Disclaimer: I still don't own Harry Potter. This fic is written for the sole purpose of recreation, which I badly need. I don't make any money with it, which is sad - because money is also something I badly need.
Author's Notes: Thank you for all the kind reviews! One reviewer pointed out that "this is one of the first stories I have read where Neville is getting more action than Harry". Let me explain here: Neville is regularly called the "Number Two Most Eligible Bachelor in Wizarding Britain", at least in Fanon. Assuming little Malfoy doesn't count because of his betrothal to Pansy Parkinson, it may well be true in Canon, too. Plus he doesn't have the attached baggage of a Dark Lord breathing down his neck and being friends with the two most obnoxious characters of the Potterverse (seriously, between the three of them, Harry, Ron and Herms could start a self-help group for people suffering from an inferiority complex).
That being said, so far he just got his action earlier. Who says it's going to be more?
A/N 2: Sorry this chapter is so late again, but in addition to looking for a new job (mainly because the old one pays too little) I was hit by the Flu. As soon as I was back on my feet, my wife and kid were sick. On top of it all this chapter was the hardest to write so far because most of my plot hinges on what happens next.
A/N 3: On a happier side note, I DID manage to get that new job. It comes with a hefty raise AND more vacation. Hopefully, life will be a bit more manageable now. And that in turn will hopefully free up more time for writing.
Now, let's get on with the show!
Kidnapping for Intermediates
Chapter 6: A reunion of sorts
Hermione looked up from her thoughts of self-loathing when she heard footsteps. Sure enough, it was just the people she expected, the two targets in this school who were far more deserving of her wrath than herself. She righted herself in her bed as much as the pain in her chest allowed and gave the two approaching professors a cold stare.
"Professor Dumbledore! Professor Snape! Just the two people I didn't want to talk to!" she spat. "What brings you here on this fine evening?"
Snape glared at her. "You know exactly why we're here, Granger! WHERE IS HE?"
Dumbledore held up his hand and admonished his professor: "No need to shout, Severus. I'm sure this can be resolved in a civil manner." He turned back to Hermione. "Miss Granger, it appears that Mr. Potter has gone missing and with the events of last night we are worried about his safety. We thought it prudent to talk with you first. Is there anything you can tell us which might help us find him?"
As Hermione heard these words she was flooded with conflicting feelings of guilt at letting the Professor down, yet at the same time it was as if everything would get better now that he was back at Hogwarts. At the same time she noticed the almost unnatural twinkle in Dumbledore's eyes and that he had made a gesture with his left hand while speaking. Parvati's words came back to her: "DO NOT believe ANYTHING the Headmaster says to you. He has a few compulsions on you which will make it hard to distrust him." Now that she realized where those feelings came from she took a deep breath, closed her eyes and concentrated on what she wanted. Just like Harry had explained to her, after he had been able to throw off the fake Moody's Imperius in fourth year DADA. She opened her eyes to see Snape still glowering at her and Dumbledore waiting for her reply with an expectant look.
"As a matter of fact, Headmaster", (the word sounded like an insult out of her mouth), "I do know something. Harry sent me that wonderful letter last night which I'm sure you'll find rather interesting." She handed him the suicide note and he eagerly started reading. While Snape was distracted with glancing over Dumbledore's shoulder, Hermione quickly grabbed her wand from the nightstand and hid it in a fold of her blanket.
Dumbledore finished the letter quickly and looked back at Hermione. "You know Miss Granger, on one hand I have to commend you for breaking through my spells. On the other, I'm very disappointed in your apparent assumption that I would be as easily duped as the dear Madam Umbridge. You're not nearly distressed enough, so I have to conclude you must know that Mr. Potter is alive and well. I will ask nicely one more time: Where is Mr. Potter?"
Hermione gave the old wizard her best glare: "To think that I've actually defended your decisions in the rows I've had with Harry… Or was that even me? Just how long have you had those charms on me? I can say one thing, Dumbledore: I wouldn't tell you if I knew where he is!"
The Headmaster shook his head with a sad expression: "But Miss Granger, you have to believe me. It's for the best of everyone that Mr. Potter is found as soon as possible." Hermione shouted back: "Your idiocy has driven my best friend to try and commit suicide! You had to dump that fucking prophecy on him when he was at his weakest! And to top it off, you use compulsion charms on me! Why the hell should I believe in your view of what's best?"
Upon seeing the look of contempt she gave him his face hardened and he added: "You're not leaving me a choice, Miss Granger. I fear your OWL scores will have to be rescinded once we have uncovered evidence that you were cheating. You will of course be expelled for the offense."
That had Hermione gaping like a fish at the old man. She sat staring at the two professors while Dumbledore impatiently tapped his foot and Snape had that evil smirk on his face again. She'd seen this visage on him every time he had seen a chance to get Harry - or her, now that she thought about it - in trouble. In the end it was that smirk which made the decision for her. She took a deep breath to calm herself and told the venerable wizard: "Well, in that case this is probably the last time I'll ever speak to you, isn't it? Because there's one thing I'd really like to tell you and I don't want to miss my chance." She took another deep, looked him straight in the eye and said: "Fuck You."
For a moment Dumbledore looked ready to explode. His face turned an ugly shade of red and his hand twitched towards his wand, but he managed to regain his self control. He gave her another one of those 'disappointed grandfather' looks which Hermione now believed he had to have studied in the mirror for years. On the other hand, his acting wasn't all that great now that she actually knew he was acting.
Snape chose this moment to pipe up: "I told you she would be that way, Sir. It's like casting pearls before the swine, really. But on the other hand, she really does seem to believe the note is authentic. That means the boy is a lot further along with the plan than we thought. If she were to succumb to her injuries it would only add to his reasons to go through with it, once we have him back in our control. And I'm rather sure that'll be the only way for her to be of any more use to us. She knows too much already, and if we obliviate her he might notice something's wrong." Hermione paled even more than before while Dumbledore gave her a long look. After what seemed like an eternity he gave a nod to Snape and replied: "Before you do it, find out whatever it is she knows and doesn't want to tell." Then the old man turned and left the room. Hermione shouted after him: "What do you mean, he's further along than you thought? Are you deliberately setting Harry up to die?"
Dumbledore turned around once more and gave her a long pause. His voice was hard as steel when he answered: "What I'm doing, Miss Granger, is making sure our world will still be here tomorrow, by seeing to it that a prophecy is fulfilled. You see, in the last war we were just weeks away from the Muggle Government starting to intervene when young Harry defeated Voldemort. We had to promise them such a thing would never happen again, but now Voldemort is back and without Harry we have no chance of stopping him. As much as I wish it were differently, there is no other way. One must die at the hand of the other. If that doesn't happen as soon as I can arrange it the Muggles will surely step in this time and the Statute of Secrecy will be broken. The Witch Hunts from just a few hundred years back will start again, but this time it will be with those Nuke Bombs your people have invented instead of the pyre." With these words, Dumbledore left the room for good.
Snape's detestable grin became even broader as soon as they were alone. "I've been wanting to do that for quite some time, Granger", he spat. "Any last words before I tear your mind to shreds?"
Of all the phrases you could have used, Parvati, Hermione thought. She closed her eyes for a moment in anticipation. Then she looked up and intoned the activation phrase for her Portkey:
"Spank me, I've been a bad girl."
Snape's eyes widened in surprise while she felt the familiar tugging sensation behind her navel. A second later she fell, spinning through the ether towards her unknown destination.
Once again, Harry woke with a start in the middle of the night. He wasn't surprised at all that he'd had another nightmare, but fortunately tonight he couldn't remember what it had been about. He failed to suppress a grimace at the perversity of the situation: for everybody else, having a nightmare was a bad enough thing in and of itself, and to have one that they remembered afterwards was rare. For him, having vivid visions of horror which burned themselves into his memories was the more common occurrence. It was yet another thing where he desperately wished for more normality in his life.
His musings about how sorry his life was were cut short by the sound of an alarm bell ringing somewhere and the sounds of shouting and footfalls following shortly afterwards. He relaxed back onto the pillow despite the noise outside the room, too tired to care about whatever happened out there.
However a bit after the alarm bell stopped ringing and the worst of the commotion died down, he started feeling a strange pain in his chest and abdomen. It felt as if he had a cut across the upper half of the body, starting at the right shoulder and ending somewhere near the left hip. As the shouting started to get louder again, signaling that the people who did the shouting were coming back, the pain gradually started feeling worse with every second.
When the door to the infirmary opened he was already blinking back tears at the intensity of the feeling. Harry grabbed his glasses from the nightstand when someone rushed in without sparing him a single glance and readied a second bed with a few swishes of their wand. Harry recognized the figure as the Healer from earlier in the light that shone in from the corridor. Behind her came two men carrying a bleeding figure on a stretcher. Harry's eyes widened when the light in the room went on and he recognized the blood-soaked person being carried in.
It was Hermione.
He wanted to shout her name and jump up from the bed, but with the pain he felt it came out as a groan and a jerk back into a somewhat upright position. It still seemed to be enough to get her attention, because her eyes snapped open and immediately bored into his.
He was lying in a hospital bed, with Dumbledore and Snape trying to coax his whereabouts out of him. Huh?
… "the hell is going on now, Doc?"…
He opened the door of the loo stall just a crack to peek out at the noise and saw a Troll shoving itself in through the door to the bathroom. Wait a minute, what is this?
…" explains a lot. Well crap, get him out of…"
He lay on the dental chair and looked up into his Dad's eyes and the examination lamp. Bloody hell, why am I seeing Mione's memories?
… "Good night Mr. Potter! Stupefy!"
The world went dark.
Severus Snape disbelievingly stared at the empty bed for a few seconds before leveling his wand at it with a shriek of rage and blasting it to a mess of wood splinters and shreds of fabric. He turned around and stalked out of the Hospital Wing to find Dumbledore being accosted by a frantic Filius Flitwick.
"Albus, you have to do something!" the little Professor shrieked in his high-pitched voice. "Both girls can't be found anywhere on the grounds, it's like they just vanished over night!"
Dumbledore tried to push past the part-goblin but Snape grabbed his shoulder to turn him back around. "We've got even more trouble, Headmaster! Granger had a Portkey. She's off to Merlin knows where, probably meeting up with him right now."
The old Headmaster's face became even more serious and he stroked his beard a few times before answering: "It seems we've underestimated them. They must have had it all planned out, and they had two more accomplices. Filius here has just informed me that both Patil girls have left the ground." He turned around and gave the part-goblin a sour look: "Filius, finding your star pupil and her sister has just made its way to the top of my priority list. Because she bloody went and kidnapped our only hope at defeating Voldemort!" he shouted.
A/N 4: That was a tough chapter to get done. If you think this makes little sense, just wait for the next one. Everything will make perfect sense then. Ok, maybe not everything. But most of it. Trust me!