Chapter XIX

Sectumsempra

"BOMBARDA!" The man flew back against the wall with a crunch. "BOMBARDA! BOMBARDA! BOMBARDA!" Hermione screamed, each time, the man's body thrown against the wall until his slid to the floor in a heap. Why had he just stood there? Why had he just stood there as Hermione screamed and bashed Rodolphus' head into the wall? But then she remembered why Rodolphus had come, and this man probably couldn't tell one sound from the other.

Hermione didn't spare him another look. She tore off towards the stairs at the end of the dimly lit hallway. Villy had told her there would be a man there, just outside of her cell. The door had been locked, but nothing a simple Alohamora couldn't fix.

She sprinted to the top of the stairs and out of the cellar, ignoring the resistance in her legs. Her heart pounded, and adrenaline was running wide open through her body. Hermione burst out of the door, head swiveling around, expecting another host of Death Eaters. Villy said there wouldn't be, but he had also bashed his head into various things, including himself. He was also still the Malfoy elf, and though Hermione had no choice but to trust him in this moment, she didn't still didn't trust him. Regardless, an open door was more chance than Hermione had dreamed of. She wasn't going to stay in the cell and wait.

However, Villy hadn't lied. There was no one around. The halls of Malfoy Manor were empty. Not waiting a moment, Hermione recognized she was on the ground floor, near the parlor. It took her half a minute of running one way, then the other, to find her way to the main hall. The ornate, oak doors barred her way to freedom, and the bright sun of life. She was passing the grand staircase when she heard, "Why are you–?"

On instinct, Hermione slid to a stop. She froze and saw Bellatrix Lestrange on the staircase, similarly frozen. Bellatrix's mouth was half-way open, her long fingers were draped over the bannister. Her hand twitched.

Hermione dashed into the large living room with Bellatrix screaming, "Incarcero!" after her. Hermione dove to the floor. Ropes appeared and shot past her, arresting a luxurious armchair. Hermione scrambled across the floor as Bellatrix's next spells missed her by inches. She slid behind a couch, hid for a second, then peered out.

Bellatrix's crazed face was livid. "Reducto!" The couch shook.

Hermione conjured up her own rage at seeing the woman's face – her torturer's face. "Crucio!" Hermione shot back, but Bellatrix ducked the Unforgivable curse. Had it hit, Hermione would've had no intention of being forgiven. Hermione would have enjoyed watching the witch suffer as she had.

"REDUCTO!" The Death Eater screeched. Hermione scampered away as the couch exploded behind her. "You disgusting little mudblood," Bellatrix cackled. "Narcissa will have your head for ruining her décor."

Hermione lunged out to shoot off a curse, but Bellatrix bellowed, "Sectumsempra!" Hermione felt something cold hit her left shoulder – enter her shoulder. It felt like a vaccine shot – a needle inserted into her flesh – but it tore through her and left a burning sensation. Hermione hit the floor without uttering any incantation and held her arm to her chest. "You're mine, mudblood." Bellatrix cried in a sing-song voice. "Again." Hermione saw her feet practically skipping across the room.

Hermione tried lifting herself up, but her arm collapsed under her weight. She laid back and stared at the ceiling. She was about to give up when she saw it: the chandelier. Then she looked away from Bellatrix and at the fireplace.

Hermione gathered her strength, raised her right arm and slashed. "Diffindo!"

Bellatrix stopped and looked up at the chandelier crashing down towards her. She yelped and dove out of the way.

Hermione summoned her strength and pushed herself up onto her feet, scrambling towards the fireplace. Before she could do anything, she spotted a wand on the mantle. Her wand. Thanks, Villy, was all she thought at the moment, and grabbed it. She took a handful of floo powder and threw it in. "Leaky Cauldron." Immediately, green flames sprouted up and Hermione threw herself in.

The Leaky Cauldron was crowded and loud. Everyone was too busy bustling around to notice the bruised, bloody, fifteen-year-old girl who staggered out of the floo. It was a Friday evening, and time to let go of the week's worries.

Hermione loped through the crowd and grabbed a jacked hung on an empty chair. She gingerly laid it over her bloody shoulder and made her way to the back of the pub, thoughts running through her head. Malfoy had the Ministry in his pocket. She couldn't go to them. They would know, and they would find her.

Going home wasn't an option. It was hours away with muggle transportation, even if she had money, and any magical way to get there would have Death Eaters on her in an instant. She would be dead, as would her parents, and quite possibly her whole neighborhood. Hermione was certain that she had just killed Bellatrix's husband and – now that she remembered the face of the second man she attached – her brother-in-law. It had to be the weasel-faced younger Lestrange. It hadn't registered for Hermione in the moment, but she was sure now. It made sense that those three would be left alone with the mudblood prisoner. No sympathies.

Bellatrix would want vengeance. Hopefully they wouldn't be able to find her parents. It wasn't like they would look them up in a muggle directory.

Hermione now walked down Diagon Alley, with shops closing up for the day. She was brought back from her thoughts by an immense pulse of pain radiating from her shoulder. Hermione stumbled into a wall so that she would not fall. She needed healing, obviously. Her first thought was St. Mungo's. Her second was that it was just as likely she would be found there as if she went to the Ministry.

She paused at an alleyway. Before her was Gringotts. She could withdraw some money and use the Knight Bus. But they would probably be watching the bank, and by the time she was finished there would be no doubt that they would be searching Diagon Alley. Bellatrix had no doubt heard her destination.

Instead, she turned and hurried down to Knocktern Alley. Each step made her weaker and weaker, her legs felt empty, and her muscles were on the verge of giving up. Hogwarts, she thought. They can't get there. Madam Pomfrey would never turn away a student. She would fix Hermione up in a jiffy. Hell, even Dumbledore would have to help me.

Hermione stopped in front of Borgin and Burke's. The sign said CLOSED, but the door opened. A little bell pealed above the door.

"We're closed, can't you see?" an irate voice called out.

Hermione saw an outline approach her through the dusty haze. "Stupify," she said. With a flash of red, the man fell. She scanned the store, but she could see no one else. Walking over to the man, she collapsed in front of him. He couldn't know she was here. He had to forget. Not too much, just a few minutes. "Obliviate," she breathed, trying to focus her spinning head on the task. Just a few minutes.

Satisfied, she tried to stand again, but fell immediately in a fit of dizziness. She crawled forward. Each time she pulled herself further, her shoulder cried out in objection. After a minute, she reached the fireplace. Hermione scooped floo powder out of the little tin bucket and threw it. "Hogwarts."

The powder hit the stone slabs. Nothing happened.

She took another handful. "Slytherin common room."

And another. "Dumbledore's office."

No. "No. NO!" Hermione screamed. She slammed the floor with her fists and immediately cursed as a jarring pain leapt down her left arm. Hermione pressed her head to the floor and started crying. She couldn't get to Hogwarts. She didn't know where any of the teachers lived. She couldn't contact Dumbledore. He friends weren't her friends anymore. She was going to die, alone, on the dusty floor of a dirty shop in the scummiest part of the magical world.

Hermione never lived to make a difference, to be special, to have her name live on. She would be, at best, a footnote in a history book saying she was one of the first casualties of Tom's second war. If he won, she would be nothing. What was one more dead mudblood to him? He only cared about killing Potter. Hurting Potter. He was probably hunting Potter right now. How long until Potter was dead? Tom would probably have some fun with his muggle family first, though. Dumbledore had sent Potter back to them again. He even knew Tom was back, and he sent him to suburbia for the summer, as if he didn't have a care in the world that Tom might strike.

Hermione lifted her head an inch.

Dumbledore wasn't afraid for Harry over the summer. He sent him back to the muggles as if everything was fine.

Dumbledore must have put protections there. Tom couldn't get to him there.

Dumbledore would come if Potter called him. Potter would get him. Saint Potter was one of Dumbledore's prized possessions.

If Hermione could get to Potter…

But where did he live? She had seen it once before. Some place… Private? Private Street?

No.

Privet.

Privet Street.

No, Privet Drive.

But what number?

Would it have a floo connection? Surely, yes. Dumbledore would need easy access if he were to check in on his little project.

Hermione hauled herself up and scooped up floo powder. "Privet Drive." She wheezed, throwing the powder. Green flames erupted. She was saved. Potter would definitely call Dumbledore if a Slytherin girl fell out of his fireplace. With a sigh, she collapsed towards the flames.

She rested on the shaggy carpet, too tired to get up. She waited. Waited for someone to notice her. Waited for the screams and shouts. But they didn't come. Hermione opened her eyes.

She was laying on a pink shag carpet, quickly being stained several shades darker by her blood. Hermione's shoulder had bled through the jacket, her arm now had streams of red running down, across the scars Bellatrix left her. Mudblood. There was some irony in that. Was it irony? A mudblood's blood seeping in to scars spelling 'mudblood'? Hermione couldn't think that one through. Her head was swimming.

Hermione looked around. There were pictures of cats everywhere. Little figurines of cats. And then there were the cats, perched on the old vinyl couches. Odd glass end tables had little white doilies and brass lamps.

Hermione used her right arm to push herself up. She felt numb everywhere. Her fingertips were pins and needles. But she pushed herself up and forward. "Help," she rasped out of her dry mouth. She tried raising her voice, but she couldn't get more than a harsh whisper.

She stumbled into one of the tables with a crash, shattering a ceramic tabby. Hermione leaned against a wallpapered wall, leaving a bloody smear as she took more steps. No one answered the clatter. She saw a door, a front door. She dashed across to it and flung it open.

A cool summer evening awaited her. The sky was grey and a slight breeze ruffled the flowerbeds along the walkway to the sidewalk. Hermione went forward, her vision blurring with tears. She reached the concrete sidewalk and didn't stop. She stumbled out into the street. "Help," she said again, to no one, before crumbling to her knees, and then to her back.

Hermione stared up at the darkening sky. "You're having a laugh at me, aren't you?" she sighed. "Escape hell only to die in purgatory…" Perhaps it was punishment for being a non-believer – but Hermione didn't really believe that, either. It was just easier to blame things on someone that didn't respond.

As the first plump drops of rain hit her face, Hermione closed her eyes and waited to become a ghost. She tried listing off names of those she wished to haunt. But she could only think of her parents, who had a normal daughter – all things considered – until this magic rubbish happened. Now, they'd be informed that the soaked, bloody, filthy body of their baby girl had been found in the middle of a suburban street during a summer storm, with no clue as to what happened.

What an ignominious end to the greatest witch of her century.

And then Hermione opened her eyes. A peculiar old woman wearing a plastic bonnet and a pink raincoat stared down at her and said, "Oh, dear."


There we go. Just two short years after first posting... "Oh, dear" indeed.