Of Cabbages and Kings
stood above a simmering cauldron, her light brown hair becoming kinkier by the
minute as the acidic steam from the cauldron permeated her unruly curls. It
seemed to get worse every year.
Her new assistant should be here soon and she was thankful for it. She had begged Minister Shacklebolt for months for an assistant and the response had always been the same: maybe next quarter.
Well, several quarters had already come and gone and she still didn’t have an assistant, until now. Apparently her report on how far behind her projects would by the end of this quarter had finally changed his mind and the new person should be here sometime today.
Although she hated preparing time-altering potions by herself (it was like the damned stuff had a personal vendetta against her hair), she stirred with a lighter than usual heart today, knowing it wouldn’t be her job anymore.
A high-pitched bell chimed above the heavy wooden door to her laboratory and she looked up sharply. She had no idea why anyone would be performing magic outside her door and she tried not to snarl, but these were temperamental potions and any unexpected magic could alter the results. The last thing she needed was another buffoon instead of an assistant.
She took her glass spoon out of the potion she was stirring carefully and tried to set it down gently, but banged it against the table in frustration in spite of herself.
She stormed across the lab and flung the door open to find herself face to face with Lucius Malfoy, who was looking at the door frame like he had never seen one before. His lowered to her and his lip curled.
“Can I help you?” Hermione asked in a frustrated voice.
Oh, Gods! Not him, not him, not him...
“Not anymore,” Lucius said simply as he walked into her lab as she stood there holding the door. “Something is wrong with your door.”
“It’s charmed against magic, you lazy git!” Hermione barked at him. “And why are you even here?”
Lucius looked outraged at her ‘lazy git’ remark, but instead of arguing with her, he clenched his teeth and said: “I’ve been assigned to assist you as part of my community service.”
Hermione opened her mouth to say something rude, but closed it. She took a deep breath and tried to calm herself.
The man lost his wife in the last year, he found out his son was gay (effectively stopping the Malfoy bloodline dead in its tracks), and instead of enjoying a gentle retirement, the Malfoy accounts are still frozen down to a trickle from the war.
“The potions we’re working on are very temperamental. You can’t go around opening doors with magic anymore.” Hermione said stiffly.
To her surprise, the lip curl disappeared and he looked as if he were fighting back interest. “What are you working on?”
“Time altering potions.” Hermione turned on her heel, the snarl of hair that acted as her ponytail bobbing behind her. She returned to the cauldron she had been stirring. “The Ministry is finally trying to replace all the broken time-turners from�” the mishap so many years ago.”
Hermione knew he knew exactly what she was talking about. He was there as well, although on the other side of the fighting.
“Of course.” Lucius drew himself up and tried to give Hermione an imperious look.
It would have intimidated the teenager she had been so many years back, but now that she was a Potions Mistress and Expert in Experimental Magicks in her thirties, it failed to make her feel anything besides annoyance.
“Do you know the Thermine Theory of Manipulation?” Hermione asked him sharply.
“Of course. Severus was my best friend, after all.” His face looked stonily devoid of emotion.
“Good.” Hermione snapped, angry at herself for feeling guilty about Snape, and handed Lucius a clean glass spoon. “Then get to work.”
Lucius raised an eyebrow and his nostrils flared at her as he took the spoon. “May I take off my outer robes first?”
“Suit yourself. I have to look up something; I’ll be in the corner if you need me.” And with that, she turned on her heel and stalked to a large pile of ancient books on an old, rickety wooden desk in the corner.
Lucius took his long black outer robes off, leaving him standing in a pair of black tailored trousers, a loose white linen shirt and a black silk vest. He rolled his sleeves up, remembering the last time he had done such a thing was when he was brewing potions with Severus so many years ago and he tried not to feel nostalgic about it.
He caught the Mudblood brat sneaking a peek at him over the top of a stack of books before pretending to research. He bit back the urge to snarl at her.
Lucius had made his unfortunate decisions. He had chosen the wrong side in a losing war, and now he would have to pay for it with his life. His wife was dead, his son was a poof that was shagging the-Boy-Who-Lived, and Lucius was working a paltry job at the Ministry he was overqualified for thirty years ago.
At least Draco didn’t have to pay for the sins of his father. It was the only thing that kept Lucius going most days.
He picked up the glass spoon and dipped it into the potion twice. The potion looked a bit stringy to him rather than thick, but Granger probably knew what she was doing, Lucius had to reluctantly admit. Draco was proficient enough and the Mudblood girl had always outpaced him.
Lucius started stirring in a clockwise direction, pausing for five seconds after every third rotation. He tried not to snarl at the ends of his hair as he watched them slowly start to curl in the rising vapor. When the potion started to change to orange he called out for Hermione to give him his next order.
As unpleasant as she was acting, she hadn’t physically assaulted him, insulted his family name, or called his son a fairy. In Lucius’ eyes, this was better than the other assignments he had been given, curly hair aside. There was no reason to wreck her potion on purpose.
“It’s not supposed to turn orange,” Hermione slammed a book shut in frustration. “What have you done?”
“I stirred it correctly,” Lucius said stiffly. “I did a seventh year project on Thermine. I know the principals well.”
“You did?” Hermione didn’t bother to hide her surprise.
“I am a potion’s master in my own right, you know,” Lucius smirked. He couldn’t help himself.
“You are?” Hermione was examining her potion and frowning. “When did that happen?”
“Hogwarts,” Lucius said in a deliberately offhanded way. “Never did anything with it after getting married.”
He suddenly felt a lump in his throat. He forced it back down.
To his dismay, he had discovered the most mundane things could make him feel emotional these days. He missed Narcissa more with each passing day instead of the pain lessening.
It wouldn’t do to tear up in the middle of feeling superior.
Hermione glanced at Lucius. She didn’t say anything, but she now knew that look. She had seen it on Draco when his mother had died, a tragic accident during a friendly Quidditch game between her and Draco. He constantly blamed himself.
Hermione had been initially surprised when Harry had told her he was gay and even more when he had told her who he was seeing, but they had asked her to keep it a secret and she didn’t know if Lucius knew yet, so she didn’t feel comfortable talking to him about Draco since without Harry she didn’t really have any reason for knowing anything about Malfoy affairs.
Hermione decided, since Draco was still living, and he was so sure a month ago that his father would kill him if he found out, that Draco had not told his father about his choice of partner.
That reminded her, she should really call Harry to make dinner plans. She hadn’t seen them in about a month.
Hermione dipped the glass spoon into the potion and frowned. “I think it’s ruined.”
Lucius, just relieved she wasn’t blaming him for the ruined potion, shrugged. “Was it an involved project?”
“I was trying to see if we could take a shortcut with the potion,” Hermione shook her head. “Obviously not. It was fine until this morning! A week of preparation down the tubes!”
She growled in a way that reminded Lucius of Severus when he had ruined his first attempt at Polyjuice Potion years ago. Lucius had to choke back a chuckle. He really needed to be in better control of his emotions. It wouldn’t do to cry or giggle in public. They were just looking for a reason to lock him up these days.
“Perhaps--” Lucius started and suddenly stopped. Small blue bubbles were starting to form in the center of the orange potion. “Is that supposed to happen?”
Hermione peered into the cauldron and her eyebrows went up. “No, it’s not.”
She grabbed a small glass straw on a nearby table, dipped it into the blue bubbles, plugging the other end with her finger, and drew it out of the potion. Where she had just withdrawn the straw, red liquid began pouring out.
“I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything like it.” Lucius said, a look of astonishment on his face.
“How odd,” Hermione said, forgetting she was supposed to be angry at her results. “I wonder what the different colors signify.”
Then there was a flash from the center of the potion and Lucius had just enough time to instinctively grab Hermione by the arm and pull her back before the cauldron exploded.
Hermione felt cold droplets of water falling on her face. She mustered her strength and curled her fingers. She felt mud and grass under her aching fingertips. She furrowed her brow and opened her eyes, closing them almost immediately because of the glare of light that seemed to pierce her brain.
She groaned and she heard another person stir nearby. It even hurt to breathe.
Her fingers scrabbled slowly, painfully through the muck and grass towards the sound. She took a deeper breath and it hurt slightly less this time.
She felt cold fingertips touch her own and they suddenly gripped hers tightly.
The voice sounded groggy and suddenly Hermione remembered what had happened.
Lucius had pulled her back and had shielded her from the blast. He had taken the brunt of the explosion and now it would seem, they were far away from where they had started and she didn’t know how injured he was.
Hermione forced her eyes open and allowed them to painfully focus on the world around her.
There were no buildings that she could see, just a muddy road, fat droplets of rain, and some bare trees. Lucius lay in the mud beside her, his wand in pieces in the muck and his forehead split open, blood pouring out over his face and mixing with the steady rain falling from the sky.
Hermione scrabbled for the wand in her robes and thankfully found it intact. She sighed and thanked her charms experiments on dimensional pockets for making her robes appear to be empty when laden with items.
First, she mended the cut on his forehead. Then she checked him for shock. He seemed to have gotten quite a thump, but he didn’t seem to be severely damaged. She performed a simple healing spell just to make sure.
Lucius' blue-gray eyes opened widely and Hermione saw the surprise in them.
“What happened?” Lucius asked. He made no attempt to move and his speech seemed a little slurred.
“Something went wrong.” Hermione’s eyes darted around. “I don’t know where we are.”
Lucius struggled to sit up and Hermione winced at his clumsy movements.
“Neither do I,” Lucius said with a shrug before laying back down again.
Hermione looked around again, this time starting to worry. She thought she’d be able to make some sort of shelter out of fallen branches and vegetation.
She transfigured herself a primitive looking knife and then magically made a shelter. If they were found by Muggles it wouldn’t look suspicious.
She moved Lucius gently, in spite of her foul mood.
As much as she disliked him, it wasn’t his fault, and if Harry really was in love with Draco she’d probably have to get used to at least being polite to the man.
Once inside, she cleaned most of the mud off of them and realized their robes were in tatters.
She transfigured a rock into an old cloak and tucked it under Lucius’ head for comfort. Then she transfigured another rock into a brown drawstring sack and did the same for herself. She transfigured another cloak to wrap around them and then she slept, close to him for warmth.
Lucius was awoken by the sound of hooves. His eyes flew open and he reached for Granger’s wand. It was on the ground near her makeshift pillow. She wasn’t awake yet and every second could count.
He sat up and poked his head out of their shelter. He squinted as he looked to the muddy road. Several men in clothing from the dark ages were approaching.
Lucius swore under his breath and quickly transfigured he and Hermione’s robes to something more suitable, yet still tattered.
Hermione’s eyes opened and widened at her view of Lucius in leggings and a shirt, pointing a wand at her.
“We’re pre-renaissance, at the very least,” Lucius grumbled.
“Perfect.” Hermione sighed as she examined her clothing under the cloak she had thrown over herself. She was wearing a loose, dirty blue dress that was torn, nearly obscenely.
She squeaked in surprise as she covered herself up and glared at Lucius.
“I’ll tell them you were assaulted by highwaymen,” Lucius said quickly.
“You most certainly will not!” Hermione huffed.
“I most certainly will!” Lucius rounded on her angrily. “They’ll assume I’m some sort of Lord traveling with a servant.” Hermione made a face at this. “If they think you’ve been assaulted and I am upset about it, they’ll assume you’re my slip on the side and they’re not to do it themselves.”
Hermione felt the color drain from her face.
“Unless you’re particularly interested in experiencing medieval gang rape and undertaking a practical study of ancient sexually transmitted diseases,” Lucius snarled at her.
“Why?” Hermione demanded. “You could have a wife, a daughter, a cousin. Why do I have to be a servant? Surely they wouldn't assault a woman they think is related to you!”
“Because we can gather information from both ends if you're a servant,” Lucius said, his mouth a tense, tight line. “You have the wand and you'll have the run of the castle. You know what to look for to find the magical community. They were deeply hidden at this time and most likely anything remotely magical would be carefully hidden from the Muggle nobility.”
Hermione felt her upper lip twitch as she wanted to snarl at him. He had insulted her, but he had admitted he was a dunderhead that didn't know what he was doing. The fury bubbled up in her stomach.
“Why do you get to be a noble at all?” she snapped at him.
“Because I'm a Malfoy!” Lucius hissed at her. “That's why!”
Hermione snorted at him and rolled her eyes.
“Now, look upset, but don’t wail,” Lucius said as the horses drew closer. “Lower born women were used to such indignities in this time.”
Hermione was furious, but stayed silent. What a horrible place to be stuck in. Tears started streaming down her cheeks with frustration, but against all odds, Lucius didn’t seem to be leading her astray. His plan did make sense. For now, she couldn't come up with anything better, and at the very least he wouldn't be underfoot all the time.
Lucius called out and Hermione heard the hooves stop and horses snorting outside the shelter.
She gathered the cloak around here from nervousness. She noticed Lucius flick her wand at himself, casting a silent spell, inside the shelter so the others couldn’t see. Then he looked back at her and flicked it at her as well. She didn’t feel any different, but she noticed the grumbling she heard outside the shelter started shaping into words.
A translation charm.
To her surprise, he then tossed her wand to her and she quickly hid it into a pocket she quickly transfigured on the inside of her dress.
Lucius stood and walked out of the shelter and began talking to the men. To Hermione’s surprise, she heard men dismounting and the heavy sounds of men dismounting their horses and their heavy boots landing in the mud.
She poked her head out of the shelter and gaped as the men knelt in front of Lucius.
The short, stocky men were dirty and were wearing light, rusty chain mail and thin metal helmets. She saw dirty brown hair poking out from underneath them. Their shirts were various dirty colors, but their leggings were a dark red.
Lucius drew himself up and nearly let his lip curl at the Muggles in the mud, but he nodded and told them to rise to their feet.
Hermione listened as Lucius explained they had been accosted by bandits and she had been ‘used in a most barbaric fashion.’
The men peered at her, but seemed to be too much in awe of Lucius to allow her much more than a glance. Hermione let out a breath. At least she wouldn't have to hex anyone and modify memories today.
“Of course, sir. We’ll take you to the baron's holdings right away, sir.” A small man bowed to Lucius.
Hermione frowned. Apparently the translation spell had some kinks. She hoped things sounded more normal on the ancient Muggle end of things.
She watched as Lucius was helped onto one of the horses and the youngest of the riders, a boy of about fifteen with hair the color of straw and wide brown eyes, helped her from the shelter and helped fasten her cloak around her tightly.
Hermione was helped through the mud and to a horse of her own.
“Don’t mind Bess, miss,” the boy said under his breath. “She’s as gentle as a lamb.”
Hermione was helped into the saddle and the boy took the reins so that he could lead the horse for her as he walked beside the beast.
Hermione threw one last look at the shelter she had made for the both of them, spying the pieces of Lucius wand in the mud, looking so much like just another snapped twig.
Hermione was separated from Lucius when they reached the small castle and bustled through a small servant’s entrance on the east side of the castle.
Lucius threw her a sharp look as they led his horse through the ramparts and then she was on her own.
A young red-haired girl, by Hermione's estimate, about ten years old, led her into a small room with a tub of lukewarm water. There were clean clothes waiting for her on a small wooden stool and a length of cloth to dry off with.
Hermione silently wondered how often they prepared a bath as the girl closed the door and left her alone.
Hermione stripped her clothing off, taking care to remove her wand from its sheath in her skirt. It wouldn't do to have a serving girl come in and whisk her wand away while she was bathing.
However, it wouldn't do to be caught waving a wand around either.
Hermione scrunched her nose up and thought. There was an option. It was an experimental spell, but the theory was sound.
Hermione laid her wand out in the palm of her hand and started concentrating. She watched the wood bend and flex, shrinking itself down and curling into a plain wooden ring. She slipped it onto her finger and waved her hand at her bath water, being careful to make concise movements with her hand. She felt her fingers tingle and suddenly magical energy shot through them, burning them as the heating spell she was casting went off and heated her bath water.
She bit back a cry and quickly cast a healing spell on her blistered fingers.
Well, she now knew better than to do that again.
She slid into the warm water and scrubbed the dirt and grime from her body. She rinsed her hair out the best she could and cursed as she discovered she didn't have so much as a comb to untangle her unruly locks.
She pulled her fingers through her damp hair and was thankful her hair was long enough when wet to braid. As it dried, she knew it would curl and hold itself together.
She stepped from the bath and dried herself off, her toes curling up as she stepped onto the cold stone floor.
She picked up the dress that had been left for her.
There was a knock at the door and Hermione started. She knew she couldn't stay in the room forever, but she was hoping for a little more time to gather her thoughts.
“Can I come in, my dear?” Hermione heard a familiar muffled voice call out from behind the door. It wasn't Lucius.
She frowned and looked at the door suspiciously. “Who's there?” She couldn't place the voice, but she knew she had heard it before.
“Friar Weatherbee,” the muffled voice called out. “I was sent for after hearing bandits caused you distress.”
Hermione's jaw dropped and she flung the door open.
He was in his forties, his brown hair forming a ring around his wide, fat head. His pleasant, ruddy face was set in a look of worry and his hands were folded, sitting on the belly of his brown robes. His face was full of life and his eyes had smile crinkles at the corners.
“You've got to be kidding,” she whispered.
Then she fainted.
“I fear it's all been too much for her.”
Hermione heard an unfamiliar deep voice mutter over her. There was more movement in the room, away from the voice and she knew there were others around her.
“I'm so sorry, sir, that this unfortunate incident happened in one of our holdings,” another voice, a scratchy high-pitched one, said. ”With time I'm sure she will recover.”
Hermione fought back a frown. This fellow wasn't concerned about her at all, but about the political repercussions.
“These are dark times,” Hermione heard Lucius say. “No one can feel safe anymore.”
Hermione tried not to roll her eyes. He was certainly enjoying the drama of this.
“Indeed,” the deep voice said. ”Well, what she probably needs is some rest. She's had quite a shocking experience.”
”I will stay with her,” Hermione heard Lucius say. ”She will be comforted to see me nearby if she awakens.”
”Of course,” the scratchy voice said. ”We will leave you.”
Hermione heard people shuffle from the room and the door close heavily.
“I know you're awake,” Lucius said.
Hermione opened her eyes and looked at him. “How did you know?”
“You raised an eyebrow when that utter twat started talking,” Lucius muttered.
Hermione snickered and struggled to sit up.
“What happened to you?” Lucius demanded. “Where is your wand?”
Hermione held up her right hand and showed him the wooden ring. “I ran into the Fat Friar. He's not dead.”
Lucius blinked. “The Hufflepuff ghost?” He looked stunned. “I... suppose that would be a bit of a shock.”
“It was,” Hermione said in an annoyed tone as she threw off the bed covers and sat on the edge of the bed. Her head still felt a little woozy. “Well at least we know who our contact to the magical world will be.”
“Well, for some bizarre reason the Muggles think I'm a Pendragon and they're treating me as such,” Lucius said offhandedly. He had a swagger to his manner as he said it.
“What?!” Hermione blustered.
“Apparently there are sonnets and songs about the decedents of Arthur having long, white, strong hair,” Lucius said with a toss of his head and its luxurious locks.
Hermione snorted. “Well, I've never heard any.”
“Well, they were probably lost or forgotten or something,” Lucius hissed. “The point is, we got off easy. If they thought we were spies or scouts from an invading barony we might be in quite a mess.”
“Fine,” Hermione snarled, her fingers gripping the sheet beneath her. She wanted to smack him. “And that's easy for you to say. They think you're practically a God. I'm just another servant.”
“First, you still have your wand,” Lucius said, his lip curling. “Second, you have freedoms I won't. I'm never alone. There's always someone nearby to tell me the history and story behind every bauble and knick knack in this place. There's even a boy that holds the pot when I have to piss.”
His face was screwed up with revulsion.
Hermione felt a bit better. At least she could relieve herself in private.
“Third, they'll leave you to your own devices. The rumors already flying. They're wondering if you're my lover, my bastard daughter, or both,” Lucius said, sneering at her.
“Well, that's disgusting,” Hermione said, throwing him a look of distaste.
“Live with it if you want to be left alone,” Lucius said sharply.
“Fine!” Hermione snarled.
Hermione stood near
Lucius, running her hands over his borrowed clothing.
The baron's servants had remarked how the mesh armor was a perfect fit, not knowing Hermione was altering its size and adding layers of protective spells on it as she fussed over Lucius.
He looked haughty as she did these things, and all the while Hermione was resisting the urge to punch him in his smug face.
Think of Harry, think of Harry, think of Harry...
She caught him glancing at her, for a moment looking worried, as she looked down at his tight blue leggings. She bit back a snicker and he snarled as he brushed her off.
The other servants in the room tittered and Hermione felt her cheeks turn pink. She'd make him pay for this when they got back. He'd be scrubbing out cauldrons for a month.
They were in the receiving hall in the small structure. The baron was just beyond the next door and although it was obvious the baron was extremely nervous about receiving Lucius, Hermione knew Lucius was more than a little uneasy about the prospect of impersonating someone in the Pendragon line when they were still around to challenge such claims.
“I am ready to see the baron,” Lucius commanded to one of the boys standing nearby.
A black-haired boy bowed reverently and backed into the door behind him, opening it without turning his back on Lucius.
Lucius swept by the boy with a confident air and strode into the next room.
Hermione watched him go, not knowing whether she was supposed to be following him or not. The boy closed the door between her and Lucius, making the decision for her.
The room seemed to let its breath out.
“Gads, I wouldn't mind giving him a ride,” a red-haired serving girl giggled to a chamber maid in a white bonnet next to her. The other girl giggled in turn and they turned and left, discussing the room where Lucius would be sleeping.
Hermione threw them a disgusted look and the black-haired boy snickered.
“I'd warn your master about those two,” he cautioned her. “Timothy Fletcher had the pair a fortnight ago and now he's got the creeping crotch.”
Hermione blanched, not wanting to even ask what 'the creeping crotch' was. “Thank you. I'll tell him straight away.”
Hermione hoped Lucius had the common sense not to bed women old enough to have started his family ancestry, but she had learned you never knew with men.
The boy turned to walk away and Hermione suddenly had a thought.
“Can you tell me where the chapel is?” Hermione blurted out after him.
“Praying for their souls isn't going to help them any,” the boy said with a shake of his head and a sad look, “but it's out that door, across the courtyard, and in the small brown building.”
“Thank you, again,” Hermione said with a polite bob and dashed out the door.
She hoped she just appeared to be distraught about the carnal sins of the servants, but she really couldn't care less.
She burst into the small chapel and startled the Friar, who was kneeling before a small altar. He jumped up, startled, but when he saw it was her he just crossed himself and caught his breath.
Hermione opened her mouth to apologize when she caught sight of the wine bottle on the floor near where the friar had been kneeling. It was uncorked, empty, and on its side. Her eyes went to the small wooden bowl tied to his belt and noticed it was stained purple.
Her mouth slammed shut and she stared at it.
The friar was a lush?
Hermione shook her head and got a hold of herself.
Hermione waved her hand and preformed a silencing charm on the small chapel. The friar's mouth dropped as she stepped up to him. “I know you're a wizard and you have to help us.”
The Baron led Lucius on a long tour of the castle, including around the tops of the fortifications so Lucius could see how well protected they were.
The baron had turned out to be a thin Muggle of medium height with a thin, scraggly salt and pepper pointed beard and a receding hairline. He wore plain linen clothing and copper chain mail. A green cloak was draped about his shoulders. It looked as if it was due for a cleaning several weeks ago.
“And of course we have the lists down there,” the baron pointed cheerfully at an area with men training in it.
Lucius tried to look pleased rather than queasy. He was never very good with heights and he was wandless.
“We will be hosting a small tournament within the week,” the baron said, measuring up Lucius' reaction. “If you are still with us I hope you would attend.”
Lucius looked back at the Baron, the man seemed to be swaying slightly, but Lucius wasn't entirely sure it wasn't just his own dizziness getting the better of him. He nodded curtly and spoke quickly. “I'd like to see them closer.”
Then he slammed his mouth quickly, afraid he might vomit.
“Of course!” The Baron looked positively giddy that he had pleased a member of the Pendragon family in some small way.
He turned and Lucius reached out to grab the ledge next to him. He had to keep walking, but his feet didn't seem to be working.
Suddenly, he felt fine. He frowned and shook himself out a bit, and then he looked down into the courtyard. Hermione and the man who was to become the Fat Friar were looking up at him, Hermione's face looking horrified.
The Friar said something in her ear and Lucius started following the Baron, showing her he had regained his sensibilities.
He cursed himself when he realized she now knew one of his weaknesses.
He was fine on a broom, he was fine on a carpet, but put him on a bloody staircase with no handrail and he was useless.
“What was that?” Hermione asked. “Did someone jinx him?”
“Your friend doesn't like heights very much,” Friar Weatherbee whispered.
Hermione was glad Lucius was out of sight when she started snickering. “Stability charm?”
“Something of my own making,” the Friar said proudly.
“What's your focus point?” Hermione asked curiously in a low voice.
He ran his hand over the wooden cross at his neck, and for the first time Hermione noticed the braided rope that held it around his neck actually went through the core of the cross, rather than from a loop at the top, like she would have expected.
They walked through the courtyard to an area with chickens on the loose and people bustling about with different foodstuffs. He plucked a bun here, a hunk of cheese there, a piece of meat from this one, until his small bowl seemed to be able to hold more than it should and he and Hermione proceeded through a small servant's door in the side of the building.
“Not a normal rope, is it?” Hermione asked him.
“Braided from my great-great-great-great-great grandmother's hair,” he said proudly.
Hermione knew the only species that could breed with humans and could be used for wand making was Veela, but she saw no Veela traits in his structure at all. He did have a very pleasant and trusting face, though that could just be coincidence.
“What's yours?” They were climbing steps now and Hermione began to wonder where they were going.
“I have a wand,” Hermione admitted. “But I transfigured it into something more subtle.”
“Ah,” the Friar said knowingly. “I wondered why you play with your ring so much.”
“Do I?” Hermione was startled.
“I doubt anyone else noticed,” the Friar waved her off. “But you seem to turn it with your thumb often, like you aren't used to wearing anything on your hands.”
“I'm not,” Hermione confessed.
Friar Weatherbee stopped on a landing and opened a thick wooden door.
To Hermione's surprise, instead of looking like the rest of the castle, with it's dirty rushes on the floor and peasants constantly cleaning up the muck that got dragged in, this room was very clean. Light colored clay had been smeared on the dark stone, giving the room a lighter look. A wooden cross hung on the wall and needlework and frames were scattered and piled throughout the room.
“The Baron's daughter, Allison, is in London. She does not mind if I come in here when she and her ladies are gone,” the friar smiled and pulled up a small cushioned footstool embroidered with birds.
Hermione carefully cleared off a small table and pulled it over so the friar could set their food on it.
He reached into his robes and pulled out another bottle of wine.
Hermione snorted. It looked like hidden pockets were all the rage.
He poured himself a cupful of wine, that seemed to use up half the bottle, and handed the bottle itself to Hermione.
“So, do you think you know of a place where we can hide our experiments?” Hermione asked him as she reached out for a hunk of bread.
“Only one place comes to mind, unfortunately,” the Friar said as he took a deep drink out of his cup. “The chapel.”
“What?” Hermione squeaked. “Anyone could walk in on us there!”
“Not the little room they call the chapel.” The Friar snorted. “The real chapel. It's outside the fortifications. It's why we don't use it anymore.”
“I don't understand.” Hermione frowned.
“Believe it or not, there was a time when the lords weren't squabbling and people could live outside the fortifications,” the Friar said bitterly.
“Oh.” Hermione nodded. She delicately nibbled on the bread, careful not to crack her teeth on any missed pebbles. “Can we fortify it with magic for safety?”
“Probably.” The Friar shrugged. “Such things are not my specialty, but I know such things can be done.” He looked wistful for a moment. “My mother was especially good at it.”
“Oh, so she was a witch then?” Hermione said conversationally.
“Yes, God rest her soul.” The Friar took a very long drink after this and Hermione didn't press any further.
“So, if you can't do it, you know someone who can?” Hermione asked.
“I believe I do.”
Lucius strode down a hallway, alone at last. He desperately hoped he'd run into Hermione.
He didn't mind being stuck in the dark ages, per se, but if he had to spend one more moment with that half-witted baron he saw no other course of action besides hanging himself.
“Can I get you anything, my lord?”
The voice purred out of a doorway. Lucius stopped and turned.
A red haired girl stood in the doorway, her gown loosened and her breasts practically spilling out.
Ye gads! Lucius thought to himself as his eyes roamed over her young body.
“Maybe I can help you if she can't.” A blond haired girl with wide blue eyes swung around the door frame, caressing it gently. One of her breasts was fully exposed.
“Maybe it will take both of us to help you,” the redhead caressed the shoulder of the blond and they both eyed him hungrily.
Lucius licked his lips and took a step forward. “I think--”
“I think his lordship isn't looking forward to the case of creeping crotch you two are going to give him!”
Any excitement Lucius had felt immediately shrunk away as Hermione's shrill voice rang out. He turned and saw her standing in a smaller, almost hidden doorway, with her arms crossed and a scowl on her face. The Friar was peering curiously over her shoulder.
“Of course, I was going to do no such thing!” Lucius blustered as he pulled the blond girl's dress back into place. “I was going to tell these young ladies that such behavior is unbecoming and to seek out the council of the Friar at once! It's a good thing you showed up!”
“Indeed,” Hermione said flatly.
“Of course he was,” the Friar echoed as he guided Hermione out of his way and stepped into the hallway. “What else would one expect from a man of his breeding and standing?”
“They'd expect he wouldn't be bossed around by his little slut of a servant,” the blond girl snapped viciously at Hermione. Then, turning to her red-haired friend: “I told you he was a bastard at best.”
She fastened her dress up and stormed down the hallway, her friend trailing behind her trying to fix her clothing as well.
“Is that going to cause us problems?” Lucius asked as he watched them go.
“No.” The Friar shook his head. “Those two have been trouble for years. Besides, most of the Pendragons are bastards. Don't know what those silly girls are thinking.”
“That they want little blond-haired prestigious babies without having to do anything but lie on their backs and whimper at the right moment,” Hermione snapped. “But we're wasting time. Come along, we have a laboratory to prepare.”
Lucius furrowed his brow at her as she turned heel and stalked down the hallway. She sounded just like Narcissa when that Muggle-born had tried to get his attention in his fifth year at Hogwarts.
The Friar chuckled and clapped Lucius on the back. “Bossy thing, isn't she?”
“This is an amazing object,” the Friar turned the portkey made from a leather shoelace in the air with his wand. “You say they're common in the future?”
“Fairly,” Lucius mumbled as he tried to make sense of the book in front of him. The translation spell that affected him was decent for speaking, but no use for reading.
Hermione swept the last of the dirt from the area and put a Muggle-repelling charm on the broken down chapel.
Inside, a small, swarthy, black-haired man ran his hands over one of the walls. Hermione watched the stone ripple as the rock seemed to come to life and repair itself.
“That's amazing,” Hermione whispered to the friar.
The Friar snorted. “It's just a nature trick. He just knows how to make it all pretty, like the baron likes it.”
Hermione didn't understand what the Friar was talking about since the most she had seen were plain walls and the sewing room, but she watched as the man started making tiny swirls in the rock.
“It doesn't have to be pretty, Justus,” the Friar called out to the man.
The man turned to the Friar and furrowed his brows. He pointed at the wall and grunted. Then he looked at Hermione and she felt the man push himself into her mind.
This is a house of the Lord! It deserves more than reinforcement of it's walls!
Hermione felt him withdraw just as abruptly as he had appeared.
“He's a Legillimens,” Hermione whispered as she grabbed the Friar's arm to steady herself. She saw Lucius turn his head sharply.
“Oh, a mind-speaker,” the friar said off handedly. “Yes. He learned to adapt after they cut out his tongue.”
“Muggles cut his tongue out?” Lucius demanded sharply. “Why?”
Hermione didn't know whether it was because Lucius was worried about the man's lack of discretion, or he was reinforcing his views that Muggles were devolved.
“The Baron. So no one would know the secrets of his fortifications. There are a number of hidden passageways so the family can escape if there is a rebellion,” the Friar shook his head as Justus went back to work. “The rest of the workers were killed, but Justus has a talent for making a structure do what no one else can. His life was mercifully spared.”
“Barbaric,” Lucius sneered. “He's lucky the Muggles didn't set him on fire for assisting them to begin with.”
Hermione wanted to rebuke Lucius, but to her shame, she knew he was right, and this was the birthplace of all of the bad feelings between the Wizarding World and the Muggle one, and in all reality, it was the Muggles that had started it.
“So, if I touch this, I will find myself in the chapel within the fortifications?” The Friar smiled lovingly at the portkey, delighted to see the future of magic.
“You will,” Hermione said to him as Lucius floated the portkey to a small shelf, high on the wall where once an angel might have peered down on the worshipers. “Now we should go out looking for fallen trees. They have the right magical configuration so the resonance from the transfiguration spells won't interfere with our spell casting.”
“What?” The Friar looked bewildered.
“I don't understand it either,” Lucius leaned over and whispered conspiratorially to the Friar.
“Oh, really, Malfoy,” Hermione said testily. “Didn't you pay attention in sixth year Transfigurations class?”
“I specialized in potions,” Lucius said, an eyebrow raised.
“It's showing,” Hermione snapped.
Lucius and the Friar just looked at her as she blinked for a moment.
“I'm sorry. I don't know what came over me.”
“The stress would be too much for anyone,” the Friar said in a soothing voice as he went to Hermione. She put a hand to her head and she shook it.
The Friar walked her to a broken down pew and repaired it with magic quickly before they sat down.
“Let us meditate on the story of Job...”
Lucius turned from them. Hermione was getting short tempered, which he couldn't blame her for.
What he could blame her for was bringing him into this mess, but he couldn't bring himself to. Honestly, masquerading as a Muggle had gotten him the most respect he'd been paid in quite a while and he had missed it.
He watched Justus work while the Friar spoke softly to Hermione. The man had magic. With the proper training and wand he could just heal his tongue, but that knowledge wasn't to be discovered for several hundred years yet.
What it must have been like, to have been just as lost as the Muggles...
Lucius squinted at Justus' work. If you looked at it at the right angle, biblical scenes came out of the texture of the wall.
Lucius had never seen anything like it before. It was obviously a forgotten art, done with instinct and without a wand. How many other things had been forgotten?
Lucius turned at the sound of Hermione's voice. For once it wasn't full of distaste, haughtiness, or scolding.
“I need help looking for suitable materials.”
“I would be pleased to assist you.”
No one could ever accuse him of bad manners.
Hermione's cheeks turned pink at the whisper. A gaggle of serving girls were huddled in a group and were glancing over at Hermione and giggling to themselves.
“It's perfectly normal for a personal servant to sleep in their master's outer chambers,” the Friar muttered to Hermione. “The servants are just jealous. Their masters won't think anything of it. You can always sleep in the small makeshift chapel you found me in, if you like.”
“Well, that's something, I suppose” Hermione growled in frustration. She was carrying a tray, heavily laden with foodstuffs. She took a deep breath. “Thank you for taking your meal with us tonight.”
“The more you look like a pious girl the quicker the rumors will die down,” the Friar said as they turned a corner, their leather shoes shuffling on the fresh rushes the Baron had ordered laid out on the floor.
“I suppose that's true,” Hermione admitted.
They stopped in front of a heavy oak door with large black iron hinges. The Friar knocked.
The voice was muffled through the thick door. Hermione was glad the Friar was with her as she watched him heft the door open. She had no idea how a Muggle servant was supposed to open it with their arms laden with food.
She walked into the room and was relieved to find they were alone. She hated puttering around behind Lucius wherever he went. She had already been bored to tears over the Baron gushing about the upcoming jousting tournament during a quick horseback ride out before dinner: an event that had both tired her and had left her with a very sore bottom.
Lucius however, had obviously had some sort of lessons. He sat tall on the borrowed black stallion and even took a small leap over a shrub: an act that had caused Hermione to half-heartedly cover up her snort of derision as a sneeze.
As he was casting the healing spells on her backside, the Friar had decided she wasn't fit to ride anything besides a donkey.
The Friar closed the door firmly behind Hermione and then pointed his crucifix at it. He muttered something and the air around the door seemed to ripple. “There. Now anyone spying will only hear prayers.”
“Do this a lot?” Hermione heard herself saying as she sat the tray of food down on a dark wooden table.
From the red glow creeping into the already ruddy complexion of the Friar, Hermione knew her suspicions were correct.
“I've written a coded letter to a friend in a monastery not far from here,” the friar said, changing the subject. “He has access to more information than I do.”
“Thank you for all your help,” Hermione said as she turned the wooden ring back into its normal wand shape and waved it at the food. Small pebbles worked their way out of the bread and Hermione changed the consistency of the remaining bread into something more recognizable.
“Oh, thank God,” Lucius said he got up from his seat near the small fire and he fell upon the food. “If I cracked my teeth on another rock I was going to have to bludgeon the cook to death.”
He'd have never thought to use the spells she was using. He found himself wondering what else she could do with a wand.
Then he found himself blushing. He tried to think about nothing but his dinner.
“What have you done to it?” The Friar frowned at the bread, which had nearly doubled in size upon rendering itself less dense.
“Made it more like we're used to,” Hermione said, handing him a piece. She pointed her wand at a small cup of milk and turned it into butter. She fished a small pouch out of her dress and magically added salt to it.
“Where'd you get the salt?” Lucius asked around a mouthful of bread.
“The fish for tomorrow’s breakfast came in big troughs of seawater,” Hermione said as she spread some butter on the bread. “I got some of the water and leeched the salt out using Gunther's Theory of Expunging.”
Lucius looked at her curiously. “That's a very clever use of that material.”
He had an odd feeling in his stomach and he had a feeling it wasn't the food that was causing it.
Hermione shrugged. “Perfected it in college. You don't want to know what for.”
“I'm afraid to ask,” Lucius murmured as he took the top off a covered bowl and discovered roast beef.
“What is this theory? And I will ask what you used it for,” the Friar looked cheerful.
“We shouldn't be telling you secrets from the future,” Hermione chided.
“Why ever not?” Lucius asked as he speared a piece of beef with a small knife he took off the tray.
“What?!” Hermione spluttered. “Everyone knows why not. Because it will change the future! Break up time lines! Death, destruction, dismay!”
“Oh, the usual, then?” Lucius said lightly.
The Friar chuckled and Hermione glared at him.
“I think you watch too many Muggle movies,” Lucius shook his head. “Who's he going to tell? Justus the blabbermouth?”
Hermione opened her mouth to protest, then realized he was probably right. She thought she'd find a whole underground Wizarding World here, but what she found was complete disorder and secrecy. Small pockets of Wizards knew each other, but for the most part, they didn't know about anything that wasn't going on in their area.
“Oh, fine then,” Hermione said testily. “Tell him the secrets of the universe for all I care.”
“They have been discovered?” The Friar asked excitedly, bouncing on the balls of his feet.
“No,” Hermione and Lucius said in unison.
The friar looked deflated.
“But the Theory of Expunging has,” Hermione sighed as she started explaining the process to the friar.
Lucius walked back over to his seat near the fireplace and settled in with his dinner while listening to Hermione tutor the Friar. She really was intelligent, more than he would have ever given the product of Muggle rutting credit for.
Draco was a fool. Even the Dark Lord didn't know the history of his origins until later in life, but he still aspired for blood purity. Draco should have befriended the girl and seduced her.
Lucius sighed to himself.
But that's not the way the cards played out. Draco had been a buffoon, the war had been lost, and now Draco was being buggered nightly by the boy-who-lived and was apparently happier than he had ever been.
Or perhaps he was the one doing the buggering.
Lucius wasn't sure, and didn't really want to know the details, but he felt a bit better about the arrangement if Draco was the one doing the buggering.
He shook his head, snorting at the way his mind wandered when he was hungry. For all he knew, he was never going to see the boy again.
He felt a lump rise in his throat and he felt his eyes start to get wet.
He took a deep breath and a bite of his food. Then he stared at the flames, brooding over the upcoming joust.
He was fair on a horse, but that was due to his years as a beater for Slytherin and occasional use of his grandfather's stables. It had been years since he had ridden anything seriously and that little hop today had nearly unseated him.
He didn't even have a wand to help him. Perhaps he could talk to the friar about obtaining his own device to channel magical energy.
“Of course, we'll have to put a stability charm on the saddle and a strength charm on the armor.”
Lucius was snapped out of his brooding by Hermione's voice.
“So he isn't injured,” The Friar nodded.
“Hardly,” Hermione scoffed. “It's so his equipment won't topple him over. He leads an awfully soft life.”
“I beg your pardon!” Lucius blustered from his seat. He scowled at her. “I am not an invalid!”
“Well, you're certainly not up to par with the brutes that will be coming after you!” Hermione barked out a laugh. “Did you even bother to look at any of the men in the lists?”
Lucius, had in fact noticed the men in the lists, and although all of them were shorter than he was, they were all younger, stockier and muscular. Not to mention, they had been training their whole lives and he hadn't.
Lucius grumbled something incomprehensible and Hermione snorted at him.
“I think...” Hermione mused a she turned back to the friar. “We should start with the saddle...”
Lucius shifted his
weight on the saddle beneath him. The cushioning spells were working, but they
were designed for a broom and the same spells on a horse made it seem like he
was sitting astride a barrel-shaped balloon.
He had never jousted before, in spite of it being a favorite past time of the Slytherin Quidditch team when he was in school. He had always thought it had looked inherently dangerous and had passed on the experience.
True to her word, Hermione had reinforced his armor with strength spells. It was a bit stiff to move, but he wasn't weighed down in any way. Neither was his weaponry, to his relief.
After getting used to sparring with the other men, aided with cleverness potions and other enchantments Hermione and the Friar had come up with, he had insisted on training for one day without any spells on his weapons and his shoulders had screamed with pain after. Thank God, they felt alright now.
To Lucius' surprise, Hermione had tended immediately to him without so much as a snide remark or a chuckle over his misfortune. She had chided him about being foolish and overextending himself, but to his surprise, he had found comfort in it.
He felt the hot sun beat down on his armor. Of all the days for the sun to come out and it was on a day where he was encased in metal! If Narcissa could see him now she'd have a fit of the giggles.
His faceplate was up and his eyes went to the Friar and Hermione, sitting on a bench together.
They had made a big production of the Friar asking Lucius for permission to take her under his wing and Lucius had been dropping hints around the castle about being willing to support Hermione's decision to join a nunnery after the experience that had brought them there. Hermione spent her days with the Friar, working on the time turner to get them back, and Lucius had spent the days listening to tedious gossip and being beaten to a pulp in the lists. No one looked twice at Hermione trailing after the Friar wherever he went anymore. She was no longer being called a slut.
Lucius' eyes met Hermione's and he watched her expression change. It softened. He watched her eyes go up and down his body astride the stallion, and he found himself sitting taller in his saddle.
Bloodline aside, it had been a long time since a young lady had given him such an appraising gaze. He heard his heart beat faster, it's sound intensified by the heat from the sun and the encasement in his armor.
He saw her lips move, the corners of her eyes crinkle as she smiled. He felt tightness in his chest that he had hardly expected. For a moment he wistfully wished she had given him a bit of ribbon to tuck in his breastplate.
Then her shoulders started shaking. She bit her bottom lip and he frowned as she buried her face in the shoulder of the Friar to muffle her giggles. The Friar smiled broadly at Lucius.
Lucius scowled and slammed down his faceplate. He readied himself and waited for the signal before he spurred his stallion and they charged ahead.
Lucius felt the horse's hooves thundering on the ground beneath him. The other man was wearing darker armor than Lucius and his helmet was far boxier. The eye slits were slanted and it looked as if the dark knight was glowering at him.
Lucius readied himself, but he felt himself shift in the saddle slightly and he cursed himself as he felt the lance he was holding slip and knew the other man's lance would strike true.
He held tightly to the reins, but instead of the lance splintering like it was supposed to do, Lucius felt the sturdy wood hit his breastplate far harder than he expected. The last thing he knew was that he was airborne.
Hermione was proud of the armor, if she did say so herself. It had been polished to a shine and the spells she had layered on it were genius, if she did say so herself, but none of that could help Lucius as she watched in horror as he was lifted and launched from the back of the horse, his head hitting the ground hard as he bounced before coming to a complete stop.
She swore and pushed past everyone to make sure she got to him first.
She pretended to wrestle with his helmet while she layered healing spells on him as a preventative measure.
She felt strong hands pulling her off him and she struggled against them.
“Let me go!” Hermione snarled as she tried to get free.
“Your master will be better off with a Healer!” A gruff voice said from behind her and she turned to see a large, red-haired man she had come to know as Captain of the Guard. His face looked white, and as Hermione took in what he looked like, she realized he had been the other jouster and his normally red face was pale with fear.
“What went wrong!?” Hermione demanded. “I thought the lances were made to splinter!”
“They were!” The red-haired man blustered. “I picked it up from the pile with the others! Someone must have tampered with them!”
Hermione turned to see several men carefully picking Lucius up and putting him on a makeshift stretcher. A hand reached out to touch her shoulder and she turned to see the Friar.
She opened her mouth to speak, but to her horror, she felt tears start to fall. If Lucius died she'd be all alone, a selfish thought, she knew.
The Friar pulled her to him, letting her cry into the rough brown of her robes.
“There, there,” he said soothingly. “I'm sure you will be cared for if anything happens to him.”
Hermione noticed he was carefully leading her away from the others.
“I'd be distraught, too.”
“As if she hasn't been through enough...”
Hermione heard the voices as if they were coming from somewhere else as they walked to the small, makeshift chapel where she had first met the Friar.
When they finally got inside, it seemed to Hermione that the journey took hours, the Friar closed the door tight and handed her a scrap of clean cloth to dry her eyes.
“Did you perform Bunglers on him?” The Friar asked.
“A what?” Hermione said, temporarily confused.
As the Friar described the spell, Hermione realized he was talking about a simple healing spell to calm swelling.
“Yes, I did,” Hermione said.
The Friar looked relieved. “He'll be fine then, as soon as he wakes up.”
“I hope so,” Hermione said nervously. “Do you have any idea when that might be?”
“Hopefully, within the day,” the Friar said nervously. “I received a message from my friend at the monastery this morning. I was going to tell you the good news after the competition.”
“What's that?” Hermione asked curiously. Any good news was welcome.
“He thinks he can get you back home with the combined information we have, but the moon has to be in the second day of waning and that will be tomorrow night,” the Friar said nervously. “The coded instructions will be sent to Justus tonight and he will place them in the chapel so they'll be secure.”
“But if it doesn't work?” Hermione prompted.
“If it doesn't work, he has no idea where you'll turn up,” the Friar confessed. “We're trying to get a hold of the pope.”
“The pope!” Hermione exclaimed. “Why?”
“So if you pop up somewhere you'll always have a place to seek sanctuary,” the Friar said, patting her on the shoulder gently.
He went to the wall and ran his hand over the stone and a small hole appeared. He reached in and pulled out a small scrap of paper. It had a small sketch of a heart. Inside the heart, across with two crossed brooms behind it were drawn. “This will be the seal they will know you by. Show this to them and they will know it is really you. I will not give this to you. Memorize what it looks like.”
“Oh,” Hermione said, realization suddenly dawning on her. “Is that why you were asking me so many questions about religion in the future? To make sure there would still be anyone to seek out?”
“No.” The Friar chuckled as he rifled around behind an altar for a moment before pulling out a bottle of wine. “That was mere curiosity, but it did give me the idea. You said the Wizarding community will be getting bigger, and even if the Muggles had stamped out their version of the church, I'm sure my magical brethren would still be able to practice in secret.”
Hermione sighed and shook her head. “Thank you. For everything you've done for us.”
“It was my pleasure,” the Friar smiled at her. “It'll be something to tell my children.”
“Children?” Hermione frowned, confused. “I didn't think you could marry.”
She tried to desperately remember if there were any exceptions to this rule, but couldn't come up with any. Was there something from history she was forgetting?
“Well, we're not supposed to,” the Friar said with a wink and a nod. “But one of the foundlings at the nunnery and I have an understanding. We're to be secretly wed next month.”
This time she didn't hesitate to take the goblet of wine when the Friar offered it to her. She was in need of a drink.
Lucius lay on his back, aware that he was lying on his back, for the first time in a long time. His limbs felt stiff, as if they had been in the same position for a long time. He felt as if the room were moving. A blanket was near him, but not on him.
His nose wrinkled. There was an awful smell.
It hurt to make the barest of movements, and he felt slightly motion-sick, but he forced himself to open his eyes.
He was in a decent sized bed in a round stone room. There was a basket of food on the table and a bucket of water nearby. A set of simple clothing lay on the floor. A single window let light in and a thick door was set into one of the dark stone walls.
He was laying in his own filth.
That was enough to get Lucius moving. He made a disgusted noise as he peeled his clothing off and tried to scrub the bed clean with his old shirt and some of the water. He failed to clean it completely, but was able to make due by flipping over the sack of well-packed straw that made the mattress.
He cleaned himself the best he could with his old shirt and the water before slipping the clean set of clothes on. Just an undyed shirt and brown drawstring trousers. He felt practically naked. He didn't even have shoes.
He walked over to the window and looked down. Then he took a deep breath and took several steps back. He gagged a little, but managed to hold it back with the idea of having to clean it up.
He had seen the top of a cloud and a bird had passed by.
He went down to his hands and knees and crawled to the window ledge. He pulled himself up and peered over the edge.
The tower he was in was at least four times higher than the Astronomy Tower and Lucius finally realized he wasn't dizzy, that the tower was swaying slightly.
Then he did vomit.
Thankfully, he did it out of the window and he had enough presence of mind to toss his soiled clothing out as well.
He looked down at the pail of water and realized it had refilled itself with clean water.
Whoever had him knew magic.
“What do you mean, he's being ransomed?” Hermione squeaked. “We don't have time to hunt for him! We have things to prepare so we can get home!”
“Well, we don't have a demand yet, but we're bound to get one,” the Friar looked nervous.
“Do you even know who has him?” Hermione demanded.
“Not precisely,” the Friar fidgeted.
“So, what do you know?” Her voice was approaching dangerously low and the Friar swallowed nervously. She was starting to remind him of his mother, and not in a good way.
“Someone from the Goblin Court has him,” the Friar blurted out.
Lucius had taken all of the food out of the basket it was in and watched as the basket filled itself up with food again.
He dropped a piece of bread into the shallow pot he had found under the bed and watched as it disappeared.
Gads, this prison is more civilized than the castle was.
The room started swaying as a particularly hard gust of wind blew around the tower and Lucius held his breath until it was still, once more.
“Where are we going?” Hermione yelled out the question. Her hair was whipping around her and her bottom was growing sorer by the moment.
“The only place I can think of!” The Friar had his mouth set in a hard thin line and he was coaxing his little donkey to go as fast as it could. Hermione rode beside him on a donkey of her own, though she was clinging to the back of hers for dear life.
“To the monastery?” Hermione asked, bewildered.
“To the next village over,” the Friar said, looking behind and around them to make sure no one was about. He touched his cross and Hermione felt a warm wave wash over her. She glowed green for a moment and she noticed small forms on the grass nearby did as well. One jumped and she realized it was a rabbit.
“What's in the next village?” Hermione was jolted roughly and she clung to the donkey. She wanted to desperately ask him about the life form detection spell, but didn't think they had time to discuss spells when Lucius' time was so precious.
“It's just a rumor, but I have heard the Bishops talk, and it looks like the rumors have some truth to them,” the Friar sounded grim. “I hope we get to them before the Church does.”
“Get to whom?” Hermione asked.
“The Ollivanders.” The Friar whipped his mount harder and Hermione clutched her donkey between her knees as it trotted harder to keep up.
The Friar had cast a speed spell on them and Hermione's knuckles were white from holding on.
“The Ollivanders are harboring a changeling child.”
Lucius' head snapped up as he heard approaching footsteps. There was a jangle of keys.
If he had felt less queasy, he might have tried to arm himself, but right now Lucius just wanted to die.
He heard the lock open and, to Lucius' surprise, a goblin stepped through the door. The door swung shut and the lock clicked into place behind the goblin.
“You are not a Pendragon.” The goblin stared at him. It had gray, squashed features with long ears and a very large, hooked nose. It carried a spear with runes carved into the stone head and wore a dirty white shirt and brown trousers. It's feet were bare.
“No.” Lucius said, drawing himself up proudly. He instantly felt nausea, but he bit it down. “I'm a Malfoy. The Muggles didn't ask, they just assumed.”
“We do not care if humans lie to other humans,” the creature spat at Lucius. “It's the nature of your species. Deceit runs in your veins.”
Lucius said nothing. He really didn't want to die at the hands of a goblin. He'd rather fling himself from the window, but the goblin was between him and the window.
“But this is very inconvenient.” The goblin planted the base of the spear on the stone floor and looked at Lucius appraisingly. “And unfortunately, this means you have become inconvenient.”
Hermione felt embarrassed as the Friar pounded on the door of the small stone house.
The poor donkeys were catching their breath nearby and were drinking deeply from several clay bowls that had collected rainwater.
“I don't think they're home,” Hermione said, rubbing her arms. The mist was rolling in and her cloak was still packed on one of the donkeys.
“One of them is always home,” the Friar said darkly.
There was a small noise behind the door and it swung open. A small, pasty faced woman with a face like a dried apple opened the door.
“We come to trade information.” The Friar said quickly.
“I don't know what you mean,” the woman began, but the Friar cut her off.
“They're coming for you.”
The woman's demeanor changed completely. “Come in.”
They were hurried into the house and the door was closed quickly behind them.
“Are they on their way?” The woman pulled a wand from her pocket.
“You have a wand!” Hermione exclaimed.
The woman hesitated. “Yes.”
Hermione held her hand out and concentrated. The wooden ring she was wearing turned back into her wand.
“Where did you get that?” The woman peered at Hermione through beetle-black squinted eyes.
“The future,” Hermione said quickly. “But if I want to get back there isn't much time.”
The goblin stopped speaking suddenly and he sniffed the air. His nose wrinkled. He glared at Lucius. “Veela.”
Lucius started and stared at the Goblin. There were rumors of Veela blood on his mother's side, but nothing was ever proven. The Goblins could smell it in him?
“Maybe you're not a total loss after all.” The goblin looked at Lucius as if he were a prize cow.
He banged the butt of his spear on the stone floor and it was covered in a thick Persian carpet. The soiled bed disappeared and a large nest of fluffy white material appeared in its place, a pink silk sheet draped over one side. A yellow silk covering hung over the window, filtering in colored light, but magically stopping the draft. Small oil lamps appeared on the walls. Then the goblin snapped his fingers and the tower stabilized itself.
Lucius took a deep breath, both from the room becoming stable and from his life being spared for the moment.
“The room is generous. Remember the Veela this favor.” The goblin brusquely turned and stalked from the room, the door slamming behind him.
Lucius was left alone.
He crawled into the nest, finding it to be more comfortable than he imagined it would be and he pulled the silk sheet over him.
He was still sleepy from the healing spells and he was in no immediate danger anymore. He had food to eat, water to drink, and a pot to piss in.
He couldn't ask for anything more.
Hermione and the Friar were shown to a dark corner of the room. The woman moved a small trunk and a wooden shield was set into the earth. She tugged on one side of it and lifted it away from a hole in the floor. There was light coming from the hole. More than was even in the house itself.
“You've got to be joking.” The Friar frowned at the small hole in the ground.
“It'll just have to be her, then.” The old woman grunted.
“I'll be fine,” Hermione said quickly, before the Friar could protest.
Hermione gathered the skirt of her dress and wiggled into the small hole. The tunnel was narrow and she couldn't see where she was going, but knew she was traveling down.
Finally, she felt the tunnel open up and she carefully tried to feel her way out of the tunnel, but failed and fell into loose cloth that had been piled against one wall of the cave-room.
She tried to get to her feet, but she was tangled up in the fabric.
Hands grabbed her arms, their fingers far too long for their palms and the bone-white nails coming to points. She was roughly hauled to her feet and she found herself face to face with a fairy.
His face was tall and thin, white skin stretched over a skull too big for the neck that supported it. Long ears protruded from the sides of his head. Longish, greasy, black hair fell around a face that bared sharp, ivory teeth at her and stared at her with eyes of solid black.
Hermione opened her mouth to scream, but when she let loose, nothing came out.
The fairy put her down and gave her a pat.
Hermione stopped screaming and tried to regain her breath. She found she could make sound once more.
Hermione looked around the well-lit room and saw weaving looms and wood working equipment.
Her eyes fell on a small table near a lathe. She felt her breath catch in her throat as she spied the small pile of wands.
So this was where it had all started. This was where the Ollivanders had learned their wand making skills. Sitting on the table were the very first Ollivander wands in existence.
“Forgive me, but he just fell asleep,” the fairy said in a voice that sounded like glass marbles clacking together.
For the first time, Hermione realized they weren't alone. There was a girl with light brown hair sitting in one corner, a dark-haired baby latched to her breast.
“Oh!” Hermione exclaimed as quietly as she could. “I'm quite sorry!”
“So are we.” The old woman had wriggled down the tunnel behind Hermione and was standing behind her with her wand drawn. “What are you here for?” She demanded.
Hermione explained who she was and how she and Lucius had managed to find themselves here. How they had gotten mixed up with the Baron and the quest to get back to their time.
“There has been no ransom demand?” The fairy seemed to think for a moment.
“No.” Hermione shook her head. “And we need to find him.”
“Strange that the humans haven't been given a demand, but the Veela have,” the fairy mused. “They must have seen through your ruse.”
“The Veela?” Hermione's heart beat faster. “There are Veela here?”
There was a theory that Veela had once been in, and then run out of Britain, but it had never been proven. This was a breakthrough!
“Some are left.” The fairy barked out a laugh like creaking wood. “Most have been burned for being too pretty. Much like I would be for being too ugly.”
“Stop it!” The girl spoke for the first time. It was a high voice with a razor's edge to it.
“You shut up, you stupid girl,” the woman spat at the girl with the baby. “It's your whoring that got us here in the first place.”
“We're married,” the girl whispered. “Friar Timothy said the words.”
“Friar Timothy is half mad and you can only marry men, not fairies,” the woman snarled. “Especially not ones you were raised with!”
“If it is good enough for the Friar, it is good enough for me,” the fairy cocked his head and looked at the old woman. “If it is not good enough for you, we will go from this place and leave you in peace.”
“Where would you go then?” Her face softened. “What would you do? How would you eat? Where would you hide?”
“I have many magicks to hide myself and my family,” the fairy said simply. “The child looks human. He will adapt when it is time.”
“It's too dangerous, Brennan,” the woman said irritably. “Wait a few more months.”
“If what she says is true, we don't have a few more months,” the fairy named Brennan said. “Come with us.”
“I can't!” The woman scowled. “If we all disappear it puts your human brothers at risk. The Church will go to their houses and torture them for information. Better they find nothing in their search and kill me if they have to kill anyone.”
“You could stage a fire.” Hermione frowned. Everyone turned to look at her.
“The Baron said there's been a lot of raiding and fighting lately.” Hermione shrugged. “I'm sure you wouldn't be the first casualties.”
The woman looked at Brennan. He looked at her. The girl rocked the baby in her arms and hummed softly to herself.
“It's an option, mother,” the fairy sighed.
“Our family has always lived in this house,” the woman said stubbornly.
“Well, it's time to go somewhere else,” the girl with the baby snapped. “We'll not leave you here to die!”
The fairy turned back to Hermione. “What do you want from us?”
“I want you to tell me where Lucius has been hidden,” Hermione said nervously. “As a fair exchange of information.”
“He's in the Goblin's Sky Tower,” Brennan snorted. “Good luck getting him out.”
“How do you know this if you're in here all the time?” Hermione asked.
The earth shuddered and they turned to watch the small tunnel widen for a moment before expelling the Friar into the pile of cloth.
“Sorry,” he apologized. “Experimental charm. Only seen it done once.”
“Because fairies are always in contact with each other,” the old woman said. “It's one of their gifts. They share a collective memory when it comes to important things.”
“It's more like a well of knowledge, Mother,” Brennan sighed, for a moment looking like an exasperated teenage human. “You can put things in or take things out.”
“Extraordinary.” Hermione peered at Brennan appraisingly. “Will the baby have this ability?”
Brennan hesitated. “Still early to tell. Sometimes it skips generations.”
“You owe her now, Brennan,” the girl in the chair said crossly. “Honesty will bring you closer to God.”
Brennan took a breath, Hermione did not know if he had been breathing before, and glared fiercely at the girl in the chair who returned his glare without fear.
“I will take you there in return for your plan to burn the cottage and fake my mother's death,” Brennan said. “Safely.”
“What?” The Friar looked alarmed. “Fake a death?”
Hermione explained the plan and the Friar shrugged. “It's a decent plan.” He glared at the old woman. “And I will have you know Father Timothy has a sound mind. He's a good man and he knows right from wrong. If he sees good in this union, so be it. He's the one that saw good in this whole arrangement from the beginning and you were fine with it until now.”
The woman opened her mouth, but snapped it shut again. “Fine. Make your deals.”
She walked to the tunnel and held her wand into it. There was a stirring in the air and then she was sucked up the tunnel, back into the cottage.
“We will leave at dusk,” Brennan said. “It will be easier to travel then.”
The Friar looked clearly uncomfortable, but agreed to the arrangement. “We will be in the church in town until then. I should talk to Friar Timothy since we have come all this way.”
Hermione watched as the Friar blessed the baby and shook Brennan's hand carefully. “You've grown to be quite a man. I wish you both luck.”
“We'll need it.” The girl's voice was barely a whisper.
“What in God's name were you thinking?” Friar Weatherbee hissed at the tiny man in heavy brown robes.
The small man furrowed his bushy brown eyebrows at Friar Weatherbee and scowled. “They wanted to be wed. I wed them.”
“Besides the fact that they're not even the same species, they were raised as brother and sister?” Friar Weatherbee made a distasteful face.
“That was hardly my fault!” Friar Timothy protested. “The human boy was sick and weak. It would have died anyway and it wasn't even baptized yet. Then the fairies stole the damned thing and left a changeling child in its place. Some of us tried to take it, but that stubborn woman wouldn't hear of it. She wanted to try and raise and tame it!”
“Seems like she did a pretty good job,” Hermione interjected. “He didn't seem to have any trouble finding a wife!”
“Do the elders know about that part?” Friar Timothy looked worried.
“No, thank God. They were just coming for Brennan, and taking their own sweet time about it” Friar Weatherbee said bitterly. Friar Timothy looked relieved. “If they knew about the half-breed they'd torch the place tonight.”
“His name is Julius,” Friar Timothy said, drawing himself up to his full height: nearly to Friar Weatherbee's nose.
“Well, whatever the little thing's name is, the faster we can get him out of here, the better.” Friar Weatherbee pulled a bottle of wine out from his robes and thumbed the cork out. He took a swig before passing it to Friar Timothy.
Hermione clucked her tongue at them, but the friars just grunted at her.
“We may die tonight, for all you know,” Friar Weatherbee snorted. “I'm at least getting in a drink and a nap before then.”
Hermione had to chuckle, in spite of herself. “All right, hand it here then.”
The wait was making her very nervous.
Hermione and the Friar waited outside the small stone cottage at dusk, their donkeys fully rested and their backs full of supplies.
A small figure wrapped in a blue cloak tottered out of the cottage to join them.
“I don't know how you fold yourself up like that,” Hermione marveled as Brennan climbed onto the back of a small pony.
“Intuitive magic.” Brennan smiled his wild grin at her.
“Don't listen to him, it's from hiding in places he shouldn't have as a lad.” Brennan's mother hurried out of the structure with a long, thin leather case and handed it to Brennan, who tucked it into his cloak.
“I'll be back in a few hours,” Brennan assured her. “Then we'll leave for good.”
“Be safe.” She touched his arm and the outline of his figure glowed blue for a moment.
“I love you, ma,” Brennan said as he bent to kiss her forehead.
Hermione and the Friar kept to themselves while Brennan and his mother said their goodbyes to each other. He watched his mother totter back into the stone cottage and when the door was closed he turned to look at his traveling companions.
“We'll travel through the twilight.”
The Friar shivered and Hermione glanced at him nervously. “What’s that?”
“Dangerous.” He touched his cross and part of the donkey's bridle transfigured into blinders that prevented them from seeing anything. Hermione did the same.
Brennan lifted up a hand and pointed at the sky with a single clawed finger He started humming and Hermione's donkey started whiffling. The Friar reached over and took her reins, knowing she wouldn't be able to control a temperamental mount.
The colors of the sunset seemed to envelop the world. The sky quickly turned to blood red and the grass below them turned black.
The donkeys started to paw the ground and the Friar made soothing noises.
A purplish fog enveloped them and Hermione was sure they were nowhere near the cottage anymore.
I can smell them in the dark.
I want the female. I bet she's delicious.
Hermione held her breath as she heard things scuttle and scratch beyond the fog. Then they heard a faraway scream, and it seemed to catch the mysterious voice's attentions. There was a loud snorting as the things sniffed the air and scuttled off to wherever the scream had come from.
The Friar seemed to rest easier and Hermione relaxed. The fog started to thin and Hermione started making out the base of a tower in the distance. It was much darker then when they had left.
“This is as far as I go,” Brennan said. “I will leave a standing stone here. When you wish to return to the ruins of your old chapel, return to the stone and place your hands on it. Only you two will be able to activate it. Make sure one of you is holding onto your friend when you leave. Give him this when you find him.” Brennan handed Hermione the leather case he had gotten from his mother.
“Thank you, for all your help,” the Friar nodded to Brennan.
“We are even, now,” Brennan said firmly.
“Of course.” The Friar nodded in agreement.
Hermione and the Friar started out. After a few meters, Hermione turned to look back. There was no fog. No fairy. Just a tall black stone jutting out of the ground. She shivered.
They approached the tower cautiously, but the Friar had said there was no need. The goblins never needed ground security.
As they approached the tower, Hermione saw why.
An ivory tower rose into the air, past small, wispy clouds. In the moonlight, Hermione could see rings of evenly spaced bumps on the sides of the smooth tower.
“What are those?” Hermione whispered. She pointed to the bumps.
“Hex traps,” the Friar said grimly. “Anyone attempting to fly to the top of the tower is in for a nasty surprise. The sides are enchanted so sticky spells won't allow you to climb it. It's impervious to fire.”
Hermione listened carefully. “There are birds around here.”
“So small things must be able to maneuver around it, otherwise there would be no real wildlife around here,” Hermione said excitedly. “I'm guessing he's up there?”
She pointed to a slice of black on the white tower: a window close to the top.
“Then I've got an idea!”
Lucius was lying in
his nest, marveling at his ceiling. There was a relief of early wizarding
history, from a goblin point of view, of course, done in precious stones and
metals. He was squinting at a figure of a wizard running away from a rampaging
dragon when he heard a flutter at his window.
He looked up and his eyes widened at the small stone bird sitting on his sill, cocking his head at Lucius. He had a small scrap of parchment in his beak.
Lucius scrambled out of the nest and padded over to the window. He took the parchment from the little bird and unfolded the note. A quill and a small pot of ink clattered from out of the enchanted letter and Lucius absently looked to see if ink was seeping into the carpet (it was not) before he started reading.
We have an idea to get you out, but first I have to climb up. The only thing W has with him is an experimental hair growing potion. When your hair is still growing, wrap it around something four times before tossing the end out of the window. Just trust me. ~ H
Lucius looked at the ink bottle again. The liquid inside seemed to be clear. Lucius looked at the quill he'd been given and experimentally made a line on the parchment Hermione's note had been on. It wrote.
Lucius shook his head in disbelief. What if he had tried writing with the potion? Then it would have ink from the ever-inked quill in it! Silly bint.
Lucius looked around his room and finally settled on one of the iron mounts an oil lamp was set in. He downed the potion and was surprised to notice the hair was elongating from the tips and not actively growing from his scalp. This made things much easier.
His hair grew at a steady pace, but slow enough that he could maneuver it easily. He waited until it had grown several meters before wrapping it around the lamp mount. He went to the window and tossed it out, making sure it didn't swing as it grew. He didn't know what the bumps on the tower were, but he had a feeling they weren't for decoration.
After a while, he saw the hair going out the window go taut. He waited patiently as he waited for his guest to arrive.
Hermione thanked heavens for strength and stamina charms. Without them, she'd never make it, but the window was getting closer with every pull of her arms.
She had transfigured her clothing into something more modern: a white pair of flannel-lined jeans, white hiking boots, and a white lightweight hiking jacket to ward off the chill. She didn't want to take the chance that the wind would kick up and make her skirts or cloak flutter into the path of the hex traps and she thought white would better hide her against the side of the tower if anyone happened by. Lucius' hair was white enough on it's own to make it's own camouflage.
Unsurprisingly, the Friar had decided to stay on the ground.
She finally made it and pulled herself up onto the windowsill. She looked into the room, expecting to see Lucius imprisoned in some sort of dank cell.
She found him sitting cross-legged in a nest of silk, in a room with one of the plushest rugs she had ever seen, eating an apple. The loose hair from his head was draped around the room, effectively tethering him to the wall.
“Oh, honestly!” Hermione muttered as she scrabbled into the room.
“Apple?” Lucius offered.
“We're leaving!” Hermione magically severed Lucius' hair, shorter than he would have liked, and cast a spell that reinforced the hair going to the ground so it made a pale rope.
“We've got to climb down?!” Lucius exclaimed disbelievingly.
“And you've got to be good at it,” Hermione snapped. She pointed her wand at him and instantly he was magicked clean and his clothing was similar to hers. “Can you do it?”
Lucius felt his lip curl. He hated admitting he was less than proficient at anything simple, especially when it came to feats of strength or prowess. “I hardly think you made it without assistance.”
Hermione cast the same strength and stamina charms on Lucius that she still had on herself. “Brennan said to give you this.”
She pulled the thin leather case from inside her jacket and handed it to Lucius. He cautiously opened it and then his face lit up. He pulled out a wand.
It was white and thin, birch from the look of it, but he couldn't imagine what the core was made from.
“You be careful with this one, it's an original Ollivander,” Hermione said, smirking.
Lucius gave it an experimental wave and silver sparks shot from it. “No one would ever believe it. How did he get it right on the first try? Last time it took dozens.”
Hermione shrugged. “He's a fairy.”
Then she turned to the window and started climbing out.
Lucius shrugged and tucked his wand into his inside jacket pocket. He noticed this jacket worked like Hermione's pockets had: no danger of it breaking in here!
He hurried over to the window and looked out. He had the presence of mind to pull his head back in before vomiting. The last thing he needed was to get on Hermione's bad side by puking on her head.
“Are you going to be able to do this?”
Lucius looked down at Hermione, concentrating on her face instead of the ground far beyond her.
“I have to,” he said grimly.
“I don't think you do,” Hermione said thoughtfully. “I can carry you!”
“I sincerely doubt it,” Lucius shook his head. “Even with the charms in place.”
“That's not what I meant,” Hermione snorted as she climbed back into the room. “Sorry.”
And quick as a flash she pointed her wand at Lucius and turned him into a white ferret wearing a white jacket.
She allowed herself a giggle as he chattered wildly at her.
“Oh, stop it,” she chided. “You look positively adorable.”
He stopped chattering for a moment and seemed to be preening himself.
Hermione picked him up gently and tucked him into her jacket. “You'll be safe in there.”
Lucius found himself being handled in a most undignified way and shoved up Hermione's bosoms in a way he had never imagined doing.
Then he was nearly smashed as she wriggled out of the window and started down the rope of hair.
He scrambled for a handhold and panicked for a moment when Hermione started laughing and the rope started shaking.
“Stop it, that tickles! My shirt is tucked into my pants, you're not going anywhere!” She composed herself and they began the slow descent to the ground.
Lucius clung to her, in spite of himself. He tried to breathe normally and found her heartbeat against his fuzzy head soothing. He tried to match his breaths to it and meditated on the idea of being on the ground.
After what seemed like forever, Lucius felt a jarring and knew Hermione's feet had hit the ground.
He let out a breath of relief and expected to be released right away, but Hermione didn't let him out.
“Where is he?” Lucius heard the Friar ask. Lucius heard the donkeys and wondered exactly how far away from the Baron's castle they were.
Lucius popped his head out of Hermione's jacket and sniffed the air. His nose was far more sensitive than normal. He smelled the donkeys. The wine the Friar had slopped down the front of his robes. The fresh bread Hermione had eaten earlier. Hermione's sweat and the rosewater they used to cover up the smell of people in the Baron's castle.
Lucius found himself liking her smell very much, indeed. She would never have to know, he reasoned to himself as he took in a deep breath. It had been so long since he had been this close to a woman.
His whiskers twitched. Large, smelly beasts. Goblin! Many goblins! And they were getting nearer. He squeaked frantically and clawed at Hermione.
“Oh, all right,” Hermione said in an annoyed tone as she fished Lucius out of her shirt. She put him on the ground and changed him back into his human form.
Lucius spun into his regular shape, coming to rest seated on the ground, his legs bent and his arms supporting him so he sat up. He had a smudge of dirt on one of his cheeks. He looked frightened. “Ambush!”
The Friar turned his donkey and Hermione and Lucius both scrabbled onto hers after she hastily preformed strength and quickness charms on the beast.
The Friar whipped the donkey Hermione and Lucius were on first, before spurring his own into action.
The donkeys both cried out loudly before their hooves started to thunder as they made their way away from the tower.
They crashed through the undergrowth, but hadn't gone far before they heard something crashing after them. Hermione didn't turn around, but she suspected it was several somethings by the way arrows had started to fly past them.
The Friar swore, a word that the translation spell couldn't comprehend, and kicked his donkey harder as Hermione and Lucius outpaced him due to their enchanted mount.
“Where are we going?” Lucius shouted as an arrow flew past him and sunk into a tree the same height as his head.
“To a fancy portkey!” Hermione shouted back. She turned to look at Lucius and finally got to see what was behind them.
Armored goblins, mounted on boars were pursuing them, armed with lances and bows. Their large, pointed ears were encased in silver and the fronts of their helmets were fashioned into grotesque faces. In the moonlight they cast a terrifying image.
The Friar shouted a spell and trees began falling in their wake, slowing the goblins down as they fought to get around and over the new obstacles. Some weren't quick enough to react and Hermione heard the death screams of the boar and the curses of the goblins.
Hermione felt the blood drain from her face and she kicked the sides of the donkey hard as she heard the Friar continue casting spells behind them. “I'm sorry, but it's your skin, too!”
“Who are you talking to?” Lucius yelled.
They were nearing the stone; Hermione could see it through the trees when their donkey let out a cry and fell, an arrow sticking out from one of his haunches.
Hermione and Lucius were thrown and Hermione let out a cry as she landed hard and her wrist turned underneath her. She pulled herself up, cradling her wrist next to her body, and turned to look at the fallen donkey. It's eyes were wide with fear and it brayed loudly as it kept trying to get to it's feet.
“Leave it!” Lucius reached out and pulled Hermione away from the fallen beast. She growled in pain as her body was jerked suddenly.
The Friar caught up with them, his face white as a sheet. He pulled his donkey to a stop and toppled off it while dismounting.
Hermione let out a small cry as she saw the arrow sticking out of his back.
“Come on!” Lucius barked at Hermione, and she tried to help support the Friar as best as she could as they hobbled over to the standing stone.
Hermione heard the Friar wheezing as she slapped her hand onto the standing stone. The other was around the Friar's back and grasping Lucius' shoulder.
Instead of the tug she was used to feeling behind her bellybutton, she felt a screaming pain that bubbled up under her skin and felt like she was being pulled apart.
She felt herself falling and her feet hit the ground, hard. She lost her balance and hit the ground, knocking the breath out of her.
She heard a horrible sound beside her and looked up to see the Friar lying beside her.
She saw Lucius push his body away from the ground on the other side of the Friar. He looked at Hermione, his blue eyes meeting with her brown. The Friar propped himself up on his elbows, his head coming between Lucius and Hermione's.
But Lucius and Hermione's eyes could still see each other. The Friar's head was transparent.
“We need to hurry!” The Friar floated up to a standing position. “The goblins will be coming and we have preparations to make.”
Hermione looked at the corpse in front of her and then back to the Friar. “You-- you're dead!”
“Yes, I took an arrow in the back,” the Friar said simply. “Now my feet don't hurt, my back doesn't ache, and the Baron won't pester me about his daughter's imaginary chastity anymore.”
Lucius snorted and picked himself up from the ground.
Hermione looked horrified. “What about your intended?”
“I daresay Gwendolyn Hufflepuff will have many offers better than the one I gave her,” the Friar said bitterly. “I'm sure she'll be fine once I explain everything to her. Of course, I'll still look after her.”
Hermione opened her mouth and then snapped it shut again. The Friar didn't need to know that in fifteen hundred years he would still be looking after Hufflepuffs.
“I'm sure she'll understand,” Lucius said quickly. “But we should really get inside. Granger, grab a foot.”
“Are you joking?” Hermione asked incredulously as she got to her feet. “We're going to drag his corpse?”
“What else do you want to do with it?” Lucius laughed. “We can't very well leave it out here!”
“Oh, fine then,” Hermione muttered a spell and the body floated inside the chapel and lay curled in a corner.
Lucius gave her a dirty look. He should have thought of moving the body with magic, but he was getting used to not having his wand, an idea that both fascinated and revolted him.
Just for spite he transfigured Hermione's clothing back to what she normally wore around the castle: a plain dress, a cap, and an apron.
She threw him a dirty look.
“If you have to go up to the castle for something, you're unlikely to be thinking about your clothing at the time,” Lucius said smoothly.
Good to his word, Justus had placed a package wrapped in dark green linen on the table near an ever-burning candle. Hermione ripped the confining cap off her head and tossed it onto the tall, narrow work table.
Hermione frowned as she approached the table and cast a spell so that the single candle magically illuminated the whole room. “Where did he get this?” She was looking at the candle.
“It's a candle with a light permanence spell,” the Friar frowned.
“Not an enchanted item, a charmed item?” Hermione asked for clarification.
“Yes,” the Friar said. “But enough of that, open the parcel.”
Hermione grumbled as she opened the package. There was a letter for the Friar and a thin book wrapped in silk beneath it.
Hermione reached for the book and opened it to a place marked with a red ribbon.
The Friar gave her an annoyed look. Lucius rolled his eyes and opened the letter for the Friar.
“Oh, God! I'm sorry!” Hermione apologized as she realized the Friar couldn't do it himself.
“Just read,” the Friar ordered as Lucius held the letter for him. “According to this we only have four hours.”
“What?!” Hermione squeaked. “But we only learned so much of your writing! The cleverness potions only got us so far with the one lesson we had! I thought we'd have all night!”
“The calculations were a bit off and we have about four hours to prepare,” the Friar enunciated slowly. “So read quickly. Luckily, he writes simply, so it should be easy enough for you.”
“Start a fire!” Hermione barked at Lucius. “We have a potion to brew and not a lot of time to do it!”
Lucius hurried to a corner of the room and started grabbing tufts of dried moss and some kindling.
“No! Wait! Shit!” Hermione swore as she continued reading. “It's got to be a special combination of woods!”
Lucius ran over to her and looked at the book she was holding. “Oh, the Julian Formula for Bending Rituals.”
He hurried back to the corner and started rifling through the pile of wood they had collected.
“You know this?” Hermione asked, incredulously.
“It's not part of the Hogwarts curriculum, but it's part of the Fifth Year program at Durmstrang,” Lucius grunted. “Mother insisted I take their summer program every year so I could be ahead of all the other students at Hogwarts.”
“Wow,” Hermione said, her eyebrows going up. “I'm impressed.”
“The next part wants me to anoint the cauldron with blood, is that correct?” Lucius asked as he touched the candle to the moss packed under the kindling and it started burning.
Hermione read further. “Yes, it does.”
He reached over to a table and picked up a small chisel Justus had left behind and winced as he cut into his flesh with it. “I have to use a bleeding curse to get the blood out faster. We don't have all day.”
“What?” Hermione asked, and then realized she didn't really want to know.
“Never mind,” Lucius muttered. “I'm just glad we had the presence of mind to stock our basic supplies before tonight.”
Hermione watched as he cursed his own hand, the blood flowing over his pale skin and flowing into the cauldron.
“Are you sure that's safe?” Hermione asked him as he flicked his new wand and closed the wound.
“Of course it's not safe, it's a bleeding curse,” Lucius barked out a laugh.
“You know what I mean,” Hermione said testily.
“I'll be fine,” Lucius said absentmindedly.
As Lucius kept doing the complicated potion, checking with Hermione before he started the next step, Hermione tried to skip ahead in the book.
“This is Dark Magic!” Hermione spluttered.
“What clued you in to that?” Lucius asked sarcastically.
She looked up at him. He was setting the cauldron on the fire, the bottom of it sizzling slightly as his blood boiled. “Sorry. Don't know what I was thinking.”
“You could have used mine, you know,” the Friar interjected as he read over Hermione's shoulder. “It's not like I'm using it anymore, and it looks like you'll need several other parts as well.”
Hermione looked down at the page and blanched.
“Well, that comes after the cauldron preparation,” Lucius said as he approached them. “But the cauldron is ready and we need to start the potion.
Lucius took the book out of Hermione's hands. He looked at her pale face and sighed. “I'm familiar with parts of this.”
Hermione took in a sharp breath and Lucius gave her a dirty look.
“Of course, I was using a chicken and not a person,” he said testily.
Hermione found herself just hoping he knew what he was doing. If they blew it they'd have to go grave robbing in another month and she didn't much like the idea.
“You might want to get the base potion started while I take care of him,” Lucius nodded at the Friar's corpse.
She shuddered and retreated to the other side of the room where the Friar joined her. “I'm not sure I really want to witness this part. I was quite close to my sentient form.”
Hermione started the base potion by pouring a bucket of water in the cauldron and stripping some of the birch branches of their bark. She tried to ignore the squelching and cracking noises behind her and she noticed the Friar was humming louder as Lucius got more involved in his work.
She opened a small religious book the Friar had left behind during one of their preparation days, examining the colorful, intricate pictures, until she heard a splash in the cauldron and knew Lucius had finished his task.
She turned around, prepared to see a gory scene, but to her surprise Lucius was clean, the corpse was gone, and Lucius was putting a heavy lid on the cauldron.
“Not all rituals require the theatrical dramatics Muggle movies seem to think they do,” Lucius snorted.
“And what do you know about Muggle movies?” Hermione relaxed a little.
“My late wife quite enjoyed them,” Lucius said quietly.
Hermione noticed, for the first time he looked completely lost. After all they had been through; the only thing that made him feel hopeless was that he was without his mate.
“Draco quite likes them, too,” Hermione ventured.
“I'm sure he'll see all sorts of them now that he's moving in with Potter,” Lucius said, shaking himself out of his thoughts.
Hermione felt a tremendous weight lift off her shoulders. He knew.
He might not be doing cartwheels over it, but he knew Draco was gay and in love with Harry and he wasn't dying of a heart attack, as Draco had thought he would.
Hermione wanted to hug him. Harry would be so happy to know Lucius was at least resigned to the idea!
“Oh, I don't know,” Hermione said cautiously. “They're right near the new Quidditch stadium. I'd assume they'll be buying a box.”
“Really?” Lucius perked up. “That might not be so bad.”
Hermione chuckled and shook her head.
Lucius looked at her sharply, but her head was still in the book so she didn't see him. “What are you looking at, anyway?”
“My book of psalms,” the Friar said proudly. “I copied it myself when I was still staying at the monastery.”
“It's beautiful,” Hermione marveled.
“Take it with you,” the Friar insisted. “It would just be wasted here. The baron isn't going to read it. The only time he ever prays is when he's got a lot riding on a long shot.”
“Thank you,” Lucius said before Hermione could protest. “I'm sure the school would love to have it.”
Hermione's eyebrows went up. “Yes, I'm sure it will be cherished,” she said warmly. “Thank you.”
“The potion has ten minutes to boil and then you have to speak an incantation over it,” Lucius said off-handedly to Hermione.
“Me?” Hermione frowned. “Why me?”
“Feminine magic,” Lucius said loftily, glad to have the upper hand in something. “It's a theory used in dark magic rituals. I wouldn't expect you to know much about it.”
“I'd like to learn about it when we get back,” Hermione said as she reached for their book of instructions. Her eyes skimmed the page. There was a small mark near the incantation that needed to be spoken. She assumed it was some kind of mark signifying a female caster.
Lucius laughed. “You must be joking. If one wanted to be technical about it, everything I'm doing right now is a violation of my parole. I can't go back and start teaching you about dark magic. Word would get out and I'd be shot in the street.”
“I'm head of the Experimental Magic Department,” Hermione smirked. “I can declare it classified and only the Minister would know.”
Lucius felt his heart skip a beat. Of course she had that much power. Why did it escape him before? He was finally being rewarded for good behavior and was given a position with an overseer that wouldn't torment him; in a field he was proficient in, where he could conceivably start a career once his probation was over.
He reasoned that he hadn't thought of it because he hadn't been there ten minutes before the explosion, and he had more important things to think about lately than his future career path.
“If you could have that arranged and filed in writing somewhere I believe we can come to an arrangement,” Lucius said with a nod in her direction. “I don't have much patience, but, if I remember correctly, you are a proficient pupil.”
Hermione blushed at the compliment and felt her stomach flutter at an inappropriate thought that fluttered through her mind.
“What do we have to do after the incantation?” Hermione asked, her voice a little high.
Lucius fought down his urge to raise an eyebrow. She was appraising his fine form at the joust! He knew it!
She and Lucius deciphered the rest of the instructions, asking the Friar to double check what they were doing in case their translations were off.
At one point Hermione found herself frowning at a passage. “Is that what I think it says? Do we have to urinate in the cauldron?”
“What?” Lucius, who had been stirring the murky, thick potion in a figure eight pattern, let out a laugh.
The Friar floated through Hermione to get a better look at the page and she flinched. She set the book down and stepped backwards, out of the Friar's form.
“I-- well--” The Friar blustered for a moment. “Well I never!”
“What is it?” Hermione asked, her brow furrowed.
Lucius tried in vain to get a look at the book while he kept stirring.
“Well, this is the sign for male.” The Friar pointed at a symbol.
“So Lucius has to piss in the pot?” Hermione asked.
“Lucius has to expel into the pot,” the Friar huffed.
“What?” Hermione asked, confused.
“What?!” Lucius blurted out. “Like I'm in the mood now!”
Realization dawned on Hermione and she started to giggle nervously. Lucius scowled at her and her giggles exploded into laughter.
“Like I'll be able to now,” Lucius muttered to himself.
He found himself wondering why he even cared. It wasn't the first time he'd encountered that type of thing in a potion and he had done it often enough in front of other Death Eaters. They saw it as just another step in potions brewing. Something mechanical to be performed on behalf of the Dark Lord. But this time, in front of her, he found himself shy.
“I'll stand over here and face the wall,” Hermione said, pulling herself together temporarily. “Do you need me to transfigure materials for you--”
“No, I do not!” Lucius said exasperatedly. “Just go stand in the corner!”
Hermione turned to start walking, but looked over her shoulder at him. “Do all the Death Eaters normally have to go stand in a--”
“Go!” Lucius barked, but this time he allowed himself a chuckle.
Cheeky little thing.
Hermione went to the corner with the Friar's book of psalms. She opened it and looked at the pictures while trying to ignore the rustle of clothing behind her.
He was discreet, his clothing wasn't particularly noisy, but Hermione could swear the sound was deafening.
She felt her cheeks turn red and she was glad Lucius couldn't see her. She tried to concentrate on the pictures in the book. She tried to hum under her breath, knowing the bubbling from the cauldron and the popping of the fire would shield Lucius from any small sounds she made.
She was halfway through Dancing Queen when she started hearing a loud slapping sound. Lucius breathing was so deep she could hear it over the sounds of the potion. She closed her eyes and unconsciously her breathing began matching his.
It had been a long time since she had had a physical relationship with anyone, let alone someone who was her equal in potions. She found herself straining to listen to him, speculating how big he was the length of the strokes. What he'd look like underneath her.
Lucius was watching Hermione's back. He hadn't intended to, but eyes had been drawn to her and he was entertaining a fantasy about her chasing off the two castle harlots and offering herself to him as a condolence. He remembered what it was like being pushed up against her breasts.
In his fantasy she was a filthy little whore and his excitement was further intensified when he realized her breathing was matching his.
He wanted to stride across the room, push her against the wall and hike her dress up before making her scream his name, but the potion was first priority, screwing Hermione was now the second.
He felt weak-kneed as he finished and watched as she took a long, steadying breath. He cleaned himself and shook his head as he rearranged his clothing.
He caught a look from the Friar and was annoyed to see the ghost was looking at Hermione as well and was chuckling.
He floated over to Lucius and whispered in his ear: “You know, I think she just might like you.”
“Oh push off,” Lucius said, annoyed even more when the Friar did and went to Hermione to tell her it was safe to turn around.
Lucius started stirring quickly, hoping the steam from the cauldron would help hide the flush to his cheeks.
Hermione maintained a mostly professional manner for the rest of the project. Lucius did notice her eying him up a time or two and he found himself sucking in his gut a little and standing a little straighter.
When Lucius finally poured water on the fire Hermione let out a breath of relief. “Here's to hoping this works.”
“I could use a drink,” Lucius said, rubbing his forehead. He walked over to the area where the Friar's corpse had been and rustled around until he came up with a bottle and a small wooden bowl.
“You took his stash before you transfigured the corpse?” Hermione chuckled.
“Well, it's not like he was going to use it anymore,” Lucius said testily as he poured some wine into the bowl. “Now we just wait for it to cool down and turn 'some shade of blue... or green... maybe.'”
Hermione snorted. “When you put it that way, I suppose a drink sounds like an excellent idea.”
“Cheers,” Lucius said as he raised the small bowl of wine before he downed it. He poured another bowlful and passed it to Hermione.
“Cheers,” Hermione said as she raised the bowl to her lips. She made a quizzical look as she drank. “Why is it greasy?”
“Because the Friar wasn't brave enough to raid the baron's stores so he's raided the sacramental wine sent from the church as part of his supplies.”
Lucius raised an eyebrow at the Friar and the ghost chuckled.
“Not like it matters now. It has been blessed, though, and you two could use all the luck you can get.”
Hermione passed the bowl back to Lucius and he poured another bowl of wine and took a sip before setting it back down and picking up their instructions.
“So after that we anoint ourselves with the potion, say the spell and then what?” Hermione asked.
Lucius turned a page and his eyebrows went up. “We cut a hole in reality.”
“Oh well, that's easy enough,” Hermione said sarcastically.
“Well, that's what it says.” Lucius frowned and turned the page. He turned it back again. Then he shrugged.
Hermione reached for the book and he passed it to her, their fingers brushing briefly. She swallowed before starting reading. “You're right.”
He shot her an annoyed look.
“It doesn't say anything more than just 'cut a hole in reality.'”
They both looked at the ghost of the Friar and he floated through Lucius to look at the book.
“I would hazard a guess that you're supposed to do it with your wands.” The Friar frowned.
“How long is this potion good for?” Hermione asked. “We have a whole cauldron of it and we surely won't use it all tonight.”
“As long as it stays blue?” Lucius guessed. “I have no idea.”
“Well, let's hope we don't have to find out,” Hermione took a deep breath.
“You know we followed all the directions correctly,” Lucius said as he leaned back against one of the stone walls. “What are you worried about?”
“Getting lost in a worse time than this,” Hermione sighed as she took another sip of wine.
“Well, if the church keeps records of us we'll always have sanctuary,” Lucius reassured her.
“But what if we accidentally go back instead of forward?” Hermione asked, her forehead crinkled up.
“Then we'll deal with that then,” Lucius said firmly. “No sense in worrying about something that hasn't happened.”
Hermione took a deep breath and let it out. “You're right.”
Lucius quirked his eyebrows in surprise. He didn't expect Hermione to ever treat him as an equal, and her she was: doing it in only a short period of time.
Was all the girl really looking for was a competent potions partner? Good Lord, what on earth had the Ministry come to?
Hermione peeked into the cauldron. “It's starting to turn purple. We made great time. It should be blue soon.”
Lucius thought for a moment before speaking. He had never really said anything like this to anyone but Narcissa. “You're a very proficient potions brewer.”
“Thank you.” Hermione felt her cheeks turn pink.
“Thank you for retrieving me from the goblins.” He said that last bit with a bite to it. It had hurt his pride to be rescued by a Muggle born girl.
“What else was I going to do? Leave you there?” Hermione laughed.
“Anyone else would have,” Lucius said gravely.
Hermione was quiet for a moment. “Well, I'm not 'anyone else.'”
“I'm starting to see that,” Lucius remarked. “You surprise me, Granger.”
“I do try,” Hermione said sarcastically, but Lucius found himself starting to like it.
Hermione opened the instructions again to hide her grin. Her grin fell.
“I think we have to completely cover ourselves in this stuff,” Hermione made a face.
“Even our hair?” Lucius looked appalled.
Hermione chuckled at him. “I'm actually more taken aback at the part where we're supposed to do this naked and with only our wands, than mussing our hair up, but I suppose to each his own.”
“What?” Lucius asked in a quick breath out.
“I think you heard me,” Hermione continued to scrunch her face up at the instructions. “You said this is dark magic. Why are you so weird about being naked? You just rubbed one off into the cauldron.”
“I know that!” Lucius hissed. “But I wasn't naked when I did it!”
“But certain dark magic spells require sex magic,” Hermione continued on, oblivious to Lucius' discomfort. “You never did that?”
“Of course I did,” Lucius said, annoyed. How much did she know about dark magic, anyway? “But they were just ingredients and you don't need an audience.”
Hermione looked at Lucius, wide eyed. “You mean... in your whole life...”
“Narcissa and I fell in love when I was a fifth year and she was a fourth,” Lucius rubbed his forehead. “I suppose that makes me as bad as Severus.”
“I think it's wonderful,” Hermione said, smiling at him.
Lucius looked at her, surprised.
“I mean, besides all the Death Eater stuff,” Hermione muttered.
Lucius chuckled. “I suppose it is a bit romantic.”
“But what about the two servants!?” Hermione suddenly remembered.
“Hermione, I am sixty-six years old,” Lucius looked at her with a laugh and a shake of his head. “I have only ever been with my wife, and the chances of one, let alone two women offering themselves to me is extremely slim once we get home. An old man will take what he can get.”
“Including the creeping crotch?” Hermione giggled.
“All right, maybe not that,” Lucius grinned.
“Well, you don't look a day over forty-five,” Hermione said airily. “You're accounts are bound to become unfrozen sooner or later and no one will care after that. Especially if Harry vouches for you.”
Lucius blinked. She was right. Technically his son had been paired up with the most influential person in the Wizarding World. It was a match his great-aunt Gertrude would have been proud of, and she was a hard woman to please.
“They'd have to make themselves public,” Lucius said slowly.
“Well, they were waiting for your reaction, weren't they?” Hermione said as she peered into the cauldron again.
“I-- hadn't thought of it that way,” Lucius admitted.
“Well, it would probably be in your best interest if you did,” Hermione said firmly.
Now she did remind him of Narcissa and he chuckled. He bit back the urge to say: 'yes, dear.' “I suppose you're right.”
“You don't have any clue how we're supposed to cut a hole in reality?” Hermione scrunched her face up.
“Maybe it'll just happen,” Lucius shrugged. “Sometimes things are easier than you think.”
“I sincerely hope cutting a hole in reality is not easy!” Hermione laughed.
“Well, let's just hope we don't blow it,” Lucius sighed.
“We did everything precisely!” Hermione said hotly. “If something goes wrong, it's the fault of the spell, not with us.”
“Or with our translation,” Lucius said, sounding tired.
“But the Friar checked our translation!” Hermione protested. “And where is the Friar, anyway?”
“Statute of Secrecy isn't in effect yet,” Lucius shrugged. “He's up at the castle giving the Muggles a hard time.”
“Oh good grief!” Hermione chuckled. “Well, I suppose he'd better get used to it.”
“Here's to that!” Lucius picked up the small bowl of wine, raised it, and took another sip.
“I think we'll be able to do this soon,” Hermione said, looking in the cauldron. “The purple is getting bluer as I watch it.”
Lucius walked over to the cauldron. “I think you're right.”
Hermione and Lucius looked at each other for a moment. Hermione swallowed hard before she turned her back on Lucius and began to disrobe.
Lucius felt his breath catch as he caught sight of her bare shoulders. He thanked his lucky stars that he was not a young man anymore. It was hard to maintain an air of professionalism when you had an erection bobbing in front of your supervisor.
Her dress fell to the ground and Lucius blinked and swallowed hard before turning his back and beginning to undress.
When he was nude he turned around to see Hermione's eyes dart away from where his bum was a moment before and to the cauldron.
Lucius found himself standing a little straighter and holding his arms a little more rigidly. “Do you think we should put it on now?”
“Well, it's definitely blue,” Hermione said, shrugging.
“All right then,” Lucius said, nervously. He dipped his fingers in the potion and they started tingling, not an unpleasant feeling.
“It feels like Muggle muscle medicine,” Lucius said as he started smearing it on his arms and chest.
Hermione submerged her hand in the potion and let out a chuckle. “It tickles.”
“Really?” Lucius asked as he took more potion from the cauldron and rubbed it on himself. “Tickles?”
Hermione shrugged as she started to rub it all over her skin. “Well at least it isn't burning.”
“Well, that's true.” Lucius snorted.
Hermione unbound her hair and leaned over to dip her hair in the cauldron. She came up and tried to rub it into her scalp.
“Let me help you.” Lucius picked up the bowl of wine, spilled the wine out onto the ground, and dipped it into the potion.
Hermione turned her back to him and tilted her head back. Lucius poured the thick, blue potion onto the roots of her hair, above her forehead and started gently rubbing it through her curls. He could take glimpses of her breasts as he rubbed the potion in, but he was careful not to press up against her back. Nothing was ever gained by being lewd.
When her hair was saturated he finished rubbing the potion over her back. She didn't protest.
“I think I'll have to do the same for you,” Hermione said, her voice nervous.
Lucius took a deep breath as he passed her the bowl, got down on his knees, closed his eyes and tilted his head back.
She poured the potion over his hair and she worked it into his scalp gently. He gave a small sigh and she wondered if Narcissa had ever washed his hair for him. She tapped him on the shoulder and he stood, allowing her to do his back.
He really did have a nice arse and she repressed the urge to give it a squeeze.
She continued smoothing it over her own skin: down her arms, over her breasts, across her belly; Lucius did the same and Hermione noticed the way the thick potion caught in the blond hair that grew across his chest.
They looked each other over and dipped their fingers in the potion to get spots that had been missed on each other: a spot on the back of a thigh, a smudge near a temple, a spot near a knee, a stroke under an eyelid.
“Does it still tickle?” Lucius smiled at her. His eyes were watering because of the tingling sensation near them, but they weren't very uncomfortable.
“I feel lighter than I am,” Hermione grinned. “Like I've had a whole bottle of wine.”
“Oh, my.” Lucius' mind mused on a tipsy, naked Hermione. He smirked at her and raised his wand. “Are we ready to do this?”
“As ready as I'll ever be,” Hermione took a deep breath and raised her wand as she stood beside Lucius.
They began the chant in the ancient tongue and their skin began tingling more than before. Hermione silently prayed they were actually doing this right and weren't going to spontaneously combust.
When they were done chanting Lucius and Hermione cast sideways glances at each other.
Lucius slowly started to lower his wand and a small tear seemed to form in the air. He swallowed nervously as he continued lowering his wand and Hermione slowly started doing the same. As the tear got longer, it got wider, as if the other place wanted to be open to this one.
The place was dark. Red light lit it from no discernible source and blood red and black fog swirled around murkily.
“Are you sure this is the right place?” Lucius asked Hermione out of the corner of his mouth.
“I think perhaps so.” Hermione took a deep breath. “I don't know how we're supposed to find our time, but apparently it's in there.”
“Well, I know I have nothing to lose, but you might,” Lucius said shakily.
“Oh, stop it!” Hermione snapped. “This is no time for moping! Onward and upward... or wherever-ward.”
“Lovely speech,” Lucius said dryly. “I can see why you went so far in politics.”
Hermione, who had never in her life wanted to go into politics, scrunched her face up at him.
“Are you ready?” Lucius asked her as he nodded at the tears in reality.
“Let's go,” Hermione said with a deep breath.
They stepped through the tears, their feet on solid ground, not unlike concrete. As soon as they were both through, there was a snapping noise and the tears were gone.
Lucius looked at Hermione and shrugged.
“Well, it's not like that was unexpected,” Hermione said shakily.
“Give me your hand,” Lucius said to Hermione, a bit too calmly. “We don't want to lose each other.”
She took his hand, the blue potion slippery on their skin, his strong fingers closing around hers.
“Now where should we go?” Lucius asked in the same calm tone.
“I don't know,” Hermione said in a small voice.
There was a slither and a thump in the fog.
They both held their breath.
There was a rattle like bones and glass.
“Should we run?” Lucius whispered to Hermione.
“Where would we run to?” Hermione asked in a panicked, squeaky voice, her fingers tightening around his.
“And why would you choose to run from me?” A familiar voice that sounded like glass marbles clacking together.
“Brennan?!” Hermione whispered into the fog.
Lucius slapped his hand over her mouth. “You have no idea what's out there! It could be reading our minds and telling us lies so it can find us!”
“I could,” the voice mused as it slithered and clacked closer. “But your doorway shone like a beacon and you both smell of magic. You forgot to put the potion on the bottoms of your feet. I don't need to lie to find you. You're lucky I remembered what you were doing so I could be here. I merely suspected that this is where you'd end up, but it's not like I have a lot to do anymore.”
The fog in front of Hermione and Lucius shifted and they could sense something immense coming towards them. Hermione stiffened and raised her wand, but Lucius put a hand on hers and shook his head slightly.
“Where are we?” Lucius called out.
“At the end of all things,” the voice ground out. “At the end of time.”
Just then, the fog parted and Hermione and Lucius took a step back as Brennan grew closer to them.
“Dear God, what happened to you?” Hermione breathed.
Brennan now stood taller than Hagrid. One of his eyes was missing, the socket a mangled fist of scar tissue. One of his shoulders was tilted as if it had been broken and had set at an odd angle. It should have hindered his movements, but he had grown another arm to make up for it. Aside from that, from the waist up, he looked the same. From the waist down he now sprouted eight, beastly legs. They were quite hairy, Hermione suspected they resembled spider's legs, but she wasn't sure. It appeared two of them were broken.
“I was in a fight,” Brennan said with a humorless laugh.
“Do you know where we're supposed to go?” Hermione asked nervously.
“Of course I do,” Brennan said, grinning that long-toothed feral grin of his. “It looks as if we're going to have to make another exchange of favors.”
“Before you decide to get cute,” Lucius said in a low warning tone to Hermione, “you might want to consider we have no other choice.”
Hermione glared at him and turned to look at Brennan. “Can we help you in any way? Do you need healing?”
Brennan threw his head back and Hermione saw a gaping wound at his throat. “No. There is no hope for me anymore. There is nothing anymore. Mostly.”
Hermione felt a shiver go down her form, even though it was quite warm.
“What do you want from us?”
Lucius sounded confident, more confident than Hermione thought she would have sounded. This fact annoyed her.
“I want you to deliver a message, to my descendant,” Brennan said.
“That sounds easy enough...” Hermione said cautiously.
“I have had nothing to do for centuries but look through time and thread together events,” Brennan sounded bored. “He is an old man when you return, but he is still well, I believe.”
“You've seen him?” Hermione gasped. “You were in our world?”
“No, I fetched his eyes out of the well and used them as my own,” Brendan said cryptically.
They were silent for a moment.
“Do you mean Mr. Ollivander has access to the well of knowledge you told us about?” Hermione asked slowly. How powerful was the old man.
“Yes,” Brendan said, closing his one eye and raising his eyebrows. “And he has never used it. He thinks he's mad.”
“Oh my God,” Hermione's jaw hung open. “His whole life? That poor man!”
“I will get you there to deliver the message,” Brennan said, as if he were justifying the arrangement to himself, “if you will do it.”
“Of course we will,” Lucius said quickly. “We just aren't sure how to explain things...”
“Just tell him what you know,” Brennan said, reaching into a pocket of matted hair across the top of one arachnid leg. He brought out a wand made of bone and leather and flicked it in the air. A patch of fog began to bubble and simmer. “Once he opens his mind the rest will be second nature. I will find him.”
Hermione shivered and looked up at Lucius.
“We will tell him,” Lucius said firmly.
“I will find you at the end of all things if you do not,” Brennan said seriously.
“Of course.” Lucius bowed slightly to the fairy.
The fog that had boiled was now beginning to part. Hermione and Lucius' eyes widened as they started to see Hermione's ruined laboratory.
Lucius started for the hole, tugging Hermione behind him.
“Thanks, Brennan!” Hermione called out before they were completely through. She could have sworn she heard him laugh before the rip closed up behind them with a rush of air.
Every magic detector and alarm Hermione had on her lab went off at once. The sound was deafening.
“Oh, good grief!” Hermione tried to yell over the noise. She rushed over to her work station and started tinkering with things.
Lucius covered his ears and laughed; glad they were back where they should be.
At least he laughed until the Aurors came bursting through the door, wands at the ready. The he held his hands up and wished he was wearing something other than tingly blue potion.
“What's the meaning of this?!” A short, stocky wizard with a black beard and a receding hairline bellowed. “Where are your clothes?!”
“Auror Jackson!” Hermione barked sharply as soon as the alarms stopped. “It would please me if you and your colleagues took your wands off my assistant!”
“Are you kidding?!” A thin blond Wizard scoffed. “It looks to me like you're on the potion and you're addled! The Dark Magic detectors went off throughout the whole wing!”
“This experiment is now classified as per section 469-A of the Ministry Security Protocol Edicts,” Hermione roared at them. “I answer only to the Minister and my assistant does as well! Now, unless you want to find yourselves in front of the Wizengamot for willful breach of security you will back yourselves right out that door!”
“Yes, ma'am!” The Aurors practically scrambled over the tops of each other trying to get back out the door.
Hermione glanced at a small clock on her work table. “And tell the Minister I want to see him at two o'clock! He needs a briefing!”
The voice was half-muffled as the heavy door slammed shut.
“Let's see if we can't scoop some of this off of us for samples,” Hermione made a face. “Then we can clean up and go to lunch.”
“Go to lunch?” Lucius quirked a corner of his mouth at her.
“I figure it's the least you can do for me after rescuing you,” Hermione said cloyingly as she picked up a jar and a blunt scraping tool made of glass.
“And what's the most I can do?” Lucius asked, looking down at her as she scraped some of the blue potion off his chest.
“I suppose we'll discuss that after lunch.” Her cheeks went pink again.
Lucius glanced at the clock on her work table. “Is that why we're not meeting the Minister for another two and a half hours?”
“Maybe. Or maybe I just want to analyze this potion.”
“Well then, maybe we should get moving so I know what my chances are.”
He smiled at her. “I think I'm going to like working under you, Granger.”
“Oh, I'm sure you will.”
Lucius threw his head back and laughed.
Things were looking up, after all.