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Chapter 32 ~ Lady Firebird and Muldorion
After sneaking away from the Potions dungeon while Professor Snape was occupied with the cauldrons of Wiggenweld potion, Ron rushed straight back to the West Tower. He was dreading finding more Acromantulas there, and breathed an enormous sigh of relief at finding the nightmare monsters from hell were gone. Rick had disposed of them all. Ron immediately scanned the edge of the Forbidden Forest, from where the waves of attackers had come. Voldemort’s Spatial Portal must be somewhere in the forest, thought Ron as he searched, unsuccessfully, for Rick and Harry. Fortunately, there was no sign of any Dark Creatures either. Ron walked slowly around the parapet, scanning the horizon until he was facing in the opposite direction from the Forbidden Forest – towards the Quidditch field. What he saw there made his blood run cold. Harry was flying over the Quidditch stands on his Firebolt – which they had brought to the tower along with Ron’s broom and another for Rick – just in case they were needed. The source of Ron’s fright was Harry’s pursuers. He was certain they were Vampires, hundreds of them ... all chasing after Harry. Ron was puzzled. Why doesn’t he fly faster? Harry can fly heaps faster than that ... he shouldn’t have any trouble getting away from those Vampires. Why isn’t he using his Quidditch skills to soar and dive, and evade them? Hell, why doesn’t he just transform into an Eagle? I hope he hasn’t been bitten, thought Ron, becoming worried. But then he noticed something very strange. The closest things to Harry weren’t Vampires at all ... they were bats. Then he noticed that the bats, unlike the vampires, didn’t seem to be interested in Harry ... they were turning away from him and flying towards the castle. Bloody hell! thought Ron. Vampires can change into bats; that’s what they’re doing, they’re changing into bats and when they get to the castle, they’ll change back into Vampires – and attack! What the hell am I supposed to do now? he asked himself, reaching for his broom in a panic. But before he could fly off, Ron realised – with great relief – that the approaching bats were not making for the castle ... they were going to fly right past it. In fact, they kept going until they reached the Forbidden Forest. Ron looked back at Harry. There was still a constant stream of bats coming from his direction and heading for the forest. Ron scratched his head, puzzled, as he noticed that the number of vampires chasing Harry was becoming smaller. Suddenly Ron slapped himself hard on the forehead, as he realised what was really happening. Bloody brilliant! he muttered to himself. Rick’s made himself invisible and he’s riding on the back of Harry’s broom. Vampires are intelligent creatures – they know who Harry Potter is – and they’re going for him. Harry’s deliberately letting them keep up with him, to allow Rick to transform them into bats! The bats, having no interest in wizards on broomsticks, were heading for the forest. Probably going off for a good day’s kip, thought Ron, laughing. The remaining Vampires were puzzled, no doubt, as to why their fellows were changing themselves into bats; but since it was something they did naturally, it didn’t occur to them that they were actually being transformed by Rick – permanently. When the last Vampire had been transformed, Harry flew back to the West Tower on his Firebolt. Rick, who was also on the broom, made himself visible, and looked apologetically at Ron. “I’m really sorry about those Acromantulas, mate ... I was so busy dealing with the Manticores that I didn’t spot them until it was too late – and they’d climbed up here ... and got to you. It must have been horrible —” “Bloody hell! I never want to experience anything like that again – as long as I live! It was worse than the time we escaped from a whole herd of the bleeding monsters in Dad’s Ford Anglia,” said Ron, turning to Harry. “When I saw them coming up the tower, I was petrified ... my brain stopped working ... it was my absolute worst nightmare come true! Instead of jumping on my broom and flying away, or getting down from the tower and bolting the door behind me, I just stood there – frozen with fear. You have no idea how bloody huge those things look when they’re on top of you ... and grab you with those massive pincers of theirs, and bite —” But Ron couldn’t go on, he was shaking too much from the terrible memories. His face had gone as white as a sheet – his freckles standing out in stark contrast. Harry put an arm around Ron’s shoulder. “You poor bugger,” he said sympathetically. “Try not to think about it, mate.... Err, so did Hermione fix you up OK?” “Yeah, she’s bloody amazing.... But, you’re right, I have to stop thinking about those....” said Ron determinedly. Then turning his mind back to what he had just witnessed, he said. “Hey, that was a really neat trick you two pulled on those Vampires ... it took me a while to figure out what was going on. What the hell were those Vampires doing out in daytime? I always thought they only came out at night.” “Yeah, met too,” said Harry. “I suppose Voldemort found some dark magic that allows them to get about in daylight.” “Well that lot will be strictly nocturnal from now on ... now that they’re bats,” said Rick. “Right,” laughed Ron. “So what else has attacked since those horrible bloody gigantic —” he said, shuddering once again at the memory of the Acromantulas. “Quintapeds,” said Rick quickly, attempting to distract Ron from the giant spiders. “There were about fifty of them, but they weren’t much trouble, I transformed them into Bowtruckles. They all rushed off to the Forbidden Forest to find themselves a tree. After that, came a whole bunch of Banshees ... uh ... they were ghastly,” he said with a shudder. While Rick was talking, Harry had transformed into an eagle and flown off on another surveillance mission. “So what did you do about the Banshees?” asked Ron. “Was their screaming as dreadful as they say?” “Harry had just come back up here from the Potions dungeon,” answered Rick. “I put a Deafening Spell on both of us, to protect us from their screaming, so I don’t really know what they sounded like. I Apparated over to where they’d come out from the forest and transformed the lot of them into a lovely flock of Jobberknolls.” “Good one!” said Ron enthusiastically. “Remind me not to go walking in the Forbidden Forest on the day any of those Jobberknolls die. Their death screams aren’t lethal – like Banshees – but they’re meant to be bloody awful just the same.” “I wonder if that’s it,” mused Rick. “I sure hope so ... what else could Voldemort have left to throw at us?” “I can’t think of anything, mate,” replied Ron. “It’s not full moon, so there won’t be werewolves ... fortunately. Since we’ve disposed of the Dementors, what else could the evil bastard have left?” “It looks like we’re about to find out,” said Rick, pointing towards Harry who was approaching fast. “Yeah, I think you’re right,” replied Ron, his eyes fixed upon the fast-moving eagle, as it dived towards them. “Something sure as hell has put the wind up Harry!” Harry transformed instantly. “Dragons!” he exclaimed, as he struggled to catch his breath. “They’re still over the Forbidden Forest, I didn’t hang about to count them, after I realised what they were – but there must be dozens of them.” “Hang on,” said Rick. “Dragons aren’t Dark Creatures, are they?” “No, definitely not,” said Ron. “But Charlie said one time that there are spells a rider can use to control a dragon. They’ll have Death Eaters riding them ... Bloody hell, this is bad ... it won’t take long for a bunch of dragons to set the school ablaze and destroy it!” “How about we do the same thing as we did with the Vampires?” suggested Harry. “You won’t be able to transform the dragons – they’re too well protected from magic – but if I fly you about on the back of my broom, you could Squib their riders.” “No,” said Rick, shaking his head. “We’d both be incinerated before I could Squib even a few of the Death Eaters.” “So what can we do?” asked Ron, desperately. “Look! Here they come!” “I’m going to transform into my Norwegian Ridgeback Animagus form,” said Rick. “Maybe I can convince the dragons to revolt against their riders. You two better get down from here ... before you get barbequed. Go warn Dumbledore and try to get everyone who’s been revived down to the dungeons – in case I can’t stop them.” Harry and Ron nodded and were quickly gone. Rick carefully balanced himself on the parapet, before transforming into an enormous Norwegian Ridgeback. He unfurled his gigantic wings and leaning forward, pushed off with his feet. He was soon airborne, and flying directly towards the approaching dragons. There were about thirty of the enormous beasts. Many of them appeared to be Common Welsh Greens, but there were also Hungarian Horntails, Romanian Longhorns, Swedish Short-Snouts and a handful of Norwegian Ridgebacks. They were flying in ‘V’ formation and the leader was a Norwegian Ridgeback, somewhat smaller than Rick. As Rick approached the lead dragon, he made a conciliatory gesture with his head to demonstrate his peaceful intentions. The lead dragon returned the gesture as Rick turned to fly along side of it. “Greetings, oh mighty one,” said the dragon deferentially, obviously impressed with Rick’s superior size. “Whom do I have the pleasure of addressing?” asked Rick politely. “I am called Lady Firebird,” she said with great dignity. “And how, may I ask, are you called?” “Err ... I don’t really have a name,” said Rick, awkwardly. “How very curious,” replied Lady Firebird. “But you must have a name. Allow me to give you one.” She examined Rick closely from his fiery snout to his formidable tail. Finally she spoke. “You shall be known henceforth as Muldorion the Magnificent ... because you are, indeed, a truly magnificent beast.” “Thank you, madam,” said Rick gallantly, in what seemed intuitively to be the correct form of speech for the occasion. “Do you have a nesting mate, my magnificent one?” asked Lady Firebird, as small wisps of flame escaped her mouth, betraying her keen interest. “Err ... no, madam,” replied Rick, uneasily, as he became aware of the amorous feelings Lady Firebird was developing towards him. “Err, you see ... I am not just a dragon, Lady Firebird. I am many other things: A bird, a wizard, and many more things, besides.” “How remarkable,” she replied. “So really, you are wizard, who can change into many shapes, including that of a magnificent dragon. Is that correct?” she asked, with a trace of disappointment in her voice. “Yes, my Lady,” replied Rick, “it is correct.” After a few moments of awkward silence, he decided to get to the point. “My noble Lady Firebird, I have come to request your aid ... to help save my friends, who are in the castle which lies before us.” “I would gladly help you, my splendid one, but we Dragons are not free to act as we choose. Each one of us has upon our back a rider. They are wizards who use their magic to bend us to their will. We do not wish to kill and destroy, but we are forced to, by these evil ones.” “Can you not resist them?” asked Rick, as Lady Firebird suddenly veered away from him. Her rider had been furiously flinging spells at Rick for the past few minutes, but they rebounded harmlessly from his thick magical scales. Rick turned to catch up with Lady Firebird. “That was my rider ... he forced me to fly away from you,” she said apologetically. “In answer to your question; No, it is not possible for us to disobey our rider. The wicked magic they use causes us enormous pain if we do not obey. I am struggling against such pain, even now, as we speak, for my rider is trying to keep me away from you. It cannot be resisted for long,” she said hastily, before veering violently away from Rick, once more. Rick quickly caught her up again. “I entreat you ... please listen to me my Lady! I have an idea that will save my friends, and also free you and you and your fellow dragons from the evil ones who enslave you. I shall turn back into a wizard and destroy the magic of the evil one who rides upon your back. I shall then take his place in your saddle. I wish you to fly alongside each of your friends in turn, so I may destroy the magic of their riders. It may take some time to get all the riders, so please ask your friends not to attack the castle while I am working, even though their riders may cause them great pain. When I am finished, you will all be free. I hope you will be merciful to your riders and not kill them. They will be rendered harmless.” “I shall do as you ask,” replied Lady Firebird. “If you can do all you promise, you are well named, my Muldorion ... my magnificent one! Adieu!” Rick changed into a falcon and dived beneath Lady Firebird, coming up behind her and landing on her back a few feet behind her unsuspecting rider. He then changed back to himself, quickly grabbing hold of a harness strap to prevent being thrown off the dragon’s undulating back. He made himself invisible before intoning, “Squibbus.” The astonished Death Eater turned when he heard the dreaded word, but he saw no one. He found himself being lifted magically out of his saddle and the next moment he was tightly bound and securely strapped to the harness, some feet behind the saddle. Lady Firebird felt an exhilarating sense of freedom, the moment Rick Squibbed her rider. It was intoxicating, and she wanted to soar through the sky in celebration ... but then she remembered her promise to Muldorion, who even now, was riding on her back in his wizard form. She commanded the other dragons not to attack the castle, promising them they would soon be free to fly where they wished. Beginning with those closest to the castle, she flew alongside her fellow dragons, one by one. She knew as soon as their riders had been neutralised, because the beasts flew off in joyful abandon at their new-found freedom. When he had Squibbed the last dragon-rider, Rick freed himself from the dragon saddle and transformed into a falcon. He flew to Lady Firebird’s head where he changed back into a dragon. “Thank you Lady Firebird,” said Rick. “You were wonderful! You have helped me save the school and all my friends ... I shall be eternally grateful to you, my Lady. But now I must go, in case any further attackers should come.” “There are no more,” replied Lady Firebird. “We were the last. I am glad to have been able to help you, my magnificent one; but in truth, there is no way to repay you for giving us our freedom.... Perhaps, one day, you might come in your dragon form to visit me. I can be found at the place known as the Hanging Valley of Fire in the autumn – during mating season. Fare thee well, my Muldorion ... my magnificent one,” she said, with a large tear in her eye, as she turned and flew away.
~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
By the time the students and the remaining staff had been revived by the vast quantities of antidote brewed up by Snape and his helpers, the dragons were gone and the battle was over. The only evidence left of the attack of the Dark Creatures were the bodies of the dead Mountain Trolls and Manticores lying near the edge of the Forbidden Forest. Hagrid got together a party to dispose of them. Professor Dumbledore considered it a stroke of luck that almost the entire school had been unconscious and had not witnessed the attack. Only Professors Snape and Sprout, plus Madam Pomfrey, who had been revived by Hermione and Ginny’s potion, knew that Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Rick Godfry were the ones who fought off the attackers. Professor Sprout and Madam Pomfrey naturally assumed that Harry Potter had been the main actor in the school’s defence. It was an assumption that Dumbledore was happy to tacitly encourage. He was well aware of Snape’s suspicions regarding Rick Godfry – but he could be trusted to remain silent. None of them knew the particulars of how the attackers had been defeated, and would be as surprised as everyone else when a variety of new and unusual species were discovered inhabiting the Forbidden Forest – not to mention the Giant Squid’s new playmate – a very large happy dolphin who had mysteriously taken up residence in the lake. It was assumed that, with the exception of the slain Mountain Trolls and Manticores, the attackers had simply fled. Dumbledore gave them no further information and asked them to keep what they knew about the attack to themselves. He wanted to keep Rick’s powers a secret – if possible. At the evening meal that night, the Headmaster gave a carefully abridged account of the day’s events. “Draco Malfoy, who, incidentally, is no longer a student at this school, forced one of the house elves to adulterate all the dishes and beverages of this morning’s breakfast with the Draught of the Living Death, rendering the whole school, with the exception of five students, unconscious. We all owe a great debt to the bravery, initiative, and intelligence of those students. They are Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Ronald Weasley, Rick Godfry, and Ginny Weasley.” All heads turned to the Gryffindor table and the five of them, who were seated together. “This was an attempt – and very nearly a successful one – by Voldemort to destroy Hogwarts and kill all the students and staff,” said Dumbledore. Most of the students gasped when he spoke the dreaded name, and his last comment about killing everyone evoked a shocked buzz of chatter from the four long tables. Silencing the students with a wave of his hand, Dumbledore continued. “While the whole school was drugged, Voldemort sent in his legions of Dark Creatures. However, by great good fortune, the previously-mentioned students missed breakfast this morning. They bravely fought off the attackers and succeeded in the extraordinarily difficult task of brewing an antidote to the Draught of the Living Death. This was used to revive myself, and several colleagues, including Professor Snape, who supervised the production of a large enough quantity of the potion to awaken the entire school.” “I have no doubt that you will all be most eager for further details of the attack and how it was thwarted. But, I must request you, most forcefully, not to prevail upon those who were involved for such information. For anyone who was not already aware that we are involved in a deadly war against the forces of Evil, today’s events should leave you in no doubt, whatsoever. The exact manner in which today’s attack was repulsed, involved magic which, in the context of the war, I wish to remain secret.” Dumbledore continued, “In recognition of their great deed, in saving the school, and the lives of us all, I award five hundred points to Gryffindor —” The Headmaster had to pause for a few moments to wait for the excited yells and loud cheering which erupted from the Gryffindor table to subside. “I would ask the five students to stand, and allow us to all acknowledge their great feat, and to offer them our heartfelt thanks,” said Dumbledore. Harry, Hermione, Ron, Rick, and Ginny rose self-consciously to their feet, looking up towards the head table and Professor Dumbledore, who, beaming at them, began clapping enthusiastically. The whole school joined in, making an enormous din, the likes of which had not been heard in the Great Hall for many years.
~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
The final school term got under way, and life at Hogwarts resumed its normal rhythm. The students who had not returned after the Easter break, were soon back at school. Their parents having provided them with notes claiming illness, extenuating family circumstances of various sorts, missing the train, and a host of other lame excuses for why their children had not returned at the appointed time. Professor Dumbledore welcomed them back, without comment. Many of the students would not have known the real reason their parents had kept them back, and the Headmaster was not going to condemn the children for the sins of their parents. One Saturday afternoon late in May, Harry, Hermione, Rick, and Ron were sitting around a table in the Gryffindor common room. Hermione, as usual, had books piled up all around her as she worked her way through her revision program for the final exams. “I don’t know why you’re starting to study already, Hermione,” complained Ron. “I mean the sixth-year exams are ages away ... and they’re no big deal anyway. It’s not like the OWLS in fifth-year or the NEWTS next year,” said Ron. “They don’t really count ... so why bother?” “Ron,” said Hermione, looking up – clearly irritated at being distracted from her studies, “you have to pass every subject in sixth-year that you want to study in seventh-year for your NEWTS ... remember?” “Really?” asked Ron surprised. “I didn’t know that.” “Yes, really!” replied Hermione in an exasperated tone. “I don’t know how many times I’ve told you this year ... but you keep conveniently forgetting it. The exams are only a weeks away; I suggest you start on the revision program I drew up for you at the start of the term ... if you want to pass, that is. And the same goes for you Harry,” she said sternly, turning to Harry who was thumbing casually through at an old Quidditch magazine. Then, turning to Rick, Hermione narrowed her eyes and sounding distinctly annoyed, added, “Some of us actually have to study for our exams.” “Come on, Hermione, loosen up a bit,” said Rick in a conciliatory tone. “You know perfectly well you’ll pass everything with flying colours.” “Well, I want to do better than pass all my subjects,” replied Hermione, piqued, “I intend to....” But she stopped, and glared at Rick once more before quickly turning back to the book lying open on the table in front of her – with cheeks burning bright red, and muttering unfair and cheat under her breath. As they drew closer to the exams, Hermione was getting more and more stressed at the prospect that she would not have the highest overall mark for their year. She had always been dux of her year at Hogwarts – and her Muggle primary school, for that matter, as well. But Hermione was growing increasingly fearful that Rick was about to usurp her title – without making the slightest effort. She knew it wasn’t his fault – and she loved him dearly – but it made her absolutely furious just the same – it was all so unfair. Harry, Ron, and Rick moved down to the other end of the table, leaving Hermione to study in peace – and hoping she would leave them to not study in peace. “You know, the problem,” said Harry softly, “is that I really find it hard to take my studies seriously and worry about them, while Voldemort’s still out there. He may have lost his Dark Creatures and a lot of his Death Eaters, but he’s still got plenty more ... not to mention all his evil powers. I hate this waiting ... always waiting for him to strike, waiting to see what he’s going to do next,” said Harry tensely. “I wish we could find out where he is and take the fight to him,” said Ron. “We’re always on the bloody defensive, waiting for him to call the shots and make the first move. If we could find him, we could attack him on our terms ... and finish the evil bastard off.” “According to Dumbledore, the Order doesn’t have a clue where he is,” replied Rick. “They think he keeps moving about. When he summons his followers, using their Dark Mark, they have no idea where they’re going. They use some sort of Apparition-like spell, which takes them to Voldemort – to wherever he is at that moment. It’s a different place each time.” “What about drawing him into a trap?” suggested Ron. “I don’t think it’d work, mate,” replied Harry. “He’s completely paranoid ... remember. He’d immediately suspect something ... he’d never come.” The others nodded in agreement, and the three boys fell into silence for a few minutes. “Hey, has any one seen Ginny?” asked Harry, after scanning the common room for her distinctive fiery red head. Rick and Ron shook their heads. “Ginny’s Herbology class is doing a project on the Flutterby Bush,” said Harry. “They have to prune them every day. Ginny said she was going to prune hers after lunch. I might just wander down to the greenhouses and see if she’s still there.” “You sure you’re not sneaking off for a snog?” demanded Ron, suspiciously. “Ron, mate,” said Harry, with an exasperated sigh. “I am not going off for a snog. But if I was – so what? Ginny’s my girlfriend, and you know it. So just get over it, will you? Hey, I know ... why don’t you go find Padma, and take her for a walk ... or whatever ... and leave me and Ginny alone.” “No chance there, mate,” complained Ron. “I should have known better than getting myself a girlfriend in Ravenclaw. Padma’s almost as bad as Hermione! She’s damn-well revising for the exams as well. What is it with these witches?” Harry laughed as he set off to find Ginny. “You ought to get Hermione to do Padma one of her revision schedules,” said Rick with a grin. “I’ve got a half-hour slot scheduled everyday in Hermione’s timetable ... until the week before the exams start.” “You poor bugger,” snorted Ron, with a smirk. “Padma’s not quite as organised – or stingy – as Hermione. I get a bit more quality time than that. Boy, Hermione’s sure got you on thin rations, mate,” laughed Ron loudly. “What’s that?” asked Hermione, looking up quizzically from her work. “What’s all this about rations?” “Err ... nothing, Hermione,” said Rick innocently. Bloody Ron, he can never keep his voice down, he thought to himself. Hermione normally would have pursued the point – she hated it when something was going on which she didn’t know about – but she had too much work to do to bother with Rick and Ron and their silly juvenile jokes today. Hermione returned to her work, and the two boys continued chatting quietly at the other end of the table, until Harry returned ten minutes later. “Find Ginny?” asked Ron. “Err, no,” replied Harry, sounding a little uneasy. “Professor Sprout was down at the greenhouses and said Ginny hasn’t been down there today. I wonder where she could have got to.... I know, I’ll check for her on the Marauders’ Map,” he said, turning towards the stairs that led up to their dormitory. “Wait up a bit, mate,” said Rick, closing his eyes and projecting a map of the castle in his mind. After scanning it carefully for a minute, he opened his eyes and spoke in a worried tone. “I don’t like this at all ... I can’t see Ginny anywhere ... she’s not at Hogwarts....” “Are you certain?” asked Hermione, nervously. Rick’s serious tone had cut through her concentration and her studies were forgotten. “Absolutely certain,” confirmed Rick apprehensively. “Voldemort’s got her!” said Harry in a thick voice, his face white with fear. “He’s taken her, just like he took Hermione at Christmas – to get me....” Rick stood up and placed a reassuring hand on Harry’s shoulder. “We don’t know for sure that he’s got her. But if he has, we’ll get her back, mate – just like we got Hermione back. I’m going to Dumbledore, to tell him what’s happened.” Then looking Harry directly in the eye, he added. “If it is Voldemort who’s taken her, we all know why – we all know who he’s really after. Use your head this time, Harry, and don’t go rushing off into the evil bastard’s traps – and giving him what he wants. It won’t save Ginny ... but it will lose ... everything.” Rick had cast an Imperturbable Charm around them, as well as his Wizard Repelling Charm, as soon as he’d realised Ginny was missing. He didn’t want the whole common room to know about it. He looked meaningfully at Hermione and then Ron. Distressed as they were, they both understood his meaning. Keep an eye on Harry – don’t let him out of your sight! Checking that Dumbledore was alone, Rick Apparated directly to the Headmaster’s office.
~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
Professor Dumbledore sat back in his chair behind his immense desk. His aged face was etched with lines of worry; his blue eyes were not sparkling now – they were clouded with concern. Rick, who was standing anxiously before the Headmaster’s desk, had just informed him of Ginny’s disappearance. “How do you think he could have got her?” asked Rick nervously. “Could one of the Death Eaters’ children have got a Portkey into the school?” “No,” sighed Dumbledore. “It is not possible to get a Portkey past the school wards. In Harry’s fourth-year, Barty Crouch Junior created a Portkey out of the Triwizard Cup, but he was already within the wards when he did it. Creating a Portkey is quite advanced magic. Draco Malfoy, apparently, was capable of it, as he made the Portkey ring to escape the attack of the Dark Creatures. Mr. Malfoy was a powerful wizard – but as he is no longer a wizard and no longer at Hogwarts, I think it unlikely that any of the remaining students who could conceivably have been party to Miss Weasley’s presumed abduction are capable of creating a Portkey. In retrospect, it was perhaps unwise of me to have allowed the Death Eaters’ children to return, after their failure to come back after the Easter break,” he added with regret. “But that would have been unfair to the innocent ones sir,” offered Rick. “Yes, indeed Rick, it would,” replied Dumbledore, shaking his head unhappily. “One must always be careful when attempting to thwart or punish the guilty – not to harm the innocent – or those who may be innocent.” The Headmaster was lost in thought for a minute of two before speaking again. “The fifth-year Gryffindors take Herbology with Slytherin. Everyone in her class would have known Miss Weasley would be visiting the greenhouses. She was probably ambushed and stunned before reaching them; placed under an invisibility cloak and removed from the Hogwarts grounds, to where she could have been Apparated or Portkeyed away ... to anywhere,” said Dumbledore gloomily. “Pansy Parkinson has an invisibility cloak – or at least access to one,” said Rick, remembering how she had abducted Hermione from her dormitory in the first term. “Yes, and she may well have played some part in this affair,” agreed Dumbledore. “However, now is not the time to concern ourselves with the minor accomplices. I am certain they will not have the slightest idea as to where Miss Weasley has been taken. Voldemort has obviously been made aware of the secret relationship between Ginny Weasley and Harry Potter. That he has taken her to lure Harry to his death ... is certain. We must prevent Harry falling into his hands at all costs.” “Hermione and Ron are keeping an eye on him sir; they are both aware of the situation. Perhaps I should go join them.” “Yes, indeed,” replied Dumbledore. “Harry will be in a very disturbed state, and, no doubt, blaming himself for what has happened to Miss Weasley. Voldemort has, in the past, shown himself to be most adept at manipulating Harry’s emotions. I want you to stay as close to Harry as possible – don’t let him out of your sight. It will be my sad duty to report Miss Weasley’s disappearance to her parents. It is not something, I am looking —” But he was cut off at that moment by the sound of someone yelling from outside the office. “Ron!” said Rick having closed his eyes for a moment. Dumbledore made a motion with his hand, to push aside the stone gargoyle guarding the entrance to his office below, allowing Ron entry. Ron burst into the office, gasping for breath, he’d obviously run flat out, all the way from Gryffindor Tower. “Harry’s gone!” he cried.
~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
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