I bet I've lost tons of readers with my long absence... :-( However, I was so busy in 2014 that I simply did not have any time to write despite wanting to. Being in Japan with only my mobile to access the internet over half of the time did not help either. :-P
That said: Happy New Year Everyone! Stay healthy and please continue to support my story in the future as well!
The following chapter is not much as I simply need to get back into the flow of the story as well (I had to re-read it twice) and sadly I can't promise regular updates either. :-( But it's at least something, ne?
I basically pierced together the things I had already written a long time ago and finally managed to put them together into a chapter. Somehow I get the feeling that my writing style has suffered a little over the time... I found tons of mistakes after reading through the chapter once, even more after the second time and there are probably a lot more I have overlooked. But I simply did not have that much of a chance to keep up with my English.
Forgive me for stupid mistakes, yes? :-)
A clash of thunder made Madam Pomfrey blink while she searched around in the pouch she had brought with her when Dumbledore had basically ordered her to come to Black Manor – prepared for the worst. The last time she had been in a situation where there was need for her to leave the castle to treat multiple injuries that were on a whole other level than burns from a cauldron or broken bones had been during the last war. It was a strangely familiar situation she found herself in and she only managed to get her feelings under control with diffuculty. The nurse shook her head to get rid of the images resurfacing in her mind... there had been so many... so many she had been unable to help during the last war.
Having found what she was looking for, she turned back to her patient.
"I really hope that this is the most serious injury I have to treat today..." Madam Pomfrey sighed and handed Ron a small bottle of Skelegrow which the redhead took with a grimace on his face. "Be more careful with your leg. It's the same one as in your third year and one day I won't be able to completely heal it."
Ron nodded and obediently gulped down the bottle's contents while blocking his nose with the other hand.
"Now lie down. You're still losing a fair amount of blood," Pomfrey said and snapped the empty bottle from his hand. "As soon as I have them I you will need to drink a blood-replishing potion every hour until I find a way to stop the bleeding caused by whatever curse it was."
Ron looked at the Healer like she had grown a second head. "B-but I've gotta go back! We still haven't found Hermione!"
"You will not. There are enough people still looking for her and having to watch out for your safety because you feel faint due to blood-loss won't help them."
It was not Madam Pomfrey but Narcissa who had spoken from the chair she was sitting on.
Draco, who was sitting in front of his mother while she took care of his sprained ankle, hissed when her grip on his foot tightened a little. She seemed to notice and gave him an apologetic smile. "I'd prefer you to stay here as well... but I know I can't force you despite being your mother. Sadly a sprained ankle is not something serious enough... be careful, it'll be tender for a while."
The platinum-blond wizard was a little surprised at that and flinched a little when Ron uttered a sound between an annoyed half sigh and a half scream. He rolled his eyes and waited until his mother was finished while he himself applied some salve on various cuts that littered his body.
"However..." Narcissa did not look up from her work while talking and her voice was sounding a little strained. "Promise me... that when you run into... into Lucius... that you keep calm. I don't want to lose my son to someone like him."
"Mother, I don't-"
"Think about what Harry told you. Even though he has no parents. Lucius is... somebody... somebody who wants his own son to... well. You know... there's no use in looking at him as your father anymore."
She finally looked up and gave him a soft smile. It was unusual for her to talk like that and Draco could see the worry in her eyes. Narcissa bit her lip and then gave him a pat on the arm. "I don't want to lose you to someone who's hoping to climb up in the Dark Lord's ranks if he hands him his own son's corpse on a silver platter. So, be careful, yes?"
Draco was saved from answering when several 'cracks' sounded through the open window and Neville's voice called out to Pomfrey. "It's Charlie. He's been hit with something and hasn't woken up since!"
"Kingsley's hurt as well. He got hit by a knife and-" Sirius voice added but was interrupted.
"- got myself a nasty-looking wound i-in the abdomen that won't stop bleeding!" the man continued with a groan of pain.
Another 'crack: "Gred and Forge asking permission to... to get..."
"Oi!" the other twin shouted. "Get a grip Fred! Don't you faint on me before I've managed to get you into a bed! You're heavy!"
Pomfrey rushed outside but Narcissa was faster and asked them several questions with her wand drawn. It was a little far-fetched for them to be Death Eaters in disguise as Black Manor was under the Fidelius, but you never knew.
Draco looked at Ron who tried to get a little more comfortable and then quickly stood up to make room on the sofas for the injured. He simply threw the magazines and pillows into the corner and nearly ran Rose over when she came into the room – carrying a basket with fresh towels and a large empty bowl.
She looked up at him. "Draco... how're things? Is... is Harry – everyone - allright?"
He took the basket from her and nodded. "They're all fine. I just brought Ron here because he got a little hurt in an accident. But he'll be up and about in no time."
Rose pouted. "There's no need to talk to me like I'm a two-year-old... I've left Mrs. Weasley in the kitchen and talked to Professor Snape while I helped to clean the cauldrons so that he can start brewing potions. Mrs. Weasley was way too nervous to be around and constantly wanted to send me to bed."
She grinned slightly and then her face turned solemn. "I know how dangerous it is... you... you're all fighting the people who... who took my parents away after all."
The blond sighed softly and had to restrain himself from shaking his head. Harry had been right. Rose had definitely spent too much time with Hermione. He just hoped the newest member of the Black-family – his new... third cousin was it? - would not be burdened by the fact that she had so much insight at that age.
Draco placed the basket on the living-room table and still minding his ankle went over to the door leading to the garden to help them carry the wounded into the house. Suddenly a silvery light blinded all of them.
He blinked and when his eyes adjusted to the brightness he saw that a misty silver dragon was flying over their heads and he jumped a little when it was Tonks' voice that came out of the beast's mouth – sounding strained and hurried.
"Found her. Condition unknown. Current location unknown. Rescue difficult - outnumbered. Prepare."
Draco cursed. "Damn it!" He sprinted the last few meters outside to the others. "Tonks and Harry were alone when Ron and I left them!"
Sirius, George and Neville nearly dropped the injured they were helping and hurriedly came inside to place them on the sofas. Then they turned back to Draco.
Sirius grabbed his shoulder. "Can you flash all of us at once? We need to go back and look for them."
The blond shook his head. "I can't. Only one person at a time. Doesn't matter. I'll be quick!"
With that he turned into his phoenix-form for the second time this night and Sirius was the first one to disappear with him.
Back below Peverill castle, Harry did not know how they always managed to end up in situations like this; however, the last fifteen minutes of fighting had only been a blur to him, because as soon as he and Tonks had set foot into the latest large room he had seen red.
He had seen her clearly – slumped on the floor with chains adorning her wrists - through an open door at the other end of the room.
The first thing Harry wanted to do was to run straight to Hermione, but he crushed that desire and surveyed the rest of his and Tonks' surroundings. The raven and the metamorphmagus had encountered three more two to three man teams of Death Eaters over the last thirty minutes and had not gone unscratched. Tonks was breathing heavily and clutching her right side with blood coating her fingers. She quickly conjured a patronus and hastily whispered a message.
Harry wanted to scream in frustration right now. He was tired, bruised and limped a little bit – there was definitely something wrong with his right leg – and he had the feeling as if his left hand was falling asleep every few seconds. His heart was beating wildly and his lungs felt like they were about to burst due to his rapid breathing and the dust in the air did not make it easier for the much needed air to enter his lungs.
The conjured patronus disappeared and Harry jumped into action once again by sending a cutting-curse at the Death Eaters which slowly started to surround them once more. He tried running over to the door leading to Hermione when it suddenly slammed shut and roughly twenty Death Eaters appeared out of nowhere.
Skidding to a halt, he raised a shield and gulped a little. Two against twenty... slowly but surely he started to doubt that they would be able to quickly get Hermione out of here.
"Harry," Tonks said hastily while running up next to him with her left hand hanging uselessly at her side, "we either have to end this quickly or stall until help arrives..."
Harry dodged a killing curse and sent a blood-boiling curse back. "I think stalling while taking down as many as possible would be the best."
He stumbled a little when he twisted around and grabbed his hurting leg. The Death Eaters did not let this opportunity pass and a barrage of curses rained down on him which he was barely able to deflect. They slowly surrounded Tonks and him.
Flinching slightly when something touched his back, Harry whirled around only to realize that it was Tonks who had decided to position herself directly behind him with her back to his own. "Harry, stalling doesn't work. We'll be exhausted and dead before we know it with all the curses they fire."
He grunted and nodded in agreement even though she was unable to see it. "Then let's get wild."
"We can't simply continue like we used to. Senselessly running around in search for Harry and Tonks'll take too much time..." Draco said and steadied himself on the wall behind him. He had lost his balance while flashing over with George who had been the last one transported. His injured ankle throbbed painfully and he grimaced.
Neville frowned. "We should definitely try to get a hold of Dumbledore, McGonagall, Flitwick and Mad-Eye... Tonks said that they were outnumbered and it sounded like she was injured."
Sirius' eyes narrowed when he looked at the grimacing Draco and then he peered into the darkness of the corridor they were standing in. "Hang on a sec..."
He slowly walked forwards while the other three watched him warily and held his wand out in front of him. One step, two steps... there it was!
Sirius grinned in relief and turned his head to look at George, Neville and Draco while taking three more steps forward. "We're definitely on the right way. This area is heavily warded... strong, but luckily it's only the usual stuff."
Suddenly the dog animagus' relieved grin disappeared and he looked at the two youngest of their small group.
"Draco'll come with me," he said decidedly. When the two Blacks' eyes met and Sirius' ones flickered down to the blond's ankle there was no question why and Draco did not protest.
After hesitating for only a moment Sirius gave Neville a pad on the shoulder and George a nod. "Neville and George, I trust you two can handle yourselves... Go and look for Dumbledore and the others and then lead them here. Use your wand to carve signs in the walls for orientation if neccessary."
"Gotcha!" nodded George and gave him a mock salute. "Don't worry we'll find them and'll catch up to you in no time. But... be careful, a lright? "
"Don't tell me what to do," replied Sirius with a small smile. "Get going!"
The Head of the House of Black turned to Draco and gave him a pat on the back when the others stormed away. "You stay behind me and watch our backs, yesr? Don't jump into action without my permission."
The blond Black gave a nod, followed by a sigh. "Yeah..."
Sirius eyed his younger relative and then slowly started walking with his wand held in front of him. "Draco... it's not that I don't trust you. Don't take it the wrong way but I think fighting here could be a little too personal for you to act accordingly. With your father being here i-"
"I know, okay?!" snapped Draco slightly angry while peering over his shoulder to get a look behind them. "I know that I'll probably freeze up when I see him and that he'll kill me before I can even blink. I also know that there's a possibility that others may be harmed because of my inability!"
"It's not your inability," replied Sirius roughly with his eyes still firmly fixed to the front. "It's your humanity. And it's nothing to be ashamed of. Just be careful."
The blond took a deep breath after thinking over the other's words and then nodded.
Sirius sighed quietly and quickened his pace. Not sure if he wanted to see what was ahead of them and still silently praying that everyone would get out of this mess more or less unharmed.
Dust lingered in the air and together with the dim torchlight created an atmosphere that would fit into a horror-movie.
Only two sounds where heard: Crumbling stone and the ragged breathing of two people.
When the dust cleared a little, the currently black-haired metamorphmagus chuckled. She made a morbid picture... sitting on a pile of four unconscious and bound Death Eaters while catching her breath and eying her limp left arm. Suddenly Hary did not want to know what kind of things you learned as an Auror trainee. Or maybe it was because the war-veteran Mad-Eye Moody was her mentor...
"Really... I don't want to know... what kind of training you've been doing... those ten you took on won't feel good when they wake up... if they wake up at all," she said breathlessly.
Harry did not reply to that and tried to avoid looking at the arm and leg he could see peeking out from under a large pile of rubble he had brought down with an explosion. He closed his eyes when they fell on another Deat Eater that was staring directly at him with his lifeless eyes wide open and a dagger burried deep into his chest. The raven shuddered.
He felt a little sick thinking about what he had done but for the moment he merely tried to get his own heavy breathing under control – without much success so far. His eyes zeroed in on the two Death Eaters still left. The two Death Eaters he could now clearly see standing in the room where Hermione was. And no, he had not suddenly gained the power to see through walls, the wall had merely crumbled during the heated fight that had taken place minutes before.
Harry's eyes narrowed as he realized two things at once: Only one of the two Death Eaters wore a mask. The other was wickedly grinning at him after the initial surprise of their appearance and vicious duel was over. And secondly, they both had their wands pointed at the unmoving form of his girlfriend.
"Greyback..." Harry growled still a little out of breath. He must have sounded as animalistic then as the cruel werewolf in front of him when transformed. "And..." He slowly stepped closer to them until there were merely two meters and a pile of rubble left between them.
He tilted his head to the right and looked closely at what he could see of the second man's face. "Surprise, surprise. You've climbed up the ladder pretty fast if you've already gotten the task of guarding an important prisoner."
Harry's cold expression turned into a mocking smile. "Avery Junior. Fancy seeing you here."
"H-how?!" stuttered the rather young Death Eater while Greyback simply continued grinning with his eyes occasionally flickering into Hermione's direction. "T-there were so many others... twenty of them just now! How... how did you get through?"
Harry growled slightly and stepped over the rubble his eyes firmly fixed on the ones behind the mask of the Junior Death Eater. "Unlike you, I don't spend my time groveling at someone's feet and licking their boots. I actually know how to get rid of insects like you."
Avery did not reply and a low rumble made Harry look at Greyback whose expression had changed to an annoyed scowl. "Potter..." he whispered, "I'm hurt... you only play with the cub and ignore the presence of the alpha?"
The raven-haired wizard stared at him. "Werewolf talk, huh? Just to let you know... if there were any other alpha around – save for me that is – I would've noticed."
Greyback snarled at him and just as he wanted to lunge at him, Tonks jumped out of nowhere and rammed her shoulder into the werewolf. The vicious Death Eater uttered a sound similar to a startled yelp while stumbling.
"C'mon little puppy," said Tonks mockingly. "Why not take on somebody your own size?"
Harry ignored the irony in those words (Tonks was roughly 5ft 7'' compared to his nearly 6ft 2'') and once more concentrated on Hermione when Greyback snarled once again and rushed after Tonks who had run to the other side of the large room.
"Get her out of here!" Tonks then called back without looking. "I'll keep Greyback away from you!"
"Be careful..." he mumbled despite knowing that she would not hear him when his focus went from Hermione to the other Death Eater in the room-
"And you!" he growled and the barely older than him wizard scrambled into the far corner of the room. "I've warned you, several times." if possible his voice got even colder. "D'you remember what I told you? What I'd do if I see you without the walls of Hogwarts and with that the law protecting you?"
"Avery!" he bellowed and the mask in the other's face exploded. "Ive made myself clear, didn't I?!"
He nearly jumped forward while the young man was busy holding his face in pain and grabbed him by the neck. "Several times! And now... what'll you do?"
"Y-you can't..." the Death Eater wheezed. "You'll be locked away in Azkaban if you kill me!"
Harry chuckled darkly and tightened his grip a little. Over Avery Junior's coughing he replied: "As if. Why would they put me into Azkaban for killing a Death Eater? A terrorist?" His voice lowered even more. "A terrorist who – despite several public warnings - inflicted harm upon a young woman under the protection of the Most Noble and Courageous House of Potter?"
Harry tilted his head a little and once more caught the struggling man's eyes. "If there's something positive in the wizarding world's old fashioned ways it's the fact that I'm allowed to take my revenge if somebody hurts what is precious to me... you know that, don't you?"
Suddenly Avery snarled: "She's just a low mudblood! The law is to protect the pure ones, not trash like her!"
The other wizard cried out when Harry threw him on the floor and placed one of his feet on the man's chest. "Listen carefully..." Harry said then in a now dangerously calm voice. "I'd love to rip you to pieces right now... slowly... limb by limb so that you can feel the pain before dying. But I'm not a cold-blooded murderer – not like you Death Eaters. You're not even two years older than me, yet you fight and kill for a madman who will throw you away once he doesn't need you anymore. I've given you more than one chance to stop, but you wouldn't listen."
"W-what're you on about?" the young man asked and groaned when Harry placed more pressure on his chest.
"I occasionally enjoy seeing people squirm, y'know?" he said as if he was talking about the weather. He saw every muscle tense in Avery's body when the man looked up at him with wide eyes and grinned down at him. "You should know the feeling; you do it with innocent after all." Harry shook his head and gave a mock-dramatic sigh. "However, sadly there's no time for a good torturing-session right now, as I have more important things to do."
He waved his wand and the paralyzed Death Eater was out like a light. With a click of his tongue, Harry turned away from him and for the first time closely eyed his girlfriend who was still sitting against the wall. One of the chains that had bound her to the wall was loose and he saw that she held her wand in one hand.
He took a deep breath and for a short moment let the exhaustion he felt take over. He stumbled to her side and with a heavy 'thud' his knees hit the floor in front of her. "Merlin I... god, M-mione..."
Hermione coughed a little when she averted her eyes from the still form of the unconscious Death Eater and looked up at him with bloodshot eyes. Despite her being in apparent pain, she gave him a tiny smile. "Harry... you idiot. I knew you'd come..."
"Oh, Mione..." Harry said, his voice barely above a whisper. He caressed both her cheeks with shaking hands while his eyes roamed over her body. Her clothes were torn but Harry thanked all the gods above that they were at least still there. "I'm... so sorry, I'm sorry it took so long!"
She gave him another tearful smile which in Harry's opinion only made the situation worse and threw her arms around him as soon as he had undone the chains. She clung to him for what seemed like eternity.
"No, don't be," she replied and you could hear the relief as well as exhaustion in her voice. "I... I'm fine... well not fine, but... okay, I guess."
Harry would have preferred not to let go of her ever again, but he shook his head and once more searched her face after his eyes fell on her ripped clothing for the second time. "You're really okay? I mean... they didn't... y'know... touch you?"
Hermione's eyes widened slightly and she quickly shook her head. Despite the seriousness of the situation she blushed slightly. "No... they didn't... not like that."
He sighed in relief and gave her a smile. Carefully tucking some of her hair behind her ear he took a handkerchief out of his pockets to get rid of at least a little blood coming from the gash on her brow.
His eyes were drawn to the wand clutched in her shaking hand. Surely, even Death Eaters were not that dumb? "They didn't take it from you?"
The brunette shook her head. "They did. Selwyn gave it b-back to me when he came... he also brought me a Pain-Reliever."
"We need to leave!," Tonks' voice suddenly screamed when a loud explosion rocketed the whole room.
Harry did not turn around immediately and looked at Hermione who was now trying to get to her feet. "I help her with Greyback and if we're lucky we can get out of here before more enemies arrive."
Hermione did not react to his words. She did not even look at him at all, but rather at something behind him. Harry's gut clenched when somewhere behind him someone chuckled mirthlessly.
"I doubt you will."
I hope you enjoyed the rather short chapter... it's a little rushed, I know... there are mistakes, I know. However, I simply did not want to let you wait longer. Please leave a Review. :-)
Shadow Phoenix of Slytherin