Many thanks to thebigdisaster who was a great cheerleader and made sure I got this finished on time. I'm also awed by great artwork that Inspired_Ideas did for this story. Finally, a huge hug goes out to Kazfeist, who beta'd this story at the last minute. I mucked around with it after she saw it, however, so any mistakes are all mine.
2 May 2022
It was Hermione's least favourite day of the year, the anniversary of when Harry had defeated Voldemort. It should have been a day of celebration. It should have been a day that brought the Wizarding World together in unity. It should have been a time when old prejudices were laid aside, and friends and family remembered what was important in their lives. And actually, for the first 19 years after Voldemort's fall, that was exactly what had happened. Wizarding communities around Britain had spent the day giving thanks for having successfully withstood evil forces of prejudice, hatred, and megalomania.
That had all changed, however, five years ago when Kingsley Shacklebolt, war hero and Minister of Magic, had been assassinated. The assassin had been killed by Shacklebolt's bodyguards and a through investigation of the man's family, friends, and acquaintances had concluded that he had operated alone. The witches and wizards throughout England had breathed a sigh of relief. At least they had until the next anniversary of Voldemort's defeat, when Harry Potter was targeted and almost killed by three wizards who had used Polyjuice Potion to masquerade as the Potter children. None of those involved in the attack had been apprehended.
The attack on Harry had turned May 2 from a day of rejoicing into a day of fear and caution. Families started staying home behind locked doors, Ministry officials began covering themselves and their offices with protective charms, the Auror department was put on twenty-four-hour alert, and war heroes were hidden away in protective custody so that no other symbols of the changed world would be lost to an assassin's curse. To the dismay of everyone, these precautions did not stop the killings.
There had been two more successful attacks after the failed attempt on Harry. The first had taken the life of Ron Weasley and the second had resulted in the death of Neville Longbottom. While the assassinations had led to massive investigations, the invention of new defensive and diagnostic spells, and the implementation of new laws that restricted privacy and free speech, the Ministry was no closer to uncovering who was carrying out these attacks than it had been when Shacklebolt was murdered.
Taking a deep breath, Hermione let her eyes scan the graves laid out in front of her. Despite pressure from her family and friends, she had refused to stay in hiding all day with Rose, Hugo, Harry and his family. She had always made a point of visiting Ron's grave every year at noon, the exact time he had been killed. While she knew that it was unwise to risk her own safety, allowing the men who'd killed her husband to also dictate how she mourned him, by keeping her away from the cemetery on the anniversary of his death, was unacceptable. She also worried, in the most hidden part of herself, that not going would be admitting that she was finally getting over the death of the man she had loved since she was fifteen.
Harry had eventually stopped arguing about her foolishness and instead demanded that she be accompanied by three Aurors for protection. She doubted they would be needed. Although in the past, tremendous crowds had walked among the tombs remembering those who'd fallen, for the last two years there had been few others in the graveyard. Today was no different. Hermione appreciated the quiet.
Following the familiar path among the headstones to reach Ron's grave, she passed the resting places of Remus, Tonks, Colin Creevey, and Severus Snape. When she reached Fred's grave, she stopped for moment, pulling a flower out of the arrangement she'd brought for Ron and laid it on top of his headstone. As she bent down to wipe some dirt from the marble, a tremendous explosion shook the area.
Hermione was thrown backward and her body struck one of the headstones behind her. She tried to raise her head, but a heavy weight seemed to be pushing her toward the ground. She called out for help, but couldn't hear herself over the ringing in her ears. She tried to move her arm, but a wave of pain swept through her. "Accio plans," she whispered just before blackness overtook her.
Draco Malfoy was dressing for an event he did not really want to attend. Nevertheless, it would look bad for him to stay home tonight. The entire Ministry had adopted some stupid slogan about hiding or staying indoors on the anniversary of Voldemort's defeat being akin to admitting that the Death Eaters had won. Therefore, as a man who was working hard to make up for the horrible things he'd done as a boy, it was imperative that he be seen at some fancy restaurant toasting the defeat of the Dark Lord. At least he could take some comfort in the fact that there hadn't been any reported assassination attempts today. Maybe whoever had been behind the previous attacks had decided not to push their luck any further. Merlin knew it was only a matter of time before Potter and his team tracked down the killers.
As he straightened his tie, Draco heard a familiar woosh from the fireplace.
"Scorpius?" he said, surprised to see his son stepping from the Floo. "What are you doing here? Why aren't you at Hogwarts?"
The boy was the spitting image of Draco at that age. Tall, thin, with fair hair, pale skin, and pointy features. Unlike Draco, however, Scorpius did not have the desire or ability to be randomly cruel, so his face was unmarred by scowl lines that had long ago etched themselves into his father's face. Draco often worried that his son was too sensitive. Scorpius seemed to take to heart those instances of discrimination and prejudice at Hogwarts he had faced because of his family name. Although Draco had repeatedly told the boy that he was not responsible for the mess his father and grandfather had created, it hadn't seemed to assuage his conscience.
Instead, it had been Scorpius' school friends who convinced him that anyone who taunted him or ignored him just because of his name were idiots, whose opinions didn't mean a rip. It was a huge irony that those friends were Rose Weasley and Al Potter, the children of the men and women Draco had mocked and harassed while he was at Hogwarts.
"Father, I need to get to St. Mungo's."
Draco quickly crossed the room and grasped his son by his shoulders. "Are you hurt?"
"I'm fine. It's Rose."
"What? Impossible. She's being kept in an undisclosed location and being protected by her Uncle."
"No. Rose is fine, but her Mum was attacked this afternoon while at the cemetery. She's at St. Mungo's right now. Rose is going to need me."
At any other time Draco might have teased his son about having a girl, especially a Weasley girl, so dependent on his company, but all he could think about was Hermione's condition. He grabbed a handful of Floo powder, took Scorpius by the arm, and called out "St. Mungo's" as he stepped into the flames.
By the time Draco and Scorpius had gotten by the legion of Aurors and Ministry personal protecting the ward where Hermione was being treated, night had fallen and news of the attack on Ron Weasley's widow had spread like wildfire throughout wizarding England. Reporters from the Daily Prophet were calling for the imprisonment of everyone who had ever taken the Dark Mark. Other members of the press were urging people to stay calm, yet vigilant, and to contact the Ministry about any suspicious activity they might have witnessed. Even the Quibbler had come out with a special evening addition suggesting that obviously these attacks were being orchestrated from within the Ministry and that former Death Eaters were simply scapegoats for the current Minister's plan to eliminate all former war heroes and thus cement his own political standing.
Draco and Scorpius, however, thought of none of this as they rushed through the vestibule doors seeking information about Hermione's condition.
The entire Weasley and Potter clans were gathered in the waiting room. Molly sat next to Bill rocking Dora, Teddy and Victoire's little girl. Arthur, Harry, Percy, and Teddy were in a corner apparently strategizing about the Ministry's response to the attack. George, Angelina, Charlie, and Ginny were passing out sandwiches and glasses of pumpkin juice. Meanwhile Rose, Hugo, Al, and James sat huddled together on a settee, not speaking, except to answer direct questions.
Scorpius immediately hurried over to Rose, drew her to her feet, and embraced her. As soon as her head touched his shoulder, her body was wracked by heaving sobs. "I can't lose her, Score. I just can't."
Draco's jaw heart clutched at the thought of Hermione not surviving the attack.
Before Draco could corner Charlie or Bill and demand to know exactly what happened, Harry had appeared at his elbow. "Follow me, Malfoy," he stated sharply.
Draco tensed. Potter would be well within his rights to order Draco out of the hospital. After all, he wasn't family. He wasn't even really on friendly terms with any of the Weasleys. He also knew that Harry disapproved of his friendship with Hermione. Harry had warned Hermione repeatedly that Draco was just using her name to rehabilitate his reputation. Although Draco had attempted to be polite to Potter, the few times he'd been forced to converse with him since becoming close to Hermione, it would be a stretch to suggest that they were at ease around each other.
"What's going on, Malfoy?" Harry demanded, his bloodshot eyes narrowing in suspicion.
"Scorpius wanted to be here for Rose--"
"I know that! I mean what are these arseholes doing? What are they trying to accomplish? Is there another Voldemort just waiting for the right moment to attempt to regain control of the Ministry and by extension wizarding England?"
It was now Draco's turn to narrow his eyes. "Are you serious? You've been pursuing this case for five years and you still don't know what it's about? It's no wonder you haven't had any success, it's no wonder that year after year, the great 'heroes' from the Second Wizarding War have been picked off. If you'd listened to me five years ago... fuck if you'd listened to me after Longbottom was murdered, Hermione wouldn't be here now."
Harry grabbed Draco by the collar and pushed him up against the wall. "This isn't a joke! It certainly isn't about you getting something over on me... I want to know what you know and I want to know it now!"
Draco pushed Harry off him. There were times when Draco still despised the self-righteous prick. "No, it's not about me putting one over you. Yet, all you do-gooders react to every incident as if you are playing a game of Quidditch where everyone has to follow the same rules and all the players have the same ultimate goal in mind. It's way past time you figured out that these killers do not want what you and the Ministry have. This isn't like fighting Voldemort and the Death Eaters. At least then you knew that they wanted power and to control the wizarding world. Whoever is now behind these attacks does not have the numbers, the strength, or even really the desire to rule take over wizarding England. You are facing men and women who only want to terrorize. They want to scare people, to force them into uncertainty, to have them turn against the Ministry, the government, the heroes! They want chaos... because chaos proves that they were right all along. That when Muggle-borns and half-bloods and blood traitors rule the world, no one is safe."
"They don't want to win?"
"They win everyday that goes by without being caught. They win every time someone talks about the instability of the Ministry since witches and wizards like Hermione or Dean Thomas gained positions of power. They win every time you stop an interrogation before the suspect confesses."
"That's what we need hundreds of false confessions," Harry snapped.
"You need to step up the pressure on former Death Eaters. You need to pull them out of their homes, detain them without any mandatory time for their release, and while they are in custody question their family, friends, and co-workers. You read their mail, monitor their bank accounts, discover what they read, find out how they spend their free time, and learn where the fuck they buy their clothes. But every time you hold back in questioning, every time you refuse to follow up on a lead because you don't have the Wizengamot's support, every time you let one of them go because of a technicality you are helping them win."
Harry shook his head. "You want me to break the law, ignore my vows as an Auror, and disregard rules put in place to protect the innocent and to uphold centuries' old constraints on government power? Hermione would never speak to me again."
"Thanks to your inability to stop these attacks, she may never be able to speak to you again already," Draco snarled.
"Is this the kind of reasoning that you learned at the feet of Voldemort?" Harry sneered.
"Damn straight!" Draco replied, angrily. "And my attitude is exactly the same reasoning being used by whoever is carrying out these attacks. These men and women aren't going to be in awe of your restraint or cowed by how law-abiding you are. You can bet that tonight they are celebrating how you are too weak and scrupulous to stop them. Until you start going after them with all the power and resources at your disposal, you'll never be able to end this."
"I won't ask my Aurors become like the enemy in order to defeat this threat."
"Then you are going to lose."
4 May 2022
Draco had been at the hospital for thirty-six hours straight. He should have left 12 hours ago after Hermione had awakened, spoken briefly to Rose and Hugo, and told Harry to send everyone home because she was going to be fine. Yet, he was still at St Mungo's. Although he'd ordered Scorpius to return to Hogwarts with Rose and the rest of the Weasley cousins, he had remained in the waiting room. While he wouldn't have admitted it to anyone, he realized that he wouldn't be able to rest until he had seen her for himself.
He was just stretching out in a lounge chair, hoping to catch a couple of hours of sleep when Potter marched into the room. "Hermione wants to talk to you."
Draco raised an eyebrow in question, but Harry just shook his head and took off the down the hall. Draco rose and hurried after him, his heart thumping loudly in his chest.
When Harry opened the door to Hermione's room, Draco strode past him to her bedside. She looked like shite. Both of her eyes had dark circles under them. There was a large bandage over the top of her head. She was pale and her entire right arm was bruised a dark purple colour. "Draco," she whispered, grimacing at him in what he could only imagine was an attempt to smile through the pain.
"Granger. You are the biggest idiot of anyone I have ever met. Why in the world would you insist on going out on the day you KNOW assassins are planning an attack and just hoping for an opportunity to kill you. Merlin, I feel like killing you myself just for putting everyone through the stress of wondering if you were ever going to wake up."
"Malfoy," Harry warned from just inside the door.
"It's okay, Harry," Hermione said weakly. "This is how Draco shows he cares."
"I didn't ask you in here to listen to a lecture on my lack of self-preservation skills. I wanted to talk about what I think happened during my attack."
"Well, Draco doesn't need to be here for this," Harry stated forcefully.
"I want him here. In fact, I want him to work with the department to round up the killers."
"Impossible!" Harry exclaimed.
"Unthinkable," Draco chimed in.
Hermione ignored Draco's outburst and turned to Harry. "We have to do this. I'll speak directly to the Minister if necessary and so will you. We obviously have been missing something. This has gone on long enough and if bringing in a former Death Eater as a consultant is what it takes to..."
Hermione gasped and bent over in pain.
"Get a Healer in here!" Harry exclaimed.
Draco rushed to the door, but before he could open it, Hermione's voice stopped him cold. "No," she stated through gritted teeth. "I don't want to see a Healer; he'll just put me back to sleep." She took a deep breath, obviously trying to regain control of her body. "I want Draco to work with us. It's imperative that we have his point of view on this. I want the department to hire him as a consultant even if it means putting him under a Wizarding Oath in order to get the Minister to agree."
Neither Harry nor Draco said a word in response.
Hermione glanced back and forth between them. "What's wrong with you two!" she hissed. "You are supposed to be arguing with me and trying to convince me that this is an awful idea. I've prepared a long and detailed explanation of why it is necessary that Draco assist the investigation and I fully expected to have to use it!"
Draco raised an eyebrow. "I'm not sure why you thought I would object. Of course, I'm going to be interested in helping bring to justice whoever was behind the attack on you."
Harry just shrugged. "I discovered a long time ago the futility of arguing with you. If you think it will be beneficial to use Malfoy as a consultant, I'll make sure it gets approved."
"Thank you," Hermione whispered, worn out. She closed her eyes and then opened them again to look at Harry. "Whoever attacked me today was not using Polyjuice Potion."
"How do you know?" Draco demanded; his brow furrowed. It was common knowledge that the successful attacks on Weasley and Longbottom had been carried out by wizards using the transfiguring potion.
"The Ministry developed a spell that detects anyone under affects of Polyjuice who is in the vicinity when it is cast," Harry explained. "It's been a high priority since we lost Ron and was finally approved for use after Neville was murdered. We've kept it quiet, however, in order to try and insure that Law Enforcement officials would have the upper hand over those involved in these assassinations. The fact that the assassins have switched their modus operandi suggests that they know about the spell."
"There is a leak in the Ministry," Hermione murmured.
"Wonderful, just bloody wonderful," Draco growled.
"We are just going to have to narrow the number of people on the case," Harry told them.
"We can't do that," Hermione interjected, although not as forcefully as she would have if she had been well. "Any step back from putting our entire effort into solving this case will lead to derision and condemnation by the public. We are going to have enough panic and fear on our hands over the next few months without it looking like the Ministry is pulling Aurors off the investigation."
"There is no other way to insure security and secrecy but to limit access to only those people we trust."
"Merlin, you are both such heroes," Draco spat. "Did it never cross your minds that you could conduct overlapping investigations? You keep everyone that is currently focused on the case working on it. Fuck, add a few more people, I'm sure the Minister can find a way to pay for broadening the investigation. You then have an elite squad that everyone knows about created from that larger group. Maybe a squad of ten or twelve, some number of people who can be trusted, given special authority and powers, a number large enough to be effective, but small enough to watch closely for any suspicious activity. And finally you have a secret group of three or four, who knows everything and is running its own investigation using the information gathered by the other groups, but also evidence they collect from classified sources."
"What kind of sources?" Harry asked.
"Spies, incarcerated Death Eaters, communications between former Death Eaters."
Harry shook his head. "There is no way a hidden investigation would never get approved. It breaks all Ministry protocol. Even if we managed to arrest someone based on intercepted communications, he or she would never be convicted by the Wizengamot because of how we went about obtaining evidence."
"So don't put them on trial."
"We can't let whoever is behind these attacks just go free," Hermione stated determinedly.
"I think Draco is suggesting a more immediate and permanent ending for those involved in these assassination attempts."
"No!" Hermione gasped, glaring at Draco. "We are going to go about this the right way. We are going to follow the rules. We won't stoop to the kind of disreputable tactics that these assassins have been using!"
"You've been going about it the right way for five years!" Draco countered, angrily. "Where has it got you? You've lost your husband, you've lost one of your best friends, and you were almost killed. If you stick to the same straight and narrow path you've been following since this started, I can guarantee that by next year someone else will be dead. Either you want this to end or you don't."
"Of course I want this to end, but there are reasons that certain rules are in place. They provide protections. Not for the guilty, but for the innocent."
"Those same rules also keep the guilty out of Azkaban."
"As much as it pains me, I think Malfoy is right. We have to try a different tactic, perhaps cut some corners. I couldn't bear losing anyone else. If you had died..."
"Oh sweet Merlin... we can't do this."
"We can. We must."
Hours later, after Harry had left and the nurse had come in, fed Hermione, and changed her bandages, Draco returned. He'd gone to the Manor for a shower and a meal. While he desperately wanted to sleep, at the same time, he couldn't rest until he'd spoken to Hermione one more time. He needed to be truthful with her and let her know what he was feeling. Even if she ended up rejecting him, he wouldn't be able to live with himself if he never told her the truth.
When Draco slipped into her hospital room, he was certain Hermione was sleeping. She still looked awful. The large purple marks under her eyes had not faded, her hair was matted and tangled, and the hospital gown she was wearing was bulging out from around her shoulders. In fact, if he arched his head slightly, he could almost make out the curves of her...
"Malfoy are you trying to catch a glimpse of my breasts?" Hermione asked him. She smiled sleepily at his startled expression.
"Actually I am. If I could trouble you to just shift slightly to the right, you'd make my attempt much easier."
She giggled quietly, but winced at the tightness in her chest from the movement.
"Do you want me to get a Healer?" he asked her, concerned.
Hermione shook her head. "No, I'm going to be fine. I just need to sleep."
"Why are you here? I would have thought you'd be home in bed."
"I planned on doing just that, but I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep until I saw you one more time."
"Trying to make sure that I'm really hurt and not just looking for sympathy?" she tried to joke.
Draco shook his head. He took a deep breath, hoping to make it through his next words without sounding like a ninny. "No, I needed to let you know that I couldn't bear it if you hadn't made it."
Hermione opened her eyes in shock. "Of course you could..."
"No," he interrupted. "I couldn't. As pathetic as this is going to sound, over these last few years, you've become my best friend. You are the person I want to talk over the day's events with, you are who I like to tease and can stand being teased by in return, you are not just important to me, but essential."
Hermione wet her lips. "Draco..."
"You don't have to say anything in return, Granger. I realize that you have a multitude of people you trust and with whom you are friendly. There are many people whose company you enjoy. I don't expect to hold the same place in your life that you hold in mine. Nevertheless, I also knew, after making it through this horrid event, that I could not let you go on thinking that you were just an acquaintance or annoyance to me. You are much more than that."
Hermione reached her hand out and grasped Draco's. She pulled him toward her bed. "Thank you for that." Squeezing his hand tightly, she continued. "I know that Harry, Ginny, the Weasleys, and my former Gryffindor classmates make it seem like I could never be lonely and that I am never without someone to share things with, but my friendship with you has been different. You challenge me like no one else dares or wants to. You aren't afraid of disagreeing with my opinion or offending me. In fact, I often think you go out of your way to do that. You keep me grounded, Malfoy, in way that no one else can. You were a tremendous comfort to me after Ron died, making me realize it hadn't been my fault, and nothing I could have done would have guaranteed his survival. You are very important to me too."
He smiled at her. He was certain he should say more, reveal more. But before he could work up the courage, her eyes drifted shut and she fell to sleep.
Years Before September
Hermione was furious. No, she was more than furious. She was livid, incensed, enraged! How in the world had Draco Malfoy managed to become a Hogwarts' school governor? Oh, she knew the mechanics of how it had occurred. Susan Bones had fallen ill two weeks ago from a bad case of scrofungulus and had been forced to resign her seat. The rest of the board needed to appoint someone to fill in since there hadn't been time to hold a special election. The board chair claimed that she'd selected Malfoy since there were no other former Slytherins in service. Hermione, however, suspected that it had much more to do with Malfoy's donation of new uniforms for the Quidditch teams and his offer to upgrade the equipment in the potions labs than from any real concern about unequal House representation.
Hermione narrowed her eyes and glared across the room at Malfoy as he chatted with Roger Davies. This was just another example of typical wizarding modus operandi. Even today, almost a quarter of a century after Voldemort's defeat, some people continued to attain positions of authority and responsibility, not due to any real qualifications or aptitude, but simply because of their wealth, influence, and blood status. It was enough to drive any sane, rule-abiding witch crazy.
Hermione became even more frustrated when she discovered that the governors took their seats first by seniority and then alphabetically by last name. Despite the fact that she'd earned her spot legitimately through an election, rather than appointment, she still found herself sitting in the very last seat at the table right beside Malfoy.
"I should have that seat!" Hermione hissed at him, as he took the chair on her left.
Draco arched an eyebrow. "In what dictionary does W come before M?"
"My last name is Granger-Weasley," she informed him, shoving her nose in the air in an effort to match his haughty demeanour.
"Two last names?" he sneered. "What is that, some sort of quaint Muggle custom? Still, if you didn't want to be known as Weasley then you never should have stooped to marrying one."
Before she could tell Malfoy where he could shove his pompous attitude, the chair called the meeting to order. Although Hermione wanted to listen to the instructions the board was receiving, she couldn't stop herself from silently dwelling on the completely and utter wrongness of Malfoy having any influence at Hogwarts. One would have thought that attempting to murder your Headmaster was enough to get a person a lifetime ban from serving as a school governor.
Hermione had been at Hogwarts completing her seventh year, when the Malfoys had stood trial before the Wizengamot. There had been a lot of evidence presented in support of their guilt, including the fact that Malfoy Manor had served as Voldemort's headquarters, that Voldemort had used Lucius' wand in an attack on Harry, and that Hermione had been tortured in Malfoy Manor while Lucius, Narcissa, and Draco stood by and watched. Despite these facts, none of them had been sent to prison. Each had been able to point to mitigating factors to get them off. Narcissa pointed to her protection of Harry during the final battle. Draco focused on his age and his refusal to positively identify Ron, Harry, and Hermione before his father. And Lucius' claimed coercion -- that he had served Voldemort solely in order to protect his family.
Although Lucius Malfoy had permanently lost of the use of his wand, Hermione had found the lack of punishment for Draco and Narcissa infuriating. Yet, that had only been the first in a wide range of injustices. Other Death Eaters had also claimed coercion and, more often than not, in cases where there had not been no deaths or Unforgivable Curses cast, prison sentences were commuted and parole was typically given.
Kingsley Shacklebolt had claimed that Azkaban simply could not hold everyone who had supported or aided Voldemort. Moreover, he'd been quoted in the paper as saying that pure-bloods needed to be rehabilitated into society if the wizarding world was ever going to heal.
While Hermione understood these arguments logically, and could even accept that not everyone who had served Voldemort completely shared his beliefs or supported his methods, it was still galling that someone like Malfoy should be accepted and embraced as a rehabilitated, decent bloke. Some people never changed and undoubtedly Draco Malfoy was one of them.
When Hermione arrived for the October governors' meeting, she found Draco already seated at the table.
"Granger," he smirked, his eyes raking over her robes and hair, like he was looking for something to give her a hard time about.
"My name is no longer Granger," she informed him, wishing she had it in her just to ignore him.
"You just told me last month you didn't want to go by Weasley any longer."
"I never said that!" she gasped. "I said that my last name is Granger-Weasley. I don't see what is so difficult for you to remember about that concept!"
"It's odd. I can't abide odd things, probably why I never could stand your husband and his best mate. Nevertheless, I'm willing to meet you half way on the entire name thing. Therefore, I've decided to refer to you as Granger. Doesn't that make you at least half-way happy?"
"You are such a prick," Hermione hissed as the meeting got called to order.
Draco shook his head. "Better watch it, Granger. We are supposed to be setting a good example for the school children. I'm certain Headmistress Vector and the other governors wouldn't appreciate your foul language soiling the hallways of this fine educational institution."
Hermione wanted to argue back with him, but it was impossible given the silence that had fallen over the room as the minutes from the last meeting were read. She had to settle for quietly seething and planning some way to get Malfoy thrown off the governing body.
Once the meeting adjourned, Roger Davies announced that the headmistress would be conducting tours of the areas of the school which had been recently renovated. Hermione had immediately volunteered to go on the tour and much to her absolute vexation, so had Malfoy.
"Why do you even care?" she asked him under her breath. "Everyone knows your service as a governor is just a cover for trying to win back your family's position in wizarding society. You don't need to go through the extra steps of actually pretending to give a shit about what is happening here."
Draco narrowed his eyes and glared at her. "I care for many of the same reasons you do, Granger. My son is at Hogwarts and I'd like to be assured that the institution serving him is maintaining the same exemplary standard that it did under previous administrations."
Hermione blushed in embarrassment but refused to apologize. It wasn't like she really believed what he'd said.
The tour started in the Great Hall. It looked much the same as it had when Draco and Hermione had attended school. The biggest change was a memorial wall on the south end of the hall, which listed the names of all those who had died fighting Voldemort during the Battle of Hogwarts. The walls that had fallen, the marble that had crumbled, had long ago been replaced. It looked like nothing had worse than N.E.W.T.s had ever occurred here.
Hermione smiled upon looking into the library and catching sight of her daughter, Rose, sitting at a table, surrounded by books. Hermione's heart swelled at how her little girl seemed to be following in her footsteps. Actually, she looked to be doing better than Hermione had at that age, since she wasn't studying alone. Instead, she was sitting next to a boy in dark blue robes. His pointy face was furrowed in concentration and his white-blond hair was long enough to almost cover his grey eyes.
"Your son is in Ravenclaw?" Hermione gasped, turning towards Malfoy in surprise.
He frowned, looked into the library, and frowned some more. "How did a Weasley not get sorted into Gryffindor?"
"Rose has never mentioned to me that she studies with your son," Hermione murmured.
"Well, Scorpius has certainly neglected to inform me that your daughter is part of his house."
Hermione really did want Rose to do what she thought was best and make friends without thinking about things like blood prejudice, but she wasn't thrilled to see her sweet girl sitting with a Malfoy. If he was anything like his father, he had to be a stuck-up, prejudiced git. Hermione couldn't imagine what her daughter would have in common with someone like that.
Of course, even worse than realizing who Rose's new friend was would be having to inform Ron about what she had seen.
Hermione showed up for the February governors meeting determined not to change her opinion of Draco's character. Nothing he had done in the several months since they'd been working together on the Hogwarts' governing body negated the awful way he had acted back when they were in school. It definitely didn't erase his actions during the war. At the same time, however, she could admit that he didn't act now like he had been back then. Yes, he was still sarcastic. Yes, he had a wicked sense of humour with which he liked to taunt other people. And yes, he was still much too confident in his opinions. Yet he didn't have the same vicious streak he'd had as a teenager. He wasn't looking to deliberately hurt people any longer. In fact, half the time, she found that he turned his jabs inward making fun of pure-blood attitudes or his own pompous behavior. He'd even made Hermione laugh a time or two against her will as he pointed out some foible of either himself or one of their fellow governors.
Hermione couldn't help but suspect, however, that Draco hadn't really changed. That everything he did and everything he said was simply an act to get back into the wizarding world's good graces. She was never more convinced of her belief than when she read in the Daily Prophet about Malfoy Industries funding of a research program to cure Lycanthropy. This was just the sort of publicity stunt she expected a former Death Eater to pull.
Hermione waited until a break before confronting Draco about his company's research agenda.
"I read about Malfoy's Industries new plan for research."
"Which one? We fund dozens of research programs every year."
"The one that made the front page of the Prophet, you twit. The one that has sent the wizarding world reeling. The one that is no more than an attempt by you to gain a little good will from the powers that be!"
"Tell me something, Granger. If my company donates thousands of Galleons to Healers who are looking for a cure to Lycanthropy, if we can make life even a little bit easier for those who have been attacked by werewolves, does it really matter what my motivations are?"
Hermione knew that he was right. Sometimes the outcome was more important than the motivation. Yet at the same time, she hated how he was being feted and honoured for his company's research, when he probably held the same horrible attitudes about those affected with Lycanthropy as had Voldemort.
"Why did you choose this cause to research? Couldn't you have gotten even more publicity if you'd done something about Dragon Pox or Vanishing Sickness?"
"Undoubtedly you are right. I'll make sure to direct my research team to pull all resources out of the Lycanthropy program and put them into Vanishing Sickness."
"Malfoy, be serious!"
"Look, Granger, I chose this program as a favour to my Aunt Andromeda. She is worried that now that Teddy is getting older that he might have inherited some werewolf tendencies from his father. Moreover, I never felt comfortable with the close relationship between pure-blood ideology and the persecution of those who are striving to overcome medical impairments. Hell, I had enough contact with Greyback to realize the difference between someone like him and someone like Lupin."
Everything Malfoy said made sense. All of it was believable, but it still left Hermione uncomfortable. She had no desire to rethink her beliefs about Malfoy, but if she was going to be fair, his actions were forcing her to do just that.
"Sorry to force you to think outside of the box, Granger."
"Bugger off, Malfoy."
17 May 2018
Hermione entered the last governors' meeting of the year late. It couldn't be helped. She'd been questioning some possible accomplices in the Shacklebolt murder investigation. Everyone stared as she entered the room, obviously surprised that she'd even come at all. She gave a general nod and then took her seat next to Malfoy.
"Nice of you to bother showing up, Granger," he whispered.
"Shove it, Malfoy. I've been busy."
"Really? Has something interesting happened lately?"
He was such a snide ass that Hermione could only glare at him.
The assassination of Minister Shacklebolt had shaken the wizarding world. Antonin Dolohov, a Death Eater that most people had believed to have died in the Battle of Hogwarts and whose body had simply never been found, had killed the Minister as he was leaving London to attend one of the qualifying games for the Quidditch World Cup. Shacklebolt's bodyguards had killed Dolohov, but the horror of the incident had left everyone nervous and scared that another war was beginning.
The lead investigators of the case, Aurors Dawlish and Robards, had brought in all of Dolohov's family members and former associates, yet no link had been established between them and the killer. The assassination appeared to be the act of a lone man, who'd been seeking revenge for the end of the war and the losses his side had sustained.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione, of course, had been suspicious. Why in the world would Dolohov, a man who had escaped prosecution or imprisonment for his crimes, come after the Minster now – twenty years after Voldemort's defeat? In order to try and lay their doubts to rest, Hermione had gotten herself assigned as the lead prosecutor on the case. This meant that should any accomplices be located, she would be in charge of conducting their trials. She had also insisted on being present during the questioning of potential suspects. However, so far, all evidence supported the theory that Dolohov had acted alone.
Still, Hermione couldn't help but suspect that they were missing something. That something was going on that they hadn't yet discovered. Therefore, she'd been putting in extra hours at the office hoping to uncover some clue that would answer all the questions.
"Shut up," she hissed, in no mood to put up with snarky Draco.
"Poor little Ministry worker, all a-flutter, without her fearless leader."
"He was murdered, Malfoy! What about that is amusing or funny? Can't you show the least bit of sympathy for those us who respected and admired the man?!"
Draco narrowed his eyes. "I am sorry Shacklebolt was assassinated. I am not thrilled that the Ministry has been thrown into turmoil. I especially hate how this has brought about renewed suspicion of pure-bloods. However, I'm not going to pretend to be distraught over the death of the man who took my father's wand away."
"Your father should have rotted in Azkaban. You should be thankful that all he lost was his wand."
"That's so easy for you to say. You are Muggle-born. Living without magic is normal for your kind. But to most of us, and definitely to those of us who are pure-bloods, there is nothing normal about life without magic. Shacklebolt might as well have locked him up. He's like a child now, not able to do anything for himself, always having to rely on my mother. It has aged both of them tremendously."
Hermione rolled her eyes; she was not the least bit sympathetic.
"Shacklebolt kept you out of Azkaban, too, you know? You should be gnashing your teeth and rending your garments in your misery over his death."
"That will never happen," Draco sneered.
"I can't believe I thought you had changed," Hermione muttered.
"It's not my fault you are naive."