Playing with Fire

Chapter 17: A Good Book

Song: When We Were Young - Adele

The next day, Bopsy unlocked the dungeon for Hermione earlier than usual so that she would have time to look in the library for a new book to read to Lucius. She didn’t want to pick something he didn’t like, but she wished he’d be more specific about what she was expected to bring back.

She tried to hurry, scanning over the various sections, finding everything from Malfoy lineage books to romance novels, and everything in between. There was so much to look at that for once, she actually wished there was less to choose from.

“Erm, Bopsy?“, Hermione asked the elf. She smiled and waited for Hermione to continue.

“Can you show me Section N again?“, she asked.

Bopsy practically jumped up and down with joy, walking as quickly as she could to the alcove on the back left of the upstairs.

She began to scan the authors’ names for T.L. Maddox. There it is. Up in Flames by T.L. Maddox. While she didn’t trust Malfoy, she didn’t see any reason why he would suggest a book to her and have any ulterior motives, so she swallowed her pride and took the book from its shelf.

She began to scan the sleeve of the novel: “Ezekiel Chase is no average wizard”, Hermione scoffed. How original, then she continued.

“...living in a world of flames both mentally and physically, as the world around him appears to soldier on”, okay, maybe it is different...screw it.

She shut the book and let Bopsy know she had selected a book and was ready to go to Lucius’s study.

~~~

Hermione sat down in Lucius’s study, “Up in Flames” in front of her.

“What did you choose”, he asked, the look on his face made him look like he knew something she didn’t. Who was she kidding, he probably knew plenty of things that she didn’t.

“Up in Flames”, she said, pausing to gauge his reaction.

“Good choice, you may begin”, he told her, and so she did.

“...but his family’s situation could never compare to the pain he felt inside and out. It gnawed at him, like a beast, savoring its last meal, only to use the bones to pick its teeth afterwards. It burned brighter than the sun and stronger than an army of soldiers. He didn’t allow himself to feel pity over it, for after all, it was his own fault. His own backfired plan. His own blunder. And now he would suffer the consequences.”

She had been reading for a few hours before Lucius stopped her, signaling the end of their daily rendezvous.

She began to leave but stopped in the doorway, turning back, “Sir?”

He lifted his head, “Lucius”, he reminded her, then nodded for Hermione to continue.

“Winters of Wimberly...that was Narcissa’s...wasn’t it”, she said, more of a statement than a question. She knew the answer, but she was trying to see how he was feeling in the least intrusive or awkward way she could manage.

When he didn’t respond, she continued, “did she read often?” There was a long pause.

Once she was almost certain he wasn’t going to answer, she began to turn, but not before noticing his lips quirking up into a small smile. He nodded his head softly, as if remembering her. Her heart felt heavy, but she left him to his thoughts.

Before stepping out the door, she turned back one last time, considering whether she should say anything else, or maybe apologize for being too intrusive. The last thing she saw before heading to Malfoy’s study was Lucius fiddling with the wedding ring on his finger.

~~~

Hermione took great care when recounting the day to avoid telling Malfoy what book she ended up choosing. She hadn’t truly had enough time to browse the library, but she was still embarrassed about it. No way in hell she’d admit to him that she took his recommendation.

When she finished, halfway out the door, he asked her, “What did you choose?” She could hear the taunting in his voice.

She felt the heat rise to her cheeks so she only half-faced him before saying “a good book”, a smile crawling across her face shyly, and then she was gone.

~~~

Hermione sat in the small bathtub full of cold water, thinking of Lucius. Poor Lucius. He’d probably hex her for even thinking of pitying him if he knew.

It must be a trait of Malfoy men to constantly put on a brave face through it all. She thought this about both Lucius and Draco. Saw it in both of them.

If they showed a smile, a frown, an arched brow, it wasn’t without purpose or permission. Nothing was an accident with these men. You would think they passed down the skill of being stoic and cold through the family line. She’d certainly believe it.

She drew circles in the bathwater. Pondering. Thinking. Considering.

She couldn’t help but wonder if all the books in that section belonged to Narcissa specifically. Section N - for Narcissa. Of course. And she had just brought another book to read Lucius that was his wife’s. He definitely knew that, and she’d had no idea. It was his son’s recommendation after all.

It suddenly made sense that there was an alcove just for that section. She didn’t know Narcissa had been such a book lover, like herself. But then again, she hadn’t known Narcissa at all. She just assumed she would be like her husband and son - dark, cold, discriminating.

But she hadn’t been a Death Eater. She knew that much, and it was just enough to make her feel bad that Narcissa died at Voldemort’s hand. And for nothing. Harry died anyway. She died trying to save him, and even if it wasn’t until the final hour that she made the right choice, it counted for something.

Hermione drained the bathwater and dried off before getting dressed and pulling her curls into a bun atop her head, a few stray strands falling on her face.

She got under the quilt and laid down on her cot - pondering, thinking, and considering some more.

She felt bad making any assumptions about Narcissa. Felt bad for her son and husband. Felt bad for Narcissa herself. Making assumptions about her made Hermione just as discriminating, didn’t it?

Occasionally, Hermione had nightmares about any and everything her mind could bring into focus when she was asleep. But tonight, she dreamed of Narcissa Malfoy. She dreamed that she knew her. She dreamed that Narcissa was a good person, who hadn’t died, and who had succeeded in saving Harry, and by default, saving them all.

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