AN: Fury, one of these days, you'll see a huge basket of sweets unimaginable, carried in the arms of a Lucius-look-a-like, who has a penchant for licking sweets off of skin, awaiting you on your doorstep, and you won't even have to question who sent you that gift. Really, you wouldn't. :D
Any errors discovered are mine, and mine alone.
Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling Litmus Test: Are you blonde? Nope. Did you dedicate seventeen years of your life (possibly more) to writing seven books of a fantasy-nature? Not that I remember. Are you so rich that you'd call one million euros 'pocket change'? Err…no.
Chapter Six: I Will Fear No Evil
"'…who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son. In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.'"
She paused meaningfully, letting the words sink in as she swept her gaze across the fifteen faces that made up her congregation. Eight faces, actually, because on the first and second left pews—four in front, three behind—sat the regulars that attended services, and on the right front, second and third pews—one in front, two in second, and five in third—sat her charges.
The seven regulars appeared enthralled by her teachings, whereas, of her charges, only one was paying any kind of attention to her sermonising.
She frowned at him, nettled for no good reason at his persistent staring. He had his arms folded across his chest and one of his legs overtop of the other. Despite his casual posture, he still seemed as regal and as haughty as ever, looking down his nose at her like a king seated on his throne forced to suffer the presence of a lowly servant.
And it was absurd, because she was the one standing on the podium.
Irrationally, she wanted to slap him. Slap that disgusting look right off of his face.
They are plotting to resurrect the Dark Lord.
I am willing to be a spy.
They had had that conversation a week ago, and her horrified surprise at his words had tapered off into scepticism. Resurrecting Voldemort? Impossible. Well, not impossible—she'd learnt early that in the Wizarding world, anything was possible—but unlikely. There were no available avenues for them to practice Dark Magic in her church. Additionally, the sensors in their arms prohibited any harmful actions directed towards her.
Not to mention that the Aurors were usually within earshot to dissuade any secret evil plotting amongst them.
So, the only conclusion was that Lucius Malfoy had fabricated that warning just to acquire special treatment.
Well, he's certainly not going to get it!
"Thus, in summation, I'd like you to have a moment of reflection. I'd like you to go home and look deep within yourselves. Have you found any blackness tainting your soul? Is there any sin in your heart? Go to the Lord and confess, for only He can redeem you. Only He can forgive your sins and set you free from the devil's chains. Now let us stand and pray."
Lucius wanted to throw his head back and laugh.
Sister Hermione Granger's holy preaching sessions usually engendered such an urge.
Her piousness was so outstanding, he could only sit and stare in amazement. Granted, he found her messages and instructions farcical and redundant—however, he couldn't help but be riveted by her zeal when she sermonised. There was just something…the way she spoke so heatedly, her hands' wild movements as she gesticulated to add illustration to her words, the way her eyes glittered in part mania and part delight, and the way her body seemed to exude electricity…some compelling force.
A lightweight version of Bellatrix Lestrange, he supposed.
And when one considered the rapt attention she was receiving from her parishioners, Lucius thought, with dark humour, how Voldemort had missed out on a very influential member for 'The Cause.' With such a surprisingly convincing tongue, there was no telling the kind of support she would have amassed. She might have even overthrown Voldemort and assert herself as the leader in their mission to eliminate Mudbloods and Muggles.
Oh, the irony!
And here he'd been bemoaning the tedious turn his life had taken. It seemed that wherever Sister Hermione existed, there was entertainment to be found. His erstwhile brethren in crime were engaged in a ludicrous scheme to resurrect Voldemort, and he'd offered himself up as a 'spy.' Alas, she had yet to cede on his requests, but he had no doubts she'd—
"We shall escape tonight."
Surprised, Lucius inclined his head to the right and found Rodolphus standing beside him. His head bent, eyes closed, Rodolphus pretended to pray along with the rest of the paltry congregation.
"Are you with us, Brother?"
Certainly not, he'd have liked to say, but he held his tongue. Contrary to what Sister Hermione Granger liked to preach, the truth did not 'set you free' nor was honesty 'good for the soul.' One might think that facing the harsh consequences from living the life he'd lived would transform his philosophies, but from his experiences, Lucius had learnt that false sincerity kept you in better standing with others.
No, he was not above lying to further his own agenda. From since his youth, he'd been able to appreciate how well received a well-spun lie could be. He would never justify or defend dishonesty because it was a trait of which he was very proud. Being lied to, in its basest form, was being ignorant, and he liked knowing that someone didn't know. Knowledge was power, and Lucius Malfoy, if anything, loved power.
Two-facedness was its own kind of art, and gullibility the canvas upon which he had to paint. Let dear Sister Hermione Granger believe that he could change for the better, and let poor Rodolphus Lestrange believe he was still willing to serve under a repugnant sovereign. Let them all believe they had his loyalty when the only loyalty he had was to himself.
He bent his head as well.
There was something different about Lillian.
At first, Hermione couldn't quite pinpoint what the 'something different' was, but after musing on how quiet the church had been lately—regardless of Bellatrix's regular tantrums of the plate-throwing, table-overturning variety—Hermione realised that Lillian wasn't very talkative of late. Truth be told, she wasn't present much—her unfinished chores a testament to this fact.
She didn't worry too much concerning Lillian's absentness. Not to mention that between her community service work, her religious duties, and her seemingly failing task to rehabilitate the Death Eaters, she had barely enough time to find for Lillian. However, during a garbage collection service along the banks of Hogsmeade River, Lucius Malfoy's words gave her cause to feel uneasy.
"You should be more mindful of your maidservant."
Hermione had been sitting on a partially rotted tree trunk, admiring the pleasantly blue mid-afternoon sky. It had been her first quiet moment in ages, and the tired soles of her feet had welcomed the reprieve. The air was still chilly but the cloak around her shoulders ensured some of warmth. Nevertheless, at the sound of Lucius' voice to her right, the little warmth in her body had fled.
"And you should be more mindful of your duties," she replied in caustic tones, not bothering to look at him. "Get back to work."
"My, aren't we highhanded," he said, and she could hear the sneer in his voice. "It will do you well in the future to treat me with more respect, Sister."
She finally spared him a glance. He was standing with the metal poker embedded into the earth, his palms resting on the exposed end of the poker. Ever since Yaxley's attempt to stab her, she`d confiscated their wands, forcing them to perform their duties the Muggle way. She supposed it was for the best. They could vent their hate and rage through physical work whilst learning to appreciate Muggles (however marginally) and their methods.
"Perhaps so, Mr. Malfoy, but that is dependent on whether you have a future."
Slowly, his sneer transformed into a smile.
"I have absolute certainty of my surviving well into my old age, Miss Granger. However, if you continue to refuse to heed my warnings, I cannot say the same for you."
"Warnings or fabrications, Mr. Malfoy?" she replied in flippant tones. "You do realise that should I take your words seriously, I will be forced to consult the Minister. And if the Minister is involved, do believe that every single one of you will suffer an instantaneous beheading."
His gaze was direct. "It amazes me that you would care whether we perish beneath a guillotine or not. Why?"
Yes, why do I care? They wouldn't hesitate to kill me in an instant and yet I fight to keep them alive.
Hermione looked away, fearful that he would read her thoughts and learn of her wavering heart.
Coldly, she replied, "Get back to work, Mr. Malfoy, or I'll ensure you have no dinner tonight."
Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.
There was a full moon out, its silvery light spilling through her window and lighting the nearby wall enough for her to read the time on the clock.
Hermione had gone to bed at eleven, yet nearly three hours later, sleep still refused to whisk her away into blissful unconsciousness.
Instead, she was left to lie and think. And think and think and think.
About her past, her present, her future; focussing specifically on the bad bits. She thought about the Horcrux hunt with Harry, her failed relationship with Ron. About her trials of being a nun, the pressures of presenting a respectable image as a servant of God, and about being responsible for a unstable teenager as well as eight murderers. She wondered about following God's teachings for the remainder of her life, and whether she had the tenacity, the willpower to go on for much longer…
Her thoughts ran in a loop, and whenever they got to that last bit, she forced herself to cut that train of thought short. Inevitably, she returned to thinking those things all over again, interspersed with new and even more negative memories.
She closed her eyes and began to pray.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures…
There are no green pastures here. No calm to be found here.
…he leadeth me beside the still waters; he restoreth my soul…
Then why does my soul feel as though it's still in pain?
…he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake…
But at what costs?
…yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me…
I still fear evil. It surrounds me entirely. Fills the hearts of these men.
I…I don't feel comforted…
Breathing hard, she sat up and swung her legs off of the bed to the floor. She did not like the after-effects of a Dreamless Sleep potion—she tended to feel groggy and irritable no matter how long she'd slept for—but obviously she needed it. Falling asleep naturally was no longer an option for her tonight—well, this morning.
So she got up, intending to get her cloak when she heard someone scream.
Reaching for her wand, Hermione ran out of her bedroom and through the kitchen. Lillian's quarters were originally a storage room beside the kitchen that had been converted, and it was on this storage room door that Hermione knocked with frantic raps.
"Lillian?" she called, still knocking. "Lillian? Lillian!"
Worry and fear traversed her bloodstream and filled her heart. The sound of the terrified scream replaying itself in her head, she grabbed the door's handle and yanked the door open.
Something hard and powerful accompanied by a bright green light struck her square in the chest, flinging her backwards against her kitchen cupboards. Her wand flew from her fingers to parts unknown, and her consciousness threatened to flee as well but she held on desperately to awareness.
Struggling to sit up, pain spanning along her entire spine and the back of her head, Hermione looked on in horrified amazement as Lucius Malfoy came towards her, pointing a wand threateningly at her chest.
"Accio—" she began.
"That won't be wise, Miss Granger. Someone can get hurt."
As if to support his statement, Hermione heard Lillian scream again.
"What are you doing to her?" she croaked out, feeling weak and defenceless.
He knelt in front of her, bending his face close to hers:
"I tried to warn you, Miss Granger," he answered, his voice as mellifluous as if he were whispering sweet love poems into her ear, "but you would not listen."
AN: Wow! Has it really been seven months since this fic has been last updated? I'm so sorry, m'dears! In any case, I shall dedicate this chapter to zouzoujana. I read your review beseeching me to update, and I felt so ashamed, I'd begun typing this up right away. Alas, it only took me until Sunday to get it all finished up. Hope it's to your (as well as everybody's) tastes! :)
Thanks, everyone, for your very encouraging and supportive reviews. It means so much to me to see people reading and enjoying this fic, regardless of the heavy Christian themes surrounding the story. It pleases me that you are so open-minded enough to realise that this is entirely fiction, and that you can enjoy it for what it is. Again, thank you!