First of all, to my amazing readers, a sincere apology for the long delay in updating. I have no excuse except that the holidays were so chaotic and hectic, I absolutely could not write. I promise to update as fast as I possibly can in this new year!
To everyone who leaves a review, I cannot describe how much your input means. Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart.
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Malfoy held up a hand against the deluge of questions heading his way.
He rolled his head back, sighed and faced the group after a slight pause. He spoke directly to Hermione.
"I went to meet Fahad to ask him to open up a floo for us to contact Potter. He mentioned to me that one of his sons had noticed a strange light last night on the far right of the compound. He said that he suspected someone was trying to breach the wards but dismissed that suspicion because very few outsiders know this location. While we were talking though, there was another series of strange lights on the other side. I went with Fahad to see what it was. Someone is definitely trying to breach the wards. They're just not using any method I'm familiar with".
The group was silent for the space of a minute.
"We need to leave" Ron finally spoke up.
"But the book…" Tracey trailed off.
Hermione held up the leather-bound book in her hand distractedly "I found the book"
All three started.
"Well this makes things a lot easier" Malfoy began, pulling his wand out of his sleeve. "The three of you need to leave immediately. Make sure you get the book safely to Greece. We don't have time to get Fathy to translate. Just take it to Blaise, I'll sort it out with Fahad later".
"Wait" Hermione was jolted out of her plan riddled mind. "What do you mean three of us? What about you?"
Malfoy considered her for a moment.
"I can't just leave Granger. Merlin knows who or what is trying to get through those wards. I need to stay and help. If we drew anyone to this place, any damage they cause would be our fault"
Malfoy adjusted the collar of his robes and Hermione caught a slight tightening of the grip on his wand.
"Just go" he said, peering out a window with a frown. "I'll get them to send your things later. Fathy is waiting downstairs to apparate you to the portkey site".
For a moment, Hermione was unsure of what to do next. Ron was looking towards her for some clue as to their next move, while Tracey was doing the same to Malfoy.
She couldn't leave him there. Not when he was risking himself to save an ancient museum filled with priceless artefacts.
"Ron. You and Tracey go. Take the book. I'll stay with Malfoy". Hermione had apparently made a plan without even thinking about it.
"What? No. I'm not going without you" Ron flustered.
"He's right. I know these people Granger, I've been here countless times before. I'll make sure everything is okay and join the rest of you in Greece as soon as I possibly can" Malfoy said hurriedly.
Hermione could see him almost jittering to leave and join a counterattack if there was going to be one.
She opened her mouth to speak.
The loud noise of an explosion was accompanied by a low hissing sound indicating that the side of a wall was coming down.
Hermione pushed the book in her hand into Ron's chest and used that momentum to push him and herself out the door of her room. Tracey had already begun to sprint in the direction of the explosion and Ron and Hermione hurtled after her. Hermione could hear Malfoy's footsteps behind her.
"Wait" Malfoy hissed.
Hermione came to a grinding halt, using a hand on Ron's shoulder to steady herself.
"This is absurdly pointless. There is no point in all of us staying and putting the mission in jeopardy. I will not stand around arguing. Down that hall to the right is Fathy's room. Find him and take yourselves to the portkey site. Get that book to Blaise. Granger, if you insist on staying, I would suggest you stay close unless you want to get lost" Malfoy bit out of the last few words and began to stalk down a flight of stairs.
Hermione took a second to nod at Ron before rushing down the stairs after Malfoy. Behind her, she heard, Ron and Tracey begin to jog down the hallway that Malfoy had indicated.
As much as she hated being ordered around by Malfoy, she had to admit that he had a point and that he could be decisive when he wanted to be.
She followed him in silence through a series of hallways and down another flight of stairs. As they neared the bottom, sounds of shouting and the whizz of spells being cast could be heard.
Finally, Malfoy and Hermione walked out of a narrow door and into the large courtyard they had arrived in the middle of, two days ago. The sight that greeted them made Hermione's heart sink.
Black cloaked figures were squared off against the white clad inhabitants of the compound. Clumps of foliage and flower vines were in smoking heaps and sections of the white marbled walkways had been churned off the ground.
It was utter chaos.
Malfoy dove in directly, aiming spells at the black cloaked figures with almost alarming speed. Before Hermione could fully appreciate his wand work however, a scream drew her attention elsewhere.
A black cloaked figure had blown a section off a wall on her left and through the gaping hole, Hermione could make out the figures of two women huddling against the opposite wall. Hermione leaped to the left, throwing a stunning spell as she moved. Pausing momentarily to shield the women as they ran up a staircase, Hermione hurtled off in the direction she last saw Malfoy, throwing as many shield and defensive spells as she could.
Once she had gotten Malfoy's platinum blond hair in her line of sight, Hermione backed herself against a wall and began her counterattack.
The black cloaked figures were almost frenzied in their attack. Hermione was blocking a wide array of spells; some she couldn't even recognize. At one point, a searing pain on her forearm told her that someone had sent a lacerating spell at her. Murmuring a quick healing spell, Hermione strained to catch sight of Malfoy's blond head amongst the throng.
She felt slight panic build at the realization that Malfoy was no where to be seen.
She also needed to rest.
Hermione could, through years of training, expend large amounts of energy in battle, but the longer she held up, a fatigue settled in her bones that made her sluggish. So, she knew from experience that she would soon have to take a small breather.
With this in mind, she began moving along the wall towards an entrance to one of the buildings.
All of a sudden, someone jerked on her upper arm, pulling her against them.
She gripped her wand and whipped her head up to look directly into stormy grey eyes.
Malfoy was injured.
A purplish bruise covered a side of his face and a small stream of blood was dripping from a cut on his hairline.
He was also clutching his side.
"Fahad has sent for reinforcements, they should be here any minute. We should leave" Malfoy rasped, his breath wheezing.
"What happened"? Hermione asked in a high-pitched whisper.
Malfoy pushed her in the direction of the entrance she was heading to and the two of them scuttled in and crouched just inside the door.
"I went with Fahad to seal the library. We were attacked. Three of Fahad's men were killed. He has just flooed for help. I came back to get you. We need to leave" Malfoy's words were coming out in a staccato, as if he was struggling to find the breath to speak.
"Can you move? Are we going to apparate?" Hermione asked.
Before Malfoy could reply however, a loud ululation went up from the courtyard. Leaving Malfoy crouched on the floor, Hermione peered over the side of the door.
White clad figures were appearing in groups all over the courtyard. Fahad's people had arrived.
Hermione crawled back.
"How do we leave?" she asked the blond-haired man crouched on the floor with a grimace on his face.
"Broom. We have to fly" he answered.
"What?" Hermione's question came out in a whispered scream.
Malfoy struggled to his feet.
"We can't apparate. Fahad's wards are in place and there's no one to allow us through them. There's no one to apparate us out. We fly South and apparate from there…" Malfoy trailed off as he began shuffling along a corridor that led to a small hallway.
"Malfoy… I haven't flown in years…" Hermione tried to keep the anxiety out of her voice.
Malfoy turned back to her, scorn written in the tense lines of his jaw.
Before he could speak however, the wall he was standing alongside exploded, throwing him forward on to the floor.
Hermione squeaked and rushed over to him, throwing a shield charm over them both.
Malfoy grunted twice before pulling himself up to his feet.
"Hold the shield" he muttered as he reached over at something on the floor hidden behind a pillar.
He pulled out two brooms and swung his leg over one.
Hermione stood stock still staring at the remaining broom on the floor.
It wasn't that she couldn't fly. She was an adequate flyer; Auror training had ensured that. She just hated it and resisted it all the more because she was merely adequate and not good at it.
Before she could muster her courage to swing her leg over it though, another BOOM sounded through the hallway in which they were standing.
In the span of a second, Malfoy had flown close, grabbed her upper arm and pulled her onto the broom in front of him.
"Do try not to fall Granger"