Playing with Fire

Chapter 15: With love

Song: Never Let Me Go - Florence + The Machine

For the next week, Hermione scanned the papers for herself, but Lucius wasn’t interested. Instead, she read “Winters of Wimberly” to him each day. It really was a splendid story, maybe even a new favorite of hers.

She finished the last line, “despite all they had been through - life, death, love, hate - nothing had been as difficult, nor as beautiful, as their Winters in Wimberly.”

She turned the page, noticing something hand-written there:

“To my dear Narcissa, Happy Birthday, with love - LM” Lucius Malfoy. Oh God, this was a gift from him to Narcissa. This was Narcissa’s book.

She knew Narcissa was dead, everyone knew that, but until then, Hermione had never considered just how lonely Lucius must be. Missing her terribly, living without her in this manor, and blind at that. She couldn’t help the empathy she felt for him.

“What did you think?“, Lucius’s drawl interrupted her thoughts.

“I’m sorry?“, she responded. Her mind had wandered quite far.

“What did you think of the book? I’ve always heard you were quite the bookworm back at Hogwarts”, he told her.

“Well, it was a lovely story. Elegantly told, I had never...“, she trailed off. At Hogwarts? “How did you know I went to Hogwarts?”

Lucius laughed, showing a bit of teeth even, “Miss Granger, I may be blind but I’m not deaf, nor am I daft. Did you really think a soul would live in my manor without me knowing exactly who they are?”

She gasped in shock, “then...why did you ask my name?”

“I didn’t. I asked what I should call you - I assumed you would prefer anything over ‘prisoner’ or ‘mudblood’, and apparently you decided to be called Monica”, he chuckled again, tapping his fingers on the desk.

“My mother...Monica is my mother’s name”, she told him. He nodded in response, a look of understanding passing over his features.

“When you return tomorrow, I would like for you to choose a new book to start. I assume you know the way to the library well enough to get there on your own?“, he questioned.

She nodded, confused when he proceeded to stare at her even without his vision. “Oh, sorry. Yes, I do”, she told him, embarrassed that she forgot he was blind for what was likely the hundredth time.

~~~

Hermione was feeling odd - more emotionally conflicted than usual - when she went to report to Malfoy. She was shocked that Lucius had known who she was this entire time, embarrassed that she had lied about it and he had played along. But most of all, she felt terrible for Lucius. She never thought she’d see the day she pitied a Death Eater, and yet here that day was.

She finished updating Malfoy and turned to leave.

“No questions today? You’ve given up on seeking answers already?“, he asked her. Was that a...playful tone of voice?

She angrily turned to him, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”, she crossed her arms.

“Do you often quote famous muggles and try to pass their words for your own, thinking no one will notice?“, he laughed.

“You know who Albert Einstein is?“, she said genuinely shocked.

“Just because muggles are rudimentary doesn’t mean I’m ignorant to their history”, he told her as if that should have been obvious.

They both stared at each other, Hermione waiting for Malfoy to make another snarky comment, him likely expecting the same of her. When neither showed any interest in continuing the interaction, Hermione turned to leave.

She heard his voice as she walked through the door to leave, but kept walking. “Up in Flames is a good book - by T.L. Maddox - Section N”, he said to her.

He was giving her book recommendations now? Begrudgingly, she took note of it.

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