Saving Harry, And Other Stuff
by alejandra

Hermione sometimes wishes that she wasn't so pragmatic, because she doesn't want to see what's going on - but she can't help it. She doesn't want to be the only witness; she doesn't want to be the only one who understands.

She realizes that she can't be. She realizes that someone else must notice what's going on. The world would grind to a bloody halt if a sixteen year old girl was the only one who could understand that Harry Potter is about to break in half, that Dumbledore is hurting more than he's helping, that the Order of the Phoenix is a big joke -

The part about Harry breaking in half? That's the worst part. Let the world end. Let Dumbledore bumble his way into letting Voldemort come back to power. Let the Order of the Phoenix continue to not help in any way, shape, or form. But they are pushing Harry, and Hermione knows, it's obvious, anyone with eyes could see it - they are doing it on purpose.

They want Harry to go crazy.

But who is they? Who is it? Is it Dumbledore with his horrible sorbet lemons? Is it Mr and Mrs Weasley, who Hermione loves dearly? Is it Snape, who may or may not be a double agent - and may or may not be a triple agent on top of that?

This is what Hermione doesn't know. This is what is driving her mad.

She's not a Slytherin. She doesn't hate Dumbledore on principle. She doesn't want the Weasleys dead because they have red hair and little money. She just...

She just wants everyone to get along.

Obviously this isn't something that could ever happen. She couldn't get along with Pansy Parkinson, so why would she think that Ron could get along with Draco Malfoy? What a joke. A bloody awful horrible disgusting sick joke.

The world was doomed.


All of Hermione's plans for the summer before sixth year were canceled when her grandmother on her mother's side became very ill very suddenly. It was the kind of illness that, if Dumbledore had told her about, she would have immediately become suspicious at the timing. But it was Muggle England and Muggle people and Muggle medicine, and her grandmother had always had this - it had just never occured to Hermione before that it could become more serious.

Hermione researched MS thoroughly for three weeks, but there didn't seem to be any cases in the entirety of Wizarding history of a Wizard who got relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. Maybe it was because the food they ate was magical, or because they cured all diseases with magic and therefore there was no tolerance to antibiotics involved. Maybe it was because Muggles really were not as good as Wizards - but that wouldn't explain Muggle-born Wizards. Too many to be mutations; a recessive gene perhaps?

Hermione wished, and not for the first time, that she was better at the Muggle sciences. What the world needed was a brilliant Muggle-born Wizarding scientist who did experiments and came up with cures for all sorts of Muggle diseases using a hybrid of Muggle and Wizard technology. Well, Muggle technology and Wizarding magic.

She supposed that she could possibly become that Wizard, but then she'd likely have to give up Arithmancy.

Terribly selfish of her; she thought for days about whether or not she was a horrible person because she didn't devote her life to curing her grandmother through magic, and then decided that if someone was going to have done that, they would have done it already, and perhaps tried, and it was something to research when she got back to school - and maybe talk to McGonagall about.

But until then, she stayed with her parents in a little cottage near her grandmother and read the three hundred eighty sixth edition of Hogwarts A History, now with a long-forgotten journal of Salazar Slytherin's in which he complained about Muggle borns and how no girls really liked him for anything other than his family money.


Hermione had the brief thought that perhaps Tom Riddle was just as pathetic when he was at Hogwarts.

It was comforting, and kept away the nightmares of Harry and Ron being tortured by snakes and spiders and strangled with veils.

(Needless to say, the veil imagery was also pathetic, and kind of hacked her off. Wasn't her subconscious privy to higher brain functions?)


Hermione wrote long letters to Harry and Ron. Harry wrote back I HATE IT HERE I WANT TO LEAVE THIS REALLY SUCKS I HATE THIS, and Hermione just continued to write long letters about the flora and fauna and Salazar Slytherin's horrible luck with girls and Godric Gryffindor's chant, "Salazar is bahh-zaare," which she thought was silly. If Harry was going barmy, he was going to do it whether or not she chided him on his use of block letters instead of script, his lack of punctuation, and his unfocused feelings.

Maybe if Harry focused his feelings, he would end the world.

She did not reflect on this thought for very long.

Ron wrote back equally long letters, splotched with puddles of ink, his handwriting erratic and his lines uneven. She resisted the urge to mark it up with red pen - add commas and correct his grammar and tell him that no one was at all interested in the seventh alternate Seeker for the Cannons except for him, and certainly what she wanted to hear about was not how his mum still cries about Percy when she washes dishes and thinks no one can hear her - what she wanted to hear about was how he missed the velvet of her skin and the silk of her hair and the depth of her eyes.

Upon this thought, Hermione stopped reading her grandmother's old Mills & Boon novels and resolved to pay more attention to the advanced Arithmancy text Vector had given her before the end of the term.

And she stopped daydreaming about Ron.


Hermione's bright idea was to have her parents write to the Dursleys and invite Harry out to stay. Of course, the Dursleys, being horrible, would never let Harry go - which didn't make much sense to Hermione, being that she assumed the Dursleys would love to see Harry leave.

She constructed an elaborate plan, involving the local coppers and the reform school in the next town over, but Harry informed her, DONT BE DAFT THERE'S BLOOD MAGIC ON THE HOUSE I CAN'T LEAVE THIS SUCKS I HATE EVERYONE, and Hermione scowled at the parchment until Hedwig bit her cruelly on the finger. Hermione glared at her, went for a plaster, and then wrote back.

You're daft, you've gone absolutely bonkers. We'll just transfer the blood magic. We'll do something; you go to go to Gr That Place We Went To, didn't you? Really, Harry, just use your head!


Hedwig must have felt badly, because she groomed Hermione's hair before she left.

Hermione flopped down onto her bed and sighed. She certainly didn't want to go to the Dursleys' but she couldn't leave Harry there by himself. She wrote to Mr Weasley and to Dumbledore both, because surely someone would be able to fix this.


"I hate them all," announced Hermione. She knew she sounded petulant. She didn't care.

"Whom do you hate?" asked her mother.

"Everyone," she said, and ripped up the letter from Dumbledore telling her not to worry. The letter from Mr Weasley had said essentially the same thing. No one except for her seemed to care that Harry hated being at the Dursleys, was being abused, and needed to be with people who cared about him.

"What's going on?" asked her father.

"Nothing," she said, and stomped up the stairs. She could see her parents in her head - knew that her father was shrugging and her mother was raising her eyebrows.

"Okay," she said out loud. "It's time to call in reinforcements. The summer's barely begun - no one is away on holidays. Okay." She paced her room as she plotted. It wasn't like she could involve someone who was truly a criminal mastermind.

She giggled at the idea of putting her head together with someone like Malfoy - or any Slytherin, really. "Hermione Granger, honorary Pureblood," she said to the mirror on her bedroom wall.

"Dear, do something about that mop of hair before I break," snapped the mirror.

"You must have been a Slytherin in your past life," replied Hermione, but there was no real venom in her voice. She had a plan. She was going to rescue Harry and she was going to do it without magic and then they were going to go and stay - and stay - and stay with Professor Lupin! Or go to Egypt.

Wizards were stupid about Muggles and didn't understand Muggle devices. They could fly in an airplane and the Wizards would be confused. Hermione could forge their identites and they would neve leave a trail.

Her parents would be upset, of course, but Hermione absolutely couldn't bear the thought of one of her best mates grieving and suffering by himself. Even if he did write in all caps.


Hermione's first stop was the internet, where she researched fake identifications. If she and Harry could pretend to be Americans, they could order driver's licenses over the internet, which would not only make them of legal age but would also allow them to drive automobiles.


Except for the part about pretending to be Americans.

Strike that.

She couldn't use magic, that much was clear - magic could be traced (although how they registered magic users, she wasn't sure of and it seemed rather dodgy to her) and anyway it was completely unreliable. As they'd seen.

What she needed was a weapon. A Muggle weapon that Wizards wouldn't understand. A nuclear bomb or some type of -

Oh. Right. Perfect. Exactly.


Hermione didn't believe in lying to her parents. What was the point? It wasn't some abstract moral code - it was logic. If she didn't lie to them, they would trust her. If she lied to them, they wouldn't be able to trust her.

So when she told them that she was going to get Harry and could she have some money, and they shouldn't worry because she was taking her cell phone, they happily gave her money and sent her on her way and didn't bother her about the details. Her grandmother's bout of pneumonia also helped, because they really did want her out of the way while they worked themselves into exhaustion and didn't allow her into her grandmother's house. Not really the most logical thing they could have done, but Hermione had to save Harry. Her parents were there to save her grandmother.

Anyway, her mother's mother was mean, skimped on the sugar in tea, and never put enough plums in her cakes. And that was definitely an uncharitable thought, but Hermione'd had it, and that was that.

No backsies.


Two train-rides and a glance in the telephone directory and Hermione was crouched outside the Dursleys'. The only problem was that they weren't home. She climbed one of the trees in their backyard - which looked like every other back yard on their block - and perched there, waiting.

"OI!" said a voice from another tree. "There you are!"

"Ron!" hissed Hermione. "Keep your voice down! What are you doing here?"

"Came to help you break Harry out of here, didn't I?" His eyes were wide and round, and his hair was getting too long. It hung into his eyes and made him look like a Muggle pop star.

She kind of liked it.

"Well," she said, rather flustered. "I - how did you - what?" She ran a hand through her hair, and thought about how frizzy and sweaty she was, and that her face must have been bright red. Ron didn't seem to care. His own face was red, too, so maybe it would be okay.

"Used the telly-funny all by myself, I did," said Ron, beaming. "Talked to your mum. She said you'd gone to pick up Harry, and I deduced the rest. How'd'ya like my brilliant display of logic?"

"Beautiful," she said, "but now I have to get all three of us out of here without being noticed, and -"

Ron dug into his pocket. "AH." He held up a small cloth bag. "I knew I had it."

"What is it?" she asked.

"It's from Fred and George. Unregistered portkeys hidden in chocolate. We swallow them and they dissolve and WHAM! We're someplace else." He tossed the bag from one hand to the other and back again.

"Perfect! Harry and I were just going to take the train." She watched him put the bag carefully back into his pocket.

"So what's the plan?" said Ron. He looked around. "Dismal place, ain't it?"

"Utterly." Hermione sighed and leaned back against her tree. "I have a Molotov cocktail that I made."


"It blows things up."

"You're going to hurt people and destroy property?" Ron sounded awed. "Who are you?"

"I'm the only one who cares enough about Harry to do anything about this horrible situation that he's in," she snapped. "No one else will fix this bloody mess, so I have to. Which, I may add, isn't very fair to me, as I had a lot of plans for this summer, none of which included breaking several laws, possibly killing Muggles, and kidnapping."

"We are kidnapping, ain't we," said Ron. He looked down. "There's Harry now, with those buggering -"

"I have a new plan," said Hermione. "I'm going to blow up the car. When it blows up, they will all coming running out here. You give Harry - no, I'll give Harry one of the chocolate portkeys. He'll swallow it and you and I will swallow ours, and we'll all end up - where?"


"Where, Ron?"

"I dunno! They didn't tell me that part."

Hermione rolled her eyes. It was Fred and George, so they had just as good a chance of ending up back at the Burrow as they did ending up in Argentina or Majorca.

"Whatever. We'll all go to the same place, right?"

"I dunno that either." Ron shrugged helplessly. "I was just trying -"

"And you did an excellent job," she said briskly. "Now. Once they are all almost in the house, I will throw the bomb. You take your portkey, I'll take mine, and Harry will take his. See you on the flip side."

"What's that mean?" asked Ron. He took the cloth bag out of his pocket again and held it out to her. She extracted two of the slightly squished chocolates. They looked like smarties, but soft. Interesting. She smelled one - Belgian chocolate. The twins spared no expense.

"It's just something Muggles say. Like 'see you later' except it's older. Slang."

"Okay." Ron looked at her and smiled. "Gosh, Hermione, who would have thought?"

"No one; that's why this is perfect." She pulled the homemade bomb out of her bag. She'd had all the parts with her and assembled them on the walk to the Dursleys'. It was very strange; she would have thought that she'd have been searched, that everyone would know what she was up to just by looking at her face. But she'd had no problems.

This was going to go off perfectly.

She drew her arm back and threw the bomb. It hit the bonnet of the car, bounced, exploded. She shimmied down the tree, hid in the bushes, and watched the commotion. Mr Dursley came running outside.


Harry was next out of the house. The car was on fire, but hadn't actually exploded. Harry's mouth was open. He passed Hermione's hiding place on his way around to look at the car from the other side, and she tripped him.

"Here," she hissed. "It's a portkey. You eat it."

He looked at her, his messy hair falling into his face, his glasses crooked, his scar pale and silvery, and nodded. She nodded back. They swallowed their portkeys together, and she glanced at the tree - Ron was already gone.

"BOY!" yelled Mr Dursley. "GET OVER HERE!"

She looked back to Harry - gone. She felt a sickening sensation in her stomach, a feeling like she was being gutted with a giant meat hook -

And then she was gone too.


Hermione opened her eyes to see Harry and Ron watching her.

"I'm gonna tell Fred and George that it needs some refining," said Ron. "You've been out for an hour."

"Where are we?" said Hermione, glancing around.

"HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO KNOW?" roared Harry. His face was bright red, but not from the heat - because there wasn't any heat.

Hermione peered into the tangle of shrubs that surrounded them. They were in a small clearing and there was a tree root digging into her back.

"I think -" Ron cleared his throat.

"What do you think?" asked Hermione. She sat up. Her mouth felt dry, and her muscles were sore, like she'd done a lot of aerobics or walked for miles. She tilted her head to one side and then the other, cracking her neck, and Ron still hadn't said anything. "What do you think?" she repeated.

"I think we're at Malfoy Manor," said Ron, and swallowed hard.

Harry rolled his eyes. Hermione closed hers and laid back down.

"Kill me now," she said, and Ron laughed nervously. "No, really. Kill me now. We rescue Harry from the Dursleys only to fall into the Malfoys' laps?"

"Lucius Malfoy is in Azkaban," pointed out Ron. Hermione was about to point out that left both Draco and his mother, but Harry spoke first - in a shockingly normal tone of voice.

"The Malfoys are idiots," said Harry. "They'll never figure out we're here."

"Don't be stupid," said Hermione. "They have wards."

"They have more than wards!" Ron jumped up. "They have flesh eating ziggurats!"

"A ziggurat is a tower," said Hermione. She kept her eyes closed, but she could see the darkness of Ron pacing in front of the slightly brighter forest.

"They have FLESH EATING TOWERS!" said Ron.

"What makes you think we're at Malfoy Manor anyway?" asked Hermione. "How can you tell? We're in the forest."

"It says right there on that tree you're leaning against," said Harry. Hermione blinked at him. He seemed awfully calm - and even cheerful - for someone facing certain death. And torture. And dismemberment. Possibly in reverse order. However bad the Dursleys were, they couldn't be worse than the Malfoys.

Could they?

"It what?" Hermione twisted around. Sure enough, carved into the tree - crude and sloppy - was the phrase "I BELONG TO DRACO MALFOY."

"Bloody hell," said Hermione.


Hermione isn't stupid. She knows when something isn't right. It's how she knows that maybe the Order of the Phoenix should have captured - preferably killed - Voldemort by now. It's how she knows that someone has been deliberately getting in their way. It's how she knows that there's something really wrong with Harry - something that goes beyond everyone in his family getting killed for reasons that are just never quite explained to anyone's satisfaction.

Maybe the knowing sense can't quite be explained by modern sciences and methods of quantifying and qualifying - but neither can magic. It's just there. And it's how Hermione knows that Harry is just a little too pleased to be stuck in the middle of the Malfoy grounds, with no magic, no reinforcements, and no way to leave.


"I think that if there were wards, they would have gone off already," said Ron stubbornly. "I think that if anyone was here, we'd be dead by now."

"Thank you, Ron, that's very comforting." Hermione put her arms around the tree, the one that said, I belong to Draco Malfoy, and rested her head against it. "Harry?"

"I agree with Ron," said Harry, and there it was again - Harry being just a little too cheerful.

"Shouldn't the forest be full of things that want to eat us and nasty trees that try to squeeze the life out of us and leaves that talk?" asked Ron.

"Please tell me that you aren't serious," said Hermione. She squeezed the tree tighter.

"I am!" Hermione opened her eyes in time to see Ron lean closer to Harry and say confidentially, "I always thought the Malfoy Wood would be full of man-eating plants."

Stuck in the Malfoy Wood. Stuck in the Malfoy Wood. Hermione should have known better than to eat a piece of chocolate provided by Fred and George, even if they were trying to help. She should have known better than to go anywhere without her wand, even though she couldn't use it. And she should have stuck to her original plan: explosion, then the train.

The bloody train.

But no, Ron had to get involved with his unregistered portkeys and his stupid smile and his red face and his shaggy hair.

Hermione glared at him.

"Let's try to find Malfoy Manor," suggested Harry.

"That is a terrible idea," replied Hermione. She turned and slumped against the tree. "They Malfoys work for V -" At Ron's panicked glance, Hermione amended her original statment. "You Know Who. THey want you dead, Harry. They want me dead. And they don't like Ron very much either."

"And that hurts," said Ron, rubbing his heart theatrically. He smiled. "What I'm really wanting in this world is for Draco Malfoy to loooooove me." He and Harry started laughing; Hermione felt like bursting into tears.

"We have no magic," she said, softly. "We have no magic, and we have no sense of direction, and we have no one coming to save us."

"Don't be so pessimistic," said Ron.

"JUST SHUT UP!" said Harry. "BOTH OF YOU SHUT UP!" And off he stomped, into the woods.

"At least he's back to acting like himself," said Hermione, and grinned, and Ron frowned at her.


Hermione counted seventeen trees that had "I belong to Draco Malfoy" carved into their trunks, at various heights and in various scripts. The one that looked the freshest was the last one she saw, because then they stumbled onto a path, and Harry let them walk beside him, and he and Ron talked about Quidditch, voices at normal pitch.

Hermione was friends with the only two people in the world who talked about Quidditch when in mortal danger.

And there was Malfoy Manor.

It loomed over them; even from the back it was imposing and frightening.

"Well," said Ron. He stopped walking. "I dunno what to do now. I dunno how I feel about going up and knocking on the door."

"I DON'T KNOW EITHER!" said Harry, but he was smiling again.

"I don't think we should have walked this way..." Hermione sighed. She wasn't dressed for a walk in the woods - her legs were scratched where they were exposed by her cuffed denims - but the cuffs didn't roll down. And she was wearing sandals, which weren't practical for walking long distances to begin with, much less walking in the woods. And her rucksack was starting to get far too heavy. "I am still worried about wards."

"You shouldn't be," said a voice behind her. "The Ministry disarmed them all. They disarmed everything, took everything, stole it all -"

Hermione and Harry and Ron all whirled around. Draco Malfoy, wand at the ready and pointing right at Harry, stood behind them.

"WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE, MALFOY?" demanded Harry, stepping forward. He wasn't dressed for a walk in the woods either, Hermione noticed. At least he was wearing long trousers - and a shirt that buttoned, and a jacket he had taken off and tied around his waist. He'd rolled up the sleeves and was carrying his shoes and socks. His clothing was too big for him, but it didn't look bad - just strange.

Hermione had the odd thought that, facing down Malfoy, he looked rather dashing, like one of the heroes in her grandmother's novels.

Ron, on the other hand, only looked dishevelled. Which was also oddly endearing.

"What are you doing here? I don't even want to know. Brainless Gryffindors. I live here, idiot," sneered Malfoy, but - hm. Hermione squinted at him - he looked tired, but still sounded venemous.

"Without your father?" taunted Ron. "Been to visit him in Azkaban?" He stepped up next to Harry. His pants had flared bottoms; he looked ridiculous next to Harry's casual Muggle elegance.

"Don't you dare talk about my father, Weasel." Malfoy's wand shook slightly. "Turn around and keep walking. I'll let my mother handle you."

"I'LL TALK ABOUT YOUR MOTHER -" began Harry, fists clenched, face red.

"Stupefy," said Malfoy, and Harry fell over, quiet.

"HEY!" said Ron, stepping closer to Malfoy.


"Stupefy," said Malfoy again, and Ron fell over. Malfoy turned to Hermione, his top lip curled. "Shall we make it three for three, Mudblood?"

"Let's just go," said Hermione. What else was a practical girl to do? Malfoy levitated Harry and Ron and walked behind Hermione up the small hill and into the shadow of the Manor. The sun was setting over it; the shadows were long and ominous.

Hermione wished she was anywhere else.

Malfoy kept up a steady stream of nasty commentary - "Without your wand... stupid Mudblood... real Wizards... women... feh... my father -" until they reached the Manor, and a door swung open.

That was a trick that used to impress Hermione at Hogwarts, until Parvati explained that the House Elves did it. Hermione couldn't, however, figure out how to get them to stop and let her open doors for herself.

She glanced behind, past Malfoy, after they entered. The room was too dark for her to see after the bright sunlight, but she squinted and caught a glimpse of the House Elf. Something was tattooed on its small hand, but it popped out before she could read the writing.

"What are you looking at, Mudblood? Eyes ahead," said Malfoy, but he couldn't brandish his wand threateningly, because he still had it pointed at Harry and Ron. Hermione had the thought that it was good they were unconscious, because otherwise there would be far more problems than already were; she was having far too many uncharitable thoughts lately.

"What are you going to do with us, Malfoy?" she asked. He stepped in front her her and lead her through the foyer, into a hallway.

"You'll find out soon enough. Just shut up. My mother -" He glanced back at her. There were purple shadows under his eyes. She scowled, more at herself than at him, but he scowled back. "Just shut up."

There were dark spots on the wall, rectangles with ruffled edges - portraits had hung there, she realized. There was a dark spot in the shape of a sconce, a shelf; everything was missing.

Even, she saw after her eyes had adjusted to the dim light, the wallpaper. Where there should have been small gold flecks, there was bare wall. Maybe they were silver flecks - likely, silver, Slytherin.

The wallpaper was dark green, with a fleur de lys pattern.

She imagined that when it wasn't stripped bare, its opulence was overwhelming.

Like this it just looked pathetic.


"Mother, may I present you with a gift?" Malfoy dropped Harry and Ron in front of a small woman in a large chair, with a high back. She wore a clingy robe in sea foam green, which washed out her pale face and made her skin look sallow. Her hair was long and lank and greasy, and her skin was dull, like when students used too many cleaning spells during exams, and not enough soap and water.

Hermione looked from Narcissa Malfoy to Draco and back again. The family resemblance was there, barely. Draco looked like Lucius. Hermione shook herself out of her thoughts before she started comparing everyone she knew to their parents.

Narcissa didn't say a word.

"Mother," said Malfoy. "This is the body of Harry Potter. I didn't kill him, since I think the Dark Lord wants him alive. You need to -"

"Lucius. Oh, Lucius," she moaned. Her voice was whisper thin. "That is filthifying my beautiful sitting room." Her finger pointed at Hermione.

"Mudblood," spat Malfoy, and Hermione stepped back.

"I would like," continued Narcissa, "a cake please."

Malfoy snapped his fingers and a House Elf came up, quivering.

This one also had words on its hand. The words were, "I belong to Draco Malfoy," in a beautiful script, with a flourish on the Y.

Hermione felt nauseated.

"Bring my mother a cake," Malfoy demanded.

"What kind of cake is the mother requiring?" asked the House Elf in a quavering voice.

"Bones and blood and snails and puppy dog tails," said Narcissa, and giggled. Malfoy's eyebrows came together quickly, and his jaw tightened.

"Lemon," he said. "My mother would like a lemon cake. Make sure there is enough icing. And tea for two." He glanced at Hermione and paused. "Yes, two," he said, and the House Elf popped out.

Hermione rolled her eyes.

"Mudblood," said Narcissa. "Leave my presence. You may sit outside the door. Sit. Sit."

Malfoy gestured impatiently with his wand. "You heard my mother. Sit. Like a dog, Mudblood."

"Don't you want to search me first?" she asked. "Don't you want to make sure I'm not carrying a wand - or a Canary Cream? Don't you -"

"Perfect Miss Granger doing magic out of school?" Malfoy cocked an eyebrow, then turned his back to her.

"Filthy Muggle! Mudblood!" screeched Narcissa.

Hermione backed out of the room, her eyes on Narcissa the whole time. The door stayed open. The wood was carved with faces, faces that moved - faces that writhed in agony. Or was it pleasure? Hermione couldn't tell; she'd heard they were similar enough. Maybe one day Ron would get on the stick and she'd find out. Hermione watched through the open door, dividing her time between watching Narcissa, whose voice was getting louder and louder - "My cake! Stupid... don't you - foolish children on my floor!" - and watching Ron and Harry, tangled up together, lying where Malfoy had dropped them.

Hermione had the feeling that all was not right with Narcissa Malfoy.

Ron's eyes blinked, and Hermione crossed her fingers that he would have the good sense to stay put.

Obviously he wouldn't, but she could hope. And plan. And - right. He didn't search her. Rucksack, contingency plan, the Dursleys. Dudley.

She was ready.


Harry and Ron were both awake, and Narcissa was licking the top of a small yellow cake. Hermione was crouched at the doorway. Malfoy was pacing in front of his mother, lecturing her on Voldemort.

He sounded, thought Hermione, awfully despairing.

Hermione had her contingency plan - a small bottle of pepper spray - clutched in her hand. Malfoy hadn't even turned around when she slipped her rucksack off her shoulders and rummaged through it.

Narcissa was blithely ignoring Malfoy, who wasn't paying any mind at all to his prisoners.

A House Elf popped in next to her. "Master says," it said in a whisper, "that we should always be making guests welcome. Is you a guest?"

"No, I'm a prisoner," she replied, and clicked the top off her pepper spray. The House Elf frowned at her, and then popped out.

Suddenly Malfoy dropped onto his knees in front of Narcissa and put his head into her lap. "Mother!" he cried. "Please pay attention! I have caught Harry Potter! I bring him to you! Please -"

His voice broke and he stopped, and his shoulders shook, and Hermione nudged away the horrible feeling of compassion and pity she had for the - for the stupid little ferret. The stupid little ferret who called her a Mudblood and tormented her all through school, who would kill her as soon as look at her, who wanted her parents dead just because they weren't magical.

Right. Stupid bloody Malfoy. No pity for him in her.


Her pepper spray was ready. She was ready. She tried to catch Harry's eye, and then Ron's, but they weren't looking at her. They were watching Narcissa and Malfoy.

Hermione couldn't; it turned her stomach. Narcissa was stroking his hair. "It's all right, Lucius," she said dreamily. "We can always have another one. Children come and go, but the Dark Lord is forever."


Maybe it's because she's Muggle born, but Hermione is constantly astonished by the arrogance of Wizards. Draco Malfoy just assumes that because she mostly follows the rules, she's not armed. He assumes that because he tells her to go sit in a corner, she will go and not cause trouble. He assumes that all he has to do is Stupefy Harry and Ron and they'll stay out of his way until he's ready to deal with them.

Ron assumes that she's always going to be there, so that once he gets his act together, he can just come and pick up a thread as though he'd always been there. Harry assumes that he can just go crazy and people won't notice or care.

Maybe that's not exactly arrogance on Harry's part - maybe that's low self-esteem. His arrogance is running head-first into every situation without adequate preparation. That's going to get him killed one of these days.

Maybe if Hermione had been raised Muggle entirely, and had no magic what so ever, she really would be the girl Draco Malfoy thinks she is. She'd be a complete git, with no sense of self-preservation. Maybe it's not even being Muggle - maybe it's being Harry's friend. He has no self-preservation; neither does Ron.

That means Hermione needs to have enough for all three of them.

And she does.


"I'M GOING TO CALL HIM MYSELF!" threatened Malfoy, sounding a little too much like Harry for Hermione's comfort. And if Malfoy called Voldemort and had him come pick up Harry and Ron and Hermione, that would bloody suck, to say the least.

"Sickles and pickles and pushcarts," said Narcissa. "Really, dear, raising your voice is so bourgeois."

Malfoy inhaled sharply through his nose and spun around, presenting his mother with his back. He was facing Hermione but his eyes were closed.

She stood up.

"Draco," she said.

"You dare use my given name?"

"Well, it's either that or 'Pathetic Ferrety Prat'," she replied, and steeled herself, and when he opened his eyes, she squirted the pepper right at them, and felt terrible when he cried out, but darted over to Ron and Harry anyway.

They were ready, and they jumped up and Narcissa started to scream, and her screams with Malfoy's screams were painful in their intensity and Ron panted, "Veela," as they ran out the door.

A House Elf popped in as they reached the front door, and swung it open, and Harry said, "AND JUST HOW ARE WE GOING TO GET OUT OF HERE?"

"I hadn't thought quite that far ahead yet, Harry," said Hermione, and led them down the path to the back of the house, and into the woods.

"We're going to die," said Ron. His sweaty hand grasped Hermione's. "I wish I had my wand."

She glanced at him, and then again. His other palm was in Harry's hand. Harry glared furiously at her. His glasses were kind of bent, and made him look derranged.

"We're not going to die," she said firmly. "We're the good guys."

"THE GOOD GUYS DIE ALL THE TIME!" said Harry, and then he looked up at the sky and yelled. Really loudly. And Ron kind of jumped; Hermione squeezed his hand.

"My mum is going to be so hacked off," said Ron. He sounded kind of nervous, but he squeezed her hand back.

Hermione privately thought that Molly Weasley must be used to her boys getting into all sorts of trouble that she was probably expecting this.

"IS THIS PART OF YOUR PLAN?" said Harry. He was breathing hard and his face was almost purple. He looked kind of like his Dursley uncle, which was funny, because Hermione was almost positive it was his aunt he was related to.

"What?" she asked. They were almost back to the clearing where they'd originally landed. It wasn't like she had a plan - when Ron showed up with the portkeys, that was it, demolishment of all her plans.

But she had her mobile phone and could call. Someone.

"Ron," she said urgently, ignoring Harry's sputtering. "When you called my house, where did you call from?"

"On the telly-funny?"

"TELEPHONE!" screamed Harry. "TELEPHONE!"

"On the telephone, then, mate, whatever." Ron rolled his eyes, but, Hermione noticed, kept Harry's hand in his. "From the Burrow; Dad finally got his old riterie working."


"ROTARY!" howled Harry. He still clutched Ron's hand too, though, so she followed Ron's lead and ignored him. His suit jacked had gotten lost along the way; she wondered if his tie was stuck in its pocket.

"Rotary. Right." Hermione rested her head on Ron's shoulder and sighed. "Perfect. We're saved."

"We are not saved," said Ron. "Mum - oh. Merlin, I'm gonna be in trouble."

"Your dad is going to be in trouble," said Harry. "Hey, when this is over, can we go to Diagon Alley? I want some pum -"


Hermione, Harry, and Ron all looked up to the underbelly of an automobile.


"FRED! GEORGE! I'M STARVING!" yelled Harry.

"Oh, dear." Hermione watched them try to land the car, rather clumsily she thought, and then just hover above a gnarled tree trunk.

"We realized -" said one.

"- that the tests -" said the other.

"- weren't quite complete."

The car doors opened; the seats were covered with red and gold feathers.

Ron dropped her hand and slid into the car. "Come on," he said. "Let's go before that crazy old bat and that wanker ferret come after us."

"Malfoy won't be coming after us," said Hermione. "He's down for a while; this is -"

"You mean you actually went in to Malfoy Manor?" asked one of the twins. Fred, Hermione thought - the one with the slightly curled-over left ear, like a fairy.

"Of course we did," sniffed Hermione. George helped her into the car, and Harry followed, sitting next to Ron and making Hermione squish into the door. He was grinning like mad, and it made Hermione grin too, even though she was more annoyed than anything else. If Fred and George had a new flying car, she could have Owled them with her plan and saved Harry without having to swallow a portkey.

"You knew we'd end up here?" asked Ron. "I hate you guys!" He hit Fred on the back of the head and the car dipped, then rose further into the air, lurching a little bit. The feathers were cold against her bum. Hermione slid her feet out of her sandals and flexed her toes. Her knapsack sat on her lap, and she thought about pulling out her mobile phone to call her parents, but that might interfere with the navigational systems of any airplans about.

Or with the navigational system of the car. She wished she understood more about magical machinery.

"Respect the driver!" said Fred.

"It wasn't that we knew so much as that we had a deep suspicion, since all the test subjects kept ending up there. We're still not sure why." George chewed on something and tossed a foil-wrapped something over his shoulder. Hermione caught it before Ron could and frowned down at it. Chocolate. She sniffed. Belgian.

"Maybe it's the chocolate?" speculated Fred.

"It's not the chocolate," George said exasperatedly. Then, to Hermione, "It's okay, it's just chocolate."

"Uh-huh." Hermione handed it to Ron, who ate it without a second glance.


"We had to help the Order clean out the basement when they found us in the woods." Fred shuddered and the car swerved a bit. "You should have seen the stuff down there."

"YOU TRIED TO GET ME KILLED!" said Harry, but he didn't look too angry about it. George tossed another chocolate, this time over his shoulder, and it hit Harry in the head.

"Aw, shut up. We saved you, didn't we? That should earn us some points."

"Still," added Fred, "don't tell mum, okay?"

"Hey," said Ron, leaning forward. He was sucking on the chocolate and his tongue was brown. "Hermione blew up a car! Without using magic!"

"Really?" Fred twisted around to look at her.

"WATCH THE ROAD! I MEAN AIR! I MEAN - WATCH!" she shrieked, sounding disturbingly like Harry.

"Sorry." Fred snickered, and George twisted around.

"Really?" he said.

"Really. I had to save Harry somehow."

"We had a plan -" started George.

"- and then you messed it up -"

"- but that's okay because we saved you -"

"- and -"

"Can I have more chocolate?" said Harry.

Hermione settled back onto the feathers, and watched Fred and George bicker with Harry and Ron. Nothing was settled, nothing was done, and Malfoy was going to be even more of a prat than usual once school started again. Not just because Hermione had bested him - and bested him but good, if she did say so herself - but also because she'd seen him at his most powerless. And his mother. Oh, god, his mother.

"Did you guys think that was weird?" she asked, interrupting an argument about French versus Belgian versus American chocolates.

"What?" asked Ron. "That the Belgian chocolate -"

"Malfoy's mum."

"Loonier than Luna!" said Ron.

"Oh, you met her?" asked Fred. His eyes met Hermione's in the rearview mirror. "Calls Draco Lucius, so I hear."

"Yes," said Hermione. "It was..." she paused and thought for a moment. "Creepy."

"They're Malfoys," said Harry. "They're all creepy. And weird. And not at all on like normal people."

"Because being a wizard destined to save the world is so normal?" she snapped.

"DON'T YOU DEFEND MALFOY TO ME!" said Harry. Ron wiped a bit of brown spit off his cheek and kicked Harry on the ankle.

"That's gross, mate," he said, his own mouth full.

"The effect is lost when you do that with your mouth full of chocolate," she said to Harry.

"Anyway, we're here," said George. Fred lowered the car and Hermione looked down.

"Where are we?" she asked.

"Wizarding London." George helped her out of the car. She dangled her sandals from one hand and wished she'd thought to put them on before standing on hot pavement.

"WHY ARE WE HERE?" bellowed Harry.

"Oi," said Fred sharply. "Keep it down."

"Fred and George have an apartment here. They're working for a top secret -"

"Ron," said George. "Stuff it."

"You can floo from our apartment," said Fred.

"Come on," said George.

Ron grasped her hand and then let it go, and Harry slung an arm over her shoulder.

"I just want my life to be normal," he said to her.

"Stop whinging. At least you're not with the Dursleys," she replied, and shrugged out from under his arm.

She watched him jog up to Ron and sling an arm around Ron's shoulder in the same manner, and could even hear him repeat his lament. Ron laughed, though, and slid his own arm over Harry's shoulder, and said something stupid about Quidditch. Dark hair and red hair met, and she swallowed past the lump in her throat.

Hermione put her sandals into her rucksack and her rucksack onto her shoulders, and sighed. Saving Harry from the Dursleys had turned out to be easier and harder than she expected, simultaneously. She wasn't sure yet how she was going to save him from the other stuff, but someone had to, as he obviously wasn't fit to save himself, much less the rest of the Wizarding world.


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