Author's Note: Hey! I'm back – finally. This chapter seemed to take ages to write, so I apologize for the wait. Thank you so much for your follows, favourites, and reviews! You guys are amazing and I'm so glad that you've stuck around for this! I'd also like to thank Rafan2421 and Ruaidhri for their help in beta-ing. I really hope you enjoy this chapter!
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After the brief feeling of triumph subsided, Harry squashed it enough so he could think rationally and his eyes narrowed toward the blonde Slytherin. "He wants you to kill Dumbledore?" he repeated suspiciously. "You?"
Malfoy's Adam's apple bobbed as he swallowed thickly and he nodded carefully to keep the knife from going any deeper. "Yes."
"I'm willing to believe that the Dark Lord wanted you to fix the vanishing cabinet in order to let the other Death Eaters in to the castle, but to direct a freshly made sixteen-year-old Death Eater to kill Albus Dumbledore…" Harry shook his head. "That's hard to believe. If Dumbledore is indeed the target, who was truly directed to kill him?"
"I'm not lying!" Malfoy cried, his body jerking violently against his restraints. Another drop of blood flowed down the side of his neck. "He wants me to kill him."
Harry tilted his head, raising an eyebrow. "Why you?"
"To make up for my father's mistake."
"Okay, say I believe you," Harry said with a cruel smile. "Why then does he want you to let the other Death Eaters into the castle? Why wouldn't he direct one of them to kill Albus Dumbledore?"
Malfoy groaned, squeezing his eyes tight shut. "I don't know," he said through gritted teeth. "He has leverage on me? I'm dead if I don't do it and my mother will die too. Not to mention what he'll do to my father…"
"He has leverage on all of the Death Eaters, Draco – not just you." Harry lifted the blade and placed it in a fresher section of flesh on his throat, pressing down. Malfoy's eyes widened and his lips started to tremble. "Why not have someone like Bellatrix Lestrange kill Dumbledore as soon as you let her into the castle?"
"I told you – I don't know!"
"Then what is the purpose of letting the other Death Eaters into the castle?"
Malfoy winced when the blade pressed even deeper into his skin. "We're to seize the castle after Dumbledore falls."
"I can't – why do you need to know all this?" The centre of Malfoy's forehead creased as he looked up at him. "What's it to you?"
"You're in no position to ask questions, Draco," Harry replied in a dangerously soft tone, sliding the knife ever so slightly to tear into the top layer of skin on Malfoy's neck. A smirk twisted his lips. "You know, there's this curious thing about flesh," he continued, his eyes transfixed on the blade. "It's so… yielding."
"DON'T please," Malfoy whimpered, straining his neck further as he tried to back away from the knife. "I'll tell you. Please just… don't."
He didn't even have to draw blood.
"I'm not exactly clear on the final plans yet," Malfoy said quickly, his eyes shifting from Harry's glamoured face to the arm that held the knife at his throat. "I was going to be briefed on the finalizations on Christmas Eve. But… after I kill Dumbledore, my Aunt Bellatrix is supposed to capture McGonagall and kill Flitwick because their quarters are closer together in the castle. The Carrows are supposed to kidnap Trelawney, Burbage, and Vector. Rowle and Snape are supposed to secure the students to the quarters and kill anyone who comes out."
Licking his dry cracked lips, Malfoy carried on, "Erm… someone is supposed to kill Hooch and Sprout – I don't remember who. But Slughorn, Filch, Pomfrey, and Sinistra are supposed to be spared unless they show resistance. And Gibbon and I are to capture Hagrid on the way out of the castle – giants are hard to take alive, but he might be leverage to use against Harry Potter." Malfoy frowned. "Greg is supposed to help with that, he's going to be marked on Christmas Eve with Steven."
Harry's grip got increasingly tight on the handle of the knife as he took all of the information in, trying to keep his emotions and expression neutral. He wasn't sure that he was prepared enough for this. He hoped that everyone in the control room was taking that down. That was too elaborate to be a lie, if it was a lie, but Malfoy showed no signs of lying whatsoever… Merlin.
He could really use a cigarette right about now.
However, there was one thing that helped relieve his roiling emotions - the vanishing cabinet, ostensibly, wasn't fixed yet. So the situation could be prevented still. He would need absolute proof before the feeling of worry niggling at his stomach would go away. Taking an imperceptible deep breath through his nose, Harry stared at Malfoy sharply.
"Are those the only students who have been or will be marked?"
Malfoy blinked, averting his eyes away from Harry's abrasive gaze. "Vince was going to be marked too, but he got expelled – he's as good as nothing to the Dark Lord now."
Voldemort was getting very gutsy if he was starting to mark students… Harry pursed his lips. "How did you get past the secrecy sensors with that mark on your arm?"
Tiredly, Malfoy looked up at him. "How do you know about those?"
"Common knowledge–" Harry tightened his hold of the blade against Malfoy's neck. "–answer the question."
"There's a potion," Malfoy practically groaned out, squeezing his eyes shut. "I don't know anything else about it."
Harry's jaw clenched and he replied in a clipped tone, "What did I say about lying, Draco? We could always–"
"Fucking hell – fine." Malfoy's eyes snapped open and he let out a gush of breath. "My father invented a masking potion that would conceal the Dark Mark if you rub it onto it. Or if you drink it. That makes it last longer." Malfoy swallowed, moistening his dry lips with the tip of his tongue. "Can I have some water? I'm really thirsty."
"After we're through here," Harry replied calmly.
"What more do you want from me!" Malfoy shouted, struggling against his bindings. The sound echoed off the walls. "You stick me into this stifling room – you drug me! There are lobsters crawling all over the walls – you lot keep badgering me every time I nod off! I keep hearing this bloody music that won't… fucking stop! Please… I need some sleep. Please just let me get some sleep." He sniffed, tears welling up in his eyes. "I'm so tired. I don't know how much longer I can do this. I can't…" he trailed off into quiet sobs, tears streaking down the sides of his face, disappearing into his sweaty hair.
Lobsters? Harry discreetly glanced at the walls. As far as he knew, they weren't drugging him… Must have been the sleep deprivation.
Sighing, Harry looked down at the Slytherin boy, loosening his hold that he had on his hair. "If we let you sleep and get you a drink, do you promise that you will be more cooperative?"
"Can I have a bed?" Malfoy asked in a wobbly voice, his grey eyes bright as he glanced up at him.
"That might be able to be arranged," Harry drawled. "However, failure to cooperate will see an end to that. You only get one chance. If I get you these things – a few luxuries – do you promise that you will be more cooperative with me?"
Malfoy nodded, his tears abating.
Harry's grip tightened on the boy's hair, pressing the knife closer and nearly drawing blood. "I can't hear you," he growled.
"Yes. I will," Malfoy replied quickly. "I promise."
Glancing at him doubtfully, Harry let go of the boy and straightened up. "We'll see about that." He moved to collect the knives and syringes of potions on the table, wiping the blood off the knife he held to Malfoy's throat with the edge of his t-shirt.
Malfoy rolled his neck to presumably get the crick out of it from having it strained backwards for so long. "What are you going to do to me after you're done with me?" The fearful broken tone of his voice made Harry's heart twinge with guilt, but he squashed it immediately.
Harry towered over Malfoy as he stood in front of him. "If you give us everything we want and your information is confirmed as truth, we will let you live," Harry said evenly.
"I'm dead if you let me go – he'll kill me… and my mother."
Harry's eyebrow rose and he shook his head, a cruel smile tugging at his lips. "I doubt that we'll just let you go like that." He actually had no idea what Nott, Zabini, and Daphne had planned to do with him after they finished.
One step at a time.
If possible, Malfoy's face paled even further. "If I asked you to, would you kill my mother quickly before he gets to her?" He paused, licking at his dry lips again. "I could tell you where you can do it."
"And be led into a trap?" Harry sharply countered. "I think not."
Malfoy looked away into the corner of the room, tears brimming in his eyes once more.
Harry took a deep calming breath. "I'll send someone in soon with your requests," he said, preparing to exit the door. However, he paused, turning to look back at the Slytherin boy.
"But if you betray me, Draco… the consequences of your actions will hurt you far worse than he will hurt your mother."
"Is there any way we can fact check what he said in there?" Harry voiced as soon as he walked through the door and sat at the desk in the control room, still in his stuffy clothes and itchy glamour.
They were staring at him wide-eyed, save for Daphne, who had a look on her face like she could barely contain her excitement.
"Well…" Nott started, clearing his throat and setting aside the piece of chalk he had in his hand. His glasses were falling down his nose, a cigarette was perched between his fingertips, and the blackboard behind him contained all of the information that Harry had gleaned from Malfoy in the interrogation room. Gone was the semantic word map. "We could question Katie Bell on the necklace incident after we get back from hols. Unless one of you wants to send her an owl and ask if she was supposed to deliver it to Dumbledore."
"That might be a good idea…" Harry muttered, emptying his pockets, stripping off his shirt, and unbuttoning his trousers.
"I'll do that after I change Malfoy's drip," Hermione said, looking up from the small mirror she was using to apply a triple-layer glamour. Half of her face was distorted into the face of someone else.
Nodding, Harry leaned down to take off his shoes. "Good."
Zabini leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms over his chest. "Do you remember a vanishing cabinet when you checked the Room of Requirement?"
"Erm – there was that one cabinet with the dead bird in it," Daphne answered unsurely just as Harry was about to say the same thing. "But I can get Graham to ask the Room of Requirement for Draco Malfoy's vanishing cabinet specifically to confirm. I'm sure he'd be discreet about it. He owes me for getting Harper off his back."
Nott glanced over at Daphne. "Too bad you didn't bring your owl. Would have been nice to keep the correspondence off the books at the post office."
Shrugging, Daphne replied, "I couldn't find him in the Owelry last week so he's probably at Astoria's house or maybe my grandfather's. I'll have to call them." Daphne paused, turning toward Hermione, who was putting the last touches on her glamour. "Where did you put my mum's mobile when you tidied? It was sitting on the fridge before."
"In that drawer over there." Absentmindedly pointing to the desk drawer by Harry's foot, Hermione waved her wand toward her throat and hummed as she adjusted her voice. "I hope you don't mind," she said, after finishing her voice charm. "I used it to call my parents to check up on them."
"Oh yeah, no problem," Daphne said with a wave of her hand, moving Harry's foot as she pillaged the desk for the phone. "We always have minutes on it since mum never uses it."
"Okay, good," Harry said, standing up to pull off his trousers. "You call your cousin and write that bloke to check on the Room of Requirement, Hermione'll change Malfoy's drip and then write Katie… We need to get him a bed and some water as well…" Harry looked over at the mirrors to see Malfoy's shoulders shaking as he sobbed quietly. He could barely hear it through the baby monitor.
"I'm the best at transfiguring them, so I'll do it," Zabini offered. "Daph, can you get a glamour on me so I can help Hermione in there?"
Harry's eyebrow rose toward the dark Slytherin. First Hermione calls him 'Blaise' and now he calls her 'Hermione'? What was next? Pulling a Ron and Lavender all over the bloody place? Then again, that didn't seem like their style, even if something-he'd-rather-forget did happen under the mistletoe at Slughorn's Christmas party.
Grabbing Daphne's silver case, her gold lighter, and standing next to Nott in front of the blackboard, Harry lit up, inhaling a calming breath full of smoke. "How can we possibly confirm the rest?" he asked more to himself than anyone else. His eyes trailed over the collected information, which couldn't be absolutely confirmed as the truth until they had some sort of proof. It was a pivotal rule of interrogation, even if Harry was dead certain that Malfoy wasn't completely lying.
Hard to lie with a knife to your neck and fear in your veins, especially when you had so much desperation to live. Malfoy was no martyr. He'd sing like a canary before he'd give his life up for something.
"I've some healing salve in my cloak," he heard Daphne say behind him. "The cuts seem superficial so it shouldn't take much."
"Oh, good, thanks," Hermione replied. "I'm not good at healing charms yet. They're sub-par at best."
Letting out a laugh, Daphne said, "Mine too. Thus the healing salve."
They continued to talk quietly and Harry tuned them out.
Nott flicked his ashes into the ashtray sitting on the chalk rack that was attached to the blackboard. "I was thinking… Greg's house might be easy to break into. I've been to it many times before – their security is relatively standard," he said, glancing out of the corner of his eye toward him.
Harry's brows furrowed and he looked back at the weedy Slytherin boy. "You're not suggesting…"
"We got Draco out of Hogwarts," Nott said in an implicative voice, a smirk unfurling over his lips. "Greg might not be an easy break, but I know a few of his weaknesses."
Harry bit the inside of his cheek and took another drag off his cigarette. It would take time – a lot of time – if they were going go that route. And even if they did get a hold of Goyle, Malfoy was just starting to crack – how long would Goyle take?
They only had seven more days.
"How long does your time turner go back to?"
"…Good question," Nott said, somewhat reluctant. "Fourteen to eighteen days is the comfortable range. Highly possible. Past that, I don't know. It's redacted information, but apparently some bloke went back a very long time with a day turner like the one I've got – at least, that's what the information that I could get implied."
"If we decide to go with your plan, we'll likely have to stay the full eighteen," Harry said, his nerves a bit on edge at the thought. That was the limit. It was risky.
All of it was risky.
"If we can't get everything out of him, there's always Astoria and Johnson. They're to be taking care of Draco once we go back. And, from what I've heard of Johnson, he's not that bad at getting information from people – for a Squib. I've plenty from my trust fund that I could give them if Goyle will be an issue."
Harry's eyes narrowed, an expression that made his glamour always itch, even though he was rather used to wearing it by now. "You'd honestly leave Malfoy and Goyle in the hands of a Muggle and a Squib?"
"If Daphne thinks they're capable, and I'm sure they are – yes. Johnson's the one that got us this place," Nott said, gesturing to the room within the small converted warehouse that they were standing in. "It's secure, even by Muggle standards – without the extensive wards we've set on it. He seems like the type of person I'd like to meet. Careful. Paranoid, even."
"You mean you've never met him?" Harry asked in surprise.
Nott's brows shot up, his eyes regarding him uncertainly. "You have?"
"Twice." A wry smile bubbled up onto Harry's face as he flicked the ashes off his fag. "One time, he held me at gunpoint."
"See? The more I hear of him, the more I like him," Nott drawled, turning back to the blackboard. He inhaled deeply at his fag until it burned down to the filter. "I should get started on planning. Draw up a map of Greg's house – compile a list of supplies. We'll have to capture him after Christmas Eve so we can get the finalizations of the Hogwarts siege Draco was talking about. Unless that was all a pack of lies, but we'll figure that out after we bring in Greg..."
"I'm not so sure about this…" Harry muttered hesitantly.
"Have you any better ideas?"
Harry shook his head. Nott's plan was good – possibly the best, unless they were to kidnap an actual seasoned Death Eater who might know a hell of a lot more than Goyle – but it was still so very risky.
"Don't worry so much, Potter. Between the three of us and you and Granger, we'll work something out. It'll be quicker and easier to fill in the gaps and see all the angles with all of us looking at it."
They had begrudgingly agreed that Goyle was the best source of information that they could realistically get a hold of with the least risk.
With a hydrated Malfoy strapped down to a bed transfigured from a piece of parchment and the necessary letters written, they all gathered round the table. The sight-correction charm was starting to wear off so Harry had to put his glasses back on to see properly. Daphne sat to the left of him, dialing her cousin and getting no answer yet again. "She must have had a training exercise today," she muttered with a yawn, setting the phone down and sliding the bottle of pepper-up potion toward herself.
Sticking his cigarette in his mouth, Harry looked over the blueprint-esque drawing of the Goyle estate, which was only half completed. The house didn't seem to be that large but the grounds were massive from the looks of it. Nott and Zabini were trying to make it as accurate as possible while Hermione rifled through a giant book on wards to help her reverse engineer some of the protections that were placed on the Goyle estate.
It was likely that he wasn't going to be able to be involved in the kidnapping. He was quite useless without magic in that situation, but it was still extremely interesting to watch them plan – to help them, on occasion. Nott was meticulous as ever and Zabini and Daphne intermittently argued over ideas that each of them were throwing out. Some of the wards around the Goyle estate could be broken without detection, but others… not as much.
They could enter the premises undetected, that much was certain, but getting out of there with Goyle quickly would be extremely difficult. Apparating in and out would be impossible. The anti-apparation wards extended beyond the grounds by a few thousand meters. Wards against brooms where hard to go around and making them recognize your magical signature in order to enter and exit on a broom would compromise your identity.
That left the option of doing it on foot; however, with the amount of land the Goyle's had, it wouldn't be a swift exit at all. They'd have to go around fields of venomous tentacula as well. Apparently that's how the Goyle family made their fortune; the majority of venomous tentacula plants and products sold on the market came from them.
Harry's eyes snapped up from the page when Daphne scraped back her chair and stood with a stretch. "I can't take this room anymore. I'm going to go get some dinner – any preferences?"
"Can I come with?" Harry asked. It had been days since he last got out of the warehouse.
"Sure," she said, moving over to the pile of trunks and bags. "I'll fix up your glamour."
"Would pasta and a bottle of Montrachet be too much to ask for?" Harry heard Zabini ask as he got up to pull on the trousers he wore in the interrogation room. "I'm dying for some real food."
"Ooh, pasta does sound good," Hermione concurred, looking up from her book. "And an arugula salad with antipasto."
Daphne paused from transfiguring her cloak into a trench coat, raising her eyebrow toward the two. "Do you guys just want to go to a fucking Italian restaurant? I doubt I can find one that does takeaways."
Hermione and Zabini shared a look. "Can we do that?"
"By all means, go ahead," Nott chipped in, not looking up from the floor plan of the Goyle estate. "Just bring me back something that doesn't have onions in it."
"We'll have to stop at Berry Brothers & Rudd for the Montrachet," Zabini said, getting up from his chair to rifle through his trunk for clothes. "They simply don't serve that stuff anywhere."
"Do you know of a place that lets you bring your own bottle?" Hermione asked, joining the crowd around the trunks. Harry quickly belted his trousers and buttoned up his shirt and got out of the way, taking his shoes with him.
"That's no matter, love. We'll just confound the waiter."
Hermione whapped him on the arm with her jumper. "And break the internationalstatueof secrecy," she admonished, causing Zabini to let out a deep laugh.
"I'll be discreet about it," he assured her with a smirk.
Naturally, that earned him another whack to the shoulder and Harry rubbed a hand over his still-glamoured face, which always made it itch even worse. When he looked up at Daphne, she was shoving a pair of heels onto her bare feet and zipping up her skirt.
Fully dressed, with his glamour touched up and the eyesight charm restored, they all set off toward the alleyway they used as an apparation point. Walking out the door to the warehouse was like exiting a furnace and hopping into a freezer. Harry pulled his coat around himself tighter to shield himself from the frigid wind as they spun off to wherever Zabini had to get his stupid – as per usual, overpriced – wine.
Hermione blessed him with a warming charm as they made their way toward the restaurant and he gave her a thankful nod, catching his reflection in the shop window behind her with a brief startled pause. Hermione's brow furrowed at him and she looked over her shoulder. "What is it?"
"Nothing. It's just bloody insane how real these glamours look," Harry muttered, shaking his head.
Letting out a short breathy bitter laugh, Hermione's lips quirked. "Yeah. Makes me wonder how Greengrass got so good at them." She stared at him from the corner of her eye, speaking in a low tone of voice. "It's not like her Charms grades are anything to boast about and it's really hard to get it to appear like that. I mean, her repellant charms are laid down perfectly in seam with the sculpting work – even Nott has trouble with it and he almost beat me last year with that extra credit project he did."
Harry's brows furrowed as she continued her tirade, "Plus, you've seen her try to do the washing-up charms – even Neville's better at those – so she had to get good at triple-layer glamours through repeated use of them."
"Or maybe she just practiced them for this purpose – interrogating Malfoy," Harry rationalized, though it was a little suspicious. He watched Daphne's back as they walked. She and Zabini seemed to be taking bets on when and if Nott was going to have a nervous breakdown by the time they got back to Hogwarts.
"I doubt that," Hermione said after a pause, her lips pursed. "To get a triple-layer glamour right, you have to study anatomy and physiology as well as shaping, sculpting, and defense charms. That's why they call it a triple-layer glamour. It's three layers of spells laid atop each other and woven together, which makes it hard to detect and rid of without the counter-charm – especially if it's done well. She's not that good to master it all in a month. If it was Nott, maybe. But her?" She snorted quietly.
Harry shrugged. "Why don't we ask her about it instead of theorizing?"
Scoffing, Hermione whispered, "You're even starting to sound like her now."
The centre of his forehead creased. "No I'm not."
"Yes you are. Is she brainwashing you? You two spend a lot of time together for people who've just recently gone through a breakup."
"Erm… not that I know of. And you know it's for the interrogation. She's helping me. By the way, speaking of relationships, what are you doing with Zabini?" he asked through his teeth, diverting her attention away from the whole Daphne-breakup thing. He'd rather not touch the subject with a thirty-nine and a half foot pole if he could help it.
He could audibly hear Hermione's mouth shut before she inhaled, regaining her composure. "I don't know what you mean."
"You and him are a lot closer lately. He called you by your name, for Merlin's sake! And he let you assault him without being a ponce about it," Harry explained, eyeing the Slytherin boy in question.
"Well, it's not like I'm going to wait around for Ron to get a clue." She let out a breath. "Blaise is… nice, once you get to know him. Charming even. Courteous. He kind of reminds me of my grandfather."
Harry raised an eyebrow toward her. "No offense, but is your grandfather a manipulative git?"
Hermione's eyes narrowed in his direction. "I wasn't referring to that. Blaise will be nice to you if you're nice in return. Polite, even."
"Hard to be polite when every other word he says is either backhanded or insulting."
"Okay. Fair point. I know he can be… difficult to handle at times," Hermione admitted, shrugging a shoulder. "But maybe I'm into that sort of thing, now that I think of it."
"Still don't see why Zabini is so appealing to you," Harry said with a shake of his head.
"Well I don't see why Greengrass is so appealing to you, so we're even," e
Hermione countered, her lips quirking.
They shared a look and he shrugged. "I don't think I could explain it properly myself." Harry paused, biting the inside of his cheek. "She's just… exciting."
"Dangerous," Hermione corrected.
A small smile spread across Harry's lips. "That might be why she's so exciting."
Daphne and Zabini stopped underneath a deep maroon awning and were staring back at them as they caught up. "You could have told me it was formal dress," Hermione whispered to Zabini while the hostess seated them in a private booth that the Slytherin wanker requested specifically.
"You look just fine, love," Zabini muttered, causing Harry to narrow his eyes toward him.
Pulling the crystal ashtray toward herself, Daphne lit her fag, offering him one. Hermione gave him a dirty look from over her menu, like she did nearly every time he lit a cigarette in front of her. But an even dirtier look was sent in Zabini's direction as he surreptitiously transfigured matches into wine glasses.
Blowing out a long breath of smoke, Daphne grabbed at the glass of wine that Zabini was pouring and took a swig. "Alright, so – food. Is there anything on this menu that's in English?"
"I suggest the fish," Zabini chipped in. "It pairs excellently with the wine."
Daphne glanced over at him sharply before going back to the menu. "You know I don't eat meat."
Zabini's brow furrowed. "Even fish?"
"Even fish. I'll just get a salad of some sort," Daphne replied, flicking her ashes into the ashtray.
"My aunt's a vegetarian too," Hermione said distractedly, her eyes flicking down the menu. "She always brings the strangest things to Christmas dinner and tries to convert everyone."
"The term vegetarian is a bit too political for my liking." Daphne shrugged, shoving the menu away from her. "I just don't eat meat, that's all."
Hermione looked up at her, brows raised. "Why are you a vegetarian then?"
"After you swallow about a pint of blood, you'll never want to eat anything that tastes even remotely like it ever again," she said blankly. Harry's eyes narrowed as he watched Daphne's face flicker ever so slightly, reading the lines at the corner of her mouth and eyes carefully. Otherwise, her expression didn't waver.
Truth. He'd spent enough time 'interrogating' her to know her lying ticks by now.
Harry's brows rose. "How did you end up swallowing a pint of blood?"
"Draco had some weird ritual kinks."
Mostly-true. Just as Harry's mouth opened to ask another question, Zabini cut in, "Must you? I'd rather not have my appetite ruined before we even get a chance to order."
Daphne rolled her eyes and picked up the dessert list.
"Weird time to start telling the truth," Harry said out of the corner of his mouth.
"The interrogation is nearly done," Daphne responded in the same manner. "I promised I would start letting you in on things when it was over. It's almost over." She then turned toward Zabini and said, "We should order Theo some of this chocolate cake."
"Does that mean you can tell me how you got so good at triple-layer glamours?" Harry pressed, setting his menu down and flicking his eyes over to Hermione for a brief moment. He could hear Zabini at the other side of the table muttering to himself, obviously displeased.
A smirk tugged at the corners of Daphne's lips. "I'm just more interested in it than other spells of the same calibre. I tend to pay more attention if I'm interested in it. That's why I'm good at apparation and certain transfigurations – certain other spells and making potions. Why are you so great at Defense Against the Dark Arts? And Potions all of a-"
"That withstanding, it's not in our curriculum," Hermione interrupted. "It would take heavy auxiliary research to find out how to do it."
"I stumbled across it last year when researching human transfiguration for an assignment. McGonagall was handing out Restricted Section passes like her god-awful ginger newts because of Umbridge's extra library restrictions." Daphne took a drag off her cigarette. "Shame not to take advantage. I know you did. Those modified protean charms aren't particularly vanilla arts, are they?"
"I do what I have to do when the occasion calls for it."
"Exactly. I do as well." Daphne's smirk widened. "So, since we're doing this now, how did you learn how to apparate? Can't just be beginners luck."
"Snuck out of the castle to do it. You?"
"I went on a trip to Russia the summer before fifth year and got licensed. Apparation age is fourteen there."
Hermione shook her head, the centre of her forehead creasing. "No, I considered doing that as well – you have to be a Russian citizen."
"I used my mother's Soviet Union passport, changed the information on it while I was at school, and pretended not to know much English for a few weeks. They're not very attentive to old Muggle documents."
"How did you learn?" Harry asked, staring across the table at Zabini.
"I've a dual citizenship," Zabini answered in a bored tone not even looking up at him. "Apparation age is sixteen in Italy."
"And yet your favourite wine is French?" Hermione lightly quipped.
A grin formed on the Slythern boy's lips. "You know your wine," he remarked, glancing over at her with that... look in his eyes that was unsettling.
Harry felt the sudden urge to either vomit or kick Zabini under the table – or both. Instead, Daphne nudged his leg with her knee, catching his attention. "There's no use stopping it if it's going to happen," she said under her breath.
Inhaling deeply at his fag, he let the smoke settle and flicked the ashes off into the tray. Daphne stole his lighter laying on the table and lit up another cigarette just as the waiter appeared with the breadbasket and even more wine. Zabini must have confounded the staff somehow. Not even the water boy noticed the extra glasses and bottle of Montrachet on the table.
"You know, I was just thinking," Hermione said, amid the appetizers. "If we can't get into the Goyle estate using magic, why don't we go in the Muggle way?"
"We've already been over legging it." Zabini set down his fork and wiped the nonexistant sauce off his lips with a white linen napkin. "Not easy to lug dead weight over a few kilometres without a spell or two."
Hermione shook her head. "No, I mean motorbikes or cars even. A car would be more practical, but it's hard to get our hands on one – I know where we can rent motorbikes and I'm sure I could find a spell to muffle the noise as to not arouse suspicion."
Harry's mind briefly entertained the thought of stealing Uncle Vernon's car but then dismissed it. Surrey was a long drive from the Goyle estate. It would take too long.
"I know where we can get a car," Daphne offered. "If I can get a hold of my cousin, I know she'll let me borrow the princess. Its rubbish, but it runs well."
"Will the back gates even fit a car?" Harry wondered aloud, picturing the schematic that Nott was still perfecting back at the warehouse.
Shrugging, Hermione leaned back in her seat, chewing at her lip. "The entrances at old estates are designed to fit a horse and carriage – the size of that is somewhat comparable."
"What about tracks?" Zabini questioned. "A masking spell would be detected."
"We don't need one – we could just transfigure the imprints from tire tracks to footprints." Daphne plucked her wine glass off the table, her brows furrowed. She turned to Hermione. "Do you think you could find a way to muffle a car engine?"
"I don't know off hand. I'll have to visit Flourish and Blotts to pick up a book, but I'm sure I could do it."
A wide smirk spread across Zabini's face. "Genius as always. Now if only you could come up with a way to fix that bloody Climate Control spell that Theo butchered."
The two shared a look and Daphne mimed gagging, causing Harry to grin. Then something hit him. "Hold on – who's going to drive?"
Daphne's lips twitched into a small grin. "I'll do it, of course."
"Don't tell me – you also got your driving license in Russia?" Hermione jested.
"No. That I don't have, but it can't be any different from a golf cart and I've driven those plenty of times." She lowered her voice, glancing over at Harry. "My mother dated this guy who would drag us to the country club for 18 bloody holes. The only thing I liked about that place was the stupid little golf carts."
"I'd rather that I drive," Hermione said sharply, as if there were no questioning it.
"Granger, you'll have your hands full with unwarding spells and covering our tracks. I know it's in your controlling nature to do everything but please let me do this one little task," Daphne paused, fishing a cigarette from her silver case. "I promise I'll practice and do it perfectly to your liking."
Hermione glared as Daphne lit her fag. "You don't have such a good track record with promises, Greengrass."
"I haven't put any stipulations on this one though," Daphne retorted.
"Merlin," Harry cut in, "just let her drive. She grew up in the Muggle world just as much as you did."
erHermione's face suddenly lit up, as if she had just found the solution to a hard arithmancy problem. "Good point, Harry. You should drive. I'd be much more comfortable."
Daphne let out a breathy laugh. "I think you've had far too much wine. Harry's not…"
"He's drove the Ron's Ford Anglia to school in second year," Hermione pointed out. "That makes him the one with the most experience."
Harry hesitated. "That was a magical flying car."
"You still drove it and we'll need all the help we can get to bring down Goyle so Greengrass might come in handy in there."
Daphne actually looked as if she was considering it. So did Zabini. It all made his stomach twist nervously. Then again, he did have the most experience, but he couldn't use magic at all…
"I can't use magic," he muttered.
"Driving doesn't require it," Hermione said in a softer tone. "I know you can do it."
"I'll make sure you're safe," Daphne added, staring at him unblinkingly.
Hermione's lips pursed. "We'll both make sure."
Shrugging, Harry downed a few swigs of his wine, wincing at the taste. "Okay, sure - why not?" He felt suddenly very reckless.
A wide smile broke out across Hermione's face and she squeezed his knee under the table. "Brilliant. Now all we have to do is get that car."
Author's Note: Thank you for reading! Please review!