…bit away. " If it was a Warg you wouldn't be standing here. Aren't those things like six feet high at the shoulder?"

And, darn it, she was stupid for expecting him not to know that one," Or a Werewolf…well, I've seen a werewolf and this wasn't one but…"

" You've seen a werewolf? Oh that's right!" he straightened, smirking at her, " Loony Lupin, poorer then the Weasleys…"

He was baiting her," Don't change the subject!" hands on her hips.

" It was a regular wolf?" it was more a statement then a question.

" …I guess." Besides the creature's size there had been no evidence that it was anything more than a wolf.

" And it attacked you?"

" Yes." More emphatically.

" Yeah right." He walked away, leaving her gaping after him.

" Since when are you Mr. Animal Rights?" she yelled, and then, " I thought you hated dogs!"

He looked back at her, face haughty," Wolves aren't dogs."

She was too stunned to reply.

It was hours later before she figured out what was bothering her, niggling at the back of her mind since they set out.

She was running along behind him, trying to keep up because he was still gripping her wrist and would yank her hard if she fell behind. He'd never set this kind of pace before, and she wondered what they were running from and why he insisted on keeping a hold on her. It wasn't like she could run away from him.

She glanced at the sun, half peeking out from the clouds and then realized what was wrong.

" We're going the wrong way!" she cried out, horrified, wrenching against his grasp.

He halted and she stumbled to a stop, panting hard. He looked back at her, " Let me see the compass."

She pulled it from her robes, waited for the needle to fix and held it out for him to see. He snatched the thing from her hand and threw it as hard as he could into the woods.

" Malfoy!" she shrieked and he caught her around the middle when she tried to go flying out to find it, "Are you insane! Why did you do that?" she beat at his arm but he wouldn't release her.

" That thing was bullshit. It was taking us to the wyvern."

She froze, " What?"

" Didn't you notice that things got worse the further we followed that thing?"

" Yes, but…"

" The wyvern is after us. We have to stay out of its territory." He released her only to grab her arm and start hauling her along again.

" Its territory? Malfoy, what are you talking about?" but he wouldn't answer her. " Then where are we going?" she asked him, "Where does this way lead?" She couldn't understand the way he was acting. He'd gone completely out of his mind.

A long silence, so long she thought he wasn't going to answer, " I don't know."

" Then what if…"

" This is the way we're going!" he cut her off, practically yelling it, " You have to do what I say!"

She stared at him with wide eyes and finally nodded.

They spoke little the rest of the day, which was fine with her. She watched him instead.

Something had changed.

His behavior was way too erratic.

He knew something he wasn't telling her, or something had happened that he didn't want her to know about.

Maybe it was all an act. She had been unconscious, he could say anything he wanted about the events of the past few days and she basically had to blindly take his word.

It was only early afternoon when they stopped to sleep in another hollow tree. She was worn out and he probably wanted to travel at night again. He chose the spot carefully and threatened again to hunt her down if she tried to get away and then left, leaving her with some fruit in case she was hungry.

When he was gone, she left the tree to sit in the weak sunlight, her back against a log, tired of breathing the musty air inside the hollow. She dozed lightly and woke to Malfoy scooping her up and carrying her back into the tree. She squeaked in surprise, too shocked to move and terrified out of her wits when he laid her down inside, looming over her, but he only turned around and went back out. When her pounding heart calmed, she slept again and woke when he nudged her awake and gave her some fresh cooked meat.

When they finished eating, they both slept until after dark.

She woke first and sat up groggily listening to the night sounds and watching the robe Malfoy had tied over the entrance flap in the chilly wind. His fire had dwindled down to embers but only recently because there was still some light glowing from the fire pit.

Malfoy lay on his side facing away from her on the other side of the hollow.

She was drowsy, coming fully awake only slowly. It took a few minutes before she became aware of the sounds coming from outside: soft rustling, cracking twigs, something moving around out there, very close to their fire. That wasn't anything new. She'd had hell from the raccoons, foxes, skogs and twuskers from the beginning, the stupid things had no fear. What was raising the hair on her neck and making her strain her ears was what sounded amazingly like…whispering.

As noiselessly as possible, she crawled over to the entrance, listening. It was formless, unintelligible, maybe it was just the wind, but she could hear it. She peered out through the flapping robe and for a split second saw a large shape move near the fire.

Instantly, she jerked the robe to the side, admittedly not the smartest thing she'd ever done.

There was nothing there.

She stared for a long time, but nothing moved. It could have been a trick of light from the embers and flapping robe. Shivering, she crawled out of the tree and got to her feet, hugging herself. She moved over to the fire and turned a circle, looking around.

The forest was still and silent, totally and completely and unnaturally silent. The noise had shut off like a switch. Goosebumps crawled up her arms and she ducked her head and marched back to the tree as if she wasn't completely freaked out.

A stir of wind as she reached to pull the robe aside.

" Little girl…" the faintest whisper from somewhere out in the darkness, a mocking singsong, but so hushed she wondered if she even really heard it.

Shivering, she darted back into the tree hollow and huddled against the wall, wondering if she really did hear distant amused laughter from the trees or if it was all in her mind.

A few minutes, a few hours later, she opened her eyes again because the wind had picked up and she wondered if it had all been a dream. Malfoy was stirring, sitting up slowly, yawning and scratching his head. Probably had fleas.

He turned bleary eyes on her and frowned, " What's wrong?"

She was a little surprised that he picked up on it, but only whispered," There's something out there."

He blinked and looked more awake, straightening up and pulling the knife from its sheath before he went out to investigate. He pulled the robe down from outside a few minutes later, packing it away.

" All clear. How come you didn't wake me?"

" I thought I was imagining it."

He obviously didn't like the sound of that. He froze, hand tightening on the tree trunk and stared at her hard, " If it happens again, wake me up. There are things out here that can play with your head."

She just nodded, wondering if he was referring to the antlion or something else.

" Hurry up and get ready to go." He ordered and left her sitting in the hollow.

It was a repeat of the night before. He held her wrist and dragged her along and although she'd probably have to remain in close proximity to him because she couldn't really see, she didn't understand why he insisted on keeping a tight hold on her at all times, like he expected her to just break away and run, or like he thought she would suddenly disappear.

It wasn't just his behavior that had changed really, their roles had altered as well, the roles they had maintained since they first set foot in the forest, heck, since they first set eyes on each other seven years ago, and it was uncomfortable because she didn't know why.

He was acting like a leader: deciding where to go and what to do without consulting her whatsoever, bringing her food he had foraged or hunted, carrying everything they found and lending her his extra cloak. Before it had always been like she was the tour guide and he was the rich snotty tourist. She knew more about the land and decided where to go, but had to follow his rules, carry his bags, bring him food, make him comfortable and generally do whatever he told her.

Suddenly she was in a passive role and he was doing all the work, acting like he was taking care of her. She could only assume he was trying to get her to believe his ridiculous promise, that he was just working his ass off to get her to believe he was a nice guy.

But to what end? How in the world did this act profit him?

" Is it safer during the day?" she wondered aloud as they slowed their pace around what she assumed to be four-thirty or five in the morning, the horizon just starting to glow.

" No." he grunted, "We can just see what's going on around us better."

She watched him scan the area warily, and ventured, "Have we gone far enough? Is whatever we're running from gone?"

He looked back at her sharply, eyes shrewd, " I don't know."

" Where are we going?"

" I don't fucking know." He ground out, his tone clearly telling her to shut up. She wasn't about to listen.

" Then what's the point of this?"

" Staying alive obviously." He snapped harshly, daring her to argue.

" I don't like traveling at night." She murmured, " It's hard to find anywhere to rest."

" Yeah." Some of the defensive anger melted away and he sighed tiredly, turning his face away.

They stopped just as the sun rose and she wondered if he was just as tired as she was or if he was trying to accommodate her. The spot was a place he deemed 'good', neither asking her opinion nor explaining his reasoning before he threatened again to hunt her down if she tried to get away and then left her there with some food.

She sat down on a log and wondered if she should try to run. She kicked her feet and couldn't bring herself to believe it would do any good. He'd just find her again and drag her back here, maybe get violent because she hadn't obeyed him.

Maybe she should wait him out. The knife would need to change hands eventually. If she pretended to believe him and forgive him then perhaps he'd let his guard down.

That was assuming of course he even planned on letting her handle the knife again, which he probably didn't. Unless he was really stupid. She could probably just assume that whatever he was going to do to her would happen before the knife wore him down.

So where did that leave her? What now?

Jump him again? It would be virtually impossible now that he was on guard, and dangerous because he had the knife. And what the heck would she do after that? Get rid of Malfoy? Get rid of the knife? Either way she would be condemning herself to death in the forest.

She nibbled lightly on her fruit, which was all he seemed capable of finding, sometimes he would bring nuts but he never brought roots. Roots were usually tasteless or bitter but at least they added some variety. She made a note to find some and got up to rove about the area a little, not planning on going too far from where he had left her. If nothing else, she could get him used to her wandering around again so he'd stop this whole control-freak fixation on knowing where she was every second.

She explored, taking in the changes in the land she hadn't noticed till now and wondered if the area was always so rainy or if they had stumbled into something like monsoon season. She didn't recognize a lot of the plant-life and could only assume this wasn't the type of forest normally written about in survival guides.

She went a little further out when she saw a herd of twuskers and sat down to watch them. They were cute when they weren't searching for the food she carried or wrecking their campsite. They were miniature hippos in varying shades of purple, a warning to predators that their skin was poisonous, they were only about a foot-tall with prominent lower tusks and patches of wiry hair. They milled around near a small pond, some of them swimming happily, others chewing the vegetation. One of them saw her sitting there and yawned a warning, showing her its tusks. She giggled.

She watched the twuskers for a long time, until they ran off when a gheiron showed up. Hermione took it as her cue to leave as well. The gheiron was ugly. It had a deer's lean, dusty, orange/brown body, long thick legs that ended in claws, and a tiny stub of a tail. Its neck was long, ending in a tiny round head with no ears, just holes on the side of its head, big eyes that looked perpetually nervous and no lips over a mouth that was overcrowded with fangs.

The creature itself was pretty small, three-feet at the top of its head, and she didn't think it would be that much of a danger to her but it didn't run when it saw her, just opened its mouth and hissed, a hoarse sound.

She frowned and started walking away but, like a small dog that doesn't know it's small, the gheiron puffed up and started trotting after her, apparently thinking she was running from it. She turned around and it balked.

" Go on!" she yelled, waving her arms and making a threatening lunge at it. It tucked its hindquarters down like a whipped dog and retreated.

She put her hands on her hips and glared when it glanced back at her and it doubled its speed.

A blur of white shot out from the trees and slammed into the gheiron. The little creature's squeals were drowned out by vicious snarling. Hermione stumbled back, hand over her mouth, as the huge white wolf savaged the now limp gheiron, grabbing its lolling neck that had probably been broken in the first second in its jaws and shaking it back and forth.

Horrified, she backed away very slowly, trying not to draw attention to herself but the gheiron was no longer entertaining and the wolf dropped it, raising its head to look at her, licking blood from its chops. She kept going steadily backwards, not taking her eyes from the animal.

The wolf's jaw dropped in a doggy laugh.

Hermione felt her eyes prick with tears. The gheiron was ugly but it hadn't deserved that, " You think that's funny? That was just mean."

She gasped as the wolf leapt off the gheiron and bounded in her direction but not towards her. It gave her a wide berth, then circled around, making her turn with it, and stopped directly in her path. Directly between her and her campsite.

" What do you want?"

The shaggy head lowered, shoulders hunching as it took a slow, stalking step towards her.

" Stop it." her voice quavered.

It kept coming and she found herself backing away, glancing behind her carefully so she didn't stumble. It backed her up past the gheiron's limp carcass, past the pond, but it didn't attack. She was getting further from camp with each step.

She took a chance and darted to the side, trying to get around the wolf, to run back to camp, but the animal lunged in front of her, blocking her path, snarling now. Still it didn't attack. She took two slow steps to the side and it countered her movement, keeping itself between her and the way back.

She stared at it in stunned wonder. This was deliberate, intelligent movement. It was herding her away from camp. She couldn't fathom why. Maybe it wanted to take her back to its pack before it killed her.

She grabbed desperately for a large tree branch to club the animal with but the beast was on her in an instant, jaws locking around the branch, tearing it from her hand. She screamed and lost her balance as the wolf whipped its head back and forth, ripping savagely at the offending branch. She hit the ground on her butt, hunching over, hands flying up to shield her face automatically from those sharp fangs.

She heard a furious snarl and then nothing. Silence.

Breathing hard, she lowered her hands, looking about desperately. The wolf was gone.

She sat there in a daze for a moment and then realized it was stupid to be sitting there in the dirt and lurched to her feet, patting herself off. She turned around to head back to camp and was grabbed roughly by the collar and slammed back into a tree. She was automatically screaming and kicking and scratching.

Hands grabbed her arms and slammed her against the tree again.

" What the fuck do you think you're doing?" Malfoy roared.

She went still, cracking her eyes open, to find him hunched over her, looking murderous.

" What the fuck do you think you are doing?" he repeated slowly, growling the words out, when all she did was stare at him, his fingers tightened, biting into her arms, " I told you to stay put. You still think you can run away when I've found you every freaking time?"

" I wasn't running." She managed to gasp, gulping hard. He didn't look like he believed her. She scowled and squirmed against his grip, " I'd be a lot further away by now if I was running!"

" Then what were you doing?" he snapped, not letting go.

She was getting mad, "I owe you an explanation why?"

" You were running." He snarled accusingly.

" I wasn't running!" she yelled, kicking him in the shin, making him hiss, " There was a wolf, the big white wolf that I told you about before. It was chasing me again!"

His expression turned condescending, " Now I know you're lying."

She gaped at him, " What is so hard to believe about that? It's true! It's a giant white wolf, it killed a gheiron and then came after me. I think it's been following us." She paused at the thought, eyes widening," Oh mi gosh, I just realized, this is the third time I've seen it. I've seen it before, a long time ago. It's been following us for ages!"

He sneered at her, " What utter bullshit."

" Malfoy!"

" Shut up!" he shook her slightly, " We can't keep doing this! When I tell you to stay put, you damn well stay there! We do not have time for me to have to constantly hunt you down. You're lucky I even bother to come after you! Hell, I don't know why I bother, I should just leave you." He shoved her away and turned his back on her, walking towards camp.

" Then why don't you!" she screamed at him, tears of frustration in her eyes, " I didn't ask for anything from you! As a matter of fact, I made it very clear that I wanted you to get lost and leave me alone!"

" You think you can get out of here by yourself?" he yelled incredulously, swinging around walking backwards, spreading his arms to indicate the forest.

" No! But I'm awfully tempted to chance it just to get away from you!"

That stopped him short with a frown," I told you I'm not going to hurt you!"

" Yeah, right, how long is that going to last?" she pulled up the sleeve on her arm, "I'm probably going to have bruises from you already!"

" Don't you dare pull a fucking guilt trip on me!" he roared, actually stomping his foot.

" Guilt?" she asked with a high, strained laugh, " What do you have to feel guilty about? You were only doing what you were born and raised to do. You were only doing what you believed to be right. Why would you feel guilty about that? That's just the way it is. Law of the jungle, right?"

" NOT ANYMORE!" he screamed it so loud that it echoed through the trees. She was silent for a long moment, watching him tremble. He stared at his feet, hair hiding his eyes though she could see his teeth were clenched.

She said, brutally soft, " You can't change the way things are." And how true was that for so many things.

" Fine then!" he hissed, dropping his hands to his side, not trying to hide his rage, " As a pureblood wizard, as your superior, I'm ordering you to do what I say. And I say you're coming with me and if you try to get away, I'll make you sorry. How do you like that?"

She was smiling, she couldn't help it, although she didn't feel even remotely amused, she felt heartsick and worn and tired, " That 'nice guy' act lasted like five seconds, didn't it." she mused.

He actually screamed in frustration, letting out a string of curses that raised her eyebrows, and then he stomped over to grab her arm roughly and haul her away. She didn't fight him. There was no point.

Surprisingly, he didn't take her back to their rest spot. They went on a ways further, traveling for a few more hours until he found a place he deemed safe enough to sleep at. It was a ring of trees at the base of a small slope. The trees weren't protective, but they were large and the area relatively enclosed, giving at least the illusion of safety. His hunting trip that morning hadn't gone well so there was no meat but they had enough fruit for a while and it was only about noon when they slipped into a tree to sleep.

She lay awake for a long time, until she was sure he was asleep before she settled down to think.

Just what the hell was going on? None of this made any sense. She had waited, hoping he would be a little more forth coming, but he seemed determined not to tell her a thing.

How had he come to his conclusion about the compass? Where were they going? What the heck did he mean when he talked about the wyvern and its territory? Why was he trying to curry her favor?

It was driving her mad but all she could do was watch and wait. Malfoy wasn't talking and it wasn't like there was any one else to ask.

She could understand why he'd want to keep her with him, she just couldn't fathom why he was trying to be nice about it. He should have been marching her along with her hands tied behind her back and the blade against her throat.

She knew he really hadn't enjoyed the consequences of his actions, those days alone out in the wetlands and her subsequent attempts at murdering him, and she knew he wouldn't ever want her to get the upper hand like that again, but that wasn't reason enough for his behavior about-face. There were ways, and he was intelligent enough to figure them out, to subdue her enough so that she would be forced to do as he said. He could hunt, he could find fruit, he knew how to cast a circle and make fire and find sphagnum. The knife wasn't a problem. When it became too much for him, all he would have to do is hang it from her waist band, keeping her hands tied, for a few days or even a few hours until he recovered a bit.

He didn't have to be nice. So why the act?

She was also worried about that wolf. This was the second time it had attacked her and the second time Malfoy had gotten angry and defensive when she mentioned it. Did he know something about it? More importantly, it was obviously following them and she would bet anything it would attack again if it could.

She shifted, rolled onto her side, watched a little spider build a web.

It hadn't attacked her. The wolf hadn't attacked her either time. It had only driven her like a dog drives sheep. Once towards camp…once away from it. But that didn't make any sense.

" Wild wolves don't attack people."

What utter bull crap.

She used to be big on the subject. She'd read a lot of nature and forestry papers that claimed that there were no documented cases of wolves ever attacking people, that you were more likely to be struck by lightening then get attacked by a wolf, that wolves were noble, cuddly misunderstood creatures and all the fairy tales were just bad propaganda.

Then she'd gotten a bit older and she'd read that there were 'no documented cases' of wolf attacks only because naturalist had a set of rules on what 'documented' could mean. There were hundreds of records of wolf attacks, new and old. In places like India, wolves routinely snatched babies and small children.

The truth was that the people who first told the fairy tales and fables didn't just randomly decide that the wolf was evil. Those people knew what the wolf was, a large, pack-hunting meat-eater. The big bad wolf that would kill your flocks and steal your children.

Wolves were opportunists. It was true that wild wolves that had never encountered people usually wouldn't attack without provocation, but if they were hungry, humans were just another animal, much smaller and softer then some of their usual prey. It was also true that wolves that were used to humans were often responsible for attacks. That was funny. It was funny that wolves became more dangerous after they figured out that humans weren't all that scary. It was funny that they would turn on you after you had fed them, thinking that aggressive behavior would make you give them more.

And didn't that just describe Malfoy? Wasn't he the perfect Big Bad Wolf. He'd been growling and snapping at her and hurting her and promising to devour her whole from the beginning. Now he was even trying to tell her the way to Grandma's House. He was playing the wolf in sheep's clothing. He was showing her paws painted white and telling her he was just a little lamb.

She remembered the fairy story all too well. In the story, the little lambs believed the wolf and opened the door for him. He had eaten them all. There were other stories she remembered. The one about the bully wolf and clever little fox. The greedy wolf had made the much smaller and weaker fox do everything he said, saying he would eat the fox if he didn't.

That was her all the way wasn't it. Her role up till now had been pure servitude.

There was another story about a wolf that came upon a little lamb and wanted to eat it, but felt he had to justify his actions. He tried to blame her for muddying the stream water but she told him she was down stream from him. He tried to say he had heard her insult him the year before, but she told him she was only a yearling. In the end, the wolf got tired of trying to make excuses, saying he didn't need any, and just ate her.

She smiled sadly, turning over to look at Malfoy, hunched over on his side, facing away from her.

He was still searching for a reason. What would happen when he decided he didn't need one?

She drifted off to sleep and dreamed that she was eleven years old and at home in London with her parents and it was her first day of school only there was no letter or wand or castle, she was in regular school and she was a regular girl and there was no such thing as witches or wizards. Later, she had a vague, half-waking moment of seeing Malfoy get up and leave the hollow in the orange light of very late afternoon.

" I'm going hunting." He grunted when he saw her eyes on him. The unspoken 'stay here' hung heavily in the air. She turned over and went back to sleep.

She woke again to full dark, the robe over the door swaying softly in the wind, a large campfire crackling strong and cheery outside, casting light onto the robe. Through it, she saw the silhouette of someone sitting near the fire and figured it was Malfoy cooking his catch.

She yawned and stretched, slapping the worst of the dust and bugs and leaves off her robes and running her fingers through her tangled curls, frowning darkly at how filthy her hair was. She moved the robe covering the entrance and ducked her head to step outside.

There was no one by the campfire.

She stood in front of the tree, wondering if she had imagined it and knowing quite well that she hadn't. She thought about just turning around and going back inside the tree, but it was a stupid notion and would only serve to corner her if there really was something out here.

She stared at the campfire, unmoving. She was defenseless.

She stepped over to the fire, grabbing a tree branch and the ragged hem of what was left of her original robe. She needed to make a torch. She didn't have the knife to cut her robes but there were already tears in the fabric and she could pull along those.

" Malfoy!" she yelled while she tore the fabric, " Malfoy, come back! Malfoy!"

The woods were utterly still and silent.

She moaned softly in her throat, tearing faster at the fabric. It didn't seem to want to give.

" Maaaaaaaaaallllllfooooooooy!" she shouted, cupping her hands around her mouth.

With a hitch in her breath she went back to trying to tear strips, hands trembling. She got two thin strips and wrapped them around the end of her branch, knotting the fabric to hold it in place.

Rustling somewhere off in the trees. She turned towards it.

" Malfoy?"

" Heermioneee." Soft, mocking, a wisp of laughter. That wasn't Malfoy's voice.

She jerked backwards, nearly stumbling right into the fire, heart pounding. Gleaming, glowing eyes appeared, like a sudden hoard of fireflies, glinting at her from the darkness. Animal eyes. They were all around her, surrounding her, just outside the circle of light.

She only had two strips of fabric around the branch but she shoved the end into the fire anyway, her hand shaking so hard that she couldn't hold it steady. She had the vague thought that she should be screaming her head off, but her throat was strangely tight and dry and her tongue felt like lead.

The eyes moved through the trees, circling, she could hear the pad of feet, crackling sticks, the soft rustle of underbrush. A louder noise behind her and she whipped around. She caught the barest glimpse of the creature before it pulled back into the shadows.

Soft laughter on the wind. They were playing with her.

" Little giiiiirl." Whispered the singsong voice from the other night, and ended in a low growling chuckle.

" Look what we've found…"

" It's a pretty little girl…"

" Come here little girl…"

" Herrrmiiiioneee…"

More laughter.

And they were coming now, melting out of the darkness, stepping into the light of the campfire. She couldn't catch her breath, tried to watch them all but couldn't, they were all around her, surrounding her.


It was a pack of wolves. All colors, all sizes, sleek, bushy, gleaming gold eyes, green eyes, brown eyes, blue eyes. Stalking her, laughing doggy laughs, licking their chops, some of them wagging their tails, some of them hunched over threateningly, baring their teeth at her. They moved continually, circling her and coming closer all the while.

None of them are white, her brain noted stupidly. There's got to be at least twenty and not a single white one in the group.

The branch dropped from her hand, forgotten.

" MAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLFOOOOOOOOOOOOOY!" but she knew it was useless, she knew she was already dead.

Next Time: Everybody dies. I've decided to turn this into a Shakespearian tragedy… Okay, not really. I hated Romeo and Juliet. They were morons.

A/N: ::runs like hell:: I'm sorry! I honestly didn't plan on stopping in such an evil place, but the chapter was going to keep running on and this was the best place to stop and it seems like it will work out better in the long run anyway so we're are all just gonna hafta suck it up and take it like He-men. I just felt bad because I planned to answer some questions but instead I left you with more. I mean, things just got weird didn't they.

The fairy tales I mentioned were actual ones I've read, I don't know if I should site Aesop's or something because there are different versions of those stories and I don't remember where I read them all.

Other Notes:

TheDragonDancer: Ooo!! Draw fanart for my story! Draw fanart for my story!!

XXNaziHaloXx: snicker Her hair is curly, being curly its also fluffy. Fluffy and bushy are pretty much the same thing and because she uses cheap conditioner its also frizzy. So there you have it. Its Frizzy, bushy/fluffy, curls.

Courtney: I was a fanfiction whore for over a year. I spent an entire summer rotting in front of my computer just reading everything I could find. I kinda miss the good ole days.

Mariona: the idea of the blade as sort of a God of the Lost itself is not an entirely inaccurate description. In fact, I really like that interpretation.

A/N: some of you are catching on and I love listening to your theories. It drives me crazy when you guys hit the nail on the head and I can't say anything. LOL, IRL I'm really bad at keeping secrets.

Disclaimer: Hey! Look over there! ::swipes the Harry Potter cast and runs away to do evil, vile things to them, while cackling maniacally::

A/N: What?

Chapter 17: The Fairytale Beast

Now hear the forest talking, insects and birds
Does the scent of soil and beast
Breathe the life into the animal you hide

Cradle of forest--Silent hill 4 soundtrack

Yum. Venison.

The doe stood at attention, quivering nervously, ears erect, body tense, poised to flee. It knew he was still out there, creeping around in the dark, eyes tracking its every movement with hungry anticipation.

Draco slipped through the underbrush, close to the damp soil, breathing the wet musk of earth, downwind and out of the moonlight, focusing his complete attention on his prey, while moving stealthily forward. The animal was big and healthy, with bright eyes and glossy fur and under normal circumstances he wouldn't have dreamed of approaching it, might have taken a swing at it with the blade, but he wouldn't have gotten too close.

This was a golden opportunity. The first deer he'd seen all week and it was alone and wounded, one of its front legs was a bloody mangle and there was a bite out of one of its hind shanks. After having little or no meat for so long, this was much too tempting a prospect to pass up. The deer still had a lot of fight in it though, had nearly kicked his head off twice already, but he couldn't bring himself to leave it alone.

The promise of an easy meal made him uncommonly patient, he kept telling himself just a little further, just a little more and he'd bring it down.

A twig snapped underfoot and he cursed himself silently as the animal spooked and limp-jogged away. This was taking much longer than he had originally anticipated and he was much further from camp then he had ever meant to go, but even knowing that, he wasn't about to give up. He knew he could get this animal and he wasn't leaving until he bagged it.

He followed the exhausted deer with a little more haste then before, losing a bit of his focus because his mind had tripped over the girl and now he was nervously wondering what was doing back at camp.

Hermione was probably awake by now and she was walking, talking trouble when she was awake. The most annoying thing about her being her proclivity towards running away the moment his back was turned. He doubted she would try to run tonight. She wasn't stupid enough to take off blindly into the darkness. At least he didn't think she was. She had rushed off in the middle of a rainstorm that one time but he chalked that up to panic. No, if she were going to run from him again, she would choose a better time and place.

She was probably just sitting by the fire pouting, thinking about how much she hated him and waiting for his return.

The thought settled him a little.

Despite her pitiful escape attempts, things between them were actually going a little better (or maybe worse?) than he originally thought they would. For awhile he'd been sure she'd try to bash his head in with a rock while he slept, or push him off a cliff when his back was turned. She hadn't tried to kill him once since she woke. (That was a good sign, right?) Instead, she seemed…quiet, really really quiet and resigned.

And that scared him, that quiet. It was a bad quiet. The kind of quiet that made him wonder what she was thinking. She hadn't attacked him, but maybe she was planning to. Maybe she was planning another escape attempt. Maybe she was planning to get him killed in one of the hundreds of subtle and brilliantly simple ways that she could arrange and that he would never see coming.

It was exhausting trying to guess what was on her mind, trying to constantly keep one step ahead of her, and ultimately it was impossible. He wanted all of this crap resolved before she completely snapped and went psychotic on him again but he had no idea how to go about it. But he was trying and really he should get a gold medal just for that.

He was still feeling sort of benevolent towards her and that surprised him. Really surprised him. He had sort of thought he would have run out of the patience he needed to deal with her days ago. That maybe he'd get mad enough at her—annoying, stubborn, hard-headed, snotty, arrogant little bitch—to just forget the whole debt towards her and go back to not caring about her period except to rouse himself enough to just barely keep her alive.

He'd said it himself--weren't they even now? She'd done enough shit to him to even the score.

Except… Except he wanted more than that.

It wasn't the debt, though he still felt he owed her something. It was more that he had something to prove now. To himself, to her. He'd pushed himself to the brink and discovered his own limits, now he knew he wasn't the person he thought himself to be, the person everyone else thought he was, and he wanted to show her that, even if she was just Hermione and she wouldn't ever fully understand and it was all meaningless to her. It didn't matter as long as she saw. It didn't really make sense to him when he thought about it. It was just the way he felt.

It was hard too. If he wasn't who he thought he was, then who was he?

Every time he did something or had a thought these last few days, he'd wonder if it was his own or if it was something he did or thought in his attempt to please his father or in his attempt to become the best Death Eater. Sometimes his thoughts or actions made him feel guilty and he'd look over his shoulder as if expecting someone to be there to chastise him for not having the perfect thoughts a Death Eater would have, which was kind of weird because the only person who had ever chastised him for his thoughts was himself…or himself that he thought he was…Then he'd have to remind himself that it was okay to think whatever he wanted to think.

At least for right now. At least until he figured out who he was and what he wanted and how he could go about it.

It was just that he'd lived so long unconsciously believing that it was out of his control, that he was some kind of twisted clone of his father. He'd fought hard over the years to keep the others from molding him into what they wanted him to be. Lucius, the Death Eaters, Voldemort, more recently Serge who pushed and pushed and pushed, and even his own mother. He loved his mother but she was like the rest of them sometimes, she felt he should conduct himself a certain way and act and think a certain way. He'd fought them all, but he'd never fought the idea that he would be his father when he grew up. He'd taken it for granted that he was…tainted…no matter what.

He remembered the night of his fifteenth birthday, standing in front of the mirror in his bedroom at Hogwarts, watching the clock reflection as it counted down to midnight, to when he'd be fifteen. He had two bristles of hair on his chin, the first of what would one day be a beard if he wanted. He stood there staring into the mirror, contemplating those hairs, contemplating growing up, that fifteen was so old, that he was losing more and more of himself everyday, that he was almost an adult.

And he thought about killing himself.

Just punching the mirror in, grabbing a hunk of that glass and jabbing a piece of it through his wrists. He thought about it and thought about it and imagined it until the idea of that pain, the mirror glass ripping into his flesh, was good. He knew it would feel good.

If it wasn't for his mother, he might have done it (or maybe not, maybe he was a coward and he would have found some other reason not to go through with it). There was no way he was leaving her alone with Lucius.

His mother was his responsibility. And, at least for now, Hermione was too. He wasn't sure when or how he had decided that. He wasn't even sure it was a good decision or how long it would last. They were still enemies. He hated her people.

He just wasn't so sure anymore that he hated her.

Just thinking that made him cringe, made him take that involuntary glance over his shoulder.

It was sort of weird when he thought about it. Part of him said of course he hated her, he'd relished hating her every single day for the last six years. Except he'd only hated her because she was a Mudblood, and because she hung out with Potter and because she got better grades them him and because she occasionally assaulted his person, but none of that really had anything to do with her or who she was.

He wasn't sure he hated her because he wasn't sure who she was. He didn't even fucking know her. They'd been going to the same school for six years, had plenty of classes together, been up close and personal for a freaking month and he still didn't know her. He'd never thought about that before even though it was sort of obvious, but then it had never mattered before now.

Why did it matter now?

Those first few weeks out here she hadn't…she hadn't really been bad company. A little annoying, but not so much that he'd wanted to do anything more drastic then drive her a little mad and make her cry.

Make her cry. Merlin, had he really been that childish? Had that really given him such a thrill? That was him, big, bad-ass Death Eater whose specialty was making little girls cry. He'd put that on his résumé, Voldemort would be thrilled.

Stupid. What a stupid…

The deer slowed finally and busied itself licking the wound on its hind leg, ears flicking. Draco changed directions and slipped around the other side so he could get closer without the animal seeing him.

He had meant his promise to Hermione.

He wouldn't hurt her. Not anymore. Even if they killed each other one day as adults in the distant future while fighting their inevitable war, for now she was safe. He'd pay back his debt by not hurting her and getting them both home safely. He had put aside a huge chunk of his pride to tell her that and he was pretty pissed that she'd thrown it back in his face.

Especially now when he was actively trying to protect her.

He frowned.

The ghost, the vision, the other Draco, that had scared him.

He was pretty sure the other him he had seen wasn't a hallucination, something inside him, some part of him that he was still learning to trust, nagged that it had been real. But just because it was real, didn't mean whoever that person was had actually been him. He didn't want to believe that was him. That person had really troubled him.

The Doppelganger had acted just like him, absolutely, perfectly just like him. Oddly, that was what bothered him the most. If this was a warning left by himself after something really bad had happened, or maybe a ghost version of him from the future, (because why else would he come back to change things unless he had died himself, and why hadn't he mention it if he had?) why hadn't he acted like older or more mature or something, why hadn't his eyes been hollow and haunted with trauma, why had he joked and been a smart-ass, something sly dancing in his eyes, when obviously the worst had happened?

Why would he act so normal (so damn creepy) about something so terrible?

The compass thing had rung true. Things had gotten worse the further they followed it. He was even convinced that if they had simply gone any other direction in the beginning, they'd have been out of here a long time ago. He'd debated it out in his head for hours before finally deciding to take that piece of advice, to get rid of the compass. His reasons were many but what finally decided him was simply that if all else failed they already knew which direction to head and they could make another compass if they had to.

The rest of it… Well, the only thing that mattered was that, either way, whether that was him or not, Hermione was in danger. If it had been him, then she was in danger. If it hadn't been him, then it had been something evil bent on tricking them and that meant Hermione was still in danger. There seemed only one logical course of action, protect her, be on guard constantly.

He kept much closer to camp when he hunted then she realized. His outings usually consisted of constantly circling their camp, making sure nothing was around that could hurt her. He only left her alone in areas where there was no sign of big predators and he never left her alone for very long. He wasn't going to let anything get her.

He thought about telling her about the vision, but honestly he didn't see what good that would do. It wouldn't change anything and if it really came down to it, he didn't want her to know anyway. He wanted her to be completely oblivious if he ran out of options and had to do what the Doppelganger had suggested, if he had to kill her in her sleep, as fast and painlessly as possible. He didn't want her to know.

He was close enough now to the animal for a rush attack. He crouched down, ready to spring. The doe had calmed, was even limping around a little to nibble at some plants.

Just a little more…

Something slipped by, just a darting shadow in his periphery, and he glanced over but saw nothing but empty forest. It could have been a bat. He paused, frowning. Except that had to be the hundredth time tonight that had happened since he started following the doe. Maybe something else was out there hunting it or waiting for him to kill the deer so it could scavenge what was left.

He held perfectly still.

A tiny gleam in the moonlight to his right, a flash of eye-shine and his eyes narrowed though he kept his face carefully forward, his expression neutral, even as his heartbeat picked up slightly.

He knew what that was.

That was one of the fuckers that had been following him and Hermione before, but he hadn't seen any sign of them for awhile now, not for several nights and a lot of miles. Where had this one come from?

Slight movement, just the tilt of a shadow, on his other side, and he knew there was more than one.

Why were they following him? Or were they following the deer? Maybe they were what had injured the deer in the first place, but then why weren't they attacking? Why were they just watching him instead?


Draco's gaze flew to the deer now cropping happily on the forest foliage and then out into the dark forest to the things that he knew were silently circling him but ignoring the deer completely and something terrible occurred to him. The deer's wounds--something had mauled it, something that probably could have brought it down but hadn't and he'd followed the injured animal away from camp, he'd followed it doggedly because it looked like an easy meal. He'd followed it much further away from Hermione then he'd traveled since the wetlands.

He'd left her alone and the minute he did, those things came back.

What if…

Her whispering--" There's something out there."

Going out, finding nothing," All clear. How come you didn't wake me?"

" I thought I was imagining it."

At the time he'd been worried she might have seen something like the weird vision he had or that something had been playing mind tricks on her. There had been no sign that anything had disturbed their camp. But Hermione was not the type to just imagine something.

" I wasn't running!" she yelled, " There was a wolf, the big white wolf that I told you about before. It was chasing me again!"

He'd thought she was lying but, in a way, it would make sense if this was all focused on her, wouldn't it. A white wolf. A white…

" She's going to die and there's nothing you can do to stop it."

He felt the blood drain from his face.

" You can't save her."

Oh fuck. He'd been purposely led away from her.

" Oh hell no." he whispered, straightening up, forgetting altogether about the deer, " Hell no. Hermione."

He bolted back towards camp.


" MAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLFOOOOOOOOOOOOOY!" Hermione screamed again, twisting around in a tight circle because the wolves were closing in all around her, but slowly, and all at once. They circled constantly, threading in and out of the pack, and she dared not keep her eyes on one wolf for too long.

" He can't hear you." The sing-songer's voice from somewhere behind her.

She glanced towards the sound, trying to keep the fire at her back, trying to keep from stumbling into it," Leave me alone! I didn't do anything to you!"

A black wolf lunged at her from behind and she shrieked, spinning to face it, scrambling backwards automatically. The second their eyes met, the beast checked itself and nonchalantly turned away while the pack moved between her and the fire. Well there went that.

Almost instantly, another wolf leapt for her back but she whipped towards it and it veered off. They kept it up, lunging at her ferociously only to wander back into the furry mass of their brethren when she faced them, getting closer but never while she was looking, keeping her spinning back and forth, mocking laughter rising up around her. They were playing with her.

A big brown wolf rushed her, snapping at her feet, and instead of hot-footing it backwards like it probably expected her to, she instinctively kicked it full in the face, screaming, making it yelp and scuttle backwards in surprise, brushing its muzzle with its paw. Growls and laughs from the circling pack.

The kicked one snarled and leapt at her again, catching her kicking foot and savaging her shoe. Shrieking, she tried to shake it off but another wolf snagged the back of her robe in its jaws and wrenched backwards.

She fell, screaming, knowing they were about to converge on her in a rush of fur and teeth, she'd be torn to shreds before she ever touched the ground.

The first hard clamp on her skin and she very nearly passed out from the terror. Her vision tunneled, white noise roaring in her ears, drowning out their snarls, her body going limp. It would be a blessing and mercy if she passed out now before they ate her. But she held on by a stubborn thread of consciousness and it took her several dazed moments to realize that there was no pain, that they weren't tearing at her, that it wasn't teeth that gripped her at all.


There were hands on her, all over her, holding her arms, cradling her head, her back, around her waist. They lowered her until she was kneeling on the ground, slumped over weakly, her arms held away from her body.

She opened her eyes stupidly, blinking away dizzy spots and her vision cleared in time to see the cream and brown wolf in front of her blur and shift and then there was a man kneeling in front of her. Her brain did a weird stutter but she caught hold of one thought in the rushing chaos in her brain and clung to it desperately.

" Animagus…" she murmured woozily and the man tilted his head at her slightly.

She knew even as she said it that it was wrong.

Not an Animagus. A man. But not human. Not anything near human.

His features were strange, not unpleasant, but an odd combination that made it impossible to pinpoint his nationality, wide brow, large slightly tilted eyes, full lips, slender nose, heavy jaw. His eyes were glowing green wolf eyes, rimmed in black, it might have been makeup but it wasn't. His ears were almost too pointed, his hair was shaved along the sides, long on top, and dark, probably brown or black, it was impossible to tell. He grinned at her, showing her pointed fangs both upper and lower.

His clothes were somewhere between Indian Brave and Arabian Nights. He was wearing leather and silk and bone and gold. His pants were simple leather, probably deerskin, they were slit up the sides and stitched loosely together with red silk and gold studs. He had a red silk belt hung with strange items and an animal-fur pelt over one hip. A bone necklace hung around his neck, another set of thin straight bones slid up one ear like a tiny ladder while the other ear sported a ruby. He wasn't wearing a shirt and she could see strange markings all over his body.

She stared at him in a daze as he slinked forward on his hands and knees. She wanted to struggle but her body wouldn't obey and her mind was detached, her thoughts fragmented. She realized with distant calm that she was in shock.

The hands on her weren't just holding, they were stroking, caressing, slow, sensuous, a finger ran along her jawbone, claws delicately slit through her shirt. People and wolves crowding around her, human skin and animal fur, body heat and the cold of night, the smell of smoke and wind and leather and fur and a strange buzzing up her arms like electricity, like their life-force was so strong she could feel it, the fire crackling steadily, casting odd shadows and flickering brightly in glowing eyes.

The wolves sniffed at her, breathed along her skin and she just sat there, her knees folded under her, staring at the green-eyed man while a huge gray wolf nuzzled its face against her thigh.

A hand glided across her bare belly, her shirt was tugged off in pieces, a tongue traced the lines of her palm, another licked her ear and the shock of it broke her paralysis. Whimpering, she started to struggle, jerking against the hands. The grip of their hands was utterly immovable.

" Shh," a soft voice in her ear, "You're safe."

The green-eyed man smiled faintly and touched her cheek, she flinched away from the clawed fingers but another hand came from somewhere behind her to cup her jaw and hold her in place. The clawed fingers lightly traced down her throat, over her collar bone, between her breasts, cutting neatly through her clothes on the way down. She gasped, stomach contracting as the claws brushed lightly over her belly.

She could hear them speaking. Whispering to each other.

" See how soft." one murmured to another, "be careful with your claws."

" She is too thin. Her fur is filthy." Another hushed disapprovingly, burying his nose in her hair, " She is not being taken care of properly."

They seemed to be taking turns, smelling her, licking at her skin, touching her, and moving or being pushed out of the way by another curious wolf.

" Stop it." she whispered, then louder, " Stop it!" she wrenched against their grip as hard as she could, yelling it over and over as she thrashed about mindlessly.

" Shh." The wolf-people soothed her, stroking her skin, crooning to her, " The pack must learn your scent."

" Let me go." She whimpered, terrified, not understanding what was happening.

" Don't be afraid, Hermione, you're ours now." The green-eyed one told her, nuzzling her temple.

Someone slid one of her fingers into their mouth and started sucking, letting her feel fangs scrap her skin. Someone licked the back of her neck, there was a soft bite on her shoulder, the wet swath of a tongue at the bend of her elbow. Her bra was in scraps, hands reached around from behind to cup her bare breasts, claws light on her delicate skin.

She went rigid, gasping in shock, in sort of disbelieving indignation, " Stop it!." She jerked and flinched, holding back tears of humiliation, horrified.

Something caught her eye. She wasn't sure why it drew her attention, maybe it was a deliberate movement meant to draw her notice, maybe it was a trick of firelight or maybe the knife itself was calling to her but she saw Malfoy crouched at the top of the hill beyond their trees, the blade held at his side, glowing faintly.

Malfoy was here. Malfoy was here to save her.

A surge of painful relief made her heart jump, her stomach clench, even as she fought down another wave of humiliation at being bare before him. She shook it off, telling herself he probably couldn't see her through the wall of wolves.

The boy stared down at the scene, unmoving. She strained her eyes but couldn't see his expression or what he was doing. He was probably having a hard time figuring out how he was going to pull this off. There were so many wolves. She really hoped he would be able to think of something on his own because she was pretty much trapped and fresh out of brilliant ideas.

The only way she could think of to help would be to try to distract the wolves from anything Malfoy was up to.

The minute she thought it, she realized she'd been staring at the blond boy's hiding place.

She cringed.

Crap. Malfoy would kill her if she stupidly gave away his position. She snapped her eyes back to the green-eyed man, the only wolf who hadn't eventually been bullied aside. He seemed to have taken up a permanent position beside her. He was studying her face as if fascinated, the curve of her jaw, the tilt of her nose. He caught her eyes when she looked back at him and smiled, seemingly pleased to have her full attention again.

" Who are you?" she asked calmly, panic forcefully suppressed because she had purpose now that Malfoy was here. Sort of.

They weren't hurting her but she was acutely aware of claws and fangs on tender flesh, many of those claws close to vital points. They held her so she could barely move, and it awoke an instinctual fear. She was a mouse in the jaws of the snake. Something inside her screaming that this play at humanity was just that. There was a feral edge to the playfulness and she knew they could turn and rend her the moment they grew bored.

" My name is Alekos." He told her in a rich, melodic voice. He was the sing-songer.

" What do you want?"

She hazarded a quick glance up at Malfoy, but he hadn't moved. He was just sitting there.

Why wasn't he doing anything?

She tried to send him a questioning glance without giving away his position, biting the inside of her cheek, silently pleading with him to hurry.

The green-eyed man licked her cheek in what was probably supposed to be a soothing gesture but only made her tense, " You're going to be our little sister. We will keep you."

" What are you talking about?"

" Our new pack sister." Someone else purred against her skin, placing a gentle kiss there and then a sharp nip, testing fangs against her flesh, " You are going to be one of us."

They were going to make her one of them? Keep her? Did they think she was like them, that they were adopting her? Would they get mad when t… Продолжение »
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