A/N: I have rested control of the keyboard for a few moments to explain some things.
First, love as always to my reviewers and to Countess Black, who helped me stay on course. My apologies for the wonky formatting; I think it's my computer.
This is a missing chapter of sorts, set between chapters 33 and 34 of Favor Me with Silence. I didn't include it in FMS because it would slowed the story down, but I thought it was a nice moment between Lucius and Hermione. I've been wondering how Hermione could reconcile herself to Lucius' past, and this made the most sense to me.
I don't intend this piece to absolve Lucius; for all his good qualities, he's not a very nice man.
Hermione was awake. She rolled on her side. The room wasn't silent; onthe contrary, it was full of sound. Draco talked in his sleep, and he was in good form tonight, rolling around on the camp bed and muttering unintelligibly to himself. "Mhmmm all right hghmhhmhggh potionsclass."Hermione smiled slightly. Asleep, Draco looked wholly different, face soft and mouth curved in a gentle moue.
His mother was just as bad. Narcissa would never do anything as uncouth as snore, of course, but she was definitely doing something. She'd also taken residence in the exact centre of the bed, limbs elegantly arranged in a way designed to take up maximum crackled. Hermione froze, trying to hear the noise again. Nothing happened. A lorry trundled down the road on the other side of thefield. The crackling again. Was it outside? Was it a window?
She couldn't take it any more. Hermione rose and skinned into her dressing gown, finding her slippers. Had Draco's father's fallen asleep? She would go and see what the noise was, and if Lucius—Father, she reminded herself—was awake, she would see if he'd heard anything.
Lucius Malfoy was a man with a secret. Actually, he was a man with thousands of secrets, but there was one in particular that concerned him at the moment. Lucius was a dedicated rummager; he firmly believed that, as head of the family, it was his right, his sacred responsibility, to be surethere was nothing about which he did not know.
So when he'd found the sweets, he'd meant to bin them. Whatever perverse urge motivated him to pop one in his mouth, he'd never know, but he had and it was…adequate to his purposes. Lucius sighed as he ate another sweet.
Hermione crept down the stairs. There was a single light burning. Something rustled. Hermione's skin prickled and her wand seemed to move of its own volition into the first position, 'readiness to attack'.
Lucius heard something. He raised his own wand and breathed through his mouth, trying to hear. Foot steps. From upstairs. Terror workedthrough his veins like cold lead. If it was from upstairs, he might already be too late. He rose from the chair, leaving his robes, and crept forwardin his was a flash of something white. Hermione opened her mouth to cast her first spell and…a voice came from a bit to her right.
"Hermione, I don't know how it is with muggles, but in this family, we generally frown on unprovoked attacks. These days, at any rate. Now,
Great-grandfather Quintus, one couldn't say the same of him."
Hermione dropped her wand. "Sorry, Father. I heard noises and…"
"Came to investigate them?" He smirked down, a third of a meter taller than she, and Hermione found herself blushing. He sounded so much like
Draco in that moment that she fought the urge to squirm where she stood. "Not precisely. I wanted to alert you."
"A very good answer, Hermione. I'd have to be quite stern with you otherwise, would I not?"
Hermione blushed deeper. "Yes, Father."
"As it is, I ought to swat you and send you straight back to bed. It's three AM. Mother would have my head if I allowed you to stay up."
"Though you hardly look to be fainting with exhaustion. Are you?"
"No, Father. I never faint."
Lucius clicked his tongue reprovingly. "Darling, never tell a gentleman you do not faint. He ought to be on pins and needles to keep from making you swoon."
A tree branch creaked and they both froze. When the wind died a bit, they moved away from the stairs and sat down. "What sound was it you heard, love? The tree?"
Hermione shook her head. "A sort of rustling."
Lucius blinked. "Rustling? How very mysterious." He'd dealt with worse situations than this, certainly, and if he could face the Dark Lord, he could surely deal with a frizzy haired chit in a dressing gown. His daughter in law, fortunately, seemed to find nothing amiss. She made her way to the divan and …paused.
"There seems to be a sack of sweets on the cushion."
"Does there? How remarkable." Lucius was determined to emerge from this victorious. He would act nonchalant, that was all, and the girl would, would…well, he would win. That was the important thing.
Hermione picked the sweets up and studied the bag thoughtfully, turning it in her hands. "This looks just like the one in the cabinet. I thought Draco had taken it."
"Draco? No, he's never been much for sweets. Apples, though, he does love a good apple."
Hermione smiled. "What about you?"
"I? Hmmm, I'm rather partial to pears, myself, with stilton. Toffee, especially the chocolate covered ones. And those, of course." He gestured to the sack of muggles sweets and Hermione grinned.
"How did you find them?"
Lucius shrugged vaguely. "One finds all sorts of things if one looks carefully." He tilted his head and Hermione gave it right back. He hardly scared her at all these days. She would never had suspected there would come a day when she would feel comfortable teasing Lucius Malfoy.
They sat in companionable silence for a few moments. Then Lucius, feeling as though he ought to move this in directions more accommodating to his ends, said "I daresay it's unsatisfying to eat sweets by oneself. Do have one, Hermione."
Hermione obeyed. "I love custard and rhubard sweets. Not as good as the real thing, but close enough."
Lucius nodded. "Indeed. Lirry—our cook—keeps a large rhubarb patch. We shall certainly have to tell it so it can make you some."
"I would like that."
They sat in awkward silence for a time, listening to the gentle sounds of the trees. Lucius found himself watching her as she watched the windows. The girl's face was smooth, unafraid. There were shadows under her eyes, but the hand which took the sweet had not shaken.
"You seem very composed, my dear, for a girl who nearly died this evening."
"I suppose the same could be said for you. Father."
Lucius chuckled. "One gets used to it, darling. At my age, I have seen too many attempts on my life for any one to faze me overmuch. I have fought in two wars, remember."
"Yes, but it's almost over now." Hermione pensively brought her hand to her mouth and then dropped it, blushing. Lucius surprised himself by reaching over to give her a pat. "There's the good girl. Mustn't fall back into the habit."
Hermione wasn't sure she liked having Lucius Malfoy scold her, however lightly. 'Best get used to it' she told herself. And he had let her stay downstairs. She forced herself to nod, looking away.
"Is there something in particular that prompted that reaction, my child?"
"No. Not really. Only…it is over, isn't it? Or will be?"
He wondered what she was asking. Did she want reassurance? The truth? Could he give her the truth? He took a slow breath and looked levelly at his daughter in law to be. "I don't know, Hermione. For now? Yes, it's almost over. But in twenty years? Who can say?"
"You think it will happen again?"
"To a certainty, it will happen again. Perhaps not with this cause—I have a feeling this has spelt the end of blood fanaticism, at least openly—but it will be something."
"But why?" Hermione could feel the rightness of his words even as she hated him a little for saying them. She was tired, tired of fighting and tired of politics. She slumped and shook her head miserably.
Lucius leant forward. "Because magic is power. You are young, Hermione. When you have lived a bit more, you'll understand, perhaps. Power is sweet, like draught of poppy juice, and as addictive."
"Yes, I know, but--"
He shook his head. "No, my child. You think you know. Live as long as I and then perhaps you will know.' Seeing her pride fighting her urge to be respectful, he decided to continue the lesson. ' Tell me, Hermione, why have you never asked me?"
"Asked you what?"
"Why I became a Death Eater. It bothers you, I'm sure. Draco, I expect, is different, because any fool could see he was forced into it, but I—I chose what I became."
It did bother her. She took a deep breath. "Because—because the war taught me that things aren't as simple as they look, sometimes. Draco—Draco's shown me that." She flashed on the first night, the first link formed in the fires of agony and humiliation.
"Oh? And how did he teach you?" Lucius kept his voice gentle, but under it was iron. He wanted to see how she would answer, this dirty blooded girl he'd become fond of. He'd promised to teach her, and he would, but first he wanted to see what she had taught herself.
"After the Ministry. We met and he…he cried for you. I knew you and he were close, but feeling him—feeling his pain…" The girl's eyes were nailed to the floor, seeing a boy who'd been playing man and then discovered it was no fun when he hadn't a choice in things anymore.
Lucius swallowed. "It's all right, Hermione. I shan't collapse at the mention of…that day. And seeing his grief made gave you to understand that there is no single motive to things?"
"It made me see how it was for him and it—it made me feel--" She could not tell Lucius Malfoy that she'd felt pity for Draco. No Malfoy could accept that.
Lucius nodded. "And the night he commended you to our family line?"
"I felt afraid. We knew things were going to fall apart, and we wanted a last night together." Lucius tried to picture it, his son and the girl alone in their sure and certain knowledge of disaster to come, the last few moments of innocence they would ever have.
"You saw Draco's sufferings and alleviated them as best you could. I will always owe you a debt for that, my dear, but let us return to the question. We'll start with an easy one: why would a person become a Death Eater at all? There are plenty of blood purists who never took the Mark, and plenty who took the Mark and couldn't give a toad's ear about blood purity. What do you think?"
Hermione thought. "Because they like to hurt people."
"Some of them. I imagine you're thinking of Bellatrix? Walden McNair?" She nodded, and Lucius pressed forward. He hoped he was not scaring her unduly, but he very much wanted her to understand.
"What of the others? Peter Pettigrew, for example. He ran around with two blood traitors and a werewolf in school, and he's too much of a coward to be a sadist. What attraction would it hold for him?"
Hermione cleared her throat. "Tibby?"
The elf appeared and bowed. "Yes, Miss?"
"May I have some water, please? And Father as well."
Lucius caught her hand again. "One doesn't ask an elf, love, one commands." He patted her hand and held it in his a moment to calm her. "Are you frightened?"
"No, Father." She didn't look it, either. She looked thoughtful and sad, but not afraid. "I was afraid after he left. I was afraid when Greyback tried to bite me at the manor. I'm not afraid now. I want to understand it. All of it, so I can go on being unafraid."
"That's a girl. What's your answer about Pettigrew?"
"They weren't all that nice to him, were they? James and Sirius?"
"I was somewhat older, you understand—four or five years, perhaps—but no, Hermione, they were not, from what I saw and heard." He was a little surprised that she knew. According to Snape, Potter idolized his father. Was the boy so courageous he tore down the image of James Potter he'd enshrined in his heart for a horrible truth?
"Remus told me. He and I used to talk sometimes at Headquarters."
Lucius kept his face impassive. "The question, then, remains, why would Pettigrew seek to trade one master for another?"
"He thought the Death Eaters would respect him for handing over James and Lily."
Lucius smiled. "Excellent, Hermione. What about someone like Goyle Sr.? Or Adelbert Nott? Both very decent men, in their way, Galvin Goyle especially. He breeds kneazles, even."
"Were their fathers Death Eaters?"
Lucius smiled. "You've asked exactly the right question, my dear. Goyle's was. Nott was one of the original group, along with Dolohov and my own dear father. It rather pains me that you and he shall never meet in this world—he would have liked you enormously."
Hermione actually blushed. "Thank you."
"It's the truth. He adored Draco, simply worshipped him. But as I'm sure you're wondering, he was not the reason I joined. I was expected to, of course, but that isn't why, not deep down. Why, then?"
"I don't know."
"In a single word: power. I was raised to see it as my right, and since the Ministry is stuffed with idiots and bleeding hearts, He seemed the swiftest course."
Lucius' eyes were misty with remembering the headiness of those days, young and strong, freshly graduated, engaged to the most beautiful woman on earth, living a charmed life in every sense.
"Draco said once that Malfoys are made to rule and be obeyed."
Lucius raised a brow. "What could have prompted that remark?"
Hermione looked away. "I questioned his, ah, authority."
"I imagine he disabused you of that in short order. No, you needn't say anything, your face is answer enough. Does that satisfy your curiosity, Hermione?"
"Didn't you know he was--"
"A dangerous madman? Well, yes and no. One could never accuse the Dark Lord of dissembling, but in those days he was rather more subtle. He
preferred to keep the likes of McNair and Greyback down where they belonged.' He sipped his water.
"And when a person believes, deeply believes, that he is destined for greatness, that the man in front of him can provide it to him, and the price is
merely his soul…why, my dear, it hardly seems unreasonable at all. What is a soul, after all, to the prospect of seeing the world burn?"
Hermione was silent. Lucius wondered whether he had taken this much too far and she was preparing to faint. Or curse him, or something else.
He leant over and slid the water from her hand.
"Do you understand?"
"N-no. No, I don't –how could—but all the things they did. Umbridge gave those muggle borns to the dementors. How could anyone go along with that?"
"What did Draco tell you the night he commended you to our family line, love? Do you recall?"
"He chanted something and then told to call out if you ever captured me."
Lucius set the tumbler down. "Did he mention to you he risked his immortal soul? That I could disown him and order my wife never to say his
Her eyes were huge. "Truly?"
"Yes. He knew it, when he commended you, and yet did it anyway. He defied centuries of tradition, our whole way of life, to keep you safe. And
when the Dark Lord lived with us, and he ordered Draco to do things for him, why did he do them?"
Hermione's face was white. "For me?"
Lucius moved close enough to cup her face. "For all of us. He could have used any of us as an example had Draco faltered. I regret what my son
had to do, but I feel proud he did it as well as he did."
"I had no idea the Dark Lord…Greyback. He saw me that night. He must have told." Lucius didn't correct the girl. "How did Greyback see you?"
"I went to find him—Draco—and they were going by. Greyback was covered in Bill Weasley's blood, and he tried to grab me. Draco got between
us and shoved me back into the Room of Requirement."
Lucius nodded, feeling pride in his heart for his son. "He faced down a blood-crazed werewolf knowing the ancestors would grant him no rest if he
should die at that moment."
"I would do the same for him."
"You did. None of the rest of us could have Apparated away this evening, but you could have."
"Surely no one would just--"
"Have left us to our fate?' He smirked. "Really? No one would fault you. They'd say we deserved it. Perhaps we do, at that." He sipped his water.
He wondered why he'd felt the need to start this, to finish it, but he did. Lucius Malfoy did not seek absolution; he knew only history could give
him that, and he held out no hope, but perhaps, but helping Hermione understand, he could make a start in this brave new world he'd done in
part in creating.
"Why did you stay, my child?"
She looked confused. "How could I not?"
He tipped his head, looking eerily like Draco. "To save yourself, of course."
Hermione wondered if he were mocking her. She didn't think so, but it was hard to tell with him, sometimes. "I could never live with myself if
something happened to any of you."
"I know. You've done a great many brave things, Hermione. I merely wonder whether you've ever probed your own motives."
"I don't want anyone to get hurt. I've never wanted anyone to get hurt." She twisted her hands together, breathing deeply, and made herself
concentrate on keeping up a constructive dialogue. She might never get a chance like this again, and if she flinched, he would stop at once.
Lucius felt as though he'd kicked a kitten. Poor child, part of him wanted so badly to let her keep whatever innocence remained, and indulge her
notions that humans were good and kind, as she was; another part of him demanded he prepare her for the real world.
"I know, love, and I applaud you for it. I meant it when I told you I think you're good for my family—I owe it to you to see you understand."
"Exactly that. You risked death for love of my son and because you did not wish to see him hurt."
"Harry said Dumbledore told him once that love is the greatest magic of all."
"He was correct in that, but all magic can be corrupted, just as all power can be abused. Bellatrix truly loved the Dark Lord. She loves Narcissa as
well, but she meant to kill Draco. One love has consumed the other so totally the first might never have existed at all."
"Not all power that comes from love is good."
"No." He picked up the sack of sweets and offered her one. She shook her head and darted her eyes out the window, saw nothing. He put the
sack down without taking any himself; this was too serious a matter for sweets.
"It's easier to see them as monsters than to consider what motivates them."
"That's just it! What makes them dangerous is that they are not monsters. They are people with motives—many of them quite understandable—
that make them enemy to us, and we must destroy them totally."
" When I was young, I believed that everyone deserved the benefit of the doubt. I tried to be good and kind, and thought that everyone else was the same. The hardest thing about all this, in some ways, is realising that some people don't deserve a second chance."
"No, they don't. The ones that were too afraid to stop…I suspect if you were to go to many of their houses, they would be empty. They want no part in this any longer. But the ones that came tonight will persevere. It will never be over for them."
"Then we just have to be better than they are." Hermione squared her shoulders and looked out the window as though daring a Death Eater to show his face. Lucius felt a deep sadness, and felt very old. Very tired and very, very old.
"You might see things differently in ten years. You'll have children, for one. And Draco does not like the thought of your fighting any better than Mother and I do. Has my son ever told you about our properties outside of Britain?"
"No, Father. He's never said."
"France, Italy, Germany, a few other places. You'd choose, of course, if Draco was willing. No one would blame you."
"We'd all go, once the Ministry has got what it wants. A few years abroad might do us all some good."
"Truly, I can't."
"Haven't you done enough, my darling?"
"No." Hermione called Tibby again and asked for more water for each of them. The elf, she suspected, had been listening, because as she gave them each tumblers she murmured in Hermione's ear that Paris was wonderful in the spring.
"They were my friends. Remus and Tonks, Fred Weasley, poor Colin…I owe it to them to see this finished."
"It might never be finished, child."
"It definitely won't if we don't help, Father."
Lucius sighed. "I could order you to go, I suppose. Your honour would compel you to obey me, would it not?"
"It would, but I would tell you that I think running from this is the worst thing we could do."
"The ones that fled admitted their guilt, didn't they, by running away?"
"We wouldn't just vanish, love, we'd go through the proper channels." Well, more or less.
"Would it make a difference to people, Father? If we leave, you and Draco will always be Death Eaters to them."
Lucius tilted his head slightly. "Aptly reasoned, Hermione. ' He took a drink of his water and set it down. 'Draco tells us you have horrible nightmares. Do you expect constant vigilance will improve that somehow?"
Hermione inhaled. "I think if we leave, I'll spend the rest of my life checking the windows to see if they're outside. If we stay and I see them being taken away to Azkaban, if I testify against them…the nightmares will go away."
"And if they do not?"
"Then they'll still in prison and unable to hurt us, and I can always ask Tibby to light a candle to read by."
Lucius had been aware he'd got rather fond of the girl. A part of him was horrified and appalled that a Malfoy was marrying a mudblood and always would be, but for himself, Lucius had stopped hating her long since.
He still wasn't prepared for the wash of warmth that overtook him as she said that. She still believed light could drive out darkness, and without quite meaning to he slid both arms about her and hugged hard.
Hermione hugged back. It was strangely comforting to know that he understood. He had been where she was, in certain ways, and if some of what he said and did was still repugnant, she grasped why he'd done it a little better.
Lucius thought of his son. He loved Draco more than any other person, and for his sake he had accepted the girl. His son had been through much and done things which would likely haunt him the rest of his life. The girl, too, had ghosts, and Lucius couldn't help but wonder how much of their bond was built on the dead; bodies they'd seen, bodies they'd made, the imperious guilt which the dead sometimes extract from the living who survived them.
"That night after the Ministry, he was still forcing you, wasn't he?"
Hermione felt herself going crimson. "I---"
"He never said as much, if you're wondering, but one guesses. You were moved even then to ease his sorrow." Lucius rubbed the girl's back comfortingly as he talked. "That, I believe, is the key to all this."
"The Dark Lord always said mercy was weakness, and yet He died while Potter lived. There's a lesson there, Hermione. Love can be as hurtful and corrupting as hate, but empathy, compassion for another's suffering…sometimes that's the strongest thing there is." He released her and they spoke of other things until the sky began to lightened. Footsteps sounded on the stairs and Draco stepped into sight.
"Granger, what the hell are you about? No, don't tell me, just get upstairs and straight back to bed before I wallop you until you can't sit for a m—morning, Father. You're looking well."
Lucius smirked. His wife joined them shortly after, and they sat in the tiny parlour. Suddenly Narcissa frowned. "Lucius?"
"Why is there a bag of sweets sitting out?"
"I'm sure I wouldn't know, love. Would you like one?" They each took a sweet and ate, thinking of offers made and answers given.