Chapter Thirty-Five---Bond to Break


"Try to black it out, but it plays again

When it's real, feelings hard to conceal

Can't imagine all the pain I feel

Give anything to hear half your breath (half your breath)

I know you still living your life, after death

Every step I take, every move I make

Every single day, every time I pray

I'll be missing you

Thinkin of the days, when you went away

What a life to take, what a bond to break

I'll be missing you."

P. Diddy (Puff Daddy) - "I'll Be Missing You"


Harry arrived at St. Mungo's just as Ginny, Charlie, and Fred and George were entering the lobby. Harry was being escorted by Tonks, and Kingsley had left to take the prisoners to the Ministry of Magic.

Harry didn't want to talk to anyone. He didn't want to see anyone.

He was upset when he heard that Ron was hurt, and that was Harry's main reason for coming. But, in the end, Harry was sick. Sick, and tired.

Lord Voldemort was pissing him off. That was the only way Harry could sum it up. If Ron died, that would be the last straw. Harry decided he didn't care what happened.

If Ron died, Harry was going to leave Hogwarts and track Voldemort down.

It wasn't the only thought passing across his mind. He wanted to break Mr Goyle's fucking neck. No, he wanted to torture him slowly, then break his neck. In fact, Harry might even feel satisfied spending some alone time with Gregory Goyle, and showing Mr Goyle's son the meaning of pain.

The others met Harry in the lobby.

"Harry, are you okay?" Ginny walked up to him, and put a hand on his shoulder. He shrugged it off.

Charlie had an arm around Ginny's shoulder, and he moved forward. Harry noticed that Charlie gave Tonks a penetrating look, and then Charlie grabbed Harry's shoulder. He pulled Harry toward him.

Charlie leaned down, and spoke harshly into Harry's ear. "We heard about what happened. But that doesn't mean you can just brush everyone off. There was nothing you could do!"

Harry avoided Charlie's eyes, and refused to say anything. Charlie let go of Harry's shoulder, and gave an exasperated sigh.

Fred and George were hanging back, and for the second time (at least, from Harry's memory) they were seriously concerned. They looked exactly like they had when the Weasley family and Harry had been waiting for word about Mr Weasley's condition after Voldemort's snake bit him.

Harry closed everyone out. Fred said something to him, but he ignored him. Tonks was griping about something, but Harry could care less. He allowed himself to be led numbly to the room in which his best friend was fighting for his life.

When he reached the sitting area, Hermione was hugging Mrs Weasley, and they were evidently crying. For a brief moment, Harry thought it was all over. Ron was gone. There was very little left.

Harry clenched his fists, and then punched the nearest wall.

He'd hoped it would break under pressure, but unfortunately, the wall was made of stone. Harry pulled back his fist, ignoring the pain.

Tonks grabbed him by the shoulders and shouted at him. He didn't pay any attention to what she was saying. In fact, he simply concentrated on the pain in his hand. It was satisfying, feeling the pain.

When Tonks was finally finished, Harry was able to see Hermione looking openly at him, the tears on her face still wet. But there was still a look of hope there, a look he was able to recognize. So....Ron was still alive, after all.

Hermione stood up and grabbed Harry, pulling him into a hard, tight hug. Harry had to admit it was nice, feeling Hermione's vibrancy, knowing she was okay.

But she's not okay. She's in pain, just like me.

Harry wrapped his arms around her, and returned the tight hug. He could feel Hermione's hot tears on the side of his cheek. She'd cried an awful lot this year.

After a moment, he awkwardly patted her back, and moved to sit in a nearby chair. The others (save Tonks, who left him there) had settled themselves on the floor and in other chairs, and had caused a great crowd in the hallway. None of the healers asked them to disperse, and Harry's thought was that they understood the seriousness of Ron's problem.

The group sat there for a very long time, with Mrs Weasley told tales of Ron's childhood, and about Percy and Bill. Every now and then, she would begin to cry, but thankfully, Hermione was there to lend a shoulder to cry on.

Harry began to doze. When he awoke, several people were still in the hall, but he noticed that Mr and Mrs Weasley and Hermione were no longer sitting in the chairs beside him.

Harry got up. He feared the worst. His heart welled up into his throat. He turned to see Ginny sleeping silently against Fred, against the wall. Fred was apparently dozing, too. George was nowhere to be found, and Charlie was gone, as well.

Harry tried to breathe, but his breath caught in his lungs. He looked toward the door to Ron's room, and beyond, where he knew he'd learn the truth. It was now or never.

Harry tried not to scream as he grasped the handle on the door, and was about to open it, when Hermione rushed out.

Her face was indescribable. Her eyes were wide, and her mouth of formed in an "o". When she saw Harry, she appeared pleased. She turned toward sleeping Fred and Ginny. Moving to them, she tapped Ginny's shoulder.

"Ginny, Fred, get up." Hermione said tensely.

They roused, got up with pinched expressions on their faces, and Hermione gestured for them to follow her. She grabbed Harry's arm and tugged him along.

Harry's heart almost stopped when they arrived in the room where Ron was lying, unconscious or asleep, on a hospital bed. He was pale, so pale that his freckles could barely be seen. Harry was astonished to see Professor Dumbledore in the room, as well.

Harry felt a surge of anger. Dumbledore was here, and nobody even had the courtesy of waking him up. Harry was full of questions, about what had happened, and how Voldemort had gotten away.

At last, he wanted to find out about Professor Forester's death, and how it would impact their fight against Voldemort.

The entire Weasley family, save for Bill and Percy, were in attendance. Harry saw Dumbledore nodding lowly toward Harry, and the Headmaster took out his wand and conjured chairs for everyone. He uttered a spell Harry didn't recognize toward the door and window. At last, he placed his wand inside his robes, and cleared his throat, as he sat down.

Hermione was sitting next to Ron's bed, and she had his hand in hers. She was putting the back of Ron's hand against her forehead, and whispering something under her breath. She looked tired. More tired than she should be, Harry thought in passing. Harry noticed Hermione fiddling with the silver ring on her finger, and then she leaned down and kissed Ron's hand.

Mrs Weasley was on the other side of Ron's bed, holding his other hand. Harry noticed her purposefully eyeing Hermione, and, if he didn't know any better, he thought he saw Mrs Weasley smile.

Harry shook his head. He looked up, to see Dumbledore staring at him. After a moment, Dumbledore spoke.

"I've finally arrived back from the location of your ordeal." Dumbledore stated simply. "It took us a some time to incarcerate several Death Eaters, who we successfully captured. Unfortunately, Lord Voldemort escaped."

"Who did you capture?" Charlie said loudly, from his position near the window.

"We recaptured Bellatrix Lestrange, but we were unable to capture Peter Pettigrew or Lucius Malfoy. Mr Crabbe is in custody, and, as you know, we recovered your son Percy." Dumbledore nodded briefly toward Mr Weasley. "There were numerous Death Eaters we apprehended, some of those we had not previously been aware of. They are being interrogated at this moment."

Everyone was silent for a brief moment, before Dumbledore said regally, "I think you should all be proud of Mr Weasley here." He gestured toward Ron. "Somehow, he called Fawkes to him, and I followed. If he had not, we may not have been able to capture the Death Eaters and take control of Lord Voldemort's stronghold."

Everyone in the room nodded, showing tangible looks of awe. Inexplicably, Harry felt sick. Everyone seemed so...happy all of the sudden. It grated on Harry's nerves.

Without warning, Ginny blurted, "What about Professor Forester? I heard something about--"

Harry felt nausea rise in him. The Headmaster flinched at that, and looked down. He moved a bit in his chair, and then looked up.

"Professor Forester has been killed."

A few shocked gasps erupted around the room, but Harry didn't flinch. Without warning, Dumbledore said, "This battle has not gone without its casualties."

Harry looked up to see Dumbledore giving him a penetrating stare.

The Headmaster continued. "I never considered that the Professor would be in danger. I assigned her to Hogsmeade, thinking she'd be the perfect person to handle herself if anything happened in there. I was terribly wrong. I didn't open my eyes to the fact she could be the target. Even though...this whole time...she was a bit paranoid that someone was after her."

Hermione, still clutching Ron's hand, turned to Dumbledore. "What really happened, Professor? I'm still confused why Professor Snape was cursed, and why the Death Eaters went to all the trouble to make the invisible door at The Hog's Head. said something about Peter Pettigrew?"

At that, Dumbledore looked at Mrs Weasley pointedly. Mrs Weasley gave him a nod, and then Dumbledore smiled stiffly.

He looked at everyone in turn before continuing.

"I ask that you keep this confidential, as Severus Snape may still be in danger. He's being guarded at this moment by aurors. Your Potions Master, at one time, was a Death Eater."

Dumbledore stopped, apparently expecting some sort of surprised response. When he didn't get one, he appeared affronted. Then he continued, grudgingly.

"A week ago, Severus was called to the side of Lord Voldemort. He has long been providing Voldemort with secrets, elaborately constructed in order to confuse and foil Voldemort. Unfortunately, on that particular night, Severus did not expect to see prisoners--one of those prisoners being Bill Weasley. At that point in time, Death Eaters attempted to kill Bill, but Severus prevented them from doing so. Up until that point, Severus had been considered a reputable servant of Voldemort, and others took orders from him. Instead of killing Bill, they beat Bill severely as Severus instructed, and left him near the Leaky Cauldron.

Of course, Lord Voldemort must have heard about Severus's plea to save Bill's life, because, as we have learned from events told by young Draco Malfoy, Peter Pettigrew was instructed to kill Professor Snape. Lord Voldemort must of have realized that Snape wasn't being totally honest, because Severus shouldn't have had any reason for Bill to remain alive."

Harry looked up at the mention of Draco Malfoy, wondering what he had to do with all of this. Harry scowled, feeling the ire rise in him again.

Mrs Weasley was sniffling now into a handkerchief. Harry watched as Hermione reached over and squeezed her hand. Mrs Weasley looked at her appreciatively.

"Now, on to Peter Pettigrew. I must explain to you that we never expected him to return to Hogwarts. We thought it would be far too risky a move for Lord Voldemort, but once again we were wrong. There are a few ways we could have prevented him from returning, but I regret to say it was a thought that never crossed my mind. When I found out that Draco Malfoy was assisting Pettigrew--"

At that, Harry stood up, and shouted. "What? Malfoy was helping Pettigrew? That rat's been here this whole time? And you said you could have prevented it?"

Harry was furious. So that was how all of this had started? Fucking Wormtail must have started it all, and Malfoy was going to pay. Yes, he'd pay dearly.

"Calm yourself, Harry." Dumbledore said, with a power Harry didn't realize he was capable of. Harry glared a moment at Dumbledore, and then decided to sit down. He wanted to hear all of this.

Dumbledore nodded, a with a strained look on his face. "Yes, Harry, Draco Malfoy was helping Pettigrew. It's not a plan I would have expected, but it happened." Dumbledore moved toward the front edge of his chair. He cleared his throat, and continued. "Draco Malfoy has received a serious punishment. He has been suspended, and will spend the winter holidays with me. When he returns, he will no longer be a prefect, and will be required to take the term over."

At that, Harry heard Fred and George chortle, and they squirmed delightedly. Dumbledore turned to them, a hint of a glare in his eyes. The twins quieted immediately. Harry could have sworn that Dumbledore rolled his eyes before pushing on.

"Pettigrew was instructed to get rid of Severus. Pettigrew also must have known about the trip to Hogsmeade, and so he was biding his time, waiting until he might have the opportunity to kill Severus and kidnap Professor Forester, all in one blow. If the professor didn't oversee the trip to Hogsmeade, Pettigrew very likely would have planned another way to take her.

"Unfortunately, Pettigrew must not have enough of an evil nature to appropriately use avada kedavra, because the spell didn't work to its full potential. Severus is grievously injured, but he will survive."

Ginny spoke up again. "But what about Professor Forester? Why was she taken in the first place?"

Dumbledore breathed in heavily, and then exhaled. "We have a theory about that; a very valid one, actually. We believe that the professor was taken because of her Siren abilities, and I understand young Harry here saw...." Dumbledore stopped, and looked awkwardly at Harry. Harry avoided his eyes, and looked at the floor.

Dumbledore sighed. "You don't need to know the details of the professor's death, Miss Weasley. I can tell you it was..." Dumbledore stopped again, this time shuddering.

From the corner of Harry's eye, he could see Mrs Weasley nodding emphatically.

Harry saw Dumbledore turn to Hermione.

"To answer your question, Miss Granger, the portal was made at the Hog's Head in order for more than one person to go through at one time. Pettigrew and the other Death Eaters wouldn't have been able to carry Professor Forester using Floo Powder, as a witch or wizard always needs to declare where they want to go. The Death Eaters ambushed her first, so she wouldn't use her powers on them."

Ginny voice piped up again. "I'm still confused...I want to know what Harry saw."

Harry could feel her eyes on him. They were burning into the back of his neck. At that, he stood up, turned, and shouted near her face.

"They took her brain, okay! They took it...Mr Goyle took it somewhere, he disapparated. They made a brain just like the one that hurt Ron! AND THEY KILLED SUSAN!" Harry's face was burning with anger as he screamed at Ginny.

Ginny didn't seem effected by his outburst. Instead, she stood up, too.

"Harry, I know about Susan! I'm just trying to figure all of this out! I'm sorry about what happened, I really am! It's terrible, she didn't deserve to die! And if you even dare to--" Ginny was pointing at him now, her face red from anger.

Mrs Weasley was grasping Ginny now about the shoulders, and she fell silent. Mrs Weasley whispered in her ear, and then, with a look of disgust, Ginny walked to the door. Very loudly, she said, "I'm going to find Neville."

She slammed the door after her.

Professor Dumbledore fell silent, as the other inhabitants of the room began to talk quietly amongst themselves. Mrs Weasley heaved a sigh, and sat back down on the bed beside Ron. Harry stomped over to Ron's bedside, and glared down at his friend.

Hermione spoke up across the bed.

"He'll be all right, you know." Her voice was cracking, as her red eyes gazed at Ron's pale face. Without warning, she looked up.

"Will you, Harry? Will you be all right?" Her eyes had tears in them.

Harry ignored her, and turned to Dumbledore. "I still have a lot of questions." He said it numbly, through parched lips.

"Please ask." Dumbledore replied simply.

"I want to know Snape's....I mean, Professor Snape's role in all of this. Did he give the Death Eaters information about the brain potion?" Harry asked forcefully.

Dumbledore flinched a bit, and Harry heard Hermione gasp next to Ron.

"Very....intuitive...Harry." Harry saw Dumbledore glance toward Hermione's back. Hermione didn't turn around to look at Dumbledore.

"So..he did." Harry bit out, glaring at Dumbledore again.

He only nodded. "Is there more you would like to know, Harry?"

Harry walked over to stand in front of Dumbledore. "Hermione's cat was hurt. Who do you think did that?"

Hermione was looking at them now. She spoke up.

"It had to be Pettigrew. I think Crookshanks was chasing him, and Pettigrew wanted to stop him, but not kill him. If he did that, he might bring too much attention to himself."

Dumbledore nodded again. "That's a likely assumption."

Harry sighed. " did Pettigrew stay hidden all that time? He had to have transformed at least once...and the Mar--" Harry stopped, biting his tongue.

Dumbledore gave Harry a curious look before answering. "We believe he may have spent most of his time in the tunnels to the Shrieking Shack. I closed the tunnels, but a rat might not have a problem getting through." Dumbledore sighed heavily.

At last, Harry turned and stared at Dumbledore. He had one more question, and for this was the one he wanted a straight answer.

Harry's voice was as near to a shout as he dared to get when he said, "WHAT DO YOU PLAN TO DO TO THAT MURDERER?"

The inhabitants of the room ceased the conversations they were having with each other, and Harry could feel their eyes on his back.

Dumbledore closed his eyes, and then finally looked up at Harry. "I assure you, we will find him. Once we do, we will punish him under the full extent of the law."

Harry scoffed, and turned back to Ron's bed. He ignored the looks of everyone around him, even Hermione.

But he thought about her original question. No, he wasn't all right. The first love of his life was gone, his godfather was gone, and there was very little left to live for. Only one persistent reality.....a reality which perpetually, continually, and irritatingly existed.

Lord Voldemort had to die. Harry was the one who would kill him.

And the worst fear Harry had ever felt entered his heart.

Lord Voldemort had the brain. He had a Siren brain, and Harry was certain he wasn't going wait to use this one.

Dumbledore thought the war had begun at the end of fourth year. He was so wrong, Harry thought with a grimace. It was only just beginning, and this time it would be terrible.

Just as he thought it, he looked down at his best friend. A feeling of hope passed across his heart, a hope Harry didn't think could exist.

Ron would have to survive. His power would be invaluable. He simply had to survive.

At that, Ron weakly opened his eyes.


The rest of term passed with a typical feeling of dread throughout Hogwarts. Most of the students had learned sketchy details of the events that had transpired, and were afraid. Many of them had chosen to leave Hogwarts for Christmas holiday, based on the fact that a deadly spy had been in their midst unknowingly for months.

Professor Dumbledore had temporarily taken the place of the Defence Against the Dark Arts position, and Potions classes were suspended, as Professor Snape was still recovering at St. Mungo's.

Ron was weak, but had been allowed to return to Hogwarts for the last several weeks of term. He was not given written exams, but was interviewed by each teacher privately and given marks for his knowledge. He'd done better than he expected to.

After the events of that fateful week in November, Ron had been undeniably depressed...not as depressed as Harry, but depressed all the same. It didn't help that his best friend continued to push him away, in part blaming him for allowing Susan to come with him into the tunnels.

Ron thought it was unfair. Based on what Hermione had said to him, Susan had insisted on coming.

They were now on the Hogwart's Express, headed for the Burrow. Ron's mum had insisted they have a huge family get-together for the holidays, and to include Harry and Hermione.

As Ron ate a chocolate frog (which he wasn't entirely enjoying), and stared out the train window, he thought about Percy and Bill.

Bill had finally gained consciousness and admitted that Professor Snape had saved his life. Now, Ron had to feel that he appreciated what Snape had done, and was indebted to him.

The problem, though, was Percy. Healers still did not know what was wrong with him; they couldn't confirm if he'd be poisoned or controlled, like Hermione had suggested. They only thing they did know was that he always sat silently, saying nothing, and showing absolutely no emotion.

Ron would never forget the look Percy had given him when Lucius Malfoy cast the cutting spell on Ron's body. It was a look that chilled Ron in his nightmares.

At that, Ron chewed the entire chocolate frog with one large bite. He stroked Crookshanks, who was napping on his lap.

The worst part of the ordeal was having to feel the empty emotional gap inside him...a gap he realized came from the loss of Professor Forester. Ron hadn't liked her; in fact, he was sickened by her. In the end, though, Bill had spoken to Ron in length about his relationship with the Professor. After he was done, Ron was still sick, but he no longer hated the professor.

And now, the connection he'd shared with the professor felt like a big hole in his heart. It was a big bond to break, he realized.

As he thought all of this, aurors were patroling up and down the Hogwarts Express. Aurors had become a nearly permanent fixture at Hogwarts ever since Lord Voldemort obtained Professor Forester's brain. Professor Dumbledore openly admitted that no place was safe from Voldemort's abilities.

And there had been killings.

Terrible, bloody killings. A few at first, and then more and more.

Muggle and part-muggle families of Hogwarts students were being put into wizarding safehouses, the Grangers included. Hermione had expressed how scared her parents were, and Hermione tried to explain to them what was happening.

As Ron thought about Hermione, he turned to her, sitting beside him. She was clutching his hand, and trying to balance a book on her legs at the same time. She was reading at a time like this?

That was when the book slipped off her knees, and she stooped down to get it.

Ron saw the cover. "The Powers of the Siren and How to Defeat Them," by Hector Wilkins.

"Hermione, please put that book away." Ron whispered.

Hermione sat up, clutching the book in her hand. "Ron, I need to--"

Ron took the book, and placed it next to him on the seat. He tried not to move, so that Crookshanks wouldn't awaken.

"No, you don't." Ron looked pointedly across to Harry, who was napping in the seat there.

Hermione sighed, and gazed sadly at Harry. "He sleeps a lot lately, doesn't he?"

"All the time." Ron said huskily.

"Do you think he'll be all right?" Hermione said through chapped lips.

"He'll be fine, we've just got to keep standing by him." Ron leaned over, and kissed her lips softly. He tried to hold back the moan he emitted, from the pain still in his abdomen.

"Be careful," Hermione chastised him, and pushed him upright.

Ron relaxed back against the seat. He tried to push away all the pain and worry he felt, and concentrate everything good in his life.

He clenched Hermione's hand. She squeezed back.

Once the war was over, Ron thought, life could return to normal. It just had to. It was the only way their story could end....the only possible way.

With that hopeful thought, he relaxed into a dreamless, peaceful sleep.




A/N: There, now. Did that help resolve any lingering questions? At least for now? the sequel "Praesentia." Just click on "TwilightSorceress.'

Happy Reading!