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Chapter 6 : Truce
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The sun was disappearing faster than either of them had liked. There was still light, but sure enough it would all be gone within the hour. Hermione and Draco had been walking around aimlessly for a while now. They had been taking slow steps, having no reason to speed up. All caution had been set aside. The only person that would kill the other was already there, walking in silence.
Hermione sighed. It was the only noise she had made since talking to Draco at the lake and doing so had seemed so …foreign to her. It was as if she was no longer used to sounds other than what their shoes made as they walked. Talking just seemed unimportant. What was the purpose of words here? What was the purpose of speech? They both knew the agenda. They knew what had to be done and it didn’t need telling twice. Neither of them knew where the Watch Tower was, and that’s why they were just wondering around, hoping to find something, or someone, that would lead them to it.
But they were wasting time. Hermione knew it. Draco knew it. But at this point it was apparent that neither truly cared. They had wanted a break and they were taking it.
“…How did you kill the other two?” Draco suddenly asked. His voice had sounded so strange that it hadn’t registered with Hermione for several seconds. After it had, she took a deep breath and answered him.
“Vandy was crushed. By what, I don’t know. I was too busy trying to haul myself out of there to watch it happen. It was more than likely a tree. With Evans’ she um…got her neck broken.” Hermione, who had been staring at the ground, looked up at him to find that he had been staring all along. Disturbingly, Draco was smiling, and she turned her gaze back to the ground. “You now know how I killed your friends. How did you kill mine?”
“Obviously you know about the woman,” He said slowly, categorizing her reaction and strangely not finding any. “With the brown-haired one, that guy with a faint beard-”
“James,” Hermione interjected. “His name was James.”
“Right, well…with him I cut off his air supply. He died after a few seconds; more than a few, really, but I didn’t count them. With the other I slashed him and he bled to death.”
Draco glanced over at Hermione after he had finished describing the two deaths. He found that she was staring at him with a look that he didn’t like. He was sure that she saw his face scrunched up in annoyance and the starting stages of anger so she looked away, but that look was still there.
“Stop it.” Draco scowled.
Hermione looked at him in confusion and then frowned. “Stop what? I’m not doing anything but just thinking.”
“I know and I told you to stop.”
“Thinking..? You can’t stop my thoughts, Malfoy.”
“Want to bet?” He said murderously and Hermione glanced down at his hand that was tightening his grip on his wand. She would’ve felt a flicker of fear and danger to her life if she didn’t have a wand too. No, she hadn’t miraculously found the one that had rolled away from her as she had tumbled down the hill with Conrad. And nor did Conrad have one on him. Draco had nicked one off of Charles and kept it as a spare. A few minutes into the walk he had given it to her without even bothering to ask if she needed it.
As Hermione continued to stare at his hand which was slightly growing pale, she huffed. “Well, of course you can stop me that way. And it’d probably be a slow, painful, and anxiety-producing death. My emphasis on slow…giving me time to defend myself,”
Draco grew quiet. He had relaxed his grip on his wand considerably, but the slack had gone from his hand to his jaw which he was clenching.
“That’s what you were doing, weren’t you? Trying to give them time to fight back,”
Draco sighed. “But they didn’t.”
“Well, of course they didn’t!” Hermione said exasperatedly. “You were trying to kill them in the cruelest of ways. Anyone would’ve panicked-”
“You wouldn’t have.”
Hermione stopped talking. She tightened her lips and listened to him speak. “You might’ve panicked for the first couple of seconds, but you would’ve gotten over it. You would’ve gotten yourself out of it and fought back. But then again,” Draco chuckled and shrugged his shoulders. “Not everyone’s you.”
Hermione smiled. “I think you just gave me a compliment, Malfoy.”
“And it’s the last one you’ll ever get from me.”
They kept on walking for a little more. They had resumed their silence, not realizing exactly how much more they were walking until the moon had fully appeared in the sky. The place seemed absolutely frightening at night, yet Hermione didn’t show her fears, especially because Draco wasn’t showing any. All of a sudden she felt his arm come across her chest, signaling her to stop walking. She immediately began staring at him in a state of alarm until what he said next simply made her want to roll her eyes.
“We should stop here to make camp.”
“Make camp? In case you’ve forgotten, we’re not on a camping trip. We have to get to the-”
“Watch Tower, I know, and I’m sure it’ll still be there at sunup.” Draco replied irately. He drew out his wand and pointed it to the ground, a large tent having just been produced. As he looked back at Hermione who was staring at him as oddly as someone could stare at another, he let out a frustrated sigh. “It’s hard enough to find the bloody tower in the day, much less at night. We’ll still have a little over twelve hours for vengeance when it’s time for us to be on the move again, alright?”
Hermione huffed. She wondered when he became in charge of this little expedition, but just to avoid having a row with him and making him change his mind about not killing her, she agreed; working with him to camouflage the tent among the trees.
When Atkins had said that he wanted a massive search team, he truly meant massive. Every Auror within the ministry had been organized, leaving all matters that they had been attending to behind. Everyone was sure that the criminals of England would be having a free-for-all the moment they left. With no one around to watch or investigate them, the Minister of Magic was sure that the crime rate would rise by a tremendous percentage by the time it took for every last one of his Aurors to come back.
“I still think some of us should’ve stayed behind.” Ron said quietly to Harry. They were both sitting in Atkins’ office while he was talking to one of the Ministers of Magic in South America. They had lost track as of to which one since they had struck up of a conversation of their own. “This whole country’s going to fall away while we’re gone.”
“And it won’t take long either.” Harry sighed. He lifted his glasses some and massaged the bridge of his nose. “All of the surveillance and investigations that we were doing… Those guys aren’t idiots. They’ve been watching their steps because they knew we were watching them. They’ll know we aren’t there anymore.”
“…And Atkins knows this.”
Harry and Ron glanced over at Atkins who was still deep in conversation. They turned back to each other with wry looks on their faces and clear doubts.
Hermione and Draco were both lying on beds a good fifteen feet apart. Once the tent was set up that’s the position they had both taken, neither looking at the other or doing anything to acknowledge that the other existed. It was as Hermione was lying down that she felt it all. Every bruise, every cut, every slash, everything... Roughly fourteen hours of running for her life had finally taken its toll and she suddenly wished that she was lying in a large tub, full of hot water and bubble soap. She could smell it too, her favorite bubble bath soap. It was a mingle of melon and some other citrus fruit, the name of which was escaping her mind. But whatever it was, it made Hermione long for home and caused her to daydream.
But that daydream began to break apart at the sound of a deep gurgle. It was her stomach that was disturbing the quiet, and Hermione could see Draco smirking because of it.
“Of course I am,” She grumbled. “I just realized that I haven’t eaten anything in a full twenty-four hours. Aren’t you hungry?”
Hermione, who had been staring up at the ceiling, turned her head to look at him. He wasn’t looking at her, but rather finding amusement in twirling his wand in between his fingers.
“What do you mean no?”
“Is there any other definition? I meant no, as in no.”
“Ugh, forget I asked.”
She turned over onto her side so that her back was facing him. She heard the squeaking of his bed and figured that he had done the same, the conversation having ended for the night. He sighed, and instead of silence ensuing he spoke.
“The food in Azkaban isn’t some gourmet meal, you know. It tastes like you’re eating nothing. You put it in your mouth, you chew, you swallow, but your stomach doesn’t move. And so, when you’re constantly hungry, the feeling becomes mutual, and then it fades. I could go three days without eating and not feel a thing. So, no, I’m not hungry.”
Though what Draco had said was completely morbid, he had answered the question either way. Now Hermione was interested in what more he had to say. Those few seconds had left her rather “chatty,” and with no one else to talk to, and him seeming so compliant, she had might as well. Besides, he was the only one who could answer her burning question, and she turned back over and swung her feet off of the bed, sitting up completely.
“How did you get here?” Hermione asked him. Draco moved his eyes toward her and she prompted him. “How did they get you and the others out here?”
“…I was waiting for you to ask me that.” He said slowly, setting his wand aside and sitting up in bed like she had. “I was beginning to think that you never would.”
“Then answer it. What, did someone just walk up to your cell and ask if you wanted a literal fighting chance at freedom?”
“Yes… In general terms that’s exactly how it happened.”
Hermione cocked a brow at him and scoffed. She crossed her arms about her chest and suddenly grew irate. “And you just agreed?”
“Of course not,” Draco laughed. Hermione’s face relaxed at his joyous one, and he continued laughing to himself until he calmed, choosing to lie back down. “Someone really did come to my cell that night. Some shady character who I couldn’t really see but wasn’t really trying to see anyway. He told me that he could get me out of Azkaban if I was willing to fight to stay out.”
“And what did you say?”
“I laughed at him first. It was the best damn story I’d heard since I’d been arrested. After I got over it I told him to sod off. He gave me the offer again and…” Draco took a deep breath and placed his arms across his forehead. “Granger, I didn’t think he was bloody serious.”
“You hadn’t heard the rumors about what was going on? About this stupid thing Thorn calls a game?”
“Yeah, sure, I’d heard of it. But I heard of it in Azkaban. You hear a lot of things in there. You hear about plots of escaping that never happen. You hear about Dementors who are on your side when they’re really not. You even hear about the ridiculous idea that Voldemort’s back, and he’s hiding, jumping from cell to cell. So what did I do? I told him sure, that I was interested. Next thing you know I’m in another cell, bigger than what I was in before, with Vandy, Evans’, and Conrad.”
“So, you don’t know exactly how you got out?”
Draco shook his head, placing his hands across his stomach. “No. I wish to hell I knew. But when you figure it out, because somehow, you always seem to figure out the bloody impossible, you let me know. I’m going to sleep.”
Hermione watched as Draco closed his eyes. She yawned as he did so, finding that she was tired as well, but why wouldn’t she be? Deciding that it was best she lied down as well, she stared up at the ceiling and then said the one last thing that was on her mind before Draco drifted off into a deep enough sleep.
“I need to ask you one more thing and don’t lie to me about it.”
“…What is it?”
“When I was hanging by that rope…did you do it or not?”
Hermione knew that he knew what the “it” was because she saw that he had tensed up. He sighed, obviously not wanting to answer.
Draco chuckled deeply. “I’ve been deprived of a woman for three years now, Granger. You were just…there-”
“Waiting for you to toy with,” She finished with a small scowl. “Is that it?”
“You sound upset.”
“I’m disgusted... Why even lie about it in the first place?”
"You were threatening me, Granger. I had to lie about it."
Hermione snickered. "You were afraid of a threat made by someone who was dangling by the ankle?"
"The hell I was..." Draco snapped quickly. "But you've got quite the temper in case you didn't know. And I assume in your little fit of adrenaline rush you forgot about that wand in your back pocket. Couldn't risk you suddenly remembering that you had it and curse me because I got a little friendly.
'I would've had to fight back then. And if that had happened, this game would've been over in two seconds…"
"So bloody sure of yourself, aren't you?"
"Always... And just so you know,” Draco’s lips curved up into a small smile. “You’ve got great skin.”
Hermione immediately sat up in bed at that comment, but before she could address him, Draco had already turned his back towards her, signaling a permanent end to their conversation.
author's note: oh draco, you evil, annoying, yet lovable man you are! well, what did you guys think?? things have calmed down a bit, will gently pick back up for the next chap, and then full on after that :)
i have to thank you all for the great reviews that i received for the last chap! and i hope that you guys continue reading :)
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