The blond man sitting next to her just raised an eyebrow in reply. Hermione huffed in annoyance: “It’s an awful tradition. Lots of men on horses and their dogs chasing one single fox? It’s already bad as a muggle tradition, but for wizards? Why do you even bother with a fox hunt anyway?”
Lucius Malfoy smiled at her: “It’s a sport, my love. It has been a tradition for centuries now, a tradition I intend to honour. We don’t even use magic, shouldn’t that make you happy?”
Shaking her head, Hermione jumped from her armchair and began to run circles in front of the fire place: “No magic? Really? What about the charmed crossbows you use that can never miss if you aim somewhere in the right direction?”
Lucius just shrugged: “Well, those are charmed before the event. During the event, we don’t use magic. I thought you would be happy to know we’re doing something so muggle.”
“You should have known better!” Hermione shouted: “I don’t like it at all. If you want to spend Halloween with me, you’ll not do it.”
At times like these, Hermione wondered how she could have ever befriended Lucius Malfoy. She had felt pity when his wife left him after the war, though she couldn’t actually blame her for it. She never had a real choice in the whole Death Eater matter, it had always been her husband that had driven the family further down the road. But perhaps, if Narcissa had stayed, she would have witnessed the slow changes in her husband, changes for the better. Hermione herself had visited him often during his one year stay in Azkaban, seeing first hand that Lucius was full of honest remorse about his wrong doings. Not all Death Eaters were like that, but him, Dolohov, Rowle, even the insufferable Rabastan Lestrange had shown signs of remorse. Now, five years after the Battle of Hogwarts, they all were released from Azkaban, though not yet fully respected members of the magical society.
She enjoyed spending time with Lucius, even more so when his son Draco wasn’t present. Even though Draco never was as convinced of Voldemort’s leadership as his father, their history during Hogwarts wasn’t easily overcome. He tried to be polite, as did she, but their problems had deeply personal roots. It wasn’t easy.
“Look,” she finally said, “I want to spend Halloween with you. I think it could be fun to dress up and do something a little different. But I’ll not be part of any fox hunt. I have something called compassion.”
When she turned to gaze directly at Lucius, she detected the hint of a dangerous grin. He plotting something, that much was obvious. Something evil. Or perhaps naughty. Nervously she licked her lips: “What?”
With glinting eyes he asked: “If I promise that we’ll not hunt any foxes, would you be up for hunting in general?”
Suspicion rose in Hermione: “Depends on what else you’ll hunt.”
He held out a hand to her and after she took it, he pulled her into his lap: “You talked about dressing up. Why not make it a little bit more fun and dress you up as a sexy fox?”
Hermione’s eyes grew big: “What are you talking about?”
He was outright smirking at her now, his eyes betraying the mischief: “Would you be up for a little game of Hide and Seek?”
She struggled to think straight. The way his long finger caressed her cheek, while his other hand lay innocently on her thigh didn’t help her brain. Though they’d never slept with each other, Hermione was only too aware that Lucius wouldn’t mind to. She herself wouldn’t mind to, either. She gulped anxiously: “Hide and Seek? I hide, you seek?”
His grin turned even more wicked: “Well, it wouldn’t be a real fox hunt if there was only one hunter now, would it?”
Hermione froze in shock: “Several hunters? You want me to dress up in some naughty costume, being chased around by who knows how many men? Are you out of your mind?”
Lucius pulled her to his chest and put both arms around her in a warm embrace: “You know I’d never put you in danger, Hermione. Also, I don’t like sharing. But I do like competition. If I promise you that there’ll be only a few men and that they’re all nice guys, would you still object? Think about it. A couple of men trying desperately to find you, chasing you, the only female present. Is that such a bad idea?”
When he put it like that, Hermione had a hard time to object. Men never chased her. She wasn’t ugly, but she knew she was not the type of girl you would invite for a drink and then pull on your lap. No man had ever tried to seduce her in that way. Not that she was an unexperienced virgin, but as of yet, most men had shied away from pursuing her. Even Lucius Malfoy, who was at least mildly interested in her, had never made a move. She had spent some interesting months after the war together with Ron, experimenting in bed, sharing many firsts with him, but in the end they both agreed that they worked better as just friends. Visiting Krum had proven to be the best idea she ever had, only he never meant to go steady. As good as their sex was, he wanted to be free, play Quidditch and travel the world.
Back home, Hermione realised that most men didn’t even think of her as a sexual being. When she went out with Ginny for drinks, some men approached her red haired friend with clear intent, but as Ginny was happy with Harry, she turned all of them down. No one ever tried their luck with herself. Regardless of the effort she put into looking sexy and open, men just stayed away.
Would the men Lucius wanted to invite be the same? Or would the thrill of the hunt and the singular circumstances of Halloween, or Samhain, as some of the more traditional wizards still called it, change their minds? Perhaps Lucius would finally try something?
“Would you tell me who you’re thinking about?”
Lucius shook his head: “No. That’s part of the fun. But I promise you, you know all of them and I know you like them. Trust me.”
Hermione buried her face in his chest. She could feel anxiety and curiosity battle on the inside. She trusted Lucius, even though she knew he could play mean tricks on her. Just thinking of the possibility that perhaps some man she liked found her in a dark corner somewhere in this huge mansion, cornering her like prey, making her beg for release – Hermione had to stop herself from pressing a heated kiss on Lucius’ lips just then. Her dirty mind came up with one naughty scenario after the other. Who was she kidding? His proposition was more than appealing.
“Ok,” she finally whispered, her voice sounding husky even to her own ears, “perhaps I like your idea. Let’s be kids again, dress up and play Hide and Seek.”
Lucius put his fingers under her chin and forced her to look directly into his eyes: “This has nothing to do with a kid’s game, Hermione. It’s Samhain, after all. If you’re not aware of what that means, we shouldn’t be playing this game.”
Again she licked her lips: “I am aware, Lucius. I am very aware. Let’s play.”
Heat flashed in his eyes when his gaze dropped to her lips, but he didn’t act on it. He simply pressed his lips on her forehead before releasing her from his embrace. She sat up, but didn’t leave his lap. Inspecting her fingernails, she asked: “You will participate as hunter, too, right?”
A deep chuckle was her answer: “You sure are eager to get your fingers on me, my love. Yes, I will of course participate, too.”
She wanted to tell him that he didn’t need to use a game like Hide and Seek to seduce her. That he could just ask her to come to bed with him. That she was only too willing to … but no, she didn’t dare. Even if he wanted to hunt her, she still couldn’t be sure he actually wanted to sleep with her. She would not make a fool out of herself by opening up in that way. She would die of embarrassment if Lucius Malfoy rejected her sexual approaches. Instead, she’d patiently wait and see what the night of Samhain brought for her.
“She agreed to this?”
Rabastan Lestrange chuckled when he noticed the shocked tone in Antonin’s voice. He was surprised by Hermione’s willingness, too, but then again, he had always suspected the little witch was more than she looked like on the surface.
The smirk on Lucius’ face told him that the blond man thought the same: “Why wouldn’t she, Dolohov?”
Antonin shrugged: “I just didn’t think she’d like me chasing her around.”
“She doesn’t know you’re here,” Lucius explained, “in fact, I didn’t tell her about any of you. I just promised that she knew and liked you.”
Antonin turned red upon hearing that: “She doesn’t know I’m here? Malfoy, you can’t be serious.”
Rabastan couldn’t hold his annoyance at his friend’s behaviour back any longer: “What’s your problem, Antonin? As far as I can remember, you have talked to her before and it was never hostile.”
Antonin’s eyes were dark when he coolly replied: “You don’t remember, do you? None of you remember. Perhaps you just choose not to remember. I don’t care whichever it is, because I do remember very clearly. I cursed her. During that bloody fight in the ministry, I cursed her. You know, my special little curse, invented by my family, known to no one but us. I hit her right in the chest with it.”
“You didn’t,” came the hard voice of Thorfinn Rowle from behind them. The giant man had watched silently at their dispute, but he obviously had something to say now: “If you did, she would be dead.”
Antonin shook his head: “She silenced me before, so it was not powerful enough. Still. Severus told me that he had to combine several potions for the longest time in order to bring back her health. Yes, we speak, but it’s always awkward.”
Usually, Rabastan had a snarky remark for every situation, but he found himself at a loss for words. That was unexpected. He hadn’t known that Hermione had actually been hit by the Dolohov curse. Every one of them at one point had fought her, but it was never actually a battle to the death. He had not thought that one of their group once had actually tried to kill the witch.
“I indeed was not aware of that fact,” Lucius mused, “otherwise I would have asked her.”
“I should go,” Antonin said, “you all can have fun tonight, but I really shouldn’t be here.”
“No!” Rabastan immediately intercepted: “I don’t think you have to go. Have you ever told her you’re sorry?”
If looks could kill, the Russian wizard would have murdered him on the spot: “I didn’t. What is there to say? Sorry I tried to kill you? I can’t even claim that I didn’t mean it, because I did. I really wanted to kill her back then. She was just another nasty little mudblood …”
“Watch it,” Thorfinn cut him off, “we’re beyond using such language, Dolohov, and you should really try and leave it, too.”
Antonin stared at him: “I just wanted to emphasize my thoughts from back then. She was a hindrance for our master, that’s all I saw in her. I didn’t know she was so intelligent, nor that she would turn out to be so … compassionate.”
Lucius looked more annoyed by the minute. Obviously he didn’t like that the happy occasion turned moody all of a sudden. Picking up the thread he had started before, Rabastan suggested: “Why don’t you use this to show her you’re sorry? It’s Samhain, anything can happen between a witch and a wizard.”
Now it was Rowle, who gave him a murderous glare: “You’re not actually suggesting Antonin should fuck her to say sorry, are you?”
“Come on now, gentlemen,” Lucius shut down any fight that could arise from the argument, “we’re all intelligent people, we’ll find a way to make this work. I would really hate to see you excluded from this year’s fox hunt, Antonin, so let’s take a moment and think.”
Antonin could not believe he had let Lucius, Thorfinn and Rabastan talk him into this. He was uncomfortable around the Granger girl, even though she had always been polite whenever they had talked. If he had known before that Malfoys traditional fox hunt had been turned into a witch hunt, he would have declined the invitation. But here he was, a glass of whisky in one hand, waiting for the witch to appear before them.
They had all agreed that they would at least greet Hermione, so she got a chance after all to object. Why Lucius wanted to keep the identity of the hunters a secret in the first place was still a mystery to him. He felt stupid, standing in the entrance hall of the manor, looking up the grand stairs, waiting for a girl to appear. But the other three men did the same, so he tried to look disinterested.
The grandfather clock chimed eight. When the last gong died away, Hermione Granger stepped out of the shadows of the upper hallway. Antonin’s mouth fell open, his hand grabbed his whisky glass harder.
Whoever was responsible for that outfit.
She wore a very short skirt in the colour of fox fur, her top was the same, reaching not even down to her belly button. Her feet and legs were clad in knee-high furry looking boots. Worst of all were the fox ears in her hair. Antonin gulped. She looked definitely way too cute and innocent for the amount – or lack thereof – of clothing she wore.
Hermione seemed to be only too aware how her dress looked, because when she descended the stairs, she didn’t look at any of the men while a pointed red was visible on her cheeks.
“You look delicious,” Lucius said after Hermione had come to stand before him
She huffed at him: “Whatever this is supposed to be? I could as well wear nothing.”
Rabastan just laughed at that: “I wouldn’t mind, darling, you’re welcome to undress at any point.”
As if she only now registered who else was present, Hermione’s eyes went big: “Oh. Good evening, I guess? I didn’t know …”
Her eyes travelled along the four of them, coming to a stop when she spotted him. Antonin tried to not let his nervousness shine through. He was a grown wizard, for Merlin’s sake, and he had been a Death Eater forever now. He should not feel this anxious just because he didn’t know how one witch would take his presence.
“Dolohov,” Hermione murmured, “how … unexpected.”
Glancing at his friends, he stepped forward, quietly saying: “I can go, if you want that, Granger. I would totally understand, if you …”
“No,” she interrupted him just as quietly, “no, it’s okay. Just … try not to hex me, okay?”
He cringed at her words, not put at ease at all. He really should go, but at the same time he knew he didn’t want to. Seeing the once young, common girl shine with such beauty, looking at him confidently, told him that he needed to put the past behind himself at last.
“Actually,” Thorfinn now chimed in, “we’re not allowed to use our wands. We’ll leave them here. Otherwise this hunt would be over too quickly.”
Lucius nodded: “Yes, no wands. For you neither, my love. I did tell you that tonight we’d do it the muggle way, didn’t I?”
“Yeah,” an obviously confused Hermione agreed, “I just didn’t think you’d actually mean it.”
“Why, because we once were big bad Death Eaters?” Rabastan scolded her with a mock glare.
Again, Antonin felt the urge to cringe. Was he the only one that had a hard time forgetting that they indeed once were known for hunting Muggles and muggleborn witches and wizards?
“Well, yes. It’s just hard to wrap my head around it all,” Hermione told them, still looking not too convinced.
“I’d say may the best man win,” Thorfinn said with a low chuckle, “with emphasis on man, not wizard.”
A lovely red spread across Hermione’s whole face when the full meaning of Rowle’s words hit her. She didn’t look disgusted, though, Antonin observed, but rather intrigued. That was definitely unexpected. So she actually understood what Samhain and this hunt would be about? She was actually up for it?
“Be a good girl now, Hermione, and hand over your wand. I’ll assure you, we all will go without ours as well,” Lucius told her, putting forth his hand to demand her wand.
Without further hesitation, the witch did as she was told. Lucius explained the rules once again – she was allowed to fight if captured, no man was to help her when another already caught her, even if captured she had no obligation to do anything her captor demanded except admit defeat – then Hermione turned and ran back upstairs. They would wait for five minutes before starting their hunt.
Antonin looked at the other three men. Thorfinn looked confident, Rabastan smug as always, and Lucius … Lucius interestingly looked as if he had already won. He wondered whether that was a worrying sign, but decided to ignore it for now. If he himself was lucky enough to catch Hermione before anyone else, he would apologize at last. He would tell her that even though back then he truly meant to kill her, he had no such intentions today and would never have them again. He wanted the elephant in the room go away so he finally could enjoy her warmth and intelligence just as all the others could. He had no intention of fucking her, as Rowle had put it so eloquently.
None at all.