The Fat Goose was not quite the best restaurant in the Wizarding World, but it came a close second. It was also notoriously expensive: ruinously so for someone on an Auror's salary. It was the sort of place someone saved up for and took their girlfriend to when they wanted to propose, or a husband might take his wife to celebrate a wedding anniversary.

It was not the sort of place that Ronald Weasley would usually go to, so Hermione had accepted his invitation to lunch there – on him – with trepidation. It was probably nothing more than trying to cheer her up about not getting her promotion, she thought, though she wondered how he could afford it. Good old Ron.

Initially she'd been disappointed. It wasn't plush or ritzy, there were no chandeliers or velvet chairs or ornate silver cutlery. It was shabby, and gloomy, and she'd nearly stumbled past Ron before the waiter had gently steered her towards her chair.

"Hello," Ron said. "Glad you could make it."

"I couldn't miss a chance like this," she replied.

The waiter deftly inserted menus between them and faded away into obscurity before they could say anything to him.

The menu was heavy cream parchment, with a thin river of ornate text snaking its way down the page. There were no prices on Hermione's menu – an old fashioned touch that would usually have triggered a ten minute diatribe on the rights of the Modern Witch but just made Hermione worry about where the money was coming from to pay for this.

"Ron," Hermione muttered. "How much do you think everything is?"

"There aren't any prices on my menu." He shrugged. "You don't have to worry – it's all being paid for by the Ministry."

His face took on that slightly worried expression that meant that he didn't want to be asked any awkward questions. Hermione let it drop; she'd find out later. "Ok."

She looked at the menu again. The Fat Goose was a restaurant for those who had more money than sense, because only someone who was daft would think that the innards of a small bird was worth fifty galleons merely because it was described in French.

Hermione was brave, but she wasn't foolish; there was no way she was going to eat rice pudding made from snails, or flayed oysters or giblet ice cream. She was going to settle for a nice steak, hope it was from a cow, and traumatise them by asking for it to be well done.

Her decision made, she looked up to catch the eye of the waiter, and noticed a grubby mirror along the whole length of the back wall. It gave her a clear view of the rest of the diners behind her. She inspected her fellow diners carefully, curious to see who actually ate here.

She recognised someone - Scrifkin, she thought his name was – from the Ministry. She was surprised to see him there; she hadn't thought that he would be able to afford it on his salary. He should be on the same pay grade as her. She scowled. If that wanker was paid more than her, then she was in a worse position than she had thought.

"Will you stop looking at them," Ron hissed.

"What?" Hermione said.

"Stop looking at Malfoy; he'll think we're spying on him."

"Malfoy?" Hermione flicked another look their way, and realised that Scrifkin's lunch companion was indeed the elder Malfoy of dark reputation, bottomless pockets, and sneaky tendencies.

He looked up and, before Hermione had a chance to look away, politely inclined his head to her in acknowledgement of her interest in him. She flushed red, but returned the nod with polite frigidity. There was no need to let the swine get to her.

"He's spotted us, hasn't he?" Ron said bitterly.

"He has." Hermione lifted the menu higher so that it would obscure her face, and give them a little privacy. "Is that what you wanted me here for – cover for you following Malfoy."

Ron nodded.

"Oh."

"You don't mind, do you? It's just I would have stuck out like a sore thumb if I'd come here alone, and Harry would have made him even more suspicious. But as it's you he might think that I'm trying to … you know…" Ron blushed.

"Of course I don't mind. It's a bit of a relief actually."

Ron blinked at her. "You weren't worried that I was going to ask you out again were you?"

"It's six weeks since you split up with whateverher name was…"

"… Elizabeth."

"….Elizabeth," she acknowledged. "And it's usually about this time that you start to miss having someone around, then you start getting all misty eyed about us. You only remember the good things, and forget all about the arguing."

"Am I really that predictable?"

Hermione nodded.

"Well, I'm sorry to break the news to you, but I seem to finally be over you."

She grinned. "I'm crushed. I may have to turn to drink to get over it."

"At these prices?" He winced.

The waiter made no attempt to hide his contempt for the interlopers who were cluttering up his restaurant, and his sneer became even more pronounced as they ordered. "I think if sir looks again at the wine menu, he'll find that there is a cheaper bottle of wine that he might have missed."

Ronald flushed.

"The Margaux," Hermione said, overriding Ron's spluttering, "is adequate. The rest of your wine list is over priced, the wine long past its best, and only suitable to be drunk by those who make their choice according to the pretty picture on the label."

It was the waiter's turn to flush, though this owed rather more to anger than embarrassment. He departed abruptly, returning quickly with a bottle that he plonked down with scant ceremony whilst he rummaged in his starched apron for a corkscrew.

Ron shifted uneasily in his chair. This sort of place was out if his league, and he knew it. Hermione, however, had been on holiday in France, and had been sneered at by proper Sommeliers. This upstart wasn't even close to being as patronising.

The cork was removed, but not presented to either of them for inspection. The waiter slopped some wine into a glass, and proffered it to Ron to taste.

"I'll do that," Hermione said, and the waiter twitched with horror. He had no choice, and passed it over to her. She swirled the wine round the glass, checking the colour and legs, inhaled deeply to take in the rich scents, and then took her first sip. "It'll do," she said.

The waiter's lips tightened still further, but he filled their glasses without spilling a drop.

"Christ, Hermione, do you have to be so ... rude?" Ron hissed at her once the waiter had left. "I'm trying to be inconspicuous here."

"Is he scarier than Voldemort?" she hissed back. "I don't think so, so there's no need to act as if he is. And I don't think that taking his nonsense is being inconspicuous – you should be blending in, and he's treating you as if you don't belong here."

"I don't," Ron replied, examining his fork carefully, and shifting it several millimetres to the left.

"You've more right here than most of that lot." Hermione nodded in the direction of the other stuffed shirts in the room. "At least you've achieved your position because you've done something yourself, and not because your grandfather bribed the Minister for something a hundred years ago."

Ron, who had been giving the impression of someone scuffing their feet in the dirt despite being seated, sat up a little straighter. "Yeah," he said. "That's true." His new found bravado survived even the arrival of the waiter to deliver their first course of Windsor Brown Soup, and the supercilious air he wore, as if serving in a restaurant was a part time job he did when his services weren't needed as Minister.

"Does being a Pureblood rot your brain?" Hermione asked, as she moved her soup round the bowl, without actually tasting it. "Because this stuff is foul, which would be bad enough if it had the excuse of being cheap, but it doesn't. What is in this? It looks more like something you'd find in a cauldron than a soup dish."

"It looks like something Snape would have set you to cleaning up for detention, without magic." Ron prodded at the liquid, watching it surge against the lip of the bowl, assessing its contents for dangerous ingredients.

"I'd heard he was out of hospital." Hermione raised her spoon to her mouth, and allowed a little of the soup past her lips. "That's not so bad."

"Yeah. Poor sod. Can you believe it's taken a year to get all of Nagini's venom out of his system." Ron slurped his soup. "He's still got a white scar across his neck, from here -" Ron gestured with his spoon, sending droplets of soup flying across the white linen table cloth "- to here. Not that it will affect his looks."

"Ron! There's no need to be unkind."

Ron ignored her. She was used to this, so it took a couple of moments to realise that she was specifically being ignored because he was watching someone else, rather than generally being ignored because she was saying something he didn't want to hear.

"Look," he said. "I've got to go. I need to keep an eye on Scrifkin. If I give you some money towards the bill, we can settle up later, yes?"

"I can't..." She had no chance to finish, he was out of his seat and half way across the room, leaving her with a bag of coins, knowing that everyone in the restaurant was staring at her. "Git," she said quietly, and picked up the money.

She glanced at her watch. She just had time to pick up a sandwich on the way back to the office, which would be tastier, cheaper and more fun than sitting here on her own, even with the Hyena breathing down her neck. She caught the waiter's eye on the second attempt, and then asked him for the bill.

"I do hope everything was to Madam's satisfaction," he said, with a curling lip.

"Not really," she replied coolly. "It's a shame that Ministry business called my companion away, but you know how it is."

"Fortunately, I don't."

Hermione blinked at the man's retreating back, and wondered how he managed to square his patronising attitude with the fact that he was actually nothing more than a waiter. What he needed, she thought, was a couple of days working in MacDonalds, see how the other half lived. He'd be a broken man.

The bill wiped the smile off her face. She looked at the waiter with horror. She knew how much was in her Gringott's account, and it wasn't enough to cover it and she didn't think that offering to do the washing up was going to work. There were very nasty rumours about what happened to people who cheated The Fat Goose out of their money and if even half of them were true she was in a lot of trouble.

"I don't see why I should have to pay for the entire meal," she said, squelching her sense of panic. "I have only eaten the first course."

"That was your choice, madam. If you choose to be so ill-mannered as to leave before the end of the meal that is your prerogative. It is, however, one that you will have to pay for."

A movement behind the waiter attracted Hermione's attention. Lucius Malfoy had summoned the manager by simply crooking his finger, and made some comment about the situation she was in. The manager looked startled, but nodded his acquiescence, then moved towards her.

The manager tapped the waiter on the shoulder, who melted away into the shadows. "Mr Malfoy would be grateful if you would join him as his guest," he said.

"Would he indeed?" she replied.

Hermione didn't think that things could get any worse – it was an interesting question whether she'd prefer to sell her soul to the Fat Goose or Lucius Malfoy.

Cornered, she did the only thing she could think of – make things worse. "Please convey my regrets to Mr Malfoy, and say that I find this table to be perfectly satisfactory. However, he is perfectly welcome to join me," she said in a voice pitched to carry.

She wasn't sure which would be worse, sitting at the same table as a man who had once watched her being tortured by his deranged sister-in-law, or him refusing her invitation. Kingsley might talk about the need for the wounds of the Wizarding World to heal, and she might agree in principle, it was another thing to face someone who had come damned close to giving you actual wounds without flinching.

She still dreamed of Bellatrix, the knife, the agony of Crucio, and the knowledge that she had come so close to breaking and telling them everything as long as the pain stopped.

And the supercilious arse who crossed the room to sit opposite her had watched it all and made no move to help her. For a split second, she imagined picking up the fork and sticking it through his hand and seeing if she could make him scream for mercy.

"You spent an hour or so in her company," Lucius remarked, allowing the waiter to place a fresh napkin in his lap. "I had a year of it."

Her eyes widened in shock. "You're a Legilimens too?"

"Perhaps." He smiled, a little. "Not that it's needed when you're glaring at me with murder in your heart. One doesn't need to resort to such tactics in the face of such obvious dislike. Not that I blame you; I understand completely."

"That's big of you." Hermione knew she sounded like a sulky child, and that she had surrendered the initiative, but she didn't want his understanding.

"Not really, but we will let that pass," Lucius replied, then turned to the waiter. "Take this soup away, bring something edible in its place for my guest. Do not burn her steak, and fetch me a decent bottle of claret. I shall have some petits fours, and another coffee."

The waiter looked like he'd been forced to eat some of his own soup, but did as he was told, deftly removing the bowl from in front of her, and replacing it with a salad nicoise. It still wasn't delectable, but it was edible.

"So, what do you want?" she asked, breaking the long silence that had grown between them. "You must want something, or you wouldn't be offering to buy me lunch."

"I could conceivably be settling for merely humiliating you and Mr Weasley."

"At these prices? That's a very poor return on your investment, when you could have just sneered in passing."

"Perhaps I'm more accustomed to paying these prices?"

Hermione neatly dissected a piece of lettuce, and considered the point. "Even so..."

"Even so, as you so percipiently remark, I do want something."

Hermione prepared to say no.

"Severus," said Lucius, simply. "In return for lunch, I merely want to discuss our mutual acquaintance. Nothing more exciting than that. After that, I rely on your conscience to prick you into action."

"Is he all right?"

"He's bad tempered, crotchety, vicious-tongued and generally acting like a curmudgeon." Lucius paused as a waiter brought him his coffee and petit fours. "I find this reassuring in many ways, as a grumpy Severus is one who is returning to health. When he was in the hospital, he could barely raise his head to swear at the healers for being incompetent fools who knew nothing about potions, and who were inflicting pain on him needlessly as they hadn't mastered the basics of their profession."

"I tried to see him, just after the news broke that he'd managed to make it to St Mungo's. They wouldn't let me in - family and close friends only. I'm glad he's feeling better," she said.

"I didn't know." Lucius' brow furrowed. "Severus was too ill to make any arrangements, and I had been named next of kin. Naturally, I stepped in to do all I could, and that included keeping him protected from those seeking revenge, whether from your side, my side, or the Ministry, who are on no one's side. I thought it best to exclude everyone from visiting him."

Hermione nodded. "I understand."

"Do you realise that no one else, apart from my family, has visited him since?"

Hermione blinked at him, fork poised midway between plate and mouth. "No one? Not even Professor McGonagall?"

"There was a fleeting visit from our new Minister, to give him his pardon, and that was it."

"Oh dear."

"Oh dear, indeed. One would have expected the Weasleys, at least, to have made something of an effort. I understand that Severus was instrumental in preventing the charming Carrows from Crucioing the younger Weasley into a gibbering wreck."

"Yes, well I think they were a bit preoccupied with Fred, and keeping an eye on George." She chewed and swallowed the steak. "And the business with his ear and all... It tended to sour relations a little. You can't blame them for that."

"Severus stopped it from being a lot worse. The Carrows were a perfectly charming pair, coming only second to the charming Bella or Fenrir in frothing insanity."

"You don't have to convince me," she replied. "It's just... complicated. Anyway, what do you want me to do about it?"

"I think it would be nice if Severus were to receive a visit from you, say tomorrow some time, asking after his well-being. You will then encourage him into taking an interest in life outside the Manor."

"Erm, how? Professor Snape and I have hardly been on the best of terms. I can't see him being all that pleased to see me, actually."

"He won't be. However, irritation is just as good a spur with Severus as any more positive emotion, and I have plans."

"Naturally," said Hermione, and sighed. "I wish I bloody did."

Lucius cocked his head at her, and summoned the waiter with a snap of his fingers. "Why don't you tell your Uncle Lucius all about it, whilst you have another glass of wine?"

She shivered, then took a large gulp of wine. She'd intended to spend her lunch complaining about her job, and it would be just as easy to complain to Lucius as to Ron. Neither of them would listen, neither of them would have anything useful to contribute, but at least she would feel better for letting it all out. "Well," she said, and began to outline her difficulties at work. It was a prolonged whinge. It was one she'd been storing up for a year or more, and never before had she had such an appreciative audience, who murmured encouragement as she talked, and kept her glass topped up.

She knew she shouldn't trust him, but he was the first person who had bloody listened to her in ages, and it wasn't as if she had to pretend to be Nice Hermione with him. It was like kicking off your shoes at the end of a long day, and slipping into some furry slippers with a microwaved meal perched on your stomach and something mindless on the telly. You knew you ought to be eating salad, and reading a book, but...

It was a simple tale. She had always believed in the Rules, even when she was breaking them. The Rules were important; she knew that. Without them there would be anarchy and chaos, and that wasn't right.

There were Rules. And that was Good. Even though sometimes you had to bend them – or break them – for the good of others, especially if they were your friends.

One of the Rules, she'd always thought was that people who worked hard at school and did well in their exams would rise rapidly through the ranks of the Ministry until they had a well-paid job, a bit of responsibility, and could Do things to make the world a better place. Something important, that would matter, and that would see her name go down in the history books as something more than the Girl who helped the Boy who Lived Twice.

Apparently this wasn't so much a Rule as a Guideline.

She'd joined the Muggle Affairs department straight out of Hogwarts, once she'd completed her NEWTs. It had seemed like a good idea at the time. Her background would give her a head start over the others, she'd reasoned. She would be working in the same department as Arthur Weasley, so she'd have a friendly face to help her out. And it was obvious that Muggle Affairs were really important, that this was the cutting edge of the Ministry's work.

What could be more important than making sure that the transition of Muggleborns into Wizarding Society was handled properly?

Rubbish collection. Cauldron size. Just about everything really.

She was a sensible girl. She hadn't expected to be trusted with anything really important straight away, even though she was one of the saviours of the Wizarding World. (It was what the Daily Prophet had called her, not how she thought of herself. Not even in the privacy of her own mind.) But she had expected that once she'd proved herself to be bright and hardworking, well, it was only a matter of time.

At first she'd done well. There had been rapid promotion, rising through the ranks to become Assistant to the Head of Department, but there she'd stayed. Instead of reaching the next grade and being given a team of her own to manage and a fancy title like Head of Muggle Liaison, she was stuck as a glorified personal assistant.

It had seemed like such a good opportunity at the time. She'd be working directly to the Head of Department, giving her a chance to impress him, and to get involved in policy formation.

The only policy formation she'd been involved in was milk, two sugars.

So she'd tried harder. Volunteered to do more. Taken on more responsibility. Become indispensable.

That would do it, she thought. Finally her skills would be recognised and she'd be back on the fast track to promotion. Only she'd done too good a job, and really was indispensable, which was why her boss was moving on to pastures new without her.

And he hadn't even had the decency to get her a promotion as a leaving present.

Her new boss was a cow, determined to enforce her newfound authority over everyone in general, and Hermione in particular, with the wit and charm of a hyena.

Hermione had moved from fury to sulking to a kind of dull bitterness that reminded her of Professor Snape, which only made her feel worse. She should surely be ten years older before she started being that cynical about life, and at this rate would run out of illusions to be shattered before she turned forty.

"And do you enjoy your talents being passed over?" Lucius asked, topping up her glass once more.

"Not much," she replied, her opinion of his intellect dipping in the face of such a stupid question.

"The old boy's network is such a powerful thing." He leaned back on his chair, and steepled his fingers. "And when you are on the outside of it. It's so hard to get on in life."

"I'd noticed," she said bitterly. "Sorry, were you simply gloating about being on the inside of the network, or was there some other point to what you're saying?"

"I'm laying the groundwork for making you an offer," he replied. "If you had the wit to appreciate it."

"You've just poured half a bottle of wine into me, to make sure I didn't have the wit to realise that it's wrong for me to be talking to you, so you can't blame me for being a little slow on the uptake."

He smiled. "A very good point."

She took another gulp of wine by way of alibi. "What sort of deal?"

"I could act as your career adviser, making a few suggestions here, making some introductions there, and before you know it, you would be the rising star of the department."

"What's in it for you?" she asked with narrowed eyes.

"Dear me, it seems you haven't had enough to drink, or too much. You're really not supposed to ask that sort of question."

"Oh, I think I am, Uncle Lucius."

"Not so directly. You're supposed to think it, but not ask it. I shall have to work hard to break you of that little habit of asking questions, I can see."

She swallowed her first indignant retort. He knew how to play the game, and she didn't. A man who stayed out of Azkaban had to be good at playing the game; it wasn't all down to bribery and blackmail. She'd never had much time for subtle when dealing with the boys, but it was dawning on her that they were not the best preparation for getting on in the world of work. These were lessons that she needed. "How am I supposed to find out the answer then?" she asked. "If I don't ask."

"Can you trust my answers?"

She cocked her head, puzzling her way through that. "Of course not, but surely asking lets the person know that you know that they are up to something which you may not want them to know always, I accept, but I think that when I'm dealing with you it's important that you know that I know, or otherwise you might not know that I know. And, more generally, asking that question makes people have to think of something to tell you that isn't true, and they might let something slip, and even if they lie, it tells you something about what they're thinking. It's not a stupid question, by any means."

"If I thought you were that naive, I wouldn't be talking to you at all." He leaned forward in his chair, his fingers splayed over the tablecloth as if to demonstrate he were harmless. "What your question does suggest is that you're rather concerned about my opinion of you, and that exposes a weakness. A hedgehog may show you its spines, but you know that's because it has a soft underbelly."

She looked him directly in the eyes, legilimency be damned. "You'd have to be very arrogant to think that I'd care for your opinion at all, rather than simply thinking that you were a dangerous person to trust."

"No one has ever accused me of a lack of self-worth," he said mildly. "But I will accept that you were motivated by nothing more than distrust, which is a perfectly admirable trait, and one that should always be encouraged, especially in one so young and innocent. I will make a deal with you, dear Miss Granger. If you can work out what my motives are, then you can ask me for a favour and, if it is in my power, I will grant it. Consider it the first step in your political education."

"It's not much of a favour, with that sort of caveat attached," she said, with narrowed eyes.

"The Malfoy Library is considered very fine." He selected a petit four, and popped it into his mouth, chewing it slowly with every sign of enjoyment.

Git, she thought. And, bastard.

"After all, Miss Granger, it's probably your duty to make sure that I'm not up to anything nefarious, and how better to do this than by keeping a very close eye on me?"

She nodded, once, sharply, not prepared to admit out loud that she was thinking of accepting his help, or was already thinking how well that excuse would work with the boys.

"Now, drink up your coffee, and do try one of these sweets whilst I deal with the bill, and I'll escort you back to the Ministry."

"I can find my own way," she replied, but took the petit four nonetheless.

"I'm sure you can, but business takes me that way, and your company is so entrancing I cannot be without it."

Hermione didn't protest. She assumed that it was another of those political lessons she was supposed to be absorbing and the point he was making would become obvious, not to mention that she didn't want to annoy someone who was about to pay the bill. They spent the remainder of the lunch chatting about acquaintances in common, with Hermione trying not to say anything that might be useful, and Lucius just smiling faintly at her. It made her feel like a sheep in a field of wolves at first, until she looked closer and noticed the fine lines round his eyes, the pinching of the nostrils, and the twitching of his fingers whenever he forgot to order his hands to remain still. The marks of his time, locked up in Malfoy Manor with the Dark Lord, were still on him. He didn't look the same supremely confident man he had been before.

Something was badly wrong with him.

She'd seen that look on her own face, and that of the boys, over the last year: someone short of sleep and heavy on nightmares. Muggles had a name for it, post-traumatic stress; the Magical world had nothing. If there wasn't a potion for it, it didn't exist, and no one wanted to face up to the human cost of the war, not while they were busy pretending it had never happened.

It didn't make her like him any more, but it did make her feel more confident in dealing with him. She could manage a broken Malfoy. Probably. Something in her lifted at the thought of the challenge. At least she wouldn't be bored.

It was 3 pm by the time they returned to the Ministry, after lingering over coffee and more petits fours, the only thing that was worth eating at the place. The Hyena was waiting for her, all hackles raised and full of her importance. She wasn't pleased that Hermione had managed to duck out of her control.

One of her colleagues, keen to curry favour, had let slip to the Hyena that morning that Hermione was 'off out somewhere nice for lunch'. The mirthless smile on her boss's lips indicated that Hermione would be lucky to get away, and that some last minute job would be forthcoming.

She'd countered that by hiding out in the toilets, and counting down the minutes until she could leave, before Apparating out. It involved breaking at least six Ministry regulations on the way but, as far as she was concerned, that had been one of the occasions when rule breaking was not only acceptable but required but now she was going to have to pay for it.

"What time do you call this?" she said, and Hermione bit back a sharp response asking whether she was too stupid to tell the time.

"You will have to forgive Miss Granger," Malfoy said, casting oil on troubled waters. "I detained her."

Hermione had the immense satisfaction of watching the Hyena subside into apologies. She didn't go so far as to say sorry to Hermione personally, but directed them at a space between her and Lucius. It was still gratifying, and rather disturbing to watch the woman turn into a simpering idiot.

"Oh, well, if there's anything else that I can do, you have only to ask," the Hyena said. "I'm sure I can be more helpful than a lowly assistant."

"I'm sure you could," he replied. "If it were a Ministry matter, but... it was a personal matter."

The Hyena stiffened, her simper fading. "Personal? On Ministry time? I'm not sure that..."

"You really can't rush lunch at the Fat Goose; I'm sure you understand."

The Hyena didn't, and her outrage was increasing at the thought that her assistant had been given such a treat. Her mouth worked, opening and closing, but finding no words to express herself.

"Until tomorrow, then," Malfoy continued, turning to Hermione. "I know Severus is eager to catch up with you. Would you prefer lunch or afternoon tea?"

"Er, tea," she said, then felt sick. "Where did you have in mind?"

"I've given Severus the run of the East Wing, as he's not well enough to go out in public yet," he said softly. "It's not an area of the Manor that you will have seen before."

She swallowed hard. "Three pm?"

"I'll look forward to it. I'll meet you at the gates and walk you up, yes? Show you some of the gardens; I know you didn't have a chance to admire them on your last visit."

She nodded, not trusting her voice to come out normally, and amazed at his ability to normalise abduction and torture as on a par with not completing a sightseeing tour.

The Hyena turned to her as soon as Malfoy had gone, sweeping majestically up the corridor. "You had lunch with Lucius Malfoy?"

"Yes," Hermione said; it was reasonably true.

"And you've been to Malfoy Manor?"

Hermione's eyes widened - surely no one had missed that bit of news.

"Well, aren't you the lucky one?" the Hyena said, sounding as bitter as Snape on a Friday facing double potions with Gryffindors and Slytherins.

"It's not as much fun as you might think," Hermione replied, stiff lipped. "All you have to do is be on opposing sides of the war, get captured, be taken there at wandpoint, and then tortured until you pass out. That gives you a wonderful opportunity to admire the carpeting. The tour of the dungeons isn't optional." Hermione was sure she'd added the words 'you stupid bitch' out loud, so hard was she thinking them.

The Hyena's eyes narrowed, looking at Hermione as if she were some carcase on the veldt that she'd love to close her jaws round. "And yet you accepted his invitation to afternoon tea. It's clear what you're after. Well, he'll never marry you. Not in a million years. Lucius Malfoy will never forget what's due to his bloodline, even if he does have an heir."

"We'll just have to see, won't we?" Hermione replied, and smiled at the thought of Malfoy's reaction to their impending nuptials. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I'd better get back to work."