Chapter 7 : Chapter Seven
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A/N- Hi there! OK, so once again, thank you to everyone for leaving lovely feedback, it seriously appreciate it so so much :)
I hope you didn't mind chapter 6 being a filler chapter and those of you who wanted the plot to move on slightly, I hope that this chapter does just that!
Please let me know what you think :)
I stood in the narrow dark corridor of the inn in front of Draco’s room. Shifting from foot to foot, I knocked once more.
I couldn’t believe that I was the one who had to be the bigger person and apologise to him. Well, no not apologise. I had done nothing wrong. But I would try and be civil and at least form a truce. Draco Malfoy was a difficult character and after being in his presence for 24 hours every day for not even a week, I had come to realise that I had to be careful with what buttons to push when it came to him. More stress would probably come to me from him and his difficult character than the actual task of retrieving the stones. This meant that I simply did not want to make allowances for his irritable moods. I was convinced that he was an extremely moody and narky person and as far as I knew, there was only one way to deal with difficult people: Politely let them know.
Draco answered on the third knock just as I was about to knock for the fourth time and I narrowly missed punching him in the face.
That would not have gone down very well I don’t think.
“What do you want?” he snapped, he sounded irritated but his face looked unfazed.
“To get a move on” I pushed past him and walked into the room, much to his efforts of resistance as he tried to lean against the doorframe to block me out.
“You accuse me of not knocking and then you just barge in” Draco grunted in frustration as he stood blocking the door so now I was stuck inside the room and slowly starting to regret coming in in the first place.
“It’s alright when I do it,” I walked over to the balcony and wrenched the heavy patio doors open. The air outside frosty and exhilarating. It was nearly midday, “I knew you weren’t naked or committing a heinous crime in here or anything, I’m just disturbing the peace”
The wind blew into the room and from the corner of my eye I saw a shiver take over Draco’s royal form. He hardened his expression when he realized that I had noticed.
“You don’t have to keep checking up on me” He said, sitting down on the bed, “I’m not going to just steal your information and then run away so fast you wonder if someone’s opened a window as I breeze past you”
I shrugged, turning my back to the balcony to face him, “I can’t help it that your whole persona screams ‘untrustworthy’”
“Your unbelievable” he said, “your trust issues are extraordinary”
I smiled, “It’s not that hard Malfoy, If you look as shady as you do, people will not trust you, simple”
Draco just sighed and chose not to reply, “What now?”
“With the stones, What now?”
“Oh! We’re going to the patisserie” I walked back into the room with a slight skip in my step. Maybe I was the one with random mood swings.
“And what exactly will we find in a bread shop” he asked, confused.
I decided to ignore his ignorance; that is an argument in itself for another day, “We’ll find my mother’s nurse and her grandson. If they got here safely, they should be working there now”
“Why would your mother’s nurse know anything about something so important?”
“She’s more than a nurse” I said defensively, “She raised my mother, taught her everything she knew, about the stones and just about anything else”
“Well,” Draco stood up, suddenly looking like he was the one who had come up with the idea and I was the one lagging behind, “Let’s go”
“Yes” I rolled my eyes, “Lets”
Draco reached for his wand from the pocket of his robes that lay draped over the back of a chair. I was still in my cloak and preferred it that way. I preferred warmth over fashion when it came to French winters. Draco, I noticed was clad in muggle clothing. Hypocrite.
Silence reigned supreme in the room as one of us tried to decide who would leave first. It was one of those awkward situations where you couldn’t really do much but take the lead. This time, it was Draco. He muttered something under his breath after a few more seconds of awkward enclosing silence before sweeping out of the room, leaving me behind to close the door.
I count not help but notice the aura of arrogance that floated around Draco as he walked. I examined the way he held himself as I shadowed behind him. He was so vacuous. Always trapped in his own bubble of personal high regard. We walked in silence, the awkward sound of our feet on the carpet. I walked at a pace so I wouldn’t for any reason step on the back of his feet. Draco however appeared as though he didn’t have a care in the world. He was murmuring something under his breath, a slight swagger in his walk and I didn’t miss the little look he gave the now female receptionist as we walked out of the inn.
I snorted. Pig.
I drew in a raspy breath as soon as we stepped outside. The cold started attacking me instantly. This was the type of weather that made you breathe into your hands and make them clammy and icy. I could not stop myself from admiring the beauty of winter. The snow almost squeaked under our feet. People walked by huddled either to another person or to themselves. Some spoke in fast fluent French or broken English. I understood both. My mother had made a point teaching me how to speak French, I could see it coming in handy soon. The village was set out on one big main road with small back streets leading off it. There were shops and inns and cafes and more shops. Small and quaint and friendly looking. The patisserie in question was not far from the inn and I found myself praying that I would find who I was looking for.
The warmth of the shop was almost too inviting and I hurried on inside, Draco lingering slightly behind me. As soon as he set foot inside, he immediately started surveying the place as if it was a high security prison and he would be shot and killed if he dared to come in any further. I wondered if all pure bloods were this socially awkward when it came to the muggle world. Probably.
The shop was heaving with Christmas shoppers, picking out cakes and pastries and all kinds to decorate their tables with. I found myself taken aback at the sight of it all. I had realised that the last time I had been around this many people I had been kneeling at Yaxley’s feet.
I mumbled a few ‘excuse me’ and ‘pardonnez-moi’ and pushed my way to the front of the queue. Leaving Draco somewhere in the crowd of people. I wasn’t bothered though. My heart was thumping loud in my chest at the thought of possible being so close to someone who I once regarded as family. After a few seconds of standing on my toes and craning my head. I found him. He was standing on a tool behind the counter, pulling a box of pastries from a shelf.
I couldn’t contain it. A smile broke out my face and it felt like an exhilarating sensation to truly smile at something. I could feel my heart sprouting arms and legs and little wings and flying around my ribcage like a maverick.
“ARIAN!” the voice that came out of me wasn’t mine. It belonged to another Imogen Blanc that was bursting with so much emotions that it was probably about to start leaking out from under my fingernails. Soon I would be standing in a puddle of my own hope and happiness and exhilaration.
Arian jumped at and wobbled slightly when he heard his name. He managed to regain his balance before turning around and staring right at me, dumbfounded. Some old woman was complaining to her husband about how the youth these days were overly loud and overly excited and most people had made a point of moving away from me but I didn’t care.
“Hi!” I waved back, feeling ten years old again. I would not be surprised if I looked at my self in the mirror and I saw my ten year old self staring back at me in her dungarees and curly hair. Arian stepped off his stool and ran over around the counter, dodging all the people to reach me. Suddenly the whole shop felt more smaller than it had done before.
“Imogen oh my-
“Imogen?” Draco had appeared behind me, His hands in his pockets but I could tell that he was just holding onto his wand incase it needed to be used.
“Draco” I had to raise my voice to be heard over the rush of people, “This is Arian, My mother’s nurses’ grandson”
“Arian, this is Draco, he’s- well it’s a long story”
Arian smiled and offered Draco his hand who in turn just looked at it before giving Arian nothing but a simple nod. I offered Arian a sympathetic smile on Draco’s behalf.
“Imogen,” Arian repeated his last words, “I don’t understand, you never wrote, for months, we thought you were-
“Dead?” Draco interrupted shamelessly, “She will be if we don’t get a move on and save these formal reunions for a more suitable time”
Arian looked partially horrified and somewhat terrified. I couldn’t blame him and I wondered how many time I would have to apologise on Draco’s behalf.
“Arian” I said softly, “Where’s Maeve? We need to speak with her, and you”
“She’s at home,” He rubbed a hand along the back of his neck nervously, “But I can take you to her, I was finished here anyway”
I nodded, “Ok, It’s important”
Arian nodded and smiled slightly, “I’ll be right back Imi”
Arian disappeared into the shop and told us to wait. I stepped out of the heat and chaos of the bakery and onto the street, feeling a rush of emotions all zooming around inside my head and I found it impossible to pluck one out and concentrate on it. I was worried yet hopeful and happy yet terrified.
Draco appeared beside me, casting his eyes over the street, “You do realise that getting these people involved will only end up putting them in danger don’t you?”
I nodded, my heart twisting, “I know”
Arian came back less than two minutes later, his work apron now replaced with a coat. He had a strange look in his eyes and I noticed the way he stuck close to me, walking on the complete other side of Draco. I couldn’t blame him really. I would not want to walk beside Draco either.
“What’s actually going on Imi?” He asked nervously. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I resented that nickname so I didn’t say anything.
“It’s a very long story Arian” I said softly as we walked along, treading carefully in the snow, “It’s best if you sat down and heard it”
“Oh” he mumbled. I could tell that he was begging to be told and I should probably put him out of his discomfort but the truth was, I could not let go of the shaking feeling that the open streets probably was not the best idea to reveal such information. Plus, Draco was being more shifty than normal. His hand had remained on his wand since we had left the inn and his eyes were watching everything. Like something was almost wrong.
We walked along in silence. Arian would occasionally strike up conversation about how he and Maeve had started working in an inn after my mother’s farm house was raided by death eaters. Hearing this made me feel even more unsafe, Death eaters had come this far, what if they were still here? According to Arian, Maeve was posing as the innkeeper and Arian would spend the day working at the patisserie and work nights at the inn tending to the guests. My heart went out to him. Arian was only two years older than I was and I know that he wanted much more from life than to spend it hiding out selling cakes by day and cleaning up after rude dirty guests by night.
We rounded a few more corners until we arrived in front of a rather neat and tidy looking building. The words ‘Remi Guest House’ written above the front door in orderly white French writing.
“Trust Maeve to keep things looking pretty” I smiled and Arian laughed as he opened the front door and led the way inside.
“Nana!” Arian called into the house, “You’ll never guess who’s here!”
Draco scowled at Arian’s level of enthusiasm and I glared at him, “Why are you so unstable when it comes to happiness?” I snapped as soon as Arian was out of earshot.
“I’m just trying to jump past all this froth and frivolity and concentrate on the matter at hand” he replied through gritted teeth, “we aren’t here for croissants and little mugs of hot chocolate”
“Go spread your negativity somewhere else” I scowled and went after Arian who had disappeared towards the back on the inn, leaving Draco to mingle with his pessimism in the reception.
As soon as I stepped into the kitchen, I felt myself being squeezed into something squishy. Maeve. I barely had time to breathe before she pulled me into a bone crushing hug. The scent of her perfume suddenly all to familiar.
“Imogen oh darling” She said as she squeezed me harder.
I suddenly remembered being very little and being hugged by Maeve and how when I would try to hug her back, my arms would be way too small to reach around her whole body. But now, I was able to do it and I wanted nothing more to be small again.
“How are you Maeve?” I murmured into her hair.
“Oh I’m good Imi I’m good” she pulled away, holding me at shoulders length, “Let me look at you”
I stood there feeling slightly awkward as she surveyed me; Maeve would be babying me for as long as I stayed here. Come to think of it, I quite liked that idea. Arian stood leaning against the kitchen sink behind her, smiling and I grinned back at him. Feeling as happy as the situation would allow.
“Take a seat Imi” Maeve patted my arm, “Where’s your friend”
My friend? Oh she meant Draco.
I took a seat on the kitchen table and as if on cue, Draco stepped into the kitchen. I could already feel the satisfaction I would feel to slap him if he dared be rude to Maeve.
“Hello” Draco smiled politely at Maeve who was busy pouring coffee into four mugs, “This inn’s delightful, I must say”
I stared at him as he sat down. If my face showed surprise then that was nothing compared to how shocked I was on the inside.
“Oh dear thank you” Maeve patted his hand as she placed a cup of coffee in front of each of us before sitting down herself, “Tell me, how can I help you”
She was asking Draco. Draco. Not me. Draco.
“We’ve come to acquire about the stones “ he said, taking a polite sip of the coffee before making a face that went unnoticed by Maeve and putting the mug back further away from him than it had been before, “Imogen here was reluctant because she didn’t want to give you any more trouble but I convinced here, I told her that It would be nice for her to see you again”
Maeve smiled and nodded at me, reaching for my hand across the table and patting it. Falling for Draco’s every word.
“Imogen must care for you a lot” My head snapped towards Maeve as she spoke, “Otherwise she would have never let anyone else convince her to do something she didn’t want too”
“We have a special bond, Imogen and I” Draco smirked at me and I felt sick.
I could feel Arian staring at me and I wanted to scream at him that Draco was a filthy liar playing a dirty dirty game but I couldn’t so I didn’t.
I decided to speak before Draco could coin up any other inventions, “The stones Maeve, the stones, we need to know how to find them”
“I knew the time would come when it would be necessary to locate the stones, Yaxley will not take a breather till they are found” Maeve looked so frail since had last seen her and it broke my heart.
It was my turn to reach across the table and take Maeve’s feeble hands in mine, “Can you tell us how? Please Maeve”
Here dark eyes explored mine until they softened and she squeezed my hands lightly, “Of course Imi”
I heard Draco draw out a breath and at the same time Arian’s demeanour changed and he sat up properly, as if what Maeve was about to say concerned him a great deal.
“To begin with, you will not be able to get anywhere just you two” She motioned to Draco and I, “You need people, a collection of special people who all have a proper part to play when it comes to the stones of Asclepius”
“What people?” Draco probed and I frowned at him for pressing her.
“The Asclepieade were a large order of priest physicians who controlled the sacred secrets of healing, They had the job of protecting the stones and being the sole keepers” She began, “Only five of them remain, a role passed down from mother to child”
Arian nodded, “And like me”
I started at him, “you?”
“Arian has the gift of Clairaudience” Maeve said, looking at Arian with such admiration it made my heart swell, “As did his mother, it gives him the power to form another frequency or realm, it is another form of channelling”
All of sudden I didn’t feel so special anymore. I mean, I know that my part in the stones had nothing to do with fame or feeling like I was more than I was but suddenly it didn’t just feel like my task any longer. Other people were more deeply involved than I was, they knew more than I did. Arian was aware of his special gifts and had plenty of time to practise them. I knew nothing about myself.
I stared down at my hands, “I didn’t know that”
Draco was listening more attentively now too. Most probably for his own selfish need.
“Neither did your mother,” Maeve said sadly, “She had so much to learn”
“Well it’s my job now” I wanted to sound brave, for Maeve’s sake, “Apart from Arian and I, who are the other three?”
“They live here, in this village, I myself have been aiding their training for months” She squeezed my hand as hard as her feeble grip would allow, “If there’s any five people I trust to do this task, It’s you”
I smiled weakly; the little confidence that I seemed to have in the first place disappeared. These people had been practising their gifts for months, years maybe. I had spent the last four months in a four by four room, it was a miracle I could still speak English. We would retrieve the stones, but I had a feeling it wouldn’t be my doing.
Maeve must have sensed my worry as she decided to shift the subject, turning to Arian who had been surprisingly quiet, “Another pot of coffee?”
He nodded and she got up, collecting Arian’s empty cup and mine and Draco’s full ones from the table and pottered over to the kettle.
The three of us sat in a trickily silence. I stared down at my lap and tried to not let Draco’s intense stare burn a hole in my skull. My mind was hurtling into a terrain. So much was going on around me, so many people’s lives and hearts and minds were embedded in the search for these rocks and I was just another name on the list. It hurt me to think that I was the one who had endured hell and torture and guilt and pain and not anyone else. It was the selfish angry girl inside me speaking. The one who thought that all of this was ‘unfair’. At that moment I so badly wanted to just get up and walk out. Draco had Arian, no matter how much he did not seem to like him, and together they had three others and on top of that they had the wisdom of Maeve. Why would they need me? A silly emotional girl with no gifts nor talents. I know that life is unfair but why couldn’t it be unfair in my favour?
The urge to just leave was strong, if I could run and run and run far away enough, change my name and pretend I had no past, I could easily stay hidden from Yaxley. It would be easy enough. I could go to the furthest corner of the world. Where even magic was inadequate in finding me. I could have a family too, and a farm and a large library full of every book on every subject in the world so when I felt like stepping out and experiencing the world, I could step into my library instead and read about other people’s lives. Sort of like peaking over your garden fence at the family next door, but in a much more subtle way.
But then again, I had made a promise to my mother. It had been her dying wish for me to this. I looked up to see Arian toying with a loose thread on his sleeve and his face looked bored yet hopeful and I felt my heart warm up at the excitement in his eyes. Besides, Maeve had finished making her coffee and she placed a steaming mug down in front of me and squeezed my shoulder, spreading through me an odd sense of security which I had not felt in sometime.
And so I realised that I could not, for the life of me, let them down.
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