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Chapter 10 : Distractions
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Then he felt it.
There was a gentle feeling in his hand… was it his left hand? Or wait… no it was his right. The warm sensation began to bring its way up his arm towards his shoulders. Draco inhaled deeply and took in this soft touch. A soft humming began and caressed his ears, in contrast to the intolerable buzzing earlier. The feeling was beginning to sink into him when it suddenly stopped –followed by a high pitched scream.
Draco’s eyes flew open and searched around for the mysterious voice. In his haste, he sat up so fast that his insides began to collapse on him – he couldn’t sit up. He fell back down and realized that he was lying on a bed; he was lying on a soft, cushioned thick bed with a huge and regal frame and a headboard draped in green silk. He was in his own bed.
He placed his hand on his chest and felt the swollen, still molten flesh. He began to pant as he tried once again to sit up – this time, with extreme pain, he managed to sit himself up at a forty-five degree angle.
“Eli!” he shouted. He tried to remember the last thing he did before he ended up here but his memory failed him. His head was pressing hard down on him and his chest was swollen and burnt – he knew he had been fighting Adria. But what had happened? Had he lost?
“Master Malfoy,” Eli said, heaving a sigh of relief. “You’re alright.”
“It was her,” Eli said somberly. “It was Adria.”
“I…I can’t remember…” Draco stammered. “I can’t remember anything.”
“The blow to your head was quite hard,” Eli said gently. “Please, just lie down. It took the elves hours to stop the bleeding.”
Draco’s hand immediately flew to his head where he felt a layer of thick gauss and bandages. “How long was I out for?”
“It’s been two days.”
Draco tried to sit up again. “Two days?”
Eli nodded grimly. “55 hours to be exact.”
“Did anyone come by? Did anyone ask…?” Draco asked.
Eli looked at him with a curious expression. “No.”
He saw relief sweep over the face that was once etched with lines of worry but for a second – albeit a fraction of a second- he had seen a little boy’s sadness that no one had asked about how he was doing, that nobody cared if he was alive or dead.
“No one knew what happened,” Eli added and smiled gently. “But Ms. Granger…”
Draco’s memory swept back to a blurry scene where a brown haired girl was holding up her wand and yelling, in a petrified voice. “Granger!” Draco yelped. “She…she was there…”
“Yes, sir,” Eli replied. “She hasn’t been harmed though.”
Draco’s expression of surprise and worry didn’t change. “Does she remember anything?” he asked.
“I’m afraid so. She’s been asking…questions.”
“Well we’re not answering them,” Draco shot back as he placed his hand gingerly over his burnt flesh and sat up in his bed. He had mustered enough strength to attempt to walk now. He quickly grabbed a shirt that was lying by his bedside and put it on to cover the fleshy wound.
“Master Malfoy,” Eli began again as Malfoy started to walk. “She’s beginning to put it all together…”
Draco stopped in his tracks and turned around. “Then we stop her.”
Eli now had a concerned look on his face. “She’s already made a connection between the portrait and Adria – it’s only a matter of time before she finds out about Nat-”
“That’s enough!” Draco bellowed. “That is enough!” His face was red with trepidation and Eli had the feeling that his heart hurt more than his wounds.
“This discussion is over,” Malfoy said. His strength was weakening. He placed his hand on one of his many cushioned chairs for support and then turned towards Eli. “You have to keep her distracted – away from all of this.”
“What kind of distraction were you thinking of?”
“The kind that would keep her out of my hair. Something that would keep her satisfied and busy.”
“Well sir, I can just keep a sharper watch on her…”
“No,” Draco replied. “That’ll only make her more suspicious… besides, I’m going to be gone tonight and I need to know she won’t go poking her big nose around the manor.”
“Might I suggest a…hobby?” Eli said, slightly bemused.
“No, no…” Malfoy said, shrugging him off. “She’s not a child…” He then paused as a knowing expression began to form on his face. “But…she is a woman.”
“Yes, sir…she is,” Eli said awkwardly.
“And despite her brains and her boldness, all any woman ever wants is someone to be with.” A small smile curved at the edge of his lip as he turned to Eli and said, “I want you to find Ron Weasley and bring him here.”
Hermione sat in her room restlessly scanning the pages of the Daily Prophet. There was no news of Lestrange; there hadn’t been any for days. She wondered if Skeid had blown things out of proportion as her mind trailed back to that fateful day when she had learnt of her parents’ deaths. Maybe he had come to the wrong conclusion, maybe he had tallied the evidence incorrectly or illogically, or maybe he had underestimated the motives of Lestrange; either way, he and his actions were completely away from the public eye. There were no more high profiled muggle killings, no more break-ins and certainly, no more (not that there ever had been) threats to Hermione’s life.
Hermione’s once luscious and chocolate brown curly hair had become frail and straw-like – as it often did when she was in an uncomfortable or stressful situation for a long time. Her eyes had sunk even lower into her face due to her lack of sleep. All she could think about what the ghost (or whatever it was) and the painting in the hall.
Her pent up rage began to boil once again as her thoughts trailed onto Malfoy. That stupid prick was hiding something and he refused to even acknowledge that Hermione had some insight into his secret. That momentary sympathy and pity she had felt for Malfoy when she saw him dueling for his life in the tower had now subsided. He had used an Unforgivable Curse on her… did he think she was that much of an amateur that she couldn’t perform a simple spell? Did he really think she was so unskilled that he had to put her under the Imperius curse so that she could perform that spell correctly?
It had been two days. Once the darkness in the tower had cleared up, she had been released from the curse and she saw Malfoy fall unconscious onto the floor. Eli had rushed over to Malfoy and produced a thick piece of cloth which he pressed against his head to stop the bleeding. Healers had periodically arrived at the Mansion and spent hours in Malfoy’s room; the only conversation Hermione had managed to hear was a young Healer who was explaining to Eli that: “It will take about 24 hours now but the flesh should begin to heal, though the scars themselves will never truly disappear.” She had no idea what he had meant by that but she assumed that the Healer was referring to Malfoy’s head injury.
Hermione’s thoughts were interrupted by some voices outside, across the hall. She stood up and slowly made her way towards the door, with her ears sharply trying to decipher the words.
“…two bowls of cereal and some more milk tarts…” the voice said. Hermione rolled her eyes as she flung her door open and glared at Malfoy as he walked down the hall. He turned at the sound of the opening door and causally smirked, “Hello, Granger.”
“Still thinking of eating?” she snapped.
“Well yes, I’m a little hungry.”
Hermione scoffed and looked at Eli, who was beside Draco with a usual worrisome expression on his face. “Can you excuse us a minute?” Malfoy asked Eli.
Eli nodded and bowed his head, quickly disapparating on the spot. “I have the feeling there’s something you want to say to me, Granger,” Malfoy said snidely.
He walked over very nonchalantly and stood a mere two feet away from Hermione with his infamous smile spread across his face. “What would you like to say?” he asked her.
“You used an Unforgivable curse on me,” Hermione said, each breath of hers was drenched in anger. “You’re an auror and you used an illegal curse on me.”
“I saved you,” Draco corrected. His hands were casually folded across his chest while Hermione’s were by her side as she resisted the urge to punch him in the face.
“No, you used me.”
Draco laughed. “Yes, I used you to save you.”
“You’re an auror, a representative of the Ministry of Magic and-”
“Don’t try to be righteous and abide by the rule book,” Malfoy snapped. “Lest we forget you and the rest of the Potter Posse scrambling about the school doing many illegal things yourselves.”
“That was for a good reason,” Hermione shot back. “We were trying to stop Voldemort!”
“Well there you go,” Draco said. “I was trying to save you and Eli… well more Eli than you – he makes delicious milk tarts, if he’d died, where would I have gotten breakfast from?”
“You know, I used to think that you were a colossal pain in the neck. Now I have a much lower opinion of you!”
“What is it that’s really upsetting you, Granger?” Malfoy asked. “Is it really that I used an illegal curse on you, or perhaps is it that I didn’t trust you enough to perform the spell by yourself?”
Hermione looked up instantly and stuttered for a second. “That’s nonsense.”
“Is it really?” Malfoy said, in a mocking tone. “Maybe you’re angry because you know that you couldn’t have performed that spell.”
“Maybe there is something that the brains of the Potter Posse cannot do.”
“I could have performed it easily!”
“Ha!” Draco said. “There’s no way. You know as well as I do that it was dark magic-”
“Yes, something you and your family are famed for, no doubt.”
“All this bitterness isn’t good for you, Granger,” Malfoy said callously.
“I don’t know what it is that ghost was after,” Hermione began. “But she isn’t an ordinary household ghoul.”
Draco yawned loudly while Hermione shot him a wrathful glare. “Oh sorry,” Draco said sarcastically. “Please keep on talking. I generally yawn when I’m interested.”
She scoffed and turned her back to Malfoy as she began walking down the hallway. “Oh by the way,” Malfoy added. “Breakfast is on the table, if you care to eat.”
“Why should I bother?” Hermione snapped. “You’ll probably eat the entire table with your appetite.”
“I’m terribly sorry,” Draco replied. “I’d leave some milk tarts for you but I’m afraid they’ll go straight to your thighs, which are incidentally looking a little chubbier nowadays.”
Hermione’s jaw dropped to the floor as her eyes immediately shot to her thighs. “It’s these pants! They’re unflattering!” Hermione yelled after Draco. “Wait…what the hell am I saying?” Hermione said to herself. “I did not gain weight…”
Ron stood in the crowded lanes of Diagon Alley. Even though it was just the break of dawn, witches and wizards were scrambling up and down the street, some opening up their stores, others getting an early start to the day’s shopping. Ron looked like a disheveled mess compared to even the most casually dressed people; he had hastily put on a green jumper over his night shirt and an old pair of faded jeans. His hair was unkempt, much like Harry’s, but his hair didn’t look as purposefully messed up but rather it seemed like he hadn’t taken the time to comb and set his hair, which he hadn’t.
He was standing beside an old used broomstick store as he tried to navigate his way to the fireplace that would eventually lead him to the train to the outer city. The problem then would be how to get from the outer city to Malfoy Manor. Slight drops of rain had begun to fall from the sky as Ron scrambled his way into the tiny broomstick shop to protect himself from the precipitation.
“Morning,” a deep voice said as he hastily wiped the raindrops from his face. Ron immediately turned around to see a rather large, old woman standing behind the counter with a bored smile on her face.
“Early shopping, I see,” she added as Ron nodded and acknowledged the greeting. He made his way into the store and surveyed the odd and old looking shop. The store itself wasn’t very big, about 10 people could fit in comfortably, and it had two doors on opposite walls – one leading to the street and the other, Ron guessed, to the backroom. There were two tiny windows that were currently shut but their panes looked rusted and worn out. There were two shelves on each wall, each of which carried four broomsticks mounted on a frame for a display and the only illumination in the room currently was the torches that were stuck up against the walls to emulate the effect of glamour.
“You fancy something?” the woman asked, in a rough voice.
“No, no…” Ron said. “I’m browsing, though,” he added quickly, noticing the instant displeasure on the old witch’s face.
“You ride?” she asked. The woman was a bit tubby but that was easily counteracted with her height, she was about the same height as Ron.
“A broomstick?” Ron asked thickly. “Yes…yes… often.”
“For Quidditch? Or do you just ride for fun?”
Ron hesitated. He really needed to find a way to the train station – it would only be a matter of time before Ginny and Harry figure out he was gone and they’d know exactly where to find him. “Both,” he said carelessly.
“Well, if you’re playing Quidditch, you’ll probably need something like this.” The woman moved out from behind the counter towards her displays. As she moved, Ron noticed that she wasn’t wearing the common frilly, grandmother style robes, but rather large blue ones with the a Quidditch player in green etched onto the arm and the slogan, “Ireland forever”.
She reached for a fairly long broomstick with a dark brown handle and slightly worn fibers at the top. “This one just came in a week ago, bought it off a chap from Sweden who’d come to visit. Pristine condition – flies like a bird”
“Is that so?” Ron replied, uninterested.
“Well,” the witch said, slightly offended. “If you don’t fancy this one, I’ve got plenty more.”
“No, really, it’s fine… I just-” Ron began, but it was too late. The witch had already scrambled over to her second shelf and taken out a broom with a jet black handle and the words ‘Viktor Krum’ etched onto it.
“This one here belonged to the Krum himself,” she said, proudly. “’Course it’s worth a lot but I’m not a Bulgaria fan me-self or I’d have kept it. It’s a Nimbus 5000, prime condition.”
Ron rolled his eyes and scoffed very slight – enough for effect but not enough that the witch would hear him. Krum never rode Nimbus broomsticks, he’d always ridden some famous Bulgarian model and clearly the words ‘Viktor Krum’ were scratched in with a spell or even a knife.
“Listen, I just need some directions,” Ron said weakly.
“What kind of directions?”
“I need to get to Malfoy Manor.”
The witch started to laugh in her deep, rough voice and her mouth opened wide enough to give Ron a good look at her rotting teeth. “Malfoy Manor, you’re crazy, right?”
“What’re you talking about?”
“Boy, nobody can get to Malfoy Manor…”
Ron heaved an angry sigh and turned towards the woman. “Alright, you know what? I just need to get to the outer city.”
“Well you’ll need to take a train to get there,” the witch replied testily.
“Yeah, I got that part,” Ron said, irritably. “I mean, where are the trains?”
“Well, you go straight down the road towards that dress robes store and make a left. The fireplaces are on your first turn to the right after that. You take the fireplaces to the train station.”
“And which train do I take?”
The witch smiled roguishly. “Well, I got a whole load of train schedules back there behind the counter,” she said, gesturing towards her old seat. “They got times and locations.”
“Alright, I’ll take one of those,” Ron said eagerly, reaching into his back pocket for some money.
“Oh no, I’m afraid I can’t sell you those,” the witch replied toothily. “Those are only for distribution-”
“Alright, well then I’ll just take one.”
“Let me finish, boy,” she said. “Those are only for distribution with the purchase of a broomstick.” She shot a cocky smile at Ron who tried to control his anger.
“Fine,” he said through gritted teeth. “I’ll…I’ll take the…the Krum broomstick and a train schedule.”
“Fine choice. Incidentally, this very broomstick was featured in Witch Weekly’s-”
“That’s great…” Ron said dismissively. “Can you please be quick?"
“That will be sixty eight galleons.”
Ron’s jaw dropped to the floor. He opened his mouth to say something but a meaningful look in the witch’s eye told him that buying that broomstick was the only way he’d be able to get his schedule. “I don’t have sixty eight galleons,” Ron said, holding out the fourteen galleons had hastily picked out of his robes before leaving the Burrow.
“We take credit,” the woman said.
“Credit?” Ron asked. “What’s that?”
“Well, you give me the fourteen galleons and I collect the rest from a family member,” she said. “You got a wife? Parents?”
Ron cursed under his breath. If he asked Ginny and Harry to pay for the rest of the broomstick, he’d leave a bread crumb trail that would lead them straight to him. But he had no choice. Ten minutes later, he had written down the address of the Burrow with instructions to Harry to find the rest of the money in Ron’s trunk in his room, bought himself a fake Viktor Krum broom and acquired a Diagon Alley train schedule.
“…yes, thank you,” Harry said, disheartened, as he pulled his head out of the fireplace.
“What happened?” Ginny asked as she brought in two cups of lemon tea and placed them gingerly on the oak table beside Harry.
“I just talked to the guy who runs the fireplaces at Diagon Alley,” Harry added, sitting up straight and grabbing one the cups hastily.
“He said he hadn’t seen Ron or for that matter, anyone similar looking.” Both Harry and Ginny were still in their pajamas even though both of them had been up for hours.
“Well, that doesn’t say anything,” Ginny said encouragingly, sipping her tea. “Hundreds of people use those fireplaces each day, Ron could have easily slipped through.”
“Well, either way, tracing him is going to be virtually impossible. He left hours ago, he could be anywhere by now. He’ll always be one step ahead of us – even if we leave right now.”
“Can’t we ask Hermione to keep an eye out for him or something?” Ginny asked. She got up and closed the window, through which the cold wind was blowing in.
“He won’t make it that far,” Harry said gloomily. “It’s virtually impossible to find Malfoy Manor without someone who knows the way there, not to mention the enchantments and spells on the gates and the courtyards.”
“Well what do you propose?” Ginny asked and threw her hands up in a defeated gesture.
While Ginny and Harry pondered away the different possibilities, Mrs. Weasley slowly crept into the living room and interrupted the silence. “There’s someone at the door for you, Harry,” she said kindly. Through the years, Mrs. Weasley hadn’t changed a bit except for a slightly greyer hair; she still had the same authority, same kind spirit and same floral dresses.
“For me?” Harry asked, puzzled.
“Her name is Florence Baggerworth,” Mrs. Weasley added, hoping it would ring some bells.
“No idea,” Harry said, shrugging his shoulders and looking at Ginny.
“I’ve never heard of her either,” Ginny said.
“Well, she says that Ron sent her to you.”
Both Harry and Ginny jumped instantly up, causing the poor old woman to take a few steps back in surprise. “What is it?” Mrs. Weasley asked.
“Is she by the door?” Harry asked.
“I’ll let her in,” Mrs. Weasley said and made her way towards the front door. From a distance her welcoming voice could be heard, ushering the guest in towards the living room. When she came into view, both Harry and Ginny saw the plump woman who was slightly aged with graying brown hair and a huge set of robes which read ‘Ireland forever’.
“Dear Merlin, you are Harry Potter!” she exclaimed with joy, pushing past Ginny and shaking hands eagerly with Harry.
“Yes, hello,” Harry said a bit awkwardly as his wrist was being disjointed from his arm with her hard handshake. “I understand Ron sent you.”
“That was Ron Weasley?” the woman said in surprise. “That’s why he looked so familiar; when I was talking to him, I kept asking me-self…”
“Yes that’s great,” Ginny interrupted. “Do you have a message from Ron?”
“No, I’m afraid not,” the woman said, giving a rather cold stare to Ginny. “I do, however, have a bill of 54 galleons on his behalf.”
“This morning,” the woman said. “He came into me store and bought a broomstick for sixty eight galleons but he only had fourteen. I have a note from him.”
The woman produced a piece of paper that had the same hurried, scratchy writing that Harry had seen on Ron’s note last night. “Pay her fifty four galleons for a broomstick, the money’s in my trunk, don’t look for me,” Harry read the note aloud. Ginny took the note from Harry and reread it to herself, finally sighing and looking at Harry.
“I’ll get the money,” she said, putting her cup of tea on the oak desk and getting up.
“Well, um… Mrs. Baggerworth,” Harry started.
“Ms. Baggerworth,” she corrected with a cheeky smile on her face.
“Er…right. Ms. Baggerworth, do you know where Ron was going this morning?” Harry asked.
“He wanted to get to Malfoy Manor, that silly boy. I told him-”
“Do you remember, by any chance, what time this was?”
Ginny came downstairs and handed Baggerworth a small pouch of gold galleons. She overturned it in her lap and began counting frivolously. “Why?” she asked. “You trying to find him or something?”
“Yes, we are,” Ginny said, impatiently.
“Well for an extra four galleons, I’ll tell you the tracking spell I put on his broom,” Baggerworth said confidingly.
“Tracking spell?” Both Harry and Ginny gaped.
“I put them on all me brooms,” she said proudly. “Until the broom’s been paid off, I need to make sure I know where it is but once I get all the money, I remove the spell. I can make an exception in this case, of course.”
Harry looked at Ginny who had an irritated look on her face but nodded sourly. “Give her four galleons,” she said.
Harry produced four galleons and handed it to the happy old woman. “Pleasure doing business with you,” she said eagerly. “The spell is Vulticulus Mei. Just say the words and your wand will direct you to the broom.”
Rodolphus Lestrange sat quietly in his temporary residence- a small cottage on the outskirts of Bulgaria. His chase from the law had made his rough face even harder, deepening the lines of coarseness and grown out his already disheveled black hair. What had previously been some obstinate stubble was now a full beard and what had been bristly fingernails were now pointed talons.
The light in the one room cottage was only turned on at nights to a very dim level – just enough to see, but not be seen. The lights also served a purpose to illuminate the shadows in Lestrange’s face and make the dark circles under his eyes seem hollow, almost inhuman.
At the corner of the room, a small door stood through which a lanky wizard entered. “Rodolphus,” he hissed slightly. The night was dark and the man stood within the shadows, but Lestrange immediately recognized him, acknowledging this by a crooked smile on his face.
“Mulciber,” he said in a cold voice. “What brings you here?”
“It’s past midnight,” he said in a voice that seemed strong at first but held subtle tremors of fear. “Remember the rules, we turn out all lights at midnight.”
“I very well remember,” Lestrange said calmly. “I tend not to forget rules I make up.”
“The Bulgarians are watchful people,” Mulciber warned. “We need to make sure no one tracks us here.”
“There’s no need for you to check in on me,” Lestrange replied. “I will turn my lights out when my business is done.”
Mulciber looked like he was about to utter something but held himself back. “Right, then.” He had learnt from a lot of previous experience that questioning the leader was never a good idea.
“Before you leave though,” Lestrange added. “Drop off a bottle of that Bulgarian mead.”
Mulciber cocked an eyebrow. “Who's coming?”
Lestrange nodded with a smile. “My favorite nephew, in fact.”
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