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Chapter 9 : Change
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Gray walls. This was the first thing that she noticed. There were four, plain gray walls that tightly boxed her in. Shifting her gaze to either side of her, she noticed that there were no other occupants of the space, as there were no other beds. The only other inhabitants of the small, gray room were an ornately carved white end table that had a small vase of flowers atop its worn surface to her right, and a large velvet armchair, plum in color, resided to her left next to the door. At the foot of her bed was a wooden table about the width of her bed, and it held nothing but a crème colored folder. The light flooding in from the window on the right wall was making her squint.
Anaxandra shifted in her bed a little bit, her rigid muscles in need of some sort of movement. She could see her small frame outlined underneath the soft white sheet and light blue wool blanket that she was tightly tucked in to. An oddly sour taste lingered in her mouth that was reminiscent of very sour apples.
The door slowly swung open, and a very familiar blonde man dressed in a tailored black suit carefully entered, quietly shutting the door behind him with a soft click. He lazily shuffled to the purple armchair and slumped in exhaustion with his arms slung over the sides. Before he had leaned his head back, Anaxandra took notice of the dark circles that made a home beneath his eyes and the fading purple-black of the bruise she gave him.
“Draco?” she asked, her voice coming out just above a whisper.
Draco quickly became alert and he leaned forward, trying to focus on her face with his tired eyes. He eagerly asked, “Merlin, you’re awake. How are you feeling?”
“Where am I?” she countered, unsure of her unfamiliar surroundings.
“You’re at the Creature-Induced Injury ward at St. Mungo’s. When I'd found you, you had lost a lot of blood. I had no other choice.”
“Blood? Found me? I don’t…” She began to trail off as the blurry images were now coming into focus and her memory had started to fabricate together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. A throbbing in her head made her wrinkle her nose in displeasure and rub her temples.
Anaxandra had been too distracted to hold a conversation with Draco as an elderly woman in lime green robes emerged from the doorway. She had carefully walked in backwards, pulling a cart with at least five different bottles of all colors, shapes, and sizes that rattled against each other with each movement. The light from the window had shone through the bottles so brilliantly, that the colors reflected off of Draco’s fair skin and the wall behind him. The laugh lines that graced the woman’s aging face made her demeanor very kind and her graying red hair fell just past her shoulders in a loose braid. She looked over at Anaxandra, her brown eyes twinkling as she smiled. “Oh good! You’re awake!”
Taking a look inside the folder at the end of her bed, the woman pulled out a quill, jotted something down, and then stuffed the writing instrument back into her robe pocket. Her smile, which revealed a row of perfectly straight white teeth, glinted as she said, “I’m Margaret, your healer. You’re very lucky that Mr. Malfoy had brought you in when he did!” Her tone was warm, matronly, and slightly Scottish. She began taking empty flasks, filling them with various liquids and reagents, and then swirling them. “I almost thought we had lost you when you arrived.”
Uncorking a medium sized vial, Margaret walked over to the other side of her bed and held out her hand. “It’s time to drink your potion, dear. Here, let me sit you up.”
Anaxandra pushed the extended hand aside gently and propped herself up on her elbows, feeling a slight soreness in her stomach. “It’s alright. I can do it myself.”
“Synder…” Draco said uneasily, tossing a glance at Margaret.
“Trust me; you won’t be able to do it on your own,” Margaret said with the potion vial uncorked in her hand.
Anaxandra rolled her eyes, which made Margaret raise a speculating eyebrow at her. “If there’s one thing I can do on my own, it’s sit up.”
The protests began to pour out of Margaret and Draco’s mouths as a shooting pain ripped through Anaxandra’s midsection, and she immediately fell back down to her pillow, wincing.
“A bit headstrong, aren’t you?” Margaret had lost her warm tone and adopted a fierce attitude, giving her a judgmental look that made Anaxandra feel ashamed. It was the kind of look your mother gave you when she’s found out that you were lying about eating all of the biscuits after you had just blamed it on your brother. “That’ll teach you to go against the words of a seasoned healer. Now, let me sit you up.”
Margaret rested one hand lightly on Anaxandra’s shoulder and wedged her other hand behind her back, slowly lifting her up in to a sitting position. As the elderly healer slowly brought the potion to Anaxandra’s dry lips, a sickly sweet smell wafted up her nostrils and made them tickle a bit. The acidic liquid was reminiscent of the sour apple taste that lingered in her mouth, and it caused Anaxandra to make a face at the unsavory flavor. The warm feeling she had experienced before had rushed through her body again, beginning at the top of her head all the way down to her toes.
“Now that wasn’t so bad, was it?” Margaret asked, replacing the vial back on the cart and gingerly laying Anaxandra back down. Taking out a large stone mortar and pestle, she began grinding together various herbs and extracts that filled the room with odd scents that made Anaxandra’s stomach uneasy.
“Mr. Malfoy,” the healer began, “would you please exit the room? I’ll leave the door open when I’m finished here.”
Anaxandra glanced at Draco, who had been silently observing the healing process since Margaret had walked in. He nodded and with a quick ‘yes ma’am’ he gave Anaxandra a reassuring look before sauntering out of the room.
Draco made his way to the lifts, eager to get himself some breakfast at the Visitor’s Tearoom on the fifth floor. It seemed like ages since he had eaten, and his stomach was starting to feel a bit hollow.
He was just about to step into the lifts, but was stopped when he heard his name being called from behind him.
“Wait up, Mr. Malfoy!”
He turned around, spotting his boss struggling to walk after him down the hall. He put up a hand in protest of the exercise and breathed heavily once he had reached Draco.
“You young lads are always rushing everywhere these days! Don’t you take time to just slow down?” He huffed, trying to gain his composure. “Anyways, I’m not here to talk to you about your brisk walking habits, Mr. Malfoy. I’m here to talk to you about Miss Synder.”
He pulled Draco to the side of the hallway out of the way of the healers who were making their rounds, and looked him square in the eye. “We can’t have you leading this case anymore, Draco.”
Confusion and frustration began contorting Draco’s face in to a sour expression as he asked, “What?”
“You won’t be her warden any longer. I’ve got Mr. Potter on the case now.”
“You said that I was leading the case because I’m the only one she’ll talk to. If you hand her off, she will remain a closed book.”
“I haven’t gotten one new piece of information from you, Draco. You haven’t been doing your job.”
“I’ve been doing my job just fine, sir,” Draco disputed, struggling to keep his voice down. Several healers looked their way curiously, but continued on their way. He would not have his boss, or anyone from that matter, question his work ethic, and it really bothered him that while Draco had done nothing but follow orders since the beginning of his career, he had been told that he was not ‘doing his job.’ What the hell did Gawain think Draco had been doing for the last month?
“Sleep overs at the holding house are not a part of your job. Taking her with you on investigations is not a part of your job, and staying by her bedside until she’s all better is not a part of your job. I’d say you are doing everything except for your job, Mr. Malfoy.” Gawain crossed his arms and raised a suspecting eyebrow at Draco, who had noticeably tightened his jaw. “You raised my suspicion when you revoked your request to be reassigned, and so I did a little snooping. Being smitten with your witness is not acceptable, Mr. Malfoy, and you're lucky I don't just fire you completely.”
“Sir, if you’d hear me out-“
“I will no longer entertain you with meager squabbles. You’ve shown me that your emotions have hindered your ability to remain professional. Your carelessness has resulted in being lazy with your protection spells, that are to be cast on the house every few hours may I remind you, and have eventually led to a break in, in which your witness was almost killed. The minute she signs those discharge papers, you will take her to the Ministry to sign papers acknowledging her reassignment and hand her off to Mr. Potter. From that moment on, she is out of your hands. Good day, Mr. Malfoy.”
Without another word, Gawain swiftly turned on his heel and began his walk back to the other end of the hall, leaving Draco to ponder how he would tell Anaxandra. He didn’t think she would mind having a new warden, but it was the fact that he was walking out on someone who, after a rigorous battle, had given her trust to him that was really pestering him. They weren't friends, per Anaxandra's rules, but there was something; something that caused Draco to be upset about being taken off of this case that had nothing to do with his already terrible reputation at the office. It was also a something that he wouldn’t admit was there.
And then he wondered how he could have forgotten to put a protection spell on the house. He was sure that he had cast one before leaving that night. Confused, he made his way to the lift and rode it to the fifth floor.
After the soft click of the door signaled Draco had gone, Margaret smiled and smugly looked at Anaxandra, rolling up her sleeves and questioned, “If you don’t mind me asking, how long have you two been together?”
Anaxandra shot her a confused look, completely oblivious to what Margaret was trying to imply. “Excuse me?”
“The two of you are so precious,” she replied, adopting her grandmotherly tone again and moving the blankets down to the foot of the bed. “You are so lucky to have found such a handsome man like young Mr. Malfoy.”
“Oh, we’re not together.” Anaxandra almost laughed in protest at the assumed ‘more-than-platonic’ relationship between her and Draco.
Margaret snorted and washed her hands in a ceramic basin on the middle shelf of her cart. “My ma would always say, ‘Love and light cannot be hid.’ That young man has been by your side for as long as your head has rested on that pillow. If that isn't love, I don't know what is.”
A warm feeling began to spread throughout Anaxandra, especially to her cheeks. Maybe it was a residual side effect of the potion she drank earlier. Then curiosity took over instead of embarrassment and she had to ask, “And just how long have I been here?”
Pulling out her wand, Margaret began weaving it through the air and announced, “Three days, dear. Hold still, please.”
“Three days?” Anaxandra exclaimed as she felt the comfort of the bed leaving her.
She wasn’t terribly fond of being levitated, but she knew better than to protest. Margaret pulled up the loose medical top that Anaxandra was wearing and exposed her bandaged midriff, which she began unraveling.
“You were in a critical state. You suffered severe blood loss and had serious wounds on your abdomen. There were also some cuts on your feet, but those healed quickly,” she mused while she wiped a damp cloth across Anaxandra’s stomach and caused her to wince in pain.
‘Merlin, is that rag soaked in acid?’ Anaxandra thought to herself, feeling as if her skin was burning right off of her.
“You’re lucky! Not many get attacked by a werewolf and live to tell the tale! Although, you haven’t needed the blood-replenishing potions as much as I thought you would and, by the looks of it, the bleeding has already stopped. You’re beginning to heal beautifully. I thought I’d be letting you out in a little over a week, but I think you could get away with leaving this afternoon!”
Anaxandra had to fight back an amused grin. Like a werewolf would even stand a chance against her. There were at least twenty dead werewolves that could attest to her proficiency at Hunting them down.
The next few minutes proved to be painful for Anaxandra. Margaret’s herbal mush stung terribly once it made contact with her skin and the gentle massaging of the concoction into her wounds was agonizing. Beads of sweat began forming on Anaxandra’s forehead and her breathing had become considerably more labored with each new layer of herbs that covered her abdomen. It seemed like hours had gone by before Margaret wrapped her up in fresh bandages, gently letting her back down on the bed.
“Alright lovely, you’re all finished. I’ll see you this afternoon to discharge you.” Margaret had washed her hands in the ceramic basin once more and rolled down her sleeves, putting an extra pillow behind Anaxandra’s back so she could sit upright without any effort. Her kind, aged face looked down upon Anaxandra’s pained one before she waved her hand and opened the door, pushing the cart back out of the room. Draco walked in while thanking the woman as she walked out, and sat back down in the velvety-purple armchair with a cup of coffee and frosted pastry in his hands.
“A werewolf attack?” Anaxandra questioned once Margaret had closed the door, her stomach tightening at the sight of the fruit-filled dessert in Draco’s hand.
“Well what was I supposed to say, that you tripped and fell down the stairs?” he argued, taking a sip of his coffee and handing her the fruit filled pastry, no doubt seeing the hungry look on her face. “I know you don’t want my help, but I came back to a ransacked house and found you bleeding out on the floor in a cupboard. I wasn’t going to let you die.”
For the first time in their brief history, Anaxandra stayed silent. There was no smart or witty comeback for what he had said, and just as such, there was no argument she could produce. She took the pastry without a word, not even a thanks, and took a small bite. She neither detested the help nor even protested against Draco’s rule-breaking ways for the simple fact that she was grateful. Without him, she would be dead.
“What happened, and who did this to you?” he asked, care and concern dripping from his words. The sound of genuine worry in his voice was enough to cause another warm sensation run through her body. This time, Anaxandra recognized that it wasn’t the effects of a potion, but she wouldn’t let herself admit to what the real culprit was.
Arlok’s words began ringing in her ears, ‘You don’t know who you’d be dealing with, or more like what you’d be dealing with.’
She couldn’t answer either of those questions clearly. She only knew for certain that she was attacked, but attacked by what? Monsters perhaps? Anaxandra could have cringed at the word but she lacked a better name. It was the term a child used to describe the hideous Christmas sweater that peeked out of their closet at night, not an eyeless beast with flesh-ripping claws and fangs. Even if she could give him a believable answer, she wouldn’t involve him more than necessary.
“I… don’t really remember. You know, the blood loss and all,” she lied. She took a shameful bite of her pastry as her conscience began scolding her for being dishonest toward the person who had saved her life.
There was a moment of silence between the both of them, neither looking at the other nor even turning their head towards each other. Draco eventually sighed and leaned back, taking one last gulp of coffee.
“Anaxandra…” he spoke her name with an air of regret. It was still odd to hear her first name leave his lips.
She looked at him, her eyebrows furrowed at his frustrated expression.
“I won’t be overseeing you anymore.”
“What?” she asked, fighting the urge to sit up even more.
“The responsibility has passed on to another Auror-"
"I’ve been deemed unqualified to properly protect you-“
“I can’t believe you’d do this.”
“-and there is nothing I can do about it.”
“So you’re just going to leave me?” The hurt tone in her voice took both her and Draco by surprise. No, she did not bestow her full trust unto Draco, nor did she favor being tied to him, but what little emotional tie she had to him was a comfort. It was a safe place, and it was all that she had left. Now she’s being tossed around like some sort of worthless ragdoll in an orphanage.
“It wasn’t my choice,” he pointed out, emphasizing his innocence, “but I know that you are going to be put in to good hands. You’ll be safe.”
Anaxandra roughly put down her half-eaten pastry on the side table and fiercely looked out the window.
“Aren’t you going to finish your breakfast?” Draco asked, eyeing the apple filling that was beginning to ooze out.
“I'm not hungry, Malfoy,” she objected.
Anaxandra immediately pushed those other thoughts to the back of her mind. She had to remind herself that there were no emotional, only obligatory, bonds to Draco Malfoy. She would not put her emotions first, and she would not get comfortable. This was but a minor setback to her situation that happened to have a changed variable, and she would remain focused on her primary goal: gain access to Ministry files. With Draco, or without Draco, she would succeed.
“I have to take you back to the Ministry this afternoon to do some paperwork, and then I have to hand you off.”
Her ears perked up at the mention of going back to the Ministry, and some sort of emotion stirred within her. It was almost as if, for once, the Gods were smiling down upon her.
A/N: I know, it wasn't eventful. Don't bite my head off please :( So, do you guys like the shorter or longer chapters? How was the length on this one? What did you think was going to happen? Tell me your thoughts in the review box down below please!
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