Ever felt like you've been cheated,
following what they believe in?
~Burn the Evidence by Billy Talent
Hermione's face changed in second, going from fear, to shock, to an expression of mockery. She retrieved her hand with a jerk and her golden eyes narrowed at the stranger who had just introduced himself by the same name as a great man who was now dead and gone. A great man, to whom he bore a great resemblance, appearance-wise. "Is this some kind of sick joke?" Hermione growled, momentarily forgetting about the eyes that watched her, of the situation she was place in.
Surprisingly enough, the youth smiled. "Ah," he said, with a grin cold enough to freeze hearts. "You must have met my father."
"You- your father?" Hermione spluttered. She had backed away some more, and found herself pressed against the wooden door, Adrian and Marietta on either side of her. The stranger, Lupin, took a step closer to her so that only a few inches separated their faces. She felt every breath he drew as a soft, yet somehow uncomfortable, caress.
"Don't you recognize me?" he breathed, and Hermione, determined to not betray a sliver of fear, stared into his eyes. Gray eyes, with splinters of gold. Familiar eyes. "I hear we were quite alike, my father and I. You had the luxury I never had. You got to meet him. Tell me what was he like, Remus Lupin the first? How was he?"
Hermione's heart beat, threatening to escape from her chest as it thundered against her ribcage. "I-I-" she stuttered, but the words just didn't come. Hermione Granger was speechless, again. "He-, I-, I..." She tried and was forced, finally, to look down in resignation.
When she looked up again she saw that the youth's eyes had softened, changing his entire face. Hermione would not be surprised if his fangs transformed into normal teeth and his claws grew back into his fingers again. He looked into Hermione's eyes, and his expression was one of a child who had lost his parents at a mall and found himself all alone in the world.
And then, he hardened again.
He turned from Hermione, to the rest of the room.
"Hermione Granger!" He announced, in a loud, though still hoarse voice. "Our new family member!"
A new round of applause greeted Hermione, yet she could not help but noticing that none of the people gathered around the big table seemed particularly happy at this newest addition to their group of outcasts. They all looked pale, drawn, tired. Black bags were marring their eyes. The full moon was approaching.
"Sit." Remus Lupin II said, pulling up a chair and turning to Hermione with another one of his signature grins. "Please." he added, when she didn't immediately respond. Adrian and Marietta moved, too, taking sitting down by the two only free spots at the table.
Lupin, left without a chair, crossed his arms over his chest and smiled, almost proudly, down at the group around the table. "We are complete again, he noted, counting them with his eyes. "Thirteen." he said. "May I remind you that the first one to rise will die?"
There was a bark of laughter. A man, many years older than the boy who called himself Remus Lupin, rose. "Then why is he still alive? If no one can leave, why don't we kill him off? Tomorrow, at full moon, and then we can all feed on his flesh!"
There was a murmur of agreement; a few of the family-members appeared to wake up.
Lupin lifted an eyebrow. "Why waste our time?" he asked, though Hermione, who observed him out of the corner of her eye, recognized his evasive behaviour. She wondered who 'he' was: the only 'he' seeming to fit into the puzzle was Remus Lupin the first, yet he was already dead. She wondered if she should tell them, save them the trouble, but instead she held her tongue. "We have new flesh to hunt down. New, fresh. Bite them young." he said, and a devilish glint sparkled in his eyes when his words were greeted with more appraisal than the elder's.
Remus Lupin had won.
Miles away, in a city dark and dull underneath clouds of heavy rain, another meeting was being held. A number of men and women were seated around a long table in a white room; on the very end of the table sat a heavyset man in velvety robes, surrounded by a few assistants dressed in matching outfits. The majority of the other people in the room were dressed in white, though there were a few very tough looking men also present, with muscles which threatened to tear their t-shirts if they dared breathe too deeply.
"Mr. Black cornered her." A man with sleek, black hair said and nodded towards the youth seated right across the table from him. The youth in question, a pale and handsome blond who looked as though he was about to drop dead, sunk down in his chair.
The man seated on the end sat up, by contrast, sat up straighter to eye the blond. "Well?"
"She escaped me." Draco Malfoy lied, biting his lip, looking down at the white surface of the table. He could feel every pair of eyes along the long table scorching him. "She... she hexed me. Contemporary splattergroit. I've been out for a week."
The man on the end cocked an eyebrow. "She hexed you?" he repeated. "So she has a wand?"
Draco's expression faltered for a moment, but he was relatively quick in composing himself again. "She took mine." he said quickly, looking back up at the Head of the Auror office once more.
"How did she get it?"
"She is surprisingly strong."
Draco could tell that his alibi was far from waterproof, yet it was all he had for now. If full moon had been far away, if he had not spent the last night up worrying about Granger's whereabouts, he might have been rested enough to come up with something better. For now, however, this was all he had.
"Whose wand is that, then?" Dr. Livengood asked, pointing towards the wand poking up from the pocket of Malfoy's Healer's frock.
'Damn you.' Malfoy cursed his coworker, fighting to keep a surge of annoyance from showing up on his face. "It's my father's." he said, coldly. "He left it to me when he died in April, rest his soul."
There was a repressed murmur around the table, and several people exchanged looks, seemingly thinking themselves so discreet that Draco wouldn't notice. They were mistaken. Malfoy saw it all, and it annoyed him more than anything else had that meeting.
They were all bursting with the same question; why he had changed his name. Why he was now Draco Black, rather than Draco Malfoy, because naturally they all recognized him as the years changed him into Lucius in miniature. Draco knew they were looking for something to throw him into jail for; something to send him the same way they had sent his father time and time again for.
They weren't going to find anything.
Because, though he resembled his father in so many ways, Draco was not Lucius. He would never go his evil ways.
Because he was better than that.
The meeting ended shortly after, and the crowd of thirteen dissolved. Hermione still knew no names, except Adrian, Marietta and Remus Lupin, though she was not sure if the last one counted or not. She was still not sure whether or not to trust him, or she was sure: She would not. But in the case of his identity she would give him the benefit of a doubt, simply because she had recognized something in his forlorn expression earlier that had made images of her old Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher spring up in her mind, as clear as if it was he who stood in front of him and not his supposed son.
"The mansion is rather large." Remus Lupin told Hermione, once the two of them were almost alone in the room. "We all have a room of our own."
"So you all live here?" Hermione questioned. "In this house? In Malfoy Manor?"
"You know this place?" Lupin asked her, almost at once, and she could see that she had caught him off guard. Perhaps he was just acting, she thought, because his reaction conflicted with her previous theory that it was Malfoy who had given her up to the hostile group.
Hermione nodded. "I know this place." she confirmed, and Lupin nodded.
"Very well. Yes, we live here. Because we can't live anywhere else." Lupin avoided her gaze as he lit his wand and beckoned for her to follow him through the dunkle hallways of Malfoy Manor. "We can exist in hospital rooms in St. Mungo's, in the darkest dungeons of the Ministry or in the cells of Azkaban. But this is the only place where we can truly live, be free, be ourselves."
And Hermione understood. She didn't like to say it out loud, but imprisoning themselves in a house far away from society did seem like the best alternative for the lives of the werewolves, what with the new reforms in the Ministry and then especially in the Auror Department.
But Lupin seemed to understand her silence.
Hermione looked up at him, as she walked once step behind the adolescent. He was just a boy, yet he appeared to have authority in what he referred to as 'the Family'. "Who are you, really?" she asked him, finally, unable to keep the question in any longer.
She could hear by the change in his breath that the bestial smile was upon his face once more. "I told you." he said. "I'm Remus Lupin. The second."
"You mean Lupin inspired you, that you took his name as yours and built up a reputation underneath the alias?" Hermione said. She wasn't sure how far she dared to push it, yet as for now the boy in front of her seemed to enjoy himself and encouraged her, wordlessly, to pursue the subject.
"No, that's not what I mean." he replied, sweetly, in a horrible voice which did not suit him. "What I mean is that I am Remus Lupin the second, the son of Remus Lupin the first, the man, the werewolf, who once taught you and your fellow students Defense Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry."
Lupin stopped, in the middle of a doorless hallway, and Hermione almost walked into his slender back. His light did not reach either end of the hallway, so it seemed they were standing in an endless corridor of blinking Malfoys on canvases. "You never attended Hogwarts." Hermione pointed out, seeing as she did not know what else to say.
"I never got the chance to." Lupin said.
"Lupin never mentioned you." Hermione said, lowering her voice just a notch, and somehow, though it was not intentionally, it softened considerably. "He would have told us if he had a son. He would have told his friends, his allies..."
"Not if he didn't know that I existed."
When Hermione did not respond, merely looked down at the polished floorboard beneath their feet, Lupin sighed and looked into the face of one of Draco's ancestors. The man looked back at him, his lips close tightly, yet his eyes burned.
"My mother loved Remus Lupin." Lupin the second said eventually, after a prolonged silence. "She loved him, but he never loved her back. Because he was scared. Scared he would hurt her, scared he would never inspire comfort or safety, scared to commit, perhaps."
Hermione nodded. It sounded all too familiar, and for a second she was frightened that Lupin Jr. was going to claim that his mother was Tonks. A second later, though, the identity of the unknown woman came for a day.
"Her name was Libby. My mother. Libby Bradford. She lived in the town where my father grew up. They were childhood friends. She was a Muggle, he was a wizard, and a werewolf to boot. He finished school, and he got back for summer. My mother planned a picnic for the pair of them, and she made him join her out under the moonlight. Under the full moon." Lupin was not looking at Hermione; his back was turned on her, yet she could see his frame shaking in silent sobs even though his voice carried on as usual, perhaps slightly gruffer than it had been moments before. "My father could not remember the picnic, not remember being anything more than a friend to my mother. And she did not tell him, either. I was her dirty, little secret, kept from everyone until I was old enough to start craving answers. Until I wanted to know why I was different from my fellow students through the course of my education. Why I was so angry, why my teeth were so sharp, why my eyes were turning yellow, why I seemed to grow way more hair than the rest of the youngsters at school."
He held his breath, and Hermione held hers. She could tell that he was bursting to tell the story, that he was dying to share it with someone, and she could only assume that she was the first person to ever hear the tale. "I'm so sorry..." she whispered, and she contemplated on laying a soft hand upon the boy's shoulder. She decided against it.
"My mother is dead now." Remus Lupin II said solemnly, and he finally turned away from the silent portrait. "She is dead... because I killed her."
Hermione would once be revolted by this kind of sentence, but now she understood. She understood better than she wanted to, again, because she knew how it felt to loose control. How it felt to be powerless and succumb, unwillingly, to the beast inside. He had her pity, her understanding; her trust.
When she looked up, not sure what to say, she discovered that she was almost standing in total darkness. Lupin had continued down the hall at a quick, soundless pace. "It's right down here." he said, and he rounded a corner. Hermione spurted to keep up, although the second she turned around the corner she found herself at a dead end with a single door.
"I'm not able to open it." Lupin said, with an inkling of a smile. "There must be some sort of enchantment set upon it. It took us a while to discover why some of us can open it, while others can't. As it turns out, it's a girls only room."
Hermione stretched out her hand and closed it around the doorknob, turned, and pulled the door open. The room which met her eyes excited her, in spite of the otherwise so gloomy situation. It was beautiful. A soft carpet covered the floor. A lavender four-poster bed stood in the center, and numerous white drawers stood against the walls. There was a large window with heavy, purple curtains on either side of the bed, and a full-length mirror reflected Hermione's once voluminous, now scrawny, frame. She knew she had to look horrible after weeks in the hospital, with the full-moon approaching and her life falling apart, yet somehow the mirror seemed to play at all her strengths and made her feel beautiful despite all her flaws.
"It's gorgeous." she said to Lupin, and she turned to offer him a tiny smile. He looked down at her, and all traces of a smile had disappeared from his face, leaving only unsmiling features which mirrored those Hermione had once looked to in her third year at Hogwarts, when her favorite class had been Defense Against the Dark Arts purely because of the great teacher they had had.
"You're probably tired." Lupin said, taking a step back from her, bidding her farewell with subtle gestures of his hands and head. "Goodnight..."
"Goodnight." Hermione said, somewhat stiffly, though when Lupin turned and started walking away she could not prevent herself. A single exclamation broke through her lips, carrying down the long, dark hallway.
Remus Lupin the second turned and looked at her, raising an eyebrow. "Yeah?" he said, stopping, yet not walking back. There was a distance of at least five yards between them.
"Thank you." Hermione called to him. "For... well, everything."
Lupin looked at her for a second and, without responding, walked off into the darkness, his shoulders hunched and his face a candlelit frown. Hermione was left, in the doorway of her fantasy room, gazing after his frame until it was completely enveloped by shadows.
She closed the door, secure that none would enter. Or, at least, secure that none of the boys would enter.
And then, without further ado, she threw herself onto the lavender bedspread and cried her heart out in the moonlight that seeped through the open curtains.
The moon was a globe, nearly a perfect circle, and it bore stains of red which made it look blood-stained and foreboding as it smiled down at her crying frame. 'Tomorrow,' it seemed to be saying, as it smiled. 'Tomorrow, I will take away your pain, your sorrows, and I will give you a night of blissful ignorance as I set you free. Just one more night, my love. One more night.'