Continuing Tales

The Catfish

A Harry Potter Story
by Miss Dasti

Part 21 of 25

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This had to be the longest Portkey in the history of wizardkind. Hermione felt as if she were hurtling through space and time for a millennia. These things generally took longer than apparition, it was true, but this one in particular went on and on so bloody long that she was able to control her initial shock and analyze the situation before the chaos reordered itself around her.

Ink believed he was transporting Narcissa Malfoy. He would not be expecting Hermione Granger, and that would give her some small advantage. He'd be waiting for her on the other side, no doubt; perhaps in his own home, in which case she might manage to somehow escape and gage the location. If she could just get an address, perhaps steal a bit of mail, that would give her something to track down later… Or would he have brought her to some public place? A train station perhaps, ready to make good on his promise to spirit her away? Or worse, would he have teleported her directly to his bedroom?

She groped through the whistling void for her wand, finding it in the pocket of her dressing gown and gripping it tight. She had to be prepared for anything.

When her feet hit the floor (shortly followed by her hands and knees), she didn't expect to find herself in what might as well have been an Azkaban cell.


And just like that, the fight was over. Her wand went whistling out of her hand before she'd even gathered her bearings.

"Shit!" She winced and shoved herself off the floor. The skin had been abraded off her palms and a stream of blood was gathering in Narcissa's lifelines. She glanced around. Everything was lit in dim fire; she could make out four walls, three of stone and one of old iron latticework, and beyond it, a narrow aisle that vanished into darkness at both ends. On closer inspection it looked to be some sort of converted wine cellar. None of it was familiar. The stonework wasn't consistent with Hogwarts or the Ministry or any other sort of place she'd been.

Wherever she was, she was lost.

Something moved into her line of vision. A shadow in the torchlight—and she immediately knew who it was, because he must've been nearby if he'd been speaking into the catcalling card. With a flick of his wrist, he'd levitated her wand from where it had landed in the aisle, plucking it out of the air. He didn't speak. His green eyes scanned her with the same sort of dark interest as before, when she'd first seen him in person back at Malfoy Manor, back when her worst fears had all been Lucius.

Strange how things could change.

Someone else was approaching, too; quiet footsteps were echoing off the damp stone walls.

"Where am I?" Hermione demanded, and praised Merlin when Narcissa's voice came out strong.

Ink didn't answer. Of course he didn't; he just raised his eyebrows and pocketed her wand as another, shorter figure walked into view. Hermione zeroed in on the new silhouette and met a pair of mellow, unassuming eyes.

"It didn't take long," Ink said to Raleigh, who gave her a brief once-over.

"Good," Raleigh said. Hermione was struck by the weird realization that this man had cut Lucius open with a knife. In the end Ink really didn't matter; he and the rest of the faceless men at that party had all been marionettes, all dancing under the hands of this mild-faced puppeteer. Chilling to think that if she'd met him on the street, she would have never pegged him as a deranged drug-lord… a carpet salesman, perhaps, or a bookkeeper… "I want to know where Draco's gone. And Lucius too, come to that. He isn't at the Manor or any of his known properties, she must've come from his new hideout. See if you can't persuade her to discuss it."

And without a single word to her, Raleigh left. She heard a distant door open and close, and gaged it to be nearly thirty meters off to the left—her escape route, if she could ever get there.

Ink leaned against the iron bars of her cell, flashing her a lecherous smile through the gaps, and she'd never thought she'd want to hit someone more than she had the day of Buckbeak's would-be execution. But god, did he look so much more punchable than even Draco just then…

"We could bypass all this uncomfortable business, you know," he told her. "If you'd let me know where your son, or even your cad of a husband was hiding, this could all be finished in a few minutes."

The Polyjuice would probably last her another three hours, if she was lucky. So that gave her three hours to escape, or they'd figure out her true identity… and at that point she doubted they'd let her live.

"Fergus!" she screamed.

Ink looked at her as if she'd gone mad, but she ignored him, waiting with dying hopes for a response.

Ink opened his mouth to speak again—but Hermione cut him off with a shout of, "Harriot!"

Still nothing. Couldn't they hear her? She was still Polyjuice'd into Narcissa—and although Fergus and Harriot had been given strict orders to keep an eye on Draco no matter what, surely Lucius' first instinct had been to call on the elves to find her?

"Francis?" It came out as more of a question; she knew Francis had been grievously injured by Fiendfyre and wasn't surprised when she didn't get a response.

Ink was smiling now, having realized what she was doing. "Oh my dear," he chuckled, "did you seriously think we hadn't anticipated your calling on an army of elves?" He tapped the iron lattice, and the ping of metal seemed to go straight to her gut. "This place is as well-warded as a Gringott's vault. You won't be getting out unless you're let out."

Hermione had to fight the urge to cave in on herself; it was important she hide her dismay. She would've been lying if she said she hadn't banked on making her escape via elf. Without their help, and with her wand in Ink's pocket, she was a dead woman walking.

"You're being terribly dull, you know," Ink went on. "Where is Draco? Tell me that, and no harm will come to you."

"Never!" she shouted at him, knowing what was coming, knowing it would happen even if she volunteered the truth under Veritaserum.

Ink smiled grimly and raised his wand.

Two hours, fifty-eight minutes, and twenty-seven seconds later, Hermione transformed back into herself.

She didn't notice the change when it happened. Her mind had gone fuzzy after countless applications of the Cruciatus, innumerable jinxes, and an incongruous number of Baubillious hexes, which seemed to be one of Ink's favorites. Before that point Hermione hadn't realized just how awful even small electric shocks could be. He really was a sick man, Ink—there was something very wrong with him.

Still, she counted herself lucky. In all that time he hadn't entered her cell, though he had banished her robe about an hour ago and made all manner of degrading and perverted comments about her body and sexuality. Fortunately the veil of her disguise had spared her most of the psychological torture.

All in all she was proud of herself for holding her ground, though she could hardly say she hadn't caved a little: at one point she'd revealed that Lucius had indeed been hiding out with her, and knew about the catcalling card. It wasn't much, seeing as Ink thought she was Narcissa and still didn't have the fuzziest clue as to where Lucius was, but the small concession seemed to double Ink's enthusiasm. Hermione made a mental note to lobby for the illegalization of Baubillious as soon as she got out of there.

If she got out of there.

Ink was a talker. She got the impression that he wasn't terribly good at his job, not quite Death Eater material, and he made up for it with a load of hot air. A bit like Draco, then. And his Cruciatus was about a fifth the strength that Bellatrix's had been. Initially Hermione had engaged him verbally, intending to lure him across the bars so she had a fighting chance at disarming him and escaping, but after a while she realized it was useless: he was smarter than he seemed, or at least more seasoned than she cared to think about.

He was in the process of asking "Where is Draco?" for the umpteenth time when he stopped suddenly, mid-sentence. Hermione collapsed against the far wall, all sense of modesty forgotten as she tried her best to gasp in air through the pain; surely he'd cracked a rib with that last spell: breathing shouldn't have hurt so much.

"What in god's name?"

Some still-functioning part of her brain picked up on the change in his tone, and she raised her eyes, squinting at him through a veil of sweat. He was gawking at her in open astonishment.

"You…" He blinked out of his shock; those sinister eyes narrowed and for the first time he looked angry. "I'll be damned. You're a fake. That bloody rat-bastard…"

"What?" Hermione rasped; she still didn't quite understand what was happening. The word devolved into a scream as Ink levelled a particularly brutal Crucio on her.

Still weaker than Bellatrix, she noted. It didn't occur to her how bizarre the thought was; she was just hopeful that Ink's lack of skill meant she wouldn't be in danger of going mad, at least not anytime soon.

"Who are you?" he demanded. The spell lifted briefly and Hermione was back to gasping. "Tell me!"

"I'm Narcissa," Hermione said, nonplussed, and then fell back in horror as Ink walked right through the iron bars of her cell as if they were made of smoke; he crossed the tiny space faster than she thought possible and then hands were on her throat, lifting her to her knees and shaking her violently.

"Who are you?" he snarled. "Where is Narcissa?"

She realized, then, what must have happened.

Choking, tears tumbling down her face, she wondered in the back of her mind how on Earth he expected her to answer when he was cutting off her air like this. She struggled; her nails scrabbled at his hands and arms, she tried to get at his eyes but she was growing weak, and it was only when she felt herself go limp that he released her, shoving her back onto the damp stone.

He stood over her, fists and jaw clenched, as she coughed and massaged her throat.

Then his demeanor shifted. "Well, I can't fault Lucius' tastes," he said, and his voice was much lower than before. Hermione felt the floor of her stomach drop out. "You're a pretty thing, aren't you?" He knelt again and reapplied his hands to her, and although he was using much less force, his touch was somehow far more dangerous; with a nauseating jolt she felt his palms sliding up her arms, grabbing her shoulders and forcing her onto her back. She was below him and suddenly horribly aware of how vulnerable she was, helpless and completely nude—she tried to cover herself, but he easily brushed aside her attempts as if she were no stronger than a child. "I swear I've seen you before…"

She struggled, but god, she felt so weak, so humiliated as he lowered his head and laid a vicious bite onto her breast. His hands were moving on her, and no matter how she grabbed and shoved and kicked and writhed like some animal in a snare, fueled by an upsurge of horrified adrenaline, she may as well have been fighting the wall for all the good it did.

He was forcing himself on top of her, the weight of him pinning her to the floor, and somewhere, almost incongruously loud over all the frantic breathing, she heard a zip being undone. The innocuous little noise triggered a fear in her so powerful it seemed to dwarf the distant terrors she'd experienced in the War.

"NO!" she screamed. "STOP! NO!"

Her struggling turned to pure violence; she didn't care that her thrashing was hurting her too—all she knew was that within the next few seconds she needed to injure him, grievously, or perhaps even kill him if she could. She tried in earnest to claw at his face, tried to knee him in the groin, but her panic only seemed to encourage him. He pinned her wrists by her ears and tried to pry her knees apart with one of his own; as he leaned in, panting in her ear like a dog, she lunged forward and bit him as hard as she possibly could. Her teeth caught him on the neck and as her mouth filled with blood her ears rung with his responding howl of pain. He jerked away from her, and she got a final look at his expression of pure rage before he slammed her head into the ground, and all she could see were pinpricks of light.

"You fucking cunt!" No-one had ever spoken to her like this, barring Bellatrix or perhaps Fenrir, though there was something tremendously worse about that level of fury coming from a man who had her pinned naked to the cold, dirty floor. He brought his face close to hers; she could feel his hot blood dripping onto her cheek from the bite-wound she'd inflicted, and felt an intense urge to vomit. "I'm going kill you for that. But first I'll make you beg for it."

She knew she wouldn't be able to cry or plead her way out of this one. That had never been an option. She tried fighting again, but the blow she'd sustained to her head had been more debilitating than she thought: her arms felt de-boned and wobbly, and her head must've weighed two tons. She could barely move.

Not like this, she thought, as Ink moved around on top of her like some vulture about to rip into a carcass, it can't end like this. Not here, not like this. She had one chance left. There was nothing else for it. She had to take it.

"I'm Hermione Granger," she choked out. "You—you can't—you have to stop! I'm Hermione Granger!"

He paused. She held her breath.

"Hermione Granger," he repeated slowly.

She chanced a look at him. He was glaring down at her, the image of suspicion and disbelief, but deep in the pale green she could see the smallest traces of doubt beginning to form. The sight rekindled a little hope in her chest—hope at which she immediately and desperately grabbed.

"You said you recognized me," she babbled. "Well, you should! I'm famous from the War! I'm Harry Potter's best friend and he knows I'm here, he was there during the catcall, he has a Tracer Charm on me and the whole Auror department has been monitoring this case from the beginning and—and all I had to do was buy him time to Trace me here—"

In her heart of hearts, she hadn't expected it to work. She really hadn't. She could hear the fear in her own voice, loud enough to make her cringe, and was strongly reminded of when Lucius had her cornered just like this, strapped to the bed in Shorecliff, hemmed in and desperate and so, so guilty. Lucius hadn't bought her lies then. But Ink, turned out, was not as discerning.

When he pulled away, the shock and relief were so strong it brought tears to Hermione's eyes. Had he really believed her? He must have, at least about her identity. Polyjuice couldn't be doubled up, after all. And clearly the threat of a sting operation was enough to persuade him not to molest her—she'd bet all her earthly possessions that he'd have to consult with Raleigh for further instructions. God, she wanted to curl in on herself and crawl back into the corner of her cell, but what she hadn't realized was that he'd only pulled away in order to draw back and strike her across the face.

Her own cry of pain and shock sounded alien to her ears.

"Where is Narcissa?" he snarled at her. She reached up—whether to touch the bruising on her face, or to try and push him away, even she didn't know—and he hit her again. She heard a ringing somewhere in the far distance, and thought about how strange it was, that some muggles hit each other for sport and called it fun. She felt him grab her hair, heard him mutter something—a spell perhaps—and felt the singularly distressing sensation of being unable to close her eyes. Ink's face hovered over hers, glaring down into her watering eyes, and she knew what was going to happen even before he cried "Legilimens!"

Guard your mind, she thought, willing herself to calm down, to block him out. Don't let him into your mind, control your emotions—and then all of that went directly out the window when she felt him slip a hand between them to pinch the sensitive nub between her legs. Hard.

She screamed; she thrashed; she very nearly projectile-vomited into the face hovering over her, the cruel eyes pressing into her mind. Scattered images rose to the surface: fighting the snake in Bathilda Bagshot's cottage; receiving her letter to Hogwarts; no, I need to fight this!; waking up all wet and cold from an hour of marinating beneath the Great Lake; glaring at Ron and Lavender Brown across the common room; insisting Harry take the potion that would allow him to pass through the black fire; oh god, make it stop; Draco hitting Fergus (she felt Ink latch onto the image, felt him drag at it); Draco shouting after Astoria as she fled the kitchen; Scorpius howling in his little prenatal viewing tank (and Ink liked that one, he lingered on it for quite a while); Lucius sliding up behind her in the window-seat, breathing softly against her neck; Lucius and his false Narcissa in the bath, and ooh, Ink was a sick man, forcing her to replay that memory—Hermione tried again to master herself, to throw him out, but he must've realized because he gave her a threatening look, and she felt his fingertips jab between her legs. That was enough to derail her all over again.

He pressed further into her brain, combing her most recent memories, flicking through them so quickly she could barely keep up—then everything seemed to stop, and the image of Harry sprang out of nowhere, announcing that he'd just seen Narcissa leave for Arles.

And that was it.

The pressure in her mind and on her body was lifted as Ink withdrew, leaving her lying there staring up at the ceiling. She found she could blink again, and she squeezed her eyelids shut, fighting back a wave of tears that had nothing to do with her sore, dry eyes.

Ink righted and refastened his clothes and left without a word.

Merlin, what had her life become? How had she gone from worrying about her stagnating career to this? She felt as if she were frantically spinning dishes, each deadlier than the last: if she let even a single one fall, the consequences would be dire. And one of the dishes had fallen. Two, actually—she'd given away Narcissa and Scorpius both. And all of this madness was of her own creation, all rooted in that damnable moment she decided to take on Lucius Malfoy by herself…

If only he was here now.

She'd just gotten properly into her cry when the feeling of something light falling onto her chest startled her out of it. She jerked up, realizing at once that Raleigh was standing over her, and that he'd thrown her dressing gown at her in a silent bid for her to cover up. Ink was conspicuously absent.

"He's being reprimanded," Raleigh explained, correctly interpreting Hermione's wild, searching gaze. He was as tranquil as ever; as she clawed the robes on he offered her a wan smile. "It seems there's been some confusion about your identity." He offered her a hand. "Nothing that can't be undone, I'm sure."

She stared at his palm, and then slid away from it, using the wall to hoist herself onto shaky legs, being sure her robe was fastened tightly shut. She hugged herself against the cold and against his unnerving gaze. Why was he so fucking calm? "What are you going to do to me?"

He raised his eyebrows. "I'm going to let you go," he said simply, as if it were the most obvious answer in the world.

She didn't dare allow herself to hope. Not on the words of this man. "Oh really?" she said, and she couldn't help the scathing tone. "So I can just leave now, no questions asked?"

"I believe the questions have already been asked," Raleigh replied with a slight smile. "We have no further use for you." He held out his hand again, beckoning. "Come along, then."

Again, she drew away, eyeing him mistrustfully. "You're just going to let me walk out of here—"

"Heavens no," Raleigh said with a gentle smile, "What would the good people of Lisvane think of you, wondering the streets in nothing but your dressing gown?"

It took her a few moments to realize he'd essentially given away their location. Lisvane. It didn't sound familiar but she could figure it out easily enough—she glanced quickly at him, wondering if he'd realized his mistake. His smile broadened, and he beckoned again. She got the impression that if she didn't accept this time something terrible was going to happen: he had the distinctive air of a man who tended to snap without warning…

Reluctantly, she inched closer, reaching out and placing a wary hand into his. It was remarkably soft.

As soon as she'd done it, he grabbed her and jerked her in, his other arm winding itself around her, clamping her to him; she felt the tip of his wand press into her back and, over the sound of her startled gasp, she heard him mutter an incantation.

She remembered a splitting pain, like a knife's edge across her skin. Then everything went blank.

Something was not right. Not right at all.

Someone was touching her. Someone was rubbing their hand all over her face. Why was someone touching her face? Why did they feel so warm when she was so cold? Why in god's green earth did everything smell like pepperoni?

"Merlin's beard!"

Hermione scrunched her noise against the offensive noise and turned away from its source, trying to hide her face from—from what, exactly? Why was she so bloody cold? Why was she wet? Was it raining? God, was she lying out in the rain?

She felt new hands touching her, grabbing her shoulders and she recoiled, curling into a ball on what she ascertained to be a bed of weeds. Something—or rather, somethings were scurrying around her, and the movements were decidedly inhuman. She felt the warm pepperoni-hand touch her again, sliding up her cheek, and realized it wasn't a hand at all: it was a tongue.

Hermione opened her eyes. For a moment all she could see were the brambles right in front of her face, until a pair of very big, very concerned ice-blue eyes moved in front of them, blocking her whole range of vision. A large pink tongue darted out and caught her on the end of the nose, and she instinctively reached out and wrapped her arms around the great, furry neck.

"Oh Belgium," she sobbed, her voice hoarse and broken. The dog whimpered and tried to climb into her lap, but was suddenly pulled away—and the sad puppy-dog eyes were replaced by a pair of larger, angrier ones.

"Finite!" Fergus snapped, waving a hand at Belgium. Nothing happened; the dog cocked her head at him, wiggling her butt and scooting right up to his long toes before licking him smack-dab across the face. He made a disgusted noise, wiped off the pepperoni-scented saliva and shoved her away. "Not me, you stupid mutt, the girl! Check the girl!" Belgium glanced at Hermione only long enough to bestow yet another slobbery kiss on her before trying, again, to shimmy up to Fergus. He rolled his great eyes and shoved her back again. "Good. Yes, fine, you did well, now go away! Go patrol! No, I've already given you a pepperoni, you literal bitch, yes, congratulations on actually doing your job for once—and never mind I've got to check you for a Confundus every minute of the day! Now go find some rabbits to chase. Are you listening to me? Go!"

Belgium laid back her ears and scampered out of view. With some effort, Hermione rolled over and saw the tall, proud hedgerow that surrounded Malfoy Manor stretching away to her left. Belgium had vanished into a gaping hole at the base; it seemed she'd chewed and dug under the brush to get out.

"Ruined the hedge," Fergus muttered angrily to himself. He waved a long-fingered hand and the hole was immediately filled with springy new growth. He turned back on Hermione and fixed her with his critical eyes. "She did find you, though. That's something. Now what the blazes happened to you? Didn't you think to call for me? Good lord, how long have you been out here?"

"I—I don't know," Hermione said, wishing he hadn't sent Belgium away. She hated being alone with Fergus at the best of times; now, soaked and freezing to the bone with naught but a bathrobe to cover her, disoriented and more than a little distraught, she wasn't sure she could do it. "Can we just go inside please? I'm cold."

His frown deepened, and he regarded her quietly for a few seconds, but for once, she got the impression it wasn't with disdain or disapproval. Wordlessly, he held out his hand. Hermione had a sudden flashback of Raleigh standing there in her cell, hand outstretched in just the same way, but shook it off. Not here, not now. Anyway, there was nothing at all soft about Fergus' bony little hand, which fairly crushed hers as he apparated them out of the rain and directly into the manor.

The transition from the hard, gray light of the outdoors to dim firelight was a shock to Hermione's eyes, and it took her a moment to orient herself. Fergus had brought her to a small, cozy sitting room of sorts, decorated in deep earth colors, and in the armchair by the roaring hearth sat a very startled Astoria, who'd just spilled her cup of tea onto the book she'd been reading. A bassinette stood at her elbow with same domed case over it as Scorpius' incubator back at St. Mungo's.

"Hermione?" Astoria made to stand up, but Fergus was upon her in seconds, forcing her back down onto the cushions and clearing the spilled tea with a wave of his finger.

"You're not to strain yourself for the next eight to twelve weeks!" he snarled at her. "And what is this you're reading? Voyages with Vampires?" He waved the book—Gilderoy Lockhart winking roguishly on the cover—in her face. "Do you realize this reading is far too stimulatory? My god, woman, do you ever want your vagina to heal?! I told you to read Groß's Guide to Healing through Relaxation and so help me god if you do not get it done by 5 o'clock sharp this afternoon, you will find yourself woefully unprepared for the pop quiz I have—"

"Fergus, stop!" Hermione heard herself shouting, cutting him off mid-word. "Please! Please. Just stop." She felt her legs wobble dangerously underneath her and, fearing she may collapse right there on the spot, she hurried over to the nearest couch—which happened to be directly across the fireplace from Astoria—and slumped down onto it, burying her face in her hands.

There was silence in the room, then a sudden, telltale snap of disapparation. Hermione looked up to confirm Fergus had gone, and she would've felt ashamed of her outburst if she hadn't been so relieved to be rid of him, at least for the moment. She met Astoria's eyes, still somewhat glazed with shock, gazing at her like she was unable to process what she was seeing.

There was a beat of silence. Then they both said at once, "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine," Astoria hastened to answer the mutual question. "Merlin, never mind about me! Lucius said you'd been captured, he's—he was frantic—"

"They let me go." A sick feeling twisted suddenly in her gut. "Astoria, is that Scorpius? Did they let you bring him home?"

Astoria blinked, glancing from the bassinette to Hermione and back. "He—yes, they let me bring him, I'm a licensed mediwitch and perfectly qualified to care for him here, but even if I wasn't Lucius would've dragged us and an entire medical team here with him, it was like he expected us to get attacked any moment—he had about a million elves out on the lawn casting wards—Hermione, I don't understand, what—what happened—?"

But Hermione was already standing up. "Where's Lucius?"

Astoria gaped at her. "Hermione, you're injured—"

"I have to see him. I have to tell him—"

"You've got bruises everywhere—" Astoria pushed herself out of her armchair, wincing a little but otherwise moving quite normally. She intercepted Hermione in the middle of the hearthrug and walked her back to her couch. "Let me—"

"You don't understand," Hermione tried to brush her off, "I have to tell him, I have to warn him—where is he?"

"Shorecliff. And don't bother trying to head there now, you can't apparate or floo from here and with all these wards, it'll be impossible getting back in on your own, anyway Lucius said he'll be right back with Draco and you're more likely to miss him trying to chase him down—Hermione!" Astoria gasped as Hermione flopped back down onto the couch and burst into tears. "Are you in pain? Can you breathe?"

It took Hermione a moment to compose herself enough to answer. "I—I'm fine. I'm not hurt. I just need Lucius. I need to tell him." Tell him I told them everything.

She could almost feel the clock ticking, counting down the hours and minutes and seconds it would take for Raleigh to act—to find Narcissa. And if he found her… if he hurt her… there would be only one person to blame.

Hermione sat on that couch for an eternity. She vaguely registered Astoria healing the bruises on her face and neck and dragging Scorpius' bassinette over so she could watch him flail his miniscule fists at the ceiling. Astoria was mostly silent, keeping her focus on Scorpius, for which Hermione was grateful as she didn't feel capable of upholding any sort of conversation. Every so often she glanced out the window at the dreary landscape, once or twice catching sight of a large, ghostly figure strutting along the top of the hedgerows. She wondered blearily if Fergus had made good on his word to keep Fairway away from Crookshanks.

About a quarter hour had passed, possibly more, before something broke the fragile silence.

A sudden scratching on the door made both of them jump. "That dog," Astoria sighed, starting to rise again, "don't worry, I'll send her off—"

"No," Hermione said, her voice breaking, "can you let her in? Would it be okay?"

Astoria frowned, but nodded, cracking open the door so the dog could slip inside. Belgium made a beeline right for Hermione and without so much as a hiccough in her step, she climbed right up into the couch and draped her torso over Hermione's legs, leaning most of her not-so-insubstantial weight into Hermione's chest. Oddly, the pressure somehow allowed Hermione to breathe a little easier. She wrapped her arms around the dog and Belgium snuggled into her embrace, like she knew exactly what to do to comfort her. Hermione had to take a moment to compose herself before trying to talk again. "Astoria, you—you wouldn't happen to know where my cat is, would you? I left him here with Bel."

Astoria shook her head and resettled herself next to Hermione on the couch, giving Belgium a cursory scratch on the head. There was a moment's heavy pause, and then Astoria laid her hand overtop Hermione's and murmured, "If you feel okay, while we're waiting, I can treat your injuries."

Hermione frowned at her. "You already have."

"Some of them, yes," Astoria said, very carefully. Another long silence. "But… if you have any other injuries… it's important you get medical attention right away." She paused. "And if you need one, I can also get you a Moon Potion."

It took Hermione a long minute to figure out why in the hell Astoria was offering her what was essentially wizarding emergency contraception. Then it hit her. "Oh," she said, "no, it wasn't… I wasn't." She swallowed hard. "They didn't. Really, my face was the worst of it."

Astoria looked at her very seriously, but to Hermione's relief she only nodded and patted her hand. "Lucius will come back soon," she said in a soft, reassuring voice. "I'm sure Fergus just left to tell him you're here. They'll be back. You're safe here. We're safe."

The Catfish

A Harry Potter Story
by Miss Dasti

Part 21 of 25

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