Fred and I rush through the woods, each of us silent in our thoughts as we both focus on finding Gabrielle before the Coza bastard has a chance to hurt her. I glance over at Fred and he looks terrible, his face bloodied and bruised along with large gashes on his body but he moves with a determination along the ancient path we are following and I find that I am having difficulty keeping up.
It is only by fate that I am even here. I had gone to visit Zonko’s during the late afternoon and saw Coza’s bodyguard who goes by the name of Ivan standing outside the store and I realized that there would be trouble. After Nicholas and a large older man came out of the establishment, I followed them back to the Hogshead and we all waited in the gloom and stench of the tavern for a few hours until an older man joined them.
They waited another hour before they all rose abruptly and began to head outside. Thankfully, they did not choose to Apparate and the four of them instead walked past the edge of town at a slow, deliberate pace as if wanting the darkness to envelop them further.
When they reached the ancient forest at edge of town, I was startled when all four suddenly Disapparated and I was barely able to cast a tracking charm on Coza as his body vanished. Thankfully, the charm worked and I soon appeared behind them deep in the forest. But another unexpected problem occurred when they suddenly disappeared and I ran to the place they were and found that all I saw was forest.
I paced back and forth for a few moments before I realized that tracking charm was still on Coza. I took out my wand and cast again for him and found he was not too far away from me. I ran toward his position and found myself facing a small cabin with the door open wide and screams coming from inside. Rushing in, I saw Fred on his knees, held from behind by one of Coza’s men while another stood before Fred, pummeling him. I immediately reacted and brought myself behind the one holding Fred and pulled him off my friend. The fight between myself and Fred’s attacker was sharp but brief and after I slammed his head into the corner of the fireplace, I watched him slump to the floor before I threw myself at Fred’s other assailant who held his wand to Fred’s cheek.
“There…Randelli…She’s there” Fred gasps harshly as we emerge into the clearing and each of us watch while Gabrielle bursts away from Coza. He lifts himself off the ground with a growl and pursues her, his long strides quickly making up ground on her. Fred takes off, his eagerness to protect Gabrielle evident as he runs to her. I decide to take on Coza, angling toward him as he pulls out his wand.
Gabrielle sees Fred and runs directly at him, the fear in her eyes evident when I glance at her. She reaches Fred as Coza’s wand begins to glow an eerily incandescent green. Fred moves in front of her and I suddenly realize the spell he is trying to use, so I shout, “I’m going to kill you, Coza!”
My distraction works and he turns toward me, bringing his wand to bear against me but I am on him before he can utter the words. My body collides into his and I throw him to the ground, his wand flying through the air before I land on top of him. The young man is stronger than I thought though and he pushes against me until I am on the ground.
Nicky rises and begins to run but I reach out and pull him down. He pushes his thumbs toward my eyes but my fist collides with his jaw and I hear it crack audibly. He groans before his eyes flutter and roll back into his head.
Standing, I push him off of me and he rolls over, unconscious while I brush myself off. Fred moves over to Coza’s body, a look of pure hatred in his eyes and I realize that I must say something. Holding Fred’s arm, I say quietly, “It is over, Fred. If you do what is on your mind, you will become like him. Gabrielle is safe and she needs you now. Comfort her but leave her with me and go back to the cabin. Bind the unconscious bodies in there and then move them outside, so she does not have to see them and I will be along presently.”
Fred tries to protest but instead nods and moves to Gabrielle, holding her in his arms while she reaches up and touches his face. He whispers something quietly in her ear, touching her gently before he casts a warming charm on her and begins to jog back to the cabin. Gabrielle walks toward me and says angrily, “He treats me like a child even after I survived this.”
She toes Coza’s body and I take off my cloak and give it to her. I watch Gabrielle closely and suddenly realize she is not the little girl who I knew. She has matured into a beautiful young woman who has seemingly overnight become stronger mentally and physically than I ever would have thought possible. After she steps back from Coza’s unconscious form, I reply, “Fred wanted to take you with him but I told him not to do that and I am sorry. But you can help me move this slime’s body back to the house.”
After I bind his body, I levitate Coza and while it moves in front of us, Gabrielle asks, “How did you know to be here, Randelli? I’m thankful you came but how did you know?”
Smiling, I maneuver Nicholas’ body around a tree before I respond, “Because I am your guardian angel, Gabrielle and I will always protect you. When I saw Coza in Hogsmeade, I knew there would be trouble, so I followed them.”
Gabrielle stares silently at Coza’s body until we reach the cabin and I place the body outside near the others and go inside. Fred has done well moving the bodies and placing warming charms on each.
He has a roaring fire going in the hearth along with a tea prepared for each of us. I take a sip, grateful for the warm liquid running down my throat before I say, “I will take care of the four of them. I want to rest but I know will need to Apparate away for help soon.
“Do you think Mere was behind all this, Randelli?” Gabrielle asks quietly as Fred puts his arm around her.
“Your mother may be many things, Gabrielle, but she would never allow this to happen. She would kill Coza if she knew about what he has tried to do here. If you want, I could tell your mere...” I reply while sitting on one of the chairs in the cabin.
“We can’t tell mere, Randelli because we would have to tell her everything.” Gabrielle answers and I know she is right, Babette would not be happy with the news of her falling in love with a Weasley. She settles next to Fred as he wraps a blanket around her while she continues, “But I don’t know what we are going to do...she will find out.”
“I will take care of things while the two of you go back to your flat,” I reply while I go over in my mind how I will accomplish moving the bodies tonight.
“We’re not leaving, Randelli,” Gabrielle responds emphatically. Her eyes lock with mine while Fred puts his arm around her shoulder.
Shaking my head, I am about to protest but Fred’s voice rings out, “She’s right, Randelli. This is where we need to stay because if we leave, we’ll never come back. This is where we want to build our home and that’s why it’s important.”
“I will make it so none of those men will remember what has happened here or where this cabin located,” I answer while leaning back in the chair. I watch Gabrielle snuggle closely into Fred, an unspoken question in her eye, before I say, “I will not harm them but I will need to change their memories for this to work.”
They both quietly nod their agreement. I realize that I must leave in order to get the bodies moved by daylight, so I stand while continuing, “You need to be careful. I want you to each put locking charms on the door and windows and before I leave, I will put guard wards out. This place has some type of Fidelius charm on it so that is good but we will strengthen the wards here. I want to ensure you are safe but that will be tomorrow… for tonight, you need to be in love.”
I grin as Fred moves toward me and shakes my hand before Gabrielle hugs me. I hold her close for a moment longer and when we break apart, she kisses me on the cheek. Finally, I move away and out the door, shutting it behind me.
When I stand near the inert forms, I bring out my wand and Obliviate Nicholas’ three helpers of any memory of Gabrielle, the location of this cabin or what has happened in the past week. I bind all three bodies together magically before I move toward the Nicholas.
But when I look at Coza, I realize that this will be a much more difficult procedure and it will take time to take out all traces of Gabrielle. Kneeling next to him, I touch his mind with mine and am horrified by the darkness there, the foul deeds he has performed. Standing, a slow smile crosses my face as a plan forms. It will take time but I can make Nicholas Coza into something much different than the monster he is now....