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Vital by Aderyn
Chapter 7 : Chapter 7
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 17


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beta: kirstenalanna

Disclaimer- none of this is mine, except for the OCs.






lovely image by amoretti @ TDA

CI by amoretti

Chapter 7

Elena battled against the howling wind that was trying to force her backwards as she strode down the darkened street. Its relentless push made her wish that she’d never left the comfort of indoors for this frigid January night. But, as Corinne had said when Elena voiced a complaint, murderers didn’t care about the cold.

Armed with a newfound knowledge of curses, Elena, accompanied by Corinne, had gone out to search for the Minister’s personal guards. They hadn’t been heard from since the night of his murder when they had failed to show up at his home.

The guards, two men and a woman, had once been employed by the Ministry as Aurors, but they had left turning to the more lucrative business of guarding dignitaries. During the War, such guards had been in high demand, as people increasingly feared for their safety.

“Why didn’t they live in a Wizarding neighbourhood?” Elena asked Corinne as the wind tore through her woollen jacket, biting her skin beneath.

“Because,” the French woman replied, “they were smart enough to stay inconspicuous. If they had lived so openly, they would have been easy targets.”

It made sense, but Elena still wished that they could have apparated to the dwellings, rather than walking. It would have been quicker and much warmer.

Corinne and Elena walked in silence for several more minutes, their feet crunching on the frozen snow that covered the sidewalk. Clouds formed in front of Elena as her breath met the cold air and occasionally the moisture froze on her scarf, covering it with a dusting of ice.  With each inhale, the air burned Elena’s lungs.

As the silence grew more oppressive and unbearable, Elena wished that Simon had been able to come. However, he, as the Minister, had to attend a dinner party, leaving Elena alone with Corinne. Corinne seemed content to walk in silence, not giving any indication to Elena that she wished to talk. Elena figured that Corinne had to be thinking, or plotting. She doubted that, when on duty, Corinne thought of anything other than her work.

Corinne was always so focused about everything. Elena watched her measured steps. Like others of her profession, Corinne walked with confidence and precision. She looked as if she had somewhere to be, though she was not in a hurry.  It was vitality, Elena decided with jealousy, wishing that she had the same easy assurance as Corinne did. But Elena was anything but sure as she glanced at the surroundings.

Around her, the world was frozen in its wintery state. Trees with icy branches lined the street, standing like skeletons. Snow hid the grass from view, covering every surface visible to Elena. It wasn’t a very beautiful sight, the snow didn’t blanket the world, enhancing its beauty. Instead, it merely contributed to the depressing scene, like the whole world had been drained of colour and life.

The storefronts around them were dark, the windows barred and locked. As they turned the corner, however, light from several street lamps flooded the snowy streets and a block or so down, a large building was lit by numerous spotlights.

“Here we are,” Corinne said with a grin, stepping aside into a shadowy alcove. She quickly unfastened her coat, pulled out her wand and, with a few flicks, transfigured her clothes into a short, tight black dress. Shivering, Corinne buttoned up the coat once more and turned to Elena. “Your turn,” she declared.

Reluctantly, Elena removed her coat, allowing Corinne to change her attire as well. Once she was finished, Elena was wearing a strapless top, a thin pencil skirt and ridiculously unpractical heels. Even with her coat buttoned once more, shivers wracked her body.

“Can we hurry?” Elena begged, as Corinne paused to fuss with a strap on her shoe.

Corinne finished adjusting the strap and the pair set off at a jog down the street towards the building. It was about four stories tall, with thin windows and a small black door set into the front. From inside, Elena could hear the throbbing sound of a bass beating out a rhythm.

As they neared, the sound of the bass only intensified to an unsettling pounding.

“They live here?” Elena wondered aloud. “I don’t see how anyone could sleep with this kind of noise.”

Corinne didn’t reply, merely opened the black door, ushering Elena inside. Instantly, the music rose to a dull roar and the smell of sweat and metal filled the air.

A burly man, dressed in black, stood with his arms crossed in front of a door at the end of a hallway. Noticing that Corinne had slipped off her coat, Elena did the same, noting with relief that it was actually warm inside the building. She glanced at Corinne again waiting for her to take the lead.

With utter confidence, Corinne strode down the hallway- her gait both elegant and powerful. She stopped short as the man glanced down at her. Elena, feeling like a little puppy trailing behind the more sophisticated Corinne came to a halt, several feet behind.

“Bonjour,” Corinne crooned, her voice filled with the perfect amount of accent.

The man nodded briskly, stepping aside to let the two women through, obviously, he wasn’t too picky as to who the patrons of this bar were.

The room opened up as Elena made it out of the dark hallway. Multicoloured lights flashed from the ceiling casting a jarring glow over the whole room. The music blasted so loud from every corner of the room,  that Elena wanted to cover her ears. Along the walls, there were several long bars. And of course, there were people. Throngs were crowded onto the dance floor, while others mingled along the sides.

“Where do we start?” Elena whispered to Corinne, only to turn to see that Corinne had started moving quickly through the crowd, towards the centre of the dance floor. “Wait!” Elena said frantically, shuffling after Corinne, desperately trying not to lose her.

Corinne spun around at the sound of Elena’s voice, stopping in the middle of the dancers.

“What?” she hissed angrily.

“What are we doing?” Elena demanded.

“Asking questions,” Corinne said, before sweeping away once more, joining the throng with ease.

For a moment, Elena could keep track of Corinne, but after a moment, she realized that it was hopeless to try. So instead of moving towards the centre, she started to head to the outskirts of the room, figuring she could find someone there to question.

Before she could reach the bar, however, Elena felt a tap on her shoulder. Turning, she saw a tall man, with dark curly hair smiling down in a confident manner..

“Dance with me?” he asked in an utterly charming American accent.

Elena nodded feeling a bit taken aback. Though she was supposed to be working, Corinne was dancing and calling it questioning, so Elena didn’t see why she couldn’t dance either.

“Alright,” she said a bit breathlessly.

The man put an arm around her waist and directed her back towards the group of dancers. Elena jumped in surprise at his touch and looked up at him almost instinctively. The man, sensing Elena’s surprise, moved his hand to her shoulder. “Sorry,” he apologized quickly.

Elena shrugged it off; he had no reason to apologize really. Elena was the one who was feeling a bit jumpy. She tried to shake herself of the feeling and listened to the music. Almost unconsciously, Elena felt herself swaying along with the rhythm of the music and watched as the man began to sway as well.

It was all very automatic for Elena. With so many bodies around her, jostling and jumping, or swaying from side to side, it felt natural to move. The volume of the music only added to the power of it all. Elena could hear nothing but the beat and the lyrics and they propelled her forward, urging her to dance. It was almost like a Muggle sort of Magic, Elena thought giddily, something she’d never experienced before.

The music lulled and the man glanced down at Elena, a smile playing on his lips. He was really quite handsome, Elena decided, though he wasn’t quite as tall as Simon.

“Sorry, I didn’t ask before but, what’s your name?” His accent was even stronger, now that Elena could hear him more clearly.

“Elena,” she replied with a smile. “And yours?”

“Jacob,” he said. The music grew louder once more and he paused before saying. “Listen, Elena, do you want to go get a drink or something?  Or would you rather dance some more?” he added, when Elena paused.

“That’s fine,” Elena said. “A drink is fine.” She figured that she could ask him a few questions then, without being completely obvious. They had to push past the crowd to reach one of the bars, Jacob guiding Elena towards the edges with hand on her back. But after a minute, Elena found herself sitting on one of the stools with Jacob next to her. He raised up a hand, flagging down a bartender, who was sitting on a chair several lengths of counter down.

A young woman came up to them after a minute, regarding the two with little interest. “What you want?” she asked in a clipped tone as she fiddled with the collar of her shirt nervously. Elena paused, trying to think up something to order and motioned for Jacob to speak first.

Jacob ordered his “regular”—some drink that Elena had never heard of. Realizing that firewhiskey wouldn’t be served at this bar, Elena ordered the same thing. The woman gave her a strange, searching look, but left quickly without another word, returning a moment later with two identical glasses before scurrying off again.

“So,” Jacob said as he took a sip from his drink. “You live in London.”

Elena nodded with a laugh. “And you don’t?”

He shrugged, “actually, I do.”

“But you’re American?” Elena had to check, to make sure she wasn’t misidentifying his accent.

“Born and bred,” was Jacob’s reply.

Elena looked down at the drink, and carefully tasted it. It wasn’t as awful as she had thought it might be, though it tasted a little like firewhiskey mixed with mulled mead.

“Do you come here often?” Elena wanted to know. If he did, there was a chance he might know the guards she was looking for.

“Sure,” Jacob shrugged. “Often enough.”

Elena reached into her pocket for several Muggle photographs. “Have you ever seen any of these people?” she asked, gesturing to the men and the woman.

Jacob frowned and peered closely at them. “No,” he said. “Why are you asking?” His face paled a little as he eyed Elena more closely. “You’re not a cop, are you?”

“Of course not,” Elena said quickly, pulling the pictures back. “Do I look like one?”

Slowly, Jacob shook his head. “No. But then, why were you asking?”

“Friends,” Elena invented. “They’ve gone missing and I’m trying to find them. I know they came here a lot though.”

Jacob blushed a little. “Sorry,” he said gruffly. “I hope I didn’t offend you.”

“Not at all,” Elena promised, this time taking a bigger gulp of her drink. She wasn’t exactly enjoying talking to Jacob, but she was reluctant to leave, even though he had no information to give to her.

“Well,” Jacob said after a moment of silence. “If you’re not a cop, what do you do?”

“I’m a doctor,” Elena said, naming the Muggle equivalent of her profession.

Jacob raised an eyebrow. “You’re young for a doctor,” he commented.

Elena shrugged, wishing she knew what age was normal for Muggle doctors. “I’m still in training,” she hedged at last, figuring that was a safe thing to say. “But saying that I’m a doctor sounds much more sophisticated.” She was surprised to hear herself giggle, the most unsophisticated sound possible.

To her relief, Jacob seemed to buy this excuse and nodded thoughtfully. “Well, doctor-to-be Elena,” he said. “What do you think about dancing again?”

“I’m going to have to finish my drink first,” Elena said, glancing down to see that her glass was more than half full. Thought it wasn’t awful, she wasn’t sure if she could finish it.

“Leave it,” Jacob suggested, pulling her to her feet. “I like this song.”

“Just a minute!’ Elena said, angry that he was pushing her.

Jacob frowned darkly down at Elena. “Please,” he implored.

Elena tried to give him a fierce look. “Look, if you want to dance, go ahead without, but I’m going to stay here for a moment longer.” Honestly, she didn’t care too much about finishing the drink, but she didn’t like Jacob’s attitude and didn’t want to award him for his behaviour.

With a nod, Jacob agreed to wait, impatiently tapping his foot as Elena sipped at her drink. She took several sips, nodding her head along to the music. Jacob had been right; it was a nice song.

“Are you done yet?” he snapped. “Look I don’t want to wait all night.”

“I said you could go!” Elena said, leaning away from his anger. “And I meant it!”

With a snarl, Jacob extended his hand down and hauled Elena upwards by the arm. She spilled her drink onto the bar’s counter, trying to yank her arm away, but Jacob’s grasp at her elbow was too strong.

“Let me go!” Elena demanded, considering reaching for her wand to fight him off. But she wasn’t sure if it was quite worth the trouble.

“Just one dance,” Jacob whispered in her ear. “Alright? Just one dance and you can go?”

Elena’s stomach knotted but she nodded in agreement. Once she got into the crowd of people, she would have a better chance of getting away, and hopefully, Jacob would let go of her then. As Jacob yanked her through the throngs of people, Elena made sure to look for Corinne as she pulled, almost violently, towards the centre of the floor.

Corinne had to be somewhere, probably doing something productive. That thought made Elena feel a twinge of guilt. Here she was, being forced to dance with someone who was probably dangerous and definitely knew nothing, while Corinne had probably already found out everything they needed to know and hadn’t gotten herself into any trouble. Stupid, Elena chastised herself.

Unfortunately for Elena, the next song had a slower pace, giving Jacob an excuse to wrap his arms around Elena’s waist, holding her still. “I’ll tell you what,” he whispered in her ear, just loud enough to be heard over the music. “You just hand me your wallet now and I’ll let you go. How does that sound?”

Elena’s heart sped up and she bit her lip, and let her hand wander down towards the pocket that held her wand. “What?” she said breathily, pretending not to have heard him.

“You heard me,” Jacob replied, a bit louder.

With a whimper that wasn’t entirely fake, Elena nodded and started to reach for her back pocket, where the small wallet with Muggle money was. Honestly, she wasn’t too bothered to be losing the money—it wasn’t hers. However, she didn’t like how tightly Jacob was holding her, or the smell of alcohol on his breath.

She pulled the cloth wallet out of her pocket and handed it to Jacob quickly, hoping he would let her go to stow it away. Instead, he kept a firm hold on her waist, drawing her even closer to him as he tucked it into his jacket. “Good,” he crooned, wrapping his other arm around her once more. “Now, how about we finish this dance?”

By now, Elena was really beginning to panic. It was awful enough that he had just robbed her but now, she wasn’t sure what Jacob wanted. “Let me go,” she said in as dangerous a voice as she could manage.

Jacob only shook his head. “Let’s finish the dance,” he said with a sinister smile.

Elena trembled and reached her hand down for her wand, ready to stun him but he only caught her wrist in a painfully strong grip. “Trying to get your phone?” he asked with a knowing smirk. “I don’t think so.”

“Alright,” Elena whimpered at last. “I’ll dance with you.”

“Good.”

 For a minute, she let him hold her, then, unexpectedly, she jerked away from his grasp. With the element of surprise in her favour, Elena managed to yank his arms off of her waist and took several quick steps backward before bumping into another person. Elena turned around quickly to apologize, only to come face to face with a livid looking Corinne.

“Where are you going?” Jacob said sweetly to Elena, coming up and putting a hand on her shoulder. “We weren’t finished dancing yet.”

Elena shrugged his hand off, glaring at him.

Before she could say anything else to him, Corinne interrupted. “I’m sorry, but I need to borrow Elena,” she said quickly, pulling Elena away from Jacob.

“Wait!” Jacob said angrily. “Who are you? We were dancing! You can’t just take her away.”

“Oh?” Corinne said, raising an eyebrow. “Can’t I?”

Jacob frowned. “Well just give me a minute then, alright?”

Corinne rolled her eyes, but nodded, seemingly oblivious to Elena’s frantic desire to escape the man.

Jacob, meanwhile had pulled out a scrap of paper and a pen and was scribbling something down. After he was done, he handed the paper to Elena. “If you’re ever interested, call me,” he said quickly. “Alright?”

Elena wanted to say no, and slap his face but instead she gave a non committal shrug, knowing that a negative reaction might infuriate him more.  

Once satisfied that Jacob wouldn’t raise a fuss, Corinne latched onto Elena’s arm and pulled her to the inner back corner of the bar.  “What were you thinking?” she demanded.

“I was trying to gather information,” Elena began, though this wasn’t completely true.

“And did he have any?”

Elena shook her head. “He’d never seen them before.” She paused. “And then he dragged me out to dance, demanded my wallet and wouldn’t let me go,” Elena added in a rush, trying to stave off hysterics.

“But you’re fine,” Corinne said in voice that was without reassurance.

“Yes,” Elena said reluctantly.  “But I was scared that...”

The word ‘scared’ drew a scoff from Corinne. “I’m sorry that this happened,” she said dryly. “But if you’d really been in danger, you could have just used your wand to fend him off.”

Elena felt the burn of tears in her eyes that she hastily wiped away. “Go to hell,” she whispered fiercely.

“So,” Corinne snapped on, ignoring Elena’s comment, “unlike you, I seem to have found something.”

“What?” Elena demanded impatiently, angry that Corinne was being so inconsiderate.

In response, Corinne motioned for Elena to follow her to the bar. Once there, the same woman, who now looked more bored than nervous came over. “What did you want to know again?” she asked.

“These people,” Corinne produced her own set of photos. “Did they live here?” Almost immediately, she was less antagonistic, as if she had forgotten all about her contempt for Elena.

The bartender shrugged. “They lived upstairs, if that’s what you’re asking. And what the hell did they do anyways? I’m not involved, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“They didn’t do anything,” Corinne said, exchanging her annoyed tones for a more soothing voice. “We just want to talk to them about something important. Is there anything you can tell us about them?”

“Well,” the woman chewed her lip. “The woman, Natalya, she was the one I saw the most. She came here sometimes on the weekends, but only really late at night. Sometimes, when things were quiet, we’d talk a little.”

“About what?” Corinne pressed.

“Oh, you know, dating, sometimes music. I used to tell her stories about customers,” the woman laughed a little. “But she hasn’t been down her for maybe a month. Actually, I only think I’ve seen her once since November. Is she alright?”

Corinne seemed to be able to process the information much quicker than Elena could. “She’s fine,” she assured the woman. “Is there any way you can let us up though. We need to talk to Natalya, if that’s alright with you.”

“Yeah, alright,” the bartender said. “Come through this way,” she gestured to the end of the bar. There were swinging doors behind it, and Corinne and Elena followed her through.

The doors led to a storeroom of sorts, with crates of alcohol and some food as well. On the far side, a set of stairs rose upwards.

“There,” the woman pointed. “If you take those stairs, you’ll get to the floor with all the flats. Natalya lived in Number Five.”

“Thank you,” Elena said with a forced smile and after the woman had left, she walked after Corinne, who had already started to climb the stairs.


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