Sitting in a chair beside her father's bed, Hermione watched with a frown on her face as Voldemort made his first attempt at using magic since his return. For the last week or so, he'd been claiming that he could start and feel the magic inside him returning. So in order to help her father with his magic, Hermione had asked Lucius to procure them a basic wand Voldemort could use. However, things were not going according to plan and Hermione was watching an increasingly frustrated, and embarrassed, Voldemort failing to perform even the simplest of spells.
"This is a waste of sodding time," Voldemort spat, hurling the wand across the room with all his strength. Not that he had too much strength as although he was spending more and more time out of bed, he was still weak and still needed plenty of rest.
"Maybe it's too soon," Hermione said gently as she picked up the discarded wand. "We knew your magic wasn't going to return within weeks."
"I can feel it inside of me," Voldemort insisted. "My magic is growing stronger with each passing day, just like my physical strength."
"Even your physical strength is building up slowly," Hermione said, watching as her father sunk into the chair beside the window, looking totally exhausted by his efforts to wield magic. "We don't want you to push yourself and suffer a setback."
"I'm stronger than I look, Athena," Voldemort muttered.
"Hmm," Hermione muttered with an arched eyebrow. In her opinion her father was trying to do too much too quickly, and the last thing she wanted was for him to suffer a relapse, not now she was finally getting to know and love him.
"You sound just like your mother when you do that," Voldemort remarked with a weak chuckle. "It was her way of disagreeing with what I said without actually saying so. The annoying thing was, she was usually right."
"But did you ever listen to her?" Hermione asked.
"If it suited me," Voldemort replied honestly. "I'm a stubborn man, Athena. But I'm sure you already know that."
"I had noticed," Hermione laughed. "But I think it's where I get it from. The more I get to know you, the more of myself I can see in you."
"I see the same thing," Voldemort admitted. "I can see so much of myself in you, but I can also see so much of your mother. She would have been so proud of you, Athena. I once told you that she wasn't dark in the same way I am, but she would have approved of how you handled things last year."
"Would she really?" Hermione wondered. She'd never questioned that her father would have approved of her desire for revenge, but she'd never been as sure what her mother's stance would have been on the matter.
"She would," Voldemort confirmed with a nod. "Your mother was no angel, Athena. She knew who I was, and what exactly I was capable of, when we got together. She never once tried to change me, she accepted me as I was. In fact, there were times she openly encouraged me and advised me on the best course of action when dealing with the Order."
"And what do you think she would say about the situation now?" Hermione asked. Given the fact her father was still so weak, she was very much in charge and would decide what happened, but some advice would be appreciated.
"What is the situation?" Voldemort asked.
"It's all quiet at the moment, but my gut says it won't stay that way," Hermione admitted. "I think Harry and Ron will do something sooner or later."
"Just Potter and Weasley, or the rest of the Order as well?" Voldemort questioned.
"I don't know about the rest of the Order," Hermione replied. "You know that I don't want to fight, and I don't want another war. But I will have to act if Harry and Ron strike."
"In that case, I think your mother's advice would be to be prepared," Voldemort said. "I know what you want, Athena, but as I've said before, we don't always get what we want. You might have to fight. I just wish I could be more use to you," he added with a defeated sigh. "But I've yet to leave the manor, and as we've discovered my magic isn't ready to work."
"Maybe we've approached this all wrong," Hermione mused, twirling the wand her father had been using around in her hands.
"What do you mean?" Voldemort asked.
"I asked Lucius to get you a basic wand," Hermione explained. "Maybe what we should have done was track down your original wand. It's already attuned to your magic, and it would likely be the best way to help with the return of your magic."
"It sounds like a good idea, but my wand went missing the night Dumbledore attacked," Voldemort pointed out.
"But we don't know if it was destroyed in the fire," Hermione argued. "Dumbledore might very well have taken it."
"If he had, surely it would have been found when he died," Voldemort said.
"Not necessarily," Hermione said with a shake of her head. "There would have been no reason for anyone to search through his belongings after his death. Your wand could have been packed up with everything else he owned."
"In that case, it'll be lost," Voldemort said with a disappointed shrug. He would have loved his own wand back, but it was beginning to look like it wasn't going to happen.
"Not necessarily," Hermione repeated thoughtfully. "After Dumbledore's death, Lucius said his brother got all of Dumbledore's possessions. It's a long shot, but he might still have them."
"Do you really think he wouldn't have sorted them by now?" Voldemort snorted.
"He might, but I never heard Dumbledore talk about his brother," Hermione said. "I don't think they were very close. If we're lucky, Dumbledore's brother will still have his effects somewhere and we can look through them for your wand."
"So what's your plan, just ask Dumbledore's bother if you can look through his stuff?" Voldemort asked. "I don't think you can sweet talk your way into doing this."
"I wasn't planning on asking for permission," Hermione chuckled. "I was thinking of doing it on the sly. I'll get Draco and his friends to help me."
"Just don't take any unnecessary risks," Voldemort warned. "My wand isn't important, Athena."
"It is to me," Hermione replied as she got to her feet. "I'll let you know how we get on, but I've got to go now. Draco's taking me out to dinner, and I need to get ready."
"He's taking you out?" Voldemort asked in surprise. "As in out of the manor?"
"Yes, we're going public," Hermione replied. "When we get married, we want to do it properly, and in order to do that we need to further our relationship in public."
"Won't it attract Potter and Weasley's attention?" Voldemort checked.
"Maybe," Hermione conceded. "But I'm going to follow your advice and be ready for anything they're going to throw at us."
Saying goodbye to her father, Hermione headed off to get ready for dinner, her mind whirling with ideas as to how to find her father's wand. She knew she wouldn't be able to handle it herself, which was why she was going to discuss the matter with Draco, but she also thought she might need Lucius's help. It would be handy to know everything they could about Dumbledore's brother before planning on the best way to get into his house and look to see if he still had his brother's possessions in his custody.
Once she was dressed, Hermione had a few minutes to spare, so she paid a visit to Lucius and explained her idea to try and find her father's wand. Lucius immediately thought it had potential, as like her he was under the impression that Dumbledore and his brother hadn't been close. With a promise from Lucius to find out what he could about Aberforth Dumbledore, and if it was possible he still had his brothers effects, Hermione left her future father-in-law's office in order to meet her fiancé and head out to dinner.
By the time she returned to the bedroom, Draco had arrived home and was in the middle of getting ready. As he did so, she quickly filled him in on her discussion with Voldemort and her decision to try and find his wand. Draco also thought the plan had potential, but he warned Hermione not to get her hopes up.
"After all, there's a good chance Dumbledore either didn't take the wand in the first place, or destroyed it afterwards," he warned his fiancée. "In his shoes, I'm not sure I'd want to hang onto the wand of a dangerous opponent. He would have known how much trouble it would cause if your father ever got his hands on his wand again."
"Don't forget we're talking about Albus Dumbledore here," Hermione reminded Draco. "He didn't think like normal people. Knowing him, he probably kept the wand as a souvenir. I could imagine him getting a kick out of having The Dark Lord's wand in his possession."
"Yeah, I could picture that too," Draco conceded. "But let's not get carried away. There's a good chance, we're never going to find your father's wand."
"I know, but we have to try," Hermione replied.
Agreeing to do everything he could to help, Draco finished getting ready, and once he was done the pair headed off their evening out. Draco had booked them a table at a fancy, new restaurant, and Hermione was well aware that their presence would set tongues wagging in the wizarding world. There was also a good chance the press would get hold of the story as the part of wizarding London the restaurant was in was favoured by the rich and famous.
"This place is really posh," Hermione whispered as she and Draco were seated at one of the prime tables on a balcony which overlooked a beautiful park.
"And very noticeable," Draco replied. On the way to their table, he'd already clocked a couple of famous quidditch players and a few high up officials in the Ministry, all of whom the press liked to talk about.
"Do you think this dinner will make the papers?" Hermione asked.
"I think there's a good chance," Draco said with a nod of his head. "So we'll have to be careful."
"I know," Hermione replied, looking down at her hand to where she'd removed her engagement ring before they'd left the manor. "As far as everyone is concerned, our romance is just beginning."
"Don't look so glum," Draco chuckled. "It's an excuse for me to spoil you for a few weeks. I can publically woo you, and then before we know it, we'll be head over heels in love."
"And then we can announce an engagement, and start planning the wedding," Hermione agreed. "How long do you think we'll have to wait?"
"I guess it depends on how long it takes for us to make it seem as though we've fallen for each other," Draco answered.
"That won't take long," Hermione replied with a smile. "Given the fact we're bonded, and destined to be together, it's only natural that we'd get closer. Not to mention the fact everyone thinks I've only just found out about my true heritage and have been abandoned by my friends."
"You have been abandoned," Draco pointed out. "Let's face it, Potter and Weasley had a choice. They didn't have to hate you based on who your father was. They chose to turn on you. Not everyone turned against you."
"No, they didn't," Hermione agreed, her mind turning to the people who'd supported her following recent events. "Which reminds me, I want to speak to your father about reinvesting in the twins shop. I want to make things right for them."
"Or you could always invest yourself," Draco suggested. "Now you're virtually part of the family, you can have access to the family's vaults. You're a rich witch now, Hermione."
"Do you really think I should invest in the twins business?" Hermione asked with a slight frown.
"Why not, if you're serious about making amends it makes sense," Draco replied with a slight shrug. "Besides, think of how it will wind up Weasley. Even if Potter and Weasley are now convinced that father and I were behind everything that happened last year, they're still not going to trust you. Not now they know that we're bonded, and that your destiny is to become a Malfoy."
"I'll think about it," Hermione said, filing the thought away to deal with at another time. "But for now, we've got a date to enjoy. And we want to put on a good show."
"Sod the show, let's just focus on having a good time," Draco retorted with a grin.
Doing just that, Hermione forgot about everything other than having a good time with Draco. Caught up with each other the pair initially failed to spot a photographer lurking in the park, snapping pictures of their date. However, they did notice the flash of his camera as they got up to leave and Draco pulled out Hermione's chair.
"I think it's safe to say we've been spotted," he whispered in his fiancée's ear.
"Good," Hermione replied with a smile, hoping that whoever had taken the pictures worked for The Daily Prophet, or at least had the sense to sell them to the paper.
The sooner the public knew of their romance, the sooner they could escalate things and announce their engagement. Then they could start planning their wedding and Hermione would finally get the happy ending she'd been longing for, for so long.