Chapter 7 : Chapter Seven - Smolder Silent
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“I tell you, I saw them! At the Ministry, escorted by Aurors! You know they were never bright, any one of them could have let it slip-“
Pansy was falling.
She leaned heavily against the door behind her, and with a crash it burst open as she pushed the handle. She walked slowly into the room, heels echoing, mind anywhere.
Crabbe and Goyle at the Ministry.
Captured, locked, killed, kissed.
Crabbe and Goyle.
The two that had made her suspicious, the ones that He sent with Draco, the ones that had failed. At the Ministry. Failed.
Was he with them?
She put her hands to her head, clawing, fingers rough, entangled in her hair.
“Come back,” she whispered, and a chant rose with the breeze in her head. “Come back, come back, come back…”
Draco gritted his teeth as a dull, thoughtless pounding took up residence in his head.
Bounty hunters. The brilliant idea had been Scrimgeour’s, after his Aurors couldn’t do their jobs alone. The ruthless men that never became Death Eaters simply because it didn’t pay enough, or because they never had the opportunity. Instead, they roamed in packs, seeking to find Death Eaters before the Aurors could get to them. Once captured, a bounty hunter owned his prize, and could name whatever price he liked for the Ministry to meet. In theory, Scrimgeour’s idea was working- an extension of the Auror system, and that was about all most Wizards knew about the mysterious men. But among the Dark Lord’s followers, they were a story- the kind of story that warns, that amuses, that hides the underlying fear. To be captured by a bounty hunter was a fate worse than the Ministry itself. Because the truth of the situation was that bounty hunters had days in which to negotiate their price. And the best way to continue their practice was to use the days to persuade a Death Eater to reveal the locations of others.
And by owning their prisoner, they owned the right to use any means of persuasion necessary.
They served no loyalty to the Ministry; indeed, it would have been better if they had. They didn’t want plans of the Dark Lord, didn’t care about the army’s secrets. They wanted the one thing most Death Eaters couldn’t give them- the prisoner’s peers.
If Draco had known where he was going, he would have struggled harder.
Pansy quite forgot who she was for a moment.
For a second, she was the woman she had been before. Before everything had grown tired and gray. Before she knew no reality beside the one in which she lived. Before she had been pressed, choked, pulled, pushed, strung, and dropped, before she had grown too heavy to move.
She had been alive, and even as she stood on black heels, on gray stones, in a haunted castle, she remembered. For the first time in a long time, she remembered. The thrill. The chance, the risks, the infatuation, the ardor, burning intensity of everything. It had been real, she could taste it. Hadn’t she had power, hadn’t it run in her blood?
She knew why it came back. She knew why she remembered, in that moment. She had never felt helpless, had never felt lost, and suddenly she had been paralyzed with helplessness. She could live without him, she knew she could. She could feel every second without his feverish touch. But Pansy Parkinson was a woman who got what she wanted. And she had never wanted anything more than she wanted him.
And the Ministry, The Dark Lord, King Arthur in Avalon couldn’t keep her away.
She had been that woman once. She could be her again, if only for the sake of retrieving what had given her the illness in the first place.
London was dark, the streetlamps casting only targeted illumination, so that the group of four was thrown alternately into shadow and draining glare. Their footsteps were confident, and though they all wore black robes, two were clearly female.
“Davis, what’s the address again?” Pansy asked, turning her head casually to the woman slightly behind her.
“247 Keyport Road,” Tracey Davis replied, pulling a wrinkled piece of parchment from her robes.
“Don’t forget it,” Pansy warned, before taking the parchment from her. Pansy pulled her wand from a pocket of her robes and tapped it lightly to the parchment, watching as it curled and writhed before falling in ashes to the earth.
The group reached a corner, and one of the men glanced at a sign on the left. As he looked up, the hood of his robes slipped slightly, revealing silver-blonde hair.
“Keyport, this is it,” he said, before leading them left.
The music was audible to them long before they reached the location, but the Muggles in surrounding houses didn’t seem to have felt it or heard it.
The house itself was indistinguishable from those around it, but the lights blazed inside, unlike its neighbors’. The four stood on the front step a moment before going inside.
“Have you got it, Zabini?” asked Draco, and Blaise pulled a crystal flask from his robes before tucking it back inside. Tracey Davis raised a hand to knock, and though it was barely audible among the pounding music, they heard approaching footsteps.
Draco leaned over, his lips brushing Pansy’s just below her ear as he breathed, “Are you ready?”
She turned to smirk back at him, one hand reaching up to trail a finger across his jaw line before replying, “Always.”
The door flung open, revealing a short man in acid green robes and an obvious state of intoxication: he swayed as he looked up at them, and it was obvious he had no idea who they were, but beckoned them inside anyway. They entered a narrow hall, and once the door swung shut, they could barely see. The hall was mildly crowded, and smoke hung heavy in the air, but it was obvious that most of the people were upstairs. Indeed, as the group ascended the steps, the air became thicker and hotter, and on the second floor bodies were pressed so close together it was difficult to navigate between them. The crowd was comprised entirely of young witches and wizards, reveling in their youth, tan and taut expanses of skin eliciting fever as they pressed and brushed together.
The heavy pound of music concealed the pant and hiss of breath from the many people crowded in the room; almost all were dancing or else occupying a dark corner. Pansy cringed almost imperceptibly as she came into contact with the heat and sweat of a plain looking boy, clearly a Mudblood.
“Can’t we just do it now,” Tracey Davis whispered to the others, her disgust evident.
“No. We’re waiting for the signal,” Draco snapped back.
“Come on Davis, let’s blend in,” Blaise said with a smirk, grabbing her hand and leading her to the center of the room. Within a minute they were indistinguishable from the many couples pressed against one another, their hips moving in tandem and breath mingling.
Pansy felt Draco’s hand oh her back, and she moved forward into the room, sneering every time she came into contact with someone else. She wished she had much more than her robes between them, but they’d been required to dress the part, which meant that she wore a black ensemble that bared smooth spans of skin to be brushed. Most of the crowd has removed whatever robes they wore over Muggle clothing, and the pair copied them now, though Pansy regretted it. Once they reached the middle of the room, only a few feet from Blaise and Tracey, they stopped moving. Draco’s hands found their way to her hips.
Pansy felt her heart beat faster. They were minutes away from accomplishing their goal, the air was thick, and Draco’s breath and skin were hot against hers. They moved together, their rhythm impeccable, gained through years of proper dance lessons that every Pureblood child attended. Her dark hair pooled over one shoulder and he bent his head to the other, his teeth grazing the tense skin.
In unison, Draco and Pansy both tensed as the marks on their left forearms burned. Draco looked up and caught Blaise’s eye. Blaise nodded. He and Tracy moved quickly, disappearing in the crowd.
“Should we follow?” Pansy breathed.
“They don’t need us yet,” Draco replied, his voice low.
Within a minute, the two were back. Tracey nodded at Pansy. The first part of the job was done.
They remained where they were for perhaps ten minutes. The crowd was beginning to get thinner, many people seemed to be sitting down and several looked distinctly nauseous. Then a scream rent the air.
A woman lay on the ground, shaking violently; it had been her friend who screamed. As one, the four conspirators drew their wands.
At first, the jets of light that their curses produced went unnoticed by the riveted people watching as several more people began to fall ill. Then someone shouted, another woman screamed, and those nearby the curses began to move, pushing other out of the way.
Pansy’s wand was moving fast, curses flying from it as panic set in. There was a rush for the stairs, which became blocked, yells mingled with the voices of the Death Eaters. Pansy picked out the face of the boy who had touched her, his Mudblood eyes wide. Her spell hit him squarely in the chest.
It took only moments for the room to clear. They didn’t pursue the escapees. As the four left the house, stepping over fallen bodies, the music continued to pound; no one had turned it off.
Compared to the house, the night outside was very cold. Blaise flicked his wand as they set off back down the street; the door behind them slammed shut.
“They kept touching me,” Tracey complained, making a face.
It was crude, and certainly tedious, but necessary. Draco rubbed his wrists where the rock had scraped them. Frankly, had he been in Auror custody, he wouldn’t have bothered getting the ropes off, but he was wiser now.
Once his hands were free, the rest was easy enough. He inspected the cell more closely than he had bothered before; these men were not infallible, and there was a chance they’d forgotten something.
It was in the middle of running his hands over the door that it opened. Draco didn’t bother to conceal his newly freed limbs; they probably expected it.
“So you got ‘em off, eh?” said a man from the doorway. He had a thick accent, but he was perfectly understandable. Draco didn’t reply.
“You’re a smart lad. I’m sure by now you know where ya are.”
Again, he held his silence.
“Then you know it won’t do ya no good to hold off on us. Now, I’m gonna ask you a question and you’re gonna answer, that work for ya?”
“Alright then. Now, I got a special interest in some friend’s of yours. Names of-“ he pulled a grubby scroll from his pocket and consulted it- “Theodore Nott n’ Blaise Zabini. And I’d like you to be tellin’ me where they might be found.”
There was no good in replying honestly, they were at Hogwarts, but Draco was not their Secret Keeper and couldn’t reveal their location if he wanted to. He didn’t speak.
“No? Nothing? Well that’s too bad,” the man said. He turned to leave. Draco was confused for a moment. Then, faster than Draco could have predicted and impossible to avoid, the man’s hand swung out of nowhere. It connected with Draco’s face and knocked him brutally to one side. Dizzy and aching, Draco sat up again.
“Now, let’s try again. Blaise Zabini. You know where ‘e is?”
Draco, leaning his head against the wall, wasn’t even listening. The next blow caught him off guard again.
Draco, his head now spinning nauseatingly, lay down.
The man had left after several repetitions of the same questions, and several repetitions of the same treatment for Draco’s silence. He would be back again, but for now, the stone was reassuringly solid against Draco’s aching head.
He felt no defiance, no burning for revenge, no resourcefulness that might enable him to find a way to escape the situation. Once, he might have fought back, had something to say. Once, there had been more than this- this resolution, this dull ache. Draco was sickened by himself, by his own acceptance, and though the disgust was not a new feeling, the passivity was. He had felt more once, and though he had worked to conceal it, this new fact, this new reality that there was nothing to conceal was worse. Hatred, desire, rage, sorrow, fear, possessiveness, anticipation, triumph; he had felt it all. He had been consumed by it. Malfoys were not content to sit and rot and bleed in a cell. Malfoys were not passive. He would not be.
At Hogwarts again. Hogwarts, where six years of his life had passed. He had thought he would never return, but he was back, simply because the Dark Lord needed someone there.
It hadn’t been easy to convince the teachers and Headmistress that he was trustworthy. If he had been the one to actually kill Dumbledore, it would have been impossible, and even now, it had taken heavy pleading and crocodile tears.
The first few weeks of his seventh year had been strange, to say the least. The people who had always been his to command at Hogwarts hadn’t seen him all summer, and though his leadership had not been lost, they shared something he didn’t. They knew things he didn’t, and it irritated him to no end. Even now, sitting in the common room, though his was the highest and most comfortable chair, he was also the only one not engaged in conversation.
“Pansy,” he said, his voice drawling lazily. She looked up from where she had been talking with Blaise Zabini.
“Go get my Transfiguration book,” he ordered. Homework, though tedious, was necessary to keep up appearances.
“Where is it?” she asked, one eyebrow raised.
“In my dorm,” he replied lazily, waving one hand in the direction while remaining draped over his chair.
“Well then why don’t you get it yourself?” she said daringly.
At this, Draco sat up. He’d never heard Pansy speak like that to him, and she did it now with no indication of a reason- as though he were being stupid.
“What did you say to me?”
“I said, why don’t you get it yourself?” she repeated, slowly and obviously.
“I understand that. What I don’t understand is what makes you talk to me like that.”
“What makes it alright for you to send me to fetch your book?” she said defiantly. Draco was utterly perplexed. Never before had she questioned him so rudely. He stood up and grabbed her arm, dragging her away from the amused and curious stares of their classmates.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” he demanded.
She shook her arm free of his tight grasp, glaring up at him.
“With me? I’ll explain it very carefully to you. You just made an unreasonable demand of me, and I refused to cooperate.”
“Obviously,” he hissed. “But see, I seem to remember the natural order of things. I say go. You go.”
She was obviously furious, her eyes burning, and it struck Draco that he had never before seen this look directed at himself. It was completely unnatural- generally, Pansy looked nothing short of enchanted when she looked at him.
“You don’t own me,” she spat at him.
“I’ve always owned you, Pansy.”
“Well then let me make it clear to you that times have changed. Once , I let you walk backwards and forwards over me. Last year, you completely forget about me. Last summer, I don’t know where in the hell you are. And now? You’ve lost the right to me. You never should have had it in the first place.”
She walked away and sat down, resuming her conversation with Zabini while Draco stood still, looking murderous.
It was so ridiculous, so ludicrous, it continued to prop up in his thoughts for a week. How dare she? He continued to ask himself, and the worst part was, she didn’t seem to feel any remorse. He had woken the next morning quite sure that she would be crawling back to him, groveling for forgiveness, but it hadn’t happened. Pansy, always reliable, always willing, was suddenly neither. He’d never before realized quite how much he relied on her to do her job, and now, when he was reporting to higher authority than teachers, it was really showing.
And that was before The Incident. The singular most unnatural thing of all things in the Wizarding World. The preposterous event took place a week and a day after the all-too-public argument in the common room.
Draco had been in the library, for once, now retrieving a book that in better times he would have had Pansy retrieving for him. He was feeling highly resentful toward the entire establishment, for homework, for classes, and for stupid teachers who didn’t know what was good for them. He was already at the common room when he realized it was dinner time, and he was about to turn around when a flash of movement caught his eye.
There, looking perfectly content and utterly unaware they’d be interrupted, were Pansy and Blaise, kissing enthusiastically in the corner farthest from the fireplace.
For a moment, the picture refused to process in Draco’s mind. Pansy, his- his something, hadn’t he already claimed something over her? And Blaise Zabini.
That happy moment of ignorance vanished quickly. Before he had noticed, his wand was in his hand. Malfoys don’t like others touching their things. The blissful couple didn’t notice him until a nearby glass, left carelessly on a table, exploded into dust. They broke apart.
“Draco?” Pansy asked cautiously. She wasn’t going to pretend she didn’t know him well enough to know that this wouldn’t go over well. And frankly, she wasn’t going to be modest- in rage or ardor, she handled him best. She gave Blaise a push toward the stairs. He didn’t need telling twice.
“Draco, please calm down.”
He stowed his wand away (the perpetrator of this betrayal had, after all, left the scene of the crime). But he continued to stand tense and angry, looking accusingly at Pansy.
“What the fuck was that, Pansy?” he asked, his voice low and dangerous. She’d heard that voice before. It didn’t bode well. Still, she couldn’t help but know exactly the thought that was going through his mind, and it riled her temper.
“What did it look like?” she retorted, knowing she was pushing his boundaries and thoroughly enjoying it.
“It looked like you were making a very grave mistake. Malfoys don’t take kindly to betrayal, in case you’ve forgotten.”
“I haven’t forgotten, Draco. But you seem to have forgotten- you seem to be continually forgetting- that what I do isn’t your decision.”
“You are mine,” he said, advancing on her. “You are nothing without me.”
Pansy, who had been holding her ground, now moved toward him. “I was yours. I was your toy, your servant, your complacent little pet. Without you, I am what I should have been all along.”
“You wanted it!” he bellowed, forsaking his low tones. “You wanted what I gave you! That was the way we were, Pansy!”
“No,” she said, not shouting, “That was the way you were. That was the way I let you be. I wanted you, Draco. I gave you me, and what did I get in return? I got to be the one to clean up your mistakes. When you wanted me, I was there. And I wanted you all along, and never got anything.”
“So your just going to let whoever wants to stick their tongues down your throat?”
He had thrown it at her bitterly, and she knew it, but in that moment she wanted nothing more than to drive him to the edge. She closed the two foot gap between them before he could blink, and in moments her hands were twined in his collar. She pulled his face to her level and met his lips with hers, forcefully, angrily, and he was surprised but not immobile. Her tongue found its way to his mouth, and he was gripping her waist, almost shivering. She took a moment to register that he tasted sweet and icy all at once, before she yanked herself away. His collar was crooked and his face flushed, and she ignored the wanting shudder that shook her hands.
“Can you taste him?” she whispered, and in the second it took for him to register what she’d said, his eyes sprouted steel, but she was already out the portrait.
Pansy felt like she was shedding the layers of fog that had lately been building in her mind. She knew what she was doing. And though she new it was a revitalization born of desperation, it was a fresh feeling, something she hadn’t felt in a long time. She walked the halls of Hogwarts confidently tonight.
The door she was looking for was several floors from her own, but she found it quickly. She knocked, heard a grunted reply, and waited while footsteps approached the other side. It swung open to reveal a dim-looking, slightly haggard man, much taller than herself.
“Hello, Eric,” she said pleasantly, her voice low and melodious. He looked confused, but greeted her in return.
“I wanted to ask you something,” she began, and he leaned against the doorway with his palm, waiting. “I heard a rumor about Vincent and Gregory… that they were caught, and I’m just curious as to whether its true or not.”
He looked slightly confused. “Why’re you asking me?” he asked.
“Well, I just knew, if anyone knew the truth… well, you see everything at the Ministry, Eric, we both know that. You always have such good information for the Dark Lord, so I thought… I’d come to you first.”
She tilted her head slightly, looking up at him through her eyelashes, her lips slightly parted. He didn’t look away.
“Well erm… well yeah, I suppose I saw ‘em. Just last night, ‘smatter of fact.”
“They were never as bright as you and I, Eric,” she said with a little laugh. He grinned shiftily. “Was there anyone else with them, do you know?”
“Well yeah, there was… well let’s see, there was Yaxley, he was there, and Jugson, the son, not the father.”
“No one else?”
“Naw, it was just them, but see, I only do the first shift, and they came in right as I was leavin’. If there were anyone else, it’d be Bunkson who saw ‘em, not me.”
“Well, thank you,” she said abruptly, turned away and leaving him looking bewildered in her wake.
She retraced her route down the hallway, irritation mixed with a healthy serving of anxiety. Eric, the dimwitted security at the Ministry front desk, was hardly an asset, but he had useful information at times. A fearful gnawing was growing in her stomach as she thought of Draco, shipped off to Azkaban, dropped in a cell and drained of powers. She could remember her mother talking about it: “It’s a wonder the Lestranges never lost it, most do, and just end up dead in the end…”
Bunkson, where would he be? He wasn’t on their side, she’d have to seek him out elsewhere. She wasn’t sure what she would rather hear from him, but she was going to find Draco one way or another. She’d spent years wanting him- she still wanted him- with an intensity that made her stomach ache. There wasn’t a word for how quickly he could make her heart beat, how easily he could make her skin boil and he breath catch. Not any word she’d ever been taught, anyway.
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