Lunch in the Great Hall had become a much subdued affair. With Umbridge in the Headmasters seat no one felt like talking much. Slytherin was the only table laughing and having a good time. The rest would get points knocked off if they so much as chewed too loudly. Ron had managed to lose at least twenty points on his own because of that. Harry was sitting at the far end of the table, as far as he could get from Umbridge and he was surrounded by the Gryffindor members of Dumbledore's Army. Harry was keeping his head down and eating quietly.
"I think we can prank her into leaving." George started.
"We have some prototypes that we are just itching to test." Fred added.
"Can you do it without getting caught?" Hermione asked, "We can't lose any more points."
"Of course we can." Fred looked offended, as the others near them gaped at Hermione sanctioning pranks.
"We've not been caught by her yet." George added.
"And all the other Professors look the other way if they catch them." Ginny added, "Except Snape of course."
"Do you need any help?" Harry finally looked up, "I mean I can't be anywhere near or this scar will just get worse." He lifted his hand, "But if you need any supplies or anything."
"That's the spirit Harry." Fred grinned and winked, "But we've got all we need. Plus our backer gave us enough for a really good start on things."
"I can help if you need a distraction." Ginny offered.
"That, my lovely sister, we may just need." George grinned, "How good of terms are you on with Peeves?"
"I've been one of the people supplying him water balloons." Ginny grinned, "With the express desire for him to throw them all at her."
"Our lovely sister, a girl after our own hearts and one of the same mind. We could be triplets." Fred grinned. At that moment the doors to the Great Hall were opened and the group turned to look.
"You." Umbridge yelled, "You are not allowed in here. I fired you and you are not allowed…"
"Sybil?" Minerva called with concern filling her voice.
The rest of the room turned to see the woman stagger into the room clutching at her shawls. At her name she looked up, blinking owlishly behind her overly large glasses she spoke in a gravelly voice that only two people in the room had heard before, "Fate's forked tongue will soon be speaking. Four souls it will be reaping. Unity will need to light the way. Or light will fall to darkest way."
That said she promptly fainted. Poppy Pomfrey had just entered the hall and tried to catch her before she hit the ground, "What happened?"
"She fainted after talking in an odd voice." Minerva supplied starting down from the head table, "Take her to the Hospital please."
"She cannot…" Umbridge started to refuse.
"Would you rather she dies right here in the Great Hall?" Minerva queried.
"Take her quickly." Umbridge amended.
"What are we going to do about the prophecy?" Minerva asked once Poppy had left levitating the unconscious woman before her.
"What prophecy?" Umbridge laughed, "She couldn't make a prophecy to save her life. This is just a show to try and get her job back and I am NOT going to fall for that."
During their exchange Harry had grabbed the parchment and quill that Hermione was using for notes on the book she'd been reading during lunch. He was scribbling furiously for a few moments and then handed it back to Hermione, "Did I get it all down right?"
"That was the voice wasn't it?" Ron asked.
Harry nodded as Hermione handed him back the paper and agreed that he had it right. Harry went back to staring at the parchment reading and rereading the words he had written.
"What voice?" Fred asked.
"THE voice." Ron stated, "The one she uses when she goes into a trance and makes a real prophecy. As far as I know Harry is the only person she's actually made a true prophecy to. It's not like in her class. Believe it or not she's not a complete fraud. Just most of the stuff she spouts is junk."
"Come on Ron, you don't expect us to believe that do you?" Seamus muttered.
"It's true." Hermione said, "Third year she made the one to Harry. It talked about someone returning whose heart was rot with murder, innocent blood would be shed and servant and master will be reunited. We thought it was Sirius but of course it turned out to be Peter. That was when Ron's ankle got tore up."
"That's right." Harry said looking up from the parchment, "We need to figure out what this one means. I don't know what fates forked tongue is. Hermione do you?"
"No sorry. Snakes have forked tongues though." she added.
"You think something to do with Slytherin?" Ron asked.
"Don't know." Harry said, "But what really bothers me about this is the four souls being reaped. I hope no one is going to die."
The rest of the group around them watched as the three put their heads together to figure it out. None of them had seen them really working on a mystery. They had seen the outcomes but the work up to it had usually gone unnoticed. The Weasleys, amongst others, were in awe that Ron actually did add a substantial amount to the trio. His brothers had always thought he was just along for the ride.
"So 'fate' is going to used something with a forked tongue to choose four people to do something." Ron stated, "Do we have to unite to save the world or do they?"
"If they live I'd have to say they will be the ones to unite." Hermione stated, "But it never hurts for us to try to unite here too."
"If the worlds survival depends on Gryffindors and Slytherins uniting against a common foe we're in deep trouble." Ron grimaced, "We might as well get a dark mark now."
"Not funny Ron." Harry grumbled.
"It won't be that hard, I don't think." Hermione shrugged, "It will depend on who gets taken. Assuming they live that is, I think even Slytherin would work with us to get some of their people back."
"Harry I'll miss you." Luna said airily as she gave Harry a hug from behind, "But be strong we know you can do it."
"What do I have to do?" Harry asked turning towards her.
"Unite the four houses of course." she stated, "At least you won't have to work with them all. Just the three that go with you; I wonder who they'll take from Ravenclaw."
"Batty that one is." Seamus stated with a grimace after she left.
"Not as batty as you think." Ginny glared.
"Ginny's right." Harry stopped the argument before it could really start, "Besides when have I ever got to sit on the sidelines. I always seem to get plopped down right in the middle of it all."
"You're just lucky I guess." Ginny chuckled at the glare he directed at her, "At least if it is you we all know you will survive somehow. And if they do take one from each house you can bet you'll be putting up with Malfoy at the same time."
"Now there's a pleasant thought." Harry grumbled, sarcasm heavy in his voice
"At least if he's with you we won't have him here mucking it up." Ron chuckled, "We might stand a chance of uniting the school without him here to stir everyone up."
Chuckling the group stood to go to their next class. The day continued on in the same quiet manner. However the talk was all centered on Trelawney and her prophecy. By dinner everyone seemed to know that Harry believed it was a true prophecy and that was good enough for most everyone. Even the Slytherins were subdued. They knew, even if they wouldn't admit it, if Harry said something was up it was usually true in a big way. The only person in the hall that didn't seem to care was Umbridge. She was sitting calmly and watching the students enter. Harry noted that the sky was clear and the stars were bright. It caught his eye because it had been cloudy and snowing off and on for the last several days. He sat down and enjoyed a quiet dinner with his friends on either side of him and Ginny, Neville, Seamus and Dean just across the table. The conversations had been quiet during the meal but now that it was nearly over a few more were picking up. Seamus asked Harry about quidditch and when he looked up to answer his attention was diverted by a flash in the ceiling above him. Everyone around him looked to see what had gained his attention. A few gasps from the Gryffindor table drew the attention of the rest of the school.
The center of the sky was still clear with bright stars. However clouds were encroaching from all sides. Angry lightening flared in the clouds as they rolled their way across the ceiling. When they were near the center Harry moved his eyes away and found Ginny staring at him. He stared back intensely trying to memorize her face even though he didn't know why he needed to do it. As the clouds met in the center a gale blew from the center out and extinguished all the candles. Then a single bolt of lightning lit up the sky before splitting into four and striking each table. Screams of students filled the air for a moment then another gust of wind flew through the room. The candles relit and the sky was back to the normal clear it had been at the beginning of dinner.
"Is everyone alright?" Minerva asked when it was clear that Umbridge was unable to do anything as she was still gaping at the ceiling looking like she'd been hit with a confundus charm.
"Harry's missing." Ron stood and stated loudly, "He was sitting between Hermione and me and now he's gone."
"Anyone else?" Minerva called.
"Draco Malfoy." Blaise added also standing, "He was beside me."
"Ernie Macmillan is missing." Hannah Abbott stood.
"Terry Boot." Michael Corner was the last to stand.
"What do you mean missing?" Umbridge shrieked.
"They mean a few moments ago those people were sitting with us and now they are not." Ginny pointed out.
"Fifty points from Gryffindor for your cheek." Umbridge yelled, "All of you get up and start searching the school for them."
"Wait." Minerva called, "We need to get Aurors here to look over the room and talk to witnesses."
"Nonsense." Umbridge blustered, "Why call for the Aurors because of a school boy prank. Potter will be in detention for the rest of the year for this."
"Delores, I highly doubt this is a prank." Minerva bristled, "Not even a seventh year could pull something this complex. It would take someone with a lot of experience and power to alter the spells in that ceiling."
"Dumbledore must be behind it then. I must go check his office and arrest him." She grinned evilly, "Call the aurors."
Hours later when the aurors were finished and still no trace of the students could be found, Minerva approached the hourglasses. A quick glace around and she muttered, "Sixty points to Gryffindor for making that… woman look like the idiot she really is."
Most of the students in the school were in their common rooms discussing what had happened. The Gryffindors were no different except no one was talking. Hermione was writing on piece of parchment and had several other parchments sitting around her. She would glance at one or the other and then write some more on hers. The rest of the students were quietly sitting around the room watching her write. The portrait opened but no one appeared to come through. After it closed Ron pulled off Harry's cloak and sat down holding an owl in his arms.
"It's a school owl." he said holding it up, "They'll only know it came from here."
"Good." Hermione finished her letter and wrote a name on the front. Fred and George were the closest to her and their eyes nearly bugged out when they read the name.
"Why are you sending her a letter?" Fred exclaimed.
"Who is she writing to?" Dean asked from across the room.
"Rita Skeeter!" George's answer was followed by outraged cries from the rest of the students.
"Quiet." Hermione called, "Umbridge is trying to hide the fact that four students went missing on her watch. You heard her tell the aurors not to inform the parents yet. I'm just making sure she doesn't get her way. And maybe she'll get in trouble for trying to cover it up. Skeeter won't let the opportunity pass, she loves stirring the cauldron far too much to let anyone cover this up."
"Think what will happen if we tell them just how badly she's been treating Harry and suggest that she was the one to make them go missing." Ron said gleefully, "She'll be gone in no time."
"Even if we don't blame her she'll still be looked down on because she was supposed to be taking care of us." Hermione stated, "Just tell the truth and they'll see what a horror she's been. I hope they're alright. Thank you for writing down your view on events, it's helped me get all the details."
Later in the dorm Hermione cornered Ginny, "What was that staring match you had with Harry right before he disappeared?"
"I don't know but I felt like he was looking deeper than just my face. It was really intense." she answered with a shiver.
"What do you think it means?" Hermione wondered.
"I don't know but I felt more feelings from that few seconds than I feel in hours with Michael." she stated, "I'm going to have to break up with him. I realize now I don't feel much at all and I think it would be cruel to drag this on."
Harry's head was thumping in time with his heartbeat. He tried to lay as still as possible so he could remember what had happened to give him the pain he was experiencing. The last thing he remembered was sitting down to dinner. He'd been sitting between Ron and Hermione and he remembered eating dinner. He had just been responding to Seamus when a flash in the ceiling caught his eye. It all came flooding back to him then and he had to wonder at why he felt the need to stare at Ginny like he had. He took a deep breath and realization hit him like a ton of bricks, he wasn't in the hospital wing, the smell was wrong. He slowly cracked one eye open to see if he was in his dorm. When he realized he wasn't there he sat up quickly to look around. This was a mistake because it made his head throb horribly. He grabbed his head with both hands and held it between his knees trying to keep from throwing up. After a few moments the intense pain and nausea faded and he was able to move again. This time he moved very slowly. He found himself on a cot in a room that looked like it could have been a hospital but it wasn't Hogwarts or St. Mungo's. There were three other beds and all were filled. The people in them started groaning. To help them out Harry decided to tell them what he knew.
"If you've got the headache I have I'd suggest moving very slowly. We're in a hospital of some kind I think." Harry said.
"You think?" snarled a voice from the other end of the beds.
"It's not a hospital I've seen before but that's what it looks like." replied Harry.
"You're a lot of help Potter." the voice grumbled.
"I don't hear any ideas out of you Malfoy." Harry answered, "Who else is here?"
"Boot here." Terry called
"Macmillan." Ernie groaned, "How can you sit up with this pain."
"I've felt worse." Harry offered, "Just don't sit up too fast. Believe me you don't want to. I thought I was going to die when I did. I'd lie back down but then I doubt I'd ever sit up again."
"Don't make me laugh it hurts." Terry tried to hold in a chuckle.
A door opened at one end of the room Harry reached for his wand but it wasn't there. The person who walked in shocked Harry so badly he almost fell over. He was the closest to the door so even in his pained state he could see her.
A beautiful red headed woman softly closed the door and levitated a tray to the table near the beds, "Anyone want a headache potion?"
"Yes please." Harry tried to sound normal but it sounded a little high to him.
Three more "Yes Please." was heard to echo his own.
She handed Harry the first vial and then moved over to the next bed, "Don't try to set up on your own."
"Harry already warned us." Ernie stated from the bed beside Harry's.
"Breath slow and deep as I raise the head of the bed." she instructed.
"Who are you?" Harry asked, "Sorry that sounded demanding. I just mean you look familiar."
"Using pick up lines Potter?" Malfoy sneered from his bed, "I wouldn't think you knew any."
"Actually he does know who I am." the woman said, "I just can't tell you from where yet. It will all be explained later. Let's just get these headaches under control."
Harry's headache had eased enough that he was able to look around with a closer study. Just like the woman the room looked familiar but he couldn't place where he had seen it. He relaxed back as his bed was raised up like the others had been, "Where are we?"
"Now is not the time Harry." the woman answered, "Just relax and try to get some more sleep."
She reached down and pulled his covers back over his chest and patted his arm. He looked into her eyes and was again struck by the familiarity. As the potion took effect Harry felt himself begin to fall asleep. Drowsy eyes saw the woman reach out to him and remove his glasses.