Playing with Fire

Chapter 13: Milk or Honey

Song: July - Noah Cyrus

Two months had gone by painfully slow.

Two months of spending the day in the dungeon, reading the paper to Lucius Malfoy, reporting to his son, and then going back to the dungeon again. Every day she asked Malfoy the same questions when she reported to him, and every day he refused to answer them.

She barely ate one meal a day - the food was horrendous. Maybe she’d just starve. That would certainly be one way to spite Malfoy. Him keeping her there for months, just for her to starve herself. The thought entertained her.

On July 31st, Hermione sat in the same chair, across the same desk, from the same blind Lucius Malfoy. It was still strange.

She read the headline out, not even noticing the date beforehand - she had stopped keeping track really.

“Today, we celebrate what would have been the birthday of the Dark Lord’s greatest accomplishment, the execution of H-harry-“, she paused. Her lip trembled and she sucked in a sharp breath. Today is Harry’s birthday. Today would have been Harry’s birthday.

Visions of birthday cakes, presents, and celebrations at the Burrow flooded her memory and a silent tear trailed down her cheek. She wasn’t even breathing anymore. She was quivering in her chair. Digging her nails into the palms of her hands.

Lucius cleared his throat.

She had completely forgotten where she was. She sniffled, but scolded herself internally about it. “I apologize it-“, she paused, noticing the pale hand reaching toward her with a tissue.

“It appears my allergies are acting up - I apologize”, she finished quietly.

“Understandable”, he said with zero emotion present, gesturing towards her again with the tissue, urging her to take it.

She softly accepted it from his hand, and thanked him, blowing her nose as quietly as possible.

“I’m not interested in old news”, Lucius said with a wave of the hand that wasn’t holding his staff, “skip to the next section”.

She nodded, “yes”, she added quickly, remembering he couldn’t see her non-verbal response.

“Draco Malfoy announced...new Minister of Magic?“, she said in surprise.

Lucius appeared to be grinding his teeth together, deep in thought. She continued through the rest of the article, her thoughts lingering on Harry all the while.

Before she moved on to the next section of the Daily Prophet, Lucius stopped her, “I’ve grown quite tired of Skeeter’s regurgitated work. Bopsy!“, he called.

“Master Malfoy!“, she popped into the room.

“Escort...Monica to the library, show her Section N”, he instructed Bopsy. She wore a confused expression. “The prisoner”, he clarified.

“Yes, Master Malfoy!“, she squeaked.

Turning towards Hermione, he said “Find the book titled ‘Winters of Wimberly’, and bring it back. I believe it will be much more interesting for the both of us.”

“Okay”, she responded, and allowed Bopsy to lead her by the hand. She couldn’t even focus on the book she was sent to find. Winters of...Winchester? Wimbledon? No, Wimberly? Something like that.

Her jaw dropped when Bopsy pushed open the double oakwood doors with golden knobs, revealing the most elegant library she had ever seen.

There were books all around the room with sliding ladders to reach those that were higher up. A large, round table was placed in the center of the room.

There were stairs on both the left and right sides of the room, leading to the upper-portions of the library. There had to be thousands and thousands of books there. She was almost salivating at the thought.

Hermione snapped out of her trance when she noticed Bopsy walking towards the left set of stairs. She quickly caught up to her.

Godric she felt so guilty, basking in the glory that was the Malfoy library, when today was Harry’s birthday. She bit her cheek hard to prevent more tears. Happy Birthday, Harry. I hope you’re somewhere better, a world more deserving of you. She wrung her hands shakily.

“Section N!“, Biopsy chirped after they climbed the stairs and walked into a small alcove in the back left corner. All the books in this section appeared to be thoroughly taken care of, but clearly had all been read many times.

She began scanning the rows of gold-embossed books in various colored bindings: scarlet, violet, mossy-green, sapphire.

Her trailing finger stopped on the sapphire book that read “Winters of Wimberly” in cursive, gold embossment. Written by Carolus Crawford. She had never heard of this author. Must be a wizard author.

She pulled the book from its slot and delicately ran her fingers over the spine of it, admiring the lack of silly artwork that often graced the covers of muggle books.

When Hermione walked back into Lucius’s study, Winters of Wimberly in hand, there was a tray on the desk with two porcelain cups.

“I assume milk or honey will suffice for your tea”, Lucius stated. Now she was reading novels and having tea with Lucius Malfoy? How bizarre.

After two cups of tea, she was quite tired, just then finishing the tenth chapter of the book:

“The snow on the ground was a hideous ashen color, doing no favors for the already decaying courtyard. What normally was a beautiful, white snow decorating the grounds, was now grey, all too fitting for Adelia’s death.”

“That will do for today”, Lucius stated as she finished. She softly closed the book, laying it on the desk before standing from her chair.

“Thank you...for the tea Mr. Malfoy”, she told him quietly.

“Lucius, my dear”, he corrected, “we’ll continue from where we left off tomorrow evening.”

Without another word, she left Lucius’s study and made her way across the manor to its twin in the west wing.

She knocked before opening the door, Malfoy staring down at his desk, looking distraught and stressed as usual. As he did everyday.

She told him everything that happened that evening, following the same routine, but for the first time in two months, Malfoy looked up at her when the words “Winters of Wimberly” escaped her lips.

Hermione’s face turned pink in surprise. When he didn’t say anything, she continued, telling him they had tea and read about ten chapters.

His expression was unreadable, and when she finished speaking, he looked back down and dismissed her.

As usual, it was almost habit that she asked him before leaving, “Why am I here?“, and for the first time in two months, he responded.

“Surprisingly, you still serve a purpose for the Dark Lord. He just doesn’t need you yet.”

Her blood ran cold. “What does that mean?“, she was genuinely curious, and more horrified than anything.

“I’ve already given you more information than you deserve”, he said, eyes still on the documents in front of him.

“Than I deserve?“, she huffed. “I deserve much more than you’ve given me Malfoy“, she said with a growl. “You are absolutely the most loathsome creature on this earth apart from your sadistic ′Lord’ “.

She marched out of the room and back to the dungeon, completely oblivious to the small smirk that crept over Malfoy’s lips.

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