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The Courage to Change by fictionletsyoufly
Chapter 11 : Heroes
 
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DISCLAIMER: I do not own Harry Potter. All characters, places, and things mentioned in this story are the property of J.K. Rowling.

OTHER INFO: Okay this is my first fanfiction :) Please read and review. Thank you :)

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Chapter Eleven
Heroes

Minerva McGonagall didn't have much of a choice. Although the incident had occured only last night, time was running short and nobody seemed eager enough to take responsibility. If anything, the fact that Draco Malfoy had

unexpectedly burst into her office demanding permission to begin a search for Hermione should have been a blessing to MInerva. But sadly blessings were difficult to recognize under such distressing circumstances.

"I can't have you endangering your life and the lives of others," MInerva protested. She didn't know why she disliked the idea; Malfoy didn't act as if he had anything to lose. Doubtfully she added, "Someone will be able to

help..."

Her disapproval seemed to be causing Draco much frustration, "You don't understand, Professor. It's very urgent that I find her!"

Oh dear, were those tears in his eyes?

"Now, now, Mister Malfoy, I am just as aware of the urgency of the situation as you are." She took a steadying breath, "However, I must ask that you think rationally about the dangers that your request entails."

"I don't care about the dangers, Professor!" Draco snapped. "Hermione is missing and it's my duty to find her!"

Minerva allowed his words to linger for a moment, "There will be many perils..."

"So there will..." Draco nodded.

"There is a favorable chance that you may be killed..."

"So there is..."

"There is a chance that Granger may be killed..."

"And if you don't allow me to go after her, that chance will remain."

Minerva studied the boy before her with a serious eye. It was plain that he meant exactly what he said, but allowing him to do what he was asking was hard for McGongall to condone. If any more students were killed or went

missing, it was unlikely that the Ministry would permit her to hold her current position as headmistress. And not only that, but she wasn't sure she could handle any more personal grief.

"I have to do this, Professor," Malfoy was urging. "I don't have a choice. I was asking permission to be polite. I'm taking the risk whether you consent or not."

McGonagall almost smiled at his dogged determination, "I figured as much, Malfoy." She paused, "If I allow you to do this, I have one condition..."

Without hesitation, Draco said, "What is it?"

"Recently Harry Potter was captured by Snatchers in the Forest of Dean," McGonagall informed him. "Should he be with Hermione, you are expected to return with him as well."

Minerva saw reluctance fill Malfoy's silver eyes, which did not surprise her. Even if Malfoy's intentions had changed, she assumed it would still be difficult for him to accept Potter as an ally just as it was challenging for him to get along with Weasley. But Minerva knew that as long as Malfoy came out with Granger in the end, he would do nearly anything.

"B-but, Professor, I hardly think - "

"Mister Malfoy, I suspect you are treading very thin ice with very many people right now. But what better way to secure their trust than to rescue the Boy Who Lived from You-Know-Who himself?"

"Well I-I suppose, yes b-"

"Very well then, Mister Malfoy," MInerva confirmed, opening the book she had been reading before he had interrupted her. "You may leave whenever you like, and you might like to have a word or two with your father on the way."

Without another word, Minerva lowered her glasses to read as Draco Malfoy gave her an inquisitive look and then walked briskly out the door.

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Hermione knew it was unlikely that anyone would be coming for her. She knew her roommates were ead and that Draco and Ron would be frantic when they discovered she was missing. She was aware that, although she

knew Bellatrix Lestrange was her captor, there was little chance that anyone would know who the kidnapper had been. Also, she had not discounted the fact that Bellatrix was unquestionably trying to use her as bait for Draco.

What she was absolutely unsure of was her location and exactly how much danger she was in. Her location was most likely incomprehensible in the darkness that pressed around her, but she could sense the danger. Up above her she could hear voices talking seriously about something, and occasionally someone would open the door to the room she was in to maske sure she was still there. It was extraordinarily difficult for her to know she could easily escape this dungeon if only she had the use of magic. She felt unexplainably vulnerable, especially without her wand, which Bellatrix had confiscated what seemed like ages ago.

The only thing that had kept her going these dreadful hours in this jail was the cheerful fact that she had found Harry. He was slumped over besider her, weak but still able to relay the tale of his journey. He had been extremely elated to see her, and she could barely contain her gladness at the sight of him. But they were not joined under the most glorious of circumstances, and it put a slight damper on the reunion.

In the joyfullness of the moment, Hermione had not mentioned Draco to Harry, and she thought that it was probably better if she waiting until they had evaded this place. At least then she could run if he became overly upset about it as ron had done. She didn't think Harry would be jealous at all but angry for other obvious reasons, and she didn't want to ruin there time together here by bringing it up.

"So explain to me what happened to you again?" she asked Harry before he could ask her the same question.

"I said You-Know-Who's name in the Forest of Dean, and they caught me," he told her again. "Apparently this is what happens to you. I think they've been debating on what to do with me. If I were anyone else, they might have already killed me."

"Well then," Hermione smiled even though her head was sore and bruised, "it's a very good thing that you are you."

"No kidding," Harry chuckled. "Why are you down here, Hermione?"

Hermione hesitated, "Erm... I'm not sure I should say."

It was quiet for a moment as Harry imagined what could be so bad that Hermione wouldn't want to tell him. Then he said, "Why not?"

"I just... I don't want you to be upset," she admitted.

Harry smiled, "I won't be upset, Hermione..."

"that's what you say now," Hermione threw up her hands. "But that's exactly what Ron said and he was so incredibly hurt and angry."

Harry creased his brows, "You're fighting again?"

Hermione nodded, "Since October... We went for months without speaking, Harry. Even now, we aren't the same way we were before. And really I've done all I can to fix it without... well... I've just tried so hard, and Ron doesn't respect my feelings at all. It's almost liked he doesn't want to get back on good terms with me."

"He must have a good reason for being mad at you though," Harry prompted. "I mean ron's hot-headed sometimes, but he usually has a motive..."

"That's just it, Harry!" Hermione said, gesturing with her hands. "He had anexcellent motive, but then... well it's extremely complicated... but things changed I guess you could say, and he no longer had a clear reason for continuing to provoke the issue."

Harry was becomging annoying t Hermione dodging the topic, "If you would tell me what that issue is Hermione I might be able to provide some perspective..."

"Not a chance, Harrry," Hermione crossed her arms. "I;m not getting into an arguement with you, too. You're going to find out eventually so you might as well wait..."

Harry grinned feebly, "Well in that case, waiting is something I have become quite good at..."

It hadn't been a second after Harry finished speaking that the door to their prison burst open, a blinding light flashing in the unsuspecting eyes. When her eyes had become had become adjusted to the brightness, she dared to look at the person that could have been her savior just as equally as it could have been her executioner. But instantly she knew that tonight was not the night that she would be rescued; she knew when she saw the wild black hair and the huge black eyes that this intruder was anything but merciful. She was Hermione's capturer, Bellatrix Lestrange.

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Ron was pacing rather furiously about the common room. Ginny was watching in pull at the back of his hair as he passed the fireplace for the hundredth time that afternoon. She wasn't exactly sure what he was angry at, and frankly, she wasn't sure he knew either. If Ginny expeced him to be angry at anyone, she figured it would be Malfoy, but then, given that Ginny believed Malfoy had been genuine in all he had said that morning, she doubted he would have been behind that attack. Ron, on the other hand, would be very comfortable accusing Malfoy of just about anything that involved Hermione. And Ginny considered that Ron could have been internally angry with himself, though she was positive he would never let her see it.

"Why don't you sit down, Ron?" she asked him, attempting to avert the eyes of the other Gryffindor students who seemed to be alternating between staring staring at Hermione's dormitory door.

Ron stopped pacing but did not take a seat. His blue eyes lingered on the fire under the mantle, studying its flames with a mix of sorrow and desperation. His face was yellow in the shifting, his hair a deeper orange, and Ginny had never seen him so forlorn. Not even when he had found out about Draco.

"How can I sit, Ginny?" he said, surprisingly in a normal voice. He probably didn't have the energy for anything more. "My best friends are out there somewhere in danger, and I am completely useless to help them. If I know him, Malfoy'll be up there to save the day yet again. Bloody git."

Ginny wavered, "R-Ron..."

"What, Ginny?" he barked, still using his unusual inside voice.

"I-I don't think that..." Ginny flatered again. She didn't want to upset him further. But he was being ridiculous, seeing things the way he wished to see them, and Ginny couldn't take anymore of it. "I don't think that you're

being... very... erm... fair."

Ron was quiet for a few seconds, the most baffled expression plastered on his face, "Fair? Fair about what, exactly?"

Ginny shrugged, "About anything, really. Don't be angry, Ron, but I think that Draco is innocent this time..."

"Innocent?!" He was definitely losing his grip on the inside voice. People in the room began to ogle again. "SInce when do people use 'Malfoy' and 'innocent' in the same sentence like that? Since when do you believe

everything that foul git says, Ginny?"

"Since I opened my eyes, Ron!" Ginny defended herself. "D'you know what, Ron? I don't think Malfoy was too far off this morning. You have been so consumed with everything surrounding your relationship with Hermione,

rather than you friendship that you haven't been seeing things for what they truly are! It has nothing to do with you, Ron! It's simply one of those things that is completely beyond our control. Understand me now. It isn't a war. It isn't a competition. It's merely what Hermione wants, and that is far beyond you grasp."

Ron shook his head defiantly, "No, Ginny, I'm giving up. I won't lose her."

"You won't lose her, Ron," Ginny laughed slightly at his needless worry. "She's your best friend."

"Exactly..." ron said meldramatically.

Ginny stood up to leave, "Well, be happy you can at least still call her that much." She gather her things as ron stared at her with injured eyes. Ginny didn't look at him as she ascended the staircase to her dormitory. She paused at the landing, looking down on her brother from the balcony, "You sure didn't make it easy."

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Draco didn't waste time with his mission, but he didn't want to leave the castle until he had some sort of idea where he was going. He though perhaps the Gryffindor Common Room might have a clue. He had been standing outside the Fat Lady's door, asking the various students that came in and out if Weasley was inside. Most of them ignored of gave him nasty looks, which he supposed was to be expected what with their suspicions of him, but his inestigation was becoming increasingly frustrating with every Gryfinndor that turned up their nose to him.

It was probably only sheer luck that after what seemed like the thousandth attempt Ginny Weasley exited the porthole, in the absence nonetheless of her older brother. The only question was would she want to help the boy whom her brother - and apparently entire house - thought had planned the kidnapped of Hermione Granger?

"Ginny," Draco reached out to grab her arm. She turned around to see who had called, and she looked very confused. Draco explained himself, "Look, I've been standing outside this door for nearly two hours. I could really, really use your help."

Her tone was not harsh or sarcastic, "With what?"

Draco smirked, "You're honestly going to do me a favor? After everything your brother had told you about me?"

"Frankly I don't believe much of what Ron says about you anymore. he's deeply lovesick and therefore a bit mixed up about things. And as for the favor... depends on what it is, Malfoy," she said with a serious face.

"I need you to go in Hermione's dormitory and look closely for anything that might point in me in the right direction," Draco instructed quietly.

Ginny blinked once, "You're actually going to look for her..."

Draco looked at his feet and nodded. Then he added, "And if it makes Weasley feel any better, I'm keeping an eye out for Potter, too."

Ginny's eyes lit up, "Harry? Honestly, Malfoy? You're going to find him?"

Draco had never seen the Weasley girl so... eager, and her wondered why anyone could be excited about Potter. Then something else occured to him...

"You have a thing for Potter."

"I thought everyone knew that. Where have you been?"

"Well, I don't particularly keep tabs on Potter, despite what you've heard," Draco drawled. "Surprisingly enough I've actually been minding my own business."

"Right, right," Ginny smiled. "Okay, Malfoy. You've persuaded me, but if I do this for you, you must promise you'll find Harry and bring him back for me."

She gazed at him until he responded, "I promise, Weasley."

Giny smiled widely and then scampered back through the porthole, leaving Draco to think about the task that lay before him, the task that he had laid before himself. McGonagall, of course was correct - it would not be easy. In fact, it might be one of the hardest things he had ever done, but inevitably it was worth it if he could touch Hermione again, if he could feel her warm breath on his face, her lips on his own. He might even be content if he did happen to run across Potter and prove to his challengers that he was indeed changed. He might even be content then.

He wondered why McGonagall had trusted him with such a heavy burden. When he had entered her office, he had been almost certain that she was going to turn him down, not that it would have stopped him. And although she had been rather reluctant, she had not only granted his request but assigned him another - and in her eyes probably more important - task. If no one else in the school trusted Malfoy, why did McGonagall? And something else was gnawing at him... the thing McGonagall had said had about Draco paying a visit to his father... Did she suspect he was involved in some way? Or perhaps she thought he knew something? Or maybe she somehow knew how much Lucius had been on Draco's mind recently...

He didn't have to time to decide which option was most likely as Ginny appeared from the Common room yet again. In her hadn she held a bloody quill pinned through a scrap of black fabric, something Draco immediately knew wouldn't have the slightest chance of being recognized.

"This is all I could find," Ginny smirked apologetically. "Not very good, I know, but it was all there was."

Malfoy took the quill and looked at it for a moment, trying to find something useful, but there was nothing there, "This is Hermione's, but as for the fabric, it's anyone's guess."

"Sorry, Malfoy," Ginny apologized again.

He sighed, "Thanks for trying anyway..."

She smiled weakly and then looked up at him, "Thanks for doing this, Draco. You have good intention, even if no one else agrees."

Draco was taken aback for a moment but then nodded in reply and turned down the hallway. He went to his bedroom and picked up his wand, and then, quill in hand, he took a deep breath and disappeared.



He reappeared on the front steps of his house, staring blankly into the distorted glass of the front door. Part of him had been dying to see his father while the other part wanted to keep the promise of never returning home. It seemed that personal vow would have to be broken. Worried about what might lie on the other side, Draco opened the front door slowly, not bothering to knock, and stepped inside to the foyer. It was dark despite the afternoon sun outside. The curtain had been drawn and the hung, dead and heavy, over the windows. The floor had a thin layer of dust accumulating and the staircase wasn't any cleaner, and Draco was not surprised. Lucius had probably never cleaned a day in his life.

A faucet was running in the kitchen to Draco's left, and he followed the sound to investigate. Something was cold about the house - cold and empty - as if the sun had never seen the grey walls and colorless floors. The manor had never been this empty even when there was no one home. Never had Draco seen it this downcast, and as he rounded the corner to the kitchen, he became aware that the house wasn't the only thing that was miserable.

His father was standing at the sink, hands on either side of the basin, gazing out the window ahead of him. His grey eyes were soft but void, and the pale light on his face illuminated the tiredness of his features. The water was running over a pile of dishes in the sink and filling the basin with soap suds. Lucius did not hear him come in. Or maybe he did, but he didn't want to.

"Father?" Draco said, his voice almost seeming out of place in the silece of the house.

Draco's voice snapped Lucius out of his reverie, and he tore his eyes from the window. As soon as he saw Draco he looked relieved and rushed towards him, arm extended. Draco's hand was stroking his wand distrustfully, but to his surprise, Lucius embraced him. Had Lucius ever... hugged him before? He didn't think so. Her was sure he would have remembered. Uncertainly, Draco returned the gesture, wrapping his arms across his father's back awkwardly.

"Thank Merlin you're still alive!" Lucius whispered into his ear.

"Why wouldn't I be?" Draco replied, confused.

Lucius pulled back from his son, "Bellatrix... she came by and warned me. I sent you a letter, and I though it was too late... But obviously she hasn't acted yet."

Draco felt the pieces click into place then, almost like someone had connected the dots in this mind. Bellatrix had threatened Draco, but it had not been Draco that she was after. It was Hermione.

"I think she has..." Draco said with a concerned expression.

"What?"

"Hermione... she was kidnapped last night. That's really why I'm here. I thought you might... know something."

Lucius shook his head, "I assure you that I am not behind it, Draco. But Bellatrix was trying to hurt you. She could be using the Granger girl as bait."

Draco was puzzled. Was Lucius attempting to assist him in finding Hermione? After everything that had transpired between them before, Draco highly doubted it. In fact, he was willing to bet that Gragner was right below his feet, in the darkness of the Malfoy's basement, and Lucius was only trying to protect his hostage. Then again, if it was Draco that Bellatrix wanted, why didn't she simply get Lucius to admit Hermione was here and lure Draco to the cellar? It didn't make any sense either way Draco looked at it.

Taking an uneasy look at his father, Draco turned back into the foyer and entered the trapdoor that descended into the basement. He lowered himself into the hole, and immediately felt the dampness in the air. It was pitch black and unbearably silent, and in spite of his thumping heart, Draco unsheathed his wand and whispered, "Lumos."

A tiny orb of light appeared on the tip of his wans and lit the space slightly. Lucius had followed and was standing over the trapdoor, watching as empty. Stunned, Draco spun to look up at his father, having a strong wave of deja vu. Unbelievable...

"You were... teeling the truth..." Draco said in disbelief. "There's no one here."

"You're not going to try and rescue her," Lucius said. It was not a question.

Draco pulled himself back up into the entryway as he replied, "I must. It's the least I can do after all that I have put her though."

"It's what Bellatrix wants..." Lucius argued.

"Good," Draco retorted. "Maybe she will put up an entertaining fight then... I'm rather looking forward to it."

Lucius stepped closer to his son, "Draco, I beg you. What you are doing is suicidal... and all for a mudblood."

Draco did not waver as he spoke, "I would gladly risk my life for Hermione. I would give anything, regardless of the blood that runs in her veins."

"I will not let you kill yourself over this blasted girl!" Lucius bellowed.

"You would have died for mum..." Draco knew he shouldn't have said it, especially when Narcissa had been buried so recently, but it was out of his mouth before he could stop it.

Lucius was quiet, and Draco couldn't tell if he was fuming or considering what Draco was saying. Just in case, Draco was prepared to reach for his wand, fingers twitching in the direction of its gnarled handle. Despite the fact that Lucius was curiously helping, Draco doubted that he would appreciate Draco reminding him of Narcissa.

"Don't you dare bring your mother into this Draco," Lucius whispered fiercely.

"But you would have, wouldn't you?" Draco pressed him. "Died for her if you could."

It was obvious that his father didn't want to answer, and Draco knew it was because if he said what he wanted to, he would no longer have a valid arguement. he knew he would have, at one time or another, given his life for Narcissa. the truth crawled beneath Lucius's lips, intched to escape, but by allowing them to, Lucius knew he would be indirectly accpeting Draco's reckless actions.

Instead he muttered, "This isn't the same, Draco.. Your mother and that filthy mudblood are not the same. I may have given up on Voldemort, but you cannot convince me that such dirty blood should be permitted in our society."

Draco felt that the situation was becoming desperate now and he protested, "I'm not trying to dissuade you from you beliefs! I'm simply trying to make you comprehend that this isn't just a phase, father, not one of those false blinded loves. I love her, and... and I think, if I could I'd like to spend the rest of my life with her."

"Ornery," Lucius mumbled, as he smirked. "Like an ox. Your mother was exactly the same, and I could never make her change her mind. I have an inkling that it will be the same dilemma with you." Lucius luaghed weakly,

"No matter what I say, Draco, you will do what you will."

There were a few seconds of dead silence as Lucius scutinized his son, begging him to assist in the rescue of a mudblood girl whom he claimed he loved. It was baffling to imagine themselves in this situation months before when neither one of them desired anything to do with muggles and muggle-borns. But things had changed, and people had changed with them in ways that were unimaginable. In Lucius's experience, it was the omen of war, a sign that a struggle was soon to come. It was always so tense and confusing in the months before war erupted, before everything they knew crumbled, and this was only the beginning. When the time came, no one would be prepared for the weight that it would carry in the coming years. No one.

"You know me better than I thought," Draco smiled, surprised to be doing so in such company.

Lucius did not make eye contact as he replied, "And in that case, I might as well offer my thoughts on the matter so at least you don't wind up dead..." Draco looked at him in shock. "Now, the only place other than here that anyone has the guts to hide anybody is Ollivander's, seeing as it was abandoned when...well... you know."

"Yes, I know. So the wand shop, then."

Draco pulled out his wand to to Apparate, but Lucius grabbed his hand quickly, "No, no, no! You can't simply wander into that maze of a shop and expect to remain alive long enough to make a heroic rescue. Do you know how easy it is to plan an ambush in Ollivander's? there are so many nooks and crannies that you could fit all of Hogsmeade inside! Listen closely; Bellatrix will be waiting in the main room among the labyrinth of shelving, and she will not dare go alone, particularly if she guessed you would stop here first."

"Why is that?" Draco asked.

Lucius shook his head, "Bellatrix and I do not agree on a great number of things, revolving specifically around you mother's death."

the comment ook Draco by surprise, "She believes that it's my fault."

"Yes, yes," Lucius waved his hand dismissively. "But that is beside the point... You will not go to Ollivander's alone. Only a fool would do such a thing, and luckily, Bellatrix takes you as a fool. She won't be expecting more than one opponent."

Draco was unsure about his father's offer. He did not dispute the fact that it would give him a much higher chance of surviving if he brought his father along, but he honestly didn't know how devoted his father would be to the cause. Ultimately, he was only there for protection, and that is all he would be good for, though protection was essential for survival and therefore required in order for Draco to accomplish his goal.

"We should go immediately..." Draco nodded, then more somberly, "Before it's too late."



Darkness had not yet fallen over Hogsmeade when they Apparated into an alleyway, but the urgency of the situation was more important than the cover the night provided them. Besides, this way, the element of surprise would be on their side; Bellatrix would never expect them to arrive in broad daylight. the streets were bustling, and as long as they stayed in the crowd, they could not be seen from the dusty, boarded windows of Ollivander's. His father turned to him now, standing in between Draco and the lane, holding his shoulder with an unfamiliar somewhat fatherly grip.

"I'm going to go inside first," Lucius instructed him. "She won't be sure what I'm there for and won't identify me as a threat immediately. When she's not anticipating it, I'll pull my wand on her, and then you can come in behind me. Whatever you do, make it quick, and be ready for anything."Draco nodded when Lucius finished, "When I find Hermione, I am Apparating."

Lucius stared for a moment with hurt eyes, as if by ttaking Hermione to saftey Draco was abandoning his father forever, but then Lucius nodded in affirmation. He spun from Draco into the street, blending with the people of Hogsmeade, but Draco watched the back of his blonde hair as it bobbed among the commoners'. He watched until Lucius disappeared into the abandoned shop, and then he followed, walking at a leisurely pace so as not to arouse suspicion. He leanded against the adjacent building, hooded in black, silver eyes flickering restlessly between the calm faces of the people on the street and the scene that was sure to develop between the slats on the boarded windows.

Lucius was talking to Bellatrix serenely, probably engaging in tactful smalltalk. His father's hand did not betray his violent intentions until it twitched toward his hip in rediness for the moment when he would attack. As Draco watched, he glimpsed Bellatrix's ebony pupils note the edginess in Lucius's fingertips. In less than two seconds, Bellatrix drew her wand and Lucius had his pointed towards her throat. He snarled something, but before Draco could see Bellatrix's reaction, he was darting inside the shop, ready to face whatever he must in order to save Hermione.

The first spell was fired by Lucius, but it was inaccurate, tossing several wand cases off the shelves behind Bellatrix. Bellatrix dashed into an aisle of boxes and Draco took the opportunity to follow, shoes clacking and giving away his position. The shelves surrounded him on all sides, towering endlessly above him like giants and blocking any hope he had for a simple escape. Bellatrix's raspy voice was laughing and echoing eerily through the shop, taunting Draco. He skidded to a halt in the center of a long row of shelves, searching for the twisted lips that were allowing the manic noise, but it was everywhere. Unsteadily, Draco raised his wand and spun in a different direction with each mad giggle. Then as quick as a shadow, she flew past the end of the aisle, untamed black ringlets trailing behind her. Draco instantly went into pursuit, and as he slid out of the aisle, he flung a spell at her as she disappeared into another corridor. He could not curb his momentum before he lost his footing and fell into a shelf cluttered with wand boxes. The boxes dropped and crashed around him, but he ignored them pounding on his shoulders as he scrambled to his feet and continued to race after Bellatrix.

When he entered the aisle Bellatrix had, it was not she that he found but his father. Draco caught his eye, and Lucius mechanically thrust his wand in Draco's direction, only to lower it when he realized who it was.

"She's just there..." Lucius said soudlessly, pointing to the other side of the shelf before them.

Draco was just registering this information when one of the wand boxes began to rattle on the shelf in front of him. He raised his wand with more confidence this time, certain that it was Bellatrix on the opposite side. The box shook until it slipped off the shelf and hit the floor with a thunk. Draco looked up at the hole the box left behind, and he gasped as he saw Bellatrix's big, black eye staring at him. she cackled as a wand rose from it's box and shot towards Draco's chest, but he avoided the pointed tip and took off down the aisle at full speed. More wands followed the first, cutting air behind him like elongated bullets, but they whizzed past him, sinking into the wall ahead of them.

He looked to his left, spotted one of Bellatrix's companions who had heard the racket, and easily stupified him. His thick body flopped heavily on the dusty ground, as Draco kept running, turning quickly to see if the danger behind him had passed. He saw Bellatrix marching towards him, a sick grin flashing on her face, with her wand raised threateningly over her head. Lucius was behind her, emerging from an aisle farther along the hall and sprinting to catch up. Bellatrix must have expect Lucius, as he had not been quiet about his approach, but she didn't acknowledge it when Lucius's arms wrapped around her neck like snakes. He pulled at her neck and tried to drag her backwards, but something else had taken her over, like an animal. She was growling and seething at Draco, and it was in those few seconds that Draco truly came to terms with the fact that Bellatrix would try to kill him no matter what she had to do. Before it had been surreal like all of the events in the past few months, but now it was hard to dismiss while she was baring her teeth at him, barely restrained by his father. This obvious truth was only reassured when another flock of wands swept out of their boxes and soared towards Draco, who stood in shock, taking the entire situation in.

"Draco! Go!" Lucius screamed through the effort he was exerting by strangling Bellatrix.

Snapped from his trance, Draco's eyes widened, and he felt the wind from the wands just before he dove to the floor. He slithered for a few feet and came to an abrupt halt when his head rammed against something hard. Cursing, he opened eyes to see the wands zoom zbove him and crash into the shelf behind him. Things clattered to the ground as he looked to see what he had smacked his head on. It was a handle attached to the floor, which he thought odd until he examined the area around it. There was a trap door neneath him that, according to the lack of dust, had been lifted recently. Glancing up at his father, who was slowly losing his grip on Bellatrix,

Draco hesitated. He remembered that he had told Lucius he would abandon him if he found Hermione, but if Bellatrix was coming for anyone, it was solely Draco. If Draco went into the basement, Bellatrix would follow.

"Yes, Draco!" Lucius cried, holding Bellatrix by his mere fingertips now. "Hurry!"

Bellatrix roared, "No!"

But Draco had dropped into the quiet, damp cellar. He could hear her breathing... but there was another sound, another ragged gasping accompanying hers. Could it be...?

"Lumos," Draco muttered.

"Malfoy?"

Draco smirked, secretly glad he had found the git, "Potter."

"Draco!" Hermione smiled, rising from her place on the wall. Chains rattled as she stood, and Draco noticed that her wrists were bound in cuffs and chanined to a peg in the ground. Her face was caked in dried blood from a deep gash above her brow. "You came..."

"Of course," Draco grinned and offered her a light kiss on the lips.

With shaking hands, Draco wispered alohomora on the cuffs' locks, and everyone seemed shocked - including himself - when he did the same for Potter. Potter, however seemed to confused to be shocked, and with creased borws, he rubbed his freed wrists.

"Wait, Malfoy? I don't - "

"We don't have time, Potter!" Draco grumbled. "Just trust me."

Hermione grabbed Draco's arm to Apparate, but before Harry made up his mind, Bellatrix jumped into the hole and powerfully threw the only thing she was willing to give up - Harry's wand. As soon as he saw Bellatrix, Harry clutched Draco's shoulder, but it wasn't fast enough for Draco to avoid the sharp pain in his chest. He cursed loudly and his voice lingered in the musty basement as he disappeared.

He landed grimacing, in too much pain to to scream or move. He could feel the wand shifting with every move he made, and in an attempt to rid his shoulder of the pain, he grabbed the end and twisted it out, gritting his teeth. Blood spurted out almost immediately, staining his blue t-shirt an odd purple color, but he shoved his hand over the wound, crimson leaking between his fingers, and tossed the wand to Harry who caught it in mid-air,


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