Chapter 20 : Perdition
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The light crept a few inches forward before Anaxandra regained some control over her fingers, using touch to get an idea of her surroundings. Anxiety writhed in her stomach. The floor was poorly done cobblestone, but she knew that already. What didn’t she know yet? Her back felt uncomfortable with uneven pressure. The walls were also cobblestone. Her wrists were bound in wide shackles, restricting wrist movement. There was a single wooden door across from her. No iron bars, no torches, and no visible guard. If this wasn’t a dungeon, what was it?
A groan cut through the silence like a blade through warm butter. Chains jangled and metal scraped against stone as, just across from her, a pale hand reached for the light on the floor.
“Draco?” she asked, trying to adjust her blurred vision.
“Ana?” The fingers tried reaching farther, grasping at the air, but were held back by chains. “Merlin, Ana. Are you all right? Where are you? I can’t… I can’t see you.”
“I’m here,” she said, using her newfound strength to lean forward. “I’m alright. Are you—“
The door creaked open, revealing a pair of creatures—the “monsters.” They sniffed the air, hissing at one another as they split up and approached Anaxandra and Draco separately. She thought they came to kill them, but the creatures did nothing more than yank their chains from the wall. They pulled them up and lead them out the door, like stubborn old dogs on leashes, tugging every so often to ensure the pair followed as they should.
The corridor they were led into was short and sparsely lit. Anaxandra spotted three more wooden doors in addition to the one they just exited—two on each side. Her gaze immediately shot to Draco, who seemed to have been unscathed, thank Merlin. His eyes met hers, showing worry buried underneath mustered courage.
Another jerk of her chain prompted her to start walking again as the creature led her to the end of the hall, down a set of stairs, and into another room. This one was larger, more open. A gap in the ceiling acted as a spotlight, flooding in the same dim light as the previous room. She could hear the hisses and growls of other creatures surrounding them, clawing at stone, snapping their jaws.
“Is that you, Anaxandra?” A familiar voice snaked its way to her ears, churning her stomach. “Oh my goodness, it is! I’m so glad you could make it, darling!”
Into the light stepped the owner of the voice, with her slender frame and heart-shaped face that were identical to Anaxandra’s. Confusion coiled around her brain as she took in the sight of her mother, cloaked in her usual cherry blossom pink dress—frayed hem, cap sleeves, and silver buttons.
Her full lips curved into a sinister smile. “Well, aren’t you going to say something?”
“Mum?” Anaxandra choked out the name as her mother’s floral scent wafted her way. “What’s… How—”
“Oh, no sweetie! I’m not your mother,” the woman laughed, brushing her midnight hair over her shoulder. “I just chose this form to make you feel more comfortable. Don’t you like it? I took it from your memories while you were asleep.”
“What are you?” Anaxandra watched as the woman circled her under the spotlight of the hazy, gray light outside and walked back into the darkness. Her mind raced frantically, desperately trying to find an answer, an explanation, as to what this was.
“I’ll let you figure that out for yourself,” boomed the voice of her father, as he walked into the light, wearing his old denim trousers and dark blue jumper. It was the same outfit he wore on their training days. “I know you’re a smart girl, Nyx.”
“Stop it,” Anaxandra commanded. Her jaw tightened as he scratched at his beard.
“I’m only trying to make you feel comfortable, Nyx. You know, be a gracious host.”
“Don’t you dare call me that,” she raged through gritted teeth, trying to pull on her chains but a much harder tug back caused her to falter.
He smiled, his eyes rolling back and closing before taking a deep inhale through the nose. A dark laugh pierced the room as he stepped up to Anaxandra, looking down upon her with a playful expression. “Why not? I like it! It’s much easier to say than ‘Anaxandra’, and prettier than just ‘Ana.’ Blech,” he snorted, amusing himself. “Come on! Don’t give me that look. I’m only teasing you, just like your father would do. I think I’m really getting in character, don’t you?”
A sly grin hidden beneath a scruffy, red beard spread across his face as he slowly turned and walked into the darkness again. She winced as a tightness in her chest climbed to her throat, fusing guilt with anger, mingling self-hatred with confusion.
“Oh dear, I seem to have forgotten all about Draco.” A symphony of hisses filled the room as a pale man emerged from the shadows, his features sharp and skin pale. His face was tired. Deep, dark circles lay beneath his eyes and his pale blond hair was messily strewn about, but beneath this mask of exhaustion, she saw the striking resemblance to the man on her left.
He tapped his walking stick on the ground a few times before tossing Draco a devilish smirk. “It is a good host’s duty to tend to all guests.”
Anaxandra struggled to see Draco’s face, as he had turned away from his father. The creature yanked his chains hard, forcing him to look forward again. Tears brimmed in his eyes as he stared up at the man, lip quivering. This pleased the man, his perfect row of white teeth gleaming in the light. He bit his lip in excitement.
“You know,” the man started, tossing his walking stuck up in the air and catching it mid-shaft, “I have taken a good look around in both of your memories, and I must say, you two are quite fascinating. Take sweet, innocent Anaxandra for instance.” He pointed his walking stick at her, nearly touching the silver snakehead to her nose. “Anaxandra Synder. Named for her grandmother and the goddess of night. Born during a meteor shower to Vera and Phillip Synder. A Hunter—the warriors of Mother Nature. The first female Hunter in four hundred years, to be precise. How extraordinary! See, now I understand your name because at first I just thought it was odd, but well, anyways. ”
The man walked back into the darkness, only to emerge moments later as a woman. Her blond hair was pinned up in an elegant braid, her cheekbones sitting high upon her long face. The robes she wore were of the finest silks; even Anaxandra could see that. She was much younger than the man who appeared before her, yet her bone structure was very similar to Draco’s. Was this his mother?
“Draco Malfoy. Named after the constellation—oh you must love that, don’t you Nyx? Born to Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy as their only child. Only child, privileged, and arrogant to boot. No wonder you’ve got a head full of guilty memories! Your kind makes the best bullies. I’ve seen my fair share of memories to know. You must have really scarred some poor, innocent souls for life, haven’t you?”
Pity blossomed in Anaxandra’s chest as she caught glimpses of Draco from the corner of her eye. His head was bowed, expression pained with each word that flowed from the young woman’s mouth.
“So you know us,” she rasped, glaring at the blond beauty before her, “but we still don’t know you.”
“Stop being so lazy, Nyx. Figure it out for yourself. Here, I’ll buy you some more time. While you figure out who I am, I will do a little secret telling. Think of it as forced couple’s counseling. After all, you’ve both come to care for each other so much, I don’t think it’s very becoming of either of you to keep secrets.” The woman threw her head back and laughed, pulling out a few pins and letting her fair fall over freely down her back. “Let’s start with the blond, shall we?”
“Why are you doing this?” Anaxandra asked, tears threatening to roll down her cheek. “Why don’t you just kill us and be done with it?”
Unanswered questions snaked their way through her thoughts, constricting her mind until she felt as if she would overload. The shape-shifting, the mind-reading, obviously intelligent, utilizing a complex thought process and well-developed personality. Either too sheltered and secluded to ever be documented, or kills those who stumble upon it. A boisterous, thriving population or strength in fewer numbers. Too many unknown variables to piece it together and that scared Anaxandra. The unknown was a dangerous place to be.
The woman touched her hand to chest, an offended expression contorting her regal features. “My dear, I wouldn’t want to kill you just yet! Torturing you is only half the fun.” She inhaled deeply. “Praise the heavens, I feel better than ever!”
The creature shoved Draco into the spotlight, causing him to fall to his knees. Anaxandra went to move forward—to remain beside him—but was held back. He raised his head only once to give her an apologetic look before letting it fall again.
“A little boy who looks up to his father and does anything to please him. Isn’t that right, Draco?” The blond woman circled Draco, smiling as his tears began to flow. “You did everything in your power to make daddy proud: getting sorted into Slytherin, getting top marks in school, becoming a prefect, and let’s not ignore the fact that you became a Death Eater.”
A pregnant pause hung in the air as the woman shot Anaxandra a wicked smile before disappearing into the shadows and reappearing as the one wizard everyone knew. Voldemort.
“Ever seen his arm, Nyx? He’s still got the mark to prove it.” He raised Draco’s arm and tugged at his sleeve, revealing the hideous tattoo that Anaxandra knew all too well. She had seen that symbol floating above her mission sites more than she cared to remember.
“Don’t fret, girl. He’s never killed anyone. Too much of a coward; something I think you both have in common! All the bonding that’s taking place is bringing a tear to my eye.” Wiping an imaginary tear from his cheek, he changed forms again into Anders. “You’re a bit of a daddy’s girl yourself, aren’t you?”
Anaxandra was thrown to the ground next to Draco, her knees shattering against stone.
“Always trying so hard to be the Hunter your brother and father are, but you’ve always been a bit…faulty is the word you like to use.”
Her blood ran searing hot through her veins, pumping nothing but anger through her body. She struggled hard against her chains, fighting to get to her tormenter, but she did not move even an inch. Anders’s form did nothing but chuckle lightly at her fury, licking his lips with each tug of her chains.
“But you know, I don’t think those secrets are good enough to really test your compatibility. Draco, care to share?”
Draco stayed silent, his body trembling as they were forced to face each other. He refused to look up at her as his tears dripped to the floor.
“Aww, looks like he’s too embarrassed.” His form had changed again, and this time it was the beautiful brunette in the silver frame at Draco’s office. She was much younger than in the photograph, though. No laugh lines and she had fuller cheeks. “That’s alright. I can do it for him.”
She kneeled down next to him, walking her fingers across his shoulders until her arm was draped around him. His hands were clenched so hard that his knuckles were white.
“Nyx, did you know,” the velvety voice inquired, hugging him tighter, “that Draco only used you to get a promotion at work so that he could spend time with his precious fiancé?”
Now Anaxandra was trembling, but it wasn’t out of sadness, it was out of anger. She was at a crossroad of sorts, deception forking one way and regret down another. Her trust—the trust she vowed to never give him—had been crushed. He had occupied her thoughts for more hours than she dare admit, thinking of him in ways that… She thought she was special! He never mentioned a fiancé. She knew he was cunning after finding those documents, but she disregarded it for his charm, his certain way of looking at her, the way his gray eyes caught hers, causing a spark that set a flame to those feelings of contempt, burning to ashes and being reborn as compassion—as love that battled this lonely ache.
“And Draco, did you know that sweet Nyx only became close to you so that she could get information for her little revenge mission on me?” The beauty leaned over and kissed him on the cheek lightly, causing him to look away. “And when that failed, she was going to use you as bait on this mission. She was totally prepared to leave you for dead.”
“That’s a lie,” Anaxandra seethed, praying that Draco wouldn’t listen to her. Love was winning. “I would never—”
“Oh, but you would. I’ve seen it in your mind.”
“Draco, don’t listen to her. She’s lying!” Anaxandra begged him, trying to meet his eyes, struggling to light their spark.
“Am I? If it weren’t for the fact that Anders wouldn’t allow it—Hunter code and all—you, Draco, would be in his place.”
“TELL ME WHAT YOU HAVE DONE WITH MY BROTHER!” Anaxandra screamed, upsetting the creatures that still encircled them. They screeched until the brunette spoke again.
“No need to yell, you’re upsetting the children!” She boomed, scowling. “He’s fine. Along with your father and your sister.”
“Oh, I killed her ages ago,” she sang, licking her lips. “You should have seen your father’s face when I took his dagger and slid it—”
Anaxandra couldn’t take it. She growled, bursting into her wolf form and baring her teeth, trying to lunge at the woman. The creature still held her back as her nose came within inches of her, snapping her jaws. Snarls and screams echoed throughout the room as Anaxandra threatened to bite her throat, but she did nothing but laugh. Draco jumped back, terrified at Anaxandra’s unfolding. It was only when she witnessed the fear in his eyes that she changed back, doubling over to sob.
“Shh, no crying. Everything will be over soon.”
When Anaxandra turned her gaze upward at the familiar voice, she found herself speechless. Long auburn hair, slender frame, piercing gray eyes—it was her, but older. Same button nose, same mouth, same everything. There was a bow and arrows slung over her shoulder, knives situated in the belt on her waist. Her bow was full of notches—sweet reminders of successful missions.
“Poor Anaxandra Synder, always dreaming. Staring up at those stars, imagination running wild, especially when you found out you were a Hunter.” She tipped Anaxandra’s chin upwards, forcing her to look into her own eyes. “You’re dying soon, anyways. I thought I would ready you for where you’re headed, and they say hell is where you meet the person you could have been.”
“Fuck you,” Anaxandra sneered.
“You will follow your father there for what he did to my family. To my people,” she hissed. “Throw them in with the others until I’m ready.”
“The others?” Draco asked.
“I am not completely heartless. I’m going to kill them all, but they will get the chance to die as a family.”
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