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Chapter 19 : Is Anyone Who they Say they are?
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"What are you doing?" she asked him impatiently.
"I just-" he sighed. "Don't get your hopes up about this, okay? Gawain is probably right, we've interviewed Stan twice, there's probably nothing more he can tell us."
"Wrong," she replied. "We've interviewed him twice with Corbin there. If he's involved in this somehow then who's to say he didn't cast the Imperius curse both times to keep us from finding out something important?"
"Maybe. Like I said though, I just don't want you to get your hopes up. It seems like a weak lead if you ask me."
"Well, I didn't ask you," Hermione snapped. "I always trust my intuition, and I'm almost always right. Why are you so against this? You do want to find Astoria don't you?"
"Of course I do!" Draco's voice was slightly raised and his indignation was evident. "How can you ask me that? You more than anyone should know that just because we weren't the perfect couple she made us out to be does not mean that I want her to be in danger. Let's go."
Before Hermione had a chance to respond, he apparated without another word, leaving her standing open-mouthed and alone in the narrow alleyway. She tutted loudly and followed suit, and by the time she arrived in the wizarding village, he was already sitting in the boat with the guard. He was staring pointedly at the calm water that led to Azkaban, with his arms folded across his chest. Hermione climbed into the boat and mirrored Draco's position, earning her an eye roll from him.
They travelled to the prison and endured the countless security checks in complete silence, neither entirely sure why they weren't talking but both adamant they wouldn't talk to the other first. At the final wand check they were told to wait in the dimly lit entrance hall for the guard who would escort them to the interview room.
Moments later, they were joined by the tallest man Hermione had ever seen in her life. His grey hair brushed the door frame as he made his way through it, beaming at the pair waiting for him. His blue eyes twinkled when he looked down at them, and Hermione was reminded fondly of Dumbledore.
"Hermione Granger and Draco Malfoy, I presume?" he said in a deep voice. "I'm Rodger Filburst, the head guard here, Gawain told me to expect you. Though, his letter seemed rather rushed, is everything okay?"
"We're not entirely sure," Hermione told him honestly. "We'll know better once we've spoken to Stan. Did Gawain explain our, um…concerns?"
She chose her words carefully and glanced nervously at the guard at the front desk whom she could tell was only pretending to read the paper.
"Ah, yes, though I'm sure they are unwarranted. Who am I to say no to Hermione Granger though?" he winked at her and Hermione took that as his way of saying he was not annoyed that she doubted the integrity of one of his staff.
He turned to go back through the door he had just entered and beckoned with an enormous hand for them to follow. They were led to the now all-too-familiar interview room and they took seats at the table in the centre of the room. Rodger left and reappeared moments later with Stan.
"What's this all about?" Stan demanded as Rodger marched him into the room and forced him into the seat opposite Hermione and Draco. "I ain't done nofin' since the last time you was 'ere! Been on me best behavior so you lot will let me outta this place, tell 'em Rodge!"
Rodger, who was now sitting on a chair at the back of the room responded in a threatening tone, "Quiet, Shunpike. You'll answer any questions you're asked and you'll answer them honestly. I'll know if you're lying."
His demeanor had completely changed: there was no longer a twinkle in his eyes or a smile on his face. It was clear now why he was Head Guard at the prison. Stan whimpered slightly and nodded.
"Stan," Hermione began in a soft tone, "you haven't done anything wrong since we last visited. We just want to clarify some of the things we asked you the last time we were here."
She pulled out the stack of notes she had been compiling since starting on the case from her bag, and flicked through them until she had the transcript from the last interview that Harry and Ron had conducted on top of the pile.
"So," she said, sitting up straighter, "the last time we were here you told Harry and Ron that you hadn't been visited by anyone, remember?"
Stan gave a small jerk of his head that Hermione took as a nod.
"Can you tell me the honest answer to that question now? Because I know that isn't it."
He didn't answer immediately, instead he turned around in his seat and looked at Rodger, who told him sternly to answer Hermione's question.
"Why did you lie?" Hermione asked him. Excitement was building inside her but her expression did not betray that.
"I had to!" Stan exclaimed loudly. "It weren't my fault, I swear. Corbin made me do it, cast the Imperius curse 'e did!"
"He WHAT?!" Rodger shouted. He walked over to the table and put both of his hands on it, looked Stan in the eyes and spoke very slowly to him, "You tell me everything and you tell me now, Shunpike. What in the hell is going on with Corbin?"
"I will, Rodge! 'E's one of them, one of Lucius Malfoy's lot. I only found out on me first day in 'ere, 'e came to see me in me cell and said I'd better keep me mouth shut if I knew what was good for me."
"And you didn't think to tell me?" Rodger demanded. "To tell one of the other guards?"
"Course! But 'e was always one step ahead of me, said that if I did I'd be dead soon as I got outta 'ere, but not before every one of them in that group did the Cruciatus on me! I was scared, you understand that?"
Rodger opened his mouth to speak but Hermione placed a hand on his arm to stop him from shouting again. He nodded to her and resumed his seat at the back of the room. Hermione smiled in thanks at him and then spoke kindly to Stan, wanting to keep him on side.
"I understand. Can you tell us why he cast the Imperius curse on you?"
"So I didn't give anything else away, if I told you who had been visitin' an' why, you would have figured out I knew more than I was lettin' on an' used Veritaserum on me again."
"Tell us who was visiting you, Shunpike," Draco spoke for the first time.
"We know that already," Rodger snapped. "It was Narcissa Malfoy, I told Gawain that."
Stan very quickly shook his head but pressed his lips together as though to stop himself from speaking.
"Please, Stan," Hermione said. "You're safe from Corbin now. We'll find him, and everyone he works with as long as you tell us everything you know. He won't be able to hurt you as long as you tell us the truth."
"Markus Parkinson," Stan said in a voice so quiet it was barely above a whisper. "'E's been pretending to date Narcissa since I got sent 'ere. Every year 'e gives her a sleepin' draught, steals some of 'er hair to make Polyjuice potion, and 'er wand so 'e could come and cast the spell on me again to make me look like Lucius. 'Cept the last time after I was back to normal, he came to tell me to keep me gob shut about everythin'."
She glanced sideways at Draco to see how he had taken the news that his mother was not guilty as he had suspected. There was no relief on his face, however, his mouth was pressed in a hard line, his eyes were dark and his brow furrowed: his expression was unmistakably furious.
Stan was looking down at the desk as though wondering whether or not he was making the right decision now and Hermione couldn't help but pity the man opposite her. He was just a few years older than her and his life couldn't have been more different. How had he ended up in such a position? Hermione cleared her throat and he looked up at her once more.
"You said 'didn't give anything else away', what did that mean?" she asked.
"I'd already said too much to Harry an' Ron. Earned me a lot of the Cruciatus curse when 'e took me back to me cell after the interview. Think that's why he did the Imperius when they asked me about visitors, didn't trust me enough to lie for 'em."
"Yes, but what did you give away?" Hermione asked him again, beginning to feel frustrated.
"Well what I said about You-Know-'Oo and 'is family," Stan replied as though it was the most obvious thing in the world.
Draco banged his fist on the table and everyone else in the room jumped slightly, except Hermione who's eyes were now rapidly moving from side to side as she scanned through the transcript of the last interview; trying to find a reference to Voldemort. She was tired of trying to figure out what his unhelpful responses meant.
"Will you just answer the damned question, Shunpike?!" Draco yelled. His face was flushed red with anger.
Stan opened his mouth to reply but was stopped when
Hermione gasped and stood up so rapidly that she chair she had been sitting in was knocked over behind her; she ignored it. "Oh my goodness, I know where she is!"
A/N Short chapter, I know and I'm sorry! I did have this combined with the next one but it ended up being waaaay too long. Anyway, let me know what you thought :D
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