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Chapter 8: Kindly Luncheon
Chapter 8 (Kindly Lucheon)
The clicking of heels as her introduction, Narcissa Malfoy strode into the library that afternoon, her eyes steeled with purpose but gentle with caring. “Hermione,” she called.
A little apprehensively, Hermione looked up from her chair in a secluded corner. Seeing only the back of the mistress of the Malfoy household, she stood and turned the lady’s attention by responding, “Over here, Mrs. Malfoy.”
The blonde spun around at the sound of her voice. “How many times do I have to tell you to call me Narcissa?” she said in a gentle, but reprimanding voice.
“Sorry, Narcissa. I’m not used to being on a first-name basis yet.”
“That’s okay, dear, but in the future do try to remember. Mrs. Malfoy is much too formal for a guest to use. But that’s not why I came here. I’m hosting a ladies’ luncheon tomorrow, and I was hoping that you would do me the honor of joining us.” Noticing the worried look on the young woman’s face, she added, “Trust me, dear, we are much more refined than the men. You have no need to worry.”
Still a bit uncertain, Hermione obliged. She watched the surprisingly kind lady exit the library before returning to her book on defensive spells and potions.
The next morning, a house-elf appeared to escort her to Lady Malfoy’s room. Hermione followed obediently, wondering why the woman had ordered her presence. When she entered the elegant room, she was greatly surprised by the sky blue walls and light bamboo flooring. The room was decidedly un-Slytherin-like. In fact, the only green was a set of potted flowers sitting on the open window sill.
“Good morning, dear,” Narcissa exclaimed as she glided around a corner, into sight. Hermione noticed off-handedly that her eyes were the same color as the walls and the brilliant sky that peeked through the window. Those same eyes quickly scanned Hermione’s figure, and the older woman’s mouth moved rapidly as she murmured to herself. “You can have a seat anywhere. I’ll be back in just a moment.” She disappeared from whence she had come.
Hermione indulgently took a seat on the cream-cushioned window seat. She pushed aside the dancing curtains and peered out at the lush landscape beneath her. Rolling green hills were intercepted by a pine forest on her left, while the edges of a large lake lapped at the sandy shore to her right. Far in the distance, she thought she spied a boatman sailing the lake, and closer to her, she watched fish jump from the water in an acrobatic show. Her eyes wandered to a lone figure walking the grounds. She could distinctly see his light blonde hair shine in the sunlight. She prayed that he wouldn’t notice her as he turned to face the stone mansion. A smile crossed his face as he examined some unknown thing beneath her. Narcissa’s return stole her attention away from the unusual sight.
The lovely blonde glanced out the window and smiled softly before laughing, “He’s out there again, isn’t he? Draco seems to spend all his free time tending those flowers lately. I’ve told him repeatedly that the house-elves wouldn’t mind taking care of them, but he insists on caring for them himself, silly boy. But that is all he has left of his grandmother.” Turning back to Hermione, she explained, “His grandmother on Lucius’ side passed away nearly a year ago. She was a very nice lady; I never figured out how she could have had a son like Lucius. She always doted on Draco, him being her only grandson, and he loved her more than anything. He was devastated when she passed. Every year, she planted a small flower garden under this window. Now he insists on keeping the tradition going himself, in memory of her.”
Hermione was overwhelmed by this new information. “So the ferret has a heart,” she thought. “Who knew?”
“Anyways, here is a few of my old dresses for you to try,” Lady Malfoy said, pointing to a large pile of lace, frills, and smocking of a grand variety of colors. The stately woman was adamant that Hermione try on every dress. The pair found themselves laughing together at some of the more ridiculous ones - a poufy aqua ball gown that resembled a fairytale mermaid a little too closely for style, a very short hot pink number covered in fringe that Hermione could never imagine Narcissa ever having worn, even a lime green and white striped Go-go style frock . Hermione finally settled on white, knee-length sundress with delicately stitched flowers and vines trimming the pale pink empire-style sash. The thin straps and straight neckline paired with a chain of dainty pink diamond roses brought the attention to her lightly powdered face. Narcissa managed to coax her hair into an elegant bun, leaving out a few strands to frame her face gently. The lady of Malfoy Manor also looked beautiful in her robin’s egg blue dress which brought out her sparkling eyes. The cut was slimming and stylish with a V-neck and an A-line skirt.
Both women stepped into high heels and turned to the large mirror. Hermione gasped at her reflection, while Narcissa simply smiled in delight and anticipation. Forgoing all reluctance and formality, Hermione hugged the older woman, expressing her thanks repeatedly. “Not a problem, dear. You have to look respectable for this afternoon, and I enjoyed our time together,” she replied with a grin.
Turning toward the clock, she let out a startled sound. “Oh dear. They’ll be here any minute now. We better go down to the foyer.” Hastily, she pulled an astonished Hermione down five flights of stairs and through several hallways ending, winded, in a large entrance room just as the door bell called out a haunting ring. Pausing for a second, Lady Malfoy looked over herself and her companion. Satisfied, she opened the grand, cherry door.
Hermione was taken aback by the appearance of the woman at the door. The dark haired lady was barely five foot tall and fairly plump. Her smile was soft, and her eyes shone with excitement as she stepped into the manor. Mrs. Malfoy bent down - while the little woman stood on her toes - to give her guest a kiss on the cheek. “Mrs. Parkinson, this is Hermione Granger,” the taller woman said in introduction. At the wondering look on Mrs. Parkinson’s face, she added, “The young woman who is staying with us as a favor to the Dark Lord.”
Hermione didn’t fail to notice the way that Lady Malfoy had omitted the little fact that she was there against her will, but she was surprised to hear the hint of disgust in the older woman’s voice as she referred to the most feared wizard in the world. Politely, she lightly grasped the proffered hand before her and greeted, “Nice to meet you.”
“Oh! Isn’t she a darling! Pureblood, I’m sure, with those manners. Even my little Pansy couldn’t hold a candle to her!” the raven-haired woman gushed.
Awkwardly, Narcissa leaned down to whisper to the guest. “Oh! My mistake!” Turning back to Hermione, she exclaimed, “I’m sorry, dear. I do hope I didn’t offend you. I believe that I see Mrs. Zambini coming up the way, so I’ll allow you ladies to do your duty.” With that, Mrs. Parkinson scampered off, as a beautiful dark-skinned woman approached the door.
“Mrs. Zambini, How good to see you again! This is Hermione Granger.” And so the introductions went on. By the time all the guests had arrived, Hermione felt as if she had just met half of London’s population. As the ladies around her engaged in conversations, she stood off to the side, alone. Mrs. Malfoy, sensing her discomfort, quietly suggested that she oversee the house-elves in setting up the dining room. Hermione readily agreed, having given up S.P.E.W. as a hopeless cause within her few days at Malfoy Manor.
Draco silently watched the bushy-haired teenage girl direct his family’s servants in the preparation of the sunny dining room. He found himself smiling in appreciation of her conduct and talents. “She’d make a good wife,” he thought. Catching himself, he added, “At least when it comes to preparing for social events.” He was disgusted with his train of thought as he soundlessly slipped away.
The prim and proper (or so they seemed at first glance) ladies entered the sunlit dining room, exclaiming over the gorgeous place settings and the intricacies of the lace tablecloth. Hermione shyly beamed with satisfaction as the women admired her work. Narcissa’s voice rang out clear and strong, asking everyone to be seated and the house-elves to bring out the food. Lamb chops, little sandwiches, and shrimp kabobs were brought out, followed by fruit and vegetable trays. For dessert, there was a variety of chocolate-covered goodies, angel food cake, and mini cheesecakes, accompanied by cookies of all kinds. Hermione barely stifled a laugh when Mrs. Parkinson dug into the desserts before she had eaten anything else.
The women chatted animatedly about everyday things throughout the meal, avoiding the more questionable topic of the war and effortlessly including Hermione as often as possible. Quickly, Hermione found herself enjoying the gathering, surprised at how sociable and kind most of the women were, despite being Death Eaters or at least the wives of Death Eaters. She had to admit that she was disappointed when they left. After helping to clean up, Hermione retired to her room to think over her newfound friendships.