Chapter 9 : Shedding Old Cloaks
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Draco awoke to a bright sun beating patterns on his eyelids. The trees above were swaying in the wind, their shadows dancing over his face. He felt unusually well rested. For one wild moment he thought that it was summertime, and when he breathed in the sudden sharp, cold air it surprised him. His pale eyes opened to a bright and chilly morning. A strong gust of wind ruffled his dark hair and created a storm of dry leaves.
Eloise was crouched by the fire. Her hands wrapped around a cup filled with steaming liquid and her eyes were brighter. Draco realized that their restful sleep must have been the Eullies’ doing: the ink-blue creatures had long since disappeared, but left the morning clear and bright.
His eyes met with Eloise’s and he wondered why she had started staring at him like that the night before. He nodded his head slightly and she returned it, but would not meet his eyes.
An elder woman was tending to the fire. She was tall for her age and moved quickly, and Draco assumed her to be Meader. When she heard him stirring on his mattress, she turned and he saw blankness in her eyes.
“Good morning,” she said curtly.
He grumbled in response and sat up. The wound on his waistline felt stiff under the dried healing potion. Eloise went back to sipping from her cup, its steam catching the morning sun. Draco’s stomach growled.
“Blindness heightens your other senses,” Meader suddenly turned to him again, “so don’t think I didn’t catch that beast growling in your stomach. Here.” She offered a cup and flat wooden slab as a plate.
There was something sizzling on a rock, also flat, over the fire. Draco breathed in the savory, dark scent of meat. He hadn’t had meat in weeks. Though he hadn’t seen his reflection in a week either, there was no doubt in his mind that he had lost weight. He knew he was shriveled and gaunt.
But soon there was food on their plates, though little, and hot tea in Draco’s cup. He ate ravenously, realizing how long it had been since his last meal—nearly a day. Though he knew it was impossible, morbidity made him wonder if they were eating the disappeared Eullies.
They ate in silence, struggling to save the small fire from the battering wind. A particularly strong gust shook the camp and Eloise turned her head away, long hair catching leaves and tangling. She left it. Draco looked at himself, at the horrible condition of his clothing and the dirt encasing his fingernails. Several weeks ago he never would have allowed himself to look this way, and a year ago neither would his father.
Eloise surprised him when she asked Meader suddenly, “Who is Tom?”
Meader, a woman Draco took to have great poise, nearly dropped her cup. Eloise watched her shamelessly, like a child. “You spoke of him in your sleep last night,” she said.
For a long time there was silence except for the wind. At last Meader said stiffly, “Somebody I loved very much.”
“Your husband?” Eloise ventured, and Draco stared in shock of her gall. Meader swallowed hard and, choosing not to respond, busied herself with another bite of meat. Eloise looked away, seeming to have her answer. Nobody mentioned Tom for the rest of the morning.
An hour later, Draco and Eloise stared through the pine trees into the windy morning. Now that it was daylight, they could see through the forest a vast expanse of yellow and gold hills. The morning sun turned the sky a pale, cloudless blue. All was bright and frigid.
“Where are we?” Eloise wondered aloud.
“We have to leave,” Draco responded, though he had no idea himself. “We have to keep moving.” The trees shook and the fields ahead swayed.
Eloise barely moved her lips when she said, “I feel hopeful.” Draco looked at her from the corner of his eye, and she said, “I’m not sure why. Perhaps it was the Eullies. It just feels as though something good might finally happen.”
“It needs to,” Draco said quietly, running a finger across the place where his wound hid.
At length, they left the hills and trekked back to Meader’s camp. Eloise made a point of helping her clear up from their breakfast and following her every order, looking apologetic for bringing up her late husband. Draco stood to the side, staring though the trees, trying to plan a destination. When the sun was high, he had still not reached a conclusion, and it was time for farewells.
The fire was out and the wind ripped at the tiny plume of smoke. Draco wished that he could have more of the hot tea from earlier, regardless of its blandness. He lifted his shabby cloak from the ground, not bothering to shake the dust from it, and fastened its toggles with cold fingers. He and Eloise waited in silence for Meader, who had disappeared inside the tent. She surprised him when she at last returned with two bundles in hand: gifts.
“Neither of you have told me your story,” she said, as she neared them. “But I can sense a traveler. You have a long journey, Evelyn and Tom. I can feel it.” She glanced at the bundles in her hands and said sternly, “Before you protest, let me tell you that these things will do me no good. I have no use for them by staying here all through the day.”
Eloise immediately started to protest, but Meader firmly cut her off mid-sentence. “Here.” She thrust one of the bundles of folded wool toward her.
Eloise took it in her grasp, allowing it to unfurl in the wind: it was a brown cloak, the clasp made of obsidian. The hood was lined with soft fur. Eloise’s jaw dropped. It must have been one of Meader’s prized possessions, if she had saved it from her burning house.
“A cloak is not much to keep warm with,” said Meader, “but I assume it will shield you better than that flimsy jacket I’ve heard you muttering about.” Eloise flushed, embarrassed that Meader had heard her muttering complaints. Meader said, “And I know it looks lovely, but I can’t see to admire it anymore, so don’t try pulling that either.”
Eloise looked so grateful that she might cry, but instead put the cloak around her and thanked Meader quietly.
The second bundle was tied roughly with twine and looked as though it contained something. When Meader said “Tom,” Draco took it from her blind hands. It too was a cloak, deep blue, to replace his tattered robes. He wondered if it had been her husband’s; it was made for a man. Wrapped inside the cloak he found a number of colored bottles.
“Those will keep your wound from becoming infected or paining you, so I suggest you use them,” Meader said sharply. Draco rolled the colored vials across the unfolded cloak in his palm. The sun shone through them and dotted the fabric with their colors. Amidst the vials was a small flask, about the size of his fist.
As if Meader knew just what he was looking at, she said, “In the flask is a bit of potion. I’ve just brewed it this morning, so it needs to settle for several days. Use it when you feel as though you’ll collapse with fatigue. It will give you the energy to continue on—but there isn’t much, so use it sparingly.”
Draco nodded, though he knew that Meader couldn’t see him. In his silence Eloise said quickly, “I wish there was something we could give you in return. You’ve been so kind to us.”
She laughed wryly. “And what would an old, blind widow do with them?”
Eloise went red.
Draco felt his hand clench and unclench in irritation. Meader really had been kind to them, probably even saved his life. And he did have something to give in return, but—No, it was his father’s. Although it wasn’t rightfully Lucius’s to begin with… And Meader could certainly use it more than he…
Draco reached into his robes and extracted the invisibility cloak he had carried for days. Eloise’s eyes fell on it and grew wide, as Draco said to Meader firmly, “You could use this.”
He took her wrinkled hand and placed the cloak in her grasp. “It’s an invisibility cloak. It… belonged to my father.” Eloise bit her lip to keep from bursting into tears, and he wished she would stop. Quickly he murmured, “You have more use for it than we do. You’ll need somewhere to hide if Death Eaters find you. And we could hardly fit two people beneath it.”
This wasn’t true, and he knew it. Meader felt the silky fabric with her old hands and said, “Thank you, Tom.”
Draco muttered something and tightly clutched his new cloak, suddenly becoming very interested in it.
Eloise at last said to Meader, “Thank you again for all of your kindness.”
She nodded and said quietly, “May the wind be at your back.”
Draco felt Eloise’s hand on his arm, guiding him away. They took their first steps toward the line where the trees broke. One last glance over Draco’s shoulder told him that Meader hadn’t moved from her spot. She was still running her hands over the invisibility cloak.
He led Eloise from the forest and they arrived atop a hill, where the wind battered their backs but the sun lit the fields. There, Draco shed his old, tattered robes and adorned his new cloak. He secured the potions inside several different pockets, sheathed his wand, and stared out over the hills. There was another small forest just over the crest of the last knoll, and beyond that they could see a tiny village.
“We’ll go there,” he said, though she couldn’t have heard over the wind.
His hand gripped Eloise’s sleeve as he prepared to Apparate, but was shocked to feel a mental barrier. He stopped and furrowed his brows. Again he attempted to focus his eyes on the small town, to will himself there. Nothing happened.
“They must have set a charm against Apparition,” he said with a frown.
Eloise gave a sigh of relief. “That means it’s a wizarding village,” she said breathlessly.
“That’s what I’m afraid of.” He would give anything to be around magic again, but Draco knew magic meant a chance of Death Eaters, or worse. He steadied his shoulders. “We’ll have to walk.”
He heard Eloise mutter to the air, “Please, please, bring us luck at last.”
They trekked down the slope and across the acres of tall, golden grass.
The fields had been easy traveling; the wind pushed their feet over them quickly. By late afternoon they had reached the small forest, where they again tried to Apparate to no avail. There was a loaf of bread in the pocket of Eloise’s cloak, and they sat beneath a tree to catch their breath. The bread was hard, but they ate greedily. When they came across a small stream, Draco used a spell to purify Eloise’s handfuls of water. When he realized that he would have to drink from her hands, since she had no wand to purify his cupfuls, he muttered that he wasn’t thirsty and walked ahead.
It was nearing dusk when they could begin to see signs of the village drawing nearer. A path began to wind through the trees, beaten by horse hooves and footprints. They strayed left to follow it.
When the sun had set, gray clouds began to rise and a chill crept into the air. A thin fog was at their feet, swirling around their cloaks. Draco muttered about how luck had run short again, but Eloise kept quiet. Soon the fog had thickened until it was around their knees, and several minutes later it was nearly impossible to see.
“This isn’t good,” Draco muttered, taking out his wand.
Eloise asked worriedly, “What’s not?”
He glanced at her over his shoulder. “Fog like this usually comes with Dementors,” he said gravely.
Eloise shivered; she had heard of the Dementors, but had only seen drawings in her schoolbooks. Even the figures of ink scrawled on the scratchy pages had given her chills. She had been taught in school of their Kiss, and the horrible things they could easily do to a human. And she knew that they now were on Voldemort’s side.
“You don't have your wand, do you," Draco mumbled dreadingly.
“No,” she said, all the while glancing around. “I accidentally left it in my cloak after… the gala.”
Draco winced with the subtle reminder of what had happened that night. He had so far successfully put it from his mind, especially Severus’s death. “Then stay closer, unless you fancy having your soul taken,” he said.
At this she scurried over until they were side by side. The path wound through the thickening trees as the darkness grew deeper. At every snapping twig or sound of birds’ wings Eloise jumped, feeling foolish. Her breath was beginning to cloud in the air before her. There was frost growing on the trees.
“Do you feel that?” she whispered.
“What?” Draco grumbled, but she noticed him gripping his wand tighter.
She swallowed and felt chill bumps rising from her spine. “It’s getting colder.”
“Listen, if you can’t manage to calm down—”
“BEHIND YOU!” she screamed. Draco’s heart nearly stopped and he whirled around to face the fog. He barely had time to react before the tattered figure of a Dementor swept over them, caressing their faces with frozen dead hands. He cried out, his wand falling from his limp hand.
Eloise’s legs felt like lead as the Dementor passed over her. When she raised her head she shuddered at the figure of a second Dementor, darting through the fog. The trees had frosted instantaneously and the sky seemed to grow darker. The Dementors split through the air, dividing Eloise and Draco between them. The second Dementor paused over Eloise and watched her with its empty, hidden eyes.
She felt as though she knew exactly what it was to die.
Eloise landed hard on her bruised knee and cried out, though it wasn’t because of the pain: Draco had fallen and scrambled to reach his wand, but a Dementor had knocked him onto his back. She watched helplessly as it pressed its dead hand to Draco’s chest, holding him down.
“No!” he shouted, and grabbed its arm, but recoiled. It was so cold it burned.
Eloise watched in horror as the Dementor sucked his memories into its decaying mouth. Draco’s face contorted and wisps of what looked like smoke seemed to seep from his every pore. His body bent unnaturally and dropped to the ground with every harsh intake of the creature’s breath.
“Stop it!” Eloise cried stupidly and flung herself at his wand. She reached it with trembling hands, but before she could speak the second Dementor swooped down to shower her body with frigidity. She was immobilized; it was like falling into a frozen lake. As the Dementor rounded on her once more, she raised Draco’s wand feebly.
Still on her knees, she muttered weakly, “Expecto…”
Suddenly, another voice erupted into the night, “EXPECTO PATRONUM!”
A light shone from over her shoulder, brighter than the sun. The Dementors reared back and Draco’s body collapsed. From the light emerged a specter of what Eloise thought was an otter. It began to sweep over the Dementors, fluidly, as if through water. Its teeth snapped as it drove the monsters into the trees.
The light grew dimmer and Eloise was aware of a figure standing directly behind her. The person’s weak knees buckled and pressed into her back, and she strained to support them. At last, the Dementors seemed to give up; they darted away from the silver light and into the dark trees. The air grew warmer and Eloise was conscious of her cold sweat. As the light faded completely, she weakly turned her head and glimpsed her savior. It was the girl named Hermione.
Behind her was the boy with the red hair, Ron. Eloise’s eyelids felt like lead as she watched Hermione’s arm fall tiredly at her side. When Hermione swayed in exhaustion Ron steadied her shoulders, and Eloise fainted as well.
When she awoke, the first thing she felt was warmth. It was fuzzy and thick, covering her entire body. Groggily, she opened her eyes. She was lying on a bed, inside what looked like a small cottage. A fire crackled in the hearth to her left, glittering in the dark windows. She looked down: the fuzzy warmth was actually an enormous knit blanket, curled around her like a cocoon.
She tried to lift herself up but found no energy. Then the first throb of a pounding headache struck her. Wincing, she vaguely recalled the Dementors and wondered where Draco had gone. Suddenly she heard voices from the other side of the unpolished wood door.
“She’s supposed to be dead, Hermione.”
“Well obviously she’s quite alive.”
“Or we hope so, after that nasty attack,” Eloise assumed it was Ron’s voice that grumbled. “Are you sure it’s her?”
“I’m positive. I’ve kept hundreds of articles since Scrimgeour’s murder. Her photograph is everywhere. I cannot believe i didn't recognize her that day in Diagon Alley.” She paused. “Maybe she just went into hiding from Voldemort. It’s a sensible idea.”
“What, with Malfoy? He’s probably captured her, unless she’s joined up with You-Know-Who as well.”
Again there was a pause. “You can’t possibly think… Surely not after what he did to her father…”
Ron said decisively, “We’ll check her arm.”
Eloise heard the door creak open and quickly shut her eyes. She wasn’t exactly sure why, but justified it by telling herself she might gather more information. She listened closely as Ron and Hermione crept silently into the room. Something made of cloth slid over the floor, like a dirty shirt accidentally being kicked. Ron whispered wincingly, “Sorry.”
Eloise could feel them looming over her. Ron whispered again, “Which arm is it?”
There was a pause, and then Hermione sighed loudly. “She’s awake,” she said, not bothering to lower her voice. “Or at least not in a state of unconsciousness. Miss Scrimgeour?”
Feeling foolish, Eloise slowly opened her eyes, feigning grogginess. Ron leaned away from inspecting her. “How did you know?” he asked, sounding positively flabbergasted.
“Her breath wasn’t very even. When you sleep, your body and subconscious regulate it,” Hermione recited offhandedly. She hadn’t looked away from Eloise. “How are you feeling, Miss Scrimgeour?”
Eloise opened her mouth, which was surprisingly dry. “You don’t have to call me that,” she croaked. Her head was still pounding… was all of that because of the Dementors?
Hermione was holding something wrapped in wax paper. She broke off a chunk and offered it to Eloise. It was a block of chocolate. “Here, eat this. It will help your head.”
With those words, Eloise didn’t care if she was being handed Skrewt sap. Somewhat awkwardly, she ate the bitter dark chocolate, while Ron watched with what she couldn’t help but peg as suspicion.
“Can you sit up?” asked Hermione gently, and Eloise obliged with difficulty. Hermione went to close the door, and she and Ron stood uncomfortably at the foot of her bed. After a moment of awkward silence, Hermione said, “You’re in Godric’s Hollow now. We took you here after what happened.”
Exactly what happened was still foggy to Eloise. “Where’s Draco?” she murmured.
Ron said distastefully, “Malfoy is lying in the hallway, with his shoddy 'darker-hair disguise.'”
Eloise furrowed her brows in confusion and Hermione spun on him. “You just left him lying in the hallway?” she exclaimed. “What if somebody were to see him? They’ll hex him into oblivion after what happened last year! You’re lucky that nobody is back yet!”
Ron shrugged. “He’s a git,” he stated as if it were a reasonable explanation.
Hermione stared but chose not to retort. She turned to Eloise and said kindly, “Mrs. Weasley—that is, Ronald’s mother—should arrive home shortly. She’ll have a proper look at you. I’m sure she has potions somewhere that will help—”
“Meader’s potion!” Eloise suddenly sat up straighter. It was as if something had been triggered; in her stupor she had forgotten about what the Dementors had done to Draco. Hermione stared.
“What potion?” she furrowed her brow. “I’ve never heard of it, and I’m fairly well acquainted with potions…”
“Meader’s potion! Draco needs his potion, the Dementor did something horrible that you weren’t there for, and he needs the potion,” Eloise was speaking faster and faster, but Ron and Hermione only continued to stare in confusion. “I can’t believe I’d forgotten the Kiss.”
Ron’s eyes bulged. “The kiss?” He looked as if he would be sick with the prospect of somebody ever kissing Malfoy.
“The Dementor’s Kiss,” Hermione explained, looking pale. “We had no idea… We must have arrived after…”
Eloise was hurriedly trying to rouse her tired limbs from the warm bed. All the while Ron was trying to reasonably present the notion that a dead Malfoy might not be so bad (“It’ll save Harry the trouble,” Eloise had thought she heard him mutter).
Eloise threw back the warm covers and her feet hit the cold floor. She fired urgently, “He’s in the corridor?”
But she didn’t wait for an answer before stumbling from the room. Ron and Hermione were close on her heels. The hallway was dark and she felt blindly along the walls.
“Miss Scrim—er, Eloise,” Hermione called in the pitch black, “I really think you should stay lying down.”
Eloise ignored her, but nearly did stumble over Draco when her toes hit something solid. “Please, I need light,” she said hurriedly, and Hermione’s wand filled the hallway with brightness. Eloise nearly gasped.
Draco’s face was ash gray and covered in a cold sweat. Though his chest wasn’t rising and made Eloise’s heart stop, she eventually heard his small, rasping breaths. Blue veins crisscrossed over his eyelids and beneath their sockets. Even Hermione made a sound of surprise.
Ron said in shock, “He didn’t look so bad earlier…”
Without response Eloise dug her hands into the pockets of Draco’s cloak, searching for the flask of potion. All the while she prayed under her breath, fumbling through the fabric. At last she extracted the leathery flagon, and her nervous hands fumbled with the cap. After much effort it was open, though she spilled some of its contents and cursed under her breath.
“What kind of potion…?” Hermione began, but trailed off.
Eloise carefully rested Draco’s head on her knees and raised his chin. Meader had said that the potion would need to set for days before it was effective. What if it didn’t work?
It has to work.
Slowly, she tipped the potion into Draco’s parted lips. It smelled like crushed pine needles and something tangy. Hermione and Ron were silent. Draco’s breathing slowed and eventually grew quiet. His eyes stopped searching beneath their lids. Eloise stared intently down at him, nervousness a pain in her chest. She lowered her ear to his chest; it wasn’t rising. She fought the gasp that tried to escape, and watched him intently.
Not another death, please not another…
The entire house was silent. Seconds went by… thirty seconds… a minute… He still wasn’t breathing. Hermione and Ron were shifting with nerves but nobody spoke. With dread, Eloise’s hand slowly went to his wrist to feel for his pulse. When she realized that there wasn’t one, she dropped his hand in shock and let out a small cry. She slid back against the wall, staring at his body.
“Is he—” Ron began and swallowed, “is he dead?”
Hermione didn’t respond. Eloise just stared at Draco’s body. He can’t be, she thought, unable to blink, unable to look away. Oh God, he can’t be, please, he can’t be.
Then Draco’s entire body jerked. He drew in a gasping breath, eyes flinging open like shutters. The others jumped in alarm and Draco’s dilated eyes searched the hallway. Eloise emitted something between a sigh and a quaking sob. She put her face in her hands and rested them on her knees, not knowing whether to laugh or cry. At last Draco’s pupils shrank to their correct size and he slowly sat up, coughing. Eloise shook her head, unable to look at him. She was so sure he had been dead…
Draco still hadn’t spoken, and shielded his eyes from the light of Hermione’s wand. Squinting, he tried to focus on the two figures behind it. Eloise noticed that Ron and Hermione both suddenly appeared uneasy.
She finally turned to Draco and realized his expression had become livid. “What the bloody hell are you doing here?” he spat venomously at them. He turned on Eloise and growled, “Why did you take us here?”
She stared, taken aback by his viciousness.
Nobody responded and Draco’s lip curled in anger. The hallway was still. Then they heard the front door open and close, and footsteps coming up the rickety staircase.
“Mrs. Weasley,” Hermione told them, her voice cracking with nervousness.
But it wasn’t Mrs. Weasley whose head appeared over the top staircase. It was that of a black-haired, bespectacled young man. Hermione gasped as Harry Potter’s eyes fell on Draco. He stopped and stared. Nobody moved. Eloise saw his hands curling into enraged fists and his body trembling with anger. His heavy breath echoed in the hallway.
“Harry,” Hermione said meekly, “Harry, there’s something that we need to tell you.”
A/N: I made this chapter longer because of such a long wait. I've just realized, I've been working on this fic since December of 2005. Baby, damn.
I'm going to start leaving a soundtrack for you to read this to. This chapter I used:
- Pride & Prejudice Soundtrack (2005): Liz On Top of the World
- Edward Scissorhands Soundtrack: Theme Song
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