August 26, 2000
Ron and Hermione's Flat – London, England
It had been a little over a week since the Shadow Man had broken into Ron and Hermione's flat. After finally informing Hermione that he wasn't able to disclose any details pertaining to this investigation, things were much more differently between them.
She didn't handle the situation well because on top of refusing to tell her anything, Ron also told her that he was now to conduct investigation business at night with Harry. They had to come up with a way of maintaining Deacon's file a secret and still needed more clues. Their only option was to patrol the streets at night to try to catch the man imposing as Jack the Ripper in the act. This meant that as Hermione worked throughout the day, Ron would be in their flat sound asleep.
At first she remembered about what her mother had mentioned about him overworking himself and now thought that was an understatement. Ron's behavior was now much more prevalent in the fact that aside from hiding important details from her, they had stopped spending time with one another.
The moment he would come home from work, Hermione would be seen getting ready and at times he wouldn't even acknowledge her. He didn't do this on purpose. He just wasn't used to working graveyard shifts and was overtly exhausted. Harry and Ron had stormed the empty streets of muggle London and all underground stations for any sign of their prime suspect, to no avail. They even set up special charms that detected any traces of people with similar appearances to the murderer. This was a complex form of magic that was still quite new to them. It has helped them bring in Death Eaters in the past and hoped it would once again aide them here.
Hermione worried deeply about what was really going on between her best friends and for the first time in a long time she felt alone. Countless thoughts plagued her mind as to why or how things went the way they were going. Many times during work, her mind would drift and think that this was somehow her fault.
Even her co-worker, William Knight, noticed something bothering Hermione and would at times try to get her to speak. She liked the gesture of having someone to confide in but remembered how Ron felt about him. Even though this was not a matter of jealousy, she didn't want to further distance herself from Ron. After so many "nothing's wrong" and "I'm fine's," William finally stopped asking. Although, he still tried other attempts to get her to become social again, like offering lunch and even dinner, to which Hermione refused.
Ginny was much more accepting of her brother and Harry's behavior, but perhaps that was because she was on vacation from Quidditch and was still able to see Harry. The same couldn't be said for her and Ron. Hermione and Ginny had lunch during the week and the latter simply told her to stop worrying and urged nothing could go wrong with those two. It's not that Hermione didn't have faith in her best friends, it was quite the opposite really. But it was always the three of them that overcame obstacles and went on adventures together. They were always a trio. Now however, due to differing career paths, it was just Harry and Ron.
Hermione knew she wanted to do some good in the world. At the same time, she was just tired of all the fighting, the pain, and the horrifying events they had to endure. That was the real reason she denied Gawain Robards' offer to become an Auror. She didn't want to fight anymore. She wanted to inspire good in other ways, systematic ways that had long term outlooks.
For a brief moment one night, she thought to herself if she had indeed made the right decision. She looked back at what the three of them had accomplished. If she accepted Gawain's offer to become an Auror, she'd be closer to the ones she loved. But she wasn't sure if she would be ready to return to the fighting. Hermione knew for sure that she also wasn't keen on dark wizard hunting—it just wasn't her.
Night after night she would spend them gazing at the night sky wondering how these events unfolded. She tried reading her beloved books or watching anything on the television but it was pointless. No matter what she did, she couldn't stop worrying and even on some nights, spent it crying her eyes out.
Ron especially knew how difficult this was on Hermione and wanted nothing more than to do away with the investigation, but he had a duty. It was torturing him to continue in this selfish behavior and avoid her, but knew if for a single moment she had an opportunity with him, he would break. Mike's words resonated in his mind and after the torture Hermione sustained with Bellatrix Lestrange, he wasn't going to take a chance and risk her well-being. He would just have to make it up to her when the investigation was over.
Today, Ron and Hermione both had the day off again and even with an ongoing investigation, he knew it wouldn't be right of him to leave the flat. After having so many days away from her side, Ron knew he had to be there for her. The day had started as all the others had. He woke up late in the afternoon, almost evening and found her sitting on the kitchen table reading one of her dusty old books.
Ron stood in the doorway leading to the kitchen to admire Hermione. The sight of her looking contently at peace was wonderful to him and guilt suddenly hit his chest like a bullet. How could he not inform her of what was really going on with him? Someone had broken into their home and demanded Ron to accompany him to bring down the mad lunatic running around killing innocent muggles. He remembered the man's glowing aqua eyes and the fear he sparked inside him when told someone would die if any information was let out.
Him and Harry had been cautious about Audrey too, but for the time being nothing had happened to her or anyone else for the matter. Harry was also beginning to become impatient with Ron because no indication of the Shadow Man was shown. All Ron could say was to simply wait as he believed his best friend was starting to have conflicting doubts with his story again.
Ron shook those thoughts away as he walked closer to the table. Hermione flipped a page and continued reading, almost seeming to not notice that Ron was behind her. He coughed to inform her of his presence but she remained seated, still engrossed in her book.
Ron furrowed his brow and went over to the table to sit opposite of her. Hermione continued reading. He looked to her eyes that were scanning the text appearing to be heavily interested in what she was reading. For a moment Ron thought that perhaps this is what he deserved for shunning himself away from her. It looked like she had taken cue and was now returning the favor.
Unsure of what to do he tried sparking a conversation. "Hey…umm what you reading?" he asked.
Hermione flipped another page and continued reading, not taking her eyes off the text. "A book," she replied bluntly.
Ron grinned and shook his head. Hermione would often engage in what he called 'self-indulge mode' usually after having a really bad row. She would ignore him or reply in one worded answers that told him not to bother her if he didn't want to get hexed.
It took every nerve in Hermione's body and mind to continue as she was doing. She wanted to ask questions, hold him close, kiss him, hell even look into his blue eyes for more than a few seconds and become absorbed in them. She wanted so bad to cry her eyes out and hit him with all her strength for his behavior this past week, but she wouldn't allow him the luxury of emotion.
She wanted him to know how it felt this past week, the feeling of loneliness. A part of her thought this was childish but she didn't care. Very little conversation was made during the week. And this occurred right after they made up over their latest row. At one point she thought the problem did lie in regards to William Knight. However, when confronting Harry about Ron, she knew it pertained to Auror business since he wouldn't let up either.
Ron continued watching, now feeling a bit annoyed at how Hermione was behaving. He had no right to be, he knew that. But as he watched her sip a bit of her tea and continue reading he suddenly felt the need to leave the flat.
He couldn't go home to the Burrow. The rest of his family would pester him about his investigation. Even Harry refused to go to the Burrow for the sake of promising not to mention anything to anyone. Ron was surprised at Ginny because she's usually the no-nonsense type and absolutely breaks through to anyone, yet she hadn't questioned Harry any further.
When he finally couldn't take the thin air in the room, Ron stood up and headed to the loo. He washed his face and brushed his teeth and opted for a shower but thought better of it. When he went back to the bedroom he found Hermione sitting there quietly.
He looked at her desolate expression on her face and all annoyed thoughts he had about her left his mind. She had tried to be so strong to replicate to him what she had felt but she just gave in the moment she sensed his irritated thoughts. She opted for his comfort instead. She sat on the bedside with a melancholic expression that spoke volumes to him.
"What's happening to us Ron?" she asked.
He gulped and went over to the bed to have a seat next to her. He searched her eyes and remembered the enticing feeling he got whenever he got lost in her soft doe brown eyes.
"Please Ron. Have you any idea how difficult it's been this past week?"
He stared down at his hands with guilt and regret. Tears began forming in her eyes and her tone was much more sound. "I thought things were okay between us. After that row I thought we were fine. But now you can't even look me in the eye and tell me what's wrong…"
"Hermione I told you I can't talk about our investigation…"
"And why not!? What's so bloody important that's made you avoid me?" she said in a frustrated tone. Tears were beginning to escape her eyes.
"Hermione don't do this, not now. Look, I know I've been unfair to you and it's unfortunate that I have to work nights but—"
"It's unfortunate? It's unfortunate!? Ron I have been worried sick about you! Every night I can't fall asleep because I dread something terrible happening to you! And when you come home the next morning I'm just so glad that you're there but to not even be acknowledged…why? I don't understand. How is this any different than the others?"
Ron continued staring at his empty hands. This was turning into a row which he knew was inevitable. He didn't have the strength to start now. Working nights had even made Harry grumpier than usual and Ron despised it. His girlfriend was now tired of being avoided and so he knew that there was only one last thing to do. Tell her the truth.
"Ron look at me," pleaded Hermione.
He took his gaze away from his hands and studied her face. Despite the tear streaks coming down her eyes and the redness of her nose, Ron couldn't see past Hermione's beauty.
"Please. Just talk to me."
She edged closer to him on the bed and moved over on his lap. She placed her head on the crook of his shoulder. They stayed there together for what felt like hours but were merely seconds before he finally spoke.
"I can't. I can't say a word Hermione…" said Ron.
She looked up at his blue eyes. "But why?"
He took in her gaze and now he had teared eyes, fearing for her life that he thought she would be the one to succumb to her slumber if he did in fact tell her of the investigation and of Mike.
"Because…if I say anything…someone will die…"
At that moment she finally realized what she was missing. She didn't say anything but conveyed through her expression that she finally understood.
She leaned in closer and embraced him. Ron didn't know how to feel in that moment. He had finally told her the truth but a part of him felt as if he made the wrong choice. He knew Hermione would no longer pester him about details but realized this opened her up to have more worrying thoughts.
He hugged her close not wanting to let go and she did the same. The embrace didn't last long as she moved back to look at his face. She studied him for a bit and he noticed she looked much better than the week they had gone with hardly any acknowledgement.
She looked at him intently and started to lean in closer to his lips. He did the same and was about to brush against hers when suddenly a crashing sound was heard outside.
Hermione turned away toward the doorway leading to the kitchen and looked concernedly back at Ron.
"What was that?"
Ron immediately became aware at the sound and stood up which caused Hermione to move. She followed him into the kitchen. He moved the curtains of the sliding doors to have a peek at seeing the cause of the sound.
"What is it Ron?" she asked.
He looked back at her and opened the door. "Don't know," he said, knowing all too well what made that sound. He put on his jumper and sneakers and exited the flat to check the small area outside. Hermione remained by the door looking around as well. She noticed the dark clouds looming above that looked to bring a storm.
"Ron you should get inside, it looks like it'll rain soon."
He looked up at the sky and noticed it started to get dark. A thundering sound could be heard that told them it would indeed begin to pour. Ron knew it had to be him. He couldn't understand why the man would show now with Hermione around. He knew he had to inform Harry but the tricky part was to get Hermione not to worry.
"Umm…why don't you go inside? I'll look out here for that sound. It must have been something; it was quite loud."
Hermione looked at him for a moment but soon nodded and closed the sliding door behind her. Ron took this instant to send a patronus to his best friend.
"Harry! Come quick! I think Mike's here around my flat. Hurry!" he said as the blue mist that took the form of a Jack Russell Terrier quickly escalated away.
Upon sending it he could see Hermione peeking through the window. He didn't know if she saw him conjure the patronus but he began to look frantically around as if searching for the source of the sound. He didn't want her to worry, at least not now.
A vehement sound of thunder roared through the sky. Ron looked up and began to feel small drops of water hit his freckled face. A harsh wind started to pick up that caused the surrounding plants and flowers to shake wildly. Ron could see Hermione through the window waving over to him. He looked back up at the overcast sky as more drops of rain came down harder.
Making up his mind he headed for the sliding doors. Before opening the door another loud crashing sound could be heard, this time by the front of the flat. Hermione heard it too as Ron seen her turn away from the sliding doors to head for the front entrance.
"Hermione wait!" he yelled as he ran along the walkway on the flat's side leading to the front entrance. He made it just in time to see Hermione open the door. She looked around curiously but nothing could be seen.
"Did you hear that? It's the same sound again," she said.
"Hermione stay inside. I'll deal with it."
She narrowed her gaze on him and crossed her arms. "What is your problem Ronald Weasley?" She looked short-tempered and frustrated at the red head.
Ron was about to explain when he noticed someone watching from the flat's rooftop. He gaped unbelievably at the man kneeling over right above the front door. It was Mike. This time, however, he had no glowing eyes or chest. Round black sunglasses were worn and he sported a white long sleeve buttoned-up shirt that partially concealed the mask implanted on his skin.
Ron quickly remembered about Hermione and tried to conceal the face he had made. Her arms were still crossed as he looked between the two. His breathing increased as he suddenly feared for Hermione's well-being. She noticed his gaze shift between her and the rooftop and was about to head outside.
"Hermione please! Stay inside! I'll be right in!" he pleaded desperately.
Doing the exact opposite, Hermione became even more annoyed and stepped outside to confront him. As she walked toward him he looked back up and saw Mike stand from his kneeling position. Hermione was about to turn back at what Ron was staring at, but almost on instinct without thinking, he pulled out his wand and aimed it directly at her. She stopped in her tracks. Fear took over her irate expression. This was something entirely different. Ron had never made any advance like this to her.
"Ron what are you doing?" she asked nervously. Her heart began to race as she could feel the fluttering of hundreds of butterflies within her stomach.
Ron gulped as he was struggling with his own internal battle. He couldn't let her find out about Mike. One last look above confirmed if she indeed looked back, she might become a victim. He couldn't let that happen.
"I'm sorry Hermione. Please forgive me for this," he said with a pained expression.
Her heart raced even further as horror and panic flooded her eyes. She could feel the rain and his reluctance but couldn't figure out why his wand was aimed towards her.
"Stupefy!" he exclaimed as a jet of red light hit Hermione directly in the chest, causing her to fall hard on her back. After realizing what he'd done, he ran to where she had fallen and dropped to his knees beside her. "Hermione! Hermione are you okay!?" he ranted, bringing her head closer to him. He heard a faint snicker above him that immediately fueled his rage.
"Heh heh…Finally. I was wondering when you would do something about her," spoke Mike's deep raspy voice. He jumped stiffly off the roof and landed by the stairs leading to the front porch.
Ron turned to look at him enraged with anger. "Shut up! Look what you made me do!"
Mike walked over to the two of them but stopped in his tracks when Ron stood and aimed his wand at him. Aggravation filled his veins as he straightened up, vowing to take revenge on him. "You stay the hell away from her!" he yelled. He had been nervous about their last encounter but now he didn't care. He looked more sure than ever at wanting to inflict him pain.
"Put that thing away before you get hurt. You know it had to be done," spoke Mike sternly. "You don't have the slightest clue what would happen to her if she knew. It seems you've learned nothing since our last encounter."
Mike began walking again towards Ron but before he could take another step, he noticed something out of the corner of his eye.
"Stupefy!" shouted Harry from behind the side of the flat. A jet of red light emanated from Harry's wand and hit Mike directly on his ribs. The impact caused him to fly back and hit a nearby tree with a loud thud. He fell forward into a sitting position with his head down, unconscious.
Ron looked to his right at the source of the spell and felt relieved to see who had cast it. It was Harry. "About bloody time you get here!" he said.
After surveying the area, Harry came out of hiding to join his best friend. "Why didn't you curse him when you had the chance you git?" he asked to a dumbfounded Ron. He didn't wait for a response and ran over to where Mike had landed by the small tree in front of the flat.
Ron moved over to where Hermione laid and kneeled over her. "Hermione…I'm so sorry. It's just…you can't find out about this. I hope you can forgive me." Ron brought her head closer to his lap, trying but failing to wake her up.
"Ron she'll be fine, come quick!" yelled Harry, urging him to join him.
Ron picked Hermione up bridal style and moved her onto the small bench on the front porch of the flat. She was soaking wet from the rain and for a second Ron thought about her catching a cold. He cast a small heating charm on her that quickly dried her wet clothes. Feeling pleased with his work, he kissed her on her forehead and turned away to join Harry.
"So this is him then?" Harry asked with his wand still aimed at the unconscious Mike.
"Yeah," replied Ron.
Both men didn't let their guards down as they maintained their wands pointed at the man in case of any sudden movement. They had learned on their missions to never let up easy and this was no exception. Ron was a bit surprised that Mike had let himself get hit. He knew he was more than capable to reflect the stunning spell Harry had cast. He became warier of any action with his body.
"Ron what the hell is that?" Harry asked as he pointed his wand closer to the mask embezzled on Mike's chest. To him, it looked like it was part of his flesh that had a texture similar to bone. He eyed it carefully as he removed some water from his glasses for a better look.
"I told you. I don't know what it is but I think it may be his power source or something."
"Yeah well not anymore. What's changed?"
"He's wearing a shirt for one. And decided to opt for some sunglasses. I still don't feel so sure about this Harry. It seemed almost too easy."
"I thought you said his eyes and that thing there were also glowing, what happened?"
Ron said nothing as he too studied the man sitting on the ground with his head down. He looked like an ordinary muggle without the glowing mask and eyes. For a second he thought about calling in the rest of the Auror team, but something was still bothering him. It had been too easy to immobilize him.
Harry kneeled over to have a closer look at the artifact on his chest.
"Be careful Harry. I'm telling you, this arsehole isn't a joke," warned Ron.
Harry continued edging closer. He studied the man up and down and was about to search for any possible muggle weapons or wand. Sensing someone edging nearer to him, Mike looked up instantly and snuffed Harry directly on the nose.
"Harry!" yelled Ron, seeing best friend fall back, holding his nose in pain.
Ron turned quickly to shout a curse just as Mike landed a hard kick to Ron's groin and jolted upward.
"Arrgh! Fuck!" cried Ron in pain as he fell on all fours, dropping his wand in the process. He reached down to try to relieve some of the discomfort but it was no use. He continued groaning louder and small tears escaped his eyes as he stuttered small chokes trying to breathe. As Harry saw his best friend in pain through blurred vision, he hastily dashed for his wand which had fallen a few feet away.
Mike was much quicker and before Harry could reach for it he felt a sharp pain on his abdomen. Mike had struck a powerful kick that winded him as he attempted to reach for his wand. Harry gasped for air as one hand was trying to stop the nose from bleeding and held the other to his stomach having difficulty breathing.
Both men laid on the ground in distress as the they continued feeling heaven's tears from the sky. Mike picked up Harry's wand and took a moment to observe it. With a witty smirk he grabbed Harry by the neck and raised him up like a human shield in front of Ron, pointing the wand at Harry's throat.
Ron was still in pain on all fours and slowly looked up at his intruder with rage.
"Pathetic. Both of you," Mike pronounced. He held his grip harder along Harry's throat causing him to fight for air. He was now kicking violently and flapping his arms around trying to best Mike but there was no escaping the firm grip.
Ron had seen enough and reached for his wand to curse the man despite his agony. Just as he was going to say the incantation, he stopped upon seeing an aqua colored light shining brightly from Mike's body. Something about him was changing. The wind picked up again as another thundering roar erupted in the air. It poured heavier than before and the rustling wind turned to freezing violent air.
The mysterious man's eyes began glowing behind his sunglasses as well as his chest. The glow illuminated even more which blinded Ron for a quick second. Harry could see the colored light from the corner of his eye but still struggled with Mike's grasp as he continued to fight for air. Following what seemed like a metamorphosis, Mike's appearance had changed into much how he looked when he first confronted Ron.
He was now shirtless and the mask engraved on his skin was now glowing brightly. His menacing eyes received the similar aqua colored glow that brought the fear back in Ron's eyes. This time he got a much clearer view of his appearance and noticed the faint scars that traveled along the man's body. It finally hit Ron how Mike had mentioned the change between Michael LeRoi and the Shadow Man. He had been told that during the day he had a different appearance than during the night when he became the frightening man that was standing before him.
With a great force he threw Harry to the ground besides Ron. Harry coughed violently as Ron went beside him for help—his wand completely forgotten.
"The boy who lived…and a Weasley. The heroes who brought Voldemort down. And with her as well, of course," Mike said steering his gaze to the front porch. Hermione was still unconscious. The man looked above at the heavens at the ongoing jewels of rain and violent shots of lightening irradiating the sky.
Ron still winced in pain, but tried to confront the dark skinned man. "You said you needed…my…help…arrgh…stupid…twat…" he grumbled, still suffering from the kick to the groin.
Harry was finally able to catch his breath and moved his hand to his nose to prevent any more blood from falling. He was dripping a great amount and also continued to grimace with pain at being winded from the kick he sustained. The rain had smeared a bit of the blood on his face that was now washing down his jaw.
"Change of plans Weasley. You two are now coming with me. This could have been easy but this incompetent imbecile just had to act tough," Mike said pointing the wand at Harry. "Your charms will protect us. No one will even see us here," he smiled.
Both men on the floor saw him turn around and move Harry's wand in circles. To Ron's surprise, a circular vortex began to take form that swirled bright blue and black in color. Harry took this opportunity to grab a handful of wet dirt with his hand, hiding it behind his leg. He looked back at Ron with a face that told him to follow his lead. Ron sensed what he was getting at and picked up his wand slowly.
"Now, you two will follow me. I assume you've told your friend here quite a bit about me already isn't that right Weasley?" he asked, continuing his spell.
Ron looked again at the bloodied Harry. He motioned through his eyes to get ready and Ron nodded at the acknowledgement he made.
"What? No answer? I guess he's well acquainted. Like I said, this could have been easier. Everything will soon make sense," said Mike, still concentrating on the vortex.
"NOW!" yelled Harry at the top of his lungs.
Upon hearing his scream, Mike turned quickly and was met with a handful of dirt thrown to his face. "Shit!" he yelped as he tried to fiercely rub the dirt from his eye.
"Expelliarmus!" shouted Ron as a flash of blue light appeared and knocked the wand off Mike's hand. Ron caught it quickly and helped Harry to his feet. Mike shook the dirt off completely and turned to look at the vortex disappearing. Feeling bothered at being bested, he turned his gaze back to the two men now standing. Ron handed Harry his wand and were both now aiming at Mike who began to step back slowly.
"Heh heh…you two are quite the wizards…" snarled Mike.
"Why are you here!?" yelled Harry through his pain. "Tell me or you'll spend the rest of your life in Azkaban to rot!"
Mike continued retreating back and now held his hands in front of him as if surrendering. Harry and Ron stepped forward to follow. "Well I'm here for you of course," Mike said with a serious tone. For a moment all that could be heard was the threatening rumble of thunder and the pitter-patter of the rain trickling down. "If you won't come willingly…then we have a problem…"
He stopped in his tracks near the tree where he'd fallen. Not taking any more chances, Harry and Ron quickly swished their wands.
"Stupefy!" they both shouted as jets of red light emerged from their wands. Mike smiled as he anticipated the stunning spell. With a tap to the mask implanted on his chest, both jets of light bounced off him and flew directly back at Harry.
"Harry!" yelled Ron as he dove to push his best friend out of the way. They tumbled hard onto the ground as they saw the spells hit some bushes. They turned quickly back to Mike who had begun running away from the flat.
"We can't let him get away!" exclaimed a fretful looking Ron.
"Well then get the bloody hell off me!" said Harry, trying to stand on his feet.
Ron pushed away from Harry and stood quickly to help him. "Let's go! He's getting away!"
Both men darted swiftly after Mike. Their agonizing pain had been forgotten as a newfound adrenaline fueled their bodies. They sprinted past the outer fence and onto the street and saw him dashing a few feet away. Bolting after him, it dawned on Ron that they were now out of protection from the charms.
"Harry the muggles!"
"We don't have time Ron!"
Ron shook the thought out of his head as it didn't matter anyway if a muggle would see them. In bringing Mike in, any incidents involving muggles and magic could be bypassed or fixed. They continued running on the street that earned them a few booming honks from cars that were driving alongside them.
Mike turned back to see them on his tail and sped faster, moving away from the street and onto the sidewalk. He cut past a few people trying to get out of his way and others that shouted profanities at his crude behavior. He saw a small alleyway nearing close and headed straight for it.
"He's going into that alley, let's go!" Harry panted with Ron following closely behind. As they reached the alleyway Harry scanned the area for any signs of him. "Ron cast a quick charm to make it look like both buildings are connected. We can't let any muggles come near."
"Got it!" said Ron as he stayed by the entrance to survey the area. Feeling comfortable, he commenced the incantation and wand movements. As Ron began performing the concealment charms, Harry moved further into the alley that had a dead end. Trash bins surrounded the area as well as a few ladders that led up to small balconies on each side and the rooftop. He treaded carefully with his wand at the ready of any sudden movement. He edged closer to the dead end and turned back at Ron.
"He's not bloody here!" spoke Harry frustrated.
Ron finished up the charms and joined his best friend. "He was just here though…"
"Yeah well not anymore. Don't let your guard down. He can pop out at any moment."
Ron nodded as he separated from Harry and started observing the large trash bins on the sides. It was as if Mike disappeared into thin air, thought Ron. Harry gazed up at ladders and the balconies that connected them. It appeared both were part of some sort of apartment complex. Graffiti was written on the moist brick walls and the smell began to become a bit unbearable.
"Harry I've got an idea. Homenum Revelio," spoke Ron aiming his wand at the surrounding environment. In an instant, a faint glow could be seen from the rooftop. "He's on the roof Harry! Hurry!" Ron jumped onto the hanging ladder and started climbing his way up to roof.
"Ron we don't have time! Ascendio!" pronounced Harry as he was lifted into the air and landed sternly on top.
"I thought that only worked in the water!"
"He's running towards the edge! Quick!"
Harry could hear Ron groan in frustration and climb hastily up the wet ladder. Harry started sprinting across the rooftop just in time to see Mike stop upon reaching the end. With a quick glance to each side, Harry realized that they must have been about three stories high. Mike made a quick turn toward the edge and seemed like he was ready to jump off.
"Stop!" shrieked Harry as he finally reached him with wand aimed at his back.
"Oh no, you've got me," said the Shadow Man sarcastically.
Thundering roars and flashes of blue lightning could be seen in the distance. The raining hadn't stopped. In fact, it continued pouring even harder if that were possible. The violent wind didn't let down either as Harry sensed Ron appear directly behind him.
Continuing to face his back towards them Mike spoke. "Listen. I don't want to hurt you two. Don't take this with a grain of salt. Both of you are in danger—"
"Enough!" shouted Harry. "I've heard plenty. Ron told me everything. It's all bollocks! Whatever you have planned with the others just—"
"You think I'm one of them?" retorted Mike, stepping away from the edge. "Be careful in choosing the next words that come out of your mouth Potter." His voice was loud and clear, for at this moment the duo heard what appeared to sound like real menace.
Harry looked like he was ready to curse the man as Ron placed his hand on Harry's arm. He started feeling the burning realization just like their last confrontation. Ron had been angry at Mike's actions, but the part of him that made him trust Mike became more apparent again. He thought the only other option was talking to him.
"Hold on mate," Ron urged.
Harry stared unbelievably at his best friend. Ron continued to push down harder on Harry's arm. It took immense restrain on Harry's part not to curse both Ron and Mike there and then. With a shaking head and furious expression, he finally lowered his wand.
"I thought you said you weren't a wizard," proclaimed Ron to Mike.
Mike matched his gaze. He didn't seem not one bit fazed that he was outnumbered two to one. It was almost as if he welcomed the challenge. "I'm not. I'm more."
"Then how is it you're able to use a wand? Go on then."
Mike looked up again at the dark obscuring clouds hovering above them. "I can't do this with you dimwits right now. We're wasting time. Come with me and you'll know everything," replied Mike.
"Why the hell should we?" questioned Harry. He kept his hand on his wand waiting for a reaction out of Mike. Ron sensed this and was ready to intervene if necessary. He believed to have finally made some ground with Mike. If all is ruined by Harry's temper, then Ron didn't know what else to do.
"You are just the most arrogant sonofabitch I've ever met Potter. You ever hear about Grindelwald? About all the bad shit he did? No? Grindelwald being bad is an understatement. What about Voldemort? Killed lots of normal fucking people and those who opposed him like your parents. Now that's true evil right? Killing to split your soul is fucking evil ain't it? NO. Not even close. If for one second you thought Voldemort was the most evil, sinister dark lord that ever existed, then you both are going to get the assfucking of a lifetime."
"What are you on about?" rebutted Harry, now feeling more desperate to do away with Mike. He was tired of talking.
"The murders happening here are part of something bigger. You read the files I gave you didn't you? The five are here. Shit's about to hit the fan real soon."
Harry looked to Ron with that unbelievable stare once again. "Ron, this is bollocks! I'm calling in Robards."
"Wait!" Ron said looking sternly at his best friend. He turned back towards Mike. "We did some investigating. Nettie, you, everything. How can we possibly trust you?"
Mike crossed his arms. This wasn't new information to him. He was one step ahead all this time. "I gave you the files didn't I? If that's not enough, then my words are just gonna have to convince you. I wouldn't give two shits about the two of you if it were up to me. I've been sent here by a higher power. I mean just look at yourselves. You dress up in stupid looking coats, wake up early and go catch dark wizards. Fucking child's play. Kill one bad wizard and suddenly you feel like the world owes you something."
"Your parents died. You Weasley, your brother died. Your girlfriend's parents were close to dying. The only thing you three accomplished in school was bringing death wherever you went. You're no heroes."
"SHUT UP!" declared Harry in a threatening tone. He was done speaking. He was done accepting this man's accusations and grotesque words. There was no holding back.
"Now you shun the world from you. You think you've suffered? From a single fucking wizard? You think you know loss? You think you've experienced real fucking anguish? You have no idea what suffering is."
Harry's veins were boiling with anger. He no longer looked heated. He expressed a calm and collected demeanor that looked more dangerous if possible. "If I hear you disrespect my family one more time—"
"You'll what? Hex me? Try it. I'll drag both your asses back with me if I have to."
"That's it! REDUCTO!" screamed Harry at the top of his lungs.
"Harry no!" bellowed Ron, who was unable to stop his friend in time.
The jet of white light quickly escaped his wand and headed straight for Mike. Just before its impact, the mask on Mike's chest shined a brighter blue and ultimately cast back the curse.
Harry and Ron cast a quick shield charm that sent the curse flying into the sky. They soon focused their attention back to Mike.
"I'm getting real tired of having to do that. When will you pricks listen?" challenged Mike who began walking towards them.
"Harry it's no use you prat! Any curse we send to him comes flying back!"
"Well then what's your plan!? This tosser has been mouthing off and you're just taking it. I'm done with it. I'll just have to keep trying," remarked Harry. "Stupefy!" He exclaimed as he continued sending a barrage of curses to Mike.
The glow hadn't toned down on Mike's chest as he stood there taking spell after spell without a scratch. Each curse bounced off him like a ball to a wall. Feeling exasperated and discouraged, Harry finally stopped to catch his breath.
"Are you finished? Is that all you have? How did you even manage to defeat Voldemort? If you don't mind me asking," teased Mike.
Harry was about to rush to the man when Ron cast a shield charm between the two causing his best friend to fall back. He looked surprised and then became angry once again at his best friend.
"Ron you slick git—"
Without thinking, Harry sent another stunning spell, this time in Ron's direction which was deflected by the latter.
"Are you on his side!? Shit Ron you're defending him!"
"Harry you don't understand!"
"I understand perfectly! Expelliarmus!"
Ron again deflected the spell. Harry became more aggravated at the fact that Ron was now a formidable wizard. This was no longer Hogwarts where he had slacked off. Ron was more than capable of staying on Harry's level which was showing at the moment.
"Ah look at this, best friends attacking each other. I still don't know why Nettie chose you two numb-nuts. I guess this prophecy is more crazy than it seems. We really are fucked."
At the mention of prophecy Ron deflected Harry's last stunner to the sky. "Enough Harry! Did you hear him!?"
Harry continued pointing his wand at Ron but maintained his gaze on Mike. Ron did the same but had his wand aimed to where Mike stood. From the bellowing sky booming above, they were planted in the position of a triangle, each having their own target. No words were said as the two Aurors were lingering on Mike's next reaction or set of words.
Without a word, Mike sprinted toward Harry. Ron was ready and sent two stunners that bounced off him. Harry rapidly shifted his wand and flicked it to send his own stunning spell at the running man. It too bounced and Harry tried to protect his face, shutting his eyes and awaiting another hard punch, although it never came.
Ron saw Mike do a high front flip over Harry and continued dashing along the roof. "Bloody hell not again!"
Both men reacted quick and continued sending an array of curses and jinxes to try and immobilize the man escaping. Mike was still unfazed as he was much faster and any spell reflected off him.
"Ron…(pant)…Why don't…(pant)…our spells work!?"
"Shut up and keep running!"
They saw Mike reach the edge of the alley and do another front flip off it.
"How the fuck can he do that?"
As both Aurors reached the edge where the ladders and alley were, they spotted Mike down below heading back where they came from.
"He's going back to the flat Harry!"
"C'mon then! Let's turn back! We can intercept him if we follow along the rooftop on this side. Let's go!"
Just as Mike made a right turn at the alley, Harry and Ron moved over to the side of the building parallel to the street and began running alongside Mike, albeit still on the roof.
"Ron we have to jump!"
"You're joking right!?"
"Just trust me! C'mon!"
They sprinted even quicker than before and soon reached the edge where they had stopped Mike earlier. Ever closer to the edge, Ron's heart pounced and felt like it wouldn't stop beating faster.
"Fuck! Harry!" he clamored as both men jumped off the rooftop kicking air in the process. "Ohhhh shhiiiiiiiiiiittttttt!" yelled Ron as he felt his heart drop faster than they currently were.
Nearing closer to the ground Mike stopped to turn around and with a surprised expression at the two that had jumped off the three story building. Muggles surrounded the area as well as others in their cars that also turned to see the commotion.
Before landing to their sure deaths, Harry aimed the wand at the ground. "Arresto Momentum!"
Ron continued screaming as their falls were slowed down immensely, causing them to land safely on their feet. The few muggles that surrounded the area stared in awe at the two of them. Ron gulped and Harry urged him to continue to chase after Mike.
They galloped away from the area, as mouths were still dropped staring at the two of them leave.
"Harry those were muggles!"
"It's alright! I'll think of something."
They continued along the sidewalk chasing after Mike who had been briefly seen re-entering Ron and Hermione's flat. They followed swiftly and soon entered it as well. Upon passing through the protective charms they saw him sitting on the porch right next to where Hermione laid.
"Get away from her!" shouted Ron who started dashing after Mike.
"Ron, no!" warned Harry but it was too late.
Mike took off swiftly from the bench like a track sprinter and landed a hard blow to Ron's stomach. The latter couldn't perform a shield charm in time and slunk to his knees with both arms nestling his stomach.
"Argghhh…you…bastard…" stuttered Ron, kneeling over in pain and misery.
"Reducto!" bellowed Harry once more, lamenting the pain that Ron sustained.
Mike was quick to avoid it as the spell hit the front door of the flat, causing it to explode and disintegrate into sand. Harry continued shooting spells but Mike maneuvered past every one and landed a powerful backside kick to Harry's chest.
The kick was struck with such force that a crackling sound could be heard upon impact. Harry landed flatly on his back as both his air was forced out and his glasses partially broke when hitting the wet surface.
Not only could Harry not vocalize his pain but his breathing had stopped for a few seconds as he scrunched his eyes, suffering from the injury. Faint gasps could be heard from him as the Shadow Man stood watching over him. The mass of dark skin balanced the clouds that continued roaring above. The rain was soothing to Harry as he tried so desperately to become lost in the sound of raindrops hitting the earth to escape his pain.
Mike continued staring intently at Harry and then back to Ron who was nursing his poor stomach. He shook his head and walked over to assess the damage on the flat's door. As he observed the scene he noticed Hermione had a small cut on her cheek as bright red blood oozed out. It seemed some debris must have hit her after Harry's spell hit the door.
Ron slowly retreated back towards where Harry laid, still wincing at the inflicted pain he continued enduring. "Harry…arghh…c'mon…we can't let him…go."
Harry could hear Ron's words but couldn't move even if he wanted to. Broken bones could be felt and at the very moment he understood that they had truly undermined Mike's abilities.
The Shadow Man loomed over Hermione now with a fierce gaze set upon the 'Mudblood' scar on her arm. Turning back to look at the Aurors lying on the floor defeated, he made up his mind. Harry and Ron followed his gaze. They could see Hermione begin moving slowly and starting to regain consciousness.
Mike walked quickly over to where the Aurors laid, to which they attempted to crawl back. "Looks like we're out of time. You're coming with me Weasley. Believe it or not I'm no your enemy."
"We just got our arses handed to you, you stupid git!"
"You never had a chance. But don't worry, you'll soon know everything." Mike picked up Ron's wand and began forming the same vortex as seen earlier. He then turned toward him and flicked his wand, causing Ron to suddenly lose consciousness. Without looking back to them, He began walking toward the vortex and threw Ron's wand away before entering.
It landed next to the steps leading to the front porch. Harry tried to overcome his pain and move over to pick up his wand, but it was hopeless. He turned his gaze toward his best friend lying motionless on the floor.
"…Ron…get up. We can't…let him…escape," gasped Harry tiredly. He groaned loud to the heavens that continued to pour hard rain. He touched his nose still covered in blood and looked back at the vortex.
Mike had returned from the vortex and gave a firm slap to Ron's cheek. "Wake up sunshine. It looks like you will be coming with me. Might be a bumpy trip, but you'll be alright."
Ron slowly opened his eyes and saw Mike leave back into the vortex. He looked beside him and found his best friend aching in pain. "Harry…"
He moved to all fours wincing in pain and got to one knee trying to will himself to stand up. He opted instead to crawl over to his best friend. Upon reaching Harry he outstretched for his wand and gave it a quick swish. "Accio wand," he uttered.
Ron's wand came flying quickly back to him as he caught it in time. Looking over at Harry he could see the pained expression of his hopeless stare. Harry looked over to the vortex and nodded his head. Ron turned his head also and understood. He would go alone. This was his plan and he now had to fulfill his duty. Innocents were dying and if Mike was their only hope to put an end to this investigation then he too would have to follow.
Trusting Harry and his instincts he stood slowly, one hand holding his stomach as he was still in pain from the blow. He stood in front of the vortex feeling the rain finally start slowing down with less roars erupting in the air.
Ron was about to take a step when a familiar voice stopped him in his tracks.
"Not so fast!"
Both men turned their gazes and found Hermione aiming her wand at Ron.
"Hermione…" whispered Ron.
"Don't! Don't you dare Ronald Weasley!" exclaimed the brunette. She stood there steaming with her eyes narrowed directly at Ron. It seemed the fear that was sparked inside her before Ron stunned her had fueled the rage now flowing through her veins. She moved her gaze toward the injured Harry and the vortex.
"Listen there's no time to explain!"
"What is that? Where does it lead?" she demanded.
"I said don't!"
Ron looked at her unconvinced that she would harm him. He might have done so but if she'd let him explain himself they would be saved from any further trouble. Although, Ron did see such ferocity in her eyes. He had to make a decision. He remembered Mike mentioning a prophecy and the dangers of loose information and knew they had to get to the bottom of this. What him and Hermione shared was unbreakable, not even this dilemma could come between them. He was sure of it. But could she handle this?
"Ron…we don't have much time. It's starting…to…fade," spoke Harry in a low voice.
Ron looked nervously at Hermione and slowly retreated back to the vortex.
"Don't. Don't you dare Ron. I will never forgive you…" she said as tears again formed in her eyes. Hermione was a brilliant witch, but even she didn't understand several things. Whenever she was presented with a challenge she did her utmost best to overcome the challenge. When she became romantically involved with Ron, she understood that things were sometimes not going to be easy. At this moment, this was one of those situations. She couldn't comprehend why his behavior this week was so intoxicating. She didn't understand why he had stunned her out of nowhere. And now she didn't understand why he was about to enter a vortex as Harry lay bleeding on the ground of their front yard.
Ron's eyes told her a different story. He placed so much effort into the look he was conveying to her. He saw a single teardrop fall from her eye but he couldn't distinguish it from the drops of rain that still fell.
"I'm sorry Hermione. I have to do this. Even I'm not sure why or if this is a trap, but this is bigger than all of us. It can be bigger than Voldemort."
Hermione shook her head as fear and frustration took over her thoughts. She began to think the worst and still couldn't piece anything together. She knew nothing about what happened or what was going on. She was lost. She needed answers.
Ron offered a small smile to her and looked at Harry and nodded. "Take care of her mate." Without so much as a look back he bolted inside the vortex. The last thing he heard before being absorbed into vortex was Hermione's profound cry of a spell.
"Impedimenta!" she shouted but it was already too late. The vortex began to spin uncontrollably. It twisted and turned and moved violently until it slowly faded into thin air.
Hermione stared unbelievably at where the vortex once was and could feel the rain hit softly along her face. Her breathing intensified and heart raced as the tears she was trying so hard to hold in were finally released. She dropped to her knees and cried out to the sky as she felt lonely and scared. She cried uncontrollably, her sobs echoing through Harry's ears. He tried sitting up but still couldn't. With half broken glasses he could see part of her in more pain than he was. He took his gaze away from her and settled for the darkness clouding the sky.
The sounds of rain and thunder slowly stopped as they were now replaced by tears of heartbreak and sorrow emptied by his best friend.