“She was right on top of me when we got here.” Angela was saying to Hermione. “I opened my eyes and I was on the ground. My wand was nowhere in sight and the next thing you know I’m dodging spells by that crazy bitch.”
“Thorn probably did it on purpose. This place is huge. If he had all of us so spread out, it would take forever for us to find one another.”
“So he picked me to start this episode’s round of events? I’m not sure if I should feel honored or furious beyond measure.”
Hermione smiled. They had been walking for a few minutes now, and if they hadn’t just come from an awful run-in with Evans, anyone would’ve thought they were just having a causal walk through a forest; maybe even just hiking.
“Do you have any idea on how to get out of this mess?” Angela asked. “I have no problem trying to take out the rest of the Azkaban escapees. But, it’s like Thorn said. Only one of us is meant to survive all of this, and Hermione, I like you, so I’d really rather not have to kill you so I can live.”
Hermione laughed. She nodded and then stopped their walking for a moment in order to get a good look around them before they continued. “Yes, I have an idea. I say we storm the Watch Tower. Thorn has the power to release us and I say that we make him.”
“Sounds like a plan to me, but do you know how to get back to the Watch Tower? We don’t even how far we are from it, much less the direction we have to go in.”
“I know, but we’ll find it. But before we do we have to find Charles and James. And then we have to find the convicts.”
“To kill them,”
“What? No, Angela.” Hermione was mortified. She kept shaking her head as she resumed speaking. “No, we’re not doing that because we’re not murderers.”
“You killed Evans.”
“She was attacking me, and that’s called self-defense. I didn’t even want to do it when I had the chance and she was lying face down on the ground. When we find them we’re not going to outright kill them. That’s manslaughter.”
“What are we going to do with them then? Reward them for their past efforts that landed them in Azkaban in the first place?”
“They’re going to go with us to the Watch Tower and help us take down Thorn.”
“Help us take down Thorn! Hermione, are you insane?” Angela let out a frustrated sigh and crossed her arms. “They don’t want to help us. This is their game! It’s designed for them to win! They’re not going to go against the very person that’s on their side.”
“Is Thorn really on their side, Angela?” Hermione countered. “We know that he’s dead-set against Aurors. That’s a given. But in the end Vandy, Conrad, and Malfoy will still have to kill each other.”
Angela sighed. She shrugged her shoulders and took a hard swallow. “You think Conrad will go along with your brilliant idea?”
“…Doubt it; might have to Imperious him. But actually, I’m kind of counting on Malfoy.”
“Malfoy..?” Angela laughed. “Talk about a long shot, Hermione.”
“Conrad’s the long shot. With Malfoy…not so much,”
“Well, all I’m saying is don’t get your hopes-”
Angela stopped in midsentence, and Hermione turned just in time to see a horrific sight. It seemed as though the earth had suddenly opened up and Angela just fell through. She could only be seen from the waist up, the rest of her beneath the ground, and now Hermione was on her hands and knees frantically trying to dig her out until she foolishly remembered the wand in her hand. She pointed it to the ground, but before she could do anything to it, the wand dropped from her hand as she was knocked off her feet.
Hermione collided with the base of a tree, her head hitting it rather hard and causing her vision to become completely lopsided. She shook her head and blinked her eyes quickly, trying to get her eyesight right.
“Angela!” Her head was the only visible thing now, and Hermione looked to her right to see Draco amidst the trees with his wand pointed to where Angela was almost fully underneath the ground.
“Son of a bitch… No!” Hermione climbed to her feet in a hurry, and rushed over to Angela. She scooped up the wand she had dropped and threw a spell at Draco to which he deflected while simultaneously knocking her to the side. Hermione slid on the rough ground, the feeling of rocks grazing her left arm and utterly destroying the palms of her hands. She yelled in pain, trying her hardest to ignore it as she rolled over in the dirt to rise to her feet and saw Angela’s last moments as she completely disappeared under the ground.
Draco smiled at where Angela had once been, and then gave a broader smile to Hermione who had her wand in her hands once again and pointed to him. His smile faltered as her wand movements were large and swift, and he quickly leapt to the side as where he once stood became a site of a severely splintered tree and a completely vaporized bush.
“Get her out!” Hermione shouted as she threw another spell at him. Draco deflected it as he had done before and got her with a spell in the stomach. She doubled over, dropping to her knees, and coughed several times.
“You get her out.” Draco snarled at her, and left Hermione where she was. She took a hard swallow and looked up to see that he was gone. She took her left hand in her right and saw that the screen on the wristband hadn’t shown Angela’s face, but knew that it would soon. Hermione crawled over to where she had been and used her wand to dig away at the dirt, blasting it severely until Angela’s head could be seen. Once it had, Hermione ditched the wand, clawing away at the ground until her face was popping out of it.
Hermione instantly became disgusted because Angela’s eyes were wide open. It didn’t look as though she was breathing, and Hermione began trying to resuscitate her magically when her wrist began to burn. Though she knew what that sensation meant, she didn’t stop saying the spell. There were other people running around in the bloody forest. Someone else could’ve been dead. It was possible. It was highly possible, but no matter how hard Hermione tried, Angela wouldn’t take a single breath.
Tears sprung to Hermione’s eyes, but she didn’t let them fall. She blinked them back down furiously and then stood. She pointed her wand at the ground and said, “Accio wand.” It took a few seconds but the wand that either Angela was holding onto or had dropped on the ground beside her shot up from the soil and into Hermione’s free hand. Two wands were better than having just one, and she stuffed the other one into her back pocket before kneeling back down on the ground and quickly closing Angela’s eyes. After rising to her feet, Hermione used the wand in her hand to cover Angela’s face back as it had been before, kind of as an unofficial burial. She then marked several large X’s on the trees surrounding her, marking off where her coworker’s body was so when the Ministry came to save her, and they would come, that they’d know exactly where she was.
“Did you take note of that?” Atkins asked the closest Auror to him. He was making sure that they had marked that down so they could dig Angela up.
“I don’t get it.” Ron said after the show went to a “commercial break.” “Not that I’m not thrilled that Malfoy left her alone, but why did he?”
“Why does Malfoy do half of the things he does?” Harry sighed and massaged his temples. “My only thought is that maybe he’s leaving her for last. It’s the only thing that makes sense.”
“My question is why did he kill Angela that way?” Another Auror said. “She and Hermione were casually walking along. They had no idea that Malfoy was lurking about there. He could’ve killed them both with a simple Killing Curse. But what does he do? Shoves Hermione out of the way and then gives Angela a slow and a cruel as hell death.”
“Could be the simple fact that Malfoy’s a sick bastard,” Ron shrugged his shoulders. “Let’s just hope he’s that merciful with Hermione. Give her enough time to think and kick his arse completely.”
Bloody Malfoy… Arse… Son of a bitch… Bastard…
Hermione kept repeating insults in her mind as well as aloud as she violently marched through the forest. Ever since she left Angela, her wand had been clutched so tightly in her hand so that it had gone completely pale and numb. She had to look down at her hand from time to time to make sure that the wand was still there since she truly could no longer feel it.
What Malfoy had done was horrible; more so than what Evans had come at them with. Evans was trying to end things smoothly and quickly; a simple death. But what he had done? It was cruel. Hermione’s body trembled at just thinking of Angela, and at how each time she had looked back at her, she was lower and lower into the ground until she couldn’t be seen anymore.
“Do you still want to talk to him?” Hermione asked herself in a taunting fashion. She huffed; taking refuge behind a tree as she casually gazed all around her to make sure that she was alone. After doing so she kept trudging along, constantly berating herself and realizing that Angela was right. Talking to Malfoy, Vandy, and Conrad into storming the Watch Tower with her was an utterly stupid idea. They didn’t want to talk. They didn’t want to help her. They just wanted to kill. To kill and move on since they were on a deadline, and Hermione stopped walking, looked up at the sky and saw the position of the sun.
Whether she had wanted to believe it or not at least three hours had gone by. It had to be about noon now, maybe one o’clock had passed. She had about six to seven hours before the sun was gone and maybe then she could relax? In the dark it would be hard for the convicts to find her, but then again, it would be hard for her to spot them, and the other Aurors for that matter.
Hermione sighed and slowed her walk, coming up to a bit of decline and the last thing that she wanted was to fall and make a commotion about it, attracting unwanted ears. Day or night, it didn’t matter. Danger was everywhere here, and the faster night came, the faster the next day would come, and the more determined everyone would be to finish each other off.
At thinking that, her wrist began to burn uncontrollably. It had come so sudden that Hermione had almost lost her footing and would’ve been rolling down the hill if she hadn’t wrapped her arms around a tree, her heart racing as she felt her feet slide against the ground. Once she was settled and was able to let the tree go, Hermione hesitated. The burning sensation had come from the wristband and she was afraid to look and see whose face would come up next.
It could be a prisoner… She thought, giving her good reason to look at her left hand. Though, as she stared at it, a large frown appeared on her face as she was looking into the eyes of James, his face crossed out like Angela’s and Evans’. Hermione took a hard swallow and muffled her sobs. That was two Aurors down, herself and Charles left and she wondered how long they would truly last. She took one last glance at the wristband again as if to engrave James’ face in her memory –whether to spur her on to continue fighting for her life, or to put doubts in her mind that this was a battle that she wouldn’t win, she wasn’t sure –but his face was still becoming a permanent picture the longer Hermione stared at it. And the longer that she stared, she realized that James looked a little…funny.
The picture of him was in color, as were the other two, but Hermione could tell that it wasn’t like some snapshot that was taken of him to use for identification. It seemed real; as though his last moments had been captured on film and that was what she was staring at. His face was an awful hue of blue and his eyes seemed to be puffing out of his head. It was a bit disgusting to look at really, and Hermione could swear that she could make out his hands around his own neck, making the symbol that meant that he was choking.
And then that’s when it hit her. The wristband had somehow taken a photo of James’ last moments, and his last moments were him gasping for air because he was suffocating. Hermione let her arm rest at her side and she instantly thought of Draco. This had his name written all over it. She knew Conrad wouldn’t have had the patience to wait until James died of lack of oxygen, and though she didn’t know Vandy all that well except what was written about him in his reports, Hermione had the feeling that he wouldn’t have the patience for that sort of murder either.
As Hermione continued her way downhill –being careful not to take a misstep and fall, staying close to trees to use for support, –she was thinking. It wasn’t like she didn’t know Draco to be a patient person. Though during the Hogwarts days he was always hot-tempered and ready to jump at anyone who dared challenge him, when it came to the steps he took Draco took them carefully. He wasn’t one for failing all because he was too sudden in making judgments and pursuing certain actions. That mentality followed him all through adulthood, which was why it had taken Harry up to four years to find and arrest him.
But even with this against him, in this foul little game of Thorn’s Hermione found that Draco was a little too patient. As she had mentioned in her inner thoughts, they were all on a schedule. If there wasn’t a sole winner in all of this by tomorrow, 8 pm, they’d all be electrocuted to death. Call her crazy, but Hermione thought that sort of thing to be quite the precious matter. If Draco valued anything at all, he valued his life, so why waste the time killing his competitors in ways that took several seconds when the Killing Curse could do the job in just one?
It was a rather baffling thing to Hermione, and because she had rather not think about it anymore, now finding that her thoughts had made her detach from reality completely, forcing her travel down the hill and walk across open terrain absentmindedly, she determined that Draco had only killed Angela and James in those time-consuming ways because he was cruel, and that he must’ve found some sort of enjoyment by doing it that way.
Feeling satisfied with that hypothesis, Hermione took a cautious look about her as she slowly walked through the middle of a clearing, a mass of trees which seemed to have been cleared away, leaving a large patch of soil in the middle of it with grass desperately trying to poke through. As she continued her walk, Hermione let out a small gasp as she took a step and began to hear an abundant amount of noise. She tightened the hold on her wand, ready to fight, all thoughts and fears about being a murderer like the other convicts having fled her mind. Though, there was no one in sight. The sound was the noise of trees whipping violently in the wind and a rope that had been under a Concealment Charm that had suddenly appeared.
Out of instinct Hermione looked down at her feet and knew without a doubt what was about to happen. A noose was around her right ankle, and before she could stop it the rope had tightened around it. Hermione was yanked by the ankle and up into the air, her wand dropping by the shock of it, and her head terribly hitting the ground as she was lifted up.
She was hanging upside down now by the ankle and aside from the rather hard hit her head took –one of many that day which made her realize how hardheaded she must’ve really been for it to still be intact –the blood was quickly rushing to her head. Hermione felt heavy and then lightheaded. With her wand on the ground there was nothing she could do. Suddenly, and very foolishly, she felt like a piece of meat, a prey, dangling and waiting for someone to cut her loose and claim their prize. A nice little present, she was, and Hermione took deep breaths, hoping and praying that of all people Conrad didn’t find her this way.
It would make his day; finding the object of his hatred and source of the arousal of the friend that lay between his legs just hanging in the air. And if this was going to be Hermione’s last moments, she had rather it be with her fully clothed and some dignity.
Yes, that’s what she wanted, and Hermione closed her eyes because she couldn’t take the feeling of her head pulsing and the dizziness that the slight swinging of her body was producing.