Lucius apparated to the Manor, feeling uncharacteristically uncomfortable. Normally coming home was a relief, a place of comfort after an extended business trip or long day at the Ministry. Ever since his incarceration in Azkaban, he'd felt out of place here. He hadn't even set foot on the property in weeks, mostly out of consideration for Narcissa's wishes. It had seemed like the least he could do, considering the fact that he was humiliating her with his forced affair with Hermione. It mattered little that he'd had no choice, the damage had been done.
"Father?" Draco was walking up towards the house from the pitch.
"Draco," Lucius said, nodding to his son. "How is your mother?" he asked, and fell into step with him as they headed into the house.
"Angry and upset…but can you blame her?" Draco arched an eyebrow at his father.
"I don't blame her at all, my Dragon." Lucius shook his head. "Can you please ask her to join us in the study, there is something we need to discuss as a family. It's important, or I wouldn't ask."
Draco frowned as he looked at his father. "What's happened?"
"I'll tell you everything, once your mother joins us," Lucius said, and headed for his study. He needed a drink for this conversation and he was not looking forward to it. He grabbed a glass from the sideboard, and poured himself a generous measure of scotch. He took a long sip and closed his eyes for a moment. There was no good way to approach this, and regardless of what he said he was likely to get hexed. There was no way to avoid hurting Narcissa, and dancing around the issue was disrespectful to her. No, he needed to simply tell her the truth.
The door opened and Lucius turned to watch his wife and son enter. His heart twisted painfully as he looked at Narcissa. It might well be the last time he ever saw her. Age and stress had added fine lines around her eyes, but she was still as beautiful as the day they'd married.
"Cissy," he said softly.
Narcissa's blue eyes flicked over his face, and a sad smile crossed her face as she approached. She was dressed immaculately, as always. There was never so much as a strand of hair out of place once his wife was dressed for the day. She rested her hand on his chest and brushed a chaste kiss against his lips, a single tear slipping down her cheek.
"So soon?" she asked, her bottom lip trembling slightly.
"Yes. I'm sorry, I…" he felt gutted as she shook her head to cut him off.
"No apologies, darling." She patted his chest before moving back to sit down in one of the chairs in front of the fire. "I could use a drink though," she commented as she walked away to sit down.
"No apologies for what? What's going on?" Draco asked, looking between his parents.
"Have a seat, Draco," Narcissa said. "Your father has gotten the Granger girl pregnant." She lifted a hand to wipe away the stray tear that had defied her icy control.
"You what!" Draco shouted. "And you're just sitting there! How can you be so calm about this! She's MY AGE!"
"Sit. Down. Draco," Narcissa said, her tone instantly cold as chipped ice. "I did not raise you to shout at your parents."
Lucius brought Narcissa a drink and took a seat as well. "I honestly didn't think it was possible, Cissy."
"I said no apologies, Lucius. You did what you had to, and we will handle the consequences. Will you allow me the dignity of dissolving our marriage, or will you insist on keeping the girl as your Mistress?" She looked at Lucius, an edge in her voice suggesting that she was considering doing significant harm to him if he chose the latter option.
"Given the circumstances, it is your right to dissolve our marriage. I won't contest it," Lucius said with an elegant nod. It made things simpler and could be done quietly without arousing the Dark Lord's notice. "I would ask that this be kept quiet, given the political climate at the moment."
"I would prefer that as well," Narcissa said and removed her wedding ring. After looking at it for a long moment, she sat it down on the table between them. "I believe I will withdraw to Black Moore, until things are brought to a satisfactory close. Once the war is over, I would like to speak to her. I believe you owe that much."
"It can be arranged, once things are decided…one way or another," Lucius said. It was hard to speak through the tightness in his throat. He wanted to reach out to her, to try and offer some comfort, but Narcissa would never allow it. Not now.
"Very well, I will take my leave then. I have a fair bit of packing to do." Narcissa stood. "I believe you and Draco have a great deal to talk about." She left her half-finished drink on the table beside her wedding ring, and walked out of the study. Her steps were unhurried, and she closed the door quietly behind her.
"So that's it? You fuck Granger, get her pregnant, and my MOTHER HAS TO LEAVE?" Draco stood, anger plain on his face. "What is wrong with you? She's a mudblood!"
"Please sit down, Draco," Lucius said, exhaustion clear in his voice. "There are things you don't understand, and it's time we discussed them." He rubbed his temple and then reached out to pick up Narcissa's ring, looking at it for a moment before slipping it into his pocket. Promises made and now broken.
"What could you possibly have to say that would explain this?" Draco sat down, crossing his arms across his chest.
"Your mother always knew there might come a day where she would be replaced as Lady Malfoy, because of the manner of your conception." Lucius said. "Your grandfather was a very concerned with the future of our family, particularly because he and I were the last of the Malfoy line, even more distant branches of the family had died out generations ago. There was a reproductive clause in the marriage contract drawn up between the Malfoys and the Blacks. Your mother and I were married for several years before we had you, and we tried every fertility potion in existence, nothing worked. Our magic was fundamentally incompatible. Without my knowledge, she went to her mother and they used a very old and dangerous spell. It let her give me a son, but at the cost of her ever being able to have any other children. If she hadn't, our marriage would have been dissolved in another year or so, and I would have had to remarry." Lucius sighed. "She sacrificed a great deal to have you Draco, and I know she doesn't regret that. You mean the world to both of us, and I need you to know that."
"That still doesn't explain why you're getting rid of my mother for Granger." Draco's jaw was clenched hard.
"I am not 'getting rid' of your mother," he said through gritted teeth. "It is her choice and it will protect her pride. There is no shame in dissolving our marriage contract, but staying married to me while I've been carrying on with a much younger witch…? Do use your head, Draco." He sighed and shook his head. "I love your mother enough to let her go. She will be able to take control of the Black holdings as Lady Black, and protect her reputation." It would also allow him to protect Hermione, but that was something Draco didn't need to know or worry about at the moment. "The Dark Lord is displeased with us, but at least your mother will be safer now."
That seemed to have gotten through to Draco, and his son nodded and looked down at the floor.
"What will you do with Granger?" Draco asked quietly, not looking at his father.
"I plan to move her somewhere safe. At the moment, that is all that I can do," Lucius said. "The Dark Lord wants her to have my child, it would be unwise to cross him on that. I just need you to keep your head down for now. You'll be back at Hogwarts soon and you'll be safe there." It wasn't safe for Draco to have any idea about his planned treason. Better for him to be kept in the dark, just in case he was discovered.
"Yes, sir," Draco said quietly and stood to head to the door. "Did you hurt her?" he asked hesitantly as he reached the door, as if afraid of the answer.
"No more than was necessary," Lucius replied, hating the instant flinch of his son's shoulders as he left the room. No, it was better that Draco believe the worst of him for the moment. He hated it, but it was necessary. There could be explanations later, when everything was over.
Lucius stepped into his vault at Gringott's, and headed for the back of the room. He placed Narcissa's ring into a small chest, having to close his eyes to wrestle down the emotion that washed through him. He hadn't perhaps been the best husband, but he had loved her. He closed the box and walked to another section of the vault, breathing deeply to try and hold off the feeling of loss that had filled him. Narcissa was free now, and could assume her place as Lady Black without any trouble. As much as he would miss her, and regret that the Dark Lord had separated them…he had another witch that was reliant on him now. Narcissa would take care of herself, he had no doubts about that. Hermione was less able to do so, and needed him more.
He pulled out a chest from under a table laden with old books. He brushed his hand over the lid of the trunk and smiled softly. His mother's name was inscribed there. Inside, he found her jewelry box and withdrew a very special ring. It was not one of the traditional Malfoy wedding or betrothal rings, but his father had commissioned it just for her. It was a large peach coloured sapphire, rimmed with diamonds and set into warm rose gold. It was fitting for the young woman who'd managed to bring light into the very darkest of circumstances.
"Ah…Lucius. I'd wondered where you'd gotten to." The Dark Lord drawled as Lucius strode into the meeting room. "I hope you have some explanation for your…neglect of certain duties." Spidery fingers caressed his bone white wand. "I would have thought your last lesson would have driven my point home."
"I actually was coming to inform you that I have fulfilled your orders," Lucius said and nodded. "The witch is pregnant, as you commanded." An arrogant smirk crossed his features, as whispers erupted through the room.
"That seems unlikely," Voldemort said.
"I was surprised as well, but Severus can confirm my statements. He discovered it while treating her for a reaction to fire nettles. How she came into contact with them, I can hardly say…but thankfully it doesn't seem to have harmed her or the child," Lucius said, meeting the Dark Lord's gaze boldly.
"Is this true, Severus?" There was an undercurrent in his tone that promised pain should Lucius be caught out in a lie.
"It is, my Lord." Severus came forward. "There is no doubt, the girl is pregnant."
"A pity your wife is not as fertile as this mudblood bitch." The snake-like creature sneered, to chuckles. "You'd have bred us a veritable army at this rate."
"As you say, my Lord." Lucius took extreme effort to control his expression. "Given the fragile state of her health, and assuming you wish her to carry the pregnancy to term, I would ask permission to move her to somewhere more conducive to her continued good health."
"Very well, do what you please with her. But Lucius, should some unfortunate accident befall the girl…I will be most displeased," The Dark Lord said.
"Of course, my Lord." He bowed politely, and moved back to stand with Severus as the conversation turned to their continued hunt for Potter and the members of the Order. Only when the meeting was concluded and their leader swept out of the room, did Lucius relax slightly. He needed to get Hermione out of here, and then he could truly breathe easier.
He nodded to Severus and slipped away from the group, avoiding Rodolphus with ease. There were some advantages to it being his family home. He entered the room, and smiled a little as he saw Hermione curled up with a book, her hand making aimless movements in the air. He'd found his advanced charms books and left them for her.
"Did you tell him?" She looked up from the page and met his eyes.
"I did," he said. "We're leaving, now." He wanted to get her out now, just in case the Dark Lord had one of his famous changes of heart. He needed her well beyond his reach, both for her benefit and for his peace of mind. It probably said something terribly unflattering about him that the fact she was carrying his child made him degrees more concerned, but it didn't make it any less true.
"He's really going to let me leave?" She stood, setting the book down on the table.
"Yes." He offered her a hand, pleased when she moved forward and took it without hesitation. He drew her in close and wrapped an arm around her. He focused on their destination and spun, disapparating them away from the room where he'd been forced to keep her captive.
When he opened his eyes, they were standing out in the open air. The smell of roses hung heavily in the evening air. He released her, letting her have a moment to get her bearings.
Hermione took a shaky breath, before opening her eyes. They were standing in a garden, somewhat wild and a little overgrown, but to her eyes…it was beautiful. She looked up at the sky and fought the urge to give in to the tears threatening to spill down her cheeks. Freedom. She swallowed the emotion down, and started to focus on the details of the area. She could smell something in the air that put her in mind of the coast, not that she could see anything of the countryside. The garden was sheltered by walls covered in ivy and climbing roses. There was a fountain in the center of the garden, with a bench beside her. She imagined it would be a beautiful place to spend the afternoons.
"Where are we?" she finally managed to ask, turning to look at Lucius.
"Yorkshire. This was my mother's summer house. We're not too far from the seaside. You'll be safe here," Lucius said, a determined set to his jaw.
"It's beautiful," she said.
"You haven't seen inside yet." He chuckled a little and offered her his hand. "Let me show you the house."
Hermione let him lead her inside through the garden doors, and tried to keep her jaw from dropping. It had the charm of a cottage, but everything had been done in lavish style and finishes. He showed her around, and she was instantly in love with the reading room. The walls were filled with floor to ceiling bookshelves, full of books that were just begging to be perused and read at her leisure. There was a comfortable window seat that she could see herself curling up in to enjoy the afternoon sun. There was a study, sitting room, and dining room as well as a charming kitchen.
"Petal will come here to prepare all your meals, and there will be a few others that tend to the house and grounds. You probably won't see them though." Lucius said and led her up the stairs.
Hermione's heart began to beat a little faster as he pointed out the bathroom, and a couple of smaller bedrooms that had clearly been meant for children or guests. There was just one door left, and he opened it to reveal a beautiful master suite. Like many wizarding buildings, there seemed to be so much more inside than its outer appearance had hinted at. The large bed was made up with a soft blue duvet and crisp white sheets and pillowcases. The blue was echoed in accents around the room, like the sashes holding back the white draperies and the vase on the nightstand.
"This is your room," he said as she took it all in.
Hermione turned and looked at him. "Just mine?" She had no idea where they stood now that they weren't under Voldemort's thumb directly.
"I think that's up to you," Lucius said, remaining in the space just inside the door.
"It's not just my choice." She took a breath and walked over to him. "We probably need to talk about what happens now." The need to reach out and touch him was tangible, but she didn't. Deep down she was a little worried that whatever closeness they'd shared up to now was going to disappear.
"What do you want to happen now?" he asked, strange silvery eyes searching hers.
"I want you to be here with me," Hermione said, taking a chance. "I know that I shouldn't, and you probably don't…but that's what I want." She could take the rejection, but she didn't know if she could if they kept dancing around it.
"Hermione…" Lucius said gently and reached out, tucking a stray curl behind her ear. "Do you really think I could just walk away now?"
"I don't know…and that's the problem." Hermione frowned a bit.
"Then let me be clear," he said and moved closer, tipping her face up as he leaned down to kiss her. "I have no intention of giving up my place in your bed, unless you kick me out of it. Is that plain enough?"
Hermione swallowed a little and nodded, placing her hand on his chest. She wanted to ask where this was going, if he'd told Naricssa, or any other number of questions…but she didn't. She leaned up and caught his lips in another searing kiss. She needed the reassurance of his touch right now, far more than she needed words. Things had changed so drastically in just a single hour that she needed something to be the same, even if it was just this.
Hermione laid against Lucius' chest, watching the moon drift across the sky through the lacy curtains. His hand was trailing aimlessly along her back, tracing patterns against her skin. She felt calmer now, her anxieties dispelled, at least for the moment.
"Are you alright now?" Lucius asked softly.
"I think so." She shifted and came up on her elbow to look up at his face. It was half lost to shadows, but she could see the concern there. "How did things go with Narcissa?" she made herself ask, regretting it instantly as he flinched a bit.
"As well as it could have." His voice was strained. "We dissolved our marriage, and she's retreated to her family estate for the time being."
"I'm sorry," she whispered softly and reached out, stroking his cheek.
"No one outside of the family knows, and we've decided to keep it that way for the time being." Lucius said and leaned very slightly into her touch. "It's safer for all involved if the Dark Lord remains ignorant of the finer details."
"Probably." She agreed and leaned down to kiss him gently. He pulled her down to rest against his chest and she closed her eyes. She let the charged silence ebb away, as they both basked in the simplicity of their closeness.
"I'll have to go and meet your friends tomorrow. Do you have the letter for Potter?" he asked after a while.
"Yes, I've rewritten it so many times…I'm not even sure if it makes any sense. Hopefully he feels better about everything after he reads it. We need him, and I know he's got to be in a bad place after losing Ron." She wanted to see him, and give him a hug so that he'd know everything was going to be ok. But she needed to avenge her parents, and right now…she couldn't do both. Revenge first, and then there would be time for hugs and tears.
"He'll understand why you can't be there with him." Lucius said and kissed her hair. "Maybe not right away, but one day."
"I hope you're right."
"Get some rest now, it's been a long day." Lucius pulled the blankets up around them more securely and Hermione tried to settle down. There would be time enough to worry tomorrow, and she did need to get some sleep.