This is the maiden all forlorn
That milked the cow with the crumpled horn
That tossed the dog that worried the cat
That killed the rat that ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.
"Here, let me help you." He gently put a hand on her elbow to help her up, but she jerked away in disgust, wheeling around to face him and backing up. He put his hands above his head as if to surrender, but his wand was out.
"Whoa. It's alright. You're safe." He spoke soothingly as if to a startled horse.
She ignored him, eyes darting around swiftly to take in her surroundings.
They were in a musty smelling cottage. It might have been charming had it been taken care off. A window was broken and unrepaired, letting in a cold breeze; the garden outside it looked half-wild and overgrown, half tended. Nearly every surface inside was dusty. Wallpaper and paint peeled in places. There were cobwebs here and there on the bookshelves and cabinets. The kitchen and front door were behind him. She stood with her back against an old, red couch that faced an empty fireplace. Further behind was a doorway which led to a dark hallway and, she suspected, a stairwell from a glimpse of banister.
It was obvious this man was not wealthy. He was not young. There was no family here and no servants, so they were alone. The only question was: was he fast with that wand and was there a door in the back? This may be the moment she was waiting for. She knew her eyes were wild now with fear, her back lowered like an animal preparing to defend itself. His voice remained level and low. Almost pleasant.
"I'm Remus Lupin, and I'm not going to hurt you. I promise. Why don't you sit down and I'll make us some tea?"
Her eyes darted around as he stepped slowly forward. She stepped backwards around the end of the couch bumping into a small, marble-topped inn table.
"Careful." He warned as it teetered. She caught a vase just before it could tumble. "Nice catch. What's your name?"
She did not reply, but instead stared at the vase in her hand as she stood there, frozen. Then she stared at him. The moment was suspended, everything moving slowly. Recognition seemed to dawn, and he opened his mouth to begin, "No, don't—"
She hurled the vase at him with all her strength, feeling a stab of guilt even as she aimed for his head.
He deflected it with magic and it smashed against the corner wall away from both of them. She stood there aghast for a moment, rethinking her plan.
"Please, don't do that." He said simply, like a mildly displeased teacher.
There was only one more thing she could think of—she sprinted towards the other side of the kitchen hoping to round the counter to the door before he could close the distance between them. He was slower than her but just as smart. He cut off her path to the door, wrapping her tightly around the abdomen and chest with his surprisingly strong arms. She dug her fingernails into his sleeves, her desperate and pointless attempts at escaping his grasp. She could smell him, pressed against his chest. He smelled of tea and chocolate and the forest and a little of the musty cottage. It might have been pleasant if he weren't holding her captive.
"Just hold on!" He panted while she struggled against him, kicking at anything in reach and sending several objects crashing. She did not see what they were as she was thrashing her head and hair about wildly, wriggling against him as much as she could in order to get free. His pleas for her to calm down were drowned out by her screams for help. It became increasingly difficult to get them out as his grip on her was quite tight.
They bumped against the counter then the wall with thump. He let out a groan of pain. She fell silent as the breath was knocked out of her. He wrestled her over to the couch and sunk to the floor, his back against the fat piece of furniture, which slid a little with their combined weight. "I really don't want to hex you, but I can't keep this up."
Sensing her plan had officially failed, she stilled and quieted. Still holding her tightly against him, the man pointed his stick at the fireplace and it sprang to life, the warmth welcome. It became apparent then that it was beginning to grow dark outside and this was the only light in the room. Everything held a strange glow and unfamiliar shadows flickered and danced. He caught his breath, his chest rising and falling against her back as she basically sat in his lap. He wiped his brow. Maybe she could tire him out and escape while he slept.
"Now, that's better." He said in that false cheer again accompanied by a heavy sigh. Suddenly she wondered what all she'd have to do before he would be tired out. She shivered, pushing the thoughts from her mind. He reached behind them and brought a blanket down from the back of the couch, attempting to wrap it around her with one arm. He thought she was cold.
"Glad to see you're a fighter." So he wanted her to resist him. Is that why he spent so much on her? She was suddenly very tired and trying hard to summon the strength to fight more. The fire and his scent were not helping; they were naturally calming. "Now things would go a lot better if you could tell me your name."
She said nothing. Maybe if she did not fight, he'd be uninterested. She slumped in his arms, forcing a yawn which she feigned concealing.
"Now if I get us some tea, will you just sit here a moment?" His voice was as if speaking to a child. She hesitated, then nodded. He let her go and stood slowly behind her, taking his wand and keeping it out as he walked the few feet to the kitchen. He prepared the tea in the portion of the kitchen between her and the door, his eyes on her always. She pulled the blanket around, curled her legs underneath her, and pretended to watch the fire, eyelids drooping for show. She barely caught the scent of lavender and possibly chamomile as he no doubt slipped it into her drink to calm her, maybe make her drift off.
He sat next to her with two china teacups, handing her one. She took it cautiously. He kept a few inches distance out of courtesy sipping his tea nonchalantly, waiting. He was a strange man, she surmised, taking a sip that she spit back in and pretending to swallow.
He attempted another small smile but failed and became pensive over his cup. She waited.
"I know you won't believe me just yet, but I have no intentions of harming you. I only spent the money to save you…" He blathered on with his story to get her to trust him, but she wasn't listening. She was formulating a plan. Why was he trying so hard to win her over? It was not like he needed to in order to get what he wanted.
Then, it occurred to her.
She dropped her cup, wincing as the near-boiling water splattered her skirt and hands.
"Oh no." He stood instantly, tentatively placing hand on her elbow as she too leapt to her feet. She forced her eyes to well with tears as they made their way to the kitchen. They were so close to the door then… but she had to wait. She made sure he saw the tears in her light blue eyes as he ran cold water over her scalded hands.
"Hold on," he said gently. "I have a salve for burns right here." Perfect. She thought he would. She barely dared breathe as he turned his back to reach into a cabinet over the stove. He was two steps away from her, rifling through the bottles and parcels.
She did not hesitate; there was no time. As silently as she possibly could, she reached the door, threw it open, and sprinted outside.
She did not stop running to asses where she was, though she knew she was running in sand as it was very difficult. Every direction looked the same, passed in a blur. She did not stop running at his calls from behind her. She ran and ran and ran until his voice disappeared behind the sounds of crashing waves and wind whipping her hair, trying it into a fishing net. The light waned and mist turned into light rain. Grey sky met grey water in grey haze as she wandered, cold, down the beach.
She had no idea where she was or where she should go. Was he still on her tail? She had no way to know. Her head still ached, her hand stung from the burns, and she was growing quite tired and hungry. She was walking inside a cloud—cold and wet, unable to see a foot or two in front of her. Directions blurred; one turn around became two, then three, then six or seven…she didn't know.
No one was in sight. It was growing dark and she couldn't even hear her own voice, let alone anyone calling for her. What name would the man named Remus being calling anyway? Maybe her family was wandering out there, searching for her, so close. Maybe not.
She finally allowed herself to collapse on a sand dune. Her tears of frustration dotted the sand with the raindrops, indistinguishable.
Maybe if she stayed out there long enough someone else would find her, a fisherman, a local boy, a widow. Or maybe she would die before she could find out what that man in the cottage really wanted from her. She laid down on the sand and closed her eyes.
She awoke feeling dry and warm. Her head still ached, but her hand was no longer painful at all. The familiar scents of staleness and tea were all around her once more. She opened her eyes to find a rather annoyed middle-aged man standing over her, his golden brown hair falling into his face. She wiggled under her blanket nervously.
"Welcome back." He said sardonically. "Here," he handed her a piece of what appeared to be chocolate. Her hunger burned in her stronger than her curiosity and she accepted it. It was chocolate. It melted in her mouth and warmed her all the way down.
"I know I don't really keep this place suitable for visitors, but I've never had anyone run away before." He tried to joke. She did not laugh, too busy assessing that she was still fully clothed under the blanket on the couch.
"Look," he continued. "I've no idea what ordeal you have endured and it's clear that trusting me is out of the question for now, so I've cast a spell to keep you from leaving the cottage grounds. It's for your own safety. I'll explain later. Right now, I have to be at a meeting. I'm late, actually. While I'm gone, please make yourself at home. There isn't any food really to speak of, but I'll return with something. Alright?"
She made no protests, so he nodded as if this was consent. He grabbed his coat and she noticed he'd not had time to dry himself and clean the sand from his trousers. He threw something into the fire which turned it green and she wondered if he might be poisoning her. Then he stepped into the colored flames. She sat up on the couch.
"I'll be back soon." He assured her before shouting something nonsensical and disappearing. She shook her head. Maybe this was all a psychotic hallucination and if she fell asleep, she'd wake to find herself medicated and strapped to a hospital bed. Now wouldn't that be nice, she thought, drifting off once more, unable to fight it any longer.
When she awoke, she was still alone in the cottage. The window had been repaired, probably by magic. The fire was still lively, and she doubted that was entirely natural either. Taking his invitation to make herself at home, she explored the cupboards of the kitchen and found them as hopelessly bare as he'd said they'd be. He'd probably gone underfed for months, by the look of him, saving his money for her. Well, at least it wasn't likely he'd let her starve then, at least not right away.
She heated what was left of the kettle water and had some tea. Her stomach growled angrily in response. Looking around her, she found that the mess she'd undoubtedly made before her departure was also cleaned. The vase that had shattered was resting on its regular table. She went directly to it, turning it over in her hands to make sure it was real, solid, that it did not fall apart again in her hands. On the matching table at the opposite end of the couch was an old, colored glass lamp. It was a very expensive one, she could tell, beautiful.
The bookshelf on the adjacent wall was most intriguing, containing lots of books about magic as well as some on history and several great novels. Many books on magic focused on werewolves. Next to these rested a worn armchair which did not directly match the couch, but was close to the gold in the wallpaper.
She abandoned the bookshelf to explore the darkened hallway. Walking into it signaled the small, iron torches on the wall to illuminate. The wallpaper that was peeling at the corners was the same red as the couch. There was a door under the stairs and a door to her left. She opened the one under the stairs first and found a small, plain bathroom that housed a sink, toilet, and garden tub.
A hot bath might do her some good, she thought. Besides, she had heard somewhere warm water relaxed the muscles, could make it easier if he came back…interested. She ran some water while she located a roughly worn white towel and placed it on the toilet nearby. Slowly, she sunk into the tub. The warmth seemed to seep through her skin. It washed away the filth both seen and unseen. She relaxed a few moments, soaking in it, but he could return at any moment and she'd rather not be naked.
She dried off and wrapped her towel around her, entering the other downstairs room in search of a comb. She had to switch on a light to see anything in there, and the moment to room was lit she could see why: the two windows were boarded up. The armchair and stool had three long tears; they had been ripped, it seemed, by claws. There were scratches here and there on the wood, like a dog had been trying to get out, a very big dog. Maybe a wolf.
There was a comb on the old dresser across the room by the large bed, but she suddenly found herself uneasy about crossing the room, as if the beast might be hiding under the bed and run out to attack her. She huffed, annoyed with herself, and shook her head as she forced herself to the dresser. She stood and stared at her reflection for a while. She looked pretty pale and thin, but better than she had few hours ago. She was rested and clean at least. She combed her long hair slowly, making herself look presentable. But as soon as it was perfect she remembered she would indeed be presented to someone shortly and she shook her head like a dog, plunging her fingers in it and pulling like a mad woman. There, she looked rabid. She hoped that wasn't a turn on to a werewolf.
She tried to creep out leaving the room exactly as it was. He may be able to smell that she had been there, having half-wolf sense and all, but he might still appreciate that she tried not to disturb anything and root through his private drawers. It was tempting. She supposed had a right to know what sort of man had…acquired her.
She resisted. The only thing she would come to know through snooping was his temper when his privacy had been invaded.
Once she was dressed, she followed the hall that led to the stairway. Upstairs were two other bedrooms. One was a couples, the other held a single, small bed. Neither had been used for quite some time and were neatly tucked away, but held that stale smell. The smaller room at the far end of the hall had a view of the beach.
She stared out at the moon hanging over the water, clouds sitting low on the horizon at a distance. It was mesmerizing for a while until she heard someone downstairs.
"Find yourself a room up there?" he asked, removing his jacket and unpacking a small sack in the kitchen. He was slightly out of breath, his brow looked like it has sweated a little, and he looked more tired than before. He waited to see if she would answer. "I brought us a little food, like I promised. It's stew. Come and have some; you must be hungry."
She went cautiously forward, surprised he was not the one more bashful. She had injured him last time, broke his stuff, spilled what he'd given her, then run away and gotten herself lost on the beach.
"And some bread. Nearly fresh." He announced. She accepted the small bowl and slice of bread and devoured it. She tried to keep some of her manners and not eat like an animal, but she still scarffed it as that was pushing the limits of her self-control. She had no idea when she had eaten last. She barely tasted it before it was gone within minutes.
"I'm sure you were very hungry. It's been a while since I've eaten properly as well." She wouldn't exactly call a take away from someone else's dinner probably hours ago a proper meal. He seemed to think so and he seemed to enjoy her company. He probably was not used to having anyone to talk to over dinner, even if she wasn't talking back. "This was my parent's old vacation cottage. They kept it when they lost most everything else. Take any room you'd like upstairs." She struggled to keep away the surprise
"Well, I'm exhausted." He sighed. "I'll be down here if you need anything. I usually stay in the bedroom down here when I stay which is, well, only a few days per month." That explained the damage and the boarded windows.
He offered her one last weak smile and hesitated as he stood, giving her the opportunity to speak. He limped when he walked, she noticed, as he crossed the living room to the hall. She thought of saying goodnight, but closed her mouth. She thought of just letting him rest, but thought better of that as well and opened it again. Her voice sounded strange in the silence of the cottage even to her. His slow trudge stopped at its sound. Just stopped. He did not jump or turn around.
"Why did you buy me? What do you want me for?"
Slowly, he turned, sighing. "I did what I did to protect you. That's all."
"Protect me from what?" His brow furrowed and he took a single step forward, resting slightly against the couch.
"You know the men who took you are dangerous. You saw the crowd there. Malfoy, the man I had the exchange with in Knockturn Alley, is familiar to me. I taught his son for a while at school as well and I can tell you that family has unsavory tastes. I intervened." There, he seemed to being saying—it's simple.
"Why did you save me?" She tried once more. "I mean, why not some other girl?"
He seemed to think carefully about his answer. "You remind me or a girl I used to know."
"Did you love her?" She was surprised at her own boldness.
"Like family." She did not expect him to be so forthcoming. He seemed to be a private man who lived in a very private cottage. "She was married to my best friend. They were murdered by Lord Voldemort. His friends are the ones that took you."
"I want to tell you something," he paused, looking at her very seriously. "I want to tell you were I was tonight. And when I do I am going to have to trust you and you are going to have to trust me." She listened, her curiosity peaked.
"Tonight I went to a meeting of a resistance group. We opposed the Dark Lord the first and second time he rose to power, and we oppose him now. Buying girls from the Death Eater's slave trade captives is just one way we are trying to lessen the destruction he causes and undermine his rule. My friend, Molly, sent us the food from her own family's supper. I went to report on what I saw in the alley and that I had…acquired you, for lack of a better word."
"Have you saved many girls?"
"No," came his frank reply. "So far there have only been two besides you. One was very young and returned to her family as soon as that could be safely arranged. The other's family was dead and she wished to return the favor to the Order that granted her freedom by helping us however she could.
"So now you know," He told her, lightly slapping his knees as he sunk into an armchair. "And that is a very valuable piece of information you have on me."
"No one would believe me." She said dismissively.
"Oh on the contrary, I think you'll find them willing to follow any lead on locating me and my friends. We are wildly unpopular. Now you can trust me because you know my secret."
She considered this silently for a moment, then chanced boldness once more. "Are you really a werewolf?"
"Yes." he looked down, then smiled wryly. "But that's no secret."
She again gave no indication that this bothered her, nor did she return his smile. Instead, she drank her water and stared into the little metal beaker thoughtfully.
"I will not harm you." He told her, gazing directly into her eyes with his arm golden ones, eyes that seemed so trustworthy. But she knew eyes could lie, looks could be misleading, and true natures could be concealed. "You may have to stay at a friend's once a month though. If you'd like to meet them beforehand, you may accompany me to one of the meetings."
She did not nod. She did not know this resistance yet, what they were resisting, or if she wanted to be in its way. "When you're ready." He gave a small nod and smile of encouragement, but she sensed somehow he was disappointed as he stood and yawned.
"Your name?" He inquired so softly she barely heard him.
"Anna." She lied.
"Goodnight, Anna." He turned again to go to bed.
A/N: Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed this longer chapter. Please take a second to leave a review.