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Chapter 9 : A Race Against Time
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He grimaced at the thought of it, but he wouldn’t dare risk taking the elevator. Instead he headed back down the corridor he had come, peeked around the corner of the wall a few times to make sure that the coast was clear, and then tackled the stairs yet again. By the time Ron had gotten to the seventh floor, he was more than frustrated and had begun cursing at each step he took, naming each stair for a person in his life that he hated. Doing so seemed to make his steps more meaningful, and when Ron had gotten to tenth floor where the Minister of Magic’s office was, he stopped suddenly, took refuge behind a wall and was staring blankly wide-eyed.
He was letting off a round of curses now and knew that if Hermione was there to hear him she would’ve reproved him for using such foul language. But could anyone blame him? From the stairs the Minister’s office was directly down the hall, a thirty foot stretch. But down that corridor, walking around at a medium pace, black all over, and downright frightening, was Inferi. At a quick glance there had to be six or seven of them, three of them Ron having had worked hand-in-hand with them, all ready to pounce on him when he made his journey to the Minister’s door.
“All for a thick-arsed Minister who wouldn’t know to call in the cavalry even if Voldemort was back and sitting in his office.” Ron grumbled, and put a tighter grip on his wand. To make it past them he’d have to be quick. He would have to look at the Inferi as vile creatures, and not as people with whom he used to work with. With a nod and a hard clench of his jaw, Ron went for it. The Inferi didn’t have to be destroyed, and it wasn’t like there was a pure way to do so anyway. All they had to be was subdued so that he could get to the door and that’s what he did. Ron used Stunning Spells, Shield and Repelling Charms –anything that he could think of to keep the damn Inferi away from him.
It had worked. He had only hesitated once when one of the Inferi had gotten unexpectedly close to him for him to notice that it was a woman who he had had a lunch date with once. But aside from that, Ron was in. He had reached the Minister’s door, blasted it open, and found his way inside. What he hadn’t expected was that the moment he had entered the room he would feel such a surge of electricity shoot from his head down, and then feel himself collapse onto the ground without being able to move an inch.
Though he couldn’t move, he could still see and hear. He moved his eyes toward a man who was sitting at the Minister’s desk. He was wearing a huge smile on his face and seemed to be laughing as well. He looked down at Ron and gave a soft tut.
“Some Auror you are.” Thorn snorted, and pointed to a lump of something a few feet from him. “You’re late.”
A second later Ron knew what that lump was, or who, rather. And if this all worked out well in the end, a new Minister of Magic was going to be necessary.
The boat ride was full of tension. Harry told all of the Aurors who were there what was really going on, and it took several minutes and the help of some of the Hawaiian Aurors to stop a fight from breaking out against Atkins. Once everyone was calmed, the mission was clear. They would make it to the rainforest, Atkins would take off the charms and spells, and they would charge in. A lot of time had been wasted and they couldn’t waste anymore. Time had been cut short in the beginning when something mysteriously caused the boats that had come to malfunction. It took what seemed to be an eternity trying to fix them, and then it was necessary to get new boats which took even longer. It was about seven now, and if they didn’t make it to Hermione soon, provided and with full hope that she was still alive, within an hour she would be dead.
The closer the boat got to shore, the paler Atkins got, and the angrier Harry became. He could hear the man mumbling, sometimes incoherently, sometimes plain and clear. He kept going on about his family and how he would probably never see them again, and sure, it was a plausible thing to be moaning and groaning about, but how could Atkins forget who they were? They were Aurors. Had he come out with this problem in the beginning just about everything could’ve been avoided; especially all of those deaths that happened in just six days, excluding those who had fallen that same day. But as Harry periodically glanced over at Atkins, he sighed each time, thinking what he would’ve done if he was in his position, and couldn’t help but feel some sort of pity for him.
“We’re here.” The boat driver said. Atkins face resembled a white sheet by now, and when he was instructed to get off of the boat, his legs seemed to be malfunctioning. Harry had had enough. He grabbed him by the upper arm and practically dragged Atkins off the boat. They and all of the Aurors walked until the energy of the charms and spells surrounding the place could be felt, and Harry looked over at Atkins and egged him on.
“Go on. Take them off.”
Atkins took a deep breath, swallowed, and drew out his wand. He stepped forward and pointed his wand directly in front of him. He said a few complicated incantations one after the other and everyone watched as small flashes of light signaling the end of the charm and spell appear until Atkins lowered his wand arm, turning back to the crowd of Ministry employees with a grim expression, and saying, “They’re all down.”
Harry nodded and was about to order Atkins back on the boat when, before he could even process what happened, a flash of green light erupted from inside of the forest, hitting Atkins in the back and causing him to crumble to the ground. It took no expert to know that the Killing Curse had just done him in, his eyes wide open and full of shock. Harry and the others began arming themselves immediately as they saw an army of people coming out from amidst the trees and bushes, all with cruel faces and wands drawn.
“Told you he’d cave,” One man said to another as he began to smirk at Atkins’ body. “No matter, the Ministry’s ours anyway.”
“Not for long,” Harry declared, and with those threatening words, curses began flying left and right and the fight of a lifetime had commenced.
Thorn’s men were leading Hermione and Draco out of their cell and down a dark corridor. Both of them were now severely conscious of the time and the wristband that could easily bring death. It had been about seven-twenty when they had been taken out of their cell. By the time they got to where they were supposed to be going and properly set up, there would be a half an hour left –a very critical half an hour.
“They can’t force us to fight.” Hermione was whispering to Draco. “They can say that we do, but they can’t do anything.”
“Of course not,” Draco whispered back. “But it could provide a great distraction.”
Hermione caught on to his words quickly and began smiling on the inside. It wasn’t entirely a big smile, because she knew what could happen. Thorn’s men weren’t all that stupid, or at least she didn’t think so. After a minute or so of feigned attempts to kill each other, they’d know what was really going on. This would have to look good, really good, and as the room that was obviously to be their fighting arena came into view, Hermione decided to say what was on her mind and get it over with.
“Malfoy, if one of your spells happens to get me good,” She took a deep breath and grit her teeth. “I’m glad that you were chosen for this the same time I was.”
Draco took a quick glance at her and then looked back ahead of him. He nodded, and then sighed. “Cornelius,”
“My middle name…” He swallowed and gave his upper lip a quick swipe of his tongue. “It’s Cornelius.”
Hermione gave him a nod of appreciation. No, she hadn’t expected him to say something along the lines of what she had said to him, but his middle name was good enough. Only Merlin knew how demented of a ghost she’d be because of dying at Draco’s hand after the frustration he caused her over his stupid, bloody, middle name.
As they entered a fairly large room that seemed in poor health due to termite-eaten wooden walls, there was no amount of words to describe how vulnerable Hermione felt right at that moment. First off she felt like a sick sort of entertainment to the ten men who were in the room with her and Draco. In all aspects technically she was entertainment, and it made her stomach turn in multiple directions. She was tired of this. Not that beforehand she had been enjoying herself and having a great picnic of a time, but by now Hermione was so fed up with everything that she was beginning not to care that within the next twenty-five minutes she would be barbequed to a crisp. She didn’t know what was coming over her, but all she had really wanted to do was risk it all. She wanted to turn her wand on as many of them as possible and see what would happen at the end.
I’d be dead… Hermione thought morbidly, and if that was the true end result of all of this, what was the point? She sighed. She had been staring at the ground and now forced herself to look up. Draco was standing opposite her, a good few feet from her. His face betrayed no emotion as she expected it would. His lips were closed tight, causing his jaws to clench as they were so accustomed to do doing, and his forehead bore no worry lines due to deep thought.
This all seemed so easy for him. Throughout this whole ordeal not once did Draco appear to be nervous, or scared, or unsure of the unknown. It was as though he knew that it would end up like this. He knew that at the end of the day that it would just be she and him and that all of the others didn’t really matter.
Consequences of being a good, no, excellent, criminal… Hermione determined, and as she took her dueler’s stance and Draco took his, that’s when she saw it. She saw the look in his eyes that was his one and only weakness. It was there that she saw the nervousness and the fear that had been missing all this time. It hadn’t appeared before because there was no need for it. But now… Now that in such close quarters, being watched, and with only so much time left on the clock, everything mattered.
One of Thorn’s men gave the signal to begin, and for a few antagonizing seconds, neither Hermione nor Draco moved, both obviously afraid to shoot a spell at the other. Draco gave a subtle nod of his head, and Hermione took a deep breath. A spell came shooting out the end of her wand towards him, to which he quickly got out of its way and covered his head from the flying debris of an old box crate that the spell had hit. Whether he had moved or not, it wouldn’t have hit him, she making sure that it was several inches off. Draco did the same, speedily recovering from the bits of broken wood that had gotten on him, and tossing a spell Hermione’s way of which she deflected, allowing it to hit one of the wooden walls and for it to completely blow apart.
This mindless fight kept up for a half a minute before both Hermione and Draco could see that this wasn’t fooling anyone. They could see their spectators’ faces begin to contort with anger, and that’s when they realized that things had to get real. Draco scowled and pointed his wand to the ceiling. Hermione stared at it wide-eyed as it began to cave in over where she stood. She jumped to the side, catching his gaze in a what-hell-are-you-thinking fashion, but he was hardly paying attention. Thorn’s men wanted a show, and he was sure as hell giving it to them. Hermione watched as Draco manipulated the debris and sending them flying in her direction. She conjured a shield and held it up in front of her, the force of wooden planks and broken wood pieces hitting it tremendously.
At the risk of getting her face destroyed, Hermione charmed the shield, sending it hurtling towards Draco’s direction. He blew it to pieces before it got to close, and while distracted with that, she directed her wand at his feet which instantly became locked together. He fell backwards, and she decided to give him a taste of his own little trick, and pointed her wand at the wooden debris that he had been directing at her, and sent right at him. Draco’s eyes widened and he rolled away from where he was, the lock on his legs wearing off, and he stood, watching as a loud crash was made and a hole in the floor appeared where his head would’ve been. He glared at Hermione who gave a, you-started-it-look, and he raised his wand to her. She deflected his next set of three spells, each one becoming stronger than the next until she found herself backing what was left of the wall.
From what she could tell of the clock that was hanging far off ten minutes had already passed and there was only fifteen more to go. At the rate they were going, she and Draco would certainly finish each other off, but if it ended now, right then and there, both of them would be much better off. And so, instead of continuing to arm herself, Hermione ducked with Draco’s fourth spell and found that he was no more than two feet away from her. She immediately lowered her wand and kept it at her side. Draco stopped. He was staring at her oddly and she was taking deep and noticeable breaths.
“Oi, she’s giving up!” One of Thorn’s henchmen declared, and he could be seen overly pouting. Neither Hermione nor Draco was paying attention to him, and Draco swallowed, perspiration bubbles bursting from his forehead.
“What are you doing?” He asked in a harsh whisper. Hermione took another deep breath and shook her head.
“We’re wasting time.” She replied, and Draco nodded as he put a tighter grip on his wand. He knew Thorn’s men were watching, and he placed his wand level to Hermione’s nose, and her eyes travelled down its body, down to his fingers, up his arm, across his shoulders, and then to his face, more specifically his eyes that let her know that the next fifteen minutes, thirteen minutes now, were going to be horrific.
“Avada Kedvra!” Draco shouted, his wand having abruptly turned from Hermione before the words left his mouth and hitting the very man who had commented about Hermione giving up the fight.
Thorn’s men went on both sides of defensive and offensive; Hermione joined the fight by casting as many spells as she possibly could. She found herself ducking behind old crates, them getting blown to pieces while her back was resting against them. Hermione bound two men together and attacked another who was about to curse Draco in the back while he was preoccupied with two others.
The clock had been obscured by clouds of debris and dust, but Hermione saw it otherwise. A full five minutes had gone by, leaving eight minutes of her and Draco’s lives. As she deflected a spell from a man whom Draco promptly began attacking, she surveyed everything around her. Four were unconscious, two who were probably dead, another two she had seen fall through the unstable floor, Draco was fighting one, and…
Where’s the other? Hermione questioned, and soon found her answer when she felt a huge tug on her hair. She was immediately pulled to the ground, her back becoming pierced with small bits of wood poking upwards from the badly damaged floor. She immediately rolled over, getting away from a kick in the stomach, and looked up at the man. She realized that he was the one she had woken up to who was sleeping in the chair in front of her cell. His face was badly bruised, but this was no time to have any sympathy towards him. His wand was apparently lost in the rubble and as a matter of fact, so was Hermione’s. She hurriedly tried to scramble away as he dived for her throat.
As she moved away, Hermione felt him latch onto her waist. And then that’s when she heard it. Despite the loud fight Draco was having, him being too absorbed in it to see her or even remember that she was there, there were cracks and moans of the floor. She craned her neck to peer behind her, and then instead of trying to wriggle away from the man tightly holding onto her, she found herself flailing her arms and quickly grasping and scraping against the wooden floor as she felt her lower body swing down below her. The man, being directly over where the floor had caved in, let go of her and fell because of the immense force. Hermione felt her body become light with his weight gone, but that only eased one of her anxieties. Now her chest was the only thing above the floor, she trying her hardest to keep her elbows where the floor had made its break and her hands scratching at the wood.
“Malfoy,” Hermione called; the strength in her voice weakened by her extreme fear of falling over only Merlin knew how many feet to her death. He was far from looking in her direction, defending and attacking simultaneously. “Malfoy..!” She said more loudly. He had to have heard her this time around, but he still wasn’t coming to her aid. She could feel herself slipping dangerously, resorting to digging her fingers into the wood and cringing at the splinters that were getting underneath her nails.
“Damn it, Draco!” Hermione shouted. Three things happened in three swift seconds. Draco had finally gotten the advantage over the man he was fighting, and turned in the direction of his name being called. Hermione had lost the grip she had had and immediately felt herself begin to fall. And out of nowhere she felt a hand grab her wrist, it jerking terribly because of her body weight and possibly sprained.
“Come on,” Draco said as he grabbed her left hand with his free one. It took a few antagonizing seconds to pull Hermione up, but soon she was back on the floor and as far away as possible from where it had fallen in. “You alright..?”
Hermione was massaging her wrist, it being full of pains but, surprisingly, not sprained or injured in the slightest. She was about to answer Draco’s question when she caught sight of the clock. She picked up one of the many wands that were lying on the floor and scrambled to her feet and went over to the nearest unconscious body on the floor.
“Ennervate,” Hermione said hastily. Her heart was racing erratically for there were only two minutes left on the clock and they were quickly slipping away. The man slowly began to stir, but much too slowly for her liking. She grabbed him by the collar and began shaking him. “Wake up!”
The man opened his eyes, seeing Hermione first and then Draco coming over to him with his wand pointing directly at him.
“How do you take this off?” She demanded as she raised her left wrist to his face. The man stared from it, to her, to Draco, and then to the clock. He then began to smile and then he laughed.
“I won’t tell you.”
“Then I’ll kill you.” Draco snarled as he brought his wand to the man’s throat. He was unfazed, however, declaring that they would be dead anyway so what was the point. Draco had had enough and motioned for Hermione to get out of the way as he pointed his wand to the man’s right knee. “Fine, if we’re all going to die, might as well have some fun in the meantime. Cassium,”
The man let out a yell that pierced Hermione’s ears. His right knee was broken in a second, and a moment later so was his left. Draco turned his wand onto the man’s right arm and just before he turned onto the left, the man yelled for him to stop.
“There’s an incantation!”
“What is it?!” Hermione shouted. Only a little over thirty seconds remained. The man moaned it, and Hermione and Draco aimed their wands at each other’s wrists. The wristbands were opened and were shaken off their wrists and to the ground just as they released a minute streak of electricity. Hermione and Draco let out huge sighs of relief and then began looking all around them at the damage that had been done to the room and to each other. That was when Hermione felt a searing pain in her fingers, suddenly realizing how much bits of wood must’ve been underneath her nails.
“Do you mind?” She asked, holding out her hands to him. Draco nodded, and pointed his wand at her fingers.
“Accio splinters,” He said, directing what seemed like twenty splinters from her fingers and delicately onto the floor.
“Thanks…” Hermione sighed and flexed her fingers as she took a deep swallow. As she surveyed her surroundings once again she began to feel even more disgusted than she already was. She shivered and closed her eyes for a moment in order to block out everything that she saw. “We need to find a way to get out of this place fast. I refuse to stay here for another minute.”
author's note: poor ron's caught, harry's fighting on a beach shore, and hermione and draco get to live, whew! at least the horrible bracelets are off our favorite characters' wrists! but, things aren't ove yet... a trip to the ministry, anyone? ^_^
with that said, dealing with thorn is the last major string that needs to be cut which means, *sniff sniff* the end of the story :( for those who had asked, i had said that this would end at about chap 11. i stick by it, possibly 12, but for now 11. chapter 10 is almost finished :)
and in case you didn't know, a sequel shall be coming after this and put up as soon as this is over so......yey!! lol
hope that you guys liked the chap! keep those reads/reviews coming. THANK YOU ALL!!
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