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Chapter 3 : The salvation of an old enemy
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The early September winds were so cold and bitter that there was no trace summer had just recently packed its belongings and departed. They whipped buildings and statues and even the squirrels had abandoned their daily rummaging through parks seeking food. Rain clouds became more and more common, until clear skies were forgotten and everyone put away their summer clothes and took out of storage the warm autumn ones. A carpet of rusty coloured leaves decorated the pavement, but with the northern clouds that arrived with autumn it wasn’t long until they turned into mushy wet debris that everyone tried to avoid. Naturally, there were fewer people in parks as the green grass adopted a rather unpleasant shade of yellow, while taking dogs out for walks became more of a task than a pleasure.
That particular September day was no different. It had been drizzling since early morning and there were few people on the streets, preferring instead the warmth of their own shelters. The swishing wind was making loud noises as it channelled through long alleyways and even if people were on the streets they would have not heard the loud pop caused by somebody apparating in wizardry central London.
The wizard in question was a man of a generous height with broad shoulders and dark hair contrasted by very pale skin and luminous grey eyes that could penetrate a person’s soul without hesitation. His mouth was naturally curved upwards in the right hand corner, giving the impression that he was always smirking and this effect was made more prominent by his masculine jaw. He looked around the deserted streets for a little while, then, arranging the collar of his pitch black cloak, turned a corner and made his way towards the main entrance of the Ministry of Magic with confident steps, kidnapping the fugitive looks of the few witches apparating and disapparating around the grand building.
It was a busy day at the Ministry but the mysterious wizard knew exactly where he was going and he did not need an appointment. It was time and he knew it. Soon enough, the power he had would extend beyond imagination and he would change many, many things according to his own liking. He walked past the Fountain of Magical Brethren as somebody nodded at him and he veered left towards the elevators. There was barely anyone inside, except for a man who he recognised as working in the Wizengamot Administration Department, probably headed for the second floor and a dozen or so interdepartmental memos under the form of lilac paper airplanes levitated in mid air. The other man nodded curtly as the mysterious wizard departed the elevator once it reached the first floor and headed confidently towards the Office for the Minister of Magic. Outside the office a small and rather young looking woman sitting at a mahogany desk who was writing on a piece of parchment and almost did not notice the tall wizard as he was about to open the Minister’s office.
“I’m sorry, sir, you need an appointment. The Minister is very busy...”she started in a rather high pitched voice, but went quite red as he gave her his special grey eyes look and charming smirk.
“He’s expecting me.” He lied and confidently went in as the woman seemed lost for words. He knew that by the time he would come back out she would have put on more lipstick and let her hair down. After all...they all did.
Kingsley Shacklebolt nearly dropped his quill when the door slammed shut and the figure of a man he did not particularly like stood, patiently in front of him.
“Dominus.” He acknowledged and expected him to say something. When it was clear that Dominus was not to speak just yet, Kingsley continued: “I wish you could have made an appointment...I’m afraid I must depart to a meeting on the third floor.” He stood up picking folder on his desk when Dominus spoke in a soft but firm voice: “Sit down, Minister, this is important.”
“Is it?” he asked in a rather disbelieving voice. “Well I’m sure I can schedule a meeting with you this afternoon...”
“Sit down.” He took his wand out and forced Kingsley to sit back down on his chair. The latter looked utterly surprised, but Dominus smiled at him as if he had merely made a comment about the weather. Outside the drizzle had turned into heavy rain. “This is news beyond an appointment.” He added and took his black cloak off, revealing a dark navy suit with wrought dragon teeth instead of buttons and a coiling serpent brooch made of goblin silver on its collar. He threw the cloak on a nearby chair, carelessly as if he were at home and stared pacing around the large office. “And...” he continued...“it is top secret information.” He looked at the many frames decorating the Minister’s office and then back down at Kingsley who seemed prepared to listen.
“Dismissed.” He said in a deep voice as all the previous Ministers in the framed paintings on the wall departed, giving the smirking wizard alarmed looks. Then he looked at Dominus in a less than kind way and added: “What is it, that is so important, Mr Blackwell?”
Dominus took out his wand and pointed it at the ceiling: “Silencio. Now we’re ready to talk,” he added. “Right about now, Death Eaters are at your house, debating whether to torture your wife and daughters.” Kingsley’s face crumpled into a sheet of emotions as he attempted to stand up, but Dominus’ spell held him chair bound. “W-what?” he asked in a disbelieving voice.
“They have approximately one hour left of living, unless you do as I say.” Dominus consulted his pocket watch, a heavy gold oval decorated with small black stones on the margins and with an inscription which Shacklebolt could not see, encrypted on the back. He seemed to be admiring it for a minute and then he placed it back into his pocket and sat down on the chair in front of Kinsley’s desk, as grey eyes penetrated brown ones with an icy stare.
“What do you want?” he asked in a tormented voice. “This won’t go unnoticed!” he threatened.
“Oh, I think it will.” He smirked, and then added adopting the parody of a serious face. “I’m sure I can tell you the whole story, but what will happen to your family once I reach the end?”He smiled.
“What do you want? Who do you work for?” the Minister’s hands were shaking, as they were clenched in fists.
“Well...let’s see. Who do I work for? You see, he goes by many, many names. Some people call him he-who-must-not-be-named, others go for Tom Riddle. Who do I work for, Minister? I work for the Dark Lord.” The pride in his voice sickened Shacklebolt as he threw Dominus a disgusted look.
“The Dark Lord’s dead.” He said in a voice that hid the realisation of something too horrible to think about. “He’s gone.” He repeated more for himself than for Dominus who gave Shacklebolt a mean grin.
“Not for long,” whispered Dominus. “Soon, he shall rise again. There’s a way to bring him back. But enough about that. I have other business to discuss with you.”
Kingsley kept silent, but he looked more and more uncomfortable. Harry Potter and Dumbledore had defeated Voldemort—he was sure of it. The world had been tranquil for 15 years and there was no way to bring him back. But looking into Dominus Blackwell’s eyes that morning, Kingsley started doubting his own assertions. Had Harry Potter’s death been a mere accident at work as everyone seemed to believe, or were Uprick’s aberrations which everyone disregarded, correct?
“You will promote me to the position of the Minister’s Adviser and sack Linegreen. You will approve and immediately pass any new law or reform I make, and you will support me in every speech of yours, praising my work and assuring the crowds that Death Eater attacks are only speculations. Instead, you will say that Mudbloods are behind future attacks as they want to overthrow the Ministry and change the importance of blood status. They want revenge. You will not act against any arrest of Muggleborns and squibs and you shall not object to their immediate death sentence if found guilty, which of course, they will be.”
“You’re insane. I will permit that! You would have to kill me first!” shouted Shacklebolt, looking at Dominus as if he were Voldemort himself.
“Oh, I will. Don’t worry, Minister, I shall dispose of you once the Dark Lord will resume your place, but I’m sure you wouldn’t want your family to go down with you as well. It would be such a shame, wouldn’t it? I heard your twins have one year left of Hogwarts, don’t they?” Blackwell smirked as Shacklebolt looked close to having a heart attack.
“Lastly, in order to make sure you keep your promise we shall make the Unbreakable Vow which, just for this case, has been amended. You see...if you break it, not only you will die, but your entire family shall perish as well.” Dominus stood up and released Shacklebolt from the chair bounding spell, holding his arm out.
Kingsley did not move for a minute, but when Dominus looked at his pocket watch and reminded him, with the most evil smirk that he had only half an hour left before his family should be tortured into madness and then mercifully killed. At that, Kingsley stood up and held out his hand as well for the Unbreakable Vow to be completed.
“Will you, Kingsley Shacklebolt allocate me the post of your Adviser?” For once that day, Blackwell’s voice had adopted a more serious tone as he was looking into the Minister’s brown, tortured eyes.
“I will.” Replied the latter in a regretful, sad voice as a thin, golden rope bound their arms together in a vow of abominable acts and terror.
“And will you support and rid any criticism of any reform and legislation I shall pass?”
“Finally, will you, Kingsley Shacklebolt guard this secret with your life?”
There was a moment of hesitation. Shacklebolt knew he had to do what Dominus had asked of him, yet he still hoped that someone might walk in on them...someone might walk in on them and tell him his family’s safe. But nobody walked in and the Minister bowed down his head, saying in a small voice: “I will.”
“And will you, if you fail, kill your wife, daughters and then yourself?”
“N-no I...I...I mean...” started Kingsley, lost for words at what he was forced to promise. His eyes grew wide and his heart beats had reached such a dangerous speed that he felt rather dizzy. His office, packed with hundredths of books and pieces of parchment between various magical objects left behind from previous Ministers seemed to be collapsing on him, as his lungs were deprived of air. Only Dominus’ clear voice reminded him this was not a nightmare. “Will you, Minister?”
“I will.” The words left his mouth before he could stop them. He widened his eyes as Dominus smiled and said something along the lines of lovely.
Once the Unbreakable Vow was completed, Blackwell let go, picked up his cloak and headed for the door. Before he opened it, he smiled at the Minister who was now nothing more than his puppet, and said in a cheerful voice: “Good day Minister. It was nice coming to a compromise. Bye now.” He smiled and before closing the door, Shacklebolt heard him inviting Mina, his secretary, to a cup of Firewhiskey after work.
One week later...
When Hermione saw Ginny at the door that morning, hidden beneath an overgrown cloak and hood and holding a copy of the Daily Prophet in one hand, she knew that something of great magnitude on the “terrible scale” was bound to happen.
“We need to talk.” Ginny’s voice was grave and a little shaky. Her brown eyes showed a slight annoyance behind the heavy coat of eyelashes that Harry had always loved. Hermione stepped aside to let her sister in law walk in, and directed her into the kitchen.
“Coffee?” she asked while Ginny removed her coat and placed it on the back of her chair before sitting down. Just like Hermione, she was still in mourning for her husband and the black dress she was wearing made her look paler than usual. She nodded once at Hermione who, with a flick of her wand, put the kettle on, as the jar of coffee levitated itself into mid air.
“What’s wrong?” asked Hermione, giving the Daily Prophet on the table fugitive looks. She did not look any better than Ginny. Her wavy hair was placed in a messy bun at the bottom of her head, an attempt at keeping it out of the way without looking completely like she did not care. She was wearing a black pair of jeans and a dark navy top that Ginny recognised as once belonging to Ron. The atmosphere between the two witches was one of misery and exhaustion of living life without their husbands and several minutes passed before Ginny spoke again.
“We need to leave,” she said looking down at the cup of coffee that levitated itself on the table. A tea spoon was also making its way towards Ginny, with a jar of brown sugar not far behind. “No sugar,” she added in a quick glance as the jar and spoon made their way back to their places. When she lifted her eyes to Hermione, the latter’s face was serious and tensed.
“What do you mean?” asked Hermione. It was then that she gave the Daily Prophet a proper look. Ginny said nothing more, as Hermione had all the answers she needed in front of her.
Mrs Weasley cast her eyes upon the tile on the front page, atop of the picture of Kingsley: “THE MINISTER’S NEW ADVISER, DOMINUS BLACKWELL, IS STARTING A PROGRAMME OF MAGICAL REFORMS.” Beneath the big title, there was a subtitle in small letters that seemed to be moving around the page before arranging themselves to be read: “Hermione Weasley needed for questionings after the implementation of Blackwell’s new legislation.”
“What?!” Hermione looked at Ginny horror struck. She then looked back down at the picture of Kingsley who was doing his best for the forced smile to look as real as possible and hoped that the article was written by Rita Skeeter and no one even imagined of taking what she babbled about into account. Beneath the large and terribly irritating title, a small hand indicated the readers to turn to page ten, where she found what she had been looking for.
MAGICAL REFORMS AND THE TRAGIC DEATHS OF HARRY POTTER AND RONAL WEASLEY (an article by Charlie Manson)
Dominus Blackwell, the new Adviser of the Minister has started his job at the Ministry of Magic early last week as the previous Adviser, Jason Linegreen has mysteriously disappeared after being sacked by Shacklebolt himself. The Minister wishes to give no comments on the account.
Barely a week into his new position and Blackwell already wishes to ameliorate the Magical Legislations that have been “outdated” for centuries. He has even stated that he is planning to reform the entire Ministry of Magic in ten years, an achievement not even Dumbledore himself would have been able to accomplish, especially since the fifth floor is still hiding.
Just last morning, the Law for the Interrogation and arrest of suspects for Category One Magical Offences has been activated. And I say activated witches and wizards, because if a person is on the offence list, all means of magical transport are deactivated for them until declared innocent. Brooms shall not fly, the Floo Network will not listen to them, apparitions will splinch the flesh, and port keys shall transport them right in the Ministerial interrogation waiting room.
For those of you who do not know what Category One Magical Offences are, here is a small reminder:
i. Murder by any magical and non magical means
ii. Suicide (if applicable the ghost of the deceased shall be imprisoned in a special ghost prison)
iii. Inheritance of magical estates and objects by muggle-borns (suspects of using the unforgivable curses to bewitch a half- blood or pure- blood into leaving them inheritance)
Thankfully, the Law for the Interrogation and arrest of suspects for Category One offences allows Ministry officials to legally arrest suspects without a warrant as they are seen as a safety liability for the rest of the community (apart from suicide victims).
We have all heard of the tragic accidental deaths of Harry Potter and Ronald Weasley last month while they were training with new defence spells. The entire wizardry world was shocked at this terrible accident that has deprived us of our saviour in defeating he-who-must-not-be-named 15 years ago. But as the investigation concerning their deaths go on, Ministry criminologists believe that while Harry Potter’s death may have been accidental, Mr Weasley’s was an entire different matter. Mr Blackwell himself placed Mrs Hermione Weasley on the list of people that need to be interrogated for number one magical offences, as poison was found in Mr Weasley’s digestive system and...
Hermione looked at Ginny horror struck. “This is ridiculous! What accidental death? Are they blind?”
“Here, read this one,” said Ginny taking out of her bag the most recent copy of the Daily Prophet where Hermione looked into the eyes of herself in a black and white photograph. It was after she had given birth to Hugo and she was smiling down at him while Harry and Ron were around her. It was a family photograph and the only way they could have gotten it was from the senior Weasleys themselves. Next to her own picture, was another one of James Uprick smiling and waving at a camera. He was years younger than when Hermione had last seen him and it was only when she looked at the title that she gasped: BREAKING NEWS: JAMES UPRICK DEAD! She quickly flicked to page three where she found the notorious article.
HERMIONE WEASLEY: GUILTY OF MURDER? (Article by Rita Skeeter)
The first time I met Hermione Weasley (nee Granger) I knew there was something evil within her. Although it took more than 17 years for this truth to come out to the surface, I was proven correct by the latest chain of events concerning the Potters and the Weasleys.
After attending the tragic funeral in August, I was taken aback by the fact that Mrs Weasley shed no tears for the deaths of her own husband and best friend. Indeed, I even recall seeing her smiling every now at then at a certain gentleman with a black hat that covered most of his face.
It was only after the guests started leaving that I managed to put the puzzle pieces together. And what did I discover, witches and wizards of Britain? Hermione Weasley, the same woman that worked in the Department of Magical Creatures at the Ministry of Magic, was having an affair with the head of the Auror Department, James Uprick when her own husband was wasting away, working for Uprick himself to maintain the family.
Indeed, something must have gone wrong in this chain of events. An anonymous source (member of the vast Weasley family) has confirmed that while Ronald Weasley was away at work, Mrs Weasley would receive numerous visits from James Uprick, for several hours. However revolting this may sound, it is true.
They planned a life together and Mrs Weasley was to leave the children with Mr Weasley while going away with Mr Uprick. This never happened, for her own husband discovered the affair she was having. And what did Mrs Weasley do? She was after all, one of the cleverest students of Hogwarts in her youthful days, able to brew numerous potions and perform numerous spells. Some wicked witches would say she did what she had to do: poisoned her poor husband in such tiny quantities that the effects would lead to death in a week. So when Mr Weasley dropped dead while training, it was no accident! Mr Potter, distracted by his friend falling down lifeless, was himself hit by a new and deadly curse. I cannot imagine what Hermione’s conscience may be like.
And if this is not enough, when James Uprick changed his mind, she used the same method to finish him as well. He died overnight, barely two days ago. The investigation is still going on, but we all know what the results will be. She’s guilty. How do I know? Mr Blackwell himself has placed Hermione on the list for the interrogation and arrest of suspects for Category One Magical Offences and she still has not showed up to the Ministry. What does that show, witches and wizards? What does it...
Hermione put the newspaper on the table and stared at Ginny. No one spoke a word; there was only the ticking of the clock in the background to remind them they were wasting even more time. When she looked at Ginny, her eyes filled with tears.
“The reason why I refused to read the paper was because I was afraid of news like these. But I never imagined that...”
“Hermione, what can you expect from Death Eaters? It doesn’t take a genius to recognise what Dominus Blackwell is. They’ve infiltrated the Ministry and they’re denying that they’re back. If Shacklebolt is not under the Imperius Curse than...”
“They want to get rid of the trio,” said Hermione standing up and staring to walk through the kitchen, a habit she had when thinking hard. “They’re bringing Voldemort back and they want to get rid of any serious opposition for their plan to work properly. They killed James because he knew and they are making everyone think I’m to blame! But...what about all the people at the funeral? They all know the truth as well.” Hermione stopped walking around and she looked at Ginny with slight confusion.
Ginny stood up as well and said: “They’ve somehow obliviated all of them. Mom and Dad believe the story...Bill, Charley and Percy as well and McGonagall is not making any comment which tells me she might be under the Imperius curse. I think they’ve infiltrated Hogwarts again.”
“What about you?” asked Hermione. Harry Potter had been the main target and that was as clear as a crystal. Ginny and the kids were Harry’s heirs so they were a bigger threat than herself, Rose and Hugo.
“They haven’t publically attacked me yet. But it won’t be long. Everyone knows who I am. Hermione...we have to leave the country and hide somewhere ‘till we figure out what to do. Not too long and they’ll turn the entire wizardry world against us. You have to come with me.” Ginny’s voice had gained a certain tone that indicated to Hermione that she had a plan. “We have an old aunt living in wizardry Italy in a big mansion, very close to Antonioni, their equivalent to Hogwarts. It’s just as big and just as old and if the kids learn Italian they’ll have no problems when they go there. Clearly we can’t send them to Hogwarts. James, Al and Lily are already there...I didn’t want them to stay in the UK a minute longer when I read the news. I can still apparate and disapparate as I’m not on the list yet, but we have to find a way to get you and the kids out of the country without being detected.” Hermione sat down at the kitchen table and placed her head in her hands. “Oh Merlin...” she said.
“You have to be strong now. We have to leave tonight, but I’m afraid if we take the train or the...what do muggles call it? The plane Death Eaters might be able to track us down.”
“We’re taking the car,” said Hermione. My mom went home early this week but she has left me dad’s old car to visit her. We’ll take that.”
“And we fly there,” added Ginny with a little smile at the thought. When Ron was 12 and he saved Harry from the Dursleys, he would often describe to her how fun the ride in the invisible Ford Anglia was. Since Ginny had loved flying on brooms at Hogwarts, she always wished she could travel via muggle cars.
“Oh...Ginny, muggle cars don’t fly. We’ll just be on the road until we get out of the country and we can apparate to Italy.” Hermione stood up and started taking out various pots and cans from various cupboards.
“What are you doing?”
“We can’t drive a muggle car looking like us...we need Poly Juice potion.” Her hands were already working on the greasy substance as she carefully arranged four cups.
“But it takes a month to brew,” said Ginny standing up to take a look at the unappealing substance that Hermione was placing in the cups.
“I used to brew it for Ron when he needed to disguise himself in his missions...he didn’t like the simpler version they used at work. He preferred the traditional way of making it...said he feels safer. We even have a number of muggle hairs. Here, you can be a blonde.” Hermione handed Ginny the ready Poly Juice potion which had turned into a more appealing pink milkshake like substance that smelled faintly of lavender. Hermione’s on the other hand was dark red smelling prominently of roses.
The dark green Vauxhall was driving along the English countryside. The sky was semi clouded, with sun rays making their way out to greet the rusty coloured landscape and remind it that summer was to come again in a few months time, with its clear skies and warm winds and colours.
The driver of the green Vauxhall was a young looking woman with pitch black, straight hair and a pair of piercing grey eyes, like those of a porcelain doll. She was dressed in sporty muggle clothes and had a pair of sunglasses at the top of her head in order to keep the hair out of her face. Next to her, was also a young looking woman with curly blonde hair and brown eyes, dressed all in black and looking utterly uncomfortable at the non-flying, green muggle car. Her hands were clenched on her seat, even though a seat belt would have been unnecessary for that certain velocity.
On the back bench, Rose was disguised as a dark haired and fair skinned skinny child, a little too tall for the age of seven, while Hugo was a curly haired blonde little boy with sky blue eyes and rosy cheeks fit for pinching. Although they had travelled via muggle cars before, it was not a very prominent occurrence and while Hugo was fascinated by the driving wheel and the moving arrows and numbers, Rose was staring out of the window remembering the first time she had been in a muggle car.
The certain incident occurred when she was four years of age and she had come down with a very bad fever that required St Mungo’s attention. It was a stormy winter evening and they could not have used the Floo Network as the penultimate chimney before St Mungos had gone up in real flames due to a terrible fire that had swallowed the entire house. As a result, the entire Floo Network had been diverted and Hermione deduced it would be faster if they went to St Mungos by muggle car. She drove, while Ron stayed on the back bench with Rosie, but once they reached the hospital, Ron was green in the face and in need of medical attention himself. They went back home by port key, as apparition would have upset both Rose and Ron’s stomachs.
Rose smiled absently at the memory, as the green muggle car passed a field of grapes. It was not long before the sun had set, allowing the sky to enter the twilight zone. By this time all the clouds had disappeared and the countryside panorama, with its vast vineyard belonging to some rich muggle, was enclosed in warm colours that took away all shadows on one’s face. Rose had seen the twilight many times in her life, and it was a particular time, between darkness and light that she allowed herself a few moments of tranquillity, casting away all the worries that made her want to stay in the dark for hours and hours. That particular twilight, she tried to forget about her father’s death. She tried to forget how lonely she felt, even though she had Hermione. She tried to forget the fact that instead of Hogwarts, she will go to a random Italian school. But most of all she tried to forget the fact that she will not set foot in England for a very long time. Or so she thought then.
It was not long before her eyelids, heavy with sleep, went down to cover her polyjuiced eyes she was not familiar with. Darkness penetrated the green Vauxhall as Hermione was making her way towards the nearest abandoned wizard port in the North Sea from where they were to take a small boat and sail thought the dark waters to France. And then they would apparate.
Someone gently shock Rose to wake up. She could feel Hugo’s curly hair tickling her cheek and when she opened her eyes, she opened them at the familiar sight of her own brother’s face and sandy, brown hair...her own hands and her own mother. Hermione was caressing her arm as Rose stood up, while Ginny helped Hugo back into his jumper. She looked outside and saw nothing, for a heavy fog had fallen upon them, concealing their presence.
“Where are we?” she whispered a little nervously, for it looked rather bizarre outside.
“Helga’s Port. In the olden days they used to transport baby dragons into mainland Europe. But it had closed down over a century ago, when rare dragon trade became illegal in the UK.” Hermione managed a small smile when looking at Rose. She smiled back at her mom, yet she knew how much effort it took to make a forced smile realistic.
“What’s illegal?” asked Hugo, wiping his eyes to make sleep go away.
“It means you’re not allowed to do something,” said Ginny giving Hugo a little smile. “Come on, take your bags. We don’t have much time.” She looked at Hermione when she said that last sentence and for a strange reason, Rose got a nostalgic feeling in her stomach.
“Mommy,” she said in a barely audible voice, “when are we going to go back home?”
Hermione looked at her for a moment. Rose was not like any other child she had seen. Sometimes she thought that she was too mature for her age and lying to her like one would lie to a child to make her feel better, would not work with Rose. So instead, she just said: “I don’t know honey.” Rose just nodded and accepted like an adult. And yet Hermione knew that beneath the adult like surface, a scared child was hiding. But that scared child had too much responsibility for the sake of her little brother to come out. She made a mental note to tell Rose that being a child every now and then was not a crime.
They made their way quickly but carefully through the heavy curtain of fog in search of the small boat they had arranged. But as they advanced through the old port, they started feeling the hands of uneasiness claw at them from behind. All of them knew they were being followed, and whoever was behind them was getting closer and closer. Hermione picked Hugo up, while Rose was holding on to her jumper tightly, Ginny right behind her. Once they would reach the safety of the boat house, and old and ragged building, they would hide the kids and take their wands out to fight whoever was pursuing them. But it was too late. A jet of red light hit Ginny right in the small of her back as she collapsed on the floor in the spasm of a hundred knives stabbing her body. When she started screaming, Hugo started crying.
Hermione placed Hugo next to Rose and pointed her wand at what she could not see in the fog. Ginny was convulsing as if in the middle of an exorcism of spells while Rose kneeled on the ground to hug Hugo who was more terrified than he had ever been. From the corner of her terrified eyes, she could see the shadow of many figures moving in the fog. It wasn’t just one person...there were more than 20. It was only when she saw the white skull like mask of a man with a pointed black hood that she screamed. The fog was thinning and the nightmare was becoming more real.
A Death Eater lifted the curse of Ginny’s exhausted body. She ceased screaming, but her body was still in convulsion. The brown of her eyes disappeared in the white sockets and her red hair was sprawled around her like a pile of blood. Hermione lowered her wand and drew Rose and Hugo closer. They were both crying.
“Well, well, well. What do we have here?” Hermione could not recognise the deep voice of the Death Eater who addressed her. They were surrounded by the Dark Lord’s followers and each had their wands out, pointed right at them. “Trying to ignore the interrogation law, Mrs Weasley?”
Hermione stared at him without providing a reply. She wished the Poly Juice potion wouldn’t have warned off. They would have been safer acting like a bunch of confused muggles wandering around like headless chicken. The white masked figure with a dark pointy hood advanced forward, and in the instant of a swift movement, grabbed Hermione’s jaw between his strong fingers, drawing her head a few inches away from his. Rose and Hugo were lifted in a mere second away from their mother, and in the attempt of kicking and screaming they were silenced with a silencing charm in the arms of tall and dark figures. Only the tears coming out of their wide eyes could show how scared they were.
“There’s one thing the Daily Prophet didn’t mention,” he continued, tightening his grip around her jaw until she let out a small moan of pain through her clenched teeth, “We have placed very sensitive detection charms a few meters away from the borders. As you are on the register of interrogation...you set the alarm off and I’m afraid your little trip must be...postponed.”
Through the corners of her eyes, Hermione saw Ginny gaining back her mental consciousness in a feeble attempt to sit up. There were no Death Eaters around her and after mouthing a painful sorry to Hermione she disapparated while she still could. Mrs Weasley mentally smiled at the fact that at least Ginny got away. But she did not have much time to think of her sister in law, as her lungs compressed in the absence of air, her feet felt detached from the earth and when she next opened her eyes, she found herself in the biggest interrogation room in the Ministry of Magic. She had often been in that room, doing different apprentice errands before she got her job, but never in her life, had she been the person in need of interrogation. The Death Eater released her jaw and before she could start worrying about the whereabouts of her children, two pops cracked in the air and the Death Eaters holding Rose and Hugo apparated. Rose was terribly pale and Hugo was a light shade of green that passed completely from his face when he vomited on the robes of the Death Eater holding him. The latter let out an incomprehensible swear word before throwing little Hugo on the floor. Rose joined him in a minute and the other Death Eaters disapparated leaving the Weasley’s alone with only their superior.
“Charmin children you have, Mrs Weasley,” he said and behind the solid mask, Hermione could swear he was smirking.
“What do you want from us?” She spat the words out with increasing acrimony. Already on her pale jaw, the Death Eater’s fingers started appearing under dark bruises. She looked at her kids, not knowing what was to follow. Rose was holding Hugo as he was rubbing his elbow and looking at the dark hooded figure in terrible fright.
“To interrogate you about your husband’s death. And while we’re here, you could tell me about James Uprick as well.” Rose’s eyes widened. She had not seen the newspaper the day before and so she had no idea that according to the Ministry of Magic, her own mother was the prime suspect of her father’s death. And what did Mr Uprick have to do with all this?
“How long do you expect to fool people that Death Eaters are behind this?” Hermione looked at the hooded figure with a murderous glare.
“Oh, don’t you worry Mrs Weasley. The people will be fooled for as long as we want them to be fooled. You see...they are already suspecting, based on our evidence of course, that Muggleborns...oh Mudbloods, whichever name you prefer, are organising an uprising to terminate the importance of blood status. You can imagine how frightened half bloods and pure bloods are. And as for you Mrs Weasley, you shall never open your mouth against us because you will never have the chance to. Once we find you guilty for the deaths of your husband and James Uprick, you shall be executed and your children will be relocated to different homes where they will learn to support us.” The Death Eater than lifted his wand, and for a moment Hermione closed her eyes in fright, but he only withdrew the mask from his face to reveal the greyest eyes, Hermione had ever seen. They were contrasted by very pale skin and pitch black hair and when he smirked, Hermione understood immediately who he was.
“Dominus Blackwell,” she acknowledged, recognising the smirk from a newspaper picture she had seen.
“Mrs Weasley,” he bowed his head down ever so slightly, in the most insulting way possible. “I suspect you are familiar with muggle history.”Hermione did not know what to expect so she just kept quiet, looking at Dominus as if he were to jump on her and murder her any minute. Every now and then she would steal glances at her children to see Rose shaking and crying while Hugo was buried half in her arms. When he comprehended Hermione was not to respond, Blackwell resumed talking: “Well, if you are indeed aware of muggle history, then you must know how they used to execute those perceived as witched and wizards. You see...we thought that if we make the executions public, like show trials, then the people will learn what shall happen to them if they commit Category One Magical Offences. Such an educational law...”
“So you will get rid of anyone who opposes Voldemort’s return by burning them at the stake.” Hermione spat the words out and looked at Dominus Blackwell as if he were the most disgusting and insignificant insect crawling at her feet.
“Indeed,” he replied with a smirk that sickened Hermione and set Hugo in loud, incoherent sobs. “...such adorable children. They will have such a shock seeing you in flames, Mrs Weasley, will they not?” His diabolic voice, made Rose shout at him: “NO!” Dominus ignored her.
Before he could open his mouth again and let out poisonous words fit for stabbing the soul, the door opened and the dark figure of yet another Death Eater walked in with small piece of yellowing parchment. The room was so dark that it was hard to see Blackwell’s features properly when he read the note, yet by the way his eyebrows furrowed and eyes darkened, Hermione could vaguely guess he was slightly angry.
“Well, Mrs Weasley, it seems as if our little interrogation will have to take place tomorrow morning after all. And if things go accordingly, we shall plan the execution by noon. Isn’t that lovely? You don’t even have to wait too much for death.” He gave her his special, evil smirk and then went out leaving the remaining Weasleys with a masked and hooded Death Eater. This one didn’t speak and Hermione moved to Rose and Hugo to hug them and promise them, despite the fact that she didn’t believe it, that everything will be okay.
Their salvation came only a few hours later when the door to the interrogation room burst open, and before the Death Eater could react, another hooded figure sent a very powerful jinx right in his chest sending him flying across the room, until he hit a wall and fell down unconscious.
“Come, quick, we don’t have much time!” The new Death Eater removed his mask, revealing the Weasley chocolate eyes and freckles that contrasted the red short hair coming out from under the hood.
“Uncle Percy!” Hugo shouted and was about to jump on Percy Weasley when Hermione stopped him and told him to be quiet.
“How did you know?” Hermione was so revealed that she burst into small sobs. She followed Percy out of the interrogation room, carefully stepping over another jinxed Death Eater.
“I’ve been forced to work for them. I have a list of all the people on the interrogation list and I try to get out as many as I can. I mean...after the private execution of last week of the last Adviser for the Minister, Linegreen, I have sworn to do everything I can to...to... stop this nonsense, even if I have to....”
“Thank you,” she whispered, following him across a small, dark corridor filled with old books, preventing him from saying something too terrible in front of Rose and Hugo. Besides...Percy seemed close to tears. “Ginny managed to get out with the kids.”
“Thank Merlin! They made me Oblliviate everyone else in the family...” He caught his breath for a moment and then continued, “I can’t come with you. Hermione, follow this corridor and then turn left. There’s a door that only opens with a password. The Death Eaters don’t know about the existence of this corridor just yet, but if they find out you’re missing they’ll look for you everywhere. I have to go back and act as if nothing happened for as long as I can. It’s the only way you’ll have enough time to get out. Once you’re out, hide along the smallest and darkest streets of Knockturn alley. They never look where it’s obvious. I will come for you as quick as I can and help you to get out of the country. I think there’s a way to get you off the interrogation list for a few minutes so that you can disapparate. The password is Dumbledore’s Phoenix. Go!” He hugged her and the kids tightly and turned away from the dark corridor to resume his place in his office. “Thank you so much.” Hermione whispered after him and hurried Rose and Hugo down the narrow, dark corridor.
Once they were out of the Ministry of Magic, they walked quickly and quietly towards Knockturn alley. If they walked fast enough, it would only take them fifteen minutes. Hermione did not even use Lumos to light their way. This was their only chance to escape and they had to do so with the biggest precaution. The night September winds were getting so cold that when a heavy rain prevailed over them, their teeth were clenching and unclenching so fast, that they were afraid it will give them away. But the streets were completely deserted and there were no lights in the shop windows.
Once on Knockturn alley they managed to hide on the smallest and darkest alleyway, and Hermione didn’t care for the cold rain falling on them like a hail of silver bullets. They were safer than they had ever been that day and hugging her children as close as possible to keep them away from the consuming cold, she allowed herself to fall into the comfort of an uncomfortable sleep, her back against the cold stone wall.
She abruptly woke up to the sound of approaching footsteps stepping in small puddles of water. The rain had stopped, but the cold was sharper, biting at her and her kid’s flesh like a piranha in a cold ocean. She could no longer feel her fingers. But it was so dark that it was almost impossible to see anything in front of her. The footsteps were growing louder and louder as a person turned the corner towards the dark alleyway where they were hiding. She was glad the children were still asleep otherwise more than one person’s heavy breathing would have given them away. But the footsteps were coming directly towards them, and that was when Hermione understood the person knew exactly where they were and who they were. She reached for the wand in her pocket, but before she could raise it in the direction of the mysterious person, the lumos light coming from the opposite wand blinded her for a few seconds. When she opened her eyes again, she saw Draco Malfoy. She gasped, pointing her wand at him.
“I’m not going back to the Ministry! You and you Death Eater friends will have to drag me there!” She felt stupid for saying that, but the desperation in her voice had caught up with her fear and her voice became slightly shaky. She felt as if there was no way out.
“You would presume I work with them, wouldn’t you Granger?” His voice, although much deeper than in their school years, had the same sarcastic touch to it. When he spoke, Rose woke up and gasped at the face of the man she saw at the funeral. But she said nothing. Hugo was still sleeping in his mother’s comfortable arms and made no sign of any acknowledgement that he knew what was going on.
“Weasley,” she corrected. “I’m a Weasley now, and it’s most natural I would perceive you work with them, Malfoy.” The poison in her voice made him give out a small laugh.
“You’re still a Granger to me.” He smiled a little and then looked down at the sight of the Muggleborn encyclopaedia girl he used to despise at Hogwarts. “But I can assure you I do not work for them.”
Hermione only held the wand higher, right in his face. “Prove it!”
Draco looked at her in a slightly amused way, and the lifted up his dark sleeve to reveal a pink scar in relief, in the form of a skull swallowing a sneak. “The Dark Mark becomes a scar when you are no longer one of them. Mine became a scar the minute I couldn’t kill Dumbledore.”
“That doesn’t prove anything,” she said in a cold voice looking at Lucius Malfoy’s mirror image.
“We both know it does, Granger. If I would even consider joining them, the Dark Mark would return.” He looked at her dirty face and the blue skin tones of her kids, and could not help feeling slightly sorry for them. Even the bruises on her jaw looked painful and he hated the idea of any Death Eater torturing a woman, however guilty she may be. If he were a Death Eater, he would not humiliate her. Not even a mudblood. He would just kill them straight away. “Look, Granger, if you want to live, you have to come with me, and you have to come with me now.”
“I would never do that, Malfoy.” She was still holding her wand towards him, however, it was not pointed to his face any more...it was slightly down as if she was considering the fact that he changed. But then she mentally slapped herself and considered the possibility impossible. She pointed her wand at his face again.
“Look,” he said and Hermione was slightly shocked at the determination and annoyance in his voice. “They’ve found out you have escaped and they are already looking for you. There are a dozen of them coming towards Knockturn alley and they are set on killing you tomorrow morning without a trial. You either come with me now, or you die!”
Hermione kept silent. Rose and Hugo were looking at Draco Malfoy with big, wondering eyes. When Draco would look at Rose, she would bow down her eyes. For some strange reason, she found it hard to look into his pale, grey eyes.
“How do I know you won’t take us back there?”
“Because believe it or not, just like you I don’t want them to bring Voldemort back,” he said in a determined voice trying to penetrate through her stubborn and emotionless mask.
“I’m waiting for Percy.”
“Percy is dead, Granger! They’ve found out he helped you.” Before Hermione, Hugo or Rose could gasp, they heard the sound of approaching footsteps. The Death Eater. They quickly stood up from the cold stone floor, Hermione hugging Rose and Hugo tighter.
“Why are you doing this?” Hermione looked at Draco and tried to find a reason. But his face showed no emotion and she couldn’t see anything in his eyes.
“Merlin’s bloody beard, Granger, we don’t have time. Do you want to bloody live?” Hermione nodded, as the Death Eater footsteps were getting closer at the sound of their voices. “We can’t apparate...”
“I have a port key,” he said taking out of his pocket a red rose.
“I’ll take us back to the Ministry.” Draco sensed the desperation in Hermione’s voice and reflexively, placed his hands on her shoulders, making her look in his eyes. “This one will work.”
There was no hesitation left in her. Once Hermione, Rose, Hugo and Draco touched the red rose, their lungs were deprived of air as the dark alleyway circled around them dissolving everything solid into a misty, unclear space vision. Two places were compressed together and when they next opened their eyes and took in a breath of fresh, cold air, they found themselves at the gates of Malfoy Manor, following the salvation of an old enemy.
A/N So what do you think about this chapter? Blacwell? Draco? The escape? Thank you so much for reviewing so far and please let me know what you think!!! :)
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