Chapter 4 : Chapter 4
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Sorry for the delay. Chapter 3 got rejected so I had to change it and resubmit it. And the backlogs been blinking long. I don’t envy the staff. Anyway, in the last chapter, I know it seems rather sudden that Draco fell in love with Hermione, but consider this – the man has never been truly loved in his life, except by his mother. And now she’s dead. He’s been friendless for a long time, and his heart is yearning for some kindness. When Hermione meets him and starts being nice, it evokes a tornado of feelings in him.
Draco’s words, even though softly spoken, caused a deafening silence. Malfoy Manor. This was site of Hermione’s worst nightmares. A place that still haunted her, a place where she had been tortured within an inch of her life by a mad woman. Even after four years, she woke up nightly, drenched in sweat, expecting Bellatrix’s dagger pressed to her throat. The unimaginable pain that had racked her body all those years ago seemed to hit her again.
Suddenly, her vision swam, and the floor tilted. As she descended down the spiral of unconsciousness, she heard her name called distantly and felt someone catch her. The last thing she saw before she blacked out was a pair of grey fathomless eyes, staring into hers filled with worry.
Out of the corner of his eyes, Draco saw Hermione suddenly crumple, as if her legs couldn’t support her any more. His heart leaped to his mouth as he lunged and caught her slim body. Her brown eyes were unfocussed as he called out her name in desperation, hoping she would respond. Hermione was the strongest person he knew, and the mere mention of his ancestral home had caused her to collapse. He cradled her in his arms as Harry apparated to Mungos to get a healer. He remembered the horror Hermione had faced four years ago, when she was tortured by Bellatrix. Having been subjected to multiple Cruciatus curses, she still managed to weave a story, and resisted giving up her friends. He had seen grown men reduced to blubbering cowards after a single curse from Bellatrix, but this girl hadn’t yielded. And he had just stood there, saying nothing as a girl he knew was tortured into near insanity. That was the day Hermione Granger had earned his respect. He felt his heart clench when he realized the pain his family had caused the girl he loved. His hatred for himself grew, and he made a promise to never cause her pain again.
Harry, along with a healer, had apparated into the room. The Healer rushed towards Hermione’s limp form in Draco’s arms, while Harry threw Draco an odd glance. Draco, blushing when he realized the possessiveness with which he was holding Hermione, relinquished her to the Healer. However, he couldn’t tear himself away from her prone form, and hovered over her as the Healer checked her vitals.
Harry was filled with worry, and a little confusion. Why was Malfoy holding Hermione like that? He had noticed how the blonde mans eyes never left her, but was too busy to pay heed to it. Now, standing in the same room as them with no other distractions, he noticed all that he had missed. However, his train of thought was interrupted as the Healer spoke –
“Ms. Granger is fine. She just fainted because she has eaten nothing the whole day, and some sudden shock caused her mind to shut down. Today has been a stressful day for everyone. Give her time to rest, and she’ll be right as rain.”
Harry breathed a sigh of relief. He had one less thing to worry about now. He could now focus on getting his family back. He turned towards Draco and started questioning him.
“Malfoy, are you sure the Death Eaters are in Malfoy Manor?”
“They have no where else to be. The Manor is protected by ancient magic – wards that even the Dark Lord found hard to break. It is the safest place in England, Hogwarts excepted. And now that I no longer live there, the Death Eaters would have met with no resistance while occupying the place. You see, when the Manor was being used as Voldemort’s headquarters, he cast a charm on it which ensures that any man with the Mark could enter with no problem. That is why they chose the Manor.”
Harry nodded in agreement. It was most likely that the Death Eaters were plotting in Malfoy Manor, while Harry dispersed his force in Hogsmede, wasting precious time searching for people who weren’t there. Now, all he needed was a plan.
Draco, Harry and Hermione stared at each other in shock. They couldn’t believe their eyes. The letter which had just arrived had left them shell shocked. In fact, the whole wizarding world was reeling in shock, unable to accept the news. The Minister of Magic, William Fudge, had just disappeared. Disappeared from his home without a trace, without a struggle, without a note. Every Auror was now being employed to find him.
Harry could not believe his bad luck. With every available Auror busy, there was no one he could use to rescue his family. The Ministry had given him only one man to help him – Peter Finn. The man was capable, smart and a strong dueler, but he could not storm Malfoy Manor with one man on his side. This was impossible.
“You can’t come!!”
“Yes I can. And I will.”
“Hermione, listen to me. Please be reasonable. You just fainted. This has been too overwhelming for you.”
“No Harry, YOU listen to me. I’m not a delicate darling who needs to rest to recover her strength. I’ve suffered as much as you have, and as a friend of yours and Ginny’s, I demand to come. And besides, you need me.” Hermione crossed her arms, her eyes daring him to challenge her.
Harry threw up his hands in defeat. This girl was impossible. Why couldn’t she understand him? One of his best friends nearly died today, he couldn’t risk the other one.
He tried to reason with her again. “Hermione listen, I’m taking Peter with me. He and I can protect Ginny and James. I don’t want to have to worry about you too. Please Hermione, understand.”
Draco spotted the flaw in Harry’s plan. He piped up “Potter, I’m coming too.”
Harry growled. This was a time for action, not a time to stand around arguing. Every minute he wasted here was a minute more of danger his family was facing. He didn’t have time to argue with anyone who wanted to come. This was an elite operation dammit, not a visit to the Zoo.
Draco, seeing that Harry was about to explode, explained quickly.
“Like I told you before, the charm on the Manor prevents anyone without the Mark from entering. That means I need to come with you. You will never be able to find the Manor without my help. And I can take only two people with me. Voldemort imposed the limit to monitor to the no of people who enter the Manor.””
Hermione quickly interjected “If he’s coming, I’m coming.”
All this resistance had worn Harry down. His fingers itched with the desire to do something, instead of talking. Seeing no way of dissuading them, he snarled “Okay, you both can come. But Malfoy, if you get yourself killed, don’t expect me to save your sorry behind.”
Draco and Hermione nodded, as Harry started explaining his plan to them.
Draco didn’t like this. He didn’t like this one bit. Harry’s plan was a very sketchy one, filled with ‘ifs’. He was certain this plan wouldn’t work, especially knowing what he did about the situation….
He shook his head, clearing it and turned back to Hermione. He gazed into those brown eyes, and tried once again.
“Please Hermione, don’t come. Stay here”
She snapped “I can take care of myself.”
“I don’t want you to get hurt.” He implored. I don’t know what I’d do if something happened to you, he added mentally.
“Draco, I’m coming. End of discussion.” She stated, and spun on her heel, walking away. She slammed the door as she left the room, her irritation evident in her every step.
He looked at the closed door in anguish. He couldn’t believe what he what was happening to him. He kept trying to find a way out of the situation, but it just kept closing in on him, cutting away his opportunities to escape. But his course of action could not be avoided – he was who he was, and nothing could change that. He squared his shoulders and took a deep breath. He knew what he would have to do today.
Bloody hell. Hermione cursed inside her head. She couldn’t believe after all she had been through, Harry and Draco still considered her incapable of looking after herself.
She exhaled harshly, startling the people around her. She pushed her hands into her pant pockets and went out onto to the street, in need of little fresh air.
She did not like to be treated like a china doll, if they were going to risk their lives for Ginny and James; she wasn’t going to sit in the sidelines.
Thank god Harry and Draco agreed, she thought. Wait, they agreed too easily…. What are they up to? Sudden suspicion took root in her mind. She started analyzing everything they had said to her, but came up with nothing.
She dismissed her suspicions, calling herself too paranoid. They wouldn’t go off without me, I’m certain. But it appears that I might have to make contingency plans….
Draco rubbed his tired eyes. In less than an hour, they would be leaving. Since it was impossible to apparate to the Manor directly, he, Peter and Harry would be taking a portkey to the town next to it, and walk up to the Manor. And how much ever Hermione protested, she would not be coming. He had planned it out with Harry. He would give Hermione a drink laced with Sleeping Draught, and as soon as she was asleep, they would take her home and then proceed. His energy levels were falling, and he needed a power nap. He decided to find Peter, and ask him to give Hermione the sleeping draught instead. Hopefully, she would accept the pumpkin juice from Peter. He went down the corridor in search of Peter, when he spotted him in one of the office rooms. He called him and explained the plan to Peter, who readily accepted to give Hermione the juice. Satisfied that the deed was done, he headed to Harry’s office. That guy had the most comfortable couches in the Ministry, he thought, a tad jealously.
Exactly twenty minutes later, Draco woke up, feeling refreshed. He looked at the clock it was 11:30pm. They had decided to attack the Manor tonight at 12 in the , hoping the Death Eaters would not be prepared. He exited Harry’s room and found him in discussion with Peter outside the door. He questioned Peter.
“Did you give her the draught?”
Peter reacted violently. He stiffened, and his face was a kaleidoscope of emotions – surprise, shock and a hint of anger. In an instant, he composed himself, and replied “I did. She’s not coming with us.”
“Good” Harry said, nodding his head. “The portkey will be leaving in exactly two minutes, and we need to get going. Are you guys ready?”
Draco, Harry and Peter let go of the rusty can and looked around them. They were in a quiet village which had no signs of activity. Draco instantly started walking to their right, then turned around and gestured for the other two to follow him. They walked silently, focusing on the mission ahead. The pale moon over the head shone clear and lit up the dark route. After fifteen minutes of walking, they could finally see the Manor. It was tall and large, and as imposing as a fortress. Tall towers touched the sky at each end of the building, and its size rivaled that of the Hogwarts castle. As they approached the imposing wrought iron gates, Harry stopped. He looked at the faces of his companions “This is it. Thank you for doing this for me. If anything happens to me inside, get Ginny and James. And Malfoy, I’m sorry for doubting you. You have my trust now.” They shook each others hands and opened the gate.
The gate opened easily, and without a sound. However, as they entered, Draco heard Peter trip and fall next to him. He turned around to help him and was shocked by what he saw. A strangled noise erupted from his throat as he watched in shock, disbelieving his eyes….
Harry, gaping at what was happening, was in shock too.
This was a waking nightmare.
A cliffie!! Again =D can you guess what’s happened to Peter? And, before you leave this page, you know the drill – rate and review, loves. Your reviews motivate me to write more and more. So let me know what you like, what you hated. I’ll reply. I promise :D
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