This is the story I wrote for the last LMHG fic exchange on Live Journal. I'd forgotten to move it over here. It's six chapters long and all ready to go, so I will be posting it over the coming week in its entirety. And it does not have a tragic ending. Just sayin'. (Although I would advise caution if you are a Draco fan.) Also, this is not a long, deeply analytical tale. I wrote it quickly and never intended it to be long and soul-searching.
The original prompt asked for Hermione to be assigned Lucius in a community service programme. This is my interpretation of that. It's a love triangle. It was good to include Draco in more depth for once. ;-)
There had been rumbling rumours in the Ministry for weeks before the memo at last appeared.
Hermione had insider knowledge of its imminent arrival, but even she ignored the reality of what it meant for her.
But finally, when an owl dropped an official memorandum signed by the Minister himself on her desk, she had to acknowledge it.
She reached for the note and unfolded it reluctantly. Sighing, she read gloomily:
'After careful discussion with the Wizarding Reform Agency, the Governor of Azkaban Prison, and community representatives across the country, it has been decided that wizards and witches formerly in direct service to the dark wizard Voldemort (commonly known as 'Death Eaters') will be offered a choice of rehabilitation.
A sentence in Azkaban has previously been passed on all such 'Death Eaters', but the Ministry hereby instates a ruling of preferential community service. These persons will no longer serve an automatic sentence in Azkaban, unless they so choose. Instead, they will be assigned to a witch or wizard who was loyal to the opposing side during the war. Under the guidance and mentoring of this guardian witch or wizard they will be instructed in rehabilitative processes designed to reform and improve their reasoning and beliefs.
If this proves successful they will be spared Azkaban. If not, their original sentence will stand.
If you were an active participant in the fight against Lord Voldemort, you will shortly be receiving notification of the person (former 'Death Eater') you will be mentoring.
Exempt from this ruling are Aurors and Ministry officials beyond Amber Level.
Minister for Magic.'
Hermione tossed the memo dismissively across her desk. She was not an Auror, unlike Harry and Ron, and she was only an official on Maroon level, one below Amber. The very thought of 'preferential community service' filled her with dread. She couldn't think of a single Death Eater she had any wish to see again.
Her mind throbbed with the possibilities of who she may be assigned: Rodolphus Lestrange? Dolores Umbridge? Yaxley?
She let her head slump into her hands, pulling her fingers through her hair. With the intention of purging her mind of any thought of it, she spent the rest of the day annotating notes from a meeting she'd attended on magical inaccuracies in historical documents. By early evening her mind was numb enough for her to take solace in a drink with Harry and Ron.
'Did you get the memo?' queried Ron cautiously.
'Of course,' she retorted before hurling a slug of Sauvignon Blanc down her throat.
'How do you feel about it?' Harry dared.
'How do you think I feel? It's alright for you; you're exempt.'
'Yeah – sorry about that.'
'Don't be silly, Harry. You're not remotely sorry.'
'Well, it's just ... with all the Auror stuff we're just too busy,' added Ron with undeniable smugness. 'When are we going to have time to babysit a load of Death Eaters?'
She rounded on him violently. 'Oh, piss off, Ron! I'm busy too!'
'Do you have any idea who you're getting?'
'No. I don't want to think about it either.'
'When will you find out?'
'Next day or so, apparently.' She sighed audibly, letting her forefinger run distractedly round the rim of her glass.
Ron shrugged. 'Might not be too bad. It might be someone like Narcissa Malfoy.'
'Not too bad? I would sooner gouge out my own eyes with a blunt spoon that mentor Narcissa Malfoy! She hates me with pure, unbridled passion. And she's newly divorced so she's going to be bitter and miserable.'
'True.' Harry agreed, bringing his glass to his mouth thoughtfully. 'Although she left him, apparently.'
Hermione let her head fall back and her eyes close, trying to block out the discussion of anything Malfoy. 'I really don't care how it happened.'
'What if you get Draco?' chipped in Ron.
'Oh god! Draco might be trying really hard these days, but honestly ... could you see me mentoring him?'
Harry laughed. 'Oh come on! You never know, you might enjoy it. It's a challenge. You love a challenge.'
'Only on my terms.'
'Then make it on your terms. I think it's basically up to you how you go about things, as long as you report to the Ministry frequently.'
She managed a half-hearted smile. He was right: she couldn't resist a challenge.
Still, the next Wednesday it was with great trepidation that Hermione reached for the parchment containing the name of her assignment. All the notifications to Ministry employees had been hand-delivered by Shacklebolt's secretary. Hermione gave her a terse smile of dismissal when she found her lingering, eyeing up Hermione's scroll. The secretary took the hint and left with a huff.
Hermione held the parchment with trembling fingers, her heart pounding, her mouth dry. She uncurled it slowly and hesitantly, training her eyes to read one line at a time.
'Dear Miss Granger,
Further to the Ministry ruling regarding the Former 'Death Eater' Community Service programme, we are delighted to inform you of the witch or wizard you will be mentoring.
In careful discussion with senior psycholowizards and witches, you have been allocated:'
Hermione swallowed, unrolled that little bit further and let her eyes fall onto the name.
'Lucius A. Malfoy.'
'Bloody fucking hell.'
She dropped the parchment immediately, not reading anymore. Two women walking past her office paused and looked her way, their eyebrows raised in shock at the surprisingly filthy tongue on one of the most charming and respected members of the Ministry.
Hermione groaned again and slumped to her desk, banging her head on it several times in abject horror and disbelief.
Even notes on magical historical inaccuracies could not numb her mind from the horror which now overwhelmed her. She asked Harry to meet for an early drink.
He and Ron found her scowling into a nearly empty G and T as soon as they arrived. Another empty glass rested on the table. They glanced at each other warily and sat beside her.
'So ... who did you get?'
'Don't bloody ask.'
'You have to tell us.'
She took a large gulp before answering. 'Malfoy.'
Ron spluttered out a laugh. 'You got Draco?! Ha! Could be worse, I suppose.'
She scowled. 'Not Draco.'
'Oh. Who then? Not ...?' Ron glanced at Harry, his eyes widening in disbelief.
'Daddy Darling,' spat Hermione.
'Right.' Ron tutted with bewildered resignation.
'But he's ...' started Harry.
'What? What is he?' Hermione turned on him viciously. 'Bigoted, arrogant, rude, obnoxious, self-opinionated, prejudiced, deluded, patronising, condescending, mad, warped, sadistic, evil? Anything else?'
'I was going to say he's very different to how he was before the war.'
'Oh.' She was clearly unconvinced.
'Well, honestly, he is. He was really shaken up by the way Voldemort treated his family. And now his wife's left him. He's not the man he used to be.'
'Old habits die hard. I'm a Muggle-born, in case you hadn't noticed. And he is a pureblood supremacist. Notice any issues there?'
'Well, can you change? Get someone else?' suggested Ron.
'Maybe I should try.'
Harry shook his head. 'You can't. Everyone knows people are going to whine and complain about their allocations. The Ministry haven't allowed changes.'
Hermione let her head fall back against the wall, shutting her eyes against the reality of it. 'Great. Stuck with Lucius bloody Malfoy. What the hell am I going to do with him?'
'Brush his hair?'
'Bugger off, Harry.'
She had no choice. Her first meeting with Malfoy was to be the following Monday. She had been briefed on what to expect, what to note and what to report back. She felt under as much pressure as if she were a Death Eater herself.
The wards of the Manor had supposedly been lowered for her to gain Apparation entry. Still, she was relieved when she found herself inside the gates safe and sound, having half-expected to be vaporised on the spot. She was led into a large sitting room by a house-elf, although she noted the elf was dressed well and seemed to have a natural, cheerful demeanour.
It was a well-proportioned room, large, but not intimidatingly so. The dark green tones calmed her, despite their connotations. She saw him immediately. He was seated in a high-backed chair before the fire. Tea things were laid out on a table before him. When she came in he turned to look round.
Lucius Malfoy stood and moved towards her. She barely knew where to look.
'Good afternoon, Miss Granger.'
'Hello.' She gave a dry cough, unsure what to say. 'I'm here for ...'
'Yes. I know why you're here. I have been fully informed.'
She nodded awkwardly and glanced around.
'Sit down if you wish.'
She did eventually, sitting in the chair opposite his, but only after a significant amount of time had passed wherein she hoped he had registered her disdain.
'OK.' Pause. 'Thanks.' She squirmed. It seemed strange thanking Lucius Malfoy for anything.
He poured it himself. The action struck her as odd coming from him. He offered her the tea cup. He had long fingers and neat fingernails. She looked away.
Pursing his lips, Malfoy took a sip from his cup. Hermione did not.
'You know I'm only doing this because I have to. I have no idea why I was allocated you. It was nothing to do with me,' she said hurriedly.
'I assumed not.'
'I don't know what I'm supposed to do with you.'
'I don't suppose you want to go back to Azkaban, do you?' she ventured.
He did not at first reply. She almost gave up listening for a response.
Hermione huffed. 'No one's ever really explained what I'm supposed to get out of this. Waste of my time,' she half-muttered.
'Were you always this querulous?' Lucius' question, almost delivered with a hint of amusement, took her aback.
'Querulous? What sort of a word is that?'
'Rather a good one.'
His flippancy irked her further. 'In what way is it a 'good' word?'
'It sits rather pleasantly on the tongue, don't you think?'
'I ...' The conversation was bewildering her. But then, what exactly was she to talk about with Lucius Malfoy?
He was smirking at her. She hated him for it and looked away.
'I repeat my question: Were you always this querulous?'
'Only with people who previously tried to kill me,' she retorted.
His eyebrows – remarkably elegant ones, she noted – rose high. 'When did I try to kill you?'
'In the Department of Mysteries.'
'No. I was not trying to kill you. I was trying to get the Prophecy from your little friend.' His words were delivered with unassuming smoothness, although they lacked the pinched arrogance she remembered from before.
'You need not remind me.'
'Does it pain you to be reminded of it?'
He drank from his cup before responding, his grey eyes trained into it. 'I don't like to be reminded of the consequences of it.'
Silence fell between them again. She found herself looking at him intently; he had the sort of face which compelled you to stare at it. She dared press on.
'When you came out of Azkaban ... you must have been thrilled.'
'Thrilled,' he repeated with a clearly sardonic trill.
'You were home again.'
'What do you mean?'
'It did not quite feel like home.'
'Didn't it? Why not?'
'I had to share my house with ... others.'
'But weren't they your ... friends?' She knew she was goading him.
He smirked into his cup. 'No. Not friends. They were not people I particularly admired.'
'But you admired Voldemort.'
'I had admired him.'
'But no longer?'
'But you daren't acknowledge that at the time?'
'No. Not to myself and clearly not to anyone else.'
Hermione was surprised at his candour and finally felt inclined to take a drink of her tea. Raising her eyes from it, she found him staring hard across at her. She was struck by how bright his eyes were in stark contrast to the matte of his demeanour.
'I'm surprised you tolerate me being here at all,' she said factually.
'Like you, Miss Granger, I do not have a choice. A return to Azkaban is to be avoided at all costs. In any case ...'
He averted his eyes. 'I find my previously held convictions not quite as forceful as before.'
Hermione stared, almost forgetting to breathe. Was he really admitting to this so readily?
'Why is that?'
His smirk returned. 'Querulous and demanding. You clearly have not changed.'
She shrugged. 'You don't have to answer if you don't want.'
'I am aware of that,' he replied coldly. She thought she had elicited his indignant silence, but placing the cup on the table he eventually spoke again, low and deep in thought. 'When one has been flayed: physically, emotionally and intellectually ... when one has been stripped bare, denied all that one held to be true, both in terms of self-perception and perception by others ... there is little point in clinging to ideals of a time which is dead. It is not that I decided to let go of my beliefs, rather that they ran off and abandoned me.'
She looked hard at him, suddenly fascinated by all he was. 'So you don't hate me anymore?'
'I never hated you, Miss Granger. I did not regard you with enough humanity to engender hatred. You were nothing. You were simply nothing. And as such it was very easy for me to contemplate your elimination. If I had thought of you as human things would have been different.'
'How charming,' she said, her lips pursed.
'That is the way it was.' He shrugged a little. She almost admired his dispassionate assessment.
'And now? Do you see me as human now?'
Malfoy simply watched her for a while. The air grew thick between them and Hermione felt her throat running dry. She took a sip to relieve the tension.
'Sitting in an arm-chair drinking tea strikes me as a very human pastime.'
She had her answer. And as the tea seeped hot and quenching through her, so too did a warm glow she knew emanated from his words. She smiled, unable not to, aware that he was still watching her.
They spoke easily after that, not about anything terribly significant, but enough so that Hermione was surprised when she realised it was time for her to go. Perhaps Harry had been right – Malfoy had changed since the war. She was not convinced yet, but this task wasn't going to be as onerous as she had feared.
'I'll be back next week for an hour. Tuesday, two o'clock. Is that alright?'
In actual fact, he had no choice in the matter, but instead of making a sarcastic comment highlighting this, Lucius simply nodded his head.
'Bye then.' She found herself smiling slightly but genuinely at him.
'Goodbye, Miss Granger. Until next week.'
The feeling those last two words elicited, startlingly confirmed to her what she had suspected: she was looking forward to seeing him again.
Hermione left the room and stood briefly in the hallway of the Manor, still and silent. Her memories of the house were blurred and indistinct and she realised the place did not fill her with the dread and fevered horror she had feared. She looked around. It was a beautiful space: elegant, grand, but still surprisingly intimate and warming, with the ruddy, smooth lustre of age-old oak and the rich red velvet of generations past. She inhaled. It smelt good too, as if the spirits of the years had imparted their own alluring aroma as well as their history.
She gasped and turned in surprise to see Lucius' son standing across the hall from her. 'Oh. Hello, Draco.'
'I heard you'd been assigned ...' He jerked his head towards the sitting room, not saying his father's name.
'Thought I might see you around.'
'Do you still live here?'
'More or less. I have a place in London, but it's just as easy to Apparate to and from here. Home comforts and all that.'
A dozen house elves and all that, thought Hermione. Still, she had seen Draco on and off over the months since the war and had allowed herself to develop a modicum of respect for him. If the war had changed his father, it had certainly changed Draco. Gone was the acerbic arrogance, replaced by a mellow caution and humbled acceptance of the new order. On the occasions she had seen him recently, she had to admit that he had been genuinely polite and at ease. It had taken a lot for her to accept, but as time passed, the animosity which had existed between them had faded.
'I'm sure your father appreciates you still being here.'
'Yeah, he does. And I appreciate having him around too.'
'Good. All good then.' She rather wanted to go. She needed to make notes on her meeting with Lucius and prepare for the following week.
Draco did not move. His eyes looked her up and down. 'You look well.'
'Oh. Thanks.' She ran a hand over her hair instinctively and felt her cheeks flushing. 'I ... umm ... I'm just off.'
'See you around ... maybe.'
'Yeah. Bye, Granger.'
She headed past him, an awkward fixed smile on her face.
She stood there, rigid. 'What?'
'Sorry. For being a total knob.'
'Right.' It took her completely by surprise. The shock forced out her candour. 'Yeah, you were a total knob.'
'But ... I can understand why.' She could. Forgiving him felt right.
He smiled gently and nodded.
As Hermione left her soul swelled, but she couldn't help thinking that it would have swollen even more if the apology had come not from Draco Malfoy, but from his father.
More in the next day or so. Reviews are still, even as I become a veteran of fan fiction, greatly appreciated and loved. Also, head over to Like my facebook page - Laurielove - if you want to keep abreast (ahem) of stories and lusting madness.