Harry and Hermione stood still with their jaws open as the ghost floated silently on the path. Hermione let out a tiny whimper and stood behind Harry. She had never seen a ghost before although she always had believed in their existence.
Harry made a move to push Hermione back towards the bushes when the ghost reached out a pale, transparent hand. "Please…" it spoke with a young sounding voice. "I mean neither one of you any harm. I've been watching you while you have been here."
Neither one of the children spoke as the ghost came towards them even more. It looked like a young boy their age, but he wore an old nightdress that looked like it was half a century old. His hair was tied back with a leather thong, but pieces of it fell around his dark, almost black soulful eyes. "My name is Gabriel De LaMonte. My father was baron of these lands, and I was set to inherit them one day." He hung his head.
"What happened?" Hermione asked, unable to keep her curiosity from keeping her silent.
Gabriel lifted his eyes so that they met hers. "I was murdered shortly before my twelfth birthday." He said, and both Harry and Hermione gasped. "There was a rivalry between my father's village and the neighbouring one. We were in possession of something they wanted, so they stole in one night and killed my entire family."
"I'm sorry," Harry finally spoke. He knew what losing a family was like. "What… what were they looking for?" Unconsciously, he and Hermione both sat down on the grass together.
"An amulet," Gabriel said, also sitting down. "It was passed down to my father from his father, as so it as been every generation for hundreds of years."
"What's so special about it?" Hermione asked.
"It granted us the power to be immortal." Gabriel said. Harry looked at Hermione with wide eyes.
"Then… how…" Harry was trying to form the words in his mouth when the ghost spoke again.
"We had to have the right spell to make it work. We were not able to find it before we were killed."
"Oh," Harry replied, unsure of what else to say.
"Well, besides granting immortality, the amulet also has the power to bring people back to life." Gabriel said, smoothing at his nightdress. "I've managed to find the spell, but I need—" he was cut off as Hermione jumped up.
"Oh no! Harry- its half past five!" she said in a panic. She and Harry were supposed to leave a half hour before, but they had stayed to listen to the ghost.
Harry visibly paled and looked over at Gabriel. The slightest change came to his face, it looked to him like anger, but it was gone before he could fully register it.
"I'm sorry to have kept you," Gabriel said. "I'll still be here tomorrow, and I can tell you more about this place if you like."
"Sure," Harry said. Hermione nodded vigorously.
"Thank you, I would love that." She said as she pulled on Harry's hand towards the bushes. They went through quickly; both worried about what they might find on the other side. For Hermione, it was an angry mother, for Harry, it was not finding his aunt, for he had no other way to get home.
The two children hurried silently through the woods, and immediately upon leaving the trees behind them they encountered a panicked looking Mrs. Granger.
"Hermione!" Her mother was rushing towards them. "Where have you two been? I've been looking everywhere!" she let out an exasperated sigh.
"We're sorry Mummy," Hermione said, while Harry looked frantically towards the parking lot for his aunt's car. "We were playing and we lost track of the time."
"As long as you're all right," Mrs. Granger replied. "Come on, Harry, where are your parents?"
Harry turned red. "My aunt must have… left without me…" he said reluctantly.
Hermione turned sorry brown eyes upon him, and Mrs. Granger halted in her steps. "Left without you?" she was shocked.
Harry nodded silently, his face red as he stared at the ground. He felt a small hand on his shoulder and glanced up to see Hermione giving him a comforting look.
"Your aunt just left you here?" Mrs. Granger was not so sympathetic, not for Petunia Dursley anyway. She looked down and finally saw the embarrassment on the young boy's face. "It's all right dear; I'll take you home all right?"
"Okay," Harry replied shyly. Hermione smiled at him as they went over to the car, the two children buckling themselves into the backseat.
"What is your address Harry?" Mrs. Granger asked, peering at him from the rear view mirror.
"4 Privet Drive," Harry answered, jamming his hands into his pockets.
"I'm pretty sure I know where that is," Mrs. Granger replied, smiling back at him. She felt bad for her daughter's friend, such a nice boy that seemed to be quite mistreated.
Hermione leaned over to him. "I can't believe we saw a ghost in there," she whispered. "What did you think of him?"
"I don't know," Harry confessed. "I mean, it seemed like he was mad we had to leave."
"He probably hasn't seen another human for a long time," Hermione replied.
"Do you think he wants to be friends with us?" Harry asked.
"Maybe," Hermione shrugged. "I suppose we'll find out tomorrow right?"
"Is this your house Harry?" Mrs. Granger interrupted them. Harry looked up, surprised that they were already at 4 Privet Drive.
"Yes," he replied reluctantly. For once the drive didn't take long and Harry wished he could stay with the Grangers.
"I'll see you tomorrow Harry," Hermione smiled at him. He smiled back and got out of the car along with Mrs. Granger who put her hand on his shoulder as they marched up to the front door. He wasn't sure what she was doing until the door had opened and his aunt stood in front of them.
"Can I help you?" Petunia asked politely, showing a false smile.
"You can tell me why you've left your nephew alone in the park," Mrs. Granger said, getting right to the point. Harry looked down at the ground, not wanting to see his aunt glaring at him. "I hardly think its fit to leave a seven year old to walk home alone."
"I didn't realise he wasn't in the car until we arrived at home!" Petunia pulled Harry close and put her bony arm around his neck. "You can imagine our fright realising he wasn't there like we thought!" She pinched Harry's cheek. "You poor dear, we thought you were just sleeping in the backseat! Are you all right?" Petunia hunched down and gave Harry a nasty look that Mrs. Granger could not see.
"I'm fine," Harry choked out as his aunt pinched him harder. "Thank you for the ride Mrs. Granger."
"Certainly Harry," Mrs. Granger replied, not convinced that he was truly okay. "Hermione and I will see you tomorrow?"
Harry nodded as Mrs. Granger turned and went back to the car. Hermione waved at him from where she had climbed into the front seat as they pulled away.
Petunia pushed Harry back as soon as the car had disappeared. "What did you think you were doing, telling them I left you behind?" she hissed.
"I didn't!" Harry protested, pushing his glasses up on his nose.
Petunia narrowed her eyes. "Get into your cupboard!" she pushed him down the hallway. "And no dinner tonight either!"
Harry sat on his bed and glared at the door. "Fine," he muttered. He'd eaten his share of berries plus the lunch Hermione had brought for him again that day and was not hungry. Flopping onto his back, he looked at the stairs over his head. He was still amazed at the fact that a real ghost had appeared in front of them today.
"Harry seems to be a very nice boy, but I'm not sure about that aunt of his," Mrs. Granger pulled into the driveway.
"You're right Mum," Hermione replied. "His aunt and cousin are horrible to him."
"You're a good girl Hermione, and a good friend to Harry." Her mother smoothed back her long bushy hair. "I'm proud of you love."
"Thanks Mum," Hermione hugged her and set her bag down in the hallway. "I'm going to wash up for supper."
"All right," Mrs. Granger smiled as she watched her daughter scamper up the stairs.
The Next Day
Harry sat in the car, trying to ignore his aunt's shrill voice as she scolded him again for his 'actions' the day before and that he was no longer allowed to have anything to do with 'that girl OR her mother'.
"Do you hear me Harry Potter?" Petunia snapped as she parked the car.
"Yes," Harry replied in monotone. He had a sinking feeling in his stomach at the sight of the Granger's car pulling in a few spaces down. Harry turned the other way and lugged Dudley's sack of toys and the lunch basket towards a grassy spot.
"Hi Harry!" Hermione came up to him.
"Hi," Harry replied. "Uh listen… my aunt says I can't be friends with you anymore," He said in a low voice.
"What?" Hermione looked genuinely alarmed. "Why?"
"Because your mum brought me home yesterday," Harry could see his aunt glaring from the corner of his eye. "Just do me a favour- walk away like you're really upset and meet me at the entrance to Caliadrien in a few minutes."
"Okay," Hermione was still looking at him like he was saying something strange and walked away quickly. He dropped the toys on the ground and took off towards the woods without looking back at his aunt or cousin.
Once he had disappeared behind the trees, Harry broke into a run and saw Hermione near the entrance to Caliadrien. "What was that all about?" she asked as he dropped to all fours and crawled into the bushes.
"Come on," Harry didn't want to risk his cousin seeing him with Hermione. She followed him through and they both blinked in the bright sunlight on the other side. "My aunt was really mad about yesterday afternoon,"
"Well if anyone should be mad it's you," Hermione brushed her hair from her eyes.
Harry shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe it's not really worth it for you. I don't want Dudley to bully you because of me." He scuffed his shoe in the dirt and looked down at the ground. He suddenly felt a pressure around him and all he could see was bushy hair when he looked up.
"Harry, I don't care what your aunt or cousin says." Hermione hugged him tighter. "I like you. You're my best friend." She pulled back and smiled at him, and Harry felt that strange flutter in his stomach again.
"Okay," Harry grinned, feeling better than he ever had.
"You've come back!" a voice spoke out from behind them, and both children turned around to see Gabriel De la Monte floating before them.
"Yes, of course we did," Hermione finally replied.
"And I thank you for it," Gabriel bowed regally.
"Tell us more about this amulet," Harry said as they moved further into Caliadrien and crossed over into the centre island of the pond.
"It has the power to restore life as well as grant immortality to the person in possession of it." Gabriel said. "It's extremely powerful and can be obviously quite dangerous in the wrong hands."
Hermione nodded seriously. "What's keeping you from it now?"
"A dragon," Gabriel said simply.
Harry and Hermione looked at one another. "A dragon?" he asked.
"Yes," Gabriel replied. "He lives just over that hill there. He guards the cave in which the amulet lies."
"If you're a ghost then why can't you just go in and get it?" Harry asked.
Gabriel turned to him and for a moment Harry thought he saw that momentary flash of anger in his eyes much like the previous day.
"There is a spell protecting the cave- a spell that will not let anyone with the de LaMonte blood enter it." Gabriel replied. "It's being cast by this dragon, and as long as it is there, I cannot get in."
"Oh," Harry replied. 'A dragon!' He thought to himself while Hermione started asking Gabriel a few questions. 'I thought they only existed in fantasy books and fairy tales.'
"So you need us to get the dragon out of the way so you can get in there?" Hermione was asking.
"Well," Gabriel looked pensive. "I cannot enter this cave until the dragon is dead. Therefore you either must kill it or one of you must go in the cave and retrieve the amulet for me while the other distracts the dragon."
Hermione's eyes widened and Harry gulped. He leaned over and spoke quietly to Hermione, "What do you think about this?"
Hermione smiled at Gabriel. "We need to talk for a moment please," she tried to be as polite as possible. "I don't know," she answered quietly once they were a few steps away. "I feel sorry for him."
Harry glanced over at the ghost and then back at Hermione, "I don't know, don't you think a ghost could just go in and get it without being seen by the dragon?"
"I know..." Hermione bit her lower lip. "But he said there's a spell... and there's so many new things that have happened to us since we found this place... I think we should help him."
Harry sighed and looked at his feet, "I have a strange feeling about this, but if you think we should help him, then all right. We'll help him."
"Okay," Hermione squeezed his arm gently, her small face lighting up in excitement. The two children went back to the ghost, who was floating idly. "We um..." Hermione glanced at Harry. "We'll help you."
"Yes, we'll help you. But why exactly do you need us I mean is the spell really that bad, that you can't just do it yourself?" Harry asked, still not completely convinced.
Hermione noticed a flash of anger go through Gabriel's eyes but before it could really register in her mind it was gone. "It's a combination of the amulet and the dragon. If I set foot in that cave I will be banished." Gabriel replied, rather coolly.
"All right," Harry finally conceded.
"What do you need us to do?" Hermione asked.
Gabriel looked at the two of them. "Neither one of you would be able to kill a dragon," his eyes grew cooler. "So that means one of you will have to distract it while the other retrieves my amulet."
"I'm a pretty fast runner," Harry said. "I can get it to follow me away from the cave."
"I'll go in and retrieve the amulet," Hermione said, clearly relieved she would not have to be dragon bait.
Gabriel truly smiled for the first time since they had met him. "I thank you very much," he bowed again. "I will await your return here. The cave is just beyond that hill." He pointed in the direction.
Harry nodded, and with another glance at Hermione, they left the little island and started for the hill. "I don't really like him," Harry confessed when they were far enough away that the ghost would not overhear.
"I feel sorry for him," Hermione answered. "He just wants to be alive again, like you and me."
"I know," Harry replied. "I don't really know much about ghosts… but I just don't trust him."
They went on in silence, glancing at each other in nervousness. "Um…" Harry began. "I'll go first and get the… the dragon out of the way. Wait until I'm far enough so you can run in and out with the amulet for the ghost, okay?" his voice shook and he tried to steady it. He didn't want Hermione thinking he was too scared.
"Okay," Hermione's lower lip was quivering, and then all of a sudden she was launching herself at him. "Oh Harry, be careful!" she kissed his cheek so quickly he wasn't sure if it actually happened or not and pulled away, blushing. "For luck, she said shyly, and Harry's stomach fluttered violently; he wasn't sure if it was still his nerves or not.
"Just… wait here until you see me go. And then go in and get it." Hermione nodded wordlessly and Harry bravely crawled the rest of the way over the hill. Swallowing hard, he approached the cave slowly.
"Okay," he told himself. "Just make sure the dragon sees you, and run as fast as you can." His thin legs carried him to the cave, where he stood outside shakily. "Hey!" he shouted. "I know you're in there! Come out and face me!" Harry tried hard to be as brave as he could.
A deep rumbling came from the cave and his knees trembled and knocked together. "Come on!" he shouted again.
The dragon stood before him, no larger than a full grown elephant, yet for some reason it held childish baby like features a rounded nose, the scales on its back stood up straight much like an iguana. The light greens of its scales mixed with a dark forest green, a pearlesque sheen to them. Its claws looked as sharp as jagged rocks; its wings were tucked in up against its body.
Harry stumbled backwards, falling and scrambling back up. He began to run, run as fast as he could. The dragon let out a roar and began to chase him. Harry tore down the hill towards some trees, hoping to lose the dragon in there. He glanced behind him and saw Hermione crawling towards the cave.
Harry pushed himself to run faster, and for once was grateful for all the times he had been chased by Dudley and his bully friends. The dragon was closing in on him, and Harry went even faster as he started to near the trees.
Hermione was scared as she went into the cave. It was dark, and she kept tripping over rocks on the floor. She inched along, attracted to a dim glow in the very back of the cave. Coming upon it, she found the amulet. It was heavy and gold, with a dark coloured ruby in the centre. She picked it up carefully, her seven year old mind awed by its beauty. Hermione stared at it for several minutes before she heard a voice screaming her name.
"HERMIONE!" Harry shouted as loud as he could. He had tripped and fallen flat on his back, and now the dragon, even though it was small, was standing directly over him. It lifted one claw and pressed it on top of Harry's abdomen.
Oooh, another cliffhanger! This story will be finished in the coming months, but it's our lag story, we've got others we're more enthused about, I must say. Sad… I know. But I will never leave a story unfinished!
We appreciate all of you that have stuck with us so far! We know that this story has taken so long to do, but we're working hard to finish it. This next chapter will most likely be the last.
Thanks again, and please let us know what you think!