Disclaimer: I own nothing you recognize from J.K. Rowling's work.
It was in a quiet idyllic café that they sat; their coffees hot and scones fresh. The walls were warm and red, the wrought chairs spelled for comfort. But their conversation wasn't nearly as pleasant.
In fact, Adrian Pucey was one very irritated wizard. He'd been dating the bull-headed Marcus Flint for years, yet one tiny Hermione Granger gave the Slytherin Beater a run for his money.
Especially when it came to Ron Weasley.
"You can't honestly tell me you're going back to him!" Adrian exclaimed exasperatedly.
Hermione shrugged and cupped her hands around her mug. "I think I will."
"Lovey, he treats you like shite! You don't deserve that! I want more for you in a relationship." He tried to coax.
"He loves me," she said hesitantly, her arms crossed defensively around herself. "That's pretty hard to find for a witch like me."
"You're a damn fine woman and witch!" Adrian exclaimed angrily, incensed that Hermione would even begin to believe that what she had with Ron Weasley was anything remotely close to love—and that she was anything less than deserving of Love. Adrian Pucey was a romantic, and Ron treated Hermione like a maid and a mother, which made their occasional shag the more disturbing.
Hermione gave a little laugh, blushing and turning her head to the side.
Adrian shook his head firmly and reached out. The duo was out the door of the café almost faster than the barista could take their galleons.
Theodore Nott, once a Curse Breaker and now an Unspeakable (he was just that good) stared bewildered at the two brunettes in his office. Adrian was an old friend from school, being one of the few Slytherins with any real cunning, but he had never actually met Miss Granger.
Adrian talked about her all the time of course, Adrian liked to talk—but no amount of stories could have prepared him for her or this when he was right in the middle of some sensitive documents.
And she was nothing like what he expected.
But then Adrian was everything that was expected—meaning he had the most outrageous ideas and solutions and demands.
"I need you to scan Hermione for spells!"
The lady spluttered and stammered just as much as Theodore.
Once he regained his wits he calmly pointed out exactly why he couldn't. First, she was a civilian and not an enemy—magic could not be used on her for a whim; second, she was a member of the Golden Trio, very prominent and therefore more paperwork and politics; third, this was an outrageous request when no proof was present to indicate a bewitchment.
Adrian waved that all aside with a flamboyant hand gesture. "I have all the proof I need!"
Both Miss Granger and Theodore stared at the older man.
"And?" Hermione inquired after a bit of silence.
Adrian grinned and pulled her under his arm, bussing her cheek enthusiastically.
Theodore raised an eyebrow and sat back in his chair.
"Theo! When you look at Lovey what do you see?"
Hermione closed her eyes, crossing her arms and pursing her lips in resignation.
Theodore looked at her. "I see Hermione Granger."
Adrian's expression became shrewd. "What does Hermione Granger look like?"
Hermione covered her face with her hands.
"She looks like a young woman, maybe a little short."
Angry eyes emerged from behind her fingers. Theo shrugged at her hostility.
Adrian smacked his hand dramatically to his forehead. "Look like a Slytherin would!"
Theo blinked. He hadn't had to be told that in quite some time. That particular saying was coined and repeated oft in the dungeons (especially to the oblivious Malfoy heir). It meant that they had to look underneath the underneath, to pick apart details and clues about the person based on their behavior and appearance alone.
A useful skill for snakes used to deception and blackmail.
So he shook his head and turned back to the woman. And he stared a bit. Except, he couldn't see the details of her eyes: their color or shape. He couldn't tell exactly if her hair was frizzy and straight or bushy and curly. He couldn't spot if she favored one hand over the other, or stressed her clothes with her nerves, or twinkled her eyes, or preferred jewelry of any sort.
Theo couldn't see details about her, couldn't see beyond a flat impression of a person, he couldn't read her like a snake should.
His eyes widened and he stood up, coming in front of the woman and bending to look in her face.
Her eyes were wide, or he got the impression of a wide-eyed expression, but he couldn't tell if their color was altered by more light entering her cornea or if she was angry at his close proximity. Her eyes…they were just brown.
Of course, Adrian could tell that she was bewildered and a little flushed at Theo's nearness. He smirked but shook his head to focus. Playing matchmaker wasn't his original agenda, but it would work.
The two were well suited.
"How did you notice this?"
Hermione blinked rapidly. "I didn't—there's nothing to notice!" she retorted at the last minute.
Theo drew back a little. Stunned.
Then his eyes narrowed and he muttered to himself, walking around his desk to his filing cabinet he pulled out several thick folders.
When he finally sat he glared at Adrian. "You better help me with these."
Adrian smiled and complied, happy to be getting his way.
Hermione floundered, wringing her hands. "What exactly is going on?"
Adrian grinned and sent her a wink, but Theo ignored her.
She pursed her lips and her brows furrowed in irritation. "Don't you dare ignore me! I want to know what's wrong!"
Adrian was amused, and Theo finally looked up to answer, but her lip quivered and she teared up and Adrian abruptly remembered she was having a really really bad week and this probably wasn't helping.
He was up and immediately by her side. "Shhh Lovey, I'm sorry. I'm just happy that Theo can help us."
She hiccuped. "Help us with what?"
Adrian grinned and scuffed her chin with his crooked finger. "Why, he can help you with your image problem!"
Hermione's horrified expression didn't translate completely to Theo through the spell work, but the man certainly got the right impression.
"Adrian has brought to my attention that I cannot see details of you that I should. I don't know what your eyes are like or your expression is made of—all I get are general ideas about how you look. Even when you speak I hear no true inflection or emotions."
Hermione swallowed and started to sink down. Adrian quickly caught her and helped her to his previous chair.
"I'm…I'm under a spell."
The two Slytherin alumni exchanged a glance. "Yes, I need to file this paperwork and get it approved as soon as possible. There's no telling what kind of damage a spell of this nature could do."
Hermione sat rather silently as the two men finished the forms and sent them off via a notepaper cargo plane.
It was only minutes later that the papers returned, in the hands of the furious boss.
Forsythe Cooper was a half-blood who worked his way up the chain of command due to his frank assessment of situations and direct handling of them—and this situation called for immediate direct handling.
Not only was there a bewitched Warrior of Light, she was Hermione Granger of The Golden Trio! (His personal favorite: the savior was too broody and the red one too whiny.)
Thus demanding his immediate presence in Nott's office. There would be no more paperwork; the Unspeakables would handle this as efficiently as possible. And he would 'supervise'.
"Agent Nott!" he barked. His subordinate saluted. "Prepare the array for spell containment, and get the Recorder running. I want a full diagnostic five minutes ago!"
As the agent scrambled to arrange the tiny office for the demands, Agent Cooper softened and turned to Hermione. "Miss Granger, I am sorry for the rush. But I am Agent Forsythe Cooper and I believe time is of the essence. Please trust that I have your best interest at heart and that I need you to cooperate for your benefit."
"Certainly sir," the woman said strongly.
Cooper straightened and saluted her, recognizing a fellow soldier.
Nott by that time had fully prepared the necessities, and stood ready with his wand.
The superior gave him curt nod for his diligence and settled his wand towards the woman. He recognized that she stiffened, but not for actually noticing her stiffening. He growled and started chanting in the old tongues.
Nott carefully echoed his chant, keeping tone and rhythm exactly similar.
The recorder documented the whole process while the array drew magic from the witch.
Adrian watched his trembling friend with a little worry, wondering just what kind of spell would cause that cold sweat and that pained expression.
At first he'd thought it a simple prank, but the reaction of the two Unspeakables and the actual containment process spoke of something much more sinister.
The recorder flashed through images of the scene while a scroll at the side magically bloomed with runes and numbers.
When the chant rose and finally broke, Hermione collapsed.
Nott abruptly sucked in a sharp breath and Cooper growled through his teeth as he snatched up the parchment.
Adrian swooped down on his friend, picking her up and gently patting her cheek.
The old agent gave him a half stern look before returning to his numbers, but Nott approached quietly and offered his cloak. Adrian took it and swiftly wrapped up the trembling witch.
Theodore swallowed heavily as he eyed the fetching witch his friend was holding, feeling daft for not noticing her sooner. She was a curvy little package, and strong enough to put up with Adrian's flashy ways…she was Adrian's favorite witch after all.
"It looks more like a multitude of spells congealed due to a similar purpose—the result is what you noticed, gentlemen. Miss Granger, you were under what amounted to an image altering charm. This mess meant that whenever someone of the sexual orientation to be interested in you looked at you they would see nothing noteworthy. This particular mesh of spells also worked to undermine your vision of yourself—tearing apart your ego and self-image."
Hermione blinked and sat back, gasping in a little, understanding exactly what that meant for the actual core of her wild magic—which was all filtered through the mental/emotional strength of the wizard. Because Hermione hadn't thought much of herself, her magic hadn't reacted as strongly as it would have to a confident witch.
She seethed, her eyes flashing and her cheeks flushing, her little fists clenching and her shoulders snapping back.
Theo blinked and abruptly turned his eyes away with a little blush.
Her hair cackled with electricity and Forsythe grinned. "We might need to let you train up a bit, the least we can do is let you use our temporary training quarters to realign your magic core with your psyche." Agent Cooper had always wanted Miss Granger in the corpus; this might be just the time to win her over.
She glared at him with bright gold eyes and her magic swirled around her. "Thank you for the generous offer, I will be glad to learn my magic again." Then her eyes darted down to the scroll in the senior agent's hands and met him face on: "I would like to examine the spells and how they engage."
Cooper grinned again; sure she would be an excellent addition to the ranks with that curiosity and power. "I would be delighted to go over the arithmacy with you, shall we?" He gestured to the desk and conjured extra chairs.
When they had settled in and a cautious secretary had retreated from checking on them Adrian was once again amazed with the little kitten he'd become attached to. Not only was she running the show with two Unspeakables, she was surprising Theo and impressing Cooper to the extent that their emotions were practically visible—and both had been Slytherins.
Adrian smirked and then smiled at his witch. She was alight with power right now, her magic not settling into her core but sizzling along her skin—it was a pretty awesome sight. But she was angry, "This is a mess! I can't believe there are so many petty spells that do the exact same thing!"
And it was true, not only had the spells started early in her life—her fourth year of Hogwarts to be exact—but she'd even had three different spells cast on her within two months. Unerringly Hermione recalled every incident around the time the spells were cast, and cried quietly even while she raged.
The first was around the Yule ball when she came with Victor, and then two afterwards when all the hype about her was in the prophet. And, because she had studied her friend's magic so long as practice and then to work with them, she recognized signatures.
Of course, they had been young then, and stupid, and the spells weren't even that powerful on their own…but they had still hexed her. She recognized Lavender's magic from what would have been their sixth year, and Ron's arithmetic pattern repeated from the fourth year into the sixth year as well. Romilda Vane, Draco Malfoy, Cormac McLaggen, and Blaise Zabini were also patterns she recognized, and she supposed she should stop being surprised that so many people would care how confident she was in her looks—they had done everything they could to undermine her in their world.
She was a little surprised to not see Ginny's pattern, but Hermione had done everything she could to subtly encourage the redhead to ask out Harry—so maybe the Weasley witch had thought she wasn't a threat…or she had known about her brother's spells.
Hermione did her best to hold in her anger as they worked through the runes and arithmacy, but it swirled in her like a hurricane and left her rather breathless.
They figured out that the spells had meshed because her magic core was still stabilizing and so much foreign magic had been introduced with one purpose—quite like a mage circle casting a net: everything was more powerful when many magics focused on one intent.
Hermione felt sick.
"This one particular spell here…" the men continued to examine around her.
But she knew.
This one was to make her so shallow that she cared about her appearance, or lack of it. That one made her doubt her worth in character. Those two coincided to make her see no one who even had a smidge of interest in her. That long one recited the faults she would see in herself. This archaic one demanded restitution and punishment for every time she had a positive thought about herself. This one made her invisible to the males in her life. That over there was a hex designed to make her uncomfortable every time a man touched her. These three somehow merged to make her doubt every compliment she received, to see hidden motive behind admiration.
Hermione closed her eyes and sighed—focusing on her magic instead of feeling depressed about the machinations so many people had attempted.
She meditated and focused on her core, swirling through the brightness of it curiously. It reacted to her, welcomed her and celebrated, but was wild and unruly like the bonfires at the festivals. Hermione rather enjoyed it.
The dancing movements rocked her, comforted her, and her magic and her danced together.
She fluttered open her eyes to silence.
Their gaze was on the blue flames rippling over her skin, fading now that she wasn't lost in meditation. Hermione cleared her throat and tilted her chin up, raising one eyebrow. "I was a little angry."
Cooper laughed, "I am glad you know the meditations already—I have never seen a witch's magic so blatantly displayed!"
"I might require that training room for a while," Hermione admitted in a quiet voice.
"Certainly, I can have it prepared and escort you there as soon as necessary," Nott interjected smoothly, recovering from his astonishment.
"I can retrieve some things for you poppet," Adrian smile and kissed her forehead as she stood.
Hermione blinked and nodded, keeping her emotions carefully blank.
"I'll have some of my agents look into possible investigations for this type of phenomenon—it simply won't stand." Hermione blinked, staring at the Director. Then felt the anger licking at her heart, and tried to keep it at bay for now. "Agent Nott will be your liaison while you retain our services…and please make the most of them. Nott, take her to room four."
Theodore saluted and offered his arm. Hermione took it gently, unused to such actions since Victor had been the only one who ever treated her like a lady, but followed him down the halls deeper into the Department of Mysteries.
They left the front area of the offices, where the public could access them, and passed the Room of Doors. Hermione smirked as she saw a few doors still marked with her magic flash by.
Nott escorted her right to a room and opened the door for her entry.
And Hermione was impressed.
The room was clean, and large, with practice dummies and a whole wall of shelves full of books relevant to awakening magic. A small alcove led to a sitting room and, beyond that, doors to the more private spaces. She might spend more time than she ought to here.
After Adrian had brought her a suitcase of her things from his flat, Hermione ended up staying there a week. Nott constantly checked on her, sometimes with Cooper, and Ade visited once in a while with Marcus.
When she emerged she was still angry, but she wanted justice. Her magic was her own again, and her mind was her own again, and she wanted to use both to the best of her ability. And the books the Unspeakables had access to…well, weren't they lovely?
She emerged to the bafflement of the greater wizarding world.
As the weeks went by and the wizarding world got used to the new Hermione, and Hermione got used to her new magic, she was more and more often in Theo's office. While most thought this wasn't of any note, Adrian found this delightfully amusing.
He meant that in the nicest way of course.
Theodore Nott was an oft overlooked pureblood for his unassuming manner—but he cleaned up right nice enough and practiced most of the genteel ways so respected in higher circles.
Hermione Granger, on the other hand, was now exposed for the adorable witch she was, and she was entirely unused to such forward attention.
While most assumed she was stopping by the Unspeakable's office to look over spells or discuss something equally intellectual, Adrian presumed to know the witch enough to believe she was quite smitten.
Of course Theodore was certainly just as smitten—if his calculating looks were anything to go by.
And yet even Adrian didn't know that sometimes Hermione Granger visited Theodore Nott because she was running from some forward wizards—he might have laughed if she ever told him, which is exactly why she didn't. No, it was best just go to quiet dependable Theodore.
Hermione was flushed as she shut the door and carefully leaned all her slight weight against it, her wide panicked eyes entreating as she held up a finger to her lips.
"Please! I can't shake them!"
Theo was quick to hide her under his desk, a little awkwardly tucking back in to do paperwork as a ruse.
Ever since the spell had been lifted Hermione had been more often in his office. While he would like to think it was because she was interested in him, or that they had a rapport, it was because now every other daft wizard and their cousin were chasing the little witch like a slab of meat.
And she trusted him to provide refuge.
Which he did, gladly.
It was just a little distracting to have her hair against his leg, or the occasional time where she would have to rest her cheek against his thigh.
O hell, it was a lot distracting.
But he kept up the façade when every other wizard and their cousin with access to the halls poked their head in and made polite inquiries. Theo was very good at the polite façade, even when he felt like snarling at every one of them.
She hadn't always hidden under his desk, but they'd found it necessary when a few more persistent wizards came all the way into the room and unerringly spotted her hiding along the wall or behind the door.
Theodore both loved it and hated it.
It wouldn't be proper to let her know the way she affected him, but it also wouldn't be in his best interest to let her be found.
He was still trying to figure out if he had a chance, and until he was sure either way, he wasn't going to let another wizard weasel in.
So the strange visits continued, interspersed with more sedate visits where Hermione came to continue with the process of applying to be an Unspeakable.
Adrian and Marcus happened to be visiting their friend when Hermione arrived with some papers and a box. Marcus grinned at the little witch as she laughed and handed him the box, letting the large man dig in and pull out two cookies. Pucey grinned and stole a bite from one, shivering as Marcus growled at him but grinning unrepentantly.
"Well, I just came to drop these off. I believe it's the last of them." She smiled happily and tilted her head. There was a serene air to her now, a lost frenzy that had everything to do with her scrambled magic being strengthened.
(It also might have a little to do with the strange pranks that were occurring on Diagon and in the Ministry, but no one could prove anything.)
"Cooper will be pleased," Theo said smoothly but with a spark in his eyes.
Adrian smirked and leaned back in his chair. "So you're finally going to be an Unspeakable instead of a housewife?"
Hermione flushed and glared at him, "You know very well I can now that I have my magic back."
And all of the confidence that had so marked her youth, but Pucey was tactful enough to stay away from that.
Marcus looked at their witch for a bit and then nodded his head, turning his dark gaze to Nott and simply staring. Theo blinked and raised a brow, but turned back to Hermione. "Cooper will also appreciate the cookies; his wife has him on a diet."
Hermione grinned impishly, "I know."
Adrian turned his eyes away from his mate towards the little witch and grinned at her. "You know?"
She giggled, "I might have overheard her gossiping with Madam Kilbank once or twice—it's delightful what one will say in public believing an illusion of privacy."
"Your Slytherin is showing."
"Is it? That's not the proper thing to say to a Gryffindor, Ade," she scolded with a smile, not even bothering to go into their old argument about Slytherin and Gryffindor traits being well suited to each other. "But that's neither here nor there; I owe Cooper thanks for getting me into the ranks. The least I can do is undermine his wife's unnecessary meddling."
"How thoughtful of you," Theo grinned, and met his dark eyes with her gold ones.
She blushed prettily.
"Oh just ask her out already," Marcus groused, breaking his silence.
Adrian gaped at his love and hit his arm, astonished he would dare to interfere in Adrian's meddling or the romance of it all. Flint only snorted and Adrian crossed his arms over his chest in a huff.
Nott's gaze had snapped to them, but Hermione had turned her head immediately to the ground and shuffled on her feet.
"I…if you'll excuse me I still have some errands on the other floors," she seemed not to know what to do with her hands before finally just nodding and exiting the office.
Adrian gasped in outrage and stood, smacking Marcus on the back of his head.
His love scowled at him but gave the Flint grin and grabbed Adrian before he could chase down Hermione.
Theo was already out the door of the office.
Marcus grinned and pulled him down onto his lap, "Sometimes the best way is the direct way—then there are no misunderstandings."
Adrian snorted but smiled—of course, this was coming from the most Gryffindor of any Slytherin there ever was.
But, he had to admit later when he heard the rumors; the direct way might be a touch even more romantic.
Theodore Nott had caught up with Hermione Granger in the halls of the Ministry and, in front of a large astonished audience, pulled her to him and asked her to let him court her in the old ways. She had stammered but accepted as he brought up and kissed her hand, and after receiving her favor he had immediately straightened and kissed her properly.
The secretaries would be talking about it for weeks.