Harry Potter and the Seventh Horcrux
"Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family.
Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one."
Chapter Four: A Walk in the Woods
The Same Day
Jonathan watched as the Dark Lord Voldemort followed his two worshipers out the kitchen doorway and into the night beyond. He raised his wand and a fraction of a second before the killing curse graced his lips an explosion from the upstairs caught his attention. His gaze and wand left the kitchen door and lifted to the ceiling above. The floorboards creaked beneath his feet as he walked to the staircase in the main hall and slowly marched up them.
He silenced the floor with a thought and stalked upwards, listening carefully for any clue as to what horrors he would be dealing with next. He reached the platform connected to the stairs, and listened intently for where the sounds were coming from. A sharp wheezing and grunting was coming from the hallway to his left.
"Lumos," he said in less than a whisper.
A small milky white light erupted from his wand. Ahead of him there were three Inferi crouched around a bedroom door that had yet to notice him. In fact, they seemed to be more preoccupied with trying to squeeze themselves, hands first, through the crack under the door. The wooden door was splintered from the Inferi's previous attempts to break down the door with mere brute force.
Jonathan kept his wand arm trained on the three Inferi while he lifted his other arm and summoned a flowing sphere of Phoenix Fire. The light from the ball illuminated the rest of the corridor, revealing an open doorway at the end of the hall where five more Inferi sat in the darkness. Eight pairs of eyes turned their attention on him and Jonathan allowed himself to feel a final flash of fear before eight pairs of legs charged at him.
Jonathan reacted instantly, throwing the flaming ball at the nearest Inferi and watched as he disappeared into a pile of ash. At the same moment, he spun his wand in a half circle and shouted, "CONFECTIDA!"
Sparks began to fly out of the tip of his wand like rockets, shooting their way towards his attackers. The two nearest Inferi paused at the sudden bright lights and panic flashed across their stunned faces. Jonathan knew that both fire and bright lights were equally as panic inducing to Inferi and he took advantage of that fact.
While the Inferi were struggling with what to make of the sparkling lights, Jonathan pocketed his wand and conjured Phoenix Fire into both his hands. A second later two more Inferi were nothing more than smoke and ashes on the wooden floor.
Jonathan's palms rearmed themselves with Phoenix Fire and this time Jonathan didn't waste them on just two Inferi. He shoved his arms out sideways and called for more energy. There was a flash and then a brilliant burning flame of Phoenix Fire was connecting the already burning spheres in each hand. Jonathan lunged forwards with his arms and the trail of fire streaked horizontally at the remaining Inferi, burning each of their corpses to ash. Jonathan turned towards the door the Inferi were trying to get through and listened.
Jonathan leaned his upper body back and kicked in the door with his right foot. Splinters and metal went flying as he surged into the room. He saw the chair that was holding the door closed had been sent flying across the room from when he'd kicked in the door. There was a huge gaping hole in the wall to his right.
Sudden movement from the left caught his attention.
Jonathan jerked sideways and out of the path of a charging young man with flaming red hair. Jonathan grabbed the boys neck with his right hand. The red head swung something at Jonathan with his free arm and Jonathan caught it before it came crashing down on his skull. Jonathan looked at the weapon, recognized it as a piece of wood that had broken off the door, before discarding it.
The boys' eyes went wide as he stared into Jonathan's face.
"Let him go!" shouted a girl from the corner.
Jonathan looked at her, registered unruly brown curls and a sharp face, before turning his attention back to the boy.
"He's not one of them!" the girl shouted.
Jonathan looked into the boys' chocolate eyes before releasing him onto the floor. The girl rushed over to her friends body and checked him over.
"Are you alright?" she asked him.
The red head nodded yes and they both looked up at Jonathan.
"Are you an Auror?" the girl asked hopefully.
"With a grip like that," said the boy, "who else could he be?"
Jonathan almost smiled at him.
"I'm not an Auror," he said slowly.
Both the girl and the boy turned pale quick.
"But I'm not a Death Eater either," he finished before one of them tried to attack him again.
"Then who are you?" the girl asked, clearly not eager to trust him.
"An enemy of your enemy," he said quickly.
"My sister," breathed the boy suddenly, "did you see her when you came in?"
Jonathan shook his head.
"We have to find her!" the boy exclaimed, sitting up and struggling to his feet.
Jonathan helped the boy stand and said, "We need to get out of here. Right now."
"She's my sister!"
"Please," the girl said, "we have to find her. We can't just leave her alone out there."
"And I can't leave you alone period," he replied instantly, "there are too many things out there tonight. I can't let you wander through the woods all night while I look for her now can I?"
"We can handle ourselves," declared the boy stubbornly, as he moved towards the doorway, "Come on, Hermione, let's go."
The girl, apparently named after the Shakespearian character, followed instantly.
Jonathan sighed in surrender as the teenagers left his sight and into the darkness of the house. He suddenly remembered just how stubborn kids could be.
"Wait!" he called out.
The pair stopped at the top of the stairs, but didn't turn around to look at him.
"At least let me keep an eye on the two of you while you're looking for her," Jonathan said as he walked towards them.
The teens didn't say a word, they just merely led the way down the steps.
The Rural Outskirts of Albania
The Same Day
"Did you bring me what I need this time?"
Jeffery Maddox smiled to himself as he stepped out of the shadows and into the light of the single burning candle in the cave. He had never once been able sneak up on the old witch… yet.
"Do you have a problem with your hearing or was it your intention to insult me?" the elderly woman snapped crisply.
"There are many things I'd like to do to you, Agatha," He answered with the most sickeningly sweet smile he could muster.
"Watch you tongue!" she warned him sharply.
Maddox said nothing. Instead he walked to the table that held the single candle and deposited a brown satchel on its surface.
"It should all be there."
"It had better."
The old witch stepped closer to the table and removed the strings binding the satchel with a single thought. From it fell a handful of items but only one seemed to interest the witch the most: a kattana sword with a handle wrapped in lavender strings. She lifted up the blade as if it were holy and moved it closer to the light.
"It belongs to the girl?"
The witch looked up quickly at Maddox with a questioning glance.
Maddox smiled back, "It belonged to her."
The witch glared at him before shifting her eyes back to the blade in her hands. She turned the sword over carefully in her hands as if memorizing every detail of it. Finally she returned the sword to the table and faced Maddox.
"It can be done."
Maddox nodded once and then asked, "How soon?"
"We can begin today if you're up for it," she answered.
"Check with your cards first," he ordered, "I don't want anything going wrong."
The elderly witch smiled at him slowly and then nodded, "As you wish."
The cave they were standing in began to glow and shake. Neither the witch nor Maddox showed any obvious signs of panic as the cave continued to vibrate. Suddenly it stopped and where a portion of the wall had been, there was now a hallway of stone. The witch gathered up the contents of the satchel and marched down the passage without waiting to see whether or not Maddox followed her.
He did anyway.
The Village of Ottery St. Catchpole
The Same Day
Ginny Weasley moaned into the dirt ground around her.
Pain reverberated around her body, especially in her head and her left leg. She twisted upwards into a sitting position and stopped short as a tidal wave of dizziness washed over her, trying to drag her unwillingly into unconsciousness.
"Is this what you were trying to save me from, Harry?" she muttered to herself, instantly regretting the words.
She felt guilty for finally saying out loud all the bitterness that had come from Harry leaving her that day at Dumbledore's funeral. She felt guilty because she had let him walk away without saying half the things that could have made him stay. She felt guilty that he always had to sacrifice himself to save her. She felt guilty, because her one chance at proving that he didn't always have to rescue her had only proved herself wrong.
"Where are you, Harry?" she asked into the darkness, not disappointed at the lack of response.
Ginny glanced at her surroundings and was relieved to see there were no Inferi around.
At least not now, she thought to herself.
She gripped hard onto the ground around her and tried to push her weight on her legs. She cried out sharply against the pain in her left leg and fell back to the ground, cradling her own injured body. She breathed in the stale air and then released it, trying to remember that breathing was supposed to help control pain. Right now it was only making her more dizzy.
Ginny Weasley jumped at the sound of someone calling her name. It took her a moment to recognize the voice and for once she wasn't annoyed by the sound of her brother.
"Over here!" she called out, the pain momentarily forgotten.
Footsteps pounding against the ground alerted her to the arrival of her brother, Hermione and a man she didn't know. Her level of alertness doubled as the man pushed her brother and Hermione out of the way to reach her first. A wand appeared in the man's hand and her eyes widened in fear. She flinched as he reached her, but to her surprise he didn't hurt her in any way. In fact, he was looking at her injury and waving his wand over it.
Ron and Hermione finally appeared at her side.
"Are you alright?"
"Did they attack you?"
"Have you seen Mom or Dad?"
The questions flew at her a mile a minute and the dizziness was fighting her at the same time.
"Stop!" she cried out, her eyes closing tight and her arms roaming the air for support. Both Ron and Hermione took hold of an arm as she straightened herself out. A hand moved hair from her face and she heard her brother's voice.
"Is she going to be OK?"
She heard a new voice answer. The man with the wand.
"Yeah, a sprained leg with a right nasty cut but she'll be alright."
"Can't you fix it?" asked Hermione.
"I could but I'd need some potions, too," he responded, "I'll try to remove the pain at least, so she can walk on her own."
"Thank you," Ron said quietly, "and, um, sorry about the bashing the skull in thing."
Ginny opened her eyes, alarmed at her brother's apology to the man. To her surprise she heard him chuckle.
"It's alright, as long as you forgive me for the choke grab."
"It's a deal."
"Good," the man smiled before turning all business again, "now let's get the hell out of here."
"What about my Mum and Dad?" Ginny asked.
"They were in the shed last I saw," he answered.
Ginny and Ron smiled.
Hermione noticed and asked, "What?"
"Nothing, it's just…" Ron trailed off.
"It's where they go to, you know, be alone," Ginny explained for him.
"They keep the emergency portkey in there that Dumbledore gave them before he died," continued Ron, "There's another in their room but we couldn't get to it."
"Do you think they used it?" asked the stranger.
Ron nodded. "Dad always said to use it if you could get to it."
Jonathan nodded, but wasn't sure whether the parents would have followed their own rules. Judging by the way their son went to save his sister, it didn't seem like the kind of family that went every man for himself. Either way they didn't have much time left. It would be sunrise soon and they'd be easy targets in the daylight. Their only hope was to use the cover of darkness to smuggle themselves through the border of the woods and into the village. He just hoped they didn't run into any of the werewolves out there, because with a team of three teenagers (one injured) not all of them would survive the night.
God help them.
The Island of Aeolus
The Same Day
Harry Potter couldn't remember the last time he'd had so much fun in his life without Ron and Hermione. Harry had been missing them for awhile now. There was still a part of him that felt guilty for being happy without them. He'd never been whole without his two best friends, and he probably wouldn't be alive today without them.
"Problem, Harry?" asked Troy.
Harry turned his head to look at his new friend and smiled to reassure him.
Harry, Troy and all the others were huddled at a magically made campfire surrounded by large boulders upon which each teenager sat. Everyone was rapped in towels that had been magically conjured up by Troy who had already mastered wandless magic. Harry's towel was warm and dry so he hugged it closer to his body and stared more intently at the fire as his mind wandered again. This time he thought about everything that had happened that night and he was still in shock.
There was a feeling of absolute freedom on the Island of Aeolus. There were no prophecies, or Dark Lords, or hidden political agendas to worry about. Here, Harry could be whoever he wanted to be. He didn't have to impress anyone or worry about what Rita Skeeter might put in the Prophet about him. Hell, he'd just gone swimming with almost a dozen, half-naked teenagers in a lagoon on a tropical island! Rita Skeeter would have had a field day with details like that laid out in front of her!
And yet something was still wrong.
He could feel the anxiety burning in the back of his skull. He was missing something, he was needed somewhere, he was meant to be doing something. He just had no idea what, and yet instinctively he felt he was supposed to be doing something. He wanted the feeling to die, to disappear and never return. He liked feeling like just an average kid, and he didn't want to trade that for anything.
"What time is it?" asked Ganesa.
"A little after 2:30," Charlie answered from where he laid completely relaxed on top of the boulder, "why do you ask, Gannie?"
"Just getting a little tired is all."
Charlie sat up, "You want to head back?"
Ganesa shook her head, "I can wait awhile, it's just been a good night, you know?"
If there was one thing about Charlie, that Harry would never have expected to learn, it was that the boy was overprotective of everyone. Well, that's not true. He was overprotective of everyone but Harry. Charlie was the oldest male, and in his mind, that made him in charge and responsible for everyone. Well, except Harry.
"Did you have fun, Harry?" asked Mercedes from her portion of the circle.
Harry nodded and replied, "the best."
"You ever go swimming much up at that school of yours?" asked Troy.
"Hogwarts is surrounded by a lake, Troy," answered Ganesa impatiently, "everyone knows that."
"That doesn't mean he gets to swim in it all the time, like we do here!" responded Troy mildly indignant.
"I've swam here and there," said Harry with a smirk.
Nevada sat up straighter when she saw Harry's face and said laughingly, "Sounds like there's a story there, hey Harry?"
Harry nodded, remembering the second task of the Triwizard Tournament and how Cedric had…
Harry scowled involuntarily.
"What's the matter?" asked Troy.
"Nothing, I just…" Harry trailed off, unsure of how to explain how taxing it was to remember. How thinking of the past was only going to ruin this one perfect night.
"Look, it's got him speechless!" cried Caden, standing next to Charlie's boulder, "now he's got to tell us!"
Harry shook his head, "It's not appropriate."
"Think of it as the next part of the initiation process," suggested Charlie, "You do want to be part of the group don't you?"
Harry swallowed the sarcastic remark on the tip of his tongue, deciding that getting in a fight over the issue was only going to push it into the surface. Instead he settled with, "How many parts of the initiation are there?"
"Four," answered Charlie, as if expecting the question already, "Part one is the hike up here. Part two is the jump from the cliff. Part three is opening your trap and telling a good tale and part four is… well you'll see tomorrow morning."
The group smiled.
Harry suddenly remembered what being backed into a corner felt like.
The Outskirts of Albania
The Same Day
"The cards do not lie, Maddox!" seethed Agatha testily, "especially to me!"
"You said we could start tonight!" he accused her, shaking an angry finger in her face.
"And it was you," she stressed his name, "that wanted, no, demanded that we check the cards. But now that the answer wasn't what you wanted, it's all my fault."
Maddox gave a bestial growl and his arm swept across her table, carrying her ancient deck of tarot cards onto the floor of the cave. Agatha sat back ramrod in her chair, as he leaned closer to her over the counter of the table.
"Find. Me. That. Spell. Now."
He spoke each word slowly, deliberately, dangerously so that she would fully comprehend the consequences of not following his orders. She did not move an inch.
"Sit down, Maddox!" she demanded angrily, "and shut up!"
Maddox had a hand on his blade handle and was removing it from it's protective sheath in less than a second. The blade flashed in the candlelight as he maneuvered it over his head and brought it down in a sideways slashing motion.
Agatha lifted her right hand's pointer finger as her only line of defense. To Maddox's surprise only, the blade stopped short against the woman's finger and she smirked into his cold eyes. With a flick of her wrist, she sent Maddox's weapon sailing out of his hand and across the expansive stone room. A second flick and Maddox was propelled backwards into the opposing wall.
This time when she spoke, it was also slow, deliberate and dangerous.
"Do not dare attempt to double-cross a sorceress who's at least a hundred years older than you, Maddox," she said, "or you may not find the consequence to your liking."
She stood from her reading chair and walked across her study to the large bookcase on the far right wall. She paused before it, thinking pensively, before selecting a book from the top shelf. She carried it back to her desk, opened up the book to the correct page and then smiled slyly up at Maddox, who was still crumpled at the base of the cave wall he'd collided with.
"Now," she asked, truly enjoying herself now, "let's see what a man like you is worth to what I am sure is a long list of enemies. I hope for your sake they would prefer to get you alive, but who knows, maybe tonight is my lucky night and I'll get to kill you…"
Ottery St. Catchpole
The Same Day
"Can't we just run for it?" asked Ron impatiently, "I mean it's not like Ginny and I haven't used these woods before."
"Don't you remember what Professor Snape, I mean, Former Professor Snape," Hermione corrected herself quickly seeing the angry look on Ron's face, "told us about werewolves in 3rd year?"
Ron shook his head, "I was more worried about how you'd been pulling off the whole 'two classes at once' thing actually."
"Honestly, Ronald," she scolded him, "no wonder you have to keep me around just to keep your head above water."
"Hey!" cried Ron, indignant.
"Star crossed lovers!" cried Ginny with irritation, "you can flirt on someone else's time. I want to get out of here!"
"Werewolves," explained Hermione, "are practiced hunters, most relatable to the ocean hunter, the shark. Both predators don't tire and can smell blood up to a mile away."
"Not to mention the sharp teeth," Ron added under his breath.
"Which is why running won't help us much now," continued Jonathan, "since all of us our bleeding. It'd be like roasting ourselves over an open flame and ringing a dinner bell."
The trio of teens shuddered at the mental image of their own roasted flesh being served as a dinner portion to hungry werewolves.
"So what do we do?" asked Ron worriedly.
"Could we wait them out?" asked Ginny, "You know until the moon goes down?"
"Then we'd have Death Eaters and Inferi to still worry about."
"Should we try to find that spare portkey in mum and dad's room?" suggested Ginny.
"I wouldn't recommend going into such an obvious target."
Everyone went silent in thought.
"How did you get here?" asked Hermione suddenly, that familiarly brilliant mind obviously at work.
"I apparated," explained Jonathan.
"Funny," she responded, "since no one else can."
"Then we'll just have to find another way out of this situation then, won't we?" he asked sweetly but falsely.
Hermione's brow furrowed accusingly, "You already know of another way, don't you?"
Jonathan smiled, "Of course."
Hermione studied him a moment, then mimicked his own false sweetness and said, "Then by all means, lead the way."
The Outskirts of Albania
The Same Day
Agatha's commanding voice rang out through the stale cave air.
Vines that seemed so unnatural in the hard sand floor of the cave, sprouted upwards around Jeffrey Maddox's unconscious body. The vines were half a foot thick with spiked thorns surrounding them. They wrapped carnivorously and malevolently around his wrists, arms, waist, neck, shoulders and thighs.
Even more vines erupted from the cave wall from behind the body, pulling the body in a curl against the hard wall. The thickest vine yet wrapped strictly around his stomach and pulled so hard that breath left the man's throat in a tight wheeze.
"It's nothing personal," she continued, as if all this were the most natural thing in the world. Then again, if you'd lived with such tangible magic for as long as she did, you'd think it were just as natural as seeing rain in the spring.
"The money was good, but completely worthless to someone like myself."
She chuckled to herself, "I'm surprised you didn't pick up on that sooner. Pity, you seemed like such a bright young thing. So full of intelligence, and that cold, calculating, heartlessly ambitious personality was just so… inspiring."
Agatha turned to face her still unconscious captive and continued as if he should understand and sympathize with all her betraying actions.
"But still you are young, so very young," she stressed the word as a negative, "and that severely impedes your comprehension of one single fact."
She crouched next to his body and sent a single, five inch nail, stroking vertically down his cheek. "The fact that you, and your youthful generation, seem to be missing is this... There is always a bigger shark in the sea, just waiting for a chance to prove it."
Her nail poked into his flesh with such vigor that it drew blood. She smiled at the wound like it was her only child, as if she cherished it more than life itself, and then she licked the blood clean.
Her eyes grew wide and dazed as if she were tipsy from drinking too much wine in one night. In fact, that was exactly how she looked.
"So much power," she muttered into the orange glow of the torches that kept the cave so illuminated.
She stood again and strutted towards her work table, where she'd left her tarot cards spread out in a large semi-circle. She allowed her left hand, the Devil's hand, to graze inches above the face down cards. She felt the different power levels trembling under her hand until she found the one she was looking for. Her mind, body and soul felt the vibrations that reverberated from the card and through her. The feeling had never been this strong before.
Her breathing became slow and shallow as she plucked the card into her long nailed fingers and closed her eyes. She leisurely pulled the card tight against her body and slid it upward, sensuously, to her neck and then to her 'third eye'.
Her eyes squeezed shut even tighter than before as a vision flashed in her mind. She saw herself in this position, the card raised to her forehead, her body tight with pleasure and the sheer power of the vision. She saw her eyes open wide and gasp. But what she saw in her eyes surprised her. They emanated fear and pain that she had never known to exist before that moment. Her pulse raced as her inner eye continued to show her the near future.
In the vision, a figure, Maddox, rose from his chains and stalked towards her. She turned, frightened and tried to run, but it was too late. Her own captive now had the upper hand against her and she knew she was going to die. She knew it with all her heart, and it cried out to her to stop the vision. To run before it all came true, but no matter how hard she struggled to free herself from the prophecies grasp she only managed to entangle herself further within it.
Moments passed in the vision where she could hear the real world around her, and the noises around her were not encouraging. She heard Maddox slowly awaken as her fate was revealed inside of her. She felt the flames burning away the vines that held him, flames she saw roasting her flesh within her own mind. She felt his presence stalk around her, trying to decipher what was holding her so statue like.
She let out a scream of pure terror as her eyes suddenly snapped open, the vision releasing her from its startling grasp. She heard Maddox's footsteps falling behind her, getting nearer and she turned to run. His firm grasp on her arm held her still and he shoved her backwards against the edge of her table, sending it's contents spiraling onto the ground around it. He slapped her hard across the face and took hold of the kattana sword he had brought her.
She cried out in fear as the torches light was reflected in the blade's face. He smiled and slashed out, cutting across her right forearm.
"For my own wound," he reminded her of his own cut.
She gazed at where the wound had once been and her eyes widened as she realized that it had already healed.
"What are you?" she gasped.
"Haven't you figured that out yet?" he smirked at her.
Her gaze left his face and was drawn by some unknown force to the tarot card that had fallen from her grasp and flittered to the floor below. It's picture had a skeleton on it, a skeleton that was on fire, a fire that flowed out of the mouth of a Phoenix bird in the upper right corner of the card.
Her eyes widened as her mind registered the significance of the card that had called out to her and she would have screamed again if she had noticed the sickening smile that spread across Maddox's mouth.
He lunged forward with the sword and just grazed the surface of her left eye, white puss trickling down from it. He slashed again to equally blind the other eye, and his smile widened as she cried out in pain again and again, clutching her eyes.
He left the sword on the table and grabbed her grey mop of hair and slammed her down against the table. A bright purple wound appeared on the top corner of her face. He took his time, savoring the moments of his revenge, as he slowly tortured her for information. As he slowly forced the truth about who had ordered her to set him up, and what their plans were for him. He took his time when he removed one of her fingers every hour with his small dagger. Then he moved onto the toes, followed by her wrists, her scalp, her ears and finally let her bleed out with the removal of her cold, shriveled heart. He lifted it up in his right hand, called on his Phoenix Fire to light it on fire, and let her die smelling the burning of her own wicked heart.
Jeffery Maddox was not a man who allowed his betrayers to live.
Jeffery Maddox was not a man to be crossed.
Jeffery Maddox was not a man one should try to remove unless they, too, were willing to risk their own lives to kill him.
Jeffery Maddox was not a man who should be underestimated.
And now, thanks to his work on Agatha, the men who had sent her after him would understand that.
And if they didn't, well, then there was always Jonathan to show them just how merciless he really could be. For what he had in mind for Jonathan, and everyone the man had ever met, would make Eliza and Agatha's fates look almost peaceful in comparison.
Maddox smiled at the thought and disappeared in a flash of blinding flames.
The Woods beyond the Burrow
The Same Day
"What in the name of Merlin," asked Ginny, in an awed sounding voice, "is that?"
She pointed her outstretched hand towards the wooden area in front of them.
Jonathan's eyes tracked forward in the direction of her own gaze. He saw that the morning mist was glowing a faint green from the emerald barrier the Dark Lord had constructed. He hadn't known the barrier extended into the woods of the property behind the home, he just hoped he'd be able to get them all through.
"You'll see soon enough," was Jonathan's short reply. He was both physically and magically drained enough for one evening, to have to answer more questions would only lesson his capability.
"How's your leg feeling, Ginny?" asked Hermione, worriedly.
The girl frowned and placed more weight on the leg without wincing. She shrugged and said, "Won't really know until the spell wears off, right?"
Ron turned to her, "Just stay off it as much as possible."
"Are you offering to carry me the rest of the way?" she returned, smirking.
Ron scoffed, "Of course not."
Ginny smiled slightly, the light sibling humor lowering some of the tension in her gut. Hermione didn't look pleased with the lack of seriousness for the situation, but she stayed quiet. Whether it was out of fear or good conscious Ginny didn't know, but either way she was thankful that Hermione let the joke go.
"We're almost there," commented Jonathan.
At first Ginny didn't know how he knew how close they were, but then she saw the mist. It was an even brighter green than before, thicker even. Far ahead she saw a bright emerald light stretching high towards the tree tops and beyond.
"My God," breathed Hermione, looking upward, trying to determine where exactly the wall of green actually ended.
"Is anyone else worried about the color of that wall?" asked Ron worriedly.
"Killing Curse green," nodded Ginny.
"Voldemort put up the barrier right after I got there," explained Jonathan, pleased they were catching on so quickly.
"Wait," interrupted Hermione, looking confused, "How do you expect us to get out of here? I'm guessing if we go through that wall, we die, right?"
Jonathan nodded and said, "Correct."
"Then how the hell are we supposed to get out?" demanded Ron.
"I know a spell of sorts," lied Jonathan, "that dispels dark curses like this one."
Hermione's eyes narrowed, as she tried looking into her own mental encyclopedia of spells, desperately attempting to think of the one he was talking about.
Jonathan hated to lie at such a crucial moment, but he didn't have the time to explain about his Phoenix capabilities even if he wanted to.
"There is no spell that can beat the Killing Curse!" exclaimed a frustrated Hermione.
A howl erupted from the dark woods behind them.
As one, the quartet looked behind them towards the origin of the sound.
Jonathan turned back to face them, looked directly at Hermione, and asked, "Want to take the time to debate the issue?"
Hermione shook her head nervously.
Jonathan nodded and said, "Then let's keep moving."
"Yeah," added Ron, "and much much faster, too."
A second howl came from the woods to their right, and everyone continued to increase their pace until it was an all out run. When Jonathan estimated that there were only fifteen feet left between them and the barrier he began to summon Phoenix Fire into both of his hands. By the time they'd reached the wall the Phoenix Fire had moved up the lengths of his arms to his shoulders.
Ginny, Ron and Hermione skidded to a stop and let Jonathan go in front of them.
Jonathan placed both his hands against the massive barrier and allowed it to soak up the Phoenix Fire. The two mixed together and formed a liquid looking purple color.
"I thought it would burn a hole through it or something!" cried Ron nervously.
"Yeah," said Jonathan, studying the purple area, "me too."
"It looks wet like," commented Ginny, looking around.
"Maybe we have to walk through it," suggested Hermione.
"Oh, sure," said Ron sarcastically, "and if you're wrong we just die, that's all."
"She's got a good idea," Jonathan said suddenly.
"Well, if you think it's such a good idea, than you go first!" Ron suggested smartly.
"Shut up, Ron!" hissed Ginny, positioning herself closer to her brother. "Do you want to make it any easier for them to find us!"
"Be quiet both of you!" ordered Jonathan.
The trio turned to look at him as he returned his gaze to the purple section of the green wall in front of him. He took a deep breath and raised his arm, inching it closer and closer to the pulsating purple. His fingertips feathered the purple surface and he heard the breathing behind him stop in anticipation.
The substance was thicker than he thought, like old fashioned Jello or something.
Jonathan curled his hand into a fist and punched forward slowly through the substance. The front of his body was past the perimeter and he was already forced to hold his breath. He made an effort to run through the substance and within seconds he was on the other side of the wall.
He took a deep breath before standing up straight and looking back at the pale faces on the other side of the opaque green structure. He waved to the trio to come through like he did and watched bemused as they played rock-paper-scissors for who had to go first. Hermione lost since she was the first of the three to come through the wall. Ginny was next but couldn't seem to push herself through the whole way.
Jonathan and Hermione each reached in and grabbed one of her outstretched hands to pull her through. She immediately fell to the ground after reaching their side of the wall, where she gasped for air. Now it was Ron's turn.
"Where's he going?" asked Hermione terrified.
Jonathan tore his gaze away from Ginny, who was still on the ground, and looked back through the wall for the red head.
Ron was no longer looking at them, but back towards his home.
"What's he doing?" asked Ginny, having finally caught her breath.
"I don't know."
"Why isn't he coming through?" asked Hermione.
"I don't know," repeated Jonathan sternly.
The girls fell silent.
Ron was waving something to them and then turning away, running back through the woods and away from them.
"What the hell?" muttered Jonathan.
"We have to go back for him!" cried Ginny at once.
"No," responded Jonathan at once.
"What?" shrieked Hermione in disbelief.
"I'll go back for him," he clarified, "you two will stay here."
The girls looked at each other but he was already maneuvering through the purple portion of the barrier before either could protest. A hand reached out from behind him and grabbed him forcefully; a second joined him and together they wrestled him backwards. He fell out of the barrier and turned angrily towards them.
"What the hell do you think your doing?" he demanded of them.
"Just look!" Hermione shouted at him, pointing over his shoulder to the other side of the barrier.
Two figures loomed out of the shadows, stalking low over the ground, almost sniffing it.
"Werewolves," he breathed.
"If you'd gone through they would have gotten to you," explained Ginny.
The words died in Hermione's throat as the wolves' sudden movements drew their attention.
Jonathan's eyes narrowed as both beasts's snouts were raised to the air, and then suddenly they flashed in the direction of the house. In the direction of where Ron had run. The wolves dashed out of their eyesight, chasing after Ron's scent.
"Is that why he ran?" asked Ginny, "because he saw them?"
"No," answered Hermione, "he'd have run through the barrier instead."
"I'm going after him again," declared Jonathan, "You two…"
"…stay here," finished the girls in unison.
He smiled, "right."
He forced his way through the barrier and his smile disappeared as he felt the air hit the surface of his face again. Instead, his smile was replaced by a grim and determined expression. He raced into the woods and out of sight, hoping against all hopes that he found Ron before the wolves did.
In the shadows on the far right of the emerald barrier a third wolf silently appeared. It growled, flashing its blood stained teeth in the moonlight. It's furry eyes narrowed at it's prey and was about to charge after it when a new wind carried a more satisfying scent to its nostrils. The beasts eyes widened and turned to look at the other side of the barrier, specifically where it was stained purple and the man had emerged.
There were two young girls on the other side. Alone. Fearful. Prey.
The Village of Ottery St. Catchpole
The Same Day
Charlie never saw the curse coming.
"Fucking DE's never play fair," he thought to himself.
The curse struck his left side hard, sending him sprawling onto the ground.
The Death Eater he had been facing off against wasted no time in sending a Killing Curse at him. He pushed himself up and off the ground before the curse struck and instead he came face to face with a second curse sent by the other Death Eater that knocked him down again.
Charlie spit out blood onto his shirt and raised his wand shouting, "Creteo!"
The second Death Eater spun wildly after the curse struck him before collapsing onto the ground. The original Death Eater sent a curse at his fellow fighter and the man slowly regained consciousness. Charlie sensed danger at the fact that these Death Eaters were working together. Most of the time Death Eaters were taught to help number one, and number one alone. But these two worked together, a lesson most Death Eaters found weakening.
Charlie took cover behind a broke down automobile that a Death Eater had lit on fire. This time two Killing Curses sailed over his head and created a large crater in the building behind him. A ministry Auror who had been called in as backup joined him behind the car.
At least now the fight would be two on two and not two on one.
On the other side of the building another Order member was taking on an equally challenging opponent.
Nymphadora Tonks had been trying to follow Minerva's instructions and establish some kind of perimeter when she had spied Bellatrix Lestrange emerging from the forest road. Tonks had intercepted her and as a result she was now facing the business end of Bellatrix's wand.
"You stupid, bitch," she screamed in Tonks' face, "Am I going to have to kill every one of my disappointing cousins."
Tonks flinched in her cruel reminder of Sirius's death.
"Oh, did that hurt, Nymphadora?" Bellatrix whispered into the woman's face, bending low to do so.
Nymphadora took her chance and landed an uppercut against Bellatrix's chin that had been positioned oh so perfectly in front of her.
Bellatrix stumbled backwards but remained standing, and Tonks' Auror training kicked in immediately. She pushed her legs out in front of her, scissored the other woman's legs and twisted so she fell face forward into the muddy road.
The wand went flying and Tonks chased after it.
Bellatrix cried out and gripped a piece of rubble like a baseball before launching it at the back of Tonks' head. The rubble made contact and Tonks was now the one sprawled on the ground.
Ahead of her Tonks was momentarily distracted by the sight of her Remus battling a fully changed werewolf with only Bill as backup. A scream left her lips as pain shot through her left shoulder. She turned on her back and felt the pain intensify.
Bellatrix had taken Tonks' momentary disorientation and had shoved a knife through her shoulder. Bellatrix kicked her side hard and Tonks fell back onto her front. She felt the knife being twisted in her shoulder, scrape bone and then being pulled out of her.
For the first time that night Tonks felt as if she really were going to die, and there was nothing she could do about it.
The Woods beyond the Burrow
The Same Day
"Did you hear that?"
Ginny turned to face Hermione. So far they'd been waiting for Jonathan to bring Ron back through the Killing Curse barrier for at least ten minutes if not more. They could feel the beginning of the morning to pull on their weary limbs. Both could see clearer now that the mist was receding and the world getting brighter.
"Hear what?" asked Ginny.
A short snort and a howl came from somewhere near the barrier.
"That," breathed Hermione shortly.
Both girls turned slowly towards the purple section of the barrier and gasped in horror. The unmistakably low to the ground shadow of a werewolf was crouched and sniffing at the purple portion. Slowly, ever so slowly, it pushed its long nostril into the fragment and pulled it back. It barked satisfied and howled at the moon.
"It's coming through!" Hermione shouted.
"Yeah, I see that thanks," muttered Ginny, looking around for a place to run or hide, "Hermione help me look for somewhere to run to."
"You live here, not me!" she pointed out frantically.
Both girls looked back at the barrier and saw that the werewolf was already halfway through.
Ginny scrambled up the nearest tree trunk and lifted herself to the first branch. When she didn't hear Hermione's feet scraping the wood behind her, she turned and called out for her.
"I'm down here!"
Ginny looked back to the ground and nearly cried out in frustration at Hermione still on the ground.
"Get the hell up here," she seethed, "now!"
"I can't!" cried Hermione, "I don't know how to climb trees!"
"Just grip and pull, damn it!"
Hermione looked back at the barrier where a snout was now visible at the opening of the passageway.
"I have a thing about heights! Why do you think I hate flying so much?"
Ginny groped her way back to the trunk, saying, "Well you better like dying a whole lot more if you don't get your arse up here, now!"
Hermione looked back at the barrier and saw that only the hind legs were still inside the barrier. It took no more motivation before she was heaving herself onto the trunk and grasping Ginny's outstretched hands. Ginny wrapped her legs around the large branch and used it as leverage to pull Hermione up.
Teeth snapped into the air below Hermione as she was pulled onto the tree branch just in time to avoid meeting the teeth up close and personal.
"We have to go higher," ordered Ginny, seeing the werewolf already trying to pull itself onto the tree with its razor sharp claws.
"Higher?" Hermione squeaked.
Ginny didn't reply except for climbing onto the next tree branch. Her father had magically enlarged the trees and their limbs in order to create more privacy for their mini-Quidditch field and magically held together home. After all, they couldn't afford for the muggles in the village below to see them flying around on brooms, could they?
Ginny had to help Hermione most of the way up until they were at least twenty five feet off the ground and the branched could still support them.
"Do you think we're safe?" Ginny asked.
"As long as he doesn't transform," Hermione answered Ginny's question.
"They can do that?" Ginny asked startled and surprised.
Hermione blinked at her and pointed to the sky above, "Not a full moon tonight."
There was screaming coming from below them. A male voice screaming.
"Ron!" cried Ginny, already starting to climb down.
This time it was Hermione who took charge, "No, wait!"
Ginny stopped her descent to look at Hermione, desperately questioning.
"That's not Ron, it's him," Hermione clarified, "it's the werewolf."
There were more screams and then the tree began to shake as someone started to climb it. Someone with a powerful grip and even more powerful determination.
Ginny and Hermione's eyes widened in fear.
It was finally time for fight or flight, and so far flight wasn't working out so well…
The Village of Ottery St. Catchpole
The Same Day
Remus wondered briefly exactly who it was he was fighting, before the werewolf clawed at him again.
It had been Remus's responsibility to help Bill with his newly acquired werewolf abilities. And what better way was there to learn than through experience, right?
At least Bill had been willing to jump in the fight right away, but what else would one expect from a former dragon tamer, right?
Another attack, this time from behind, nearly knocked him over.
He saw the werewolf trying to corner Bill again and he used his wand to distract him. Remus was a person of quiet determination and subtle action, that was the only way he'd found the peace to control his transformations since Severus had switched sides for definite and no longer provided his monthly Wolfsbane Potion.
Bill, on the other hand, was a man of direct contact and gut based reactions. It was getting harder and harder for the young man to control his strengths, and currently his adrenaline was pushing him for direct contact. So the flames Remus conjured to draw the werewolf away, was also meant as a means to shock Bill into his more human consciousness instead of bestial.
Bill nodded at Remus slightly, to show that he understood the man's motivations, before returning to the fight.
There was a scream behind him and Remus instantly recognized it as his own Nymphadora's cries.
He turned and saw Bellatrix standing over her, a knife drawn. It plunged downward and suddenly a cold draft of air filled his stomach like ice. His world went dizzy and every peaceful fiber in his body was extinguished in an instant.
He turned quickly and his wand transformed into a long silver sword. The werewolf charged at him and blood littered the ground in torrents. Remus wasted no time in checking if the beast was still alive, as long as he'd wounded it than Bill could take care of the rest.
He raced down the street, wand returning to its original state, and he plowed head first into the woman who'd killed his best friend. He landed next to her and she kicked him in the face. Unfortunately for her, he was the only one between the two who still had a wand. He brandished it quickly and cursed her into a magical stillness.
He flipped Tonks over and did his best to heal her wounded shoulder.
He looked back up the street to Bill, and he saw that the werewolf had transformed back to his human state and was bleeding to death. Bill was trying to mend the wounds that Remus had inflicted but frankly, at that moment, neither of them cared much what happened to the Death Eater werewolf.
A curse was shouted into the night air, boosted by the use of a sonorous charm, and the Dark Mark appeared into the sky at the same moment the dawn light overcame the mountains. What had once been a terrified town under siege in the middle of the night was now a battle destroyed town whose wounds were bleeding in the dawn's new light.
There was the sound of Death Eaters popping out of the town to regroup at Voldemort's layers. Screams of pain and loss were beginning to sound from various points around the attack area. The green barrier that had once been blocking their route to the Burrow had disappeared and only the Aurors and Order members were left behind.
Remus turned back towards Bellatrix and swore when he saw that she, too, had been taken to safety with her fellow comrades.
"It's alright," Tonks said silently into his ear, "we'll get her next time."
"There shouldn't have been a next time."
She rolled her eyes, despite the pain, and he helped her to a standing position. She had to lean heavily against him and Bill on their way back to the regrouping area.
"Do you think they're still alive up there?" Bill asked Remus, afraid of what the answer might be.
"We don't even know whose alive down here," said Moody, joining them from a side street on their way to the gathering point.
"We'll were about to find out," muttered Remus, spotting Minerva just ahead of them talking with several ministry personnel.
One thing was for certain, the woman was not pleased with whatever had gone down that night…
Chapter 5: "Blood, Sweat and Tears" is coming soon to a website near you.
Sorry about the long wait on this one but once my school exams are over, the updates will be much more frequent. This will also be the last chapter with a lot of action in it, but I'm sure you'll be pleased to know that the various plot bunnies that we're drowning in will progress. Just a reminder that my yahoo group gets these chapters faster than and reviews really do help.
Also, in case you hadn't noticed, everyone's expendable in this series. So, yes, this is the last warning I'm giving on Character Death.
You. Have. Been. Warned.
Until next time,