Chapter 7 : Happenstance
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“My mistake, I thought you didn’t like being locked up in that house all day with nothing to do,” Draco replied over his shoulder.
Anaxandra wrinkled her nose. “Yeah, well at least the house doesn’t smell like piss and death.”
A dodgy looking, hunched over woman in rags with a crooked nose and wiry white hair crept from the shadows and hissed at Anaxandra as she walked by.
“Oh piss off, hag,” she spat, shoving past her. Making friends was a specialty of hers.
The streets were mostly empty; save for a few odd looking characters that clung to the darker alleyways. Almost all of the shops seemed to be boarded up and shut down, but it was obvious the residents refused to leave. The old, creaky buildings had many homeless witches and wizards living in them, pressing their faces up against the dirty store windows to get a better look at Draco and Anaxandra. One mangy man in particular smiled at her with almost all of his teeth missing save two rotten ones at the front. Anaxandra sneered back at him, wrapping her wool coat tighter around her.
Draco eventually came to a halt in front of a store that still seemed to be functioning. Candles were lit inside and various artifacts hung in the shop window. Closing and shaking off their umbrellas, they both walked inside, greeted by creaking wood floors and a musty smell that unpleasantly filled their noses. Anaxandra could see the shop filled to the brim with odd-looking trinkets and knickknacks, all collecting dust on old bowing shelves.
“Whatever you do, don’t touch anything,” Draco whispered to Anaxandra, watching as she started to wander toward a large glass display case that held an odd looking wooden figurine.
She turned around and curtsied. “Yes, father.”
“Ah, Mr. Malfoy. A pleasure to see you again,” a man’s voice floated from a back room behind the counter. He had tufts of grey hair still clinging to his head and had obviously not aged gracefully. Like all the other inhabitants of this sad, dull place, he seemed to be worse for the wear.
“Mr. Burke, the pleasure is all mine,” he replied, shaking the man’s hand.
“And who is this you have with you?” Mr. Burke asked, eyeing Anaxandra up and down. She shuddered at what thoughts were probably running through his mind.
“This is my intern,” Draco responded. “She is just shadowing me today. Don’t mind her.”
Mr. Burke nodded, flashing her a smile of rather yellow, grimy teeth. Anaxandra subtly cringed.
“To business then?” Draco asked, turning the man’s attention to him.
Anaxandra didn’t care for their dull conversation and by the looks of it they didn’t want her to be listening anyway; at least Draco didn’t. Mr. Burke didn’t seem to mind if Anaxandra stood in his line of vision. Turning her back to them, she eagerly looked around. Her eyes set on an iron chest that sat at the other end of the room, just begging to be opened. Looking to her right, she saw that both men had their backs turned and were speaking in hushed tones from either side of the counter. She slowly walked over, careful to not draw any attention to herself. Kneeling down, she tried to pry the thing open, but it wouldn’t budge. The old man must have put a locking spell on it. Anaxandra inhaled deeply, set her hands gently on the front of the chest, and watched as it slightly popped open. She gasped at the creaking noise it made, but thankfully, the noise didn’t seem to draw the men’s attention. Putting a silencing charm on the hinges, Anaxandra opened the chest slowly.
Her brow furrowed. A large dragon skull lay atop a pile of jumbled, what was presumed to be, dragon bones. She picked up a few pieces and examined them carefully.
“Get your ruddy hands away from there!” the man shouted, scurrying towards her, “How did you even… That is an authentic complete skeleton of the Catalionian Fireball—the rarest dragon known to wizard kind!" He rushed over, took the bones from her hands and carefully put them back down in the chest, shutting it and locking it once more.
“I know what it is, and that isn’t a Catalonian Fireball,” Anaxandra replied in a matter-of-fact tone, setting her hands on her hips.
The man crossed his arms and huffed. “Oh is that so, young miss? Then should I believe that the man who sold me those bones, a man I’ve trusted to get me the most unique and most popular pieces for my shop, is a liar then?”
“Not to sound rude sir, but that bloke must be feeding you codswallop like it’s biscuits and tea.” She watched as the man looked at her in outrage, his face nearly turning purple. Anaxandra found this amusing and went on. “I’ve been studying dragons extensively for years, and I know for a fact that those aren’t the bones of a Catalonian Fireball. Those are all pieces of other dragons someone has poorly mended together. There are the ribs of a Peruvian Vipertooth and Antipodean Opaleye, skull of a Hebridean Black and Hungarian Horntail...”
He was starting to shake he was getting so angry, his eyes looking like they were about to bulge out of his skull. Draco quickly walked up to her, grabbed her wrist and practically threw her outside. “Merlin, I can’t take you anywhere! Just stay out here and don’t leave!” he seethed, and he slammed the door. Anaxandra could see Draco fervently apologizing to Mr. Burke through the dirty shop window. The man was glaring daggers at Anaxandra, but then proceeded to continue his conversation with Draco.
“You educate someone and all of a sudden you can’t be cordial…” Anaxandra muttered to herself, as she leaned against the storefront and opened her umbrella over her head. It was starting to rain harder.
Minutes passed when a slight bit of movement caught her eye. At first she thought the rain was playing tricks on her, but then she turned her head, her eyes fixing on a shifty little character hobbling down the street adjacent to the shop. He wore a hooded cloak, his beak of a nose poking out from the front of the hood and long fingers protruding from the sleeves. She made her way towards him carefully, as to not alert him of her presence. Anaxandra followed him down a dark alley before whispering, “Arlok!”
The short figure jumped and turned around, revealing the face of a curious squash-faced goblin. His beady little eyes were scanning Anaxandra, rummaging through his brain trying to remember her face.
“Excuse me?” he replied coolly.
Anaxandra caught up to him, dropping her umbrella. Rain was hitting her face. “It’s me you fool, Nyx. I could smell that ratty scent of yours from a mile away.”
“Ah, yes,” Arlok pointed to her face, “it’s been too long, Miss Nyx. I hardly recognize you.”
“Arlok, you owe me. I need some information,” she whispered, looking around to make sure no one was watching before leaning in, “I need to know everything that has happened since we last spoke.”
“Certainly, Miss Nyx. But first, may I say, I am deeply sorry for your loss,” Arlok replied with a fake sincerity.
There was a moment of hope for Anaxandra. Arlok was a treasure trove of information about the goings on of dark creatures. If anyone knew anything about who killed her family, he would. Maybe her plan would be set in motion much more quickly than she thought.
“I need to know who it was,” Anaxandra pleaded, never sounding so desperate in her life.
“I do not think that wise, Miss,” he replied, readjusting his cloak and fixing his beady little eyes on her, “you don’t know who you’d be dealing with, or more like what you’d be dealing with.”
Anaxandra was beginning to burn. “I don’t care, Arlok. I just need to know.”
“Armati illa tenebrarum. Sed etiam animo petit vitae. Virum, dabit et in pace quiesceret; tue mortis.” He menacingly replied, looking up at her, his sharp teeth glinting from beneath his hood.
A growl escaped her lips. “I don’t have the patience for your cryptic messages! You tell me what you know right this instant, you twittering little bleeder, or I’ll have to give you another reminder of who’s calling the shots.”
“I have told you all that you need to know.” He shielded his arm gingerly and backed away, calmly replying, “And I do believe my debt was to your father, not to you. You can demand all you want from me; I do not have to comply.”
“Bastard!” she quickly grabbed the front of his cloak, picked him up, and brought him closer to her, “I swear on my own life—“
A flash of red sparks flew past Anaxandra’s face, startling her in to dropping the goblin on the ground. Another tiny ball of red sparks zipped around the corner of a building down the road and headed straight towards her again, stopping just inches from her face. Draco rounded the same building, following the trail of red sparks to Anaxandra and furiously walked towards her.
“Your tendency to disregard me is astounding!”
“I don’t have time for this!” she sneered, but when Anaxandra turned to pick up the little goblin again, he was gone.
“Thank Merlin I put a tracking charm on you,” he growled, towering over her and looking at her with suspicion. “Are you completely mental? Knockturn Alley is the worst place for you to be wandering alone!”
Anaxandra ran to the crossroads, ignoring Draco and looking left and right for the cheeky little goblin that slipped through her fingers, but the rain-flooded streets were empty. The rain was starting to soak through her coat and her trainers were completely drenched. Her heart was sinking deeper and deeper into her chest the longer she stood there, waiting for him to appear again.
“Are you even listening to me?” Draco angrily called to her.
She walked over to him, frustration plaguing her features. “I’m trying not to, but you’re making it really hard with all that hideous noise coming from your mouth.”
Draco firmly grabbed her arm and apparated them back to the house. Water ran down the curves of his umbrella and created puddles on the floor, while Anaxandra stood in the middle of the room, dripping wet from head to toe. She was fuming. She could have screamed until her lungs collapsed and her throat bled, but all she could manage to get out was a harsh “Fucking git.”
Draco changed Anaxandra’s features back to her own, then leaned down and started cleaning up the puddles on the floor with his wand. “Yes, you disobey me twice by not being able to do the most simple of things, then go wandering off in one of the most dangerous places in Britain, alone might I add. And I’m the git. Maybe you—“
He was cut short by a strong shove from Anaxandra. Being caught off guard, he stumbled backwards in to the kitchen wall. “What the bloody hell is your problem, Synder?”
Her normally silvery gray eyes were now dark and filled with rage. In response, she raised both of her arms and shoved him again, only harder this time. “Shove me again and I’ll—”
Drawing her fist back, it was only moments before Anaxandra’s knuckles collided with Draco’s left cheekbone. His cheek underneath his left eye began to swell, and she stood rooted in front of him, her hand still balled up into a fist. She remained silent as she watched him double over in pain, her expression unchanging.
“FUCKING HELL!” Draco yelled, grabbing his cheek with one hand and supporting himself on the counter with the other. “WHAT IN MERLIN’S NAME WAS THAT FOR!”
“I HAD HIM!” she screamed back, tears falling from her eyes. It seemed that the dam that held her tears had finally broken, and now they were rushing down her cheeks. She didn’t even try to fight it anymore. Her jaw was clenched tightly, and through gritted teeth she cried, “I had him and he knew who did it!” her voice cracked. “I had him in my hands and I let him slip through my fingers!”
Anaxandra whimpered and held her face in her hands for a moment, quietly crying. Draco sat in silence, holding the left side of his face and watched as she cried for a few moments before she excused herself from the kitchen, leaving Draco to tend to his now swollen face. She walked into her room, constantly wiping the never-ending flow of tears that rolled down her face. Throwing her incredibly soggy clothes to the floor, she undressed and trudged in to the bathroom to draw herself a hot bath.
Arlok was one informant she could cross off of her list, although he would have been the most useful. There were still a few more that she could come in contact with, and she prayed that they hadn’t found out about her father’s death yet. Much like Arlok, they owed a debt to her father and not her. If they found out about his death, that was one less due they would have to pay. There was only one way that she was going to have the slightest chance of succeeding, and that was to take action quickly.
The heat from the bath water was soothing and drew the dark clouds of anger away from her meticulous thought process, which helped her think more clearly. If there was one thing Anaxandra was certain about, it was that Draco Malfoy was an invaluable asset. With him, she had access to all the information the Ministry had to offer and that meant possibly finding the whereabouts of her other sources. Allying herself with him didn’t guarantee her success, but it did increase her chances substantially and that was certainly better than the situation she would be in if she didn’t at least try. Either way, she was going to do what she did after every mission. The minute it was all over, success or not, she was going to clear out of the scene and leave absolutely no trace of her ever being there. It was one Hunting ability that Anaxandra had perfected.
After taking time to lay out a plan, Anaxandra was almost ready to execute it. There was only one problem: she had just punched her invaluable asset in the face without reason or explanation. That could potentially complicate things.
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