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Gold Dust by littlealice
Chapter 1: My Skin
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Hey guys! A few notes before I begin the first chapter of Gold Dust and they are thus: it must be dedicated to the wonderful Kalina (psychée at tda or Elesphyl here) for kicking me into writing a dramione. Second; the story title, Gold Dust, is very relevant to the plot so bear with me XD it'll all be explained in chapter two. And thirdly, I'm not too fond of this chapter.
But I'd really appreciate reviews! Reviews make the world go round and spur me on to continuing a story P: Love you all. < 3
Beautiful chapter image by the_tofuubeaver at TDA!
Hermione had never felt so morose in her entire life. She stood in the graveyard with her shoulders hunched and her head bowed against the gentle rain, feeling the weight of the world on her back. Her mother was still sobbing wretchedly beside her. The funeral had been over for an hour but the two women couldn’t bring themselves to move, despite the fact that the sky was only getting darker.
This wasn’t right. This wasn’t him. Jacob Granger wasn’t a black marble headstone on a fresh patch of earth, he was a smiling man in his early fifties with brown hair and glasses. He was a dentist, not a grave. Hermione sank to her knees in the damp mud and let out a dry sob.
She had never felt more useless in her life.
“Can’t you… can’t you do something?” Alison wept, kneeling beside her daughter. Neither woman seemed to notice the damn seeping through their clothes as they slouched before the grave. “Isn’t there something your magic can do…?”
Hermione hated it. Throughout her life she had stood proud as the first witch in her family, feeling that magic was the most precious gift she could have been given. Now she found herself wondering what the point of magic was, if it couldn’t bring her father back.
“I wish.” she breathed, hearing the words leave her mouth but not feeling them. “I wish I could, with all my heart. I’d give it all up to bring daddy back.”
Across the graveyard, standing partially concealed behind a vast stone angel, a suited figure watched the two women weep over the newest grave. He hadn’t been at the funeral, despite the fact that Jacob Granger had been a friend and colleague for over seven months, out of respect for the recently deceased’s family.
He looked up at the angel and felt an ironic smirk tug at the corner of his mouth. Jacob had implored him once to watch out for his daughter should anything happen to him. Well something had definitely happened to him, that much was obvious.
The closed casket had ensured that his family didn’t know just how much had happened to him.
Not seeing the figure, Hermione shakily got to her feet and took three deep breaths, her face spattered with cool rain. In order to calm herself down she needed a plan… something to keep her busy and take her mind off the fact that she was never going to smile up at her father again, that he was never going to be present at her wedding or the birth of her first child or -
Letting out a wretched sob, she sank back to the ground. This was not how she expected to be one year out of Hogwarts. While Harry and Ron were abroad training to be Aurors she had decided to take a year off before attending finishing school at her mother’s wish. Then, in February, Alison had confided to Hermione that she thought Jacob was having an affair.
It had been so out of the blue that Hermione hadn’t known what to say. Sure, her father did seem to be a lot more secretive these days, and he was spending more and more time at work, but she had never for a second suspected he was seeing someone else.
Then, two days ago, she had picked up the phone to be informed by a muggle police officer that her father had been in a car accident. He had been killed on impact, swerving to avoid a child on a scooter.
Hermione’s entire life had fallen apart during the duration of that one telephone call. She knew, however, that once Harry and Ron rushed back from wherever they were she would at least have the solace of her two best friends. Alison was slipping further and further away, convinced that her unspoken accusations of adultery had killed her husband, and Hermione needed someone, anyone, to talk to.
She wiped the tears away from her cheeks and gripped her mother by the arms. “Come on mum. Let’s go home.” she said, heaving the woman up. “I’ll make you a cup of tea. Aunt Moira and Uncle Frank should arrive from Belgium this evening, they’ll probably want to visit the… the grave… so you can come back then.”
They struggled to the gates, Alison’s feet didn’t seem to want to leave the graveyard and she stumbled a few times. Her brother, Hermione’s Uncle Lucas, had waited patiently in the car for over an hour as they said their goodbyes to Jacob, and strode forward to bodily haul his sister back to the vehicle when he saw them coming.
Hermione followed, head bowed. Was this how she was to spend the rest of her life? Hunched over in dark clothes, in mourning for the father that she hadn’t had a chance to say goodbye to?
The silly ‘I love you’ that passed between them every morning before he left for work did little to ease her pain. On the day of his death nothing irregular had happened; he had left while she was eating breakfast, kissing her head and calling goodbye on his way out of the flat. Alison had been washing the dishes, humming along to the radio.
“What are you going to spend the day doing?” she had asked her daughter once Jacob had closed the door. “When was the last time you wrote to your friends?”
Hermione had shot her a look. “I write to them every week, mother.” she sighed. “And they write back and most of the time I read bits out to you so you know what they’ve been doing. Honestly, talk about going senile.”
Alison had flicked soap suds at her and continued with the dishes.
Then, at nine thirty, the telephone rang. When she first answered the phone, before the man had a chance to introduce himself as Chief Constable someone or the other, Hermione had paused to wonder if she had heard his voice before. He sounded oddly familiar…
When he informed her that her father had died, she forgot all about it. Sitting in the back of Uncle Lucas’s Toyota the voice returned to her, repeating the words ‘Miss Granger?’… but it wasn’t as though her mind was taunting her with the memory. Something about the way he spoke her surname sounded so familiar. It was nagging in the back of her skull, too far to recognise, and Hermione found herself to wrapped up in trying to recognise it that she didn’t realise her mother was speaking to her.
“- just isn’t fair.” she was saying, voice tired from an afternoon of crying. She was slouched back in the front passenger seat with her eyes half closed and her head lolling against the door. “Is this God punishing me, Hermione? For doubting that my Jacob… my Jacob… was faithful?”
Hermione leaned forward and touched her mother’s shoulder. “No, mum. It was an accident, and there was nothing anyone could do.” she replied, voice breaking. “It was just an accident. Daddy died to avoid hitting a child.”
“Oh that’s bloody marvellous.” Alison choked, tears rolling freely down her cheeks. “Well I’ve half a mind to find that brat’s parents.”
“They sent flowers, Al.” Lucas murmured, steering the car around a corner. “The kid was out with his nanny at the time, they didn’t see Jacob coming. It was all explained in the card.”
This didn’t seem to console Alison at all. She bent forward and sobbed into her hands - Hermione, who had no words of comfort left to offer, sat back and watched London pass by the car windows. It was a suitably dark day for a funeral, yesterday’s brilliant sun had withheld for them and was currently hiding behind a thick bank of grey clouds.
By the time they arrived at Lucas’s townhouse the rain was hammering heavily on the roof of the car and Alison had cried herself to sleep. Hermione trudged dully up the steps, barely noticing that the maid took her coat and hat.
“An owl ’as ’arrived for you, Miss ’Ermione.” she said, voice slurred by a heavy French accent. “It left a letter for you, in ze bedroom.”
Hermione nodded mutely, thinking that it must be Harry and Ronald’s reply. Hopefully telling her that they were on their way back to England. She left her Uncle and the maid to carry Alison into the living room and jogged up the stairs. Lucas’s home was larger than hers by far and for the first time Hermione was glad they were staying here. Home just wouldn’t feel like home when her father wasn’t there.
The flat was going to be strange and alien to her, she just knew it.
The letter that Ana had referred to was sitting on her bed. It was indeed written in Harry’s untidy scrawl and before she even started to read Hermione felt comforted by it’s familiarity. When her eyes read the word ‘sorry’, however, she felt the comfort slipping away. They were too busy with training to come home for her.
By the end of the apologetic letter she had scrunched the envelope into an angry ball in her fist and felt the tears spring to her eyes again. So her father had died and her two best friends, who not a year ago had fought the worst evil in the wizarding world with her, considered themselves too busy to return home.
She threw the paper to the floor and collapsed onto the bed, sobbing uncontrollably. It wasn’t fair. Nothing was fair.
“Miss ‘Ermione? Would you like some paper to reply?” Ana’s voice came through the closed door in a soothing tone. “I ‘ave some scented paper from Paris, it is-”
“No thankyou, Ana.” Hermione interrupted, hastily wiping away the tears with the back of her sleeve. “I won’t be replying. Is my mother asleep?”
Hermione sniffed and got to her feet, straightening down the black funeral jacket that she hadn’t had time to remove yet. “Good. I’m going out for a while, when my mother wakes up please tell her not to worry. I’ll be back soon.”
She stepped past the maid and strode back down the stairs. Uncle Lucas was in the kitchen cooking something, probably making dinner for them, and didn’t notice her slip out of the front door and onto the wet London street.
Fixing her hat (retrieved from the hall) over her hair, Hermione made her way back to the graveyard. The drive had taken them five minutes and the walk would take twenty, but anything was better than lying in her Uncle’s guest bedroom wishing she could die. Alison would be insufferable company when she awoke and although Ana was sweet, Hermione just wanted to be left alone.
The streets were almost deserted as she strolled through them with her head bent against the rain. Muggle weather channels had predicted a monsoon-like downpour all week, so it was unlikely that she would be disturbed on her silent walk, but Hermione half wished to have hoards of people around her.
At least then she wouldn’t be left alone with her thoughts. It was like walking around with her own personal rain cloud; and Hermione’s wasn’t just raining, it was flashing with lightning and rumbling with distant thunder.
The rain seemed to stop for a moment, although she could still see the droplets landing on the pavement in front of her. Hermione looked up. Someone was holding an umbrella over her head.
Chapter 2: Pigeons
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Chapter two! Not as explanatory as you may hope, but whatever XD
comments keep me going, please tell me what you think! I debated making myself a new banner earlier but I think I might be attached to this one... Anyway! Without further ado, enjoy the second chapter of Gold Dust!
Wonderful chapter image by Rita / the_tofuubeaver of TDA!
... in a black hole.
Fixing her hat (retrieved from the hall) over her hair, Hermione made her way back to the graveyard. The drive had taken them five minutes and the walk would take twenty, but anything was better than lying in her Uncle’s guest bedroom wishing she could die. Alison would be insufferable company when she awoke and although Ana was sweet, Hermione just wanted to be left alone.
The streets were almost deserted as she strolled through them with her head bent against the rain. Muggle weather channels had predicted a monsoon-like downpour all week, so it was unlikely that she would be disturbed on her silent walk, but Hermione half wished to have hoards of people around her.
At least then she wouldn’t be left alone with her thoughts. It was like walking around with her own personal rain cloud; and Hermione’s wasn’t just raining, it was flashing with lightning and rumbling with distant thunder.
The rain seemed to stop for a moment, although she could still see the droplets landing on the pavement in front of her. Hermione looked up. Someone was holding an umbrella over her head.
“Malfoy.” Hermione managed, thoroughly taken aback at the sight of the blonde standing over her. “What are you… can I help you?”
Draco gestured that they continue walking, still holding the umbrella over her head. “I heard about your father. I’m sorry.” he said, sounding calm but not altogether apologetic. “But you need to pick up the pace and come with me, because the people that killed him are following us.”
Hermione hadn’t even summoned the mental capacity to process Malfoy’s presence, never mind what he had just said. She stared up at him, wondering if this was his idea of a joke. “Draco, just leave me alone. I don‘t want to deal with your crap right now, and I‘m fine with walking through the rain.”
“Do as you‘re told.” he snapped, throwing the umbrella to one side and grabbing her elbow in a vice-like grip. Fear ran down her spine like shards of glass, but they were alone on the street and he was far too strong for her to fight back to much avail. Feeling much like a ventriloquist doll, Hermione found herself being hauled around the street corner and through a battered black doorway, released into the darkness of the room beyond.
She stepped away from him warily. “What the hell are you-”
Draco Malfoy clamped a hand over her mouth. “Shut-up, Granger.” he murmured, leaning against the door and holding his breath.
Drenched and shaking, Hermione stood in the darkness without a clue as to why she was there, wondering just what in the name of Merlin the stupid idiot was doing. He didn’t remove his hand from her face and just stood listening, leaving her to stare at the vague patch of blonde she could see through the darkness and wish she had the courage to drag her wand out of her pocket.
After a few minutes his fingers tightened on her face at the sound of footsteps running past the door. Hermione blinked in surprise. Was he being chased by someone? Was he a fugitive? Well if he was on the run from the Aurors and expected her to help him then he had a shock coming.
She sighed through her nose and folded her arms. In retrospect, she should have stayed at home.
Eventually Malfoy dropped his hand and lit his wand, casting yellow light over the scowling face of Hermione. “Sorry about that.” he said, once again sounding anything but remorseful. “Are you alright?”
“No I’m bloody well-”
“I mean, are you hurt?” he cut her off, sounding briefly irritated.
Hermione narrowed her eyes. “Look, Malfoy. I don’t know what you’re playing at but I’m not interested, so leave me alone.”
She went to open the door, but was stopped when he grabbed her wrist. “I know how this looks, Granger, but you can’t go outside yet.” he said steadily, pulling her away from the door. “Just give it a few minutes would you?”
“What? No! Let me go!” Hermione demanded, wrenching her arm back. Draco rolled his eyes and fixed her with an impatient look, as though she was simply a disobedient child.
Standing dripping wet in the middle of what appeared to be a dark kitchen, the two glared at each other with equally felt furious impatience. Hermione couldn’t understand just what the hell he thought he was doing, and Draco didn’t seem able to acknowledge the fact that she didn’t realise he was trying to help her.
She was about to be enlightened.
The door was blown open, causing dull grey daylight to flood into the room. Hermione dove away from the splintering wood and habitually scrabbled to find her wand - but whatever was bursting into the room gave her little time to retrieve it from her pocket. Cursing, she crouched by the nearest wall and looked up. A figure had appeared in the doorway, and seemed to be in some kind of wrestling match with Draco over his drawn wand.
“Granger, get out of here!” Draco yelled, ducking away from the man’s fist. “Go round the back!”
She didn’t need telling twice, and frankly Malfoy’s wellbeing wasn’t on top of her list of priorities right now. Slipping across the tiled floor, she pushed her way through the nearest door and felt her way into a dark corridor, silently hoping that the house was uninhabited. The last thing she needed was a defensive muggle family appearing when she was running through their house to the sound of curses rebounding off the kitchen walls.
Panting, she made it through the darkness to another door. Hermione threw her weight against it and stumbled out onto the street, grabbing the wall to remain upright. She looked around and hastily pushed the sodden hair out of her eyes. She seemed to have emerged around the back of the building, into some kind of back alley between the houses. The door closed behind her with a loud snap, causing her to jump.
The rain was still falling. Hermione stood in horrified silence for what seemed like an eternity, before making up her mind and turning back to the door. It opened easily, and the darkness beyond was now eerily silent. She took a cautious step inside, eyes fixed on the door to the kitchen through which she had only just crashed through.
“Malfoy?” she whispered, wiping rain - or was it sweat? - away from her forehead with the sleeve of her jacket.
Something moved ahead and footsteps picked up through the kitchen. Hermione waited with bated breath as a figure appeared in the hallway. “Granger. I thought I told you to get out of here?” Draco’s irritated drawl penetrated the darkness. “Hurry up, before his reinforcements arrive.”
Too curious to tell him to go do something blasphemous, Hermione strode after him into the lit kitchen. Chairs and old crockery had been scattered across the tiles, a wand lay snapped in two on the table beside the still body of what appeared to be a rather battered young man. “Is he…?”
“No, he’ll be fine.” Draco shrugged, routing through a pile of shattered dishes. “Damn. Can you see my wand anywhere?”
Blinking in surprise, Hermione looked around unhelpfully. Remnants of Draco’s coat had been blasted around the four corners of the room, and there was a suspicious amount of blood splattered across the wall above the sink, but she couldn’t see his-
There it was.
Hermione bent to retrieve it and frowned. “Where on Earth are all the feathers from?” she murmured, pulling what appeared to be a blood-stained goose feather off the handle of her companion’s wand. “Did someone kill a bird or something in here?”
Now that she looked, she began to notice the large white feathers scattered almost as profusely as the scraps of trench coat material; drifting across the tiles in the draft or stuck in pools of blood like a bird in an oil slick. She frowned and went to pick one up, but Draco gripped her shoulder abruptly. “They’re just… we should hurry up, come on.”
“No!” Hermione snapped, pulling away from him and momentarily forgetting the feathers and blood and half-dead figure slumped against the table. Fists clenched, she glared up at him. “I don’t know what the hell is going on Malfoy, but unless you damn well tell me now I’m going straight home and ordering a bloody restraining order.”
He looked as surprised as she felt at all the cursing she was doing, but he didn’t say anything. “I get that. If it were me I’d have freaked out and ran by now.” he gave an awkward one-shouldered shrug and gestured to the door. “Walk with me? I’ll explain on the way.”
Hermione gazed at him for a moment, her anger fading. “Alright. But only because I’m too tired to argue with you.” she sighed, stepping over a glistening patch of blood and heading back onto the street. It had stopped raining, but the clouds didn’t look ready to clear up into sunlight for a while. “Well? Start with why you’re here and who that man was.”
“Looked like one of the Stone brothers.” Draco said, walking alongside her and keeping his eyes on the pavement ahead. Hermione shot him a questioning look. “There are ten of them. Brothers, I mean. They’re… sort of a band of mercenaries; we come across them all the time and they’re fairly easy to deal with. Not our biggest problem.”
They rounded the corner and continued down another dull street, Draco walking with his hands in his pockets and Hermione watching his reactions as he spoke. “There’s a bunch of us. You don’t normally find so many grouped together - it’s harder to stay away from trouble. In fact, I think we’re the biggest group until you reach Theo in France.”
Hermione tried to process this. “You’re not making any sense.” she said eventually. “Group of what? Stay away from what trouble? And why is Theodore Nott in France?”
“I can’t explain that straight away, you wouldn’t believe me.” Malfoy sighed, running a weary hand through his hair. “The point I’m trying to make here is that you’re in danger, and I really can’t let you go back to your Uncle’s house.”
Hermione stopped and stared at him. “Forgetting the ‘you’re in danger’ part of that sentence, how did you know I was at my Uncle’s?” she demanded, eyes wide with either burning anger or chilling shock.
“Because your father told me that Lucas Page is your mother’s only relative in the city.” Draco said simply, gazing steadily back at her as though she had nothing to be surprised about. “And I figured that your mother wouldn’t want to be on her own.”
Her mind whirred to take in everything he was saying. He spoke to her father. Draco Malfoy, the boy she had barely thought of past someone she never wanted to see outside of school, was claiming that he had spoken to her recently deceased father about his own family. Unable to think of anything else to do, Hermione laughed at him.
“You’re insane.” she said, turning around and stalking past him with the intention of returning home and hiding behind her Uncle until the crazy blonde had vanished.
“Gran- Hermione!” Draco shouted, diving after her and grabbing her arm. “Just wait for a-”
Hermione snatched her limb back and shoved him with all of her strength, now well and truly feeling the pressure of three days’ worth of pent-up fury being released into the hottest sensation of burning, murderous rage she had ever felt. He staggered back and managed to steady himself against a nearby car. “I don’t know what your problem is, Malfoy, and I don’t care! My father is dead! Get the hell away from me!” she screamed.
“Hermione! Would you just listen to me for a damn second!” Draco shouted back. “I knew your father! Jacob David Granger was a friend of mine!”
She just shook her head at him, tears welling up in her eyes. “How the hell would my father have known you?” she managed, voice breaking mid-sentence. “He was a muggle, Draco. You hate muggles.”
“Take care of my girl, Draco.”
Draco grinned and shook his head. “You say that every time you go, as if I’d forget or something. You put such a downer on things. Now hurry up and get it done; you can buy the beers when you get back.” he chuckled, slapping the elder man on the back.
Jacob saluted and jogged out of the manor, hands in his suit pockets. “I’m just saying,” he called over his shoulder at the blonde stood on the steps. “If anything happens… you take care of my girl.”
They stood in silence for three minutes, before Hermione sniffed and looked at him. “Go on then. Enlighten me. My father was a friend of yours?” she challenged, eyes red and damp. “Just tell me what you want, Malfoy.”
“I want you to come with me.” he said calmly. “No; hear me out.”
Arms folded, Hermione nodded once that he should continue.
“Come with me to the manor. Then, I’ll explain everything to you - who your father was, why you’re in danger and anything else you want to know. Just trust me this once.”
She looked up at his eyes; stormy grey with flecks of white - like a monochrome photograph of a Venetian town square with dark figures and pigeons in mid-flight. He looked earnest, but she couldn’t help feeling like there was so much more depth to those eyes than he was allowing her to see - like he had a deep secret that he was only going to scrape the surface of with her. She imagined the pigeons on the wet cobbles of Venice and thought of the bloody goose feathers back in the kitchen.
Chapter 3: The Manor
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‘The manor’, Hermione soon discovered, was more like a castle. Draco had taken her arm and apparated with her into the middle of what appeared to be a greenhouse; warm and lined with a flourishing grape vine plant. She looked around, blinking in surprise. The whole place had an overwhelming feel of… well, muggle. There were tomato plants in pots on the floor, sweet-smelling herbs growing out of floral teacups and a dog basket by the door.
“This is the apparition point.” Malfoy explained, brushing past her. “It’s the only place on the entire grounds that’s accessible by magic. If you wanted to get in any other way you’d have to walk… and I wouldn’t recommend it.”
Hermione nodded mutely and followed him out of the greenhouse. Wherever they were was having better weather than London; the mid-morning sun was already beginning to dry out her sodden clothes. Once the initial blindness had passed, she was permitted a look at her new surroundings.
“Wow.” she managed, her eyes falling on the building ahead of them. Draco, who had already set off toward it, paused to glance back at her.
“Nice isn’t it?” he said idly, waiting for her to catch up. “It belonged to Blaise’s Aunt. She died a few years ago and left it to his mother, but since she’s living in Paris at the moment it’s pretty much free for us to use.”
Hermione looked at him. “Blaise? Blaise Zabini?” she asked curiously.
“The one and only.”
“Who else lives here?”
Draco seemed to think about this as he steadily led the way up the cobbled drive, one hand running habitually through his blonde hair. Hermione noticed that it was considerably longer than she remembered it being at school - it almost grazed his shoulders. “A few people you’ll remember from Hogwarts.” he said carefully, not meeting her eyes.
“Such as?” she pressed, staring doubtfully at the manor. “All Slytherins, I assume.”
“Well, there’s me and Blaise. There’s also Pansy-”
Unable to stop herself, Hermione let out a disgruntled noise and Draco stopped to grin down at her. “Sorry,” she said, cringing. “She wasn’t… the nicest girl in school.”
“I wouldn’t blame you for not wanting to associate with her. She didn’t even get along too well with your…” he broke off and cleared his throat. “I… let’s go inside, shall we? There are a few people I want you to meet.”
He picked up his pace and Hermione stared after him. A slight wind had picked up while they had been walking away from the greenhouse; she shivered and turned a slow circle to look at the manor grounds. The sun had gone behind a cloud and the tops of the nearby woods rustled in the breeze. She didn’t like it.
Draco had reached the front door before he turned to check her progress. Realising that she had little choice but to follow, Hermione half-jogged along the sun-warmed cobbles to slow to a halt beside him. “I want answers, Malfoy.” she said, her voice quivering. “To be honest I don’t even know why I came… but I want answers, and I want them now.”
He pushed the door open and gestured that she should enter. “I promised I’d tell you, didn’t I? Come on in.”
After a moment’s hesitation, Hermione stepped past him and found herself standing in a colossal entrance hall - almost as large as the one at Hogwarts. Facing them were two staircases leading onto a gallery balcony, and high above the cream marble floor was a crystal chandelier that could probably be sold to feed half of Africa. She only remembered Draco’s presence behind her when he gently closed the door.
“Oh good, Draco, you’re back.” a wiry, dark-skinned female appeared out of a door to their left with an armful of thick books. “We have a Pansy problem.”
“Isn’t Blaise dealing with her?” Draco asked, sounding a little exasperated. “Zoey, this is Hermione. Jacob’s daughter.”
Zoey’s serious expression turned to one of remorse as she met Hermione’s eyes for the first time and held out her hand. “I’m so sorry, Hermione. Your father was a great man.” she said quietly, touching Hermione’s arm. “I’m the resident Healer, you come find me if you need anything.”
“Oh… I… thankyou.” Hermione stammered, shaking the girl’s hand. “Nice to meet you.”
“You too.” she smiled and Hermione couldn’t help but like the girl; her smile, at least, didn’t look as though it was keeping a dark secret from her. “Pansy, Draco. She’s bitching about something.”
Draco shoved his hands in his pockets and pulled a face. “Blaise, Zoey.” he replied, imitating her tone. “Remember him? Tall, dark and handsome? Occasionally the boyfriend of said bitch?”
“Well then you go deal with her. I’m showing Hermione around. She’s distraught, can hardly think straight.” he said in mock concern, putting an arm around Hermione’s shoulders and steering her past Zoey. “I’d love to help but she really needs me right now, we’ll talk later!” He shouted most of this over his shoulder whilst ushering Hermione through a second door.
It lead into another impressive, high-ceilinged room - this one with walls lined floor-to-roof with dark wooden bookshelves. The student in Hermione tingled with intrigue as she looked around.
“This is the library,” Draco said pointlessly. “Home to the resident loser, Christopher. Don’t ask me where he is right now, probably skulking around in the shadows making sure we don’t touch one of his precious-”
Draco yelped and jumped, turning an accusatory glare on the boy that had appeared behind them. Hermione stifled her smile. Standing between them with a triumphant expression was a boy perhaps their own age, wearing a stained white lab coat and, oddly, a pair of sunglasses.
“Becker.” Draco snarled, attempting to recompose himself. “Hermione, this is Christopher Becker. He lives in the library.”
Christopher Becker shook her outstretched hand with a sympathetic smile. “Being shown around by Barbie, are you? Bad luck. And I don’t live here, he just gets a little touchy in the presence of someone who actually learned to read while they were growing up, rather than spending all of their daddy’s money on new shoes and highlights for their beautiful blonde hair.”
“I’m Hermione Granger.” she said, laughing at the expression on Draco‘s face. Like Zoey, Christopher Becker seemed to be someone she could genuinely get along with - she was beginning to doubt the enormity of whatever Draco was hiding.
Becker looked back up at Draco, who stood on Hermione’s other side with a sour expression on his previously scornful face. “Did Zoey tell you that Pansy’s freaked out and buggered off?” he asked.
“What?!” Draco exploded, running his hand through his hair again. It seemed to be a knee-jerk reaction to annoyance or awkward situations; Hermione would have laughed had he not looked so worried. “She’s gone?!”
Christopher shrugged and looked down at the papers in his hand, evidently not half as worried as his companion. “Blaise went after her. They’ll be back. Have you explained things to Hermione?” he added, looking up again.
Hermione turned to Draco expectantly. He was gazing out of the library door with a distant look on his face; either avoiding the question or still worried about his missing friends. She cleared her throat pointedly and he returned to Earth. “What? Oh, not yet. Let’s not freak the girl out too early shall we?” he sighed. “Okay Hermione, let’s go find somewhere to sit and I’ll attempt to quench your laborious thirst for knowledge.”
Christopher Becker raised an eyebrow. “Well look at Legally Blonde go today! Did you decide to skip your bowl of stupid for breakfast this morning?”
“Thin ice, book-boy.”
Hermione, who had felt the corners of her mouth twitch slightly at the interchange between the two boys, found herself being ushered further into the library. “Where to now?” she asked, glancing up at her blonde companion.
“We might as well stay in here. Everyone else will be somewhere else in the house, and I’m sure Becker has some fascinating amoeba to study.”
“Bite me, Pamela!” Becker shot back from the other side of the room. “If anyone needs me I’ll be downstairs.”
It turned out that there was even more to the library than Hermione had first noticed. Beyond the first wall of books the room stretched further than she could see - she appeared to be standing at the entrance to a labyrinth of heaving bookshelves, housing so many tomes that it would take a lifetime just to read the titles of them all.
Draco strolled to the fourth row and took a sharp left, vanishing out of her sight. Blinking in surprise, Hermione ran to keep up. At the far end of the book aisle was a window, and it was on the broad, cushioned window-seat that Malfoy had settled, with his booted feet stretched out in front of him. He gestured to the space opposite him and Hermione sat down on the edge. “Well?” she demanded after a moment of silence.
“Why have you brought me here?” she burst out, gesturing wildly to the manor at large. “Why am I here, who are these people and why was someone trying to attack you, me or us in the middle of London?!”
Draco looked out of the window thoughtfully. “I brought you here because your father asked me to look out for you if anything happened to him. These people are friends of mine; they’ll look out for you too. We’re… sort of an odd family. And I will assume that the Stone brothers are after you because the price on your head will have gone up with the death of Ja- your father.” he concluded.
“Malfoy… you managed to get around answering all three questions. Now answer them properly or I’m just going to walk out and…” she paused and scowled. “Walk out and make you take me back to London. Where are we, anyway?”
“Wonderful. Now talk, Malfoy.” she added in a threatening tone.
He sighed in frustration and dragged a hand through his hair. “Well… it’s going to be hard to explain without you thinking I’m completely insane, so I’ll show you instead.”
Hermione watched with raised eyebrows as he stood up and strode to the end of the row, turning to face her.
“Just promise you won’t freak out, Granger.”
Slightly worried that he was about to turn himself into a werewolf or grow an extra set of arms or something equally disturbing, Hermione nodded once. Taking a deep breath, Draco closed his eyes and massaged his temples. Then, in an act that appeared to cause him no pain whatsoever, his shirt split and a pair of huge feathered wings unfurled on either side of him, flexing once and then becoming immobile.
Hermione stared, unable to find a solid thought to grab onto. On the one hand she was so surprised and brimming over with ‘what’s’ and ‘why’s’ that she thought she might explode, but on the other she was telling herself that she had read so many books on magical… magic that she really ought to be finding a logical explanation herself, and when she thought about it he looked like some kind of male underwear model.
And yet… they obviously weren’t fake. The feathers weren’t an outrageously tacky white, they were greys and browns and flecked with splashes of black - if she had seen the same feathers on a goose or swan she wouldn’t have looked twice.
Footsteps approached and Becker strolled past Draco with an arm-full of books. “You look like a Victoria’s Secret angel.” he said amiably.
“Can it, Becker.” Draco snarled. Hermione, realising that she had been holding her breath, took in a shaky lungful of oxygen and sat back against the window.
“Wings.” she managed. Gazing steadily at them, she noticed a few tufts of white where the feathers appeared to have been pulled out. “So all the feathers in the kitchen… they came from your… your…”
Draco nodded. “It’s surprising how quickly they grow back. He pulled them out by the handful…” he twisted his head to look over his shoulder at them. “And before you ask, it’s like having your hair ripped out. Most of the blood came from them too.”
“But… what… how?!”
The hand went through the hair again. Draco strolled back to the seat (Hermione noticed in vague awe that he managed to fold in the wings just enough to be able to fit down the aisle) and sat down on the edge. This close she could see every strand of the nearest feathers. She could also see where they had split the skin on his back - the base of the wings were featherless and the dull white colour of bone. Hermione reached out a hand to touch them, momentarily forgetting who she was sat with.
Draco didn’t seem to mind. He kept still while she touched her fingertips to the downy fur at the base of his wings and withdrew her hand, unabashedly fascinated. “Most of the people you meet here have wings of some form or another.” he said, gazing ahead at the books while she continued to stare at the feathers that had erupted from his back. “Not always the same.”
“Why, though?” Hermione asked, now more intrigued than frustrated. “I’ve never read of anything like it…”
“You’ve read about the witch trials?” Draco asked, shifting his position to make sitting with his wings out more comfortable. “Muggles burning witches at the stake and such?”
Hermione pulled a face. “You mean hanging them? And it didn’t work anyway.” she added. “If they were to be hanged they could escape, and you know that witches can’t be burned at the stake because of a flame-freezing-”
“Wrong.” Draco interrupted, sounding unreasonably smug that he knew something she didn’t. “I hate to tell you this, Granger, but it’s very easy to burn a witch at the stake. You just need to know what you’re doing. And unfortunately for about two hundred witches in nineteenth century colonial Massachusetts, the Worth family knew exactly what they were doing…”
Chapter 4: A Grimm Tale
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Fixed errors regarding names. Thanks to Veronica. ♥
Another sexyy chapter image by the amazing the_tofuubeaver at TDA! love you rita!
A Grimm Tale
Grimm Malfoy and Dash Hunter
It had been a good day for the miners. Five burnings in one eve; the air around the hill was thick with the stench of dead magic and to Victor Worth it was like the finest perfume. He stood at the base of the hill, body rigid with age and all the ailments it brought, watching his miners circle the stake. Five burnings… he inhaled deeply, closing his eyes and allowing the scent of dead witches to wash over him. Sweeter than fine wine.
The crunch of boots in frosted mud roused him from his stupor. “Eight vials.” the thin, rasping voice of his second broke the night silence. Worth turned to face him. “That’s eight full vials.”
Dash Hunter stood wearing his usual infuriating smirk and Worth once again wished he was young enough to wipe it off his face. Instead he turned away and nodded once. “Bring them to me.”
Hunter didn’t move. “Well actually, the men and I have been talking.” he sneered. “And we’ve come to the decision that the three shillings an hour you pay us isn’t worth all the work. We know what this stuff would be worth to … more generous parties. We know what it can be used for.”
Gold dust. The airborne ashes left over from a successful witch burning.
No, Victor was no fool. He knew that the witches existed and he knew enough about them not to confuse them with innocent young women. He also knew that a real witch was harder to kill. You can’t hang them - they escape, or else the rope snaps. You can’t leave them alone in the stocks because they’ll be gone the first time you blink.
When you burned them, you had to use a certain type of cedar wood. As far as Victor knew, cedars didn’t grow in the colonial states of America - but he knew a man who worked on the Mediterranean-bound ships and for a few shillings a month could buy himself enough cedar to burn ten witches. It was surprising how little you needed.
“You do what you have to.” he said simply, not gracing the younger man with a look. “It would make you a lot of money… if you knew who to take it to.”
He didn’t need to turn around to see the ugly scowl work it’s way across the muscles of Hunter’s face. “And I suppose you do?” he growled. “You haven’t sold a single speck of this stuff have you? You wouldn’t know what to do with it if-”
He broke off with a strangled gasp as Victor, in a movement that seemed very limber for his age, pivoted on his heels and wrapped his gnarled fingers around Hunter’s throat. “Well, Hunter? What do you make of this?” he asked lightly, the faint evening wind shifting the gray and black hairs around his skull. “If you cross me again, Dash, I will personally remove your untrustworthy tongue.”
Victor flexed his fingers out and Dash Hunter collapsed to the grass, coughing vehemently.
“Regarding your financial whinnying, you may inform ‘the men’ that I will be increasing your pay. Fifty shillings per hour.” he added, casting a mildly disgusted look down at the man by his boots.
“Of course… sir…” Hunter spat onto the ground and straightened up, attempting to regain his composure. “I’ll bring the vials.”
Victor had already turned away and was gazing out at the nearby town, where the sun was setting over three silhouetted figures hanging from the gallows. “You do that.” he muttered. The buyer would be arriving soon, turning up to purchase every scrap of gold dust Victor had collected and take it away. His price was too impressive for Victor to deny him even a single vial… and yet he couldn’t help but feel he was being cheated.
“This is all of it.” Hunter returned with the nine vials and loaded them into the leather satchel on Victor’s horse. “All nine.”
“Good. We have another nine to collect - go south and see how Williamson is doing. I’ll meet you back in Salem in two hours.”
“But… who was the buyer? And what was so special about the ashes? And how did Victor know how to kill witches?!” Hermione had so many questions firing around her mouth that it was hard to get the words out in a coherent order. “And where do wings come into any of this?”
Draco, who appeared to be thoroughly enjoying himself, folded away his wings and sat back. “The buyer, to start from the beginning, was a man called Grimm Malfoy. Yes,” he continued at her look of inquiry, “He was my great-great-etcetera grandfather. And he was a bad one. Like… Lucius plus Voldemort times Bellatrix. He was arrested at the age of twelve for slaughtering a village of muggles.”
“How lovely.” Hermione said, pulling a face. “Then why was he making a deal with Victor… Worth was it?”
“He knew what the gold dust could do.” Draco gave an arrogant, one-shouldered shrug. “So he made the dumb muggle an offer that he couldn’t refuse...”
Dash Hunter liked Grimm Malfoy. He had always found Victor, who was a product of his age and therefore slow at times, to be a laborious leader - a man who thought about things too much instead of charging straight in. But Malfoy, who had rode into the Salem twilight on a vast white warhorse, looked to be his exact opposite.
“Victor Worth?” he had said in a crisp British accent, extending one gloved hand. “Grimm Malfoy. It’s good to finally meet you.”
Worth grasped the glove with his own gnarled hand and shook once. “This is my accomplice, Dash Hunter.”
“Pleasure.” Grimm inclined his head. “Do you have it all?”
At Victor’s nod, Dash hurried to open the leather saddlebag and show Grimm Malfoy the collection of gently clinking glass vials; all filled with the same dully-glowing ashes. “Thirty four, counted them myself.” he said helpfully.
“Good.” Grimm nodded. “You - Hunter, was it? - put them on my horse.”
Victor swung his walking stick up to catch Dash in the chest before he could move. “Show me the money,” he growled. “Four hundred pounds to the last penny, I want to see it.”
Grimm raised an eyebrow at the untrusting tone, but reached beneath his long coat to pull out a small satchel and toss it idly into Victor’s arms. The older man fumbled with catch and glanced inside. There was a lot of money in there. Despite this, he remained on his guard - Victor Worth rarely trusted men of his own town and country, never mind wealthy people from England. He had never liked the English.
He lowered his cane and Dash loaded the saddlebag onto Grimm’s eerily obedient horse.
“Pleasure doing business, gentlemen.” Grimm gave a small bow and mounted again, reaching into his coat for what Hunter assumed was a pocket watch. “AVADA-”
“He killed him?!” Hermione gasped. “But that‘s so… oh well, I suppose it makes sense.”
Draco rolled his eyes. “Of course it makes sense, Granger. No-one in the wizarding world knew that the gold dust even existed, if he’d left Worth alive then a thousand wizards could have found out.”
“Thankyou, I reached that on my own.” Hermione countered acidly. “Alright, so let me get this straight. Your ancestor, Grimm Malfoy, tricked some muggles into collecting the ashes of burned witches for him and then killed them.”
“No, he let Dash live and took him back to England.”
“Right. Wait, why?”
Draco shrugged again. “I don’t know. I guess he thought he might be useful. Loads of wizards had muggle pets back then - there were more loopholes in wizarding law. Anyway, Grimm brought the thirty four vials of gold dust back with him to England. You wouldn’t believe how much he used on himself in his lifetime, and one or two were broken and he left six to his two children, but around twenty of them made it into the wizarding world.” he concluded, eyes sparkling mysteriously. “Which is why people like me exist.”
Hermione was silent for a few minutes while her mind caught up with all this. “But what does it do?!”
“It’s impossible to predict. When you burn a witch, the magic in their blood is… well it’s like dropping a match to gunpowder. It gets really powerful for a short time, and then sort of fades into the air. But if you catch it before it fades and keep it in an airtight glass vial, like Victor Worth did, you can preserve the magic. Using it on yourself would be like ingesting magic itself, but pure magic. Victor Worth touched so much of it that it made him more agile and stronger - he didn’t know why and it didn’t have that much of an affect because he was a muggle and it just touched his skin.
Grimm knew what it could do because he’d heard the legends of it. He used it on himself; when gold dust enters the blood of a witch or wizard it accelerates the magic already inside them, so he became a sort of demi-God. But it varies with each different person.”
It sounded so far fetched, and yet Hermione could hear the magical science behind it. “You said there are four vials left. Did you use some of it?” she asked, slightly appalled.
Draco let out a bark-like laugh. “Good God no. That stuff’s been stewing in itself for centuries; you couldn’t pay me to use it. Grimm used so much of that shit on himself in his lifetime that it affected his direct bloodline for generations and generations. He had two children; a boy called Laurence and a girl called Isabel. Laurence was born with wings. Isabel could land on her feet when she jumped from the top of a house. It skipped almost every generation to me.”
“You said that other people here had wings…?”
“Yeah. Zoey had them when she was born, but her parents burned them off with their wands. They were nice people.” he added, voice dripping with venom.
Hermione’s hand flew to her mouth. “That’s horrid!” she exclaimed, eyes wide. “To their own daughter?!”
“They kept her locked in the attic until she was ten. Then she got Dumbledore’s persistent Hogwarts letters and her parents realised they were going to have to let her out into the world, so they tried to burn them off. They grew back but she can’t fly.” he added. “Blaise has them, but I think we’re second cousins or something so that’s no surprise…”
Their conversation was cut abruptly short at the sound of a door slamming nearby. Becker materialised at the end of the book row - Hermione, who was now wondering if everyone in this house had some kind of genetic power, realised that she hadn’t heard his footsteps. “Pansy and Blaise are back.” he said, before she could ask. “Malfoy, you might want to step in before she kills him.”
“Hermione, wait with Becker.” Draco sighed, running a hand through his hair and stalking past Christopher. “I’ll be right back!”
“Yeah that’s okay Malfoy, normal guys don’t wear shirts.” Becker called after him. “You look like Spring Break in Daytona!”
Hermione missed Draco’s reply and sat back against the window. Christopher joined her, sitting where Malfoy had previously been and dragging the curtain across his half of the window. “So,” he said pleasantly, “Has she explained everything?”
“He explained about his ancestors and the gold dust. I’m still not entirely sure where I fit in here, though… and why was my father working for you?” she added, hoping that he would be able to fill in one or two blanks.
Becker snorted. “I knew letting Posh Spice explain things would take an era longer than anyone else. Did he tell you that there are four vials left in existence? Right, well obviously there are some very nasty individuals after those vials, I mean there is some serious magic going on in that glass. When Grimm Malfoy’s twenty vials made it into the wizarding world, freaks like us started popping up everywhere and the secret was out.
There was a time when you could kill a wizard or witch that had used the gold dust, and take it from their blood. Now, of course, there’s only seriously diluted stuff left inside people so all these witches and wizards that want some need to get it from the vials.”
“Do you know where they are?” Hermione asked, intrigued.
“We have two of them. They’re in the basement.” Becker replied calmly. “Which is why people like the Stone brothers are attacking us all the time. And we hunt for the other two when we’re not guarding the fort.”
Hermione sat back again, allowing all of this to wash over her. Becker waited patiently while she formulated a reply, toying with the frayed edges of his lab coat. “So… why do you keep them away from the world? Surely the Ministry could lock them away or something…?” she asked eventually.
“No. The only people who can be trusted are those who don’t need the power inside those vials. Which would be those who already have it. AKA us. And we keep it here rather than selling it because for all we know, when someone pulls one of the corks out of those vials it could go off like a nuclear missile. You can’t lock burning magic away for so long and expect it to keep healthy.”
“And to answer your other question,” Draco reappeared and kicked Becker out of his seat. “You are here because your father was one of us. So for all the rest of the world knows, you could be too.”
Hermione stared at him. “Come again?”
“Way to spring that one on her.” Becker muttered, vanishing into the shadows again.
Draco ignored him and shrugged as though he was being completely reasonable. “Well you might. Jacob was one of us. It’s generally a genetic thing. It’s not that far fetched.” he reasoned. “The point is… okay I have no point; let’s go meet other people.”
Hermione’s mind was so flooded with intrigue and questions, so much so that she probably hadn’t felt this curious since learning about the Philosopher’s Stone in her first year of Hogwarts, that she hadn’t been paying attention to the time. They walked past a grandfather clock on their way out of the library.
“Half past nine?!” she yelled, gripping her hair in despair. “My mother will be worried sick!”
Draco glanced briefly over his shoulder as he sauntered into the entrance hall. “Don’t worry about it. We’ll sort something out soon.” he called lazily. “Pansy, for fuck’s sake will you stop breaking things?!”
Hermione jogged after him and skidded onto the tiles. Across the hall, accompanied by several people she had never met, were two Slytherins Hermione had once hoped never to set eyes on again. Blaise Zabini, and a very irate Pansy Parkinson.
He looked up when she entered the room, dark-haired and handsome and, surprisingly, wearing a leather jacket. “Oh, you finally brought her then?” he asked icily, directing his comment toward Draco. “How much have you explained?”
“Pretty much everything.” Draco shrugged, ignoring his tone. “Pans. Be nice.”
Hermione realised at his words that the dark-haired girl had been staring acid at her since she had walked in. “I thought we were still negotiating the terms of her presence?” she snarled, jerking to try and remove Blaise's restraining arm. “We don’t want her here. She’s a bloody-”
Her words were muffled as Blaise put a hand over her mouth. “If anyone needs us we’ll be upstairs in the piano room.” he hauled her into the air and strode off toward the stairs. "Bye Hermione."
Hermione watched them go with one eyebrow raised. “Well she’s still a charmer.” she said. “I need to go home.”
“Uh… not the best of ideas, Granger.” Draco drawled, scratching his head. “The Stone brothers will probably still be out and about.”
“They might attack my mother! I have to go warn her!” Hermione cried, diving past him to race out of the manor. Draco followed, attempting to match her pace as she scrambled through the grass and into the greenhouse.
“Gra- Hermione, you can’t just head back into the middle of London! For God’s sake will you stop being so stubborn already?!” he panted.
Hermione ignored him, too busy wondering how in the name of Merlin she ended up running through Somewhere-Near-Coventry with a half-naked Draco Malfoy chasing her. If she hadn’t been so furious with them, she’d have found the idea of writing it to Harry and Ron quite humorous - she could just imagine how red Ronald’s face would turn at the thought.
She made it to the greenhouse and skidded to a halt on the concrete floor, with bare moments until Draco caught up. Hermione knew that if he caught her he would stop her from dissapparating, so she drew her wand, thought of home and, as the exhausted blonde staggered past the greenery, vanished.
Chapter 5: The Passion of Ava
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I deleted the last chapter I posted and it’s being replaced by this one.
Hope everyone likes; I lost like twelve reviews so comments are mucho appreciated!
THE PASSION OF AVA
Darla Baker as Ava Falcroft
The Grimm Gardens.
Ava hated them. She hated them with all the passion of hell, which was exactly where she would send them if she had the choice.
Miles and miles of untouched, overgrown, unruly wildlife creeping its way over every last standing remnant of the once-magnificent manor. It was now ruins. Golden stones chipped and faded and green with flourishing moss, weather-beaten statues broken or fallen, thick tree roots twisting like vines to strangle the stone residue.
She winced away from the scene. The afternoon sunshine penetrated the leafy canopy in speckled areas, illuminating barely-trodden paths amongst the undergrowth and catching the wings of the ever-prolific cabbage white butterflies.
The wind carried the scent of a fox den in the base of an elm tree. Squirrels, badgers, does; all besmirching the grounds of the manor with their innocent presence and making Ava want to take out her wand and level the entire area. Tragically, she couldn’t.
“You’re right, it is beautiful here.”
Ah yes, the wizard. What was his name again? Evan? Eric? Andrew? It was irrelevant anyway, he wasn’t going to live long enough to notice her slip-up and as there were only the two of them she didn’t need to hail him at all.
“The Grimm Gardens.” she said out loud, eyes roving the greenery. “The ruins were once a great Manor; the home of the legendary Grimm Malfoy. Rumour has it he’s buried here somewhere, in an unmarked grave.”
“Why an unmarked grave?” her companion asked curiously. Ava heard his arm stretch out to touch the branch of a nearby tree and a smile found it’s way onto her lips. The Grimm Gardens were much like the garden of Eden. But whereas in Eden you must not touch the forbidden fruit… in Grimm you must not touch anything.
A thin vine shot across the branch the man had touched and wound around his wrist. He cried out and tried to pull his arm back; a second vine broke free of a rose bush behind him to enclose around his knees and force him to the ground. Ava continued to smile serenely at a nearby statue.
“When you bury someone in an unmarked grave,” she explained as a thick, white-flowered bindweed began to wrap itself around her companion’s face. “Their soul doesn’t pass on. It remains trapped in the earth, waiting to be woken up.”
As the poor wizard sank into the undergrowth, a carpet of tiny, blood-red flowers blossomed in his place. Ava smirked. The reason the Grimm Gardens flourished so liberally was buried seven feet below her toes, rotten and crumbling but very much alive and greedy for flesh and blood.
She looked up at the statue. The leaf canopy was heavier here; no rays of sunlight managed to get through, leaving the stone sculpture cast in a dark circle of shadow. The likeness of Grimm Malfoy stood tall and proud amidst the ruins of his home, worn by weather but untouched by the roving wilderness that surrounded it. The stone base on which he stood vanished into the earth and twisted into thick and gnarled roots. They grew further down than any of the trees, and at their very tips were the broken remnants of the thick stone crypt in which Grimm had been buried.
Ava smiled as the mud at the base of the statue bubbled, and small rivulets of dark red liquid rolled around the stone to sink back into the ground moments later. Evan’s bones would be somewhere far beneath the garden, in a minefield teeming with the remains of hundreds of others like him, left to decay into the soil while his flesh nourished the overgrown wilderness.
“Soon, Grimm.” she spoke into the wind, reaching out to place a hand on the nearest branch. It was something she did every time she entered the garden; making sure that he knew that she would offer her own life whenever necessary. Ava knew he would never take it. “Soon.”
Once he had made sure that the Stone brothers had no immediate plans to directly attack Hermione’s Uncle’s home, Draco was close-enough to content to let it go. He watched her into the townhouse, checked the area one last time and then headed back to the manor to call it a night.
Pansy was waiting in the entrance hall when he strolled in out of the darkness, arms folded over her chest and mutiny in her eyes. Draco braced himself. “What’s rattled your cage?”
“You’ve rattled my cage!” she snarled, looking very much like a wild animal as she followed him into the library. Several sets of eyes followed them, some shooting Draco sympathetic glances, others looking like they thought Pansy’s fury was entirely justified. “What the hell were you thinking just bringing her here?!”
“Give it a rest, Pansy. We all promised Jacob that we’d watch out for her if anything happened to him.” Draco sighed, brushing his hair off his face and sitting down on the window-seat he had shared only an hour ago with Hermione. Pansy remained standing. He knew that he had cornered himself, but he also knew that her anger was justified and that by unfurling his wings and flying to the top of the highest bookshelf to avoid her he’d just make her angrier, so he resisted the urge and sat back. “Even you.”
“Yeah,” she snapped. “We agreed to keep an eye on her. Not invite her to the bloody manor and tell her everything! She’s not one of us, what’s to stop her telling everyone she knows where we are and what we have?!”
“I can’t believe you’d bring her here! This is you thinking you’re in bloody charge again! You had no right to expose us all to her!”
“None of this is any of her goddamn business anyway! The last thing we need is her poking her nose around like it’s anything to do with her, when it’s not!”
“PANSY!” Draco finally yelled. “You’re steaming.”
She blinked and looked down at her arm. A thin layer of mist was curling away from her skin and into the musty library air; barely noticeable but enough to put Draco on edge. “Oh.” she said after a moment, flexing her fingers and shaking her arm. “Sorry. I didn’t notice…”
“Just keep calm.” Draco said, immediately feeling bad. He reached forward and pulled her onto the cushion beside him, one arm around her shoulders even though the heat made his skin tingle uncomfortably. “Look, I don’t want a nosy muggleborn thinking she’s one of us either. But as much as we hate her, she’s pretty smart - at least smart enough to not go broadcasting what I told her to every Tom, Dick and Potter.
But she’s nosy, like you said. And I’d rather have her getting in Zoey’s way in the manor than out in London where I’d have to have someone watch her twenty four seven. Yeah?”
Pansy’s shoulders slumped in defeat and she nodded glumly. “Yeah. But I’m not being nice to her, so you can shove that up your feathered ass.”
“All I’m asking is that you don’t cook her.” Draco grinned. “And stop letting her get you so aggravated. Don’t let her think she can make you lose your cool.”
Pansy laughed appreciatively. “Funny. Alright fine.” she sighed melodramatically and raised a hand. “I solemnly swear that I will not toast Hermione Granger.”
“That includes third-degree burns and setting her hair on fire.”
“You take all the fun out of life.” she scowled. “Okay deal. If you manage to put a book on a fishing line and somehow lure the mudblood into spending most of her time in the manor, I promise not to cook her unless she annoys me.”
“Good girl.” Draco kissed her head. “Now what did you do with Blaise?”
Pansy pulled a face. “He’s in the piano room with mini-Becker and Zoey.” she said, shrugging one shoulder. “Zoey kicked me out because apparently my thoughts were bothering Max.”
“Were you mentally screaming about tearing out Granger’s hair again?” Draco asked sympathetically. Max Becker was their resident psychic and one of the youngest people living in the manor. His abilities were unpredictable, although he often said that some people’s minds just shouted things at him - usually when he was in close proximity and the said someone was feeling strong emotions about something.
“… Maybe.” Pansy cringed, brushing a dark strand of hair out of her eyes. “I was probably overreacting. The little creep should stay out of my head.”
“I can’t help it.” a third voice joined their conversation as Max Becker appeared at the end of the row and smiled at them. “You seem to have calmed down now.”
Max was Becker’s thirteen year old brother; a scrawny, brown-haired kid with dimples and the kind of eager attitude that made Draco cringe. It was the subject of nightmares to many of the manor’s residents that Max would one day decide to charge headfirst into danger in a doomed attempt to help and end up injured or dead.
Pretty much everyone was fond of him. Even, though begrudgingly, Draco.
“Cassiopeia wants to talk to you, Draco.” he said, stuffing his hands into the pockets of his jeans. “Her mind’s one big mess but it sounds like something to do with the Stone brothers.”
Draco grimaced. Cassiopeia hearing anything to do with the Stone brothers was rarely a good thing. “Alright, let’s go. Yes Max, you can come with. Pans are you coming?” he glanced back down at Pansy, who was chewing on a hangnail and gazing out of the dark window. “Earth beckoning Pansy.”
“Huh? Oh, yeah okay. Max where’s Blaise?” she added, looking down at the smaller boy.
Max shrugged. “Still in the piano room I think. He was playing Beethoven for Zoey when I left; she’s got a headache.”
Pretending he wasn’t jealous of his second-cousin’s long list of reputable talents, Draco led the way back out of the library and into the entrance hall, intending to make his visit to Cassiopeia as quick as possible before getting to bed. It had been a long day and Blaise’s best guest room, which Draco had claimed as soon as he moved in, was calling to him.
He picked up his pace and headed down the long flight of hidden stairs that would take them into the basement.
Cassiopeia, like many of the witches and wizards living in the manor, had a gift. But being genetically infected with gold dust was only a small part of the psychotic bag of crazy that she was; so small, in fact, that people barely remembered it about her.
For one thing, Cassiopeia was over fifty years old, and yet took the appearance of a twenty-ish year old woman. For another, her father had been a water nymph and her mother a Seer. Which made Cass a water-dwelling psychic and the last creature to directly use the gold dust before the four remaining vials vanished.
Fortunately for everyone she had spent most of her life living in the secluded lake on the manor grounds, feeding on fish and the occasional deer that strayed too close to the water. When she discovered what Blaise and Draco were doing now that they had inherited the manor, she made herself known to them by almost drowning the latter, and had lived in the basement ever since.
Also fortunate was the intense state of paranoia in which Blaise’s Aunt had lived. Constantly fearing for her life, she squandered a great deal of her fortune building another level beneath her manor, containing bedrooms, kitchens, libraries and, lucky for Cassiopeia, a vast underground swimming pool.
“Cass?” Draco called, knocking twice on the thick wooden door to the pool room. “It’s Draco, Pansy and Max.”
He pushed the door open and stepped in, almost slipping on the damn tiles. Cassiopeia’s pool took up most of the room, surrounded by a two metre border of tiled floor and the thick Grecian pillars that supported the roof. Light danced off the water’s surface and reflected across the three figures as they carefully approached the edge.
“Cassie?” Pansy said, sitting on the floor at the pool edge. Draco and Max hung back - Pansy was one of very few people that Cassiopeia would tolerate being close to without trying to drown them.
Finally she appeared, silently breaking the surface and looking up at them all through dead white eyes. “I saw something.” she said, her quiet voice echoing vaguely around the room. “The Stone brothers are following a new leader, not one of their own. A newcomer. A woman. The way they search for the vials is becoming more and more methodical. She knows what she’s doing.”
“Do you know who she is?” Draco asked, crouching down. “A name?”
Cassiopeia shook her head slowly. “She spends a lot of time in a wilderness… I can see stone, perhaps the ruins of a castle. There’s something wrong with the landscape… some… evil…”
Max let out a small noise of discontent and Draco turned to glance at him. The kid’s eyes were regaining their color again; apparently he had been trying to read Cass’s mind and follow her thoughts. “It’s like the Matrix in there.” he whispered, grimacing. “Impossible to follow.”
“Warning.” Cassiopeia said, gazing directly at Draco. “It’s a warning. Things are about to intensify. She’s going to make sure of it.”
Chapter 6: Event Horizon
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edit; fixed Cass' name - thanks Pixie_fate!
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Ulrich Stone and Hermione
The next day found Hermione back in the greenhouse.
There were many reasons for this; some concerning the danger she put her mother in simply by remaining in her Uncle’s house, some involving a selfish fear that she might get attacked at any moment. But it was mostly a burning curiosity to find out more about her father that tempted her to apparate back to the manor. And after all, Malfoy had said she would be safer there.
She stepped over the dog basket and out into the garden, once again finding herself in awe at the sheer enormity of the manor and all it’s grounds - other than Hogwarts she didn’t think she had ever stood in front of a house as big.
Hermione spun on her heel, relaxing when her eyes landed on Zoey. The dark-skinned girl was sat in the shade of a nearby beech tree, reading a worn book. “Morning.” Hermione replied, approaching her. “What are you reading?”
“A magical maladies textbook.” Zoey said, pulling a face. “It’s dull, but I need to keep in practise. You never know what might happen around here. Sit down?”
Smiling gratefully, Hermione folded her legs beneath her and settled at the base of the tree. To be perfectly honest she had no idea what she had planned to say once she got into the manor anyway; she wasn’t entirely oblivious to the fact that not everyone living there would appreciate her presence.
“It’s good that you’re here.” Zoey said, as though reading her thoughts. “The more time you spend at the manor, the less we have to worry about someone snatching you when we’re not looking.”
“I don’t think everyone sees it that way.” Hermione murmured, watching a dark-haired figure emerge from the house and vanish beyond a thick stone wall. Zoey followed her gaze.
“Pansy knows you’re better off here.” she said carefully. “But now that she’s out of the house, how would you like some breakfast?” Her tone lightening considerably at the prospect of food, Zoey snapped the book shut and hopped to her feet, offering Hermione a hand. “Come on. Waffles, pancakes, toasties, whatever you like. If there‘s one thing you can be sure of here, it‘s a full refrigerator.”
Grinning, Hermione allowed herself to be hauled up. “Okay. But tell me about my dad.” she added, struck by a sudden surge of curiosity. Had her father sat beneath this beech tree with Zoey? Had he ate breakfast in the manor’s vast kitchen? She remembered him leaving for work too early to do much more than grab a slice of toast on the way out; it had often worried Hermione, but it would appear that food was always to hand at the manor.
“Jacob? He was the best.” Zoey mused wistfully. “He always had something to laugh about. And he was like a father to most of us… but he never stopped talking about you. Brightest witch of the age; he loved that.”
“I don’t understand how he can have been one of you when he was a muggle.” Hermione said as they headed down the grass toward the manor. “Malfoy said that the gold dust accelerates the magic already in your bloodstream.”
“I guess Jacob wasn’t as muggle as you thought. Somewhere down the line there must have been a witch or wizard in your family. Jacob had been hunting for these vials since before we were even born - see, when he was our age there were five vials of gold dust left, not four. There was an accident with one of them and… well put it this way, it exploded. Do you know what an event horizon is?”
“It’s the boundary of an area surrounding a black hole.” Hermione nodded slowly. “Anything outside the event horizon won’t be affected by it.”
“Correct. Well your father was standing at the even horizon of this explosion of suppressed magic - everyone closer than him was killed, and everyone further away than him wasn’t affected. For Jacob it was like ingesting the gold dust itself; by some twist of luck he was standing exactly far away enough for it to get into his bloodstream and react with the tiny particles of dormant magic in his veins.” Zoey explained, holding the door open and allowing Hermione to step into the entrance hall. “Thus he became one of us.”
“So… technically… my father was the last person to actually ingest pure gold dust?” Hermione cogitated, stopping in the middle of the marble floor and thinking this over. “Wow…”
Zoey nodded. “We were impressed too.” she admitted. “But he was closer to being on our level than, say, Grimm Malfoy’s. Because he was effectively a muggle, and the magic in his blood was very latent, Jacob wasn’t dangerously powerful. He could still live in a non-magical society without worrying about exposing what we were.”
“What could he… do?” Hermione winced at how silly the question sounded, but Zoey understood what she meant.
“He was a jumper.” she replied simply. “You could push him off the top of the tower of London and he’d land on his feet. I might add that Draco frequently did that.”
The library door opened and Becker strode out, still wearing his stained lab coat. Today, however, his sunglasses were propped on top of his head and as he approached Hermione noticed the faded-blue colour of his eyes. The eyes of a blind man, she thought, although he could definitely see them.
“It was pretty funny hearing about how he discovered his power.” he said, joining the end of their conversation. “When he was twenty one he was on his way to a dental hygiene conference in Edinburgh and the plane he was on failed five hundred feet into the air. On the way down it collided with a suspension bridge, knocking the back half of the plane into oblivion, and Jacob was flung out of his chair to fall four hundred feet… and land safely on top of a car.”
Hermione couldn’t even think about her father falling out of a plane without feeling nauseous, never mind the notion of him landing on his feet on top of a car. Instead, she focused on Becker. “Your eyes are a very strange colour.” she said candidly, trusting that he wouldn‘t take offence.
“He’s sensitive to light.” Zoey smiled, patting Becker’s arm fondly. “That’s why his lab is in the basement and he spends a lot of time in the library.”
“But,” Becker countered conversationally, “I can see in the dark better than you can in the light.”
“Because of the gold dust?” Hermione asked, impressed. “Does everyone’s reaction to it vary this much? Wings, being able to survive impossible falls, being able to see in the dark…”
“No, we’re about as varied as it gets.” Becker said. “Most of the people like us are descended from Grimm; because of the amount of dust he used his bloodline reeks of it. Draco and Blaise, probably Zoey. My grandfather’s grandfather managed to get hold of some on the black wizarding market. The men in my family have been like me for generations, but it gets weaker each time. My great grandfather couldn’t even leave the house without getting burnt.”
Hermione wished she had a notepad with her. She hadn’t been so fascinated by something since leaving Hogwarts - and a small part of her couldn’t help but feel the tiniest bit smug that it was she experiencing all of this, rather than Harry and Ron. For the past year she had had to be the one left at home, reading of all their adventures in distant lands. Dragons in Tunisia, flesh-eating swamp-demons in China, cursed tombs in Egypt.
Well they were welcome to their swamp demons, she thought mutinously. Finding out that their childhood nemesis was part of a secret organisation of magical creatures would blow their travels out of the water.
Her thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of said nemesis, who vaulted the balcony and landed ahead of them, wings stretched out to either side of his arms.
“Gra- Hermione.” he greeted her. “Zoey. Becker.”
“Serena.” Becker returned, before saluting and sauntering back into the library.
Draco watched him go, apparently trying to choose one of many thousands of insults to fire back before Becker was out of hearing range. Eventually he gave up and turned back to Hermione and Zoey. “Stone the third got past our defences.”
“Where is he?” Zoey asked immediately. Hermione looked between them, completely at sea.
“Blaise and Deacon have him tied up in the kitchen. He’s putting up a kind of shield against Max, but we need to get information out of him before he does something drastic. You know what the Stone brothers are like.” he added, pulling a distasteful face. “The last one we caught cut his own throat.”
Hermione raised a hand cautiously. “Uh… what’s…?”
“’Stone the third’ is Ulrich Stone; the third eldest of the Stone brothers, as you might have guessed. They’re our biggest threat at the moment, especially now that they’ve found themselves a new leader.” Zoey explained, ushering Hermione after Draco. “We need to find out everything he knows so that we can anticipate an attack. If he got past the defences, any of them could.”
She didn’t need to say out loud what the consequences of that would be; her grim tone said it all. Hermione simply nodded and followed them toward the back of the hall, her desire to finally see one of the infamous Stone brothers overweighing her concerns about just how they planned to get information from him.
“Who’s Deacon?” she added into the silence as they headed out of the entrance hall. Draco led them through a wide, well-lit corridor, past several dining rooms and down a few stone steps into an area that was obviously built only ever to be seen by servants.
“Deacon Whipstaff.” Zoey replied, linking an arm through Hermione’s. “Becker’s cousin. He’s not one of us, but he lives here and helps out.”
“He’s crazy.” Draco added over his shoulder. “And we can’t seem to ditch him.”
Zoey rolled her eyes at Hermione. “Ignore him. It was Deacon that brought us the second vial.”
“How did he get it?” Hermione asked, surprised.
“How indeed.” Draco muttered, kicking open a door on their right. “Good morning Ulrich.”
Ulrich Stone spat something unpleasant back in Belarusian. He was a tall, fair-skinned man with very dark eyes and matted fur lining his robes; a little older and he could have been related to Igor Karkaroff. When they entered he had been glaring daggers at Blaise Zabini and a tanned, pierced young man that Hermione could only assume was Deacon Whipstaff.
“Draco. Jak majeciesia?” Ulrich sneered. “And don’t waste your breath. I will die before I tell you anything.”
Draco shrugged calmly. “It’s happened before. Whipstaff’s methods are painful and often unsuccessful. Hermione, Deacon. Deacon, Hermione.” he added, gesturing vaguely between them. Deacon didn’t look away from their prisoner, but raised a noncommittal hand in her direction.
“AVA!” a triumphant voice shouted, loud and unexpected enough to make everyone in the room jump. Hermione turned around, wide-eyed. Max Becker was standing against the back wall, presumably staying away from Ulrich Stone at Draco’s command, grinning around at them all victoriously. “Her name is Ava Falcroft. The ’place of evil’ Cass was talking about is the Grimm Gardens. He let his shield slip when he saw Hermione.”
They turned back to Ulrich, who looked more than a little disgusted that he had let Max past his mental block and was cursing in his native tongue.
“Ava Falcroft, huh?” Draco smirked, hands in his pockets. He turned away from Ulrich and leaned back so that only Max, Hermione and Zoey could hear him. “See if you can figure out how he got past our wards.”
Thrilled at the prospect of being helpful, Max nodded and his eyes glazed over. Hermione, who was fascinated by the whole scene (and glad that her appearance had gained them information that she assumed Deacon had planned to torture Ulrich for), turned back to the prisoner. He was gazing steadily at her.
“So you found Jacob Granger’s daughter.” he said conversationally. “Has she inherited anything of interest?”
Draco, remaining pleasant as he bought Max time, shrugged. “We’re not sure yet. It’s unlikely, she’s looking to be more of a hindrance than anything else.”
Hermione narrowed her eyes at him, hoping for his sake that he was just saying this to disband any of Stone‘s plans to kidnap her.
“Well little Miss Granger,” Ulrich said amiably. “I’d love to stay and chat… but ja tut prajezdam.”
Before she could even begin to wonder what he had said, the wards around Ulrich Stone had vanished and he had disappeared into the ground, leaving a dark stain on the wooden panels. Draco and Deacon shot forward. It was no use - Ulrich was gone, and even the mark on the floor was fading as they stood over it.
“New kind of travel.” Deacon muttered, sounding vaguely impressed. “That must have been how he got through the wards. He must have been testing it.”
“That means an attack could be coming soon.” Draco said. “Now that they know they can get in, they’ll want to strike before we have a chance to improve the wards. We have to move fast.”
Blaise straightened up, speaking for the first time since Hermione had entered. “What’s the plan?”
“Whatever we do, we need to make sure they don’t get the vials. Zoey, take Hermione and Max - get the vials into Cassiopeia’s room and stay there. We‘ll seal off the basement with everything we‘ve got; if all else fails, keep them with you and run.” Draco commanded, tossing her a set of keys. “Deacon, go get Becker. Blaise, come with me.”
“What are you going to do?” Hermione asked abruptly. “Fight them off?”
Draco gave her a look. “Of course we are, Granger. We do this every time they attack the manor; the only difference here is that they’ll probably have this Ava woman with them, and Cass seems to think that’s a bad thing.” he shrugged, evidently not sharing Cass’s concerns. “This is our job. Guard the vials, and don’t let the Stone brothers get their hands on them.”
He flexed his wings and stalked out of the room, followed swiftly by Blaise. Hermione, struck by a sudden thought, reached out and grabbed the latter’s leather-clad arm. “Blaise, Pansy was in the garden.”
“It’s okay.” he said, looking grateful none-the-less. “As long as it doesn’t rain you don’t need to worry about her.” His lips twitched slightly at the notion of Hermione fretting over Pansy’s safety. “I’d be more concerned about whichever of the Stones’ tries to attack her.”
Zoey took Hermione’s hand and the five went their separate ways; Deacon vanished into the library, Blaise took to the stairs and Draco jerked his wings and jumped from the entrance hall floor to the balcony above them. Hermione watched him, unwillingly impressed.
“It’s amazing, being able to fly.” Zoey said quietly, standing a few feet away by what Hermione assumed was the door to the basement. “On a good day I can still jump pretty far.”
Hermione felt a rush of pity for the poor girl, and went to take her hand again. “I’m sorry about what happened.” she said. “Draco told me.”
“Even wizards fear the unknown. The lucky few among us have had the dust in their family for generations, and don’t so much see it as a curse. He’s quiet about it around me, but Draco loves it.” Zoey chuckled. “Who wouldn’t want to be able to fly?”
“I would.” Max supplied wistfully. “It’d be-”
He stopped abruptly and his eyes faded to glazed white; a sign that he was picking up on something involuntarily. They waited patiently, and it was only when his irises regained their colour and he expelled the air from his lungs in a panicked gasp that they realised what he had heard. “They’re here!” he managed. “We’re under attack!”
Jak majeciesia? - how's life?
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Chapter 7: A Fate So Grimm
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A Fate So Grimm
Hermione, Ava and Zoey
“We’re under attack!”
The silence before the storm. And then, with the power of a nuclear tremor, a shockwave swept across the manor and shattered every single window, completely unfazed by all the protective spells and wards. Hermione shrieked and ducked, hands over her ears. Zoey did the same and Max flattened himself against the door, eyes pale as he mentally scoured the house for permanent damage.
“They’re somewhere inside already!” he managed, grabbing for the handle and flinging the door open. “We have to hurry!”
Hermione had never been one to shy away from battle, but this wasn’t magic she was used to. Grimacing, she staggered after Max and Zoey down the thin set of steps that led to the basement level, wishing that she had some kind of Marauders map. “Where are we going?” she panted, struggling to keep up with her two companions.
“We have to get the vials!” Max returned over his shoulder, speeding ahead of them both. “I can’t pinpoint where the Stones are… it’s weird! It’s like they’re… they’re here… but…” he broke off and kept running.
The basement seemed to be one vast labyrinth of dark, blood-red corridors, lined with shifting portraits of what Hermione could assume were Blaise’s relatives (there was a consistency of Mediterranean tans and dark hair). The floors were grey flagstones that echoed their footsteps, and in every room they ran through there seemed to be an animal-skin rug in front of a large fireplace.
A muffled explosion sounded somewhere far above them. Hermione gasped and skidded to a halt, almost falling over as she stared up at the ceiling. “What was that?!”
“The Stone brothers like to be dramatic.” Zoey explained, grabbing her wrist and hauling her along. “Try to keep your voice down.”
They had been ducking and dodging through so many rooms by that point that Hermione had lost count. Fortunately, however, Max seemed to know exactly where they were going as he raced ahead of them, pausing occasionally when his sight blacked out involuntarily and he almost collided headfirst with a wall. He didn’t pick up anything dire, which they took as a good sign. “I still can‘t seem to find the Stone brothers. But… they‘re here somewhere.” he said apologetically. “I can’t really get much from Draco‘s thoughts.”
Finally they slowed to a jog as Max led them round a corner and the corridor widened. At the end of the passage was a pair of ancient double doors with some kind of crest engraved into the dark wood, supported with so much magic that they practically hummed into the chilly silence.
“A Fate So Grimm?” Hermione read the embellished letters carved above the crest on the door. “What does that mean?”
Zoey and Max were looking at each other. Eventually Zoey patted Hermione on the shoulder and gave her a knowing smile. “Well the fact that you can see the words means that the wards recognise you as not being a threat. Which makes sense, I suppose, seeing as your father was down here more often than anyone else.” she said. “If you can walk straight through the doors without them flinging you back twenty feet-”
“Ten galleons says she tanks it.” Max grinned toothily. “Uh… no offence, Hermione…” he added hastily.
“I’ll take that bet.” Zoey shook his outstretched hand and gently pushed Hermione toward the doors. “Come on, make me proud.”
Hermione stared between them. She could safely assume that the two vials of Gold Dust were on the other side of the doors, and she knew that they didn’t exactly have all day to get them away from the Stone brothers, but there was something about the corridor that was making her nervous. The air was sharp and almost crackling with magic, and the closer she stepped to the doors the louder the humming got.
By the time she was close enough to reach out and touch the wood, goosebumps had risen all over her skin like an allergic reaction. The hairs on the back of her neck were standing on end - she could no longer hear anything outside the throbbing of her eardrums and the electric drone coming from the doors. She wanted so badly to back away, but a deep-set curiosity drove her to raise an arm that felt like it was made of lead and force it through the magically-charged air to press her fingertips against the wood of the doors-
And then everything fell silent.
Hermione realised she had been holding her breath, and let it out in relief. Zoey was quietly cheering behind her. “Way to go, Hermione! Go on, head on in.” she encouraged, grinning triumphantly. “If you weren’t going to get in you’d have been on your butt by now.”
Nodding, and feeling subconsciously pleased with herself, Hermione turned back to the door and pushed it open.
She was faced with what could only be the second largest room in the manor. It was a vast stone hall with a fireplace (and animal rug) to her far right and a set of stairs leading to a balcony to her left. Beyond the stairs was a large stained-glass window, embellished with the same crest as the door but without the lettering above it, and on either side of the steps were two thick wooden doors.
As she stepped through the magic hit her like a blast of hot wind, blowing her hair out in a stream behind her, and the logs in the fireplace burst into flames. Hermione paused two or three feet in to take in the grandeur of the room. “Wow…”
“It’s amazing, isn’t it?” Max agreed, as Zoey hurried past them to take the stairs two at a time. The balcony went all the way around the room, supported by thick stone pillars every ten or so feet, and Zoey followed it to the far end of the hall. It was momentarily discontinued where the fireplace and chimney stood protruding from the wall, but Zoey took a left through a door and vanished from sight.
“Where…?” Hermione asked, glancing sideward at her young companion.
“The vials.” he smiled, flashing her his dimples. “And before you ask, the light coming through the window is simulated with really simple magic, and the fireplace triggers when you step over the threshold.”
“Oh. Where are we going with the vials?”
Max turned to point to the nearest of the two doors by the stairs. “That way is a shortcut to Cassiopeia’s pool. We need to be in there with the vials because if everything fails and the Stones get into the basement, as a last resort we can give her the vials and she can escape to the lake.”
“There’s a pool connected to a lake in here?” Hermione asked, slightly confused.
“No.” Max grinned, strolling across to a faded couch in front of the fire and sitting down. “But Cass is a water nymph and they can do this thing where they flit from pool to pool, as long as they’re close enough together. It’s weird…”
Nodding slowly, Hermione sat on the edge of a chair nearby and they lapsed into silence. From here they couldn’t hear any of the goings-on above them, something that she was equal parts grateful for and concerned about. She had no qualms about Draco and Blaise’s competence when it came to fighting; the first time she had seen Draco in over a year he had fought off one of the dreaded Stone brothers, but she couldn’t help feeling that they were out of their depth here.
Whoever this Ava woman was, she had to be quite a daunting threat if she had managed to bypass the manor’s security wards on her first scheduled attack.
“Okay, lets go.” Zoey reappeared on the balcony, a small wooden chest in her arms. “Anything, Max?”
The colour drained from Max’s eyes, leaving them a similar shade of faded blue as his brother’s, and his lips silently traced words as he flitted through the minds above them. After a minute they flooded back into life. “Nothing. Most of us are in the western wing with Draco. Blaise is crouched in a window frame in the Entrance Hall - I assume he’s looking for Pansy - and everyone else is checking through the manor for any sign of the Stone brothers.” he said, looking confused. “I don’t get it. I still can’t find the-”
A hollow crash sounded in the distance, sending a small shudder through the foundations of the subterranean level. The three stood in paralysed silence for a long moment, before a second explosion trembled through the air, this time a lot closer. Max swore vehemently. “They’re in the basement!”
Pansy reappeared five minutes after Max, Zoey and Hermione had vanished into the lower levels. She strolled into the Entrance Hall, where Blaise was crouched with his wings out, apparently entirely unsurprised that not one window had remained intact and the floor was littered with shards of glass.
Everyone else swarmed back into the hall in groups a few minutes later, with Draco and his troops bringing up the rear.
“Nothing.” someone sighed. “We searched everywhere. There’s no sign of them in the garden. They’re not in the house. And all the wards have just dropped.”
“Where’s Granger?” Pansy asked, scouring the many heads crowded together in the Entrance. “Don’t tell me she’s wandered off and got herself captured…”
“She’s getting the vials with Zoey and Max.” Blaise replied quietly. “Don’t start.”
Pansy looked around at them all. “Yeah… but you sent someone else down there too right?” she asked into the uncertain silence that had settled over her comrades. “I mean… you didn’t just assume the basement wards would hold when all the others dropped like flies?”
Deacon, who was close to the back of the room, jogged past the stairs to approach the door to the basement. “There’s that black shit here!” he yelled back, nudging the floor with the toe of his boot. “That shit that Ulrich Stone left when he bunny-hopped dimensions earlier.”
He went to open the door to the lower levels, but as soon as his fingers made contact with the wood he was flung away from it to hit the wall with a sickening crunch and slide to the floor. A ripple of gasps and shocked cries went through the hall.
Pansy was smirking. “Oh this is classic. So Know-It-All Granger is locked in the basement with our biggest enemies and two vials of priceless, volatile magic, and there’s no way for any of us to get down there. I leave you alone for two bloody minutes-!”
“Can it, Pans.” Draco said, running a hand through his hair. “Right. Becker, take Deacon into the library and see if the door did any permanent damage to him. Blaise, Pansy; we’re going to see if we can get past these wards. Alec, take five people and go down to the lake, see if you can’t contact Cass - everyone else spread across the manor and keep your eyes and ears open for any sign of the Stones. If they get the vials, we can at least stop them leaving with them.”
Ignoring the ingratiatingly smug look Pansy was giving him, Draco strode through the disbanding crowd to slowly approach the door. Behind him, Deacon grunted, on his way to regaining a painful consciousness. “Fuck.”
“Where do we start?” Becker murmured, absently hauling Deacon up while he appraised the door. “I can’t imagine they’ll have spent much time on them. I mean… our wards do that.” he added, jerking his head at his blaspheming cousin. “If we work too hard at them, we’ll just make them stronger. It could take hours to take them down.”
There was a flash of hot air, something bright shot past the three boys and the door shattered into a thousand splintered pieces.
Draco turned slowly around. Pansy blew out the fire on her hand and shrugged one shoulder. “Becker had a theory that the black stuff the Stones are trailing is magical fallout, which he said was highly flammable.” she said simply. “Figured it couldn’t hurt to try.”
They turned from her to the smouldering remnants of the basement door, which were now glowing from the stone flagstones like ashes in a grate. Deacon wiped a streak of blood off his forehead. “After you, fearless leader.” he said, gesturing for Draco to go first.
Draco and Blaise exchanged a look. Fighting in the basement was an undesirable option that they had never really considered; in order to walk comfortably they had to retract their wings, and even in the open air of some of the larger downstairs rooms there was little space to fly. This gave the Stones the upper hand… which, judging by their efficiency in accessing the basement, they already had.
Which meant that they were relying on Becker and Pansy to even the score.
“Becker?” Draco sighed, looking pointedly at the other boy’s sunglasses. Becker nodded, understanding, and led the way down into the darkness of the basement.
Draco and Deacon swiftly followed. Blaise, ignoring her protestant snarls, grabbed Pansy’s cooler hand and dragged her down the stairs after them.
Hermione bit her lip.
They had made it into Cassiopeia’s room before the Stones caught up with them. Max had slammed the door shut after them and was halfway through barricading it with oddments of furniture scattered around the pool when the wood had started to melt.
“Cass!” Zoey hissed, sticking a hand in the water and shaking it hurriedly. “Cass! Now isn’t the time to play hide and seek, we have a serious problem!”
Hermione stared at the surface of the water. When they had first entered, slipping on the tiles after being used to walking on dry stone, she had assumed the pool was empty. She vaguely remembered Max mentioning something about a water nymph, but by that point all she could really focus on was the fact that they were being chased by mercenaries and she wasn’t even sure which pocket she had left her wand in. Had she even brought it with her?
When Cassiopeia appeared, she slid silently out of the pool to sit on the side with her feet tracing languid circles in the still water. Hermione kept her distance, although she was instantly fascinated.
“Hermione Granger.” the drenched creature said softly, taking the chest from Zoey’s arms without removing her eyes from Hermione. She was a spindly thing, sallow and pale, with wide eyes and hair that could be red but was too wet to really tell. Her fingers kept flexing, and Hermione got the feeling that she really didn’t enjoy being out of the water. “You’re wasting your time, Max, they will get in.”
Max gave up his attempts to stop the door falling apart by cramming broken chairs and vases against it. “Cass, get them out of here!” he choked, skidding over to them. “Quickly!”
“Call me when you need me.” Cassiopeia said, before sliding in one smooth motion back into the water. The surface barely even rippled.
Hermione tore her eyes back to the door. Some kind of thick, tar-coloured liquid was seeping through the wood, gently steaming as it dripped onto the chair Max had jammed beneath the handle.
“Well there’s some marginally good news.” Max murmured as the three of them backed into the wall. “Pansy just roasted the wards they put up so no-one could follow them down here. She’s with Blaise, Draco, Becker and Deacon, and the others shouldn’t be too long.”
A booted foot kicked through the door.
“Draw your wand.” Zoey hissed, tugging her own out of her belt. Hermione scrambled to find it amongst her pockets, eventually breathing a sigh of relief as she located it in her jacket. “Try to stick with strong spells.”
Whole chunks of wood fell onto the damp floor, aided by several unrelenting fists.
“Don’t let them get hold of you.” Max muttered. “Their magical incompetence is matched by their physical strength.”
The chair was thrust aside and Ulrich Stone stepped in, grinning nastily across at them. “Well?” he asked, taking a slow step around the pool. He was followed by a line of similar-looking men, each wearing some kind of sordidly-furred jacket and each trailing smouldering tar footprints that seemed to leave tiny fractures in the tiles. “This is your great line of defence? A child, Jacob Granger’s useless daughter… and a bird that cannot fly?” he sneered.
Hermione narrowed her eyes against how afraid she was and gripped her wand tighter. She had not gone through seven years of fighting for her life in Hogwarts to be taken down by a motley band of brothers in Blaise Zabini’s basement.
“Vere are ze vials?” one of Ulrich’s brothers, whose English was abominable, spoke up. “Tell us or you die.”
“They aren’t here.” Zoey said as they backed further around the pool. It was fruitless, half of the black-clad Belarusians had strolled around the other side upon entering the room, effectively cornering the three.
“Clearly.” Ulrich said calmly. “Let us not play games, little bird. Where are the vials?”
Hermione looked away from him. As the tenth brother stepped into the room and straightened his jacket, an eleventh figure followed. The woman that slowly entered the pool room and stayed where she was to observe the scene from a distance could only be Ava Falcroft.
Hermione instantly disliked her.
There was something about her malevolent and waspish face, the achingly expensive shoes that were caked in a layer of mud and grass, the way she let her fur shawl hang idly off one shoulder… the way her dull grey eyes immediately snapped up to meet Hermione’s and curl her thin lips into the most despicable smirk Hermione had ever seen. She strolled languorously around the Stone brothers to stand by Ulrich’s left shoulder. “Kill one of them.” she said in a voice no louder than a whisper. “The boy.”
Max tensed by Hermione’s right arm. Zoey shifted minutely to stand in front of him, wand ready at her side. “Don’t waste your time.” she snarled. “The vials aren’t here. We don’t know where they are, and every second you waste-”
“Shut up.” Ava interrupted idly. “You keep the vials in this basement. And seeing as the three of you are here…” she looked down at the water. “Summon her. The water nymph.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Zoey said, somehow managing to keep her voice steady. “There isn’t a water-”
Hermione wasn’t sure how it happened. One moment Zoey was right in front of her, valiantly keeping everyone’s attention away from Ava’s order to kill Max, and the next she had been flung into the pool like a rag doll. Ava’s smirk had gained a conceited edge as she watched Zoey struggle to resurface. She couldn’t. It was like the top of the water had frozen, no matter how hard she pounded her fists or tried to force her way into the air she just couldn’t do it.
Hermione and Max shot to the side of the water to try and grab her outstretched arms, but they were equally unable to break the surface.
Then comprehension dawned and Hermione remembered the wand in her right hand.
“Aguamenti!” she shouted, directing her wand at Ava. A sharp spurt of water shot out of the end and hit the infuriating woman in the chest - as she staggered to keep her balance on the damp floor her concentration slipped, and Max was able to haul Zoey out of the pool.
“Kill them!” Ava screamed, grabbing one of the Stone brothers to straighten herself. “Just bloody end them!”
Ulrich lunged forward, catching Hermione by the arm. “You’re for it now, Granger.” he snarled, drawing back a hand to punch her. Throwing all the anger and energy she had into it, Hermione silently cast an Expelliarmus charm, sending Ulrich onto his back and skidding across the tiles, swearing mutinously in Belarusian.
“Hermione, look out!” Zoey shrieked.
By this point all nine of the remaining Stone brothers were advancing on them. Hermione backed into the wall again, a terrified Max and a sodden Zoey beside her, trying to think of something - anything - that would successfully shield them from all eleven foes until Malfoy managed to reach the room.
She was drawing a blank, and their situation was getting more and more dire. Ava was smirking again. Ulrich had been hauled to his feet by two of his brothers and had pushed his way to the front with a venomous look in his eyes. They were completely surrounded, and there was nothing-
Her eyes landed on the pool.
It would never work. There was no way.
Then again, Ulrich was ready to pounce again and she got the feeling that this time he wouldn’t give her the chance to cast a spell before he had wrung her neck. Swallowing nervously and hoping to God, Merlin and anyone else who was listening that this worked, she directed her wand at the glittering pool of water and grabbed Zoey’s arm. “EXPULSO!”
Chapter 8: Defection of the Emerland Queen
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Defection of the Emerald Queen
Hermione wouldn’t have thought it possible for a pool of water to explode, but it did. As though someone had dropped a grenade into it, the tiled floor cracked and split in every direction and lethal shards of porcelain shot like bullets through the air.
And as for the water?
Have you ever seen a chunk of rock fall from a cliff and land in the ocean? Hermione hadn’t, but she was pretty sure it would have the same effect; the pool water exploded out of the ground and smashed into the four walls of the room. Out of the corners of her eyes she vaguely saw the Belarusian brothers thrown around like particles of dust in a vacuum cleaner, entirely at the mercy of the sweeping water. Ava Falcroft had vanished.
By some miracle Zoey had the presence of mind to cast a small shielding spell on the trio as they crouched by the back wall, leaving them flecked with water but otherwise unaffected as the room fell still again. Hermione lowered her arm.
“That was cool.” Max breathed, standing up and looking around in awe. “I’d never have thought of that! Damn, Hermione, Cass is going to kill you.”
As though hearing her name as a summons, when Hermione looked up the red-haired water nymph was standing in the middle of her now-empty swimming pool, soaked to the skin and looking around. The chest of vials was still tucked securely under one of her arms. “Enjoy your victory later, children. They’re waking up and they’re angry.”
On the last word she vanished, and somewhere to their right one of the Stone brothers groaned and started to shift. Hermione gripped her wand again - they were all beginning to regain consciousness, some clutching sprained bones and others bleeding lightly from the head, but all looking mutinous. She swallowed nervously. “I uh… I’m running out of ideas.” she admitted quietly. “Tell me you have some.”
“We don’t need any.” Max said, as Ulrich Stone got to his feet and leered nastily at them.
“You’re for it now, puny insects.” he drawled, cracking his knuckles. “Get ready to feel pain-”
He got one step toward them, and that was when a ball of what appeared to be airborne fire hit his right side and sent him crashing into the water-damaged wall. Hermione blinked stupidly. “What the hell was that?”
“That would be Pansy,” Zoey grinned, clapping her on the back and pointing to the eviscerated door. Pansy, dark hair crackling and blowing with magical energy, stepped into the room with one hand encased in flames and promptly threw another fireball at another brother. Hermione hated to admit it, but she was impressed.
Malfoy followed her, wand in his hand and wings out of sight, with Blaise and Deacon right behind him and Christopher Becker bringing up the rear. They all observed the damage to the room before shooting Zoey a unanimous questioning look. She shrugged a shoulder and jabbed her thumb at Hermione.
“They’re getting away.” Deacon remarked. Hermione turned to look around the room, where many of the Stone brothers were vanishing into pools of sticky black oil on the cracked floor. The two that Pansy had floored remained where they were. “Where’s that Falcroft woman?”
“She disappeared when we blew up the pool.” Hermione offered, gingerly stepping over Ulrich Stone’s twisted body as she followed Zoey back to Malfoy.
“You blew up the pool?” Deacon asked, bursting into gleeful cackles. “Oh wow. Five on originality, Granger.”
He raised his hand and Hermione allowed herself to be high-fived, feeling her cheeks flush with pride. She slid her wand back into her pocket and turned to watch Blaise and Pansy examine the two fallen brothers; apparently Pansy’s fireballs hadn’t done as much damage as the wall, which had put them both out of action for a while. Hermione didn’t say so but she was rather happy about this. A human life was never something to be put out without extreme reason in her eyes, even if Pansy looked to be a little more liberal about who she killed.
“Where are the vials?” Draco was saying, evenly observing the room.
“Cassiopeia’s got them.” Zoey replied. “CASS! I don’t think we can expect another visit from Ava Falcroft today; they all left with their tails firmly tucked between their legs. But we should find somewhere safe to stash the vials, especially now that Hermione blew up Cassie’s pool…”
Hermione cringed as the water-nymph reappeared. “Sorry,” she mumbled. “I couldn’t think of anything and we were running out of time.”
“Don’t apologise for trashing the swimming pool Granger, I used to do it all the time before Cassie inhabited it.” Deacon grinned, clapping her on the back. “Besides, we can just fill a bathtub with water and she can live upstairs for a few days.”
Cassiopeia ignored him in favour of holding the chest of vials out to Draco. He reached down to take it with a grateful nod, before casually tossing it to Becker as though it were little more than a tennis ball. Considering that he had told her it contained possibly explosive centuries-old magic, Hermione couldn’t help but wince at the way he just flung it away, half expecting it to fall to the floor and blow up.
“Alright, crisis averted.” Malfoy yawned, running a hand through his hair and stretching languidly. “Blaise, Pansy, Deacon; dump those two on the outskirts of the village - there’s not much point in keeping them here if they can just bugger off whenever they want. Max-”
“I will not.” Max interrupted, apparently reading what Draco had planned to say in his thoughts. “I can help move the Stones out of the manor.”
Hermione watched Draco hesitate before shrugging one shoulder. “Go nuts.” he relinquished. Max whooped and scurried off to help his cousin.
Hermione couldn’t help but notice that Pansy wasn’t helping them. Since incapacitating Ulrich and his unfortunate brother she had stood with her arms folded over her chest by the back wall, and although Hermione had yet to pluck up the courage to actually look her way, she got the ugly feeling that she was being glared at.
Draco looked down at her. “Way to go Granger, you finally made yourself useful.” he said, slinging a casual arm around her shoulders. “Try not to let it go to your head.”
“Too late.” Pansy muttered from her immobile position by the back wall. “Draco, what the hell are we supposed to do now that the mudblood’s blown up half the basement?” she spat.
Hermione spun on her heel. “Oh, and I suppose you’d rather I let them take the vials, would you?” she demanded, furious at the dark-haired Slytherin alumni for ruining her rather triumphant moment. “Why weren’t you down here if you care about the state of the basement so much?!”
“Because some of us have things to do, Princess.” Pansy countered in a snarl. “Some of us don’t have the time to wander around someone else’s house sticking our nose in everybody’s business.”
“What is your problem?” Hermione shrieked, fist clenched around the handle of her wand. “If this is still about you thinking your blood is purer than mine then you really need to get over it, Parkinson! I think seven years of Hogwarts should have proven that your parents being purebloods makes you no better than me!”
Pansy let out a scream like a wounded animal and flung back one hand, as though readying herself to throw a baseball; red and blue flames exploding from her palm to surround her fingers. “Don’t ever talk about my parents.” she snarled, eyes dark as coal.
It was too late. Hair blowing back in a hot stream of magic, Pansy took a steadying step forward that shattered the tile beneath her feet and hurled the fireball toward Hermione. She didn’t even have time to raise her wand in defence. All she could do was scream and clamp her eyes shut, hoping that, like Ulrich Stone and his brother, she would only be flung into the wall and knocked out rather than roasted alive.
Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion.
The air around her was hot enough to burn her skin, but the fireball didn’t hit her. At the last moment a set of cold fingers closed around her wrist and yanked her to one side, redefining the phrase ‘just in time’ as she felt the edge of her hair singe when the fireball passed over her head. She landed painfully on her arm in the wet (but thankfully empty) swimming pool. Cassiopeia released her wrist and turned back to Draco, who had had to duck rather abruptly to allow the fire to hit the wall and leave a black scorch mark rather than take his head off.
A second fireball bounced off the wet pool floor a few feet from Hermione. She tensed her muscles and turned to look at Pansy, ready to dive aside if the girl was still trying to kill her, but it seemed that the second ball of flames had been thrown without aim. She had crossed her arms and had the expression of a sulky, rebellious teenager who knew she was about to be yelled at.
Draco straightened up.
“I know,” she said snappily. “I almost baked Jacob’s angelic offspring.”
Hermione narrowed her eyes and got up, subconsciously touching a hand to her hair to make sure it wasn’t on fire.
“Enough.” Zoey sighed, offering her a hand out of the pool. “Merlin, we’ve only just managed to live through an attack on the house, is it really that hard to have ten minutes of peace?!”
Hermione scowled defensively. “I didn’t do anything! She threw fire at me, for heaven’s sake!”
There was a long silence, the cause of which Hermione couldn’t quite put her finger on. She looked around curiously. Draco was examining his fingers. Zoey was picking at her drenched clothes. Blaise, Max and Deacon were busying themselves with the unconscious Stone brothers. Becker was stood by the door with his sunglasses on. Hermione frowned. They all seemed to be avoiding looking at Pansy, who was gazing steadily at Hermione with a dark smirk on her lips.
She might as well have been laughing in her face.
“Right.” Draco sighed after a few minutes. “Zoey, take Hermione back upstairs and get us something to eat would you? I think everyone could do with calming down.”
Hermione watched him. He seemed to be avoiding her gaze and she couldn’t help but feel slightly vexed by it; had she done something wrong? Was she supposed to just stand still and take Pansy’s abuse? She hadn’t done so in Hogwarts and she had no intention of letting the annoying Slytherin get away with it now just because she could turn herself into the wicker man.
“Come on Hermione.” Zoey murmured, touching her arm. Hermione didn’t move and didn’t break Pansy’s smirking challenge of a gaze. The fingers grasping her wand twitched. “Hermione, please.” Zoey hissed, practically dragging her toward the door. “Come on!”
Finally relenting, Hermione cast Pansy one last indignant look before allowing herself to be hauled out of the room. She was struck with a childish urge to stick her tongue out but managed to suppress it, mentally blaming it on how infantile Pansy was being.
Zoey seemed visibly relieved that they were on their way back upstairs. “You shouldn’t do that, Hermione. I know that you’re a brilliant witch, but she has no control over her temper and all it would take is one fireball…” she sighed, leading the way back through the basement. “Frankly you’re lucky Cassie decided to spare you.”
“I’m just failing to see what her problem is.” Hermione muttered, shoving her hands in her pockets. “She’s been a complete brat since the moment I got here.”
Zoey slowed to a stroll. “Look…” she said, biting her lip as though gearing herself up to saying something she knew she shouldn’t. There was a moment’s silence, before her shoulders slumped and she gave Hermione an apologetic look, apparently deciding that whatever she had wanted to say wasn’t worth the trouble. “Pansy’s a brat to everyone. You get used to it.” she amended.
“Doubtful. I didn’t get used to it through school.”
Hermione was frustrated, and all of her warm, glowing triumph had faded. They were all putting up with Pansy’s attitude for a reason, something that they were apparently not planning on telling her. This was just as frustrating as watching McGonagall make the stupid girl a prefect in their sixth year, despite the fact that she was entirely unsuited to the position and likely to delegate all her duties to petrified first years. Apparently immaturity never evaporates amongst the Parkinsons of the world.
They emerged out of the basement and headed through the entrance hall, Hermione only briefly speculating that the incinerated door had been Pansy’s doing as they stepped through the ashes. She half wondered if her father had got along with the infuriating girl.
“I wouldn’t blame you for not wanting to associate with her. She didn’t even get along too well with your…” he broke off and cleared his throat. “I… let’s go inside, shall we? There are a few people I want you to meet.”
Had he been about to tell her that her father didn’t get along with Pansy?
Surprisingly, this was little comfort. The idea that Pansy Parkinson had been involved in a secret organisation with her father that Hermione hadn’t even known about made her blood boil with fury. Fury at Pansy, fury at her father… even fury at Zoey and Malfoy, for expecting her to play nice with the stupid girl.
“I could go for a club sandwich.” Max appeared at her elbow, dimples flashed in a grin, and Hermione felt her anger wane away. “Ooh! Can we do a burger run?”
Zoey snorted. “No, Max, we can’t. Where’re Alec and Sunny?” she added as they stepped across the shattered glass of a vast bay window.
Max was silent for a moment, before; “Draco sent them to the lake to get Cass. They’re on their way back now.” he said, brushing a strand of mouse-brown hair out of his white eyes. “They just saw the Stones re-appearing at the outskirts of the wards and heading away from the manor.”
“So this… fallout magic they’re using to travel is only short distance? They must have to be right up to the wards before they can use it to bypass them.” Zoey mused. “We should let Draco know, see if we can extend the wards any further around the grounds. It might buy us time next time they attack.”
“Who are Alec and… Sunny, was it?” Hermione asked.
“Twins. Sunny’s a girl.” Max added helpfully. “They’re Blasters.”
Zoey cackled and pushed through a nearby door, walking ahead of them into a large sunlit kitchen where she began taking items out of a refrigerator. Max sat on a chair by the island unit and gestured for Hermione to sit beside him. “Trust me, she works better alone in here.” he reassured her.
“Okay… if you’re sure you don’t need any help…?” Hermione looked at Zoey, who gave her a smile and shook her head.
“What were we talking about? Oh, Alec and Sunny. Well, Blasters are a really common dust-freak.” Max explained, reaching across to steal a slice of tomato while Zoey’s back was turned. “Basically they can manipulate air kind of like how Pansy can manipulate fire… only, where she can create fire out of nothing, they cant create air out of nothing. So… say if you were choking in a black hole or something… yeah, they couldn’t really help you.”
“Try to make sense, Max,” Zoey chuckled. “You’re going to confuse her.”
“Well… air’s everywhere, right?” Max tried again, continuing when Hermione nodded. “And if you throw it at someone, they’re going to get flung backward, yeah? That’s what Blasters can do. They can wave an arm and send you smashing into a wall, or move objects or stop bullets or land from really high heights or-”
“It takes a lot of practice before they can stop bullets, Max.” Zoey interrupted, “But it’s a really common gift amongst our kind because it’s such an ambiguous label. Some can use it to elevate them when they jump, making it seem like they can fly, others can send a shockwave through the air and send a street of people sprawling. Some can train themselves so well they can do anything with it. But we call them all Blasters.”
“What can Alec and Sunny do?” Hermione asked, intrigued once more.
It was Max who answered, his mouth full of the sandwich Zoey and shoved in front of him. “Shield and jump.” he said in a very muffled voice. “Sunny shields, Alec jumps.”
“Ears are burning, Maxie.” a female voice with an American twang entered the conversation. “Are you talking about me?”
Hermione turned around. Standing in the doorway were two people, instantly identifiable as twins. The girl had long blonde hair with dark roots and was wearing a pair of dark aviator sunglasses. Her brother, standing a few feet behind, had a long black coat on and was staring intently at Hermione as her eyes crossed his. “You Granger’s girl?” he asked.
“Hermione,” Zoey said, offering the twins a sandwich each. Sunny declined, but her brother strode forward to take one. “This is Sunny and Alec Winter. Sunny, Alec, this is Hermione Granger.”
“Sucks about your old man,” Alec said, mouth full of sandwich. “He wasn’t bad for a jumper.”
Hermione gave Zoey a questioning look. She rolled her eyes and shook her head, returning Hermione’s confused expression with a look that said quite plainly ‘ignore him’. “Jumpers and Blasters are always trying to outdo each other.” she explained under her breath. “Jumpers think they’re better because they could fall out of an aeroplane and land without injuring themselves, Blasters think they’re better because they can manipulate the air rather than absorb the shock.”
“Oh…” Hermione nodded, trying to keep up. “And… Max said you ‘shield’.” she added to Sunny, who tossed her hair aside and inclined her head. “What does that mean?”
By way of demonstration the girl raised both her hands palm-out in front of her and flexed her fingers. “Max, throw a plate at Hermione.”
“What?!” Hermione exclaimed, getting off her seat and backing away as Max finished his sandwich and picked up the china plate it had rested on. “No, don’t-!”
He threw it with a grin, and it froze in the air a foot from Hermione’s nose, before falling straight to the floor and splitting in two. Sunny lowered her hands. “Piece of cake. I can stop anything. Even Pansy’s fire.” she boasted, before sliding her sunglasses onto her head and looking Hermione up and down. “Shame you’re not one of us, I hear she’s likely to cook you.”
“She already tried.” Max told her, shoveling the sandwich Zoey had offered Sunny into his mouth. “Cass saved her.”
“Whatev.” the girl shrugged a shoulder carelessly. “It’s going to end in a fight to the death, and if Granger doesn’t turn out to be one of us some time soon I wouldn’t bet a dollar on her chances.”
Hermione had a sudden urge to pick up one of the shards of china and test Sunny’s reflexes by throwing them at her. “Well whatever her problem is, if she still can’t get over the fact that my parents were muggles - which apparently one of them wasn’t - they I doubt she’s mature enough to do much damage.” she countered, sitting back down with her back to the twins. As eager as she was to learn as much as possible about her father’s life here, some of the people in this bloody manor were being a little less than welcoming and it was starting to annoy her.
Her father had died a few days ago, and certain people weren't exactly being compassionate.
She paused in reaching for a sandwich to wonder what her mother was doing. The clock behind Zoey said that it was quarter to five in the afternoon; in another hour or so it would start to get dark and she’d have to think up an excuse as to where she had been all day.
“Champion.” Malfoy’s voice jerked her out of her thoughts. “I hope you made me one of those, Zo.”
Hermione idly fiddled with the bread in front of her as he reached past her to take a plate. Even if her mother was still too grief-stricken to notice her absence, her Uncle would most certainly be waiting at the door to demand where she had been. And Lucas was a muggle; she didn’t have such a wide range of excuses with him.
She hadn't realised that Draco had taken Max's seat. “Don't let Pansy ruin your day.” he said to her, apparently thinking that her pensive expression was down to her fight with Pansy. “She's not bad normally.”
“Really?” Hermione challenged, giving him a disbelieving look. “Because I seem to remember her being like this all the time in Hogwarts.”
He shook his hair out of his eyes and flashed her a rare smile. “She has a good reason for hating you, Granger, and this time it has nothing to do with you being a muggleborn. Maybe she'll tell you about it some time.”
“I highly doubt that.” Hermione said, taking a bite of her sandwich. “Want to help me think up an excuse for my Uncle?”
He pretended to look thoughtful. “Hmm... how about 'I was abducted by aliens'?” he offered.
“How about 'I was abducted by Paris Hilton'?” Becker supplied, clapping Draco on the back on his way to getting a sandwich.
“How about 'this weirdo in a lab-coat tried to convert me to Dumbass-ism'?”
“How about,” Alec sat on one of the kitchen counters, a second sandwich in his hand, “'I went for a snack, but this pretty girl made me a sandwich so delicious that I couldn't move'?”
“Nice try Alec.” Zoey grinned. “I'm not making you another. How about 'I went to the library and lost track of time'?”
“'... and was then abducted by aliens'.” Draco finished.
Once again wondering how she had ended up sitting at Blaise Zabini's kitchen table laughing at Draco Malfoy, Hermione shook her head and continued to enjoy her sandwich, deciding that despite certain girls having an unexplained grudge against her, hanging out at the Zabini manor with a bunch of ex-Slytherins wasn't so bad.
Chapter 9: Dark Afflictions
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The next twenty four hours passed without incident. Lucas had, as Hermione suspected, sat her down at the dining room table and enquired thoroughly into where she had been all day, apparently assuming that she was taking her father’s death badly and acting out for attention. After spinning a well-constructed lie about going to the local library and running into some old friends (much of which had been suggested by Zoey and Draco), Hermione left him to make dinner and went to find her mother. It was a relief to realise that Alison had barely noticed her absence.
“I’m just so tired,” she had mumbled, curled up on her brother’s sofa with a blanket over her legs. “I just want to sleep. You don’t mind, do you honey?”
“Of course not.” Hermione said, brushing a hair out of her mother’s eyes. “I met up with some of my old school friends yesterday. They’ve been keeping me busy.”
It wasn’t an outright lie. True, Draco and his patrician housemates weren’t exactly what she would have called ‘old school friends’, but they had been keeping her busy. She was actually surprised at how much being at Blaise’s manor helped her deal with her father’s death… not forget about it, which she would never have wanted, but just… accept it. She had given it some thought and come to the conclusion that it was because she was learning that Jacob Granger hadn’t just been a regular muggle dentist, loved by many but essentially destined to be forgotten not long after his death. She was quickly discovering that he had been an important man within the wizarding world.
And he would never be forgotten by so many people.
Leaving Alison in the living room, Hermione jogged back up the stairs and collapsed on her temporary bed, one hand reaching beneath the sheets to pull out the thick tome she had commandeered from Blaise’s library before she left. According to Draco it had an entire chapter dedicated to the life of his wicked ancestor and the legends surrounding him.
It was a huge book; even bigger than Hogwarts: A History. The cover was leather-bound and caked in an inch of dust (apparently Blaise didn’t read much), and the title embossed in faded gold lettering across the side. Dark Afflictions of the Magic Blood by Elias Albrecht. Zoey had assured her that there were no curses on the volume, and Blaise had given her his noncommittal permission to take it, read it or otherwise use it to start a bonfire if she should so choose.
Hermione nudged her bedroom door closed with one foot and carefully flipped open the book. The pages were old and torn but in fairly readable condition; she welcomed the familiar smell of must and damp that took her back to her days curled up behind towers of novels in the Hogwarts library. It was nice, having the fascination for knowledge back.
She eagerly took out her wand and tapped the paper. “Ritromento Grimm.”
The first few mentions of his name were useless. A brief reference of him in a chapter on self-inflicted magical diseases, a quote in German that she couldn’t translate and a small paragraph dedicated to him within the chapter on tyrants.
Then she tried again and the pages sprang to the left until the book settled open at a chapter entitled ‘Grimm Malfoy’s Curse’. Hermione eagerly scanned the page. Beneath the title was a rough drawing of a figure on a warhorse, with one woman stood meekly to his side and another behind him on the saddle. Someone had scribbled in the margin in a language she couldn’t understand, but someone else, in dark red ink, had scrawled three names on the parchment and drawn arrows to each individual figure.
Grimm to the man astride the horse. Ava to the woman on the ground. Frieda to the woman with her arms circling Grimm’s waist.
Hermione stared. Surely it wasn’t possible that Ava, the waspish woman who had lead the Stone brothers into battle against Draco, could be the woman depicted in the drawing. There were many ways to stay alive longer than your destined time, of course, and Hermione wasn’t naïve enough to think that that wretched woman wouldn’t kill and steal whatever she needed to become immortal… but this woman…
Standing off to one side, eyes cast down? She looked like a house maid in comparison to the regal couple astride the majestic horse, not the petulant and imperial woman Hermione had met in the basement of Blaise’s manor.
“Grimm Malfoy,” she read aloud in a whisper, trying to follow the barely-legible script, “was the first of the wizarding family to ingest what is today known as golden dust - the ashes taken from the air after the successful burning of a witch, wizard or warlock. Along with his wife, Frieda Malfoy, Grimm used the golden dust to become a God amongst mortals in European society, eventually getting so out of control that the Ministry for Magic banished him from England.”
She looked back up at the picture. So Grimm Malfoy and his wife Frieda had been banished from England after using the gold dust. Thinking back on what Draco had told her about his ancestor, it seemed entirely viable; hadn’t he mentioned that Grimm had slaughtered a village of muggles when he was only twelve?
“Upon his deathbed in Switzerland many years later, it is said that Grimm implored his spurned lover Evangeline Falcroft to bury him in the grounds of his old mansion, in an unmarked grave…” she continued, eyes wide. “So that he could return many years later to take revenge on the country that had rejected him.”
It would explain why Ava wanted the vials of gold dust so badly. Hermione had no idea how Grimm could possibly still be alive if he had been buried, but she was willing to bet her life on the notion of Ava wanting to bring him back from the dead. Her eyes drifted to the fair-haired woman on the horse. Whatever had happened to Frieda, though? Had she died alongside her husband? Hermione found herself doubting that Ava would have felt any compassion to the woman, and wherever she had buried Grimm it was highly unlikely that Frieda was anywhere near him.
Come to think of it, she was probably still in Switzerland.
She turned the page. The writing on Grimm Malfoy’s life continued overleaf, but on the sheet opposite there was another picture; this one a headshot of two children. Laurence und Isabel Malfoy was scribbled beneath it in the same red ink that had defaced the page before, along with kinder von Grimm Malfoy und Evangeline Falcroft.
Hermione assumed it said ‘children of Grimm and Evangeline’, but she couldn’t be sure. Hadn’t Draco mentioned Laurence and Isabel being Grimm’s children? One being born with wings, the other being… oh what had Zoey called it?… a jumper. She frowned and re-read the line. Grimm Malfoy had had children with Ava rather than his wife? It seemed rather scandalous for the time - perhaps it was a contributing factor to his exile from the country.
“So Laurence died when he was nineteen and Isabel died when she was…” she blinked. “Twelve. Both killed by a lynch mob of goblins.”
She shut the book.
And then gave in to curiosity and reopened it.
“During his use of the dust, Grimm grew increasingly paranoid of rumours that the goblins were conspiring against him. Eight years after the birth of his youngest child he led an attack on a goblin village in the Swiss mountains, massacring a hundred of the creatures and leaving the rest to his dogs, who had also been exposed to the golden dust. The few survivors fled to the mountain caves where the animals couldn’t reach them, and four years later they took a ship to England and slaughtered Grimm Malfoy’s two children. It is presumed that his wife died with them, although no body was ever found.”
Horrified, Hermione looked back up at the picture of Laurence and Isabel Malfoy. Isabel was fresh-faced and young, but Laurence… he was an almost direct clone of Draco, with a slightly more angular jaw and darker hair. The likeness was genuinely surprising.
She turned the page again and found herself staring at a new chapter, titled with ‘Golden Legacy’. There was no picture, but as far as she could tell from scanning the words it was a chapter on all the other types of ‘dust freaks’, as Max had dubbed them. A few familiar names caught her eye instantly - the Zabini family was noted to show signs of having gold dust in their bloodline a few generations after Grimm Malfoy’s death; apparently nobody was sure whether it had been purposefully ingested or a bi-product of them being distantly related to the Malfoys.
Hermione found a paragraph of interest and propped her head up on her hands, mumbling the words aloud as she read. “Moss Parkinson, a fire-eater in the travelling Cirque de Magie, was one of two performing acts to be drugged and lured back to Grimm Malfoy’s estate circa 1813. For the entertainment of Grimm and his then-infamous band of aristocratic ruffians, Parkinson and his companion were forced to ingest the gold dust.” her brown eyes widened in shock as she read on. “When the second performer, a conjurer whose name was lost to history, refused to partake in the madness, he was slaughtered and fed to Grimm’s carnivorous dogs…”
Moss Parkinson wasn’t sure what had happened. All he remembered was striding between circus tents, juggling four multi-coloured balls he had stolen from one of the clowns, and then… well, it all went noir. And he woke up much later with a throbbing headache and all the colours of the rainbow dancing around his eyes, with no recollection as to how he got wherever he was.
“I think this one is awake.” a sneering voice remarked in English. Moss winced and rolled onto his back. He appeared to be lying on the cold flagstone floor of a large banquet hall, and now found himself staring up at a multiple-chandeliered, elaborately-painted ceiling.
“Où suis-je?” Moss choked, struggling to sit up. One hand clutched his aching head as he looked around the hall. The remains of a feast fit for a King lay scattered across a table the length of the room, and he found himself on the receiving end of twenty or so uninterested gazes from an unpleasant collection of men slouched in the chairs around it.
At the head of the table, a man in a magnificent fur coat was watching Moss with an amused expression on his cruel face.
“Qui êtes-vous?” Moss asked, standing up. He did not like this room, and he certainly didn’t like the predatory gentlemen in bloody fur coats watching him as though he was some form of entertainment.
“Boisson?” the man at the head of the table asked, raising a jewelled goblet toward Moss. “C’est bon.”
Moss, who had been desperately trying to remember which of his many magically-expanded pockets he had stashed his wand in, shook his head. “Non merci. Où suis-je?” he repeated.
“Anglais?” the man asked, ignoring Moss’ question. “I have exhausted my knowledge of your language.”
“Of course.” Moss replied. The Cirque de Magie was based in France, yes, but its primary audience was in England and Scotland; of course he spoke English. It was almost an insult to suggest otherwise. “Where am I? Who are you?”
“My name is Grimm Malfoy.” the gentleman replied with a malevolent smirk. “You are in my home. Sit with us, have a drink.”
Moss didn’t hear him. His eyes had caught the candlelight reflecting in a pool of thick, deep red liquid rolling slowly across the floor from behind Grimm Malfoy’s throne. Was that… that was blood. Raising his eyes again, Moss found the dark eyes of Malfoy fixed intently upon his own as he took a wary step backward. The man’s lips curled into a wicked grin.
“Dash!” he called. A door at the far side of the room opened and a nimble dark-haired man strode in. When he spoke it was with a grating, raspy voice and, more surprisingly, an American accent - something that Moss had only heard perhaps once in his entire life.
“The conjurer is making our new friend nervous.” Grimm said, not taking his eyes from Moss’ face. “Give him to the dogs would you?”
“Yes my Lord.” the man called Dash bent behind his master’s chair, straightening up with the immobile body of a man at least his own height and weight supported easily in his arms. Blood dripped conspicuously down an exposed arm. Moss fought the urge not to throw up as he backed even further from Grimm Malfoy and his companions. That was Geltin, the Cirque du Magie conjurer. Said to have hands faster than a rattlesnake.
“Qu'avez-vous fait?!” Moss whimpered. “What… what have you done?!”
Grinning nastily, Dash proceeded to haul Geltin’s body out of the room, leaving a trail of blood in his wake. Grimm Malfoy continued to watch Moss as though there was something particularly fascinating about the tremors of terror making his muscles quiver. To the man’s direct right, a fair-haired gentleman turned his grin away from Moss to pick up his own goblet with a bejewelled hand. “Honestly Grimm, you do enjoy mentally torturing these poor fellows.” he murmured.
“You’re quite right Ivan.” Grimm sighed melodramatically. “You, fire-eater… what is your name?”
Moss was too afraid to lie. “Moss Parkinson.” he managed, swallowing in terror. “Why have you brought me here?”
“Have a drink.” the blond-haired man called Ivan gestured to the goblet in front of Grimm. “Relax. We’re not going to hurt you.”
“Letter for you, Hermione!” Lucas called, pushing open her bedroom door. Hermione closed the book again and rolled over to take the envelope he was holding out. “Just arrived on the doormat. Don’t call me crazy, but I think an owl dropped it…”
She grinned and took it, waiting for him to leave again before she looked down at the letter. Her name was written in a neat, curly cursive - definitely not from Ron or Harry then - and she carefully set the envelope to one side to re-open Dark Afflictions of the Magic Blood.
“Grimm and his ruthless companions forced Moss to drink from a glass of liquidised gold dust…”
He spat it out instantly. “Merde! What is this??”
Grimm’s friends were laughing. “You are tasting undiluted power, my little fire-eater,” Grimm himself taunted, raising his own goblet. “Cheers.”
“What have you… you poisoned me?!” Moss demanded, hurling the goblet to one side. It landed in the fireplace, causing the flames to explode around the hearth in an acidic shade of blue. Moss dove to one side, arms held protectively over his head. Once they had died down again Grimm got to his feet and strolled around the table, the golden flames casting a red glow over his eyes.
“No. We have given you a gift, and now you will put on a…” he paused lightly. “Show for us.”
On his way past the fire he pulled two wooden torches out of their brackets on the wall and dipped their heads in the flames. Moss watched him warily, but all Grimm did was straighten up and hold them out to him.
“Well? You are a fire-eater, are you not? You do this for a living don’t you?” he asked. “Entertain us. Amuse us. And you shall be set free unharmed.”
Seeing no other alternative, Moss shakily took the torches from Grimm Malfoy’s outstretched hands and balanced them in his palms. He could do this. He had put on a juggling show mere hours ago beneath the bright lights of the main circus tent; all he had to do was amuse these predatory aristocrats for a few minutes and then he could just go home and forget all about this.
Taking a deep, steadying breath, he bounced the torches lightly in his hands and began to toss them into the air.
Of course, after a few minutes of getting into the act he had forgotten all about his dark audience and was expertly twisting and twirling the burning torches with hardly a thought. The flames seemed to dance for him; more obedient and docile than they had ever been before. Was he improving?
He had brought one of the torches to his lips and blown on it before he even realised that this was not a regular show, and he had not prepared beforehand by filling his mouth with flammable liquid.
All that escaped his lips was hot breath.
And yet a wide arch of fire shot into the air, even further than it would have gone had he used the fuel. Moss almost dropped the flaming torches in his surprise.
“Bravo!” Grimm called, clapping his hands. “Very entertaining, Mr Parkinson.” He got up again and strode across the floor. “But I think we’d enjoy seeing something a little more…” He took one of the torches and smiled. “Interesting.”
Before Moss had realised what he was doing, Grimm Malfoy had flung the torch forward into his chest.
Hermione gasped out loud.
“Moss Parkinson became the first of a long line of Parkinson fire-eaters in the Cirque de Magie, all famous for their uncanny ability to control the fire without the use of wandless magic.” Hermione whispered, eyes following the words across the page. “He remained close friends with Grimm Malfoy until his death in 1836.”
So Pansy’s ancestor had been tricked into ingesting the gold dust by Draco’s ancestor, and Blaise’s family had either obtained their unusual powers through relation to the Malfoys or the acquisition of gold dust on the wizarding black market. Hermione frowned. The Stone brothers seemed to be under the impression that she had inherited some kind of magical gift from her father, but she was getting increasingly doubtful. If Pansy’s furthest ancestor had also been a manipulator of fire and Grimm Malfoy’s son had had wings, surely that would indicate that Hermione should be a jumper?
But there had been so many times when she had broken her arm falling out of a tree or sprained her ankle falling off Ginny’s broom. She had never been a heights person. Watching Harry and Ron play Quidditch matches had made her constantly nauseous at Hogwarts.
And if Malfoy thought he was going to push her off the London clocktower to prove anything he was sorely mistaken.
Yawning, she closed the book and dropped her head onto the pillow. The corner of the envelope was digging into her wrist where she had discarded it; stifling another yawn on the back of her hand Hermione ripped it open and pulled out the letter.
It contained three words in the centre of the page, in the same agonisingly neat cursive, that sent a white hot chill down her spine…
Run from this.
And then the world around her exploded.
French translations ~
Chapter 10: Göndul
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Oh this is soooo overdue haha. This one is also kind of short, but I'm already half way through the next one so it will be along pretty soon. Reviews are love!
“… Eliza Williams is at the scene of the tragedy. Lesley?”
The reporters kept their distance. Despite an all-clear having been given by the British gas board, no-one was too eager to get close to the rubble and debris that was once a street - a gas leak powerful enough to eviscerate thirty houses was not something to be toyed with just for a news story. Eliza Williams was at the very edge of the cracked tarmac; ashes blowing about her heels. “Alan, the mood in central London today is one of disaster. The police estimate that the gas explosion has claimed the lives of up to twenty four people, with sixteen badly injured - and that’s just the first few buildings.” she recited, looking solemnly into the camera. “All I can tell you is that I have been on the scene since ten minutes after the police arrived and I haven’t seen one citizen of this street get out of the rubble and walk away…”
Lucas’s home appeared to have been at the centre of the gas explosion. The walls had crumbled, leaving the skeletal framework charred and collapsing and layering the street floor with six feet of ashes. Beneath them, Lucas himself was nothing more than blackened and disintegrating bones, crushed and unrecognisable. Logic dictated that the explosion should have swept away any remnants of his person, but at the time he had been in the outhouse gathering coal for a fire, and rather than being instantly eviscerated he was left to the mercy of the flames.
Twenty feet away from him, two other figures lay trapped beneath the rubble. Despite both being very dead, their corpses were surprisingly intact considering that they had both been inches from the core of the explosion.
The street stank of death. Bodies were hauled out of the mess and deposited at the side of the road, covered respectfully with sheets and towels while the ambulances arrived to take them away. Inexplicably, ravens had started to gather in the middle of the road. They ignored the abandoned bodies in favour of shuffling through the ashes, cawing loudly whenever any of the police or fireman stepped too close in their search for survivors.
Beneath their claws, seventy dead bodies lay waiting to be unearthed. And then one of them twitched.
Her name was Hermione.
Max Becker passed out the second the street exploded, his eyes fading to white and blood rolling out of his nose. At the time he was halfway between the basement and the kitchen, and so when he fell he was alone.
(Two storeys above him in a large bathtub, Cassiopeia opened her eyes)
Eventually it was Pansy who found him, tripping over his body and cursing like a sailor. After damning him to hell a few times she stooped and lifted him, hauling his limp form into the library where his cousin would undoubtedly be buried in some book. Becker met her at the doorway. “What happened?”
“How the fuck should I-”
“He’s seeing something big,” Draco mumbled, cutting her off and shoving her aside. “This is bad. Someone needs to wake him up.”
Max twitched in his cousin’s arms, mumbling something. Becker and Draco leaned closer to him. “What is it, Max?” the latter murmured. “What can you see?”
Pansy realised that she should have seen it coming. Something this big; why in the hell would it be anyone other than that stupid frizzy-haired mudblood?! When did anyone else ever cause this much drama? When Max managed to spit out Hermione’s name, Pansy was already out of the door and vanishing into the gardens, content to remove herself from whatever situation her housemates were about to get dragged into. Blaise watched her with dark eyes.
(Cassiopeia smiled. She enjoyed irony, and she could see what had just happened in central London)
“Blaise, come with me. Becker stay here with Max.” Draco commanded, folding his wings away and already jogging for the front door. “Cast a disillusionment spell on yourself before we apparate. Something tells me that we don’t want to be all too visible when we reappear.” he continued to Blaise. The urgency of Max’s message implied that they didn’t have the time to apparate to somewhere hidden and then make their way through muggles going about their daily business. Instead, they would make themselves invisible and then apparate straight into Hermione’s Uncle’s living room.
Hopefully not landing on anyone.
They reached the greenhouse and skidded to a halt, turning to face each other. “What are you expecting to find?” Blaise asked, wand out.
“I don’t know. But be ready for anything, and if shit goes down either Max or Cass will make sure someone comes in after us.” Draco cast a disillusionment charm on himself and stood, braced, ready to disapparate. “Let’s go find out what the hell is going on.”
Then they vanished.
And re-appeared in a state of extreme confusion. For a long moment, Draco thought he had apparated to the wrong place - he had been visualising Hermione’s Uncle’s house so vividly when he closed his eyes… and yet when he opened them, he was standing knee-deep in ash and surrounded by the ruins of… he didn’t know what.
He heard the faint thud of Blaise appearing beside him. A few feet away, a muggle police officer looked their way, frowning, and then returned to striding through the wasteland. Blaise exhaled in shock. “Where the hell are we?” he breathed. “Is this the right street?”
Draco looked around. Muggle officials were patrolling the mess; on the edge of the broad circle of destruction, more town houses stood charred but steady. A thick crowd of morbidly-fascinated Londoners had gathered at either end of the road. Before he could open his mouth to speculate on the likelihood of them having the right street, another gentle thump sounded from behind them and a set of footprints appeared in the dust.
“It’s me,” Zoey’s voice murmured, sounding strained. “I came from Cass. This is the right street, Draco… the muggles are calling it a gas explosion, they think a pipe burst or something like that. Cass says that this was Ava.”
“What about Hermione?” Draco hissed.
Thump. “You sound like you give a shit.”
“Pansy. We need these muggles out of the way.” Draco whispered as yet another police officer strayed close to them and looked their way. “A distraction, if you please.”
There was an irritated pause while Pansy weighed out her desire to get this over and done with against her desire to be completely and utterly unhelpful. Muttering under her breath, she stormed away from them. They watched the trail of ash she kicked up as she strode fifty feet away, to the end of the street closest to the crowd. Then, seeming to come out of nowhere, another section of road exploded in a ball of orange fire, scattering the muggles in a wave of screaming and pushing.
“Cass said to follow the ravens.” Zoey offered, against a backdrop of sirens and screaming muggles. “They’re crowding around something over there…”
Draco was already heading through the rubble as fast as he could, stepping over exposed rebars and chunks of concrete. At one point his foot sank into something soft, but he didn’t look down. The rest of the group followed him.
The ravens were pecking around the rubble over what had once been Lucas’ living room. They stood immobile at the approach of the witches and wizards, staring up at the sky through dark, glassy eyes - Draco didn’t fool himself for a moment into thinking that they didn’t know he was there. He stepped carefully around them, coming to a stop in the middle of the room.
Then he saw the hand.
It was whole - bruised, covered in dust, but whole. Considering that this was the area of the street most damaged by the explosion, finding a fleshed limb seemed near impossible; Draco crouched down and started picking chunks of building away from it. He had soon uncovered a whole arm.
“It’s not Hermione.” Zoey said, over his shoulder. “It’s too old.”
Draco continued carefully pulling debris off the body, aided by someone else (he assumed it was Blaise), until they finally hauled a whole section of wall away from a head. It was Hermione’s mother. Draco frowned. She was whole. She was barely marred. She was…
“Alive.” he breathed. “Shit, she’s alive!”
He stepped over her rising and falling chest to help Blaise uncover the rest of her. When they finally used their wands to relocate a small pile of bricks and plaster off her other arm, they both froze and stared down at it. Four battered fingers, and a thumb with blood lining the outside of the nail, were folded securely around Hermione’s mother’s forearm, in a grip tight enough to turn the knuckles white.
She was grazed and burned and bruised and bloody (Draco was already half way through tearing the rubble away) and covered in a thick layer of dust and ashes, but Hermione Granger, by some unexplainable phenomenon… was alive.
Chapter 11: Blonde Rabbit
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Pansy and Blaise
Pansy didn’t care for the situation, personally. Hermione Granger and her bloody mother - who was a muggle, of all things - living in the manor. That’s right, the manor. The manor that housed not only witches and wizards, but also a varied collection of said magical folk with wings, a future-seeing nymph whose hobbies included drowning people, a heliophobic book-nerd, and his psychic younger cousin.
Just what thoughts had been cruising through Draco’s empty head when he decided to bring them here she couldn’t imagine.
But they weren’t the biggest problem. The biggest problem she knew was yet to come. With Hermione Granger and her muggle mother hanging around the place talking about Jacob Bloody Sainted Granger and how much of an amazing father and husband he was, the dreams were going to start again. And at risk of killing everyone in the manor, Pansy was either going to be kicked out, or leave herself.
She sat, cross-legged on a mahogany table, in the darkest depths of the library. Alice in Wonderland lay open on her lap. It was a rather battered copy, very old, which she had found one morning while sulking at the back of the huge room. She loved the book. And found it mildly appropriate right now, as Granger had followed a blonde rabbit down some form of hole and Pansy had a strong urge to cut her head off.
“Thought I’d find you here.” Sunny’s voice interrupted her thoughts of killing Granger. “Blaise is looking for you. But I figured you were probably avoiding him, so I sent him in the wrong direction and told him you were in the garden.”
“You’re smarter than you look.” Pansy sighed, closing the book and spinning to face Sunny. “I hate everyone.”
Sunny rolled her eyes, popped her gum, and took a seat on the table across from Pansy. “I know what you’re thinking about. Just stay away from Granger and if all else fails we’ll just put you in a bath and you can sleep with Cassiopeia.” she grinned. “No-one is going to ask you to leave the manor again.”
“Where’s your better half?” Pansy asked, more to change the question than anything.
Sunny rolled her eyes again (a habit) and shrugged one shoulder. “Dunno. I think he likes Granger,” she said, pulling a face that suggested she greatly disproved of this. “So he’s probably following Zoey around while she takes care of them. Apparently Granger has some pretty serious burns but her mom is totally fine. It’s weird. Considering that they were supposedly at the centre of the explosion.”
Pansy didn’t want to talk about it. Had she not been so worried about having Granger and her mother around the house she might have taken some interest in the situation - as it was, she didn’t give a shit. She just wanted someone to come into the library and reassure her that the stupid muggleborn was leaving.
She was well aware that this wasn’t likely to happen.
Sunny rolled her eyes for the third time and, with an exaggerated sigh, got up and hauled Pansy to her feet. “The moping has to desist, Parkers. Let’s go find out what’s going on.” she demanded, fingers wrapped around Pansy’s wrist as she pulled the girl out of the library depths. “Hey Becker.”
“Yank.” Becker inclined his head in a greeting, following them toward the library doors. “Pansy, Blaise is looking for you. Hermione’s mother is awake, she wants to talk to you.”
Pansy stopped and turned to look at him. “What? Why the hell does Granger’s mother want to talk to me?” she asked, utterly perplexed. “She doesn’t even know who I am.”
“Actually we’re pretty sure she does.” Becker countered, gently pushing her through the door and toward the stairs. “One of the first things she said after she asked about Hermione was ‘which one of you is Pansy?’”
Sunny arched an eyebrow as they headed up the marble steps toward the manor bedrooms. “That’s weird. Maybe Jacob told her about all the fights you two used to get in. She’s probably going to slap you as soon as we get in there.” she chuckled.
Pansy ground her heels into the carpet and shook both of them away from her. “Well she’s going to have to wait, because I have absolutely no desire to go talk to them.” she snarled, turning sharply and stalking back down the staircase. “It’s bad enough that they’re here, I don’t want their presence shoved in my face.”
Feeling the both of them rolling their eyes after her, she jumped the last few steps and strode toward the front doors, intending to go out into the gardens and bury herself. Maybe set something on fire.
Unfortunately, before she could get to the door it swung open and hit her in the face, knocking her back onto the floor. When she opened her eyes Blaise was standing over her, soaked to the skin and looking entirely unapologetic for knocking her on her ass. He kicked her. “Serves you right. It’s raining.” he said gruffly, offering her a hand. “Where were you?”
“In the library.” Pansy sourly took his hand and allowed herself to be yanked up. “Thanks for the door to the face, but if you’re here to tell me to go see Mrs Granger then you can shove it.”
Blaise kept hold of her hand and steered her toward the stairs. “I’m not. Just stop running away from me, would you?”
No matter what, you don’t run from your best friend. Jacob’s voice shot through her head like a bullet, taking her back to a conversation they had had a few weeks before he died. Stop fighting with Blaise for fuck’s sake. I’m sick and tired of you both having the same dumbass arguments and then moping about the house like the fucking world has ended.
“I’m going to tell your wife that you’re swearing.” Pansy had snarled back, hurling a teaspoon across the kitchen at him. “Bugger off, Granger.”
Jacob had ducked beneath he spoon and turned to glare at her. “Pansy, do you even remember why you’re hiding in the goddamn kitchen from your boyfriend?”
“Not my boyfriend, Freakazoid.”
“I didn’t think so.” he sat down across the table from her with a mug of steaming tea. “Pansy, how long has it been?”
Pansy narrowed her eyes, very much aware of the direction he was taking this argument. “I don’t need to hear this, Granger. Leave me alone.”
“Four months? Four months and you have very understandably been distancing yourself from everyone in this manor, drifting around through the shadows like a bloody vampire. And every single person in this manor would never begrudge you that, and they’d probably do the same thing if they were in your shoes. They leave you to it. This manor,” he continued, jabbing a finger pointedly into the table, leaning across it to speak to her, “runs on your schedule. When you surface, people continue their relationships with you. When you need to be left alone, they put them on hold. But not Blaise.”
He sat back, looking earnestly past his glasses and into her eyes. “Blaise has followed you around relentlessly like nothing has changed. It’s been four months, Pansy. If anyone deserves you letting up on the running away crap, it’s him.”
Hermione woke up in a state of complete and utter confusion, and quite a fair amount of pain. Her skin was throbbing. She was overwhelmingly stifled in this room - wherever it was - to the point where the air seemed too hot to breathe. Coughing, she fought to open her eyes.
And found herself staring at, of all people, Draco Malfoy.
Hermione’s memory came back in shattered fragments of a television screen. Run from this. Fire. The overwhelming stench of death in her nostrils, making her gag. Being crushed beneath something, but somehow… somehow moving through the house… even though her memories of it were of a pile of rubble. Finding her mother, her beautiful, angelic mother, and… and knowing that what she was seeing wasn’t really there.
Knowing that her mother was obliterated, gone from the world. Reaching out to touch the wisps of life that clung to the place in a last, desperate hope to pull her mummy back from wherever she had gone… feeling solid flesh beneath her fingertips. An arm. Holding on for dear life. And then… and then… nothing.
Waking up in a room.
Her head hurt too much to move, so she squinted at Malfoy. “My mum…” she croaked. He pointed across her, past the other side of her bed. “She’s absolutely fine. She was in the bed next to you, but Zoey put her to sleep in another room because she was freaking a bit about you needing to go to the hospital. Sounded a bit delirious. Kept asking about Pansy for some reason.”
“I can’t sit up…” she winced, annoying with herself. Draco stepped forward immediately and carefully placed his hands under her shoulders, lifting her into a sitting position. “Thanks.”
She went about testing her limbs to make sure everything still worked. There was a nasty burn across her arm with a cooling orange paste smeared across it, a thick bandage wrapped around her left hand and, she discovered by gingerly touching her fingers to it, another burn on the side of her neck. Possibly why movement hurt so much.
“What happened?” she asked, looking around the room. It was apparently either one of the larger bedrooms in Blaise’s manor, or a guest room in Versailles. Huge, gaudy and gold. Two large beds. A hundred pieces of antique furniture that her mother would have gone crazy over at one point. Cushions and throw pillows everywhere.
They had evidently tried to make her as comfortable as possible.
“The muggles are saying gas leak. But we found this.” Draco reached into his pocket and pulled out a folded piece of parchment. Hermione reached for it but he stepped quickly out of her reach. “It’s the letter you opened at your Uncle’s house. It’s been cursed to react to your touch. We think Ava sent it.”
Hermione stared at him. “My Uncle…?”
Draco looked down, looking sincerely apologetic for what she assumed was the first time in his life. “I’m sorry Hermione. We couldn’t find him. You and your mother were the only survivors in the vicinity.” he said.
Uncle Lucas was dead. Hermione felt her eyes brim with tears and raised a hand to her face. She hadn’t known him that well but… her poor mother! Losing her husband and then her brother, both to the same wretched woman. Feeling a surge of mixed anger and sadness, she buried her head in her hands and let the tears fall freely down her cheeks, forgetting who she was in a room with.
A warm hand landed softly on her shoulder and stayed there. It was strangely reassuring.
“Hermione!!” Alison Granger burst into the room like a hurricane of brown hair and made it halfway into a lunge-hug before she remembered that her daughter was injured. She artfully turned the lunge into a bounce-land to sit on the bed. “Honey are you feeling okay?!”
Hermione brushed the tears off her face (the hand had been swiftly removed from her shoulder) and smiled. “I’ll be fine mum. Are you okay?” she asked, worried.
“I’m fine honey, I’m fine.” Alison wafted her daughter’s concerns away and smiled tearfully. “All that matters is that you’re alright, I was so worried! But that Zoey girl knew her stuff I guess, she had a whole bunch of your burns healed within about ten minutes. I assume that orange gunk is magical paste or something…”
Hermione almost laughed. “Yeah it is. Mum…” her face fell and the tears returned. “I’m so sorry about Uncle Lucas.”
Alison nodded. “I know, I am too. But right now, I’m focusing on what I have to be thankful for. So many people died today, baby, and you’re alive. It’s a miracle.” she half-sobbed, half-laughed. “I am so grateful for that.”
Something she said made Hermione frown. She turned to look at Draco, who was hanging respectfully back observing an antique dresser as though he found it fascinating. “Wait, how are we alive?” she asked. “If that letter blew up half the street, how are we pretty much unharmed?”
“We’re not really sure.” Draco replied lazily. “But we’re not looking a gift horse in the mouth.”
Hermione glared at him, but decided to leave it in favour of pursuing a different line of conversation. “Mum, how do you know who Pansy Parkinson is?” she asked.
Alison looked confused for a moment, before comprehension dawned and she shrugged, shuffling further onto the bed to make herself comfortable. “Your father mentioned her the day before he died. He said she was one of his patients… I don’t know, I just remembered it when I woke up here and these people said they worked with your father.” she explained.
“Dad talked about Pansy?” Hermione repeated, glancing at Draco. He shrugged. “What did he say?”
“He was having some moral dilemma I think,” Alison continued. “He told me that she had really bad nightmares and sometimes sleepwalked, and that on one occasion five or six months ago she turned the stove gas on in her sleep. Somehow her entire house got burned to the ground, killing her whole family.”
Hermione couldn’t pry her eyes away from her mother. “That’s horrible!” she breathed, momentarily forgetting everything else that was going on in the present.
“Yeah, she was the only survivor. Apparently she had a little brother who died too, it sounded devastating.” Alison sighed. “I think your dad just wanted to talk to someone about her. He was worried that she was distancing herself from everyone, and that she blamed herself for the whole thing. But, because she was one of his patients, he didn’t know what to do about it.”
It figured that her father would worry about a girl who hated him. Hermione once again found herself yearning to be wrapped up in her dad’s arms, to inhale the bookish smell of his old angora jumpers and listen to him hum one of the stupid eighties songs that he loved so much. To sit in the living room and watch him meander through the house singing “people are strange, when you’re a stranger” and wink at her.
“You’re strange, Hermione.” he’d grin, patting her curls. “But we love you anyway.”
Sat in the bed in Blaise Zabini’s manor, Hermione slouched down against the many pillows and cushions and bit her lip. It was curious that her father had mentioned Pansy Parkinson to her mother… but then again, he probably knew that Hermione had gone to school with the girl and would therefore find it unlikely that Jacob was her dentist.
Still. It sucked that everyone knew at least a little bit about his life except Hermione.
The door to the room opened. Hermione wiped her eyes hastily and looked around her mother, hoping to see either Zoey, Becker or Max. She was sourly disappointed. Blaise strolled in, carrying Pansy over his shoulder. “Hey Granger,” he greeted her, dumping Pansy on the spare bed. “How are you feeling?”
Trying her hardest not to glare at the scowling girl, Hermione sniffed haughtily. “I’m feeling better thank you Blaise. Thanks for letting me and mum stay in here.”
“Don’t get comfortable.” Pansy muttered, examining her fingernails.
Hermione painfully turned her head and narrowed her eyes at the girl. “Excuse me?” she asked through gritted teeth.
Pansy evidently heard the challenge in her voice and turned to meet her eyes. “I said don’t get comfortable.” she repeated slowly. “Because you wont be staying here long.”
“Oh I’m sorry, I completely forgot that this was your house.” Hermione gave a pretentious and fake smile. “Silly me. Go away Parkinson, I’m being told your life story.”
Pansy’s eyes remained narrowed, but they moved from Hermione’s face to Draco’s. She tilted her head, questioning him. Malfoy looked away from her and went back to examining the dresser in the corner, avoiding her glare.
“You’re Pansy?” Alison broke the tension in the room with her obliviousness. Pansy looked at her suspiciously. “Jacob mentioned you. He said you were one of his patients.”
“His patients?” Pansy snapped sceptically. “I don’t know what you’re-”
“Pansy.” Draco coughed. “She’s talking about her husband. Your dentist.”
“Oh yeah,” Pansy smirked at Hermione. “The dead one.”
Hermione opened her mouth to swear at the girl, but was cut off by her mother. “He told me about the accident. About what happened to your family. I am so sorry.” Alison said, her voice so full of earnest concern that it seemed to throw Pansy momentarily off guard. She blinked at the older woman. “It must have been so awful to lose everyone.”
Hermione looked between them. Pansy didn’t seem to know how to react to this - Hermione had actually half expected her to say something offensive to silence Alison, but all she managed to do was open her mouth and then close it again. Eventually her gaze darkened once more and she looked down, falling silent. Alison reached over the gap between the beds to pat her genially on the arm.
“Right…” Draco said, breaking the silence awkwardly. “Well we should probably leave Zoey to get back to fixing Gra- I mean Hermione. Then lunch. Then we can figure out just what the hell happened to keep the two of you alive.”
Chapter 12: Head First, Fearless
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This is kind of a filler chapter.
Title is from the Taylor Swift song "Fearless".
♥ Review! (:
Head First, Fearless
After two hours of “resting”, Hermione got too bored to stay in the bed.
Everyone else had left to get on with household chores - Zoey had taken Hermione’s mum to the kitchen to help her make dinner for everyone, leaving her alone in the huge bedroom under instruction to sleep. She couldn’t. Her burns hurt too much and the dull throbbing beneath the bandage on her hand was far too distracting to let her rest.
So she sat. She counted sheep. She contemplated writing to Harry or Ron. She decided against writing to Harry or Ron. She read a book. And then she got out of bed and stretched her legs pacing around the room.
That was when she heard Pansy cackle.
It wasn’t nearby, otherwise Hermione would have whipped her wand out immediately. It sounded like it was coming from outside…
Curiosity overcoming her desire to block out Parkinson, she quietly trod across the room to the window, kneeling on an expensive footstool in order to see out of it.
They were relaxing in the sun in the front of the manor. About twelve of them; everyone she knew (bar Zoey and Becker), and a few she didn’t, just hanging out and amusing themselves in the pleasant weather. Sunny was working on the engine of what Hermione assumed was her car; her jeans and arms covered in oil smears whenever she re-surfaced to join the conversation or throw a filthy rag at her brother. Alec was playing a game of one-on-one football with Blaise.
Pansy herself was leaning against the back of Sunny’s car talking to a shirtless boy whose face Hermione couldn’t see. Her mood seemed to have lightened since the morning; she was gesturing animatedly and grinning like a four-year-old as she chattered away happily between the boy and Sunny.
Max was hovering eagerly on the sidelines of Alec and Blaise’s game, apparently acting as ref.
Deacon Whipstaff was sunbathing on the roof of Sunny’s car, his piercings catching the light every time he moved his head. Beside Sunny was an old, grisly man in overalls who was either aiding her mechanical work or chastising Deacon; Hermione couldn’t tell if he was waving his wand around at the car or just threatening Whipstaff with it.
A few feet from them, a blonde woman in her twenties was playing with a winged toddler. Hermione watched them for a moment. The woman would allow the child to flap ten or eleven feet above her, before jerking her head to (presumably through magic) bring it back into her arms.
It was a pleasant scene. Wondering where Malfoy was, Hermione scanned back across the scene incase she had missed him.
Her eyes met a pair of steely grey ones. Malfoy, sat shirtless on the back of Sunny’s car, smirked.
Hermione felt her eyes widen and colour rise in her cheeks - she wasn’t sure how she had managed to look over the shirtless boy twice without realising that it was Malfoy, but right about now she wanted the ground to eat her up. Giving an awkward and fake smile, she waved and backed away from the window. Pansy’s cackle rang through her ears and made her cheeks burn.
Sighing, she sat down on the bed and once again contemplated writing to Harry and Ron. Maybe she could bring out her inner Pansy and completely bitch them out… ‘Yeah, so I’ve been hanging out with our old arch enemies and taking part in this ancient cult of creatures with superpowers - which I might be one of, by the way - and I’m currently being hunted by a something-hundred year old woman and a band of Belarusian brothers. Nothing much going on, bitchessss.’
She chuckled at the unlikelihood of that happening. Hurt by Harry and Ron she may be, but she doubted anything in life could make her as bitter and bitchy as Pansy was.
Someone knocked on the bedroom door. “Come in?” she called, assuming it was her mum or Zoey.
Draco walked in. Hermione blinked. He was still shirtless - she felt a blush crawl up her neck, despite her best efforts. Why was she so flustered by Malfoy being half naked anyway?! She’d seen him without a shirt before. Of course, it had been whilst he was explaining to her that he had a set of feathered wings, so her attention had been elsewhere at the time, but this really shouldn’t be any different.
He strolled across the room and collapsed onto the second bed, kicking his booted feet up onto the sheets. “Shouldn’t you be resting? Or asleep or something?” he asked.
“I… uh, I’m not tired. And my burns kind of ache.” she admitted, keeping her eyes on his tousled hair. “What are you guys doing?”
He gestured to the light streaming in through the windows. “Just enjoying the sun. Every now and then we’re graced with a day where the Stones or the Ministry aren’t scheduling some kind of raid on the house, and everybody gets to chill out around the place. Sunny’s fixing her car, Pansy’s sunbathing, Blaise is playing football… it’s nice out. You should come outside.”
He looked at her.
Hermione bit her lip. “I don’t think it’s a good idea. Every time I’m in the same vicinity as Pansy, she flips out and one of us has to leave.” she sighed. “I think I’d better stay in here.”
“Granger.” Draco swung his legs off the bed and sat forward. “What your mother said about Pansy earlier was only half true.”
He looked ready to explain, so Hermione nodded.
“Six months ago Pansy was still living with her family. Her and Blaise and I have been hanging out every summer since we were six - usually here, because Blaise’s Aunt gave us free reign of the place. When she discovered the whole fire thing, we didn’t think anything of it. It didn’t occur to us that it was triggered by her mood, or that it could potentially hurt her parents. Or her little brother.”
Hermione listened intently, despising the pity she was feeling for Parkinson.
“She visited the manor every day, slept over quite often. Originally, her and Jacob got along just fine. She kept her prejudices to herself.” Draco continued, running his hand through his hair and staring at a spot of carpet by Hermione’s feet. “Then one night… nobody knows why… she had a really bad dream, and she caught fire in her sleep. And her entire house burned to the ground, killing her mum, her dad, and her brother.
“Hermione, the reason she hates you has nothing to do with you being muggleborn. She hates you because when she moved here she had to deal with your dad - who was an amazing guy, don’t get me wrong, but not the most perceptive. He kept talking about how he couldn’t wait to tell you about this place, to bring you in on it because he loved you so much. He was always talking about how proud he was of you. Every time we discovered something new, it was ‘oh, Hermione will love this’. And Pansy had to deal with the fact that she’d just killed her entire family.”
Hermione’s fists were clenched against the material of her jeans. There were tears in her eyes - not just for Pansy, but for her father, who had died before he had the chance to share such a huge part of his life with her. Her heart throbbed with longing to speak to him again. To let him know that she was so proud, so proud, to call him father.
“I’m sorry, Hermione.” Draco murmured, reaching across to touch her shoulder. “I really am.”
Sniffing, Hermione wiped her eyes and sat up straight again. “Thank you.” she said, searching for another topic of conversation. A thought struck her. “Who are the other people outside?”
“C’mon, I’ll show you.” Draco stood up and walked to the window, hands idly resting in his pockets. Hermione followed, not looking at his shoulder blades. “That,” he explained, pointing down at the elderly man working on Sunny’s car, “is Riley. He’s Deacon’s father - nobody’s sure if he’s one of us or not. He claims that he isn’t, but sometimes weird things happen around him. Or Deacon will get into trouble and Riley will suddenly just be there to get him out of it… it‘s weird.”
Hermione smiled. “What about the girl with the baby?” she asked.
“Lauriat Malfoy, my second cousin. The kid is called Marvel. He’s winged, as you can tell. Lauriat can move things with her mind… it’s kind of a Blaster ability. When Marvel flies too high, watch her… there, see how she jerked her head and he fell back to her? She did that. She’s pretty cool.”
Lauriat was now talking to Riley, Marvel held tight in one arm. Hermione nodded and stepped back from the window before someone noticed her staring again. “They seem nice.” she said pitifully. “You should go back out.”
Draco was looking down at her, his eyes unreadable. Then, without so much as a word of warning, the faintest sign of a smirk touched his lips and he lunged, bodily hauling the unsuspecting Hermione over his shoulder. She shrieked in surprised. “What are you doing?!” Draco didn’t reply. He simply carried her to the largest window, kicked it open… and jumped.
Chapter 13: Göndul Part II
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Long overdue and very short.
The lyrics in the description are from Breath of Life by Florence & the Machine.
Gondul, Part II
Initially, things were entertaining. The sun continued to smile down at them through the afternoon, as Hermione was introduced to Lauriat Malfoy and her unbelievably adorable son Marvel. It was impossible not to love the little boy, who launched himself from his young mother’s arms to circle Hermione and then hug her. Hermione was so charmed that she managed to completely ignore the dirty looks Pansy kept throwing at her.
As the afternoon danced on, Hermione settled on the grass with Zoey, Max, her mum, and Lauriat, a small distance from the others. Zoey brought everyone snacks every so often, and Max occasionally went to join Blaise for a game of football. At one point Marvel trotted over to her and unfurled his fingers to reveal a rather crumpled butterfly, which upon first inspection appeared to be dead, but after Hermione gently nudged its wing turned out to be playing possum. The little boy laughed gleefully as it leapt to life in his palm and fluttered away.
Zoey and Lauriat were explaining the entirety of the situation to Hermione’s mother. She caught scraps of their conversation but generally tried to stay out of it, believing that they had a better ability to make Alison understand than she did. After all, she still only new half of the situation.
At three thirty, Draco left the others to come and sit with her. Marvel immediately toppled into his lap and settled there, bored and tired of flying around his mother like a pest.
“So what are Potter and Weasley doing?” he asked abruptly, stroking Marvel’s hair.
Hermione chewed her lip. “They’re working on something out of country. I wrote to them when we heard that my father was dead, and got a reply from Harry telling me that they couldn’t come back. I haven’t written back to them…” she admitted.
“Can’t say as I blame you.” Malfoy shrugged. “I imagine you’ll have a lot to talk about when they eventually do get their arses back into Bonny Old though…”
Hermione just rolled her shoulders in a shrug and looked up at the blue sky. Truthfully she hadn’t thought much about her two best friends lately. Their lack of support when she needed them had taken her by surprise, and given her a slight bitterness toward them that she wasn’t sure they deserved. She had neither the inclination or the patience to fill them in on her situation. If they couldn’t find the time to even write to her again to make sure she was alright, then she didn’t have the time to let them know about Malfoy et al.
Across the sunny yard, Alec was holding his wand at Sunny’s car, hovering it five feet off the ground while she peered underneath it.
“When do you think Ava will attack again?” Hermione asked, glancing at Malfoy.
“Soon,” he replied. “She’s not one to waste time. And the Stone brothers are more brawn than brain, they’re always ready to go. We’re going to have to keep our guard up twenty-four seven from now on, to be honest.”
Hermione nodded, turning to check that her mum was still alright. Alison was still listening intently to Zoey and Lauriat, nodding every so often. Behind them, in the far distance, a field of golden corn husks swayed gently in the summer breeze.
Unfolding and then re-folding her legs, Hermione basked in the contented serenity of the scene. Malfoy was still absentmindedly brushing his fingers through the now-sleeping Marvel’s hair, his own steely grey eyes lazily observing his friends. A cluster of butterflies were sunning themselves on the golden stone path between their patch of grass and Sunny’s car, which was still gently hovering off the ground as the female twin fiddled with it’s underside, carefully watched by her brother. Max stood as his fervent backup, wand at the ready should he be asked to do anything.
Deacon and his father stood a few feet away, half watching the car and half engaged in some lazy discussion. Beyond them, Pansy was settled against the manor wall reading her battered copy of Alice in Wonderland, bare legs stretched out in front of her, with Blaise slouched against her picking at the ivy growing up the stone. Pansy’s eyes flicked up from her book and met Hermione’s. No expression passed between them, as brown eyes bored into blue, until both girls relented and looked back down.
It was an improvement on the glaring, but Hermione couldn’t see them smiling at one another anytime soon.
She began lazily making a daisy chain, picking the small white-and-pink flowers out of the grass around her. The sun felt hot and soothing on her back, reminding her of the summer days at Hogwarts, when the whole school gathered around the lake to enjoy the serenity of the pre- and post-exam weeks. Daisy chains had always been more of a Lavender and Parvati thing, but then again Hermione had always sat with her back against a tree and a book in her lap. To her, time spent loitering and rolling around in the grass was time wasted. Even now she had an urge to raid Blaise’s library and filch a book.
She looked up, and found Malfoy’s eyes fixed on her. “Hm?”
“Have you thought about what happened?” he asked.
It took her a long moment to figure out what he was referring to, and when she did it was as though a dark cloud eclipsed the sun. “No. I don’t understand how we made it out.” She tried not to think of her Uncle.
“Something must have happened. You were at the center of the explosion, and it took out the entire street.”
“How far apart were we?” Hermione asked him, wondering whether her mother had somehow managed to fall behind something sturdy enough to protect her. Maybe she had landed in a doorway… or beneath the table. The explosion was huge, but it wasn’t unheard of for someone to be miraculously unharmed, was it?
Malfoy gave her a strange look. “You had hold of her arm when we found you,” he said slowly. “You were lying beside each other.”
Hermione stared at him. “No… that’s not possible. I wasn’t even in the same room; I was upstairs. My mother was in the kitchen.”
Draco looked at her for a long moment, before turning his head and shouting at Pansy. “Pan! Come here!”
Looking wary and irritated, Pansy got to her feet and crossed the path to them, scattering the sunbathing butterflies. She crouched beside Malfoy. “What do you want?”
“What do you remember about the Göndul?”
The word sounded familiar to Hermione, but she couldn’t place its origin or meaning. Interested, she watched Pansy as the dark-haired girl turned her blue eyes between the two of them, evidently choosing to silently catch up with Malfoy’s train of thought rather than answer his question. Eventually she fixed her gaze – interested, but with her usual touch of animosity – on Hermione. “Her? What makes you think that?” she asked Draco.
“She says she was in a different room to her mum when the street blew.”
Pansy gave Hermione an intrigued once-over before shrugging one angular shoulder and rising to her feet. She stalked back to the path and straight up to the ivy that clung to the sunny manor wall, hands twitching with her back to Hermione. After a moment she returned, the fingers of her left hand loosely caged around something.
A butterfly, Hermione realized.
“What are you doing?” she asked, wary of the look in Pansy’s eyes.
Pansy tilted her head to one side, looking for all the world like a pretty, malicious bird, and then her left hand burst into flames.
Hermione jumped, jaw dropping. “You horrible creature!” she exclaimed, and the golden fire extinguished itself as quickly as it had started. Pansy unfurled her fingers. In the center of her palm lay the broken, charred body of the butterfly, almost nothing but ash. It pulled at Hermione’s heart to see it killed so mercilessly, and she found herself hating Pansy even more than usual.
“Think about how much you want it to live,” Pansy said to her, eyes like hard diamonds, “and then touch it.”
“What are you talking about?” Hermione had no desire to play mind games with the girl right now; all she wanted was to get far away from her.
Pansy snatched at her wrist and gripped it hard. “Think about it, fucker!” she spat. “Think about how this could have been your mum twenty four hours ago! A shouldering skeleton, stinking of burning fat. Nothing human left. ”
She yanked Hermione’s hand into the space between them and held the dead butterfly up to it. Her fingers were starting to burn Hermione’s wrist, she wanted the girl to let go and get away from her, get away from her mother and stop hurting things-
The butterfly sprang out of Pansy’s hand, whole and alive, to settle on Hermione’s arm.
Okay, very very short I know. But I couldn't think of a better place to leave the story, and I have a bit of writers block today so... sorry? Review and let me know what you think anyway (: