Translator: Carol Grissom
Author: Flora Fairfield
Disclaimer: Characters are not mine, or Flora's
Beta'd by: Sidney (hathor x)
Chapter 10 – That kiss
Emily remained some time there, standing on the walkside, while the car left. She only got inside the house when the car had gone beyond the horizon line, and was out of her sight. Part of her still believed it would turn around and pick her up. When she finally convinced herself that that wouldn't happen, she felt... alone.
For a moment, she almost believed that the kiss would make her magically remember everything. That didn't happen, but, somehow, it helped her to understand things better. Now she knew she couldn't stay in Harmony Springs any longer. She knew she belonged far away from there, in the south, in a London she didn't remember she knew, beside a man that was so not familiar to her, but, at the same time, the only person in the world capable of making her feel that way.
Besides the kiss, she knew it. That so long, so suffered, so expected and so desired kiss made her admit what her heart knew for so long: she didn't love John. Not that way, not with that intensity, not with that necessity. The town that had been her home for so long now seemed like a strange place, empty, senseless.
She needed him. She had to be where he was. She had to know who he was. Never, in her entire life, had Emily felt such a passion for something. It was as if she had passed the last ten years numb, feeling things by half, seeing the world with eyes that weren't her own. But everything changed with that kiss. Like a modern Sleeping Beauty, she had found her prince. Now, she only had to bring him back.
When she finally convinced herself that he wouldn't come back, she grabbed her bags and entered the house. Her body was tired and her mind ached for some rest after all those revelations. She wanted to spend some good forty-eight hours sleeping, but she knew she had more important things to do. Good or bad, she had lived there for ten years. She couldn't leave without organising her stuff and saying good-bye to a lot of people. She wanted to do things the right way, and to do so, she would have to start with the most difficult task of all: talking to John. The one thing she had avoided and postponed the most, that she had tried in every way not to do. Now it was too late to run away. For the first time, Emily was absolutely sure about what she wanted to do and, in one way or another, she was going to do that.
The way back to Edinburgh had been lonely and silent. The road extended itself in front of him, getting darker and darker, but Draco didn't seem to notice. He refused to think, refused to believe that he had committed such a huge atrocity. How could he leave her behind? She had always been with him, wherever he was. She was his whole life. How could he abandon her like that? Regret comsumed him less than he had expected, and he was starting to think that he was insane. He almost stopped the car on the side road just to hit his head on the wheel for a few minutes. He was the stupidest man in the world. He had just left the only woman he had loved behind and in whose arms? Those of a muggle doctor from the countryside, who probably would barely know the difference between measles and rubeola! And, in addition, there was that kiss! Merlin, how could he forget a kiss like that? Never, in his life. Now, she was more alive than before in his mind and that kiss would probably keep him awake for many nights. How could he be so stupid?
"This is what happens," a part of his brain seemed to yell. "Wanting to be noble and generous. Wanting to play Harry Potter!"
Generosity and altruism weren't made for him. Draco was a Malfoy, and as such, he should have behaved like one, dragging her to London, even if he had to pull her by her hair! In that moment, he felt capable of doing anything, but he knew, deep inside, that if generosity and altruism weren't made for him, then bravery didn't fit him well either. How would he go back to her house after what had happened and say that he was wrong? That she still was his Ginny and that he wanted her back?
What would she do?
Slam the door in his face, at least. Draco didn't have the right to play with her life that way. Coming in and out of her house as if they were old neighbours. Messing with her with his own doubts, with his own fears.
No matter how big was his will to turn around and pick her up, he couldn't do that. He feared the possibility of being rejected. How would he survive if he heard from Ginny's mouth that she didn't love him anymore? That she no longer wanted him? Wouldn't that be the reason behind his so altruist decision? After all, if he left her first, how could she leave him? That was probably a part of his reasoning, yes, but wasn't the only one. Part of Draco was really considering Ginny's well being, considering her happiness. He wanted to see her smiling as before. The mistake was in believing, even if for a brief instant, that another man would be capable of making her smile the same way.
Somehow, this thought calmed down Malfoy a little. He had never been known for his honesty, so the extremely presumptuous tone of his conclusion didn't bother him. At least it gave him some conviction – or ever, some hope – that, if he came back at that instant, Ginny wouldn't put him out of the house, the same way she hadn't avoided responding to the kiss.
He didn't come back, though. Neither went back to London. When he arrived in Edinburgh, late at night, he rented a room in a wizarding hotel. After a night of sleep – or rolling from side to side in bed - he would hopefully have a better idea of what to do next.
The following morning was calm, warm and sunny. Emily thought she wouldn't be able to sleep, but in the moment she put her head on the pillow, the tiredness of the last few days charged for its price. She slept like a stone. A very crisp sleep.
She woke up around eight o'clock, with the sunlight breaking through the room, and she didn't waste any time. An hour and a half later, she was standing in front of John's door waiting for him to answer her. She didn't know exactly what she would say, or what she should do. So, she decided to be honest with herself and with him. After all, John was important for her, even if he wasn't the love of her life.
He took some time to show up. Surely he didn't have to be in the hospital so early, otherwise, he would have been ready or at least preparing himself. He opened the door still in his pajamas and with a sleepy expression on his face.
"Did I wake you?" Emily asked softly, only now realising that it wasn't that late in the morning.
"I had a night-duty..." he answered with the eyes half closed.
"Oh, I'm sorry... I'll come back later..." she said immediately, starting to move away. Part of her was relieved to postpone what she was about to do.
"No, it's alright." John held her softly by her arm. "There's no problem." He moved and gave space for her to enter. With no going back, she stepped inside the dark house and, with no ceremony, went to the living room. Without a better idea of what she should do, she sat down in an armchair and waited for him to join her.
"Just a minute," John said. "I'll be right back." He went upstairs, to the bedroom, probably to put on some clothes or brush his teeth. While alone, Emily couldn't hold back a nervous sigh. She knew what she wanted to do, what she should do, but now she was hesitating. Everything was so pretty in theory, but how to put it in practice? How to tell the man she had made plans with to spend the rest of her life that it simply wasn't possible anymore? That everything would have to be changed, thought again, re-planned because of a kiss on her doorstep? That wouldn't be pretty at all, and the fact that she was about to deeply hurt someone's feelings, someone who had loved her, was nearly unbearable.
Closing her eyes for an instant, Emily tried to remember why what she was doing was so important. She tried to remember how that kiss had made her feel. Actually, there was nothing difficult there. She didn't love John, and things were as simple as that.
Draco turned in his bed for the hundredth time. He had slept for a few hours, but he had awoken right after daybreak by an insistent owl that kept hitting his window with its beak. He didn't want to read the letter. He didn't want to be urgently called back to London because of some damned missing person case, when there was so much to be done there in Scotland. The owl, though, didn't seem to give up the delivery, and after some good forty minutes trying to ignore the interruption, Draco finally got up, irate, and opened the window.
The animal flew inside the room and roosted itself solemnly over the bed, with a censuring look. With a moody face, Malfoy sat down beside it and took the piece of parchment attached to its leg. He wanted the owl to fly away through the opened window back to the place it had come from, but instead, it stood there, waiting for an answer.
With an even uglier face, Draco opened the letter and almost devoured the words written in it:
Where the hell are you? I looked for you everywhere, except in hell, and I didn't find you. You'd better not be involved in any confusions, you wind-head. And, wherever you are, come back immediately. Today we're getting those files. I'm tired of being rolled up. It's time for the drastic decisions.
I'll meet you in your apartment at ten. Don't be late.
If anyone else had sent him a letter like that, Malfoy would probably have eaten them alive, but Matt had his privileges. And besides, his news was too good to be ignored. It was obvious which files he was referring to: the missing women files. O'Brien would finally get them! Draco really hoped that they would help him enlighten the mystery and help him find the damned murderer, who would receive a well deserved reward for all he had done to Ginny as soon as Malfoy could wrap his hands around his neck.
Quickly he grabbed a piece of parchment in his stuff and wrote: "I won't be late". Then, he attached the note to the owl's leg and it flew through the window. Draco still stood staring at the blue sky for a few instants after it was gone. He planned to pick up Ginny today. He would talk to her, apologise, gain her back – at least in his dreams. But these dreams could wait another day. What he couldn't do – under any circumstances – was ignore his chances of finding out the one responsible for everything.
He would do that, even if it was the last thing he did in his life. And, if he died after that, he would die happy.
"I didn't expect you to come back so soon," John said with some hope in his voice when he sat down in front of her in the living room. Emily's heart hurt, knowing that in a few minutes she would have to end that hope.
"I didn't expect to be back so soon either," she tried to answer with a neutral voice.
"What happened then?" he asked almost innocently. How could she answer that question? How to put down in words he could understand everything she was feeling?
"Nothing," she said finally. "And at the same time, everything."
"What does it mean?"
"I myself am trying to understand." She put her hands in her face. "John..."
"Did you see your family?" he interrupted dryly.
"Did that doctor he mentioned help you in something?"
"So why do I have this feeling that this is the last place on Earth you want to be?"
"Because that's how I feel."
"You... You..." he started, but suddenly he didn't know what to say. He stood up and went to the window. Some children were playing in the desert street as if everything was fine in the world. Swamped by a huge wave of rage, John shook his fists at the wall, making Emily jump in her chair. "Why? That's all I want to know! Why? What have I done wrong!"
"John..." she started standing up, but he interrupted her.
"No! You don't have to say anything. I always knew. Always knew," he finished supporting his head on the glass and closing his eyes.
"Always knew what?"
"Always knew that some day you would abandon the life you've built... That you would abandon me because of some half promise, some half certainty in the horizon. You never loved me."
"That's not true."
"Yes, it is. And you know that as well as I do. I was an adequate pastime while you waited for your real life to start again."
"If you felt that way, why did you stay with me, then?"
"Because I love you! Because I had hopes that your real life would never start again. Do you understand how weird that is? In some way, I didn't want you to find out anything... I hoped that maybe some day what I was offering you would be enough for you."
"That is so little, John. You deserve someone who can really love you."
"I know. Unfortunately, I also know that words are a lot easier. Easier than actions."
"It's not true, I did love you," Emily said softly, approaching him. 'You're a wonderful person and I don't know what would have happened to me if you..."
"I don't want your gratitude!" he yelled, turning to face her again. "I don't want your gratitude! I never did and it always was the only thing you gave me!"
"Go away, Emily."
"Don't do that..."
"And what do you want me to do? Say that it's all right? That you didn't hurt me? That I wouldn't like you to stay? That I wouldn't give my life so that everything could be different? Is that what you want me to say?"
"I know it's hard..."
"No, you don't know. You never knew." And after a pause, "Go away, Emily. The faster you go, the better for us both." He turned to the window again, waiting, not facing her.
Trembling a little, she got away from him, walking towards the door. When she was almost leaving, she took the wedding ring off her finger and put it on the table. It was really the end, she realised. She had just given up what had been her biggest reference point for ten years, because of a man she barely knew. It was impossible not to fear while opening the door and leaving onto the street. It was impossible not to have doubts while watching the old neighbourhood and the happy smile of the children playing. It was impossible not to question her own reasons while walking through those so familiar places, knowing that, from now on, nothing would be known, nothing would be familiar.
The fear was natural, Emily finally decided. But letting this fear define her actions wasn't. No matter how many doubts she had, she knew she had done the right thing. She knew she had made the right decision.
It was time to live her own life.
Draco was walking from side to side, checking his watch every second. It was already after ten, but the stupid O'Brien hadn't arrived yet. If there was something he really hated, it was waiting. Malfoy had already smoked five cigarettes, one after another. It had been years since he had smoked like that, but even that didn't seem to calm down his nerves. Finally, when he had just lit the sixth cigarette and almost wom a hole in his carpet from all his walking, he heard the other's voice behind him.
"Smoking really isn't good to your health, you know that?"
"Where have you been!"
"Calm down! It's only ten-fifteen..."
"I don't care if it's only ten-fifteen! You're late!"
"Yes, I know, but now I'm here. Satisfied?"
"Did you bring those damned files?" Draco asked impatiently.
"Yes," O'Brien answered, showing some folders he was carrying. "Here they are."
"Why didn't you say that before?" Malfoy asked grabbing the papers from his hands eagerly and sitting down. They were there! Finally, in the reach of his hands! Even if he wanted to, he wouldn't be able to disguise his anxiety. Not when he could be in front of the answer to all of his questions.
"Won't you want some help to examine them?" O'Brien asked. "I borrowed them, so we don't have much time before returning them..."
"You borrowed?" Draco rose an eyebrow. The other just smiled.
"So, do you want help or not?"
"Of course yes. Sit down," he invited, pushing one of the folders towards Matt, who had sat down in a chair, ready to work.
"What exactly do you expect to find here?"
"Everything. Or, at least, something."
"'Something' isn't a little too vague?"
"If I knew exactly what I'm looking for, I wouldn't be looking for any shit, right? I would have already found it!" Malfoy answered, losing his patience. "I don't know what passed through the bastard's mind who investigated these crimes for the first time, but maybe he saw something we didn't. Maybe we can even meet him personally to ask."
"Or maybe he's involved in the whole plot."
"An investigator of your own organisation?"
"In first place, it's not my organization. I only work for it. In second place, there must be a reason why nobody, not even the organisation, noticed the connection between these crimes before, isn't that right?"
"You think that Smith is hiding something."
"Who knows? I only think it's a possibility to be considered."
"But if that's the case, we won't find anything useful in his files!"
"Well, there's only one way to find out, Draco," Matt answered, leaning over the papers on the table again. Malfoy still faced him for some instants, considering his words. Maybe O'Brien was right and all that was useless, just another dead end alley, another lost hope. "No." He shook his own head, putting those thoughts aside. "Not this time." He was sure he would find something important there. He was absolutely sure and, armed with that conviction, he went back to work fiercely.
The files were deeply messed up. At first sight, it could be even thought that the investigator himself had caused that mess, but, with a careful look, it was possible to notice some patterns and details that were never considered by such a disorganised person. On the contrary. In Draco's opinion, it soon became clear that those files had been turned upside down and searched in a rushed way. And whoever was responsible for that had caused quite a mess.
"Did you check these folders before getting here, Matt?" he asked more to relieve his conscience. He had to eliminate every possibility.
"No, why? Do you think I've messed it all up?"
"I only want to be sure it wasn't you. That's all."
"Well, it wasn't me." And after a pause, 'Why? Who do you think did that?"
"Someone who's as interested in these folders as me. Or even more, maybe."
"Don't you think you're getting a little paranoid? These folders were almost lost. They were full of dust and abandoned. Nobody had touched them for years!"
"If they were so unimportant, why did you have to 'borrow' them? Why didn't they let you simply go out through the door with them?"
"Rules, I guess. Policy. All the documents are controlled there. The bureaucracy is huge."
"Yes... And maybe there's a reason for all these secrets..." Malfoy mumbled, returning to the papers in front of him. Matt ignored the last comment and also went back to work.
A little after that, though, Draco couldn't avoid manifestations of his frustration.
"But there's nothing here!" he exclaimed, pushing the folder away. "It's all a huge mess and there's nothing we don't already know!"
"How could you get to this conclusion so fast? I still haven't reached the middle of my file!"
"It's obvious, isn't it? Anything of interest to us which could be here has already been conveniently removed!"
"By the same person who created all this mess with these papers!"
"You and your paranoia..."
"It's not paranoia!" Draco exclaimed, standing up angrily and knocking down the chair in the process. "I'm not crazy, you know! And I know very well how to recognise a casement when I see one! And this is what these folders are: a casement, mendacity! Left there to fool the muggles, when everything of value has already been taken!"
"How can you be so sure without looking through everything?"
"Only you, really... " Matt laughed, while turning back to the file.
"Only me why? Is what I'm saying that absurd?" the other asked, serious. He really had to release all that accumulated anger in someone and Matt was the closest candidate.
"No, Draco." O'Brien sighed, resigned. "It's not absurd. I just think you can't be so sure before looking. The folders are all messed up... If they were really searched..."
"If? They were searched. I have no doubts."
"Alright. They were searched."
"And stolen," Matt agreed sort of against his will. "But it's clear that it was made in a rushed way. Maybe something might have escaped."
"Maybe, maybe... I'm tired of the word," Malfoy responded, lighting another cigarette and starting to walk from side to side, while O'Brien went back to reading the documents carefully. It didn't take too long, though, for him to be interrupted.
"What do you know about this Smith?"
"What do you mean?"
"What do I mean! What do I mean! Was the question too complicated for you to understand?"
"Draco, now you really are going too far!..."
"I'm tired, okay? I'm tired, frustrated, disappointed, nervous, fucked, alone, with the woman I love practically at the altar with another man and, to get worse, I'm asking a simple fucking question which apparently is too difficult for you to understand, so, give me a fucking break, ok?"
"With the woman you love what?"
"Did you find Ginny!"
"I've already told you not to ask, dammit!"
"You have, but it's simply not an option! And I have the right to know: did you or didn't you?"
"Oh, I wish it were that easy." Draco laughed nervously.
"But it is easy."
"No, it's not."
"And why not? If she's alive, if you know where she is, if..."
"...if she's getting married to another man..." he added, sarcastically.
"Don't ask. I don't want to talk about it."
"But is she all right? Is she alive?"
"She's fine and she's alive. She only isn't Ginny anymore."
"She's not Ginny anymore! But then, wh..."
"It's a long story and I don't want to talk about it right now, got it? Or will I have to start being impolite?"
"You're always impolite, Malfoy."
"Exactly. Now tell me what you know about that fucking Smith or leave me alone at once!"
"Nothing! I know nothing about the fucking Smith! I've already told you I don't know him!"
"But does he still work in the Organisation?
"I've already told you I didn't remember anyone with that name. And after that I began a research, but the only Smith I found was too young to be our Smith."
"Summarising: you don't know a fucking thing."
"Nothing," the other agreed.
"And don't know who might know? Who worked there in the same period?"
"Don't you have a registration of the employees? Nothing?"
"Believe me, Draco." Matt shook his head negatively. "It's as if the guy had never existed."
"Or had his records carefully removed by the same person who worked on the files."
"If this is the case, then, why not to vanish with the files for good? It doesn't make sense to keep them, even incomplete."
"Maybe not. The fact is that the files are here, they have Smith's handwriting and signature, so I suppose he's not a product of someone's imagination and, to complete, they were searched and stolen."
"Stolen? Don't you think that word is a little too melodramatic?"
"Stolen, robbed, pilfered, hidden, taken away... You might choose the expression. For me, whatever. It all means the same thing: I'm in a dead end alley again."
"Not necessarily... " Matt said, in a distant tone, like someone who has just noticed something very important. He was apparently quite interested with something in the papers.
"What? Did you find something?"
"Maybe," the other answered, enigmatic.
"You're not sure if it's important?"
"Oh, no. I'm pretty sure it's important."
"What is it, then? A name? A place? A..."
"What kind of ritual?"
"I'm not sure."
"Then how can you know it's important?"
"Believe me, I know."
"Let me see this." Draco pushed the paper from his hand. "There's nothing here," he said after glancing at the words.
"At the end of the page."
"I can't understand."
"Exactly. It's in archaic Germany."
"But it's just a few words..."
"And do you know what they mean?" the other asked, deadly serious.
"What?" Draco asked, suddenly feeling his heartbeat accelerating.
"They mean 'The Death of The Soul'. But I can't think of any good ritual with this name. Can you?"
"No," Malfoy answered, paling.
It was a little after lunch. Emily entered her house in a rush. After she had finished the so feared conversation with John, she had gone for a walk through the city. In some way, she felt like saying good-bye silently to everything. She knew she couldn't go on with her life there, like she had dreamed. She had to get out of the glass jar she was living in and face the world outside. The big, dangerous and cruel world, but, at the same time, beautiful, seductive and thrilling. There was something else for her, Emily knew. More than that small town, more than the life John had planned for them both. And still, it was hard to say good-bye. It was as if she had to leave behind a big part of herself. And a part that simply didn't want to be forgotten.
She got home still with a heavy expression, and the silence welcomed her, as always. The house was empty. Emily forgot one of the windows was opened, so the light wind made the beige curtains fly, impelled by an invisible force. In a certain way, that's how she felt: acting for something she couldn't describe, that wasn't concrete or tangible, but that was there. And it was more powerful than anything she had ever felt.
Calmly, Emily went to the window and closed it carefully. Then, she stared at the empty room for a while. She was hungry. She knew she should go to the kitchen and prepare something, but she wasn't in the mood. She went towards the phone, instead, with the clear intention of calling some restaurant and ordering the lunch. When she grabbed it, though, her fingers hesitated. There was another person she wanted to call.
The paper was in her pocket. The paper where he wrote his number. So close. So tempting. Emily took it and dialed the number slowly. Then, she held her breath. What would she say? What was to be said, after all? Her heartbeat accelerated while the phone rang at the other end. He would answer at any moment and which reason did she have to be calling? Could she simply say she wanted him to come back? Did he want to come back? Emily knew yes. Somewhere in her brain or in her heart, she was sure about that. A certainty that was beyond the rational comprehension.
While thousands of thoughts passed through her mind, the phone kept ringing. And ringing, and ringing. He wasn't at home, she knew. She still waited a little. A little more than she would normally wait, until she finally gave up, her heart returning to normal, half of it relieved and half of it distressed. "Where could he be?" she asked herself, she couldn't help it. Then, she let herself fall on the sofa and stared at the ceiling. What was she doing with her life?
Soon, she was lost in dreams about what would happen. It wasn't a very advisable practice and the conclusions reached when she was in that state of spirit rarely seemed valid later, but still, Emily couldn't resist. She let herself stay there, quiet, thinking. Before she could get to any decision, though, she was interrupted.
Immediately, she sat down again. That couldn't be right, could it? Her house was empty. What she was hearing on the upper floor couldn't really be steps, could it?
Quickly, Emily stood up and went to the stair.
"Hello?" she asked, looking up. The noise stopped immediately. "Is there somebody there?"
John and Camila were the only ones who had the key. Would it be the doctor, already there to pick up his stuff? Hardly.
Intrigued, Emily started to move upstairs, step by step. There was no intruder upstairs. She was only imagining things, surely. After all, nothing wrong happens in Harmony Springs. Right?
"What happened?" Matt asked, worried, noticing that Draco had let himself fall on the armchair, a lot more pale than usual. "Do you know what it's about?"
"There was a book..." the other answered, after a long pause, staring at the fireplace.
"About 'The Death of The Soul'? Have you read it?"
"No. My father told me about it once. It was a dark magic book. Old and powerful."
"And was it about 'The Death of The Soul'?"
"Yes." His voice was distant. Draco still seemed paralyzed.
"And what?" He was angry for having his thoughts interrupted again.
"What is 'The Death of The Soul'? Am I right to think it's a ritual?"
"Yes. It's a ritual. A very powerful ritual. And very dangerous."
"How? What does it do?"
"It... My God!" Draco exclaimed, taking his hand to his head. "How could I be so stupid!"
"Stupid why? I'm not following!" O'Brien stood up "Could you explain?"
"She's in danger."
"I left her alone, don't you understand? I had no idea..." he completed, standing up too.
"WHO? WHO DID YOU LEAVE ALONE?"
"Ginny, you imbecile! I left Ginny alone! And they're still after her!"
"If I knew who they were, there wouldn't be one left to tell the story, trust me!"
"But why? Why would they go after her after so long? Why..."
"Because the ritual is not complete yet, you imbecile. She's still alive! Merlin! I need to go there..."
"Calm down, Draco!"
"To hell with calm!" the other answered, picking his wand, which was on the table.
"Where is she?"
"In Scotland, in a city called Harmony Springs."
"In Scotland! Are you crazy? It's too far to apparate, Draco!" Matt held his arm. "I won't let you do such a madness! Maybe they don't even know where she is, maybe they..."
"Yes, Matt. Maybe. But I'm not willing to take the risk. Are you?"
"I left her alone, can't you understand that?" Malfoy responded, pulling his arm. "If something happens to her, it's going to be my fault," he concluded darkly, and, with a move of his wand, disapparated.
Matt shook his head negatively. It wasn't right. Without any other choice, though, he also took his wand from inside his pocket and disapparated.
If he had waited a few more minutes, he would've heard the phone ring, which echoed silently for some time in Draco's desert apartment.
In the end, it wouldn't make much difference hearing it or not. The game board was already set, the pawns were in position and the luck was cast. Now, the only thing left was to wait for the outcome.