Chapter 2

When Hermione gets to lake, Malfoy is waiting for her.

"Any more exploding cauldrons?" she asks.

"Dunderheads," he says. They both smile. "Did you read the Prophet today?"

"That rag."

"The Wizengamot are considering a marriage law."

"Bastards," she says, but there's no heat behind it. She expects nothing else. "They've been talking about it for months. Nothing will come of it."

"Probably," he says.

"But if they do…"

"Then we'll get married," Malfoy says.

She laughs bitterly. "As if your poor father hasn't been through enough already, and now a Mudblood daughter-in-law."

"Don't. Fuck, Granger, don't. Not ever. You know I…"

"I know. I'm sorry. You didn't deserve that."

"Actually, I probably did."

"Four years ago you did. But not anymore. I forgave you long ago. You know that, right?"

"I know."

"And I do love you. I'm just not in love with you, any more than you're in love with me."

He looks out at the lake.

"And honestly, Malfoy, a girl doesn't want her husband to be prettier than she is."


"I just… I don't want to be bred like cattle, you know?"

"I know," he says, taking her hand and pulling her to sit next to him, leaning against a tree. They're quiet for a while, both looking out at the lake.

"I shouldn't ask," he says after a while.

"They want you to come tomorrow?"


"I'll go."

"You don't have to."

"I know I don't." She also knows he can't bear it on his own. "It's okay, Malfoy. Every time I go it's a little easier." Every time the panic recedes a little more, and the psychosomatic pain in her arm is a little less. "And the tea and cakes are good."

"Because, elves."

She flips him the bird. "And I get to use the library. I brought so many books back with me last time they almost broke the undetectable extension charm on my bag. I need to return them."

"Father's not going to call the Aurors if you keep them another week." He sighs. "Then again, I doubt the Aurors would come even if he did call them."

Because, Death Eater, neither of them say.

The next day, Malfoy side-alongs her into the apparition foyer at the Manor. They actually have an entire room whose only purpose is for people to apparate into. Talk about conspicuous consumption.

An elf takes their coats and gloves as Narcissa comes to greet them. "Hello, darling," she says, kissing Draco's cheek. "Professor Granger, I'm so glad you could come."

"Thank you, Mrs. Malfoy," Hermione says, feeling wrong-footed as usual. As smart as her outfit always looks in front of the mirror in her bedroom, it never looks as good once she gets here, amid all the beauty and elegance and blondness.

"Is that Severus?" Lucius asks as he follows Narcissa into the foyer. He used to rape and torture and run a business empire. Now he follows Narcissa around an empty house like a big, blond, slightly confused puppy.

"No, love, it's Draco and Professor Granger," Narcissa says.

"Hello, Professor Granger," he says, giving Hermione what looks like a genuine smile, as though she were a pureblood lady who deserves his courtesy.

This is one of the good days. On good days, Lucius calls her Professor Granger or occasionally even my dear. Other days he thinks she's Bellatrix. On the bad days he refers to her as Draco's Mudblood, saying it isn't bad to keep such a thing on the side, but bringing her home, well, in his day it just wasn't done. Narcissa looks apologetic when he does this. It's what keeps them from progressing from Mrs. Malfoy and Professor Granger to Narcissa and Hermione.

"Severus hasn't visited for a long time," Lucius complains.

Narcissa tucks a stray lock of hair behind his ear. "I know, love."

"Perhaps he'll come tomorrow?"

"Perhaps." Narcissa has long since given up telling him that Severus won't come tomorrow or any other day. She takes his arm and leads him into the sitting room, where there are cakes, the chocolate ones that Hermione loves, and the lemon ones that have been Draco's favorite since he was a little boy.

They drink their tea and Narcissa leads them in gracious small talk as if she and Lucius haven't been under house arrest so long that his wits are addled by the solitude. Well, the solitude on top of too many bouts of Cruciatus.

Hermione doesn't hate either of them anymore. Narcissa is too gracious and Lucius is too sad. Still, the thought of them as her in-laws… If they do pass the law, she'd rather marry Malfoy than anyone else, but having her father-in-law call her Mudblood on his bad days would get tiresome.

After the cakes, Hermione heads to the library to look for more books on memory charms. She's read every last one in the Hogwarts library, and in the collection that Snape left in his will to Malfoy. It will take a while to work her way through the collection here at the Manor, but what else does she have to do?