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Chapter 13 : Commencement
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“Make sure to stretch regularly, Nyx. If you don’t, your muscles will get stiff and you’ll never be able to strengthen them properly. I don’t want you getting hurt out there because of a muscle cramp.”
Sitting up again with legs still curled underneath her, Anaxandra leaned forward to stretch her knotted back muscles and with her back arched and arms extended in front of her, she deeply exhaled to feel the muscle fibers loosen.
“You were with him, Ana! Why did you not stay and fight?”
That was three weeks ago, and Anders’s words still cut her like a blade, each word another stab at her heart. As painful as it was, she couldn’t blame him for what he said. He had a right to be angry with her, and if the roles were reversed, Anaxandra wouldn’t have acted any differently. Their parents were all they had in this whole world, and now they were gone. She had to make it up to Anders somehow; otherwise she would never gain his forgiveness.
“Parents and children fight, it’s normal. You can’t punish yourself over that.”
Draco’s voice now invaded her mind and it took her by surprise. It had been weeks since she had seen him and she had been trying to keep him out of her mind, but now the platinum blonde hair was beginning to make it’s way out of her memory bank along with the cold gray eyes and pompous smirk that stirred troublesome emotions within her. Anaxandra would not allow herself to be immersed in these thoughts again, and fought the heartache off. She didn’t have time for this.
“Remember Nyx, I’m not going to live forever. One day, you’re going to have to learn to train yourself. I’m going to give you all the practice and knowledge I can, but it’s going to be up to you to keep up with it. Especially because you… you aren’t like me and Anders, you need to work extra hard. You must be diligent.”
Throwing on a jumper, a pair of leggings and some trainers, Anaxandra made her way downstairs. Being at the Potter household was less than exciting but she took it as a training opportunity. She would hone each skill to the level that it once was, making sure to find every chance possible to practice. Observation was most important, and it was something she exercised daily. She observed Harry and his habits, learning that although he may look like he was constantly working, he was really just paying attention to this muggle invention called a ‘television’ when he thought no one was looking. Whenever Ginny was around, his voice would get an octave higher and he became surprisingly submissive to her.
It was not only Harry’s habits she picked up on, but the habits of those who frequented the house. In addition to weekends, Ginny had Wednesdays off from her Quidditch practice to come and spend a disgusting amount of time with Harry. She proved to be quite overbearing, and while her and Harry would argue almost continuously, it wasn’t hard to see that they loved each other very much.
Every Friday, Hermione and Ron would join Harry and Ginny for dinner (that Anaxandra never attended due to the very annoying judgmental glances from Ginny) and sometimes spent the night over in the other spare bedroom. Anaxandra couldn’t help but admire Hermione’s intelligence and wit, but wondered how she could be so compatible with someone as gluttonous and dim as Ron. Anaxandra found him to be rather repulsive, honestly.
Anaxandra snuck down the stairs, careful to avoid the creaky planks of wood in the floor, and treaded lightly on the stairs before she snuck out of the front door. Even if she did happen to mistakenly step on a loose board, the volume of Ron’s snores were sure to mask the sound. She could probably announce her presence in the hallway and still wouldn’t be heard. There was a slight glow to the sky, which meant that dawn was approaching and there would be a few more hours until Hermione woke up to have her morning tea.
“Glad to see I’m not the only one you deem worthy enough to disobey.”
Draco’s voice found its way from the corner of Anaxandra’s mind that she had swept it off to. Just like its owner, it was too stubborn and arrogant to just stay quiet.
The cold winter air stung her cheeks and every inhale felt like shards of ice pierced her lungs, but Anaxandra reveled at the feeling of her burning legs. It meant she was becoming stronger. She weaved in and out of the trees, pulling herself up on low branches and jumping over fallen logs. Her pace quickened. She had been working on it all week, and now that she could keep her mind working fast enough to multi-task, her footsteps were practically silent. Close attention had to be paid not only to the sound of her footsteps, but also to her breathing, awareness of other creatures around her, and to other possible routes. She ran every morning, but no run was the same.
“Whatever you do, you need to run. Almost everyday if you can manage it. It’s a good way to prepare you for a physically challenging mission, and if that mission goes sour, at least you know you can outrun your enemy.”
With one large leap, Anaxandra grabbed a low branch and pulled herself up, climbing up a few more branches. Straddling a limb that faced the sunrise, she patiently awaited the arrival of the sun, her heart rate still high from the run and the climb up. This was her favorite part of the morning. Breathing in the fresh air and just setting foot in the forest where nature had a strong presence made Anaxandra feel whole. It nurtured the organic and ancient gift that ran through her veins. With her hand placed firmly on the branch she sat on, she could feel the tree’s life force—its heartbeat.
“Ana?” a small voice floated from below her, paired with quick, tiny footsteps. Anaxandra looked down to see a muddy outline of a miniature human being. “Ana, where are you? It’s so dark, I can’t see like you and Anders!”
“Shh! Agnatha!” a harsher voice whispered.
“You said she was here, and I don’t see her!” The voice of her little sister whined, and by the breaking of twigs and crunching of leaves, Anaxandra could tell that she was stomping the ground in frustration.
Anaxandra climbed down from the tree, landing silently behind her little sister. The four-year-old had no idea of her sister’s presence, and continued stomping the ground. “I want to see Ana, now!”
“Agnatha!” Anaxandra whispered from behind her, and Agnatha gasped. Turning around, the little girl’s face went from shocked to ecstatic, throwing her tiny arms around her big sister’s leg.
“Ana I missed you! Anders wouldn’t let me see you for the longest time! He said that he didn’t know where you were, but I knew he was lying!” She cried quietly into Anaxandra’s leg, squeezing it as tightly as her little arms could muster. Anaxandra’s vision was also starting to become blurred with tears as she felt the rapid pace of her little sister’s heartbeat against her leg.
Anders emerged from the shadows, his face holding a guilty expression. “She wanted to see you so badly, and I couldn’t deny her that anymore.”
Overwhelmed with emotion, Anaxandra felt her heart jump as Anders strode over to join in the hug, his strong arms squeezing her so tightly that she felt her ribs could break, but she didn’t care. She coiled her arms around him with all the strength that she could gather. Taking what she could from all of her experiences with emotion, she gathered that Anders was, in his own way, saying that he was sorry. And Anaxandra, in her own way, was saying that she accepted.
At a volume no higher than a soft breath, Anaxandra whispered in her brother’s ear, “I need to tell you something important.”
Anders stood still for a moment in thought, his eyebrows furrowed until he stepped back from the embrace. Looking into Anaxandra’s eyes, he concluded that this wasn’t a conversation for their little sister to partake in. “Agnatha, go and fetch some wood for a fire, please.”
“I want Ana to come with me!” Agnatha laughed, beaming up at Anaxandra. Her face was still puffy from crying, and her cheeks were rosy from the cold stinging them.
“I’m going to talk to her first. Anyways, you should show her how good you are at gathering wood,” Anders cooed fondly, squatting next the little girl and smiling. She smiled back and nodded, rushing off through the trees. “Remember, not too far!” he called after her.
“Have you found any old contacts?” Anaxandra asked him once Agnatha was out of ear’s reach.
“Only a few, but they were of no help. Why?” Anders held a suspicious glint in his eyes as he examined the thoughtful face of his sister.
“I have a few known locations of Jeffrey Tobin.”
“The Tracker?” he inquired earnestly, searching the silvery gray eyes that mirrored his own.
“Yes. Try Knockturn Alley first; it’s probably the closest. Then there’s Tentsmuir Forest, Wentwood, Capanagh Forest—“
“How did you get this information?” He pried, holding up his hand to stop her from talking.
Anaxandra apprehensively told her older brother the short version of what had happened to her that night and how she had been surviving every day since. Careful to exclude names, she told him about the Ministry, about the attack, and how she had gotten the knowledge of the informant’s whereabouts.
“…and I’ve been staying—“
“Okay, stop. Just… I honestly couldn’t follow half of that story, and frankly I'm just happy that you're still alive. Whatever the case may be right now, you need to get yourself out of this tangled web you’ve weaved because I can’t do this alone,” Anders stressed. The sound of quick, small footsteps grew closer, which meant Agnatha would be back soon and their conversation had to be finished.
“I’ll take care of it Anders, I just need time.” Anaxandra looked at him with pleading eyes. She didn’t have a fully formed plan yet.
“It’s been two months already. Time is running out, Ana. Every day that passes, the truth grows farther and farther away from our grasp and soon we’ll have nothing. We need to act quickly.”
“How quickly?” She asked after a short pause.
“I can scout out Knockturn Alley by myself for the next couple days, but if nothing comes from that we have to move on.”
Anaxandra’s mouth flew open and she shook her head. “Two days?” she asked incredulously. “I don’t know if I can come up with a fool-proof plan in just two days, Anders.”
Her older brother nodded. He pulled his sister into a warm embrace before sighing, “You’re smart, and I have faith in you. Two days and we leave.”
“We’re leaving in two days?” Agnatha asked, breathing heavily from the large bundle of sticks she was carrying. “Is Ana coming?”
The sun’s rays were now peeking over the horizon, painting the countryside with beautiful orange and yellow hues. The frost that glazed the greenery glistened like diamonds, and birds were beginning to sing their first melodies of the morning. Harry’s house stood in the distance, small and insignificant in comparison to the rest of the forest, the bight red door standing out against the white paneling. As cozy as it seemed, it wasn’t home, and she had no desire to stay.
“Yes, little one, I’m coming.” Anaxandra smiled, cupping her little sister’s cheek and stroking it with her thumb. In that very moment, staring into the bright gray eyes that glimmered with an innocence Anaxandra hoped that they would never lose, she knew that this was where she wanted to be. This man who smelled of campfires and this little doe-eyed girl were her everything. As long as she was with them, she was home.
Anaxandra looked at Anders, giving him an intense and confident stare, before stating, “I’ll meet you here in two days.”
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