Chapter 11 : ELEVEN: Ignorance
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Hermione inhaled sharply and leaned closer, grasping his hand.
“What did he say Harry? Anything that could help us defeat Voldemort?”
His eyes met hers and he hesitated. “Nothing.”
The inhabitants of 12 Grimmauld Place were frenzied. It had been just over a week since Voldemort’s attempt to enter Harry’s mind and Dumbledore’s revelation of a terrible truth to Harry; he was the final Horcrux. Keeping that information to himself proved difficult for Harry, so he threw himself into planning.
A few days before, several Order members successfully ambushed a Death Eater patrol and were able to glean two important facts.
The first was Voldemort’s immense anger and frustration at not being able to enter Harry’s mind. He had blown entire wings of Malfoy Manor to pieces in retaliation. At this information, gazes had flickered to the youngest Malfoy, but his face betrayed nothing. Voldemort became unstable; he had been blinded by his anger and become sloppy. His highly trained Death Eaters were unnerved by their master’s loss of control and the once ironclad bonds of unquestioning loyalty had been weakened.
The second was that a vital gathering had been ordered, and all Death Eaters were to be in attendance. The use of memory charms had rendered the purpose of the meeting unintelligible, but that didn’t matter to Harry. Harry was planning on striking a crippling blow to Voldemort and his followers both physically and mentally. A search and destroy mission for the last, now second to last, Horcrux.
Harry was muttering to himself as he paced the empty drawing room when Blaise and Draco arrived.
“You wanted to see us, Potter?” Blaise asked, taking in the sight of the constantly moving wizard.
Harry stopped short and motioned to the couch. Draco and Blaise sat down opposite Harry with apprehensive expressions on their faces. In the week since his near possession, Harry had been erratic and flighty. He hadn’t spoken to the Slytherin wizards since that day, and as such, both were slightly edgy.
All three wizards’ heads snapped towards the door of the drawing room as it opened again.
Hermione slipped quietly through the door with her arms full of parchments. Draco jumped up and relieved her of her burden, searching her eyes for any hint of what was about to happen. Hermione avoided his gaze and turned toward the door, warding it with a Silencing spell and Repelling charm.
At these new developments, Blaise and Draco exchanged worried glances.
Hermione took the parchments back from Draco and laid them on the coffee table. She sat next to Harry and gave him a resolute glance.
“We’re leaving tonight, Hermione and I, and you’re coming with us.” Harry began abruptly.
Blaise’s eyes widened as Draco’s brow furrowed.
“The time for waiting is over, it is time to strike,” Harry began, his jaw set into a firm line. “Voldemort is unstable, the Death Eaters are losing faith, and they are all running out of time.”
“We’re going to Malfoy Manor tonight to kill Nagini,” Hermione announced.
Blaise and Draco wore mirrored expressions of resolve.
“What do we need to do?” Draco asked, his eyes hardening at the thought of returning to the place he once called home.
“Nutters. You are both complete nutters,” Blaise said shaking his head at Harry and Hermione.
“I have to agree with Blaise,” Draco added, staring at Hermione quizzically. “If I understand you correctly, you want to sneak onto the grounds, past the full Death Eater guard, break into the manor, march straight up to the Dark Lord and kill his snake?”
Harry simply nodded.
“Yep, definitely nutters,” Draco said, turning to Blaise.
Hermione let the ghost of a smile slide across her face. “Nagini is not just a snake you know.”
“Yeah she’s also the Dark Lord’s one true love,” Draco answered sarcastically, “You think the death of the Dark Lord’s most beloved will be his downfall?”
With the smile slipping off her face, Hermione narrowed her eyes and replied bitingly. “Nagini is more than just his love, Malfoy, she’s a part of him. She holds a piece of his soul.”
“Ah so they connect on an even deeper level? This is starting to make me very uncomfortable, Granger,” Draco replied with a disturbed glance.
“This isn’t a joke, Malfoy!” Harry snapped angrily, speaking for the first time since laying out the plan. “Killing that bloody snake will literally kill a part of Voldemort.”
Draco’s eyes widened, disbelieving.
“You’re serious then? He really made a Horcrux?”
It was Harry’s turn to be shocked. “Y-you know what a Horcrux is?”
Blaise looked just as perplexed as Harry as Draco replied.
“I had heard rumors. Mulciber was called away several times while on torture duty with me. He thought I was unconscious but I distinctly heard him mutter something about a Horcrux.”
A new light seemed to dawn upon Draco. “That’s what you’ve been doing this whole time! That’s why you were with Dumbledore the night I- the night he died. But that means...” he trailed off.
He glanced up at Harry and Hermione, horrified.
“That means there’s more than one.”
Hermione nodded. “There were six Horcruxes.”
Blaise narrowed his eyes, “What do you mean ‘were’?”
Hermione turned to Harry and grinned triumphantly. “We’ve destroyed five.”
“Bloody hell!” Draco exclaimed, looking between the two of them. He turned to Blaise. “I’m glad we’re on their side now.”
Hermione laughed slightly and Harry glanced sidelong at her.
“’Mione, could you find Remus for me? There’s something I need to ask him.”
“Of course, Harry,” she replied, heading for the door.
Harry watched as she closed the door, then turned back to Blaise and Draco, who were staring at him intensely.
“Something you don’t want Granger to hear?” Draco inquired.
Harry leaned in and the wizards opposite him followed suit.
“There’s a part of this plan Hermione cannot know.”
Blaise and Draco exchanged glances.
“I’m sure you’ve noticed the flaw in my plan,” he began, looking at Blaise, who nodded.
“There is no way we could pull off what you’re suggesting unless you walk straight into the middle of the ballroom.”
“Exactly. And I plan on making that happen.”
Draco was shocked, “You can’t be serious, Potter, that’s suicide!”
Harry’s eyes hardened as he set his jaw. “Harry Potter will walk into the middle of the Malfoy Manor ballroom, and we will watch.”
Blaise and Draco stared back at Harry with incomprehension.
“When we arrive, we split into teams, as I explained. Draco,” he said, turning, “you will take Hermione to the left wing of the Manor, while Blaise and I come from the rear. This is where the plan changes.”
With a quick glance at the door, Harry pulled from his pocket the flask of Polyjuice Potion.
Comprehension suddenly dawned on Draco’s face.
“You’re going to capture a Death Eater and turn him into you.”
“I am going to capture several Death Eaters and turn them into me.”
Blaise was unconvinced. “How will that solve anything? Then we will have hostage Harry Potters.”
“Imperius curse.” Draco interjected tersely. “That’s why he doesn’t want Granger to know, you’re going to Imperius them.”
Harry nodded coldly. “The time for fair play has ended. If we want to destroy this Horcrux, we’re going to need to play offensively.”
Blaise set his jaw. “Now you’re getting it. The only way to defeat them is to manipulate them.”
Harry looked at both of them, studying their faces. “So we are in agreement?”
The wizards nodded.
“Then we go all out tonight.”
Draco felt the adrenaline pumping through his veins as he placed the black hood over his blonde hair. He turned to see Blaise buckling on his wand holster over his matching black ensemble. Blaise nodded to Draco and the pair headed down the stairs to the kitchen.
Hermione was seated at the table, the black book of spells open on her lap. Her hair was pulled back in a tight ponytail and she was wearing a black outfit similar to Blaise and Draco. Blaise slid into the chair beside her and placed his arm on the back of her chair, reading over her shoulder. Draco’s gaze narrowed at the familiar movement, but he looked away as he saw Ginny smirk at him from Harry’s side.
Still avoiding Ginny’s teasing grin, Draco crossed the kitchen and seated himself across from Hermione and Blaise.
Blaise looked up, hiding a smile at the glower on Draco’s face, then leaned away from Hermione, remarking, “I don’t know how you can read anything in there, Granger, you need a magnifying glass to make out the words.”
Hermione quirked an eyebrow and continued reading, her lips moving soundlessly.
“Draco, a moment?” Harry called from across the room.
With a slight sense of disquiet at the use of his first name, Draco pushed back his chair and followed Harry to the hallway.
They stood facing each other in silence before Draco spoke up. “You’re not having second thoughts, are you, Potter?” he asked, concerned with the dark haired wizard’s reticence.
Draco waited for an explanation, feeling uneasy under the intense scrutiny.
“Keep her safe.”
Draco was perplexed.
Harry continued, “Hermione is the most important person in my life, Draco, aside from Ginny, and I will not lose her.” He ran his hands through his hair as he leaned against the wall. “Your only priority on this mission is her safety.”
Draco opened his mouth to protest, but shut it at Harry’s glare.
“That’s an order, Malfoy. I paired you with her because I know you can take care of her, and because I know you care about her.”
Draco dropped his gaze to the floor and clenched his jaw.
“Understood, Potter,” he replied, turning on his heel and entering the kitchen.
Blaise looked to Draco questioningly upon his reappearance but Draco’s eyes were locked on Hermione’s.
Hermione held his gaze, surprised by the intensity, then to her chagrin, a deep flush began to color her cheeks and the ghost of Draco’s usual smirk flitted across his face before he graciously looked away.
“Ginny, it’s going to be rough,” Harry murmured to the witch in his arms, who had been watching the previous exchange with a barely restrained expression of mirth.
Sobering slightly, Ginny turned in Harry’s arms and stroked his unshaven jaw. “I know, Harry. Promise you’ll come back to me.”
“Ginny, you know I can’t make –"
“Promise me,” she repeated harshly.
Harry pulled her closer, pressing his lips to the top of her head. “I promise,” he whispered.
Ginny gave Harry one last lingering kiss, one that caused Blaise to clear his throat uncomfortably, and left the kitchen without another word.
The four young wizards were silent as they mentally prepared themselves for departure.
Harry crossed the small room in two strides and reached for Hermione.
“’Mione, stick with Draco, you’re his best hope,” he murmured as he hugged her.
Hermione nodded as she pulled back.
“Ready?” Blaise asked, looking at Harry.
“Erm, do I have to hold your hand?”
The humor of the situation eased some of the tension and Hermione shook her head.
Harry rolled his eyes and steeled his expression as he placed his hand on Blaise’s shoulder.
“See you on the other side.”
Hermione blinked and they were gone.
She turned back to Draco who was watching her with an inscrutable expression. Wordlessly he held out his hand.
Without hesitating, Hermione slipped her hand in his, and felt the familiar tug behind her navel as the kitchen melted away.
Harry and Blaise landed with a silent ‘pop’ of Apparition just outside the bounds of Malfoy Manor.
“Are you sure you’re up for this Potter?” Blaise asked, glancing at Harry, searching his expression for a sign of doubt or hesitation. That he found none both heartened and frightened Blaise. How hard had Harry Potter become?
With an unspoken agreement, the wizards looked toward their target: a duo of guards walked the perimeter, muttering to each other, wands loose at their sides.
Once the guards reached sufficient brush coverage, Harry and Blaise whispered a Stunning spell, knocking both guards clear off their feet.
With a practiced motion, Harry used his want to bind their unconscious adversaries as Blaise readied the Polyjuice Potion to turn them into bait.
Plucking strands of his own hair, Harry added them to the potion and poured a bit of potion in each of the guards’ slack mouths. Backing up, Harry took with him the two Death Eater cloaks and threw one to Blaise.
“I thought I was finished with these,” Blaise muttered to himself shrugging on the voluminous robe.
“Hopefully after tonight, we will be,” Harry replied, fastening the fabric with distaste. “Ready?” Blaise nodded and raised his wand. “On my mark, one, two, three!”
The shorter of the two Death Eaters groaned and swallowed, struggling to sit up. By the time he gained a sitting position the lightening bolt scar had appeared on his forehead.
“Imperio!” Harry whispered.
The Death Eater stopped moving and looked at Harry with a blank stare.
“Put on those glasses,” Harry instructed.
The Death Eater wordlessly complied, then on Harry’s further command, stood and shuffled toward Blaise.
Turning to the remaining unconscious guard, Harry nodded to Blaise who revived him.
“Imperio!” Harry whispered again.
Once the two slightly glazed looking Harry Potters stood before them, the real Harry led the way toward the manor, Blaise bringing up the rear.
Draco grasped Hermione’s hand tightly as he led her around the side of the house.
“Merlin, Draco, you’re going to break my hand,” she whispered urgently.
He relaxed his grasp slightly but did not slow down.
They reached the garish fountain that stood exactly as Draco remembered it. He glanced at his watch, alarmed, he turned to distract Hermione.
As he reached for her arm, an excuse on his lips, an excited shout rang out from the front yard.
Hermione gasped. Before Draco’s hand could close around her arm, she was off toward the front.
“Granger!” he called after her, hurrying to prevent disaster.
She dodged his hands, heart pounding as she tried to reach her best friend.
Suddenly the tree coverage ended and she found herself out in an open garden, surrounded by three Death Eaters.
It was too late. Three separate jets of light struck Hermione simultaneously.
Draco’s heart stopped.
He watched as Bellatrix cackled gleefully, lifting Hermione into the air with her wand.
“Oh look what we have here! A precious mudblooded gift for the Master! He will be ever so pleased!”
She turned to the other two Death Eaters.
“She isn’t alone. Find whoever is with her, don’t kill them, but bring them to me,” she finished with a horrible grin, leading the procession back inside the manor.
“No!” Draco whispered sharply to himself as Hermione disappeared from his sight. “Potter is going to murder me.”
The sounds of Death Eaters scouring the bushes drove Draco to feel the familiar brick formation of the wall and he slipped inside a hidden entrance. Heart pounding, Draco made his way to the ancient tapestry that concealed the hidden tunnel. Remembering where he was, Draco quickly performed a Disillusionment charm on himself and slowly stepped into the hallway. It was deserted.
Swallowing back fear, Draco continued toward the ballroom, dreading what he would find.
Harry and Blaise were making their way into the cellar with the second Imperiused Harry when they heard Hermione’s scream.
“No, Blaise!” Harry had to grab his arm roughly to stop him from rushing off.
“She’s your best mate, Potter, how can you leave her?” Blaise demanded.
“We have a mission to complete, Blaise. Hermione is a brilliant witch. She will be fine. If she isn’t, then I’ll kill Draco Malfoy.”
Blaise looked longingly at the way they had come but reluctantly led the way again. The three stopped just inside an alcove and Harry produced a beaded bag.
“Really, Potter? You choose this moment to play dress up?”
Harry glared at Blaise as he rummaged inside the magically extended purse. Blaise’s eyes widened as Harry pulled from the bag’s depths a long silver sword.
Harry gently ran his hand down the blade before handing it to Blaise.
“You know what to do.”
Blaise shook off his disbelief and nodded at Harry, grasping the sword firmly and giving it a few test swings.
“I’ll have to teach ‘Mione how to fight with one of these,” he murmured to himself.
Harry smiled in spite of himself and chanced a cursory glance of the hallway. It was deserted.
“This doesn’t look good,” he muttered to Blaise.
Disillusionment charms in place, Blaise moved slowly along the wall, Harry following closely behind as they made their way to the ballroom at the end of the hall.
The high vaulted ceilings of the Malfoy Manor ballroom were mere shadows of the splendor that had once been. Large cracks crept up all sides of the ballroom, and chunks of marble remained where they had fallen.
A long granite table rested in the center of the room, empty as a ring of Death Eaters stood around Lord Voldemort.
The door flew open and a gleefully dancing Bellatrix entered the ballroom, trailing an unconscious Hermione.
“Look what I have for you, my lord, a dirty mudblood has decided to join our little get together!”
A small chuckle went around the circle, but Lord Voldemort’s eyes remained on the hovering girl.
“You’ve brought me a filthy mudblood?” Voldemort asked, unimpressed.
“Not just any mudblood, my lord, but the dirtiest of them all! Harry Potter’s own filthy mudblood whore!”
Silence fell upon the Death Eaters as Voldemort appraised the prisoner with a new appreciation.
“Well it would be a shame for Ms. Granger to miss the festivities, wouldn’t it Bella? Why don’t we wake her up?” He finished with an evil sneer.
“Ennervate!” Bellatrix shouted with glee.
Hermione’s eyes remained closed as she regained consciousness. She could hear the whispers and taunts of the Death Eaters as well as the excited panting of Bellatrix. She was painfully aware of her missing wand.
Bugger! She exclaimed silently.
“Ah, Ms. Granger, you’ve decided to join us.” Voldemort announced silkily.
Bellatrix lowered her wand and let Hermione collapse to her knees.
“Welcome, Ms. Granger, to my lovely home. Please, make yourself comfortable.”
The Death Eaters cackled and guffawed at this, but Hermione remained silent.
“Oh dear, feeling a little shy this evening? Let’s see what we can do to loosen that clever tongue, shall we?”
Without waiting for a reply, Voldemort raised his wand and shouted “Crucio!”
The pain was unbearable. Hermione’s entire being was ablaze. She tried to remain silent, but she could not help the small scream that escaped her clenched teeth.
“Much better, mudblood. Now tell me, who else is here?”
Hermione glared. Wiping a dribble of blood from the corner of her mouth, she spat the blood at Bellatrix.
Shrieking with rage, Bellatrix reached out and smacked Hermione across the face with the back of her hand.
“How dare you get your filthy impure blood on my robes!” She strode to where Hermione had landed and viciously kicked her in the stomach.
“Enough, Bella.” Voldemort said lazily as she aimed again. “I believe Ms. Granger is ready to speak.”
Hermione let out a weak laugh as she got to her knees. “Go to hell,” she snarled.
Heads whipped around to see Harry Potter running toward his fallen friend.
With a flurry of wand movement, twenty Stunners hit him in the chest.
“No you fools! He is mine!”
As Voldemort strode past Hermione to reach Harry’s prone form, Hermione desperately kicked out and was instantly blasted against the wall by Voldemort’s wand, knocking her unconscious.
“Chain the filthy wretch,” he snarled to Bellatrix.
An insane look of triumph spread across Voldemort’s snake-like face as he approached his nemesis. “Well, well, if it isn’t Harry Potter.”
“Actually, it isn’t.”
Voldemort’s head snapped up as no less than five Harry Potters emerged from the hall.
“What is this trickery?” Bellatrix screamed, eyes wild.
Simultaneously, the five Harrys shot a variety of Stunning and Disarming spells at the surprised Death Eaters, knocking half of their number to the ground.
Nagini suddenly appeared next to her master, tongue flicking toward the numerous prone bodies nearby.
As the dueling began in earnest, the real Harry and Blaise crept into the ballroom.
“You know what you must do.”
Blaise nodded unflinchingly.
Harry turned to help his fallen friend but was thrown aside by a streak of black and blonde. A pillar exploded where his head had been moments before. Harry looked back to see Draco lunging toward the Death Eater standing over Hermione.
Trusting his former enemy to guard his best friend, Harry returned to the fray.
“Wake up, Hermione!”
Hermione’s eyes shot open as her heart stopped. That voice. She bolted up and let out a strangled sob as her brown eyes met familiar blue ones.
“Ron!” She launched herself at him and relished in the warmth of his arms around her once more.
“I-I don’t understand, what’s happening, where am I, how-how are you here?” Her questions rushed out all at once until Ron couldn’t help but laugh.
“Slow down, ‘Mione, one question at a time.”
She smiled ruefully and nodded for him to continue.
“You’re unconscious. You’re dreaming. I don’t have much time, but I wanted to tell you something.”
Hermione looked up at him, resting her head on his shoulder.
“You know I love you, right?”
She nodded, tears welling in her eyes.
“And that the most important thing to me is your happiness.”
A tear rolled down her cheek as she nodded again.
“So you know that I’m being completely honest when I say you need to let me go.”
She pushed herself up, hurriedly wiping her tears away.
“I can’t stand to see you so miserable, ‘Mione. And to know that I’ve caused it is almost more than I can bear.”
She watched him silently, unsure of how to respond.
“I want you to be happy, Hermione. And that means you need to let me go. Let go of the guilt you feel over my death. I have. I don’t regret giving my life for yours, but a fat lot of use you’re putting it to, moping about, kissing Draco Malfoy and the like.”
Hermione blushed scarlet and she opened her mouth to protest but Ron continued.
“I’m only joking, ‘Mione. If he makes you happy, and I think he could, if you gave him a chance, then by all means, snog the little ferret.”
She let out a watery laugh as he smiled.
“As long as you’re happy, I’m happy.”
Ron gave her one last hug and dropped a kiss on top of her head, then looked around at something Hermione could not see.
“You ought to wake up soon, ‘Mione, you’re missing all the action.”
All of a sudden, the aches and pains not present in her dream came rushing back in full force. Opening her eyes she felt the world tip on its axis. Hermione blinked several times before she realized she was lying on her side. She struggled to right herself, but was pulled back to the floor by her wrists, which were manacled to an iron ring in the floor.
“Thank Merlin,” a voice muttered close to her ear.
Hermione twisted sharply and let out a gasp as the metal bit into her skin. When she lifted her eyes she found Draco kneeling over her, wand pointed at Death Eater who promptly flew across the room.
“Welcome back to the land of the living, Granger,” Draco smirked as he unshackled her wrists.
Amusement turned to surprise when Hermione’s newly freed hands grasped his shirt and pulled his lips to hers.
Draco wrapped his arms around her and rolled her as a curse nearly made its mark.
“Hold that thought,” he gasped.
His eyes flashed back to the battle and he saw the moment they were waiting for. Rising to his knees, Draco cradled Hermione in his arms and shouted, “NOW!”
Blaise hit Nagini with a brilliant jet of blue light, sending her writhing into the air. At the same moment, Harry swung the silver sword, slicing the snake in half and splattering the Death Eaters with crimson blood.
A/N: Well that took over a year. The good news is that it came out exactly (I think) how I wanted it to. Hopefully this has started another writing kick and I can finish this story with in the next couple months!
As always, if you feel like it, let me know what you think! I always appreciate it :)
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