A/N: *jumps out at you from the shadows*
"RARGH! Surprise! It's a new chapter!"
*Grins and wiggles eyebrows*
*Hands over the new chapter, entirely too proud of self*
*Hopes this small distraction will ease the hearts and minds of everyone in this wretched myasma of wholly stressful, painful, and hurtful events rolling across our planet, our citites, our fandom and our newsfeeds right now*
*Wants to remind you all that my Ask box on Tumblr and my inbox here and on FB are open if anyone needs a chat, a friend, a shoulder, a new family, or just a warm hug while all this is going on*
*loves you all, and every version of your truth*
Howl for Me
Dashing into the sun room that overlooked the back garden, Hermione collided with Narcissa's back when she came to a sudden stop.
"Do what you can to calm yourself, Miss Granger," Narcissa instructed her sternly. "The two of them will be in quite a state, I expect, and showing elevated levels of fear or anxiety will only rile them up all the more."
Hermione nodded, carefully walking further into the room and taking slow, calming breaths in the hope of bringing down her accelerated heart rate.
"Didn't Draco tell me that once the transformation begins mid-month, there is no way of reversing it?" she asked, the thought suddenly occurring to her as she watch Lucius and Draco climb the back stairs and cross the patio.
"Ordinarily, yes," Narcissa nodded. "But I've noticed that when the injections are given, Lucius's eyes shift, before returning to normal once it's worn off a little. It's likely that there's something in those concoctions that's allowing for easier reversal of the symptoms."
"So Draco won't have claws and black skin around his eyes and wolf-yellow eyes during the wedding ceremony?" Hermione confirmed.
"We can only hope," Narcissa said, frowning worriedly as though the thought hadn't even crossed her mind despite the fact that Hermione knew Narcissa had been meeting with their wedding planner on a daily basis to ensure that everything was on track from the state of the garden to the choice of place settings.
"We'd better do more than hope unless we want the most horrifying ceremony of the century taking place here at the Manor," Hermione pointed out, unafraid to admit to her soon-to-be mother-in-law that in any aspect of a half-shifted form, both Draco and Lucius were a little unsettling to behold. And that was putting it politely. The shifting eye colour might be unusual and interesting, and it was certainly useful for helping to gauge the mood of the werewolf she was doomed to marry. But the blackened skin that discoloured the edges of his eyes, the fully canine shape of his pupils and irises, and the blacked skin and thick lupine claws protruding from the ends of his fingers were by no means attractive upon his otherwise human visage.
Narcissa didn't comment, though Hermione suspected that was because right at that moment Lucius and Draco ran up the back-patio steps. The woman's eyes were fixed on the two most important people in her life, and her mouth opened as though she was struggling to breathe as they came closer. Hermione supposed she didn't blame her when she caught sight of the blood littering their clothing and their skin, and the angry expression marring both of their faces – made all the more terrifying for the partially shifted lupine visage they each wore right at that moment.
"Oh, dear. That's an awful lot of blood."
"I told you to stay in the bedroom," Draco growled at Hermione the minute he crossed the threshold, blood darkening his clothes in several places and making Hermione nervous as her eyes searched for the source.
"It's funny that you imagine you have authority over me," Hermione replied mildly, folding her arms over her chest and glaring at him, her foot tapping against the floor in irritation.
Draco snarled ferociously at her, but Hermione just stared him down, not about to let him develop the bad habit of thinking he could boss her around. Like him, she'd been born an only child and she was very used to getting her way, thank you very much. She wasn't about to go changing her ways now. Not for one cranky werewolf she was marrying against her will.
"Well?" Narcissa asked Lucius, moving over to her husband and submitting to the way he sniffed her intently for several seconds to confirm that she was well before he pulled her into his arms, heedless of the blood staining his own clothes and the deep claws marks torn into his bicep, having ripped right through his shirt and deep into his flesh.
"It's as we thought," Lucius answered.
"Greyback?" Narcissa asked, horrified.
"One of his minions," Lucius answered, allowing Narcissa to trace her wand against the wound on his arm. Hermione watched them with fascination while Draco closed in on her, noting that the two of them were evidently well matched and that in the years since Draco and Lucius had been infected with lycanthropy, Narcissa must've grown accustomed to a number of his new wolfish ways.
Hermione wondered idly how difficult it must have been for both of them when they'd been bitten and had had no choice but to adjust to their new reality. It'd have been hard enough as well-educated and openminded people, let alone prejudice, pompous, and bigoted stiffs like the pair of purebloods before her. She wondered how long they'd all wallowed in self-loathing and self-pity and stewed in their hatred of Voldemort and Fenrir Greyback before getting on with life.
"What would one of his minions be doing here?" Narcissa wanted to know, frowning. "You have made it clear in the pat that neither of you intend on joining their silly little pack."
"We didn't offer the whelp the chance to explain in order to find out," Lucius drawled, and he sounded smug despite the wounds he'd sustained. "Though from the smell of him, I expect that Fenrir, himself, has surfaced and is recruiting once more for his plot to overthrow the Ministry. Word has likely reached him of the Marriage Law and the reproduction mandate. Wizarding numbers have never been so low, and thus, never so vulnerable to being overthrown by lycans. I expect that if she ever returns to work, Miss Granger's office will be flooded with newly registering lycans in the coming months."
Hermione listened with interest, intrigued to hear that Greyback was intending to overthrow the wizarding world, and even more intrigued to learn that he meant to do it by infecting as many people as possible with the lycanthropic virus. It wasn't every day that someone tried to upset the applecart so intently as to forcibly change the genetic make-up of every being on the planet. At least Voldemort had only intended to kill off or enslave muggles and muggleborns. It sounded like Greyback wanted to turn them all into werewolves and take over the wizarding community at large. What a nightmare that would be. Hermione could think of plenty of people whose lives wouldn't be wholly changed if they were to become lycans. Harry, for example, would just shrug it off and get on with things like he'd done all his life, learning to live with each new change thrown his way. Some people, on the other hand, would make absolutely terrible werewolves. She could just imagine the likes of Tobias Entwhistle or Ernie MacMillan as werewolves.
One would inevitably end up using the newfound strength and powers to harm, humiliate, and subjugate others. The other would likely crawl into some dark cave and off himself. She didn't like to think about the notion of everyone she knew becoming werewolves and she frowned, wondering if there might be something she and her friends and perhaps even the wider Ministry could do to ensure such a thing never came to pass. Lucius was right. Their community was vulnerable, at present, with their numbers so low and so many people distracted by the upheaval of having to conform to this marriage law.
Worse, Fenrir Greyback was well known with the DRCMC for his habit of abducting and infecting children as young as three years old with lycanthropy. Soon everyone would fall victim to the reproduction clause within the Marriage Law, and the reproduction mandate for those already married; and babies would begin popping out all over the place. Greyback would have his pick of the playground in short order, and the ability to turn an entire generation of people against their elders unless something was done to stop him.
Yes, she would have to speak to Kingsley as soon as possible and ensure that everything in their not inconsiderable power was being done to track down Fenrir Greyback. She might advocate werewolf rights and fair treatment for all creatures and beings, but that rabid beast needed to die, and Hermione wouldn't mind if she was the one to do the culling. She shuddered as she relived for a moment, the feeling of his powerful form pinning her to the forest floor in the midst of a war, his fetid breath crawling over her skin and the deep, threatening rumble of his voice rasping in her ear that he was going to fuck her until she died, and then devour her corpse.
She lashed out, recoiling violently, caught up in the memory when Malfoy suddenly invaded her personal space and lowered his mouth by her ear.
"Why aren't you upstairs, Granger?" Draco asked her quietly as he moved around her still form, sniffing at her hair and at the curve of her neck and across her shoulder.
"Your mother and I thought it best to ascertain your wellbeing when we saw the blood," Hermione offered, noting the way he circled her again, evidently agitated and unable to remain still. She didn't imagine having her recoil from him in shock over the latent PTSD she hadn't properly addressed since the war was helping his irritation and anxiety after their encounter with an intruder.
"You couldn't have known we were alone," he argued.
"But you are," she pointed out. "Let's not explore grisly what-ifs, Malfoy. They're so dull."
He growled softly at her causal dismissal of the danger, but he didn't speak.
"You're bleeding, Draco," Hermione offered into the silence that followed when he continued circling, growling softly every now and then.
"I know," he said.
"Shall we get you cleaned up, then?" Hermione offered. "Is this mud, or something less pleasant on our trousers? Maybe a shower is in order?"
"Will you be joining me?" he asked, ignoring her question about the foul-smelling dark stain marring his left pant-leg.
"Perhaps," Hermione offered, blushing. "If it will help."
She thought that perhaps she ought to be embarrassed to say such things in front of Lucius and Narcissa, but she couldn't seem to help herself, and considering that the two of them had fallen to snogging like lustful teenagers, it wasn't like they had a leg to stand on if they object to her propositioning their son in their immediate company.
"It would help," Draco offered and Hermione twitched only a little bit in surprised when he snagged hold of her pinky finger with his own, curling his claw around her slender digit and tugging on it gently to lead her out of the room and away from his parents just as Narcissa emitted a soft moan and reached up to fist her hand's in Lucius's pale hair.
Giving them privacy, Hermione made a mental note to thank Narcissa later for helping her to manage her anxiety while they waited for Draco and Lucius to return, and for being so frank with her about what she might expect when the time came that Draco bit her and she took on a number of the lupine traits of a werewolf's mate. The woman had proven much more open and much less frosty than Hermione had feared she might be, and it was comforting to know that while some of the experiences they might both face under the minimum four children policy associated with the marriage law and falling pregnant while a little-wolfish would be awkward, at least the woman could offer her some insights into the things she had already had to live through. It offered some small measure of comfort that Hermine felt certain she'd otherwise have fretted over horribly for weeks when first she experienced it.
Sighing to herself and trying to quieten the new worries plaguing her mind, Hermione focused on the feel of Malfoy's finger curled snugly around her own and the intent way he strode from the room with her trailing along at his side. He was still agitated, it would seem, but Hermione supposed there might be something she could do to take both their minds off their troubles just as soon as she got him out of those clothes.