Sacrifice Par Amarth: Chapter 16
See Chapter 1 for disclaimers and ratings.O o O o O o O
"Good afternoon, Mister Giles."
Startled from his thoughts, the watcher lifted his bespeckled gaze from the large text he cradled in his hands, his green eyes falling upon the beaming face of the young witch who manned the front desk of the Council. "Miss Appleton," he returned, smiling briefly at the young woman before his eyes drifted back down to the book he carried, his mind mulling over the mystery of the Knights of the Byzantium, mentally cataloguing the different questions he would put to Hermione when he met up with her next.
Oblivious to his surroundings, he continued across the pristine and slightly pompous reception area of the massive building, pausing only briefly as his shoulder knocked against someone. "My apologies," he muttered distractedly, glancing up for the briefest of moments to nod at the raven-haired young man that he had unwittingly walked into, before continuing on his way.
Glaring at the older man, Dahmascus lifted his hand slowly, only to have it pushed back to his side as Serantine pointedly pulled him to the waiting young woman, her smile practically blinding compared to the treatment that they had received at the building they had just vacated - the building in which their visit had ended on such a wonderful massacre.
"Can I help you?" the woman asked, her British accent clipping her words as she smiled at the young couple that stood before her - a smile that began to falter as she noticed the rather large stains that marred the couple's clothing. Frowning now, she unconsciously leaned a bit forward, trying to place the strange smell that drifted over the fresh lemon of her desk's fine polish.
"We're here for our Key," Dahm responded, flashing a similarly brilliant smile at the young woman as all color drained from her face. Within seconds the young witch's hand fell upon a small button as she pulled her wand free, and as an alarm began to sound throughout the building, the woman disappeared with a sharp crack, leaving the two gods staring at the empty place in vexation.
"Well that was rude," Ser muttered, her eyes narrowing as she turned and caught sight of the man that now stood frozen, his large book forgotten and his eyes locked upon them as the alarm blared above them.
"Dahmascus and Serantine," Giles murmured, his face draining of color as he finally matched the man that he had bumped into and the beautiful woman that stood beside him to Faith's description of the Hell Gods that had destroyed Celeste. A tall man with black hair and violet eyes and a slender woman with curly red hair and eyes of gray - and clothing that was covered in wet blood. Fumbling for his wand as the two Hell Gods surged towards him, Giles apparated from the lobby and straight into the office of his old friend as their hands closed around the empty air where he had just been standing.
Pausing in mid-stride towards his closed office door, Samuel Fellows turned at the sharp crack that echoed behind him, his wand raising defensively before him. "Rupert, why are you still here?" he demanded, his voice carrying above the careening noise of the alarm as his eyes narrowed in frustration, before darting anxiously towards his closed office door.
"They're here, Samuel - Dahmascus and Serantine are here," Giles explained as he strode towards his long-time friend, gripping his elbow tightly. Not that the explanation was needed. Both he and Samuel had known that this day would come. For besides the group in Sunnydale, the Watcher's Council was the only link that the Hell Gods had to Buffy. It was only a matter of time before the gods came looking for answers, answers that now only Giles could provide. Not that the gods would be aware of that. Thus, every man and woman, watcher and researcher, wizard, witch and muggle had been given strict instructions of what they were to do should the ancient alarm ever sound. In Giles' case, he had already broken his own protocol by coming to Samuel instead of going to safety. Then again, after only finding and reacquainting himself with his old friend again after so long, the thought of leaving without even assuring himself that his friend was right behind him was inconceivable to the aging Watcher. "We must go to Hogwarts and warn Dumbledore - warn the others before-"
"Then go before it's too late," Samuel interrupted as he pushed past his friend and hurried towards the door to his office.
"But... where are you going?" Giles interrupted as he pulled on his friend's tailored suit jacket, his eyes crinkled in confusion. "I just told you that they're here. We must leave before-"
"Rupert, not all watchers are wizards - you know this," Samuel cut in, his words low and tense as his eyes bore into his old friend's. "I will not leave here until I am sure that all those who are muggles were able to reach a portkey. I will not abandon my watchers."
"And I won't leave without you," Giles stubbornly returned as he led the way into the bustling hall, wizards and witches locating friends before apparating to pre-designated safe points, muggles streaming towards the nearest portkey.
"No, my friend," Samuel quickly protested as he pulled on the other man's arm. "You know that you, out of everyone here, must get to safety. You now shoulder a weight far greater than just your own."
"Are you really willing to risk your Slayer over such foolishness?" the head watcher cut in, his dark eyes narrowing dangerously on his old friend. And when Giles could only shake his head mutely in response, Samuel allowed a slight smile to lift his lips. "Then act as her watcher and protect your slayer," he urged, reaching a hand forward to clasp it warmly on his friend's shoulder. And with a last nod, Rupert Giles did as commanded and apparated to the gates outside of Hogwarts, from where he would then meet with Hermione Granger before entering the grounds of Hogwarts... which left Samuel free to see to his remaining watchers.
Hurrying past the many people that worked for the massive organization, the head watcher urged his people to move faster, to not tarry, and mainly, to get the Hell out of Dodge as fast as humanly possible. While he had never come face to face with the Hell Gods themselves, and hoped to never have to, he had insisted upon joining the team that had traveled to the small island in the Caribbean that had been the site of a Council massacre and had seen the evidence of their work firsthand. Even now, in the midst of such chaos, it was still far too easy for him to remember the look of fright and horror in the dead eyes of the people that had worked for him, trusted him, and went to that island on his command. They were his people and they were dead because of his decisions. He saw the results of the Gods' work and he knew that he would never be able to forget it.
Dodging around an older woman who careened down the hall towards the stationed portkey behind him, Samuel twisted around another corner and then hustled into a small office that housed a multitude of different small, black and white television screens. "Where are they?" he demanded as he slid behind the young man that was seated there.
"Still in the lobby," the man quickly reported, his face ashen as he turned to his superior, one wavering finger lifting to point at one of the monitors. "Perkins and Wellington apparated in and didn't get away fast enough. They're dead," he murmured, his eyes closing briefly as Samuel's hand tightened on the back of the chair.
"I told those fools not to try," Samuel sighed, feeling his grief turn to anger. "Stupid Gryffindor bravery," he hissed as he turned away from the gory scene, "willing to take on a pair of Hell Gods."
"Sir," the other man whispered, his voice falling from clenched teeth. "Sir, we have more on screen," he added, his finger falling on the hunched frame of an older gentlemen that was racing towards the front door - a man that Samuel instantly recognized as a Watcher from his father's generation, a muggle from East London. With him were two new recruits as well as his head of the Demon Lore department - a middle-aged woman who should have known better.
"No they don't," Samuel countered grimly as he lifted his wand and apparated from the room with a sharp crack, the computer monitors quickly being replaced by the wood-toned room that was splashed with blood. Instantly his eyes fell upon the four watchers who were slowly being backed against a far wall by the two Gods, their faces pinched with fear while soft, muffled sobs battled against the blaring siren. Eyes flashing, Samuel held his wand aloft as he took a few steps towards the group, his stern expression never wavering. "You have no place here," he called out, his firm voice capturing the gods' attention as they turned towards him, twin smiles of delight playing with their fine features.
"And who are you?" Serantine asked, her prey forgotten as she turned towards the foolish man that dared to oppose them - the only
man that had dared to oppose them. Even the two fools that had appeared before them had realized the folly of their ways and immediately attempted to run, yet this man... this man showed no sign of fear as his co-workers whimpered behind her.
"My name is Samuel Fellows and I am the Head of this Council," he returned, his words clipped as the gods slowly stepped closer, even as his four watchers began to slowly make for the front door.
"Yes, we have heard of you," Dahm murmured as he scratched his chin thoughtfully. "Where is our Key?"
"Not here and no longer under Council protection," Samuel answered honestly, his fingers tightening on his wand as the four continued to make their painfully slow trek towards the door. If only they would get clear then he could apparate to safety - just a few minutes distraction more was all that was needed. "You saw to that," he added, his eyes locking on the two and the briefest flash of anger pulling at his features.
"But our Key is your
Slayer," Ser countered, frowning at the man.
"It matters not," Samuel retorted, watching as the first watcher slipped to freedom. "She is no longer under our protection, so leave now and cease in this pointless pursuit. There is no one here that can help you," he muttered, his hand tightening unconsciously on his wand as the last watcher slipped to freedom. However, before he could even focus his thoughts on a point of safety, the tall God was before him, his perfectly shaped hand cracking against his own so hard that Samuel was sure it shattered as his wand went tumbling across the carpet.
As the man staggered to the ground, his features twisted in soundless agony as he cradled his shattered hand against his chest, Dahm leveled a benign smile at his companion. "Perhaps... or perhaps we simply must find the right motivation," he stated as he turned and looked down into the proud man's pain-glazed eyes - eyes that, even then, understood his helplessness all too well.
"You will never find her," Samuel vowed between clenched teeth, his eyes watering from the pain as the alarm finally fell silent.
"No, we will find her," Serantine vowed into the quiet room, smiling sweetly at him as she gently gripped his shoulder with one pale hand - and then dug her nails into the flesh, holding his body in place as her other hand pushed back on his forehead until his head snapped back with a sharp crack that echoed in the room. Yet the crack wasn't nearly enough to muffle the sound of a young woman's terrified scream from the hallway behind them.
Turning, Serantine smiled at the tall, slender young woman with long, full auburn hair. She was young, this one, and her hazel eyes were wide and filled with tears as they locked on the unmoving form of the man that lay before them. "Now, now, my dear. There's no need for tears," she murmured as she slowly began to advance on the frightened young woman, only to curse loudly and vehemently as she disappeared with a sharp crack. "I hate it when they do that," she hissed, eyes narrowing.
"Then perhaps we shall have to be quicker, now shan't we?" Dahm returned dryly, his eyes narrowing before turning back to his bloody mayhem.O o O o O o O
With a sharp crack that echoed in the frosty afternoon air, Hermione appeared before Giles, her legs very nearly collapsing beneath her as the older man quickly reached out a steadying hand. "Good Lord, Hermione, where have you been?" he demanded, his face pale and his hands freezing from the bitter February air, his eyes raking over her shivering form and sending up a silent blessing when he realized that she didn't appear to be injured. "When you weren't here I very nearly..." he began, his words dying away as he noticed the tears that were running down the young woman's cheeks, her body shaking so hard even though the watcher knew that it couldn't already be from the bitter cold, not yet. "What's wrong?" he murmured, his voice growing deeper as he stared at the girl in concern.
"S-S-Samuel," Hermione stammered, her word a choked whisper as her fingers dug into the thick material of Giles' sweater, her face pale. "Samuel's dead," she whispered, her breath hitching in her throat as the watcher froze, his face becoming slack as he seemed to sway before her.
"Samuel?" he replied distantly, his eyes not quite focusing on the girl that stood before him, shivering madly in the cold. "B-b-but I just saw him. He-he-he's coming here."
"No," Hermione sobbed as she instinctively stepped closer to the older man, her thin arms wrapping around his waist as she buried her face in his soft sweater. "I-I-I saw it and I didn't do anything. I just stood there," she gasped as Giles' arms slowly wrapped around her, his head bowing until his forehead rested against the top of her thick auburn hair.
For a moment, Giles could only allow his grief to well up within him. To think that Samuel was dead... that one of his oldest friends had been taken from him, when just scant minutes ago he had been holding onto his arm in the warm halls of the Council. It was inconceivable.... no, it was worse. Taking a ragged breath, he quickly shook his grief away. There would be time for mourning later. For now, all that mattered was getting word to Dumbledore and then sending word out to the others. They had
to reach the others before they were too late. If the Council was just the first stop for the gods on a path of destruction, Faith and the others in Sunnydale had to be warned. They had to vacate the house and leave it before it was too late.
"Come, Hermione," he whispered, his voice thick with emotion as he pulled the girl away and began leading her towards the gates to Hogwarts, only to pause as a soft popping noise echoed behind him.
"Funny meeting you here."
Turning so fast that his shoes kicked up a fine plume of freshly fallen snow, Giles felt his eyes widen in horror at the sight of Dahmascus and Serantine, standing so primly in the ankle-deep snow before them. The goddess still wore a thin summer dress, splattered with blood and gore, while her companion was still clothed in his loose-fitting pants and thin shirt, more stained than not - and both looked completely at ease in the freezing northern wind, the cold sun glinting off of their hair.
"Giles?" Hermione whimpered, her eyes frozen on the two.
"Rupert Giles?" Dahm asked, his eyes thoughtfully taking in the older man before sliding to the girl next to him - the one that had just evaded their grasp moments before. "And I suppose that would make you Hermione Granger," he added, easily recalling the names that Bertrone had fed to them. "We just missed you at the Council," he stated, grinning widely as he took a slow, measured step towards the two.
"Run!" Giles ordered, practically shoving the young Gryffindor before him as she stumbled through the gates of Hogwarts, falling in a heap in the snow just past the wrought iron as Giles dove in behind her. Feeling the icy snow beneath him, the aging watcher turned in time to see Dahmascus attempt to follow him through - only to stop as the invisible barrier prevented his entry. "Go! Go!
" he ordered, pulling himself and the girl to their feet as he shoved her down the wooded path that led to the castle, all the while praising Dumbledore in his foresight in re-creating the barrier that prevented all those who were not loyal to the aged headmaster from entering the school grounds. A praise that was cut short as the barrier and every other ward that protected the school shattered only seconds later, the magical backlash lifting both him and Hermione and tossing them so far that when he next unburied himself from the thick snow, he was now lying in the middle of the open courtyard before the main doors to the castle.
Struggling to his feet, Giles was reaching for his wand as he turned to see the frightened students that were scattered about the frozen yard, their eyes locked on him and Hermione. "Get inside! Get inside!
" he roared, scaring the students so badly that they turned and began scurrying towards the castle doors. "Hermione, apparate!" Giles continued as he turned to where the Gryffindor was slowly pulling herself to her feet, her long skirt covered in snow and a long scratch marring her cheek.
"But I can't-"
"The wards are down, now go!
" Giles insisted as she slowly shook her head, her face paling as she held up the remnants of her wand - the wand that had been broken into small fragments of useless wood in the fall. She was powerless. Freezing, Giles slowly lifted his eyes and felt a shiver of stark terror course through his limbs.
"I can't," she repeated, her large, desperate eyes raising towards him. Closing them, she quickly shook her head as she turned back towards the gate, knowing already what she would see. And as Giles cursed quietly and then slowly steered her behind him, she knew that she had been right as she slowly opened her eyes, peering around Giles' stiff shoulders to see the Hell Gods quickly approaching.
Steeling his shoulders, Giles lifted his wand. "Stupefy!
" he cried, waving and flicking his wand in the usual order, feeling the magic rush through his limbs and soar through his wand - and not finding himself terribly surprised when the magic seemed to cause the gods to pause for only the slightest of moments before they continued forward. "Petrificus totalus!
" he tried, even as he began forcing he and Hermione back towards the castle that rose majestically behind them. "Expelliarmus! Locomotor mortis! Impedimenta!
" he cried, his mind frantically reaching for any spell that could help, always to find that his magic did nothing but slow their quickly moving steps by the smallest of a fraction. "Incendio! Furnunculus!
" he shouted, growing desperate as the two Gods drew before him. And then, all time seemed to slow as Giles found himself caught warily in the middle with Hermione shivering against his back and Dahmascus and Serantine standing silently before him.
Sighing, Giles knew no words need be spoken and instead realized with a sickening feeling that he had failed. He had failed Hermione and ultimately, he had failed his Slayer. Locking eyes with first Dahmascus, and then turning towards Serantine, he slowly shook his head. No, that wasn't true. While he may have failed Hermione this day, he would never
fail his Slayer. "You'll never have her," he stated, his words simple and quiet, yet carrying easily to the four that gathered on the bright, sunny day on the grounds of his beloved school.
"Funny," Ser returned, smiling oddly at him. "That's what the last guy said."
The first blow caught him across the chest, causing him to spin painfully away from his assailant and plow into the snow beneath him. Gasping, Giles turned his head to spit out a mouthful of blood as Hermione's terrified shriek rent the cold air - but then her shriek was cut off as the sound of skin hitting skin echoed about him as her slender body toppled over his, her pained whimper echoing hollowly in his mind. Grimacing, Giles reached for his wand, only to have the wood kicked away from him, the cold snow blinding him as his eyes watered painfully. But then... suddenly they were no longer alone as sharp cracks began to echo in the snowy courtyard, one after the other until the sound alone made him dizzy.
"Step away from them," Dumbledore ordered, his normally jovial blue eyes now bitter, hard and flat as they took in the scene spread before him. The aging headmaster had felt the barriers go down the second it happened, the backlash carrying so far, and his connection so strong with the school that he had almost collapsed when it hit him. Within moments he had sounded his voice throughout the school, ordering prefects to get the students to their rooms as he called the staff and other 'guests' to him. All had been done in a matter of minutes, yet even those minutes had been too long as he looked down at the two gods that towered over Mister Giles and Miss Granger.
"Or what?" Dahmascus asked as he slowly reached for the young girl who cowered beside the stunned watcher.
"Lay one hand on the girl," Snape cut in, his voice low and dangerous as he stepped past Black and Lupin and closer to the headmaster, "and I won't use the same restraint." And while his colleagues understood his threat all too well, their eyes growing large as the headmaster nodded solemnly towards him, the gods paid his warning no mind as the male continued to move towards the young Gryffindor, her cheek already red and swollen and twin streaks of tears marring her dirty cheeks. Eyes narrowing, Snape called upon the darkest magic that he knew - a spell that he hadn't been forced to use in over a year - and yet a spell and its effects that would forever haunt his remaining days. "Avada kedavra!
" he roared, channeling the dark magic through the narrow length of his wand and emitting a streak of green death that shot towards the dark-haired god - and which caused him to step back a pace or two before glaring at the greasy-haired Potions Professor.
"I wouldn't try that again, if I were you," Dahmascus warned as he shook away the remnants of the deadly spell, breaking the disbelieving silence that fell upon the group. None save Harry Potter himself - and Faith Evans, the other slayer - had ever been hit by the killing curse and lived to tell about it, and even Harry had been forever marred by the dark magic while Faith's encounter had spelled her death, albeit temporarily. Dahmascus, on the other hand, looked as though he had thrown nothing more than a simple jinx. Then, without another word he surged towards the young woman that whimpered pathetically before him, only to frown as the older watcher moved protectively before her.
"Leave this-" Giles began, his words cut short as the angry God fisted his hand and rocked it against the side of Giles' head in a move that lifted the watcher and tossed him hundreds of feet back towards the wrought iron gates to the castle, his body plowing through the soft snow before finally coming still and not rising again.
"Giles!" Hermione shrieked, forgetting the pain that radiated from what had to be a fractured cheek bone as she tried to struggle to her feet, only to fall back and lay still as the air around her erupted in magic. As though some invisible word had been spoken, her cry broke the wizards and witches from their paralysis as spells, jinxes, and the occasional charm flew through the clear sky and pelted the two gods. Dark magic, light magic - the professors were as indiscriminate and varied as the castors themselves. Flitwick with his charms, Remus with his DADA defenses, and the others with whatever they could find. Nothing was held back, and to Hermione's growing horror, nothing did any good. Not even Dumbledore, himself.
Growling as he came to the same conclusion as the horrified Gryffindor, Sirius finally ceased in his frantic spell-casting, knowing instinctively that he wasn't helping. He was an Auror - one of the best in the division, and there was nothing he could do against the gods that had the ability to destroy any and everyone that the ex-prisoner had ever cared about. They were worse than Death Eaters, dark creatures, demons, and even Lord Voldemort himself. They were Gods. Hell Gods, and for the first time, Sirius understood truly what they were fighting. He knew firsthand what they were capable of and at the remembered agony that he had faced at their hands, he finally felt his restraint snap. Without thought, Sirius angrily tossed his wand to the side as he focused on his magic and transformed into his animagus form.
"Sirius, no!" Remus called, witnessing his friend's transformation and hurrying forward as the large black dog took a running leap from the steps and dove towards the hell goddess's unprotected back, his sharp fangs and claws drawing blood as his weight carried them into the snow.
Narrowing her eyes in anger, Serantine easily flipped her assailant to the side and reclaimed her feet, swiveling quickly and freezing as her cold, gray eyes fell upon the black hound's limp form. The familiar black form that she all too easily recognized. "Well, if it isn't our friend, the monk," she murmured, a slow smile lifting her lips as she began advancing towards the unconscious beast's form - and pausing as a gray-haired man slid in between them, his wand held protectively before him.
"You'll not touch him again," Remus vowed, his words low and dangerous as he began calling upon every spell that his time as DADA professor had ever taught him. All, of course, to no avail - and with each step that the red-haired goddess took towards him, Remus was forced to take a similar step back until the back of his leg brushed against Padfoot's furry back. Frantic, Remus wracked his mind for anything, anything
that would prevent the beautiful creature from harming his friend once more. Suddenly, his frantic thoughts were scattered as a large bellow broke through the jumbled confusion as Hagrid leapt from the side and tackled the goddess - only to be tossed aside just like any other.
Which was, of course, when things became even worse, if such a thing was possible, as Ron Weasley arrived on the scene. The recent Hogwarts graduate had been at the store with Bill and Charlie when the Council member had apparated in front of their counter, his face pale and his hands trembling as he passed warning that the Council had been attacked. Instantly Ron had reached for his cloak and wand, knowing exactly where to find Hermione and desperate to assure himself that she was alright. Seconds later, he had found himself before the gates to the school, and the second he passed through the wrought iron arch he knew that he was most likely already too late. Frantic, he had broken into a run, his heart beating furiously against his breast as he rounded the last curve and froze at the sight before him.
Blood painted the snow red in places as his old professors and friends lay strewn amongst the mess, the ones that were still able currently engaged in the fight of their lives. One slow, startled step after another carried him closer to the battlefield, his knees failing him as he tumbled beside the first unmoving body he reached, his hands tentatively reaching forward to wipe at the blood that trickled from a wound on Giles' head. He didn't understand how such a thing could be possible. The gods were supposed to have been at the Council of Watchers in London. How could they have known about the connection with Hogwarts? How could they have followed Giles and Hermione to... Hermione.
As a terrified shriek tore through the screams, yells, and muffled curses that echoed beneath the bright sunshine, Ron felt his face pale as his large hazel eyes finally found his girlfriend in the mass of moving bodies. With a vicious yank, a dark-haired stranger wrapped his hands around Hermione's slender neck, his fingers pinching white skin as he bodily lifted her to her feet and held her against his lean frame. Already blood trailed down a swollen, bruised face as the young Gryffindor's wide, terrified eyes locked with those of the aging headmaster, her gaze carrying a silent plea to stop this. To save her. All the while oblivious to the frantic steps of the boy that she loved as he staggered towards her from behind.
"Stop!" Dumbledore called out, his loud voice booming over the chaos and causing a temporary stillness to fall upon the bloodied grounds - grounds that hadn't seen such violence since the attack that Voldemort and his forces had wrought over six months before. "We do not harbor what you seek on these grounds. Release the girl," he stated, his voice carrying an underlying edge that few had ever heard before in the powerful wizard's voice. A wizard that had defeated Grindewald, the dark wizard that had terrorized the wizarding community nearly five decades ago, and had spearheaded the fight against the darkest of all dark wizards, Lord Voldemort himself - and who had been proven powerless against the Hell Gods that held his former student in hand.
Frowning, Dahmascus curtly shook his head as he pulled the young girl tighter against him, her pained whimper escaping from her bruised windpipe as she balanced on her toes, vainly attempting to gain some height to ease the pressure on her strained breathing. Normally such a demand would be met with the girl's death before the carnage continued, but now the god found himself practicing a rarely used tactic called patience as Serantine coldly met his eyes. While their campaign of terror had only really started little over a half hour ago in both Sunnydale and Los Angeles, Dahm found himself becoming bored with their lack of progress. Bertrone had only been able to provide them with so many names and locations, promising that the answers would somehow lay with one of them. But now... now they had spent all of their locations and killed or maimed many of those who lived under the names that they had been given. Their options were low and in return, Dahmascus had no choice but to lower himself to mere mortal means in order to receive the answers that he desired. The problem with dealing with mortals, he supposed. "Tell me where the Key lies or she dies," he murmured.
"But how can we give you this information if we do not know the answers you seek?" Dumbledore returned, his hands spreading peacefully to each side as he tried to implore to whatever good rested within the dark-haired god - his first and most deadly mistake. Dahmascus was a Hell God and it was more likely to of found good within Lord Voldemort than either Dahmascus or Serantine. A point that Dahm proved as he tightened his painful hold, the girl's strangled gasp echoing in the quiet grounds as her face began to darken, her hands clawing at his own.
Smirking, Dahmascus slowly bent his head and lay a soft kiss against the crown of the girl's frizzy brown hair. "Then there's no reason to let her live, now is there?" he murmured as his hold tightened even more until no air was able to pass through her tortured lips.
Seeing this, Ron felt his entire world narrow until it was as though he was looking through a vast tunnel - a tunnel that ended on Hermione's battered face and the tears that pooled in her eyes. Dumbledore was going to let her die. They were all going to let her die - no, they had no choice
but to let her die. For even if they were willing to sacrifice Buffy and Harry for Hermione, a trade that not even Ron was willing to fully consider the implications of, he knew that such a decision was beyond them. After all, that was the beauty of the secret-keeper: no one truly knew where Buffy and Harry were hidden save the secret-keeper himself, none other than Rupert Giles - and he was currently unconscious and certainly in no condition to barter for Hermione's life. Hermione...
He had known Hermione for over seven years. He had watched her grow from the know-it-all nuisance into the beautiful, confident, and brilliant young woman that he had fallen desperately in love with somewhere along the way. They still bickered continuously, their stubbornness practically infamous, but Ron knew without a doubt that he would do anything for the girl that he had wanted to spend the rest of his life with. Truly anything.
"Wait!" he cried, his voice breaking the silence that had been punctuated by Hermione's struggles for air. Instantly he found the attentions of the headmaster, his former professors (that were still conscious), the hell gods, and, most importantly, Hermione focused upon him. While he could easily read the panic that registered on the faces of most, the only person that he truly had eyes for was Hermione - and the fact that she was unable to hide her fear caused him to take an unconscious step forward, his heart hammering painfully in his chest. Right now, the only thing that mattered in the world to Ron was forever erasing that fear from Hermione's eyes. The shop, his parents, his family and even Harry himself fell away, everything forgotten as his eyes locked with Hermione's. Nothing else mattered. Nothing.
"We're using the Fidelius Charm," he stated, his voice hard as the shocked and dismayed cries of the others echoed in the clearing, Hermione's eyes blinking shut as she seemed to beg him to stop. "Which basically means that I'm
the only one who knows where they are," he continued softly, a gentle smile lifting his lips as Hermione's eyes widened in horrified understanding. "Let her go and leave the others alone and I'll tell you what I know," he finished, his eyes lifting long enough to stare determinedly into the violet eyes of the god that held his girlfriend.
"Who are we to argue?" a soft, feminine voice whispered in Ron's ear, causing the teen to stiffen as a hand clamped painfully on his shoulder. Freezing, he slowly turned his head to see that somewhere in the midst of his bargaining, Serantine had moved behind him, a wicked smile lifting her lips. Turning, she nodded towards her companion as she smiled beautifully at the red-haired boy. "Dahm, let the girl be - we have what we've been searching for," she stated as the god shoved Hermione aside, her pained grunt mingling with the cries of the others as Professor McGonagall quickly hurried to her side.
"No!" Hermione gasped, fighting for breath as she massaged her bruised neck. "Ron!" she screamed, her voice painfully weak as Dahmascus moved until he was standing before Serantine, Ron trapped between them. "Ron!" she cried again, her boyfriend looking over Serantine's head, his smile sad and loving as he whispered the words that she longed to hear, his vow of love tearing at her heart as the goddess lifted a small token between them - and with a soft pop, all three disappeared from the clearing with only the bodies of those that they had harmed, and the witnesses to the atrocious acts, left behind.