Chapter 5 : Freedom
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Draco carefully walked through the office, dodging the parchment memos that barely missed his face when soaring by. Despite how tired he was, he approached Mr. Robards’ office with determination. He knocked on the door and entered when he heard a faint, "come in" emanate from within. He was greeted by Gawain’s grinning face, bald head, and bright attire. Memos hovered around him, and it seemed that he was just as busy as anyone else with all of the papers stacked high on his desk.
“Mr. Malfoy, how good to see you!” Mr. Robards stood from his desk to shake Draco’s hand vigorously, so much so that Draco could practically feel his brain rattling when he finally let go. “To what do I owe this pleasure? Shouldn’t you be watching over our very spirited guest? And speaking of, do you have any new information for me?” he ask, referring to Anaxandra. “Oh do pardon my manners! Take a seat!”
He didn’t know if it was just the fact that it was early in the morning or from the lack of sleep he was getting lately, but Draco could hardly keep up with his boss and gratefully accepted the seat he pulled out for him. “Mr. Robards—”
“I’ve told you once, and I’ll tell you again,” Gawain asserted, sitting down in his own chair and leaning forward on his elbows, then changing back to his overly cheery self, “call me Gawain.”
“Yes sorry, Gawain. I was just wondering… is everything well?” Draco questioned, raising an eyebrow at how incredibly cheery his boss was. Gawain was always happy but today he was really happy. Just two weeks ago he had seemed ragged and tired, and was so incredibly pale. While his appearance hadn't changed much, his attitude made him seem like a whole new person.
“I’m just delightful, Draco! I should be asking you the same thing, you look… tired,” his boss solemnly pointed out the dark circles under Draco’s eyes that stood out over his pale skin.
“I was just up late working last night, Sir,” he lied, trying to transition the conversation smoothly. “And speaking of work—”
“Everything has been so busy here at the office! With more and more murders turning up, I don’t know how we will keep up!” Gawain exclaimed with an undertone of worry.
Now Draco was starting to get irritated at the constant interruptions from his boss. He straightened his back a bit more to try and keep his composure. “Sir, I would like to be back in the office and I request another Auror to take my place. I expect I am of more use here than I am doing in witness protection.”
Gawain sat back in his chair, and eyed Draco for a moment before shortly saying, “No.”
Slightly taken aback by his abruptness, Draco furrowed his brow in confusion and frustration. “No? Pardon me, but may I ask why, sir?”
“Draco, like I said before, you’re the only one she will speak with which means you have the greatest chance of gaining her trust.” Gawain was now serious. He stood up from his chair and walked around the left side of his desk, hands in his pockets. “I have a strong feeling she may have something to do with all of these murders."
He walked over to the other side of the room and started playing with a small trinket that resided on a shelf. Photographs of children running rampant covered the walls, almost completely blocking out the dark brown paint behind them.
“From the time I’ve spent with her, she doesn’t seem the type.”
“The girl shows up in the woods, unharmed, claiming that her family’s home had been raided, yet there is no sign of foul play on her and no one can find the house at all. And how does she stay hidden from the Ministry? No witch or wizard alive can hide their identity from us, and she adamantly refuses to give us her name. Isn’t it all a bit dodgy?”
Draco listened intently as Mr. Robards expressed his concern and skepticism, wondering if his assumptions were correct. Yeah, the girl was a bit hotheaded at times, but he didn’t really believe she could be responsible for all of this.
Gawain walked back to his seat and sat down, fingers interlaced on the desk in front of him. “If you brought in some information it would mean a promotion! Less hours, more pay…” Gawain looked at Draco out of the corner of his eye. “And although I think you to be our best bet at getting information out of her, I have to respect your request. I’ll have to ask around and it will take some convincing, but I’m sure I’ll find a replacement for you. Don’t worry; I'll be sure to include you in more of the field investigations.” Sitting up straight, and with a deep inhale, he smiled again, “I’ll owl you when I find somebody, Mr. Malfoy.”
“Anaxandra Synder,” Draco replied, in hopes that Gawain would find his new warden a little more quickly.
“Excuse me?” Mr. Robards asked, his ears perking up.
“Her name is Anaxandra Synder. At least, that’s the name she gave me. That’s all I have so far, but I’ll get more before you find my replacement, I’m sure.” Gawain wasn't the only one who could entice people to do what he wanted.
As Draco stood up to leave, Mr. Robards said after him, “Mr. Malfoy, remember that she is permitted some time to leave that house, under your supervision of course. I heard this week’s weather is supposed to be quite lovely.”
“You mean to tell me, that all this time that I’ve been locked up here I’ve actually been able to leave? Damn blighter, why didn’t you say something!” Anaxandra exclaimed, nearly knocking over her bowl of soup.
Draco sat next to her, nibbling at a sandwich. “Must have slipped my mind.”
“Slipped your mind, my arse,” she muttered. “I’m going to slip my fist into your face.”
He rolled his eyes and put the Prophet down, staring at Anaxandra intently. “Please tell me where you’d like to go before I change my mind.”
Anaxandra leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms. Where would she like to go? A question she seldom asked herself. She couldn’t go home, or what was once her home. Beside the fact that she still couldn’t trust Draco—she doubted she ever would— she didn’t know if she was ready yet. There was one place her father had told her numerous stories about, and it was perfect for her first trip out of this bloody house.
“Diagon Alley,” she said, going into the coat closet and pulling on a navy blue sweater.
Draco used a couple transfiguration charms on Anaxandra, changing her hair color from a deep red to chocolate brown, her eyes from grey to blue, and tweaked her bone structure a bit just to make her a little less recognizable. He then debriefed her on the rules she was to abide by: no getting out of sight, no revealing her real name, blah, blah, blah… Adding a tracking charm for good measure, they apparated in front of a window, the words ‘Flourish and Blotts’ plastered across the glass.
“Where would you like to go first?” He asked, grimacing at how many people were bumping into him and pushing him aside. He wasn’t too fond of large crowds.
“I…” Anaxandra trailed off, trying to gather her thoughts. “I don’t really know. Can we just walk for a bit?”
Rushing through the throng, she looked around in amazement. The busy street was flooded with peddlers, stalls, and so many different shops that it was making her head spin. The sun was shining bright, and illuminated the shop signs leading all the way down the street. And the people! So many people! Taking a deep breath, she let the fresh air fill her lungs. Anaxandra was so happy that she couldn’t even be bothered by the odd looks Draco was giving her.
Just as they were passing Quality Quidditch Supplies, she halted right in front of the window, her hands and nose pressed up against the glass. Reading the signs that surrounded it, the broomstick on display was the redesigned Lightning Bolt. Unlike the other brooms in the case being made of a dark wood, this one was a polished white wood with gold detailing, and instead of having its name printed on the side of the handle, it just had a lightning bolt engraved on the very top. Anaxandra stared at it in awe, having never seen such a nice broom before. She was never allowed to use one unless it was to sweep the floor, but how badly she wanted one! Her brother and dad used to use them when they needed to travel extremely far distances, and Anaxandra would be green with envy. Watching them kick off and fly upwards and away… She could only dream of what it would be like to star gaze on one.
“At least you have good taste in brooms,” Draco said, coming up next to her and admiring it as well.
“I’ve never seen one like it,” she breathed, pushing away from the glass and looking at Draco with a stupid grin on her face.
“You act as if you’ve never seen one at all,” he observed, curious of her fascination with the thing. To him, it was just another ordinary part of his world.
“Of course I have, I just… I’ve never had the privilege of learning to ride one,” she admitted, looking longingly at the shop window. But her dreams of flying were put on hold when she spotted what she had been looking for.
Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour.
“Could we get some ice cream?” Anaxandra asked Draco, her eyes silently pleading to his.
Draco, wondering why anyone would want ice cream on a cold day like this, didn’t have enough time to even respond, because Anaxandra had already walked past him towards the shop on the other side of the street. Determination fueled her strides and aided her in effortlessly weaving through the large crowds of people. She was so bent on getting across that street that she accidentally walked in front of a man causing him to stumble and knocking her to the ground.
“I’m so sorry!” she exclaimed, incredibly embarrassed. By the time she scrambled to her feet and looked up, she saw that the man was not going to accept her apology.
His wand was drawn, his dark eyes narrowed in anger. “Watch where you’re going, bitch.”
“That isn’t any way to talk to a lady.” Draco casually walked up to the man, practically towering over him. The man sneered and put his wand away, fixing his robes.
“Do us all a favor and put her on a damn leash next time,” he snarled before sulking away.
Anaxandra was almost pouting when she murmured, “I could have taken care of that myself.”
“Yes, because you were handling it so gracefully before I came to your rescue.” Draco pocketed his wand and straightened his robes, gaining a few judging glances.
Anaxandra brushed Draco off, shoving him aside as she walked in to the ice cream parlour.
The counter stretched from one end of the long room to the other with tubs of colorful ice-cream lining the inside. The parlour itself was quite extravagant with its detailed wood panel walls and large models of ice-cream cones that lined them, each one separated by a pair of booths that were occupied by a few families. A large sign at the back of the counter was lit up and magically scrolled through all the names of all the flavors and their prices. Small, round tables were placed around the room accompanied by two chairs each that served as additional seating.
Draco tossed a few coins Anaxandra’s way and watched as she ordered what seemed to be a couple scoops of vanilla ice-cream, paid, then rushed over with a look of wonder in her eyes. She almost looked dreamy.
“I think it likes you back. I bet if you ask it on a date, it’ll say yes,” Draco jested, noticing that she was waiting to dive into the frozen vanilla treat in front of her.
Anaxandra blushed, and then took her first bite. Knowing this could be a perfect opportunity to begin gaining his trust, she closed her eyes in pleasure and smiled. “This is only my second time ever having it. I’ve almost forgotten how it tasted.”
“Only your second time?” he asked.
Her eating slowed, and her smile was starting to falter. Sighing and taking another bite, she confessed, “My parents hardly treated us to ice-cream. In fact, I’ve just had it once before.”
“We weren’t allowed to leave the house much, even when we were older.” She took another bite, watching as some of it melted, and a drop rolled down the side of the waffle cone. “The last time I had it, I was five years old. My brother was nine; he'd had it once before. He and I were running around the front yard when my father apparated home and handed us two ice cream cones. At the time, we didn’t know what they were, but when we took that first bite…” Anaxandra’s smile grew wide and she chuckled. “It was absolutely brilliant. We begged our father for weeks to take us here to eat more, but he never did.”
“So, this is the first time you’ve been to Diagon Alley?”
“You ask too many questions, Malfoy. Did you know that curiosity killed the cat?” Anaxandra asked, ignoring his question and proceeding to eat her ice cream, starting to munch on the waffle cone.
“Good thing I’m not a cat then,” he replied, a smug look on his face. “Let’s compromise. We make it fair—a question for a question.”
“I have a compromise to your compromise,” Anaxandra wrinkled her nose and grinned. For once, Draco wasn’t being a total blighter. Well, at least a lot less of a blighter than normal. One could even say he was being tolerable. Maybe his deep inquiring mind was overshadowing the arsehole in him. “Yes, let’s make it fair, but don’t think that I’ve forgotten that harassing you gave me in that room the first day we met. I think it’s time I get to harass you.”
Draco laughed, and Anaxandra almost blushed at how handsome he looked when he wasn’t so serious. 'Almost' being the key word.
“I see you’re taking this as an opportunity to get back at me.”
“I’m a sheltered woman with daddy issues and a rather nasty revenge complex, do you expect anything less?” Anaxandra kept slowly licking away at her ice cream, getting all the melted bits before they dripped all over her hand.
Draco’s smirk, as refreshing as it was, was wiped off his face just as quickly as it appeared.
Anaxandra took notice to his tensing arms underneath his well-made suit, eyeing him curiously as she was on the verge of finishing her waffle cone.
“Draco, are you alright?” she popped the last of her waffle cone in her mouth. “What are you looking at?” But when she tried to follow his stare, he roughly grabbed her arm and yanked her up.
“It’s getting late, we’re leaving.” And with an expressionless face that Anaxandra was so accustomed to, Draco apparated them back to the house.
“What was that about?” she snapped, rubbing her wrist where Draco had clung onto her so tightly.
“I have to go home,” Draco said, disappearing.
Confused and slightly upset, Anaxandra walked upstairs to her room to change. She slipped off her sweater, and then walked in the bathroom with a glance in the large rectangular mirror to see her reflection. She grimaced. This brown haired, blue-eyed person wasn’t her. Even though she knew that the spells would wear off soon, she couldn't stand to look at this unfamiliar reflection any longer.
She smoothed her fingers over her cheeks, remolding them back in to her normal bone structure. Her eyes fluttered, her irises changing back slowly from blue to gray. She ran her fingers through her hair, and soon it was back to its normal dark auburn color. A relieved sigh escaped her lips. It felt good to see her own reflection looking back.
Anaxandra stood on her bed, her hands reaching up over her head then pulling them down. Stars fell like snowflakes to their proper positions around the room, and soon the galaxy that was confined to her ceiling was now sprawled throughout her room.
“Aquarius, Cepheus, Lacerta,” she recited, touching each constellation and lighting it up with the tip of her finger, “Cassiopeia, Pisces, Draco…”
Anaxandra held the last constellation in her hand, thinking about what she had to do in the unknown amount of time left. Guilt was beginning to wash over her, thinking about how they had interacted with each other earlier. She brushed it off, letting the constellation float back up and began naming them off again.
She recited the constellations for over an hour. She would name a set of them, then spin around and name another set. Sometimes, she would find her favorite ones and just hold them in her hands, watching as they slowly spun in her palm. The stars cast a faint glow throughout the room, and they were hers. All hers.
After sending her night sky back up to the ceiling, Anaxandra fell in bed and smiled. She had been in the real world today! And not just anywhere, but in Diagon Alley no less! She had ice-cream, and walked among people, not just watching them from afar. She closed her eyes and let herself drift off, hoping to dream of delicious vanilla ice-cream and fresh air.
Anaxandra had no idea where she was. No matter the direction she looked, she couldn’t see anything. The darkness had engulfed her. She leaned forward and put all of her weight on the balls of her feet, getting ready to fight or flee; whichever she deemed necessary. It was a nervous habit of hers.
It was cold. Goosebumps started forming on her legs, then her midsection, and before she knew it the very top of her head was tingling. She began to shiver. Where was she? There was no sound, no light…
And then she heard it.
It wasn’t loud but she was certain it was there. The heinous snarls, the harsh cackling and the guttural howls were getting louder and louder and soon it was all that filled her ears. Then there were the screams. At first it was just Anders, her brother. The pain and agony in his cries sent Anaxandra to her knees. The tears started flowing when her little sister Agnatha started crying for help. She tried covering her ears when her parents began screaming, but she couldn’t muffle the noise. Falling on her back, she let the tears flow.
It was starting to get harder to breathe. Anaxandra thought it was from the crying, but there was a physical pressure on her throat, like hands gripping her roughly. It kept getting tighter and tighter as Anaxandra tried to scream.
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