Final Author's Note: I'm incredibly honored and grateful that all of you have gone on this journey with me. I never intended to write an epic-length dark fic. I just wanted two idiots to fall in love in 170k. And when I was done with that, I wanted it to happen again from a different POV. 160k later, y'all asked for more and I'm so glad that you did. (but don't do that lol)
If you're reading my work for the first time with The Auction, welcome. Thank you for getting this far. If you've been around for three and half years, thank you.
This series isn't done. There are posted drabbles in the TRTTD/ATWT timeline titled All Right. And Birth Right is also still a WIP. I'll be doing some work on my original fiction in the first few months of 2021, but then I have a Dramione You've Got Mail AU planned, as well as continuing my delightfully wicked Dom/sub Dramione Good (on Ao3 only).
I have so much pride in this fic, and I'm so grateful that I've gone down this dark and twisty road with two of the biggest badasses I know. Thank you Raven-maiden and SaintDionysus for shaping this with me, and creating this MONSTER.
Thank you so much to the amazing artists that create wonderful work for this fic. And to the hilarious communities that have been created, including the Lovesbitca8 channel in the Department of Fanfiction Discord server and the amazing Facebook Group Rights & Wrongs.
And thank you for reading.
Blaise Zabini's trial began on 26 July, a rainy and humid Monday. Hermione spent an hour Occluding in the tub before she dressed and Apparated to Edinburgh.
A crowd of reporters stood around the entrance to Parliament Hall, pacing like starving wolves. A sharp click cut through the quiet of her mind, and then she was flooded with flashing lights and harsh sounds.
"Miss Granger, over here!"
"Would you like to make a statement for the—"
Hermione pushed through, ignoring the flashes and heavy press of bodies on her. Sound disappeared with a hiss as she crossed the wards cast over the building. She checked in her wand and swept through the open lobbies, heading to the library.
The old doors groaned open to reveal Alan Shrapley leaning against a table in his expensive American robes, flipping through a Muggle volume. He was a handsome man in his early fifties, with a square jaw and silver hair that curled at the tips.
Upon meeting him for the first time two weeks ago, Hermione had thought he spoke too calmly and moved too slowly, but she realized she was wrong the moment he pulled out a lengthy contract that somehow had already been signed by Blaise Zabini. He'd produced paperwork for her to initiate a sealed transfer of an exorbitant sum to Blaise's vault, requested that his two legal assistants be admitted inside the Manor immediately, and instructed her to clear the rest of her day.
He was a silver shark in shallow waters, toying with a dolphin he'd run ashore.
"No-Majs have always fascinated me, Miss Granger." Shrapley's voice echoed off the polished floors, bringing her back to the present. "I'd pick your brain if only we had the time."
Hermione was silent as he turned a page.
She'd never quite met someone whose brain worked as fast as her own, but counterintuitively. Whereas she organized facts to scrutinize them, Shrapley lined them up to batter them into submission. He liked games even more than Lucius Malfoy, she'd discovered, and his favorite was impatience. He waited until his opponent became restless, and then he'd begin the game.
But not today.
With a snap of his fingers, he closed the centuries-old Muggle volume. "The motions were denied."
The muscles in her face twitched. "Which ones?"
"All of them. The court won't allow the review of Blaise's memories apart from his time in Italy and Edinburgh, or any of your memories regarding his character. The Prosecution will be allowed to include affidavits from the witnesses who won't be available for cross-examination."
Her heart sank lower and lower.
"It's all fine, Miss Granger," he said, a glint in his eyes. "That was always the easy way. But we had to try."
"Right." Hermione swallowed. "Is there... anything you need from me?"
"Keep your cool." He checked his solid gold wristwatch, glancing at her over its face. "See you in there."
He was gone in a few long strides. Hermione breathed deep, clutching the tiny pouch around her neck. Once her waters were still, she followed the long corridor to the Muggle courtroom.
A pair of guards inspected her badge at the side entry. Once she passed their magical security charms, she was ushered into one of the seats for distinguished visitors behind the Prosecutors' tables. Hestia nodded at her from the Secretariat table, as did Fleur and Robards. The rest of the Council and Prosecution ignored her.
There was a low rumble of noise as reporters began filing into the back of the courtroom. Luca Bianchi came through the side entry a minute later and was ushered to the chair just to Hermione's right. Crossing his leg over his knee, he kept his gaze straight ahead.
He'd seen her on the list of witnesses for the Defense, of course. Just like she'd seen him on the Prosecution's list.
One of the Italian prosecutors cast a glance at her, and Hermione tried to focus on anything but her nerves. Her eyes drifted to Shrapley, arranging his notes around him with lazy movements.
"A defense counsel's worst nightmare," he'd told her two weeks ago, as he reclined on the sofa in the Manor's drawing room. "Access to the True Order's archives blocked, an elaborate procedure to admit material for the defense, the admission of hearsay, a fraction of the time for pre-trial, and a failure to sequester witnesses."
Just when Hermione had opened her mouth, he'd smiled and added, "But I'm not any defense counsel."
A shutter of doors startled her, and she blinked up to find Blaise being led into the courtroom in his Azkaban robes. His face was blank and his jaw set as the murmuring grew. He was led to a chair just in front of Shrapley, who tipped his head as if greeting a business associate at lunch.
The doors opened a moment later, and the courtroom rose for President Tiberius Ogden. Of the five judges, he was chosen to preside over the court. His alternate would vote for Great Britain.
It was another reason for Hermione to be anxious. Without Ogden, she had little feel for any of the judges' political leanings.
The court opened with a sworn oath from the panel of judges. All oaths and testimony would be performed without the use of magical influence, the Council had ruled. "To protect witnesses and defendants from coercive tactics," the Council had written, "and to prevent unexpected obstacles to the judges' deliberations."
After, the Italian Prosecutor stood.
He outlined Blaise Zabini's crimes against peace and humanity through his "premeditated" assistance to the Great Order, resulting in the seizure of the Italian government, the murder of dozens of officials, and the loss of thousands of lives. He spoke of his participation in human trafficking and slavery. Hermione watched Blaise for a reaction, but he was as still as stone.
Shrapley went next, his eyes sharp and his speech slow. By the time he finished outlining his key evidence that Blaise's actions were based on an imminent threat to himself and his mother, Hermione could hear nothing but the scratching of reporters' quills.
The Prosecution brought in their witnesses over the next two days. A few appeared in person, but the rest submitted statements. The witness affidavits seemed to irritate Shrapley the most, judging by the way he rolled his shoulders. But Blaise was stoic through it all, his face impassive as the Prosecution read out statement after statement from witnesses claiming that he'd aided and abetted the Death Eaters in the torture, rape, and murder of Italian citizens.
On the second day, Luca Bianchi testified to Blaise's visit to Italy last summer, when he assisted in the transition of power to Constantine Romano. Shrapley cross-examined with only two questions — "What was your understanding of the relationship between the Bravieri and Zabini family before 10th July 1998?" and "Were you aware of the executions of the Mancini and Lombardi families on 11th July for failing to endorse Romano?" — both of which made the put-together Bianchi stutter over his words.
Giuliana Bravieri took the stand that afternoon. The Prosecution had subpoenaed her a week and a half ago, while Shrapley's motion was still languishing in the Secretariat's office. Shrapley's request to interview her had been declined within hours. The letter had been signed by Matteo Bravieri, Giuliana's cousin and new legal guardian.
When she entered the courtroom, Giuliana was thin and wan in her expensive dress robes. She burst into tears as soon as she caught sight of Blaise in cuffs and prison robes. President Ogden rapped his gavel for order as the reporters buzzed like crickets in the press seats.
Hermione bit down her tongue as Giuliana played right into the Prosecution's hands. Through sniffles and shaking shoulders, Giuliana managed a string of "yeses" and "nos" when the Prosecutor inquired whether Blaise had petitioned the Dark Lord for her, whether they had a personal relationship beforehand, and whether he kept her in a private residence owned by Draco Malfoy and instructed her not to leave.
When the Prosecutor finished his questions, the judges shifted in their seats. Henri Falco, the French judge, began twirling his snow-white walrus mustache as he gazed at Blaise.
Silence fell as Shrapley stood, approached Giuliana's chair, and introduced himself in Italian. Giuliana's lip quivered, but she greeted him back.
"I have a few difficult questions, Miss Bravieri, so please take your time in answering," said Shrapley. Giuliana nodded, her eyes glassy. "Did you ever engage in a sexual relationship with Blaise Zabini?"
"No." A tear spilled down her cheek. "No, we didn't."
"Did he ever harm you physically?" Giuliana shook her head. "A 'yes' or 'no,' please, Miss Bravieri."
"No. He would never."
Shrapley inclined his head, and he opened his palms as he asked, "How many parties have you attended at Edinburgh Castle, Miss Bravieri?"
Giuliana fussed with the handkerchief in her lap. "Two."
"And how many of those times were in the custody of Blaise Zabini?"
"None," Giuliana whispered.
A scatter of murmurs. Luca Bianchi uncrossed his legs next to her.
"Miss Bravieri, the court has heard from multiple eyewitnesses that you often attended the Edinburgh parties with Mr. Zabini," said Shrapley. "How might that be?"
"She went as me." Giuliana hiccuped, her face wet. "Pansy."
The court rumbled.
"I tried to tell them he never made me go. But no one would listen. They said I was confused—" She broke off in sobs.
Hermione could see the Italian Prosecutor scramble through his files, staring with growing horror at the first witness for the Defense — Pansy Parkinson.
"Asymmetrical discovery," Shrapley had hummed to Hermione a week ago, when discussing his strategy. "The Prosecution will have limited information about the evidence we're approved to use in court. It's the only advantage we have, Miss Granger, and I intend to exploit it fully."
Giuliana was led away as the Italian Prosecutor gaped at Shrapley; Bianchi was gesturing angrily to her right. And for the first time, Hermione locked eyes with Blaise. His lips twitched.
At the end of the day, the Prosecution rested its case. And on Wednesday, Pansy Parkinson took the stand, discussing several memories of her posing as Giuliana at Edinburgh. A court secretary had given a summary to the courtroom just before, as her memories had been viewed privately by the judges, Prosecution, and Defense during recess.
Another recess was called as soon as the Prosecution finished cross-examining her. Hermione tried to make her way over to her, but Pansy was too fast. She tossed a curt nod in Hermione's direction before slipping out the side entry, and by the time Hermione stumbled into the crowded corridor, she was gone. Blaise's mother and Daphne Greengrass testified that afternoon. And for the first time, Blaise looked shaken, clenching his jaw and staring at the chains around his wrists.
On Thursday morning, Hermione took the stand and told the courts that Bellatrix Lestrange was dead. There was an uproar, but Shrapley only raised his brows while Ogden pounded the gavel and called the court to order. The court went into recess to review her memory, and when Hermione stood to escape the glares and murmurs, even Fleur stared like she'd never seen her before.
Two hours later, Hermione was back on the witness stand, a hundred eyes bearing down on her. She kept her story to the simplest version of the truth — "Draco Malfoy and Blaise Zabini chose not to attend the arena match, and Bellatrix Lestrange confronted us on the Wooden Bridge" — and when Shrapley prodded her on why Bellatrix wanted to kill her, she'd responded, "She said I'd poisoned him, and that his weak, lovesick heart would destroy his family."
Cutting through the crowd's gasps, Shrapley asked how Blaise had assisted.
"Draco Malfoy had an urgent commitment in Romania, and Blaise volunteered to cover for him. He concealed Bellatrix's body in the Forbidden Forest with the help of Pansy Parkinson."
The buzzing grew louder. Shrapley gave her the slightest dip of his chin.
He knew about the Horcrux, of course. After viewing the memory of Bellatrix's death in Lucius's Pensieve together, he'd leveled her with a look that had the truth tumbling out of her. Hermione had drawn sharp breaths to explain why she wanted to omit it from Blaise's defense, and how Blaise had agreed. Shrapley had carefully responded that he agreed with her decision, if exonerating Draco was of interest — and after confirming that he would be able to represent Draco in his trial, he submitted a motion to suppress the part of her memory where Blaise had told her and Draco to "go off and kill whatever they needed to kill." The Secretariat's office had agreed it was irrelevant to Blaise's case.
President Ogden called for order, and Shrapley waited until the room was deadly quiet. "To your knowledge, Miss Granger, where was Bellatrix Lestrange headed?"
"To assassinate the Hungarian Minister."
"No further questions, Mr. President," said Shrapley, and he took his seat amidst the whispers.
The Italian Prosecutor cross-examined her with barely-suppressed fury. He fired off question after question, all of which were met with swift objections from Shrapley. After six sustained objections, the Prosecutor gave up, glaring daggers into Hermione's skin as she exited the witness stand.
Blaise testified in his own defense on Thursday afternoon. The court spent all afternoon bickering over his memories, with Shrapley making the case that his arrival in Italy had directly followed the threat to himself, his mother, and their associates. The Prosecution focused on Blaise's presence during the murder of several members of the Bravieri administration.
The court opened on Friday with the announcement that Bellatrix Lestrange's body had been successfully located in the Forbidden Forest. They took all day to deliberate, and when one of the five judges stood and read out Blaise's sentence of sixteen months in Azkaban, Hermione felt her chest crack in two. Shrapley had long told her that a year was the best possible outcome. The Prosecutors had pushed for twenty.
Still, she was unable to extinguish the hope in her chest until the moment a sharp rap of the gavel adjourned the court.
Blaise winked at her as they carted him off, dragging him out through the doors and returning him to Azkaban.
Hermione left quickly afterward, ignoring Fleur and Hestia's calls until she turned the corner and found an empty room to lock herself in.
When she emerged ten minutes later, her eyes were clear and her makeup fixed. She retrieved her wand, tossed a clipped goodbye to the Council members by the exit, and paused for the screaming reporters outside the building.
"Justice has been served today," she said, as the cameras flashed. Then she brushed past them and Apparated home.
Earlier in July, Hestia had sent her a note about a memorial for the fallen that several of the old Hogwarts Governors were planning. Hestia had thrown the support of the Provisional Government behind it, and asked Hermione if she'd like to make any suggestions to the organizing committee. The only thing Hermione contributed was the date — 31 July.
At breakfast on the morning of the 31st, Narcissa let her set the pace for the conversation, not pressing her to speak about the memorial. Hermione sipped her coffee, and they settled into a comfortable silence.
"You're sure you don't want to come?" she asked once they had finished.
Narcissa's smile was strained. "This day is for the people who would only be hurt by my presence," she said. "I can understand that, and I can respect it."
Hermione nodded, feeling the truth in her words. She wasn't afraid to attend the memorial with Narcissa, just like she hadn't been afraid to be seen with Harry their fourth year, when over half the school was against him. But she could respect Narcissa's feelings on the matter.
When she returned to Draco's bedroom, the Daily Prophet was waiting for her on his desk. A photograph of Blaise sitting stoically during his trial was splashed across the cover. The headline read, Blaise Zabini to Serve 16 Months; Bellatrix Bombshell Stuns Prosecutors.
Pressing her lips together, Hermione flipped it over, only to find a photo of herself standing before Parliament Hall.
Hermione Granger: Friend or Foe to the True Order?
She turned the page. Blaise's trial took up the first two pages. On page three, there was another photograph of her beneath an article titled, Questions Grow About Hermione Granger's Relationship With Death Eater Draco Malfoy."
Tossing the paper on the desk, Hermione spun on her heel and headed back to her old bedroom.
She picked out a simple black dress and spent the rest of the morning Occluding in the bath, burying emerald eyes and messy black hair in a well-worn tome in the back of her library. There would be time for Harry once she was at Hogwarts. But first, she needed to build up her courage for another task.
The Floo to Grimmauld Place burst into green around her, and Hermione stepped through to find a living room far tidier than when she'd seen it last. She heard the telltale sounds of Plumb cleaning up in the kitchen, and her lips twitched in a smile. Hermione followed her instincts up the stairs, and made her way to the bedroom she'd seen Pansy emerge from months ago.
She'd just lifted her fist to knock on the door when a voice called out, "Go away, Granger."
Taking a steadying breath, she pushed open Pansy's door. She found her curled up on the windowsill, staring down the Muggles going about their Saturday.
"You should have locked it if you didn't want me coming in," Hermione said primly.
"I'm not going." Pansy tugged her knees to her chest. "So please just go find a kitten to save to meet your quota."
Hermione moved to the end of the bed and quietly sat. "I'm not going either, then. Pity. You'll be stuck with me all day." Glancing around the room, she found a black dress hanging on the back of the door — pressed and ready.
Pansy's eyes moved over the street. "Nobody wants me there, Granger."
It was a variation of Narcissa's words. But they felt unacceptable this time.
"You have your whole life ahead of you. You can't spend it in hiding." Hermione smoothed her dress, frowning down at her knees. "You should allow people to surprise you sometimes, Pansy. It's lovely."
A long silence.
Pansy turned to look at her, leaning her head against the window frame. "That elf cries all the time. Did you give her to me on purpose?"
Hermione's mouth twitched. Pansy arched a brow at her and went to get dressed.
They Apparated to the Hogsmeade gates, and Hermione waited for the chill and hopelessness that had accompanied Hogwarts for the past year.
It never came, but there was still something hollow in her chest.
The castle glittered in the afternoon sun. The shape of it was familiar, even though she could see some of the damage from last May and the siege after Voldemort's death. The Forbidden Forest had slithered closer to the path, and the grass was patchy and unkempt. But if she skated her eyes quickly across the landscape, it all looked the same.
Pansy started twisting her fingers together and smoothing her hair when they crossed the wards, and Hermione brushed her fingers against her elbow.
They walked down the long bridge toward the Clock Tower Courtyard together, where a crowd had gathered. The Governors had reached out to Ginny, Neville, and Hermione to ask about delivering a speech, but all three had agreed to decline. Speaking to a loss of that magnitude felt impossible. Wrong, even.
The committee decided that one of the Governors would deliver a few short remarks. People would be free to mingle the grounds afterward and pay their respects. No press allowed.
They had almost reached the courtyard when the crowd began to disperse — it was only five past, and the Governor had already finished speaking. Hermione nodded to Hestia as the crowd scattered, but when she saw Jacobs standing nearby, she turned away.
Pansy moved next to her, and they studied the familiar arches and stones in silence. They stood motionless as people moved around them, embracing, speaking lowly. Hermione turned again, and her breath caught in her chest.
One of the exterior walls had been replaced with an obsidian slab, stretching through the archways. Carved into it in white lettering were the names of Hogwarts students, staff, and alumni who had died in the Second Wizarding War.
They moved towards it, and Hermione's feet froze. Standing at the end of the wall, running her fingertips over the etched names, was Ginny. She wore a black dress with trainers, her hair only a bit longer since Hermione had seen it last.
Ginny turned, and her eyes widened as they landed on her. Hermione felt weightless as they closed the space between them, throwing their arms around each other. She felt less fragile than last time. Hermione sank into her warmth, holding her close.
"Ginny." Her throat felt thick. "I'm sorry I've been late in replying—"
"Don't be silly. You've been busy, I know."
When they pulled back, Ginny looked past her ear.
"Weasley," said Pansy, her tone almost pleasant. She pushed up her wide black sunglasses and turned her attention to the names on the wall, drifting away from them.
Ginny threaded her arm through Hermione's and guided her to the slab of stone she'd been tracing earlier. Her family's names were etched in white, grouped with other 'W' surnames.
"Half of us gone in a year," she said. "Most days, I carry it. Others..."
Hermione squeezed her elbow, feeling her throat close. "It means something. That you're still here."
They stood in silence for a time. And then Ginny said, "I'm sorry to hear about Zabini."
Hermione shrugged. "It was the best we could have hoped for."
"Still." Ginny glanced at her. "You should have seen George's face when he read that Draco Malfoy killed Bellatrix Lestrange for you."
Before Hermione could think of a reply, Ginny was steering her to the other side of the wall. She caught sight of Fleur and Bill by the old fountain, speaking to Seamus Finnigan. A group of witches turned to stare at her as she walked past. Hermione tore her eyes away, focusing on Penelope Clearwater in the courtyard. She stood next to Percy Weasley and Roger Davies, her gaze distant as they chatted.
They filed past rows of black-clad mourners — some weeping, others whispering. They were almost at the other end of the wall when a girl spun to Ginny, catching her by the arm. A former classmate.
Hermione slipped away as they embraced. Her eyes were just drifting over the "A's" when someone came to stand next to her.
"Granger." Hermione turned, and the air left her lungs. The right side of Seamus Finnigan's face was burned, his marred skin stretching down his neck and arm. Her eyes quickly flicked back to his.
"Hello, Seamus," she said quietly, but she already knew it was pointless.
She'd written every surviving member in her class by now, and the list was short enough to notice those who never replied.
"I hear you're in bed with the snakes these days."
His lip curled as he glanced over his shoulder to Pansy, who was standing alone, staring out at the grounds.
"If you're referring to my friendship with Pansy Parkinson—"
"If that's what you want to call her." Seamus stepped into her, and she had to lift her chin to meet his eyes. "Your 'friend' has no right to be here. Though I suppose she's an improvement over the other company you keep."
"If you can't see that Pansy Parkinson has lost just as much as any of us, then I don't know what to tell you, Seamus," said Hermione, her voice deadly calm. "I understand how you must feel, but now is not the time."
"And when is the right time to discuss you turning traitor—"
"Owl me when you're ready, and I'll be happy to answer your questions like the old friend I've always considered you to be." She held his gaze. "Take care of yourself, Seamus."
Some emotion crossed Seamus' face before he turned to ice. As he stomped away, Hermione took a deep breath and glanced back to Pansy. She was talking to someone handsome and tall, and Hermione's mouth fell open when she realized who it was.
Freedom had been good to Neville Longbottom. He was still thin but muscled, his hair falling into his face. She watched him slip his hands into his pockets and roll back on his heels while Pansy lifted a brow at him.
A smile tugged at the corner of Hermione's mouth, and she turned back to the list of names.
Her gaze passed over Lydia Baxter, Katie Bell, and Lavender Brown. By the time she reached Cho Chang in the next column, her eyes were wet. She skimmed down the columns, searching for specific names and stumbling over others. Cedric Diggory. Albus Dumbledore.
Her fingers reached out, whispering over the white letters, and the stone warmed beneath her touch. Lower down, she found Remus Lupin and Nymphadora Tonks-Lupin, and on the next column, Minerva McGonagall.
She stepped back as their names blurred together, reaching for her still waters. Her shoulder bumped into the tall boy next to her, and her apology broke off in a gasp when she saw that it was Oliver Wood. He stared straight ahead, his shoulders tense.
Hermione followed his gaze, and her heart thudded when she realized what he was looking at. The "N" column.
"He's not there," he said.
She crossed her arm over her middle, clutching her elbow. "I'm sure it was an oversight. I can contact the Governors—"
"Don't bother." His voice was clipped. "Crabbe and Goyle aren't on here. Neither are Marcus Flint or Adrian Pucey."
She swallowed, looking down at her shoes. "I'm sorry if you felt abandoned at St. Mungo's, Oliver. It wasn't my intention—"
"No, no. I should be thanking you for setting me up with those lawyers." He reached up to rub his brow. "I'm sorry. I'm just… bitter about everything these days."
She nodded slowly. The hollow ache in her chest grew like a hole forming in the earth. "I'm still hoping to clear Theo. But it has to wait until Draco's trial."
Hermione shifted her weight. "Can I come to Glasgow sometime and visit you?"
"I'm actually leaving here with Angelina and George. Going to stay with them in France for a bit."
He jerked his head to the side, and she peered past him, down to the end of the alphabet.
George and Angelina stood before the names of Fred, Charlie, Molly, and Arthur, as still as sculpted marble. Angelina's right hand lay on George's shoulder, her other loose at her side — a prosthetic. George stared vacantly at the obsidian stone, and Hermione could see his reflection shining against the wall — two of him again.
"I'm happy for you. I hope…" Hermione chewed the inside of her cheek. "I hope they've been understanding of what you've gone through."
Oliver hummed. "George still thinks I'll wake up from this someday, but Angelina is working on him. Apparently, your testimony has him questioning things."
Hermione looked away, twisting her fingers together. They were quiet for a moment before Oliver spoke again.
"It's hard for them. I didn't like blokes before… before this. Maybe I still don't." His voice was ephemeral, like a secret whispered in the dark. "But I told Angelina, 'I fell in love with someone who protected me when I was at my most vulnerable. Wouldn't you say the same about you and George?'"
The chasm in her chest split deeper. She blinked quickly, tears escaping as more of herself fell away, lost to it. Oliver danced in her eyes.
"I hope he comes back to you." He murmured a goodbye, and turned to join George and Angelina.
Hermione muffled a sob with the back of her hand. Once composed again, she swiped at her cheeks, readying herself for the next set of names.
In the "P" column, she found Padma Patil, Parvati Patil, and Poppy Pomfrey, before finally, finally, her fingers brushed his name. Harry Potter.
Heat met her skin again. If she pressed her fingertips hard enough, she could feel her own heartbeat and imagine.
"It's strange that he's not set off from the rest."
Her heart clenched, and her eyes closed. She turned over her shoulder and found Ron standing just to the side, his left eye covered and his hands in his pockets.
She looked back to Harry's name. "I think it's what he would have wanted. To be just one of many instead of the chosen."
Ron stepped up to stand at her shoulder. She could feel the warmth of him at her elbow, but the space between them was endless.
"The school Governors wanted to commission a tomb next to Dumbledore," she said. "I told them that Harry would have wanted them to focus all their effort on reopening Hogwarts. But after, he would have liked the idea, I think."
She glanced up at him, some youthful part of her still aching for his approval. He stared at Harry's name and nodded.
They stood side-by-side, with only a memory between them for several minutes. The birds in the eaves sang a sad song, and the wind carried it over those gathered in the courtyard.
"Do you want to walk with me," he said, after a while.
Hermione looked up at his open expression, and nodded.
She followed Ron as he led her leisurely down the list of names, and down to the steps to the grounds. They were quiet together as they walked along the treeline — something they'd never had in the past, but she decided to accept it as long as it would last.
It wasn't until they rounded a large tree and Ron's feet halted that she realized they were at the pumpkin patch. What remained of Hagrid's hut was in a pile of wood and dirt, but she could just make out where his brick steps had been. The Forbidden Forest had grown forward around it, but someone had replanted the pumpkins.
Hermione looked back at the long distance they'd walked. She could just make out the Black Lake, a white marble grave on the shore.
"I've been talking to Ginny again."
Hermione nodded, wrapping her arms around her waist. When she looked up, she found him gazing intently at her.
"Good." She managed a small smile.
"She said it was wrong of them to put you in St. Mungo's. And I agree with her now." He sniffed once and glanced at the castle. "I'm sorry I didn't realize that sooner, or…"
Her stomach twisted, turning over itself. There was no getting around it all. They needed to do this.
"Ron, I understand. You were…" She looked around, searching for the words. "You were working off the information you had at the time. But you were missing the most crucial piece of it all."
"And what's that?"
Hermione choked down her nerves. "I had feelings for Draco before all of this. At school. Before he took the Dark Mark and even before Voldemort came back…" She shook her head. "I never told you or Harry. I kept it for myself." Her eyes pricked, and she brushed her knuckles across her lashes. "You can imagine my surprise when I learned he had feelings for me, too—"
Ron scoffed and turned to lean against the large tree. "Yeah. I know." He reached up to adjust his eyepatch, and Hermione gaped at him.
"He watched you. He was…" He waved his hand. "Let's just say I recognized it in him. Though I never imagined it ran that deep."
Hermione's cheeks flamed. She bit her lip, trying to tread carefully.
"I want you to know that… it doesn't discredit what my feelings were for you. I did care for you, Ron. I still do."
His jaw ticked as his gaze roved the horizon. "Just not enough. Not like I want you to."
The truth drifted over them with the summer breeze, and there was nothing she could do to change it. Nothing she would do, even if she could.
Ron pushed off the tree and looked down at the grass.
"I think…" His throat bobbed. "I think that's all I can hear about it for right now. I never met this version of Malfoy you fell in love with. And I just can't stomach thinking of you with the version in my head." Hermione swallowed, her eyes welling with her shame.
He scratched the back of his head, and when he spoke again, his voice was quiet. "I thought of you every day of the past year, Hermione. Every minute."
"Ron, I did too—"
"I was trying to get back to you with every breath, and all the while, you were falling in love with Draco Malfoy." He fixed his gaze on her, and she couldn't breathe with the pain in her chest. "I just need time with that now."
She dragged air into her lungs as the tears fell freely. Pressing her eyes closed, she nodded to the ground.
They stayed there until the sun began sinking and the birds stopped singing, delaying the inevitable moment they needed to return to the castle and the black wall of dead names.
Hermione went through her mail on Sunday. After she disclosed Bellatrix Lestrange's fate on the stand, the Council had scheduled an emergency meeting with the Secretariat on Monday. Hermione wrote a quick reply, declining to attend and requesting a full summary. It arrived late Monday night from Hestia, and on Tuesday morning, Hermione read along with the rest of the world that Bellatrix's trial had been canceled, her husband's trial scheduled in its place.
They'd have less than a week. The Tribunal insisted that Rodolphus and his defense counsel had consented, as their pre-trial procedures were almost complete, but it didn't stop Gertie Gumley from lashing them in the Ghost.
"The fact that they moved up Rodolphus instead of Malfoy means that they're worried," Shrapley said through the Floo that afternoon. "They know about the antidote potion, and now they know about Bellatrix. I'm sure the Prosecution is running laps around Europe right now, trying to round up more witnesses."
Hermione's hands felt clammy. "That's not encouraging."
"I think it is." The smirk on Shrapley's lips could have rivaled Lucius Malfoy's. "Their case is on thin ice, and they know it."
Hermione tried to keep that in mind as she spent the next three days buried in preparations with Shrapley and his two assistants. They spent long hours in the drawing room, hammering out questions and ignoring food from the elves. By Friday, Hermione had lost all sense of modesty, handing over even her most intimate memories for Shrapley to view in Lucius's Pensieve with a practiced flick. There was no time for shame when Draco's life was on the line.
The weekend passed by in a blur, and then Monday arrived, and she was Apparating to Edinburgh for the first day of Rodolphus Lestrange's trial.
She'd written to the Prosecution Office some weeks before, offering evidence against Rodolphus, Travers, Crabbe, Sr., and Greyback. They'd declined, assuring her they had plenty of evidence, but would contact her should the situation change. She hadn't heard from them since.
Even though she wasn't testifying in Rodolphus' trial, it felt important to attend its opening and close. Whatever the papers might say, she cared about more than protecting the unfairly accused. She'd meant it when she told Draco that she'd see the guilty pay.
A guard ushered her into the familiar courtroom, and she asked for the seat against the wall. When the next distinguished visitor was led in— a Canadian Council Member— he insisted on leaving a space between them. Hermione ignored it, focusing on Fleur's wave and Hestia's nod.
Lestrange was gaunt, his hair matted and his beard overgrown. His chains clinked heavily as he shuffled to the chair before his counsel, and his expression was resigned as the charges against him were read.
After lunch, the Prosecution called the third witness to the stand, and Hermione was startled from her still waters when a clerk led in a young girl on trembling legs.
Cara. The girl who had brought her to Dolohov on the last night at Edinburgh Castle.
Memories shot to the surface — hot breath on her face, crooked teeth bared, black eyes watching her bathe. Hermione shoved them down, locking them away in a book and filing it between two larger ones until it disappeared.
Murmurs bounced around the walls when the Canadian Prosecutor informed the court that Cara was a Muggle. Ogden called for order, scolding the audience, and urging him to continue with his direct examination.
Hermione listened with a growing sickness as Cara told the story of what happened the night the True Order had attacked Edinburgh Castle for the second time.
As Ginny was killing Voldemort, and True Order forces were rescuing Lots around the country, an army led by General Robert Pierre had surrounded Edinburgh Castle. The Carrow Girls had been thrown in the dungeons shortly after the attack began, but several hours later, a Death Eater had reappeared. He'd given the magical Carrow Girls antidotes for their magic suppression, handed them wands, and Imperiused them to join the fight against the True Order.
The attack had lasted three days, ending when the Americans' bombs reduced the castle to dust. That was how Charlotte had died — her body broken and eyes vacant, a wand forced in her hand.
Hermione's cheeks stung with tears as Cara pointed at Rodolphus as the man in the dungeons, confirming the word he'd used: "Imperio." Of the dozens of slaves kept at Edinburgh Castle, only six had survived the attack — all of them Muggle Carrow Girls left in the dungeons to die.
Hermione hadn't known until that moment why that was.
She had to leave at the next recess. Brushing past a surprised Narcissa, she'd rushed upstairs and Occluded until she forgot where she was.
On Tuesday, Hermione immersed herself in Draco's trial. Wednesday was much the same, only broken up by wrapping and sending a gift to Ginny on her birthday. Hermione had written earlier to see if she wanted company, but she'd replied that she'd be visiting George and Angelina in France, and the invitation was open to her as well. She'd declined due to the trial preparation, and Ginny had understood.
Shrapley received an owl Wednesday evening and informed Hermione and his assistants that Rodolphus' Defense had rested its case after a single day. So on Thursday afternoon, Hermione Apparated to Edinburgh, and when President Ogden read his sentence — death — she hadn't felt an ounce of sympathy.
As the courtroom began emptying, Hestia gestured for Hermione to follow her out of the gallery. "I was hoping I'd see you here."
Hermione nodded, folding her hands.
Something itched at Hermione as she let Hestia lead her through the corridor and out of the building, squeezing past the frenzied reporters. It wasn't until they began walking down the cobblestoned street together that Hermione looked up at the skyline and realized what it was.
"What happened to the other five Muggles at Edinburgh?" she asked.
Hestia's boots clipped twice on the stones. "All six are being kept in a safe house at present. Their care is excellent, I assure you."
"And what will be done with them afterward?"
Hestia's lips thinned. "We're still in deliberations."
Hermione stopped cold, forcing Hestia to face her. "'We?' You mean you and the rest of the Provisional Government?"
"That's actually what I wanted to talk with you about," Hestia said. "Someday soon, the Provisional Government will have to become less provisional. An election will be announced soon, and General Jacobs has already made it quite clear that he intends to throw his hat in the ring."
A jolt ran down Hermione's spine. "No. He can't—"
"I agree," said Hestia, glancing over her shoulder. "That's why I intend to throw my hat in as well."
Hermione stared at her, her brain clicking in the silence. "And you want my support?"
Hestia shrugged one shoulder. "In a way. I want you to name your position in my administration."
Hermione's mouth opened and closed. "Name my position?"
"What do you see yourself doing after these trials are done, Hermione?"
She blinked, staring at the stone wall behind Hestia. She thought of the Malfoy money, and the fact that she didn't have to do anything if she didn't want to. Her mind spun as she tried to remember her dreams before all of this — before she'd needed to pack a bag and Obliviate her parents — but the ideas slipped through her grasp like sand through a sieve.
Everything was different now.
"Think about it," Hestia said eventually. "I like working with you. I think we'd make an effective team. And you'd have a chance to make a difference."
Hermione's eyes flicked to her.
"Our country needs people who want this new world to be better than our old one."
Hestia tilted her chin and turned, walking to the Apparition point. Hermione watched her disappear, her stomach sinking to the cobblestones as she tried to imagine a future that might not include Draco.
The days leading up to Draco's trial date were a blur of owls and meetings. Hix was in a constant state of irritation over the owl droppings, and Remmy glared at the soiled marble where visitors flitted in and out of the Manor's Floo—Pansy, Oliver, even Boggleben.
After consulting with Narcissa, Hermione had decided to hire Shrapley as her personal lawyer. When she told Shrapley about inheriting the Manor, she had the pleasure of seeing him stunned into silence for the very first time. It took him a full minute to spring into action, asking her to write Gringotts for a meeting at the earliest opportunity.
Boggleben dusted off his suit and peered up at them in the Manor entryway at eight o'clock on Monday. Shrapley grilled him for an hour, and when he was satisfied that Gringotts' records would be sealed, he requested a copy of Draco's contract with Dolohov to submit as evidence. Boggleben left at two minutes to nine, grimacing at his pocket watch. And Shrapley smirked at his notes, telling Hermione he'd be happy to help her deal with the paperwork regarding her "familial ties" once Draco was cleared.
On Tuesday, Hermione stepped into the fireplace to meet with a Mind Healer.
It had been Shrapley's idea to have an expert sign off on the integrity of her memories before her testimony. The Prosecution had already submitted their list of witnesses — one of whom was a Mind Healer — and Shrapley felt confident Pierre would revisit the question of whether her memories had been tampered with somehow.
Pierre was to be the Prosecutor for Draco's case. Some part of Hermione had expected it, as she knew he'd completed law school while serving in the military. But when Shrapley had broken the news two weeks earlier, she still had to excuse herself to Draco's bedroom for an hour.
Hermione cleared her mind as she walked through a well-lit, but empty, reception area. Her heels clicked softly on the tiles until she found the correct door:
Dr. Henry Flanders: Magical Mind Healing, Muggle Psychiatry
Taking a deep breath, she pulled it open.
Dr. Flanders was a friendly man, if a bit soft-spoken. The first five minutes went well enough, but every inch of Hermione froze when he asked her how she was. Her hands twitched, and she saw mint green robes behind her eyelids.
Dr. Flanders' face was kind as he gently explained that he wouldn't be conducting a psychiatric evaluation. Today was just about her memories, and they could take it slow as she needed.
Hermione nodded, but she still flinched when he cast his first charm.
They spent the rest of the day together, running hundreds of tests. At the end, Dr. Flanders explained that he wasn't a Legilimens, but could tell she had very strong Occlumency training.
"I'm surprised that such a strong Occlumens could ever have their memories questioned in the way yours have been, Miss Granger." He clicked his Muggle pen and wrote something on his notes.
"That's because no one knows." Hermione stared at the diplomas on his walls. "What is your specialty exactly, Dr. Flanders?"
"Magical neurology, memory repair, and motor functions," he said.
Her eyes snapped to him. "What kind of memory repair?" He looked up at her, and emotion rose in her throat. "Not for me. My…" She broke off with a swallow. "I Obliviated my parents two years ago. Before the war started." She bounced her knee. "I don't have much time to think about it right now, but maybe when the trial is over, I— maybe we might be able to talk about it."
He flipped his notes closed and pulled out a leather-bound planner. "Name the day, Miss Granger."
On Wednesday, Hermione met Viktor Krum at a Muggle cafe in the outskirts of London where they wouldn't be recognized. His reply to her request had been curt, so relief washed over her when he swept her into a warm hug the moment she arrived.
The first half-hour was full of stilted pauses as they tried to make sense of the other's time during the war. Viktor revealed that he and Katya had been working with the True Order from the beginning, and had volunteered to infiltrate the Death Eaters alongside the Bulgarian Minister. The only piece of information that surprised her was that Minister Grubhov had been in on it. Katya had Obliviated him after Edinburgh was attacked, and Viktor had fled to France.
"I spoke vith Draco Malfoy's barrister," he said, after a time.
Hermione's eyes shot up to his. "I know."
Viktor sipped his tea, glancing out the window. "He told you vot I said?"
"No. But he did tell me you wouldn't formally agree to testify on Draco's behalf."
"Because I vant to hear it from you." He set his cup down and leveled his eyes on her. "You vant me to tell them he lowered his vand."
"I do," she said.
Viktor searched her face. "You are going through a lot of trouble for someone who has been missing for months. Are you sure he is even alive?"
She could hear her heartbeat echo inside the cavern in her chest. "He is."
"How can you be so su—"
"I can feel it."
Viktor stared at her, and her face grew hot as she thought of the other explanations she should have given about Gringotts, and Grimmauld Place.
Finally, Viktor nodded. And sipped his tea.
Draco's trial would begin on Monday 23 August. On Thursday, Shrapley had come to collect some of the items she stowed in her pouch. On Friday, she'd stared at her notes. And on Saturday, she sat with Narcissa at dinner, staring down at the table and pushing her potatoes around with her fork.
She'd struggled with her Occlumency the last few days. Rationally, she knew Draco was alive, but it hadn't stopped Viktor's words from echoing in her ears every night until she gave into a Dreamless Sleep potion.
"Narcissa," she said abruptly. "If Kreacher answers to the House of Black, would he come if you called him?"
Narcissa glanced up from her plate. Hermione's breath grew quicker as her mind raced.
"I know we've been careful, but it's been months. I really think it's safe to summon him. If we could communicate with him, he could tell us how Draco is—"
"I don't think so, Hermione," said Narcissa softly. She set down her fork.
Hermione blinked. "You think Kreacher wouldn't come?"
"No, I…" There was a pause as Narcissa searched for the words. "I don't think it's a good idea."
"Oh." She counted her heartbeats. "But don't you think Draco would want to know that we have his case handled? He must be in a safe location by now. Kreacher could easily fetch the papers for him, and I'm sure he's—"
"If he wanted to reach out, he would have."
The words hit her like a blow. She reeled from the truth of it.
He could have found her, if he wanted.
He could have been here, to hold her when she woke up tangled in his sheets, screaming and crying from her nightmares.
"I miss him," said Hermione, and then she was crying, her lungs seizing for air. "I want to know he's safe. And I want him to come home."
"I know, darling— "
"Do you think"—her voice shook as she tried to calm herself—"If I can get him acquitted, do you think he'll come home after?"
A soft hand found hers. Hermione watched it blur as she waited for Narcissa's answer, like dancing on a tightrope.
When she finally looked up, it was into warm blue eyes. "I think it depends. I think he has to believe there's something worth coming back for."
The space where her heart should have been beating dissolved to dust. A wet sound broke from her throat, and she wanted to ask Narcissa exactly what she had to do, but the sobs were coming too quickly, wracking her body.
Narcissa held her tightly until it ended. She stood, stooping to brush Hermione's cheeks with her knuckles and tuck her hair behind her ear. Then she quietly excused herself.
Hermione stared at the tablecloth as Narcissa's footsteps faded, wondering how she could possibly tell Draco he was the only thing she wanted anymore when he was so far out of reach.
She arrived at Parliament Hall on Monday morning in the same navy robes. Her heartbeat echoed in her ears, and she matched the rhythm with her footsteps on the cobblestones.
"Miss Granger! Over here!"
"Miss Granger, are you here to testify on behalf of Draco Malfoy?"
"Do you know where he is?"
She steeled her expression and pushed past them, ignoring the flashbulbs in her face.
The Swiss Prosecutors were gathered near security, and they fell silent when she neared. She ignored them, checking her wand and proceeding directly to the courtroom doors. The guards cleared her quickly, and she was led to her usual chair behind the Italian Prosecutors. Pierre smirked at her as she took her seat, twirling a quill between his fingertips.
The large chair for the Defendant was absent. Hermione breathed deep and focused on smoothing out the ripples of the lake inside her mind.
The press filed in. The Secretariat entered next. The court came to its feet for President Ogden. She sat again. The Judges swore their oaths. And Pierre stood up.
She drifted into her body to watch him step towards the judges.
"We're here today to try Draco Malfoy for his crimes," his smooth voice rang out. "His crimes against the United Kingdom, and greater Europe, and the international community. His crimes"—Pierre turned to the press seats—"against humanity itself."
Hermione counted to ten as she inhaled.
—"beyond reasonable doubt, murdered Swiss Minister Vogel and his secretary, and served as an accessory to the murder of thousands in Switzerland and France. In addition to his war crimes, Mr. Malfoy actively participated in sex trafficking and human slavery—"
She counted as she exhaled.
"—orchestrated careful, strategic assistance to the True Order to protect himself in the event the Great Order should fall—"
Her gaze drifted to Shrapley. He met her eyes for one heartbeat before rolling his shoulders back and returning to his notes.
He'd visited the Manor yesterday evening. She'd frozen at the sight of him stepping through the Manor fireplace, but he quickly reassured her he was only there to offer some pre-trial advice.
"You're paying me—quite handsomely—to trust me. So trust me."
Her brows had drawn together, but she nodded for him to continue.
"It will be a long trial. I'd advise you to stay away if it weren't for the fact that it would be irregular— "
"I'm not going to stay home when his life is on the line—"
"—as well as your clear personal feelings for him, coupled with an enormous amount of stubbornness."
There had been silence.
"As Draco's attorney, I will tell you right now that the best thing for you to do for his case is to keep yourself well."
Hermione had stared at him, but she found no hidden meaning in his words.
"You're an expert Occlumens. Nothing you hear in that courtroom is going to help you deliver the testimony I need you to deliver. That Draco needs you to deliver. So use your skillset, and let me use mine."
Her throat had been dry as she opened her mouth. "Alright."
His blue eyes had searched hers in the darkness.
"Your shoulders are too young to carry the weight you try to lay on them, Miss Granger."
Before she could respond, he'd turned to the fireplace and left.
Hermione was startled back to the present by Pierre taking his seat. He leaned back in his chair, completely at ease.
She watched President Ogden tilt his head at Shrapley. He stood, stepping around the table as the reporters murmured.
"Thank you, Mr. President," he said. His eyes flicked over her once as he turned to the judges, and Hermione breathed deep as she plunged into the depths of her still waters.
Some time later, a man took the stand. Another man in black robes stood to question him.
A man with silver hair stood. His voice was slow as he walked. The man on the stand shifted.
A gavel banged. People stood. Someone said hello to her. She greeted them, then pulled out her notes.
The courtroom filled again. A woman in blue robes took the stand. The man in black robes stood to question her, and the silver-haired man interrupted him twice.
The silver-haired asked the woman questions. The walls behind her buzzed.
Court adjourned, and Hermione blinked into her body when Hestia Jones paused in front of her.
"Alright, Miss Granger?" she said.
Hermione blinked again. "I'm fine. Sorry, but please excuse me—" She tried to catch up with Shrapley, but he was out the front door before she could call out.
The next day was much the same — the Prosecution was still interviewing witnesses about Draco's actions in Zürich and Geneva, though nearly half a dozen were affidavits. Fleur startled her out of her Occlumency by inviting her to lunch, and Hermione declined out of fear she'd want to discuss specifics.
When Narcissa met her at the front door that day, asking how it went, all Hermione could manage was, "I hardly know."
On Wednesday morning, Hermione had trouble staying in her still waters.
The signed affidavits were in regards to her. Shrapley had prepared her for this, warning her that there would be account after account of her treatment at Edinburgh and the Hogwarts Celebration Party — but her lake still rippled every time someone said her name, and when the crowd murmured, she could hear the rumbling of a distant avalanche.
At the afternoon recess, she slipped out the back door and took a walk through Edinburgh, fighting the temptation to storm back into the courtroom and scream.
"Four more hours," Shrapley muttered from the corner of his mouth, as they filed back inside the courtroom. Hermione managed a nod.
The court resumed, and just as Hermione imagined her lake, Pierre called his final witness to the stand. A Mind Healer.
Her gaze flickered as the witness was led into the courtroom.
She recognized him. He was the shorter, rounder Healer who had stopped her from leaving. Shrapley had given her his name, but she was certain she hadn't worked with him.
His eyes drifted over her as he sat on the stand and introduced himself, and when Pierre began his questions, her shelves began trembling.
"Healer Thompson, can you please explain what 'Stockholm Syndrome' is?"
Hermione's eye twitched. She looked over to Shrapley. His quill had gone very still.
"Stockholm Syndrome is a psychological response wherein a hostage bonds with their captor. Although we would expect the hostage or victim to experience fear or disdain, the opposite can happen. They develop positive feelings for their captors, possibly even believing they share common goals and interests."
Hermione tried to reach for her still waters, but it was as if the lake had dried up.
"Oftentimes the hostage comes to distrust authority figures and anyone who might be trying to separate them from their captor."
Blood rushed in her ears. Her head was light as air, and her stomach heavy.
"Now Healer Thompson," Pierre said, strolling directly in front of her, "does Stockholm Syndrome always occur in these situations?"
"Could a captor… encourage the development of these positive feelings in their hostage?"
"Objection," Shrapley's head jerked up. "Conjecture."
"Overruled." President Ogden nodded to Healer Thompson.
Pierre tilted his head. "How?"
Healer Thompson cleared his throat. "By bringing them into their confidence and showing them kindness. By reinforcing their dependence on them."
There was a metallic taste in her mouth. She'd bitten her tongue.
"And what might a captor gain from such a thing?"
"Sympathy. Compliance. Devotion. In many cases, victims will refuse to work with proper authorities to bring their captors to justice and seek to protect them instead."
Shrapley was still except for his fingertips tapping against his lips.
"Healer Thompson," said Pierre, "Have you treated slaves purchased at the Great Order's Auction who have been diagnosed with this condition?"
"Objection!" Shrapley scribbled a note before he added, "Irrelevant."
Pierre turned to President Ogden. "No further questions."
Shrapley stood, and Hermione's eyes flicked to him, clenching her trembling hands into fists.
"What distinguishes Stockholm Syndrome from other relationships with a power imbalance, Healer Thompson?"
Healer Thompson brushed his mustache and said, "Well, in one case, one person can't leave. They're captives to the other person."
Shrapley stared at him for a long moment before nodding and dismissing the witness.
The Prosecution rested, and court was adjourned for the day.
Neither Hestia nor Fleur approached her this time. Hermione sat quietly in her seat, burying books and organizing shelves until the courtroom was empty and the guard asked her if she needed assistance.
"There's no need to panic," Shrapley said through the Floo. "I miscalculated. It was sure to happen once in my life."
Hermione paced in front of the fireplace. "So they won't be going after my memories after all?"
"No. It seems they have decided to utilize an accusation of an obscure Muggle condition that most in the wizarding world have never heard of. Before today, anyway."
"This is preposterous." Hermione began pacing again. Shrapley was silent.
"How can I—" Her eyes closed, and she breathed deep through her nostrils. "How can I disprove this? How can I show that Draco's actions were out of genuine love for me, and mine for him?"
"Trust the evidence, Miss Granger," he said. A muscle in his jaw ticked. "The evidence is based in fact, not the medical opinions of someone who has never diagnosed you."
When Shrapley disappeared from the fireplace, she declined dinner with Narcissa, and asked the elves to bring her a Sleeping Draught. She laid in Draco's bed, thinking of the horrified way he'd stared at Giuliana with Blaise, and Penelope with Marcus. And just before she drifted, she remembered the last night she'd spent with him, when he'd silenced the words on her lips before she could tell him she loved him too.
On Thursday, she chose the best robes in her closet. She ate a few bites of toast, flipped through the paper, and then walked outside to Apparate to Edinburgh.
Her shelves were tidy and secure, and her waters were still.
The reporters pressed on her. The sound was loud in her ears and the flashes blinding.
She handed over her wand. They led her to a hallway to wait, and she stared down at her shoes. They were far too sensible, she thought. Pansy would be furious.
Pushing Pansy's book aside, she focused on the stone walls of the hallway.
They opened the doors for her, and a guard led her to the witness stand. She sat, facing the court. Pierre was leaned back in his chair, his hands folded over his stomach lazily.
Shrapley stood, lifting a brow at her.
The next three hours were filled with story after story, piece after piece of the puzzle. He asked her if Draco Malfoy had ever forced sexual intercourse on her during her year at Malfoy Manor, and she replied in the negative. He directly referenced Susan Bones' testimony that Hermione had performed oral sex on Draco Malfoy in public, and she replied that Pansy Parkinson had done so in her body in order to protect her from a party centered around Marcus Flint's lust potion.
Shrapley asked her to elaborate on when her sexual relationship began with Draco Malfoy, and she replied, "The early hours of 20th March 1999." Shrapley had asked who had initiated the act, and she said, "I did." The court hummed in shocked whispers and scratching quills, but her mind was too focused for their judgment to sink into her. President Ogden had to call for quiet.
"20 March," Shrapley said, pacing with his hands in his pockets. "Why didn't Draco Malfoy pursue sex sooner?"
"His main interest was my comfort and well-being."
"How do you know that?"
"He told me as much many times, but it became clear in his actions on Sunday 26 July."
Hermione went on to detail the ritual that extracted the magical signature of her virginity, and the reasons for it. Shrapley asked the judges to refer to the glass jar and corresponding memory they'd reviewed that morning.
Shrapley asked her to confirm that she still had one functioning ovary due to Draco Malfoy and Narcissa Malfoy, and then referred to the physical examination conducted at St. Mungo's when she'd been admitted.
He asked for any other instances where Draco Malfoy had prioritized her well-being, and she explained the night that Bellatrix Lestrange had cut into her arm, poisoning her, and the way Draco had sucked the venom out. He asked her about the death of Bellatrix Lestrange and referred the judges to the memory.
"Why do you think he killed his aunt, Miss Granger?" Shrapley asked.
"Because she was going to kill me."
"And that was good enough reason for him?"
"Yes," she said.
Pierre recrossed his legs. The reporters buzzed, the room hanging on every word.
They moved onto the tattoo antidote potion after that. She described in excruciating detail how she researched the tattoos and what resources she was given access to, including Narcissa and Draco's wands. She mentioned Draco taking her to see Theo Nott and procuring the proper text for her, at great risk to himself.
Shrapley asked why she didn't take the antidote herself once it was tested. She confirmed that she did, telling the court about the day Draco tried to give her his wand and set her free. Her eyes pricked at the memory, and Shrapley gave her a sharp look that reminded her to push her emotions beneath the surface.
After an afternoon recess, the last thing they discussed on Thursday was how Hermione had communicated with the True Order. She detailed Charlotte's system of passing notes, explaining that Draco helped her connect with Cho Chang. When she told them it was Draco that had extracted Charlotte's memories the night Edinburgh was attacked in March, Pierre sighed and cracked his neck. Her voice was hoarse from the talking as she finished with the story of Draco giving the antidote ingredients to Charlotte and returning her memories. Shrapley asked the court to refer to Lucius Malfoy's memory that had been submitted to evidence.
When President Ogden adjourned court that day, Hermione slipped out the back to avoid the rabid reporters and photographers and Apparated home. She accepted a hug from Narcissa, slipped into a bath, and allowed herself to think of Draco without her Occlumency. Her tears drowned in the bathwater, and by the time she went to bed, she was fully Occluded again.
Shrapley had filed several motions in the past weeks to remove the press from the discussions of Horcruxes, citing a threat to the public. When Hermione arrived on Friday morning to finish her testimony, only President Ogden, the five judges, the Prosecution, the Defense, and the Secretariat were allowed.
Shrapley asked Hermione to explain what a Horcrux was, and to tell the court how she came by this knowledge. He tossed her question after question until it was clear to the court that the only reason Voldemort could survive when other wizards could not was due to his Horcruxes.
A vein throbbed in Pierre's temple, and Jacobs looked pale and grim. The French judge's mouth had fallen open at the beginning of her story and stayed that way, his walrus mustache twitching.
Her story turned toward Draco's involvement, Lucius Malfoy's memories, and Romania. They listened with rapt attention as she explained the process of retrieving the Basilisk fang and killing the piece of Voldemort's soul.
A week ago, she'd retrieved the remains of the Sorting Hat from Romania in an Occluded haze. The wards recognized her as a Malfoy and let her pass. Shrapley had submitted the Hat to a Dark Magic expert, and he had produced a document confirming that the Hat had been endowed with Dark Magic at some point, but now it was gone. Shrapley asked the court to refer to the Hat submitted to evidence.
After three hours of questioning, Shrapley confirmed that he was finished with his direct examination of Hermione Granger, and Pierre confirmed that he would not ask questions about the Horcrux during cross-examination.
President Ogden rubbed the bridge of his nose and called for a recess.
Hermione found a small room in the back of the library to sit in for the hour. Shrapley brought her tea with honey and a small sandwich. She Occluded in silence, sipping and chewing slowly.
The press and guests were greedy with curiosity when they returned after lunch. They stared at her as she took the stand again, hungry to know what she'd divulged that had necessitated the closing of the court.
President Ogden slammed his gavel, calling them to order. General Robert Pierre stood, smoothed his hair, and turned his arrogant eyes on her.
"Miss Granger, you have been on the stand for a long time now. I just have a few more questions."
Pierre folded his hands and said, "When did Draco Malfoy first tell you that he loved you?"
Grey eyes swam up in her vision. The book snapped closed.
"In the early hours of 4 May. He told me he'd loved me for years—"
"Yes, but he first told you this on 4 May. Correct?"
She blinked. "Yes."
"The night the Great Order began to fall. The night Voldemort died and the True Order stormed Malfoy Manor," he added.
Hermione didn't respond. Shrapley had made it clear to only answer questions, not statements.
"So it might be said, Miss Granger," said Pierre, strolling in front of her, "that he confessed his love for you in the very moments before he lost his power over you."
"Objection." Shrapley's voice cut through the whispers. "Leading question."
"Sustained," Ogden said. "General Pierre, be careful."
Pierre nodded, and then smiled at her. "4 May, yes?"
"Yes." Her fingers twisted together.
"Miss Granger, did you ever find it curious why your friends were being tortured, raped, and caged like animals… while you slept in a bed of your own, not a hair on your head touched—"
"Rephrase, General Pierre—"
"Did you know your treatment was different than the other men and women sold at the Auction?"
She looked into Pierre's cool blue eyes and imagined placid waters. "I did know."
"What did you make of it?"
"I was confused in the beginning. But when I asked Draco Malfoy why he'd bought me in the Auction, he said it was the right thing to do."
"And you believed him?"
Her breath hitched. She hadn't. She'd thought for months that it was exactly as Pierre said — a plot to protect him and his family. She chose her words carefully.
"Not at first, but after the many instances I discussed earlier, I came to see that—"
"You didn't believe him at first?" Pierre tilted his head at her.
"I soon did."
"Was that before or after you began your sexual relationship?"
Hermione was fully in her body now, her eyes watching General Pierre as he stalked her like a panther closing in on its prey.
"What reason do we have to trust your mind, Miss Granger?" His eyes were fierce as his voice grew in volume and speed. "You exhibit many symptoms of Stockholm Syndrome as Healer Thompson discussed, and your testimony is riddled with emotional ties to the defendant—"
"—that only prove the point that you bonded with him during your captivity—"
"—aligning your goals to his ultimate purpose of proving his innocence to this court—"
"I'll hold you in Contempt, Pierre."
"Apologies, Mr. President." Pierre paused and swiftly redirected as her heart hammered in her ribs. "What reason do we have to think you weren't manipulated in your time at Malfoy Manor, Miss Granger?"
"I loved him for years before he saved me." She lifted her eyes, watching the words float on a string to him. "And I love him still."
Whispers descended like snowfall. Pierre opened his mouth. And paused as the rumbling grew.
Hermione's eyes flicked to Shrapley, who'd come to his feet. He lifted a brow at her and gave the slightest shrug of his shoulder, as if to say, Not bad.
The gavel banged over and over until President Ogden had control of the room. Pierre adjusted his collar and leveled her with a curious look.
"You loved him for years," he repeated. "At school?"
"Yes. I had feelings for him at school."
She stared into Pierre's narrowed blue eyes, and he held her gaze as he told President Ogden that he had no further questions. The court was called to recess, and she exited too swiftly to hear anyone calling her, moving as quickly as she could back to Malfoy Manor.
Hermione's face was on the cover of the Prophet the next day. The photograph had captured her exiting Parliament Hall yesterday, pushing through reporters and cameras. The headline that morning had read:
HERMIONE GRANGER TAKES THE STAND: "I LOVE HIM STILL"
She tried to settle her nerves all weekend, knowing that there was still more to come for the defense on Monday. Narcissa offered to walk with her in the gardens to soothe her anxiety, and when Hermione declined, she suggested they read together in the Conservatory.
The Witch Weekly that Narcissa handed her on Sunday read: HERMIONE GRANGER AND DRACO MALFOY: STAR-CROSSED LOVERS.
Her face burned. She could barely breathe as the weight of her confession and testimony came crashing over her shoulders, but Narcissa simply smiled into her teacup.
Owls came to the Manor every hour — invitations for interviews, fan mail, Howlers. All kinds of different reactions. She told the elves to collect her letters and hold them until after the trial.
On Monday, there were twice as many reporters waiting for her outside Parliament Hall. She kept her head high as she passed through them, letting their questions vanish like sound in a vacuum.
That day, Shrapley called his second witness — a Swiss man who had defected from the Great Order shortly after the battles in Switzerland. He had been a lower-level guard who had witnessed Draco becoming violently ill after torturing Muggles and Swiss soldiers on his aunt's orders. He also testified that on three different occasions, Lucius Malfoy swept in to finish the job for him, sparing him from doing any more damage.
Katya Viktor took the stand after. She told the court that she'd found Hermione and Draco in the library when she came to visit. It had looked like they were researching something. She also mentioned that Draco never reported her to the Great Order after she insisted he attend Edinburgh on the night it was attacked. She sent Hermione a small smile as she stepped off the stand.
After recess, it was Viktor's turn to tell them about Draco lowering his wand. Pierre scoffed, earning a rebuke from President Ogden.
Oliver and Pansy testified on Tuesday morning — Oliver about how Draco had come to Theo for help with the Scourer journal and the Pensieve for viewing Charlotte's memories, and Pansy about how Draco had saved her after her father gave her off to be Auctioned. Pansy was cool and calm as the conversation shifted to the night at Edinburgh, confirming that it had been her idea and that she never felt forced.
"You dated Draco Malfoy briefly at school. Did you ever notice his feelings for Hermione Granger?"
Hermione felt her pulse in her fingertips.
"Yes," said Pansy.
"About half-way through sixth year. That's when I understood."
When Pansy was excused, she sent Hermione a wink. Hermione smiled and quickly looked away, trying to hide the tears in her eyes.
The judges deliberated all throughout Wednesday. Hermione sat in one of the empty courtrooms until Shrapley's Patronus materialized: It's time.
The French judge with the white mustache stood before the court and read out that they had reached a conclusion about Draco Malfoy's sentencing in absentia.
"If still alive, Draco Malfoy is sentenced to two years in Azkaban. He is to turn himself over to the Ministry immediately upon receipt of this verdict."
There was ringing in her ears. She swayed on her feet.
Shrapley had told her that an acquittal was impossible. "He'll serve some time," he'd told her. "Make no mistake. Our goal is to make that number as low as possible."
What were two years to the rest of your life?
She pressed her fingertips to her lips and looked at Shrapley. He nodded to her, with a pleased expression.
The court adjourned, and Hermione didn't spare a glance at anyone else as she crossed the room to thank him.
"I can get the sentence lowered in appeals," Shrapley said. "I'm sure of it." He shook her hand and said, "I'll be in touch, Miss Granger. A recommendation to law school, perhaps?" He lifted his brow at her and led her out of the courtroom.
She followed him out into the corridor. Hestia stopped her to arrange a visit to the Ministry that Friday to discuss her offer, and Hermione caught up to Shrapley in time to admire the way he answered a reporter's questions without a pause in his steps.
"Of course we plan to appeal. I'll have him out in 14–16 months."
He tossed Hermione a smile as they exited the building together, and disappeared into the shouting crowd without another word.
Hermione raced down the Manor's drive, bursting through the Manor doors and running to the drawing room. She pushed the doors open and froze, her eyes searching for Narcissa's. She took one look at Hermione's face, and began weeping.
They celebrated with champagne again. After Narcissa had gone to bed, and the alcohol had stopped warming her skin, she took the long way back to her bedroom, passing the library and her marble bust. She stared at Lucius's smirking face and whispered the good news before dragging herself upstairs.
Thursday's Prophet announced Draco's sentencing with a detailed article summarizing every step in the trial, apart from the sealed information about the Horcrux. They'd included a picture of Shrapley making his way out of the courtroom, capturing his quote about having him out in 14–16 months.
What the Tribunal had been unwilling to say about Draco Malfoy's role in the war, the press now was. Hermione was smiling down at an article about the trial when her eye caught on something strange buried in the middle.
Provisional Government to Obliviate Remaining Edinburgh Muggles
Hermione tossed the paper back on the desk as if it had burned her. She sat on Draco's bed, trying to rationalize, but her blood continued boiling in her veins.
She finished reading the article, and it took her less than a split-second to decide. She threw on her clothes, strode down to the Manor drive, and Apparated to the Ministry.
She found Hestia in her small office on the first floor.
Hestia closed her eyes in resignation as the door slammed behind her. "Hermione—"
"Obliviated." Hermione brandished the article at her. "Three hundred of them."
"Let me guess. It wasn't your vote."
"Wrong." Hestia stood from her desk and folded her hands in front of her. "Hermione, the law is quite clear on this matter. There is clear stipulation from the International Statute of Secrecy—"
"Are you telling me that the Provisional Government hasn't bent any laws in the past three months?"
"These are heroes," she hissed. "Survivors—"
"My hands were tied, Hermione. If the new government we're hoping to build is to have any credibility moving forward, it must comply with the laws of the I.C.W. They weren't willing to bend on this."
Hermione stared at her, counting her heartbeats. "I have an answer to your offer."
"Go ahead," said Hestia. Her lips pressed together.
"I cannot in good conscience join a government willing to make those kinds of sacrifices. Those girls were just as much a part of this war as the rest of us—" Her throat closed as she remembered a girl with strawberry-blonde hair screaming into the sky. "They've had so much taken from them already. They have a right to determine their own future."
Hestia's eyes flickered with something. "I understand completely. I also wish things could be different."
Hermione stepped into her. "Then do something about it."
The corner of Hestia's mouth tugged. "Excellent work with Zabini and Malfoy, Hermione. I've been meaning to tell you for some time."
She moved around Hermione, her hand pausing on the door handle. "Keep fighting," she said softly. "I hope one day you can succeed where I'm failing. I mean that."
Hestia stepped through the door and held it open for her. Hermione felt numb as she commanded her legs to walk through. Hestia closed it behind her, pacing briskly down the corridor. Hermione stared after her, thinking.
As she exited the building onto the Muggle streets, she wandered for a while in no specific direction. She thought of her parents, and Draco. But there was only her own reflection staring back at her in the glass doors of an empty cafe as she tried to decide what was supposed to happen next.
All she wanted was for things to mend themselves. The government. Hogwarts. The Carrow Girls. The space between her and Ron, and the chasm in her heart.
She Apparated to Diagon Alley, wandering the damaged stalls and shuttered shops. Flourish and Blotts had been looted, its windows broken and rubbish strewn about the entry.
She walked down the narrow street, smiling at shopkeepers who recognized her, and offering help to an old man trying to clean up his store.
At the corner of Diagon and Horizont Alley, she found a familiar storefront — a bookstore she used to visit when Flourish and Blotts was too busy. Cornerstone Bookshop. It had a funny off-center door and a little bell announcing visitors.
She searched the stacks for Morty, the sweet older man who owned the shop, but only his wife Maggie emerged. Maggie told her with glassy eyes that Morty had been killed last year in a skirmish with Death Eaters in Diagon Alley.
"I'm sorry to hear that."
Maggie smiled at her sadly, and asked what she could help her with.
"Thank you," said Hermione. "Er, I was hoping to look for books on magical law."
The moments the words escaped her, something clicked into place.
Maggie nodded and showed her to the proper shelves. By the end of the day, as Hermione carried twelve new books to the counter, she asked Maggie if she needed any help with the shop.
"Oh," Maggie said, frowning. "You're very kind, Miss Granger. But you're quite a celebrity. I'm sure you have plenty of other things to do."
"Not really." Hermione shrugged. "Actually, I'm looking to do some studying. And if it's alright with you, I suppose I could do it here. When it's not too busy, of course."
Maggie's eyes lit up, and she jerked her head in a nod as she fussed with her grey plait.
Hermione was hesitant to leave Narcissa alone in the Manor, but she was delighted by the idea. So Hermione trained with Maggie all day Friday, and worked alone the next day, filing books and trying to balance the ledger between customers. She wrote an owl to Shrapley telling him of her plans, and received a lengthy owl filled with his favorite textbooks. There was a large counter staring down the doorway on a small landing, so she was able to read as many books as she liked while waiting for customers to interrupt her.
By six o'clock on Saturday, she'd finished the first of Shrapley's recommended books. Maggie had come down from her upstairs flat only once or twice to check on her, satisfied with her work.
When it was almost time to close, Hermione darted to the shelves to the right to refile the books she'd been reading.
The bell over the front door chimed.
Her head snapped up from the shelves, and she quickly moved back toward the desk. "I'm sorry, we're just closed—"
Draco stood on the mat. His hair longer than she remembered. His eyes just as grey.
The air rushed out of her lungs, and her knees almost buckled. She braced herself on the counter.
A Muggle coat was pulled up to his ears despite the warm weather. His lips parted, his gaze on her.
She'd seen him a thousand times in her dreams, but never like this. Hermione closed her eyes, begging the vision to last — to keep her heart beating just a little longer before he vanished like mist.
Soft footsteps, closing the distance between them. Not Death Eater boots or dragon leather shoes, but the sound of something entirely new.
She opened her eyes, and he was still there. The handful of yards between them felt like a hair's breadth.
She tried to speak. Her mouth opened, and her throat clicked.
The corner of his mouth twitched as she gazed at him, half expecting him to disappear like a trick of the light. Then he ran a hand through his hair, and said, "Do you happen to have the newest Gainsworth book?"
Her lungs shuddered, the sound of his voice bringing life back into her body after months of emptiness.
He stepped closer, his eyes tracing her face in a way that was as intimate as breathing. "I'll need a few of his, I think."
Another step, and she felt a tug at her ribs — the same string pulling taut between them, like a familiar dance.
Like he was real.
He approached the counter. "I'll need some reading. I'm going away for a while, you see. For about 14–16 months."
She sobbed. Her hand slapped over her mouth as her shoulders shook.
He ascended the few steps to the main landing with aching slowness. Tears slipped through her fingers as he gazed at her like she was the answer to a question he'd been asking for years.
"But I'm not going yet."
Her hand dropped, her lips parting. "No?" Only an arm's length away.
"Tomorrow sounds nice, doesn't it?" His hands rested on the counter, and she stared down at them, aching.
"It does." She smiled through her tears.
He reached for her, and the pieces inside of her mended and rearranged as his fingers threaded between hers, closing the empty spaces between them.
A/N: Thank you for reading. Special shout out to PacificRimbaud for her Pansy/Neville inspiration.