Hermione felt a tickling on her nose and woke up, blinking slowly. The early-morning sun illuminated a large black spider hanging from a branch above her, inches away from her nose. Before the scream could erupt from the startled girl, a hand came from behind her and clamped over her mouth. Another hand flicked away the spider.
“Hush,” Malfoy hissed into her ear, releasing her mouth. He pointed downwards through the tree branches at the forest floor beneath them.
Two black-robed figures were walking under them, wands aloft. “Stay here.”
Hermione watched as Draco silently climbed down the tree, landing on the ground behind the two men. The two men whirled around, and several jets of light shot between them and Malfoy for several seconds before stopping.
They were too far away for Hermione to hear what they were saying, so she slowly descended from her branch, trying to be quiet.
Malfoy noticed her climbing, but said nothing as he continued to speak quickly. As Hermione’s feet touched the ground softly, she noticed that Malfoy had his wand held loosely at his side—he was relaxed and not on the defense.
“We need you back. Everyone else is too afraid of him to disobey his orders,” one of the men was saying. “We’re risking our lives by not bringing you to him.”
“I appreciate that, Daniel,” Malfoy said thoughtfully. “But, on second thought, I have an idea that will make sure you aren’t harmed.” He looked directly at Hermione now for the first time.
The men looked over too; one of them was the man who had rescued her from Fynn when he was hurting her on the stairs, and the other was someone that Hermione did not recognize. The unfamiliar man curled his lip in disgust.
“You’ve let him get too powerful, and it’s all this girl’s fault!” he growled, his blonde mustache twitching. “He used to be content with being your second in command, but now he thinks he can lead instead of—”
“Addison!” snapped Malfoy, cutting him off. “I will not allow Mark to run my Hunters. This has little to nothing to do with the girl.”
Hermione’s eyes flashed at how Malfoy had referred to her. Before she could say anything, however, Malfoy continued, “However, you’re right. Take her to Mark, and this will appease him for awhile. Say nothing of me. I will return to my Manor shortly.”
Addison needed no encouragement. He whipped out his wand and sent a disarming curse flying towards Hermione, who ducked and sent her own back towards him. Daniel began slowly circling Addison and Hermione, but Hermione knocked him to the ground with a perfectly-aimed Binding curse.
Addison took advantage of Hermione’s distraction to abandon magic—he slammed into her with a full-bodied tackle. Hermione landed hard on the ground, Addison on top of her. She kept her wits about her and twisted her wand awkwardly to aim, crying, “Repello!”
Addison was hurled away from her by the force of the curse. Hermione got to her feet and prepared for another curse.
She was grabbed roughly from behind, a hand pushing against the pressure point on the wrist of her wand hand. Hermione dropped her wand with a groan of pain.
Hermione collapsed as the paralyzing jinx hit her, causing every nerve in her body to go limp. It seemed that the only muscle she still had control over were her eyes. Malfoy caught her carefully, cradling her in his arms, not looking at the betrayal in her eyes.
As Addison approached them, Hermione felt Malfoy slip something into her pocket. “Here,” Malfoy said, passing Hermione off to Addison.
Addison slung Hermione roughly over his shoulder. “Thanks, Boss. When will we be seeing you back at the Manor?”
“Soon,” Malfoy replied. He released Daniel from Hermione’s binding curse.
“But how will you overthrow him if you can’t use magic against—”
“I’ll handle it.”
Daniel dusted off his pants and joined the two of them. “She’s quick,” he defended himself, vengefully jabbing Hermione in the side. “Bye, Boss.”
Hermione struggled against the jinx with all her mind, but her body remained still and unmoving save for the rise and fall of her chest as she breathed.
Malfoy looked at Hermione, his face an emotionless mask. “Take her now,” he ordered.
Addison turned on the spot and Hermione felt herself being pulled uncomfortably into apparition. During the squeezing and pulling of their travel, dread coursed through the young woman, but she resolved to keep her wits about her.
They appeared in the expensively-decorated office that Hermione had visited previously. Mark was sitting behind the desk, his dirty boots on the desk as he reclined lazily. His sloppy black robes and gray pants brought into sharp relief the fact that he was nowhere near as capable a leader as Malfoy was.
At the sight of Hermione and the two Hunters, he sat upright, a grin on his face. “Well, it looks as if you brutes have actually done your job!” he called insultingly.
Hermione was dropped to the ground as Addison scowled.
“Finite Incantatem,” Mark said, grinning. “You two—begone!”
Addison and Daniel gave each other identical scowls at the disrespect Mark showed them, but they left the room without another word. With the removal of the paralyzing jinx, Hermione was able to get to her feet.
“Nice shirt,” Mark sneered, eying her shirt, which was obviously Malfoy's. “Screwing all night, were you?”
Hermione flushed red. "Of course not," she growled.
“That was a nice bout of deception you had going on there,” Mark continued as if she hadn't said anything, advancing on her around the desk. He locked the door with a wave of his wand.
Hermione stood straight and tall, looking straight ahead and Mark prowled around her in an arrogant circle. Her heartbeat pounded deafeningly in her ears as she racked her brain for a way to get out of this.
“Did those idiots remember to take your wand from you?” Mark asked suspiciously, watching Hermione’s hands carefully.
“Yes,” Hermione spat.
“Forgive me if I don’t exactly trust you.” Mark smirked at Hermione as he began running his hands along her body.
Hermione seized her chance and slammed her heel down onto Mark’s foot. As he howled in pain, she whirled around and punched him in the face with all her strength. Mark clutched his face as blood began dripping from his nose.
“You bitch!” he cried.
Hermione went for his wand and the two grappled with it. They were both yelling curses, and since the wand was being held by both people, curses and spells burst forth confusedly from the wands, flying in all directions. A jet of orange light smashed a file cabinet and sent papers flying. Hermione fought tooth and nail against Mark, but he was equally determined.
“Crucio!” Mark kept yelling, struggling to point his wand at Hermione.
Suddenly, Hermione’s arm slipped and one of the Cruciatus curses struck her directly in the chest. Pain flared through her body and she cried out, falling to the ground.
Mark got to his feet laboriously, breathing hard. He glared down at Hermione, his face contorted with hate as he continued the curse. Hermione screamed as the pain sizzled throughout her body, seemingly endless.
“Stop!” she cried, trying not to throw up from the agony.
Mark finally let go of the curse and grinned at Hermione as she lay limp on the ground, panting heavily.
“Now, all that’s left is to kill you,” he said softly, wiping the blood off his chin. “Once you’re gone, my reign over the Hunters will be unchallenged! Any last words?”
Hermione struggled to her knees, ignoring the ache in her limbs. She had seen criminals like Mark before, and she hoped that if she could get him talking, it would give her more time to think of a plan to escape.
“One thing has been bugging me,” Hermione mused, trying to sound offhand. “Why doesn’t Malfoy’s magic work against you?”
Mark’s mouth widened in an elated smile. “An excellent question! It was one of my better ideas,” he began, relaxing his stance. “You see, I was bullied and tortured in school as a child at Durmstrang, and I soon realized that no matter how much you think you can trust someone, you really cannot. No one can be trusted. When I learned that my childhood friend, Draco, was looking for a resident Healer for his band of Hunters, I immediately saw my opportunity to be able to use my considerable healing talents without all the fuss of working at St. Mungo’s.”
As he embellished his story with more and more details, Hermione was only half-listening as she desperately thought of a way out of this. She had no wand! And what had Malfoy slipped into her pocket after he betrayed her? She slowly let her hand drift to her pocket, where she closed her fingers around the small object. It was a packet of what felt like powder.
“When I began working for Draco, it was with the stipulation that he and his men made a certain promise to me,” Mark explained further, now oblivious to Hermione as he gloated. “Even though Draco and I grew up together, I did not trust him; I had learned my lesson early in life. So Draco and all of the other Hunters made the Unbreakable vow that they would never use their wands against me. If they use magic against me, they die.”
Hermione’s eyes widened in realization. “That’s a good idea,” she said, trying to flatter him. She had finally realized what the small packet of powder was—at least, she hoped that she figured it out. Her nails worked frantically to tear a tiny hole in the plastic wrapper while trying not to let him see that her hand was doing something in her pocket. “He was more loyal to you than me, though,” she added, stalling for time.
Mark cocked his head, clearly interested.
“He betrayed me,” she continued, allowing the anger that she truly felt to slip into her voice. “I took Addison and Daniel easily; the only reason that they kidnapped me was because Malfoy betrayed me and jinxed me.”
“Is that so?” Mark exclaimed. “I always knew that he was a good boy, if rash at times. Perhaps—”
Hermione had finally managed to puncture a hole in the plastic wrapper. In a swift movement, she pulled it out of her pocket and shook it forcefully around, sending granules of Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder flying into the air. The room suddenly went dark as the powder took effect, and Hermione launched herself up at where Mark had been standing. She wrenched his wand out of his hand and leapt over the desk, tucking herself into a corner.
“Damn it!” screamed Mark, running into chairs and walls as he searched for her in the blackness.
Hermione tried to keep her breathing as quiet as possible, waiting patiently for the powder to fade away. Mark was in a rage, throwing things and kicking things, but while he stormed around the room, Hermione stayed utterly still, wand at the ready. She didn’t dare try a spell while it was so dark, since if she missed—which was likely in this blackness—he would then know where she was.
“Okay,” said Mark, breathing hard. “Listen, if you tell me where you are right now, I won’t kill you when I—”
The powder suddenly faded, and Hermione sprung into action. Mark wasn’t facing her, but he immediately turned around, just in time for Hermione’s well-aimed stunner to hit him in the chest. He slumped to the ground.
“Yes,” Hermione hissed in triumph, scrabbling to her feet. She quickly bound Mark with a Binding curse. “I love rich people,” she muttered as she saw the fireplace in the corner of the office.
Taking a hearty scoop of the Floo powder on the mantle, she tossed it in the fire and said firmly, “Ministry of Magic, Office of Harry Potter. Password: Sphinx867.” The fire glowed green and then blue, accepting her password. Hermione grabbed Mark firmly and climbed into the fireplace, where they spun away into the grates.
My writer's block seems to have finally left me! Thanks for anyone who's read this, and if you have time, please leave me a review =]