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Chapter 16 ~ Back to the Burrow
Fortunately for Rick, he and Hermione spent only an hour with Hermione’s parents. But it was more than enough for Rick. The Grangers were both very nice, but after they got over their joy and relief that Hermione was safe and sound, they became very interested in Rick – much too interested – for Rick’s liking. It was obvious that either Hermione had told her parents about their relationship, or else, they had guessed – but guessed what? Rick was feeling very embarrassed and awkward. It didn’t help that they wanted to know all about him – where he was from, his family and everything. His fabricated answers didn’t seem to satisfy them. If they didn’t suspect him of lying to them, they certainly suspected him of concealing things – which, of course, he was – very significant things. Rick managed to get Mrs. Granger on side, fairly quickly – the old charm never failed him with females of all ages. But Mr. Granger was another matter. There was no chance of charming him. Hermione did her best to deflect her father’s attention away from Rick. It was obvious that he was extremely fond of his daughter – and also very protective. Rick had to withstand a fierce interrogation from Mr. Granger, while Hermione was packing her trunk. He was greatly relieved when she returned, all packed and ready to go. Hermione explained that they were going to Apparate to the Burrow. However, it was clear that Hermione had previously told her parents all about the age and licence requirements – not to mention the dangers of improper Apparition. “But you don’t have a licence and you haven’t learned how to Apparate yet, dear,” said Mrs. Granger to her daughter, with concern. “It’s OK,” said Rick. “I’ve been doing it for years. The Apparition age is much lower in New Zealand, and it’s perfectly safe for me to Apparate another person with me. That’s how we got here.” “Be very careful with my daughter, young man,” said Mr. Granger in an almost threatening tone. “If any harm comes to her, or if she is hurt in any way, you’ll have me to answer to – remember that!” “Err, yes sir,” replied Rick nervously. It was not lost on him that Mr. Granger was talking about more than Apparition. He quickly took out his wand and waved it at Hermione’s trunk, transforming it into a pretty bracelet. This surprised and impressed Hermione’s parents, and had the desired effect of defusing the tense situation. Hermione allowed her father to put the bracelet around her left wrist and then hugged and kissed her parents goodbye. “Err, goodbye Mr. and Mrs. Granger,” said Rick awkwardly. “It’s been a real pleasure meeting you.” He then took Hermione’s hand in his, and with great relief Apparated to the Burrow.
~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
They Apparated to just outside the Ward line. Rick removed Hermione’s bracelet from her wrist and transformed it back into a trunk. “Oh,” said Hermione, disappointed at losing her lovely bracelet. “I really liked it, Rick. It’s the first thing you ever gave me.” “Sorry,” said Rick. He picked up a stone and transformed it into an identical bracelet. “Merry Christmas,” he said, placing it around her wrist. He was just about to kiss her when he heard the sound of excited voices approaching them. “Hermione! Hermione!” yelled Ron, running towards them. “You’re safe! You’re alive!” “Stop!” boomed a gruff voice from behind Ron. “Don’t go any closer – anyone! Especially you Harry! Wait for me! Everyone, stay well back from the fence, this could be a trap!” Ron stopped. Harry caught up with him, and then came Ginny, the twins and the dark-haired witch, Griselda. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley joined them and finally Mad-Eye Moody hobbled up, on his wooden leg, positioning himself protectively in front of everyone. They were about thirty yards away from Hermione and Rick. “Draw your wands, everyone,” barked Mad-Eye. “Have you never heard of Polyjuice Potion? Merlin knows – I have! They could be anyone masquerading as your friends. Nice as it might be to believe that your friend Hermione has gotten away from Voldemort, it would be a bloody miracle! The odds are dead against it. They’re a damn sight longer than the odds of those two being a couple of Death Eaters – disguised as your friends – come to attack, or abduct Harry.” “Right you two,” yelled Moody to Hermione and Rick. “Don’t move as much as one inch closer, or I’ll hex you to Hades. Stay right where you are, until we’ve positively identified you. Ron, Harry, ask them some questions that no one but your friends would be able to answer,” ordered the paranoid ex-Auror. Ron thought for a minute, then said, “Hermione, what potion ingredient did we steal in second year? What was it for, and how did we get it?” “We were in Potions. Harry threw a Filibuster fireworks into Goyle's cauldron,” said Hermione, laughing as she remembered it. “The Swelling Solution potion exploded, splattering most of the class. Malfoy got it in the face – his nose swelled up like a balloon. While Snape was distracted by the chaos, I ducked into his private stores and nicked a whole lot of his Boomslang skin. We needed it to make Polyjuice Potion, which you and Harry used to disguise yourselves as Crabbe and Goyle, so you could infiltrate the Slytherin common room.” “Spot on,” said Ron. “No one knew that but the three of us.” “Ronald Weasley!” began a furious Mrs. Weasley, “How could you involve yourself in such a flagrant breach of ... I don’t know how many school rules! Stealing from Professor Snape —” “Hey, good one!” said Fred, in admiration. “Who would have thought that Ickle Ronniekins had it in him, George?” “Right Fred,” replied his twin. “I think our little Ron’s earned the right to call us his brothers – nicking stuff from Snape’s private stores – our very own establishment of preference, for purloining quality pranking ingredients.” Mrs. Weasley was looking outraged and was about to launch into another tirade, but Mr. Weasley was having trouble hiding his amusement – and delight – at the trio’s accomplishments, especially in getting one over on Snape. “That’s enough,” barked Moody at the twins. “Stop fooling around. It seems that the girl must be Hermione Granger,” he conceded, somewhat unwillingly. “But we still don’t know if the other one is really Godfry. Go on, ask him something.” “What’s the colour and design of your favourite boxers?” asked Harry, laughing – quite certain now that these were his friends. “That’s a bit of a personal question,” replied Rick, also laughing. “Actually, I think I’m wearing them, so why don’t I just pull down my —” “No! Don’t do that, there are young witches present,” interrupted a scandalised Mrs. Weasley. “That won’t be necessary – a description will be fine, Rick dear.” Rick could barely stop laughing. “Well, my very favourites, the ones that you were admiring when I was unpacking my trunk are bright red. They have all different kinds of dragons on them, flying about.” “Do they breathe fire?” asked Ginny, giggling. “That will be enough from you, young lady,” said her mother, trying to sound severe, but spoiling the effect by snorting. “Alastor, I think they’ve proved themselves, please let them come in. Who knows what they’ve been through? They may be hurt.” “Alright,” said Mad-Eye, grudgingly, but he didn’t put his wand away. Harry and Ron rushed over to Hermione and hugged her. They were so happy to have her back alive. Although neither of them had said it aloud to anyone, they had both feared that they would never see their best friend alive again. This had been the most terrible Christmas Day of their lives. The mood at the Burrow had been sombre and serious. No one had been able to think of anything hopeful to say, so they had remained silent. Then Mad-Eye Moody arrived with Griselda. Dumbledore had sent them to help guard Harry in Rick’s absence; although the reason he had given them was to make sure that Harry stayed at the Burrow, and did not try dashing-off to rescue Hermione. The presence of the paranoid ex-Auror did absolutely nothing to lift their spirits. He would have been a great success in the undertaking trade. “Tell us the whole story,” said Ginny eagerly, after hugging and kissing Hermione. “Now everyone, just wait a minute!” said Mrs. Weasley, lifting up Hermione’s arms to make a quick inspection. “They’ve just been through a terrible experience, they may be hurt. Everyone, please be quite for a moment. Hermione, dear, are you hurt or injured?” “No, I’m fine Mrs. Weasley, honestly I am,” Hermione replied. “Are you sure, my dear? You weren’t harmed in any way?” asked Mrs. Weasley, with motherly concern. “My only injury is the loss of a lock of my hair,” said Hermione. “Apart from that, I’m absolutely fine, honestly, Mrs. Weasley.” “How about you, Rick, dear?” asked Mrs. Weasley, turning her attention to him. “I’m just fine, thank you Mrs. Weasley, really, I am,” Rick assured her. “Well, come on then,” said Ron, impatiently. “Tell us what happened to you – we want to know how you escaped!” “I’m sorry,” said Hermione, awkwardly, “but I can’t. Professor Dumbledore asked us not to talk about what happened. He said if we did, it would risk revealing things that were best kept secret for now. I’d really like to tell you. But for the moment, I can’t.” “But why not?” complained Ginny. “Can’t you at least tell us how you were captured, and where you were taken?” “I guess I can tell you how I was captured,” said Hermione. “Somehow, Voldemort placed a present under our Christmas tree, with my name on it. It was some kind of book. But when I unwrapped it, and touched it, I was pulled away. It was a Portkey! Please don’t ask me any more questions; I really can’t answer them – I have to respect Professor Dumbledore’s wishes.” “Hermione’s right,” said Mr. Weasley. “If Dumbledore said not to talk about it, he has his reasons, and we should all respect them. He knows a lot of things that no one else knows.” “That’s right,” agreed Mad-Eye. “The best way to make sure your enemy doesn’t learn your secrets is not to tell anyone – except those who absolutely need to know – not even your closest friends. People can be captured – as we’ve all just seen. They can be tortured, given Veritaserum, or tricked into divulging secrets. But what they don’t know, they can’t say. It’s the golden rule in the Auror division. Only tell people what they need to know. Now everyone, leave them alone – no more questions,” he said gruffly. “Come on, everyone, let’s go inside,” said Mrs. Weasley. “It’s time for Christmas tea, and afterwards we can have a party to celebrate Hermione’s safe return. We haven’t had anything to celebrate yet today – but now we do!” “Yeah, great idea,” said Fred. “George, my lad, maybe we should enter into the festive spirit by donating some of Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes’ finest confectionary.” “Capital idea!” said George. “Agreed! Griselda, my dear, have you ever had the pleasure of indulging yourself in Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes Fabulous Fruity Frogs?” “Come on guys,” laughed Griselda. “You don’t think I’m that gullible to you? Sorry, but to get through Auror training, you need to have a very well-developed sense of scepticism. Plus, I’ve been working with Mad-Eye for the past year. I’m Constant Vigilance personified. Go find yourselves another bunny. You could always try Mad-Eye,” she suggested, with a wicked grin. Everyone laughed. There was no way the paranoid Moody would ever touch any of the twins’ creations; but still, the image of Mad-Eye, turned into a Tangelo Toad, hopping about with a wooden leg was most amusing. “Boy – talk about a hard case,” sighed Fred. “Well, sod the Fruity Frogs then. Allow us to show you the wonderful Christmas decorations in the lounge, they’re most impressive,” said George putting an arm through Griselda’s. “Yes,” agreed Fred. “We have some highly unusual ornaments. Allow us to give you the guided tour,” he added enthusiastically, taking the attractive young witch’s other arm. Ginny almost collapsed giggling, as her brothers whisked Griselda back to the house. “What’s so funny?” asked Hermione. “Enchanted Mistletoe!” giggled Ginny. “Fred and George put some up in the lounge.” “What does it do?” asked Harry. “Well, it sort of....” started Ginny. Then she had a better idea. “Umm, it’s kind of hard to explain. Harry, come on, I’ll show you,” she said, grinning enthusiastically. “Ginny, don’t you dare ...” said Mrs. Weasley. But Ginny was already dragging a curious Harry off to the house. Rick smiled at Hermione and whispered in her ear, “This Enchanted Mistletoe sounds interesting; maybe we should go investigate.” As they approached the lounge, Griselda came storming out – very red-faced. She was followed by Fred and George, who were both looking sore and sorry for themselves. Each was rubbing a very red cheek. Entering the lounge they found Harry and Ginny in a passionate embrace, but the pair jumped apart when they finally noticed Rick and Hermione. Harry was most embarrassed, but Ginny was looking extremely happy and pleased with herself. “So, umm, how does Enchanted Mistletoe work then?” asked Hermione, getting more curious by the moment. “I’ll show you,” said Ginny, with a wicked grin. She grabbed Rick’s arm, and before he realised what she was up to, she had dragged him under the clump of Enchanted Mistletoe. Rick suddenly felt the irresistible urge to kiss Ginny, but as they began to kiss, he felt himself being dragged away by a very irate Hermione. “Rick! How could you?” demanded Hermione, furious with him for kissing Ginny. “Oops! My mistake! I didn’t realise that Rick was your exclusive property, but I do now – and it was such a nice way to find out,” said Ginny, smirking. “Well, Rick certainly knew – didn’t you Rick?” demanded Hermione, turning angrily on him. “How could you kiss Ginny – and right in front of me, too?!” “Err, Hermione,” said Rick guiltily. “You haven’t come across Enchanted Mistletoe in your reading then, have you?” “Of course not,” she replied irritably. “Why would I be asking Ginny what it is, if I already knew?” “It’s, err ... it’s kind of hard to explain how it works. You really need to, err... to experience it,” said Rick, walking back under the Enchanted Mistletoe. “Come on, Hermione, come over here – I’ll show you.” “Not bloody likely! Not after you’ve just been snogging Ginny – and would probably still be snogging – if I hadn’t dragged you away. What gall – to think I would want to kiss you after that – you ... you —” “Well, if you don’t want to kiss Rick, I wouldn’t mind going another round with him under the Enchanted Mistletoe,” said Ginny, with a big grin as she walked back towards Rick. “Ginny Weasley! Don’t you dare kiss Rick again, or I’ll never, ever speak to you again!” yelled Hermione. In desperation, she rushed over to push Ginny away from Rick. But Rick managed to grab Hermione and pulled her under the Enchanted Mistletoe. Suddenly, Hermione found that she wasn’t angry with Rick anymore. She didn’t want to yell at him ... she just wanted to ... kiss him – very, very much. They kissed for a long time – and it might have been a lot longer if they hadn’t finally been interrupted by loud applause from Ginny, Ron, Harry and the twins. “Where did you all come from?” gasped Hermione, turning bright red with embarrassment. “Oh my! Err ... so, err ... so that’s what Enchanted Mistletoe does,” she stammered. “It kind of makes you really want to kiss, doesn’t it?” she said – as if she’d never wanted to kiss Rick before in her life – or ever kissed him, for that matter. “Err ... I think I better get away from here,” she squeaked, as she noticed Fred and George coming towards her with big grins on their faces. They had a great party that night. Everyone was in high spirits – especially after Mad-Eye Moody was called away to another assignment by Dumbledore – he really was a bit of a party-pooper. Unfortunately for Fred and George, Griselda went with him. But they amused themselves – and everyone else, with their tricks, and by doing summoning charms on the Enchanted Mistletoe. They caught Hermione with Rick a couple of times, and also Ginny with Harry – but only when their parents weren’t present.
~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
After breakfast the next morning, Mrs. Weasley sent Ron and Ginny out to de-gnome the garden. The twins had returned their own digs. She absolutely forbade Harry, Hermione, and Rick to help – they were guests, after all. The three of them were sitting, drinking hot chocolate at the kitchen table. “Maybe we can get started with our special training,” said Hermione, looking up from her book. It was her Christmas present from Rick, ‘A Theoretical Appreciation of the Animagus Transformation’. She’d been deeply engrossed in it since getting up that morning. “OK,” said Rick. “Let’s go up to my room; we don’t want anyone to know about it. Come on, Harry.” “What ‘special training’ is this?” asked Harry. “Wait till we get upstairs, and I’ll tell you all about it,” said Hermione. When they got to Rick’s room, Hermione told Harry what Dumbledore had said, about the two of them becoming Animagi, and Rick helping them. “Wow!” exclaimed Harry, looking a little stunned. “Ever since third year, when I found out that my dad was one, I’ve wanted to be an Animagus – but I never really thought I’d be able to, so I kind of stopped thinking about it. So you’re also an Animagus, Rick – I should have guessed – your powers seem to be limitless. What’s your Animagus form?” “Err ... well actually, I can change into quite a few different animals,” said Rick, a little uneasily. “I didn’t know that was possible. I’ve never heard of that before. Have you ever read of anyone who could do that, Hermione?” asked Harry. “Err, no,” said Hermione. “But it’s true. During my rescue, Rick turned into quite a few different animals. Go on Rick, show him – but not the dragon! Not in here!” “Dragon?!” asked Harry, incredulously. “You can turn into a dragon?” “Err, yeah,” said Rick. “A Norwegian Ridgeback, actually. Just the thing when you need a bit of firepower ... Squeak! Squeak!” Rick had just turned into a tiny brown mouse. “Oh, how adorable,” said Hermione, picking it up and scratching it affectionately behind the ears. She hadn’t seen Rick’s mouse Animagus before, and she was captivated. Suddenly, she found herself holding a large, grey tabby cat. “Mmm, you’re lovely too,” she said, hugging it. Rick purred contentedly, and then suddenly squawked, as he changed into a brightly-coloured Lorikeet and began flying around the room. “That’s what I want to be,” said Harry, wistfully, “some kind of bird. I want to fly.” Rick came down and landed on Harry’s shoulder. “OK, the show’s over – time for you two to get to work!” Harry almost fell off the bed. “You can talk!” “Of course, listen,” said Rick. “Polly want a cracker!” While Harry and Hermione were laughing, Rick transformed back into his human form. “It says in my Animagus book that the most difficult part of becoming an Animagus is discovering your true Animagus form – your inner animal. Normal Animagi only have one,” said Hermione, looking pointedly at Rick. “It says that one of the main roles of the teacher is to help the student discover their true form. Do you have any idea how to do that Rick?” “Umm, I’m not sure,” said Rick. “Maybe if you come over here, and sit in my lap for a bit, it might help.” “Help what?” laughed Harry, grinning slyly. “Shall I go get the Enchanted Mistletoe?” “No, really, I’m serious,” said Rick, feeling a bit embarrassed. “I want to see if I can visualise Hermione’s Animagus form.” “Well, I’m game,” said Hermione, with a smirk. “But I can’t wait until it’s your turn, Harry!” She went over to Rick who was sitting in an old armchair in the corner of the room and sat in his lap. Rick pulled her close, and pressed his forehead against hers. He sat like that, concentrating hard, for several minutes. Finally, he released her saying, “I think I’ve got it.” “What is it?” asked Hermione, feeling excited – but also, unexpectedly, anxious. “Wait! Don’t tell me! The teacher is only supposed to help the student, but the student must discover their Animagus form themselves.” “OK. Close your eyes,” said Rick. “Imagine that you’re in a forest. It’s sunset, and you’ve just woken up. Feel yourself stretching out, sniffing the evening air for scents. Feel yourself pushing through the undergrowth, your senses all alert. You’re thirsty, so you make your way down to a to rock pool. You put one paw in the water, and as you lean over to drink, you catch sight of your reflection, you see —” “A fox! I’m a fox!” squealed Hermione, jumping about the room in delight. “Why didn’t I guess,” laughed Harry, “that you’d turn out to be something wise and cunning. It’s so obvious!” “Right, Harry, your turn now ... err, let’s see if we can do this without having you sitting in my lap.” “Agreed!” said Harry, with obvious relief. “Let’s try standing, facing each other,” said Rick, getting up from the armchair. He put his hands on Harry’s shoulders and pressed his forehead against Harry’s. “Try to relax,” said Rick. This was a lot more difficult than with Hermione – because their special link had made it easy for him. They stayed standing that way for almost a quarter of an hour. Finally, Rick pulled back his forehead, but kept hold of Harry’s shoulders. “Keep your eyes closed, Harry,” said Rick. “Feel yourself, high up in the air above the Forbidden Forest. Feel the wind ruffling your feathers. Now, you feel the air becoming warmer. You’ve found a thermal. You stretch your wings wide, holding them still as the thermal pushes you higher. Suddenly, far down below by a rock pool, you spot something moving. You pull in your wings and dive straight down at an incredible speed, but as you pull out of the dive, you see that your quarry has spotted you. It disappears into the bushes. So you flap your powerful wings to regain altitude and fly towards the Hogwarts castle. As you cross the lake you descend a little, to admire your reflection on the water, it’s —” “An eagle,” said Harry solemnly. “A Golden Eagle, to be precise,” added Rick. “Wow!” said Hermione, in awe. “I did a project on them at school, before I came to Hogwarts. Their wingspan can reach up to nine feet; they fly at around thirty miles an hour, but they can reach speeds approaching two hundred miles an hour when diving.” “Wow!” said Harry, feeling slightly stunned. “Golden Eagles have no natural predators,” said Hermione, continuing her lecture. “They feed upon rabbits, hares, squirrels, and birds, such as grouse and partridge. They also occasionally take fish, snakes, insects, and larger mammals, such as young deer.” “Umm, what about foxes?” asked Harry, with a grin. “Yes, foxes too,” said Hermione. “Goodness! Do you think that was a fox you were diving for in your imagination? Perhaps it’s not safe for us to train together.” “Don’t worry,” Rick reassured her. “In your Animagus form, although you’ll feel the natural animal instincts, you will still be yourself. You will always know who you are, and you’ll be in control.” “So what do we do next?” asked Harry, enthusiastically. “It says in the book that you need to spend several months visualizing your Animagus form,” said Hermione. “You should try to think of it frequently, throughout the day and concentrate on it when you go to bed at night, before falling asleep. But perhaps, with Rick helping us, it won’t take that long.” “Yeah, I think I’ll be able to speed things up,” said Rick. “Just do the visualising for now. When we get back to Hogwarts, we can start working on transforming, OK? Come on Harry, how about we have another duelling session. You’ve been making really good progress; I think we should keep it up.” “Great idea, let’s do it!” said Harry happily.
~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
The rest of the holiday was pleasant, but uneventful. They returned to King’s Cross station, the same way they had come, by secure floo and then enchanted taxi, with a guard detail, courtesy of the Order. Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Rick shared a compartment on the Hogwarts Express. They were joined at various times by different friends, coming to say hello. Padma Patil spent quite a lot of time with them. It was pretty obvious that she fancied Ron. Even Ron couldn’t fail to notice. Rick grinned to himself as he noticed Ron letting Padma beat him at a game of wizard chess. She was good, very good – but no match for Ron, with the way he had improved over Christmas. As they pulled into Hogsmeade station and everyone began leaving the compartment, Rick grabbed Hermione’s hand and pulled her back. When the compartment was empty, he said to her, “Hermione, we’ve hardly had any time alone the last few days, how about a quick kiss, before we get off the train?” “Yes, privacy’s a little hard to come by, at the Weasley’s,” said Hermione grinning and embracing Rick. But it wasn’t a quick kiss. It went on ... and on.... The two of them were in a world of their own, oblivious to whatever else might be happening – and something was most definitely happening.
~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
The platform at Hogsmeade station was a simple affair. The station consisted of a long narrow building, running parallel to the tracks. It was possible to enter or leave the platform through several doorways in the station building or at either end, which were completely open – or at least used to be completely open. Today, however, when the students had disembarked from the train, and walked towards the Hogwarts end of the platform, to board the horseless carriages, a sheet of flames flew up in front of them, blocking their path. There were gasps and screams. Some students tried rushing down to the other end of the platform to escape, but another sheet of flames was blocking that end, also. They tried the doorways in the station building, but they were all locked shut and couldn’t be opened by Alohomora or any other unlocking charm. Finally, they tried to re-board the train, but all the doors had closed and were also securely locked. They were trapped! “I don’t like this at all,” said Harry to Ron. “Where the hell is Rick?” About thirty or forty, masked, black-robed figures suddenly materialised on the platform – Death Eaters. “Students of Hogwarts,” said a cold, female voice, amplified by a Sonorus charm. “Do not reach for your wands, and you will not be harmed. The Dark Lord wishes you no ill. On the contrary, some of the Purebloods among you will be invited to join the hallowed ranks of his Death Eaters when you have finished your schooling. Then your education will begin in earnest. We are here today for two students only – Harry Potter and Hermione Granger. The Dark Lord has issued a special invitation to them – one which he insists they accept,” the cold voice added cruelly. “No one else has anything to fear – unless they get in our way. Be warned. Draw your wand, and you become a target.” “Don’t expect that fool of a Headmaster, Dumbledore or anyone else from Hogwarts, to come to your rescue – they won’t – we’ve taken care of them,” she added, cackling gleefully. “Bellatrix Lestrange!” spat Harry. “I’d recognise that hag’s cackling anywhere!” He drew his wand and cast a Reflecting Shield around himself. “Put up a Deflecting Shield mate,” he said to Ron, who was also standing, wand drawn. In fact, most of the students had drawn their wands. They weren’t about to let Harry Potter and Hermione Granger be taken without putting up a fight. “Stupid little children!” said Bellatrix Lestrange, derisively. “Don’t say you weren’t warned.” The students fought valiantly, but most of them were no match for trained Death Eaters. The DA members from last year, however, put up stiff resistance. Eventually, the Death Eaters located Harry. It was obvious that their orders were to take him alive, because they weren’t using anything lethal on him. From behind his shield, Harry was letting loose with a variety of hexes. He had already disarmed three Death Eaters with Stupify and two others were lying flat on the platform after he hit them with the Petrificus Totalus spell. However, that was nothing compared to what they had done to themselves. Seven or eight Death Eaters had been hit by their own hexes, rebounding with double strength from Harry’s Reflecting Shield, but in the confusion, they hadn’t realised what was happening and continued flinging hexes at Harry. Ron had taken out two Death Eaters before his shield collapsed and he was knocked out by a nasty Expelliarmus spell. By the time the Death Eaters had managed to subdue the students, over half of them were down. Clearly, they had not expected the students to put up such a valiant defence. “Well, well, if it isn’t little baby Potter!” said Bellatrix in her mock baby voice, as she approached Harry, with the remaining Death Eaters. “It looks like someone has been teaching you —” But she was cut off, as Harry yelled “Stupify!” She had to dive for the platform to avoid his curse. Harry had never held his Reflecting Shield for so long. It was beginning to drain him. He didn’t know how much longer he could keep it up. What the hell has happened to Rick? he asked himself. Bellatrix Lestrange was back on her feet and dusting herself off. “So little baby Potter wants to play, does he?” she cackled insanely. “Where’s your little Mudblood friend, Potter? The Dark Lord was highly offended at the insolent little brat’s refusal of his gracious hospitality; she needs to be taught some manners. He’s extending his hospitality to her again – and he insists she accept it – along with you,” she cackled. “In fact, I’m going to make sure that you both accept my Master’s hospitality. Come on, little boy – the time for games is over.” “Well, I don’t think so!” yelled Harry. “You horrible hag, you killed Sirius, and I’m going to avenge his death, if it’s the last thing I do!” “Ha, ha!” cackled Bellatrix. “Have you forgotten what I told you in the Department of Mysteries, little Harry? You don’t have what it takes to use an Unforgivable curse – you’re too much of a goody, goody! Ha, ha!” Harry struggled to hold up his Reflecting Shield; he wouldn’t be able to hold it much longer. He had an idea. He concentrated all his energy on holding his shield and pointed his wand at her as if he was about to hex her. “Let me show you how it’s done.... Crucio!” she yelled gleefully. “Ahhhhhhhhh!” she screamed, as her Cruciatus Curse flew back and hit her – sending her writhing to the platform in utter agony. Fortunately for her, the spell was broken as she fell. Several of the Death Eaters helped her to her feet. She was shaking and twitching violently, and looking even crazier than usual. “Well, well, the little Potter boy has learned how to hate. That was quite a Cruciatus Curse! My compliments. What a pity my Master wants you dead, Potter – you’ve got what it takes to be a great Death Eater. My Master would have preferred me to bring you to him alive ... but dead is preferable to allowing you to evade your fate yet again. It looks like I’m going to be the one who gets the pleasure – and the glory – of turning The Boy Who Lived into The Boy Who Died,” she cackled, raising her wand. Harry knew what was coming, if only he could hold his Reflecting Shield for a few moments more. He tried desperately to hold it, but his energy was slowly draining away. “Avada Kedavra!” screamed Bellatrix.
~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
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