Chapter 9 : Chapter Nine
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A/N- Hey-ho! Here’s the next chapter. Before I begin, I just wanted to let everyone know just how much I appreciate all the reads and feedback; without it I just don’t think I would have had the heart or motivation to carry on with it. So thank you all, On HPFF as readers, reviewers or just generally lovely people. I would not have been able to get past chapter one without the support : )
Oh, and with NaNo starting so so soon (possibly already started, depending on when this gets validated) updates may be a teeny weeny bit slower than usual but I promise to post at least one chapter in the queue every week so I don’t lag behind with the updates. BUT, it is sometimes hard to update because November is a busy month full of exams and general life so do take my update deadlines with a pinch of salt :p
It was seven o’clock when it happened. The overcast skies had the colour of gunmetal flint. The night had nearly come and with it, brought the promise of rain. Somewhere, just past the frothy tops of nearby hills and the rooftops and spires of the village, the sky gave a clap of anger. Or was it disappointment? Was Mother Nature angry that I was much better at brooding than she? And maybe it was because of that spite that she slapped the clouds into a heated turmoil that flew west towards the village. A swirling, monstrous, beautiful thing.
I was sitting, gazing out into the shrouded night, in one of the very few lit rooms of the inn. Unlike most hotels in the village, this one seemed to have no interest in making the place look as though it was bursting with life. Probably because it wasn’t. I remembered getting lost somewhere inside my own reflection in the window. Not because I was admiring myself in any way, moreover, I was trying to look past the eyes and the nose and the skin and deeper into who I really was. I don’t know how I got there. How we got there. I used to know who I was, yet all of a sudden, I find myself discovering parts of me that I did not even know existed. I welcomed the clarity that came over me as looking at my blurred reflection allowed me to gaze into another dimension where Imogen Blanc was another person entirely. A stronger person. I remembered the person that I used to be and when I look at my reflection, I cannot see where the old me ends and the new me begins.
I noticed a few people walking on the street down below and it was then that I was about to turn around to ask Arian about the time; wondering where Draco had got too, when I heard a sickening thud behind me. I felt my heart knock about my ribcage and turned around to tell him that he shouldn’t scare me like that but my words got lost somewhere on their way out. Arian lay on the ground. His body twisting, his head thrashing back against the floor. Arian’s nails dug into the ground as if he was battling such pain that it knocked him from his senses and he was desperately trying to hold onto reality, his eyes moved fast and loose in their sockets. Blood trickled out from his mouth, down his chin and onto his shirt. If Arian was screaming, his shrieks were muted by the blood filling up in his lungs.
I was frozen, my mind utterly swimming with every possible scenario that could happen in the next few minutes. I thought about Arian dead. I thought about myself screaming for help and no one turning up. I even thought about Draco running in through the door ready to save him. But none of that happened. I stood there preserved on the spot watching as Arian slowly stopped twisting and convulsing until he was lying in a weak huddle in the middle of the room. Blood pouring out from the corners of his mouth and out of his nose. His eyes darting around the room. His lips were moving, fast. As if he was trying to tell many tales but something inside him was holding his voice back.
It was only when Arian’s soundless muttering died down and his eyes glazed over and his breathing steadied slightly that my legs found energy. After several deep breaths, I walked over to him, crossing the room in easy strides and dropping to my knees, I cradled his head gently in my lap. Trying to take no notice of the blood that leaked onto my clothes when Arian’s head fell against my body and the rest of the red liquid escaped his mouth and onto my arms and hands.
I remembered reading something in one of my mother’s magazines once about steps to take if someone near you ever had a seizure. I was not sure if a seizure was what had happened to Arian but it was the closest thing that I could think off. I sat there for a while, getting more and more drenched in his blood as I tried to rack my brain for the appropriate thing to do. Trying not to think of the fact that every minute I wasted could be another minute jeopardising Arian’s life.
“Hey, Hey Arian – what is it? What’s wrong?!” I starting whimpering along with him until the better part of me started to yell at the hysterical part of me. Telling me that I was witless and useless. I took in deep breaths, I had to stay calm. That was step number one. I tried to get him to sit up but Arian didn’t want to sit up, he wasn’t going to sit up. So I skipped step two.
Cushion their head. That was step three. I hastily took my bloodied clock off and folded it up so that it would act as a pillow. I checked to see that his breathing had returned to normal and lifted his head up slightly so no more blood could block up his airways. I had left my wand where I had been sitting at the window so I could not even clean the blood off his clothes. I had no choice but to stay there in the middle of the floor till he recovered; I could not move him alone.
The next ten minutes were the longest of my life. By the time he opened his eyes and found the energy to get a word out, my legs had gone numb from supporting his weight and the blood on my hands and arms had started to turn sticky.
“Imi” Arian managed to choke out, still looking dazed.
“Shh, you don’t have to say anything” I said softly, trying my best to comfort him by running a hand through his hair which was drenched from sweat.
“No – no I do, I had –,” He still struggled to get his words out, slowly lifting himself from my lap and sitting up against the wall, looking slightly embarrassed, “ I had a duppy”
I was scared and breathless and confused, “A what?”
“A duppy” He repeated, “It’s what I call visions”
All I could do was blink at him. We must have looked a sight if anyone else were to see us. Sitting on the floor covered in blood. Arian looking as though he had just been brought back from a corner of hell and me gaping at him as though he needed to be sectioned.
Arian shrugged and laughed nervously, scratching the back of his neck, “Childhood habit”
My eyes widened, “You mean you’ve been going through these – visions since you were a child?”
He nodded sheepishly, “Since I was eleven, first time it happened Maeve thought I was going to die, she made the doctors keep me in a hospital for months,” Arian pulled himself off the floor and then helped me up, looking at the bloody mess on my floor and my hands apologetically, “I’m sorry – I can’t control it, I – I should have told you”
I wanted to scream at him for giving me a momentarily heart attack and for not warning me earlier and for ruining the carpet and my cloak. But those things could easily be fixed with magic so I said nothing. Instead, I just smiled in spite of my clenched fist, “Don’t worry, At least now, I know”
“If it’s OK, I think that I should shower” Arian said, noticing his blood ridden shirt for the first time. He was half way to the bathroom when he stopped, “Imi, thank you, for what you did”
I didn’t have the heart to tell him that for the most part, I had just stood frozen on the spot like a loose part, “You’re welcome”
I watched as he smiled and headed off towards the bathroom and I looked at all the blood stains on his clothes and suddenly my mother’s words came into my head, a silly thing she had once said, ‘Long live laundry’
“Arian?” I called out just in time.
“Throw me your clothes while you shower, i’ll fix them”
He looked my wand that lay on the windowsill and understood, “I’ll toss them out in a minute”
I nodded, picking my cloak up off the floor and racking my brain for a cleaning spell.
Imogen had kept remarkably quiet since I had returned. As had Arian. The two would cast each other nervous glances when they thought I wasn’t looking and Imogen looked particularly anxious. I had no interest in knowing what was bothering either of them. If it was important enough to have anything to do with the stones then they should have told me by now and if it did and they had purposely kept it from me, well then they were making a big mistake.
In spite of their actions, I had taken pride in telling them that I had managed to locate all three people on Arian’s list. I found it strange that they had been under Maeve’s training for months and Arian had not met them once and knew nothing of them but their name. I also found it strange that Bagman had allowed us to know so much information. I was wary of the fact that it could be a trap. That the ‘three people’ could actually lead us into the arms of Yaxley. So, I had chosen to go alone. That way we would attract less attention and death eaters were much less likely to harm me if they saw me alone rather than if they were to see Imogen. And on top of that, I had no plans of dragging Arian with me anywhere. It was enough having to look after myself in a brand new place but I couldn’t be looking over my shoulder every few minutes to see if a crazy death eater had plucked Arian and ran off with him.
Arian might be a muggle but over and above that, he’s also one sandwich short of a picnic. I haven’t missed the way his eyes dart about his head when he thinks no one is looking and I certainly did not miss his sudden collapse and attack in Imogen’s room. Who ever knew that a simple eavesdropping charm could ever be so useful?
I had tracked the three people to a small house on the outskirts of a village. After casting a disillusionment charm over myself and entering the house, I had only managed to physically see two people. A boy and a girl. They looked harmless enough and at the end of the day if they were to pose any real threat at all. We had two wizards and half a crazy person on our side. They would not really get that far.
When I had got back to the inn, I insisted that we leave straight away whilst we knew their location but Imogen contended that we wait for the storm to pass because we could not apparate with Arian.
She called me selfish and egotistic and in the end, she won.
It took at least an hour for the storm clouds to pass and as we walked silently through the village, I could not help but feel still and empty. Like the eye of a storm must feel. Causing destruction in my wake and having no one else to blame for it but myself. The only sounds were the sound of Arian and Imogen’s feet as they walked slightly behind me, speaking in hushed whispers every now and again. The odd passerby would walk with their head down. Restaurants were empty and house lights had been snuffed out. This odd silence was in some ways comforting. We all had a common goal and so there was no need to talk about it. In a way, we all worked for ourselves. There was none, if any team effort at all. We were not a team. We all had our own personal goals and to some extent, selfish reason for getting to the stones. I guess we just needed each other for help and so that we would be able to hear another human being’s voice and not go insane.
I, for the most part, enjoyed the stillness. It made me feel oddly at home. I remembered my days at the manor when I was younger and would come home from Hogwarts for the holidays. Most of my days would be spent in either of two ways: In complete silence whilst I explored the manor by myself and spent the evenings in my own company or in extreme intensity whilst my mother hosted lavish parties and I was made to socialise with all the other pureblood children, especially Pansy Parkinson who had always had tendencies of being a little snot rag. And then over the years red current syrup at parties turned into fire whisky and then suddenly socialising wasn’t so hard anymore.
I think about the manacles that bind all death eaters together. Especially the ones that would often attend these costly celebrations that Malfoy Manor would hold. What was so different about all those pureblood families that would drink and laugh and joke together from the families that someone like Potter or even Imogen would socialise with? I thought about the answer to that whilst I walked. What really made families of death eaters and death eaters alike evil? What made them bad? What made them different from the people that were considered good?
And then answer is so clear.
Or rather, lack of it. In fact, the bond between death eaters is anything but love. It is hunger for infinite power. Their bond is something feral and raw. Something that eventually, consumes and devours them all. They are born with the devil already sewn into their disposition.
I led Arian and Imogen off the main road and down a side path. The ground mostly made from old cobblestone, obvious that not many people had thought of refurbishing the area often. Imogen looked more wary then Arian, who seemed almost content in walking through small alleyways in the dead of night. I sighed inwardly, I think Imogen forgets sometimes that she’s witch and that she possesses a wand. I tried to count the number of time I had actually seen her use magic and I ran out even before I had finished counting on one hand.
“This is it,” we came to a stop outside a slightly crooked terrace house, nestled tightly between rows of other houses now posing as apartments.
Imogen gave the house a quick once over and I could tell that she was not comfortable, “Let’s just hurry up”
Arian nodded and made a move for the door before Imogen put her arm out and stopped him, “Maybe I should knock”
Arian looked reluctant but took a few steps back all the same. Letting Imogen walk past him and up a few steps to the front door of the house. She stood there for a good ten seconds and I was just about to tell her to hurry up before the door flung open on it’s own accord. A dark silhouette with blond hair appearing from behind it.
“Who are you?” The woman’s voice was sharp and it was only when she stepped out into the light of the streetlamps that I realized that she was the girl I had seen when I had visited the house a few hours before. She could not have been older than eighteen yet her face was a wealth of wisdom.
“I’m Imogen Blanc,” Imogen answered, straightening up before turning around to motion towards us with her head, “Maeve sent us”
The girl’s eyes immediately brightened, “Have you seen her? Recently?”
Imogen hesitated before answering, “yes – No- sort off, we have a lot to tell you, but not out here, may we come in?”
The girl’s face was undecided for a second but it had started to rain and she knew she was being rude so after a moment more of being in two minds, she opened the door wide enough to let us in.
“My name’s Marla Travers,” She said as we walked past her. Something turned inside me upon hearing her name but I could not pinpoint exactly what it was. Faint nostalgia maybe?
Somewhere behind me I heard Arian trip over the doorframe and Imogen give a slight squeal. I sighed.
“Nice house,” I murmured at the small room that led off into another smaller room. It was a lie obviously. The house was neither nice nor big enough to be considered a house. But it was important to make some sort of acquaintance of Marla. And by the hardness on her face and her reserved manor, I realized that double dealing would be the only way I would be able to gain her trust.
“It’s not, but thanks” Marla shrugged vaguely and led us into another room. A sofa, a fireplace and a table were the only things that occupied the room and yet there was limited space to step. Imogen scooted away into a corner of the room and took Arian with her and I found myself a space in another corner of the room where I could observe everyone in the room.
“So,” Marla leant against the doorframe with her arms crossed over her chest, “What’s this all about?”
“I think you already know that” I replied, trying not to be mocking, “Maeve trained you did she not, did she forget to mention Imogen?”
“Yes actually,” Marla retorted, “Maeve always said that there were two others, we were never given a name”
“Why would she do that? Why would Maeve leave out such information from you?” Imogen said, “Why would she give Arian your names but not ours to you?”
“Probably because she never wanted us to find each other” Arian spoke up and it was the first significant thing he had said in hours, “Maeve, or whoever she was when she was training you, she wanted to build you all up for what she hoped would be a day that would never come,”
Marla looked confused and Imogen gave her a sympathetic look, “Wait, why would Maeve lie?”
I cleared my throat, gaining the attention of the three other’s in the room, “Before we get anywhere, I guess you need to know that Maeve was not exactly who she said she was, at least for a period of time”
Marla turned to Imogen only to see her nodding. She then looked at Arian waiting for him to agree as well.
Marla shook her head, frowning, “I don’t understand”
“What do you know of Yaxley?”
“Only what Maeve told us, that he’s a wizard, a dark one, and he’s after the stones, she said that was all the explanation we needed?”
Imogen took in a deep breath, “his followers, their called death eaters” The words came out like they were acrimony in her mouth, “One of them, he had been posing as Maeve, we’re not sure for how long,”
By this point it was hard to tell if Marla was naturally pale or weather the shock of the last two minutes had managed to drain her of all colour, “You mean...all this time, she could have silently been leading us to our deaths? – What if – what if she already has?”
“We erased his memory, if he knew anything and had yet to report it to Yaxley, then we’re safe,” Imogen spoke softly, taking pity on the poor girl.
Marla was silent for a while as the ramifications settled in and when she finally did speak, her voice was distant and horse, “Which one of you is the wizard?”
“Them two” Arian spoke before either Imogen or I had a chance to and both of us shot him a glare. He just shrugged, “Sorry”
Marla emitted a long breath, “Two wizards? I don’t know how you expect me to trust you; we’ve all been tricked by the illusions of sorcery at some point”
“But you don’t exactly have a choice,” I said, losing some patience, “We all have a common goal and that is to find the stones, you have a responsibility too, as does Imogen, but I wonder if you have a personal selfish reason?”
“There is nothing selfish in wanting to protect something that falls under your duty to protect,” She snapped, “All five protectors have a duty, selfish reasons aside, unlike you, we don’t seek glory”
“I do not seek glory” I said through gritted teeth, “You do not know of my reasons and don’t think that we need you in any way, we can always go and retrieve these stones by ourselves, in fact you can keep Arian too”
Arian shifted uncomfortable and Imogen looked as though she was ready to hex me, “As Draco said, we all have a common goal and we need your help, without your power and input we can’t get very far”
“Dowsing, it’s the ability to locate objects” Marla said haughtily, “It’s more than a power; I think you’ll find that I am the key in finding the stones”
I snorted, “You’re confidence level is astounding, more arrogance than I could shake my wand at”
I wasn’t sure what my opinion was on Marla. She was tall, blond and resembled a model one would see plastered on the front covers of witch weekly. I instantly felt more conscious in my baggy clothes and my cheeks burnt furiously. Jealousy was a wretched thing. One thing was certain though, I had no idea where the stereotype of ‘dumb blondes’ came from. I had been in Marla’s company for less than half an hour and the knowledge she radiated made me feel like I was an ignorant first year all over again. Apparently not everyone with blond hair was as dead from the neck up as Draco could be.
Marla was powerful and she knew it. She might not be a witch but she was even more valuable in the quest for the stones than she considered herself to be. She had the ability of locating objects. How much more supreme could a person be?
I sat in silence and watched Draco and Marla argue for a while, throwing shameless insults for people who had just met each other. I didn’t think Draco understood the fact that we needed her on our side and I don’t think Marla cared. She held herself far too important in her eyes to need the help of anyone else. I sighed; we still had two more people to meet.
“Will you help us?” I spoke up, determined not to be overridden.
All three pairs of eyes turned to look at me, Marla’s mouth still open in mid sentence before she closed it again. She was silent for a while and I could tell she had pondered well on the point long before I had even had to ask her.
I was convinced that she going to say no and tell us to get out from her house and go on this stupid quest alone. That she did not sign up for so much lies and that she would have no part in it.
“Yes,” She finally said, smiling at me.
From the corner of eye I saw Draco scowl and Arian breathe a sigh of relief, probably glad that he would not have to be the subject of Draco’s taunts any longer.
“Great!” I beamed and it was just as I stood up that I felt something heavy fall into me. I stumbled forward and turned around to see Arian gripping onto the ground on his hands and knees. Pain evident on his face.
For the second time that day, I stood there hopelessly. Marla however, seemed to know that to do. She pushed past me and threw herself to her knees, bringing Arian’s head onto her lap. She levitated his head so no blood would even have a chance to reach his throat.
“There in that box, the brown one, there’s a some arnica in a yellow packet,” She snapped her fingers at me and it took me a moment to unstuck myself from the floor and run over to the box on top of the fireplace. I searched blindly till I found the yellow packet and ran back to Marla with it, opening it with shaky hands. I watched as some of the dried medicine fell to the ground and I hoped that Marla did not notice.
“It helps the blood disperse around his body, helps with the muscles too,” She murmured as she forced Arian to open his mouth to feed it to him, “here, keep the rest, you never know when he may need it,”
I hastily stashed the packet into my sweater pocket and walked over to where Draco stood watching the scene with slight amusement.
“What’s wrong with you?” I snapped, “Don’t you ever feel any shame for being so uncaring”
“Don’t be so dramatic,” He twisted his wand in his hand, “He’ll be OK, plus, watching you run round having kittens is priceless”
“He’s in pain,” I said through gritted teeth, “are you really that shameless?”
“Hmm, let me think about that,” Draco gave me a look from the corner of his eye, as if he was really mulling over it, “Right I’ve thought about it, yes”
“You’re a pig,” I said repulsed, Draco really was enough to make someone’s gorge rise.
I watched as Arian now lay gasping on the floor next to Marla. The colour returned to his face quickly and he seems to get a hold of some strength to sit up.
“What’s wrong Imi?” Arian was selfless, even after he had just been coughing and convulsing and drowning as his own blood was filling up in his lungs.
I smiled and walked over to him, holding out a hand to help him up, “Something arrogant, blond and called Draco Malfoy” I answered as I pulled Arian to his feet, “If you want to see one, you’re in luck”
Arian chuckled and from the corner of my mouth I heard Draco open his mouth to say something before Marla cut him off.
“What was your vision?”
I realized that I had not even thought about what Arian must actually be seeing and I couldn’t help but feel slightly stupid.
“It wasn’t very clear, they never are, but it was clearer than last time-
“What was it Arian?” Marla pressed.
“From what I could work out, I saw-,” Arian seemed to have difficulty getting his words out and I squeezed his arm hoping it would grant him some comfort, “I saw – a man, Yaxley. At least that’s what they were calling him”
All of a sudden Draco was more interested in what Arian had to say and I felt my head whirl around, Why would Arian see Yaxley? He didn’t even know what Yaxley looked like.
“What was happening, what were they doing-
“Give him time to answer Marla,” I snapped and instantly felt bad.
“No no, it’s OK Imi,” Arian smiled though his eyes looked saddened, “Imi I saw him at the Inn, it was destroyed, his men were everywhere...He’s here”
“Have your visions ever been wrong before?” Draco quizzed, “Have you ever miss interpreted them?”
Arian looked like we was on the verge of a breakdown and I wanted to shout at everyone for pressing the issue but the panic in his eyes was to alive to ignore, “No, never”
No sooner than the words left his mouth that my heart started beating fast, as though driven by a shuddering fear. There was alarm on Marla’s face and Arian just looked sorry, as if it was his fault that Yaxley had appeared in his visions.
It was then that I felt the temperature in the room drop considerable and if it wasn’t for the Goosebumps on Marla’s arm and the sudden formation of ice on the windowpane, I would have thought that I was dreaming. Any hope that I had entered this house with seem to have drained out of me completely. I felt lost. I felt tired. I wanted to sleep but I don’t think I really wanted to wake up. Even my own legs seemed to have been drained of all energy and I felt as though I was swaying on the spot.
The whole situation felt like a reverse nightmare, instead of waking up from a nightmare, I was walking in one. From where I stood in the living room, I could see the unnatural cold take over the street outside. The cold was biting deeper and deeper into my flesh and just moments before when my heart had been beating uncontrollably, it now felt frozen.
“Dementors,” Draco whispered, “It’s impossible”
And then it all started to make sense. The cold, the bleakness. Dementors. Arian and Marla looked confused. Confused and sad.
“What are Dementors?” Arian said, rubbing his hands together.
“The foulest creatures that walk this earth,” I pulled my wand out and held it in a tight grip. Feeling the despair closing in.
I turned to see Draco frozen, his face has lost all colour and his eyes seemed to glaze over.
“Draco? Draco” It took a few goes of shouting his name before he seemed to wake from his trance, “How are the Dementors affecting Marla and Arian? Their muggles?”
Even though Draco looked not more than an empty shell not moments before, now he was looking more alive than ever and staring at me as if I were stupid, “being Ignorant of something does not stop it from hurting you, Dementors don’t feed off magic, they feed off human emotions”
I frowned as the realization set in. They knew we were here, “We have to go, now”
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