Chapter 36 : The Irish Exit
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I could already hear the ball as our carriage pulled up, past the guards and through the gate to the front of the house. Voices, chattering and laughing, floated out of the large, diamond paned windows. The clinking of glasses and the sophisticated melody of a violin concerto mingled in to complete the perfect signal that there was a wonderful party going on inside.
The door to the carriage flew open, and as Malfoy helped me out to stand beside him, I glanced upwards to see Malfoy Manor looming above me in all its dark magnificence. There were countless windows and beautiful marble columns. A few balconies emerged from the house, and people, barely discernable in the darkness, mingled about on them.
“Ah, home,” Malfoy said pleasantly, looping his arm through mine.
I caught Tom looking rather sour.
“Have a nice evening, Master Malfoy,” said the man holding the door open. His robes were embroidered with the Malfoy crest.
“I intend to,” Malfoy replied, mostly to himself. He brought my hand to his mouth and kissed it lightly. “Alana, my dear, you’re in for a treat.”
I smiled, even though I would have rather put a fork through his eye.
We entered a magnificent front hall, where there were witches and wizards in all their finest robes and jewels. We made our way through them, Malfoy pausing to greet a few. I smiled and tried my best to look innocent. Ducking into a drawing room with a sparkling crystal chandelier, I saw Malfoy nod to Tom. Tom inclined his head ever so slightly in return, and disappeared into the crowd without a backwards glance.
“Ah, my dear Alana, allow me to introduce you to my parents,” Malfoy said, cutting me off and steering me in the opposite direction. I knew better than to press. Tom had given me only the barest of explanations concerning what was to really go on tonight. It wasn’t necessary, he said, for me to burden myself with what he planned to do. I was only to worry about my part.
I didn’t have the luxury of thinking any longer though, because as I looked up, I was met with the pair of eyes that had haunted my sleep for months.
Grindelwald sat before me, lounging carelessly in a velvet chair. His eyes met mine for only a moment, then slipped away to something else—I was momentarily shocked until I remembered I looked like a tiny, plain schoolgirl. He didn’t know it was me. I took a deep breath.
“Mother, I’d like you to meet Alana Bellamy,” Malfoy was saying, and I directed my attention to the woman beside me. She had Malfoy’s white hair and air of snobbery, but she took my hand and smiled.
“It’s a pleasure, my dear.”
“The pleasure is all mine,” I responded, glancing up at her shyly.
“Do get yourselves some of the salmon, it’s divine,” Malfoy’s mother said, kissing him on the cheek. “But be sure to greet Gellert first, everyone is dying to meet him, you wouldn’t want to forget.”
“Malfoy obliged, guiding me away from his mother and towards Grindelwald as if I were a show pony. He gave my hand a light squeeze—whether he meant to be reassuring or if he was reminding me to stay on point, I didn’t know.
“Mister Grindelwald, it’s been too long,” Malfoy said, bowing a bit. I tried not to roll my eyes. “If I may present Mademoiselle Alana Bellamy, a recent transfer from Beauxbatons Academy.”
Grindelwald grinned at Malfoy, a knowing sparkle in his golden eyes.
“Abraxas, my boy, no need for such formalities,” he said, clapping Malfoy on the back. “I daresay I can’t wait for us to see each other more frequently, after I’ve, well, made myself more comfortable here in Britain.”
There was a hearty laugh from everyone.
“And of course, it’s wonderful to meet you, Miss Bellamy,” Grindelwald said, taking my hand and kissing it carelessly. Again, he seemed to lose interest quickly, his gaze moving to the woman beside him. God. I couldn’t imagine actually existing like this, small and boring and passable.
But then, even if I looked like myself, Katarina wasn’t exactly something to scoff at. The tall, olive-skinned woman wore a silky number in midnight blue that hugged her in all of the right places. Diamonds dangled from her ears and her neck, and little tendrils of dark hair curled around her face.
She didn’t even bother glancing at me.
Again, I felt myself being steered away by Malfoy.
“I can walk,” I hissed, doing my best not to move my lips.
“We’re going to get drinks, then I’m going to show you around a little,” Malfoy said pleasantly.
“Are you sure—”
“Very, my dear.”
I bit my tongue. I knew I was being punished for France—for no other reason would Tom give me such a lowly part in his plan. Being pulled around by Malfoy all night hardly qualified as important. I chanced a glance back at Katarina. She was my only concern for the night. Whatever happened, I was to watch her, and when the time came, keep her from Grindelwald.
I wasn’t exactly sure how I’d accomplish that since I was getting a champagne flute thrust into my hand, and she was disappearing into the crowd.
“I’m supposed to watch her,” I whispered to Malfoy. “Why are we—”
“You really don’t trust me at all, do you?” Malfoy asked, only a faint note of annoyance in his voice.
He led me up a sweeping staircase, down a hall, and through a grand white door. There was a fire dancing in the hearth, a large, emerald green bed, and two French doors leading out to a balcony.
“My room,” Malfoy said, gesturing for me to take a seat.
I avoided the bed and sat on a chair by the fire instead.
“Nothing is going to happen until midnight, Anne, you can relax,” Malfoy said, taking the bed and observing the tension in my posture. “Tom wants Grindelwald nice and relaxed, if you know what I mean.”
He shook his champagne glass in my direction.
I took a sip out of my own—it was crisp and delicious. If Tom didn’t want to give me anything important to do, I suppose I could at least have a drink.
It was quiet for a few moments, Malfoy and I just sipping our champagne.
“I never got to ask you,” Malfoy said, tracing the rim of his flute with a finger, “is everything alright after that, er, incident a few days back?”
I didn’t need to ask him what he meant. The memories were all too vivid—the twisting pain in my stomach that made me wish I could retch up my insides, the clarity with which Grindelwald reached out through the darkness for me, the pain in my mother’s screams as she looked down at her sister’s mangled body.
I shivered. “I’m fine.”
Malfoy rolled his eyes. “Sure you are. I’ve never seen anyone look so afraid in my life. It’s not like you’d just forget about something like that…whatever it was.”
“Maybe I could if you’d stop reminding me,” I snapped, standing up. I moved closer to the fire.
Malfoy was quiet.
“I’m sorry,” I said, after a beat. It was he, after all, who had helped me. He who had dragged me away from ripping my own mind apart. He who had held me to his chest while I sobbed.
“What was it?” Malfoy asked.
“A potion. One of Tom’s own.”
I shrugged. “Why not? Another way to terrify, another way to control. It’s useful.”
“But why did he give it to you?” Malfoy asked, his tone quiet but firm.
I turned to look at him. This was Malfoy I was talking to. For all I knew he’d go back and tell Tom everything I was saying. A cruel jab of unhappiness went through me as I realized I probably couldn’t trust him. There was no one I could trust.
No one but Tom.
“Can we go out onto the balcony?” I asked. I almost winced at how painfully obvious it was that I hoped to change the subject.
Malfoy obliged, rising to unlock the doors. As I moved outside though, Malfoy caught me.
“You don’t have to let him, you know,” he said, looking down at me.
I moved away, leaning my elbows on the rail of the balcony. I didn’t need to ask what he meant.
“I wish I had a choice,” I whispered, almost certain Malfoy couldn’t hear me.
After a few minutes of appreciating the cool breezes on the balcony, Malfoy and I headed back downstairs so as not to draw attention to our absence. I grabbed another glass of champagne on our way back to the drawing room—I caught Malfoy smirking at me—and we made our way back to the thronelike chair Grindelwald was seated in.
Malfoy slipped into easy conversation with a few of his cousins, and I took the chance to try and make something out of the seemingly menial task Tom had assigned to me.
I inched over to Katarina’s side. She looked bored—Grindelwald seemed deep in conversation with one of Malfoy’s many relatives, someone from the Black side of the family. I did a double take. It was Tom talking to Grindelwald, it had taken me a moment to recognize his disguise. He spared me only a glance over the back of his chair, before nodding and agreeing with something Grindelwald had said about the stability of the ministry.
I cleared my throat.
“Er, excuse me, Ma’am,” I said, internally impressed with how squeaky and intimidated I could make my voice sound.
Katarina turned and looked down at me.
“I just wanted to tell you—your necklace is incredible, I’ve never seen anything like it,” I said, glancing up shyly. I watched Katarina relax somewhat. If my intuition was anything close to correct, this was a woman who very much enjoyed compliments.
“Thank you, my dear. They are something of an heirloom,” she said, touching the diamonds at her throat.
I nodded. “I could have guessed…you can’t walk into any jewelry store and find something like that! Even Zelda’s.”
“Oh, they have Zelda’s here in Britain?”
I silently thanked Merlin. Shopping was something I could talk about no problem.
“Oh of course, they’re all over. I heard one in London has a witch working on this color changing gemstone, it’s supposed to be huge next year…”
Cake, I thought. As long as I kept up a steady stream of flattery and fashion knowledge, Katarina seemed pleasantly entertained. I hadn’t thought she’d be so interested in shopping, of all things, but I suppose you didn’t end up looking as lovely as Katarina by accident.
Malfoy, perfectly on cue, suggested we take a seat at a table with some of the other women. He brought us drinks and paid us a few compliments. It was all just enough to distract the woman in front of us from seeing Grindelwald, Tom, Mr. Malfoy and a couple others slip out of the drawing room.
“They’re off to the gardens for cigars,” Malfoy murmured in my ear as he turned to leave the table.
I glanced at the grandfather clock in the corner of the room. Eleven thirty. The time for Tom to complete his plan was drawing near. I could see it in my mind’s eye—Tom using every ounce of wit and charm and knowledge he had to lure Grindelwald away from the others. And in the dark of the gardens, he would attack and gain the allegiance of the Elder Wand. Grindelwald was probably decently drunk and the last thing he’d expect at a ball full of his admirers would be to be attacked on a pleasant garden stroll.
All I had to do was keep Katarina busy for thirty more minutes. Then Malfoy would return to me, inform me it was over, and we’d all disappear before anyone realized what had happened. It was almost too simple.
I shouldn’t have assumed.
Only a few moments after Malfoy had left us, the violin music, chattering, and clanking of glasses was cut through with a shriek. I, like everyone around me, paused to see if I was hearing things. But another shout sounded, then another. Soon the air was filled with commotion as people inside the manor house moved to see what was going on outside. I heard a few whizzing sounds and minor explosions a few seconds later. Spells.
I rose from my chair in horror. I knew what was happening before the wizard stumbled into the drawing room, eyes wild.
“The ministry is here! They got a tip, they know Grindelwald is here, they—”
I didn’t hear the rest, because the women around me began to shriek and talk and drop their glasses, and do a thousand different things that were distracting me. One woman spun awkwardly on the spot and banged into the table. My mind was abuzz. The ministry? Here? How?
Katarina had risen from her chair as well, and her eyes were huge and dark with fear.
“Gellert,” she whispered. She started off in the direction of the duels that, judging from the sound, were well underway outside.
“Wait,” I said, stumbling over the foot of the table in my heels. “I know where he is.”
Katarina turned, suspicion in her eyes.
“Abraxas just told me,” I said, grateful this was true.
“Well where is he?”
“They’re upstairs, Mr. Malfoy wanted to show everyone his collections,” I made up randomly, praying this was enough. All I needed was for Katarina to go outside and add to the disaster that was Tom’s ruined plan. No. That couldn’t happen. I was going to keep up my end, no matter what.
Katarina, whether it was because of my convincing lying or her desperation, believed me. I took her by the arm and we ran as fast as we could in our dresses and heels. My mind raced. I didn’t even know where I was going, really. My feet carried me up the stairs and down the hallway Malfoy had taken me only hours earlier.
It was deserted upstairs, everyone drawn to the commotion in the gardens. I made a split-second decision.
“In here,” I said, opening the door to Malfoy’s bedroom. I held it open and ushered Katarina in ahead of me.
She was quick. Her hand was on her wand before the door latched shut. “What is thi—”
My stunner hit her in the chest. I was quicker.
Panic coursed steadily through me no matter what I did to try and stop it. After locking the door to Malfoy’s room, I pressed my fingers to my temples.
I had Grindelwald’s second in command unconscious at my feet. I couldn’t leave her—she was invaluable as a hostage, and probably had all sorts of information. If Tom failed to retrieve the wand tonight, she might be our only hope to get Grindelwald close to us again. But how to get us both out of here?
I played with the thought of apparating out, but threw it away. The Malfoys undoubtedly had a black on their house, I thought, remembering the woman who had spun and fell into the table downstairs. Nice, for keeping out unwelcome visitors. Not so nice for trying to escape. I went to the French doors and out onto the balcony.
Craning my neck, I could just see the flickering lights of the battle in the gardens. I was on the other side of the house, and it was quiet here. It wasn’t likely to stay that way for long though, as I watched the battle inch outward even in the short time I was watching. It was now or never.
I knelt beside Katarina and bound her hands with rope shot from my wand. I took her wand and shoved it in my clutch. Carefully, I levitated her unconscious form and guided her out onto the balcony, over the railing, and down to the grass and crunchy leaves two-dozen feet below.
I hurried back to Malfoy’s bed and tore the sheet off. I couldn’t very well levitate myself. I got an odd sort of satisfaction in tying Malfoy’s silky sheet to the railing of his balcony. I climbed over the railing and scooted down the sheet as fast as I could in my dress and heels. The sounds of battle were drawing nearer, and I was almost scared to look down. The sheet ended a ways above the ground, and I was forced to drop the remaining distance.
I landed a bit off balance, and as a result my heel got caught in the dirt and wrenched my ankle to the side. With a sharp crack, it gave away—I let out a gasp of pain and fell to my hands and knees. I heard voices only feet from me. I needed to hurry. I got to my feet and winced—I would definitely need to heal my ankle later. Just as I was about to set Katarina’s limp form floating again, I heard a voice call out from behind me.
“What do you think you’re do—” the man, who had caught sight of me in the darkness, had run to where I stood and glimpsed Katarina. I realized with a sinking feeling that he was one of Grindelwald’s guards, Dimitri. “Is that…Katarina?”
He trailed off in horror, looking from her to me. “What have you done, you little bitch? Gregor! Gregor! Here!”
I threw a curse at him and he deflected it. Dammit! I was so close to getting away without a hitch, how was I supposed to do it with Grindelwald’s guards on me?
I ducked away from a sizzling streak of red. In the distance, I could see another figure had broken away from the fray in the gardens and was running towards us. I couldn’t take on two of Grindelwald’s personal guards alone with a broken ankle, and with Katarina to keep possession of. At least, not in a normal duel.
In a desperate attempt to even the odds, I turned my wand on myself. I felt the familiar chilling sensation of a Disillusionment charm. For a moment, Dimitri looked confused, but his face regained a sneer within seconds.
“You can’t hide from me,” he growled. A bright green flash whizzed by my ear.
A crackle of anger snaked through me. A Killing Curse? Two could play that game.
I answered with my own streak of green light, which missed him by inches. I moved as fast as I could without crunching on leaves or letting out any sounds because of the pain shooting up from my ankle.
Dimitri’s eyes searched wildly for me—but it was useless. My disillusionment charms were as good as invisibility. He threw another curse at me as his companion reached us and skidded to a halt.
“What’s going on? Where—?” But before Gregor could finish his sentence, I hit him with something of my own design. I watched in triumph as his robes seized up, the black tail of his cloak sweeping up and around his neck. He let out a gag as his own robes tried to strangle him. Momentarily distracted by Gregor’s plight, Dimitri was an easy target. I hit him in the chest with a stunner and turned to disillusion and levitate Katarina.
I left the other man on his knees, gasping for air.
When I finally reached the field that bordered the Malfoys’ property, it took all my strength to turn on the spot, with Katarina in my arms, and go back home.
Everything was ruined. Everything—this entire ball, my plan, it was all for naught. There was a ringing in my ears as I stood at the edge of Malfoy’s land. Only seconds ago, Grindelwald—and more importantly, the Elder Wand—had disappeared with a pop into the faint mist that covered the field. The gardens were well behind me, the rest of the duelists still shouting and throwing curses at eachother.
None of it mattered anymore. Grindelwald had escaped. He had taken the wand with him.
I wanted to turn and set fire to all of the snaking plants and rosebushes in Malfoy’s garden. I would have liked to personally kill every single ministry member who had come and disturbed my plan. But I couldn’t seem to move.
Everything was ruined.
What was perhaps my last chance to gain the allegiance of the Elder Wand had slipped through my fingers. I tried to work out in my mind where exactly I had gone wrong, how I could have better planned or dueled or dealt.
But I could come up with nothing. I had done everything right. Grindelwald was moments away from meeting my killing curse when those fools had vaulted over the garden walls and started throwing curses.
Even then, could I have done differently? Could I have done more against Grindelwald and three of his personal guard? I had had to kill the three of them to get to him. But perhaps I could have been quicker, better.
A muted rage pulsed through me. My knuckles were white on my wand.
I don’t know how long I was in the garden before Malfoy caught sight of me. He stopped before me, panting.
“We need to go, Tom,” he said. “Now. The ministry can’t find us here.”
I knew he was correct in his assessment, but I said nothing.
I asked the first thing to come to mind after the wand. “Where’s Anna?”
“I…” Malfoy glanced towards the house, worry hitting his face. “I don’t know, I left her inside with Katarina and the other girls.”
We could go back inside and try to retrieve her, but that would mean fighting our way thorugh the ministry again. Possibly being captured. Anna was smart enough to escape on her own. She didn’t need us to go back for her.
“Let’s go,” I said. Malfoy looked momentarily stunned, but said nothing. We took a few steps into the field and turned on the spot.
We were back at Hogwarts, right outside the gates. Malfoy and I walked in silence towards the castle. It was about two hours from dawn—the grounds were deserted. We made our way through the castle with little difficulty, but as we approached the entrance to the common room, Malfoy let out a yelp.
Just as I turned to silence him, the idiot, another sound made me stop.
Anna. But there was no one…ah. Before another word was spoken, Anna materialized before me.
“Quick, I need to explain, let’s get inside,” she said. We entered the common room, and she awkwardly maneuvered her wand behind her. She led us to our dungeon annex, limping, her wand aloft and guiding the entire time.
Malfoy threw flames into the fire place, and we both turned to look at Anna. She looked dishevled—the Polyjuice Potion had worn off, and her dress was now too small for her, her ankles visible below its hem and her chest straining at the beaded bodice. Her hair was loose and tangled about her shoulders, framing her pale face.
“What is it?” I asked, hearing the sharpness in my own voice. I didn’t have time for this. And I most certainly didn’t have the patience to deal with her if she was about to tell me she botched something.
“Well…” she began, glancing at the floor, “you told me to stay on Katarina while you worked.”
“I fail to see how this matters,” I said, my temper rising. “Considering that Grindelwald is gone, with the Elder Wand.”
“I know that,” Anna said, shooting me a look. “Which is why I thought that this might be of use to you.”
She swept her wand over a space on the floor. Malfoy gasped.
Katarina lay on the cold stones of our dungeon. She was here, bound and unconscious, at Hogwarts.
I had always assumed that the Elder wand, political plans, an ideology would be the most important thing to Gellert Grindelwald. But perhaps I had overlooked something. Perhaps the most valuable bargaining chip was lying at my feet in priceless silk.
I could feel my lip curling into a smile, despite everything that had happened.
I looked up to see my smile mirrored on Anna, her arms crossed.
“This will most certainly be of use,” I said. “Well done, Annamaria.”
Her green eyes were sparkling with triumph, and I found I rather liked the sight.
A/N Another epic gargantuan wait, courtesy of yours truly. I am the worst, but Anna and Tom and Malfoy and everyone else won't be getting abandoned! Next up some more deep dark magic, dealing with a hostage, bad behavior, and some interesting relationships being formed! Lots of drama ahead, promise :)
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