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Chapter 4 : A Grimm Tale
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Another sexyy chapter image by the amazing the_tofuubeaver at TDA! love you rita!
A Grimm Tale
Grimm Malfoy and Dash Hunter
It had been a good day for the miners. Five burnings in one eve; the air around the hill was thick with the stench of dead magic and to Victor Worth it was like the finest perfume. He stood at the base of the hill, body rigid with age and all the ailments it brought, watching his miners circle the stake. Five burnings… he inhaled deeply, closing his eyes and allowing the scent of dead witches to wash over him. Sweeter than fine wine.
The crunch of boots in frosted mud roused him from his stupor. “Eight vials.” the thin, rasping voice of his second broke the night silence. Worth turned to face him. “That’s eight full vials.”
Dash Hunter stood wearing his usual infuriating smirk and Worth once again wished he was young enough to wipe it off his face. Instead he turned away and nodded once. “Bring them to me.”
Hunter didn’t move. “Well actually, the men and I have been talking.” he sneered. “And we’ve come to the decision that the three shillings an hour you pay us isn’t worth all the work. We know what this stuff would be worth to … more generous parties. We know what it can be used for.”
Gold dust. The airborne ashes left over from a successful witch burning.
No, Victor was no fool. He knew that the witches existed and he knew enough about them not to confuse them with innocent young women. He also knew that a real witch was harder to kill. You can’t hang them - they escape, or else the rope snaps. You can’t leave them alone in the stocks because they’ll be gone the first time you blink.
When you burned them, you had to use a certain type of cedar wood. As far as Victor knew, cedars didn’t grow in the colonial states of America - but he knew a man who worked on the Mediterranean-bound ships and for a few shillings a month could buy himself enough cedar to burn ten witches. It was surprising how little you needed.
“You do what you have to.” he said simply, not gracing the younger man with a look. “It would make you a lot of money… if you knew who to take it to.”
He didn’t need to turn around to see the ugly scowl work it’s way across the muscles of Hunter’s face. “And I suppose you do?” he growled. “You haven’t sold a single speck of this stuff have you? You wouldn’t know what to do with it if-”
He broke off with a strangled gasp as Victor, in a movement that seemed very limber for his age, pivoted on his heels and wrapped his gnarled fingers around Hunter’s throat. “Well, Hunter? What do you make of this?” he asked lightly, the faint evening wind shifting the gray and black hairs around his skull. “If you cross me again, Dash, I will personally remove your untrustworthy tongue.”
Victor flexed his fingers out and Dash Hunter collapsed to the grass, coughing vehemently.
“Regarding your financial whinnying, you may inform ‘the men’ that I will be increasing your pay. Fifty shillings per hour.” he added, casting a mildly disgusted look down at the man by his boots.
“Of course… sir…” Hunter spat onto the ground and straightened up, attempting to regain his composure. “I’ll bring the vials.”
Victor had already turned away and was gazing out at the nearby town, where the sun was setting over three silhouetted figures hanging from the gallows. “You do that.” he muttered. The buyer would be arriving soon, turning up to purchase every scrap of gold dust Victor had collected and take it away. His price was too impressive for Victor to deny him even a single vial… and yet he couldn’t help but feel he was being cheated.
“This is all of it.” Hunter returned with the nine vials and loaded them into the leather satchel on Victor’s horse. “All nine.”
“Good. We have another nine to collect - go south and see how Williamson is doing. I’ll meet you back in Salem in two hours.”
“But… who was the buyer? And what was so special about the ashes? And how did Victor know how to kill witches?!” Hermione had so many questions firing around her mouth that it was hard to get the words out in a coherent order. “And where do wings come into any of this?”
Draco, who appeared to be thoroughly enjoying himself, folded away his wings and sat back. “The buyer, to start from the beginning, was a man called Grimm Malfoy. Yes,” he continued at her look of inquiry, “He was my great-great-etcetera grandfather. And he was a bad one. Like… Lucius plus Voldemort times Bellatrix. He was arrested at the age of twelve for slaughtering a village of muggles.”
“How lovely.” Hermione said, pulling a face. “Then why was he making a deal with Victor… Worth was it?”
“He knew what the gold dust could do.” Draco gave an arrogant, one-shouldered shrug. “So he made the dumb muggle an offer that he couldn’t refuse...”
Dash Hunter liked Grimm Malfoy. He had always found Victor, who was a product of his age and therefore slow at times, to be a laborious leader - a man who thought about things too much instead of charging straight in. But Malfoy, who had rode into the Salem twilight on a vast white warhorse, looked to be his exact opposite.
“Victor Worth?” he had said in a crisp British accent, extending one gloved hand. “Grimm Malfoy. It’s good to finally meet you.”
Worth grasped the glove with his own gnarled hand and shook once. “This is my accomplice, Dash Hunter.”
“Pleasure.” Grimm inclined his head. “Do you have it all?”
At Victor’s nod, Dash hurried to open the leather saddlebag and show Grimm Malfoy the collection of gently clinking glass vials; all filled with the same dully-glowing ashes. “Thirty four, counted them myself.” he said helpfully.
“Good.” Grimm nodded. “You - Hunter, was it? - put them on my horse.”
Victor swung his walking stick up to catch Dash in the chest before he could move. “Show me the money,” he growled. “Four hundred pounds to the last penny, I want to see it.”
Grimm raised an eyebrow at the untrusting tone, but reached beneath his long coat to pull out a small satchel and toss it idly into Victor’s arms. The older man fumbled with catch and glanced inside. There was a lot of money in there. Despite this, he remained on his guard - Victor Worth rarely trusted men of his own town and country, never mind wealthy people from England. He had never liked the English.
He lowered his cane and Dash loaded the saddlebag onto Grimm’s eerily obedient horse.
“Pleasure doing business, gentlemen.” Grimm gave a small bow and mounted again, reaching into his coat for what Hunter assumed was a pocket watch. “AVADA-”
“He killed him?!” Hermione gasped. “But that‘s so… oh well, I suppose it makes sense.”
Draco rolled his eyes. “Of course it makes sense, Granger. No-one in the wizarding world knew that the gold dust even existed, if he’d left Worth alive then a thousand wizards could have found out.”
“Thankyou, I reached that on my own.” Hermione countered acidly. “Alright, so let me get this straight. Your ancestor, Grimm Malfoy, tricked some muggles into collecting the ashes of burned witches for him and then killed them.”
“No, he let Dash live and took him back to England.”
“Right. Wait, why?”
Draco shrugged again. “I don’t know. I guess he thought he might be useful. Loads of wizards had muggle pets back then - there were more loopholes in wizarding law. Anyway, Grimm brought the thirty four vials of gold dust back with him to England. You wouldn’t believe how much he used on himself in his lifetime, and one or two were broken and he left six to his two children, but around twenty of them made it into the wizarding world.” he concluded, eyes sparkling mysteriously. “Which is why people like me exist.”
Hermione was silent for a few minutes while her mind caught up with all this. “But what does it do?!”
“It’s impossible to predict. When you burn a witch, the magic in their blood is… well it’s like dropping a match to gunpowder. It gets really powerful for a short time, and then sort of fades into the air. But if you catch it before it fades and keep it in an airtight glass vial, like Victor Worth did, you can preserve the magic. Using it on yourself would be like ingesting magic itself, but pure magic. Victor Worth touched so much of it that it made him more agile and stronger - he didn’t know why and it didn’t have that much of an affect because he was a muggle and it just touched his skin.
Grimm knew what it could do because he’d heard the legends of it. He used it on himself; when gold dust enters the blood of a witch or wizard it accelerates the magic already inside them, so he became a sort of demi-God. But it varies with each different person.”
It sounded so far fetched, and yet Hermione could hear the magical science behind it. “You said there are four vials left. Did you use some of it?” she asked, slightly appalled.
Draco let out a bark-like laugh. “Good God no. That stuff’s been stewing in itself for centuries; you couldn’t pay me to use it. Grimm used so much of that shit on himself in his lifetime that it affected his direct bloodline for generations and generations. He had two children; a boy called Laurence and a girl called Isabel. Laurence was born with wings. Isabel could land on her feet when she jumped from the top of a house. It skipped almost every generation to me.”
“You said that other people here had wings…?”
“Yeah. Zoey had them when she was born, but her parents burned them off with their wands. They were nice people.” he added, voice dripping with venom.
Hermione’s hand flew to her mouth. “That’s horrid!” she exclaimed, eyes wide. “To their own daughter?!”
“They kept her locked in the attic until she was ten. Then she got Dumbledore’s persistent Hogwarts letters and her parents realised they were going to have to let her out into the world, so they tried to burn them off. They grew back but she can’t fly.” he added. “Blaise has them, but I think we’re second cousins or something so that’s no surprise…”
Their conversation was cut abruptly short at the sound of a door slamming nearby. Becker materialised at the end of the book row - Hermione, who was now wondering if everyone in this house had some kind of genetic power, realised that she hadn’t heard his footsteps. “Pansy and Blaise are back.” he said, before she could ask. “Malfoy, you might want to step in before she kills him.”
“Hermione, wait with Becker.” Draco sighed, running a hand through his hair and stalking past Christopher. “I’ll be right back!”
“Yeah that’s okay Malfoy, normal guys don’t wear shirts.” Becker called after him. “You look like Spring Break in Daytona!”
Hermione missed Draco’s reply and sat back against the window. Christopher joined her, sitting where Malfoy had previously been and dragging the curtain across his half of the window. “So,” he said pleasantly, “Has she explained everything?”
“He explained about his ancestors and the gold dust. I’m still not entirely sure where I fit in here, though… and why was my father working for you?” she added, hoping that he would be able to fill in one or two blanks.
Becker snorted. “I knew letting Posh Spice explain things would take an era longer than anyone else. Did he tell you that there are four vials left in existence? Right, well obviously there are some very nasty individuals after those vials, I mean there is some serious magic going on in that glass. When Grimm Malfoy’s twenty vials made it into the wizarding world, freaks like us started popping up everywhere and the secret was out.
There was a time when you could kill a wizard or witch that had used the gold dust, and take it from their blood. Now, of course, there’s only seriously diluted stuff left inside people so all these witches and wizards that want some need to get it from the vials.”
“Do you know where they are?” Hermione asked, intrigued.
“We have two of them. They’re in the basement.” Becker replied calmly. “Which is why people like the Stone brothers are attacking us all the time. And we hunt for the other two when we’re not guarding the fort.”
Hermione sat back again, allowing all of this to wash over her. Becker waited patiently while she formulated a reply, toying with the frayed edges of his lab coat. “So… why do you keep them away from the world? Surely the Ministry could lock them away or something…?” she asked eventually.
“No. The only people who can be trusted are those who don’t need the power inside those vials. Which would be those who already have it. AKA us. And we keep it here rather than selling it because for all we know, when someone pulls one of the corks out of those vials it could go off like a nuclear missile. You can’t lock burning magic away for so long and expect it to keep healthy.”
“And to answer your other question,” Draco reappeared and kicked Becker out of his seat. “You are here because your father was one of us. So for all the rest of the world knows, you could be too.”
Hermione stared at him. “Come again?”
“Way to spring that one on her.” Becker muttered, vanishing into the shadows again.
Draco ignored him and shrugged as though he was being completely reasonable. “Well you might. Jacob was one of us. It’s generally a genetic thing. It’s not that far fetched.” he reasoned. “The point is… okay I have no point; let’s go meet other people.”
Hermione’s mind was so flooded with intrigue and questions, so much so that she probably hadn’t felt this curious since learning about the Philosopher’s Stone in her first year of Hogwarts, that she hadn’t been paying attention to the time. They walked past a grandfather clock on their way out of the library.
“Half past nine?!” she yelled, gripping her hair in despair. “My mother will be worried sick!”
Draco glanced briefly over his shoulder as he sauntered into the entrance hall. “Don’t worry about it. We’ll sort something out soon.” he called lazily. “Pansy, for fuck’s sake will you stop breaking things?!”
Hermione jogged after him and skidded onto the tiles. Across the hall, accompanied by several people she had never met, were two Slytherins Hermione had once hoped never to set eyes on again. Blaise Zabini, and a very irate Pansy Parkinson.
He looked up when she entered the room, dark-haired and handsome and, surprisingly, wearing a leather jacket. “Oh, you finally brought her then?” he asked icily, directing his comment toward Draco. “How much have you explained?”
“Pretty much everything.” Draco shrugged, ignoring his tone. “Pans. Be nice.”
Hermione realised at his words that the dark-haired girl had been staring acid at her since she had walked in. “I thought we were still negotiating the terms of her presence?” she snarled, jerking to try and remove Blaise's restraining arm. “We don’t want her here. She’s a bloody-”
Her words were muffled as Blaise put a hand over her mouth. “If anyone needs us we’ll be upstairs in the piano room.” he hauled her into the air and strode off toward the stairs. "Bye Hermione."
Hermione watched them go with one eyebrow raised. “Well she’s still a charmer.” she said. “I need to go home.”
“Uh… not the best of ideas, Granger.” Draco drawled, scratching his head. “The Stone brothers will probably still be out and about.”
“They might attack my mother! I have to go warn her!” Hermione cried, diving past him to race out of the manor. Draco followed, attempting to match her pace as she scrambled through the grass and into the greenhouse.
“Gra- Hermione, you can’t just head back into the middle of London! For God’s sake will you stop being so stubborn already?!” he panted.
Hermione ignored him, too busy wondering how in the name of Merlin she ended up running through Somewhere-Near-Coventry with a half-naked Draco Malfoy chasing her. If she hadn’t been so furious with them, she’d have found the idea of writing it to Harry and Ron quite humorous - she could just imagine how red Ronald’s face would turn at the thought.
She made it to the greenhouse and skidded to a halt on the concrete floor, with bare moments until Draco caught up. Hermione knew that if he caught her he would stop her from dissapparating, so she drew her wand, thought of home and, as the exhausted blonde staggered past the greenery, vanished.
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