Chapter 10: His Mistake
"You're being reassigned."
Lucius was disgusted with the look on the younger wizard's face. It was the cocky irresponsiveness and ironic eyes that belonged only on a teenager. Juxtaposed against Lucius's own pounding heart and burning veins, it was absolutely infuriating.
Rabastan was sitting on the floor in the hallway outside Hermione's room. He had landed there after flying against the wall when Lucius cursed him. Instead of bothering to get up, he just stayed put with his head resting placidly against the high skirting.
"Did you hear me?"
Rabastan kept staring at his superior mutely, but nodded. Once.
"Get out of my sight."
He got up slowly, stretching as he got upright. Lucius stood perfectly still, watching the man walk away only with his eyes. Halfway down the hallway, Rabastan paused to pose a question over his shoulder.
"How did you know?"
Lucius snorted deftly.
"It's my house. These doors are not doors to me."
Rabastan nodded at the floor and stalked off.
Lucius stood quietly for a moment while he regained control of his slightly quickened breathing. It was the only external sign of his anger, but it was still far too much. If the Dark Lord chose to invade his mind at this point, he would have no defence. His master would see exactly what he saw on the bed, would see Rabastan kissing the girl on the head.
The Dark Lord would also see exactly how it made Lucius feel to witness that.
Rabastan, himself and the girl would all be dead by morning.
Hermione strained to hear beyond her door with her ear against the wood. Not a minute ago, Rabastan's lips were on her brow, and she was elated through all the confusion and surprise. Now cold fear gripped her heart as she tried to listen if it was his muffled scream she heard, his body thumping against her wall in the hallway.
The sandwiches she had eaten were stuck in her throat now, threatening to choke her.
After about five minutes of listening, she turned to walk to her bed. She hadn't taken two steps toward it when an arm snaked around her waist.
She didn't scream, kick or bite. Like a dog of Pavlov's, she had been trained in this place to know that such instincts only led to worse odds. Hermione hated herself as she stood still and held her breath.
"I didn't hear the door open," she whispered.
"I don't need to open them," he whispered back. His breath shifted the fine hairs next to her left ear. As he spoke, his right arm tightened across her abdomen to press her close to his chest. His warm body behind her frightened Hermione beyond belief. She doubted Voldemort could frighten her like Lucius did.
"What are you going to do to me?"
He exhaled slowly over her shoulder. His breath created a small gap between her robe and her skin as it travelled down her chest. She was very, very dizzy.
"Why? Do you have a guilty conscience?"
She swallowed. Or tried to.
He knows. He knows something. Would Rabastan be punished? Exiled?
Would they kill him?
"No. It was all him."
What point is there in bullshitting the Lord of the Manor?
She heard a low, breathy chuckle behind her. She felt his breath on her neck again; the vibration of his chest.
"My, my. We are making progress. I was growing very weary of your insubordinance."
He took her wrist and raised it to eye level, slowly tracing his mark on her with a smooth thumb.
He hasn't done a hard day's work in his life.
"It appears this little bit of magic has started to become useful."
Did I tell him about Rabastan because I wanted to? Or was I compelled by some sort of loyalty forged by magic?
"Perhaps a small reward is in order?"
From what she had seen of his punishment she could not imagine liking his rewards all that much.
In answer, he turned with her and apparated.
When they arrived a second later in a library, Hermione stepped away from him quickly. He didn't stop her, but let his hand slide along her waist as she put distance between their bodies and took a shaky breath.
Lucius turned from her and walked towards a bar. Unsure what to do, Hermione stood perfectly still and settled for only surveying the thousands of books around her with her eyes. Rows upon rows of leather-bound tomes were stacked to the roof in the elegant room. A fire crackled in a dark, ornate hearth. Hermione sighed a sigh of longing.
This elicited a chuckle from the Malfoy patriarch, who was returning from the bar with two tumblers containing firewhisky.
"Draco was right about you. You really do prefer taking books for lovers."
Hermione narrowed her eyes at the snake of a man, not trusting the situation at all. She would do anything to be thrown to the floor right about now. She would prefer intense pain and a very angry Lucius taking all the frustrations of his life out on her, somehow shouting at her without ever raising his voice.
When Lucius handed her one of the glasses she started trembling in earnest. When he gestured to the chair she felt herself swaying.
A hand on her lower back steadied her and directed her toward the chair. She sat on the very edge and rested her glass on her knee, not trusting herself to not spill the contents all over the carpet. Somehow, she was convinced that this entire situation rested on the edge of a knife – at the first sign of her insulting him it would all end in bloodshed as she had never seen.
Lucius sat down smoothly in the chair next to her.
"Mudblood," he addressed her conversationally, "tonight, I would like to speak to you. I don't have a world of time, especially for your kind, but a situation has arised that I, as your captor, need to address."
Hermione did not dare to react. When he gestured to her to take a drink, she tentatively sipped the amber liquid. It tasted bitter and sour at once, and burned her throat. She pulled a face and returned the glass to her knee.
"You'd better finish that, it is very rude to turn up your nose at your host's offerings."
It took every inch of Hermione's willpower to not roll her eyes at her 'host'. Of course, the numbing fear of him helped, too.
There was a terrible silence as he simply watched her sip her drink. It seemed to go on forever, and the longer it stretched, the quicker Hermione sipped her drink, if only for having something to do with herself. In reality, the glass lasted about five minutes before it was empty, but to Hermione it felt like it should be somewhere near dawn.
When she put the empty glass down on the table next to her, she was feeling rather nauseous.
She turned back to Lucius, and he finally spoke.
"Rabastan has developed some inappropriate feelings towards you."
The nausea doubled as the whiskey moved back into Hermione's throat. She could feel her heartbeat in her eardrums.
Lucius was watching her carefully.
"He has been reassigned. It would be better for all of us if I took over your supervision personally. After all, your continued existence is quite important to our cause. You are a most valued insurance policy."
Hermione turned her attention to the carpet and frowned as she tried to work out what this implied.
Insurance? So me being alive helps them to win. A real hero would die in this situation. Die rather than be an asset to the opposition. Should I commit suicide? But I can still try to escape! If they're keeping me as some sort of last resort option then I might have time. There must be some way…
Hermione looked up. Her mind was starting to fog over slightly as the alcohol started to slowly take its effect on her.
"I believe we can start afresh, you and I. Since this war seems to be nowhere near its close, you could still be my charge for a very long time. I don't want to spend all my time mending your wounds, and I can't afford to leave you in the hands of another imbecile. Obviously you are more cunning than I thought."
Hermione frowned. He was obviously getting the wrong impression of the extent of Rabastan's feelings. He simply felt a bit protective of a little girl, nothing more. To imply that she somehow seduced him was ridiculous. Even if she actually knew how, he was much too mature to even be interested…
…and he's a Death Eater. Which means he's a pureblood supremacist.
"Did I say something that upset you?" He raised his eyebrow as he eyed her closely.
Hermione shook her head.
Lucius just looked at her, letting the uncomfortable silence do its job.
Her glass refilled itself on its table next to her. She saw it in the corner of her eye – neither dared to break eye contact just yet.
"You think I did something to him."
"At the very least."
"A likely answer."
She took a sip of her drink.
"What could I do? I have no wand, no physical strength."
A small smirk played about his lips. There was definitely more to this conversation. But he was not about to tell her what; Hermione could see he was satisfied.
Her glass was empty again. She was feeling emboldened, careless even.
If I die it's good for the cause anyway.
Would he beat her? Curse her? He just said he was going to stop all that; perhaps she should put his word to the test?
"Why do you hurt me?"
He didn't blink. He didn't even breathe, as far as she could tell. He sat perfectly still for a full ten seconds before he slowly turned to put down his drink. He then steepled his fingers and stared at the fire, not turning once to face her.
"You are a mudblood that parades your skill, your stolen magical skill, in front of me and my family. You reap centuries of our knowledge from two sickle books and then claim it to be your own."
He looked at her.
She was being stupid. He was never far from rage when his voice was that soft.
"Get up and come here."
Hermione got up on unsteady legs and went to stand in front of him. He shook his head slightly as he looked at her, then got up himself. She was looking the silver snake that clasped his robes together straight in the eye. The emerald gems were inches from her own golden eyes.
He smelled like pain.
She flinched as she felt a hand under her chin, lifting her face to look up at him. He was looking down his nose at her.
"I find you so absolutely infuriating, that any suffering I cause you gives me great satisfaction."
His voice was growing quieter by the minute. He walked around her and studied her closely. Hermione felt naked as he stood behind her once more.
"Being what you are, and being who you are, you have absolutely no right - "
She could feel his lips moving against the shell of her ear. His teeth were dragging along her earlobe.
" – to be successful – "
His left hand was on her stomach.
"- to be honourable – "
His right hand closed around her throat.
"- to be loved – "
His lips moved to her neck.
" – to be whole."
Her eyes closed and her breath hitched. For painful seconds she waited as his lips hovered at the junction between her neck and her shoulder. A single tear slipped down the side of her face and landed on her collarbone, inches from Lucius's face.
He pulled back quickly, as if startled, and let go of her. He walked back to the bar to pour a slightly darker drink.
Hermione simply watched his movements dispassionately.
I'm not wasting my tears on your folly.
I'm not wasting my tears on your folly.
I'm not wasting my tears on your folly.
Hermione saw herself as a little girl, teased mercilessly about her teeth, her hair, her scrawny frame. She watched in her mind's eye as that little girl took all her pain and shame and infused it into her passion for knowledge; using her misfortune as her fuel, and becoming stronger than ever.
Hermione was always a smart girl. She knew truth from lies when she saw it.
It was just not logical. She was a better witch than any of her pureblood classmates.
She knew that good people would never say these things, even behind her back.
Lucius Malfoy had the ability to kill her, yes, but his words meant no more to her than the words of her childhood bullies, even of his own son and his Slytherin friends calling her a mudblood at school. If Lucius Malfoy had hoped to break her, damage her, injure her with his words, he failed. Miserably.
It was there, standing in the Death Eater's library, that Hermione started to hatch her plan for escape.