Isolation

He can't leave the room. Her room. And it's all the Order's fault. Confined to a small space with only the Mudblood for company, something's going to give. Maybe his sanity. Maybe not. "There," she spat. "Now your Blood's filthy too!" DM/HG. PostHBP.

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/6291747/1/Isolation

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31. Blood

She didn't even remember shouting, "RUN!" to Harry and Ron.

She was racing away before her voice reached her ears, surging her body forward and snaking around trees with everything she had. The ground seemed to quake with the fast and thunderous footsteps of the Snatchers, and the sound of it rumbled all around her. Patches of mud and hidden bumps rocked her balance, but she tried to keep her focus amongst the adrenaline storm.

Harry was to her right — about twenty feet away — sprinting through the forest with two Snatchers on his tail. She couldn't see Ron, but she could hear him calling out to them, maybe another twenty feet or so from Harry, and she prayed he had the sense not to blurt any of their names. If they could just get some distance and reach each other to Apparate. If they could just get somewhere safe. If they could…

The Snatcher behind her was getting closer.

She could feel his shadow against her back; the chill of it on her neck. She hurled a spell over her shoulder, and the sparks of it singed her cheeks. She heard a thud and hoped she had successfully managed to hinder his chase, but she could already feel another one catching up to her.

The wind of a hex rushed past her ear, and she raised her arm to shield her eyes when it struck a tree and launched a spatter of splinters towards her. She fired another spell behind her and somehow managed to find some more speed, trying to veer towards Harry and Ron. If she could just get to them…

She heard a change in Ron's shouts and knew that they'd caught him.

That was it then. There was no way they'd leave him behind. They were in trouble.

She made a decision and kept running until she was close enough to Harry, and the Stinging Hex was the first spell that popped into her head. She hit her mark; Harry's face, and she watched him stumble as the inevitable pain began to register, and his features began to inflate and swell. She hoped it would be enough to alter his appearance. To make him unrecognisable.

Ron was struggling persistently against the two Snatchers who dragged him over to their group, but it was futile. There were Snatchers surrounding them from all sides now, slithering around the trees and circling them. Two of them took hold of her arms, but it was only when Fenir Greyback marched towards them that Hermione realised just how terrified she was, and the lingering look of hunger he directed towards her made her feel sick. He looked just as she remembered; feral and unkempt, and her eyes fell to the smudges of dried blood under his fingernails.

"Running is never a good idea," he said in his scratchy tone, his calculating glare shifting to Harry. "What the fuck happened to your face, ugly?"

"Al-allergies," he stuttered.

Greyback cocked a too-bushy eyebrow. "Names. Now."

"Dudley. Vernon Dudley."

"And you, ginger?"

"Stan Shunpike-

Fenir backhanded his cheek, and Ron grunted at the impact. "Your real name."

Ron swallowed hard. "Barny Weasley."

"A Weasley?" Fenir repeated. "You're a Blood Traitor then. The Order of the Phoenix ring any bells? There are a few Weasleys in there."

Ron shook his head, and Hermione averted her gaze when Fenir turned back to her with that same perverted stare. "And you, girly?"

"Penelope Clearwater," she said with more conviction than she felt.

"Pretty name for a pretty thing," he said, licking his jagged teeth and reaching out to stroke her cheek with a yellow and sharp fingernail. Hermione shuddered and tried hard not to retch. "I bet you taste sweet-

"Don't touch her!" Ron snapped. "Leave her the hell alone!"

"How touching," he snarled, glancing over to one of the Snatchers. "Check the list. We'll be taking you to the Ministry. If you are who you say you are, you'll have nothing to worry about-

"Hey, wait," one of the Snatchers interrupted, and Hermione's noticed the crumpled copy of The Daily Prophet in his hand. He gestured to a page. "Look at this, Greyback."

Hermione felt dread drop in her stomach when Fenir's eyes flicked from her to the newspaper, and then back to her. She exchanged a troubled look with Harry and tried to keep her composure, but she knew what was coming.

"This picture looks a lot like you, girly," he growled. "And it says here, known to be travelling with Harry Potter." He turned to Harry. "Well, well, well. This is interesting."

Harry tensed. "That's not-

"Shut it," he spat, moving over to Harry and squinting at the taut scar on his forehead. "It is you! We've got Potter!"

A roar of cheers erupted from the herd of Snatchers, and even the effects of the Stinging Hex couldn't hide Harry's alarm. "Come on!" one of the Snatchers shouted. "Let's take him to the Ministry-

"No!" Fenir called back. "They'll take the credit for it. We'll take them straight to the Dark Lord."

Hermione's heart was wedged in her throat.

Oh God no…

"We'll take them to Malfoy Manor."

.

.

A sudden wave of nausea washed over Draco as he descended the stairs, and he clutched the banister to steady himself as the dizziness subsided. It passed and he shook his head, absently blaming the odd turn on a lack of a sleep.

The quiet hum of voices grasped his attention — Theo, Blaise and Andromeda by the sound of it — and he rolled his shoulders as he approached the kitchen.

He had successfully managed to steer clear of Theo and Blaise since his outburst over a week ago, knowing that Theo was likely to make some comments that would bait his anger, but he didn't give a shit anymore. He'd grown sick of the sight of his bedroom walls and the sound of silence, and he could really care less if Theo decided to be a snarky idiot about the situation, especially when he had broken down about Ted's death.

Shoving open the door, Theo, Blaise and Andromeda paused their conversation and regarded him with a mixture of caution of curiosity. Draco studied Blaise first, and instantly concluded from his dishevelled appearance and bloodshot eyes that Lovegood was still missing. He was unshaven, exhausted, and blatantly anxious, his brow creased with worry-lines and body rigid with strain, like he was ready snap.

Andromeda was preparing food, and while she still looked every bit the grieving widow, there was a small spark in her eyes, which he credited to the recent birth of her grandson. Yes, she definitely looked better, like her spirit was mending slowly, and that was…good. Perhaps he had come to accept that she was indeed his aunt, or maybe it was the resemblance she bore to his mother, but seeing her so depressed had made him feel uncomfortable.

And then there was Theo…

"Well, good afternoon, stranger," he smirked, and Draco rolled his eyes. "How nice of you to finally grace us with your presence-

"Theo," warned Andromeda. "Don't start-

"I was beginning to forget what your face looked like," Theo went on. "In hindsight, that was probably a blessing in disguise-

"Fuck off," Draco scoffed, dropping into a free chair. "I'm not on the mood for you today, Nott-

"I'm just trying to lighten the mood-

"Theo, that's enough," said Andromeda firmly. "You know, nobody gave you any hassle when you were upset-

"Oh, come on!" he exclaimed. "That was completely different! Am I seriously the only one who thinks the irony of Draco's situation is hilarious? It's Granger-

"Theo," hissed Draco. "Carry on, and I fucking swear-

"Look, I'm not going to take the piss because she's a Muggle-born or anything, but you hated the girl because of her blood status, and she's Potter's best friend-

"Theo-

"And look at you now," he continued. "Defected with a Muggle-born girlfriend who just happens to be Gryffindor's little golden princess, and one of the Pheonix lot."

Draco growled behind his teeth. "Theo, I will-

"Fuck, I would pay so much money to see the look on your parents' faces if they found out," he grinned with genuine amusement. "I mean, wouldn't it have just been easier to shit directly onto your family crest or your father's fortune?"

"Alright, Theo! That's enough!" Andromeda shouted. "You have said your piece-

"I'm only having a laugh-

"Well, it's not funny."

"Oh, for Merlin's sake," he snorted. "You all need to get a sense of humour. It's not like I'm having a dig. You know, I think all my shock was used up when Blaise started fancying Lovegood. You know, you two could start a club, or maybe write a book. How to get Laid and Piss off your Parents in One Easy Move, by Draco Malfoy and Blaise Zabini-

"Theo, shut the fuck up," Blaise hissed slowly, but there was an eerie calmness to his posture as he leaned back in his seat and tapped his finger against his mug of tepid coffee. "If you so much as breathe in an irritating way, I will deck the shit out of you, alright?"

Theo faltered but clicked his tongue haughtily. "Fucking cheerful bunch, aren't you?"

Blaise sprung up from his chair and looked just about ready to throttle Theo. "You never bloody learn to shut your gob-

"Blaise, calm down!" Andromeda yelled, rushing over to interject. "Theo, you can go and help Miles do the laundry."

"What? I did it yesterday-

"I don't care. You're riling everyone up, and I won't have it-

"Why should I have to walk around on eggshells just because these two are whining about their missing girlfriends?"

"Just go!" she demanded. "Now!"

"Fuck's sake," he grumbled, shaking his head as he left the room.

He slammed the door behind him, and Blaise eased back into his chair with a long and weary breath. Draco considered him carefully, so familiar with all the tell-tale signs of stress and apprehension.

"I take Lovegood's still missing then?" he asked, unsure what he expected to gain from the question.

Blaise lifted his guarded eyes to him and hesitated before he nodded his head once. "Almost two weeks."

"They'll turn up soon," Andromeda offered reassuringly, but it was such a flimsy promise.

.

.

The Manor reeked of death and Dark Magic, and Hermione tried not to inhale the stench.

Instead, she analysed her surroundings carefully, racking her brain for any method of escape, but she knew it was impossible. They had no wands, they were outnumbered, and the Manor would inevitably have anti-Apparition Wards. They needed a miracle. A fast one.

Fenir's horrid breath was in Hermione's hair, and she tried to jerk her head away. He and his henchmen dragged her, Harry and Ron to a large room, and when Hermione realised who was waiting for them, she felt her insides scrunch up with fright.

There was something about Bellatix that would forever haunt Hermione.

Perhaps it was the unhinged and sadistic glint in her eyes, or the disturbing twitch to her vile grin, but the witch was just…inhuman to Hermione, like her insanity had picked away at her brain until all of the familiar emotion and instinct had been eroded. She was a creature; an evil and psychotic tool that was designed for nothing except torture and murder. And she relished it, like some sick hobby to pass the day. Completely deranged, and deadly because of it.

There was movement behind Bellatrix, and Hermione barely stifled a gasp.

They seemed so different to the last time she'd seen them; Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy. All of that loud and aristocratic arrogance had diminished, as had that attention-demanding confidence of a married couple in power, and Hermione was transfixed on them. Narcissa looked like she hadn't eaten in weeks, frail and distraught, while Lucius bore all the signs of a man who had been relentlessly tortured for months, until his pride had abandoned him and his spirit had been subdued.

Hermione accidentally met Narcissa's eyes and saw nothing but sorrow, and she remembered then that she hadn't seen Draco in almost a year, no doubt assumed he was dead, and Hermione momentarily forgot the cruel woman she'd always thought Narcissa to be, and saw a vulnerable mother who had lost her son. She was weary, vulnerable, and seemed almost…reluctant to participate as Bellatrix and Peter Pettigrew eagerly rushed to meet them.

"We caught Potter!" bellowed Fenir. "Summon the Dark Lord-

"Just a moment," said Bellatrix. "How are you so sure? The boy's face is-

"The girl's a Mudblood," he replied, shoving Hermione towards Bellatrix. "Her picture was in The Prophet and it says she's travelling with Potter-

"A Mudblood?" she echoed with interest, snapping her wicked eyes to Hermione. She look like she might lick her lips with anticipation. "You do look very familiar. Cissy! You've met this thing a few times, haven't you? What's her name? Didn't you say you saw her Madam Malkins' not long ago?"

Narcissa barely lifted her head. "I can't recall-

"Granger! The Mudblood's name is Granger. Draco mentioned her years ago," said Lucius, and Hermione didn't miss the twinge of pain that stole Narcissa's features at the sound of her son's name. She felt I too. "Yes, she was always with Potter! It is him!"

"I told you!" Fenir boasted. "And you can see the scar-

"Let me see it!" she demanded, striding over to Harry and grabbing his face. "It is him! I will-

"I'll summon him!" Lucius interrupted, reaching for his sleeve. "Let me be the one-

"Now is not the time for your desperate need for his approval, Lucius!"

"Don't talk to him like that!" Narcissa barked at her sister, and Hermione was too distracted to notice the Snatcher tugging at her bag.

"Oh, don't be so sensitive, Cissy! It's not my fault you decided to marry such a pathetic…

Bellatrix trailed off, her eyes narrowing with outrage.

.

.

Draco flinched and looked down at his forearm.

His Mark was itching, almost painfully so, and he grudgingly peeled back his sleeve to scowl at the ugly smudge on his snowy-white skin. He hadn't really examined it in a while, had practically refused to acknowledge it since that night in Astronomy Tower and more so when he and Granger had started sharing a bed. It looked just as it always had, but the irritating prickle began to worsen, and he smothered a groan behind his teeth.

"Draco?" Andromeda mumbled, eyeing his Mark cautiously. "What's wrong?"

"I don't know," he mumbled. "It just randomly started…burning."

.

.

It all happened too quickly.

One of Fenir's men had seized Hermione's bag and extracted Gryffindor's Sword, and then Bellatrix had erupted with action, screaming questions about the sword and firing hexes at the Snatchers who were foolish enough to respond with cocky retorts. Hermione held her breath until the hot sparks jetting out of Bellatrix's wand stopped, eyeing the still bodies of the stunned men, who were scattered across the floor like dirty confetti.

"Pettigrew!" Bellatrix growled, gesturing to the injured Snatchers. "Get rid of them. Take them to the courtyard, and I'll deal with them later-

"Bu-but, Bellatrix," stammered Lucius. "The Dark Lord-

"If you summon the Dark Lord now, he'll have our heads, you senseless idiot!" She turned to Fenir. "Put these in the dungeons with the others, except for…except for the Mudblood," Bellatrix said, coming close enough to Hermione that she could feel the wet of her breath. "We're going to have a little chat-

"No, wait!" Ron yelled frantically. "Not her! Me, you can take me!"

"You'll be next, Blood Traitor-

"Not her-

Fenir released Hermione and rammed his fist into Ron's face, silencing his protests before grabbing him and Harry, and dragging them out of the room. Hermione watched them go, her heart sinking to her stomach when they disappeared from her sight and their voices drifted out of earshot.

"Aw," cooed Bellatrix, tutting her tongue. "So sad."

Hermione could feel herself shaking, and her breathing began to accelerate, but she willed her body not to betray her fear. She'd be damned if she gave Bellatrix the satisfaction of seeing her crack. The dark witch was staring at her with an ominous expression of excitement, tapping her wand mockingly against her hip, and Hermione needed to look away, her eyes wandering over to Narcissa again, but she was frowning at the floor.

"Where did you get that sword, Mudblood?" Bellatrix snarled, right next to ear.

"We-we found it. It's just a fake. A copy-

"Lies," she hissed, baring her chipped and grey teeth. "Not that it makes a difference. I was going to torture you anyway. Let's get started, shall we?"

Hermione locked her limbs and braced herself for the inevitable, tilting her chin defiantly for dignity's sake and telling herself she wouldn't scream.

The first blast of the Cruciatus Curse made her fall to her knees. It felt like her bones, blood, veins, and everything beneath her skin was fizzling with fire, or being stabbed at with blunt and rusty knives. Her whole body tensed and spasmed at unnatural angles, and she clamped down hard on her tongue to stop the cry that was dying to be released, whining at the back of her mouth.

Oh Merlin, it hurt…like nothing she had ever experienced.

And then it stopped.

"How did you break into my vault?" Bellatrix demanded, standing over her.

"We-we didn't-

"Crucio!"

The second round was so much worse; somehow more concentrated and deeper, and Hermione dropped completely to the floor, writhing as the brutal tremors took control of her. She thought that the scream that ricocheted around the room didn't sound like her at all, but she felt her lungs strain, and she understood how this torture drove people mad.

.

.

Draco pulled his sleeve back down to cover his Mark.

It was still itching a little, but it was bearable, and he didn't like the way Andromeda and Blaise had studied it with such awkwardness. They were silent now; Blaise gliding his finger across the rim of his mug, and his aunt absentmindedly sorting through the kitchen supplies, so when the sudden crack of Apparition sounded outside, the three of them flinched with surprise.

Tonks came barrelling into the room through the back door, clutching a blanket-wrapped bundle in her arms and rushing over to her mother, completely oblivious to the two Slytherins sat at the table. Although he could only see the back of her, Draco could tell from the tension in her shoulders that she was flustered and haste-driven, and he shared a puzzled look with Blaise.

"Mum, I need you to look after Teddy for a bit," she said quickly. "I don't know how long it'll be for-

"What is it, Nymphadora?" asked Andromeda. "What's wrong?"

"We just received word from Aberforth," she explained, carefully handing over Teddy. "The Snatchers must've caught them, and he said that there are others too-

"Sweetheart, just slow down. Who are you talking-

"Harry, Ron and Hermione. They were-

"What?" breathed Draco, his voice barely a whisper of shock. He got to his feet as Tonks whipped around with a gasp. "What did you-

"You shouldn't have heard that-

"You said Granger-

"Look, just wait a minute-

"You said Granger," he repeated in a forebodingly low tone. "Is she…is she alright?"

He had literally needed to choke out that question, and he didn't even want to know the answer. He'd never felt anything close to this; emotion wedged in his throat, his heart drumming behind his eyes with a heavy beat, and the structure of his body taut, prepared for the breakdown. This was what he'd been dreading…his witch…Hermione…but it was all too real.

Tonks sighed. "As far as we know-

"What the fuck does that mean?" he spat, taking some steps forward and positioning himself in the way of the door so his cousin couldn't attempt to leave. "Is she alive, or is she not?"

"We don't know, but we think-

"You said there were others," Blaise spoke up. "Luna. Is Luna one of the others?"

"It's…it's likely, but we don't know-

"Then what the hell do you know?" Draco asked impatiently.

"We know where they are," said Tonks, fixing him with an unsettling look. "They're at your house. They're at Malfoy Manor."

.

.

"We didn't take anything," Hermione whimpered, her voice failing. "It-it's just a fake."

She felt herself being magically levitated again, rising almost six feet in the air before Bellatrix slammed her body hard back down to the cold, stone floor. Her head landed with such an impact that it bounced, and the back of her head became very wet and warm. Just as the bitter scent of blood registered, Hermione realised Bellatrix was crouching next to her, gripping her arm and tearing away the material of her sleeve.

"Repulsive Mudblood," she sneered, her menacing face hovering above Hermione. "You should all be branded a birth."

Bellatrix muttered an unfamiliar incantation, producing a small globe of green light at the tip of her wand, and Hermione's eyes went wide with horror as she swiftly stabbed it into her arm. She slashed, sliced and hacked away at her skin, and Hermione was screaming again, thrashing around and trying to get free as Bellatrix carved the letters for what felt like hours.

When Bellatrix had finished disfiguring her arm, she fired another Cruciatus Cruse directly to Hermione's chest, and her cries of pain became scratchy, weakening to cracked and pathetic noises that sounded like a dying bird. Her voice had given up on her, but the need to scream remained as Bellatrix continued to torture her within an inch of insanity.

Again, it stopped, but the residue of the Curse felt like poison crawling around her insides, and, Oh Godric, she felt so dizzy. She battled unconsciousness, knowing that blacking out with her head injury was unwise, but it was so tempting to surrender to the darkness that loomed at the edge of her vision…

"Bring me the Goblin, Pettigrew," instructed Bellatrix. "He'll tell us if the sword is indeed a fake."

.

.

Teddy had started to sniffle in Andromeda's arms, but Draco barely noticed.

"My house?" he repeated quietly. "Why would-

"You-Know-Who's been using it as his base," Tonks told him bluntly. "We don't know what's happening, but we know that's where they are-

"Well, then you need to take me there! I know the Manor! I can-

"There are anti-Apparition Wards surrounding the grounds, and they would have been changed since you went missing-

"I still might be able to get in-

"Draco, look-

"NO! You fucking look!" he roared, striding up to his cousin with rage-fuelled steps. "I need to get in there! I need to-

"There is nothing that you could do," she interrupted calmly. "Letting you just waltz into the Death Eaters' headquarters would not only be dangerous for you, but for everyone else who's trapped there-

"THEN WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?" he demanded, slamming his balled fist into the wall. "You're just going to leave Granger there? They will kill her, you stupid fucking-

"Help has been sent," said Tonks. "If all goes to plan, they'll be out of there soon."

.

.

Mudblood.

The word was engraved into her arm in an ugly smear, weeping perfect, little droplets of blood that dribbled out of her like tears. She concluded the wound at the back of her head was worse than she had initially thought. The blurriness of her vision was getting worse, and while she could hear the distant sounds of Bellatrix questioning Griphook, it sounded so far away. Her bloody hair was damp and sticky against her neck, matted in thick clumps, and her head felt numb and hollow, almost detached from the rest of her aching and battered body.

She guessed that a few of her ribs had been broken, perhaps her arm too, but it was difficult to focus on one area of the pain. There was a pretty ribbon of blood trickling out of the corner of her mouth, but she couldn't decide if she had simply torn her vocal chords with all her screaming, or if she'd suffered some internal damage.

It didn't matter…

Hermione had accepted that she was going to die here; terrified and alone on this ice-cold floor, and that her death would be dealt to her by a relative of the man she loved. It was almost poetic, but then the tragic love-stories always are.

Unconsciousness was creeping up on her, and she knew that she wouldn't wake up. There was nobody coming. Nobody could come. Logically, death was the inevitable fate for her, as it is for everyone, but hers would be early. Too early. Too prolonged and excruciating.

She thought of her parents, how they would probably never know that the daughter she'd made them forget had been killed, but then maybe that was for the best…

She thought of Harry and Ron, wondered what would become of them, and prayed that they might get free, or at least have an easier time than she'd had.

She thought of Draco, remembering their relationship that had barely been given a chance to begin. So brief. So heartbreaking. So…beautiful in all the wrong ways.

She hadn't meant to murmur his name aloud; hell, she didn't think her voice would allow her another syllable, but she had definitely heard it. She didn't even consider the possibility that her fractured voice had reached someone else's ears, until the swishing hem of a robe suddenly came into her line of sight. Using what little strength she had left, she managed to tilt her chin and lock eyes with Narcissa Malfoy.

The older witch's face was stretched with a mixture of surprise and confusion as she cast a wary glance around the room — presumably to check no one was watching — before she knelt down at Hermione's side.

"You said Draco's name," she whispered. "Why would you…do you know what happened to him?"

Hermione tried to respond, but all she could manage was strangled noise that had no meaning. Narcissa scanned the room again and then slowly removed her wand from her pocket, aiming it at Hermione with her features hardening with concentration.

"Legilimens."

There was no way she could resist the spell. Hermione clenched her eyes shut as a rush of heat shot up her spine and into her skull. Memories flashed against the backs of her lids in rapid succession, images of those first awful weeks when Draco had been forced to stay in her dorm. She saw herself stabbing his palm with her wand and then fastening their hands together. She saw Draco leaning over her after the bee-sting, and their fleeting first kiss. She saw herself returning to her room after her stay with Tonks, and him rushing towards her and grabbing her face. She saw them on the sofas, on the window-seat, on the ice, and all those kisses in between. And then she saw them in the Forbidden Forest; rain hammering against them as Draco just stood there, frozen in place, and she told him she loved him, and pressed the Portkey into his hand.

And then she was back in the Manor, staring at Narcissa's stunned expression, and almost wanting to express her gratitude to the witch for allowing her to relive those memories. She felt weaker now; her lids like rocks and her whole system soft and pulsating. She was disorientated, bordering on delusional as her body and mind started to shut down.

"…help you," Narcissa's hushed voice brought her back. "If you swear to tell me where Draco is, I will get you out of here. I promise. Please, just tell me what happened to my son."

Hermione tried to speak, but it was futile, barely managing a stuttering gargled sound that was lost to the unexpected racket of a commotion behind her.

She thought she might…yes, she could hear Harry and Ron, and then Lucius, Fenir, and Bellatrix, all of them shouting manically. Narcissa disappeared, and Hermione could do nothing but listen to the buzzing sounds of clashing spells, wondering if it would be too hopelessly optimistic of her to think that they might have a chance, that they might get out of here alive. If not her, then at least the boys…

There were rough fingers yanking at her shoulders and hair, hauling her up to stand, and then the freezing edge of a blade was licking at the taut vein in her throat.

"Drop the wands, or she dies!" Bellatrix ordered. "DO IT NOW!"

"Alright!" said Harry.

"Good! The Dark Lord is coming, Harry Potter! Your death approaches! Greyback, would you like to take care of Miss Mudblood? I am sure the Dark Lord will not begrudge you the girl, after what you have done tonight."

Before Harry and Ron could surrender the wands they must've obtained in the fray, Hermione let her head fall back and noticed the subtle swing of the chandelier, its beautiful jewels chiming quietly with the movement. And another noise; metal scraping against metal. Creaking. Splitting…Everyone in the room had stilled to listen to it, and then there was a final telling snap, and the chandelier came crashing down.

Merlin knew how, but Hermione summoned enough energy to tear herself out of Bellatrix's hold, managing to stagger a few steps forward and into the safety of Ron's ready arms, and that was when she blacked out.

.

.

"I've wasted too much time," said Tonks. "I need to get back…they will need help-

"Then take us with you!" Blaise pleaded desperately. "We can help."

"Absolutely not-

"That could be my girlfriend! I need to see if she's there!"

Draco was breathing heavily, trying to keep his temper subdued. "Just…just let us come with you."

"I will not-

"You heartless bitch!" he yelled. "I need to see Hermione! I fucking need to, do you not get that?"

"No!" Tonks argued firmly. "Look at how angry the pair of you are! Your presence would do more harm than good-

"Please, cousin," he forced the words out, hating that this situation had reduced him to begging. "Let me see her."

"Draco-

"Take them with you, Nymphadora," said Andromeda steadily, trying to calm her grandson's cries.

Tonks arched an eyebrow at her. "But, Mum-

"If it was Remus, you'd be acting in the same way as them," she went on. "Just take them with you. Give them something…give them hope."

Draco observed his conflicted cousin intently as she seemed to weigh up her options, eyes flicking between Andromeda, Blaise, and himself. Letting go of an exasperated sigh, she rubbed her eyes and shot Draco a warning glare.

"If you put one foot out of line," she said slowly. "I swear, I will bloody-

"I won't," he assured her. "I won't."

"Fine then," she agreed stiffly. "Mum, where are the Porkeys I sent you? We need to be quick."

"Here," Andromeda replied, rummaging in a drawer and tossing Tonks a decorative eggcup wrapped in cloth. "Be safe. All of you."

Draco offered his aunt a curt nod of gratitude as Tonks carefully unwrapped the small trinket, laying it flat in her palm, cushioned by the cloth until they were all ready. His gut was twisting with everything; apprehension, concern, anticipation…

He was going to see Granger again, assuming this 'plan' his cousin had mentioned had gone well…assuming she'd managed to get out….assuming she was still alive…

Too many uncertain factors with so much room for error…He felt sick again.

"Right, come on. We need to move," said Tonks, her tone urgent. "On the count of three. One, two, three."

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