“It was all true, Hermione. I love you.”

“I love you too, Ron.” Hermione replied as Ron leaned down to kiss her.

Hermione felt hot tears of joy run down her cheeks as the love of her life kissed her.

But their kiss was cut short when they heard a scream emit from the other room.

Chapter 28: Trip to Hogwarts

“Alexia!” Harry screamed when the girl suddenly dropped to the ground.

“Harry what’s wr- “ Hermione called as she and Ron entered the room, but she stopped mid-sentence when she saw Alexia.

She was clearly unconscious, but what was frightful was that all the color had drained from her skin.

“What happened?” Ron questioned as he bent down next to Harry who was frantically checking Alexia’s body.

“I don’t know!” Harry yelled. “We walked into the room and I looked at her and asked if she was alright cause she looked pale and then she fainted.” Harry said in a rush.

Hermione was standing back observing the situation when she gasped and dove forward.

There in Alexia’s tight grip was Hufflepuff’s goblet and it was clear the Horcrux was fighting back.

“I can’t get it out of her hand!” Hermione exclaimed as she tugged forcefully on the goblet.

Harry tried to pry Alexia’s fingers off the Horcrux.

Hermione felt the grip loosening and pulled harder.

“Ron, help me!” She called, instantly Ron put his hands over Hermione’s and yanked at the goblet.

The combination of the three worked. Hermione set the goblet on the table the moment it was freed from Alexia’s grip.

She winced when she noticed how much pain her hands were in.

Looking down at them she saw they looked as though they had been freshly burned as if she had placed them on a hot stove.

But Alexia’s hand looked far worse.

Harry picked the still unconscious girl up and placed her on the couch.

“What’s wrong with her, Hermione?” Harry asked, hoping his clever friend would have the answers like she always did.

“I don’t know…” Hermione muttered at first, trying to ignore her hands. “She must have passed out from the strain of trying to fight the Horcrux.”

“But you held it for a long time with no side affects.” Ron said puzzled.

“Yes, but as I told Harry you cannot think of it as a Horcrux when you hold it. My only guess is that Alexia wasn’t actually thinking about the goblet at all, but subconsciously she was fighting it and it must have been fighting back. She must have been ignoring it so she didn’t notice how much energy it was using. Which is probably why she fell unconscious.”

Harry looked over Alexia with worry in his eyes.

The color of her skin was slowly returning to normal, but her entire hand was already black and charred like Dumbledore’s had been.

“We have to find a way to fix her hand.” Harry said.

“We have to find a way to fix all our hands.” Ron added as he looked at his own he saw small burn marks on his fingers, but Hermione’s hands had covered his palms.

“Are you alright?” He asked Hermione as he examined her red hands.

“It hurts, but I’m ok.”

Harry looked down at his own hands. There were burn marks just like Ron and Hermione’s on the spots his hands had touched the goblet.

“Still, ours are no where near as bad as hers. There’s got to be some way to fix it.”

“I don’t know Harry… Mr. Baudelaire has those marks all over his chest…”

“Well she can’t live the rest of her life with her hand like that!” Harry yelled.

Suddenly to door to the room flew open and Renato came bustling in, a bowl filled with liquid in his hands.

“I made it as fast as I could, how long has it been since it happened?” He asked in a rush as he set the bowl down by Alexia and placed her charred hand in it.

“Uhh.. I don’t know.” Harry stuttered.

“Hopefully not too long…” Renato said quietly.

“What is that?” Hermione asked.

“It’s a potion I made a long time ago. I took fighting the Horcrux in increments as you know and about half way through I discovered this solution that, it I placed it on my skin the moment it happened it healed it considerably. You have no idea how much more of my skin would be ruined had I not discovered this.”

Harry looked on eagerly as Alexia’s hand sat in the potion.

Slowly he saw her fingers return to their normal coloration.

“Is it working?” Ron asked. Harry nodded shortly in reply.

“How did you find the Horcrux?” Renato asked.

“Leads we already had.” Hermione thought up, knowing they were not supposed to tell Renato about the pensieve.

“Good, one step closer…” Renato muttered.

“Will that stuff be able to help Hermione’s hands?” Ron asked.

“Let me see.” Renato gestured for Hermione to show him her hands.

“Hmmm… it’s hard to say… but it almost seems like those are just burn marks, I don’t think this will help…”

Despite herself Hermione felt tears forming in her eyes, the pain in her hands was increasing now that blisters were forming.

“You should run it under cold water.” Renato suggested.

Ron hurried to the kitchen, Hermione on his heel.

Ignoring his tiny burns he turned the water on as cold as it could get and gently led Hermione’s hands into the stream.

Hermione took a sharp breath when her hands made contact with the water.

“It’s ok, take deep breaths.” Ron said soothingly.

In the other room Harry stood staring at Alexia’s hand as it slowly healed.

“She’ll be alright, Harry.” Renato comforted.

Renato gently picked Alexia’s hand out of the potion and examined it.

“Good, it’s all gone. But her hand will probably be tender for a while. The skin will still feel like it’s burning.”

Harry nodded shortly in reply.

Renato wrapped Alexia’s hand in bandages before leaving her in the watchful eye of Harry.

Never taking his eyes off the girl, Harry sat down beside the couch, careful not to touch her injured hand; he draped his arm over her protectively.

After a few silent moments he hung his head.

This was entirely his fault.

He looked up at the table where Hermione had placed the goblet. Despite the burn marks covering his fingers he braced himself before picking it up.

But instead of feeling a burning sensation coming from the cup he felt… nothing.

There’s no way… Harry thought puzzled.

He squeezed his fist tightly on the goblet, but it crumbled into ash.

Despite the situation he smiled.

Strong girl. He thought as his eyes fell once more upon Alexia’s form.

“How is she doing?” Hermione asked as she and Ron returned.

“She’s better. Her hand is completely back to normal.” Harry replied, at first with holding the information he just discovered.

Hermione looked around for the goblet, it appeared she was just as curious as Harry had been.

“Where is…” She started, but thought better of asking, in case it angered Harry.

“It’s gone.” He smiled.

“Gone?” Ron repeated.

Harry picked up some of the ashes from the ground and sifted them from hand to hand.

“I don’t know how, but she did it.” Harry said.

“Alexia? But…” Hermione yet again stopped herself from saying what she was thinking in fear of Harry’s typically irrational anger.

“No, you’re right. That doesn’t seem right… could it have been the combination of all of us?” Harry said calmly.

“That makes sense.” Hermione said though it was clear she was still thinking it over.

“What’s wrong?” Ron asked his girlfriend.

“It’s just… doesn’t it seem like that was all too easy, I mean that was a Horcrux. You saw how bad Mr. Baudelaire looks…”

“But he had to do it alone.” Harry spoke. “Dumbledore did the same thing, though he could have asked for help… Think about it Hermione, we had two witches and two wizards fighting one Horcrux.”

“I suppose you’re right. Plus, I’m sure we were all if nothing else on a subconscious level, fighting as hard as we could, because we were trying to save Alexia. So that could have strengthened our fight against it.”

“I think this kind of thing is going to be much easier with friends.” Harry said with a smile and a slight tear in his eye.

For the first time, Harry had come to terms that his friends were going to be there for him. And this time he was happy about it.

Unfortunately two days later Alexia hadn’t woken up, which made for a very upset Harry.

No one could speak to him for he would snap at them no matter what they said.

There practically wasn’t a moment he didn’t spend by her side.

She wasn’t dead, no. And Renato did his best to assure Harry she was fine, he said there had been several times during his fight against the Horcrux that he would pass out and wake up what he was sure was several days later. But nothing seemed to comfort the raven-haired boy.

Finally three days after the incident Alexia stirred and Harry quickly jumped awake.

“Alexia?” He asked tentatively.

“Harry?” She said groggily.

“Yes, it’s me.”

Alexia made a series of noises that proved her body was sore.

“What happened?” She asked finally as she tried to stretch.

“You did it, we did, we destroyed the Horcrux.” Harry said happily.

“Really?!” Alexia jumped and then moaned and laid back down.

“But you passed out from it, and you’ve been out for three days.”

“Three days?!” Alexia exclaimed as she rubbed her head.

“Longest three days of my life.” Harry attempted to joke, but it came out as desperate as it was in his mind.

Alexia had no time to react to Harry’s sweet comment for Hermione entered the room.

She had been bringing trays of food to Harry everyday and he hardly nibbled at them.

She set the tray down before she noticed Alexia had woken up.

“You’re awake! How are you feeling?”

“Alright I suppose…”

Hermione looked between Alexia and Harry before quietly excusing herself from the room.

“So…” Alexia broke the silence. “If we’ve destroyed a Horcrux we need to move on to the next one. Don’t tell me you’ve just been sitting around these past three days.”

“I’ve just been sitting around these past three days.” Harry repeated with a smile.

“Then we need to get a move on. We can’t just take our time with these Horcruxes.”

Harry smiled at the girl who was quickly stealing his heart.

“Ok, ok. I’ll go get Hermione and Ron.” He said, the smile not leaving his face.

He returned a moment later with the other two in tow.

“How are you feeling?” Hermione asked again.

“I’m fine. I just can’t believe nothing’s happened about the Horcruxes while I was unconscious.” Alexia replied.

“Believe me we tried.” Ron started. “But Harry refused to leave your side the entire time you were out.”

Despite herself Alexia blushed deeply.

Hermione smiled to Ron who winked back.

“Anyways,” Hermione began. “If you’re right, Alexia, then we need to get to Hogwarts.” She said, referring to Alexia’s theory of the Sorting Hat.

“But don’t you think if we go there they will try to keep us there?” Alexia asked the group in general.

“Probably.” Harry said as he retrieved his wand from his pocket and swished it.

Alexia assumed he must be getting better at non-verbal spells for in seconds an old piece of parchment zoomed into the room and into Harry’s open hand.

“That’s why we have The Marauder’s Map.” Harry said, a mischievous grin upon his face.

“We’ll go in the cover of night.” Hermione added as she and Ron took a seat around the coffee table.

“With the invisibility cloak, just in case.” Alexia said while sitting up.

“Using the trapdoor in the Honeydukes cellar?” Ron suggested.

“Good idea.” Harry said, having previously though they would have to make their way undetected across the open grounds from the Whomping Willow.

After finalizing the plans the four apparated an alleyway a few blocks from Hogsmeade.

The sun was setting and the stores would all be closing soon.

“Is it just me, or has this thing shrunk?” Ron said as the four tried to cram under the invisibility cloak.

“It hasn’t shrunk, but you and Harry have grown a bit more and we usually only have three people.” Hermione explained huffily sensing that her feet would be stood on quite a few times before the night was over.

“Are we all covered?” Harry asked.

“I don’t think my feet are.” Ron said as he pulled on the cloak.

“Hey, now my feet aren’t covered.” Alexia pulled the cloak back.

“Ok, hold on!” Hermione stopped the two before they ripped the cloak in two.

“There, everyone covered now?” Hermione spoke after she rearranged herself.

“Yes.” The other three sounded.

“Good, now let’s make our way quickly, Honeydukes will be closing in about fifteen minutes.” Harry said.

They awkwardly made their way down the streets, attempting not to shift the cloak at all.

“Ouch, Ron that’s my foot.” Hermione had foreseen the situation properly.

“Sorry.” Ron mumbled.

“Shh!” Alexia scolded as she saw a boy look their way.

“Ok, now we just have to wait for someone to open the door.” Harry said as they reached Honeydukes.

The minutes were clicking by and there were not many people on the streets anymore, certainly none of them looked like the type who would be visiting Honeydukes.

“What are we going to do if no one opens the door?” Hermione asked.

“Please mom, I’ll be real quick I promise!” a little girl said as she and her mother approached Honeydukes.

“Looks like we’re in luck.” Ron whispered.

“Angie, I said no, it’s past your bedtime.” The mother spoke.

“But mom, you said we could go to Honeydukes this morning!”

“I said we would see.” The mother glanced inside the store.

“Oh, alright, just for a moment, they’ll be closing in about five minutes.”

The girl jumped and yelped for joy before dashing towards the store.

“Slow down!” The mother called and the four under the cloak seized the opportunity to sneak in before she closed the door.

The worker in the store instantly occupied himself with helping the young girl because he wanted to close the store on time.

Quickly the trio and Alexia slipped into the back and down the stairs to the cellar.

“Where’s the trapdoor?” Hermione asked.

Once Harry located the trapdoor Ron slipped out from under the cloak and down the stairs.

The rest followed in suit, Harry taking up the rear with the cloak in his arms.

He secured the trapdoor over his head as the others lit their wands.

After a long and uneventful walk they reached the end of the tunnel.

Harry pulled the Marauder’s Map out of his pocket and placed his wand on it.

“I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.” He whispered.

After a thorough check of the map he nodded.

“Go, quick.” He motioned to Ron.

Ron, not sure of where to direct the spell, held his wand out in front of him as he cast the spell.

“Dissendium.” The one-eyed witch statue moved, allowing them entrance.

They scrambled out of the secret passage and tossed the cloak back over themselves.

“Everyone under?” Hermione asked.

She felt the cloak move slightly as Ron, who was the tallest, nodded.

Harry awkwardly attempted to look at the map without shifting the cloak.

“Lumos.” Alexia muttered as she saw Harry’s eyes straining to see the map.

“Thanks.” Harry smiled before examining the parchment. “We’re clear, let’s hurry.”

Luckily all the students were in the dormitories asleep. The only one’s wandering the halls were ghosts and Filch.

It tool them about forty-five minutes just to make it to the entrance of the Headmistress’ office given that they could only move so quickly with four of them crammed under the cloak.

“Bloody hell, we don’t know the password.” Ron realized.

“Ronald, don’t swear.” Hermione said as she hoped the password hadn’t been changed since they left.

“Tootsie Pop.” She said, trying to sound confident.

“Brilliant.” Ron said as the entrance opened.

They made their way awkwardly up the steps; though no one was around to catch them they still felt the need to hide under the cloak.

The reached the door to the office to find Crusantheus, the doorknocker, snoring quietly.

Ron reached his hand out from the cloak and attempted to open the door, only to find it locked.

It was then Harry realized he should have foreseen this. There was no way the spell to unlock the Headmistress’ door would be a simple ‘Alohomora’.

Apparently Hermione was thinking the same thing for she had not produced her wand.

Ron, however, had pulled his wand from his pocket and careful not to wake the annoying brass knocker he whispered “Alohomora.”

Hermione restrained herself from rolling her eyes like she had done in first year when they were in the room of flying keys.

But to her surprise a soft click sounded from the door.

Ron placed his hand on the knob once more and smiled as it turned.

Quickly, but quietly, they made their way through the door and shut it softly.

“So where’s the Sorting Hat kept?” Ron whispered.

Both Alexia and Harry began scanning the shelves above their heads.

“There it is.” Hermione said nodding towards the hat, which was clearly asleep.

Harry looked up at the portraits on the walls and the four preceded with caution.

“Careful, and be quiet, they could wake.” Harry whispered.

They reached the shelf the hat was sitting upon and Ron, being the tallest, tried to reach it.

“I am sure that hat won’t do you any good.” A voice sounded from behind the four Gryffindor’s making them jump.

The Golden Trio instantly recognized the voice, though their minds doubted their instincts. And though Alexia had never actually heard the voice, she instantly knew who it was.

“Professor Dumbledore?” Alexia was the only one who seemed to still possess her voice. Slowly the group removed the cloak and turned around.

Confused, Alexia, Ron and Harry looked around the room for a sign of the man they knew to be dead.

But Hermione was staring directly at a picture on the wall that had spoken to her before.

“I assure you Horcruxes do not call attention to themselves by singing songs.” The unnervingly real picture spoke again.

The foursome stood in shock as the picture smiled lightly.

Harry glanced at Alexia to see her hands were bawled into fists and she looked extremely angered and disappointed with herself.

“Well… it doesn’t matter.” Harry said, trying to calm her.

“Yes it does, I’ve completely wasted our time.” Alexia whispered.

“Professor Dumbledore,” Harry began speaking to the picture. “Is there anything you can tell us about the Horcruxes?”

“Nothing you couldn’t learn from my pensieve. But since you came all this way…” Dumbledore began and though he did not seem bothered by Harry having his pensieve Harry felt himself pale.

“Miss Mallev, if you could go to that glass case behind you.” Dumbledore spoke.

Alexia looked surprised at the wise man she had read so much about, but obeyed his words.

Upon approaching the glass case she gasped at what she saw.

Her friends on the Harry Potter forums had always spoken about a theory they had.

She had always refuted it, but if Dumbledore was trying to tell her what she thought he was… they were right.

“I assume you know why I’ve directed your attention there, Miss Malev.” Dumbledore spoke after hearing the girls gasp.

“I believe I do, but sir…” She spoke to the portrait but remained facing the glass case. “What about Godric? No other artifacts of his are known.”

“This would be the best time for you all to leave, Minerva can be a light sleeper.” Dumbledore said, his tone light as usual. “As for your question Miss Malev, I only ever got so far into answering it, you’ll have to look into my thoughts for that information.” He winked.

The Golden Trio stood silent, not fully understanding the meaning of the glass case, considering there were many items in it.

“Go on now, and when you get to the bottom of the steps count to ten before you venture into the halls, Mrs. Norris is around. Oh and Miss Malev, it would be best for you to carry it.” Dumbledore nodded to the case.

Though Alexia wasn’t sure why Dumbledore told her she should carry it she obliged. Quietly she slid the glass door and braced herself for the feeling she had when she grabbed Hufflepuff’s Goblet.

As her fingers grasped the artifact, expecting a shock of pain they were instead surprised by the lack of feeling.

She opened her mouth to ask Dumbledore why, but was cut off.

“Professor McGongall is stirring.” Harry said as he looked down at his map to see two feet moving about in the room upstairs.

“Go on then.” Dumbledore said.

Alexia looked down at the beautiful piece of craftsmanship in her hands and sighed, knowing that if this were, as Dumbledore said, a Horcrux it would have to be destroyed.

”Don’t worry Miss Malev,” Dumbledore spoke as the Gryffindors began hiding under the cloak once more. “I do not think Rowena expected her tiara to last forever.”

I'd like to give credit to firefawn for the doorknockers name (and personality though he was asleep) I really think it would fit well in the real books, so I borrowed it :D Anyone who hasn't read her stories you MUST they are the best!

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