-8 years after the War-
Lucius sighed. He donned his cloak and his shirt, took his snake headed cane with him and looked at the great mirror in his bedroom in Malfoy Manor. He looked well-put together, if he said so himself. Very regal and wizardly. He put his long hair in a ponytail and nodded approvingly at himself. His mirror image winked.
On his bed was a bundle with a change of clothes. He would need them in the afternoon for another activity. He put them in his bag, shrunk it, then stalked to the door of the manor and Apparated away.
"So how are you doing these days Mr. Malfoy?" Alec Freedman, the Ministry official asked.
"Well, I’m still working on the project, Alec. And I have thought about what we talked about last time. In fact, there is this Muggle, Martin Buber, who said a lot about one of your so-called learning goals for me... " Malfoy smirked, knowing that this would have Alec’s enthusiastic attention because the man had told Lucius about his interest in Muggle theology, humanism and philosophy. He took out his notes and read: “’No purpose intervenes between I and You, no greed and no anticipation; and longing itself is changed … Every means is an obstacle. Only where all means have disintegrated encounters occur.’ that’s from his book I and Thou.”
"Hmm hmmm!" Alec said enthusiastically. "That fits indeed. So, no seeing people as objects."
"Or using them as a means to an end," Lucius added. "Oh, and here is what my supervisor at the project had to say about me." He handed him the performance appraisal about his behaviour over the last year
"Wow that's high praise! How many Galleons did you throw at that man?" Alec exclaimed.
Lucius stared at him. Icily. Lifting one perfectly groomed eyebrow. And keeping the stare for a while.
Alec shivered and held up his hands in an apologetic signal, then crossed off something on a form. "Ok, you can go now Lucius, and I’ll see you in a year."
"Simply grand." With a curt nod, Lucius spun on his heels and left the office. On to the next part of the day. Time to change clothes. He smiled to himself. Lucius looked forward to the people he would meet in the afternoon. They didn’t have the prejudices Freedman seemed to retain.
Meanwhile, Hermione sat on her bed in her small flat near the University of Edinburgh, and changed out of her pyjamas.
She studied Biology there. Or at least that's what she said she was doing. After the war ended and their side had won, Hermione suffered psychological issues and wanted to get away from the magical world for a while. Her need for perfection and to be the best, always there but manageable, was now overwhelming. She, in true Hermione fashion, had taken on too big of a thesis subject. Before the war, this would have been manageable, but now…
Now she suffered from depression. She felt helpless and hopeless often. Her anxiety overwhelmed her, and it was a miracle if she made it to the library three days a week. If she studied more than six hours in a day, she was ‘rewarded’ with a headache afterwards.
“The brightest witch of her age, ’humpff,’" she thought, scoffing. If only people could see her now.
Yes, she had been brave in the war. But what did she really have left to live for? Ron had gone off and married some Quidditch chick playing for the Harpies and travelled all around the world. Probably better, anyway, because after a short while their relationship had not worked, they had split up, and during the splitting up he had begun dating the Quidditch witch. Harry and Ginny lived in Norway, Harry wanting to be somewhere else for a while, and being British Ambassador for Magic, after a short course in international relations, suited him well. Ginny was a paramedic in a Norwegian Hospital for Magical Maladies a few days a week and they hoped to have children soon.
When life became too hard, and she had spiralled into her depression, Hermione had been too ashamed to reach out to Harry and Ginny. Because she and Ron had fizzled out so much, she could not imagine him being interested. But maybe that was her black mood talking? Regardless, she would not want to confide in him.
The other biology students had seemed like such children compared to her; complaining about having to plan skiing trips somewhere between exam and paper due dates, while she was thinking about people dying or being scarred for life… She could not get herself to make friends with them.
In the first year at uni, she had seen a therapist. That had helped somewhat. After that year, her Bachelor’s degree went by fast, and she was content reading a lot and talking about the subjects to professors. By the time she neared the end of her Master’s degree Hermione’s black moods had returned. She’d begun to fear she’d selected too complicated a topic for her thesis and that she’d erred in selecting a professor who rivalled Snape in her high standards for her work. She just had to complete the thesis to finish her degree, but the more time that passed, the harder that became. The research and work no longer was inspiring. She was no longer certain she wanted this life anymore. She was just so tired.
She tried to remember what her therapist – a Muggleborn witch - had said that first year. That during a 'black dog' episode, be happy with every little bit of progress. To not compare yourself with others. That it was remarkable what Hermione had overcome, and how brave it was to have had to obliviate her parents and make that decision for their wellbeing.
It was just that none of it seemed to mean anything anymore.
Nevertheless, this was one of the slightly better days, so she dragged herself out of bed, quickly washed, grabbed a yoghurt and headed for the labs of Edinburgh University to look at some plants there for her thesis.
Hermione sat on the bench looking at one of the row of plants she grew for her research; these particular ones were the Colocasia Esculenta , and she was measuring the growth and noting changes in her log. It had become tedious work and because of all the delays in her project and the little progress she felt she’d made, she couldn’t stop feeling like a failure. She looked around her, surveying what was honestly a very large room full of plants. She knew some of them were very special, but they didn't hold her interest like they used to. She rested her head in her hands and sighed.
Then she heard footsteps and heard someone say: “You can take one of the Ajuga Reptafloris Nigris plants you want, Professor. See, they're at the back in this room”.
Oh, someone was coming, and she preferred to be alone. Unfortunately, the black-leafed plants called Ajuga Reptafloris Nigris the person was looking for were just one row away from Hermione
"Thank you" came a low drawling voice she knew from somewhere.
Oh no! Mortified, she looked around. She did not want to meet one of her former Hogwarts professors.
She imagined their huge disappointment at not fulfilling at all the high hopes they'd had for her. But it was too late. One person went on their way, probably the person who brought the professor to the lab, but other footsteps were heard walking towards her.
The footsteps made their way to the back and a voice said kindly: “Hi Hermione. Did not expect you here!.” Are you doing your research here? For a PhD?“
To her embarrassment, her former professor Remus Lupin stood over her, glancing with interest at her notes. The sight of someone from her past overwhelmed Hermione, and she felt a sudden urge to cry.
”No, Professor Lupin. Still for a Masters... there’s been a great delay.“
His friendly eyes looked into hers. Suddenly she laid her head in her hands and cried. Oh no , she thought, where did that come from?
“Miss Granger, you don’t have to cry!” Lupin said.
It sounded caring. Hiding herself a bit with her arms, bracing herself for criticism she was afraid she would see in his eyes, Hermione looked up. Lupin laid a hand on her shoulder and Hermione leaned into him. He wrapped his arms around her and for the first time in ages she felt safe.
“Chocolate?“ he offered. “It cures a lot of things” Hermione laughed at his offer. “I don’t think any less of you ,you know. After a comfortable silence where Hermione just rested against him, he continued. “And Dora and I would be thrilled if you’d have dinner with us tonight; if you’d like”.
Hermione gave him a watery smile and accepted his invitation while munching on a bit of chocolate.
After that Remus further comforted her, by letting her have a good cry and letting her talk sitting attentively beside her listening. Then he took her home with him to eat with him and Tonks as promised. The food was good and the company even better. Tonks made her laugh by changing her hair colour fast in a myriad of ways, and Teddy was an absolutely adorable boy.
After a while, Remus began talking about his work at a big garden project in London. It was somewhat akin to, but larger than, some community gardens in London.
"We grow vegetables and flowers,” he said. "We also have greenhouses so there are green plants and trees even in winter, and even tropical plants are in there. The people that work there can be burnt-out wizards or Muggles, people sentenced to community work, people that need a friendly place to gather themselves. There’s a retirement home and a Children’s Hospital nearby and the children and the older folks visit a lot. Seventy-five percent of the fresh produce are donated to people in need in the larger area around the garden , the rest is for the people who grow them. The greenhouses and other areas have places to quietly sit and gaze.
“The plant I picked up at your university is of the same species as one that got destroyed when a tree hit the ground in one of our ‘stillness areas’. It was the favourite plant of an older lady who visits almost every day. I went out of my way to get a new one in time for her birthday, which is in a month. The searching process went much faster than expected."
Hermione was very enthusiastic about the garden. Remus explained that he had come up with it while finding rest in a smaller community garden himself on several occasions and that he sought Muggle cooperation to set it up.
They talked about a few other things throughout the evening, but Remus pulled her aside before she left for the night.
"We could use someone as knowledgeable about plants as you,” Remus said. ”It would be an easy volunteer job. You can make it as hard or easy as you want with regards to tasks and hours. And the spring is a new beginning; it’s an extra nice time for gardening. Maybe it gets you on your feet again." He smiled warmly at Hermione." “And you know, gardening is great therapy.”
It had taken some convincing, but Hermione had come the next week and ‘ooohed and aaahed’ over the large garden. She had begun to work a few half days a week for the first weeks, regularly visiting Tonks and Remus to have dinner with them afterwards. Also Remus’s remark about therapy and some good thinking had brought her to start therapy again.
"Look, we planted that special specimen the old lady missed so much, the one I went to your university to get," Remus said one sunny warm spring-day a few weeks after Hermione had started working at the garden. Together they admired the plant.
After a while, Hermione took her break on a bench behind some bushes, but was still looking in the direction of the new plant. Then, an old lady with a friendly face full of freckles and wrinkles approached, very slowly, led by the arm by someone who was carefully guiding her. The lady was smiling happily. The man guiding her was gracefully making sure she was ok.
Hermione smiled and then squinted her eyes. It was... Lucius Malfoy? But the woman was a Muggle! And what was he doing here? Pureblood, arrogant…
Nevertheless, Hermione watched them from her secluded spot as he laid down his folded cloak for the old woman so she could sit in front of her beloved plant, while patiently listening to her and supporting her arm with his. They laughed together and appeared at ease with each other.
Hermione stayed, mesmerized. After ten minutes, she quietly left and went to search for Remus, who could be found tending to some vegetables with one of the people that had a burnout. She took him aside.
"I saw Lucius Malfoy,” she said, the statement coming out as more of a question. “I don’t exactly know what to think. What is he doing with a Muggle woman? What is he up to? “
"Ah, yes, I suppose that would seem surprising to you,” Remus told her. “He has worked here for a long time. It began as the last part of his sentence, but he works double the hours that are required of him now."
“He acted…eh… normal,” said Hermione, her tone still disbelieving.
Remus laughed. “Well he certainly isn’t a garden-variety wizard, his clothes are always actually much too refined and too nice to wear in a garden for example. But he does wear Muggle clothing in the garden, and is nice to everyone here.” Hermione just looked at him and fleetingly thought that Lucius would never be totally unremarkable indeed. "By the way, normally he doesn’t work the same hours as you. I know you and he have a lot of bad history, especially after what happened at his manor so I planned it as such." Remus smiled at her.
"Oh," Hermione replied. She was not sure what to say to that, but she could not help to wonder about the situation. Lucius? Truly nice to a Muggle? Really? Changed? Hmpphf….
But sure enough, Hermione worked more and more hours at the garden every week. She observed Lucius consistently being nice to Muggles. Still, she kept to herself and wondered if it was a fluke. Lucius and she had different break times, because Hermione could take her breaks when she wanted, and she made sure to avoid him. He hadn’t approached her, so she assumed he hadn’t seen her.
But after a lot more stealthy observations over the weeks– what was it that made her do that? A morbid curiosity if Death Eater bastards could really change? A strange obsession? The way his hair waved in the wind? she thought and mentally shook herself at more than one occasion– she turned a corner and bumped into him. She was flabbergasted. As he steadied her with his arm, she stared mutely up at him.
He put her on her feet, took a step back himself and spoke. "Miss Granger." He nodded his head. "I have seen you in the garden now and then, and Remus had told me it really was you, but I thought I'd keep my distance since our mutual... history. But I am truly sorry about what you had to experience at my Manor." He touched her shoulder with two fingertips, looking at her very sincerely.
"Uh.... okay," Hermione muttered. Strange things fluttered in her belly at his touch. She shoved the feeling as deep down in her subconscious as it would go, spun on her heels and went to the greenhouse to improve conditions for some hard to keep tropical plants. Unfortunately, she thought about Lucius more often since that day.
The next week, she talked to Remus and Tonks at dinner at their house, which was turning out to be a regular thing. She even had confided in them that she had therapy now and regularly told them some things about how it was going. The couple was very supportive about it.
"I bumped into him. I don’t know what to think of him yet," was her only comment about the altercation with Lucius. Remus smiled at her and changed the topic.
“Hermione,” Remus approached her later that evening. “I wanted to talk to you about something. Since you’re doing so well right now, needing less therapy and looking to challenge yourself more, I was wondering if you would like to do me a favour. The city newspaper wants to do a large story on the gardens, but the journalist is sick. I know you write well, and since you are intimately aware of what we do, I asked if they’d give you the chance to write it. They said yes. Would you be interested?”
Hermione felt a lot better and not as depressed anymore. It had been two and a half months of working in the garden now. She liked the challenge of writing the article and the idea that it could lead even more people who needed the garden to them, so she said yes.
The deadline for the newspaper article was almost there. Hermione, despite having the article ready, had a bout of feeling like a failure. Like she hadn’t had since she had started working in the gardens and started therapy again.
"I feel like I have wasted so much time!” Hermione said, shame in her voice. She continued to complain to Remus while tending to some plants with him. “I’ve been such a burden on society, and I have not even finished my studies and probably never will."
"People are inherently worthy, Hermione, you do not have to earn that,” Remus said, his tone firm yet gentle. “I don’t think you’re a burden on society, by the way. I’m glad to work with you. You are just a perfectionist and fretting about your ‘grade’ again since you’ll be sending the article to the publisher tonight. There was nothing wrong with it, it was very good, Dora and I both loved it remember? You have a tendency to find fault with yourself, and I hope you can stop doing that so much".
"Hmmm" Hermione made a doubtful sound, but she was starting to feel a bit more cheered up.
"Consider this quote.” Remus fished around in his back pocket, pulling out a wrinkled, dirt covered note card. ’You can rake the muck this way, rake the muck that way-- it will always be muck. Have I sinned or have I not sinned? In the time I am brooding over it, I could be stringing pearls for the delight of Heaven’."
"Thank you,that is really striking. And kind of a gardening metaphor at that. I have noticed lately that gardening can be a nice metaphor for growing as a human being. " Hermione said, smiling. "Who said that?"
"Martin Buber," Remus answered.
"The ‘ I and Thou ’ theologian?"
"Yes, that one. I borrowed the book from a member of our garden community who was reading it on break time. I wrote this one down because we get a lot of people with regrets coming our way, working or relaxing."
"Who was reading that book?" Hermione asked. "Maybe I can talk to them in the next break when I see them..."
"Ah... yes you could. It was Lucius Malfoy," Remus answered.
Hermione wanted to say something, but she shut her mouth and sunk deep in thought.
The next morning, the editor emailed to let Hermione know he liked the article. When Hermione got to the garden, she immediately ran to hug Remus.
That afternoon, she saw Lucius sitting at a table, surrounded by some other workers. Could she disturb him and ask about the quote and Buber? She stood in the shadows in a far corner of the break room and observed. He laughed at something an older woman said and offered an apple to an older man next to him. All Muggles. By now, Hermione was not even that surprised anymore. But still curious how Lucius had changed. And even more curious to talk about the quote with him.
She shuffled her feet and left the room, going to sit at a bench near the exit to the break room. Lucius was one of the last to leave the room, holding a plant a co-worker gave him.
"Mr Malfoy?" she asked. "Do you mind if I ask you a question? "
"Miss Granger,” Lucius greeted her. “Of course. Not at all. I just have put this plant where it belongs, and then I’ll come join you.”
Lucius disappeared around a corner and reappeared without the plant a few minutes later. He sat down next to her at the bench and Hermione began talking about the book and about the quote Remus had recited for her. He enthusiastically talked about how the book had made him think and how much he liked it for a short while and then they ended up discussing philosophy in general. Lucius turned out to be very well read. They were going back and forth about their various views on the usefulness of existentialism and the Stoa, and Hermione totally forgot who she was talking to. Then somehow, they got to the topic of potions.
“Of course you can't swap in adder’s tongue plucked under a waxing moon. The light of the full moon is essential in capturing the magical essence!" said Hermione
"Except in the cases that you actually want a potion with a weaker strength, but you must think I'm idiotic for even considering that" countered Lucius, having an amused smile on his face.
“I would never think you idiotic!” She stared up at him. He looked back at her. Something had changed about the moment, and suddenly she could barely remember what they had been talking about. Then she awkwardly smiled and changed the topic.
After that she sought him out for more friendly intellectual discussions and after that it wasn't long before he began seeking her out as well. He complimented her on her article and she told him that the editor had been so impressed he asked her to write more. With his encouragement, she agreed to do it.
A few weeks later, she had tickets to a muggle movie she really wanted to see, and Remus and Tonks couldn’t go with her. She didn’t want them to go to waste and she didn’t want to go alone so she asked Lucius to join her. She wasn’t sure if she was more surprised that he had agreed, or that they had fun. Then he asked her to a museum. And so on and so forth for a time. Somewhere along the way she lost her distrust, but not her curiosity, about his change.
When Lucius and Hermione spent time together, she sometimes felt a strange sparkle and Hermione had the idea that Lucius might feel it too when they touched. Increasingly, when he thought she wasn’t looking, Lucius looked at her in a way that did not seem too platonic. Secretly she enjoyed the spark that she kept feeling. She didn’t do much about her changed feelings towards him and did not examine them too much.
Instead, she kept talking to him and doing fun things like visiting museums with him. She didn't quite notice when she started looking at him differently, but it was getting hard to ignore. Even just seeing him prune the roses, she was struck by his grace and presence. Of course it also helped very much that he kept being steadily friendly to everyone in the gardening project. Remus also noticed Lucius and Hermione were spending more and more time together, and sometimes smiled at them in a fond way, and even had invited them both to dinner one time. Hermione was happy to see that Tonks and Lucius got along really well.
Then one day, Remus was handing out picnic baskets with produce and some extras to all the workers when they finished their shift. Hermione and Lucius got them at almost the same time and immediately she went over to look at his basket
"Hey, what have you got in your basket?" she asked while peeking.
“Wine, bread, tomatoes and lettuce,” he answered. “And you?”
Hermione smiled “Oranges, apples, and champagne. And a picnic blanket. Would you maybe like to go sit in the park a few blocks from here and eat them? I’ve got cutlery.“
“Well, I’ve got an even more beautiful spot for that if you are ok with that. There is a beautiful and peaceful part of the garden at the Malfoy estate we could go. After the War I had isolated myself much and before the war I had house elfs and gardening wizards tending my garden, but since I work at the garden here I’ve begun to take care of that garden myself. I’d be curious what you think about it”
“Ok, let’s see it!’Hermione agreed.
They apparated there. Lucius looked at Hermione with a soft smile and even a bit of shyness in his eyes. “I hope you like the garden?”.
Hermione looked around. The garden was luscious, and very well kept. Obviously a lot of love and care had gone in maintaining it. Some hard to keep magical flowers were also doing very well.
“Like, I love it! Even the Floriantis Abdifficulis Magis Magentis are flourishing, and you’ve tended to the whole garden with love and care! It’s so beautiful Lucius!
Lucius smiled widely, clearly proud to hear that she loved it.
They spent a nice time talking and eating in the garden. At one point Hermione finally worked up the courage to ask him the question that had been plaguing her for months. ”What made you change your mind about Muggles?”
“Hmm,” Lucius said. "Well to be honest it was a slow process. But after Narcissa and I split up after the war– because our marriage had not been what it used to be, and frankly was begun for political motives–“ he added quickly, then, looked away, then back at her. He took a deep breath before continuing. “She was quicker with seeing the Muggleborns as equal as I ...“ He looked shamefully at her as his voice trailed off.
Hermione smiled encouragingly.
“Well Draco also changed his thinking and ways. At first I changed my outward behaviour because he brought Muggleborn friends around a lot. Then I had to go work in the gardens. At the same time as I really began to see how Draco seemed happier and how his new friends were really helpful in that. Then I had some really nice intellectual and philosophical conversations with some of them and I truly began to like some of them” He smiled fondly, clearly remembering them.
”Furthermore, the people in the garden project were so nice to me. It wasn’t like in the magical world. They had no reason to do so. They didn’t know I was rich, and they didn’t know my past, so they weren’t aware of the horrible things I had done. They didn’t want favours or money. They were just friendly.” An even bigger smile graced Lucius face now. “Remus convinced me that I could better work towards the future rather than keep picking at the past. I kept trying to improve myself, and even the Ministry worker assigned to my case got to me with his muggle philosophy about altruism and the Other. He introduced me to Levinas but then I looked up Buber. First to impress him but then this Muggle Buber got to me!” he chuckled.
“Wow, that is admirable’ said Hermione, honestly.
“Ah… well…. you have always been so perfect” said Lucius.
“I’m not. I didn’t even finish my Master’s.” Hermione looked ashamed at Lucius this time.
“That’s not what I meant silly girl. I mean morally.”
“But I still feel so ashamed at times. I should be able to finish my stupid Masters...” Hermione said in a small voice
“You must have had a lot to deal with after the war and you can always pick up again. You’re a beautiful human being; inside and out. And you really care about others.” He looked straight at her.
Hermione blushed. “I… I…”
“My favourite witty girl doesn’t know what to say?” Lucius teased in his affectionate tone.
“Well I…” Hermione looked down and then looked up. Meanwhile Lucius took another bite of the bread with tomato spread. “You accidentally got some on your cheek.”
Hermione reached out and to swipe it away with her finger. The moment she touched his skin, it felt electrical. They both inhaled at the same time, and their eyes met. Hermione saw that Lucius’ pupils had widened, darkening his eyes. Moving a bit closer to him, she looked up as he moved his face towards her before holding back at the last moment.
“May I kiss you?”
“Why, Mr. Malfoy, did you bring me here to ravish me?”
Lucius pulled back, face hesitant “No , no I would never assume!”
Pulling him down, Hermione captured his lips.
Their kiss was kind of chaste at first but then Hermione touched the tip of her tongue to his lips. Chuckling softly, he nibbled on her upper lip, before opening his mouth. Their tongues began to dance gracefully and sensually. Hermione felt her heart begin to speed up and heat starting to pool in her belly. Grasping his beautiful golden mane in her hands, she pulled him in even more. He took a fistful of her curls and she let out a moan. Moving closer to him, Hermione shoved the plates out of the way without looking, and then pushed him down.
“Hermione… are you sure?” he asked, regarding her with a hungry look. “This might get heated and…”
“Yes kiss me! Touch me!”
“As you wish.” Putting his hands on her waist, he rolled them over so she was trapped below him. “If you want to stop, I want to hear it”
“Yes, I will when necessary, thank you. Now come here!” Hermione groaned in frustration, at the same time feeling even safer with him.
His hands slowly crept up and Hermione spread her legs a little. While he made her feel hot all over with his kisses, she palmed his arse and pulled it towards her. Understanding her desires, he ground himself against her core., Their breaths came quickly, and she could feel his hardness through their clothes.
As much fun as this is, there's a rock digging into my arse. Care to let me apparate us somewhere more comfortable?" Hermione asked.
“If you can do that safely in this state of… distraction.” Lucius managed to smirk the most sensual, sinful smile at her she had ever seen. His smile implied a world of sensuous pleasure.
“I’ll have you know I graduated top of every class at Hogwarts and am very practiced at Apparition,” she huffed. “But let’s apparate, just take our garbage with us.”
“Are you a witch or not?” Lucius winked, grabbing his wand and vanishing all the remains of their picnic to his house. He would deal with them later. ”Your place or—” His question was cut off as Hermione Apparated him right into her bedroom.
--------- A few months later---------------
Hermione washed her hair, relaxing in the bathtub full of hot water that Lucius had prepared for her. She thought about her development in the last year. She had been on a lot of dates with Lucius and they regularly stayed the weekend and some workdays together until she had recently moved in with him.
She had also changed in the work department. No more giving nor working until she was depleted or collapsed, and her enjoyment of work and research had come back. Feeling re-energized, she put that to use at the newspaper now and was contemplating picking up her masters in the future. But with or without a masters, she felt good about herself.
The depression had been long gone by the time Lucius and Hermione ended up in the park. Low frequency therapy and watching what she thought made it stay gone. She still had her dark days, but having people who loved her to talk to made all the difference. It helped her get rid of some left-over insecurity and trauma-related anguish.
And then there were Lucius and she…
Her relationship with Lucius was wonderful, better than anything she could have imagined. When she was with Ron, he had always made it about him; his pleasure, his wants. Lucius was happy to focus on her. She never would have thought that someone like Lucius Malfoy, who had always seemed selfish would be so giving in bed. And they were in bed a lot. Hermione felt a jolt of arousal as she thought back over the copious amounts of sex they had had..
She would not have thought that when she just came to work in the garden, that he would be so giving, in all areas; in that area. The times when she wanted it, him , rough and demanding, she could get it that way, he made sure of that. But he always inquired after her wishes. He always cuddled her afterwards, for a long time. He never seemed to grow tired of it.
They surprised each other with little love notes. She loved to hug him when he did not hear her coming. He always chuckled delightfully when she did that. She was happy. With herself, and with her life. With writing as a journalist for the newspaper. With Lucius. With her friends, like Remus and Tonks, some of the people she met in the garden, and with Harry and Ginny– they visited four times a year now. And she also had gotten an adorable new cat that willingly sat on her papers now and then to provide extra breaks from work to pet it.
Lucius sat in his study and was also reflecting. He observed himself putting her happiness before his own most of the time. Remus saw it too and Lucius could spot the signs of it all around him and in his thought processes every day. He had partly redecorated the manor. He made her breakfast. He respected her wishes.
Gone were the days when he thought of partners in terms of how they could cater to his whims first. He also mourned the union with Narcissa, where both parties had joined for strategic purposes and then somewhat learned to 'like' each other. He was glad he could now encourage Draco to, above all, choose love as reason for choosing a partner. He was so glad Hermione was in his life.
As he sat thinking, an owl arrived at the Manor for Lucius.
Dear Mr. Malfoy
The Ministry would like to inform you that due to your recent appearances in the public eye with Muggleborn Ms. Hermione Granger, and the words of your employer, Mr. R. Lupin, the Ministry has decided that your visits to the Office for the Reform of Former Death Eaters will no longer be required on an annual basis. Instead you will be expected to report every third year. Please reply with your understanding of these changes.
Magical Law Enforcement
Office for the Reform of Former Death Eaters
Ministry of Magic
Lucius smiled and neatly folded the letter before immediately drafting his reply
To : Alec Freedman
Office for the Reform of Former Death Eaters
I recently reread Buber, the thinker I read and talked to you about after you recommended Levinas to me, and this struck me: ”Feelings dwell in man; but man dwells in his love. That is no metaphor, but the actual truth. Love does not cling to the I in such a way as to have the Thou only for its ‘content,’ its object; but love is between I and Thou. The man who does not know this, with his very being knows this, does not know love; even though he ascribes to it the feelings he lives through, experiences, enjoys, and expresses.”
I know that your goal for me was to look at all people more through this lens. I do try and increasingly somewhat succeed, although imperfectly, but nevertheless, I would like you to know I found her. The one I love like myself or even more than myself at times... Hermione Granger.
He sent off his owl and sat smiling. A slightly bushy haired witch with gorgeous brown eyes and a spring in her step walked into his study.
"What are you thinking about Lucius? You look so happy."
"Oh, is it a morning like that?" she said but stepped a bit closer and leaned towards him.
Lucius fisted his hand in her curls but drew her towards him quite tenderly. He spoke as he pressed kisses around her face. "I was,” kiss “thinking” kiss “about” kiss “you.” kiss
Hermione smiled against his lips and deepened the last kiss, that had landed on her mouth.