Hermione Granger stood with her hands on her hips and surveyed the empty road as well as the barren surrounding landscape. They had finally arrived at the location where the van had last been reported before they had lost track of it, only to find nothing to indicate what happened to it. The only sound was the wind rustling across the rugged landscape as she turned her eyes down, towards the dirt road itself, to examine the tracks. "This doesn't make any sense," she mused aloud, more to herself than to the MIB agent with her.
"Vans don't just disappear," Smith added with a nod of agreement. "They could have vanished it I suppose," he offered hesitantly as he tried to puzzle out the strange disappearance of the vehicle. The fact that neither magical nor non-magical tracking could locate the missing member of his team had the wizard more than a little perplexed as well as worried.
"That wouldn't account for why we can't trace Harry," Hermione countered with. "If it was just that, then we'd still be able to locate him via your tracking device, at the very least." The brunette witch chewed the inside of her lip as she walked a short ways further down the road to see if the tracks reappeared, though she was already fairly certain that they wouldn't. Finding nothing, she retraced her steps till she was once more beside the SUV.
"A fidelius?" Smith queried, having just returned from inspecting the shoulder of the road for any clues, without much luck.
"Possibly," Hermione replied slowly, fearful of getting her hopes up. If it is a fidelius then Harry could be close by. "What else would cause your tracking device to stop functioning?"
Smith thought for a long moment before responding; "Only two things I can think of. If Angel was close enough to a concentrated amount of magic, that might short out the device."
Hermione nodded in understanding. Nothing electrical would ever function at Hogwarts due to the concentrated amount of magical energy there. Nothing like a thousand years' worth of students firing off spells to super charge an entire castle. "What's the other thing?" she asked, looking over at the agent, across the front hood of the SUV.
Smith paused for a brief moment before replying. "If Angel is dead, as the device works off the electrical energy generated by his body, the device would cease to function if he does."
Hermione swallowed heavily having already feared that would be the response. "Let us hope it is the former and not the latter of the two then," she replied before releasing a heavy sigh.
"It could still be a fidelius," Smith said in an attempt to offer the witch a modicum of hope. "Were there any houses or buildings around here before?" he asked as he glanced about the empty landscape.
"I'm not sure," Hermione replied thoughtfully. "I'm not familiar with this area actually. It's close to tribal lands so we typically seldom have to come out this way."
"What about property records or satellite imagery we could review?" Smith asked, trying to figure out how they could gather the required information. Every hour that Angel was missing the chances of his survival dwindled.
Hermione snorted humorously. "Satellite imagery is limited to whatever you can find on-line, like Google maps. The Australian government doesn't have the funding to have their own satellite. As for the records, we can check when we get back to the office." The witches tone clearly indicated that she didn't hold much faith in finding anything.
Smith nodded once in understanding. "Can you apparate us back to your offices? We can just leave the SUV here," he suggested in an effort to save time. Hermione simply gave a nod before walking around the vehicle and offering her arm to him. Smith felt the all too familiar sensation of being sucked through a rubber straw before reappearing within the apparition room at the Ministry of Magic building in downtown Sydney. "I don't think I'll ever get used to that," Smith said, his displeasure evident in his tone.
"Harry always hated to travel that way as well," Hermione replied with a sympathetic smile. "Actually he didn't have much stomach for any means of magical travel other than a broom back when we were at Hogwarts," Hermione informed Smith of as she lead him from the room and headed towards the TASS offices.
"Perhaps that's why I've never seen him apparate or floo before," Smith said as they hurried down the hall and then up a flight of stairs to the second floor. "I don't think I've even seen him use a portkey, now that I think about it."
"With the way he can just disappear in a blink of an eye why would he use any other method?" Hermione asked rhetorically as she pushed open the doors to the TASS office. "Jess, give me some good news!" Hermione called out upon spotting the blonde witch.
"I wish I had some to give you," Jess replied with a sorrowful look as she turned to face her boss. "We're doing a wide area scan with as much detail as we can muster without dragging out the time it takes to do it," the surveillance witch explained. "Willis thought he caught a blip from that tracking device of theirs a while ago, but it couldn't have been."
"Why not?" Hermione quickly asked.
The blonde witch strode over to a large map that was upon the wall that showed the entire continent of Australia. The map was cut up in different colored areas to represent which areas were controlled by the various Magical Law Enforcement offices located throughout the country. "If his instruments were correct then it showed right about here," Jess said as she placed the tip of a slim finger well within a red area of the map. "It was only for a second, but as you can see it must have been a false reading or glitch in the instruments."
"I see what you mean," Hermione conceded.
Smith cleared his throat, "Care to explain for those of us not from these parts?"
"Those are tribal lands," Hermione replied. "They police their own lands and don't take kindly to strangers." Seeing the questioning look upon the MIB agent's face she continued to explain. "They prefer to curse first, ask questions later."
"If there's anything left to ask that is," Jess added. The Aborigines were the only real law upon their lands and they defended what was theirs with a savagery that was astonishing to witness. There were countless tales of people wondering into the lands owned by the tribes, only to never be seen again. "There's no way anyone could get that deep into their lands and still be alive," Jess explained to substantiate her claim that the blip was false.
Smith stepped up close to the map and regarded it. The MIB agent accepted their explanation as they were local experts. "What's this area here?" he asked, tapping a small black area deep within the red area on the map.
Hermione glanced at where he was pointing before replying, "Dead space. Nothing works there. Not magic, not even electricity. Nothing will grow there either. Even the Aborigines shun the place, and with good cause."
"Why would that be, Inspector?" Willis asked as he joined the three of them at the map.
"According to the locals there was once a magical battle that took place there several thousand years ago. According to the legends, the battle raged back and forth for several years with neither side winning in the end. It's said that so much magic was used that is scared the land, preventing magic from ever being used there again," Hermione said, telling them the same story she had been told by a tribal elder several years back.
"Really?" Willis asked skeptically.
Hermione shrugged slightly, "I can't vouch for the legend but I can tell you that place can drive you insane if you're not careful. As part of our training we have to go there and become attuned to the place," she told them. "For those of us who are witches and wizards, the pain itself will drive you nutters if you're not careful. It took me two weeks before I could even think straight. Think of the worse headache you've ever had and then multiple it by a hundred, no a thousand times."
"I get a migraine just thinking about the place," Jess quipped with a slight shudder at the memory of the last time she had been there.
"We have an agreement with the local tribes," Hermione continued with after a nod of agreement with Jess' words, "that allows us access to the site several times a year. Most of that is so that we can take new members and get them accustomed to the sensation of being there. The rest of us are required to return there at least once a year to desensitize ourselves to the area."
"If it's as painful as you say it is why would you do that?" Willis enquired in a disbelieving tone of voice.
"While it is true that the tribes are allowed to police their own lands, Magical Law Enforcement is still responsible for the entire continent. Which includes the lands held by the Aborigines. The Dead area doesn't seem to affect the non-magicals," she continued to explain. "If we have to go in there after someone we need to be able to deal with the problems that area cause."
"Thanks for the education, Inspector," Smith said. "We don't have anything like that in the States but I have heard of something similar in South America."
Willis brought out a folder he had in his hand behind his back and passed it to his partner. "They sent what sat images they had of the area," he explained as Smith opened the folder and started looking through it. "I glanced at them already and didn't see anything," he told all three of them upon seeing the hopeful look upon the two witches' faces.
"Jess, can you send a few people down to the records office?" Hermione asked. "We need to see if there are any property records for the area where the van disappeared."
Jess gowned audibly. "You do realize that it is highly doubtful that they will be computerized if there are any, right?"
"Then the sooner you get them here the sooner we can start going through them," Hermione replied matter-of-factly.
The day passed through the morning and well into the afternoon with every free hand digging through records. Property records were not managed by area but rather by years so they had to go through each and every record to find ones for the area in question. Once they had located the property owners they then discovered that the files only showed who the property owners were and neglected to provide any details concerning if something was built on the land of not. It took another trip to the hall of records and going through countless building permits before they determined that all the buildings and residences in the area were still there.
"Well, so much for thinking it was a fidelius," Hermione said with a weary sigh as she tossed the last record down onto the table that was already covered with countless others she had gone through.
"What else could it be?" Smith asked as he tossed the report he was holding onto the table as well. The MIB agent rubbed his tired eyes before continuing. "For all we know they may have very well pitched a tent and placed the fidelius upon that."
"Is that even possible?" Jess asked curiously.
"We don't know," Hermione said as she got to her feet and walked over to the map on the wall. There was now a growing circle of yellow spreading outward from the last known location of the van. This represented the area they had scanned magically so far. "If it is a fidelius, we'll never find it."
"Why take Angel?" Willis asked into the ensuing silence.
"My guess would be that Davis wants to settle an old score," Hermione offered in way of answer. "He was the one who took out Davis' former master."
"Speaking of Davis," Jess spoke up, "no one has seen him since the safe house incident. Do we have any leads as to where he might be? Maybe we could put a trace on him and let him lead us to Angel?"
"Wherever he is, he's keeping a low profile," Smith answered. "I think maybe Angel surprised him at that safe house and he's gone into hiding to save his own skin."
"He'll turn up," Willis quipped. "The bad ones always do," he added, earning a humorous snort from the blonde witch seated next to him.
Hermione only half listened to the conversation as her eyes were firmly affixed to the map in front of her. Why were they heading west? She asked herself not for the first time. There has to be some reason why they took that particular road. Absently the brilliant witch lifted one finger and followed the roads path till it ended where a river had apparently changed course and washed out the dirt road. As the road was unpaved and very old, nothing had been done to restore the road. With the addition of the modernized highways the road was all but forgotten.
The fingertip tapped the spot on the map where the river and road merged. If memory serves me correctly, the water source for that river was dammed and its course was changed to flow along the newly built aqueduct that provides irrigation to the fertile farm lands to the north of there. It took some major convincing to get the tribes to allow the dam construction on their lands. Tracing the dry river bed's course she saw that it made its way into tribal land, ending right at the edge of the area known as the dead zone. It was right near here that Willis believed they received a blip from Harry's tacking device to. It can't be coincidence!
The yellow circle had reached the edge of the land controlled by the Aborigines, where it stopped. It was considered extremely rude to scan their lands without their permission. Though the circle continued to expand in all other directions it made no move to encroach into the red areas of the map. If I wanted a place where I knew no one would be able to locate me and I was certain that no one living nearby would go that would be it, she thought to herself as she tapped the black area on the map.
Inspector Granger turned away from the map and leaned back against it as she contemplated her options. It will take several days to get tribal approval for crossing their land, she silently mused, days Harry isn't likely to have. The thought that Harry might actually meet his demise at the hands of a former Death Eater caused her chest to hurt. In the end it wasn't really all that difficult decision for her to make.
"Jess, keep scanning and let me know if you find anything out of the ordinary," Hermione said, pushing herself off the wall and heading for the door. "Anything at all."
"Where are you heading?" Jess asked, finding it strange that the witch would leave while they were right in the middle of trying to locate MIB's missing Hit Wizard.
"I have a few things I want to check out," Hermione tossed back over her shoulder. "It shouldn't take me more than an hour or two. Call my cell if you find anything," she said just before she stepped through the doors and was gone.
Hermione quickly made her way to the Magical Law Enforcement apparition room. A short moment later and a loud crack saw her reappearing within the bedroom of her flat. Wasting no time the witch hurried to her closet and threw open the doors before crouching down to retrieve a briefcase from the back corner. Setting the case aside for the moment she quickly stripped down to nothing only to remove a black outfit from a drawer and pull it on with practiced ease.
The one-piece jumpsuit was form fitting, appearing more like a second skin rather than regular clothing. Jess had once commented that it made her look extremely Hot! The flat black material it was comprised of would help conceal her as she made her way into the dead zone. Though the suit was not magical, it was made of a special material developed by the military that should offer some protection from physical blows and other mundane weapons.
Pulling up the zipper which ran up the front of the special suit, Hermione reached down and lifted the case from the floor only to set it upon the bed and open it. Nestled within the case were several brace of throwing knives and a twin set of Glock 22's. Not for the first time did she give thanks for the specialized training all TASS members went through.
Normal Law Enforcement were all given the rudiments of hand to hand combat and fire arm training. TASS members were given considerably more as they were often expected to infiltrate areas that placed them at considerable risk. Most witches and wizards don't expect to be physically assaulted, she mused silently to herself as she fastened on a brace of balanced knives. Each blade was razor sharp and flat black in color so there would be no glint of light off the metal.
The unmistakable crack of an apparition suddenly sounded out in the living room. In a blink of an eye Hermione drew a Glock, rammed home the magazine and loaded a round into the chamber. Keeping the gun aimed at the door to her bedroom the witch waited to see if she could hear anything.
"Granger!" called an unmistakable voice from the other room. "I know you're in there so don't shoot me when I open the door."
Hermione never lowered her firearm as the door opened slowly and a head with a mass of blonde hair peeked around it. "Give me one good reason why I shouldn't just shoot you now, Jess?"
"Cause you'd miss me," the blonde witch replied with a smirk as she pushed open the door the rest of the way with the case in her hand.
Hermione glance down at the case her friend had, a case that was identical to the one on her bed, and inwardly groaned. "I didn't say I would kill you," she finally said as the corners of her mouth hiked up into a grin.
"You'd feel bad about it afterwards," Jess said as she moved to the bed and set her case next to Hermione's. "Besides you know you need my help," the buxom blonde said as she started to strip her clothes off. "Who else are you going to trust to cover your bum?"
"You don't even know where I'm heading," Hermione stated as she eased the hammer down and thumbed the safety on before setting the gun on the bed next to her case.
"True," Jess confessed as she shed the last of her clothing and started to pull on her suit which matched the one Hermione wore. "The way I figure it, you wouldn't be going if you didn't have a good reason to go." The blonde witch slipped in both arms and then worked at tucking her chest into the stretching material. "That's a good enough reason for me," she said, glancing up only to grin at catching her boss ogling at her abundant chest. "See something you like?" Jess snickered.
"Maybe," Hermione replied as she shrugged into the twin shoulder holsters, feeling her cheeks warm into a blush at having been caught staring. "Damn, I need to find Harry," she said under her breath but apparently not nearly quiet enough.
"Harry?" Jess enquired as she strapped on a brace of knives. "Who's Harry? Don't tell me I have competition now?" she asked as the grin grew on her face.
"Harry Potter," Hermione said with a slight sigh.
"The-Boy-Who-Lived? What's he got to do with this?" Jess asked, recalling that Hermione knew the Wizarding world's number one hero. "Didn't you have a thing for him back in England?"
Hermione snorted as she holstered the gun from the bed and reached down to inspect and load the other one. "I think all the witches in England had a thing for him."
"Yeah but not all of them got to go to school with him," Jess said with a slight chuckle as she loaded her first firearm and thumbed the safety before holstering it. "Still, what does this all have to do with your Harry?" The blonde witch just grinned all the more at the glare Hermione sent her way.
"Archangel is Harry," Hermione finally said, deciding to tell her. She knows about my parents, she reasoned to herself. If I can trust her with that then I might as well trust her with this as well. Hermione also realized that Jess was risking her life by coming with her and felt that she owed her the truth at the very least.
Jess paused, regarding her for a long moment to see if her friend was trying to have a go at her. "You're serious?" she asked to which Hermione simply nodded once. "Well then we just have to go and find him," Jess said after a moment's pause. Seeing the questioning look from Hermione she explained. "I hear gratuitous sex after a life threatening situations is mind blowing and if anyone needs that you do, Granger!"
"JESS!" Hermione gasped in embarrassed astonishment at the crassness of her friend even as her face suddenly felt like it was on fire. The heat in her face only increased as her mind suddenly provided images of what Jess had given voice to. The witch couldn't stop the pleasurable shiver that traversed her spine and was all that certain that she wanted to stop it.
The blonde witch in question merely grinned at her friend's discomfort. It was apparent from the scarlet tinged checks on Hermione's face that her guess hadn't been far off the mark. She really does need to get laid! "So what's the game plan for getting Lover Boy back?" Jess asked as she checked a knife before slipping it into a sheath that ran horizontal across the small of her back.
Hermione didn't know if she should glare at her friend or grin with her. Forcing her thoughts off of Jess's suggestive topic and a certain raven haired wizard, she laid out the plan. "I'll apparate us to where we lost contact with the van. From there we'll take brooms along the road till it intersects the riverbed. Once there we'll follow it till it ends near the dead zone. From there on it's on foot as we don't know if they'll have sentries."
"Given that they don't believe anyone will be showing up it would be doubtful that they will," Jess said only to quickly add, "but better safe than sorry." Though the blonde witch detested the dead zone she wasn't overly surprised that was their ultimate destination. It made perfect sense after all.
Hermione nodded in agreement. "We also don't know how many members might be there. Don't go taking any unnecessary chances, Jess," Hermione cautioned. "We get in, find Harry, and get out."
"No more risks than you, Boss," Jess smirked, only to grin wickedly. "Let's go fetch your Angel back so you can get some mind blowing sex!"
The sound of the door to his room being opened awoke Harry from the half doze he had fallen into. He had learned long ago that if there was nothing to be done then his time was best spent conserving his strength and resting while he could. In his line of work it was usually one second to the next when all hell broke loose. The fact that the room was nearly dark told the hit wizard that many hours had passed since he had been left alone and it was nearing night outside.
Three men entered the small room. Two of them roughly dragged Harry to his feet while the third held up a lit torch to shed light into the room so that the others could see what they were doing. "Bloody heel Bernard did a number on him," the man with the torch gasped upon seeing the state of Harry's face in the flickering torch light.
"Not our problem," one of the other men replied. "He'll have to answer to Davis when he gets here," the man added with a dismissing shrug of one shoulder.
Without further discussion the two men carried, half dragged, Harry from the room. The man with the torched walked in front, leading the way, as they left the building and crossed an open expanse of ground. Harry feigned semi-consciousness, allowing his head to wag about so that he could get a better view of where they were going.
The four of them soon entered a cave that was located in the side of a cliff. The smooth stone floor of the cave descended gradually. As they traversed the underground tunnel Harry took note that there were other passageways that seemed to branch off the main one though they were all pitch black in the brief flickering light of the single torch as it passed.
It was difficult to tell time underground but it seemed sooner rather than longer to Harry when they emerged from the tunnel into a wide carven that was roughly circular in nature. There were several braziers stationed about the circumference of the room, each adding a modicum of light and heat to the stone room. Standing there in the middle of the room with a grin on his face was Bernard.
"Put him in the chair," Bernard ordered the two men carrying Harry, as he gestured to the wooden chair that was situated in the center of the room. Harry soon found himself seated in the chair with ropes tying him to the chair around each leg as well as around his chest. The metal cuffs on his wrists prevented them from securing his arms to the arms of the chair as the chain between the cuffs wasn't long enough. As the cuffs were transfigured to be without seams, there was no way to remove them without the use of magic so they settled for securing him as best they could.
Bernard roughly grasped the hair on the top of Harry's head and yanked it backwards to force the hit wizard to look up at him. "Now that the trap has been properly baited all we need do is sit back and wait for the annoying fly to get caught in it," the SOS member said with a malicious chuckle. "Hopefully she won't keep us waiting long so we can have some fun with her before Davis gets here to kill the two of you!"
Harry tried to speak but couldn't at first. Running his tongue over his swollen lips, he swallowed once heavily before trying once again. "Who?" was all the injured wizard finally managed to get out.
Bernard gave a short chuckle upon seeing the state Harry was in. "That filthy mudblood bitch of a witch of yours, Granger," he told Harry.
"Don't you touch her!" Harry managed to spit out vehemently past his busted lips, his one emerald eye glaring dangerously with a promise of a slow unpleasant death.
"Oh, I plan on doing a great deal more than just touching her, mate," Bernard replied with a lecherous grin. "That's before Davis kills the both of you of course. Would be a shame to let a nice bird like that go to waste and all." Harry struggled against the ropes but to no avail as the SOS member took a bit of cloth from a pocket and gaged him with it. "Maybe I can talk Davis into just wiping her mind and letting me keep Granger around as a play thing for me and the boys," Bernard said as a parting shot as he walked away, his loud laughter echoing in the cavern.
Time seemed to slow, marked only by the flickering of the flames spaced about the room. Harry was uncertain of just how long he had been sitting tied to the chair when suddenly he realized that he was no longer alone in the room. The trained hit wizard's eye scanned the outer edges of the room where there were plenty of places still covered by shadows. While the burning braziers did an adequate job of lighting the immediate area around the center of the room, there was still a great deal of area around the outer edge that was cast in darkness or at the very least heavy shadows.
She doesn't realize that it's a trap, Harry thought angrily to himself, believing the presence he felt had to be Hermione. Desperately he tried to wiggle first one shoulder up and then the other in an effort to get free of the ropes, but whoever tied the rope had known what they were doing. Harry tried to yell that it was a trap but the gag effectively prevented anything remotely coherent from coming out of his mouth.
Several long minutes passed with nothing happening and then suddenly one by one the braziers started toppling over. The manner in which they did this was very random so it was impossible to tell how it was being done by Harry. In a matter of a minute or two they had all spilled their hot embers across the floor, plunging the room into near darkness.
Harry stiffened in the chair as he felt the presence of someone behind him. Before he could do much more than that the ropes tied around his chest loosened and then fell away into his lap. Quickly the hit wizard reached up and tugged the gag free of him mouth. "It's a trap," he hissed to the person behind him even as he felt the ropes come free around one leg.
"Of course it is," answered the soft whisper of Hermione's voice next to his ear.
Relief flooded through Harry's body for a moment, nearly causing him to lose control of his thoughts that were holding the pain at bay. In the ensuing silence there was the unmistakable sound of metal against rock. "Close your eyes!" Harry yelled, guessing what the noise was even without seeing it. There was a bright light and a concussion of sound as the flash grenade went off barely a few meters from them.
The explosion of sound caught Hermione unprepared and knocked her from her feet as her equilibrium was disrupted. Even with her eyes closed tightly, thanks to Harry's timely warning, the bright flash of light was enough to momentarily blind the witch. When she opened her eyes once again it was only to see spots and the vague shape of someone towering over her.
"Collect our prize boys," Harry heard Bernard call from the left side of the cavern. Seeing a man to his right, leaning down towards a prone figure on the floor, Harry kicked out with his freed leg. The hit wizard's foot caught the man on the side of the knee, forcing the knee sideways till there was the audible sound of snapping cartilage and bones. The injured man dropped to the cavern floor with a howl of pain that echoed throughout the room.
Sensing other forms charging them, Harry kicked out with his leg that was still tied to the wooden chair. The chair connected with one assailant, the wooden chair breaking and falling away nosily as the attacker crumbled to the floor. Losing little time, Harry shook the ropes free from his leg and turned to face the charging men.
Hermione shook her head to clear away the spots as well as the ringing in her ears and staggered to her feet even as Harry dropped the second assailant. In the dim lighting given off by the spilled braziers she could make out numerous figures running towards them from the rear of the room.
"Are you alright?" Harry asked Hermione as he quickly bent down and snapped the neck of the man he had hit with the chair.
"I'll survive," Hermione assured him as her hands became a blur, slipping knives that were strapped to her chest into each hand and hurling them at the advancing shapes. There were several gasps of pain and cries of alarm as figures fell to the cold ground. "You?"
"I've had worse," Harry replied just before engaging the first figure to reach them. The next several minutes were a crazy dance of hand to hand combat. There enemies were greater in numbers with several of them armed with wicked looking blades. Both Hermione and Harry danced about inflicting damage on their attackers as they passed. As it was just the two of them they had the distinct advantage because the men attacking them had to be careful of not hitting their own people.
Hermione, drew both Glocks and fired off several rounds into the masses before they split apart, making it hard to hit a target. A sharp blow to one hand caused her to lose her grip on the gun, the sound of it clattering to the floor was lost amidst the grunts and groans of the combatants. The former Hogwarts student managed to get off a few more shots before the other gun was knocked from her grasp as well.
The close quarter fighting didn't allow the TASS member to reach for her other weapons, her throwing knives. Hermione was also fearful of hitting Harry as the two of them had become separated as they dodged and dance around their attackers. The last thing she wanted to do was accidently hit him with one of her blades. As she spun about she had to limit her attacks to kicks and jabs that none the less staggered back her opponents. A meaty fist unexpectedly caught her on the side of the head, knocking her to the floor painfully where she lay for a moment trying to regain her breath.
"Not so tough now are you, Granger?" Bernard spat out as he towered over the downed witch, a captured Glock in his hand pointed at her chest. "You're going to be a fun one when we-" The burly man suddenly crumpled to the floor, his eyes rolling up into the back of his head.
"You talk too much," Harry spat as he lowered his hand, the metal cuff around his wrist glinting once as it caught the dim lighting for a brief moment. At some point in their struggle the chain between the cuffs on Harry's arm had apparently been severed. The metal guards were proving to be very effective weapons which the trained hit wizard didn't hesitate to utilize. Just as quickly the dark-haired wizard was off again and engaging another attacker.
Hermione quickly got to her feet and watched mesmerized as Harry engaged five people at once. The man she watched held little resemblance to the small, under fed boy she knew from Hogwarts. Harry's body seemed to flow like water as he twisted and turned, deflecting punches and kicks as if it were nothing at all. Within a matter of moments three of those arrayed against him were down and out for the count.
Harry stepped forward into the swing of the man before him, the attackers arm bouncing harmlessly off his shoulder. In a single smooth motion Harry jammed his fist into the man's throat and felt the windpipe crumple under the force of the blow. The follow up blow to the man's chest drove what little air left in the attacker's lung forcibly out. Before the body had even begun to fall the hit wizard had already turned and deflected the other assailants' punch that had been aimed at the exposed backside of his head.
There was a sudden blinding flash of red light as the cavern was showered in light from two flares that came skidding across the cavern floor. Squinting against the near blinding light after the darkness, Harry made out a figure at the mouth of the cave. Davis! his mind told him in an instant. Even as he watched Harry saw the man raise a gun and point it off to the side. A quick glance told Harry that Hermione was the intended target. Harry tried to shift himself to where she was but it was like trying to push himself through a rock wall.
Hermione watched as Harry downed the fourth man and then a suddenly explosion of light nearly blinded her. Time seemed to freeze for a long moment before proceeding with agonizing lowness. The witch turned and saw someone at the entrance to the tunnel, which she recognized as Trent Davis. In horrified fascination she watched as Davis raised a gun in slow motion and pointed it at her. The retort of the weapon as it discharged seemed to echo like thunder within the cavern. The blinding flash of muzzle fire certainly signaling her death she feared.
All of a sudden Harry was there in front of her and staggering into her. Hermione struggled to keep the hit wizard from causing them both to fall to the floor. The wizard's body seemed to twitch or jerk several times as she tried to steady the two of them. A sharp burning pain suddenly exploded in her side telling her that at least one of the bullets from Davis' gun had found its target.
Time, still moving at an incredibly slow pace, allowed her to feel Harry reach around her to the small of her back and slip free the throwing knife located there. In what could only be described a well-practiced move, her best friend pivoted and threw the stolen knife. There was no telltale flicker off the blade as it flew across the distance and embedded itself in the left eye of Trent Davis. With a look of puzzlement on his face the former Death Eater fell backwards, the gun slipping from his already dead fingers. Time suddenly seemed to return to its normal pace as the remaining SOS members fled into the night
Hermione reached down and touched her side, gasping in pain as her fingers brushed across the gunshot wound. "That was almost anti-climactic," she offered as she looked down at her side only to see a blood stain slowly spreading across the black material. The bullet had apparently lodged itself into a meatier part of her side instead if hitting anything vital. The young witch glanced up at Harry when there was no immediate response only to see her friend drop to his knees and topple over in a heap upon the cavern floor.
"Harry!" Hermione screamed, as she stepped forward and dropped to her knees beside the downed wizard. Grabbing the man, she rolled him over onto his back, her hands coming away covered in a warm sticky substance she knew right away to be blood. Ripping the wizard's shirt open she saw a bloody hole that bubbled with each ragged breath the man took. Vaguely her mind registered the fact that the bullet that had hit her had first traveled through Harry to get to her, passing through his lung in the process. A quick search of the remainder of Harry's person revealed several more bullet holes in his back. When he stumbled it must have been the impact of the bullets hitting him, she thought as she rolled Harry onto his back once again.
"I must be in heaven," Harry mumbled as he looked up at Hermione, "Certainly this is what an Angel looks like," he added with a wane smile before coughing due to the effort it cost him to speak.
"Quiet you," Hermione admonished as she reached forward and wiped away the flecks of blood from his lips that had appear during the coughing fit. "Save your energy, Harry. We'll get you out of here and patched up as good as new," she told him in a shaky voice as the wound in his chest wheezed with each shallow breath.
"But then again you've always been my Guardian Angel," Harry continued as if he hadn't heard a word she had said. "You've always been there when I needed you most," he stated only to start coughing once again. "I would never have been able to survive Voldemort if it weren't for you," he added in a softer voice once he stopped coughing.
"Harry, I'm going to have to drag you out of here," Hermione told him, not really paying attention to what the wizard was rambling about. Standing, the witch stepped around the wizard till she was standing near his head. Reaching down she tucked a hand under each arm prepared to drag him from the chamber to a point where she could apparate them to St. Bernadette's hospital.
"That's one of the things I've always loved about you, Hermione. You never gave up. Not on me or on the fight with Voldemort," Harry breathed in a raspy voice. "I only wish I could have told you then how much you mean to me, how much I love you," Harry managed to get out before he coughed again, a shower of blood and spittle spraying forth.
"You can tell me later, Harry," Hermione told him as she lifted the wizard and started to drag him from the chamber. A glance down showed her that he had never heard her words; his eyes were open but rolled back into his head. The wound in her side screamed with every movement and she could feel her own blood slowly leaking from it to trickle down her side and leg. Pushing everything aside she continued to struggle on. Hermione knew, no matter what, she wasn't about give up on Harry now.
My apologies for not getting chapters out sooner than this. Life does not always allow us to do what we want to do. Sometimes we have to do what we have to do. The joys of adulthood I guess. I can only hope that it won't take as long for the next chapter.
I hope that at least a few of you are still interested in the story and will bother to read, or even better yet, review! Either way, I do hope you enjoy the story!
All characters within this story, unless otherwise stated are the sole property of J. K. Rowling the original writer of the Harry Potter series.