The full moon was coming up. And loath as he was to admit it, the Devil King hadn't gotten to the throne by making a habit of deluding himself: he could feel it in the slight straining of his body's bones. The time of his monthly transformation was coming fast, which meant that he should begin preparing the "visit to his mother".
Said preparation turned out to be more overt than he'd previously anticipated, to be frank. Back in Hell, words wouldn't even have been needed to let his intentions be known: the slightest shift in body language, or even routine would have been enough to alert most of his subjects to his general mood, at least. As for those who couldn't? Well, there was a reason why the chances of survival in his kingdom were very low amongst the youngest and brashest, wasn't there?
It was an altogether different experience for him to subtly broadcast his intentions amongst the humans, to say the least. How had they ever evolved to become the dominant life form of the Mortal Realm with such abysmal senses? Marcus had taken care to give them a ridiculous amount of non-verbal cues concerning his manufactured grief: he'd even compensated for the lack of his wings as physical cues! However, none of the humans even seemed inclined to pick up his signals.
Unless he was expected to start with the children first? His students were very much like puppies in that regard: should the slightest hint of nervousness be in the air, they would make as big a nuisance of themselves as they could until all trace of negative emotion had vanished. Surely that would make enough of a fuss so that the other adults realised there was something wrong?
As it happened, there was no need to involve the children in the end. The Devil King still hadn't found out a way to manipulate the humans into inquiring about his mental state, when one of his coworkers (after he had spent close to a week of non-verbal fidgeting) finally managed to piece the puzzle together.
"Is there an important event coming up?" The same woman who'd met him after his temper tantrum asked. Or was she? He never had taken the time to remember the insignificant features of the humans that surrounded him.
"How did you know?" Marcus deflected with his trademark awkward shuffle and rubbing of the ear. Whatever had tipped her off, the Devil King would need to know and exploit so that Marcus could be approachable to the plebeian masses. It would also let him know which of his cues were effective, as well as which weren't, so that he wouldn't spend a positively egregious amount of time attempting to be subtle if he happened to have a use for this tactic again.
The woman fluttered her lashes rapidly in his direction before answering. "Oh, call it... female instinct," she revealed with a wink.
The Devil King almost rose to his full height in order to show how unimpressed he was by that answer. Was she mocking him? Was that what the fluttering lashes and the wink meant? How dare she, that miserable worm. Instead, Marcus blurted out the thought that had presumably been festering in his mind.
"I'm visiting my mum next week."
The Devil King had to acknowledge that he felt more than a smidgen of satisfaction when he saw her face freeze, then fall. So she knew the story then. Unsurprising, considering the inhabitants' propensity for gossip.
"Oh," she said simply, face stricken even as Marcus could read in the lines of her body that she planned to spread that juicy piece of gossip as soon as she was out of earshot.
Terrific. If everything went according to plan, the Devil King thought as he engaged in a bit of small talk, no one would wonder about his absence by the time the full moon came around.
Sure enough, by the next day, the rest of the staff had exhibited an increased amount of solicitude, with what they seemed to believe was subtlety. Why, that co-worker of his (he'd really need to learn her name, if only to keep up an appearance of interest) had even invited him to that bi-monthly event the neighbourhood apparently organised to "promote good neighbourly behaviour". Marcus accepted, of course.
It turned out to be (dare he say it?) even worse than expected. The Devil King was accustomed to thinking on his feet; a lifetime in Hell had conditioned him to make the most out of every situation and manipulate his surroundings. However, loath as he was to admit to such a failing on his part, he had miscalculated.
As it appeared, the speed of gossip was frighteningly quick on Privet Drive. And while the Devil King immediately assessed the use of such a feature for future occasions, he wasn't nearly as delighted by the increased amount of sympathies and solicitudes he received as a result.
Mrs Number 4 had clamoured to be the first one to speak to him, as though there was a competition of sort to be the first one to give him sympathies. He'd barely listened to her at first, but found his attention snapping to her words regardless as a fragment of a sentence caught his ear.
For all the care he took in not letting his expression shift an iota at the surprise her words brought him, she smirked sharply in a way that implied she'd managed to catch the sharpening of his gaze. Far from being bitter at the idea that his skills had already atrophied, he fought not to let his own lips lift as he recognised a challenge in her. She was, obviously, far from even suspecting his true nature (or even his true personality, as a matter of fact) but there was no denying the ruthlessness in her. No denying the fact that she was willing to do anything to rise to the top of her social circle or even exact revenge at some perceived slight.
Turning his gaze away from her without rising to the bait she'd offered, he melted away in the crowd, stoically bearing the numerous claps in the back from the male and fussing wishes from the females. His shoulders tensed and his back straightened as the evening went on, with little to no input from him. The dull ache that permeated his body was making itself known once more, and he knew what it meant: his wolf was growing closer to surface. Which meant that he'd need to leave as soon as possible before he killed someone.
For killing under the influence of his wolf would be very messy indeed, and adding irritation to the mix would just make a bad situation even more unbearable. As he said his goodbyes, shoulders tight and head tilted down to let his hair hide his eyes, the Devil King already fantasised about the destruction he would wreck on his way to his "mother's" hospital. The trip was long enough to justify taking a five day's leave, and by his reckoning, he would even have the time to leave at least two bodies in his wake. His back turned on the party, the current werewolf let a chilling grin take over his expression.
He could not wait.
Gosh, I have to admit this full moon business is getting away from me fast. By this chapter, I'd initially expected to have Harry already at Privet Drive, but it seems like that won't be the case. But the next chapter will have the full moon business (with a tiny little bit of murder) and Harry will be arriving the chapter after that. And don't worry, there will be a timeskip so I can get to his Hogwarts years faster :)
Thanks for all the love; I can't get over how much enthusiasm this story is getting. You're all awesome!