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Chapter 14 : Back to where it started
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The story takes a turn here, as Hermione goes back to Voldemort. Why? You will soon find out! Have FUN and please, don't forget to review! wings
Chapter 13 – Back to where it started
Hermione had no idea where she was. It was already dark alright; the dusky trunks of the forest trees loomed like the shadows of a ghostly army.
She slightly shivered in her cloak as she sat down on a mossy rock.
She had never felt so alone, never in her entire life. Why exactly this feeling got such a firm grip on her she did not know. She could have returned to the Burrow at any time;
Harry, Molly and most of all Remus would have been most relieved to have her back.
Nevertheless, she had no intention of turning back.
She didn’t manage sneaking the map from Snape, and though she knew that Harry would rather lose the opportunity to get the map than to let her get hurt, she couldn’t help feeling that she had let them all down. She let them down – just because she was too busy… well, flirting with Snape. She gave herself a scoffing grimace.
Dobby’s words repeated themselves for the hundredth time in her head, and still the mystery of Snape’s role in the “Plan” refused to reveal its secrets.
She peered aimlessly through the evening haze.
The absurdity of the situation struck her, as if she suddenly found herself behind a bewitched mirror, where everything that had happened to her got a new, distorted perspective. She realized that the past few months were nothing but a dream, a dangerous dream. Snape was no longer a selfless hero, her fearless saviour, but a disturbing stranger, whose deeds were all driven by a mysterious and deadly plan.
Step by step Hermione analyzed the events that had led to that very moment with extreme scrupulosity.
The story started with an innocent-looking book that Snape had left behind in his office.
Mind it; he left it there on purpose! It soon became clear that Slytherin’s book of Dual-Wands was the most genial piece of Dark Arts, and that it had chosen Hermione as an apprentice.
Nevertheless, Hermione thought, didn’t Snape say that it was left there for Harry? Something must have gone wrong for the plan had stumbled at the very first step, taking Hermione instead of Harry.
Some time later, before Hermione could have mastered the magic of Slytherin properly, she was captured by the Dark Lord’s men.
And there was Snape again. She unwillingly shook her head in anger.
He was there when she was caught; perhaps it was him who disarmed her. A very peculiar coincidence, indeed...
Then it was him who forced her to drink the Veritaserum, wasn’t it? Why would he do all that if he later took the risk of rescuing her from the Dark Lords hideout?
The scene of her interrogation came to life before Hermione’s eyes; the candle-lit chamber, the faceless crowd of Death Eaters around them, the echoing footsteps of her former Potions professor behind her back…
Goose-bumps covered the small of her neck; the memory of Snape’s firm grip on her body and chin, as he forced the liquid down her throat, was so real that Hermione’s breath hitched, just like it did back then.
Voldemort’s shrill voice screeched with fury in her head.
“…I want my prisoners to obey me, and not my servants to do it for them!”
Odd, wasn’t it? Snape, in his desperate eagerness disobeyed his master, pouring the potion forcefully into her mouth, for which mistake both of them were cursed… yet, she avoided much severe torments, which the Dark Lord would have surely put her through, if he hadn’t done that.
Would it likely to be a mistake of eagerness? She doubted.
Then he appeared in her cell one day. The memory was obscure, most probably due to the memory modification Snape had done to her, yet she knew for sure that Snape had tried to prevent her from fleeing the mansion.
In this case his intentions were clear; that was a trap set for Harry and Ron. If they had been caught, the trio would have been long dead and gone.
So Snape didn’t want the trio to die. Or rather, he didn’t want Hermione to die. But why?
Did he really need her for that darned plan of his?
She shivered even more wildly and tightened the cloak around her hunched shoulders.
Where was she?
Oh yes, the rescue mission. Her lips turned into a sarcastic smile.
Snape had brought his master a powerful gift, a granite tombstone – it showed the beloved ones of those, who appeared before it.
But that was just a cunning deception, as everything that Snape did. He just needed an entrance to the Underworld, a smart mean of escape, and he found one. The rest went easily – he hid Hermione there, and when the coast was clear, he followed after her.
He took her to Hogwarts and then disappeared, probably to keep up appearances that he was hunting for her as every Death Eater in his vicinity.
Then that accident happened; she tried to erase her memories before the Pensieve…
He saved her life.
According to Dobby, he was extremely furious that he might lose her before her task was done.
Her mouth twitched, and for a moment tears seemed to struggle through her pressed lids.
What a fool she was! What a damned fool!
Hermione quickly pulled herself together. What was the use of crying? It wouldn’t change anything.
So, he sent her back to her friends, to the New Burrow.
She intently skipped the scene in the forest, where he had kissed her; it was just too painful, reminding her of her short-sighted stupidity. It was unbearable to imagine what Snape must have thought, seeing her grateful attachment to him, knowing that all he did was only serving a plan!
White-hot embarrassment flooded her chilled limbs. Just how could she be this stupid?!
Where did her famous cold reasoning go? Had it evaporated together with her self-respect?
She could only blame herself.
Even after she was back to where she belonged, the Burrow, she didn’t cease dreaming about him. Every day spent there without him was pure pain. She needed him like the drowning need fresh air.
She had no choice, but to return to him, as he had expected. But how did he know?
Dobby said that he heard Snape arguing with someone in his quarters about her.
“He said that Mist… Miss Granger was the tool, which would kill the Dark Lord. He yelled with someone that you had to die, because you had Slytherin’s power, and only this power could kill the snake and the Dark Lord. But you will die together with him.”
She had to die…
Snape knew it, knew it from the very start.
And had he had done nothing to prevent it. No, nothing at all.
But who was the other man in there? It couldn’t be Lord Voldemort, could it?
All this time she concentrated on Snape alone, but what if he had nothing but an episodic role?
„Headmaster Snape assured the other man that he knew his task…”
Dobby’s words echoed in her mind.
He assured the other man… that means the other man is the one who gives out the orders. Nonetheless…
But back to the main point of her worries – she had Slytherin’s power, which according to Dobby is the only mean of destroying Voldemort and his last Horcrux, Nagini.
Snape believed that she will have to pay with her life for that. But why?
Who would kill her after the Dark Lord perished?
He? Or the mysterious man with whom he talked?
Everything indicated that she had changed places with Harry somehow, and became responsible for terminating the most horrible dark wizard of all ages.
She chuckled; the sound instantly died in the hollow silence of the forest.
It was nonsense! She was no hero. She would not be the one who saved the world –it just didn’t fit her. Anyway, it was ridiculous.
Snape must have gone off his hinges, yes, that was it! Snape went simply insane, as Harry thought, at which she wouldn’t be surprised at all. All those years spent with the Dark Lord…
Yes, he was undoubtedly a lunatic.
That idea was supposed to soothe her strangled mind, but for some odd reason it only deepened her exasperation.
The dead silence felt eerie in the darkness. No forest should be this soundless, Hermione thought.
There was no use for pretending.
Snape was no more lunatic than her – at this point she paused a bit, contemplating over the possibility of having her own sanity corrupted in any way, and after having this option eliminated, she returned to her original train of thoughts.
If Snape was sane, as she tended to believe, then why, why on Earth did he want her to die? What kind of plan would want her to be dead after she freed the world from the dark terror of Voldemort?
Unless… unless someone wanted to take his place…
Unless someone thought she might be a threat…
Hermione stiffened, her trembling ceased immediately.
Who would be likely to take Voldemort’s place?
It sounded so absurd, yet… this suspicion didn’t leave her alone.
No one, no one she knew would take his place, no one…
Not even Snape would be able… now, wouldn’t he?
Snape was among the three most powerful wizards of the world together with Alastor Moody and Harry Potter. She had no idea which one of them would prove most powerful, but if she had to choose the best candidate for filling the gap caused by the death of the Dark Lord, she would surely point at Severus Snape.
No, it just didn’t add up. In this case why would Snape argue with that man in his office?
Why would he take his orders? Or was it really him taking the orders? What if on the contrary, he was the one to give out commands?
It didn’t seem to get any clearer for Hermione.
One thing was for sure – she was told to be the one who could defeat Voldemort.
Hunger etched into her guts – it was time to go. Her plan was almost ready, she needed to act now.
Lucius Malfoy ascended the stone stairs with swift, springy steps before the entrance of his mansion; his self-assured appearance was only slightly disturbed by some sweet tension, which often gets hold on secret lovers before a date.
He briskly crossed the lawn towards a hunched, old tree, which stood like an outcast in the shadows of the decent Malfoy garden – Hermione knew well, it was the only Apparation point in the Malfoy residence.
At first he didn’t seem to realize what happened; he stared uncomprehending at the wand poked into his chest and then at the weary, pale face of the girl, who had become one of the most wanted persons alive for the Dark Lord.
Lucius’ long face seemed to elongate further with confusion, but having lived as a Death Eater under Dumbledore’s nose for years, he quickly regained his usual demeanour.
“You have made a terrible mistake, girl.” His smirk revealed his teeth. Impatiently, he shook his platinum white mane, obviously furious that his early morning treat was taken away by a stupid kid.
“Have I?” Hermione asked carelessly; keeping her wand poked strongly into Malfoy’s chest, she reached for the pocket inside his cloak and took out his 13 inch fire-oak wand.
His arm automatically flung towards it, but he received a soundless curse straight into the pit of his stomach, which made him bend low, gasping for air.
“Don’t,” Hermione said in a hollow voice.
“What do you want?” Lucius spat; there was still haughty dignity in his tone, in spite of his humiliating posture.
“You,” Hermione replied, and the pain couldn’t stop Lucius from looking up at the girl with utter bewilderment.
She had never done this curse before, so she strongly hoped that it would work now. She watched her victim closely, looking for any signs of alteration.
Lucius gave a shudder, as his eyes widened in the shock of surprise and a mixture of relief and incomprehension.
“Kneel down!” she ordered. She prayed for it to work; this was her only chance to make her plan work.
Lucius gaped at her, his eyes unable to regain their focus, and then slowly he bent his knees and went down.
It was too slow. He was obviously fighting the curse. If he kept acting like this, it would ruin her calculations, Hermione thought in despair. Malfoy was a powerful wizard – she had to admit it.
Struck by a new idea, Hermione drew her second, teak wand, which she had snatched from poor-old Rodolphus Lestrange months ago, and swinging her hands behind her back, she jostled hard the handles of her wands.
Blue sparks flew into the air – the dual magic of the wands was ignited.
“Imperio Lucius Malfoy!” she said pointing both wands at the man, still kneeling before her.
He fell on his four, his breathing heavy and uneven. Hermione didn’t expect Malfoy to put up such a fight, resisting the Imperius curse, but she couldn’t help marvelling at his great will-power.
His resistance melt rapidly as ice on a hot rock as the curse drained him; Hermione’s wands, which still pointed at the man, grew slightly warmer.
Finally he released a contented sigh – he was overpowered.
“Stand up,” Hermione ordered quietly.
The man stood up without hesitation, looking at her with pure longing to serve; this bitterly reminded Hermione of house-elves.
“I’m hungry,” she said.
“I would be most pleased, if I could invite you into our humble home as a guest,” Lucius started, but Hermione interrupted him.
“No, no, thanks. I cannot be seen. Just bring me something, anything. A piece of bread would do…” Before she could have finished the sentence, Lucius was gone.
Well, that will make a nice test, she thought. She wondered how durable the effect of her magic would be; if it lasted, she might consider giving him his wand back.
Lucius returned within minutes; he held a small leather sack with water and almond-cakes.
Hermione couldn’t resist a smile, and was immensely shocked to receive it back from the man. Eerie silence followed.
“Erm,” she whispered hoarsely, “let’s go!”
The Lestrange mansion looked quiet and forlorn from the outside. Thorny bushes crept high on the fencing; their long vines bowed slowly to the early-dawn breeze.
A cloaked man was leading someone towards it; his left hand strongly clutching the arm of the smaller figure, while his right was oddly hidden beneath the folds of his cloak, as if he was holding a wand.
Reaching the gates, he released his captive and put his palm on the wrought-iron snake that enwreathed the bars of the gates. The snake stirred, waking, and slowly started crawling up his arm. It didn’t crawl far though; its cold head disappeared for a moment under the sleeve of the cloak and almost immediately it withdrew, having checked what it wanted.
The gates silently opened and the two figures stepped in.
“Well, well, well, Lucius!” the Dark Lord drawled. “What is it that couldn’t wait till morning? You know how busy I am now.” He lazily leaned back in his lofty armchair. The steps of his servant were softly dampened by a Persian hand-made carpet of gigantic sizes. The closed shutter-blinds gently creaked beneath the waking wind.
“My Lord,” Lucius said, bowing lowly, “I have brought you someone you will be pleased to see again.”
He made a commanding gesture, and a small, cloaked figure stepped beside him. It reverently bowed its head as Lucius reached for the hood of the cloak and pulled it back.
A colourless face appeared framed by long, curly, nut-brown hair.
The Lord emerged from his seat and slowly stepped closer.
The face of the girl didn’t reflect any emotions; she stood there calmly, her eyes hazy with an unexplainable trance.
“Greet your Lord,” Lucius growled at her, and she looked up at him like a puppy-dog, eager to understand the commands of her owner.
“M’Lord!” She curtseyed clumsily. The move made the folds of the cloak open a bit and reveal the uniform tights of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
“Well, if it isn’t our be-loved Miss Granger!” Lord Voldemort mocked, his eyes measuring up the foe malevolently, not missing a single detail.
“I have Imperiused the girl, My Lord, so as to avoid drawing attention,” Malfoy said, bowing again.
“So you did,” replied his master absent-mindedly, devoting all his attention to the girl now.
“And where have you found her?” He asked after a while.
“Well, it was actually she who came to me. I found her, just like the last time, in my garden. She doesn’t seem to have learnt from her mistakes.” He smirked.
“That’s alright, Lucius. Nice work.” Lord Voldemort paused. He made a fleeting gesture that resembled sniffing, but he abruptly changed his mind.
“You can go now. I will call you if you are needed.” Voldemort’s red slits flashed towards Malfoy, who gave a short nod.
“Stay here and obey the Great Lord!” Lucius commanded the girl and quickly left the room.
Voldemort returned his leer to Hermione, but stayed silent. Hermione meanwhile was standing before him, staring blankly at the wall. The tapestry had enough flowers and birds to engage the eyes for hours, thought its colours had gotten pale and faded. A sharp voice brought her back from her reverie.
“Isn’t that oddly familiar?” The Dark Lord circled around her in a contemplating manner, playing heedlessly with his wand.
“My Lord?” she asked, machinelike. Voldemort dismissed her question.
“You can’t imagine how curious I am, Miss Granger, curious about how you managed to leave this lovely shelter with all my faithful servants guarding you? Could you please – hm – enlighten me? I would be most grateful.” Scorn radiated from his smile, but Hermione didn’t seem to notice it. Her gaze travelled tardily from the heavy curtains along walls to the distorted face of Lord Voldemort.
“It’s my pleasure, My Lord!” she replied.
“I used a Confundus charm. I hid beneath the stairs leading to the second door in the left wing and stayed there unmoving. I used Confundus anytime someone came near to look for me. They simply thought they had looked there already before. And some time later, when everyone was off, hunting for me, I left.” Her hazel eyes stared straight into his, unflinching.
Voldemort’s jaws flexed. There was a pause – a long, dead pause.
“Don’t you play games with me!” he whispered hoarsely.
“Crucio!” he yelled.
Hermione’s scream split the dense silence of the mansion. She collapsed onto the floor, writhing; sweat run down her neck, the veins pulsed on her temple.
The wand of the Dark Lord didn’t release its victim; it pointed straight at the trashing body. Finally, Voldemort lifted the curse off.
“Never-take-me-for-a-fool!” he breathed with suppressed fury. He looked down at the heap that was Hermione and spat. He spun on his heels, allowing his black cloak swirl around him, like a black cloud and headed back for his chair.
“My Lord… My Lord…,” she whimpered weakly.
He growled in response, sighed with a melodramatic gesture of self-control, and turned to her again.
“So, how did you escape?” he murmured softly. “The truth!” he bellowed.
“My Lord…,” the girl begged, tears started rolling down her face, mixing with sweat, “I… I didn’t lie to you! I swear! I’m telling the truth! I would never lie to you!” She hid her face in her hands, awaiting the next storm of rage… but it didn’t come.
“So,” She heard from close above. Opening her eyes, she saw Voldemort lean above her; his mouth opened, revealing his fork-like tongue.
“So, Lucius Imperiused you. That would make it impossible for you to lie, wouldn’t it?” Receiving no response, he shook her, “wouldn’t it?!”
Hermione’s body twitched in fear. “I would never be able to lie to you, My Lord! I… I can’t!” she moaned shaking.
“Now, that’s a lot better.” He faked a smile. “I just wanted to test Lucius’ cursing abilities,” he teased. Then he stood up and retreated to his armchair.
“Nevertheless, what you say is a lie.” His voice lashed like a whip. “Whether your memory has been modified, erased or you have been Confundused – I don’t mind. What bothers me though, who did it?” The slits of his eyes got darker.
“Come here,” his high-pitched voice rang through the room.
Hermione got up, and walked up to the Lord without hesitation.
“Someone helped you to escape; do you think the greatest wizard of all times would be so easy to deceive,” he growled, raising his wand and pushing her cloak off Hermione’s shoulders.
“Who was it?” he asked in a by-the-way manner, circling with his wand on the arm of the chair, contemplating.
Hermione blinked nonplussed.
“I b-beg your pardon, My Lord…,” she mumbled, afraid of what was coming next. “I-I don’t know.” Her hands fumbled with the hem of her Hogwarts skirts.
“Crucio!” She heard the Dark Lord yell.
The scream erupted from her lungs before she could have realized what happened. The pain was too strong; she lost her vision of the room, of the boarded windows, only two red slits burnt in her mind with unbearably sharp pang.
Lord Voldemort stood up from his chair and bent over the trashing, little body again.
“I don’t mind it if you don’t know. You don’t have to. It’s enough if I do. Scream, just scream! Let everyone hear that you are back! Let your secret saviour know that the game’s over!”
Again and again he lashed a curse at her, and again and again her screams and cries filled the room. His tongue licked his lips with greed as his wand ripped off the buttons of her uniform blouse one by one between the curses.
Suddenly there was a wild rapping on the door, and almost immediately the door burst open.
Bellatrix Lestrange, Lucius Malfoy and Severus Snape formed a tumult at the threshold, closely followed by an utterly distressed Peter Pettigrew.
“My Lord! My Lord!” The shouting ended up in total chaos.
The scene must have startled Lord Voldemort, for he stayed kneeling above Hermione for a second looking at the noisy crowd, which now started to back away slightly.
The moment he stood up, a hissing howl shook the room, sending all four of them on the floor.
As their moans died, they found their Master towering over them, eyeing them darkly.
“You see, Hermione, what have I told you? Incredible things come up if you stir the surface,” he said quietly, but Hermione didn’t answer.
“Wormtail!” he bellowed. “Explain!”
“M-m-my Lord, I-I… Lucius got… Snape… they fought… Bella…” Words seemed to leave Wormtail all alone and confused.
He was instantly rewarded by a Cruciatus.
But Lucius couldn’t speak, though he did his best to try. His mouth was swollen, his cheek deeply cut and dripping with blood. He got apparently in the way of a nasty curse. As he opened his mouth a gurgling grunt escaped it, nothing more. He coughed, wiping his blood with his sleeve, and weakly bowed his head. His fury, with which he fought his opponents just a second ago evaporated, leaving him slack and tired.
“My Lord!” It was Bella and Snape together.
Voldemort raised his hand commandingly. Everyone fell silent. Hermione stirred in the background, but nobody took heed of her.
“What a peculiar coincidence,” he drawled, returning to his favourite manner.
“I was just discussing with Miss Granger – he cast a backwards glance – that I find it highly unlikely that she managed to escape this place all by herself. Therefore, we concluded, that it could only have happened with the precious help of an insider. Do you agree?” His leer travelled from one face to the other. Lucius stared stubbornly at the Persian carpet beneath his boots; Bella looked wide-eyed at her Lord, all her cells crying ‘No!’; Wormtail kept biting his lips that started oozing with blood, while Snape stood just as darkly as he usually did, when he got angry.
“Well,” he continued, “I’m glad you do.” He smiled at his servants with the unkindest smile possible.
“Now, my little show with Hermione was expected to raise the interest of those, who might have been involved in her escape, but I didn’t think I would stir emotions so quickly, and most definitely I was not prepared for being broken upon.”
Like badly punished students, the four Death Eaters shrank before their master.
“Do you know what I think, my friends?” Nevertheless, there was no trace of friendliness in his words. Wormtail softly whimpered, while Lucius gazed at the floor with the same obsessed interest he showed before.
“Personally, I think it was one of you, no matter how unlikely it would seem.” His look did its usual route from face to face, only the faces turned more desperate and glum.
“Do you know why I came to this idea?”
“Well, you see, I don’t believe in coincidences. And there has been just too many.”
Not even a fly stirred.
“A girl is caught twice in the same garden; what does she always do there?” His leer fixed on Lucius. “Then she Stuns one of my best fighters, – he turned to Bella, who closed her mouth that was about to speak - and disappears from right under our nose, am I correct Severus?” Severus stiffly nodded, his lips tightly pressed together.
“And suddenly, when the girl is back here again, the same faces appear before my door, the same faces that let her slip the last time! Isn’t that peculiar?”
The quartet stood there motionless as statues.
“What would you suggest me, how should we find out for the best benefit of all if there is a double-dealer among us?” He smiled again and revealing his fangs to the full length.
“No idea? That would leave me no other choice then…” Lord Voldemort narrowed his eyes. Behind him Hermione slowly got to her feet, and with wobbling legs, she started for them.
“My Lord!” It was Severus Snape who spoke this time.
“We have no reason to doubt your words. We failed to stop this girl from escaping, though the whole house was surrounded by our men. Furthermore, we were unable to find her or her friends, even though we have greatly outnumbered them. That is our fault, but I also find it rather unlikely that the girl could have done it all alone. If there was someone helping her, it must have been an insider, a spy. And that puts all of us in danger. The Order is getting stronger, and we don’t need a spy to help them.
I know a way how to find out who it is…”
“You know a way?” Bellatrix snarled. “You only know how to save your skin, you coward! Why did you attack Lucius? Why did you attack me? I don’t think we should keep looking any further!” she spat at Snape.
Voldemort watched them closely.
“I had an urgent message for the Dark Lord, and that blockhead didn’t let me in,” he explained turning to his master, and intently ignoring Bellatrix. “Someone sneaked into Hogwarts just after you have left, My Lord. They tried to break into the dungeons, using Poly-Juice Potion, masking themselves as pupils. We couldn’t find them yet, but they are there somewhere still, no doubt. I doubled the guard around the secret chambers, where Nagini is hidden, and the intruders obviously have no clue, where to look for it, yet. Nevertheless, I thought this message cannot wait. It has started, My Lord. The Order is after Nagini.”
Lord Voldemort stiffened at these words.
“As if you cared.”
Snape cast a dirty look towards her.
“I wouldn’t talk like that if I were in your place, Bella. I think we all remember that it was you who let the girl run in the first place.”
“I was Stunned!” Bella yelled, going whiter than snow.
“Of course you were.” Snape smirked. “Stunned, but not killed. Do you think any of us would have bothered Stunning you instead of sending you to Hell, where you belong? I don’t think so. But I can imagine you Stunning yourself very well!”
The Dark Lord suddenly interrupted them.
“Quiet!” he bellowed.
“How is it that you haven’t caught them, yet? Is it really that difficult to do something right if I am not around?” Voldemort’s voice was unpleasantly smooth.
“I’m doing my best to…” But Snape was interrupted.
“I don’t care what you are doing!” Lord Voldemort screamed. The wand in his hand shook dangerously towards Snape, who followed its moves from the corner of his eyes,
“You failed, Severus, failed again! My patience is very thin now; it might burst any time, and you know exactly what I mean!” he croaked, sweeping them with his malevolent glance. No one replied.
“You four! You will come with me back to Hogwarts. Nagini will decide which one of you is no longer worthy of my trust.” Voldemort headed for the door.
Suddenly Malfoy opened that bloody piece of flesh that used to be his mouth.
“Glangel.” He pointed at Hermione, who was standing there behind them white as a ghost.
“Take her, as well; she might come in handy. I don’t trust any of you to be able to look after her here. We’ll settle her matter later.” With these words he stormed out of the room; Severus Snape let Lucius Malfoy, who was dragging a half-conscious Hermione along, ahead, and followed right after them, leaving Bella and Wormtail behind.
Soon more Death Eaters joined them. They gathered in the forest that bordered Hogsmeade village from the north. As it was evidence to all those who read ‘Hogwarts – A history’, there was no way to Apparate inside the grounds. The ancient magic was just too strong to be broken even by the greatest wizard, who called himself Lord Voldemort.
Hermione felt Lucius Malfoy’s tight grip on her arm, as they started. She cautiously cast several sideway glances at Severus Snape, who was walking to their right, but he showed total ignorance to her.
Early summer sunlight flooded the grounds; the emerald grass glistened of morning dew. The sight was undisturbed and unusually peaceful; even the dark stones of the castle seemed to brighten.
It wasn’t easy for Hermione to withstand looking around every second. Every tree trunk, every shadow seemed to look like Harry or Ron, returning from the Quiddich pitch with their brooms under their arms, and she half wished it was really them.
But now it was her task, her task alone. She could understand Harry better than any time before, as the loneliness of the chosen ones burdened on her.
Lucius was under her total control again. She had almost blown it all; hadn’t it been for Snape, Lucius would have broken into the room, where Voldemort tortured her, and given her secret away – the secret that she was not the prey, but the hunter this time.
The Imperius curse, she had cast on Lucius must have broken the moment she lost control over her mind, when pain took the better of her. Her wands had been hidden beneath the folds of her skirt, for she had to stick her role of the Imeriused girl to the end and do it well.
The second they stepped into the Lestrange mansion, she learned from Lucius that Nagini was no longer there. Damn! Damn, damn, damn!!!
That wretched snake! It should have been there! She could have killed it already! Why on Earth did they have to take it to Hogwarts? Damn! Harry was more likely to attack it there, than anywhere else, except for the Burrow perhaps. Of course, she had no idea, how he would kill the snake – it was the most powerful Horcrux. There was no chance that a simple spell worked on it, but anyway, the Dark Lord took quite much risk.
So, there she was, without the last Horcrux that she was supposed to finish off with the magic of Slytherin, before killing Voldemort, its creator. And Nagini wasn’t there!
As soon as she pulled herself together and came to the plan B, which was not more than a chaotic jumble of wild ideas at the moment, she ordered Malfoy to act as if it was him who had Imperiused her, and not on the contrary. And just in time!
Wormtail, the eager little prat, suddenly appeared out of nowhere, Merlin damn him! He recognized her at once and just wouldn’t leave them alone. He became so excited at the possibility of pleasing his master with the good news that he instantly ran off to call his master. It didn’t take long before they arrive and she was admitted to him.
Now Hermione understood Harry’s and Ron’s utter dislike of Peter, and she couldn’t understand where her senses had gone whenever she tried to protect that slimy rat.
Meanwhile, the group arrived at the court of the castle and continued its way down into the dungeons.
Hermione was furious. Furious at Wormtail, furious at Snape and if it was possible, she was even more furious at her stupid self. She should have made sure that Nagini was there! On the other hand who would have supposed that Voldemort hid it in Hogwarts of all the places!
Anyway, here she was accompanied by a furious Lord Voldemort and a secret foe, which played the ignorant, sniffy headmaster so artfully that her fists balled, Severus Snape.
Okay, he saved her again, punching Malfoy, who had overcome the Imperius curse, hard in the nose and sending several curses into him, but only for one reason – he wanted her to do the job, though she had no idea how he imagined that.
For a second she wished she could talk to him, pour all her miserable feelings on the man who had caused them, and get some reassurance, but she didn’t even get a glance. Snape’s face was unreadable and stony. His black coal eyes shone darkly in their depths.
The Dark Lord and his men went deeper into the dungeons than Hermione had ever been before. The walls became damp and smelled of fungi. Strange little doors led into strange narrow tunnels, as they continued their way towards the ‘secret chambers’, Snape talked about.
Alright then, Hermione returned to her previous thoughts.
She knew, the time would come for Snape to make his move according to the mysterious “Plan” of his, and it wouldn’t be long. Dobby said that the “Plan” wants her to kill Nagini, and then Voldemort.
All she had to do now was to concentrate on Nagini. She had to find out where that damned worm was. Then, she was dead sure, Snape would find a way to let her be alone with it; otherwise he wouldn’t have arranged this entire trip to Hogwarts with that feigned break-in. She didn’t have to worry about that.
What she had to worry about now, was her life after she killed Nagini and the Dark Lord. Whatever threatened her, she won’t give in to it easily, she thought and a hardly noticeable smile curled her lips.
A/N: Hi, my dear readers! I hope you got really excited now.
From this point the plot starts to twist in earnest, and I hope you will understand what will be going on.
If there are things, which are not sufficiently explained or I didn’t describe well enough, just let me know. It is important that my readers could keep track of what was happening, because things will become very fast and confusing sometimes. If you get stuck at any point, just let me know.
It is the most complex and exciting plot, I have ever created, so I would like to do it well. I hope you’ll soon fall off the edges of your seats as it develops. :D
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