Chapter beta: Dani
Chapter translator: Aivy
I was a man who was always in control.
I hardly ever allowed myself the slightest hint of emotions, because emotions make you weak. Emotions hinder. Emotions... Who needed emotions?
For a long time, I had not been a man who did anything because of sentiments. Except once, only once, when I had lost control, devastatingly and completely.
This shameful experience had happened to me only recently and for the first time in many years, if not a decade. What had driven me to lose control? Exactly, she, a woman; or rather, she, the minx!
I was now somewhat indignant and angry that she managed to introduce the discord she always spread into my family. How dare she?! I had never seen Draco act so thoughtlessly in battle as he had done today and even I had been distracted by Lucius' so well-calculated, malicious words.
He was a master at hurting and manipulating people. To my own surprise, he had managed to strike a chord for the first time in a long while and had turned us against each other. Of course, I deserved to be struck down by Draco for what I had done; I knew that. But not winning was as much in my nature as in Dracos or Lucius' and probably in Hermione's, too, because she always wanted to win.
I still had her words in my ear:
~"I don't need any help to get my revenge. It always comes, as Draco knows, so you won't get any thanks from me, Lucius! And if you don't believe me, I can't help it, but many people have already thought that nothing would come anymore and then it came all the more unexpected, for them! So it's much more fun, don't you think?“~
The worst part was, I believed her completely.
Maybe the minx had put what had happened behind her and had more or less forgiven me. Nevertheless, if she ever had the opportunity to get one over on me, she would. She would get her revenge and enjoy it. That was very Slytherin and very Malfoy of her; a fact I could respect.
However, I was shocked that she was actually like that. I didn't know if Lucius had noticed this in all its implications, but in my understanding she had let us look very deeply into the inner workings of her mind through this statement. Immediately, I had thought of Rita Skeeter; the beetle, as Hermione always called her.
Right. The minx had told me that the reporter belonged to her. After the vicious articles in her fourth year of school, she seemed to have apprehended Skeeter and taken revenge in some way. Apparently, she had been more than successful. I did not doubt her.
Yes, we shouldn't underestimate this little minx at any time, and that included me.
I pondered Draco's words. Yes, he was right, I had given her a covetous, yearning look. She was just too enticing. Why did she attract me so much? And after everything that had happened?
When it came to her, it was really hard for me not to give in to my desires, although I was otherwise a very frugal, almost ascetic man.
When we had this unexpected, but very sensible conversation, after the will-reading, I had felt very comfortable in her presence and it was mutual. I knew that because I knew her well by now.
Despite that, she still managed to surprise me, for example when she had confidently walked through the door of the pub in her flattering hooded dress and then had pulled the hood off her head in a brazen move…
I had thought: She couldn't unmask herself here! But then I had seen the face she wore: Minna!
She had done this intentionally because I had ordered her to come here. She had tried to irritate me and provoke me. Quite simply, she had retaliated in a very vicious manner. She had revealed herself as an ice-cold bitch, presenting herself in the appearance in which I had been allowed to enjoy her.
What a cunning, deceitful, and spiteful minx.
She had looked exactly the same as she had back then: short, chin-length, blonde hair and blue eyes that twinkled audaciously at me. Then she had sat down brashly next to me and I hadn't been able to hold myself back. I had wanted to irritate her myself, so I had provokingly said that we could take the room that had been ours. But she had stayed calm, amazingly calm, considering what had happened there, showing me a very composed mask.
Succinctly, she had said that we should drink to the old times and damn it, that hadn't left me unaffected. A show of such callousness would have pleased Lucius, but his questions had not asked for that much detail, so he knew nothing about it, absolutely nothing.
Today, she had revealed to him a small part of how cold she could behave, but he had not yet grasped the full extent, I thought to myself contentedly and derisively. He was just indulging too much in his arrogance and how he usually affected women. He was simply pretentious, self-absorbed and too convinced of himself.
Now I wanted to know why the hell Lucius thought he had to act like that and play Draco and me off against each other like that. For one thing was clear, even in his total blindness about how Hermione thought, he still had had a plan. I did not know exactly what she was thinking either. For the most part, I only assumed that I understood her a little, if at all, because most of the time I did not do that either. What was going on in that girl’s mind was usually a big mystery to me, alas, I knew that she certainly had not liked the fight that had taken place earlier.
She had come across as cold and exuded such a chilled fury that I instinctively felt that it had pushed her away from me again. The intimacy that had existed between us shortly after our intermezzo in the Beheaded Hangman seemed to have dissolved into nothingness thanks to Lucius' interference. He had managed that superbly, I thought resentfully.
Hence, shortly before dinner, I stormed into his favourite salon with billowing robes and found him staring into the fireplace in deep contemplation and complete rapture.
He scratched one of the beasts lying at his feet on the back of its neck and seemed to be far away. I slid like a shadow into my armchair and peered at his figure, getting angry at his blasé way of playing with the stupid cane in his other hand. He seemed very absent before he sighed deeply and said all of a sudden:
"Severus, why has she not shown me any gratitude?" His question sounded pensive, but he was still very arrogant in the way he lifted his aristocratic nose up into the air. "I do not understand that! She should have thanked me for punishing you! Why was she so dismissive? ... She snapped at me! Can you understand that? I do not understand..." He shook his head slowly, without comprehension, his long hair brushing his shoulders.
I growled and thought: Yes, I am aware that you do not understand, my dear. When I did not answer, he slowly turned his head towards me. He looked in my direction with distant eyes that showed his astonishment at her reaction, which grew wide when he took me in without distraction.
"You are angry. Why, Severus? Punishment was necessary! I cannot allow you to do something like that and then get away with it! You must understand that," he sounded thoroughly bewildered and looked at me haughtily.
What was I supposed to say? That he interfered in things that were none of his business? But how? After all, he did not always interfere in everything else. He did not need to pretend that he was doing it because of the insipid rules or because he wanted to show his authority. He had only done this to impress her by showing that he had the reins in his hand. He had wanted to ensure her gratitude.
He did it only because he was interested in her, nothing else had driven him. If I were to take Narcissa, he could not care less.
So I kept silent. Again he sighed loudly.
"I also do not understand why you now growl so much and wear such a grumpy face! You defeated Draco - even if only just, as I have to admit. He learned a lot," he rambled silkily, rubbing my face in it, the conceited peacock, whereupon I bared my teeth.
"And I should be happy about that? Tell me, Lucius, what kind of world of delusion do you live in?" I hissed very cynically, crossing my arms in front of my chest. Sometimes he really took things too far.
"So, what happened? I really do not understand why it did not go according to plan for me. She should not have reacted in such a sarcastic way," he stated in consternation.
Crooking his head of pale hair thoughtfully, he really seemed to worry about his lack of understanding about the fact that she had not liked being the reason he had been able to skilfully play us against each other and that he had used her to get us to fight.
"You really have no idea how she thinks, do you, Lucius?" I asked spitefully and sneered at him.
"Pardon? But you do?!" he retorted indignantly, in a cool tone.
"At any rate, she had come much closer to me than before. We tried to work out a foundation. A progress that you destroyed again with your brilliance," I snarled angrily and revealed quite a bit by reproaching him for worsening my relationship with her again.
"Oh... I see! You are mad because you can no longer get so close to her. Did you really have hope?" the question came terribly blasé from Lucius, over whose face showed a gloating expression for a few seconds.
I did not react to his malice and only stared him down.
"Then it might have done something good," he smirked shrewdly and contentedly at the same time. It should not have been possible for one man do be so bloody annoying.
"Something good? Sometimes, Lucius, I have my doubts about you. I would almost think you belong to those people who are the living proof that brain failure does not directly lead to death," I drenched him in my biting sarcasm.
"Please, do you want to insult me?" he snarled, offended, and I hurriedly raised my hand.
"No, listen! In your quest to humiliate me, you only drove her further into Draco's arms! So let me tell you, you just made it considerably more difficult for yourself," I elaborated, being thrilled and showing him a sharp, cunning smile.
He had dug his own grave. It amused me terribly, when I realised it. Upon my assessment, which he probably now shared, he grimaced in disgust. According to the storm brewing in his eyes, darkening them, he seemed to be awfully annoyed. Oh yes, he was thoroughly disappointed that he had been so wrong.
"What makes you think she was getting closer to you?" He showed unexpected interest and I wondered if I should tell him. I placed my arms on the armrests of my chair, folding my hands as if to pray, and considered telling him the story of the waitress.
Looking into Lucius's self-absorbed face and remembering how he had tried to play everyone off against each other today, I thought to myself: Why not?
To hear about that would annoy him even further, irritate him even more. Exactly what I wanted to do right now: get Lucius off his high horse.
Thus. I told him in brief, carefully chosen words the story of how she had held my gaze and her expression had turn to ice when the buxom woman had tried to hit on me. How I had indulged in an eyeful or two and how aggressively Hermione had reacted. Disgruntledly, Lucius raised an eyebrow at so much physical violence from her side.
Yes, my dear, you have no idea what a blow she packs. I was happy that she had not been willing today to show Lucius all that she could do. Then I revealed further that she had told me not to flirt with other people near her.
With a certain maliciousness, I registered how he clenched his jaw while imagining the scene vividly, before replying coldly.
"I do not understand. During breakfast, she complained about you and that Draco had not done anything! That is not normal. No woman would say such a thing if she did not hope to get anything out of it!" He sounded slightly frustrated and slammed his walking stick hard into the floor; a sound that startled the dogs.
"I have tried to tell you that before: you simply underestimate the minx, Lucius. Who said she is the type to act straightforward?" I once again attempted to explain it to him so that it would finally reach his snobbish brain that she was not like other women.
"She is a Gryffindor," he interjected hopefully, as if this could explain everything.
"Who feels very comfortable among snakes! Besides, she is presumably only a Gryffindor because her parents are Muggles," I snarled contemptuously, hopefully giving him something to think about.
"Oh... What does it matter?! That does not explain anything! Why did she get so upset? Is she interested in you?" he wanted to know jealously and impatience was evident both in his voice and in his eyes.
He would dislike my potential answer because I could not tell him anything concrete. Therefore, I only shrugged my shoulders and said nothing, whereupon Lucius now looked thoughtfully into the flames again, as if he hoped to find the answer there.
"Lucius, a serious word..." I barked.
"Mh-hm..." He did not look up and I continued.
"I warn you, Lucius! If you ever again drag me into such a game of yours within the family, I will not tolerate and accept it. I would challenge you to a duel and show you some curses that you do not know yet," I threatened openly and glared at him ominously. Even I did not put up with everything from this conceited twat and as I had said, I was angry that he interfered so much. I meant this very seriously.
My threat tore Lucius from his almost trance-like state in surprise and he immediately turned his thoughtful gaze back to me, studying me for a long time. I endured this examination calmly and stoically but I could not read anything from him myself. He sat in front of me like an emotionless marble statue.
Suddenly, he nodded abruptly. He had accepted my threat, only to return his gaze to the flames to continue his brooding.
After a long while - I was ready to get up and go because he had done nothing but keep silent, lost to the world - he began to speak again.
"What is the Order doing? Do you have any new information?" Lucius asked, sounding determined.
Alright. Right now he looked at me clearly and definitely. Every trace of doubt, anger, or confusion had disappeared from his face. He was back to being the Right Hand who had everything under control and acted like a leader planning a battle. In this role, he was completely different; a man of action who knew exactly what he wanted and how to obtain everything in the most brutal way.
I had always been different from Lucius. He was ready to do anything for his position. I, on the other hand, had never aspired to the highest office that would have brought me too much attention since I preferred to stay in the background. This also explained why we got along so well. I would never challenge him for the leading rank because I did not want it.
"What? Does the Dark Lord not expect my rapport on Saturday?" I showed my surprise, leaning slightly forward to indicate my cooperation.
"No, probably not. If he does, the call would reach you at very short notice. He plans a big ceremony in three to four weeks-" he began to inform me, but I hastily interrupted him.
"Where? He hardly admits anybody to his residence," I remarked in genuine bewilderment.
"Where? Oh... no, I will have the honour to host this ceremony," he announced arrogantly, his eyes gleaming with a subtle emotion.
"What, here? For everyone?!" I actually exclaimed in shock.
"What? No, Severus. Only the inner circle. Do you think I would let the common people into my home?" Lucius asked, visibly piqued, while he shook himself in disgust.
"What is the reason for him to grant you that honour?" I dared to ask pompously and noticed an ironic grin spreading on his face.
"Draco! The lord wants him in his ranks," he disclosed to me silky and, unintentionally, I became wide-eyed.
"What? But he only accepts seventeen-year-olds," I whispered in a shocked voice, for I was truly at a loss and did not know what to think. I had hoped that Draco had more time before he would become an initiate of the Death Eaters.
"Ts ts... you should know better, my friend! You yourself also had the honour of being an exception to the rule... Did you not? However, this is secret. Nobody knows that and nobody should know that, especially no Dumbledore," he warned me and showed me again clearly what limits my espionage activity had, since I was not allowed to pass this information on to anyone.
"As you wish, Lucius. Are you sure this is a wise decision? What does Draco say?" I asked diplomatically, because I was really interested in that answer.
Lucius first brushed a strand of his long hair from his face and played with his cane.
"I informed Draco when you were at this will-reading excursion. We had an audience with His Lordship. My son showed the expected surprised delight and he meant it sincerely. However, if you doubt my words, ask him; you have my permission. I understand that you are worried, but Draco left a big, positive impression during the attack on Azkaban, after this fiasco in the Ministry. This is now his reward. After you, he is going to be the second youngest Death Eater ever. He will also directly ascend to the inner circle. Therefore, we will hold an intimate, private celebration to honour his accomplishments," Lucius explained to me in detail; as always, when it came to this topic, like a neutral automaton that only operated and felt nothing. I was like that, too. You had to be, otherwise you would not be able to play this game for long.
I was really perplexed and taken by surprise that Draco would be officially accepted into our ranks so soon. On the other hand, I had expected nothing else because this had been predetermined for him. Draco was more than ready to take his place.
Even though I did not know what he was planning, I knew that he was pulling strings in the background. He had reckoned that after his successful attack on Azkaban he would be honoured by the Dark Lord. His heroic deeds in Azkaban were revered among the Death Eaters. He had really put on an impressive show there, showing that he was a level-headed strategist and a calculating tactician who did not shy away from and was able to lead an attack. Even Greyback had praised Draco's cold-bloodedness at his young age.
All this led to him becoming a marked follower of the Dark Lord even sooner.
"Yes, I would like to talk to Draco because I know what will happen to him now," I replied calmly.
"As I said, you may! But now speak, are there any news from the Order?" He casually crossed his legs, quite the master of the situation. Hermione was quite a different case; with her he had nothing under control. That had to annoy him terribly and only fuelled my sarcasm. I was glad that for once he didn't get everything served on a silver platter.
"Nothing special, absolutely nothing. They recruit people, or at least they try. Quite headless, I think, without proper structure. Dumbledore is constantly traveling, so he is not much around, but he does not say why. He keeps a very low profile. I am supposed to brew potions for all sorts of things, although I do that for the Lord too... and otherwise, well, the next meeting is scheduled for Sunday, maybe I will know more then," I vaguely acknowledged that I did not know anything and that wasn't even a lie.
In my opinion, the Order acted very disorganized and reminded me of a bunch of headless chickens.
"Well, there is nothing one can do. Find out where Potter lives," he demanded quite briskly, giving me a specific assignment.
"Why?" I wanted to know, immediately on my guard. That was interesting and he never did anything without a reason.
"Why not? I want to know where the boy is," he returned almost impudently, like a little child.
"If you knew... would you tell the lord?" I asked him carefully and his eyes narrowed to suspicious slits.
"Mhm, maybe!" That was quite the statement from Lucius; short, concise, and absolutely useless.
"I will see what I can do, Lucius," I offered vaguely.
"Do that." He sounded as if his mind was already thousands of miles away. Absentmindedly, he knocked a rhythm on the floor with his cane before looking at me again. "But to get back to Hermione-" he started all over again.
"You are obsessed," I snarled angrily and exasperated.
"No less than you! What do you think, should I apologize?" The question came self-forgotten, almost dreamily from Lucius. I just had to be careful not to suffer a heart attack.
Lucius and apologize!
I had no idea that he knew the word, let alone that it was in his cultivated vocabulary. A new cosmos had just opened up for me. Was that even Lucius sitting before me?
The way I stared at him must have looked very stupid, but then I was in danger of losing my mind. The minx was not good for any of us, quite clearly!
" Well, do not look like that... I am ready to fight with all available means and if you think that would help me, I would do it," he admitted coldly, grimacing as if in suffering. Apparently, he did not like the thought at all. I shook my head to find an answer.
"No, Lucius. I think you would probably make yourself look ridiculous in her eyes. She never expected an apology. However, if you are not ready to believe me, go get your slap to the face. It is a pity that I will presumably not be there when you make a fool of yourself," I smugly poured out my mockery over him. Then I bit my tongue to avoid laughing because he was shooting me a very piqued look.
"Just wait. When she is finally mine, you won't be laughing anymore!" he hissed arrogantly, a certain greed in his cold gaze.
"Watch out that this does not develop into a fixed idea for you," I warned, entertained and relaxed, leaning back.
"Like the way she always keeps your thoughts occupied?" he asked spitefully and gave me a knowing look. "Your looks are pretty obvious, Severus." I stood up smoothly. As sorry as I was, he saw through me very well.
"Now that you mention it... I will leave you to your imagination and pay the both of them a visit. Please excuse me," I said. He dismissed me with a surly wave of his hand. Once I had left, he would probably get back to his pompous plans and brood over them like a peacock over an egg.
Silently, I strolled through the corridors of the Manor and the whispering conversations of the portraits accompanied me on my way to Draco's suite. When I quietly opened the door, I spotted her sitting behind the little secretary, eagerly writing something down on a sheet of parchment while browsing through a book at the same time. She seemed very busy with the way she frowned and narrowed her eyes. She was also gnawing absent-mindedly on her lip again.
I wondered what she was doing.
Although I entered silently and closed the door quietly, she immediately raised her head as if she had sensed my presence. She smiled cynically at the sight of me and put the quill aside, but said nothing yet.
As I walked towards her, I looked around and realized that Draco was not present. She leaned back in her chair and waited for me.
"What can I do for you, Severus?" she asked calmly, crossing her arms in front of her chest.
"If you ask me like that, a lot..." I looked at her in a provocative way. Thereupon, she gave me a snide side glance and so I got to the point. "I am looking for Draco!"
"Oh, then you'll have to be patient. His mother sent him a missive earlier stating that she wanted to see him." She now straightened up and looked at me waiting.
"Then I will wait," I decided shortly.
"Do not force yourself,' it came cool from her and she pointed into the room, oh yes, she was in a bad mood.
I could imagine why Draco had been called to his mother. She would most likely be planning the festivities around Draco's initiation and seek her son's opinion as this would be his night.
"Hermione, you know why Draco had to go to Narcissa?" I checked curiously. Meanwhile, I sat down on the couch and watched the setting sun envelop her in a soft red glow.
"No, not yet. Afterwards, Draco wanted to inform me in depth," she replied matter-of-factly.
I was intrigued. Draco hadn't told her yet. That was remarkable. Nonetheless, she remained very calm and continued to work attentively, ignoring me. After some time, I felt that I did not like being treated with such disregard by her, so I got up and opened the globe before pouring myself a drink.
"Can I offer you one too?" I ask politely.
"Yes, please," I heard her curt answer and noted with annoyance that she had not even deigned to look up. What was she doing there that captivated her so much?
As I approached her now with a crystal glass in hand, I took a quick look over her shoulder and recognized complicated, arithmetic formulas and, little by little, other Latin and Gaelic quotations that were scattered desolately across several papers.
She had neither looked up nor moved when I heard about the rustling of the parchments:
"So curious, Severus?" She sounded slightly amused, while still not looking at me, continuing to work out her calculations. I bent lower over her body, now supported by a hand on the tabletop, and my black hair fell like a curtain over my face, tickling her on her naked shoulder, but she remained relaxed.
"What do you want to know?" she asked calmly and seemed completely in control and not worried either.
"What are you calculating?" I asked keenly interested and pointed to an equation with my index finger.
"When I've finished the spell, you'll be the first to know what or how I got it done, but at the moment I don't want to say anything," she casually gave me a rebuff and a promise at the same time.
Another possibility to keep your fellow wizard favourably disposed. Calculating minx!
"Maybe I can help," I generously offered. I had always loved to devise new spells, to invent, but she only laughed harshly, tilting her head back and was now very close to me and my face, almost too close.
It was only inches that separated us and I saw the mischief twinkling in her eyes as she answered with a grin. My gaze was unconsciously but also very covetously focused on her mouth and I watched her gently curved, rosy lips.
"No, I don't think so! But thank you for the offer," she refused, to my disappointment.
However, before I could react, I heard a door slam shut and looked up, spotting a slightly pale-looking Draco glaring icily in our direction. He stepped into the room, approached the open bar, and downed a glass of liquor in one go.
"Severus, what can we do against you?" he wrapped his rejection very politely. It did not seem to suit him at all that I was standing so close to Hermione. Hence, I walked slowly towards him as I did not want to annoy or irritate him.
"I want to talk to you briefly; your Father gave me permission. I think it might have something to do with your visit to Narcissa. We may go to one of your parlours," I told him in a roundabout manner what I wanted from him and gave him the chance to keep it secret from Hermione for the time being, if he so wished.
"That won't be necessary," he said to me, determined and concisely, whereupon I sat down on the couch and looked at him with mild curiosity.
He knew what I wanted to know and sat down opposite me in his armchair. Looking at me appraisingly, he sipped from the sparkling liquid one more time and breathed in deeply, but also calmly.
"Darling, please join us. That would be important," he called Hermione and she came immediately. She sat down next to him on the armrest, put an arm around his shoulders and waited patiently.
"Well, Severus, what do you want to know? If it is true that I am going to do it voluntarily or whether I am pleased with what's about to happen? Then let me tell you that both applies. I feel honoured to be the second youngest Death Eater after you," my godson announced in a stilted fashion.
He sat proudly in his armchair, in one hand his glass, the other hand on the naked thigh of the minx and seemed utterly unaffected.
I watched her like a hawk, not wanting to miss any detail of her reaction. I wanted to see what she thought of what was to come; that Draco would soon be a follower of the Dark Lord.
And what did she do? She shocked me to the core.
"Oh, Draco, how wonderful! Congratulations! I am serious; you don't have to look at me so disbelievingly, Severus! That's great for Draco! Will you get right into the inner circle?" she chirped sweetly. It was the first time that I heard such a tone from her and she smiled kindly, almost hugged him and Draco didn't seem quite as surprised that Hermione reacted so exuberantly to his revelation.
"I am glad that you are so happy, Hermione," Draco said plainly. He gave her a sly grin and patted her thigh softly.
"Are you serious?" I felt obliged to ask and reaped the same disbelieving look from both of them that I had questioned them.
"Why shouldn't we be serious, Severus? Father and you have been preparing me for a long time to go this way and Hermione... Darling, what made you say what you did?" Draco asked, raising his elegant eyebrow.
"I am happy for you that you are taking your rightful place. And the rest? Well, we'll see about that when it's time..." She shrugged her shoulders non-committedly.
"Hermione, you cannot mean that," I protested indignantly.
After all, she was Potter's best friend. She could not possibly be serious!
"Severus, you don't think I got involved with Draco and thought he wouldn't become a Death Eater? I am a realist, not a fantasist," she rebuked me sternly.
I was angry with myself. I knew she was an ice-cold strategist who was very conscious of what she was doing, but damn it, damn her! Every time you looked at her, you did not behold the ice-cold calculating bitch she was, instead you saw a beautiful, dainty woman who looked as if she could do no harm when you got caught in her warm brown eyes.
"But ... but how do you expect that to work out?" I asked perplexedly.
"How? We will see," she dismissed my concern. "It's just a pity that I can't be there. I would be so proud of you! I guess I'll have to become a ghost for that evening," she sulked visibly and pushed out her lower lip. Draco laughed and caressed her naked knee.
"Mhm... maybe I have an idea," it came thoughtfully from Draco and he tilted his head.
"Draco! That's way too dangerous! You must not sneak her in under the Dark Lord's nose, that's out of the question! Impossible," I snapped furiously. I did not like the prospect at all; these children were much too reckless.
"Ah, Severus, let me worry about that. I'll take care of it! Did you want anything else?" he fobbed me off with empty platitudes.
"Do not disregard it like that! Take my warning seriously. Bloody hell, you Malfoys are all snobbish idiots! The brain and the ability to use it are two different gifts. You know what? Do whatever you want!" Exasperated, I gave up because they were all trying to drive me crazy.
Abruptly, I stood up and left Draco and Hermione with no farewell and with billowing robes. The door slammed loudly into the lock as I angrily left these two unspeakable, self-overestimating idiots behind me that were made for each other in their misguided recklessness, I thought unfavourably.