Chapter 23 : Deliverance
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Hermione stood, pressing her body against the wall, her insides quivering with fear. She could hear screams of anguish and angry yelling. The wind whistled through the barred windows, battering her body with ice, and she shivered, inching as close to the door as she dared. Footsteps sounded on the stairs outside and she drew back to her corner, her body tense, her mind screaming. Her eyes darted around in the gloom, looking once again for anything she could use as a weapon. The door flew open with a crash, and the noise from the fight below floated in, several decibels higher. Through the open door, Hermione saw a flash of blue light, and heard a terrible scream. She shuddered as Zabini entered the room, wild-eyed and in a rage. He slammed the door behind him and turned slowly towards her. He had his wand out, and Hermione gulped, certain he had come to kill her.
“Well, Mudblood. That must be some spell you have Malfoy under. Do you know how many of my Death Eaters are down there lying in a pool of their own blood?” he snarled, and Hermione swallowed, her mouth suddenly dry. Zabini’s eyes were alight with fanatical rage, and he stepped closer to her.
“It’s no spell,” Hermione said fiercely, trying to keep him talking for as long as she could. If she could keep him occupied, perhaps she could give Draco and the Order time to find her before her body was as cold and lifeless as the stones she rested upon. “What do you hope to achieve with all this, Blaise? Did you really think we would just stand by and let you pick up where Voldemort left off?” she asked quickly.
Zabini laughed callously, walking briskly towards her and she cowered back, dropping into a crouch, hiding her face against the wall. Hermione choked back a sob, feeling incredibly weak and useless. If only she had her wand …
“Your Order may not have much of a choice,” he said coldly, fingering his wand. Hermione lifted her face, expecting to see him looming over her, but he had retreated and leant casually against the far wall. “You see, I’m willing to make a deal.”
“What sort of deal?” Hermione asked, struggling to her feet, wiping her face. “What about the spell?”
Zabini smiled, twirling his wand in his long fingers, a smile on his thin lips. “They let me go, and they get you back, perhaps not in one piece, but by the time they find us, Malfoy, Potter, and the rest of them, will not be in a position to argue. Oh, and since you asked so nicely, there is no spell. There never was. You lot tried to set me up, but it looks like you failed.”
“What do you mean?” Hermione asked weakly, feeling her heart sink. Blaise grinned and stoked his wand.
“Severus Snape is dead. I saw him die, Mudblood, so that night in Knockturn Alley, I knew it could not have been him. I would never have thought it was Malfoy though – I always figured he was too much of a coward to do anything that would risk his Pure Blood skin. It was Pansy who filled in the blanks for me,” he laughed, shaking his head as if enjoying a good joke. “So you see, I tricked your Order, and you are nothing but the bait. You will bring Potter to me.”
“Harry will never do it! Draco will never do it!” she hissed, feeling totally drained of blood and energy, knowing her words were false even as she said them.
“Oh but they will. Your boyfriend would rather die than see you in my hands. I’m sure he’s the cause of the trouble down there. They would never have found me if not for my old friend,” Blaise replied, his eyes glinting with malice. Hermione swallowed.
“How do you know? Harry…”
“Malfoy’s the only one who would have been able to get Pansy to talk.”
Zabini laughed. “No, my little Mudblood, Malfoy would have pulled a few tricks of his own. You never forget how to be a Death Eater, Granger. Never. It will always be a part of him.”
Hermione shook her head resolutely, glaring at the man in front of her defiantly. He laughed coldly at the look on her face, striding towards her again, his wand held high. He grabbed her roughly, holding her close to his body, his eyes raking over her skin.
“Now,” Zabini hissed in her ear, his breath hot and sticky on her skin, “it’s time to start the bargaining.” Hermione cried out as he grabbed the back of her neck in a vice-like hold, propelling her towards the door. She was feeling sick with anxiety, blood roaring in her temples. With a flick of his wand, Zabini flung the door wide. Instantly the sound of battle assaulted their ears, and he laughed at the terrifying sound of people screaming. He pushed Hermione through the door, and she struggled in his grip, trying desperately to tear herself free as Blaise forced her down a small, tight set of stone stairs, taking them closer to the fighting. Hermione fought him in earnest, scrapping at his flesh with her nails, kicking and attempting to sink her teeth into any part of him she could reach. He shook her violently, causing her thoughts to rattle in her brain. Gasping, she hung limp against his strong body, feeling defeated.
They paused on a small landing, Zabini dragging Hermione to the edge, practically dangling her over the flimsy guardrail like a ragdoll. She screeched and clung to his arm, terrified he would drop her and she would smash to the ground below, as fragile as a china plate. He pulled her back against him, wrapping an arm around her waist. Hermione wept at the scene of devestation at her feet. Bodies lay strewn around like discarded toy soldiers. Blood was splattered over a wall, sprayed in an arch of death. From up high, she could not tell whom they belonged to, but she was certain the majority were Death Eaters. The yelling and screaming was growing louder, and she shut her eyes, hoping to shut out the pain and the terrifying reality of her situation. She was going to die. Zabini shook her again, snapping her out of her depression. Hermione twisted her neck so she could see his face. His eyes and lips shone with laviscious pleasure, and she cringed.
“Music to my ears, Mudblood. This is only the beginning,” he shouted, his deep voice ringing with triumph.
“Actually, it’s the end,” a smooth voice Hermione recognized spoke from the stairwell at their back, and Zabini turned quickly, spinning around so fast Hermione felt dizzy. His eyes widened as the tip of a wand pressed into his face, and she winced as his death grip on her neck tightened, his strong fingers bruising her skin. “Let her go.”
“Draco,” Hermione breathed, relief coursing through her body. Draco stood before them, his wand held high, the end digging into Zabini’s cheek. His face was like stone, his eyes as dark and dangerous as a rolling thunderstorm. A long gash ran the length of his cheek, blood trailing down his jaw and disappearing under the collar of his shirt.
“Hey darling,” he said, his eyes never leaving Zabini’s face, his hand held steady. Hermione felt a wild sob rise in her chest, but she beat it down, thinking fast. Zabini was holding her in front of him like a shield. He laughed, pulling her back tighter against him.
“Well, Malfoy, what are you going to do now? I know you would not kill your precious little Mudblood whore and as you can see …” He shook Hermione again as if to further illustrate his point. Draco’s eyes shifted briefly to Hermione’s face, and she shook her head.
Zabini laughed again, and Hermione felt an intense splash of anger flood her body. She dropped her eyes. His wand was dangling from his hand, his fingers curled tightly around it. She bit her lip, thinking hard. Whatever she did, she would have to be quick. The pressure on the back of her neck was increasing, and she had the distinct impression that Zabini could easily snap her spinal cord with his bare hands. Draco was talking, his voice low and urgent, but Hermione listened with only half an ear. She moved her foot experimentally, trying to gauge Zabini’s reaction, but he was so focused on Draco he didn’t seem to notice. Slowly, she moved her arm, her fingers stretching towards the Death Eater’s wand.
Hermione heard Draco curse, and Zabini suddenly threw back his head and laughed. Out of the corner of her eye, she watched Draco lower his wand. Dragged slightly off balance by her captors agitated movement, Hermione stumbled, her hand clawing around Zabini’s wrist. He tensed immediately, but she held on, reaching across her body, ignoring the incredible tension in her neck. With her other hand, Hermione ripped his wand from his fingers, tossing it to Draco, who caught it so quickly she did not see his hand move. Zabini roared in anger, dropping Hermione and lunging at Draco, his face fixed with rage. Draco raised both wands, pointing them directly at the other man’s face. Zabini halted, and Hermione quickly crawled out of the way, avoiding a kick aimed at her head.
Panting, she rubbed the back of her neck, sitting on the ground at Draco’s feet. Her eyes burnt with unshed tears, and she felt faint, her mouth dry with fear. Zabini glared at her murderously, before switching his gaze to Draco. He laughed again.
“Right where a Mudblood should be, Malfoy. At your feet. You’re a Pureblood. Start acting like one.”
Draco snarled, and Hermione climbed to her feet, standing up tall. Her whole body ached, but she stood and faced her tormentor with as much dignity as she could muster.
“I am going to kill you, Blaise,” Draco said, his voice as hard and flat. “And I am going to enjoy it.” Hermione gasped, shaking her head.
“Draco, the Vow. You can’t,” she whispered. If he uttered an Unforgivable Curse, he’d be dead in an instant. A scowl crossed his features, and he tightened his grip on both wands. Hermione looked at Zabini, at the man who had attempted to ruin her life, and the lives of everyone she loved in the world. At the man who had taunted her, hurt her, wanted to destroy her all because she was something he was not. At the man who wanted to bring chaos and destruction to the world once again. He would never repent. He would never willingly change the course of his life. No prision would hold him. She gritted her teeth. Taking a deep breath, she turned to Draco, reaching up and wrapping her fingers around Zabini’s wand, drawing it into her own hand, forcing him to let go. She had done it before, and she could do it again.
“But I can,” Hermione lifted the wand, and pointed it at Zabini. His dark eyes shifted to her face, full of a mixture of triumph and defiance. She heard Draco gasp, felt him turn towards her. Zabini smiled. Hermione gripped the wand tighter, lifting it a little higher. She hardened her heart. He was not human. She looked him in the eye.
The world spun in the darkness, pressure increasing with tremendous force. Hermione felt a scream descend on her lips. The bubble of pain broke, and she opened her eyes, panting and gasping for air. She heard voices and someone moving across the room. A hand squeezed her own, and automatically she squeezed back. Someone sobbed. A stark white room swam slowly into focus before her aching eyes. Faces pressed against the corners of her mind, dark and looming menacingly above her. Scared, she shrunk back into the pillow, her head twisting to one side. Fingers touched her cheek, moving gently into her hair. Her breathing slowed, and her eyes focused on the face of a man with pale blonde hair and sad grey eyes.
“Draco,” she whispered, her throat dry as paper. His fingers traced the line of her face and jaw, coming to rest on her lips. She smiled and kissed them, watching his stormy silver eyes cloud with tears, before he lent over and planted a loving kiss on her mouth.
“Hey darling,” he whispered back. “Thank Merlin, Hermione. I thought …” he gave a strangled sob, his head falling to rest against her chest, his body shaking. She stared at him for a long time, feeling like something inside her was about to burst. She lifted a weak arm and stretched across her body, bringing her hand to his hair, tangling her fingers in his silky locks. A tear slipped from her eye as he lifted his head, his face wet, staring at her intently. She smiled through her tears, and he lent over and swept her up in his arms, holding her against him, letting her sob her heart out on his chest, feeling his body tremble.
Hermione cried until she felt emptied, sitting back with a sniff. Draco kissed her again, smiling. “How long have I been here?” she asked, rubbing at her wet face.
“Two weeks, Hermione,” he replied softly, kissing her hand.
“Two weeks?” she whispered, shocked, and he nodded. “The others…”
“Are all fine. No lasting injuries. They were here, Harry, Ginny and Ron, just before. They’d still be out in the hall somewhere. Do you want me too …”
She shook her head. “No. Not yet. I just want to be with you,” she replied softly. “Draco, about Blaise…”
“Shhh. Don’t worry about it right now, okay? We can talk about it later,” he answered, his voice strained.
“I killed your friend, Draco,” she said sadly, dropping her eyes. “Maybe there was another way. I was just so incredibly angry, and I did not know what else to do. I did not want to die, and I did not want you to die, or Harry, Ron, anyone else. I’m so sorry,” Hermione said quickly, her words pouring out before she could stop them, tears filling her eyes as she watched a shadow float across Draco’s face. He shook his head.
“My friend died a long time ago, Hermione. You did the right thing,” he said firmly, looking into her eyes intently, until she nodded.
“The Ministry will want to talk to me no doubt,” she said in a quiet voice. Draco smirked slyly.
“The Ministry doesn’t know all of the details. As I was the only witness, I kind of … left a few things out,” he whispered secretively. Hermione gaped at him, and he sighed, correctly interpreting the look in her eyes. “In my opinion you deserve a medal, not a prision sentence. Forget the Ministry, Hermione. Harry agrees with what I did,” he replied.
“You told Harry? Oh God,” she cried, burying her face in her hands.
“Yes. He arrived not long after you … you’d fainted, Zabini was dead, his wand was still in your hand, I’m certain Harry knows about the Vow, so if I was still alive … he’s not stupid,” Draco replied matter-of-factly, sounding like that small admission of Harry’s intelligence was hard for him to say. Hermione shook her head, dazed. Draco grinned mischievously, kissing her passionately, taking advantage of her weakened and confused state.
“Draco,” Hermione groaned, pulling away from him. She sat and stared at him, her eyes traveling over every inch of his face. She had been certain she would never see him again. He shifted, looking uncomfortable under her scrutiny.
“What?” he asked gently, and she smiled, shaking her head slightly.
“Nothing. Just admiring. Do you know when I can leave? We have a house to find. A normal life, remember?”
He pulled back, looking at her so absorbedly Hermione suddenly felt nervous, her mouth drying up as fear and apprehension raced through her body. She swallowed. “You do still want to live with me, don’t you?” she asked in a small voice.
“That’s not enough anymore. I’ve changed my mind,” he replied, taking her hand, his face grave and sorrowful. Hermione frowned, her stomach in knots, her chest constricting. Draco lifted her hand, bringing it to his lips, kissing it gently, his mouth warm and comforting against her skin.
“I want to marry you.”
Only an epilogue to go!! Hope you liked this chapter and sorry if it seemed a little short.
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