Chapter 14 : searching
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For a moment, I stood in my darkened room, just staring out in front of me, until my eyes fell on the clock, reading the time. Immediately, my mind kicked into high gear and I was in a flurry, packing all my stuff, not into my trunk, but into a purse that held everything I put into it, while giving the appearance of a small evening bag, seemingly holding a few necessary items, but not all I was piling into it.
With all my necessary elements, I realized that I had but seconds to reach for the Portkey and hold on, which I did. When the familiar sensation of being pulling at my navel came, I closed my eyes as the blinding flurry of light overtook me, carrying me to central London.
I had no idea at that moment, however, that in Norfolk, a Muggle barman was staring at his fireplace as one of Bellatrix’s boots came flying out of it, hitting him square in the forehead. If I had, I might have laughed.
Instead of laughing, I opened my eyes and noticed that I was in the slums area of London, which did not comfort me at all. Sighing, I held my wand tightly beneath my Muggle jacket – only by sheer luck had I thought to don it before piling my stuff into the purse – and, filled with trepidation, I carefully walked until I reached the very heart of it, which, at this time of night, was hardly any safer than the slums at all.
It was nearly two when I reached Big Ben, choosing this spot only because on my visits to London as a young girl, I had always looked for this clock tower in the afternoon sky. It gave me a sense of security, though it didn’t keep me safe, I reminded myself. Sighing, I was wondering whether I should start looking or wait until the next day. However, if I knew Draco as I thought I did, he would be the type to prowl by night, under the cover of darkness, and rest by day.
However, I didn’t know where to start looking, where to rest. I recalled what Andromeda said – that she thought I would be better at finding at him than she. Andromeda, his own blood relative, thought that she’d be terrible at tracking him, and I, a novice Healer, would do better. I felt like laughing, that strange, sick urge returning to me. I was no better at finding someone that didn’t want to be found than a dog that had no sense of smell or direction would be. And, Merlin, I felt so lost and I’d hardly even started yet. How could I ever find Draco Malfoy when I was a Healer, and nothing short of it?
I sighed. My dearest wish was to sit on the curb of the street and cry, but I knew better than to do that this time of night. London in the early morning, before the sun rose, was a haven for drifters and drug addicts, two groups I did not want to run into while I was searching for a man who may save my patient’s life.
And then the thought came to me, while I was standing there in front of Big Ben, crying about my failure before I’d begun: the hospital. Lately, there’d been an influx of vampires because of the new law, and I knew that before he checked anywhere else, Draco would look there, thinking that his father might actually be the type of man to be easily tricked by the Ministry.
However, there was one flaw to the plan: my appearance. Even though I only reported to the hospital for each pay day, on call from my boss, or filling in for another Healer, I was a well-known face at St. Mungo’s, probably because I wasn’t there very often and the workers who were there on an everyday-basis liked to meet people who were affiliated with St. Mungo’s but didn’t work inside the building as often as they did. Anyway, I was forced to pull out my wand and conjure a wig to wear.
Securing it on my head and making my skin seem a bit darker than it naturally was, I made my way to the alley that held Purge and Dowse, Ltd. Smiling slightly at the familiar fashions of the eighties that hung in the windows, I walked through one without even talking to the mannequin to give the reason I was there, which caused the Welcome Witch to be even more irate with me than she usually was.
“Louise Draught,” I lied.
“Reason for being here?”
“Visiting.” However, as soon as I said this, I knew it was a bad lie, especially when the Welcome Witch looked at me as if she should call the Psych ward. “I’m a Healer from a small hospital in Kent, and I am here for a short while to get a taste of what the important hospitals are like.”
The Welcome Witch nodded dumbly, though there was no wizarding hospital in Kent. “Go ahead,” she said, hitting a button, which caused for the newly-added sliding doors to open.
I sighed when I slid through them, and as soon as the Welcome Witch was no longer paying attention to me, I made my way down to where the vampires were supposed to gather.
“Hello. Are you here to be checked?” a voice asked. I turned. It was Healer Ashton, the Healer who had been my resident when I’d trained there. My cheeks bloomed with embarrassment and nervousness, willing myself to be calm.
“No,” I replied, making my voice just a bit higher than usual. Knowing that my lie to the Welcome Witch wouldn’t quite slid with Healer Ashton, I supplied, “I’m actually here to comfort a friend. She hates hospitals and told me that she really didn’t want to be here all by herself, surrounded by the vampires who the more vicious of folk.”
Healer Ashton studied me for a moment, as if he knew who I was, but couldn’t place the voice or face with a name. “Well,” he told me in that false apologetic voice that he was supposed to use, “I’m sorry, but I don’t think your friend is here right now. You can wait in the main waiting room for her, however.”
I knew it was just a ploy to get me under someone’s surveillance while I was supposedly waiting for my “friend” at this time of night. “Are you sure she’s not down here? I left a bit later than she did because she woke me up about thirty minutes ago and I had to dress,” I informed him. I stood up on my tip-toes, Healer Ashton was about six-five, and peered around him as I were looking for her, though I was truly just trying to seek out Draco.
Healer Ashton began growing impatient. “Perhaps if you gave me her name?”
“Willow Greene,” I told him, spitting out the first name I could think of.
He looked down his list. “A Willow Green was here about twenty minutes ago,” he informed me, and showed me his clipboard, pointing at it with the tip of his quill. There was a check mark by it, as if to say that she was safe.
I breathed a false sigh of relief. “So she could do it without me!” I exclaimed happily. “I never thought that she would go into a hospital by herself and do all of that by herself.” I mentally kicked myself for the redundancy of my words. Then I seemed to grow suspicious. “I’d like to know, you know, before I buy her a cake and everything for facing her fear, if she did come by herself, or was she accompanied by a young man, say about six feet tall, white-blonde hair?”
Healer Ashton studied for a moment, I could tell the thought of the Psych ward was wafting through his mind too. “I do not know if they were together, but yes, the young man you describe was here around twelve this evening, and left some time later. He seemed to be waiting for someone.”
I nodded. “So, no cake after all,” I muttered glumly. “Thank you, Healer,” I added, as if I’d almost forgotten it.
Healer Ashton sighed a great sigh of relief. “You’re welcome. Now, you have a pleasant night and don’t let that friend of yours wake you up in the middle of the night to go to the hospital when she clearly has someone else in mind to take her.”
I nodded as if I were listening, and then waved good-bye. Without waiting for a response, I left the hospital, with all its familiarity and took off the wig, throwing it into a garbage can as I made my way down the street, cursing Merlin for the first time in my life.
For the rest of that night, I slept in a sordid Muggle inn that had roaches crawling all over the place. I’d rented it under an assumed name, hoping against hope that while I was trying to find Draco, Bellatrix, if she ever went after me, would never find me.
I spent the first few hours of daylight, after I’d gotten a few hours’ sleep, stepping on roaches and trying to figure out where Draco had gone. He could have known something about the cult his father was a member of, but somehow, I doubted it. If that were true, Draco would have gone there first and probably would have found him by now. I knew that he wasn’t at his house either, because if he were, he would have killed Bellatrix for what she did to his grandmother. So where did that leave?
Sighing, I was distracted when a small owl flew into the open window and rested on the desk. I immediately pulled the letter from its beak and read the words enclosed there:
When I told Bella this morning that you’d been called back to the hospital, she didn’t buy it for a minute, and began searching for you. I bid you to keep yourself covered and to watch out, because from the look she had on her face, I could tell that she was out for blood. June, be careful. I know what my sister can do when she’s angry, and it isn’t pretty. Do whatever you can to keep out of her way, even if that means letting Marina die.
P.S. Don’t worry about the owl. He’s trustworthy and would never have let any harm come to you. Don’t send him back, however, and just let him go free. He’ll come back to me after a few days.
I swallowed nervously, wondering whether to keep going with my search. But I knew I couldn’t stop here. Not after all that I had gone through to keep Mrs. Malfoy alive; not after all Mrs. Malfoy had gone through to stay alive. Without warning, I grabbed my purse, and left. I didn’t even pay for the room. I knew it was daft to be leaving during the day time, but I knew I couldn’t remain in London with Bellatrix on my tail. It being my home, it would be the first place she’d look.
However, where would I go? Instantly, the thought of my sister came to mind. She was apart of the Hogwarts staff, and could offer me protection from Bellatrix while I continued my search for Draco. However, it would put me in a very hard spot to search for him, being so isolated from the rest of England.
But I needed to lie low for a while and let Bellatrix huff and puff about me while she searched the continent. Sighing, I thought all my means of transportation and knew that broom was the fastest, even if not the most conventional. I made myself blend in with the environment, and my broom as well, and then I set off in the skies, wondering if Hogwarts would prove to be as safe to me as it had when I was in my sixth year, and at the Death Eaters’ mercy.
With the sun directly to my right, I wondered if setting out for Hogwarts to seek the refuge of my younger sister would be all for the better. Cery had never been one to take surprises lightly, and my waltzing up to the school, looking for a safe haven from a Death Eater like Bellatrix Lestrange, was bound to get her blood boiling. However, Cery would have to understand, especially since my life was in jeopardy with Bellatrix on my trail. Only the thought that she couldn’t besmirch the castle with her paws kept me comforted as I focused my sights ahead of me, wondering if I would make it out of this week, or maybe the next, alive.