Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter and co. It all belongs to Jo.
A/N: SO sorry for the long wait! Stuff piled up, I had the worst case of writer's block ever, and my beta told me she didn't want to beta this anymore. I'm looking for another beta, but this chapter is at the moment unbetad because I wanted to get it up as soon as I wrote it. My endless gratitude goes to 1mAg1nE for her patient guidance and help, and I dedicate this to her. Sorry, once again, and I hope I haven't lost too many readers. As a repayment, here is my 6, 271 (approx) worded chapter, and, considering that my chapters are always under or just above 1,500 words, that's alot. Hopefully it's not alot of crap. Enjoy!
They crept in quietly, the only noise made from their dark cloaks slithering on the worn stone ground and casting their faces in an impenetrable shadow. After scanning the area and judging it safe, they relaxed slightly and approached the bar, slowly meandering through the haphazard tables and eyes darting about frenetically. No one looked up: they had their own business to attend to and this was a busy inn, its customers regularly moving to and fro.
"What can I get you?" a gruff voice sounded over the other noise in the room as the two figures reached their destination.
"We won't need any refreshment tonight, Dionysos. We're looking to lodge here."
Dionysos, the barman, eyed them suspiciously, carefully scrutinising them for any sign of hostility. He didn't like strangers, even ones who presumed to know his name. It wasn't unusual, however, for patrons here to conceal their identity – in fact, most of them did so – but there was something very familiar about this man's voice….
Hearing a quick, repetitive tap to the left, he turned his vision away from the man towards his companion, who was now leaning against the bar and impatiently drumming it with a hand.
"The room," an obviously female voice said simply.
Dionysos looked fleetingly between them and finally said, "Number nineteen, only one I'm afraid – the rest are all taken."
Pulling their few belongings up behind them, the duo hiked up the two narrow flights of stairs that they had to climb in order to reach their designated quarters. It was a difficult journey marred by crumbling stone steps, with little light to see their way and the constant nervous tension that hung over them: would they be caught? Would someone recognise them? It was a possibility that neither of them wanted to face.
The room that they would lodge in was what you would usually expect from this sort of place; decent bedding that, fortunately, seemed to have been washed recently, and though it was greying and scratchy, things could have been a lot worse; two small nightstands on which to place a few possessions, though, to them both, this piece of furniture looked a little precarious; and a tiny window so grubby that little or no light could seep through, making it impossible to see out of.
Much to their relief, there were two reasonably sized beds, both of which looked as if they would not fall to pieces. Hermione sat down on one now, exhausted.
"Are you sure this place is safe?" The question was directed at her companion, who had just lowered his hood to reveal a pale, drained face. Instead of copying her actions and sitting down too, the man, Draco, moved to stand beside the window, his gaze remaining locked onto her own.
"There's no guarantee, but it's the safest place that I know of at the moment. If we just keep out of the way of the others and leave quickly, everything should be fine." He was reassuring himself as well as Hermione. "This is only temporary, after we leave… I don't know where we will go."
"And if they do recognise us? What then?" Hermione challenged him, her anxiety becoming more evident the longer that they stayed.
Draco merely shrugged and turned away. How could she expect him to know all the answers? Wasn't she the one that had left Harry and Ron behind? Stupid Mudblood, Draco thought, though the words seemed to have a certain hollowness about them that had only ever been noticed by him. Everyone else had thought that he meant it; and he had, for prejudice was deeply ingrained in his conscious, yet in the case of Hermione, it had always been hard to hate her for what she was….
Hearing a wince from behind him, Draco ceased attempting to decipher the intricate patterns of dust on the window ledge and turned to see Hermione clutching her head delicately, trying to force the tears springing to the front of her eyes back.
"What is it?" Draco asked her suspiciously, narrowing his eyes and thinking that he knew all too well the cause of her pain.
"Nothing," she said, though it was clear to the both of them that it really wasn't.
A haziness enveloped Remus' thoughts as Lord Voldemort raised his wand. He had no idea if the two were connected, and, to be honest, he really didn't care at that moment; nothing else seemed to matter except for the beautiful, melodious voice telling him to go to London, Number 12, Grimmauld Place, where all his dreams would come true.
No! Another, harsher, voice erupted from a deep, long-forgotten corner of his mind. It seemed to be trying to warn him of something - something bad - though he couldn't for the life of him recall the meaning of the word bad, or if indeed it was a word at all.
You're under an Imperious! You're not in your right mind. You have to fight this, fight Voldemort!
At the sound of that name, Remus' conscious begun to struggle violently against the curse that had been placed upon him; but Voldemort's magic was strong, and he himself was weak from being held in captivity for several days by the Death Eaters after refusing the Dark Lord's instructions.
Break free, don't listen- no- no...
The nice voice became even less resistible, and that lone insubordinate voice, one that sounded so like his own, was slowly fading, along with it the inclination to refuse leaving for Grimmauld Place to steal some very valuable items. Stealing – that word at least sounded familiar, and had a distinctly wrong taste about it. But what did wrong mean? What was his name again, anyway? Well, whoever he was, he obviously hadn't been in his right mind to believe that! Thievery was a wonderful thing; the voice had told him so.
Why does any of this matter? You are mine now. You needn't worry about a thing with me here….
He nodded. Everything would be OK. He would take the locket necklace from that house and give it to his… master. Yes, that was the word.
I am pleased, the voice murmured quietly, and that made Remus feel as if he were walking on air.
Instead, he apparated.
Hermione woke up with Draco Malfoy in her face.
"You're awake," he smirked, stating the obvious, more as a way to annoy her than anything else; he knew she hated it when people said what was clearly in front of them.
Knowing that he felt the same, Hermione opened her mouth to say words with similar effect, but all that came out was a faint whisper and another wave of dizziness.
Something flashed briefly in Draco's eyes. Concern.
"Why didn't you let me heal this before?" he demanded, annoyed.
Soon after they had apparated, they had come across steep, hard to climb ground. Traversing the hazardous landscape posed the biggest problem for Hermione. She was unfit and unused to the terrain, and having no idea where they were and not caring to ask added to the problem. Even out of the storm, it was still blustery and her bushy hair kept blowing in front of her face, obscuring her vision and inevitably causing her to fall. Hard.
Draco had stemmed the blood flow to the best of his ability, but the cloak he was pressing to her head had slipped from his hands and disappeared on the breeze earlier, making him unable to fix her when the healing spells failed and she refused to stop for him to transfigure something else to use.
Dazed, she had sat up, as she did now. The pounding in her head had lessened somewhat compared to the first time that she fell due to the curative spells that Draco had now cast upon the wound, but she still felt a little disorientated.
"Because," she began testily after several minutes of silence, "as you well know, healing spells always work better with the injured wizard or witches own wand, which unfortunately I have misplaced. That's why we use healing potions more."
"Very good, Miss Granger. And why, exactly, is that so?" He was teasing her, that much was obvious, but he had asked her a question which she was equipped to answer; how could she refuse?
Her inner know-it-all taking over, Hermione quickly forgot her pain and tried to recall what she had read about healing spells and potions in her third year.
"It's to do with everyone's own magical abilities," she answered patiently. "We all have distinctive magical signatures which we leave whenever we cast a spell. The wand chooses the wizard in order for the best compatibility with the magical energy, style, and competence level of that wizard, and they fuse together for the best results when casting spells. So, the wand and the wizard's body are attuned, and therefore the wizard or witch's own wand is far more powerful at healing the one it belongs to than at healing others. That's one of the main reasons why human transfiguration is so hard, and using your own wand is better than using someone else's."
"Well done, one hundred points to Gryffindor!" Draco said, full of sarcasm as ever.
She grimaced as pain shot up through her head again. Draco was mopping up the excess dried blood sticking to her forehead, and he wasn't being gentle about it.
"However," he continued haughtily after a few contemplative seconds. "I find it hard to believe that knowing any of that could be beneficial due to the fact that wizards and witches aren't generally disposed to lose or leave their wands behind." He stared meaningfully at her, one eyebrow raised, and she huffed, exasperated.
"You foolish girl!" he suddenly hissed, abruptly standing up and distancing himself from her. "You stupid little Mudblood!"
The atmosphere in the room perceptively changed. The air grew colder, and what had before been banter was fast turning sour.
"What if we became surrounded by Death Eaters, out of reach of any help? What if you were badly injured and I had no wand either? What if we were separated?"
The terrible onslaught of questions continued until Hermione realised that she had backed against the wall in fear. "S-stop!" she called out shakily.
He did, though not without an extra glare sent her way.
"I didn't deliberately leave my wand behind, I know the dangers. I was just upset! Not thinking straight!" She sounded childish and weak, she knew, but the excuses just poured out.
After staring at her intently for a moment, Draco continued to rant. "You did this on purpose, didn't you?"
"I – don't know what you mean…" Hermione lied, her cheeks turning pink in obvious discomfort.
"Yes, you do. You left it there so that Potter (he spat the name contemptuously) and Weasel could find it and keep it safe. And then you would force me to go back to them with you and then convince them that I was good and on your side! That I, Draco Malfoy, was a completely reformed character and moral and kind and out for justice. Well, guess what Granger – I'm not. Don't delude yourself."
Tears unwilling trickled down Hermione's cheeks and she furiously brushed them away. She would not let him see her cry. She would go downstairs, wash her sorrows away with something that was decidedly not alcoholic and hopefully gather the courage to leave.
Having the presence of mind to pull her cloak back on, the hood firmly eclipsing her face, Hermione opened the door, walked out, and slammed it behind her. She said nothing and didn't look back, leaving a still fuming Draco behind.
That insolent, manipulating wench! I cannot believe I fell for that! I should have known she only wanted my knowledge of Voldemort, not my company. "I'm beginning to love you too." Way to play with a man's heart, Granger. But I know you didn't mean it.
Throw all the tantrums you want, but you're missing the most important detail here, a bored voice drawls from the back of my mind.
Oh, yes? And what would that be?
You've failed your mission, idiot. Forget about the Mudblood. It's not as if she won't go back to those two idiotic friends of hers. She means nothing, but Potter does.
She does mean something.
Oh, yes? And what would that be?
If she didn't, I would have been instructed to kill her.
She means nothing. The Dark Lord, however...
I said, screw him. Screw him and his stupid missions. This isn't worth it.
Whatever. Have it your way. Be tortured again. Die for something you don't believe in.
The voice retreats, leaving me to brood. Leaving me to brood over her.
Just thinking back to what happened causes my old annoyance to flare up again and I am tempted to kick the wall in frustration. What was she thinking, believing that Potter, Weasel and I could ever be friends? Haven't I already explained to her that in no way am I prepared to join her side, that I can't? Doesn't she remember who I am? What I am? It's her fault for being so imprudent; all I did was state the truth. I didn't cause her to cry.
This time, I do kick the wall, and my yelps of pain drown out the slight whisper of the door opening and closing.
"Bad day?" Dionysos asked, placing a large goblet of fire whisky before the cloaked woman sitting at the bar in front of him.
She nodded slightly, careful to keep the hood covering her face. "You could say that." Her voice held a strained quality about it, as if it cost her to speak at all; something conveyed the message that silence would be most appreciated.
She took a large gulp of her drink but immediately spat it out in disgust; she hadn't ordered fire whisky. "Is this whisky?" she spluttered.
"Britain's finest," Dionysos assured her, collecting a few abandoned glasses from around the room with a wave of his wand and wiping them clean one by one.
"Well, I didn't order it so-"
"Have it on the house," he insisted.
"Oh, all right." She raised the glass once more to her lips and drank deeply, quickly becoming accustomed to the sharp taste.
"So what brought you round to these parts?" he asked casually, still wiping the glasses.
"That's not really any of your business," she replied stonily, and he didn't question her again: she wasn't drunk enough yet to volunteer any information that might be useful to him or any of his many contacts; contacts who would be very interested indeed in the exact reasons for the great Hermione Granger and Draco Malfoy's presence at his little tavern. Oh, yes. Dionysos knew who they were. It wasn't as if he would ever pass up any little snippet of information that his tenants could give him, even if it meant spying on them in the privacy of their rooms. Although you would think Malfoy would be shrewd enough to keep his wits about him; after all, Draco knew better than anyone that this inn was home to many a Death Eater and ally to Voldemort.
While Dionysos was filing away his "little snippet" for later use, Hermione wasn't feeling as calm as she pretended. Inside, she was a torrent of emotions, depression and fatigue predominant among them. She couldn't even summon the energy to be angry at Malfoy, and that was saying something. Only a dull resentment worked its way through to her frenzied thoughts. How dare he! Calling me Mudblood and criticising me for everything I do! Of course, nothing's ever good enough for him, is it? He tells me he loves me, then he wants to be friends, but what he said today certainly didn't show that. Harry and Ron would never tolerate it. If only they were here….
A wave of homesickness washed over her and she wished for nothing more than to be at home with her parents, sitting by the warm fire, curled up on a chair and reading a worn, dusty tome. But that was cowardly; she was here now and she had to find and destroy the Horcruxes, with Draco for company or not. She had to ignore the feelings of heart-break and concentrate on what was best for the world, and not just her selfish wants and needs.
Taking another swig of her whisky, Hermione sighed self-piteously. "It's his fault really," she muttered quietly. Why did he send me that letter in the first place? Everything would be so much less complicated. It would just be me, Ron and Harry again. Like it always has been. Like it always should be.
Finding her glass empty, Hermione started to call Dionysos over to her for another whisky, but before she could speak even one word her arm was grabbed painfully and someone began to pull her towards the exit.
Have you ever had the feeling of being watched? When the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, and a chill runs down your spine. When you turn around and someone is there, someone that you hadn't known was there until that moment. When you thought you were alone with only your thoughts but you weren't.
I have that now. In fact, the manor in which I grew up in was never safe from prying eyes: each of its maze-like corridors were dotted with spy-holes and rich in detective spells, each of its empty, cavernous rooms connected to other parts of the house so that anyone could walk in on you without alerting you to their presence. You could never go anywhere without my father's permission; if you did you would most certainly be caught.
So the sensation of eyes boring into my back is not unknown to me. And it's quite obvious who else is in the room. I couldn't mistake his aura anywhere.
"Father," I say simply, more as a statement than a question.
Hearing the swish of an invisibility cloak falling to the ground, I turn around to look at the man whom I once revered and hero-worshipped.
"I assume that you know why I am here," he replies in a similar curt fashion. More as a statement than as a question.
"Ahhh, but Father, why so serious? I am your son, am I not? We have not met for months. Please, sit," I say, the intonation of my voice one that is generally reserved for hosts to guests. I gesture vaguely to my bed and notice the slight disgusted wrinkle of his nose.
Merely raising an eyebrow mockingly, he makes no move to obey my instructions.
"You know that is not what I am here for. You also know that I am impervious to distractions. My visit here shall be brief and our… conversation to the point. The Mudblood may come back at any moment, and I very much doubt she would appreciate you any more than she does currently if she interrupted our little meeting. And wouldn't that be a shame?" he sneers, particularly at the mention of Hermione.
Bastard. The thought appears in my mind suddenly, without consideration; automatically. Then, also unwillingly, I wonder if I look like that when I call her a Mudblood? Am I so like my father?
"Talking to yourself?" he drawls, cutting through my ponderings. For a second, I can't understand what he means, but then I remember: Occlumency. Quickly, I push down all stray thought and force my face to mirror his in its blank, unemotional aloofness.
Glaring, I move further away from him towards the door, my back never facing his.
"Be careful, Draco. The Dark Lord is not at all pleased with your performance." For every one of my steps, he takes another, his movements graceful and practiced.
"I came here as a warning, as you may have gathered. If you do not continue with the Dark Lord's instructions, the Death Eaters stationed downstairs will kill her themselves. Not after mercilessly torturing her and luring her little friends to rescue her first, of course. Problem solved. And if you don't want that to happen, I would advise you to find her now and cease your pointless dilly-dallying. Hurry…."
Smirking, Lucius leaves as suddenly as he came; one minute his smug, proud self stood before me and the next I am left in his wake, pale hands shaking as I struggle to pick up our belongings.
Rummaging through Mundungus Fletcher's things was not the most pleasant of experiences, Remus Lupin concluded wearily. After several hours of probing the jumble of items that Mundungus routinely carried with him, Remus had still failed to acquire the object he so fruitlessly sought: Salazar Slytherin's locket necklace, otherwise known as one of Voldemort's lost Horcruxes.
Stiffening slightly upon hearing the sound of the front door opening, Remus perked his ears up for any notable distinctions that could betray who the newest occupant of Grimmauld Place was. The footsteps were too heavy to be female, and there was no evidence of a limp, so that ruled out any women and Moody; Charlie was once again in Egypt attempting to recruit more Order of the Phoenix members, but how successful he had been so far Remus did not know; Bill, having recovered, was somewhere with Fleur after their rushed marriage; and most others that he could recall were all away, undertaking tasks in aid of the resistance. That only left Mundungus, a potential threat seeing as Remus was currently going through his possessions and systematically hunting for a very valuable piece.
It was Mundungus. A Mundungus left quite indignant after "some bastard" scammed him out of his gold. So when he found his belongings scattered around the floor of his room with a guilty Remus standing next to the chaos, he wasn't in a particularly forgiving mood.
"Remus? What you doing 'ere?" he asked, not without a trace of surprise.
"Tonks isn't here, in case you're wondering," Mundungus cut him short before Remus could volunteer a satisfactory explanation.
Back at his hideout, Voldemort snarled petulantly. He was running out of patience with the werewolf, and without Nagini to feed him (she was out hunting) his strength was steadily depleting. Even for a Dark Lord, using the Imperious curse for long periods of time is tiring. And the werewolf himself was tiring. Deciding to take a more direct, offensive manner, Voldemort summoned all of his energy to enforce his control over Lupin more than ever.
"I have a reason for being here. There is a reason for my delving into your personal effects, and there is a reason why I must ask a favour of you. All of these reasons are very serious," Remus began, much more effectively this time.
"I'm waiting, Lupin," Mundungus growled, inching closer to Lupin in case the man decided to make a grab for whatever it was that he was after and escape. Glowering at the man opposite, Mundungus crossed his arms as Remus started to speak.
"I require an item that I believe is in your possession. It's a locket, an antique, which you must have acquired some time ago as it resided in this very house, where I understand you stole several of Harry's things. You then sold these objects to some of your shadier contacts and kept all of the gold for yourself." Lupin smirked at the last sentence, knowing that he could very well land Mundungus in it if he lodged an official complaint; naturally, everyone was aware of his dealings, but they did nothing to benefit the Order and Remus could easily highlight this….
Mundungus gulped, but was not about to give in. First off, the locket in question was an exceptionally valuable piece, one that he had only today arranged an appointment with Borgin in Knockturn Alley to negotiate over. Second of all, this was not the Remus he was acquainted with. This was just not Remus Lupin.
"Ahhh, see, about that. I sold it ages ago, so's you'd 'av to find it again. No guarantee they'd sell it to you neither," he finally said, though his nervousness relayed itself into his voice and it came out sounding like the falsity it was.
Remus advanced towards him slowly, taking his time. Definitely not him, Mundungus assured himself. The real Remus would never act like this. So who is it?
"Come, now. We both know that's not true. Why would you have sold such a priceless piece so soon? I am quite aware that you tend to hang on to the more precious items for longer, to bribe the buyers, as it were. Really, my request is quite reasonable. You realise that I am unable to inform you of the reasons for my demand, but it's all for the good."
"Well, I-" It was Mundungus' turn to be interrupted.
"It's in your pocket," Remus said confidently, as if he had known all along.
Before he could comprehend his situation, Mundungus found himself backed against the wall, a wand at his throat and a curse on the tip of Remus Lupin's tongue. Lupin was dangling the locket on its chain, vigilantly inspecting it for any damage or disguise. Satisfied, he tucked it firmly away and looked into Mundungus' eyes, blazing with such a staggering intensity that Mundungus recognised the eyes locked into his own. Voldemort, the crook's last worldly thought before he went rigid and pale, plummeting to the cold, hard floor of an empty room.
Miles away, Voldemort chuckled amusedly to himself. That's one less rat on the earth. Now, for the rest of those vermin….
Harry and Ron staggered wearily through the last of the woodland, having proceeded to their destination after Hermione's continued absence. They figured that if she came back she would be intelligent enough to make her way here, their meeting point if they became separated.
Harry glanced over to where they should be going, and Ron followed his gaze. Silence. There was only emptiness where houses and people should have been. They had come here for nothing. They had been wrong. Another failure. Another clue and a dead end to go with it.
They slumped down to the ground, the picture of defeat. Not caring where they landed.
It began to rain.
Before she could stop herself, Hermione cried out in pain. Whoever had seized her arm was strong; it would bruise soon and despite her furious attempts to escape her assailant's clutches, she was almost being dragged along.
"Get – off – me!" she screeched wildly and extricated herself from the person's iron grip. But he had all ready relinquished his hold on her and she fell backwards and would have hit the floor if her assaulter had not rushed forwards and caught her at the last moment.
Sighing with relief when she realised that it was not some stranger or Death Eater but Draco, she tried to escape his arms. But he didn't let go this time. She could see his pallid, clearly worried face peering down at her from under his hood.
"We have to get out of here," he whispered, his warm breath tickling her ear.
Hermione pushed him away angrily.
"Excuse me? Who are you to order me around? I will stay here for as long as I wish, whether you like it or not!" she hissed.
"We have to get out of here," he repeated, refusing to rise to her bait. "Now." Making for her arm again, he reined his temper in. Arguing would waste time, and time was a commodity they were not in great supply of.
Slapping Draco's hand away, Hermione decided that now was a time for arguing. Who does he think he is? "You, Draco Malfoy, are a stuck-up, pretentious, selfish pig!" she screamed, no longer caring who heard.
It was a signal that the Death Eaters stationed around the room had been anticipating. Obviously, the pair didn't seem likely to leave too soon, and that just wouldn't do. No, the Malfoy brat was certainly not going about his orders properly – touching a Mudblood and letting her overpower him? Their Lord would most definitely be notified of this unfortunate development.
Spanning out into a phalanx around the duo, the Death Eaters all drew their wands with a collective swish and began their attack.
Hermione, ire controlling her, did not notice any of this as she persisted in asserting her rights to be independent of one Draco Malfoy.
"… And don't think I'll come back, either! I intend to stay and leave when I want. I don't give a damn about your company. Furthermore, may I just ask why you-"
Placing a palm over Hermione's open mouth, Draco leaned over to whisper in her ear again. "I think I understand what you are getting at here. But may I just ask what you intend to do about the bloodthirsty Death Eaters pointing their wands at us?"
Gasping, her eyes wide in fear, Hermione tilted her head in the direction Draco was looking in. Sure enough, there were her enemies, their deathly white masks pointed straight at her.
"Y- you d-d-idn't," she stuttered uneasily, hoping that was true.
"No, Granger," he chuckled wryly. "I would stand nothing to gain from such an act."
"But – you hate me," she persisted, all the while watching the Death Eaters for any signs of readiness to curse them.
"No, I don't hate you. How many times do I have to tell you?"
"Yeah, yeah, you love me, right? Please, don't give me that. You don't know how to love, especially not a filthy Mudblood like me," she said without a trace of bitterness. She wasn't even sure of her feelings anymore: was this all just a dream? Of course it is, she thought as Draco cast a protective shield charm around them. I'll wake up and-
"Crucio!" screamed a Death Eater at the front of the group as she tore off her mask to reveal a face sallower than Draco's and twisted in rage.
Bellatrix Lestrange was here.
The spell itself pierced right through the shield charm and it burst apart, leaving them completely unprotected, but Draco had cast another one already and was frantically belting out spells of his own.
Snapping out of her reverie, Hermione forced herself to remember that it never was a dream and hadn't been for years; in so doing she also recalled her missing wand and switched to battle mode, glancing around the room, searching for any way out or something that they could call to their aid to distract their opponents and escape.
She was just about to call to Draco to alert him of something when the shield charm once again caved in and they had to duck into a small alcove, just about dodging a burst of purple light that caused the part of the wall she had been standing against mere seconds before to explode violently.
"Couldn't you use another shield?" she shouted above the noise of the battle.
"It's the only one suitable," he replied, obviously irritated at his own failure and her having no wand to help him.
"Why not just perform the conventional charm?" she asked curiously.
"It only affects one person. If I did that, one of us would be out in the open. It might be stronger, but the risks outweigh the gain. I'll just have to keep using this one…" he trailed off before firing a quick succession of curses that even she had never heard of into the settling dust.
The shield charm that Draco was using was, in fact, quite powerful, Hermione mused. The only problem that he was having was that for the shield to achieve full potential and become worthy of the amount of magical energy needed to create and keep it up, he would need at least two other people casting it with him. She could vividly recall the few sessions in which they had covered the spell in the DA in their fifth year when they had attempted to cast it singularly and see how long it would take for the shield to break under a barrage of different curses from every other DA member. They had made the caster continue to do this multiple times until they could no longer summon enough energy to use the shield. Judging by the increasingly pale protective screen around them, Draco was tiring extremely quickly, and before long he would fail. The process was accelerated further by the fact that the curses the Death Eaters were attacking them with were far more potent and powerful than a mere bat bogey hex.
Steeling herself and knowing exactly what it was she needed to do, Hermione turned to Draco, smiled sadly at him, kissed him on the cheek and rolled out into the midst of the enemy itself.
"Cover for me, I won't be long," she told him briefly, and could have sworn she heard him murmur something about "Bloody Gryffindors," as she left, but that could have been her imagination.
Still, it was a comforting that even in the thick of danger he could still retain some of his Slytherin beliefs about Gryffindor bravery.
Creeping near the shadows under the bar to the place near the stairs where Draco had propped their bags, Hermione clung on to the desperate hope that she hadn't left the item she needed now on the dresser at home. If she had, or she wasn't able to access the bags, then they'd have to go on to Plan B: run like hell.
There they were, right up ahead, untouched since Draco had last held them. Thank Goodness. Reaching out for them, she grabbed the handles in her hands and made to hurry back to implement her plan.
But her way was blocked. Blocked by a woman sneering down at her, her mask torn off, sallow face twisted in rage and mockery.
Trying to back off posed a problem, too, for not only was Bellatrix monitoring her every move, she had also been covertly stalking towards Hermione and making her unconsciously slide away. Her back was touching the worn stone wall behind her now, and she could see Bellatrix speaking. Trying to focus on the woman's speech instead of her own frightened, muddled thoughts of death and defeat, Hermione forced down her fear and made to stand.
"My traitorous nephew can't save you now, Mudblood," Bellatrix sneered cruelly. "You are all alone and he's surrounded by the other Death Eaters. Lucius was about to finish him off when I realised that you were missing and went off to search for you. Lucky I did, really, because you wouldn't ha-"
Her snide ramblings were cut off as she yelped and tried to dodge a stray spell. By the time she could manage to get up, Hermione had all ready headed out into the chaos.
Running, running, panting with the effort and the stitch in her side.
Running still, dodging, running, panting, forcing images of Draco dying away and trying to navigate her way through the suddenly large room.
Trying to get back to him in time.
Jumping over tables, through the rubble, running, running, running, twisting, flying through the air and getting up and running, running, falling again, trying to run-
"Tag, you're it."
Bellatrix again. Raising her wand.
Kicking up, up, and Bellatrix clutches her shin in pain.
Running again. To freedom. With the bags.
Sneaking under the bar back to him and he's there, keeping them at bay.
"Draco," Hermione panted as he shielded them both again. "I have the bags," she tried again, holding up the bags as evidence.
Rummaging through her own, she cursed quietly at her slowness. Hermione could see how exhausted he was, knew they were running out of time, but she was just so tired….
"Got it! Peruvian Darkness Powder," she said excitedly, holding up a jar of the black soot-like substance."
"Granger, I can see what you plan to do, having done so myself, but there's only one problem: we won't be able to see either. I haven't got my Hand of Glory with me, so unless you have some other way… Petrificus Totalis!" The spell was directed at a Death Eater attempting to destroy their shield. He went rigid as a board and fell to the floor, but almost as soon got up again; Draco's magic was waning.
"Give me your wand!" Hermione snapped and took it out of his hands. "We can create a luminous trail through to the door that only we can see in order to escape. We can also disillusion and silence ourselves, just in case." Doing so in a matter of seconds, Hermione looked at him and silently asked the question: Are you ready?
"As I'll ever be," he said quietly, although of course she couldn't hear him.
Taking a pinch of the powder, Hermione flung it into the air, and before the Death Eaters knew what was happening, the blackness enveloped the air so intensely that even with their trail Draco and Hermione were momentarily blinded. Recovering quickly, the two cautiously followed the trail and emerged from the ruined building.
Years later, Hermione could not recall how they had made it out of their alive, or even apparated at all. She never talked about how they had stood there then, gazing down at their entwined hands, neither daring to let go.
A/N: Good? Bad? Please tell me. Anyway, once again, I'm requesting some help from you guys... Do any of you have any ideas about where the remaining Horcruxes should be? You can probably tell that I'm completely at a loss, so if you do suggest somewhere that you have been/live, could you perhaps leave some information about the places too? I'll probably do research, but anything you have to offer would definitely be welcome. Sorry... And thanks again if you stuck with this. I won't make any promises abut updates, but I won't abandon this story and I'll try not to leave it so long again