Four long days passed exactly the same. Hermione huddled in a corner of her cell, her arms wrapped around herself as if she could protect herself from the terrible memories elicited by the Dementors lurking around the corridors. She’d seen many terrible, gruesome things as an Auror, and she relived each one of these memories over and over every moment of the day.
She watched Ron die over and over again. She repeatedly relived the horror of the basement at August’s hideout. Her dreams were filled with blood and pain, relentlessly eating away at her spirits. Food was pushed into her cell twice a day, but she couldn’t even think about eating. There was little to no noise in the area of Azkaban that she was in, except for occasional sobbing from other cells.
On the fifth day of her imprisonment, Hermione felt a sudden blissful relief from the anguish as the silvery light of a terrier Patronus made its way to the door of her cell, chasing away the fear and sadness caused by the Dementors. She struggled to her feet as the door to her cell clanged open.
“Your lawyer is here to meet with you,” said the guard, leading her from the cell.
Hermione entered the questioning room shakily, blinking at the bright light that blinded her after two days of gloom. A man that she vaguely recognized from Daily Prophet advertisements sat at the table with a file folder and blue water bottle next to him. He looked up as she sat down in front of him.
“Miss...Granger, is it?” he asked as the guard left with his terrier Patronus.
The lawyer’s fox Patronus gamboled about the edges of the room, carrying with it a sense of warmth and relief from the Dementor’s crushing presence in the prison. The lawyer himself was a tall, well-built man in his late twenties with dark hair and strong facial features. “I’m Bryan Cooper,” he said, holding up his identification, which acknowledged him as a Magical Legal Aid lawyer appointed to those suspects who didn’t have a lawyer of their own.
His hazel eyes gazed into hers calculatingly when she didn’t offer the customary response of “Nice to meet you,” or something along those lines. He seemed to absorb her depressed, listless countenance and the helpless fear in the depths of her eyes. “So,” he said briskly, glancing into the file folder in his hand. “You’re being charged with treason.”
Hermione found herself slowly beginning to perk up in the presence of the fox Patronus that allowed her to think above the hopelessness that had begun to consume her. A little optimism began to creep its way into her heart. “And I have no idea why,” she replied angrily.
“We’ll get to that,” the lawyer said pompously, with the air of brushing her off. He put the folder on the table and clasped his hands on top of it. “First, why did you just hand over your wand and allow yourself to be arrested on what were obviously trumped-up charges?”
“What does that have to do with—” She halted; her eyes flicked to the fox Patronus—the sneaky, clever FOX Patronus—then to the blue water bottle, and finally back to Bryan Cooper’s cool eyes. She slowly reached for the water bottle. “May I?” she asked sardonically.
Cooper smirked and nodded, all but confirming Hermione’s suspicions.
Hermione unscrewed the cap and glanced at the murky grey contents. Exhaling sharply, she set the bottle back on the table and slumped into her seat. “Do you have a death wish?” she hissed.
“You may speak freely in here. No one is listening; lawyer’s privilege.”
“Draco Malfoy, what are you doing here and what have you done with the real Bryan Cooper?” Hermione gasped out, her heart racing a mile a minute.
“Oh, relax; he’s under the drawing room floor of the Manor, sleeping like a baby.” Bryan Cooper—Draco Malfoy, rather—stood up. He looked rather impressed that she had seen through his Polyjuice Potion so well, though he really had made it easy for her. “No one can see in,” he said, gesturing to the solid cement walls and steel door.
Hermione stood and made her way around the table, shaky from four days of not eating. She threw her arms around him, slight sobs wracking her body. She hadn’t actually thought that he would come for her, particularly in this manner. Draco held her close, stroking the hair of his fiery woman who was so vulnerable at this moment. He had never been in Azkaban himself, but he knew well what the Dementors did to a person. “It’ll be all right, love,” he murmured soothingly. “We’ll fix this.”
Though inwardly her heart fluttered at his term of endearment, she had other things on her mind as she pulled away unhappily. “How?!” she demanded. “How can this possibly be fixed? Treason is the most serious charge there is!”
“You’re not actually going to be tried,” Draco reassured her, pulling her back against him.
She pulled away again as she processed this. “What?!”
“I spoke to the Minister in the guise of your lawyer; he was legally bound to tell me that you’ve only been arrested so you’ll be in prison during the Hunters’ trials,” he explained, anger twisting the strong face of the lawyer he was impersonating. He noticed that Hermione’s legs were trembling, so he sat back down in his chair, pulling her into his lap despite her soft protest.
She clung to him tightly, only a little unnerved by the fact that his body wasn’t what she was used to. “I missed you,” she breathed, so softly that Draco wasn’t sure she’d even said it.
“And I, you,” he replied in a low undertone, kissing her on the forehead as she relaxed in his arms. “Drink this.” He pulled a nourishment potion out of his pocket, which Hermione drank quickly. She smiled slightly as strength and vitality flooded her limbs, making up for the days she’d gone without food. She reached for his hand as Draco began to continue explaining what he’d discovered.
“Today was the first day of the Hunters’ trials,” he said, entwining his fingers with hers as she rested her head on his shoulder. “They sentenced four to life in Azkaban and one to the Dementor’s Kiss. No mention of their help to the Aurors was even made. They barred me from the courtroom,” he said bitterly. “You’re suffering in this prison so that they can prevent justice.”
“Does Harry know that I’m in here?” Hermione asked sadly. She was already completely disillusioned with the Ministry of Magic, but she prayed that Harry wasn’t involved.
Draco hesitated. As much as he would love to tell Hermione that his old school enemy had been behind this, he couldn’t lie to her. “He does not. He’s been looking for you; showed up at your apartment the other day. No one besides the Minister of Magic and the officers who arrested you know where you are. Potter’s frantic for information about you.”
Hermione bit her lip, thinking. At least Harry hadn’t had a hand in having her arrested. “So I’m just going to sit in here for the next five days until all the Hunters are convicted.”
“That’s one option.”
“What’s the other?” she asked warily.
“Allow me to get you out of here,” Draco said lightly. “Don’t just sit here and let them do this to you. Come away with me.”
“It’s five days, Draco. Why would I let you break me out of here—assuming you even could—and have the both of us wanted for the rest of our lives?” She looked up at him, trying to find the man she knew in the strange hazel eyes of the body he was in. His suggestion didn’t make sense.
“I’m going to break my Hunters out,” he stated firmly, watching her face turn from inquisitive to shocked. “I would have let you testify before I did anything like this, but it’s become increasingly clear that the Ministry isn’t going to give them a fair trial. These men have shown me nothing but the utmost loyalty and respect; I’m not going to leave them in the dust.”
Hermione smiled sadly. “You have no idea how Gryffindor you sound.”
“I want you to come with me,” he said intensely, his mouth set in a firm line.
Everything was happening so fast. “Where are you going to go?” Hermione asked desperately.
“My parents had an Unplottable estate in Scotland. Come away with me; no one will find us there.”
He was actually asking her to leave with him; leave her friends, her family, everyone and everything she has ever known. Yet, the choice was far easier to make than she would have thought.
The fervency of his plea nearly convinced her, but for one thing. “I will go with you,” she said, not missing the relief and triumph in Draco’s eyes, “but you won’t break me out of here. I’ll wait until they release me.” She ignored Draco’s sigh. “If you’re going to break the Hunters out while I’m in here, just leave me a Portkey or something somewhere for when I get out so I can follow you. I’m not going to break the law and have to go on the run for the rest of my life over a week of imprisonment.”
Draco nodded, seeing the wisdom of what Hermione was saying, though he hated to see her thin body in the hideous prison uniform. He could tell she hadn’t been eating. “Fine. I will leave the Portkey in the hidden room that you found the last time you went to the Manor. The key to my rooms will be left under the mattress of your bed and to get into the Manor, just place your hand against the front door and speak your name. Once the Hunters are out of Azkaban, they might search your apartment. A portkey can be detected, but a nonmagical key cannot.”
“But, how are you going to get them out of Azkaban?” Hermione asked worriedly. “The guards aim to kill if there’s threat of a breakout.”
Draco smirked. “Magical, linked tattoos are a wonderful thing,” he said meaningfully, winking down at her. “There’s so much one can do with them.”
Hermione didn’t reply; her stomach felt queasy about the whole thing.
“It’s about time for me to return you,” Draco said reluctantly. “Don’t worry about a thing.” He took a long swig of his water bottle filled with Polyjuice Potion as they both stood up. “I’ll see you soon,” he said, flashing her a cocky smile.
“Be careful,” Hermione pleaded, pulling him close for a last embrace.
“I’ll do my best.” Draco banged his fist on the door three times to summon the guards. “And Hermione? Make sure you eat.”
Hermione went back to her cell, armed with a weapon she hadn’t had before: hope.
While the draining power of the Dementors was considerable, Hermione was able to last that day and the next without reliving any of the horrible memories that had become a staple of her time in Azkaban. Their power was considerably lessened by the simple fact that Hermione knew her stay was only temporary. She worried, though. She worried every second of every waking moment. Something was nagging her about Draco’s plan—something that bothered her about it, but she could never quite think of it.
Adrenaline coursed through her body every time she heard a noise. While it was ridiculous to assume that the Hunters would be imprisoned near her in the massive building, she kept waiting for some sign that Draco had either failed or succeeded in his mission. The fight or flight chemicals flooding through her veins every time she heard a noise of any kind exhausted her body, making it very necessary for her to eat, even when she didn’t feel much like it.
“Here,” the guard said gruffly, pushing a tray through the bars of her cell on the third day after Draco’s visit. The fare was the same as it had been every other day: a thin, lukewarm soup with pieces of cabbage floating in it, a lump of bread, and a plastic glass of room-temperature water. As the guard turned to leave, an earsplitting clanging rent the air, causing both the guard and Hermione jump. “Prisoner escape!” gasped the guard, his face white. He pulled his wand out of his pocket and rushed off out of sight.
Hermione waited anxiously for news; the loud clanging of the alarm bell was the only thing she could hear. Had Draco been successful? Or was he even now being dragged to the Dementors to have his soul sucked from his body? She was unable to keep still; she paced the small cell, the aura of the Dementors forcing her to think the worst. Over an hour passed before the alarm finally ceased.
The next guard that walked by was pale and sweaty, but Hermione recognized him as a man she’d spoken to once or twice as an Auror. “Officer Matheson!” she called, hoping the use of his title instead of his first name (Christopher) would entice him to give her some information.
Officer Matheson halted and turned back to her cell. “What?” he asked curtly.
“What just happened?” she asked, keeping the desperation out of her voice as best as she could.
The guard glanced left and right before approaching her. “There was an escape,” he confided softly. “The largest since You-Know-Who was around.” He strode off, his dragonfly Patronus fluttering behind him.
Hermione collapsed on the cot in her cell, weak with relief. Draco had gotten away with it. So far, she amended.
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