Chapter Twenty-Six: Lucius

After Draco had informed me that his father was one of the men outside of my home, it suddenly dawned on me why our enemies were attacking my little cottage before they made a big show of destroying either Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley. Lucius wanted Draco and I, the last kinks in his plans, dead and gone before he moved forward and he was here in person because he wanted to either witness our deaths, or perform the acts himself.

There were about a dozen of them, Lucius included, and only two of us. We needed back-up. “We can apparate to the gates of Hogwarts, wake McGonagall and Lupin then assemble the Order.”

“That's the stupidest plan I've ever heard, Granger,” Draco snapped. “By the time the Order is ready, this lot will be gone and we'd have lost our chance to take Lucius down. Call the Order on that bloody mirror thing, tell them where we are and what's happening, but the moment we leave, he leaves and I won't risk losing him now, not when we're so close.”

I couldn't help but see the logic in his statement, it was doubtful Lucius would hang around when he discovered we weren't here, especially if he realized that we had been, but we'd seen him coming and had ran off to get reinforcements. Lucius Malfoy may have been an arrogant prick, but he wasn't stupid.

Quickly, I made my way to the bedside table and retrieved the mirror from the top drawer, hurriedly flipping it open and whispering, “Remus Lupin.” There was a few moments of just my reflection before Remus's face covered the screen, obviously having just crawled out of bed. Before he had the chance to speak, I did, “Remus, they're here, Lucius and his goons are outside of my home right now.”

His eyes widened and he asked, “Where are you?” I gave him the coordinates, knowing that even though it were difficult, it was possible to apparate with only that as your destination. He nodded, “Stay put, Hermione, we'll be there as soon as we can.”

His words were reassuring, but I couldn't help feeling that they'd be too late. The Order was scattered between their individual homes, Diagon Alley, Hogwarts and Hogsmeade, it wouldn't be easy or quick getting them assembled and ready to fight.

I shook my head at our stupidity as I threw the mirror back in the drawer. We'd had the Order focused on public targets, places where Lucius could make a grand entrance into the title of Dark Lord and we had missed the blatantly obvious, that he'd want Draco and I finished and out of his way before he could start his reign of terror. I could have slapped myself when it all fell into place in my mind.

Draco made his way to my side. “We have to get out of this house,” he whispered hurriedly, “There's no room to manoeuvre in here.”

Nodding, I started towards the door at a crouch and prepared for anything. “We have to buy ourselves some time,” I told him. “The Order will come as quickly as they can, but they're scattered.”

He silently agreed with me as we made our way through the house, creeping down the eerily silent hallway. We were heading for the back door, through the living room when I picked up something bright heading our way in my peripheral vision. Before I even had time to look, there was a deafening smash as a cannon-ball sized fireball came flying through my window.

I hit the ground, Draco coming down on top of me. I felt the heat as it flew over us and heard Draco's curse, knowing by the scent of burning hair that suddenly permeated the air that it had singed him. It slammed into the wall, causing pieces of wood and a rain of fire to shower down over us, and I quickly flicked my wand out, extinguishing the flames before my entire house went up in smoke.

Before I even had the chance to pull my wand back, Draco was lifting me off to my feet and dragging me towards the back door. The cool air outside was able to slow my pounding heart somewhat, but adrenaline was coursing through my veins. It was probably a lucky thing that I didn't take a moment to catch my breath, because the blue bolt of a stunner came straight at us and Draco and I were instantly on the offensive.

There were two of them, just off the back porch and old instincts, learned and honed during a time of war, came flooding back to me. Without even thinking, I sent a reducto at the nearest one. It hit him so hard, directly in the chest, that he was lifted off his feet and flew back twenty feet or so, breaking the ice of the frozen lake as he landed on it hard.

I was turning towards the other one when a deep voice behind me spoke, sending shivers down my spine, “Don't even think about it, Granger.”

Spinning around I saw Draco struggling in the grasp of a massive and terribly ugly man, his wand dinting Draco's throat and Blaise Zabini standing beside the two, pointing his wand directly at my chest, Draco's held firmly in his other hand, a sick and twisted smile on his face. They'd come through the house behind us and I mentally kicked myself for not having one of us watch our backs.

Both Draco and I were glaring at our former classmate and my lover managed to spit through the tight hold he was in, “I should have let them kill you when they had the chance, Zabini.”

Zabini laughed then held his hand towards me. “Give me the wand, Granger,” he instructed, but I stood my ground, glaring at him. The smile he'd been wearing disappeared and he gave me a cold look and stated, “Give me the wand, or little Malfoy here pays the price.”

“Don't do it, Hermione, they're just going to kill us anyway,” Draco snarled, still struggling against his captor.

When I hesitated, Zabini turned towards the ugly goon and simply nodded. I cut my eyes towards them in time to see the other man lovingly curse, “Crucio.”

Draco gasped and started shaking, slipping from the man's grip and dropping to his knees, his eyes firmly closed as he tried to control himself, not wanting to give them the satisfaction of hearing him scream.

My heart ached, watching him suffer under the magical torture, and my hand shook as I did all I could to stop myself from simply throwing my wand at Zabini just to end Draco's pain, but I knew he'd been right, they were going to kill us anyway

“Give me your wand, Granger,” Zabini repeated slowly but still, I hesitated. “Give it to me, or I kill him.”

Looking at the Slytherin who had made the threat, I narrowed my eyes and questioned briskly, “What makes you think I give a damn if you do, Blaise?”

The second after I'd said the harsh words, a cry of pain tore from Draco's throat and my eyes shot towards him, my heart rate increasing. He was curled up in a tight ball on the ground, his entire body wracking from the anguished feeling of thousands of white-hot knives penetrating him. I looked back at Blaise and knew from one look in his eyes that the mistake had been made, I'd shown my panic and worry, his threat now held genuine value.

Zabini just smirked at me and motioned for my wand. I clung to the piece of wood tighter, glancing between the scum across from me and Draco and then, without even making a conscious decision, my trembling arm stretched forward and I deposited the wand in my enemies hand, leaving myself completely defenceless.

I was able to breathe a short sigh of relief when the curse on Draco was lifted, however. He opened his eyes and looked at my empty hand, muttering, “Fuck,” in between pants as he tried to regain his breath.

Blaise was wearing a self-satisfied look as he glanced down at Draco, then back at me. “Good. Now, if the two of you will come with me, my Lord awaits.”

Draco scoffed as the other man hauled him from the ground onto his feet. “Your Lord? That's what you're calling the wanker now?”

The comment earned him a hard glare, but Zabini didn't respond, just turned back towards the house. After sharing a look with Draco, I followed the former Slytherin. Glancing back, I saw the other, unknown man grip Draco by the collar and drag his shaky legs after us. Instinctively, I fell back and slipped an arm around my lover’s waist, helping him move.

As we made our way through the cottage under wand-point, Draco hissed in my ear, “You shouldn't have given him your wand, Granger. You know that they're going to kill us anyway.”

“I couldn't just stand by and let them torture you, Draco.” When it looked like he was about to reply, I cut him off, “And don't say you wouldn't have done the same thing had our positions been reversed.”

He grumbled under his breath, but didn't deny my remark. Together, our hearts pounding in our chests, we made our way out the front door then through the snow, towards the gathered circle of our enemies, and more than likely, our death sentences.

The congregation parted somewhat and for the first time in years, I found myself face to face with Lucius Malfoy. He hadn't changed much at all, his face was still smug and superior, his robes were still the best of the best, and his hair was still prettier than mine.

The look of triumph on his face when we came to stand in front of him was almost more than my short-fuse could take. Anger coursed through my veins and I had to resist the urge to just step forward and deck the look right off of his face. My grip on Draco tightened and he made eye contact with me, silently telling me not to do anything foolish. The only relief I got was that the same look of pure fury was on his face.

The elder Malfoy took a step towards us and scowled. He looked me over, and then shook his head as he slowly turned to meet his sons eyes. “A mudblood, Draco? Just when I thought you could disappoint me no more.”

“Don't you dare talk to me about disappointment, Father.” He spat the last word at his sire as if it was rotten on his tongue.

Lucius's eyes, the same colour as Draco's yet so unlike his sons, hardened and I saw his hand shake in rage just before it came up so quickly it was a blur and snapped across Draco's face. The man I loved barely blinked, he just wiped away the small drop of blood that had formed on his lip and continued to glare at his father.

In that moment, I honestly couldn't tell what was angering Lucius more, the fact that Draco was sleeping with a hated mudblood, or that his son no longer feared him.

Taking a deep breath, he straightened and turned his back to us, proudly walking a few steps away before spinning grandly to face us once more, a smile on his pointed face. “Well, your betrayal shall be paid for, Draco. I will kill your dirty-blooded whore, slowly and painfully, while you watch and then you shall be executed for defying me.”

Why did super-villains always have to explain what they were going to do to you before doing it? I couldn't help but roll my eyes, that was exactly why they always lost, too busy being pompous instead of just getting the job done. Glancing at Draco, I knew the same thought was going through his head. The longer Malfoy senior kept raving, the more time the Order had to assemble and attack.

And rave he did. “Then, that remarkable Order will be without their spy and their brains and my victory shall be sealed. You see, I learned from my former Masters mistakes and I will not make the same ones. I will succeed where he failed; I will bring about a new world order in which purity of blood shall be guaranteed. No longer will half-bloods and breeds, mudbloods and muggles have free reign over what they can do. No longer will they take things that are ours by birthright. I will make sure of that.”

Then he pointed his wand at me and grinned and said, “They will be punished for their filth. Crucio!

The pain was indescribable, pure and forceful. I had felt it before but no matter how many times one was put under the curse, you could never be prepared for its power. It was as if someone had set fire to my body, my flesh was burning, my insides were twisting and I thought my head would explode.

With all the will I had, I smothered a scream and dropped to the ground, vaguely aware of Draco's arms still around me, holding me while I suffered through the torment. Under the Cruciatus Curse, a second can feel like an hour, but I don't think I was suffering from it for more than a minute.

Suddenly, the pain stopped, but my mind was still hazy, my body still twitching and shaking uncontrollably. I could hear voices, shouts, and Draco's triumphant voice in my ear, “It's alright, Granger, the Order is here.”

He was pulling me away and with all the strength I could muster, I opened my eyes to find complete chaos around us. The battle was raging and Draco was trying to get me to safety, but my head was clearing, the pain was becoming bearable, so I pulled from his grasp and remembered a lesson Moody had taught me that had been the most useful thing I'd ever learned; “Your wand belongs in your hand, that's where it wants to be. Call it and it will come.” It's the simplest act of wandless magic there is.

Reaching out, I called to my wand with all the magic I could feel in my veins and the small piece of wood that I cared for so much shot from the snow where Zabini had probably dropped it in his mad haste to get on the defensive and flew directly into my palm.

I quickly summoned Draco's and handed it to him. He was staring at me in wonder, his eyebrow raised, but I had no time to explain, not with spells and curses flying over our heads like fireworks.

A shadow loomed in the corner of my eye and I aimed my wand in that direction without even thinking and stunned the assailant, turning back just in time to hear Draco mutter, “Fucking bastard.”

I followed the direction of his gaze as both Draco and I kept moving back, until we were deep enough into the forest to take cover. Next to the cottage, behind two of his followers, Lucius stood, protecting his precious arse, looking about to turn tail and run at any moment.

Grabbing Draco's arm, I quickly whispered, “Go, Draco. Go get him.”

He turned back to me but I was too busy drawing a circle in the dirt with my wand to meet his eyes. “I'd never make it in time, he's about to apparate out of here and save his skin.”

Focusing on the circle, I kept spinning my wand around in the dirt, digging the marks I'd made deeper. “Haud Vado.” Magic flooded through me into the circle and then shot out like an invisible shock wave, spreading across the cottage and all the land around it for miles.

My entire body suddenly felt drained and I slumped closer to the dirt, Draco's worried voice being the only thing that could make me raise my head. “Hermione? Are you alright? What the fuck was that?”

With a tired smile I looked at him and answered, “Anti-apparition ward. Now go get that evil prick while I get my breath back.”

He quickly glanced in the direction of his father and then looked back at me, concern still etched in his features. “Are you sure you're alright?”

Nodding, I reassured him, “I'm fine, Draco, I just need a minute ... a minute you can't waste here being worried about me. Go and destroy your father.”

Draco studied me intently for a long moment, before his face hardened and he nodded. He kissed me quickly, both of us savouring the taste of each other for barely a few seconds before he jumped to his feet and ran out of the trees, and into the snow covered clearing surrounding the cottage that had now become a battle zone.

I watched him go, hoping against all hope that that wouldn't be the last time he pressed his lips to mine.

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