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Chapter 3 : 02: My Little Ana
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02: My Little Ana
A sound, akin to a whip cracking against stone, dissipated in the wind. The fresh breeze swirled the noise along its natural course, until it was distant enough from where the girl stood for the sound and her sudden presence to seem unrelated. Opening her eyes, the teenage girl was immediately at ease; she and her luggage had made it home safely.
Towering before her, the four white pillars of Macnair Manor stretched from the ground to the very top of the house, where it showed off a small balcony and a spread of window panes. Walking past the giant marble towers and the porch swing, which announced her arrival with every creak it made, she paused at the grand antique door.
A rush of familiarity pulsed through her when her fingertips touched the brass handle. Its coolness greeted her and sent a smile onto her face as she opened the door and entered the manor.
She was home, finally home.
"Hullo," she called out as she shut the door behind her, "Mum?"
Illyana Macnair heard her voice bounce around the hallway.
Goose bumps spread along her covered arms as she stood in the doorway, dumbfound for a moment. Her sparkling dark brown eyes swept the hall and then up the stairs on her right, trying to spot if anyone was coming to welcome her home for the summer.
A few strands of her white-blonde hair fell into her face, windswept from standing outside on the porch for a second too long. She brushed them behind her ear; where the rest of her hair fell into a plait that tracked down her back, between her shoulder blades.
She had just Apparated from King's Cross Station, alone, as arranged by her mother, and was expecting to at least be greeted by a house-elf upon her return.
Yet all that greeted her, as she dropped her expensive luggage down on the marble floor, was silence. Not a single house-elf came to take the dark cloak from her shoulders or to claim her luggage. Nor did Fanny, her and her mother's personal house-elf, come to coax her into her bed because of the long distance Apparation.
But that was not the most upsetting thing about the abandoned entryway.
What caused Illyana to frown in confusion and disappointment was the fact that she was not currently being swept up in her mother's arms, the person she most admired in the world. The only person she could trust.
Her mother had always welcomed her home, no matter what. From the way her mum's letter sounded, Illyana had assumed that she would have been more than ready and anxious to greet and shelter Illyana. The fact that her mum's warm embrace was not surrounding her at this very moment left Illyana with an unpleasant and eerie sensation that she could not place.
She took her first tentative step into the rest of the home, looking for any sign of life within its walls.
Unlike her mother, and the house elves, she had not expected to be welcomed by her father. In Illyana's eyes, the chances of his returning home from Azkaban were slim to none. She had better chances of seeing her cousin Draco and her ex-Head of House again before seeing her own father. She sneered at thought.
Leaving her luggage behind her, she took her small strides further down the hall. Walking along the brightly illuminated corridor, she hardly glimpsed at the many family portraits that lined the walls as she passed them by. For the faces were far too familiar and Illyana was too confused to care that her family members of the past and present were observing her.
The sensation that something was wrong bubbled in the back of her mind.
Seeing the dim light filtering in from the parlor, as she neared the end of the hall, she thought she might see her mum napping on the couch. Or maybe she was preoccupied with a guest or sitting outside with her garden, reading or tending to her plants and vegetables.
If any of those were to be the case, then Illyana knew that was the reason she was not welcomed home, because her mum was distracted. Even though this inclination did not explain Fanny's missing presence, Illyana took comfort in the vision of her mum happily reading or in a peaceful slumber on the couches.
As the hall came to an end, splitting with the locked den of her father's to her left and the parlor to her right, she immediately knew that she had been wrong. She heard nothing; no guest nor her mum's voice. Or any light snoring for that matter.
The parlor was empty, save for the tiny dust particles that spun under the large windows' light. The white leather couches appeared to be untouched too. Illyana also noticed that there wasn't a fire crackling in the hearth like she had unknowingly anticipated either.
Only ashes from past fires remained.
"Where is everyone?" Illyana whispered in frustration. Her previous frown of confusion deepened on her face, creating small creases at the corner of her mouth in the process.
The thick, musty air of the room started to fill her nose, and she found that its smell was nauseating. Or maybe it was the uneasy feeling that had formed in the pit of her stomach that had made her feel queasy. She mentally pushed her unease away; she simply just wanted to get out of the room for its smell, that's all.
She left the room, rushing through the adjoining dining room, and then she stopped abruptly before she walked into the kitchen, which was just beyond the set of swinging double doors before her.
Illyana closed her eyes and convinced herself that her mother was in there cooking something special for her return. Imaging all the wonderful foods and sweets that her mother and Fanny could be creating at the moment, like pumpkin pasties and lemon trickles. Illyana prepared herself for the bombardment of yummy smells.
When she swung the doors open to reveal the kitchen, she did not smell her mother's cooking or see anyone or anything familiar occurring.
The kitchen was still.
The pots and pans were all glittering steel in the reflection of the sun, instead of being atop of the stove with steam pouring from under lids. And the island was wiped clean of all the cooking utensils that should have been out and chopping furiously away at whatever ingredients her mother needed.
Illyana honestly didn't remember seeing the kitchen ever looking so spotless in her entire life. The anxiety that was bubbling to the back of her mind worsened, no matter the fact that anxiety was about as unwelcome as a muggle in her home.
"Mum! I'm here! I'm home!" She screamed the words out, thinking that maybe her mother was upstairs now and did not hear here. She was trying to convince herself that nothing was wrong. Her mother was safely relaxing in her room.
Everything was okay and would be okay.
Illyana dashed over to the spiral staircase in the corner of the room, which served as a back route to the upper levels of the house.
She moved with purpose, letting her legs fly as fast as her thoughts were. She wanted to know where her mother was, and she wanted to know now. She doubted that any sort of attack could have taken place at her home, for her father was always a faithful servant of his Dark Lord's. And she didn't recall seeing any signs of a struggle.
The manor was at peace if anything, she thought.
But Dumbledore's sudden death was still lingering in her head and she felt a rush of terror wash over her.
Nothing is wrong, everything is fine, everything would be fine, her mum would be fine, and she would be fine. The lines of forced reassurance repeated themselves over and over in her head as she dashed down the upper hall.
She passed by a flurry of different doors: the library, the study, her bedroom, her bathroom, the door that lead to the attic. None of them were the ones she wanted to look in, for she knew very well that her mother would not be in any of them. If she wasn't feel well enough to greet her daughter, then she would be in her room. Recuperating.
The hallway seemed to be expanding as Illyana ran.
By the time she reached the halfway point, where two plants were posted on the opposite sides of the hall, her breathing was ragged and her chest was starting to burn. If it was one thing Illyana never claimed to be, it was an athlete. She had not been blessed with those Malfoy traits like her cousin was.
The door to her mum's bedroom was open and she felt a breeze running through the air.
"Mum, are you well, I'm home and you weren't downstairs..." Illyana started up the conversation as she expected to see her mum to be laying on the bed when she walked in. But no one answered her. There was no one when she turned the corner. She blinked and swallowed, confusion mingling with fear inside her.
The bed was made, the linen crisp and clean and everything appeared unscathed and in it's place.
"Fanny?" Illyana asked the empty room. She took a few steps forward and looked into the loo, which was also pristine and vacant. Her mum's potions and creams lined the shelves, nothing out of place or appearing as if they had been used recently.
"Mum, mum!" She shrieked, louder and shriller than she intended. A lump formed in her throat and she fought to keep it, and the tears, down.
She ran from the room, and in an instant, quicker than she could imagine herself running given any other circumstance, she reached her room. Illyana ripped and rummaged through the wardrobes and bed sheets. Trying to find any sign, any symbol of hope. Even another letter detailing the joke that Illyana would never be able to grasp.
She started shaking more and more.
Her breathing was hard and quick through her nose.
Time passed in a way that Illyana could not mark by event or emotion. She went through every room of the house, looked in every nook and cranny that she knew of. Hours passed and darkness started to swallow the Manor.
Yet there was no one at home at all.
She heard nothing. She saw nothing. And she was beginning to feel an overwhelming amount of anxiety about the circumstances.
Maybe her mum ran out on an errand?
"That's possible," she responded to no one in particular, attempting to reason with herself.
Upstairs in her room once more, thinking and staring out at everything she had torn apart to find a note that didn't exist, Illyana came to the conclusion that there was only place left to search.
And she hadn't been to that place in years, ever since her dad had left them once and for all.
Illyana gathered her wits, knowing that she was about to walk into her past to the place that was her and her mum's secret place.
The hallway seemed to double its size again as she slowly trudged along. The portraits stared at all, all their inhabitants either asleep or running amuck in the dead of night. Illyana looked for the giant portrait that marked her destination. She didn't bother calling out for her mum, for she knew that her mum hear here from inside –if her mum was seeking refuge in her own home.
With a dramatic sigh, Illyana found herself standing in front of a frightening looking portrait on her left. Her plait had practically fallen out and her white-blonde hair frizzed at her temples. She patted the hairs down and placed her hands on her hips to take a few breaths.
Regaining her composure, she faced the hideous portrait of her deceased grandfather, Abraxas Malfoy. His scowl always marked disapproval no matter how many times she had looked upon him in the past, with or without her mum. She never had a conversation with him, although she knew she heard her mum having more than a few emotional bouts with the man.
Illyana lifted her chin to look into his eyes and her grandfather remained silent, and she felt his piercing stone gaze upon her and his striking blue-grey eyes bearing into her soul –identifying her as his kin.
His angular and pale face, much like her own, save for the wrinkles and long silver beard, contorted and took on a different shape. As it morphed in shape, size, and color the only thing that remained was the silver chain that was around his neck. The dull stone amulet that hung from the chain also kept its form; except words had begun to appear on its surface.
Delicately, Illyana raised her hand and brushed a single finger along the engraving of the Malfoy family motto 'Bona Fides' that had appeared vertically along the stone. The words glowed as she touched them, and pulsed underneath her touch. The engraving felt like brail beneath her fingertips as she stroked the words for a third time.
As expected, the portrait revealed to her the sight of her and her mum's secret place, a place where they would hide from her father whenever he was around. Illyana took a step into the room and swallowed the ball that had formed in her throat. She looked around, trying to spot her mother anywhere.
"Mum?" She croaked out, her voice faltered. No one responded to her. She felt light headed and dizzy. Her body swayed with panic.
Illyana went inside and the magic entrance closed shut, leaving Illyana in the darkness of her and her mother's hiding spot. A spot that she hadn't had to use in years. Then the gas lamps in the corners of the room lit up, sensing her presence.
She saw the two towering bookshelves on the back wall to her left. They were chestnut coloured and filled to the brim with the muggle novels and stories that her mother read to her when she was much, much younger. They went untouched by Illyana once she was sorted into Slytherin.
Illyana stepped towards the two plush hunter green armchairs, hoping to see her mother curled up under a blanket in one of them. She knew before she even reached the couches that her mother would not be there.
As she peered over the armchairs, seeing nothing but her old baby blanket hung precariously over the side of one of them, Illyana suddenly spotted a piece of parchment on the table. She ran around the chair and over to it, her heartbeat leaping into her throat.
She bent over the table and raised her hand to pick up the parchment. Her hand was trembling as she lifted the parchment to eye level, wary of what its contents could possess.
She unfolded the slip and saw lines of cursive. She knew them well. This was her mum's hand, yet these characters were slanted, rushed, and less curled. Mirroring the pen that wrote the letter to Illyana not a day ago about staying for Dumbledore's funeral.
Illyana to read the parchment and heard her mother's voice reciting the lines in her head:
"Remember, my little Ana, that you must be brave now. If not for yourself darling, then...then be brave for me, as I will be brave for you. There is no other way anymore, not now. I am sorry, but I must leave you, my darling Ana. I love you and will hold you in my mind and heart for the rest of my days."
The scrap of parchment fell from Illyana's hands.
She was shaking, trembling, paralyzed by emotion and fear.
Illyana couldn't help herself any longer. There was no lying to herself now. Her own mother's words confirmed the most bitter of truths: her mum had left her.
For what purpose, to what end? Illyana's brain scrambled to fill in the missing puzzle pieces. Surely this was unbelievable. Illyana couldn't believe the words and she recited them again and again in her mind, finding no answers and only more questions.
She curled up in a ball on one of the armoires, crying as she should have all those hours ago when Dumbledore died, and the world she knew crumbled apart in a way she did not fully comprehend yet.
NRB writes: Hope you enjoyed! If not, give me some CC! I only want to make the story and my writing better so don't be shy to review :)
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