Hermione knew a lot of things. She knew the likelihood of being struck by lightning when standing under a large oak tree; she knew the proper way to brush and floss her teeth; she knew her grandmother's secret recipe for goulash; she knew how to brew a Pepperup Potion in no time flat, and she knew Hogwarts: A History right down to the footnotes.
However, there were also a few things that Hermione did not know. Besides not knowing the capitals of all the countries in Africa, the square root of pi to the twelfth decimal place, or the content of her three-year-old daughter's wandering mind, Hermione also did not know how it could possibly take more than an hour to finish up one simple case file.
Hermione worked in the office of Magical Law Enforcement for the Ministry of Magic. She was well on her way to being promoted to department head. It was only a matter of time until her elderly boss Bartholomew Hayes finally got around to retiring, and with the anticipation of a promotion on the horizon, Hermione sometimes put in a few extra hours on the weekends to make sure she stayed on top of all of her cases.
This particular case involved a group of newly graduated Hogwarts students who thought it would be funny to bewitch the lawn of a local Muggle politician to shout profanities and obscenities whenever anyone got near it with a lawnmower. Hermione was now set on straightening out hearing dates and other important details before Monday rolled around so that she would be on top of her new stack of paperwork before it arrived.
"Be careful not to touch that," she warned the small girl sitting on the floor near her desk. The child had been reaching her hand out to grab hold of a scroll that was slowly rolling away from Hermione's desk, almost as if moving of its own accord. Hermione, however, didn't seem to be too worried about it at the present time, giving her full attention to the large book of wizarding laws open in front of her.
The little girl obediently pulled back her hand and stared up at her mother with big, curious gray eyes.
"Almost done, Mum?" she asked, resting her head against Hermione's knee with a forlorn expression in an attempt to make the woman feel guilty for extending the promised quick trip to the office. "I want pway time."
"Almost," Hermione affirmed, skimming a rather large paragraph and signing the line at the bottom. "Only a few minutes longer."
"Is Daddy done, too?" the small child questioned, clicking her small black leather shoes together in a bored manner.
"He should be done soon," Hermione mused, striking out a clause and adding a few words of her own.
"Where Daddy go?"
"He is at work. I am not exactly sure where."
She was never exactly sure. Being an Auror, when he was told there was a mission or a raid, generally it was top-secret information, just as most of her own cases were. They had fallen into the pattern of not speaking much about work related things to avoid the temptation of off-limit topics.
"Oh… It is Hal-low-ween today?" The girl took special care to pronounce her 'l' sounds, something Hermione had been chastising her for lately.
"Yes, today is Halloween, and as soon as Daddy and I are both done, we are going to go to the Leaky Cauldron for pumpkin juice and sweets. How does that sound?"
In truth, Hermione could care less that it was Halloween, but it was important for her daughter to understand traditions and to have familiar things to relate to each holiday. That alone was the sole reason for going to Diagon Alley on a Saturday evening when it was sure to be packed wall to wall with people.
"Muggles celebrate Hal-low-ween?"
"Wizards celebrate Hal-low-ween?"
Hermione smiled at her daughter's curiosity. She was in the stage where everything became a question and not all of her questions had answers. While the child's father became easily frustrated by the endless stream of whys and hows and whats, Hermione thrived.
"All hallows eve. Witches and wizards are actually the reason that Muggles celebrate Halloween at all. Isn't that funny? They sometimes dress up in robes and hats and everything and go around begging for candy, but it started off as a celebration of our differences between the Muggle world. We wanted a reason to celebrate our abilities and our strengths, but some people went a little crazy and the Muggles caught on. They were then bewitched into thinking that the origin came elsewhere. They think it is a sort of religious holiday to honor all of the dead people in the world. Now it has become an excuse for us to dress in the normal way and do magic in public and get away with it one day a year."
Somewhere in the middle of Hermione's speech, the young girl stopped paying attention in order to play with her own curls. She only looked back up when her mother's voice stopped.
"Grandma and Grandpa are Muggles."
The thought was completely unrelated to their previous conversation, but Hermione managed to tie all the loose ends together. "Yes, they are. They celebrated Halloween with me when I was your age. I dressed up as a witch when I was four, but it wasn't until I was eleven that I learned that I was one!"
"Am I dwessing up?"
"If you would like to. If you could dress up as anything in the whole world, what would you choose?"
The small child frowned, lines of concentration forming across her brow. "A elephant," she finally said. "Like the big one at da zoo when Grandma took me dere."
"An elephant," Hermione corrected gently. Once her daughter had repeated her words back to her, Hermione asked, "What sound does an elephant make?"
The little girl made a noise like a trumpeting elephant and threw her arm up in the air in front of her face like it was her trunk. Hermione chuckled and then turned back to the paperwork on her desk.
Hermione continued to sign pieces of paper, drawing very near to the bottom of the pile she was working on. All three of the boys involved in the lawn incident would be receiving adult hearings, but hopefully not too severe of a punishment. She would do her best to ensure that they only obtained minor charges, but were then too scared to attempt anything of the sort again. Hermione had found that since she had become a mother, she had become less and less strict with other people's children, taking her own maternal feelings into account.
The little girl frowned up at her mother for ignoring her again and started to scoot toward the wandering scroll to return it in the hopes of receiving praise for being helpful.
The woman glanced over at the last possible second. "No!" Hermione gasped as small fingers grasped the tightly wound piece of paper. When they did, the paper burst into flame and turned to dust in the child's hand.
Immediately the girl started crying, large tears spilling down her face. Hermione sighed and set down her quill, reaching over to scoop her daughter onto her lap. "Now what did I tell you, darling? I said not to touch that scroll. There are many dangerous things in this office and you must always listen to Mummy when she tells you not to touch, okay? There are bad men and women that Mummy deals with at work, and not all of them are considerate enough to leave scrolls lying around that don't bite back when you pick them up."
The little girl sniffled and nodded her assent.
"Now let me see your hand."
The girl held it out for Hermione to examine with a fresh round of tears. There was not even a red mark to be seen. Hermione made a fake noise of sympathy, which she knew was the child's ultimate goal. With a smirk she mused, "Oh, well this might have to come off. The whole hand. This looks bad."
Immediately the tears stopped as the small face bent forward to examine her own hand in surprise. "Rewwy? Real bad?"
"No, no, no! It don't even hurt! It doesn't even-!"
"Shhh," Hermione calmed her child with a smirk, cupping the sides of the small face in between her palms. "I know." She gave the back of the girl's hand a quick kiss and said, "There. All better now."
The girl's delighted giggles were drowned out by the sound of the clanking lifts at the end of the floor. Hermione turned her head just in time to see Ron appear, his face streaked with dirt and his expression wild. He spotted Hermione at her desk almost instantly and lunged forward with little to no thought, breaking into a run.
Hermione stared at him in surprise, sure that he had been on the mission today. "Ron, what-?"
"Hermione, you need to come with me right now!" He was out of breath and clutching his side. He was extremely in shape for the amount of training he had gone through to become an Auror, so Hermione knew he must have pushed himself extremely hard to be in this disheveled state. Instantly her defenses went up.
"But why? What's happened?"
"Uncle Ron!" the little girl wailed happily, hopping off of Hermione's lap as she attempted to hug his legs, oblivious to the seriousness of the situation at hand. "Happy Haween!" Her voice was muffled from his kneecaps.
Ron patted her head absentmindedly, but his eyes were locked on Hermione's, seeking her understanding. "There's been an accident on our mission. At the Manor."
The Manor. They must have raided the Malfoy's place that day. Why they had not told her, she had no idea, but it was no matter now.
Hermione was on her feet in an instant, her face creased with worry but her voice as steady as ever. "Take me to him."
There were some days in his life when Draco would forget how to feel. He would purposely push past his own reality and stay submersed some place in the back of his mind where there was no thought and no emotion. Being an Auror meant that you could not get too attached to the things or people around you. There was a constant risk of losing everything you held near and dear. So he fought his feelings and sought his own form of solitude on a daily basis.
Yet, as he was standing outside his childhood home next to Harry Potter, his former enemy, and twisting his wedding ring to quell his nerves, Draco Malfoy could not stop feeling.
"Are you okay, Draco?" Harry asked, eyeing his colleague nervously. Draco nodded, keeping his eyes focused on their goal: his big childhood manor looming through the fog in front of them. That house held more memories for Draco than any place else in the world, save perhaps Hogwarts, and they were all plaguing his mind at once, each fighting like a rabid dog for their turn to be thought of.
300 meters to their left he could just see Ron, Neville, and Savage assuming much the same position that they were in themselves, lurking just beyond sight of the vast front windows.
They had not needed a fifth team member for this particular mission, but Longbottom had volunteered anyway. It was likely because they were all nervous that he had come here to perform a raid on his own parents and they thought the extra backup would be necessary. Draco very nearly resented that.
"Repeat the plan."
Potter was always making sure that every plan was perfect before they went anywhere. Presumably Weasley or Savage was doing the same thing on the opposite side of the property. Draco did not understand the point of this as all their plans always fell to shit regardless.
"The plan is to find out what my father is up to." Draco swallowed the lump that was rising in his throat. "Rumor has it that he has gone senile since the fall of V-Voldemort and that he might be doing something extremely dangerous for himself and everyone in the area." Draco was still unused to using the Dark Lord's name, but it was something he had been working on for several years, and he could now nearly say it without flinching.
"He likely does not even fully comprehend what he's doing. So we are going to take him to the Ministry for questioning by whatever means necessary."
Draco felt a hand on his arm and he glanced over to meet Harry's eyes. "Are you sure you are ready for this, Draco?" There was so much concern dripping from Potter's voice that Draco was half convinced he was going to lean in for a kiss.
He shook off Harry's hand and nodded his head roughly. "For Merlin's sake, Potter, I'm fine. So what if my father is crazy, right? I can't say I did not see it coming. He has always been a little off his broomstick."
"It's not nothing."
"It isn't something either." Draco knew he was lying, and so did Harry, but they chose to collectively ignore it and push forward. Some battles between them were best not fought as neither would win. It would only create the former wall of resentment that neither man ever wanted to return.
Their teammates mirrored them from the opposite end and together they crept closer, keeping special eye on rooms in the manor that were well lit so as not to be attacked before they even reached their target. Draco wondered which spec of light held each of his parents.
No doubt his mother was in the parlor, sitting by herself and reading or knitting as she so often did. Perhaps her house elf was with her—loyal little thing that it was. His father, however, had become something of a mystery to him. For all Draco knew, his father was doing a ritualistic dance around the fireplace where his mother was tied like a suckling pig. He pushed the image to the back of his mind as they pressed forward.
He had not seen either of his parents in nearly four and a half years, and being so close to them now was making his blood itch uncomfortably. He had written his mother at least once a month since he had gotten his job with the Ministry, but he had never received a response, not even for his wedding invitation or at the announcement of his child.
They came to a stop about fifteen meters from the big wrought-iron fence that surrounded the property and made eye contact with Ron from across the way. The red haired man gave them a slow nod to which Draco gruffly responded, "On your call then, Potter."
There were about thirty seconds of painful silence that felt stretched over thirty hours before Harry finally whispered, "Go."
All five of them stood and broke out in a run toward the Manor. The grass was wet from the fog and more than once Draco felt like he was slipping, and he would not have minded if he had. However, he managed to keep himself upright for the entire sprint to the gargantuan fence.
Draco slipped through a gap gate where he knew the space between the posts to be slightly wider than the others from years of playing in that very garden. Harry followed his lead, but they could hear the other three ungracefully blasting things out of their way as they neared the front doors.
Draco caught sight of his mother through one of the front windows and stopped in his tracks, meeting her eyes. She did not seem frightened, but eyed him with such a look of pure loathing that he almost turned around and walked right back through the gap in the fence, abandoning the mission entirely.
His throat tightened and his pulse quickened as she looked away, walking back into the house with the dignified manner she always seemed to possess. She had saved the Wizarding World on his behalf, and he had betrayed her, leaving her to rot with a man who was not even in his right mind. Guilt plagued him to his core.
Harry glanced back. "Can you continue?" he called over his shoulder, noticing the pained expression on Draco's face.
The thought struck him that Potter was expecting him to fail. "Yes," he grunted, not wanting to appear weak. He would not prove Harry right today. He would see this through.
Draco tightened his grip on his wand, but rushed back to Harry's side and through the front door, which Savage had already blasted out of their way. Neville and Ron had already entered and were already in search of inhabitants.
"This is the Ministry of Magic. We have a warrant. We are here to search the premises. Lucius Malfoy, we wish to speak with you!" Ron's voice rang through the hallway, speaking with the dignified tone he had been trained to first use in any raid. As second ticked by, his tone became more urgent, but it began to fade as he penetrated deeper into the manor.
Draco hung back in the entrance with Harry and Savage, wands raised and eyes peeled.
He could now hear Longbottom calmly questioning his mother on the other side of the wall. Weasley's voice joined the noise, as well as a squeak that might have belonged to a house elf. His mother broke out in a chorus of angry shouts, forcing them to stun her by the sound of the thud that hit the wooden floor. Draco cringed against the noise. He longed to rush through the door to the parlor and help her, but he had more pressing issues to worry about.
"Where would your father be?" Harry asked, his hand grasping Draco's shoulder tightly, pulling his attention back to where he stood.
"S-study probably," Draco forced out, bracing himself against a wall for support, but pointing up the stairs. He managed to convince his legs to steady themselves as he headed up the stairs on Potter's heals, wincing as the sound of another door being blasted off its hinges reached his ears.
They were slowly tearing apart what had once been his home, and there was nothing he could do to stop it because it had been mostly his idea to begin with. "Let's see if the rumors are true," he had said in their last meeting. "Let's see what my father is up to. Perhaps he really is a danger. He may still have dark objects in the house that could really harm others, my mother, or himself. At the very least we might be able to discredit the rumors. Let us go and see."
Of course they had agreed. Harry and Ron had wanted to raid the manor for a couple years already but had not mentioned it for Draco's sake. They had not wanted to upset him by causing a raid on his family, so he had made the choice for them, but to what end?
"Who's there? What's going on?" His father's voice was high-pitched and on-edge. The rumors were clearly true. Draco reached the top of the stairs and saw his father sitting on a broken and overturned crate with a cauldron wedged between his legs, stacks of empty boxes and broken bottles littered the once-immaculate room. The cauldron was smoking and emitting a foul odor that smelled like a mix of spoiled milk and sulfur. Draco's eyes began to water.
His father looked as though he had not brushed his hair in months. It was mangy and matted like a blonde lion's mane around his face. His hands were caked and blistered with remnants of who knew what and his clothes were torn and spotted with bits and pieces of what likely had come from the broken containers on the floor. His face was gaunt and he had lost a fair amount of weight since Draco had last seen him.
"Lucius Malfoy, you are under arrest by the Ministry of Magic for the mixing of unknown and potentially illegal substances and harboring dark—" Savage was cut off as Lucius slashed his wand rudely through the air, knocking the other man off his feet. Savage collapsed in an unconscious heap on the floor without so much as a twitch. Draco started to rush to the fallen man, but Harry held up a hand to stop him.
At once, Lucius' eyes rose to meet his son's and a crude smile took over his face, making him look grotesque and haggard in the dim lighting.
"Is that Draco?" Lucius asked, standing up, albeit shakily, to get a good look over Harry's shoulder at his son. Lucius began laughing in a way that made the hair on the back of Draco's neck stand on end.
"My son? An Auror? Working as a lapdog for the Minister of Magic, are you Draco?" He stuck his tongue out so that it curled over his upper teeth maliciously. There was no hint of sanity lingering in his eyes, merely the remnants of a need that could no longer be filled.
"You were a lapdog, too. Isn't that right, Father? A lapdog to a man with no lap to sit upon…" His words were quiet, but he knew Lucius had heard him. They seemed to go unregistered, however, as his father continued his tirade.
"Marrying mudbloods, arresting all your old friends, forgetting your poor family who risked all they had for your sake… Traitor. What has become of you? "
"I should be asking you the same thing!" His voice was rising in anger he had not known he felt as his wand thrust forward, shooting out red sparks. Draco winced as he received a sharp elbow in the ribs from Harry. He had almost gone too far. He had almost compromised their mission.
"Come quietly, or we will have to take you by force, Lucius. The Ministry wants to grant you a hearing, but we will forgo that step if you push us to. All we want is to talk."
Lucius simply laughed again, kicking a bottle out of his way as he strode closer to Harry, causing it to shatter loudly on the opposite wall. Draco could hear Neville audibly cringe from over his shoulder. By this point he and Ron were in the doorway behind Draco, their eyes wide as they took in the state of the room.
Lucius jabbed his wand into Harry's chest and twisted rudely, causing a collective intake of breath. Draco's wand had been up and pointed since his arrival, but his grip tightened as he watched his father with eyes like a hawk. Ron and Neville's wands rose to join his so quickly that Draco could have sworn they materialized next to him out of thin air.
"Don't do anything rash," Harry said softly as a warning. Draco snorted in disgust, but did not fire. He was so ready for revenge on the man who had almost kept him from happiness that it took everything inside of him to continue to obey Harry's order.
"Listen here, Potter." His father was spitting venom into Harry's face, but he did not cringe or look away. "You may have defeated the Dark Lord, but you will never catch all the rest of us. You are pathetic. You are weak. You are nothing. And you may have turned my own son against me, but you will never take me of my own free will, do you understand? DO YOU?"
"I'm sorry, Malfoy," Harry's voice was as steady as he could possibly make it, but there was no mistaking the fear hiding behind it. "By order of Kingsley Shacklebolt, the Minister of Magic, I'm afraid that—"
Before anyone could react, Lucius had taken his wand and turned to thrust it into Draco's throat. Gagging and spitting, Draco tried to back away, but his father reached out and gripped his upper arm tightly, refusing to relinquish. Ron's hands tried to grab hold of the back of his robes, but they failed, the fabric sliding from his grasp.
"You think you are one of them, Draco? Do you think they would risk their lives to save you?" Draco eyed Harry, Ron, and Neville who all had their wands raised, but none of whom made any sort of move to free him at this point.
Before they arrived they had discussed how to handle the possibility that Lucius actually was crazy, and if so, they did not know what might set him off. It was right of them to hang back, but Lucius saw it as betrayal.
The look or horror in Neville's eyes told Draco just how wrong his father was. He had made friends with the very people he had so long looked to as the enemy, and they would do whatever it took to save him. He knew that to be true without question.
"You think they care about you? Your mother and I care about you, Draco. That is where your loyalties lie, and if you can't remember that, then I will have to help you!" Lucius' wand sank deeper into Draco's flesh, causing small black dots to materialize in his vision, making him half-blind from pain.
"NO!" Harry shouted, lifting his wand to Lucius's chest and shouting, "Expelliarmus!"
Lucius blocked the spell easily with a harsh laugh. Neville, always the first to resort to physical violence, immediately cast his wand to the side as he rushed forward to knock the older man to the ground. However, before he could connect with his target, Lucius had already screamed, "OBLIVIATE!"
There was a flash of white light as Draco was thrown off his feet and into the large china cabinet against the wall, shattering some of his family's precious heirlooms. There was the sound of high, cold laughter and then everything went black.
Hermione raced down the long, white corridor, accidentally knocking people out of her way, but with no time to stop and apologize. She could hear Ron grunting behind her as he was having trouble running with the awkward-sized three-year old in his arms. She was too small to be able to keep up herself, yet too big to comfortably support in a face-paced situation.
The smell of walls and rooms that were far too clean reminded her of her parent's dentist office and the days in her youth when she would sit in the corner with a book as they went about their business. This time the smell only reminded her that she was in a hospital. All of them smelled the same whether they were magical or not. They smelled just as bland, helpless, and empty as the white paint on their walls.
"Keep going," Ron panted, directing her where they needed to go. "Straight to the double doors at the end of the ward past the painting of the Healer with pie-shaped hat on his head."
Hermione did not acknowledge that he had spoken, but she did as he said, not even bothering to make a sarcastic comment on his apparent need to compare everything to food.
As she neared the double doors, she spotted Harry pacing back and forth, his head down, his hands clasped behind his back. Neville was seated on the floor, his hands covered in blood, but otherwise seeming only mildly shaken.
Hermione's hair was flying everywhere, and she pushed it roughly behind her ears, not bothering to catch her breath before blurting out, "What's happened? Where is Draco?"
A/n: Well, I'm not sure if this as intriguing as it is in my head, but I hope you enjoyed it. This story should end up being more than 20 chapters by the time I'm done. This is sort of just a preview of what's going on and I hope that it gleaned enough interest that at least a couple people pester me into getting up the next chapter very soon. This story is going to sound cliche in some parts, but I assure that it won't end up that way. Again, I hope you liked it, and I look forward to hearing everyone's initial thoughts whether good or bad!