“Oh fuck,” whispered Hermione. The unicorn was charging right at her, its horn aiming straight for her heart. She had to move. But which way?
She slid to the right, but not fast enough, and the horn grazed along her left arm in a sharp flare of pain. She didn’t even bother looking. She didn’t have to in order to know it was bleeding.
The black unicorn reared in front of her, hooves flashing wildly, and Hermione fell backwards to avoid them. She leapt to her feet immediately, however, brandishing the knife in front of her. She definitely needed to start some martial arts classes.
Malfoy stood still, frozen in terror or shock, or maybe some combination of the two.
“Move dammit!” shouted Hermione. “I don’t want to fight this on my own. Fight or run; I don’t care. Just do something.”
For some reason this jolted Malfoy into action. He immediately lifted his wand and began firing off a string of curses. The other wizards around were backing up, and looked as if they would much rather make their escape than actually fight the thing in front of them, except for a few brave ones who kept hitting the black unicorn with spells. Hermione was inclined to let them go. If they didn’t want to help her then they wouldn’t be any good.
There wasn’t much time to think, though; she had to come up with something soon, before the unicorn killed anyone else. Spells cast directly at it didn’t work, but maybe she could try hitting something else.
Just as the unicorn leveled its horn to charge at her again, Hermione drew her wand, pointed it at the ceiling and yelled:
The blasting curse tore a hole in the ceiling as roof and floor panels flew downwards, crashing on top of and in front of the unicorn. It gave a whinny of annoyance; Hermione couldn’t delude herself that it was actually in pain. Still, this gave her some time to edge around it. She needed to hit it with the knife.
The other wizards, including Malfoy, took her hint immediately and began targeting the ceiling, floor, and walls. Soon gaping holes covered the building, and black blood joined the dark red on the floor and walls. Even the unicorn’s blood was dangerous, though. A beam from the wall struck it, causing a small splatter of blood right into the face of one of the ministry wizards. The smell of burning flesh filled the room, and he screamed as the blood reacted to his face like acid. Within moments, he was down.
Hermione wanted to transfigure a facemask for herself, but she knew she didn’t have the time. She rushed in at the unicorn and slashed the knife across its flank, trying to avoid the blood that flowed out around the knife. The moment her knife came into contact with the unicorn’s flank, it kicked outward, knocking her into the eroding wall with a crash.
Hermione winced, stars exploding behind her eyelids. She had to keep fighting. She just… needed… to stand.
The unicorn stamped at the ground, causing tremors throughout St. Mungo’s, then lowered its horn to charge once more. Hermione raised her knife. She didn’t have time to stand. Malfoy would have to figure out how to close the rift by himself.
Fortunately, Malfoy came to the rescue with a dark spell that temporarily blinded the unicorn. It reared wildly, tearing at the air with its horn.
“Avis Oppugno!” shouted Hermione. Clearly the eyesight was a weak spot, and a flock of birds flew from her wand and began to attack the unicorn’s eyes.
Now was her chance, while the unicorn was distracted. Hermione pushed herself to her feet and almost launched forward, when the unicorn swirled its horn. A line of blackness came streaming out from it, attacking the birds in front of its eyes. They crumpled to the floor.
The black unicorn’s eyes were dark with blood, and it peered around hazily, as if unsure who to attack. It reached out a hoof to step forward, and Malfoy used Deletrius to disintegrate the ground from beneath its foot. The unicorn lost its balance temporarily, but not long enough for Hermione to do anything about it. Instead, it turned towards Malfoy and charged at him, pinning him to the floor with one hoof, and stomping into his chest with another. He crumpled with a low-pitched scream. The unicorn went down for the kill.
“No!” screamed Hermione. She ran forward, jumping over piles of debris and holes in the floor. Tripping, she flew towards the unicorn and fell splayed across the floor, her knife just barely drawing a quick line across its lower leg. It was enough.
The unicorn turned around in a flash, ready to bring a quick death to whoever had been stupid enough to attack it.
Hermione drew in a breath and thrust upward with her knife, towards the throat. She had a brief glimpse of crashing hooves, and then she blacked out in a sea of pain.
The voice brought Hermione back to existence. A ministry wizard stood over her. How? Oh, right.
“Excuse me miss, are you okay?” The wizard in front of her was no more than a child, to her experience. He must be fresh out of Hogwarts. No… with a jolt, Hermione realized she recognized him.
“Yes, Longbottom. How do you know my name?”
“I… Just help me up.”
“Of course.” It was hard to believe that this kind, unassuming man was Neville Longbottom. He was so different from the shy boy he had been at first, or the fierce warrior he had later become.
Hermione winced as she stood. Malfoy. He’d been hurt. She rushed over to his side, and cast a minor healing spell. She couldn’t have him dying on her. Not when she’d just gotten a partner. And she hated to admit it, but he had actually been helpful in the fight.
Unfortunately, the first thing Malfoy said as he woke up was: “Oh, it’s you, mudblood.”
Hermione quietly vowed her revenge.
“Get up Malfoy. There’s still work to do.”
He groaned. “Figures you have to go and save my life. It’s all but worthless now.”
Hermione cast a major spell healing all of his wounds in one instant of excruciating pain.
“Aaagh! What was that for?”
“Get up Malfoy.”
Malfoy pulled himself slowly off the ground, observing the wizards around them.
“If isn’t the Longbottom boy. Mmgffh fffmfm gfmmff.” Hermione clapped a hand over his mouth before he could say anything unfortunate.
“Thank you for all your help,” Hermione said brightly. “And I’m very sorry to do this. But, obliviate.” She cast a wide spell, ensnaring everyone who remained except for Malfoy. “You came to investigate the rift. You don’t know how it opened, but you know that it’s dangerous, so you’ll warn everyone to stay away from St. Mungo’s for a while.”
The wizards nodded in unison, glassy eyes slowly turning back to normal.
“You never saw us.”
Then Hermione cast a disillusionment charm on both of them and removed her hand from Malfoy’s mouth. The expression on his face was truly… delightful. He looked horrified and disgusted to have been touched by a muggleborn. Hermione grinned. She would have to remember that.
When the ministry officials at last trickled out, bearing the bodies of the unfortunate people who had died in the fight, Hermione removed the charm.
“W-what in Merlin’s bloody name was that?” choked out Malfoy.
“It’s a creature from a different realm.” Hermione eyed the dead black unicorn. It lay motionless under a pile of rubble, her knife lodged firmly in its neck. She rested a foot on its head to pull the knife out, and narrowly avoided the squelch of black blood that followed. “I’ve never seen the like.”
“Where it came from, I presume: the rift that we were here to investigate. I’d like to close it before we leave, but I doubt that’s possible, especially with what I need to do. I’ll probably have to go inside to figure out how to close it. This could be complicated.” Hermione realized she was thinking out loud and blushed. “I’m just going to perform a few spells to see if I can diagnose the problem and place some wards and monitoring spells. Then we can go home. I need healing, and you need rest.”
Malfoy nodded, then sneered down at the floor.
He was learning. If he’d said mudblood at the end of that, she would have made him get down on his hands and knees and search through the rubble. As it was, she still intended to find a way to get back at him. She hated the way she had to take care of him. If only she weren’t so nice.
“Accio Malfoy’s wand.” She handed it to Malfoy, neither receiving nor expecting a word of thanks.
Then she began testing the rift. What she really needed to know was its connection with time, which she couldn’t tell without entering it, but she needed to know how to enter it safely, and what she might need with her. She would have to do some research and prepare.
As Hermione stepped back to begin warding the rift so nothing else could get out, Malfoy began casting some sort of dark ward. She didn’t know what it did, but at least he was being helpful.
Back at the part of the Department of Mysteries she called home, Hermione let herself feel the pain she’d been holding back. Her chest ached, and even with healing spells she thought she was going to have some serious bruising. She fixed herself a cup of tea and got down to the business of healing.
Malfoy meanwhile, pulled out a small object from his pocket and transfigured it into a sofa, where he began devouring Hermione’s food with a will. A growl in her stomach reminded her that she, too, was hungry. She thought of asking Malfoy to get her some food, but that would be too much for her fragile pride. With a grimace, Hermione got up and prepared for a long rest of the day.