Chapter Thirty-Five: Monday Evening

The characters and canon situations in the following story belong solely to JK Rowling, Scholastic, and WB. I am not making any money from the publishing or writing of this story.

Beta credit: bunnyhops and CoquetteKitten.

 

Hermione woke on a stone floor in a dark, cold place. She was disoriented, but remembered almost right away that she’d been heading toward the dungeons to get her wand back. So chances are that‘s where I am, and I don’t have my only source of light . . . or defense.

 

Pansy had obviously lured her down here using the little dog, and that spoke of a certain amount of desperation. Surely she knows this won’t work in her favor with the Malfoy wizards. Thoughts of Lucius and Draco bolstered her spirits and made her think of the covenant. She reached out mentally in search of the little shimmering presence. Please don’t panic, but obviously we’re in trouble. It’d be nice if you could help me somehow. A feeling of nervous resignation washed over her, and it wasn’t her own.

 

She stood slowly, wincing at a deep, sharp pain in her right ankle. Touching it cautiously revealed what seemed to be a wet, jagged gash that was already swelling under her ruined sock, and she remembered being bitten by the dog. Oh, perfect. I wonder if witches can get rabies. The fact that the blood was wet was a good sign – it marked a short passage of time since she’d passed out.

 

She stretched out her arms and found a wall and, using it as support, limped forward cautiously until she hit a corner. Along the next wall, she stumbled over what felt like the huge broken frame of a wooden chair. This could function as a weapon of sorts. It was really too heavy for her to even carry, but she dragged it along awkwardly as she continued exploring the dark cell.   At first she tried to keep as quiet as possible, but soon gave that up. The chair frame made a racket, but it was too potentially useful to scrap. Besides, if I’m in the dungeons, these walls are incredibly thick. Not much noise will filter through from either side. On she went for a long time in search of a door until her hand brushed against a heavy hinge. The door was locked, of course. Hermione hobbled to the other side of it and settled down against the wall. Whoever had locked her in here would return eventually.

 

In due course, Hermione lost track of time, and hours seemed to pass as the cold and silence seeped into her bones. She leaned against the broken chair beside her. What have I done? Will Professor Vector think I found a suitable chaperone and left on my own terms? How soon will they know to look for me? Finally, with a sound of groaning hinges, the door opened, and torchlight flickered into the room. She was so disoriented by the brightness that, for a moment, she thought she saw Ron coming through the door. She blinked several times.

 

It was Ron, and he was peering around the dim room, wand raised defensively. “Ron! I can’t believe I’m saying this, but thank Merlin it’s you! Pansy Parkinson is crazy, and we need to get out of here!”

 

He looked at her stupidly for a moment, then smiled in a not-so-very-nice way. Realization dawned on her. “You idiot! What have you done?!”

 

“Stop calling me that! I was smart enough to get you to come down here, wasn’t I? Why do you just assume Pansy did all the brainwork?” His face was darkly flushed down past his collar, and in the bright flickering light of the torch Hermione could see he had a raised rash on his cheeks. Still pointing his wand at her, he moved to drop the torch into the wall-sconce near the door.

 

“You’re working together?! This is unbelievable! This is so like you, Ron – you always find a smart girl to do the hard parts for you!”

 

He scratched his head fiercely. “What are you talking about?”

 

“You used my brain as your personal assistant for years, and now you’re doing the same to Pansy Parkinson!”

 

“She’s nothing like you, ‘Mione!” Ron reached down to his knee and scratched at it the same way he’d done to his head.

 

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

 

“She showed me her tits, for one thing.” His face twitched as if he had an itch, and he scrabbled at one rashy cheek, then the other.

 

“That’s just . . . you’re a pig, Ronald.” And a rashy, itchy pig, at that.

 

“And you’re a frigid cow! I wasn’t even sure you were really female until last week.” His eyes traveled from her face down to her chest, and Hermione was extremely grateful to be wearing her uniform and robes. Within her, the covenant gave a roll of revulsion.

 

Hermione crossed her arms in front of her and angled her body away from his leer. “I’m not even going to dignify that with a reply,” she sighed. “We need to talk, Ron — but first you need to let me go.” She waited for the covenant to physically manifest its intense dislike of this idea, but only a trace feeling of vertigo washed over her. It felt almost like a warning. I promise to stay as far away from him as possible.

 

“I don’t think I will. See, by being here without a chaperone, you’re in violation of traditional courtship rules. Do you know what that means, Miss Granger?”

 

She didn’t, and she said so.

 

Instead of answering her right away, he continued, “And you’ve eloped with a member of a rival family.” He scratched at his left ear.

 

“I’ve done no such thing!”

 

“You’re here with me, aren’t you? Well, then! Do you know what that means by the most ancient laws?” Ron looked very confident, and Hermione was instantly suspicious.

 

He knows something I don’t know. Something I should have known. And why is he so itchy and twitchy? Mother of magic, if I had my wand . . .  Out loud she said, “I’m sure you’re going to tell me.”

 

He looked very smug. “Have you been marked?”

 

This non sequitur threw her off balance. “Errr, what?”

 

“Didn’t think so. Pansy was right – the Ferret family’s been taking things slow with you. You’re here without a chaperone, with a rival family member, and you don’t bear the Malfoy rune on your skin. Your acceptance can be contested. I’m going to contest it. Then I’m going to cast my stake, and my brothers will accept me back into the family.”

 

“Even if all that were true, I still wouldn’t accept. I’d choose the Malfoy house again. I want to marry Lucius and Draco, Ron.”  The covenant’s growing unease felt like a physical vibration within her.

 

“This isn’t about you, ‘Mione!  This is about you fixing what you’ve ruined. You’ll be a Weasley House Wife – my Wife — and I’ll be reinstated to the family. It’s how it was supposed to be.” He raised his arm behind his back and tried to scratch the middle of it, contorting in an attempt to reach it.

 

“I’m not going to marry you! Other than the fact that you’ve had sex with every willing girl in this school and treated me horribly, you’ve just abducted me!”  Surely someone had noticed her absence — was Draco even now looking for her?  Thoughts of him bolstered her courage and prompted her to add, “And even if none of that were true, you and I have nothing in common whatsoever. I can’t imagine being married to someone who doesn’t appreciate the finer points of Transfiguration, or Arithmancy, or Herbology, or even Divination!!!”

 

“You hate Divination!” He was within five feet of her now.

 

The covenant was in full panic mode, and Hermione wrestled with the broken chair frame until it stood between her and Ron. She pressed her back against the cold wall behind her despite the fact that she was beginning to shiver.  “Not nearly as much as I used to. Interestingly enough, Luna made a prophecy at lunch today. She predicted that only the dog could defeat its master. Where’s your damned ankle-biter, Ron?”

 

Ron’s comprehension seemed to be somewhat delayed, and it took him some seconds to process her question. He tilted his head, frowning, lowering his wand slightly as he said, “You don’t know? Pansy’s an Animagus.”

 

Pansy’s the new Animagus. The information wouldn’t seem to process in her brain. She focused on a simpler problem. “What’s wrong with you? Why are you all rashy and itching?”

 

Ron dropped all animosity as he complained, “Don’t know – been getting worse for days, especially now that I’ve run out of Burn Paste. That seemed to help a bit. The Glamour covers up the worst of it, though. Now I’ve got pustules everywhere, as well as the rash and itching.”

 

Hermione was perversely fascinated by his described symptoms, but at her sudden scientific curiosity to examine them closely the covenant began producing waves of strong dizziness within her. Ducking even farther behind the chair, she refocused her mind on her situation. “You’re completely mad. What’s in this for Pansy, anyway? I mean, I can follow your infantile logic to a point, but what’s her angle?” Luna prophesied about Pansy. The new Animagus.

 

“She wants you out of the way so she can have another go at your lover boy.”

 

There was a sound in the hall and Hermione’s heart leapt with hope, only to plummet when Pansy sauntered into the dungeon room. The brunette witch looked balefully at her for a moment before turning to Ron. “Why are you two still here?”

 

Pansy’s tone was puzzling to Hermione. There was none of the expected animosity, and almost a flavor of familiarity. She’d expected the two of them to have only banded together out of necessity – not be friendly!

 

Ron answered in an offhand tone. “Portkey’s set for ten minutes from now.” He scratched at his shoulder desperately.

 

Adrenaline instantly pumped through Hermione’s body. “What are you talking about? What Portkey?” Tealeaves and waking dreams, and that prophecy about the dog and its master . . . how did it go?

 

“Good. That gives me time to get to the main floor and help with the search for her.” Pansy answered Ron as if they were the only two in the room.

 

“Tell me why you have a Portkey!”

 

He looked at Hermione with an ugly smirk as he scratched at the back of his neck. “There’s to be another meeting of the Weasley men in a bit, and I’m bringing you along. They wanted you – they can have you. I told you you were going to fix this, and I meant it.”

 

Please let Molly and Arthur and the boys be at the Burrow. “What would your brothers want with me? Ron, they aren’t going to force me to do anything against my will!   And you!” Here she turned her gaze to the other witch. “How can you possibly think Draco will just fall into your arms when he’s avoided you for years?!”

 

Pansy regarded her coolly. “He’ll see that I’m what he really needs – a pure-blood witch from a suitable family.”

 

“You two are completely deluded.” Hermione rolled her eyes and sighed with frustration. “Ron, this isn’t your finest hour. Have you considered the fact that the Malfoys have entire families in their employ whose sole purpose is to protect them and serve their whims? Plus the fact that regardless of ancient laws regarding bindings and House Wives, the Ministry will most certainly track you down for taking me against my will. Whether it’s a Crabbe, a Goyle, or an Auror, I won’t stand in their way when they find us. Do you really want to go to Azkaban?”

 

“This is why I didn’t cast a stake, ‘Mione – you’re so . . . so condescending to me!”

 

“That’s a very big word for you, Ron. Are you sure you know what it means?” Internally, she was frantically trying to remember Luna’s cryptic words from lunch. What were they . . . what were they?!

 

He looked furious in an impotent sort of way and scratched his chest furiously. “Don’t belittle me!”

 

“That’s another one. Perhaps working with Pansy raised your IQ a few points? If so, you should consider retaking your N.E.W.T.S. before graduation. It might be the only way you land a real job.”

 

“Langlock!” The quietly spoken hex hit an unsuspecting Hermione squarely, rendering her speechless. Pansy lowered her wand and looked at the now silent witch with disgust.

 

Hermione sat tongue-tied and frozen against the wall, and for the first time, she felt a frisson of true fear run along her spine. Ron looked her up and down in a way that made it obvious what he was thinking, and she shook her head to clear the swoop of dizziness that passed quickly through her.

 

She took careful stock of her old friend. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say he was certifiably mad. She didn’t think it possible, yet there was something terrifying about the fact that he so stubbornly clung to his warped point of view and her perceived culpability. He was being so . . . so stupid! The look in his eye spoke of desperation, and Hermione knew that he would indeed take her by Portkey – at wand point – to the Burrow. What would he do there when his family failed to share his delusion?

 

Pansy’s sharp voice cut through her thoughts. “I want her out of here. Activate the Portkey early.”

 

Oh, please, please, please help me. I’m sorry I didn’t listen – I was wrong! The covenant flared warmly within her, curling around her in a comforting way. She felt it rebuking her, though, even as it sent soft tendrils of calm through her nervous system. It seemed to be reassuring her that it would be all right, despite her own stupidity. I was so wrong about so many things.

 

“You promised me one more time, Pans.” Keeping his wand still aimed directly at Hermione, Ron drew Pansy further across the room.

 

Pansy sighed in impatience but opened her robes and unbuttoned her shirt. “Make it quick, Ron. I need to get going.”

 

“You keep an eye on her.” Only pausing to scratch at his stomach like a flea-ridden animal for a few seconds, Ron fell to his knees and attached himself physically to the Slytherin witch’s breasts. Hermione squeezed her eyes shut in disgust at the sight of his rashy face buried in the soft flesh. There was a swatting sound, and Ron cried out angrily just as Pansy spat, “How dare you put a mark on my skin!”

 

The wizard stood to his feet and growled back, “You didn’t mind at all the last time!”

 

“That was because I needed your cooperation. How do you think it would look to Draco if I have a love bite on my breast?!”

 

How did the prophecy go? Something about the dog and its master . . . one would defeat the other, but which one? Hermione watched her two captors bicker as her heart raced. Something was going to happen, and she needed to be ready.

 

“Like someone else got to you first,” he sneered.

 

“Why, you- !” Pansy drew back and Transfigured, instantly attacking Ron’s leg viciously in her canine form. He cried out in pain, and the hand directing his wand at Hermione waved wildly.

 

Time seemed to slow dramatically, then. Ron opened his mouth to say something, but was thrown backward against the far wall in an explosion of blue sparks and landed in a limp, ragdoll sprawl of limbs. She looked to the doorway. There, with blazing eyes and wand outstretched, was Lucius.

 

He didn’t spare her a glance, but with a gesture of his hand Summoned the broken chair and Transfigured it into a small cage. This he sent hurtling toward Pansy. It dropped over her furry form and snapped shut, trapping her in a space barely big enough for her. He looked toward Hermione for the briefest of moments before conjuring a Patronus. His voice carried clearly across the cell. “Weasley and Parkinson are incapacitated for the moment.”

 

Then he strode toward the dazed redheaded wizard and bent over him. Lucius stiffened, stepped back a few paces, drew out his wand and passed it over Ron in what seemed to be a diagnostic spell. Finally he looked at Hermione, but not with the tenderness she yearned for.

 

“Has he touched you?” He asked tersely, eyes narrowed in displeasure.

 

She gestured to her mouth, trying to communicate her inability to speak.

 

“Langlock?” He uttered the counter-curse in the same short manner.

 

Hermione shrank away from his brusque tone. “I don’t know. I woke up in this room by myself.”

 

“Fucking hell,” Lucius muttered and crossed to her. “That means quarantine.”

 

He cast another Patronus, intoning, “Pomona, there’s an outbreak of (here he muttered something in a lower, unintelligible tone) at the school. Send help to the lower dungeons immediately.” Then he began raising wards around the dungeon room, effectively locking in the four of them. Lucius Scourgified the space around Hermione, and then he did the same to her hands and every inch of visible skin.

 

The abrasive spell stung, but not as much as her wizard’s reaction to her. What have I done? What does Ron have that’s so awful it’s causing Lucius to act like this? Unless it wasn’t Ron’s rash and pustules, but her own disobedience . . . the covenant seemed to wrap itself around her consciousness like a soft blanket, but she found little comfort in it. She wanted Lucius, but he was busy scrubbing her neck with the harsh spell.

 

“Clothes off, now. All of them,” he demanded briskly, avoiding looking at her.

 

Blinking back tears, she staggered to stand and began stripping. Her robes slipped off easily enough, and Lucius incinerated them with an Incendio the moment they hit the floor. He did the same to her sweater, blouse, skirt and then her slip and shoes, until finally she stood in her undergarments and socks. Hermione leaned against the wall and struggled with the sock on her injured leg. She gasped in pain when she finally had to rip the knit material away from the wound, where blood had stuck them together.

 

He still hadn’t looked at her. “What is it?”

 

“N-n-nothing. She bit me in her Animagus form. It’s . . . it’s . . .”

 

Lucius closed the gap between them just enough that when he knelt, he had a clear look at the wound. Then he stood abruptly and spun away from her. “This is unforgivable,” he snapped.

 

“Lucius, I’m so sorry for what I have done. Please don’t turn away from me!” she begged unreservedly in a trembling voice, hoping her words might soften his hardened heart.

 

He lifted his head sharply and looked partway over his shoulder, but kept his eyes on the wall beside her. “You mistake my concern in this situation for anger towards you. That is not the case, my love. You were abducted, harmed, and exposed to a dangerous magical malady – and I have been sick with fear.   I will not have my first glimpse of your body be under these circumstances. Remove the rest of your clothing quickly, please, before the others arrive.”

 

His tender words caused Hermione to choke on the sob she’d been holding back, and now her pent-up tears flowed freely down her cheeks. When her bra, knickers, and socks were dissolved in a final puff of smoke, Lucius slipped out of his robe and handed it back to her.

 

Hermione quickly shoved her arms into its sleeves and wrapped the enormous outer garment around her.

 

“Are you clothed?” At her quiet answer he turned and knelt in front of her, holding her gaze. “Sit and show me your wound.”

 

Hermione did as he asked, watching as Lucius tucked the robes carefully around her.

 

He left only her injured ankle bared and was careful to keep his hands far from her skin. “I am sorry for this,” he said as he aimed a powerful Scourgify directly into the wound.

 

She bit back a cry of pain but couldn’t suppress the fresh round of sobs that caused her whole body to heave in fierce, childlike grief. If only I’d listened! If only I’d obeyed! The enormity of her own hubris crashed over her awareness with humiliating force.

 

Lucius stretched his hand toward her face but stopped himself. “I would hold you, pet, but that isn’t possible at the moment. Here you are. Shhhhh.” He drew a silk handkerchief from his waistcoat pocket and dropped it in her lap.

 

Hermione took it and pressed it to her face, inhaling its familiar scent while she fought to control her ragged sobbing. “I’m s-s-s-s-o s-s-s-s-orry, L-l-l-ucius!”

 

Unable to do anything else, he made soothing noises, and she took comfort in them as though he’d gathered her into his arms.

 

There was the loud trample of running feet, and Draco and Greg Goyle came barreling into the wards surrounding the cell. Draco was clearly panic-stricken, and he pushed against the magical containment field as he looked for her in the room. The ward stretched slightly against his shoving, allowing him a brief view of her sitting against the wall. “Hermione! Lucius, let me in! What’s going on?”

 

“I’m sorry, Draco but you cannot enter. There is a contagion in the room. Hermione has been exposed and must be quarantined.” He added, “I didn’t know before I entered the room, but someone needed to watch those two and stay with our witch in any case.”

 

Draco, unable to see her once more, said tensely, “Are you alright, Hermione?”

 

She sniffled.  “Yes, Draco.”

 

“Can you move so that I can see you?”

 

Hermione crawled a few feet toward the middle of the room. Her feet and backside were completely numb from sitting on the cold, damp floor, and her shivering was even stronger now. She stopped her forward progress as soon as she was in plain sight of Draco.

 

He was as angry-eyed as Lucius, but his tone was gentle as he teased, “There you are, little witch. I see you’ve traded in sparkly green freckles for horribly unflattering robes. Are you trying to drive me away?”

 

“Would it even work?” She smiled at him tiredly, feeling the skin of her cheeks pulled by the dried salt-stain of her tears.

 

“Not even if you’ve caught Spattergroit. I’m sure you’ll make it look ravishing.”

 

Harry’s voice came from the corridor. “Is everything okay in there?” He peered around Greg’s bulky shoulder. “’Mione?”

 

“Oh, Harry!” She fought back another bout of tears. “Ron wasn’t going to meet you in the Owlery at all! He-”

 

Harry interrupted her. “I know, love. You didn’t think I’d leave my map in my room after the first time Ron bothered you, did you? I checked it after I’d waited for Ron in the Owlery for almost an hour. What do you think I saw? I saw you, in the lowest dungeons, with him and Pansy Parkinson! I only stopped to send Patronuses to Lucius and Draco and then ran all the way here.”

 

Draco turned his attention to the unconscious redheaded wizard in the back of the cell, and there was a dangerous gleam in his eye.

 

“How long was I gone?” she asked Harry.

 

“Just over an hour.”

 

“Only one hour?! It felt like six!” She gave a long, drawn-out sigh and leaned against the frame of the broken chair. “I’d really like a hot bath right now.” And a long nap. I’m exhausted.

 

For once Draco’s eyes didn’t glaze over at the idea of a waterlogged Hermione. He nodded sympathetically. “I’m sure you’d like to wash away this whole thing. What’s happened to your ankle, sweetheart?”

 

It’s so cold in here. She hitched up the hem of Lucius’s robes, giving him a better view of the dog bite. “Pansy bit me. She’s an Animagus, you know.”

 

He looked murderous and turned to the caged little dog. “You disgust me.”

 

The little dog whined pitifully, then turned to growl in Hermione’s direction. Without even looking at her, Lucius cast a Stinging hex with a carelessly flung hand. “We will have your silence, bitch.”

 

Had she not been so tired and cold all of a sudden, Hermione would have found tremendous satisfaction in the vengeful gesture. How very un-Gryffindor of me. Draco demanded to be let through the wards and given a go at Ron, then, and Lucius raised his voice in heated argument. But she couldn’t seem to focus on their words, and the noise they were making jangled in her ears painfully.

 

In the middle of the fuss, Madam Pomfrey finally arrived carrying a valise marked Magical Maladies. By that time Hermione was fighting to keep her eyelids open, and even Lucius’s heavy robes couldn’t keep her from violently shivering. The two of them talked in hushed whispers until the matron noticed Hermione’s quiet convulsions. “She’s going into shock.” There was a rustling, and then a piece of chocolate was pressed against her mouth. “Miss Granger, eat this.’

 

Madam Pomfrey was talking to Lucius again. “Perform a Hot-Air Charm and aim it directly over her.”

Hermione felt the sudden added weight of a heavy blanket and clung to it gratefully as the chocolate worked its magic.  She felt herself being Levitated off the floor.

 

“This dungeon floor is like ice,” Madam Pomfrey chided.  “You should have done this as soon as you got here.”

 

“Keep your attention on the most pressing problem at hand, Pomona.”

 

Lucius’ voice was a low growl, and Hermione smiled sleepily in the growing warmth. I do love bossy Lucius.

 

Madam Pomfrey conducted brief diagnostic spells on the three students in the cell. Finally she said, “I’m putting a Containment charm around you and also Miss Granger. You may carry her to the infirmary and wait for me. These two will have to stay here until St. Mungo’s can transport them. Mr. Weasley is in the final stage of venerea morbis et venefici, as you suspected, and as such he’ll . . . well, you know. Miss Parkinson is most likely infected, but in what stage I cannot say. Go, but don’t touch anything or anyone. And Lucius,” she added reluctantly, “your quarantine protocol was acceptable.”

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