“I’ll need at least two carriages.”
“I can arrange that,” Harry said. “Where should they be waiting? I’d assume anywhere near the Manor would be too dangerous.”
“No, they have to be close by,” Draco said, chewing on the last piece of bread they had left. “Weasley and Pansy are both practically unable to move right now so I don’t think I’ll be able to get them very far. Apparition in itself will be painful for them. One should be on the roof of the Manor, on the south side. I can apparate them to the roof safely.”
“Eli will drive that one, right?” Harry asked to which Draco turned to Eli who nodded.
“If anything suspicious happens,” Draco told Eli. “You have to leave for St. Mungo’s immediately. I’ll have my broomstick with me. However, if all goes as planned, then you will wait there for me to search the dungeons and bring back anyone alive.”
“I’ll be waiting at St. Mungo’s,” Harry said. “But what about Hermione?”
Draco looked away and buried his head in his hands. “I haven’t told her yet. She’s asleep upstairs. If she listens to me, which I doubt, she’ll probably wait with you at St. Mungo’s for Weasley.”
“Alright,” Harry said. “Last offer, are you sure you don’t want any other help with searching?”
“No,” Draco said immediately. “It’s just not worth it. The aurors will get lost before they can even start looking for people.”
“Fair enough,” Harry agreed. He got up and stretched, looking at his watch. “I’ll go and arrange the carriages. They’ll be here in about two hours.”
“Thanks,” Draco acknowledged, standing up himself and extending his hand.
Harry looked at it with a little confusion but he nodded gravely and took it, shaking it. “Good luck,” he said. “You’re not that bad, Malfoy.”
Draco entered the room as silently as possible, peering over the wooden door to see if Hermione was still asleep. He found her, slumped over an arm chair with her neck positioned towards the window and her head bent low. She had two books resting on her lap and a mess of papers that ran along the floor to the bed. He sat down on the bed, beside her and watched as she breathed slowly and calmly, with each line on her face tensing and then relaxing as she revelled in her dreams.
He couldn’t help but thinking of Hogwarts. It hadn’t been that long since his graduation but it felt like an eternity. Long gone were the days when duels in the corridors and laced butterbeers were the only concern of his. Moreover, long gone were the days when Hermione Granger was part of the most despised trio in his life. Had he really hated her? This wasn’t the first time this question had popped into his mind but sitting here, watching her sleep made him want to face the answer.
He hadn’t hated her
. It was more like an extremely strong dislike for what she represented – for whom
she represented. She was a muggle and for that, he could not have liked her, he could not have been her friend. He could not have seen past one stupid title and discovered the sparkling intellect, unwavering curiosity and fiery passion within this one woman. But he knew now that this whole business of purebloods and mudbloods was one large pile of bullshit. And right now the only feeling that coursed through his veins was that of unyielding gratitude for having been given a second chance.
She turned onto her side and he realized that within a few minutes, he would wake her up and the peace on her face would be tainted with anger and contempt when he would tell her that he was going to Malfoy Manor in a few hours without her. She would insist on coming but he wouldn’t let her do that; friendship was not the only second chance he had been given. He stretched his arms above his head and prepared to tell her what he knew she wouldn’t want to hear.
“Hermione,” he said, smiling as her nose wrinkled when he touched her face. “You’re late for a test!”
Her eyes flew open and for a moment, it seemed she had believed him but then her gaze fell on his amused face, as he tried to stifle his laughter and she made a sour face at him. “Not funny,” she grumbled.
“I have something I want to tell you,” he said. He jumped right in, hoping that this speed would prevent him from cowering.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
He looked out of the window in response to her question. He knew it: he was beginning to chicken out. Part of him, the scared part, wanted to leave while she was sleeping and avoid any sort of confrontation but he knew better than that. She repeated her question, this time emphasizing the urgent tone in her voice. “I’m going to Malfoy Manor,” he said.
Hermione looked confused and then, as if she heard the words in her head again, shook her head furiously. “We can’t go to Malfoy Manor now! We still don’t know how to stop Adria.”
He smiled briefly, more so at her immediate assumption that they were both going than because of a cheerful disposition. “We are not going anywhere. I am going to Malfoy Manor and you will stay here, or you can go to St. Mungo’s with Potter.”
Just as he had expected, Hermione’s creased her fair skin and furrowed her eyebrows. “You’re absolutely ridiculous,” she snapped. “You’re not leaving me here and going to get yourself killed.”
“I need to get Pansy and Weasley and the witnesses,” he defended. “You don’t know your way around the dungeons either. You’d get lost. It’ll be much more… efficient, if I go by myself. Eli will be on the roof with a carriage and we’ll get to St. Mungo’s the moment I evacuate the Manor.”
He put his hand on Hermione’s arm, but she got up and shrugged it off, angrily. “Is there something wrong with me?” she asked.
Draco was taken aback. “What?”
“I think there’s something you can’t trust about me or something you just can’t get used to because every time something’s about to happen, you insist on me sitting on the sidelines. Do you really think I’m that weak?”
Draco stood up, and pressed his fingers against his forehead. “Now you’re the one being ridiculous. You’re an amazing witch and I’ve never doubted that for a second but there are times when one must go alone.”
He could understand her anger and he could understand the reason behind her insistence that she should go as well but he would not, he could
not fathom why on earth she felt this reflected her abilities as a witch. “You’re going to say the same thing to me when you fight Lestrange when it is very well my right to get my revenge too.”
He shook his head and put his arms on her shoulders, trying to stop her and make her look into his eyes. Maybe if she looked long enough, she would see that he was being nothing but earnest. “I swear to you on my magic, I will not fight Lestrange without you.”
She seemed to be out of her frenzy, if only temporarily. Her upper lip, which had been curled in anger, was now calm and slightly tense as Hermione tried to find another reason to argue. Apparently, she couldn’t find one. “You promise?” she asked.
“Absolutely,” Draco agreed. “But I need to get in and out of the Manor as soon as possible tonight and I can do it fastest on my own.”
She shrugged her shoulders as he released his grip on her. Resigned, she began to pick up the stack of papers that were strewn all over the floor and said, “Fine.”
“Alright,” he replied, sighing with relief. At least there had been no broken or thrown items in the process. “Are you going to go with Harry to St. Mungo’s?”
“No,” Hermione replied, abruptly and Draco sensed a little antagonism. He guessed she was still annoyed at him. “I’m going in the carriage with Eli. Ron and Pansy will need medical attention. They’ve been living for three days with serious injuries and no medication. I won’t come to the dungeons but you’ll need more than puppy dog eyes to keep me sitting in a stupid hospital waiting room wondering every second whether you made it out alive or not.”
“I’m not going to die,” Draco said, putting his hand on her face. Why was this touching thing becoming so instinctive?
Hermione grabbed a few books and jammed them into her bag, swinging it onto her shoulder. She tossed Draco a set of black robes. “That’s a promise I’m going to make sure you keep.”
“Okay, hold still,” Ron warned. He was glad that it was dark for fear that the light might have betrayed the fear in his eyes. “This shouldn’t hurt.”
Pansy was leaning against the wall with her eyes closed tight. She had her hands placed against the rough brick, both of them were clasped in a fist and her breaths were hard and heavy, as if anticipating the pain that was inevitable. She had ripped a hole through her dress through which the thick, red congealed blood could be seen above her ribs. They had to move in a few hours and the open wound wouldn’t allow that. After much debating, Ron and Pansy had come to the terrifying conclusion that it had to be stitched up or the blood loss would be too great and the pain unbearable.
Ron held his wand to her torso and repeated the spell in his head a few times so he wouldn’t make a mistake. The stitches would appear within a second but the lack of a sedative potion meant that the pain would be full on. Pansy had suggested knocking herself out but there was no telling when she’d recover and they had to move fast. They had three hours according to Draco’s watch.
“Okay,” Ron said, with a tone of finality as he braced himself.
Pansy nodded, her eyes still shut tight. She had a cloth tied around her mouth to prevent the screams from reaching too far. Ron knew that any more delay would just be a waste of time. He took a deep breath and said the words, as clearly as could. “Consui!
Thin black string materialized around Pansy’s wounds and wove itself up, tightly and quickly. But the look of sheer terror as she opened her eyes and took in a sharp breath was mind numbing. The cloth muffled the scream but it looked as if the piercing feeling had etched itself into Pansy’s face. Her eyes widened and her skin became pale but the ordeal was over within a second.
Ron, to his own surprise, had been particularly agile in grabbing a piece of discarded cloth and pressing it gently against the wound. The aftermath of the stitches stung Pansy with a great deal of strength and he heard her whimpering through her muffled mouth.
“It’s okay, it’s closed,” he assured her. “We’ll be out of here soon.”
She gave him no response and Ron didn’t bother waiting for one. He removed the cloth from around her mouth and handed her a small pastry, hoping that the food would give her enough energy to endure the stinging. Unsupervised administration of any medical treatment was likely to end badly, he knew that and judging by the growing redness around her wound, he prayed that this escape would go smoothly. His broken jaw had created purple and black bruises on the outside of his mouth and a severe, sharp throbbing at the back of his teeth. And those were just the new injuries.
“What…” Pansy struggled with her words. “What time… is it?”
“A little past midnight,” he said, checking the watch again. “Get some rest. I’ll stay up.”
She nodded, leaning her head back against the wall and placing her hand over her stitches. Three hours and they’d be able to leave. They’d be back with warm water, fresh food, an unstoppable supply of medication and treatment and a bed on which to sleep, peacefully.
“The second carriage is enchanted,” Draco explained to Eli. “It’s going to wait on the outskirts of the forest. It’s a decoy. The moment your carriage takes off, it’ll leave too but it’s heading to a field just North of here. It’ll at least delay anyone who might be following you guys. I’ve got my broomstick and I know most of the dungeons, so I’ll be fine. If all goes well, I’ll come with you but you have to leave if anything happens.”
“Yes, sir,” he responded.
The carriage was the same as the one that had taken them to Azkaban. Eli held the door open as Hermione and Draco both got in. The two of them sat on the uncomfortable seats and within moments, Hermione heard a thump as Eli mounted the front. There was a pause and then the carriage began to gather speed.
“How long will it take to get there?” Hermione asked.
“Around an hour,” he said, checking his watch to make sure they were on time. “That’ll give us a half hour to get everything settled. I’ve told them 3 a.m. and if all goes according to plan, we’ll get there exactly in time.”
“Right,” Hermione said, nervously eyeing the clock. She was beginning to get worried. So much relied on this plan, which was, essentially, a hope that no death eaters would catch them in the act of escape. She grabbed her book and began to absentmindedly flip through the pages. Within that time, the fatigue of four days caught up with her and she fell asleep. But for that brief space of time, she entered a happier world without pain, without injury and without sacrifices.
Cassius had his eyes closed as he lay by the window on one of the armchairs. There was a brief shiver that passed through him when he heard a woman’s voice in his head. He sat up, strained harder and then, like a door opening, all his thoughts melted away and he heard the voice again. There was a man’s voice as well and instantly, he knew it was Draco and Hermione.
He stretched a little and then lay back down on the chair. The night air was thick and cold but the sky itself was clear of anything that might have obstructed the glowing orb that majestically watched over the world. He smiled to himself. They had decided to come for the hostages after all. Cassius knew Pansy was somewhere in the Manor, with another guy whose voice he couldn’t recognize – he had heard them talking for quite some time now but it seemed like one, or both of them, was asleep.
“We’re almost there,” Draco said.
There was quite a distance to cover and that was confirmed when Draco told Hermione that they would be there within thirty minutes or so. But her mind was off somewhere else. The already evident smile on Cassius’ face widened when he realized that Hermione was thinking about him. She was wondering if she should have sent Cassius an owl to perhaps confirm that Lestrange wasn’t at the Manor or at least, asked for his help. She really did trust him.
This was an eerie twist of fate. This was time taking apart an old puzzle and putting it back together again. But it wasn’t completely the same. The roles had changed, positions reversed and the choice would now be his.
They landed relatively smoothly on the roof of the South Tower with ten minutes to spare. The second carriage had arrived a few minutes behind them and Eli had taken it onto the outskirts of the forest to lay it as a decoy in case death eaters caught on to them. Now, all they were doing was waiting. When he came back, Draco would leave.
“Eli will be able to find his way back, right?” Hermione asked, nervously eyeing the dark forest below.
“That’s like asking if the world is round,” Draco said, calmly sitting back. “He’ll be back soon. The walk is a little long and not to mention, slightly treacherous.”
“That’s comforting,” Hermione retorted. She was now reconsidering her decision of coming. Would she really be able to sit back and calmly wait while he retrieved Ron and Pansy?
“Well it’s comforting knowing that the creatures in our forest will devourer any death eater that seeks to follow them. And not to mention, we’ll able to hear from miles away if any one of them encountered danger.”
Hermione furrowed her brow. “What do you mean?”
“The banshees in the forest can screech blue murder,” Draco said. He continued to say something else but paused when an expression of pure horror had struck Hermione’s face. “What’s wrong?”
“Banshees!” she screeched. “Oh, how could I have missed it? Banshees!”
“Hermione, what’re you talking about?”
She turned around roughly and ran her hands through her backpack, pulling out a thick, weakly bound book that Draco recognized as ‘A Comprehensive Guide to Dark Creatures’. It was one of the books he had borrowed from the Ministry library. Hermione’s fingers were scouring each page, madly searching for something until she stopped at a particular section and shoved the book in Draco’s hands. “Read it,” she said.
Banshees are known as the lamenters of death. Their presence is a forewarning of bereavement, a fact often forgotten when onlookers hear their high pitched screeches. They are generally a more restful dark creature, appearing only when death is imminent but in the times of You Know Who, when death was a much stronger occurrence, their numbers increased greatly. They often rest in heavily wooded areas and are easily set off when they sense an intruder in their territory. Their main source of food is human shells (the body once the soul has departed); though in recent years they have been known to feed off the shells of animals as well.
Aside from their piercing screams, their fluid movements and alluring appearance strengthen them as predators as well as their ability to bind with dark magic.
“This is the book I read in your library.” Hermione said, exhausted as if all her research had culminated in this one final moment. “Banshees.”
Draco read the passage again, and then a third time over. Hermione pressed her eyes in her hands to ward off the fatigue but this revelation seemed to have drained the last bit of energy out of her. It was a dead end. Banshees were only found in heavily wooded areas, like the Malfoy forest. Adria was tortured in the dungeons. They had reached a dead end.
But Draco’s face was much more animated. He was no longer tired but suddenly very aware of the world around him and particularly, the words on the page in front of him. He couldn’t stop staring at them.
“It’s a dead end, Draco,” Hermione said in a heavy voice. “Adria was killed in the dungeons. Banshees are found outdoors.”
However, he didn’t respond. His eyes were fixated on the page. Was there something that she had missed? The watch on Hermione’s arm beeped 3 a.m. which meant that Ron and Pansy would have reached their location by now. Right on cue, Eli appeared from behind them, emerging unscathed as though he had just taken a luxurious walk in the fields. He paused at the dumbfounded look on Draco’s face but he registered their tight deadline and spoke.
“It’s 3 a.m.”
“Right,” Draco replied. He rubbed his face with his two hands and stood up, getting out of the carriage. He turned to Hermione. “Keep researching.”
“It’s a dead end,” she repeated. “There’s nothing more we can research here.”
Draco shook his head. “Adria was found
in the dungeons. Lestrange dumped the body there the day before the official ministry investigation was to start. She was tortured in a small shack on our grounds – incidentally, the one located right in the middle of the forest.”
“I don’t see anything,” Ron said, staring into the blackness.
They were exactly where Draco had instructed them to be. They had crawled north, in extreme pain, pushed the fourth brick from the bottom which had required a great deal of effort since neither of them could count in the dark, gone through the small passage that had appeared, leading them towards a small hole and finally, stopped when the cold stone floors turned into thick mud.
“He’ll be here,” Pansy countered with confidence. It was amazing that even after all that had happened, she had the energy to pretend to be hopeful. They both knew that there were more than just piteous obstacles in their way. For all they knew, Lestrange could be waiting in the corner, hoping to catch Draco and snap his neck in half. The deafening silence was ringing in their ears again but this time it was dulled by the soreness in every bone in their bodies. They were tired, hungry, sick and injured.
“Shit,” he muttered as he shifted his weight towards the left side of body to reduce the throbbing pain from his right side. “Are you sure it’s three in the morning?”
“Yes,” Pansy snapped irritably.
“Well, Malfoy’s not here, is he? The only thing that can make this better is a couple of death eaters hungry for blood. Or maybe, maybe we’ll meet Lestrange himself and we can introduce ourselves.”
“Oh you’re so witty, Ron,” Pansy retorted sarcastically. “If you’ll maybe just shut it for a second, we’d be able to hear something.”
There was a rumbling sound above them and they both moved out from under that particular spot above them. The ceiling was high enough that they could stand but judging by the staircase that had led them down here, they both knew they were further underground than before. Ron took out his wand, carefully pushing Pansy behind him and holding it up to the top so that he could be ready to disarm whoever it was that entered. Or it could very well be Draco himself.
A small pop resonated behind them and before they could fully register the new presence, Draco put his arm on Pansy’s shoulder and she fell into his embrace. “You’re alright, the both of you?” he asked.
He pointed his illuminated wand at the pair of them and grimaced at the blood and dirt that had almost become part of their appearance. “We’re alive,” Ron said.
“I think there’s someone above us, Draco,” Pansy said, pointing to the very faded rumbling sound.
“It’s Marcus,” he replied. “Don’t worry, this little room is basically sealed off from the rest of the dungeons. You can’t hear what’s going on in here from above, below or anywhere around.”
He helped Pansy over to the corner of the room and Ron hobbled over with the help of the wall. He put his hands on their shoulders. “We’ve got to hurry back.”
There was brief pause in which he cleared his mind and imagined the roof of the South Tower as the strong tug at his navel pulled them out of the dungeons and into the night air.
Hermione’s adrenaline rush was sustaining her quite well. She had read through the banshee article twice, jotted down a few relevant notes and then referred back to her vampire text. It was making sense now, just like a fog clearing up on a cold day. She enjoyed the work to the extent that it also prevented the horrifying thoughts she was having about what was happening in the dungeons with Draco. They could be anywhere.
She diverted her thoughts back to the books in front of her. She had to keep reading. She noted that she needed to do some more research on the “binding” of dark magic with creatures and how that affected the death. Matilda Frogwart’s mother was a vampire, and she was tortured with dark magic until she died. However, being a vampire, the dark magic ‘bound’ to her and created this ghastly creature. She displayed the classical symptoms of vampirism when she transformed. She closed her eyes and remembered a small passage from the diary:
During her attacks, she was often excited by the blood of her victims which only egged her on more – generally, she left no survivors.
She was a vampire and so blood excited her even further. Similarly, Adria was lying in the forest when a banshee must have discovered her, being drawn to death quite easily. But the effects of the dark magic still hadn’t worn off the human shell and so the banshee, after consuming the body, bound to the dark magic and turned into the creature that now resided within Malfoy Manor. And like Draco had said to her so many months ago, the screams are what excited her - because she was bound to a banshee.
That made sense.
Hermione shut the book loudly and threw it by her side. The whole experience had culminated with a very anticlimactic revelation that should probably have been noticed by them before. There still remained the matter of somehow saving Adria and putting her soul to rest but now that they had their information, it would only take a matter of days before they figured out how to stop her. So much had been lost, so much had been changed by this one missed fact and she thought about what life would be like if she had made the vampire/banshee connection long ago.
Was that what made it anticlimactic? She thought about every single thing in her life that had changed since moving to Malfoy Manor. Her friends, her relationships, her past, her future, her personality, her desires… nothing remained the same. The transformation within her life had been so powerful, so effectual that it was insurmountable to have been caused by one tiny overlooked fact.
Her hands began to run through the books and articles she had packed, anything to keep her busy. There were the genealogy maps that Cassius had sent her; she would look at those later. She scanned through the other titles she’d brought along but for the most part, she and Draco had already looked through them and taken out the important information. Restless and terrified of imagining all the things that could be going wrong right now, she pulled out every other secondary source of information she had brought along from her backpack. There had to be something she hadn’t read through.
That’s when she saw the little piece of paper wedged messily between two large volumes, crinkled and crushed at an awkward angle. Pulling it out, she didn’t recognize it until she pressed out the folds and saw the angry face of Rodolphus Lestrange staring up at her. It was the article she’d taken from the woman in the Three Broomsticks; she must have thrown it into the bag during her hurry to pack and she read it through again, thanking her stars that she had managed to find it. Without it, they might never have known about the fourth witness and Henry Skeid.
It was funny how things worked sometimes.
Making sure the article wasn’t damaged, given it’s age, Hermione unfolded the entire thing and caught a glimpse of the back of her Lestrange article. The word jumped out at her: ‘Malfoy’. She curiously flipped the page over and read the title. That was odd. There was a picture associated with the article and as Hermione’s eyes scanned the faded print, her heart began to feel heavier and heavier. And then she read it again. And then a third time. When she got to the fifth time, she had pretty much memorized the words.
Suddenly the foreboding sense she had been feeling became a lot more real. There was something she didn’t know. There was something she didn’t know and Draco had to have known it and he hadn’t told her. All this time together, all those moments spent alone and he was hiding something from her. This puzzle she was trying to put together was missing pieces, many pieces and something told her, very important pieces.
Her thoughts were broken by a large thud on the ground and she immediately knew who it was. Grabbing her cloak, she pushed the carriage door open and saw Ron and Pansy slumped on the floor, clutching their sides in pain. The apparation had been painful for them and Ron, who was nursing his leg, seemed to have taken it slightly better than Pansy, who was gasping for breath. Draco lifted her off the cold ground and carried her towards the carriage while Hermione put her arm around Ron’s and helped him off the floor.
Eli rushed into the back and laid them both down on the cushioned seats where Hermione began to take out her healer supplies. She looked up at Draco for a brief second where he smiled at her and she froze. He closed his eyes and disappeared into thin air.
There was no time to mull over her thoughts and so she began searching through her bag and produced a tall vile of dark blue liquid. She shook it a couple of times and when it lightened, she placed it beside’s Pansy’s lips and allowed a few drops to seep in.
“What is it?” Ron asked, he was still clutching his side but unlike Pansy, he still had the ability to talk.
“Sedative potion,” she said, looking over all the injuries. “I can’t imagine what you guys must have gone through down there.”
“I hope no one ever does,” Ron responded. Pansy’s eyes dawdled on the two of them for a few seconds before they began to close down on her dark pupils and she fell into a peaceful sleep.
Hermione turned back to Ron and held up the vile, to which he nodded very briefly. She pressed it against his cut upper lip and he winced as she turned it into his mouth and emptied it so his eyes began to feel heavy and he went into a dreamless sleep.
“Here is the plaster, Ms. Granger,” Eli said, passing her a white box through the window from outside. “Will that be all?”
“For now,” Hermione replied.
She pursed her lips as she used a shearing spell to cut through Ron’s shirt and revealed the minor cuts that surrounded his huge burn. After dosing him with a few drops of her Fiendfyre antidote, she began to clean up the infected flesh and stitch up the cuts. The little drips of potion and sound of her gauze at it swept against the rough skin kept her mind far away from thoughts of particular importance.
The bone healing potion she had was a little too cold to be administered right now so she put a warming spell on it and left the flask in the corner, turning to Pansy. Despite being a fully trained and advanced healer, she felt herself suppress a yelp when she saw the messily stitched up cut down her sides. Ron had probably done it, judging by the inexperienced handling of the spell but as Hermione began to undo them and see the full gravity of the wound, she realized that he had also probably saved Pansy’s life. The stitches came off relatively smoothly and Hermione used her wand to clear up the dried blood and infected regions. She pressed a cold pack against the red induration and within a few minutes, finished tending to that particular wound.
“Drop your wand, love.”
The voice registered only a few seconds after it reached Hermione’s ears. She felt a coarse hand grab her arm and pull her out of the carriage, during which she felt her wand slip through her fingers and roll under one of the seats. The faceless hand flipped her around and placed a sharp object to her lower back.
“Are you alone?” he hissed.
They hadn’t found Eli yet. Hermione breathed calmly and nodded, whispering a very inaudible assertion. She was a few inches away from the carriage and she realized that if she leaned a little forward, she could secure the door and close it.
The sharp object dug deeper into her skin and she figured it was a wand of some sort. The man pressed his hard fingers into her shoulder and spun her around violently, pointing the wand right into her chin. It was Marcus; though in the moonlight his eyes were much more vivid and sultry. His cold breath was on her neck, materialising as frost as he inhaled and exhaled loudly giving off an animalistic disposition.
“Hello, Lady Malfoy,” he said, his cut lip twisting into a perverse smile. “Or… is it Hermione Granger? I don’t know. Which one do you prefer?”
His tantalizing had minimal effect on her. Her interest was captivated by the small movement at the front of the carriage and she knew Eli was there. She eyed the door again and she figured that all she needed was a large force against it and it would secure.
“Is Malfoy here with you as well?” he asked, pushing the wand deeper into her chin.
“No,” she said, struggling in his grasp.
She wasn’t sure if he believed her or not but his eyes narrowed slightly and he pouted. “Well that’s a pity,” he said. “I would have wanted to show him what I really think of him.”
He leaned back and spat onto the floor and Hermione, taking advantage of this one moment of distraction, leaned forward and shot her knee up into his stomach. Her leg then straightened back and with a huge amount of force, came into contact with the carriage door that made a loud sound as it clicked shut.
Marcus got up and grabbed Hermione’s hair, pulling her to the floor. But as he looked up, he saw the carriage wheels turning fast and the thestrals take off the roof of Malfoy Manor and fly into the darkness.
Hermione breathed a sigh of temporary relief; at least Ron and Pansy were safe. But Marcus was not at all happy about that. He aimed his wand at her and grimaced, cursing. “I’m going to have fun with you, mudblood.”
“You spilled innocent blood,” she shot back. “And yours will spill too. I’ll make sure of it, you bastard.”
“I wouldn’t be so confident if I was you,” he said, placing his jagged fingers against her cold cheek. She shrugged it off violently and balled her fingers into a fist, hitting Marcus’ nose with full force. He stumbled back, screamed and spat blood. His body stiffened and he lurched at Hermione, throwing her to the floor.
“Bitch,” he growled.
She struggled but his entire body weight was now pressing down on her. She was on her stomach and her chin was pressed against the ground, with her hands under her. Marcus lowered his thick lips to Hermione’s ears. “I’ll have fun with you tonight.”
Hermione struggled further as he grabbed her hands from underneath her and locked them behind her back with his wrist. Her cheek was pressed against the cold concrete. Her upper body was locked but her legs still had a free range of motion. She flexed her leg and checked to see if her heel would be able to reach Marcus’ back. He was kneeling on the ground beside her, with his hands still firm on her back. “Killing is quite exciting,” he muttered, now more to himself. “I’ll take you down to the dungeons, yes and-”
Before he could gather another sentence, Hermione swung her knee back and felt her heel hit Marcus’ upper back. The force wasn’t enough to knock him back but he was taken by surprise and the lock around her arms loosened. Hermione pulled her right hand free and she swung it at his jaw, sweeping herself onto her back and then shooting her legs into his stomach. He fell back in pain, bit his lip to stifle the scream and got off the floor, with a murderous look in his eyes.
“You filthy little mudblood,” he muttered. He pointed his wand at Hermione as she scrambled to her feet. Grinding his teeth he muttered his spell. “Cru-”
Before the last of his words escaped his half opened mouth, a pale hand grabbed his collar from the back and jerked his body upwards and then thrust it back to the ground. Marcus struggled, kicking his legs aimlessly and to no avail, like a bug lying on its back. Hermione was on her knees, watching with a fazed consciousness as Draco jammed his knee against the death eater’s spine and the man collapsed to the floor.
A maniacal laugh escaped Marcus’ lips and he slammed his head against the ground, the chuckles becoming louder. Soon, his dense voice filled the air and Hermione realized, one second too late that his wand was right by his side. His hairy hands grabbed the little stick with one stroke. But his movement was slightly short in terms of fluidity as Draco swung his own wand, pointing it at the tip of Marcus’ nose. His knuckles were white with the pressure of his wrist as Draco’s wand whipped the cold night air and said those two fateful words.
The green light flooded her vision.
By the time the bright spots in her field of vision had dissolved, Draco had stepped over the lifeless body and was at Hermione’s side, helping her up.
“Skeid’s alive,” he said, in a low voice and he slipped his arm under her elbow and lifted her off with minimal effort. “Are you okay?”
She heard a moaning from behind and turned on her heel to see the slightly battered body of Henry Skeid lying against the entrance to the tower. The man looked significantly older, even without his square glasses. The pale spots on his skin had increased in number, contrasted only by the darkness of his eye bags which made him look almost like a Dalmatian.
“The other three are dead,” Draco said, lowering his gaze. “I saw their bodies in the western part of the dungeons. I guess they were saving Skeid for Lestrange. He’s badly beaten though, and I think his arm is broken.”
Hermione nodded feebly and knelt down beside the aged man. “Mr. Skeid,” she said, speaking close to his face. “Can you hear me?”
Draco had secured Marcus’ body against the railings and then turned back to Hermione with a concerned look on his face. “Are you okay?”
“Skeid will be fine,” Hermione muttered, pushing her hand against Skeid’s neck and checking his pulse. “How are we going to get out of here?”
“Well however we leave, we’ve got to take the body with us,” Draco said, ushering to the lump that was now lying against the ground, turning blue from the cold. “Once we get off the grounds, Harry can arrange for some aurors to take him to Azkaban. Can you do anything for Skeid right now?”
Hermione pursed her lips and pressed fingers against his arm. “I don’t know,” she murmured. “He’s probably been tortured a lot. Look at his arms, there are cuts everywhere. You should try and get one of your carriages. It should be safe now.”
Draco waved his wand gently, and within minutes the clank of wheels against the walls of the Manor filled the air. Hermione watched carefully as Skeid stirred just a little bit as a response to the external noise. The elegant Malfoy carriage placed itself on the roof with a magnificent grace and Draco put a spell on Marcus before levitating him and placing his body onto the floor, against the cushioned seats. Skeid was put on one side of the seats, lying down with is head against a soft red pillow and Draco and Hermione sat opposite him.
Leaning back, Hermione winced slightly as the bruise on her cheek began to throb. Draco noticed her reaction and turned to face her, placing his hand against her cheek with care. She closed her eyes as his cold fingers settled themselves onto the blackening skin and he pushed back some of the stray hairs in front of her face.
“You never answered my question,” he said, examining the bruise close up.
Though there were two bodies – one dead, one alive - with them, they felt as if they were totally alone. Hermione put her hand over the hand that Draco had on her face and she looked at his solemn grey eyes. There was more life in them, more than there had been before.
“We’re getting close to the end,” Hermione said. “We just need to know how to break the bind of dark magic and Adria will split from the banshee.”
Draco removed his hand and nodded. “I’m sorry if what I did to Marcus upset you.”
Hermione nodded in silence and turned to face the window to her left. The thestrals had taken off and were now swinging the carriage around the large stretch of trees. Between the large sledgehammer that was digging into her brain and the noisy sounds of day breaking onto the horizon, Hermione found solace in the emptiness of the forest below.
“You would never lie to me, would you?” she asked.
“Never,” he said and Hermione’s heart felt like someone was pushing a sharp object against it. Now that she knew she was missing something, his voice seemed to betray him. Every action that he made – the touching of his hair, the slow blinking of his eyes, the fidgeting of his fingers – seemed to scream at Hermione, ‘come to your senses, you fool. He’s lying to you right now.’
Chapter 29 - St. Mungo's
"We'll just have to tell Hermione," Pansy said, adamant now. "Everything."
a/n: I don't want to give anything away but BE EXCITED FOR THE NEXT CHAPTER!