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Arthur heard a cry off to his right. Someone was either in pain, or they’re doing their best impression of a banshee Arthur thought bitterly to himself, as he rose from the floor. Bill sat up, signaling he’d heard it too. Arthur motioned to Bill to stay with George, and for Fred to come with him. “Wands at the ready” mouthed Arthur, as he moved into the thick fog, Fred close behind. Arthur traced the sounds to a staircase that he nearly fell down from the obstructing fog. As he and Fred gingerly stepped down them, they heard another noise, differing from the shrieks of the past moments. A cold bone chilling laugh split the air like a gunshot, echoing as the sound raced up the stairwell towards the men.

Arthur exchanged a look with Fred, and he watched Fred go stiff. They stayed stationary for only a moment, before both men flew into action. Arthur lunged down the stairs, Fred quick on his heels, and it wasn’t long before they’d reached the bottom of the darkness-enshrouded staircase. There was yet another all-to familiar dark hallway, with a door down at one end. This time, however, the door was thrown back off its hinges, revealing a very odd scene indeed. The room was a huge stone dungeon, alight with eerie green lanterns, with a huge vase set off in one corner. Long tubes flowed out of the vase, encircling the room, and a stream of something that can only be described as liquid light was flowing through the pipes, up and beyond the men’s sight. This all was left unnoticed though, for there in the middle of the room, was Charlie, moaning and writhing on the floor.

Arthur, the taller of the two men, reached his son first, and knelt to examine Charlie. Fred too came to the ground, picking up Charlie’s abandoned wand from a few feet away and reaching for his brother’s arm. Arthur noted there was no visible evidence of injury, and sighed in relief. As they helped Charlie into a sitting position, he suddenly looked up at the two, his eyes panicked and his mouth open in terror. He began to speak, his words disjointed and stuttered. “No…D-dad…Help…He’s…h-here…”

Charlie was interrupted however, by a cold, shrill voice from behind the group. “Hello, Arthur.”

***


Harry grinned as he heard rushed footsteps on the hard tile of the ward floor. He laughed loudly when his tall, gangly best friend came whipping around the corner of the curtain stands surrounding his bed.

Ron came to an unsteady halt by Harry’s bed, and mirrored his grin. “Don’t you ever do that to us again, you git.” Ron exclaimed, as he bent to hug Harry gently. After the brief and rather awkward embrace, Ron settled himself next to the bed in the chair Ginny had vacated minutes before. Ron then got a serious look on his face, and he locked gazes with Harry. “Harry, I just wanted to ask you… D’ya think Dung might’ve managed to—I dunno, maybe he got mixed up with some Death Eaters, and they convinced him to join up? I mean, we thought we’d found all the horcruxes, but we never could confirm that the locket had been destroyed, could we? We aren’t even sure if we destroyed any of the rest of them right, are we? What’s to say he’s not out there somewhere…” Ron let his voice trail off, and he bit his lip.

Harry exhaled softly, not wanting to confirm his best friend’s fears, but having no other explanation. After a few minutes of the silence, Harry looked at Ron and smiled weakly. “Can you imagine Dung joining up with Death Eaters? I mean, honestly, he may only do things to benefit himself, but could you see him trying to weasel his way into their circle? He’d be kicked out for picking their pockets before they could even get the dark mark onto his arm.” Harry laughed hollowly, and Ron followed suit.

“I ‘spose you’re right. What was I thinking? Dung may not have valued us anymore than the weight of our money bags, but he liked Dumbledore, and he’s not that daft.” Ron grinned in relief. “Well, Mum and Hermione were dying to see you when I came back, so I better go get them to make sure they don’t curse a hole in the doors to get to you. And whatever you said to Ginny—thanks mate. I remember when only I could get her to light up like that. I guess what I’m saying is…well…” Ron stammered to a halt, and settled on extending his hand. “This doesn’t mean I love the idea of you and her, but I’ll get used to it I suppose. But if you ever touch her, just know—“

“Don’t worry, Ron, I wouldn’t want to risk my neck just to—well you know…” Harry cut in, taking Ron’s hand and shaking it. “Besides, I have way more to worry about, what with the rest of your family threatening me with bodily harm if I hurt her ever again. I honestly thought I was going to get it before we got back together at the wedding.”

Ron grinned back, breaking their handshake. “You wouldn’t have been too hurt. We’re all too scared of what Ginny would do if we hurt you.” Ron turned around with a laugh, and left the small curtained area to get another visitor for Harry.

A few minutes later, Harry heard a collection of footsteps and panicked whispered voices. Harry watched through a crack in the curtains, and he saw Mrs. Weasley talking heatedly with someone, her body stiff and her eyes glistening with tears. Harry strained to make out what the pair was saying. He nearly fell out of the bed when he heard Percy’s voice. Harry puzzled over why Percy had come back from France, where he and Penelope, his “business associate” were for the holidays. Harry shook off the curiosity, and focused to hear what they were saying.

“But the Ministry? I thought it was impenetrable now that the new security measure had been taken.” Mrs. Weasley whispered, casting a sidelong glance round the room.

“We thought so too, mum. But the security sensors were tripped early this morning, and the visitor’s entrance was breached. Dad and the others must’ve just gotten inside. Their names were the last recorded in the archives of the entry monitor.” Percy responded, the normal pompous undertones in his voice all but disappeared, and replaced by fear.

“But, can’t you get inside? Can’t you be sure they’re alright? Can't you do something?” Mrs. Weasley’s voice had risen in decibel, and the terror written across her face was reflected in her tone.

“It’s sealed off from the inside, mum. It’s got to have happened after they got inside. We’re doing all that we can...” Percy’s voice drifted off, and Harry could see Mrs. Weasley collapse into his arms, tears streaming down her face.

Harry couldn’t stand it anymore. He rose from bed, and gingerly placed his feet on the floor. The world spun for a moment, but he remained up and stationary. He could scarcely feel the tautness in his chest, and he knew the bleeding had halted. He reached out a hand and pushed back the curtains surrounding his bed, and stepped up to Percy and Mrs. Weasley. “What’s happening?” Harry asked, dreading the answer. “Are they alright?”

***


Arthur whipped around, rising to his feet to shield Fred and Charlie from Mundungus. Mundungus was almost unrecognizable now. His ginger hair was matted, and his cheek had a long gash across it, clashing with his newly paled complexion. His eyes were slits, and they reflected the color of the blood dripping from his cheek. He smiled maliciously, his teeth daggers.

Arthur bravely opened his own mouth and spoke to the man before him. “Dung? I know this isn’t you. Come on, Mundungus. Talk to me, don’t let him control you. I know you would never hurt anyone like this.”

Mundungus’s face curled into a smirk, as he responded to Arthur. “I wouldn’t, would I? You all think this pathetic little man still exists inside, and you’re trying to communicate with him. Now isn’t that sweet. But your efforts are futile—he’s dead—or at least he will be.”

As the creature laughed, Arthur took advantage of this distraction to speak to Fred. “Help Charlie up, and get out of here. I’ll keep this one distracted as long as I can. Once you get upstairs, get the others out. Bill should be fine now, his cut wasn’t deep, and he was just a little jarred.” Arthur looked at the two, and saw Charlie shaking his head, and moving to stand. “Get yourselves out. Do you hear me? Out.”

Charlie and Fred looked at each other, and they slowly moved towards the exit, while Mudungus laughed mercilessly.

Once they were safely out of the room and on the stairs, Arthur turned his attentions back to the now sullen Mundungus. “I’m surprised you let them leave,” Arthur said as he drew his wand. “I half-expected you to blast the door shut on them, imprisoning us.”

“You are surprised that I let two full-grown wizards go, leaving only an aging old man who can’t even keep his own home safe to fight me? You clearly underestimate my intelligence. Insulting.” Mundungus spat the last syllable at Arthur, as he drew a long wand from within his robes.

“And you clearly underestimate my strength.” Arthur raised his wand in a defensive fashion, stepping away from the door where he’d been shielding the boys’ escape.

“We shall soon see who is the bigger fool.” Mudungus raised his wand as well, preparing to duel.

A/N: I know, I'm sorry it's so short! I will have another update in soon, now worries. And yes, of course I've left a cliff hanger...it's one of my favorite games! Hope you enjoyed, I'll be updating asap!

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