Harry stayed unconscious for the entire terrifying journey to Crowlstein Manor. At Hermione's direction, Tavers drove like a thing possessed, and even Bellatrix was relieved when the car eventually stopped. Early morning was lighting the tips of the fir trees like candles as the group emerged from the vehicle.
"Wake him up." Hermione said disinterestedly, as she examined the car for damage. It was untouched, and Antonin grabbed a terracotta plant pot full of stagnant water from a decorative stone balustrade and threw it over the boy who lived. He woke with a start, throwing his arms out to stop the attacker and spluttering.
"So, come on," Yaxley said over his shoulder, regarding Harry as if he felt sorry for him, but not quite enough to help him up from the ground. "What is this place?"
"This," Hermione said, turning her back on the limo, "Is the largest known permanent congregation of magic haters in England."
"Naturally." Bellatrix muttered.
Hermione smiled and slunk over to her wife, leaning sideways on her as she spoke. "They're mainly muggles that slipped through the grip of the ministry after magical incidents, all relatively rich, powerful, and very angry at the wizarding world."
"Soo… We're not going in there then?" Antonin guessed hopefully.
Hermione looked at him scornfully. "Of course we are. Potter, on your feet."
Bellatrix hauled Harry up to his feet, as he was still yet to manage it under his own power. He jerked away from her as if she'd stung him, and she rolled her eyes.
Hermione continued. "One of their number is 'Charles Henry', a wizard formally known as George Coutas. He went missing after a death eater attack a while ago, and now he lives here with the muggles. As far as I can gather, his company aren't aware of his magical blood, and wouldn't be happy if they found out about it. They'll all know Harry's face- anyone that knows anything of the wizarding world knows about the boy who lived.
I'm going to approach them and pretend to be a muggle that's witnessed magic- hence the clothing. They'll let me in, I'll find out where Coutas is, get him alone. Potter- on my signal to Bellatrix, you'll go in through the main doors. Make a scene, and lead all the others into the hedge maze in the grounds. When you're sure everyone has followed you enough to be lost, apparate back to the car."
"I have no wand." He growled, as if she had purposefully suggested using one to force him to admit he couldn't out loud.
Hermione tossed him a wand she took from her belt. Harry looked at it suspiciously, turning it over in his hand. "This is Ron's wand." He said, glowering at her.
"And now it's mine." Hermione said brightly. "And, temporarily, yours!"
Harry bit back his response, obviously not wanting to push his luck and loose the wand as quickly as he had gotten it.
"Can we trust him?" Tavers jerked his head towards Harry without looking at him.
"We've given him a wand, and now we're helping him to destroy the Horcrux's. I'd say he's a very lucky little boy, wouldn't you?" Hermione smirked cruelly at Harry, who seemed thoroughly stumped as to what was going on.
"Tavers; stay in the car, Yaxley, Antonin; you're The Help, Bella;" Hermione dropped a shiny Galleon into the other witch's palm. "You know the drill."
Bellatrix nodded, and Hermione set off down the drive towards the Manor.
"I'm so sorry, I know it's so very early in the morning, but- but what I saw-"
An older man in his early sixties, wearing a purple robe and slippers held his hand up to silence the young woman at the door. She looked like she had been in the rain all night, and was clearly shaken up.
"Say no more- we here understand. Come in, please."
Hermione smiled weakly and cast a look over her shoulder to where she knew her company was waiting, just out of sight.
The carpets were crimson, the walls cream and gold, the furniture, almost entirely solid mahogany. The paintings, still and austere, stared down at her, eyes following her down the hallways and freshly picked flowers in their crystal vases flanked by curtains which were perfectly gathered at the sides of the gleaming windows seemed to mock her. Yes, Hermione thought; this was muggle wealth.
"Gibson, Arnold Gibson." The man said to her grandly when they finally stopped in what looked like a living area, shaking her hand vigorously.
"Luna Lovegood." Hermione returned.
"Very good! Now see here, that chap there in the tweed with the gun," He pointed to a forty-something year old man standing by the window. "His name is James Manderly- going for pheasants later, you know- The gentleman coming down the stairs here is Harold Manderly, James here is his son you see, and as for the rest of us, well I'm afraid they've only just made their way down stairs and are still eating breakfast in the conservatory. Can I get you anything?"
"Oh- no, thank you, I'm fine." Hermione said politely.
"Grand, grand- Ah!" Arnold turned and clasped his hands together in greeting. "Hermione, this young man is one of our newer residents."
Hermione feigned interest in the man- Arnold's junior by at least forty years.
"Charles!" He called.
At the name, Hermione's head snapped back in the direction of the rooms newest addition.
"Come, introduce yourself to our guest!"
Charles sauntered over to them and outstretched his hand to Hermione genially, if pompously. "Charles Henry."
"Luna here has seen what we, too, have seen and sought us out, just as you yourself did." Arnold said, leaning in.
"Very good." The man Hermione now knew to be Coutas commended.
"Charles," Hermione said suddenly, as if the thought had just occurred to her. "What I saw, the wizards, they were all in black, and set fire to things without touching them- do you know anything more about them? Better the devil you know." She added, convincingly.
"Why of course," Coutas said, gesturing to the hall way, "We have a room dedicated to all the things we know of these monstrosities, come, see for yourself."
Hermione nodded to Arnold and then followed Coutas down the hallway, where they appeared to be alone. A door shut behind them, and Hermione grinned like a shark at his turned back. She charmed the room so that no one would be able to hear them, and similarly that they wouldn't be able to hear anyone.
Out in the driveway, the rest of the group was standing in a mutual silence. Harry was trying to work out why these people, his worse enemies, were helping him, Tavers was wondering if Hermione would set fire to his new toy once they were done, Yaxley was throwing pebbles at a particularly stubborn siamese cat, and Antonin was looking at his company wondering how in Christ he got himself into these situations. Bellatrix was the only one who seemed to be focused on the task in hand, flipping the galleon high into the air and catching it again as if she'd had much practice at it.
The coin span around in the sunlight, heads, tails, a hundred times, and then landed safely back in Bellatrix's grasp.
"Harry." She said suddenly, too distracted by the development to remember not to call him by his first name. "You're up." The coin had grown hot in her hand.
"Up for what?" Harry asked saltily.
"You heard the lady." Tavers said. "Get your ass in there and get those idiots into that hedge maze. Now."
Harry looked from Bellatrix, to Tavers, and decided the house would probably be a mercy. He scowled at them both and then stalked off, retracing Hermione's steps to the Manor house. He walked straight in, unlocking the door with magic and revelling in how good it felt to have a wand, even if looking at it left a bad taste in his mouth. He pushed some crystal vases on the floor, the sounds of their smashing echoing loudly. At a loss, he ambled his way through the house until he came across a glass house full of people, who appeared to be eating breakfast.
It was a few seconds before any one looked up and noticed him, but when they did, it was a double take, followed by a total uproar.
"Harry Potter! It's Potter!"
"Someone grab him!"
"He looks awful!"
"He's a wizard, of course he looks awful!"
Harry ran through the room, smashed the glass doors open with a weak Bombarda- a weak one being all he could really manage- and aimed for the hedges which he assumed were the outsides of the maze, followed by a long line of retired men in various states of dress ranging from pyjama robes and slippers, to tuxedos.
In the house, Arnold Gibson was peering through the window along side the younger Manderly.
"What on earth are they doing?" He said, perplexed, as nearly twenty of his men ran in a line across the gardens, some still holding croissants and butter knives.
"They appear to be chasing someone." James said, leaning to open the window. The name 'Potter' travelled to them on the morning breeze within seconds.
"Potter? Potter! Goodness gracious, Potter!" Arnold stumbled through the room towards the closest entrance to the grounds to join the chase, now with both the Manderly's in tow.
The ruckus could be heard from the end of the drive way, and Bellatrix couldn't help but smile. Hermione was a lot smarter than even she gave her credit for sometimes.
The man pretending to be Charles Henry froze instantly. he turned, slowly, and regarded Hermione like a rabbit might regard a fox.
"Who told you that name?" He snapped quickly, noticing how Hermione had moved to block the door.
"My former master. The Dark Lord; you remember him, don't you?"
George's eyes flittered down to her forearm and back. "You don't bare the mark." He said, accusingly.
"No, I don't. It's a long story. But hey, George; we're all friends here."
"I'm no friend of yours." He spat. "Identify yourself, witch." He sneered.
Coutas reminded Hermione of a young Tom Riddle. "You're bluffing." His face twitched and betrayed him.
"Oh, really- because, you know, Bella's just out there in the drive way if you'd like to meet her?"
Coutas' eyes flicked back to the door, and she saw the idea pas behind his eyes.
"Go ahead, call for help, your pet muggles are chasing the boy who lived through your hedge maze. No one will come for you."
He paled. "You- I know you, know the things you've done- King's Cross- that was you, wasn't it? Belarus, the wedding massacre- you. And everyone knows who Bellatrix is-"
Something about hearing Bellatrix's name on his dirty little tongue irked Hermione. "As flattering as it is to know that even an embarrassment of a ex-wizard such as yourself knows of my wife and I's career, that's really not what I'm here for."
"And? What are you here for? What do you want?" Coutas was trying to back away.
Hermione flicked her wand. "Silence." She said, as the man who would be Charles Henry slumped onto the floor, hitting his head off his desk as he went down.
Now that he was knocked out, Hermione rifled through his thoughts leisurely, pulling out once she had what she wanted. With precision, she vaulted the desk that barred her way and wrenched open a the bottom draw hard enough to take it clean off its runners. Gripping the sides of the box, she threw the contents of the draw over her shoulder with a crash and then sat it back down on the desk top, aiming her wand at it.
A quick spell, and the false bottom of the draw lifted away gracefully, only to join the rest of the draw's contents on the plush carpet. Inside was an old, tattered looking note book, which smelled of dust, secrets, and years.
"Thank you!" Hermione chirped to Coutas' unconscious form, stepping on him carelessly as she left the room.
Harry's abused body was beginning to fail as he sprinted around tight corners and down narrow pathways.
Several times he had come to a dead end and without the time to back track, had had to force himself through the sharp branches and razor leaves to continue. His arms were shredded, his jacket had been abandoned after tearing it in his hurry, his cheek bleeding and covered in grainy earth that had clung to the branch that had cut him.
"Where's he gone?"
"He's in here somewhere!"
The shouts followed him, some closer than others as he reached the centre of the maze, a large granite boulder with water flowing down the left hand side into a small moat.
He waited as long as he dared, before spinning on the spot, and hoping to god he didn't splinch to top his day off.
"Well, that's that done." Hermione sighed as she threw the notebook to the only one she completely trusted with it.
Bellatrix caught it easily and dodged to the right as Harry appeared, sweating and covered in bloody cuts at her feet.
"Has he splinched?" Yaxley asked, not at all in a rush to help him if he had.
"No." Hermione said curtly, kicking him in the shins as she walked past. He struggled back up off the ground for what felt like the tenth time that day, wheezing terribly.
"Do we have what we need?" Tavers asked looking around at his friends.
"Yes, I think s- oh, wait, I just remembered. One more thing. Fiendfyre."
Bellatrix cursed at her lack of intervention as Hermione's magic blazed a black trail down the garden and engulfed the house like the flame around a particularly boozy christmas pudding.
Hermione sighed as she let the fiendfyre go, pleased that it was focused sufficiently on the house.
She looked at Bellatrix expectantly, waiting for the telling off.
"That was… That was-" Bellatrix looked back to the house and then to Hermione's waiting expression. "Actually quite impressive." Bellatrix caved.
Hermione smiled and leaned forwards, kissing her wife just long enough to make the boys look away, or cough, or scuff their shoes on the ground.
"Come along, then." Antonin prompted eventually, making Hermione smile against her wife's lips.
Tavers petted his Limo goodbye, and Hermione directed them to the safest place she could imagine with a series of short cracks.