Chapter 18 - Ravenclaw's Manor

Using the Floo was certainly an interesting experience. Hermione, being a logical girl, expected to feel some kind of heat from the appearance of green fire. But it was cool instead, like ice as she was pulled through the fabric of time and space itself and spit back out somewhere else. Biting back a yelp as she skidded out onto a hard, dusty wooden floor, Hermione quickly rolled out of the way as Harry appeared beside her, groaning softly.

"Are you alright, Harry?" She asked, reaching out to wipe soot from her friends cheek as his green eyes opened. Coughing, a slight cloud of ash appeared from his lips,

"I think I had my mouth open," he finally managed to croak, causing Hermione to laugh unintentionally as she scrambled to her feet and removed the wand from her sleeve. The room they had popped into was seemingly abandoned, the old furniture overturned and everything covered in a distinct layer of whitish dust. Sighing, Hermione turned to Harry and gripped his hand tightly, assisting the young wizard to his feet as he brushed off his robes, "where are we?"

"Little Dean I think, if I said the right address," Hermione unconsciously tucked some hair into her loose bun, shaking herself off as Snuffles and Crookshanks tumbled through the fireplace together, "the journal said this was the upstairs room in a small bar, but it looks to have been abandoned,"

"Maybe it's better that way," Harry admitted, patting his loyal dog who had gotten even darker in color with the soot in his fur, "less people around to recognize me,"

"Yes, yes I suppose that's true. And now that we can use this fireplace, we can travel back to Diagon Alley for supplies and food. But...we haven't much money now, do we?" Hermione looked to Harry worriedly, a deep rooted anxiousness rising up into her throat. They were running out of assets, what with all their things left at the Lovegood's during the attack.

"We'll find a way," Harry insisted, grabbing Hermione from around the shoulders and holding her close, "don't worry,"

Sighing deeply and sinking into Harry's arms, Hermione closed her eyes for only a brief moment. How is it that Harry always makes me feel safe? Inhaling shakily, she nodded against his chest and composed herself, smiling as Harry gently reached out to wipe a sooty tear from her cheek,

"I'm better now," Hermione insisted softly, scooping her beloved cat from the floor as he mewed in irritation, "we should get going, it'll be dark soon. We shouldn't let our guard down though, just in case,"

Nodding, Harry removed the invisibility cloak from his bag and threw it over the two of them, both children making their way down from the upstairs room arm in arm, with Snuffle's padding at their heels. Exiting the ruddy building out into the street, a soft gasp escaped Hermione's throat. The little town was completely burned down. Every building was black, and many of the roofs had collapsed in on themselves. Hermione could still smell the phantom smoke left behind by the blazes, and ash still floated about in the air. Removing the cloak, Hermione squeezed Harry's hand.

"What happened here?"

"Looks like this place was attacked," Harry breathed, "come on, we should get going. I don't like us being out in the open like this."

"Yeah...yeah, you're right," swallowing thickly, Hermione tugged on Harry's hand again as she opened Remus' journal to look at the map, "it's this way,"

Nodding silently, the two made their way out of Little Dean. Along the curving dirt road, the trees became thicker and thicker, and the air became colder. A few flakes of snow even began to fall, touching Hermione's nose as she shivered and held herself,

"It can't possibly be winter yet," the girl breathed, holding up a hand to catch snowflakes while letting Crookshanks slip from her arms to the ground. Turning to Harry, he was catching the snow on his tongue, "do you think it's magic?"

"I dunno. But we should try and find this place before it gets dark,"

"The map says it in a grove not to far from here, there should be a fence surrounding it,"

"Like that one?" Harry pointed across the now snowy landscape, revealing the remnants of a crooked rot iron fence. Blinking, Hermione nodded. 'How could she have not noticed that?'

"The bushes look pretty thick. Let's try and find a thinner piece of the fence,"

Nodding in agreement, Harry and Hermione followed the metal bars, swerving through the thicket on narrow animal trails. Finally, after what seemed like eternities of walking, the brush thinned to reveal a large shadowy shape. Nearing the fence cautiously, Hermione pulled out her wand fearfully. It was much too quiet for her liking. Peering through the gate rungs, Hermione felt a breath escape her throat. The mansion was a lot bigger then she thought, the front porch slightly sagging. The navy blue and white painting was peeling, and some of the roof had caved in. Leafless vines clambered willingly through the broken windows, revealing nothing but darkness inside,
"I think this is it,"

"How do we get in?"

"Stand back," Hermione held out her wand, throwing it downwards with a hand, "Bombarda!"

The massive explosion sent mud, snow and metal pieces everywhere as Hermione ducked, expertly spinning her wand in between her fingers before disappearing it up her sleeve. There was now a massive hole in the fence, granting them entry,

"You're scary sometimes, you know that?" Harry mumbled beside her, "brilliant, but scary,"

"Well thank you, Mr. Potter. Now come on, it's getting darker by the minute,"

Laughing lightly, Harry easily scooped up Hermione's hand. Squeezing it, the pair made their way towards the house, the worn bottoms of their shoes tingling with cold as they kicked up piles of undisturbed snow. The mansion was very beautiful, and was unlike anything Hermione had ever seen. It's triangular rooftop scraped the deep grey sky, a wind whistling through the paneless window. Hermione thought the place would perturb her, but staring up at its dilapidated state, she could only smile. 'This house is a bit like us,' she thought, ascending the crooked staircase as Harry shook snow off himself, 'forgotten'. Blinking slightly as Harry moved towards the door, Hermione unconsciously tensed up as he tried the knob. The wooden entry swung open with no fight at all, as if the house itself were inviting them inside.

"Come on, Hermione. It's getting too cold out here,"

Shivering in agreement, Hermione followed Harry into the main hall of the house, allowing Snuffles and Crookshank's in before closing the door on the snowstorm beginning outside. Rubbing her hands together, Hermione took in the house. It was in much better condition on the inside then the outside. It's plush blue carpets were still soft, and knights in shining armor still stood guard between thick wooden pillars. Despite the wind blowing through the broken windows, the house was still significantly warm, like someone had a blazing fire going in a distant room, "wicked,"

Harry poked at one of the armored pieces with a finger as Hermione chuckled, pushing some hair away from her face as she scooped up Crookshanks,

"We should go find a room to rest for the night. I don't know about you, Harry, but I could use some sleep,"

"Yeah, me too."

Nodding, Hermione and Harry walked side by side through the house, looking at everything. The house seemed to be unravaged by time. Despite a bit of ware and dust, everything from the furniture to the paintings on the walls remained in place. Nothing looked to have been stolen or moved. 'I never did understand robbers. Who would want to destroy such a beautiful place?'

"Hey, Mione. I think this is a bedroom,"

Glancing up at Harry's call, they were standing before a wooden door. It's surface was emblazoned with a majestic flying eagle, its claws wrapped around what looked to be a bundle of glowing wands. Pushing into the room, Hermione gasped. It was huge, with a ceiling which reflected the starry night sky. Every wall was lined with ceiling to floor bookshelves, the tomes ranging from Latin to Greek titles. And above the large fireplace was the biggest painting Hermione had ever seen. It was of a woman in a pretty blue cloak, her dark hair pulled up to reveal her intelligent, sparkling eyes and her sharp cheeks. 'Was this the woman who originally owned the manor?'

"This is incredible, Harry!" Hermione exclaimed, freeing her grumpy cat from her embrace as she spun to take everything in before squaring on the portrait, "she must have been very wise. I imagine she read every book in this library!"

"Indeed I have, child,"

Jumping at the voice, Hermione blinked and stepped back as Harry held out his wand, which appeared in his hand in an instant. Above the fireplace, the portrait of the beautiful woman was moving about, blinking and staring down at them, "who are you? Are you thieves, here to pillage this place?"

"Of course not!" Hermione felt genuinely offended as she folded her arms, "how anyone could think of destroying such a beautiful place, I will never understand,"

"Nor could I, child," the portrait spoke, her soft features pulled into a knotted frown, "so I ask again. Who are you?"

" name is Hermione Granger, and this is brother, Harry. We just came to sleep for tonight, then we'll go. We...we didn't know someone else still lived here,"

"Alas I no longer walk the earth. I am Rowena Ravenclaw, builder of this mansion. And I know who you are. You there, boy. Come closer,"

The woman kneeled down in her portrait as Harry hesitated to move, only to jerk slightly as Hermione nudged him. 'She's just a painting,' Hermione whispered in his ear, 'go on,'

Fidgeting, Harry grumbled something under his breath as he stepped closer to the fireplace. Rowena seemed to ponder him for a long while, squinting through her frame at the 'boy who lived'. she then sat back and nodded,

"Harry Potter. I have no doubt in my mind that is who you are. And Hermione Granger, a muggleborn witch,"

Stepping back, Harry took Hermione's hand in his as he snarled. Hermione, once again, nudged him slightly,

"How do you know us, Miss Ravenclaw?"

"I have traveled far and wide, and have only just returned to find you both in my home. There is much talk of how the savior of the wizarding world is accompanying a muggle around England, and how even the Great Dumbledore can not track them. It's a truly incredible feat. Unfortunately, there is not much hope for either of you,"

Hermione blanched slightly as she squeezed Harry's hand, twisting her lip to keep from scowling at the portrait,

"How do you mean?"

"The Ministry of Magic is able to track the use of underage magic. The more you learn, the easier it will be to find you."

Blinking slightly, Hermione knitted her eyebrows in thought. Everywhere they went, Dumbledore had been hot on their trail. Was their use of magic enough to give them away? If Rowena Ravenclaw was telling the truth, then yes, they were in danger.

"You won't tell anyone we're here, will you?" It was Harry who spoke this time, staring up at the portrait with fire in his eyes, and grimace at his lips, "I...I don't want to go with Dumbledore, he's a bad man,"

"Dumbledore is not a bad man, Mr. Potter," Rowena insisted sharply, "but I understand your unwillingness to join his cause. He has manipulated many into believing they are contributing to the greater good. You both are very brave to go against his will."

" won't tell him?"

"No, Mr. Potter. I have no interest in revealing your whereabouts. I suppose you learned of my home from the group of young boys who used to visit so long ago? Yes. Well, they were a good bunch. You are both welcome to stay here as long as you need. my wards should keep you safe, at least for a while,"

"A while?" Hermione cocked her head to once side, "are your wards not strong enough?"

"They were once powerful, but without my magic to keep them strong, they are waning. They will keep you undetected for at least a year, but will start to crumble after that. I'm sorry,"

Glancing at one another, Hermione smile at Harry and nodded. That was enough time to learn more magic, and to come up with a plan.

"Thank you for your hospitality, Miss Ravenclaw," Holding Harry tightly as they collapsed down onto the nearby bed, Hermione sighed slightly and yawned, "we'll take good care of this place until then."

A/N: WOW! It's been so long since I updated. Sorry for the wait, guys. Things got crazy the second half of the school year, and then I just got back from a mission trip and thought 'hey, I kinda want to update that'. So here it is! Sorry if its rough, I haven't been in the swing of things for a little while. But hopefully more updates will come. Thanks for waiting!