A/N: it's been a long time since I've written a story here but I had the sudden inspiration to get something out and here's the beginning of it. I hope I can delve into Hermione's character and the people in her life, especially a blond-haired man seeking redemption. Please review if you read this! Tell me where you'd like the story to go, whether you enjoy the writing style, if I need to change the way I word things etc. Constructive criticism and encouragement is welcome! Reader discretion is advised.
July 27 2001
The letter came at five o'clock on Friday evening. The Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures was all but quiet despite the time of day. A sighting of the rare Welsh Green dragon had been reported by a squib in a Muggle town of Cardiff, and all hell had broken loose. Ministry employees appeared to be sprinting back and forth throughout the office while simultaneously ducking their heads from impeding paper airplanes. The voice of Amos Diggory had trailed off mid sentence, ordering nobody in particular to "Get Goshwack on the scene, and tell her we're bringing Team B!" as he disappeared down the hall.
Hermione Granger, however, was miles away from the dragon catastrophe. Her attention had been pulled to the sealed envelope with the Hogwarts wax emblem. Her eyes instantly recognised the handwriting. She wondered what Minerva McGonagall wanted this late during the week, and hoped she was granting Hermione permission to access personal files of Dumbledore at Hogwarts.
Dear Ms Hermione Granger,
I am writing to offer you the position of Defence Against the Dark Arts professor at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry starting this September 1st of 2001. The position will require, but will not be limited to: following seven separate curriculums for the seven year levels of education at Hogwarts; holding career counselling meetings with students; the use of a fair grading system against all components of the curriculum; and enforce school rules and magical laws within the premise of the Hogwarts institution.
Please return your response by no later than Friday August 3rd 2001. I will have a contract documented and further information available for the position if you are willing.
Headmistress of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
PS, you have my permission to use Albus Dumbledore's archives for the translation of Tales of Beedle the Bard.
Hermione read over the letter three times before the gravity of what was written truly sunk in. Teaching at Hogwarts had never been a career option that occurred to her. She had always assumed she would study a higher education, such as the Wizengamot, or work for the change of House-Elf laws (as she was doing now, furthering her S.P.E.W. campaign), or even become an Arithmancer. But teaching students? Never crossed her mind.
Hermione felt herself blushing. Well, she was certainly qualified - there was no doubt that her experience in the field was more than enough - and her 'Outstanding' result in her N.E.W.T.s had overridden her 'Exceeds Expectations' five years previously. But teaching the subject? That was something she had shied away from, allowing Harry that pleasure from their DA meetings. Though, it would be something of an improvement. To get away from the mind-numbing monotony of an office job. To do something fresh and stimulating. More often than not she found herself staring out the window, watching whatever weather the Magical Maintenance crew programmed for the day, wistfully hoping for something to grasp her from her seat and thrust her into the world. That had been a recurring problem as she completed her seventh year. The overwhelming anxiety and excess energy ingrained in her body from the war made settling into a calm, educational environment somewhat infuriating, and also counter-productive.
But was she prepared to leave her work fighting for the rights of House-Elves? Could she teach children the proper way to defend themselves that was both effective and not jade them? Was she ready to be away from the hustle and bustle of the heart of London? Questions no doubt she would have to ponder the answer to over the weekend - after Harry Potter's 22nd big birthday bash.
The appearance of a Nathalie Goshwack, a black-haired witch who dressed similarly to Rita Skeeter, jolted Hermione from her thoughts.
"Let's get on top of it, Granger," Nathalie announced, dropping a tonne of files onto her desk. "It'll be overtime tonight with what's going on."
Hermione resisted the temptation to groan and reached for the folder on top of the pile. Nathalie pinned the end of her wand on the same file. "Nuh uh, Granger, those can wait. We're taking you out on some field work. I've heard you've got quite the talent as an Obliviator."
"Oh, b-but I'm not actually qualified, Nathalie." Hermione stumbled on her words.
Nathalia gave the brunette a playful smile. "It'll be our secret. Now come on, Diggory's already left me five messages in the space of ten minutes, and I'm curious to find out just why a Welsh Green is so far away from home."
Hermione packed up her desk with the flick of her wand, doubting she'd be returning to the Ministry this evening. She slipped the letter and some other documents into her bag before making way for the floos at Goshwack's heels.
It was just past eleven o'clock when Hermione Granger kicked open the door of her London flat. She felt her way to the light switch and the front room lit up, revealing a snoring Ginny Weasley laid up on the couch. The TV was giving static, and whatever movie had been playing on the VHS was long finished. Ginny stirred from the disturbance of light and blinked her eyes open.
"Hey," she grated sleepily. "You're home late."
Hermione tutted in response, shrugging off her coat then gracefully plonking herself in the adjacent armchair. "Well, you know what it's like with dragons, they don't really follow the wizarding work schedule."
"Whoa, what dragon?" Ginny pulled herself together and sat up, making room for a gruntled Crookshanks to perch in her lap.
"Well, we got a tip-off from a Squib in Cardiff saying they overheard some touring Muggles talking about seeing a dragon." Hermione yanked her shoes off and tossed them over her shoulder. "So, naturally, the whole department is in conflict because we don't know whether they're pulling our leg or being serious-"
"-But why would a Squib lie about something like that?" Ginny interjected.
Hermione shrugged. "People do weird things, and doesn't it seem somewhat likely that someone who comes from a magical family but possesses no magical abilities of their own, they might be feeling a little jealous and maybe want some limelight? It wouldn't be the first time it's happened."
"So people were uncertain about taking this person's tip-off seriously?" Ginny queried.
"Correct." Hermione nodded back. "But obviously something on this scale couldn't possibly be ignored, so we sent one of the interns along with Thaddeus Thatch to check it out. Apparently they got a shock when they saw what was waiting for them. Next thing you know, it's gone balls-up because Cardiff obviously isn't a small place, and who knew how many Muggles saw it before it was reported to the Ministry?"
"What happened after that?"
"Ugh, what didn't happen after that." Hermione rubbed her temple. The headache she'd managed to keep at bay throughout the evening was making its presence known. "I went with Nathalie Goshwack to Obliviate memories, which took several hours."
Ginny pointed her wand at the fridge and summoned a bottle of chardonnay and two glasses. Hermione watched the clear liquid pour itself into the glasses and indulged in a sip. She was often cautious about consuming wine when arriving home from work, having seen the damage alcohol had done to Harry post-war, but tonight she felt she needed it. Not to mention Ginny kept the bar cart well-stocked with various spirits that Hermione detested.
"Anyway, we got a few dragonologists to track down the thing. They were still trying to tame it when I left." The sour pinch of the wine made Hermione's throat feel warm and tingly. She sighed contently.
"Did you see Charlie?" Ginny was scratching Crookshanks in between the ears.
She shook her head. "No, he stayed Wales panning out some leads. Apparently they think it was illegally bred by a witch. No solid proof yet, though. How was your evening?"
Ginny sipped the chardonnay, nodding. "Not bad. Training was brutal. I came home, put a movie on, and was out in ten minutes. Harry was supposed to be coming over but I haven't heard from him." She furrowed her eyebrows. "Actually, I haven't heard from him since last night."
Hermione watched the cogs turning in her best female friend. For the past three years Hermione played witness to the drama in Harry and Ginny's relationship. It hadn't been a pretty show. Harry had drunk himself silly for an indefinite period of time, unable to deal with the grief, sorrow, and guilt, leaving Ginny to bear the burden of her partner's troubles, pushing hers further down the line. It wasn't a healthy arrangement. In fact, Hermione was almost certain if what happened 18 months ago hadn't happened, the couple wouldn't be together today.
"He's probably overworked, Gin, like yourself." Hermione remarked. "I saw Ron on Wednesday and he looked like bollocks. The Auror office has been working them hard."
"Maybe." Ginny muttered, rimming her glass with her finger, staring out the window by the dining table.
Hermione knew if she didn't change the subject soon that Ginny would seriously start worrying. As much as she loved her, the last thing Hermione wanted to do was spend the next few hours soothing Ginny's anxiety and subsequently carrying her to bed after too much alcohol. She racked her brains trying to come up with something worth talking about that would take the spotlight off Harry.
"Oh!" Hermione exclaimed. "I got a letter from Professor McGonagall today."
Ginny snapped her attention back to the brown-haired witch. "Oh? Did she say yes about reading Dumbledore's archives?"
"Well, yes, that happened, but also - you're not going to believe this - she offered me the position of Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher!"
Ginny gaped like a fish. "What?! You didn't tell me you wanted the job!"
"That's the thing, I didn't! I've never considered teaching students before. It was completely out of the blue." Hermione admitted, downing a few more sips of her drink.
"Oh my Godric." Ginny grinned. "Are you going to say yes?"
She made a non-commital noise. "I don't know. I mean, it would definitely be different. It's something far out of my comfort zone." she admitted. "But, I don't know if I'm ready to leave my fight for House-Elf rights just yet. I can't give up on something I'm so passionate about."
"Nobody said anything about giving that up." The redhead pointed out. "You could still pursue it, that's what politics is for."
"That's true." Hermione bit her lip, mulling that over. "I just don't know. Do you think I'd be a good teacher?"
"What kind of question is that? Of course you would be!" Ginny declared, splashing some of her wine on Crookshanks, who lept up and ran out to the deck.
Hermione giggled appreciatively. As crass and blunt Ginny could be sometimes, she was always in support of her friends. "I've got a week to come up with my answer. I suppose I could think more about it in the next couple of days."
"Attagirl!" Ginny clinked her glass against Hermione's. "To new beginnings for Hermione Granger!"
A summer breeze was sweeping through the manor that Friday night, entangling Draco Malfoy in a fortuitous state of calm. Tonight, the sickly warmth was welcomed by him. He finished the final drops of whiskey from the glass and set it down beside him. He knew it was getting on. The early Saturday morning plans were nagging at him to get enough sleep.
As if somebody had read his mind, Draco heard the familiar gait of his House-Elf.
"Someone wishes to speak to you, Master Malfoy."
"If it's Mother tell her I'll be retiring soon." he replied flatly.
"It's not your mother." A gentle voice from behind him chirped.
Draco turned his head at the visitor. "Astoria." He frowned at the witch, wondering what she wanted with him at this hour. "It's past midnight."
"That it is." she agreed, making her way over. She stood opposite him.
He attempted to read her face, but admittedly he'd had a little bit too much to drink and the blonde witch appeared a little fuzzy. She was clad in a simple white slip, her short hair bobbed at the neck. It had been weeks since he saw her last. Weeks since he touched her body, felt the hotness of her lips against his own. It was his decision to call off the engagement, but he got the feeling she was coping with it better than he was.
"What are you doing here?" Draco got out clumsily.
Astoria fixed herself a glass of rum at the bar. Draco watched the hem of her dress hitch up slightly and distantly wondered if she was wearing any knickers. He knew this to be a go-to tactic of hers; it always worked. She turned to him, bringing the drink to her mouth.
"I'm here to see you of course." she quipped.
"You've seen me. As you can see, all is well and good, feel free to leave." He stated. He didn't intend on hurting her feelings, but if he was going to contain himself then she would need to be removed immediately.
Astoria downed the remainder of the rum in one go and approached. "Draco, I know you. You can pull that on me as much as you want. I see right through it." She snaked her hands up his chest, looping them around his neck. "I can see how much you're hurting."
Draco attempted to snort but it came out more like a hiccup. "You don't know anything about me, Astoria." He tried his hardest to ignore her leg hooked around his and her pelvis grazing against his thigh. "What do you want?"
Her puckered lips were inches away from his own. "I want you."