Chapter 35 : |Chapter 31| Rescue Mission
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“And you’re sure that there is no changing your mind about all this?”
“Positive. There is absolutely no chance in that happening, whatsoever, I can assure you.”
Minerva McGonagall sighed. She wished that there was some way to physically prevent her one and only Gypsy ally from going to the aid of her imprisoned mother. Saleena Blackwell was, though she hated to admit it, one of her greatest assets. Minerva’s current plan for winning the war depended on her remaining with The Order. If Voldemort were to ever get his hands on her… well, suffice it to say that all hope would be lost indeed.
“I just can’t bring myself to be okay with all of this,” she finally said after a moment of awkward silence.
“You don’t need to be okay with it, Minerva. It is what it is,” Saleena replied matter-of-factly. “I am going to free my mother tonight, and Draco is going to help me get in. You can’t stop us, so you might as well just deal with it.” Saleena smiled on the inside, amused at the way the tides had changed since her return. Long gone were the days of her bowing down to Minerva’s every barking order. She was a Queen-to- be now, and that gave her a lot more authority on the way that things were being run in this war. She was a person of interest now; one with true power. Despite how much she tried not to give in to her new-found status, she simply could not deny the fact that such power was indeed enticing.
“Saleena, I know that you say you are decided,” Minerva started. “But please, I beg of you, you must believe me when I say that I honestly feel like this is all a trap!” In a moment of weakness, her temper got the best of her and she slammed her fists down on the Weasley’s kitchen table.
Saleena flinched slightly, but her voice remained calm when she made her reply. “I have heard your concerns, Minerva, but no matter how many times you repeat yourself it will not change my decision, nor will it change his. He has already agreed to help me, and he will not go back on his word now. And don’t even think about trying to threaten him into submission, because there is nothing you can say that will sway him either. Draco is loyal only to himself, and to me now.”
Minerva sighed again. She hated this new confidant, arrogant, and ridiculously self-aware Saleena. Ever since her return, Saleena had seemed to be the one calling all the shots, and Minerva had detested every single second of it. She was supposed to be the leader of The Order of the Phoenix, not Saleena.
But how could she possibly hope to maintain control when Saleena and Draco were deliberately undermining her authority like this? And what made the situation even worse was that, deep down, she knew that she had only herself to blame. After all, she was the one who had ordered Saleena to return to the Gypsies and begin her training the moment she learned what her true identity was. She had wanted Saleena to learn all that she could about her “gift” and thud become that much more powerful. And, in that aspect, Saleena had most certainly not disappointed.
She wasn’t entirely sure of all the details, but she did know that Saleena was definitely more in control of her powers now than she ever had been before. She was also aware that Saleena seemed to be a lot more confidence in who and what she was as well. She had embraced her heritage, and was now using her newfound power to her advantage in order to get what she wanted. Of course, Minerva knew that there was absolutely no way of controlling a Gypsy, therefore it was hopeless to stand around and continue arguing with her. Especially not when it could possibly result in a falling-out of Saleena’s loyalty to them. They needed her allegiance, now more than ever.
Draco on the other hand, well, he was another matter altogether. What power she had over Draco had also vanished the night of his return. Before hand, Draco had been willing to cooperate because she had something he wanted. In the beginning, he had needed her help to get in good standings with the Ministry again… Now, however, Draco didn’t even seem to care about whether he lived or died anymore. She was not sure what all he went through during his time being held captive. All she knew was that he had come back stating that he had lost everything while he was away. And how were you supposed to try and control a man who felt he truly had nothing else left to live for? It was hopeless, all of it seemed so very hopeless.
“Go then,” was her only response. “Go, and may luck be with you.”
Saleena smiled, outwardly this time. She knew that this decision could not have been an easy one for control-freak-Minerva to come to terms with. “Think of it this way,” she offered. “When we come back, for I am extremely confidant that this rescue mission will be a success, you will have gained a very powerful new ally in my mother. She will be most thankful to you for going along with this, and thus helping me to rescue her. So have faith, Minerva, for all is not yet as lost as you might think.”
Minerva’s only response was to give her a curt nod before she turned around and walked away. She knew she had to get away from Saleena’s annoyingly optimistic attitude before she went off and said something that she was liable to regret later. These days, McGonagall’s temper ran on a very short fuse, and Saleena had just burnt it right down to the very core. Hence the reason that removing herself was the only solution that had made any logical sense at that time.
Saleena sighed to herself as she headed up to Draco’s room. Although she was annoyed with Minerva’s negative response to her plan, she would not let that doubt stop her from moving forward. She could not have any peace of mind until she knew, without a doubt, that she had done everything that was within her power to save Kireonna. She had to act, for she simply could not rest until she had at least tried something. Anything was better than sitting around and deliberating without action, such as The Order had been doing a lot of recently...
Draco was lying on the bed with his eyes shut tight, though he was not sleeping. Even if he’d wanted to, there would be no way he could go to sleep at a time like this. Not when he knew what he was potentially about to get himself into. If Saleena were to be captured, it would not take the Dark Lord long to discover that he had been the one to lead her there. He would figure out where Draco was hiding, come out and capture him as well, and then he’d be right back in that cage again with no hope of ever escaping. For Draco was certain that if he were ever to be captured by Voldemort again, there would be no making it out alive. Not for a third time, he couldn’t get that lucky.
Although he had been expecting her to come at any time, he still flinched a bit when he heard her soft knock on the bedroom door. He sighed to himself, knowing that there would be no way to avoid what was coming next. But just to further show his lack of enthusiasm, he decided to ignore the door and pretend that he hadn’t heard her at all.
Saleena, however, was used to being ignored like this, so she quickly decided to let herself into the room. She couldn’t help but smile when she saw how bad of a job he was doing at pretending to be asleep. “Hey,” she greeted him eagerly. “You ready to go yet?”
Draco rolled his eyes. “Do I look ready to go anywhere to you?”
Saleena decided to ignore his harsh attitude and carry on as if what they were about to do was perfectly normal. For whether or not he was enthused about this rescue mission, she would not rest until she saw her mother safe again. This was something she knew she had to do. “Well I suppose it’s now or never though, right?”
“Whatever,” he snapped. “Let’s just get this over with.”
She figured that she had better go before he did something stupid like change his mind, so it was without another word that Saleena took Draco by the hand and prepared to enter into his memories. “Where is Voldemort keeping my mother?” she spoke aloud. She immediately saw an image of an old, abandoned looking manor on the outskirts of a muggle village come into his mind.
“Now where is the trap door you and Roxi used to get inside located at?” When she got his image of a small cluster of trees at the foot of the hill that the estate sat upon, she focused on it in her mind also. She used Draco’s memory of the place to apparate the two of them to the Riddle House.
As was their plan, Draco used his mother’s wand; which had been retrieved from his room in Malfoy Manor by Saleena a few nights prior, to open the trap door once they were there. “I can do no more to help you now. From this point on, you are on your own. Sorry, but I will not go in there.”
“It’s fine, I understand,” she replied. “Just stay here, and stay hidden.”
“Not like I have much of a choice,” he snapped back sarcastically.
Saleena smiled, knowing that he was only trying to lighten the mood a bit. “No worries though, I’m sure I’ll make it out. And I will come back for you,” she promised.
“I’m counting on it,” he said with a nod. “Now get going.”
Saleena jumped down into the unknown darkness and silently began to make her way through the tunnel. She knew, from Draco’s memory if the place that this path would lead her directly to the basement, where Voldemort help all of his prisoners at.
It was quiet, a little bit too quiet for her liking. The deafening silence made her feel as if the walls were closing in on her and she found that it was gradually becoming more and more difficult to breathe with each and every step that she took. The only thing that kept her from turning back was the image she had seen in Draco’s mind of her mother; thin and weak, lying on the cold, hard floor of in a cell up ahead.
This should be an easy in-and-out rescue mission, she reminded herself. According to Draco, the Dark Lord went out every Wednesday night on private business, and there was only ever a guard or two left down in the basement at any given time, which is why she wasn’t expecting to run into too much trouble once she got there. But one could only hope that it was really going to be all that easy. She should have suspected, just by the inconvenient stream of bad luck that always seemed to follow her, that something was bound to go horribly, horribly wrong.
She was, however, naïve enough to think that this would be simple. Which is why it stopped her dead in her tracks when his cruel, cold and calculating voice suddenly came out of nowhere and echoed through the tunnel.
“ANSWER ME!” it demanded. And as unbelievable as it was, there was no mistaking that voice. It was Lord Voldemort.
Saleena forced herself to come to a stop as she had to take a moment to collect her thoughts. Her entire plan for rescuing her mother had depended on his absence, so this was certainly a rather huge setback. She didn’t know why he was there, especially not when Draco had assured her that Voldemort was almost always out on Wednesday nights. That was the only reason she had agreed to wait three more days to come after learning of her mother’s fate in the first place.
She took in a deep breath and lowered herself to the floor as she prepared herself for what was coming next. She had already come this far. There was no turning back now, she knew that much. She would either free her mother tonight, or die trying. It was either that or worse. She could end up captured, especially now that she knew Voldemort was there. But she did not want to end up as his prisoner; she would rather die than to have that. A Gypsy was never meant to be caged, nor was she meant to serve any other.
It was, of course, for that very reason that she stood back up and prepared to move on with her plan. Her mother had already been suffering needlessly for over a month, and she deserved better than that. So, Voldemort or not, she was going in there and getting Kireonna out. She knew that she was going to have to face the Dark Lord sooner or later. It was her fate to confront him after all, according to her Grandmother. Well I suppose then, that there is no better time than the present, she thought to herself bitterly.
But she was not foolish enough to underestimate her opponent like Queen Caraleonna had been, therefore she accepted the fact ahead of time that she was most likely walking into a fight of which she could not win. The Dark Lord was pretty much un-killable at this point, of that much she was certain. But if I could just render him unconscious, if only for a few minutes at the most, she thought to herself. Maybe then I would stand a chance of getting Mother and I out before he came back around.
It was a tricky situation all the way around, but it was a risk she knew she was just going to have to take. She wanted to at least have the peace of mind in knowing that she had tried everything that was within her power to save Kireonna. But she had been training months for moments like this, and it was time to put some of her newfound powers into action. She stood up from underneath of where the trap door came out at and took a moment to gather her strength. She knew she would need every bit of energy she could get if she was going to be facing off against the most powerful dark wizard of all time.
Her thoughts were interrupted, however, when Voldemort’s cold voice echoed throughout the hall once more. “I have had enough of your games, Kireonna. Now you either tell me who and where she is right now, or I swear I’ll kill you tonight. My patience with you has run out, and I am through with waiting. NOW TELL ME!”
Saleena held her breath and time seemed to stand still as she awaited her mother’s response. Unfortunately, Kireonna was so weak that whatever she had said was discernible to Voldemort’s ears only. But judging by the piercing scream that cut through the air as the his Cruciatus Curse hit her, it was not difficult for Saleena to guess what Kireonna’s response had been. Her mother had, once again, stood up to the Dark Lord in an attempt to protect her. But this time it was about to cost her her life as a result.
By that point, Saleena had heard enough. She became so filled with anger that she gave up all thoughts of an unnoticed entry. A hatred like no other gripped her in that moment, and she felt as if she could do anything, or be anything, so long as she was fueled by this rage. She closed her eyes and gritted her teeth, her hands gripped into tightly clenched fists. She then proceeded to direct all of her anger towards the barrier that was the trap door above her.
“Let. Her. GO!” A scream of rage tore from her lips as she punched her right fist into the air, bringing it all the way up over her head. As she did so, a surge of energy blasted the trap door open, causing the rug and the bookcases that had been set over top of it to explode into bits. It was as if an invisible bomb had been let off as dust filled the tunnel and debris scattered all around the Riddle House basement.
Lord Voldemort turned his attention away from Kireonna as Saleena, still driven purely by her rage alone, levitated herself out of the wreckage that she had caused. She finally found herself at a standstill in front of the man she had been trying to conceal herself from for almost a year now. He glared down at her with such hatred and malice that, for one small moment, she almost gave into her fear.
Based off of what she had seen in Draco’s memories, Saleena assumed that the Dark Lord was probably considering how best to punish her for breaking and entering unannounced like this. Under normal circumstances, she would probably have been frightened by his hostile appearance. These were not normal circumstances, however, and in her anger she knew no fear. All she wanted was revenge, and a vengeful Gypsy was never one to be toyed with.
“If you want to touch my mother again,” Saleena said with a warning look, “you’ll have to go through me first.”
“Saleena, no,” Kireonna whispered.
“That’s it!” Voldemort exclaimed. “You’ve finally spoken her name. And now I’ve got her right where I want her.” Despite his own anger at her for practically blowing up his dungeon, he could not contain his enthusiasm. For in his mind, he had the next Gypsy Queen right where he wanted her. He had been planning for this, anticipating this very moment for months on end now.
“You may think you have me, but that is not so,” Saleena spat.
“Saleena is it?” he asked, ignoring her protests. She would soon see the error in her ways, he was sure of it. “Saleena Blackwell. Nice name, that. It’s very difficult one to come by. I must say, you were a very tough woman to track down, Miss. Blackwell.”
“And you are a rather difficult man to run from, Lord Voldemort,” Saleena spat back, not even bothering to hide her contempt from him. “But I’m done hiding from you. You stole something from me. I’m here to get it back.”
“What, her?” he said, indicating to Kireonna, who was still locked in her cell. “I was under the impression that the two of you did not get along.”
“We’ve had our differences,” Saleena shrugged. “What of it?”
“Now then, let me get this straight,” Voldemort continued. “You hate her, she disapproves of you, and yet you would willingly come here to risk your life to save her… Why?”
“It’s a family thing,” she answered. “Something you lack, therefore I would not expect for you to understand it. Now, are you going to let her go or not?”
Though it was difficult for him to do so, he continued to hide his anger for being spoken to as such. He knew there would be time to deal with her attitude later, so long as everything went according to his plan. “I’ll let your mother go,” he agreed. “But only under one condition.”
Saleena at first seemed taken aback, but she regained her composure quickly. “Yeah, and what might that be? No wait -” she stopped him before he could speak a response. “Let me guess. You would have me take her place in exchange for her freedom. That’s been your plan all along, hasn’t it?”
“You dare to predict the Dark Lord’s plans?” Voldemort sneered. “While I’ll admit that, yes, that is a very clever suggestion indeed, my answer is no. You are incorrect, and could not be further from the truth. That is nothing even remotely close to what I was thinking, so hold your tongue, you foolish girl.”
“Well if not that, then what?” Saleena snapped back at him. “What is your one condition that will guarantee her freedom?”
In the most calm and collected tone he could summon, the Dark Lord replied; “I simply wish for you to hear me out. I have been searching for the Gypsy leader for all of this time because I have a proposition to make for her.”
Lord Voldemort smiled, clearly pleased that he finally had her attention. “Well, you see, I happen to know a thing or two about your people.”
“Do you now?” Saleena narrowed her eyes at him, wondering exactly how much he really knew about the Gypsies. The secrets of their ways were usually not provided to outsiders.
“Yes I do,” he replied mater-of-factly. “For starters, I happen to know all about how the Ministry of Magic took away your freedom after the war between our peoples. The war, that was so many years ago, is still affecting your lives today, is it not? Things have changed quite a bit since then, and yet the Minister of Magic simply will not let the past go and give you all your rights back. Yes, I know all about how Queen Carla, your grandmother, met with Rufus Scrimgeour after he was elected Minister. She tried talking with him, but he would still not see reason. To this very day, your people have to hide who they really are if they want to find a job and make a living within this Ministry. But to me, that is simply uncalled for. Gypsies are strong and powerful beings; meant to be adored and respected, not feared and hated. You all should be proud of who you are, not ashamed to proclaim it and forced to hide it. Should you not?”
Saleena could not help but to be drawn in to everything that he was saying. His words had more meaning to her than even he knew. She hated hiding who she really was and skirting around her bosses at work just to cover her tracks whenever she healed someone by using her gifts. This just proved that the rumors she had heard about him were true; that Lord Voldemort certainly did have a way with words. His efforts were convincing enough, and she almost bought into his act of caring... almost.
“I cannot deny that what you are saying is true,” she finally admitted. “And I have felt that very same way, many of times throughout my life. The Minister is an old fool who fears that which he feels he cannot control. Gypsies are beings of nature, we get our energy from our surroundings, and we can harness and control it at will. We do not require things such as wands to channel our magic through, and it is my belief that the Minister, as well as everyone else in the Ministry for that matter, fears this. Wizards are not as adept at wandless-magic as we are, thus causing them to feel inferior to us. And they do not like to feel inferior, now do they? Of course not. Which is why they seek only to control us by putting such restrictions upon us. They do not trust that which they do not understand, and so they burn our land and imprison anyone who comes out in the open about who and what they are.”
Voldemort smiled to himself, pleased that she was agreeing with him. He had clearly struck a nerve with her, firing up her emotions. Which is exactly what he had intended to do. Now all he needed was to get her to realize that they were both after the same thing and he expected that she would be joining him that very night.
“It is true that to be a Gypsy, living within wizarding London today, is dangerous. Especially with this war going on right now,” Saleena continued. “Some of us sincerely do wish that we could help, while the others just enjoy laughing at the mess that wizards have created for themselves. They place themselves upon a pedestal and expect all other magical being to exalt them for their seemingly superior ways. But I say that we are the ones far more superior to them. My people can do way more with magic than even the greatest of wizards could ever dream of. Yet we will never be respected, never be appreciated, never be allowed to share our greatness with the likes of them; for they will never admit that they are the inferior race. And the saddest part of it all is that I honestly believe that our two kinds could really help each other, if they would only take the time to set aside their differences and at least try to work together. But I know, deep down that that will probably never happen.” She sighed to herself, and took a moment to reflect on everything they had discussed so far. She was not exactly comfortable with revealing so much of herself to him, but she knew that is was necessary to gain his trust, if only for a moment.
“But who’s to say that that will never happen?” Voldemort quickly replied. He had been looking for a way in and this, finally, was it. “You see, in my ministry, I envision a world where all magical beings are treated equally. Wizards, giants, werewolves, vampires, you gypsies, and even the Dementors. Why else do you suppose that so many of the other races have already joined in and pledged their alliance to my cause? Once I take over, things will be run much differently, I can promise you that. And if you and your Gypsies can help to aid in my cause to become the new Minister for Magic, then I can promise you all the freedoms you want. I will give you everything that wizards have taken from you, and I personally will make sure that you get the respect and admiration that all of you deserve. Never again will you have to hide who you are, and never again will any Gypsy have to live on fear. All you have to do is join me, fight by my side, and help my Death Eaters and I to win this war. And after it is all said and done, then you shall be greatly rewarded for all of your efforts.”
And that was the turning point in the conversation; where she stopped playing pretend, put all of the false niceness aside, and decided to crush his dreams right on the spot. “Hmm, while all that does sound very tempting and everything, I still think I am going to have to pass on your offer. Sorry, but I have my own ideas for how my people shall win back their freedoms, and none of them involve joining you. I have seen the things you have done to Draco and his family, and just look at what you have been putting my own mother through already!” she exclaimed, jerking a finger at her mother.
“You cannot possibly expect me to agree to join you when I have seen first-hand the way that you treat people,” she boldly continued. “You are an evil, selfish dictator who can only tell lies. How can you possibly expect me to believe a single word that comes out of your wretched mouth? You will say anything and everything that you think I want to hear, just to get me to give you the answer that you want. And I’ll bet you worked for hours on that little speech of yours, doing your best to get it just right for the moment that you’d finally meet me. But even still, my answer is NO, and there is nothing you can say or do to get me to change my mind. My people and I will never join you!”
“You little bitch!” Voldemort spat, he too dropping all the nice pretenses he had been showing and finally letting his anger and annoyance with her come through. “Nothing I can say or do, huh? Well we’ll just see about that.” He took out his wand and aimed it at Kireonna. She was under the Cruciatus Curse before Saleena could even blink.
Her mother’s screams were even worse when there was no longer a wall separating them. Saleena covered her ears and winced at the sound. “Please stop it,” she cried, hoping that he would think she was giving in. It worked and he let off of her for a moment.
The Dark Lord appeared to be amused, which of course only angered Saleena even more. “Have you changed your mind about joining me yet?” he said with a smirk.
“I told you that I would never do that,” she answered viciously.
“Have to your way then,” he shrugged. “But you’re only hurting her all the more by refusing my rather generous offer. I can do this for as long as I need to. And if her mind gives, then I’ll move on to another gypsy, and then another, and another until you change your mind and join me. You are the only one who can stop all of this needless suffering.”
He raised his wand again and continued his assault on Kireonna. Saleena knew that she had to act, and fast. Her mother’s state was already frail enough and she was not sure if Kireonna could withstand very many more of Voldemort’s attacks. Once more, her agonizing screams reverberated off of the walls and echoed through Saleena’s head. The longer her mother was subjected to his torture, the more and more angry she became. She closed her eyes, drew in a deep breath, and slowly counted to three in her mind.
Instinct took over her then, and for a moment, she completely lost who she was. In her desperation to free her mother and then make it back out alive, something unexpected happened. Suddenly, her sense of awareness became increasingly more heightened, and she felt a power, the likes of which she had never experienced before, surge throughout her entire being.
She knew that this was it; the moment she had been preparing for. The time had come for her to finally face Lord Voldemort head on. She smiled to herself as an overwhelming confidence coursed through her veins. She reminded herself that she was a Gypsy; granddaughter of Queen Caraleonna, and the next in line to take up the throne and lead her people to greatness. She had been blessed with a gift, a gift that she had been training for months on end to harness and control, a gift that she fully intended to use to her advantage now.
If it were to come to a duel of outward power; magic, spells and brute strength, she knew that would be no match for him. But if she were to strike first and attack him from within, then she would be the one with the upper hand. For if it were to come to an inward duel; one of the mind and will of the brain, Saleena would be within her element and she was confidant that he would not stand a chance.
Sure, Voldemort may claim to be the most accomplished Legilimens in the world, but that did not mean much to Saleena, not when it came to matters of memory rather than that of pure thought. As her grandmother had always taught her; thoughts were weak, insubstantial, and easily changed, lost, or forgotten. It was because of this fact that Saleena knew from the beginning that she would have the advantage on him.
In order for the Dark Lord to use Legilamency on her, he would first have to break into her mind and seize control over her thoughts. Only then could he access the deeper parts of her brain, leaving her completely defenseless and unable to fight back. But if she were to, say, gain control over whatever it was that he was thinking first, then she could easily gain the upper-hand right from the start.
Without saying a word, or even giving it a second thought, she reached out and connected her mind with Voldemort’s. Naturally, he fought back, laughing aloud at her attempts at first. But in her heightened sense of awareness, he was no match for her; for Saleena had the raw power of memory on her side. And memories, as she knew, were everlasting, permanent, and not so easily gotten rid of. Memories are always there, whether we chose to access them or not, and memories were far more powerful than thoughts.
The room was deathly quiet as the silent war raged on between the two of them. Lord Voldemort was trying his best to break into Saleena’s thoughts, desperately searching for anything that could be used to overpower her. While he was employing every trick of Legilamency that he knew, Saleena on the other hand barely even had to try to gain access into his memories. In fact, with her new rage-induced power, she did not even need to ask any questions to get him to remember anything. All she had to do was make direct eye contact, and then she began digging through his mind, forcing him to remember anything and everything that she possibly could.
As corrupt as his memories were, in that moment they did not bother her. She immersed herself so deeply into his mind that she almost forgot who she was and why she had come there. His memories became the soul focus of her thoughts, so whenever he tried to overpower her with his Legilamency skills, all he was able to see was his own past, reflected in her mind. Her brain was on overdrive, as if it were working without her even having to tell it what to do. She flickered through Voldemort’s memories so quickly, and so casually, that everything started to jumble together in one gigantic blur.
Outwardly, Voldemort appeared to have given up on trying to gain control over her. Instead, he was now clutching both hands to his temple, his eyes squeezed shut, frantically shaking his head back and forth in an attempt to clear it. She smiled to herself, as somehow she knew that it wouldn’t be much longer until her battle was won…
Almost as if on cue; the Dark Lord inhaled one final breath, and then he collapsed in a heap on the floor. His body twitched every now and again, but other than that he did not stir anymore. When she tried to reach out to him again, her attempt was blocked. Only then did she realize that he had slipped completely into unconsciousness.
Saleena herself was rather disoriented for a moment. She took a few shaky steps back and gripped the bars of her mother’s cell in order to steady herself. She was slightly dizzy and felt as if she was coming out of a deep trance. “W-what just happened?” she asked aloud to no one in particular.
“You made him black out.” Saleena jumped when her mother’s calmly voice answered her from behind her. “You overloaded his mind with his own dark memories, thus forcing his brain to shut down… You have grown strong, my daughter. But I am afraid that the state that he is in now will only be temporary.”
Saleena took a deep breath to steady herself. “Well in that case, I had better move quickly then.”
Fortunately for her, unlocking the cells was one of the memories that she had been able to extract from Voldemort’s mind moments before he had blacked out. She bent down beside of him and, as much as she hated touching the thing, pried his wand out of his clenched fist. Then she stood back up and touched the tip of it to the lock, just as she had seen him do. The lock seemed to recognized its master’s touch, for it instantly clicked open as soon as the wand made contact. Saleena slipped inside, making sure to take the wand with her just in case he woke up.
She and her mother shared a quick embrace, both women doing their best not to cry, and then Saleena escorted Kireonna back towards the area where the trap door had been before she had exploded through the floor. In her weakened state, Kireonna was unable to move as quickly as Saleena would have liked, but she tried not to rush her too much. It was hard for her to grasp what all her mother had been through, and even though she had not yet had time to assess her injuries, Saleena could only imagine what kind of pain Kireonna was in. Whether she was acting brave or not, there was no doubt in Saleena’s mind that she was hurting.
She carefully helped her mom down into the tunnel and, together, they made their way back out into the open air. As soon as they were cleared of the secret passageway, Saleena wasted no time with words. She immediately squeezed her mother’s hand, knelt down and took hold of Draco, and apparated the three of them back to the Weasley’s house.
Molly, it seemed, was already waiting for her out on the front porch. “Oh Saleena, thank goodness!” she exclaimed in relief. “I am so glad you’ve all made it back.”
“Yeah, me too,” she replied breathlessly. Her fight with Voldemort had taken more out of her than she cared to admit. She couldn’t wait to lay down and get some rest. “Molly, allow me to introduce you to my mother; Kireonna Blackwell. Mum, this is Molly Weasley.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Molly said as she and Kireonna shook hands.
“Same here,” Kireonna replied. “And thank you for opening your home up to us. I am very grateful for all the hospitality that you have shown my daughter.”
“It’s not a problem at all,” Molly said modestly. “It makes it easier on both her and Draco when she stays here.”
“Oh good, at least somebody remembers that I’m here,” Draco grumbled from down on the floor. Still unable to use his legs to support himself, he had fallen upon their landing and had been forgotten about with all the introductions. This did absolutely nothing to help his mood. “I’d hate to interrupt this happy little moment, but if you don’t mind I would like to go back to bed. Now normally I wouldn’t ask for help, but circumstances are preventing me from having any other choice at the moment.”
“Oh my,” exclaimed Saleena. “Draco, I am so sorry. Here, let me help you up.” Even though she was both physically and mentally exhausted, she still knew she owed it to him to help him get back to his room. She was the one, after all, who had taken him out of there. She started to bend down and pick him up, but stopped suddenly as she felt her mothers hand on her shoulder.
“Saleena, my child,” Kireonna spoke gently. “You are tired and have been through much on this night. I can tell you have over exerted yourself enough as it is. Not that I am not grateful, don’t get me wrong, but you should not have to do this. Please, allow me to help Draco get settled in.”
“It’s okay Mother, I am fine,” she insisted. “You don’t even know your way around the house yet. But it’s no big deal, I can handle it.”
But Kireonna did not take her hand away. “You can always show me the house real quick and then I can take him where he needs to go. Honestly, it’s not a problem dear. I have been caged for many weeks now, and this will give me a chance to finally stretch my arms and legs a bit.”
Saleena furrowed her eyebrows, quietly suspecting that her mother was up to something. “Alright, I suppose, if you’re sure you can manage” she said uncertainly.
“I am positive,” Kireonna smiled.
Saleena touched the palm of her hand to Kireonna’s brow and passed along a quick memory of the Burrow’s layout, detailing which staircases she would need to take to get to Draco’s room. Once the memory was over, Kireonna scooped up Draco and headed inside. “You have a very lovely home Mrs. Weasley,” she said kindly as she walked past Molly.
“Don’t worry Molly,” Saleena added when she saw the confused look on Molly’s face. “She should know her way around now. I just showed her the layout of the entire house. Hope you don’t mind.”
Molly appeared to be even more bewildered. “You can do that now?”
“Yeah, I guess I can,” Saleena chuckled. The laugh, however, made her even more dizzy and unstable than she already was and she nearly fell over. Molly caught her just in time though and helped to steady her until she could regain her balance. “Thanks,” she muttered weakly. “I guess my fight with Voldemort took more out of me than I thought it did. Perhaps I should go and lay down now.”
Even though Molly’s mind was instantly racing with a million questions, she decided to keep them quiet for the time being as she lead Saleena into the house. She was sure that they would get the full story in the morning when Minerva returned. “Come on inside and get yourself settled in then,” is what she said instead. “I’ll go ahead and show your mother to her bed once she comes back down here, so you don’t have to worry about that. I’m sure she will understand that you’re exhausted.”
Saleena just nodded and thanked Molly again as she made her way up the stairs. She passed Draco’s room along the way and thought that she may have heard the two of them talking, but she was too tired to think very much of it at that time. She went straight to her bed and was asleep the moment her head hit the pillow...
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