Chapter 2 : Impression
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It was four-thirty in the afternoon and Draco sat at his desk, thumbing through the piles of paperwork and files that he had yet to read through. The Department of Magical Law Enforcement was experiencing a high fluctuation of missing people’s cases and murders in the past year, and since there weren’t many Aurors as of late, all of them had been taking on three to eight cases at a time. There was simply too much work and too little time, and each case couldn’t be thoroughly investigated.
After the war, people had gained some sense of false security; underestimating how much more the department did than just hunt down Voldemort and Death Eaters. Many wanted peaceful lives away from dark magic and crime, leaving the few who heeded the call of magical law enforcement in an unexpected flood of problems.
The department tried to get to each case as fast as they could, causing them to skimp on the quality of their work. No case earned high priority or extra time due to inefficiency. Almost all of the murders were going unsolved and only a handful of the missing people were found. With the high volume of work that needed to be done, everyone in the department was working overtime, but Draco wouldn’t complain. Getting this job wasn’t exactly easy, and he certainly wasn’t the first choice for their hire just over a year ago, so he had no room to argue with his superiors.
For Draco, more time at work meant less time with his girlfriend, Astoria Greengrass, who was becoming less and less patient with his new career. He let out a sigh at the thought of cancelling dinner on her again and read the first new case file on top of the large pile.
Location: Epping Forest
Date/Time: 17/9/2001 - 9:54am
Case #1455: Reported by Georgina Crow. Witness says she was walking her dogs in the forest near her home when she spotted a body, later identified to be Benjamin Cross, and immediately reported it to the patrol when she saw a wand on his person. Upon the arrival of the investigation team, several other bodies were found and identified to be his wife, Eleanor Cross, and son Desmond Cross. Bodies were brutally beaten and several wounds were present, possible signs of torture. Further investigation is currently taking place.
Draco frowned and tossed the file aside. He wasn’t particularly sensitive to the subject of death; a necessity when working as an Auror and a trait he gained being a Death Eater, but he didn’t like the thought of it either. To have a whole family tortured and killed was barbaric. The bulk of Draco’s cases were only single murders and that was dreadful enough considering the investigating detective was the one who delivered the bad news to the family.
Each experience was even more difficult to witness than the last. Some people seemed shocked and had to take a while to adjust to the new information. Those were typically the siblings of the deceased or missing. There were some who sat in silence and said nothing but a ‘thank you for informing us’ and ushered him out of the door, and those tended to be the more distant family—the aunts, the cousins, and so on. But most of the reactions—coming from the parents, the spouses, and the children—were of the uncontrollable sobbing kind. In each of these situations, Draco saw the beginnings of a crumbling family that would never be the same again. There were no words of comfort and no acts of kindness that could ever soothe anyone in that kind of pain. And sometimes there was no family he could inform, but that wasn’t a relief either. He didn’t know which was worse: having to tell someone their loved one is gone, or knowing that he had no one to tell.
Yes, Draco Malfoy, former Death Eater, Prefect of Slytherin House and biggest prat to ever walk the halls of Hogwarts, had somehow managed to gain emotions. Well, at least for the most part. It seemed that after the war, he had matured and evolved from an egotistical, seething little boy in to a decently moral young man.
“Draco, do you have a moment?” The head of the Auror office, Gawain Robards, called as he reached Draco’s cubicle, jerking him from his thoughts. His boss didn't have much of a fondness for him, so his approach was rather a surprise.
“Hello, Mr. Robards. Sure I have a moment,” Draco lied, eyeing the mountain of papers on his desk and turning to face his boss.
Gawain, forcing a smile, let out a breath and said, “Bernard on level six got word of unauthorized portkey use near the Forest of Dean. He took a team out there and found a young woman in poor condition a couple miles away from where the portkey was used.”
Draco, now a bit agitated, had just gained pointless information that didn’t even concern him. The already high and ever-growing pile of cases were supposed to be looked over before he stepped foot out of the office. What was so special about unauthorized portkey use when Draco had to worry about proving his worth to this brightly-colored blob of a man? Honestly, the man was wearing pink suspenders and a light blue tie. Draco held back a sigh and turned back to his desk in annoyance, suppressing the urge to roll his eyes. Maybe what they said was true: old habits died hard.
Mr. Robards leaned against the desk and crossed his arms, lowering his head. “We don’t know who she is.”
Draco furrowed his brow, confused. “That is impossible.”
“She has no identification, she won’t tell us her name, and no one recognizes her. We have nothing,” he replied, shaking his head. “The interrogation process has been a complete failure; several of us are about ready to pull our hair out. We thought she was a Muggle who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, but when we tried to bring in a Legilimens, he said he was locked out. Unless they’re teaching Occlumency in Muggle schools, I’m quite certain she’s a witch.”
“Sir, if you don’t mind me asking, what does this have to do with me?” Draco asked, puzzled. He was used to being sent cases that no one would touch, but he was never personally approached by his boss, who quite frankly, looked like it brought him pain to be talking to Draco.
"If this girl is a victim of an attack, this now falls into our hands, and frankly I haven’t got the time for this girl’s games. I need you to talk to her and find out who she is. We've had the whole Investigation department try to interrogate her, but... well..." He ran his hands through his hair and gave a dry chuckle, "she isn't being the most cooperative person as I have previously mentioned, and I know that your history of being a Death Eater could possibly—“
Ah, so the man was in need of a talent he thought Draco possessed. He sighed at the acknowledgement of his dark past before interrupting, “Mr. Robards…”
“Gawain, please,” he said in a calm, friendly tone that was topped off with a smile. It looked like desperation could make anyone a world-class actor.
“Gawain,” Draco awkwardly went on, “I’d love to help, but as you can see I’ve got so much work already, and I’m so far behind…” This was Draco's way of saying that he already had a lot of work to do to, and that Gawain must be barking mad if he thought Draco could handle any more.
“This?” Gawain motioned to the files. Draco nodded.
Leaning in, he gave Draco a slight nudge on the shoulder. “I’ll take these off of your hands if you can get this girl to talk.”
The need for a more stable and relationship with his boss and his need for a change of scenery persuaded Draco to give in and do what Gawain had asked of him.
Anaxandra was wrapped tightly in a thick blanket that was given to her upon her arrival to the Ministry. She was thankful; she only had her wet, muddy flannel pyjamas.
“Can you tell us your name, young miss?” The rather large, plump man that sat in front of her smiled, his crooked teeth a less than pleasing sight. He was the fifth person to try and pry at her, and so far had been the most persistent. She stayed silent.
“Are you hungry?” The man held out a cauldron cake and his grin widened.
Anaxandra could feel someone trying to take a grasp of her mind and extract the information they needed, but she wouldn’t allow it. As weak as she was, emotionally and physically, she put every single unit of energy towards her mental defenses. She was no longer in the forest, but this was still survival of the fittest and she refused to be weak.
“Why won’t you just tell us your name, miss? We want to help you.” Leaning forward on his elbows, the man scratched his balding head with his pudgy fingers, obviously frustrated at Anaxandra’s unwillingness to cooperate. “We found you unconscious in the Forest of Dean. What happened to you? Did you get lost?”
A guilty frown almost crept onto her face, but the thought was immediately pushed aside. Always be wary of strangers, no matter who they claimed to be. Her father taught her that.
“I don’t need your help, and I was not lost,” she replied sternly, leaning back in her chair and wrapping the blanket even tighter around her shoulders. In truth, with her common sense clouded by fear and anger, Anaxandra had slipped down a muddy hill, her head colliding with a rock somewhere along the way. It was a foolish mistake that Anaxandra was currently trying to remove from her mental database.
The man forced a smile. “Maybe you’d like something else? Some tea perhaps or—“
“To be free of your horrendous presence and this awful place.” Anaxandra leaned forward and sneered, unable to control her annoyance any longer. She felt the prying cease.
Placing his head in his hands and violently ruffling what was left of his hair, the man stood up in defeat and shoved the cauldron cake in his mouth. Anaxandra was slightly amused by the look of the maddened, potbellied man in front of her, cake crumbs hanging on to his lips.
“Impossible!” He seethed before storming out. “She is impossible!”
Heaving a sigh of relief, Anaxandra leaned back and closed her eyes. This was tiring. Her moment of silence had been cut short when the distinct sound of the door opening and closing reached her ears. There were footsteps approaching her, and the skidding of a chair across the marble floor. A man cleared his throat, and with a deep breath through the nose, Anaxandra opened her eyes.
Sitting in front of her, back straight and hair smartly combed, was a rather handsome platinum blonde young man, about her age, with his hands on the table and fingers interlaced.
Anaxandra remained in her relaxed position and closed her eyes again. She was growing tired. “So, you’re going to harass me as well?”
He didn't say anything. There was a slight tug at the corner of his mouth, but a very pensive look remained on his face, as if he were deciphering her like a code. She waited for the familiar swimming feeling inside of her skull that indicated someone was there. It was a surprise when her mind had remained untouched. The silence persisted for a few seconds before Anaxandra became impatient and let out a soft sigh.
“Lovely,” Anaxandra opened her eyes once more and met his steel gray ones. “I can only assume from the efforts of your fine colleagues that you’re here to question me as well. Let me guess, you’ll use intimidation to try and pry the answers out of me, or use over-bearing kindness in hopes that I will spill my secrets to you. Or maybe like your butterball of a colleague, you’ll try to feed me until I explode and the truth bursts out of me.”
“No, but all good guesses.” The man shook his head, disheveling his blonde hair. He gave a small chuckle.
“Is your lack of communication skills supposed to somehow frighten me? Because it’s working! Honestly, I am almost shaking with fear!” Her words were practically dripping with sarcasm, and he remained silent but his facial expression seemed amused. “Well if you aren’t here to do any of those things, what are you here for, to waste my time?”
“I believe you are the one wasting my time, miss, and the time of my department.” He countered. “We simply wish to know who you are.”
“And like I’ve told all the others that have come before you, I would rather snog a troll than give you my name.”
“Why is that?”
“Because I don’t want to,” Anaxandra answered, as if it was obvious.
“Just the answer I was looking for, congratulations! Due to your impeccable cooperation, you’ve earned your ticket out of here,” the handsome wizard sneered, leaning back in his chair and crossing his arms, “and straight to Azkaban.”
The air in the room grew tense. Anaxandra had been slightly amused at first, but now she felt rigid. Something about this man was different from the others who had waltzed in here thinking they could easily coax information out of her. The fire in his eyes was real, growing more intense with each passing moment.
“You want to play games? Fine, let’s play a game.” Leaning forward in his chair, a slight sneer began to contort his face and Anaxandra’s heart began to race. “You’re tired of questions, so be it. As am I. Now I’m demanding that you give me your name.”
No matter the circumstance, an enemy should never gain power over her. Another lesson from her father.
The man threw his head back and chortled, “Beg my pardon, I forgot to tell you the rules.” He stood up and walked around to Anaxandra’s side of the table and leaned himself against the edge, looking down at her. “And there is only one rule, so it should be fairly easy to remember: you answer me and I don’t feed you to the Dementors. Understood?” Her gaze was cast downward as he began pacing around her. “Again, tell me who you are and why you used that portkey.”
“As I said before, you’re wasting my time,” he growled. Anaxandra felt his hands on the back of her chair. “Fine, remain a mute. If you won’t tell us your name, maybe someone out there will recognize you.”
“What?” Turning to face him, Anaxandra let the slightest twinge of fear cross her face, and the man did not let it go unnoticed.
“We’ll just snap a picture of you and send it to the Prophet. They’ll make it the front page, offer a hefty reward, and then maybe we’ll get our answer.” He let go of her chair and walked toward the door. “And while we’re waiting, you will be sent to Azkaban for holding.”
“No!” Anaxandra exclaimed, shooting straight up. The fool had no idea what he would be doing. “You can’t do that…”
With her face on the front of every Daily Prophet, whoever attacked her family would know she was alive and at the Ministry. That would put every Ministry employee at risk, and Anaxandra could not let that happen.
He turned on his heel and looked at her with a grim expression. “I’m quite sure that with a few galleons anything is possible.”
“One condition.” She frowned and sat back down. “I’ll tell you…on one condition.”
He strolled back to his seat, a smirk lingering on his face. “And what would that condition be, exactly?”
“Put a silencing charm on this room right now.”
He raised an eyebrow. “No one—“
“I’m not daft. I know you have your men listening in on this conversation right now,” Anaxandra snapped, but then her expression softened. “I swear I will tell you what you need to know,” she pleaded, sounding incredibly pathetic to her own ears. “Silence this room and speak of this to no one.”
With a wave of his wand, he sat down and motioned for her to continue. “Your name.”
The man replied coolly, “Draco Malfoy.”
Anaxandra let go of a breath and shamefully said, “Anaxandra Synder.”
“Why do we not have you in our records, Miss Synder?”
Draco’s expression became frustrated and he leaned forward once more, “You said—“
“I said,” Anaxandra interjected, “I would tell you what you needed to know, and that question is irrelevant.”
He rubbed his temples and leaned on one side of the table. “The Ministry will do nothing but help you. What are you so terrified of?”
“Not terrified, you dim-witted buffoon. I’m being careful,” Anaxandra replied and rolled her eyes. Now he was just insulting her. “You know as well as I do there are eyes and ears everywhere that belong to some very dangerous people.”
“Explain,” he commanded.
This was killing Anaxandra. She couldn’t stand giving up information this easily, but her options were limited. There were hundreds, possibly thousands, of lives at stake. Not to mention, she needed to find out who was hunting her, and why. It was something she couldn’t do that from Azkaban. “I’m in a…family business, I guess you could say.”
“Again, wasting my time, Miss Synder. Less vague please,” Draco droned, beginning to get annoyed at the lack of specificity.
“I’m a Hunter. Me and my family, we are Hunters.”
He didn’t look eased by her answer at all and just shook his head. “And what exactly do you hunt?”
“We’ve gained a lot of enemies over the years. Vampires, goblins, werewolves—” Anaxandra concisely replied.
"I don't have time for fabricated stories," Draco interrupted. He rolled his eyes and scoffed. "If you're going to lie, you might as well make it sound believable. You make yourself sound like the protagonist of a fairytale."
"I'm not lying!" she burst, standing up and slamming her hands on the table, causing a few strands of her dark hair to fall in front of her eyes. “You wanted information and I’m giving it to you!”
Draco looked at her, a frustrated expression contorting his face. He also stood up, his hands clenching the side of the table and snapped, “Our Magical Creatures department has never reported but a few cases of misconduct from those beasts and beings of which you speak—“
“Because of my family! If it weren’t for us they would be running rampant in your peaceful streets, bringing nothing but havoc in their wake!” Breathing heavily and with flushed cheeks, Anaxandra glared at him. Now the fire in her eyes was beginning to outshine his, and Draco took notice. He motioned for her to sit again after he had taken his own seat, but she remained standing.
"Ignorance truly is bliss, isn't it?" And on her own terms, Anaxandra took a seat and let the heat leave her cheeks.
“Why were you in the Forest of Dean?”
“I was running,” her voice softened, thinking back to last night. “I had to.”
“What exactly were you running from?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t see who they were but they…” She cleared the pesky lump from her throat. “They got the rest of my family—my parents, brother, and my little sister. They burned down our home. I was able to escape because of a portkey that was hidden in my home, and once I made it outside I just ran as far and fast as I could.”
“For someone who has just lost her family and home, you don’t seem to be fazed by it,” Draco observed, cocking his head to the side. “You aren’t shaken in the least?”
“My family was murdered and my home was burned down by someone who is freely walking this earth with a smile on their face, and you expect me to cry my heart out? I am not sad, Mr. Malfoy, I am furious. Crying would be extremely counter-productive and would waste my time even more than sitting here and answering your idiotic questions.”
There was an exhale, and Anaxandra could see Draco in a battle against himself. The look on his face showed concern and he looked her straight in the eye and said, “I’m sorry for your loss.”
With that he stood up and before he could open the door, Anaxandra called to him, “Where are you going? What’s going to happen to me?”
He turned around and nodded, “I’ll be back.” And he walked out.
With a click of the door, Anaxandra slumped in her chair and suddenly became uneasy knowing that her future relied on this stranger.
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