Lana’s stomach hadn’t unclenched since Evan announced their shocking discovery. Could a monster really be holding women captive? Torturing them and laying them out to die when he felt like it?
The thoughts swirling around her head were gruesome, she tried to focus on the remainder of the meeting as she watched Chris and Evan, two men thrust into leadership try and navigate their way through this mess.
“Are you ok?” Harry asked gently.
Lana hadn’t realised the rest of the team were gathering their belongings and heading off to their next task and to grab lunch. Lana hadn’t moved.
“Yes,” Lana tried to smile, “just a lot to process.”
“Absolutely,” Harry shook his head, “it’s eerily familiar to Voldemort and the Death Eaters, the torture and the need to feel powerful.”
At the mention of Death Eaters, Lana’s eyes flew to Draco who was shaking hands with Chris and looking like he was a part of our team.
‘He will insert himself into the investigation.’
Hadn’t Neville predicted this very event?
“I’m just going to have a quick chat with Draco,” Harry said.
Lana smiled and watched the two familiar friends in deep discussion, they have a bond, a shared history. This must be what Evan and her look like together, although Evan and her were never enemies only allies.
“It’s all too perfect isn’t it?” Evan said sitting in Harry’s chair.
“Draco?” Lana whispered.
Evan nodded, “just like Neville said,” he turned closer to Lana and leant in, “I’m not saying he is our guy, but I want you to do some digging, without Harry around.”
“Sure,” Lana nodded, keeping her eyes on Harry and Draco, “do you find Neville a little off?”
Evan cracked a smile, “all the herbology guys are off. I think his accusations are mostly from his past but it can’t hurt to check out all our avenues can it?”
“Of course not,” Lana agreed, “I’ll spend the next two days on him and if nothing comes up?”
“We will drop it and move on,” he looked to Harry, “keep him out of it, he’s got rose coloured glasses on.”
“I’ve got to head off,” Draco called out to Evan.
“Sure,” Evan smiled and shook his hand, “I really appreciate you coming to me, you’ve made all the difference.”
“You’re welcome,” Draco said cheerfully, “see you all soon.”
Evan put his arm around Harry, “I don’t know about you but I could use a drink.”
Harry laughed, “sure thing, I’ll get my coat. Lana are you coming?”
“Lana has got to cross check the guest list so it’s just you and me,” Evan grinned.
“I’ll catch up with you guys this evening,” Lana promised, buttoning up her coat.
Harry looked disappointed and a new feeling, a squirming in her stomach that felt something like guilt burrowed it’s way inside of her.
“Follow him,” Evan whispered.
It was the best and the worst city to follow someone in, the best because it was all too easy to be hidden amongst the other New Yorker’s and swarms of tourists that choked Times Square and the city of Manhattan. And the worst for the same reason, it was easy to lose your target, especially when everyone was swaddled up in winter layers.
It had only just gone lunch but the sky was a blanket of grey clouds, a low swirling mist clouding the tops of buildings. Snow was forecast for later tonight but at this rate Lana would be surprised if snow began falling within the hour.
Lana carefully tucked her red hair into her hood, her grey scarf wound around her neck and chin kept her throat warm and served as a plausible disguise. With her head bowed against the icy wind she thrust her hands deep into her pockets and followed Draco Malfoy at a safe distance.
Draco walked, head bent to shield him from the cold, Lana now had his gait etched into her retina’s and she could pick him up as soon as she lost sight of him. He moved with purpose and even bent against the wind he had great posture. They had just crossed 32nd street and the crowds were beginning to thin. Lana changed her jacket colour to navy, in case he’d spotted the charcoal grey coat.
He’d turned down a few more streets, at every turn the crowd thinned. Draco was nowhere near his hotel and for the first time she thought maybe there was a seed of truth to Neville’s obsession with Draco and his ties to dark magic.
Draco stopped at St Holmes, a wizard hospital, a harassed looking Healer met him. The healer was dressed in muggle winter clothes, he was much taller than Draco but weedier and lanky. He was leaning his head down talking to Draco quickly, he seemed keen to escape. Draco was visibly angry, his fist clenching and his eyes narrowed at the Healer.
The Healer noticeably flinched when Draco moved his hand to loosen his scarf. Was the Healer expecting a hex? Lana didn’t want to risk getting any closer as there was no one else around, she had pulled out her muggle phone and pretended to look up directions.
When Draco turned on his heel so sharply, Lana thought she had been made but he stormed off and nearly knocked her over in the process.
The Healer looked sadly after Draco and slowly shook his head. He returned back inside the building. Lana changed her jacket colour to black this time, as the sky darkened even more, she’d do well to blend in with the impending light fading.
Draco was moving fast now, crossing roads without checking the traffic. Lana held back until she saw him turn down an alley, he glanced around before he entered and ducked his head against the shadows in the alley.
Bingo, Lana thought, this was it.
Lana waited a few moments, took a deep breath and with her hand fastened around her wand entered the alley. Her footsteps echoed on the cement, mounds of rubbish and junk littered the alley. Up ahead was almost black with darkness and she could no longer see Draco’s figure. She moved quickly to catch up, trying to be as silent as possible.
A jet of light caught her shoulder, she had ducked to avoid the full blast and slammer herself against the alley wall.
“Expelliarmus,” she shouted.
But he was too quick for her, Lana’s spell ricocheted off Draco’s protection shield, he’d performed a non verbal spell, that the English were so famous for doing. Struck by her own spell Lana slammed back into the wall, this time her head smacking tremendously on the brick and caused black dots to swim in her vision.
She felt an arm around her waist and another force tug her head back. Lana’s hood fell off, her red hair spilling out of the hood, he unfocussed eyes finding Draco’s face looking straight back at her.
“Lana?” He looked shocked but kept his grip firm, “what are you doing here?”
Lana winced at the throbbing in her skull, “I should ask you the same question.”
Draco loosen the grip off her head but kept his arm firmly around her waist, “were you following me?”
Lana remained impassive, she didn’t want to blow her cover so quickly.
“Are you sucking up to Harry to get his money?” He sneered.
Lana scoffed, her façade shattered, “excuse me! How dare you!”
“Well why are you out here following me?”
“I don’t see why Harry has anything to do with this,” she replied, wriggling free of his grasp.
“What did you see?” he eyes narrowed.
“You at the hospital, getting very angry at a Healer,” Lana held his glare.
And suddenly all the hostility dropped, he deflated, his hands covered his face and Lana realised he was crying. Not only crying, sobbing, it was the strangest sight and a myriad of emotions dove through her. Surely this weeping man before her could be able to murder? And if he was he was the best actor she’d ever seen.
His sobs shook his whole body and Lana noticed his hands trembling. It was grief, shocking and confronting, a deep grief. Lana had seen it and experienced it herself. It was a physical, emotional and mental response.
Sighing she hoisted Draco’s arm around her shoulders, he looked like he could do with some physical support as well as emotional. If he is the murderer, she thought, I’m in big trouble.
But she couldn’t leave him out in the cold, sobbing as though he heart had been split in two.
“It’s Astoria,” he managed to say, “she’s sick.”
All judgement vanished from Lana as she decided what to do next, “come on, we’re going to apparate to my place and get you out of the cold.”
With little to no argument Draco let himself be manoeuvred by Lana, she twisted on the spot and with a pop landed in her apartment.
The heating had been on, the loft apartment was toasty, she sat Draco on her overstuffed sofa and placed a blanket over him. A large tabby cat with enormous black and ginger splodges covering his body sauntered to the couch and promptly sat on Draco’s lap, curling up into the folds of the blanket.
Rhythmically stroking the cat’s head, Draco calmed down, “that’s Gene,” Lana offered as her cat’s large green eyes blinked softly at her, he had done this to her many times, intuitively known just where to be at the right time.
“He’s perfect,” Draco actually smiled, “I’m sorry about that, I just…”
Lana held her palms up, “you don’t have to tell me.”
“I know, but I did just have a very near mental breakdown,” he muttered.
“We’ve all done it,” Lana waved off.
Draco raised his eyebrows, “you’ve broken down in an alleyway after assaulting your friend’s girlfriend?”
“Not girlfriend,” she reminded him, although had Harry and her only kissed this morning?
It felt like a lifetime ago, so much had happened.
“Did I hurt you?” He asked, his eyes still swollen from crying, crinkled with concern.
“Just a bump on the head,” Lana gingerly felt the bulging lump at the back of her head.
“It’s why I never finished Auror training,” he admitted, “always to hex happy, suppose it’s engrained in me since…you know.”
Lana grinned, “I really don’t know how Harry walks around not jinxing everyone he meets, I’d still be paranoid.”
Draco took a deep breath, “Astoria has a blood curse.”
“An ancient blood curse, it was put on her family and some of the signs are beginning to show. We heard there were Healers here who had these new, revolutionary treatments,” he scratched Gene’s head lovingly.
“That’s why you’ve been in New York for so long,” Lana nodded comprehending.
“You guys have been watching me?” He didn’t sound defensive, just surprised.
“After what happened last night, everyone in the room became a suspect, and we had heard you were in the country longer than you had told everyone, a few people said you’ve been acting strangely,” Lana grimaced, “but now it all makes sense.”
“I can’t believe Harry would think—”
“Harry doesn’t know,” Lana interrupted, “in fact when your name was thrown in, he laughed it off. He doesn’t know I had to follow you,” Lana admitted.
Lana waved her wand and two goblets of White Owl Whiskey appeared, she passed one to Draco, “you need it.”
Lana also needed it, she took a large sip, feeling the liquid warm her from the inside and leant back into the teal sofa.
Draco admired her apartment, “you obviously don’t need Harry’s money,” he glanced around at the high ceiling’s, large windows, stylish furniture and the view of Manhattan. Everything was polished oak, clean white, dove grey and accented with pops of teal and gold.
“I’m not rich,” she corrected.
“That’s what rich people say,” he quipped.
“I just inherited,” she shrugged, taking another mouthful.
“I’m sorry,” Draco said uncomfortably.
Lana shrugged again, becoming dismissive to move the conversation elsewhere.
“I guess we’re back to square one now,” she sighed again stretching her legs out on the gold metal and glass coffee table.
“It’s crazy to think there is some psycho keeping women prisoner somewhere here in New York,” Draco shook his head, “who has magical powers who would need to do that to someone?”
Lana leant her head back, “yes, who indeed.”
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