Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter. I do not own Wolf Among Us, or Fables, the comic upon which that game is based. I make no profit from this work of fiction.
Things you need to know
I realize that some of the events of this chapter are AU. I tend to view all crossovers as AU simply by the definition of what they are. I do hope the wait for the chapter proves to be worth it.
This chapter – in fact the next few chapters – will dramatize certain historical events. It is not my intention to in any way diminish these events or the impact that they had on the families of those involved. The events were chosen because it furthers my plot to include them. I have not included historical persons as it is the event I'm focused on rather than the people involved, may those who perished rest in peace.
The chill in the air brought the memory of him to the fore of Snow's mind. Rising to close the window in the office beside her desk, she was forced to admit that she had never expected to miss him. The changes in Fabletown, though, had made her reconsider her affection for him. While she would never admit to having an attraction to Bigby Wolf, Snow would also never deny that she had relied on him. As she turned back to the heavily laden desk stacked high with papers, she slowly let out a breath, closing her eyes in an attempt to momentarily block out the work waiting on her. The loud clang of the front door as its metal frame banged against the wall had Snow's eyes popping open quickly, her left hand reaching behind her to grab the pistol from the holster strapped to her back. It had never been necessary for her to carry such a thing when Bigby had been around.
Her thumb had snapped open the clasp holding the gun in place, her hand wrapped firmly around the grip, before her visitor managed to identify himself. His hands were stretched out before him, the spell which allowed him to pass as human in town failing in his anxiety. Toad had never been a fan of the glamour regulations, but his disgust for them had not kept him from adhering to them since Bigby's disappearance. The Tweedles had not been shy about turning his apartment complex upside down whenever they felt like it within one week of Bigby's leaving.
Toad blinked his eyes, the membrane moving over the surface slowly. His nervousness was obvious. Snow had always been known for being reasonable, calm and collected. Since Bigby's disappearance, she had changed quite a bit, leaving the amphibian fable unsure as to whether he would survive any particular encounter with the deputy mayor. Toad kept his hands visible, hoping that Snow would ease the grip he could tell she was keeping on her firearm.
"Listen. I'm not here to cause trouble." He spoke slowly and made sure to enunciate each word. His hands still raised in the air, he stepped slowly from the front door, not moving past the outer office. She moved her hand away from her waistband. Seeing that it was empty, the amphibian breathed a sigh of relief, letting his hands drop. Toad's posture slumped as the tension left his muscles in a rush. He managed a soft glare as he finally addressed the deputy mayor once more. "You know, you were never this jumpy before Bigby flew the coop."
Snow glowered at him. "You've a lot of gall, Toad." She rounded the desk, still in the inner office. She stepped over to the filing cabinet, opening it and rifling for a file. Despite the appearance of ignoring him, she was well aware of his every movement. Snow wanted to be able to put an obstacle between them if she saw the need for it. Pulling a folder out, she laid it on top of the cabinet. She turned back to him, placing her foot slightly behind the door so she would be able to kick it closed and crossed her arms over her chest. "Why are you here?"
The amphibian looked down to the floor for a moment. Snow could see his pupils darting back and forth as his eyes moved in their overly large sockets. Nodding as though he had finally reached a decision, Toad raised his eyes to her. "Those of us that can't pass to the mundanes... We're leaving, Snow. We've had enough." Snow could not help the shock she felt from reflecting itself on her face. "We're vacating to the Farm. I came … Well, to let you know."
"Toad, what–?" The amphibian cut her off, waving his hand in the air between them.
"I know you and Bigby meant well, taking down the Crooked Man." Toad watched Snow's left eyebrow rise to nearly touch her hairline, her mouth turning down into a deep frown. "N-now, don't think we're not grateful." His gaze returned to the floor, not able to continue looking at her as he spoke. "W-we really appreciate what you a-and Bigby did." He ran one of his stubby fingers over the bulbous wart on his left hand, gently rubbing the discolored skin. "But th-the Tweedles... E-ever since..."
Taking pity on him, Snow stepped forward as he let his voice trail off into silence. Despite believing he had no ill intentions, she still took a moment to look through the window to her left as she walked into the outer office. Her steps sounded loudly in the sparsely furnished rooms, the clack of her heels echoing through the hardwood flooring. Reaching the shorter fable, she placed a hand gently on his shoulder. Toad looked up at her, his eyes wide. Though his mouth was usually angled downward from the natural tilt of his lips, it seemed even more drawn than what Snow considered usual. The skin on his face seemed dryer than normal, and somewhat flaky, as though he had been sitting out in the sun for far longer than customary for him. The leathery cracks along his face that normally seemed smooth appeared harsher and weathered.
Staring into his eyes, Snow only nodded. Toad's lip curled upward slightly in what she could only imagine was the best smile he had been able to muster in weeks. She let her hand drop from his shoulder as he turned from her, leaving the building as hurriedly as he had come. Frowning as she mulled over his words, she attempted to recall all of the incidents with the Tweedles since the Crooked Man had been turned into a raven by Aunty Greenleaf. She had never trusted the witch, and could never reconcile herself to the decision Bigby had made not to burn her tree. It would not have surprised Snow to learn that Greenleaf had woven a shape-shifting charm into the spell rather than simply transforming the fiend. In spite of the reasoning Bigby had given her for letting the tree survive, Snow could never quite agree with allowing a witch autonomy – even if it was limited simply to allowing a magical plant.
If Greenelaf had actually managed to fool them all, including the wardens that were sent at random intervals to check on the raven, it would explain why the Tweedles had seen fit to commence their reign of terror once Bigby had left. With the wolf there, they had been more than content to keep to themselves. While not Fabletown's most upright citizens, they had behaved relatively well after the trial. If Snow's guess was right, then it was entirely possible that the Crooked Man had used his altered appearance to his advantage. If he had kept his beak closed and his wings tucked close to his body as he flew, it was possible that people would have mistaken him for a common crow. Even fables could have been deceived if they were not looking for the distinctive characteristics which marked him as a magical being.
Snow walked back to the inner office as the thoughts turned tumultuously in her head. As a crow, it would have been simple for him to notice when fables left the town. Closing the door even though there were no beings to overhear her should she start thinking aloud, her eyes widened as the latch clicked. She leaned back against the wood, feeling the knob dig into the small of her back. If the Crooked Man hid himself among the mundanes – if Greenleaf had conjured something else to sit in his gilded prison in his place to let him go free, he would be able to wreak grater havoc on Fabletown than simply unleashing the Tweedles. He could help the mundanes to find them.
Her breath came in rapid pants. The thought of their entire way of life being under attack frightened her. She did not know if she could go through another horrifying war, especially when it could result in genocide. She was certain that the mundanes would treat them horribly if they found them. Feeling her heart pounding against her ribs as she let her weight sag against the inner office door, Snow knew what she needed to do. Resolve calmed her breath. Nodding to herself, she pushed off the door, moving through the office to lock things away. Finally satisfied with the state of her desk after an hour, she grabbed the keys. Exiting the inner office and locking the door behind her, she walked briskly through the building, her steps ringing out with determined purpose. Once she was out on the street and had closed up the building, only one purpose remained.
She would have to find Bigby and do whatever it took to get him to return to Fabletown. It didn't matter what witch she had to talk to in order to get a tracking spell cast, nor did she care what bargain she had to make to bring the wold back. She could not let the fables down again.
He might not know Bigby all that well, but Harry was certainly glad to have met him. At first, he had been thoroughly frightened of the burly man, terrified that he had gone from bad to worse. Surely such a muscular man would be able to do far more damage than his uncle had ever managed. Instead of hurting him, though, the large man had taken care of him. He had made sure Harry ate three meals a day. It took several months for him to grow into the clothes that he had been given that first night. When he had started to gain weight, Harry had stopped eating as much for a while. Bigby had been quite angry about that.
Even though Bigby had been upset at Harry's refusal to eat, the wolf could hardly blame the boy. He seemed to think that his clothes should not fit him properly. It had taken him quite some time to understand that he should not have to thread a shoelace through his belt loops in order to keep his pants from falling down to his ankles. It had taken even longer for Harry to accept that a shirt was not meant to come down to his knees.
When Bigby had managed to get the boy to accept that having his clothes fit properly did not mean he was liable to outgrow them overnight, and that even if he did manage undergo a growth spurt it was not a punishable offense, the wolf had told Jerome to show them to the local shopping center. The nicotine-addict had gladly complied. Though that trip had been fun, Harry was glad that the luxuries were still a special treat and not something his new caretaker had expected him to accept as a daily routine.
It had been four months since Bigby had taken him in, and Harry could not have been happier with the change in his situation. The wolf certainly did not let him eat mundane junk food every day, but he was also careful to slowly introduce him to the more unusual of the fable foods. A boy who had only ever had water to drink with his meals certainly had not ever even considered drinking vegetable juice. Pumpkin juice had been a new item in Harry's diet since Halloween.
The wolf had been confused by the boy's behavior on that day. In his experience, it had been the one day each year that the fables who could not possibly pass for human without a glamour had been able to mingle freely among the mundanes. He could recall an instance where Toad had taken TJ out into the mundy world on that night. Parents walking with their mundane children, all dressed up in Halloween grandeur, had been sure to tell Toad how wonderful it was that he had worn an outfit to match his son's. It had made Bigby seriously wonder about the sanity of the mundanes.
But Harry had not reacted with joy or wonder when Halloween had come. He had been sullen and withdrawn. Bigby had been uncertain how to handle it. He had no experience with children really, and certainly not someone like this boy, who was neither fable nor mundane. He had tried, though. When Harry had shown no interest in running about in a silly costume to get candy, even Jerome had seemed perplexed. The chain-smoker did make a suggestion, though. A game had opened up in the States that enthralled most of the children there – so much so that it had resulted in a recent program on the telly.
On Halloween night, Jerome had smiled broadly as he pulled out the small package for Harry. The boy had been overwhelmed. Tears were in the corners of his eyes, and Bigby could not make much sense of the muddled emotions wafting from the child. Joy, fear, wonder, terror, uncertainty – they all mingled to confuse the wolf's nose. He had growled gruffly, ordering Harry to open the package just so that the odor would go away. Green eyes had widened so far that Bigby was concerned they might not close again. The scent of the boy's excitement, oddly enough, calmed the elder fable. With his nose no longer in turmoil, he had gladly joined the pair in sitting in front of the television.
The screen had lit up, bright flashes shooting across it as the show began. An impossible storyline had both Bigby and Jerome exchanging a look of utter disbelief in the strangeness of mundanes, but neither said anything as Harry leaned forward. If either had known that the boy's fascination stemmed from the fact that he was being allowed to watch television, Bigby might have insisted on something less ridiculous. The issue quickly became moot.
When a flash of bright green light had been fired from the laser gun in the villain's hand towards another person on the screen, Harry had tensed. When the camera had panned, facing the villain to give the viewer a sense of imminent danger, the hairs on the wolf's arms had stood on end. When the green flash covered the television screen, the boy seemed to react instinctively. One hand had come up to cover his face while the other reached out towards the video. The player began violently spewing the tape ribbon out onto the floor. The screen of Jerome's somewhat ancient television cracked and splintered. Bigby never asked how Jerome obtained the tape, and it was just as well since it was possible the little swindler would have wanted him to pay when Harry inadvertently destroyed it.
After the sparks had stopped flying and the lights had settled from the apparent power surge, Bigby turned to find that Harry was rocking himself back and forth as he had when he had burned the rags. The wolf became even more certain that the child was incredibly special. He was no fool, though. He knew that if he wanted to be sure he did not wake to find himself in an accidental inferno one night, he would need to get the boy some help with whatever strange gift the boy possessed. It had taken hours to calm Harry, to convince the child that neither he nor Jerome were angry with him.
Shortly after the incident, Jerome had been able to locate another odd mundane, but he had refused to accompany the pair to meet him. Bigby had frowned, growled, and even snarled at the smaller man. Despite the efforts of intimidation, Jerome had refused to change his mind. While he usually gave in to Bigby's demanding attitude, on this particular occasion, he insisted that he would be too out of place in their meeting. Harry had simply shaken his head before heading to the door, grabbing the new coat the wolf had given him and gingerly slipping it on. Strangely enough, he had become accustomed to the temper that the wolf displayed.
Bigby had been surly as they left the tenement. Despite his curiosity, Harry managed to keep from asking him anything until they were close to the train station. They had rarely traveled in the areas of London he had seen in the books he sneaked into the pantry he had lived in at the Dursleys. When they did go to places he recognized, he always felt like one of the tourists he could see with cameras, standing in the street with wide eyes as they snapped rolls of film to preserve the moment forever. Harry's wide-eyed wonder proved to be contagious.
Seeing the smile on the boy's face as he craned his neck to take in some piece of architecture, the sparkle in his eyes as he walked in an arc without a care as to the other foot traffic just so he could get a better look at the dome on the church as they passed, the wolf's temper calmed. He even managed a slight grin at Harry's boisterous enthusiasm. When they entered King's Cross, the boy was nearly glowing with the energy boiling up inside him. His gaze had steadily traveled upward, the high windows capturing his attention with the way they lit up the concourse. Bigby had slowed his gait to accommodate Harry's curiosity. Gently guiding the boy, head still swiveling about to take in all the sights of the terminal, Bigby managed to direct them to the line to purchase tickets. Even Harry's innocence could not keep his temper at bay forever, though.
The wolf's patience had begun to wane by the time they reached the counter, his voice coming out in a slight growl as he ordered two seats on the train to York. They would have to hire a car from the station to get to the meeting Jerome had arranged. The wolf had never liked being cooped up, especially not in such a small space as he would have to endure for this trip. Despite understanding the necessity, Bigby could not help his natural irritation. He was grateful that Jerome had given him some nose plugs. The mundanes apparently used them when swimming to keep themselves from breathing in water. Stepping away from the counter, he handed Harry the train tickets as he fished the package from his pocket. Enthralled by his surroundings, the boy simply stayed next to Bigby while the wolf tinkered with the package, snarling at the plastic that refused to open.
Finally shredding the tiny pouch into small slivers of plastic, Bigby barely managed to catch the plugs before they touched the dirt-covered floor. When he ducked down to snatch them, an acrid odor assaulted his nostrils. He recognized the stench of burning hair and flesh. More than one time in the Homelands he had found himself singed by a farmer's torch.
He stood quickly, his hand landing heavily on Harry's shoulder as he pulled the boy behind him. "Stay with me." He felt the small fingers grasping the cloth of his shirt just above his waist. Nodding to himself, Bigby wrinkled his nose as he sniffed, tilting his head back to try to track the scent. He made his way carefully through the crowd, keeping one arm behind him to hold Harry close. He wanted to make certain that the boy did not get lost – he could hardly afford to be tracking whatever this odor belonged to as well as the child.
His search for the source of the fetid odor was quickly interrupted as the mundanes began screaming and running towards him. He turned, grabbing Harry quickly to keep him from being swept away. The smell was thick in the air as the wolf lifted the boy into his arms, hoisting him up to his shoulders. Echoing off the walls of the station, the squeals of terror caused Bigby to cringe. He managed to stay upright, keeping the boy above the ruckus. Shaking his head, the wolf did his best to ignore the ringing noise as he waded into the thick of the crowd.
Sitting up high, Harry was able to see clearly over the herd of people rushing toward them. As Bigby continued to press forward through the crowd, Harry stared into the midst of those running. He saw bright flashes of light, but they paled in comparison to the blaze that filled a large void in the midst of the terminal. It seemed to grow the more people ran from it, but he could not be certain the perception was not just a trick of his imagination. The light reflected off of the tiled walls and floors. As they got closer, it became clear that there was some sort of fire blazing in the area that was being vacated.
The stench nearly overwhelmed Bigby. Stopping to set Harry back down, the wolf quickly put the plugs into his nostrils. With the smell dampened, he knelt down to look Harry in the eye. "Stay here." The boy was ready to protest, his mouth opened as he took a breath to try to be heard over the screaming that echoed through the cavernous station. "Not a word, boy." Bigby had never been one to let his concern for others show openly. Where another might have tried to gently convince the boy not to rush into danger, the wolf simply snarled to make his point. Harry's jaw clacked shut as he withdrew from the wolf, his face clearly reflecting the fear he felt.
Bigby winced as he turned from the boy, knowing he would have to rebuild what little trust he had managed to gain. Any temporary dislike was preferable to Harry's death or dismemberment, however. Swiveling his head to send one last glare over his shoulder, Bigby was content the boy would not stray into the blazing inferno where he himself was headed. He did not even spare a thought for his own safety as he rushed into the flames. If he could survive having his stomach cut open and passing stones while being underwater for nearly a month, he certainly would not concern himself over a little fire. He had, after all, once eaten a dragon.
Lights much like the laser show that Jerome had managed to find peppered the air, but when these connected, the result was much different than simple light. Many of them were blue, a frigid icy shade that might have been an attempt to freeze the inferno at which they were aimed. Sadly, they simply fizzled on contact. Realizing that he could do better than snow that melted five feet from the fire, Bigby opened his mouth, concentrating on calling forth the lesser winds to help him cool the flames.
The blaze died down just enough for him to see into the center of the raging fire. Standing within was a creature the wolf could barely think to describe. It stood just over five feet tall, not including the enormous hump directly behind its neck. The added mass made it appear twice as formidable as the fire surrounding it. It ignored the streaks of light propelled towards it as it turned to face Bigby. Large black pupils were surrounded by skin reddened by the fire that it seemed to command. The blackened fur around the animal's head gave it an air of evil. Staring into its eyes, the wolf could tell it was quite intelligent. And very angry. All he had managed to do with the lesser winds was to attract the beast's attention.
As it glared into the wolf's eyes, it stamped its hooves, each strike against the tiles causing its nostrils to flare outward. The fire surrounding it grew hotter, and the tiles underneath it, already cracked from its massive weight, began melting. Without a thought to the consequences, Bigby transformed slightly. His eyes turned yellow, glowing menacingly in the flickering light. His beard filled out and his hair grew longer. His teeth sharpened, and when he opened his mouth, a growl that would rival any wild animal echoed from the tiled walls. It only seemed to anger the beast more.
It charged towards him. Bigby dodged the beast's first run, turning to watch as it barreled into the side of a train. The stationary car folded inward under the impact, mundane screams nearly matching pitch with the sound of the buckling metal. Watching as the siding melted from the heat of the flames, Bigby considered his options carefully. He certainly could not provoke the beast again as the only thing behind him now was a large group of people.
The melting siding stayed aflame as the beast disentangled itself from the mangled train car. It kicked the debris aside, scattering it across the tracks and platform. Sparks from the smaller pieces lit other parts of the station on fire as they landed. Mundanes who had been staying on the train in the hopes of not getting involved quickly came pouring off in droves. A scent wafted to the wolf from the group, familiar enough to him to overpower the acrid stench of the burning creature in front of him. Turning his attention from the five-foot living fire, he scanned the crowd. He could not see her, but he knew she was nearby. Snow, however, was very capable of taking care of herself. He would find her when this debacle had finally come to an end. Stopping this beast was his priority for the moment. He turned back to find the enormous beast staring down at him with a terrifying rage glowing in its eyes.
It charged towards him, landing a blow to his sternum with its horns. The fire immediately spread to his clothes, singeing the skin and hair underneath. He snarled as he tore the garments from his frame quickly, not bothering to even try to douse the flames with the lesser winds at his command. He growled at the beast, nearly completing his transformation into a werewolf. A brief moment of sanity kept him from making the mistake that would have had any weapons trained on him just as much as the fiery horror that he was intent on keeping from bringing down the station.
Scenting the air again, Bigby's nose discerned something it had not previously. This beast was female. The revelation stopped him from pressing the attack he normally would have. He could not quite pinpoint why that information shocked him so much, but the beast certainly took advantage of his momentary distraction. Barreling past him, she rushed towards the crowd leaving the train. The direction she was headed took her directly toward Harry.
Without thinking of the repercussions, Bigby rammed into the beast from behind, causing her knees to buckle with the impact. Her front legs faltered, sending her crashing into the tiles beneath her. She skidded across the floor, stopping only a few feet from Harry. Allowing himself to become distracted had been a nearly fatal error. The wolf snarled as he wrapped his hands around her left rear leg, ignoring the searing agony pulsing through his limbs as the flames of her skin consumed his flesh. He yanked her backwards, looking up to see the boy resolved and determined to help. He opened his mouth to warn the child back, but he never got the chance.
Snow stepped in front of the creature, pulling her pistol from its holster smoothly and training it on the beast. She yanked the boy to her side, her firm grip on his arm keeping his struggles from having any effect. Harry looked up to meet the wolf's gaze, the terrified thought that someone was trying to abduct him evident in his wide eyes. Bigby gave the boy what assurance he could, knowing his voice would not carry to the child over the din echoing through the concourse. Snow advanced on the flaming beast standing between them. Apparently realizing the inevitable conclusion of facing the pair of fables – even if the beast had no idea what they were, the creature bucked backward towards Bigby before using the momentary distraction to run from them, directly into the crowd of mundanes attempting to escape the growing conflagration.
The sparks that had connected with highly flammable material had caused an enormous fire to break out in the station. Even as she ran from them, the beast continued to engulf parts of the station in flames. The mundanes dropped to the ground when their clothes sparked, rolling to deny the blaze the oxygen it needed. Those who had been commanding small sparks of light seemed to have disappeared while he attacked the beast. Bigby had never been able to stomach cowardice. Even he, a fable among mundanes, had not abandoned the battle simply because the enemy seemed formidable. He snarled as he scented the air, but the putrid odor of singed hair clouded his sense of smell.
Walking over to Harry, he checked the boy to make certain there was no injuries that needed to be treated. The child was shaking, terrified at what had just happened. He picked Harry up, placing the boy astride his shoulders once more. Snow simply stared at the pair, one eyebrow raised in question as she holstered her gun.
Hearing the sirens coming closer, Bigby knew that they could not afford to be caught at King's Cross. The station would be crawling with medical personnel who would be determined to treat his superficial wounds. His skin would heal itself shortly, and the injured mundanes would need the attention more. He might not be fond of the non-magical beings, but he certainly did not want to be a catalyst for open warfare with them by revealing the existence of fables so carelessly.
With Harry on his shoulders, Bigby headed for the exit, weaving quickly through the crowd and managing to break through before the emergency vehicles arrived. Snow kept pace with the pair, her scent telegraphing her position as it wafted on the air. Once clear from from the train station, Bigby set Harry down. They were about two kilometers from the fire, and it could still clearly be seen over the tops of the buildings they had passed. Harry kept his arms wrapped firmly around one of the wolf's legs as he watched the blaze engulf the station more quickly than he had thought possible. Bigby listened to the sound of the hoses mundanes used to douse fires, quickly distracted by Snow as she approached him quietly. She was biting her lower lip from the inside, the action making her lower lip appear to be nothing more than a line against her face. Nodding her head as though reaching a decision, she finally spoke.
"You disappeared." It was a little less vulgar than what Bigby had expected her to open with, but he supposed she had tempered herself given the presence of such a young child. He simply nodded in response, watching her carefully He noted that her eyes seemed to be cataloging each injury he had suffered. "You didn't even leave any kind of notice." Bigby raised an eyebrow at the statement. "With anybody."
The wolf scoffed, the sound causing Harry to turn his attention from the inferno in the distance. "I'm not sure where you think you're going with that." Snow glowered at him. "Things were calm, and I had something I needed to check out." She crossed her arms over her chest. Bigby just shrugged, turning to check on Harry. The boy had a smirk on his face that he seemed to be trying to hide as he listened to the pair. Kneeling down, Bigby leaned close to Harry. "Got somethin' you want to say?"
The boy stopped trying to hide his mischievous grin. His eyes danced with mirth as he let his gaze shift between the two adults. "When's the wedding?"
The hissing that echoed through the stone chambers was at turns morose and angry. Like any woman, the enormous python paced when agitated. She slithered about the room, drying out her skin as her belly slid along the cold granite. Despite the comforting hiss of her master's voice in her mind as she shared her body with his spirit, her frustrations were readily apparent.
She took out her inward turmoil on each of her master's servants as they returned. With each new set of ankles that landed in her path, her teeth would snap as she tried to close them about an uncovered leg. She did not even give them the benefit of a warning hiss. When her attack was stopped by a spell forcing her mouth to stay open, she had looked up at the owner of the limb she had tried to bite. Obsidian eyes stared back at her, the mask obscuring his other features. She thrashed her tail several times, but he did not release the spell until he was well out of the range of her teeth.
Her master's voice hissed in her mind, insisting she stay with them so that he could learn of their exploits. He had been glad to know that, even though they were far more discrete, his followers continued in the path he had set for them before the unfortunate mishap resulting in his disembodied state. Sullenly, she obeyed.
"What the hell was that thing?" The question was quickly followed by a startled yelp from the speaker.
Slipping the mask from his face, the wizard with his wand still drawn shook out his overly long blond hair. "You've been spending far too much time among them, Gibbon." Sheathing his wand before turning away from the other wizard, the blond walked to the hallway leading to the lower levels. "You've started picking up their phrases." The heels of his expensive dragonhide boots clacked loudly against the stone floors as he walked away.
Glaring at his retreating figure, Gibbon paid no attention to the obsidian eyes observing him. The third wizard removed his mask, taking care to peel the covering slowly as he removed it from his hooked nose. Staring at him after watching the interaction between the other two, Nagini could not help her idle curiosity, wondering how the man could possibly have managed to fit his nose into such a mask and not be recognized instantly.
Walking past Gibbon, the younger man's boots made considerably less noise as he made his way down the same corridor. Nagini slithered alongside him, keeping pace with his long strides. His gait carried him quickly through the darkened hallway. No light entered other than what was produced from the tip of his wand as he cast a small Lumos spell to keep from stumbling over her if she chose to cross his path. No portraits hung on the walls, not even blank enchanted canvas for any painted figure to enter. His nearly silent footfalls abruptly stopped as he reached the wall at the end. Looking down at her, he raised an eyebrow. She simply hissed for him to open the chamber.
He tapped three specific stones, canceling the Lumos as he sheathed his wand. Light filtered into the corridor from the torches just beyond as the stones parted to allow them entry. Slithering ahead of him, Nagini rapped her tail heavily on the toe of his boot. She could feel her master's grin in her mind just as clearly as she could hear the splashes in the water below them and the taunts of the blond wizard who had preceded them.
"You'd be wise to get this over with. You've been here for seven years. Each year, you've become weaker from being confined. By the time you finally give in, you won't know what it's like to live out there in the ocean any longer, and those that were once your prey will eat you alive." The thrashing of a body within the water the wizard seemed to be addressing became more pronounced. Large waves of water came splashing over the side, drenching the wizard as the movements became more violent. He snarled incoherently as he drew his wand, his actions quickly halted as a spell froze him in place.
His steps were completely drowned out by the thrashing of the unhappy beast kept hidden in this room, but the wizard Nagini had entered with made his way around the blond to stare directly into his face. "Lucius, we have no idea what the Dark Lord did to that creature. And I'm not interested in finding out if he can breathe on land just because you've decided to torture a water snake." Lucius' gainsboro-grey eyes darkened to silver as he glared at the other wizard. The spark of anger that flashed behind the muted face spoke more than any words he would have voiced, causing the obsidian eyes observing it to dance with laughter. "I'll release you once we're upstairs. I have no intentions of getting the beast in such a foul mood that he won't mate with Nagini as intended." Waves of anger rolled off of the blond wizard. "You weren't in Turkey when we captured him."
No more words were spoken between the pair, and Nagini lost interest once the wall closed behind them. She turned her attention to the water, where her intended was calming. Slithering beside the pool, she asked him why he was so angry. Snakes did not bond for life the way other animals felt the need to do, but since there were no others large enough to mate with her, she tried to keep this one happy. Her hisses were answered only with silence. She slithered off to the corner, curling up and sulking, ignoring the angry orders of her master as he railed at her inside her mind. Beyond keeping this male happy enough to mate her twice a year, she needed to have him impregnate her. Her master needed his own body to inhabit. She was tired of sharing hers.
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