Disclaimer: If I did own Lucius Malfoy, I would keep him locked in my room, sharing him with no one. Rowling is a much more generous woman than I, to say the least.
A/N: This acts as a sequel to "In Disguise", but is being posted separately, because I'd like for that fic to be able to stand alone for those who'd prefer it. I would suggest reading it first, otherwise you might be a bit confused. It's not too long, promise.
We're going to assume that the events of the 7th book played out pretty similarly to canon. Just go with it, okay? Awesome.
Fair warning, this fic contains…(wait for it)…PLOT. *cue ominous music* Only a little, though. Also, equally shocking…character development. *shudder* And of course smut. (but you were expecting that, weren't you?) Now you know what you're getting yourselves into. Proceed with caution.
In the Open
Hermione packed away the last of her things in the small beaded bag that'd seen her and the boys through the war. Looking into the mirror hanging in the Weasley entryway, she smoothed down a few fly-away curls and poked absently at a fading bruise across her cheek, fingered several small cuts, one on her lip, one on her chin. The angry red line on her throat, a souvenir from her time with Bellatrix, stood stark against the paleness of her skin. Her eyes looked sunken and a little hollow, her hair lank, and her clothes hung off her too-thin frame. She sighed.
"You look like you've just come from battle," the old mirror tsked at her.
Hermione gave it a wry smile while a voice carried down the nearby staircase. "She has." Harry walked out onto the landing, winding his arm around her shoulders. "And shut it, you, or you'll be the next casualty."
The mirror gave an indignant 'humph' as the two walked out into the front garden together.
"Hermione, are you sure you don't want me to come with you?"
She shook her head, but leaned into his embrace a bit more. "No, you're needed here. Besides, I think this is just something I'll have to do on my own, you know?"
Harry nodded. "Yeah, I think I do. But you've got the mirror, right?" He watched as Hermione pulled from her pocket the piece of enchanted mirror Aberforth salvaged from Grimmauld Place, now wrapped carefully in a bit of cloth. "I'll expect to hear from you at 4:00pm our time, every day that you're gone, or I'm coming after you and god help the bugger who gets in my way."
Hermione bit back a smile, secretly pleased by his protectiveness. It'd been less than a fortnight since the final battle, and she, Harry and Ron had hardly left each other's sight. Part of her wanted to stay a bit longer, put off retrieving her parents and restoring their memories, but she also knew she had to get away from all of the intermittent grieving and celebrating before she went mad. There was also the minor task of finding the Malfoys and sharing the good news, and she, being their secret keeper, was the only one who could do it.
"I'll keep my watch synched with yours so we don't miss each other. I'd hate for you to go all the way to Australia just because I'm having a kip."
"Yeah, well, I'm more worried about your trip to America, actually." Harry shot her a guarded look, one she felt uncomfortable returning.
"You shouldn't be. I'm sure everything will go smoothly."
He sighed, raking a hand through his hair nervously. "Look, Hermione, I've never really pressed this before because one, your business is your own, and two, we've had slightly bigger things on our plate since then, but with this trip coming up I have to ask. Did something happen between you and Malfoy?"
Hermione blushed furiously, knowing it was a dead giveaway and hating herself for it. "Why…erm…why would you think that, Harry?"
"I'd like to think I know you pretty well by now. You came back from Christmas break sixth year…I dunno, just different. Changed, somehow. And Ginny reckoned you'd met someone. And then you tell me you were with the Malfoys, and of course I can't tell anyone, and it all just sort of clicked. You know you can talk to me, right?"
She let out a heavy sigh, grateful when he tightened his hold around her shoulders. "I should have told you, I know, it's just that I feel so horrible about it, and at the same time not horrible at all. It's all very confusing."
Harry nodded, his patented "concerned and understanding" look firmly in place. "Well, I don't think you should feel horrible about it; I hate that you think you have to be ashamed of anything you've done. You're one of the best people I've ever known."
"You still think so, even knowing I did that with him?"
"Wait, what exactly did you do, anyway? Are we talking prolonged, secret love affair? Snogging in broom cupboards, what?"
"More like a tawdry one-off, or maybe it was more, or would have been if he hadn't left the next day. I don't know."
"So you actually, you know…" he made a vague, suggestive hand gesture, earning an awkward laugh.
"Yes. Twice, I think."
"Well, the second time might have been a dream, but I don't think so."
"Wow, okay. So you slept with Malfoy." The look on his face was slightly dazed, but not nearly as upset as she'd been expecting.
"You're really handling this news well. I'm a little shocked, actually."
"Yeah well, he's a bit of a bastard, but nothing to get too upset over."
"Well yes, but he's married, I mean—"
"Wait, what? You mean…holy…you had sex with Lucius Malfoy?" Harry's expression had quickly morphed from understanding to horrified, his own cheeks reddening while his bottle green eyes widened with shock.
"Merlin's sake, Harry, quiet down! And yes, who did you—oh, you thought I meant Draco?"
"Well, yeah, I thought you bloody well meant Draco!"
"Alright, alright calm down! I knew I shouldn't have said anything."
She made to pull away, but Harry slipped his arm firmly around her waist and, steering her away from the house, started walking. "I'm sorry, just, give me a minute. It's a lot to process."
"Tell me about it."
"So…wow. How the fuck did that happen?"
"I don't know, really. It was all shampoo and too much mead and snarky comments and him looking decidedly un-Lucius, and just…Ron and Lavender, and, and…"
"Okay, let's pretend for a minute that that made any sense." He sucked in a deep breath and held it, eyes trained on the horizon, jaw tight. "Did he…" He huffed out, and the hand on her hip was suddenly clenched tight in an angry fist. "Did he hurt you?"
"Oh, no, Harry, he didn't. He didn't force me either. Call it temporary insanity, but I actually wanted to."
Some of the tension drained from his shoulders, but his hand remained clenched. "Promise?"
She nodded. "I do. It was actually sort of fantastic. I mean—"
"Yeah, think I'll skip on the details, thanks."
They walked a bit in awkward silence, but gradually the flush faded from Harry's skin and his eyes stopped flashing in that way of his that was normally reserved for megalomaniacal Dark Lords.
"As for going to America, are you sure you should do this alone? I mean, what about Narcissa?"
"Oh, she knows. Don't ask—it was probably the most humiliating moment of my life, but somehow I don't think she was too upset about it. They both seem equally uninvested in their marriage."
"Well that's comforting."
"Hm. Don't misunderstand, it's going to be unbelievably awkward, but I think I just need to face them now, get it over with while my mind is still occupied with more important matters."
"Yeah, I guess. Merlin."
"When's your portkey set to leave?"
Hermione checked her watch, an old muggle piece of her mother's she adored. "About 27 minutes."
"Well, best say bye to everyone, then."
"Harry, could you please not mention this to anyone, especially Ron?"
"Are you joking? I love him, I do, but Ron's definitely a bit of a "kill the messenger" type. And I like all my bits right where they are, thanks. No, if you want anyone to know, it'll be up to you to tell them, deal?"
"Anytime. Just…be careful will Malfoy, alright? I don't trust that man, don't know if I ever could."
"I know exactly how you feel." And that, she thought, was only half the problem.
Hermione's portkey touched down in a meadow off a small, country lane, shielded on three sides by a light wood. Consulting the map she'd stuffed in her back pocket and using the sun's position to get her bearings, she made her way to the unpaved road, turning west and away from the nearby town.
Her walk was pleasant, with perfect May weather and just the lightest of breezes. The countryside around her was coming to life with blooming wildflowers and trees filled with spring-green leaves. She found herself grateful for the walk, having presented the perfect opportunity for calming her over-wrought nerves. Bad enough was overcoming the traumas of the previous year, learning not to go for her wand at every little sound or cast protective enchantments everywhere she went. But now she was dealing with nerves of an entirely different kind. But then, the air was so clean, the country so lush and peaceful, that she found herself forgetting what lay ahead, even if only for a moment.
So, when she finally approached the house and all those anxieties came flooding back, the shock of it nearly made her heart leap out of her chest. Still, stealing her nerves, she approached the door and summoned the courage to knock.
Footsteps, heals on hardwood floors (a sound that would, until the day she died, remind her of her mother), and the door opened on Narcissa Malfoy. Her blue eyes were blank for all of a second until recognition hit her like a sledge hammer. She gasped quietly, looked around behind Hermione, and then ushered her in wordlessly.
Narcissa led Hermione to a light and airy kitchen, where she quietly put a kettle on and pulled out a chair at the small, square table there. Hermione followed suit, and the two women regarded one another while the air between them filled with an almost palpable tension.
Hermione was the first to break the silence, her soft voice sounding obscenely loud in the little house. "How are you?"
"F-fine, we're fine. Lucius and Draco have just gone into town, they should be back within the hour."
Hermione nodded and retrieved her bag, opening it on her lap and fishing out several copies of the Daily Prophet. She set them on the table in front of Narcissa, fingers trembling slightly. "It's over. Voldemort's dead."
Narcissa stared numbly at the paper's headlines, face pale and still.
"He won't be coming back this time; we've made sure of it."
"Hermione…" Narcissa paused, waiting until Hermione met her eyes. "Are you alright?"
She smiled wanly. "As well as can be expected. Better than I look, at any rate."
Narcissa nodded and rose to fetch the whistling kettle, pouring a cup of tea for herself and one for Hermione. "I'm sure you've lots to tell, but that can wait for Draco and Lucius."
At the second mention of the elder Malfoy, Hermione's gut twisted, and she knew she had to say something or she'd go mad. "Mrs. Malfoy, I can't begin to apo—"
Narcissa cut her off with a gentle hand on hers. "Did you know, Hermione, that Lucius and I have not shared a bed since Draco was born?" Hermione just looked up at the older woman, trying to read her gentle expression.
Narcissa paused, slowly and meticulously doctoring her tea with cream and sugar, before speaking again. "We married, as was expected, and produced a pureblood heir, male, as was also expected, but there was never any real love between us. There was affection, for a time, but the war managed to stamp that out as well."
She gave a sad little smile, and it was Hermione this time who reached out. "Then why, why stay together? Why not divorce?"
"Because, dear child, it simply was not done. The old pureblood families, well, we have very strict guidelines by which we live our lives. Of course, that's all changed, now. The old regime has crumbled, and those expectations don't matter so much anymore."
"So that's why you weren't angry."
Narcissa nodded, her eyes drifting a bit to the side, suddenly far away. "We've both had our little dalliances from time to time—some lasted longer than others. Some…mattered. But I've never begrudged him the quest for comfort or affection in the arms of another, nor him me. Discretion was the number one rule, and all the others didn't matter so much."
"Well, I appreciate you telling me this, but I still feel horrible about all of it."
The smile she gave Hermione then was that same amused smile she'd worn the morning they left England. "I know you do. I knew you would as soon as it happened. You're not the kind of girl to take such things lightly."
Hermione nodded, and the two sat in comfortable silence, sipping their tea until the sounds of boots on the porch outside the front door roused both their wandering thoughts. Hermione paled, and Narcissa squeezed her hand once, reassuringly, and then called the men back to the kitchen.
Draco entered first, freezing midstep when he spotted Hermione. His grey eyes, so like his father's, darted from her bruised and battered face to the papers lying on the table, and then back again.
"He did it." He sounded awed, his eyes going wide as Hermione nodded slowly.
"Who did wha—" Lucius trailed off as he stepped into the room behind Draco, taking in the eerily quiet scene. Unlike Draco, when his eyes landed on Hermione, they stayed there, carefully taking in every detail of her appearance, and inadvertently making her want to hide beneath the table like a self-conscious child.
Draco moved to take one of the papers, frantically scanning the large cover story and breaking the trance-like hold on the room. Hermione turned to her bag again, summoning a bit of rolled parchment with an official Ministry seal and an unobtrusive looking paper weight.
"Kingsley Shacklebolt is acting Minister and has granted all three of you clemency, these are the documents." She set the scroll on the table top. "This," she held up the paperweight, "is your portkey. It is ready to be activated whenever—if ever you choose to return to Britain. It should take you just outside your property's boundaries in Wiltshire."
Hermione noted the way Narcissa seemed to glow at the mention of returning home, and suddenly remembered her one and only visit to Malfoy Manor. "You should know, Voldemort continued to use your manor as Head Quarters after you left. There is considerable damage, but nothing irreversible."
"You've seen it?" Draco asked, taking a seat between his mother and Hermione.
Hermione cleared her throat, suppressing a shudder and locking her eyes on the bag in her lap. "Yes."
Narcissa's focus snapped back on Hermione. "But if that was Death Eater Head Quarters, then how did you…or did you go after it was finished?"
"No, it was still…we, um, the three of us…we were involuntary guests for a short period of time."
Draco eyed her with something like respect. "And you escaped? Alive?"
She offered a tired smile back at him. "Just one of several scenarios we shouldn't have survived, but did. I guess fate was on our side, if you believe in such things."
"Well, don't take this the wrong way, Granger, but you look like hell. I'd say, fate or no, you've had a pretty rough time of it."
She smiled a real smile then, oddly grateful for the return of Draco's disdainful sneer. "It's been a difficult year. At any rate, it's over. Voldemort is gone for good, and his followers are either dead or in Azkaban awaiting trial. You'll find a full list of casualties in that paper, there, so please don't ask me. I've been to more funerals in the last 10 days…" She shook her head, catching sight of Lucius still standing stock still in the doorway, watching her.
"Of course." Narcissa looked from her husband to Hermione. "Draco, why don't you join me in the drawing room and we can look over these together."
Draco looked up at his father, furrowed his brow a bit, but followed wordlessly after Narcissa, pulling the door closed behind him.
Hermione, for the life of her, could not summon the courage to look at Lucius. Escape Gringotts on the back of a dragon? Sure. Lie in the face of unbearable torture? No problem. Look the married man to whom she gave her virginity in the eye in a warm, sunny kitchen? Not going to happen.
She didn't hear him approach (she never did, damn his silent movements), but suddenly he was pulling her chair out and turning it until her legs faced away from the table. She jumped and clung tight to the edge of her seat, but he simply kneeled in front of her and took her chin gently between his thumb and forefinger.
She closed her eyes, trying and failing to control her trembling as he turned her head slowly one way, then the other. She felt his fingers ghosting over her injuries as though cataloguing each one. He picked up her hands, next, thumbs sliding over burns from the heated gold in the Lestranges' vault, as well as a number of cuts and bruises from god only knows where.
When he'd finished, he stayed there, her hands still clasped in his, for a moment before murmuring, "Open your eyes, Hermione."
She shook her head, hating herself when a tear slipped through her closed lids. The next thing she knew, he was drawing her into a soft embrace, tucking her head beneath his chin and scooping one hand under her legs then lifting, turning so that he was now seated with her curled in his lap. He wrapped both arms snuggly around her and she cried, shook with sobs as he smoothed her lank and lifeless hair, breath deep and calming against the top of her head.
Some time later, Hermione and Lucius joined Narcissa and Draco in the drawing room. Neither mentioned what must have been a fairly audible breakdown, but Narcissa's expression was gentler than Hermione had ever seen it, and Draco looked distinctly uncomfortable.
"Hermione dear, would you like to lie down for a while? Have you time for a rest, or are you heading back to England straight away?"
"Oh, no…" Hermione shook her head. "Actually, I have to get to Australia, but considering that it's, oh…about two in the morning there, I should probably wait a few hours. But I could go into town for a bit, I know you've loads to do—"
Narcissa waved her hand dismissively. "No, don't be silly, you're welcome to stay here. But why, if I may ask, Australia?"
"Well, my parents are there. I, um…modified their memories. Changed their names, made them forget about me and want to move to Australia. So they'd be safe."
"And you're going to find them and restore their memories now?"
Draco looked more than a little shocked, his blond eyebrows raised incredulously. "Have you ever restored obliviated memories before?"
Hermione studied her hands nervously. "Not of this magnitude, no. I've been studying and practicing, though, and I'm certain I can do it."
Lucius spoke up then, his voice a bit of a shock to her after so much silence from him. "And you're going to them now, like this?" He gestured vaguely at her. Hermione nodded slowly, and Lucius and Narcissa exchanged worried glances.
Narcissa folded her hands primly in her lap. "It's just that you're going to be, essentially, giving them something very shocking and difficult to deal with, and you showing up looking like…well, like you've spent the last year being starved, beaten and tortured is only going to make it that much more traumatic for them."
Hermione felt her stomach lurch. "Oh." How had she not thought of this before? "Of course, you're right, I hadn't even thought of that. I'm sure, once their memories are restored, that my appearance would be quite…alarming. I guess I was just so eager to get away from everything that I hadn't really thought things through."
Narcissa suddenly smiled a bright, cheerful, and slightly worrying smile. "I've just had the most wonderful idea! You see, Draco and I were just discussing how anxious we were to get back home, but it's going to take a little bit of time to get our affairs settled here. So, I propose that we go back to Wiltshire, the sooner the better, and you stay here for a bit, rest up and all that. Of course, Lucius will have to stay behind to take care of things, but the house is more than big enough for the both of you, don't you think?"
Draco sputtered at his mother, a faint pink tingeing his otherwise pale cheeks. "You're not—"
"I think that's a superb idea, Cissa." Lucius drawled, his face the very picture of innocence, but still filling Hermione with an emotion she tried very hard to convince herself was dread.
"Oh, no really, that's very generous of you, but I couldn't possibly…"
"Nonsense, I insist." Narcissa set her face in lines of seemingly friendly determination. "You simply can't go to your parents as you are now, and you said yourself you need some space from everything happening back home, this is the best solution—the only solution, really."
"Mother, have you gone completely mental?"
"Draco." Lucius cast his son a warning look, the don't use that tone with her implied in the stern set of his brow.
Hermione shook her head, desperately grappling for words. "No, he's right. It would be completely inappropriate. I couldn't possibly—"
"Of course you could." Lucius drawled silkily. "I could promise to give you all the space you need, if that would help." As Hermione's expression remained slightly panicked, Lucius offered a wicked grin. "Are you really so frightened of me?"
Hermione huffed, sputtered, and crossed her arms over her chest defensively, suddenly irked despite her panic. "No, I'm not, thanks. I'd like to think that I can handle myself after everything I've been through this year."
"Excellent," Narcissa clapped her hands together. "Then it's settled. Hermione, you'll stay here and rest up, Lucius will settle the affairs, and Draco and I can be on our way this evening." Hermione and Draco both dropped their jaws, ready to protest, but Narcissa stood up, motioning Lucius into the kitchen. "Lucius, come help me ready dinner, and Draco, stop gawping, it's unattractive."
Draco closed his mouth with a snap and crossed his arms sullenly over his chest, glaring at Hermione with familiar disdain. "I'm not calling you 'mum.'"
"Oh, God!" Hermione buried her suddenly beet-red face in her hands, while Lucius' deep chuckle floated in from the kitchen.
Three hours later, they were gone, Narcissa with a mischievous smile and a whispered, "Trust me, this will be good for you—for the both of you," and Draco with an uncomfortably resigned salute, leaving Hermione standing awkwardly across the room from Lucius, who stood stock still, watching her silently.
"I've got to…just…" and with that little gem of eloquence, she raced up the stairs to Narcissa's vacated room. She curled up on the bed there, taking the mirror out of her pocket and unwrapping it carefully. It was still only half past three back in Britain, though the sun had long since set over New England, and she knew she had another half hour before Harry would contact her, but, feeling quite lonely all of a sudden, she stroked the mirror's surface once, whispered "Harry" and he appeared.
"Hermione! I was hoping you'd call early. How did it go? Where are you staying? What did the Malfoys say when you gave them the news? Are they coming back to England?"
"Goodness, Harry, give me a minute! Let me think…it went surprisingly well, actually. They were relieved and yes, Narcissa and Draco just headed back to Wiltshire a few moments ago."
"Okay, what about Lucius? And you didn't tell me where you're staying. You didn't go on to Australia already, did you?"
"No, I haven't. I'm…I'm actually still at the house they've been staying in."
"With Lucius." Harry's face went carefully blank, a sure sign he was getting ready to plot a rescue mission or at least break something in the near future.
"Well not with with Lucius, but he is still here, yes. Apparently they have some things to take care of here before they could all leave."
"Harry, this wasn't my idea, but it makes sense. Narcissa pointed out that if I showed up at my parents' looking like this," she gestured vaguely at her gaunt and battered face, "they'd only be more upset. So I'm going to wait until I'm looking and feeling a little better."
"Okay, fine, so come home. Let Mrs. Weasley feed you eight times a day and draw you murtlap baths every night."
"Molly has enough on her plate right now. I know she wants the distraction, but keeping her insanely busy is not going to get her through her grief—it's just going to delay it. And Harry, I just can't go back there right now. I'm sorry, you know I love you, but it's all just too much."
Harry sighed his exasperation, running his hand through already messy hair. "So you're staying there. With Malfoy."
"It looks that way, yes."
"Alright, I'm officially suspicious. Tell me something only the real Hermione would know."
"Nope, tell me something, or I'm coming after you, hexing first and asking questions later."
Hermione let out a fond sigh. "Alright, let me think…okay. Your parents' grave in Godric Hollow? The inscription on their headstone said "And the last enemy that shall be destroyed is Death," and you thought that sounded like a Death Eater sort of thing."
"Alright, yes, but—"
"I'm not finished. I was going to say that I think, after what happened in the forest the night of the battle, I think you might understand what that means a little bit better."
"Oh." Harry looked away, thoughtful. When he looked back, there was relief and affection in his eyes. "Yeah, I guess that'll do."
"So you're not going to be blasting down the door here anytime soon?"
"Not just yet. Say the word, though…"
Hermione laughed, suddenly amazed at how much better she felt. "Yeah, thanks. So, um, what are you going to tell the others when they ask about me?"
Harry thought a moment. "I guess that you're taking a short holiday in America. I just won't mention who you're taking it with."
"Merlin, Harry, I'm not on holiday with bloody Lucius. In fact, I plan to avoid him as much as possible."
"That's the smartest thing you've said all day." He smiled then, an honest and open Harry smile, and it filled her with warmth. "Get some sleep, Hermione. I'll talk to you tomorrow, alright?"
"Alright. Love you, Harry."
"Love you, too. Sweet dreams."
Harry's face in the broken mirror faded into her own, and Hermione sighed, toed her shoes off, and pulled the throw up from the foot of the bed, falling quickly and easily asleep.
Hermione startled awake, breath coming fast and shallow, heart racing, palms sweating. The deranged face of Bellatrix Lestrange leered at her behind closed lids, that shrill, grating laugh ringing in her ears. Tucking her face into her pillow, she fought back a sob.
A warm hand settled on her shoulder, smoothing down her arm in a (no doubt meant to be) comforting gesture. She jerked and rolled away from the contact, letting loose a spectacular shriek.
"Holy sweet mother of Merlin! Just what the hell do you think you're doing? Are you trying to give me a heart attack?"
Lucius ignored her outburst and lay casually on his side, head propped on his fist watching her for several long moments while her breathing returned to normal. "So." He paused, seeming completely relaxed and intent on ignoring the panic attack he'd just given her. "You're avoiding me?"
"What? You—were you listening in on my conversation?" She hissed, narrowing her eyes in a manner that would have had Ron and Harry running for cover, but which he dismissed without batting an eye.
"I heard voices, I was concerned. Don't change the subject."
"Not until you answer my question."
"Yes, I was bloody well avoiding you—rather unsuccessfully, it seems! And if you think my being here means you can let yourself in and out of my bed whenever you like—"
"Oh, calm down. I see you're just as high strung as ever. If it's that much of a bother to you, I'll go."
"Yes, you do that."
"Good." Hermione waited a moment, but when he still made no move to leave the bed, she huffed angrily and started to roll out of it herself. He caught her with an arm around her waist, rolling her back into place.
"Oh alright, I'm going. Merlin, woman, you are difficult."
Hermione had nothing to say to that, feeling indignant at his blasé attitude and still horribly shocked at finding him in her bed in the middle of the night. It just didn't make any sense—it's not like he was in there trying to seduce her, he was just watching her sleep. And trying to talk to her, it seemed. This raised a whole new volley of questions, the first of which popped right out of her mouth without permission, just as he opened the bedroom door to leave.
"Doesn't it matter to you anymore? The whole blood status thing?"
Lucius curled his lip in a sardonic smile. "Azkaban has a way of changing a man's perspective on life. Let's just leave it at that, shall we?"
Well, if that wasn't just a horribly vague answer… "But—"
And then he closed the door, pitching the room into silence and darkness once again. But for all her weariness, for all her much-needed quiet, Hermione never did get to sleep again that night.
She finally drug herself out of bed just after dawn, feeling tired and irritable and ready to hex a certain formerly-blond male for disturbing her sleep. She made her way downstairs, fixed a cup of tea and took it out onto the back patio, settling in a low, garden chair in the sun. She closed her eyes, soaking in the weak rays and the soothing silence, the kind only ever found in the country, the kind of silence that seems to stretch forever around you. Setting her half-empty teacup in the grass beside her, she quietly watched a robin building its nest in a nearby tree. The fetch, deliver, tuck rhythm of it soon lulled her into a light doze, and then a heavy sleep.
She opened her eyes a while later to find the sun hanging high in the sky, feeling almost too warm beneath a light green throw draped over her. She stiffened, twisting in her seat to look around her, but she was alone. Trying to crush the feeling of paranoia, she stretched and rose from her chair, heading back into the house and bracing herself to see him there. But, of course, he was gone. He seemed to be one of those infuriating people who only ever turned up when you weren't expecting them. Being caught repeatedly unprepared was starting to give her a complex.
She spent a lazy hour making and eating lunch, just enjoying the quiet and quite determinedly not thinking about anything important. She was at the sink, cleaning up after her meal when Lucius silently reentered the house.
He stood in the kitchen doorway, watching Hermione work at a sink filled with dirty dishes. She seemed so lost in the moment, caught up in the soap, scrub, rinse, scrub routine of it, that she never heard him approach her. Not that she ever did, the poor girl. He stood over her shoulder, studying her thin, battered arms as they dipped beneath the soapy surface and reappeared, dotted with lily-white suds.
"What is it with you and these tedious, muggle habits of yours?"
Hermione flinched at his voice, every muscle in her body going tight, her wand hand jerking automatically to her waist until, with a deep, practiced breath, she loosened up again, continuing her washing without turning around.
"It's just how I like to do things."
"Yes, but you want so much to be considered a witch, you try so hard to make a place for yourself in the magical world, and then you insist on behaving like a muggle. It baffles me."
Hermione bit back her anger, trying to recognize the blunt honesty in his words, not meant to hurt, just a statement of fact. "It's how I was raised—I find it calming. It has nothing to do with my magical ability. It is separate. Maybe you can't understand that, but you don't have to be rude about it."
"I want to understand."
"Well maybe you should try a little harder, then." She snapped. The kitchen was so silent behind her that she thought he might have left and was just considering turning around to make sure when he stepped up close behind her, his arms coming around her and into the basin of water.
"What are you doing?"
He smoothed his hands down her arms until they lay mirrored over each of hers, just resting. "Show me how you do it."
Hermione, stunned, seemed frozen until he leaned into her a touch more, his chest now just brushing against her back. She shuddered lightly, picked up a plate, and began to wash it, slowly and methodically. His hands followed her every movement, thumbs smoothing barely-there circles against her wet, over-heated skin, breath tickling the hairs on the back of her head. Several dishes later, he moved forward just so, gently pressing the length of his body against hers, his hands circling her wrists and sliding up, trailing warm, sudsy water on their way up her arms to her shoulders.
She closed her eyes, leaning back into him as he trailed a hand across from one shoulder to the other, thumb tracing the line of her clavicle, pinky just grazing the tops of her breasts. Her thin, white shirt was now sticking to her skin in damp spots, turning translucent and heavy. Lucius let this hand dip beneath the neckline of her shirt, gliding down to cup her breast over her bra, slipping his thumb beneath the thin material to tease at her nipple. His other hand he moved to her waist, sliding it around to her stomach, her hips, and down to the tops of her thighs, thumb teasing at the hem of her shorts, inching nearer to the inside of her thigh.
"Hermione…" His voice was a whisper, low and smooth against her ear, and she shuddered again at the sound of it. "Tell me no. Stop. Don't."
He kneaded her breast with this last command, and she bit her lip hard, choked back a sob. For all she knew she should do as he said, she couldn't—or maybe she just didn't want to. That was somehow worse; this obsession of hers had moved beyond mead and hormones, feeling insecure or jealous. She wanted him, for no other reason than just wanting him, and she felt afraid and alive and disgusted with herself.
"You can say no," he pressed his lips against the sensitive skin behind her ear, "it's alright."
His hand was already circling back around her thigh when she suddenly caught it with her own, sliding it back and pressing, until his fingers were curling around, cupping her sex. He let loose a low growl, deep in his chest, and then moved both hands to her waist, releasing the clasp of her shorts with alarming speed and dragging, kneeling behind her and dragging her shorts down her legs, followed closely by her knickers.
Hermione clasped the rim of the sink desperately, feeling exhilarated and dizzy and horribly (wonderfully) exposed, snapping her eyes shut with a gasp as his mouth landed against the side of her arse, dragged across (all teeth and tongue and soft, soft lips) to her hip, nipping at the too-sharp jut of bone there before standing up again, pressing himself firmly now against her body.
She let go of the sink, reaching behind her to grasp at him, anywhere, everywhere, but his hands whipped out, catching her wrists and directing them back to the countertop with a pressure and a clear, unspoken command to stay. And she did, she held on tight while his arms circled her again, grasping again her breasts and the now uncovered juncture of her thighs. Lowering his head, he licked and sucked and bit at her neck while his hands worked against her, teasing and stroking, pinching and circling until she drooped forward, leaning against the counter while her knees trembled and shook.
Lucius brought her to the brink of climax and then retreated, earning a desperate sob from Hermione that cut off with a gasp as he positioned the head of his cock against her, pausing only to take a firm hold of her hip before driving forward, filling her from behind in one smooth thrust. She cried out, her denied orgasm now wracking her body with tremors. Lucius tightened his hold on her hip with a grip sure to bruise, practicing the restraint of an experienced lover with gentle thrusts while her body rode out its release.
She was panting hard, a jumbled chant of "oh God, Oh Lucius, please…" over and over as she came down from her high, but he gave her no chance to recuperate, instead picking up a fast and almost brutal rhythm, filling her again and again while her tortured, over-stimulated nerves rose and crescendoed into a second climax, almost painful in its intensity. Lucius huddled over her, pulling her flush against him as her tight little body flexed and spasmed around him, drawing his own orgasm deep inside her with a heavy groan.
A moment later, as they caught their breaths, he withdrew from her and slumped to the floor, pulling her down to sit on his lap, head drooped sleepily against his shoulder.
She lazily craned her head back so she could see his face, eyes closed, cheeks flushed. Hermione reached up, combing her fingers through the short, dark locks of hair at the back of his head. "Your hair…"
"Hm, what about it?"
"You didn't change it. You must've had to cut and color it many times over the last year and a half. I'm just…surprised."
"Yes, well. There's this cheeky little witch I know who seems to like it better this way. Seemed to be worth the trouble."
Hermione allowed herself an enormously self-satisfied grin before turning her head to lay a soft kiss against the stubble-roughened skin of his neck. He quirked a stoic eyebrow at her and then tilted her head back and kissed her properly.
Lucius, as he had every night since her arrival nearly a week prior, slid noiselessly into her bed late in the night, curling a possessive arm around her and pulling her close. She turned into the embrace, resting her cheek against his chest.
"Alright, that's it. I have to know—how do you move about so quietly?"
Lucius smirked at her petulant tone. "That really bothers you, doesn't it?"
"As a matter of fact, yes, it does. I'd like to think I'm a fairly observant person, but I never hear you enter a room, or slide into bed, or anything. How is that possible?"
He smiled a secretive sort of smile and inched closer, twisting a strand of her hair around his finger. "Promise not to tell?" Hermione nodded eagerly and he leaned in to whisper against her ear, "Silencing charm. All of my clothes and shoes are constructed with the spell woven in."
Hermione grinned, shoving his chest playfully. "You absolute bastard."
He chuckled softly. "Now you know."
"Now I know." She snuggled into his bare chest breathing in deep the dark, spicy smell of him.
"You know, the bed in my room is much larger."
"Hm. How nice for you."
"Are you being deliberately obtuse, Hermione? Because I have to say, it's not a good look on you."
"I'll try to remember that, thanks."
A moment's silence had him turning her chin up to meet his eyes in the dark. "Move into my room."
She let out a sigh. "I would, it's just that…I like the system that we already have."
"And why is that?"
"Probably for the same reason you tell me to say no every time we're together—I like that you're making a conscious decision to be with me. I like being chosen."
He was silent a moment, considering her words. "Are you concerned I'm going to stop choosing you at some point?"
She tucked her head down a bit, nervously avoiding his gaze. "It seems inevitable, doesn't it? Sooner or later, I'm going to have to go and see about my parents. Then I—we will be back in Britain."
"And you'll go back to being you, a very much married you, and I'll go back to being that muggleborn friend of Harry Potter."
"Well the married part can be solved easily enough—we've had the papers drawn up for ages, all it needs is my signature once I'm back in London. But of course, I'll still be me, whatever that means."
"Honestly, Lucius, can you really see yourself continuing on with this…whatever this is, back in England? Openly? What would people say—Lucius Malfoy shacking up with a mudblood half his age, I'm sure that'd go over really well."
"I'm not overly concerned with the things people say; I sort of threw that out the window when I sold out the Death Eaters and went into hiding. I don't expect to win any popularity contests with my old crowd anytime soon." His voice was turning gradually colder, a sure yet subtle sign he was more upset than he was letting on. "But you, on the other hand, you have quite a reputation to uphold. I can understand your concerns about losing the public's affection."
"That's not even—don't try and turn this around on me!"
"Yes, of course not. I'm only the one making every single effort, tirelessly pursuing you since you arrived. How could I be so stupid as to think you'd actually realized my intentions? Of course, I'm just shagging you because it's convenient, it's not like it means anything. How could it, to a man like me?"
"Alright, just stop, I didn't say any of that. But you can't expect me to know what you're thinking or why you do the things you do when you never talk about any it!"
"What is there to talk about? Clearly this isn't going to continue once we're back in Britain, so what's the point?"
"Do you want this to continue?"
And that was the question, wasn't it? She'd been so busy assuming he didn't want it, that she hadn't taken the time to consider what she wanted. She sat there, mouth working noiselessly, while Lucius stared icily back at her.
"From the beginning, I've given you every opportunity to end this. Now is no different. It seems that ultimately, the decision lies with you, Hermione. So what do you want?"
"I…I don't know. I never—I just assumed you would lose interest when we got back. I never thought you really wanted me."
"Well clearly that's not the case. It seems you have some thinking to do." He pulled away, getting out of bed and heading for the door. Hermione tried to call out to him, ask him to stay, but the words stuck in her throat. "If you ever make up your mind, you know where to find me."
She sat there in the dark for more than an hour, feeling hollow and cold. She'd been surprised to find herself crying, surprised at how affected she was by it all. It wasn't supposed to mean anything, it was just sex, wasn't it? Clearly not to him and, judging by the now-drying tracks of tears down her face and neck, not for her, either. She wasn't sure when the shift had happened, or perhaps it never had to happen, perhaps this was something more from the start. She didn't know, and she found she didn't care, she just wanted with an intensity that was new and frightening to her.
She replayed his words again, and suddenly she knew what she had to do.
The door to Lucius' bedroom creaked open, spilling the dim candlelight from the hall into the unfamiliar space and allowing Hermione to find the bed in the darkness. She could just make him out, reclined on his back, hands linked behind his head. His eyes glinted faintly and she knew he was awake, watching her approach.
Hermione climbed atop the admittedly much larger bed, crawling timidly to his side. She was grateful for his continued silence, even as she straddled his hips, leaning in to press a soft kiss against his forehead, his eyelids, cheeks, nose, ear, neck…on down to his bare chest and further, laying soft, lingering kisses as she learned his body with her hands, her eyes, her mouth.
She reached his navel, dipped her tongue inside and felt a twitch from his hardening cock, now pressed beneath her breasts. Her hands shook with nervous energy as she knelt over him and removed his black silk pajama trousers, and then smoothed her hands back up the length of his legs to his hips. She pressed against them, pinning him to the mattress as she leaned in and licked a long, slow stripe up the length of his cock, flicking her tongue over the head experimentally.
Lucius groaned low in his throat, threaded the fingers of one hand through her messy curls, and placed the other over her hand on his hip, curling his fingers around her delicate wrist. Hermione looked up at him through her lashes, smiled a small, nervous smile, and took the head of his cock into her mouth, sucking gently. His hips jerked minutely, fingers tightening in her hair as she lowered her head, taking more of his length into her.
She set an easy pace, alternating strokes of her tongue and gentle suction, eventually moving the hand not pinned beneath Lucius' to wrap around the base of his cock, stroking in time with her movements. Lucius guided her rhythm with gentle tugs on her hair, speeding her tempo as he neared release.
He was gasping, hips bucking despite his attempts at control, when he tried to pull her back, moaning her name in warning. Hermione simply looked up, locking her eyes with his, and then slid down, forcing his cock deeper than she'd managed before, and swallowed hard. Lucius came with her name on his lips, filling her mouth with a bitter, salty warmth that she did her best to swallow down.
She could feel it dripping down towards her chin as she sat up and, not noticing Lucius' eyes locked heatedly on her, she darted her tongue out, licking the excess liquid from her lips.
Lucius moaned, low in his chest, and then reached out to her, pulling her down to him for a deep, searching kiss. His strong arms around her kept her pinned to his chest, bare legs entwined with his, while their breathing slowed. Hermione finally broke the kiss, inching down to rest her head against his chest while he stroked her hair and the smooth skin of her back.
"I take it you're no longer undecided, then."
Hermione smiled at the deep rumbling against her ear, fingers toying with the pale hairs on his chest. "No, I know what I want. It makes absolutely no sense, and I have no idea how we're going to make this work, but still."
"I don't think it'll be nearly as complicated as you think. We've done alright this past week, have we not?"
"Yes, but everything will be different once we're back home."
"Well, for one, I don't ever want to go back to your manor. Ever."
Lucius was quiet a moment as he digested this information. "That…shouldn't be a problem. I have a townhouse in the city, I can move in there. The house really belongs to Draco now, anyway."
Hermione relaxed a little further into his arms. "Thank you."
"Are you ever going to tell me what happened there?"
Hermione shuddered lightly, prompting him to tighten his hold on her. "Bellatrix."
"Ah." Lucius' voice turned cold then, cold enough to freeze her blood, had his anger been directed at her. "I saw her name on the list of casualties. Who took her out?"
"Molly Weasley. She was absolutely brilliant."
"Hm, I shall have to express my gratitude."
Hermione paused, trying to imagine a friendly interaction between Lucius and the matronly witch, but failing to come up with anything even remotely realistic. "She's been like a mother to me, Lucius. She won't be happy about this, about us, but if you're cruel to her, I won't forgive you."
Lucius was quiet a moment. "Understood."
She placed a kiss against his breastbone, her hands now wandering idly, tracing patterns against his arms, sides, hips. She could feel him growing hard against her, and when he spoke again, his voice was breathier than before, tinged with arousal. "That's really your main concern, isn't it? What your friends will say."
"I very much doubt the news will go over well."
Lucius hummed his agreement, craning his neck down to brush a kiss against her hair. "They'll get over it."
His hands smoothed down her back to grasp her arse, pulling gently until his cock lay nestled between her legs. She moved her leg over his so that she lay straddling him and then pushed herself up to a sitting position, pulling her shirt up and over her head. Lucius looked pointedly down, quirking a brow at her absent knickers. She blushed, but gave him a defiant sort of look. It was simply logical not to wear knickers to bed these days. He ran his hands up her sides to fondle her breasts, while she lifted herself, positioning the head of his cock against her slick entrance.
Lucius hands took firm hold of her hips, guiding her down and then up again, showing her how to ride him. Hermione's breath hitched at the unfamiliar angle, the feeling of being on display for the man beneath her, and the heady power of controlling his pleasure so completely.
Lucius never gave her an out, and she never asked for one. From that night on, they came to each other willingly and without reservation. No disguises, no excuses. Just them, in the open.