March 17th, 2011.
The bed inhabitants of Ward 23 in the Irvington Square Hospital, if questioned, would find themselves hard-pressed to complain of their lives as inmates in this hospital. In fact, the patients would find it rather difficult at all to piece together a complete sentence, let alone a coherent word, because the only inmates of this particular ward were those who had slipped into the severest form of vegetation. The comatose, if they were to awaken, would find themselves in a ward of a most queasy shade of creamy yellow, with stripes that ran vertically up and down the walls. Complete with the usual accoutrements of tables with porcelain vases full of plastic, yellow daffodils, the room appeared to the nurses like it almost breathed, housing the patients in what seemed to be an enormous butternut squash.
The inmates were incubating, oblivious as they had been for years on end. The newest patient to grace the creamy, striped rooms of Ward 23 had done so for the comparatively diminutive count of seven years. Hers was the bed closest to the door and furthest from the window because, as the nurses would joke morbidly, the newest inhabitants should acclimate themselves to their new surroundings before fighting over who would get the best view of Irvington Cemetery, right across the block. Although the nurses would joke that they “had hardly gotten used to our newest friend Faye” and that “hers was a face they weren’t sure they could open up to”, these same nurses would readily subdue themselves into a convincingly gray glower of fear and resentment if asked whether they were familiar with the comings and goings within the cemetery. Most would be shocked to find that they were indeed better acquainted with the happenings of Irvington Cemetery than they were with the latest inmate of Ward 23, a young redhead who was fondly referred to as Faye. Faye, who kept a lingering scent of jasmine in her hair, slept on, the novelty of her permanence wearing thin as quickly as the reporting on yet another disappearance, scandal, or trial of shocking murder.
The media portrayed a recently increased number of violent cases within the UK proper with backlash Catholic and Protestant clashes, post-Madrid subway bombings with Middle Eastern terrorists, and the mysterious disappearances of important members of the Prime Minister’s cabinet… these were not the things they were used to hearing in the news when they were growing up, a fact the hospital personnel grumbled under their breath as they tended to their oblivious patients. The inmates continued in their state of arrested fermentation, unaware that the world around them was slowly unraveling into a veritably grim mise-en-scene that would terrify any spectator who would be able to step back and get a glimpse of the bigger picture. Any doctor, family member or receptionist in the hospital, however, could easily conceptualize the details and note that the number of dead crossing the street to meet their final resting place had grown alarmingly as of the last seven years. Due to the chain of calamities that seemed to be hitting current affairs as of late, as well as the influx of internal cases of crises and violence, the hospital found a surging wave of patients and, accordingly, Irvington Cemetery faced a surge of growing popularity.
Rumor was that Faye had not been brought into the hospital by weeping, moaning relatives, but rather, she had been found in an abandoned warehouse off in the derelict hills near Old Kerry. A flock of pretentious art boys, engaging in some free-spirited debaucheries, had chanced upon Faye supine amongst the rubble, overgrown shrubbery, and broken shards of ale bottles, apparently asleep. The boys stood frozen for a spell before one of them, a dusky boy by the name of Dean, apparently gathered his wits and called for an ambulance. Dean, who till this day visited Faye with a sort of uncalculated consistency, later said with the most convincing vibrato, that they had been shocked out of their wits. Her person undamaged, the clothes nonetheless showed recent signs of abuse and carnage, the contrast made clearer by the orchid cleanliness of her skin and her vibrant red hair. What had shocked these poor boys was the fact that, although it was impossible for a person to go untended without food and water for more than a handful of days, the very strands of her hair had grown intertwined with the overgrown shrubbery. Some of the strands appeared to have been woven into the direct roots of the plant itself. The boys found it all the more curious in retrospect that the plant that had anchored young Faye to her resting place was not a native plant to England. The oral testimonies regarding the incident revealed that the boys had unwittingly found Faye, sedentary inmate of Ward 23, entangled in the throes of the most fragrant jasmine the boys had ever smelled. The scent, which had awakened their libidos and opened up their trousers in the first place turned out to be the element that had kept the girl hidden in her uninterrupted sojourn. So surreal did she appear that the boys who visited at first took to calling her Faye and Dean, the only boy left to continue the visitations, propagated the habit in the midst of rotating personnel and embedded patients. The story, which had found its five minutes of fame, had circulated in the West Kerry and Limerick county news for a day or so, but quickly folded in surrender to news of the World Cup, the Lewinsky scandal in the US, and the dot-com bubble. Thus, the days went by for Faye, and the details of the story were reduced to the quality of horror stories exchanged under breath by clipboard-wielding interns and powdered, panty-hosed nurses. The story retreated even further into Faye after Dean stopped coming, sometime after Christmas a couple of months ago. That was how it came to be that on a fine morning in early March, 2011, Faye woke up to a silent ward with no one to take notice of the event.
Not too far off from Kerry, ensconced in the magically warded walls of his Wiltshire mansion, Draco Malfoy glimpsed into a peerless bowl of water. The color of the fluid mirrored that of his eyes, and if one were to look over his shoulder out of curiosity, to see what seemed to captivate the young man so, one would experience an acute, dizzying sense of vertigo, believing that one was looking at a tunnel that linked his eyes to the water—a tunnel of no depth, yet everlasting distance. As for what the young Malfoy heir could really see, no one would be able to tell. For an outsider, the water remained unblemished, while his eyes, smothering the things he saw as grey envelopes would seal the contents of his mind. Indeed, a person was looking in on his progress without betraying her presence with a single sound, but Draco exhaled, his shoulders loosening as he blinked and stepped away from the scrying table. He faced the figure reclining against the folds of the drapery with what could pass as a cool, wry expression as he sank into an impressive armchair. The figure stood away from the French window, waiting for Draco to lift a hand in invitation before approaching.
“Whatever news do you bring with you today, Pans?”
A slight nose with a short, delicate bridge emerged first into the room’s captured sunlight, then the parting of a bow-shaped mouth and sharp teeth that were almost too small, like a set of milking teeth set against the well-cultivated pair of lips. “We have made fresh tracks with one of the New Order’s mainstays.”
The young Malfoy caressed his jaw line languidly, but his eyes were alert, if not a bit hungry, “The one they call the Hound?”
“No,” Pansy Nott née Parkinson shook her dainty head, “We rounded a Patronus test on this one before he escaped the premises. His Patronus had no canine inclinations whatsoever; it was a badger.”
His fingers stopped mid-motion so that from Pansy’s view, it appeared for a moment that he was gripping his own throat before the fingers slipped off his face. His fair hair and pointed features all seemed to converge one moment to the apex set by his glacial eyes before they relaxed; his face was an excellent study of complements. Almost to deny the viewer, Draco let out a soft, indiscriminate noise before lowering his gaze back to the bowl again, his eyes level with the brimming liquid. “I almost wish we ran into one of our familiars,” he enunciated slowly, his tongue curling around the word “familiars” with a sort of savage restraint, “By now, seeing an unfamiliar Patronus sets us in a tight spot, and the longer this unidentified person evades us, the more doubtful our Lord would seem to become of our allegiance to him.”
Appreciative laughter fluted through the air as Pansy sauntered over to Draco, leaning into him as she breathed, “By familiars, you surely mean the enemy? Yet the conventional idea of enemy is the unknown, the Barbarian… the outsider of foreign blood. Yet the more blood we share, the more we are willing to dispense of it, as if the fount from which it flows is assumed unending. And so fearful are we of meeting betrayal here in the Lord’s ranks.”
Draco offered her a night-smile, fingers reaching up to stroke Pansy’s knee, slipping up to caress her inner thigh, and then grasp her waist with firm fingers. He stood up, drawing her up to him, impossibly close as his lips found purchase in her curls, neck and curving bow-shaped lips. He drew her red mouth across his, an incisor caught his thin lower lip as he murmured, “We, with all our parts to play will not forget which cards we hold—”
Pansy sighed into his mouth, “Right, taught as we were at our mothers’ laps.”
They kissed ravenously, furiously, for all intents and purposes portraying the up-and-rising Death Eater extramarital couple, plotting fervently amidst midnight revelries and hushed fucks. This, Nott could read, and the Dark Lord had expected nonetheless. What no one could anticipate was that Draco and Pansy were providing themselves the perfect alibi while Echo and her men stole their way out into the night, leaving the Malfoy Manor with precipitated stealth as the young couple knowingly planted careful seeds of discontent in the way all the best Slytherins at heart knew how.