Chapter 3 : Pawn
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“It went silent in there,” he observed, looking at Draco with suspicion. “And as far as I'm concerned, the suspect doesn’t call the shots in a Ministry interrogation room.”
“I'm sorry sir, but I had to. It was the only way she was going to trust me enough to tell me anything.” Draco countered firmly. “I made progress.”
“You made progress?” Judging by the expression on his face, the words left a sour aftertaste in Gawain’s mouth. “Excuse me if I sound a bit annoyed, but since someone put a silencing charm on my interrogation room, I wasn’t able to hear anything. So please, indulge me with the riveting details as quickly as you can. I'm sure you have much to tell me.”
Draco was a bit surprised by his boss’s uncharacteristic behavior, and judging by the looks of the curious, some appalled, passing glances from his colleagues, they were shocked as well. He never took much of a liking to Draco, but he never outwardly expressed it. His normally sunny disposition was replaced by the bags under his eyes, his firm stance replaced by awkward shifts of weight from one leg to the other. The stress of all the recent murders must have weighed heavily on the head of the Auror office and all the raids must have exhausted him. Draco knew Gawain was right to be upset. It wasn’t within his jurisdiction to put a silencing charm on the room especially when he knew, in fact, that his boss would be listening.
Draco took a moment before answering. “She didn’t tell me much, only that her home was raided last night.”
He braced himself for the fury of words that would spew out of Gawain's mouth at the lack of information, but he was mildly surprised when the response was nothing but a few moments of silence.
“Does she know who did it? Did she see them?” He asked, breaking the silence.
“No, she ran away before they could find her.”
He knew it was wrong to withhold information from his boss like this, but Draco couldn’t really tell his boss, the one person who had ultimate control of his position within the Ministry, that the woman was a “Hunter” and that her and her family “hunt” evil beings throughout Britain and all the while remain undetected by the Ministry. Anaxandra Synder? She obviously conjured up a fake name complete with a fake life. Draco refused to be fired because of her stupid lies.
An awkward silence lingered in the air and made Draco feel uncomfortable. Gawain just stood there, looking down the hall at the interrogation room door with a thoughtful look on his face. He sighed.
“With all the trouble she’s been giving our investigation team I’d like to send her straight to Azkaban. I mean, for Merlin’s sake she made poor Timothy cry! But, that isn’t protocol and she is a victim of a violent crime. She seems to be the only survivor of these masses of attacks and needs to be put in protective custody.” He took a piece of paper and a pen from his coat pocket and scribbled something down, handing it to Draco.
“What’s this, sir?” Draco asked, reading what he recognized to be an address.
“Where the girl will be held and where you’ll be working for the next few weeks, considering you’re the only one she’ll talk to,” he replied, his expression unchanging as Draco seemed to go into a state of shock. “You’ll have plenty of extra time now that I’ve taken those cases off of your hands. And maybe try to find out more from her. Get her to trust you. I have a feeling she isn’t giving us all the details we want.”
“Sir, I hope you don’t mind me asking,” Draco started, noticing the obviously annoyed sigh by Gawain, “but don’t we have more important investigations to take care of right now? She doesn’t seem to want to be put into protective custody in the first place, and we’re already short staffed.”
“It doesn’t matter what she wants, Mr. Malfoy. The only thing that matters is that she could possibly be a vital piece to everything that’s been happening this past year. If she is, we need to find out why. We can’t do that if we can’t track her, can we?”
Draco should have seen it coming. He was the grunt of Auror office. The work he was so excited to be rid of was replaced by even more work, and once it was over, there would be even more shitty work to deal with. Being the lowest level Auror had absolutely no perks.
“I suggest you brush up on the formalities of protective custody, Mr. Malfoy! Do good work, and you may come out of this with a promotion!”
Anaxandra sat on the bed, hugging her knees to her chin. The two Aurors who brought her here were still in the kitchen doing Merlin knows what. For all she cared, they could be playing nude wizard’s chess for chocolate frogs and she still wouldn’t give a damn. She just wanted some time to herself knowing that it would be a very long time until she would be alone again.
“You will remain in protective custody until the head of the Auror office deems it unnecessary. You will be escorted to the holding house by apparition. You will be accompanied by an Auror who will make frequent visits and watch over you until the evening. You will not be allowed any communication to the outside world. If you have a wand, it will be taken from you immediately and given back when you are released from our supervision. Meals, clothing, and a bed will be provided. Any sort of outings will be regulated by the head of the Auror office. If it is concluded that you are using our protective custody for any other reason than to be protected from any physical or magical harm, then you will be removed to Azkaban.” The monotonous voice of a female Auror kept repeating in her head in a drone-like tone.
At the very least, her living conditions were much better than she was used to. It was a small, but cozy house. There was one bedroom with a full-sized bed, two bathrooms, and a medium-sized kitchen that resided downstairs, adjoined with a living room. When she moved the curtain and looked out of the window, she noticed the hustle and bustle that made up the suburban streets of London. Watching the people walk casually past the house had colored her green with envy. She didn’t know how long she had wished she could do something like that; to just do as she wished.
Anaxandra let the curtains fall over the window once more and turned to examine the small bedroom. Although it was not of a substantial size, it was nicely decorated. The smooth wooden floor was a rich, dark mahogany color that complemented the dark blue color of the walls. Thick, gray curtains covered the windows, and the same shade of gray made up the covers on the bed that took up the center of the room. The ceilings were high, giving the room a regal feeling. There was a single full-length mirror just across from her that stood next to a dresser and wardrobe.
When opening the drawers to the dressers, Anaxandra, as the female Auror said, found them fully stocked with clothes already: shirts, pants, trousers, jumpers— the basics. Looking down at her own clothes, she realized she was still in the muddy flannel pyjamas from the night before and that her hair was caked with dirt. She also noticed that she didn’t exactly smell like a budding rose in spring, so she pulled out a white t-shirt and loose fitting cotton pants and walked over to her private bathroom.
Her damp hair fell half way down her back and wet her shirt in little droplets. It felt good to have the mud and grime washed out of her hair and off of her body. Noticing the clock on the wall, she saw that it was about eight o’ clock, which meant that it was now night. She rushed to the window to see a dark, starless sky. A frown crept onto her face. She forgot that the stars didn’t shine in the city.
“This will have to do for now.”
She sat in the middle of her bed, taking her right hand and raising it to the ceiling. With one sweeping motion from the right side of the room to the left, the ceiling became a night sky. The swirl of blues and pinks sprinkled with stars made her smile. She carefully reached up and pulled down the group of stars, which she knew all too well to be Cygnus, and held the cross-shaped constellation in her hands. The tiny stars twinkled happily, and she smiled. Calmness flooded her body, and for the first time that day she felt at peace. Even though conjuring her model universe was fun and beautiful, nothing compared to what was really out there in the night sky. The real stars were not something procured by magic; they were something naturally spectacular.
Just as she was about to grab another cluster of stars, her door opened and a familiar voice traveled through. “Synder?”
'Of course it had to be him. Why wouldn’t it be?
“Merlin, haven’t you ever heard of knocking!” Anaxandra let the constellation float back up to its proper place, and rid of the small galaxy on her ceiling.
“Why? Are you undressed?” Draco stuck his head in the door and curiously looked over to her.
Her cheeks started to burn. “Are you bleeding mental? What if I had been undressed!”
“Then the door would have been locked.” He smirked at how her gray eyes burned with animosity towards him. “I’m flattered that you would freshen yourself up for me.”
“You’re insufferable…” She muttered.
“Don’t bite the hand that feeds you, Synder,” Draco fully opened the door and held up a plastic bag that squeaked of styrofoam take-away boxes. A heavenly scent wafted its way to her and much to her stomach’s dismay; she immediately realized she hadn’t eaten all day.
She stood up and walked to the door, pausing in front of him. Looking at the bag, she snatched it out of his hands and continued down the stairs without saying a word of thanks.
“You’re welcome,” he said, trailing behind her.
Draco sat at the dinner table to eat his food, while Anaxandra sat atop the kitchen counter with her food in her lap. The sight of soup and bread caused her stomach to growl.
“Better feed the beast, Synder,” Draco warned, taking a bite of his sandwich, “before it breaks loose and eats us all alive.”
Anaxandra scrunched her nose at him in annoyance, but picked up the bread in her box and dipped it in the soup. After taking a bite, she let out a small moan of approval at the delicious chowder and sourdough bread in her lap. For the remainder of their meal, they ate in silence. Draco read the Evening Prophet and Anaxandra focused on devouring her soup.
She could remember when her mum would pick fresh herbs from their garden and gather clams from the beach a few miles away, then on her way back would get fresh bacon from the farmer’s market. Anaxandra allowed a slight curve of her lips to grace her face at the memory, but was soon wiped off when she got a good look at herself in the glass of the window beside her.
It almost hurt to see her reflection. Her button nose, heart shaped face, slender frame and full lips belonged to her mother while her silvery gray eyes and dark auburn hair belonged to her father. Dysphoria started coursing through her veins. Her father had warned her about this very thing happening. He reminded her that because of the business they were in, anything could happen no matter the protective measures he had taken. She never thought it would actually happen, and he never properly prepared her for this. It was probably because he didn’t fully believe it himself.
She looked over at Draco. In a matter of a day, he went from complete stranger to… well she didn’t know. A baby sitter? Prison warden? Keeper? Whatever he was, he would never be a friend. A confidant. A companion. She would be civil and their relationship would go no deeper than that. He was nothing more than a pawn on her chess board, a tool for protection, until she was ready to make her next move.
It was about nine-thirty in the evening when Draco arrived at his flat, tossing his briefcase full of files on the couch. Gawain said that there was just too much work at the department to allow Draco a free pass just because he had to deal with Anaxandra, and to Draco's dismay, happily handed him all the cases he promised would be taken off his hands. That sneaky bastard.
A familiar black trench coat lay neatly on the couch along with an equally familiar black leather purse. Tossing his coat off, he eagerly walked into the kitchen to see Astoria wearing a rather flattering little black dress, her hair done in an elegant up-do, and makeup done to perfection. He smiled and walked over, wrapping his arms around her waist and burying his face in the crook of her shoulder, inhaling her floral scent.
“Hello, beautiful,” he stood up straight and looked into her eyes. “I’m sorry for cancelling dinner again.”
Astoria flashed her award-winning smile at him and gave him a quick kiss on the lips. “It’s alright, love. I understand,” then she sighed. That damn sigh that Draco knew all too well that meant it wasn’t alright and that she didn’t understand.
Draco frowned. “You look stunning, by the way. Are you staying the night?”
“Thank you, but no. I have to get home. It’s late,” she said, unwrapping herself from his embrace and making her way towards the living room. “I just wanted to make sure you got home safe.”
Grabbing her hand, Draco pulled her back in to him once more and caressed her lower back. “But I’ve only just arrived, what’s the rush? You could just stay the night and I could make it up to you…” he began to move his hand lower when she stopped him.
“Maybe next time, Draco. I’m awfully tired. Father’s banquet lasted much longer than expected,” she sighed again, escaping his grasp once more. Astoria grabbed her coat and purse from the couch and walked over to the fireplace, grabbing a fistful of floo powder. “Have a good evening.”
And before he could say ‘I love you,’ she had blown him a kiss and disappeared in a blaze of green flames.
Now it was Draco’s turn to sigh. He hated sleeping alone.
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