She bit her lip and shook her head, “ I’ve never heard anything like it.”

“ I have. That’s the fucking wyvern.”

Her face went ashen even as her eyes hardened with disbelief, “ I told you, Malfoy, there’s no…”

“ Shut up!” he yelled and she gasped and backed up a step. He looked over his shoulder as if he expected it to come crashing through the trees any second, “ Does it even matter right now? How far away do you think it is?

“ There’s really no telling.” She hesitated and then added, with the heightened pitch of fear, “But…its getting closer.”

He stared at her until what she said finally clicked in his mind and then he felt a wash of horrified disbelief, “ You knew it was out there? You knew and you didn’t tell me?”

“ I’ve only heard it twice, both times yesterday while you were unconscious. It wasn’t this close the last time. I wasn’t really worried about it.” she wrung her hands nervously.

“ Well worry about it now!” he yelled, eyes sweeping their campsite, his brain already concentrating on escape plans,“ Will our circle keep it out if it comes this way?”

“ I don’t know. I don’t think so. Our circle is pretty crude and we’ve only got it anchored to one tree. But even if the circle kept it out, there’s no guarantee that it won’t just sit outside and wait for us.”

“ Then what do we do?”

She hugged herself and thought for a moment, “ We get away from the water. We get into the trees, keep an eye out for a ring of protection, and hope it doesn’t find out we’re here. If it is a wyvern we don’t have to worry about it scent tracking us, they don’t have a very good sense of smell. Malfoy, you’d better be telling the truth because it will help me plan what to do.”

“ I’m not going to lie about something that could bite me in half.” He snarled, “Its big. About…” He struggled to find something to compare it to, “ About a Hagrid tall on its hind legs and two Hagrids wide.”

“ Hagrids?” Granger’s mouth twisted as she choked on sudden laughter, “ How many Hagrids long is it?”

“ Shut up! This isn’t funny! Its got red skin, compact wings and spikes going down the ridge of its tail.”

Granger sobered, “ That does sound like a wyvern. But they hunt in packs…” she shut her eyes briefly, “ Please tell me there wasn’t a pack.”

“ There was only one.”

“ I guess that’s something. We should leave now.”

She gathered her things quickly and the two of them hurried into the forest. They went straight back to the Tangle Trees and then walked East along the border of the two forests.

“ Shouldn’t we stay away from the Tangle Trees?” Draco asked uncomfortably, eyeing the vines that reached for him wistfully as he passed, some of them looking as if they were waving goodbye to the pair, “ I feel like we’re cornering ourselves.”

“ Honestly, Malfoy, if I have to choose between facing a wyvern and facing the Tangle Trees, I’ll go with the Tangle Trees.”

He nodded, filing that bit of information away. It was always good to know which was the worse of two evils.

Despite that initial panic the walk remained uneventful until late into the afternoon.

Granger kept tossing glances over her shoulder nervously. “ I wish it would roar, so I’d know where it was.” She murmured.

“ Aren’t you supposed to be watching for good trees?” he snapped irritably, “ I’ll keep a watch out for the wyvern.”

“ Sorry.” She muttered, kicking a stick.

After a period of silence, Granger slowed and went very still, a strange look on her face.

He stopped just behind her, nearly running into her, gaze flicking about, but he didn’t see anything, “What?”

“ Shhh.” She whispered, very softly, staring straight ahead.

Alarmed, he looked about even more frantically for the cause of her behavior. Nothing moved around them. He whispered, “ I don’t hear anything.”

“ Exactly.” She breathed, her gaze fixed forward and filled with hazy concentration as she focused on listening instead of seeing,“ The birds have all gone silent.”

“ That means…” his heart was beating double-time, “They’re hiding. That always means there’s a big predator around, right? Or something bad? What do we do?”

“ We keep walking. Go slow, no sudden movements. Keep a look out. These trees are fairly close together, I think we’d hear it coming before it saw us.” He could see her shaking, which scared him even worse.

They had gone perhaps twenty feet forward when something caught Draco’s eye.

It was weird. Something was glittering on the trees ahead of them, sparkling.

“ Granger? Do you see that?”

“ What?”

“ Look at those trees.” she looked back at his face and then followed his gaze forward.

Granger’s brow furrowed, “ What in the world?”

They slipped forward to investigate, slowly stepping over a shattered tree stump. There were several shattered stumps, the heartwood bright and damp and smelling of fresh wood. Draco stepped between the trees, turning a slow circle. The sides of the trees facing them were all painted silver. Silver spattered the leaves, glittered all down the trunk, glowed and shimmered in the patches of sunlight that were able to filter through the dense canopy.

He didn’t dare touch it.

It was beautiful but something about it stirred hairs on the back of his neck. Something about it was frighteningly familiar. As he watched, a strand of liquid silver oozed from a leaf and splattered on the ground…into a pool of silver.

“ Malfoy…” Granger whispered, her voice faint with shocked realization.

He turned to see her standing over another puddle of silver. They locked eyes in a moment of perfect understanding. She couldn’t seem to say it, so he did.

“ Unicorn blood.”

Granger let out a shuddering breath as if she’d needed the verbal confirmation, “What could have done this? It looks like a tornado. Like someone took buckets of silver paint and splattered it everywhere.” She looked up, “ Its even above us. Oh Merlin, and its fresh, very fresh.”

“ The wyvern?”

“ I can’t imagine anything, even a large predator, making this much of a mess. Look at this, these broken trees are fresh, the blood is fresh. Malfoy, how come we didn’t hear this happening?”

He had no answer to that. He turned and saw more silver splattered trees to their left, “There’s more over here.”

They stepped through the wreckage of trees, trying not to get blood on their shoes and clothes. The trail of blood led a bit further into the trees and then…

Granger cried out, hand flying to her mouth even as she whirled and lurched against him, burying her face against his chest. He was too stunned to do anything but stare.

There were two of them. The smaller one had been decapitated and cut right in half down the belly, its innards burst out all over the ground. Its head lay to the side, away from them. The second one was lying practically at their feet, it was whole, its glassy eyes staring right at them, but it was worse, much worse, than the other one. It had been skinned. It was nothing but red raw muscle and sinew on bones. Even the face had been skinned, leaving its eyes in bare bloody sockets.

The unicorns.

Granger was sobbing hysterically against his chest. He pushed her away, but gently, shakily and stepped forward. Granger stayed with her back to the scene, shoulders shaking.

Draco stepped around the creature slowly, there was no way to avoid the silver blood now, it was everywhere. Had the wyvern done this? But…where was the skin? There was not a patch of hide, not a scrap of hair left on the dead animal. There were no bite marks or claw marks either.

“ Its them.” Granger cried hugging herself, “ It’s the two unicorns we saw at the oasis.” She buried her face in her hands and wept with wracking sobs.

“ You can’t be sure its them.” He said in clipped, distant voice, “ There are probably tons of unicorns around here.”

She shook her head as if warding away his words, “ I know its them. I know it.”

“ Granger,” he growled, angry because it was easier than being scared, “ Stop wailing like a fucking banshee and come take a look at this.”

“ I can’t look. I can’t look at them.”

He sorely wanted to rub this in her face, maybe he would later, but right now his self-preservation instincts were saying this was not the time for a fight. They needed to figure out what had done this and how to avoid it, “ Hysterics is counterproductive and I honestly expected better from you.”

He’d heard McGonagall say that to her once and it worked just as well now as it did then. She gave him a shocked, slightly hurt, look and made a visible effort to control herself, taking deep hiccuping breaths and straightening her shoulders. Finally she braced herself and turned around. Her eyes were puffy and her nose was red. His lips twitched.

“ There’s no way an animal could have done this.” He leaned over the corpse to hide his amusement, then grimaced as he was once again faced with pounds of glistening raw meat. At least it didn’t smell yet. If it had, he was pretty sure he would have lost the contents of his stomach, “ Unless it could melt the skin right off.” He straightened and looked around, “ I don’t see any trace of the hide anywhere.”

Granger’s jaw was set stubbornly as she stepped over beside him. Her face darkened, eyebrows drawing together, “ Any..” she gave one last sniffle, “ Any corrosive agent that melted the skin off like that wouldn’t have stopped with just the skin, it would have eaten the muscle as well. I think I’m going to be sick.”

“ As funny as that would be, don’t.” He wouldn’t be able to stand the sound of her wretching at the moment. The very thought was churning his stomach.

“ Its too neat. It really looks like something skinned it.” to his amazement her eyes darted suspiciously, speculatively, to him.

His eyes widened and he didn’t know whether to be amused or annoyed,“ You have the knife, kiddo. Don’t look at me like that.”

“ Oh yeah.” She muttered, a hand slipping down to pat the sheathed blade, maybe for comfort.

“ Could it really be people?” he asked eagerly, feeling a burst of hope.

“ It doesn’t seem likely. But if it was a predator, why didn’t it eat the meat?” she frowned, “ Are there predators that eat unicorn meat?”

“ I haven’t the faintest.”

“ Its almost like…” she turned towards the second one and quickly away, flinching, “ Its almost like they were killed for fun. No meat was eaten, no blood, bone or other essentials taken. They were just killed.”

“ Sure sounds like people to me. What about the skin? Could anything be done with the skin?”

“ I don’t know. Maybe it was for dark magic purposes. Malfoy, person or animal, whatever it was, I don’t want to meet up with it.”

He made a noncommittal noise, mind reeling at the prospect of seeing other people, even unicorn killers, after two weeks of solitude“ Is there anything we can take?”

“ What do you mean ‘take’?” she gave him a startled glance.

“ Anything from the bodies that we can use?”

She looked appalled, “ Not from a unicorn! I mean, sometimes people use the hair but I wouldn’t take anything from one that’s been murdered.”

“ Damn, too bad. That’s a lot of meat.” He gazed at it longingly.

Her eyelids dropped,“ Your sensitivity is awe inspiring.”

“ Oh give me a hug.” He turned towards her, arms wide.

She yelped in alarm and darted away leaving him to snicker at her expense. It was too much to hope that she would fall for that one. She knew very well what she’d be in for if he got a hold of her right now. Probably a make-out session with the skinless animal.

“ Its getting late. Lets get out of here.” Granger grumbled, “ I don’t want to be here if whatever did this comes back.”

“ Yeah.” He agreed, it wasn’t a pleasant thought.

They made their way past the two dead creatures, wiping their shoes on dry leaves and bark as they went. They had gotten no more than five feet from the carcasses when a very soft sound, like the scraping of dirt and scrunching of leaves made them both pause. Granger turned, tense, and scanned the area behind them, hawk-like. Draco’s gaze slid through the trees, over the carcasses, but there was nothing around them.

“ Just the wind?” he asked, trying to sound confident and cursing himself when his voice came out nervous.

Granger latched onto his arm with a vice-like grip, hard enough to make him hiss, her fingers digging into his skin. “Watch it!”

“ Look.” Her voice was a shaky whine, her face so pale he was suddenly worried she might faint.

“ What?” he snapped and scanned the scene again, “ I don’t see anything.”

“ The head…” her lips barely moved, her eyes were huge and blank.

He looked towards the decapitated head and went very still, chills sweeping over his skin.

Had it…

Had… Hadn’t it been…

“ Its your imagination.” He said tightly in a clipped voice and grabbed her, wrenching her away. They turned and ran into the forest as fast and as hard as they could.

The scene stayed with him, right behind his eyelids.

The head had been facing the woods when they found it, he was sure of that, it had been facing away from them. But when he turned back, when Granger called his attention to it, it was looking right back at him with dead glassy eyes. Staring right back. That was impossible because it had been facing the woods before. It had been facing the fucking woods.

They didn’t stop running for a long time.

There was no water where they stopped to make camp a few hours later, which meant they’d have to find water first thing in the morning no matter where the hazel took them. They stopped when Granger found a good place to make a circle. A place with three large protective trees.

“ This is probably as good as its going to get. We were always lucky to find one good tree. Three is fantastic and a very lucky number.” She was surveying their campsite with forced cheerfulness, trying to keep a bounce in her step when it was obvious she just wanted to wrap her arms around herself and huddle shaking on the ground.

“ Will that help?” he asked, curiously.

“ Luck always helps.”

They hadn’t heard the wyvern again. Maybe it had gone off another direction. He could only hope. The odds of it finding them were slim but still, he’d rather not take any chances.

They set up camp and then went out separately to scout about, Granger calling out to him to be back in the circle before night fell. It was already fairly shadowy under the trees. He’d gotten used to the sunlight and missed it now that they were forced to spend all day under the dense canopy. He had liked camping on the outskirts of the forest and in the oasis. There was a feeling there of freedom, of being outside, here under the trees it was almost claustrophobic, as if while they were in the forest they were more susceptible to it, more strongly affected by it.

He went out as far as he dared, looking for signs of unicorn-slaughtering humans. Granger had had a point when she said the skinning had been neat. It very well could be people. He wanted it to be people. He searched for any signs of civilized life, campfire remains, litter, anything, but there was nothing.

He had no luck hunting either and came back to camp empty handed, but Granger brought back some fruit.

“ Would a wyvern be afraid of fire?” Draco asked that night, as he sat beside their campfire, staring into the flames, a hunk of fruit in his hand. He was thinking of the torch he’d used against the field-piranhas.

Granger shook her head, mouth full, “ Seeing fire would be a stimulus towards breathing fire.” She warned after she swallowed. She was kneeling over to the side next to a log, doing something incomprehensible with some sticks, leaves, the knife and some animal bones she’d found. It occurred to him that working might be keeping her mind off things.

“ Scratch that idea then.” He muttered, alarmed, “ So if we see the wyvern, what are we going to do?”

“ Hit the ground.” She said, looking down with concentration at her work, “ Hope it doesn’t see us.”

“ That’s your brilliant plan?” scorn dripped from his words.

She raised her head to meet his eyes, “ You can do better?”

“ Yes.” He grinned, “ I was thinking I’d throw you in front of it and run.”

“ Hmm.” She didn’t react like he hoped she would, she continued working, “It’s a good thing I have the knife then.” She commented lightly.

He scowled, “You’re giving that back the minute I feel even a twinge from it.”

“ Okay, Malfoy.” She answered easily, as if she didn’t really mean it.

He started to retort but got sidetracked by another thought, “ Do you think we could attack it with the knife? The wyvern, I mean.”

Granger sat up, expression thoughtful, “ At this point I’m not even sure if it would cut the hide. Wyvern scales are tough.”

“ It went right through the antlion.” He pointed out.

She shrugged, “ Considering we know almost absolutely nothing about the knife its really hard to judge what it will and won’t do. While you were unconscious those two days I tried a lot of things with it. I tried to do to a tree what you did to the Roc. I stood back, I concentrated on wanting to cut it and I slashed the air. I felt the wind. I felt the power. But it barely scratched the tree. Some bark flew, that was about it. Now why it didn’t work is impossible to guess. Maybe it only works against animals or certain types of animals, or animals with certain types of magic. Maybe it has to do with the strength of our feelings or maybe we have to be in real danger. Or maybe the blade just isn’t strong enough yet.”

Draco stuffed another section of fruit into his mouth, “ You think too much.”

“ You don’t think enough.” She muttered lowly, making him think he wasn’t supposed to hear.

“ What are you doing?” he asked just to be annoying.

She sighed irritably,“ We don’t have a lot of the raw materials we need for proper charms and potions so I’m basically taking what I can find and trying to improvise. Just like with the circle. But there are components, especially in charm-making, that I just don’t know enough…”

“ I didn’t ask for your life story, Granger.” He cut her off, “ In one word. What are you doing?”

She shot him a nasty look, “ Divination.”

He blinked, startled, “ A few more words.”

“ Bones, carved wood, runes.”

“ Is it working?

“ No.”

“ You hate divination.” He commented.

She looked startled, “How would you know that?”

“ Heh. Know thy enemy. I’m observant Granger. I know a lot more about you than you think. Besides, everyone knows you walked out on Trelawney. The Ravenclaws are still arguing over whether or not that means you flunked the class and your school standing should be lowered accordingly. Someone pointed out that since you’ve taken more courses than anyone else that acing three extra classes probably nullifies the flunking.”

Her cheeks pinkened, “ You say that like people talk about me.”

“ Did I not just say ‘Ravenclaws’ as in more than one.” He felt a surge of annoyance, “ You’ve been a little attention starved puffball since first year and now you act all embarrassed like you don’t expect people to be talking about you?”

“ I’m not attention starved!” she looked offended.

“ Oh really? So its more like you’re showing off?”

“ I don’t show off.” She said between clenched teeth.

“ Then you’re just that annoying.” He said as if he’d come to a brilliant deduction, “ And people have to talk about it.”

“ You don’t know a thing about me.”

He smiled, what a brilliant opening, “ I know you’re in love with Harry Fuck-Me-I’m-Popular Potter. I know your favorite book is Hogwarts: A History. I know you have a thing for the Renaissance era, when Wizards pulled Muggles out of the Dark Ages. I know you’re afraid of heights and can’t stand riding a broom. I know you’re the only child of a moderately well-off family and that your dad’s name is Aaron and your mum’s name is Helen.”

She’d slowly stiffened, going pale at the mention of her parents, “ How do you know about my mum and dad?”

He made a show of looking thoughtful, “ Where did I hear it?” He wondered aloud, then he brightened as if remembering, “ Oh, I know! I believe I heard it from my father. Yeah, he was having a little talk with our Lord Voldemort.”

“ You’re lying.” Her tone was as flat and cold as her expression but her eyes were terrified.

“ No.” he said amiably, as if it weren’t a big deal, “ I believe that’s where I heard it. But its not surprising, is it? My father has met your parents before, remember? Second year? I think he was interested in them because he seems to know an awful lot about them. At least he’s told me a lot about them.” He shrugged, nonchalantly, inwardly cackling gleefully.

She was breathing harder now. Her eyes narrowed and hate slid across her face, “ Now I know you’re lying.” She accused, practically baring her teeth, “Your father never told you about them!”

“ No?” he asked sweetly.

“ No.” she gritted out, “ You want to talk about who knows what, then I’ll tell you what I know about you.”

“ Oh dazzle me.” He drawled, leaning forward as if in rapt attention, “This ought to be good.”

She smiled tightly, setting the knife and her materials down in order to face him fully, “ I know you don’t like to read.”

“ No shit! WOW! Its like you’re reading my mind!”

“ But you keep a set of books on the history of the Ministry of Magic that your grandfather gave you.”

He went still, frozen to the tips of his toes, his mocking sneer vanishing. The look on his face, the combination of befuddled shock and incomprehension, was probably hilarious, but Granger didn’t blink. Her expression was strangely fierce and fully concentrated on him.

“ Your Slytherin bed is done up in green and silver but at home you prefer red and black. And you don’t like snakes as pets because they have no personality. You prefer birds, like your eagle owl. And you hate dogs. You have a map of Atlantis on your wall and a real sword and shield with the Malfoy crest on them. Your mother sometimes drinks when she’s angry and your father has a penchant for anything Eastern.” Her eyes narrowed, “ He also likes to hit your mom.” She said maliciously.

He flinched, breaking the stillness of his shock.

“ Shut up.” He forced it out, his chest feeling as if steel bands were compressing his ribs.

Granger stood up and sauntered over to him, never breaking eye contact,“ When you were little, you used to hide in your grandmother’s old room when they fought.”

“ I said shut up!” he was on his feet now, facing her even as he took an involuntary step back. He cursed himself, shocked that he had inadvertently given ground before her.

“ You’re scared of your father. But he can’t smack you around much anymore. You’re too big.”

“ SHUT THE FUCK UP!” he lunged for her.

She didn’t move, she just looked him right in the eye and said, “ He can’t stand you.”

Draco came up short, his breath drawing in sharply, painfully, as if she struck him. He stood there, an inch away from her and couldn’t move.

“You talk about him like you and him have this great relationship. But it’s a lie. He says your worthless. You’re not good enough to be his son. That’s how I know he didn’t tell you anything. He wouldn’t.” Knowing eyes memorizing every subtle expression of his face, the way his eyes were over wide, the confusion deep in every line of his body, the way he stood halfway between attacking and fleeing.

“ Shut up, you filthy bitch, just shut up.” It was a desperate whisper. It was appalling, horrifying, that something like this was laid out bare before his enemy. Did Potter and Weasley know too? Were they laughing behind his back every time he mentioned his father?

She cocked her head at him and continued in mock sympathy,“ What’s really sad is that your poor mum loves you so much that she tries to defend you against your father and she gets hit because of it. Its your fault they don’t get along. Your mum would have been happier if you were never born.”

He actually screamed in rage, her words lancing through him like a mortal wound. He had her by the throat in a heartbeat, his grip crushing. She choked in surprise, hands grabbing at his wrist. She couldn’t even breathe to scream. He threw her back into the trunk of a tree as hard as he could and cocked his fist back.

To beat her like he’d promised. To break her fucking face.

She staggered upright just as he swung his fist as hard as he could. Her arms flew up to protect her face.

But the impact never came.

Draco stood with chest heaving, trying to see through blind rage and sudden confusion.

His vision cleared and he saw his fist an inch from the girl, frozen in midair. He stared at it.

He had checked the blow.

He blinked, and replayed the last few seconds in his mind. He couldn’t remember making a conscious decision to stop. He had meant to hit her. Had wanted to hit her. Still wanted to hit her. Some part of his mind was still screaming ‘break her jaw, fuck her up’.

But he had stopped.

Several silent moments ticked by and when nothing happened, Granger hesitantly lowered her arms the slightest bit, brown eyes huge, too frightened to even cry. He looked from his fist to her, mouth working, wanting to say something smart-ass, something to explain his hesitation, but nothing came.

Do it now! Part of him roared.

He didn’t move.

She’s a Mudblood, a fucking Mudblood. Just do it! Whose voice was that? His father’s? Lestrange’s? MacNair’s?

Brown eyes staring at him, like the first rabbit he’d ever killed. It had screamed when he caught it.

His arm shook.

You’re pathetic boy.

He could hear her little gasping sobs of fear now. Before it was like he couldn’t hear anything. Nothing but the pounding of blood in his ears.

Hit her.

He couldn’t do it.

You worthless little shit.

What was he waiting for? Just hit her. It wasn’t the same. It wasn’t the same thing. She wasn’t a real girl.

And if she was?

You gotta keep those bitches in line or they’ll never respect you.

He volte-faced so fast that Granger flinched back with a gasp, cowering.

It took him a minute, a minute to force down the bile in his throat, a minute to force his voice out. It was strained and brittle,“ Your lucky I don’t want to deal with the problems beating the shit out of you would cause.” He sneered.

He heard her straightening up slowly, could feel her staring at the back of his head, could imagine the look on her face, calculating, wondering, the dawning realization. He stalked away, back rigid, ignoring the instinct to hunch over on himself in a futile protective gesture. As if by doing so he could keep his secrets to himself.

He had a terrible feeling in the pit of his stomach that she was seeing right through him.

You’re wasting your time, My Lord.

He had failed. But that wasn’t really a surprise. He’d been failing for a long time.

My little bastard of a son will never amount to anything.


Next Time: Angst, breakdowns, flashbacks, emotional scars, crossing over and Draco comes face to face with a lion.

A/N: Erm, you’re probably all wondering how ‘Mione knew that stuff. That’ll be explained in the next chapter and it’s a much more mundane explanation than you’re probably thinking.
I never imagined it would take this long to get to this point. In my original outline this was like chapter 5 so you all have my extreme gratitude for being so patient with me. The next couple of chapters are pivotal points and might be a little harsh. I hope I don’t scare anyone off. Just remember that change is the hardest thing of all.
The unicorn scene in this chapter, or parts of it at least, mirror a scene in “The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon” by Stephen King. Just to give credit where credit is due.

Anyway, its only been about a week since my last update…this is me jerking you guys around since now finals are starting and then I’m going to Vegas over spring break. But I promise I’ll try to get the next chapter up ASAP

Other Notes:
Moonsilk: Why is this story called ‘The God of the Lost’? That’s actually a question that I meant to answer a long time ago but as I said above, things have been progressing a lot slower than I expected. It will be answered (I hope) very soon, maybe even next chapter depending on whether or not I keep a certain scene. Anyone who has read “The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon” will have some idea why I’ve named it this.

Your big fan: The state of my ass is none of your business. Though your concern for its welfare has touched me deeply. Further more, you maybe be a smart-ass but I’m a wise-ass so don’t be asinine or I’ll get anal. A curse on your village! …and keep reading. XD

Disclaimer: Use your imagination.

A/N: Okay I got a message from one of my regular reviewers regarding a review I had supposedly left her. I was absolutely livid when it turned out someone had left her a nasty anonymous review and signed my penname at the bottom. I don't know if it was coincidence or if someone's going around leaving nasty reviews to my reviewers. So this is the heads up: If I review anyone it will be signed in. In the unlikely occurrence that I do leave a non-signed in anonymous review, it WILL have my email address attached to it. You have no idea how much this pissed me off. I really hope this was a one time thing or else I will find something to do about it. Anyway, I don't usually do flames, they're completely unconstructive.

Hmm.. chapters still got some bugs I think, but I got excited about posting it so…

Chapter 13: Welcome to the Jungle

You'll Suffer unto Me

Metallica "Harvester of Sorrows"

" Hey, I just noticed, we've been here for--what, two weeks? Shouldn't you have like, I don't know, facial hair?"


Innocent eyes.

Big shit-eating grin.

His fists clenched convulsively as he fought down the urge to strangle her.

Draco slogged through the lush green underbrush of the heavily shaded woods without glancing back, without so much as twitching at the question. The girl trotted along behind him, dogging his step, cheery and eager.

" You're seventeen right? Geez! I mean, Harry and Ron are already shaving everyday. I bet Crabbe and Goyle are too. Heck, Millicent's shaving everyday. You must be a late bloomer. But hey, you do have some scraggly patches here and there, kind of like face mold, congratulations." She smiled prettily.

Shut up, shut up, shut up…

She hopped over a small log," If those patches get any funkier you might try to use the knife to shave with, otherwise you'll end up looking like a billy goat." She made a disturbingly accurate sound effect, "Meh-eh-eh-ehe!"

Merlin, where was the wyvern when you needed it?

He clenched his teeth, face burning.

She sprinted forward and hooked her arm through his, "So how are we today?" she asked primly.

He jerked his arm out of her grasp and stormed away, refusing to acknowledge her, hunching over slightly as her delighted laughter followed him. The girl just skipped along behind him, smiling hugely at his annoyance, completely unperturbed.

She'd been like this since waking up that morning. Greeting him cheerily with a big goofy grin when he woke, triumph plastered all over her face. She started in on him right away, teasing, badgering, being as obnoxious as possible. She made fun of him, pushed him, hung on his arms, dared him to retaliate; her eyes alight with the knowledge that he wouldn't.

In response, he shoved her, twisted her wrist, shouted at her, threatened at the top of his lungs. She just got up, dusted herself off and grinned at him knowingly.

He understood only too well what the message in that triumphant smile was: She wasn't afraid of him anymore.

The only thing keeping her in line had been her belief that he was willing to do her serious harm. Last night he had unwittingly proven to her that his threats were hollow. Now she was deliberately tormenting and provoking him because she knew she could.

She was heady with her own power.

" I guess you can't call Harry scar-face anymore." She chirped, " Yours are going to be much worse then his. We can call you trench-face, because they're more like deep grooves cutting through that pasty skin of yours, not anything like Harry's cute little scar." Her eyebrows furrowed, "I do hope we can get yours fixed. It would be so sad to see you permanently disfigured. I mean, what will Pansy say when she sees you?"

It was humiliating beyond belief.

He thought about punching her. Hadn't stopped thinking about punching her since he woke up. But he was afraid to even try. What if he looked into those big brown eyes and froze again? It would be the coup de grace, the last nail in the proverbial coffin, and he would never hear the end of it.

He'd be psychologically neutered.

He didn't want to think about last night. He didn't want to examine the reason he had pulled back at the last second. He'd woken up this morning ready to pretend the whole thing had never happened but she wouldn't let him. And the more he thought about it, the more confusing it became.

He wasn't the type of person who could easily analyze their own psyche, who could untangle the twisted web of feelings and thoughts into a fine linear thread of logic. Trying to do so was endlessly frustrating and wholly uncomfortable. Nervously, he suspected that there was no fine linear thread of reasoning, it was all contradictory.

An icy ball of biting frostbite formed in his stomach when he thought about almost hitting Granger last night. At the same time, he regretted with his whole being that he hadn't clocked her a good one upside the head. (Even if it was just once and not very hard) Just enough to turn her back into a frightened, blubbering mess ready to placate him at all costs.

He realized uncomfortably that some part of him, some very deep part that had nothing at all to do with logic and reasoning, perceived Granger as a real girl instead of a Muggle. That part of him had completely panicked when he nearly hit her. Because in that first moment he hadn't even stopped to justify his actions by telling himself she wasn't a real girl. He'd been so mad, it hadn't mattered. He'd just wanted to hurt someone.

Blaise convulsing on the ground in the throes of a seizure. Pansy cradling her friend's head, her face twisted in terror, screaming at him for help.

That was the true horror for him. Not that he'd nearly hit Granger. Not that he hadn't hit Granger. But that he had lost control. That he hadn't cared whether or not he hit a girl.

"Only cowards hit women." He liked to say loudly whenever his father was around.

Lucius always studiously ignored him.

He believed it. He wanted nothing to do with the abuse Lucius and the other Death Eaters heaped on their women. He'd seen too much of it heaped on his mother (and too many others) to ever want to emulate them.

You gotta keep those bitches in line or they'll never respect you. That was what MacNair liked to say, chuckling, as if there was anything at all respectable about that fat, perverted bastard.

Draco had never hit a girl before. (That one time during second year with Millicent didn't count since he'd only gotten in one shot in self-defense and she'd beaten the shit out of him)

He wanted to be nothing like his father.

And therein lay the paradox.

He wanted to be nothing like his father. He wanted to be everything his father thought the perfect son should be.

He loved his father. Almost as much as he hated him.

Narcissa once said that a person's greatest hatred was reserved for those they loved the most. He understood exactly what she meant.

He wanted his father to love him. He wanted his father to like and respect him. He wanted to make his father proud. He wanted to make his father suffer dearly for not loving him and his mother.

He wanted revenge on the man, pure and simple.

He hadn't always felt like that. For the longest time he had honestly and truly worked his ass off to get the man's approval. He had tried doing everything his father did, and nearly permanently destroyed his relationship with Pansy. He had tried rebelling against his father completely, and got nothing but bruises and silent, mocking scorn.

He had tried being the best at Quidditch, and was beaten by Potter. He had tried being the best at schoolwork and was creamed by Granger, the top three Ravenclaws and that damn Hufflepuff aberration whose name escaped him at the moment. Well then, maybe he could be the best at schoolwork in Slytherin. Millicent had told him with a little sneer that, for a fee, she'd get lower scores so he could top them. He told her to shove her scores up her ass.

At long last, he had taken over Slytherin, became their king. Something not even his father had done because Lucius had been forced to share the power with two rival groups. This, for sure, was something the man would have to respect and acknowledge.

" What did you expect, boy, you're surrounded by morons." And the man rubbed at the bridge of his nose, sounding tired, which for some reason hurt worse than scorn, as if he had given up on Draco completely, " Leading a pack of imbeciles around in a game of baby politics is nothing to be proud of."

And yet he was mad that I didn't make Head Boy. Draco brooded. Nothing I do is good enough.

Things at his house weren't as bad as Granger had made them out to be. It disturbed him greatly that people were saying such things. People weren't supposed to look at him with anything but awe and fear. He would have to set this right the moment he got back.

The truth of the matter was, his house wasn't an angry place or a hateful, abusive place. It was merely a very cold place. His father did not beat him and his mother regularly and his mother was not a lush. While Draco had been afraid plenty of times he'd only gotten belted across the face a few times and really physically beaten only once or twice, though that was definitely enough. Most of Lucius' abuse towards him was purely verbal. It was his mother who got hit, usually when his father's friends were around, as if Lucius was showing off by abusing her.

Draco wasn't supposed to know about that. His father usually only hit her when Draco wasn't around. Draco figured Lucius realized how much he adored his mother, and that eventually he would grow up and want retribution and so tried to hide what he did. Whatever the reason, Lucius only truly abused Narcissa behind closed doors. That never stopped Draco from spying or listening in though, for the longest time it was the only way he could be there for her.

He felt every slap, every punch, as if it were done to him and he filed it away for later.

Millicent standing there with a blank, emotionless look on her face. Millicent who would grind you to a bleeding pulp if you even breathed wrong in her direction. Millicent, the toughest girl in school, more dangerous than most of the boys. Millicent just standing there while a short, beautiful woman barked at her like an angry dog.

" You disgusting cow!" Mrs. Bulstrode screeched dramatically, vying for the attention of the curious onlookers, making the situation that much more humiliating, " Its your fault your father left us. Its your fault he went and got himself killed."

Silence except for the murmur of the crowd and Sky's soft teary voice begging his mother to stop. Millicent stared emptily at the far wall as if she could see through it to the world outside.

SMACK "Answer me, you fat slob!"

Millicent didn't even blink.

Lucius had grown colder and more hateful of late. He had become more distant as the Dark Lord grew more powerful. That was fine, Draco told himself, the more time Lucius spent licking his Lord's boots, the safer he and his mom were. And yet the further away his father went, the bitterer Draco became.

He had these memories of when he was young, memories where Lucius smiled at him, memories where Lucius scooped him up in his arms. He had believed those memories for the longest time, clutched at them desperately for years as his only source of comfort when the man returned every ounce of Draco's affection with cold indifference or dark malice. But now he wondered if those memories were even real, if maybe they were only dreams or fantasies he'd made up for comfort some cold night.

No. Gaining the man's acceptance no longer appealed to him. He would not spend a moment more fawning and cowering like a dog. He would beat his father.

And he knew just how to do it.

He would become the ultimate Death Eater and take his father's place at Voldemort's side. He would surpass every goal his father had ever set while simultaneously throwing his father out of power and destroying everything his father had worked to gain.

He knew that was what his father feared the most. He had heard them talking about it one night.

" Draco will never be a Death Eater of our caliber. He has too many faults. He is weak." Lucius insisted scathingly.

" You're just afraid he's going to replace you." One of the other Death Eaters grunted with a sly, grin, "Your looks and Narcissa's charisma and if it t'wernt for the Potter brat, he'd be running Hogwarts. You never accomplished that Lucius."

Angry silence from his father.

He would prove himself. He would be better than his father. He would be the greatest Death Eater ever. Colder, darker and more ruthless than his father ever was. He would be like a plague to his enemies.

The idea was as frightening as it was thrilling. To take his father's place. To become his father. Part of him kicked and screamed at the idea. While another part of him was coldly terrified that he had no choice, that he was his father, that all of his father's worst traits were naturally and irrevocably instilled in him already. All that darkness just waiting to be unleashed.

Some people weren't meant for violence. Others were genetically instilled with it.

That was why he almost hit Granger even when he saw her as a girl. Because he was his father no matter how hard he tried not to be. He was a natural born abuser, killer and raper of women. Maybe he hadn't done any of those things yet but it was all inside him waiting to come out.

Him standing with a group of friends.

" Shit, you should have just backhanded the bitch." he chortled, " That's what I'd do if Pansy ever back-talked me…" and turning to find Pansy standing there, staring at him as if she'd never seen him before.

Running after her, pleading," Pan! Pansy! I didn't mean it! I swear I didn't. It was just…guy talk…"

" How much of it?" her voice was low and cold, " After we're married are you going to smack me around so everyone can see what a tough guy you are? Smack me around like your father does you mother?"

" NO! I'd never hit you!"

" But its okay for you to tell your friends to hit their girlfriends…"

" That's not what I…"

" You son of a bitch," she shouted at him, "This is why we made the deal! I will not marry someone who beats me! If you're going to be just like every other guy…"

He grabbed her shoulders, " I swear on my life, Pan, I will never hit you."

She shoved away from him angrily, " You'd better mean that because if you ever lay a hand on me in anger, I'll curse your nards off."

He never wanted to be like his father in that respect. He would never hit his wife.

But in order to be the perfect Death Eater, he needed to be able to do the things they did. Beat, murder, and rape Muggles. As with most abstract concepts, he hadn't thought it would be a problem until he was suddenly faced with the issue head on. He had blithely assumed that when the time came, he'd go about his job merrily and wouldn't even flinch.

He had flinched.

It wasn't as if he had no belief in the cause. He hated Muggles, truly and utterly hated them. Even without his revenge on Lucius, he would have felt compelled to join the fight against the Muggle threat. He wanted to make them pay for everything they had done.

He glanced back at the girl following him, horrified by the small spark, the muddled sense of warmth in his chest when she grinned impishly back at him, her curls bouncing around her shoulders.

"That's why we don't keep Muggle servants." Nott told him, "They look too much like us. You hang around them too long and some people start having a problem telling the difference. They're vermin, boy. Vermin in wizard suits. Don't ever forget that."

He would never reach his goal if he got soft on her. He would never beat his father if he couldn't beat her. He would never wreak the vengeance of Wizard-kind on the Muggles if he couldn't take care of one lowly Mudblood. He had to prove himself. She would be the first to go. His first triumph over his father and over the Muggles.

It wasn't like she was a real person. It wasn't like she had feelings.

She was just another filthy Muggle.



It was a filthy Muggle.

" You shouldn't frown like that, you'll get wrinkles." The girl prancing along behind him said sagely, breaking him out of his thoughts, " You should try to preserve your looks since you don't have the brain capacity to ever really be successful at anything but male prostitution."

" Granger..." He gritted out in a low hiss, keeping his eyes forward and his spine straight.

" Do you like boys, Malfoy?" she asked with pleasant curiosity, and his back stiffened even more, "It would sure explain a lot."

" The only thing I like," he growled, "is the thought of shoving a tree branch through your skull and shutting you up for good."

There was stunned silence and then, "Geez, you don't have to be so…gruff."

He stopped short, mouth working silently. Was that a pun?

He cocked his head to look over his shoulder at her and she grinned with delighted wickedness," Meh-eh-eh-eh-eh."

Oh that cut it.

He wheeled around, teeth bared and she froze like a squirrel, all muscles tense as if she were ready to leap away any second, watching him warily but still with merriment dancing in her eyes.

"This is your last warning." He said with deadly softness, the words clipped and dripping with menace, " Shut your foul, shit-reeking mouth or I'll shut it for you!"

She looked him dead in the eyes," Not by the hair of my chiny-chin-chin."

" Fucking SHIT!" he screamed in frustrated rage and kicked at the ground as he whipped back around, sending a hail of dirt and debris into her face.

She coughed and sputtered, slapping at the air in front of her face and patting the dirt off her robes, "Wow." She murmured, rubbing the dust from her eyes, "You don't have to have a seizure."

This was followed by speculative silence, which he ignored completely, intent on finding a bottomless pit somewhere to shove her down, and then to his amazement she called after him, almost plaintively, "Are you mad at me?"

He started at the question. Tossing her a horrified glance.

Dear Merlin, tell me she's not serious.

Granger jogged to catch up with him, her expression serious. She was silent for several minutes, walking along beside him and fidgeting nervously while sending him tentative glances from the corner of her eye. It was a heavy silence, he didn't dare hope that she was done talking. He was proven right when she began, contritely, "I was only teasing. Its not like you haven't given me worse every day since we started traveling."

He growled low in his chest, rolling his eyes. What in the hell was she on? The unexpected mood swing had thrown him completely. He considered ignoring her but petulant silence would probably only encourage that whiny tone she was using. He needed to find a way to distract her or get her fixated on something else. He looked wildly around the forest and saw nothing of any use.

The Mudblood worried her lower lip between her teeth anxiously," Look, I'm sorry about what I said. I didn't think you'd take it so personally." When he didn't answer, she scowled, " You shouldn't dish it out if you can't take it. I've been putting up with you for days. You have no right to get angry."

" Granger…" he started, intent on screaming at her to shut up for the umpteenth time and then thought better of it. If she really was feeling guilty then he needed to ask her about the things she had said the night before while she was good and malleable. He hated broaching the subject, he wanted to file the whole incident into the 'never happened' portion of his reality but the not knowing was driving him mad.

" You shouldn't talk about things you don't understand." He snapped, trying to lead her into the events of the night before.

She completely misunderstood.

Her face clouded in momentary confusion and he could see her mentally flipping back through their conversation until her eyes bulged, her hand flew to her mouth and she whispered in horrified realization, " You ARE gay! Oh Draco, I'm so so sorry!" she clutched at his forearm fervently, " I didn't mean to oppress you…"

" SHUT UP, I'M NOT GAY!" he squealed, cheeks flaming as he jerked his arm out of her grip and slapped her hand away.

She yelped and tucked her hands up to her chin, looking surprised and disbelieving. Her eyes swept over his face searchingly as if probing for the truth. Disgruntled, he realized she was absolutely serious.

He took a deep breath, gritting his teeth, "I'm not gay." He snarled very calmly.

" Oh." She said in a small voice.

Insecurity dropped out of the sky and punched him in the face and he blurted, " I don't act gay." His face flushed brighter.

Stupid, stupid, stupid!

" Oh no." she agreed quickly, "Not at all."

" Right."

Uncomfortably they turned away from each other and continued walking.

"But it would be okay if you were."

" I'm not!" He nearly screamed.

" Okay!" she yelled back.

" Got that?"

" Yeah."

" Okay."

" Okay."

" Good."

A stretch of excruciatingly uncomfortable silence in which he was forced to ponder whether or not she sincerely thought he didn't act gay.

" Were you talking about last night then?" Granger murmured finally, eyes downcast.

Shit, he'd forgotten about that already. He berated himself for letting her distract him from his purpose.

She was already prattling on," I'm sorry. I had no right to say those things and I didn't mean them. I'm sure your father loves you very much even if he has a hard time showing it." she gave him a tentative smile.

Could this conversation get any worse?

He had to bite his lip to keep from spitting at her that she'd been right. That his father did hate him and that he had every reason to. Draco didn't blame his father for hating him, but that wouldn't stop him from getting revenge.

" How did you know about my room?" He took the plunge, deciding subtlety wasn't working.

" Oh." Her cheeks went red, " I guess you have a right to know. Don't be angry. It was Dobby." She cut him off quickly when he started to hiss with rage, " He didn't know he was doing anything wrong! We were just talking and he mentioned some of the decorations at your house and it didn't seem like anything too private or…or anything so I asked him about your room."

" Had a good laugh with Pothead and the Weasles huh?" he sneered, shaking with suppressed rage. It made sense now. Especially considering the map of Atlantis on his wall was long since gone. It looked like Hogwarts was going to find out what Elf guts looked like when he got back.

" N-no, it was just me."

He looked at her sharply but she wouldn't meet his eyes.

" I was just curious." She murmured.

Curious? About what?

" What did you expect? The severed heads of Muggles?" he taunted, thinking she was doing her own baby version of spying for Dumbledore.

" No, I…" she tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, still refusing to look at him,"I'm sorry, it was invasion of privacy but I…" she shrugged," I wanted to know what Draco Malfoy's room looked like."

He digested that for a moment, taken aback, and then sniggered, unaccountably pleased. It was almost flattering to think that the untouchable, aloof Queen of Gryffindor whose only love was studying and Harry Potter had taken an interest in him enough to interrogate an unsuspecting House Elf.

" What--did you also ask him what color my boxers were too? Because Granger, if you really wanted to know, I'd tell you." He grinned, good humor at least partially restored now that he had the upper hand.

Her eyes flew wide as she shook her head hard," No! I didn't ask him anything like that!"

His grin turned to a snarl, "But I suppose you asked him about my mom. I suppose you asked him to tell you about all the nasty little secrets he knew."

She shook her head even harder, " No! The rest of what I said, those things about your parents, Dobby didn't tell me anything like that. I sort of pieced the rest of it together from things I've seen and things you've said."

He considered her, eyes narrowing, " How?"

" Well, like the time fourth year at the Quidditch World Cup." She told him nervously, " Your mom just sat there the entire time drinking, she didn't say one word and she looked so angry. I think she was a bit…ah, tipsy before the night was over."

Tipsy? Hell, she'd been smashed, he remembered with a jolt. His mom and definitely been pissed that night. He thought it might have had something to do with the whole Death Eater stunt his father pulled but he was never really clear on what about it she hadn't liked.

" And your father's just plain scary. And…and…the other night when you were delirious, you said something about him not liking you. You said he didn't think you were good enough to be his son." She said it all very quickly, her fingers clenching in her robes with nervous tension, " I guess that was really rotten of me, using something you said while you were sick against you."

He had said that? He stared off into the middle distance. He had never admitted that out loud. Not even to Pansy.

" Why…why do you feel like that?" Granger ventured, predictably, " Does he really hit you?"

Oh right, lets have a freaking bonding session.

It was on his lips to snap 'none of your business' but that was as good as admitting it, " No." he said simply, coldly, " We just don't get along much."

" Oh." She said awkwardly and then seemed to gather herself up, " Well you don't have to worry. I'm not a gossip. I won't tell anyone anything I've heard."

" Not if you like breathing, you won't." he growled.

" Are we back to this again?" her voice rose in shrill annoyance, "Stop threatening me, jungle boy, we both know you don't mean it."

He glowered, keeping his face turned away from her and hurried on ahead.

They stopped for lunch in early afternoon, settling in a little sloping hollow of tree roots that hid them from view. The forest was dark and quiet, the foliage thick and pressing in around them. The somber mood seemed to dampen their spirits, making them both unusually subdued. Granger sat quietly but Draco found he couldn't stay still. His muscles ached, as always, but a restless, nervous energy had taken him and he had little appetite. He spent their break stalking around their little resting place, not liking that he couldn't see their surroundings from the bottom of the hollow.

The ground was dark under his feet, so rich it was almost black and squelching wet. The air was heavy, laden with moisture. It seemed that overnight the woods had gone from forest to jungle. Darker, thicker, wetter. The canopy was so heavy it was impossible in most places to find even a small patch of sky, almost like being underground. Buried alive. Trapped.

Were they ever going to get out?

Something caught his eyes.

A stray beam of light, a weak ray that had somehow managed to penetrate the thick overhang, though he couldn't imagine how, struck something lying half buried in the dirt.

He squinted, wandering over curiously to investigate. Suspicion niggled in the back of his mind but he swiped it away quickly. Crouching down, he brushed the leaves away from the thing. His fingers touched it, the smooth even planes of it and in answer his heart lurched into his throat, skipping a beat before hammering into double-time.


Hands suddenly shaking, he swept off the dirt to reveal the entire thing and then he choked because now there was no denying it. He tried to speak, to yell for Granger, but all that came out was a strangled sound. His tongue felt thick and leaden in his mouth.

Frantically he snatched up the … Продолжение »
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