There were twelve search teams of thirty Aurors. That was three hundred and sixty Aurors altogether and every last one that the Ministry had to offer. Harry and Ron would be in the team with Atkins, and though they would soon be shipping out to each of those areas that had been chosen as possible sites of the show, Atkins was still fighting tooth and nail against two of his best Aurors about this tactic.
“Aurors need to stay here.” Harry said forcefully. “We have more than enough coming along with us. Some of them can fall back.”
“I said no, Potter!” Atkins shouted at him. “We’re all going, do you hear me? All of us,”
Atkins brushed passed him and exited his office. Harry was ready to punch the wall out of frustration when Ron’s comment stopped him.
“He’s scared. Stubborn, definitely, but scared… He’s got to be in on it. But what I don’t understand is what’s in it for him? What’s he going to get from all the chaos that’s going to happen all over England?”
“I don’t know, but if we just stand here and guess, what good is that to us?”
Harry led the way out of Atkins’ office to head down to the main lobby of the Ministry. On the way down, Ron put a hand on his shoulder to stop him, and pulled him to the side. “I need to stay.”
“I need to stay here. I’ll grab a few Aurors to stick around with me, but I should stay behind. Something big is going to happen while we’re gone and someone should be around while it does.”
“…Atkins will know you’re missing.”
“Of course he will,” Ron consciously looked around to make sure that no one was listening and then continued. “But once you and the other Aurors are out of here, you won’t be able to turn back. All he’ll be able to do is piss and moan about it.”
Harry nodded and then smiled. “Still come downstairs though. As we Floo out, you just stay behind.”
Despite the ordeal that she had been through, despite where she was sleeping and how badly covered in dirt, sweat, blood, and torn and bruised skin she was, Hermione was having a great sleep. Her body had sunk into the bed the moment she had closed her eyes and the sound of crickets in the forest had sung her to sleep.
She didn’t dream about anything, nor had she wanted to. If she had, Hermione was sure that she would be plagued with nothing but nightmares of dead bodies and killing techniques. Near the end of her sleep she was beginning to hear sounds, but she was tuning them out. She could hear birds and the wind and soon after that the calling of her name. In truth, she didn’t want to wake up and was fighting it as best as she could. Though, her fight was lost completely when she felt someone’s hot breath against her ear.
“Conrad’s behind you.”
Hermione’s eyes snapped open immediately and in one swift motion, she snatched up her wand, rolled herself out of bed and stood on her feet, pointing her wand directly at Draco’s throat. His brow was cocked in surprise, and then his face morphed into an amused one as he stared at her frightened face and then at the wand that was still held, and pressed, underneath his chin.
“What an interesting effect,” He mused, but Hermione was far from having a humorous nature. She looked absolutely furious and wouldn’t push her wand down to her side.
“Why would you do that?” She hissed at him angrily. “Answer me.”
Though Hermione looked like she would kill him at any minute, Draco didn’t back down. He didn’t show any fear, and instead of answering her question, he asked one. “Why does he scare you?”
Hermione was caught off guard by the question and lowered her wand instantly. She took a hard swallow and looked away from him as she sat down on her bed.
“What did you wake me for anyway?” She snapped at him, her voice quivering despite the force with which she spoke.
Draco pointed to outside of the tent and she gazed in its direction, seeing that the sun was beginning to rise and bringing light back to the rainforest. “The sun is almost up. Time is pretty crucial now and we still don’t know where the Watch Tower is.”
Hermione nodded and stood. She led the way out of the tent and then stopped. Draco had done the same and then cursed as he looked around him. Thorn’s men, who seemed to be about all of them, had surrounded the tent with their wands drawn.
“Going somewhere?” One of them asked. Hermione had recognized him as the one who had been sitting outside of her cell while she had been unconscious. She turned to Draco and huffed.
“Still think making camp was a good idea?”
Draco had no time to answer, nor was she was expecting him to. They were both ordered to drop their wands and they did, having no other choice but to. After being disarmed they were escorted through the forest, neither being able to so much as whisper to each other in order to figure out a way to get out of this mess.
Maybe we should’ve just fought it out then… Hermione thought to herself and she was sure that Draco was thinking the same thing. But even if they had, so what? If Draco had won, he would’ve been released back into the world. Would Hermione, if she were alive, be concerned about it? Not really… It would’ve been more than likely that he would’ve gathered some money and ran for it, falling off of the map and disappearing for good. As for herself, nothing good would’ve come of it if she had won. She wouldn’t have been released like he would’ve, and instead would’ve been back in that cell awaiting her next set of competitors.
As she thought of it, Hermione preferred it to be just like this; walking next to Draco, surrounded by Thorn’s men, and being led to the Watch Tower, the illustrious building that had been so difficult to find.
All of the search teams had already been sorted out and had begun leaving. Harry had a feeling that everyone was wasting their time except for the team that he had been assigned to with Atkins. Atkins would know exactly where to go and he would know how to get around all those spells and charms.
Harry had stuck close to Atkins. He was trying his best to distract him by asking questions, ones that required somewhat lengthy answers, and then every so often glancing behind his back. Ron was near the back of the crowd, whispering into the ears of his fellow Aurors, some shaking their heads while others were nodding, slowly and cautiously hanging back. From what Harry could tell, Ron had gotten about ten Aurors to stay behind and that would have to be enough.
“Where’s Weasley?” Atkins asked. They were at the Floo specially activated to take them away and Atkins was busily trying to see pass Harry’s head.
“He’s getting ready.”
“Is he? Because I don’t see-”
“Trust me,” Harry said a bit roughly. “Ron’s exactly where he needs to be.” With that he literally pushed Atkins through the Floo, and then let himself follow after giving one last look back at Ron. It was early in the morning where they were, and Harry only just thought of it being seven in the night when they had left England. His watch magically shifted to the correct time and found that it was nine.
Harry and the rest of the Aurors were now crowding around the Hawaiian Minister of Magic’s office. They would all be transported to the rainforest that had been indicated by boat, and one of the Aurors was talking to the Minister now while Atkins was staring at Harry in a state of alarm.
“Where’s Weasley? You said that he was coming.”
“No, I didn’t.” Harry shook his head and his face turned stern. “I said that he was where he needed to be. And where he is, along with a few other Aurors, is back at the Ministry.”
“Potter,” Atkins was growing red in the face. He tried to speak again, but found that no words were coming to him. His tense face relaxed. He swallowed. And then he pleaded. “Harry,”
“The boats won’t be ready for another few minutes. Until then, I think you should explain some things.”
Hermione was sitting on the floor of a cell, leaning up against the stone wall and hugging her knees as she stared blankly ahead of her. Draco was on the opposite side of it, standing on his two feet with his arms crossed and pressing his back against the wall. When they were first put into the cell Draco was swearing up and down before and after Thorn’s men left. Hermione had taken up pacing all the while reflecting on her cellmate’s colorful vocabulary. Both of those actions slowed and came to a halt after a half an hour. They argued after that. Mostly it was Hermione shouting at him that making camp was the stupidest idea she’d ever heard and that she shouldn’t have listened to him. Draco was shouting right back at her, not really defending himself, but rather throwing insults left and right. Once they were both done screaming at each other they had taken up the positions that they were in right now.
“...He raped and murdered my friend.” Hermione said softly. Draco, who had been staring down at his feet, looked up to this sudden confession and stared at her in confusion.
“Conrad. After that I made it my personal vendetta to find him. Looking back on it now I remember Ron joking saying that Harry had rubbed off on me. You know, the whole idea of revenge, it’s not really me. But I couldn’t exactly see that three years ago.”
“…How did you find him? He was pretty elusive.”
“He was. But he found me. Conrad knew that I was friends with her and he’d been tracking me for days. He broke into my house and…and…” Hermione took a deep sigh and rested her head against the wall. “He tried to do to me what he did to her. Ever since then Harry and Ron have been going home with me after work. I knew Conrad was in Azkaban, but still I just… I liked the comfort. So when you said that he was behind me this morning-”
“I’m sorry.” Draco said immediately. “I didn’t know. Honestly I was just trying to wake you up.”
Hermione chuckled. “And you did.” She let out a small groan as she got to her feet. She dusted off her pants though it was rather pointless and stuffed her hands on the rim of her pockets. “How long do you think we’ve been in here?”
“Two hours and maybe seven or ten minutes,”
Hermione cocked a brow at him in surprise at such a ready answer. “Well, wasn’t that precise.”
“And accurate,” Draco pointed out. “You learn some pretty amazing ways to tell time after being stuck in a three grey-walled room with one window for three years. That ray of sun over there on the ground looks like it hasn’t moved, but it has. An excellent indicator of time,”
“Now look who’s giving compliments.”
Choosing to roll her eyes to that, Hermione went over to Draco’s side of the cell. She leaned up against the wall as he was doing and ran her fingers through her hair. “I wonder what they’re going to do with us. My first thought was kill us, but they would’ve done it already if that was their plan all along. What the hell are they waiting for?”
“It’s only a guess, but I’m thinking that they’re waiting on Thorn. You know, awaiting the big boss’ orders.”
“It takes Thorn two hours to figure out what he wants to do with us?”
“Not if he isn’t here.” Draco suggested, and Hermione grounded her teeth in frustration. “They probably Owled him, and only Merlin knows where he is and how long it’ll take the bloody bird to reach him. I imagine we’ve got another two hours stuck in this ruddy cell.”
“Two hours,” Hermione repeated under her breath. Still leaning on the wall, she turned to face Draco who was staring straight ahead. She eyed him up and down and vaguely began wondering if he ever smiled, truly smiled, without it being attached to a thrown insult. Her answer came up a definitive no.
“Well, if we’re going to be stuck here for that much longer, I know something we can do together to pass the time.”
Draco snapped his head to hers so fast that he swore that he broke it. He raised a hand to his neck all the while staring at her with the most bewildered look. “What?”
“We have to do something to make those two hours fly by.”
“Um, Granger, I don’t think we’ll need the full two hours… Will we?”
“Malfoy, I don’t do anything quickly.” Hermione said matter-of-factly and Draco had now turned his whole body towards her, completely in disbelief. “I prefer to do things slow. It’s much more productive and efficient that way. So, go on then, teach me.”
“To tell the time..?”
Hermione motioned behind him, and Draco saw that she was pointing to the sun ray that he had gestured to earlier. He frowned, but then replaced it with a forced, but believable, smile and nodded.
“Right, the time… Yeah, why not,” Draco agreed and proceeded with the task, but not before grumbling that he was being bloody tortured.