My Mother Told Me Life Was Like A Box Of Weevils
By Kissaki and Libertine
Hermione Granger, AKA Mistress H., bit into a scotch finger biscuit and watched the others. Narcissa, peerless Malfoy beauty, was at the head of the catwalk, using differently shaped sexual utensils to demonstrate her plan of attack. Cho Chang nodded and shook her head at regular intervals, and beside her, Sirius -- he of the superior biceps -- made with random comments about evil and bad things, comments which the two women completely ignored. Over Narcissa's shoulder, the gang of Death Eaters in spandex made murring noises of understanding. A couple at the back were playing with a paddle and spanking each other.
They'd apparated to the Blue Oyster bar at Cho's request, and held a council of war in the center of the club. The Flamers wouldn't stand a chance, Hermione knew, against Narcissa's heavy artillery. The unofficial motto of Malfoy Inc.: Fuck the divide, and let's just conquer the little dweebs.
"This dildo is them, and this handful of g-strings are us," Narcissa was saying. "When they race in..." The dildo wobbled up the catwalk. "we pour the boiling oil down on their heads. As they scream in agony, we emasculate them with these..." she handed around what looked to be some pieces of fishing wire "...and then capture their leader. We hold him down and demand to know where their hide out is. If he refuses to talk, we use this..." she held up a spikey object "...until he does. Then we apparate to said hideout and murder everyone. With..." she paused.
"With these small flying rubber sachets," Sirius suggested helpfully, offering up a handful.
"That's a condom," said Cho.
Sirius stared at them. "A what?" he asked.
"Contraception," said Cho. "Um." She and Narcissa exchanged looks. "Never mind," she said, taking the condoms away from Sirius. "Justin used to collect old swords and that sort of thing. Phallic symbols, rather. Said he wanted to liven up the place, only I refused point blank to let him hang them on the walls. We can use them for the raid."
"Wonderful," said Narcissa, curling her lip. "When do you think we'll expect them?"
"They show up here once a day, practically," Cho said. "Unless they've caught wind of your arrival, I reckon they'll be on the doorstep any minute now."
Sirius brightened. "Want me to get the swords, ladies?" he asked.
Narcissa treated him to one of her colder looks. "Yes," she said. "Go fetch."
Hermione watched Sirius pad off obediently like an oversize dog. It was sad, really -- for all his bulk and his posing, for all his ranting about good and the power of the Self, he was oblivious to the fact that he was currently playing gopher for the most evil woman Hermione had ever met in her life. If Sirius had been a different sort of man, she would have hated him for that. If he hadn't had those biceps, that strong, muscular body. As it was she only felt the mildest twinge of annoyance at his behaviour.
He was hot, but he wasn't half dumb. But it occured to Hermione that, despite all her studying, despite all her work, Sirius Black was going to be the best she'd ever get.
The potion tasted filthy, just as Harry had said. Severus washed away the flavour with a shot of gin he'd filched from the Malfoy's lounge bar, and lazed back on the camp-bed he'd erected in the backroom of his laboratory. His eyes fluttered closed, fluttered open. Oddly, it didn't feel as if anything had happened, as if anything had really changed. When he (with some misgivings) conjured up the image of the werewolf in his mind, the sexual longings were gone -- but there remained a feeling of strange empathy he couldn't quite rid himself of. Or perhaps the word for it was appreciation.
Throughout the years he'd maligned the werewolf, spread rumours about him, told cruel jokes behind his back and his face, and even once tried to set him up to murder Lucius Malfoy. And through it all Remus had never retaliated, barely so much as bared his teeth, and despite the odd return trick (bloody bending wand prank, Severus thought frustratedly: could you be any more immature?), for all intents and purposes Remus had simply continued his mild existence, tolerating Severus, accepting Severus, and living up to his in-house reputation as the all round Gryffindor good guy. Occasional full-moon induced psychosis nonwithstanding.
Severus grunted, scratched his cheek. There wasn't any point in antagonising someone who so resolutely refused to fight back. That is, if fighting back was what Severus truly desired. He thought it over, strumming a hand on the underside of the bed -- and was on the verge of lurching into some heavy navel-gazing when the door of the laboratory burst open.
Framed by the doorway, Remus Lupin was a tearful sight. His eyes were red, his face stained, and there were splattered mud stains on the knees of his freshly pressed trousuers. "Severus?" he whispered, squinting into the gloom before him. "Are you there? I need to talk... please."
"Uh," said Severus, and straightened himself up.
"Thank god. Thank god." Remus pressed his hands over his face. "Can I sit down?"
"Sorry, I don't have a bask--" Severus paused, thought again. "There's the bench," he said, and gestured toward it.
Remus sat awkwardly, resting his elbows on the countertop, his chin held on the crests of his fingertips. "I think..." he said tentatively, and then trailed off, started over: "I think I'm having a mid-life crisis."
Severus smirked. "Don't tell me," he said. "You bought a fancy new broomstick, shaved, and started screwing the maids?"
"No. I just don't like my life any more. And I don't think I've liked it for quite some time." Remus was staring at him in an intent sort of way, his hair flopping a little over one eye. "Do you remember back in school?" he asked quietly. "With the Marauders, and the Malfoys screwing everyone, and how you always used to work so hard?" He didn't wait for Severus to answer. "I spent most of my time at school wanting to kiss you, you know."
That explained a lot, and nothing much at all at the same time. "Sounds like a personal problem," said Severus weakly.
Severus choked. "You've been spending too much time with Lucius," he accused.
"Maybe." Remus shrugged. "Maybe it's a good thing. That I've been in here and not out there, making a fool of myself the way Sirius has been. You should have seen him. He's here at the manor now, did you know? Screaming idiotic things about heros and villians and doing good and having wars. A fanatic. I don't think I really know him anymore. In the old days I used to want to be him -- he got all the girls, had that nice motorbike, and --"
"-- secretly wore women's undergarments --"
"Well, yes," said Remus. "But he was popular. I admired him a lot. Now I think he's just a bit of a prat, really."
"I've been saying that for years."
"You would." Remus looked away, sniffled inelegantly into the back of his sleeve. "What I'm trying to say is that I'm not very good at being -- me, really. I like to stand behind people. And I don't like to make trouble if I can help it. I've spent almost all my life wanting to kiss you, but I haven't said anything. Because I know you don't want to kiss me and I know that... I know a lot of things, and it's not... I know it's not personal. You've been avoiding me. Sorry if I've bothered you."
Severus suddenly realised that these were probably the longest speeches Remus had ever made in his life. What he'd done to deserve this confidance he had no idea, but hazarded a guess that it hadn't been the result of his earlier slew of doggyboner jokes. Strangely, it didn't make him feel particularly uncomfortable. With the effects of the love potion gone from his system, he was -- once again -- in control. He rose steadily from the bed and reached for the gin. "Did you want...?"
"No. I don't -- I don't really drink much. After the last time..."
A curt reference to Severus' Infamous Attempt on Lucius Malfoy's Life. Severus took the point, poured a single glass for himself, and sipped it. "Would it be imprudent for me to ask you why you're telling me all this?" he inquired.
"I think it's time for us to leave," said Remus. "I think you and I should go someplace." He pushed a beaker about between his cupped palms. "Somewhere warm."
Severus raised an eyebrow. "Are you coming on to me?" he asked.
Remus laughed. "It's a bit late for that," he said. "I know you aren't interested. In that way. And in my head -- I've never even gotten beyond a kiss, to be honest. But I also think... and correct me if I'm wrong... that you like me. A bit."
"A bit," Severus conceded thinly. "In a wholly platonic way, and, I should point out, in much the same fashion as a man will love a pet of some description, say, a small furry..."
Remus waved a hand. "You don't have to qualify it," he said. "I just wanted to know that if I leave, if you'll come with me."
"They don't need you here any longer. They've proved their point." Remus screwed up his face. "No matter what we do, they'll always be two steps ahead of us. Maybe even three. Maybe a hundred. But you can still brew potions in another country, and I can still send them their tax evasions -- eh, returns -- by Owl. I don't need fancy clothes or fancy hair --"
"-- it's growing out, anyway --"
"-- to do my job. All I need is somewhere quiet. Somewhere where I don't need to deal with... somewhere I can be a little more like me, you know?"
The smile on his tear-stained face was terribly hopeful. Severus felt quite guilty shooting him down. "Lucius won't buy it, I'm afraid," he said, taking another mouthful of gin. "Apologies for bursting your little bubble, but if there's one thing the man --"
"If he doesn't accept it, I shan't drink your potion next full moon," Remus said calmly. "I think I'll be able to get through to him." He grinned, noting Severus' astonished expression. "I learnt quite a few things in my anger management course," said Remus, "and I think the most important one of them was that people who perpetually repress their anger end up eaching stupid courses and cracking onto young impressionable wizards with fancy haircuts." He paused, left the beaker alone. "I want to go as soon as possible," he said, when the silence became a burden. "You don't have to come with me, but I'd like it if you did."
"I wash dishes and do ironing. And vacuumn. I know how to get wine stains out of cream carpet and I make an absolutely killer pot roast."
"You're also a werewolf going through a mid-life crisis," said Severus cooly. "With a serious long-term crush on me. Excuse me if I don't immediately jump at the chance to share a bunk with you."
Remus rose from the bench, pulled his jacket tighter around his shoulders. There was a determined set to his features that Severus had never seen there before. An expression rather like the one Harry had had when he'd asked Severus to help him get over his doomed love. An expression rather like the one Severus had seen on Narcissa's face a few days ago, when she'd spent an hour or two whipping a herd of Death Eaters from one end of the manor to the other. An expression rather like the one Severus had worn back in the day, when he'd talked back to Sirius Black, Hogwart's resident local god, and stalked off -- a man on a mission -- to nearly get his backside tenderised by a homocidal werewolf.
Not really malicious. Not really pissed off. Just -- not scared in the slightest.
"I'll come back," said Remus, making for the exit, "after you've thought about it. I really hope that you agree. And that's not just because..." another, slightly wicked smile, "...I like you."
After Remus was gone, Severus wandered about the laboratory, lost in thought. I could go, he pondered to himself. I could leave. If Remus gets us out of here, I definately will. Make new contacts on the Dark Potion black market. Push Lucius for a paycheque and then... and then spend the money on a new stereo system. And a guitar. And get a tan. If we go back to South Africa, which I know he wants to. It wasn't bad, that. The jazz. The alcohol. And a pet werewolf would keep the burgalars at bay, ha ha. Of course, he's completely mad and liable to start biting people's ankles at any second. But. But. It could... if I didn't hate him, which I don't, and if I didn't...
It was only a half-hour later that Severus realised that as he'd been thinking, he'd been simultaneously packing his bags.
His son was lying in the corridor when Lucius found him, sniffling into the carpet. He had both hands over his head. His bum wavered up and down. Lucius knelt down beside him, careful to stay far enough away so that his plaid trousuers wouldn't be dirtied, and patted Draco gently on the shoulder.
Draco didn't say anything. Just wept, in a very quiet way, which wasn't very like Draco at all.
Lucius helped him to his feet, brushed him down, and then, half-carrying, half-supporting his son's weight, took him upstairs to his own bedroom. He politely ejected the four or so Veelas who were playing strip poker on the bedspread, and then turned down the covers. Draco got in, hung his feet over the edge of the bed. Lucius bent down and unlaced them. Draco swung his feet under the covers, and Lucius pulled them up to his chin, and sat there beside him on the pillows.
When Draco reached for his hand, Lucius took it, squeezed it. Kissed his knuckles and the back of his hand.
"Take me to your leader, filthbag!"
"I SAID, TAKE ME TO YOUR LEADER, YOU PIECE OF WRETCHED WORTHLESS FLESH..."
"Er, Narcissa?" Cho interjected, stepping over a broken table. "Narcissa...?"
"It's Cho, not Minion," said Cho. "And I think you've just killed him. That's why he's not talking."
Narcissa gave her a funny look, and then released her hold on the Flamer's neck. He slumped, dead, to the ground at her feet. She hissed to herself for a bit, and blew on her fingernails.
"But," said Cho, "Hermione and I wrestled the other one to the floor, and he's talking..."
"Oh," said Narcissa.
She looked across the broken bar-room. There'd been only three Flamers, and they hadn't stood a chance against her army. The moment they were in the door the Death Eaters had leapt on them, dragged them kicking and screaming through the club, crushing bones, even using their teeth. A severed limb or two hung from the light fittings, and dripped. It made a nice percussion line to the jukebox, which was currently playing, I Will Surivive. The drag-queen on stage, who'd been lip syncing along with the tune, was frozen in place, and drooling a bit.
Tables were crushed, the dingy decorations were torn from their places, broken bottles littered the ground. The Blue Oyster looked as if a bomb had hit it -- but it wasn't anything, Narcissa was sure, that a few quick spells couldn't fix in no time. In the far corner she saw a couple of Death Eaters tearing apart Flamer II with their bare hands, while just below the bar itself, Hermione and Sirius Black were sitting on Flamer III's chest, and telling the frenzied Death Eaters who attempted to kick at him to Please Go Away, Thanks All The Same.
"And he told you where their hideout was?" Narcissa asked.
"They hang out in an internet cafe not far from here. I think the one we got was a merchant banker." Cho sighed. "They're Muggles, would you believe it. Not a rival club at all, just some political anti-filth campaign. It's really pathetic, when you think about it."
"You have the address?"
"Well, yes... it's just round the block from here. The Planet Cafe..."
"COME, MY LEGION," said Narcissa, in a forbidding tone. The Death Eaters stopped killing things and snapped to attention, as did Hermione and Sirius. "We're going to go for a little walk around the block," Narcissa told them. "And then we're going to commit a few more murders. Mhm? Do try to keep their skulls intact, won't you," she added, as an afterthought. "I'd like a souvenir to take home to my husband."
She turned on her heel and stalked out. Flamer III, divested of Hermione and Sirius' weight, made a run for it, but was instantly cut down by the Death Eaters. They swarmed behind Narcissa, and -- stinking of blood, their spandex ripped almost to shreds -- finally left. Sirius, giving Hermione an apologetic look and a pat on the back, ran after them.
"Is she always like that?" Cho asked, into the silence.
"She's got rather bad PMS," said Hermione.
"Well that makes sense." Cho stared around her, looking for the right words. "The bar's ruined," she said, finally. "Justin will be beside himself, when he's out of hospital."
"I shouldn't worry," said Hermione, subsiding onto the closest, unbroken chair. "She'll fix it for you. The Malfoys do that. They break things, and then they fix them again. And then everything's wonderful and everyone's happy. And so on, and so forth. A woman like Narcissa looks at a place like this, and she sees an investment. And if there's one thing I've learnt, through working for them, is that the Malfoys never ruin their investments."
"Are you going to follow them?" Cho asked.
"Was that good looking guy with the black hair your boyfriend?"
"He will be, I think."
"Lucky you," said Cho, who didn't really sound as if she meant it.
Hermione winced. "I feel sort of sick," she said.
"I'll fix you an orange juice. How about that?"
Together they found a pair of unbroken glasses, returned an overturned table to its four feet, pulled up chairs and drunk their juice. Cho lit a cigarette, and Hermione -- feeling that the moment rather called for it -- took one and lit it up too. The jukebox changed its tune; the sounds of YMCA flooded from the speakers.
"I've been working with them for a while now, and recently I've been thinking about going into private practise," Hermione said. "Get a little dungeon of my own, you know what I mean? I rather miss being my own boss."
"We're modern women, we are," said Cho, nodding understandingly. "I could probably set you up with a friend of mine, come to think of it. She's moving out of the country, and was hoping to find someone who could afford the rent in Kensington. Once Justin's healed, I could help you set things up. Or, at the very least, send over a couple of the boys."
They heard the sound of police sirens in the distance, and a wail of an ambulance.
Then a series of explosions.
Then a lot of screaming and yelling, and gunshots.
"Hm," said Hermione.
"I feel a bit silly, just sitting here," said Cho.
"But what can you do?" said Hermione, shrugging.
"They're probably being slaughtered," said Cho. "If they haven't been slaughtered already."
"To be honest," said Hermione, pouring herself another glass of orange juice, "right now, I don't give a damn."
Seamus left at around six o'clock, which gave Harry and Neville some quiet time together. They shagged their way into the living room, shagged through the billard room, shagged across much of the third floor, and ended up together in a little sated huddle in one of the spacious closets on the fourth floor. In the semi-darkness, Neville beamed at him, showing a lot of very white teeth.
"Wow," he said. "That was much better. You're really getting the hang of it."
Oh, gee, thanks, Harry thought, feeling a lot less pleased with himself.
Neville gave him a friendly hug. "I just knew you'd try for me," he said. "I mean I understand that you and Draco have your problems, but I never dreamed you'd leave him for me. You know I never thought I was anything special, but now -- now I'm more special than Draco Malfoy! I'm so special I managed to break up a -- how many years? Nine? Ten? And we only had sex the once! You must think I'm really special."
So special that they have buses just for people like you, Harry thought grimly -- and then checked himself, horrified by his own crudity.
"I was so worried before that you didn't like me half as much as I liked you," Neville said. "I had this horrible relationship with this guy, Bill -- I bet I've told you about him, he was the one with the wife and three kids who met me when I was crying in the toilet of the Blue Oyster, he was really nice, only he had a few mental problems, you know what I mean, nothing serious, but he thought he was a dog. I mean he liked to pretend he was a dog. You know, when everyone was out of the house he'd crawl about on the floor and pee behind the furniture. It's those little idiosyncrasies though that make you really feel you understand someone. Right here."
He tapped his heart with the palm of his hand. Well, close to his heart. Probably no one had bothered to mention to Neville that hearts were kept on the left side of the body. And not in the pancreas.
Harry tuned out as Neville babbled on. It wasn't that he didn't like Neville. Neville was sexy. Neville was -- could be -- sweet, when he wanted to be. It was just the fact that Neville was a complete freak which bothered Harry. Beside him, the Malfoys' fucked up relationship looked positively nuclear. He wondered, breifly, if his relationship with Draco had been so disturbing. It probably hadn't been. Neither of them had had time to do anything apart, neither of them had had a chance to do anything so insanely fucked up without the other one knowing about it. The Weasley bit on the side nonwithstanding.
It was lucky, really, that he couldn't remember how he felt about Draco. If he did, he had the sinking suspicion that his current position (in a cupboard, listening to Neville prattle on about his ex boyfriends) would seem sorely lacking in comparison.
"So anyway, we had an absolutely marvellous time, but then the police came in and completely killed the mood of the party. Strip searched us all. And of course they found the knife, so they took him away. I think he's still locked up in St. Mungos, now I think about it. I used to bring him flowers whenever I went to see my parents, but then I sort of forgot. He couldn't remember who I was, anyway, so there really wasn't any point. And they kept him in a straitjacket. Anyway, Harry, I should really get going, if Seamus is going to pick me up -- will I see you tomorrow?"
The sudden lapse in conversation made Harry aware that something was expected of him.
"I said, will I see you tomorrow?"
Harry thought his way through his social schedule. Any excuse, he prayed. Any excuse. "Uh, I think I'm going to a dinner and celebration, actually," he said. "Er, Percy Weasley's promotion."
"Oh, me too," Neville giggled. "I'm still friendly with the Weasleys, except for Ron, who turned into a right prat..."
"...a sexy prat, though."
Harry stopped smirking.
"I'll see you there. Save me a seat, okay? Love you so much." Neville pressed his lips to Harry's, and they snogged for a while, which was a good thing, not because the kissing was great, but because it shut Neville up. Harry was extremely reluctant to part when Neville struggled backwards. "You'll see me tomorrow, Harry," Nevile said, patting him gently on the top of the head. "Ta ta for now."
He exited the closet. When the door shut, Harry banged his head against it. Again, and again, and again.
Lucius watched the manor grounds from his bedroom balcony. A procession of wizards was making its way through the courtyard. At the rear, he saw Hermione and Sirius Black, their arms around each other -- Sirius was talking, Hermione was yawning into her hand -- and ahead of them were a herd of very frazzled looking semi-naked Death Eaters, eyes wide and scared. There were significantly fewer of them there than there had been at the beginning, Lucius noticed. And of course, leading the way, wearing a pair of seven inch silver heels, a necklace, and a great deal of ash, was his wife.
They disappeared inside. After a while, he heard the shower in the en suite running. A half-hour later, Narcissa emerged, her hair clean, her skin sparklingly fresh, and joined him on the balcony in her night gown.
"Nice day in the office?" Lucius asked her.
She slipped her arms around his waist, leant against him. "Very nice, darling," she said.
"Tired of behaving like a psychopath?" Lucius inquired.
"Very tired, dear."
"No chance of a quick screw," said Lucius.
Narcissa purred into his shoulder. "Not quite that tired, my love," she admitted.
Lucius shook his head. "No, really," he said. "That wasn't a question. We've another body in the bed tonight, I'm afraid."
Her grey eyes went very wide. "Who did you kill?"
"No one. But Draco's decided to join us for a while." Lucius made a motion with his shoulder toward the bedroom. "It might be quite a long while, to be honest."
"Oh dear." Narcissa squeezed his arm with motherly concern. "My poor boy."
"I'm not altogether sure what I should do," Lucius said.
"We can use the airing cupboard," Narcissa suggested.
"Yes, that's what I was... oh." Narcissa pursed her exquisite lips, tapped a thin manicured fingernail against them. "You really shouldn't play games with them," she said finally. "They're not very well equiped to deal with it. At least with your sort of games." She paused; Lucius was giving her a stern look. "You mean well, dear," she ammended, kissing his cheek, "but they're so terribly... precocious. There's no point in listening to them. You're simply spoiling them. They don't know what they want in a relationship." She sighed. "We used to be just like that, do you remember?"
Lucius frowned. "That was ages ago," he said gruffly, "and we ended up inviting all the Veelas in."
"We were very mature for our age, though," said Narcissa. "Even at thirteen."
They interlocked their arms and walked back into the bedroom. The sound of Narcissa's heels broke Draco out of his slumber; he groaned, wriggled up in the bed and strained blindly for the glass of water on the side-table. Helpfully, Narcissa passed it to him. Draco drunk half of it -- still with his eyes closed -- burst into tears, and then, sniffling to himself, curled himself up again into the same position as before.
"I remember him being a lot littler," said Narcissa, climbing into the right side of the bed, as Lucius climbed in from the left. "They do grow so, don't they."
Lucius flicked off the light, leant over Draco's body to kiss her goodnight. "Mm," he agreed quietly. "That they do."
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