Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or any of its characters.
Chapter 4: Another Invitation
The next time Hermione visited Malfoy Manor, she was more at ease of facing Lucius Malfoy. Although the hostile feelings of the past has not vanished completely, the conversation that they had last time affirmed her belief that no one was purely good or evil; and she was willing to learn more about Lucius Malfoy's good side this time. She thought that was the first proper step of mending the current wizarding society that has been shattered into pieces by the War.
Lucius greeted her at the door and asked if she enjoyed the books she borrowed the last time. Hermione replied that she enjoyed them greatly and they headed to the library again. Lucius picked a book and sat on his favourite armchair to read, and Hermione began another tour of the Malfoy library, still in awe and delight of its scale and possessions. After she picked several new books, they both spent time reading without saying much to each other, and it soon became dinner time.
Dinner was splendid again, and all the house-elves except Tonka served their master's guest with all their heart. They were thrilled with the fact that there was another person to serve at the manor, and that their master was finally having a company after years of solitude.
"How are the Weasleys?" asked Lucius during the dinner. "I heard that Arthur Weasley got promoted." When Hermione affirmed the news, he added with a sneer, "Hmm, the Ministry must be in shortage of human resources." For some reason, however, Hermione did not catch the usual scornfulness in his tone.
"Mr. Weasley is a man of great talent and enthusiasm, which are the qualities that the Ministry is in need especially at this moment" said Hermione, and Lucius merely raised his eyebrow and kept his sneer.
"What happened to his kids? How many are there? Six? Seven?"
"Used to be seven…but…now six."
The look on Lucius' face almost seemed like that of sympathy, but Hermione was not too sure. To change the mood that went suddenly solemn, she began talking about the lighter news.
"But um, did you hear the news? George—you know, one of the twins—had a son two months ago. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley seemed very happy. All of us were, in fact. And Ginny—she's getting married to Harry next spring."
"Weasley has a grandson now?" said Lucius. "Ha…I never thought that I would ever envy Weasley…. A grandson…and his daughter getting married…." Then Lucius asked after a short pause, "What about you?"
"Me? What do you mean, sir?"
"You and Weasley's youngest son—are you getting married soon as well?"
"Oh, me and Ron—" Hermione's face stiffened a little bit. "Well, no—because we…um…broke up. We are not dating anymore."
"Oh, forgive me, I didn't know. But you two always seemed to be very well-matched," said Lucius in a curious voice.
"Well, relationships don't always work out as how they seem, Mr. Malfoy. We are just good friends now."
"Hmm, I always have a hard time believing that. In my opinion, you can never be friends with someone you loved. Someone you hated—maybe possible, but never the one you loved."
"If you succeeded in changing your perspective on blood status," said Hermione, "perhaps you could also change your view on that matter as well, don't you think so?" Yet her tone was not serious, and Lucius caught the wittiness in her voice and smiled amusedly.
"You are indeed a very smart witch, Miss Granger. No wonder you beat Draco in every exam."
Hermione laughed lightly at his comment but suddenly paused, realizing that he was mentioning his deceased son.
"Mr. Malfoy," said Hermione.
"Do you…miss them a lot?"
Lucius did not answer but instead stared deeply into her eyes. Hermione almost shivered when their eyes first met, but she soon recognized the deep emotions hidden behind his grey eyes.
"Miss them?" said Lucius. "Yes…I do miss them a lot…. Sometimes I can't believe that they are gone…. But I have only myself to blame for what happened. It was I who put them in the situation they were in…. As I said before, I made a wrong choice…."
"Aren't you…lonely at this house?"
"Lonely? No, never. This house is all I am left with. Here lived my family for generations and there is no better place for a Malfoy to live. I have all the books to read and Narcissa and Draco's portraits are here, too. So no, never lonely."
"But don't you think you should meet people? Go outside?" asked Hermione.
"Then what? Have people glare at me as if I am filth? I have no standing in the outside world anymore. Everything is lost to me now."
"People are not as unforgiving as you think, sir. They are quite forgetful, really. Plus, your wife saved Harry's life…"
"Which is the sole reason I could manage to stay out of prison. And it wasn't even my deed."
"You said people are not as unforgiving? I disagree, Miss Granger. People are forgetful, certainly, I agree with you on that. However, they are never forgiving, especially to someone like me, who reminds them of their past."
Hermione, not quite understanding what he means, looked at him for more explanation.
"People avoid me not because of what I have done, but because I remind them of what they have done. Not everyone stayed clean in the dark days, as you know, but people want to pretend as much as possible that they did. I present an obstacle to them because I hold them back from being forgetful and remind them of their conscience. That is why they will never forgive me."
There was a long silence that took place between them. Although she was not casting away her belief in humanity, Hermione could see where Lucius was coming from.
"How do you think about coming to my place, then?" asked Hermione all of a sudden. Lucius gave her a surprised stare. "I mean, you do need a bit of change in the environment, Mr. Malfoy. You can't live in solitude forever…."
"Miss Granger, the more I get to know you, the more you astonish me."
"What do you mean, sir?"
"No wonder you think people are forgiving…. Is this also because of your compassion? Do you pity me?"
"No, sir, I don't pity you. I just thought that…you might be…"
"…in need of friendship, perhaps."
There was a pause. Then Lucius broke into laughter. Hermione, feeling embarrassed, looked at him without knowing what she have done to make him laugh.
"Really, Miss Granger, you have a remarkable character. That is all I can say." Hermione was not quite sure if she should take that as a compliment or not.
Lucius stopped his laughter and straightened his face. Then he turned to Hermione and asked,
"What day do you want me to visit your house?"
A/N: I am updating this story much faster than I expected myself! I really enjoy writing this story:)
Thank you again for reading and reviewing. Hope you enjoy this story as much as I do.