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Chapter 9 : Dark Afflictions
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The next twenty four hours passed without incident. Lucas had, as Hermione suspected, sat her down at the dining room table and enquired thoroughly into where she had been all day, apparently assuming that she was taking her father’s death badly and acting out for attention. After spinning a well-constructed lie about going to the local library and running into some old friends (much of which had been suggested by Zoey and Draco), Hermione left him to make dinner and went to find her mother. It was a relief to realise that Alison had barely noticed her absence.
“I’m just so tired,” she had mumbled, curled up on her brother’s sofa with a blanket over her legs. “I just want to sleep. You don’t mind, do you honey?”
“Of course not.” Hermione said, brushing a hair out of her mother’s eyes. “I met up with some of my old school friends yesterday. They’ve been keeping me busy.”
It wasn’t an outright lie. True, Draco and his patrician housemates weren’t exactly what she would have called ‘old school friends’, but they had been keeping her busy. She was actually surprised at how much being at Blaise’s manor helped her deal with her father’s death… not forget about it, which she would never have wanted, but just… accept it. She had given it some thought and come to the conclusion that it was because she was learning that Jacob Granger hadn’t just been a regular muggle dentist, loved by many but essentially destined to be forgotten not long after his death. She was quickly discovering that he had been an important man within the wizarding world.
And he would never be forgotten by so many people.
Leaving Alison in the living room, Hermione jogged back up the stairs and collapsed on her temporary bed, one hand reaching beneath the sheets to pull out the thick tome she had commandeered from Blaise’s library before she left. According to Draco it had an entire chapter dedicated to the life of his wicked ancestor and the legends surrounding him.
It was a huge book; even bigger than Hogwarts: A History. The cover was leather-bound and caked in an inch of dust (apparently Blaise didn’t read much), and the title embossed in faded gold lettering across the side. Dark Afflictions of the Magic Blood by Elias Albrecht. Zoey had assured her that there were no curses on the volume, and Blaise had given her his noncommittal permission to take it, read it or otherwise use it to start a bonfire if she should so choose.
Hermione nudged her bedroom door closed with one foot and carefully flipped open the book. The pages were old and torn but in fairly readable condition; she welcomed the familiar smell of must and damp that took her back to her days curled up behind towers of novels in the Hogwarts library. It was nice, having the fascination for knowledge back.
She eagerly took out her wand and tapped the paper. “Ritromento Grimm.”
The first few mentions of his name were useless. A brief reference of him in a chapter on self-inflicted magical diseases, a quote in German that she couldn’t translate and a small paragraph dedicated to him within the chapter on tyrants.
Then she tried again and the pages sprang to the left until the book settled open at a chapter entitled ‘Grimm Malfoy’s Curse’. Hermione eagerly scanned the page. Beneath the title was a rough drawing of a figure on a warhorse, with one woman stood meekly to his side and another behind him on the saddle. Someone had scribbled in the margin in a language she couldn’t understand, but someone else, in dark red ink, had scrawled three names on the parchment and drawn arrows to each individual figure.
Grimm to the man astride the horse. Ava to the woman on the ground. Frieda to the woman with her arms circling Grimm’s waist.
Hermione stared. Surely it wasn’t possible that Ava, the waspish woman who had lead the Stone brothers into battle against Draco, could be the woman depicted in the drawing. There were many ways to stay alive longer than your destined time, of course, and Hermione wasn’t naïve enough to think that that wretched woman wouldn’t kill and steal whatever she needed to become immortal… but this woman…
Standing off to one side, eyes cast down? She looked like a house maid in comparison to the regal couple astride the majestic horse, not the petulant and imperial woman Hermione had met in the basement of Blaise’s manor.
“Grimm Malfoy,” she read aloud in a whisper, trying to follow the barely-legible script, “was the first of the wizarding family to ingest what is today known as golden dust - the ashes taken from the air after the successful burning of a witch, wizard or warlock. Along with his wife, Frieda Malfoy, Grimm used the golden dust to become a God amongst mortals in European society, eventually getting so out of control that the Ministry for Magic banished him from England.”
She looked back up at the picture. So Grimm Malfoy and his wife Frieda had been banished from England after using the gold dust. Thinking back on what Draco had told her about his ancestor, it seemed entirely viable; hadn’t he mentioned that Grimm had slaughtered a village of muggles when he was only twelve?
“Upon his deathbed in Switzerland many years later, it is said that Grimm implored his spurned lover Evangeline Falcroft to bury him in the grounds of his old mansion, in an unmarked grave…” she continued, eyes wide. “So that he could return many years later to take revenge on the country that had rejected him.”
It would explain why Ava wanted the vials of gold dust so badly. Hermione had no idea how Grimm could possibly still be alive if he had been buried, but she was willing to bet her life on the notion of Ava wanting to bring him back from the dead. Her eyes drifted to the fair-haired woman on the horse. Whatever had happened to Frieda, though? Had she died alongside her husband? Hermione found herself doubting that Ava would have felt any compassion to the woman, and wherever she had buried Grimm it was highly unlikely that Frieda was anywhere near him.
Come to think of it, she was probably still in Switzerland.
She turned the page. The writing on Grimm Malfoy’s life continued overleaf, but on the sheet opposite there was another picture; this one a headshot of two children. Laurence und Isabel Malfoy was scribbled beneath it in the same red ink that had defaced the page before, along with kinder von Grimm Malfoy und Evangeline Falcroft.
Hermione assumed it said ‘children of Grimm and Evangeline’, but she couldn’t be sure. Hadn’t Draco mentioned Laurence and Isabel being Grimm’s children? One being born with wings, the other being… oh what had Zoey called it?… a jumper. She frowned and re-read the line. Grimm Malfoy had had children with Ava rather than his wife? It seemed rather scandalous for the time - perhaps it was a contributing factor to his exile from the country.
“So Laurence died when he was nineteen and Isabel died when she was…” she blinked. “Twelve. Both killed by a lynch mob of goblins.”
She shut the book.
And then gave in to curiosity and reopened it.
“During his use of the dust, Grimm grew increasingly paranoid of rumours that the goblins were conspiring against him. Eight years after the birth of his youngest child he led an attack on a goblin village in the Swiss mountains, massacring a hundred of the creatures and leaving the rest to his dogs, who had also been exposed to the golden dust. The few survivors fled to the mountain caves where the animals couldn’t reach them, and four years later they took a ship to England and slaughtered Grimm Malfoy’s two children. It is presumed that his wife died with them, although no body was ever found.”
Horrified, Hermione looked back up at the picture of Laurence and Isabel Malfoy. Isabel was fresh-faced and young, but Laurence… he was an almost direct clone of Draco, with a slightly more angular jaw and darker hair. The likeness was genuinely surprising.
She turned the page again and found herself staring at a new chapter, titled with ‘Golden Legacy’. There was no picture, but as far as she could tell from scanning the words it was a chapter on all the other types of ‘dust freaks’, as Max had dubbed them. A few familiar names caught her eye instantly - the Zabini family was noted to show signs of having gold dust in their bloodline a few generations after Grimm Malfoy’s death; apparently nobody was sure whether it had been purposefully ingested or a bi-product of them being distantly related to the Malfoys.
Hermione found a paragraph of interest and propped her head up on her hands, mumbling the words aloud as she read. “Moss Parkinson, a fire-eater in the travelling Cirque de Magie, was one of two performing acts to be drugged and lured back to Grimm Malfoy’s estate circa 1813. For the entertainment of Grimm and his then-infamous band of aristocratic ruffians, Parkinson and his companion were forced to ingest the gold dust.” her brown eyes widened in shock as she read on. “When the second performer, a conjurer whose name was lost to history, refused to partake in the madness, he was slaughtered and fed to Grimm’s carnivorous dogs…”
Moss Parkinson wasn’t sure what had happened. All he remembered was striding between circus tents, juggling four multi-coloured balls he had stolen from one of the clowns, and then… well, it all went noir. And he woke up much later with a throbbing headache and all the colours of the rainbow dancing around his eyes, with no recollection as to how he got wherever he was.
“I think this one is awake.” a sneering voice remarked in English. Moss winced and rolled onto his back. He appeared to be lying on the cold flagstone floor of a large banquet hall, and now found himself staring up at a multiple-chandeliered, elaborately-painted ceiling.
“Où suis-je?” Moss choked, struggling to sit up. One hand clutched his aching head as he looked around the hall. The remains of a feast fit for a King lay scattered across a table the length of the room, and he found himself on the receiving end of twenty or so uninterested gazes from an unpleasant collection of men slouched in the chairs around it.
At the head of the table, a man in a magnificent fur coat was watching Moss with an amused expression on his cruel face.
“Qui êtes-vous?” Moss asked, standing up. He did not like this room, and he certainly didn’t like the predatory gentlemen in bloody fur coats watching him as though he was some form of entertainment.
“Boisson?” the man at the head of the table asked, raising a jewelled goblet toward Moss. “C’est bon.”
Moss, who had been desperately trying to remember which of his many magically-expanded pockets he had stashed his wand in, shook his head. “Non merci. Où suis-je?” he repeated.
“Anglais?” the man asked, ignoring Moss’ question. “I have exhausted my knowledge of your language.”
“Of course.” Moss replied. The Cirque de Magie was based in France, yes, but its primary audience was in England and Scotland; of course he spoke English. It was almost an insult to suggest otherwise. “Where am I? Who are you?”
“My name is Grimm Malfoy.” the gentleman replied with a malevolent smirk. “You are in my home. Sit with us, have a drink.”
Moss didn’t hear him. His eyes had caught the candlelight reflecting in a pool of thick, deep red liquid rolling slowly across the floor from behind Grimm Malfoy’s throne. Was that… that was blood. Raising his eyes again, Moss found the dark eyes of Malfoy fixed intently upon his own as he took a wary step backward. The man’s lips curled into a wicked grin.
“Dash!” he called. A door at the far side of the room opened and a nimble dark-haired man strode in. When he spoke it was with a grating, raspy voice and, more surprisingly, an American accent - something that Moss had only heard perhaps once in his entire life.
“The conjurer is making our new friend nervous.” Grimm said, not taking his eyes from Moss’ face. “Give him to the dogs would you?”
“Yes my Lord.” the man called Dash bent behind his master’s chair, straightening up with the immobile body of a man at least his own height and weight supported easily in his arms. Blood dripped conspicuously down an exposed arm. Moss fought the urge not to throw up as he backed even further from Grimm Malfoy and his companions. That was Geltin, the Cirque du Magie conjurer. Said to have hands faster than a rattlesnake.
“Qu'avez-vous fait?!” Moss whimpered. “What… what have you done?!”
Grinning nastily, Dash proceeded to haul Geltin’s body out of the room, leaving a trail of blood in his wake. Grimm Malfoy continued to watch Moss as though there was something particularly fascinating about the tremors of terror making his muscles quiver. To the man’s direct right, a fair-haired gentleman turned his grin away from Moss to pick up his own goblet with a bejewelled hand. “Honestly Grimm, you do enjoy mentally torturing these poor fellows.” he murmured.
“You’re quite right Ivan.” Grimm sighed melodramatically. “You, fire-eater… what is your name?”
Moss was too afraid to lie. “Moss Parkinson.” he managed, swallowing in terror. “Why have you brought me here?”
“Have a drink.” the blond-haired man called Ivan gestured to the goblet in front of Grimm. “Relax. We’re not going to hurt you.”
“Letter for you, Hermione!” Lucas called, pushing open her bedroom door. Hermione closed the book again and rolled over to take the envelope he was holding out. “Just arrived on the doormat. Don’t call me crazy, but I think an owl dropped it…”
She grinned and took it, waiting for him to leave again before she looked down at the letter. Her name was written in a neat, curly cursive - definitely not from Ron or Harry then - and she carefully set the envelope to one side to re-open Dark Afflictions of the Magic Blood.
“Grimm and his ruthless companions forced Moss to drink from a glass of liquidised gold dust…”
He spat it out instantly. “Merde! What is this??”
Grimm’s friends were laughing. “You are tasting undiluted power, my little fire-eater,” Grimm himself taunted, raising his own goblet. “Cheers.”
“What have you… you poisoned me?!” Moss demanded, hurling the goblet to one side. It landed in the fireplace, causing the flames to explode around the hearth in an acidic shade of blue. Moss dove to one side, arms held protectively over his head. Once they had died down again Grimm got to his feet and strolled around the table, the golden flames casting a red glow over his eyes.
“No. We have given you a gift, and now you will put on a…” he paused lightly. “Show for us.”
On his way past the fire he pulled two wooden torches out of their brackets on the wall and dipped their heads in the flames. Moss watched him warily, but all Grimm did was straighten up and hold them out to him.
“Well? You are a fire-eater, are you not? You do this for a living don’t you?” he asked. “Entertain us. Amuse us. And you shall be set free unharmed.”
Seeing no other alternative, Moss shakily took the torches from Grimm Malfoy’s outstretched hands and balanced them in his palms. He could do this. He had put on a juggling show mere hours ago beneath the bright lights of the main circus tent; all he had to do was amuse these predatory aristocrats for a few minutes and then he could just go home and forget all about this.
Taking a deep, steadying breath, he bounced the torches lightly in his hands and began to toss them into the air.
Of course, after a few minutes of getting into the act he had forgotten all about his dark audience and was expertly twisting and twirling the burning torches with hardly a thought. The flames seemed to dance for him; more obedient and docile than they had ever been before. Was he improving?
He had brought one of the torches to his lips and blown on it before he even realised that this was not a regular show, and he had not prepared beforehand by filling his mouth with flammable liquid.
All that escaped his lips was hot breath.
And yet a wide arch of fire shot into the air, even further than it would have gone had he used the fuel. Moss almost dropped the flaming torches in his surprise.
“Bravo!” Grimm called, clapping his hands. “Very entertaining, Mr Parkinson.” He got up again and strode across the floor. “But I think we’d enjoy seeing something a little more…” He took one of the torches and smiled. “Interesting.”
Before Moss had realised what he was doing, Grimm Malfoy had flung the torch forward into his chest.
Hermione gasped out loud.
“Moss Parkinson became the first of a long line of Parkinson fire-eaters in the Cirque de Magie, all famous for their uncanny ability to control the fire without the use of wandless magic.” Hermione whispered, eyes following the words across the page. “He remained close friends with Grimm Malfoy until his death in 1836.”
So Pansy’s ancestor had been tricked into ingesting the gold dust by Draco’s ancestor, and Blaise’s family had either obtained their unusual powers through relation to the Malfoys or the acquisition of gold dust on the wizarding black market. Hermione frowned. The Stone brothers seemed to be under the impression that she had inherited some kind of magical gift from her father, but she was getting increasingly doubtful. If Pansy’s furthest ancestor had also been a manipulator of fire and Grimm Malfoy’s son had had wings, surely that would indicate that Hermione should be a jumper?
But there had been so many times when she had broken her arm falling out of a tree or sprained her ankle falling off Ginny’s broom. She had never been a heights person. Watching Harry and Ron play Quidditch matches had made her constantly nauseous at Hogwarts.
And if Malfoy thought he was going to push her off the London clocktower to prove anything he was sorely mistaken.
Yawning, she closed the book and dropped her head onto the pillow. The corner of the envelope was digging into her wrist where she had discarded it; stifling another yawn on the back of her hand Hermione ripped it open and pulled out the letter.
It contained three words in the centre of the page, in the same agonisingly neat cursive, that sent a white hot chill down her spine…
Run from this.
And then the world around her exploded.
French translations ~
“Où suis-je?" = Where am I?
"Qui êtes-vous?" = Who are you?
“Boisson?” = Drink?
“C’est bon.” = It's good.
“Non merci. Où suis-je?” = No thank you. Where am I?
“Qu'avez-vous fait?!” = What have you done?!
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