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Chapter 22 : Survival Mode
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A/N: This chapter contains a fair amount of violence and some situations that may make a reader uncomfortable or ridiculously full of hatred for the notorious bad guy. Anyone with a heart condition or who's pregnant may want to- oh, who am I kidding? Read on with abandon and find out for yourself! *snicker*
I think I may have an idea of how to find her… I may have… idea… to find her… I have… to find her… Lyulf’s sentence echoed around in Draco’s mind until it broke, fragmenting into painful pieces that lodged into the young man’s consciousness.
“What?” Draco hissed, moving instantly from his place by the doorway to get directly in Lyulf’s face. He nearly gave the old man a stroke with his speed and the intensity in his gaze. Everyday Draco was intense enough, Draco Covered In Blood From Having Killed Several Werewolves With His Bare Hands was unbelievably more frightening, Lyulf decided. “What. Do. You. Know?” he continued, bringing his blood-spattered face closer to Lyulf’s with each word as it whispered out from between his sharp teeth.
“Uhh… ahem…” he cleared his throat and tried to take a step back, “F-Faolan… we could question her… she may know where he’s taken her-”
“And, where is Faolan?” Draco asked.
Draco was already halfway down the hall, and by the time Lyulf turned around, he looked ready to kick open the heavy double doors. Lyulf ran to catch him up, skirting the pile of rubble that remained on the floor and skidding to a halt beside the blonde just as he did indeed ram his foot against the door. They weren’t locked, and thus flew open instantly. Draco scanned the room before spotting Faolan and immediately moving to where her body still lay.
“Looks like Hermione did a fair job on her,” Lyulf commented, taking in the sight of the woman’s charred hair.
“Oh, Faolan,” Draco sang dangerously through his teeth. He knelt beside her and placed one hand behind her head, tucking the other at her back. He pulled her up into a sitting position and breathed, “Faolan? It’s time to wake up.”
“Mmm…” in his arms, she began to stir. Her head moved slowly to the side, and her eyelids began to flutter.
“Faolan,” Draco repeated softly, gazing intently at her face.
“I… hmm…” she finally opened her eyes, looking out across the ballroom in confusion. Her memories were fogged, and it took her a moment to understand that she was lying on the floor, with someone else supporting her. Turning her face slightly to see who that person was, her vision landed on Draco. Blonde… pale skin… who? Is that… blood? Oh, Merlin… silver eyes…
Draco knew the instant when her recollection of him washed over her. Her eyes grew as dark and round as two twin black holes, and her body jerked in an effort to escape. Her flesh was still captured in the throes of unconsciousness, however, and she could hardly coordinate her muscles, not that she could’ve freed herself from his grip, anyway.
“Ahh,” Draco sighed, a scary light burning brightly in his gaze, “you’ve woken up, I see.”
“D-Draco… Malfoy, I-”
“Shh,” he replied, shaking his head at her, “don’t talk, Faolan… unless I tell you to.” Suddenly his grip on her neck tightened, and she let out a squeak. “Now,” he said in a very low, very dangerous voice, “Where. Is. She?”
“Wha- what do you m-mean?” Faolan gasped out.
“Draco, she was defeated by Hermione before Agilolf disapparated,” Lyulf supplied quickly.
The young man took this into account and asked, “Now Faolan… if your master were to, say, abduct someone’s wife,” he paused to get himself under control, “where, do you think, he would go?”
“I… I don’t know… I don’t know!” she gasped, trying a bit more eagerly this time to free herself from his murderous clutches.
“You surprise me, Faolan, after all this time… ” Draco smirked and, instead of giving her a single inch, viciously pulled her body up flush against his own, “I thought you wanted to get closer to me.”
“What? Were you about to tell me where they are?”
“Where are they, Faolan?”
Her jaw moved silently and her eyes managed to grow even larger in diameter.
“WHERE ARE THEY?!”
Her body convulsed as Draco gave it a severe shake. He put his hands on either side of her head and stared directly into her eyes, their noses almost touching. In the background, Lyulf swallowed, not knowing what on earth to do. He had begun to pace back and forth, and gave a slight jump at Draco’s sudden shout.
“You will tell me,” Draco said, undoubtedly. He smoothed a hand back over Faolan’s head, securing it once again at the back of her neck while the other remained on her cheek. “Where Agilolf would be… describe it to me; what is it like there?”
“C- c-cold,” she stammered, her eyes nearly glazing over in fear.
“Cold? That’s good,” he continued to bore his eyes into hers and asked, “if it’s cold, is it anywhere near Britain? Or further away?”
“Hm, cold and far away… a different country, maybe? Am I right, Faolan?”
“...Yess,” she slurred, hardly able to blink in his mesmerizing gaze. In the background, Lyulf halted his pacing.
“How far?” When she remained silent, Draco gave her another, smaller shake, “how far, Faolan?”
“Very… far- too far… continent…” a tiny trickle of blood ran down from her right nostril and she slumped over, unconscious again.
“Damn it!” Draco yelled, releasing her to slide back to the ground as he stood up in a rage. “Damn it! We nearly had her, Lyulf! We could’ve gotten to Hermione!”
“Draco, I think-”
The sounds of thundering footsteps cut Lyulf off. An approaching band of people, most likely trespassers, made as much of a racket as an elephant stampede. Draco snorted; at least Agilolf’s goons have given up trying to pull any surprise tactics, he thought. Moments later, the fresh backup from the clan swarmed into the room. Thoroughly surrounding the two rogues in a fast circle, they stood their ground, waiting for Draco or Lyulf to make a move.
Sweet Merlin tell me he’s not saying what I think he’s saying… After ‘taking me completely as his own’? No… oh, no…
Hermione tried to relax her muscles as she remained pinned beneath her vicious captor on the chaise lounge. She wanted to simultaneously conserve a bit of strength and, if possible, fool Agilolf into thinking she was giving up. She’d never been one to take part in physical fights; she was much better with her wand, or her brain. In her current situation, her brain was all that she had left in her arsenal, and subsequently, she began to strain it like she never had before.
If he thinks I’m just going to let him stake some bestial claim on me, just because he’s a hideous, narcissistic tyrant-
Hermione’s thoughts were cut off by the sudden chiming of a large clock, located somewhere in the room. She couldn’t see it from her twisted position on the lounge, but she counted it’s chimes, hoping to eke some small amount of information from her surroundings. It went on and on, much too long, it seemed, finally stopping after eight chimes. Eight? She thought. How on earth can it be eight o’clock? It must be morning, by now…
“You look so puzzled, my dear,” Agilolf stated with an oily grin; he knew full well that the clock had caught her off guard. He twisted a finger through her hair and inhaled deeply, taking in her fresh scent. “You’re like a little deer, all wide-eyed and lost-”
“Don’t touch me,” Hermione spat. She immediately smacked his hand away and pushed him hard in the shoulders, surprising him enough to actually be able to escape from under him.
“Where do you think you’re going to go?” Agilolf asked with a laugh. He watched her run to the windows, and was impressed to see that she’d discovered the French doors. In a flurry Hermione took hold of the golden handles with both hands. Without the smallest glance in Agilolf’s direction, she yanked on them hard, and was amazed when they opened smoothly. She very nearly tossed herself outside with her unnecessary force.
It was cold. Hermione couldn’t remember ever having been so instantly frozen in all her life. Wind whipped around her, knotting her hair without delay and making her ears ring; she shivered. The sky was pitch black and baby stars were beginning to twinkle just up past the horizon. What’s going on…? Hermione thought, her throat choking in a subconscious sensation of dread. The sky shouldn’t look like that… not if it’s eight o’clock… A violent series of crashes came up from somewhere below her, and she jumped. As her eyes adjusted to the engulfing darkness, Hermione realized that she was on a large balcony.
Resisting the stabbing cold, she moved out to the balcony’s edge. The crashing around her was so loud that she couldn’t even tell if Agilolf had followed her; she felt like she was going deaf from it all. As she grabbed hold of the thick stone railing, Hermione looked down.
The ocean, she thought, knees weakening. I’m on some sort of cliff, hanging over the ruddy ocean… or at least, an immeasurably large body of water. The drop from the balcony was about fifty feet, and directly below Hermione’s trembling frame was a malevolent, churning mass of black water. She watched it in a combination of awe and terror, wondering how on earth she would escape from such a secluded place.
“It’s breathtaking, isn’t it?” Agilolf asked, strolling out onto the balcony behind her.
Well, it’s certainly cold enough to freeze my lungs, thus preventing any further attempts at breathing, if that’s what you mean, Hermione thought caustically to herself. She wasn’t remotely interested in speaking to him.
He seemed unsurprised by her lack of response, and continued, “can you feel the air, Ms. Granger? Can you sense the incredible charge? I do so love this place… and soon, I know you will, too. Sometimes… one just needs immediate access to… the night. Do you know what I mean?”
“No,” she murmured, refusing to go in the mental direction in which he wanted to lead her.
“Oh, I think that you do.”
“No, I don’t.”
“And you do remember what happens on this particular night, don’t you, Ms. Granger?”
“No,” Hermione said again, biting her bottom lip to keep the tears from spilling out. “It’s not even night… it… it can’t be-”
“It can, and it is… here. You see, not all of us are as gifted as Draco, able to turn in the blink of an eye-”
“You don’t know anyth-”
“Therefore,” Agilolf went on, raising his voice to speak over her, “some improvisation is, at times, necessary.”
Hermione closed her eyes and shook her head. She felt like she was drowning in a spiral of despair. She felt the wind accompany his approach, but she still wasn’t fast enough to dodge his grasp when he reached her on the far side of the balcony.
“Agilolf,” she said quickly, trying to think of a way to remove herself from his clutches.
“I enjoy the sound of my name from your mouth,” he said, in a voice barely audible over the sound of the crashing waves.
“You can’t do this… you can’t-”
“I also enjoy proving people wrong,” he smiled evilly. “I ‘can’t do this’ you say. Why not? Why not just take what I want? Why not just pull the magic right out of you… your bond with him, your love.” Agilolf stared hard into her eyes while he spoke, watching the way she absorbed his poison and seemed able to throw it right back at him with her expression alone. She hated him. She feared him. It was even possible that she’d kill him to get away, if he ever gave her the chance. He could tell.
“Tonight is the full moon,” he continued, “and here, on this balcony, in this house so very far from any possible help for you in the entire world, it’ll come faster than you think.”
Hermione could only gasp as she bit back the sob that was trying to betray the confines of her throat.
Agilolf’s horrible words didn’t stop, “in less than an hour, really… and we couldn’t have a more perfect night. Wait until you see it; the brilliant white orb hanging low in the sky, it’s radiance reflecting on the water and turning the raging waves into the surface of a far away planet. You’ll soon love it more than anything you know.”
Her mind reeled. An hour?! Less, even… less than an hour… what’s going to happen to me? Hermione wondered how much of her fear was written on her face, but she tried not to think too much about such a seemingly uncontrollable thing. His tone held a nuance that sent shivers along her back, shivers that had nothing to do with the cold or even her mortality. “Love what, exactly?” she whispered cautiously, “the… the full moon?”
“You should consider yourself lucky, actually,” he replied enigmatically, “honored, even. You should know, Hermione, that I only bite to kill; it’s a very rare thing for me to make exceptions.”
“No… no. No-” Hermione could no longer hold the sobs back. It was real. It was really happening. She was really in danger; she was about to be turned by the most monstrous werewolf she’d ever met, other than Fenrir Greyback himself. He wants to turn me… he wants to bite me… put his teeth into my skin, change me forever… No-no-no-no! Hermione’s thoughts were starting to churn inside her mind, very like the freezing waves beneath her feet. No! She screamed mentally. No! Oh, Merlin… Draco! Why aren’t you here? You need to be here! I need you, Draco!
Hermione didn’t realize that she’d begun to strain against the terrible hold he had on her. Agilolf had her gripped relentlessly by the shoulders, and she pushed him violently. She couldn’t cry, couldn’t scream… could hardly even think in the blistering cold and desperation that wracked her to the very core. One hideous thought circled throughout her consciousness like a vulture, searching for carrion: Agilolf was winning.
“I’ve told you before, so many times. I will win. I always win,” he murmured, as though he’d read her mind. He pulled her body straight up against his own and whispered right into her ear, “go ahead, Hermione; struggle. Struggle for me. I’m going to sink my teeth into that perfect neck of yours. I’m going to turn you… make you mine and take you. When I’m finished with you, it won’t matter who you’re married to. No one will be able to touch you after I’ve claimed you as my own.”
“No,” Hermione sobbed. It seemed to be the only word that would still come out of her mouth. She squeezed her eyes against the pain of the situation: Agilolf’s embrace, his words, and the cold, cold night air. Don’t let him, she told herself. Don’t let him do this to you! You can’t let him, Hermione! You belong to Draco… only Draco…
“…Only Draco…” she found herself murmuring.
“What?” Agilolf asked, feeling an odd sting.
“Only Draco…” Hermione repeated, then again with more volume, “only Draco. I belong to only him… you can’t do this, you really can’t-” she was gaining momentum as her confidence surged.
“What is your point, Ms. Granger?” Agilolf hissed.
“I’m already his,” she announced fiercely, holding her head high. “His blood is already in my veins… in my heart. You have no claim to stake.”
“I wouldn’t count on that,” he snarled, keeping her body tight against his. “There’s more than one way to claim a woman… and it has nothing to do with your precious heart.” He wrapped his right hand viciously around the shoulder of her sweatshirt. In a savage movement, he ripped hard on it. The material easily tore; the violent sound hung meaningfully in the air before being swallowed by the raging waters of the night.
Hermione was struck by a blast of frigid air against her now barely covered skin. Her thin tee-shirt did little to protect her from the elements, or the beast of a man in front of her.
“Don’t touch me-”
Her words failed as he sank his fingers into the curls at the nape of her neck. He took hold of her hair brutally and pulled back her head, using her moment of vulnerability to rent the rest of her sweatshirt from her body. Hermione’s scalp was on fire; it felt oddly incongruent with the raging cold that surrounded her. Tears of pain and humiliation burst from her eyes as Agilolf cruelly hurt her. The neck of her tee-shirt had gotten torn in the process, and it hung limply over one shoulder. Her pale neck and collar bone appeared to glow in the heartless light of Agilolf’s eyes.
“You can’t touch me-” she gasped, before sucking in a breath and screaming it again, “you can’t touch me!!”
“You can’t! You can’t touch me!”
“Shut. Up!” Agilolf grabbed what remained of her collar and yanked her face to his. Hermione’s eyes blazed with fury as she stared him down. Draco! Her thoughts exploded out across the space between them like a burning torch; Draco, you’d better figure something out right now! I need you, Draco!
In the ballroom, Draco twitched. Something odd had brushed through him, like a tiny bolt of lightening. Shaking his head briefly against it, he focused his attention on the horde of werewolves that now stood around him and Lyulf. “What, exactly, do you expect to accomplish by doing this?” He asked, bristling at their appearance as his irritation skyrocketed.
“We follow Agilolf’s orders,” a man with burnished hair replied staunchly.
“Not for long,” Draco countered, “didn’t you make it through-” he stopped abruptly as the spark struck his body once again. What the hell…? He thought. He clenched his fist briefly before speaking again, “ehh… make it through the entryway with your eyes open?” he asked. “Or did you fail to notice all of your fallen comrades?” As they stared at him as though he were missing a few brain cells, Draco added angrily, “I swear, each wave of Agilolf’s lackeys gets thicker and thicker!”
“Oi! Shut your mouth, blondie!”
“Blondie?” Draco repeated, his eyebrows raising higher than ever in his total disbelief. “… Blondie?! Listen here, you empty-skulled, maniac-worshipping moron! When I’m finished with him, there won’t be enough of your leader left to cast a shadow!”
Before the copper-haired werewolf knew what was coming, Draco was directly in front of him, grasping him by his collar. He was of a considerable height, taller than Draco’s five feet, eleven inches by at least six more inches. Naturally, nothing so completely insignificant would ever cause the fiercer of the two to hesitate. What would, however, was the shock of a twinge of electricity hitting Draco’s skin like a fiery brand. It seared into his flesh, his name… in her voice…
He gasped, trying to hold onto the miscreant in front of him and not topple over in awe. He whipped his head around and gazed over at Lyulf, his eyes speaking volumes.
“Draco?” Lyulf asked.
The blonde man’s eyes shimmered over in concentration and wonder as another spasm lit across his skin.
“It’s her-” he gasped.
-I need you-
Draco’s muscles clenched as he fell to his knees, no longer able to understand the concept of standing under the increasing pressure of her electric voice. He raised his head to gaze at his hand. Somehow, the shirt of the werewolf he’d apprehended had slipped through his fingers, as though he’d been holding water. His hand flickered like a flame… or a mirage.
He could see through it.
As his flesh changed impossibly before his very eyes, Draco murmured, “Lyulf? Ehh… any thoughts on this new development?”
The old werewolf could only stare. He glanced wildly around the room and confirmed what he’d assumed: all of the onlookers, himself included, were completely flabbergasted. He worked his adam’s apple and only managed to gasp out a few words, “I… I truly don’t know.” He swallowed and tried again, “I can’t believe it. Draco, I think… I can only imagine… I think your wife-”
“Oh, I know it’s my wife,” Draco said, marveling not only at the rapid disappearance of his legs, but also the wave of calm that hit him just by speaking of her.
Lyulf bit his bottom lip anxiously. “It is? You know it?” Lyulf covered his cheeks with his hands, before running them distractedly through his hair, making it stand out at odd angles. “Draco, it’s your bond, and your blood… it must be; there’s no other explanation.” The old scholar’s words tumbled out quickly before the man he was speaking to disappeared entirely, “you should know, she’s got to be doing this subconsciously, which means she must be in terrible danger… or worse. Under what other circumstances would she even think to try such a phenomenal thing?” He paced crazily for a few steps as he tried to get the incredible information to sink in.
“Well, Lyulf,” not much of Draco remained, but still, in such a situation, he managed a wicked smirk, “I’ll be sure to let you know.”
Something was nagging at Lyulf’s mind. A series of facts snapped into place suddenly, and he tried to blurt them out while he had the chance, “Draco! I think I figured it out! Where she is- where you’re… going… the meeting house Agilolf had specially built… It’s very far, on the frozen coast of the B-” Lyulf broke off with a small sigh when the next moment saw Draco gone, completely vanished into thin air. The werewolves in the ballroom all just stared… at the spot where he’d been standing, and at each other. Not only had no one ever seen such a thing before, no one had even imagined it could be possible. In the resonating silence, Lyulf discreetly made a fist at his side and thought a bit of victorious encouragement to the young man who’d just been before him.
Go get her, Draco, he thought with a fierce smile. Go rescue your girl.
“You’re not thinking of jumping, are you?” Agilolf chuckled darkly as he kept Hermione wrapped viciously in his arms. He studied her as she stared at the waves just on the other side of the stone railing. Judging by her resolute expression, he wasn’t far off the mark. “I assure you, my dear, the bitter waters of the Bering Sea are even less forgiving than I am,” he murmured.
It should’ve meant something to her that he felt assured enough of his victory to reveal their location. It would’ve meant something ordinarily, but she was barely listening to him anymore. She was concentrating instead on the sudden, inexplicable tingles she felt racing all throughout her skin. Her breath rushed out of her lungs heavily, creating an icy fog that hung in the air between her face and Agilolf’s. His right hand gripped the meager, torn fabric of her collar while his left was wrapped mercilessly around her waist to keep her body pressed against his own. She watched as his eyes changed; his pupils grew unbelievably wide in the last black moments of the night before moonrise.
Along with the tingles came an unprecedented wave of exhaustion. She nearly gasped as her bones began to ache; she felt like she was trying to swim her way to the surface of a lake of tar. Oh… what is this? I can- I can hardly breathe… If Agilolf hadn’t been supporting her in his vicious grasp, she’d have certainly collapsed. As it was, she lost any and all physical strength she may’ve used to fight her way free as her knees buckled and she lost her balance.
“Ah, giving up so soon?” Agilolf asked, his voice seething through canines that were beginning to resemble razors.
She inhaled again, determined to fight him all the way, no matter what happened in the end. “You’ll never take me,” she hissed, spitting directly into his face. His grip on her collar loosened for a fraction of a second, but in her weakened state, he was still able to prevent her from escaping. As she gave a single, frenzied thrash to pull herself away, she caught sight of his face.
Within minutes the moon would be rising up from the horizon. Despite the hideous chill in the air, Agilolf’s shirt was soaked in sweat and sea spray, his face glowing with the internal heat of the change. An angry, animalistic fire lit behind his eyes, and he looked ready to snap.
“I do believe that’s the second time you’ve spat in my face, Ms. Granger,” his voice carried a deadly edge.
Hermione said nothing, trying desperately to keep her leaden eyelids open. What in Merlin’s name is happening to me? She wondered. Have I got hypothermia? Yes, that could be it… A weird space was growing within her, in front of her. Black dots burst in front of her eyes and she let out a choking cough as her heart seized erratically. She tried to focus on the danger Agilolf presented in front of her, but her senses were growing numb. He was speaking again; his words seemed to be floating toward her from somewhere far away, as though she were at the bottom of a well. Do I have a balloon in my chest? Hermione wondered idly, her thought process completely discombobulated. Her brain went into survival mode as it rifled through everything she’d ever experienced, trying to match what was currently happening to something that she knew or could understand.
“Are you even listening to me?” Agilolf yelled, giving her limp form a sudden shake. “You really don’t want to miss this, you know… it’s almost time…” The evil smile that’d been growing across his face froze at her whispered words:
“Go… go to hell, Agilolf…”
That was it; that was all she had left. The last thing Hermione saw was Agilolf pulling back his hand, obviously preparing to slap the last of her lights out. I’ll bet he hits hard… she thought, her mind fuzzing at the edges as her consciousness drifted away on the harsh wind.
Agilolf was mad. He was furious. Hermione hung back against his hold, totally vulnerable and exposed. He could sense the oncoming moon, and he wasn’t sure if he had the control to just bite her and not fully rip out her throat in the process. She made him so angry. He wanted to smack her smart mouth back into awareness; he didn’t want her missing a moment of his triumph.
As he put power into his right arm and readied himself to swing, Agilolf felt something… change. Hermione’s body slid backward, not roughly, but as though she were simply floating out of his hold. Startled, he reached for her, but something was wedged between their bodies… something utterly immovable. Agilolf could think of no way to react to such an inexplicable situation. He leaned again toward Hermione as she stood so close to him, yet out of his grasp.
“What the bloody hell?! Arghh!!” he stopped trying to reason with himself and squeezed his eyes shut in a combination of rage and madness brought on by the coming moon. Pulling back his arm to the furthest point, Agilolf gathered his strength and let loose a wild swing.
Agilolf’s eyes remained shut as he inhaled deeply and tried to center himself. He wondered if he’d taken her head off. An odd feeling grew inside his chest, a feeling that told him not to open his eyes.
The wind howled across the balcony, bringing with it the icy danger of the open sea. Agilolf slowed his breathing and placed a hand upon the roughly hewn railing. The cold air stung the inside of his nose, simultaneously bringing a sharp bit of relief to his burning skin. He lowered his gaze calmly before deciding to open his eyes to the night. Agilolf’s brow furrowed in slight confusion as his vision landed on the base of a black pillar suddenly before him. Black…? He thought. Shiny black? Agilolf realized that he was looking at a pair of shoes. As he began to move his gaze upward, his hand gave a sudden throb where he’d hit her.
His hand gave a sudden throb where he’d hit… him.
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