Losses beyond imagining

Chapter 53

The old woman led them to a small cottage. They just about fitted around her kitchen table. Over the course of the evening she related many tales. The history of the village was fascinating, and although Hermione was the most attentive listener, the storytelling skills of the woman put a spell on them all. The adversity between Muggles and Wizards was centuries-old and any attempt to reconcile to two groups had failed.

“Even those…” the woman said, “this daughter of a famous woman…. Jen-something their name was…” Elphaba gasped audibly. Fortunately, the old lady was a little hard-hearing so the sound went unnoticed.

“Voldemort had them killed… most of the family…” she continued, “but the daughter somehow survived. She has two sons now apparently. They are carrying on the noble work of her family…”

“Can I ask how you know this?” Harry wondered.

“Well, they were here, weren’t they?” she replied, her voice raising. “Last week, it was… They’re the ones who stirred things up again, well they and that Hogwarts business…. That’s teens for you…” Her crooked teeth formed an understanding smile. She had grandchildren herself…

“They visited the village?” Draco asked, a little too eagerly. “Are they still here?”

“Left a few days ago… asked to leave in fact, by a local alderman. They caused too much trouble… We’ve had enough of that…”

“Didn’t they put up a fight? I thought they were rather fearless,” Hermione said. “From what I’ve heard…” she added quickly.

The woman shook her head. “Can’t preach Muggle-Wizard marriages in this town… Pointless endeavor… You’d think they’d know how to find a more captive audience…”

“Perhaps they like the challenge…” Harry said. “Trying to convert the most hostile village around… It would have been a wonderful victory had they succeeded.”

“Pointless..” the old lady repeated, “they came to realize that themselves…”

The following morning Draco woke up early. He hadn’t felt this rested in a long time, which was quite remarkable, given their quite dire circumstances…. Who knew camp beds could give you such a good night’s rest? He ventured outside the farm and noticed he wasn’t the first to be awake, seeing Hermione in the farmyard….pacing in circles.

“Hermione…?” Draco asked worried. “Something troubling you?”

Hermione nodded solemnly in return. “It’s something she said…. The old lady… It feels as if something slipped my mind but I can’t put my finger on it. I fear it may be of importance….” She bit her lip.

“Maybe I can help?” he said.

“It’s about your mother’s gift…. The Belarusian Bole. There’s something about it… some sort of function that is… well, that hasn’t been proven actually,” she became animated, slightly sounding like a textbook or a lecture, “but that’s legendary, all the same… The bole is handy for lots of things and a really useful survival tool but this use… well, it’s beyond…” she felt silent again.

“But you forgot it?” he asked incredulously. Hermione, of all people forgetting something… She who knew the most obscure goblin rebellion dates…

“I know… it’s horrifying, isn’t it?!” she lamented. “I can’t believe it myself….”

“Well, it can easily enough be fixed, we could… I don’t know, visit the library, ask someone knowledgeable….”

“We mustn’t alert people to it …” she said, scowling at him. “It may look like some silly piece of wood, but it’s very rare and valuable, you know… We can’t just randomly ask around, someone might steal it…”

“Oh… I see…” Draco felt stupid. Now what? He sat down on an overturned bucket. His good mood had evaporated. After a few minutes with his face in his hands, watching the still pacing Hermione, he suddenly sprang up with a grin on his face. “I’ve got it!” he said. “Can’t you or Potter… send a Patronus to my mother asking for information? I’m sure she can help and get back to us soon…”

“Draco, that’s brilliant!” Hermione’s eyes lit up. “Let’s wake Harry, ‘cause I can’t do it…”

“Nor can I,” Draco mumbled. His mother would have to send an owl in response, he thought bitterly.

Narcissa nearly died of fright seeing the white stag approach her. She was attending the roses in her luscious garden. Surrounded by dark wizards all her life as she had been, Narcissa had never laid eyes on a Patronus. The huge figure of light startled her and she nearly cut her fingers with the hedge shears.

“What?” she whispered, “how?”

The voice of Harry Potter came out of the white stag. Harry Potter asking for her help?! They needed information and they were on the Jennings’ trail! It was a long rambling message though, about the bole and a black unmovable stone… about reflections and mirrors. Narcissa had a hard time making any sense of it. She was to send an owl as soon as possible.

As the white figure faded, Narcissa dropped the shears. Aiding her son’s cause took every priority.

“So, apart from waiting for Draco’s owl, what are we doing next?” Ginny was impatient. If the Jennings had skipped town, why stay?

“Hermione thinks…” Harry began, rasping his throat, looking at her, “we might be able to lure them back here…. so we should stay put.”

“Why would they? It’s hardly likely they want to put themselves in your and Elphaba’s hands…” Ginny replied puzzled.

“It’s a bit complicated… but it has to do with that stone on the road yesterday, and with Ron’s prediction…” Harry continued.

“Don’t forget the tree trunk either,” Hermione chipped in. “It’s a bit of a gamble, really…” she said apologetically. “Which is why we have to wait…” She sighed. “I don’t want to be wrong, you see.”

“Now, there’s something new,” Ginny mumbled, still somewhat put out.

“We could play games…?” Elphaba suggested cheerfully. “Pretend we really are on vacation…”

“Perhaps we better practice those Morisius spells… If they’re coming soon, we’re best prepared..” Harry said, a frown appearing on his face. He still wasn’t that comfortable with the ancient, and mostly forbidden, spells.

“Draco is rather good at them…” Hermione said. Her eyes filled with pride.

Ginny bit her tongue. She could imagine why. Spells as horrendous and dark as that: no wonder he was good at them.

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