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"Oh, you’ll raise your wand to those Muggle tooth-pullers all right," Malfoy’s voice echoed lazily into the hall, making Ron grit his teeth against his anger.   "You’ll even smile when you say those two little magic words..."

Hermione screamed. Simultaneously, the floor began to shake.

Ron threw a Disillusionment Charm over himself and darted into the room, wand at the ready.

Hermione stood in the center of the room, her face twisted in fury, shrieking in rage and denial of Malfoy’s words. Malfoy himself lay sprawled beside an ornate couch, which was now hovering nearly a foot above the carpet, as was the rest of the furniture in the room; his parents and his aunt were trying to aim their wands at Hermione, but the heaving floor beneath them was throwing them off. Greyback and his fellow Snatchers seemed intent on finding an exit as quickly as possible.

Not past me, you don’t. Ron took aim at one of them and focused his whole mind on the word Stupefy! The Snatcher jerked as in surprise, then collapsed.

Hermione whirled to face Bellatrix. "This is for Sirius!" she shouted. "And for pulling my hair!" Her arms shot forward, as though she were throwing a Quaffle, and the couch beside Malfoy flew straight at the mad witch and slammed her into the wall.

Partway through it, even. Ron grinned to himself and Stunned another of the Snatchers nonverbally. Go Hermione!

"This is for Natalie Macdonald!" Hermione wheeled to face a third Snatcher, the only one besides Greyback still upright, and made a yanking motion with her left hand as though pulling a lever. The wall beside the startled Snatcher promptly caved in on him.

I don’t know how she’s doing this, but it’s awesome. Ron tripped Narcissa Malfoy as she started to run forward at Hermione, apparently thinking to overpower her bodily. Now as long as she can keep it up...

Hermione turned on Greyback, her eyes burning feverishly. "This is for Bill and Remus!" Two armchairs rose up this time, pinning the feral werewolf between them and hoisting him into the air. One of them flung him against the bricks of the fireplace, and the second caught him as he was struggling to his feet, throwing him into the fire itself. His howl of anguish widened Ron’s grin considerably.

"And this." Hermione stared down at Draco Malfoy, who seemed pinned to the floor by her gaze, unable to move. Ron caught Lucius with an Impediment Jinx as the older Death Eater managed to fumble out his wand. "This is for me."

She brought her fist down like the hammer of the gods. Draco screamed as the floor opened under him and he vanished from sight, followed by a rain of rubble from the ceiling above. The chandelier creaked, its chain swaying ominously—

As was Hermione, her eyes starting to roll back in her head.

I think that wraps it up for us. Ron stumbled forward and caught his girlfriend in his arms as she fell limply, then threw a Shield Charm around them in the nick of time. The chandelier dropped, shattering on the solid dome of Ron’s spell, and Narcissa, who had regained her feet only an instant before, threw her arms up to ward flying glass away from her face. Lucius wrenched himself free of the Impediment Jinx just in time to turn away.

Means neither of them is looking at us.

Suits me fine.

Ron scooped Hermione into his grasp, cast a hasty Featherlight Charm on her, and bolted for the door. The floor, he noticed as he ran, seemed to be stabilizing under his feet, though the house as a whole was shaking harder than ever. He stuck it in the back of his mind for later, concentrating for now on running.

I hope they got those wards down...

The front door flew open before him, and the hot trickle down his neck of the Disillusionment being removed vanished in the vast tide of relief as Harry, Ginny, and Luna burst in, Harry and Luna with their wands, Ginny with the sword of Gryffindor. "You all right?" Harry bellowed.

"Fine, let’s go!" Ron shouted back, already halfway to the door. "Just show me where!"

His friends and sister flanked him as he ran across the grounds, hearing behind him the ear-destroying sounds of a house collapsing onto itself. Luna was out in front, her wand casting a silvery light to show them the way; Ginny, the sword now sheathed, matched his pace beside him, her hand ready beside his arm in case he should stumble; Harry had fallen behind, obviously watching for any last-minute attacks from Death Eaters, and possibly hoping for them too, Ron thought with a flicker of humor...

But no attack came, and a few endless moments later, Harry was boosting him up and over the crumbled bit of stone wall, Ginny steadying him from the side. Luna’s wand was still lit, but her attention was elsewhere, back the way they’d come. Ron turned, once his feet were back on solid ground, to have a look.

Malfoy Manor was all but gone. Only the ground floor remained, and even that was starting to fall, the outer portions of the house first. Ron felt a fierce glow of satisfaction, which grew all the hotter as Hermione shifted restlessly against his chest, apparently uncomfortable against the amulet he was still wearing.

See, that’s what you get for being arrogant bullying bastards...

"We should go," said Harry, breaking Ron out of his momentary trance. "Not back to the tent, I don’t think."

"Bill and Fleur’s," Ron said immediately, his mind combining his own refuge after an earlier escape from this same place with what Hermione had shouted at Greyback. "Hermione’s going to need a Healer."

"What’s wrong?" Ginny asked. "Just that cut from the sword, or something else?"

Ron stared at his sister for an instant, then realized Hermione’s sleeve had fallen down over her wrist, making her injury less apparent. Gently, he reached down and pulled it back. "That," he said. Ginny gasped, and Luna made a soft crooning sound in her throat.

"Her wand hand," said Harry, shooting a poisonous glance back at the house. "Was it Bellatrix?"

"I don’t know, I wasn’t there, I think it was Malfoy, Draco Malfoy I mean, but Harry, there’s something you ought to know—"

"Why don’t we get out of here first and talk later?" Ginny interrupted. "Harry, can you Side-Along two?"

Harry nodded, his eyes lingering for one more second on Hermione’s missing hand before he held out his own to Luna. Clearly he wasn’t about to forget what had been done here tonight.

And he might not believe me when I tell him why. Ron imagined the little, shell-walled cottage by the sea where his oldest brother now lived and turned in place, cradling Hermione close to him. I know I’d find it hard to believe if it were the other way around.

But the fact remained, whether Harry wanted to believe it or not, that Draco Malfoy had not destroyed Hermione’s hand to torture her.

He did it because I asked him to. Because I knew that tourniquet I conjured wouldn’t hold against basilisk venom much longer. Because it was her hand or her life, and neither of us wanted her dead.

Ron shoved the distractions to the back of his mind once more and refocused on his destination. Splinching either himself or Hermione at this point would only add disaster to a night which didn’t need it.

But as soon as we get somewhere safe, I am going to need to have a long talk with Luna. Ginny too, and Hermione if she’s awake by then.

If we’re going to try and convince Harry that Malfoy’s on our side now, we’re going to need every bit of evidence we can get.

Draco curled up in his hastily created nest of wood, catching his breath.

I’m not sure I believe that worked.

But his contact with the Manor, more fragmentary by the second as the house fell, had shown him the Quartet and Luna clambering out through the breach in the wall only moments before. Luna, before she took Harry’s arm, had puckered her lips briefly, and Draco knew she’d meant that for him.

Love you too, sweetheart. Take care, and I’ll see you soon. Two and a half weeks...

A thought occurred to him. Taking his Animagus form, he slipped out between the twisted timbers he’d fused together, making for the Snatcher Ron had Stunned first, who still lay where he’d fallen, along with most of the others who’d gone down under the combined assaults of spell and furniture. Greyback was gone, though the stink of burned hair still lingered in the room, and Lucius and Mother likewise, along with...

Draco wrinkled his nose. What’s he doing here? Suppose someone called him, since Ron and Hermione are technically still supposed to be at school.

Reaching his goal, he set his teeth around one of the items in the man’s pocket and pulled. It slid free, and he was just about to grab the other when a creaking above him and a warning rumble from the Manor-core sent him skittering madly out of danger, his objective clutched in his teeth. He was barely out of the way when a huge chunk of stone crashed down, obliterating the Snatcher.

Ouch. Draco bent his head and pulled two or three slivers of wood from his shoulders with his teeth. Well, no real loss, not judging by what Ron was able to do. And I had better get back where I’m supposed to be.

Shooting across the floor, he squeezed back into his little nest, then changed forms again and stuffed what he’d gone to get inside his robes. Now, all I have to do is wait...

Remembering, he laid a hand against the floor again. "This what you wanted?" he asked aloud. "Or will be, when it gets done?"

(Yes.) The response was quiet, but satisfied. (Go well.)

"Thanks. You... rest well, I guess." Draco pulled his hand away, feeling vaguely unsettled. He’d just killed something, or as good as killed it when it wasn’t alive to begin with...

But it wanted to die. To fall down, I guess. And it would have a long time ago if we hadn’t been holding it together with magic. So this is more letting things take their course than it is interfering. Besides, what else was I supposed to do?

A small, smug smile appeared on his face. I even managed to maintain my cover. Hermione was brilliant—there’s no way anyone will think it was really me making all that stuff move, not when she was screaming and pointing at everyone who got hit, and when I went down last of all. Aunt Bella’ll be sore but she ought to survive, I don’t know about Scabior, Greyback’ll have some nasty burns but he’ll recover, and me...

The smile grew into a chuckle. I am just fine, except for a couple little cuts on my arms. Though that in itself will be suspicious when I get dug out of here. I may have to do something about it. What looks good but—

A resounding crash overhead cut off Draco’s thought. An instant later, a huge spear-like chunk of wood shot in through one of the holes in his shelter and gashed the back of his right calf. He yelped, then swore in three languages. "Solves that problem, doesn’t it?" he said bitterly, pulling his wand free and Vanishing the spear. "Ow."

A quick bandage conjured around the spot stopped the bleeding, and the same spell he’d used on Hermione’s arm deadened the pain, but the leg still felt weaker than its mate. Still, everything worked—Draco wiggled his toes and flexed his foot to be sure—and now he had a proper injury to bear out his story.

Though I think maybe I could have done without it.

Pulling his legs into a tighter curl and reinforcing his shelter, just to be sure he wasn’t caught like that again, Draco shut his eyes and awaited rescue.

Against his will, Severus Snape was fascinated.

Narcissa may be more like Cecilia than I ever knew. Lucius practically had to Stun her to get her out of the house with her sister and her son still trapped there, and she has not stopped berating him since...

"Did you stop to think perhaps Draco’s little story might have more truth than anyone knew?" Narcissa snarled into her husband’s face.

"I have no idea what you are talking about," Lucius said icily.

"How could the Granger Mudblood have made our home do this?" Narcissa’s finger stabbed towards the remains of Malfoy Manor, the last walls tipping inward at crazy angles, obviously only seconds from falling completely. "How is it possible, Lucius? Tell me that!"

"Obviously, she does not have full control of her magic or herself. Not surprising, in a creature of her type. Draco’s goading was too much for her, and she snapped and had an outburst of accidental magic such as children do." Lucius shook his head irritably. "What does that have to do with anything?"

"Oh, you think it was only accidental magic?" Narcissa mimicked her husband’s tone on the last two words, which were punctuated by a distant boom as the final wall left standing collapsed. "When she could direct it, send it where she wanted, do as she pleased with it? No, Lucius, I think there was something else at work here."

"What are you insinuating, Narcissa?"

"You have never made much of a secret of your... habits." Narcissa began to prowl around Lucius, throwing the occasional word into his face before returning to her walking. "Perhaps you could remember this one? A year and a half before our son’s birth, a Muggle woman with hair such as the Granger girl’s... I should think that would be memorable even to you..."

Lucius gaped at his wife for a second, then drew breath to reply—

"Enough," said a high, cold voice. "I will have an explanation, and I will have it now."

Severus went to one knee before his so-called master, hiding a smile of satisfaction. Someone would have to pay for this night’s work, but he did not think it would be him.

Though, ironically, I am the only one of us who has done anything tonight the Dark Lord might consider treacherous...

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Author Notes:

Hmm, wonder what that was. The night starting to get pieced together for you now? Ron and company will be doing a full recap later if you’re still confused, so don’t despair! Still to come: Hermione gets helped, the rest of the crew gets a pleasant surprise, and Draco gets an unpleasant one... stay tuned!

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