A/N: I've decided to rewrite some parts of the first chapter because, thanks to one of our reviewers, I fell in love with the throw away character I called the Necromancer. Ordinarily I hate strong OCs but since this guy is about as far from those annoying Mary Sues as you can get, I think it'll be forgiven once he really starts murdering people. Being an American myself, I felt obliged to create the Federal Bureau of Magic (imagine all those agents in black suits and Government Issue wands!). Ten points to Gryffindor if you can tell me who Ehrich Weiss is and why he truly is America's greatest wizard.
The Auror Room at Azkaban was completely smooth and cold carved from a single piece of mountain stone. It was warded by some of the most powerful charms in the world using the most the most sophisticated spells imaginable. And inside this sad, cold room, Hermione Weasley replayed the disastrous night before while lingering on the most embarrassing parts for extra self recrimination.
In the chair across the table, Phillip Fries from the Azkaban prison front office flashes a polite smile. "Rough day?"
"You have no idea."
24 Hours Earlier…
The silence at dinner was deafening and Hermione knew that if her children didn't speak to her soon it was going to drive her mad. In the three hours since she had told them the name of her boyfriend, Hugo refused to come out of his room while Rose did nothing but glare and scoff.
And when dinner was served, the angry whispers and hurtful looks only got worse. From time to time she saw Rose's eyes float to the empty chair at the head of the table where Ron once sat, then floated back to her mother filled with betrayal.
The unmasked hostility had started to infect Hermione and soon she was glaring right back, shooting daggers across her plate of Shepard's pie. "What is it?" She finally growled but neither child answered, "What?"
"You know what." Hugo muttered.
"No, I don't. Tell me!" And with that sentence, Hermione and her children began yet another installment of Weasley Family Arguments starring Rose and Hugo as the world's most difficult children.
Rose let her silverware drop to the plate and the resulting cacophony seemed to charge the air with an electric current, "How could you? How could you actually start dating a former Death Eater?"
"Draco Malfoy has grown up a lot since the war and I don't intend to hold a few mistakes-"
"He killed Dumbledore!" Hugo shouted
"I'm fairly familiar with that incident, young man," Hermione felt frustration tugging on her nerves, "Which is how I know that Severus Snape killed Dumbledore…at Dumbledore's request."
"He still helped Voldemort take over Hogwarts!" She'd never seen her son so upset about anything in his life, "He cast an imperious curse and nearly killed a woman."
"I know that-"
"Then what are you doing with him?" Rose shouted, practically on the edge of tears, "Don't you have any idea how wrong this is?"
"Rose…" But her daughter wouldn't let her even get a word in, she just kept releasing even piece of pent up anger and sorrow from two years without a father.
"He's a monster and so is that awful creature he calls a son! How could you invite him into this house? How could you?" Rose was screaming at the top of her lungs now, not bothering to censor anything, "If Dad could see this-"
"DON'T YOU DARE MENTION YOUR FATHER!" The outburst was sudden and shocking but Hermione had given up any hope of controlling herself. When she spoke again her voice was cold shadow of her normal tone, "Go to your room. Both of you."
"With pleasure!" Hugo shouted and he joined his big sister as they stomped up the stairs and into their separate rooms, letting the doors slam behind them.
Draco had expected a far more blasé reaction from Scorpius but the boy had always been unpredictable. Across the long, lavish dinner table at Draco's country estate, Scorpius made a sour face then took a bite of his mashed potatoes.
"So you don't have any objections?"
"And you'll come with me…to have dinner with them?" Scorpius looked up from his plate and glared at his father, a forkful of steak hovering in the air.
"Whatever." He said at last.
By Salazar, thought Draco, this was practically an outburst.
If last nights dinner was a disaster, then lunch the next afternoon was an utter tragedy. Hermione knew that her daughter was probably going to send an owl or two and that she might get some evil glares from a few close friends. She didn't expect an intervention.
Originally lunch was supposed to be just a quick bite to eat with Harry and Ginny but by the time she arrived the lunch party consisted of George, Harry, Ginny, Mrs. Weasley, and even Neville Longbottom all glowering at her over tall cups of ale.
"I take it…" Hermione sighed as she settled into a chair at the end of the table, "…That you've been talking to Rose."
Suddenly everyone was talking at once. George and Neville were bitterly muttering about her taste in boyfriends, Ginny was practically foaming at the mouth over the idea of her niece and nephew being exposed to 'that man', Harry used the words 'very disappointed', while Mrs. Weasley simply sighed and shook her head.
It was like eating a meal in front of a firing squad and eventually she got the general idea: her family had their objections.
Lucius Malfoy had no objections when Draco told him who he was dating, because Lucius Malfoy died years ago. At Draco's family plot on the grounds of the long boarded up Malfoy Manor, Draco broke the news to his parent's headstones and awaited some sort of reaction. Some might've called that sort of behavior ludicrous, but if anyone was going to throw an insult from beyond the grave it would've been Lucius.
"Well, speak up. I know you were upset when I married Astoria so if either of you have anything to say now would be an excellent time to-"
A small gust of wind pushed across the cemetery towards the house. When it reached the family plot the trees started to creak and sway. At face value, this could've been nothing more then a cold front passing over head.
But Draco took it as a sign.
"Duly noted, father."
The day dragged on at a snail's pace, the words of her family and friends were still ringing in her ears as she sat staring into space behind her desk.
'He's a bad person.'
'You of all people should know he's a foul little weasel.'
'Are you sure this is a good idea?'
At the time Hermione had been very diplomatic and understanding, taking in each point and raising a counter point of her own but as the day wore on she found herself dwelling more and more on the argument. How dare they presume to tell her who she could and could not date? So she was dating Malfoy? He was a grown up, she was a grown up, after a year of getting to know him she had seen how different he was. So what was the problem?
She was so focused on convincing herself about how right she was that she never noticed Lead Auror Chris Beranke walking up and standing beside her. "Either you're astral projecting or I might need to write up a suspension."
Since Hermione had arrived at the Ministry there weren't many Aurors who could keep up with her but Chris came the closest and over the course of her very prosperous career with the Auror Service, the two quickly became very friendly. And since he was the first non-judgmental face she'd seen that day, Chris was very welcome at Hermione's desk. "Morning Chris." She said, carefully hiding the small scrap of parchment with 'Draco' written over and over, "Sorry about that, I've got a lot on my mind at the moment."
Her eyes wandered to the file in Chris' hand. It was blue and marked 'PMI'. There was a sudden rush of excitement inside of Hermione "I take it the request went through?"
"The Minister signed it this morning," He set the file on to the desk and watched as his best Auror tore through the contents like a child at Christmas, "The apparition approval is on the last page." Six weeks of pressing, pushing, and now was getting just what she
asked for: a big packet with the words approved all over it.
"I don't know what you said to the Minister but you're going they have you signed up for an early evening visit tonight."
Her face fell, "Tonight?"
"Well no, it's just…" The idea that her supervisor would postpone a Ministry approved interrogation just because she had dinner plans with Draco seemed fairly slim. But Hermione found herself swallowing her dismay, "Never mind."
Draco searched the flower shop over and over again for something that might be appropriate for an early supper but didn't find anything even remotely acceptable. A bouquet of roses might be too tacky, a single rose even more so. Daisies would be depressing and out of character, tulips would be something you gave to a grandmother at the rest home. Why she couldn't just live in a magical community, He thought, and then I could bring her a magic flower and be done with this.
It had been two full years since he had felt this way about a woman and even longer since that woman had been anyone other then Astoria. Even when they had been courting (because that's what young lords did, courted not dated) he was never this nervous. With Astoria, it had been a merging of confident equals but with Hermione, it felt so much more urgent and scary. Almost as if he had been given a second chance at something wonderful and the fear of screwing it up was almost paralyzing.
"One of those." Draco said finally, pointing the muggle girl behind the counter at the most neutral bouquet on the shelf.
"Are you sure?" Said the confused muggle as she eyed the obviously inappropriate arrangement.
The Third Sub-basement of Azkaban Prison had both an official and unofficial name among the human warders stationed upstairs.
Officially this area was referred to as the "Persons of Most Interest" Wing, where prisoners with tendencies too violent for even the Death-Eater cell block served out the remainder of their days in complete solitude. Not even the few dementors still in service to the Ministry ever went down to the PMI Wing. Why would they? In order to be effective a dementor must feed on the human soul and sap out the natural happiness that dwells within. But it's doubtful that the men and women in the PMI wing ever had such a thing. Had he survived, Voldemort might've graced these halls where he would be among peers and equals.
Unofficially PMI, Sub-basement 3 was called Hell and at the end of the third hallway in room sixteen sat the devil himself.
His name was Phineas Crowley-Winstrop III. He was an albino, born with out skin pigment, and beneath an unsettling pale exterior beat the heart of a true monster. He spent most of his childhood killing small animals and torturing the weaker children. By the time he got to Hogwarts in 1968, he was a dangerous sociopath with little regard for human life. First he brutally assaulted a teacher, then after being expelled he murdered four more…just for fun. He was mortally wounded in 1969 by Aurors but escaped to America during a daring daylight battle against a team of sixteen experienced Ministry officers. The Ministry men would've pursued him but the war with Voldemort took priority and Winstrop disappeared inside the United States.
Phineas had a taste for teachers and he murdered seventeen more victims, even broke inside the Salem Witches Institute to perform deeds so terrible that Voldemort called Winstrop a "fellow artist". For five years, this beast of a man created such terrible distress among America's Magical community that they were unable to support the Order of the Phoenix against Voldemort.
In 1983, America's Federal Bureau of Magic finally rallied it's forces and sent a coalition of 164 agents against Winstrop and his accomplices. 97 agents died and America's greatest wizard, Ehrich Weiss, nearly lost his life.
He was captured, tried, and convicted on 600 separate charges, then extradited to Great Britain and convicted of 66 more. Before he was sentenced, the Minister of Magic himself stood before the tribunal and said "If there is any mercy in the universe, Winstrop will never see the sunlight again."
And this was the man Hermione Weasley had come to meet. Most Aurors would never dare volunteer to be in the same building as Phineas "The Necromancer" Winstrop, let alone in the same room. But Hermione wasn't just anyone.
The opportunity to learn and profile such an infamous personality would make Winstrop's interview an invaluable training tool for future Dark wizard hunters and the prestige from actually walking into that room would keep her out of the field and close to her children. No more late nights, no more surveillance or midnight floo rides, just a nice office and a few dull reports. All she had to do was sit in a room with pure evil and then walk back to her car.
With a nod towards Fries, the room grew cold as two dementors stationed themselves right outside the heavy iron doors. Moments later, Hermione watched as a team of six Azkaban warders entered, their wands drawn as they led a short, bald ghost of a man into the room then chained him to an iron bar bolted into the floor.
The Necromancer didn't look that intimidating. He was small and pale, now pushing past fifty with heavy lines that criss crossed a thin, pointed face. It was Azkaban policy to withhold dinner from misbehaving prisoners and Hermione could tell he had misbehaved quite a lot, his prison clothes hung loosely across his chest. The uniform he was wearing was also an oddity, most Azkaban prisoners wore dirty, ratty uniforms but Winstrop's prison togs were pressed and cleaned. His hair had once been long and pale but now was closely cropped and revealed the tight skin just over a boney skull.
This thin wispy creature once held the dubious title of "America's Voldemort" but Hermione thought he looked a little like a retired accountant that needed some sun. Age and years of soul destroying imprisonment had clearly taken some of the bite out of this man's valuable but it was his eyes that told her what he really was. They were red/pink and were a symptom of the rarest form of albinism. Together they peered into the world from with in a bony white face. He was so gaunt that the twin orbs seemed to gleam beneath the shadow of his forehead. And when they looked at her, she felt as though someone had just walked over her grave.
"Good evening." He said, taking a little bow as the Dementors pushed his tiny frame into his chair, "I am not often granted the gift of visitors and to see one so beautiful…" He clasped his heart and the chains rattled. His voice was snobby and cultured, like some sort of long forgotten aristocrat that survived the 20th century with his Victorian ideals intact. "I would kiss your hand, but I do not think my dear friends would appreciate that."
He was right. The few Dementors that had not betrayed the Ministry during Voldemort's return were more rancid and fanatical then ever before and Hermione could see how much they wanted this man to be violent, just so they could teach him a lesson.
Hermione smiled then settled into her own chair, trying to ignore the uncomfortable chill that followed Dementors everywhere. "I am Hermione Weasley with the Ministry of Magic; I've come to ask you some questions."
Winstrop laughed, which was a grating, ugly sound. "Oh my!" He tried to cross his legs in fashion of a relaxed blue blood but the chains were too short and the best he cold manage was a slight adjustment in his posture, "Oh my, oh my! Don't tell me they found another body in Louisiana, I thought they got them all. I really did."
Sickness spread through Hermione, this man had killed so many people that he honestly couldn't remember how many bodies were unfound. She suddenly had an image in her mind of a Muggle mother in New Orleans staring helplessly at a phone that would never ring. She pressed on. "Actually, I'm here about the Ministry Profile Program, you got our letter?"
His head tilted and Winstrop seemed lost in thought for a moment, he wasn't. The man had no living relatives and could not receive anything except official Ministry mail. Of course he'd gotten it but Winstrop liked to play games and liked the idea of making this woman dance a little. Finally he flashed a look of fake recognition and Hermione had to resist the urge to smack him. "Ah yes! I do recall the letter. You wish to interview me for some sort of educational…"
"A teaching program." Hermione regretted those words almost instantly when she saw the sudden change in Winstrop. For just a moment, the genteel mask fell away and she caught a glimpse of the beast beneath.
"Teaching program." His voice ground the words out between clenched teeth. "Teaching program." Winstrop said it again, looking for something he liked about the words but found nothing. "You're a teacher?"
It was a trap and Hermione knew that, Winstrop was setting her up to lie and give him the power in the interview, using his reputation for killing teachers as a way to control the course of the conversation. She decided not to give him the satisfaction. "I'm an instructor in Preemptive Strategy at the Auror Academy, yes."
The mask slipped back on and Winstrop smiled that upper class smile he was so famous for, "I'm not familiar with that term Preemptive Strategy, is it new?"
Hermione smiled back, ignoring the ugly dance her stomach performed as she mustered the strength to be polite, "Relatively new." She said then began guiding the conversation in the proper direction, "I was wondering if I could ask you some questions about your early child hood, perhaps your life at Hogwarts?"
"And what am I getting in return for all this personal information?"
"I'm sure that I can speak to the warden and grant you-"
"I don't want a radio in my cell or an extra biscuit at meal time, Miss Weasley." Winstrop whispered, "I want something from you."
Fries finally spoke up and Hermione watched as his face twist in a scowl of disgust. "That's enough out of you!" He turned to her, ready to wave the Dementors into action, "I'm sorry about that, Miss Weasley, I'll have them escort this villain back to his cell straight away."
They approached Winstrop menacingly, aching to give him the kiss but Hermione stops them with a single raised hand. "What exactly do you want in exchange for your cooperation?"
Another smile. "You have such lovely hair, Miss Weasley, has anyone ever told you that?" There was an edge of tension in the room and Hermione knew there was another shoe about to drop. "It's been so long since I've smelled the hair of a beautiful woman, perhaps you could accommodate me?"
She hesitated for a moment and Hermione watched Fries squirm in his seat. He didn't like seeing his prisoner pulling this many strings. "Please?" Winstrop's voice was soft like a gentle lover but his eyes were hard and cold.
There was a moment of loaded silence and Hermione turned over the options in her head. Strategies were formed, and then rejected just as quickly. Was this some sort of power game? In the end, she knew that if she wanted this whole thing over and over quickly, she needed to make some concessions.
So she reached both hands to her forehead and lightly plucked out a lock of curly hair and laid it on the table between them, carefully watching Winstrop for a change in his behavior, some sort of reaction. But the Necromancer stayed perfectly still and even waited for her hands to return to her side of the table before picked the hair from the table and giving it an aroused sniff. "Ah, the simple pleasures." He whispered and placed the lock in the shirt pocket nearest his heart, as if it were a treasured memento. When Winstrop senses seemed to return, he looked back at Hermione and Fries, smiling wider then ever before. "Now what was the question?"
Scorpius watched with disgust as his father got closer and closer to a full on panic attack. "Where are they? Where are they?" Draco was tearing through the mansion, sending house elves scurrying in all directions while they searched in vain for his lucky this or his favorite that. The man was a nervous wreck.
A pathetic, blood betraying wreck.
Not that Scorpius actually believed any of that 'Pureblood' baloney his grandfather endlessly spouted right up till the day he died. Muggles were muggles; wizards were wizards, if two of them decided to spit out a kid or two, it made no difference to him.
But to see his own father chasing after another woman just two years after the death of Scorpius' mother, that caused all sorts of unnatural feelings to rise to the surface. Suddenly, Grandpa Lucius' insane ravings didn't sound so insane. "I still don't understand why you care what kind of cufflinks you wear," Scorpius muttered as he continued reading about the Irish National Quidditch team's upset victory over Australia, "I doubt she'll even know what cufflinks are."
"Shut up and help me!" The rebuke was short but ugly and Scorpius was a little surprised to see that much anger over such a small thing as cufflinks.
"Come now father, no need to get this upset."
But the older Malfoy wasn't listening; he was tearing up the couch cushions in a methodic search for the missing piece of jewelry. "They are the same cuff links I wore when our family was pardoned by the Minister of Magic." Draco said as he moved on to the easy chair, "They've always been lucky for me."
"Then I hope you find them," Scorpius muttered with a roll of his eyes, "Maybe then you'll shag the bint and stop slumming with mud bloods."
There was a soft whirling sound and Scorpius had only seconds to dodge the heavy statuette his father had flung in the direction of his head. The small figurine clattered harmlessly to the floor but it was enough to send him out of his chair and onto the floor in a heap. "Have you taken leave of your senses?! That could have killed me!"
Draco was just staring back at him, glaring with those cold eyes and searching his son for any sign of regret or remorse. Scorpius made an effort to show none.
"Just get off your arse and look." His father said quietly.
Rose watched with disgust as her mother rushed from one side of the house to the other, doing her hair and making dinner at the same time. The poor woman had come home in a rush with only just enough time to get ready and who was all this effort for? The Malfoys, the ugly snobbish Draco and his hideous little beast of a son.
"Rosie, please check the roast while I get dressed." Hermione said in a sing songy voice. It was weird to see her like this, singing and humming and putting on little black dresses. In the entire time she had known her mother; Hermione never sang or hummed and only once wore a little black dress.
But now she was doing all three and just for the Malfoys. Was this a spell? An enchantment? Or was it just that her mother, in a deeply vulnerable state, was looking for companionship in new in disturbing places. Anyone of those three possibilities made a cold chill run up Rose's spine and as her mother retreated upstairs she absently wondered how much trouble she'd be in if she turned the temperature up on the roast till it became a hunk of charcoal.
Hugo was already grounded, forbidden from even setting foot down stairs to dinner after refusing to help make salad and Rose wondered if he was the lucky one.
No, she thought when she heard the sound of a hair dryer in her mother's bathroom, I need to be there.
I need to save her from herself.