Chapter Six, Part III – The Speaker

"What was that?"

"What was what?"

"That – right there, he just did it again."

Madam Pomfrey turned around, an inquisitive look on her face. Sure enough, Harry was smiling. This was certainly a curious development in his coma... As she drew closer to the bed to perform a quick check spell, his lips straightened back out and his expression became neutral once more.

"D'you know what it could mean?" asked Ron, who had stepped over to the other side of Harry's bed.

"No," she replied slowly, briefly touching her wand to Harry's forehead.

"Well it's got to be a good thing, doesn't it? Smiling?"

"I suppose. Let's not jump to any conclusions."

"I wonder what he could be thinking about," he murmured. Ron sighed and walked around the bed, nodding at Madam Pomfrey. "Oh well, I'm going to bed. Good night."

OoOoO

She inhaled, sharply.

She glanced around – she could see nothing.

And then:

Why are you here, Hermione?

His voice – the voice – it was everywhere and yet nowhere; she couldn't tell where it was coming from.

What is he doing right now?

"What? Who?"

The Potter boy. Has he imprisoned you? Where is he? What is he doing right now? I must know.

Her head still throbbed and she felt the urge to cry again, but she fought against it, anxious to learn more from The Speaker instead.

"If you really must know, Harry has gone mad. He attacked me."

I thought so. He has no use for you now. He has become too powerful. Your world will die at his hands.

"What? What's he going to do? I – I don't understand -"

He has become too powerful. I shared with you both my power, yet he discovered what I did not, and he stole all that I had. Now he seeks to destroy the one who threatens your world, but he knows not the consequences.

"Consequences? What...? Are you talking about...V-Voldemort?" Hermione frowned, trying hard to make sense of the puzzle pieces she had been given. "Harry's been up against Voldemort for years now."

Yes, but he merely sought to stop him before. Now he wishes to destroy him.

"Wouldn't that be good, then?"

You are ignorant. The imbalance of power would rip your world apart until there would be nothing left. That is an undesirable outcome.

"How?"

It would take too long for me to explain. Our action must be swift if we wish to stop him in time.

Hermione sat up, feeling the fuzziness clouding her thoughts beginning to relent. "What should we do?"

There is nothing I can do. As I have said before, he has become too powerful and now his power and knowledge of the craft are far too dangerous. You must warn the other one and prepare him to stop this catastrophe.

"You want me to go to Voldemort?!" she shot back, feeling her heart skip a beat. "I have to warn him?!"

Yes. The Potter boy will succeed in his mission if the present course continues. You must stop this from happening at all costs.

"I can't! I won't!"

You must.

"Do you know who Voldemort is?" she argued. "He will kill me. I won't be able to get close to him, and I don't want to! I won't!"

You must. There is no other way.

"Why don't you go?"

I am no human. I cannot leave this place.

"This place….?" Hermione paused and pursed her lips. "He's trapped us here, hasn't he? In World's End…. Oh, Harry...what have you done?"

You must stop him; you are the only who can. I made a mistake – I showed him far too much power. If you choose to do nothing, your world will be destroyed. He is corrupt. The boy must be prevented from completing his task. You must stop him.

"But…but he's my friend."

Is he? Is he really? He attacked you and imprisoned you here. He is no friend to you.

Her eyes narrowed as she hugged her knees. "Harry's my friend. We're working together."

Not anymore. You must stop him.

"Well that's just bloody wonderful!" she snapped. "I can't escape, and no one else knows about him! The Order all think that he's the bloody savior of the world and they all think I'm a spy!"

That is immaterial. If you undertake my mission you will be supporting Lord Voldemort anyway, and thus, in their eyes, you will be a spy. But you must stop the Potter boy at all costs. I will send you out now.

She blinked. "You...you can send me out? How?"

That is not important right now and I don't have time to explain. The Potter boy has been weakened – for how long, I do not know – and I can help you to escape now. I will also give you the last of my power that I was able to hide from him. I do not have time to explain what you will be able to do with it, but suffice it to say that you will no longer need a wand to channel your magic.

"What – how -"

There is not enough time to explain. Good bye and good luck, Hermione Granger.

OoOoO

Night had fallen upon the Burrow, finally bringing peace – or at least the semblance of it – to its inhabitants. Everybody had gone to bed hours ago, except for Ginny.

She treaded lightly down a familiar and worn path along the edge of the property, too preoccupied to be bothered with sleeping. Her fingertips trailed through the air alongside her, tracing lines in the magical barriers which shimmered for a moment before fading away into the darkness. The magic tingled as it brushed against her fingertips, and a smile touched her lips at the sensation.

Magic. So many blessings, so many curses.

For now, Harry Potter was lying in a bed in the Burrow, in a coma because of magic. No one was quite certain as to what had caused it, and as a result, no one was really absolutely certain as to how it could be cured. The only course of action that everyone agreed on was to wait and see what would happen. After all, nobody wanted to take any chances with the Boy-Who-Lived. Besides, Ginny was the last person who wanted to see Harry get hurt again. He had endured so much in the last few years...it just wasn't fair for him.

She just wished that his problems would disappear so he could be happy forever, and maybe, just maybe, he would choose to be happy with her when all this was finally over...

Yes, she would like that very much indeed...

Ginny came to with a start, rubbing her eyes at the unexpected sight of sunlight. Hadn't it been nighttime just moments ago?

Time had disappeared and she hadn't even noticed! The moon was dimmer now, as the first rays of the sun began to tinge the morning sky. Ginny yawned and stretched her arms out, realizing just how sleepy she was.

By now she'd reached the end of the path – the walkable part of it anyway. There was a fork; one way would loop around and bring her back to the Burrow and the other extended out past the edge of the magical defenses.

Ginny steadily made her way back to the house, her idle thoughts falling upon Harry again. When the Burrow came into view, she halted, as a memory of Hermione came to her, unbidden. The two of them had been standing right at this spot a few weeks ago and Hermione had very innocently asked Gérard about the defenses around the Burrow. What had she really been up to then? Had she been plotting her kidnapping then?

With a stubborn frown, she kicked a stray rock and watched it implode as it struck the barrier, leaving behind a miniature puff of dirt in the air. She smirked, thinking of what would happen if Hermione got kicked into the defenses instead. Though she felt a little more reassured about their security, nothing could ever repeal the feeling of betrayal that was still fresh in her mind.

Hermione. The mere thought of her old friend made her feel uneasy, unsafe – but above all else she felt angry. Ginny didn't dare think of what she might do if she saw Hermione again.

Once she was inside the house she hastened up the steps to Harry's room, intent on checking up on him one last time before she went to sleep...

OoOoO

She had expected to be falling. She had expected that a great portal would have opened up, sucked her right in, and then spit her out in a street somewhere, aching and disoriented. None of those things had happened, however, as she had simply opened her eyes to find that she was no longer confined to her stone platform in World's End.

Despite the fact that she felt more than fine at the moment, Hermione still didn't know where she was. She was definitely no longer in London, as there was a thick cluster of trees in all directions around her and the forest was covered in the shadow of nighttime.

"Ugh," she groaned as a sudden wave of nausea overcame her, and she staggered over to a bush and threw up. Her sides kept heaving until she had no more to give, and she stumbled in reverse until her back found a solid tree to lean against.

Well, so much for not being disoriented. Curiously, the nauseous feeling was rapidly subsiding, and she was feeling much better now. Much, much better, in fact.

"The power of the Speaker..." she whispered to no one. "Let's see about wandless magic... Lumos!"

To her surprise, nothing happened. No beams of light shot out of her palms and she didn't begin to emanate brightness. That would have been silly, she mused. What had she been expecting with that spell, anyway?

Another idea popped into her head. "Accio branch!"

A nearby dead tree branch that she had been eyeing hopped up and zipped into her outstretched hand.

"Incendio!"

Just as she had hoped, the tip of the branch caught fire, and she waved it proudly about, glad to have a torch. Unfortunately, to her surprise, the fire began to sneak down the length of the branch much more quickly than she would have liked, and she was forced to drop it onto the ground and watch it as it became fully engulfed in flames. A moment later, there was nothing left but ashes.

"Oh, Hermione, are you a witch or not?" she chided herself, remembering when Ron had shouted those same words at her so many years ago.

Closing her eyes, she thought of her home. She concentrated hard, wanting nothing more than to be there right this moment. She was spinning – and then she was standing in her bedroom. Hermione sighed and smiled happily as she looked around. It was good to be home! What time was it? Perhaps she could wake her parents up to say hello...

Hermione crept over to the window, where she stood in the shadow of the window frame, observing the empty street outside. But wait, no – it wasn't empty. She pressed her nose up to the glass and squinted her eyes. There was a man – or perhaps a woman, it was difficult to tell because whoever it was, was wearing robes – standing on the front lawn of the house across the street. Immediately the blood began pumping through her veins. This was a Muggle neighborhood. Muggles didn't wear dark robes and prowl about outside at night.

Her muscles tensed as the figure held up his arm – and Hermione could clearly see a wand in his hand – and a jet of fire shot out and toward her house.

She cried out and covered her face as the wall of fire closed in and blew through the window, knocking her back off her feet. Through the fire and the flames she could see that the figure was wearing a mask. It was a Death Eater.

"A Death Eater attack? Now?" she wondered aloud in horror. "Did the Speaker know this would happen? Did he know I would come here…?"

The Death Eater aimed his wand again and another fireball shot forth, this time blasting through the master bedroom window, interrupting her thoughts.

"Mum! Dad!" Hermione jumped to her feet and sprinted into their bedroom, which she was relieved to see was empty. Her relief was replaced by confusion, and she paused in her tracks. "Mum? Dad? Where are you...?"

Another thundering fireball exploded somewhere else in the house, shaking the floor beneath her and toppling her over. Slowly she rose to her feet, wearing an aggravated expression.

"Oh, that's it."

She took a giant step through a gaping hole in the wall onto her front lawn, choking on the rising smoke as she did so. Hermione rubbed her stinging eyes and glared ahead at the lone masked man. He was standing still about twenty meters away, with his wand held cautiously at his side. For a few heartbeats, they both stood there, neither of them making a move.

"Go away," ordered Hermione after taking a deep breath. "Or – or I'll…I'll kill you!"

The Death Eater chuckled. "The Order isn't here to protect you, little girl. As far as they're concerned, nothing is happening at all right now..."

He raised his wand, preparing to murder the unarmed witch when she suddenly shouted, "Expelliarmus!" and disarmed him.

She was surprised, but no more than he was. Hermione managed to arch her eyebrow at him as she caught his wand.

He wasn't stunned for long. He lunged at her, hoping he could use his larger body to wrestle his wand away from her. However, before he could close the distance between them, Hermione jerked her hand up and a wave of magic rushed out from her palm. It was just barely visible in the air for a second before it struck him in the chest and lifted him off his feet.

Now he was at Hermione's mercy, suspended a few meters above the ground, floating helplessly in midair.

She beckoned at him and he drifted toward her a few feet. Her fingers bent and she pulled her hand back; his Death Eater mask fell off and dropped to the ground, revealing the face of a frightened young man. He was utterly unfamiliar to her and she felt no compassion for him. Hermione fixed him with a wintry stare and she tilted her chin up, doing her best to try and look imposing.

"W-what do you want with me?"

"I…." Hermione hesitated, and then she sighed. "I want you to take me to Lord Voldemort –"

"You dare speak his name –"

She shook her hand back and forth and his body did the same.

"Shut up! Where is he?"

"I – don't – know! Put me down!"

"No." She started thumping him along the ground. "Tell me!"

His lip had split, and for a second Hermione almost felt bad for him until she realized that this man had just destroyed her home. He sneered and spat at her. Hermione's jaw fell open in indignation and she shook him again.

"Stop!" he hissed.

"Take me to him!" she commanded, bouncing his body along the ground.

"You filthy Mudblood, I'll -"

Hermione pushed out with her hand until he was over the street and then she swung her arm down as hard as she could, slamming the Death Eater into the solid pavement. The asphalt cracked and caved in underneath his body. A shiver danced down her spine as she realized just how much power she had really been given by the Speaker...and she paused as she wondered whether it had been her decision to perform such an act of violence or if it had been someone else's idea... She hadn't really just hurled him into the street, had she...?

A feeble groan escaped his lips, pulling her back to the moment. Idly she wondered if he would ever be able to walk again. She shook her head and strode over to him, where he was sprawled out with one of his legs bent underneath him. With a disdainful look, she prodded him in the side with her foot.

"Don't call me that again. I'd rather not be forced to break anything else of yours. Now," she continued, "are you ready to cooperate?"

"Bitch," he spat. "You...you have no right."

Her hand darted down and seized his chin, forcing him to look into her eyes. She felt her breathing begin to slow down and her senses began to quiet... No longer could she detect the sharp scent of the smoke, nor could she feel the warmth of the fire nor the slight evening breeze – her senses and her conscious were focused on the man's eyes. She felt entirely confident that the spell she was about to cast would work, even though she had never used it before and she didn't even know how it would work. All Hermione knew was that it would work, and for the second time that night she felt a cold sensation trickle down her back.

She took a deep breath and then whispered, "Legilimens."

Author's Note:

Go me! 2,800 words in two months! As always, reviews are a good way to let me know if you're enjoying the story.

Ryan

December 19, 2007