Chapter 15 : Sympathy for the Devil
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Have some courtesy
Have some sympathy, and some taste
Use all your well-learned politesse
Or Ill lay your soul to waste.
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name,
But whats puzzling you
Is the nature of my game.
//The Rolling Stones - Sympathy for the Devil
"You what?" Hermione whispered, frozen to her spot at the table by fury alone.
This latest bit of anger had dropped on her unexpectedly, like a bomb falling from the clear, blue sky, and it had landed right there, on the table before her, successfully wiping away both her hunger and her already unreliable sensibility. She felt a surge of hatred, burning so strong through her veins she thought she might actually be boiling on the inside, as she watched the blond watching her back with a noncommittal facial expression.
"You were the one who did all of this?" she pointed to herself, the mess she had become, and she wanted nothing more than for the full moon to rise so she could guiltlessly rip the blond to shreds and forget that he had ever existed.
There was a second in which everyone else in the room paled away, leaving her and Malfoy seemingly alone in the large dining hall. Nobody spoke, and after a second of untouched silence in which no one as much as breathed, Draco nodded.
"I hate you." Hermione said, and her voice shook. "I thought there might be a better side to you... but I was wrong. I hate everything about you."
Malfoy looked coldly indifferent to Hermione's utterance. "Remus," he spoke, looking to Lupin. "Can I have a word with you?"
Hermione stared at him, outraged, furious that he could simply sweep her indignation underneath the carpet in this fashion. She had lived with him for a week, learned to know hi better, trusted him, even, to bring keep her safe. The hatred in her blood continued to burn like a fever, her revolt seemingly materialized as a poison in her veins.
Remus Lupin II replied with a snare. His long, claw-like hands tightened into fists upon the table, though Hermione noticed that his facial expression remained quite unfazed, except for his eyes, in which the golden irises glittered dangerously. His fangs were laid bare as he continued to stare at Malfoy without giving any verbal retort to the blonde's suggestion.
"Just one hour," Malfoy said, and a small smile spread across his lips. None of his other features changed in the slightest; his gaze remained stony and still, fixed firmly upon Lupin's feral table-manners. "One little hour."
"One single minute in hell can feel like an eternity." Lupin said, and Hermione was surprised that his voice sounded quite calm, even though his nails had now dug into the polished wood of the table, leaving deep claw-marks in the surface identical to the ones marring the walls in Malfoy's apartment.
Malfoy laughed, and he pulled a hand through his once sleek, now messy, blond hair. "Are you.. afraid of me?" he asked Lupin tauntingly. Now it was as though the two genetical werewolves were the only two people in the room; as though everyone else in the room seized to exist as the tension continued to build across the table. Hermione's own anger was forgotten in light of the scene playing out before her eyes.
It was Lupin's turn to laugh. "Afraid of you?" he repeated, looking in faux amusement over at the cumbersome visitor. "You wish."
He slowly rounded the table and the bloodthirsty werewolves who, one after the other, he had bitten and destroyed, and then somehow gained the loyalty of in spite of his crimes against their humanities. "You want to talk? Fine. I will talk to you, Draco Malfoy." he hissed, and once he reached Draco's end of the table he rounded the boy once, like a wolf circles his prey-to-be.
"Outside?" Draco inquired as Lupin keenly gazed up at him. Lupin had appeared to be slightly more bantam than Draco, but now that they were so close it was clear that, like Hermione and Narcissa, they seemed to be within a quarter of an inch of each other's height.
Lupin did not respond now, either. Instead he simply left the room through a curtained door Hermione had not noticed before, but that apparently led directly to the garden. Malfoy hesitated, glanced at the table, and when he saw the hatred shining gold in Hermione's eyes he seemed to decide that it was best to follow Lupin after all.
The door let in a seasonable chill, but it only lasted for one curtain-fluttering moment before the door closed behind Malfoy's slender back and left a ringing silence in the tall dining hall.
"Drama." A middle-aged werewolf grunted before he reached out for one of the forgotten deer's legs, which was immediately torn out of his hand by Adrian, who in turn bit into it and made blood squirt. Chaos was restored around the table as each of the werewolves fought to have its hunger satisfied, and no one as much as noticed that one of their own had slipped out of the room and into the cold and empty lobby.
Hermione fought against tears, because she knew he wasn't worth the cost of her breaking into sobs and falling to her knees in the presence of painted versions of his ancestors.
"He's a real heart-breaker, isn't he?" A smug voice said, and Hermione spun around to see one of the portraits looking back at her. He was incredibly alike Malfoy. So alike, in fact, that Hermione for a second thought that it was the same person until she noticed the golden nameplate underneath his frame.
'Abraxas Malfoy, 1818-1898'
"Yeah, I'm dead and gone." Abraxas sighed, before putting on a huge, unctuous grin. "But I'm glad to see that at least one Malfoy is still alive to carry on my legacy."
"And some legacy." Hermione spat bitterly in the face of Draco's ancestor. "A legacy of snobbiness, bigotry, tyranny and cowardice."
"You better take the last one back, missy." Abraxas said, and it was as though the acrylic colors that made up his face darkened by several shades.
Hermione rolled her eyes, and shook her head so that her once voluminous and kinky hair swung around her face. "Unbelievable..." she muttered and turned away from the portrait.
"The Malfoy name has never been accused of cowardice!" Abraxas' voice rung from behind Hermione's back.
"Well, it has now."
"What do you want, Malfoy?" a deep, harsh voice said from behind her.
Hermione spun around and cocked an eyebrow, because she had heard Lupin's voice ringing quite clearly through the windowless and doorless lobby. She was most definitely alone in the room, with the possible exception of Abraxas Malfoy, who was smiling calmly and collectedly with his silvery eyes set firmly upon her.
"What was that?" Hermione asked him in an urgent whisper, unsure if being able to overhear Lupin and Malfoys' conversation in the garden meant that they were able to hear her as well.
Then, to her utmost surprise, Abraxas' grinning face melted and the colors floated into each other, and soon the portrait was rather a painting of a beautiful, but decayed garden in which two long, lean men were walking side by side. Unlike most paintings, the painted versions of Lupin and Draco did not seem to be able to see Hermione as they continued their stroll through the wintry garden.
"What I want?" Malfoy repeated. "Who says I want anything other than a nice little chat with an old friend?"
"After months of absence you stroll back here, on the dawn of the full moon? That leads me to believe you want something. Is it attention? Do you feel ignored after mommy kicked the bucket?"
Malfoy actually laughed, albeit bitterly. He seemed quite untouched by the mention of his mother's premature, and to Hermione mysterious, death. "Attention?" he repeated. "Believe me: I would rather be ignored than be given your fullest attention, Remus. But as it happens you have something that belongs to me-"
"Lucius signed the house to me." Remus bit back. "You've seen the papers, you heard him yourself."
The pair was still walking, but their pace was slowing for every step until they came to a complete halt on each their side of a frozen fountain. Icicles hung from the artistically formed fountain, which resembled a swan carved in stone, its wings outstretched, encircled by a slim serpent that rose from the water in spirals around the swan's graceful body.
"I'm not talking about Malfoy Manor." Draco said calmly, as unaffected by this rather harsh reminder that his own father had given up the large property to a child other than his own as he had been of the mention of his mother's death. "You can play master of the house all you want, but children can play, too, you know."
"What do you mean, 'play'?" Remus snared, apparently picking up on the taunt in Malfoy's voice, just as Hermione had done in the lobby as she watched the pair stare each other down over the heads of the swan and the serpent.
Malfoy shrugged. "I'm sure you noticed that the house doesn't take orders easily. It has a will of its own. I suggest you take that into consideration before you decide to do anything... rash."
Remus was fuming, but Malfoy appeared to be more interested in a tall, wilting rose that grew in one of the flowerbeds surrounding them than he was in the other werewolf.
"Anyway," Malfoy continued, when Remus made no attempt on a response. "You're right in thinking that I want something."
"Finally you admit it." Remus grumbled.
Malfoy pretended not to hear, but went on, his attention still upon the wilting, frostbitten rose. "Let her go, Remus."
Remus looked for a moment bewildered. "Who?" he said dumbly, before he turned and looked straight at Hermione with eyes of flashing gold, making Hermione's stomach turn over unpleasantly even though she was sure he could not see her. Something about the hunger in his eyes at the mention of her name made her feel quite nauseated.
Lupin turned back to Malfoy again with an maleficent grin upon his face; a grin that that twisted his face to the verge of the inhuman.
"No, wait!" Hermione exclaimed, her nose almost touching the canvas as the oily colors melted back into the grinning face of Abraxas Malfoy. "That's not fair." Hermione said angrily, quickly retreating from the dead man's grinning face as Abraxas continued to materialize. "Was that real?"
"Curious, much?" Abraxas asked, watching her with an almost lazily amused expression. "You seemed awfully interested in my derivative, considering that you called him snobbish and cowardly only a few minutes ago. Are you sure you don't have a small thing for blondes?"
"Go to hell!" Hermione hissed before whipping a long mane of brown hair right into Abraxas' smirk.
"A bit late for that." Abraxas said, and she could hear by his voice that he was still smiling.
"What are you going to do to her?"
Hermione turned, in spite of herself, to see the portrait once again turned into that lovely, forlorn garden. It was now glittering in the midday sun, as though someone had sprinkled glitter over the frozen grass and the broken stepping stones.
Malfoy's voice was soft and calm, and he had finally looked up from the dark and decayed rose to face Remus bestially transformed face. If Hermione had looked into the changing face of a man she knew to be a savage werewolf at will, she would have run, but Draco appeared to be braver than she would have felt with all of her Gryffindor courage.
"What makes you think that I'm going to do anything to her?" Remus asked, faking childish innocence while his face continued to portray anything but chaste.
"Let's see..." Draco said, and for the first time his voice carried a hint of anger through the garden, seemingly making the dying flowers shiver in the cold of his voice. "You bring her here-"
"To give her protection and a sense of belonging."
"Please." Draco said impatiently, and he looked at Remus in, there was no mistake about it; pure, undisguised loathing. "You've never cared about anything but yourself in all your life. And what use could you possible put her to, considering that she won't follow your orders, seeing that I was the one who..." he trailed off, looking aghast. He seemed to be struggling against his own will to believe the ideas that his imagination but to his mind, glancing up at Remus once, twice, before he uttered, in a voice so low Hermione had to press her ear against the canvas to hear the words meant for Remus' ears only. "You're planning to bite her again, aren't you?"
"Call it my little experiment." Remus said with a smile. "Have you never wondered what would happen to a wolf who is bitten, not once, but twice?"
"Even thinking about it makes you a cannibal." Draco said, disgust filling every syllable.
"Calling us anything but cannibals is the same as saying we're not human, and by that you're saying we don't deserve the rights that the Ministry has already deprived us of."
The garden fell silent for several ticking seconds. Hermione could hear an argument breaking out next door, by the sound of it revolving around who had the right of the dead doe's tail. There was growling, snaring and a bellow that made the floorboards beneath Hermione's feet tremble and creak.
Draco and Remus noticed, too, and for a moment both heads turned towards Hermione, before Draco caught the other wolf's attention again. "I won't let you bite her."
"You've had the pleasure." Remus reminded him, with a grin, leaning his claw-like hands on the fountain. "Does she taste as sweet as her blood smells?"
"I never meant to do it." Draco said, and for the first time he looked ashamed. "It was after I had left the unpleasant company here at Malfoy Manor, and I was confused, and angry, and... hungry, and it... it happened."
"The lust for flesh never denies itself." Remus said, nodding wisely. "If her steadfastness to you don't falter when she is bitten for the second time I can't deny my beloved pack the right to hot blood."
Hermione felt her heart beating fast as Abraxas' face slid back into focus, the oily colors drifting back into their original places to make up his handsome face. He was no longer smiling, but looked serious and solemn.
Hermione felt cold droplets of sweat erupting from every pore of her body, and she felt the blood disappearing from her face.
"If I was you," Abraxas said, looking at her with a sympathetic expression Hermione would have guessed any Malfoy incapable of. "I would run like the devil was chasing me. Because chances are, he will be soon."
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