Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this story for fun and not profit.
Warnings: Violence, angst, manipulation, Dark!Draco and Harry, possible dub-con.
Pairings: Harry/Draco preslash, Ron/Hermione
Summary: Harry has managed to escape Draco, or at least Draco's immediate grasp. But the Fox Mark still burns on his arm, and his enemy and captor is reaching for him in more ways than one.
Author's Notes: This is the third in what I'm calling the Fox and Wolf series. It follows "The Mark of the Fox" and "Wolf in the Making" and won't make sense without them, so I suggest you read those first. Again, as with the first two stories, this is pretty dark and may not be everyone's cup of tea. The title comes from a French word meaning "werewolf." I think this story will probably be twelve or thirteen chapters long.
Chapter One-Shedding Skin
"I think it would help if you told us everything, Harry."
Harry shivered. He was standing at the floor-length, wall-wide glass window on the second floor of Ron and Hermione's house, staring out over the gently rolling orange and gold landscape that, it seemed, Ron found relaxing and Hermione inspiring.
"I don't know what more I can tell you," he said, and heard his voice sound muffled in his own ears. "I mean. You know as much about the Mark as I do, and as much about Malfoy as I do. I told you how I tricked him out of some of his secrets by pretending to comply with him, and how I managed to escape. That's all."
Liar, his own mind said to him, the thought flickering out and withdrawing like a lizard's tongue.
Harry closed his eyes. There were two things he hadn't told Hermione. One was how Malfoy had forced him into sex, how Harry could have resisted but had used the chance to cast a charm that would take advantage of Malfoy's relaxed state instead. He wasn't about to confess to his best friends that he'd slept with the enemy when they already watched him as if he were a stranger.
The second thing was that he'd killed Robards and held Malfoy under the Cruciatus Curse. Harry had said that Malfoy was so busy torturing Robards he hadn't noticed Harry getting ready to escape and then managing to actually do it. Of course Hermione and Ron would get the news in the form of, well, news from Britain eventually, but there was no reason for them to think that Harry had been the murderer, rather than Malfoy choosing a more violent message than the Cruciatus.
If someone doesn't trace your magical signature. If someone doesn't wonder what that strange mark on Robards's arm means and starts doing some research into it.
"There's something you're not admitting," Hermione whispered. "Do you not trust us, Harry? I knew that we'd changed, but not that much."
Harry turned and looked at her. She stood in the middle of the large study she'd equipped on this floor, her hands on her hips and her wide, appealing eyes fixed on his face.
Harry had been apart from his best friends for the past two years, since they'd emigrated to Australia. He'd never really expected to see them again. He had accepted exile as his fate, since everyone around him seemed unconcerned after Ron and Hermione left, and the ones who had tried to "heal" him, in Robards's case, had been lying to him. Robards had hoped that he would die in Fox Valley, or, more likely, that he and Malfoy would kill each other.
It hadn't worked out that way at all. Harry's hand went to the Mark on his arm, hidden under his sleeve, which burned at odd moments. It was burning now.
"It's nothing," Harry said. "I'm really grateful that you've let me stay here. I should probably leave soon, though."
"And go where?" Hermione took a step towards him, emotions so mingled on her face that Harry couldn't tell what she was feeling, which usually never happened to him with her. "This is the best place you can be."
Harry shook his head. "It's like you said, I've changed," he muttered. "And you've changed. And this is the first place Malfoy would look. I have to go." He dodged her outstretched hand and trotted across the large, open room, paneled with wood and surrounded with shelves, to the stairs that led down to the first floor. Hermione hesitated, then followed. Harry knew he would probably get another interrogation shortly, from Ron if not from her.
But Harry knew he couldn't answer. His friends had been a refuge for him in what was probably the greatest crisis of his life. But they would turn from him if they found out that he was a murderer and a torturer. Hell, they would probably turn away from him if they knew the details of the case that had sent him to Fox Valley to "recover" in the first place, where he had tried to rescue some victims from a fire and caused the collapse of the roof instead, killing them.
It was wrong not to tell them. Maybe Harry would owl them when he was safely away and confess everything. But right now, he needed them to be his refuge for a little while longer.
Draco gave a faint smile in the direction of the ceiling, not bothering to open his eyes. He always knew when one of his Marked ones approached him, thanks to his formation of their Marks, but Oliver's voice would have told him who it was even if he didn't have that.
"Oliver," he said, and opened his eyes to study the man in front of him, who seemed insubstantial as dandelion fluff. Oliver started away from him and then came slowly nearer again, pulling at his thin grey moustache. Draco smiled. "I want to know if your pets can track someone down on the other side of the world."
Oliver's eyes widened, and his breath sped up to a rasping panic. "I would have to g-go with my darlings," he whispered. "And people would t-try to d-destroy them. And me." His eyes gleamed now, not with cunning but with tears.
Draco nodded. "You couldn't send them without you, then? I wondered."
Oliver cocked his head and sucked the back of his teeth. Draco could hear his tongue clicking, and held his patience and his silence. The emotions flowing through the Mark on Oliver's arm let Draco know that he was rippling away from panic, and that was the best Draco could ask for at that moment.
"No," Oliver said at last. "And this is theoretical, my lord." He checked Draco's face. Draco nodded. Oliver smiled, and his voice grew as strong as it ever had. "I couldn't send them without me, theoretically, because they would cause notice and increase their risk of attack. And if they broke apart from each other to travel without causing attacks, then they would become distracted by their prey and less focused on your will. I wouldn't be there to remind them, either. Which I never want to happen, lord," he added piously. "I never want to betray you! Never!"
Draco inclined his head. "Understood. Dimissed."
Oliver left the room with one hand extended to a swirl of grey. Draco considered for a moment whether someone who could command Dementors but was less wet would have served him better.
Then he shook his head. Oliver was the only person who could command Dementors that Draco had ever discovered, and that alone made him valuable. Besides, Draco was well-served by working with the possible or remolding his dreams into shapes he could attain. He had never aimed at the impossible.
Draco smiled and stood, pausing only to cross out Oliver's name on a list in front of him. Even that "once" had not become impossible. Draco was moving in a leisurely fashion, though. No reason to charge ahead in random directions and waste energy.
A knock sounded on the door. Draco glanced up. "Come, Lisa."
Lisa stepped into the room, bristling as she stalked towards his desk. Draco sat down again, a small smile playing along his lips. Thalia was the Marked one who could transform into a jaguar, but Lisa looked at the moment as if she had acquired the ability. "You wished to see me," she said.
Draco shook his head. "I wished to see you on that matter of business this morning, yes. We cleared it up. This time, you came of your own free will."
Lisa paused, caught flat-footed for the barest moment. Then she folded her arms and gave him her best rendition of a sneering stare. "You don't understand what you're doing to Fox Valley," she said.
"If you intend to lecture me about resolved business, I do not wish to listen," Draco said, and sent a mild jolt, as though she had crossed a carpet in a clinging robe, through the Mark on her arm. Her emotions flowed towards him in deep, muddled response. Draco smiled, because that was the reaction that would best serve him at the moment. "If you intend to tell me about a problem that has arisen with the lenses drawing magic from our clients, then I will listen with deep and undivided attention."
"You don't need to mock me," Lisa hissed, drawing a step away.
"Mockery is a privilege reserved for the one in power," Draco said. He waited, hooking his hands together behind his head. As he waited, he sent his mind seeking out, trying to imagine that it crossed ocean and land together, to find the Mark that he had put on Harry's arm.
As always, he felt nothing. But he hadn't seriously tried yet, and he had never had a Marked one travel so far beyond his reach before. Draco was a predator, and so he knew patience.
"Fine, then." Lisa's eyes glittered like chips of mica, and she came closer to his desk than she normally approached. "You're ruining Fox Valley because you're ignoring it to yearn after Potter. I want you to pay attention to the running of the business that makes us our Galleons again. I want you to spend time repairing the lenses and devising new ways to store magic. I want you to Mark someone new who would take up some time and trouble to tame. You can have anything you want, Lord Malfoy. You always could. But not Potter."
"Anything includes Potter," Draco pointed out. "A fine point of semantics, but then, I am concerned, lest fine points be ground down."
"Includes him," Lisa said, with the inflexibility of someone determined not to give in even though she had been wrong. A lamentable failing, in Draco's opinion, at least for everyone who was not him. "Is not him. Give up on Potter, my lord. He managed to flee from you, and you don't know where he went."
Draco fixed her with a bright stare, and waited until her words and her determination wound down of their own accord. Then he sighed. "Lisa, whose Mark do you wear?"
"Yours," Lisa said, peering about for a moment as though she expected another contender to step out of the woodwork. That only increased Draco's feeling that he'd been too lax about discipline lately. He really should have remembered that when his smarter subordinates stopped getting his jokes, that was always a sign.
"Yes," Draco said. "Who is your life forfeit to?"
Lisa stared at him.
"Oh, only if I decide I want it," Draco hastened to reassure her. "And that is some times more than others. But if you are more useful to me alive, then I shall never require it."
Lisa clenched her hands hard for a moment, swallowed, and then said, "My lord, I don't understand the point of your questioning."
"Your head and body are mine," Draco said softly. He didn't rise to his feet, but Lisa backed away from the desk anyway. Good. She was starting to understand. Draco had Marked no one stupid, so it distressed him when they acted that way. "And the thoughts that fill your head should be as well."
Lisa bowed and slinked towards the door of his office. Draco sighed. A simple statement of fact shouldn't have made her act this way. But then again, Lisa had never had the nerve to keep up her defiance of him, the way Harry had. She had defied him up to a point, and then she had broken, a cowardice she had never recovered from.
Just like Lisa's opinions, Draco found the cowardice painful at times, but useful, which was why he had never labored to correct it.
"I will give you charge of the Valley when I leave," he continued. "I hope that you will keep and run it as well as you think I should."
Lisa stiffened all over, as if her body had turned to bone. Draco smiled and bounced his foot off the floor, reading her in the meantime. The Mark once again filled with a muddy tide of emotions.
"You are leaving in search of Potter," Lisa said flatly, without turning. "Forgive me, my lord, if the news does not fill me with joy."
"It should not," Draco said. "I regard the news as a small matter of fact, interesting only to him and myself. You may, of course, look at the list I have made of possible ways to locate Potter, only to have each choice in turn taken from me." He picked up the parchment from which he had crossed out Oliver's name and held it towards her.
Lisa approached his desk like an animal once caught in a trap, eyeing him and ready to flinch every time. Draco maintained his demeanor and his stance, and she snatched the parchment away and scanned it.
"Oliver's Dementors were a good thought," she said at last. "Why can't you use them?"
Draco shrugged. "They can't travel separately from him without causing a great deal of trouble and nuisance, or breaking away to feed and getting themselves noticed. And I do not think it a good idea, or worth the trouble, to send Oliver to guide them."
"No." Lisa leaned one elbow on his desk, and then hastily straightened again. Draco nodded. The flow of the stream of her emotions through the Mark was clear and strong again. "I would have thought you could send Thalia to track him, my lord."
"He used a Portkey," Draco said. "She could go to Australia, perhaps, but they are stricter with unregistered Animagi than Britain. I would rather not lose two Marked ones."
"And we would rather not lose you."
Draco smiled. He had known something was wrong when Lisa had bowed her head and given in too tamely. The woman he knew, the woman he had Marked, would never do something such as that. "I know that, Lisa. I assure you, this venture has less danger than you anticipate. I have information sources that Potter cannot guess at, and more hooks in his soul than you know."
"He doesn't want to sleep with you, my lord," Lisa said. She flushed and flinched in the same moment, but continued speaking. "I should have thought it easy for you to snare someone both whom you desired and who desired you."
Draco half-bowed his head. "Yes, I understand that impression," he said. "Remember that you cannot read his Mark."
How was he to explain to someone else the uneasy wavering between rebellion and yielding, the refusal and the hatred, the heat and the hardness, that had come through Harry's Mark to him? How was he to explain to someone else the jerk of the muscled body against his, the splash of Harry's come across his hand, and the way he could have pulled away but did not? Or the way he had used the chance to cast a spell on Draco that he thought would make Draco babble all his secrets?
Draco had the right to fury at that last tactic, and he had the right to reserve his fury. There would be no glory in taming a magnificent horse if it submitted to the rope.
Lisa settled down after that. She would accept the charge of the Valley, and that would leave him free to go hunting. Of all his Marked ones, she was the one Draco trusted most. The broken edge of the cowardice in her gave him a handle to cling to and manipulate at need.
When he was alone in his office, Draco leaned back in his chair and placed his right hand on his left arm. He needed to do something he had never done before, which was why he required solitude and silence. He had run five Marked ones like a chain of hounds in the middle of his clients before, but he had years of practice in such things.
He could recover from a failure, but in private only. Or perhaps if he shared one with Harry, who had the highest ability to obsess over a failure while still doing splendid things that Draco had ever seen.
He took a deep breath and shut his eyes. His left hand rested on a bracelet of gold set with seed pearls, one of the vessels in which he regularly stored magic. He released the breath in stutters, using each pause in it to press his fingers against a different pearl.
The air around him heated, shimmered, became soft. Draco took the magic to himself and rose into the softness, turning his head from side to side. Feathers rustled around him, the sound of wings. He was a falcon, or could imagine himself so, feeding power into the idea so that it became more real.
Draco's mind worked on two levels, one analyzing his own actions, one believing completely in the falcon, and so he soared and dipped and dived in the general direction of Australia. He knew Harry had gone there. Where within the continent, he didn't know.
It wouldn't matter, not if he could use the Mark in the right way. He envisioned it as sight to the falcon's eyes, and once again sharpened the eyes until the country below jerked and seemed to come into view. Then it jerked again, and now he was flying on the level where he could see individual buildings and trees. Another bob, and now he was among the people, flickering and dancing through them like a ghost, passing from mind to mind and finding nothing like Potter's complicated mixture of desire and repugnance, or the Mark blazing on his arm.
The Muggles had courteously left parts of the country uninhabited, however. Draco hovered, and then shot towards one of them. He thought he was getting close. The walls of blackness around the image had fallen back and formed a familiar shape: a window. Windows had framed the dreams that he and Harry had shared through the Mark right before Harry went away.
The window spun and wavered, but Draco drew on more power, and then he was flying through the frame. Thoughts sleeted down past him. Draco ignored them effortlessly, soaring on wings of memory into memory. Pin down the moment when Harry had first arrived and he should have the name of the city, or at least the village or house. It would make sense of the new generation of Weasels had named their home, the way that their burrowing ancestors had.
Steady, and the moment of pouncing drew near. Draco's sight sharpened to the point of pain. His breaths rattled in his chest. His wings flared.
And a rope of magic caught his falcon around the neck and strangled it to death. Draco snapped his eyes open and found himself clutching an empty bracelet. When he separated his fingers from it, he could see that it was bent, as though part of it had melted in a fire and been reforged.
Draco sat up, breathing fast. Then he calmed his breathing and summoned Thalia through his Mark, calling for a cup of tea and a plate of hot bread and butter. He usually wanted to eat after expending so much magical energy in a hunt.
So. Potter knew that Draco was hunting him now, and Draco had not discovered the exact location of the Weasleys' house, as Potter had sensed him and thrown him out of his mind before that could happen.
His food and tea arrived, with Thalia's murmured apology for taking two minutes, and Draco held up the ivory cup to the sunlight, admiring the complex pattern of light and shadow that particularly sensitive eyes could pick out in the way the sun illuminated the cup.
Then he shifted, arching his shoulders as his erection brushed against the tray.
He did enjoy the dangerous ones.
Harry sat up in bed, his hands curled so hard into fists that he had to concentrate to work them loose.
Malfoy could track him through the Mark. He hadn't been sure, but when several days had gone by with no attempt and no sign of one, Harry had decided that he was safe.
Harry lowered his head and sat for a few minutes with it in his hands, contemplating. He had to make plans, plans that didn't involve Ron and Hermione. They'd been kind to him, but there were things that they couldn't know, in case they ended up never speaking to him again.
He swallowed through a dry throat. He didn't know Australia, and didn't know where he could go. On the other hand, he didn't want to leave the country. He couldn't come up with a plausible excuse for that, either, and the other places he could go where he might be safe from Malfoy were equally unknown to him.
Harry lay back in the bed and looked up at the brown ceiling of the room Hermione and Ron had given him, which was covered with pictures of trailing branches with small, bright leaves. Harry didn't think that anything like them actually grew in the land outside Ron and Hermione's house, but that didn't matter. They relaxed him, and he stared until his eyes drooped and his mind went as deep as still water behind them.
Malfoy knew where he was, or would soon. And he at least knew that Harry had fled to Australia. Harry wouldn't put it past him to come physically, as he'd already sent his magic searching. He might also be able to establish a stronger link through Harry's Mark, and then he could, perhaps, do things like inflict pain from a distance until Harry surrendered.
There was only one solution, and Harry thought now that he had always known it. He had to kill Malfoy.
Malfoy had said that it was impossible for someone Marked to kill the Mark's creator, but Harry had been the living exception to several laws of magic in his time. He thought Malfoy could be wrong.
And there was another probable solution, as well. Harry circled his finger around his left arm, near the line of his shoulder.
Hermione had taken up medical magic as a hobby since she and Ron had moved. Harry had seen the books lining the shelves of her study, and Ron's study, and the main library, and the "second" library on the ground floor. (Harry didn't know why they called it the second library when it was actually the first library you would meet walking into the house, but then again, there were a lot of things that he didn't necessarily understand about his best friends anymore).
Harry was sure that, if he had to, he could find a book on amputation of a limb.
I will not be a slave.