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Straightaway Dangerous

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Much Madness is divinest Sense -
To a discerning Eye -
Much Sense - the starkest Madness -
‘Tis the Majority
In this, as All, prevail -
Assent - and you are sane -
Demur - you`re straightaway dangerous -
And handled with a Chain
—Emily Dickinson

Chapter 01: It Starts with Wolfsbane

Granger's hair only got worse after the bite. Unfortunately, so had his.

She pushed her heavy fringe out of her eyes, exhaled in such a way that her whole body seemed to deflate, and stared down into the cauldron on her kitchen table.

Draco leaned over to peer in. 'What are you doing? You're not even half-done stirring yet.'

'I know, Malfoy,' she said. 'It's just so hot in here. I can barely breathe, for Merlin's sake.'

Draco swished his wand and a set of numbers shimmered into existence. He cocked an eyebrow. 'It's 18 degrees.'

Still cool, despite the two bubbling cauldrons in her hearth, and the two more they were finishing up on the table. No rest for the werewolf, apparently. Such was his life these past seven years. The morning before the full moon was always the busiest day of the month for him.

'I know!' she said.

There was something off about Hermione today, he thought. He’d never paid attention to it before, but now that he thought about it, it had always been there on moon days. How had he never noticed before? Draco sniffed to be sure, then smirked. 'Are you—?'

'Yes!' she said, smacking her palm against the table. Her hand left behind a dent in the wood. 'I'm in heat, Malfoy. Yes. You're so clever! I must be the only female werewolf in the whole bloody world who ovulates at the full moon and menstruates at the new moon. It's not fair! Other witches only have one crap week a month; I get two.'

Draco lifted an eyebrow and turned back to his decanting. It wasn’t very polite to sniff other werewolves on purpose, but Draco was not a very polite person, and she was not just any old werewolf. She was his werewolf. Draco frowned. His friend, rather.

They had a few hours yet to get all these Wolfsbanes distributed, but there was no sense in risking the potency by letting them oxidise overmuch. He cleared his throat and said, 'You could take a potion for that.'

She growled. 'I wish I could take a potion for you sometimes.'

'But not today,' he said.

She sighed, picked up her stirring rod. 'Not today,' she agreed.

Draco finished decanting the first cauldron and pulled another from the fire. Granger passed him the stirring rod without missing a beat, which was nothing unusual. She’d been his partner for five years, since they both finished the morally questionable, likely illegal, and highly secret training program for the Unspeakables. While he’d never admit it to their twat boss, Graves, the department hadn’t been wrong when they said he and Granger had compatible magic. And compatible tempers.

And compatible monthly schedules.

They were the only two werewolves in the department, but not the only ones in the Ministry. There was Weasley, of course; Draco couldn’t ever escape him, now matter how much he tried. And then there was Weasley’s on-again-off-again something, Brown. Her Auror partner, also werewolf, was Draco’s cousin Nymphadora.

On the new moon, the they—and of course, Potter—got together in the canteen and had a big, loud, werewolfy lunch together. It was undignified, and while Draco would have loved to put the blame for that humiliating idea at Granger’s feet, it had, unfortunately, been one of his mother’s schemes.

‘Let them see that you’re just like everyone else,’ she’d said, and had then paused—no doubt remembering the crushed tea set she’d had to replace just that morning. ‘Perhaps just a little stronger. Ah—we could add that to our public relations oeuvre. Do you suppose that werewolf fitness programmes would take off?’

Her own fitness programme now included a morning jaunt around the perimeter of the Manor grounds, and fox hunting at the full moon.

The bit about “stronger” was certainly true, even if the “normal but” part wasn’t. Granger was the worst. She’d always been such a tiny thing before the bite (a year on the run with very little to eat certainly hadn’t helped that) and Draco supposed she still wasn’t used to being able to unscrew jar lids on her own, much less dislocate Weasley’s shoulder when she was trying to mother hen him into sitting down to tea.

Draco gave her credit for it, though. Weasley had been a burly git even before the bite. Draco might’ve been an Alpha, but he could admit that it was only because Weasley was too simple to have a go at it himself, not because Draco was physically the strongest. Mentally strongest? Of that, there was no contest.

'I’m going to drop this batch off at Slug and Jiggers,' said Draco. He paused, then carefully added, 'Do you want me to take the ones down to Aberrant’s, too?'

Unfortunately, she saw right through him. 'For all the fussing you make over my flat being in Knockturn Alley,' Hermione said, not looking up from her decants, 'You certainly enjoy chumming it up with my landlady.'

In truth, Draco was sort of jealous of Granger’s flat. There was a nice fireplace—but it was a wizard-made building and every wizard-made building had a fireplace unless zoning ordinances were particularly contrary, so it didn't say much that there was one. It was in decent shape, had a clean loo, and was in prime location for those of abnormal circumstance. Like werewolves. No one in Knockturn Alley batted a glamoured eyelash at a werewolf, even prior to the abolition of the Werewolf Registry. It was also not the same place her parents lived, which was more than he could say for his own “apartment” within Malfoy Manor.

He pasted on a sneer. It was wasted on her. 'I was only trying to be nice. You always tell me I should do that. If you don’t want my help, shall I just put on my slippers, pour myself a bowl of Ogden’s, and let you have at it?'

She finally looked up at that, her mouth quirking on one side. Her pointed canine peeked out between her lips in a most becoming—and beastly—sort of way. He scowled. It wasn’t enough that he was a werewolf, apparently. It had to also happen that he was attracted to the look of werewolves. Or maybe it was just Granger.

'As if, Malfoy. You sopped it all over my floor last time. Tonight it’s just you, me, and BBC Four.'

Draco narrowed his eyes. 'No. I can’t sit through another documentary. Global warming depresses me, and I can’t do anything about it anyway since magic doesn’t have a carbon footprint. I want to watch East Enders.'

The living room Floo flared to life before she could respond, and Draco’s eyes widened at the extremely loud voice on the other end.

'Hermione? Sweetheart? It’s Mum! Are you home? Dad’s ready to come through to check the locks.'

Fuck,' Draco muttered.

Granger gave him a speaking look. It told him to behave himself around her parents or get out of her flat. The prospect of meeting Muggles was not something he stayed up late fantacising about. The prospect of meeting her Muggles the morning of the full moon was even less so.

He chose to Disapparate.

 

-x-

Most witches, Hermione might suppose, would have been terrified of telling their parents they were, quite suddenly, a werewolf.

Most witches were not Hermione Granger. And most witches’ parents were not Wendell and Monica Wilkins, recently of Australia, who had a magical daughter, discovered they were not, in fact, of Australia, and likewise were not Wendell and Monica. They’d put up with quite a bit from her—from magic to memory charms to moving across the globe. Hermione was always haring off on mad adventures, like camping. All good learning experiences, according to the Granger-Wilkinses. If she wanted to be a werewolf, well, they would support her “life choices”.

They supported her so much, in fact, that despite all of Hermione’s protestations and subtle Confundus charms, it never failed that on the morning of the full moon, Wendell Granger-Wilkins (he was not comfortable returning to Clarence) would come through her Floo, in her flat, in bloody Knockturn Alley, to do a check of her doors and windows. As if a burglar might try to come through while Hermione was indisposed.

'There you are,' said her Mum, smiling through the flames. 'Having a good day off work, then?'

'Absolutely,' Hermione said.

After seven years of this routine, she’d learned to not bother trying to correct them any longer. She was, in their eyes, a hipster, and would always remain so. Muggles, it seemed, were incapable of separating real lycanthropy from Thriller music videos.

Her “gardening” didn’t help matters. She didn’t tell Ron and Harry about that, as inviting Aurors into one’s not-quite-legal activities wasn’t wise, but there was truly nothing Hermione could do that would make her neighbourhood any uglier, and so, like with robbing Gringotts, she was able to justify it in her head.

Even if she did feel sort of a little guilty sometimes.

‘Any nice plans for the evening?’ asked Mum.

She struggled for something suitably mundane to reply with. In her experience, her parents much preferred their land of make-believe where nothing hurt their daughter and she was just a big fan of shapeshifter fantasy novels. 'I think I’ll read for a bit, catch up on laundry, have an early night, the usual.'

'Good for you, darling. You deserve a break. Dad’s coming through now. Love you.' She leaned out of the fireplace and was replaced by a large hand reaching through, as if searching for something to hold onto. Hermione rolled her eyes, and grabbed hold of her dad’s arm. He stepped into her flat, gracefully enough, all things considered.

'Good morning, sweetheart.' He ruffled her hair. Since it could not get any worse, Hermione remained unfazed. As was his pattern, he moved off towards the bedroom to begin his rounds, calling over his shoulder, 'Are you watching East Enders tonight? Sonia and Naomi have—'

Fortunately, her wand alarm chirruped, signalling that the last cauldron was ready for stirring and decanting. 'Let me just check my potion,' she called.

He continued his circuit apace. It was habit now. He knew her flat as well as she did. By the time she’d finished stirring and begun the decants, her Dad was finished. He met her in the kitchen, and peered into the cauldron like a first year. She was really going to have to break him of that habit. Eventually. It was harmless, and he found potions so fascinating that she hated to deny him.

'Smells good. What is it?'

It did not, in fact, smell good. Wolfsbane smelled too much. It was a confluence of dozens of highly odorous ingredients. They were all, according to human consensus, nice-smelling aromas, but they were the very definition of migraine to an actual werewolf.

To Hermione, it smelled like someone who lived off lavender and vetiver sicked up on a pollinating hydrangea bush. She eyed her father, trying not to smile. 'Potion.'

He nodded sagely. 'Is this your wolf potion?'

'Yes.'

'What would happen if I drank some?'

Hermione paused in the middle of corking a vial. Their eyes met over the steam of the cauldron and Wendell’s mouth quirked up on one side. With him as her father, she’d never stood a chance against the appeals of science. He would’ve been a Ravenclaw, no doubt about it. With his experimental nature, he probably would have also been a dead Ravenclaw.

'I don’t know. Probably nothing, since you’re a Muggle.' Which reminded her to take her own. She did so, grimacing at the taste of flowers.

Her father pursed his lips as if this were a great mystery to consider. He met her eyes again. Their stare held. Hermione huffed out a sigh. She always gave in, in the end.

'Oh, fine!' She passed him the vial. 'If you tell Mum I gave you this—'

'Yes, yes,' said Dad. He uncorked it and took a small sip. His nose scrunched. She smirked. Scents could be deceiving. After a moment, he said, 'I don’t feel very wolf-like.'

'That’s the point.'

She sent him home with the excuse that she had errands to run, and sincerely hoped that this would not be the time that his penchant for experimental potions was the time that poisoned him, as she would be unable to hold a wand after 6:08 this evening. Knowing her father quite well, she’d triple checked multiple sources to make sure the potions she kept to hand were not harmful to Muggles. She then re-checked those sources once a year. Hermione knew it was perfectly harmless, but it was her dad, so she always felt a tiny bit nervous when she gave in to his scientific-inquiry side. It was for this reason that her mother had the St Mungo’s Floo address and her father had a spare bezoar.

Downstairs, in her apothecary, Mrs Aberrant was restocking the gurdyroot while listening to Celestina Warbeck’s 2004 Christmas album. It was only November. While Hermione and Draco had been up since seven completing the last stage of the Wolfsbane potions, the shops here in the Alley were just starting for the day, and it was already after nine. Lazy buggers.

'You can set them by the till, dear,' said Mrs Aberrant. 'Abner’ll transfer the money to your account in the morning.'

Being partnered to a Potions Master made Hermione’s life infinitely easier. Even if that Potions Master was Malfoy. Because of the importance of Wolfsbane, the potion could only be sold commercially if a licensed brewer prepared it. There weren’t many of those in the UK and even fewer who’d sell it for the price of materials, which Hermione found to be exceedingly dastardly. In retaliation for those beastly old wizards’ avarice, she elected to spend every full moon distributing cheap Wolfsbane to partnered apothecaries around the UK.

Naturally, Draco was indentured into helping, by way of being her friend and susceptible to her “determined” look.

She met Harry and Ron for lunch after dropping off the last of her potions at the Cardiff Werewolf Association guildhall. It had been a long morning, and she found herself slumping into the seat opposite them at the new Impervious Cauldron, Hannah Abbott’s first of many planned cauldron-themed cafés. Hermione reached into her bag and fished around, withdrawing the last of her vials.

Ron took it from her with barely a glance, uncorked it between two bites of crepe, and swallowed it back. He barely grimaced. 'Thanks, Hermione. Yours are always the least revolting.'

Harry snorted. He was picking at a ham and cheese sandwich while eyeing Ron’s crepe with some concern.

Hermione’s eyes crinkled. 'Malfoy made that one.'

Ron faked a gag. 'Figures.' He gestured with his fork. 'Want some? It’s blackberry-bacon-venison.'

In fact, she did. She pulled his plate across to her, and Ron barely scowled. He lifted his hand for Hannah’s attention, gestured pointedly at his erstwhile crepe, and she nodded, hustling back to the ovens to find him a new one. Hermione munched on.

'I’ve no idea how you can eat that vile thing,' Harry muttered, watching warily for Hannah’s blonde head to reappear. 'I can smell the blood from here.'

'So can I,' Ron said, but with far less disgust in his voice, and far more delight.

Hannah’s full moon menus were stuffed with all sorts of different rare meats, and as werewolf appetite rarely subsided, it turned out to be a smart business decision on her part. The week before and the days after a full moon always saw her café full to bursting with tired, hungry werewolves and their families.

'So,' said Hermione, upon finishing the last of Ron’s crepe. 'Sure you don’t want to come over tonight? There’s a new documentary on the cycles of climate change over the Earth’s his—'

'Can’t,' Ron said, before she could really get going. 'Harry’s having a pick-up game of humans versus werewolves versus quaffle. I’m keeping for the werewolf team.'

'It’s going to be brilliant!' Harry added.

Hermione scrunched her nose, looked from Ron to Harry. 'Is that like football?'

'Yeah, it’s brill. We just made it up today at work. Lavender’s the best striker in Muggle football, and she wondered if she’d be any good in wolf form, and it just sort of spiralled from there.'

'Want to come?' asked Harry. 'I suppose Malfoy’s welcome, too, if he’s not worried about getting dirt in his coat.'

Hannah came over and set a fresh crepe in front of Ron, smiling fondly at him. Hannah did love a man who could put food away, and given Ron’s lycanthropy and natural inclination to graze constantly, he blew Neville out of the water in that department. 'Thanks, Hannah.'

'Thanks, Hannah,' Hermione echoed, already forking off a piece of Ron’s new crepe. 'Could I get a cuppa, too?'

Ron suffered the theft about as well as Hermione had in school, when he’d been the one picking from her plate. Sometimes she felt guilty for how much she ragged on him then. She knew what it was like to be constantly hungry now. Because she was. Especially, during the week leading up to the moon and the couple of days after. Werewolf metabolism ran so fast, she’d probably starve in two days if she didn’t eat.

She turned back to the men. 'Is that safe? With humans about?'

'Wolfsbane,' Harry said, waving his hand dismissively.

'Hmm,' said Hermione.

She chewed on a fat piece of blackberry-flavoured venison as she considered it. Harry didn’t always come up with great plans, but sometimes he inadvertently struck gold. It was possible this was one of those times.

Every now and then, Hermione threw a little “changing party” for a handful of close werewolf friends. Nothing extravagant, but just a few people over to break up the monotony of her and Malfoy parked on the rug watching Top Gear reruns. Those little get-togethers were all fine and good, but she’d never considered the idea of a party with humans about, too.

It just seemed so—so dangerous.

After all, it’d only been two years since they’d finally succeeded in abolishing the Werewolf Registry. She and Narcissa Malfoy had worked on it—anonymously on Narcissa’s part—for almost five years before anything came of it. A targeted, relentless, Malfoy-funded pro-werewolf marketing campaign had helped, but there were still shops in Diagon Alley with crude signs declaring NO BEASTS. THAT MEANS WOLVES TOO.

They had a ways to go, for sure. And one drunk or git-ish werewolf could ruin the whole thing for all of them if he accidentally or on-purpose nipped a human. Hermione was deeply opposed to such a thing. She’d spent many years of her life fighting for equal rights for werewolves, but they were not yet at a place where they could weather the inevitable political storm if a new werewolf was made.

On the other hand, Harry was a private person, and it was unlikely that he would have over on a full moon any humans who were the type to cause trouble. And with Luna, Teddy, and baby Portentia about, Hermione could trust that every possible precaution would be taken.

'You trust all the humans?' she asked, just to be sure.

Harry nodded. 'Yeah, we’re doing it at the Burrow, so Arthur and Molly’ll be about, too, anyway. And Andromeda’s coming over to help chaperone since Tonks won’t be able to watch Teddy. He was dead set on coming. Hey—know anyone else who could play for the human side? We’re short one.'

'Millicent, maybe,' Hermione said, barely paying attention to the conversation. She was too busy calculating all the different ways this could go horribly, irreversibly wrong—and the few ways that it could be brilliant for their cause. If it got out that Harry Potter hosted werewolves at the full moon—with his wife and toddler about—then people would take notice. No doubt there’d be a front page spread in the Prophet this weekend at the latest.

'All right,' she decided. Ron and Harry beamed at her, as if they were wired up to the same smile switch. 'Draco’s going to want to play centre-half. You know how he likes to stop other people from doing things they want to do.'

Harry rolled his eyes, shared a look with Ron. 'We know. Believe me.'

'Still can't believe his fantasy team’s in the lead again this season,' Ron grumbled.

The crepe had disappeared sometime between when it arrived and now, without Hermione noticing. She frowned down at Ron’s empty plate, still hungry. Merlin, she hated moon days. It was a wonder she hadn’t gained a whole stone since her bite.

Hannah brought the bill over and Ron paid before Hermione could get out her purse. The boys stood. 'Just noticed the time. We’ve got to run. Yewsap has Harry and me on a quick scouting mission this afternoon. Wants my nose.'

'And your ginger arse,' Harry added.

Ron ignored him, pointedly. 'You're lucky your department considers you incapable of cognizant thought processes on moon days, Herm. Mine just capitalises on it.' He checked his watch again. 'Bugger—Harry we’ve got to go if we’re going to get done before moonrise. I don’t want you to have to apparate me home again. You’re shit at side-along.'

Harry stopped to give her a brief hug on the way out. 'You’ll really come?' he asked. He frowned, chewed his lip. 'Don’t spend another moon night watching shit documentaries. We all know there’s global warming; no sense in depressing yourself about it once a month. It’s been two years since you killed the Registry; it’s okay to have fun on the full moon.'

'We’ll come,' said Hermione, suddenly feeling wrong-footed.

Harry’s eyebrows went up. 'Does Malfoy know that you’ve started making decisions for him?'

'If he hasn’t figured it out by now, he doesn’t deserve to know,' said Hermione.

Harry smiled at her, and left. She sat at the table frowning down at the empty crepe plate for several long minutes. She had fun, didn’t she?

Yes, she was quite sure she did. But—well, maybe she didn’t love watching documentary marathons once a month. And after seven years of it, it was becoming quite old. Andromeda, Mr and Mrs Weasley, Harry, and Luna at least would be human. They were all competent wizards. And Wolfsbane was ubiquitous now, thanks to her and Draco.

It was safe. Of course, there was always the possibility something could go wrong. But then Harry would be there, and he wouldn’t let anything happen. The Weasleys had a state-of-the-art changing paddock—very secure. They could use the public relations capital. Hermione wavered. What was it that Draco was always telling her?

Untense. Hermione sighed. She could do that. Safe enough, she decided.

Hermione bought two more blackberry-bacon-venison crepes to take home with her. No global warming documentary she supposed, but at least she didn’t have to watch East Enders.

-x-

Draco was already back at her flat when Hermione returned. His nose twitched in the direction of her takeaway bag. He rose from the settee and prowled closer, neatly plucking the bag of crepes from her hands. Hermione rolled her eyes and followed him back to the living room, where he resumed flicking boredly through channels.

'How’re your best twats doing?' he asked during an advert. He was definitely in a mood, most likely because he’d flounced off when her mother Floo’d and therefore wasn’t around for her to invite him to lunch. 'Still unreformable gits?'

Hermione snatched her half-eaten crepe back from him and took a bite, chewing extra long to avoid responding since he hated waiting. 'Fine, yes,' she said at last. Then, 'You up for something a little different tonight?'

Draco turned to face her rather more quickly than she’d expected. 'What kind of something different?' he asked. His eyes were already beginning to glow faintly yellow from the upcoming moonrise, and Hermione’s heart fluttered strangely. She always liked that colour on him.

Hermione handed the crepe back to him because her hands didn’t seem to know what else to do. 'Well, Harry had an idea.'

Malfoy sighed and flopped back against the couch. 'Lovely. I’ve already entertained him once this week. Isn’t that enough?'

'Humans versus werewolves versus quaffle,' Hermione continued.

He cracked one yellow eye open. 'I’m listening.'

'I told them you’d want to play centre-half.'

'Obviously,' said Draco. He began to smirk. 'It’ll be Weasley and me against Potter?'

'Well, yes, obviously,' Hermione said. 'But seven on seven, like football. And with very strict no-contact rules.' She gave him a stern look at this to reinforce her point.

Draco was still smirking, no doubt thinking of the unceasing competition he and Harry had going with everything. They managed to compete on things that Hermione would’ve never even thought could be won, like who got out of the interdepartmental meetings quickest or who could guess which pudding Ron would order at Hannah’s. 'Will there be food?'

'It’s at the Burrow, so of course,' Hermione said. 'Molly does love a barbeque.' In fact, the thought of some rare chicken with lots of sauce was making the entire evening sound rather more enticing to Hermione, as well. Her stomach grumbled. They both looked towards the takeaway bag, but somehow the two extra crepes were gone. Hermione frowned.

'Yes, let’s,' Draco decided. 'Anything’s better than Channel Four again.'

Hermione really wished she could argue that, but she couldn’t. Even watching sport would be more fun.

Chapter Text

Even with Wolfsbane, the change was painful, annoying, and vaguely humiliating. Hermione didn’t mind being a werewolf so much as she minded not having any control over when it happened. And she hated when it fell on her birthday, which it had done. Twice.

The Weasleys had a dedicated changing paddock erected for their three infected sons, and blessedly, it was crawling with privacy wards. Hermione and the other wolves attending tonight’s little soiree locked themselves in at a quarter to six to wait for moonrise. She felt not unlike a circus animal, and gave Harry a wry little smile as he set the wards behind her.

Outside, in the garden, the uninfected continued chattering on, setting plates for their suppers and bowls for Hermione’s and the other werewolves’. Which was degrading, but par for the course. Even for Hermione, the mechanics of proper table etiquette escaped her when she had paws. She watched them from within the confines of her warded pen. Molly and Fleur were setting hovering lanterns in place around a makeshift football field, and Harry now had Teddy around his shoulders, running him about and roaring to Ginny, ‘Argh! We’re a scary mountain troll!’

Draco walked up next to her, and cast his eyes briefly down to her face. He looked back out at the people gathered in the Weasleys’ back garden, and then his fingers closed over her wrist in a hidden pattern: Situation Under Control.

Hermione exhaled in a rush, and with it went some of her anxiety. She smiled gratefully at him. It was an Unspeakable gesture, used, for communicating whilst among the ‘Speakables’. Her heart clenched a little; Malfoy could be such a good friend to her sometimes.

She repeated the gesture to him. ‘I know,’ she said.

His mouth twitched downwards for a moment. There was anxiety in the movement, and she wondered if he was, secretly, just as worried as her. His hand fell away from hers. ‘Have you ever changed in front of humans before?’

‘Not since the early days,’ she said. ‘Not since I was accepted.’ To Unspeakable training. But she couldn’t say that aloud.

Having the legendary Unspeakable Croaker arrive on one’s doorstep with a coded letter that had to first be cracked before any job offer was valid did tend to wake one up, rather. It gave her the motivation to pull herself up from the overwhelming depression of being a werewolf outed even before her very first change. That was even before Tonks returned to the Ministry, and there was still question on whether Hermione would ever find a job, much less the job she’d secretly always wanted.

Those early days after the final battle were terrifying and confusing. With thirty-nine confirmed bites that night and several more suspected, some of which were on high-profile witches and wizards, there were some in the public sphere willing to suddenly give werewolves a chance. There just weren’t very many.

Hermione had decided then that she would damn well control her own life. No wizard, no Muggle, would stop her again. She cracked the code in 76 hours and showed up in the Department of Mysteries that Monday.

Draco nodded, and she knew he understood every one of those unsaid words.

He was not six inches from her when they were both bitten. There would always be that one horrifying moment between them when Greyback pulled himself from beneath the rubble of the blasted wall and eyed them both, deciding whom to take first. In the end, he had swiped one big arm around each of their shoulders and tackled them down together. Hermione heard Malfoy’s raw screams in her dreams sometimes, as clearly as she had that night, when she’d grabbed his hand and let him squeeze as they were mauled.

When Greyback flung them away in favour of returning Harry and Ron’s attacks, she landed atop him, and struggled to get him up so they could help or run, she wasn’t sure which. But he’d noticed their wounds first; their blood had run black, and that was the moment when they both understood. ¬

In front of them, Fred’s leg was half-buried under a blasted wall, and all Hermione had been able to think at the time was, Thank Merlin Greyback was mauling you, because if he’d not been bent over Fred’s struggling form when the side of the castle was blasted in, that wall would have surely killed him. Goyle laid Stunned and untouched at their feet next to the broken diadem. Twice he’d been lucky that night.

There was a photograph of that moment. It showed up in the Daily Prophet the next day, with the headline, Chosen One to Become Werewolf? It was right beneath the feature story, Boy Who Lived Lives Again! You Know Who Defeated in Epic Battle! Hermione had numbly wondered who was stupid enough to take photographs during battle. Malfoy had it framed on his wall, because he had a dark sense of humour, and because it irked his father.

She still did not fully understand how Greyback managed to infect them all that night, but she had a nagging suspicion that it was related to however Harry had avoided developing lycanthropy, even though his blood ran black that night same as theirs. They were getting closer to an answer with their Unspeakable research. She was sure of it.
¬
‘I’ve changed in front of my father plenty of times. He used to brew our Wolfsbane for Mum and me,’ said Draco, and Hermione blinked several times, startled by his voice.

‘But never anyone who wasn’t family,’ she guessed.

‘No.’

She nodded, watching little Teddy tumble about with Victoire on the grass. Portentia desperately wanted to play, too, but could hardly keep up with the big kids. Merlin, she was already four.

‘I’ve never changed in front of my parents. I always came here and changed with Ron and the twins, after George…’ she trailed off, not wishing to get into that. Draco was her best friend, sometimes anyway, but Weasley Secrets were Weasley Secrets. She cleared her throat. ‘Bill chaperoned us.’

The atmosphere inside the pen was getting more restless. Hermione glanced at the sky. Draco’s fingers pressed in that pattern on her wrist again, and she tried to relax. She could tell by instinct alone that they were within two minutes of moonrise. She wasn’t afraid of the pain; after seven years of it, it was little more than an inconvenience. She was just nervous.

Nothing like this had ever been attempted before. There were kids about. Intellectually, she knew everything would be fine—Bill’s charm had seven years’ worth of testing to back it up—but she couldn’t help being anxious.

Hermione heaved a sigh and turned back turns the pen. Ron and the twins were lying back on the grass, hands behind their heads, watching the moon make its way to the top of the sky. They were easy with the change in a way that Hermione still wasn’t. Hermione didn’t dislike being a werewolf, but she was too organised a person to ever really be wholly satisfied with a condition that controlled three per cent of her life.

Fred and George thought it all a grand lark. No one could capitalise off of a blood-borne disease quite like a Weasley twin. Especially if it was a disease they shared, and, frankly, had no problem with. No one could be pleased about having a blood-borne disease quite like a Weasley twin.

Lavender and Tonks leaned back against the bars, chattering about Teddy, and also watched the sky. Hermione trusted all of these people. She felt safe that they wouldn’t destroy all the work she’d done to move forward werewolf rights.

But also in the pen were two people Hermione was less comfortable with: Ernie Macmillan, who worked with Bill at Gringotts, and Marietta Edgecombe, who did not have SNEAK written on her forehead anymore. Because one night some weeks after the final battle, Hermione’d felt guilty, and owled her the counter-curse. They’d hadn’t spoken then or since.

‘Who invited her?’ she asked Draco, quietly.

He shrugged. ‘I thought she was dating your best twat’s brother. The one who works in the Minister’s office.’

‘Percy,’ Hermione corrected, absently. She chewed her lip. Hermione supposed she had seen Marietta standing near him before they all trooped into the warded pen for moonrise.

‘She works in Transportation,’ Draco added, eyeing Marietta’s tense posture.

Hermione felt that guilt again. How had she not known that? She’d thought all the Ministry werewolves had lunch with them on new moons now, but Marietta had never come. Maybe for good reason, given their history. She was obviously uncomfortable here, but Hermione was grimly impressed by the guts it must’ve taken to expose oneself like this in front of a horde of ex-DA members who certainly didn’t have much cause to like her overmuch. And Draco Malfoy, who was, by all accounts, still mostly a twat.

The moon rose before she could think further on the topic, and then she was bent double with the shock of sudden, gut-wrenching pain. She could bear it, but the first surge always caught her by surprise. Next to her, Draco staggered back to support himself against the bars, breathing through clenched teeth. Hermione fell to her hands and knees, somehow landing partially on top of Ron. She weakly tried to move off, and their eyes met. She watched, transfixed, as the blue of his irises shrank and darkened until they were glowing gold, and then she yowled as her bones began changing, lengthening and shortening to make her body into something unnatural.

Hermione mentally enumerated the 42 Rules of Runes to distract her long enough for the change to complete. When it had, she flopped to the ground, breathing raggedly. Draco lay himself gracefully down next to her, and she wagged her tail against the grass in tired welcome. She was sore. She could’ve just run a marathon for as exhausted as she felt.

Once she’d regained her breathing, she pulled herself up again and looked about for Bill’s ingenious werewolf-proof exit charms. They were used all over the UK now, and the proceeds from patents continued to bring in a tidy little sum for him each month.

There was one hovering near the edge of the pen, glowing red and purple inside yet another set of wards. She entered the sub-pen and stared at the collection of pictures. There was a kneazle, a phoenix, a squid, and a broom. She pressed her paw to the broom, and the puzzle disappeared to be replaced by another.

Dreamless Sleep is to Nightmares as Pepper-Up is to ? She pressed her paw to the box that said Colds and the puzzle was replaced again.

(14 + 2) ÷ 4 = ? There was no selection here, only a blank spot for her to draw in, as best she could with huge wolf feet: 4.

Four more questions followed, including two that required she write out entire sentences, to ensure that she really was of sane mind. Finally, the wards shimmered in front of her, signalling the end of the test. Hermione slipped through. The wards sizzled and crackled against her fur as they ensured no other werewolf would try to come through with her, and she hated that part, as it always left her with static.

Across the garden, Teddy saw her and cheered. He was accustomed to Tonks doing the same once a month to prove her Wolfsbane was effective. He was also, Hermione knew, a big fan of werewolves in general.

Draco solved his own puzzles right after and they trotted over to the Weasleys et al, letting the delicious scent of lightly-barbecued chicken and lamb guide them. Mrs Weasley beamed at them as they approached and set down two legs of lamb in bowls.

‘How are you both feeling?’ she asked. ‘No lingering pain? Hermione, I recognise your coat, but who’s this with you? Is it Draco?’

Draco wagged his tail sedately against the grass in affirmation and Mrs Weasley beamed again. ‘What a handsome cream coat. Ah—and there are my boys coming through now. Supper!’ she called to them.

Hermione heard the sound of twelve distinct, padded feet pounding against the ground as they rushed towards them, skidding to a halt in near-identical russet-coloured bodies. Ron was bigger than the twins, and George had only one pointy ear, but all three of their coats were bright red and glossy. Hermione admitted herself jealous. Even as a wolf, she was bushy.

‘Mummm!’ Teddy yelled happily.

His hair was pink, as usual, and he laughed when Tonks bent down for him to climb on her back. Even in wolf form, she had enough control of her metamorphmagus abilities to turn her entire coat hot pink. They bounded around for a bit, and Hermione watched, pleased. She’d never seen Tonks around Teddy when she was transformed, but it was pleasant to watch. Lavender did not have the ability to dictate her own coat colour, but she had still managed to keep a lavender-coloured bow tied fashionably around her neck.

Luna came over then, with little Portentia, blue eyes huge and curious, trailing behind. ‘Hello, Hermione,’ she said. ‘It’s lovely to finally see you in your alternate form. I’m honoured. Portentia, say hello to Auntie Hermione.’

‘‘Lo, Auntie Herm,’ Portentia dutifully recited. ‘You look diff’rent.’

Hermione laughed, and it came out like a little huff. She wagged her tail, and Portentia reached out and patted her roughly on the head. ‘Pretty,’ Portentia decided. Her eyes then found Draco, who was gnawing at what was left of his lamb bone, and widened further. She said, ‘Really pretty.’

‘That’s Uncle Draco,’ Luna informed her. ‘You can pet him if he says it’s okay.’

Hermione had no idea how any of them were supposed to say it was okay, but Portentia was definitely Luna’s child, and, even at four, could read between lines. She was also Harry’s child, and therefore unafraid of anything. At all. Even werewolves glowering at her as she approached. Still, Draco bowed his head and condescended to let Portentia ruck up his fur as she petted him backwards.

‘This was one of Harry’s better ideas, I think,’ Luna said, when it was just the two of them. She’d sat down on the grass next to Hermione, a glass of wine in one hand.

Hermione wasn’t sure she could agree with that, but she was hoping for the best, and if it came to the worst, well, she was a big wolf, and she would rip anyone to shreds who tried to hurt her goddaughter. Or Harry. Or Luna, or anyone here, really. Azkaban be damned. She scanned the garden, taking in all the humans and werewolves and letting the scents of their emotions filter through her like a running commentary of goings-on.

It occurred to her then, by the distinct lack of her scent in the general area, that there was still one werewolf missing from their little group. Marietta. Hermione’s heart jumped in her throat, suddenly anxious again. Had she been unable to solve the puzzles? That was hard to believe; they were meant only to prove a human mind, not require advanced intelligence. And Marietta had been a Ravenclaw besides.

‘I saw Marietta lying down by the paddock,’ Luna said, as if she could read Hermione’s mind. Relief swept through her—not up to anything then, just antisocial. ‘It must be hard on her, not feeling welcome. One tries to fit in, but it isn’t always easy.’

Hermione’s brow drew down in a frown. She sighed, and heaved herself up, trotting back towards the pen. It wasn’t hard to find Marietta. She was a light-coloured blotch against an otherwise twilit background. She looked up as Hermione approached, no doubt smelling her long before she saw her come over the small hill. Hermione paused before her, and they eyed one another.

Marietta’s ears went back submissively. Hermione approached, relieved that she wouldn’t have to fight her on this.

She circled round and nudged at Marietta’s bum until she rose on her feet. Marietta turned to look back at her, and Hermione nudged her bum again. When Marietta refused to move, Hermione woofed lowly, and Marietta’s ears immediately went down again. Percy saw them then, and waved Marietta over. Hermione smelled relief flood the air, and then Marietta headed for the gathered people, and was met with cheers from the humans present, who plied her with big cuts of meat and bowls of wine. Hermione, feeling uncomfortable again, returned to her spot by Luna and Draco, next to the artificially lit garden and makeshift football pitch.

Harry came over then, bringing her a bottle of butterbeer and a bowl. She licked his finger when he tipped it in, and he grinned down at her. ‘How’re my three favourite ladies?’ he asked.

‘We’re, fine, Harry,’ said Luna. ‘You might want to ask that of your fantasy league partner instead.’

They all turned to Draco, and Hermione was amused to find that Portentia was now astride his back, urging him to ferry her about the garden. Draco had his paws over his muzzle, eyes closed, as if he could not bear the indignity of it all.

Harry snorted. ‘Come on, Malfoy. Be a mate. Just one ride about the pitch for my kid.’

Draco glowered at him, but, to Hermione’s amusement, did stand and trot off with Portentia on his back, head high and dignified. By his gait, Hermione strongly suspected that Lucius had once subjected him to many an afternoon of dressage on the Abraxans.

‘She’s going to want to play wolf all the time now, and I won’t be able to do it for her,’ Harry said, watching as Draco gained confidence with Portentia’s ability to hang on, and began bounding up and down the garden.

Oh, Harry, Hermione thought. Her ears fell a little.

He frowned at the collection of scars on his forearm, where Greyback’s teeth had sunk into his skin.

‘Oh, Harry,’ Luna said. She ran her fingertips over the scars and Harrys forearm clenched at the touch.

Hermione smelled arousal and something deeper, something wolves didn’t readily understand, but which the human part of her thought might be intense love. She felt like a voyeur, and like she was missing out on something profound. Across the garden, Ron was play-fighting with Ernie, and Hermione wondered if that brief kiss they’d shared in the Room of Requirement could’ve ever led to more, if things hadn’t turned out like this, if he hadn’t ended up on-and-offing with Lavender all the time.

C’est la vie, she supposed. There was someone out there for her. She just had to find him. Or her.

‘Who’s ready for some football?’ Bill yelled.

Harry gave them a wry, embarrassed grin, and jumped up, grabbing his daughter off Draco’s back and swinging her around before depositing her in Mr Weasley’s lap. Draco bounded off, barrelling into Ron and knocking him sideways. They play-fought for several minutes, but Draco won, as he always did, holding Ron’s muzzle triumphantly.

Millicent had indeed come, and was lacing up a pair of cleats while she talked goblin politics with Ginny and Bill. Dean and Theo Nott were also playing for the human side, and Hermione supposed she trusted them well enough. Nott had gone back to Hogwarts to finish his NEWTs. Hermione had done a home study, but they’d met through Malfoy, and had a few pub nights all together because of it. He was a decent sort; had never had a prejudiced word to say about hers or Draco’s condition, but Hermione sometimes wondered if it might be because there was something else to their friendship, at least on Theo’s side.

The final spot on the human team went to Teddy, who was only eight, but had all the fierce determination of any Hufflepuff at battle. Tonks bounced all around him, and Hermione got the amused feeling that she was trying to psych out her own child. If the confused colouring of his hair was any indication, it was working. Tonks put her head to his belly and knocked him down on his bum, then seemed pleased with herself for it.

‘Nymphadora!’ Andromeda, sitting next to Molly, called sharply. Tonks’ pink tail immediately went between her legs. ‘No roughhousing Teddy while a wolf, young lady. You know that.’

In short order, the game began. Draco was a brilliant centre-half, as Hermione knew he would be. The quaffle flew around them all, charmed to dodge and dive like an overlarge snitch with a four-foot altitude. Harry tackled Ron to the ground when he caught it between his teeth, laughing uproariously when his glasses flew off. There hadn’t really been a great deal of thought put into strategy, Hermione suspected, but everyone seemed to be having a good time regardless. Ginny and Dean were perhaps having a little too much fun, and Tonks was more of a clumsy obstacle than any real threat, but Teddy was certainly enjoying running the quaffle passed her.

‘I don’t think Harry’s had this much fun at the full moon since before you and Ron were bitten,’ Luna said. She took a sip of her wine, and smiled down at Hermione.

I know, Hermione thought. She kept her eyes constantly moving though, still a little anxious about having so many humans around changed werewolves. If someone was bitten, it would be disastrous for her campaigns.

‘He’s flooded with wrackspurts,’ Luna continued, shaking her head. ‘Stress from work leaving him vulnerable, you know? Head Auror Yewsap’s got him and Ron on a new case, and they think there might be werewolves involved.’

Hermione’s ears twitched, and Luna smiled again as Portentia flopped in front of her and demanded her hair be braided. Luna picked up the fine, black strands and began weaving it effortlessly into an elaborate braid the likes of which Hermione’d never seen before.

‘He hasn’t said, but I can tell,’ said Luna. ‘It’s in the way he gets so defensive when you or Ron are mentioned. He’s worried that you’re open to attack. Therefore, werewolf-related.’

Hermione desperately wished she could speak right now because she had at least a thousand urgent questions. She was going to drive herself mad with the frustration, but Luna only gazed at her again and Hermione knew that, with her, there was sometimes no need for speaking. Luna could listen well enough for the both of them.

‘I do think Ron’s aware,’ said Luna, as if Hermione had asked the question. She’d wanted to, at least. ‘This past week, they’ve been to the pub twice after work. But when Harry goes to the pub, he changes out of his work robes first, so of course they were really working late on a case that he didn’t want me to worry about. We aren’t worried about Daddy though, are we, Ten?’

‘No, Mummy,’ said Portentia. ‘Daddy’s invisible.’

‘Invincible,’ Luna corrected. ‘He’s not really, darling. Even Daddy can die. Just like you and me.’

Portentia blinked several times, absorbing this, while Hermione, horrified, looked on. She was only four, for Merlin’s sake, there was no need to terrify her like that—

‘Okay,’ said Portentia, shrugging. ‘Because death is, erm, a transfligring of life.’

‘Transfiguration,’ said Luna, absently. She paused to sip her wine again, and then tied off Portentia’s weird braid with a tap of her wand. ‘And Daddy’s very smart and strong, so he probably won’t die soon.’

‘Good,’ said Portentia. She decided then that Victoire would be more interesting, and so ambled off in that direction, leaving Hermione once again alone with Luna.

‘Oh, I suppose I ought to take some photographs,’ said Luna, producing a camera from somewhere in her flowy robes. ‘Daddy was very pleased when Harry told him about this idea. He’s planning to run a feature on it this week. War Hero Werewolves at Large on Football Pitch — do you think that’s a good headline? I’m not sure it really captures the sentiment. I was thinking something more like, Pink Werewolves on Parade: the Aurors’ most fashionable werewolves take on its least fashionable humans.’

She snapped several pictures of Lavender and Tonks collaborating to tackle Ginny to the ground, then turned to get one of Hermione, flopped about on the grass. ‘It was good to talk to you again, Hermione. I hope this becomes a regular thing for us. Portentia does so love seeing her godmother.’

Thus alone again, Hermione settled her chin onto her front paws and let the sounds of the game wash over her. She heard Lavender yip in pain as someone trod on her toes, and smelled Malfoy’s smugness as he got the quaffle past Dean and into the net. Cheers rose up from those not playing, even Fleur and Victoire.

‘Traitors!’ Bill called to them.

Hermione had no idea what the score was when her nose alerted her to another wolf’s approach. She lifted her head, ears up. Marietta slunk down a bit, not too much, but enough. Hermione met her eyes, agreeing, and then the other wolf came forward enough to tilt her tweed-coloured head down. Everything in her posture screamed apology.

Hermione sighed. She had not expected Marietta to be here tonight, but…well, she was pack. Everyone turned during the final battle was, instinctually, pack. And she wouldn’t let anyone else ostracise her pack, so she couldn’t in good conscience do it herself.

If Hermione could forgive Malfoy, then she could forgive Marietta.

Marietta settled down beside her, and Hermione turned her head to give her snout a brief lick. Acceptance, it said, to werewolves. And Hermione meant it. She would not let Marietta be left behind anymore. Because she did not leave pack behind.

-x-

Hermione woke up on the Weasleys’ living room floor, sprawled half-on top of Draco’s chest, with Portentia curled into her other side. Everything smelt of wet dog and grass. She pushed herself up, and came face to face with him. The alert look of his eyes spoke volumes to how long he’d been awake.

‘Morning,’ she said, yawning. She scrunched her nose, tried to cover her mouth with her hand, but wasn’t entirely certain she’d done it in time. He smirked up at her, and she felt his hand move from her lower back. She hadn’t even realised it was there until it wasn’t.

‘Morning,’ said Draco. His voice was low and raspy with sleep, as it always was after he stayed the night on a full moon.

She peered around; Fred and George were sharing a single armchair, somehow, and Ron and Lavender were spread out along the couch. They were in one of their on-again fazes, Hermione supposed. It was a dance six years old by now, and Hermione dearly wished Ron would just get on with it and propose so they could all stop living this soap opera.

In the kitchen, Molly spoke quietly to someone else, and several pans clanged dully, as if muffled by a Silencing Spell that she only heard through because of her overextended post-moon senses. Hermione pulled herself to her feet and, with a tilt of her head to Draco, went into the kitchen. Tonks and Teddy were at the table, giggling together over a shared bowl of pink porridge, and Harry was sitting across from them, happily accepting bites of egg from Luna. Molly and Arthur, standing by the sink with matching cups of tea, saw her come in and beamed. She couldn’t smell Marietta or Ernie anywhere, but their scent was only a few hours old, so she reckoned they’d left right after changing back.

‘Wasn’t it wonderful, Hermione dear?’ said Arthur. ‘A roaring success! I’m chuffed, really.’

Hermione slotted a smile at him. ‘It went much better than I, in the cold recesses of my mind, worried it could have gone,’ she agreed.

Harry opened his eyes long enough to roll them in her direction, and then gave Malfoy, who was sitting down next to her, a speaking look. No doubt there were dozens of uncomplimentary things said about her in that one brief meeting of eyes.

‘Is my kid still sleeping?’ Harry asked.

‘Soundly,’ said Hermione.

‘Brill. Molly, could I convince you to mind her for the afternoon? There’re some things I wanted to run by Hermione over lunch.’

‘Of course, Harry,’ said Arthur. ‘She can help me in the shed. I have some new Legos that need constructing.’

‘Legos!’ squealed Portentia, who, as it happened, was no longer sleeping. Hermione winced. Sound. She hated sound the morning after the change. Any sound at all, really, but especially the high frequency sound of excited four-year-olds. Harry groaned, and she understood the feeling very well.

-x-

Narcissa called the moment Hermione stepped into her flat. She’d intended only to change into fresh clothes before Harry’s mysterious lunch, but Narcissa had an uncanny ability to know when Hermione would be walking by her fireplace, and therefore unable to hide in time. Or perhaps it was just because Draco’d Apparated home moments before.

‘Hermione, darling,’ said Narcissa, blandly. Even in flames, her heavy eyelids blinked regally.

Hermione turned, an over-bright smile pasted onto her face. ‘Narcissa, good morning. What brings you?’

Narcissa waved a hand, vaguely. ‘I called to see how you were this morning.’

It was a total lie, but Hermione’s smile didn’t falter. She wished she were doing as well as Narcissa, truth be told. That woman could spend six days straight awake (and probably did sometimes), and still glide around looking as beautiful and refreshed as a summer’s day. It was nauseating. Once, Hermione had thought there would be benefits to working on pro-werewolf campaigns with Narcissa Malfoy—benefits like access to her night cream recipes. But that wish had yet to yield results.

‘Ah, you know,’ Hermione said vaguely.

She continued to smile. They chatted about the lovely November weather for a few moments, and Narcissa asked Hermione if she thought Draco were getting overly thin, and whether Hermione expected that she would go see The Poltergeist of the Opera, which was returning to the theatre in December, before she finally came to her point.

In the background, there was a faint pop of Apparition. Hermione inhaled: it was Ron.

‘I’ve heard tales of anti-werewolf legislation in the hamper,’ said Narcissa, and waited. ‘From reliable sources.’

Hermione did not even bother with pretence. She fell to her knees in front of the hearth, giving the other woman all of her attention. ‘I haven’t.’

Narcissa pursed her lips. ‘Is it true that your Potter and Weasley have been working several werewolf cases?’ she asked.

Hermione, having only just heard this information second-hand the night before, didn’t bother to wonder how Narcissa found out. The woman’s connections were vast, and, frankly, terrifying. That she’d heard at all, and was giving the rumour credence, was enough to raise Hermione’s hackles.

‘I think so, maybe. I’m meeting with them shortly actually. I think it may be about that.’

‘Take Draco,’ Narcissa instructed.

Hermione would have rolled her eyes, but the Malfoys did bankroll all of her werewolf rebranding campaigns, so. ‘I’d planned to. He should be home now, changing.’

Narcissa waved a hand again, as if she had no idea where her son was and wasn’t overly concerned. A complete and utter lie, but Hermione allowed purebloods their little idiosyncrasies, especially purebloods who were werewolves.

‘Good,’ said Narcissa. Then, ‘Draco will be there shortly. I must meet with Lucius now, regarding the state of our winter hot house. Do keep me informed, darling.’

‘Yes, Narcissa,’ said Hermione, dutifully. The Floo disconnected.

‘Should block your Floo from that one,’ Ron advised, coming in from the kitchen.

She gave him a wry look. ‘I’d like to see you block anything from Narcissa Malfoy.’

His nose scrunched, turning his freckles into one giant splotch on his nose. ‘As soon as she figures out just what you and little Malfoy do at the Ministry, she’ll be all over you to marry the pasty git so you can join forces more thoroughly.’

He shuddered dramatically, and Hermione made a horrified face, though likely not for the same reasons as Ron. Malfoy was her Unspeakable partner, her Wolfsbane brewing partner, and often her dinner and boredom partner. They were…well, they were friends. And had been for years. Hermione didn’t mind him, even when he had his git face on. She just could not imagine the absolute nightmare of having Narcissa Malfoy as a mother-in-law. The woman never slept. Even by werewolf standards, she was a whirlwind. Hermione would never have another free moment to herself, would have to spend time with bigoted-against-everyone-but-purebloods-and-pureblood-werewolves-Lucius, and—

‘Calm down,’ Ron said. He sipped his milky tea. It was from her kitchen. She couldn’t stand whole milk even before her bite, and after a full moon, her senses were always especially out of whack. The smell was going to make her gag. ‘You smell distressed.’

‘I am distressed,’ she growled, only then realising how true it was. Maybe she needed a holiday.

Ron immediately put his hands up in a placating gesture.

‘Sorry, sorry,’ said Ron. Instinctually, he tilted his head ever so slightly, baring his neck. He probably hadn’t even noticed he did it, but Hermione did, or at least the wolf in her did. She calmed down, grinned at him sheepishly.

‘It’s been a rough week,’ she said, in apology. ‘Graves has been complaining about the department budget. Kingsley cut funding again, and werewolf-related research,’ she said, with scare quotes, ‘is low priority right now. Narcissa’s sources think we might be in for another firestorm. And now, you and Harry may or may not be investigating a string of werewolf attacks. Can you blame me?’

Ron scrunched his face up, then, mercifully, Vanished the milky tea. ‘Come on then. Harry’s getting us a private table at Hannah’s.’

Hermione sighed. ‘Let me just change first.’ She’d hoped for a quick shower, too, but alas. If wishes were thestrals, and all that rot.

-x-

The day they passed Unspeakable training and were partnered together, Draco was already well past the point of saving where Granger was concerned.

Head Unspeakable Croaker had handed him is exam results and un-hooded him before his fellow Unspeakables. Draco remembered blinking in the dim light, for the first time seeing the faces of all his colleagues. A second later, Hermione Granger’s hood came off, and—Draco really should have been more surprised than he was.

By that time, he’d already started brewing Wolfsbane with her, and eating crap takeaway curry with her, and running into her at his mother’s office many times a week as they strategised pro-werewolf campaigns. She’d been a constant in his life since that moment she squeezed his hand as they lost part of their humanity together. It shouldn’t have been a surprise that she chose to be an Unspeakable, too.

It wasn’t, really. It was just a surprise that, until that moment, he hadn’t known how utterly lost he would be without her. How intricately she was woven into his life. How he wouldn’t like to even exist without her.

It was sad and it was pathetic.

He suspected his mother knew.

‘Do invite Hermione to our little soiree,’ said Narcissa as she rose from the hearth, graceful as any queen. She levitated a wax-sealed envelope to Draco with an absent flick of her wand. The front of it said, in his Mum’s flowing calligraphic hand, Mademoiselle Hermione Granger.

Draco narrowed his eyes. ‘We had better not be having a French theme this year.’

‘Pah, darling,’ said Narcissa. ‘Have you forgotten? New Years Eve will be a moon night. I simply felt that “Miss Granger” was too…Hogwarts.’

Draco’s fingers clenched around the parchment. ‘Then how do you expect to host a little soiree this year?’

‘I’m afraid I’m pilfering the idea from your Potter.’

‘He’s not my Potter,’ Draco replied automatically.

She waved a hand. ‘Do you or do you not participate in a fantasy Quidditch league with him every year?’

Draco hardly thought that was relevant. He did that because he liked to beat Potter and Weasley. It didn’t matter if it was at Quidditch, fantasy Quidditch, or fly-fishing. So long as he won. Or more importantly: so long as they lost. But then, his mind let him see past his testosterone, and he finally absorbed the actual words his mother had said. ‘What do you mean by Potter’s idea?’

‘A changing party, darling. It’s rather avant-garde, don’t you think?’

‘It’s rather suicidal, I think,’ he said. ‘It was dangerous enough last night, but mostly Weasleys, so still largely normal even if the whole lot of them were werewolves. You can’t tell me that you expect to hold a New Years Eve gala, with hundreds of drunken guests, many of them werewolves, and expect nothing to go wrong. What does Father think about this idea?’

And further: how did she even find out about the bloody thing so quickly?

‘Oh, he hates it, of course,’ said Narcissa. She moved over to the settee and picked up her needlework.

‘Of course,’ said Draco. Then, ‘Hermione will never agree to this. It’s madness.’

‘She will,’ Narcissa said. ‘Because I’m inviting the wizards who are even now writing up brand new anti-werewolf legislation.’

Draco froze. ‘What?’

His mother looked up from her stitches. She smiled, but it was full of repressed fury. ‘Yes.’

‘But we just sorted the Werewolf Registry two years ago!’

‘I know, darling,’ said Narcissa.

She snapped her fingers, and a house elf appeared with tea. Draco scrunched his nose at the smell of cream, but otherwise made no move.

Narcissa continued: ‘But they seem to think that werewolves should have restrictions on their Apparition licenses. Alors, I rather think these are people who we want to keep an eye on. Believe me, the werewolf guest list will be very closely vetted—only the absolute most trusted. And your father will be there, of course, to trigger the wards if the need arises. Which it won’t.’

Draco exhaled in a rush, but the frustration didn’t leave him. He stuffed the invitation in his pocket. ‘I have to go.’

‘Give Potter my regards.’

‘Oh, for fuck’s sake,’ Draco muttered as he turned to leave. He knew his mother heard him—she was a werewolf after all—but she could scent his mood well enough not to comment on it. He stalked to the Apparition antechamber and Disapparated with an angry twist.

He landed outside the Impervious Cauldron, and prowled inside, still angry. Only Potter was there, thank Merlin, because Hermione or Weasley would surely have been able to smell his fury before he even reached the table. As it was, he got a few odd looks from other werewolves as he passed their tables, but one strong glower in their direction had them tipping their necks in submission. He ignored them all in favour of slouching down at the banquette Potter secured for them.

‘Malfoy,’ Potter greeted, happily enough.

Draco sneered. ‘Potter.’ He tapped his foot. The invitation was burning a hole in his pocket, and since he was wearing Burberry robes, he liked that not at all. ‘Where’s Granger?’

‘Ron went to round her up,’ said Potter, shrugging. They stared at each other for a few minutes. Potter raised an eyebrow. ‘What’s up your arse?’

Draco wrinkled his nose. Then, huffing, reached into his pocket and deposited the invitation on the table between them. ‘You’ve created a monster, Potter. And I have a feeling that I’ll mean that literally, soon enough.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Mother’s hosting a changing party. On New Year’s Eve. And inviting humans. I’m sure your invitation will be along shortly.’

‘With…with people?’ asked Potter. Upon seeing Draco’s exasperated look, he clarified, ‘I mean, people who aren’t family? Like, “acquaintances” people?’

‘Unfortunately so,’ Draco agreed.

The door jingled, and Hermione’s scent materialised. Draco relaxed a little. Potter turned to watch their approach, but Draco didn’t need to; he could tell Hermione’s precise position by the strength of her smell alone. She slid into the banquette next to him, and, wordlessly, he pushed the invitation to her.

She looked at him, frowning, all dark eyes and pointed nose—vaguely Eastern European and wholly mesmerising. Not for the first time, Draco wondered if some relative, way back, could be found on a Durmstrang student list.

‘What’s this?’

Draco scowled. ‘My mother’s doing.’

She lifted an eyebrow in understanding, then slipped a finger beneath the seal, popping it away. Her eyes scanned the parchment, and she frowned again. ‘This is absurd.’

‘What’s absurd?’ said Weasley, pulling up a chair on the end. His arms were full of Yorkshire puddings and behind him, Hannah Abbott floated two plates of kippers, at least a pound of bacon, two Cornish hens, and four glasses of Sparkling Cauldron Juice, the café’s signature drink. Draco was fairly certain it was only grapefruit juice, elderberry extraction, muddled blueberries, and a bubbling charm, but he could appreciate an entrepreneurial woman, so he held his tongue. Anyway, it tasted good.

‘Narcissa Malfoy,’ said Hermione absently. Her eyes were now firmly fixed on the Cornish hen.

‘Could’ve told you that,’ said Potter.

Draco shot him a dark look. ‘Mind your tongue about my mother, Potter.’

Potter shrugged and reached for one of the kippers, but a growl from Weasley had him pulling his hand back with speed. Draco smirked and took some bacon. No one growled at him.

‘Anything else for my favourite customers?’ asked Hannah.

‘I think I need a salad,’ said Potter. ‘This lot’s unlikely to let me have anything else. Mind you don’t send out Caesar dressing with it, in case they smell the anchovies.’

Probably wise, Draco admitted. Granger was already on her second kipper as it was. ‘Have you got any more of those blackberry-bacon-venison crepes?’ asked Draco. ‘The ones from yesterday?’

Hannah wrinkled her nose. ‘Yeah. Probably a bit stale by now.’

‘Do I look like I care?’ he asked. ‘We’ll take whatever’s left.’

She rolled her eyes, and turned away to do as he asked. A dozen different privacy spells from four different wands sprung up around the banquette as soon as she left. The air sparked with the upsurge of magic.

Draco slid his wand away. ‘What’s this about you two morons on a string of werewolf bite cases?’

‘How did you find out so quickly?’ asked Potter.

‘Mother told me just now,’ said Draco.

‘Luna told me last night,’ Hermione added.

Potter frowned. ‘I haven’t even told Luna yet…’ He trailed off, as three heads turned to give him very pointed looks. Even Draco knew there was no point in hiding something from Lovepotter, or whatever she was calling herself these days. ‘Right.’

‘They aren’t bites, really,’ said Weasley, in that slow way that made Draco wonder if he wasn’t sure how to form sentences or if he was trying to be dramatic. The latter, as it turned out.

‘What do you mean, not really?’ said Hermione.

He tore off a bite of chicken thigh, but thankfully chewed and swallowed before replying. ‘Well, see, there aren’t any victims, are there?’

Draco exhaled in frustration, leaning back against the banquette seat. ‘Then how are there crimes?’

‘Magical residue’s off the charts,’ said Potter. ‘Neighbours call and report ‘disturbances’, but by the time we get out there, no one’s around. There’s werewolf magical signatures in the area, but no werewolves. Or blood. Or anything really. Something’s going on, but no one’s missing. Like the victims don’t want to be found.’

Hermione inhaled sharply. ‘No.’

Draco frowned. He had a feeling he knew exactly what she was thinking. ‘Bite cults?’ he guessed.

‘That’s what we’re thinking,’ Weasley agreed soberly. ‘I bloody fucking hope not.’

‘This is the last thing we need,’ Hermione groaned. Weasley nodded in agreement.

‘We’re still trying to find a link,’ Potter added. ‘Nothing so far. Ron hasn’t been able to distinguish any scents from the crime scenes. Everything’s…how did you say it?’

‘Muddled,’ said Weasley. ‘Like if you took a dozen werewolves, wrung ‘em out into a cauldron, stirred it up, and then poured it on the ground.’

Draco knew exactly what he meant. He frowned. Because it was impossible. Werewolves each had their own scent, partially determined by their human lives and partially determined by their magical signatures. It was something even more distinctive than fingerprints. Even Weasley’s twin brothers had vastly different smells.

‘Mother thinks there’s anti-werewolf legislation in the works,’ said Draco. ‘Could there be a connection?’

‘Maybe,’ said Potter. He bit his lip. ‘Fuck. Probably. Who knows, really?’

Not Draco, that was for sure. He ate a piece of bacon while he thought, though he didn’t really need an excuse for bacon the day after the full moon.

‘I hate to say this,’ said Hermione then, ‘but…maybe we should go to the New Year’s Eve party. Narcissa’s usually right about this sort of thing, and if she is, we need to get as close as possible to the people behind the strings.’

Draco grimaced. New Year, New Wolf! the invitations read. He hated taking risks like this, but he despised the thought of someone trying to fuck with his pack’s safety. Granger’s safety in particular. ‘I agree,’ he said.

Weasley shrugged, and the gesture was mirrored by Potter. Merlin, it was like they were the same person sometimes. If he hadn’t married Lovegood, Draco would have been certain there was something going on there.

Hermione tapped the Accept option on the invitation with her wand, and it disappeared in a puff of sparkly smoke. She grinned up at Draco, a little wryly. ‘Are you going to be my plus-one?’

‘Obviously,’ said Draco, as casually as he could. Then, ‘Who else would accept a date with a werewolf?’

She laughed, but the pathetic thing was, he hadn’t been joking. Much. She bumped her shoulder against his playfully, and offered him another slice of bacon. Well, he could live with this, he supposed. There were worse things after all—like Granger not being around at all.

Chapter Text

Chapter 03: Not Quite the Young Magiscientists of Britain Award

Demon blood!’ Narcissa snarled, slamming the Amsterdam Augury onto her desk. The force of it puffed a gust of air out, sending several documents floating off the edge. ‘How dare they?’

Hermione rubbed her temples. It was Friday and her lunch break, for Merlin’s sake. She should be spending it having a high-protein lunch, not planning counter-attacks with the coldest woman in Britain—well, cold to everyone but her two darling men, of course.

Hermione chanced opening her eyes, and immediately wanted to close them again. There it sat, the Dutch wizarding paper, glaring back at her. The subtitle ran: New study into werewolf blood suggests ties to Demons, Fiendfyre.

What rubbish. Where was the supporting research? What, in fact, were the authors of said study’s qualifications?

Still, libel laws were few and far between in wizarding Britain. Of course they were, Hermione thought in annoyance; they were decades behind Muggles. Once the Daily Prophet got wind of it, everyone would know, true or not. Praise Merlin for the wizarding world’s communication channels still being so utterly Victorian. Hermione reckoned that they had forty-eight hours before the story broke in Britain.

She scanned the article again, scowling. Just because her blood was darker than a normal human’s—black, in fact, under most light—didn’t mean she was a Demon. It just meant she had an abundance of a different kind of “white” blood cells—obviously, since lycanthropy was a disease—and that those white blood cells happened to be dark green and made from a combination of copper and acetic acid. Mixed with red cells, her blood looked black. Honestly, children learned how colours mixed in primary school for heavens’ sake.

She had the same molecules as normal human blood, just in different arrangements.

No sulphur, no brimstone, no Demons.

The change in werewolf blood cells from leukocytes to what she and Malfoy had coined “chlorocytes” was one of their foremost research efforts. They were making progress on it, and damn it all to hell if some ruddy reporter hadn’t bollixed it all up before they could publish. Now, whatever their findings, it would look defensive, as if they had an agenda.

They did. That was beside the point.

‘Narcissa, what could you possibly expect to do about it?’ asked Hermione. ‘You know as well as I that anonymous sources are beyond the reach of the court. They’re not British; our laws don’t cover non-nationals—they hardly cover nationals, in fact. Another delightful artefact of our weakling government.’

A government your husband once took great pains to set up, so as to better serve his own agenda, Hermione thought. Their eyes met, and Hermione knew Narcissa saw the unspoken words in her expression. The two of them, they didn’t even need Legilimency to read one another’s mind.

Narcissa’s eyes narrowed. She re-seated herself behind her ornate desk and took up a white peacock feather quill. She dipped it in a pot of actual silver ink—ever the ironic snob, even as a werewolf—and scrawled a long name on a crisp black envelope. She handed the enveloped to Hermione, who frowned upon reading it. Head Auror Ursula K. Yewsap.

‘You can’t be serious,’ said Hermione. ‘I’m just a consultant. I’d never get close enough to give it to her, and as Head Auror, she would be stupid to accept unsolicited letters from me if I did.’

‘Your little saviour knows her. He could get close enough.’

Hermione began to pace. Sometimes Narcissa was just too much to bear. ‘Must you always bring Harry into your Machiavellian machinations, Narcissa?’ she asked. ‘He hates political intrigues. He has a wife and a baby.’ Hermione waved her hand about vaguely, trying to show the theoretical importance of such things. ‘And he’s already said he’ll come to your gala.’

‘Yes, and now I want the Head Auror to come as well. It’s never a bad thing to have friends in the Auror Department.’

Hermione sat down again. She already had friends in the Auror Department. Four of them, in fact. ‘What are you saying?’

Narcissa eyed her, looking quite bored. ‘Darling, you can’t believe that absolutely nothing will go wrong when a passel of ignorant and frightened humans are put into a ballroom with several dozen werewolves, my handsome criminal husband, and twenty full cases of champagne?’

‘No, I can’t believe it,’ Hermione said stiffly. ‘Which is why I must reiterate that I think this idea is madness. If you’re so sure something’s going to happen, why are you forcing the issue?’

‘Darling Hermione,’ said Narcissa, in her lovely, frigid tone. She leaned forward. ‘That is the entire point. Something will happen, and it is yours and my thankless job to ensure that the attack comes from the human half, and not the werewolf half. If we’re to weather this Demon blood storm, we need to set ourselves firmly in the victim camp.’ She leaned back again and twirled her hand, elegantly dismissive.

‘Now, you and Draco stick to your whatever it is you do, your Potter will stick to ensuring the right humans RSVP “yes”, my husband will stick to writing cheques, and I will stick to planning our next campaign. The game has changed, dear Hermione, and we must change with it.’

Hermione looked back down to the blaring headline on the Augury, sighing. Narcissa was, unfortunately, right. The game had changed. It was just that Hermione hated when rules had to change, too. It made her feel unsettled. If only they could just cure the bloody disease once and for all, then there wouldn’t be anything to discriminate against. Well, except for all the other things wizards liked to discriminate against.

‘Fine,’ Hermione said. ‘But I will see the guest list before you finalise it. I don’t want any werewolves here that either Draco or I can’t keep in line. No non-pack.’

‘Pah,’ said Narcissa. ‘You are not my Alpha—the stern voice does nothing for me. I am Beta to no wolf, darling. I intend to send invitations to five respected werewolves of my generation, and both of the recently outed Wizengamot members.’

‘My pack only,’ Hermione repeated, eyes narrowed.

And the rogues,’ said Narcissa, narrowing her eyes in return. ‘I shan’t snub Sterling or FitzGryphon. They were clever enough to sit on the Wizengamot for decades without anyone discovering their lycanthropy and I want them on our side. They might be unpredictable, but they’re each over two hundred years old, and I hardly think up to much beyond a bawdy chorus of howls once they’re in their cups.’

Hermione growled in frustration, but nodded. Working with Narcissa Malfoy was a constant struggle of give and take. She could give in on this one, with the expectation of taking a different win further down the line. ‘Agreed.’

‘Wonderful!’ said Narcissa brightly.

Hermione’s wand chirruped, warning her of the approaching end of her lunch break. Lovely. She stood. ‘A pleasure, as always, Narcissa.’

‘Likewise, darling.’

The door opened as she neared it, and, to her never-ending poor luck, Lucius Malfoy entered. He sniffed haughtily. ‘Granger.’

Hermione did not have time for this. She growled in his general direction, and he gracefully—and quickly—stepped aside so she could pass. One of the ever-present house-elves escorted her back to the Apparition antechamber, and within moments, she was back at the Ministry, stalking through the Atrium and barely noticing the wizards and witches who scuttled out of her way.

In the lift, she jabbed the button for the second floor and waited impatiently for the ancient old thing to carry her up. The Welcome Witch’s disembodied voice said, “Second floor: Department of Magical Law Enforcement.” Hermione stepped off, and immediately smelled Ron and Harry, both in the conference room at the back. The door was open; she peeked in and found them both stuffing their faces with ploughman’s and prawn-flavoured crisps. She wrinkled her nose.

Ron noticed her first, no doubt by her smell, which was unfortunately strong to other wolves in the few days before and after the full moon. ‘Hermione! What are you doing here?’

She came fully into the room and set the black invitation in front of Harry. ‘Business, I’m afraid. I come bearing gifts from Madam Merlin herself.’

Harry eyed the envelope, absently licking a dab of mayonnaise from his finger. Hermione tried not to retch. ‘This scheme is getting rather involved,’ he said.

Ron snorted. ‘She’s a Malfoy, Harry. That’s what they do. No doubt this is practically a day off for her.’

Hermione could only agree with that assessment. ‘I’m sure she has even more up her bespoke sleeve.’

Harry thankfully Scourgified his fingers before tucking the envelope away in his Auror robes. ‘I’ll try to find a good time to give it to Yewsap,’ said Harry. He frowned. ‘She’s out today, though. Another maybe-werewolf incident during the full moon.’

Hermione’s heart lurched. ‘No victims again?’ she asked, hopefully.

Ron gave her a brief, tense smile. ‘None so far. But this is the first time there’s been a disturbance at the full moon, and she wanted to investigate herself. It’s been really tense around the office today. Tonks, Lavender, and I got put on desk duty for at least the week,’ he added, grimacing. ‘And Harry by default. Yewsap’s afraid we might be targets.’

‘Well good,’ said Hermione. ‘If there’s any chance you might be, I’d rather you were bored and safe than entertained and dead.’

‘Werewolf,’ Ron reminded her, pointing at his chest. ‘Damn near indestructible.’

‘Save for Avada Kedavra,’ Harry reminded him. There was a split-second when Hermione knew they were all thinking of Remus Lupin, but she determinedly pushed the thought away.

‘Your reputation is not indestructible,’ Hermione added. ‘Nor the reputations of all other werewolves, by extension. And the office is a good alibi if things go pear-shaped.’

Ron dropped his forehead to the conference room table. ‘Go be right elsewhere, Hermione,’ he said. ‘I’m trying to enjoy my lunch. Where’s your lesser half anyway? Can’t you go be right around him?’

Hermione sighed. ‘Probably still working on that bloody potion,’ she said, mostly to herself. She wondered if Malfoy had left their office at all for lunch today. Maybe she should bring him something to eat. Definitely nothing with dairy in it.

‘The blood one?’ asked Harry. ‘Still at it?’

‘Malfoy never gives up on anything,’ she said. Which was the truth. He was like a Crup with a treed fox when it came to curing their disease. He’d go on doing his job until he starved if the fox never came down.

‘That’s bloody true,’ Ron muttered. He and Harry shared a particular look, one that Hermione understood to be Quidditch-related. On that note, it was time to leave.

‘I’ll leave you to your masculine look-based communication,’ she said. ‘Oh, and Harry—Luna Floo’d me this morning. She was asking where I bought Crookshanks? Not sure what it was about, but I told her it was the shop in Diagon. Good luck if Ten wants a kitten.’

She breezed out without waiting for his reply. Poor Harry, she sometimes thought. He was so hopelessly in love with Luna, and the longer they were married—it was going on five years now—the weirder his home life became. Things went on in that household that Hermione had no desire whatsoever to find out about. Things that baffled her. He’d agreed to name his daughter Portentia La Potter, after all. So weird.

-x-

Back on Level Nine, and girded with two chicken vindaloos, Hermione pushed open the door to hers and Draco’s shared office-dash-lab. There were stacks of books pushed up against the door and she had to squeeze to get through. Draco’s eyes flicked up to follow her progress, but his stirring didn’t stop. She watched his mouth move, counting numbers under his breath, and got that strange feeling she sometimes felt when he did something noteworthy with it, like bite his bottom lip or smirk or sneer.

‘Got you a vindaloo,’ she said, setting it down on the worktable.

‘No naan?’

‘No naan,’ she confirmed.

Draco smiled his secret smile at her—the one most people didn’t think existed—and continued with his stirring. For a werewolf, he had a terrible weakness for baked goods, and always got in a strop when she had them to hand—something about them being “too frustrating to resist”, and “impeccable, washboard abs”. Hermione wasn’t sure. She usually tuned him out.

Hermione moved to her desk and started sorting through all the paperwork she would’ve had finished by now if she wasn’t obligated to a two-day forced holiday once a month.

‘I assume your mother sent you the same owl she sent me, about the Amsterdam article,’ she said absently, and heard the answering, “Mm,” as she flicked through a stack of memos they’d received while she was out. She sighed. ‘I spent my entire lunch break there, and we’re no closer to coming up with a counterattack than we were when I arrived. She’s more determined than ever to have this gala go off well.’

Narcissa’s idea of “well” was different from Hermione’s.

Hermione heard Draco’s stirring rod clack against the table as he set it down, and turned to face him. His face was flushed and shiny and the hair at the nape of his neck was curling from the steam. It suited him, she thought. She always thought that when they were brewing together.

‘I know. Father contacted me about installing those puzzles for the Manor,’ said Malfoy. He came and leaned his hip against her desk, staring down at her with his arms crossed over his chest. ‘For Mother’s little soiree.’

‘God and Merlin help us,’ Hermione muttered.

Bill would be pleased with the extra work, though; the number of puzzles required for Narcissa’s party would more than cover all the Christmas presents he’d owe his children, nieces, and nephews, with plenty left over to buy Fleur a set of dragon pearls.

Hermione returned to the stack, frowning, and half-distracted by the memo reminding all Ministry employees to clean out the food from their preservation spells before leaving for the holidays, as no one wanted to come back to an office full of rotted takeaway. Boring. As if she and Malfoy ever had any leftover food. She flipped to the bottom where there was a new assignment packet doused in secret-keeping spells—their new assignment. Her fingers clenched around the parchment, her eyes widening as she read through the details.

Above her, Draco sighed, shifting on his feet. She caught the movement of his hips from the corner of her eye, and wished that Harry and Ron would invest as much in such nice tailoring. His impatience was almost tangible. She set the assignment aside; he wouldn’t let her get anything done unless she humoured him first.

‘Is that the chlorocyte genesis-detecting potion?’ she asked, thinking that they really should come up with an acronym for it. ‘It smells nearly done.’

‘Mm,’ Draco agreed. ‘Three minutes.’

They’d been working on this potion for a long time, doing trials with different blood samples, trying to tease out the recipe that would show them why their blood generated differently than someone uninfected, like Ginny.

And further, they hoped it would show what made their werewolf blood generate differently than someone who’d been bitten, bled black like them, and never changed. There was only one person who’d ever done that, and it was Harry. Hermione was sure that was the key to the disease—figure out why Harry was able to resist it, and they would figure out what kept it alive in their own veins.

Hermione nodded. ‘I think we still have one of Harry’s samples left, so we can test his along with one of the human and one of the werewolf samples.’

She really hoped this potion showed some promise. Maybe they’d finally get that extra funding and Graves would stop riding their arses about results. This was their last chance, really. They were out of funding for this particular idea and the Department wasn’t keen on issuing more.

Hermione grinned a bit, if only to keep things from getting tense. ‘Graves will have Kneazles if it works,’ she said. ‘I see a Young Magiscientists of Britain Award in our futures, Malfoy.’

She passed him the packet with their new assignment. ‘Take a look at this. A new side project straight from Apex. It’s brilliant. Can you believe they’ve even heard of us? Our lycanthropy research must be making an impression.’

Hermione had no idea who Apex was other than the mysterious Head of the Department of Mysteries, but she did know that whoever he or she was, they were the most powerful person in Britain, perhaps Europe, perhaps more. Hermione’d heard that not even the Minister knew their real identity. She believed it.

Malfoy’s eyebrows rose as he read through. ‘The Killing Curse…’ he said, trailing off.

She watched his Adam’s apple bob as he swallowed, then flicked her eyes back up to his when he spoke again. ‘We’re not even Senior Unspeakables yet,’ he said. ‘We don’t even know the identity of most of the Senior Unspeakables yet. And Apex is assigning this to us?’

He sat down on the edge of her desk, blinking. He said, ‘This must be what Weasley feels like when the Cannons aren’t first to be eliminated in the season.’

She swatted his thigh and snatched the packet back from him, excitedly re-reading the task list, committing it to memory, and reading it again. A research grant, just for them, to study the magic behind Avada Kedavra, what made it work, and what made it so unstoppable. She shook her head, still a little overwhelmed. ‘Don’t be awful, Draco.’

His wand buzzed, signalling the potion was ready for decanting, and they both jumped up and hurried over, nearly—but not quite—forgetting the brilliant new assignment from Apex in their excitement over the chlorocyte genesis-detecting potion.

The potion was white, just as they’d theorised when developing it. Hermione was nearly buzzing with excitement and Draco looked as if he weren’t doing much better.

‘I’ll get the blood samples,’ she said, and hurried over to the cold-spelled cabinet where they had dozens of phials of their own blood and blood from their friends, both human and werewolf. Draco was already decanting the elixir. He poured the last of it into three glass bowls and Banished the extra phials to the cabinet.

Hermione set a single phial in front of each bowl. Their labels read, ‘Werewolf: Lavender Brown,’ ‘Human: Ginny Weasley,’ and ‘??: Harry Potter.’

Draco picked up Lavender’s and flicked back the cork with his thumb. The scent of blood soaked the air, and Hermione was unable to hold back a little whimper. She began to salivate, even as her stomach turned. Wordlessly, Draco Summoned her a blood-flavoured lolly from her secret stash. She gave him a grateful glance, unwrapped it, and shoved it in her mouth before she embarrassed herself further.

He tipped Lavender’s blood into the bowl of chlorocyte genesis-detecting potion, then followed suit with Ginny’s and Harry’s samples. Draco took a stirring rod and mixed each of the bowls. They watched the red—and black, in Lavender’s case—blood swirl through the mixture before settling.

Hermione bit her lip, waiting anxiously. Draco’s fingers were clenched around the table edge and it looked like he might squeeze right through the wood. It wouldn’t be the first time.

‘How long should it take?’ she asked him.

His heartbeat was going faster than normal; she could hear it. He shifted on his feet. ‘The red blood cells should separate out within a minute,’ he said. Their eyes flicked to the clock on the wall opposite, listening for the tiny ticks to count them down.

A minute went by, and Hermione looked down again. She frowned. All three of the bowls were still the same colour. There was no change in any of the three samples. They even still smelled as delicious to Hermione as they had before, which was terribly unfortunate.

Fuck,’ said Draco savagely.

She sighed, then noticed something wiggling about in the three bowls. ‘Wait, look. It’s separating out the plasma, I think. That’s something.’

Draco bent down to peer into the first bowl. He moved to looked through the side, where Hermione could see that there were now two layers to the potion—a deep black one of their red blood cells, platelets, and chlorocytes, and a snot-coloured one of elixir and plasma.

Malfoy stood, huffing. ‘Not enough for more funding.’

‘No,’ Hermione agreed. She sighed again. ‘Well, at least we have the new assignment from Apex.’

He turned to her, sneering in the way he did when he felt trapped or blindsided or just really disappointed. ‘Bloody lot of good that’s going to do us,’ said Draco. He flung his hand out angrily, and the contents of the bowls vanished, along with the bowls themselves. Lovely. That was their best set of purified mixing bowls. She eyed him fiercely, and he made another angry slash of his hand. The glass bowls reappeared, empty.

‘Thank you. We’re closer than we were,’ she said. ‘Don’t forget that.’

‘How the fuck could I?’ he asked. ‘We’ve been doing this for years, Hermione. Years. And each new combination gets us incrementally further along. But what if there’s no solution? What if we’re on some asymptotic path that gets us closer and closer and closer, but never touches on the solution? We could spend our entire fucking, furry lives doing this job, and end up with nothing to show for it.’

‘Let’s put this aside for a couple weeks and work on the new assignment,’ she suggested.

‘We’re out of funding,’ Draco muttered. ‘This was it. We’ll be putting it off forever, because I failed.’

Hermione rolled her eyes. Malfoys. ‘How funding is even a concern for you, I’m certain I’ve no idea. Or have you forgotten you’re a Malfoy, for St Ailbhe’s sake.’

He grunted. She thought maybe she was getting through to him. Hermione did hate it when Draco got depressed over their condition. It wasn’t that bad. Sure, she couldn’t have children, and sure people spat on them sometimes, and sure she had to pay higher employment taxes, but it could’ve been worse. At least they were allowed to hold jobs now. At least they were allowed in some of the shops.

She tried again: ‘Let’s table the chlorocyte genesis-detecting potion for a bit. Maybe we’ve been thinking about it so much that we’re overlooking something.’

‘Yeah,’ said Malfoy. ‘Like our lives.’ He yanked off his brewing apron and threw it across the room. It landed somewhere between their two desks. He ran a hand through his hair, sending it into disarray. ‘Fuck this. I’m taking the afternoon. See you tomorrow.’

He stormed out of their office, and the entire Department of Mysteries, before Hermione could even get her wits about her.

-x-

She found him at her flat, as she’d half expected to. He was sprawled on her couch, switching angrily from BBC One to BBC Four. There was a global warming documentary on. It was late, and the only light in the flat came from the television screen. It reflected eerily from Malfoy’s eyes as he tracked her progress into the room.

She set a box of takeaway kebabs on the coffee table before him, as a peace offering.

‘There’s nothing on,’ he said, pausing briefly at a Top Gear rerun.

‘It’s midnight,’ said Hermione, taking off her cloak and tossing it over a chair.

Draco grunted and stretched. His shoes were off and her green cashmere throw was tucked all around him. He slept on it sometimes during moon nights, and it would hold his smell for weeks afterwards. ‘I didn’t want to go home,’ he said.

Hermione knew. He often ended up on her couch when he was frustrated about their research.

She set her bag of sproutlings and pruning sheers on the table next to the couch and stretched. She was always a little sore after messing about with her not-exactly-legal hobby, but it was good for taking out frustrations, and Knockturn Alley had seen worse vandalism in its day, even Hermione could admit that.

He’d been so stressed lately. Hermione bit her lip, deliberating. With a sigh, she decided he could do with some untensing, as he was always instructing her to do, himself. She reached into her endless handbag and brought out her last trick. A sack of dried wolfnip, courtesy Neville Longbottom’s less-academic pursuits. She placed it on the table by the kebabs, one eyebrow raised.

Draco snorted. ‘Am I that bad off?’

‘You tell me,’ Hermione said. She prodded at his feet until he lifted them long enough for her to sit down. He flexed his toes and she obliged him, absently rubbing the bottoms of his feet as she watched polar ice caps melting on the telly. Merlin, it was depressing. ‘It’s from Neville’s garden,’ she tempted.

He didn’t speak for a long time, and when he finally did, it startled her.

‘Fuck it,’ he said, and reached for the bag of wolfnip. ‘I’ll embrace my misfortune.’

Hermione rolled her eyes. Only Malfoy would complain about a perfectly legal plant that only did anything for him because of his lycanthropy. Truthfully, it wasn’t much stronger than pipe tobacco, but melodrama was a Malfoy speciality. She grabbed a kebab and chewed on it as he rolled up the wolfnip.

He lit it with his wand and the orange glow flared, illuminating her walls and his face. He flopped back, exhaling slowly at the ceiling. ‘Thanks,’ he said, quietly.

‘You’re welcome.’

He eyed her sideways. ‘Never expected you to bring me any of this. In fact, I’m surprised Longbottom even sold it to you.’

‘I’m untensing,’ she said. Then, just to be sure he didn’t get any ideas, she said, ‘Don’t get used to it. This was a one-time thing, Malfoy. I’m not condoning this pastime of yours and Ron’s.’

‘Of course,’ he said, but he was smirking.

Well. She’d give him something to smirk about. She plucked the wolfnip from his fingers and took a drag. Her parents would kill her for this. Smoking stained the teeth. But it was a rare thing, so she was far from inundated by guilt. She took a final drag and handed it back to him, then took up his feet again. He had such big feet. It was strange to compare them to her own.

‘Have you been here all night?’ she asked, ignoring the curious look he was giving her.

‘Mmhm,’ he said. ‘I went to the Manor first, but Mum smelled me immediately and thought to recruit me for dinner with Father’s business associates. As if.’

She let the silence settle over them for a few minutes, with only the white noise of the BBC to fill it. The steady flare and fade of the cigarette against her flat walls was strangely calming—peaceful and somehow intimate. After many minutes, when the stress of the day was finally sliding from her shoulders, she said, ‘Are you staying?’

It took him forever to reply. She didn’t know if he was thinking or just ignoring her. Finally, he said, ‘Yeah.’

Hermione nodded. She pushed his feet off, intending to get up and change into her pyjamas, but he reached up with werewolf quickness and grabbed her arm. Not hard, but firm nonetheless. She paused, eyed him. ‘What?’

He took one last hit off the wolfnip, his eyes glowing orange in the reflected light, before stubbing it out and Vanishing the remains. ‘Stay,’ he said, tugging her back down.

She went easily, and as she tumbled sideways against his body from the force of his pull. He wrapped his arm around her and then returned his attention to the telly. It was surprisingly comfortable. He smelled like Malfoy, a scent she’d come to associate quite heavily with life, since it was such a big part of hers. He was everywhere—at work, at home, at campaigns. She’d not spent a full moon night away from him in over five years.

She cosied into him. Draco paused on Never Mind the Buzzcocks in time for Noel Fielding to make a particularly witty joke, and Hermione was startled into laughing. It jostled them, and somehow, his hand fell to her side. His long fingers settled on her waist, but his gaze was firmly locked on the television. She shivered. The light from her telly flickered against her walls, the sound a low hum of white noise. It felt strange and comforting and as if it would consume her entire life. It was a feeling she’d been feeling forever, or maybe it was just that this moment was going on forever. How long had that scene been on telly, she wondered? How long had Malfoy’s fingers been on her, with only the thin fabric of her shirt between them? How long had she not noticed that it was unusual?

Draco flicked back to BBC One. East Enders was on. She didn’t mind this time. Gooseflesh spread across her skin as his fingers continued sliding over it. Merlin, it felt good. It had been so long since anyone touched her with any degree of intimacy.

She squirmed against him and he noticed; for a second, his fingers paused. She felt him inhale slowly, deeply. There was a heavy pause. Then he resumed—this time more surely, his fingers dipping lower until they reached the hem of her shirt and then slipping underneath. Hermione gasped, and arched up into his touch. He shuddered, and it was then, as a melting glacier finally broke free and fell into the Arctic Ocean on BBC, that Hermione understood that something had just changed between them. If they went forward, there was no going back from this moment.

And she was exhausted, both physically and mentally, and a werewolf—which meant there weren’t too many suitors lining up at her door. Ron had, in fact, been both her first and her last. And that was over six years ago. What was sex like with another person? Another best friend sort of person? Hermione calculated all the ways that it could go very wrong—and the few in which it could go right—with that strange, detached logic she used whenever emotions threatened to get involved.

She rather thought Draco to be quite open to sex in general with anyone and everyone, though she couldn’t recall him going on more than one or two dates over the years. She suspected he suffered from the same stigma as she did: werewolves might be gaining acceptance among the population, but that didn’t mean anyone was interested in copulating with them.

Although there was definitely a new fetish porn market cropping up around the theme. It rather grossed Hermione out, to be quite frank. They were people, not dogs. Alas, she was digressing, even within her own head.

We can’t go back from this.

She decided to go forward instead. After all, where else would she find someone interested in seeing her in the altogether? The way the tabloids had it, she was practically a bearded lady beneath her robes.

Hermione pulled herself up on one hand, staring down at him. Malfoy looked tired, and sombre—and strangely intense. She didn’t need lights on to see the way his eyes focused only on her. He stared at her unguardedly, and it took her breath away. She leaned down, and, quite without thinking, slid her lips against his, once.

His arms came up immediately, pulling her flush against his chest, and Hermione went willingly, with only a little squeak of surprise as she fell. He laughed softly against her mouth and she felt his warm breath against her lips. She froze at the feel of his hands on her back, his fingertips ghosting along the skin of her spine before they came ‘round to grip her. She pressed her hips down, aching for more contact, and felt his desire for her pressing back. She gasped.

‘Fuck, Hermione,’ he said, arching up.

His neck was thrown back and she took the opportunity to bend down and kiss the exposed skin. His shuddering convinced her to do it again, and then, perhaps, lick a trail from his jaw to his collarbone. This was proving to be interesting indeed. Hermione could’ve kicked herself: she’d never before realised how many opportunities sex with another werewolf would present. The research value alone...

Draco arched into her again, his erection rubbing deliciously against her. She moaned. Perhaps there were benefits beyond having a new experience. Hermione turned her brain firmly off.

-x-

Draco was imagining things. That was the only reason he’d not self-combusted by now. Or at least given himself away as being entirely more invested in this moment than he was trying to let on. Granger’s eyes were heavy-lidded, all pupil, and she was rutting against him as if she did it every day. She threw her head back, panting, and he thought, Merlin, so fucking beautiful.

Was this really happening? After seven years? He thought his heart might explode from the rush of want and feeling.

Draco could not restrain himself. He was only a man—usually. He slid his hand from her back around to the front, and toyed with the buttons along the front of her trousers. She didn’t seem overly concerned, so he popped the first one open. Still no refusal. He deftly undid the other three buttons and slipped his hand inside her knickers, letting his fingers comb through the curls there, until he found her folds. He hesitated, looked up, searching for her eyes.

She was fully aware of him now, no longer lost in the heat of the moment, though her eyes were indeed quite heated themselves. She stared down at him, gaze intent, confident. Slowly, purposefully, she pushed her hips forward over his lap, grazing his erection and sending a surge of pleasure through him. It made his fingers slide along the edges of her folds, and he could’ve come just from the hot slickness he found there. He shut his eyes tightly, unable to look at her without losing himself.

He took several rasping breaths, attempting to steady himself. At some point, he noticed that his entire body was shaking from adrenaline and seven years worth of unresolved love and desire. But not anymore. Now, she wanted him in return. Now, she would be his.

All he had to do was take her.

Draco smiled up at Hermione, letting some of his many walls fall, exposing seven years of himself to her. She looked briefly startled, before it was replaced by thoughtfulness, a look more commonplace for her. He wasted no time pressing his fingertips against her opening, exploring her for the first time.

She gasped, throwing her head back. He could see her chest moving with her breath beneath her shirt, and in that moment, nothing would suffice but her skin. He set to work on the buttons of her blouse, slipping them from their holes. When he reached the top, her hands came up to join his. They settled atop his own and slowly, together, they pushed her shirt to her shoulders, and then down her arms.

She discarded it on the floor, then reached up with one hand, and unsnapped her bra. Her shoulders curled forwards as she slid the straps off, and then she was bare before him, sitting astride his lap and seemingly waiting for some reaction.

‘Not furry all over,’ she said, wryly.

Draco smirked at her, though it wasn’t easy when all he could think was a fugue of “Oh my god, oh my god.”

Her flushed skin reached down her breasts, all the way to her dark nipples. They were hard and he really had no idea if it was from arousal or room temperature, but he hoped to Merlin it at least had a little to do with him. He could feel himself leaking through his trousers as it was, and Merlin it had been so long since a woman had even looked twice at him after learning of his disease.

Somehow, she’d managed to unbutton his shirt, and now she was sliding down his body to do the same with his trousers without him even noticing. Everything was going so quickly. He took hold of her arms, slowing her progress with getting his trousers down. She looked up at him, and he pushed himself into a sitting position.

He just needed this to last. It might be the only time.

The lights from her telly flashed across her face, but he hated the distraction, so he fumbled for the remote control and turned off. It left the room empty and hollow, with only the penetrating sounds of their pulses and heartbeats and all the people leaving the pub two streets over. He wanted to be human for this, so he’d only hear her, but werewolf was her, and it wouldn’t be real without the unrelenting noise of extrasensory hearing in the background.

He pushed her back to bend over her, easing her trousers down her legs. Her toes curled as he removed them. He wanted to undress her; he could at least control that, and she seemed okay with the change—somehow she could always read him. Draco slid his hands up her legs to the firm flesh of her thighs. There was her bite scar, savage and somehow beautiful on her thigh.

She shuddered, drawing her knees up, and he fell between them, kissing the long line of her clavicle as he steadied himself with the metronome of her pulse. Every time it sped up, every time he touched her in a way she especially liked, it sent a rush of love and pleasure through his own body.

He kissed her all over, but kept returning to her mouth. He’d spent hours in their lab, mindlessly stirring potion after potion as he thought of what her kiss would be like, what she’d feel like beneath his hands. Now that he knew the rhythm of her heartbeat better than his own name. He’d never forget it from this day forward. He could count potion stirs by it; he could set his watch by it.

He kissed down between her breasts, over the firm expanse of her stomach, to the soft lace of her knickers. Draco hooked his fingers over the edges and she lifted her hips so he could slide them down her thighs. She watched him fiercely, unblinking, drawing her knees up further so he could flick them off her feet and toss them somewhere towards the kitchen.

Merlin help him—that look would stay with him forever. He bent his head, kissing along her hipbones and thighs, running his nose over the curls between them. Her legs shivered, and he knew she wanted him as much as he did in that moment.

‘Let me,’ he said.

She nodded, and he needed no further encouragement. He dipped his head and licked along her slit, and she moaned so loudly it nearly blocked out the sound of the pub. Draco shuddered, and repeated the action. He propped himself up on one elbow and rubbed his fingers over her opening as he lapped at her clit. She was panting now, and so very wet. He slid one finger in, and nearly died at the feeling of her clenching around it.

‘Draco,’ she said around a moan.

Draco groaned, burying his face against her. Merlin, she tasted so good, like she was made for him. He didn’t think he’d ever get enough of this. He pushed another finger inside and fucked her slowly, searching for the spot that would make the sound of her heartbeat triple in time. When he found it, Hermione’s back arched up, and she moaned loudly.

Draco grinned smugly against her, circling his tongue around her clit and thrusting his fingers again and again until she was begging him. He licked her slowly, torturously slowly, wanting to keep her on edge as long as he could. She was so responsive that he almost thought he might come himself, just from the sound of her whimpers. He underestimated her arousal, however, and she came hard around his fingers, growling his name. Draco stared at her in fascination as she fell apart, a little disappointed in himself for not being able to keep her on edge like he’d planned, and entirely pleased with himself for being able to make her come at all. Well, he’d just have to practise more. Draco continued moving his fingers slowly within her until her panting evened out, and she squeezed her legs together, trying to end the overstimulation.

He crawled up her body, his face covered in the scent of her. She blinked at him several times. He couldn’t stop smiling like an idiot. With another growl, she grabbed the back of his neck and pulled him down for a searing kiss. He moaned in surprise and melted against her sweat-slick body, kissing her fiercely. She pushed her hips up, and he couldn’t help rutting up against the heated spot between her legs. He was so hard and aching for her, and he’d thought of this very thing every day as long as he could remember.

‘Malfoy,’ she panted, pulling away. ‘Draco. Merlin.’

He grinned lopsidedly. ‘I’ll respond to any of those.’

She pushed her hips up against his in retaliation, and his eyes rolled back in his head. He was pretty sure he whimpered, too, but hoped that Granger would be kind enough to never mention it.

‘Do you have any other hidden talents?’

Merlin, he hoped so. Because a few drunken tumbles with Astoria Greengrass in seventh year did not a sex-god make. Still, he’d always been a fast learner. And there was the lycanthropy on his side—for once.

He pushed his pants down his thighs, keeping his eyes on her face, watching for any sign of disinterest or hesitance. There wasn’t any. When he had them all the way off and tossed somewhere near her own, she looked down, and he was gratified to see her eyes widen a bit—that was before the very Granger look of academic curiosity overtook, and she reached out to take hold of him without the slightest hesitation.

Draco very nearly came all over himself. Fortunately, he was able to bring up an image of Weasley’s face before he embarrassed himself. Then by the time he’d got himself under control, Hermione was pushing his back against the seat back and climbing into his lap. She kissed him ferociously, and his arms came up automatically, pulling her tight against him. Her breasts pressed against his chest and he felt the heat of her as she hovered over his prick.

She positioned herself over him and slid down in one smooth motion. Draco’s fingers clenched at her waist, surely painfully given his strength, but she didn’t complain. They moaned in sync. If he was already this far gone, he had no idea how he’d make it through. She began to move. He grabbed onto her bum, not sure if he wanted to help her along or slow her down before this was all over early.

Granger’s arms came around his shoulders, using them as leverage to lift herself up. Fuck, he thought. He couldn’t look away from her face, couldn’t stop his hands moving all over her body. Draco reached between them, rubbed his fingers over her clit, and she tossed her head back, her wild hair flying, and gasped. He shut his eyes tightly, knowing the view would send him over the edge. He rubbed her faster, and her hips moved erratically. She seized up, moaning, her hips bucking. Draco could feel every muscle of her clenching around him.

Hermione growled, surged forward and grabbed his face, kissing him deeply. Her tongue slid into his mouth and she moaned into the kiss, and it was more than he could take. He came hard, yelling her name muffled against her mouth. She kissed him through it, rode him slowly as he came down.

Draco pulled her against him. She fell limp against his chest, breathing hotly against his neck. With orgasm, the last effects of desperate arousal had faded away, leaving him raw and vulnerable to rational thought. He swallowed.

Merlin help him, Draco thought. He’d never recover from this.

Hermione sighed happily. He squeezed her tighter. Well, that was his heart set up for breaking. Bugger it all.

Chapter Text

Chapter 04: The Relentless Struggle Between Good & Muggle

She’d promised Harry and Luna she’d watch Portentia today, Hermione remembered quite suddenly. She jerked up, already half out of the bed and into the shower before she scented the extra occupant in her bedroom. Slowly, Hermione turned back to the bed.

Malfoy stared back at her, eyes alert despite the early time and their late night.

Their late night.

Everything came back to her in a rush, and she flushed from head to toe. Heavens, she was naked. Had they really—?

Yes, she remembered. Yes, they had. And it had been...well, rather good, actually. She bit her lip to keep from smirking, or worse—grinning—at the memory.

‘Morning, Draco,’ she said with what she hoped was a steady voice. It was a struggle not to try to cover herself, but Malfoys were always looking for weaknesses, and he’d be more likely to tease her if she seemed uncomfortable.

He quirked a single blond eyebrow. His hair was so mussed and just-shagged that it destroyed the effect. The laugh Hermione had been trying to avoid came out in full force. Merlin, she’d seen his hair mussed up a hundred times before, but never after they’d shagged. She slapped a hand over her mouth, but it was no use: her wide eyes gave away her nervousness, and she’d have to admit that Draco won this round.

‘Morning, Hermione,’ he said, just as gravely. There was a moment of weird silence. He started to pull himself up from the bed, and in doing so lost the cover of her bed sheets. ‘Shall I just go, then?’

Hermione squeaked. He had a morning erection. Nocturnal penile tumescence, she thought, as academically as she could. He noticed her gaze and reached for the sheet again, but she really couldn’t have that at all. No, if she was going to be awkward, then so was he. She came ‘round the bed and tugged at the sheet until he let it fall away.

Seeing him here in the morning light, scenting his second-day hair and their sex all over him was doing irrational things to her body. Merlin, but he was fit. She felt hot and decidedly bothered.

‘Let’s not be awkward,’ she said suddenly. ‘It doesn’t have to be awkward, does it? We’ve been friends so long, you know, and we’re together all the time—Merlin I haven’t even changed without you in years—and, well, I suppose it’s only natural for sexual attraction to develop over time when two people are otherwise compatible and physically agreeable to the other party, and plenty of people have sex with their friends and don’t let it ruin things between them, like, well, like me and R—’

‘I’m going to stop you there,’ Draco said quickly.

She chanced a look at his face. He was smiling wryly. ‘I don’t want things to be awkward between us,’ she said again.

He was giving her that intense look again, the one she only saw when he was working on a new lycanthropy-related potion. ‘What do you want then?’

Her eyes slid downwards again, quite without her permission. Heavens. She swallowed again. I have no idea, she thought. ‘I think I want to perform fellatio on you.’

Draco burst out laughing. Hermione went hot all over, and turned to run for the bathroom. A strong hand caught her bicep and tugged her back. She fell against his chest, and his arms came around to hold her in place. She felt his erection against her bum and barely refrained from wiggling against it.

‘Let me go,’ she said instead.

‘I think not,’ said Malfoy, still chuckling. ‘I’d like to hear more about this fellatio and you performing it.’

‘You’re mocking me.’

‘Yes,’ he said, his hand rubbing up and down her belly. ‘But I like your overly-academic defence mechanisms. It’s...’

‘Don’t say cute,’ Hermione warned.

He scoffed. ‘I’ve never said the word in my life. I certainly won’t start now. It’s...pleasing to me,’ he decided.

Hermione rolled her eyes, but did turn around in his arms to look up at him. She ran her fingers over his chest, and attempted a sultry look. ‘Shall I, then?’

He waved a hand magnanimously. ‘Please.’

She sunk to her knees. Harry and Luna could wait. There were academic endeavours to explore—things like, what did Draco taste like, and would it still be good in the morning, and would Draco ever be interested in making this a more...permanent thing?

-x-

‘Alice Dumbledore,’ Harry said, exasperated. He lowered his voice, craning his neck to look out into the hallway of a very strangely decorated Grimmauld Place, beyond which Luna was getting Portentia ready for an outing with Auntie Hermione. ‘Alice. Fucking. Dumbledore.’

‘Oh, honestly, Harry,’ said Hermione. ‘It’s just a name. If that’s what Luna wants to name it, then let her name it that. She had your baby; you give her whatever she wants.’

‘I have,’ said Harry. ‘That’s why we have a Kneazle kitten now instead of a Crup puppy. A Kneazle kitten named Alice Dumbledore.’

The Kneazle in question hopped up onto the kitchen table, nosing at Hermione’s bacon. She batted it away, and Alice Dumbledore caught a whiff of her scent. She meowed warningly, and then used Hermione’s distraction to steal the bacon. Hermione, now without breakfast, was at least grateful Luna’d had the foresight to get a Kneazle instead of a normal cat. Werewolves and cats didn’t mix so well.

Draco snorted. ‘Can you imagine having to yell for it when it gets out of the house?’

Harry groaned. He levitated the skillet to the sink and set a washing spell going. ‘That’s my point. No self-respecting Auror has a kitten named Alice Dumbledore.’

‘She’s white,’ Luna said, coming in with Portentia on her hip. ‘Albus means white.’

Harry threw his head back, sighing in exasperation. ‘But what does Alice mean?’ he asked, with the air of a man who’d asked the same question a thousand times before. ‘Since she’s not, in fact, named Albus.’

‘It means noble,’ said Luna. ‘Like a Gryffindor.’

Harry narrowed his eyes, although he didn’t look nearly as fierce as Draco did when he did it. Hermione and Draco shifted uncomfortably as the smell of arousal filled the air. Harry was so weird. ‘We are not done with this conversation, dear.’

Luna pecked him on the cheek as she passed. ‘I know, love. I do enjoy having conversations with you about things that have already happened in the past.’ She passed Portentia to Hermione. ‘Thank you so much for taking Ten today, Hermione. And you as well, Draco. I didn’t expect to get two babysitters. This is a lovely surprise.’

‘Yeah, about that,’ said Harry, now narrowing his eyes suspiciously in their direction. Hermione shrank back, attempting to melt through the floor, or, failing that, to wandlessly Disillusion herself. ‘It’s a bit early for you, Malfoy. Rarely see you before noon at the weekend.’

Draco shrugged, sipping his tea. ‘I was feeling roused.’

‘Roused,’ Harry repeated.

‘It’s a werewolf thing,’ Hermione said quickly.

Harry didn’t look like he was going to let it go, but the Floo roared to life and Ron’s voice called out urgently. He rushed off to answer it. Portentia took that moment to spill Hermione’s tea all over her, and the Kneazle stole the last of Draco’s bacon. In the clusterfuck that followed, the two of them plus Portentia managed to escape the Potter household without further interrogation.

Although not without Hermione overhearing Ron say “werewolf” twice in the Floo. She pursed her lips and refused to worry. She had an outing with her goddaughter planned. And she’d had two rather nice shags in as many days. Werewolf or not, things were looking pretty good to her at the moment.

‘I’ve just got to do a quick interview with that vampire who’s opening the modern art gallery and then pop into the office to pick up this month’s galleys. I’ll pick her up at three,’ Luna called to them as they were stepping outside to Apparate. The door shut behind her, leaving the three of them alone on the Potters’ front steps.

Hermione was suddenly feeling nervous again, which was ridiculous. Draco was one of her very best friends, right up there with Harry and Ron. So they’d had sex. So they’d had sex twice, actually. It didn’t mean she suddenly had to feel like he was undressing her with his eyes.

Although…She glanced at him again. Although, he might actually have been doing that. She shifted Portentia on her hip. ‘It occurred to me that I didn’t tell you what I had planned when I roped you into coming with today. We’re going to go to Diagon to see the holiday lights.’

Malfoys didn’t celebrate Christmas or any other spirit-of-giving holidays. Hermione suspected it was because they had too much stuff to warrant buying presents for one another. It made him easy to buy for (nothing) but difficult to decide how to approach with holiday-related activities like looking at fairy lights.

He shrugged. ‘Alright.’

She gave him a brilliant smile, relieved. ‘Wonderful. Ready then?’

He took her free hand, and with a step and a twist, she Apparated them to Diagon.

-x-

Diagon Alley was lovely in December, Hermione thought. The Diagon Alley Shop Owners Association put up fairy lights, garlands, and sparkling charms all over the neighbourhood. Even better, all the shops competed for the best window display, and it was always fun to see how creative they got. London didn’t get much snow, but the residents sometimes even came together to put up a weather charm over the main street so that snow flurries would constantly fall, but never pile up into dirty slush. There was one going now, and Hermione couldn’t help but sigh happily at the scene.

She dropped Draco’s hand to set Portentia on the ground and looked around, trying to decide which way to go first. Portentia decided for her, as it turned out.

‘I wanna see Uncle George’s window.’ She swiped irritably at her nose, where a number of charmed snowflakes were gathering, and turned beseeching eyes upon Hermione and Draco.

Hermione bit her lip. George’s displays often featured a number of questionable accents, but Portentia was still only four, so with any luck she wouldn’t even notice them.

‘Alright,’ said Hermione. ‘After you.’

Portentia grabbed her hand and took off, weaving expertly through the crowd with Hermione and Draco following behind. They were well-known as werewolves, having been outed by the Daily Prophet the very morning after the final battle, and they got a few sneers by passing wizards, but had seven years’ experience in ignoring that sort of thing. It also helped that Hermione and Ron were war heroes—many in the wizarding world had a hard time reconciling “war heroes” and “dangerous beasts”, so they pretended their inconvenient lycanthropy didn’t exist.

‘Are your parents going to Greece again for the twenty-fifth?’ asked Hermione. She was very aware that they were Not Talking About the night before, and wondered how long the two of them could keep it up.

Draco shrugged while returning a sneer to a frumpy witch giving them a rude stare. ‘Probably not after that report Mum got yesterday. She’ll be hard at work with damage control through the New Year. Even the blasted gala will be a job for her.’

They passed through a beautifully intricate garland arch, replete with dancing fairies and peppermint humbug-shaped decorations. Hermione quirked a grin. ‘It’s apparent where your work ethic comes from, Malfoy.’

He glanced at her sideways. ‘I’ve really no idea what my mother would do if she didn’t have a thousand different projects going at once. She’s always been that way.’

‘And your father seems to like it.’

Draco smirked. ‘He hates dealing with the estate management; it gives her something to do when she’s bored. She doesn’t like choosing entertainment for parties; he...apparently doesn’t realise he likes Muggle music. They have a very symbiotic relationship.’

Hermione laughed. ‘Kind of like us. I keep your mother off your back about supporting the werewolf campaigns, and you keep Harry and Ron entertained when I’m exhausted.’

He looked at her sharply, and she realised too late what she’d implied by her statement. She opened her mouth, not sure if she wanted to say she meant nothing by it or confirm that she did. Portentia came to an abrupt stop in front of George’s shop, and she was saved from doing either.

‘Look!’

They did. Hermione winced. There were fake house elves dressed as St. Nicholas’ elves in the WWW window. And one house elf was getting a spanking for being naughty. It had a pile of wheezes in front of it. The banner read: Being on the Naughty List is More Fun! Buy Wheezes for Your Loved Ones This Christmas!

‘It’s not subtle,’ Draco offered, head tilted sideways.

‘No,’ Hermione agreed.

‘I want to be an elf!’ said Portentia. ‘Mummy says I can only be an elf if I’m good, but these elves have been bad, and they’re still elves.’

Hermione’s face scrunched in a universal expression of “what the actual fuck?”. She did not say this, however. What she said was, ‘That’s lovely, Ten. Do you want to look at the display at the Build-a-Bugbear Factory?’

‘No, I like this one.’

‘There are more to see,’ Hermione said.

‘This one’s best.’ Portentia was firm on this. ‘Daddy says Mummy looks like an elf.’

Hermione wondered, not for the first time, if Harry had gone a bit mad after the final battle. She supposed he had to regularly pass a mental stability test to remain on the Auror force, and yet...

Anyway.

It was then that an owl landed on her shoulder, talons digging into the soft skin there as it balanced. It held out its foot, thrusting a letter in her face. The seal on the letter had the initials NBM.

‘Shi—zzle,’ Hermione said, correcting herself before little ears could pick up a new word. Portentia was rather too canny for Hermione’s liking sometimes. ‘It’s from Narcissa.’

Draco frowned. ‘What does my mother want with you now? You just saw her yesterday.’

Hermione passed Ten’s hand to him to hold onto and took the letter. She skimmed it quickly, her frown growing. She paled. ‘That article yesterday? It’s going to look like a love letter after today.’

‘Auntie Hermy!’ Portentia said, reaching out her hands. ‘Please!’

They swapped. Hermione picked Portentia up and hugged her close, feeling anxious as she hadn’t felt in years. Draco read through the letter once, twice, and folded it up with sharp, jerky movements. Draco’s mouth was pressed into a firm line. He looked all around, as if there was an answer in the holiday crowds, or maybe someone would jump out and tell them it was all a big joke.

People jostled them from all directions. Hermione chewed her lip, feeling the distinct urge to say words she reserved for potions explosions, but unable to do so in front of Harry’s child. She wanted to scream. For two years, things had been going well. Two whole years. And now everything was going to shit all at once.

Draco exhaled in a rush. Wordlessly, he took Hermione’s free hand and Apparated the three of them to the front steps of Malfoy Manor. The grounds were stark and silent, as if the jubilant crowds in Diagon were merely a dream. Maybe they had been.

Hermione took a deep breath. She was going to need it after today.

Because all those victimless werewolf incidents now had victims. Lots of them.

-x-

Hermione handled his mother better than he did, Draco thought with some amount of irritation. Although, maybe the irritation stemmed from his father playing his Arctic Kneazles record too loudly only a few doors down. Or maybe he was just putting off thinking about the contents of his mother’s letter.

Anyway, Draco liked to watch her at it. It was easy to forget himself, to forget that whatever-last-night-was might have only been a one-night stand in Hermione’s eyes, and as long as they didn’t get awkward, they could carry on just as they had before.

Which was torture for Draco, really, but he was a werewolf, and therefore used to that sort of thing on the monthly, at least.

There was a certain amount of give and take between his mum and Granger, but unlike his father—and, really, anyone else—Hermione exacted equal payment for every demand she gave up to Narcissa. Hermione was currently yelling at his mother in French, most likely because she was not using entirely child-friendly words, and little Potter was in the room playing with some of Draco’s old toys. Draco shifted in his chair, attempting to subtly adjust himself before two overly observant women. Merlin, who knew he’d one day find himself so bloody aroused by such a dominant woman?

He’d let her be his Alpha any day…

Good heavens, that’s taking it a bit far, he thought to himself. He’d let her be Alpha with him any day. As she already was. Don’t get weird, Draco, he told himself.

Granger leaned forward, eyes narrowed, as she discussed the fallout with his mother. Merlin, that fierce gaze. She was like a wolf even when she was human. Draco could smell her anger and anxiety. He adjusted himself again. Fortunately, they were too absorbed in retaining PR control to give him and his inconvenient halfie much notice.

‘How could this happen?’ Hermione said, in impeccable French. ‘How could twenty people go missing for a fortnight and the Auror office is only finding out about it now, two weeks after the last full moon?’

Narcissa sipped a cup of tea recently provided by their head house elf, Bertram. ‘Hermione darling, you seem to be under the misapprehension that I am your secretary.’

Hermione flopped back in her chair. ‘How did you come by this information anyway?’

‘Not your secretary,’ Narcissa repeated, slipping her reading glasses on and flipping through a stack of parchments.

Draco loved a good political scandal as much as the next aristocrat, but the lycanthropy fight hit too close to home for him to play the game as objectively as Hermione and his mother did. He helped where he could, but had long since realised that it was better to leave them to it. The bite, after all, had only worsened his temper. And that was no good for their platform when he was having to field questions from discourteous, poorly-clothed, bourgeois reporters. And also, he hated the way people looked at him—he was both ex-Death Eater and werewolf. There was no “war hero” label to offset their disgust for him, so he was happy to remain in the wings while Hermione gave brilliant, stirring speeches and argued their rights before the Wizengamot.

Hermione pushed her wild hair behind her ear with one hand and turned to glare at him, as if he had the answers to dealing with his mother. He shrugged, and it seemed to calm her a little. She gave him a small, tired smile. ‘What should we do, Draco?’ she asked.

‘Kill them before the news gets out and then blackmail all the Aurors into falsifying the report.’

His mother gave him a look. ‘Draco.’

He shrugged. ‘It’s what Father would’ve done.’

Hermione grimaced, and he guiltily realised he’d probably gone too far. Portentia looked at him solemnly. He probably should’ve said the part about murder and blackmail in a language an Auror’s daughter didn’t understand, too.

‘We aren’t interested in Lucius’ solutions at this point in time,’ Narcissa said, rather politically, if Draco was asked. She’d put up with a great deal of shit from his father over the years and Lucius knew it, which was the only reason he didn’t put up more of a fight for dominance in the Manor any longer. That and the fact that Narcissa was better at Arithmancy and therefore managed the estate well enough without his input.

‘Fine,’ he said. ‘Have they taken the werewolves into custody—protective or otherwise?’

‘No,’ said Narcissa. ‘The Ministry just received the communiqué this morning; they’re still looking for the werewolves.’

This was getting very complicated. And strange. ‘Then I suggest we find them and get them on our side before the Auror force does.’

Hermione bit her lip, considering. ‘What other information do we have?’

‘Very little,’ Narcissa admitted. ‘My sources have traced the owl’s origin to Scotland. The writer claimed that he or she had created twenty werewolves.’

‘For what purpose?’ Draco couldn’t help asking.

Narcissa shook her head. ‘There was no explanation given—but we can all imagine the result it will have. At this point, the perpetrator’s motive is unimportant to us; we must now handle the fallout of this and the Dutch article.’

She sighed, rubbing her temples, and Draco’s stomach did a little flip. He’d never seen his mother so out of sorts. Well, not since His Lordship was in residence, anyway.

‘Okay,’ said Hermione. ‘I’ll see what I can get out of Harry and Ron. That is, if they haven’t been pulled off the case because of conflict of interest.’

Hermione stood up again to pace back and forth as she and Narcissa returned to rapid-fire French brainstorming, neatly sidestepping little Potter and her building blocks. She was calmer now, but Draco could still smell the residual anger rolling off her in waves of heady pheromones. And bugger, but Draco wanted. He wanted her fully and wholly and without the excuse of a disappointment at the lab between them.

Narcissa’s office door opened after a quick knock, and his father stuck his head in. He scanned the scene before him, quickly noting Hermione and Narcissa’s intense discussion, the stacks of newspapers, blackmail folders, background information on various Ministry personnel, and Potter’s daughter playing with Draco’s old snap-and-build blocks on the floor. He then turned to Draco and lifted one eyebrow.

Draco did not need further incentive. He stood, holding out his hand for little Potter. ‘Come on then, Potterette,’ he said. ‘Bring your blocks and we’ll go play somewhere more fun.’

Neither of the women even noticed him leaving; such was life. Portentia did collect her things and take his hand, and they followed Lucius out of Narcissa’s very modern office and down the hall into Lucius’s more traditional one. Where his mother’s office was all light grey walls, black leather furniture, and—Draco shuddered—silver accents everywhere, his father’s was warm wood and cosy leather. And it had scotch.

‘Shall I assume it understood between us that babysitting Potters is beneath Malfoys?’ his father asked, as he summoned an elf to bring Potterette a warm pumpkin juice and a plate of choco bikkies. The Arctic Kneazles were still playing in the background, more softly now at least.

‘Thank you, Mr Mawfoy,’ Portentia said around a biscuit. ‘Daddy doesn’t let me have choco bikkies before dinner, but Mummy says his head’s infested.’ She then returned to ignoring them in favour of her blocks.

Lucius smirked.

Draco shrugged and accepted the scotch, taking a seat on the well-worn leather couch opposite the fire. His mother didn’t have a fireplace in her office. She liked to keep visitors cold and uncomfortable so they’d be more likely to acquiesce to her demands just to escape her frigid office.

‘Probably for the best,’ Draco agreed.

The music changed, and Draco was certain the gramophone was now playing Kate Bush. He knew her only because Granger had her albums, and she looked almost exactly like her—and Hermione’s voice got just as high-pitched when she was especially hacked-off. He was not convinced, however, that his father realised she was a Muggle.

‘Who's that playing?’ he asked, to be certain.

‘Kate Banshee,’ said Lucius. ‘A witch from Welling. Your mother bought me the record for my fiftieth. Delightful lyrical coloratura soprano. I’ve no idea why she isn’t more popular.’

Riiiight, Draco thought. It would be a cold day before he was the one to clue his father in on the fact that all these “wizarding” musicians’ records Narcissa bought for him were actually Muggles, or, at best, wizards who happily performed in the Muggle world.

‘Nice,’ he said instead.

Lucius smiled and nodded. He bent forward, making a fair attempt at playing with little Potter for a moment before he straightened up again and regarded Draco over the rim of his scotch glass. ‘Your mother refuses to listen to reason about the werewolf gala.’

Draco grimaced. Here we go again. ‘Yes, unfortunately. A disaster waiting to happen.’

His father sighed. ‘I am not the only sane person in this family, I see. Thank Merlin for small miracles.’

‘We’re going anyway,’ Draco added. ‘Hermione and I.’

Lucius pulled a face he certainly would not have had he been in the company of anyone but his immediate family. ‘Bollocks. Draco, I had hoped you would talk your mother around. I really cannot afford to have Aurors on the grounds again. I’ve only just had the parquet floors in the ballroom refinished after the last time. Do they not take their boots off for any occasion? One wonders if they’re able to even see to their wives without—’ He broke off abruptly, remembering Portentia. Draco smirked.

‘What exactly is going on between you and Ms Granger?’ his father asked then. ‘I’ve long since resigned myself to having her in my home, but of late I get the unsettling feeling that she is more than your colleague and your mother’s campaign manager.’

Draco’s stomach flipped. As of last night, he had no idea what was going on between them himself. He certainly hoped it was the beginning of something more...permanent. However, it was difficult to tell with Hermione. She was rather flighty when it came to non-academic affairs. He’d have to prod her along, Draco suspected.

And prod her along he would.

‘She’s my friend,’ he said.

Lucius sat back against the couch, elegantly crossing one ankle over his knee. ‘I suspect that both of you being werewolves lends a certain camaraderie to a relationship, one that would certainly not exist otherwise.’

Well, Lucius could think that if he wanted to, but the truth was Draco’d thought Granger fit ever since she slapped him in third year, and becoming friends with her after the bite had only turned his attraction into something worse—love.

‘Whatever the reason,’ said Draco, neatly sidestepping, ‘she’s here to stay. You might as well make friends with her now before Mother decides to adopt her.’

‘Do you not see enough of her at the full moon?’ Lucius asked. He waved a hand about, a vague gesture that could’ve meant anything from “as if” to “fuck this blasted fly”. ‘And of course at work.’

Draco shrugged, and sipped his scotch. ‘We get along well, both in and out of work.’

‘I cannot imagine wanting to spend so much time with one person,’ said Lucius. ‘I’m certain your mother would disembowel me if we had to share an office space. In fact, it occurs to me that I’m not entirely certain what you and Ms Granger do for the Ministry?’ Lucius prodded.

‘Consulting,’ said Draco. ‘On potions analysis.’

‘Ah,’ said Lucius, but he was frowning, as if he couldn’t recall ever seeing any potions consultants at the Ministry before. He hadn’t. They didn’t exist. Draco went through this same conversation with his family every few years whenever they remembered that he and Hermione had jobs, but that they weren’t sure what those jobs were.

‘My daddy works for the Ministry,’ Portentia offered, looking up at them with big, grey, Lovegood-esque eyes.

They stared down at her. She blinked, and returned the stare. Lucius looked away first. ‘How delightful, my dear,’ he said. She nodded and returned to her blocks.

‘Well, at any rate,’ Lucius continued, remembering his new favourite topic, ’this entire thing is madness. You must convince your mother to cancel this gala, especially after the news today.’

Draco blinked at the sudden return to their old topic. That was most unlike his father; he was usually much subtler. The party must really be worrying him. Instead he said, ‘Have you ever known me to be able to convince Mother of anything? Anything at all?’

Lucius frowned, then stood to prod at the logs in the hearth with the poker. He regarded the family portrait above the mantelpiece, staring balefully back at Narcissa, who was smirking down at him.

‘I suppose not,’ he admitted. ‘And she has been less inclined to entertain my...fancies after the business with our houseguest.’ By which he meant the Dark Lord, rest his seven souls (in misery).

‘You did rather bugger that one up,’ Draco said, eyebrows raised. Lucius turned to sneer at him over his shoulder, and poked at the fire one last time before returning to his seat.

‘When you have a wife and children, you are free to make your own mistakes, Draco,’ Lucius said.

Draco smirked. Point for him. He felt a little daring now. Daring enough to rile Lucius up a bit. ‘Even if they’re half-bloods?’

His father sucked in a startled breath. ‘Draco, you can’t be serious.’

‘And if I am?’

Lucius’ eyes narrowed. ‘Are we talking a half-blood wife and acceptably-pureblood children, or a mu—muggleborn wife and half-blood children?’

Draco shrugged. ‘Who knows? Could be either, really. The political climate is really very well suited for that sort of thing now. Imagine the social capital Malfoys could gain by allying with a well-liked muggleborn?’

‘Draco, if you’re suggesting an arranged marriage between yourself and Ms Granger, I really must insist that you consider Astoria Greengrass instead. Her family was distinctly neutral during the scuffle and would be social capital enough.’

‘I’d rather marry for love,’ Draco said.

Lucius seemed relieved. Draco held back a smirk.

‘Good,’ said his father. Then, again: ‘Good.’ He gave a little shudder. ‘Imagine having to adjust all the wards to make the Manor safe for Muggle in-laws at holidays. I simply could not bear it. I’m entirely too old for that kind of thing. Tolerance is something I will leave for the young. I’ve done my part by consenting not to kill them.’

Draco had never even met the Grangers, but it brought up interesting ideas. He wondered what they were like. He always Disapparated as soon as Hermione’s parents yelled through the Floo, having no desire whatsoever to make small talk about automobiles and electricity, or whatever it was Muggles talked about when they had nothing in common with other people. But for this, it might be worth it. Maybe he could ask them to recommend more Muggle musicians for his father.

‘Very big of you, Father,’ Draco said.

‘I rather thought so,’ Lucius agreed. Then, ‘If your mother is determined to see this ridiculous farce through to the bitter end, which it does appear she is, then it falls to you and me, my son, to ensure that none of us ends up in Azkaban for it.’

‘How do you suggest we do such a thing?’ Draco asked, one eyebrow raised. ‘Potter and Weasley are coming, so at least we’ll have two witnesses on our side. That’s really all we can hope for.’

Lucius grimaced, as if physically pained by the threat of having a Potter and a Weasley in the Manor again. It was, Draco suspected, more agonising than having Hermione there on a semi-regular basis.

Fortunately, there was a knock at the door before an elf led Hermione in. She had a stack of folders hovering behind her and a harassed look on her face. She caught sight of Portentia and sighed in relief.

‘There you are, darling,’ she said, crouching down to help Portentia collect the snap-and-build blocks. Then, absently, ‘Hello, Mr Malfoy.’

‘Ms Granger.’

‘You didn’t even notice me taking her out?’ Draco said.

She exhaled heavily. ‘Goodness, Draco, don’t tease me so. You knew Narcissa and I were distracted. This is serious.’

‘I know,’ he said. She looked up from little Potter and gave him a grateful smile. And maybe it was just him, but he thought there was something deeper in it this time, something secret and seductive, just for him. He couldn’t help smiling back.

She settled Portentia on her hip, even though the child was entirely too heavy for that now, and set her blocks hovering with the files. ‘Are we ready? Or are you staying here? We could grab lunch if you’d like. Ron said there’s a new sushi place in Hoxton, and I need to buy a new pair of shoes for the gala—I’ll let you pick them out.’

Sushi and shopping? Merlin, it was like she was made for him.

He was out of his chair before she could even finish the last word. ‘I’ll come,’ he said.

‘Can I have shoes, too, Auntie Hermy?’

‘Of course, darling,’ said Hermione. ‘What kind of shoes does your daddy like the least?’

Portentia considered this. ‘The ones with sparkles ‘cos he says they’re barmy. But Mummy likes those, and me, too.’

‘Then sparkle shoes we shall get for you, Ten. And be sure to wear them around Daddy all the time.’

Portentia beamed. Draco did, too. Hermione really was the perfect woman. Fuck, he was so in love. Too in love, in fact, to notice the considering look Lucius was giving him as they left.

-x-

‘Daddy doesn’t like sushi,’ Portentia, who had no such problems herself, declared.

‘Daddy is a bourgeois, cretan-ish philistine,’ Draco offered.

Portentia nodded, as if she knew what this meant. With Lovegood for a mother, Draco suspected it quite possible that she did. ‘He’s infested with nargles.’

And there was the Lovegood half showing its arse again.

Hermione kicked Draco beneath the table. ‘Don’t listen to him, darling. All of those things are mutually exclusive.’

Somehow they managed to get through lunch without any further crises falling onto Hermione’s head, but the day was young yet. Draco wouldn’t be surprised if she got an owl telling them that some half-crazed witch had resurrected Fenrir Greyback in order to seduce him into impregnating her and continuing his line of batshit crazy, lyncathropic—

Actually, that was taking it a bit far. He was spending too much time around his father if he was starting to be so melodramatic in his own head. Draco’s hand settled on Hermione’s thigh beneath the table. She twitched, startled, and he saw her face heat up. He bit his lip to hold back the smirk that she certainly wouldn’t appreciate.

Draco took care of the bill for lunch and they headed over to Hogsmeade for Granger’s shoes, as Draco was unimpressed with the quality of those sold at Madam Malkin’s and the cobbler in London was one of the shops who still didn’t serve werewolves. Fortunately, Gladrags had no such compunctions, and while they specialised in clothing, not shoes, they at least were willing to sell to him.

‘What the hell is with all this ecru?’ Draco said, upon seeing their selection. ‘Who wears ecru to a winter ball? For the love of Merlin, please bring the woman a fucking white stiletto.’

Hermione quite agreed, if her expression was anything to go by. The shop witch, on the other hand, seemed distressed. Little Potter blinked up at him with huge eyes. Draco froze, realising his mistake about two swear words too late.

Hermione scowled at him, then turned to Potterette to say, ‘Oh, Ten, that’s such a bad word. Proper witches don’t say such naughty words, and you’re a proper witch, aren’t you?’

Portentia considered. ‘Is Daddy a proper witch? He says those words all the time, ‘specially when Uncle Ron’s football team plays his. When he’s winning, he says, “Who the fuck are Man United, who the fu—”’

‘That,’ Hermione quickly interrupted, ‘is not a proper witch word, remember, Ten?’

She nodded. ‘But then Uncle Ron gets really happy when Arsenal scores and he sings a song that goes like, “Oh Manchester is full of—”’

‘That’ll do, Portentia,’ Draco said sternly. His stern voice was much better than Hermione’s, so she actually listened.

Portentia frowned. ‘So Daddy and Uncle Ron aren’t proper then?’

‘Good heavens, no,’ Hermione said, absently, frowning at the newest selection of heels offered to her by the shop witch. ‘But they’re grownups, so they don’t have to be proper.’

She frowned, seeming to realise the mistake she’d set herself up for when Portentia turned seventeen, then appeared to dismiss it, unimportant. Potter could deal with that when it happened. ‘It occurs to me,’ whispered Hermione to Draco, ‘that it’s a really good thing female werewolves can’t carry to term. Imagine the horror of me as a mother.’

Draco rather thought it was saying something when Luna Lovegood turned out to be more Mum-ish than Hermione Granger, but he was smart enough not to say anything.

‘I suppose,’ he said. Then, to the shop witch: ‘These are all ivory. Her dress is white. I want white shoes. Can you do that for me, or would you rather we convert our galleons to pounds and have a looksee at Harrod’s?’

The shop witch narrowed her eyes at him, and pointedly tapped the latest shoe with her wand. It brightened into shiny white patent leather.

‘All of Gladrags’ “Festive and Fun” line is colour charm-able, sir. The spell will last for four hours before reverting to the original colour.’

‘Ah, perfect,’ he said, turning the shoe about for a better look. ‘That wasn’t so hard, was it? Granger, try this one on.’ Little Potter had, in the meantime, selected her own pair of sparkle shoes for purchase, and Draco was impressed with the level of ostentation the Gladrags designers were able to fit onto one small shoe. Potter would be horrified by them, and so Draco was therefore in full support.

They were a bit late getting back to Hermione’s flat, and by the time they’d set her bags down, the Floo was flaring to life. Lovegood’s head poked through, looking as batty in flames as it did normally. ‘Hello, Hermione, Draco,’ she said. ‘Is my monster about?’

‘I’m heeeeeere,’ Portentia sang, bounding in from the kitchen in her new shoes. She still had her winter hat on, and it was sinking down to cover her eyes. Draco adjusted it as she ran past, and then scowled at Granger when she noticed. ‘I’m a monster!’

‘A very scary one,’ Luna agreed. ‘Does this monster want to come home and have spaghetti frogs and marshmallows for tea?’

‘Yes!’

Draco and Hermione shared a horrified look. Potterette was duly ushered through the fireplace, and Draco sank onto Hermione’s couch, sighing in relief. His relaxation didn’t last for long, though, as the Floo flared green yet again. Mother of Merlin, could he not get a break today? It was a Saturday, for Merlin’s sake. He should not have been required to do so much work.

A woman who looked remarkably like Hermione was peering out at them, and he realised, with some horror, that it was her mother. Her Muggle mother. She’d want to talk about computers and laser pointers with him, and he was really not prepared for that, even after four years of Muggle Studies. And yet, the conversation with his father came to mind, and he was...intrigued. What exactly was a Muggle Granger like?

‘Hello, sweetheart!’

Draco could hear the Exuberant Muggle in every syllable. Buggering hell, how did these people produce Granger?

‘Hi Mum,’ said Hermione, walking over to kneel in front of the hearth. She shot Draco a look over her shoulder as if she could tell what he was thinking. She probably could.

‘You’ve a gentleman there with you?’ Granger’s mother asked.

Draco could imagine the grimace Hermione wore, even if he could only see the back of her bushy head right now. ‘Yes, it’s just Draco.’

Just Draco, indeed! he thought.

‘Oh, your werewolf? How lovely! You can bring him to Christmas dinner with you. I’d like to finally meet this young man.’

‘I really don’t think—’

‘I’ll come,’ Draco said, before Hermione could make his excuses for him.

Christmas itself was a novel idea to him. Christmas with Muggles even more novel. But Christmas with Granger’s Muggles? That was quite the interesting prospect indeed. Meeting her parents had to be a good idea if he was going to convince her to pursue this new thing between them. If he made the acquaintance of her parents, then he’d be that much closer to getting them to sign a betrothal contract with him, or whatever it was Muggles did when a strapping young wizard came to court their daughter.

Hermione turned back to him, an apologetic look on her face. ‘You really don’t have to.’

He scowled, feeling extremely wrong-footed. ‘Maybe I want to. What else will I be doing that day? The Department stopped letting me come into work on the twenty-fifth three years ago. Now I just sit in your flat watching your telly.’

She rolled her eyes and returned to the Floo. ‘All right, Mum. We’ll be there next week. What time?’

‘Three, sweetheart. Bring a red wine, if you don’t mind.’

Mrs Granger departed the grate with a cheery wave in Draco’s general direction. He would have waved back, but Hermione’s head was mostly blocking the view, and he did not wave. Hermione warded the Floo from new callers, and came to came to sit down next to him, and he just knew they were about to talk about it.

She eyed him. ‘So.’

Draco let his head fall back against the cushions. ‘I swear to you Granger, if you’ve spent this whole day thinking of a way to politely say, “Last night—and this morning—was a mistake,” I will throttle you.’

She looked doubtful. Her words proved it. ‘I doubt you could, really...’

He glared at her from one eye. ‘You were going to say it, weren’t you?’

‘I just don’t want to ruin our friendship,’ she said quietly.

He grimaced. What utter Gryffindorish nonsense. ‘You know we can’t go back to that.’

She looked away, and he could hear her heartbeat speeding up again. ‘I know.’

‘Then.’ He paused, swallowing around the sudden lump in his throat. ‘Then let’s give it a try instead. We’re good together.’

‘Sex?’ she said.

He shrugged as nonchalantly as he could. ‘If you want.’ But, Merlin did he want more than that.

She seemed to deflate. ‘Draco, we’d ruin everything. We’ve both got...very demanding personalities. Can you really see us working out?’

Yes. ‘Maybe.’

‘Maybe won’t help us if we begin to hate one another, but still have to share the same lab, the same friends, and your mother.’

‘It’s already happened, Granger,’ he said. ‘Whatever damage that might be done is done. Stop using your rational human side for half a second and use your irrational werewolf side. I smell right to you. Admit it. I smell like your mate. I always have done, just like you’ve always smelled like mine.’

Her eyes widened, and he knew he was right. He could smell her, too, after all. And all these years, she’d smelled like the only good thing in the room, no matter where they were. Their werewolf sides had chosen one another, that was true. But that didn’t mean that their human sides had to choose one another, too. And that’s what he was afraid of, that, when it came down to it, Hermione would be the one to ignore the werewolf in her.

And wouldn’t that be hilarious? She was the one who felt perfectly fine about her lycanthropy, and he was the one who rather hated it. Yet, now, it seemed, he would be the one embracing it, while she tried to distance herself.

Draco would not have it. ‘Just—don’t say no yet. Think about it, if you have to. Just don’t say no.’

Hermione frowned. But after a moment of tense silence, she did nod, and Draco let out the breath he hadn’t realised he’d been holding. ‘Okay,’ she said. ‘I won’t say no.’

That was the best he was going to get right now. And as his father would say, ‘The best one is going to get is much less than what a Malfoy will get,’ so that rather settled things. He’d just have to get more. It was time, he supposed, to take up his own political campaign. He’d leave the werewolf ones to Hermione.

His campaign was one for her heart—and because it was Hermione, her head, too.

Chapter Text

Chapter 05: New Year, New Wolves

It occurred to Draco that Hermione and his mother were both missing a very salient point in regards to this new quandary with the baby werewolves. They had a pack, and that pack was already thirty-nine strong.

According to Granger, anyway.

She and Narcissa knew the names of each and every person who’d been bitten the night of the final battle, Draco knew only those who’d chosen to expose themselves to him over the course of the seven years following. They were his pack; he knew that instinctively, but he didn’t know who they were until he smelled them, but he certainly hadn’t run into thirty-eight other werewolves.

Yet, if there were thirty-nine of them, that meant that they weren’t entirely in a position of weakness. They could fight this. They had allies. Probably some of those allies were in positions of power.

Well—Draco could hope, anyway.

He thought about this as he frowned down at the new denims Tacitus Twilfit was now fitting him into.

‘Are you quite sure about these, Twilfit?’ Draco asked, with some disbelief.

‘All the rage, sir,’ he said around a mouthful of pins. ‘Still dress to the left?’

‘Yes,’ said Draco. Twilfit tapped his wand against Draco’s inside trouser and the fit snugged up a bit. Draco frowned as the denim trousers tightened against his bum. He turned his head to look. Not bad.

‘I don’t recall these being so tight last time I bought a pair,’ Draco observed anyway.

‘Though it pains me, sir, I assure you this is the current trend.’

Draco lifted an eyebrow. ‘And you’re sure they’ll be appropriate for meeting Muggles on Christmas?’

‘Quite sure, sir.’

He would just have to believe Twilfit, he supposed. It wasn’t like he was that familiar with Muggle fashion trends. He was just paying for his indecent new trousers when the evening Prophet was delivered to the shop. It landed on the counter as Draco signed for the account draft. He glanced at the headline, and his fingers tightened around the quill.

New research into origins of lycanthropy suggests disease once sought-after by early wizards

That—was not the headline he was expecting at all.

It was, in fact, the opposite of what he’d been expected. Which was a social blood bath after the Prophet got ahold of the Dutch study on the ties to Demon blood. Or the news about new werewolves. Something was going on here, and Draco did not like being in the dark.

He finished scrawling his name and passed the draft parchment back to Twilfit. Their eyes met and held over the newspaper. The door jangled, and Madam Edgecombe, the snotty Floo Network Regulator that Draco’s father liked to keep in his pocket, walked in. Draco spared her a single glance and then turned back to Twilfit, one eyebrow lifted—waiting.

‘A pleasure as always, Mr Malfoy. Twilfit and Tattings does appreciate your continued patronage.’

That was what Draco liked to hear. He was bloody well fed up with all of these bigoted arses refusing him service. Draco gave him a brilliant smile. ‘Likewise, Twilfit. Do have a lovely evening.’

He Disapparated as soon as he stepped outside the shop. Hermione had some explaining to do.

 

-x-

‘No one’s going to fall for this,’ Draco said, tossing his own copy of the paper down onto Hermione’s coffee table. ‘And you can’t expect me to believe you had nothing to do with it.’

She looked up at him from a bowl of blood pudding, and he knew he was in for a long night if she was eating comfort food.

He swished his wand and sent her array of papers from the couch to settle neatly on the floor. She muted Gordon Ramsay just as he was settling into a tirade on the quality of some poor Muggle’s attempt at crème brûlée.

‘I take it you don’t believe the story then,’ she said, nodding to the headline.

He gave her a disbelieving look. ‘It might as well have said we were descended from unicorns.’

She rolled her eyes. ‘It’s true, actually.’

That gave him pause. ‘What?’

Her mouth twisted, as if she were struggling with some great moral dilemma. She probably was, knowing her. Hermione got upset about not having clean green socks to wear on St Patrick’s day, after all. ‘It’s sort of true,’ she amended. ‘I found a reference to it last night, and I drafted the story for the Prophet to print. There are...a few embellishments.’

Well, that was very unlike her. He suspected his mother had encouraged most of the embellishments.

‘But why would the Prophet print something favourable about us?’ he asked. ‘They never do.’

This was starting to sound like it was a deeper scheme than even he had anticipated. How much really went on behind the scenes with Granger and his mother? A cold feeling settled into his stomach. He might have to have a word with his mother about this. He took the bowl of blood pudding from her and scooped a bite into his mouth.

She sighed, and he saw her bring out her wand and snap it towards the doors and windows. The oppressive feeling of a high-level security spell fell all around them. She glanced at him, then back towards the muted television, where Gordon was now throwing his arms up in disgust. ‘Your mother got hold of the list of new werewolves from the Aurors. They finally found them—all Obliviated of course, so they’ve no idea who took them or bit them. The Ministry’s still keeping it really quiet; even Harry and Ron didn’t know who all was on the list.’

‘Who’s on it?’ Draco asked, with some trepidation. It was better not to question where the information came from.

‘Barnabas Cuffe.’

Draco’s mouth dropped open. ‘The Editor of the Prophet?’

She grimaced. ‘The one.’

Draco smirked. Hermione was already enacting the plan to get the new werewolves on their side then. ‘That’s perfect. If anyone deserves this curse, it’s that nasty old twat.’

‘Malfoy!’ she said sharply. ‘It’s not perfect that an old man is going to spend the last of his days in monthly agony. You know the change is more painful for wizards bitten late in life. He’s not even fully healed yet. Hasn’t even told his family for Loki’s sake.’

He rolled his eyes. ‘Fine. But even you must admit that it’s a blessing for our side.’

‘We aren’t at war,’ she muttered. ‘There shouldn’t have to be sides.’

He laughed darkly. ‘And yet, there are. What’s got you in such a mood then?’

‘So many people,’ she said, taking the bowl back from him. She took a large bite, chewing thoughtfully. ‘The wizarding world’s population isn’t large to begin with. If you think about it, there’ve been sixty new werewolves that we know of just in the last ten years. It’s almost one per cent of our entire British population—it may actually be one per cent, if we factor in all the ones we don’t know about.’

Draco considered this. ‘Who are the others?’

When she didn’t answer, he turned to her, but found that her eyes were still glued to the television set. Whether she was actually watching or just staring, he didn’t know. Not until she said, ‘I’d rather not say just yet.’

Draco felt a rush of anger, and she twitched, no doubt smelling the new pheromones. Still, she didn’t turn to him or show her neck. He loved that about her, how she stood her ground around him. How she was always Alpha to his Alpha. And then she twitched again, no doubt smelling the lust that followed the anger.

He pursed his lips, refusing to acknowledge it. ‘Why?’

And now she did finally turn to him, and her eyes were narrowed. ‘Because you’re not there, Draco. You never have been. You want to hide away in our lab and pretend like our disease doesn’t exist, or that you can eliminate it, fine, you do that. That’s how you deal; I can appreciate that. But you can’t expect me to give away other peoples’ secrets when you haven’t been there.’

‘That’s ridiculous,’ he said. ‘I’ve done nothing but try to find a cure for this wretched curse since the day I left St Mungo’s!’

‘Yeah, and that’s it!’ she said. ‘You never wanted to help with any of the campaigns or anything. You don’t even like to acknowledge that it happens. All you ever do is work on that stupid cure, and there’s no point to it!’

‘How is there no point if it stops us being werewolves?’ he asked.

‘There’s nothing wrong with being a werewolf!’ Hermione said. She threw her empty bowl at the wall in anger. It shattered, leaving behind cracked plaster that she’d have to fix in the morning.

‘The hell there isn’t!’ Draco snarled. ‘It controls our entire lives!’

‘No, your research controls our lives! You’ve worked on nothing else since we were unhooded, passing up all sorts of opportunities! You haven’t even bothered to help with this new assignment from Apex, and I know that would’ve interested you once.’

‘Once,’ he agreed. ‘Now it’s not important. Humanity is important.’

She flopped back against the couch, and Draco couldn’t help noticing that her eyes were shiny. ‘What’s the point of that if you’ve got no life?’ she asked, more quietly now. He had nothing to say to that. She continued. ‘What if the cure is worse than the curse?’

He shook his head. ‘It can’t be.’

She looked pained.

‘What?’ he said.

She shook her head. ‘I’m sorry, nevermind.’

Draco exhaled in a rush. He shouldn’t have been annoyed by this but he was. She was right; he had distanced himself as much as he could, letting her—and his mother, since the Registry had been abolished—handle all the petitions, legislation, interviews, and other publicity.

There was a heavy silence left over in the wake of Hermione’s outburst. Two streets down, Draco heard a hag calling out shellfish for sale, and below them, Mr and Mrs Abelard were sitting down to dinner; the apothecary below them was quiet. Hermione’s window was open. Her illicitly-planted Jacqueline Postills were blooming in the alley below, and he could smell them as clearly as if they were Hermione’s own perfume.

Hermione turned away from him, wiping discreetly at her eyes. Draco stared at her, bemused. What could he say to that? Nothing, apparently. She unmuted the television, Gordan Ramsay’s ranting again filled the flat, but the heavy silence between Hermione and Draco lingered.

 

-x-

‘Hello, Mum,’ Draco said from the doorway.

Narcissa looked up, a smile lighting up her face. She set her quill aside and rose to greet him, gliding gracefully across the room to kiss him on both cheeks. ‘No work today?’ she asked. ‘Isn’t it coming up on that holiday everyone’s always talking about?’

‘Christmas,’ said Draco. ‘It’s tomorrow. I’ve the afternoon off.’

‘Ah,’ she said, smiling. ‘The middle class will have their little traditions.’ She turned and led him over to the couch and chairs arranged by the window at the side of her office. She snapped her fingers and their head elf appeared. ‘Tea, Bertram.’

Draco sat across from her, and she passed him a cup of tea nearly as soon as he’d done so. She and Bertram were both scarily efficient. They sipped. A silence stretched out, but it was nothing like the unusual reticence of the night before with Hermione. This silence didn’t make his blood vessels ache with distress; this silence didn’t make him both angry and aroused (thank Merlin).

‘How are you?’ asked Narcissa. She seemed so pleased by his unexpected visit that he couldn’t bear to answer with a standard, “Oh, fine”.

Instead he said, ‘I’m well, and you, Mum?’ Which wasn’t much better, but it at least encouraged conversation.

‘Delighted by your presence, naturally,’ said Mum. She sipped at her tea. ‘The Wasps are projected to do well next season.’

Draco would’ve rolled his eyes if she hadn’t been his mother. She knew entirely too well how to get him going. The Wasps were not—Draco would admit—the best team in the Premier League, but they were at least in the Premier League, which Weasley’s Cannons could not claim. And they were also his team and his mother’s, too, since he’d forced her to take him to so many matches during his pre-Hogwarts years. This was, of course, when the Wasps were still winning.

‘I expect they’ll make top fifteen this year,’ Draco agreed. Her mouth twitched in amusement and he knew he would just have to get directly to the point if he wanted answers. His mother was perfectly capable of small-talking for, literally, hours, and perfectly content to do it with her son, too. Slytherin, thy name was Narcissa Black Malfoy. She could outlast anyone—anyone—in obfuscation or derailment.

With a sigh, Draco accepted the fact that there was a time for power plays and that time was never with his mother. He got straight to the point. ‘What will you tell me about the new werewolves? I know you have the list of names.’

She didn’t so much as lift an eyebrow. ‘One wonders why you’re so curious so abruptly. You never cared overmuch before. I’m not entirely sure you even know everyone in your pack.’

Draco would’ve rolled his eyes, but his mother would try to scold him for it, so he settled for giving her a very pointed eyebrow raise. ‘I spend a great deal of time researching a cure, Mother,’ he said. ‘It takes up most of my time. And of course I spend two days a month brewing Wolfsbane for nearly all of the werewolves in Britain. In the past, I haven’t had the time or the inclination to care as much as the two of you, but I’ve since...reconsidered.’

‘Reconsidered,’ Narcissa said, finally lifting that eyebrow.

Draco did roll his eyes then. ‘Yes.’

She sighed and sat back in her chair. ‘Draco, this is very undignified.’

‘I beg your pardon?’

She flapped her hand and Bertram appeared to refresh their teapot. ‘All of these excuses, darling. Hermione has the same commitments as you do and she still manages to make it to Wizengamot meetings and benefit dinners.’

‘Hermione’s unnatural. She requires four hours of sleep per night.’

‘We’re all unnatural, Draco, and your lycanthropy is here to stay. Why not embrace it?’

Embrace it?’ he asked. She couldn’t be serious.

She was. ‘Of course, darling. There are many positive aspects to lycanthropy. Greater strength, quick healing, immunity from many spells, improved senses…really it’s quite invigorating. Did you know that lying has a scent?’

‘No,’ he admitted, grudgingly. He knew where this was going.

She smiled lazily at him. ‘It does. Pay attention and you may learn to detect it. When you lie, for example, it smells like those horrible little fruits your father brought back from China during your third year. What were they called?’

‘Kumquats.’ He thought they were nice, actually.

‘Yes, those. Beastly little things. Like oranges without good breeding. It makes me shudder to think of them. Darling, you reek of them when you talk about your reasons for avoiding your lycanthropy. Do please avoid putting me through such ordeals in future. I admit that I’m grateful for your lycanthropy. Without it, you might be dead instead, do you see? I’d happily walk through Fenrir Greyback again to keep you alive and a werewolf than dead and human.’

Draco shuddered. Most of the time, he managed to avoid thinking about the night they were both bitten. He remembered limping into the Great Hall half-supporting Granger and Weasley, and half-being supported. The smell of spellfire had been thick and overpowering, the shouts and screams of battle reverberating and ear-shattering. His mother had been covering his father’s back as he duelled Greyback, but Greyback had seen, or maybe smelled, the three of them come in to watch Potter and the Dark Lord, and he’d made a beeline straight for them.

Draco didn’t think he would ever forget the sight of his mother throwing herself in front of a half-transformed werewolf, or the way his stomach and heart had both dropped through the floor. His own bite was a bad memory. That one...that one was his absolute worst.

The best, as it happened, came two seconds later, with a green flash slamming into Greyback’s back as he sunk his teeth into Narcissa’s shoulder. And then his father’s satisfied and terrified gaze as Greyback slumped to the floor between them. Draco had fainted from blood loss shortly after. He remembered Weasley holding him up long enough to keep him from banging his head on the stone floor, but for all that Gryffindor bravado, Draco was reliably informed that Weasley hadn’t made it much longer.

‘I don’t like being a werewolf,’ he said, annoyed. ‘I can’t even wear the silver cufflinks Grandfather Abraxas gave me any longer.’

His mother gave him a look. ‘Oh, Draco. Have Bertram take them to the jeweller’s; our man in Diagon can make an exact replica out of platinum. You can put the originals in your vault for your heir.’

He scowled. ‘And how shall I acquire an heir? Who will want to mate with me?’

‘Don’t be crass, Draco.’ She didn’t offer an answer, though.

‘What if my chosen mate can’t carry a child to term?’ he asked then.

There was a moment of stunned silence, and he felt a little smug that he’d finally managed to surprise her. ‘You’re speaking of marrying another werewolf.’

‘Obviously.’

It didn’t take her long to connect the dots. ‘Hermione Granger.’

Draco regarded her evenly, his mouth turning up a bit. She was certainly more astute than Father. And yet, there was little point in being smug right now. ‘You’ve nothing to fear regarding our bloodline. We aren’t even speaking at the moment.’

Narcissa seemed to understand the importance of this, but all she said was, ‘Draco, really. I will not disclose anything further to you. It’s no longer my job to solve your problems. If Hermione’s angry with you then I suggest you sort it out. She gives great weight to the opinions of her loved ones. Given her interactions with you, I daresay you are one of them, so it behooves you to retain that trust.’

Draco’s face heated, despite himself. ‘Mother…’

‘Hush, Draco. You’re my only son. Our bloodline is pure enough. A little integration will not destroy it. She’s Muggle-born, not Muggle, after all.’

‘It wouldn’t make any difference either way,’ Draco said, caught wrong-footed by her strange and unexpected approval. ‘There could be no heir, pure-blooded or not.’

Narcissa waved a hand. ‘There are always cauldrons, my love. We are magic, after all. She set her teacup aside, suddenly all business. ‘Now, on the matter of the gala, I’d like your opinion on a few of your father’s associates. I’m really at my limit, but I suppose we must invite the Edgecombes and the Sinistras since they’ll both have a wolf here.’

 

-x-

He’d sent twelve owls over the course of the afternoon, apologizing. She’d returned the first eleven and then sent back, “Me too,” with the twelfth.

Things were still tense between them by the twenty-fifth, but Draco was determined to see this Christmas dinner through. And besides, he had nothing better to do. It couldn’t be worse than spending another dull evening at home with his parents, listening to the wireless and trying to figure out what people got out of this alleged holiday. And besides, he desperately wanted to impress her parents, even if they were Muggles.

Especially because they were Muggles. Liking Muggles, Draco had been reliably informed, was a good step for being keeping on the good side of Muggle-borns.

So he dressed in his Muggle clothes, combed his hair the way he did when they had an interdepartmental meeting at work, and chose a red wine from his father’s cellar to bring with. Hermione gave him a sardonic look when he Apparated to her flat. She was just stumbling into the living room, one shoe in her hand, the other apparently missing.

‘Still coming, are you?’ she said, bending over to peer under the couch.

He could’ve told she was still miffed at him by the sound of her voice alone, but the scent of it was practically rolling in the room. His mother might’ve been right about there being—one or two—advantages to lycanthropy. He took a moment to compose himself. The sight of her searching for her shoe wasn’t helping. He tried very hard not to enjoy the view, but she was in very form-fitting denim trousers and it was hard not to look. Draco bit his lip, hard.

‘Of course,’ said Draco, as if everything were perfect between them—and not, actually, the after effects of two glorious shags, an awkward conversation, and the both of them being pissed off at the other.

She came out from the couch with the second shoe, and hopped around while she struggled to put them on. He thought she might have an easier time of it if she looked down at what she was doing instead of watching him while she did so. ‘I half-expected you to send an owl cancelling,’ she said.

Draco withheld a sigh. Of course she wouldn’t make it easy on him. She probably wanted an apology. Draco couldn’t really fault her for that, but it didn’t change the fact that she was unlikely to get one. It just wasn’t his thing. ‘I want to meet your Muggles.’

‘My family,’ she corrected absently. She turned to go back into the bedroom, heels clicking on the wood floor. He followed her and stood in the doorway to watch as she selected a soft scarf and put it on. When she was done, she turned to him.

‘Ready?’ Still the miffed tone of voice.

He held out his arm for Side-Along. ‘I’m always ready, Granger.’

She Apparated them to some London suburb; he really had no idea which since wizards did not live in things like suburbs. The Grangers had a very elaborate and well-cared for garden, and Draco knew right away that Hermione was behind it. He could see her little guerilla touches in the slightly off colour of the night blooming flowers, in every not-quite-Muggle herb hidden amongst the pansies.

She rang the bell, ignoring him. He stood fidgeting on the steps. Merlin, this was going to be a disaster. He wondered, not for the first time, if this was going to turn out like Quidditch on school brooms—that was to say, with a crash.

 

-x-

‘Mum,’ Hermione whispered after the first round of “hello’s!” and “how’ve you been’s”. ‘You said you’d hide the silver from Granny.’

Her mother winced apologetically, taking her by the arm and walking her to the hall, away from the rest of their family. Malfoy trailed behind, looking far too interested in the conversation to miss out. ‘I did try, sweetheart. She’s canny, you know how she is. I had it in the airing cupboard and she found it within fifteen minutes. She’s been in polishing ever since.’

Hermione huffed. ‘Will you have Dad try again? It’s making my skin crawl.’

Her mum gave her an amused look and nodded. ‘I’ll certainly try. Much good it’s likely to do, though. Now Granny’s seen it, she’ll be suspicious. You might as well just grab some plasticware and hope she doesn’t notice.’

Hermione took a fortifying swig of her red wine, unconcerned with how uncultured that likely made her. Even in front of a Malfoy. She was going to need it tonight. He shifted, his bicep brushing against hers with the movement, and she wanted to shiver but refrained—barely. She was still angry with him, but he was being downright angelic tonight—for him, anyway—and every time he dragged his little finger against hers while her Aunt Yeva talked about her new book club, or every time he fetched her a canape, more and more of her anger melted away.

He always knew when she was hungry. That was so sexy. But also, it was kind and considerate. It wasn’t any different from how he normally was with her, she realized—well, with the exception of the added touching. Of which there was a lot. He seemed to take every opportunity he could to brush against her body or scent her hair. She was becoming hotter by the minute and it wasn’t all because of the wine.

‘Well, is this all you imagined Christmas with Muggles would be, Malfoy?’ she asked. She was still irritated, but she was calming down. He’d shown up, after all, and she hadn’t been expecting that.

He looked distinctly out of his element. Although if being out of his element always included those heart-stoppingly tight denims, Hermione was in favour. Draco turned to take in the crowd of Hermione’s relatives again, and she, in turn, took in his bum again.

Heavens. There had to be magic involved there.

‘I don’t quite know what I expected,’ he admitted. He both sounded and smelled tense to her, and she ached to nuzzle him and give him comfort, but they couldn’t do that here. Not in front of her parents, for heavens’ sake.

She nudged him to take another sip of his wine, and he did.

‘Well, you can always go home,’ she offered, secretly hoping he wouldn’t. She couldn’t help thinking over his words from the other night. She smelled like his mate, he’d said. And now that she paid attention…he smelled like hers. She hadn’t even known it had a smell before—it had always just smelled like “Malfoy” or “Draco”, depending on her level of irritation with him that day.

She hadn’t thought to look for it.

‘No,’ said Malfoy. ‘I want to know what all the fuss is with this Christmas thing.’

Hermione rolled her eyes. Granny came waddling over with a—ugh—silver platter of amuse-bouches. Hermione carefully grabbed two, using the tips of her fingernails to grab underneath and avoid touching the silver. The last thing they needed was her skin burning in front of a room full of Muggles. She passed one to Draco, not failing to miss the calculating look her old Granny was giving her.

‘Who’s this young man?’ she asked, as if Draco weren’t standing a foot from her.

‘Granny, this is Draco Malfoy. We work together.’

‘Mm,’ Granny said, eyeing Draco distrustfully. ‘Blond, isn’t he?’

‘He is,’ Hermione agreed.

‘A real blond?’ her grandmother asked.

Hermione’s face heated. ‘I’m sure I wouldn’t know, Granny.’

Apparently Draco didn’t either, as he was staring at the two of them as if they’d both lost their Muggle minds.

‘Hmm,’ Granny said again. She looked Draco up and down, frowning. ‘I don’t trust men who dye their hair,’ she said. ‘If they lie about that, they’ll lie about anything.’

Then she wandered off, passing the silver platter over to Hermione’s father, and settling down at their kitchen table with a glass of scotch and a mince pie in front of her. Good heavens, if she was getting into the scotch this early, they were definitely in for a long evening.

‘I don’t get it,’ said Draco.

Hermione pressed her lips together, uncomfortable. Pure-bloods, she thought with exasperation. ‘She was asking if I’d seen your genitals.’

He looked even more confused. Hermione huffed out a sigh, and added, ‘You know, if the top matched the bottom. It’s how you tell if someone colours their hair...if the bottom doesn’t match.’

Even this did not appear to clarify things for him. ‘If I were to spell my hair a different colour, wouldn’t I make it match, anyway?’

Hermione rolled her eyes. ‘Muggles don’t really have it that easy.’

She remembered the part where she had seen his bits, and going by the smirk that slid into place on his face, so did he. She noticed right away and smacked his arm lightly.

‘Not here, Malfoy. Honestly.’ Which only made her realise that she’d just implied elsewhere. She was trying to be mad at him, for Merlin’s sake. She flushed red. He sniffed the air, his lips twitching upwards, but didn’t look at her.

Was not sleeping with one’s friends always so difficult?

She didn’t remember it being so difficult after she and Ron split up. She’d never even thought about Draco naked before the other night, and now it was almost all she could think about. She’d even been fantasizing about his bum while she and Narcissa hashed out details for finding the new werewolves. Occlumency was great for segmenting one’s mind, so that one could literally think about two things at once. She wasn’t sure anyone else used it for fantasizing about fit pureblood wizards, but Hermione was nothing if not ingenious. And efficient. But it didn’t help her tonight. She wanted to be mad at Draco, and she was finding it difficult.

It wasn’t long before her dad found her. He sidled up to them with his little silver platter, ostensibly offering nibbles. Both Draco and Hermione grimaced, leaning as far away from the tray as possible, and her dad gave her an apologetic look before setting it aside on the credenza.

‘Have you got anything for me today?’

‘Hi Dad, happy Christmas,’ Hermione said pointedly.

He hugged her and ruffled her hair, and again, it couldn’t make it worse so Hermione didn’t complain. Dad reached out to shake Draco’s hand, and Hermione was relieved that Draco didn’t need prodding to return it.

‘Happy Christmas, sweetheart.’ There was a pause. ‘Well?’

Hermione sighed, rummaged around in her endless handbag, and closed her fingers around a slim vial. ‘It’s nutritive potion.’

He took it, holding it up to the light to peer at the little flecks of spinach floating amid the other substances. ‘We’re about to have Christmas dinner.’

Hermione shrugged. ‘Take it or don’t, Dad. Up to you.’

He knew a challenge when he heard one. With one gimlet eye, he uncapped the vial and tossed it back, grimacing. ‘This one’s vile, love.’

It apparently took Draco that long to catch up. ‘Did you just feed your Muggle father a potion? This has to be against the Statute of Secrecy.’

She eyed him. ‘It isn’t, and my parents obviously already know.’

‘But he’s a Muggle. Who knows what a potion could do—’

‘Wendell Granger-Wilkins,’ her dad said, shaking Draco’s hand for a second time. ‘Muggle, father to the woman with whom you may or may not be engaging in sexual and romantic activity. How do you do?’

‘Draco Malfoy,’ said Draco, who was programmed to be unable to reply in any other way when introduced to someone. ‘Very well, thank you.’

‘My wife, Monica Granger-Wilkins,’ said Dad, pointing over his shoulder to Hermione’s mother. ‘Mother to same. Have you had Hermione’s potions before? Some of them taste like the bottom of the Thames. That was one of them. If nothing else, it encourages me to eat my veg, so as not to ever need to take that wretched concoction again.’

Hermione studied an ink stain on her thumb, trying to remember where it’d come from. ‘Dad, if you were really concerned about taste, you would’ve stopped asking to try potions years ago.’

‘I can’t argue with that,’ he said to Draco. ‘In fact, in this household, I don’t argue with anything. If Monica or Hermione say it’s true, it’s true.’

‘Wendell!’ called Hermione’s uncle. ‘Bring that tray of nibblies this way, won’t you?’

He left, giving Draco a raised eyebrow and Hermione two sausage rolls as he did. Hermione leaned into Draco to whisper, ‘My uncle, George. Dad’s brother. They’re only recently getting used to Mum and Dad’s decision to change their names. Everyone thinks they’ve had a mid-life crisis. They used to be called Alice and Clarence. But then they didn’t feel like Alice and Clarence any longer after coming back from Australia, so everyone just had to get over it.’

‘Your family is so odd,’ said Draco.

Hermione nodded. Hermione stuffed one of the little sausages in her mouth and handed the other to Draco.

‘Did your father just threaten me?’ Draco asked suddenly, his brow furrowed.

‘Yes,’ said Hermione.

Draco’s mouth pursed as he considered this. ‘I feel as though I shouldn’t be as terrified as I am. It’s so rare that anyone threatens me without me noticing right away. He said he would throw me in the Thames, didn’t he? There has to be something Slytherin in that.’

Hermione snorted. Poor Malfoy, she thought. He looked so out of place, but he was trying his best and she had to give him credit for that.

‘He’s very open about your hypothetical sex life.’

‘Sex is a normal and natural part of life,’ said Hermione. ‘It’s nothing to be ashamed of.’

Draco grinned at her lasciviously.

Hermione did her best to ignore it. ‘My cousins call them “Uncle Wendlence” and “Auntie Alica” just to be contrary.’

She followed Draco’s gaze to the other end of the room, where said cousins were slumped on the couch, watching the Ashes on Sky Sport. Draco was not giving in—refusing to go along with her very obvious subject change.

‘Do you care for cricket?’ she asked.

‘As a potions ingredient?’

Hermione smirked. ‘It’s the sport they’re watching on the television.’

‘That’s a sport? There’s more action in gobstones.’

He was staring at her again, and Hermione understood something very different in the word “action”. Malfoy bit his bottom lip, his sharp canines pressing into the supple flesh. She felt herself heat and slicken. He breathed in deeply, slowly, and she knew he could smell her arousal. Fuck it all.

‘Dinner!’ Hermione’s mum called.

Thank Merlin, she thought. Draco could hold his own during dinner. Etiquette was bred into him like blondness. And if they were already to dinner, then they were nearly done.

 

-x-

Hermione was well past getting that sick feeling in her stomach whenever she went to Malfoy Manor. She was not one for holding onto irrational fears—except for flying; she’d gladly keep that—so overcoming fear of the Manor by way of constant exposure was something she took care of in the first six months after the war.

But that didn’t mean she liked the place. Truly, she only felt comfortable in Narcissa’s office. It was so very different from the rest of the Manor, what with its cold minimalism and ironic silver accents, that she was easily able to segregate it from the rest of the place in her mind.

The ballroom, she would admit, was lovely. And Narcissa had done a beautiful job with the decorations. The entire place was silvery-white, with charmed snow falling from the ceiling and disappearing ten feet from the floor, before anyone had a chance to get cold and wet. It was a winter wonderland—a winter nightmare for werewolves, with all the silver everywhere.

But Narcissa was like that. They’d all just have to be aristocratic about everything and pretend like everything was normal and not covered in decorative accents that would burn their flesh if they touched them.

Hermione was in her spelled-white Malfoy-approved heels and a shimmery white dress. It was rather more fancy than she preferred, but she always made a point of dressing to the nines for events. At least a couple members of the press would be in attendance that night, and she never gave them any excuse to call her “unkempt” or “beastly” or “raised by wolves”. Not after the first time, anyway, a few months after she’d been bitten.

Draco, still her date, took her cloak from her and handed it to the waiting house-elf as she scanned the room. This gala, due to time constraints around the full moon, was starting much earlier than a typical Malfoy party, but as they were Malfoys, it was already full of dozens of people too excited by their receiving an invitation to arrive fashionably late.

They, however, were in fact late. It couldn’t be helped. They’d had to brew an entire extra cauldron of Wolfsbane for the new werewolves, shower, and get ready.

Malfoy began unbuttoning his over-cloak and she watched, a distracted frown on her face as she tried, yet again, to remember what it was like to have a best friend one did not want to fuck. What a novel idea.

His cloak fell from his shoulders, and she saw his stylish suit hugging his wide shoulders and trim hips, and had to turn away. Her face felt hot. Merlin, he looked good in Muggle clothes. It wasn’t something he did often, but it was always startling when he did.

‘Announcing: Draco Malfoy escorting Hermione Granger,’ the house-elf at the door, having taken over for the Malfoys after the first hour, called.

‘My father’s going to have Kneazles,’ said Malfoy as they smiled to the other guests they passed. ‘He was hoping I’d sneak you in unannounced, so that he wouldn’t have to suffer the indignity.’

‘Your father’s suffered many an indignity over the years,’ said Hermione. ‘I daresay he can handle another.’

‘My thoughts exactly,’ Draco agreed.

He took two champagne glasses from the house-elf’s tray and led her into the ballroom with a light hand on her back. They passed three waiters with hors d'oeuvres on platinum platters and Hermione took something from each of them, nibbling on the way.

‘Don’t think that I’ve forgotten,’ said Hermione, continuing to allow herself to be led across the room. She could see that Draco was making a beeline for his parents, and a small, sadistic part of her enjoyed irritating Lucius Malfoy, so she was happy to oblige. She asked, ‘What are you doing in Muggle clothes? Trying to annoy Lucius?’

‘You make such a poor Slytherin,’ Draco observed. He paused to trade hellos with an elderly couple before moving on again. ‘You know better than to feed me an excuse. Now it doesn’t matter what the real reason was because I’ll just agree to the one you’ve provided.’

Hermione frowned. Bugger, but he was right. ‘I’m not a Slytherin.’

‘Not yet, no,’ agreed Draco. ‘But in time I’m sure we’ll manage.’

They arrived at his parents’ side and Draco went about the chore of presenting them both to the hosts. Hermione suffered through another greeting with Lucius Malfoy and nodded politely as he made bored small talk about the midnight fox hunt he would be leading—werewolves made fine hounds, and the humans would ride on pedigreed Abraxans.

There were more werewolves here than she’d expected—-more people who’d willingly gone public for this event. Hermione felt her heart swell as she saw Gottfried Goyle, Eli Parkinson, and Professor Sinistra among the attendees. And there was Marietta Edgecombe standing with Cho, who was not a werewolf. Marietta had not previously come out with her lycanthropy to more than the Weasleys and their friends. This was a big step. As if sensing her gaze, which she probably, Marietta turned to Hermione. Hermione smiled genuinely and Marietta returned the gesture, if a little hesitantly.

Harry, Luna, Ron, and Tonks ambled over to them, apparently well into their cups if the redness of their faces and giggliness of their voices was anything to go by.

‘’Lo, Hermione,’ Ron said, grinning wolfishly. Tonks tickled his ribs and he bent double, howling with laughter.

Hermione stared at them, bemused and, frankly, concerned. Luna stepped forward to give her a wispy-feeling hug. Luna leaned in to whisper, ‘Harry’s put nargles in my wine, Hermione.’

Harry, for himself, didn’t seem quite as drunk as the rest of them, and he confirmed this when he told them, ‘I’m the designated Disapparator.’

‘Bad luck, Potter,’ Draco said.

Harry shrugged, seemingly unconcerned. They stood there, sipping their drinks and splitting bouts of people-watching with bouts of Ron-and-Tonks watching.

Hermione glanced around and stiffened in shock. Barnabas Cuffe. He couldn’t have been even fully healed from his bite yet, but there he was, standing stiffly by the doors leading to the veranda, nursing a glass of sherry and looking particularly fierce. What was he doing here? She whipped around to stare at Narcissa, but the elder Malfoys had long since wandered off to socialize.

Hermione nudged Draco with her shoulder. When he looked at her, she tipped her head towards Cuffe. ‘He came. Can you believe that? The story hasn’t even broke yet.’

Draco was frowning. ‘He’s got a press embargo in place, hasn’t he? And he’s taken care of those other little...items you had.’

Hermione worried her lip as the meaning of his words sunk in. ‘I imagine he must have. I’ve been waiting for someone to leak it to one of the other papers. What are we going to do when all these reporters see him change tonight?’

Draco didn’t seem overly concerned. ‘He’s the Editor of the Prophet, Granger. He can set whatever tone he wants when they do and people will go for it. They can’t piss him off; he holds their jobs.’

Hermione frowned. She wasn’t so sure about that. The papers and magazines had never been kind to her, really, but they’d stopped being hateful at least. Mostly. It helped, she supposed, that she and Ron were war heroes. It helped more that Harry’d also been bitten and never developed lycanthropy. His tolerance helped at least a few of other wizards and witches find some of their own.

Draco sighed dramatically. ‘And to think, all I wanted was a simple life as a landed gentry with a nice, docile wife and an heir. Instead I get a dangerous job and oscillating hormones.’

‘Potions consulting dangerous these days?’ Harry said, grinning. He and Ron were the only two who actually knew they were Unspeakables, and even that was only due to their clearance levels and the fact that both Draco and Hermione had once worked with them on an Auror case.

‘Don’t listen to Malfoy,’ said Hermione, still eyeing Cuffe nervously. ‘He’s being dramatic.’

‘A dramatic werewolf,’ said Draco. ‘That’s a laugh. We’re so rugged and stoic. How could we be dramatic?’

‘I’ll give you rugged,’ Harry said, frowning. ‘A bit anyway. Hermione’s rugged at least. And Ron, too.’

Draco narrowed his eyes and put on a lofty expression. ‘You would call me un-rugged just because I refuse to embrace this middle-class culture of feralness? I’m beastly one night a month. The other twenty-seven to thirty I refuse to be anything less than dignified.’

‘It’s not so bad,’ Hermione said. ‘The beastliness. It’s practically status quo these days. And I don’t mind it, really. Makes for an interesting change of pace.’

She heard Harry huff out a dry little laugh. ‘Sometimes I feel like all my friends are werewolves except me,’ he said. She turned to him, and found him smiling wryly back at her.

Oh, Harry. Hermione thought, forcing a return smile. Only he would be sad he couldn’t be a werewolf like her and Ron. And Malfoy, she supposed. He and Ron hung out with Malfoy a lot for as much as they complained about him. Fantasy Quidditch leagues, eternal chess games, pub nights, she could go on. They did it all, and frequently.

She often wondered herself why Harry hadn’t developed lycanthropy. In the almost-decade since she’d become a werewolf, it had been a constant thought in the back of her mind—one she wanted to explore, but which she was afraid of exploring because of the very theory she had on the matter.

‘I know I should be grateful that I’m clean…that I’m even alive, but…on full moons, when you and Ron change into your forms and I can see that special bond you have with one another, with your pack, I’m…jealous.’

She slipped an arm around his waist and laid her head on his shoulder. ‘You’re my pack, too, Harry.’

She could feel him smile against his hair. ‘I know—I do, really. But I can’t help it. You and Ron have something together I never will. Fuck, even you, Ron, and Malfoy have something I never will.’

Hermione’s heart clenched. That first full moon, after the three of them were bitten, they’d all taken Wolfsbane all locked themselves up with Fred in the newly erected paddock. She’d held both Harry’s and Ron’s hands as they watched the moon rise up in the sky, terrified of what was to come. When it had, she’d been too blind with pain to notice that Harry wasn’t twisting and changing with them.

She’d only noticed when it was over, and he’d stood back pressed against the paddock wards, eyes huge behind his glasses. Hermione’d looked around, seen two ginger wolves and brown fur over her own paws, and become irrationally terrified that she would infect him just by being in the same pen. The Weasleys had come to let Harry out, but he’d refused, and that was the moment, Hermione figured, that George realised he could come in, too. Harry lay down between them on the grass, with Hermione and Ron’s tails curling over his legs, and they’d waited for the moon to set.

‘I noticed your installation in front of the apothecary in Knockturn Alley, Ms Granger.’

Hermione jumped, turning to find Mr Eliot Parkinson looking back at her. He had a rangey, roguish look about him, and Hermione did not need any help understanding how someone as posh and wealthy as Eugenia Parkinson had been swayed enough by his charm to marry him, if not take his last name, which had been Kovač before the marriage.

Hermione felt herself bristle. ‘My installation?’

‘What installation?’ asked Harry, and Hermione determinedly ignored him. She gave Parkinson a very direct stare, trying to impart the ideas “Auror” and “not exactly legal” and “shut the hell up” with her glare alone.

He laughed, sipped his champagne. It was early yet. The full moon wouldn’t rise for another forty-five minutes. ‘Your little hobby of guerilla gardening?’ he said, smirking. She felt Harry stiffen beside her, and just knew she was in for a very long-winded speech about hypocritical actions and “gardening of all things” from both him and Ron, as soon as Ron was sober and Harry’d had a chance to tell him.

‘It smells just like you, of course,’ Parkinson continued unabashedly. ‘All of Knockturn Alley does, really. I must say, you’ve improved the place.’

‘What’s guerilla gardening?’ asked Harry, as though he could make a good guess, but didn’t want to jump to any conclusions.

Parkinson laughed. ‘Oh, hasn’t our little Alpha told you? She’s taken it upon herself to gentrify Knockturn Alley. Shrubberies and night-blooming flowers popping up everywhere. In fact, I went to visit my daughter at work last week and found that half the east end was covered in juniper and the other half in azaleas. I’m impressed you convinced them to grow in winter.’

‘I was good at Herbology,’ Hermione muttered.

Parkinson’s werewolf hearing had no problem picking it up. He laughed heartily. He pounded her on the back but she remained steady despite the inhuman power behind the gesture. Her muscles were inhuman, too, after all. Especially the night of the full moon. His expression faltered slightly at her rigid posture and even further at her glare.

Smirking, he tilted lifted his chin a little. A sliver of neck became visible. Hermione snapped her teeth at him but allowed herself to untense. He’d apologised after all, even if he was snobbish about it.

Harry didn’t miss the power play. He engaged Parkinson on a series of increasingly more dull subjects until he made his excuses and left for other socialising. Hermione smiled at Harry in thanks.

‘So, gardening,’ Harry said. He sipped his water.

Hermione huffed. ‘Look, I know it’s technically trespassing and vandalism and a number of other things besides, but Knockturn Alley stinks in the summer and I just wanted to offset it some. I didn’t mean for it to turn into a hobby.’

‘Hermione has lots of little hobbies,’ said a low voice behind her. She stiffened and felt herself heat from the seductive timbre. Draco bent down, bringing his nose close to her ear. She felt every accelerated breath he took. ‘She’s very…good at them.’

‘I’m not good at anything,’ Hermione said. ‘I’m excellent at everything.’

Draco’s soft laughter huffed against her neck and she shuddered. She vaguely noticed Harry’s weirded-out expression before he took Luna and made for the dance floor. ‘That you are, Hermione. That you are,’ Draco said.

‘Draco,’ she said, refusing to tilt her neck even to give him better access. ‘I haven’t decided we should carry on with this.’

‘You haven’t decided we shouldn’t,’ he said. His nose nuzzled against her skin. She could feel him inhaling against it, scenting her. His body came to press against her back and she felt the heat of his erection against her tailbone. ‘You’ve had plenty of time to think it over. Say yes.’

He smelled like sex. Or maybe that’s just what Mate was supposed to smell like.

They weren’t supposed to do this. They were supposed to stay friends and not ruin what they had. She’d agreed not to say “no”, but there had been a part of her that hoped that he’d forget about it if she waited long enough, and then they could go back to Before. Things were so much easier when sex wasn’t a factor.

But there was another piece of her that couldn’t help desiring him, even when she was supposed to be concentrating on werewolf legislation. Great Loki and St Ailbhe, she wanted him fiercely. And as it was the full moon, she was ovulating as well, which meant her hormones—already weird at the best of times because of her lycanthropy—were absolutely off the charts at present.

Hermione growled in frustration. Malfoy was fit. And her best friend. And…she loved him a little bit. She just wasn’t sure if it was because he was her best friend or in spite of it. But, either way…

Either way, she did.

‘Ugh. Fine, yes,’ she said, trying—and failing—for nonchalance.

Draco growled and wrapped his arm around her waist. She felt the startling pressure of Side-Along Apparition and then they were enclosed in a small, velvet-lined changing booth. There were clothing hooks on one wall, a gilt-framed mirror on the other, and a set of floating blue puzzles at the door. The Malfoys had installed private changing rooms for each of their werewolf guests, Hermione realized. She wasn’t surprised, but she was exasperated at their pretension.

Malfoy wasted no time stripping her of her white dress and Banishing it to Merlin-knew where. She turned to help him with the same and found him already naked. He smirked at her, one hand running slowly up and down his cock. Hermione wanted to melt. Instead, she decided that—just this one time—she’d submit. She tipped her neck back.

Draco pounced on her, raining kisses along the exposed column of her throat, nipping and licking and rutting against her in the most delicious ways. She threaded her fingers through his hair and reached down with her free hand to encircle his cock. It was hot with blood and she felt herself slicken even more.

‘Malfoy, I want to shag,’ she said.

He inhaled sharply. She smelled a new emotion on him and recognised it a moment later as nervousness. It made her feel wobbly in a weird, happy little way. She let go of his penis to wrap her arm around his back and pull him closer. He came willingly, and when she lifted her mouth to kiss his, he melted into it, sighing her name.

‘Do you?’ he asked against her lips a moment later. But then he was back to kissing her, slower this time, more sensually. He was such a confusing mix of emotions and actions. She thought she might only be realising that now.

‘Yeah,’ she said. He grinned against her lips and then turned her around with one smooth, strong motion. Her breasts pressed against the door of the changing room.

His erection slid against her folds, smearing the wetness back and forth, but she pressed him back with a hand on his hip. ‘Wait. Do the charm.’

He paused. ‘You can’t carry.’

‘I know, Malfoy. Don’t be a prat. I’d feel guilty if I did and miscarried in three months. Just cast the bloody spell.’ He did. She felt the cold tingle on her insides. And then he was pressing into her. She braced against the door and spread her legs a little wider. He pushed all the way in and she moaned.

Merlin, it was so good. She pushed back against him, meeting him thrust for thrust. His fingers found hers pressed against the door and interlaced. He nipped and bit at the back of her neck, murmuring alternating words of affection and claim. She was getting close. She heard herself begin to whine with need, and one of Draco’s hands left hers to reach down and rub her clit.

‘Yes, please please please,’ she whined. He was unpractised at it, but if she just shifted her hips a little—and yes, Merlin, there! Hermione rocked back, feeling his cock fill her up, and forward to feel his long fingers against her clit.

‘Fuck, so close,’ he said, nipping at her earlobe. It was all it took to send Hermione over the edge. She came with a growl, and slumped against the door, held up by it and Draco’s arm around her waist as he continued to thrust into her.

She felt him change inside of her, like he was getting larger, and her eyes widened in realisation only a second later. And then he was biting down hard on the soft flesh between her neck and shoulder as he came, his hips stuttering against her own as he rode it out. He slumped against her back, licking at the spot where he’d marked her.

Hermione bit her lip to keep from giggling. ‘Malfoy, did you—’

‘Yes,’ he bit out, before she could finish. She did giggle then, quite unable to help herself. Tentatively, she tried pulling her hips away from his, but they were stuck tight. ‘Stop that,’ he said, pulling her back against him with the arm still around her belly. ‘Just wait. It’ll only be fifteen minutes or so. I...ahm, I forgot that this happens around the full moon.’

The academic side of Hermione’s brain desperately wished she could turn around and look at it. She’d heard rumours that Alpha male werewolves knotted during sex around the moon, but she’d never had cause to test the theory for herself.

Well, now she had.

It was uncomfortable and weird, she thought. And—also strangely intimate. A normal wizard would’ve pulled out by now, perhaps rolled over, maybe even fallen asleep. But Draco couldn’t do that. His penis was stuck inside her until it softened, forcing him to stay with her.

Merlin, she was enjoying cuddling. She felt ridiculous. Forced cuddling, but still. It was nice.

Draco’s breathing began to slow, and Hermione relaxed into the afterglow of a good shag. This was her second one in as many weeks, and before that, she’d been on a six year dry spell. She’d almost forgotten how nice a regular shag could be. It took her a moment to realise that the hand around her waist was currently rubbing small, delicate circles over the skin of her abdomen. Her skin tingled in a very nice way and she sighed happily.

She could stay like this for a long time. It was nice to feel so connected to another werewolf, especially one she was so fond of. Which was a good thing since they had another ten minutes before Draco would be able to pull out. They didn’t talk after that, but the silence was comfortable and peaceful. Almost relaxing. And then, all too soon, she felt him softening and slipping out of her. She spared a moment of regret at the loss.

But it had happened not a moment too soon. Hermione’s skin started that familiar prickling that signalled an impending change.

The moon rose and Draco grabbed her hand as he had the night they were bitten. Their bodies contorted. They screamed.

 

-x-

They took turns on the werewolf puzzles for safety’s sake. They were still some of the first ones out of the private changing rooms. Only Narcissa and the Weasley twins had beat them.

All the humans’ eyes were on them as they slipped out of the changing room. It wasn’t Hermione’s imagination that several eyebrows went up at them coming from the same one. Lucius Malfoy was fortunately looking the other way. She would’ve blushed if she could, but she couldn’t so she held her head high and pretended that it was perfectly normal. She had a lovely brown coat anyway; why wouldn’t people look? At least that’s what she told herself.

They were a novelty to many of these humans—a terrifying one to some—and it was to be expected that they were being gawked at like circus acts.

Hermione’d expected it, but it didn’t make it any easier. She slunk around the edge of the ballroom, feeling eyes follow her, and stopped in front of the low buffet table set up with cold cuts, venison jerky, fresh rabbit, and anti-spill charmed cups of wine and champagne. She knicked a piece of jerky because she was always famished after a change, and took it over to the French doors leading out onto the veranda so she could watch the stars while she ate.

Draco had gone off to stand imperiously next to his mother and father, a row of white-blonds of descending size. Lucius was wearing a glare fit for an executioner, as if daring anyone to comment on his family. Ron and Tonks were running orange and pink circles around a dizzy, laughing Luna while Harry looked on.

Soon, the humans grew accustomed to having dozens of werewolves mingling among them, and they returned to their conversations. No one had noticed Barnabas Cuffe’s apparent absence yet. Hermione saw him sitting over in a corner, his back protected by the wall as he looked out at the assembled people.

This was his first change. She couldn’t leave him there. She should’ve gone in to change with him this time, instead of…messing about with Draco. Hermione sloped over to him, stopping briefly at the refreshments table to grab another few pieces of jerky. She deposited one in front of his crossed grey paws and nudged it to him with her nose.

He looked up at her, sniffed carefully, and blinked. She nudged it again. He must have been going on a hundred by now. She couldn’t imagine having to complete her first change at that age. It must have been absolutely agonising for him. She settled in next to him, gnawing on her own venison jerky, attempting to provide what comfort she could.

More wizards showed up around six and began setting up instruments. Lucius stepped onto the dais to announce that he’d booked the Arctic Kneazles for the evening, which resulted in cheers all around. The AKs were one of the foremost Muggle-born bands in Britain; Hermione was not certain that Lucius knew this.

‘We will adjourn to the veranda at half-twelve for a fireworks display and a midnight toast. Afterwards, all who are interested are welcome to join my family and me on our annual New Years fox hunt. My wife will be leading the werewolves, and I have an Abraxan for every witch or wizard who enjoys a bit of sport. The Malfoys thank you all for bringing in the New Year with us. Please enjoy the evening.’

He stepped down, and the band immediately started up. Barnabas seemed to relax after that. It was not a bad night, really. Hermione spent some time trying to teach him how to communicate with scent and body language. She thought he was getting the hang of it, if his growl of frustration and scent of determination were anything to go by.

At eleven thirty, the French doors swung open and a chill breeze blew in from outside. She smelled Draco approaching, and shivered as he pressed his cold nose to her ears. She turned and gave him a brief nuzzle.

Marietta flounced up to them just as the fireworks were beginning. Hermione licked her once in greeting and turned back to watch the sky. It was even more beautiful seeing it from a werewolf’s eyes; her senses were so much keener, the lights so much brighter.

All too soon, midnight approached. House-elves popped up before them and dropped off little cups of champagne. Hermione huffed in annoyance, but knew a lost cause when she saw one, and Malfoys and their house-elves were certainly a lost cause. A murmur rose up in the crowd of humans. Bright numbers were flashing in the sky, counting down the New Year.

‘A toast!’ Lucius called at thirty seconds. He held up his glass and the humans did the same. ‘To new friends, new generations, and new worlds. To tolerance!’

‘To tolerance!’ the humans echoed.

What utter shit, Hermione thought. If any one of them believed that, especially Lucius, she’d eat her hat.

Actually, she might do that anyway. She got the strangest urges to chew on things sometimes.

The countdown reached zero, and everyone cheered. Ron started up a happy howl and one by one, like a wave, the other werewolves joined in. Hermione and Draco picked up, harmonising easily, and then Marietta, too, which made pleased Hermione. Barnabas was still silent. Hermione nudged him, and, finally, he gave a hesitant little howl. Then, apparently feeling more confident, did so again, more surely.

Hermione felt free. She felt happy and lovely and at peace with the world.

She didn’t mind being a werewolf, not really. She never had. It was a part of her now, and that was that. She howled again and again, feeling the weight and stress of the world leave her shoulders as her voice harmonised with Draco’s and the other wolves. The humans had quieted by now, listening to the haunting, beautiful sound of their howls, and Hermione’s body was pumping with adrenaline and endorphins. She felt sure every werewolf there could smell it on her.

It was more beautiful than any rendition of Auld Lang Syne, and Hermione knew it, more than Lucius’ fake toast, was helping auld acquaintance be forgot.

‘I’d like to make a toast as well, if I may,’ called a new voice.

Marietta stopped howling at once, and soon the other werewolves tapered off until there was silence again. Hermione craned her neck until she could see around the round wizard in front of her. Madam Edgecombe. How strange; Hermione hadn’t known that Narcissa was inviting her—but perhaps it had just been a courtesy to Marietta.

‘I’d like to make a toast to my daughter,’ Madam Edgecombe said.

Hermione turned to Marietta and gave her a slobbery lick of pack-ish affection. How lovely of Marietta’s mum to toast them all, especially after Marietta’s nervousness over coming out. Marietta remained stiff at her side, staring at her mother and tensed like a wolf about to pounce.

Madam Edgecombe nodded to her daughter, smiling, and everyone in the crowd turned to look as well. Marietta, if possible, tensed even more. Her scent was overflowing with stress.

Hermione was beginning to feel as if something were very wrong indeed, but she remained rooted to her spot. She was unable to do anything at all in her present form. She held her breath and hoped that Marietta was just naturally nervous.

Hermione didn’t think she was.

‘My daughter, Marietta, is a werewolf, and has been since the night of the final battle, when she sneaked back to Hogwarts to help fight off the Death Eaters. She was attacked by a werewolf that night, the same werewolf who, I’d wager, turned each of you into the monsters you are today.’

There was a furious, tense rustle among the werewolves. Hermione and Draco growled lowly in warning, and those who’d considered moving sat right back down. There would be no attacks by werewolves this evening. If Marietta’s mum wanted to be hateful and publicly humiliate her daughter right along with the rest of them, well, they’d all sit through it tonight and worry about it in the morning, when they were human and could fight back as such.

‘Madam Edgecombe,’ Lucius said sternly. ‘I must insist that you step down at once.’

Hermione had never once liked Lucius, but she did at that moment.

‘Just a moment, Lucius,’ she said. ‘I’ll bring this round to the end. The toast, then. I’d like to toast my daughter. And Fred Weasley.’

Hermione’s stomach fell through the floor. A gasp ran through the crowd. Harry had his wand out and was pushing his way to Madam Edgecombe, but the other humans were transfixed, blocking his way and line of sight. She found the Weasley twins right away, cued into their scents through years of friendship. They were growling low in their throats, and Hermione sensed disaster approaching.

Fuck, she thought. She turned desperately to Malfoy, but found he’d already started slinking through the crowd trying to reach the twins. Hermione didn’t waste another moment. She didn’t have time for Draco’s subtlety. She bounded through the crowd, over the backs of werewolves and between legs and robes.

‘It’s people like Fred Weasley who make a mockery of upstanding citizens like my daughter Marietta.’

She could hear Harry trying to cast Silencio on Edgecombe but people were still in his way and he couldn’t get a lock on her. She continued talking, raising her voice above the growing growls of the wolves and murmurings of the people.

‘You see, George Weasley was not made a werewolf the night of the final battle. Only his brother Fred was. Unable, it seems, to do anything without his twin, Mr Weasley conspired and carried out a plan to infect George Weasley of the lycanthropy curse.’

The angry muttering of the crowd ceased at once. The silence that followed was heavy and electric.

Madam Edgecombe smirked. ‘If Fred Weasley would condemn his own twin this way, what, dear humans, might he do to the rest of us?’

George bent low, gathering strength in his haunches, and Hermione’s heart leapt all the way into her throat. She jumped over Gottfried Goyle and leapt in front of George. He slammed into her side mid-pounce, sending them both tumbling down the stone steps to the lawn. Hermione felt each riser slam into her as they rolled and then the soft, aching feel of cold, frozen grass at the bottom.

She pulled herself up, limping on what she was sure was a broken wrist, and when it seemed that George would bound up the steps for another go at Edgecombe, Hermione sunk her teeth into his scruff and growled.

He didn’t submit. She yanked at his scruff, making him yelp. The pain seemed to bring him back to his senses. He noticed her jaws clamped around the fur at his neck and whined. She growled again. He rolled over and offered his soft orange belly. Hermione closed her teeth around his muzzle softly—one final warning, but forgiveness, too.

Merlin, that had almost been a disaster. The new year wasn’t starting off at all like she’d hoped.

They stood. Every face was looking down at them, mouths and eyes wide with shock.

A single witch stepped through, her mouth stretched thin in anger. Her wand was out, the tip already glowing with the thought of a spell. Hermione tensed.

Head Auror Yewsap descended the steps. ‘George Weasley,’ she said into the silence, ‘You are hereby under arrest for attempted infection of an uninfected witch while transformed as a werewolf. Do not make me Stun you before I take you in.’

Chapter Text

06. Wolves Backed into Corners

Hermione accepted the fresh tea with a smile, one she was sure looked quite haggard. ‘Thanks, Narcissa.’

Narcissa, on the other hand, looked as perfect as always. ‘Of course, darling.’ She handed Draco a cup as well, and reseated herself on Hermione’s other side. They sipped tea. Time continued apace. The view of the wall opposite the visitor’s waiting area in the DMLE did not become more interesting with time. Hermione sighed and glanced again at the clock on the wall. Just past seven. They’d come down here as soon as they changed back this morning—only an hour ago, but it’d still been some time since Hermione slept. Somewhere further in the bowels of Level Two, Harry and Ron were trying to get Yewsap to assign Harry or one of the werewolves to the case.

What a great way to start the new year.

Finally, the doors leading into the Auror Department opened and Ron came out, looking about as beat up as Hermione felt. ‘She booked him,’ he said, sighing.

Hermione’s head fell back against the wall behind her with an audible thump. ‘Lovely.’

Ron grimaced. She took a closer look at him and saw how purple the circles under his eyes were. There was a tightness to his mouth that he only wore when one of his family was sick, hurt, or in danger. ‘She won’t let Harry, Lavender, or Tonks on the case. Hermione...George is going to trial.’

Narcissa stood straight up, teacup clattering in the saucer in her hand. ‘Trial?’

‘Yeah,’ Ron said, exhaling heavily. ‘My brother.’ He laughed humuorlessly, and swallowed. ‘Yeah, my brother’s going to trial for attempted infection of a pure-blood witch. And what’s more? They just sent out two Aurors to arrest Fred. Premeditated infection of a pure-blood wizard. They could get ten years each for it.’

‘They won’t,’ Draco said, voice cold.

Hermione stared at him. She hadn’t heard that tone of voice from him in ages. He wasn’t looking at Ron. His gaze was fixed unblinkingly on the wall across from him, and Hermione could see his mind whirring in the harsh set of his mouth. She saw Ron nodding from the corner of her eye.

‘Merlin, I hope not. Fuck. I’ve gotta go. Mum’s waiting for news. Well, assuming they haven’t picked up Fred yet. Shit.’ He turned and went back into the Auror department, and Hermione and Draco stood as well.

‘Hermione, will you please see to the papers? I must follow up with Lucius on what he’s found on Madam Edgecombe. Which bedroom did you put that daughter of hers in, Draco?’

‘Third buttercream room in the East Wing,’ he said.

Narcissa nodded. ‘I will see to it that she’s fed and debriefed. This is going to be quite a lot of work.’

Draco sneered. ‘Realized what a bad idea it was, have you, Mum?’

Narcissa’s eyes narrowed. ‘This was bound to come out sooner or later, Draco. Don’t tell me you never realized George Weasley was a late addition to your pack? It was all there if you’d have only smelled for it, but of course your father raised you too well in his image. No man is worth anything unless he’s a pure-blooded wizard, isn’t that so? Somehow that doesn’t even change when you are no longer one yourself.’

She strode to the lifts without a backwards glance. Hermione sighed, rubbing her eyes. One look at Draco had her convinced not to say a word on the matter. ‘I’m going to see Barnabas,’ she said. ‘I’ll see you later. Dinner?’

‘No,’ Draco snarled.

Hermione blinked. ‘No? Okay, well—’

‘I’m coming with you,’ Draco said. He prowled over to the stairs, and it took Hermione a moment to process what he’d said before she stalked after him.

‘For a moment,’ she said, when she caught up to him in the stairwell, ‘I thought you said you were coming with. To the Daily Prophet. Regarding a werewolf crisis.’ She raised her brows at him.

‘I did say that, Granger.’

Hermione chewed on her lip with one canine tooth to keep her smirk from growing. ‘Alright then,’ she said. He just growled again and pushed his way through the Atrium to a free Floo. He held his arm out wordlessly and she took it, stepping over the hearth with him. ‘Daily Prophet,’ he said, and they were whooshed away.

-x-

The Prophet offices were in a rush. Hermione wasn’t surprised that she was getting horrid looks from some of the staff, but it irritated her anyway. One young wizard checked her as he walked by, knocking her into Draco, who caught her before she could tumble to the floor. She growled low in her throat before she caught herself and stopped. Sometimes it was difficult to reign in impulses so close to the moon, especially when she hadn’t slept in twenty-four hours.

She approached the front desk. The witch there was at least giving them the courtesy of a polite smile. 'Hermione Granger and Draco Malfoy to see Mr Cuffe,' she said.

'Mr Cuffe’s schedule is full today,' said the witch. 'If you’d like to—'

'Would you just let him know we’re here, please?' said Hermione. It wasn’t a question. 'I’m quite sure he’ll want to fit us in.'

The witch pursed her lips, but seeing the glower on Malfoy’s face, did tap her wand on a memo pad and send a message zooming off. 'Have a seat, and I’ll let you know if he replies,' she said.

'Thank you,' said Hermione. They sat together on a bench beneath the window. Draco was utterly silent, which Hermione knew to be a bad sign for her chances of avoiding a migraine. She watched the junior reporters typing away in the crap cubicles closest to the door, where the cold draught was likeliest to blow over them whenever someone came in. Seeing the bratty wizard who’d knocked into her shivering was almost pleasing enough to soothe her anger. But not quite.

'Ms Granger?' called the witch. Hermione looked up. The witch was standing by the open door leading up to the executive offices. 'Mr Cuffe will see you now. Please follow me.'

Barnabas Cuffe’s office was on the top floor of the Prophet building, with a panoramic view of upper Diagon Alley. He was behind his desk when the welcome witch escorted them in, and though he looked exhausted, he was clean, dressed, and making a valiant effort at normality.

'Thank you, Esmerelda,' said Cuffe. 'Please have an elf send up some tea.'

When she was gone, Barnabas allowed himself to slump down a little. He gestured stiffly towards the two chairs opposite his desk. Every line of his body shouted the aches Hermione knew he was feeling after his first change. She was well past her eightieth change and her body was accustomed to it, but she was a little sore, too.

'You’re doing a remarkable job of hiding your condition,' Hermione observed.

Cuffe grunted. 'We’ll see how long it takes people at the gala last night to realize I wasn’t in attendance the whole night. Now, this mess your Weasleys have got us all in…how do you intend to fix it? Let’s get it out of the way first and then I’ll tell you how it will never go over with the public, and then we can move onto a solution which might save all our sorry arses from a Dementor’s Kiss.'

An elf wearing robes fashioned from a printing press blanket popped in to deliver the tea. Barnabas didn’t bother to ask how they took theirs, he just floated the sugar and milk over to them and let them have at it. Draco’s mouth pressed in annoyance so tightly it almost disappeared, but he served himself and Hermione without a word of complaint.

'I want to do another of the articles we set up to precede the one where you and others were taken. If we can get everyone to think about something else, maybe they won’t ask questions,' Hermione said.

'It’s crap,' Cuffe said.

'Agreed,' Draco said, speaking for the first time. 'The twenty new wolves will come out now. You saw the little twats down there in the press room. They’ll be looking for anything they can get on werewolves. Someone’s going to talk to the right Auror and it’s all over from there.'

'They will if they’re any good at their jobs,' Cuffe agreed. He sipped his tea, coughed on it, and sipped again. 'We’re going to come out,' he said.

'What?' Hermione said. 'Right now?'

'Right now,' Cuffe agreed.

'Everyone?' asked Hermione.

'It has to be everyone,' Draco said. ‘A pre-emptive attack. It won’t give the little shits time to turn it into a story of insidious subterfuge.’

Hermione did not like this idea one bit. 'You don’t have their permission to release their names. That’s violating their right to privacy.'

'Do I look like a man who gives a flobberworm’s fuck?' said Cuffe. 'We’re releasing the names, and we’re going to do bios on the ones who might stand a cold fuck’s chance in hell of withstanding the fallout. I’m giving it to Skeeter.'

'You can’t be serious,' Hermione said. 'She lambasts us every chance she can get. Last month she said the Ministry should hang us.'

'I know,' said Cuffe. 'That’s why she’s getting the story. No chance of anyone spinning it as bias because I’m on the list. Of course, don’t mean there won’t be bias. She knows which side her bread’s buttered on.'

'This is unethical,' Hermione hissed.

Draco scoffed. 'And writing articles that suggest lycanthropy was a desirable affliction wasn’t?'

'It was desirable!' Hermione said. 'I have the bloody sources if you’d like to see them, Malfoy.'

Draco ignored her. 'Have you got the names of everyone who was turned alongside you?'

'I do,' said Cuffe. He flicked his eyes to Hermione, his expression smug as he added: 'Got the names of everyone bitten at Hogwarts seven years ago, too.'

Hermione sensed Draco tensing next to her. He still wanted to know who all was in their pack, but it really wasn’t Hermione’s problem that he was so avoidant that none of them had chosen to reveal themselves to their male alpha.

'I really think we should focus on finding the person who bit you and the others instead,’ Hermione said. 'If we can shift the people’s focus from Fred and George Weasley to the rogue, villain werewolf who destroyed twenty lives, then we can cultivate sympathy instead of hatred.’

'Don’t need to find the wolf,' said Cuffe. ‘I know exactly who it is.’

Hermione stopped. She shut her mouth with an audible click. It was Malfoy who asked the question, though: ‘You know who bit you?’

‘I was a reporter. Of course I know who bit me.’

‘But you were Obliviated,’ Draco said, leaning forward.

Barnabas smiled. ‘I was a reporter,’ he repeated, and said no more.

‘Who?’ asked Hermione.

Cuffe smirked. ‘I think I’ll keep that bit of information for when we do, in fact, need the sympathy. It’s not right now, Ms Granger. Right now, we’re going to have to ride this Thestral to the end and redirect as best we can.’

‘Are you joking, Mr Cuffe?’ Hermione said, outraged. ‘He or she could be out there biting more people as we speak! The Aurors need to know who it is right away.’

‘The werewolf is not biting more. This was a politically-charged move.’

‘How do you know?’ asked Draco.

Cuffe’s narrow eyes slid to him. ‘I just know.’

‘I don’t like this,’ said Hermione. ‘I really, really don’t.’

Cuffe rolled his eyes. ‘What’s our first goal?’

‘To keep werewolves from becoming villains and the Weasleys out of Azkaban,’ Hermione said at once.

‘Just so,’ said Cuffe. ‘We’ll do that best by keeping the focus off those moronic boys and onto the fact that werewolves are not anonymous spectres but actual witches and wizards that people know and interact with on a daily basis. You’ve let yourselves stay in the shadows far too long, Ms Granger, and it hasn’t helped your cause at all.’

Hermione frowned down at her lap. Not all of them had. There were a good number of wolves in her pack who’d chosen to reveal themselves after the Registry went down.

Her tea was cold and untouched. They’d stayed this path for seven years, and in that time she’d managed to overturn the Registry, something that hung over the heads of British werewolves for two hundred years. She’d thought they were making good progress at a good rate.

Had she really held them all back by letting the shy ones like Marietta—and the aloof ones like Draco—keep quiet?

No, she thought. She couldn’t have. It wasn’t right to force people into disclosing their personal health histories to a public who’d only revile them for it. She could see the point Cuffe was making, but she hated it.

‘Legally, I have no recourse if you choose to do this,’ said Hermione. ‘I assume you didn’t get the names legally, but when has that ever stopped the Daily Prophet?’

‘That’s correct,’ said Cuffe, ignoring her jab. ‘Rights of the press. Everything’s true, after all.’

She exhaled heavily. ‘People might lose their jobs, their friends. Maybe even their lives.’

‘Revolutions aren’t won with tea and cake, Ms Granger.’

‘Don’t pretend you aren’t aware of all the kill folders my mother made when you were campaigning against the Registry,’ said Draco. ‘You sat back and let dozens of officials be blackmailed into voting for your bill.’

‘Dozens of bigoted, corrupt officials,’ Hermione said.

Draco’s eyebrows went up. ‘Absolved of all guilt, then, are you?’

No, she thought, but refused to say it. She felt guilty enough on her own. She wasn’t about to admit it to Draco. In the end, she’d chosen between two evils, and the lesser evil had been the rights of her pack.

Hermione stood. ‘I can’t be a party to this.’

‘Just as well,’ said Cuffe. ‘You deal with Ministry. I’ll deal with the papers.’

Hermione looked at Draco, but he was still seated. She lifted an eyebrow. His mouth tensed. ‘You go see if Weasley’s torn down the Ministry yet. I’ve something I’d like to discuss with Mr Cuffe.’

Hermione could smell the slyness coming off him in waves; her eyes narrowed. She knew better than to bother when Draco was in one of his questionable morals modes, but it still infuriated her that he was going about it like this. Mr Cuffe might be one of them now, but he was still the Press, for Merlin’s sake.

Fine then, she thought and stood to leave, her head held high. At the door, she stopped, turned, and levelled a glare at Malfoy. ‘It won’t work, anyway,’ she said. ‘It’ll just turn all the new werewolves against us. Would you want to help us if one of your own revealed you to the public? Or would you come to hate yourself and everyone like you?’

The office was silent as she shut the door behind her.

-x-

Hermione didn’t have any better luck with the Ministry, as it happened.

‘The Wizengamot’s talking about whether or not to hear a case on the reinstatement of the Werewolf Registry,’ Ron said, as soon as Hermione arrived at the DMLE. He glanced up and down the corridor before ushering her into Conference Room Four. ‘They’ve reconvened early for a special session just to talk about it. Fred and George’s story is the biggest news since Harry never turned, and it hasn’t even been a full news cycle yet. Happy fucking New Year, eh?’

Hermione erected a silencing charm over the room and screamed. When she ran out of breath, she paused, inhaled, and did it again. Then, she removed her cloak and tossed it over the back of the nearest chair before rummaging in her endless handbag for a hair tie.

‘Feel better?’ Ron asked.

‘No,’ she said, sighing. ‘A bit, maybe.’

He laughed. It sounded tired. ‘I knew this shit with Fred and George was going to come out eventually,’ he said. ‘I just never thought it would be such a shitstorm.’

‘Where there’s a Weasley, there’s a way,’ Hermione muttered as her fingers closed around something vaguely thin and stretchy. She pulled it out; it was indeed a hair tie, thank Loki. She looked up at Ron as she was pulling the unreasonable mess that was her hair into some semblance of order on top of her head. God, she would kill for a shower right now.

No, she would never kill; she shouldn’t even joke about something like that in the current climate.

She would be polite to Lucius Malfoy for a shower right now, Hermione amended.

‘Where’s Harry?’ she asked.

Ron scrunched his nose. ‘He’s down there with Yewsap, witnessing the interrogation. She agreed to that much at least. He’s not on the case, but at least he’s there for that.’

‘Which?’ Hermione asked. ‘Fred and George have the right to an attorney present!’

‘Fred’s,’ said Ron. ‘And he’s got one. You’ll never guess who showed up with him when they dragged him in.’

‘Who?’

‘Acacia Parkinson,’ Ron said as if this were a great revelation. It was. ‘Pansy’s mum.’

‘Are you serious?’ said Hermione. ‘Parkinson, really? Oh Merlin. Thank you, Narcissa,’ she said to the ceiling. If they had Parkinson, they might actually have a chance of coming out of this mess without chains on their ankles. Acacia Parkinson was a hurricane in the courtroom—a pragmatic, efficient, ruthless barrister with a very keen sense of her own self worth. She went into the courtroom like every case was a personal vendetta she was determined to settle.

Hermione just had not expected Parkinson to be willing to represent two werewolves when she’d never made any friendly gesture to their cause before. To Hermione’s knowledge, Pansy and Draco were still friends and often took trips to Paris for shopping together, but he’d never brought her out to any of their get-togethers so she was still an unknown quantity to Hermione. A bitchy unknown quantity—but Hermione appreciated aggressive women these days. She often felt like she and Pansy could be friends if only there weren’t the whole bigotry thing between them.

‘Speaking of helpful Malfoys,’ said Ron. ‘Where’s your helper?’

‘By now I’m sure he’s just managed to convince Barnabas Cuffe to give him the names of all the werewolves bit at Hogwarts. He asked me the other day, but I wouldn’t tell him.’

Ron did not look as though this made very much sense to him. In fact, it didn’t: ‘He doesn’t know who’s in our pack?’

‘Not all of us, no,’ said Hermione.

Ron’s forehead wrinkled dramatically. He still looked bloody attractive, the stupid wolf. How was it fair that Ron was so unreasonably handsome and yet they couldn’t have sex without bursting into giggles? This had once been something that once kept Hermione awake all night thinking about but now, unfortunately, that honour went to Draco, who was generally a prat.

She and Ron really were better off as friends and Ron seemed to be happy on-again-off-againing with Lavender and Tonks. It was Tonks this week but no doubt he and Lavender would fall desperately into one another’s arms again next week and for sure in time for Valentine’s Day.

‘But how does he not know?’ Ron asked. It was not a point he was grasping and indeed, Hermione often wondered the same thing. Yet, Malfoy was Malfoy.

She shrugged, feeling bitter. ‘He never paid attention. The only important thing to him has always been finding a cure for it. He never thought our community was worth anything.’

Ron’s forehead remained furrowed but his expression turned thoughtful. ‘I really don’t mind being a werewolf, you know? It doesn’t even hurt all that much to change anymore, and the enhanced senses have helped with investigations dozens of times.’

Hermione grinned at him with both her canines showing. ‘Yeah, Ron. I know.’

‘Well it’s about time Malfoy decided to be an Alpha, if you ask me. Good for him getting those names. Even if he is being slimy about how.’

Hermione didn’t really think there was much use in Draco getting the names from Cuffe today or the paper tomorrow, but she didn’t want to put anymore stress on Ron’s shoulders than was already there, so she said nothing. All things considered, lycanthropy had given Ron some perspective on when a good time to get one’s knickers in a twist was, and Hermione was surprised that he hadn’t deemed his brothers being arrested as one of those times.

‘I need to get down to the lab,’ she said. ‘I can’t do anything here, and I’m going to go mad if I sit around doing nothing. Send me a note when you hear anything, right?’

‘Right,’ Ron said, running a hand through his bright hair. He sighed heavily. ‘I’m on desk duty still. Reckon I’ll Floo Mum and let her know they haven’t given the Kiss to the twins yet.’

Hermione gasped, suddenly feeling all the blood drain from her limbs and face. ‘Don’t joke about it, Ron,’ she whispered.

He flushed and rubbed a hand over his face. ‘Yeah, sorry. You’re right. Go on, do your potions or whatever it is you’re calling it these days. I’ll send you a crane when I hear anything.’

-x-

The prospect of researching Avada Kedavra was enough to keep Hermione’s mind spinning away from what was going on up on Level Two for a while, at least.

George’s belated infection was an open secret in their pack—well, among those who paid attention anyway, so not Malfoy. But it wasn’t an open secret in the wizarding world, as the reaction to its revelation proved. Thirty nine of them were bitten that night and one more six weeks later. There were forty wolves in Hermione’s pack, and theoretically forty people who could’ve let slip to Madam Edgecombe that George and Fred Weasley had planned and carried out George’s infection the second moon they ever had.

Hermione had been in the pen when it happened. It hadn’t struck her as unusual that George and Harry came in with her, Ron, and Fred. After Harry’s first night with them when they’d all thought he’d change too, the debilitating terror of the change had begun to ebb. It was nice to have company, nice to have someone stroke your coat when you were panting from the exhausting agony of shifting.

Hermione had sat in that pen the whole night and not had any idea of what the twins were planning until she smelt blood on the air. Not a lot—a half dozen drops really—but enough to send her salivating. She’d whipped her head up and stared in horror as George held his hand out for Fred to lick. There was a short slash on his palm, welling up with blood, and Fred was coating it in his infected saliva and letting it seep into George’s bloodstream on purpose.

George didn’t change that moon, but the next one he did, and the morning after, when Mr and Mrs Weasley came to fetch them, Hermione felt equal parts anger and shame at the heartbroken looks on their faces when they realized what had happened. Three of their sons were werewolves now. Forty-three per cent of their children. Back then, when werewolf hysteria was at its peak, Hermione had understood their pain.

Now she was just infuriated that after seven bloody years, the fucking Weasley twins were making her life hell again. Everything she’d worked for, all of it ash now—completely undone.

She flipped angrily through the Killing Curse assignment to keep her mind off of her current troubles, mentally noting the ancient magic books she’d request from the Oxford library and the Sorbonne. She had a few working theories on Avada Kedavra, or at least a few ideas of where to go from here. She wished she could get her heart into the research because it was a topic she found fascinating, but the truth was, she was worried about the twins. She was worried about all of them, really.

Hermione fell into a restless state of researching and making notes. She’d started with a history of the Unforgivables written in 1904, but other than telling her that none of them had been made unforgivable until 1717, it was generally worthless and uncited.

She had a few other lines of inquiry into the Killing Curse and was currently sorting through all the promising texts available to her as an Unspeakable, trying to find the earliest accounts of its usage. If she knew when or where it was first invented and cast, she would be well on her way to learning how to unravel its creation, and therefore the magic that made it work. At half one, Harry and Luna’s old elf Kreacher popped in with a plate of cabbage, buttered bread, bacon, noodles, corned beef, an entire smoked cod, and pancakes—a strange collaboration of lucky New Year’s Day food from an assortment of cultures.

‘Mistress Luna sends a lucky lunch to Miss Hermione,’ Kreacher growled. It was his affectionate growl at least. He’d almost come to like her over the years.

Hermione sighed, setting her quill aside. She hadn’t even realized the time. It was a holiday for Merlin’s sake and she was sitting here doing research because she couldn’t stand to be alone in her flat or listening to her parents yammer on so cheerfully around her. They never quite grasped the gravity of her infection; Hermione suspected they didn’t want to, because it would break their hearts if they did, so they just pretended it was some bohemian lifestyle she’d chosen on purpose.

‘Thank you, Kreacher. Tell Luna thank you as well.’

Kreacher nodded. ‘If that will be all?’

Hermione hated to ask, but the Ministry was closed today and therefore the cafeteria as well. She bit her lip. ‘Would you mind bringing me a cup of coffee, too? Or tea? Or whatever Luna has made right now.’

Kreacher disappeared without a word and returned a second later with a carafe of steaming black coffee and a cup of cream.

Hermione beamed. ‘Thank you, Kreacher.’

When she was alone again, she poured herself a cup of coffee and picked up a slice of bacon to munch on as she flipped through a delicate copy of L’Histoire de la Magie Verte from the fourth century. Avada Kedavra wasn’t mentioned until the penultimate chapter (of course) and even then only in very little detail:

Avadakedavra—Proche-Orient; colour of spring grass; sound of winter wind.

‘Proche-Orient, brilliant!’ Hermione whispered, jumping up. She grabbed another piece of bacon to chew on as she rushed from the lab to the Unspeakable Library on the other side of the revolving foyer. The doors circled at her command, spinning and changing directions like chambers in a vault lock. She waited impatiently for the combination to finish, and finally the door that led to the gents, the Dangerous Experimental Explosions Lab, Senior Unspeakable Croaker’s office, and the Library—all depending on the combination used—clicked open.

Hermione rushed through, navigating the rows of shelves with practised ease. She found the section on Near and Middle Eastern Theories of Magic and paused, scanning the titles. The Unspeakables didn’t believe in a unified cataloguing system, believing it to stymie creative thought, and so Hermione really had no idea what all was available to her. This was not a section she’d frequented very much in the past. Many of the texts were written in Aramaic, Hebrew, Egyptian, Persian or Arabic—none of which she was fluent in. She knew a few words and phrases in Egyptian from a project she’d worked on during her second year as an Unspeakable, but it looked like this was going to require a Translation Charm.

She hated those.

Hermione glared at the books’ spines, trying to understand the titles by sheer force of will, but no such luck. Sighing, she pulled out her wand and tapped her temple, incanting the Translation Charm and cringing at the resultant headache when her mind was forcibly rearranged to accommodate a new language. It was similar to a migraine and so frustrating to read through that it made her want to go to bed instead, which was why almost everyone found the spell to be entirely useless and chose instead to undertake the learning of whatever language they were hoping to read or speak.

The library’s low lights felt like noon in the Mediterranean without sunglasses and she winced, waving her wand at the torches to lower them even further. She moved to the beginning of the section and once again began scanning the titles. Magical Persian Cats of the 4th Century...On the value of Turkish sand versus Egyptian sand in Time-Turners… Ankhs and Other Forces of Life… Kurdish Fertility Chants… Illness… Household Spells of the Ottoman Empire… Magic in Alexander the Muggle’s Court… Aramaic to Arabic Dictionary… Middle Eastern Middle Ages Magic… Palestinian Poultices.

Well, bugger. She was surprised at how small the Unspeakables’ collection on Near Eastern magical theory was, but the Ministry was notoriously xenophobic, so perhaps she shouldn’t be. She swished her wand, collecting all of the books to take with her. Her wand buzzed ten times as she left the Library, recording that she’d checked out each of the books. She put in the combination for her office and waited, shifting the cumbersome load of books, as the doors revolved.

It clicked open, and Hermione took a step in before whispering, ‘Damn!’ and closing it again. She’d put in the wrong combination and the door had opened to the ladies room instead. A second door opened behind her, and she huffed.

‘Reading in the loo?’ Draco asked.

‘Oh!’ Hermione turned, giving him an embarrassed smile. He took five of her books with one hand and swished the combination for their lab with his wand. ‘Put in the wrong flick,’ she admitted. ‘What are you doing here?’

The foyer began spinning all around them. He lifted one white-blond eyebrow at her and she felt a little dizzy, probably from the spinning. ‘I could ask the same of you, but I think we both know.’

The doors stopped and he moved to open theirs for her. She stepped through, calling over her shoulder, ‘Needed to be distracted.’

‘Exactly,’ he said. They were quiet as they returned to their office. Hermione set the books on their work table. Draco was hanging his cloak on the rack by the door; she eyed him out of the corner of her eye, biting her lip.

‘Did you...learn anything?’ she asked.

He turned, and she noticed the look on his face then. It was the one he wore when he was brewing a new attempt at a lycanthropy cure—the look that meant everything was serious and Malfoy’s don’t have time for fucking around. The same one he wore when he’d kissed her the first time.

‘I have a list,’ he said quietly. It echoed in the chamber of their lab, his voice reverberating over the stones like it was magic, too.

Hermione’s lips pressed together. She nodded. He knew all of them now and there was nothing wrong with that, but she couldn’t help being a little angry, deep down, that he’d never cared until now, and that when he did care, he went for the most efficient way of getting what he wanted instead of reaching out and trying to get their pack to come to him because they trusted him. Because whether he admitted it or not, the magic inherent in werewolves and packs had chosen him to be the male Alpha of their pack, and he’d never once acted to be Alpha. He’d never once stuck his neck out to protect the rest of them like he was supposed to.

‘And?’ Hermione asked.

Draco came to sit at the work table. He laid a folded piece of parchment between them, worrying the edges with his fingers. His fingers stopped; he unfolded the parchment and slid it across the table to her.


Graham Pritchard
Malcolm Baddock
Rose Zeller
Laura Madley
Emrys Cadwallader
Su Li
Morag McDougal
Stewart Ackerley
Demelza Robins
Kenneth Towler
Victoria Frobisher
Euan Abercrombie
Glenda Chittock
Barnabas Cuffe
Orsinio Thruston
Aladair Maddock
Meghan McCormack
Xenophilius Lovegood
Morgana Montgomery
Merlina Montgomery

Hermione gasped. ‘This isn’t the Hogwarts list.’

‘No,’ Draco agreed. ‘I didn’t ask him for it.’

Hermione’s eyes widened. ‘You didn’t?’

Malfoy looked away, mouth curling irritatedly. ‘No. I only asked for this one. The Hogwarts names are...they’re my pack. They deserve to tell me themselves. And—he won’t be printing these names, not yet.’

Her heart stopped for the briefest of moments. ‘He won’t?’

‘No, he’s going to run an article on me instead…talk about my research, how I’ve been trying to cure lycanthropy. They’ll only run articles on the werewolves who’ve already come out. And if anyone else wants to reveal themselves to be interviewed, he’s putting an open call at the end of each article.’

Hermione’s heart pounded. She grabbed his hand, crushing his fingers between her own. ‘Thank you.’

He sneered, but didn’t pull his hand away. ‘Don’t thank me, I still asked him for this list. And you,’ he said, turning the sneer on her. ‘Kirly Duke’s sister and band mate are on this list! There’s a fucking Chaser from the Magpies and presenter from the WWN on this list—these are big people, Granger. Important people. You knew and you didn’t say anything. Damn it, Hermione, Potter’s father-in-law is on this list and Lovegood was at my mother’s fucking party last night like she hadn’t a care in the world! ‘

Hermione glanced down at the list again, feeling that familiar ache of pity at all the names there. She didn’t mind being a werewolf, but she’d been one for so long now that it made no difference to her—these people were different. They’d had lives and families, unlike Hermione and many of the others who’d been bitten at Hogwarts while they were still students. They’d started their lives and careers dealing with lycanthropy. But for all these new people, lycanthropy was a complete upheaval of their lives, and Hermione felt sorry for them.

‘A quarter of our year from Hogwarts has been turned now,’ she breathed, barely audible. The list made her so sad, so angry.

Draco heard her, his enhanced hearing making out words from across a table that humans wouldn’t have heard from six inches. ‘What?’ he said.

‘Shit,’ Hermione said. They stared at one another. Draco’s eyes narrowed.

‘We weren’t the only seventh years who were bitten that night?’

Mutely, Hermione shook her head. ‘No.’

‘There were thirty-three students in our year, Hermione. With me, you, Weasley, Brown, and now Li and McDougal, that’s six. Eight or nine would make twenty-five per cent, depending on how you’re rounding.’

‘That’s right,’ Hermione whispered.

Draco stood, shoving his stool back and not caring when it clattered to the floor. He paced.

‘At least two other people,’ he said, seemingly to himself. ‘People I went to school with for six, seven years. They never told me. I never knew.’

‘You didn’t want to,’ Hermione said.

He whirled around. ‘I do now.’

An interdepartmental crane flew in, landing on top of the cold pancakes left over from Hermione’s lunch. Hermione glared at Draco, turning to unfold the note. ‘Oh my god. No. No, no, no!’

‘What?’ he said, stalking over.

She passed him the note, still shaking her head. God, she could cry right now. This was entirely too much stress for a person to be expected to handle. How could they sack her, them, now? They were Unspeakables! They weren’t even under the normal domain of the rest of the Ministry.

‘Oh fuck,’ he said. Ron’s note fell to the work table. He grabbed her and pulled her to him.

Hermione turned to him and wrapped her arms around his waist. All she could think was that she had given her life to the Werewolf Rights movement, and she’d never complained once. Not once. But right now, the injustice of the Ministry and the Wizengamot’s bigotry was just…it was just too much for her.

She squeezed Draco hard. A normal wizard would’ve bruised, but he just stood there and let her do it, absently raking his fingers through her hair as her hands clenched and unclenched rhythmically against him. Hermione took a deep, steadying breath and stepped back. She would not cry. She would not let this defeat her.

‘We need to get all our research,’ she said. ‘We need to get the notes from old experiments, the ones we already filed in the administrative office. You start with your lab and I’ll start with the books.’ She glanced at the clock above their shared desk. ‘We don’t have a lot of time. Half an hour before someone realizes we’re down here.’

Malfoy nodded. ‘Shrink it all and we’ll take it back to your flat.’

Hermione worried her lip. ‘Could we maybe set up in the Manor? I’ve only got my kitchen to brew in.’

‘Yeah, of course,’ he said. ‘Yeah—that’s a better idea. Just get everything shrunk and I’ll have a house-elf come get it.’

Hermione nodded. With a sigh, she turned and began, one by one, shrinking every book in their office as fast as she could. She would not cry. They could sack her, but they couldn’t silence her. She was a fucking Alpha werewolf and she would not break.

-x-

They Apparated to Weasley’s flat after their hasty flight from the office they’d shared together for five sodding years. Draco had hated a lot of people in his life to a great degree, but he’d never hated anyone as much as he did the Wizengamot in the moment he read Weasley’s note to Hermione.

Weasley was there waiting for them, his two sometimes-girlfriends curled up together on one end of his couch, smudged mascara running down Lavender’s face and an angry, bloodless look on Nymphadora’s. Hermione went to them right away, and Draco watched as they turned to her, moving apart to let her sit between them and then curling back around her as if just being near her brought them comfort.

That’s the purpose of an Alpha, Draco realized then. She’s amazing at it.

‘Beer?’ Weasley asked him. Draco turned to him, nodding. Weasley’s voice was emotionless and his face was, too.

‘Where’s Potter?’ he asked.

Weasley shrugged, stepping around Draco to flop down in the tatty old armchair positioned in front of the Muggle telly. He Summoned a beer for Draco with unusual carelessness. ‘He’s not a werewolf,’ Weasley said. ‘He’s still got a job.’

At this, Lavender Brown burst into a fresh set of tears.

‘What are they thinking?’ Hermione growled. ‘You lot are three of their best Aurors.’

Weasley gave her a sardonic look. ‘And you two aren’t two of their best ‘contracted potions consultants’?’ he said.

‘Everyone knows they’re Unspeakables,’ Draco’s cousin Tonks said.

Were Unspeakables,’ said Draco. He took a seat on the unoccupied end of the couch, his thighs pressing up against Lavender’s bare feet. ‘Now we’re—what was it you called it, Weasley?’

Weasley took a pull on his beer. ‘‘Indefinitely suspended, pending the Wizengamot’s decision on the legality of werewolves holding employment within the Ministry.’

‘Fucking bullshit,’ Tonks said. ‘I’ve been an Auror for eleven years. Four of them before I was infected!’

Just be grateful they aren’t convening to vote on legislation on the legality of werewolves having custody of children, Draco thought. He was wise enough not to say it and just sipped at his beer instead.

‘Up for a few moves?’ Weasley asked him, head lolling against the armchair in Draco’s general direction.

‘Yeah, guess so,’ Draco said. Weasley summoned the chessboard, setting it floating between them. He tossed his long legs over one arm of the couch and leaned his elbows over the side closest to the chessboard.

‘Was your move when we last played,’ Weasley said, eyes on the board.

Draco nodded. He took a few minutes to re-familiarize himself with the board. They’d been playing this same game now for two years, chasing each other around the board with a few moves here and a few moves there; neither of them were able to corner the other and it annoyed Draco to no end. This was their two-out-of-three game to see who was really the master chess player, although Draco didn’t think either of their hearts were in it today. Draco had won their first game, two years and six months after they started it, and Weasley had won the second, a year and five months after that.

Draco decided on a course of action and flicked his wand, directing his piece to move.

Sometime later, the Floo flashed to life, and Potter stepped out, looking shattered.

‘Mate,’ he whispered, seeing Weasley. Weasley stared blankly back at him. Potter’s gaze travelled to Hermione, and Draco could see his throat bobbing as he swallowed. Draco followed his gaze and watched a dozen emotions flicker over Hermione’s face.

‘Just say it,’ Weasley said.

Potter stared. ‘They’ve been indicted.’

Weasley looked away. Draco didn’t think he’d ever heard the sound Hermione made before. ‘When’s the trial?’ asked Weasley.

‘Monday.’

‘That’s hardly enough time for them to prepare a decent defence!’ Hermione said.

Potter gave her a look. ‘That’s the point, Hermione. You know that.’

She choked, looking away. ‘I know,’ she said. ‘It’s horrid. Horrid. Are we allowed in the courtroom or are we banned from that, too?’

‘No lycanthropes allowed in Ministry buildings until a decision is made on the legality of such,’ Harry said, as if reciting something he’d been told a dozen times that day.

‘Fuck my mother,’ Draco growled. ‘She insisted Yewsap come to that fucking gala.’

‘Why?’ Tonks asked.

Draco shrugged. He could only guess what went on in Narcissa’s head. No one told him anything. ‘She thought it would work to our advantage having the Head Auror there. She knew something would happen, but she thought it would be an attack against a werewolf, not an attack against a human.’

‘That was shit planning on her part,’ Potter said. He sighed, slumping down on the floor before the fire. ‘Although I did agree to give Yewsap the invitation.’

‘What are we going to do?’ Lavender asked. She was still wearing her scarlet Auror robes and the scars on her cheek from her infection stood out starkly against her face, blotchy from crying. Draco had no fucking idea about that, either. He turned back to the chessboard, surveying the game.

‘We need Marietta,’ Hermione said suddenly.

Draco gave her a look. ‘I think I’ve had enough of Edgecombe.’

Hermione scowled at him. ‘You’re confusing her with her mother, Draco.’

‘What’s Marietta got to do with anything?’ Weasley asked.

‘She’s pack,’ said Hermione. ‘We need our pack.’

‘And her mother’s a bitch,’ Weasley added.

Hermione gave him a hard stare. He ducked his head. ‘Her mother’s the Floo Network Regulator,’ Hermione said. ‘And because of her mother, Marietta’s out of a job.’

‘She worked in Transportation,’ Tonks added. ‘Apparation licenser. She was nice. Quiet, though.’

‘And now she’s going to be torn on her loyalties,’ Draco said, seeing Hermione’s point. Hermione scowled at him. She hated when he said aloud the ethically questionable things she thought.

‘She’s our pack,’ Hermione insisted.

‘Yeah,’ Draco said. ‘And who else?’

No one answered him. Even Potter looked away. So, even the non-werewolf knew who was in it. Draco smiled slowly. Well, they’d just see about that. They hadn’t seen anything like him when he was bored, and now that he was ‘indefinitely suspended’ and just waiting for the Wizengamot to declare it illegal for him to even exist, he had nothing but time.