Chapter 10 : Chapter Ten
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They say that the best way to face your fear is to confront it. I don’t exactly know who they are and i’ll be honest, I don’t think they have any idea what they’re talking about.
Dementors take glory in decay and despair. They drain hope and happiness from the air and replace it with this cold emptiness that doesn’t just numb your fingers, but also your emotions. It felt as though someone had reached in, tore my heart out, threw it on the floor and then stepped on it. The pain was so deep and intense and my thoughts felt mangled beyond recognition. My mind racing in circles, unable to make sense of what was happening. How did they find us? Was Marla a traitor? Nothing really felt right...was this real...It couldn’t be, wake up, wake up...
It was as though I could not use my heart again.
“We can’t disapparate”
I was pulled out of my trance as soon as Draco spoke. It was not so much his voice that broke me away but it was the tone of his voice. The panic in it; Draco Malfoy did a lot of stupid things but I had yet to see him panic. It made my trepidation run wild.
“We can’t disapparate” he repeated, “Yaxley has disapparating jinxes up for at least a mile, I can feel them almost holding me down, can’t you?”
There we go with the smug comments, “No,” I replied through gritted teeth, “I can’t”
“We have at least ten minutes before they reach us” He said, “If there’s one thing I know about Dementors is that they would never follow orders from someone like Yaxley and if they did, which they are, they would do a pretty half hearted job at it”
“And that is where you’re wrong,” I countered, “Dementors are Dementors, their infamous for taking credit for death, their own prize is your soul Draco, why should they care whose orders they take as long as they get it?”
Draco was silent for a while before he spoke, not to me but to Marla, “Is there a back exit?”
Marla nodded, “I can show you-
“No, stay here, I’ll be back in a second”
All three of us watched Draco as he disappeared through a small door which I presumed lead into the kitchen which would eventually lead to a door outside.
“He’s going to make us walk isn’t he” Arian more or less whined even though the fear evident on his face.
I smiled at him weakly and squeezed his arm in a half hearted attempt of comfort, nodding.
Marla looked outraged, “Absolutely not, he’s stupid for even thinking it”
“Yet here I am doing it anyway,” Draco reappeared from the kitchen, two long objects in his hands, “Two swords, Goblin made, one stab in the non-existing heart of a Dementor, and it gives you enough time to run with your lives”
He walked over and thrust the two swords in the hands of Marla and Arian who looked at their weapons as if the objects had been dipped in cyanide. Draco only gained amusement from their unease, “Can’t have you two running around defenceless now can I?”
“Let’s just go,” I sighed and rolled my eyes in frustration, if we were going to have to run our way out of this, then so be it. I was going to get through this. I would walk through the Dementors if I had to, crawl if I must. I just was not about to give up.
Marla, even though she looked reluctant, agreed to lead the way. She stormed off in front of us and I followed close behind. She mumbled as she walked and from what I understood, ‘I wish Nikolas was here’ was the only thing she said. All of a sudden, I felt this sudden urge to comfort her. Me trying to comfort someone like her. I was a stranger and I was pretty sure she didn’t like me and would not appreciate me giving her any advice in a time like this. So instead, I decided to fall back and let Arian walk in front of me. He gave me a weird look as he passed me but jogged on ahead to keep up with Marla all the same.
I fell to the back of the group so that I was walking in step with Draco, a few questions I had been itching to ask, “Where did you get the swords from?”
“I took them from the manor before we left, they were my father’s,” he looked rather pleased with himself, “Doubt he’ll miss them now”
I couldn’t help but feel a sense of gratitude towards Draco. He had given Marla and Arian something small that they could defend themselves with. Fair enough, Draco might only have done it for his own good, but I wanted a reason to think of him as something other than the type of person that was always out for what he could get.
“Well, thank you”
Draco smirked, “Your welcome”
We all walked in silence for a few minutes. Marla and Arian and I ambled ahead whilst Draco followed us, more aware than a sneakoscope. I knew deep down that what we were doing was highly stupid. Wandering the streets in the dead of night whilst death eaters and Dementors were prowling them for us was not the best of ideas. But it was the only option we had. I also noticed that my determination to fight was getting lower and lower by the second. Maybe it was being suppressed by the knowledge of our certain fate that was as plain as the nose on my face. We would be caught. There was no doubt in it. This time, I was sure that Yaxley would not waste a moment to point a wand between my eyes and finish me like he, in all likelihood, wished he had the night he killed me parents.
I guess it was my lot in life to die at the hands of Yaxley and I was defying my destiny by escaping his grasp every time. I did not want to put my future in someone else’s hands but I was sure that the Fates had decided that it was finally my time to die.
I awaited my dame fortune with baited breathe.
I looked up from the ground to see that Arian had fallen back from Marla’s side and was letting her walk ahead. He slowed down till I could match his step.
“Thank you” Arian said, before I had even reached him.
He shrugged, “For all of this, for giving a damn about Maeve”
I sighed, “We all care Maeve, and we’ll get her back, I promised you that”
“I know, I know - that’s mostly what I wanted to thank you for” he said, “Look – I wanted to ask you something”
I raised my eyebrows slightly, “And what’s that?”
“Afterwards - you know, when all this bizarre stuff is over, you’ll still visit won’t you?”
If it wasn’t for the constant fear that was also a third person in this conversation, I would have almost laughed, “Of course, that’s not a question Arian, and you’re family plus this place is the only home I have left”
“Yet we’re leaving,” he almost whispered.
I wanted to console him, I did. Part of me was still feeling guilty for just standing there while he went through his visions and it only made me loathe myself a little bit more when I did nothing but walk beside him in silence.
“I know this hasn’t been much of a Christmas,” He continued, “But next year, you should spend it with us, Maeve loves Christmas, she bakes enough for the whole village and then some,”
I laughed and it echoed through the black streets like a warning bell. Draco mumbled something along the lines of “shut up” and I gave him a glare over my shoulder. Not that the dark allowed him to see.
I turned back to Arian, “That’s, ah, very kind of you”
In truth, I was finding this whole conversation depressing. What Arian was trying to say, in his artful, astute way, was that he didn’t want me to be alone on Christmas day. It made my heart swell and grieve as one.
“Where are we even going?” Marla halted suddenly and turned around, hands falling to her sides in exasperation, “We’re walking aimlessly, where do you even want me to take you?”
Draco strolled past me, looking equally as annoyed, “To the two others and away from here, not to sound inescapably dodgy, but when I visited you a few hours ago, there was another man in the house there too, where is he?”
Marla looked trespassed on, “Sorry, did you say you visited me? Who says that? Why would you even-
“Where is he Marla” Draco sighed.
“His name is Nikolas,” She snapped, “He’s a protector too, he also has the ability of being in two places at the same time, just because you couldn’t see him, doesn’t mean he wasn’t there”
“And where is he now?” I interrupted before Draco, who looked like he would lunge for Marla’s throat at any time, could speak.
“By now? Probably half way to Romania,” I didn’t miss the conceit in her voice, “to his sister Kaya, who’s also a protector, and that’s where we should be going too,”
“Wait, why Romania? What’s there?” Draco probed, “What are you not telling us?”
“No Imogen, unlike you, I refuse to blindly trust whoever throws a kind word at me, what are you not telling us?” He repeated.
Marla was hesitant in answering and if she had not seen Draco’s wand almost quivering in his hand, I was sure she wouldn’t have replied at all, “Nikolas got a call from Kaya about an hour before you turned up, she said she had found a map, this map – it highlighted the location of five objects, ironically, the first is in Romania”
“Five?” I frowned, “I thought there were only two stones?”
Marla looked around uncomfortable before answering, “There are only two stones, however, before we find the stones we need to find these five objects and only after we have them will we be granted the right to travel to where the stones are held - think of them as an offering to a ferryman”
“My brain hurts,” Arian groaned.
I was confused too and Marla could tell, “Everything will become so much more clearer once we get to Romania, trust me,”
“You held so much information from us,” Draco said through gritted teeth, “How can I trust you?”
“How can I trust you?!” She snapped, “For all I know you could all be imposters, I’m putting everything at jeopardy at telling you this information at all”
I desperately wanted to tell them both to shut up and at least try to be civil with each other and by the look of Arian’s face, so did he. But neither he nor I dared speak.
Draco looked utterly livid, the blue in his eyes speckled with the weakest of red and I couldn’t lie, it scared me, “If I find out that you’re the reason why Yaxley knows where we are, I will kill you myself”
I finally found some courage to speak “We can all sit around debating whose fault it is-
“It’s no debate, it’s her fault”
“You’re astonishing,” Marla snapped at him, “The fact that undead ugly creatures are after us is not my fault but if it were not for the fact that you saved Imogen’s life, I would have given them a ring myself”
I was so caught up in the fact that I had to stop Marla and Draco from eventually killing each other that I didn’t even notice the sizeable drop in temperature. It was only when I felt my heart sink and Arian’s cold hands clasp around my forearm that I realised that we were in trouble. I could not outrun fate this time.
“It’ll be OK Ari,” I whispered, “I made you a Promise remember?”
I heard Arian chuckle slightly before squeezing my arm, “I remember Imi,”
I could have hugged him, hard. Gallant, selfless Arian. Marla and Draco had stopped speaking too, both of them looking over my shoulder to whatever was behind Arian and I.
“We need to go,” Marla whispered.
“It’s too late for that, we can’t out run them” Draco firmed his grasp on his wand and I subconsciously felt myself reach for mine.
“There will be no need for that”
I froze. I had heard that voice only twice before. A woman’s voice. Deep, emotionless and calm. I gave Arian a little nod and he slowly let go of my arm.
I didn’t bother turning around slowly because I knew what I would be facing as soon as I had heard her voice. When I did turn around, I, as expected came face to face with none other than Liana. Her red hair identical to the fire burning behind her eyes. Behind her stood four dark figures and I would have mistook them for Dementors if it were not for the silver masks that adorned their faces.
“Liana,” Said Draco.
“Ah, Draco,” She replied, “you seem calm, maybe having traitorous blood in your veins helps cool your system,”
“You’re one to call yourself a traitor,” He stepped forward so he was standing beside me, “The day that we destroy the stones is the day that you’ll bind your tail in between your legs and run off – like dogs often do”
Liana almost growled, “You’re just a boy, a pawn in this whole game, just like you always have been. A disappointment to your father and the deeper your mother falls under my curse, the more you are nothing to her too”
Draco raised his wand but I grabbed his hand tightly before he could do anything. He snapped his head in my direction, “What are you doing?”
“Don’t be a fool-
“Trust me” I let go of his arm and turned back to Liana, “Why are you doing this? Is immortality that important to you that you’re willing to commit more sins than you can repent for, even with eternal life?”
“Yes, actually,” She walked towards me, twiddling her wand in her hand, “How can I be truly powerful if I am killable? Immortality is the door to eternal youth and an infinite lifespan, why wouldn’t I want that?”
“But you’re a werewolf,” I pointed out, “the full moon will always be your weakness just like horcroxes were Voldomort’s; nature never allowed a truly immortal being to exist without a weakness, does it?”
“For someone your age, you know a lot,” Liana coyed, her gaze lingered for a moment on Marla and Arian behind me, passed over Draco before it came to land on me, “turning into a werewolf is something I never asked for, it’s nothing but a hindrance, something easily suppressed by the most powerful of spells, beyond the arts, I don‘t have to open my mouth to taste black magic Imogen, it runs in my veins”
She was so close to my face that I could smell the exported wine on her breath, “Do you know that it feels like to have a weakness as old as the moon?,” She closed in on me till her mouth was on my ear, “It never goes away”
Despite the fact that I had one of the most powerful witches in the world with her wand mere inches from my heart, I still found the courage to wear her out “Is that why you follow Yaxley’s orders like a puppet? Drink his wine? Share his bed? Kiss his feet? All for immortality which you can clearly gain yourself, since you’re so powerful right? Why sacrifice your dignity?”
Liana was quite for a while, before she laughed loudly in my ear before stepping back, creating a few feet between us, “That is why, I have to make a deal?”
“We don’t make deals with people who have problems with mental reservations” Draco smirked, challenging her.
“I wasn’t talking to you,” She said calmly, “afflictio”
I jumped when Draco dropped to the floor next to me, his head in his hands. He lay diseased in screams of pain as he squeezed his head harder and harder, trying to get rid of whatever pain was eating away at his brain.
“Stop it!” I screeched, “Stop it! This isn’t his battle, it’s mine, don’t be such a coward, stop it!”
And she did stop. A few seconds later, Draco stopped screaming and soon the only sounds coming from him were heavy breaths. He looked up at her through hooded eyes. The red in them more prominent than last time. I offered him my help but he shrugged me off, standing up.
I decided to speak before Draco could say anything else and possibly get himself killed, “What do you want Liana”
“I know that-
“Don’t interrupt me” She barked, “As I was saying, I want the stones but I’m willing to offer you a deal”
I frowned, “What deal?”
“You’re going to like this,” She smiled a smile that was the true trademark of a temptress, “In return for the stones – I will personally kill Yaxley myself, you can be free”
I was silent. We all were. Arian and Marla no longer shuffled nervously behind me and Draco stood completely still, as if he was weighing the options in his head.
Give the stones to Liana? No, I couldn’t. Could I? If Liana were to become immortal then she would be ten times more powerful than Yaxley could ever be. She would kill masses, over throw kingdoms, civilisations, us. There would be no end to her power.
But she would kill Yaxley. She would allow me to go free. I could move away, somewhere where her reign could never reach me. I could have that life I always wanted. Maybe she would return Maeve back to Arian. But most importantly, she would set me free. I would not have to run any more. I could have the freedom to be whoever I wanted to be. I could trade in these invisibly ropes that bound me for a role in life. Some birds were meant to be caged, to have their feathers clipped. But I was not like that. I wanted to see the world and taste it. I did not want to spend my life running and hiding in small European villages for the rest of my life. The offer was tempting.
Liana looked taken aback, like she had genuinely expected me to agree to her deal, “What?” She hissed.
“I said No”
She studied me, her green eyes searching mine. No doubt searching my mind but I was just as good as blocking her and when she could not get past my mental barriers, she growled, snarling at me through her mass of red hair.
“You’ve made a mistake”
I shook my head, “No, I don’t think I have”
I whirled round to see Marla and Arian struggling against the bodies of two death eaters whose wands were pressed firmly at their temples.
I heard Liana place her chin on my shoulder, her lips on my ears once again, “But Imogen, you have made a mistake, and now your friends will suffer, I hope they forgive you but it’s still your hands that will be red with your blood - literally,”
Anger started to pound behind my eyes, hot rage burned in my veins. I wanted nothing more to destroy her. My skin crawled from where her hot breath burnt my neck. Her wand sharp in the small of my back.
I looked at the two death eaters and their silver faces and I decided that I would not, for as long as I live, let anyone hurt Marla and Arian. Marla, someone I had only just met. Yet it was my duty to save her life; I couldn’t just let her die.
The spell was so clear in my head. I closed my eyes and concentrated on it. Thought about what I wanted to happen. I wanted to hurt these people, more than anything. To suffer; they were terrible people and terrible people only deserve terrible things. I kept thinking till the spell rolled off my tongue, “morsus”
Just like I wanted, the two death eaters flew back, landing several feet away where thy thrashed in pain.
Before Liana could react, I quickly cast a protective shield over Arian and Marla before rounding on the other two death eaters that had been standing behind liana. I had only just raised my wand halfway up before a blue light flew past me and the death eaters fell to the ground, motionless. I turned to find Draco standing there with a very smug look on his face.
“I’m quite the marksmen” He winked, “I’ll deal with her, you take care of Arian and Marla”
I was still dazed from the fact that I had used magic. After being wandless for so long, magic felt to some extent, foreign to me. I half sprinted over to Arian who looked like he was about to be sick. Marla looked terrified and I tried to give her a somewhat reassuring smile but by the look on her face, it didn’t work.
That was before I heard Liana screech, a bright green light erupting from the tip of her wand heading towards Draco. Draco simply batted the spell away with another one, two killing curses meeting as one in the middle. Draco was brilliant. I had to admit it; he was. But there was no way he would ever be able to beat Liana. The inevitability of the fact that Draco could actually die made me feel like my brain was slamming against the sides of my cranium.
I did not think I even cared enough to care.
So I did the thing that any reasonable person would do. I put my own life on the line to save Draco’s.
“Stay here” I whispered to Marla and Arian before turning to Liana who was too busy duelling with Draco to notice me anymore. It was apparent that she had never liked Draco and now she was determined to take his head home on a silver platter. Draco however, wasn’t backing down either and I couldn’t tell if this was a good or bad thing.
I chose my aim as if I was handling a gun. I could not risk missing; if I did she would kill me right there right then. I could not miss.
I waited a few seconds.
I didn’t realise that as soon the magic had rolled out of my wand that I had closed my eyes tightly shut. When I did open them, I found Liana keeled over, breathing heavily. The spell hadn’t lasted long but it had been enough for Draco to make a sudden slashing movement with his wand. A streak of purple flame flew from the tip of his wand it hit Liana in the chest. She gave a growl of pain or surprise before crumpling to the floor.
No one dared make a sound, afraid that the smallest of noise would wake her.
“I should kill her”
I started at Draco, shocked, “You can’t”
“Are you mad? She almost killed us! Of course I can!” The red specks in his eyes were back, “This is not the time to be righteous Imogen”
“This isn’t about being righteous,” I snapped, “It’s about you, Killing someone as powerful as Liana which will only hurt you, diminishing that much magic will leave you hallucinating until you take your own life...I saw it happen myself when I was imprisoned”
Draco was silent whilst he looked at me before casting a look at Liana who had already begun to stir, “Fine, but we have to go, the disapparition Jinxes were cast by Liana, now that she’s weak the boundaries are weak, we’re far enough to disaparate”
“Let’s go,” I walked over to Arian and Marla and slipped my hand in Arian’s, “I need you to take Marla’s hand...tight, trust me; you’ll want to hold on”
We stood in a line and I watched as Draco cast another curse over Liana before walking over, a smug swagger in his step. He smirked, “I take it I’ll be apparating us?”
I sighed, “One feat and you get cocky, and it’s not a quality to treasure”
I tried to make an effort to ignore the warmth of his hands as he slipped one hand around my waist and gripped my upper arm with the other. I made sure that there was some distance between us but every time I would shuffle away, he would close the gap.
“What are you doing?” I narrowed my eyes.
Draco just carried on smirking and shook his head, “I don’t know how I put up with you”, He chuckled.
I frowned, “What do you mean?”
“I mean – you’re such a know it all”
“I – I,” I spluttered, “I am not a know it all!”
He just laughed, “You sort of are-
“I just know a lot” I snapped, “And it happened to save your life, so shut up”
“OK,” He took his hand away from my arm and gripped Marla’s arm with it instead, who glared at him, I looked up at him to see his eyes twinkling almost, all signs of red gone, “Can we agree of a truce then?”
I narrowed my eyes, “I thought I owed you a debt,”
Draco chuckled and shrugged, “Consider it paid”
I didn’t have time to think; he pulled me into him just as the feeling of apparition washed over the both of us. Arian’s grip on my hand doubled and my heart went out to him. This time, it was different. I no longer felt as though the breath had been knocked out of me as my body hurtled through a dimension of neither here nor there. Just empty space. My eyes no longer threatened to fly towards the back of my skull and the usual brumal sensation was now nothing but a mere comforting draft of cool air through my hair. I wasn’t sure whether my new found ease with apparition was because I was becoming used to it or weather Draco’s warmth and the way he held me in a way that if I were to completely let myself go, I still would not fall.
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