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Chapter 2 : Pigeons
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Chapter two! Not as explanatory as you may hope, but whatever XD
comments keep me going, please tell me what you think! I debated making myself a new banner earlier but I think I might be attached to this one... Anyway! Without further ado, enjoy the second chapter of Gold Dust!
Wonderful chapter image by Rita / the_tofuubeaver of TDA!
Fixing her hat (retrieved from the hall) over her hair, Hermione made her way back to the graveyard. The drive had taken them five minutes and the walk would take twenty, but anything was better than lying in her Uncle’s guest bedroom wishing she could die. Alison would be insufferable company when she awoke and although Ana was sweet, Hermione just wanted to be left alone.
The streets were almost deserted as she strolled through them with her head bent against the rain. Muggle weather channels had predicted a monsoon-like downpour all week, so it was unlikely that she would be disturbed on her silent walk, but Hermione half wished to have hoards of people around her.
At least then she wouldn’t be left alone with her thoughts. It was like walking around with her own personal rain cloud; and Hermione’s wasn’t just raining, it was flashing with lightning and rumbling with distant thunder.
The rain seemed to stop for a moment, although she could still see the droplets landing on the pavement in front of her. Hermione looked up. Someone was holding an umbrella over her head.
“Malfoy.” Hermione managed, thoroughly taken aback at the sight of the blonde standing over her. “What are you… can I help you?”
Draco gestured that they continue walking, still holding the umbrella over her head. “I heard about your father. I’m sorry.” he said, sounding calm but not altogether apologetic. “But you need to pick up the pace and come with me, because the people that killed him are following us.”
Hermione hadn’t even summoned the mental capacity to process Malfoy’s presence, never mind what he had just said. She stared up at him, wondering if this was his idea of a joke. “Draco, just leave me alone. I don‘t want to deal with your crap right now, and I‘m fine with walking through the rain.”
“Do as you‘re told.” he snapped, throwing the umbrella to one side and grabbing her elbow in a vice-like grip. Fear ran down her spine like shards of glass, but they were alone on the street and he was far too strong for her to fight back to much avail. Feeling much like a ventriloquist doll, Hermione found herself being hauled around the street corner and through a battered black doorway, released into the darkness of the room beyond.
She stepped away from him warily. “What the hell are you-”
Draco Malfoy clamped a hand over her mouth. “Shut-up, Granger.” he murmured, leaning against the door and holding his breath.
Drenched and shaking, Hermione stood in the darkness without a clue as to why she was there, wondering just what in the name of Merlin the stupid idiot was doing. He didn’t remove his hand from her face and just stood listening, leaving her to stare at the vague patch of blonde she could see through the darkness and wish she had the courage to drag her wand out of her pocket.
After a few minutes his fingers tightened on her face at the sound of footsteps running past the door. Hermione blinked in surprise. Was he being chased by someone? Was he a fugitive? Well if he was on the run from the Aurors and expected her to help him then he had a shock coming.
She sighed through her nose and folded her arms. In retrospect, she should have stayed at home.
Eventually Malfoy dropped his hand and lit his wand, casting yellow light over the scowling face of Hermione. “Sorry about that.” he said, once again sounding anything but remorseful. “Are you alright?”
“No I’m bloody well-”
“I mean, are you hurt?” he cut her off, sounding briefly irritated.
Hermione narrowed her eyes. “Look, Malfoy. I don’t know what you’re playing at but I’m not interested, so leave me alone.”
She went to open the door, but was stopped when he grabbed her wrist. “I know how this looks, Granger, but you can’t go outside yet.” he said steadily, pulling her away from the door. “Just give it a few minutes would you?”
“What? No! Let me go!” Hermione demanded, wrenching her arm back. Draco rolled his eyes and fixed her with an impatient look, as though she was simply a disobedient child.
Standing dripping wet in the middle of what appeared to be a dark kitchen, the two glared at each other with equally felt furious impatience. Hermione couldn’t understand just what the hell he thought he was doing, and Draco didn’t seem able to acknowledge the fact that she didn’t realise he was trying to help her.
She was about to be enlightened.
The door was blown open, causing dull grey daylight to flood into the room. Hermione dove away from the splintering wood and habitually scrabbled to find her wand - but whatever was bursting into the room gave her little time to retrieve it from her pocket. Cursing, she crouched by the nearest wall and looked up. A figure had appeared in the doorway, and seemed to be in some kind of wrestling match with Draco over his drawn wand.
“Granger, get out of here!” Draco yelled, ducking away from the man’s fist. “Go round the back!”
She didn’t need telling twice, and frankly Malfoy’s wellbeing wasn’t on top of her list of priorities right now. Slipping across the tiled floor, she pushed her way through the nearest door and felt her way into a dark corridor, silently hoping that the house was uninhabited. The last thing she needed was a defensive muggle family appearing when she was running through their house to the sound of curses rebounding off the kitchen walls.
Panting, she made it through the darkness to another door. Hermione threw her weight against it and stumbled out onto the street, grabbing the wall to remain upright. She looked around and hastily pushed the sodden hair out of her eyes. She seemed to have emerged around the back of the building, into some kind of back alley between the houses. The door closed behind her with a loud snap, causing her to jump.
The rain was still falling. Hermione stood in horrified silence for what seemed like an eternity, before making up her mind and turning back to the door. It opened easily, and the darkness beyond was now eerily silent. She took a cautious step inside, eyes fixed on the door to the kitchen through which she had only just crashed through.
“Malfoy?” she whispered, wiping rain - or was it sweat? - away from her forehead with the sleeve of her jacket.
Something moved ahead and footsteps picked up through the kitchen. Hermione waited with bated breath as a figure appeared in the hallway. “Granger. I thought I told you to get out of here?” Draco’s irritated drawl penetrated the darkness. “Hurry up, before his reinforcements arrive.”
Too curious to tell him to go do something blasphemous, Hermione strode after him into the lit kitchen. Chairs and old crockery had been scattered across the tiles, a wand lay snapped in two on the table beside the still body of what appeared to be a rather battered young man. “Is he…?”
“No, he’ll be fine.” Draco shrugged, routing through a pile of shattered dishes. “Damn. Can you see my wand anywhere?”
Blinking in surprise, Hermione looked around unhelpfully. Remnants of Draco’s coat had been blasted around the four corners of the room, and there was a suspicious amount of blood splattered across the wall above the sink, but she couldn’t see his-
There it was.
Hermione bent to retrieve it and frowned. “Where on Earth are all the feathers from?” she murmured, pulling what appeared to be a blood-stained goose feather off the handle of her companion’s wand. “Did someone kill a bird or something in here?”
Now that she looked, she began to notice the large white feathers scattered almost as profusely as the scraps of trench coat material; drifting across the tiles in the draft or stuck in pools of blood like a bird in an oil slick. She frowned and went to pick one up, but Draco gripped her shoulder abruptly. “They’re just… we should hurry up, come on.”
“No!” Hermione snapped, pulling away from him and momentarily forgetting the feathers and blood and half-dead figure slumped against the table. Fists clenched, she glared up at him. “I don’t know what the hell is going on Malfoy, but unless you damn well tell me now I’m going straight home and ordering a bloody restraining order.”
He looked as surprised as she felt at all the cursing she was doing, but he didn’t say anything. “I get that. If it were me I’d have freaked out and ran by now.” he gave an awkward one-shouldered shrug and gestured to the door. “Walk with me? I’ll explain on the way.”
Hermione gazed at him for a moment, her anger fading. “Alright. But only because I’m too tired to argue with you.” she sighed, stepping over a glistening patch of blood and heading back onto the street. It had stopped raining, but the clouds didn’t look ready to clear up into sunlight for a while. “Well? Start with why you’re here and who that man was.”
“Looked like one of the Stone brothers.” Draco said, walking alongside her and keeping his eyes on the pavement ahead. Hermione shot him a questioning look. “There are ten of them. Brothers, I mean. They’re… sort of a band of mercenaries; we come across them all the time and they’re fairly easy to deal with. Not our biggest problem.”
They rounded the corner and continued down another dull street, Draco walking with his hands in his pockets and Hermione watching his reactions as he spoke. “There’s a bunch of us. You don’t normally find so many grouped together - it’s harder to stay away from trouble. In fact, I think we’re the biggest group until you reach Theo in France.”
Hermione tried to process this. “You’re not making any sense.” she said eventually. “Group of what? Stay away from what trouble? And why is Theodore Nott in France?”
“I can’t explain that straight away, you wouldn’t believe me.” Malfoy sighed, running a weary hand through his hair. “The point I’m trying to make here is that you’re in danger, and I really can’t let you go back to your Uncle’s house.”
Hermione stopped and stared at him. “Forgetting the ‘you’re in danger’ part of that sentence, how did you know I was at my Uncle’s?” she demanded, eyes wide with either burning anger or chilling shock.
“Because your father told me that Lucas Page is your mother’s only relative in the city.” Draco said simply, gazing steadily back at her as though she had nothing to be surprised about. “And I figured that your mother wouldn’t want to be on her own.”
Her mind whirred to take in everything he was saying. He spoke to her father. Draco Malfoy, the boy she had barely thought of past someone she never wanted to see outside of school, was claiming that he had spoken to her recently deceased father about his own family. Unable to think of anything else to do, Hermione laughed at him.
“You’re insane.” she said, turning around and stalking past him with the intention of returning home and hiding behind her Uncle until the crazy blonde had vanished.
“Gran- Hermione!” Draco shouted, diving after her and grabbing her arm. “Just wait for a-”
Hermione snatched her limb back and shoved him with all of her strength, now well and truly feeling the pressure of three days’ worth of pent-up fury being released into the hottest sensation of burning, murderous rage she had ever felt. He staggered back and managed to steady himself against a nearby car. “I don’t know what your problem is, Malfoy, and I don’t care! My father is dead! Get the hell away from me!” she screamed.
“Hermione! Would you just listen to me for a damn second!” Draco shouted back. “I knew your father! Jacob David Granger was a friend of mine!”
She just shook her head at him, tears welling up in her eyes. “How the hell would my father have known you?” she managed, voice breaking mid-sentence. “He was a muggle, Draco. You hate muggles.”
“Take care of my girl, Draco.”
Draco grinned and shook his head. “You say that every time you go, as if I’d forget or something. You put such a downer on things. Now hurry up and get it done; you can buy the beers when you get back.” he chuckled, slapping the elder man on the back.
Jacob saluted and jogged out of the manor, hands in his suit pockets. “I’m just saying,” he called over his shoulder at the blonde stood on the steps. “If anything happens… you take care of my girl.”
They stood in silence for three minutes, before Hermione sniffed and looked at him. “Go on then. Enlighten me. My father was a friend of yours?” she challenged, eyes red and damp. “Just tell me what you want, Malfoy.”
“I want you to come with me.” he said calmly. “No; hear me out.”
Arms folded, Hermione nodded once that he should continue.
“Come with me to the manor. Then, I’ll explain everything to you - who your father was, why you’re in danger and anything else you want to know. Just trust me this once.”
She looked up at his eyes; stormy grey with flecks of white - like a monochrome photograph of a Venetian town square with dark figures and pigeons in mid-flight. He looked earnest, but she couldn’t help feeling like there was so much more depth to those eyes than he was allowing her to see - like he had a deep secret that he was only going to scrape the surface of with her. She imagined the pigeons on the wet cobbles of Venice and thought of the bloody goose feathers back in the kitchen.
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