Chapter 3 : III
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“…and… ah, there she is.”
I opened my eyes – or at least, I thought I did. I could still see nothing. I blinked a few times to make sure.
Blackness. What, was I blind now too? Blind and without memory?
But you can think.
True, that I could, and with surprising clarity for having just woken up. The last few time’s I’d been roused it was with bleary reluctance, and with little memory of where I was or what had happened. This time, however… I knew it all. The two men, the argument, the crucio. I recalled an unfortunate use of the name ‘Hermione Granger.’ It was everything.
Everything, given your disorder, anyway.
Was that it? A disorder? Thinking back, I could hear the one man, Dolohov (Nott?) saying I’d been “tampered with.”
Shaking my head, I could feel that it was heavily wrapped.
“Stop that,” came a voice from directly above me. I froze.
“Which one are you?” I demanded. The words came out huskily in my still-dry throat.
There was a pause. Then: “You mean Nott and Dolohov? Niether. I’m Blaise Zabini. I’m here about your head.”
Huh. It made sense, because his voice didn’t match up with either of the others; there was a modest quality that they had lacked. And hadn’t one of them mentioned sending someone in? Thinking back that far made my head hurt. I decided to believe him.
The sound of glass clinking to my right brought me back to attention.
“I can’t see,” I told him.
“I know. You have a centimeter of bandaging over your eyes right now.”
“Oh.” So I’m not blind. We fell into near-silence again, the clinking of glass and possibly medical instruments being the only noise. Now that I could hear better, I recognised a bubbling sound, and a slight milky smell. Boiling potions?
A bizarre image flashed in my mind: me, strewn across a stainless steel table, my clothing sliced open from neck to navel and down each pantleg, revealing bare flesh. Black dash-marks indicated surgical procedures to be endured over every inch of my body. I shivered at the image, pushing away any possibility of experimentation or the like. He was, just as he’d said, here about my head.
After a few minutes, I decided to try again.
“I would very much like to see,” I said, my voice cracking halfway through.
He laughed. It was an honest, bored sound. “I don’t think you’re in a position to give me orders.”
“It’s no order,” I argued. “It’s a request.”
Metal jingling on glass. Stirring something.
“Requests start with ‘please.’ Or end with it, at any rate.” He whistled lowly. “I take that back. They end with ‘thank you,’ or they should. Either way, though, that would be a ‘no.’ Drink this.”
A hand, warm and steady, slid under my neck and lifted my head. It crossed my mind to deny him, to refuse any orders in return, but I already knew that our terms were preferable as it were. This Zabini person was far more agreeable than either Nott or Dolohov, at least so far. I felt cool glass touch my lips, and I drank the substance eagerly, glad to finally quench my thirst. It tasted like soured cream and dish soap, but I swallowed it down gratefully.
Once it was finished, he placed my head back down onto something soft (had that been there the whole time? Or maybe it was just the bandages) and went on whistling. After a moment the whistling paused.
“Thank you,” he said. Then began to whistle again.
Licking my lips, I asked, “Please, can I have water?”
My only response was a sigh, and I imagined him rolling his eyes. In my head he was tan, with angular brown eyes and short black hair, probably wearing a long dark cloak… and oh, right, he’d have one of those masks too. This cast a dark gloom over the image – it faded away.
“I suppose, since you asked so nicely.”
The hand was soon under my neck again, and there was a wider mouth to the bottle he fed me this time. It was cooler, too. The water came in a thin stream, trickling down my throat, which I relished. I probably looked stupid, too, lapping up my water like a dog, but I didn’t care. He took it away, too soon.
I coughed for a few minutes, unable to get rid of the dry tickle in my lungs. When I asked for more, he declined.
“You’ll get sick. There will be more later.”
He went to work for a while, clanking bottles and occasionally he would walk over and check my bandages. I could feel the grease in my long-since-washed hair mingling with sweat (or blood, hopefully not blood) and congealing under the heavy wrapping. My arms and legs were dead weights, and at first I’d assumed I was simply too weak to lift them, but I tried anyway. Nothing. They wouldn’t budge. My fingers tingled when I wiggled them, and so did my toes, and I could even roll my wrists and ankles around, but I couldn’t lift anything. I groaned; it felt like I was cemented into place.
“Easy, eh, miss.” I could hear the stumble where one would normally place my name – for an instant, it had been there, too. But that instant passed just as soon as it had come. “I had to bind you. Don’t strain yourself, or it’ll never heal.”
“What won’t heal?” I asked, jerking around more violently now. Yes, he was agreeable so far, but I had little interest in playing doctor with a Death Eater (was that what they called themselves?) when he would just as soon hex me like the others. Besides, just what they were planning to do with me or my name was a mystery. That image flashed through my head again. I was beginning to feel very claustrophobic. “I need to see.”
“It’s nothing – your shoulder, you landed on it… you will be fine. I’m not going to hurt you. The binding was an order passed down to me. They said you were dangerous.”
I wish. “Look at me, Zabini. I’m wrapped and broken and bloody scared. I’m the dangerous one?”
He was probably shaking his head at this point. I strained even harder against my magical fastenings, and could feel them pulling at my skin in a way that would leave burns on my arms and knees. The invisible constraints bit into my flesh.
“Listen, eh…” that awkward pause again. “… Listen. I can’t do that for you. You seem pretty nice, okay? You seem like a nice girl. But I can’t do that for you.”
I slumped back, giving up for the moment being. “You listen, please. I’m not asking you to unbind me. I’m not asking for a wand here, or anything like that. Just let me see.”
An exasperated sigh. “I would have to redo all of those bandages! Do you know how long that took me?”
“I don’t particularly care,” I seethed, my pent-up frustrations lashing out in a way that I couldn’t control. “I don’t give a bloody damn about it, or any of you. I don’t know where I am, I don’t know who I am, all I know is I was chased across the gods-forsaken desert until your bunch snapped me up. And then I was thrown into this bloody cell and tossed around a bit, all for a name that I do not remember. Now, please, take off this bandage so I can see, thank you, and maybe then we can all talk about memories so I can get out of here!”
My outburst settled into the air, not daring to echo. I was breathing hard, as though my lungs had grown and I couldn’t supply them enough oxygen. A burning sensation surfaced in my eyes and nose, like I would cry.
I don’t know how long we sat there, me laying on a prehistoric cot with my head wrapped and clothes worn ragged, and him standing wherever he was bloody standing and either thinking or staring or maybe both. It took him plenty long to decide, but when I heard the scraping of his shoes against the dirt floor as he shuffled over my need to cry ceased.
“I’m sorry,” he said quietly, and he lifted my head once more. The darkness before my eyes was cut away, and little clouds of white and blue and red danced around a bit before I could see again. “You’re right. It won’t help your memory at all, to be blind as well.”
Even without the dressing it took a few seconds to see, but once I could it felt truly wonderful.
“Ahh,” I sighed. Yes, it was the same dingy cell as before, though from the repaired bed it looked a bit different. A candle lit each wall, albeit dimly, but it must’ve been enough for Zabini (Blaise? Yes, that was right) to work well in. Two tables were set up to my right, each littered with books, phials, bottles, and more candles. My Healer had stepped back from me, crossing his arms and staring — he didn’t look quite as I’d imagined him. Well, to start there was no black cloak and mask to deal with. That was reassuring. He was tall and thin, wearing plain trousers and a buttoned shirt, the sleeves rolled back and stained brown. He was indeed tan with black hair, though it was longer than expected… quite shaggy, actually. His eyebrows were drawn together in thought.
“Eh… can I help you?” I asked.
He shook his head, scraping his hair back from his face with potion-greased hands. “You’re just like they said you were. Hah. I didn’t expect that.”
What, a scrawny and malnourished little girl? I thought. One with a recently dented skull and broken shoulder?
It took all my neck strength to lean up and catch a glimpse at the rest of me, which had been laid neatly across the wooden cot. An alarming amount of wrapping encased my entire left arm, which was slung over my chest (had it always been there? I hadn’t even noticed) and, yes, there was a dull red-brown stain at it’s edge, my wrist. I cringed, remembering the sickening crunch I’d heard during that fall. My stomach felt cold and sqirmy at the thought.
When I’d walked the desert, I’d worn a pair of faded blue jeans, leather boots, a buttoned shirt and a straw hat to fend off the sunlight, opting to carry my cloak in the book bag until nightfall when the cold settled in. I remembered turning my socks inside-out after two days, and then shredding off pieces of my cloak in the later days to wrap my blistering feet, but it slowed me little. The pain was dull and aching, easy to forget about but difficult to ignore now. Zabini had rolled up the frayed hems of my pants and wrapped my feet as well (thank Merlin) leaving only my toes exposed. I wiggled them, but winced at the immediate pain. I let out a sigh of relief to find no indicating dash-marks visible, let alone that my clothes were fully intact.
I let my head fall back onto my pillow, if there was one. Either that, or this was some cushy bandaging.
“Where are my boots?” I asked, closing my eyes.
“I set them by my table. Them and your, ah, socks.”
“Right.” I didn’t care that much; it was just nice to know that my few possessions were close by. This prompted my next thought. “And my cloak? The book bag? Where are those?”
The sounds of footsteps followed this question, and I wondered if he’d decided to keep working, or maybe he’d grown tired of the conversation. Papers shuffled. He was opening a book.
“Confiscated,” he answered, finally.
After a few minutes of idle page-turning, he snapped his book shut. “Will you tell me about your memory problem?” He asked suddenly.
This caught me off-guard for some reason. That’s why they sent him. Not to fix my body, but to fix my brain. To unlock me.
Regardless, I resolved to tell him.
“I don’t remember anything but what’s happened in the last few days. That’s how it’s always been… I think.” I coughed, and cleared my throat. “Right now, I remember the desert. I remember keeping marks in a book… walking, always… I was being followed. I could see his light each night when I fell asleep.”
“Yaxley,” he seemed to confirm.
I opened my eyes and nodded. “They said that yesterday. I also remember that. The two men — I only saw one of them. Nott? Or the other, Dolohov. They argued. They asked me my name.”
“And what did you tell them?” Zabini asked, stepping closer, that quizzical expression back on his face.
“I told them it was Hermione.”
He laughed. “But of course. You don’t know your name, do you? That’s what Antonin said. He didn’t know where you’d gotten that, until they looked at the book.” He shook his head, semi-smiling. “You really gave Nott the scare though. He didn’t like that very much.”
“I didn’t think so,” I agreed. “Bad decision on my part. But it was all I had.”
Nodding. “Tell me more. If there is any.”
I exhaled, trying to think up every detail. “I was just about insane when your lot picked me up. I just remember being surrounded by Death Eaters and before it all went blank. Then I woke up here. Oh! And the letter. I remember the letter.” I remember the letter. I remember.
Jocelyn. George. No — “Love, George.” That was it. I remember.
“There was a letter. I received it days ago, I don’t know when… from a brown owl. I didn’t understand anything aside from the names Jocelyn and George.”
“That’s right, they mentioned that,” he said slowly. “But you said… you called us... ‘Death Eaters,’ is that right?”
“I — uh, yeah,” I said, equally slowly. I’d been certain. It was another factoid I didn’t know but did at the same time, the same way I knew we were in a war and I was a witch. Or at least, I thought I did. “Is that… not it?”
“No,” he was shaking his head now, staring at me with an expression that set off the alarms in my head again. My head hurt. My pulse grew wiry and quickened. “That name… that name is dead. It has been for two years.”
“That’s wrong —” I started, but he was still going.
“I don’t know where you came from,” he said. And all of a sudden, I knew what that expression was. It was shock. Much like that on Nott’s face from before. “Or who you are. But the Death Eaters are dead. Disbanded. And they have been for too many months and Daily Prophets for any witch that I know to not have noticed. I need to go.”
“Wait! No, just wait —”
“— It could just be your memory, I get that,” he said, louder now, walking to the door. He wasn’t looking back. “But I can’t just hang on to that tidbit. There’s something more to this. I don’t like it.”
“Hey! Come back!” I began wiggling, trying fruitlessly to escape my magical bonds.
But he was gone. And I was left, once again scared, once again nameless, and once again unsure of where exactly this put me.
While he was out, I made some progress.
It took less than a full second to decide that I didn’t really want to wait and see what would happen next, especially considering that the only person here who seemed to care about my well-being was now gone and therefore couldn’t vouch for me. If it came to that. However, knowing that Zabini was first and foremost one of them, and I’d only spoken with him for a few minutes, I knew that by now our relationship was bust and I would kill him if I had to. All that mattered now was that I needed to make my grand exit.
Having a limited memory left one with advantages — there were drawbacks as well, that was for sure, but the occasional odd skill had the knack of popping up in strange times. It was comparable to switching bodies with someone, and then playing a sport that they had known and you had not. Your feet start moving in a way that feels familiar but you don’t understand, and then your arms and hands seem to do what they will without your effort. Well, and I suppose I must’ve discovered this over and over again, my odd skill was just about to come in handy.
I strained my neck to look over and see those tables again. As I’d remembered, there were large books and sets of potions and phials of strange-looking liquids. At the far corner Zabini had set up a small burner over a candle, and steam was rising from his little cauldron. Beside this was a cutting board with chopped greens and red stains, as though he’d been cooking himself a stew and not a healing serum that could cure my memory.
That was all for the tables. My boots were set under one of them, and though my feet were wrapped and plenty cushioned, if I made it back out into the desert I would need them. That would have to be step three.
Step One, I thought. Breaking the bed.
The magical binds were more than invisible rope, though they sure felt like it. A magical cuff or restraint wouldn’t simply tie together and come unraveled when untied; it worked more like a glue, bonding a person to the object they were hexed onto or cementing them into place. For me to have any hope of moving about, I would need to make this cot moveable. There was no hope of breaking myself out entirely, until I could find a wand.
I threw my weight to the right, hoping to get a rocking motion (even a small one) but the only response from the bed was a shriek as it slid an inch on the ground. I winced.
Right-o. And again.
The bed’s legs had been weak, and I’d seen them break before. I hadn’t been paying attention at the time, but looking back to when Dolohov ripped it out from above me, I could see it in my peripheral. The legs were weak indeed, especially when yanked left or right. They’d been mended, but judging by the door and the makeshift workspace and the very little amount anyone here cared for my comfort, I guessed that it had been another crappy job.
Tossing my weight to the right again, I followed this time with a jerk back to the left. And the right again, and the left. The cot lifted at the edge this time, and touched back down with a thump. I kept going, sore in my back but squirming as I did nonetheless, and the bed was rocking, just as it had been supposed to. It felt like I’d done this before.
You probably have.
There was little time to chew this over — I was making a lot of noise and needed to make this quick. I wasn’t entirely aware that the legs had broken on the left side, at least, until I brought the structure down again and instead of a thump it was more like thump-snap-crash. Before too long, I’d wriggled the right legs to splinters as well.
In order to make my grand exit, I would need a wand, and I was pretty sure that Zabini had taken his when he left. That meant that right now it was more important to get myself moving, and armed. But with what? There were plenty of medical instruments on the table. I’d take one of them, shut the door, and somehow take down whatever wizard walked in. Assuming I could reach the table, that there would be a useable instrument, that only one wizard would enter, and that I could release myself quickly enough to not have the next assailant get me first. Right. I could do this.
How the hell was I supposed to stand?
Voices drifted in from the opposite side of the door, growing loud quickly. Whatever it was that had set off Zabini, it sure got to these people in a hurry.
“— just have to take the girl.” An unknown male. I ceased my hopeless wriggling, unsure of what to do.
“And leave behind all of my equipment? Are you sure this is necessary?” Zabini.
Their footsteps were loud and quick, drawing near. “Yeah. They’re pretty freaked about the whole situation. Rowle will be furious, not to mention Mulciber or Macnair.”
Their steps halted.
“Listen,” Zabini said, his voice so low I could barely hear him. “She’s not… full-access, is she? I mean, they’re trying to keep all this quiet…”
“Well, she wasn’t,” answered the other, almost as quiet. “Then she screwed herself. We’ll worry about that later, right now we need to move.”
The door pushed open, revealing another man about the same age as Zabini, and a nearly identical build. He was pale with dark hair, and wore the cloak and boots of the others — the pair immediately stopped to stare at me as I lay on the floor, the previous legs of my cot now splintered and removed. They only paused for a second.
“I’ve only been gone for a minute,” Zabini explained, though his partner seemed to ignore this as he pulled out a wand and flicked it in my direction. My binds vanished, and I gasped at the sudden change.
“Get up,” he ordered, walking to my side. “Silencio.”
The man bent over and grabbed my good arm, yanking me to my feet, which collapsed under my weight after being asleep for so long. Zabini rushed to my opposite side, arguing about my health and progress, but I was too distracted by the lack of sound I could make to listen well.
They started walking, dragging me along.
“The portkey’s in the dining room,” the anonymous man explained. “We’ll go from there. Everyone should be present by now, which I guess means she is officially full-access.”
“Isn’t there another way?” asked my Healer from my other side. He’d struggled with attempting to help via my bad shoulder, and had settled with looping an arm around my waist and lifting awkwardly.
His friend (co-worker?) laughed. “Yeah. Stay behind with the brat. Get your arse hauled to Azkaban. What’s it to you, if they find her?”
“Nothing, nothing,” Zabini answered, quickly. “Just worried about that memory. That’s all, mate.”
The corridor turned, and we were approaching another door, this one heavy steel with a hardcore-appearing lock gracing its surface. As we neared, the door sprung open as though made of paper, and for the first time I could see exactly what I was up against.
There must have been at least twenty of them — twenty Death Eaters, all wearing black cloaks, and surrounding a very ornate oak table. This room was decorated for a king, complete with a massive marble fireplace and crystal chandelier. At our entrance, every head turned, and I found myself the subject of expressions ranging from surprise to casual interest to I don’t even care, just get us out of here.
They stared openly, and I stiffened at the sight of the nearest man.
I knew that face.
I know that face. ***
Author's Note: Hey there. So I just realized that I may not have copied the second chapter over correctly... I'll have some editing to do. But this chapter is fully finished, and I have two more ready to go.
I appreciate any feedback you can give me... at this point, posting chapter three, I have still not received any reviews, and I would very much like some. Thank you for your time.
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