Chapter beta: Dani
Chapter translator: Aivy
The day of our return to the Manor came as inevitably as the rise of the sun in the morning. After the exercise, we had all fallen into bed, exhausted but happy, and let the magic work, which was urgently needed to heal. Astoundingly, the next morning we felt like new people, all of us! It was good that we tested this to see how long it took to recover from such injuries, and let's not make light of them: they had been quite substantial for we had not gone easy on each other. We also let our hair grow out so we looked like ourselves again. Short hair didn't really suit me.
Then Draco arrived to pick me up and to tell us about yesterday's funeral. However, he didn't get a chance to speak, not really at least, because everybody told him very excitedly and especially Ron in a breathtaking speed and excitement what had happened during our fight. Ron didn't seem to register in his exuberant and enthusiastical excitement that he was talking intently with his arch-enemy.
Draco seemed very amused about this, only raising his brow in amusement and giving the rest of us a blank look when he saw Ron's exuberant joy. One had to give credit to Ron's narrative flow, he told it very vividly, analytically and well, in every detail, so that Draco could get a full picture of the fight.
"That's nice. It's a pity, I would have liked to take part, because believe me, Weasel, then Potter would have had to face two opponents in the end. Well, next time! But now for the funeral: it was a tedious, never-ending affair, as expected, but people love us now, which is good! That show Father put on was brilliant! If there's one thing he can do, it's staging drama. The old coot was once again present and watched everything with eagle eyes. Fortunately, this farce is now over. I'm telling you, one more day and I would have cast an Avada," Draco exclaimed, "at myself!"
Ah, all right, I thought, who's the dramatist here? Those Malfoys were all the same! I valiantly suppressed a smirk.
He was interrupted by Ron who told him in detail how we healed ourselves and even Draco couldn't be disparaging or even unenthusiastic with so much honest, openly shown delight and admiration and so he listened attentively.
"That's nice that Hermione has won this fight for herself as well. Since today we are going back to the Manor, she may face the next one right away," Draco effectively brought Ron back down to earth, which immediately silenced him.
I said goodbye to them all. In keeping with the occasion, I wore a bright and iridescent long silk dress without sleeves with an elegant, straight cut. The delicate, shiny, abstract pattern, which was reminiscent of a snake skin, whose base colour was ivory white, shimmered in a light beige-brown to yellow. It was very simple, but elegant and noble, befitting the Manor and Lucius. I wore my regrown hair pinned up with a few loose strands that gently played around my face. I was striking to look at, but not provocative or sexy; that was how I would have described myself.
I admonished Ron to keep his promises and not to forget them and asked him to practice, then I confidently left everything to others. Draco gallantly offered me his arm, which made me laugh. Since our dispute, which I had decided in my favour, he was attentive all around. He led me to the oak tree and we apparated in front of the big wrought-iron gate of the still deeply impressive mansion.
As odd as it may sound, I had missed the cold, endlessly large and extensive building and now the bright sun bathed it in a warm glow and made it look even more tempting to me! Yes, I was now at home here, it went melancholically through my mind as I took everything in.
"Darling, I must move on, unfortunately, because thanks to Narcissa I have neglected a lot! Father is in his little drawing room next to the entrance hall! I'll come back this evening," he said, looking at me with a beautiful smile as the wind blew some of the white-blond strands into his face.
"Don't worry, Draco, everything will be fine. Have fun!" I stood on my toes and breathed a kiss on his soft lips.
"I'm not worried;I am more afraid for Father." He now showed a rare, mischievous smile. In the next second, he disappeared very quietly.
After these encouraging words, I walked cheerfully towards the house and gazed at the peacocks. One of them was just showing off vainly by spreading his beautifully tail feather. They shimmered in an iridescent white and he proudly stuck out his chest, enjoying the adoring looks of the smaller, less beautiful, train-less brown-grey hens.
The humorous, metaphorical ambiguity with regard to its owner made me bite my lip hard to stifle a cackle. I had looked it up and found out that the white peafowl is a naturally occuring, leucistic mutation of the blue peafowl and commonly associated with weddings, and yes, they fitted Lucius like a glove.
Stepping into the house, which was cool despite the summer heat, I felt the soft silk of my dress caressing my skin and knew that no matter what came, I had recovered. I was completely myself again and so my confident step led me straight towards the door behind which Lucius was waiting for me.
I knocked and entered. He sat in his wing chair as if painted, with his legs crossed and scrutinised me closely with his head tilted. His features seemed to be chiseled and even his eyes reflected nothing but the flames of the fire. As he often did, he was rolling his cane in his fingers as I entered, closed the door and curtsied prettily, maintaining the position well-mannered. My floor-length silk dress went along wonderfully, falling beautifully into folds all around me on the floor while I kept my head down. The glimpse I had caught had shown me that he looked very handsome and elegant as always, and he was only too aware of that.
"You have returned," he now spoke with his deep voice and let me persevere in my submissive pose.
Junk, that was a trap! That had not been a question and if I spoke or rose without his permission... No, that was just a nasty test, but I was ready and remained motionless.
"Aha, you are much better than I always assume. Rise and sit by me, my dear."
I rose smoothly from my curtsy, satisfied with myself that I had not fallen for his trap, stepped towards the chair next to him, sat down modestly and now looked at him expressionlessly.
"Did you enjoy it?" he asked with a pompous expression and gallantly offered me a glass of water, which I grabbed from the air with thanks as it floated towards me.
"Yes, Lucius, I did, and I was very glad that you allowed me to go," I replied softly.
"Yes, indeed, I am too kind. Especially since I dare to assume that you were with Potter... Is the boy well?" he asked nonchalantly. Raising an eyebrow at the question, I took a sip before answering. That Lucius had guessed had been clear to me, that he would approach me about it, hadn't. But I also knew that if he asked like that and I didn't answer truthfully, I would be punished and I wasn't that stupid.
"As always, Lucius, it's a pleasure to talk to you and thank you for asking. Yes, Harry is fine," I remained calm and smiled at him sweetly, which made him frown.
"You have a really good grip on yourself," he expressed his astonishment, and I smirked inwardly, but outwardly I remained calm.
"Well, I'm practising. Considering the circumstances, it would be fatal if I lost my nerve, wouldn't it?" I now folded my hands in my lap after I had put my water on the side table.
"Indeed." Something I could not quite grasp was reflected in the depths of his grey eyes.
Silence fell over the room while he watched me and I withstood his gaze, returned it. Apparently, he didn't want to know more about the subject!
"Anyway, Hermione, as you know, we have a grand celebration coming up soon, and since Narcissa has passed away - may Morgana have mercy on her soul - you are the Lady of the House and have the honour of planning it. I hope I am not overwhelming you with this." A slight smirk pulled at the corners of his mouth when he doubted me, but I gallantly ignored the insinuation and nodded.
"As you wish, Lucius. What an honour, thank you," I bowed my head reverently.
"I knew you would recognise the acknowledgement behind it." He bowed his head slightly and part of his long, fair hair fell to his chest. "The Inner Circle consists of my and Severus' humble selves, then the three Lestranges, Avery, Macnair, Nott, Crabbe, and Goyle. Their spouses will also attend the event. Whether the Dark Lord will bring his manservant, Pettigrew, is unknown to me."
"Where will it take place? I think it would be inappropriate to hold it in the ballroom," I thought out loud. Lucius laughed, looking at me with amusement.
"Correct, my dear Hermione, the ballroom does not appeal to the Dark Lord. The so-called Hall of Barons should be more suitable for this. It is located in the centre of the first floor, near here. You have not seen it yet, we rarely use it. It is the old ceremonial hall from the Middle Ages and, well, I think that says all about it, but for the Lord probably more than worthy. If you wish to see it..." he trailed off, waving his dark ebony cane around. I understood Severus' distaste for the thing. I wanted to grab it and break it in half.
I was allowed to plan my own demise and Draco's with it. Really great, really wonderful. That's what I call luck full-scale! I would have loved to laugh madly, but then it didn't matter and so I pondered: That would be fifteen people, plus the Dark Lord, Draco and myself, without Pettigrew.
"Later. Anything else you want to share with me? Music, that sort of thing," I enquired further while I was already planning.
"No, I will leave everything in your capable hands, Hermione," he said smiling sardonically, which made me slightly angry, but I wouldn't show it to him, so I smiled sweetly.
"One question, Lucius, if you don't mind: does everyone there wear their garb?" I pointed to my dress.
"Fair question, my dear, fair question. We wear these things often, almost always, but not at a celebration that is exclusively Inner Circle. In the presence of the unimportant, lower Death Eaters, even when they get marked, we all put on our shrouding robes and masks, since they do not need to know who we are - that would be counterproductive - but here, in this intimate group, we do not," he said coldly.
"Are you serious about Crabbe and Goyle?" I asked doubtingly. Yes, I dared to do so, because I found it too absurd that the fathers of these two schoolmates were to be found in the closest, most intimate circle of the Dark Lord.
"Do not underestimate neither the fathers nor the sons. They are pure-blooded and truly good men. They may not be decision-makers, but they are diligent followers who know how to fulfill orders to the utmost satisfaction. Sure, these two are responsible for the dirty work, the heavy tasks, yet they do not shirk them and do them well! People with that mentality are not easy to find and they are faithful and loyal," he explained to me. "And their sons also show these traits, albeit still clumsily. Even the slow ones can make it to the top and they have, slowly but steadily. Do not make the mistake, Hermione, of letting appearances deceive you," he lectured me and at that moment he reminded me alarmingly of Severus.
"Of course, thanks for the advice, Lucius," I responded immediately. "Do you have any other wishes I need to attend to?" I asked quite naively. Only when I saw the hungry glimmer in his eyes, I became aware of my choice of words and I automatically licked over my suddenly dry lips, which immediately attracted his eyes like a bee to a blooming flower. This time, however, I remained much calmer and clearly felt that it worried me much less than before I left.
"Do you need help or advice, or shall I do something about the Dark Lord?" he surprised me greatly.
"Lucius, you don't know what this means to me! However, that's not necessary, thank you. I believe I will not disappoint you. If I think I'll fail, I'll ask for your help, but not before," I refused graciously, knowing that everything had its price when Lucius was involved.
Thus, I stood up and saw him raise his eyebrow in bewilderment, for I had neither asked for permission nor he had allowed it, and went up to him, bent down smoothly and looked into his handsome face, which seemed to astonish him.
"Lucius, I hope I have your permission to withdraw. Thanks to you I now have a lot to do and I wanted to ask if I may greet you properly?" I breathed and braved the stare of those dark grey eyes that seemed to bore into my brown ones.
"Please," he allowed nonchalantly and emotionlessly, his body not moving an inch, so I pursed my lips and kissed his pale, clean-shaven cheek, inhaling his fresh scent and pressing my lips against his soft skin for a few seconds. He tensed briefly when I was so close to him and my hair was certainly tickling him.
When I straightened up again I noticed how he still fixed me rigidly. I turned away, walked to the door and turned back to him with my hand on the handle.
"Oh, and Lucius, I know I owe you something for your noble act of saving me! It's not forgotten and I've thought of something. Would you mind waiting until the last day of the holidays?" I requested. When he looked like he wanted to ask something, I raised a finger to my lips and then shrugged my shoulders, gave him an enticing wink, which he returned with a cynical smile, and left the room quickly, hurrying to the library to study ancestral charts.
Planning the celebration could wait for later because I wanted to get ahead. I had so much on my list and nothing was ready yet, nothing at all, and I couldn't stand that. It shouldn't be too difficult to plan the celebration with the help of the house elves. I would not make a drama out of it, like Narcissa probably would've done.
Shortly before our departure I had fetched the locket and shown it to the others, who passed it from hand to hand. In the middle of the octagonal cut golden citrine stone, which was set in white gold, small shards of emerald depicted a wriggling snake. Draco had thought that this was the sign, the symbol of Salazar Slytherin. He had been interrupted loudly when Harry had begun to scream. My best friend had dropped the amulet in distress and held his hands to the scar with his face twisted in pain, breathing heavily. Everyone had been on their feet to help Harry, even Draco had cast worried glances him. As always, he had remained very clear-minded and picked up the corpus delicti that had fallen at Harry's feet and had walked away with the locket. The further away he had gotten, the better Harry had been doing.
"Damn, folks, it's like Voldemort's here," Harry had gasped, still whimpering slightly. Yet it got better. In the end, Harry had been able to hold it in his hand, even if he had still been in discomfort, but the acute pain had subsided. What was the saying? You get used to everything.
We had a long talk about what this could mean and agreed that the locket had to be connected to the Dark Lord. We decided to hide it in the safe above the fireplace where the evidence against Dumbledore was also stored and put all kinds of spells and curses on the hiding place.
Now I was in the Malfoys' library, researching, researching and researching. It was indescribable how huge that library was. Here in front of me were the family trees of the Prince, Malfoy, and Black families, but also the Yaxleys, Weasleys, Burkes, Longbottoms, Crouchs, Prewetts, Rosiers, and Lestranges; even the family tree of the Potters was displayed. How the Malfoys had been able to collect all these genealogies was a mystery to me, except that all of them had inter-married at some point in unchristian times. Perhaps that was the answer to the question.
It was exciting! I was fascinated by genealogy, who was related to whom and how. It was an area that knew how to captivate me. I could have spent hours here just for the fun of it. Others might have found it confusing, the many branches and forks that sprouted from the family trees and split into branch lines or died out, but I loved it. I was trained to quickly grasp and read such complex, confusing family trees. Before I had become aware of the existence of the old, pure-blooded wizarding society that now fascinated me, it had been my hobby in the Muggle world to pay attention to the monarchies of Europe and their marriage politics contained in their family trees, to explore the resulting kinship relations and their widely spread intermingling.
As at Hogwarts, this library had a system in place that magically archived all newspaper publications immediately, but downsized the whole thing so that more or less one large book was enough for a century - as I had found out after a long, annoying search - so that I could also look at the articles of times long past. For example, I had reread the scandal when the Dark Lord had sicced the Basilisk on Myrtle, resulting in Hagrid being expelled from school; but that was all I had researched in the articles for now.
I made the ultimate discovery when I finally got hold of the family tree of the Slytherin family with its ancestor Salazar. I wanted to shout with joy that the search was finally crowned with success! Did the Dark Lord know that Lucius possessed a magical copy of his family tree? I wonder if Lucius knew it himself. Probably not. The family trees looked as if they had not been touched for decades and the most important family tree for me had been hidden in the shallows of a small box behind thick, ancient folios. No, I didn't believe that anyone knew that this family tree existed. I was very happy about my find!
Well, it was as if I was floating on clouds and after hours of standing I sank into the chair behind me with a pleasurable sigh and rubbed my burning, tired eyes.
The yellowed, wavy parchment on which the centuries-old, lengthy genealogical tree of the family stretched, showed a multitude of descendants, but unlike the bloodlines of the other magical families, the Slytherins married more and more among themselves, which gradually caused all the secondary branches to die out until only the main line remained. Immediately, my gaze drifted to the end of the tree. There it stood! I had found him, the Dark Lord and his lineage, his ancestors!
His maternal grandfather, Marvolo Gaunt, had died in 1929.
His mother Merope Gaunt had been born 1908 and had died on the 31st of December 1926.
His uncle Morfin Gaunt, his mother’s younger brother, had died in 1950.
Tom Marvolo Riddle had been born on the 31st of December 1926.
Tom Marvolo Riddle. Born 31.12.1926. Died 30.08.1944 / 30.08.1944 / 03.08.1946 / 12.04.1950 / 27.05.1950 / 31.10.1981 / 15.06.1995.
I was surprised. That must mean that Merope had died in childbirth. Poor thing, what a bad start in life. But that meant for me that I had to go on a search where he had grown up. Since his mother did not bear the name of the son, it was to be assumed that there was no marriage and that at that time... No, this was not a legitimate child. And with them all, the name of the Gaunts had died out, since the Dark Lord was apparently named after his Muggle father. Now, if that wasn't a clue.
But what shook me most was something going on next to the name of the Dark Lord. I frowned, irritated and confused. Okay, he had his date of birth written there, sure, but after that came what made my heart stop. What could that mean, I asked myself, infinitely shocked.
The line, which was incredibly long, said:
All right, so that meant the Dark Lord had died seven times at different dates... Damn it! I felt the beginnings of a throbbing pain that started pounding in my temples when I saw that data. Help, what was that supposed to mean? I blinked wildly, checking whether I was subject to an optical illusion, but the writing remained the same, unfortunately! I moaned desperately and annoyed.
I rubbed my temples with my hands and almost squinted. What did that mean? How could a person die so many times? Okay, was here the answer why he had survived Harry? Or not? Because the only date that told me anything was the 31st of October 1981, Halloween sixteen years ago, the day Harry's parents died - and the day the Dark Lord disappeared!
The first date, why did it show up twice? Could you die twice in one day? Nonsense, he walked around very much alive then, as he did today, to the sorrow of us all. According to this thing here - I looked daggers at the family tree - he had died seven times but he was still here! How the fuck did that work?!
How old was he when he first died? Seventeen, about seventeen. Well, he had come to Hogwarts in 1938, that means he got out in 1945. So something must have happened during the summer holidays of 1944! But all those dates didn't tell me anything, not yet, as I grimly admitted, but I would search until it did, I swore to myself!
The last date, yes, it did tell me something if I thought about it. It was the day the Dark Lord returned, the day Cedric died.
What did it all mean? It was confusing; I had never seen anything like it before, I could swear that no one had! Oh boy, that promised to get complicated! What did my logical mind tell me? Sure, he had done something, something magical. That wasn't a miracle in itself, considering how he looked and how he'd come back! The golden question was: What? So I wished myself a lot of fun and luck with the search!
I had to go further back into the past, that was important! I knew Riddle's name and now I had his complete data, so it should be possible in the Muggle world to find his father and his relatives on his father's side and to find out where he had grown up and how he had spent his holidays. Yes, my plan was taking shape. It would take a lot of work, but I hoped to reconcile the data with the necessary background knowledge and be able to draw the right, the logical conclusions, then to get to the bottom of the mystery and the death and life, or rather the non-life of the Dark Lord. My ambition and my curiosity were awakened and I would not rest until I had answers to my questions.
I had to find out more, in the magical as well as the Muggle world.
Heavens, these records always knew when someone died, that much was clear! What could die, but the person lived on? That occupied my mind a great deal. I stared distractedly through the window and saw the sun slowly sinking. It was not evening yet, but it was already late. Oh, why did everything always have to be so complicated? I could already tell, until I knew what it meant, I would hardly find any sleep. Damn it, it bugged me!
At that moment, I heard rapid footsteps that were fast approaching. I responded quickly by shrinking the Slytherin family tree, slipping the now small, square parchment under all the other genealogies and looking up innocently as if butter wouldn't melt in my mouth and not a second too soon.
He rushed in, wearing a black, tight-waisted frock coat that gave a good view of his trained figure, a sight no student at Hogwarts would ever see. His long hair framed his face and his eyes looked at me questioningly as he continued to come towards me, then his eyes went to the documents on the table.
At that second, I could see his gaze flickering, and, I kid you not, the black of his iris became even darker as he focused on the documents. Alarmed, I glanced at the object he was focusing on. Oh, I was in more trouble than I had hoped. I had been more concerned about the family tree of the Dark Lord in the heat of the moment but in my hurry I had put the Prince lineage on top of everything. My goddess, could you believe my luck with Severus? No, that wasn't right! I could hardly believe it myself and almost rolled my eyes in annoyance.
Then he already pulled the papers to himself and his lips became thin when he saw the confirmation of what I had laid out there.
End of Hermione’s POV
I had set out to find her to welcome her to her doom, I thought cynically. That she would hide in the library should not surprise me and it did not, because this was the first place where I had looked for her and it was where I found her. In this respect she was predictable, where otherwise she was usually rather unpredictable.
There she sat, in a shimmering, light silk dress that gently embraced her curves. The evening glow of the setting sun bathed her in a seductive light, as I noticed, even though I only saw her upper body as she was sitting.
Then my gaze fell on her slender little hands, which lay on around a dozen papers, which lay on top of each other in a messy heap as if she had desperately rummaged through them. I looked more closely and what I saw did not please me at all.
Family trees, she was researching genealogy. In itself I did not care much about it, but the family tree on top was that of my family, the Prince family, of which I was the only descendant! I was the last of this noble family, even if it was only through the female line and the name was lost, because all the other branches were withered, as were those of many of the other highly respected families. It was something that was none of her business but the minx never did anything without a reason.
I felt the anger that I had been slowly but surely mastering over the last three days, after what had happened in the Order and in the cottage, flare up again when I saw that she had presumed to investigate my family. This was nobody's business! I did not like such interference, here I was peculiar. I pinched my mouth angrily and saw how she noticed I was upset. I did not believe that she knew that I regarded it that way and guessed what she thought only because of that. I saw how she was mentally tempted to roll her eyes in suffering, even if she did not dare to do it openly in front of me, which was also better for her, as I thought spitefully.
So after a short time she had stirred up my anger again and I growled at her.
"What have you got to do with the family trees?" was my thoroughly friendly greeting.
"It's good to see you too, Severus," she said, wanting to get up from the high-backed chair, as I placed my hand on her silky shoulder out of an instinct and pressed her down, which she allowed with a frown. Her voice had sounded soft and pleasant, but like the last time, it could not calm me down. What was she thinking, prying into my family affairs?
"How dare you investigate my family?" I growled at her softly. But she seemed surprisingly calm and introverted, not letting herself be unsettled.
"Excuse me, Severus, I didn't realize it was forbidden... But I am pleased to know that Lucius' father and your grandmother were brother and sister. I never realized before how closely related you two are. Sorry," she shrugged her shoulder nonchalantly.
"I did not realise that I have to tell you everything you are allowed to do and everything you are not! Do not always be so bloody curious, it could cost you your head," I hissed quietly at her.
"Please don't make a drama out of-" she waved my warning aside when I brusquely interrupted her.
"Drama?! How dare you talk to me like that?" I growled angrily. That bitch always managed to rile me up and my fingers clenched around her narrow shoulder. For years, nothing had lured me out of my reserve and with her, it took just one look to make me flare up and I did not like that at all. I did not want her to have such power over me! Despising myself and my weakness for that, I distorted the corners of my mouth in contempt.
"Severus, I've looked at all the family trees, unbiased, as you may see. The Prince's was just one of many. I thought nothing of it! You know I'd never talk to anyone about the fact that you're not only godfather to Draco, but blood kin! What are you, anyway? Grand cousin, nephew? So your mother is cousin to Lucius, then what are you to Lucius? ... Oh, never mind! You can count on it, I'll never tell anyone," she offered and now put her hand on mine, which was still clutching her shoulder firmly. I could feel the warmth of her hand as she touched me.
Then she looked up, gazing deeply and intensely into my eyes, and licked her lips. What I always wondered was: did she do it in a cold, calculating way, or was it intuitive with her that she played so seductively?
"I hope you prove yourself worthy of my trust," my unfriendly and very harshly spoken words of trust in her conjured up a beautiful smile on her features, which left me speechless for a moment.
"Oh, I will, Severus, I promise," she assured me. I now wanted to pull my hand back under hers, which she allowed, but then she caught hold of it, holding my hand firmly and I frowned unwillingly. What was the manipulative minx up to now? The next moment, I closed my eyes as she brought my hand up to her cheek and snuggled into the palm of my hand like a kitten. The only thing missing was the purring, I thought gloatingly. Even though I enjoyed the fact that she did not shy away from being close to me, just like the other day in the cottage, it still astounded me.
"Hermione, stop playing if you don't want to suffer the consequences," I whispered harshly, whereupon she recoiled, looking at me with her big, golden-brown doe eyes.
"Severus, that I... Well, what happened at the cottage, I didn't..." she babbled with unusual incoherence. I now put my hands on the armrests of the chair she was sitting in and bent my upper body down towards her so that we were at eye level. She swallowed. It seemed that she was taking my previous threat seriously, which was for the better!
"I was there, my dear, I know it was Draco! You are such an impressive individual, why do you let him use you for such games? Let him humiliate you? ... It's beneath you." I wanted to show her that I was disappointed that she let him use and instrumentalize her for his own revenge and allowed his childish jealousy to run rampant.
She amazed me once again by leaning her head back, stretching her neck and laughing out loud. I saw the pale, sensitive skin and was tempted to bite it when she presented it to me so vulnerable, even though I did not know why she was laughing. I wondered what amused her about my damning statement? When she had collected herself enough to look at me again the cold glint in her eyes electrified me.
"Severus, thank you for your compliment and don't think I put up with Draco's words. He received his just punishment immediately after you left!" she replied with audible amusement. The devilish sparkle in her eyes made me very curious.
What did she mean she had punished Draco?! Punished him how?
She shook her head.
"If you want to know, Severus, ask Draco. I treat everything the same; your secrets shall be mine, and so shall Draco's and Lucius'. If you want to know, ask him, please," she implored, but her tone made it clear that she was uncompromising here. What could I do but give her an obliging nod, for I had to give her credit for keeping silent, which not many would do.
"I just hope you know I would never parade you around in this manner," I wanted to show her that I was different from Draco. When she raised her hand again carefully and put her index finger softly on my lips, I was taken by surprise and tempted to step back, which I strictly forbade myself, and so I showed no reaction.
"Don't say that, Severus, please," she strained my patience again by far, when I still felt her finger on my lips and so I breathed against it for she left it against my mouth.
I enjoyed very much to see that she now had goosebumps, which were clearly visible on her unclothed arms, for the knowledge that I was the one who gave them to her was too good, but I did not show it, I left my facial expression blank.
"You don't know if you wouldn't do that sometime in the future." Her words made me angry. I reared back, abruptly straightening up again, looked down at her angrily. Meanwhile, she shook her head sadly, strands of hair surrounding her face. I stared down at her viciously but that did not deter her from arguing in a controlled manner: "Look at you! Who can know whether you would act differently? Draco doesn’t behave like this at any other time and you know it, Severus!"
Although I did not like it at all, she was right. Draco always behaved appropriately towards me and Lucius, only in situations involving Hermione he had gone crazy so far! At first, I wanted to reject her accusation or claim that I could act similar to him, but then doubts crept into my mind. No, I wasn't like that! And I showed her that, growling loudly.
"Hermione, you can believe me! I would never parade you in front of others, I do not need to," I assured her and I knew it was true, even though she always made me lose my temper. That was already something that I would have to work on. Yes, I had to. I was a spy for so many sides, I was not allowed to have feelings and I had not had them for years. The fact that she always annoyed me so much was something that was not feasible and so I crossed my arms defensively and glared at her spitefully. "Tell me Hermione, have you already been briefed by Lucius?" The sarcasm dripped from my words. I was calm again.
"Yes, of course. He informed me of the tragicomic honour of organising the festivities," she retorted in the same sarcastic tone as I had used before, looking at me cynically. She rose abruptly and took a few steps, as if she had to relieve the tension that had existed between us since I entered.
End of Severus’ POV
Oh, why always me? I seriously wondered about that. Why was Severus like that with me lately?
At first we argued, so that I could hardly keep calm, then he was gentle and then again rejective; this rollercoaster ride made it really difficult for me to stand my ground where he was concerned. With him in particular, I had to be extremely careful not to irritate him too much and make him angry, so that he lost his temper and I had the disaster, because I didn't know how I would react then. At the moment, I was rather afraid that I would break down in one way or another and therefore I would not go so far as to try it. I had enough other problems.
Restlessly, I paced back and forth. It drove me crazy that Severus was so complicated. You are not allowed to do this, you are not allowed to do that and if you did any of those things even if unintentionally, he would fly off the handle and he was always so cold and restrained while doing it that it was frightening. Bloody hell!
What was I to think of him saying he would not parade me in front of others? What was that supposed to mean? Should I choose him? Is that what he was trying to tell me? Was he kidding?! Who did he think he was?! He couldn't possibly be serious, that was out of the question, not only because Draco meant so much to me. I knew Severus didn't have any feelings for me. He could buy what he wanted anywhere. What was I to him? I suppose he didn't know that himself.
Well, I... I didn't know that either! Oh, I gladly admitted it! I just knew it was out of the question for me to get that close to him. Point blank. Albeit I wasn't so dishonest as to say that I couldn't feel the tension that was present here right now. But with Lucius earlier in his salon there had also been that tension; oh yes, there had been sparks, but that didn't matter. It hardly meant anything to these men. They were stone-cold, hardened Death Eaters; no Death Eater was able to feel anything so easily. Even I had a hard time with it and these two men, who were especially cruel and cold, should feel something for me? Rather unlikely. Please, they didn't hold the positions of Left and Right hand of the Dark Lord for nothing!
Who was close to me? Harry, yes, and now more recently Draco. Even towards my parents, I had only shown a vague interest, otherwise I could never have let them go so uncompromisingly and coldly forever. Right now, I was speaking of deeply felt emotions - not of friendship, loyalty and trust, but of more - and here I counted only the two young men, since I knew they reciprocated these feelings, and even with them, I had a bad feeling and conscience, since I knew that this kind of sentiment held dangers for me, for them, for all of us!
Lucius and Severus were cast from the same mould, that is why at the bottom of their hearts they were getting along wonderfully despite their differences. I might say that they understood each other and their desires blindly. Love...? No, none of them knew that at the moment. Possessiveness, greed, and avarice, those were the words that suited Lucius. Severus was more obscure, but I'm sure many of those attributes were true of him as well. In addition to that, he saw in me only an object to own, which he could call his property, but feelings, no, I could not imagine that in regards to him! I might even doubt that he liked me. I attracted him, but he did not like me... I sighed heavily.
A throat clearing caused me to startle from my musings.
"Well, I hope your thoughts are illuminating. Why are you trying to run a hole into the floor?"
"Why not? Exercise is good for you! Tell me, what do I have to do to get the Dark Lord's attention?" I asked briskly and saw his face close up completely.
"You do not have to win his favour, just make sure he does not kill you and that is it, you will belong to us! From then on, stay in the background, try to become invisible for once in your life," he explained emphatically, while looking at me somehow pleadingly, which surprised me. He was genuinely worried. He had returned to his favourite position, standing rigidly, with his legs slightly apart, his arms crossed in front of his chest, so that I had to look up at him as I was so much shorter.
After walking up to him, I laid my hands on his crossed arms, following an intuition, because his concern for me, which he probably wanted to suppress or simply did not want to admit to himself, touched me somehow. He raised an eyebrow inquiringly as I approached him, but said nothing and mustered me as I tried to catch his gaze, to see into his innermost being through his dark, glittering eyes, but he closed himself off well.
Slowly, holding on tightly to his arms, I stood on tiptoe so that I could just reach his cheek with my lips and gave him a gentle kiss, placed my lips tenderly but fully on his skin and briefly enjoyed, I must confess, this intimate moment, then I detached my lips from his cheek but stayed in this position.
"Everything will go well! I have you at my side! Your concern honours me, but even now I still have an ace up my sleeve. Trust me, for I also trust in your help if I should need it," I whispered fervently.
I let go of him, sank back slowly and looked at him expectantly. His expression was clearly astonished, probably both at my actions and my words.
End of Hermione’s POV
That minx! Since she had come back, she seemed to be trying to use the appeal she had with us for her purposes. I just was not that easy to control, she would still have to learn that.
At her words, I only growled. In my opinion, she was too relaxed about all this, or she played the part of a laid-back witch very well. I shot forward like a snake and grabbed her by her shoulders. When she stood in front of me like that and looked up at me with her head leaning back slightly, I would bet a lot that she hated being so small and always having to look up at us.
Now I did what I had wanted to do all the time and kissed her like I did in her parents' house. I pressed my lips to hers and she was a bit taken aback by my quick reaction. It did not take her long though, until she put her hands on my chest and returned the kiss carefully with pursed lips, but that was not enough for me. After the anger and rage in the cottage, I wanted more and pushed my tongue between her lips and, grabbing her hips relentlessly, I simultaneously guided her back to the table and pressed myself more and more against her.
However, as she became increasingly tense with every step and tried to free herself, I realised that I was again pressuring her and that I would never get any further with her. I had to be more gentle, for when I had approached her in a gentle manner after what had happened then, she had always responded favourably toward me.
I let my urging become softer, gave up a bit of control in our kiss so that now my lips lay on hers sensually. My tongue invaded her mouth, which she now allowed; nonetheless I noticed her hesitation.
Speaking into the kiss I whispered:
She sighed into our kiss as I moved my hands from her hips up to her shoulders and began to caress her shoulders and collarbone lightly. Now I did urge her further back after all, without allowing her to retreat. This time I would neither be able nor willing to hold back. I wanted to possess her again! If I could only have her like this, if I could not reach my goal by being rough and forceful, then I would be more gentle, but I would never give in. And Draco and his affectations could kiss my ass.
Slowly, I pushed her backwards until she bumped into the table, while I kept kissing her. Again, I took her by surprise as I quickly put my hands on her small, round bottom and lifted her up, which made her gasp, so that she was now sitting on the table in front of me. My excitement could hardly increase and so I smothered her protest in a passionate play of tongues.
Once again I intensified our kiss and still she returned it, but she showed by no other reaction that she was responding to me. Her hands continued to lie on my chest as if in defence.
I slowly ended the kiss and began to kiss over her jawbones down to her neck, sucking on her soft skin and biting it tenderly. I really had to keep tight control of myself not to pounce on her now, but she had not let me get that far voluntarily for a long time and I was sure I would finally get what she always presented to me so brazenly, showing me what I could not have, would not get again. But I would take it for myself!
She did not lift her head, did not invite me to kiss her neck, so I let my hand gently slide into her hair, then firmly, but not roughly, directed her head into her neck to give me better access to her sensitive neck and shoulders. I heard a soft whimpering and sighing as my lips touched her there and felt her hands move to my shoulders, even half-heartedly trying to push me away.
"No, Severus, don't, please," she whimpered quietly.
Now it turned into a small fight. A deep rumble slipped from my chest as she tried to lower her head again and I still held it tilted with my hand in her hair. She did not give up her resistance completely, pressed harder against my shoulders, but I was sure she liked it and she just did not want to because of Draco.
I did not let myself be put off. Single-mindedly, I let my other hand slide to her back to open the long zipper, so that I could uncover her shoulders, kiss her, caress her neck and convince her for sure. Too many times she had provoked me, fueled my desire and then dropped me, for me to let myself be thrown off balance by her half-hearted defensive attempts. This time I would get her and she would have her fun! Yes, damn it, I knew I aroused her like she aroused me.
Alas, when I started to open the zipper, she froze again, became really stiff before me and now she lowered her head, even if she grimaced painfully as my hand was still in her hair and held on to it, and at the same time she actually pushed me away from her, pressed her hands strongly against my shoulders and said hoarsely but by no means quietly or insecurely:
"NO, SEVERUS, stop it. I don't want it!"
Just at that moment, when I was about to react, tell her again that she should just enjoy it, that it was too late to turn back or feel remorse - I had already had her and now I would show her how I would truly possess her - the characteristic plop of a house-elf sounded behind me.
This could not be true! Quickly, jerkily, I turned around Within seconds, my mood had deteriorated.
"WHAT?" I roared. The little elf visibly flinched in front of me, was scared, which was understandable, but I did not care.
"Mr. Malfoy, sir, wishes to speak to you immediately," it came squeakily and fearfully from her.
Well, splendid, Lucius summoned me again and if his choice of words was 'immediately', it was 'Get your ass over here or I will have your head! I could not defy him. He had once more demonstrated an incredible talent for interrupting at exactly the wrong moment. For that, I wanted to wring his neck, that peacock. While I was silently ranting and raving, the little elf had disappeared. It did not matter; I had to comply.
Furious, I turned to Hermione and glared at her.
"So you will escape from me one more time," I rumbled deeply. She did not answer, just looked at me expressionlessly and I approached her again. She would get my anger, but never mind. Menacingly, I stepped towards her. "You will pay the price for your constant games, remember that. The limit of my patience has finally been reached, Hermione! That will be mine again," I threatened her, stroking possessively over her silk dress and running my hands firmly from her knees up over her thighs.
I turned around abruptly. Unfortunately, I had to follow Lucius' call. However, when I was a few steps away from her, I turned around again. I remembered that I had said something to her last time while walking away. I loved these vicious last second remarks. It was wonderful to top it all off and especially with her, when she thought she had made it through the scene, something more was added, just as she always liked to do.
Mockingly, I looked down at her, the way she sat on the table and watched me with tangled hair and reddened cheeks and heavily swollen lips. I would have loved to take even more out of her. A grimace appeared on my face when I thought of my unfulfilled lust.
"If you want to escape me again, you will have to flee, as humiliating and degrading for you as you have done once before!" I could not resist rubbing her face in the embarrassing and ridiculous exit she had made when she had fled from me into her bedroom like a timid fawn. I left the library in a state of anger and resentment. Lucius would have to pay for that.
End of Severus’ POV
I breathed a sigh of relief when I heard the heavy door to the library close behind him and jumped from the table I was still sitting on. Exhausted, I let myself sink into one of the chairs. For once, I was lucky. Lucius and his curiosity had saved me, for I could not imagine anything else that could have prompted this sudden summons, since nothing had actually happened. Surely, he wanted to know if Severus had any idea what I was planning to do about the Dark Lord or what I had up my sleeve because I had refused his help for the time being and what I would do to pay my debt was probably gnawing at him, too.
Severus had stormed off furiously; this wouldn't be a fun conversation for Lucius, it came to my mind, and I had to giggle at the thought of Severus wriggling angrily and Lucius getting more and more frustrated. Severus really wouldn't be able to tell him anything because he knew nothing, how marvellous. I saw the glass projectiles already in front of me; an unsatisfied Severus, yes, he would not be a pleasant conversational partner.
Yes, that had been close a moment ago, much too close for my comfort. I didn't want to have sex with Severus, no matter whether here or in our rooms or anywhere else. My relationship with Draco was really important to me and after I had made it clear to him how he should behave, I was also very confident that he had finally understood and would apply it. His behaviour in the last days had been impeccable and extremely courteous.
I had been surprised that Severus had proceeded more gently after I had grown so tense, and for a short time I had really let myself be carried away, because I had liked this sensual kiss from him, as I regrettably had to admit to myself. Damn it, I always liked his soft kisses, but soon my mind had regained clarity and also my heart had told me very clearly that I didn't really want this, or rather could not, as I admitted to myself with a heavy heart. I was annoyed by my fears.
My first attempts to defend myself had been half-hearted, actually exactly what Draco had accused me of. I hadn't defended myself properly right away and in the case of Lucius even less, but on the other hand I wouldn't let Lucius get so close to me and I was only too aware now, if I ever let Severus get so close to me again, I could only flee.
But when I remembered my last escape I was ashamed again how weak I had been there. In the end, I had started to really fight back, but before this could have any effect, we had already been interrupted, as I summed up in relief. I was not sure whether I would have been successful with my resistance because he had been very determined; this had also become apparent in his sudden change of behaviour when I showed that I did not want it. He had tried to convince me differently and not to take what he wanted, what he desired and wanted to possess in a ruthless and inconsiderate way. Well, I knew too well how he acted, when he became brutal. At this memory, I grimaced in remembered discomfort.
I would have to watch out for him, for it was only too clear to me that he was serious. That there was sexual tension between us was undeniable, but I would not give in to it, full stop!
My decision was clear and so I took another breath and devoted myself with renewed vigour to my research. Yes, the old Hermione was back and I would not be upset by what had just happened. The future was far too dark for that to throw me off track!