Seasons of Love
Disclaimer: I don't own HP or any of these characters. That belongs to JKR, Scholastic Books, Warner Brothers, etc. This is just something to pass the time while waiting for the next book.
Chapter Fifteen : Schemes
Ginny was eternally grateful to her hosts when Malfoy did not show up for dinner that night. Everyone was fuming about his appearance—well, everyone except Mr. Lupin and Luna. She had to admire Mr. Lupin's composure, and she wondered whether its source was his greater experience or perhaps his affliction. As for Luna, she was always a touch off. She never seemed to worry about the same things that most people would worry about. Sometimes Ginny wondered if she was all right in the head. Other times, she was so astonishingly observant, Ginny had to wonder if Luna simply had a deeper way at looking at things.
As the atmosphere indoors was still so strained and tense, Ginny invited Luna out to spend time with her on this afternoon. It was nice to have someone to speak with. Besides, Miss Lovegood was known for having a habit of wandering around and Ginny wished to spare the other witch the embarrassment of running into Hermione and her husband when they were busy entertaining each other. No, it was much better for the two of them to be sit and read outside. Most of the time was spent with the two of them reading side by side. At times, Luna would read aloud from her book about some creature or other and request that Ginny keep an eye out in case said creature was about. Each time, Ginny would smile and agree. She had every intent of keeping her promise—if she did see any of the fabulous creatures that Luna read about, she would most certainly not be able to keep quiet about it.
"You know, it is quite flattering that he still likes you even after all this time," Luna said all of a sudden.
"Pardon me?" said Ginny. She looked questioningly at Luna. She was rather certain that Luna was speaking to her. There was no one else about who she could be speaking to. Yet, her sentence made no sense.
"Draco Malfoy. I was most surprised to see him. Not only is there no love lost between him and Lord Potter, you weren't very pleasant to him the last time you saw him," Luna explained.
Ginny winced. "Please, do not mention him to me. I would very much like to forget that he even exists."
"But that's not fair, Ginny. Not when he is so sweet to you!"
"Sweet? Luna, I defy you to find any time when that man has been even civil to me or my friends!"
"Sweet and civil are not the same thing," Luna said sadly. "Your brother is always very civil to me, but he has never done anything as sweet for me as Mr. Malfoy has done for you."
"I am sorry, Luna, but I do not wish to continue this conversation any more. Mr. Malfoy is a great part of the reason why everyone inside is so upset at the moment."
"Yes, he is a part, but not the greater part." Luna stared at Ginny until Ginny met her eyes. "The last time you saw him I believe you threatened to punch him if you ever saw his smiling face again."
"Yes, I know. I would have carried that threat out too, if Hermione had not taken care of him."
"You see! He knows that too, but he still sought you out! Though I do wonder what he said to you in the first place that made you issue such a threat."
"It wasn't a threat, but a promise." Ginny sighed and placed her book down. Closing her eyes, she let herself fall back until she was laying on the grass. Luna didn't know everything. She didn't know how Malfoy had sought to play Ginny for a fool. But Ginny was no fool. She hadn't fallen for any of his tricks back then, and she had no intent to start falling for them now.
"Ginny," said Luna softly, "even if you know it is not going to end happily, I think it is better to believe in romance and to trust that you will not get hurt. Sometimes being untrusting and suspicious is what gets you hurt the most."
"I'll keep that in mind," said Ginny. She hoped Luna would drop the subject. There was no good to come from Draco Malfoy or any of his plots, and thankfully, Ginny knew they would not bother her here. Her dear friends would see to that.
Taking a sip from her cup, Hermione gently placed it back on the table, taking care not to spill any of the tea still in it. She warily glanced over at the other witch, who was currently nibbling on a biscuit. Hermione had not expected any visitors this afternoon, much less such an unwelcome one as this one.
Nevertheless, Narcissa Malfoy was polite, where her son had not been, and Hermione had been unable to find any reason to turn her away. So she had wound up serving tea to the older witch in one of the grander sitting rooms. They had already covered the required topics in regards to the weather and innocent bits of gossip in regards to the current season in London. Now, however, Hermione had run out of safe topics to focus on.
Quite frankly, she wanted to ask the other witch what she wanted and why did she feel the need to visit Hermione and her family. Hermione bit her lip. She would wait Mrs. Malfoy out. Eventually she would give up some sort of information.
"If you do not mind, Lady Potter," said Mrs Malfoy, "though I fear it is not exactly proper, I would like to extend my apologies."
"I am afraid that I am unaware of anything that you have to apologize for," Hermione replied smoothly. Aside from the fact that both Mrs. Malfoy's husband and sister had been sadistic murderers, but fortunately, Hermione stopped herself from adding that.
"For my son's rather atrocious manners," Mrs. Malfoy explained. She signed heavily and clasp her hands together in her lap. "I am most sorry. You must think me the worst of mothers to have not raised my son better than that. I promise you I did take him to task, but alas. It has been my experience that the older one's children become, the less inclined they are to heed what you say." She took another sip of tea.
"Sometimes, even when they are young, they find it hard to listen to you," Hermione said with what she hoped resembled a smile. "As mothers, I am sure we all do our best."
"Yes, but it was my fault that he showed up," Mrs Malfoy said. Her face didn't give the slightest hint that she was telling a rather bold lie. "I could hardly come over here, until he introduced himself first. He did not want to come, but I made him, seeing that I would like to get to know you and your husband better."
"You do?" Hermione asked dumbly. She had no idea why Mrs. Malfoy would ever want to associate with either her or Harry. From what she knew of Mrs. Malfoy's connections, she wasn't favorably disposed to anyone who wasn't pureblood.
"Of course. But perhaps you have forgotten. Your husband is my dear cousin's godson." Mrs Malfoy smiled wistfully. "Forgive me for saying this, but he is probably the closest thing to a nephew I have."
"I am sorry, but I was not aware that you and Sirius Black were close," Hermione noted.
"That is no surprise. After Sirius was . . . removed from the family tree, none of us were allowed to see him. He was my cousin though, and we often played together as children. Very gallant, he was, and very handsome." Mrs. Malfoy then actually blushed. She looked quite charming as she did so. "For a time, I admit that I fancied myself half in love with him. I never said anything about it, given our family's expectations and all."
"Your family's expectations?"
"Yes. My engagement was no secret to society at all, having been arranged when I was practically in the cradle. As for Sirius, I know that everyone expected him to ask for Bella, but that would have never worked. Maybe if my aunt was willing for him to pursue Andromeda instead . . . but that is all in the past."
"Indeed," said Hermione. She did not know what else to say. She could scarce believe her ears. Narcissa Malfoy half in love with Sirius Black? She would have never dreamed of such a scenario. Mrs. Malfoy seemed sincere enough, yet Hermione still wondered if the other witch was being entirely truthful with her.
"Alas, the past is something that cannot be changed," Mrs. Malfoy stated after a few minutes of silence. "Yet the future is ever-changing, and that is why one must focus on that. Which is why I am here. Though I know that you and yours do not consider me family, I consider both you and your husband to be part of my family by virtue of the fact that your husband is my cousin's godson. I confess it is a distant link, but it is still a link. Perhaps if I had been stronger in the past, it would be stronger too." Mrs Malfoy sighed once more. "What is done is done. I do not posses such a wealth of relations that I will ignore the bonds that I still do have, regardless of their strength or distance."
Hermione nodded. What was being said made sense, but if anyone had told here even a week ago that Narcissa Malfoy considered her to be some sort of long lost relationship, she would have sent straight away for a doctor to examine that person's head.
"Lady Potter, I have been given a second chance in life, having survived everything that has happened since you and your husband started attending Hogwarts. It is very nerve-wracking to come here and be so blunt and open. Yet your reputation precedes you, and I do hope that like life, you too are willing to give this old witch a second chance."
Yet again, Hermione did not know quite what to say. If Narcissa Malfoy wasn't sincere, then she was the most cunning Slytherin Hermione had ever had the misfortune to run across.
Fortunately, Mrs Malfoy did not continue to explore that vein of conversation. Instead, she turned back to London and inquired whether or not her party would be making any trips there, if only to see a couple plays. Hermione was able to recover from her shock and respond to Mrs. Malfoy's inquiries. Mrs. Malfoy continued to be the most pleasant of guests. When she took her leave, she invited not only Hermione, but Ginny and Luna as well, to visit her any afternoon for tea, saying that she was very much in need of female companionship. Much to her surprise, Hermione had found herself promising to visit Mrs. Malfoy in a couple of days. The other witch's warm response did much to allay Hermione's suspicions.
As for the rest of them—well, Hermione had every intent of speaking with Remus Lupin. He would know better than anyone else if it were true that Narcissa Malfoy had spent time with Sirius as a child and just how close they had been. If what the other witch had said was true and if she continued to be pleasant, then Hermione saw no reason not to try and get to know her better.
Narcissa Malfoy's son, however, was completely a different matter. Hermione doubted there was anything that could make her give that sorry excuse for a wizard another chance to do her and hers harm.
"Well, Mother, how did it go?" drawled Draco from his chair as Narcissa entered the library of his new home. "Given how long you were away, I presume the silly bint didn't just kick you out."
"Lady Potter has lovely manners, which is more than I can say for you, dear," replied Narcissa shortly. "How many times do I have to tell you to stand up when a lady enters the room?"
"But it's just you, my dearest, darling Mother. I know you will forgive me."
"Confidence is good, but arrogance . . . arrogance can only lead to your downfall. You would do good to remember that." Narcissa took a seat across from her son. "You should have remembered your manners when you first went over there. If only you had, I am sure that I would have already had an invitation to dinner with the Potters and their friends."
"That confident are you?" asked Draco. "It almost borders on arrogance."
Narcissa glared at him. "Hardly. It would also serve you well to learn to distinguish between the two of them. Unlike you, I know how to tell pretty lies with just the right mixture of truth to seem believable. Alas, with the damage you have done, I will need time before either of the Potters will be even willing to meet with you for you to apologize."
"Me? Apologize? Mother, are you out of your mind?"
"No, I am not. Mark my words, Draco. You chose Ginny Weasley as your bride. And so you shall have her. I will do everything in my power to make it so. However, if you want any semblance of a civil relationship, you needs must make your peace with her very dear friends."
Draco groaned. "Part of me thinks that this is when I should be planning my escape back to the continent."
"Do that, Draco, and I will not forgive you." Narcissa reached out and took her son's hands. "Don't be so difficult. While you may not share your reasons with your mother, I know reasons exist why you wish for that particular witch to be your bride. If the tasks proves to be impossible, then we shall take our leave of the field." She smiled. "But things are not as bad as you might imagine. Give your poor old mother a bit of time, and you will be seeing your intended witch again in no time.
Author's note: To anyone still reading this, I do apologize for the long gap between updates. It took me awhile to find my notes, and then I had several bad starts with this one, seeing how it's so pivotal to how things will turn out. Finally, I'm able to tie in a couple plot points that have been on the backburner since the first chapter. As always, reviews are much appreciated and thanks to everyone who has reviewed this story in the past.