A cold shot of air passed through the room as the name Eli had just mentioned still echoed within the walls.
“How is that possible?”
“I underestimated him,” Eli said, his voice had become calmer but he spoke with speed. “He lied to you in his letter. There is no way he could have made it here from France within a few hours.”
“No surprise there,” Malfoy retorted. “How do you know he’s here though? Are they at the gates?”
Eli shook his head and reached into his dark pocket, producing a thin piece of parchment which he handed to Draco.
“Parker reported it?” he asked.
“I told him to keep a closer eye; I even doubled his commission. Master Malfoy, what do you suggest we do?”
“How long till they get here?” Malfoy asked.
“An hour or so,” Eli replied without pause. “And that is, if they make good time which I cannot guarantee.”
“How many of them are there?”
“The letter says five, including Lestrange himself.”
Draco’s eyes stood frozen on the cold, frosted glass window but his mind sped through hundreds of possible options that he had. The stunned silence in the room only clouded his mind further until a faint stirring from the bed grabbed his attention.
“Pansy,” he whispered to himself.
Immediately, he rushed towards her and stirred her quickly. “Pansy, get up,” he said hurriedly.
The weary woman opened her fatigued eyes and glanced at Draco with a confused expression. “What’s wrong?”
Draco had already left her side and reached into his drawer to grab a huge black set of robes. “Change into these,” he said, throwing them on the bed. “Hurry!”
“What’s wrong, Draco?”
“Lestrange is on his way here,” Draco replied quickly. “You need to get out of here. Eli will send you in the carriage.”
Pansy didn’t move as her eyes flooded with fear. “I told you this would happen!” she said. Her breath began to race.
“It’s fine – once you leave the grounds, Lestrange won’t ever know you were involved and you’ll be clear.”
Pansy sat upright and her brown eyes were even more confused. “Leave? Where am I going?”
Draco sighed. “Home… the Ministry… anywhere!”
To his disbelief, Pansy got up and laughed slowly. “I’m not going anywhere. We said we’d do this together.”
“No…absolutely not! Out of the question!” Draco shot back. “I know I said that but we’re not prepared enough…”
“I don’t care! You’re not the only one who lost something in this war!” Pansy cried. “I want my revenge.”
“I understand…” Draco said exasperatedly. “But-”
“If you understand, then the matter is settled. You stay, I stay.” Pansy’s hardened expression softened as she put her hand against Draco’s cold, pale cheek. “Don’t try to do things by yourself… life is always better when someone’s by your side.”
Pansy’s words struck Draco like an arrow in his chest as the faint cries of Hermione Granger entered his mind. Her persistent voice had been pleading so adamantly to help him that her words had been ingrained into his memory.
Let me help you!
“What do we need to do?” Pansy asked.
Draco sighed. “Eli’s resealing some of the charms to buy us some time but there’s five of them so I don’t know what more time will do.”
“We have the element of surprise,” Eli offered.
“I can probably take three of them but no more…” Draco pondered. “Pansy, you could take one?”
“Of course,” she said, twirling her wand in her fingers darkly.
“That leaves Lestrange. He’ll have his death eaters in front of him for sure so he’ll be the last one left.”
“I can handle him, Master Malfoy,” Eli said casually.
“No,” Draco shot back. “Lestrange is mine.”
Hermione examined her cold surroundings with astute eyes despite the oncoming tiredness. It was four in the morning and she was sitting in the middle of one of the most dangerous parts of London with nothing but a broomstick, a trunk and a large, illegal book.
She seated herself on one of the empty benches on the isolated platform and began to consider her options. Asking Harry for help would be useless because firstly, contacting him could set Ron off and secondly, he wouldn’t know how to get to the mansion. She could ask Eli to come get her but Malfoy might find out in the process or Pansy might intercept her owl. Or perhaps, she could spend the night at an inn nearby? Then again, the Outer City may not be the best place to spend the night.
“…such a prick…”
Hermione’s head snapped up as she heard a man’s voice on the other side of the platform approaching her. She craned her neck and saw a tall, bald man speaking to two other men. One of them was short and plump with long, tousled, brown hair and the other was constricted from her view.
The bald man replied. “I just want to sleep in a thick bed tonight,” he grunted. “Been too long… we’ve been sleeping on bloody piles of straw.”
“I’ve heard there’s an army of house elves there… d’you reckon we can get us some to take?” the bald man asked thickly.
“Shut up you two,” the hidden man said. His voice was low and smooth, reminding Hermione of Draco. “You won’t even be staying there.”
“’snot fair,” the bald man grumbled. “What are we waitin’ for, anyhoo?”
“Just be patient,” the hidden man replied. “We need broomsticks before we can fly to the Manor.”
“Where is it ‘nyways?” the bald man asked.
“Hidden, I’ve heard,” the short man replied. “Malfoy Manor is supposed to be a fortress.”
Hermione took in a sharp breath, stirring the air around her as she scrambled for a discarded Daily Prophet to make herself seem busy. They were talking about Malfoy… She strained her ears hard to hear the conversation though her eyes remained focused on the paper in front of her.
The hidden man stepped out from behind the large barrister and Hermione registered his appearance with some shock as he moved out of the shadows. He was taller than both the other men with longer than average black hair and extremely brown eyes. But what caught Hermione’s attention was that he reminded her so much of Draco in the way that he held himself: his posture was upright and rigid and though his facial features were harder, he looked about the same age as her.
“Clear out the trunks,” he ordered the bald man. “Rosier is coming with the brooms.”
Hermione took a few seconds before realizing that this was the very opportunity she had been waiting for. She tightened her right hand around the Viktor Krum broomstick and discreetly slid the old newspaper by the bench.
The bald man grunted slightly, baring his large yellow teeth before he left. The shorter man then seized the opportunity of his friend’s absence to ask a few more questions.
“Do you trust him?” he said cautiously. “I mean, Malfoy.”
“More than I trust you,” the Draco-look-alike replied, forming a very familiar smirk on his face that sent a tinge of something down Hermione’s spine.
“Very funny,” the other man grunted.
It seemed that even though the bald man and the shorter man were both much older, they all succumbed to this mysterious, tall figure. Within a matter of minutes, the bald man returned and handed each of the other men a broomstick. Hermione too grabbed hers tightly and watched attentively as the three figures proceeded to the front of the station.
“The rest are waiting,” one of them said. They headed for the exit.
Hermione followed, grabbing the invisibility cloak from her trunk.
Eli had finished setting up the last of the charms. They had a little over twenty minutes left and Malfoy and Pansy were preparing themselves both mentally and physically. The house elves had moved all of Draco’s possessions from his room to the largest and most magnificent bedroom in the Manor: the master bedroom – which is where he would be staying for the duration of Lestrange’s visit.
There was a flutter at the window and an owl flew in swiftly, dropping a letter into Eli’s old hands. The parchment was very familiar and Eli knew this could mean one thing – someone else was coming to the Manor.
Bracknell Station – 3 a.m. a brown haired woman asked about the manor tonight. – Parker
Eli was normally a calm man but he felt his heart skip three consecutive beats in a second. A brown haired woman… a woman with brown hair… In that instant, he knew. He knew the only brown haired woman who would dare try to come to the Manor and she was coming…
Eli felt taken aback as Malfoy stood in the doorway with a concerned look on his face. “Is something wrong?” he asked.
Eli looked at the young man in front of him and the tired look in his eyes as well as the faint tremors in his hands were enough to convince Eli that what he was about to do was right.
“Nothing,” he replied calmly.
“We’re ready,” Malfoy said.
Eli nodded grimly. “Is Ms. Parkinson downstairs?”
“She needs a moment to herself, she’s anxious.”
Malfoy looked up for a few seconds before turning towards the window. “I’m fine.”
“It’s alright to be nervous,” Eli said, taking on a much more paternal tone than he usually did. He felt almost intrusive as he observed Draco’s reaction.
Draco inhaled deeply but his eyes remained focused on the courtyard outside where the cold gusts of wind blew. “Get the elves to watch the forest,” he said coldly. “That’s probably where Lestrange is going to come from.”
Hermione shivered silently under the invisibility cloak. The three men had now been joined another two men and were standing outside in the dark corner of Bracknell Station. They were waiting.
There was a rustle in the canvas of trees behind them and an amorphous, hooded mass appeared from within. Hermione bit her lip to stop it from quivering as the light struck the haunted face of Rodolphus Lestrange, his eyes bloodshot and his lips twisted into a menacing grin.
Hermione felt a cold gust of air fly down her throat and twist her lungs. She couldn’t breathe properly.
“Cassius,” he said in a low voice. “My boy!”
The Draco look alike, apparently named Cassius, stepped forward as Lestrange opened his arms out and pulled him into an embrace. “It’s been far too long,” Lestrange added.
“I agree,” Cassius replied apathetically. “Shall we leave?”
“Yes, yes. The path is safe when the night is darkest…”
Cassius turned around and nodded to the other four men. “We keep north,” he said quietly as frost expelled from his mouth. “There’s a thin clearing after about twenty minutes or so, bordered by a river. A little further is an extremely dense forest, that’s where we descend.”
“Wha’ ‘bout the ministry?” one of the men asked.
Two of the men started laughing and Lestrange rolled his eyes. “It’s Malfoy Manor, Marcus. The Ministry won’t dare touch it.”
Hermione’s hands were trembling as her fingers tightened around her wand. He was there… fifteen feet from her. He had killed her parents. She could kill him right now. The other five men would notice her and she wasn’t strong enough to overpower them. The bald man and the man named Marcus did not seem that powerful – she could paralyze them.
She would surely die. The man named Cassius seemed a lot more strategic and masterful. He could definitely attack her within seconds of realizing what had happened and he was a death eater, so he wouldn’t hesitate before using the killing curse.
She took a deep breath and lifted her hand into the air. Harry would understand; he knows what it’s like to be consumed by revenge… he would understand that her death was necessary if it meant Lestrange would die too.
She closed her eyes and pictured Ron, Ginny and Harry… her friends, her family. She pointed her wand straight at Lestrange who seemed to be talking to one of the other men.
“Ava-” she began to whisper.
“Malfoy is not to be trusted,” Lestrange said in a low voice to Cassius.
Hermione stopped short as the men continued, still unaware of her.
“I know,” he replied.
Hermione swore at Malfoy any way she could in her mind. Her hand remained frozen in mid air but she no longer felt the same conviction of death as before – she had a reason to live. She needed to figure out what Malfoy was doing…
The mystery called to her again… slowly making her tense arm fall back to her side.
The men mounted their brooms and kicked off the ground. Cassius was the last one to leave and before he expertly took off, he turned his head slightly to the corner where Hermione was standing. His gaze hovered over the seemingly empty patch of grass and he turned back to his broom, kicking off.
Hermione had waited twenty minutes before taking off on her Viktor Krum broomstick. She had gone east first before curving north in order to avoid running into Lestrange’s men. As the first signs of dawn began to hit the horizon, she came upon the inclined river that the man named Cassius had mentioned. Though Hermione had never taken flying lessons, her general expertise with sneaking around where she wasn’t welcome had taught her a few tricks. She slowed down carefully and kept as low as possible. The wind had died down but her hands remained frozen in the cold, making it difficult to navigate smoothly.
Hermione suddenly stopped short as she saw the figures below, standing at the edge of the dense forest. She remembered landing here the first time with Eli and she knew what was going to come next - the Fidelus Charm.
The forest was dead silent for a moment, hidden beneath the black veil of darkness. Suddenly, there was a tiny tremor and a faint gold light emanated from the ground. The magnificent clearing past the forest shook silently and the opulent manor appeared out of thin air.
The men did not hesitate as they climbed on their brooms and zoomed past the trees into the manor’s grounds. Hermione followed shortly, still maintaining her height to avoid being seen. The clear air whisked itself through Hermione’s bushy tresses and the numbness in her fingers had finally set in. She continued to propel the broom forward, trying to find the maximum balance between speed and silence. In a matter of seconds, the Fidelus Charm would lock itself again and she wouldn’t be able to get back in.
“Go! Go! Go!” she hissed to herself.
The death eaters had already entered the grounds and Hermione was still a good hundred feet away. The edges of the Manor began to fade slowly and she kicked the broom roughly.
“Come on, you stupid piece of junk!”
Draco stood tall at the front steps of the Manor with Pansy at his arm and Eli a few feet behind him. He felt something that he hadn’t really felt in a long time… he felt like a true Malfoy.
“Thirty seconds,” Eli whispered from the back. The Fidelus Charm would close itself in thirty seconds and Lestrange and his men would be here within that time.
“What about the curses between the main gates and here?” Pansy asked.
“Disabled, temporarily,” Eli assured her.
“We don’t want dear Uncle Ralph to get hurt,” Draco added. “Twenty seconds.”
She was only fifty feet away but the darkness surrounding the Manor had centered itself. It was almost faded three quarters of the way which left very little room for entry. Hermione forwent any inclinations of silence and sped up as fast as she could.
The roof of the North Tower was visible and Hermione saw it as her best option. Another twenty feet and she would be there.
Pansy adjusted her velvet black robes nervously as Eli called out five seconds. From the far end of the courtyard, she could see a dark mass of figures descend from the sky. There were six men in total, each one on their own broomsticks.
She held Draco’s arm tighter and he looked at her with a pensive expression. She knew he regretted his decision to let her stay here but she didn’t care. It wasn’t his decision to make.
“There are six men,” Pansy whispered in a quivering voice. “His letter said five.”
“I didn’t expect him to tell the truth,” Draco replied. “Don’t worry.”
The brooms were closing in fast and before long, the six men landed with a thud against the ground. Pansy felt Draco’s arm tense up and she knew he was tightening the hold on his wand. She did the same with hers.
The last figure to descend stepped out of the darkness and held his arms out in a fatherly fashion. “It’s so good to see you.”
“Well you know what they say,” Lestrange said, still smiling. “Early bird gets the worm. Earlier is always better.”
“Not for the worm,” Draco replied.
Lestrange laughed coldly and turned towards Pansy. “Could it be?” he said, gaping at her. “Pansy Parkinson!”
“Mr. Lestrange,” Pansy said politely, unable to muster a smile. This seemed so reminiscent of her family’s earlier death eater gatherings where parents would show off just how evil their children had become.
“What a sight you have become,” he said, baring his large, yellow teeth. Pansy shifted uncomfortably and edged in closer to Draco. Lestrange didn’t seem to notice as he turned to Eli.
“And of course, Eli… my dear fellow, still in bountiful service, I see?”
“As always,” Eli replied shortly.
There was a still silence for a few seconds before Lestrange backed away and turned towards his men. “You remember Cassius, don’t you, Draco?”
The second figure stepped out of the dark and Pansy’s jaw dropped. She eyed Cassius with amazement, comparing him to the scrawny, pale faced boy he had been when she had last seen him twelve years ago.
Draco’s muscles tightened even further. “Durmstrang has changed you,” he noted.
“As has Hogwarts with you,” Cassius replied with a slight smile.
“Shall we go in?” Lestrange offered. “I’ve been yearning for a warm meal.”
Draco nodded before turning to Eli. “Put the curses on the grounds back in place,” he said. “We don’t need any unwanted visitors.”
“Yes, Master Malfoy.”
There was a slight shuffling of sounds and Eli waved his wand fluidly. Draco nodded gently and put his other hand on Pansy’s arm. “Let’s go.”
He began to take a few steps inside when there was a loud scream from above. All heads shot up directly towards the large roof of the castle where a tiny figure hung from the edge of the North Tower.
The colour from Draco’s face drained instantly as his ears registered that voice. Pansy took a little longer but sensing Draco’s fear, her arms began to tremble. There was a fumbling of sounds from behind them and before she could react, Eli had already drawn his wand and pushed Pansy behind him.
Four of the six death eaters had drawn their wands.
“I told you it wouldn’t be safe!” one of them hissed.
Cassius and Lestrange stood where they were though their eyes had jetted to the roof of the North Tower as well.
“I say we kill ‘em!” another one shot back.
The humour from Lestrange’s eyes had dissipated as he glared at Eli. Draco’s eyes, in all this time, had not moved from the North Tower. His pallid features were plastered against his cold face as he gazed up.
“What the hell is going on?” Lestrange barked.
No one replied.
There was another scream from above and this time, the figure twisted to look down. She was terrified as her eyes met Draco’s, who still hadn’t moved. Her fingers loosened from the top of the tower and the high-pitched cry for help struck his ears as she lost her grip and fell.
“Master Malfoy!” Eli cried as Draco jumped forward off the front steps. His wand was stretched out high in his arms.
“I hate her!” were the only words that Pansy heard as a shot of white light encircled the falling body, slowing it down.
“Expelliarmus!” one of the hooded death eaters shouted. Draco fell forward as Pansy took out her wand and countered the spell, striking the death eater in the chest as he fell backwards onto the ground.
The momentary lapse had caused Draco to falter and Hermione began to fall again. Her body was heading towards the large fountain surrounding a silver statue of Adonis. Hermione missed the stone statue by a few inches and landed into the water. A few seconds later, Draco followed in after her, realizing that the fountain had been enchanted to have the depth of an ocean.
His fingers grappled hopelessly for Hermione’s limp body as he took a sharp breath and ducked his head into the water. Though at first his vision was blurry and clouded, he caught sight of the struggling woman a few feet away. Draco managed to grab her hand tightly and she latched onto him firmly before he used his free arm to swim back up to the surface.
As his lips touched the cold morning air, he gasped loudly before pulling a conscious, scrambling Hermione Granger to the surface. She grabbed onto the stone edge of the fountain as Eli ran over to help her up.
“What on ear-” Hermione began, staring at Draco with a terrified expression.
Her words were cut short as the three remaining death eaters surrounded the fountain with their wands help up high. Draco’s breaths were quick and unsteady as he looked at Hermione with nothing but pure rage in his eyes. Pansy stood behind all of them, held back sharply by Cassius’s imposing figure.
“Who is this?” Lestrange demanded coldly, gesturing towards Hermione.
Draco was silent. He still wasn’t in perfect physical condition and his chest was beginning to throb mercilessly.
“What kind of game are you playing, Draco?” Lestrange asked, his smile returning. “Trying to trick your dear Uncle Ralph?”
“Master Lestrange,” Eli said. “Please, she’s no danger.”
“Who is she, Eli?” Lestrange demanded again.
Eli turned his head slightly to meet Malfoy’s grey eyes and then Hermione’s brown eyes before turning back to Lestrange. “This,” he said, gesturing to Hermione, “this is Lady Malfoy.”
I feel obligated to write something at this point. When I first got the idea of Lady Malfoy, Eli's last line is the first scene that came into my mind. I’ve been waiting for over a year to write this so I hope the twist is both unexpected and welcomed. I can’t say for sure how long this story is going to be but it’ll be good, I promise =) Reviews are much appreciated especially at this point. Were you shocked? Surprised? Do you hate it? Are you confused?