Hermione steeled herself, gripping her vine wood wand. She gestured to Neville and the others, giving them the go sign.
Even after five years, the Ministry of Magic's main hall looked much the same. The grotesque statue before her group of ragtag rebels stood with even more devastating triumph than before, now that what it symbolized was accomplished. Finally, the muggles were drudges under the feet of purebloods.
Hermione closed her eyes and willed herself not to remember. This mission was the most dangerous in months. She had to be on her guard.
"Second floor," Hermione hissed. The lifts dinged open and the five of them scrambled in. First, Cho Chang, then Ginny, Lee Jordan, Ernie Macmillan, and finally Hermione. Neville, after taking a last look around, stepped on. All of them had grim and determined faces, all with wands at the ready. They had already lost too many over the years.
The doors opened and suddenly a hell storm of spells rained on them from the unnatural dark. It reminded her of the Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder Malfoy had used to ambush Dumbledore's Army all those years before.
"Shit, we've been betrayed," Lee Jordan swore.
At Hermione's right, Cho desperately waved her wand to close the elevator's doors, but they would not budge.
A raspy voice called out, "It's her, the Granger mudblood!"
"Catch them alive!" ordered a cold sharp voice.
Hermione yelled, "Protego Totallum!" The spell, however, was much too weak to hold up for long. The death eaters were shooting spells at them like bullets, and like bullets, they began tearing through the shield charm.
Fortunately, Ginny yelled, "The stairs! Come on!" and broke out into a run to the dark corridor on their left. The others followed quickly.
"Pursue them!" the cold sharp voice ordered.
Hermione's shield charm was now ripped open with holes, and a Stupefy spell missed her nose by an inch.
By now, Ginny, Ernie, and Lee Jordan had reached the stairs and were starting down. Their footsteps were a rapid and storming drumbeat, driven by fear.
Suddenly, a red light hit Cho and she crumpled like a paper doll. Dread seized Hermione's heart. One rebel would go down, then inevitably would the rest of them. It was like a doomed domino stack.
Neville yelled, "Wingardium Leviosa!" making Cho's body float in the air toward the stairwell. Hermione vaguely thought of using her body as a shield, before expelling that idea in shame.
"Ahh," Hermione screamed. The pain was like a whip, hitting her hard and unexpectedly. She looked down and saw gashes of blood flowing like red paint out of her left leg.
"Hermione!" Neville cried.
"Go on! I'm fine," Hermione replied. In that moment, her leg buckled and she fell on the cold marble floor. There was another incapacitating burst of pain. She saw with horror that her right wrist, which she had reflexively held out to break her fall, was bent at an unnatural angle, and even more terrifying, she had lost grip of her wand. Hermione cursed herself. After lasting five years of rebel missions, her downfall was a stupid reflex.
As Neville was watching her in transfixed shock, a spell shot without warning from the dark, sending his wand flying and letting Cho crash onto the floor.
"Hermione—" Neville began. His round blue eyes were frozen and shinning with frenzy.
"Go! The fewer of us they catch the better!" Hermione gasped, cold sweat pouring from the pain.
"I can't leave you and Cho…" he whispered, entreating. "Hermione, I—"
"They need you to lead them. Without you, it would all fall apart. Go! We'll come back, I promise," Hermione replied.
"I'm sorry." It was with that that Neville, with a final anguished look, ran to safety. Hermione tried to quell the feeling of disappointment that took root in her. It was stupid to imagine that he would stay and sacrifice himself with her.
"Well, well, if it isn't the last living member of the Golden Trio," the cold sharp voice remarked with relish.
Hermione heard the click of boots striding briskly toward her before she blacked out.
Hermione was awoken by a muttered, "Ennervate!" The pain had shrinked to a throbbing in her head. Her leg no longer felt wet, and her wrist was no longer pulsing with agony. All of these improvements, however, were forgotten in the face of her capturers.
To her right, stood two former school mates: Draco Malfoy and Blaise Zabini. She hadn't seen either of them in person since the loss of the war. They had become men. Malfoy's cheeks had hollowed, his shoulders broadened, and his frame lengthened, projecting a wiry strength. In short, he was more handsome than ever. Nevertheless, the greatest change was in his countenance. His grey eyes were harder than metal and his face had lost their previous vulnerability and indecision. Hermione swallowed. Malfoy looked like he could kill her without the slightest hesitation-literally easier than a flick of his wand. Beside him, Zabini was looking down his nose at her. His haughtiness had apparently only been augmented over the years, and added to that was an undisguised cruelty. His silken lips tightened when they made eye contact. Dark green eyes narrowed in condescension and (could it be?) excitement.
Before Hermione could look carefully at her surroundings and start forming an escape plan, Malfoy said, "Imperio!"
The most calming floating sensation took a hold of her. All the stress of making decisions left her shoulders, and for the first time in years she felt relaxed. Hermione was only dimly aware she was in the hands of murderous death eaters.
Malfoy ordered, "Drink." He handed her a vial of clear and odorless liquid.
A thought quickly crossed her mind that it was Veritaserum and she should under no circumstances drink it, but it soon dissolved into the wonderful peacefulness of the imperius curse. Hermione drank a refreshing mouthful and waited.
"Who are you?" Malfoy asked.
"Hermione Jean Granger."
"What position do you occupy in the Resistance?"
"Where are the headquarters and safe houses of the Resistance?" Zabini asked. Hermione only vaguely became aware that they were in an interrogation room and that she was lying on the table in front of her two questioners. There was a charmed quill at her waist recording every word she said. This all gave her only a twinge of worry. She told them every Resistance shelter she knew of. At the back of her mind, a voice cried out stop, but it was soon forgotten. Then, she reminded herself that the Resistance prepared for this. Every time members were captured, the Resistance would relocate, change the dates for future missions, do everything that would prove the information given up wrong.
"Who are the members of the Resistance?" Malfoy asked.
Again, she gave the names of everyone she knew. The voice became more urgent now.
"What progress has the Resistance made in the past year?" Zabini demanded. His tone made it clear that he believe no progress had been made.
Hermione honestly agreed with him. Every triumph the Resistance had was only overshadowed by greater losses. Nevertheless, she listed all of the details of the missions the Resistance had accomplished. By the end, Hermione unconsciously felt her eyes welling up with tears. She only dimly knew why.
"What are current and future missions and goals the Resistance?" Malfoy asked. He had stared at her unblinkingly the entire time. It was only now Hermione sensed impatience coming from him. She glanced at Zabini. Indeed, impatience from both of them. Somewhere, she felt dread.
However, she answered promptly and clearly. Today, they had broken into the Department of Magical Law Enforcement in an attempt to find the list of arrest orders. It had been Lee Jordan's idea. Afterwards, they would have tried to evacuate the targeted families and relocate them. In July, they would attempt a prison break. The ultimate goal was to assassinate Voldemort.
Malfoy and Zabini both smirked at the ridiculous idea of a ragtag group of less than fifty people attempting to murder the most powerful man in Europe.
Half of Hermione wanted to slap them and the other half wanted to smirk with them. Even Harry had died trying to bring Voldemort down. How could their plans be any different?
Lost in her thoughts, she missed the exchanged look between the two men and failed to notice that the quill had dropped back onto the table, lifeless.