Song Suggestion: Unsecret X Neoni- "Fallout"

Trigger Warning: Graphic violence

A/N: the next update will be next Sunday, the 22nd

FYI: I'm in the process of writing a fic that includes the portkey necklace to the island Lucius tried to give Hermione. It's an AU war fic where they get stuck there without wands and with their friends. I thought it fun to bury an Easter Egg in this fic.

A/N: The characters of Thorfinn, Zala, and Athena are in the Marcus/ Katie companion story. It's not integral to this chapter to understand their history. Zala is a muggleborn and Katie's best friend. She's Thorfinn Rowle's girlfriend, and they have a daughter named Athena who is a little older than Scorpius.

Smoke Screen

Hermione

Hermione head felt like it would break from the pain. She attempted to lift her hands to inspect it, but heavy chains weighed them down. She blinked, orienting herself. A groan ripped from her throat, and then she wished she'd silenced herself, realizing too late that whoever took her now knew she was awake.

"Are you feeling okay, Hermione?" A familiar voice asked, too kind for the circumstance. She opened her eyes and sat up. Obsidian chains were on her wrists and ankles, much too tight, already chafing the skin underneath. She sat on a raised grey stone dais inside an amphitheater she'd recognize from anywhere. The arch in the Department of Mysteries was close enough she could jump inside. The shackles attached to the floor below, not giving her much room to move. After a quick glance around the barren room, she realized they were the only ones there.

Callum crouched in front of her, elbows on his knees. He wore dark robes with the hood down and no mask. His grey eyes startled her, looking so much like Draco… so much like Lucius.

"You finally resemble your father." She didn't say anything else, still too stunned by the betrayal.

His jaw clenched. It seemed the right thing to say to get under his skin. Callum studied her.

"I see why Draco's so fond of you. You're mean enough for him."

"How could you do it?" Hermione asked. It came out choked, voice thick with emotion. "You're his brother."

Callum sighed.

"This isn't a personal strike against him," he said. "Not anymore. Be sure to remind him of that. Nothing has to change after this. Rosewood just wants your cooperation."

Hermione's mind clicked along.

"Rosewood knew we were in Germany because of you." Hermione felt ill with grief. She'd always wondered how the man knew they arrived. "You knew everything. I told you about the soul bond, about the… How long have you planned to betray Draco?"

Callum looked a little distressed, but she held no sympathy for him. She expected him to ignore her question, but he indulged her.

"Rosewood knew who I was the moment I stepped into Hogwarts. He promised me my ultimate desire, if I helped track down and subdue the Heir of Kaiser in whatever way possible. At the time, he thought it was Draco, and I had no issues with helping. I was seventeen and angry, Hermione, and I had no idea what I agreed to."

"Your ultimate desire?" Hermione asked. "What could possibly be so important you'd align yourself with a sociopath?"

Callum pushed out a hard breath through his nose, nostrils flaring.

"I can't say because of magical bounds, but you'll figure it out soon enough." He stood up and walked down the steps, sitting on the last one, facing the amphitheater. "When we went to Romania, my job was to first subdue you, then subdue Draco."

"But then you were knocked out by the blast," Hermione guessed.

"Yes," he said. "Rosewood wanted to kill me for that fuckup. I promised I'd make it up to him. When they figured out it was you, I knew I needed to get close and separate you from Draco."

"Were you ever my friend?"

He looked at her, searching her face.

"Against my will, I admired you. The longer I spent time with you the more I dragged my feet. If Rosewood had found out about our lunches and dates, he would have probably killed me for not kidnapping you. When you passed out after our kiss, I knew you and Draco were connected in some weird way, which I relayed to Rosewood. I was supposed to get more information… and then you disappeared."

"But you gave us information on Rosewood?" She asked.

"Only the barest details, enough where you trusted me."

Hermione's head and heart hurt. They pounded in the same rhythm.

"Was anything real?" She asked, unable to disguise the hurt. "You lived with Draco for five years."

Callum rubbed a hand down his face and then through his hair.

"When Draco showed up sloshed on my doorstep, saying you disappeared, I thought it best if I kept him close to find you. I didn't plan… I tried my hardest to continue to hate him, but he's like some invasive moss. He made it hard… and then impossible." Callum looked back at her. "I never told him, but I always wanted a brother too. A part of me hoped you'd never show up again, so I'd never lose him. But it's too late now. I can't stop anything."

Hermione sensed the tender spot in him, the love for his brother. Knowing he wasn't pure evil, she tried to negotiate.

"Please, Callum, let me go. Think this through. Rosewood plans to subjugate muggles. You can't agree with that."

Callum's expression darkened.

"I hate the fucking muggles as much as I hate the wizarding elite. They can all burn for all I care. Do you think my time in the muggle world was pleasant?" He grimaced. "We were poor, and most of the students were racist. When I got the letter for Hogwarts, I was excited to leave it all behind. It turns out they were the exact same. I'm sure you understand."

In a twisted way, she did. Even now, she didn't fit fully into the pureblood world, being a halfblood, and she didn't fit in the muggle world.

"No," she said. "I don't understand committing genocide because someone hurt your feelings."

"He's not going to commit genocide." Callum tried to sound confident, but there was a note of doubt in his voice. "Rosewood will leave the majority alone. And he promised any muggle that I cared for would be spared." He walked up the steps again and leaned close, brushing the curls from her face, and she jerked away from the touch. "Your mum and dad will be spared too, along with anyone you know. I've… I've tried to find a way to stop this, but there's no way out."

Hermione sneered.

"Draco will never forgive you."

Callum flinched and then frowned.

"Maybe, but like I said, nothing has to change. Rosewood will just take the soul bond off the two of you. And then he'll activate your latent power, linking you to him. It won't be so bad if you don't fight it. After that, you're free to be with each other. I think Draco will understand in time, because I can't change my mind even if I wanted to. They made me give an unbreakable vow. Since Flint fucked them over, they've made every member do one. I'm bound to continue fighting for them."

"And my son?" Her whole body went still and cold. Pure horror. "What have you done with him?" She wished to snap against her chains, but it would do nothing.

"Don't worry, he's safe. I'm not letting my nephew get hurt. Draco managed to escape my trap, but I knew if we had both you and Scorpius, he'd do what we asked without getting himself injured. I gave instructions to meet at midnight." He looked down at his watch. "We have an hour. You might as well get comfortable."

Hermione settled back down, attempting to get her wrists and ankles in a comfortable position, but they hurt too much.

Callum sat on the edge of the ancient stone steps again, crossing his ankles, though his back stayed straight and tense.

"Draco's going to kill you," she said.

Callum gave a sharp laugh.

"Draco's a vicious prick, but he's no killer. I think he'll forgive me, once I explain everything. You're forgetting he took the Dark Mark. This is a similar thing. I don't plan on losing my brother, Hermione. After this, we'll once again be one big happy family."

She didn't know if he was saying it in a mocking tone or not. If not, he was fucking delusional. Hermione seethed, all her shock twisted into a burning fury, wishing to lash out at him, hurt him like he hurt Draco.

"If Draco doesn't kill you, then Astoria will."

He really flinched at that. She saw the movement along his back and shoulders.

"She'll try, no doubt, especially if she thinks you're in danger. But Astoria will come to see sense too. It's not like I have any choice now. She, out of anyone, understands being trapped in contracts." He turned just enough so she could see a little wistful smile on his lips. "When she calms down, I'm planning to ask her to marry me."

Hermione couldn't help it. She laughed out loud. He whole face dropped in fury, but she couldn't stop, even when he walked over and once again crouched next to her. By the time he placed his wand back to her temple, she was almost not breathing with how hard she laughed.

"I think you need more rest."

He tapped her skull, and all went back to black.

Draco

After depositing his mum in her bed to sleep off the stunning spell, Draco sat at his dining room table next to Weasley. They both had glasses of whisky out, taking small sips. He'd just given the red troll a synopsis of Hermione's heritage and the cult.

"What do we do next?" Ron asked.

Draco brought the glass to his lips while thinking and then grimaced. Mipsy's blood still colored his hands. A violent fury rose in him. If a dark god asked for his soul, he'd sell it for a taste of vengeance.

"We stay one step ahead of the game."

"How do we do that?"

"Figure out the motivation." Draco let his mind work, setting aside his emotions. He allowed the cold to invade him, the calculating logic he'd been taught. "They wanted to capture me for some reason. I'd like to think it was just to manipulate Hermione, but Callum's involvement changes things."

Memories sliced through him, painful ones where he believed he'd had a brother who loved him. They lived together for five years. At the beginning, Callum barely tolerated him, but in the past few years it seemed… no, he needed to stop thinking. He grasped at the wisps of thoughts until it struck him.

"Callum knew about the soul bond." Draco stood straight up and began pacing, feeling on the edge of some idea. "He knew everything."

"The what?"

"Me and Hermione are soul-linked through the Anima Vinculum spell."

Ron sputtered, almost choking on his drink. It dribbled down his chin, and Draco gave him a look of disgust.

"Do try and not freak out with every revelation, or if you do, attempt to not spill the five-hundred-galleon-a-bottle whisky."

Ron ignored him, face red with fury.

"Why would it matter if you're soul bonded?"

"Because a soul can only be linked to one person," he said. "And that would conflict with his plans to control Hermione's magic."

Ron stared into his glass.

"So they want you alive... at least, at first. Well, that works in our favor. They'll only use soft spells, as you call them." Ron set his glass down and grabbed a second glass, putting them side by side. "It's much like chess," he said. "They want something gone or trapped, and they are so focused on it, they don't see the surprise move beside it." He glanced up. "A red herring, false flag, smoke screen—whichever one you'd like to call it. Lull them with the expected, and then twist it on them. Rosewood wants you, but he won't be anticipating my help."

Draco took a moment to appreciate the brilliance. He'd never considered Ron much of a strategist, but maybe he'd read him wrong all along.

Before they could plan it out, they heard a person hurtle through the floo in the adjoining room with a loud bang. They looked at each other and pulled out their wands at the same time.

They both walked to the hallway and flattened against the wall, positioning themselves at the doors to the main room. Draco looked at Ron and mouthed, are you ready?

Weasley gave a sharp nod, and at once, they burst through the room… and pulled to a stop.

Astoria Greengrass panted on the expensive rug with an injured Katie Bell in her arms.

"Help," Astoria said. "I did what I could, but she needs someone with more expertise."

Draco walked forward and leaned down, doing a diagnostic spell. Katie had a laceration on the right side and several broken ribs. Her head was the worst. An important vein had burst, and if he didn't stop it now, it might damage her brain permanently.

"Why didn't you bring her to St. Mungo's?"

"Based on what I saw, I wasn't sure who to trust. You're the only one I knew with experience in healing spells." Astoria helped Draco lay her out flat. He motioned to Ron to hold down her legs, because once she woke, she'd be in pain, and sometimes people fought their healing.

"How did you even find her?"

"Their little house elf popped into my flat, asking for help. I'd stopped by Flint castle last week to get a book from their library. I'm probably the only visitor the elf had seen there in a while, so I was the only one she thought to trust. I found Katie like this in their great hall. I couldn't find Marcus, but I did find a dead body upstairs." Astoria looked disturbed, but she didn't elaborate, and he didn't have time to pry.

He was glad Astoria came to him. If Callum turned, who knew how many people in the ministry were a part of the cult. And even without knowing any other information, this had Rosewood's hand on it.

Draco went to work, healing her wounds, starting with stemming the bleeds in her head. It would heal better with potions, but he didn't have time to find them. It wasn't long before her lashes fluttered open.

"Bell?" Draco started. "I'm going to need you to stay still while I set your rib, so it doesn't lacerate your lung. Weasley, hold her legs downs hard."

Draco tapped her rib, and it cracked back in place. Katie lifted off the floor in pain, giving a loud gasp.

"Fucking hell," she said. Then she glanced down at her hands. "You healed me?"

"Yes," Draco said. "What happened?"

Katie sat up, clutching her head and gave a shuddering cry.

"They took Marcus."

"Who did?" Astoria asked.

"I don't know. They wore masks like Death Eaters. Marcus—oh God, Marcus probably thinks they killed me." She brought a hand to her mouth as if to shove in her cries that kept escaping. Astoria wrapped a hand along her shoulders. "I was watching a little girl named Athena for my friend Zala, and they took her too. What would they want with a child?"

That unsettled him. They now had two children, Marcus, and Hermione.

She put her head in her hands and wept for a moment. When done, she glanced up, red eyes full of rage.

Draco held out his hand, and Katie grabbed it while he pulled her to her feet.

"Come on," he said. "The both of you. You'll be sore, but we'll need all the help we can get. I think I know the reason why they have Marcus, and if I'm correct, then they'll need two more people. We only have until midnight to create a plan, which leaves us a single hour to save them."

Draco

Thirty minutes later, they had several maps strew across the table of the Ministry of Magic, including one he knew nobody else owned except him. The Blacks passed him an ancient one, created around the same time as the Ministry, showing the old pagan ruins.

"They'll be at the Veil," Ron said. "You said they needed a portal. Well, it's the only one there I know of. Harry's godfather died passing through it."

Draco had forgotten the golden trio and their friends went to the Department of Mysteries already, fighting his father. It might give them an edge the cult members didn't expect, since they'd explored it before.

"Are you done?" He asked Astoria. She glared at him, glancing up from her furious letter writing. She'd been in a vicious mood since learning about Callum. He could tell she wanted to cry, but she hid it behind a murderous expression.

"Just nearly."

They already owled Charlie. He was still in England with his Hungarian Horntail. They also messaged the rest of the Weasleys, Kingsley, and the surviving Order members. He owled Blaise too and Neville and Luna.

He was about to owl Theo as well, but before they could send it, the man in question barreled through the floo, stomping into the dining room.

Astoria gasped.

"Theo," she said. "What happened?"

He was covered head to toe in bright red blood, wearing an expression he'd only seen on Cantan Nott—cold and hard, without any empathy. It dripped on the ground as he walked forward until he stood in front of the dining table.

"Someone took Ginny." Blood coated his teeth, and Draco wasn't sure if it was his or someone else's. "They stole her from her flat and made a mistake of leaving one behind to dispatch me if I arrived."

"Did you kill him?" Draco asked.

"Slowly," Theo said in a way that sent a chill up his spine. Behind the placid veneer, Nott had a dark side, one that survived horrific abuse. "I bled him of information first, using the worst of my father's torture techniques, so I know most of what's going on." He went and sat at a nearby chair and then stared at his bloody palms. "He gave me the names of everyone involved. Some are in the ministry and won't be at the ritual, but most of the top members will be there tonight. Draco… there's fifty in all."

Draco almost groaned. They'd be outmatched in every way, so they'd have to fight harder and smarter.

"Bloody hell," Ron said and took a big gulp of alcohol. Draco walked over and yanked away the tumbler. The last thing they needed was a drunk Weasley bumbling the plans.

"Anything else important?"

"They plan—" Theo made a choking sound. "They plan to sacrifice Ginny in some fucked up ritual. The man said they'd slit her throat near the veil and make Hermione put her hands in the blood, and then they'd do the same to her brother."

Katie made a strangled noise at that. She'd been remarkably clear headed since waking up, but he could tell she held on by a thread. They all did.

He'd guessed that was the fate of Marcus, but to hear it out loud made everything twist inside him.

"Who is the third sacrifice?" Draco asked.

"A third?" Asked Ron.

"There needs to be three."

They all glanced around, and their eyes landed on Draco.

"Most likely you, mate," Theo said.

"They'll use Scorpius to do it," he said, suddenly understanding the plan. He began pacing again. "But they need the bond off first, and that will take some time. It's not a fast procedure, especially since they want Hermione alive... though maybe they have something to make it faster. It will…" Draco trailed off. He paused and almost spoke and then went silent again. A laugh bubbled out of him, and then he laughed harder.

"Are you alright?" Ron asked. "Blimey, I think Malfoy finally snapped."

Draco shook his head.

"I have an idea. It's insane, but I think it might work. And, oh, the fucking irony. I hope Hermione appreciates it."

The rest of the room still looked completely confused, but Draco didn't care.

"Care to tell us?"

Draco leaned on the table, placing both fists on the cold wood.

"They want a lamb to the slaughter." He looked at Ron, remembering the strategy they went over earlier. "So we'll give them a lamb to the slaughter."

Draco

The people filtered in faster than he thought they would. Charlie landed his dragon near the gardens, making the peacocks scurry away in terror. He stomped inside the mansion in a fury, ready to fight. Blaise came next, dressed for war, something he rarely saw him in, mouth set in a grim line.

Thorfinn Rowle came near the end, arguing with his girlfriend, asking her to stay behind. The little girl they'd taken from Flint castle had been the blond giant's only child. Rosewood obviously didn't know who he fucked with. He'd seen Thorfinn tear someone a part with his bare hands before. By his current expression, he planned to do much worse.

Person after person arrived, crowding into his dining room, each new face giving their own opinion on what to do.

It was now ten minutes before they had to begin, and his house was filled with way too many fucking Weasleys.

He walked toward Ron with a shot glass.

"Are you ready?"

Ron looked hesitant, but he took a deep breath.

"I think I've been waiting for another fight for a long time. A purpose. Someone to kill."

Draco nodded in understanding. Vengeance was a bitter potion, but it was better than nothing.

"Well, here's your chance." He downed the liquid and grimaced at the same time as Ron. "I swear to Merlin, this is the last fucking time I'm doing this."

Draco turned and began to walk to the fireplace.

"Wait," Weasley talked to his back. "Was there a first time?"

Despite the circumstances, he let out a little laugh.

Hermione

Hermione woke again. Her head cleared faster, eyes snapping open to find herself surrounded by a sea of dark masks and black robes. Rosewood stood in front of her, and though she couldn't see him, she knew Callum would be at her back. Her previous clothes were gone, and she wore a thin white cotton dress in its place. She didn't want to think who changed her.

"Such a slippery little witch," Rosewood said. "I'm impressed at how many times you snuck out from under my hand. Maybe I underestimated you, but I won't make the same mistake again."

He motioned to the obsidian chains attached to the floor. The ancient magic pulsed below her, potent so close to the source. But every time she attempted to grasp it, it floated away, repelled by the dark stone.

"Where's Scorpius?" She snarled.

"Right behind you."

Hermione twisted her head to see Scorpius floating in the air, making a slow turn. He was fast asleep with his arms and legs hanging to the ground, as if suspended from a string on his belly button. With horror, she realized he wasn't alone. Beside him floated little Athena, Teddy, and the little Rosier girl Bill adopted. They made sickening slow turns in the air, as if they were on a merry go round.

She swayed from the horror, the sick depravity of the men before her.

"If you harm those children, the things I do to you will make you wish for eternal hell," she said.

Rosewood made a mocking scoff and bent down.

"I'm not so evil, Hermione," he said. "You'll see that in the years to come. We'll get to know each other quite well, and you'll see I'm not mad. I just see what needs to be done. Occasionally, people need motivation. If they chose correct, then all will be well."

He made a motion with his hand, and the crowds parted. Three masked cult members walked through, each holding a person. The first man walked calmly, dressed in a similar linen white linen shift. The second man—a much bigger person—attempted to fight, but it was useless with his own shackles and a wand at his back that kept giving small zaps. The third was a woman in a similar white dress, walking with composure, though her whole body shook.

The captives were placed before her at the bottom of the steps and forced to their knees. One by one, they pulled the hoods off to show who was underneath. Lucius Malfoy met her eyes with a sneer; Marcus grimaced with a black eye and broken nose; and Ginny bottom lip quivered, tears steaking down her face.

Hermione didn't know what to do with her fear, her terror, her understanding.

Rosewood meant for them to be her three sacrifices.

"It was fortunate you told Callum everything about your talent—where we went wrong with the first ritual. Without him, we would have never known we needed exactly three willing sacrifices and a portal. Not to mention the soul bond."

Hermione twisted her head and glared at Draco's brother. No… not a brother. A brother wouldn't have done something like this.

"We searched hard for the people we thought would give up their lives for you. Little Ginny, so brave and fierce. Your best friend. And then there's your brother." He clicked his tongue. "Oh, what a martyr he is, willing to do anything for the people he loves." Rosewood turned to the last sacrifice. Lucius sat without flinching and a stoic expression. "I considered Draco at first, but his father was kind enough to take his place on the condition Draco live. The arrangement worked out rather perfect."

Lucius stared at her, and she couldn't read him—no sorrow, no fear, no anger. Just an acceptance. A choice, he'd said, between death and eternal regret. In the end, he chose death rather than see Draco die. Something in her throat caught. She hated the man more than anyone in the world but seeing him sitting there waiting for his death made her stomach drop.

He'd tried to warn her, tried to give her an escape.

Rosewood checked the time.

"Midnight nears," he told Callum. "If he doesn't show because you missed your opportunity to catch him the first—"

"He'll come."

Rosewood thought about it.

"He'll bring reinforcements."

"Maybe a few, Blaise or Theo. Have someone guard the entrance if you're worried."

Before anything else could be said, she heard footsteps.

"You were almost late," Callum said.

She looked up and her heart caught. Draco walked toward them with both hands raised, led in by two of the cult members. Draco didn't answer, only allowing a grimace to peek through, refusing to look at Callum. He kept his eyes on Hermione

"Did you search him?" Rosewood asked the men, and they nodded.

"He didn't bring a wand or any other weapon," one of them answered.

"Excellent," Rosewood said. "For once, you used sense. If you keep obeying commands, I think we can work well together. Callum will fill you in on the finer points later."

Hermione didn't miss the flash of hatred cross Draco's face.

"Now Hermione, I'm going to need your grimoire and your cooperation."

"No."

Rosewood's jaw tightened. He leaned down again, so they looked face to face. There was nothing behind his expression—an empty pit. Nothing human resided in him.

"Think of the children, Hermione," he said. "Think of the children."

Hermione stiffened at the threat. He had her in a corner. She looked up at Draco, and he nodded her head, as if saying to go along with it. Rosewood dug in his pocket and extracted her purse.

"We found this on you, and I assume it's in there. I'd rather not waste the time attempting to get in it when I have you here." He handed the purse to her.

With shaking fingers, she grabbed it, opened the latch, and withdrew the grimoire. The dragon roared, clawing at the bindings as if sensing its master's terror.

Little gasps echoed around the room as if she held a holy relic, something of legend.

"We lost this," Rosewood said. "Your brother stole it from us and gave it to you. I didn't realize the subterfuge until too late. I think my knife will dig rather deep when it's his turn."

Rosewood grabbed the grimoire in a loving manner, stroking the edges. He creaked it open. She expected to see Alaric, but he stayed in the confines of the book. Callum clutched her right hand and pricked it with a knife she hadn't seen before. She hissed in pain as Rosewood brought her finger over, letting it drip and soak into the pages. Like before, the words rearranged into something readable.

Rosewood gave a little laugh of happiness.

"Finally," he said.

He flipped the pages until he landed on the ancient anima vinculum spell.

Control Thy Adversary it read on top.

She'd been so foolish playing with this type of magic. Because of the exchange of blood with the spell, Draco took control of the bond. He'd never used that aspect, even at his worst, but he could technically make her do whatever he wanted, even today.

If Rosewood got his wish, she'd be a slave to him for her whole life.

"It won't work," she said. "It needs more than the words. Attraction has to be there, and you're rather unappealing."

Rosewood looked up, but he didn't seem upset.

"You're a rather cheeky thing. I like that about you. A little fire. I hope it won't be smothered too much in the days to come." He let a finger trail along the page. "Anima Vinculum is both a marriage and a subjugation spell, depending on the wording, even Draco had known of it. In historical context, they were one in the same. Your ancestors had their own version of it, and it doesn't require attraction or compatibility, which is why it's so important."

His eyes flicked over the page and then lit up.

"Ah, I see. There are two verb tense shifts, but everything else is the same." He shut the book and laid it down near the fluttering veil. "Shall we begin?" He glanced back at the captives. "Here's what is going to happen. We'll go through two of the sacrifices. I'll even let you choose who goes first. Then Draco will drink the potion I give him."

"What potion?" Hermione seethed, knowing as much as Rosewood denied it, he liked to talk just as much as Voldemort.

"The Dark Lord created it almost a year before his death based on my recommendation. Your ancestors invented it, ironically, written down by Kaspar on his scrolls. It required the organs of two tortured souls, and it was intended to severe the bonds to Voldemort's soul shards, so he could stabilize and renew, if possible. It's fortuitous he died, because a broken soul bond is exactly what I need." He pulled a vial out of his pocket. It looked like black sludge under the light, a mass of poisonous potion. It was vile, she knew, made of human sacrifice. He walked over and set the vial near the grimoire.

Hermione bit the inside of her cheek, wishing to lash out.

"What happens after you attach our souls?"

"The last sacrifice." He gave a crooked grin. "And then we'll create a brand new world."

Hermione shivered, attempting to control her fear before it controlled her. She needed to think this through. She'd gotten out of enough near-death experiences to understand all was not lost.

Rosewood snapped his fingers, and two cult members jerked Lucius up by his armpits.

"Let go of me," he snarled at them, using the same intimidating voice that made lesser men tremble. "I'll walk there on my own. I won't be brought to my death like a cow for slaughter."

Rosewood gave a nod of agreement, and the two men released him. Lucius took a moment to straighten his robes. He walked first to Draco. They stood in front of each other—the same hair, the same height, the same build.

Lucius reached out and touched Draco's shoulder and then withdrew. She couldn't see Draco's expression, but when Lucius turned back around, he looked confused, and then she might have imagined a grin. But whatever she'd seen was wiped from his face into a cold mask.

Lucius walked up the steps carefully.

"Kneel before her," Rosewood ordered. Lucius hesitated but again he lowered himself. Callum tugged her up, so she was on her knees as well, facing them. He grabbed her hands and placed them on Lucius' chest. Despite his calm exterior, the eldest Malfoys' heart raced. They locked eyes, and Lucius gave her the barest of nods.

"Stay there," Callum said and let go of her shoulders. "Keep your hands on his chest the whole time." He walked around and stood behind his father, holding a wicked knife—he same knife he used to prick her finger. She didn't know the history, but knew it was bloody. She felt it pulse with power from here.

Callum's face turned into something she'd never seen before as he placed the knife to his father's throat. Lucius flinched, though she didn't think it was from the cold bite of metal.

"This was the one thing I asked for, Lucius," Callum said. "I wanted to be the one to do this. You raped my mum and murdered my stepfather in front of me, and you fucking thought I'd be grateful you spared my life, but every day since I've dreamed of this day. I sold my soul to slit your throat."

Hermione shivered, hands shaking against the linen of Lucius' shirt. They kept their eyes locked. As much as she hated this man and believed he belonged in Azkaban, as much as she almost killed him in the courtroom, there was something horrid about this.

"Tell your mother—"

Callum yanked on his father's hair in a brutal manner.

"I'll tell her nothing. Do you think she cares if you die? It will be a relief."

Lucius scowled. That might have hurt him the most.

"Callum…" Hermione whispered. "You don't need to do this."

"Out of all the people, I thought you'd want him dead."

Hermione bit her tongue. Instead, Lucius made a scoffing noise, and she again stared at him. Something about his face softened, reminding her of the time he'd held Scorpius for the first time. A moment of humanity.

"Tell Draco I did this for him," he said. "He can have the title and the manor. I did not strip it from him. It will go to Scorpius after."

"Enough talking," Callum said. She glanced up and saw the mention of Draco caused something in Callum to react.

"Even death row inmates get a final word," Lucius drawled. "Let me have one last sentence."

Callum looked at Rosewood who gave a shrug as if he didn't care.

Lucius studied her then gave a small nod.

"I expect for you to give them the same trouble you gave me. Show them the folly of becoming an adversary to Hermione Granger."

Unwilling to wait longer, Rosewood began the ritual. She felt the electric charge in the air as he chanted the ancient words. The old magic responded, eager for another sacrifice after so long. The veins of it glowed bright, pulsing under her feet, though it remained just out of reach.

Hermione looked over at Draco, face set in horror. She hated he had to watch this. Because Draco loved him, despite everything. Loved him for the man he could have been in the brief moments he allowed himself to be good.

Hermione looked away, unable to see view Draco's pain.

Callum tugged his father's head back until his pale neck was exposed.

"See you in hell, Lucius." With a snarl, Callum slashed the knife across his father's throat.

A spray of warm blood hit Hermione, speckling across her body, staining her white linen dress. She wished to scream but couldn't. Lucius made an ugly gurgle sound. She held his eyesight as it slowly dimmed, until Lucius went limp stopped struggling.

"Put your hands in his blood," Rosewood ordered.

She couldn't make herself, so the man holding her up took her hands and forced it near the mangled throat, catching the blood as it streamed until it coated her skin in deep crimson.

Rosewood began to chant again—the same three words over and over, but she was too distraught to hear them. The veins of magic crawled up her body and surrounded her, drowning her. It sucked through her nose, and then it was gone.

Hermione fell forward, panting. For a moment, she felt like she could break free, but the magic was too overwhelming to her senses, and she lost the chance.

Hermione scooted away from the dead body of Lucius Malfoy, and Rosewood let her. She trembled and leaned over to wretch, but nothing came out. She stared down at the blood on her hands in horror.

Lucius Malfoy—her enemy, the man responsible for much of her internal pain. She should want this, but he looked wrong broken like this. Callum dropped the dead body in disgust and shoved it down the steps, the flesh making horrible sounds as it hit each edge.

That could have been Draco. They would have made her stick her hands in the blood of the man she loves, let her sit there as the spray hit her.

She struggled to breathe understanding she'd have to sit there and do this again, with her brother, and with Ginny.

She'd survived Voldemort, the death of Harry, the pregnancy of Scorpius, Lucius Malfoy, and the pureblood world.

But this might break her.

Before anything else could happen, Draco stepped forward. The crowd quieted, and when they did, she heard it—the sound of fighting.

Draco's face was set in stone, as if nothing could bother him, though the tops of his cheeks were flush with his anger.

"What's going on?" Rosewood asked, taking out his wand.

"You didn't think I'd come here all alone, did you?" He gave a laugh.

"All the entrances are blocked," Rosewood said. "And the rest are warded. There's no way anyone could have passed through without being caught."

"Ah," Draco said. "The benefit of being the sole heir of an old English pureblood family like the Blacks is we are in possession of every secret of this world. You remembered the exits wizards created when they fashioned the ministry. But this building was constructed around an old pagan ruin." Draco grinned. "You forgot the hidden tunnels."

The doors burst open. People she recognized flung curses, already in a fierce battle with the cult members outside the door.

And then on both sides of her, stone and dirt lifted in a spray of earth as people crawled out of the ground.

The Order arrived.