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Chapter 1 : The Missing
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Traces of Dust
He sat and watched the door to the pub across the road. He hadn’t been there long but as far as he was concerned, every second was precious; he was beginning to fidget. The chair he’d placed himself in was hard and uncomfortable, the sort one immediately associated with long hours in hot summer classrooms while teachers droned on and on.
He sighed, for despite professor Binns emotionless tone, he had never particularly minded History of Magic; one should always learn from the past so as not to make the same mistakes in the future.
Perhaps that was what the wizarding world needed; a good history lesson, one where they were shown the aftermath of war, shown that prejudice and pride never got the world anywhere.
Yet he was becoming distracted, and distraction would never do in a time of war, particularly when working on one’s own. For focus was key, and if one lost that focus for even a moment, they might never be seen again.
As two men made their way out of the Leaky Cauldron across the road, he rose from his chair and left the launderette.
Their hoods where pulled high, despite the summer heat, and their robes did little in allowing them to blend into the crowded streets of London. Following the two men, he always stayed a block behind, never losing sight of the figures.
They seemed to walk for ever, sometimes fast, sometimes slow, but never seeming to be worried about being followed. Grinning at their apparent ease, he realised how simpler much his job would be if he caught them by surprise.
He shouldn’t be working alone, he knew that.
He was also well aware that Dumbledore would kill him when he found out. But the opportunity had presented itself in the Inn and was too promising to pass up after overhearing the two men discuss ‘The Meeting’ in what they had thought to be hushed tones.
Yes, ‘The Meeting’, that’s what they had called it, amongst muttering about ‘the Dark Lord’, which had been all he’d needed to hear before deciding an angry Dumbledore could be dealt with and that this was worth pursuing.
Although, as they left the main roads, heading down less populated streets with more shadows than sunlight, a feeling of doubt began to grow in the pit of his stomach; perhaps this was not a good idea and that turning around now would be for the best.
But he was a Gryffindor, a proud one at that, and the building sensation in his gut was ignored as he carefully followed the two men through the streets that became filthier with every block.
He’d never been to this part of London; he’d never felt inclined, and as faces leered at him out of the shadows, he remembered why.
The sharp clanking of dustbins from an alleyway startled him, and the movement out of the corner of his eye made him jump until he realised it was a cat. He hadn’t seen it in the paling light, yet now its yellow eyes trailed him as he ghosted the cloaked figures down the streets, away from the bright hustle and bustle of the main roads of London.
The figures lacked a care in the world, swearing and laughing at each other as they pushed past a homeless Muggle without noticing when the frail man fell to the ground.
He rushed forwards, trying to help the man to his feet, but he was sworn at instead, saying he’d seen far too many of his type around here lately.
The way it was said, suggesting that he was with the Death Eaters that were nearly out of his sight, made him pause for a moment, wondering if maybe he’d stumbled across something far bigger than he should have thought to take on alone. And yet the lion inside of him was determined, so he quickened his pace, avoiding the murky puddles that littered the pavement, despite the fact that it hadn’t rained for days.
He reached inside his coat, fingering his wand, wondering if it would be worth attracting attention in order to send a message to the rest of The Order. But even as the thought crossed his mind, the two figures vanished and he groaned, fearing the whole afternoon had been a waste.
Picking his way around the piles of filth in the gutter, he placed his feet carefully where they had last been standing, turning in a full circle to see where they had possibly gone.
A door was ever so slightly ajar in a side street just up to his left and, drawing his wand from his robes, he inched his way forward until he was flush with the wall by the door. Harsh voices drifted through the space and, when the coast was clear, he slowly began to make his way down the stairs behind the door.
“They found her lurking around the Manor. The Dark Lord dealt with her personally. It was a shame you missed it, Lestrange.”
And, for a moment, he forgot the training he’d completed and the words Moody had drummed into his mind; 'constant vigilance.' Because in that moment he wanted nothing more than to kill everyone in the building if they had so much laid a finger on her. He wanted to put the muscles he’d gained from Quidditch to good use and beat someone into the hard cold floor.
But, as quickly as they came, the overwhelming emotions were gone and Doe’s voice was in his head again.
'Don't you dare act without thinking, don't you dare strike aimlessly into the unknown. Listen and watch and observe and, most importantly, learn from everything you do. Because one day, not only might it save your life, but someone else's as well.'
He heard a hiss in response to the Death Eaters words as he slowly, slowly made his way down the stairs towards the conversation; he acutely aware of the dust from the old wooden steps giving him away, despite his silencing charm.
He couldn’t save Doe, but he could avenge her death if he kept his wits about him.
“I always knew he was too cocky for his own good!” The voice, high and shrill, was worse than fingernails on a blackboard. Bellatrix. "Serves her right, too! Who did that little brat think she was? Thinking that she could spy on us? I would have killed her as soon as I found her!"
“Indeed. Although I fear our Master shan’t be too pleased about the whole business. She refused to talk and despite the tide turning in our favour, there are some of us that are beginning to get cocky, not watching themselves as they should, ending up in Azkaban when we need numbers. No, my dear cousin, I don’t think our Master will be too pleased at all with the lack of information he got out of her.” It was a smooth drawl, arrogant and confident, yet distinctly a voice that had been brought up in a way that had taught him that he should be all of these things. He screwed his eyes shut as a gruff voice with a thick accent, far harder to understand than Lucius Malfoy’s had been, began to cut off Bellatrix’s reply.
“I do not like it here. It reeks of Muggle scum and is not fitting for ones such as us, the Purebloods of the wizarding world, to be meeting in a Muggle basement.”
“Hush, Karkaroff. In times such as these, necessity is more important than luxury. You must remember that once we win this war, when the Dark Lord kills the Potter’s, we will never have to worry about Muggles again. Isn’t that right, darling?”
The term of endearment made his skin crawl as Bellatrix addressed who he could only assume to be Rodolphus Lestrange, her unfortunate husband.
"Exactly. The Dark Lord trusts us entirely, and we will follow him to victory in this war –"
He prayed; he had never been one to believe in God, but right now Merlin didn’t seem to be enough as he heard their conversation turn to hushed whispers below him. He’d made the mistake of taking another step, causing dust to fly and obscure the light; a dead give away to his presence.
He didn’t breathe; he didn’t move or dare make a sound, hoping, wishing and praying that they wouldn’t make their way up the stairs to find him.
But, of course, when he opened his eyes, Lucius Malfoy’s wand was an inch from his face.
Caradoc Dearborn is assumed missing by Aurors after his abrupt disappearance in the late afternoon of October 12th. His disappearance follows the untimely murder of Dorcas Meadows two days beforehand on the 10th of October. Aurors have Death Eaters in custody and questioning regarding both cases, although what has happened to the ex-Gryffindor student is still unknown. The Daily Prophet urges its readers to write in about the whereabouts of Mr. Dearborn as The Ministry has stressed that all information could be vital.
Andy Smudgley, Reporter for the Daily Prophet.
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