They Portkey’d out of Severus’s sitting room that evening and landed in a covered archway a few yards from a lovely chateau. The house was lit up with delightful stringed lights—Muggle, from what Hermione could tell. The sun had just set behind the house, making the sky itself an awe-inspiring back drop. A trail of lights at their feet illuminated the path through the garden to the entry way.
I suppose some things will never change, she said still staring.
Indeed. He placed his hand lightly on her lower back, gently urging her forward. Shall we?
As they neared the house, the door opened and Lucius Malfoy stepped out into the garden. Severus stepped forward to clasp hands with his old friend. From the shadows, she could clearly see the happiness on Lucius’s face.
“Ah, Severus,” he said, pulling him into a quick hug. “It is good to see you again.” He pulled back and turned slightly to her. “And who have you brought along?” She took a step forward, allowing the light to fall across her face.
“Hello, Mr. Malfoy,” she said politely. She smirked slightly at the shock that flickered in his eyes before his benevolent expression returned.
“Miss Granger, what a pleasant surprise,” he said, offering his hand. “Please, do call me Lucius.”
“Hermione,” she said, taking his hand. She felt a twinge of discomfort as he raised her hand to his mouth to press a kiss to her knuckles. Lucius did not see her expression falter but her husband did.
Are you alright?
Yes, yes. The magic just doesn’t like him kissing my hand.
Lucius ushered them into the house where they were met by Narcissa and Draco. Narcissa was as good as her husband in covering her surprise and greeted her politely. Draco, however, was another story.
“Uncle, what is she doing here?” He spoke as though she wasn’t standing there.
“Draco,” his father said sternly. “Miss Granger is our guest. You will treat her as such.” His tone was reminiscent of his former self, but did not hold the malice it once did. Hermione relaxed slightly. Perhaps he really had changed.
“My apologies, Mud-Miss Granger,” he sneered.
“Miss Granger,” Narcissa said quickly, with a sharp glance at her son. “may I take your cloak?”
“Yes, thank you,” she said. “and, please, call me Hermione.” She removed her cloak to reveal a deep red floor-length gown. Draco’s sneer turned into a more appreciative leer. She could feel his eyes on her as Lucius led them into the parlor.
“So, Granger,” he said, “here to check up on us? What’s wrong? Your Order doesn’t trust Uncle Severus after all?” She could feel Severus stiffen beside her. He was quickly losing patience with his godson, a fact which had not escaped anyone’s notice.
“That is enough, Draco,” Lucius said in a tone that wasn’t to be argued with.
Dinner was soon served and the conversation continued to be quite civil and generic. Hermione was relieved that she did not feel uncomfortable, only slightly awkward. The fact that she was there at all seemed to be the elephant in the room. She assumed that the Malfoys shared their son’s inference about her presence. In a way, it was true. She had come to see if they’d changed, though not for the Order.
She had been concerned that just the sight of Lucius Malfoy would incite all the memories she had fought off for almost a year. She was surprised to find that the change in the man was so complete that he didn’t even to be the same person. Sometimes there was a slightly haunted look in his eyes that only came with real regret. She’d seen that look in Severus’s memories when he’d spoken of Lily. She was immensely surprised to realize that, at some point, she’d forgiven Lucius. The evening would have progressed much better if not for Draco’s rude behavior and lewd glances in her direction. Hermione wondered if he would’ve been so openly ogling her if he knew she was his godfather’s wife.
“Hermione, may I speak to you out in the garden?” Lucius asked as they were getting up from dinner.
Do you wish me to come with you?
No, No. I’ll be fine.
Lucius escorted her out the French doors and led her to a small stone bench off the path. He looked at her for a long moment before he spoke. “I want to apologize for my son’s behavior.”
“It’s alright. You forget I’ve known him for seven years. This isn’t anything I’m not used to.”
“That does not make it acceptable. Especially now, when we are all trying so hard to start over.”
“He’ll come around eventually. I know somewhere deep down isn’t a complete prat,” she said with a smile. He chuckled and turned looked out into the night. If anyone had told her that she would be sitting in a French garden having polite conversation with Lucius Malfoy, she would’ve thought them insane. Still, there she was.
“I must also apologize for my own behavior.”
“No, I must.” He took a deep breath and she found his anxiety endearing. “I’ve done things to people—to you—that I now can’t even imagine. I won’t make excuses, for none would begin to explain what I’ve been a part of. I do want to say, however, that I am well and truly sorry for all of it.” He turned to face her again. “I would like nothing more than to be able to call you friend. I will understand if, when we return, you choose not to make such a friendship public knowledge.” She wiped away the tears that had begun to fall during his apology.
“No, I suppose not.” She sniffed, then laughed softly. “Can you imagine the scandal if a member of the Order of the Phoenix were to befriend an ex-Death Eater?” She turned to smile at him. “It’s rather fortunate that I am not an Order member.”
“You aren’t?” he said, startled.
“I fought for Harry, not for them. Ask Severus. I don’t attend meetings. I was never officially inducted.”
“If not on Order business, why have you come?”
“The only thing more scandalous than befriending an ex-Death Eater would be marrying an ex-Death Eater…who also happens to be one’s professor.” She laughed again when he only stared at her. “We should probably rejoin the others,” she said, rising. After a moment’s hesitation, he rose as well, shaking his head.
“For once in my life, I have no idea what to say,” he said, as they made their way through the garden.
“Only two other people know this, Lucius,” she said, laying a hand on his arm. She turned so they were facing each other. “But I wanted you to know our secret. You are his family.” He surprised both of them by pulling her in for a quick, but tight, hug. He smelled expensive, like silk and leather and something citrusy. She’d never seen Lucius Malfoy show such emotion even with his own family.
“Thank you for trusting me. You make a good match.”
They went inside to find Severus and Narcissa chatting over tea in the parlor. She sat next to her husband on the sofa while Lucius took the other chair. Severus absently began preparing her a cup of tea the way she liked it then handed it to her without pausing in his conversation. Narcissa caught the familiarity of the action and gave her a small knowing smile. She returned it with a grin of her own.
Is all well?
More than. I’ve told Lucius.
He lifted a brow in response and continued discussing plans for the Malfoys’ return to England. She soon excused herself to the loo to freshen up. On the way back, she stopped to admire a painting in the hallway. At first glance, it appeared to be one of Monet’s lily paintings. As she studied it, however, she realized it was a Wizard painting. The swirl of the colors was hypnotizing, making the water look impossibly deep. She found herself being drawn closer and closer to it. Without any conscious thought, she lifted her hand to touch one of the petals fluttering in the breeze.
“What do you think you’re doing, Granger?” She jerked back at the sound of Draco’s voice.
“I was just looking at this painting,” she said, still a little bewildered by the painting.
“I meant here,” he snapped. “We don’t need you spying on us.”
“Honestly, Draco, I’m not spying on anyone,” she said with resignation.
“I don’t know what game you’re playing at, but I want you to stay away from Severus.”
“Draco, you don’t under—,” she started. He grabbed her by the shoulders and pushed her against the wall.
“I know you’re Weasley’s whore. I won’t have you dressing like a tart and toying with him to get whatever you’re after.”
“Stop it, Draco,” she said, trying to free her arms. She could feel her magic rising but she didn’t want to hurt him. Everything she’d been working towards could easily be torn apart if she lost control of the situation. She squirmed again, but he dug his fingers deeper into her arms.
“You may have fooled them, but I know what you are.”
“Remove your hands from her this instant.” She had been so distracted by Draco that she hadn’t heard or felt her husband step into the hall.
“Now, Draco,” Severus said, taking a step forward. Hermione could feel the anger radiating from her husband. Draco dropped his hands, but didn’t move away. She was shocked that he was still opposing Severus and wondered if Draco saw how close he was to snapping.
“Don’t you see she’s just using you and spying on us? Whoring herself for your money?” Hermione could feel her husband’s control slipping.
“How dare you speak about my wife in that manner?” Severus’s voice was very low and very even, a bad sign for anyone who knew him. He had not drawn his wand, but everyone in the room knew that he did not need it to inflict damage. Draco’s face lost its color when he finally realized the mistake in pushing his godfather too far. She could see a terrified-looking Narcissa gripping her husband’s arm in the doorway. Lucius’s expression was stony, torn between the desire to defend his son and the knowledge that he was deserving of whatever action Severus took. She stepped in front of Severus, but he did not look down at her.
“Severus, look at me.” He continued staring over her head at the now-shaking boy behind her. She reached up to lay a hand on his cheek. “Husband,” she whispered. Almost reluctantly, his eyes slid to her face. She held his gaze as she spoke calmly. “Lucius, could you please take my husband and pour him a drink while I have a word with Draco?”
After a nod from her, he spun quickly and strode from the room. Hermione turned slowly to face Draco. He opened his mouth to speak, but was silenced by her glare. She motioned him into a nearby room and shut the door behind them. She warded the door so neither he nor sound could escape from the room until she was finished with him.
“No. You’ll listen to me now,” she said, coming to stand directly in front of him. “I stopped him because he would’ve regretted hurting you later and because it would upset your parents. I will not, however, do it again.” She poked him in the chest with one finger. “I’ll also not have you ruining your father’s second chance just because you’re a paranoid git.” She stepped away from him to go sit in a nearby chair. After settling into it and primly smoothing her skirt, she looked at him again. “I’m feeling generous so I’ll give you this one opportunity to ask any questions or say whatever it is you think of me. I’ll answer honestly…and I probably won’t hex you.”
“You actually married him?” He was still eying her warily.
“A week ago today.”
“So you aren’t with Weasley?”
“Not since last summer and even that was only for a few weeks.”
“Are you using him for his money...or anything else?”
“Of course not.”
“You aren’t here spying for the Order?”
“I was never even officially in the Order. It was war. They sort of skipped over that part.” At those words, Draco collapsed into a chair with his head in his hands.
“I keep thinking they’re going to change their minds and come for us,” he mumbled into his hands. “I don’t want to lose my father again.” Suddenly everything made sense. She moved to kneel in front of him so they were face to face.
“Draco, no one’s coming for him. You’re safe now.” She wrapped her arms around him when he began openly sobbing. “Shhh...it’s okay.” She waited until he’d quieted before she spoke again. “I’m hoping this little breakthrough in our relationship means you won’t be such a complete prat anymore.”
“We’ll see,” he said, but there was already something different in his voice.
“I do think you should apologize to your godfather.” She stood and offered her hand. He looked at it and then her for a moment before allowing her to pull him up.
“Merlin, he can be scary,” he said, with a shudder. She laughed as she led him from the room. “I shouldn’t have said that though...I apologize.”
“Don’t let it happen again. We both know I’m not above physical violence.”
“I remember,” he said, rolling his eyes.
The others were sitting silently in the parlor. The men had glasses of Firewhiskey, but Narcissa was clutching her tea cup. They all stood up when Draco and Hermione entered.
“Uncle, I am very sorry for what I said about...Hermione. I did not mean it.” Hermione cleared her throat loudly behind him. “I’m very sorry for what I said about Hermione. I meant it, but I was wrong.” He shot a glance over his shoulder at her. “Better?”
“Much. Thank you.” The others stared wide-eyed at the almost easy exchange between the two.
“Severus, your wife is amazing,” Lucius whispered loudly.
It was late when the Snapes and Malfoys parted ways. Hermione was exhausted when they finally returned to Severus’s rooms. She immediately changed clothes and got into bed while he checked in with the Headmistress. She was mostly asleep when she felt him climb in and pull her to him.
“That was one of the most bizarre evenings of my life,” she groaned, rolling over.
“Indeed.” She was almost back to sleep when he whispered her name.
“Yes, love?” she mumbled into his chest.
“You are amazing.” She pressed a kiss over his heart and slid into slumber.