The Sugar Quill
Author: Carma  Story: Snowy Sacrifices  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Author’s Notes: Thank you to my wonderful Beta, newly appointed Checkmated Head Girl & my self-appointed fan fiction Obi-Wan, Mizaya, who helps to improve my writing with each submission

Author’s Notes:   Thank you to my wonderful Beta, newly appointed Checkmated Head Girl & my self-appointed fan fiction Obi-Wan, Mizaya, who helps to improve my writing with each submission.  J 

 

This is my first action/angst/adventure/chaptered story, so reviews would be greatly appreciated.  Thank you very much! 

 

 

 

Snowy Sacrifices

 

When she drifted into consciousness, Mediwizards were tearing off her sopping wet clothing, barely covering her with a hospital gown.  The doctors continued to converse in their own language as they sifted through her clothing, which was then discarded onto the floor.  Her bloody hand was wrapped tightly with a scarf; one of the doctors recognized the crest on the scarf immediately, and he switched to speaking English, though his accent was much thicker than Viktor Krum’s.  “She is a Hogvarts student. The name on the scarf says Veasley,” the doctor announced before shouting orders.  “Contact the London Aurors; tell them ve found a young voman and she is in critical condition.”

 

She could barely understand them through their foreign Bulgarian dialect.  Thankfully, the Mediwizards spoke slowly and annunciated.  They asked her endless questions, their voices deep and insistent.  “Hello, can you vake up, Miss Veasley?”  She felt them shake her gently.  “You are at Grokteg’s Vizard Hospital.  Ve found you at the bottom of the Balkan.  Vot vere you doing in the mountains?  Do you know how lucky you are to be alive?”

 

They hit her with spells intended to numb the deep gashes in her arms, legs, and cheek.  They told her that the Anti-Hypothermia Charm was going to be painful, but it was very important for her blood flow.  They held potion vials up to her lips—the most disgusting potions she has ever tasted, which were intended to mend her broken ribs and ankle.  The most revolting potion she was given was a dose of Skele-gro.  She forgot why she needed it.  She didn’t care.

 

She was normally the most attentive and cooperative patient when it came to medical experiences, but now she was completely unfocused.  She stared hazily at the ceiling, ignoring the Mediwizards’ questions.  Their voices sounded so far away.  Her expression was completely blank, as if she had just had the most passionate of kisses—from a Dementor.  Let me bleed to death, she thought as they started closing the wounds on her body.  Let my bones stay broken, she thought as she swallowed the potions.  Let me stay frozen, so I don’t have to feel. 

 

The doctor sounded alarmed when she didn’t verbally respond.  “Her pulse is veakening—ve’re losing her!  Can you hear us, Miss Veasley?  Can you open your eyes?” She felt his calloused hands as they poked at her neck and forced her eyelids open to shine bright light from the tip of his wand into her eyes.

 

The other doctor sounded angry.  “Dammit, she’s crashing!  Stay vith us, Miss.”  He aimed his wand at her chest, sending out a shock of red-colored light, which caused her body to twitch and relax.

 

“I don’t understand vot is happening.  Her heart is healthy!”  An x-ray floated out of the doctor’s wand, and everyone observed the slow-beating heart.  “I don’t see any signs of puncture or tear from the broken ribs.”

 

The only nurse in the room walked over to the lifeless body and ran her hand over Hermione’s forehead, brushing her still-damp thick brown hair off of her forehead.  “Perhaps it is broken,” she suggested, and the entire room was silent.

 

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

 

“I can make it!” Harry yelled at the top of his nearly-frozen lungs.  Though his two best friends were standing beside him, the howling, frigid wind made it nearly impossible for them to even hear themselves. 

 

“You’re mad, it’s too high!” Hermione was right beside him, though she knew she probably sounded as if she were calling him from a mile away.  She pulled up her scarf to cover her nose, which was now numb along with her ears.  With the multiple layers of clothing and Heating Charms applied to their skin, the high altitude and stinging, icy snow of the mountain range they were currently scaling proved their efforts barely effective. 

 

Ron’s gloved hand fiddled with the dials of the bewitched pocket watch that he’d been given.  “Lupin!  Weasley to Lupin, come in!” he yelled at the device, shaking it in his frustration.  They’d been hiking up the Balkan Mountains for nearly ten hours now, and all three of them were tired, hungry, and frozen.  “LUPIN, THIS IS RON WEASLEY. CAN YOU HEAR ME?”

 

“Give me that!” Hermione hissed, snatching the pocket watch out of Ron’s grasp.  “Hermione Granger to Professor Lupin.  Come in, Professor.  Do you copy?”

 

Ron glared down at Hermione, pulling his knitted wool hat over his ears, which had completely lost feeling.  “I know how to work the damn thing, Hermione.  I’m not an idiot.”

 

“Must be the altitude that’s interfering with the connection,” she said to herself, ignoring Ron.  She looked from the overcast sky to the cloudy peak of the mountain.  “It’s too dangerous, Harry.  Without Lupin to look up the exact temperature and air pressure up there, there’s no possible way of knowing that you’ll be able to climb any higher without freezing or suffocating.”  All of that research could have possibly lost its value.  She had been so excited when she figured out the location of the fifth Horcrux.  If her calculations were correct, and she would bet her life that they were, Helga Hufflepuff’s cup was at the peak of this mountain. 

 

“D’you expect us to turn back now?”  Harry said angrily, turning and looking over the ledge. 

 

The platform that they were on seemed solid enough, but she could see the snow tumbling down the mountainside where they had just hiked.  Hermione had told him that avalanches were possible from the blizzards, which was why it was dangerous to perform any magic at all, since it was unknown how stable the mountainsides were.  “I don’t know, Harry, but we’ve got to think of another option.”

 

“Another option!” Harry clenched his gloved fists and rounded on Hermione.  “You said I can’t fly up there because my broom isn’t the right material for these conditions.  We can’t Apparate because of the possible wards that Voldemort put around the cup.  What do you suggest now, Hermione?  Shall I call the Knight Bus to pick us up and give us a nice lift to the top?”

 

“Don’t be cheeky with me!  Excuse me for trying to keep us all alive.  Merlin, you sound like Ron.”

 

“What the hell did I do to you?” Ron shouted to Hermione, rubbing his gloved hands together to try to prevent his fingers from going numb as well. 

 

“What didn’t you do would be a much more appropriate question, don’t you think?” she retorted, bitterness biting in her tone.

 

Ron let out an aggravated sigh.  “You’ve been snippy with me the entire hike.  Don’t tell me you’re still sore about me dancing with Fleur’s cousin at the wedding!”

 

Hermione scoffed, rolling her eyes.  “I saw you gawking at her like an idiot!  She was whispering to you.  I can only imagine what sort of rubbish she was feeding you.  ‘You are much better looking zan your beeg bruzzers!’” she mimicked in a high-pitched voice.  “Don’t think I didn’t see you getting all pink either.”

 

“But I didn’t ask her to dance, she asked me!  I didn’t want to be rude,” he tried to reason with her, yelling even louder than normal because of the harsh winds.

 

“You didn’t mind being rude to your sweet Aunt Muriel when she asked you to take her for a spin around the floor and you conveniently had forgotten to feed your Pygmy Puff!” she said acidly, raising her brows at him in an accusing fashion.

 

Ron held up his hands in defense, trying to reason with her.  “You don’t understand Auntie Muriel, Hermione.  She’s completely suffocating!”

 

“But you promised me,” she replied in a much softer tone.

 

“Look, Hermione, I’ve told you I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean-”  He stopped mid-sentence.  They both seemed to remember at that moment that they weren’t alone, and Ron looked over to Hermione when he noticed Harry was missing.

 

Hermione spotted him first, about ten feet over their heads.  He was climbing the rocky incline, still about fifty yards away from the top of the mountain.  “Harry!” she shrieked.  “You get down here this instant!  Those rocks are probably icy and slippery—be careful of the sharp icicles!” she said in a rather panicky tone, clutching at Ron’s cloak sleeve.  “Ron, do something!  He’s not listening to me!” 

 

“I don’t think he can hear you over the wind.”  He cleared his throat.  “OI! HARRY!”  Soon, Harry disappeared above the fog, and the snow came down harder. 

 

Hermione tightened her grip on Ron’s arm, her lip caught between her teeth.  “He’ll turn back.  He has to turn back.  He’ll realize how dangerous this is.  Won’t he?”

 

Ron was about to reply when a twig fell from above him, hitting him on the head.  “Bloody stick,” he muttered, rubbing at his forehead as Hermione bent down to pick up the stick.

 

It wasn’t a stick.  Hermione let out a shriek of terror as she realized what she was holding: Harry’s glasses.  They lenses were cracked and the frame was bent on one side.  “HARRY!” She yelled, letting go of Ron and running toward the incline.  Jagged rocks and icicles made up the mountainside; it was difficult to find proper footing in her panic.  She started to climb.

 

She knew that Ron was right behind her. The rest of the mountain was good for hiking; they hadn’t had to actually climb until now.  It was too steep.  She was very careful not to put too much of her weight on certain dodgy-looking rocks.  Rock pebbles and small chunks of ice kept falling onto their heads from above.  She climbed slowly and carefully and squinted when the top of the mountain came into focus.  It looked as if the peak was actually some sort of plateau, and Hermione estimated that she and Ron were only a short climb from reaching it.

 

Hermione was clutching the rocks desperately, and until now she’d only looked upward.  “Ron?” she called out and she made the terrible mistake of looking down.  She screamed and pressed her forehead against the icy rocks, trying not to hyperventilate.  “I can’t—it’s too high!”

 

“You’ll be fine, Hermione!” he called up encouragingly.  “One foot at a time, you can do it.  Almost there!”

 

She bravely climbed upward, her confidence rising as she slowly came closer to the platform above them.  It seemed as if Harry had already reached the top.  Lost in her thoughts, she reached for a rock that appeared to be strongly implanted into the side of the mountain.  When she leaned her weight on it to find better footing, the rock slipped and she panicked, letting out a terrified shriek as her feet slid off of their supportive rocks.  Her free hand flew to the stable rock, her legs kicking against the snowy mountainside in a desperate attempt to regain her footing. “Ron!  Harry!” she cried, biting her lip in concentration as she felt her grip slipping.

 

She saw Harry instantly peer over at her from the top of the plateau.  He looked rather surprised and fumbled for his wand.  “Harry, don’t!”  She hoped he remembered her warnings about casting charms from long distances at the side of the mountain for fear of avalanches, but he pointed his wand at her anyway.  She knew he was preparing to cast a strong Summoning Charm to pull her safely up the mountain.

 

Ron must have anticipated Harry’s risk, because he yelled up to him before she could find her words. “No!  I’ve got it, mate!”  He climbed to the side of Hermione and wrapped a steadying arm around her waist.  “Stop kicking, would you?” he said shakily; she hoped his grip was strong enough to support the both of them once he took her full weight in his arms. 

 

She clung to him, her arms wrapping around his neck.  “Don’t you dare let go!”

 

“Of what, you or the rock?” he said cheekily, and she realized they were only a few short strides from the top.

 

“That’s not funny!” she said, her voice trembling.

 

Ron snickered a bit, apparently trying to make light of the situation.  “I can’t climb up with one hand.  You’re going to have to make it the rest of the way up.”

 

“But I don’t think—“

 

“You’re a witch, aren’t you?”  He smirked a bit.  “You forgot that again, didn’t you? That’s why you started climbing without proper precautions.  Can you reach your wand?”

 

Hermione held onto him tighter and pulled her wand.  She blinked in realization.  “Oh,” she said with a blush.  “Suppose I shouldn’t have been in such a hurry.”

 

“No, I reckon you shouldn’t have been.”  He watched as Hermione performed a quick Binding Charm and a securely fastened rope appeared and wrapped separately around each of their waists.  Tugging at the rope between them, he gave a nod.  “There.  Now you’ll feel a bit safer.”

 

“Just a bit.”  With a sigh, she pocketed her wand and groped around for another rock before she started to climb again, this time safely linked to Ron, who would have an easier time catching her if she slipped again. 

 

Ron made sure she was steadily on her way to the top before calling up to her.  “I bet Fleur’s cousin can’t do a Binding Charm like that!”

 

“Don’t you suck up to me!” she yelled down to him, biting back a grin as she slowly but surely reached the top. 

 

Harry helped pull them up onto the platform.  The first thing Hermione saw was what looked to her like a glowing gold, ancient Egyptian pyramid with some sort of hourglass seemingly implanted on top of its peak, standing about fifty feet tall, right in the middle of the flat mountaintop.  Exhausted and frozen, Hermione looked questioningly to Harry, who appeared to be rather frustrated. 

 

“There’s a barrier around it - a strong one.  I don’t see a door to this thing, but I bet Hufflepuff’s cup is inside of it.” Harry pointed his wand at the translucent, dome-shaped barrier, which was denying direct access to the pyramid itself.  “Reducto!” he shouted, the strong blue light repelling off of the barrier with great ease. “Diffindo!” He tried cutting a hole in the barrier, but that bounced off as well.

 

Hermione wracked her brain, trying to think of possible barrier-breaking charms.  “What if we tried to make it disappear?  Evanesco!” she yelled, but the barrier didn’t budge.

 

Ron brushed some snow off of his trousers, taking in the scene.  “Nasty looking barrier,” he said casually, watching Harry and Hermione struggle to break it down.

 

Harry and Hermione shot Ron flat looks.  “How observant of you, Ron,” Hermione said bitingly.  “Any brilliant ideas of your own, or are you going to stand there and tell us what we already know?”

 

She watched as Ron walked up to the barrier and squinted at it before taking a deep breath and releasing some hot air from his mouth, which caused the barrier to fog up slightly.  “It’s ice,” he whispered, realization dawning on him.  “Oi, you two, it’s ice!  We’ve just got to melt it!”

 

“Ice?” Harry looked as if he were about to laugh.  “You’re going to have to do better than this, Tom!  Incendio!”  Fire erupted from his wand and slowly began to melt the thick ice wall surrounding the pyramid. 

 

Ron cast the same charm, quickening the process.  When they were nearly finished, a yell from Hermione halted them. 

 

“Stop, look!”  She noticed that the platform of snow surrounding them was quickly melting.  If they hadn’t been paying attention, their fires would have trapped them at the top, making it nearly impossible to get back down safely.  Luckily, they seemed to have broken down the barrier just enough to reach the golden pyramid. 

 

Harry, Ron and Hermione cautiously trudged through the snow and walked up to the pyramid, looking around it to see if they could find any clues as to how to get inside. 

 

“Seems solid,” Harry said, pressing his gloved hand against it.  “Hold on.”

 

Hermione noticed a faint glow where he had touched the wall, and he removed his glove, pressing his bare hand against the pyramid.  Suddenly, a blurry form of script appeared beside his hand. 

 

Before she could decipher what it was, Harry yelled and pulled his hand away.  “Ouch, bloody hell!”  He looked down to his palm, where blisters were starting to form.  “There was some sort of message fading into focus, but the damn thing burned me.”

 

“I saw, are you all right?  Could you read what it said?  It was quite blurry.” Hermione ran over to Harry’s side. 

 

“No, it was too hot.  I wouldn’t be able to read it anyway, lost my glasses on the way up here.  But it didn’t work with my glove on.”  He sighed.  “Now I see how Dumbledore nearly lost his hand.  Just brilliant.”  He looked to his hand.  “Well, at least it’s already almost numb from the cold.  You ready?”  He held his hand up, ready to press it against the wall again.

 

“Harry, we’ll find another way,” Hermione said nervously.  “Oh, I suppose I could try a charm to heal it after.  Just hold on until I can read it.”

 

Ron pushed Harry aside, tearing off his glove without second thought.  “You need both hands to duel You-Know-Who, Harry.”  He pressed his palm to the side of the pyramid before Harry could protest, gritting his teeth to try not to think about the pain that instantly shot through his hand.

 

Hermione frantically read as the message slowly came into focus. 

 

To gain passage into the golden temple,

To discover which treasure awaits,

Complete and ingest a potion, but beware--

One wrong ingredient will result in unfortunate fate.

 

Add three different samples of wizard blood,

For each have unique magical features,

Then insert two elements of magical animals,

Be certain they’re of different creatures.

 

Add a sacrifice of Mudblood flesh and bone,

As well as seven half-blood tears,

Stir twenty times and serve all to the Purest,

He alone shall enter and face his greatest fears.

 

Should the pure-blood prove himself worthy,

And valiantly demonstrate his power,

He shall be permitted to return with my treasure,

But only if this task is completed within the hour.

 

Hermione quickly committed that to memory to the best of her ability and pulled Ron’s hand off of the temple. 

 

Ron fell to his knees and shoved his severely burned hand into the snow.  “I’m okay, I’m fine—just do whatever it said!”

 

Harry watched as a steaming cauldron magically materialized in front of him.  “We’ve got to brew a potion?  Here?

 

Hermione noticed that the hourglass shining at the top of the pyramid flipped and started pouring shimmering snow into its bottom half.  “An hour!  We’ve got to get started.  Ron, are you all right?”


”Fine,” Ron managed, keeping his hand in the snow.  “What’s first, Hermione?”

 

“Three different samples of wizard blood—that must mean pure, half, and Muggleborn blood.”  She pointed her wand at the palm of her own hand and muttered a mild hex, just enough to draw blood as she did the same to Ron and Harry’s hands.  They placed their palms over the cauldron until each had a few drops of their own blood added to the potion.

 

“What next?” Ron asked before pressing his other hand into the snow, trying to stop the bleeding. 

 

“Two elements of magical creatures…”

 

“Where the hell are we going to find magical creatures up here?” Harry asked, frustrated.  “I would’ve brought some Blast-Ended Skrewts and a Hippogriff along for the journey if I’d known we’d need them.”  The potion turned a deep red color.  “We’ll come back to that.  What else do we need, Hermione?” He looked over her, apparently noticing that her face had turned ghostly pale.  “Hermione?  What’s wrong?”

 

“A sacrifice of Mudblood flesh and bone,” she said shakily, gulping as she studied her own hand.  “Harry, you’ll need to hex me.  A concentrated ‘Diffindo’ right at my pinky finger.  Could you do that?” She held out her non-dominant hand over the cauldron.

 

“You’re barking!”  Ron yelled before Harry could reply.  “Nobody is cutting off any body parts,” he declared. 

 

“There’s no other way, Ron.  Mudblood flesh and bone.  I’m the only one who qualifies up here.”  She set her wand down on the ground and looked to Harry with determination.  “Just do it quickly, Harry.  Before I lose my nerve.”

 

Terrified but determined, she felt Ron take her free hand, and she squeezed it as hard as she could.

 

Harry hesitated.  “But...”

 

“Harry, do it!”  She tried to keep her hand from shaking so he wouldn’t take off any more than he had to.

 

Diffindo!” he yelled with a swish and flick, and Hermione’s severed pinky fell with a splash into the bubbling cauldron, dissolving almost instantly. 

 

She turned into Ron, muffling a cry against his cloak.  She felt him scramble to untie his scarf from around his neck and wrap it tightly around her left hand to slow the bleeding.  With a deep breath, she looked at her bandaged hand.  “That—wasn’t s-so bad,” she said weakly.

 

Harry was frowning at her.  “Hermione, I’m so sorry--”

 

“Now’s not a time for guilt, Harry.  Seven half-blood tears.”

 

Harry rubbed at his eyes to work up the tears and let them drip into the potion, while Ron comforted Hermione.  “Not bloody fair that you had to chop off a finger and Harry just has to cry.  Do I have to do anything like that?”

 

“No,” Hermione rasped.  “This represents Voldemort’s disdain for certain bloodlines.  He probably thinks that only pure-bloods are worthy enough to touch his Horcrux, which is why you’ve got to drink it when it’s finished.”

 

“Me?” Ron said, his eyes going wide.  “You mean I’ve got to go in there alone?  We don’t even know what’s in there!”

 

Harry rubbed at his eyes, drying them with his sleeve.  “Seven tears.  They’re in there.  Now where are we going to find two parts of magical creatures up here?”

 

“I don’t know,” Hermione said with a sniffle, trying to ignore the pain shooting up her arm.  She looked over at her discarded wand that she had set down in the snow before she lost her finger.  “Oh, that’s it!  It’s the only way.  We’ve got to break our wands.”

 

“Are you mental?” Ron clutched his wand tighter.  “They’re all we have to fight with!”

 

“Without this potion, we don’t stand a chance of getting inside the pyramid.  I have dragon heartstring in my wand.  Harry?”

 

“Phoenix feather,” he muttered disappointedly, not looking forward to cracking his own wand.

 

“I’ve got a unicorn hair,” Ron added. 

 

“But we only need two.  Harry, if Ron’s the only one who can go into the pyramid, it makes sense for the two of us to give up our wands.”

 

Harry nodded in agreement, laying his wand on the snowy ground beside Hermione’s.  “Go ahead, Ron.  ‘Fractus’ should do it.”

 

“But you two need wands!”

 

“We’ll buy new ones as soon as we get back.” Hermione looked up at the hourglass.  “We’ve only got a half hour left!”

 

Ron pointed his wand at the other two wands and said very clearly, “Fractus!” 

 

Harry’s and Hermione’s wands instantly snapped in half; Harry collected the freed Phoenix feather and Dragon heartstring and tossed them into the cauldron.

 

“Stir it twenty times,” Hermione instructed, leaning heavily against Harry.

 

Ron did as he was told, and winced when he looked down into the cauldron.  “It’s dark green and bubbling.  Is it s’posed to be dark green and bubbling?”

 

Hermione shrugged.  “Didn’t specify.  We put in all of the ingredients, so I expect it’s correct.”

 

Harry sighed.  “I don’t reckon Voldemort would have his potions turn out pink.  I’d say it’s right.  You’ve got to drink it all.”

 

Ron took the small cauldron, holding it up to his lips.  “Well, cheers,” he muttered before downing the potion.  He set the empty cauldron down and looked over at Harry and Hermione.  “I don’t feel any different.” 

 

Harry helped Hermione to her feet and they watched as Ron slowly started to glow.

 

Ron walked over to touch the pyramid again and his hand went right through it.  He pulled it back instantly. “Whoa!” he said with an impressed and nervous laugh.  He held his wand tightly and swallowed the anxious lump in his throat, looking back as Hermione ran over and hugged him.

 

“Promise me you won’t do anything stupid,” she muttered against his cloak. 

 

Harry grabbed his arm.  “Listen, mate.  Don’t be a martyr.  If there’s too much to handle in there, just get out.”

 

Ron nodded at Harry and looked down at Hermione.  “Oi, I’ll be fine.”  He gave her a squeeze and looked down to her with a cheeky grin.  “You conquered your fear of heights.  I reckon you’ll have no more valid excuses the next time I try to get you up on a broomstick.”

 

Hermione laughed nervously, clutching to him tighter.  “The riddle said you’ll have to face your greatest fear.  I… I’d watch out for spiders if I were you.”

 

Arania Exumai,” Harry reminded him of the incantation from fighting off the spiders in their second year at Hogwarts.

 

Ron nodded, looking up at the hourglass.  “S’pose I’d better go.”  He looked over to Harry.  “Get her out of here if I’m not back in time.  Don’t worry about me.” 

 

Harry nodded, but Hermione knew that he would never leave without Ron.  “Good luck, mate.”

 

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

 

Ron took a deep breath and stepped through the wall of the pyramid.  The room wasn’t pitch dark, but it wasn’t very light, either.  “Lumos,” he muttered, the tip of his wand glowing brightly as he scanned the room.  The ceiling was covered with sharp icicles, which were dripping on him from above.  He walked forward to see a large tower of jagged rocks which almost spanned the entire width of the pyramid.  On top of the rock formation sat what could only be Helga Hufflepuff’s cup.  He took a few strides to the base of the rocks when he heard footsteps behind him.  He whirled around to see Hermione’s shadowy figure running toward him.

 

“Ron!” she said excitedly.  “You found the cup!”

 

“Hermione?” he said curiously.  “I thought you said I was the only one who could come into the pyramid.”  He walked back over to her. 

 

Hermione shrugged, smiling up at him.  “I figured out another way in.”  She stepped up to him and batted her eyelashes a bit, sighing contently as she reached up to brush her hand gently against his chest.  “I just wanted to thank you for bandaging my hand.  I would’ve bled to death if you hadn’t.”  She took a deep, overdramatic breath.

 

Ron looked down at her hands, noticing that his scarf was gone, and all ten of Hermione’s fingers appeared to be intact.  “But how did you heal it so quickly?”

 

He watched as she giggled again… an odd sound that he wasn’t quite used to.  “Oh, you’re silly, Ron.  It was a simple Healing Charm,” she said with a grin.  “I also wanted to... to tell you something…”  She leaned up on her tiptoes, her lips lingering mere inches from his.  “But you have to guess what it is,” she whispered teasingly.

 

Ron’s breath caught and he swallowed harshly.  “Hermione,” he said softly, shutting his eyes as he broke out into a rather goofy smile.  “I thought you wanted to wait to talk about… well, us, after we get this Horcrux,” he stammered.  “But…do you mean that you might… you might… really fancy me, too?”  His voice cracked a bit out of nerves, and he cleared his throat. 

 

Hermione’s sweet giggle turned icy, and she pushed at his chest, clutching at her stomach, bursting into hysterical laughter.  “Fancy you!  Are you mad?  Why would someone as brilliant as me fancy a pathetic excuse for a wizard like you?”  

 

Ron’s jaw dropped, his cheeks flushing to a deeper shade of crimson than his hair.  “I… I just thought…”

 

“You thought I would fall in love with you, didn’t you?  Oh, that’s priceless!”  She cackled.  “You think I could love someone who barely scraped a handful of O.W.L.s, a pitiful Quidditch player, someone who’s afraid of spiders?”  She gestured behind him.

 

“But…” Ron felt sick to his stomach at her harsh words.  He looked behind him to see two large spiders, both slightly bigger than Aragog, crawling toward him.  He looked back to Hermione, feeling too defeated to even fight them. “Hermione, you—you mean that?”  Tears stung Ron’s eyes, but he didn’t let them fall.  Instead, he turned his back on her, quickly stepping to the side as one of the spiders shot venom at him.  He pointed his wand at it.  “Arania Exumai!” he yelled angrily, managing to kill the one spider.  He dove behind the nearest rock to avoid the other spider’s venomous wrath. 

 

Hermione laughed.  “Oh, poor Ron.  Hiding from the spider?  That’s terribly cliché.”

 

Ron glared bitterly over at Hermione and hexed the second spider with the same spell, causing it to fall dead as well. 

 

“My, my.  Looks like I underestimated you.” Hermione crossed her arms over her chest, her eyes flashing a dark color; they almost looked black.

 

“But… wait a minute!  There’s no way you could’ve healed your hand, I cracked your wand!”  Ron’s eyes widened as realization hit him.  “You’re not Hermione!” He pointed his wand at her.  And then he remembered that the real Hermione had told him he was about to face his greatest fear.  “Riddikulus!

 

The imposter laughed and held up her hand, deflecting the hex to the ceiling, which caused massive icicles to fall to the ground.  One of them stabbed Ron directly in the thigh and caused him to wince in pain as he stumbled to his knees. “Weasleys certainly aren’t the brightest, are they?  I’m not a Boggart, Ron.  Guess again.”  She snickered wickedly and watched as Ron gritted his teeth and pulled the sharp icicle from his leg as he shakily got to his feet again.

 

He clutched his wand and held it at her, waiting for her to reveal herself.  “Show yourself, you coward,” he said, his voice trembling a bit.  He was running out of time.  The icicles were melting at a faster rate, and Ron knew that meant that the pyramid was going to collapse shortly.  The melting ice pelted down on him, the water drops thicker than rain.  It was then that he noticed her robes, which were very similar to the robes the Death Eaters had worn when he’d battled them in the Department of Mysteries.

 

The fake Hermione laughed again.  Suddenly, her body changed into a woman of a taller stature, her hair lengthening and darkening to a raven-black color. 

 

“You’re... you’re Bellatrix Lestrange!”  Ron’s jaw dropped and he glared at the woman.  “What the hell are you doing here?”

 

She smirked.  “You should’ve told your flawless hero to brush up on his Occlumency.  The Dark Lord knows you’re trying to meddle with his plans.  Do you honestly think that stupid potion was designed as an actual means of protection of this relic?  He’s seen Harry Potter’s dreams, you see.  He knew that Harry Potter and his Mudblood and Muggle-lover friends would attempt to steal from him.  I was sent here as a last line of defense, you see.  He had a feeling your brainy want-to-be-girlfriend would figure out that potion and you’d make it inside.”

 

“It was all a trap,” Ron said dejectedly, his knuckles whitening from the death grip he had on his wand.

 

“A trap set perfectly with the intention of destroying you, Weasley.”  Bellatrix pulled her own wand, her long, sharp-nailed fingers wrapping tightly around it as she pointed it at Ron.  “In just a few short minutes, this entire mountain will avalanche.  The Chosen One and the little Mudblood will meet their demise.  The potion worked perfectly, Ron.  Without wands, they won’t be able to help themselves.  How truly tragic,” she said sarcastically, a wicked grin growing on her face.  “And as for you, a disgrace to the pure-blood community–you’ll die just as my dear cousin did.”

 

“You killed Sirius,” Ron said angrily.  “That doesn’t mean you’re going to have an easy time killing me!”

 

Bellatrix laughed bitterly.  “Oh, Ron.  Sirius’s false confidence is what got him killed.  It seems you two have that in common.  Perhaps if you stay still it’ll be over quickly.”  She pointed her wand directly at Ron’s chest and shouted, “Avada Kedavra!

 

Ron dove back behind the rock, just barely avoiding the Killing Curse.  Pushing his now sopping wet hair out of his eyes, he jumped back out, pointing his wand at Bellatrix.  “Stupefy!

 

Bellatrix stepped aside to avoid his hex, shouting “Crucio!

 

Protego!” Ron yelled, the quick Shield Charm deflecting her Unforgivable.  Ron felt the ground shaking beneath his feet.  He was running out of time. 

 

Avada--”

 

He pointed his wand at Bellatrix again, and before she could finish her spell, he thought ‘Stupefy!’  The non-verbal spell hit her square in the chest.  She was thrown across the room and seemed to hit her head on a rock.  Ron made a move toward the rock formation, but his leg was injured and it buckled beneath him.  He pointed his wand upward. “Accio Cup!”  The Horcrux flew at him and he caught it.  Icicles were falling freely from the ceiling now; he didn’t think he would have enough time to make it back out.  Crawling toward the back of the pyramid, he could feel the potion beginning to wear off.  He’d be trapped.  He managed to crawl on his stomach halfway out of the pyramid.  He could see Harry and Hermione huddled together, panic-stricken. 

 

“Ron!”  Hermione yelled, shuddering so badly from the cold and her blood loss she only clung to Harry tighter.  “Hurry!  The hourglass is empty!”

 

His wand in one hand, Helga’s cup in the other, he was almost outside when he felt someone grab at his ankle, still in the pyramid. 

 

“Oh no you don’t, Weasley!”  Bellatrix must have awoken; she tried to pull him back inside as Ron fought to escape her grip.

 

The mountain shook harder; they’d never make it back.  Ron pointed his wand at the cup and muttered “Portus!” He watched the cup glow blue briefly as it shook in his hand and then returned to its normal color.  His spell had worked.   He shouted at Harry and Hermione, who were trying to crawl over to help him in the deep snow.  “Harry, catch!”  He threw the Horcrux-turned-Portkey to Harry, who caught it instinctively.

 

Hermione felt the familiar tug behind her navel and screamed at the top of her lungs.  “Wait, Harry—we can’t leave him! RON!”

 

Before they knew what was happening, Harry and Hermione were transported off of the mountaintop.

 

Hermione felt her ankle snap as she landed with a thud at the bottom of the mountain, the sudden shock of sharp pain making her fall forward onto her stomach.  “Ron,” she croaked, lifting her head and squinting at the white snowy trees in front of her.  “Harry,” she managed to cry out, before slipping into unconsciousness.

 

 

A familiar voice caused her to stir.  This time, she opened her eyes to half-mast.  It took a minute for faces to come into focus. 

 

“Oh, thank goodness.”  Professor McGonagall shooed onlookers out of the room.  “Miss Granger, you’ve been transferred from Grokteg’s Hospital to St. Mungo’s.  Can you hear me?”

 

Hermione stared blankly up at her Transfiguration instructor, her breathing shallow.  She had so many questions.  She felt like she’d been run over by a hippogriff.  “Harry?  Ron?” she managed in a weak voice. 

 

“Mr. Potter is recovering in the room across the hall.  When he wakes we’ll wheel you over to see him if you’d like.”  McGonagall’s eyes lowered and she sighed.  “We haven’t found Mr. Weasley yet, Miss Granger.  We’ve had search parties out since Wednesday.”

 

The chief Mediwizard cut in.  “There’s no possible way that a teenage boy can survive in the Balkan Mountains in Bulgaria overnight—the temperatures are far too cold for humans to survive.”

 

Hermione wasn’t sure she wanted to know what day it was.  Tears instantly stung her eyes.  “He made a Portkey out of the Horcrux,” she muttered faintly.  “He was on the top of the mountain, in the pyramid.”

 

“Horcrux?  Pyramid?  The mountain avalanched four days ago, Miss Granger.  Just after you and Mr. Potter were found.”

 

“Avalanched?” Hermione blinked up at her professor, her mind reeling.  “You’re lying.  You’re... you’re a liar!”  Tears fell freely down her cheeks, and she tried to sit up, grimacing as she clutched at her side.  “I’ve got to go—I have to go look for him,” she said quickly, determined.

 

The Mediwizard placed a calming hand on her shoulder.  “Please, Miss Granger.  You’re not out of the woods yet.  We’ve got to make sure your deep cuts, ankle, and re-grown finger heal correctly.”

 

“I don’t bloody care about my injuries, I’ve got to find Ron!”  She shoved at the doctor’s chest, breaking down into hysterics.

 

“Miss Granger—Hermione - calm down!”  The Mediwizard became alarmed when her fighting only became stronger.  “Security!”

 

Hermione flailed her arms wildly, using her un-bandaged hand to punch at the doctor’s chest, her raging desperation overpowering her weakness.

 

Three white-coated Mediwizards barged into the room, all of them working to pin down her arms and legs as she screamed at the top of her lungs.  “Ron!  Ron, where are you? They’re lying to me, I know it—RON!  Ron, stop fooling around, this isn’t a game!  Get out here this instant!”

 

The chief pointed his wand at Hermione and hit her with a Tranquilizer Charm.  She instantly fell limp against the bed, her eyes wide open, with tears still spilling down her cheeks. 

 

“This sedative will wear off in a few hours.  I’m going to go check on the boy.”  With that, the Mediwizard walked across the hall to Harry’s room.

 

Professor McGonagall reached over and dried Hermione’s cheeks with a handkerchief.  “Mr. Weasley knew, Miss Granger,” she whispered to her most talented and dedicated student.  “He knew.”  She kept blotting away Hermione’s tears, which continued to fall freely, before she was startled by the Mediwizard barging back into Hermione’s room, looking extremely alarmed. 

“It’s Harry Potter, Minerva.  He’s vanished.”

 

 

 

 

//
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