It was a cool crisp evening, stars twinkling bashfully from behind pearlescent clouds that littered the sky. Hermione sighed deeply as she leaned against the marble balustrade of the balcony, the dark grey rock smooth and chilly under her arms. She shivered slightly and took a sip from her glass of wine, eyes trained on the night sky as if she could divine the future from its depths. Behind her the muted sounds of an extravagant party turning more rambunctious strained through the glass doors, and she chewed her lower lip unsure if she should stay outside or return.

There was the soft click of the door knob and the volume of the party increased for a moment before being muffled again. Turning her head she smiled softly at her new companion and then looked back at the night sky.

"Evening Lucius" she said softly, swirling the dark red liquid around in her glass. His approach was silent, save the soft response he gave once he was next to her.

"Good evening Miss Granger" he drawled, sending small ripples of pleasure through her. Tipping her head to the side she looked at his profile, admiring his usual impeccable state of dress and grooming. From the perfect coif of his silky blonde locks, to the shine of his shoes he looked every bit the high society wizard he was. Self consciously she ran her hand down the front of her dress, trying to press out the wrinkles that seemed to inevitably find her no matter what she wore and silently wished she wasn't so naturally frumpy.

"I thought we'd agreed upon first names" she teased lightly. Lucius raised an eyebrow and quirked the side of his mouth.

"You, my dear, insisted on them. I was perfectly content with formal titles" he responded, aristocratic arrogance coloring every word. Hermione rolled her eyes, a small smile playing on her lips.

"Oh suh, can you evah forgive mah impertinent behavyah?" she simpered back in a southern drawl, and then giggled at his shudder.

"I'll forgive you anything if it means you never speak to me like that again" came the dry response. Hermione chuckled again before turning her eyes back to the night sky.

"So, Lucius" he turned his eyes on her sharply, a little amusement glittering in them at her emphasis on his first name, "What draws you away from the excitement?" she asked, small smile still playing on her lips.

"Amazingly Miss Granger, as much fun as seeing a large group of mid twenty year olds get drunk and grope each other at what should be an otherwise formal event it, I decided I'd had enough when Miss Parkinson turned her affections on me" Hermione grimaced. Post -war, many of the pureblood families that had been held in check to duty and not desire by Voldemort had broken their marriage arrangements for their children. Pansy Parkinson, who had very few redeeming qualities besides her bloodline in the first place, had been particularly put out that she would not be getting tied to one of the wealthiest wizarding families in Britain and had systematically tried to work her way back in. Unfortunately for her, Draco had found a woman he truly did love – an American witch who was delightful, even if her accent did make Lucius' skin crawl – and thus she'd turned her attentions to the eldest Malfoy. The party this evening was in fact to celebrate Draco's engagement, and though it was meant as a formal event it was obviously disintegrating as the evening wore on.

"And you? Why are you hiding?" came the light responding question, though she could feel the concern behind his words. She chewed her lower lip for a moment, allowing the silence that followed to get pregnant with expectation. She hated to admit the truth, especially to him.

"Oh…well, you know" she lied glibly, hoping her tone came off as convincing, unable to meet his eyes with her own "As wonderful as the party is, it's hard watching your friends get married and move on. Leaves me wondering and wanting for more, you know?"

"Indeed" came the concise response and she winced a little. He quite clearly knew she was lying to him, and she began to chew at her lip again, "Forgive me if I don't believe you, but given that you once claimed my son makes you – what was that again? 'Throw up a little in your mouth'? I have a hard time believing that watching him get married off is really that much of a heart sore for you"

"Well its not so much DRACO getting married off that makes me contemplate my future – or lack thereof – just, you know, friends in general. Everyone has someone but me. Getting married, having babies… I just wonder if it will ever happen" she finished, inwardly wincing at her attempt to continue. It sounded pathetic even to her own ears, which flushed in embarrassment at her own stupidity. She heard Lucius shift his stance next to her and chanced a quick look at him. Catching his grey eyes bearing into her own, she ducked her head and looked away again.

"Hermione" came the response, compassionate but commanding. Her shoulders slumped a little as she leaned both elbows on the balcony.

"I'm sorry Lucius. It just…sometimes it still gets to me. In that room" She felt him intake a breath sharply in sudden realization, "The noises or if something moves and I'm back…I can hear the screaming, and feel…feel the pain" she shivered wrapping her arms around her middle as she turned to face him. She cursed inwardly at her own foolish emotions as she felt tears gather at the corners of her eyes and she swiped them away angrily with the back of her hand.

She felt an arm reach out and pull her against his side, trying to offer her comfort. "Even after all these years?" his voice was warm, but wistful. She nodded against his shoulder and felt him sigh. They remained silent, there was nothing they could say. The past was the past, and it couldn't be changed. Words were cheap and actions meaningless.

After lingering moments of shared companionship passed them by she felt Lucius lean over and press a kiss to the top of her head, a gesture he frequently bestowed on her "You know Miss Granger, if you really want to have a baby I'd be more than happy to help" he murmured into her hair, causing her to gasp and then laugh.

"You know, Lucius, anyone can make a baby but it takes a real man to be a father" she teased back, lifting her head to gaze into his eyes. He tossed his head back and laughed his rich, baritone laugh that sent chills racing up and down her spine. His grey eyes caught hers, and he gave her a full smile, his whole face lighting up with amusement. He was so classically handsome it bordered on beautiful and it always took her breath away. She couldn't help but smile back, and then leaned her forehead on his shoulder, chuckling into his dress robes. The hand that had been around her waist lifted up and began stroking her back. This was how it was with them, the intimacy of a relationship without the real relationship. Touches, whispers, small gestures. They danced on the edge of something real, but neither crossed the barrier into that something more. The sounds of the party in the background lifted again, signaling someone was coming out onto the balcony. Sighing in resignation, she lifted her head to view the intruder to their private moment.

Glass shattered on the floor as her goblet of wine slipped through nerveless fingers and a shrill, breathy shriek slipped through her lips. Absent, black eyes stared at her from behind a porcelain mask, breath curling in the cool night air. He didn't move, his robes swirling eerily around his feet in the evening breeze and for a moment she wondered if she was dreaming. A low guttural growl came from behind the mask, and she stepped backwards.

She felt, more than saw Lucius' head snap up and turn to where she was looking. In a move too fast for her to track he shoved her back behind him and whipped his wand out, leveling it with the expressionless face.

"Who are you?" he snarled, his own face a vicious mask. Hermioned grasped at the back of his robes, burying her face into the soft velvet material, trying to recompose herself enough to be of help. The terrace was silent for a moment, heavy fear dripping from every pore.

Drunken laughter broke the stillness, and the intruder collapsed, pulling off his mask. Hermione sagged, sinking to her knees in relief. Lucius swore brilliantly and strode to the nameless guest, dragging him up by the back of his robes.

"WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING?" he roared, causing the young man to cough and catch himself mid laugh. Instantly sobering he yanked himself out of the blonde man's grasp and straightened his robes.

"Dude, chill. It was just a joke man. A dare. Seriously, no need to get all stodgy" he scoffed back at Lucius as he grabbed for the mask. Lucius pulled the mask out of his reach, simultaneously leaning forward to hiss

"This is not a joke"

"Dude, they're just costumes"

Hermione wasn't sure how she managed to get to her feet, but she found herself standing next to the older Malfoy, restraining him from physically harming the guest. Glaring at the stupid man she snapped sharply "Get out"

The young man yanked his arm out of Lucius', favoring him with a hard glare before he left the two alone once more. As the door clicked shut Hermione let go of his robes and sobbed loudly, doubling over and pressing her palms onto her thighs. Lucius dropped to his knees, one hand on the ground, dragging in deep breaths.

"I thought" she murmured, "I thought…Oh merlin, I really thought it was them. Lucius, gods, why didn't you destroy it?" her voice raised in desperation, trying to rationalize the last few minutes.

"I did" came his ragged reply. She raised her eyes to meet his, stormy with confliction.


"I did. The damnable things were created to never be broken but after the war…after Narcissa…" he stopped with a shudder, "I tore apart my library to find a way to destroy them. I disintegrated all three earlier this year"

The implication hit her like a ton of bricks and a million questions popped into her head at once. For the first time ever she saw genuine fear flicker across the face of Lucius Malfoy.

"Hermione, that wasn't my mask"