Wars of our Fathers
A fan fiction by labrt2004
Written for debjunk in the Autumn 2011 SS/HG Exchange
Disclaimer: None of it is mine.
Author's Notes: Thank you to my betas, la_syren and snarkyroxy, for your tremendous help. And thank you,debjunk, for the great prompt. And thank you mods, for another wonderful exchange! This story is shamelessly AU. I've basically just taken whatever bits of canon are convenient and tossed out whatever bits aren't. :) Hope you enjoy it.
Dejunk's prompt: Severus Snape's heart has been sealed against women ever since the fiasco with Lily. He finds himself paired with Hermione Granger in some sort of working atmosphere and is not pleased. Things warm up to amiable at some point and during a discussion Severus comments icily that women are heartless users and are not to be trusted. Our resident know-it-all sets out to prove him wrong, and eventually succeeds.
"Bloody hell, Hermione, give the books a rest, will you? You've been at them for hours already! Harry and Ginny are coming over soon," Ron said, plopping himself down on the couch next to her.
"In a minute," Hermione muttered. "First day in court tomorrow. The Lower Wizengamot." She flipped frantically through the evidence file. "It has to be in here somewhere!"
Ron crunched on an apple. "What do you reckon we should buy for James' birthday? Ginny said if she sees one more stuffed wizard, she'll cast an Unforgivable at it."
"Hmm," replied Hermione noncommittally. She continued to dig through her briefcase. "I remember coming across it when I went over the case with Smithson... ah, here it is." She pulled out a coffee-stained piece of parchment from the thick stack and waved a cleansing charm over it.
"Think he's too young for Exploding Snap?"
She shrugged, inspecting the parchment. "He's turning six, Ron. I expect you can buy just about anything for him and he'll be thrilled to pieces...It says here that Leland was already crossing into Muggle London up to three times a week as far back as 1997... Merlin, how did he manage that when Thicknesse was around?" Her fingers combed through her hair as she considered this new question. "Probably shouldn't be talking about this out of chambers. Just pretend you didn't hear anything, please?"
A soft clearing of a throat sounded beside her. Startled, she looked back up at her husband. He sat stiffly, his hands folded in his lap. Shaking her head slightly to clear her still ticking thoughts of Leland's London escapades, she inquired, "Ron?"
"Congratulations," he said in a strained voice.
"Thanks?" said Hermione sarcastically, irritation mounting.
His hand found hers, and he grabbed it tightly. Hermione resisted the urge to pull it back. "I'm happy for you. It's just... You live in your own barrister world, speak a language I don't understand... Ever since... the War ended, you've just never relaxed. You're moving too quickly, is all I'm saying."
"Ronald," she said coldly, "this is the way I've always been. I like working."
"Right, I know! I love that about you! But once in a while, we need to go out for a quick bite to eat, or poke around Diagon Alley a bit, or visit my parents..." After a pause, he added, "and visit yours."
She snatched her hand out of his and turned away from him, feeling the old, helpless rage overtaking her again. Putting a shaking hand up to her face, she shouted, "We are NOT discussing my parents!" Parchment fluttered down from her lap, knocked off by the violence of her motions. "What is this really about?" she said, voice muffled by her fingers. "You know how hard it is to advance in the legal profession. I haveto work hard."
"Fine! But after you finished university, you were already prancing around with your fancy knowledge, speaking to me like I was a bloody first year! Now that you've started your courtroom training, I probably don't even qualify as fit company, do I?"
"Ron!" she choked, feeling betrayal lance through her. She whipped herself around to face him again, eyes filling with unshed tears. "How could you say that?"
Dismay immediately overtook his features. Pulling at his hair, he whispered, "Oh, Merlin hex me to hell, I'm sorry, Hermione, I really am. I need to be horsewhipped."
She shook her head, too shocked for anger. Conflicted, nastily twisted emotions roiled through her. Shame at what she'd become. Horror at what he'd become. But mostly unfettered, wild panic.
At seven o'clock sharp, Hermione Apparated to the front of the courthouse and sprinted madly up the steps, even though she still had a whole hour before court would be called into session by the bailwitch. Her case was the first on the docket today, so the room was mostly empty when she entered, the clicking of her high heels muted by the worn carpet. The only other people present were a young mother and her daughter in the public gallery. The little girl was wearing a pink dress, and her skin color alternated between green and blue as she sucked on a Chameleon Pop. They looked blankly at Hermione as she walked past them to the prosecutor's table. Feeling rather official, she pulled out one of the black, leather chairs and settled in, primly straightening her skirt. She carefully sorted through her briefs, mentally revising the details of the case. The courtroom smelled musty, like old paper and faded cleaning spells. She tried not to think about her fight with Ron last night. Licking her dry lips, she attempted to calm the nausea that was tying her stomach in knots. The door opened again, and her pupilmaster, Smithson, joined her at the table.
"Good morning, Mr. Smithson."
"Granger," he acknowledged. "Are you ready? But of course you are." Pulling out a pair of wire-framed glasses from his pocket, he peered over her shoulder at the notes she had made. He grunted at the sight of her small, tortured script. "Overkill, as usual, but you'll do just fine."
Hermione tried to laugh collegially, but it came out sounding like a strangled squeak. She fidgeted with the gold stitching on her barrister robes, running a finger beneath the scratchy collar. "It's much too hot in here," she complained.
Smithson chuckled. Unlike her, he leaned back into his chair with a practiced ease, and for a minute, he seemed to be considering putting his feet up on the table. "It's just nerves. I was like that for my first case, too. Put on my best suit beneath my robes. The whole trial lasted barely an hour, but I was sodden by the time I was finished."
Hermione glanced at the 900-page binder. "I think this one may go on for a good deal longer than that!" Albert Leland had masterminded an elaborate, widespread scam that involving money laundering and Muggle-baiting. He'd managed to make millions of galleons before the Aurors caught up with him. It was a case she knew inside out. All the nights holed up in her room, studying briefs and preparing for moot, ignoring Ron, turning down invitations to visit with Harry—it was all for the chance to do this.
"Probably," he agreed, "but if anyone can put Leland away, it's you."
She gave her mentor a grateful smile, but her heart thumped painfully, desperation gnawing at the edges of her excitement. Law had been her salvation for the past five years, and she'd applied ruthless energy to studying it. It numbed her mind and kept her just distracted enough that she wouldn't have to think. About anything. It was how she quieted the battles that still took place inside her long after the War had ended.
"Pull it together!" scolded Smithson through her mental fog. "It's all about confidence. You can't open a case with a scrunched up, worried look like that, Granger. You've prepared six months for this moment. We wouldn't have handed you Leland if we didn't think you were ready!"
"Yes, I know. Fake it till you make it," she recited smartly.
"That's right. Now, White, Hall, and Ward are on today," Smithson said, referring to the magistrates of the Lower Wizengamot who would preside over the hearing. "Generally aren't too bad a lot. They tend to be more lenient about Muggle-baiting cases, though. You'll need to push extra hard to prove malicious intent, but that shouldn't be a problem."
Her quill flew across the margins of her notebook as Smithson spoke. "Got it."
"And don't tangle with Alexander Murray."
She looked up from her notebook. "Counsel for the defense?"
"Yes. Dandy type, lots of women. You're just the kind of thing he'd want to sink his teeth into."
Hermione quirked her lips. "Not likely to be a problem, but thanks anyway, Gregory. Any more advice about the case?"
"Focus on how much trouble Leland was for the good folks at Muggle Relations. Arguments about how Muggle-baiting harms Muggles aren't very effective, I'm afraid."
Hermione huffed. "Imagine that!"
The room was starting to fill with people. A tall wizard in immaculately pressed robes appeared at the defense table. He flashed a radiant, insincere smile at her. Must be the hazardous Murray, she thought. From the other side of the room, Albert Leland was led in by a uniformed guard. The small, beady-eyed man took his place next to Murray. Hermione barely glanced at him. Best to stay focused. There would be plenty of time to stare at him during cross-examination.
Finally, the massive door behind the bench opened and the bailwitch emerged. "Court rise!"
Everyone shuffled to their feet. Two wrinkly wizards and a venerable old witch filed out, dressed in the rich navy hues of the Wizengamot. White, Hall, and Ward. She had tagged along for many months with Smithson when he went to court and had seen magistrates enter hundreds of times, but today, her first time in the role of prosecutor, she felt unaccountably awed by their presence.
The bailwitch trudged to the center of the room. "Be seated! Case number 5498672. Leland vs. the People. The defendant is charged with twenty counts of Muggle-baiting, one count of unauthorized transport of magical objects, one count of securities fraud."
Madam Hall, who sat in the middle, leaned back, straightening her cravat. "Very good. Shall we proceed? Ms... Granger, is it?" she finished after sneaking a peek at her notes.
Hermione stood and made her way around the table to take her place before the bench. Turning to face the magistrates, she happened to look for a brief moment at the assembled public. With a start, her eyes were arrested by the sight of a mousy, brown-haired woman sitting slightly crookedly in a wheelchair. The woman wasn't old, but the vacantness in her eyes and the disheveled state of her hair gave the distinct impression of life slowly seeping away.
"Ms. Granger? We are waiting." She was distantly aware of Madam Hall's voice speaking to her, but it sounded oddly muted, like Hermione was stuck underwater.
She struggled to tear her gaze away from the woman. She knew the woman was just an inconsequential member of the wizarding public, perhaps someone who had been swindled by Leland. She took a half step backward. Of course this woman wasn't her mother.
"Granger! What in blazing hell is the matter?" Smithson whispered urgently. Hermione hadn't noticed he had crept up beside her.
Sweat beaded at Hermione's temples. She took in great gulps of air, but it still felt like she was being smothered. Finally she yanked her eyes off the woman and turned fully to the magistrates, getting a glimpse of Madam Hall's stony-faced expression.
She blinked rapidly to clear her mind. Faces seemed to swell in magnitude around her everywhere she looked, floating menacingly in her vision.
She opened her mouth to speak, but no sound came out.
"Mum? Dad? It's me, Hermione!" she shouted to their unresponsive faces.
She batted her hand across the empty air beside her head, trying to chase away the sound of the unbidden memory. She wanted to say something, anything, but her head was filled with a dull-sounding roar and she couldn't remember a single word of her opening statement.
"Granger, sit down! Now!" Smithson roughly grabbed her by the arm and shoved her back toward the table.
Murmuring rose from everywhere in the courtroom.
Hermione froze, gripped by a different sort of trepidation. She had failed, utterly and truly failed.