Lucius squinted over the rim of his Ogden's, assessing the guests milling around his expansive ballroom. Merlin, it was always the same. Without Cissy—and Severus, if he were honest—his life was a series of one boring event after another.

He glanced at his son, who was standing next to him, also surveying the crowd.

Draco smirked. "Another brilliant party, Father," he commented without turning.

Lucius pursed his lips. "Yes. Brilliant." He took a sip of his Ogden's.

The murmurs of the crowd filled the room as Loddy opened the double doors to the ballroom entrance and stood aside. Lucius raised an eyebrow.

If it isn't Hermione Granger.

She looked, well, lovely.

"It appears the evening has just gotten more interesting," Lucius said, not taking his eyes from the woman who was bending down and thanking his house elf. "If you will excuse me, Draco."

The petite witch was dressed in a teal silk gown, her hair swept up in a chignon, exposing an elegant, bare neck. No longer an awkwardly-skinny late-teen, the woman gracing his ballroom appeared both beautiful and confident beyond her years.

Exactly when had he seen her last?

"Miss Granger."

"Lord Malfoy—" She inclined her head slightly.

He felt his lips curl in a genuine smile. "Lucius, please."

"Lucius, then." She smiled back at him. "Thank you for the invitation."

"I'm flattered you came. And, quite frankly, surprised. This is not your typical venue."

"And what is my typical venue?" she countered.

"A cramped office filled with teetering stacks of parchment, an army of dirty coffee cups, and several days of unread Prophets, guarded by a mildly annoying secretary."

She laughed, her brown eyes sparkling. "I never leave the Prophet unread."

"What made you change your mind and accept my invitation this time? Need something to occupy you, rather than revising bills on house elf rights?"

She seemed to be contemplating how to best respond to his jibe, when Colpy appeared to offer her a glass of champagne.

"Forgive me, Miss Granger. I meant no insult. I'm dreadfully bored. I'm afraid I've taken to suffusing myself with drink in order to get through these monthly parties." Lucius took a swallow of his Ogden's as if to emphasize his point. "It tends to loosen my tongue."

She raised an eyebrow. "To get through them?"

He leaned down to whisper in her ear. "They seem remarkably similar after a while."

"I can't imagine that," she whispered back conspiratorially.

"Ah. But you would agree after a few months." He swirled his glass and took a sip. "Perhaps to alleviate my…weariness, Miss Granger, you might allow me to give you a personal tour of other parts of the Manor."

"How generous of you."

"Perhaps we should start with the library. If I recall, you are rather fond of books."

Lucius motioned for her to follow, and led her to the entryway, which opened into an expansive hall.

"You never answered my question," he said, over the echo of their footfall against the marble floor.

"About why I chose to attend tonight?" She kept her gaze forward. "To be honest, I'm a bit bored after the war. Days, weeks, months seem much the same."

As they strolled down the hall, a house elf appeared with a soft POP.

"Do Master and Miss require refreshment?"

"Not at this time, Colpy."

The house elf disappeared. Another materialized.

"Master Malfoy, Lord and Lady Greengrass have arrived."

"Serve the Greengrasses the charcuterie platter I reserved for them, Hanpy."

"Of course, Master Malfoy." As that servant disappeared, Loddy arrived.

"Master Malfoy has asked Loddy to inform him when Lord Alaric Avery and Madam Burke arrive."

"Ensure Avery is prevented from imbibing an entire bottle of Firewhisky, and keep Madam Burke out of the master wing, as always."

"Yes, Master Malfoy." The creature bowed, bending at the waist low enough for its ears to brush the marble floor before it Disapparated.

The witch turned to him as they continued down the hall. "Just how many elves do you have, Lucius?"

"Here at the Manor? Seventeen."

"Seventeen? I was under the impression that you lived here alone."

"I do, Miss Granger."

"Certainly you have no need for so many house elves, then."

"You would be surprised. Many of the elves are dedicated to a single room. And many of them have positions and responsibilities they would strongly prefer not to give up."

She pressed her lips together.

"I am well aware of the bill you are seeking to put forth in the Wizengamot, changing the status of house elves to employees," he said levelly.

She had the good grace to blush. "I—"

"Let's not spoil the evening with politics." He indicated a heavy wood door. "Ah, here we are."

Lucius opened the door and stood aside so she could walk past him.

She gasped.

"I never imagined it would be this size. It's…it's…impossibly large." Abandoning Lucius at the entrance, she wandered into the room, her eyes sparkling.

"Most Malfoy assets are," he mumbled.

She raised an eyebrow at him, smiling wryly. "Stop teasing me, Lucius."

Lucius turned at the sound of a house elf arriving at the doorway.

"Master Malfoy, may Lindy help you with something in the library?" the elf asked, eyes wide with anticipation.

"I'm giving a personal tour to Miss Granger, Lindy. So, no."

"Thank you, Master Malfoy. Should Master Malfoy need assistance, Master Malfoy will call Lindy," the elf said eagerly.

"Yes, of course."

The creature scooted away.

Lucius cleared his throat. "As you might guess, this is one of the rooms that has a dedicated house elf. Lindy's sole focus is to keep the library and its contents organized. Lindy is part librarian, part housekeeper, and part constable," he said, huffing a laugh at the last. "Perhaps a position you might be envious of."

"Sounds delightful, actually. Perhaps I should consider tendering my resignation at the Ministry and pursuing something along those lines," she quipped.

"A truly excellent idea, Miss Granger," he said, smirking. "Perhaps I will extend you such an offer."

Hermione huffed her own laugh.

"How many volumes are in this collection?"

"I'm not exactly certain, as Lindy is authorized to acquire additional volumes as she sees fit. It is larger than the Hogwarts library, and rivals that of the Ministry Archives—if that gives you a means of estimation. There are entire sections in Ancient Greek and Latin. Shall I call Lindy—?"

"That's not necessary, but thank you."

She wandered farther into the room, brushing the tips of her fingers along the leather spines.

"It's gorgeous."

As are you.

Lucius allowed her to roam for a few minutes, watching her as she examined books and lifted her eyes to the stacks on the second floor, enraptured. At length, he said, "I believe it is time we made our way back."

Her face fell. "Of course." It was obvious the witch was trying to hide her disappointment—and failing.

"We wouldn't want our disappearance to appear on the front page of tomorrow's Prophet, now would we?"

"You don't have power over what's printed on the front page?" she teased.

Lucius chuckled. "Not anymore, I'm afraid."

As he closed the oak doors behind them, he couldn't help but notice the look of loss in her eyes.

"Perhaps you will consider visiting the Malfoy Library on another occasion, Miss Granger. The library has much, much more to offer than what you've seen this evening."

"More?" she asked, looking up at him incredulously as they strolled back toward the ballroom.

"Yes. Other rooms, other…collections."

"Other collections?"

"Far more intriguing than what you've glimpsed this evening. The library's first floor is primarily for research, the second, for more esoteric endeavors, the third…the third houses a private collection for…play."

"Play?" she asked, her eyebrows rising.

"Haven't you ever played with the resources in your library?" he asked, cocking an eyebrow at her.

"I never came across any resources to play with."

"Perhaps you are gracing the wrong libraries," Lucius said, with a wry smile as they entered the ballroom once more.

She smirked back at him. "Perhaps."

o0o0o0o

Lucius spent the remainder of the evening—outside of managing his guests through his house elves—watching Hermione Granger, and becoming more and more and captivated with her.

"Hanpy."

The elf appeared at his side with a soft POP. "Yes, Master Malfoy?"

"Personally ensure that Miss Granger receives an invitation to next month's gala."

"Of course, Master Malfoy."

o0o0o0o

The curly haired witch haunted Lucius's waking thoughts and nightly dreams for the next several weeks. And although Miss Granger had indicated that she would attend the next party at Malfoy Manor, Lucius was reduced to pacing—and finishing several glasses of Ogden's—while waiting for her to arrive on the night in question.

Roughly fifteen minutes after the gala's official start time, she appeared at the entrance to the ballroom, smiling and glancing around. She caught his eye, and Lucius walked over to greet her.

"Miss Granger. How lovely to see you again," he said, taking her hand and pressing his lips to it gently. Merlin, her skin smelled…delightful.

"And you, Lord Malfoy, eh...Lucius."

"I was hoping to see you this evening."

"You were?"

"I've been anxious to show you more of the library."

"Really?" she asked playfully.

"Yes. You seemed so fascinated last time." He motioned to the entranceway. "We managed to avoid the Prophet last time. Shall we see if we can accomplish that again?"

o0o0o0o

Lucius gazed at the petite witch, allowing his lips to curl in a smile. He had spent the last ten minutes watching her wander the first floor of the library, her honey brown eyes glistening in delight.

How long had it been since someone had caught his attention? What would it be like to have her here all the time?

The next question was past his tongue before he could stop it. "I have a proposal for you, Miss Granger."

"A self-serving one, no doubt," she said, pursing her lips in amusement as she turned to regard him from the shelves.

Lucius laughed. "No doubt. But before you judge me too harshly, or push your latest bill through the Wizengamot, there is something I would like to offer you." He took a step toward her.

"Next month, I'm opening my summer home in Cote d'Azur. It has a library—not quite as extensive as this one, but similar." Her lips parted in surprise. "My house elf, Lindy, has…requested to oversee the opening of it this year. I'm inclined to allow it, should I have a suitable replacement for her here."

Lucius met her eye. "Perhaps you would consider taking Lindy's place at Malfoy Manor—temporarily, of course, until she returns."

"I don't—"

"When we last spoke, you mentioned you would enjoy having Lindy's position—in jest, of course. Quite frankly, I believe it's a rather interesting idea. You would be in charge of the Malfoy Manor library for several weeks, and have access to its collections, with the notable exception of one on the third floor. As an added benefit, you would gain first-hand knowledge of the responsibilities of a house elf in my employ, which should aid you in your negotiations with the Wizengamot."

Lucius felt a smile threaten the edges of his mouth. "Over the course of your employ, you may find that I am not as harsh to my servants as you believe."

The witch didn't say anything for a moment; she continued to roam, occasionally touching a leather volume or gasping in surprise at something she found.

"Actually, it's an intriguing offer," she said finally.

"I assume you would like to see a bit more of the library before making your decision. It would be but a…preview of what awaits should you accept my proposal."

"You are hoping to sway my decision."

"Of course."

"There is a small price, of course, for the preview."

Hermione raised an eyebrow, a smirk gracing her lips. "Isn't there always?"

Lucius laughed. "In this case, the price is simply the promise to carefully consider my offer, and return to give me your answer in person."

"To that, I agree."

Lucius gestured to a staircase at his right. "We will have to go to the second floor for the preview. I'm afraid I will have to go first."

As he unlocked the library wards, he felt the whisper of magic dissipating around him. He wondered if she had felt it, too.

"Perhaps I was remiss when I described the Malfoy Library," Lucius continued. "The second floor not only houses parchment and bound books." He waved his hand, and vanished the glamour to his right, revealing an alcove where a tapestry had been. "Your preview, Miss Granger." With another gesture, he allowed the rest of the glamours to fall away.

"What am I seeing?" she asked, angling her head to the side and gazing across the open space in the center of the expansive room.

"Alcoves."

"What are inside them?"

"It depends, but essentially they house magical artifacts. Each has a theme."

"I'd love to see what you have in them."

"Why, Miss Granger, do be careful what you wish for," he purred. "Some of them have a price for entry."

"There is a price, even if I accept your offer?"

"Yes, I'm afraid so. Even Lindy is not allowed into all of the alcoves freely. Some contain objects that are far too personal, others contain objects that are far too dangerous."

"So, some contain items other than books."

"Correct."

Hermione looked up longingly. "Are there additional alcoves on the third floor?"

"One."

She was silent for a moment.

"Is there a price to see inside the first room?"

Lucius was silent for a moment and met her eye. "Yes. Have dinner with me."

She raised an eyebrow, her fingertips touching parted lips.

"Here, at the Manor. Wednesday evening," he clarified. "You may give me your answer at dinner."

"Perhaps I already have plans."

"Cancel them." Lucius smirked at her. "You will find that I'm used to getting what I want. And I want you to have dinner with me."

"Perhaps it's time to disabuse you of that notion."

"Perhaps, instead, I will extend a gesture of trust, and invite you to see the alcove now, even before we have dinner."

"You are extremely confident, Lucius."

"That I am." He offered her his arm. "Come, then."

The alcove immediately to their right was small and bright. He led her to a table in the center of the far wall, where a book lay. He touched its ancient, cracked leather binding fondly and carefully opened it, caressing the blank pages with his fingertips.

"We affectionately call this the Malfoy Codex." Lucius picked up the quill next to the open book. "If you wish to find all the information on a certain subject within this library, write your request in this book, and the references appear as a list underneath your request. The list includes page numbers. The volumes are then automatically retrieved from the shelves and stack here on the table, next to the Codex. When you are through with your research, the list disappears."

"Give me an example, and I'll show you how it works." He picked up the quill. "Pick something obscure, so that we don't get half the library."

She laughed. Then: "The mating habits of bicorns."

Lucius chuckled. "Now, now, Miss Granger, this is the family friendly floor of the library."

A dozen books flew into the small space, coming mostly from one section on the first floor; they stacked themselves into a neat pile on the left side of the desk.

"When you pick up each volume, it opens to the page indicated on the Codex," he continued.

"I'm impressed," she said. "Does it work in any magical library?"

"That is my understanding."

"Have you ever taken this to Hogwarts? Or the Ministry archives?"

"I've never needed to." Lucius met her eye. "I have always found my answers here."

"That would have saved me some time," she mumbled. She took a step forward and touched the Codex with her fingertips. "Does it also return the books to their original shelves?"

"It can, but Lindy prefers to do it herself, however. And I'm happy to indulge her." Lucius turned away and motioned for the witch to follow. "This object is quite ordinary compared with the other objects housed here."

They descended the stairs to the first floor.

"I'm intrigued enough to consider your offer," she said.

"I will formalize my proposal and owl you by Monday."

"But I'm afraid if I receive preferential treatment, I won't be able to get a true understanding of how a house elf is treated," she teased.

"I can assure you that your concerns are unfounded."

"Then I look forward to evaluating your proposition."

"Indeed, Miss Granger. Indeed."

o0o0o0o

Wednesday Evening

House elves scurried in and out of the dining room, clearing dinner plates and utensils to make room for the next course. Lucius found that his guest was a charming conversationalist, and he was growing more and more captivated with her as the evening progressed. He had missed trading clever banter over a fine meal with someone who actually enjoyed intellectual endeavors.

So far, neither had mentioned his proposition, so finally, as dessert was served, he decided it was time to ask. "So what do you think of my formal offer, Miss Granger?"

"I have read through your proposal and have considered it," she said, taking a sip of her wine.

"I appreciate you doing so. What are your conditions?"

"You assume that I have some." Her eyes glittered with amusement.

"I would." Lucius took a swallow of his cognac and regarded her openly.

"Should I complete my daily duties, as outlined in the document, the rest of the day is my own, correct?"

"Correct. As stated in the contract, your primary responsibilities are keeping library clean and organized, and procuring new works. You would have the same position as Lindy. You would function as she does. Once those duties are completed, your day is your own, as you put it."

"Therefore, I can come and go from the Manor as I please?"

"Of course."

"Am I required to be at your beck and call, as your house elves are?"

He chuckled. "No."

"And am I beholden only to you, and not the head house elf of the Manor, correct?"

"Correct." Lucius cocked an eyebrow. "But those are not conditions. Those are clarifications."

"No uniform," the witch said flatly.

"No uniform." Lucius gazed at her over the rim of his glass of cognac, and took another swallow of his drink. "You would, of course, need to take a leave of absence from the Ministry and move into the Manor for the duration of the contract."

She regarded him silently.

"I trust that you would find the accommodations at the Manor satisfactory." He cleared his throat. "Additionally, I will close the library to visitors for the summer, so you will not have to lead tours."

"How generous of you," Hermione said, a touch of sarcasm colouring her tone. He ignored it.

"Please know that there is still a price to access some of the alcoves. The price may be as simple as informing me that you intend to study the object inside, or the price may be a requirement that I must accompany you when you enter the room. It varies. But you decide whether or not you will pay each price." Lucius leaned back in his chair. "I will provide more information on access after the contract is signed."

"No more dinners?" she asked, raising an eyebrow and swirling the wine in her glass.

He chuckled. "I did not say that."

"Surely you don't invite your house elf to dine with you, Lucius," she said playfully.

He huffed another laugh. "Nor would the company have been as charming should I have chosen to."

She looked down at her plate and he could see she was holding back from saying something.

"Before you give me your answer," Lucius continued, "please understand that this is a binding, magical contract. The consequence for neglecting your duties, should that inadvertently happen, is immediate negation of the contract and banishment from the library. And let me be clear, before entering any alcove, you must confer with me to ascertain whether or not there is a price to enter. It is for your own safety."

"I understand."

"Have you arrived at an answer?"

"I have." The witch smiled slyly at him, her fingertips delicately tracing the rim of her glass. "I accept, under one additional condition."

Lucius raised an eyebrow. "Name it."

She took another sip of wine and locked her brown eyes with his. "You must call me Hermione."

o0o0o0o

One Week Later

Lucius was sitting across from Hermione at a large mahogany desk on the library's first floor; she was earnestly taking notes on a parchment while Lucius leaned back in his chair, regarding her with amusement.

"I have added you to the property wards and the library wards, but understand there will still be areas within the Manor that are forbidden, such as my study and the master wing. Remember, the regular collection—outside of the alcoves—is entirely at your disposal at any time without restriction."

Lucius leaned forward and unfolded a map of the library's second floor, beckoning her closer. He was near enough to detect the jasmine and vanilla scent of her skin. He fought to focus. "On the south side, you will find three small rooms, each of which contain a magical artifact and information describing how the artifact works. As noted on the map, the first space along this wall contains candlesticks, the second, a bowl, and the third, a lamp."

She nodded, her honey eyes widening slightly.

He cleared his throat. "On the west side," he said, "you will find alcoves containing various musical instruments—please heed the warnings listed—as well as Sleep Thorn, otherwise known as Dragon's Claw."

"I will be conscientious of the warnings, Lucius."

He felt his lips twitch into a smile. "I suggest that you start with these—the south and west ones. You may access any of these alone, without informing me. When you are through with your investigation of the items inside them, I will personally guide you through the next ones." He folded the map and presented it to her.

"Thank you," she said softly.

"I hope that you will consider joining me for dinner to discuss your observations." He pushed his chair back from the desk and rose. "For now, I will leave you to it."

o0o0o0o

"Hermione. Welcome." Lucius rose from his seat at the dining room table. He pulled out Hermione's chair, and invited her to sit. "I trust that you enjoyed your afternoon."

"I did." Her face flushed.

"Tell me—what was the most intriguing object that you studied today?" he asked as he settled down across from her.

Lucius could see Hermione visibly try to contain her excitement. "I suppose, if I had to choose, I would say the lamp."

"Ah."

The words came tumbling out of her. "It functions so much like an electric Muggle lamp! It doesn't run on electricity, of course. Once you cast the altered Lumos, it's almost as if the light emanating from it has a different quality. And the fact that it illuminates—if you will—the layers of magic within the room…" She caught his eye, and appeared to force herself to stop speaking; she took a deep breath, and said slowly, "I can imagine spending a lifetime studying it."

The tantalizing woman had become an adorable ingénue at the mere mention of one of the library's many secrets.

"You will find there are other, more worthy objects to investigate here."

"More worthy?" she asked, her voice rising a bit, her body edging toward the front of her chair.

"Should you permit me, after dinner, I would like to show you another object that might save you some time, should you need to brew while you are here."

o0o0o0o

"Stop teasing me, Lucius. It's a cauldron."

"While an astute observation," Lucius said, "I'm not teasing you. This particular cauldron has an interesting property. If you whisper the name of a potion over it, all the ingredients necessary for brewing appear from the Malfoy stores, in the correct amounts and prepared accordingly."

"What happens if the stores don't have an ingredient?"

"The cauldron finds a way."

"So, it's a thieving little cauldron."

"I prefer to think of it as a time saving, efficient cauldron." He gestured toward it. "Try one."

Hermione bent over the cauldron and whispered, "Polyjuice." Her hair fell across her face and she tried batting it away. Lacewing flies, leeches, powdered bicorn horn, knotgrass, fluxweed, and Boomslang skin appeared next to the cauldron.

"Polyjuice Potion? Why, Miss Granger, who might you like to pretend to be?"

"Perhaps someone with straight hair," she said, rolling her eyes.

"I rather like it the way it is," Lucius said gently. "It suits you."

o0o0o0o

Lucius had barely seen Hermione for two days when he decided to visit the library himself to see how she was progressing with her research. She glanced up from her notes as he entered.

"Hello, Lucius!" she said in greeting, a grin spreading across her face.

"Hermione," he said. "I thought you might be interested in some cursory information on the east alcoves."

"Yes, thank you. I have completed a preliminary investigation on all the artifacts in the south and west alcoves. If I could have a preview of the east and, perhaps, the north ones, I could prioritize my in-depth studies for the remainder of my time here."

"Of course." He indicated the set of stairs to the second floor. "Shall we?"

As they rounded the corner to the first small room off the east wall, he said, "Might I suggest that I assist you during your investigation of this particular alcove? All the objects housed here are associated with torture or have been used in combat. Some of them seem to have taken on the personality of the former owner, which you may not find…palatable."

Displayed in a glass case in front of them were a pair of plain silver gauntlets, a leather whip, a dagger with an intricately carved handle, and what appeared to be an ordinary rope. As they approached, the whip began to move, winding around on itself like a snake. Hermione took a step back, bumping into his chest.

"Might I also suggest that you keep the objects locked inside the case?" He placed his hand on her shoulder protectively.

"I have no intention of touching anything—or even remaining in this room without you here."

"That would be…advisable." He watched her as she stared, transfixed, at the whip. She paled. "Perhaps we could leave this room for another day," he said gently.

"Let's."

As they turned to leave, Lucius inadvertently brushed her hand with his own. They both froze. He met her eye. "Hermione, would you join me for dinner this evening?" he asked as he closed the alcove's door behind them.

"Thank you, I would enjoy that very much," she said, the colour beginning to return to her face.

"May I leave you with a standing invitation to join me at dinner each night?"

"That would be…most appreciated."

o0o0o0o

The Following Day

"While your contract states that you may not share any information on the contents of the Malfoy library, the next object requires that you pledge a wizarding oath not to speak of it to anyone. That is the price to gain entry to this particular alcove."

Without hesitating, Hermione thrust her hand out, pulling the sleeve of her robe back slightly, revealing perfect, milky-white skin. Lucius took her hand in his, finding it was warm, soft, and dry. Magic rippled through them as she spoke an oath promising to keep the contents of the alcove secret. As her brown eyes regarded him, he felt his heart begin to race.

They parted awkwardly, both having held on far longer than they needed to.

"This looks interesting," Hermione murmured, as she finally let go of his hand.

Lucius cleared his throat. "This stone has been in our family for generations upon generations." He took a step toward it and stroked it lovingly. "I find it to be…most helpful in business transactions."

"How does it work?"

"When you place a parchment over the stone, it tells you what words are false, or have been written with the intent to deceive, and which have not."

"May I test it?"

"By all means."

"Accio parchment and quill," she said.

She wrote on the parchment: My name is Lucius Malfoy, and carefully laid it on the stone. The words Lucius Malfoy glowed red. She wrote another line: My name is Hermione Granger, and all the letters shimmered with green light.

"Fascinating!"

"Allow me," Lucius said. He took the quill from her and wrote: I enjoy having dinner with you each night, and the words gleamed a satisfying shade of green. He met her eye and silently offered her the quill.

Colour graced her delicate features. After a moment, Hermione wrote: As do I.

Lucius couldn't remember being as pleased with anything he'd read atop the stone before.

o0o0o0o

May Gala, Malfoy Manor

"Good evening, Lucius."

He turned to his left and took her in. Tonight, Hermione was clothed in floor length green silk recalling the colour of his house; she had tamed her hair as she had for the last party. He rather enjoyed the sight of the milky-white skin of her neck.

"Ah, Hermione. Did you find walking down the hall preferable to Floo'ing to tonight's event?" he asked as he bowed and took her hand to kiss it.

"I much prefer it, actually. Although I must say, it is quite a long hall."

Lucius huffed a laugh. "So it is. You look lovely this evening."

"Thank you."

"Mr Malfoy. Hermione!" Lucius tried not to roll his eyes as the Boy-Who-Lived approached.

"A pleasure to see you this evening, Mr Malfoy." Potter turned to the witch at Lucius's side. "It's been weeks since I've seen you, Hermione. How is your leave of absence going? Keeping busy? Enjoying yourself?"

"You know me, Harry. Busy, as always! But…" She glanced at Lucius. "…I'm quite content."

Lucius smirked behind his Ogden's and said nothing. After a few minutes more of useless, inane conversation, the Potter boy wandered away. Hermione, however, stayed at his side.

"Do you mind if I steal you away to show you another magical artifact?" he asked, after a few minutes of comfortable silence surveying the crowd.

Her honey brown eyes locked with his. "Not in the slightest."

o0o0o0o

As they entered one of the library's north alcoves, Lucius placed his hand in the small of Hermione's back, gently guiding her to a wooden table on the far side of the room. On a square of padded black velvet in its center, lay a large, milky-white pendant on a heavy silver chain. Bands of iridescence flitted across its surface in the dim light, like ripples of cloud.

"It's beautiful. What does it do?" Hermione asked breathlessly.

"It protects the wearer from curses and hexes—everything, that is, except an Avada. It keeps the wearer safe against seven attacks, but it cannot be used by the same person ever again."

"Have you used it?"

"Yes. I used it during the First Wizarding War." He clasped his hands behind his back. "So, essentially, it is useless to me now. It is kept for future Malfoy generations."

"Future generations?"

"Draco wore it during the Final Battle at Hogwarts," he commented flatly.

"I see." She took a step toward the necklace. "May I…?"

"Certainly." Lucius unclasped the necklace and put it on her, reaching behind her neck to secure it. "Stunning," he whispered, locking eyes with her. "I harbor the hope that someday, I might find another to share it with, someone who may give me an heir to pass it along to."

"I wish you the best in your search for her," she whispered.

"Perhaps I no longer require that sentiment," he murmured.

He cleared his throat and took a step back. "Although I do not expect you to be in danger during tonight's gala, I would be…honored if you would wear it for the rest of the evening," he said formally.

"I would love to, Lucius." Hermione reached up and brushed his cheek with her fingertips. "Thank you."

o0o0o0o

For the rest of the evening, Hermione rarely left his side, the pendant glimmering at her neck. Draco joined them for a few moments of conversation, his eyes flicking to the necklace briefly, and then locking with Lucius's. He inclined his head in approval before disappearing back into the crowd.

The following morning, Lucius settled into his study to attend to some paperwork, when he was interrupted by the sound of a knock at the door.

"Enter."

Hanpy trotted in, bowing deeply and keeping his eyes locked on the carpet between them. "Master Malfoy, Miss Granger requests your presence in the library."

"Is she hurt?" he barked, pushing his chair away to stand.

"Hanpy does not believe so, Master Malfoy. Hanpy—"

Lucius twisted away, uninterested in the remainder of the elf's explanation.

In his next breath, he arrived outside the library's entrance, and swung the door open. The lights blazed upstairs, in a north-wing alcove. As he ascended the stairs to the second floor, the hairs on his arms began to rise. She's in the fourth alcove. Well…shite. I should have told her not to break the seal…

He strode into the small space; Hermione's back was to him. She was peering closely at a clear glass bottle, turning it slowly in her hand. He took a step toward her and found he had begun salivating.

Lucius froze.

Merlin, she hasn't opened it, has she?

"Oh, hello, Lucius! Thank you for coming," she said excitedly. She held up a small vial, apparently decanted from the larger bottle. "This appears to be what Muggles call a pheromone. I have a question. The description seemed to indicate—"

She swiveled around and he felt his face flush; at the sight of her, his cock begin to throb and weep.

Shite. Things are degrading quickly.

"...the scent only works on those who already are attracted to each other…" she finished weakly, colour flooding her own face.

"Miss Granger, if you will excuse me…" Lucius spun away, Apparating directly into his chambers.

He collapsed on the bed, and dragged his hand down his face. Merlin, how to make an arse out of myself.

And with that thought, he wandered into the master bath, and summoned the coldest shower he was able to tolerate.

o0o0o0o

"My apologies for my behavior earlier in the library," Lucius said stiffly as he entered the dining room for dinner, trying—and succeeding—to keep from spinning his cane in his hand to distract himself.

"Lucius, I'm so sorry," Hermione said as she rose from her chair, her brow furrowed. "I didn't mean to put you in that position."

He held up his cane.

"The top of this cane turns cold if the person you are conversing with is lying." He tossed it to her, and she caught it. "The dining room table is made of metal."

He could see her honey eyes widen shock as the top of the cane turned icy. He took a step toward her.

"Your eyes are blue," he said, staring at her intently.

He saw her flinch and shift her fingers.

He took another step.

"I want to kiss you. I've wanted to kiss you for weeks."

Lucius watched as Hermione readjusted her palm across the top of the cane. He knew it was turning warm in her hand.

"Put that down," he said. "Because I am going to kiss you."

Lucius closed the final space between them and finally, greedily pressed his lips to hers.

Hermione tangled her fingers in his hair, and responded in kind.

A sigh escaped her.

And his cane clattered to the marble floor.

o0o0o0o

It had been a very long time since Lucius had taken his breakfast in the master suite; it had been even longer since he had shared it with someone else.

He glanced at the witch nestled up next to him on the settee. She was wrapped in his dressing gown and her hair—Merlin her hair was disastrous, and, oddly enough…perfect.

"You certainly do treat your indentured servants very well, Lucius," she teased, a very satisfied smile on her face.

"Indentured servants? I don't recall having an indentured servant," he said, feigning forgetfulness. "But then again, I have so many servants here at the Manor, I might have forgotten one or two. Speaking of which, don't you have a library to tend to?" He tucked an errant curl behind her ear.

"I do have something to attend to…but it's not a library." She leaned in and kissed him. Thoroughly. "Besides," she added breathlessly, "don't you have a house elf for that?"

"Ah. That's something I need to rectify. Accio contract."

The top drawer in his bureau opened, and a parchment flew to his hand. With one, swift motion, he ripped it in two.

"You kept that in your bedroom?"

Before he had a chance to answer, Lindy arrived in the suite with a soft POP. "Lindy is here to serve Master Malfoy and the Malfoy Library."

"Welcome back, Lindy. I trust you will find everything in order."

"Lindy will check the library, Master Malfoy. Lindy will check!" The creature smiled widely and skipped from the room.

"I believe it's time you and I retired to the third floor alcove," he murmured to the witch at his side.

"Retired? Isn't it morning?"

"Yes, and yes," he said, rising and reaching for her hand to pull her to standing.

"Is there a price to enter the alcove?" Hermione quipped.

"We can pretend the price is a kiss."

Hermione raised an eyebrow. "We could. But I believe, after last night, you will let me see the room anyway, Lucius."

"Is that what you believe, Miss Granger?" he whispered, pulling her closer. "We can also pretend that you will kiss me whether or not that is the price of entry."

"Perhaps we will no longer need to pretend. About anything." She reached up to caress his lips with her fingertips. "What does the artifact on the third floor do?"

"It's for play," Lucius murmured.

"For play?"

"For play, Hermione." He took her hand in his. "Come see."