Author's Note - Sorry for the late update! Here is Chapter 4, wherein Harry continues to ponder the mysterious workings of werewolves and Draco is slowly becoming more intertwined in his life. Enjoy, and thanks for reading!
Hermione owned a lot of books, everyone knew that. But Harry didn't think he ever realized just how many until she started rifling through her "storage" which was basically a bottomless trunk she had enchanted to never run out of space. Except it did run out of space at a thousand books, but she had a spare trunk she could bewitch as "second storage" in case this one filled up, she told them, so no worries.
Harry wasn't so much worried as astounded. Still, he was happy she had so many werewolf books on hand.
"You shouldn't be so surprised," she said, picking up a particularly thick book called Were-Culture Through the Ages. "You have come to me with so many questions regarding your case, I decided to stock up."
Ron looked at him behind her back and raised his eyebrows.
"And you've been an amazing help," Harry said, sucking up shamelessly and ignoring Ron's dirty look. "We couldn't have caught some of his pack members without your tips. I only wish we were any closer to finding Greyback now than we were when we started this case."
"He's been particularly slippery," Ron agreed.
"Well maybe there's something to what Remus said," Hermione pondered, leafing through the pages of the book so rapidly Harry thought they might tear. "Ah, here we go! These are the things werewolves never share with wizards… Not that wizards have been historically interested in cultures of creatures they deem below them," she added, pursing her lips in obvious disapproval. She began to read:
"Within a pack, the most sacred kind of werewolf community even closer than blood-relations, members are split into three categories: the Alpha, the Beta, and the Omega. The leader of the pack is the Alpha, the strongest among them and the natural authority. He or she fights for the top position with nothing more than brute strength. Betas might try to usurp his power by staging a coup or rebellion, usually in the form of a savage physical altercation, and sometimes new Alphas form as a result. The defeated Alpha will fall down to the rank of Beta or Omega depending on the circumstances of their defeat."
She looked up at them. "Surely you must have known all of this already, this is quite elementary werewolf culture."
"Er… No," Ron said.
Hermione sighed, her nostrils flaring, and muttered under her breath something that sounded like, Wizards….
"I'll bet Fenrir is the Alpha of his pack," Harry said.
He couldn't help but find the whole thing fascinating. It was like a new part of the wizarding world he never even knew existed, like no matter how long he was a part of it, there would always be new magical things to discover and thrill him.
"What's an Omega, then?" he asked. He knew enough of the Greek alphabet to suspect it was the lowest rank, but he was curious as to the subtleties of the role.
Hermione looked down, tracing her finger down the paragraph where she had left off and finding her place again.
"An Omega is the rank below the Beta, and can serve various roles. Sometimes the Omegas, regarded as the weakest and therefore the most expendable members of the pack, are sent to do the dirtiest and most lethal of tasks."
Hermione raised her head and huffed dramatically. "Barbaric monsters…."
"Hermione!" Ron said in mock surprise. "Are you actually speaking ill of a wee magical creature? My heart stops at the shock!" he said sarcastically with a hand on his chest.
She shot him a mirthless smile and continued to read:
"Alternately, if the Alpha is particularly fond of one of them or is in need of…" she faltered, clearing her throat, "... satiating a sexual need, he chooses among the Omegas to use for his purposes." She tisked. "Honestly…"
"Is this what Remus was talking about when he said there were things about being a werewolf I had no idea about?" Harry asked, frowning at the book in Hermione's lap like it was the source for all his current troubles.
"Maybe," Hermione said. "I wonder how this relates to Bill."
"Bill's not a werewolf, though," Ron reminded them quickly. There was a thread of urgency in his voice that made Harry feel extremely bad for his friend, and for his whole family having to watch Bill go through this and wonder what would happen to him.
"But this might be why Remus doesn't want to bite him and turn him into one," Harry said as gently as he could, though Hermione was the one who took the prize for soft and soothing explanations when someone was in distress. "I wonder what rank Remus has, if any. Maybe he has no rank if he's not in a pack? He's an unattached werewolf?"
"I've never heard him talk about being in a pack," Hermione said, "so I doubt he's in one. He did try to infiltrate the underground werewolves during the war," she pointed out, reminding Harry of the work Remus had been doing for the Order, "but I am not sure how that went. He never really talked about it, did he?"
Harry's stomach clenched oddly as a thought occurred to him. Perhaps to get on the pack's good side as a simple outsider, Remus had had to start on the bottom rung… as an Omega. Harry didn't think he would like to be an Omega, being the bitch of the pack basically, and he didn't think Remus would have liked that either. Had he had to sexually please the Alpha?
The thought alone made Harry want to be sick, made worse when he recalled how painfully miserable Remus had looked all through that whole year. He didn't want to think of Remus that way, and he pushed the nauseating images from his mind.
"Maybe all new werewolves start out as Omegas," he thought out loud, "and he doesn't want Bill to turn into one."
He thought about the way Bill had leaned over to touch Remus, how he had looked up at Remus, his face bright with something that Harry was now pretty sure had looked like total adoration.
If Bill was going to be Turned, Harry would bet anything that he was going to be Omega to Remus's Alpha, or at least he'd want to be.
He wanted Hermione to read them the rest of the book as quickly as possible, but it was very thick and that would take ages. It didn't help that his mind was already going in a million different directions, and another part of him didn't want to sit around reading this book anymore when he could be re-looking at his case notes with new eyes.
The first thing he wanted to do tomorrow morning was pay a visit to Azkaban and interrogate the members of Fenrir's pack they had caught and ask him about the ranks. Had he and Ron and the rest of their Auror team spent months painstakingly chasing the pack only to have caught and locked up a bunch of useless Omegas? If that was the case, they were nowhere closer to finding the core members or Fenrir than they were a year ago; he doubted Fenrir gave a fuck about the Omegas and he probably laughed at the Ministry as he scampered away in a forest somewhere, safely hidden while his least important members, his most dispensable, were in custody. He could bite and turn anyone into a new Omega, what did he need the ones they'd caught for? He wasn't coming back for them.
"What's wrong, Harry?" Hermione asked. "You look distressed."
Harry sighed. "I'm just starting to think all our work might have been for nothing."
"Don't say that!" Ron gave him a smile that looked a bit forced, but still nice. "We've made loads of progress. And we've got some new leads now, haven't we?" he added encouragingly. "The new evidence is saying that Greyback's in Romania now. Somewhere…"
Wait a minute. The talk of new leads nudged his memory, and the thought struck Harry like a bright chord of hope after this long and gloomy day. "Draco's letters!"
"Wha's that?" Ron asked, eyebrows knitted together.
"Draco - Malfoy came to me about some letters he thinks - well, he knows - are from Greyback."
Then he proceeded to tell them about the strange and frankly unnerving story Malfoy had related to him at the pub.
Just like he knew it would, the letter eventually came. Like all the others, it hadn't been delivered by owl or by any other traceable means. In fact, this was the primary reason Draco suspected that Greyback himself was nearby… Or maybe it was just one of his cronies delivering them for him. But how else would the letter appear one day as if out of thin air, tucked neatly into the seam where front door met doorframe?
Draco was just returning home for the evening and spotted it as he took out his key and prepared to fit them into the lock. He stopped, his limbs feeling like they were made of lead.
Swallowing, he looked around to make sure there were no Muggles passing by, and he waited, heart thumping, for a solitary figure to click his heels down the street and out of hearing range. Then he looked straight into the eyes of the carved golden snake that was his door knocker.
"What did you see?" he demanded in a whisper.
The snake only blinked at him and stuck out his tongue.
What a useless piece of hardware; it never told him anything. Sometimes Draco thought the thing was against him, and then he'd push the paranoid thought from his mind, desperate not to go mad as well as die of fear. His father had probably charmed it to reveal no pertinent information to anyone but himself while he had lived here, and now the snake just stuck out its tongue at Draco mockingly.
Stupid magical piece of crap. He was almost tempted into coveting those Muggle devices, which were surely not only more reliable but also obedient… What were they called… video surveillance? But no, surely he hadn't stooped so low yet as to be considering Muggle devices.
But maybe he was just that desperate.
He looked at the parchment again and the same stab of panic went through him that always accompanied the presence of Greyback's letters. He gingerly pinched it and slid it free, holding it between two gloved fingers as though it were contaminated. And knowing how filthy that beastly creature was, Draco wouldn't have been surprised if the parchment had soaked up some sort of vile werewolf disease. He scowled at the thing, especially when he turned it over and recognized the scratchy scrawl.
Yes, this was from Greyback.
He turned around immediately and Disapparated.
When he finally got through the department store entrance, through the Atrium, and down the lift to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, he breathed a sigh of relief. People were still milling about. So maybe Potter was also still here, or at least Robards.
Potter had said to come to him, but Draco would be perfectly happy with anyone who was working this case at the moment. Although he reasoned he was looking for Potter because he had already explained the whole thing to him and it would be annoying to have to explain it all over again to someone else. Plus the things Greyback usually wrote to him were humiliatingly degrading, and even the prospect of showing Potter the letter was painful enough. But showing more people, random people in the department, was not a tempting idea.
Where was Potter anyway? Where had he said his office was? Oh yes, he hadn't said, he'd just whisked Draco off to the pub. He kept his eyes pealed for Potter anyway in case he spotted him strolling down the corridor like some of the few people he passed. That messy black head and that bright red untidy uniform…
If his heart jumped a bit when he finally spotted him, it was only because Draco was surprised because he had been losing hope in finding him.
"There you are, Potter," he said, walking right up to him.
Potter was walking toward him too. His face had that usual expression it had; hard and determined, like he was ready for anything, and a frown because Draco suspected Potter always wore a frown when he saw him in particular. At least he always used to, for as long as Draco could remember. In fact, he wondered if he'd ever seen Potter without a frown.
"I've received another letter," he said in a low voice when they stood in front of each other.
Potter's eyebrows shot up. "Let me see it," he demanded, holding his hand out.
"All right, relax, I brought it here to show you, didn't I?" he drawled. Potter really did need to chill if he was even more uptight than Draco was these days. He pulled the folded up parchment from his breast pocket and handed it over.
Potter looked at it and then back up at Draco. "What's it say?"
"I haven't opened it yet."
"Don't you want to know -"
"No." Draco cut him off curtly.
Potter seemed to understand, or at least he didn't roll his eyes or anything. "Let's do this in my office," he said. "I was heading there now." He led Draco down the hallway.
Potter's office was dark and he only bothered to light one oil lamp on his desk so that it cast an eery glow over the notes scattered across the surface. In the dark corner was a small sofa and a chair, for taking guests, Draco presumed. The walls were lined with shelves which contained precious little books, but Draco noticed there was a Snitch and a Sneakoscope lying haphazardly among them, along with other random artifacts and objects of Potter's. One of the walls was covered entirely in parchment - maps, handwritten notes, moving pictures of wanted criminals…
Potter didn't bother to go around his desk and sit down, but leaned against the front of it, crossing his legs casually at the ankle. He unfolded the letter.
"God, this is sick," he said, his eyes moving left to right across the note.
"I told you," Draco said, not with malice but in what felt like defeat. "They're all like that."
Potter's usually full lips turned into a very thin line. When he looked up at Draco, his eyes blazed even in the dull light. "He's a right bastard."
Draco snorted. He didn't have to be told that. "Can you get a trace off it or not?"
Potter took his wand out of his pocket, shook the parchment so it straightened out, and ran the tip over it in a sweeping motion. The tip of his wand glowed pink for a second and then dulled again. "Nothing right now… But I want to take it to Robards anyways."
Draco swallowed, heat prickling his neck. "It's… it's rather a sensitive letter…"
"So what? I have to show it to him."
Draco felt a nerve twitch in his temple. "All I'm saying, Potter, is that it's a bit embarrassing to have Robards see what that freak's written to me."
Potter exhaled in a huff. "Are you more concerned about being embarrassed, Malfoy, or about saving your life?"
"I didn't say you couldn't take it," he said, trying not to shout but fully aware that the volume of his voice was rapidly getting away from him. "I just thought you'd be the one -"
"Robards might know what to do with it that I don't," Potter cut him off. "I have to show it to him, there's not debating the matter."
"All right! Fucking hell." Draco was hot around the collar now for sure, and it wasn't because of embarrassment. No, he wanted to kick Potter somewhere it would hurt. The fucking insufferable git. "Take it, goddamit, I don't want it anyway. If it were up to me I'd burn it. Have been doing with the lot of them."
Potter narrowed his eyes at him. "Why is he so interested in you?" he asked then, more pensive than Draco had expected to see him.
"I don't know how the brain of psychotic murderers work, Potter. Maybe he has a hankering for blonds. Who knows. All I know is he's unfortunately fixated on lucky me." He suddenly felt exhausted. He really needed to be able to sleep. "I have to go," he croaked. Though he didn't fancy the idea of going home at all.
"You look tired," Potter said, as if to agree that Draco needed to go to bed.
"If only I could sleep," he said wistfully, turning around. There was still half a bottle of gin in his kitchen cupboard that he was looking forward to draining.
"Are you really that scared to go home?"
Draco spun back around. "To the place where Greyback knows I live and tells me he watches and leaves those nasty letter? I'm so sorry that I don't go skipping back happily," he said bitterly. How dare Potter judge him? He had no idea what it was like for him. Potter got to go back to his safe, comfortable bed every night while Draco was stalked and harassed by a lunatic.
"Why don't you get a room at the Leaky?"
Draco scoffed. "Like he can't penetrate the high security at the Leaky Cauldron." Still, he didn't want to admit out loud, but the idea did have merit. There were at least other people at the inn, and it was being isolated and completely alone that fed Draco's fear the most.
"A Muggle hotel?" Potter pondered. "Although the security there wouldn't be any better… Probably even worse, plus it would pose a secrecy issue if he attacked you in a Muggle-dense location." Potter was looking at his feet as he bit his lip.
"Well," Draco said, "while you grapple with things that I've already considered but ruled out, I'll be on my way back to my prison. Hopefully I'll be pissed soon enough and pass out in the kitchen. Goodbye, Potter."
"Wait, I have an idea."
"Shell Cottage." Potter didn't should this new option with glee, but at least his grim expression had lightened. "It's Bill Weasley's house, but Remus Lupin and his family also stay there now. You remember Lupin…"
"Yes." Draco remembered quite well. He was a werewolf. "So what you're suggesting is that the safest way for me to escape the clutches of a murderous werewolf is to go stay with… another werewolf?" Draco wanted to punch Potter in his stupid face. How had he ever become an Auror? What a bloody idiot.
Potter was frowning again. "Well the thing is, Remus isn't a murdering werewolf, you prejudiced twat. Not all werewolves are murderers, or even dangerous."
Draco rolled his eyes, not really in possession of the energy to argue the point at the moment and somehow aware that it was a losing battle trying to persuade Potter away from anything he was so passionately convinced about.
"In fact, you'll probably be safer with him than anywhere else," Potter continued. "I think you should stay there tonight."
He said it with such finality that Draco almost acquiesced. Almost.
"I don't want to stay with Weasleys," he said.
"That's idiotic. If you're still on about being better than the Weasley's, I almost don't want to help you."
Draco sighed, because it was a bit more complicated than that. "They won't want me there anyway," he said. And it was true, even Potter had to admit that.
"I don't care," he said, stepping in close to Draco, as if Potter thought he'd win the argument by sheer force of proximity. "I want you there, and they'll understand." And god, what a force he was…
"Potter…" Draco tried to come up with something scathing, but it was hard when Potter stared at him with all that conviction.
"It's done," he said, holding up his hand. "I was going over there tonight anyways to talk to Remus. I'll come with you and wait while you gather your things."