s no way he or the rest of us will let you trap him again." He insisted.
"He’ll return, Hermione is still here." Sarah smirked.
"How do you know?" He demanded.
She and Elise both pulled small discs from their ears and proudly showed them off. "We’ve been in constant contact with Elanya." Sarah replied almost gleefully. "We just heard her put Hermione under the Imperious Curse. Wonder what she’ll have her do…"
Harry flicked his eyes, holding out his hand as both discs flew into it. "It’ll have to remain a mystery… but I’m sure Jacey will be able to help Hermione take care of Elanya. After all, she’s like us and can do those dark deeds that are necessary." He said harshly implying that their friend was about to be killed while completely panicking on the inside. Part of him wanted to immediately run to Hermione’s side before anything horrible could happen. But he knew that turning his back on Sarah and Elise would be a huge mistake… plus they would most likely give chase and bringing them to Elanya wasn’t going to help anyone but them.
"Give those back." Sarah demanded as if her voice alone was enough to make him do so.
He laughed in her face. "Come and take them." He taunted, pleased to have found a way to turn the tables and make them the ones who were upset and frustrated.
The air began to crackle around him, indicating that people were about to apparate in… Apparently they felt it too. "Well, looks like we’re about to have company." Elise smiled wickedly. And then she gave her unwilling minions the order to attack before Luna had the chance to fully materialize herself and those she’d brought with her.
"I don’t know why you kids insist on doing things the most difficult and dangerous way possible!" Lupin said as he angrily paced around the parlor of the Shrieking Shack.
Luna had just told him and Draco everything while Drake was in the other room giving Fred a complete check up and she knew they were both surprised by the amount of cunning and secrecy put forth not only by them, but by Elise, Sarah and Elanya as well. "We didn’t know who the spy was… if we had gone to you or Dumbledore for help sooner, there’s no telling whether Erebos would have found out and told the girls. They could have moved Fred or worse, just decided to cut their losses and kill him."
"There’s always a reason…" Lupin muttered, shaking his head. He took off his amulet and put it in his pocket before stretching his shoulders. "How bad is it there? What can we expect when we arrive?"
"Last I saw, Hermione was dueling Elanya while Harry and Jacey tried to hold off Sarah and Elise… but there were three boats full of people rowing ashore." She answered, taking a seat next to Draco who had just removed his amulet as well.
"I don’t recommend you go back with them, all it’ll take it stepping the wrong way and you risk undoing all the work I just did." Drake said as he and Fred came back into the parlor. He turned to Luna. "And you shouldn’t go either. Dragon claws can cause more damage than anything else because of the poisons that make up the tip of each one. Breaking the skin won’t do much, but they gouged up your arm pretty good, the poison had already begun working it’s way through your blood and I had to expel it before I could close the wounds."
Poison… Luna looked down at her now bandaged forearm and realized that must be why she’d begun to feel so tired before the healer worked on her. But she felt much better now and was simply eager to get back to Harry, Hermione and Jacey. "I have to go, I’m the only one who can get Lupin and Draco there to help."
"I’m going too, you can’t stop me." Fred protested. "I’m not a student, you have less control over me than you do her I promise you."
Drake shook his head. "If you go with, I will immediately report all of this to Albus. And Luna, if you don’t go drop them off and come right back, I will report to Albus. How does that settle with the both of you?" He asked angrily. "I’ve gone above and beyond to keep all your secrets and I’m sure I’m going to have enough to deal with when the others do get back here… I don’t need to worry about fixing injuries I’ve already fixed once."
Dumbledore already told Lupin that as a condition of letting us leave the Aurors, he has to bring us all to him to explain what’s been going on. Luna heard Draco think out to her. Either way, the day is going to end in the Headmaster’s office and some of these secrets are going to have to come out. It’s up to you whether you stay on the island and help or not. He insisted, always one to push for free will and choices since escaping a life where he had neither.
It was just as well. She hadn’t cared about Drake’s threats, she had already intended to stay on the island for as long as it took. Reaching out to take Draco and Lupin’s hands, she focused in and prepared to leave. Having actually been to the island now, she knew she could get them exactly where they wanted to be- on the beach. She felt Fred’s intentions at the last minute and didn’t stop him… he had every much as right to go back as she did and she’d hate to be the one to keep him from going. At the last possible second, he ducked around Drake and threw his arms around her as she whisked them all away.
"Protego!" She heard Harry yell as soon as they all arrived on the beach. Luna turned in time to see him fly backwards as Sarah unleashed her power on him while he was distracted protecting them. She, Lupin, Draco and Fred already had their wands out and were casting instantly as a swarm of people armed with their own wands descended on them.
Luna quickly stunned and bound the woman who had been attempting to duel her before desperately searching to see what had happened to Harry, but she was distracted as another person came forward to duel her. Staring into the guy’s blank eyes only confirmed her suspicion. "They’re under the Imperious Curse! They don’t know what they’re doing so be careful!" She called out to her friends as she bound the man, not wanting any of these people hurt too badly simply because they couldn’t control their own actions.
"How ironic! I was just telling Harry all about how you were too weak to join us and here you are proving my point." Elise sneered, as Luna whipped around to face her. "They are nothing these people, you should be perfectly willing to mow them over in the name of your greater good."
"My greater good doesn’t include murdering innocent people." She returned.
"Even if ensuring they’re alive means we escape? What about if they want to hurt you?" Elise asked tauntingly. "I’m curious to see just what you’ll do, this is your chance to surprise me." She turned to three of the people from the boats who were still standing motionless and waiting for orders. "Kill her slowly and painfully." She instructed them.
Luna instantly cast, managing to disarm one of them before being forced to shield. Not having a wand didn’t stop the first guy from joining the other two as they circled her and attempted to curse her with a multitude of spells. She kept her eye on him as she continued to shield and attempted to duel. The sand beneath her feet suddenly exploded and she felt herself fly backwards and her wand leave her hand. Sitting up, she saw Fred intercept the two with wands, forcing them to duel him if they wanted to reach her. Looking around she saw her wand a few feet away and quickly reached for it only to be pushed back into the sand as the man she’d disarmed tackled her, crouching over her and pinning her to the ground as he squeezed his heavy hands around her throat.
"Now what are you going to do?" Elise laughed as she came to stand over them. "Here, I’m curious." She kicked Luna’s wand over within her reach. Grasping it quickly as she struggled to breathe, she did the only thing she could do. "Crucio!" She choked out, using her rapidly dimming mind to strengthen her intentions behind the spell as she pointed her wand directly at Elise.
The woman dropped to the ground writhing in pain, through she was gritting her teeth to keep from crying out. "Release the Imperious Curse." Luna wheezed out before the man squeezed down on her throat even more, completely cutting off the last small bit of oxygen she’d still been getting.
"My pain ends when you die." Elise gasped out, squeezing her eyes against the tears of agony rather than give Luna the satisfaction of seeing them. "You want him off you, do the work yourself!"
But that was no longer an option. Luna felt her grip on her wand loosen as her sight grew dark around the edges. She fought unconsciousness but between the man’s hands cutting off her air and his entire weight pressed down on her body, she felt like her chest was going to explode at the same time she was being crushed to death. She silently called out for Harry but even had they not been on this stupid island, she doubted she would have been successful.
And then the rough hands released her throat as the man collapsed over her, becoming a dead weight on top of her. Coughing and gasping for air, she looked up to see Harry standing over them with his wand out and a look of fury across his face.
Fred stunned the man and woman who had been trying to attack him and quickly looked around to see who else needed help. He wished they were fighting on solid ground as the sand made it far too easy for him to step wrong and re-injure his leg. Catching sight of Elise standing by and watching as three people attacked Luna, he saw his priority and carefully hurried over. She managed to disarm one of them but the other two were unrelenting in their casting, giving her little else to do other than shield against them… and then one of them sent an explosion spell and she flew back. Fred quickly inserted himself into the fight, drawing the attention of the two with wands and hoping Luna could handle herself against Elise.
"Stupey!" Someone called from behind him, hitting one of the two people he was dueling and allowing him to easily take care of the other, binding him so that he couldn’t hurt himself or anyone else.
With the immediate threat over, Fred turned to see who had helped him and found Hermione standing there among the trees with her wand out as Jacey came running up behind her. He was relieved to see her as his heart had nearly leapt out of his chest upon realizing neither she nor Elanya were on the beach. He raced over and wrapped his arms around her, too happy to care about what else was going on.
"I am going to help out Draco and Lupin." Jacey announced, running off to the beach as she caught sight of something that clearly disturbed her.
"You shouldn’t have come back." Hermione said even as she squeezed him tighter.
He pulled away and lightly touched her forehead, which was seeping blood from a rather large gash. "How could I not?" He grinned. "Episkey." He pointed his wand at her head and magically healed over her wound until Drake could take a better look.
She stared up at him in concern. "They still want to find a way to use you. Elanya-"
"Elanya is sickened by this display between you two."
Fred froze and they both turned to find Elanya stalking through the trees toward them looking pretty banged up… but the fire in her golden eyes showed that she was still very much in this. Grabbing Hermione’s hand, he made to run back to the beach where their friends could help them but she shouted an unfamiliar spell, making the trees bend and twist as they moved to block they path and their view of the sand and ocean.
Without waiting to see what came next, he turned and shot a wind tunnel from his wand, sending it sweeping toward Elanya and forcing her to retreat as nothing she did could dissipate his spell. "Run!" He shouted at Hermione, figuring they’d never have a better chance. He hoped his tiny tornado scooped Elanya up and dropped her far out over the sea, but he didn’t have time to sit there and watch to be sure. At this point survival was key, and so they ran along the trees, trying to find a break in the woman’s enchantment that would allow them back onto the beach.
Fred felt it immediately when he stepped wrong, his foot landing on an upturned tree root rather than the forest floor. He felt his ankle roll and give out on him and Drake’s warning replayed over and over in his head as he went down. "Fred!" Hermione had stopped and turned to come back but was stopped a large branch came flying out of nowhere and missed her by inches. She instantly turned and waved her wand, sending Sarah flying as the ground exploded beneath her. "Come on!" She ordered him, grabbing his arm and trying to help pull him to his feet.
He limped along after her while his leg throbbed painfully from his foot all the way up to his hip and he wondered just how bad it was to re-injure something that had just received energy work… apparently he was about to find out. "I know you both are out here!" They heard Sarah calling happily as she stalked after them though Elanya was no where to be found.
Fred turned with his wand ready but Hermione reached out and stopped him. "No, I have a better idea. Come on." She smiled and took his hand, quickly leading the way through the trees and toward the mountains as he struggled to ignore the pain shooting up and down his leg. And then she stopped walking and started yelling for no reason that he could see.
"Hey!" He squeezed her hand. "What are you doing?"
"Drawing Sarah’s attention." She said quietly before yelling again.
"Well it seems to have worked…" He replied as they heard someone come crashing through the trees. At last Sarah emerged before them as they all three stared each other down. The woman’s face was severely cut and there seemed to be bits of stone protruding from her flesh… he wondered what exactly Harry had done to get away from her and felt it should have been worse.
And then Hermione was pulling him along again as Sarah gave chase, forcing them both to duck as she used her power to hurl things at them. Fred felt like his leg was on fire it hurt so badly but he pushed himself forward, determined not to be what slowed them down and got them caught. Suddenly Hermione arced wide and he nearly tripped again as he tried to follow. Then came the cries of surprise and fury. They turned to find Sarah in the grasp of the very same plant that had earlier tried to devour Hermione. She was struggling against the tentacle-like protrusions as more and more of them came out to latch onto her.
"Well, that should hold her for awhile." Hermione grinned at him as he stared at her in impressed bewilderment.
"One psycho down, two to go." He said taking the opportunity to check his ankle, which was extremely swollen.
"You just aren’t going to be happy until it actually is broken are you?" She joked lightly though he could tell she was worried.
"We have to figure out how to get back onto the beach. Without Harry, Luna or Jacey we’ll never get out of here." He stood and surveyed the area they were in. They started walking to the other side of the island figuring that perhaps they could get on the opposite beach and simply walk their way around.
"Are you sure you’re going to be able to make it?" She asked as they at last reached sand and sea. Apparently Elanya charm with the trees hadn’t extended this far to block them.
"I don’t have a choice." He threw his arm around her shoulders and pulled her close as they walked, glad for her company.
"Do you hear that?" She asked, stopping suddenly and turning to look out over the water. Wave after wave was washing up on shore, rising higher and slamming down harder as they came closer and closer to them. She instantly cast, trying to send the waves back out to sea before they could wipe them out and carry them into the water.
Fred turned and caught sight of Elanya hidden among the trees as she directed the waves with her own wand, struggling to maintain her control against Hermione’s resistance. "Expelliarmus!" He shouted, watching in satisfaction as her wand was ripped from her hand and sent sailing down the beach.
"Sarah! Fred’s getting away!" Elanya angrily screamed for her friend who appeared a few feet away. She had leaves tangled in her hair and she was covered in scratches, but clearly she’d fought and managed to escape the strange plant. Hermione quickly used her wand to deflect the large dead tree Sarah threw at them while Fred took a cue from Elanya and used the same spell she’d uttered earlier to shift the trees to block the two from reaching the beach. Sarah stumbled back into the woods as she was roughly shoved out of the way, but Elanya dove through before she could be cut off. She scrambled for her wand and Fred became aware that the only way of stopping her might just be to kill her… a concept he wasn’t entirely comfortable with.
"Can you swim?" He asked, quickly turning to Hermione and stopping her from trying to go engage Elanya in another useless duel.
"Enough to not drown." She replied uncertainly.
"That’ll have to be good enough… just stay close to me. She won’t follow us in."
"But if she finds her wand we’ll be sitting ducks out there." She protested.
"Not if she can’t find us." He grinned, waving his wand first over her and then himself as he cast a Bubble-Head charm on them both. Seeing Elanya rise triumphantly with her wand, Fred pulled Hermione into the water and together they dove beneath the waves.
Ginny had gone to get her coat and been walking around outside since being dismissed from Dumbledore’s office fifteen minutes earlier. She had no idea what was going on but as Harry, Luna and Hermione were nowhere to be found after such a serious occurrence in the school, she knew there was a whole lot more to it than Erebos and his attempts to go after her and Ron. Worse, it seemed Draco was at least in part aware and she kicked herself for not asking him more about it this morning after Erebos had been at her door… Now he and Lupin were off doing who knew what and she was left to wring her hands and lose her mind waiting for them all to get back.
Hearing footsteps in the snow behind her, she turned and was slightly disappointed to find Ron "Come take a walk with me." He offered, stuffing his hands in his coat pockets as he stared at her hopefully.
Ginny stared at him like he was crazy. "Really? Look I’m relieved more than words can say that you didn’t die today… you’re my brother and I love you. But you’re the last person in the world I want to be around right now."
He nodded as if he’d been expecting her reaction. "I’m sorry I picked a fight with you, I really am. I was mad, I still am mad and I can’t help that. But seeing as how you clearly don’t know everything that’s going on right now, I figured you’d finally be able to see things my way… that it hurts when everyone excludes you."
"Of course I understand, I always did. But I’ve also learned that if I’m not being told something, it’s only because they think it’s best. And yes, it still makes me mad, but blowing up at everyone and making things even worse certainly isn’t going to solve anything!" She answered truthfully. After all, she was mad that she and Ron seemed to be the only ones to not be told anything… but more than that, she was scared as to the reasons why.
She began walking away and felt him rush to catch up. "What do you know about all of this?" He asked, as desperate for information as she was. "I don’t even know why Erebos came after me other than because Malfoy said he kept the man from going after you first… why us?"
Ginny shook her head. "Elise and Sarah must have had a reason if he was taking orders from them… Draco said they wanted to take over the ministry but I know there’s more to it than that-" She stopped as something ahead of them caught her eye. "Hey, someone’s climbing out of the Whomping Willow!"
Knowing that the tree hid the way to the Shrieking Shack, they both rushed over hoping one of their friends had returned to tell them what was happening. Instead, they found Healer Drake standing and dusting himself off as he muttered unhappily to himself. Catching sight of them, he raised his hands and shook his head. "No, I won’t let you two talk me out of this either. I warned them that if they went back to that island I was going to go to Dumbledore… they chose to go and I have to do what’s right, even if Lupin is with them."
"What island? Who went where with Lupin?" Ginny demanded.
Drake looked back and forth between them before it seemed to dawn on him. "You two don’t know what’s going on, do you?"
"Please tell us." Ron begged.
Ginny remained calmer, seeing her opportunity to both help and get information. "Take us back to the Shrieking Shack to wait for them… please, if we don’t know anything then you certainly don’t know everything. Going to Dumbledore could ruin whatever is going on and will only get us all in trouble and perhaps even force Dumbledore to take action against us to save his own position. Just wait with us, tell us what you know and then we can demand together that they tell us the rest. And then if you still feel it necessary, you can take us all to the Headmaster."
He looked at her a moment before sighing heavily. "Fine, I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of having to be the one to tell on you all… I certainly got into my own brand of trouble in school, even if it was never as serious or dangerous. Besides, it’s not like I can tell Dumbledore where they went so he can’t go help them. I guess we’ll have to hope your friends are as capable as they think they are."
Having felt them coming, Harry had instantly cast a shield to protect his friends from the immediate attack Elise and Sarah had ready for them. But his concern for the others had left an opening against him and he felt Sarah reach out with her power to grab hold of him and send him flying back down the beach and far away from everyone else. Quickly shaking it off, he got to his feet ready to return to the fight only to see that Sarah had followed and brought the fight to him. "Let them be Harry, let them live or die as fate chooses… you’ll only be left with the strong ones."
"There are many different ways to measure strength." He answered angrily, using his mind to reach out and grab one of the heavier stones that had earlier been used to trap him… then he hurled it at her as if it weighed no more than a pebble. She quickly ducked and used the rock to hide behind should he decide to use his wand. Feeling her use her power to try and grab hold of him again, he strengthened his resolve and focused on pushing her consciousness away from him. He saw the surprise and anger in her eyes as she realized he was using his own power to hold himself in place. "It’s a lot harder to go against me when you haven’t stolen my powers from me first." He taunted, taking a moment to glance down the beach to check on the others. What he saw made his heart stop and his vision go red… Elise was standing by with a cruel smile as one of the men she’d cursed tackled Luna to the ground and tried to strangle her.
"We tried to tell you about her." Sarah called gleefully, clearly having seen what was upsetting him.
He threw another giant rock to shut her up but he was still unable to move… As he fought her power being used against him, he found that he’d become frozen in place. Clearly the only thing to do was get rid of what was in his way. Seeing Luna weakly raise her wand and Elise drop in pain, he made sure to point it out to Sarah. "Even so, she took down Elise with an unforgivable."
"It’ll end when Luna dies… I’m not concerned." She taunted back.
It was enough, he’d had enough. Once more gathering everything he had in him, he reached down deep to that dark and instinctual place before turning to the two stones Sarah was using to shield herself. Picturing the rocks in his mind, he squeezed them and imagined them exploding in a thousand pieces. And then it was really happening… Sarah screamed in genuine fear as solid rock flew in her face and knocked her back several yards into the trees.
Harry didn’t wait to see whether she’d lived through it, it didn’t matter… she didn’t matter. He rushed over to help Luna and saw that the man was on the verge of succeeding in taking her life. Elise stared up at him, struggling to hide her pain even as her body was convulsing beyond her control. He didn’t have to be able to read her mind, her intention was right there in her eyes along with the agony she was feeling. She wanted him to kill the man and prove her point about him as surely as Luna had proven herself to be exactly what she’d thought her to be… too kind to fight. Instead he used his power to break off a large branch from a nearby tree and as soon as it was in his hands he swung, connecting heavily with the back of the man’s head.
With his wand out and ready should the man persist, Harry was relieved that the hit to the head was enough. The man released Luna and collapsed over her as she desperately gasped for air while choking and coughing. Meeting her eyes, he saw that the heavy man was still preventing her from getting air and he quickly waved his wand, carelessly hurling the body aside before kneeling down next to her. She rolled to her side and clutched her throat before looking up at him in sudden terror. She pointed her wand past his shoulder, "Stupefy!" She yelled hoarsely.
Harry whipped around to see the person that had been about to cast behind his back fall to the ground stiffly. "Can you get up?" He asked as he quickly turned back to her. Luna swallowed hard and nodded, taking his hands and letting him pull her to her feet and into his arms as he took a moment to hold her tightly, comforting himself in the fact that she was very much alive. "Come on, let’s go help the others, find Fred and Hermione and get the hell out of here."
She turned to release the curse from Elise but he reached out and stopped her. Elise’s eyes widened and she turned to stare directly at Luna. "You’re really going to leave me here like this?" She gasped out pitifully.
"Why not?" Harry answered for her. "This way we’ll know exactly where you are. You were right, maybe Luna is too nice for her own good… but I’m here to make up the difference." He sneered down at her, knowing it was her who’d ordered that man to kill Luna in the first place. Ignoring her protests, he took Luna’s arm and forced her to ignore them too as he led her away. "Just let her be and focus on them." He said quietly as he pointed out Jacey, Draco and Lupin who were trying to carefully round up and capture the rest of the people currently under the girls’ curse.
Though clearly uncomfortable, Luna nodded in agreement before cringing as the movement made her sore throat hurt. Taking a deep breath, she continued walking away from Elise and quickly waved her wand, casting a binding on a woman who was part of the group attacking Draco. "Are you two okay?" Jacey called out as she surrounded three people in a ring of fire and allowed Lupin to bind them in place.
"We will be the sooner we can get out of here!" Harry called back, making sure that he stayed close to Luna as they all fought and dueled endlessly. "What happened to Hermione and Fred?"
"Last I saw they were just inside the woods." She replied.
Suddenly there was a loud cracking sound as the entire row of trees lining the beach exploded. Everyone managed to shield and when the dust settled, they found both Elanya and Sarah standing in the wreckage. Harry saw the intentions in their eyes and instantly shielded himself again while once more gluing himself in place as both girls came after him.
It was clear right away that Hermione was uncomfortable being underwater, but she did her best to stay below the surface and keep up with Fred. Once certain they were far enough away from Elanya, he slowed his progress for her and because his leg was screaming in protest. He tried not to move it much, using just his arms and one leg to propel himself through the water. Once certain they’d swum out far enough he lit his wand, illuminating their way as they turned and began swimming around to the other side of the island. It took a long time, even longer as she slowed down having not had the opportunity to get in as much practice as he had in the last few weeks. At last he was able to make out something ahead of them and motioned for Hermione to surface. She nodded gratefully and shot up out of the water. Fred was much more careful when he surfaced, looking around to be sure they hadn’t been spotted. Looking up, they saw a ship towering over them and letting them know they’d successfully found their way.
"It looks like they’re having trouble." Hermione said in concern, after ending the charm he’d cast.
Releasing his own air bubble, he took in the grim scene out onshore that their friends were apart of. Elanya had just made her way across the island with Sarah and they were creating havoc for everyone. "How many people do you think they left to guard the ship?" He asked.
"At least the captain if they’re smart… although I’m sure if necessary, Elise or Sarah could figure out how to drive this thing." She answered, looking at him curiously as she waited to see where he was going with this.
"Come on, we’re about to play pirates and commandeer this vessel." He grinned, turning and swimming right up to the ship. Waving his wand, he called for the small rope ladder to unfurl itself so they could climb aboard.
"I don’t know about this… I’m not sure I can pull myself up there after so much swimming." She said nervously. She already looked so tired and she hadn’t gotten the burst of healing energy from Drake like he had, but he knew they had to push on in order to get themselves somewhere safe where they could all finally rest and recuperate.
"I’ll climb up first." He offered. "Then all you have to do is hang on and I’ll reel you in."
"How are you going to get up there with a hurt leg?" She argued, always one to completely think things through before she did them.
"Very carefully." He grinned, pulling her close and kissing her lips in reassurance before turning and grasping the ladder. Using his tired arms, he pulled himself up and used his good leg to hop up to the next rung. At last he made it to the top and carefully peeked up over the deck... he was truly surprised to find it deserted. Apparently Elise and Sarah hadn’t planned on any of them trying to steal their ship. Bringing himself up the rest of the way, he looked down and waited for Hermione to get a good grasp before tugging the ladder up and helping her climb onboard. "You okay?" He asked as he took a moment to catch his breath.
"Better off than you." She answered as she looked him over.
"Undoubtedly, but this isn’t the time to stop and rest… which way to the wheel?" Using the railing to pull himself to his feet, he leaned heavily on it as they made their way around the boat and into the captain’s box.
"I think this raises the anchor." Hermione said as she studied the three levers on the wall.
"Well pull it and lets get this show on the road." He said as he waved his wand and started the engines. Moving to the wheel, he waited to be sure the anchor had actually risen before driving full speed ahead… straight towards the beach.
Luna watched as Elanya waved her wand and attacked Harry without warning. He shielded, but from the way he grit his teeth in determination she could tell Sarah was trying to work against him as well. His power overcame hers and she went flying as Elanya renewed her magical attack against him. Luna rushed toward Sarah and quickly shot a stunner but Elanya shielded for her friend before turning and pointing her wand down the beach to release Elise from Luna’s earlier curse, ensuring both her comrades were back in the fight. It didn’t take long for Elise to get shakily to her feet and shoot a stream of fire towards Harry. He was distracted by both her and Elanya as they went against him, leaving Sarah with Luna.
She quickly hid herself behind a large stone before Sarah was able to rise to her feet, not wanting her to know where she was and use her telekinetic powers to toss her around. Peeking out, Luna saw her looking around angrily and took her chance, raising her wand and leaping out. "Petrificus Totalus!" She yelled, watching in triumph as Sarah’s limbs locked together and she fell forward stiff as a board.
"No!" Elanya screamed before turning to lunge at Luna. Before she could react, a wall of fire blazed between them, keeping the other girl from reaching her. She looked to Jacey gratefully who nodded before rushing to help Harry deal with Elise who seemed beyond furious as she whipped fire at him without pause.
The ship’s horn blared suddenly, much closer than it had been before. Luna quickly gazed out to see the thing barreling through the water toward the beach while Hermione stood on the bow and wildly waved and shouted for their attention. Everyone on the sand who was in control of their own mind scrambled out of the way while Luna, Harry, Jacey, Draco and Lupin quickly moved those under Elise and Sarah’s Imperious Curse.
"Grab Lupin and Draco and get them out of here!" Harry shouted to Jacey as he raced to grab Luna’s hand. In an instant they were both on the deck of the ship with Fred and Hermione.
"I think I broke their boat." Fred said in greeting, wearing a large grin of satisfaction.
Luna glanced down at the beach and felt bad for all those people they were going to be leaving behind with the three psychotic girls. And then she saw Elise looking up at them. "Everyone get down!" She yelled, waving her wand at the same time Elise attempted to set the ship on fire. The ocean responded to Luna’s spell, quelling the flames before crashing down onshore and taking out Elise, Sarah and Elanya, pulling them out to sea as the water receded back to where it belonged.
"Jacey got Draco and Lupin out, let’s do the same." Harry said as he also surveyed the beach. They all four grabbed hands and within moments, they were at last all whisked safely away to join the rest of their friends.
Draco was only slightly surprised to find Ginny and Ron standing in the parlor of the Shrieking Shack along with Drake when Jacey brought him and Lupin back. He tried not to meet her eyes as he could tell she was angry and just barely holding it back in an attempt to remain reasonable… at least until she received an explanation.
"Where are the others?" Drake asked immediately.
"They are a few moments behind us." Jacey answered as she tiredly sank down into the couch.
Sure enough, Potter, Granger, Luna and Fred appeared, all four instantly sitting themselves on the floor as they attempted to catch their breath and rest their battered bodies. "Fred?!" Ginny exclaimed, rushing over to kneel next to her brother in confusion and concern. "What are you doing here? What happened?"
"Elise, Sarah and Elanya… they proved I’m a moron and everyone had to come fix my mistake." He sat up and wrapped his arms around her. "I’m okay, Gin. I promise."
"That’s yet to be seen." Drake said disapprovingly as he looked them all over.
"We need to get back to the castle to meet with the Aurors about Erebos." Lupin came forward and placed a hand on Draco’s shoulder. He was suddenly extremely grateful that he wouldn’t be here to face Ginny’s wrath… hopefully by the time he saw her again, she’d have had the chance to calm down.
Drake nodded. "It seems whatever injuries you two retained are already healing on their own… I would recommend fixing yourselves up a bit first to avoid unwanted questions."
"No, everyone needs to stay right here and tell me what the bloody hell is going on!" Ron shouted angrily, finally losing what little control he’d found.
"Relax Ron, don’t be mad at everyone else… it’s my fault you didn’t know anything, I didn’t want anyone to know but as always that became impossible. But you and Ginny couldn’t be in on it because everything I did was to keep you both safe. You should be grateful you have such a caring big brother." Fred replied with a wide, sheepish grin.
"You should be grateful you’re too banged up right now for me to feel good about punching you in the face." Ron muttered, clearly unamused. "How was it better that Ginny and I not know that there was a professor with the intention of killing us?!"
Draco looked to Fred for the answer as well, having been wondering exactly what kind of situation had warranted his siblings not knowing their lives were in danger. He shook his head and looked at Ginny who seemed more willing to actually listen than be mad like Ron. "I knew none of them would let anything happen to you guys… but I was scared because for a while, no one knew it was Erebos. All we knew was that there was a spy and I worried that if they somehow found out you all knew they would react without warning. Once Hermione, Lee and Luna figured out who the spy was we knew who to look out for I was finally able to stop doing what Elanya told me because I didn’t have to worry about some shadowy figure going after you guys. Rather than make you guys worry, I guess we’d all hoped I could come back without anyone knowing and then tell you. But at first no one at all knew… Hermione figured out what happened to me, then she went to Luna for help and then Harry became involved… I guess they went to Draco for help in finding where I was and then they came and got me."
"From where? What happened?" Ginny asked while looking at Draco out of the corner of her eye.
Lupin held up his hand to hold off explanations. "We have to go talk to the Aurors. After I leave Draco with them, I’m coming back for all of you to bring you to Dumbledore where you can tell him whatever version of events you all choose. Get your stories straight while Drake patches you all up and get ready to go to the castle… that includes you Fred." He said with complete authority in a tone that suggested there would be no arguing. He waved his wand over himself and then turned to do the same to Draco, fixing and straightening their clothes, cleaning them up and making them presentable and not at all like two people who’d just spent time dueling on an island.
And then without a word, they were moving to the trap door and through the tunnel. True to his word, Lupin walked him into the castle and back up to Dumbledore’s office to face the Aurors. He stopped outside the gargoyle, looking up thoughtfully before turning to Draco with a hardened expression. "Albus will be looking out for your best interests up there, but only one of the Aurors is one we trust and thankfully it’s Kingsley. If the other two try to blame you in any way for anything at all, don’t say a word other than to request I be there for the rest of your questioning. You may be of age, but as a student they can’t question you if you request the presence of a guardian or other form of representation."
"I barely know anything other than I saved Weasley’s life." He replied, feeling Lupin’s concerns unwarranted.
He nodded gravely. "I’m preparing you for the real world Draco… Sometimes if one of our kind is involved in something, it doesn’t matter how innocent they are, they still get blamed as a way to get them off the streets. Prejudice runs deep in some people and unfortunately there are those among us who give them rightful reason to fear us. It won’t matter that you aren’t like Harland, that’s who they’ll see when they look at you, at me, at anyone like us. It’s something you’re going to have to get used to much more often than you’ve had to here where more open minds have forced the closed ones to tolerate us."
Feeling nervous and angry, Draco nodded and made his way up. Dumbledore rose and gestured to a seat before him as Kingsley and two other Aurors with disgusted looks on their faces stood beside him behind the desk. Apparently the Headmaster had the same concerns as Lupin as he urged Kingsley to be the one to question him. "Your witness is here, Auror Shacklebolt. Let your record show that as Headmaster, I am currently acting in my student’s interests above those of the ministry."
"Noted sir." He nodded with a grim smile before turning to Draco. "Mr. Malfoy, I simply wish you to make a statement telling us everything you know involving Professor Erebos, beginning with when he came to Miss Weasley’s door."
He took a deep breath and went over the day’s events as he recalled them, leaving out of course anything involving the island or Fred. When asked, he claimed to not know why Elise had been on school grounds and he told them he had no idea as to either her or Erebos’s intentions. Thankfully Kingsley stopped his peers from veering too far off topic and after a tense twenty minutes, they must have felt they’d gotten all they were going to get from him and Dumbledore excused him before anything more could be delved into. Clearly the headmaster knew there was more to the story, but he was going to wait and get it from Potter and the others after the Aurors departed with their prisoner.
He went down to the common room and hurried to the Gryffindor wing, ready to sit outside Ginny’s door for as long as it took before she showed up. He was surprised to only be waiting a few moments before she arrived, staring at him from down the hall. "I didn’t think you’d be here so soon." He said as he nervously got to his feet.
"Since it was determined that Ron and I had nothing to do with any of this, Dumbledore excused us so he could focus on everyone else." She answered stiffly, walking up to open the door and walk into her room.
He took the fact that she left the door open for him as she went to sit at her desk as a good sign and cautiously ventured in. "Is everyone okay?" He asked carefully as he slowly closed the door and leaned against it.
"Drake fixed them up as best he could… apparently he was upset that Fred had re-injured a leg he already healed once. I take it since you and Lupin came into this near the end that you’re both fine?" She was upset but there was still that moment of concern that crossed her eyes.
"I swear Ginny, I didn’t know what was going on. I mean, I guessed some of it because they had to tell me certain things to get my help… but I wasn’t sure of anything… How could I have told you something I wasn’t certain of?" He took a few steps forward as he attempted to make his flimsy case.
She stared tensely at him for a moment longer before shaking her head and allowing a slow grin to spread across her face. "Relax Draco, it’s not you I’m mad at… or at least you’re the one I’m least mad at."
"Are you okay?" He took another hesitant step closer, still unsure whether or not to believe her shift in mood.
"Better than Fred, Harry, Luna, Hermione and Jacey. They’re a mess after whatever happened out there… which is why I’m taking pity and waiting until tomorrow to berate my brother. But, I guess I also have to thank everyone for making sure Ron and I were safe… It’s annoying to not be able to be as angry as I’d like to be. I’m not sure I like this whole growing up and maturing thing." She got up and walked over to wrap her arms around him. "I suppose I’m just glad to have you all in my life, even if you all manage to piss me off on a regular basis." She teased as she looked up at him.
He grinned in relief that she was letting him off the hook… at least for now. "Right back at you." He teased in return.
She nodded and stepped away, taking his hands in hers. "There’s just one thing…"
Harry sat back on the couch with Luna and Jacey as they allowed Fred and Hermione to fill Dumbledore in as they were the two who knew the most and more importantly, what to disclose and what to keep to themselves. They had agreed to go with whatever story Fred chose and were attempting to listen in case they were asked any questions. But Harry was too focused on other things, despite the aches and pains he felt on behalf of himself and Luna, he was relieved to feel the return of his telepathy… And even though he didn’t like what he saw or felt it was comforting to be able to have that connection to her given back. While they’d been disconnected, it was almost as if he’d lost one of his senses and it had left him feeling disoriented. As soon as they got back to school and away from whatever was blocking them, they had instantly reconnected and whether they wanted it or not, their minds had crashed together to display the memories and thoughts they’d experienced while separated.
Now in Dumbledore’s office and after having had time to get used to things as they were supposed to be, they were able to recover and maintain the balance they’d been working to achieve since opening up and bonding so completely with each other. But still, even though she wasn’t putting it out on display, he could see she was stewing over something that was bothering her.
What’s wrong? He asked, allowing Fred, Hermione and Dumbledore’s voices to fade into the background as he concentrated on keeping their conversation private from Jacey.
Luna mentally shook her head. I was just thinking of my vision… the one where Simon and Elise are each calling out to us…
And? He prompted, suddenly feeling nervous.
She shifted so she was able to look him in the eye and impart the seriousness of the intuition she was feeling. It’s occurred to me that now Simon and Elise have both made their arguments as to which of them to pick as an ally.
What about it? He knew she’d seen Elise and Sarah proposition him on the beach in his memories though she was carefully keeping her feelings about it to herself… he allowed her to do so, intent on waiting until she was ready to discuss it. As for Simon’s clumsy attempt to mimic his sister’s actions and kidnap them to talk to them, Harry wasn’t sure what to make of it… He certainly didn’t trust either sibling though that was more Elise’s fault than Simon’s. He was certain Simon believed everything he said, but Harry just couldn’t get past the doubts that told him Elise may have somehow set her brother up as another way to get to them.
It’s up to you, Harry. That’s what the vision was telling me. Luna said gravely and with concern. You’re the one who has to decide what to do, which one you’re going to decide to pick… and at some point, you are going to be forced to choose though I don’t know the circumstances yet. But it’s clear, one of them is going to give you a reason to pick them to align yourself with.
What’ll happen? He asked, feeling the pressure of bearing the consequences should he make the wrong choice.
I can’t know that until you choose. She answered sadly before a sense of determination washed over her. But I’ll keep trying.
NOTE: Fingers crossed I’ll have the characters out of Hogwarts by chapter 60… I just can’t believe how much this whole story got away from me J See you next time!