Chapter 23 : Man Versus Beast
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A/N: I don't suppose any reader would be interested in finally seeing a little blood, eh? heh heh...
Draco Malfoy stood in front of Agilolf. He was the towering image of black that the dark werewolf had seen; had slapped. A flare of red radiated from the blonde man’s left cheek where Agilolf’s hand had connected in an angry stamp. His pale, feather-light hair moved in the strong breeze, glowing faintly in the emanation of the stars. His eyes locked fiercely with Agilolf’s, and for all the other werewolf knew, they could’ve been joint gateways to the underworld.
“Hello, Agilolf,” Draco’s voice was strong but quiet with fury, “surprised to see me?”
“You know that I am, bastard,” Agilolf spat, knowing that all games were over and the rules had been tossed out the window. “How did you find me? How did you get here? Between us?”
“Ask my wife,” Draco chuckled mirthlessly. “I’d assume it has something to do with the fact that I’m her soul mate, the one who’s spiritual sworn to love and protect her at all costs. You wouldn’t know anything about that, though, would you?” He glared at his enemy as he stood fully in front of Hermione, bracing her lightly against his back as she remained unconscious. I need to get her out of here, he knew, but as soon as I disapparate, this evil, cowardly git will escape. Behind him, Hermione gave a faint stir and a breath slipped from Draco’s lips. You did it, Mi, he proudly thought to her. You brought me here, nearly sacrificing yourself in the process. You called me here to protect you, and I’ll be damned if anybody’s going to get in my way.
“Oh yes, I’m sorry if my primary concern isn’t the state of your human wife,” Agilolf spat. His towering rage was noticeable in every sense.
Draco rolled his eyes in disinterest; he had no problem admitting to himself that his wife was, indeed, his primary concern. In a sleek movement, he slid his wand down his shirtsleeve and into his palm. While his hands were still at his back, holding Hermione steady, he gave his wand the barest of flourishes. Although his physical eyes were locked on his enemy, Draco’s internal vision was trained on his wife. Silently he wove intricate protective spells around her: protego totalum, cave inimicum… The words repeated themselves in his mind until they seemed to lose their meanings. Only when he could fully visualize her encircled in a golden ring of his protection could Draco bear to release her to the balcony floor. You just sit tight, Hermione, he thought to her. I’ll take over from here.
“Well, you may think you’re sorry, you great flaming git, but trust me, in a very short span of time… you’ll be regretting the day you were born,” Draco’s tone and his dangerously calm and honest expression left no room for argument.
Agilolf didn’t look like he was feeling too well. His whole body was shaking violently; Draco assumed that it was from a combination of cold, the change, and the realization that he was about to be thoroughly massacred. In the back of his mind, Draco had fleeting memories of what it would mean to him if Agilolf died by his hand, but he was too full of rage to focus on any of them. He briefly wondered why he wasn’t also racked by the force of the change, seeing as the full moon would soon be hanging over the cold sea.
Once again, it’s got to be because of her, Draco knew. She’s so bleeding brilliant; she doesn’t even have to be conscious to save my sorry arse, he nearly smirked as he thought about her. Her presence alone has always been enough to help me keep a clear head during the change. Now, with her blood running through my veins, I don’t even feel the pressure of the full moon. I almost feel… human again… like I can change whenever I choose to. Draco’s body stilled from head to toe as the incredible realization swept over him. I’m in control again… thanks to her. Total control… of my whole life. This is what Greyback meant… I’ll have no problem living a normal life, because of the Covenant. The curse of being a werewolf no longer has any power over me…
Agilolf, on the other hand, was a suffering from a different reality. Draco watched as steam began to raise in small puffs from the other man’s skin. He knew all too well just how much heat was coursing across his enemy’s flesh at that moment.
“You look a bit uncomfortable, Agilolf,” Draco said, not taking his eyes off the hated man. “However, I can’t say that you’re any more uncomfortable than you’ve made my wife… tearing off her shirt in this… wicked night air.” Draco spoke stiltedly through clenched teeth. He’d mustered a great deal of strength to force the words out; being in Hermione’s presence or not, nothing could change the fact that he wanted to throw caution to the winds and rip Agilolf’s head off.
“To real wolves like me, nothing is more comfortable than the change,” Agilolf snarled.
“Well that’s just too bad, then…” Draco trailed off.
After a short minute of silence Agilolf hissed, “and just what precisely, is ‘too bad’?”
“Well,” the silently furious young man pretended to examine his hand as he spoke, “that you’ll never experience the full change again, Agilolf.”
Draco abruptly rushed him, getting directly in his face. He grabbed the dark werewolf by the collar of his shirt and lifted him clean up from the ground. A slow smile spread across Draco’s face as Agilolf’s feet scrabbled for purchase on the cold stones of the balcony floor.
“You couldn’t just let things go, could you Agilolf?” Draco whispered, their faces inches apart. “You had to seek me out, ambush my house and my girl, and put us through your ludicrous paces. I told you that I didn’t remember my past with Greyback. I told you that I didn’t want anything to bleeding do with the clan, let alone take over as leader. But you couldn’t let it go… you couldn’t leave damn well enough alone!”
Agilolf would’ve responded, except he couldn’t breathe thanks to the iron grip Draco had on his throat.
“Now, it’s all got to be over for you,” Draco continued simply, his words rolling out with the terrifying calm that usually accompanies only the voices of sociopaths. “I certainly can’t have you flouncing around somewhere… alive. You’ve proven to me that you’re not only arrogant, but also oblivious to the actual truths of life and one hundred percent insane. Along with this fantastic write up, you’re also stubborn, so I know that you’ll never give up trying to become Master of the Universe. You’re a danger to any person unlucky enough to wind up in your path, and it’s my… regrettable task to do away with you.”
Agilolf gave a frenzied jerk and tore himself from Draco’s hold. He was scared. He couldn’t even admit it in his own mind, but seeing the look in that blonde man’s eyes put a terror through him that was unmatched. If he didn’t figure out how to escape, he knew that he would die. He put his bets on Hermione again even though he had to dodge around his frightening opponent to get to her. With an adrenaline-induced burst of speed, Agilolf dove for the comatose girl.
He should’ve known better; he should’ve known something would be different. The fact that Draco merely stood by and waited as Agilolf hurtled toward his wife should’ve sent some alarms off in the dark werewolf’s brain. Instead, his alert to the change in the situation came in the form of an electrified, concrete wall that smashed mercilessly into his head. That’s what it felt like to Agilolf, anyway.
Draco crossed his arms over his chest and watched as Agilolf’s stunned form was literally shot across the balcony. Like the total disgusting fiend Draco knew him to be, he’d attempted to go straight for Hermione again, most likely to use a shield, this time. The invisible field of protective spells that encased her glimmered faintly in the darkness, and Draco smirked. He saw Agilolf spasm slightly on the stone floor, a shock of electricity running through his skin. Draco knew it wouldn’t be long before the man changed.
As though on cue, the barest sliver of moonlight made it’s first peek above the horizon of icy seawater. Draco narrowed his eyes and moved over to his enemy before he got the chance to look up in the sky. No changing for you, just yet, Draco thought angrily. He took Agilolf’s dazed form by the shoulders and hefted him up once more, making sure to face him away from the moon. Situating his left hand around the other man’s throat, Draco balled his right into a fist and connected it swiftly with Agilolf’s jaw.
“Morning, sunshine,” Draco chuckled darkly, shaking out his fist and flexing his fingers after the wake-up punch.
Agilolf’s head jarred backward with the force of Draco’s assault; he let out a pained groan and turned his face to the side, spitting out a bit of blood. “Nice,” he growled, “so you plan on pummeling me to death? I thought you were a busy man, Draco; you can’t have that kind of free time.”
“Oh, but Agilolf, for you I’ll make an exception,” Draco retaliated, his mouth twisted in a furious grin. “I’ll have you know that I’ve had this beating lined up in my calendar for quite a while, now.” He then kneed Agilolf in the stomach, causing him to bend double, at which point Draco promptly backhanded him across the face and dropped him to the floor.
Agilolf gasped and spit out more blood. He grit his teeth in anger, before realizing that the action caused a tremendous amount of pain in his rapidly swelling jaw. He was about to laugh despairingly at his own plight, when he noticed the stark appearance of his shadow across the floor of the balcony. The stars aren’t bright enough to cast my shadow, he thought, excitement starting in his veins. That can only mean one thing…
Agilolf stood abruptly and turned, staring across the sea to the incredible moon that was slowly rising. His dark eyes locked onto it as he focused; the pounding of his pulse began to drown out the crashing waters below. As his teeth sharpened and his fingers grew razor-like claws, Agilolf spun suddenly and slashed out at his rival.
Draco leapt back, but not before receiving a shallow series of gashes across his chest. He gazed at them momentarily in a bit of surprise, but Agilolf didn’t have to wait long to get a more physical reaction from the provoked young man. Draco lunged at his adversary, but it was obvious that Agilolf was on his way to being totally in his element as he became more of a wolf. He danced backward lithely, just missing Draco’s grip.
“Ah, not so fast anymore, are we, Draco?” Agilolf hissed as he wove back and forth across the balcony in his wolf-ish form. “I must admit, I don’t know why you haven’t changed, yourself. Do you honestly think that you can defeat me as a mere human? What a sense of humor you have!”
A rough breeze picked up just then, coming in from the open sea and ruffling Hermione’s hair as she lay curled on her side. Draco glanced at her lovely, immobile figure, despising himself for everything she’d gone through. Even now, as he fought for her, he hated that she was still outside in the cold. His gaze lingered on her torn shirt and exposed skin; his blood began to warm up and his eyes glazed over in barely contained rage.
“Nothing to say, hm?” Agilolf chortled. The sound was odd coming from his body as his vocal chords shifted inside his throat. “You call me arrogant and stubborn; at least I own up to what I am!” Profound wrath rooted in envy fueled the vicious man’s words. If he’d been watching his quiet enemy more closely, he might’ve noticed the increasing pale of his skin as the blood drained from his face in a cold rush of anger. “I don’t scurry about, pretending to be something I’m not,” Agilolf continued in his mad oblivion, “pretending to be just a pissed off young man who can’t even keep track of his feeble, insignificant woma-”
Agilolf’s tirade was abruptly cut short as Draco slammed his fist solidly into the man’s venomous mouth. The mid-change werewolf reeled momentarily from the blow before clutching the side of his head and spitting out a tooth. A rough chuckle bubbled out from Agilolf’s lips and he brought his gaze over to Draco’s. Holding it for an uncertain moment, he swung forcefully at the younger man, catching him unexpectedly in the left shoulder and slicing his claws deeply through his skin and muscle. If Draco hadn’t had a supernatural sense of balance and strength, he’d have been thrown over the railing and into the frigid waters below.
Agilolf tossed his head back as a maniacal burst of laughter left his mouth, trailing off into a howl at the cloud-smattered sky. “Come on!” he urged, grabbing Draco by his shirt and pulling their faces together. “Do it! Change! Become the wolf you were born to be! Don’t let your life be dictated by some human female! I can see it in you… just dying to come out…”
Draco knew that Agilolf spoke the truth; he undoubtedly could see the wolf in him virtually clawing itself through his luminous flesh. Draco realized something, however. Agilolf assumed that he was physically fighting off the change that normally accompanied the full moon, presumably to stay sane enough to protect Hermione. As usual, Agilolf was completely mistaken. The only reason Draco felt the desire to change at all was to increase the simplicity of ripping out the jugular of the beast in front of him. As Agilolf stood snarling in his face, Draco came to a decision.
“No one dictates my life anymore, Agilolf. I thought we’d already covered this,” Draco took hold of the hand his enemy was using to grip him by the shirt and forced it away, tearing the garment in the process. “I turn whenever I choose to, remember? That’s the reason you’re so damn jealous of me. Well, that and my ability to keep a woman up all night, unlike yourself.”
The fiery blonde then skipped back, avoiding the sharp swipe of claws he knew would be coming from his thoroughly incensed adversary. Agilolf was nearing a complete transformation; how he managed to maintain any sense of self had to be due wholly to his incredible desire to take Draco down. He snarled and cursed, following the nimble man across the balcony as he snapped his jaws and leapt for his throat. A mass of clouds rolled suddenly across the night sky, covering the moon and plunging the fighters into darkness. Agilolf’s pupils widened as he peered back and forth in the night, trying to pinpoint Draco’s soundless movements.
In the blackout, Draco silently herded Agilolf up against the stone wall of the house. He used the sheer superiority of his mind over Agilolf’s to do this, making the other man feel increasingly and inexplicably more out of control due to his inferior senses. Just as Agilolf felt the roughness of the wall at his back, the cloud coverage dispersed and he found himself facing Draco head on.
With the rising moon as his spotlight, Draco glowed eerily like a ghostly angel of death. His hair haloed his coldly set face like a phosphorescent plume of foxfire, and his eyes hit Agilolf’s with all the mercy of a hurricane. Agilolf’s mind zipped back and forth between that of a man and that of a wolf. The familiar lack of coherence was taking over, and he spat at the grievous, unfathomable man before him. Standing as he was, Agilolf was the first to feel the reverberations through the wall as something or someone came hurtling through the room at his back and out the French doors onto the balcony.
“Draco! Look who regained consciousness all on her own, this time!” Lyulf announced as he stormed across the stones, dragging a squirming Faolan in his wake. “I used her to get here,” his mouth snapped shut and they both gasped, the sudden pull of the moon raking through their spirits and instantly affecting them as they entered into the night.
“And just what are you doing here?” Draco asked coolly, his limit for surprises having been breached hours ago.
“Agilolf!” Faolan took in her leader’s grim state and screeched.
“We’ve all heard enough from you to last a lifetime,” Lyulf cowed her into silence with a fierce stare and maintained his grip on her upper arm. More werewolves began to appear, some coming in from the room and others apparating directly onto the balcony.
“What the hell’s the meaning of this?” Draco shouted. As members of the clan crossed over to their whereabouts on the Bering Sea, they moved into the night straight from their previous location in the day. Manic glimmers lit their eyes instantaneously and they began to turn, transforming the balcony into a teeming mass of uncontrollable half-beasts.
“They’ve obviously followed us! I didn’t know how many men Agilolf had at his command here!” Lyulf yelled over the combined howling of the wind and the other occupants of the balcony. “I didn’t want to chance leaving you alone!”
“Well, you should’ve!” Draco snarled, not interested in having to dodge his way through a horde of lunatics to get to his unconscious wife. Thank Merlin she’s still under the protective wards, he thought with a trace of relief. In a mixture of aggravation and simmering rage he trained his vision back on Agilolf. The man was literally a moment from being no more than a snapping animal. Meanwhile, Draco remained as human in appearance as the day he was born. The dark werewolf leader was beside himself with unspoken jealousy and fury.
“Change, damn you!” he hollered madly as he did so, himself. “Fight me equally! Wolf to wolf! Mr. Self-Righteous; don’t tell me you’re not strong enough to face me as a wolf?!”
“On the contrary,” Draco whispered, his eyes glowing like molten silver. His last particle of patience evaporated as his voice frightened everyone within earshot with it’s deadly calm, “it’s you, Agilolf, who is not strong enough to face me as a man.”
Lyulf’s jaw went slack as he witnessed Draco let go of everything he’d been holding back. He knew in that moment precisely what had been behind all the terrifying noises that’d resonated from the foyer when he and Harry had attended to Ginny. He knew that Agilolf had never really stood a chance; that he’d only been postponing the inevitable and increasing the pain involved with his death by separating Draco from his precious soul mate and trying to toy with them. Lyulf knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that as a man… Draco was more formidable than any werewolf he’d ever seen.
Until the end of his days, Lyulf would never be sure which disappeared first: the wall, or Agilolf’s head.
Across the balcony, werewolves in varying states of transformation froze in shock as they realized what was happening. In one second Draco had stood with his hand at Agilolf’s throat, in the next Draco stood alone with a pile of rubble at his feet as the echoes of a mammoth crash rent the air. Dust and debris from the abruptly demolished stone wall floated across the frozen breeze; somewhere beneath it all was the body of their leader. Still within Lyulf’s grasp, Faolan choked out a sob, while Lyulf himself was thunderstruck.
“You’ve done it,” he gasped, sounding a bit unhinged in his rampant disbelief. “You’ve done it,” he repeated nonsensically. “I know you said you weren’t going to… you wanted to, but you didn’t want to… I distinctly remember you saying that. But now, you have. You did it. Draco, you did it. You’ve killed him- Agilolf- you know what this means…”
“Old man, I’d stop talking right now if I were you,” Draco’s voice was barely audible, yet it silenced every member on the balcony. He pushed past Lyulf and made his way to Hermione; the other werewolves instinctually moved aside to let him through. As he bent to scoop his wife’s still figure from the ground, he could hear Lyulf begin again.
“You know what you’re to do, now, Draco,” he said. “This is the largest clan assembled; you can’t leave us leaderless-”
“Then lead them your damn self!” the young man snarled, tightly clutching the girl in his arms to his chest.
“You know I can’t do that!” Lyulf cried. “It’s you! It must be you! You’re the only one who can take them all under your control, under your will! Don’t you see? It’s the dawn of a new era!”
“The only dawn I see is still a long time coming,” Draco replied impassively. Saying no more, he disapparated with Hermione into the night.
“Ginny’s going to be fine, Harry; don’t worry. About me either, by the way; you know I won’t mention a word of this to anyone. I realize that the Daily Prophet would still do whatever they could to print stories about you, famous as you are.”
Harry looked up from his seat beside Ginny and smiled a bit. “Thanks for this, Alicia. I knew she’d be fine… that she is fine… still, I really apprec-”
“I know, I know,” Alicia flapped a hand at him, “it’s good to have honest connections in life, and all, especially when everyone alive knows your name and could just be trying to get something from you.” She smirked at him as he nodded almost apologetically. “I like to help people, Harry; I always have. Just promise me you’ll never randomly barge into my office to give me a lecture about letting go of quidditch, like some ex-captains from Gryffindor have tended to do.”
“Wood still does that?” Harry chuckled. It felt good to laugh, to find something funny in general, even while thoughts of Hermione circled ceaselessly in his brain behind everything else.
“Yeah,” Alicia looked heavenward and laughed quietly along with him, “it’s like he wants to think that simply because I chose to be a full time healer, I have no time for recreational activi-”
“Healer Spinnet!” A young trainee nearly slid through the doorway in his obvious haste. “Ms. Spinnet, you’re needed on the second floor! A family of five with Vanishing Sickness came in, and now no one knows where they’ve gone off to!”
“All right, I’m coming,” Alicia replied calmly. Standing from her seat beside Harry, she gave him a humorous wink. “You hear that? A whole family that up and got themselves vanished. Does Oliver honestly think working at St. Mungoes is any less thrilling than quidditch?”
Harry chuckled again, and behind him he heard the trainee speak: “while you’re gone, would you like me to check on your patient here, Ms. Spinnet?”
“No, thank you, McCara,” she smoothed her eye-smarting green robes as she moved to the door, “this patient is under my personal supervision and is not to be disturbed.” As she turned to close the door behind her, Alicia’s eyes met Harry’s and she gave a him quick, encouraging smile. After that, she was gone.
Harry stared at the closed door for a moment as the growing silence began to ring in his ears. Sighing, he returned his gaze to Ginny. Her red hair fanned out against the stark white pillow under her head; her skin was still seemed a bit too pale. He squeezed her hand and was pleased to find it warmer than it had been just an hour before. Her breathing and heart rate had completely stabilized after a some treatment from Alicia; now all she needed to do was rest. Although Harry felt somewhat useless knowing there was nothing in particular he could do to help, the fact that she didn’t actually need anything more than his company relieved him to no end. With his thumb he stroked the back of her hand as he held it within his own.
You’re one of the strongest people I know, Gin, he thought as he watched her sleep. You can pull through anything. When this is over, I’m going to punch Malfoy in the face and then sweep you off to someplace brilliant where people love to be… maybe Tuscany or something-
He started at the sudden sound of his name. No one had entered the room… through the door, that is. As Harry straightened his glasses and looked around himself, his eyes landed on the spectral image of a chimpanzee. It crouched on it’s hind legs just beside the door and watched him with eyes full of secret knowledge.
“Lyulf… Lyulf’s Patronus,” the dark-haired man breathed. “Something’s happened, then. What is it? Have they found Hermione?” The primate stared at him thoughtfully, raising a few goose bumps along Harry’s arms. Wizard that he was, talking with Patronuses had always made him feel a bit odd.
“Harry Potter, I’m here to inform you that Hermione Granger has been found, and rescued-”
“Yes! Oh, thank Merlin!” Harry gave a shout before realizing that the ghostly chimp had yet to finish. “Oh… I’m sorry,” he cleared his throat awkwardly, “please, go on.”
It nodded at him slowly before continuing, “along with her, Agilolf Lykourgos has been found as well, and defeated by Draco Malfoy.”
Harry’s mouth fell open as he listened to the magical being speak. In the back of his mind he noted that he’d never heard Agilolf’s last name before.
“Leadership of the clan now belongs to Draco Malfoy,” the Patronus went on, “whose whereabouts, along with those of Hermione Granger, are currently unknown.”
“Leadership of the clan…” Harry repeated dumbly, “it really happened, then… bloody hell… Wait-” he sat up abruptly, “unknown? Lyulf doesn’t know where they’ve gone?”
“Not at this time,” it murmured. “The man named Draco Malfoy is yet disinterested in assuming his role as head of the clan. He retrieved his wife and fled my creator’s presence.”
Harry gave a confounded snort, “well, I certainly believe that- wait!” he reflexively reached forward as the Patronus began to flicker. “You’re leaving? There’s no more to tell?”
The vision of the chimpanzee began to fade as it nodded once again. “I have delivered my message,” it spoke solemnly. In another swirl of mist, it was gone. Harry blinked at the place where it’d been standing before rubbing a hand across his face.
“Did you hear that, Ginny?” he quietly questioned her unconscious form. “Malfoy did it; he ruddy well did it. I’ll bet he smoked the git, too,” he chuckled at the thought as the truth of it sank in. “I hope Hermione’s all right,” he mused. “Much as I hate to admit it, I know he’ll take care of her. I’ve seen him do some pretty fantastic things in a very short period of time, and all for her sake. I never would’ve believed a person could change so much, if I hadn’t seen it myself.”
“It’s almost like Sirius,” Ginny whispered unexpectedly. Harry jumped at her words, a wide grin spreading across his face as her eyelids fluttered open.
“Ginny,” he sighed, his heart wanting to burst. “Merlin, it’s great to have you back,” he rubbed a palm up and down her forearm, subconsciously eager just to feel her skin.
She reached over and patted his hand, smiling warmly. “Me, too,” she murmured, “did you get what I said, though? About Draco? Getting to know him, watching him… it’s made me think of Sirius.”
Harry grew quiet as she spoke of his godfather. The idea of comparing him in any way to Draco Malfoy rattled his senses. Clearing his throat, he asked, “how so?”
“Well, everyone believed Sirius was bad, because of things they thought they knew. It’d gone on that way for so long… twelve years; no one thought twice about the fact that maybe they didn’t have it right, or even if they had, that he could change. People just assumed they had him pegged.”
“Yes, but we did have Malfoy pegged,” Harry said with a vicious smirk, “ he honestly was a foul git from day one.”
“You’re speaking in the past tense, love,” she smiled wryly at him, “not one of us ever would’ve guessed he’d turn out the way he did… Hermione included.”
“Yeah, he did have to go through a fair bit to even get her to listen to him,” Harry laughed as he pictured Draco trying to find ways to convince the unshakable Hermione that he’d renounced his crappy old ways. “He found her, you know?” Harry said, still in awe of it himself. “Lyulf sent his Patronus along. Apparently Malfoy grabbed her and left; I’ll bet he was pissed beyond reason. It seems he just disapparated without a word.”
“What of Agilolf, then?”
“Dead,” he replied, nodding his agreement to her raised eyebrows and look of surprise. “That was how I looked when I found out, too. Malfoy’s the clan leader now, whether he likes it or not. Things have certainly taken quite a turn.”
They were both quiet for a moment as they digested the amazing news. Ginny stared at her husband as his vision seemed glued to the wall, yet focused internally on something much farther away. She patted his hand again.
“If Draco’s got her, then there’s nothing to worry about,” she whispered. “He’d die for her; he nearly did a couple of times. When he’s ready to bring her back, he will. It’s going to take a lot of getting used to, but we’re going to have to accept the fact that from now on, they’re the most important people in the world to each other.”
“That makes the rest of us all tied for second place then, huh?” Harry muttered, looking like a dad who was sending his little girl off into the world. “Not that I give a shite what Malfoy thinks of me,” he added sardonically.
Ginny laughed, and the sound alone was like a breath of fresh air to her husband. “I can settle for second place, I suppose,” she smiled. “Merlin knows we don’t really have a say in the matter… but that’s just what happens when two people fall in love.”
A/N: Lykourgos: (Greek) “wolf-worker”
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