Post Deathly Hallows. This story is also related to Curiosity and Family, Miss Granger.

O O O

Hermione Weasley set the small stack of books down on the counter and began searching through her purse. She could hear the coins clinking, but for some reason, she was unable to find them. She sighed in annoyance, finally managing to withdraw one of the Galleons she was looking for. Hermione was generally the most organized woman one would ever meet, but for some reason, her purse was always in disarray.

She rang the bell as she finally took out the money she would owe the bookstore. She looked around and rang the bell again when no employee of Flourish and Blotts appeared. The door to the back room opened and a man backed out, speaking to someone who was still inside. Hermione gasped as the man turned to face her.

"Mr. Malfoy?" she exclaimed in shock.

Lucius Malfoy scowled, glaring at her with his cold, grey eyes as he came up behind the counter. "Miss Granger," he said, nodding brusquely. Hermione stood silently with her mouth open in shock. "Don't ogle, Miss Granger, it's not becoming," he said coolly. "I take it you wish to buy these books."

"Yes." Hermione swallowed hard, finally finding her voice. "What—?"

"It was this or sell the Malfoy Manor," Lucius said quietly. "The Dark Lord managed to take most of my family's wealth down with him when he was defeated," he explained angrily.

"Your job at the Ministry…"

Lucius chuckled as Hermione trailed off. "I know you to be cleverer than that, Miss Granger. Or do you actually believe that rubbish in the Daily Prophet about purebloods and Muggle-borns coexisting in an oh-so-happy paradise?" he said sarcastically with a sneer. He leaned forward and spoke much more quietly when he noticed another customer staring at him. "All is not right with the world now that the Dark Lord is gone, Miss Granger," he said darkly. "The House of Slytherin will be forced to pay for the Dark Lord's actions for years, possibly generations. Even you can know that is not right, Miss Granger."

If she had been having this conversation with anyone else, Hermione would have opposed nearly every point—but this once-powerful and rich pureblood was now working at a bookstore in Diagon Alley. Harry Potter had vouched for the Malfoy family, keeping them out of prison, but being reduced to this…this must be utter humiliation at its worst for Lucius. It seemed that he really was paying the price for Lord Voldemort's past crimes.

"It's Mrs. Weasley now," Hermione said quietly, unsure of how to respond to the pureblood's little speech.

Lucius froze, the top book in his hand as he glanced at the title. "Really?" He continued to look through the books Hermione was purchasing to gauge the price. "Married a pureblood, at least," he muttered. Hermione glared at him, her hand clenched tightly around her money.

"Aren't you going to mention Ron's lack of fortune?"

Lucius slammed one of the books down on the counter, startling Hermione and causing her to leap back in fright. The former Death Eater glowered at her, his eyes hard and his expression livid. Hermione nearly reached for her wand—she had never seen Lucius appear this angry. But nor had she ever seen him control such anger so well. Lucius took a deep breath before speaking. "I should have known you would be like everyone else," he leered. "But I chose to believe that you were more intelligent than that." Hermione shook her head slightly, both not understanding what he meant and still slightly afraid of him. "Do you deny hating me, Miss Gran—Mrs. Weasley?"

Hermione shifted uncomfortably. "I never said I hated you, Mr. Malfoy."

Lucius shook his head as he glared at Hermione. "I believe you do. At least enough to enjoy causing me pain," he said quietly.

Hermione winced as she realized that her comment about 'lack of fortune' had sounded like a slight toward the Malfoy family…and she flinched again when she realized that she had meant it that way. "I'm sorry, Mr. Malfoy. That was childish of me." Hermione held out the money for the books. Lucius was so surprised by her apology he apparently didn't notice.

"Forgiven, Miss Gr—Mrs. Weasley," he said with a slight shake of his head as he tried to adjust to her married name. Hermione coughed and nodded to the hand she was extending. Lucius quickly put his hand under hers and she dropped the coins into it.

"Mr. Malfoy?"

"Yes?" Lucius said as he quickly counted out the money.

"What did you mean, 'like everyone else'?" Hermione asked hesitantly.

Lucius smiled slightly. "You always have a question, don't you, Mrs. Weasley?" Hermione could not help grinning at that accurate observation. Lucius held out two Knuts. "I'm afraid you miscounted," he said with a small smirk.

Hermione held out her right hand to take the small bronze coins and was shocked when Lucius suddenly took her hand in one of his own. He wasn't wearing his black leather gloves, and Hermione was vaguely surprised by how warm his hands were in contrast to his icy grey eyes. But she was more surprised by the fact that Lucius Malfoy, the proud pureblood, was actually holding a Muggle-born's hand.

"You're shaking, Mrs. Weasley," Lucius said softly, holding her hand palm up and gently putting the two Knuts into it. "Look around you," he breathed. "Everywhere you go, look to see who runs the shops and who works for meager wages beneath. Look at who has power in the Ministry and who has recently been laid off due to 'cuts in spending.' Who are the ones getting fired and begging for work? Not Muggle-borns or Gryffindors or the like, Mrs. Weasley." He leaned forward and dropped his voice even lower. "Purebloods…Slytherins. Even those who turned their back on the Dark Lord long ago are still silently paying for his crimes." He paused. "But no one notices the wrongs against us—at least no one who can and is willing to do anything about it."

Hermione tried to pull away from him, but he held her hand in a firm, yet gentle grip. "Why are you talking to me?" Hermione asked quietly, looking fixedly at her hand. "Go to the Ministry, or-or…" Hermione trailed off, realizing that if what Lucius was saying was true, there wasn't anyone with great power in the Ministry who would listen to him or his kind. "His kind"…the phrase left a bad taste in her mouth, even though she did not say it out loud. It sounded like an arrogant pureblood referring to Muggle-borns.

"I knew you were clever," Lucius said quietly. Hermione chanced a glance up at his face and noticed that he appeared deep in thought, his eyes rather distant and his expression vacant. "The right hands…" he muttered to himself, almost as though confirming something. Hermione shivered when his thumb tenderly brushed over her skin.

"If you're hoping for me to be able to change things, I'm afraid I don't have that sort of power," Hermione said. Lucius blinked and pulled himself back to the present moment. He seemed completely unaware of the loving gesture he had just committed, and Hermione was not about to inform him of it.

Lucius moved even closer to her, his breath brushing over Hermione's face. Hermione met his eyes hesitantly. "The war is not over, Miss Granger," he breathed. Hermione hardly even noticed that he had reverted back to her maiden name. "There are just new victims." He closed her hand around the Knuts, her hand still in his as he stared intently into her eyes. Hermione saw something rather unusual in them—desperation?

"What do you think you're doing?"

Hermione turned to see her husband, Ron, approaching. "Get away from her!" he snapped angrily as he came up to the counter. Lucius quickly backed away, letting go of Hermione's hand. "Don't you think you want to wipe off your hands, Mr. Malfoy?" he said coldly. "After touching a Muggle-born and all."

"Ron," Hermione said quickly, taking his hand and trying to calm him down. Hermione noticed that Lucius was holding his hands in the open, palms up. At first, she thought he was showing Ron that he was unarmed and did not mean any harm. Then Lucius caught Hermione's eyes, and she realized what he was doing—more of, what he wasn't doing. He was not cleaning his hands.

"What the bloody hell are you doing here, anyway?" Ron asked, glancing around Flourish and Blotts. He suddenly grinned. "Ah, finally learning what it's like to actually earn a living."

"Ron!" Hermione exclaimed. "You aren't helping anything. It's not like he's doing anything wrong."

"He was touching you," Ron muttered, his face flushing.

"He wasn't hurting me, Ronald," Hermione said, gently touching his cheek. "Come on, let's go." She picked up the books from the counter. "Thank you, Mr. Malfoy."

Lucius inclined his head to her. His eyes showed that he had more to say, but was not willing to in front of Hermione's husband. "Do come back to Flourish and Blotts soon, Mrs. Weasley."

"Not while you're working here," Ron muttered under his breath, taking Hermione by the hand and pulling her alongside him as he left the bookstore.

"Ron, couldn't you see he was humiliated? There was no need to act like that."

Ron stopped and stared at her in surprise. "I can't have a Death Eater touching you, Hermione," he said, stroking her cheek. "And he deserves it, anyway." Hermione bit her lip. "I'm sorry if I overreacted," Ron said quietly. He placed a kiss on Hermione's lips. "Let's go."

Hermione's conversation with Lucius replayed in her mind as she and Ron walked down Diagon Alley. The last of what he had told her made her rather anxious.

The war is not over, Miss Granger…

Hermione stared absently at her right hand for a few moments. She then closed it into a fist, just as when Lucius had wrapped her hand around her change.

There are just new victims.