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Chapter 15 : Option
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“I told you to make absolutely sure that you didn’t miss anyone,” came a man’s voice, his tone deep and concerned.
“I swept through the area twice, Anders,” responded a familiar female voice, but the pounding in Draco’s skull was hindering his thinking process.
“Looks like you should have done a third sweep, sweet sister,” he criticized. A short sigh followed, along with a sharp scraping sound that made Draco’s brain feel like it would explode.
Draco’s eyes began to slowly flutter open, but his vision was no more than blurry. In front of him, he could make out a bright light that he determined to be a fire due to the heat it was giving off. Everything else was too muddy and distorted for him to be able to tell where he was, but he could vaguely make out two figures sitting on the other side of the fire. They were barely within earshot.
“All I’m saying is that you should have been a little more thorough.”
“He must have showed up when we were trying to smoke Tobin out, and by then I had already made my rounds. Even you didn’t suspect anyone to enter that part of the market, especially that time of day.” The voice was becoming clearer to Draco, as was his vision, and he could now tell that the woman across the fire from him was Anaxandra.
His mind began working a little more properly. Anaxandra Synder was sitting no more than fifteen feet away from him. She was alive and well, sharpening knives with a man who shared the same dark, auburn hair. Taking into account the bits of conversation he had heard earlier and the clear resemblance, Draco assumed that the man beside her was her brother, but wasn’t her brother supposed to be dead? It seemed his nightmare had no end.
The clearer his vision got, the more closely he examined her. He studied her every feature to make sure it was her: the thick, red hair that fell over one shoulder, full lips, heart-shaped face, and the gray eyes that Draco found hard to shake from his memory. It was really her.
“Anaxandra?” Draco croaked quietly, his voice coming out just above a whisper.
Both Anaxandra and her brother looked up in unison. She wore a mask of surprise on her face, while her brother did nothing more than roll his eyes and mutter, “Lovely. The idiot remembers who you are. You told me you took care of that.”
“I took care of everyone that was at the holding house. You gave me two days Anders, I couldn’t just go scouring all over Britain to find him and wipe his memory,” she fumed, putting the knife she was sharpening down on a cloth in front of her.
With the pounding ache that still plagued his brain, Draco tried to make sense of what they just said. He felt like it still wasn’t real, and that he would wake up in the staff room with a cold cup of coffee next to his head and a pile of case folders stacked tall in front of him.
Wait, had he just been called an idiot? Draco would admit that he was many things, but he was certainly no idiot. Dream or not, Draco refused to let a stranger insult him.
“Did you just call me an idiot?” he asked, squinting his eyes because he felt that it helped his headache.
“Well spotted! Want a gold star to hang on your wall?” Anders taunted, pointing a knife at Draco.
“You can’t insult me, you don’t even know me,” Draco sneered. He tightened his jaw, trying to adjust the uncomfortable restraints that kept him chained to the forest floor.
“It doesn’t matter if I know you,” Anders replied, standing up and removing Draco’s wand from his pocket. As he spun it in his hands and between his fingers, he explained, “I am going to wipe your memory of all current events. You won’t remember me, my sister, or that the incident in Knockturn Alley ever happened. Sound good, Nancy?”
“Nancy?” Draco asked.
“I just thought that with your well-groomed hair and tight suit—“
“It’s not tight it’s fitted,” Draco spat, interrupting Anders who currently held Draco’s wand like it was a toy.
Anders held his hands up in defense and laughed, “My apologies, Miss.”
Anaxandra watched with amusement as the two man-children verbally battled it out. Was it amusing? Yes. And was it practically euphoric to see Draco take a dose of his own medicine? Oh bloody hell yes. But she knew that she couldn’t subject him to the jackassery that was her older brother for much longer.
“Come on,” she ordered, grabbing Anders by the wrist and dragging him to the tents on the other side of their camp. Keeping her voice low she said, “Anders I don’t think we should obliviate his memories just yet.”
“Why are you talking so quietly?” Anders whispered. Anaxandra knew it was only to mock her.
She lightly hit his arm in annoyance. Taking a quick glance at Draco she said, “Just listen to me for a minute! He could be useful.”
“In what way? He’s nothing more than a liability.”
“He’s an Auror. He’s combat trained, well practiced in defense, a good planner—“
“Remind me to recruit his help when I need a list made,” Anders joked. Anaxandra wondered if it would kill him to listen to her talk for more than two minutes.
Anaxandra pointed a finger to his chest and poked him, causing him to roll his eyes and swat her hand away. “You know I’m right, and having an extra pair of hands around here wouldn’t be such a bad idea.”
“Um, excuse me!” called their prisoner, Jeffrey Tobin, from the other side of the tree that Draco leaned against.
Anders sighed, rubbing his face impatiently at the sound of Tobin’s voice.
“From your silence I take that you’re paying attention. Yes, well let me start by saying you both have been lovely hosts. Just wanted to know if you two are done with your family meeting. I’d like to head home, maybe grab a bit of a late lunch or an early dinner if you prefer.”
“You just wait, wanker,” Anders threatened before he walked inside his tent. “I’ll get to you in a minute.”
Now Anaxandra stood alone at one end of the camp, looking at Draco nervously. He was leaning his head back against the tree with his eyes closed, a habit of his when he was stressed. His jaw clenched, which meant that he was also angry, and if they were at the holding house she would have made a note to steer clear from him. She also determined that he was uncomfortable due to the handcuffs that were tightly snapped to his wrists. He kept moving his arms to adjust them, but it was no use. The thick iron cuffs disabled the use of any wrist movement, and were chained to a metal loop in the ground.
Trying to avoid confrontation for as long as possible, Anaxandra just turned away and knelt down at the large metal basin full of water and began scrubbing the clothes that were in the basket next to the basin. They had already been washed that morning, but she wanted to look busy. Standing around like a complete idiot, and stupidly staring at Draco wasn’t the most effective way to spend her time and she wanted to slap herself for even considering that it was.
“So, we’re probably going to be tied up together for a while. We might as well try to be friendly,” Tobin suggested, calling from the other side of the tree.
“Or we could not,” Draco grunted, wanting the conversation to come to a close already.
“Name’s Tobin, Jeff Tobin. What’s your name?” Tobin asked happily, the clanking of chains following his question. No answer came. “Alright, you favor anonymity. I can respect that. Let’s try something else. I’m here because I have valuable information. How about you?” Again, he was answered by silence. The only other sounds Anaxandra could hear were the sounds of water sloshing and the campfire crackling. “I see you’re a man of mystery,” Tobin observed, sounding a little disappointed.
“You talk too much,” Draco scoffed. Anaxandra could just imagine the sneer on his face and the way he raised his left eyebrow before he rolled his eyes in annoyance.
“And you’re lucky! All I see is forest, but you get the side of the tree that faces camp, not to mention you get to look at that woman all day long. Isn’t she lovely?”
Although Anaxandra tried to play it off like she wasn’t listening, the sloshing of the clothes stopped as she unconsciously waited for Draco’s answer.
“You might want to stop talking before she comes over here and punches you,” Draco warned, a slight tone of amusement in his voice.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” Tobin replied smugly. “You sound familiar. Have I sold you a runespoor lately?”
“Oi! No talking!” Anders called while stepping out of the tent with Agnatha glued to his back like a little monkey. “Time to check the traps, little one. Remember, don’t go any farther than the line I drew outside of camp, alright?” In one motion he set her down gently, and she ran off quickly.
When it came time to hunt, Anders turned into a different person. He wasn’t the Anders that joked all the time and was so lighthearted that it was a wonder how he didn’t float away. He was Anders the Hunter—serious, professional, and intimidating. He tried his hardest to perfect the art of hunting, and he did a fine job of it.
Anders strode over to Tobin, holding the chain firmly in his hand while tapping his wand to the metal loop that cemented him to the floor. He pulled Tobin up, causing him to give a little squeak as his feet left the floor for a moment. “Ana, deal with that fire. It’s a bit low.”
Anaxandra mentally cursed Anders as he dragged Tobin away from camp. The fire was halfway between her and Draco, and moving to the fire would mean that only an uncomfortable fifteen feet came between them. She quite enjoyed the cushy thirty feet that kept them apart. Taking a deep breath, she dried her hands off on her jeans and turned around to see Draco staring off in thought, thankfully in another direction. With each step she took she felt the amount of adrenaline in her blood increase until she knelt in front of the fire, and a familiar feeling knotted her stomach.
“So what information does Tobin have that you need?” Draco asked as Anaxandra began stoking the fire, sending glowing ashes dancing upwards toward the evening sky. She hadn’t even noticed him turn his attention towards her.
“We’re hoping he knows who raided our home that night, or he could at least lead us to someone who does know.” Anaxandra tried to keep her answer short and to the point, leaving out the possibility for any more questions, or even worse, a conversation. She threw a new piece of wood in, sending another group of ash up in the air.
“I never thought I’d see you again,” Draco confessed quietly while hanging his head, unaware that Anaxandra could hear him clearly.
Against her better judgment, Anaxandra looked up from the flames at the man who she had hoped would remain only a memory to her. His eyes met hers, and he looked thoughtful, but confused, as if he were trying to work out an impossible puzzle.
“You must be happy,” Draco stated after a few moments of silence and staring.
“What?” Anaxandra asked, blinking a few times. She didn’t even realize that she hadn’t blinked since she looked up at him.
“About your family. They’re alive and well, I see,” he said in a desperate and failing attempt at a conversation.
“Oh… yeah. Very happy.” Feeling the heat rise up from her neck and spread to her cheeks, Anaxandra broke eye contact and quickly started throwing more sticks and twigs into the fire.
A small thud startled her, and to her surprise she found two dead rabbits and a rather fat dead pheasant in a pile beside her.
“Traps are empty!” Agnatha exclaimed, smiling smugly, strands of hair falling in her face.
“Good job, Agnatha,” Anaxandra praised her little sister, taking a hair tie from her own wrist and proceeding to tie Agnatha’s unruly black locks into a ponytail. “Now go wash your hands and change into clean clothes for supper.”
The little girl obediently walked away.
“I’m not eating that.” Looking up, Anaxandra saw a disgusted and disapproving look pasted on Draco’s face.
“Then you starve,” she snapped. As she began skinning and cleaning the meat, she saw Draco frown and look away. A slight heaving motion from him notified her that he was holding back nausea. “Pull yourself together, Draco. My baby sister is more of a man than you are right now.”
“So you’re an Auror?” Agnatha, still dirty handed and donned in her dirty clothes, had crept around Anaxandra to get a better look at the mysterious man in a suit that was handcuffed and sitting on the floor. That sneaky little girl must have been listening when she was supposed to be napping.
“Leave him alone,” Anaxandra warned, momentarily looking up from the dead pheasant in front of her.
“Maybe you should listen to your sister.” Draco raised an eyebrow at the curious little girl that looked as if she was examining him. What thoughts could possibly be running through the mind of a child?
“So that means you catch dark wizards,” the little girl queried, cocking her head to the side in suspicion, “like those dead guys?”
“Agnatha! Do as I say and wash up for dinner, now,” Anaxandra ordered as she put the last of the meat in a bucket of water to wash off the blood.
Sighing in frustration, Agnatha stomped away, upset that she had been denied an interesting story.
“Looks like she has her sister’s attitude,” Draco jested, smirking at Anaxandra while she glared at him.
“Shut your gob before I go over there and skin you just like I did these rabbits.”
Draco narrowed his eyes a moment, thinking, before asking, “What did she mean by ‘dead guys?’”
“It’s what she calls Death Eaters. Give her a break, she’s four,” Anaxandra replied, threading a stick through what looked to be a rabbit carcass. She expected a snarky comeback from Draco, but all she got was silence.
Anders appeared from the shadows of the forest, dragging along a very amused looking Jeffrey Tobin. Throwing him on the ground, Anders locked him back up to his metal loop and growled.
“Hey, hey, hey! No need to be so rough!” Tobin complained, and before he could say any more he started snoring softly.
“Thank Merlin for sleeping spells,” Anders breathed, walking around to the other side of the tree.
“Okay Nancy, here’s the deal,” he said, looking down at Draco. “Ana has convinced me that you might be of some use on our current endeavors. I’m not forcing you to stay because honestly I don’t want you here, but I’m asking for my sister’s sake. If you choose to accept, you agree to accompany us on a life or death journey to Merlin knows where and for how long. If you deny, you tell us where to take you, and we drop you off and wipe your memory like none of this ever happened. So what is it?”
Draco seemed to think for a moment, first staring at the ground, and then at Anaxandra. She silently waited for his answer, looking up at him every so often from her dinner preparations.
“I haven’t got all evening, Nancy.” Anders crossed his arms impatiently.
“I’ll help you,” Draco answered. Anaxandra accidentally dropped the pheasant on the ground and cursed, throwing it back in the water bucket to be cleaned again.
“Really?” Anders asked, crossing his arms and narrowing his eyes in suspicion. “After I just offered you the chance to forget about all of this and return to your normal life, you still want to help us?”
Draco nodded, readjusting his position on the ground. “I don’t have much to go back home to anyways.”
Anders unlocked the handcuffs and allowed Draco to stand up, rubbing his wrists. Draco held out his hand expectantly, waiting for his wand, but Anders quickly placed it in his own pocket. “You won’t get your wand back until I can trust you.”
“I’d do the same,” Draco admitted, taking a step away from him.
Anders soon walked away and back into his tent. Draco took a step towards Anaxandra, closing the distance she had been fighting to keep and in seconds she had lost the battle with only a mere two feet between them.
“I hope I can help you,” he said, holding out his hand as if he wanted a handshake.
Taking it gently in her own, she swallowed hard before replying, “Me too.”
No movement followed. They stood still, hand in hand, doing nothing but accepting the reality of what was presently happening. The questions Anaxandra had were unimportant as she noticed that the bare skin of her hand was in contact with his. He pressed his fingers firmly into her palm, and the pleasurable sensation Anaxandra was experiencing started to make her panic. This had to be the first time Anaxandra noticed the effect his touch had on her, and she found it to be desirable and scary all at the same time but she never let go of his hand. And even though they had spent a month apart, it suddenly felt like nothing had changed, and everything was aligned again.
Yes, I know, very dialogue heavy. But other than that, what did you think? A bit of a filler, but I hope it didn't seem that way! Thank you for reading :) --MC_HK
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