I start hearing the whispers again. They're getting more and more distinguishable the closer we get to the crash site, but these are different. There's no coppery taste that the visions gave, and I could catch actual conversations, a huge contrast to the noises the visions always make. It usually sounds like they're performing some kind of ritual, but these are actual conversations, and they don't sound fun. They sound pained to say the very least. There are three of them, three Brits that sound to be about my age. I look up at Tarver and realize with a jolt that he's hearing them too. He has his Gleidel in his hand and his jaw is tight. He puts his index finger to his lips. I nod, then listen in horror as he starts to call out to these people.
"Who's there? I'm armed, but I'm willing to play nicely if you are," Tarver calls out as we continue to walk toward the noise. I nudge him roughly.
"Why would you do that?" I hiss. He silences me again with a wave of his hand. As we get closer to the whispering, I start to hear buzzing in my ears that block out the sound. I look at Tarver and from the look on his face I know that he feels it too. We exchange bewildered looks before he starts fiddling with his gun's trigger. He calls out again.
"Just come out, we're not going to hurt you! We're willing to help you if you're willing to help us!" There was a silence between the two of us as the buzzing started to gradually fade. I hear the three voices arguing about who's going to come out, until finally the female volunteers to do it.
I glance at Tarver, who tightens his grip on the Gleidel as we hear footsteps coming from where the noise was. I watch as the girl steps out from something that doesn't exist. Her brown hair is pulled back into a loose ponytail on the crown of her head and her brown eyes have dark circles underneath them. But she stands straight, her shoulders back, some kind of stick in her hand. It could be anything from what we've seen on this planet. She looks to be about Tarver's age. There's no taste of copper in my mouth so I know she's real, and not just a vision or hallucination.
"Identify yourselves," she says, her voice shaking but determined. I hear Tarver pull something out of his pocket and realize that it's his Major badge.
"Major Tarver Merendsen. This is Miss Lilac LaRoux. Now, I have to turn the command to you," he says fiercely, his voice steady but I notice that his feet are not.
"Penelope Clearwater. Half-Blood," the girl says hesitantly but confidently.
"Sorry?" I say as politely as I possibly can. Why should we care how much blood she has?
"What don't you understand?" She says in a fierce, kind of rude tone. "My name is Penelope Clearwater and my blood status is Half-Blood. What is your business here?"
"Our ship crashed. We landed on this planet. We thought it was uncivilized, but it doesn't seem like it anymore," I admit, figuring it's probably easier to just tell the truth rather than make something up on the spot. What if she reads minds?
"Your ship crashed?" Penelope repeats, slightly sympathetic, slightly disbelieving. "Like... a boat?"
"Space ship," Tarver corrects. He moves closer to Penelope. "Can you explain what Half-Blood means?" I watch Penelope look down and Tarver loosen his grip on the Gleidel.
"So you're not looking for me?" Penelope asks suspiciously, her voice relaxing.
"Penelope, we don't even know where the hell we are. We've just been looking for any form of help to get back home." I watch Penelope nod.
"Come with me," she says after a long silence. "Do you mind if I disillusion you two?"
"What?" Tarver and I say simultaneously.
"Make you invisible. It doesn't hurt, but you will feel heavy for a second. Trust me, it's only going to protect you," Penelope explains kindly. I walk forward, offering to go first. She taps me hard on the head with her stick and it feels as though something cold and wet is dripping down my neck. Tarver stares in disbelief before turning around and allowing Penelope to do the same to him. We follow Penelope into a small tent that is now visible to us.
There are two guys in the tent already, both sitting on the bottom bunk of a bed and listening to a radio.
"Harry, Ron, meet Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen," Penelope says to the guys. One of them is tall and gangly with long, unruly jet black hair and glasses and the other is tall with a long nose and long, wavy ginger hair. "They need help, and so do we—don't you dare look at me like that, Ronald. They're lost, and they don't seem to think this planet is very safe, and we can't Apparate off of it, I've tried. We're all screwed, and I think they can help," Penelope's voice is fierce and edgy. I can't help but admire it.
"That doesn't change the fact that they're Muggles and this is completely going against the Statue of Secrecy!" The ginger pipes up angrily. I glance up at Tarver who I can now see, and he looks just as bewildered as I feel.
"To hell with the Statue of Secrecy! The Ministry has already been taken over by Death Eaters and we're the most wanted people in the Wizarding World. Probably even more so than Sirius! Everybody in this tent needs to work together to get off this planet. I don't care if it plunges is straight back into the war and we all get murdered by Voldemort, it's better than our current situation. My name is Hermione by the way, not Penelope. She's my coverup. I'll explain everything later, but for now you only need to know one thing," Hermione says, choosing her words carefully.
"And what's that?" Tarver asks suspiciously. I look up at him, throat too tight to speak.
"We're on the run."