A/N: 206 reviews! Thank you so much guys! I'm sorry to get this out so late, but, to make up for it, it's an extra long chapter!
"And Bella, because of the situation, Edward Cullen will be rejoining us tomorrow," Dumbledore called out to me.
I froze and turned back to him. Edward? Coming back? "What do you mean he's coming back? You mean you didn't expel him for what he did to Draco?" I screeched.
"Bella, in the war that's coming, we can't be very picky about who fights on our side. You need to be protected at all times, and with one extra vampire it will be a lot easier to do. And he is fine now, completely in control of himself. Believe me, if I did not think so, he would not step one foot in the castle," Dumbledore said calmly. "You should get going. Breakfast will be served soon."
I pushed the door open roughly. How could Dumbledore let Edward come back? He almost killed Draco! Does that mean nothing to Dumbledore? I was fuming. I wanted to hit something. For a brief moment, I wondered whether Ron was around.
I clenched my fists. Cissy, Lucius and McGonagall were talking in hushed tones outside. Cissy took a brief glance at me and stopped mid-sentence.
"Bella, what's wrong honey? Why are you so angry?" she asked, coming over to me.
Oh nothing. Just that Dumbledore decided to let the stupid vampire, who almost killed your son, return to Hogwarts. "I'm not angry. I'm just tired. I didn't sleep much last night. You know that when I get tired I get a little moody," I said, unclenching my fists and flashing Cissy a brief smile. I couldn't tell her or Lucius that Edward was coming back or they'd have Dumbledore's head. As much as I would love that at the moment, I'm sure I'd come to regret it.
Cissy looked doubtful and worry was still evident in her eyes.
"I'm fine, really," I told her. "I've got to go, or I'll miss breakfast, but I'll write to you."
"Alright Bella, but I expect a letter from you on my desk by tonight," she said as she hugged me.
"Sure," I said as I walked away.
"Isabella, wait. I'll escort you," McGonagall said, rushing to catch up with me.
We made a stop at Gryffindor Tower, where we collected all the Gryffindors to take them to breakfast. They weren't taking any chances.
I caught up with Hermione. "Hey."
"Bella! There you are! When I didn't see you anywhere, I was so worried! I thought…" she trailed off, but I already knew what she was going to say. She thought I had been taken too.
"I went to see Dumbledore. Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy were there too," I explained.
"Oh, they… found out about…?"
"Yeah. And do you know what else? Dumbledore decided to let Edward come back to Hogwarts! " I told her, angry again.
"No!" Hermione said, shocked.
"It's true! I can't believe him! And, um, he told me something else. But I can't tell you here. Later, in private."
Hermione nodded. She began to speak but I was too wrapped up in my own thoughts to listen.
I can't believe my mother is a witch! My mother, whom I had wanted to know about my whole life, was a witch. Like me. I had never, not in my wildest dreams, thought that it could be possible. I felt a connection to her that I never had before. And she was in the old Order of the Phoenix.
Charlie never spoke about my mother. The only thing he had told me when I asked was that her name was Renee, they had married young and she'd died soon after I was born in a car crash. I knew nothing other than that. Nobody would talk about her. I never knew her parents—and now I suppose I know why.
We arrived at the Great Hall. The Slytherin and Ravenclaw houses were sitting at their tables. We were still waiting for Hufflepuff.
I sat with Hermione on one side and Alice on the other. Once Hufflepuff were seated, Dumbledore stood up and made a speech, confirming that both Harry and Draco had been taken by Voldemort and that certain security measures would be put in place.
He paused for a moment in his speech as the great doors at the end of the hall opened to reveal two figures. "And today we welcome back Professor Esme Cullen and Edward Cullen who have returned from their week long break!"
There was a half-hearted round of applause and I saw Hermione glance at me with worry etched in her features. Edward's eyes swept the Hall and fell on me. Edward managed to catch my eye and he sent me a crooked smile, one that, two weeks ago, would have dazzled me, turning me into a puddle of goo. But not anymore.
I felt Edward come to a stop behind me. I looked down at my plate, determined to have nothing to do with him that day.
"Bella, I—" he started.
"Not now, Edward!" I hissed, feeling the eyes of both students and teachers on me, hungry for some gossip.
"Not. Now," I said through gritted teeth.
"Don't do this now, Edward," Alice said and I shot her a grateful look.
"Thank you," I mouthed and she shrugged in response.
Edward finally got the message and sat down.
"Dig in!" Dumbledore said, and there was a loud cheer as food appeared on the table.
"Bella," Edward started as I ate.
"No. Not here. It's too public. The Room of Requirement, after breakfast. We'll talk then."
He nodded. His eyes swept the table. "Where's Harry? Finishing another of Snape's essays?" he asked, smiling.
Hermione reached for my hand under the table and I gave it a squeeze. I could feel the tears pricking at my eyes. I looked up, willing for my tears not to fall.
He glanced at Hermione and then back to me. "When did this happen?"
"Yesterday," Alice told him quietly, knowing that he had read Hermione's mind. "Draco's gone too."
A smile flashed across his face briefly at the news of Draco's disappearance, but it was gone before I could blink. I glared at him and clenched my fists. How dare he?
"I'm so sorry Bella," he said. It almost sounded sincere, too. But I knew better.
I only nodded. I knew that if I spoke, my voice would crack and I'd burst into tears. I pushed my plate away; I'd lost my appetite. I blinked back the tears and took a deep breath. "I'm finished. Let's get this over with."
Edward and I stood up, earning the attention of every student and teacher. Dumbledore's eyes caught my own. He looked past me, at Edward, and nodded minutely, such a small movement that I couldn't be sure whether I'd imagined it. We left the Great Hall with all sets of eyes staring.
When we were out of hearing distance, I spoke. "There will be no touching. And if you even try to kiss me, I will hex you. And keep my personal space. Dumbledore trusts you, but I'm not sure if I do."
He nodded. We walked the rest of the way without speaking.
When we entered the Room of Requirement, it was a small room with two couches on opposite walls. We both sat on a couch opposite from each other. It was silent for a moment.
"Bella," he paused for a moment, struggling for the right words. "You know I'm truly sorry, right? About what I did to Draco. I've had years and years of practice at self-control. Decades. Centuries. All it took to unravel that self-control I'd gained over the years was you." He shot me his crooked smile.
"You're lucky that he was okay. Because there are a lot of ways I could 'accidently' set you on fire," I said.
"I never wanted it to happen this way. It was never supposed to happen this way. I never wanted to hurt anyone. I just wanted you to be mine."
"I'm no one's but me. Nobody owns me."
"I know." He paused briefly, looking conflicted. "That's why I want to make it up to you."
"How?" I asked. What could he do to make up for that?
He took a deep breath. "Both Dumbledore and Alice and Hermione and Esme will have my head for this and I'll probably later come to regret it but, I'll help you find and rescue Harry and Draco."
"Really?" I asked, my face lighting up.
"Yes," he said.
And for a moment, everything disappeared. I forgot why I hated him, the rules I'd established. I jumped off the couch and ran to him and flung my arms around him. He looked astonished for a moment before returning the hug. Then I remembered everything and jumped up from his arms, feeling a little guilty.
I was actually going to try and save Draco and Harry. I would, if the mission was successful—and I refused to think of it any other way—, see them again. And they would be safe and not dead and everything would be fine again. I was going to get up and stop my world from crashing down around me. A feeling of happiness bubbled up inside me and before I knew it, my face was stretched in a big smile.
But then I stopped, remembering a critical flaw in our plan. "Do you know where they're being kept?"
"Well… no… but, you know, maybe Alice could… or I could read someone's mind… or…" he trailed off.
"Oh, yes, Edward, because I'm sure that everyone here is thinking about Voldemort's secret hiding place to stash Harry and Draco," I said, my words dripping in sarcasm.
"I'll find out Bella. Trust me."
"But you have to do it soon, or he'll kill them," I said. At the end, my voice wavered and the words come out in a whisper. I was overridden with guilt. It was all my fault they had been taken. I should have stayed the hell away from both of them and Voldemort wouldn't have taken them in the hopes that my best friend and boyfriend would be enough to lure me to him. Perhaps I could give my life in exchange for theirs?
"Bella, don't cry. It's okay," Edward said softly, hesitantly moving toward the couch I was occupying. I hadn't even realised I was crying.
"You don't understand! It's all my fault! Voldemort wants me and he's using them to get to me," I said through tears.
"Why does Voldemort want you, Bella?"
I froze. Dumbledore had told me not to tell anyone but Hermione and Ron. Edward was not included in that list and so there was no way I was telling him the truth. "I-I don't know."
"Then what would make you think this was your fault?" he asked softly, stroking my hair comfortingly with soft fingers before I remembered myself I pull myself away. He saw that and his hands fell down to his sides.
"I- I have a feeling… intuition, if you will. I just know." I took a deep breath. "So how do you plan on us doing this thing?"
"We'll sneak out at night. I'll carry you as I run. Providing that Voldemort is still in England, we should be able to get there before sunrise. I'm counting on someone thinking about we're they're being kept. We'll go there and we'll get them, very, very quickly. We'll get out and head back to Hogwarts." Obviously he had put a lot of thought into his plan. But he was missing something.
"How are you going to take them to Hogwarts? They'll both be weak, very weak. And although I'm sure you could carry our weight, it wouldn't work out. There's three of us. You only have two arms. We won't be comfortable. Although I'm sure Harry's had a lot worse in terms of uncomfortable, Draco certainly hasn't. And they'll both be so weak that the slightest jolt might kill them."
Edward set his lips in a tight line. "We'll have to bring in reinforcements."
"Probably. And Jasper."
"Do you think they'd do it?" I asked. I felt guilty that I'd have to drag them along. They may be vampires but they were still susceptible to the killing curse and Death Eaters have no objections towards using it. They could very well die.
"I'm not sure. I-," He paused for a moment and sighed. "Alice is coming. With Jasper."
A moment later, Alice burst into the room, Jasper trailing behind her. "Okay, first of all, Edward, I know your intentions were pure and yada yada yada, but what were you thinking when you offered this to Bella? Dumbledore would have found them soon enough!"
"Alice, if we don't do this, how soon will Dumbledore find them?" I asked. Alice held up a hand.
"Don't interrupt me, please. Secondly, since you already came up with the plan of yours and told Bella, who won't give up on it, and since I can't see any danger yet, Jazz and I will come with you. But, Edward, if we die, I will kill you!"
Edward opened his mouth to speak, probably to give the rational argument that she couldn't kill him if they were both dead, but I spoke first, cutting him off.
"Alice, if we don't do this, how soon will Dumbledore find them?" I repeated impatiently.
She hesitated before speaking. So it's that bad. "A week and a half from now. And the vision's a little fuzzy, but one of them don't come back."
If my mind hadn't already been made up, it had after Alice spoke. "Alright, let's do this then. Alice, do you know where they are?"
Alice shook her head. "No. I told you, my visions regarding them are fuzzy. They must be blocking me out somehow. I can barely make out faces and voices and I can't for the life—pardon, existence—of me, figure out where they are save that they're in what looks like a dungeon."
"Okay. Well, if anyone finds out anything, we'll organise a meeting in here. Alice, can you see when we find them?"
She looked as if she was thinking really hard about something. "Two days from now. That's when we leave."
I nodded. "Alice, you can leave first. If you come across anyone outside, you'll send a message to Edward, the places where we should avoid, won't you?"
"Of course, Bella. See you soon!" she said brightly before turning and skipping out, Jasper following her silently.
Once they left, I turned to Edward. "Thank you. I really appreciate it. I know you don't like Draco—that might be too weak of a word—but it really means a lot to me that you're helping me."
"You're welcome. Bella, you know I'd do anything for you."
I nodded. We were entering dangerous territory. We stood there awkwardly for a few minutes before Edward spoke.
"Alice said the coast is clear." He held the door open for me as I stepped out and he followed me as we walked to Gryffindor Tower. The corridors were deserted and the only sound we heard were the sounds of our feet hitting the floor as we walked.
Once we stepped through the portrait into the common room, Hermione was at my side, pulling me to the dorm.
"Hermione. Calm down. What's the hurry?"
She didn't respond until we reached the dorm. We settled on my bed, which was closest to the door. "You need to spill it. How did it go? Did you guys fight? Did he hurt you? Did—"
"Hermione! I'll tell you once you stop talking!" I interjected, overwhelmed by her constant talk. I waited a minute before speaking. "It went fine. We didn't fight exactly, at least, not like that. We just talked. He was civil. And so was I. Nor did we kiss, Hermione. Nothing happened. We just talked."
"About?" Hermione prodded.
For a moment, I contemplated on telling Hermione about our plan, our rescue mission. But I decided against it. I knew Hermione. She'd want to come. She'd want to help. And sure, her knowledge of spells was by far superior to my own, but the real world wasn't just a classroom. It was dangerous. She could die. This was my battle to fight and I wasn't going to let anyone fight it for me. I wasn't going to put anyone else in danger. "Our relationship… which is, you know, friendship," I said quickly, before she could come to any hasty conclusions.
She nodded. "Fine." She was quiet for a moment. "Bella, what were you going to tell me before, on the way to the Great Hall?"
It takes a while to jog my memory, to remember what she was referring to. There were so many things swirling around in my head that I couldn't keep track of them all. But when I finally remembered, I paused long enough to organise my thoughts into something coherent, something she could understand and told her what Dumbledore had told me this morning.
She looked at me with surprise in her expression. "Oh Bella." She wrapped an arm around me in a comforting gesture and if it were a trifling matter, it would have worked, everything would have faded away. But not this time. Nothing could make my problems go away.
"So what are you going to do?" She looked at me with thinly veiled expectancy in her face, as if she assumed I already had a plan. That I had already somehow found a way to fix everything. And I supposed she desperately wanted it to be so. She missed Harry too. Maybe she even missed Draco, I didn't know. For someone who, for all of her life, had known the right answer, she was coming up short and she needed someone to know, to make it all right.
"I don't know," I said, watching disappointment settle on her face. "But everything will be alright, Hermione, you'll see. We'll get Harry back and he and I will kill Voldemort. And if… if Harry"—the words caught in my throat and I couldn't say them out loud. I took a breath before continuing—"if Harry can't then I'll kill Voldemort myself. I don't care what the prophecy says. I. Will. Kill. Him," I said, more to reassure myself than comfort Hermione. But every word I said was true. If Voldemort killed Draco or Harry, I would destroy him or die trying.
That night, I settled into bed, praying for a sleep void of nightmares.
Obviously, there was no God listening on my prayers that night, because I woke up in the middle of the night, screaming and drenched in cold sweat, gasping for breath. I shuddered as my eyes closed of their own accord and I relived the nightmare.
Edward, Alice, Jasper and I stood in bushes, the small, sharp branches brushing against me and cutting my skin. The night was cold and I shivered, bringing my hands to my shoulders in a feeble attempt to get warm.
"Let's go," Edward whispered, picking me up in his arms. The world blurred around me as Edward ran at full vampire speed. Less than a minute later, we were standing in a bleak dungeon, a solid, steel door in front of us, the last obstacle blocking us from our purpose here.
Jasper moved forward and punched a hole through the door, big enough for us all to walk through if we bend down a little. The hole let dim light enter the small space behind it. The two figures lying on the ground shot their heads up. One had white blonde hair and grey eyes. Draco. The other had jet black hair and green eyes. Harry. I jumped down from Edward's arms and ran over to them.
Before I could say a word to them, Jasper and Alice were at my side, hoisting Harry and Draco up. Even in the urgency of the situation, I could appreciate the humour of tiny Alice carrying a boy far bigger than her.
"Let's get out of here," Edward said, picking me up as well. Draco's eyes flickered to us but he was too weak to fight.
We run out of the door and out of the dungeon. But suddenly, we lurched to a stop and I fought the urge to bring up any food that remained in my stomach. I looked over my shoulder. Four figures blocked our way, each holding a wand. Edward, in a lightning fast move, set me down behind him, blocking me from harm.
The figure slightly in front was Bellatrix Lestrange, the ends of her mouth curled in a feral snarl, but there wass a twinkle of excitement in her eyes. That she was itching to kill someone was obvious; I could almost see the words formed on her lips, kept back by some small string of restraint. Behind her stood three figures who I couldn't name but recognition rippled through me as my eyes settled onto each of their faces. I faintly remembered seeing their faces in The Daily Prophet in the article about the escaped death eaters.
"We've been waiting for you, Isabella," Bellatrix sneered. "The Dark Lord shall be very pleased. Dolohov! Summon him."
The figure to her right pulled back the arm of his robe, showing the Dark Mark etched eternally on his forearm. He pressed a hand to the mark hesitantly, his fear showing on his face.
Everything was still for the moments after. Nobody moved. I hardly dared to breathe. We all knew what was coming.
I heard chuckling and I squeezed my eyes shut as recognition coursed through me. No. No. No!
"Isabella, what a pleasure to have you here," Voldemort's voice rang loud and clear in the silence of the dungeon.
I pulled myself forcefully from the particularly vivid nightmare, hearing Dumbledore's words echo in my mind: Your foresight was diluted heavily, reduced to dreams which may or may not come true. I had a nagging feeling in my gut that what I'd just had was a vision. That may or may not come true. I sincerely hoped it was the latter.
I tried to get back to sleep but it was no use. Every time I closed my eyes, the vision would replay and I hated having to watch that scene play over and over again.
As I lay awake for the rest of the night, staring up at my ceiling, I harboured doubts about the plan. If my vision came true, we'd all be in Voldemort's clutches. Voldemort was cruel, ruthless. Could I really put the lives of people I cared about, people who had no business in this rescue mission, in Voldemort's hands? Alice. Jasper. Edward. What would become of them? And Draco? Now that Voldemort had exactly what he wanted, would he kill Draco? And the others?
But it wasn't as if I could sit around and do nothing. If I had a chance to save them, no matter how small that chance was, I was going to take it. I would save them or die trying.
But could I let Alice, Jasper and Edward risk their lives to help me?
Could Alice see the danger now too? Would she refuse to help me? Would she refuse to let me go?
At some point during the night, I'd had enough and, remembering my promise to Cissy this morning, I stood up, grabbed a quill and some parchment, and made my way to the common room.
I sat by the light of the fire, its crackling a reassuring sound. It was the sound of home, reminding me of all the times I had sat here with Hermione, Harry and Ron, when there was no prophecy, and the only thing we had to worry about was passing our exams. Now, I'm worried about whether or not I'll actually be alive to sit those exams.
Dear Cissy and Lucius, I began writing in my messy script.
I know I promised this letter last night, but something came up. Rest assured, I'm fine, just taking it hard. How are you? What's going on in the world? The only connection I have with the outside world is The Daily Prophet, but most of the time it's just useless propaganda.
Classes have been suspended for the moment, in light of recent circumstances. I'm not completely sure whether to feel happy or worried—OWL's are coming up soon and I don't feel nearly as prepared as I would have liked.
I miss you guys. I hope you're doing okay.
Lots of love,
I put my quill down. It was short and I know Cissy would be disappointed—it was far from her wish of a three foot long letter—but it was the most I could do. I didn't really have anything to say to them. I couldn't talk about Draco with them, because it would only bring tears from both of us, but, really, it was the only thing in my mind.
I stayed in front of the fireplace for the remainder of the night, my thoughts flying around in a tangled mess in my head. But one thought was dominant, ringing in my mind constantly: If we attempted the rescue mission, would any of us survive?
A/n: Ohmygosh! I finally got this chapter done! You would not believe how hard it was to end it. Finally, I scrapped my original ending and shoved that last paragraph in there.
Again, I'm sorry for the wait, but this chapter was my longest chapter ever with 4, 386 words! It was 10 pages on Microsoft word.
So, what did you think? Love it, hate it? Please review and tell me what you think. And every reviewer gets a teaser for the next chapter (as soon as I start writing it), unless you're an anonymous reviewer.
Hopefully, I'll get the next chapter up sometime next week before school starts.