Darkness Calling: Chapter 22

Being unconscious was like a perpetual nightmare; the last scene I remember before passing out kept playing over and over in my mind. I was vaguely aware of what was going on around me, but my body just wouldn't let me wake up. It was like I knew that someone levitated my body and transported me to a bed, but I couldn't recall who or how long ago it was done.

The worst part of it all is that I knew that I was alive, but I had no idea what else had occurred. Not knowing if Hermione or my friends were okay nearly killed me. I couldn't say how much time went by before I started to regain consciousness, but with the more wakeful state came the pain. My chest felt like it was on fire. It was hard to breathe and when I was able to catch a full breath, it felt like I was inhaling flames.

It felt like an eternity had gone by, by the time that my eyes first fluttered open. The room I was in was white and bright; I guessed it was the hospital wing, but I couldn't have been sure because my eyesight was extremely blurry. There was someone sitting in a chair next to me, slouched over the edge of my bed as if they were asleep. Whoever it may have been was holding my hand. It took a while to put together all of the pieces. Who would be holding my hand? Who do I know has long, curly brown hair and smells like… cherry blossoms?

"'Mione…," I tried to say, but I was so weak that it came out as barely more than a whisper.

"Her-my-nee…," I said again, a little stronger that time, as I tried to move my hand.

She must have felt my fingers stir because, in her sleep, she tightened her grip slightly before raising her head.

"Jay?" She asked quietly. "Oh gods, you're awake. Addi go get Madam Pomfrey!"

I heard someone stand up from a chair and quickly move from the room, but my focus was on Hermione. I think I had used up what strength I had in trying to get her attention; all I could do is look into the eyes of the woman that I knew I could never live without. The moment was short-lived because Madam Pomfrey came into my view and Hermione stepped out of her way. Poppy began her typical examination. She listened to my heartbeat through her stethoscope and waved her wand above my chest and head.

"Her heart rate and temperature have finally gone down." She said matter-of-factly. "You are a very lucky girl, Miss Harrison. That spell barely missed your heart. If it had struck true, you wouldn't be here with us today."

"Jayleigh, honey, I'm here and so is Hermione." I heard Addi say from somewhere near my head. "You're going to be okay. Poppy is taking very good care of you."

I was able to turn my head slightly to see my aunt with her arm around my girlfriend. They had both obviously been crying recently.

"I'm… I'm o-okay…" I managed to stammer out. Hermione turned in towards my aunt and let out a choked sob. The two women comforted each other while letting Madam Pomfrey finish her examination.

I was then made to drink a strong potion through a straw that made me feel like more of a person and less like a vegetable.

"That potion should help you regain your strength, Jay." Poppy said before walking off to leave me with Addison and Hermione.

I noticed that the curtains were drawn, separating my bed from the one next to me. There was obviously someone in it and their family was gathered around them.

"It's Bill, Ron's brother." Hermione said, after noticing where my eyes were directed. "He got attacked by Fenrir Greyback."

"Come 'ere," I said to her, turning my palm upwards so that she would know that I needed physical contact with her. She sat back down in her chair and held my hand with both of hers.

Addi came to the other side of the bed and kissed me on the forehead. Before leaving, she said, "I'll give you two a moment."

"Tell me… what… happened." I said to Hermione slowly as to not aggravate my burning lungs.

With more tears coming to her eyes, Hermione said, "Dumbledore is dead."

She let her words sink in. I couldn't believe it; the greatest wizard who ever lived was dead. The man that gave me a chance when no one else would was gone and I never even got a chance to know him.

"How?" I managed to ask.

"Snape murdered him." She said, silent tears running down her cheeks. "They set the dark mark above the tower to lure Dumbledore there. When he and Harry reached the tower, he was ambushed. He fell from the top…"

"Snape?" I questioned. I knew that the trio hadn't trusted Snape; had thought that he was just as evil as Voldemort, but I never would have thought that he would have been capable of murder. All those times that I was alone in his office, dueling with him, he could have offed me and I never would have expected it. "I'm so sorry, 'Mione."

"It's okay… It has to be." She said mournfully. "His funeral is tomorrow. They are sending all of the students home afterwards."

"Is everyone okay?" I asked.

"Neville got hurt, he's fine, but Bill is pretty bad." Hermione said. "It wasn't the full moon, so we don't know what kind of effect Fenrir's attack is going to have on him."

"He's alive, though." I said solemnly.

"Jay, I've been so worried about you." Hermione looked like she was on the verge of tears again. "You've been out of it for three days and Madam Pomfrey thinks your heart stopped at one point. I thought I was losing you all over again."

"But you didn't and I'm okay." I reassured her. "Now come here and lay down with me. I need you to be beside me."

My strength was slowly coming back to me throughout the day. By the time the sun went down I was able to sit up on my own, although I needed a few pillows to rest against. I wasn't allowed to eat anything harder than pudding, so my dinner consisted of a broth and some jello, which Hermione had to feed to me because my hands were shaking so bad that I couldn't hold a spoon steady.

"I feel useless." I told her after I was finished.

"Well, you aren't useless. You're a hero." She said lovingly. "You're my hero and I'll do whatever it takes to get you better again."

I had a multitude of visitors once they knew I was awake, but I honestly just wanted to be left alone with Hermione and Addi. I felt weak in my position and I didn't feel comfortable with everyone around knowing exactly how messed up I really was. Though, the most humiliating part of my day was having to get up to use the restroom and bathe myself. I tried my hardest to get up on my own, but I failed miserably. I couldn't stand up and had to be helped into a wheel chair before I could go anywhere. Even when I got into the bathroom I still had to have help from Addi. I couldn't have Hermione seeing me so weak and helpless.

I was thankful at the end of the day when I could just lay down in my bed and pretend like I was asleep. I lay there thinking about what all had transpired over just a few days. I was screwed up, maybe permanently, and Dumbledore was dead. Nothing would ever be the same. Hermione had told me on several occasions how serious everything truly was, but I don't think that it hit home until that moment.

Dumbledore's mission isn't complete. There are still Horcruxes to be destroyed and the only person who can truly do anything about them is Harry… and Hermione would follow him to the ends of the earth… I thought to myself. There was a part of this story that I had been choosing to ignore the whole time Hermione and I had been together and deep down I knew that it would eventually take her away from me. I didn't know when it would happen, but I began to brace myself for the inevitable.

The next day brought more tears than I can ever remember seeing before. Witches and wizards had poured in from all over the world to pay their last respects to Albus Dumbledore. I sat in my wheelchair with Hermione next to me and listened to what the old, short wizard speaking in front of the congregation had to say. He spoke very highly of Dumbledore, but then again, who wouldn't have?

After Dumbledore's body was encased in the marble tomb, people started to leave, but the noise around us didn't stop me from overhearing Harry break up with Ginny. She took it in stride and put on a brave face, but I knew that inside her heart was breaking. I wondered to myself if I would have the courage to take it as well as Ginny did when Hermione said the same thing to me.

As Harry turned his back to us and walked off, I looked to my left and saw Ron holding Hermione, both of them crying on each others' shoulders. It didn't make the jealous monster in my chest rise in anger; it just made me sad. I wasn't worried about whether or not Hermione had feelings for Ron. I knew that she didn't, but I also knew that they had something between them – between the three of them, really – that I couldn't ever be a part of.

I let them have their private moment and looked to Ginny. She was watching me, trying to gauge how I was feeling, I presumed.

"You wanna take a walk?" I asked her, quietly.

"Sure."

She wheeled me away from Hermione and Ron, and when we were well out of earshot, I said, "They are leaving. I can feel it in my bones."

"I know." She answered. "They'll never rest until You-Know-Who is dead."

"Yeah, but where does that leave us?"

"Honestly, Jay, I don't know." We stopped under a tree next to the lake. "I always knew that they would eventually leave, but I never thought that it would be without Dumbledore to watch over them."

The trio was under a similar tree to ours only about a hundred yards away from us, most likely talking about what their next move was going to be, but I had never felt more far away from Hermione. The thought alone was enough to bring tears to my eyes, but I refrained from showing the emotion.

"So what are you going to do?" I asked Ginny.

"Continue living the most normal life that I can." She answered. "I'm not of age, yet and I still have two more years left of school. There isn't much more that I can do… What about you – are you going back over to the States?"

"No, I don't think so." It was a notion that I hadn't given much thought to. "My life is here now and I'm going to be here as long as Hermione will have me. I'll wait for her if I have to."

We didn't say much more than that. Eventually, the others came to find us and we all headed back to the castle to get our trunks. Addi was there waiting for me and had had all of my stuff packed and brought up from the dungeons.

"Did you get Lola?" I asked of my guitar.

"Of course, and I got your Firebolt." She said. "You about ready to go? Poppy said she would discharge you into my care if you felt up to leaving."

"Yeah, I'm ready… Hermione, are you coming home with us?" I asked her. She had been oddly quiet since her discussion with Ron and Harry.

"Yes, if you don't mind?" She directed the question to my aunt.

"I wouldn't have it any other way, my dear." Addi said.

Hermione left to get her trunk and Addi escorted me back to the hospital wing. Madam Pomfrey had insisted on a final checkup before allowing me to leave and sent me home with ten vials of strengthening potion with strict instructions on when to take them.

With a clean bill of health, I left and found myself at the entrance to the dungeons. Sabrina, Jacobi and Steph were all there and the goodbyes were hard. When we parted, Sabrina spared one last glance my way before disappearing through the giant Entrance Hall doors. Even though we would all have to reconvene eventually to take our N.E.W.T.s, that goodbye felt so final.

"Hey, are you okay?" I heard Hermione ask from behind me. She was walking down the steps with her trunk levitated behind her.

"Yeah, I'm just ready to go home."

We met Addi and the three of us left the castle together. When we got just pass the gates, they each grabbed a side of my chair and disapparated. Back in Ireland, my aunt had transformed the study into a makeshift bedroom.

"It's temporary." She said. "Just until you can manage the stairs again. Which shouldn't be too long, I might add. Poppy said you should be able to walk tomorrow and before you know it, you'll be good as new."

Hermione took our things upstairs and Addi disappeared into the kitchen somewhere, presumably to give me a moment to myself. When Hermione returned and found me alone, she motioned towards the sofa.

"Would you like to get out of that chair and get comfortable?" She asked.

Getting out of the chair was easier than the day before and once I was comfortable Hermione said, "Do you need anything? Tea? Coffee? A book to read?"

"No," I began, "But I'd like you to be honest with me."

I could tell from her expression that that was not the way she wanted the conversation to go, but she acquiesced to my request and sat down beside me.

"What would you like me to be honest about, Jay?"

"Are you leaving me?" I asked, bluntly.

"Jay, it's more complicated than that and you know it."

"Well explain it to me because I hate not knowing where we stand." I said.

Holding my hands in hers and taking a deep breath, she said, "I love you so much, Jay, that I can't stand it sometimes because I know that I can't bring you with me where I am going."

"And where is that, exactly?"

"I don't know, yet." She cast muffliato and continued, "Harry seems to think that there are still four more Horcruxes out there that need to be destroyed and I don't know where they are, but we have to find them. This war can't be ended until we do."

"And why can't I go with you? Four wands are stronger than three."

"Well first and foremost, I will not put you in that kind of danger. In case you've already forgotten, you've already almost died once for me and I can't let that happen again."

"But-" I interrupted.

"No, let me finish. Secondly it's honestly not my place to invite you along. You aren't even supposed to know about the Horcruxes."

"Hermione, I could help you and you know it. I may not look it right now, but I'm a strong witch. I want to be there to protect you." I said.

"That's exactly my point!" She said excitedly. "What do you think either one of us would do if we were faced with a situation that required us to choose, sticking with our mission or saving each other?"

"I would save you…" I answered her, dejectedly. "Look, I understand your point, Hermione, but how can you expect me to just sit tight and watch you run off with those two, looking for trouble? I can't do that!"

"You have to…" She said. "Jay, leaving without you is going to be the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, but I don't have a choice. If Ron and I don't go, Harry doesn't stand a chance and without Harry there won't be a world for us to come back to."

Her words struck true. She was completely right. Harry was the chosen one – the only one who could defeat Voldemort and without Hermione, he would fail. I hated it, but I had to let her win this battle. I still wasn't convinced that I shouldn't go with her and I had every intention of making her understand that, but for the time being, all I wanted to do was hold my girlfriend and show her how much I loved her.

The next week was somewhere between Heaven and Hell. On one hand I got to spend every waking moment with Hermione, but on the other, I was recovering slower than anticipated. I had the minor outburst on a couple of different occasions from the sheer frustration of not being able to do things for myself. Sure, I could walk again, but I couldn't walk for very long without becoming winded and I could hang up the idea of showering alone. Everything about me was weak and I despised it.

My condition caused me to slip into a minor depression that I just couldn't shake and it was noticed by everyone around me. Hermione and Addi basically had to tip-toe around me for fear of me going off on them. The worst part was that I knew that I was acting like a child, but that didn't stop me.

At one point I got so angry that I stormed out of the house with Firebolt in hand and zoomed off with Hermione behind me screaming for me to stop. My ride lasted all of about twenty seconds before I lost control of my broom and plummeted to the ground. If Hermione hadn't cast a cushioning charm below me, I probably would have set my recovery back by another month. She had tears running down her face when she reached me.

"What were you thinking? You could have killed yourself!" She screamed at me.

At that point the water works had broken through. I fell into her arms and we both sank to the ground, crying all of our emotions out. That was my breaking point, but it was also the moment that I started to get better. I stopped feeling sorry for myself and redoubled my efforts. I began rehabbing my body and conditioning it to become stronger. The exercise along with the rest of my strengthening potions helped me get back to who I was, even though I was using a cool cane to help me get around, before I was struck in the chest by a flaming curse.

Once I was strong enough to travel again, Hermione and I visited the Burrow a couple of times. Planning for Bill's wedding was set at full steam ahead and while we were there, we were hard-pressed to find someone who wasn't talking about it – whether that was Molly and Fleur talking about it excitedly or Ginny complaining about it. Once, while on our way home, Hermione told me that she had some things to take care involving her parents and asked if I wouldn't mind staying home while she did them.

"I'm sorry, Jay, it's just something that I need to do alone…" She said apologetically.

"Hermione, I understand. There are going to be times when you need your space. I can respect that." I told her. "Just know that I'm here for you if you need me, okay?"

She left the next morning with only a small bag of necessities. Part of me was a tad bit worried that she wouldn't be coming back, but the rational part of my brain told me that she wouldn't do that – she would tell me goodbye. On the plus side, I needed some time to myself, as well. Before I left Hogwarts, I knew that I wanted to get Hermione something special – something that showed my love for her outwardly.

Over tea that afternoon I brought the subject up with Addi, "Do you know any good magical jewelers?" I asked.

"Sure, I do. Dmitri, an old friend of mine in Dublin, has a pretty unique collection." She answered. "Why do you ask?"

"I want to get Hermione a ring."

"A ring?" Her eyebrows shot up into her hair. "Like an engagement ring?"

"No, just something she can have when I'm not around – something that reminds her how much I love her."

"Are you planning on going away?" She asked me. "Because I thought you said you were staying in Europe."

"I'm not going anywhere. This is just something I need to do."

"Well would you like for me to take you there today?" She asked, still not quite believing that I wasn't looking for an engagement ring.

"Could we?" I answered.

We left shortly thereafter and found ourselves on a cobble-stoned street beneath an ornate wrought-iron sign that read HEARTSTRINGS: FINE JEWELRY AND RARITIES.

"This is the place," Addi said in a sing-song voice.

The soft tinkle of the doorbell alerted an old man behind a glass counter of our arrival. Upon first glance, the shop looked like just your average muggle antique store, but on closer inspection, I started to notice magical items lying around. Most muggles would never think twice to look at some of the items.

"My stars," The old man said as he rushed to put on his round glasses. "Addison O'Malley, is that you? HA! It is! I haven't seen you in ages!"

He came around the counter and wrapped my aunt in a friendly embrace. It looked to me as if they had been close friends.

"Oh, it's so nice to see you again, Dmitri." She said returning the hug.

"And who is this pretty young lady you've brought to my store, Addi?" He asked her once he spotted me.

"This is my niece, Jayleigh." She answered while placing a hand on my shoulder. "Jay, this is Dmitri."

"It's nice to meet you, sir." I said politely.

"The pleasure is all mine." He told me as he placed a kiss on the hand that I offered him. "Now, what can I do for ladies?"

"Would you mind showing me your ring collection?" I asked.

"Certainly," He motioned for me to follow him to the glass counter. After pulling out five different ring displays, he said, "I have these arranged by the different stones, as you can see. Feel free to try them on. Are you looking for anything in particular?"

"I don't know, yet," I said as I picked up a sapphire ring to have a closer look. "I just know I'm looking for something special – something unique."

All of the rings I saw in front of me were pretty, some of them I would even described as remarkable, but they weren't what I was looking for. They didn't stand out to me.

"Well, if none of these are catching your attention, I do have some more interesting items in the back, but I must warn you. They are not within the same price range as these that you are looking at here."

"I'd like to see all of your collection." I said to him.

He looked to my aunt, who up until that point had been browsing the shelves. She gave him the slightest of nods and he said to me, "Very well, then. Just give me a moment to bring them up."

I joined Addi in front of a bookcase that was filled with some of the oldest books I'd ever seen. I couldn't even read the titles on some of them, they were so worn down.

"Didn't see anything you liked, I take it." Addi said to me.

"Not really. Nothing jumped out at me."

"Well, keep looking. You might find something." She said.

"Here we go," Dmitri said from behind us. "Now, some of these boxes haven't been taken down in a while, so they are a little dusty."

The rings that he brought from the back were all in their own boxes individually. Dmitri opened each one of them for me and allowed me to look at them. I could see that they were much more valuable than the ones that I was looking at previously. Not by the way they looked, but by the way that Dmitri held and hovered over each one of them.

He pointed to three of them and said, "These here, are goblin-made. All are very old, but you'll never see anything like them anywhere else."

They were all gorgeous and he was right, I had never seen anything like them before, but they still weren't the perfect fit. I glanced over the others and was almost to the point of returning home empty-handed when one particular ring caught my eye. I reached for it and slowly picked it up.

"Ah that one," Dmitri said. He had a strange mystical look in his eyes as he looked down upon what I was holding. "Now, that there is priceless."

I lifted the petite ring out of its box and marveled at how light it was. There was no weight to it, at all. The band was silver and etched in it were minuscule symbols that I didn't understand. There were three stones set in what looked to be a bed of vines, but I couldn't tell what kind or even what color they were. I had never seen anything like it before. Two smaller stones flanked the larger one in the center. Each of them was uncut and unpolished, yet they were the most perfect gems I had ever seen. A soft, otherworldly glow emanated from the ring itself.

"There aren't many elfin artifacts left in this world, but you, my friend, are holding one of them." Dmitri said softly.

"Elfin?" I questioned.

"The Elves died out thousands of years ago, shortly after humans began to walk this earth. Some even say that wizards are descendent from them. They were a powerful magical race." Addi said as she came up behind me to marvel at the ring.

"What kind of stones are these? And what do these markings mean?" I asked Dmitri.

"There is no proper name for those stones, but throughout history, they have been called sunstones. It's said that the power of the Elves was derived from them. As for the markings, they tell the story of the elfin queen who owned this ring."

"An elfin queen…" I wondered aloud. "Does it have any magical properties that can be utilized by wizards?"

"I can't even begin to imagine how useful it would be if we actually knew how to use the sunstones, but the ring itself has been imbued with every protective enchantment and charm known to wizard kind. Elfin metal is extremely versatile." As an afterthought, he added, "You know, most wizards think that the goblins are the best metal-workers, but their skills do not even begin to compare with the elves."

With all seriousness, I asked him, "How much would you sell something like this for?"

"I've never put a price on it before. You are actually the first customer that I have shown it to." He answered.

"Well how much did you pay for it?"

"A single galleon." He said with a chuckle. "A woman came into my shop looking to sell some family heirlooms that had been passed down from generation to generation. I bought some of her things and she added the ring on top of it for an extra galleon. I never saw her after that. She obviously had no clue what she truly had in her possession. I didn't even know what it was until I had it appraised."

"And you're certain that it is real – that all the enchantments are intact?" I asked him.

"I'm positive. I have the documents to back it up." He answered.

"Then I'll take it… Name your price."

A/N: So guys, Darkness Calling will be coming to an end in the next few chapters, but I am happy to announce that there will be a sequel. I'll tell you what it is going to be called once I post the final chapter of Darkness Calling. This is just a heads up for you to keep a look out and add me to your author alert list. I'll remind you again soon. Thanks guys, you're the best. =]