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The Road Home by Harry_Potter_Mom

Format: Novel
Chapters: 23
Word Count: 89,967

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Mild Language, Strong Violence, Substance Use or Abuse, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme

Genres: General, Mystery, AU
Characters: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Molly, Ginny, Hugo, Rose, OC

First Published: 02/01/2008
Last Chapter: 08/28/2008
Last Updated: 04/26/2009


2008 Dobby Award Winner for Best Mystery/Suspense, Most Memorable Scene, and Best New Author
Finalist for Most Original Character  ||  Amazing banner by NevillesSoulmate

Caught between two worlds - the girl she once was and the witch she is becoming...
Can Hermione help solve the mystery of this young girl before the magic she carries consumes her?
A decision must be made - will Nyah live without magic or die with it?

Chapter 20: Whispers In The Dark

Arthur watched as the men turned in unison, disappearing into the night with a ‘crack’. The lights in the Burrow shined like a beacon in the dark, and Arthur quickly found his way to the door, hoping that finding Nyah would be just as easy. 

Chapter 20 – Whispers In The Dark 

The Burrow was buzzing with activity as Arthur quietly closed the kitchen door and gazed about the room. Just as expected, Harry was quickly going over plans with Ron, George, and Ginny. Nott had unwillingly shared details of the plot to capture Nyah thanks to the Veritaserum, and Harry kept repeating what had been discovered.

“Okay, we know that this had been planned for years, but that Nott was only recently brought in – more in a recovery position. It was he and Draco at Ron and Hermione’s house, and it was Draco who was spying on Nyah’s conversation at the cottage,” Harry reiterated as he paced.

Molly and Charlie were writing furiously on Hermione’s conjured blackboard which now occupied the living room. They were filling in dates on the timeline, and adding facts where speculations once were.

“But why?” Ron asked, looking between Harry and Ginny, “What does Draco get out of this?”

Harry stopped pacing, deep in thought, as Ginny spoke up, “It’s not what he has to gain… but what he stands to lose. Nott kept saying Draco stands to lose everything that Harry stands to gain. We just have to figure out what that is, and…”

“Family,” Molly whispered, rubbing her hands together, trying to rid them of the chalk. Her face flushed a bit as the room looked to her in surprise. “I don’t know what that has to do with Draco – what family he would lose – his mother’s gone, and Lucius just now back in his life, and I can’t imagine his wife or son being a part of all of this.”

The room was quiet for a bit as they contemplated this information.

“Okay,” Harry continued, “what else do we know?”

George leaned back in one of the kitchen chairs, his hands folded behind his head, “All we know for certain is that Nott was hired by Lucius to retrieve Nyah and that due to her impressive skills, which she obviously got from me, she was able to defend herself at the cottage.”

Ginny smiled sadly, lost in her own thoughts of Nyah. She had missed so many moments with her daughter and wondered what kind of life Nyah had endured growing up without the parents who loved her. There was so much about Nyah that she didn’t know, and she might never have the chance to find out. I should have been there, she thought, as the years of mourning transferred to anger. Why couldn’t I save her like Lily saved Harry? 

In the distance, Ginny heard someone calling her name. Strong, familiar arms wrapped around her shoulders as George called to her again, this time quite close to her ear. Ginny smacked his arms and turned to look at him with her head cocked a bit to the right.

“Just wondering where your mind had run off to, sis,” he laughed nervously, trying to distract himself from the growing knot in his stomach as Harry double-checked the layout of the Malfoy property from a hand-drawn sketch Arthur gave them.

“Well, if you must know, I was trying to come up with a delicate way to tell you that Nina – I mean Nyah – obviously got her survival skills from her father and her good looks from me,” she said sarcastically, “which leaves very little from you dear brother.”

As the siblings continued their habitual banter, Arthur approached the table where Ron and Harry continued with the plans. “Carl said it wouldn’t be more than an hour – maybe two – and you’ll have all the backup you need, Harry,” he reported, peeking over Harry’s shoulder at the notes on the parchment.

Harry glanced quickly towards his father-in-law, before burying himself back in the planning. “Thanks Arthur, but we’ll be in-and-out before the Aurors even get there.”

Molly and Ginny both stared at Harry, surprised at this announcement. “Harry, you promised Hermione that you would wait. She needs time to locate Healer Sabinski and retrieve not only that old book, but any information as to how the spell will affect Nyah the closer we get to her birthday,” Ginny reiterated, her voice getting louder and louder the longer she spoke. “What if we get there, and…” but Ginny was cut off as Harry gave orders to Ron and George.

“Ron, you and George will apparate just to the edge of the front gate – here,” he ordered calmly, placing a finger on the map. “I’ll be here, just at the edge of the shrubbery. Patronuses will be our contact. I’ll give the all-go from my view and you do the same.” Harry pulled his invisibility cloak from Ginny’s bag as he added, “Remember – our goal is to retrieve Nyah – no matter what. She could be anywhere, so do a thorough search. And if she’s not well,” he said, glancing at Ginny, “just get her out and straight to St. Mungo’s.” His eyes glazed over and his voice became low, “If you should happen upon Malfoy… use your imagination.”

Ginny had stood with her arms crossed tight in front of her, tapping her shoe loudly the longer Harry talked. Taking a deep breath, she said, “And what do you expect me to do? Sit here and wait?”

She grabbed the cloak from Harry and looked him in the eye. Silent but fierce words were exchanged, unnoticed by the rest of the room. He reached for the cloak, which was now held behind her back and pulled her close. Their eyes never parted as his lips caressed hers gently, a promise exchanged between them. “Together,” she whispered, leaning her head to his chest as his arms wrapped around her, “I need to be there for her, you know that, right?”

“Okay you two,” Ron moaned, “just because you’ve been married forever doesn’t mean I need to be reminded of it.” He turned and headed for the kitchen door, with a small grin on his face. “You know Hermione will kill me, don’t you? We promised we would wait for her, and I for one don’t want to get killed – not by her – she’s a bit scary when she’s mad.”

“I’ll head to St. Mungo’s and hurry her up,” Charlie offered, grabbing his cloak and heading for the fireplace. “Go – if what she said is true, we’re running out of time,” he said, glancing at his watch. Charlie took a handful of Floo powder while standing in the large fireplace, and called “St. Mungo’s Hospital,” as he disappeared into the green flames.

George cleared his throat nervously, as hugs and last minute instructions were passed to Molly and Arthur. “Come on,” George said, laughing to rid himself of the uneasiness, “if we’re lucky, we can hold Malfoy down long enough to get a sample of that hair grease he uses.” Slapping Ron on the shoulder, he added, “Did I tell you we’re expanding the shop? Weasley Wizards hair care products for pets; our first item – Ferret Grease!”

Ron and Harry laughed along, as Ginny simply shook her head. The group headed for the door as the seriousness of the situation loomed about them like a dementor in wait. Ginny glanced back one more time, while Molly took to crying onto Arthur’s shoulder. He waved good luck to his daughter as the door clicked shut.

The night engulfed the four as they made their way to the apparition point, just beyond the fence line, as two figures stood huddled together in the light of the Burrow – their task – to simply wait. Molly sighed loudly as a soft ‘pop’ sounded in the distance. She turned, taking in the now empty rooms. A weariness settled over her shoulders and traveling through her body, pushing her down. Fighting the urge to give in to sleep, she slowly made her way to the kitchen as Arthur’s eyes fixed on her. “I’ll just get us some tea,” she said, a worried smile crossing her face.

As she reached for the cups, Arthur gently touched her arm and pulled her close. “They’ll be fine,” he whispered, hoping that by speaking the words, he could will it into happening. “Harry is a Senior Auror and Ginny will take no chances. Ron and George will look out for each other as well. Now, dear, about the Veritaserum,” he said, nervousness threatening to spill out, “exactly how many times have you used it?”

She pulled back a bit, her eyes glistening with tears of worry, and studied his face. He looked quite nervous as he smiled while the left side of his upper lip twitched just a bit. Molly smiled reassuringly, and lovingly patted his cheek. “Exactly once – tonight. It’s rather like an umbrella… you hope you don’t need it, but it’s there just in case you do. Some of the best weapons are the ones left unused. Besides,” she said lightly, pulling away to pour the tea, “You lot gave away secrets all on your own, with no magic or potions pushing it along.”

Arthur gathered her into a long hug, as a sigh of relief escaped him. “Molly Weasley, remind me never to cross you,” he whispered leaning in for a kiss. 

                             ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“It’s just this way, Hermione,” Healer Sabinski said softly as they quickly traversed the dimmed halls of St. Mungo’s. “I wish you had brought her in the moment you realized her magic was seeping through. Without examining her, I won’t know how much damage has been done.”

Hurrying to keep up with the elderly nurse, Hermione apologized as they walked. They came to a small, ornately-carved door very near the end of the first level hall that held no knob. Drawing her wand, the Healer gave a silent command which allowed access to the library.

Once the lamps were lit, Hermione gasped at the size of the room. It was obviously magically enlarged to hold the hundreds, and possibly thousands, of books present in this one room. A few steps in, her fingertips ached to reach out and begin devouring the knowledge held here. There were rows and rows of ceiling-high shelves lined with what appeared to be century-old books and records. The smell of parchment was intoxicating and Hermione stood inhaling deeply, her eyes closing in contentment at the mere thought of spending hours and days in this one room.

The sound of footsteps brought Hermione back in focus as Healer Sabinski rounded the corner carrying not one, but two, large books. Dropping them into Hermione’s arms, the Healer ushered her across the hall, closing off the precious wealth of information as the door closed behind them.

“My office is just in here,” the Healer said, backtracking the hall just a bit. The bare green walls of the room were a stark contrast to the rest of the areas Hermione had seen. It was a comfortable office which was extremely neat and tidy. An oak desk and high-back chair were the only furniture in the room, aside from a table and bench in the corner, which was relieved of its files with a flick of her wand.

The two women sat and immediately began pouring over the small amount of information they could find. Hermione drew parchment and ink from her cloak, making hurried notes about the ‘Magiaboleo’ spell and anything that might release the magic other than the wizard who performed it. After an hour-or-so, a small knock startled them both from their studies. Excusing herself for a moment, Healer Sabinski walked to the door.

Hermione continued to pour over the books, getting frustrated at the lack of information. She closed the second book, and set herself to pacing the floor as she dissected her written notes. Her mind frequently drifted to the Burrow, wondering how much time Harry would wait, and how long Ron could hold him off.

The voices from just beyond the door became very distinct as the office door swung open, allowing entrance of Healer Sabinski followed by a very tall woman draped in a deep blue cloak. They were in such intense conversation, Hermione went unnoticed and stood silently, hoping to blend.

The woman draped her cloak over the chair recently vacated by Hermione, as she rattled off more information to the Healer. “The burns are more intense this time and the saave isn’t taking out the redness and streaking, not to mention the pain he’s in,” she sighed, sitting gently into the chair, her back straight and proper. “Perhaps you have something else?”

“Of course, of course,” the Healer said soothingly, looking through the papers on her desk, “But we’ve gone through the more powerful burn treatments I can offer without seeing him in person. Is he still against a visit here?”

“Yes. He’d choose to sit at home in pain than admit he needs help,” she said, twisting a corner of her cloak in nervousness. She hung her head just a bit and became silent for a moment. “The first time, you mentioned someone… outside of this facility,” she said quietly, “that is an excellent potion-maker. Perhaps she would be persuaded to see Draco and…”

Forgetting her attempt at camouflage, Hermione gasped as she walked towards the women. “Draco – Draco Malfoy?” she asked boldly, attempting to hold her anger at bay.

“Oh, Hermione, yes,” Healer Sabinski said cheerfully. “This is…”

“Astoria Malfoy,” the woman interrupted, attempting to erase any trace of surprise or worry from her voice. Standing calmly to her feet, she towered above Hermione and had a very sophisticated air about her. Her hazel eyes looked directly at Hermione, daring her to speak.

Realizing the delicate balance of the situation, Hermione opted to take a more caring approach, and thus smiled slightly and said, “Mrs. Malfoy, I didn’t mean to overhear, but you mentioned Draco has unusual burns.”

Astoria nodded slightly, wary of Hermione, but desperate enough to listen.

Hermione gently unwrapped the bandages from her own forearm where faint traces of burns remained. “Do they, by chance, look anything like this?” she asked, allowing Astoria a closer look.

“Perhaps,” she answered cooly as she examined Hermione’s forearm, “Similar streaking, but Draco’s is more intense - much more intense,” Astoria replied, glancing from Hermione to Healer Sabinski. As she watched Hermione wrap her arm, she asked softly, “How did you get those?”

Hermione chose her answer carefully, and with a smile said, “They were caused by a child – a very special child.” Hermione set her gaze on Astoria, watching for any sign of recognition, and opted to continue when no information was exchanged. “She’s my niece,” Hermione said, as tears welled up in her eyes, “and she’s sick. If we don’t find her soon…”

Astoria closed her eyes momentarily and sighed deeply. “A dark-haired girl?” she asked, fear creeping onto her face as she looked to Hermione.

Surprise gave way to a flicker of triumph as Hermione shook her head and said, “Yes… have you seen her?”

Considering her answer, Astoria became silent, fear continuing to take over. Would she dare consider sharing the Malfoy secrets with this woman? Astoria stared at a spot on the wall, weighing what she knew was the right thing to do versus what she was told by Lucius – trust no one. A light touch on her arm caused Astoria to open her eyes. There before her were the two women waiting for her answer.

“Astoria, dear,” Healer Sabinski said, “this young girl is missing. She has a very unusual gift which in extreme situations causes these – um…”

“Outbursts of magic,” Hermione continued, tears streaking her face. “It’s very painful for her, and if she doesn’t get treatment soon, she could die,” she said softly, trying to maintain a sense of composure. “Please – if you know anything…”

“Yes,” Astoria said, a hesitant conviction in her voice as she grabbed her cape, “Come with me, but we need to hurry. If it’s the same little girl you are looking for, she’s quite ill.” Astoria sighed, shaking her head, “Nothing has worked, which was the second reason I was here, hoping you could give me something to help her. She is in so much pain and keeps calling for her Mum.”

Tears flowed freely as Hermione whispered, “Nyah.”

The two women set out for the fireplace in the entrance area, preparing to floo to the Malfoy Manor as Healer Sabinsky stayed close, reminded them that getting Nyah to St. Mungo’s was a priority. Green flames shot up in one of the large fireplaces and a tall figured emerged, shaking the ash from his red hair.

“Charlie?” Hermione asked, walking towards her brother-in-law, “What are you doing here? Is everything okay?”

“Did you find what you came for?” he said, glancing tentatively at Astoria. “The – uh – plan was set in motion… we need to go – now.”

“What? They promised to wait!” Hermione exclaimed, the irritation evident not only in her voice but her face as well.

Astoria leaned in and quietly asked, “Is there a problem?”

Hermione sighed, and calmly said, “Possibly… there’s a group headed to the Manor. They are lead by a Senior Auror from the Ministry… They’re going for Nyah and failure isn’t an option, especially for her father.”

“You’ve got to tell them to stop,” Astoria demanded, looking between Hermione and Charlie.

“I can’t,” he said bluntly, “they’ve already gone, and there's no changing his mind...”

Walking into the fireplace, Astoria motioned for Hermione and Charlie to follow. “Then we better get there quickly. They’ll be walking into a trap, and so might we,” she announced as they threw down the Floo powder. “Malfoy Manor, West Wing,” she called.

The trio was swept away in a sea of green flames, all hoping that their arrival would go unnoticed by the rest of the house… 

                              ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Many hours had passed when Nyah woke again to angry voices nearby. The small room was dark and still, the one candle burning low, dancing in an undetectable breeze. Closing her eyes, Nyah listened intently to the conversation, trying to replace the throbbing in her body with the voices just outside the heavy wooden door. Heated words seemed to be exchanged between them, and in a scuffle, the door blasted open. When the dust settled, two men were standing in the small room, cloaks flowing. One was standing quietly near the opened door, staring intently at the floor while the taller man walked boldly towards Nyah looking straight at her, his cold grey eyes in sharp contrast to the brilliant green ones that had just haunted her dream. She smiled in spite of the pain exploding within her at the thought of her father’s eyes.

The older man took this small smile as a sign of friendliness directed towards him, and he attempted his own smile back at Nyah. But it was a twisted, hateful smile filled only with malice and discontent, such that Nyah found herself literally backing away to put a few precious inches between herself and this man, her pain giving way to fear.

Sensing the dramatic shift in Nyah’s emotions, the man exchanged his false sense of kindness for a rigid countenance which suited him quite well. Memories of the Stewart Manor rushed at her, feeding off the pain and misery, joining forces with the fear as it quickly took over Nyah’s heart. The man’s eyes were so familiar – cold and unfeeling - just like Catherine Stewart’s. Dread joined the fear in Nyah, and both were ruled by the hopelessness which invaded that small room.

“So Draco,” the man said with a cold voice fitting perfectly with his eyes, “this is the young lady you’ve been telling me about.” His words were slow and deliberate… his gaze, unfaltering. “And this – child – she is the one who gave you those nasty burns? My, my, little one… I believe we underestimated your potential, didn’t we?” he asked, but not of Draco, yet no one else appeared present.

Nyah shifted just a bit, trying to see behind the man, wondering if someone was hiding in the shadows, as a slight chill filled the room. She flinched at the man’s sudden movement as he reached into his cloak and pulled out a wand, holding it gently in his palm. It was gleaming in the moonlight, and although it’s ivory color would normally be beautiful, Nyah detested looking at it. The wand trembled of its own accord in the outstretched palm of this man as the young girl closed her eyes, hoping for a glimpse of her father’s eyes, but instead, a whisper in her heart gave her more than courage… it gave her comfort, 'Nyah, sweetheart, I’m coming.'
Her mother’s voice rang loud and clear within her, chasing away the fear and dread, and the small smile returned to Nyah’s face as she opened her eyes again to face these men… and that wand. Curiosity and a hint of courage took over, and Nyah whispered, “What is that?”

“This?” the taller man said in forced surprise, “This, child, is the wand of the greatest wizard in the world.” He took a step closer to the bed and Nyah’s pulse quickened, the throbbing in her body nearly drowning out his words. “This wand made you, and tonight, it will destroy you.”

Nyah glanced in fear and desperation at the man who stood near the door. His eyes stared at Nyah, and although they bore the same grey shade as his father’s, there was warmth in them, as well as pity. Nearly overwhelmed in pain, Nyah laid onto the cool pillows, still staring at the men. “So it is your wand?” she asked, closing her eyes, searching again for the familiar pools of green.

A cold and low reply of ‘no’ came from the taller man as he gripped the wand tighter in his hand, “This wand belonged to Lord Voldemort.”

Nyah moaned, the pain taking it’s toll as her arms and legs began to tremble. Still persistent with her questions, she asked, “And he is here… this lord– whatever he is?”

Breaking his silence, the man by the door responded, “No, he was killed years ago by...”

“Silence, Draco!” hissed the father.

“So, if this dark person was killed,” Nyah whispered, “I would think the person who killed him would be the greatest wizard – you can’t be great if you’re dead, right?” 

The clicking of heels on the wood floor brought the father close to her bedside, but the pain was too great to care. Her head was spinning and the space behind her eyes was getting dark. The man before her grabbed her arms tightly while venom dripped from his words, but they were lost in the ache and throbbing. She managed a small ‘please’ before getting sick… all over his shoes. His release was quick while muffled, but angry voices, ran through the room.

A loud ‘crack’ announced the arrival of Mitzi who immediately rushed to Nyah’s bedside. After ensuring that the young girl was all right, the house elf turned to the Malfoy’s and with grave apologies as she bowed before them, took to cleaning the floor of the mess Nyah made.

“Mr. Malfoy, Sir, I is terribly sorry. Such a terrible mess. Please, Sir, Mitzi will help. Mitzi will get them all clean,” the little house elf squeaked, bowing low again.

The senior Malfoy stood tall and walked from the room quickly. “Filthy, disgusting thing! And all over my best shoes! That house elf had better get…” he muttered, his voice finally trailing off.

Nyah was still lying on the bed, embarrassed and exhausted. The pain continued to build, and her body fought against it. Hot tears dotted her cheeks, and she begged Mitzi to help. Strong, rough hands reached her face and forehead and a whisper reached just beyond the pain… “I’m so sorry.” With her last effort, Nyah opened her eyes just a bit to look at the house elf. To her surprise, soft grey eyes twinkled before her. Surrendering to the exhaustion, she closed her eyes as a hand brushed the hair from her face.

Draco stood and watched the child sleeping, guilt creeping in as he thought of how many years she had been kept from her family. “Soon – I’ll explain soon…” he said as he turned for the door. The small house elf stood near the door, twisting the pillowcase she wore.

“Master Draco,” she whispered, glancing towards the door, “they are coming. Two at the gate and two at the north fountain.”

His shoulders falling just a bit, he announced, “It starts.” Looking directly at the house elf, he said, “You know what to do. Tell no one until they are nearly at the house… that will buy them some time to find her.” He looked once more at Nyah before closing the door. 

                               ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Ginny crouched down behind a large grey fountain just inside the property of the Malfoy Manor. She scanned the surface of the grass for movement, but her hearing was impaired by the constant babbling of the water. Harry was nearly to the house itself, concealed by the Invisibility Cloak, but leaving soft prints in the grass as Ginny watched nearly breathless.

Finally, a small shimmer floated across the grass heading for her; Harry had reached his destination and levitated the Invisibility Cloak back to her. It was their plan, and her promise to him, to be hidden by the cloak to keep her safe. She quickly pulled the sheer material around her and stood to her feet. Although logically Ginny knew she was concealed from prying eyes, she felt vulnerable as she began crossing the huge expanse of the yard. Her heartbeat echoed in her ears and she was certain had someone been near her, they too, would hear the rhythmic beat.

Stepping into the looming shadow of the Manor, Ginny looked about for any sign of Harry but saw none. Her feet carried her a bit further when she saw a steep stairwell near the side of the building and a mop of dark hair midway down. Breathing a sigh of relief, Ginny whispered, “Psst, Harry.”

Absolute fear sprang up inside of her when the man on the stairs turned on her, his wand raised. “Who’s there?” he asked loudly, pounding up the steps directly towards Ginny. She instinctively covered her mouth with her hand and pulled her wand from her pocket. Ordering the fear to step-aside, Ginny’s head cleared and she continued to back away from the thin man now standing before her. Choosing an alcove of windows and doors versus the open space of land, she moved quietly to a dark corner and watched. With a sudden move of his hand, the man motioned two other guards out into the lawn as he started towards the shadows of the house… and straight for Ginny.

“I can hear you,” he growled, showing his yellowing teeth, “and I can smell you.” He stopped and inhaled slowly, turning slightly. A cruel smile crept across his face as he looked in the direction Ginny was now hiding. “Vanilla, my favorite,” he whispered to the slight breeze.

Her heart was beating even faster, as she raised her wand. The other two men were still in sight, and sending a spell now would certainly draw their attention. Five paces, four paces, Ginny counted to herself as the man got nearer, his dark eyes wild in the moonlight, three, two…
Bright sparks shot past the side of the house, hitting one of the guards on the lawn. He fell to the ground with a thud hard enough that Ginny felt it in her feet. The other guard took to running towards the entrance as yells from all areas of the house erupted. The man in front of Ginny hesitated just long enough that a well-placed, 'Petrificus Totalis' spell sent him head first onto the concrete pavement. She breathed a sigh of relief as two more men came charging out a door to Ginny’s left. As they stood debating on the frozen man’s condition, Ginny ducked inside and to her relief, the hall was empty and quiet.

Keeping the cloak around her, she chose to travel towards the front of the Manor, hoping to steer clear of the battle outside as spells continued to be fired. The two men outside the windows suddenly fell, as Harry rounded the corner.

“Harry!” she called, still under the cloak, one hand and forearm exposed to the night, “Hurry, in here!” She closed the door quickly, as Harry gathered her tightly in his arms, pressing her against a wall. The smell of sweat and dirt filled her senses as he came closer, breathing hard.

“Ginny,” he whispered, rubbing the cloak, overwhelmed at knowing she was safe. “I saw you go the wrong way, but I was too far to call for you. Are you all right? Did he touch you?” His eyes searched where he knew her face to be, but the view of flowered wallpaper was all he met until she pulled the cloak from her face. Her auburn hair was messy and her angry eyes nearly shielded the worry beneath them.

“I’m fine,” she whispered back, the hint of smile in her eyes. “Have you seen Ron or George?”

He laughed softly and looked to the floor. “They set off one of those decoy detonators and took to running. Worked like a charm! They may already be inside.”

She pulled him close, kissing him deeply as no more words were necessary. When they broke apart, Harry pulled the cloak back over her and motioned her to follow. The dark halls were lined with portraits, most of which were unabashedly whispering to one another, while a few ducked out of sight. Eerily, the only sound was their own breathing, aside from the occasional blast from outside.

Harry and Ginny silently made their way past an elaborate dining area and another library, this one without any doors, and finally to an office at the end of the hall. Glancing around, they turned, ready to try a different passageway as the sound of angry voices traveled to them. Harry placed his finger to his lips and backed into the office.

As the footsteps got closer, Harry leaned in to Ginny whispering, “Get low to the ground. If spells are fired they’ll go above your head.” Ginny shook her head no and tried to protest, but Harry gently pushed on her shoulders, attempting to make her sit down while staying under the cloak. “Just stay quiet. If they take me, you still have a chance to get to Nyah. Just remember…” Harry was interrupted as the office door flew open and in quick succession, spells were fired from all directions.

Harry jumped behind the large desk to avoid a stunning spell from the lead Death Eater. Taking his shot, Harry easily disarmed and stunned two of the men standing in the doorway. Leaning against the desk, protected at the moment, Harry listened for movement. A smile crossed his face as he heard footsteps to his left. He shifted his weight, his eyes set on the area where Ginny should be, wondering which spell she might fire, but none came. With the man’s legs just in sight, Harry fired an electricity spell, jolting the man and causing intense pain. Harry turned quickly to determine the location of the final Death Eater when something large collided with the back of his head. The room was spinning and going dark as he fell to the ground, unconscious and unprotected, his wand slipping from his fingers and laying in the shadow of the desk.

The smallest Death Eater stood staring at Harry with wide eyes and a foolish grin. He set the heavy paperweight back on the desk and looked around, a bit unsure what now to do. Finally, he walked back to the hallway, calling for assistance as men came from different directions. The stunned men were removed from the office as Harry was slung over the shoulder of a particularly large Death Eater.

“Take him to the old library in the south wing and bind him tightly,” Lucius said dryly, motioning to the guard who had Harry. He watched triumphantly as they disappeared around the corner, and then stepped into the office to assess for damages. He walked around the desk and glanced about, sensing something different in the air.

“Was he alone?” Lucius asked the guard.

“Yes, sir,” the cloaked man answered, “Potter was alone.”

“You’ll find his accomplices in the dungeon. Bring them to the library as well. I’m sure they won’t want to miss the excitement,” he ordered as a cold smile spread across his face, “Oh, and should you happen upon my daughter-in-law, be certain she doesn’t leave her quarters.” The guards bowed quickly to Lucius and exited the office behind him.

In the corner, huddled unmoving under the Invisibility Cloak was Ginny, stunned by the first spell fired from the Death Eater’s wand. Helpless, she wondered how long it would be before someone found her.

                              ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Nyah again woke to a cold, still room, hazy visions of sad gray eyes dancing in her dreams. She slowly pushed herself from the bed, her legs nearly giving out from weakness and pain. A small tray of fruit and cheese with milk and water sat near the chair gave signs that Mitzi had been checking on her. Nyah sat and nibbled on the grapes while drinking, her thoughts still pulled to the men who had been here earlier. So similar in their looks, but their eyes told different stories. Her back began to stiffen again, and she tenderly rose from the chair grabbing the door for support. It moved a bit under her weight and Nyah wondered if the younger man had offered her a way out of this prison.

Throwing caution to the wind, she turned the crystal doorknob, knowing it would be locked. A rather loud ‘click’ pushed aside her doubts as the door gave way to a dim corridor. A small pull behind her stomach gave caution and Nyah’s breathing quickened. She crept down the hall, as her body tingled in anticipation and fear. The knot in her stomach grew as the hall broke off right and left. Without another thought, Nyah turned right, heading for a more well lit hallway.

Her body ached and her muscles gave way to shaking as she walked. Even her most violent magic hadn’t lingered pain like this, and Nyah leaned onto the wall for support. Come on, don’t stop now, she quietly scolded herself, forcing her feet forward. It doesn’t hurt that bad. One of these doors must lead to a stairway or a fireplace with floo powder.
She flinched with every movement, and unwillingly allowed tears to escape her eyes as they made trails along her dusty cheeks. Her fingers brushed along the chair railing, steadying her a bit. As though her body knew which direction to go, Nyah found herself at the top of a long, steep stairway, the bottom of which she couldn’t see for the shadows. She crept down the stairs as small gasps of pain escaped her lips with every movement. Finally reaching what felt to be a landing, Nyah reached out in the darkness, searching for a wall, door, or more steps. The darkness whispered to her and Nyah’s fears began to mount against her. The tingling came at an alarming rate and her heart quickened as she frantically searched for a way out of the shadows. Her hand came sharply to rest on a small lever near a corner in the wall.

Nyah pressed her ear to the wall, but could only here the pounding of her own heart which gave little comfort. Tucking her hair behind her ears, she pressed the lever as the door silently opened. A heavy band of candlelight poured into the once dark area, illuminating the landing as well as revealing another set of steps leading further down. Choosing the well-lit room versus more darkness, Nyah cautiously stepped through the door and as though on springs, the door latched behind her.

Glancing at the wall, Nyah was shocked to see that the door had disappeared as though it never existed. Running her fingers along the wall, she could only barely detect the presence of the entry.

She continued on into the room which was decorated even more lavishly than Father’s office at the Stewart Manor. The large mahogany desk sat prominently in the middle of the room, and on the far side was a wall of books. Nyah wrinkled her nose at the thought of having to read all of those books. The elaborate portraits on the wall were dark and forbidding, one actually screamed at her when she looked at it. Nyah turned quickly to get away and tripped, landing awkwardly on the floor in front of the desk. Pain shot through her as though she had been dropped onto cement. For a moment, she couldn’t move and had trouble catching her breath, silent tears dropping into her hair. She rolled to her side, still breathing deep and there, under the desk, was a wand. Setting her pain aside, Nyah gingerly reached for the wand. The dark handle looked to be carved straight from a branch, but it was smooth to the touch and felt familiar somehow. A bit unsure what to do, she looked around the room, and then willed herself to get off the floor. Her stomach and chest were hurting again, and she stumbled towards the door when a whisper was carried to her ears, ‘Nyah’. The young girl leaned against the wall close to the door, listening intently as someone called her name again.

Nyah gasped and looked about the room again, but saw no one. Thinking herself to be a bit loopy, she turned towards the door when she noticed some movement in the corner of the room, very near where she tripped. A shoe appeared where none had been a moment ago, and Nyah walked slowly towards the seemingly disconnected shoe. Using her foot, she gently probed the area and jumped, her eyes wide, when she discovered more than just a shoe. Sitting gentle to the floor, Nyah reached her hand towards the wall, knowing logically that nothing was there, while her heart begged her to trust what she could not see. Her fingers shook and her imagination conjured all sorts of terrible things, when her hand grazed a silky material in midair. Breathing fast as the air began to spin around her, she grasped the fabric and slowly pulled it towards her. Red hair instantly appeared in sight and Nyah jerked the cloak off as an involuntary cry escaped from her lips, “Mum.” 

Authors Notes:  This is the continuation of the last chapter, so you can now see why I divided it!  This story, which started out as a 20 chapter story will now be 21 or 22 chapters.  So hang on to your seats...

I hope you enjoyed reading this chapter as much as I did writing it!  I'd love to hear your thoughts, comments, or questions... please consider leaving a review.  Thank you and Happy Reading!

And as always ~ A huge thanks to my eHPf friends for their confidence when mine was gone....