Harry crouched beside a hedge lining the road to Ismay Manor. Behind him Hermione, Draco and twelve top-class Aurors also crouched; all dressed in black with black greasepaint on their faces, black woolly hats on their heads and wands at the ready. Harry could see the gates to the Manor. He was puzzled as to why the gates were open. Piss-poor security, he thought, or a trap. He had full confidence in the team he had brought with him; they were all experienced in combat with the exception of Hermione and Draco whose level of experience fell far short of the rest of his team. Draco of course had by far the best motive for being there.
Harry gathered the team around him. He spoke in a muted voice, almost a whisper. “Right, listen up; this will be a covert entry which means silent, repeat silent. No noise whatsoever.” He paused as one of the team spoke,
“That means no farting Bertie, if the noise doesn’t give us away, the smell will.”
“Shut it Mike.” Harry responded “Now then the gates are open, it could be a ruse so be on your toes as soon as we’re in. Spread out quickly but keep the man next to you in sight. You know your assignments so let’s go. Hermione and Draco, stick with me. Move!” Inside the gate the fifteen figures spread into a line and crouched with Harry in the middle and Hermione on his right and Draco on his left. He glanced towards Hermione, “OK Hermione, do your stuff.”
Hermione pointed her wand at the manor and muttered an incantation to reveal any wards or other magical protection. “It’s not right Harry,” she said, “There’s no protection at all. Something is very wrong here, it just doesn’t feel right.”
“We’ll stick to the plan Hermione. He turned to his left, “Ground floor team go, go!” the six Aurors on his left rose quietly as one and ran for the big wooden doors. Harry and the others followed thirty seconds later.
When Harry and his team arrived at the front door three of his number turned right and went around to the back of the house. The first arrivals had so far failed to open the door. “Hermione, see what you can do.” He whispered. Hermione crouched in front of the door and examined it with her wand.
“Damn” she muttered “It’s got a persona lock charm, Harry, it can only be opened by the person who set it.” Harry had a vision of his team blasting the doors and breaking windows to effect an entry. We may have to make some noise, he thought. Running quickly but quietly one of the team from the back of the house returned.
“Boss, there’s an open door at the back, it’s almost like they want us to get in.”
“OK, let’s not disappoint them.” He whispered. He led his team around the building to the open door. He paused at the entrance; he knew it would be pointless to tell Hermione and Draco to wait outside so he didn’t bother. He faced them and said, “You two stick to close to me, I want to know where you are at all times. Got it?”
“Yes boss.” Said Draco with just a hint of a sneer, which earned him a thump on the shoulder and a grin from Hermione. Keeping close to the wall on his left Harry began to creep forward. After a few paces a door appeared in the opposite wall and Harry indicated to one of his men to check it out.
The man slowly and silently opened the door and went through. Harry heard him mutter “Lumos”. He returned and murmured to Harry “It’s a kitchen and it’s clear.”
Harry nodded and moved forward. A short way further on the passage turned right and opened up into a large formal looking room. A long dining table and chairs occupied the centre of the room which was lit only by two large candles at the far end of the room. In the centre of the opposite wall a wide staircase led up to what appeared to be some sort of minstrels gallery with a door at the back. Harry noticed with satisfaction that three of his Aurors were already heading up the stairs, covering each other as they went. The rest of them spread out and began clearing the ground floor. As Harry, Hermione and Draco moved further into the dining room all hell broke loose.
Five people rushed through the door up in the gallery and began firing spells at the Auror teams; two more came through a door in the far corner of the dining room.
Draco, never being one to fight from a distance, charged in and swung his wand in different directions which resulted in the opponent closest him to clutch his right leg in pain, in reaction to a bombarda spell to his knee, bending it in the opposite direction than a person’s knee is supposed to go. Another wave of his wand and the man’s arms were also being bent in directions that could not in any way be considered normal. The man collapsed and could now be considered hors-de-combat. Hermione was sure that Draco would’ve done more if another person hadn’t started attacking him.
Hermione was mortified to see Draco clipped in the hip by a spell, but she had no time to react to it. She was dealing with a situation of her own, concentrating her attention as much as it was. She was hit between the shoulder blades by some unknown spell and heard an awful crack of it as she fell forward into the wall. Despite the pain she was in, Hermione spun herself around and directed a spell at one of the attackers feet so that he fell forward before turning her wand on the other. Her spell got him in the face and a second later he was complaining of not being able to see. Hermione rushed forward and kicked him in the back of the knees. As he went down, he grabbed a hold of her left arm. She screamed at the pain emanating from her left shoulder. She pushed him off of her and kept in her groan as the man she first attacked began to go after her again.
Hermione dodged his spell. She quickly immobilised him and turned her attention elsewhere. She took temporary shelter behind the now wrecked dining table. Her heart jumped when she heard one of the attackers using the Avada and saw one of the Aurors fall, she jumped out from her hiding place and blasted the offender into the stone wall and as he fell unconscious faced another attack, quickly crouching down to the ground and deflected the next spell which narrowly missed Draco who was fighting with only one good leg an opponent on the other side of the room. Still on the ground and too close to him for her liking, Hermione made use of her feet and kicked the man in the knee of his left leg. He yelled in pain and absentmindedly dropped his wand. Hermione took it up instantly and, with both of them in hand, shouted, “Stupefy!”
Suddenly everything went quiet. The fight was over and Hermione followed Harry as he bounded up the stairs to the door. Without hesitating she followed Harry into the room with their wands held in front of them. They barely had time to register the three people, one of them holding a blanket wrapped bundle in her arms, at the far end of the room before the group disapparated together. Harry cursed loudly, “Fuck.”
“Harry was that…?” Hermione did not want to believe her eyes.
“Yes Hermione, I think one of them was Ron. Dammit I should have thought of anti-apparation wards.” Draco came limping through the door, “Are they here?” Hermione looked at him sadly,
“They were but they apparated away as we came in, I’m so sorry, Draco.” Draco screamed out loud,
“Bollocks, now we have to find them all over again and we have no idea where to start. Fat lot of use you Aurors are. I’m going to find Grace on my own.” Hermione spoke gently in reply,
“That’s not fair, Draco, one of those Aurors died trying to rescue your daughter, I think you should apologise.” Draco had not known about the fatality looked totally shocked.
“Oh I… I’m sorry Potter, I didn’t know.”
“Don’t worry about it Draco. It’s OK.” One of Harry’s team came to report to Harry.
“Six people in custody, and one fatality, boss. Mike is dead.” Harry squeezed his eyes shut in pain; losing a man always hurt him badly.
“Thanks Bertie, We’re going back to headquarters, you and half the team stay here and clean up. How did their man die?”
“Looks like he got thrown into a stone wall head first. It would have been quick” Hermione sucked in her breath,
“Oh my god, Harry. I think that was me. I killed him. Oh God, Harry, I killed him.” She started to sob and Draco quickly embraced her.
“We were in a fight Hermione and in fights shit happens. It’s not your fault so don’t go blaming yourself.” Still holding the sobbing woman, he glanced at Harry, “Did Mike have a family?”
“Yes, wife and six year old son, Alexander.”
“They’ll want for nothing Harry, I’ll see to that. I can’t give Mike back to them but I’ll do what I can.”
“Thanks Draco, let’s get back to HQ and sort this mess out.”
The three of them arrived back in Harry’s office. They had at least an hour before the full team debrief so Harry produced a bottle of Firewhiskey and poured them each a healthy measure. “Here Hermione, drink this, you’ll feel better.”
“I’m a killer Harry, and that is tearing me up, how is a glass of booze supposed to help with that?” She demanded and began to sob again.
“Well Hermione, I’d rather be burying him than you. As Draco said in a fight shit happens.” Draco stood behind her, put his hands on her shoulders and gave a gentle sympathetic squeeze.
“Don’t let it eat you up Hermione, You didn’t kill him intentionally he was just unlucky that his head took the impact. Not your fault love, not your fault at all. Now if you’ll excuse me I need to go point Percy at the porcelain.”
“You’ll need to go down one floor Draco, the toilets on this floor are out of order.” Harry advised him. Draco left the room. Hermione calmed herself and addressed Harry.
“Why was Ron there Harry and why would he go with them? Is he undercover or what?”
“No he’s not undercover and I don’t know why he went with them.”
“He wouldn’t have joined them, would he?”
“I don’t think so ‘Mione, he could be under duress, but I have to consider all the options. I think I’ll go to the Burrow tomorrow and have a word with Molly. In the meantime let’s not mention this in front of Draco. He might just go off the deep end.”
“OK, Harry. I’ll come with you tomorrow if that’s alright with you.”
“If I said no you’d only be there when I arrive. Let me do the talking at first OK?”
“OK Harry. Nine o’clock yes?”
“Nine o’clock. Fine.”
The team debrief took a couple of hours after which Hermione and Draco returned to her cottage. They were both subdued. Draco because of the failure to recover his daughter and Hermione because of the fatality she had caused. They sat quietly side by side on the sofa. Each sipping perfunctorily at the glasses of scotch in their hands. Draco had bought several bottles on their way home. He had a feeling he might need them. The room darkened as the sun went down and Draco stood to switch on the light, as he turned back to the sofa to resume his seat Hermione dissolved in a flood of tears. He sat beside her and put his arm around her shoulders. “Let it out, love, let it out. It’s OK.” She laid her head on his shoulder,
“I’m a killer, Draco.”
“No, you’re not, Hermione, you were defending yourself and as Harry said, better him than you. Perhaps he should have chosen different line of work.”
“Please don’t be flippant Draco.”
He looked down at her tear swollen eyes and downturned mouth, “I’m sorry, Hermione, that was a crass thing to say.” He found he could not look away. Her eyes closed and he placed a gentle kiss on each one, and before he knew what was happening their lips met. One thought came to his mind ‘Amanda’ and he seemed to hear his wife’s voice.
‘Draco Malfoy stop being such a prat. You are kissing a beautiful woman, why the hell are you thinking of me? Think about her! Kiss her, bed her, do what you want to do but leave me out of it. I’m dead and if she can make you happy, you have my blessing, so go get her.’ He pulled his head back, breaking the kiss. Hermione looked up at him, a puzzled expression on her face. She had forgotten the feeling of a sincere kiss and she had hoped for more.
“Draco, is something wrong?”
“No, nothing’s wrong. I didn’t mean to do that. Sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry, you took my mind off my problem for a moment. Why don’t you see how long you can keep it out of my head?” Her lips came forcefully against his. Her hand moved from his chest to the back of his head and held him close. They passed the next hour in similar fashion before Hermione yawned and having been up most of the previous night decided that it was time for bed. She knew where the evenings activities could lead and made the decision to let the chips fall where they may.
“I’m going to bed Draco; it’s been a long, long day.” He followed her up the stairs and at her bedroom door he gave her a chaste peck on the cheek,
“Goodnight Hermione, see you in the morning. Sleep well.” He went to his room and closing the door behind him leaned back against it, wondering what the hell had happened downstairs. He stripped to his boxers and was about to climb into bed when there was a soft tap on the door. He opened it and found Hermione in a tank top and sleep shorts.
“My problem’s back in my head, Draco.” She held out her hand, “Help me forget please.” She led him to her room and closed the door silently.
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