Thank you so much for taking this crazy little journey with me! If you like Orias Mulciber, please join me for Yes, Professor, which will begin posting later today, in which he has a lead role. And, as today is my birthday, I'm celebrating by giving you guys a two-for-one, and starting Big, Bad Wolves, as well (a Fenrir/Hermione/dark!Remus triad fic). Expect the notications for each in a few hours :D
She spun to face him, watching in dread as he pressed a hand to his abdomen and it came away dripping rich crimson; the wound had been camouflaged by his black robes and the darkness of the night around them.
Orias heard her shriek his name, heard the torment in her voice, but couldn't focus enough to form a reply. He pressed a bloody hand to his face, trying to steady himself.
The world seemed to tumble sideways around him just then, and he collapsed as Hermione reached him.
"No, no, no, no," she said, her voice barely a trembling breath as she cradled his head in her lap. "No, you can't, I promised! I promised everyone would live through this!"
Lavender winced, turning away from the sight of Hermione's tears falling on Orias' bloodstained cheeks. She buried her face against Fenrir's chest, muffling sobs of her own.
"Technically, we did . . . ." Orias' voice was weak as he coughed out a chuckle. "He's dead, I'm still breathing, just . . . not for long."
"Shut up! Don't talk like that! I still have dittany in my bag, I think! Someone can Apparate back to the tent and—"
"You used the last of it fixing us up from the full moon."
Hermione's heart was shattering in her chest. She watched his bloodied hand draw toward her face, felt the touch of his fingertips trail over her skin.
The entire world fell away and, for a few heartbeats, they were the only creatures in existence.
"Don't you dare shed tears for me," he said, his voice barely audible even as he forced a smile.
Dropping her arm from Lavender, Hermione took a step toward him, her teeth bared. "Don't you take that tone with me!"
Blue eyes narrowing, he moved away from his spot beside Thorfinn to close the distance, towering over her. "Don't you keep things from the rest of us, then!"
How dare he use their last argument like this! But even so . . . even as her throat wanted to close around the shaking words, she said, "Don't you dare die on me, then!"
He chuckled, but it was a pained and miserable sound. "Thank you, little witch."
Her brow furrowed, the tears falling freely as she shook her head. "For what?"
Orias winced as he forced himself to stay, to remain coherent just a few precious seconds longer. "All my years serving the Dark Lord, I never would've let myself die for his cause . . . . But you—"
"Oh, God, please don't say—"
"You gave me something worth dying for."
Hermione laughed even as a sob choked out of her. "God, I hate you."
"Orias?" She sniffled, shaking her head. "Orias? No! No, no!"
Thorfinn hung his head, taking a step toward them. "Hermione . . . ."
"No!" She shook him by the shoulders, hating the way his head lolled against her lap.
Thorfinn blinked hard as he forced himself to keep walking until he was beside her. For fuck's sake there were tears in his eyes. What the bloody hell was that about? "Hermione," he said softly, "he's gone."
Her lower lip trembled and her breath thundered out of her in a shuddering sigh as she let his words make sense of the sight before her. The anguish in her built up, begging for release and she let out a terrible, wordless scream.
Her scream grew deeper, her pitch changing the cry into a lonely, heartbroken howl.
The power of the sound erupting from her shook the leaves from the surrounding trees and jarred the bones of her pack.
Fenrir was the first to join in. Thorfinn, dropping to his knees beside her and curling an arm around her shoulders, added his voice to the mourning howl next.
Though she didn't feel she deserved to let her out pain with the rest of them—not when she'd known this was coming—Lavender needed to. She needed Hermione to hear her. Lifting her head from Fenrir's chest, she joined in, carrying out the howl with her alpha, and her pack, until the sound died on Hermione's lips.
No one moved or spoke for several strained heartbeats.
"Never realized having a pack could be this rough," Fenrir said with a sad laugh and a shake of his head.
Hermione sat back from covering over the grave they'd dug, wiping her hands on her jeans. There would've been no way to bring him back to Wizarding London without exposing him as a werewolf, not with the post-mortem scan, and none of them could be certain what that would mean.
A nudge at her side drew her from her reverie. She winced as she looked to the source.
Thorfinn was watching her face, his expression sympathetic as he asked, "You going to be okay?"
"I think so." She shrugged, chewing at her bottom lip as she thought. "I just . . . it's a little mad. I only knew him week and a half, but somehow it already seems impossible to process that when I wake up tomorrow, it'll be in a world without him."
"You do have a way of making sad things sound even more dismal."
She laughed, wincing again as she stood.
Lavender looked up from where she'd been marking the grave with a pattern of stones, catching the other witch's gaze. "You okay?"
"Yeah, I just think Roman bruised me . . . though, I'm probably lucky he didn't grind my hip bones to dust, the way he was holding me."
"Come here, let me—let me look at you."
Hermione sighed, hating the fuss. "Fine, fine." She was so tired from everything that had happened tonight, she just wanted to go back to the tent and sleep for a week.
Scooting over to sit before her alpha, Lavender pushed up the hem of her shirt with one hand. She winced at the sight of a purplish line marring Hermione's skin.
"You certainly—certainly are bruised, but . . . ." She delicately worked her fingertips along the injury. Her brow furrowing, she touched her palm to Hermione's midsection.
Hermione mirrored the other she-wolf's expression. "But?"
"You're—you're okay. You're both okay."
Her face showing more confusion before her eyes widened, Hermione echoed the word, "Both?"
Thorfinn and Fenrir exchanged a look. "Both?" they asked in unison.
Letting out a startled breath, Hermione sat right down in front of the blonde witch before her legs could go out from under her. "Do you know . . . ? Could you tell who . . . ?"
Again, Lavender nodded, but her reply was the turning of her head to look at Orias' grave.
Hermione's hands flew up, covering her mouth with trembling fingers. "Oh, God . . . ."
Thorfinn shook himself out of being dumbfounded by the situation and hurried over to her. "Are you—?"
"He knew . . . somehow he knew, didn't he?"
Nodding, Thorfinn said, "Think so, on some instinctive level, anyway. He did say you scent was off, but he was the only one who noticed, so . . . yeah."
Hermione turned her gaze to the grave for a few moments.
After what seemed forever, she asked, "What do we do?"
Fenrir joined them, uncertain, himself, what to think of all of this. "Whatever you want us to do, we'll do. Pack, remember?"
Hermione met his eyes, nodding as she climbed to her feet. "Yeah. Well, for now? For now I think Baby Mulciber and I want a nap."
Thorfinn couldn't help a chuckle as he stood, looping his arm around her shoulders. "Baby Mulciber," he repeated with a shake of his head. They were all taking this rather well, he thought.
"And then?" Lavender asked, hopping up to stand.
"And then?" Hermione sighed as they all started back toward the tent. "And then we'll figure out how to someday explain to him or her why they've got two mums and two dads."
"Along with figuring out how to explain to them what a right pain in the arse his or her father could be," Thorfinn said, grinning.
Hermione ignored Fenrir's responding snicker as she scowled at him. "You're a bit of an arse, yourself."
He shrugged. "Someone's going to have to keep Mulciber's ways alive."
Biting her lip to hold in a laugh, she let her head drop down on his shoulder as they walked. She listened to the conversation that followed, though her mind was on the man they'd laid to rest as she pressed a delicate hand over her belly.
Now she understood, she thought, why he'd so carefully chosen his last words to her.
You gave me something worth dying for.