Chapter 18 : Satisfaction View
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The crack! of Apparition was audible from the library when Pansy returned to the Manor. Draco could hear her heels on the marble floors and closed the book he had been reading; not a piece of literature but a record of his father’s old business contacts. Pansy stuck her head through the door before coming inside, seating herself on the desk in front of Draco, smoothing her black skirt over her knees.
“Any luck?” Draco asked, taking the cloak she handed him and hanging it on a hook in the corner.
”I’ll need to borrow an owl,” she said solemnly, her eyes wide.
“I think I’ve seen one of those Death Eaters. I’ll need to notify the Aurors immediately.”
Draco snorted softly at her innocent expression. “You found him, then?”
She hopped off the desk and followed him into the hallway. “Scared him half to death, too, when I showed up at his door.”
“He thought you were dead?”
She nodded and ignored the slight tightening of Draco’s jaw. “The Aurors haven’t found him yet. He’s living in some horrible apartment in the east, under the name ‘Blake Sarini.’” She whispered this, leaning closer under the cover of straightening his collar.
“Very subtle,” Draco smirked, raising an eyebrow.
They had been looking for him for three weeks.
Draco had found a few useful contacts in his father’s old business records, which had put him in touch with the right crowd. It had still taken several weeks to track down their old comrade.
Most of the others had already been caught. Blaise was clever. He knew how to disappear.
Pansy had been out meeting people, charming the wealthy older gentlemen’s tongues into loosening. Draco had to admire her skill. Secrets moved in circles like theirs, undulating and twisting until truth became a lie.
They could deal with lies. Right now they needed truths.
They walked the streets of London mostly during twilight, still uncomfortable in the daytime. People stared. People feared.
It didn’t bother them. They had done things to be afraid of.
They took a few turns, streets leading them further and further into disrepair, as though they were descending into despair. Gates creaked. Paint was peeling where not reinforced by the spray-paint sentiments of teenagers.
They found the apartment building, inconspicuous and crumbling. The stairs smelled like unwashed skin, and Pansy wrinkled her nose in distaste, while Draco raised a disdainful eyebrow at the state of the hallway, stepping over the discarded shell of someone’s firewhiskey.
They knocked on the door and waited for nearly five minutes, hearing shuffling and rummaging within, before it opened and a suspicious face peered through the gap allowed by the flimsy security chain. He nodded to them before closing the door briefly to disengage the chain.
Pansy looked up at Draco, noting the slightest set of his jaw and feeling an airless thrill in her spine.
Blaise was much thinner; his face had lost some its appealing fullness, but he was still haughtily attractive and the hollows in his cheeks suited him. He let them in with only the barest hint of concealed wariness, his hand in his pocket but surely clutching his wand. Caution had saved him from discovery.
Pansy and Draco told him nothing of their involvement in the battle that had brought him here. They were careful not to discuss their puzzling freedom, though curiosity was evident in Blaise’s tone. He wondered why they were here.
From a pocket in his robes, Draco withdrew a sack that clinked promisingly. He set it on the table between them and watched Blaise eye it calculatingly.
“I don’t need your charity,” he said with a sneer.
“I’m hardly giving it to you,” Draco said. “I need a favor. It might take effort on your part. For that, I’m willing to compensate you.”
“What do you need?”
“We need you to talk to some of the old crowd. Don’t let them know the agenda. We just need to know who sent this.”
From within the same pocket, Draco produced a folded piece of parchment, which he handed to Blaise after a moment’s hesitation. Blaise unfolded it and read the words written on it with puzzled eyes.
“What does this mean?”
“Does it matter?” Pansy asked, raising an eyebrow. “We don’t know either. We just need to know who sent it.”
“What makes you think I can help you?”
Pansy took the note from him and folded it once more. “Blaise,” she said, quietly. “Please. Do me a favor.”
She handed the note to Draco, who took it from her almost harshly. She glanced at him but he didn’t look back at her.
“I’ll see what I can do,” Blaise said.
“Thank you,” Pansy sighed.
“How did you find me anyway?”
“I spoke to some people,” Pansy said vaguely, moving past him to examine the living room. Blaise had obviously put some effort into cleaning the place up; and it was cheaply but tastefully decorated, but still, it wasn’t his usual scene. He could hardly be frequenting Gringotts these days. Rich, handsome, and young were all targets for gossip, and Blaise didn’t need gossip in the position he was in.
If only the Ministry knew where to look, they’d find him in an instant. But the Aurors had never learned the golden rule: all information has its price.
Blaise followed her further into the apartment, watching her eyes on the window and the sooty view beyond. Draco’s almost silent footfalls came a moment later.
“Everything’s changed,” Pansy said, almost in a whisper. Blaise came closer and stood at her side.
“We’re surviving,” he said, a trace of a smirk on his lips. “You look good, Pansy.”
“You look like you need a new flat,” she replied, and he laughed.
They had a dinner to attend.
Draco had spent weeks carefully charming and manipulating his way into the graces of some of his father’s old business partners. His associations were a topic of concern to them not because of any moral ambiguity, for most of them were too greedy and comfortable to care what went on beyond their doors, but because it was hard to associate their names with someone so out of touch. Draco was difficult to resist because of the fame of his father’s shrewdness, but still, his youth and fame were off-putting to some.
They went straight back to Manor after leaving Blaise’s building, and Pansy hurried to her room to change into a blue silk dress. Draco always brought her with him to the tedious events he was invited to; bringing her was less threatening to the old men then going by himself, and besides, she always charmed them.
Pansy left the room and walked through the hallway toward the stairs in the sunset-gloom. She was just passing Draco’s room when the door opened and his hand snatched her wrist, turning her and pushing her backward into the wall as his lips met hers demandingly.
Her lips parted, yielding, her eyes drifting closed and her hands twined in the fabric of his robes. He smirked victoriously, breaking contact with her lips to place possessive kisses on her jaw and in the hollow of her throat. Her back arched in delight where his mouth lingered on the curve of her neck and his breath was loud at her ear where he whispered into it.
“The old men will love you,” he said, and she pulled away only slightly, her hands running trails on his back.
“Don’t assault me in their hallway, they’ll be scandalized,” she said, catching his lips once more and suppressing a pleasurable shiver at the growl that escaped him. She molded herself tighter to him, her hips grinding closure and a gasp escaping her when she felt him shudder.
Back from the dinner, Pansy sat quietly in the library, her head spinning. She pulled the note that she had taken back from Draco out of her pocket; the same one they had shown Blaise earlier that evening. Her blood ran cold for a moment as she read it; eyes skimming the words that she now had memorized and the writing that lay imprinted on her eyes when she slept.
Someone was watching.