A Bitter Taste
Just A Penniless Writer

Disclaimer: Not mine.
Author's Plea: I don't really like this that much (it isn't funny), but, as there is so very little Lucius/Hermione out there, maybe someone will find it of value. Still rough and in need of polishing.
Update: edited for grammar 06/15/05

There were times that he was so very angry he wanted only to punish her in some fashion. Perhaps lock her in one of the rooms hidden beneath the manor. Perhaps do something, anything to ruin her marvelous career. Perhaps find some way to make her feel inadequate to the one person whose opinion mattered to her anymore.

Years of attempting to gain his father's respect had led to this: watching the classmate he had continually berated inhabit his home, take up residence with his father, claim his name. All those arguments with his father over why he couldn't top her in marks had apparently only made her all the more worthy. Suddenly purity of blood didn't matter, as long as it was her.

It wasn't right! He was supposed to be the one his father was proud of! It was him, Draco, Lucius was supposed to smile at! Not her! Never her! After all that work, all that bloody effort to finish off with the second highest marks of his year, his father had only gone to the ceremony for her!

What the bloody hell happened to the value of family? Did name mean nothing anymore?

"I won't call you mother," he'd said venomously to her on the day they had announced their engagement.

"I know," she had responded sadly.

And that was the problem, wasn't it? She bloody knew everything! But how the fuck could she know how much it had hurt that his father had chosen her over his own son? How could she possibly know how it had wrenched his heart the second he realized that their dalliance was more than well hidden loathing? How could she know?

He supposed he was bitter, but damn if he wouldn't hold onto that bitterness. He'd survived a school of his enemies, survived a war, survived the accusations after the war, survived the abandonment of his mother… How much more did he have to get through before he'd earned a look of pride in his father's eyes?

"He does love you, Draco," she'd told him shortly after the wedding.

"He loves you," he'd retorted brusquely.

"He loves both of us."

"He is proud of you."

"Only because he sees me as rising above my terribly humble beginnings. He doesn't understand me. He's proud of you because you did something he couldn't."

"What?" he'd asked bitterly. "Stained the Malfoy name? No, he's done that, too."

"You turned on him. You denied him. He's proud of you for that."

"I guess I must have missed it," was his acidic response.

She'd merely ducked her head with some form of all knowing grief, and it had only angered him more. All his life being told that he was gifted with proximity to perfection because of his blood line, only to find it this annoying girl not even a year older than he. All he'd ever been taught proved false the minute he'd seen her in class, and yet he'd held on to those beliefs for the sake of his father, his father who accepted her before he did.

He almost wished he'd never taken his life into his own hands that night and spilled his secrets to Dumbledore. There had been no motivation other than comfortable survival, and yet his father had managed to turn it all around. Suddenly Draco was on an ill suited pedestal of sympathetic purebloods, and all around were in awe over his good judgment and morals. How he'd wanted to shout that he didn't give a bloody damn about the safety of Muggles and Mudbloods as long as he was allowed to remain ensconced in the lap of luxury.

His father had been adamant about his silence on the matter, and once again, he had fallen into the trap of trying to make him proud. So he'd held his mouth shut when Daddy Dearest was quoted in the Prophet and remained quiet when his father had insisted that the entire Seventh Year population of Hogwarts be invited to the Manor in celebration of New Years. He'd even managed to remain tight lipped when Granger had wandered into the esteemed Malfoy Library and returned several hours later, smiling, in the company of his father.

He had never truly hated her before that moment.

"You told me my entire bloody life that we were better than them!" he'd shouted that night to a stony Lucius. "You said they were not even worthy of notice! But you noticed her, you always noticed her! Always made me feel horrible for not doing better than her!"

"It is all part of the plan, Draco. The Ministry will never believe our… good intentions without a show."

"That was not a show! That was the truth finally coming out! You were always asking about her, and now I know why! If you are so bloody interested in her, why don't you just go to her instead!"

And he had. Lucius had not waited until she graduated to begin courting. Her room had been simply filled with gifts, and every Hogsmeade weekend she had spent with his father, sipping tea and discussing politics, walking along the streets and arguing culture, or browsing books and plotting world domination. It had been so evident that Lucius was grooming her to be in a position of great power. It had been obvious because that had once been his intention for Draco before she had intruded into the picture.

"How can you be so bloody blind?" he'd demanded once at the entrance hall when she had returned one spring night. "He's using you."

"Of course he is. However, I can't find anything wrong with it."

He'd allowed her to leave only because he could think of no better way she could have answered. And that had only made him angrier.

Now, with her happy in silk and velvet robes next to his grinning father, wearing the infamous Malfoy wedding ring, sitting for all the world like she belonged in this pureblooded house, she was telling him he would be sharing his father's affections with yet another.

"Smile, Draco," Lucius said in a demanding tone of joy only he had ever truly mastered. "You will have a lovely brother or sister shortly. It is a happy occasion."

He couldn't do it. Five years of bitterness over their relationship, over her theft of his father's limited pride, boiled down to this intense hatred of the child growing within her.

"And why is it so happy, father? Why should I be happy? That you bring another child into this world when you are so obviously skilled at raising one? That you dare subject yet another to your bloody high expectations? That you have found a replacement for me? I see no bloody reason to be happy that the Mudblood you shag is expecting!"

Lucius' eyes hardened considerably, but it was Hermione who answered.

"It's not like that Draco. It's a baby, not an enemy. He or she will never take your place. How many times do I have to tell you that your father loves you before you believe it? Just because he gave you everything you wanted except continual compliments? Seriously, Draco, what could you have expected from him then? You were doing worse than a Mudblood, and Lucius was a bigoted sod with the biggest ego around. If you'd open your eyes, you'd see how much he's changed, how much he aches to be proud of you now, but you won't let him. Instead you mope around the manor all day, reveling in your bitterness and doing nothing productive. Grow up. Be a bloody man. Don't take out your insecurities on a child that hasn't been born yet."

He was angry and hurt so, of course, he left immediately. When he finally came to accept her words as containing valuable advice, he found that he couldn't return home and face that certain shame. Instead, he set up house in a rather nice flat off Diagon Alley. He didn't intend to do anything other than hide away where no one could spout such painful accusations, but her words kept repeating in his mind. He couldn't help but think that perhaps what he'd so desperately wanted for so long wasn't so far away at all.

So he worked. He used his connections and skills and found a place in the world that was his own. And, oddly enough, he found the more he worked and the happier he was with his progress, the less Lucius' pride meant to him. It was with that in mind that he visited the manor for the first time a short week after his half-sister had been born. Hermione had been asleep. Instead, he came upon Lucius looking in on his daughter with a softness of features Draco had never seen before.

"She's got her entire life ahead of her," his father almost whispered.

Draco remained silent, choosing instead to enter the nursery and see his sister for the first time.

"She doesn't have our chin," he mused thoughtfully.

"No, she doesn't. But I do believe she has my eyes."

"One can only hope she has your hair as well."

"Nonsense. Hermione's hair is perfect."

"At least it is now that she uses that serum Snape developed."

"She'll be beautiful no matter whose hair she has."

Draco couldn't help but agree. She really was an angelic child.

"What… What did you name her?"

"Bethany Luciana Malfoy," Lucius said proudly.

"Luciana? That's a bit much."

"Hermione's idea."

"Of course it was."

Father and son were quiet for several long minutes as they watched the sleeping baby.

"She'll need her brother," Lucius mentioned, almost casually.

"I'll visit often," Draco responded.

Both men knew exactly what had been said, and all the tension that had been between them faded into nothingness. When Hermione came upon them an hour later, she found her daughter resting quite happily in Draco's arms while he talked business with Lucius.

When Draco finally noticed her presence, he was shocked by the difference in his former classmate. She looked exhausted in a way he'd never seen before, and she'd obviously just woken up from a well deserved rest. However, despite the hair that was in dire need of control, despite the darkness surrounding her eyes, despite pillow marks on her cheeks, and despite a body in recovery from pregnancy, she was radiant.

It was possibly the first time he had ever seen her and not experienced any resentment. Instead, he finally understood exactly what his father had seen in her that he hadn't. He saw beyond misconceptions and anger and saw the woman who had enchanted his father.

It was the moment, he would tell Bethany when she was older, that he became a man.