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A Strange Puzzle by DragonGoddess
Chapter 13 : The Inferi
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 12


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Hermione wandered around the castle, desolately. Harried looking, she wanted to rest. But sleep wouldn’t come. Terrifying dreams kept her awake. More than ever, she wished to see her friends. She needed them. Of course, the most needed friend would never come. He was…gone. She could feel the familiar burning in the back of her throat, but refused to shed a tear. With every step, she seemed to sink into the endless memories, which tormented her.

Terrified, lonely and most of all buried in confusion, Hermione wondered if she had done anything that was perhaps useful. Guilt and shame attacked her viciously reminding her of the fact that she’d been spending her days doing nothing. Not since the day she was ‘smuggled’ out of Hogwarts.

Smuggled. Now that was puzzling. Why would they kidnap her and Malfoy? Oh, and there was Ginny. Three teenagers caught under one roof, one of whom was blissfully obvious to it all. And above all came…Draco Malfoy.

She was still trying to figure him out. It was obvious that he had loved his mother dearly. Narcissa Malfoy was the second causality and it sent chills down her spine. Who would it be next? Thinking about it now…what if Narcissa Malfoy hadn’t died? What if it was…a show?

An image of a pale and trembling Malfoy came to her. His emotions and pain seemed far too real to have been a sham. What if he intended to trap her by invoking sympathy? Well, he wasn’t. He had made it way too clear just what he thought of her empathy. No.

Could he possibly be attempting to catch her off guard? By God, he’d tried to keep her vigil around him! Was he trying to warn her? Did he have a similar task to execute? Did he have to kill her? A shiver raided her body and she suddenly whipped around, expecting to see a murderous looking Malfoy approach her, holding a butcher knife aloft and smirking triumphantly.

Paranoia! Calm yourself! There is nobody in here. Malfoy could’ve killed you a million times now, if that was what he had wanted. But he hasn’t!

Being alive was a testament to it. She let a few minutes pass as the unreasonable fear quelled. If she carried herself this way for long enough, she’d soon end up in St. Mungos. She giggled at the incredulity. But of course, she didn’t have a way out of here, did she?

As she looked around her current surrounding, she realized, with some surprise, that she didn't know where she was. The familiar Hogwarts castle had slowly disappeared. As she moved further, she looked around, vaguely recognizing the subtle change of temperature. There were cob webs, enveloping darkness, sounds of night crawlers, a damp stench…

With every step she took, she knew it was no good. But her curiosity was peaked. Heart thumping, she continued to walk, all her senses tense and alert.

CRACK

The sound made her jump a foot. She stepped backwards, squinting. And then…she saw.

A frail and bloody Harry lay on the ground. With growing sense of horror she watched his body rise. She stood frozen. He was floating towards her! Every inch of her screamed.

MOVE! RUN!

She was paralyzed. The movement of Harry hadn't stopped. He was closing in on her. Dully, she noted the hollow and dead looking eyes. His robes were slashed. His body was bruised. Strange liquid oozed out of the gashes. It wasn’t blood. The very sight of him made a bile rise in her throat.

His hands outstretched and head rolling in, he rushed in her direction. As he moved, she had the blinding revelation.

Inferi.

And that was when she ran. He was rapidly approaching. Faster she ran…quicker he reached. Cold arms touched her. She felt him yank her hair. Her leg buckled. She toppled with a sickening crack. Her head hit the hard floor. Raising herself, she looked up into his face. There was a dagger crease on his upper lip, which had pulled his mouth up into an ugly leer. She felt faint. His fingers assaulted her. Cold lips licked her tears.

“No…no, no, no…”

She choked. He was strangling her. There wouldn’t be much struggle. She had no strength. He seemed stronger than her. Had he died because of her? They had found him…they had killed him and turned him into an…

“H-H-H-arry!”

Colours swam. Black spots invaded. Death…would come.

“What the…Merlin!”

She vaguely comprehended that Harry had moved away from her. There was another crack.

Riddikulus!”

One more crack resounded and then…there was silence.

“Granger…?”

Hermione found a pair of grey orbs peering down at her, uncertainty written all over his face. Hot tears trickled down her face, as he helped her sit up.

“Harry…h-h-he…”

“Shh…Shh. Granger…”

The wide brown eyes that looked at him could’ve belonged to a terrified child. He frowned as she clutched at his robes.

“Inferi…I-I-I…”

“Granger! Calm yourself! It was just a boggart!”

Hermione shuddered and shook her head.

“D-d-d-don’t…no.”

Draco nodded, “I won’t,” he said quietly and it seemed to calm her. How could this grown witch not defend herself from a boggart? He wanted to slap her. But one look at those petrified brown pools and he held himself back. He tried to say something soothing. Not because he felt the concern. No. At least if she was back to normal, she’d let him go! He didn’t fancy being touched by the likes of her. Not the mud-

“Malfoy…” her voice was croaky.

“Right here, Granger.”

She nodded. With her head on his shoulder and mouth mumbling incoherent words, she closed her eyes.

“Granger…?”

There wasn’t a reply. Her breathing had eased into slow and deep ones. Malfoy scowled. The stupid woman had fallen asleep! Gritting his teeth, he tried to wake her once more. Her eyes opened briefly and before he could utter another word, they promptly closed.

Annoyed, he was about to stir her awake, when he felt her tremble and tighten her hold on him. She resembled a fragile doll. His brow rose, and he grumbled before looking around. If they remained in here for longer than an hour, he was sure they’d freeze. With a grunt, he lifted her off the ground, tucking his wand inside the long robes of his. She didn’t seem to weigh a lot. But he sure wasn’t keen on carrying her.

Even as he mused about levitating her, she mumbled a low ‘Harry’. He rolled his eyes, and looked around to find her wand, fallen about a foot away. Securing it, he began to walk, intending to reach the castle and dump the female. He looked down at her as she rested her head against his chest and seemed to smile peacefully.

“Irksome little…!”

A stream of curses flew out of his mouth but his gentle grip on her strengthened.

“Bloody woman…!”

Darkness had fallen. Flicker of lights created a shadow as the blonde walked back to the comforts of his room. There was one thing that Draco hadn't been in the last few moments. He hadn't been himself. How else could he be carrying Hermione Granger?

Also, he hadn't the normal shrewdness about him that night. It would be days before Draco had realized this. Because, had Draco Malfoy not thought of the frostiness of the place and well being of the two of them, but concentrated on the surroundings, he would have noted a slight opening on the other end. And if he had observed it, things would probably have been different.

*****

Author's Note: Hm, so here goes. They were almost near the end of all mysteries. But of course, I'm going to tease you guys for a bit, ain't I? :P I hope this didn't sound like a filler. This was supposed to  have come  with more content, but since the  resultant chapter exceed 2600 words, I decided to break it. And I had to put a pause in here. I hope you guys did enjoy. As always, please leave me a review. Thanks a bunch to all those who've been supportive and critical of my work! Your feedbacks help me so much!


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