Chapter 4 : Moving On
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Unannounced, gone without a trace, Harry Potter vanished right into thin air. There was a public outcry of course, as well as accusations of foul play. Speculations ran rampant. All those whom were closest to Harry were most distressed. The Weasley's felt particularly responsible, being as Harry was like a son to them and at the time living at the Burrow. None could recall any hint of Harry mentioning leaving, there was no note, no sign, no evidence at all. In fact, all his earthly possessions were left just as they were. His disappearance could not be explained.
The Ministry launched a full blown investigation into his disappearance. The public wanted answers...but they would find none. None knew where Harry Potter was or what had become of him.
The days passed, turning into weeks, the weeks into months, and still there was no word from Harry Potter. It became impossible to pick up a newspaper without some synopsis, some theory as to what had happened to him. Death Eaters Have Harry Potter!, was one of many headlines: Ministry sends Harry to Azkaban, word of attemtped coup! Harry on Vacation, spotted in France!, and even Harry on search of allusive Crumpled-Horned Snorkack, per the Quibbler.
Month after month came and went. The gossip and rumors of what happened only grew and grew with time. There became frequent claims of people having spotted him. Harry seen in Egypt! Harry found in Germany! Harry Potter in Greece!, but none could ever prove it and all seemed only in search of a little publicity.
Those closest to him could do nothing more but mourn the loss of a dear friend. Some took it harder than others, as Hermione was said to be particularly devestated. Ron took it all in surprisingly well. She and Ron both could surmise an explanation for Harry's departure, but they spoke of it to none.
Harry or no, life still had to go on. Harry's class had graduated from school and it was now time to enter the real word. Over the following months Neville made several important findings in magical herbology and in little over a year he had published his first book. Following his second book he was taken on at Hogwarts.
To the surprise of many, Ollivander hired Luna at his wand shop. Turned out she had a knack for wands and pairing them with the right witches and wizards. George went back to work at he and his brother's joke shop, hiring on Lee Jordan to help fill in for Fred. And Ron and Hermione, including the absent Harry, were all awarded diplomas as well, even though they had been absent for their senior year. It was agreed the magic that they'd mastered and displayed was well beyond expectations of any senioor of Hogwarts and warranted the awardance.
Ron, after a dozen or so tryouts, finally landed himself a position as a back up goalie for the Chudley Cannons, his favoite team. And Hermione, she began sudying to become a Healer.
Apart from the rumors of Harry, life in the magical world returned to near normalcy. The big news in the Weasley household was of some new muggle gadget Mr. Weasley had uncovered, or if they were lucky, of some dragon that Charlie had wrangled. Most tried to avoid Percy's stories like the plague. Ron had even gotten to play in a few real matches, though none spoke of it less they face Ron's wrath.
Even though Harry had left her yet again, or perhaps because there was now no Harry to contend for, Ginny had become most friendly to Hermione once more. The trio nowadays was made of Ron, Hermione and Ginny. Their largest hurdle to overcome was coming up with an excuse not to accompany Luna on some Crumpled-Horn Snorkack expedition.
"Bogger, she is getting crazier and crazier by the day, she is!" Ron and Ginny would often joke.
George's joke shop was a continued success, even more so now that the dark times were behind them. He had insisted on building his parents a new home, but they wouldn't here of leaving the Burrow. He had even offered, as generous as he had become, to put on the wedding for his brother and Hermione. If only they could settle on a date...
Everything was nearly normal, on the surface at least. Beneath it, something darker was brewing.
. . . .
"Don't go," Ron begged her.
Hermione was busy packing away a last few items into her trunk. Ron stood, in the way, in the middle of her bedroom, slouched and looking a bit sad and pathetic.
"Come with me then, how many times have I asked you now?" she challenged him.
"Hermione, we're not kids anymore, I have a life here, a job! I just can't go off on some wild goose chase!'
"Wild goose chase? Don't you even care? This is where the trail leads...your job, HA!"
"The trail? There is no trail, Hermione! Thats what you said when you went to Germany, and then to Italy, what did you find there?" Ron ignored her last attempt at an insult.
Hermione was initially overcome with grief following Harry's departure. She had at first locked herself away in her bedroom, much like Harry had done. Eventually she retreated to her solice, studying, as she poured herself into learning to become a Healer.
It was not long though before she was distracted by certain articles in the Prophet. Certain instances, certain patterns in the disappearances she noticed and could not help but feel that there was some grand link between them all.
Ron argued that she was letting herself buy into the rumors, but she couldn't help it, she had to look into it for herself. This is what had led her to Germany and Italy, and now on to France. She was going on the premise of studying abroad, but truth-be-told, it was simply becoming harder and harder to explain her frequent absences.
It was not obvious to all what was happening. In fact, only the most vigilant noticed anything at all. Things were peaceful in Britain, but for those paying attention, oddly so, like a calm before a storm. Harry's disappearance eclipsed most the news, but there were other important happenings buried deep inside the Daily Prophet. The balance of things shifted without anyone the wiser.
The peace had been too short, this second wave threatened to do them in. Just as they had with rumors of Voldemort's return, those who knew better turned a blind eye to the new happenings. The Second War had devastated Britain and what was happening now was far off her shores, little of her concern.
The witches and wizards going missing across europe had names no englishman could pronounce, so most went overlooked. But the disappearances were just the start of it. Wasn't long before one of the missing turned up dead. A wizard in the Italian Ministry was found to be under the Imperius Curse. There were strange happenings all over that none could explain.
Kingsley Shacklebolt was finding governing much harder in peaceful times than when at war. His political opponents blocked his initiatives at every turn, and when he had first tried to send a team of Aurors abroad, he was nearly run from officce.
Avoid it all she could, it was only a matter of time before the Ministry's hand was eventually forced. Murders and catastrophes were spreading across eastern europe. As the death toll of muggles began to rise, Shacklebolt got his wish. British, as well as French and Italian Obliviators could be found as far east as Belarus trying to keep everything under wraps from the muggles. And lurking behind the Obliviators, just in the shadows, Aurors were out in force.
Few wizarding nations were as large or as organized as Britain and the other western powers. As key members of the International Confederation of Wizards, they had over the ages taken on the role as key enforcers of the Secrecy Act, so as the turmoil spread, it was left to them to clean it up.
. . . .
Hermione had followed the news east as well. She had abandoned France without word to any and made her way to Poland. She travelled alone and undercover, so naturally she was nervous when an unexpected knock came from her door.
Hermione was unsure of what to do. She had been moving from vacant house to vacant house so none should know where to find her. And it had to be a witch or wizard to get past all the spells she had put on the house, and a talented one at that.
"Ms. Granger?" an old and familiar voice whispered through the door, "it is I, Professor Minerva McGonagall, the one who provided to you a time-turner in your third year."
'Professor McGonagall, here?' Hermione questioned herself, but none knew that secret but her, and subsequently Ron and Harry.
Hermione used her wand to open the door from a distance. Two cloaked figures quickly rushed in and as soon as the door was closed the one nearest her threw back her hood to reveal the sweet old face of Hermione's favorite professor, now Headmistress of Hogwarts, Minerva McGonagall. The other however did not lower his hood, but instead stood cautiously back within the shadows.
"Professor, what are you doing here?" Hermione asked astonished to see her here, far away in Poland.
"Hello Ms. Granger, very good to see you," she offered shortly, "so very sorry to barge in on you like this, we did not want to make a scene outside."
"I see," Hermione responded while looking past McGonagall to her still cloaked companion.
"My apologies, Ms. Granger, I would like you to meet Sir Edward Byron."
No one moved.
"Nice to meet you," Hermione finally smiled while trying to place the name. She knew it from somewhere...
"May we trouble you for a cup of warm tea?" McConagall asked humbly. It was a cold wintry night outside and white spots of snow speckled their dark travelling cloaks.
"Certainly," Hermione answered while waving them on to follow her into the kitchen. Hermione congered a readied pot and distributed cups.
McGonagall took a sip of hers before continuing, "I thought of the Time-Turner wondering if you were still putting it to use, of recent perhaps? I've heard that your grades are as excellent as ever, but at the same time, Sir Byron tells me you have become quite the frequent traveller. Certainly you haven't been..."
"Of course not, I have given it up," Hermione smiled down into her cup.
McGonagall's smiling face turned serious, "but I am afraid this is not just a cordial visit. I will get right to it. Hermione, we have come to ask for your assistance."
Hermione couldn't help but notice McGonagall's use of her first name, for the first time. She always referred to her as Ms. Granger.
"As you are well aware I'm sure, there have been some dark characters about of late. Sir Byron here specializes in these matters."
Hermione simply nodded, unsure of what they could possibly need of her. McGonagall however then stepped aside, yielding the floor to her companion. He stepped forward and for the first time lowered his hood. He had an old and noble face, with a short trimmed gray beard, with slightly longer gray hair to match. His eyes were penetrating and stern. She felt she knew the face as well, but could still not figure out from where.
"Professor McGonagall has told me impressive things about you, Hermione. I have to admit, for a young witch at your age I find many of these feats hard to believe."
Hermione blushed at the compliment.
"Top of her class, one of the brightest ever to pass through Hogwarts' halls," he smiled while quoting McGonagall.
"I daresay you may be one of her favorites!"
Hermione turned even redder.
"Cohort of Harry Potter, spent nearly a year on the run with him, evading both Death Eaters and the Ministry alike! Veteran of the Battle of the Ministry, the Battle of the Astronomy Tower, and the Battle of Hogwarts, as well as countless skirmishes in between. One of only a few souls ever to have successfully robbed one of Gringotts' vaults. Already on her way to becoming a highly skilled Healer..."
Byron smiled gaily at her, "What a resume, I admit, I am impressed!" he clapped his hands together.
"Thank you," Hermione finally blurted out, awkwardly blushing from his praise.
"You've been out here in the thick of it, you tell me, what do you think is going on?" he then asked Hermione, to her obvious surprise. How did they know what she was doing?
"What would I know?"
"Oh come now, Hermione, we're all friends here. I am well aware of your activities."
"Who are you?" she asked suspiciously.
"All in due course. I have offered you my name but as for a gentleman in my line of work, one must take precautions, as I am sure you can understand. Now please, if you would..." he brought her back to his question.
"I assume you are talking about the disappearances?" she asked him.
"Well," Hermione hesitated as she looked to Professor McGonagall. McGonagall smiled back reassuringly.
"Most have been in the east, most a bunch of seemingly nobody's, only a few officials, its quite hard to make any sense of...Death Eaters maybe?"
"Death Eaters! No, but I dare say they'll have a hand in it all by the end. You've told me as much as the Daily Prophet has, surely you've found something more?" he asked disappointed with her response.
"Do you know who is behind it?" Hermione asked him accussingly.
Byron stared ponderingly at Hermione, thinking long and hard.
"Tell me then, what do you know of Anatol Kaan?" he asked.
Hermione's eyes shot suspiciously up at Byron's, but his cold blue eyes showed nothing. Hermione's narrowed. She looked from Byron to McGonagall. McGonagall nodded reassuringly once again.
"Very little," Hermione responded shortly.
They waited in silence as Byron intended for her to go on.
Hermione shook here head, "he's a nobody, a ghost, a myth...I don't...?"
She looked questioningly back and forth between the two.
"It is unexpected that you even knew the name at all!" Byron was surprised, looking from Hermione to McGonagall.
"Anatol Kaan is a real wizard, Hermione, a real, living, breathing warlock."
The mood darkened. Both Byron and McGonagall became deathly serious.
"Anatol Kaan is an extremely old warlock, ancient even. Made a name for himself back in the nineteenth century...," Byron informed her.
"I know," Byron noted, seeing Hermione's reaction to Kaan's age. "He is well over a hundred year in age, probably much older than that I'm sure."
Byron paused for a moment, studying Hermione carefuly.
"At first he was just another wizard trying to overthrow the Statute of Secrecy. But with time his power and his ambitions grew. He was the first wizard to unite the Slavic tribes, and then later the Germans."
Byron could not help but notice the shock and disbelief in Hermione's eyes with his revelations.
"Our knowledge of him is limited at best, but I am sure of what I am telling you," he reassured her.
"Shortly after his rise, he had a close runin with an assassin. From then on he has been a total mystery. He retreated behind the scenes, sufficed to pull the strings from within the shadows. It is said that he nurtured a young Grindelwald into the wizard he became, and used him to further his own goal, Wizard Rule. If this is true, if it was Kaan behind it all and it is him again today, we are in some serious trouble...that war brought us to the near brink, and I don't mean just Britain, all of us, the entire world. That was the first World War..."
Again Byron paused.
"Thank Merlin for Dumbledore!" Byron then cheered, coming out of his dark memories.
"He is not just some rumor then?" Hermione found it hard to believe.
"I am afraid not," Byron frowned.
"Why does Kaan matter?" Hermione asked. Byron could not help but smile once more at this, this was better than he expected.
"Kaan matters because he is an old, powerful warlock with endless resources and a countless number of minion at his command."
"We believe it is Kaan who is behind whatever is going on. But more importantly, why is he doing it?"
Hermione gave his question some thought, but in the end only shrugged and asked in return, "why?"
"I don't know," Byron unexpectedly admitted. "For power I would suppose, isn't that why they all do it? Up until now he's been satisfied operating from behind the scenes. So if the question is why, Hermione, why is now not behind the scenes, why is behind the scenes now no longer good enough?"
Byron quickly answered his own question.
"While Kaan is an extremely abled wizard, mind you, he plays more the part as mastermind, general rather than warrior. He needed wizards like Grindelwald to carry out his plans. Defeated though with the loss of Grindelwald, what were the chances another wizard like him would come along in Kaan's lifetime? Slim to none. But alas, one did come. One Tom Marvolo Riddle."
There was another long pause.
"It is possible Riddle crossed paths with Kaan in his dealings with Borgin and Burkes. Regardless, they met and it is rumored that Kaan took a liking to Riddle, saw his potential....and soon after Tom Riddle vanished, never to be seen again. Kaan took Riddle and gave us Voldemort."
Hermione's head was reeling, she did not know what to make of all this.
"And they came close, Hermione, so close," Byron swore, "so close they could taste it. And then the plan fell apart, his weapon defeated yet again! But it was too late, Kaan had already bitten the forbidden fruit, and now I believe he craves it, unable to go without it. The desire, his hunger for power has finally overrun his better judgement and pulled him from the shadows. One way or the other, Hermione, it will be us or him in the end."
"He can no longer wait, there will never be another Voldemort, never another moment like now. The pieces were already falling, the plan in motion. All he had to do was step in and take over Voldemort's reigns."
Hermione gave this all a long thought.
"Harry?" Byron asked surprised. "Harry Potter is not our concern," he finally answered her rather shortly.
"Did his disappearance not start all this mess?"
"No," Byron answered bluntly. "Have you not been paying attention, Hermione? We are caught up in an ancient struggle. It started long before you or I or Harry Potter were even thought of."
"Harry Potter is not our business."
But Hermione held out for him to go on.
"It is possible Harry had caught wind of something and gone into hiding because of Kaan. We believe he is still safe but still being actively pursued," Kaan finally gave in so that he could move on.
Byron only nodded.
"Sounds like you're making a lot of this up as you go?"
"That is my job, to fill in the gaps, to gather as much information as there is available and then to apply reason and logic with the known facts to surmise an outcome."
"If all that you say is true, then what does this all mean?"
"It means that it is not yet over."
Hermione waited but Byron offered nothing further.
"And what could you possibly want of me?"
"Well, like Professor McGonagall said, we are in need your assistance. I am recruiting."
"We believe Kaan and his agents are behind this. We suspect it is in line with Voldemort's quest of Wizard Rule, and we know they will go to any lengths to achieve their goal. If we are to stop him, Hermione, we will have to uncover his plans and counter them. I am in need of good wizards."
"And witches," Hermione added.
. . . .
Her office was dimly lit. Several candles were spread across a bookcase and her desk. Most were burned down to mere nubs. It could have been day or night, there were no windows. Her door was cracked but only artificial light shown in. Stacks of papers and folders were piled everywhere. Hermione was bent over her desk, compiling contents for a new folder. The clipped out article of the Daily Prophet was tiny, and she had found it on the next to last page. The title was hardly large enough to read: German Minister of Magical Law Enforcement found Murdered.
"Alright, Hermione, you've asked for it, now you've got it," old man Thornsby informed her gruffily.
He slung open her cracked door, causing Hermione to jerk up. The old wizard came hurriedly in, limping on his bad leg. Hermione looked up from the stack of paperwork she had been sifting through, a look of disbelief and joy in her eye.
"Your first assignment," he informed her uneasily.
He was looking down at an open folder held within his hands. He walked fully into her office and paced back and forth before her desk while examining the top few documents. He had obviously already read the report as he now just glanced over the top few or so. After he was done toying with the pages, he snapped the folder shut and flicked it across the desk at her.
Hermione eagerly took hold and peeled it open to pour through its contents. Thornsby watched her suspiciously. With his fists balled up atop her desk, Thornsby hovered over her, grinding his knuckles into the wood.
"Its a reconnaissance mission. Dangerous. Not very proper for a novice witch like yourself, BUT...you seem to know the right people," he eyed her carefully.
Hermione stared with a look of surprise back up at him, unsure of what to say. Thornsby continued after a bit of awkward silence.
"There are reports that the herein named is smuggling dark objects in and out the country," he informed her begrudgingly.
Hermione looked up at Thornsby excitedly though. Finally some action. She had been in training for little over three months now, much longer than she had planned, but still much shorter than the typical three years every other trainee endures.
She was still far from completing her training, but considering their losses during the war with Voldemort, they needed the personel, and apparently Hermione knew somebody. She was ushered right through the training, having instructors of different areas provide her personal lessons. She quicky plowed through the basics and then on to stealth and tracking. She also studied a broader range of both offensive and defensive spells, as well as interogations and counter-interogations. She was in the midst of perfecting dueling when the order finally came. None of the other Aurors seemed to like it much, but the order came from some anonymous high command.
She immediately thought of Byron, but true to his word she had not seen nor heard mention of him. She was following her instructions just as they had been given to her.
"I've partnered you with William Carter," Thornsby said matter-of-factly.
"Carter?" Hermione asked disappointedly. Carter was more famous for his looks and affairs than being an Auror. And many of his dealings seemed to be questionable at best, especially for that of an Auror.
"Ground zero is here in London. As you'll see through pages six to ten, we believe he is using an old abandoned house on the east side as a hub to smuggle through dark objects and possibly wizards. You and Carter will stake it out. You are to report back in a week...and try not to get yourself killed," he added.
"Three months..." he grumbled to himself as Hermione continued studying over the folder.
Hermione was overcome with adrenaline. She had become over-frustrated by the lack of the Ministry's success as she had come on board, meaning she had to abandon her search for Harry. Something was happening out there and they were all in the dark about it. She was eager to get something done.
"Ah, come now Thornsby," a suave voice interrupted, "I think she's come along quite nicely," Carter made himself known whilst leaning with his shoulder up against the doorway. He stared, smiling all the while directly at Hermione. He glanced her up and down.
Will Carter was still a young Auror. Out of the program only five years himself, though those years were some of the toughest and hardest as of yet, being at the height of Voldemort's return. He was a sharp looking man dressed in muggle attire, in a fine italian suit. It was a silvery gray, which complemented his sheen, pitch black hair.
"Hello Carter," Hermione retorted unethusiastically.
"Straight to business then?" he asked disappointedly.
"Have you seen the assignment?"
Carter smirked and shrugged his shoulders.
. . . .
"See, I told you," Carter complained, "this place is deserted...Lucina's Inn however..."
"Shut it, Carter, for the last time," Hermione hissed through clenched teeth. She was busy peering out into the darkness through a strange looking set of binoculars.
As instructed, the duo were in their first night of watching the house, or the entrance to it at the least. It sat in an old and mostly abandoned and boarded up district. There were more warehouses and storages than anything. Their targets name was Thomas Hawkins. He was tried and acquited of Death Eater dealings as being under the influence of the Imperius Curse. He was first tagged to be followed upon his release but his dealings were minimal and innocent, and the tracking of him proved difficult. Subsequently the assignment was aborted, and then so by none other than Adolph Thornsby himself. He apparently resented the overruling and reopenning of the case.
Hermione and Carter were parked on a dark street before a boarded up apartment that was littered with graffiti. They sat in the shadow of a broken street lamp. Several other abandoned cars sat in front of and behind them. Most atop flat tires. Tall weeds grew from the cracks in the sidewalk and street. The street dead ended into the intersecting one, but standing ominously across the road from where it emptied were some very eerie cast iron gates.
The street lamps on either side of it were both out, leaving it in near darkness. The sidewalk was even more shadowed by the overgrown hedges and outreaching tree limbs casted out over the tall stone wall. Two stone, fierce looking gargoyles sat atop the stone pillars that flanked either side of the gate. A rusted chain locked it together by a massive pad lock. You could see nothing behind the gates, only blackness and fog.
A large decrepit warehouse stood falling beside it across the wall. Other abandoned buildings filed away down the street on its other side, though none with such an all encompassing front wall or fence. And no other building had the presence of magic radiating out from it as this one did. Not a soul was in sight.
"Lets get out of here already," Carter again moaned.
"Honestly, you're worse than a child. I don't want to be here either, but we have orders."
"Well I suppose we could just make our time here a little more interesting," he raised an eyebrow to her.
"As if," Hermione responded nastily.
. . . .
Hawkins was indeed a hard wizard to track, but to Carter's surprise, Hermione managed some impressive feats. Not to mention that it was done without Carter's least bit of help, and in fact over a great deal of Carter's moaning and groaning and even sabatoging of the mission. Hermione planned to file a complaint as soon as they reported back. Not to even start on his vulgar mouth and his almost daily advances on her. She could not help but feel Thornsby did this on purpose.
Their week was nearly up and they were going to have nothing to report back. It was late into the night, approaching the hours of morning. Hermione and Carter were again waiting in the old car on the abandoned road.
The night was as quiet as any. Carter kept up his usual moaning until Hermione threatened to hex him. It wasn't long after that Carter fell asleep and Hermione had to silence his snores with her wand. The clock on the dashboard had just turned to three.
As if on cue, a commotion stirred from outside. Hermione heard a loud CRACK. Somone had just apparated. Carter was startled from his sleep. Hermione again had to hush him. It was a dark night and hard to see, but nevertheless, they were both sure of it, a darkly cloaked figure had just apparated outside the ominous looking cast iron gates.
Before they could even consider what to do, an additional two loud cracks followed. Three black cloaked wizards huddled together before they all then hustled through the front gates, quite literally. The cast irongates never budged but the wizards moved right through them nonetheless, disappearing into the darkness beyond. Hermione and Carter then looked to each other nervously.
"What do we do?" Hermione finally asked. Carter nearly laughed at her.
"Do? Are you serious...?" Carter asked as he saw Hermione was not joking.
"Those were three wizards there Hermione, and they just went into that compound, containing who knows what?"
Hermione looked at him surprised.
"This is our job, Carter. Are we not Aurors?"
"We are on a reconnaissence mission, and you've got three months under your belt..."
"How are we supposed to find out whats going on in there, sitting out here? I'm going to get a better look," Hermione said while opening the door. She did not wait for Carter to follow. She turned and carefully closed the door so as not to make a sound.
"Hermione, get back here!" he whispered loudly as she exited the muggle car and hurried off into the dark.
Carter opened his door and half whispered, half yelled at her, "Hermione, get back here, we're not suppossed to..." he gave up as she disappeared completely into the shadows of a nearby building.
Carter was nervously debating what to do when another loud crack was heard, followed closely by four more! Carter immediatley ducked back into the muggle car. All were cloaked and hooded in pitch black robes. Once all were accounted for, they too hurried past the magical gates.
Carter waited nervously, unable to release his clenched grip from about the steering wheel. The seconds etched by as minutes, the minutes grinded past as hours. She was going to get caught, he just knew it. That crowd that had just shown up did not look at all too pleasant. And he had his orders. Surely she had seen them and would come back!
Carter's anxiety was building. He rocked back and forth endlessly within his seat. He looked down at the stick. He contemplated leaving. He should get out of here. She could blow their cover, Thornsby was going to be irate with him. What if they had already captured her? They could be watching him, now, from the shadows, just waiting for the right time to pounce. His eyes peered out into the darkness. What should he do?
Hermione meanwhile was ducked away in the shadows. The slow trickles of the Disillusionment Charm made its way down her as she shuttered from its cold. With its last ripple down her, she was left all but invisible to the common eye. She then made her way to the hedge and brush that lined the wall of the compound.
It was a thick stone wall, some fifteen feet high. Atop the pillars sat more stone gargoyles, and running between them atop the the wall were menacingly looking spikes. Hermione knelt in the dark and tried to come up with a plan. 'What would she be facing?' she pondered.
'There was obviously an anti-apparation jinx on the place, otherwise the new arrivers would have just apparated right inside. Possibly an intruder alarm...a few boobytraps.' She was sure there was no way to go over the top of it safely, that was just too obvious.
'Go through the wall? It was thick, she'd have to blast it and that would be too loud. Perhaps she could go under it? Defodio should do the trick...'
Instead, Hermione thought otherwise. She reached for a string tied about her neck and pulled out a small pouch that hung there from beneath her shirt. She opened it and summoned what appeared to be an everyday piece of chalk.
Hermione then traced a large square box upon the stone wall, one just large enough for her to pass through. Once completed, she put the chalk away and with the tip of her wand, she tapped the center of her box five times, all the while muttering some kind of incantation, and then stood back.
It took a moment, but the wall finally began to shift and creak. The bricks then suddenly sprang to life and began shifting apart, much like those at the entrance from the Leaky Cauldron into Diagaon Alley. The wall was indeed several feet thick, but all the bricks parted outside her box nonetheless. Nothing could be seen inside the yard. It appeared to be pitch black. Hermione took a deep breath and then disappeared within. The bricks folded back to their places behind her.
As dark as the night was, it was even darker within the compound. The entire yard was covered by a huge canopy of ancient elms and oaks. They each were easily over thirty meters tall. The grounds were much larger than from what it appeared to be outside. There were several smaller buildings littering the grounds: the garage, the shed, an old outhouse, a workshop. But at the center of it all stood a fair sized mansion.
The house was ancient, decorated in gothic and dark wizardry fashion, with medieval sculptures and statues placed all about. The house and grounds appeared to be all but abandoned. What used to be a groomed rose garden was now overtaken by weeds and years of neglect. The bushes and shrubs were unkept, most dead and skeletal.
Old and worn paint chipped and curled from the facade. Planks were broken and dislodged. Shingles were loose atop the roof. The windows were black and dirty, all but three at the lower right corner of the house. There a dim light shown through. A single candle burned inside the room.
With her wand pointed at her feet, Hermione cast a silencing charm and held it there. Hermione then walked forward, silently, invisibly, towards the haunted looking house.
The limbs rustled in the wind overhead. An owl hooted in the far distance. A dog howled at the moon. But no sound could be heard from the displaced leaves and twigs from Hermione as she stalked up to the edge of the home.
The windows were too high up for her to peer in, but she could hear voices vibrating through the walls. She would have to go up onto the porch. Her heart raced a little with this idea. This would be dangerous, if they came out...
She had no other viable option. She carefully moved around to the front, ever so slowly. She froze as her first step caused a loud creak from the porch. The voices from within suddenly fell silent. Hermione could have cursed herself. She held absolutely still as a shadow passed in front of the window. Her eyes though were locked on the front door.
What would she do if it opened? Run? Fight? Her heart raced. Thump thump. Silence. Thump thump. Silence. Thump thump. Silence. And then the wonderful feeling of relief swept over her as the voices continued from inside.
Hermione re-aimed her wand and recast the silencing charm upon her feet. She slowly stepped atop the next step, ensuring that it did not make a sound. All was well. Hermione hurried up the rest of the steps and onto the porch and eagerly peered in through the window. They were arguing about something within and she was missing it.
"...du've been vumbling it, du are vay ofv ze sckedule...master haz zaid he vill be here," one was speaking angrily with a deep eastern european accent.
"I told you already, there has been no word, no sign..." an englishman responded. The voice was all too familiar.
"Zilence!" the foreigner cut him off, "I don't hav time vor zur excuzez."
Something caught in the wind, something like that of a whisper swept past Hermione, right through the wall. The one who had spoken in the foreign accent abruptly silenced the other he had been arguing with.
"Vigilant! Ha!" he scoffed as his eyes searched from window to window.
"Zpy," he mumbled through gritted teeth. His eyes halted right at her window.
'Spy? Window! Could he see her, how had he known?' Hermione panicked.
Hermione was not given the chance to react. The wizard sent a strong spell right at her, blowing out half the wall and her off the porch. Two black clouds reformed and materialized on either side of her. Death Eaters!
"STUPEFY!" Hermione yelled while scrambling to her feet, sending the red ball of light crashing into one of their stomachs. The force of the blast lifted him right off his feet and over onto his back, unconcious.
Hermione sprinted past him in a blind race away from the mansion. A spell hit her, binding her legs and causing her to topple over. As she fell though, she was able to twist about and with a slash of her wand she sent a curse back at her attacker, toppling him over.
"Diffindo!" Hemione aimed at her ankles, severing the rope tied about them as several darkly cloaked wizards emerged from the large whole now on the side of the house.
Hermione cast the quickest disillusionment charm she had ever performed.
"She vas dere, I hav zeen her!" one alerted the rest while sending a curse flying in her direction. Hermione crawled over and back to her feet and took off running in the opposite direction once more. They could not see her, but they sent curse after curse in her direction, hot in pursuit.
A tree right beside her was blown in two. They may not be able to see her, but they could hear her tearing through the brush. The panicked Hermione quickly ducked to the side and pulled up behind a giant tree trunk. She immediately aimed her wand at her throat, silencing her heaving pants.
A group of them were on her in a matter of seconds. First one, then another, and yet another still came out of the trees, their wands held high, spreading light to and fro.
"I heard her just here," an englishman said.
"Did she getz avay?" one asked in a heavy foreign accent.
"Impossible," Hermione recognized the voice of none other than Lucius Malfoy.
Anger boiled up within her. 'How was he still out of Azkaban!'
His bright blonde hair glowed from beneath his hood. Hermione was anxious to attack him, but the wizards were shooting curse after curse at anything that moved or made a sound.
"Oi, watch it there!" another englishman yelled coming out of the distance from the direction of the wall as one of the wizards sent a curse at him.
"No way she made it past the wall," he declared.
But the wizard did not answer, instead all fell silent as another approached the scene. It was the wizard who had been chastising Malfoy inside, the one who had spotted her through the window somehow.
"Iz she here?" one asked him.
The wizard closed his eyes and took in a deep breath, as if meditating.
"Ano," he almost smirked.
"I kan zmell her vear."
All looked around intently once more. Hermione could sense that this was no wizard one would want to tango with. Hermione could tell he was powerful. He continued his meditation while the others began fanning out, kicking brush and what not aside in search for her. It was only a matter of time.
'What were her options? There weren't many. She carefully peaked out from behind the tree and looked back across the yard. She could try to backtrack, exit out the other side. But what if they heard her? Heard her!'
Hermione could see a large branch hanging in the distance. It was dead, broken, hanging on by just a piece. Hermione aimed her wand at it and upon thinking the incantation, the large limb swayed in the distance before breaking free with a loud SNAP!
All the Death Eaters disappeared immediately in black clouds, racing across the yard towards the recent disturbance. This was her only chance. Hermione made a break for it, darting for the closest wall with her piece of chalk ready in hand.
She was running so hard she could not help but collide with the wall. She tried tracing so fast that her chalk snapped in half. She fumbled with the remaining piece in her hand before she could complete her square. She glanced back over her shoulder, nothing. Only darkness. She could hear a few shouting in the distance.
She looked back to the wall and tapped it quickly five times, rushing nervously. Nothing happened, she had messed it up! She heard brush rumble near by, someone was coming! She glanced back but could see nothing. She tapped again at the wall, this time more slowly, more carefully she said the incantation. She waited on pins and needles.
Finally, the bricks began shifting! They had no more than formed a small hole in the wall than she saw the curse coming for her. She was able to conjure a shield but the sheer force of the blast sent her crashing back into the stone wall.
"AHO!" Carter jumped.
A large portion of the property's wall had just been blown out. And in the midst of the debris, Hermione!
Carter practically pressed his face up against the windshield. Hermione was barely stirring. She had just suffered a most fierce attack. Where was the attacker?
Carter had no more than thought it when he saw the bright green light speeding towards the fallen Hermione. Carter gasped and closed his eyes...Hermione! Someone ripped open his car door but he dared not open his eyes. They had caught him...he had told her not to go! The witch grabbed him hard about his forearm. He heard the killing curse yelled from the wall. He could see the green tinge of light behind the back of his eyelids. At first he thought it had hit him...he was sucked into darkness, sucked through a narrow tube...they were apparating!
Hermione and Carter collapsed on top of each other in a heap. Hermione was injured, but she had saved them. Carter carefully untangled himself from Hermione and gently laid her on her back. He then looked up to see where they were, wand drawn. They were in a lowly suburb. Carter looked up and down the street, all the houses looked just like the next. Carter looked to the yard's house that they were in, a large number four hung beside the door. There was a funny feeling about the house, like none had lived in it in years, but it was still oddly well kept, almost as if it were magic. Carter looked to the street sign, but he did not recognize it, Privet Drive.
"Where'd you bring us?" Carter asked confused.
Hermione groaned as she tried to sit up.
"No! Just lay down, we need to get you to St Mungo's!
"It's Malfoy!" Hermione revealed, "we should call for backup...and the other group, they're all foreigners...eastern european...." Hermione began panting once more, exhausted from the fight.
"What are they doing here?" Carter questioned concernedly.
"I'm not quite sure," Hermione answered uneasily, "come on, we need to do something!" Hermione groaned loudly as she forced herself to sit up.
"Lucius Malfoy surrendered during the Battle of Hogwarts..." Carter questioned, almost as if he was unsure if he could believe Hermoine.
"Yeah, and set to stand trial before he disappeared, of course."
"He had fallen out of favor with the Dark Lord..." Carter continued to make some excuse for him.
"And what, that means he gave up his dark ways?" Hermione argued. "What's our plan?" Hermione asked Carter.
Carter looked back at her as if she were insane.
"Hermione, our assignment is to watch, gather information."
Hermione looked back astonished at Carter.
"Lucius Malfoy is in that house, a wanted Death Eater. The most wanted Death Eater..."
"Hermione, there are at least eight-"
"Nine," Hermione interjected.
"...Nine wizards in that house. We wouldn't stand a chance."
"We call for backup."
"Hermione, this isn't our..."
"Then whose is it?" Hermione asked angrily, already interpretting what he was going to say. Hermione was terribly unimpressed with him at the moment. The name Gilderoy Lockhart came to mind. 'If only Harry was here.'
Hermione apparated without Carter.
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