Chapter 18 : Escape
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A/N: The end is near ... I hope you all aren't too upset with me for the long delay on posting this chapter, but being that we are nearing the end of Draco and Hermione's journey, I wanted to make sure these last few chapters are up to par.
Also, I made a "Meet the Author" topic in the forums, which you can find a link to on my Author's Page. Go check it out and feel free to ask me any questions you wish. It will make me happy. :)
= = =
I couldn’t take much more of the Advanced classes. They were trying to transform me into a cold blooded killer – just like the rest of those brainless careless clones. I’d be damned if they turned me into one of them.
The week passed in a blur of sick phrases I only caught bits and pieces of. “Muggles are like animals … Muggles must die … Muggles are scum …” I was relieved when Saturday finally arrived, knowing I had the weekend at least to get away from all the Muggle hating bull shit.
“Twenty-seven , you will be permitted to go to the Muggle city today,” Amycus told me with a wide grin. Try as I might, I could not seem to tug the corners of my lips upward into a smile.
And then, to make mattes worse, I found out that Auntie Bellatrix was leading us. “Single file line,” she demanded in an authoritative tone. We marched through the Hogwarts entrance hall and into the chilled air outside. I wrapped my jacket tighter around myself and draped my black scarf across my mouth to ward off the biting December cold.
We marched through the grassy quad where a light white frost sheeted over the ground, around the lake where Macnair’s body lie, and began our long grueling trek through the Forbidden Forest. Auntie Bella was restless. She never stopped and her footsteps never wavered, although some of the clones could be heard panting heavily behind her. It seemed like hours that we were out there trekking through the trees and swishing our shoes through the dead and cracked leaves on the ground.
But all the while, I couldn’t shake the fear away of what may be hiding behind any of the thousands of trees before my eyes at that very moment. Before I ever entered Hogwarts for my first year, Father used to always warn me never to set foot in the Forbidden Forest. “There are werewolves in there,” he’d say. “Far, far worse than Greyback.”
No, I assured myself, The M word does not exist, so they would have taken away anything that had to do with it – for the Average student’s sakes.
My feet stopped moving, causing Longbottom’s clone to smash into me. Moaning Myrtle. Her ghost was still in the girl’s bathroom on the second floor. How come, if they were so keen on getting the Average students brainwashed into thinking there was no such thing as the M word, she was still floating around miserably up there? I shuddered and willed my feet to continue on before Auntie Bella realized I was holding up the line behind her.
My body was frozen numb from the tips of my fingers to the bridge of my nose. My ears especially felt as though they had been stuck in a pit of frozen bitter fire, with flames like icicles licking at my skin.
The trees finally came few and far between and we ended up in a large grassy clearing. “Here we are,” said Auntie Bella, voicing her first spoken words since leaving Hogwarts at least two hours previously. “I presume you all know how to use a port key.” It wasn’t a question, and I was sure even if there was a student stupid enough to not know how, she wasn’t about to waste her time explaining it to them. She would have simply left them there in the clearing.
Everyone gathered round the old rusty Muggle bicycle that I had only ever seen pictures of and placed a finger tip onto the cool metal surface. It wasn’t long before the whole world was spinning violently and a mighty invisible force yanked me backwards by my navel so that I was being hurled and twisted through the air. I closed my eyes and held onto the bike for dear life. I never much liked traveling by port key. I’d prefer the floo network to this type of dizzying transportation any day – even if floo powder did leave me terribly dirty. One day I’d be able to Disapparate.
And then I remembered, technically, I should be able to Diapparate now if I wanted to. I was a seventh year, after all. This wasn’t 1995 anymore.
When I opened my eyes, we were standing on a busy street with cars speeding past and Muggle men and women strolling about on the sidewalk. They all stopped to stare. One car had crashed straight into the one in front of it. I gasped. They had seen us appear on the street as if out of thin air. I looked to Auntie Bella, waiting for instruction.
Auntie Bella only smiled maniacally as she watched the reactions of the Muggles around her. And then I understood. Who cared what they saw? They would be dead in a matter of seconds anyway. If the Daily Prophet was correct in its reports, everyone within the distance of a mile around us would be dead.
There was another crash as a car collided with the two already mashed together on the street. I dared not look through the windows. I didn’t want to see the people inside. The people on the street pointed and whispered. Some screamed to us, “Oi! You lot! Where’d you all come from?”
Smiling wickedly from ear to ear with her bright blood red lip stick smeared over her lips, Auntie Bellatrix turned to us. “I want you all to say it,” she instructed. “The louder the spell is spoken, the more distance it covers.” And then, she told us the name of the spell. My whole body was shaking, and I was positive it was not from the cold. I couldn’t say it. It was absolutely horrendous. I might as well clog my pores with mud– that’s how contaminated I felt for even knowing the word that had the potential to kill so many Muggles – so many people – at a time.
I’d made up my mind early on that I was not going to participate in this. And now, I knew what I must do. No one was going to use that spell, and if it meant taking the life of one to save the lives of thousands, then so be it.
I pointed my wand at Auntie Bella. There was no time to think. No time to do anything except what my brain was telling me. I could feel the signals electrically surging from my brain all the way to my fingertips where my wand was, and then back to my mouth. And then, involuntarily, my mouth widened and I spoke the two words that my Father used to threaten me with when I was a child to get me to behave.
There was a brilliant flash of emerald green light, and when the light faded, it was to see the body of my mother’s sister sprawled dead on the ground, her black hair flailing messily over her head and partially covering her overly makeup-ed face and her crimson mouth forming a perfect “O.”
The Muggles on the street screamed and began scampering away chaotically and haphazardly in all different directions. The clones stared at me open mouthed, unable to believe what I’d done.
“You killed her.”
“How could you?”
“What about the Cause?”
The vote was unanimous. If you were not for the Cause, you were against it, therefore, no better than a filthy Muggle. They were unpocketing their wands, and all I could think was: Get out. I envisioned Hogwarts in my mind – the cell where the real Hermione was – and put every ounce of concentration onto that place. Get Hermione out and leave.
I opened my eyes. I wasn’t in Hogwarts, but I was away from that street. Not bad for my first time Apparating. Except that my left hand was extremely sore. Was that normal after Apparating?
“Fuck! Ah, shit! Fucking damn shit!” I’d heard of splinching before, of course – laughed at it, even – but God … this was nothing to laugh about. I pulled my scarf off from around my neck and wrapped it around my completely nail-less and bleeding left hand, trying to force the tears threatening to fall back into the crevices of my eyes.
Where the fuck was I? It was a forest. Could it have been the Forbidden Forest? I didn’t even know. “Damn it!” I shouted, and watched as the birds in the trees flew from the branches, startled. “Damn it all to hell!”
My hand was bleeding uncontrollably, I hadn’t the foggiest clue where I was, I just murdered my Aunt, and I was certain the clones would tell Father.
I couldn’t go back. How could I possibly go back? Father would know I wasn’t really a clone and lock me away with Hermione and the rest of them in that stink pit.
And then, I cried. No one was there to see me or hear me, so for the first time in months, I let go. Everything I’d bottled up inside of me came flowing out in an endless river of rolling and tumbling rapids, and I was on the ground, beating my fist against the hard earth as I sobbed. “I’m so sorry Hermione.” I couldn’t go back for her. She was going to die in that cell. And I was going to die here.
And then it began to snow.
= = =
I couldn't remember dreaming that night. It was as if my capability to dream was just as frozen as my body. Sunlight poured through the trees and I wiped my face clean of the snow that had left a fluffy blanket over me. Why wasn't I dead? I'd thought that by falling to sleep in the snow, maybe I would freeze to death -- die of hypothermia or something.
But no. Although my limbs were frozen solid and it took me a good long moment to bring them to life and get the blood flowing in my veins again, I was definitely not dead.
But I would be soon. I'd come to terms with the fact that I was going to die. There was nothing I could do to escape it -- it was my fate. Inevitable. I would either die cold and alone in this forest, or in that jail cell back in Hogwarts. I wouldn't be surprised if there were already people looking for me after hearing about Auntie Bella.
I killed her, I remembered suddenly. Sleep had been so peaceful, I had almost forgotten about what a monster I was. I killed my Aunt. And somehow, it sickened me even more than it had when I killed that oaf Macnair. I pushed myself up onto my elbows and leaned over to wretch into the untainted white snow.
The cold came next. Before when I had just woken up, I was so numb I couldn't feel a thing. And now that my blood was starting to circulate again, the cold seemed to bite me with razor sharp teeth and slashing claws. I wrapped my arms about myself tightly, feeling the sting of my splinched fingertips, but dared not unwrap my hand from my scarf to look at them. I was afraid to.
I rocked back and forth in the snow shivering for a long moment until I finally realized if I didn't want to freeze to death, I would have to stand up and start walking around. I'd have to get my muscles to start functioning properly again.
"No. If I just sit here, maybe I'll die," I said aloud through chattering teeth, breathing in through my nose and feeling the burning sting in my nostrils.
But what about Hermione?
"Fuck Hermione. This is entirely her fault anyway."
You can't let yourself die.
"And why the bloody hell not? Clearly, I'm being driven to insanity."
Would you really die with a guilty conscience, knowing you left all those people in the dungeon to die?
"They are not my responsibility!" I shrieked into the chilled air and clear blue skies, silencing the voice in my head at last. "God, I really am going insane."
I hobbled to my feet, which took more strength than I would have thought, and began walking in slow circles around the nearest tree. "They're not my responsibility," I muttered. "Why should I care about them, if they were all too fucking thick to take care of themselves in the first place? I was smart. That's why I'm not there with them right now. And what's my reward for being smart? Going back to be the noble chivalrous rescuer and save the day? I don't think so. They can all rot in there for all I care. I'm saving myself. This is my reward."
I looked to the ground and saw that my feet had created a circular path of dirt in the snow around the trunk of the tree. I was suddenly filled with thoughts of Hermione and the way she had kissed me through the bars of the cell in the dungeon. The very memory of it was still so strong I could practically feel her lips on my own, warming them and sending life back into the very core of my being. I remembered her bravery and courage through everything we had gone through.
"Hermione would go back," I said aloud after I'd realized I had stopped walking around the tree. "Of course she would. She's a Gryffindor. I'm not."
I listened to the chattering of my teeth and hugged my jacket around my body. I sighed as I realized what I was subconsciously doing. "If I don't care, then why am I walking back?"
I stopped at once. I knew if I was going back -- which apparently I had decided I was -- I was definitely going to die. I would not leave this earth forgotten. Somewhere out there, someone would remember me. Pulling out my wand, I picked up two fallen acorns and transfigured them into a quill and parchment. I sat under a tree and wrote my whole life story out. Everything I could think of -- from my mother's smile to my father's expectations, from living my childhood as refined as possible to going to school and making sure I was the best at everything.
I wrote about how I was secretly jealous of Potter for his fame, how I was sure Crabbe and Goyle were only friends with me because they were afraid of me, how Pansy Parkinson was always good for a shag but she was a slut who meant nothing to me except being the person who filled a hole in my life, even if the effects of her pleasure were only temporary.
I wrote until the entire parchment was filled with words, until my knuckles were red and swollen. I wrote until I realized what a horrible person I was. I re-read my chicken scratch story, shaking my head all the while. If I was another person and happened to stumble across this piece of parchment, I would think this boy called Draco was an absolute bastard.
There had to be something good about my life. This was not how I wanted to be remembered. And so I wrote the only good thing that came to mind: “I became friends with a Mudblood. Even though she lost the time turner that got us stuck in this God awful future, I’m glad I got stuck here with her if it had to be anyone. She’s not so bad once you get to know her.”
I rolled up the parchment and continued walking until I came to a tree that had a dark knotted little hole in its trunk. Someday, someone would find it. And if I was long forgotten by then, someone would read this and speak the name “Draco Malfoy.” That was all I asked.
= = =
It took a day and a half of wandering aimlessly through the white coated trees until I reached the end of the forest. I’d found that many times I’d backtracked, and more than that I’d ended up walking in one big circle. It wasn’t until I reached a familiar patch of trees that I realized I was heading in the right direction. I remembered this small little clearing. It was where Potter and I saw that creature drinking the blood from a dead unicorn during first year in our detention.
I walked constantly, ignoring the bitter arctic chill and the blisters forming on my feet and my soaked to the skin clothes from lying in the snow. I almost looked forward to going back to Hogwarts and being caught. At least then I’d get one of those pillow cases. They were bound to be warmer than this.
A few times I was sure I’d heard something behind me -- the crunch of snow under shoes, the rustle of bushes as I passed. After a while I’d come to the conclusion that my imagination was running away with me and making me go more crazy than I already was, and stopped looking behind myself to check if anything or anyone was there all together.
It was dark by the time I reached the edge of the Forbidden Forest and was overlooking the Hogwarts castle. I stood in my place shivering for a long moment. The snow was beginning to fall again, and I could feel small flakes fluttering over my eyelashes and landing in my hair. The castle really was a beautiful piece of architecture from where I was standing. The tall stone pillars and narrow pointed spires gave it a haunting appearance through the chilled dark air, but beautiful none the less.
I took a deep shaky breath and continued walking. I’d trod this path more times than I could ever count. But this time was different. This time, I felt like I was walking head on with my own death sentence.
“This is fucking crazy. You’re crazy,” I murmured to myself as my feet clomped through the snow. “I’m coming, Hermione.”
I passed the lake that had a thin sheen of glistening ice streaked across it and made my way up the steps and to the oak double doors of the entrance hall. It was almost eerie to be walking the corridors in such a state of silence. I wondered what time it was. It couldn’t have been that late, could it?
Maybe it would be better if it was. If everyone was sleeping, there was a slight chance that maybe I could get everyone out of the dungeon and make it out alive. After I get them out of there, it’s every man for himself, I decided. I was doing more than enough by going down there and risking my neck in the first place. They could take it from there.
Now, the only question was, I realized as I turned a corner and watched the flames in the brackets on the wall dance, was how to get them out of the cell. There had to be some spell that would unlock that damn door …
But even if there was, I couldn’t perform it. I would have to lift the anti-magic enchantment first, unless I wanted to set off the alarms and wake the entire castle up.
“Fuck it all to hell; we’re all as good as dog shit anyway,” I muttered as I reached the door leading to the dungeon. Pulling out my wand, I braced myself and called out, “Reducto!”
I jumped back, although I wasn’t sure if it was because of the alarms ringing like fire in my ears or the explosion before me. Throwing my hands over my ears, I hurtled over the debris that was the door and threw myself down the stairs, plummeting though the common room until I reached the girl’s dormitory where everyone in the cell was standing upright and alert at the bars and screaming like hell.
“What’s going on?” they demanded. “Are we going to die?”
“You will if you don’t fucking get back!” I shouted above the alarm. “Now move!”
Without bothering to make sure everyone was out of the way, I repeated the same spell I’d used to blast the door open.
Nothing happened. Their screams grew louder. “Fuck. Oh, fuck … Reducto!” Nothing. “Reducto, reducto, reduc –”
“DRACO!” I heard Hermione’s shriek through the commotion of the students and the alarms, and faced her at once. She was pushing her way through the sea of students, trying to get to me. “Run!” she screamed in a strangled sob, caught between the bulky bodies of Crabbe and Goyle. “Run away! Get out!”
With one final push, she hurled herself from her squeezed position and slammed into the cold metal bars. “Go!” she screamed in my face, “They’re after you. They know about Bellatrix – we all do. If they find you down here, you’re dead.”
I’ll be honest. I considered her offer. I looked toward the door, my feet ready to sprint through it, run out of the castle, and never look back. But then I thought of Hermione directly in front of my face, and I knew I couldn’t leave her.
“Go,” she said, desperation in her eyes. “Please.”
I shook my head and dropped it into my hands, letting out a long breath of air. “God, I wish I could.”
“You can! Damn it, Draco, you can! Go now!”
“I can’t.” It was a whisper, and I wondered if she’d heard me at all.
She finally spoke. Hers was a whisper too, but I could distinguish her voice over the hectic chaos around us. “Why not?”
I took her big bushy head in my hands. “Because I – I – because I just can’t, okay?” I let go of her head at the look she gave me, completely open mouthed with a hint of something more flickering in her eyes. Was there understanding there? How could it be, though? I didn’t even understand the feelings I was having, how the hell could she? But she knew something I didn’t; because she was looking at me with such intensity it scared me. No one had ever looked at me in that way before. And suddenly I was so intent on trying to figure out her curious stare in her deep fathomless pool of wide brown eyes that the ringing alarms had drowned out of my head, and the shouts of students begging for help all seemed one big echoed blur.
I didn’t turn when a cluster of pajama clad Death Eaters burst through the door, wands drawn and pointing at me. I knew they were there, and I knew what was coming. Hermione’s eyes did not stray from mine. They were magnetically locked together, my eyes and hers, and she was frozen in her spot when three red jets of light hit me and I fell hard to the ground.
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