Still Fighting It – Guilt
Hermione stared at the ceiling unable to sleep. Draco lay next to her sleeping soundly under the effects of a dreamless sleep potion. She kept reliving that moment in her head. The moment when she took a man's life. Draco's screams filled the room as a Death Eater stood above him hitting him with curse after curse. Hermione battled another Death Eater and knew if she turned away now it would surely mean her death. Out of the corner of her eye she saw that everyone else was similarly occupied. Draco's screams fueled her anger, forcing her to fight harder and faster. After a moment of frenzied fighting she was able to disarm and stun the Death Eater in front of her. He fell to the floor, but she had already turned away. The Death Eater in front of Draco raised his wand once more, as if in slow motion, and her brain vaguely registered him saying the words "Avada Ked-". The next thing she knew the Death Eater was hit by a bolt of green and fell to the floor. Time rushed back to her in a flurry of activity and she realized that she had been the one to hit him with the killing curse. She froze for half a second in disbelief of her actions, and then ran to Draco. It wasn't until Draco was safely at St. Mungo's that the enormity of her actions finally hit her.
She went over this moment again and again thinking of all the different choices she could have made. She could have stunned him, or disarmed him, or even temporarily paralyzed him. She didn't have to kill him, yet in that moment she didn't have a second thought. Draco was being tortured and she knew if she didn't act then he would die. Rationally, she knew that the man she killed was a very bad man, and had likely killed countless others, yet she had still taken a life. Someone was dead because of her and she wasn't sure if she could live with that.
She was one of the good guys, she wasn't supposed to kill. During the war they were essentially given permission to use whatever means necessary to survive, but she had gotten by without taking any lives. Even Harry was able to defeat Voldemort without actually killing him. He said he would have done the same thing in her position, but she didn't think he would. He would have found another way.
Was killing ever right? All she could think about was the fact that one had to kill to make a horcrux. Was her soul irreparably damaged? She felt torn. She knew that she'd saved Draco's life with her actions, but what was the cost? Taking a life may have saved another's, but who was she to make that decision? Yes, she was fighting for something good, but did the Death Eaters not also believe in their cause? Didn't they think they were right in their own twisted way? She didn't doubt that she was on the good side, but in the end, they were also fighting for something they believed in.
These thoughts continuously ran through her head until morning when a healer came to check on Draco. She gently woke him and quickly moved out of the way so the healer could examine him.
"You were lucky Mr. Malfoy. If the curse was sustained much longer you could have faced permanent damage," the healer said, "however, you are healing nicely and are ready to be discharged. However, you must promise to rest and not overly exert yourself."
"I'll do anything to get out of here," he said gruffly. The healer laughed lightly, having heard that often.
"Then I will draw up the release papers and you can get ready to go home," she replied, leaving the room.
Draco sighed in relief for not having to stay another night.
"We'll have to go to Harry's again, seeing as the flat is a crime scene once more," Hermione said flatly. She was happy that Draco was alright and able to go home, but she simply didn't have the energy to muster up any excitement.
"But before we do that we need to go to the Auror office and see what information they learned," Draco said, not noticing Hermione's tone or the bags under her eyes.
"Absolutely not. You heard what the healer said, you need rest," Hermione admonished, sounding a little more like herself.
"I'm not going to get much rest at Potter's either, so I might as well be useful. However, if it will appease you, when we get to the Auror office I won't do anything except sit and listen," he replied, compromising. He was too tired to argue anyway. Hermione assented, knowing how important it was.
Sometime later found Draco and Hermione making their way into the Auror office, where they found Harry sitting at his desk looking concerned as he filled out some paperwork. He looked up as he heard them approach.
"Malfoy? What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be in St. Mungo's still?" Harry asked, surprised.
"They let me go. Did you interrogate the Death Eaters?" Draco asked, getting straight to business.
"Yes…but it didn't exactly go as planned," Harry said slowly.
"What do you mean?" Hermione asked.
"Perhaps we should discuss this someplace more private," Harry suggested, leading them to an empty conference room, and shutting the door firmly behind him. He looked grim.
"As you know we were only able to capture three of the Death Eaters that attacked us. The one in charge never said a word during the whole interrogation, but the other two did. Neither of them knew who the leader was. They say he always uses a glamour or wears a mask. However, they did say by his accent that they would place him as a well-bred British man, which enforces the idea of a wealthy pureblood being behind all of this. The underlings said that whoever leads the mission is told to kill their fellow death eaters rather than allow capture,"
"So that explains why he started killing his own people. I've never seen that done before," Hermione interjected.
"Me neither," Harry agreed, "Up until this point everything was going well with the interrogation, and then we started asking about the item they were searching for. Before we could get any information out of them they each, the leader included, clutched their arm where their mark is and started screaming. We tried to counteract the curse, but without knowing its origins there wasn't much we could do. A moment later they were all dead. Whoever is in charge is going to great lengths to make sure we don't know what they're after, which makes me worry that they may have found it already, or at least be close to getting their hands on it."
Draco and Hermione sat in silence as they took in Harry's words. The situation was worse than they thought. Not only were the Death Eaters close to getting what they want, if they didn't have it already, they clearly weren't worried about losing members if they would kill each other during attacks or interrogation. How many Death Eaters were there? Were they facing another war?
"Hermione were you ever able to figure out the item they were searching for?" Harry asked, breaking into her thoughts.
"I have a couple of theories but nothing concrete, and they took my notes when they broke in," she replied. "However, I strongly feel that what they're searching for is not a tangible item, but rather instructions. There is a potion of legend that grants its drinker unlimited power, and a potion and spell combo that creates witches and wizards. Both require all of the blood types."
"It's the second one," Harry said urgently, "and they've already found it. They're creating an army."
"How do you know?" Draco asked skeptically, "A minute ago you didn't even know that it was a possibility."
"The Death Eaters that we questioned. There was something strange about them, but it makes sense now. The one that was in charge was identified as Robert Greenblade, who was a known escaped Death Eater for Voldemort. The other two were unknown; we couldn't find anything about them. It was as if they'd appeared in the magical community overnight." Harry stated.
"So he's buying loyalty by giving magic to muggles," Hermione added. It was all coming together, but there was still so much they didn't know.
Draco was still hesitant. It all made sense, but how could the well of magic be real? All of his life he'd heard the story of the well whose water would grant the drinker with magic, but to learn that it was not only real, but had been found, was quite unbelievable. He couldn't believe that it wasn't evena well, but essentially came down to potion instructions. How had they found it? Where had they found it? It couldn't be possible. Though the legend of the Deathly Hallows was even more famous and those turned out to exist, he'd even had possession of one unknowingly, so how could he write this off so easily. He'd have to believe in it for now seeing as it was the only lead they had.
"Alright, so we know part of their plan, but we still don't know enough to actually do anything about it," Draco said, "Who's in charge? What is the endgame? I'm guessing they're planning some big attack, but we don't know when or where. Basically, we're barely better off than we were yesterday."
"At least now we know what's coming. We don't know how many muggles they've persuaded to join, but we do know that they will be poorly trained. They will likely be using the same few spells repeatedly in a fight and probably won't know many defensive spells so they should be easy to take down," Harry pointed out. He was guessing that the Death Eaters wanted large numbers rather than skilled fighters. They would never have the time to properly train a large number of adults who had never done magic in their life, so they would likely only teach them a few nasty curses and let them fend for themselves.
"Potter, did you ever find out any more information about Theodore Nott?" Draco asked, suddenly.
"We did come across some suspicious activity, but nothing concrete. After being released from Azkaban, it was as though he disappeared. He emptied his Gringott's vault and hasn't been seen or heard from since," Harry replied.
"The Death Eaters said the leader sounded like a well-bred British man, correct? The glimpse I got of him in France was familiar to me though not immediately recognizable, it could have been Nott. He's certainly wealthy and intelligent enough to run such an operation," Draco said.
"Do you really think it could be him?" Hermione asked. She hadn't known him when they were school. She only knew that he hung around Malfoy.
"I'm not positive, but I definitely think he's a possibility. Also, he and Blaise have always been friends, so I could see why he wouldn't have killed him when they attacked,"
"I'll tell Kingsley your theory, and we'll put more resources toward finding him," Harry said, "Now unless there is anything else I should pass on to him, I think you should get some rest. You're even paler than usual, and that's saying something."
"You do look quite pale Malfoy," Hermione agreed, "I think it's time for you to get to bed."
"Will you be joining me?" Draco asked cheekily, winking.
"I didn't need that picture in my head," Harry said, cringing.
Hermione laughed lightly, surprising herself.
They apparated back to Grimmauld Place where Hermione sent Draco straight upstairs to his room, where he grudgingly went. She did some research on the 'Well of Magic', but found nothing new. After reading essentially the same thing in five different books, the words seemed as if they were swimming off the page. She suddenly felt extremely tired, and reluctantly decided that some sleep was in order. Not wanting to be alone, she tiptoed into Draco's room and carefully curled up against him. She closed her eyes and willed sleep to come. However, the events of the previous night were once again running through her head. She ran it through her head over and over again. She was so lost in her thoughts that she was surprised to find herself crying. She sobbed silently, but it was enough to wake Draco. He wrapped his arm around her and pushed her hair away from her face. She turned to face him, and buried her face in his chest.
Somehow he knew that she wasn't ready to talk yet, and held her tighter as she sobbed. Neither of them was quite sure how long they stayed that way, but Hermione slowly calmed down. She sat up and put her head in her hands.
"I killed someone," She whispered, not daring to look at Draco.
"I know," Draco said quietly, moving to sit next to her.
"H-how," her lip trembled, she took a breath to calm herself, "How can I ever forgive myself?"
"Hermione…" he paused, thinking of the right words, "what you did wasn't wrong. I would have done the same in your position."
"You don't know that," she muttered, sick of hearing that.
"Yes I do. On one of my first missions as an Auror we were tracking down an escaped Death Eater. It was supposed to be an easy mission, so only two of us went. When we got there, we were taken by surprise. There were three others there. We each took one down fairly easily, when my partner got distracted. He was repeatedly being crucio'd, and I knew he would lose his mind if it went on any longer. The one I was fighting used my distraction to his advantage and used the killing curse. I sidestepped it, just barely, and without even thinking I killed him, and then stunned the other one."
"We're supposed to be the good guys though. If we kill people, then what makes us any different than them?" she asked quietly.
"This," he said, "This right here. The guilt. The tears. The sleepless nights. We mourn those that die, while they revel in it. Hermione, I know what it feels like. The guilt eats you up inside, but you did what had to be done. That man decided to be a Death Eater, he decided to try to kill you in Diagon Alley and then he decided to kill me. You work every day to make the world a safer place, you can't blame yourself for other people's wrong choices,"
Hermione didn't say anything, couldn't say anything. He was right. She could wallow in guilt and self-pity, or she could continue to fight for what she knew was right. But fighting would have to wait until tomorrow. She would give herself tonight to feel the guilt, and the pain. Tomorrow she would push it aside for the sake of the greater good, and hope that she could come to forgive herself.