Harry took out his Chocolate Frog cards and brought Dumbledore's card to the top. He touched his D.A. ring to the scrollwork surrounding Dumbledore's portrait. Dumbledore appeared immediately and looked inquiringly at Harry. "Albus, could you please contact Hermione, Fred, and Neville and tell them that Myrtle has gone inside the Blue Lyon Mill and I may have some word in a few moments."

"My pleasure," said Dumbledore, and he was gone.

Harry used the time to more fully examine his surroundings. He could see faint traces of what looked like flour on the ground near one of the side doors of the building. The dusty trace seemed to get fainter and finally disappeared near the cemetery leading towards Spinner's End. Something about the dusting of flour played on the edge of a memory but Harry couldn't quite bring it clearly to mind. Just beyond the "flour door" as he had begun to consider it, was a series of high narrow windows. Most were missing their glazing, due no doubt, to the marksmanship of Piers-esque gangs. Harry could see just the barest glimmer of something trailing out of the windows on the evening breeze. With a start, he recognized the scattering sparkle of drifting magic. There was something magic happening in that room. Harry was torn by the desire to leave the spot and go investigate. "That's what Voldemort would expect me to do but I am going to wait for Myrtle. She can tell me what's going on inside much more effectively than me just barging in and bulling my way through," thought Harry.

Myrtle returned quite quickly. She was glowing with anticipation. "Oh Harry, your two friend are in there. So are about twenty others. Most of them are disillusioned. They seem to be waiting for something."

"Yeah, they're probably waiting for me to come bumbling into the factory," said Harry with a little more venom than he had intended. He composed himself and addressed the ghost, "Thanks, Myrtle, that helps a lot. Can you tell me where they are, and if you saw any obvious traps?"

"They are in a huge room that is entered either by that side door or by a second door inside the building that is quite well hidden," said Myrtle motioning to the door from which Harry had noticed the trail of flour. "The inside of the building isn't what I expected. It looks more like Hogwarts castle than a factory. The people are scattered around the room. They think they are so clever by being disillusioned, but that doesn't fool a ghost. One of your friends is in the centre of the room. He's that tactless boy who used to come with you to visit me in my bathroom. Your other friend is straight across from the door at the far side of the room. Both of them look pretty beat up. Neither one was moving or making any sounds."

"Are they dead?" asked Harry with dread filling him at the possible answer.

"No, at least, not yet. You probably should hurry though, neither of them look well. As for traps, I didn't see any, but aren't twenty-odd people a big enough challenge?" asked Myrtle.

"Yes, I suppose that's enough to be getting on with," said Harry. He then took out his Chocolate Frog cards and pulled Dumbledore's card from the deck. Harry applied his D.A. ring and Dumbledore appeared almost immediately. "Albus," Harry began, "if you could alert the other D.A. members here, Myrtle did find Ginny and Ron in the Blue Lyon flour mill. If the D.A. teams could take up positions around the mill and prepare for a hasty retreat, I would greatly appreciate it. Myrtle and I will be going in the front entrance very shortly."

"Easily done," said Dumbledore and he immediately disappeared from the card.

Harry concentrated on the dissociate senses he had attached to the invisibility cloaks. He could see that Fred and Verity, and well as George and Hermione, were in position. Neville, Luna, and Dobby were making their way carefully toward the back of the old mill and would be in position shortly. He compartmentalized the dissociate senses so they didn't distract his attention. "This is probably insane," thought Harry, "but it's likely what they expect from a teenage wizard." With that thought in mind, he ended the disillusionment charm and motioned for Myrtle to come closer. When the ghost was nearby, Harry whispered, "Myrtle, I need you to glide as my lookout. Stay in the walls and if I get into trouble beyond what I can handle, I'll shout your name. That's your cue to get out with one of the D.A. teams. They will get help at the Ministry and come back here. Do you understand? If I get into trouble, you are to get out and go for help. Don't waste your time trying to rescue me. Get back to the D.A. members, they will know how to proceed."

Myrtle looked put upon but nodded her head.

With a returned nod to Myrtle, Harry hurried headlong in the front door of the abandoned mill. Myrtle, he noticed, zoomed immediately into a wall and out of sight. He turned his glasses for the attenuated magic traces. Immediately he could see that much magic had been performed here and then had been carefully concealed. Harry artfully dodged the magic, all the while making his machinations seem like he was quickly examining items or merely wandering.

Myrtle had been correct, the interior of the factory bore no resemblance to what Harry had expected. It had the appearance of an ancient stone castle. As he looked around, Harry was startled to see that the passageway he had entered was fashioned exactly like the Hogwarts' seventh floor corridor that hid the Room of Requirement. The details were uncanny, right down to the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy and the trolls. Harry examined the blank stretch of wall and wondered. Making the required three turns Harry concentrated, "I need to find the room where Ginny and Ron are held captive." At the end of his third circuit a polished door appeared in the previously blank wall. Not knowing what to expect, he grasped the snake's-head doorknob. "That's different," thought Harry, and stepped cautiously over the threshold.

Laughter echoed from multiple locations around the room. Harry surveyed the room, all the while projecting a mind-front of a frightened teenager who couldn't see his foes and was sure he was in way over his head. Through his glasses, he could see the location of twelve people either under invisibility cloaks or disillusionment charms. He found Ginny and Ron in the locations Myrtle had explained. They did look beat-up. "I've got to hurry this along... subtle, small, insignificant," thought Harry. He oriented himself to where the exterior door was hidden behind an ornate green tapestry bearing Salazar Slytherin's crest. Below the fronted image in his mind, Harry plotted the best way to gather both Ginny and Ron and escape; he gripped his wand..."subtle." He noted wider spacings between invisible foes, "small," weaknesses he could exploit when the battle came... "insignificant," thought Harry.

"Why, Harry, don't be nervous. You've only just arrived and I have so longed for some time with you. It seems that our little reunions never last long enough for us to really get to know each other!" Voldemort's words were punctuated by a smile in his voice and more laughter from around the room.

"Keep him talking...'subtle.' Map out options... 'small.' Get a firm understanding of who and what I am facing... 'insignificant'," thought Harry.

Harry knew that Voldemort would expect him to focus on Ron and Ginny as his primary concern, and truly they were. Harry pushed part of the fear from his mind front and replaced it with a commitment to get Ron and Ginny safely away. Every fibre of Harry's being wanted to run to Ginny, to help Ron, but a pounding in his head said, "Do not approach them!"

"Admirable commitment Harry," said a still unseen Voldemort. "You are willing to push past your fear to help your friends. I commend your determination."

Harry could hear the lie in Voldemort's voice. Voldemort did not admire one willing to fight for friends. Harry could hear the truth behind the words, "you are foolish to put your life in jeopardy for others. Decent people are so easy to manipulate."

Harry let his feelings of friendship fill the front of his mind at Voldemort's words. He let a feeling of the possibility of success creep into the edge of his mind. He could feel a flitting in his mind, a pressure to determine true purpose. He strengthened the separation between his mind-front and his real thoughts, and once again envisioned himself getting away with Ron and Ginny.

"Harry you are motivated, but you are outnumbered, and you are woefully lacking in ability to face me. Severus has told me that you are a mediocre student who has survived on luck and more talented friends. I offer you an option. You have access to something I want. I could take it any time I desire, but it would be so much more satisfying to me to use you as the tool to put an end to Dumbledore forever."

Harry realized that Voldemort was lying, "He can't get what he wants me to retrieve!" He let hate, rage, and resentment flood his mind-front at the mention of Snape's name to cover his realization. It was easy to allow the feeling to build until it almost eclipsed his desire to rescue Ron and Ginny.

"I think that I may even be able to enhance the offer that I am considering making you," said Voldemort in an amused voice. "Oh yes, Harry, I am going to make you an offer. It is very simple, your life for the life of one of your friends. A chance to confront and fight the man for which you carry such a deep hatred. For these opportunities all I require is that you bring me a very specific item from Hogwarts."

Harry could tell there was some truth in Voldemort's words. Voldemort WAS going to allow him to confront Snape. He WAS going to require something from Hogwarts. He DID plan on ending Harry's life. Harry let fear once again flood his mind. A fear of losing his life. A fear of what Voldemort was going to require of him. A fear of his friends coming to harm.

Voldemort continued, "I believe that you have a very intimate connection with the Fiend of Grirhad. I believe you can retrieve what was lost by my faithful servant Fenrir." At this Voldemort actually laughed. "I further believe that you can accomplish this in one hour. See the confidence I place in your abilities. But in case you need additional motivation, and to assure you that I am serious, I must ask you to choose the friend for whom you will trade your life. Choose carefully, for I will have no use for the other, that life will be forfeit."

Harry blanched. His carefully constructed mind-front almost shattered. He caught the thought and below the surface recalled the words, "the best defense is a good offense." He immediately fronted images of fighting his way out, fighting to the death if necessary. Below the front, his mind was screaming on two levels..."How do I choose between Ron and Ginny? and..."How did Voldemort know about the Fiend of Grirhad?"

Harry increased the feeling of determination to die for both his friends. Subtly he moved his hand toward his wand and allowed the thought of a fatal confrontation drift though his mind. Keeping the thought of a fight firmly in his mind, Harry began to speak, "I have a counter offer. Let one of my friends go now to show your good faith. Release the other when I return with what you want. You will still have me."

"What! You think to dictate terms to me? Yet...I am not wholly unreasonable. I could let one go now, in the end it will not matter," said Voldemort, the smile in his voice increasing with each word.

"We have a deal then," said Harry in statement not question. He had heard the truth in Voldemort's willingness to release a prisoner but was bothered by Voldemort's assertion that it would not matter in the end. "All I need to know is what you require from Hogwarts. I'll leave with one of my friends and come back with what you want. You'll release the remaining friend and I'll give you your desire."

"To have what I want, and the pleasure of knowing you aided me, and to still have you, seems like a reasonable trade for blood-traitors like these," said Voldemort. "Let me show you what I want from Hogwarts forest!"

Harry had the briefest moment to prepare his mind for the intense invasion he knew was coming. As Voldemort assailed Harry's mind with images of Dumbledore's office, of his Porcrux, of the repaired wreckage in the stairway leading to Dumbledore's office, of giant spider webs and cast-off bones, of a black stone crucible; Harry realized below his mind-front that Voldemort's incursion into his mind did not bring the pain it had in the past. Pushing the thought deep, Harry forced pain to flood his mind, unfocused, unrelenting pain. He fell hard to his knees and rolled onto his side screaming in agony created by his own mind effort.

Voldemort laughed. Around the room other laughing voices mingled and echoed their support. "I think I have made plain what I want. It is up to you to get it and get back here in one hour. One minute longer and my hostage will have outlived, shall it be his or her, usefulness. Let me see..."

Harry, still lying on the floor, once again steeled the wall between his real thoughts and his false front. He knew Voldemort was going to search for evidences of which Weasley Harry valued most highly. Setting the biggest bluff of his life, Harry flooded his mind with recollections of dangers faced, the Triwizard task choosing the thing he would sorely miss, joys shared, and friendship sustained by Ron. He let the images build with interspersed thoughts of inconsequential meetings with Ginny and yet an underlying desire to see her come to no harm.

As Harry felt Voldemort sift at his mind, he once again writhed in pain on the floor. "Very well, Harry. You have chosen," said Voldemort. "Pick up the blood-traitor brat girl and go. Do not try my patience or I may rescind my offer. Your time is running Harry, it you value your friend's life; I have a single word of advice. Hurry!"

The laughter at this statement made Harry's skin chill. He struggled to his feet and stumbled to where Ginny lay crumpled, her head against the wall. Still careful to keep his thoughts focused on Ron, he gathered an unconscious Ginny in his arms and made for the door he had entered. As his hand was about to touch the serpent shaped knob, he shielded his motion with Ginny's body and gently touched the knob with his wand. As he passed though the doorway, Harry's final first-person impression of the room was Ron's scream of agony though the closing door.

Harry wanted to disapparate immediately but something told him to be well clear of the building before he made the attempt. "Probably protected by anti-apparition spells just like Hogwarts, and I don't want to use elfin spectra magic while carrying Ginny," thought Harry. He used a quick levitating spell on Ginny to aid in carrying her from the factory. He had no more than exited the factory when Myrtle zoomed to his side. Panting with strain, Harry launched into a set of instructions. "Thanks for the help Myrtle. I'll get what Voldemort wants and come back here. He still has Ron. As soon as I have finished getting my friends all out of this place, you and I will see to the justice you so richly deserve. For now, I would like you to go back to the cemetery and talk to Ogram. Let her know what's happening here and that we may have to beat a retreat through the cemetery. Explain that we mean absolutely no harm to those she is guarding. I'll pick you up in the cemetery when I return."

The plan to exact long awaited justice seemed to excite Myrtle and she zoomed off toward the cemetery.

Harry held Ginny tightly, and in a swirl of robes and a pop he was gone.

Harry and Ginny popped back into substance a few feet from where Fane had been left. "Fane," said Harry without preamble, "I need to get you and Ginny back to the Burrow. When we arrive there, find some help for your injury and keep an eye on Ginny. I am off to get....well, to get something considered lost in the forbidden forest to trade for Ron. Will you do what I ask?"

"Science, no rocked science...it's as the muggles say, not rocked science. Absolutely I could do that," said Fane, his affirmation tinged with pain Harry knew was caused by the severed muscles in Fane's injured leg.

Harry grimaced inwardly at the young wizard's misunderstanding of the muggle phrase, but was comforted by the truth he heard in Fane's words. Helping Fane to his feet, and holding tight to Ginny, Harry turned on the spot and they disapparated with a pop. The three reappeared almost immediately in the front garden of the Weasley's home. Harry looked longingly at Ginny, refocused his attention on saving Ron, then giving Ginny over to Fane's care, Harry turned on the spot and with a pop was gone.

« Chapter 49 - The Blue Lyon   Chapter 51 - Friends Deceived »


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