Early the next morning, Hermione got dressed and ready to leave the Gryffindor tower to go see Henry and the others before classes began. The chill of the rainy, cold November morning had seeped through the castle, and she pulled her knitted jumper closer around her. When she was ready to leave through the portrait hole, she almost bumped into Gilbert.
He was still wearing the clothes from last night, but the drawstring of his shirt was untied, his strawberry-blonde hair was messy, pointing in several directions, and he was a bit unsteady on his feet. When he saw her, his pale face and throat became as red as a phone booth.
Hermione raised an eyebrow. "Late night, huh?" she asked, unable to keep back a smile.
"I, um … aye. Had to stay up until everyone left. To make sure no prank towards the professors went out of hand. As a head boy, t'was my duty." His lips were red and chafed, she noticed.
"Uh-huh, of course," she smiled. She took a step to the side and let him pass.
He pressed his lips together to a tight smile and wobbled to his dormitory. Hermione wondered who'd been the lucky one … Agnes or Helen, maybe? They had been dancing together last night when she had left. She was rather rooting for Agnes – they would make a very sweet couple.
But before Hermione had the chance to leave, someone else followed Gilbert through the opening.
Her makeup was smudged and almost all gone, and her eyes were red. When she saw Hermione, her cheeks started burning, too. Hermione looked after Gilbert, who'd disappeared.
Hogatha straightened her back, looked away without saying a word, and she stormed off.
No. He couldn't have, could he? Hermione didn't want to believe it. Gilbert, who seemed so nice … could he really take advantage of Hogatha, when he knew she liked him so much? Drunk or not, that was just unforgivable.
Hermione had half a mind running after Gilbert and ask him about it, but remembered that she was needed elsewhere – there were bigger things at stake than teenage drama.
When Hermione stepped through the door, Henry almost wished that he had been invisible again.
Last night, for a moment, it had been as if all their difficulties had disappeared, and he had been perfectly content having her in his arms again. He hadn't been able to apologize for what he'd said the other day – he hadn't wanted to ruin the mood, and furthermore, he had been too ashamed. That he'd had the nerve to blame her for his behaviour …
But if it wasn't for her, we could have kept changing, a small voice inside him said.
Nay. It was not her fault, it wasn't.
Henry pushed away the thought, for he had not enough mental strength to face it.
"Good morrow," he said instead, showing Hermione an empty chair on which she could sit, as if she didn't know this room as well as he did.
"Good morning," she answered. "Where are the others?" Her voice wasn't cold, but neither was it warm. It was neutral, as if he were a stranger. She must have decided that last night's momentary ardency had been a mistake.
"On their way, I'm sure."
Silence fell over them.
Henry sat down on another chair, leaving some space between them. The fabricated sun shone in through a stained-glass window, colouring her skin in a golden sunrise tone. He wanted nothing more than to move closer, take her hand and make everything alright again … but he wasn't sure what words could make it so.
"I'm glad to see you're doing better," she said.
"Thank you," he said. He assumed she meant the fact that he wasn't inebriated off his arse. Or maybe he'd been able to fool her – after all, she could not hear the constant scream inside his head. A scream that was not exactly quieted by the fact that he'd soon leave this place and no longer have a chance to make amends.
He took a deep breath, thinking that he'd simply do it.
"I … I wish to apologize for the other morn," he finally said.
Hermione tensed. "Oh. That was … don't worry about it."
"Nay, t'was not fair to ye," he said. Taking a deep breath, he continued. "You are no more to blame, than a single rain drop for flooding a river."
Her eyebrows raised, and she opened her mouth as if to answer, but didn't get the chance to finish what she wanted to say.
"God give ye good morrow," the stern voice that belonged to his great-grandmother said, interrupting Hermione as she walked into the empty frame. "I presently spoke to Cornelius, he is on his way. Have you begun discussing the details of our plan?"
Henry felt whatever he had had courage disappear at the thought of returning. He shook his head.
Hermione, on other hand, rolled out a long scroll. "I stayed up working on a rough draft," she said, her voice a bit shaky. "What do you think?"
He moved closer. There were several different scenarios, each with their own possibilities and risks (most involving death). Seeing the gruesome details, Henry wanted to call this entire thing off – if any harm came to her …
"Very clever," his great-grandmother said approvingly.
"I think we'd best taking this route," Hermione said, pointing at a roughly drawn map.
"I agree," the other woman said. "T'would let ye move unseen for the longest period of time."
"It should be at night, so we're protected by the dark. And Cornelius should remain here – it's too risky for a child to do this."
"I take it thou willst not let thy friend Ambrose accompany ye, then, either?"
Hermione looked up. "Absolutely not."
Henry's insides tensed – she was seemingly troubled by the possible deaths of others, but not of her own. "And what of you?" he asked her.
"I'll be fine," she answered, not looking at him.
"You cannot know that," he said in a low tone of voice. "What if I do not wish for you to risk your life for this?"
She scrutinized the map. "You have no say in the matter."
He furrowed his brows. "I'm the k–"
With an emotionless voice, she said, "Technically, you're not my king. And I'm of legal age, so there's nothing you can do."
His great-grandmother gasped. "Young girl, how darest thou speak to –"
"Your grace," he said, interrupting her. "T'is alright."
He knew etiquette expected him to punish Hermione for such impertinence – but in a way, she was right. He wasn't her king, nor was he a close relative of hers. And, in all fairness, she had proven to be able to make her own decisions in the past.
"Hmpf," the Duchess of Bedford said, but she heeded his command.
His heart pounded fiercely in his chest, but he ignored it. "And what if I don't ask you as your king, but as a friend? I can't have you risking your life for this."
Hermione hesitated slightly, before shaking her head. "I have to make things right. You need to be on that throne."
Heart sinking, he realized he had no chance of talking her out of this.
"What of master Aubrey, then?" the Duchess of Bedford asked. "We shall need some more support, and alas, I have no other descendants with magic abilities."
"He's still bedridden," Hermione answered.
"Well, I take it that leaves this operation to thee and to master Blak, then. Can you truly handle it?"
Against his better judgment he said, "Is there something I can do?" His voice was rough.
Hermione said, "Yes – you'll need to stay hidden for as long as possible. The invisibility charm from yesterday gave me an idea – I'll need to ask Ambrose about borrowing his cloak again – but you need to promise not to do anything rash."
He laughed a little, remembering his former self. "Rash, I?"
He looked at her, and for the first time all morning, she didn't look away. "I swear it."
She took a deep breath. "Well, then … in that case, we leave tonight."
Hermione hurried back to the Gryffindor common room to leave her written-down plan before going to look for Ambrose, but forgot about it the second she stepped inside.
"Take that back, you tit!" Winifred Weasley, Gilbert and Godiva's youngest sister, yelled. She was sitting on top of Anne Boleyn, punching her face.
"I only tell you what I heard!" Anne cried, trying to take cover.
Several other first years were standing around them, shouting, "Fight, fight, fight!"
"Stupefy!" Hermione called out, and the spell hit Winifred immediately, forcing her to stop. Hermione rushed forward. "What are you two doing?" she asked, pulling Winifred off Anne, who sobbed incoherently.
"She – she –" Anne said, but she didn't seem to manage to finish the sentence.
"Finite," Hermione said, pointing her wand at Winifred, who instantly tried to get back to Anne.
"NO! Stop immediately!" Hermione called out and pulled the girl back. "You're so lucky I'm not a prefect anymore, or I'd take fifty points from Gryffindor. Now, explain."
Winifred, a spitting image of her older sister, save her brother's strawberry blonde hair, crossed her arms. "She's a dirty liar, that's what, and I'll have her tongue if she says one more word about it."
Anne started full-on crying and ran off. Winifred yanked her arm loose and went the other direction, out the portrait hole.
Hermione sighed. Had she been a prefect, she would've followed, but honestly, she was a bit preoccupied at the moment. She looked at the student in the crowd, spotting Elijah Shacklebolt.
"Do you know what happened?" she asked him, putting some hope into that the ancestor of Kingsley might have some sense in him.
He shrugged. "Think she was talking rubbish about Winny's family. Dunno what, though, didn't hear that much before she jumped her."
His answer made her think of all the times Ron and his siblings had attacked others for being rude. Merlin, she missed him.
She hurried to her dormitory where she hid the plans with several spells, before heading down all the stairs for the Hufflepuff dorms, where she waited for a few minutes before a Hufflepuff exited.
"Hiya – could you please tell Ambrose Peverell that I'd like to see him?" she asked the student.
The student nodded with a smile, and headed back inside. It didn't take long before Ambrose came out to meet her.
"Good day," he said. "Fare you well?"
"Yes, I'm good. Listen, I just wanted to ask if I could borrow your cloak again? You'll get it back, I promise."
Ambrose's eyes narrowed. "What have you planned now?"
"Nothing," she tried, but she'd never been a good liar. "I, um … need to hide. From a girl in my class."
He crossed his arms. "You are to go back, aren't you? To him?"
Her insides turned into a knot. Damn it. He might not know the full extent of it, but he was close enough.
"Alright," he said. "But then I wish to go with ye."
"No way," she said, shaking her head. "It's too dangerous, Lord Malfoy's still alive."
"I don't wish to join ye on your mission, I simply wish to visit master Aubrey."
Her heart softened. "Oh, Ambrose – I understand that, but now's not a good time."
He pursed his lips. "You said we would, remember? As often as I liked."
"Yes, but not tonight, okay?"
Crossing his arms, he said, "Then you can't have the cloak."
Damn it – that cloak was vital to her plan.
"Alright, alright, fine, you can come," she lied. "Does that mean I can have it?"
He eyed her. "You'll get it tonight."
"Okay," she said, while she mentally cursed the fact that she couldn't trick a twelve-year-old. "I'll come pick you up tonight at half eleven."
And before that, she'd need to come up with a way of stopping him from coming along.
Henry pressed his fingernails into the palms of his hands. The voices in his head were too loud, and without the ale, he had no way out shutting them out.
His breathing escalated. He couldn't do this, he couldn't return tonight, he'd mess up, he'd get them all killed, or worse.
For a moment, he saw Hermione's head on a spear.
Oh, God, oh, God, oh, God, oh, God.
He sank down on the floor, his head against the wall. The cold stones beneath him reminded him of the time he'd spent in the Tower.
That was where he was headed again.
And even if they did somehow manage to overthrow Malfoy, what then?
Did they expect Henry to get back on the throne like nothing had happened?
Did they expect him to go to France to lead an army?
He couldn't, he couldn't, he couldn't. He was useless, damaged, beyond saving.
As the thoughts spiralled, he let the tears and snot fall unhindered – there was no use in wiping them away, for there'd be more in their stead.
When Hermione came back through the portrait hole, it seemed that the fight between Winifred and Anne had escalated – Winifred's face was covered in boils, Anne's legs were wobbling like jelly, and it took half the Gryffindor Quidditch team to separate them.
Godiva and Benny were holding back Winny who was shouting obscenities at Anne, and Anne was crying again, with a rather uncomfortable-looking Roland next to her, trying to calm her down.
"What's going on?" Hermione asked.
Godiva shook her head. "No idea – they refuse to tell us, but they were blasting jinxes at each other when we got here. Luckily, they don't know any more severe ones than jelly-legs and pimple jinxes."
Hermione looked at Winny. "Is it true Anne said something mean about your family?"
Winny's lips pursed, then she nodded.
"What?" Godiva wanted to know, but Winny refused to speak.
"I-I only told her what I heard," Anne sniffed.
"And what was that?"
Anne inhaled sharply. "That … that mistress Bumblepuft saw Gil-Gilbert k-kissing a Slytherin."
Winny made a move at her as if to punch her again, but Godiva only laughed. "Really? Hogatha must have been deeply injured by my scolding last night to make up such a lie."
Roland looked at her. "Are you certain t'is a lie?"
"Of course it is, Gilbert would never consort with the enemy."
Hermione closed her eyes for a second, trying to think. Gilbert had come back, looking dishevelled … but he hadn't been snogging Agnes or Helen or even Hogatha – but …
Merlin, Hermione was a fool. They'd both asked her if they thought the other one liked them, but despite that she still hadn't been able to see it. And to think she'd thought he'd taken advantage of Hogatha.
"Should we perhaps ask Hogatha?" Benny suggested. "Perhaps there has been a misunderstanding – I know she can be dramatic, but would she really spread false rumours?"
"Go tell her she is needed then. She can take some points off these two while she's at it."
Benny left the common room, and Winny gasped. "What? That's not fair! I was simply protecting our family name!"
Godiva shrugged. "You should get better at not getting caught."
Anne's legs were still shaking, so Hermione said, "Finite," ending the jelly-leg curse.
"Can you do something about the boils?" Godiva asked, looking at her sister's face.
Hermione took another look at Winny before shaking her head. "No, you'll need to go to the Hospital Wing with those." She hesitated. "Godiva, what if … what if there's some truth to what Hogatha says she saw?"
Godiva pfft:ed. "Be not silly, Hermione."
Hermione didn't say anything else – even if it was true, it ought to come from Gilbert himself.
Shortly after, Benny returned with Hogatha.
Godiva looked at her. "So, is it true? You spread rumours about Gilbert?"
Hogatha pursed her lips. "You won't be so quick to defend him when you hear it. He was – he was –"
"Kissing a Slytherin, aye, so I hear. But we both know he wouldn't do such a thing. He has standards, for Merlin's sake. Admit it, you are simply upset he wouldn't choose you."
"I am not lying," Hogatha said, raising her voice. "I saw what I saw. Gilbert was frolicking with von Hohenheim."
Godiva raised her voice, too, to drown out Hogatha. "You are pathetic, you know that, do you not?" Seriously, I –"
As if summoned by the ruckus, a tired-looking Gilbert exited the boy's dormitory. "G'morrow." His hair was still a mess and his clothes were wrinkled. He must've not got more than two hours of sleep.
"Good morning," Hermione said.
He looked at them. "Wha's going on?" he mumbled, voice rough. "What happened to Winny?"
"Merlin, t'is a jest," Godiva snorted. "You shall laugh once you hear it."
"What say you?"
"They were fighting over a rumour about you that Hogatha started."
Gilbert seemed to sober up. "What?"
"Apparently Hogatha has been walking around this morrow, saying that she saw you kissing Hohenheim last night."
Hogatha crossed her arms and pursed her lips, as Gilbert's skin turned blotchy and his eyes dropped to the floor.
Godiva's smile disappeared. "Wait – t'is a lie, is it not?"
"I simple had too much to drink, and Ph– Hohenheim helped me steady my legs," Gilbert said, his voice hoarse.
"With his tongue?" Hogatha questioned.
Gilbert's face turned completely red, but he didn't deny it.
"Merlin, shut your mouth, Hogatha," Godiva said. She lowered her voice and walked closer to him. "Is it true?"
Gilbert stayed silent for a short while, before nodding. The silence afterwards was deafening, until Godiva's face split into a great smile and she punched Gilbert on the arm.
"You dirty dog!" she beamed. "Snogging a Slytherin, huh? And here I thought you were the family's shiny golden boy, unable to ever err."
Gilbert seemed to inhale, as if he'd been holding his breath, and he laughed nervously.
Hogatha stared at her. "Are you serious? Are you to let him get away with this?"
Godiva raised her eyebrows. "Get away with? This ought to be celebrated with butter beer at the Broomstick tonight! – Come on, let's get you to the Hospital wing before those become permanent," she said to Winny, leading her sister out of the Common Room.
The rest dispatched, but Hermione lingered until only she and Gilbert were left.
"So, Hohenheim, huh?" she asked.
Gilbert blushed again and pressed his eyes shut. "I guess. I know not what I was thinking."
"You like him, don't you?"
He hesitated, then nodded. "Aye. But … what if he does not …"
"Like you back?" Hermione guessed with a smile. "Don't worry, he does – he told me so himself."
Gilbert raised his eyebrows. "He did? When?" His brow furrowed. "Why were you talking about me?"
"The other day – he was worried about you."
Gilbert blushed even more. Hermione wasn't sure it was possible to be any redder.
He groaned. "Oh, Merlin, that makes it worse. I had half convinced myself he cared not and that I should simply act as if nothing had happened."
Hermione laughed – she could see Ron say the exact same thing. "You truly are a Weasley, aren't you?" Gilbert looked a bit confounded, so she shook her head. "Never mind."
Though they hadn't even had their first class of the day yet, the gossip had already spread across Hogwarts like dragon pox. By lunch time, every single student had heard the rumours, and not everyone was as fascinated as Godiva.
Gilbert held his head high, but on their way to their alchemy class, they passed Lucius Malfoy, laughing with his henchmen. Fawkes Weasley was among them, but he wasn't laughing, for once.
"Hey, Weasley!" Malfoy called out. "If you are to betray your house, surely you could aim high–"
Hermione reached for her wand, but before she had the chance, Malfoy was silenced. He started pointing at his mouth, but his friends didn't understand what was wrong until he stuck out his tied-up tongue.
Fawkes lowered his wand and got to his feet, leaving the astonished gang behind, and there was a small smile on Gilbert's face.
In Pyrites' office, the smile disappeared, and Gilbert sat down in his usual seat, kept his eyes solely on the board, and only spoke when the professor asked him a question. Agnes and Helen whispered among themselves until Pyrites had to tell them to be quiet.
After class, Hohenheim and Gilbert lingered in the office, not ignoring each other but not talking to each other either.
Helen came up to Hermione, even though Agnes pulled at her arm. "Is it true?" Helen asked.
"What?" Hermione asked.
"You know," she said, and glanced at Hohenheim and Gilbert.
"I thought you were cleverer than to care about gossip. And what if it is, why does it matter?"
Helen hmmpf:ed, while Agnes said, "I told ye to stay out of it," and dragged her out of the room.
Hermione tried to hurry up, wanting to give Hohenheim and Gilbert some space, but before she had the chance to gather all her things, she heard Hohenheim ask Gilbert:
"Fare you well?"
Gilbert nodded. "Aye. What about you?"
Hohenheim smiled. "Aye, I'm fine." He took a deep breath. "Better than fine."
After a moment's hesitation, Gilbert whispered, "Me too."
Neither of them seemed to dare look at the other one, but their hands were placed very close to each other on the table top, and soon, their fingers touched.
Hermione smiled and snuck out of the room.
Hermione went back to her dormitories to prepare for her departure later that night. She still had a smile on her face, thinking about how sweet Gilbert and Hohenheim had been together. How innocent and simple it seemed, their biggest adversary being house pride and shyness.
She couldn't help being a little jealous, though. If only it could have been the same for her and Henry.
Instead, she would help him one last time, and that would be the end for them.
She undid the spells that she'd done to keep the plans safe. They'd be fine – they were more prepared than they'd ever been before. And they'd be better off without each other. Far, far away from each other. He, living his life, she, living hers.
She, existing through history but never ever really living.
He, doing unspeakable things because she'd asked him to. Even though he didn't want it.
He'd die a monster so that she could live.
She forcibly wiped away the tears that started falling, but she could barely see what she was packing. Once she'd fit the last item into the bag, she sat down on her bed, unsure of what to do for the next few hours – it was only eight in the evening.
She could of course go to see Henry. But despite his apology, she was still confused about what she felt for him. That comment the other morning … it had shown another side of him, one that she'd hoped had disappeared, but that clearly was a part of him. One that she'd asked him to bring forth.
So instead she stayed in her room and cried.
With ten minutes to spare to midnight, there was a knock on the room of requirement.
Henry hadn't had any more tears to cry for several hours, but it was yet a challenge to rise. He felt light-headed and queasy, and was sure that the activity had left visible traces on his face.
"T'is she," his great-grandmother said from her portrait.
He opened the door, and outside stood Hermione. "Good even." He wanted to ask whether she fared well, but the duchess spoke before he had the chance.
"Thou art late."
"I had some troubles persuading Ambrose to remain here. – Shall we?" she asked and gave him the cloak of invisibility.
He nodded, and wrapped the cloak around him. She proceeded to turn herself invisible, too, with a spell, though he could perceive her as a shimmer in the air.
Hermione said, "Alright, let's go – we're meeting John Blak by the gate, where we'll disapparate. We won't be able to have any light to guide us, as it could expose us, so walk carefully."
Henry's great-grandmother cleared her throat. "Well … best of luck to thee," she said to him, looking at where he stood. "I am glad I could be of some help."
She tried to hide a sniffle. "Thou best be off. Go regain what is rightfully ours!" She turned her gaze to Hermione. "And thou mustn't let anything happen to him, thou understandest? We wantn't another civil war."
Walking through the corridors of the wizarding school, at night and in the dark, was no easy task, at least not for Henry, who knew not the way like Hermione did. She warned him several times of moving steps and angry statues, but there were numerous occasions on which he thought he'd ruined everything by waking up a sleeping portrait or almost missing a moving staircase.
Once they were outside, the moon offered some light, but it simply made Henry feel more exposed – the moonlight made Hermione shimmer even more.
When they reached the gate, Hermione whispered, "Master Blak?"
"Aye," a deep voice said. "Who goes there?" Henry recognised the staccato accent that belonged to his trumpeter.
"Henry and Hermione, sir." Why she would call a musician without a title for 'sir', he didn't know.
He stepped out of the shade and into the moonlight.
"Goodman Blak," Henry greeted him. "Thank you for your help." He'd never much spoken to the man – all he remembered about him was that he had played the trumpet so well, that Henry had doubled the man's salary. He hoped the same would be true for his magical skills.
The man bowed towards the direction of his voice. "My son and I have waited for ye, your grace."
"Is Cornelius here, too?" Hermione asked. Henry could hear the distress in her voice.
"Aye," Cornelius answered. "I wasn't to let ye have all the merriment. And you let Peverell come, despite your word, so I see not wherefore I should have to stay behind."
"What?" Hermione said. "No, Ambrose isn't coming."
"Um," Cornelius said. "It seems you are in disagreement regarding that."
A pale boy with black, unruly hair joined Cornelius and his father. He appeared stiff and untrusting – not very strange, as the last time they'd seen each other, the boy had been thrown into a prison cell shortly after.
"Ambrose!" Hermione wheezed. "What are you doing here?"
"I must to St. Kentigern's to see master Aubrey."
"But I –"
"Ioannes helped me out of your body-bind curse – I suspected you wouldn't let me come willingly." He looked at Henry. "Seemingly it wasn't the only thing you were untruthful about."
"Oh, don't you see? I'm only trying to protect you!"
"We have not time for this quarrel," the musician said. "You should return to the school," he said to the boy.
Ambrose shook his head. "Nay. I must see master Aubrey. You can drop me off at the hospital first, it shan't take long."
Hermione sighed. "Fine."
The musician nodded. "Alright, if you insist – as long as we leave presently. Let us go, shall we?"
"Ambrose, Henry, give me your hands," Hermione said. Henry saw hers glimmer in the moonlight, and reached his hand out from underneath the cloak to take it. Cornelius, who was holding onto his father, offered Ambrose his hand, and so they were all connected.
"This will not be pleasant, your grace," John Blak warned.
Henry pressed his lips together. He remembered. "Simply proceed."
"Alright – then off we go to St. Kentigern's."
And … nothing.
Henry's levels of distress rose.
"What's the matter?" Cornelius whispered.
Hermione let go of Henry to reach for her wand. "Someone's stopping us from leaving. Quick, hide in the bushes!" She ushered Ambrose and Cornelius out of the way, before standing in front of Henry. "You too!" she told him, wand raised. "Prote–"
Before she had time to finish the spell, someone called out, "Revelio!"
Hermione turned visible again, though Henry remained unseen under the cloak.
"–go!" Hermione finished, although it seemed to be too little, too late.
"There they are!" a boy called out, coming out from behind a statue of a hog. It was Lord Malfoy's son. "Stupefy!"
The spell didn't seem to affect any of them, for some reason. Protego, he realised – it had done something, after all.
"Expelliarmus!" Hermione called out, while John Blak cried, "Incarcerous!"
The boy's wand flew out of his hand, and at the same time, thick ropes appeared out of nowhere, tying him up.
"Stupid boy," someone muttered from behind the statue. The voice was familiar, but he could not place it.
"Bombarda maxima!" Hermione shouted, pointing at the statue, which duly exploded into dust, thus destroying the strangers' hiding place.
"Petrificus totalus!" Blak shouted. Two bodies fell to the ground, but the red sparks kept flying.
"Imperio!" another voice called out, and the sparks hit Blak.
He didn't seem hurt, but his face turned sort of blank, and he raised his wand again, but this time pointed it at Hermione. Henry wasn't certain what was going on, but he was certain it wasn't good.
Hermione's eyes grew large with horror. "Master Blak, n–!"
"Stupefy!" John Blak called out, and Hermione fell to the ground like a sack of potatoes.
"Father!" Cornelius called out from behind them, but the man wouldn't listen.
"NAY!" Henry roared, rushing to her. "Hermione, can you –?"
Blak came towards them, tore the cloak off of Henry and once again said, "Incarcerous!"
Thick ropes bound him and he fell to the ground next to Hermione. Her eyes were closed, but she was breathing – thank the Lord. He struggled with the rope, but it was tied tight around him, and there was not a way out of it.
"Flipendo!" the young Ambrose said, pointing his wand at the musician. The man lost his footing, but yet had his wand in a tight grip, now pointing it at the children.
"St– st–" Cornelius cried, but it seemed he couldn't use the spell on his own kin.
"Stupefy!" the man called out, proving that he did not have the same problem. His son fell to the ground in the same manner that Hermione had. Before Ambrose had the chance to come up with another spell, the man had stupefied him too.
Then Blak's gaze turned blank again, and someone stepped out of the rubble. It was a man who wore note only Henry's features, but his finest clothes and jewellery. Both rage and fear seemed to spill into Henry's blood.
The man walked over the two bodies on the ground – they belonged to Henry's guards in the tower, he realized with an icy feeling in his stomach.
"Finish the maiden," Lord Malfoy said, teeth gritted.
Henry felt nauseous, and once again tried to free himself of the ropes. "NAY!" he called out. "YOU TOUCH HER NOT, YOU HEAR ME?!"
"And gag the imposter," Lord Malfoy added.
"NAY, STOP THIS AT ONCE, ST–"
"Mimblewimble," John Blak said, and Henry felt his tongue twist itself into a knot, thus rendering him incapable of speech.
"And the maiden," Lord Malfoy reminded him.
Blak raised his wand and pointed it at Hermione. But his mouth seemed to refuse to open, and his arm looked strained, as if he tried to push it down.
"Finish. Her," Malfoy urged, putting pressure behind his words.
"Nnnggh!" Henry yelled, but it was impossible to make himself understood.
"Av–" Blak started, but then, for some reason, he groaned and threw his wand on the ground. Was he somehow able to withstand the magic?
"Useless man," Malfoy said, and turned to the men on the ground. "Finite!"
While the guards awoke, Henry started moving his hand, trying to find a weak spot in the rope, trying to break free, but it was useless.
"Kill the girl," Malfoy said to the guards.