Chapter 8 : Chapter 8
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First off, I want to apologize for the delay…. Its been 6 months since I updated…. Unacceptable I know :( I hope you find it in you to forgive me and continue reading… I hope you enjoy it!!
Hermione frowned as she looked at the ramshackle house in front of her. It didn’t seem like a promising lead. The roof had fallen in and it looked like the forest had reclaimed the place again. There were weeds and creepers growing all over and the structure looked utterly inhabitable. She raised her eyebrows skeptically.
“Skeeter, are you sure this is the place?” Hermione could not believe that she had to stoop down to the level of asking Rita Skeeter for help, but desperate times called for desperate measures.
The hot pink clad witch dusted invisible lint off her suit and replied disdainfully.
“Yes Granger, it is. I am a reporter, I know my own job. This place may look uninhabitable, but it’s the biggest crooks hideout in England. This is where the men that feature on your charming most wanted list come to do their business. I guarantee you; Mundungus Fletcher will be in there.”
Shooting a glare at her, Hermione walked towards the run down house. Unfortunately, the years had been good to Skeeter. The foul witch had set up her own magazine, which was doing very well. The magazine however, was no better than toilet paper, as it was full of invented gossip about anybody who was anybody. But people clamored for it like gold. As Hermione knew that she could not use official ministry lines to help Draco, she was forced to use unorthodox channels to find him. Since Hermione needed information, and Skeeter was the best at uncovering it, she was forced to work with her. In return, Skeeter would get full rights to the story.
Hermione needed to know where the trial was being held. Unfortunately, no one knew. The ministry was keeping it a secret on the pretext that Malfoy’s ‘death eater friends’ would attempt to rescue him if the details of the trial were made public – but she knew that the real reason was so that she and Harry wouldn’t appear at the trial and complicate matters. The ministry wanted an open and shut case that would send Malfoy on a one way trip to Azkaban, and that would not be possible if someone turned up saying he was innocent. However, getting Skeeter to cooperate hadn’t been easy. The minute Hermione turned up at her door; Skeeter had set a Venomous Tentacula at her. It had taken all of Hermione’s skill to evade the various flying magical and non magical objects being hurled at her and try to immobilize Skeeter long enough to talk to her. However, the minute Skeeter heard that there would be scandal and politics involved, she was hooked. This was still her favorite game to play, and no one played it like she did.
Also, Hermione knew who would know every detail about the trial – Mundungus Fletcher. The thief had gone underground after the battle, but rumors of him cropped up every once in a while, usually in relation to Auror cases dealing with smuggling of illegal goods and petty robberies. However, he had been very hard to find. Mundungus had been their information man before the war, and Hermione knew that if there was any scrap of information about the trials location in the underground world, he would know it. However, finding him had been the problem. Until now.
Recently, an Auror shadowing Rita Skeeter regarding the issue of sale of illegal and stolen objects had discovered that Fletcher often sold her information for her rag of a magazine at a price. This nugget of information, though invaluable, had been a pain in her neck. Originally, Hermione had been planning to use Xenophilius Lovegood as her media man, but Skeeter traded her help in the case for exclusive rights to the story. And Hermione's desperation had caused her to accept quickly.
Hermione walked to the front door and tried to open it, but it was locked. When she knocked, a small window at the bottom of the door opened and a gruff voice called out “Who’s there?”
Hermione was taken back “Umm, can I get inside?” she stammered. The window slammed shut.
Rita let out a derisive laugh, and knocked on the door calling out “Hello Stu, it’s me Rita. I’ve come with a friend.”
Instantly, the door opened, and Hermione let out a little gasp. She had been expecting a dimly lit seedy looking bar with grime everywhere, and the cozy pub in front of her shocked her. There was a cheerful fire roaring in the fireplace, and the place was full of low laughter. The ceiling was low and people sat around tables in small groups talking softly to each other. There was not a speck of dirt anywhere and shiny pans hung from the ceiling. Rita made her way to the bar, and perched on a barstool. A burly bartender with a kind face and twinkling blue eyes approached them.
“The usual, Rita?” he asked. Rita demurred and asked him,
”No thank you Bart, I’ll stop by on my way out. Is he in?” she slid a galleon in his direction.
The mans face brightened and he replied “Yes, and I’ll take you there in a minute. Let me finish up here.” He strode over to another customer who was trying to attract his attention.
Rita whispered to Hermione, “That’s Bart, the bartender. He is the one responsible for this place. Anyone who gets into a fight or messes the place up gets banned permanently from here.”
Bart plied the other patrons with their orders, then wiped his hands and removed his apron. Stepping out from behind the bar, he strode towards a corner, and opened a door Hermione hadn’t even noticed till then. They quickly followed him as he walked down a long dim hallway and then reached a door with a large brass doorknob. A sign with a ‘9’ hung on it. Bart knocked twice, opened the door slightly and stuck his head through the crack.
“She’s here to see you.”
“Let her in.”
Bart opened the door wide, and the two women walked in. The room was dimly lit, and had a small fire in the corner. There was only one armchair, and it was facing away from them, towards the fire. Hermione could make out the back of someone’s head.
“Hello Rita, I wasn’t expecting you today.”
Hermione said in a hard voice, “I’m not Rita.”
Mundungus immediately jumped out of the chair, and spun around to face them. When he saw Hermione, his face blanched.
“YOU!!” he shrieked. “Why are you here?”
“To meet you, Dungie. I think we need to have a little chat.”
“I don’t think so,” he said, and with a smirk on his face spun around on his heel trying to apparate out of the room.
All he did was lose his balance and fall down on his rear end, his bandy legs twisted up underneath him.
Rita, who had been watching the display with barely concealed amusement, said snidely “Anti Apparation charms. You had them installed yourself.”
Mundungus hadn’t noticed Rita until that moment, too caught up as he was with the appearance of Hermione.
“YOU!!” he bellowed once again, anger contorting his features.
“Forget her; I need you to talk to me.”
Mundungus’ beady eyes swept the room looking for an escape, but unfortunately for him Hermione was blocking the only one. He did not relish the prospect of trying to force his way out past her, especially after taking in her black expression.
“What do you want?”
“What makes you think I’ll have it?”
“I know you will.”
“What do you need to know?”
“The location of Draco Malfoy’s trial.”
Mundungus looked troubled when he heard that. What happened in Malfoy Manor was not known to anyone, but stories were spreading very quickly in the underground circles. There were rumors of death eaters coming back, and that the kidnapping of the Minister of Magic was somehow related to it. People were also saying that Harry Potter was mixed up in it, as well as Hermione Granger. To a society that had finally healed from the wounds of the Wizarding War, these tales were disturbing. No one wanted a repeat of what had happened three years ago, as that would mar the fragile ground society was treading upon once again.
“Why do you want to know?”
“That’s none of your business.”
“I don’t know the location.”
“Yes you are.” She whipped out her wand, and leveled it at him. “I’m losing patience Dungie.”
“You can’t threaten me. You’re a ministry official. You’re not allowed.”
Hermione smiled, a cold smile that sent shivers down his back.
“You’re talking to the person who impersonated a death eater, broke into Gringotts and escaped on a dragon. You really want to try me?”
Mundungus licked his lips nervously. He knew of Hermione’s prodigious skill with her wand, and had no desire to be on the receiving end of any of her famous hexes. But it was against his felon tendencies to give up any information without a price.
“I don’t know it. I’ll find out and let you know.”
“Are you kidding me? The minute you’re out of this room you’ll disappear. Tell me now.”
Mundungus finally gave up pretending he didn’t know.
“What will I get if I tell you?”
“I’ll give you a two day head start. Run as fast as you can, because Harry will be the one starting the hunt. And I advise you run fast, the last time I heard Harry was still pretty upset about you cleaning out Grimmauld place.”
“How do I know you won’t break your word?”
“I’m a Gryffindor. Now tell me before I curse the location out of you.”
Mundungus sighed in defeat. “It’s being held at Room 4213 on the thirteenth level of the Ministry.”
“That’s much better. I hope for your sake the information is right, because if it’s not, I’ll be the one searching for you, and believe me, I’ll find you. And you don’t want that.”
“I hope for your sake it is. I would say it was nice meeting you, but I’d be lying. Make full use of your head start.”
With this, Hermione left the room.
Mundungus let out a little whimper as she left, feeling rather thankful that he was unhurt and she was gone. Then he suddenly remembered the reason Hermione has even found him. His eyes fell upon Rita Skeeter, and he bellowed once again.
Rita looked unperturbed, and said snidely “Is that the only word you know?”
This seemed to send Mundungus’ rising temper through the roof. Pulling his wand out, he advanced towards Rita, muttering threatening,
“She found me because of you.”
Rita pulled out her own wand. “Fletcher, put the wand away and run like the coward you are. You don’t want to mess with me.”
“You sold me out, you witch!” Mundungus screamed with rage, and shouted “Furnuculus!”
Rita narrowly dodged the beam, and directed a spell of her own at him “Tantellegra!”
Mundungus was not as lucky. The jinx hit him squarely in the chest, and he started to dance uncontrollably.
Rita started laughing and her body started jerking when the tickling charm hit her. Just as she was about to hit Mundungus with a bat bogey hex, they heard a thundering sound coming down the corridor, and Bart barreled into the room wand outstretched, all traces of humor gone from his face. Both Rita and Mundungus gulped in fear when they took in his expression, and realized they had broken his most cardinal rule – No fighting.
From outside, the only noises that could be heard for five minutes were spells being fired at a rapid pace, and then, silence.
Two hours later, St. Mungo officials were called to a remote forest where they stumbled upon two stunned people with modified memories, whose identities were unknown due to the number of boils, warts, tentacles and other growths on them obscuring their features. However, it is rumored that one of them is a celebrated journalist while the other is a wanted criminal. It was not known why they were together, but Ministry officials suspect that they fought each other after a deal went bad, and they are currently in St. Mungos undergoing treatment, which is said to take over three weeks.
Hermione got up and stretched her cramped muscles. She had been sitting in the same position for the past four hours, trying to figure out a way to rescue Draco with Harry and Ron. So far, they had got nothing. She looked around the hospital room where they had been brainstorming, seeking inspiration from the walls.
“What if we try to explain to the Wizengamot that Bellatrix came back?” Ron brought up for the umpteenth time.
Hermione sighed. “We’ve been over this before Ronald. Can you imagine standing in front of them with a tale about a mad woman who died four years ago but then apparently came back to life, kidnapped everyone, caused havoc and then died again, without anyone even having seen her?”
Ron slumped back on his bed. The strain was beginning to take its toll on his recovering body, and he had bags under his eyes from lack of rest. Taking pity on him, Hermione decided to call it a night. She got up from the bed, and cleared it by taking all the numerous books and rolls of parchment into her arms.
“Okay guys”, she said, “we’re not doing any work here. You two go get some sleep. You look like you need it. I’ll come back tomorrow morning.”
They bid her a good night as she walked out of the hospital room. She apparated home, too tired to think of anything except her bed. However, as soon as she tucked herself in, she found that sleep wouldn’t come. She felt wide awake and restless. Her mind wouldn’t turn off while there was a puzzle at hand that needed to be solved. She got out of bed and walked towards her large bookshelf. Her eyes swept across her book titles, each one having a memory attached to them. As she looked through her books, her eyes feel upon her old school books. She sighed. Those days were so different. Even though the threat of Voldemort was hanging on their heads, the three of them were always with each other, and knew that nothing would tear them apart. Actually, not always. Ron and she had always been at each other’s throats over one matter or the other. Third year had been especially bad. It was then that she had to handle the stress of having a time turner, and her reluctance of admitting to herself that she had bitten off more than she could chew.
Wait a moment….
Her recollection of her school days had caused her brain cells to start sparking off, and an outline of a plan started to form in her head. It was bold, daring, impractical and very dangerous, but it just might do the trick.
If she couldn’t tell the Wizengamot about what happened, maybe she could show them.
But first she’d have to kidnap the Minister of Magic. Oh, bother.
So?? What do you think will happen next?
Let me know what you think, I love reviews!!
And here’s a big thank you to everyone who has read, reviewed and favorited my story!! Each one of you mean a lot to me!! To the ones who review, thank you… I read each and every one, though I may not always reply promptly… To the silent readers, thank you for reading, and I hope you leave a review this time!!