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Hermione let out an exasperated sigh. If only she could figure out how to send a message. If only she knew where she was being kept. If only I could get these damn knots untied! She twisted her wrists until they were raw, but the ropes held fast.

Hermione kicked the mattress in response, and then realized with a start that with only her wrists bound, she could turn over!

She awkwardly rolled onto her stomach, and managed to get up on her knees. She was still tied to the bed, but she could awkwardly reach the gag in her mouth. She gripped the Slytherin tie, and pulled it down over her chin. “Stupid Slytherin.” She muttered to herself.

With the gag gone, Hermione considered her options. She needed to free her hands, and she needed a wand, and she needed to escape.

“One thing at a time Hermione.” She whispered to herself. The knots, while tight, weren’t magic. She considered them for a moment, before realizing that her teeth were her best tool at this point. She bit down on the rope and tried to loosen the knot but it didn’t budge.

After a moment, she realized that the rope was fastened to the headboard around a single carved rung. The bed was ornate, but if it had a weak point, it was one of these matching rungs. They were designed for appearance, not function.

She gripped the rope with both hands and managed to get her feet up on the headboard. She kicked at the piece of wood until it started to buckle, and then pulled on it with all her strength until it finally broke and she fell backwards on the bed.

“Ha!” Hermione cried, and then chastised herself for making too much noise. She didn’t want her captors to discover her now.

She listened for a moment, but heard no reaction to her cry, though she didn’t know what kind of spells were placed on the room. She glanced around for anything that might be useful in getting the bindings off her wrists, but found nothing of value.

Noticing her clothes still sitting on the nightstand where she had set them when she changed into the nightgown, she grabbed her jeans and shoes, and managed to awkwardly get them on. The gown would have to suffice for a shirt for the time being, and she wasn’t sure how long the knots in her laces would last, but considering her wrists were still bound she was quite proud of herself.

Now what? She asked herself. Steeling her nerves, she muttered, “There are no safe paths in this part of the world. Remember you are over the Edge of the Wild now.”

She crossed the room quickly, and opened the door she thought might lead to a bathroom, and she was correct. She opened the drawers in the vanity, once again hoping for some sharp implement, but mostly they were empty, as though the occupant of the room were away.

She slipped back out into the bedroom, and quickly checked the wardrobe and chest of drawers as well, finding only mens clothes, and what seemed like several years worth of old Hogwarts uniforms. She tugged at a sweater to look at the name tape, and gasped when she saw the name Draco Malfoy sewn into the collar.

She dropped the sweater and backed away from the wardrobe in horror. She was back at Malfoy Manor, the source of all her nightmares. She tried to steady her breathing, but memories of Bellatrix, coupled with two days without food or sleep was making it difficult. I must get out of here!

She hurried over to the door, trying to hold back her panic. She paused for a moment to listen, before fleeing into the dark hallway.

She realized she had no idea what time it was, but it seemed to be evening. She crept down the hall, not knowing which direction would lead her out of the house, nor what she would do when she got there.

The hallway seemed endless, with tall doors and portraits of frowning blond witches and wizards adorning the walls. Thankfully, most of the portraits seemed to be asleep. She wasn’t sure if they would know who she was, but she was quite sure they would alert her captors of her escape.

After a long search, she noticed a stairway. It didn’t seem like it led to any important part of the house, but that was probably better. Less likely to be populated. She surmised.

Making her way carefully down the stairs, Hermione guessed that she was on the third floor, so when she came to a landing, she opted to continue down the stairs rather than venturing into a new hallway.

At the bottom of the stairs, she found herself in some sort of workroom. These must be servants stairs. Hermione guessed, considering how old the manor likely was, it would make sense that there would be separate stairs for the ‘help’.

She listened again at the door, and then slipped out of the room. As she hurried along, she noticed a doorway with a stained glass window surrounding it. The glass depicted flowers and plants, intricate and colorful. I wonder…. Hermione carefully slipped the door open, and found exactly what she was hoping for: a conservatory.

The magical greenhouse would have an exit for sure, and there might even be pruning shears or something else to cut the ropes off her wrists. Spotting a work bench in the dim light, she hurried through the greenery. Spotting a collection of shears, hanging on pegs, she selected one and tried to figure out how to go about cutting the rope without the use of her hands.

She was so distracted by her task, that she didn’t notice the plant looming up behind her until it was too late.

It wrapped around her, growing tighter. Hermione struggled against it, until she realized that it was Devil’s Snare. She tried to relax, and realized that the shears had been wrapped up with her, and were cutting into her side. She held as still as possible, but the Devil’s Snare did not release her.

Probably some subspecies. If only I had a wand. Hermione was well and truly trapped. She could feel the shears cutting deeper, and she was sure she was bleeding. At least Lestrange doesn’t know where I am, was Hermione’s last thought as she drifted into unconsciousness.

“You’re telling me that we’ve been searching the whole bloody countryside, had men out all hours for the past two days, and she's in your bloody house?!” Ron roared at Draco, across the table. “Why didn’t you mention that you were letting the Lestranges’ stay there?”

“Because I didn’t bloody know they were there, Weasley!” Draco shouted back. “If you’ll recall, I’ve been under location arrest here at Hogwarts, I haven’t seen my home since summer! More to the point, it was seized from my parents by the ministry… why didn’t you have someone keeping an eye on it?”

“Both of you stop this minute.” Minerva snapped, “We know where Hermione is, let’s focus on recovering her before they relocate her or worse!”

Draco nodded, turning to the plans he had sketched on the table. “If we go in through the front door, they’ll be the least likely to expect us.”

“And why is that Malfoy?” Harry asked coldly.

“Because the front walk is protected by a variety of traps.” Draco snapped. “And they won’t know how to disable them, and they won’t expect trespassers to make it through them. So I’ll disable the traps and we walk right in.”

“I don’t trust you as far as I could throw you.” Harry pointed out. “What makes you think we’re letting you come on this little escapade?”

“Because I’m your best shot at getting Hermione out of there alive.” Draco argued, “Because I know the manor inside out, because I can tell you where the traps are, and because we are bloody running out of time! Take my bloody wand and I’ll go in unarmed if it makes you feel better, but we have to go now. When Lestrange gets bored of magical torture, he moves on to physical abuse, and I don’t mean beating her up.”

“Bloody hell,” Ginny gasped. “Is that what you meant when you said I didn’t want to know?”

Draco nodded, looking pained.

“What?” Ron asked, “What’s he talking about Ginny?”

“He means, Ronald, that Lestrange will rape Hermione before he kills her.” Ginny said bluntly. “So we need to go now.”

“Bloody hell.” Harry cursed, “Look Malfoy’s right. We need his help. There's plenty of us to take him out if he turns on us, and he still has the bloody trace on him. He's our best option."

"Your faith in me is overwhelming Potter." Draco said sarcastically. "What are we waiting for?"

"You're sure this is our best option?" Kingsley asked.

"Ginny?" Draco said, turning to the redhead with pleading eyes.

"He's sure." Ginny said, staring Draco down. "He knows what is at stake better than anyone. I'll vouch for him."

"That's good enough for me." Harry said, shrugging his Auror robe on, and pocketing his wand. "Let's get outside the gates so we can get moving."

The group headed down the stairs, and out the front doors. When they reached the gate, they were joined by a squad of Aurors.

“I thought the ministry were short on Aurors.” Draco whispered to Harry.

“We are.” Harry replied honestly. “This is just about everyone who survived last year. There’s a few back at headquarters with the rest of the trainees.”

“Hell of a gamble, bringing them all in on one job.” Draco said softly.

“It is.” Harry agreed, “But I think it’s worth the risk.”

“I’m not keen on having squatters in my home, so I'd agree.” Draco agreed, trying to sound disinterested.

They crowded around the portkey, a deflated football, and each grabbed hold.

"Ok, everyone has an emergency portkey?" Kingsley addressed the group. After a chorus of 'yes sirs' from the Aurors and a mumbled yes from Draco, he continued. "By the book on this one. If we're able to pick up Lestrange it would be a bonus, but our primary function is to evacuate the hostage. According to Mr. Malfoy here, she will be located in a bedroom on the third floor. As soon as someone locates Miss Granger, I want a patronus to the team, and everyone out."

The portkey activated, and they landed just outside the front gates of Malfoy Manor. "Follow Malfoy's lead." Kingsley whispered.

Draco approached the gates, and unlocked them with a spell. He carefully made his way down the front walk, canceling curses as he went. When he reached the front door, he turned back to Kingsley, and then reconsidered his thought and removed the remaining spell from the door. He felt the Dark Magic detector on his ankle begin to warm as it alerted the Ministry that he had performed a dark spell.

It had been so long since he had cast a dark magic spell, that he felt it in his core; the darkness that had slowly begun to leave him over the past months came roaring back.

Draco’s face hardened, and he grasped the door handle, yanking it open. Once inside he ignored the agreed upon procedure and did a locator spell. It was a dark spell, and he relished the feeling of it.

Kingsley seemed to know what he had cast, and asked, “where are they?”

“There’s two bodies in the kitchen, and one in the conservatory. Doesn’t seem to be anyone else here.” Draco said, rolling his shoulders.

Harry started to cast a homenum revelio charm, but Draco stopped him.

“You don’t wan to tip them off, and they’ll feel that.” He sounded cold, and heartless as he continued. “If you want to pick up those two oafs, they’re down that staircase.”

“What about Hermione?” Ron asked.

“She’s in the conservatory.” Draco replied. “This way.”

They started down the hall when suddenly, the Lestrange brothers came bursting up from the kitchen, wands drawn blasting spells.

Draco used the chaos to slip away from the group and run to where he had felt Hermione’s presence.

He opened the door to the conservatory, and started searching. After a few minutes, he repeated the tracking curse, darkness flowing through his veins again. He realized that Hermione was trapped in the Devil’s Snare on the other side of the room.

“Bloody hell.” Draco cursed, and hurried over towards the plant, hitting it with bluebell flames. “Hermione? Hermione!”

Hermione, still unconscious, fell from the plant as it released it’s grip, and Draco spotted the gash in her side where the white slip was stained with her blood. “Oh god no!”

Draco pulled off his robe, and bundled Hermione into it, he used his wand to sever the ropes on her wrists, realizing that she must have escaped and run right into the Devil’s Snare trap. He picked her up, her form feeling light and cold, and ran outside to activate his portkey.

The portkey dropped them in the Saint Mungos lobby, and Draco immediately cried for someone to help them.

“Bring her this way!” A healer called, waving him into the emergency ward.

Draco ran down the hall, and gently laid Hermione on the hospital bed the Healer pointed to. “Please help her, I think she’s lost a lot of blood!”

“What happened?” The healer asked calmly, already setting to work on Hermione’s bruised and bloody form.

“She’s been tortured,” Draco said, “She’s been held hostage for several days, I don’t know what spells have been used on her.”

“Fine, well my immediate concern is this gash in her side.” The healer called for assistance, and someone eventually sent him from the room.

Then he realized that he hadn’t alerted anyone that he’d left with Hermione. He couldn’t produce a talking patronus on a good day, and he knew he’d never be able to get even a mist after all the dark magic he’d performed in the last hour.

Now that his adrenalin was slowing, he felt the darkness beginning to crush him. Hermione was unconscious, hurt in ways he couldn’t identify. He collapsed into a chair in the waiting area, and realized that he was covered in her blood. He dropped his head in his hands. I should just leave. She won’t want me here, she’s going to think I was in on it. She was in my own bloody house and I didn’t know it!

Just then, several Aurors burst into the waiting area, wands drawn. “Draco Malfoy?”

“Yes?” Draco asked, coldly.

“You’ve violated your probation.” One of the Aurors said, “You performed multiple dark spells, we have to take you in.”

Draco considered them for a moment, and then set his wand on the ground, and put his hands up. “Fine. But please get word to Shacklebolt and Potter that Hermione Granger is here at St. Mungoes.”

One Auror bound his wrists, and another retrieved his wand, and they disapperated to the Ministry.

“Where the bloody hell did Malfoy go?” Ron yelled through the commotion.

“No idea.” Harry called back, after blasting a spell towards the Lestrange brothers.

“I told you he’d take off!” Ron replied.

“Well go look for him then!” Harry yelled back, “We’ve got things under control here.”

Ron nodded, and turned in the direction Draco had pointed out earlier. “He said she’s in the conservatory, what the hell is a conservatory?” He muttered.

He made his way down the hall checking doors, until he found an ornate door surrounded by stained glass standing open. Maybe this is it.

He slipped into the room, wand drawn and quickly looked around. A greenhouse? There was no one in the room, but he noticed bluebell flames across the room, so he hurried to where the Devil’s Snare plant was being held back. There was blood on the floor, and on a pair of pruning shears, but no Hermione and no Draco.

Ron hurried back to the foyer, where he saw Harry blasting happily away at the Lestrange brothers. He didn't seem to be driving them back or attempting to stun them, just toying with them enough to keep them occupied.

"You find Malfoy?" Harry called, ducking a green jet of light.

"No, looks like he took off." Ron said, joining in on the fight. "Looks like he might have taken Hermione, but I can't tell."

"Ok, well let's finish this and we'll find her." Harry said. "You're the one who's meant to be brilliant at tactics Mr. Wizard's Chess, what do you suggest?"

"Stupefying them?" Ron shrugged.

"Some tactical genius you are." Harry said, rolling his eyes.

"What can I say, sometimes the Kings Pawn works." Ron laughed, parrying Rodolphus.

"I have no idea what that means." Harry said, stupefying Rabastan. "Is that a chess move?"

"See, this is why I always beat you at Wizards chess." Ron said, as he stupefyed Rodolphus. "You have no respect for the game."

"No, I just have more interesting things to do with my life." Harry teased.

"Sure that's it." Ron said rolling his eyes, and hitting both men with incarcerous, binding them tightly with ropes.

"Are you two really having an argument about chess in the middle of a fight?" Kingsley came down the stairs behind them. "Honestly, if this were training I'd write you both up for letting yourselves get distracted with chat."

"Awe Kingsley, there's just two of them." Ron said.

Kingsley shook his head. "You two need to take this seriously, you'll get yourselves killed if you don't. You're first year apprentices, you shouldn't even be in the field."

"Yes sir," Harry said, turning serious. "Sorry."

"Well, Hermione isn't upstairs." Kingsley reported.

"She's not down here either." Ron said, "It looks like there was some kind of struggle in the conservatory. Maybe she got away?"

Just then a patronus of an owl appeared. "Hermione Granger at St. Mungoes, Draco Malfoy apprehended for use of dark magic. Awaiting orders."

"Bloody hell Dawlish." Kingsley said, rubbing his temples. "Now it's going to be a mountain of parchment to get Malfoy sorted out. I'll deal with this lot, you two go check on Hermione."

Authors Note:

The book quoted in this chapter is The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien.

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