Author's Notes:

1) Canon-Divergent AU [another 'by the seat of my pants' fic, so we'll find out where this is going together!]

2) There might be few "ew, and oh no!" moments as the storyline sorts itself out, just bear with me. At this point, you either trust me or you don't.

3) Blame for this one goes to Canimal.

4) Typical 'warnings' for my fics apply: Smut, possible violence, possible possessive behavior. Might be dark, might not. At this moment, your guess is as good as mine. We'll all just have to wait and see.

Lucius Malfoy Fancast: Alexander Skarsgard (if Jason Isaacs is the 'only Lucius' for you, then you're welcome to imagine him instead, you don't need to tell me ? )

DISCLAIMER: I do not own Harry Potter, or any affiliated characters, and make no profit from this story.

Chapter One

Days had passed, and yet, Hermione could not stop thinking about it. How strange. The War, all that battle, Voldemort finally—finally—dead and gone. And all she really seemed able to think about, all her mind tripped back to, was the way she had shied away from Ron when he'd tried to kiss her.

A moment she'd thought she'd wanted, and yet . . . . Chewing at her bottom lip, she shook her head. And yet, at the last possible second, there'd been some twisting in her gut telling her something was wrong.

The look of hurt in his eyes, the pained way he said her name as she practically tore herself out of his arms played in the back of her mind, over and over.

It didn't help at all that they where about to attend Narcissa Malfoy's funeral; they being the surviving members of the Order, of course. She didn't think they belonged there, but the circumstances surrounding her death—Voldemort so brutally taking her life on the battlefield when he realized she'd lied to him about Harry surviving their confrontation—had seen to the witch being declared a war hero. She agreed with the declaration, but she still wasn't so certain their presence would be appropriate.

Draco had been miserable, not even enough energy to muster an insult to toss her way when their paths crossed during the cleanup efforts. Lucius Malfoy hadn't been seen, at all. Rumor had it that he'd shut himself up in Malfoy Manor, unable to face the world since his wife's death.

Hermione rolled her eyes, swallowing hard as she smoothed her fingers over her black pencil skirt. That last bit was rumor mill melodrama, but she couldn't say she blamed him if that were the truth.

She was so caught up in her thoughts, she jumped at the knock on her door.

"Hermione, c'mon."

Shoulders drooping, she met her reflection's gaze. She knew there was no way Ron was going to be all right with seeing her—she was strangely detached from the incident, if she were being wholly honest with herself—but she understood she had an obligation to her friends, and yes, even to the Malfoys for their loss, and for Narcissa Malfoy's sacrifice.

Between reconstruction efforts and funerals, it was amazing any of them had time to breathe, let alone gossip.

"Coming, Harry."

Giving the mirror one final nod, she turned on her heel and started toward the door.

The entire Order, indeed, every attendee at the funeral sat, stunned. Though, no one quite so much as Draco. The somber ceremony had drawn to a close, and yet . . . .

Lucius Malfoy had never shown.

His son shifted and looked about, appearing legitimately uncomfortable at his own mother's funeral. How sad, he was the one with the most right to be there. But, as time wore on, and it became more painfully obvious that Lucius was not coming, Draco's expression alternated between anger and concern.

"Someone should go talk to him," Harry said with a nod, glancing over his shoulder at the pale-haired wizard. "It's not right that he's alone like this."

The elder members of the Order standing with them started to discuss among themselves who it should be, when Ron piped up . . . in a way that only made the situation more painful.

"Well, I'm not going to do it."

Everyone seemed to turn and look at him, then.

Shifting in place, he shrugged. "Oy, don't look at me like that. I mean I wouldn't know what to say and would probably only make him feel worse."

Hermione could only sigh, nodding. She might be on his bad side right now, but they were still friends. She had to keep in mind that he wasn't a bad person simply because something in how she felt about him had changed.

But they really shouldn't let anyone else go, either. They were hardly friends with Draco, but at least they were his peers. That might mean something.

"I'll go." She ignored the flicker of irritation across Ron's face at her offer.

"Hermione," Harry said with a sigh as he shook his head. "Maybe it should be—"

"No, no. You should stay with the Weasleys, okay?"

Biting his lip, Harry forced a gulp down his throat as he nodded. He'd just been through Tonks and Remus' joint funeral yesterday, tomorrow was Fred's, and he was such a part of the Weasley family that it was only right he be with them as they prepared for that. So much more a part than she was, it seemed, especially now.

She looked from Harry to Ron, and back, before nodding. "Really, it's okay. You two have enough to deal with."

She didn't give them time to argue with her, pivoting on her heel and making a beeline for Draco.

Though it felt like there were a thousand gazes pressing on her as she walked, Hermione knew that was only her imagination. Everyone had a headful of their own woes, and that they stood in an ancient and storied Wizarding churchyard didn't make a difference, except in the back of her thoughts, where she had to remind herself that ghosts didn't linger by their graves.

There was no reason for her to feel anything here, and yet . . . .

She turned her head to glance over her shoulder at the timeworn headstones and aged mausoleums. And yet, she could not shake the feeling something was trying to get her attention.

Draco's voice drew her from her reverie.

"So, you're the one they nominated to come babysit me, Granger?"

She hadn't even realized she'd drawn to a halt near enough to where he sat that her presence—and her destination—was unmistakable. In all their years sharing classes, and arguing, and lecturing each other, she'd never heard his voice sound as it did just now.

Flat. Lifeless. Like there was nothing left in him, and maybe there wasn't.

Meeting his gaze, she offered a small, tightlipped smile. "Actually, I volunteered. I can't imagine how you're feeling right now."

"You're right, you can't."

Her expression faltered at how matter-of-factly he spoke. "I . . . ."

"Sorry," he said, shrugging. He swallowed hard, forcing himself to go on. "I know you mean well."

Sighing, she took a seat beside him. She followed the direction of his gaze with her own, so that they both stared out into the trees at the back of the old church.

"I'm really sorry about your mother, Draco."

His shoulders drooped as he nodded. "Thanks."

For a few impossibly awkward moments, they sat in silence. Yet, the longer they were quiet, the more she realized it was not Draco making her feel awkward. It was that sense, again, that something was trying to get her attention.

How utterly ridiculous.

"I couldn't help but notice," she said, as much to distract herself as to get to the heart of her former classmate's feelings, "that you looked worried."

Draco turned his head, but didn't respond until she turned hers, as well, meeting his gaze. "It's my father; he was supposed to be here. I knew he was having a hard time of it, but . . . ."

She shifted in her seat to face him fully. "Draco? Do you . . . do you think he could've done something to himself?"

He uttered a mirthless laugh. "I . . . . Honestly? Considering where I am right at this moment, I'm a little afraid to find out if it could be true. I—I don't think I could handle it if I went home and—" With another humorless chuckle, he sniffled loudly. "I can't even say it."

The witch frowned, watching his face as she considered the situation. She glanced back at her friends and then returned her attention to the young man in front of her. "If you're really worried, you can't just leave it. You know that."

He met her gaze, again, holding it in silence. There was a horribly obvious sheen in his grey eyes that refused to budge.

"What if I went with you?"

His brow furrowed, a look overcoming his features as though he had lost his ability to comprehend English. After a strained heartbeat, he shook his head. "You'd do that?"

Pursing her lips in a thoughtful expression, she patted his shoulder. "Well, it's not exactly the most pleasant notion for me, either, after my last visit to your family's home. But, I'm afraid you'll find I'm compassionate to fault."

He let out a genuine snicker, looking about to see that most of the other attendees had already left, or were drifting toward the exit. "Suppose I can't put this off much longer. All right, have it your way, Granger. Let's go."

"He really hasn't spoken a word?" Hermione asked, after they'd Apparated to the boundary of the manor grounds and had started up the long, hedge-lined path.

She couldn't say she'd forgotten how intimidating an edifice the ancestral Malfoy family home was—because, indeed, there was no forgetting those age-dulled, white stone walls, nor the steepled roofs. She had, however, managed to put out of her head the sinking feeling of dread in the pit of her stomach at returning here.

But now, as they walked toward those front steps, it washed back over her. And she had to talk to keep herself from panicking.

"No." Draco sighed, so caught up in his own worries, he didn't notice her sudden fidgeting. "I had to handle the, um, the arrangements, myself. Well, not wholly, Shacklebolt did help, but . . . it's not really the same. When I asked if he was coming, he nodded. Looked me right in the eye— for the first time since the day she died—and nodded."

"You're right to be concerned," she said, forcing a comforting grin. If she focused on precisely why they were here, she'd be fine. She knew it.

She had no idea what else to say. He'd had to arrange Narcissa's funeral, himself? At least Harry'd had Andromeda Tonks, and Molly and Arthur to help him. Draco'd mentioned Kingsley, sure, but they were far from family, so it really wasn't the same.

When they reached the foot of the front steps, Hermione froze. Staring up at the massive structure, it seemed she even stopped breathing for a moment.

Realizing he was starting the climb by himself, he turned back to look at her. At the blank, gaping expression on her face, he let out a sigh, his shoulders slumping.

"Maybe this was a bad idea," he said, trying to be gentle—which was not exactly his strong suit.

At his words, Hermione gave herself a shake. She was being ridiculous. She needed to face her fear. Nothing in this house could harm her, anymore, and the sooner she walked through its halls and came out unscathed, the sooner she could put Bellatrix's horrific actions behind her.

"No, no. It's fine, really. I said I'd come with you to check on your father, and I meant it."

He almost smiled at that, nodding. "Thank you."

Snickering, she shouldered past him and continued up toward the double doors. "You're welcome. Now, get a move on, Malfoy."

Despite the near-cheerfulness of her words, they went on in silence. Up the wide, stone steps, through the doors and across the grand foyer.

The entire house was silent, and they broke off from each other, deciding to each take a floor. In an unexpected turn, Draco was sensitive enough to volunteer to check the first floor, himself, so Hermione could avoid the drawing room. They called out to Lucius as they went from room to room.

She was unfortunate enough to be the one to find him.

In a room that she thought must've been someplace Narcissa kept as her own space, given the delicate feminine touch to the furnishings and decorating choices, Lucius Malfoy was on the floor, half-slumped against a plush, deep-purple ottoman.

"Draco, he's up here!"

The elder Malfoy started at her shout, but didn't open his eyes, even as she hurried across the room, the clicking of her heeled footfalls incredibly loud against the finely polished, hardwood floor. She dropped down beside him, checking his pulse. Yes, he'd just appeared to jump a bit, but that could be her imagination, or—as she feared when she saw him like this—he might've downed something harmful that had him half-dead.

But the thrum of his pulse was strong and steady beneath the press of her fingertips. Too late she realized the scent wafting off him was enough to make her eyes water.

No wonder he was so out of it.

She could hear Draco's footsteps thundering up the staircase toward them, now.

Gripping her hands into the front of Lucius' robes, she shook him gently. "Mr. Malfoy? Mr. Malfoy!"

"Hmm?" He blinked open his eyes in a weary gesture. The shock of seeing the Muggle-born witch, of all people, in this house, jarred loose the first actual words he'd spoken in nearly a week. "Miss Granger?"

Draco dashed into the room just in time to hear his father say her name. "He's talking?" His question came out in a rushed, breathless whisper.

Even as the older Malfoy's currently fuzzy, grey-eyed gaze locked on her, she said, "I think it's the surprise of who he woke up to find himself staring at."

Lucius went on, seeming unaware that the other two occupants of the room had spoken. "I never expected to see you here, again."

"Yes, well, I never expected to find you smelling like a winery." She ignored his responding chuckle as she grabbed one of his wrists. Turning to look up at Draco as she pulled Lucius' arm around her shoulders, she said, "Help me get him downstairs."

Though, he moved to follow her instruction, he asked as they pulled Lucius to his feet between them, "Why downstairs?"

"We're taking him to the kitchen. I don't know how you wizards do it, but the Muggle remedy for a situation like this is black coffee. Strong and lots of it."

"Your ways are so odd," the younger Malfoy said with a mildly exasperated shake of his head. But if this worked, who was he to argue?

Later that evening, after Lucius had sobered up and Hermione had left, Draco once more found his father in Mother's private study. He seemed in much better spirits than he had in days, and though Draco knew it was probably too much to hope for, he could not help but wonder if this was the start of Father coping with their loss.

In his nightclothes and dressing gown, a freshly bathed—and thank the Lord for that, it was about bloody time—Lucius Malfoy sat on the floor before an open trunk. Draco crept into the room to peek over his father's shoulder.

"Are those photo albums?"

Lucius looked up, a sad half-smile curving his lips as he nodded. "I have not looked at these in a very long while. Too many memories. Your mother refused to dispose of them, so she locked them in here."

He went on as Draco sat down beside him and started looking over the pages. "I thought it unwise, given the searches the Ministry had been conducting a few years ago, but she insisted. Created a special lock, and everything." Lucius lifted his hand, showing a gash across one finger. "Only Malfoy blood could open it."

"How old are these?" Draco asked with a grin, noting how young his parents looked—his age, if he wasn't mistaken.

"The majority of them were taken in the span between my graduation from Hogwarts, and the end of the First War." Snickering quietly, he pointed to one of a very pregnant Narcissa. "There you are."

Laughing in spite of himself, Draco traced the tip of his finger over his mother's face. "She really was beautiful."

"Yes, she was."

"Father, promise me something?"

Lucius' brow furrowed, there was a tremor in Draco's voice that he hated hearing. Turning his head to meet his son's gaze, his shoulders slumped as he saw tears there. "Anything."

"I know I'm already grown, but . . . ." Draco frowned, one stupid little droplet breaking free to roll down his cheek. "Promise me you won't let me forget her, okay?"

Clamping a hand around the back of his son's neck, Lucius pulled him close, hugging him loosely. "Of course. Maybe we should put these away, for now."

"No, no." Sniffling, Draco sat up straight, once more. "I like looking at them."

"All right."

For several moments, the Malfoy wizards sat in silence. They turned page after page, watching snippets of time drift past.

"Huh." Draco narrowed his eyes, picking up one of the books and carefully scanning one photo, in particular. "I must be tired, I'm starting to see things."

His brows pinching together, Lucius looked up. "What do you mean?"

Holding the book out to his father, he pointed to an attractive brunette witch, standing beside his mother. "Who's that?"

"Ah," Lucius took the album, nodding. "Lisette Rosier, Evan's younger sister."

"She looks like Granger. Very much so, in fact."

Lucius shook his head in disbelief. Yet, the chuckle he uttered died on his lips as he looked closer. He'd not thought of Lisette Rosier in nearly twenty years, but now that he was examining her image, the resemblance between her and the Muggle-born witch who had just helped sober him up was uncanny. Except her hair. Lisette Rosier's hair hung in sleek, dark brown waves, not the wild, barely-controlled mane of Hermione Granger.

But the thought only brought his gaze to the man standing proudly on the other side of the petite, gracefully-posed woman.

"I'd accuse Granger of employing time magic, if not for the hair." Making the realization barely a moment after his father, Draco pointed to the very same wizard. "But looks an awful lot like his, except for the color. That's Weasley-red, if ever I've seen it," he said with a laugh.

Though he knew Draco meant that as a joke, Lucius could only nod. "That's because he was a Weasley. Arthur's brother, Alistair. He was the only member of that family to divest himself of the title 'blood-traitor'."

"I wasn't even aware Weasle-bee, Senior had a brother."

Lucius began turning the pages, clearly searching for something. "That was because Alistair disowned them. He, unlike the rest of his clan, was fiercely proud of his Wizarding blood; turned his back on their fascination with Muggle society. Even made an unorthodox decision to take on her family name when they were wed. Anything to distance himself from the Weasleys."

Draco put a hand to his head, rubbing his temples with the tips of his fingers. The resemblance between Granger and Evan Rosier's sister was clearly a coincidence, it had to be.

"Sadly, both Lisette and Alistair lost their lives at the end of the First War. A year after Evan died, in fact." Finding what he was looking for, Lucius nodded to himself and held out the album. The image he indicated was of the Rosiers and the Malfoys. Evan looking ever the proud uncle, there was also a little girl, perhaps a year old at the time. She had Alistair's wild, fiery locks, and there was no mistaking the pale-haired infant in Narcissa's arms.

"Who's the girl?"

"Lisette and Alistair's daughter, of course. When they died, arrangements were put in place to send her to relatives in France. Narcissa didn't want to let her go, but she knew they wanted their daughter as far from the Weasleys as possible."

Draco's brow furrowed as he stared hard at that picture. That hair, other than the color being so different . . . .

"Her name was . . . Jean-Anne? Yes, that's it. Jean-Anne Rosier."

He jumped as his son slammed the book shut. "Draco? Honestly! What are you—?"

The younger wizard bounced up to his feet. Before he even realized he was moving, he broke into a frantic pacing. No, no, no. There was no way what he was thinking could be possible!

"Hermione Granger's middle name is Jean, father! I—I know this has to all be some coincidence, but the face, the name, the hair?!"

His grey eyes wide with disbelief, Lucius flipped back through the album to the photograph of the Rosiers with their daughter. Lisette's face, Alistair's hair.

The same name . . . .

"This can't be."

"Okay, okay. I know what to do." Draco came to a halt, nodding sharply. "If anyone would want to help us disprove the possibility, it would be Granger, herself. I'll owl her first thing in the morning and ask her to come back here. She'll help us sort this all out."

"She'll think we are completely mad; she'll never agree. I know if someone wanted to suggest to me the possibility I was a Muggle-born, I would think they were positively batty."

Shrugging, the younger Malfoy sighed, Father had a point. "I'll tell her I need help with you, again."

Lucius arched a brow, his expression dubious. "And that will work?"

"Trust me, Father." Draco echoed the sentiment she'd stated earlier, that he now understood had been completely true. "Hermione Granger is compassionate to a fault."