A/N: Yes, I've started another story... I've decided to be ambitious and aim for 3 000 words per chapter, which was probably a dumb idea, but I've never let that stop me. *grin*
To me, comedy and a serious plot are completely different things... So I'm challenging myself to see if I can use a more substantial plot that my pervious stories but still keep some of the humour (It's unrealistic of me to think I can be completely serious).
Also, my knowledge of rock climbing came from a quick scan of a Wikipedia article, so it's probably about as accurate as me playing darts, which is to say, not at all (they get stuck in the walls, and almost the ceiling once, rarely in the board).
Disclaimer: Nothing recognisable is mine, and it will continue to not belong to me throughout the entirety of this story, so this is the only disclaimer you'll get.
The fortress was said to be impenetrable to all types of magic; it would just fizzle out upon approaching the daunting building. The structure had been erected in a dead zone, a place where nothing magical could work. Many theories surrounded these dead zones, the most prominent one suggesting that when something truly terrible happens to a place, the place remembers and doesn't let anything as dangerous as magic near it again.
It was massive, made with dark, rough stone that was always cold to the touch no matter how warm the weather and scratched the skin of anyone foolish enough to attempt to lay a hand on it. This was where the self proclaimed 'Dark Lord' resided and ruled over his increasing army or followers. This was also where a captured spy for the order was awaiting his trail in front of this same Dark Lord and his death eater henchmen.
He was imprisoned in the tallest tower that provided a wonderful view of the cliff face the castle was built on and the cold, grey sea that crashed against the bottom of said cliff. It was on a dark and cold night that his would be rescuers had chosen, much to the displeasure of the single person who had to be out in the freezing outdoors.
"Just like Rapunzel," A lone, dark figure complained quietly as she prepared the next aider clip to stick in the cracks between the ancient bricks of the wall she was scaling. "Except this blond doesn't have enough hair for me to climb," she continued in a low voice, hauling herself up and preparing her next clip.
"I just had to go and open my big mouth, 'if magic doesn't work there, why not get in the muggle way?'" she mocked herself, angry at the world in general and very careful not to look down. What kind of climber would attempt to scale something as large as this tower, you ask? The kind that was unlucky enough to be the only muggleborn in a group of people who had grown up relying on magic, and the only one to have ever attempted rock climbing. Never mind that it had been inside on a nice, safe rock climbing wall with an instructor there to walk her through it and a comforting harness keeping her from falling. No one wanted to hear the she hadn't gone more than two metres off the ground the one and only time she attempted it; she had found them a nice, tidy solution to their problem, and now she was stuck acting the whole dumb thing out.
She glanced up quickly to check how far her destination was from her current position and scowled when it seemed to have moved farther away – it was an elusive window, that's what it was; the thing was actively evading her.
Was it arrogance or stupidity that led the death eaters to leave the windows of their prison cells without bars? She rather thought it was copious amounts of both, but then she was inclined to think poorly of anyone who tried to exterminate her for the sole reason that they didn't care for her lineage.
Only two, maybe three more clips and then that elusive window would be within reach! Sadly, the climbing was the easy part of her mission; the hard part was going to be convincing the captive to leave, and then walking him out of the front door – maybe the dark side wasn't the only one with an excess of arrogance.
The constant repetition of similar movements was probably what led to her overconfidence as she reached for the overlarge sill of the window she had been climbing towards – it could also have been that she was overly eager to get off of the 'wall of death' as she had come to refer to it. Whatever it was, she reached a little farther than she should have and slipped, looking down in her panic as she desperately scrabbled for a hold to keep her from plummeting to what would surely be her death waiting below.
A combination of her fear of heights and the burst of adrenaline from nearly falling forced her eyes closed as she took a minute to remember why she was climbing the 'wall of death'.
A mental picture formed of Draco Malfoy, looking bruised and bloody as he stood before her, looking hopeless as he swallowed his pride and asked for a place to stay. She had been the one to find him, lurking around the entrance to Grimmauld place; it seemed that he had known all along where it was, as had his mother – it had been the black family residence after all - but they had not betrayed its location to their lord out of fear that he would somehow connect them to the order and its workings and have them executed for it – not that they weren't awaiting that very fate at the moment, but that was why she was here.
The determination and the courage that had been the deciding factor when she was sorted into Gryffindor kicked in as she remembered the focus of her mission. She took a deep breath and made sure her face was facing upwards before opening her eyes and looking at the window once again – it was mocking her, she was so close and unable to reach it. The fingers of her left hand were actually only centimetres away from the ledge they had been reaching for, all it would take to get there would be a small movement in that direction.
A gust of wind nearly knocked her off of her precarious position on the wall, forcing her to lunge for the window sill in a desperate attempt to save herself. An attempt that was successful – barely. She managed to grasp the sill with her fingertips, reaching with one hand and then the other to get a better grip before she could haul herself entirely into the metre deep indentation in the wall that marked just how thick they were.
"Who's there?" A weary voice in the darkness asked the panting and shaking form in the window. She ignored the voice and took a minute to catch her breath as she waited for the shaking to subside, this was his fault, he could wait a second for an answer.
"Who are you?" The voice demanded again, getting closer.
As he got close enough to be seen in the patch of moonlight that was leaking in through the window, his blond hair glowed in the white light. She watched him approach from her perch, amused that he still clutched his wand out in front of him like some kind of security blanket; it was of no use here. This was a horrible fairytale; what kind of damsel in distress tried to attack her rescuer, what kind of damsel in distress wasn't even a damsel at all, for that matter.
Having finally caught her breath, she was able to speak. "Would you put that thing away," she snapped irritably, indicating the useless stick of wood he was still pointing at her.
He froze and looked at the girl in disbelief. "Granger?" He asked, sure he was wrong and this was some kind of hallucination induced from lack of nourishment. But he hadn't been here more than a few days, so it was unlikely that he was already hallucinating; what then, could be the explanation for her presence here? There was no way that she had actually climbed the wall out there.
Hermione grinned briefly at him. "Did you honestly think the order was going to leave you here to rot?" She demanded with a small smile – he had probably thought exactly that.
"I'm not leaving here without my mother," he informed her stubbornly.
She ignored him and hopped off the sill, fed up with still being so close to the open window and the drop outside. The room they had imprisoned him in was surprisingly well furnished considering it was a prison cell. There was a large four poster bed and a solid looking wardrobe in the corner, as well as a surprisingly ornate door, complete with a very large doorknob and a fancy lock hole on it.
"Granger, you may as well climb back out that window and tell the order to send people to get my mother out of here, because I'm not leaving!" He insisted again as she continued to ignore him and strode over to the door, bending down to examine the lock. She frowned as what he had just said hit her.
"You're proposing that I go back outside, once again risking falling to my death below, not to mention facing my crippling fear of heights because you've decided that you're not ready to be rescued?" The angry girl demanded as she advanced on the moron who didn't appreciate what she had just gone through to get his idiot butt out of this horrid place.
He raised his hands in the air in an effort to calm her rage at him. "Okay, okay, you have my eternal gratitude for coming here to rescue me from this foul tower like some kind of –"
"Prince charming?" She tried. He gave her a strange look, not catching the muggle reference.
"I was going to say reckless Gryffindor."
She frowned at him; she wasn't reckless because she was a Gryffindor, she was reckless because everyone around her kept doing stupid things that had serious potential to get them killed and then leaving her to get them out of it. Malfoy didn't need to know that though, he just got a scowl in his direction.
"And it's not reckless to come back to the people who knew you were spying on them for the other side to save your mother?" She asked him, hands on her hips. "At least stunts like that are expected of me, you're the Slytherin, you should have run in the other direction at the first sign of trouble," she told him; if they were going to break out the house stereotypes, then she was going to play the game as well.
Voldemort had managed to get a spy within the ranks of the Order, though whom he had discovered that not only Draco Malfoy, but Severus Snape had been spies. At his discovery, Voldemort had been furious, going as far as to kill Snape on sight along with Lucius Malfoy, taking Narcissa prisoner in an attempt to lure Draco back from where he was sheltering with the Order.
An attempt that was very effective; as soon as Draco heard about what had happened to his mother, he foolishly ran off to trade himself in exchange for his mother's safety. It was completely out of character and had surprised more than a few of the order that the cold Malfoy possessed such loyalty and love for his mother.
Hermione had been one of the few who had been completely unsurprised by his actions – no one could be as cold as he pretended to be. Humans without emotions aren't really humans, and no matter how hard the Malfoys tried, they were still only human, and they actually cared about each other underneath all the ice they liked to present to the public.
"I resent that, Slytherins can be just as brave as anyone else when it suits our purposes," he pouted. She ignored him; they had more important things to do than have a petty argument at the moment.
"So there's no chance you'll cooperate and leave like a good little Slytherin?" She asked. Hey, it was worth a shot; maybe he'd had a change of heart in the last few minutes...
His adamant expression and the determined gleam in his eyes led her to believe that he was going to be difficult. She sighed, she had prepared for this, but neither of them was going to like it very much. "Fine, I figured you weren't going to cooperate anyway," she told him.
He flashed a quick grin at her; smug that he had won even at a time like this. "The original plan was for me to dress up as a new recruit and get the layout of this place before finding your mother and getting her out of here. The plan for when you refused to leave was the same for me, but you have to wear this," she pulled a red wig out of the backpack she was wearing.
"What is that?" He asked her wearily.
She frowned at him; they really didn't have the time for this, someone could walk in here to check on him any minute. "It's a wig. Muggles wear them for all kinds of reasons; in this case, it's a disguise. Put it on to cover your hair," she ordered him, thrusting the wig into his hands as she slipped out of the backpack and started rummaging through it.
First to come out of the backpack was a long black robe exactly like the ones the new death eaters would wear. This was followed by a set of plain cream coloured robes, such as a servant might wear. A female servant.
"Please tell me the black robe is for me," Malfoy begged, visually comparing the sizes and knowing that he was the one who was going to have to wear the girly costume.
"People here know what you look like, but the purebloods living in this... fortress would never give a second look to the homely servant girl in front of them," she explained to him.
Draco was affronted; he would make a damn attractive anything, girl or otherwise – it was in his blood.
"Don't look at me like that, your shoulders are too broad, your hands are too big, and you're taller than a lot of them. Not to mention I have a hideous pair of glasses in here somewhere to hide your face. Trust me; you'll be homely when I'm finished with you. Now stop looking so offended and put the robes on!" She snapped at him, annoyed that his looks were what he was concerned about right now.
When she saw he had moved to do what she asked, she went back to rifling through the bag. Hermione finally found what she was looking for: the glasses she had promised Malfoy and a pair of scissors. They had been hiding right at the bottom of the bag; it was probably some kind of conspiracy to get her caught. She cringed just thinking about the disaster it would be if she were to be caught in this horrible place.
Malfoy had finished changing into the robes and was waiting patiently for her to stop rummaging by the time she looked up at him again. He had already checked what he looked like in the mirror and wasn't completely appalled at the results – he would probably need some therapy or something after this, but it wasn't even close to the most traumatic thing he had done, so he just added it to the list to tell a psychiatrist one day and moved on.
"Here, put these on," she told him, handing him the glasses. Her head tilted slightly to the side as she walked around him looking for flaws in the disguise. It was actually pretty good, he looked enough like a girl that no one should question it, therefore keeping him safe and under the radar, so to speak – provided he didn't do something to draw attention to himself.
"What are the scissors for?" He asked her, curious what other indignity she had for him up her sleeve. Well, in her backpack, but that wasn't the point.
"This," she told him, reaching behind her and sawing at the braid that was swinging at her back. He watched in a kind of fascinated horror as she cut off her hair; to a pureblood woman, he hair was very important, not something you calmly cut off just because you needed to change your appearance and hide in plain sight.
Hermione was actually a little bit amused that Malfoy seemed to be more upset about her cutting her hair than she was. She finished hacking through the thick braid and then even out the rest the best she could before holding the scissors out to her audience.
"Would you mind fixing it up a bit? I don't want to stand out," she asked him when he didn't move to take the scissors from her.
Malfoy seemed to snap out of the trance he had been in and reached for the scissors. He carefully evened out the sides and made sure that her hair looked somewhat normal before helping her throw the clippings out the window.
Hermione walked over to the mirror that Malfoy had been looking at himself in before and took her turn examining her new look. "It's a good thing you've never had much of a chest, or you'd have to bind them," Malfoy said, completely inappropriately.
Hermione shot him a nasty glare, but continued to examine herself the in the mirror – he was right anyway. She closed her eyes and nodded to herself. This mission was not a suicide one. What they had planned was entirely possible and only moderately dangerous. Compared to the things she had faced in the past, moderately dangerous would be like a nice, quiet walk in the park.
She frowned; her pep talks had always left something to be desired, even when they were internal ones. Whatever. She was here now and standing around worrying was not going to get anything done or get any of them any closer to safety.
"Ready to get out of this room?" She asked him, pulling a lock picking kit out of her pocket.
Uncle Rodney wasn't always the most responsible person in the world, giving his niece a lock picking kit and all, but he was Hermione's favourite uncle regardless. He was a locksmith at one of the bigger companies in London, and she had been spending a week over the summer with him since before she could remember.
"How do you think we're going to get out of here? We don't have the key, and Alohomora isn't going to work in this horrible place," Malfoy said as he watched her kneel down so that her eyes were level with the lock.
Hermione frowned over her shoulder at him. "Muggles have more than one way to open a locked door Malfoy," she told him, turning back to the lock she was working on. It wasn't a complicated one, it was actually really old.
She grinned triumphantly when everything clicked into place as the door unlocked. "Oh! I almost forgot!" The backpack had two more items in it, things that would be a great help if either of them were discovered.
She pulled two tasers out of her backpack and handed one to Malfoy. "If you're in trouble and need to escape from someone, point this end at them and squeeze here," she demonstrated the motions he would need before throwing the backpack out the window; something made with the synthetic material like that would give her away as someone who had contact with muggles.
Malfoy was looking dubiously at the object in his hand, but if Granger said it would work, then he was going to have to trust her. "Are we ready?" She asked him, noticing his inattention.
He nodded, determined to make this work and save his mother. A fierce grin broke across Hermione's face; they could do this, they just had to be very careful and try not to die...