After everyone at the Burrow was fully awake and downstairs for breakfast, Ron asked his father to tell as many people in the house as possible about Hermione's letter, but Mr. Weasley shook his head despite the fact that Ron and Harry's agitation over its contents was obvious.
"But Dad, don't you think that Mum and everyone else will want to know where Hermione's gotten to? The last time they heard from her was the letter she wrote months ago. This is all we've got."
Mr. Weasley finally pulled the letter from his robe pocket and handed it over to his wife.
She read it slowly, and as she read, her face never changed expression. Finally she looked up at Mr. Weasley worriedly. "Do you think she'll be all right? I mean, they haven't had any practical experience with vampires at Hogwarts . Maybe I should send an owl to tell everyone to arrive early so we can get this whole mess sorted out as soon as possible."
Astonishingly, the next sound they heard was a knock at the door. Mr. Weasley jumped up to answer it and came back with Remus Lupin behind him not five minutes later.
Mrs. Weasley looked much relieved at the sight of him. "Hello, Remus. A crisis has risen and we will need a guard. Is there anyone else with you, or are you alone?"
Remus sat down slowly and looked at Mrs. Weasley. "As a matter of fact, Tonks and Moody are with me. He saw some things in that mirror of his that looked suspicious and wanted us to come down here immediately."
Harry didn't have time to marvel over how amazing that concept was. "Remus, this morning, we got another letter from Hermione talking about Voldemort wanting to get the vampires on his side. They said they would, but only if they were given a sacrifice at their yearly Halloween feast. Malfoy didn't really need to be engaged. It was a trick to help the Dark Side get a sacrifice. I was alone in the kitchen earlier this morning when the letter came."
"What letter, boy?" Harry turned around at the sound of the gruff voice and found himself face to face with Moody.
"A letter Hermione sent to the Burrow this morning, sir. Mrs. Weasley's got it if you care to read it." He didn't want to explain the letter again.
Tonks came in as soon as Moody finished the letter and he handed it to her with a curt "read this," as soon as he saw her.
"Well this certainly explains why everyone looks so glum," she said, taking in everyone's less then happy faces. She looked at Remus.
"Sorry it took me so long, I ran into this awful headwind and got stuck for the longest time."
"What are we going to do about Hermione?" Ron asked.
"Well," Tonks said brightly, "does anyone know where the Clan hideout is, for starters?"Hermione was just finding that out. She, Narcissa, Lucius and Arion were all on the way there themselves, although Hermione doubted they were going to find the castle anytime soon. Arion's directions were incredibly vague and disjointed, and when Arion had first given them out, that was when Narcissa had decided they would be traveling in a line with Arion taking the lead because any other way would be a ridiculous waste of time.
Lucuis grudgingly agreed to follow Arion and Hermione took up the rear behind Narcissa.
"We're getting close!" Arion shouted after about three hours of flight time. "Are the three of you having trouble staying on your brooms?"
Hermione was so cold she couldn't even manage to say yes. It wasn't just that she was having trouble. It was getting bloody impossible. Her broom handle felt like it had been covered in ice, and her hands kept slipping off it. Her hair was wet because her cloak hood had fallen off early on in the journey and she was too worried about what would happen to her at this altitude if she lost her balance and fell off the broom.
"Arion, I think we're all having more trouble then necessary," Lucius answered him tightly. "How much longer is this little joyride going to last?"
Arion pretended not to hear his brother's impatience. "Oh, it won't be long now. About another twenty minutes or so."
Despite the roar of wind and snow in her ears, Hermione heard Arion's reply. "Another twenty minutes? I'm hungry, I'm cold, and I think I have frostbite. Isn't there a quicker way we can go so that I don't freeze off any bits of my anatomy?"
Arion shouted back. "No, I'm afraid there isn't. And even if there was, I wouldn't let you go that way. It's nice and warm out. You should take your time and enjoy the scenery. I'm hot. How can you be cold?"
Hermione growled and gripped her broom again. "Listen, I don't know why it is that you're warm and we're all cold, but would you kindly have consideration for the rest of the people in your party and at least try to find a shorter way to the castle?"
From up front, Arion finally relented. "All right. I forgot that there was an enchantment on the way to the castle that stopped muggles and people who didn't belong from entering."
"Why doesn't it do that for you?" Narcissa asked. Arion shook his head. "Now that, my dear Narcissa is something for me to know and you to never find out isn't it?" Despite the strangeness of this reply, Arion was leading them into an area that was much more tolerable to Hermione, Lucius and Narcissa. A few minutes later, Hermione saw the second-most imposing structure she'd ever seen. Hogwarts was the first, but this castle was the Hogwarts castle's well-to-do sibling. It was tall and black with orange lights shining in the windows and thunder raging above it.
Arion showed them where to park their brooms so that they wouldn't be seen and led them inside. At first glance, the castle seemed to be empty, then they heard voices coming from one of the lower floors. Arion put his finger to his lips and the four of them crept to the entryway of a room that looked much like the Great Hall.
Everyone in the room was wearing hooded robes. Hermione shouldered her way closer to the door and accidentally hit a statue of a bat, sending it crashing to the floor. The noise got the chanters attention, and all of them, with the exception of Draco, Fallon, and a tall, regal-looking vampire setting on a throne, jumped up with their teeth bared.
Gammried however, took it in stride. If he hadn't been the leader of a psychotic group of killer vampires, Hermione would have thought he was cute. He was tall and lean with caramel-colored hair and ice blue eyes. He laughed and waved the other vampires down.
"Arion, are you back there?" he asked. He had such a musical voice. It was beautiful to Hermione when she listened to it. Arion stepped into the room, walking over to him.
"Yes, Gammried, I'm here." For some reason, Arion then kneeled down on the floor at Gammried's feet. "I'm sorry it's been so long."
Hermione was confused, but not for long. He's giving us a diversion, she reasoned with herself. She tapped Narcissa on the shoulder.
"This is a diversion," she whispered. "Let's go and see if we can find a back way in there to get Draco out."
Narcissa nodded and the two of them left Lucius watching at the doorway while they went to find an alternative way in.
They finally found one after getting lost three times. The opening was very small though, and the two of them decided that only Hermione would go through because she could fit with less difficulty.
As she got into position, she could hear Gammried talking about the venture that was about to occur and how wonderful it would be for the vampires. She managed to squeeze herself through most of the way when she heard Narcissa mutter, "Your cape's stuck on a stone back here. I don't think I can get it unhooked."
"Who cares!" Hermione whispered back. "I've got others, so just try and shove me through."
It took one really hard shove to send Hermione through the gap. Unfortunately, the sound of the cloak ripping aroused the vampires again, and as she pulled herself up off the floor, she found the room full of them staring at her.
Gammried looked at Fallon. "Fallon, who is that girl?"
Fallon glanced at Hermione momentarily. "That is the girl who will be the sacrifice."
The whole room immediately rose with their teeth bared; they were coming at her quickly. "Don't let her escape!" A short vampire roared.
Hermione wanted to run away, but she was too terrified, and she couldn't open her mouth to call for help either. Suddenly, something heavy hit her in the head from behind and she fell down to the floor unconscious. Afterwards, Fallon, Arion and Gammried approached her fallen body, and Gammried picked her up, looking at the other two.
"You two do realize that the sacrifice was not supposed to see anything until the day of the feast?"
Fallon and Arion fell on their knees and bowed. He continued. "Arion, I know it's been awhile since Lydia was killed, but you must not be so careless." He proffered Hermione's unconscious body at Arion. "Take the girl, and this time, make sure she stays put until the feast. Take young Draco with you. You may go now."