Chapter 20 : The Wolf's Den
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Hermione clawed Agilolf across the face, and he responded by abruptly dropping her on the ground. She immediately scrambled away from him, reaching quickly to her back pocket for her wand.
“Looking for this?” he asked, drawing her wand from inside his jacket and dangling it in front of her face; he’d nicked it in the hectic moment before they’d disapparated. Hermione rose to her feet in a rapid leap and snatched at the wand fiercely. Agilolf held it out of her reach, laughing evilly as she struggled. “Keep trying, keep trying!” he goaded cruelly, knowing she could never be as fast as he was. When she stopped after a moment and proceeded to merely attempt to kill him with her eyes, he slowly lowered her wand and put it back into his pocket, his smile widening impossibly. “That’s a bit more like it,” he murmured.
Hermione ignored him, choosing instead to gaze keenly in all directions to get her bearings. They were in a room, a very large and immaculate room. It was brightly lit, and gorgeously decorated with white furniture that looked like it’d never before been used. She saw floor to ceiling windows on three sides, all covered in even more white. Heavy brocade drapes hung dramatically across every pane; they were so thick that no natural light seemed able to filter through. The wall behind Hermione was the only one without windows, and the only one with a visible door. Directly across from it, she could glimpse a pair of golden handles peeking out from between the curtains. French doors, she thought, her mind in survival mode. A balcony, or maybe a patio… that could be a way out.
“Where have you taken me?” she asked, clenching her fists and straightening her spine to infuse herself with some sense of bravery.
“Oh, yes, did you think I was going to really just tell you such a thing?” Agilolf replied, smirking viciously.
She backed up slowly, determined to put as much distance between the two of them as she possibly could. She noticed a fireplace on the wall behind Agilolf’s back, and, more importantly, a small glass canister sitting on the mantle. Floo powder? She wondered hopefully. I could get to Harry’s and Ginny’s… or Ron’s… or the ruddy Ministry of Magic! Anywhere else…
By her fixed expression, he could make a fairly educated guess as to what she’d noticed. “I wouldn’t try that, if I were you,” he stated calmly.
“Why should I care about what you would try?” she asked as she stared him down. “You aren’t the one who’s been kidnapped by a sociopath.”
“Hm… true,” he pursed his lips and squinted his eyes, pretending to contemplate what she’d said. “But… that particular fireplace isn’t connected to the network with which you’re familiar.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” her nerves quivered with anxiety as she awaited his undoubtedly dreadful explanation.
“Well, we werewolves have our own ‘network’, naturally.”
Hermione’s skin crawled at his hideously joyful expression. This is bad, she knew. I have no idea what’s going on, but I know that it’s incredibly bad. If I try to use floo powder in a fireplace that’s only connected to some illegal off-shoot of the main network, who knows where I’ll end up? If it’s used primarily by werewolves, I might get shunted somewhere even worse than here, though such a place is nearly impossible to imagine right now. Deciding to ignore Agilolf’s revolting presence for another moment, she glanced off into a middle distance and thought, Draco?
Oh, Merlin… Hermione blinked hard, willing the roiling clouds of fear to stay away from her heart. I just saw him a moment ago; he shouldn’t be unconscious… Draco? She tried again. Can you hear me? Draco? Draco! She was starting to hope that maybe he was unconscious-
“What exactly are you up to, Ms. Granger?” Agilolf asked mildly, his simpering tone making her blood boil.
“Oh, just trying to will you away, you disgusting creep,” she replied, matching his light tone and raising the bar a notch with an absurdly fake smile.
“Hm, I’m sure you’ve realized by now that you have much less control than you’re accustomed to… here.”
“And… where exactly is ‘here’?”
“Do you honestly think you can trap me with your words so easily?” he asked, studying his hands nonchalantly.
“If I can’t disapparate away, or use the ruddy Floo network, what does it matter if I know where I am or not?” she countered testily.
“Oh, but it’s all so simple, Ms. Granger,” Agilolf raised his eyebrows innocently, as though he were speaking to a very small, very unmanageable child. “You… in an inconceivably short amount of time, have literally infuriated me more greatly than any other person has in my entire lifetime.” He began to walk toward her, his expression and tone of voice gaining a decidedly menacing quality. “Not only have you done regrettable damage to my clan as a whole, but you’ve also destroyed my second-in-command, and one of my dearest friends. Adding to that is the fact that your completely pointless existence alone has served as a seemingly impenetrable barrier between Draco Malfoy, and the life he was born to live. Honestly, knowing what a burden you’ve become… how can you even live with yourself? With all of that in mind, why would I ever choose to do anything even marginally kind for you? Let alone give you something that you desire?”
Hermione’s muscles quivered under her skin in her barely contained rage. Agilolf had walked right up to her, backing her against a wall and very nearly pinning her there. She glared fire at him, her eyes taking in his appearance as though he were under a microscope. Is this what Lyulf was talking about? She wondered abruptly as an otherworldly awareness flooded her senses. Is this a side effect of Draco’s blood?
Her fury pulsed through her body, fighting for space alongside the blood in her veins. She couldn’t remember ever feeling such a rush of anger-induced adrenaline before, and it buzzed in her ears and made her vision spiral down to a fine point. As she stared hard at Agilolf, she could see every pore in his skin, every defined eyelash, and even the faint hint of brown that swirled within his otherwise black eyes. His lips pulled up in a mean smile, and her scowl involuntarily deepened.
“Well, you certainly are feisty,” he said, speaking quietly through his rapidly sharpening teeth.
“I have nothing to say to you,” she hissed, pushing him out of her way and striding quickly away from him.
“That’s not intended to bother me, I hope,” he smirked, “I think I’d rather enjoy not having to listen to your ludicrously plain observations.”
“Wonderful; I have nothing but the same sentiments for you.”
Agilolf watched her as she sat rigidly on the spotless white chaise lounge. Her hands folded and unfolded in her lap and her eyes stared ahead, seemingly unblinking. He wondered if she was trying to contact him again, but he didn’t worry himself over it for long; he knew she wouldn’t succeed. He furrowed his brow as he watched her fidget, determined to find a way to break her fiery spirit.
Okay, Hermione, she exhaled slowly. Agilolf wouldn’t have simply kidnapped you because he’s a foul git… I mean… he is, but you know there must more to it than that. The real question is: what? Why did he kidnap you? What is his real motive here?
“You’re so much more attractive when you’re not speaking,” Agilolf mused irritatingly.
“Well, I must confess that being considered attractive by you is not remotely important to me,” she stated brusquely.
“You haven’t… always been attractive, have you?” It was more of a statement than a question. Agilolf moved slowly toward her, sitting across from her (to her ultimate revulsion) in a large chair. He studied her, putting his uncanny skills of in-depth penetration to work.
“Hmph,” she mumbled, refusing to fully answer him.
“Right,” he stroked his chin and continued to scrutinize her. “So… that’s a ‘yes’, then. Was it… in school? You were teased… yes, I thought as much.”
“What do you want?!” she finally yelled. “You’ve already kidnapped me and stolen my wand! What more do you bleeding want?”
“Everything,” Agilolf replied instantly, a manic fire lighting behind his eyes. He leaned forward in his chair and clasped his hands together before saying more; Hermione felt her discomfort rise at the look on his face. “I want everything, Ms. Granger… and I deserve it, too.”
Why is it that they always think they ‘deserve’ whatever it is they want? Hermione could barely resist rolling her eyes.
“Werewolves deserve their time at the top, don’t you think?” he didn’t give her time to voice a resounding “NO”, but instead kept speaking, “we belong to no ‘group’, being neither man, nor magical creature. We’re obviously the superior race, and yet we’re treated as diseased serfs. You cannot deny that what I say is true. You’ve more than likely seen a bit of it yourself first hand, particularly lately.”
Hermione knew he was referring to the time she’d spent with Draco. She also knew that, unfortunately, he was right. Hesitantly she said, “yes.”
“Yes,” he repeated, “of course you have. Imagine now, if you will, what it’s like for an actual werewolf, and not merely some witch who happens to be living with one.”
“Do you have a point?” she asked, fuming internally at his insinuation that, as ‘merely a witch’, she knew nothing of struggle and disappointment.
“He’s the one, you know,” Agilolf gazed out across the room, thinking of Draco and seeing possibilities and futures that Hermione could only guess at. “Draco Malfoy, as the werewolf he’s become, is capable of eternally changing the outcome for all werewolves… maybe even other magical beings, as well.” He took in Hermione’s questioning eyes and smirked, “you act as though the idea had yet to enter your mind. Can that be true?”
She raised her eyebrows silently in speculation. Actually, Draco and I have already had that discussion, thank you very much, and it revolved around killing you. At the time I was against it, but right now I’m having serious second thoughts… Hermione would only answer him in her head, as she was beginning to get somewhat frustrated with herself for how easily he’d been able to read her. You can’t make a single expression around him! She told herself strongly. Don’t give him any type of ammunition to attack you with!
“Mr. Malfoy has a bit of a problem, however,” Agilolf ran his hands over the arms of the plush chair he sat upon, and, Hermione was intrigued to note, he seemed to tremble slightly. “He’s the only remaining member of one of the most lauded pureblood lines in history… a pureblood line of dark wizards, at that. From infancy, he was taught that he’s superior to all others, that he effortlessly bests them all in every way imaginable. He was, of course, sorted into the Hogwarts House of Slytherin… where he excelled terrifically and became a prefect. After all of this physical, mental, and emotional preparation… for him to come across an opportunity such as the one I’ve given him and simply walk away… for the sake of a woman?” He scoffed before adding, “even you must understand the irrationality of such actions.”
Even when he’s got me in such an oppressed position, he still feels the need to bait me, Hermione thought, the disgust obvious on her face. Against her will, however, tiny tendrils of doubt began to take root in her mind. She kept a scowl pasted on her face so as not to betray her underlying onslaught of worry. The fact was, every single foul word Agilolf had uttered was true. His bitter statement ricocheted around her mind, trying to make it’s way down into her heart, where it’d be decidedly more difficult to remove. Hermione tore her eyes away from the villain in front of her and concentrated. She concentrated on her situation, her desired outcome, and any action she may need to take to control that outcome. Most of all, though, she concentrated on her memories of Draco.
He may’ve been raised the way that Agilolf said, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t truly love me. I know him… nothing this monster can say or do will ever change that.
“So quiet, particularly for you,” Agilolf leaned forward in his chair, his elbows on his knees and his chin resting upon his clasped hands.
“I’m sorry, did you actually expect a response to that ridiculous harangue?” she raised her eyebrows in feigned surprise.
The dark werewolf tossed back his head in a riot of laughter. While Hermione rolled her eyes and waited motionlessly in irritation, he managed to gather himself after a brief moment and nailed her with a fierce gaze.
“As annoying and irrelevant as you are,” he began, a falsely contemplative look upon his face, “you are at least amusing. Truly, I could just sit here contentedly and laugh at your silly little human antics. Endlessly fun though that may seem, however, I do have actual things that must be… accomplished.”
Hermione resisted a shiver at the coldness in his voice. She had no choice but to sit and listen to him; she braced herself for whatever evil may be coming.
“I know that you and Draco Malfoy are… soul mates,” he let the meaningful words fall quickly and distastefully from his lips like a bad piece of fruit. “That is an unforeseen bump in the road of my plans. To put it in better perspective, actually, it’s more of a landslide… or perhaps, a giant sinkhole. Either way, you get the point. Seeing as you seem to be incapable of getting over it, or at the very least ignoring it, you’ve put me in an unfortunate position. You’ve forced my hand.”
Hermione scoffed, remembering the first few days of her life after Draco had kidnapped her. “You have no idea how hard we tried to ‘get over it’,” she snapped.
“Obviously, not hard enough,” he sighed pretentiously.
Out of sheer exasperation, she threw up her hands and asked, “and what in Merlin’s name, pray tell, do you have in mind, Agilolf?”
It was the first time he’d heard her speak his name, and it gave him an unexpected thrill. This could turn out to be more fun than I’d anticipated, he mused wickedly before stating, “I’m going to break you of the Covenant.”
Hermione felt as though a chilled hand had closed around her heart. The delivery of his proposal was so point-blank and assured, she almost could’ve believed it… almost. She ignored her goose bumps and plowed ahead with her questioning. “Is that so?” she asked with forced calm, “seeing as that is in every way impossible, how exactly do you intend to successfully achieve such a feat?”
“Well, I’ve already succeeded in separating the two of you; that was step one. Also, as you’ve undoubtedly noticed, I’ve managed to make the distance between you… considerable,” he spoke matter-of-factly, and Hermione got a sudden mental image of ‘Agilolf the Professor’, teaching a class on how to ruin the lives of others.
Yes, she thought, I suppose it’s possible that a ‘considerable’ distance could account for our inability to communicate telepathically. We haven’t faced major separation since being linked… but, just how ‘major’ is it? She crossed her arms over her chest before putting a hard edge to her voice and asking, “step one, hm? So, you don’t plan on just trying to keep us apart forever?”
“Oh, no,” Agilolf answered quickly, letting out a chuckle as a disturbing smile settled upon his face, “I don’t believe that’s possible, not with someone of Draco’s caliber and ambition hot on our trail. He’ll definitely find you.” Agilolf made a mental note of the hope that flared abruptly in her eyes before she hid it behind her mask of contempt. “Yes,” he continued after his brief pause of study, “I can’t imagine you’ll be apart for too long, but… when he finds you… Well, I can’t guarantee he’ll like what he sees.”
“Wha-” Hermione cleared the small lump of fear from her throat and tried again, “What?”
“Oh, did you think that I’d just wait for him to locate you, and then let the two of you frolic merrily away? No, no… I’m afraid not, Ms. Granger,” he sighed laboriously, portraying exaggerated exhaustion at her lack of knowledge. “You did say it yourself, you know; the Covenant is ‘in every way impossible to break’, but… outside of the Covenant… things can be quite different. Your sickeningly pure heart may not be able to comprehend this, but… love is not so strong. In fact, Ms. Granger, the fragile little concept of ‘love’ is very easy to break, indeed.”
Our love… our love? Hermione thought she could feel her lips going numb. “You want to… break our ‘concept’ of love?” she was too horrified to get out any more words.
“Not yours as a couple,” Agilolf said simply, “just… yours. There’s no reason to damage Draco’s mind any more than necessary, of course.”
“Oh, right… of course,” she nodded blankly in agreement, her eyes wide in a combination of sarcasm and disbelief.
“So, to reiterate,” Agilolf ticked his plans off on his fingers, “step one, drag the two of you apart, step two, destroy your ability to feel love, thus breaking the Covenant’s ability to work through you, and step three…” he chuckled darkly, “I suppose step three is just when I win.”
Listening to him made Hermione want to vomit. He was so cruel, so unbelievably vile; she suddenly wondered if this was how Harry had felt on the many occasions that he’d had to face Voldemort one on one. She could feel herself shaking as she tried to swallow her anger. “You’re so eager to separate us, why haven’t you just killed me, then?” the rash statement hung in the air, and Hermione desperately wished she could snatch the terrible words back.
“Oh, don’t look so blatantly terrified,” he scoffed, knowing how scared she was and enjoying every minute of it, “I don’t plan on simply killing you… what am I? A common barbarian?” he adjusted the cuff of his right sleeve and smirked. “No,” he murmured, “for what you’ve done… you don’t deserve to die.”
Her mouth fell open, and she could feel her common sense leaving her in a most un-Hermione-ish fashion. Straightening her back in defiance, she said, “you can’t do it; you can’t break my ‘concept’ of love. It’s not possible.”
Agilolf merely blinked at her, as though her words were oddly difficult for his brain to process. “I ‘can’t do it’?” he asked quietly, “You don’t think I can do it? Ms. Granger-”
“Ms. Granger, Ms. Granger!” she yelled, nearly echoing the distant memory she had of Draco saying something quite similar a long time ago. She grit her teeth against the sudden stab of pain in her heart caused by the thought of him. The anger brought on by that very notion spurred her forward; she knew she’d startled Agilolf with her volume, and she didn’t plan to stop there.
“Stop saying that!” she continued, leaping to her feet and balling her fists at her sides. “You think you know so much, well… heh…” her voice faded as the dark werewolf across from her felt his blood pressure begin to rise in suspicious dread.
“What was that, Ms. Granger?” he asked through his teeth. He came to his feet as well and darted a hand toward her, snatching her left arm painfully before she could evade him. He pulled her hand up and inspected it, the white of his eyes slowly darkening with a reddish hue. “Go on, Ms. Granger,” he hissed, “explain yourself.”
She gulped and squeezed her legs together, trying to stop the shaking that’d abruptly started in her knees. “Oh… I don’t really think that’s necessary; do you, Agilolf?” she forced the words out under a coating of false confidence.
“Hm…” he hissed, staring intently at the ring. “A family heirloom?” he asked quietly, tightening his strong fingers hatefully around her arm.
“You wish,” Hermione muttered. Nothing so lucky for you, you hideous monster, she thought with a fierce glare.
“A… gift from your parents?” his inability to unclench his jaw was almost humorous.
“A. Secret. Admirer?”
He punctuated his question by dragging her face closer to his, and she fought to remain calm. She lost the battle with her common sense and blurted angrily, “If that were the case, he’s not been very good at keeping his ‘admiration’ for me a secret-”
“You listen here, witch,” Agilolf crushed the bones of her wrist together as he yanked her body fully up against his own. “Your pretty little toes are dancing along the precipice of a world of pain; do you understand me?” She could only gasp in response, which was all he’d expected.
They can’t be! It’s not possible… It’s not bloody possible! His thoughts raced viciously through his mind as his gaze flicked back and forth from the massively significant ring on her finger, to her fierce, deep brown eyes. His pulse pounded out the truth; convicting him to his core. This is it, he knew. This is what I felt in the ballroom… what was different… changed. How the hell could I have let this happen?! Agilolf very nearly broke her arm in his rage. So help me, Merlin… she is going to regret-
Agilolf narrowed his eyes as he stared at her in focused astonishment, “what. Was. That?”
“I said, no,” Hermione grit her teeth against the pain and pulled her body away from his. She couldn’t break free from his volatile grip, so she had to settle for just getting as far away from him as she was physically able. His eyes burned into hers in his breathless fury. He simply couldn’t fathom her ceaseless ability to talk back to him.
“Let me get this straight, Ms. Granger,” in his anger Agilolf refused to refer to her in any other way. Stepping up to her, he once again eliminated the space between their bodies and proceeded to make her hideously uncomfortable. “You think, because Draco Malfoy is your soul mate… bonded to you through the Covenant and now…” he squeezed his eyes shut and choked out the rest of his sentence, “by marriage… you think that’s enough to stop me? My dear, I don’t give a damn if you magically become conjoined twins; there’s nothing that will stop me from wiping your presence from Draco’s mind, leaving him free to live the life he was meant for and to become the ultimate wolf he was designed to be.”
“Damn it, you fool!” Hermione shouted directly into his face. Her head and her heart both ached from his poisonous words, and the circulation to her left hand was nearly cut off by his iron grip, making her fingers turn white. “The blasted key to his ‘ultimate werewolf design’ is me! It’s because of the Covenant, because I’m his soul mate, that he’s so powerful! By separating us you accomplish nothing!” She was going too far, but try as she might, she just couldn’t stop the words from pouring out, “there’s nothing you can do to become as powerful as he is! He’s matchless! Unequaled! And you know it! You can’t possibly dream of reaching his level, unless, by some miracle, the Covenant fits you with someone as powerful as me!”
Hermione’s breathing came in ragged gasps as she stared him down. Mentally, she lambasted herself for having said so much, and she was terrified to know what the unpredictable fiend before her was going to do. At the moment, he seemed content to merely look at her without blinking. She wanted to scream, to cry and lash out at him with something large and heavy. She wanted him to look away, or at least blink, for Merlin’s sake. His grip on her arm loosened almost imperceptibly, but she was relieved to no longer feel her bones grind together.
“Well,” Agilolf spoke, startling out of her tiny solace-filled reverie, “I must say, your arrogance is almost as shocking as your ignorance.”
“It’s me, it’s me… blah, blah,” he glanced heavenward for a moment, but not before Hermione noticed a new emotion flick across his face. “Do you have any idea how much damage a person in my position could do with the information you’ve so generously just spouted off?” he took in her blank expression of horror and continued with a smile, “right… I thought not… or, let me guess: you, just couldn’t stop yourself?”
“Yes, I’ve heard it all before,” he flapped a hand at her before unexpectedly throwing her backward onto the chaise lounge. He swooped down over her, keeping one foot on the ground and bracing his knee on the opposite side of the piece of furniture. Hermione was both straddled and pinned by him, her shoulders trapped between his hands as he leaned over her.
“It’s quite hard to believe, you know. Draco Malfoy has become stronger than the rest of us… because of you?” Agilolf studied her with raised eyebrows and rolled his eyes. “Actually, I don’t remember the last time I heard anything so hilarious. All comedy aside, however, I must congratulate you for successfully planting the seed of a brilliant new plan into my brain,” he paused for a moment to watch her eyes widen in formidable anticipation. “Yes,” he mused, shocking her by running the back of his hand gently along her jaw, “you are quite beautiful, for all you’re a human. I wasn’t lying, you know… at the masquerade, when I mentioned making you my own little distraction. Now, it seems that your companionship as a soul mate comes with the added perk of a massive increase in abilities… I just wonder how none of us realized it sooner? All the scrutiny we put Draco under; we already knew he only responded to you…” Agilolf pursed his lips in contemplation as he gazed at her rapidly paling face, “but only now… only after cornering you, do all the pieces fall into place. Perhaps we were studying the wrong person all along.”
“No- I, no, Agilo-”
He took his hand from her jaw and smoothly placed it over her mouth, effectively muffling her words. “You’re finally starting to get it, aren’t you?” he asked slowly, a malevolent grin spreading across his face, “I. Will. Win. Merely breaking you of your ability to love seems so childish, now, almost… completely ineffective, even. When I think of how much more you’ll hate becoming my soul mate, and how you’ll feel… knowing that it’ll be thanks to you that I rose up as an unparalleled leader of a colossal wolf revolution… ahh,” Agilolf sighed, “it’s going to be beautiful.”
Hermione wriggled her head to the side and gasped, hot tears of rage burning behind her eyes. “No,” she whispered furiously, “you won’t succeed, Draco will-”
“Draco will what? What will he be able to do? He doesn't even know where you are,” Agilolf smiled at the thought of her misery, his sharpening teeth illustrating perfect malice. “If what you say is true, and you’re some sort of ‘key’ to his strength, maybe I don’t even need him, hm? In fact, he and I haven’t really gotten along, to tell you the truth. Perhaps after taking you completely as my own, I’ll save myself a load of unnecessary effort and just… eliminate him. With you at my side, it’s not like he’ll be able to stop me.”
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