Chapter 7 : The Shadows within the Darkness
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She felt herself afraid, for the first time in many years. Not afraid like telling Ron about Malfoy or afraid of tripping down the stairs – but afraid of something unknown and dark. She couldn’t explain the feeling – logic and reason could not be used. All she knew was that her heart was beating loudly in her ears and yet the silence of her surroundings overwhelmed her. Small wisps of frost expelled out her mouth as breathed in and out as she tried to remember the way back.
It was too dark to see where she had come from and the only thing she could make out were the vague shadows of the objects that surrounded her. She guessed that anyone who entered the dungeons was never supposed to leave.
“Ring around the roses… a pocket full of posies…” she began singing in hushed tones to drown out the ringing in her ears.
Her footsteps began to echo in the darkness and her voice resounded. “Ashes… ashes...”
“Ashes…ashes…” her voice echoed.
“Ashes…ashes…” but this time, it wasn’t an echo. The voice that had repeated the words was not Hermione’s trembling, low voice but rather a shrill, high pitched one.
“Hello?” Hermione called out.
No response. She trotted forward, blindly grabbing on to anything that would provide her support. “Is anyone there?” she repeated. The hair on her neck began to shiver as the voice repeated the words.
“Who is that?” Hermione cried. She placed her fingers carefully around her wand and drew it out. “Lumos!” she whispered. There was no light. She repeated the spell again but no light shone from the tip of her wand. Logic and reason had abandoned her fear long ago and now even magic was not working for her – Hermione stopped short and craned her neck, trying to spot the source of the voice.
“Who... who is that?” she said chokingly. “Malfoy…is that you?”
The voice continued singing in its shrill voice. “Ashes…ashes…”
“That’s not funny!” Hermione cried. “Malfoy, stop it!”
“And we all fall down!” the shrill voice finished the song. Hermione turned immediately and screamed as a swirl of bright green smoke surrounded her and from it, the shadow of a figure emerged.
Hermione reached for her wand but her trembling hands couldn’t make a steady grip around it. “Eli!” She yelled.
“And we all fall down!” the figure repeated. Hermione still couldn’t make out what the figure was but it was most definitely, not human. The shrill voice began to sing again in hushed tones and Hermione fell to the ground, surrounded by the green mist.
Her heart skipped a beat as the green mist rose and covered the walls. The voice was laughing now and the sheer coldness of the dungeons was beginning to sink into Hermione’s bones. All she saw was the green and amidst it, the shadow swiftly encircling her.
“Help!” she cried.
“Help!” the voice repeated gleefully. It laughed menacingly, like the shrill laughter a banshee makes before it attacks but with the coldness that only someone who has faced dementors could understand.
“HELP!” Hermione cried out again.
She felt completely helpless. Her magic would not work and her limbs were failing her. She collapsed on the floor as the green midst rose higher and higher while the darkness refused to dissipate.
“Aren’t you going to sing?” the shrill voice spoke. Hermione’s eyes widened. It was the voice of a woman.
“Who are you?” Hermione asked, rising up a little.
“AND WE ALL FALL DOWN!” Emerald flames erupted from the floor and singed Hermione’s skin as she fell backward. Blackness descended over her eyes and she lost the will to keep moving… slowly, the shrill voice grew further and further away and the last thing she heard before she passed out was the yell of a man and a bright white light.
I can’t say things are going well here without you but they’re not that bad. Ron’s still pretty grim about you leaving and all he does is go to work and come home and sleep and go to work (well, you get the point). I keep telling him to write to you and he always tells me that he doesn’t know what to say. (Apparently, “I miss you” is not enough for him.) Either way, things aren’t exactly the best they’ve been. Harry’s busy with Ministry stuff and keeps an eye on Ron at work; I guess it suffices to say that without you, he’s miserable. Write to him soon, it’ll make him feel loads better.
Everyone else is doing fine here…mum and dad are busy with Victoire and Teddy’s spending a few days with us (Andromeda dropped him off yesterday) so he keeps Harry and I very busy. We decided to extend our stay at the Burrow a little longer – especially with Teddy staying here. Mum thinks it’s a good idea for Ron to stay too so we can keep an eye on him.
Right back soon,
PS: Harry says hi.
“Did you write that I said hi?” Harry asked Ginny as he peered over her shoulder.
“Yes, yes I did,” Ginny replied, showing Harry exactly where she had written her post script.
“Thank you,” Harry said cheerily.
“Yes, I’m sure she’ll feel much better now that you’ve said hi to her.”
“Clearly it’s the thought that counts,” Harry said. “Anyways, I doubt anything can make Hermione feel better.”
“I know…” Ginny sighed.
“I wish Ron would stop being such a brute though,” Harry pondered.
“What do you mean?”
“Did you see him chew into the roast tonight?”
“Ron’s always been like that,” Ginny joked. “He’d always let his feelings out with food.”
Just then, the door to Ginny’s bedroom creaked open and Teddy came wobbling in. “Uncle Harry!” he complained.
“What is it, Teddy?” Harry asked, as he took the toddler into his arms and lifted him off the floor.
“Vickie took my broomstick!” he wept. He was still far too young to be able to pronounce Victoire’s name correctly.
“You have to share with her,” Ginny replied with a smile.
“But it’s mine!”
“Yes, sweetie I know that,” Ginny responded. “But she lets you use her toys, doesn’t she?
“She’s stupid!” Teddy yelled.
“Don’t say that!” Harry said sternly. “She’s your friend, isn’t she?”
“No, she’s a girl!”
Harry laughed as Ginny gave Teddy a kiss on the cheek. “Someday you’ll be begging for girls to be your friends,” Harry told him.
“What? A handsome guy like Teddy?” Ginny smiled. “He’ll have girls lining up for him.”
“Gross!” Teddy whined.
“Hey, isn’t it your nap time?” Harry asked Teddy who smiled mischievously. “Let’s go down and apologize to Victoire. And then, we’ll go to bed.”
“Can I sleep in your room?” Teddy asked Harry.
“Yeah sure,” he said. He got up and kissed Ginny while Teddy started laughing at them both.
“Brat,” Ginny joked as Harry and Teddy left the room. Ginny turned back to her desk and rolled up the parchment on which she had written her letter. She gingerly attached it to her owl’s leg and sent it flying out into the afternoon sun.
Hermione twitched slightly. She felt herself shiver as drops of cold water fell against her face. Her entire body was still trembling but not from fear anymore, it was trembling from the freezing temperature around her.
She took three short breaths and opened her eyes a fraction to see the white fog form as she exhaled. Her eyelids fluttered and she closed her eyes again, unable to muster the strength to open them completely. The green flames still encircled her mind as she remembered the darkness and fear and the cold and the laugh…that’s laugh of a creature who has nothing to lose – nothing to fear.
“Ms. Granger… open your eyes…” The cold water against her face seemed to increase as drops fell more rapidly. Her hair was wet and her lower lip was shaking uncontrollably from the cold.
She finally opened her eyes slowly and took a few minutes to adjust to the darkness. She was still in the dungeons but there were no more green flames or mist around the walls. Everything had gone back to being as it was before…like nothing had ever happened. She moved her head a little and saw Eli’s relieved face come into view.
He was holding up his wand from which the drops of water were falling and when he saw her eyes open, he moved his lips slightly and the drops stopped. Placing his wand beside him, he lifted Hermione’s head off the ground and spoke to her.
“Can you hear me?”
Hermione couldn’t gather the energy to speak but nodded slowly.
“Ms. Granger, do you know who I am?”
Hermione nodded again. Eli smiled and heaved a sigh of relief. “Come up dear, let’s get you dry.”
He placed his arm gingerly on Hermione’s shoulder and helped her off the ground. And then, waving his wand, conjured up a stretcher onto which Hermione was placed. Hermione saw Eli wave his wand and the stretcher began to move itself out of the dungeon.
“Aren’t you coming?” Hermione said weakly, as she saw Eli turn back towards the darkness.
“Momentarily, Ms. Granger,” he said and turned. Hermione craned her neck slightly only to see a figure sitting up against the wall, grasping onto its arm – his blonde hair, bloodstained.
House-elves were dabbing Hermione’s burns with a healing solution when Eli came into the room. It had a been about 2 hours since the stretcher had brought her back to her room and three house elves had taken to tending to her injured and weak body.
They had used a spell to dry her hair and clothes and covered her with multiple blankets. Two of them was currently dabbing a deep burn on her neck while the other was fetching some more bandages.
“Are you alright, Ms. Granger?” Eli asked kindly as he examined the weary woman.
“I don’t know,” Hermione replied truthfully.
“It’s understandable,” he said. “Those burns you got are rather serious.”
Hermione looked to her hand where one of the elves had bandaged a deep black burn that was still throbbing from the pain.
“Miss, you does not have to worry,” one of the elves squeaked cheerfully. “I is knowing how to fix you.”
Hermione smiled and her spirits lifted slightly. “Thank you. You’re doing an excellent job.” The elf bowed in gratitude and turned back to dabbing the wound on her neck.
“Greta is a medicinal elf,” Eli said, beaming at the eager worker.
“They’re elves trained by St. Mungo’s in healing all kinds of ailments,” Eli explained. “Particularly ailments as serious as yours.”
“It’s not the burns that worry me,” Hermione said pensively.
Eli’s expression changed a little to one of concern. He knew she’d ask.
“What was that in the dungeons, Eli?” Hermione asked.
“I am not quite so sure myself,” Eli replied. He hadn’t lied to her – despite knowing who she was, he really didn’t know what she was.
“But…what was it doing down there?” Hermione asked, pushing for an answer.
“I’d rather you not ask,” Eli said truthfully. “This mansion has many secrets, my dear. Some are best left undisturbed.”
“I want to know,” Hermione said adamantly as she sat up straight and knocked a bottle of healing potion out of Greta’s hands.
“I must insist,” Eli said.
“Don’t insult my intelligence Eli!” Hermione protested. “Just…”
“Ms. Granger,” Eli said strongly. “You are a brave girl and one whose intelligence I would never think of insulting. I can in all honestly tell you that whatever it was in dungeons will not attack you again as long as you stay clear of the dungeons. Darkness and fear are the very things these creatures feed off of.”
Hermione knew that Eli would not answer any more of her questions. She sat back down and breathed in deeply. The screams she had released in the dungeons had left a lasting effect on her lungs and she cringed every time she breathed really deeply.
“I’m sorry,” she said.
“It is I who should be apologizing,” Eli said, bowing his head.
Hermione smiled slightly to mask the many thoughts that were flying through her head right now. She would figure out who it was in the dungeons. She was not one to back down from a challenge or the unknown – seven years at Hogwarts had taught her.
“I’ll be back in an hour or so,” Eli said kindly and turned towards the door. “Ah yes, before I forget.” He reached into his pocket and placed a folded piece of parchment by Hermione’s bedside. “This came for you a few minutes ago.”
“Grobon,” Eli said, referring to the other house elf. “Go down to the kitchen and bring Ms. Granger some caramel blueberries.”
“Caramel blueberries?” Hermione asked.
“The sugar will help restore your energy,” Eli smiled as he left the room.
Grobon disapparated while Hermione reached for the letter by her bedside – it was from Ginny. As her brown eyes scanned the letter, the two elves packed up the healing potions and disapparated out of the room. Hermione smiled at the last line, “PS: Harry says hi.”. She reached for a quill and parchment and began writing her reply.
Eli entered the lavish master bedroom where Draco said at the foot of his bed, breathing deeply and heavily.
“Is it any better?” Eli asked.
“No.” Draco replied bluntly as a small house elf pressed a moist cloth with green liquid against his bare chest. When she took the cloth off, the burnt flesh and black seared skin shone perfectly against Malfoy’s pale skin. His face had lost a lot of colour and his breaths continued to be inconsistent and heavy.
“I need...” Draco took a moment to breathe. “I need you to…check…”
“She’s alright, Master Malfoy,” Eli replied.
“A fair few but none that can cause any severe damage. Greta is looking after her.”
“Did she…” Draco breathed. “ask... did she ask you?”
“Don’t overwork yourself, Master Malfoy,” Eli said with concern. “She asked me but I told her nothing, as you said.”
“What’s she doing now?” Draco asked, with great difficulty.
“She got a letter, she’s reading it,” Eli replied. “I will get you something to drink, sir.”
“What about Adria?” Draco asked.
“After she burnt you, she fled to the Northern Tower,” Eli replied.
[b]a thousand apologies for the late update! I promise sooner updates![/b]
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