The burgundy taffeta hung off Hermione in such a manner that she was sure the dress was enchanted to fit its wearer. Running her hands along the gold buttons, she couldn’t help but feel mildly pleased at how she looked. Her hair was let down in huge curls that were tamed by Pansy’s many hair products, giving her an air of true sophistication. She turned around twice, sat down, stood up and concluded that there was no way she was giving this dress back.
She ran her fingers through her hair and plumped up the curls quickly before grabbing her wand and inserting it against her bodice.
There was a knock on the door and it opened slowly as Draco came in. Hermione saw the fatigue in his eyes and her heart felt heavy with sadness. She smiled at him and he looked at her, with his mouth gaping.
“You look nice,” he said after a long pause.
“Thank you,” she replied, feeling elated. “It’s a nice dress, thank you for it.”
“Don’t mention it,” he nodded. “Burgundy is not quite purple.”
“It’s not,” she agreed. “And it looks beautiful with the silver necklace that Pansy lent me.”
She fumbled around clumsily before reaching behind her and producing a double plated square silver pendant on a silver chain. Draco looked at it for a moment and then reached his hand into his pocket.
“Well, I just thought… you know, silver doesn’t really go that well with the gold buttons,” he said. He took his hand out of his pocket and held out a gold necklace at least half an inch thick encrusted with tiny rubies. “Might as well match.”
“Oh…oh my…” Hermione breathed. She was no shopaholic but even she could tell the real from the fake. The tinkling of the rubies, the intricate detail of the gold and the flawless shape it formed all overwhelmed her. “I can’t wear that, Draco.”
“Why not?” He seemed hurt.
“It’s so… it’s huge and it must be worth thousands of galleons…”
She felt like a fool trying to explain herself. In reality, all she wanted was to grab that necklace and put it around her neck. It was prettier than anything she had ever seen.
Draco rolled his eyes and walked behind Hermione, placing his hands gently on her arms and turning her to the right to face the floor-length mirror on the opposite wall. The two of them stared into it as he lifted the necklace and put it around Hermione’s neck from behind. She looked at herself in the mirror.
Wow, we look good together.
And unlike always, she didn’t snap out of her momentary lapse in judgement or reprimand herself for thinking that way. She couldn’t stop thinking it. They stood, one towering over the other, beside each other and the thought kept nagging her mind. She liked the way they looked together.
Draco too didn’t say anything as he stood behind Hermione and looked into the mirror. He was drawn to the image, just as much as she was and if Eli hadn’t entered, they could probably have stood there for hours.
“Mas- oh, I beg your pardon,” he said suddenly, looking away. “I didn’t realize I was interrupting.”
“No, no, it’s nothing,” Hermione said, waving her hand. “What is it?”
“There’s a letter here for you, Master Malfoy. Almost everyone is here, they’re awaiting you.”
“Right,” Hermione said distractedly. “I’m going to go put on my shoes…”
She grabbed the edges of her dress and paddled her way into one of the smaller rooms to find her matching shoes. Eli turned to Draco and just looked at him curiously.
“I did not know your mother’s jewellery was still in the mansion,” he said, a slight twinkle in his eye.
“It isn’t,” he agreed. “I had it brought out from Gringott’s this afternoon. I’d like you to return it after this evening.”
“Absolutely – it goes well with your mother’s dress.”
Draco pursed his lips and noted the look of satisfaction in Eli’s old face. Turning to the letter he had just received, he opened the envelope and read the contents. Whatever colour that remained in his face now vanished.
The gathering was taking place in one of the biggest and most opulent rooms of Malfoy Manor. The huge circular chamber fit every single former member of the Dark Lord’s followers, leaving room for an additional three hundred or so. The dark blue walls were illuminated by huge crystal chandelier that hung from the round ceiling, each candle on it emitting a silver glow. The marble floors were white and were surrounded by towering pillars that circled them at equal intervals. The velvet curtains with silver trimmings, though beautiful, were overpowered by the three grand white stone statues around the chamber.
The seven hundred or so death eaters were mingling amongst themselves and while they all had smiles plastered onto their faces, each one kept a sharp eye on their neighbour.
“You’re walking too fast,” Pansy grunted angrily at Ron.
He looked as menacing as Ron Weasley ever could, wearing ash grey robes held together by a deep sapphire broche. Pansy had hastily put a charm on him to blunt his nose slightly and darken his hair so that anyone who might have seen him at Hogwarts would not recognize him.
“I’m not here for the pleasurable company,” he snapped back. “I just want this to be over with.”
She maintained a foot’s distance from Ron as he sucked his lips in like sour grapes and glared at every passing soul so that no one dared to approach him.
The last of the guests were starting to arrive through the huge oak double doors and from the corner of her eye, Pansy saw that the champagne bottles and sparkling wine goblets were being distributed. A furrow of noise swept its way across the room as the doors at the top of the marble staircase opened and Lestrange stepped out, slightly less dishevelled. He smiled savagely as eyes turned to him, some in admiration, others in fear and made his way down the set of stairs as a nobleman amongst paupers.
Ron’s body stiffened at the sight and Pansy pushed her hand hard against his chest to stop him from moving any further.
“Control yourself,” she ordered.
Ron angrily shoved his torso against her hand and marched over to the darker corners of the chamber so that he could sulk in private. Frustrated, Pansy searched around hastily for Draco and Hermione, hoping that they would finally come down. She was having a hard time fielding such a tough crowd.
Wishful thinking seemed to have paid off because at that very second, one of the smaller side doors opened and Draco and Hermione slipped into the crowd as shiftily as possible. She guessed they didn’t want all that attention especially from people who would be shocked to hear that they were not invited to a Malfoy wedding.
Now, the only person not accounted for was Cassius. And that would be a problem.
Hermione felt a light rush in her head as Draco held her hand firmly and manoeuvred her through the mass of crowds. She heard faint cries of “Hey Draco!” or “Malfoy, it’s been so long!” to which Draco only nodded curtly with a short smile and proceeded to the other end of the hall.
“I thought we were supposed to mingle,” Hermione asked when they got to a more secluded section of the circular room.
“In a second,” Draco warned. “But first, I need to explain something to you.”
Hermione rolled her eyes slightly and was about to open her mouth to tell Draco that he was being too over paranoid but the stern look in his face shut her up.
“Eli can’t find Adria,” he said in a low, rushed voice, as if afraid that others might overhear him.
Hermione felt her heart rate quicken and her pulse began to throb in her ears. “What?” she said weakly.
“He’s sure that she’s down somewhere in the dungeons but he still hasn’t been able to find her. Listen to me,” he added, gently but cautiously placing his hand against her cheek. “If anything happens tonight, you need to run.”
“What about everyone else?” Hermione asked roughly. She was surprised at the angry tone her voice had taken.
“Everyone else is collateral - you need to run. Get as far away from here as possible.”
“Draco, you’re not making any sense,” Hermione said, feeling her body heave deep breaths. “Adria doesn’t target people - she’d kill anyone.”
“Just please trust me, it’s not all about Adria. If anyone looks at you with even the slightest bit of suspicion, tell me.”
“I won’t do anything,” Hermione began angrily, “until you tell me what’s going on.”
Two or three people had begun to turn in their direction so Draco gave up and leaned in closer to Hermione. “I just got an owl from the Ministry,” he said quietly. The speed of his words were perhaps the only way Draco could convince himself that he was doing the right thing. “Someone broke into St. Mungo’s this morning and stole your personal records.”
Hermione’s face turned into chalk and she felt Draco’s hand tighten on her own. “Your name, address, history, photos, everything… I don’t want to scare you but you need to be very careful tonight. Someone somewhere has all the information on you and knows who you really are and if he gets to Lestrange…” He couldn’t complete his sentence.
“I’ll be dead,” Hermione finished.
“Eli already knows,” he added. He hoped that talking of solutions would instil some life back into Hermione’s terrified face. “I’m going to tell Pansy in just a moment – she’s coming over here right now. It is very unlikely that in such a huge crowd, Lestrange would be able to get to anyone.”
Pansy had managed to make her way through the crowd and looked at Hermione before turning to Draco. “What happened?”
“Hermione’s personal record is missing; someone broke into St. Mungo’s this afternoon.”
“Oh my… oh shit,” Pansy cursed. “Wait, this afternoon? How much time would it take to get from St. Mungo’s to here?”
Draco pondered, still holding onto Hermione. “Two to three hours,” he said, his voice failing to disguise his newfound sense of urgency. He suddenly looked around the room. “He has to be here by now.”
“There are seven hundred people here,” Hermione argued. “There’s no way we’ll find him.”
“Lestrange – just stay with Lestrange,” Pansy intervened. “Whoever this guy is, he’ll have to find Lestrange to give him the records.”
Hermione shook her head. “He’s by the drinks and he’s got nothing with him. The records should have been here hours ago, who could have gotten them?”
“Who’s not here?”
All three pairs of eyes darted frantically around the room, surveying each face and making a mental note of each name. Hermione focused most of her attention near the centre of the crowd, Draco searched the darker corners and Pansy fielded the outskirts.
“I haven’t seen him all evening,” Pansy stuttered. “You don’t… you don’t think that… he?”
Draco pulled Hermione and the three of them stood behind one the large engraved pillars to hide from the crowd and mumbled Eli’s name under his breath. In a few seconds, the aged butler apparated two feet from them with a concerned look on his face. “I can’t see anyone with a package,” he said.
“That’s not important; find Cassius. He’s been missing all evening and he’s the only one other than Lestrange who would care enough to investigate Hermione.”
“Shouldn’t we send everyone home?” Pansy asked.
“That would not be very wise,” Eli warned.
“Eli’s right. The bigger crowd means that Cassius or whoever else has these records will have a much harder time finding Hermione. If something should happen, we can set off a distraction and the entire hall will be in chaos – she can escape.”
Draco’s eyes scanned the crowd from where he was standing and Hermione could tell that his mind was trying to pick out Cassius. She saw the thin contours of his face morph slowly and watched his eyes follow the line of death eaters against the wall until he saw Ron, by himself, in a corner brooding at the rest of the people. “Get Weasley to help too,” he ordered.
“Yes, sir,” Eli said subserviently.
Draco took Hermione’s hand carefully and walked back into the crowd, whispering: “Stay close.”
Hermione craned her neck and saw Eli and Pansy move towards Ron before disappearing into the huge herd of people. Draco, meanwhile, was guiding her forward. Their passage was blocked by a huge wizard wearing emerald robes with some sort of foreign crest on them.
“Draco,” he said, smiling bitterly. “My dear boy, how have you been?”
“Very well, Mr. Fargo,” he replied. He noticed the man’s tiny beady eyes scanning Hermione to which he added: “Might I present my wife to you?”
The circles in the man’s eyes became excited as he held out his hand to Hermione. “Ah! Lady Malfoy, a pleasure.”
Hermione nodded uncomfortably. “Well, it’s quite a party you’ve got here,” he said. “You’ve really done your father proud.”
Draco didn’t respond but instead excused himself and told Fargo that he and Hermione had to go check on the drinks. Weaving their way through groups of drunken men and chattering women, they were stopped again but this time an extremely tall, old woman approached them.
“Draco, you have grown up,” she said, holding out her hand as Draco bent low to kiss it. When she stood up straight Hermione noticed that she was almost as tall as Draco. Her eyes shot over to Hermione and an angry undertone took shelter in her blue eyes.
“This must be the elusive Lady Malfoy,” she remarked. “Yes, Rodolphus was telling me about her. I suppose you must have been in a rush to get married.”
Hermione felt Draco’s hand tightened around hers – she guessed he had noticed the throbbing vein on her neck which was egging her on to punch this woman in the face.
“Well, Alexis is still unattached,” the woman continued. “You remember her, don’t you? You were so close that summer during your sixth year. It may have been the heat but I could’ve sworn there was some undeniable electricity between you two. Ah, here she comes!”
Hermione widened her eyes as Alexis walked up to Draco and gave him a tight kiss very close to the lips. She was exactly as tall as Draco, extremely slender and had shiny white skin. Her blonde hair was straight and reached the far below her shoulders. But undeniably, her strongest features were her mile long legs that were showcased suspiciously well in a low silver halter dress.
“I have missed you, Draco,” she said flirtatiously.
“It’s nice to see you,” he replied shortly. “I don’t think you’ve met my wife, Hermia.”
Both women’s smiles faltered and the younger one grimaced slightly. “No, I haven’t had the pleasure.”
“Yes well, we must excuse ourselves, Aunt Augusta,” he said, turning to the old lady. “It was nice seeing you, Alexis.”
Without waiting for a response, Draco kept ploughing forward through the crowds until they reached the drinks at the other end of the hall. After greeting a few more questionable characters and a man Hermione could have sworn was on the Ministry’s international criminals list, Draco turned to Hermione and offered her a glass of sparkling wine.
“I’m not thirsty,” she refused. “Thanks.”
She eyed Pansy and Ron walking quickly around the circumference of the hall and her heart fell with despair.
“They can’t find him,” Draco explained, following her line of sight.
“But that doesn’t make sense. If he knows who I am, why wouldn’t he be here killing me?”
Draco raised his eyebrows to Hermione’s blunt question; he even let a small smile of amazement graze his lips before the anxiety and worry took over him again. “Cassius is nothing like Lestrange – he’s very smart.”
“Master Malfoy!” a hiss came from behind. Eli waded up to them with sweat draped over his thick white eyebrows. “I found Adria.”
“She’s out of control,” he explained. “She was near the South Tower and usually, the green just warns me but this time, she was howling and clanking the chains. That could only mean…”
“That she recently attacked someone,” Draco explained. “That doesn’t make sense. No on here is foolish enough to go down to the dungeons by themselves.”
“Wait, why does that necessarily mean that she has attacked someone?” Hermione asked.
“When she attacks, the screams and the fear from her victims entice her. It’s sort of like an adrenaline rush and it excites her beyond our control. No curses or spells of any sort can destroy her.”
“Then how did… then how did Eil rescue me from her the first time?” she asked.
Eli suddenly looked down and Malfoy too took on a penitent face. Did she miss something?
“It was a charm that was used,” Draco answered. “A very simple spell – a severance spell. I came upon it accidently and it seemed to hold her off for a while – enough that one could escape.”
Hermione still felt like Draco wasn’t telling her something but the onset of a loud drunken cry distracted her. A man had slipped on his spilt drink and collided into one of the pillars. She heard Eli and Draco mumble something to each other and was able to make out the words.
“Who could have been in the dungeons?” Eli asked.
“I don’t know,” Malfoy replied truthfully. “I’m going to take Hermione upstairs – you keep searching for Cassius. It’s not safe down here.”
Usually, Hermione would have protested angrily to being chaperoned around but Draco’s last declaration had set off something in her mind. An old faded memory was coming back to her from her earlier days at the mansion. She remembered a bright white light right before she had fainted and then waking up again when Eli poured drops of water on her face. There were pieces missing from that particular memory and she was adamant to find them. Concentrating would be much easier once she was upstairs in the silence.
Draco escorted Hermione through a backdoor, trying to avoid Lestrange’s line of sight but from what she could tell, he was slightly inebriated and in serious conversation with a short man. Making their way through the corridors and up a set of marble stairs, they arrived at the master bedroom.
“I’m going to finish reading the book,” she explained. “It’s alright, you can go downstairs. I know you want to.”
“It’s just… I’d be more useful down there than up here,” he told her, unable to shield his guilty eyes. “If I can just find Cassius…”
“It’s okay,” she assured him. “Go.”
With a last look at her, he went back downstairs, his hurried footsteps echoing as the distance between them increased. Hermione shut the door frantically, took off her uncomfortable shoes and sat down on the huge bed, trying to clear her mind. She searched under the covers and produced Matilda Frogwart’s autobiography, placing it clumsily on the bed. She eagerly read on for the next forty minutes.
Matilda Frogwart had killed her mother with Fiendfyre and within the next few weeks or so, a ghost-like creature had taken shelter in her cellar. Well into her thirties now, Matilda had learnt a whole bunch of dark spell and magic but nothing could combat this particular creature. She spat out flames exactly like the ones that had been used to kill her and by the end of the first year – Matilda was positive beyond doubt that it was her mother. During her attacks, she was often excited by the blood of her victims which only egged her on more – generally, she left no survivors.
Hermione pinched the bridge between her eyes and sighed to release her frustration. Many people had been killed or attacked with Fiendfyre and they all just died… What made Adria and this woman so much more different that they took on a completely uncharacteristic form?
With her back against the door, she heard another click and it opened. “Draco, I’m alright. You don’t need to be checking up on me every thirty minutes,” she said.
Hermione’s heart beat faltered when she heard the voice that responded. A large gust of wind blew and put out the three candles that were lighting the room. Fearfully, Hermione got off the bed and turned to face the door.
Cassius smiled at her from the other end of the room and with every breath she took, her heart rate raced. His black eyes were focused intently on her and though he was hidden in the shadows, Hermione could make out a thick envelope between his fingers.
“Lady Malfoy,” he began courteously, bowing down.
Hermione looked through the corner of her eye at the doorway that stood at least ten meters away. Cassius would kill her before she could even take her first step. Draco had just left though, maybe if she screamed, he’d be able to hear her.
“These walls tell no tales, Lady Malfoy” Cassius explained, as if he heard her thinking. “If I am correct, which I like to think that I am, you could scream blue murder and Draco wouldn’t be able to hear you.”
Hermione cursed to herself as she realized that Cassius was right. Draco and Pansy had sealed the master bedroom with a charm that blocked all noise leaving the room – ironically, they had done it for protection.
“You can drop the act,” Hermione snapped. “I know you have my personal records.”
Cassius cocked his eyebrows and looked at the envelope in his hands that Hermione was staring at. “Hermione Granger suits you better than Lady Malfoy.”
“And why is that?”
Cassius’ smile widened. “It just does.”
Hermione looked into his dark eyes with extreme confusion. “Is this how you kill all your victims?”
“Actually, you’ll be happy to know that I have a lower death count than most other death eaters, including Draco.”
“He’s not a death eater,” Hermione shot back. She felt awkward arguing with Cassius when he was so close to her since he was around a foot taller. She took two steps back.
“It sounds like you’re asking me if he is,” he responded.
“I know he isn’t.”
“Me too,” he agreed. “It was Adria’s death that tipped him over the edge.”
Hermione’s eyes widened and gave away her surprise at which Cassius’ eyes twinkled with amusement. “I saw him the day after she died you know, in Belize,” he told her. “He was overridden with guilt – he took longer shifts at the training, volunteered for the most daunting and painful tasks and I knew right then, Draco Malfoy had left us.”
Hermione stood very still, still afraid. “Who is that creature in the Malfoy dungeons, Hermione?” he asked her.
Cassius’ eyes narrowed to thin slits and he unbuttoned his white shirt, revealing his pale chest. Against the sweat beads, Hermione spotted faint traces of blood that were mixed in with a thin slice of melted flesh. “The creature that did this to me.”
Hermione’s heart beat furiously as the moonlight bathe the dark room in its silvery glow. She saw Cassius analyze every facial movement of hers and a satisfied expression took over – he knew she knew.
“I ran into Draco this afternoon and he was… almost afraid, shall I say? He thought I was going to the dungeons.”
“And so you went yourself to see what he was hiding, didn’t you?” Hermione finished for him.
Cassius shrugged. “I’m a very curious person.” He smiled as he eyed the faint scars that remained on her arms and added: “I can see we have that in common. But this creature - she resembled Adria.”
“Dead people don’t walk,” Hermione snapped.
Cassius laughed at her resilience and breached the distance between them. “You’re off the edge of the map – here, anything can happen.”
Hermione took another step back and felt her back hit the wall behind her, the rough texture grazing her shoulders. “Why does it matter who she is?” she asked quietly.
“So it is Adria,” he confirmed. “It’s interesting. From what I heard, she died like all my father’s other victims so I don’t quite understand why she’s the only who turned into this.”
He placed his fingers against the burnt flesh on his chest and winced slightly at the pain. He noticed Hermione looking at him and so he plastered the smile back on his face. “So tell me, Hermione. Is she the reason you’re here? Are you so obsessed with figuring out what Adria has become that you’re willing to risk your own life?”
Hermione shook her head. “I could just as easily be here to avenge my parents’ deaths.”
“You could,” he agreed. “But you aren’t. I’ve seen your nose buried in books at the library but never once have you even glanced at my father with the kind of hatred you would have if all you were thinking about was killing him.”
His eyes danced over the book Hermione had just been reading. He picked it up and turned it around a few times. “You think there’re similarities between Adria and Matilda’s mother?” he asked her.
Hermione was taken aback. “You’ve read this book?”
“Twice,” he told her. “Durmstrang never really had strict policies on illegal books.”
“Listen to me,” Hermione began angrily. “Don’t play with me. If you’re going to kill me, please just get it over with.”
Cassius was now only centimetres from Hermione and he bent his head low, his lips barely touching her ear. “Hermione, if I had wanted to kill you, I would have done it by now.”
“You’re going to tell your slimy git of a father who I really am then,” Hermione retorted, choking slightly on her words. She was going to die anyways, might as well do it in style.
“I won’t tell him,” Cassius said. “However, he’ll probably figure it out if you don’t make an appearance soon- which is why you should go back downstairs.”
Hermione instantly looked up into his eyes. “What?”
“Draco’s coming up here at this very moment,” he explained to her. “He’s coming to tell you that Eli has found Adria and that my father is beginning to get suspicious - he’s searching for the both of you right now with slightly less noble intentions than my own.”
“You’re letting me go?” she asked, still stupefied.
“I don’t kill for fun,” he told her.
He moved aside and by doing so, caused himself some pain in his chest and winced. Hermione saw the same kind of effect as she had seen on Draco and taking a step towards the door, she turned the door knob and heard Draco’s footsteps at the far end of the hall.
“Matilda Frogwart’s mother,” Cassius began, “was a vampire. I hate to spoil the book for you but I just thought you might find it interesting.”
Hermione met Draco halfway and in his worried state, he didn’t notice the glances she kept throwing back at the master bedroom.
“Let’s go down,” he said. “Lestrange’s getting very suspicious.”
Hermione nodded coyly. “Yes.”
Draco paused briefly to analyze her subservient reaction but the loud chimes of the grandfather clock downstairs distracted him. He held out his hand almost mechanically and Hermione took it with equal instinct.
“What is so complicated about Cassius?” Hermione asked as they sped down the stairs.
“Pansy told me… a while ago. She said that his story was very complicated.”
Before Draco could respond, they had reached the huge circular room and joined the other death eaters. Plastering a smile on her face, Hermione put her arm into Draco’s and walked forward. From a distance, she saw Lestrange’s mouth twitch restlessly as he gazed at them intently. Pansy was talking to a short, blonde woman while Eli and Ron were conversing against one of the banisters.
Music from an unidentified source had started to play and the groups in the middle shuffled off to allow the creation of a dance floor.
“We should dance,” Hermione suggested. “It’ll keep people from talking to us.”
“I’m not that much of a dancer,” he said in a sharp drawl. His eyes were still scanning the perimeter and it took him a little bit of time to notice the approaching tall figure.
“Did I hear Lady Malfoy ask for a dance?” Cassius said, smiling. He had changed robes and dawned a newer and cleaner set of green ones.
If Draco had been at all surprised by his appearance, he didn’t show it. However, Hermione did note a small sigh of relief. “Yes, from me,” he snapped.
“Well, you and I are practically the same age and the same height. If she would so please, I think I could be an apt substitute,” he said.
They both looked at Hermione in unison. Draco’s face had a slightly smug appearance as he perceived her response but Hermione had her own agenda. “Yes, alright,” she said, extending her hand.
An aghast look on Draco’s face was the last thing Hermione saw before Cassius swept her through the crowds and in the middle of the small circle that was already filled with couples dancing. He put his arms around her waist and allowed her to position hers on his shoulders.
“I’m surprised you agreed,” he said, swaying fluidly.
Hermione didn’t respond to his comment. “Is that what those blood experiments were?” she asked. “Was her mother biting her and drawing blood?”
Cassius sighed. “And here I thought you wanted to dance with me because of my good looks.” But added when he saw the look of reproach on Hermione’s face: “Yes, I believe she was trying to convert her. Vampires need a very specific blood type, that is to say, thin blood, to be able to convert someone. Matilda Frogwart’s blood, which should have been genetically thin due to her mother’s state, was not.”
“So when her mother was tortured by the Fiendfyre, something related to her being a vampire must have triggered the transformation.”
The two were very fluent in their dance and Hermione did not fail to notice that a more than a few eyes in the hall were fixed on them.
“But that doesn’t make sense,” she replied in a frustrated tone. “Why would the same thing happen to Adria?”
Cassius cocked his eyebrow. “Are they exactly the same?”
Hermione paused. “No.”
His lips twisted into a small smile and he brought his lips close to her ear. “Well then Hermione, Syballis’ doctrine of magical analysis states that one must identify the common factor, distinguish the differences and attribute each difference to a particular characteristic.”
He moved his head back slightly and looked into Hermione’s brown eyes. She noted that his eyes had reverted from their thin formation. He moved Hermione closer to him at which point she felt the melted flesh under his shirt throb. In a jarring stride, he stepped back a little and closed his eyes for a second.
Before Hermione could react, Draco had approached the two of them and broken them apart. “I’m terribly sorry to interrupt but I think you’ve entertained my wife for long enough, Cassius. I’m sure that there are many other single women whose evening you could brighten.”
“I was under the impression that you didn’t want to dance, Draco,” Cassius replied.
Draco sneered as Cassius took Hermione’s hand and kissed it gently. “I hope we can continue this sometime soon,” he said.
Hermione nodded slowly and Cassius walked away. Before she could gather her thoughts and figure out what Cassius had said about the differences, Draco grabbed her hand and pulled her further into the dance floor. “Let’s dance,” he said moodily.
“Oh don’t be too enthusiastic,” she snapped sarcastically.
“Yes, well I’m sorry I’m not pressing myself up against you like Cassius.”
“We were just talking, Draco,” Hermione said rolling her eyes.
“Please, you were one step shy of having your tongues down each other’s throats,” he barked.
“Why does it bother you so much?” Hermione shot back.
“Because whether you like it or not, you’re married to me,” he grunted. “Though, you’ve made it abundantly clear that it’s the least of your concerns.”
Before the words had even escaped Draco’s mouth, a huge burst of green flames erupted in the ballroom. Hermione spun around frantically and saw the immediate rigidity in Draco’s body – they both who it was.
“I thought Eli found her!” Hermione cried.
The crowd broke out into a commotion and cries could be heard from every corner of the circular chamber. A greenish hue had taken over. Without responding, Draco pulled Hermione closer to him. “We’ve got to find Pansy and Weasley,” he said.
“Oh, shit! Ron!” Hermione gasped, realizing that she had forgotten the others. “They were by the north side, I think.”
Grabbing her hand, Draco pulled Hermione through the huge hustle of people filing out of the doorway. A few darts of light capered in the air as death eaters began to initiate hostilities of their own. She reached into her dress and pulled out the wand that was stuck to her side, holding it precariously. The flames had now caught on to the drapes and while the regal curtains now burned an emerald green, someone overturned one of the large stone statues. Draco continued to manoeuvre them and Hermione kept her eyes peeled for any sign of Ron or Pansy.
“Stay low,” Draco warned loudly which Hermione barely heard over the many screams.
There was no sign of Lestrange or Cassius anywhere and while the two of them searched, the high pitched scream of Adria filled the air. A ring of fire encircled them all and a white spell came flying towards Hermione.
“Protego!” she screamed, deflecting it.
“That was from Lestrange’s men,” Draco shouted. “We have to go faster.”
Hermione sped up and then cursed her dress for holding her back. After dodging a huge spur of flames, she suddenly stopped. At the other end of hall, his eyes flaming as erratically as the green fire, stood Rodolphus Lestrange.
“Kill them!” he ordered and his men flew forward, with nothing but death in their eyes.
Draco’s eyes flashed for a second and he pulled Hermione out of the way as a red jet of light jetted passed her ear. “Change in plan,” he shouted. “Go to the South Tower.”
“What about Ron and Pansy?”
“You go ahead, I’ll find them!” he yelled as he countered two curses at the same time with his wand. Hermione was manoeuvring her magical stick with skill but she knew, they would not survive against three. “Remember, what I told you? Everyone is collateral. If we leave, his men might stop attacking.”
“Where do we go?”
“Anywhere… somewhere safe, hidden… where Lestrange won’t be able to get –”
Before Draco even finished his sentence, the location jumped into Hermione’s head. “I know exactly where we can go!”
They hid within the shadows of a huge pillar as Draco fumbled with his robes and removed the first layer to ease his movements. They were both sweating profusely and from the looks of it, had bought themselves a few more minutes before Lestrange would find them.
“You can apparate to the South Tower,” Draco explained to her.
“No, no I can’t,” Hermione replied, out of breath. “Only you and Eli can apparate around here.”
Draco shook his head. “Only people with Malfoy titles can apparate and you have one – you’re Lady Malfoy.”
Hermione’s eyes widened at the realization and at that very moment, Adria’s cackles reached their highest pitch. The entire hall was up in flames and a jet of green fire came flying towards Draco. “Sopeinsta Grecgo!” he yelled, pointing his wand.
A huge jet of white light flew of his wand and warded off the flames for a few more minutes. But those two words had triggered Hermione’s memory and she had left the present scene and darted back to a few months ago. She was in the dungeons, with the green overpowering her mind and body just like it was doing today. And she lay there, bleeding and on the brink of death when a huge jet of white light had flashed and a man had yelled the exact same spell. But the fog surrounding that memory had cleared up and it was nothing like she had expected. It wasn’t Eli who had shot the spell to save her – it was Draco. She could clearly see his outline in her mind, the white light from his wand pushing the flames away from her. But he wasn’t strong enough and part of her curse hit him. He fell against the floor.
Her mind suddenly awoke from its dazed recollection and heard Draco’s voice. He had shot another white light at Adria but the effects were minimal. “What the hell are you doing?” he asked.
Hermione held back tears and in her stupefied expression said: “You were the one who saved me.”
Draco looked at her for a second before responding. “What?”
“You, you were the one who saved me from Adria in the dungeons and in the North Tower. I remember. It was this exact same spell. It wasn’t Eli.”
She didn’t allow Draco to respond but instead, threw herself into him. There was a bloody gash on his right hand but he wrapped his arms around her and rested his chin on her head. “You should go,” he told her. “I’ll meet up with you in a few minutes when I find Pansy and Weasley.”
“Please don’t die,” she whispered.
Draco looked at her, still in his embrace, with a smile on his face. “I would never dream of it, Granger.”
Hermione also grinned despite her tears. “Be safe, Malfoy.”
He let go of her with great reluctance and turned back around. Hermione felt the familiar tug on her navel as she started to apparate, thinking only of the South Tower. The last thing she saw before disappearing into thin air was the tall blonde figure darting back into the flames.
A/N: As you can see, the chapters are getting longer and a lot more eventful than usual. Hopefully, it keeps you all guessing ;) Thank you for all the reviews and emails, they're really encouraging so keep them coming!
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