Harry Potter glanced sideways at his wife, sleeping soundly in the bed of their house. His two-day-old son, Sirius, cooed softly as he slept in his baby crib next to his parents’ bed. Harry adored his son, absolutely adored this first addition to their family.
But little Sirius was not what Harry was thinking about at this moment. His best friend, Hermione Granger, had been reported as missing. A shaken Tonks had told him the news from her hospital bed in St. Mungo’s just the day before. Gary Saunders, their youngest Auror, was also missing.
Harry slowly shifted away from Ginny, trying to move as slowly and lightly as he could. If Ginny woke up, it would surely start a fight of epic proportions. His fiery redhead had flatly refused to allow him to leave the house when he learned of Hermione’s capture, as his son had just been born. Harry loved Ginny Potter with all of his heart, but she didn’t understand why it had to be Harry who needed to go after the people who had captured Hermione and Gary. She didn’t understand how every time he needed Hermione, she had always been there for him—they had defeated Lord Voldemort together. He loved her as a sister and would risk his life for her any day of the week.
With barely a sound, Harry slipped out of bed, carefully removing his wand from the nightstand. His Auror uniform was lying over a chair in the corner, ready and waiting for him. He dressed with the utmost care and caution, knowing that he would catch hell if Ginny were to wake up.
Hermione had gone through so much already—if he didn’t go after her, he would never be able to forgive himself. Harry tiptoed quietly down the stairs, making it to his front door without Ginny suspecting a thing. He opened the front door quickly—it always squeaked when opened slowly—just in time to run into a fist that was poised in the air, ready to knock on the door.
The man who had been about to knock leapt backwards in surprise, having not expected the door to open right in his face. Harry stifled his own surprised cry with his hand, closing the door softly behind him as he raised his wand defensively.
“Who’s there?” he hissed quietly into the darkness. All he could see of the person in front of him were black robes and a hooded face.
“She asked for you,” was the stated reply, stepping forward into the moonlight so that Harry could see there were two people in front of him. Hermione Granger, one of the people he cared about most in the world, was unmoving in the arms of the stranger.
Harry snapped into action, anger flooding through him. He didn’t know why Hermione had been brought back to him, nor how this man had found his house, but he didn’t care. The stranger holding Hermione had no way to defend himself with the way he was holding his prisoner. In two quick spells, Hermione was lying softly in the grass and the man was on his knees, disarmed, with his arms bound behind his back.
Harry walked forward, heart hammering. He ripped back the hood over the man’s face.
Draco Malfoy glared up at him, grey eyes reflecting back the moonlight shining down upon them.
“She was right about you,” Harry said, shock numbing him at the realization that Malfoy was one of the people behind kidnapping his Aurors and making horrendous curses. “She was wrong about the crime, but right that you are a criminal.” It was mostly anger at himself for not believing Hermione that led Harry to backhand Malfoy across the face.
Malfoy didn’t make a sound, though his head snapped to the side from the force of the blow. He slowly returned his gaze to Harry, his bottom lip bleeding. “I did not—”
“Silencio!” Harry said softly but furiously. He rushed over to Hermione, his heart hammering in his chest. Relief flooded through him as he felt her pulse and realized she was alive. He carefully turned her over, his hands immediately registering how hot her body was. “Oh, no,” he whispered, assuming that she had been affected by one of the curses that could not be healed. He reached into his pocket for one of the bottle caps that he always kept in there. Placing it in Hermione’s hands, he quickly spoke the word, “Salus.”
A soft whooshing sound swept through the night as Hermione was whisked away to St. Mungo’s Hospital. Harry flinched at the sound, looking upwards towards the window of his bedroom. No lights went on upstairs and he breathed a sigh of relief.
The relief was short-lived, however, as he turned his eyes back to Draco Malfoy, who was struggling against his bindings and the spell that kept him on his knees.
Harry strode over to Malfoy, scooping up the criminal’s dropped wand as he did so. A pair of magical handcuffs at the ready, he negated the spells on Malfoy. Before Malfoy could fight him off, Harry clapped the handcuffs around his wrists, saying grimly, “Draco Malfoy, you’re under arrest for kidnapping and assault.”
“Potter, you’re making a mistake,” spat Malfoy, just before Harry forced him into Side-Along Apparition.
“Hermione, open your eyes.”
“Hermione, it’s Harry. You need to wake up now.”
Harry’s familiar voice finally cut through the deep sleep that Hermione was in, leading her to open her eyes and blink heavily. The first thing she noticed was the smell of antiseptic and potions. She was in a hospital bed with her very best friend beside her holding her hand.
“Hermione,” Harry sighed with relief. “You’re awake.” He kissed her hand gently.
Hermione sat up slowly, marveling at the fact that she felt perfectly fine. The aches in her body from the torture and the fighting were completely gone, as was her fever. There was no one else in the small, private room but Harry. Harry looked worn, as if he hadn’t slept in awhile. “How long was I out?” she asked, yawning.
“Three days in St. Mungo’s,” Harry answered. “How do you feel?”
“I feel great,” replied Hermione, stretching her limbs experimentally. “How did I get here?” The last thing that she remembered was being at Malfoy’s mansion, fever raging.
“First of all, Hermione,” Harry said, looking extremely guilty for some reason, “I want to apologize to you for not believing you about Malfoy. I should have believed you when you told me that he was a criminal. I’m so sorry.”
“What do you mean?” Hermione asked, confused. What was Harry talking about? How had he found out that Malfoy was the leader of the Hunters?
“He won’t ever bother you again,” Harry said reassuringly. “He’ll be in Azkaban for a long time, if not for life. His questioning is actually going on right now.”
Hermione went pale. “What is he in Azkaban for?” she pressed.
“For kidnapping you, of course!” The confusion on Harry’s face mirrored that of Hermione’s. “Well,” he amended, “and for being part of the group that creates those curses. We’ll find out everything this evening when I get the results of his interrogation.”
“He didn’t kidnap me,” Hermione protested, throwing off the bedcovers. She sat up, her brown eyes blazing. “He’s not a part of the group we raided. He was the one who saved me.”
“Hermione, it’s okay,” Harry said, resting a comforting hand on her shoulder. “He can’t hurt you again.”
Hermione shrugged off his hand and stood up. “Where’s my wand?”
“We recovered it from Malfoy,” Harry said, holding it out to her. “I know this must be a shock to find out that you’re safe after being tortured, but trust me, Malfoy will never hurt you or anyone else again.”
Lying conveniently on a chair by the bed was a fresh Auror uniform, which Hermione quickly donned while Harry averted his eyes. “Who’s questioning him?” asked Hermione. She faced Harry, her jaw set with determination.
Harry shifted uneasily. “Magical Law Enforcement sent Bryce Goldberg over.” At Hermione’s horrified expression, he added hastily to justify himself, “Kingsley couldn’t get anything out of him!”
“You’re making a huge mistake,” Hermione said, storming out of the hospital room, her words an ominous echo of what Malfoy had said to him.
“Hermione, come back!” Harry called, striding after her. “You can’t just leave—you have to be cleared by a Healer!”
The woman he was pursuing didn’t even look back once as she headed for the fireplace at the end of the hall. Grabbing a handful of Floo powder, she snapped, “Ministry of Magic!” and disappeared with a burst of green flames.
“Damn it,” Harry snarled, running for the fireplace to follow her.
Hermione reappeared in the expansive atrium of the Ministry of Magic. The main level was busy and bustling with people, but Hermione barely noticed as she hurried for the elevators. “Auror business,” she called, pushing her way through the throng of people waiting in line. Holding her badge in front of her like a shield, she managed to get into an empty elevator, pushing the button for level ten. Before anyone else could get in, she closed the elevator doors quickly.
The elevator moved swiftly, the cool female voice listing the names of each floor as they passed it. Hermione shifted from either side anxiously, mentally willing the elevator to go faster. If an interrogator from the Magical Law Enforcement squad was involved, they would be on level ten, using one of the holding cells adjacent to a courtroom as their interrogation room. Level ten was far enough away from the other floors so that no one could hear anything going on in the room.
This sort of interrogation was reserved solely for Dark Wizards and any criminal believed to have knowledge of horrific crimes—such as the kidnapping of an Auror. Though Hermione was now safe, Gary was still missing. If the Aurors believed that Malfoy knew where Gary Saunders was, they would do everything in their power to get him back safely. Anything and everything.
Finally the elevator reached level ten and Hermione broke into a run she approached the last courtroom, the one farthest away from the elevators.
She reached the door to the holding cell and pulled on the handle. Locked tightly from the inside, it didn’t even budge. Before trying to get in, Hermione pressed her ear against the door, listening to see if she was even in the right place.
She heard only silence for a moment, and then: “The Dementors tell me that every time they approach you, they see terrible memories of water,” a silky smooth male voice whispered. “You fear water more than you fear anything else, don’t you, Draco?”
If Malfoy made a response, Hermione couldn’t hear it.
“Tell me where Gary Saunders is being held,” the man coaxed, his voice deadly. Moments later, the voice continued. “Then this shall continue until you speak.”
Hermione heard a strange sound, like someone being drowned—choking and gasping filled the air, along with a splashing, roaring sound. “Alohomora!” she cried. The door swung open forcefully and she rushed in. A shocking sight beheld her.
Draco Malfoy was sitting in a wooden chair that was bolted to the floor, his wrists handcuffed behind him. A swirling vortex of water enclosed his entire body, yet the floor was completely dry. It was as if Malfoy was trapped within a bubble of water. Draco thrashed in his chair, his eyes wide as he screamed soundlessly into the water.
“Stop it!” Hermione screamed over the sound of the rushing water.
The only other person in the room started in surprise, turning to face her. He was of average size, but completely bald. His shaven head was oiled and shone brightly in the light coming from the ceiling of the large holding cell. Black eyes narrowed in her direction as he glanced at her Auror badge. “I told them that I would summon them the moment I got any information out of him,” he said disapprovingly, waving his wand carelessly towards Malfoy.
The water vanished, leaving Malfoy soaking wet where it had been. Malfoy gasped as he breathed in air, choking out the water he had swallowed. His voice erupted from him in a terrified rasp. “I don’t know where he is!” Eyes wild with terror, hair and body soaked with water, he looked as if he had been through hell.
“He’s a tough one to crack,” Bryce Goldberg commented, turning back to Malfoy with a wry grin on his face. “If you want to watch, that’s fine with me, but don’t interfere.”
Bryce raised his wand again but Hermione leapt between him and Malfoy, who didn’t appear to have even seen her. His head hung over his chest, defeated.
“How do you know that he knows where Gary is?” Hermione asked, her voice high-pitched with anxiety. The interrogation currently going on was unjust, she knew this in her heart. Though perfectly legal through the post-Voldemort laws designed to bring down any future Dark wizards, this kind of questioning was little better than torture.
Displeased with the interruption, Bryce answered shortly, “He has the Veritaprotego tattoo on his shoulder.” Marching over to Malfoy, Bryce ripped his damp shirt from the neck, revealing the shoulder. A small tattoo of two interlocking V’s marked the skin of his left shoulder.
The Veritaprotego tattoo protected its bearer from the effects of the Veritaserum potion and all other truth-telling potions. It cost hundreds of thousands of Galleons, but Malfoy was filthy rich and could afford such things. The Veritaprotego tattoo could only be administered by one man, who had spent his entire life perfecting the technique. The inventor of the Veritaprotego tattoo was an extremely secretive man; when he died, the secret of the tattoo would die with him.
“We managed to get him to answer one question under Veritaserum before it kicked in,” Bryce explained. Except for an angry growl when his shirt was ripped, Malfoy remained silent and motionless. “When asked if he was a member of the group who had captured you and Gary, he answered ‘yes.’ If he’s a member of the group, then he has to know where they keep prisoners!”
Hermione bit her lip, considering. It was a shame that Malfoy had the Veritaprotego tattoo. Questioning him would have been a lot easier if he was susceptible to truth-telling potions. Then again, Malfoy probably had a lot of secrets that he wanted to keep hidden. Perhaps he would talk to her out of earshot of the interrogator.
“Give me a moment alone with him,” Hermione ordered, trying to sound authoritative and not as if she was frightened out of her mind for Malfoy if she was unable to reason her way out of this one.
Bryce’s scowl deepened. “I don’t take orders from any of you Aurors except for your department head. I don’t see Mr. Potter around here anywhere, do you?”
As if on cue, Harry pushed the door open, breathing hard. Seeing Hermione, he visibly sighed with relief.
“M-Mr. Potter!” Bryce exclaimed, his swarthy skin paling a bit at Harry’s eerily-perfect timing. “She wants to question him alone, but—”
“Hermione. Outside now,” Harry said authoritatively, beckoning her with his hand. Hermione glared at him but knew that she couldn’t disobey a direct order from her superior in front of someone else. She swept past him out of the room as Harry followed her.
“What are you doing?!” Harry hissed, closing the door behind him. “Are you insane?! Do you want to lose your job again, and permanently this time?” Concern mixed with anger on his face as his green eyes pierced through her.
A cry of pain from inside the room made both of them flinch. “This is wrong, Harry,” Hermione stated, resisting the urge to run back into the room. Though she didn’t always agree with Malfoy and the things he did, she knew that he was suffering in that room and like it or not, he was the closest thing she had to a partner. “Just let me talk to him alone—give me a chance to get him to talk. Harry, please,” she begged, grabbing his hands tightly when she suspected that he might refuse.
After warring with himself for long seconds, Harry finally nodded, though he didn’t look very pleased with either himself or Hermione. “Five minutes, and that’s it,” he acquiesced.
“Thank you,” Hermione said in relief, hastily walking back into the room. Water was swirling around Malfoy once more, surrounding and drowning him.
“Bryce!” snapped Harry, refusing to look at the scene before him. Though he had to uphold the laws, he didn’t have to watch the interrogation. If truth be told, he didn’t agree with their techniques any more than Hermione did. “Come outside for five minutes.”
Though Bryce clearly didn’t agree with Harry, he nodded and left the room with him, ending the curse on Malfoy as he did so.
The water disappeared, leaving Malfoy to cough and sputter as he tried to breathe through the water he’d inhaled. Hermione shut the door and locked it.
Malfoy didn’t even look at her when she rushed to his side. “You wonder why I’m a Hunter instead of following your lot’s methods of capturing criminals,” he spat, his voice weak and raw from screaming. Frantic breaths made his chest rise and fall quickly, water dripping from his clothes. His tangled, blonde hair fell into his eyes as he looked down to the floor. Dirt streaked the white shirt and ripped pants that he was wearing—tattered remnants of the immaculate suit he’d worn when coming to her rescue days ago.
Guilt flooded through the young woman but she pushed it aside, knowing that time was short. A quick spell unlocked his handcuffs and she gasped at the open sores on his wrists. Struggling against the handcuffs while being tortured had left him with bruises and gashes that were surely infected. Realizing that he was free, Malfoy slowly moved his hands from behind his back to his lap, a low groan of pain escaping him against his will. Shivering with cold from the water, he finally met her gaze with his. His grey eyes pierced her accusingly—it was all Hermione could do not to look away.
“I was in the hospital for three days,” she felt the need to say. “The second I heard what happened to you, I was on my way. Why won’t you tell them where Gary is?”
“I don’t know where he is,” he said desperately, his arrogance lost momentarily by the unjustness of the situation. “I don’t know where the hideout is—the only way I got there was by an unauthorized Portkey from August! It’s not like I can exactly tell the Aurors that I’m infiltrating Lorelei’s group in order to bring them down—as far as they are concerned, I’m a criminal who would say anything to be set free.”
It all became clear to Hermione now—Malfoy had no official status in her investigation. She couldn’t tell the Aurors that he was helping her penetrate Lorelei’s organization because it was illegal to use an ordinary citizen in an investigation.
Malfoy looked at her, knowing and understanding the position that she was in. “There’s nothing you can do,” he said finally. “Unless you want to break me out of here.” But there was little hope in his eyes.
“I can’t,” she whispered. She couldn’t betray Harry. “But I can try to help you. I’ll find Gary myself. It shouldn’t be that hard to find him, right? After all, I’m a member of the group, too—Brooke is, I mean.”
“This is a terrible idea,” Malfoy said haughtily, his normal tone returning to him. “Really, what makes you think you can do this by yourself?”
“I got along just fine before you, Malfoy, and I’ll get along just fine without you,” she retorted.
Malfoy rolled his eyes. “Take this,” he muttered, reaching slowly into his pocket. The fabric of his pants rubbed against the sores on his wrists, eliciting a pained moan as he finally reached what he was looking for. He handed over a silver key, wincing. Before he could tell her what it was for, the door swung open behind them. Hermione slid the key into her pocket surreptitiously.
“It’s been five minutes,” Harry said, entering before Bryce. His expression showed that he was not open for argument.
“Are you insane?!” yelped Bryce, quickly pushing Hermione aside to get to Malfoy. Wrenching the prisoner’s arms behind him, Bryce clamped the handcuffs back on Malfoy’s hands. “He’s a dangerous prisoner!”
The pain from this rough treatment must have been excruciating, but Malfoy refused to cry out. “Dangerous?” he spoke up for the first time. He appeared to have pulled himself together in the face of Harry Potter. “I could kill you six different ways with this chair, you filthy little man. Wand or not. You should be terrified.”
Hermione scowled at him, knowing that he wasn’t helping himself with his arrogant comments. Harry shook his head, knowing Malfoy’s character from school. Bryce, however, took this as the threat it sounded like—he reacted quickly, whipping out his wand and stunning Malfoy. The young man fell limp in his chair. “Mr. Potter, with all due respect, please allow me to do my job.”
Harry nodded. He didn’t agree with the torture that Malfoy was slated to undergo, but Gary was one of his people—a bright, energetic kid fresh out of training. Gary had a good heart, and Harry would do nearly anything to get Gary back—and there was something that Malfoy was hiding; he could tell. He wouldn’t have thought that Malfoy would hold out so long under the torture—he’s been such a baby in third year when the hippogriff had slashed his arm. People change, he figured.
Hermione was glaring at him—she was clearly angry that he was allowing this to go on. “Let’s go, Hermione,” Harry said firmly, hoping that she wouldn’t refuse in front of Bryce.
He was right. Head high and angry, Hermione left the room ahead of Harry, already plotting her next move.