They made their way back downstairs. Jean and Roger were in the thick of cooking, but both dropped what they were doing when their daughter reappeared.
“Is everything alright?” said Jean, shucking off her oven mitts. “What happened?”
“Sorry, Mum and Dad. It was that card.” Hermione faltered for a moment. Draco placed his hand on the small of her back— a feather-light touch. She took a deep breath and steeled herself. “I’d rather not talk about why, but Ron and I had a falling out. This card was a bit of an olive branch. It made me emotional, but I’m alright now. Good, actually.”
“Oh, sweetheart,” said Jean gently. “I’m sorry you fought, but I’m glad you’ve begun to patch things up. That’s a lovely Christmas gift, indeed.”
Roger nodded. “There’s no better time than the holidays to heal old wounds.” Somehow, Draco suspected that his comment wasn’t only directed at Hermione.
The four of them set to work. Or, more accurately, the three Grangers set to work, whereas Draco mostly managed to stay out of the way. Soon enough, the kitchen was filled with beeping timers and intoxicating aromas. It was almost time, and Jean sent them to the dining room to set the table.
Draco helped Hermione arrange the tablecloth and candles. He watched as she experimented with different layouts of china and silverware, lost in thought. It had been so long since he’d sat down for a formal family dinner.
He could only pray that this one went better than the last.
Ten months ago
Less than three months had passed since the Battle of Hogwarts, but Wizarding Britain was anxious to put all memories of the war to rest. Beginning with the trials of known Death Eaters and other war criminals.
Draco’s trial was to be one of the first held after the war.
“The easiest trials are first,” Kingsley told him and Hermione. He had personally delivered Draco’s summons to Grimmauld Place with only a couple of weeks’ notice. The formal charge: "Aiding and Abetting He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named."
“This is completely unnecessary,” said Hermione, incensed. “Don’t tell us that the Wizengamot hasn’t already seen extensive proof of Draco’s work for the Order. We’re not stupid, you know.”
“Inconvenient though it may be, it is necessary, Hermione. As far as the public is concerned, Draco is a high-ranking Death Eater who is currently walking free. We need this trial to assuage them.”
Hermione opened her mouth to argue, but Kingsley pressed on. “More importantly to the two of you, perhaps, this trial is a critical opportunity for Draco.”
“Oh, yes,” Draco drawled. “An opportunity to be front and center of a public spectacle while reliving the worst experiences of my life.”
“An opportunity to show how important your assistance was to the war effort, and restore dignity to your family name,” said Kingsley. “To show other ancient families that one of the most established names among them has rejected the old way and embraced the new. An opportunity for unity.”
“My involvement with the Order won’t change a single mind in the Sacred Twenty-Eight.” He clenched his jaw. “But I commend your political machinations. You never miss a shot, do you?”
“Draco!” Hermione rebuked.
Kingsley waved her away. “I understand how you must feel. I can only promise we’ll get it over with quickly. I’ll be available if you have questions.”
He paused before he left, glancing at Hermione. “Remember to think of it as an opportunity.”
Hermione shut herself in their bedroom for hours after he’d departed. Draco left her alone, knowing full well that nothing could distract her when she was working on a mental problem.
When she finally emerged, she found him brooding on the couch in the living room.
“I’ve thought about it, and I think Kingsley is right about one thing,” she said cautiously. “This trial could go a long way in helping you and your mother.”
“Perhaps,” Draco grumbled.
“But I know it will be painful for you, and I’m so sorry for that.”
He grunted in reply. As she drew closer, he noticed the enormous book tucked under her arm. The Wizengamot: A Brief History of Wizarding Britain’s Highest Court of Law.
“Oh, this,” she said, tracking his gaze. “I got it a few years back—”
“—for a bit of light of reading,” he finished for her. His mouth twitched.
“Precisely,” she sniffed. “Anyway, if you ask me, it’s atrocious that wizarding courts don’t have solicitors. So I’ve decided to become yours. Off the record, of course.”
“My ‘solicitor,’ eh? Sounds like a prostitute. Kinky, Granger.” He waggled his eyebrows.
She rolled her eyes at him. “A solicitor is a person formally appointed to legally represent and defend anyone accused of a crime.”
He frowned. “Well, that doesn’t sound sexy. What exactly will you be doing, then?”
“In short, I’m going to speak with everyone who knows what you’ve done to help the Order, get them to agree to serve as a witness for you, and coach them on their testimony. I’m going to coach you, too.”
Draco’s mouth fell open. “No. That’s too much to put on you.”
“No, it’s not.”
“I can do it myself.”
She sighed. “We both know you’re too bloody proud to ask anyone for help. Plus, you probably don’t even remember what everyone knows about you. I do. I was in the Order."
He tried to change tactics. “Is that even allowed?”
“Correct me if I’m wrong, but did I just hear a Slytherin worried about breaking rules?” She put a hand on her hip. “Besides, it’s perfectly legal. Dumbledore did something similar for Harry the summer before fifth year.”
“Listen, Hermione— you don’t need to do this.”
“I know I don’t need to. I want to.”
He tried to stop her, really. But she was impossible to dissuade when she’d made up her mind.
She spent the next two weeks building the kind of painstaking, air-tight case that only Hermione Granger could assemble. Draco spent most of the days leading up to the trial transcribing stretches of time or particular events that she’d assigned him to recall. While he worked, she’d often go out to speak to potential witnesses.
Most nights she’d review his notes with him. Other nights she’d bring people over. Harry. Ollivander. Aberforth Dumbledore. Arthur Weasley. She even brought Rita Skeeter over to interview him, while dropping many ominous comments about the future of her career if she strayed from a single fact during her reporting.
One night she returned from a meeting with Charlie Weasley in Romania with a violent stomach flu. It lasted several days, but she flatly refused to see a healer. Draco had to summon his mother’s house-elf multiple times to bring her anti-nausea potions.
“It’ll pass,” she’d croaked upon emerging from the loo. “This is normal.”
Even his mother’s house elf had looked horrified at her incalcitrant determination.
When he wasn’t following her orders, he was busy dealing with his overbearing mother, who had taken it upon herself to owl him daily for updates. Kingsley had advised them against using her as a witness, indicating that her involvement in the First Wizarding War could raise difficult questions. But Hermione had still thought it would be a good idea to bring her over for a short interview.
Listening to his mother and girlfriend clinically dissect his life over the past few years was one of the odder moments in his life. He wondered what his mother thought of it all. He hadn’t talked to her much about Hermione, but she knew they were together. He’d told her during the war.
More or less.
She’d caught him coming home late many times in the months leading up to the final battle, and though her eyes would rove over the disheveled state of his hair or clothing, she’d said nothing. One night, however, she’d apparently had enough.
“Who is she?” she’d asked. She had been waiting for him in the sitting room when he Flooed home well past midnight.
“Hermione Granger,” he’d said, after a long pause. Then he’d moved past her and gone to bed.
Frankly, he hadn’t wanted to hear her opinion at the time. From his perspective, she’d simply have to deal with it. She had accepted his decision to become a spy for the Order. She’d come around with Hermione too, he’d told himself. Eventually.
But as Draco watched the two of them interact across the kitchen table, politely but a bit stiffly, it occurred to him how much he wanted them to understand one another. Like one another.
He was certain his mother was still biased against Muggle-borns, but she’d also detested Harry Potter and adulated Voldemort once, too. She could be reasoned with, he thought.
After they finished, Draco walked his mother to the fireplace in the living room. Hermione had remained in kitchen, poring over her notes.
“You haven’t slept at home in a long time, Draco.” Her voice had an accusatory tone.
“I know. Listen, Mother— when this trial is done, I want to have Hermione over for dinner.”
He struggled to explain himself while she eyed him coolly. “It’s important to me that you get to know her."
She gave him a curt nod and stepped into the fireplace. “I’ve been expecting as much. Look for my owl next week.”
He nodded back at her. Easy enough, he thought.
The first day of the trial finally came. Draco tried to maintain a semblance of calm as they swept into the crowded arrivals hall at the Ministry amidst a frenzy of camera flashes and screaming reporters. His mother stood next to him as they arrived, her posture proud and tall.
Draco wished Hermione were at his side too, but forced himself to set the thought aside. It was for the best, he knew. They’d both decided to keep their relationship under wraps for the duration and immediate aftermath of his trial.
The courtroom fell silent when he and his mother first entered, though packed to the brim. He didn’t allow himself to look at any of the faces staring down at him except for one— hers.
She was sitting front and center, in between Ginny and Harry. She gave him a bracing smile. It steadied him as he turned to meet the stoic gazes of the judges of the Wizengamot. He took a deep breath, and they began.
All things considered, the first day of his trial went fairly well. A long line of witnesses who had worked for or with the Order testified on his behalf, including Neville, Luna, Molly, Bill, and Aberforth. The judges asked him dozens of questions before and after their testimonies, but the answers they appeared to expect were mercifully short. Even during their line of questioning about his father.
The second day was significantly worse. First, he’d only learned that Ron was testifying for him at the last minute. Ginny’s nuisance of an excuse for an owl— “Pig,” Hermione had called him— had dropped a letter directly onto his plate of eggs and sausage that morning, a mere hour before he was due in court.
Hermione had snatched it up and read it as Draco peered over her shoulder.
I’ll do it. Not for him. But for you.
They had argued their entire way to the Ministry before splitting off at separate entrance points. Jealousy was the last thing Draco needed right now, followed closely by owing a favor to Ron Weasley— and now he had both.
After enduring the humiliation of Ron’s testimony, Draco had to testify about Penelope. Her parents had chosen not to attend—he’d almost collapsed in relief when he’d heard the news. But as he spoke about her in the hushed courtroom, he couldn’t stop thinking of them. Or of Hermione.
Draco could feel her eyes on him as he recounted the weeks Penelope had spent as a prisoner at the Manor. Of the night he’d killed her.
If he’d been able to meet her gaze, he knew he’d only find sympathy. Love. But in that moment, nothing could alleviate his bitter shame or regret. So he stared at the judges, or the wall.
He was barely able to string together two words that evening, but Hermione seemed to understand. She said little except to remind him who would be testifying for him the next day. Then they crawled into bed after a quiet dinner.
Draco stared at the ceiling as the minutes stretched on and sleep stubbornly evaded him. His memories of Penelope haunted him for many reasons. One of which was nuzzled in the crook of his neck.
“It could have been you,” he said aloud.
He felt Hermione tense beneath his arm. The hand she’d been resting on his chest curled and uncurled as she seemed to consider her reply.
“But it wasn’t.” Her tone was gentle, but firm. “You saved me. You saved all of us.”
He pulled her closer and pressed a long kiss to her forehead.
“You have to forgive yourself, Draco,” she whispered when he drew away. “She would have wanted you to. I’m sure of it.”
He settled back into his pillow, not trusting himself to speak. The last thing he registered before sleep finally overtook him was the sensation of Hermione tracing patterns on his chest.
Harry testified for him the next day, as did Hermione. They told the court what had happened at Malfoy Manor. The day at Grimmauld Place. How he’d assisted the Order in the years that followed. Missions he’d helped sabotage. Captives he’d helped save. Information he’d passed. His role during the Battle of Hogwarts.
The audience in the courtroom was more attentive during Harry and Hermione’s testimonies than they had been at any point in Draco’s trial. Apart from the incessant scratching of Rita Skeeter’s quill, you could have heard a pin drop during the small pauses when they pondered a question.
Their two testimonies, followed by a shorter one from Ginny, nearly took up the entire day. Draco was barely asked to answer any questions himself.
Afterward, there was a torturous adjourning of the judges in their private chamber as they deliberated whether they needed more information. If so, the trial would proceed to a fourth day. Draco fervently prayed they would decide to put him out of his misery.
The courtroom seemed to collectively hold its breath as the judges finally filed back into their seats.
Madam Marchbanks cleared her throat. “The judges of the Wizengamot have decided that there is sufficient evidence to reach a verdict.”
She turned to her colleagues. “Those in favor of clearing the accused of all charges?”
Draco’s heart hammered in his chest as he attempted to count the hands in the air. He had to start over twice because his vision kept blurring. There were 50 judges, and nearly every hand was raised. He’d gotten to 38 by the time Madam Marchbanks nodded curtly at them, and the sea of hands dropped.
“And those in favor of conviction?”
There were only handful of hands in the air— several wizards and a couple of witches had voted against him. Draco didn’t recognize any of their faces.
“Very well, then,” said Sir Elphias Dodge. “Cleared of all charges.” He looked down at Draco. “You may go, Mr. Malfoy. Thank you for your service.”
Draco thought Dodge might have added something else, but the courtroom had already begun standing to its feet. He stood along with them, feeling thoroughly lightheaded as the din grew louder and louder in his ears.
It was done. For good. Officially speaking, the war was behind him.
His mother rushed to meet him on the floor, and he gladly returned her embrace as she threw her arms around him. Public affection was unusual for her— she must have been more afraid for him than he’d realized. He gave her a reassuring squeeze, but his eyes were looking over her shoulder.
Draco finally caught the overlarge hazel eyes he’d been seeking.
Hermione smiled at him brilliantly. He returned it, transfixed by how beautiful she looked when lit up with joy. He barely noticed that the doors to the courtroom had opened and cameras were flashing all around them.
That evening, 12 Grimmauld Place was full and alive again. As they laughed and drank around the kitchen table, Draco could have fooled himself into believing that Hermione’s friends were his own. His usual barbs were half-hearted at best— it had been years since he’d felt so genuinely joyful. At least he still managed to irritate Ron.
As promised, his mother’s owl arrived exactly 24 hours after the conclusion of his trial. She invited them over for dinner at the Manor the following evening.
Hermione was a nonstop bundle of nerves from the moment she opened the letter. She could handle a public trial, gruesome injuries, and Death Eaters with calm collectedness, but apparently dinner with his mother tipped her over the edge.
“But what do you think we’ll talk about?” she asked him nervously. “The trial?”
Drago shrugged. “Probably for some of the time.”
“Can you tell me a bit about the things she liked to do? Before the war? What are her interests? Perhaps a little about her family? Besides the anti-Muggle sentiment, of course.”
“Easy, Granger,” he teased. “She's not the topic of an O.W.L.”
The truth was that her anxiety tugged at something deep inside his chest. She wanted his mother to like her. And so did he.
Draco pretended not to notice when she went to Diagon Alley the next day to “check out the latest at Flourish and Blotts” and returned with a bag that looked suspiciously like it came from a dress shop. Nor did he say anything when she headed upstairs a full three hours before dinner. He ended up having to use the master bathroom downstairs to shower because Hermione hogged theirs the whole time.
“Are you sure I look alright?”
Draco leaned against the frame of the bathroom door, eyeing her appreciatively.
She was wearing a conservative but beautiful black dress. The A-line silhouette emphasized her narrow waist and fell just below her knees. The crew neckline drew attention to her face and hair, which looked sleeker than usual. The body of the dress was made with a floaty chiffon material, but the delicate sleeves were made of lace.
“You look perfect.”
He watched her double check her hair, fidget with her dress, and apply, then wash off, her lipstick. When she finished fussing, he offered her his arm. She took it with a nervous smile, and they headed downstairs.
His mother greeted them by the fireplace, looking as immaculate as ever. She was wearing a silvery blue dress that matched the color of her eyes.
“Welcome home, Draco.” She kissed him on the cheek. “And welcome, Hermione.” To Draco’s pleasure, she gave Hermione an air kiss on the cheek as well.
His mother chose to skip pre-dinner cocktails for some reason. She ushered them straight to the dining room after giving Hermione a quick tour of the house.
The table had already been set for three. Draco took the seat at the head of the table, with Hermione on his right, and his mother on his left. He supposed the arrangement made sense, but he disliked it all the same. It put too much space between them, and he would have preferred to sit beside her. Just in case.
“May I offer you something to drink?” Narcissa asked as they sat down. “Pumpkin juice? Tea?”
“Just water, please.”
Narcissa nodded and spoke to her presently-invisible servant. “Water for Ms. Granger, Tinsley. Wine for Draco and I.” Their goblets began filling accordingly.
The conversation flowed pleasantly from one topic to another, including their speculative career plans now that the war was over, and Hermione’s intentions to move her parents back to Britain. Draco was gratified that his mother inquired after her parents’ well-being. They briefly touched on his trial, but the main course arrived shortly afterward, which cut the topic short.
His mother— or Tinsley, rather— had truly outdone herself with this meal. Draco ate his roast beef as quickly as he could manage without his mother glaring at him.
They finally began winding down. His mother laid both of her utensils across her plate, and it vanished with a faint pop.
She turned to Hermione. “I want to take a moment to thank you for everything you’ve done for my son. You have my eternal gratitude for it.”
Hermione blushed. “I was happy, to, truly. Please think nothing of it.”
Narcissa gave her a tight but approving smile. "You’re a clever young woman, and determined. He was in very capable hands.”
A shy smile crept over Hermione’s features. Draco privately congratulated himself for suggesting this dinner. It was going better than he could have hoped.
His mother took a long sip of wine before continuing. “I’m aware that you two have been a source of— companionship for each other. War is a terrible thing. We all have to seek comfort where we can.”
There was a delicate pause. Draco stabbed at piece of roast on his plate. He didn’t feel much like chatting about the horrors of the war.
“You both were under extraordinary pressure,” she continued. “So I hope you aren’t being too harsh on yourselves for the circumstance you’re in right now.”
Draco paused, mid-mouthful, to look up at her.
“I’m glad you both came to me. I can help you. And in time, you may even think of it as a blessing.”
The food passed uncomfortably down his throat as he swallowed. What on Earth was she on about? He glanced at Hermione, but she seemed equally baffled.
“This isn’t the first time a Malfoy has found themselves in this situation. Or a Black, for that matter,” she said grimly. “There are many options to consider, and I’m going to personally see to it that your plans and goals remain unaffected. It’s the least I can do for you. And for my son.”
“Whether or not Draco will be involved is a decision I leave to the both of you,” said Narcissa, speaking over him. “Of course, whatever you choose, utmost discretion will be necessary.”
“I’m sorry,” said Hermione, "but I’m not sure I understand—”
“Typically magical contracts are involved, or Unbreakable Vows. But I wouldn’t insult you by suggesting either.”
Draco scowled, sick of his mother speaking in riddles. “Why would—”
Narcissa raised a hand to silence him. “Please let me finish.” She turned back to Hermione. “You don’t have to be involved either, if you don’t want to. There are good families who will be happy to raise the child as their own.”
There was a clatter of silver on china. Hermione had dropped the fork she’d been holding. Draco stared at his mother, dumbfounded. Was he hallucinating?
“But there are options if you do want to raise it yourself,” she pressed on. “A second cousin of mine was in a similar situation many years ago. Their story was that a near relative died, and she ‘adopted’ the child. She suffered no consequences in the long run. In fact, she eventually made quite a good match.”
Every word that came out of his mother’s mouth seemed to echo slightly in Draco’s head, as though someone had cast a muffling charm around her.
“Mrs. Malfoy,” said Hermione, her voice high and thin, “I’m—”
“Narcissa, dear, please. I think we can call each other by first names now. Especially given the circumstances.”
Hermione closed and opened her mouth, a horrified expression on her face. She looked as though she wanted to vanish in her seat.
“I know how difficult this must be for the both of you, but rest assured that your child will want for nothing.”
Draco startled out of his stupor. Sharply. “Mother.”
“The best schools. An inheritance we’ll all agree to. Love, whether yours or another family’s. That much is certain—”
“—but the rest is up to you. I’m simply here to assist.”
“Shut up, will you?” Draco nearly screamed it.
Hermione jumped in her seat. Narcissa’s eyes darted to him as though seeing him for the first time. She leaned back in her seat, finally giving him the floor.
“She’s not pregnant,” he hissed. “I can’t believe you’d suggest such a thing over dinner.”
His mother raised a manicured eyebrow at him. “Tinsley told me all about her morning sickness. How she refused to see a doctor. How you demanded to know if there were any ‘adverse side effects’ to anti nausea draughts.” She turned to Hermione. “Just give it a month or two. Nausea is completely normal.”
Draco let out a harsh laugh. “What a little meddler. I ought to give her clothes for this."
“We don’t have time for these games, Draco.” Her voice had a steely edge to it. “I’m your mother. Do you think I haven’t noticed that my own son has barely slept in his own bed for the last six months?”
“Yes, you’re really in the know, aren’t you,” he sneered. “Hermione had the stomach flu. She’s not pregnant.”
The room fell silent. Draco glanced at Hermione. She was staring at her plate, her face bright red with humiliation.
He clenched his jaw and glowered at his mother, his rage growing with each passing moment she delayed her apology. She returned his gaze shrewdly, as if trying to work something out.
“If she’s not pregnant, then why is she here?”
A jolt of horror shot down his spine. He barely had a moment to react before Hermione stood up, her chair groaning as it dragged across the floor.
“Excuse me, but I should get going. Thank you for dinner, Mrs. Malfoy.” She rushed from the room too quickly to hear the protest that died on his lips.
Narcissa watched Hermione leave with a slight crease between her eyebrows. Cold fury raced through his veins.
“What have you done?” He threw his napkin on the table and ran after her.
Hermione had already dashed into a nearby sitting room; thankfully, she’d left the door open in her haste. She was grabbing a handful of Floo Powder from the urn on the mantelpiece when he burst through the door.
She froze in front of the fireplace.
“I’m going to kill her for that,” he said, panting. “Don’t— please don’t go. Not until she apologizes.”
There was a long, painful silence.
“I’ll see you at home,” said Hermione, still not facing him. She threw the powder in the fireplace and vanished.