Chapter Thirteen: Mistakes
AN: This chapter is a bit of a mindfuck, if you pay attention. Get ready! :D
Special thanks to tfobmv18, Calimocho, Pixie-Fate, Bunny115, EmoPrincess21, bbspoke1017, SunMoonNeko, Jade2099, Alle, MissesProngs, mellissa-malfoy12, starlight-x-A-x, tsuki916, softrose, and 4SnowWolf for reviewing the last chapter! It means a lot to me to hear from you guys!
Blaise strutted through the Ministry halls, the lift having delivered him to the offices of Magical Law Enforcement, doing his best to look as though he belonged there. It wasn't really a secret what side his family had been on in the war, and unlike Draco, Blaise had opted to lay low in the years since.
He reached the Auror offices and approached the desk where a young witch with dark brown hair was seated, shuffling dutifully through a stack of papers.
"Yes?" she asked shortly without looking up.
"I'm here to see Harry Potter," Blaise said, keeping his tone light.
"Do you have an appointment?" the girl asked, now glaring suspiciously up at him through her thick eyelashes.
"I don't need one," Blaise said.
"I'm afraid you do," she answered, smirking. "I believe there's one open in oh, three months."
"Now, Aaliya," Blaise said, dropping his voice and leaning closer to her so that only she could hear him. "I'm very glad that you managed to avoid the raid, but let's not forget that your bosses could still find out about your second job. On that note, you should know that I haven't used the potion in the better part of a week and I am really not in the mood for your nonsense. Understood?"
Aaliya glared at him, her jaw set, but extended her hand to point her wand at one of the doors on the opposite wall.
"Mr. Potter is out right now, but you may wait in his office, if you wish," she said.
"Thank you, love. You know, we really should get together when all of this blows over," Blaise said, smiling confidently before turning his back to her and going into the office. It was empty, true to Aaliya's word, but it was far from still. Potter's office looked like the lovechild of Moody and Dumbledore's offices. A Foe Glass stood against one wall, a Sneakoscope resting on its point, spinning lazily on a small table beside it. Strange silver instruments were set in motion around the room, and a Pensieve shimmered behind the Potter's desk. Blaise wondered how he could possibly manage to get any work done with all of the distractions.
He took a seat in one of the straight-backed chairs in front of the desk, resting his feet on the desk top and leaning back in the chair. He flicked his wand at the nearest strange instrument, causing it to hover into the air.
He gathered a few more and set them spinning around the room, looking for any way to ease his boredom – and, admittedly, his nerves about Hermione – while he waited.
"Zabini," a voice interrupted him from the doorway and Blaise nearly dropped the items he had been enchanting. "How did you get in here?"
"I walked," Blaise said, smirking as he stood and turned to face Potter. The other man glared at him for a moment before stalking past him to his desk, waving his wand to replace the levitating objects in their proper places. He settled into his chair, looking expectantly at Blaise.
"I assume this must be important, for you to force your way into my office instead of just sending an owl or contacting someone in public relations," Potter said.
"I think someone's taken Granger," Blaise said with no preamble. Potter raised an eyebrow doubtfully at him.
"Taken," he said doubtfully.
"I followed her to Dean Thomas' address, and someone apparated away from inside shortly after Granger went in. I checked, and Granger and the girl who answered the door were both gone. There was no sign of Thomas, either," Blaise explained.
"So there were at least two people in the house who could legally apparate, and you think that Granger's been taken because someone apparated?" Potter asked skeptically.
"No, there was actually one person who I know could apparate, one person who's been banned from the magical world and using magic, and one person who I didn't recognize. And I never actually saw Thomas, and given what Granger saw in the Floo, I think he might not have been there in the first place."
There was silence as Blaise let this information sink in, waiting for the alarmed reaction that he had expected from Potter in the first place.
It never came.
"I'm a little busy right now, Zabini," Potter said shortly, seemingly unfazed by Blaise's news as he opened the file on his desk.
"Yeah, I know. Catching the Malfoys, working your way up the Ministry ladder, poking your nose into everyone else's business," Blaise said, sounding bored. "But in case you've forgotten, Potter, Granger happens to be one of your best friends, and one of the only people who's stood beside you through all of your idiotic heroic shenanigans. I think you owe it to her to at least make sure she's alright, don't you?"
He stared at Potter, careful to keep his face blank as the Auror's expression changed from one of anger to shame.
"You're right," Potter finally said. "I'll get some of the guys in the Department of Mysteries to find her, and I'll go get her."
"I think you'll have some competition for that," Blaise said easily, standing up and preparing to leave. "But I like the first part of the plan."
"Draco!" Blaise shouted as he burst through the back door of the manor to the garden where the blond was watching Zane blast rose bushes with his toy wand. He almost winced. It was pretty scary that he could do that at four, without a real wand.
"I've figured it out," Draco said idly and for a second Blaise thought that maybe Draco had managed to get a step ahead of him on Hermione's disappearance. "Your son has to be Snape's reincarnation. I mean, look at this!"
Comprehension slowly dawned on his face as he took in the serious expression on Blaise's.
"What's happened?" he asked.
"They've taken Hermione," Blaise said quickly.
"Who? And where? And why are you here and not there?" Draco asked, the small amount of colour in his face draining.
"I don't know," Blaise said. "I've got Potter on it, though!" he added quickly as Draco's expression turned to one of anger.
"Potter?" Draco asked.
"Yeah, bit of a tense meeting, really, but I had no idea how to find her, so..." Blaise trailed off, shrugging. "Potter says he'll go get her when he finds her but I don't know. He was acting a bit off."
"Off?" Draco asked. Blaise nodded before recounting to Draco what had happened.
"I just find it strange," Blaise said. "That he wasn't at all concerned."
"Well, she could have apparated," Draco said. "I don't think it's likely, but it's possible."
"And he called her Granger," Blaise continued. That made Draco fall silent, glaring out across the garden. "Draco?" Blaise asked after a moment.
"That's odd, for sure," Draco conceded. "There's definitely something going on here, Blaise. Time to find out what."
He turned to go back into the house, Blaise following after him until they reached the sitting room fireplace. Draco picked up the jar of Floo powder before turning back to Blaise.
"I'm going to see Potter. I need you to stay here and just make sure that my parents don't leave. I also figure you don't want Zane left alone with them. I'll be back as soon as I can," he said. Blaise nodded.
"Good luck, mate," he said grimly as Draco tossed the powder into the fireplace and stepped into the green flames.
"Ministry of Magic!" he shouted. Grates flew by, ash and warmth swirling around him. Suddenly, something brushed his shoulder and he spun around, nearly shouting at what he saw.
"Potter!" he gasped, catching only a glimpse of the dark haired man before falling backward out of the Floo, landing gracelessly on the hearth at the Ministry.
"Mr. Malfoy, are you alright?" a startled voice inquired and Draco looked up to see Cipolleti staring down at him in his awkward spot on the floor.
"Fine, just got a bit disoriented," he said, standing quickly and brushing off his robes. "I'm sorry to rush off, but I need to see Potter."
"Oh, I don't think Mr. Potter's in his office!" Cipolleti said quickly.
"Then I'll wait," Draco said, continuing towards the lift. "Good to see you, Miss Cipolleti."
When Draco arrived at the Auror office, he nodded to Aaliya, who rolled her eyes and pointed her wand to open the door to Potter's office without argument this time.
Once inside he settled into one of the chairs and waited, trying to ignore the anxiety coiling in his stomach.
It was a few hours before Potter returned to his office and Draco was only moments away from breaking every spindly stupid instrument in the place out of aggravation. Potter rolled his eyes as he saw Draco, walking past him to take his seat.
"I see you're still here," he said, shuffling through the papers on this desk. "I suppose it's about Hermione?"
"Have you found out where she is yet?" Draco asked, ignoring Potter's irritated tone.
"Yes. We can trace any wizard's magical signature, assuming they're not taking steps to hide it, like your parents. It's faint if they're not actively using magic, but it's still there. I'll be leaving to check on her shortly," Potter said.
"That's okay, I'll go. Just tell me where it is," Draco said. Potter froze for a moment before returning to his papers.
"If she is in trouble, I think the Auror department is best equip to handle it," Potter said stiffly. Draco narrowed his eyes. It didn't add up. Even if there was a chance that Hermione wasn't in trouble, should the Boy Who Lived be jumping to rescue her? Draco had never known him to hesitate at the chance to perform stupid heroics, whether technically necessary or not. And Hermione was his best friend, wasn't she? It just didn't make sense.
"There's something going on here, Potter," Draco said. "Fortunately for you, I don't have the time to figure out what it is right now. So consider this: Star-crossed lovers battle against all odds for love, and the best friend goes to rescue her while the lover sits at home and babysits his father? Who's reading that novel, Potter?"
The man glared at him for a moment before sighing and slamming down his papers. Draco smirked, revelling in his victory.
"Fine," Potter said, picking up his quill and scrawling an address on a scrap piece of parchment. "This is where she last left a trace. Keep me informed; the department will be on standby if you require assistance."
"Thanks, Potter, but I don't think I'll be needing it," Draco said, taking the address. "I can handle my own, unlike some people."
He turned and left the office before the other man could reply, staring at the unfamiliar address as he went.
Hermione hit stone ground with a groan, her body wracked with dry sobs. Her captor had used the Cruciatus curse only twice, but she was already nearly at her wits end. It was becoming more evident that she had lost her edge in the passing years. Bellatrix LeStrange had done much worse, after all, and she hadn't broken.
Maybe it was withdrawals. The nausea had started, true to Blaise's word, and the pain in her gut combined with the curse left her in almost constant pain. Her stomach turned over another time before suddenly she was emptying her lunch onto the stone floor.
"Oh my," a drawling male voice started and Hermione strained to see the faint outline of her captor through the blindfold that had been placed on her. "We've barely started and already you're vomiting? I was hoping you'd be a bit more challenging. You're not at all as impressive as your reputation led me to believe."
Hermione wanted to wipe her mouth, or at least move away from her stomach's contents, but she was bound too tightly. She was left to writhe away as well as she could. The man chuckled.
"Oh, stop," the female who had first cursed Hermione reprimanded the man. "No need to play with her if she's not going to put up a decent fight. Just find out what we need to know."
Hermione felt a strong hand grasp her by her jaw and wrench her face upwards. She felt hot breath on her face and she nearly whimpered at her sudden proximity to the man.
"What were you doing at Thomas' house?" the man demanded.
"I don't... I was just checking on him!" Hermione protested.
"We ignored your lies about your relationship, but now you're becoming a little too troublesome. Now what were you doing?" the man repeated.
"I don't know what you're talking about!" Hermione insisted, her stomach twisting again.
"Liar!" the woman hissed.
"Crucio!" the man shouted and Hermione was plunged into pain once more.
"The wards," she vaguely heard the man say, the pain lessening slightly with his concentration.
"I wouldn't worry. It's probably just Potter," the woman said and the pain increased.
Harry. Harry was coming to save her. She felt relief wash over her even as she heard herself screaming.
Draco was slightly put off by the lack of security at the estate when he arrived. Maybe Hermione wasn't in trouble. If something sinister was going on, then certainly they'd be trying harder to cover it up, wouldn't they?
He paused when he got to the door, a little confused. Was he supposed to knock? If there had been guards, or any sort of security, he would know to just bust in, but this... Maybe he would just be forcing his way into someone else's home?
As he was pondering this the door opened of its own accord, startling Draco, who immediately went on guard, whipping his head around to see who had been responsible. He looked down when he heard a slight squeak.
"M-Master Draco!" an old house elf said, visibly shaking. It took Draco a second to recognize him.
"Tibby?" he asked. "What are you doing here?"
"Tibby is a bad elf! But he had to run, Master Draco, he had to! After Master killed the other elves Tibby knew he had to—"
"Tibby, listen," Draco said, interrupting the elf. "Is a witch named Hermione Granger here?"
"T-Tibby cannot say, Master Draco! He cannot!" the elf answered shrilly. Draco was puzzled. The elf was still referring to him as 'Master', but he didn't seem to have to obey him.
"Tibby, who do you serve?" Draco asked suspiciously.
"Tibby left the Malfoy house, Master Draco, but Tibby was not freed. Tibby is now here, serving the Mistress... Tibby cannot disobey her orders or the Malfoy's orders," the elf explained. Draco nodded. That made sense. Tibby belonged to both masters.
"Fine, Tibby. Then I am going to look around a bit. You are not to tell anyone, including your Mistress, that I am here, understand?" Draco commanded. Tibby nodded vigorously and scurried away. Draco stepped carefully into the entry hall, drawing his wand and staying close to the wall as he went, pausing to listen at each door as he passed it.
There was no noise at any of the doors, but one almost seemed to vibrate slightly, a sensation that Draco had learned to associate with magic. He touched the doorknob carefully, careful not to make any noise as he opened it.
It didn't matter. As soon as it opened, shrill screams shattered the air. Screams that he knew well.
The room was dark, with the exception of a few beams of light filtering through a high window on the far wall – just enough light to see. It was strange; it seemed like a scene of horror such as this one should happen at night, or at least during an overcast day. Even the small bit of light seemed cheerful.
There were two cloaked figures, one very tall, the other very short, one male, one female. Their backs were to them, and in front of them, on the ground, was Hermione.
Draco's heart stopped when he saw her bound and blindfolded, sobbing openly on the floor as the man held her at wandpoint, torturing her. Every few seconds a long scream would tear through the air.
He weighed his options. He could take out the man before he was noticed, breaking the curse on Hermione, and then duel the woman. Maybe he could take out the woman, and in the pause it would take the man to lift the curse on Hermione to curse Draco, he could get him as well.
Hermione writhed, twisting on the floor to face Draco, although she couldn't see him, her mouth open in another scream, and then it seemed it was over. She panted, the blindfold saturated with her tears as she whimpered. The man grabbed her by the hair, pulling her up to him.
"Are you ready to talk now?" he asked, his voice low and menacing. Hermione seemed to struggle, and for a moment Draco thought it was surely in vain, but then he heard a loud crack. Draco winced, Hermione screamed in pain, and then the man stumbled back as Hermione's fist collided with his face. Her other hand looked strangely mangled, and Draco realized what happened.
Hermione had broken her left wrist to get out of her binds, and hit the man with her good hand.
Her victory didn't last long, however. She reached up to pull off her blindfold and caught a glimpse of Draco. She gasped, distracted, and that gave the man the chance he needed. He pulled his fist back, apparently not caring about magic anymore, and slammed it into her face.
Hermione crumpled at the same time that the woman turned to look at whatever had caught Hermione's attention. Draco, distracted by Hermione, shouted out the first curse he could think of.
"Densaugeo!" He didn't know why he picked that one, and he realized what a horrible choice it was as the woman's teeth began to grow. The man spun around, now aware of Draco's presence.
"Stupe—" he began.
"Duro!" a weak voice interrupted and the man froze. Draco blinked and looked down at Hermione, who was now a few feet to the left of where she had fallen, her wand clutched in her good hand.
"Draco!" she gasped, her eyes flickering to the woman. Draco followed her gaze. The woman, her teeth now roughly the size of a walrus', had her wand trained on Draco.
"Expelliarmus!" Hermione interrupted both of them, and Draco felt his wand leave his hand. "Stupefy!" she shouted quickly, and the woman hit the floor in a crumpled heap. Hermione collapsed, breathing heavily and whimpering slightly as she brought her broken wrist up to her chest, cradling it pathetically.
Draco took a second to catch his breath, surveying the scene of destruction. He felt somehow shamed at how much better Hermione had handled it, even under duress.
"Draco," she whimpered. "Help me."
Harry stepped out of the Floo, scanning the room quickly. Malfoy Manor was quiet, but he knew better. There were at least two people here.
He smirked. He hoped Lucius would cooperate without giving up the game.
But then, Lucius wasn't the quickest of sorts. He'd have to let him in on it soon.
Draco sat at the foot of Hermione's bed at the Leaky Cauldron, waiting for her to wake up. She had passed out before they had reached safety, but Draco thought it was probably for the best – he had had to heal her herself, deciding that St. Mungo's might not be safe with her captors still on the loose, and he had heard her wrist snap nastily once more when he healed it. Her lip was swollen from the man hitting her, and cut, probably from a ring.
He felt ashamed. He had gone to save her, but he had botched that pretty badly. She had really been the one to save them both. All he had really done was distract her captors long enough for her to get to her wand.
Maybe that was enough, he thought as she stirred, groaning. Maybe she would thank him? Or at least not yell at him?
He doubted it somehow.
She opened her eyes blearily, taking in her surrounding as she sat up quickly, gasping as pain shot through her.
"Draco," she whimpered.
"It's okay," he said. "We're safe."
"I thought it was a dream," she said. "I hoped... But it wasn't." She paused, her alarmed expression turning to one of anger. "How could you do that?" she demanded before collapsing back on her pillows, wincing. Shouting seemed to hurt her.
"What?" Draco asked, surprised.
"You just stood there and watched what they did," Hermione muttered. Draco got the feeling that her low volume was more due to the embarrassment that the lisp from her swollen lip caused than her temper. Indeed, if she could, he just knew that she'd be yelling loudly enough to alert her neighbours.
"I acted as quickly as I could," he said lamely, running his fingers through his hair as though it would soothe his frazzled nerves.
"You acted like a coward," Hermione corrected him coldly. "But then, I guess I shouldn't really be surprised."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Draco asked, keeping his voice low as his temper grew.
"You've always been a coward," Hermione hissed. "This is just like what happened back in the war."
Draco took a deep breath as the memories of what happened when the Golden Trio had been brought to the manor washed over him. He felt a faint tinge of nausea take over him and he forced it back down before replying.
"This is nothing like that," he protested. Hermione scoffed, rolling her eyes.
"Please," she said as she crossed her arms over her chest. "This is exactly like that."
"I see," Draco muttered. "So that's how you see me, is it?"
Hermione remained silent, glaring at him as she clenched her jaw in fury. Draco took a deep breath, steadying himself, hiding how much what she said had really affected him.
"I suppose I'll go, then," he said, standing and walking to the door. "You may return to the manor when you feel well enough, if you still require my help. Otherwise, I suppose this is where we part ways. Goodbye, Hermione."
He left her room, pausing at the table by the front door to set a blank white card on it.
He hoped she would return.
He hated that he hoped she would return.
AN: Guesses on what Harry's up to? I'll give you a hint: It's probably not what you think!
I look forward to hearing from you all! Thanks so much for reading! The preview for chapter fourteen will be up on my livejournal tomorrow! The link is on my profile!