She was going to be late.
Shit, Hermione Granger thought as she flew through the door of her office, slamming it behind her. She had 2 minutes to get to the meeting and she wasn't dressed. With a wave of her wand Hermione darkened the only window in the room and quickly stripped off her robes and put on a dark red muggle dress. In the three years since the war ended wizards had taken to wearing muggle clothes more frequently, all part of Minister of Magic Kingsley Shacklebolt's four phase plan to help the wizarding world recover and become a more tolerant and accepting place. She grabbed a black blazer from the back of her chair and quickly slipped her arms in it. She pulled the black hair clip out of her hair, letting her brown curls cascade down her back. She took a thick manila folder from her desk, and snatched her purse from the coat hook by the door as she sprinted out.
"Healer Granger?" a voice behind her called.
"Shit, shit, shit," she muttered under her breath but turned around with a forced smile on her face. "Yes?"
"I have an idea for your project," the man began but Hermione put up her hand to stop her from speaking further.
"David," she said kindly, "I am very late for a very important meeting, it should be an hour, perhaps when I get back we can discuss the project."
Not waiting for a response she waved at David and quickly strode out of the wing. Damn her for agreeing to take on interns to help her with her research at St. Mungo's. While she loved teaching, they always had questions and they would come to ask them at the most inopportune moments. Hermione dashed to the lift and pressed the button for the top floor before looking at her watch. 3:02. She was officially late. When the lift reached its destination, she ran out of the lift and down the long hallway to the conference room where she knew Kingsley would be waiting for her. Checking her watch she rounded the corner and ran straight into a hard body. She grabbed the person's arm and steadied herself. She looked up and started to apologize but the words stuck in her throat. She looked up at the familiar face in shock. It had been a few years since the last time she'd seen him, just under three to be exact. The trial, she thought, after Harry had spoken on his behalf before the Wizengamot but even the testimony of the Boy Who Lived wasn't enough. He'd been sentenced to five years in Azkaban, she remembered, and led from the courtroom with a look a pure hatred in his silver eyes. That was the last time she'd seen Draco Malfoy. She stared at him now and those same eyes stared back at her.
Suddenly she was on the ground and Draco was looming above her.
"Don't touch me, Mudblood," he spat. "These dress robes are custom tailored and from the best dress robes shop in Paris. They're worth more than you'll ever be."
The word snapped her out of her spell. "What the hell are you doing here, Malfoy?" she replied, disgusted. "Shouldn't you be passing your days with your friends and the Dementors?"
Something flickered over his face for a split second before it returned to its icy cold stare. "They let me out," he told her. "Not that I owe someone like you an explanation."
"Yes I can see that," she replied as she picked herself up from the ground. In her heels she was still a good 4 inches shorter than him but she held his gaze. "I'd expect you'd be off somewhere torturing house elves or cozying up to your mother."
Another flicker crossed his face, this one though lasted longer. Dementors and his mother, Hermione thought, those are his triggers. How appropriate. Her thoughts were interrupted though by Malfoy speaking.
"Are you listening to me? You should listen when your superiors talk," he said snidely. "I was telling you they let me out for good behavior. I'm 'reformed'."
"Not bloody likely," came Ron's voice from behind Malfoy. Malfoy turned and stared at Ron before replying. "What a blood traitor thinks hardly matters."
Ron raised his fist and moved to hit Malfoy when Hermione stepped between them.
"Ronald, no," she said firmly. "You'll simply be giving him what he wants, a reaction."
"He's got one," Ron growled.
Hermione closed her hands over Ron's fist and shook her head. "Leave him, we're late for the meeting."
Ron looked over Hermione's head and glared at Malfoy before he released his fist and swung his arm around Hermione. "You're right," he said. "Come on in, we were waiting for you."
They walked into the room to find Kingsley Shacklebolt sitting at the head of a large rounded conference table. His dark skin seemed to stand out in stark contrast against the white walls. Since there was no one else in the room Hermione went up to him and embraced him.
"I'm so sorry for being late," she said. "I found the most fascinating book in the Archives and I completely lost track of time."
"It's quite alright, Hermione," Kingsley said with a smile. "We're actually waiting for two more people."
"We are?" Ron asked. "Minister you know I have to screen everyone you meet with, as the Auror appointed to protect you-"
"Mr. Weasley," Kingsley said interrupting him. "I assure you the two people we are meeting with have already been properly vetted."
Ron looked doubtful and was about to comment when there was a knock at the door.
"Come in," Kingsley said.
The door opened and Blaise Zabini walked through in black advocate robes, a black binder in his hand. He shut the door behind him and took a step toward Hermione with his hand outstretched as if to shake her hand.
"You think he's not a threat?" Ron shouted, shoving Hermione behind him. "Minister he's a bloody Slytherin and he was friends with all the Death Eaters."
"Mr. Weasley, that is enough," Kingsley said sternly. "You know full well Mr. Zabini and his family had no involvement with either side during the war. Stand down."
Ron look mutinous and seemed ready to reply when Hermione cut in. "Sit, Ron, Blaise works for the Wizengamot. He's fine."
"Fine," Ron muttered, missing that Hermione had used Blaise's first name, and moved to stand to the right of the Minister's chair. Blaise moved around to the opposite end of the table and sat down. Hermione took a seat to the left of the Minister and Ron sat down to his right.
"I'm confused," Hermione said looking from Kingsley to Blaise and back. "What does Mr. Zabini have to do with my work here at the hospital?"
"I'm here on behalf of my client," Blaise told her.
"Your client?" Hermione asked as she turned to face Blaise, feeling even more confused than before. "But who is your..." And then it hit her like a ton of bricks.
"NO," Hermione said whirling around and staring at Kingsley. "Minister, with all due respect, you cannot possibly be serious."
"What?" Ron chimed in. "Who's his client?"
"Ms. Granger," Kingsley began. "He completed the program, the program that you set up to rehabilitate Death Eaters so that they could rejoin the wizarding world. "
"That, that, that's not possible," Hermione stammered. "He couldn't possibly."
"Who is he?" Ron interrupted. "Who is the client?"
"I assure you, Ms. Granger, I have Ms. Lovegood's word," Kingsley replied. "He has completed the program and is ready for the final phase, placement in the wizarding world. Surely you don't doubt your program or Ms. Lovegood's ability to run it. You are, after all, the one who put her in charge."
"Of course the program works, and of course I don't doubt Luna but placement with me?" Hermione cried. "Minister, there has to be someone else, anyone else that he can be placed with. I don't mean to sound like a child but why does it have to be with me?"
"He's incredibly intelligent, you know that," Kingsley told her. "He was second only to you at Hogwarts. He's been brewing the majority of the potions for the medical wing in Azkaban for the last year."
"Who was second to you in Hogwarts, Hermione?" Ron asked, starting to turn as red as his hair with frustration. "Who are you talking about?"
"Me, Weasel," Malfoy said sauntering through the door. "You are all, very loudly, talking about me."