The footsteps came to an abrupt halt, and in the suffocating silence that preceded the end of a memory, he heard ragged breathing and droplets of liquid slowly falling to stone.
The harsh aroma of daisies mixed with rust hit his nostrils in an acrid wave that made him want to vomit. Nearly a century had passed since he had smelled it last.Albus bravely spun, already aware of what lay behind him.
"But… I… I thought you wanted to wait until we were-"
"Are you really about to turn me down?" asked the girl, pouting her lips.
Draco shook his head adamantly. "Absolutely not."
Pansy grinned and grabbed one of the large cushions from the loveseat.
"I didn't think so."
For the rest of the night, despite being beyond tired, Ron lay wide awake. Every time he tried to close his eyes, the desire to open them and watch the beautiful girl lying at his side became too strong to resist.
Not that he was complaining...
When Parvati's full, luscious lips brushed against his jaw bone, Neville tried to make his body pull away, but the heady aroma of her cinnamon-scented hair made him feel as sluggish and unresponsive as a flobberworm.
The Indian girl moaned and once again covered his mouth with her hand. "Please don't say anything just yet. Don't do anything. Just… think about it."
Percy swiveled in his chair to kindly point out to whoever had been looking over his shoulder that he wasn't squeamish at all. It was just… he didn’t enjoy seeing illustrations of children having their heart cut out.
However, he wasn’t at all prepared to find an enormous pair of brown eyes mere inches away from his face.
Percy jumped away from the sweet-smelling girl that was invading his personal space. “Erm… hello there.”
Pushing her large, red glasses up the bridge of her softly-pointed nose, the girl stood up, allowing him to see her in full. She was tall, relatively thin, had long, mousy-brown hair, and looked to be roughly his age, despite the childish grin plastered across her face. All in all, she could have been considered plain were it not for her eyes, the likes of which he had never seen before. The stunningly beautiful, brown orbs radiated a wealth of intelligence and self-confidence.
The girl held out her hand, which he tentatively shook.
“I do apologize for interrupting you. It’s just… I’m afraid I’m in a bit of a pickle. You see, I was separated from my younger brothers and I can’t seem to find them anywhere. I’m not quite used to this world… and you look like a nice, normal bloke… so I… well, I thought I might ask you for help.”
His former Master grinned. “Fifty years since I’ve had a good fight, Albus. If you win, I shall sacrifice all of my magic, give you the information you seek, and live out my remaining days as a muggle. Should I win, you shall provide me with a year’s supply of Lemon Drops and trust me to do what needs to be done.”
“You have yourself a deal, my friend,” muttered Albus. “Shall we?”
Nicholas raised the crackling ball of lightning.
There was a sound of thunder.
Albus trudged back into the storm and apparated along the length of the visible beach until he reached the famous Land’s End arch that marked the southernmost tip of the Baja Peninsula.
Perenelle had been right. It would have been impossible to miss the massive tower of shale that jutted from the middle of the ocean like a dull, unlit lighthouse. It rose hundreds of feet into the air, its black outline splitting the stormy sky in twain. Waves crashed and broke against its base with all the fury of the angered sea, flinging icy spray right to the beach’s edge.
And at the top of the tower… there stood a man; an enormous man; a man whose shadowy silhouette was thrice the size of the very largest giant.
The girl pulled her down onto the bed, balled Ginny’s shirt in her fists, and cried out tearfully, “You want me! You want me! I saw it!”
As Ginny withdrew her wand from her skirt pocket, she brushed Harry’s bangs back behind an ear and smiled at her. “I… I know you did. I just… I can’t. I don’t even know why. I’m so… I’m so confused. I love you… and I’m sorry…”
The desperation in Harry’s eyes was heart-breaking… but Ginny didn’t stop. Pointing the wand at her friend’s temple, she flicked it sideways and choked out the spell.
"Hey, Gin," squeaked Harry, her stomach performing nervous somersaults. "I'm… I'm back…"
A long, drawn-out moment of silence passed between them as a flood of conflicting expressions passed over her friend's face.
Ginny wailed loudly. It was neither a cry of happiness, nor of sadness. It sounded simply like… longing. The goblet the redhead was holding clattered to the floor as she leapt out of her armchair and charged at Harry like a bull.
She was knocked backwards into the door as the girl leapt on her, smashing their bodies together.
"Are you here?" choked Ginny desperately, clinging to every inch of her. "Are… Are you real?"
Harry sighed happily, her heart fluttering as the heady scent of strawberry drifted past her nose. Sliding her hands into the soft hair that was tickling her cheek, she pressed a kiss into Ginny's neck, "I'm here."
"Finally," the redhead sobbed, collapsing against Harry and pulling her down to the floor.
She ran her fingertips down his abdomen, leaving a trail of fire in their wake that sent shivers all along his spine.
“Choose me,” she breathed huskily, cutting him off. “Please… choose me. I know it’s petty to say, but I love you more than she does! I know it in my heart… God help me, I do!”
Ron’s hand slipped from the wet stone in his surprise, but the bushy-haired girl caught it before he lost his balance and entwined their fingers.
“Kiss me, Ron… please. Choose me.”
His heart was thudding away in his chest at an incredible rate, matching pace with the beating of the rain. His mind told him that this, Hermione wanting him in the same way he wanted her, couldn’t possibly be happening. Reaching out, he brushed his fingers against her small, rounded chin. “I… but what about-”“Forget Harry,” Hermione whispered, her very noticeable chest heaving tantalizingly against his arm. “For just one minute, forget about her… and kiss me.”
The worst of the mutilation, however, was on his face. He had one working eye, while the other lay dead in its socket, blackened and crusted over. His jaw hung loose, attached only by a few weak threads of sinewy skin where his cheeks had once been. His teeth were broken and grimy, looking more like jagged fangs than incisors or molars. His tongue, nose, lips, and ears were all missing, leaving only bloodied holes and raw skin in their absence.
"Terrifying, is it not?" asked the disfigured man, his voice emanating not from the lipless mouth, which remained unmoving, but from the bright tip of the wand he carried. "I never dreamed that the price for my freedom would be so steep. To be confined to a mutilated body that never heals is a nightmare far beyond your comprehension. Be thankful for what you have, girl."
Couldn't find an illustrator.
Quite suddenly, seven girls left the large tub all at once, leaving Harry alone with…
As the door to the baths closed behind the gaggle of chatting women, the towel-clad blonde smiled coyly at her and waded forward through the water. “Hahrie, I may sit with you? I am wanting… company.”
Harry squeaked nervously, feeling her cheeks burn as the curvy girl sat down beside her. An urge to flee consumed her, but Harry couldn’t leave immediately after getting in, not without healing up at least. For the moment, she had nowhere to run; she was trapped.
“Erm… hello, Marin,” said Harry in an overly-genial tone, trying hard not to look into the blonde’s mesmerizing sapphire gaze. “I… I didn’t see you there.”
Smiling widely, Marin brushed back her flaxen locks and purred sultrily, “Það er allt í lagi. I see you for both of us, já?”