There came a resounding silence that descended upon them as soon as the door clicked shut. They again fought against a barrier that prevented them from looking at one another for a few moments.
Finally, after all those months, they took a good look at each other.
Ron, having grown thinner due to the insufficient diet they were fed back at Hogwarts, looked taller – a whole head taller than Icarus. Even Sango seemed taller than him since her hair, now dappled with dirt and being the messiest it has ever been, as well as tangled almost beyond repair, gave her a few centimetres on the top of her head. Previously already measly and slight, Icarus looked even more pathetic than before – thin, short, with hallowed cheeks and a glazed, opaque patina to his eyes rather than the sharp blue-gray it once was.
Their clothes were tattered, sticky, and on most areas pasty with some or other dirt. They had no shoes. The loss of shoes was something different entirely on its own for some reason. Shoes were just a different type of wear, and losing them crossed a certain barrier of security, more worse than the loss of Icarus’s eyesight would have been. Yes, losing one's shoes and being bare-feet was just something inherently different. It crossed a line. Even smelling wasn't as enigmatically profound.
They had grime streaks all over their faces, their fingernails were dirty, and they reeked something foul. They didn't study each other's appearance than their faces, where all the truths were displayed. Being here, seemingly far removed from the situation back at Hogwarts, made it feel different, like a rebirth, their ability to absolutely face each other further compounding this feeling. Out of nowhere, Sango flung her arms around the both of them, effectively suffocating the two boys.
Surprising themselves, Icarus and Ron's arms followed suit on their own accord and grabbed on the closest warm existence. Sango cried whole-heartedly, whilst the boys sobbed silently, all holding onto each other fiercely. Soon after, even Sango had to allow, they parted, their mingled stenches overbearing their noses. Sango pulled out with a shiny face, which didn't look too good with all the dirt smudged on it. Icarus and Ron quickly dried their eyes before facing anything else. Not that Icarus could see anything. There was a freer aura around them now. They were free of the strange bonds that held them emotionally apart. It was so easy to stray into any direction back in the small dungeon, so easy to ignore everyone and wander off into your own world, isolating yourself. Now it felt like a reunion, a renewing of their friendship and a new strengthening to accompanying it.
Each started making their way into their own direction, having shared a tender moment and feeling enough and overwhelmed with everything. Icarus went to the window, Ron went to the dresser to the mirror, and Sango went over to the tall book stand. Icarus touched the window.
The outside was beautiful and vast. This Malfoy estate stretched over a large piece of land, Icarus thought, since he was only viewing the part of front of the manor. There were a few large beds of artistically placed and coloured flowers, and to the left, Icarus could feel the part of another smooth stone walkway similar to the one they had walked on upon approaching the mansion.
His mind was surprisingly blank. He turned around and sensed Sango paging through some books with a disapproving shake of her head. Ron was exploring the contents of the various drawers of the dresser. Icarus turned around and sat down on the front edge of the bed. This instigated a conforming air upon them since they knew that they had to talk sooner or later, which was a different kind of confrontation from a group hug. Ron turned around in the chair, his brown feet leaving the emerald footstool, and Sango swivelled her head and languidly shut closed the book she had been going through.
Icarus, his arms folded, stared at the floor at his dirty feet. When last had they spoke? Sango approached and sat down on the bed. Ron looked awkward for a few moments but finally chose to join them. No one spoke. They had all departed from a surreal nothingness in their mind, and now it was time to face reality.
Just when the tension was growing quite uncomfortable, and Icarus was about to open his mouth, there was a sudden-
"Tibby is to serve-" The creature's eyes bulged impossibly.
The three Gryffindors, so startled that they had thrown their arms and feet up, while Sango had her demonslaying boomerang at hand, looked on at the impeccably kept house-elf, as impeccable as a house-elf could get, through their cage of protective limbs. The elf was staring fixedly at Icarus. He, Ron, and Sango removed their hands and flustered embarrassedly after such an overreaction. They kept their eyes on the creature standing in front of them.
The elf was still starry-eyed. Then, finally, it said, rather dazedly and reverently, "Tibby is to serve the three slaves by order of Miss 'Cissa."
Sango's eyebrows creased for a split second at those words, specifically the 'serve' word, never mind the elf stating their inferior statuses as slaves; that S.P.E.W. fire hadn't left her system totally yet, even throughout all they had experienced. This went to show that they were still the same people inside. Sango was rather impressed by the neatness of the elf, though.
Icarus cleared his throat. "Hi, Tibby," he greeted.
The elf stared at him pointedly some more. "Icarus Potter is..." Her huge eyes danced around in their sockets, possibly trying to find a word to express what she wanted to say. The three kids waited for more but nothing seemed forthcoming.
"Tibby." Her eyes shot to Icarus again. "This is Ron and this is Sango," Icarus said, indicating his two companions.
Tibby shook his head, apparently to clear it. "Tibby is to see to it the three elves are clean and fed," she said firmly, her serious business expression introduced to the trio for the first time.
Sango's face sung of hope and wonder at those words. "Yes, damn, we need a bath."
Now only Ron was the one left to talk. He didn't, though, but his stomach growled at the mention of food.
The house-elf, wearing a teacloth with a large green Malfoy emblem emblazoned on the front, nodded her head. "Yes, the three slaves need to bathe." Whether this was said as reiteration, fact, or disparagement, they didn't know. Judging by her very minutely recoiled head, suggesting she thought them repulsive, they swayed towards disparagement. And why did she kept saying the 'three slaves'? It was downright irritating! "Would Slave Weasley and Slave Sango go to their rooms now. S-s-slave Potter can take his bath in there," the elf feebly pointed at the door beside the head of the bed, next to the book shelf.
The three kids could sort of figure why the creature stuttered on Icarus's reference. They looked at each other, and agreed silently to talk after a good shower. This might have been to stall or just to genuinely get a bath that was needed very direly.
"Thank you, Tibby," Sango said, giving her a grateful smile.
Her eyes shifted to Sango at the words. They shifted to Icarus again. Then she-
The three of them were left to blink at the space Tibby previously occupied.
The tension was back somewhat.
"We... should – start getting to our baths," Ron finally spoke up.
This new voice spurred the other two into action. They nodded. Ron and Sango stood up. The three looked at each other again, and finally smiled together. The two left Icarus's room, leaving him alone in an unfamiliar setting. He needed to get clean, really needed to get clean. Icarus felt the clock on the wall. It read five minutes past one o'clock. It would be lunch in about an hour. He headed to the bathroom.
A mini-spa, more like, he soon discovered.
This is how it had all started. Read on for the beginning.
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