The Glass Room
The Law had passed, the uproar had ceased, the matching process had begun, and no one harbouring a desire to procreate was able to refuse or resist. The bloodlines erased during the second wizarding war had left the 28 as the 19, and the half-blood’s and muggle born numbers were near eradication thanks to the rogue Death Eaters killing spree after the downfall of their Dark Lord. The Aurors had left no masked man standing, Azkaban stood empty, and now the only thing left to do was rebuild. No one with a sense of self preservation, of magical survival instinct had been able to come up with a plausible, legal reason for the Law to be undone. Thus, the bonding had begun. The matching processes were half magical science, half love potion. No one wished the couples to be unhappy, they simply wished them to be copulating as soon as possible. The Ministry had lifted the immigration laws and magic carpets, portkeys and fireplaces were filling up with internationally raised magical folk who hoped to come to the UK to find love. All natives and immigrants were required to fill in the questionnaires and be put forward for potential matches, although there were also self-nominations for those who had found their mate and were ready to Handfast.
Sub section 3 of the Law had promised that all matches would be based on three major factors:
3.1: Blood status.
3.2: IQ, EQ and personality match.
3.3: Pheromones and chemical response.
To put it simply, if a potential couple was proposed, either through self-nomination or by an official, they would be investigated for blood status (pure bloods were allowed to marry other pure bloods, but pure bloods and mixed blood matches were preferred to prevent an increased level of genetic cross-breeding and incestuous mutation); intelligence quotas were measured when the couple was put forward by officials as to force two people to spend their lives together breeding was difficult – to give the relationship a higher chance of happiness the two individuals must be a close match in intellect and have a minimum of three common interests, and two shared life goals; and they must resonate on a purely physical level… there was no point in forcing marriage for the sake of expanding the wizarding population if the couple would not consummate.
The forms were tedious and tiresome, they seemed to ask the same question five different ways and to delve deeply into subjects Hermione thought to be redundant or perverted. It wasn’t so much that she opposed certain sexual acts, it was that she felt the ministry was invading her privacy by asking if she preferred to “dominate or submit” in the bedroom, if she had ever “participated in sexual activities involving magical charms or enhancements”, or if she had any interest in “polyjuice potion assisted role-play”. She thought she had answered all of these intrusive queries when she had completed the initial questionnaire, and was irked to find the self-nomination forms to be even more probing.
She sighed deeply as she realised there were twelve more pages to go. She and Theo had decided months ago that they would self-nominate. It was the right decision. They had put aside their house rivalry during their time as trainee Healers and had become close friends as they progressed through their apprenticeships and into their professional roles. Hermione and was now part of a small team at the Ministry researching new experimental healing charms. Theo was the assistant to director magical malady Healer at St. Mungo’s in the war trauma ward.
Both had lost many loved ones in the war. They had cried, commiserated and healed together, and somewhere along the way their hands had touched and it had been… pleasant. Comfortable. Familiar. Easy. Not earth shattering, but then, who needed tsunami’s when one had the constant stability of the easy tides on the shore lines? Hermione thought of Theo as her moon, he was always there when she lapped in or eased away, never pulling her too close or letting her stray too far. They worked well together as neither had a constant need for attention or validation, both enjoyed their work enough to find happiness in the long hours, the mental fatigue that accompanied their positions, and the lack of fiscal incentive. It made sense on a logical level that they would make well rounded children. The children would physically represent them both, would add muggle blood to a pure-line and expand the Wizarding genes, and their children would make a positive contribution to society – which is, Hermione thought, the entire point of the Law… to create a new generation of magical blood with as much potential as possible.
Yes, Hermione nodded to herself as she marked the ‘no’ box next to “animagus transfiguration curiosity”, this is the right decision.
The next morning Hermione awoke early to the tapping of an owl at her window. She rose quickly and ushered it inside, unwinding the scroll before placing it in her lounge room to warm its wings next to the fire with an owl treat. The ministry’s seal broke as she unwound the parchment expecting to read permission to attempt a new curse-breaking hex.
She dropped the parchment and fell to the floor, hands over her face.
“No, no, no…” Hermione’s mind was firing thought patterns in every direction. She stood, grabbed the parchment, left the Owl where it was, and rushed from her apartment.
“How could this have happened?” Hermione paced across Theo’s office as he sat passively at his desk watching her. “We told everyone we were due to hand in our papers, the ministry is aware we had intention to file for self-nomination, we specifically asked our loved ones to not interfere by suggesting a match to the ministry, Harry stated everything was fine to go ahead as soon as our forms were handed in!”
“Hermione, please take a breath. We understood this was a possibility, the clerical process does not stop simply because we verbalise intention. Until our forms are received you and I are both viable, single candidates for the match makers. You, in particular, are a very well sought-after Witch – sometimes I think you forget the part you played in Voldemort’s downfall, and your social intelligence could use some… gentle refining… you don’t read cues well. I assume, based on my family trust alone, that there will be women out there vying for my name to show up in their next Owl. We will visit with Harry this afternoon and get this sorted.”
Hermione arrived promptly at three. She strode in confidently, searching for Theo in the empty waiting room.
“Hermione?” Harry’s voice came from behind the half-open door at the back of the waiting room, “Come here a minute, please.”
Hermione entered. The chagrined expression Harry wore told Hermione everything she needed to know.
“I won’t do it, Harry.”
“Hermione… it is law! The … I … You… you must understand, it is not only you who has been asked to participate in subsection 3.3 testing phase. Everyone who has been nominated must participate. You may find you are drawn to them, more so than Theo… and if not, well, you can decline as you have verbalised intention to self-nominate, but you must attend. I am sorry. I really am.”
“Hermione. I am the Minister and I must do what is best for my people. I understand you may feel anger or resentment towards me, but please know that while you must attend the screening you do not have to marry whomever you are matched with if the chemistry is not there. Our lawyers have been thorough, and we cannot force you, we can only suggest a match based on the personality traits and questionnaires every Witch and Wizard submitted when this was passed. I do not wish to pull rank on you, but if I must do so to get you to attend, then I will.”
“Harry, by saying you do not wish to pull rank, you are, inadvertently, pulling rank. I will go, to keep face for the public and pretend that this Law is not oppressive, to save you the humiliation of having to write an order for me to attend, and to prevent the Love Police from smashing down my office door. But I will only marry Theo. Understood?”
“Understood. Thank you.”
Hermione was blind folded.
She had been led directly from Harry’s office into the sterile room. There she had been stripped by the White Witches, the magical equivalent to nurses, and sprayed clean of any residue she may have had on her from her day. The only scents to remain were to come directly from her body – sweat, blood, hair, musk, pheromones, breathe. She had been given a filmy robe and brought to a room. The temperature was mild and there was minimal humidity. She felt as though she were in a dry womb. Her senses were blind; no sight, no objects to touch, no scents to sniff or taste, nothing to listen to.
And then there was.
A gentle gust across her face signalled the presence of someone close by. Hermione felt her nerves quaver slightly in anticipation.
Regardless of how this process went, it was both exiting and unnerving knowing she was standing, blindfolded, in a room with a person that had systematically been chosen for her… that her pre-requisites had been considered, that this person could potentially stimulate her mind and meet her halfway on her life journey.
She shook her head.
How ridiculous. Love was not calculated by forms and check boxes. Love was stability, consistency, knowing how two people operated together daily. Love was compromise, and understanding, acknowledgement and discussion.
The hairs on her forearms stood straight. Goosebumps spread as she air around her shifted slightly.
He was moving. Searching for her.
She understood how this part of the process worked.
They were each to attempt to utilise their physical senses to find one another without sight or verbal communication. Once they found one another it was up to them how to proceed – if, indeed, they chose to; there had been one occasion where the participants had immediately simultaneously withdrawn.
Hermione stood still.
She felt a vibration.
A disturbance in the atmosphere.
Something was shifting…
She felt a slight frisson at the thought that this man, this unknown entity whom was here only for her with no other reason, no ulterior motive, no knowledge it was her, simply that the woman on the other side of his blindfold might be his forever… was searching for her…
A primal feeling erupted in her chest, it spread quickly through her body, up to her temple, down her neck, her chest, stomach, back, legs and arms, toes and fingers, all tingling with a rush of heat and adrenaline.
She inhaled sharply and took in a warmth, reminding her of the Gryffindor common room hearth, the flaky pastries she had nibbled on warm mornings at her aunties provincial vineyard on school holidays, a sweetness reminiscent of pumpkin pie and candied apples.
She was tired of chasing, of writing, of preparing, of the endless battle to get what she wanted.
She sighed and felt it blow back towards her – something was blocking her breaths path. She had imagined the other person would take much longer to find her. They had come to her almost instantly.
He was right in front of her. She longed to remove her blindfold and identify him, but she was a stickler for the rules (more importantly, she was afraid if she ruined this process by straying from formula she would be forced to re-participate with another suitor).
She counted to five in her mind and breathed again.
Someone breathed back at her.
It was warm, sweet. She knew from her parents that good breath meant good internal health. She smiled to herself. Good dental hygiene was important to her. Not that it mattered.
The person in front of her was smiling, she could feel it… the feeling you know something without knowing it, the knowing defying reason or logic. She had no facts to base this knowing on, just a feeling.
A feeling passing through their zeitgeist. She knew they knew she was smiling, too. They were sharing a knowing and a smile, and neither of them could see the others mouth.
She heard a muffled laugh covered by a cough which made her giggle louder.
“They can’t hear us in here.”
She startled. The voice was one she had heard before, perhaps in passing, or a long time ago. It stirred something within her, something… evocative… passionate? Emotive? And … danger… The sense was strong, but she was uncertain what the sense was. She pushed this aside.
The voice continued.
“I helped create the room. We call it the Glass Room. It’s a time-lapse bubble, but they can’t hear us. We’re allowed to talk now that I’ve found you.”
Now that I’ve found you…
Hermione clamped her lips together.
“You smell delicious. Like vanilla, rose, cognac, violets, freshly cut grass, sugar, hearth-fire, and … something I can’t place.”
“I can’t smell like any of that,” Hermione corrected him before she could stop herself. “I was cleansed before entering.”
“I didn’t say you had any of those scents on you, I said you smell delicious. I’m smelling you not lingering scents.”
She felt her face flush, the warmth travel down her neck to her chest, her arms, stomach and legs. She felt the gaze of the man in front of her, but knew she was being ridiculous.
He was blindfolded.
“I can almost see you through this. Mine is thin.”
She opened her eyes. She was surprised she hadn’t thought to do so before he mentioned it. Simply having a slip of something placed over your eyes does not truly blind, simply obscures. Her eyes adjusted easily. The room seemed to be dimly lit. The silhouette in front of her was outlined by a soft yellow glow. He was taller than her, she scrutinised the height difference and presumed he was at least a foot, maybe a foot and half taller than her. His chest was wide, his shoulders broad, but she could discern no distinguishing features, nothing to offer a clue to his identity.
“What happens now?” Hermione murmured.
“How you feel… how I feel…” His voice was suggestive, and she felt a lightness in her stomach, a jolt beneath her belly button.
“I feel fine, thank you for asking. How do you feel?” she responded purposefully misunderstanding his insinuation.
“Come find out…” he whispered.
She moved forwards surprising them both. She pressed her hands against his chest and felt a tickle on her palms, her blood was flowing there, her fingers engorging with excitement. He was firm. She pushed into him and found resistance. He flexed underneath her fingers and she ran them along the outline of his pectoral muscles, cautiously exploring the line that took her hands to his subclavius, up to his deltoids. She squeezed his shoulders and lightly ran a single finger up either side of his neck.
He shivered beneath her touch.
“May I…?” He raised his hand and left it dangling to her side.
Hermione weighed her options. On the one hand she was, for all intents and purposes, informally engaged to Theo.
On the other hand, it was just a touch. A slight of hand. And she had to follow the law, and being here, this, here and now, him… it was The Law.
She was here to rule this out. Therefore, she had to ride this to the edge to make certain she had given it the best shot and could firmly say no, “an informed no…” she pictured herself saying to Harry. “I undertook the process and can firmly say no, that suitor was not for me, Theo is for me.”
She reached out and brought his hand to her face. He cupped her cheek, his fingertips tracing the curve of her jaw, the softness of his fingers flushing her face.
“I can feel the heat in your cheeks.”
She could only nod.
“Are you here voluntarily?”
She shook her head.
“I am. I’m here to find a mate. I’d have preferred to find someone to self-nominate with, but, well, the lady I thought… she had, she found, she self-nominated with a friend of mine. So that was ruled out.
I signed up for this on a whim, but when I was notified a potential match had been found, I have to say I was excited.”
Hermione groaned internally. He was here to find love, a partner, a wife. He was here to take this seriously.
“I am in the process of self-nominating…” she disclosed in a hushed voice. “I’m sorry.”
“Oh. Ah. Well then.” He coughed. “I suppose we should end this session?”
She felt the inflection in his voice like a stab in the chest. End it? How could this end so soon? It was mere moments ago he had been caressing her face! And now he wished to leave… to leave so he could
stop wasting his time, because he wanted to find someone to marry… and she was only here to prove a point. But to prove her point she had to go through the process properly. To properly go through with the process she must give him time. Time that he did not want to waste on someone who was going to self-nominate.
“The barriers have not come down.” He interrupted her thought process.
“I’m sorry?” She queried.
“When it’s time to leave the bubble opens, the glass walls disappear. It is automated magic, and something is preventing it from opening.”
“Oh. That is interesting…”
“Yes. It is.”
“What would prevent it from opening?”
“Ahhh…” Hermione sank to the floor. She felt the stranger sink with her. She crossed her legs, elbows on knees, hands cradling her chin.
“What are you thinking?”
Hermione considered her options. Again, she concluded that being honest and trying this properly was the best way forward.
“I am hesitant because maybe this, you and I, are a better match than my self-nominated partner. I am hesitant to leave because you and I have… something - ”
“Chemistry” he interjected.
“Mmmm, yes, well, I am hesitant because from all I have read on love and relationships, on longevity of marriage, of sustainable companionship, chemistry is only the first ingredient. Love is not about falling but standing. About finding someone you can enjoy not just physically, but mentally, and emotionally, and with whom to share your favourite activities, and work towards a common goal. Love is about more than pheromones… but I don’t feel this with him. Can love really be founded on friendship? Solid friendship, yes, but platonic friendship. I hadn’t realised before, but the frisson I felt with you was the first time I had experienced something electric. Do you mind me talking about this? About him?”
“I only mind if you stop. I’m here to find a partner. A real partner. If you’re willing to give this trial a real go, to take this seriously rather than simply going through the motions for whatever your original reason was, then I want you to open to me to any level you feel comfortable. If we are to consider the fact we may leave the glass room with a Law mandated marriage date, then we need to be open with each other. Talk to me. Ask me questions. Share your thoughts.”
“Will you tell me about the lady you were planning on self-nominating with?”
Hermione sat in silence, drawing breath in and out slowly.
“You mean right now?”
“Well, yes. I have told you a bit about my situation, I’d like to hear a bit about yours. If you expect me to open up, you need to reciprocate. I don’t know you.”
“But you feel as though you do. I know, because I feel it, too.”
“That may be, however, it is only a feeling, and feelings cannot be the foundation for decision making. If I am to take this seriously then you are to as well, and to show me you are I require you to participate on the same level.”
“Are you always this pushy?”
“The term most people use is ‘exasperating’, but yes, I have been known to ‘push’.”
“Good, I like a dominant woman.”
Hermione couldn’t help but smile.
“What do you do?”
“Whatever I’m told to do, really, but I’ll pretend to resist if you’d like to spank me.”
“I mean for work!” Hermione laughed.
“I direct projects. I’m pretty good at being pushy, too, but I like being pushy from the sidelines and allowing others to do the heavy lifting. My main part in this project was managing the financial aspects, although, as I donated a large sum to the Ministry, I was permitted to sit in on the planning and experimenting that occurred prior to the unveiling.”
“That wasn’t a clear answer.”
“Then I suppose the real answer is, I don’t work. I give money to causes I deem worthy, and in return I am offered a chance to offer input if I have the knowledge to, or to simply witness the project unfold.
I predominantly give to causes which will further the Wizarding society, however, I have also funded projects to help save Centaur habitats, to clean Mer-lakes of Muggle junk, and to regerminate the Forbidden Forest after the second Wizarding War… I also, uh, gave a lot of money to St. Mungos war trauma ward, and to the Ministries experimental healing trust. I wanted to help heal those who suffered. I was the financial backer of the newly introduced Wizarding Law regarding Witches and Wizards attending Hogwarts from the age of 9 instead of 11, to assist the education of the younger generation, and to keep them safe earlier… just … just in case.”
Hermione’s mind flashed back to Hogwarts. She had been back periodically to assist in rebuilding, but some of the wings were so drastically and permanently damaged by cursed magic that they had been magically removed and rebuilt stone by stone. Hagrid had enlisted his giant brethren which had made light work of heavy stones, and the original blue prints had been taken from “Hogwarts a History” to attempt to recreate… however it seemed the castle itself had had different ideas. Whenever they rebuilt a wing it would disappear and reappear on another side, facing a different direction, stones would move, and rooms would disappear. Dumbledore’s painting had considered this and consulted with the other past Heads of Hogwarts and they had concluded the Founders had spelled the castle to expand but never to forget damage done to it. A lingering lesson.
The castle was now larger and newer than it had been when Hermione had first stepped foot off the boat in her first year, however, it was no longer her Hogwarts. Ron had scoffed, but Harry had understood.
Hermione tried to bring her mind back to the here and now. This man must have attended Hogwarts or had family who had. His accent was slight, but it was there, a gentle twang… maybe he had spent time overseas, or potentially had been overseas and arrived in the UK many years ago and covered his native tongue. Regardless, it warmed her heart to hear that he was kind and well meaning. She had not met many people with money who were.
“That is not normally the response I receive when I share this information. Why are you laughing?”
“You may be my boss… I work in the experimental healing department.”
“Ah. Well, no. Not your boss. Just your pay check.” She could hear the smile in his voice. “I haven’t had much to do with that project. I have been more interested in expanding St Mungo’s, and helping plan programs for orphanages to turn their residents over to Hogwarts.”
“I heard a rumour that was going ahead.”
“You work at the Ministry, I’m sure you hear a lot of gossip.”
“Not as much as you’d expect. I try to keep to myself. I have my friends, and my… I don’t know what to call him.” She realised they’d come full circle.
“You can call him your boyfriend. I don’t know what’s happening here, with us, in here, but I know you had a life before you entered the glass room, and he was obviously a big part of that.”
“He was. He is.”
“Tora was a big part of mine. Then I… well, it doesn’t matter. But she chose someone else.”
“I’m sorry. That must have hurt.”
“It was my own fault.”
Hermione felt she was at a standstill. They were still trapped, so obviously she still had some stuff to sort out. She was enjoying the conversation, although she felt more confused now than she had at the start when she had been touching him.
She remembered the electricity zinging up her arms, could picture the blue bolts emanating from her fingertips at the mere thought of placing her skin against his.
She edged closer to him.
He moved to face her.
She raised her left hand as he raised his right, and their palms touched, fingers intertwining.
She felt his blood pumping beneath his skin, felt how the rivers began streaming faster as his heart rate increased. She felt her breath quicken. Her chest rose and fell as she sat in silence holding hands with the faceless man in front of her.
“How did you meet her?”
“I met her in Australia, I was there on vacation and my family had business dealings with hers. I met her sister first, and we had a meaningless snog. When I met Tora all other women fell off my radar. She was exceptional. Tall, blonde, beautiful, sharp cheek bones and wit to match. Don’t get me wrong, she had a great personality, too, we roared like fire when we got each other going, but she was maliciously humorous… she had a very soft and gentle side as well, but in the end her … I guess her blood lines, her predispositions, won.”
“She sounds very complex.” Hermione drawled sarcastically. She could picture this girl, she’d met a hundred Tora’s in her life, both at school and then through work. Rich, snide, and too pretty to grow real personalities, too high in society to develop manners or empathy.
“Unfortunately, not.” He had missed her sarcasm. “After a few months I realised that she was rather shallow. On one level I enjoyed it, she didn’t need much from me, she never needed validation, she had her own money, so I knew she wasn’t after mine… but it became tedious. She, like I, had lost family in the war, but she didn’t know how to come back from it. She sank into her hatred and the jokes I had once thought were slights were becoming her monologue, the philosophy I had taken as a child was her adult way of living, and she did not want to heal, she could not leave the past in the past.”
“I’m sorry. I’m also confused. I thought you said you wanted to self-nominate with her? She sounds like she may not have been the best for you? And… well, you said it was your fault? How so?”
“I suggested she see a heart healer, talk through her grievances, get some closure, try to move on. She lost both her parents, nearly lost her sister, her favourite cousin and all her aunts and uncles died – rather viciously, to be honest.”
“The Death Eaters never spare a care for those they took down!” Hermione’s outburst silenced him. “They tortured me, too. And my friends. I feel her anger and her pain. Your Tora had every right to feel how she did!” Hermione sobbed over the last few words. She had never let out her anger towards the Death Eaters. Harry had never stopped himself, and Ron never sugar coated his thoughts, but in the past Hermione had been the one to calm them. She had spoken of the Death Eaters as enemies, as opposing soldiers, as a faceless army to be eliminated… she had not too deeply delved into her own outrage at the people behind the masks… the families that had attempted to corrupt, coerce and kill her and anyone like her.
“I don’t think that is exactly how she was feeling…” his voice came through softly, but Hermione was so wrapped up in her own unravelling she did not pause to respond.
She wrapped her arms around her legs and cradled herself into a ball. The tears were coming. Tears she had not shed in front of anyone but Theo.
“I’m sorry… I shouldn’t have… The war still hurts, I know.” He leaned over and covered her with his body, his long arms spreading warmth around her body as she rocked back and forwards, no longer trying to cry quietly. She buried her face under his arm and drank in the comforting scent of his musk. She slid her arms around him and held him close, tight. Her moans were muffled by his presence, and his presence soothed her.
“I’m so sorry, I’m so, so sorry…” He whispered into her hair. “You’ll never know how sorry I am. If we leave here today and never meet again, please just know I am doing everything I can to make it right, to make it better. I want the world to heal, I want to be able to look at myself in a mirror and not see blood and dust and tears, to be able to sleep without hearing screams and cries and collapse. Please, please, know that if it is within my power we will never go through anything like that again, not you, not I, not our society.”
“You hear it? You hear the collapse and the screams? You – you were there?”
“I can still smell the smoke and the dust of the collapsing building, see Fenrir’s teeth and Voldemort’s snarl, taste the blood and the bile, hear… I can still hear my friends dying.”
Hermione pulled back. She tried to see through the blind fold, but she couldn’t make him out. This close the dim light was really blinding.
“Who are you?”
“I’m your best match. Who are you?”
“Isn’t that enough, then? For now?”
She sank back into his arms knowing that he had shared enough for the moment and that if she pushed his defences would go up. She felt content, yet unruly and wired. She was in emotional turmoil, her body was on edge being this close to him, her heart was ripping open at the seams and over flowing with all the emotion she had never let herself feel post-war, and she was confused by his story, his memories, his apologies… many people felt they could have prevented the war if they’d listened to Dumbledore… she reminded herself, he must have been at the Ministry when Fudge was shutting down the information.
She ran a finger in circles on his chest. He nuzzled her hair and inhaled deeply. She sighed and leaned against him. She was now sitting between his out stretched legs, her bottom between his thigs, her legs over his right leg, her body angled diagonally towards him. She could turn away or turn into him. She realised she’d never sat this way with Theo. Just comfortably clicking in place. Relaxed. No expectations, no discussion, no … no electricity…
She was feeling it. His hands were running along her back, her side, he was pushing boundaries, but then, did she really have boundaries anymore? She had laughed with him, cried with him, held him, sniffed him, touched him, and was now lounging between his legs.
She pushed the thoughts of war away. She tried to calm her mind and come to a subject that would allow them to feel something nice, to focus on the light and the good things in life. The things they were protecting when their world had collapsed around them at the Battle of Hogwarts.
“I think your latest cause is wonderful. I’d often considered why magical children were allowed to continue living in muggle orphanages. It’s difficult, growing up with these weird abilities and having those closest to you think you’re a freak, or wonder if their eyes are misleading them, or simply ignoring your presence because your presence does not fit their reality.”
“Did you grow up in one?”
“No. My parents are non-magical. When I first arrived, I thought I was muggle-born, however, after much digging I found that I am distantly related to the … “
Hermione stopped. She had never disclosed this information to anyone before. Not Harry, not Ron, not even Dumbledore… although she had suspected he knew.
“I have magical blood in me. The family cursed a member many generations ago to prevent the magic rising for five generations. It was punishment for going against the family tradition and marrying a half-blood instead of a pure blood. The couple would never see a magical heir.”
“Yes, old blood has certain ideas. Tora’s family were of the same inclination.”
“What do you mean?”
“Her anguish was not that the Death Eaters had killed her family. Her grievance was that her family had been killed by Aurors.”
“Oh!” Hermione instantly understood. She repressed a shudder. This man had made love to the product of a Death Eater, one who must have shared their views if she was disturbed by the success of the Aurors.
“Did she participate in the war?”
“No, she was too young. She was removed from the castle, the children were rounded up and kept in the clearing in the forest. She watched from the perimeter and saw a lot, but her parents would not let her help defend their family. She watched them both die at the hands of an ex professor.”
Hermione’s heart rate was increasing again. Lupin. Lupin had killed the parents of this man’s ex lover… she racked her brain going through the deaths from the battle, trying to remember who had been murdered by whom, and then Lupin’s lifeless face floated in front of her eyes, his hand outstretched, reaching for his limp wife and they both moved in to the next world.
“Two less Death Eaters is a good thing.”
“They may have been Death Eaters, but they were still people. People with family and history, with hobbies and interests, with pets and siblings, with futures cut short. No-one, no matter which side they were on, really deserved what happened.”
“How can you say that? If they were supporting Voldemort’s cause of course they deserved that!”
“You believe in an eye for an eye?”
“I used to. After the battle I believe that I will take both eyes ahead of time, just in case my enemy wants mine.”
“Where does heart fit into this?”
He slid her legs from his thigh, stood up and began pacing. She could hear his steps and see his shape moving back and forwards.
“I was there.”
“At the battle?”
“Which side were you fighting for?”
“I was fighting for my family.”
“That doesn’t answer the question.”
“I think you know that it does.”
She bit her lip. He was telling her without telling her. He had been hooded. Or at least, he had been set in the clearing with the other Slytherin children. There was no mistake that his blood was green.
Theo’s blood was green. He fought for his family, too. He wanted to protect his nieces, he didn’t want his dad to die, he wanted his mothers legacy to live on… Theo had to make a hard choice and had spent his entire adult life making amends.
“Is that why you do what you do?”
“I am trying to live the life my mother wanted for me. When I was young all she wanted was for me to be happy. This made her happy. Giving money to projects, attending social functions, sculpting the community to her liking. It makes me feel close to her doing what she was doing. It also does help me to know that those who suffered at the hands of my father and his fanatical friends are being assisted in their quest to rebuild.”
“I was there, too.”
“Yes. I remember.”
“You know who I am?”
“I think so.”
“Say my name.”
“No. Not until you figure out mine.”
He sat. He was fidgety.
Hermione could feel his angst. She had a handful of names in her mind, but without more information she had no confirmation. He had been a Slytherin who had been at the battle… there had been hundreds of them. She was uncertain of his age, although the match making process would give her a 5 year difference either side of her age. Most likely her age or older, as the younger children had not been allowed to participate. His mother had been a wealthy social butterfly… well, most Slytherin families had money, and they were all social in their quest to hide their malicious pass-times, and to continue attempting to shape the community in their world-view, and to create a sense of superiority as they had the wherewithal to do so as they pleased due to their family trusts. He was a project manager and benefactor to the Ministry.
She sighed. She had no idea. It could have been any number of people she knew, or someone she had only passed by once or twice perhaps as she was running from the Chamber of Secrets with a skirt full of basilisk fangs, or maybe charging by as she, Ron and Harry had sneaked to the Whomping Willow to make their way to the Shrieking Shack.
She hated this.
All their discussion kept coming back to the war. She had spent time trying to move past this with Theo. She thought she had felt all she could feel, had cried all the tears she could produce.
She felt him moving closer.
She wanted him to, and she didn’t. She wanted to ask him more questions but was afraid of the answers. She wanted him to touch her and she feared his body, the body that had potentially battered people she loved, a body that maybe even murdered.
She was becoming tired.
She yawned. It was emotionally draining, this process.
She hadn’t realised how much of herself she would strip down to a stranger.
He was still quietly sitting close by.
A rumbling brought her out of her head, and she laughed loudly.
She was tired, and he was hungry. Obviously, the time lapse bubble did not prevent their bodies from normal function.
“Place your hand out, palm side up, flat.”
She obeyed his instructions, curious.
She felt something materialise. Her fingers wrapped around a small, circular waxy object. She heard a crunch next to her and realised it was food. She brought it to her nose and sniffed. It was sweet, tart.
She licked the skin and couldn’t place the taste. She bit in and the juice dripped down her chin. She moaned as she took another bite. It was the most delicious green apple she had ever tasted. The crunch was perfect, the texture ripe, the taste bold and sharp. She continued nibbling until she was down to the core.
She felt it become whole again.
“Gamp’s Law of elemental transfiguration. One cannot create food from nothing, so I sourced the perfect apple, and I placed a multiplying charm on it. I can eat it over and over, wherever I am, forever.”
Hermione was impressed. It was a smart but difficult move, to perfect elemental transfiguration on food. She knew as she had tried repetitively while on her journey with Harry and Ron. Every time they found a fresh egg, a loaf of bread, or a fish, she would attempt to multiply with no success.
He was obviously very intelligent and magically talented.
“I was camping with friends when we were teenagers, our supplies had been compromised… one of the guys went down to the river and accio’d a trout. We were lucky he knew what a trout was because the rest of the fish were unidentifiable, we wouldn’t accio any of them without their names. There seemed to be only the one trout… I tried to multiply it, it split in half and around 200 fish tail bones fell out of the middle, but no flesh. It was funny until we realised I’d ruined the only fish we had.”
“What did you do for food?”
“I sneaked on to a muggle farm and left some coins under a hen. I took her eggs.”
“Why did you leave coins? Hens produce randomly, no one would have known they were there or not.”
“It’s the principle of the action. I took something, therefore I left something.”
“That makes no sense. It would have confused the farmer. Going for eggs which may or may not have been there and instead finding coins. A sign someone had fossicked on their farm. A trespasser.
They’d not have known if you meant harm or not. If you had left or not. Leaving coins would not have signalled you’d taken eggs. You don’t know these people, coins may be a bad omen for them when found randomly, they may have Gypsy mentality, or Roma, or have blamed someone innocent.”
“Oh Merlin!” Hermione gasped. “I thought, I just thought it was better than stealing!”
“Sometimes moving in the shadows is for the best. If no one can see you then no one can get hurt by your actions, no matter how innocent or well meaning you intent them to be someone, somewhere will misinterpret.”
“Is this why you predominantly operate your projects from the side-lines?”
“Yes. People see my face, or hear my name, and they don’t understand why I do what I do. I try to stay away from the papers, from the crowds.”
“I try to, too. People seem to expect a lot from me.”
“Why wouldn’t they. Brightest Witch of her Time.”
“I haven’t heard that title in a long time.”
“Regardless of if they say it to your face, they say it.”
“I wish they wouldn’t. I wish I could have some peace and quiet, and just get on with my work.”
“Are you still eating?”
“How many times have you eaten this apple?”
“I’ve had this apple a very long time. It was the first advanced charm I ever perfected.”
“How old were you?”
“You were twelve! When you perfected food multiplication?”
“You weren’t the only bright one at school.” His comment sounded snarky, and Hermione felt that twang again, the idea that she had heard his voice somewhere, at some point, and this time she had a clear memory of Hogwarts but was still unsure if it had been during the battle, or another time.
“Did your mother teach you how to do that?”
“Yes. She was a fine witch. I loved spending my childhood roaming the grounds with her, watching her multiply the flowers. She was exceptionally talented when it came to fruits, she could tap one blossom on a tree and cover every branch with ripening apples.”
“That sounds lovely. I wish I’d had a magical mother.”
“You did. She just wasn’t aware of her magic. From which family did you descend?”
“Does it matter?” Hermione felt herself tighten. If he was asking, did this mean he still harboured some pure-blood ideals?
“Yes. I don’t wish to marry anyone too closely related. Even if your family has been non-magical for a few generations we may find out that our grandparents were cousins, unaware of each other as squibs are often sent off to the muggle world, but still…”
“I am related to the Greengrass family.”
“You are kidding me!” The man began laughing loudly and Hermione flushed.
“Why is this amusing to you?”
“I know a few from the Greengrass line. They would not like knowing a descendant had betrayed the family philosophy and been cursed to produce five generations of squibs.”
“They may already know.”
“No, they only know that people who betray the family are cast aside and never thought of as family again. A poisoned branch must be cut from the tree to protect the trunk. This allows the pure blossoms to ripen appropriately.”
“That’s a bit unnerving.”
“My mother used to tell me that all the time.”
“When you were gardening with her?”
“Sort of, yeah.”
“Did your mother believe in the pure-blood ideals?”
“She believed in family and loyalty, in happiness. Most of all she believed in me.”
Hermione smiled to herself. A loving mother was important to a child’s development, it shaped how they saw the world and what they chose to do in their life. His mothers influence showed every time he spoke of her.
“Is she still alive?”
“No. My parents, both… We need to change the subject. Lets discuss something else. The war happened, it is done. The damage is real and permanent and no matter what we say or what we do we cannot change that, nor bring back those we lost. You and I are here to help replenish, so let us look forwards, let us discuss issues that are important to us, see if you and I and this “thing” can work.”
Hermione thought back to a psychology book she had studied over her last weekend. A way to get to know someone quickly without delving too deeply was through quick questioning and word associations. It could be fun… anything would be more fun than going over the war again and again. And it would give her insight she needed to make an informed decision.
“Rapid fire questions?”
“Merlin’s Melody. Yours?”
“Somewhere Only We Know. Favourite colour?”
“That is a shade, not a colour,” Hermione corrected him. “Mine is Gold.”
“Gold is a metal, not a colour.”
“Emerald and Gold.” He smirked.
“That’s cheating!” Hermione retorted.
“It’s not. Favourite element?”
“Mercury. Favourite planet?”
“Mercury.” They laughed. “Favourite book?”
“Hogwarts a History. Yours?”
“Magical Maladies and Other Cocktail Concoctions. Favourite school subject?”
“Least favourite subject?”
“Ancient Runes. Yours?”
“Reading, no, writing, no, knitting, no, I can’t choose!” Hermione giggled.
“I like roaming through my orchard or eating out with friends.”
“What do you grow?” Hermione smiled as they answered at the same time.
The mood was considerably lighter. She hadn’t gained much deep information, but she was glad to find they had a few things in common.
“What is your five-year plan?” The question hit her hard. Her five-year plan had involved Theo.
“I’m unsure at this point,” she began cautiously. “I guess a lot depends on work. It keeps me busy, I barely have time to see my family.” Hermione purposefully left out the fact that her parents were still in
Australia living a very happy life with no knowledge of her, and that she checked in with them once a month to make certain they were healthy, thriving and safe. She had considered removing the memory charms, however, she knew how much damage could be done to the brain and personality upon removal; and, on the off-chance, there was ever a Death Eater revival, she would have to hide them again.
This gave her the satisfaction they were ok and out of harms way. They thought she was an extremely friendly neighbour with whom they brunched with occasionally, or ran into at the park, and attended the same doctor. She had even visited their new Dental practise, and had her mother remove her wisdom teeth. Her mother had held her hand as she woke from the anaesthesia. It was the most comforting contact she’d had from her mother in many years, and she cried. Her mother had assumed it was due to the pain and continued holding her hand. She’d asked Hermione if anyone was coming to pick her up as she wasn’t allowed to drive. Hermione had responded that she would catch a taxi. Her mother had asked where Hermione’s parents were. Hermione told her she’d lost her parents a few years ago, but they were in a much better place now, and it was better for everyone this way. Her mother had smiled sadly and stroked her hair back from her wet cheeks.
Hermione put her parents out of her mind. She would tell him eventually, but now wasn’t the time.
Wait… why will I tell him eventually?
Do I… do I want to confide in him?
Do I want to talk to him again beyond this experience?
“And yours?” Hermione tilted her head and began playing with her hair.
“My blind fold had fallen down. I can see you. You’re exactly who I thought you were.”
“No, I’m not. Even if you know my name you don’t know me.”
“I’d like to. Know you better.”
The silence hung between them.
“My plans don’t change much over the years. Charity events, projects, gala’s, home to an empty bed, a walk through my mother’s orchard, a trip overseas to get some sun, back for more projects, a night out with my friends, more projects… it’s becoming tedious to tell you the truth.”
“I’d really like kids. I’ve always wanted children. I want to mould someone, to bring someone up to share my values and interests, to pass down my skills. Obviously, I want to pass down my name, too, we all die eventually, but through children we gain immortality.”
“Immortality is not everything it is cracked up to be.”
“Perhaps not in the “live forever” way Voldemort had in mind, but definitely in the “leave a legacy” sense, at least I think so.”
“I suppose I would like to pass down my knowledge and skills, too. Bring my children up to be kind, gentle people in this stressful world. Teach them compassion over aggression, and patience over hurriedness, and love above anger.”
“Kids is why we are here.”
“Yes, although we are one of only a handful of species who mate for pleasure as well as survival; and the only species who can control the amount of offspring they produce.”
“I mean in this room. To replenish the numbers.”
“So, hypothetically, if we were to have children, what would be the top five attributes you would wish upon them or try to impart?”
“Honesty, integrity, loyalty, friendship and compassion.”
“Loyalty is important, but to family over friends.”
“The right friends become family.”
“True. Honesty, well, isn’t the truth subjective?”
“I suppose, in a way, however facts are facts and to alter a factual memory or experience is akin to dishonesty.”
“Fair point. Do you ever lie?”
“All the time. But never to anyone I care about, or about anything important.”
“How does that work?” He laughed.
“Humans lie on average ten times a day. How are you? Oh, fine, thanks. When you’re not. Do you have a spare pen? Oh, no, sorry, I don’t. When you do, but you know they’ll never return it. We should catch up sometime! Oh, sure, sounds great, I’ll just have to check my schedule, leave it with me! When you have no intention of seeing them again until the next random encounter.”
“Well at least I’ll be able to know when you’re lying,” He chortled, “You say ‘oh’ when you’re about to lie.”
“Oh, I do not!” Hermione’s hand went to her mouth as the ‘oh’ unconsciously escaped her mouth. He laughed harder and she allowed herself a soft giggle.
“I like your top five. I’ll keep those and add to them: generosity, pride and ambition.”
“You’re such a Slytherin.”
“You say that like it’s a bad thing.”
“No, I say it like stereotypes are always based on a small truth.”
He laughed again, and she saw his silhouette shrug. “I suppose so. Do Gryffindors always play the hero? Is your heart really full of courage?”
“No. If it was I would have the nerve to tell you I feel very drawn to you, more so than to my current, uh, fiancé. I’d tell you that I have a feeling I know who you are and that the idea scares me because we are from opposite worlds and fought on different sides, but I know that you are a good person deep down and are truly trying to make amends. I’d tell you that for the last half an hour I have been resisting the urge to put my hands back on your chest and touch your body and call your name, and that I have resisted not because of who you are, but because of where we are as I do not like my private acts being witnessed by match-makers. I’d tell you that I am verging on throwing caution to the wind and ask to see you again when we leave here, but that I am afraid of breaking someone’s heart.”
He pulled her close and breathed her in.
“Do really know who I am?”
“Does it frighten you?
She edged herself closer. Her hip was now pressing against the join of his pants and she felt him hardening. His fingers were caressing the side of her breast under her arm. His head came down and he ran his cheek against hers, a growl escaping his mouth as he grazed her neck with his teeth, a primal move she had never encountered. She moved her face to the side and he bit her earlobe, suckling the flesh and rolling it between his teeth. His hand gripped her side, no longer caressing but owning. His other hand came up firmly to sit on her belly. He rubbed his hand across her torso, keeping it just above her panty line, and just below her breasts. He massaged her hips and then moved to her thighs. She allowed his grabby fingers to wander, enjoying the sensation, the realness of it, it was formidable and real animalistic hunger masked by the politeness of high social upbringing.
Her breathing became heavy as his fingers hooked under her skirt and began sliding up her bare thigh, not quite reaching the cotton material. She squirmed, and he withdrew. She moaned, as his hand came to her chin, he pinched her face and turned her to him, his mouth covering hers.
He was becoming less and less of a man as he groaned into her mouth, his teeth nipping at her bottom lips, his tongue pressing wetly against hers, his hand holding her chin down, keeping her mouth open so he could slide his tongue in and out, lick her teeth, kiss her cheeks, slide a finger between her lips… she suckled his finger tip, his flesh salty and delicious as his hardness grow. She ground her hips against him and felt herself swelling, her nipples were hard, her labia pushing against her panties, her cotton now drenched in her sweetness. She knew he could smell her desire, his nostrils flared against her cheek and his breathing was ragged.
He pushed her back and lay atop her, full length, body on body, legs on legs. He tried to part hers, but her skirt was too tight to allow her thighs to separate. He groaned and reached down to slide the material up her legs and she heard the pencil skirt tear, a lightness on her now uncovered left thigh. He wiggled and repositioned, her lifted her left leg around his hips and pressed himself, still fully dressed, against her panties. She arched her back and her breasts fought against her shirt, the top button unclasping as her nipples rubbed against the lace of her bra.
“Say my name, Hermione.”
The bubble opened an hour later.
They walked out back into the office, noting the time outside the bubble had not moved much, as per the bubble’s magic.
They were holding hands and filling in paperwork when the door to Harry’s office opened and Theo walked out.
“Hermione, what is this?”
“Uh, the experiment, this is, Draco is my match.”
“Are you kidding me? After everything he did? After all the bullshit at school?”
“Nott, calm down. We used to be friends.”
“That was a long time ago.”
Draco pulled his hand away from Hermione and turned to completely face Theo.
“Well, we have plenty of time to create new bonds.”
“By you marrying my fiancé?”
“Theo,” Hermione implored, “Please, it was matched, it’s The Law.”
“Hermione, you and I have history. We have plans. We can have everything! Think about what you’re doing!”
Hermione’s chest tightened.
Harry emerged from his office and looked at the trio, Hermione’s flushed face, eyes darting between the two Slytherins; Theo’s crestfallen expression, and shallow breathing; Draco, cool as ever, no pink to his pale cheeks, but a cold stare directed at his old friend.
“Uh, Hermione, it’s time. We need to confirm your marriage arrangements. Which will it be? Theo Nott, or Draco Malfoy?”
Hermione turned on her heel and ran.