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Burden of Proof

Chapter Text

 'O plunge your hands in water,
Plunge them in up to the wrist;
Stare, stare in the basin
And wonder what you've missed.

-"As I Walked Out One Evening" by W.H. Auden

 

 

 

 

 

Hermione was doing something peculiar.

She was waiting for class to end.

“I expect nothing less than a robust, lengthy report on what we’ve been discussing in class for the past two weeks. Application of the subject as well as the theory. Due Monday, as you’ve known for some time now. No N.E.W.T. given in my subject will gloss over the magical properties of enchanted metals and woods, I can assure you,” Professor McGonagall peered over her glasses, letting the silence hang over everyone before giving a small nod. “Class dismissed.”

Hermione hoisted her bag on her shoulder as everybody else packed their things. She kept her parchment rolled in her hand. She had perfected her paper two nights ago in the glow of the Gryffindor common room’s fireplace, a gaggle of third years whispering and glancing at her from their perches. She had ignored them. The past year had taught Hermione a few things — how to live at Hogwarts without Harry and Ron, how to eat most of her meals in the kitchens away from her staring classmates, and how to cast silencing spells with increasing precision.

A Transfiguration assignment wasn’t difficult, especially when Hermione had spent months in the wild running from the darkest wizard to ever walk the earth. Especially when said months were spent with limited resources, two teenage boys, and a constant feeling of dread. And especially when the only way to make tea during that time had been with a kettle that Hermione had transformed from a few scraps of metal somewhere between London and Gloucestershire.

Yes, writing a seventh-year paper on the Transfiguration was certainly not the hardest thing she had done in the past twelve months. She kept this in mind as she approached McGonagall’s desk.

"Professor, I wanted to hand this in today," Hermione said briskly, holding out her report.

McGonagall eyed the parchment. She looked slowly back up at Hermione.

"The paper is due tomorrow, Miss Granger.”

"Yes, but I have it now, so—"

“You may hand it in tomorrow with the rest of your classmates.”

“Yes, but I was hoping—”

"If you have something to say to me, why go through all of this trouble?"

Hermione stared. “Sorry?”

"Miss Granger, I had half a mind to hex you to your seat while teaching my class today. I have never seen a student so fidgety," McGonagall continued, a wry smirk on her face. "I have little reason to doubt you. I have almost no reason not to trust you — and despite the fact that you missed a full year of school, I cannot believe that you are here to ask me for academic advice."

Hermione did not speak.

"So I shall ask you again: Why are you coming up to my desk after a double session of seventh-year Transfiguration class?"

Hermione took a deep breath. This was not going as planned. “Well...I had a question about the N.E.W.T.s.”

McGonagall didn’t say anything, only bore her stare into Hermione.

“I was wondering if I could take them a little early. I believe,” she realized with annoyance her voice was climbing in pitch, “that I can be of help with the upcoming judicial processes at the Ministry. I’ve been talking to Minister Shacklebolt, and he says I can shadow the proceedings.”

“Typically, we do not allow such things. I do not issue the exams, Miss Granger,” she said airily.

Hermione’s heart fell. “I understand if you can’t accommodate me.” In truth, she didn’t want to wait until next year to take the N.E.W.T.s, but she could wait, couldn’t she? It had been some time, after all, since she had last taken a serious exam. The O.W.L.s of her fifth year were now three years ago.

McGonagall held up a hand. “But you are in luck. There has been an exception made for another student this year.”

“An exception?” she squeaked, trying not to give her excitement away. McGonagall had been the only professor at Hogwarts to treat her exactly the same as any other student since she had returned. In fact, she suspected McGonagall was somewhat overcompensating for the way the other professors treated her. Whereas Professor Flitwick had welled up with tears when she had sat down for her first class with him at the beginning of the year, McGonagall had immediately given her orders to corale the class’s summer homework. She had appreciated this, oddly. She didn’t want special treatment.

Well, until today, she thought sheepishly.

“A Ministry matter,” McGonagall continued. “The early exam will be issued during the last week of this month and into May. Do you feel equipped to take them early?”

She nodded.

“It will take place over several days, and one examination will overlap with the beginning of the Memorial Feast,” McGonagall peered at her through her glasses. “But I am sure you will be able to attend dessert, at least. Is that of terribly great importance to you?”

Hermione tried to read McGonagall’s tone. Was she expressing sympathy? She knew there were expectations for her to be at the feast. Ron and Harry would be there, as would the entire Weasley family. Neville would be making the trip and she knew the remaining members of the Order and her old classmates who had already graduated would attend. But instead of feeling reluctant, she felt relieved to be given an excuse to miss part of it.

She yearned to be like her peers at Hogwarts. Though she liked most of her classmates, there were entire conversations she couldn’t take part in anymore. Any reference to the academic year before was usually lost on her. Younger students could barely look her in the eye, making social events awkward. Even simple talk of romance would turn into a discussion about how lucky she was to be with the Ron Weasley. Where once she had been asked about what subjects she liked the most and where she would like to work after school, people now liked to ask her if she missed her boyfriend.

“I can miss the beginning of the feast,” Hermione said quickly.

“So I will notify them of your intentions, and I will inform you of their answer.”

“Th-thank you, Professor.”

“And Miss Granger,” McGonagall said, “You needn’t be so apologetic. I have yet to compliment you.”

“Er, compliment?”

“I’m sure you’d like to join your friends who have decided to forgo their schooling,” McGonagall sniffed disapprovingly. She had written to Harry and Ron personally to attempt to persuade them to come back to Hogwarts. They had politely declined.

“It was important to me,” Hermione said quietly. She hadn’t seen Ron or Harry in several months now, though they exchanged letters when they could.

“You may leave your essay here,” McGonagall waved her hand, making herself busy with the notes on her desk. Hermione took this as her cue to leave. She placed her paper on the desk and made her way out of the classroom.

Reaching the door, she turned back to McGonagall. “Thank you again, Professor. I won’t allow this to impact my marks.”

McGonagall waved her hand. “Yes, yes. I seem to recall giving a certain girl a Time-Turner.”

Chapter Text

He sweat through his pajamas again.

Tonight, at least, he hadn’t strayed far from his bedroom. He blinked back the dark to see where he was. The quiet drip of water. Some dim starlight from a half-shut window. Cool tile under his feet. He had wandered to the kitchen in his sleep.

He felt his pockets for his wand but found nothing. He must have left it in the bedroom. He made his way back, fumbling through the dark as he ran his hands over the walls. He heaved a deep breath and shut his eyes tight, trying to forget the images that churned through his dreams.

Now that the fighting was over, Draco’s imagination had taken full control over his senses. Even when he was awake, walking down the halls of his own house, he couldn’t help but feel as though he would turn each corner and see the Dark Lord himself waiting for him. When he slept, he would wander around the house like a possessed man, only waking up when he ran into a wall or the morning light came. Sometimes it felt like he was never alone.

After all, had it really been so long ago when Malfoy Manor had been the headquarters of the Dark Lord?

As well as my fucking crazy aunt , Draco added bitterly.

There were still rooms he couldn’t go into, corners of the house he had grown up in that now seemed forbidden to him, lest he wanted to dredge up a memory of a screaming muggle or two — the memories were particularly bad when Bellatrix was involved for that reason. He shuddered.

Lumos ,” Draco grabbed his wand from his bedside table and warily surveyed his room. The clock that hung near the door said it was four in the morning. Draco knew trying to fall asleep again would be useless.

He peeled off his sweaty clothes. Draco sighed with relief as the cool air made contact with his skin. He reached for a textbook. No use wasting time when he could be studying.


When the clock hit eight he put down his quill and looked out the window. He stretched, tilting his chair back to get a better look at the lawn. An Auror walked with a jaunty step along the perimeter of the black gates.

He reached over to draw his curtains shut. He didn’t have to be reminded of their presence this early in the morning. By now, he knew the schedule of Aurors by heart and could pick them out by their defining features, which is how he chose to identify them because he refused to learn their names. Quite impressive, considering that they all came through the house with regularity. The only way out of Malfoy Manor was by using the Floo Network with the Ministry’s own military-grade Floo Powder. A spell had been cast on their grounds that was similar to the one that was used on Hogwarts. Disapparating was only made possible if one walked several miles out from the border of the Malfoy’s acreage.

Of the Aurors, Draco knew of Baldy, who was frequently on the morning shift, half-awake, and the Scotsman, a rather old fellow who only ever wore plaid robes. Square Boots was the meanest of them—a young woman who expressed her distaste for the Malfoys every time his mother asked her not to step on the shrubs that lined the garden. This squadron of Aurors switched off every four hours or so, with at least two on duty at any given time. They guarded the manor and kept the Malfoys from leaving, not that they had ever tried to make a break for it.

He pulled on a silvery robe and nudged his feet into a pair of slippers. Time to see if his parents were awake. He never saw them in one place anymore. There were days when his mother wouldn’t get out of bed, and other days when his father would lock himself in his study, only emerging every so often to retrieve his meals himself.

A knock on the door. Draco’s shoulders stiffened.

“Mother?” he called out.

A woman’s voice came from the hall. “I have an appointment.”

He unlocked the door and found himself face-to-face with a woman his mother’s age dressed in sharp, expensive-looking business robes. A small, square golden pendant was her only jewelry. Her short black hair was pulled away from her round, pale face, which, paired with the darkness of the hallway and her clothes, gave her the look of a very professional full moon. She held out her hand.

“We haven’t met,” she said, her voice authoritative. “Opal DuBose. I’m from Valentine, Wandwell & Zhou.”

He shook her hand wearily. She had a firm grip. “You’re not our usual attorney,” he muttered.

“That’s correct,” she swung forward her viridian briefcase, which Draco eyed carefully. It was worn but well kept-after, the kind of fine dragonskin that only good money paid for. If she was an impostor, she had done her due diligence.

“Why don’t we step into the study,” he stepped out of his room. “And I can fetch my father for you.”

“No need,” she said. “I’ve arranged this meeting with you, Mr. Malfoy.”

“Right, and who did you arrange it with?” he rubbed at his temple.

“Your father.”

“Ah,” Draco sighed. His father had had a habit of letting important dates and meetings slip, leaving his mother and him to fend for themselves whenever a swarm of attorneys, Aurors, and houseguests descended. It was usually attorneys. “Pardon my state of dress,” he gestured at his robe, not sounding very sorry at all. A year ago, he might have changed into something more seemly, but he found himself caring less and less about his appearance.

“Quite alright. I’ve seen far worse from my clients.”

He ducked back into his room, grabbing a pair of trousers off the floor of his bedroom and pulling on the shirt he’d worn yesterday.

After he had dressed, he smoothed his hand through his hair, untangling the knots as best he could. This was the longest his hair had ever been—nearly to his chin now. He shut his bedroom door behind him and gestured to the hall. “And what is it that you need to tell me that can’t be done in a letter?” they hadn’t gotten any substantial news from the Ministry in months, save for the Auror detail schedule changing every few weeks. Whatever this woman had for him, he hoped for her sake it was good. He led her into the study. They sat in the two leather chairs in front of the oak desk. He turned to better face her, his hands placidly in his lap.

“You gave your testimony six months ago at the Ministry, yes?” she said.

“Yes. Our other man, Jonathan, was there,” he said. “Are you working with him?” He had grown to like Jonathan, a young man only a few years older than himself who seemed to have moved quickly enough up the ranks at Valentine, Wandwell & Zhou to take on such a large case. It would be work to get to know someone else entirely.

DuBose nodded. “He will stay on your father’s case, rest assured. But I’ve been assigned to your case as a result of what the judge decided yesterday. I have some very good news for you, Mr. Malfoy,” she said, her expression still not giving much away.

He almost laughed. There wasn’t anything to look forward to, save for the end of the Malfoy family house arrest. But even that was depressing, since his father was almost certainly going to Azkaban again. He repressed a shudder, meeting DuBose’s gaze once more.

“Well then, go on,” Draco sniffed.

If DuBose was put off by his rudeness, she didn’t let on. “You’re being tried as a child. Your sentence will be far less severe than we had thought—”

“—I was of age last year,” he interjected. “How could I possibly be tried as a child?”

She set her briefcase on her lap, the silver clasps clicking open with a wave of her wand. The green sheen of the dragonskin caught the light. “Your sixth year is what is of interest to the Ministry, Draco.”

Mr. Malfoy is fine,” he said, his teeth gritted.

“Apologies. As I was saying, Mr. Malfoy , you testimony aligned well with what other eye witnesses gave in their statements. We’ll be arguing that you were too young to understand the full scope of your actions, and you were blackmailed by the Dark Lord—”

“Eye witnesses,” he said flatly. “Who?” he thought, briefly, of Professor Snape, who often floated in and out of his dreams without saying anything, blood only gurgling at his lips. But Snape was dead now.

She smoothed down the front of her blouse. He shifted uncomfortably as he waited for her to answer. “It was a very compelling witness, as you can imagine.”

“I couldn’t possibly,” he snapped. He hated being baited like this.

“Harry Potter,” DuBose replied.

“Potter?” he sputtered.

She pulled a file out of her briefcase. “I’m happy to provide you with the transcripts of his statement and questioning. I think if we can make sure to highlight the things he said in your testimony, we should be able to have a far less harsh sentence for you,” she closed the briefcase and set it carefully on the floor. “Mr. Malfoy, if I were you, I would count this as already won. This is the difference between spending the entirety of your youth in prison and a handful of years on probation.”

“Remind me why you’re on this case now?” Malfoy said slowly, processing this information. He felt his throat tighten. He gripped the sides of his chair.

“I represent minors at Valentine, Wandwell & Zhou.”

There were so many things racing through his mind that he couldn’t decide what to linger on. Perhaps it was the fact that he owed Harry Potter for his life not once, not twice, but now, for a third bloody time. There was also the part of him that had believed he would brave prison alongside his father. And then, crucially, the part of him that believed he deserved to go to Azkaban for all he had done. All he hadn’t done. All he had intended to do. This, he didn’t admit to anyone.

Malfoys do not admit their wrongs.

Well, at least, not unless it was in the presence of several expensive attorneys and the ever-dangling threat of a dose of Ministry-ordered Veritaserum.

“And what,” he swallowed, “is it that you need from me today that warranted meeting in person?” he said through gritted teeth.

“You have a court date,” she plucked an envelope from her case. “I’ve begun compiling your defense, and we’ll need to go over your questions extensively until you’re ready. Thankfully, Mr. Potter’s done most of the work for us. Reiterating his perspective will go a long way in persuading the judge to be lenient. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you twice that his name carries quite a lot of weight in this part of the Ministry, nowadays.”

“I’m aware,” he said.

“Well, I recommend studying his statement front to back,” she said, opening a file and pointing to a small stack of papers she had clipped together. “It would be helpful if you could know Mr. Potter’s words as well as you know the back of your hand.”

Draco shuffled together the papers, ignoring the strange twinge in his heart that felt something like hope for the first time in many months. He dared not entertain it.

Chapter Text

“‘Mione!” a muffled sound came from a darkened corner of the Weasley kitchen. Hermione heard something land softly on the floor.

Hermione placed her bag on the kitchen table and turned around. Ron was leaning against the counter, half a sandwich at his feet. “What are you doing here?”

Hermione smiled, taking in the sight of him for the first time in over three months. “Your mum told me at the beginning of the year I could drop by whenever I felt like it...but I haven’t taken her up on it until now.”

“Life at Hogwarts is that easy now? You didn’t need an invisibility cloak or anything?”

“I’m of age,” Hermione said, “and I asked for permission a few weeks ago. What did you do today?”

“Same old,” Ron said. “You don’t have too much homework?”

“I’m ahead of schedule.”

“Well...brilliant,” he smiled. His grin seemed to glow. He looked slightly burnt, Hermione realized, from all the training he must be going through. Aurors-in-training did many of their drills outside. In fact, he looked more than sunkissed, although it did seem as though his freckles had multiplied...he looked healthy.

Ron’s lean build had a certain weight to it now, a sturdiness that the boy she had grown up with never possessed. This was better than the Ron she had seen so much of last year, even from last summer, when healing had been so difficult. When the three of them had had matching sets of sunken cheeks and tired eyes.

“Is anyone else awake?” she said.

“Just me,” he said. “So what are you doing all the way over there?” he said in a low, different voice. He hadn’t bothered to pick up his sandwich.

“Having a good look at you,” she said quietly. She breathed in the fresh, grassy smell that always seemed to radiate off of him. It was times like these where she felt like pinching herself. Could it be possible that she had made it out of the war alive? And that Ron had too?

He eased at her touch. She leaned into him. “I’ve bloody missed you,” he murmured into her hair. She pulled her head away and let her mouth find his just for a few seconds.

Ron looked at Hermione as though she was walking through the doorway for the first time again, the tips of his ears red, a smile threatening to give everything away. “Come on Granger, give me something to work with here,” he whispered before leaning his face into hers again. And this time, she ran her hands up his chest, her fingertips pressing into the thin cotton of his shirt. Ron's hands were making their way to her jacket's zipper. She felt herself respond with even more intensity, her fingers tugging at the end of his shirt, pulling it upwards. She managed to get his shirt halfway off.

"We," Hermione said breathlessly, "need to stop. Let’s go to your room,” she was finding it difficult to concentrate with his mouth leaving a trail of kisses on her throat.

"Do we?" his hand lifted up, playing with a lock of hair near her shoulder.

She froze, her hands hovering an inch away from Ron's skin. His t-shirt dropped back onto his torso, slightly lopsided.

She paused to straighten out her clothes and pull her hair away from her face. "Somebody could turn up at any minute."

"Doubtful, considering my family’s so small.”

“Ron.”

“What? My parents haven’t stayed up past nine since New Year’s. Peacetime means sleep time,” he wagged a finger. “And don’t forget that Ginny’s at Hogwarts. My brothers are all in their respective homes.”

“That’s not the point, Ronald Weasley,” she rolled her eyes. “I was thinking more along the lines of, well, a bed. But if you’re not interested...”

“Hold on, who said I’m not interested?”

“Perhaps if you could lead me to a bedroom, you’d be able to show me exactly how interested you are.”

Ron sighed. “You’re not very exciting,” he teased.

“Your family eats in this room. I’m being considerate,” Hermione rolled her eyes. Ron sighed, walked over to her belongings, and hoisted them up, leading her out of the kitchen. They made their way up the many floors to his room.

“‘S kind of a mess, sorry,” he apologized, whispering as he let himself in. He put her bag down and Hermione looked around the familiar room, shutting the door behind her. She smirked—everything was more or less the same. Ron knelt down, grabbing and shuffling errant papers together and pushing them under the bed. He knocked over a few boxes of Extendable Ears that were teetering in a stack near the dor. “Nothing you haven’t seen before, of course. This is really the only option. Ginny’s charmed her room, and the twins’ roo—”

Ron halted, looking as though the wind had been knocked out of him. Hermione grabbed Ron’s hand as if to steady him.

He looked at the ground, then he looked back at her.

Wordlessly, he turned, kissing her again. She pulled him close, deepening the kiss. His hands were on her waist, and her hands were rogue. They flitted over the fabric on his back, his sides, his hips—

“Mmmph,” Ron responded, tugging at her jacket. Hermione pulled away from him. She quickly slipped it off, but only after taking out her wand and muttering a few charms.

“What was that?” Ron asked. Hermione paused, helping him get his shirt off. She paused before answering, letting her eyes linger on his torso.

“We don’t want to wake anybody up,” she replied, kicking shoes away and shimmying off her jeans.

“You’re quick.”

“Which part?”

“Oh, the wandwork, I reckon. And the—”

“Stop talking,” Hermione pulled Ron to her.


 

“Hermione, what are—when did you get in?” Mrs. Weasley exclaimed from the sink. Several dishes were in the air, awaiting their turn to be scrubbed by a floating sponge. Hermione walked over to hug her, taking care not to bump her nose against the bottom of a soapy pot behind Mrs. Weasley’s head.

“Late last night,” Hermione smiled. “Sorry to drop by so suddenly. I took Ginny’s room.”

“Nonsense,” Mrs. Weasley said, ushering her to sit at the table. “Ron will be so pleased! You’ve always been family,” she said warmly, a new twinkle in her eye. Hermione looked away quickly, something in Mrs. Weasley’s tone more suggestive than usual.

Right before she had returned to Hogwarts in September, she had endured a rather pointed conversation with wherein Mrs. Weasley had dusted off an old jewelry box and she had been shown Ron’s Great Aunt Magdalena’s engagement ring, “Just to see if it fits.”

Ron turned beet red and Ginny had quickly shut the conversation down on Hermione’s behalf. She had not spoken about it with Ron since, but she had taken his embarrassment to mean that it was far too soon to be talking about such things at all. A relief to her, if she was being frank. She’d like to finish her N.E.W.T.s and see to it that a few Death Eaters saw their days in court before doing anything like that.

Hermione nodded vaguely, clearing her throat. “Is there anything I can help you with?”

“No, no, Arthur just left for work and he barely ate, so here, you can have his breakfast,” Mrs. Weasley waved her wand over the stove, which lifted bacon and eggs off of a pan and onto a plate on the table with a soft hiss.

Hermione sat down. “But it’s Saturday.”

Mrs. Weasley shook her head. “Arthur was promoted!” she exclaimed, brandishing her wand a little too forcefully. A few of the floating plates clanked together.

“Oh, how wonderful!”

“He’s overseeing the memory spells for the muggles. The Death Eaters weren’t too careful about what they let them see. Arthur is making sure we have it all on record before sending them off on their way. Poor things,” she sighed.

“On the record,” she repeated. “So that’ll be included in the charges against them?”

“Yes,” Mrs. Weasley sat down across from her and grabbed the open copy of The Daily Prophet that was sitting on the edge of the table. She skimmed the headlines. “If they ever get around to it.”

“It does seem to be taking a while.”

“Lots of politics,” Mrs. Weasley shook her head. “Everyone thinks it should be done one way or the other…”

“I heard something about a special tribunal...on war crimes,” Hermione said hopefully, eager to see if Mrs. Weasley would confirm or deny the rumors she had seen in the news.

“Morning,” a voice came from the doorway.

“Look who’s here!” Mrs. Weasley pointed at Hermione. She hastily jumped out of her chair and hugged him, making a show of patting him on the back a few times. In his groggy stupor, he kissed her cheek and looked at her, bewildered. “That’s a nice greeting,” he mumbled.

“I got in so late last night and I thought I’d surprise you! I haven’t seen you in so long!” Hermione said loudly.

Ron cleared his throat and tugged at his maroon t-shirt, poking his thumb through a worn hole near the bottom. “Oh. Great!” he nodded vigorously. Hermione rolled her eyes at his delivery.

“Ron, you’re up far too late. Next time get here before the bacon gets cold,” Mrs. Weasley pointed at the counter.

“‘S only ten o’clock!” Ron protested.

“Is training making you feel terribly tired?” Hermione asked lightly, as though she wasn’t the reason Ron had been up late.

Mrs. Weasley jumped out of her seat with a squeak of the chair. “I think I heard someone out front. Might be a neighbor,” she ducked out of the room without looking at either of them.

Hermione frowned. Ron busied himself with the food.

“What’s wrong? Your mother’s about as good at hiding her emotions as you are. What’s happening in training?”

Ron looked after the doorway wistfully before answering. “We’re drilling shield charms. I haven’t gotten the knack of it yet.”

“Are you and Harry...having fun?” She’d noticed a marked shift in the way Ron and Harry interacted in the past year. Where Ron used to sulk at Harry’s fame, he now genuinely commiserated. It was harder for Ron to be jealous of the attention now that he was fielding owls every week — fan mail from Witch Weekly subscribers.

“Harry’s really dedicated.” he said.

“If you wanted, I could go over some things with you, you can try some spells on me.”

Ron gave a little smile. “Thanks. That’s really nice of you, ‘Mione,” he added, “But you’ve been busy studying, right? For your N.E.W.T.s?”

“I’m staying on top of it,” she said airily. Hermione’s study schedule flashed to the front of her mind. If she kept up the pace she’d set for herself, she’d be ready for her second round of revisions a full month before exams. Luna and Ginny exchanged looks of bewilderment every time she took out her overstuffed planner, but she knew these tests would be the most difficult trial of her knowledge yet. Sometimes, she counted the hunt for Horcruxes in her tally. Casting simple disillusionment charms, keeping steady hold on a moving dragon, and staunching the blood from a clean splinch wound were simple tasks in isolation. Being able to undo one too many billywig stings in the latter half of a wolfsbane brew under half an hour while planning on writing a written response — that, she’d have to practice. “You don’t have to worry about me. I’d love to help, and in fact, I’m sure I’d learn something myself —”

“—Hermione, thank you,” he said. “You’re so good to me,” he squeezed her hand. Ron took a deep breath, as if steeling himself to do something. “I’ve actually been thinking...of changing career paths,” he said timidly, “D’you hate that?”

She blinked. “I’m—no, Ron, of course not! But if it’s a question of skill, you know I think you’re capable.”

“I thought it was that at first, too,” he sighed. “But I don’t think I’m happy. Not like Harry. He’s brilliant, you should see him duel. He even knows spells other than Expelliarmus now.”

She laughed. “Well, I think it’s better to know this about yourself now, even if you don’t know what’s next.”

He fiddled with his wristwatch buckle. “That’s the thing,” he said. “I’d like to help with George’s shop. He said I could,” he added quickly.

For a moment, Hermione envisioned it: Ron in the back aisle of Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, stocking the shelves and sending out order forms, making jokes to the customers. Helping George concoct ideas. It suited him and his humor.

“Well, are you happy with that?” she said.

“I think so,” Ron said, “George isn’t used to being on his own, y’know.”

“That’s really sweet of you to help him out.”

“But I mean, I want to do it, too. Even if it wasn’t about...that,” he added hastily. “And I was thinking about...you.”

“Me?”

“You could work there after you graduate, maybe,” he said all of this in one breath. “If you need something to do, I mean, not permanently of course! I know you don’t want to work in a joke shop for the rest of your life, but maybe for the summer, or a few months, and maybe if you wanted, you could live with me?” he took a deep breath. “What do you reckon?” his ears were bright crimson. He searched her face for a reaction.

She felt dazed. “Ron,” she said slowly, “I’m really touched.”

“...But you don’t want to live with me,” he finished, his face falling.

“I’m not sure what I imagined for myself after Hogwarts...” she trailed off. How could she relay what had shifted in the past year? She had worried about regressing as Harry and Ron went on to be Aurors and she, back to her studies, but something else had happened instead. At Hogwarts, she felt simultaneously inside and outside of her childhood. The way the castle enveloped her, gray and cavernous, was familiar. The rhythm of schoolwork eased her as it always had. She missed Ron and Harry.

But not as much as she thought she would have. By October, she had reclaimed her favorite armchair in front of the hearth and her evenings with Ginny and Luna felt no less full than the ones she used to have. When she couldn’t fall back asleep, she would take long walks on the hills behind the school. With so many students watching her now, she liked the ease of being alone. And she felt ready to finally leave Hogwarts, at last, on her own terms.

“I have to think about it,” she said at last. This, at least, was true.

Chapter Text

When DuBose arrived at Malfoy Manor, she was dressed in dark amber colors, her spectacles hovering daintily near her right ear, giving the eerie appearance of an invisible specter with poor eyesight peering over her shoulder.

"Let's begin with Mr. Potter's testimony. I have a few questions for you," she clicked her briefcase open—a different one than the one she had brought last, a deep brown that matched her robes. The clasps yawned open and a pile of envelopes fanned out onto the table in Draco's father's study.

Draco cleared his throat. "About that. I haven't had a chance to read it, what with my studies," he stared at her, daring her to admonish him. The testimony had sat at his desk, unopened, mocking him, since she had last visited. But she only crossed her ankles. She plucked the hovering eyeglasses out of the air and put them on.

"I've advised many children over the duration of my career and I would suggest to you that you treat this like schoolwork as well, Mr. Malfoy. I'm not one to diminish the importance of one's studies, but this may take precedence.”

"Fine," Draco gritted his teeth.

THE MINISTRY OF MAGIC v LUCIUS MALFOY, CASE No. 29345851 TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW OF HARRY POTTER

ELENA DOGE: When did you become aware of Draco Malfoy’s plot to kill Albus Dumbledore?

HARRY POTTER: In the middle of my sixth year at Hogwarts. We were classmates.

DOGE: Not friends?

POTTER: No, not friends. We, er, frequently clashed together.

DOGE: And you had grown suspicious of him separate from this?

POTTER: I’m not sure what to call it. I knew of his ties to the Death Eaters, and I had seen Lucius Malfoy with Riddle when he returned. Our...boyhood rivalry must have been part of it, but it was far more serious than that.

DOGE: And then Severus Snape killed Dumbledore, with you and Draco Malfoy present? How did Mr. Malfoy act?

POTTER: Yes, he was there. I don’t think he would have killed him. He told us how he was being blackmailed.

DOGE: He did not have intent to kill Albus Dumbledore?

POTTER: Well, he did. But he didn’t. Because Riddle had said he was going to kill his family if he didn’t, you see? Er. It’s a bit complicated.

DOGE: And Draco Malfoy spent the year attempting to break Hogwarts’ security measures, as per your statement.

POTTER: Yes. Dumbledore offered to help the Malfoys, but he refused—

DOGE: He?

POTTER: Draco. He said no.

DOGE: So the Malfoys’ alliances did indeed lie with the Dark Lord?

POTTER: The Malfoys regretted following Tom Riddle far earlier than the final battle at Hogwarts. Narcissa Malfoy aiding me in defeating Riddle was only one aspect of that. At least, that’s what I believe.

DOGE: What proof do you have?

POTTER: I found Draco...crying one day. It didn’t make sense at the time, but later, I knew it was because he had been blackmailed into killing Dumbledore. He was sixteen. Do you remember being that age? I reckon he was scared and convinced his family was going to die. He should have taken Dumbledore’s offer, but I understand why he didn’t. He had a fear of Tom Riddle that few children understand.

 

Draco pushed the testimony away from him. He couldn’t read any more. "Did Potter really say all this?" he said, feeling a heat creep onto his face.

"Yes," Opal said.

"Well, I don't know how important it is to know—to know what I was doing in the—in the Hogwarts bathroom, in fact, isn't that some sort of invasion of privacy?"

"It's actually quite relevant. Would there be any witnesses we could call upon?"

"Snape," Draco spat. "But obviously that isn't possible.” He shuffled through the rest of the statement. A sentence caught his eye: And then I used a spell I had never used before, which I later found out was a hex Severus Snape had crafted as a student… He met DuBose’s gaze. “Is all of this true?”

“Does something sound false to you?” DuBose’s brow furrowed.

He thought of his old professor often enough, but he naively thought there would be no other secrets to unearth after reading the interview Potter, Granger, and Weasley had given exclusively to The Quibbler when the dust of the war had settled. His family didn’t subscribe, naturally. But he had been curious. So he had done what any other sensible prisoner would have done in his position and dangled a galleon in front of one of the younger Aurors guarding the house one day in exchange for a slightly bent copy of “In Harry Potter’s Own Words: The Quest to Defeat Lord Voldemort.”

He later realized he shouldn’t have bothered, because the commentary in the rest of the press in the weeks following had been relentless, with page after page of The Daily Prophet dedicated to analysis of Potter’s journey and adulatory op-eds penned by prominent witches and wizards.

So the rumors about Severus Snape working for Albus Dumbledore had been true. The facts were all there, corroborated by Potter, Granger, and Weasley (otherwise known to the press and public as the “Golden Trio,” a phrase which almost made Draco throw up in his mouth the first time he had read it). Strangely, the memories he had of Snape remained unchanged. It was as though the news of his old professor’s status as a spy had yet to catch up to the memories he had of him.

“Does this mean Potter is going to tell everyone how he almost hexed me to smithereens?" he said.

DuBose shuffled through her papers. “He was surprisingly forthcoming to describe an incident that portrays him so negatively. Is there anyone he may have told?"

"No," Draco said quickly. "Madame Pomfrey didn't even ask questions."

There was one other witness he could call upon, technically. But he immediately dismissed the notion. He was not going to bother Moaning Myrtle for the first time in two years so she could correct the public record. What use would it be to have her admit to every earthly being he had ever known that he had blubbered his way through his sixth year, a pale mess of nerves and adrenaline? There were things he had told Myrtle that he could never bear to say aloud again.

And anyway, he hadn’t seen her since then. She was the type to hold a grudge. No offense, but anyone could surmise such a thing from the mere fact that she was a girl who had decided to spend all of eternity haunting the bathroom where she had been murdered. He had a feeling she wouldn’t welcome him with open arms if he wandered back into her presence. To his credit, a good chunk of his not staying in touch could be attributed to being on an indefinite house arrest, but it’s not like he went out of his way to see her during his seventh year. She would be sure to bring that up.

Still, she had been his friend, plain and simple. The first time he had told her everything—everything—it was only the second time they had ever spoken to each other. He had sat on a toilet seat and listened to her tell him everything about her life at Hogwarts, the days leading up to her death, the aftermath. And then it had been his turn to tell her about his life. Of course, she relished telling the story of when she died, so he would hear it many times after that. But it was a small price to pay for the ear of a willing confidant.

“Well, Mr. Malfoy, I’ve worked with many teenagers before, and I can tell you that it’s never pleasant to revisit these events, particularly in an official setting. Will you be able to talk about this freely?” she asked in the most sympathetic tone he had heard her use since he had met her.

“Er,” he mumbled. “I don’t recall much about that day, to be honest. I lost a lot of blood.”

DuBose tilted her head, a frown pulling at the corners of her mouth. “I meant generally.”

It dawned on him that she felt sorry for him, and not just because Potter had once used an illegal spell to shred his skin into a bloody pulp. “Of course. I’ll be able to say anything you need me to,” he closed his eyes briefly, remembering the searing pain of it, the white hot heat as the spell had cut into his body. But it was only a memory, long gone now. She was right. He didn’t care about that. The faint scars on his torso from the day Potter had cursed him in the bathroom remained, though Snape had done his best to try to make his skin heal completely. And later, when he had regained consciousness, Snape had been there still, pacing, seething at Potter. That man had been working for Dumbledore all along?

But today was not the day to think about such things.

He imagined the scars would stay with him forever, and with them the odd feeling of being proven wrong hundredfold about a man, in ways he could have never predicted or fathomed. But the pain was as meaningless and fleeting as mere flesh and bone.

Chapter Text

A gray owl with gold-flecked eyes fluttered down to perch on the window of the Burrow kitchen. It tapped on the window with its beak and hooted in Hermione’s direction. “Me?” she asked it, pointing at herself. The owl said nothing back, only looked back at her in what seemed a more pointed way than usual. She stood, reached over the sink, and took the letter from its beak.

Indeed, the back of the envelope had her name in typed print. The front was sealed with a large M in silver wax, the stationary heavy and creamy white. The Ministry had written to her.

Hermione,

So pleased to hear your studies are going well. Lots of red tape over here, as you can imagine. I can explain more in person, but I’m sure by now you’ve heard the United States are especially unhappy with us even though they viewed Voldemort as little more than a common domestic troublemaker. I have several old wizarding families who’d like nothing more than for everyone to be put away very quietly. The lot of them were conveniently nowhere to be found during the war, but I suppose that’s how dynasties survive.

Of course we would be able to make space for you here if you’re able to finish your studies early—do you think you can swing it? You’d be able to meet with our prosecutors who are working on the indictments beginning in the second week of May. At long last.

We need more young people like you to work on this effort (in particular, what you said about Sirius moved me) to hold Death Eaters accountable. I hope you know that you can always contact me if you need anything. Please let me know as soon as you’re able.

Kind Regards,

Kingsley Shacklebolt

Minister for Magic

“Did I just see a Ministry owl? Did the post come for me?” Ron grabbed at the envelope she’d discarded on the counter.

“It’s for me,” Hermione said, folding up the letter quickly.

“An admirer?” he rubbed her shoulder.

She didn’t want to lie to Ron. “Kingsley wrote to me.”

“Not every day that a teenage witch gets a letter from the Minister now, is it?” he grinned.

“I asked him about work at the Ministry,” she unfolded the letter carefully.

Ron raised his brows. “Anything good?”

“Sort of...yes. He wants me to work with the prosecutors in the Wizengamot’s office.”

“Oh,” he said, his eyebrows raising.

“I’ve been meaning to tell you and I didn’t expect to hear back so soon—”

“—This is brilliant!” he swept forward and hugged her. “I knew you had something lined up, you’re too smart not to have figured something out!”

Now it was her turn to be surprised. “I didn’t realize you would be so excited.”

“Excited? I’d be bouncing off the walls if mum weren’t in the other room,” he whispered, grinning. “It’s perfect.”

“Perfect?” she squeaked.

“Yeah, Diagon Alley’s so close to the Ministry, from George’s shop it’ll be an easy enough commute to get to the London entrance. Dad takes it all the time.”

“Oh,” Hermione said. She suddenly felt awful.

“What?”

“Well, I will be at the Ministry after Hogwarts, but I hadn’t figured out where to live. Kingsley’s got so many things planned, Ron, it could really—”

“That’s why it’s so perfect,” he said. “And, I dunno, I was thinking, maybe we could settle down in London eventually since I’ve already spent my whole life in the countryside, what do you reckon?”

“Settle down?” Hermione said softly. “Do you mean like—”

“Well, yeah. You know what I mean,” he smiled sheepishly. She tried to configure her expression into one of joy and not complete surprise. She thought back to the look on his face when Mrs. Weasley had taken out that jewelry box on a late summer afternoon. Had she utterly misread his expression? Perhaps their many months apart had been a bad idea.

“I don’t know if I’d want to live together until after all of this is over,” she said carefully. She folded up the letter from Kingsley.

“Alright,” he frowned. “Then come stay with me whenever you’re done.”

“It’s not so simple. There are...a lot of people. It could take years.”

Years? To try Umbridge? Her orderlies?” he asked, baffled. “How long is it going to take to throw them in Azkaban?”

“And the Malfoys, and the Carrows, and whatever other Death Eaters—”

“—But Hermione,” Ron said quietly. “Alecto Carrow’s dead.”

“Right, but his sister—”

“—And you think Umbridge and the lot of them won’t be found guilty?”

“Of course they will be!” she shook her head. “Don’t you want that to happen?”

“Yes, but why wait around? Most of the Death Eaters are dead, and the few who aren’t, well, maybe the world would be better off if they had stuffed it!”

“But they have to be tried. You know Sirius didn’t even get a trial?”

“Sirius is dead too.”

She bristled. “I know that! But his record still says that he was a murderer, don’t you think we should fix that?”

“You don’t have to be the one to do all this.”

“But I want to.”

“My parents were married by the time they were our age.”

“So you do want to get married...soon?” she said.

“Well, not tomorrow, but…” Ron shrugged. “Don’t you?”

“I haven’t thought that far yet,” she said in what she hoped was an honest tone, not a pessimistic one. “I didn’t know you had.”

“Life’s so short, Hermione,” he took her hand in his. “If there’s anything I’ve learned in the last two years.”

She stared at him, bewildered that he would say such a thing to her. Hadn’t he come to Australia with her to bring her parents home? Hadn’t he seen the way she had made sure to protect them in case she was killed?

“Fred wanted to get married, did you know that? They found the ring on him,” he said quietly.

“It’s not the same for us,” she said softly, slipping her hand away from his. “Please, see it from my perspective. You’re still in Auror training, surrounded by only a few people who at least see you as a person and not as some kind of untouchable celebrity—how often do people ask you about me?”

“I talk about you all the time!” Ron protested.

“Yes, I talk about you too! But for every person who asks me about my studies, there are ten more people who just want to know if I’m ready to get married—”

“You just said you’ve never thought about marriage,” Ron said accusingly.

“That’s right, but I have thought about all the things I’d rather do first. Girls my age, the ones I grew up with, and the ones we grew up with at Hogwarts, they aren’t living with their boyfriends yet, they’re working and going to school and moving into flats with their friends.”

“You’re not like them,” he said, so plainly and earnestly that it was clear he meant it as a compliment.

“I am!” she protested. “I’d like to be.”

His face twinged with hurt. “Alright. It sounds like you’ve already made your decision,” he said finally, turning away from her. She wondered if Ron was with her or lost in his mind, elsewhere. They sat like that, motionless, before she settled her gaze on a piece of furniture that had always been in the kitchen. Together they both watched the odd, worn clock that Hermione had always admired, one hand of the nine stuck as though it were broken.

Chapter Text

A slight breeze came in from the open door of Malfoy Manor for the first time in many months. “Do you have your bags?” Narcissa asked.

His mother was standing, waiting expectantly in opulent navy robes and a fresh face of carefully applied makeup despite the fact that it was six in the morning.

“Yes, mother,” Draco said.

“Mr. Malfoy, I’ll be escorting you to Hogwarts and I’ll be with you throughout your stay,” an Auror said. This man’s face looked familiar, but all Draco could muster up the energy to call him in his head was Mustache, due to the coarse, scraggly hairs that decorated the man’s upper lip.

“Where will I sleep at Hogwarts?” he drawled at the Auror.

“Dunno,” Mustache shrugged, scratching at his square jaw, translation for Not my problem.

“Wonderful.”

Though he was stressed for his exams, he yearned for the dungeons, for being quilted in emerald-colored sheets, cocooned in the familiar smells and noises of the Slytherin common room.

His mother gave a small smile, one that she reserved only for her son. “It’ll be good for you, getting out of the house.”

“Yes, who knows when I’ll get another opportunity,” he responded. His mother’s face snapped back into place and he immediately felt awful.

She sniffed. “Concentrate on your studies. Your father and I are proud that you’ve decided to take your schooling so seriously, especially with...all of this.”

“Thank you,” Draco had to stifle a sad little laugh. It was so like her to refer to the fact that his family’s never-ending house arrest as “all of this”. Yes, he was sure that his peers often had to read statements about their criminal parents. Of course.

He reminded himself that it was he who had decided to take his exams. Nobody had expected him to finish his schooling, though his mother had been the happiest he had seen her in years when he’d told her.

“I know you’ll do well. I’ll see you soon,” she wrapped her arms around Draco. He hugged her back. Nowadays his mother held him longer than she ever had.                                                                                                     


Draco Apparated with the Auror in a daze. The thestral-drawn carriage that waited for them at the front gates of the Hogwarts grounds had served as a grim reminder of the three years that had passed since he had last truly felt free.

The thestral stared ahead, as still and as dark as the windless evening. He shivered, recalling how he had marveled at the carriages when he had first arrived at Hogwarts. But there was no boat ride this time, no trolley full of sweets. He quickly let himself into the carriage and sat across from Mustache, who was idly twirling at his facial hair.

“Haven’t been back here since I was in school,” the Auror remarked, looking out the window at the castle that loomed ahead.

He scrutinized the Auror. Despite the man’s poor choices in grooming, he was quite young, no older than thirty.

“Not even during the battle?” Draco asked.

“Well, yes,” he said, not seeming to take offense. “But it wasn’t really the same. All Malfoys are Slytherins, aren’t they?” the Auror asked conversationally.

Draco felt his back stiffen, waiting for the verbal attack. Ever since the Dark Lord had fallen, Slytherins were not doing themselves any favors by, well, simply existing.

“Yes.”

“I was almost put into Slytherin,” the man went on mildly, a twinkle in his eye. Draco attempted not to roll his eyes with the force of a rogue bludger. It was the very same line he used to hear at the social events he was dragged to. He would hear it from proud adults as they clinked glasses with his parents. And after a certain age, it was whispered to him by pureblood girls who were told, no doubt by their own doting mothers and fathers, that there were certain ways to a Malfoy heart.

“I’m shocked,” Draco said, his tone dry.

“But the Hat said I was too much of a troublemaker to be in Slytherin!” Mustache chuckled.

“Let me guess then, Gryffindor?” Draco said, making no attempt to mask the disdain that dripped from his tone. Mustache’s unflappable demeanor only irritated him more.

“Hufflepuff,” he said softly, lost in a thought. Mustache’s mustache wiggled. “Hadn’t thought of that in years, to be honest.” A grin. Stupid git, Draco thought.

Draco did not justify this with a response. He looked out the window for the rest of the trip, stomach growling. He thought about the pumpkin juice. He wondered if the house elves in the kitchens would still feed him, even though he was a Slytherin, marked with green.


“Mr. Malfoy,” McGonagall came striding out of the castle to greet him and Mustache as Draco stepped out of the carriage. “How was your journey?” she nodded at the Auror.

“Fine, Headmistress,” Draco said stiffly. He hated these kinds of pleasantries. He wished people would just come out and say it. Oh, Mr. Malfoy! Welcome. So looking forward to seeing your father get what he deserves. Indeed, I do seem to recall that you were involved in a plot to kill Professor Dumbledore a few years ago. How have your studies been?

“Leave your things here, if you please. The official is already here to administer the exam.” McGonagall continued, leading them inside the castle. Draco breathed in the familiar smells. He could hear the clamoring in the Great Hall—breakfast time. For this at least, he was thankful. There would be no students milling about.

Draco’s eyes darted about the entrance hall. Everything was exactly the same. If he stood still for a second, he could almost trick himself into believing that he was a child—twelve years old again. He felt a tugging at the back of his eyes, and he scowled. Not here. Not now.

“Professor, I can show myself to the dungeons.”

“The dungeons?” McGonagall asked. “I’m afraid I have to escort you and your,” she paused, looking at the Auror, “security detail up, Mr. Malfoy. You’ll be staying in one of the vacant rooms attached to the infirmary.”

That’s right, Draco reminded himself. I’m not twelve anymore, and now I have a fucking Auror who follows me around. Just in case I make a run for it or curse any blood traitors.

The three of them turned down a hall he used to take as a shortcut to History of Magic class. McGonagall led the way to a room. It was a standard classroom for specialized subjects, small and skinny with three blackboards and no windows. There were two cauldrons set up in the middle of the room, and a plump, middle-aged witch with cropped red hair and large purple spectacles peered inside of them.

“Draco Malfoy,” he introduced himself. “Thank you for accommodating me.”

“The name’s York,” the woman nodded, returning to her work. Whether she was simply reticent or believed that the Malfoy name should rot in Azkaban, he couldn’t be sure.

“Hello, Malfoy,” someone else stepped into the light and Draco felt as though he was daydreaming again. He recognized the voice.

Oh, right. Malfoy thought, This is the Hogwarts I remember.

Chapter Text

“Professor—?” Malfoy asked.

“I will be back to fetch you,” McGonagall pressed on.

“I can take it from here, Professor,” York wrote something on her clipboard. “Shall we?” she asked Hermione and Malfoy.

“Hold on, I-I’m not sure I’m ready,” Malfoy stammered.

“I thought you’d have plenty of time to study at your parents’ house,” she said silkily.

“Miss Granger,” McGonagall’s voice cut through the room. Hermione fell silent. “I will be here to show you back to your quarters when you are finished, Mr. Malfoy. I’m seeing personally to your stay. I trust you two will not embarrass me?”

“No. Thank you, Professor,” he said, teeth gritted. Hermione shook her head quickly.

She was already sitting down on one of the stools, her back straight and her eyes looking only at York. That morning, when McGonagall had told her who she would be taking her exams with, she hadn’t known what to think.

She couldn’t help but notice how stiffly he sat, his arms locked against his torso—was that the end of his Dark Mark she saw poking out from his sleeve?

“Best of luck to you two,” McGonagall said before leaving the classroom.

York cleared her throat.

“The envelopes before you each have a potion written on them. Then, you must brew from memory. There is an assortment of ingredients in each of your supply cartons,” York flicked her wand and two black boxes, each the size of a shoebox, appeared at their feet. “You can find what you need from these. You have three hours. You may begin.”

Hermione took a deep breath. It was time to focus on her exam. That, she knew she could do no matter what.


“Time’s up,” York called out. “Hands up, please.”

Hermione and Malfoy both lifted their hands, their vials rattling against the table with a clatter. The two of them had worked at almost the same pace for the entirety of the exam.

As York collected the samples of their potions and boxed them up, McGonagall knocked on the door and entered.

“You will eat in here while York makes sure your exam vials make their way to be graded,” McGonagall said. York made her way out of the classroom and McGonagall waved her wand. Two plates of food appeared on the desk nearest to her. She glanced at the clock near the door. “I must get to a meeting. But I trust that you two don’t need babysitting?” she nodded at them.

Malfoy and Hermione shook their heads, too weary to say anything. In the hours she had spent brewing her Draught of Grief, her hair had doubled in size. Making sure the potion was the correct shade of orange had been a feat, and she was certain that she had inhaled some of the fumes by accident.

“Well, I suppose Bardsley will be just out the door,” McGonagall added.

“Who?” Malfoy said.

McGonagall’s eyes flitted to him.

“Your Auror,” Hermione mumbled.

McGonagall looked as though she was about to say something but thought better of it. She nodded at them both and made her exit.

For a few minutes the only sound was their silverware clanking against porcelain and the hasty glugs from their goblets.

“You got a draught, by the looks of it?” Malfoy said as casually as he could.

Pointedly, Hermione took a long sip from her goblet.

“I don’t bite,” he muttered, rolling his eyes.

“Didn’t think you’d want to make conversation with a mudblood.”

She could see the hand in his lap form a fist. She suppressed a smile. It had been a long time since she had made Malfoy angry.

Bardsley poked his head through the door. His mustache wriggled. They froze. “You two are just supposed to be eating. Not talking,” he said as lightly as he could before returning to his post.

“Just being cordial. I haven’t been out much,” he whispered. He tilted his head at her, clearly throwing the bait.

“Yes, you do look as though you need a little sun.”

“I’d tell you more, but we aren’t supposed to talk.”

Hermione dabbed at her mouth with the corner of her napkin. “On the contrary. Nonverbal hexes are my specialty.”

“Please. You wouldn’t do anything with McGonagall so close.”

Hermione laughed a low, hollow laugh. “What do you know about me, Malfoy? I didn’t give away anything under the Cruciatus, did I?”

He fell silent at this. She knew more about Malfoy than she would ever care to know. She could see the same crease in his brow that his father had. This she knew from observing the way Lucius had aged in the photos throughout the pages of The Daily Prophet. She knew the weight of Malfoy’s hawthorn wand, which looked no different today than when Harry had held it. She knew about his childhood home. The way the floorboards had felt, smooth and lacquered, with her face pressed against them.

She cleared her throat, tucking a bushy strand of hair behind her ear. “I’d rather use the rest of my energy on these exams, if you don’t mind,” she muttered. He turned back to his food in quiet agreement, and in that moment she knew that he wouldn’t speak out of turn again. She knew this to be true, just as strongly as she knew that Draco Malfoy was a coward.


“Ten more minutes,” York called out. Hermione sighed with relief. She was nearly finished with the final question on her written Potions exam. There was enough time to go over her answers, and then perhaps she would go through the properties of enchanted metals again—

A thunderous boom came from under them. It reverberated through the room. She glanced at Malfoy, whose quill had also stopped scratching along his parchment.

York took her wand out. “Keep working,” she ordered. She poked her head out of the classroom doorway. “Oh—oh my!” she exclaimed, clapping a hand to her mouth.

Hermione stood up. “Everything alright?”

A flash of light, and then York crumpled forward, her shoulder landing on the floor first with a loud thwack.

“Hey!” Hermione sprang up, digging her hand into her pocket to grab her wand, but she realized York had taken it for the written part of the exam.

Malfoy put his quill down slowly. “Should we go—”

“—Oh, move over,” she pushed past his desk without a second glance.

Bardsley was slumped on the hall floor a few paces away, his wand near his feet. “Oh!” she clapped a hand over her mouth. “Hello? Can you hear me?” she knelt over York, her hands finding the pocket where her wand was. She went through the checklist of spells she used to mutter in her sleep last year. Charm. Change. Jinx. Curse. Hex. Heal.Enneverate,” she said shakily. York didn’t move.

“What’s going on?” Malfoy stood in the doorway. Hermione whipped around from her place on the floor. She grabbed his wand from York’s pocket and hesitated. Could Malfoy have something to do with it? He glanced, bewildered, at Hermione.

She’d take her chances. She tossed his wand to him. He lunged, catching it by the tips of his fingers. “Check on the Auror,” she demanded.

Malfoy stumbled over to Bardsley. “He looks like he’s not breathing,” he muttered, crouching down. “But I’m no healer,” he said quickly.

Hermione groaned. “Are you a wizard or not?” she said before pointing her wand at York again. “Enneverate.” She didn’t stir. She pressed a finger against her neck. No pulse.

“She’s dead?” her voice cracked, and it came out like a question. Her stomach dropped. Someone was attacking Hogwarts. Again. Just like the nightmares she had of the Dark Mark appearing overhead, but this time, it was somehow worse. It was like seeing blood without a wound. Voldemort was supposed to be dead.

BOOM. Hermione sprang to her feet. She grabbed Malfoy’s arm.

“Hey!” he yelped. “What do you think you’re—”

“Is it this one?” she yanked his sleeve up, twisting his right arm so she could see the other side of it.

“OW!” he twisted away from her. They looked as if they were doing some sort of complicated arm-wrestling, or perhaps a deranged waltz. “Are you absolutely mad?”

She lunged for his other arm. “It’s this one,” she pushed his sleeve away and her grip tightened around his wrist for a moment. She stared at what remained of the Dark Mark. It was still and pale, pink like a healed burn. Nothing like she remembered it. Nothing like how it would appear in her mind when she was least expecting it, blackened and menacing, its edges undulating like oil caught in water.

She dropped his arm away as if it were a dead animal. The blood rushed to his face.

“What the fuck was that about?” he hissed, his cheeks and forehead dappled with red. He tugged his sleeve down to his fingertips. She was already running.

“It’s not Voldemort!” she yelled at him.

“Where are you going?” he called after her.

“Disneyland, you dolt!”

She turned the corner, leaving Malfoy behind.


Hermione bounded down the staircase that led to the Great Hall, students streaming past her as she went. She caught a few whispers here and there as she made her descent—Is that Hermione Granger?

A firm hand grabbed her arm. “Hermione!” Ginny gasped, her eyes wide amidst the chaos, the current of students pushing against them.

“Ginny! What’s happening?”

“I don’t know, I tried to stay, but they’re herding all the students out, there was an attack,” she said hurriedly, gripping her arm tighter, more students shoving against them despite Hermione’s efforts to move towards the Great Hall doors. From afar, she spotted Hagrid barreling up the staircase she had just descended with two passed-out first years cradled in his arms. The crowd was too thick to see what was happening inside, and she could only hear the shouts and screams of her terrified classmates.

“Who—?”

“Lucius Malfoy,” Ginny said, the words tumbling out of her, “Harry and Ron are still in there, and my parents—”

Her heart thudded. A chill ran through her as she thought of Draco, who was only a few floors above them. He was alone now. But he had been shocked by it too—hadn’t he? She tried to recall the exact expression he wore.

Hermione beckoned Ginny to follow. She pushed back against the crowd in earnest now, one hand clasped around Ginny’s and the other on her wand.

When she was finally able to step foot into the Great Hall, it reminded her eerily of the day of the Battle of Hogwarts. Today, the room had been decorated in black and purple, but it also looked as though an explosion had taken place. Broken glass littered the floor and rain fell through an open hole in the ceiling.

A few students were caught in the corners of the room away from the entrance to the Great Hall, and they cowered, crowding together, the older students keeping the younger ones behind them.

“Harry!” she shouted, her voice cracking. But Harry was occupied. His hair was damp with blood, and his wand was pointed at none other than Lucius Malfoy. Lucius’s eyes were red-rimmed but alert, and he looked more haggard than Hermione had ever remembered him. Gone was his long hair, it now sat short against his pale complexion, his head only covered by a film of platinum hair.

Lucius raised his wand. “Morsmo—”

“—NO!” Ron’s voice. She froze, watching Ron barrel headfirst into Lucius, a wand rolling away from them, their two bodies skidding across the floor in a tumultuous wrestle. She screamed, but it was lost amidst the crowd.

Spells shot through the air. And then, a stream of light went past, a crack following, loud and deafening. She screamed.

Lucius got himself to his feet. Then, he laughed.

She couldn’t see Ron anymore. “Ron?” she yelled, and she ripped herself away from Ginny’s grip.

“Hermione!” a strangled voice called out. It was Bill, knocking into her. He grasped her shoulders.

A surge of white light filled the room and Aurors in navy robes flooded into the Great Hall. Harry staggered forward, half his face painted red with blood now, looking like he was on the verge of passing out, his wand still aloft. A blinding line of blue light split through the air from the herd of Aurors, and Lucius froze, he was flung upward over the tables, and then his body crumpled.

“Hermione, don’t,” Bill said, and she realized that he wasn’t aiding her in her plight to get to Ron, Lucius, and Harry—rather, he was impeding her.

She attempted to raise her wand arm, but Bill only gripped her tighter, the expression on his face very wrong indeed. “Ron! RON!” she yelled, a ringing in her ears that had little to do with the echoing din of the Great Hall. Tufts of red hair. A limp arm in forest green robes.

Chapter Text

The portraits were empty, something he had only ever seen twice during his time at Hogwarts. Once, when Sirius Black broke into the school, and the second time, the night Professor Snape had killed Dumbledore. He couldn’t forget it.

Draco’s fingernails dug into his palms as he clutched his wand. For the first time in almost a year, there was nobody telling him what to do and nobody watching him.

He could feel his brain buzzing with the excitement of it. The fork in the road. On one side, he could see a clear path. One where he followed Hermione Granger, of all people, into whatever was happening downstairs. The Great Hall. A room full of people who couldn’t stand his family, no matter what Potter had told the Ministry or the press.

The other thing that kept him from moving was fear, plain and simple. Had he ever been able to run into something like this—an attack, an unknown, a void—without someone pushing him along? He wasn’t like Granger. He knew it. The sorting hat had known it. Albus fucking Dumbledore had known it.

He could still feel Granger’s hand on his wrist and the heat that had come off of her fingers. To his relief, his Dark Mark looked unchanged—just a pinkish scar, something he only felt burn when his mind was playing tricks on him. But what if Potter had fucked something up after all and You-Know-Who had decided to make his entrance in the bloody Great Hall? After all this, that would be an awful way to die. He could feel his feet pulling him away.

Maybe he could go back into the classroom. Wait until he could hear the commotion subside. Close his eyes and listen to the wind rattle against the castle’s high windows and pretend he was just in class, waiting for a lecture to end…

He could hear footsteps coming from the direction Granger disappeared to. He snapped open his eyes and raised his wand.

“Oh, bloody fuck,” a voice rang out. He squinted. Someone at the end of the hall surveyed the two bodies on the floor. She looked at Draco, her eyes searching his before looking at his wand. Her dark hair was piled on top of her head and there was an odd tear at her shoulder. He dropped his wand with a clatter and his hands shot up, palms facing out.

“I was just checking on them,” he croaked, his throat feeling drier than usual. He blinked, hard. “I found them like this.”

Accio wand,” she said, and his wand jumped into her hand.

“Fair enough,” he muttered. “Are you coming from the feast?”

She ignored this and hurried towards York’s crumpled form. “Are they alright?” she put a hand on York’s shoulder.

“I think they’re dead,” he said quietly, feeling awful for saying it and feeling even worse for saying it to a random student. “Do you know what’s going on? Were you in the Great Hall?” he asked desperately. She looked familiar, though he couldn’t place her. A Slytherin, maybe? Her name might have started with an A

“Dead?” the girl stood quickly, as though she had been doused in ice water. “And you found them here? I know who you are,” and as she said this, something seemed to dawn on her. “Petrificus Totalus,” she commanded, and Draco stiffened, falling over, hard, on his left forearm.

“Mmmmm!” he yelled, his jaw frozen in place.

“Enough,” an older woman’s voice came from the hallway. From his vantage point, he could see someone with a cap of silvery hair, in Ministry uniform, a wand raised. She waved it, and Draco felt the hex slip off of him. He heaved a sigh as his body relaxed. He stayed on the floor as the words boomed over him. “Mr. Malfoy, you’ll be coming with me.”

An arm hoisted him up and he stumbled up, his legs unsteady from the body-bind spell. “My name is Elena Doge, and I’m the head of Auror division. Bardsley’s alarm went off and we rushed over,” her grip on him was firm. “Is it alright if we ask you to come in for some questioning, Mr. Malfoy?”

“Fine,” Draco said through gritted teeth. “Can I have—”

“Miss, thank you for your assistance—his wand, please,” Doge held her hand out and the girl dropped Draco’s wand obediently into the waiting palm. “Perhaps it would be best if you went and joined the other students.”

“What’s happened downstairs?” Draco demanded, watching the girl hurry away, her eyes averted, though she stole one last glance at them as she disappeared around the bend in the hall.

Doge turned pale at this. She kept her gaze forward as she walked quickly down the hall. “It seems that your father has attacked Hogwarts, Mr. Malfoy, so you understand why I need you to cooperate with us. You’ll be able to notify your legal counsel shortly.”

“What—?”

“We can talk later, Mr. Malfoy. Let’s focus on getting out of this castle. For your own safety.”

He felt a heat rise up in his throat and tried to remember the last time he had seen his father—not today. Yesterday? The day before? The days blended together. Sometimes he could hear the creak of the floorboards in the hallway as he pored over his notes on the upcoming trial. The heavy footfalls gave Lucius away, but nothing more than that, and Draco would put his quill down and wonder if he’d hear a knock at his door, but he would hear nothing instead, only the reminder that they were both alive together in that moment, the sound fading out of his head and into the dark open spaces of the place he called home.


THE MINISTRY OF MAGIC v LUCIUS MALFOY, CASE No. 29345851 TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW OF DRACO MALFOY

 

ELENA DOGE: Mr. Malfoy, how do you take your tea?

DRACO MALFOY: It doesn't matter. Black is fine.

OPAL DUBOSE: A bit of sugar for myself.

DOGE: Alright. Everyone, may I have the room, please? Thank you. Mr. Malfoy, I know your rights have been read to you already.

DUBOSE: We’re ready to begin.

DOGE: Okay. Okay, then. We have a lot of people we’re speaking with today, so it’s not just you, and I’d like to get through this as efficiently as we can. Do you have any questions for me?

MALFOY: Yes. Who are you, exactly?

DOGE: I’m the head of the Auror department. We’ve actually met a few times. I was on the security detail for your parents’ house for a time. Lovely birds out front.

MALFOY: I see.

DOGE: This is indeed the first time you’ve been outside of Malfoy Manor in the past year?

MALFOY: Correct.

DUBOSE: This can be confirmed with Ministry records as well.

DOGE: Your exams, then—how did you come to obtain permission to take them at Hogwarts?

MALFOY: Isn’t that under your—the Ministry’s jurisdiction?

DOGE: Yes, but I’m wondering how you decided to go forward with it. When did you decide to take your N.E.W.T.s at Hogwarts?

MALFOY: They don’t let you take the exams anywhere but Hogwarts. It has to be administered at the school.

DOGE: So you were taking your exams when the attack took place.

MALFOY: Yes. I presume. I was nowhere near the Great Hall.

DOGE: Oh, thank you. Yes. Here’s your tea.

MALFOY: Smashing.

DUBOSE: Thank you.

DOGE: And then you found Barclay Bardsley and Marianne York?

MALFOY: Yes. The proctor went outside of the classroom after I heard a loud noise. And then a spell hit her from the hallway. The Auror was already on the floor.

DOGE: And where were you?

MALFOY: In the classroom.

DOGE: How many paces away from the doorway, would you say? … Mr. Malfoy?

MALFOY: I was seated at my desk. I couldn’t see through the doorway.

DOGE: I’ll make a note of that. Had your father spoken to you at all about the fact that you were going to Hogwarts today? Did he seem the same as always today?

MALFOY: No. He was asleep when I left this morning.

DOGE: Nothing out of the ordinary in the days previous between you two?

DUBOSE: The boy has been on house arrest with his family for a year, that in of itself is already out of the ordinary.

MALFOY: No.

DOGE: I wonder if you could tell me if your father ever spoke of coming to Hogwarts.

DUBOSE: My client has already told you he did not know what was happening today. Is Mr. Malfoy required to atone for the alleged sins of his father?

MALFOY: I can answer that.

DUBOSE: I hardly see how this is a necessary line of questioning.

DOGE: Mr. Malfoy, would you still like to answer?

MALFOY: No.

DOGE: No you wouldn’t, or no, your father never spoke of coming to Hogwarts?

DUBOSE: Mr. Malfoy—

MALFOY: No, he has not said that.

DOGE: How about an attack of some kind?

MALFOY: No.

DOGE: Mr. Malfoy, I want to be clear about something before we move forward. If you’re able to provide us with valuable information, it may mitigate your circumstances.

MALFOY: And my father’s?

DOGE: I’m speaking solely of your case at the moment.

DUBOSE: You’re giving us a plea deal? Now? Of all days?

DOGE: The circumstances have changed.

DUBOSE: Then I’ll be conferring with my client about this in private.

DOGE: Fine. That’s noted. And let me try to remember from my school days, forgive me, but aren’t parts of the N.E.W.T.s done without wands?

MALFOY: Yes, but—

DOGE: Yet you were found with your wand on you. Did you take this from Marianne York’s robes?

MALFOY: Yes, but —

DUBOSE: I think you should allow him to answer.

MALFOY: The other student with me had gone to check on what was happening in the hallway, and she took their wands—

DOGE: Hold on, what other student? Someone else was there?

MALFOY: A classmate of mine was also taking the exam.

DOGE: I’ve got my notes in front of me and it says that the Ministry only authorized your examination. You were found alone.

MALFOY: I’m shocked to hear that the Ministry isn’t on top of its affairs. I was with Granger until she decided to dash off.

DUBOSE: I assume I don’t need to remark that my client’s tone was sarcastic for part of that sentence?

DOGE: It’s noted. A friend of yours?

MALFOY: Granger? No.

DOGE: Hold on, Granger? Hermione Granger?

MALFOY: The very same.

DOGE: Ashmi, do you mind coming in here? I need you to locate Hermione Granger for us. We’ll need to speak with her immediately. Mr. Malfoy, will Miss Granger corroborate what you’re telling me now?

DOGE: Mr. Malfoy, could you answer the question?

MALFOY: How would I know?

DOGE: You don’t know her well?

MALFOY: No, I don’t. When can I see my father?

DOGE: I’m afraid not any time soon. He’s being held. Maximum security.

MALFOY: In Azkaban?

DOGE: No, where did you hear that?

MALFOY: I just assumed.

DOGE: He’s in a secure room within the Ministry. Azkaban isn’t in service anymore. Reports from the Auror detail surrounding your house mention that you can often be seen awake at all hours of the night. Are you having trouble sleeping?

MALFOY: What?

DOGE: Shall I repeat the question?

MALFOY: No, I heard you, I just had no idea the Ministry was spying on me. Why are you asking me this?

DOGE: We need to rule out all possibilities. Is it true that you’ve been sleepwalking, Mr. Malfoy?

DUBOSE: This is hardly relevant.

DOGE: Memory loss accompanies sleepwalking—

MALFOY: What, you think I’ve forgotten if my father tried to plan an attack on Hogwarts with me? If the Ministry’s keeping such a close eye on me then why don’t you keep your—

DUBOSE: I think we’re done for today.


It was raining, the first heavy rainfall they had had in several weeks, and this time it was accompanied by a sticky humidity that Draco only barely registered. When was the last time he had felt rain? He tilted his head up, smelling the damp air.

"Mr. Malfoy," the new Auror escorting him to his house called out. She looked grave. She was another nameless face, someone he didn't recognize. "This way, please."

He sighed. He trudged up to the path that led to the gates of Malfoy Manor. The woman gestured for him to enter.

"I think I know the way to my own home," he said coldly.

If the woman was insulted, her expression remained unchanged. "I have to escort you to the door, Mr. Malfoy," she said briskly. "Doctor's orders."

He rolled his eyes, already passing her, his boots digging into the mud. When he reached the end of the long pathway, his hair was drenched, and he could feel the cold seeping into his socks. But he knew he would first have to contend with his mother.

"Draco!" a voice came from somewhere in the house. He looked up. His mother was bounding down the staircase in her pajamas, a matching set of purple satin. In the darkness of the foyer, they looked starless and black, the luxurious material taking in all the light. He put a hand out. "Please, mother, I'm fine," he shut the door behind him. The metal tracking bracelet on his wrist vibrated against him, turning cool to the touch, and then back to his body temperature. The Ministry wasn't taking any chances. Outside the door, he could hear the telltale pop of the Auror Disapparating.

"I can't believe they detained you," she scowled. "They didn't tell me until you were released!"

"I'm fine. Have you spoken to father?"

His mother froze, her distorted expression contorting into a scowl or a cry, he couldn't tell. "They wouldn’t let me. This is unlike him, Draco. I haven't any idea—"

He shrugged off his cloak, leaving it in a puddle of wet along with his bags. "Have you even spoken to him before today?" he demanded. He couldn't remember the last time his parents were in the same room.

"Of course," she said. She glanced down at his wet things, and he knew it bothered her. But he glared at her, daring her to make a fuss.

"Then why didn't he tell you that he was going attack the castle?" he snapped, making his way up the staircase, gripping the banister tight.

"I wish I could tell you, darling," her voice broke. "I don't know what your father was thinking. He hasn't seemed any different. I'm in absolute shock, but if you had something to do with this —"

"Me?" Draco blinked. Why did everyone think he had something to do with it? A chill ran down his spine. Was there something he was missing?

"You were always so willing to do what the Dark Lord asked of you, even when you were a boy," she wiped at her tears. "I wondered if—"

"Do you think I would do something so stupid when our family is already in jeopardy?" he snapped. How little did his family know him?

"I'm going to bed," he said, reaching the top of the stairs. His mother was still in the foyer, staring up at him in the dim light.

"Draco, wait—"

"DON'T," he yelled, his hands shaking. He took a deep, steadying breath and unclenched his fists. "I can't believe you would accuse—don't you think I've learned my lesson?"

"Darling, darling, I know you're trying to make things right—" she followed him up the stairs, her hair coming loose from its low knot.

He had never felt so angry. He felt almost as he had felt during his sixth year, when all of his limbs felt as though they were being pulled in different directions by Snape, his family, the Dark Lord, and Dumbledore. He swiped at his cheek, his face wet with sweat, rain, and tears.

"Someone's a liar," he said, his voice hoarse. "Father's lying to both of us or you're lying to me. And I won't do it anymore," he shook his head violently, the rain drops spattering them both. "Do you know why I'm not going to prison like—like him?" he couldn't even bear to call Lucius his father. "Because they decided that I was a child, radicalized by my parents. My parents!" he spat.

She snapped to attention. "We did everything to protect you!" she snapped. "If only you knew what we did to keep you alive!"

"Oh, yes, the vow with Snape," he said. "He wasn't even on our side."

"Whether or not Severus was a blood traitor—"

"OH, WILL YOU GIVE IT A REST?" he shouted. Inexplicably, he had his wand out. His face was dry now. The fact that such a thing mattered to his mother felt like a waste of the year that they had spent behind the walls of their house. "THERE ARE NO BLOOD TRAITORS, MOTHER! SNAPE WAS A FUCKING HALF BLOOD ANYWAY, AND I DON'T CARE IF HE WERE HALF GIANT—"

She raised her hands in surrender, the tears flowing freely from her eyes now. "Draco, please. Y-you're s-so young. By the time I was your age, I was engaged to your father. Your life was supposed to be different. We did you a disservice, letting the Dark Lord do such a thing to you—"

"You can't even say it."

She shook her head. “We will figure this out.”

At long last, Draco could feel his heart rate slowing. "Mother, what you did at the end of the Final Battle—"

She put her hand up, her eyes shut tight as though she were in pain. "I've asked you not to speak of that. We are are a traditional wizarding family," she snapped. "The Malfoy name—"

But Draco didn't hear what the Malfoy name was, because he had already shut the door behind him, locking himself in his room. He was alone once more, the tracking bracelet trembling against his shaking hands.

Chapter Text

I’m floating, Hermione thought. In a waiting room at St. Mungo’s, she drifted in and out of consciousness. The kind of haze that allowed for images to flash by and crumple with the slightest of movements. In her daze, she rubbed her hands over the roughness of the cushioned chair. She blinked. Dragon hide?

No. It only felt like the skin of a beast. She squeezed her eyes shut. Was it really almost a year now? When she had flown over England on the bare scales of the kind of animal she had only ever read about in books.

No, she thought again. That’s not right, I carried Norbert in my first year. The stuttering croon of a baby dragon. The humiliation of letting her house down. My house, she wanted to laugh. Now, she walked past the hourglasses that counted the house points without a second glance. She did not know that she could outgrow a castle as large as Hogwarts until this year. Before, she had been a child. It was hard to imagine that part of her past. It was another time. Another lifetime.

Her arms felt as heavy as boulders.

Weightlessness. What did Hermione know of it?

“Hermione,” a familiar voice said.

“Mmmph,” she muttered. She squinted up. The gold eye of the dragon was gone. A glint of emerald glass. Green.

“Ron’s stable,” Harry said. He removed his eyeglasses and sat next to her.

Hermione jolted. “Is he awake? Can we see him?”

“No. And, no. Only family.”

“Bullshit,” she spat. A healer with a clipboard gave Hermione a scalding glance. We’re his family too!”

Harry scratched at the bandage around his head. “They wouldn’t be able to fit us in there anyway. Too many people. And I think our lack of red hair would give us away,” he sighed. She slumped forward in her chair.

“Hermione Granger?” came a voice from behind Hermione. She turned around, looking up at the tall, domineering figure she recognized from the Prophet.

“Pleasure to meet you. Elena Doge, head of the Auror division,” the woman extended her hand, and now Hermione recognized the tiny electric blue A embroidered on the lapel of her robes. Harry straightened, standing at once, wincing as he did, pressing his fingers against the bandage on his head. “Ow,” he said. “Doge, what are you doing here?”

“Ministry matters,” she said. “Would I be able to have a word?”

“Yes—” he said.

“Mr. Potter, I’m speaking to Granger here. I have a few questions about today,” she said, taking a seat across from her.

“Oh,” Hermione said.

“My apologies for taking up your time today, I know this is the last thing you want to do,” she sighed. “Is the Weasley family near?”

“Yes, they’re with Ron.”

“Please extend my well wishes to them all,” she said, her expression grave. “I want you to know that everything you say to me will stay within this investigation. I only request your candor. Do you mind explaining how you came to be in the Great Hall today?”

Hermione shifted in her seat. “I came from upstairs.”

“Why weren’t you with everyone in the Great Hall already?”

“I was taking my exams early. They happened to coincide with the memorial feast.”

“Were you alone?”

“No, I was with three other people. The proctor, an Auror, and, er, another student.”

Doge looked very grim indeed. “Draco Malfoy?”

“Yes,” she said.

“Anything suspicious with Mr. Malfoy’s actions? Do you remember anything peculiar?”

“Honestly, no,” Hermione said, surprised the words were even coming out of her own mouth. “We heard the commotion and he was as surprised as I was. We checked on the proctor and—and his Auror,” Hermione said, closing her eyes as she remembered the blank expressions on both of their faces.

“Did he do anything out of the ordinary while taking the exam?”

“No.”

“Really? Draco Malfoy was found with a wand on him despite the fact that you were both doing the wandless portions of your N.E.W.T.s.”

“I gave that to him,” she said, surprised. “I got our wands from the proctor.”

Doge didn’t say anything for a while. “Alright,” she said, standing. “I should be going. This investigation will likely take some time. The Ministry will be in touch,” she said, opening the door.

Harry shook Doge’s hand. “Yes, see you at the office, Potter,” Doge said. “Hopefully that doesn’t leave a mark,” she gestured to his bandage.

When Doge left, Hermione looked sharply at Harry. “Harry, is Doge related to Elphias?”

Harry nodded. “They’re twins. She’s my boss, I suppose. Only started speaking to me once I mastered my disguise charms, nevermind killing Tom Riddle,” he shook his head. “What did she ask?”

“About Malfoy.”

“But you weren’t near the Great Hall, were you?”

“No, I mean Draco.”

Harry frowned. “Draco?”

“He was taking exams with me. Separate from the other students. I don’t know the details. McGonagall just showed up that morning to tell me I’d be in the same room as him. And then she gave me a little lecture on how I was to uphold the Gryffindor house and not make a fuss about it,” she wrinkled her nose.

A look of alarm passed over Harry’s face. “That’s—that changes everything, doesn’t it? Malfoy’s the one who got all those Death Eaters into Hogwarts two years ago.”

“You’re right,” Hermione nodded. “But he didn’t seem like he was...scheming. He seemed like he was...” she struggled to find the words. “I don’t know. Normal. He was as surprised as I was. I had to tell him what to do.”

“Did he say anything to you?” Harry asked. “If he said anything about you being a muggleborn I’ll go to the Ministry myself and remind him that Tom Riddle’s dead in the ground—”

“He tried to make conversation, actually. But I didn’t humor him.”

“Well, good,” Harry said defensively.

“I may have gotten a little shirty with him,” she thought of how she had called herself a mudblood. “Anyhow, he didn’t bother me after that.”

“I shouldn’t say this, but—” he threw a sidelong glance at the doorway, which was empty. “Even though Tom Riddle is dead, there are still plenty of wizards and witches who still agree with his cause. Whether or not Lucius was working with them…this attack could reinvigorate them,” he said grimly. “Maybe even lead to copycats. But I know they’ll get to the bottom of it.”

She sighed. “Nevermind Malfoy. I was—I was just outside the Great Hall,” she said. “I ran inside. I saw Ron on the floor. I thought—I thought that—”

“Don’t think about that. It’ll be alright.”

She hadn’t spoken to anyone else yet, only rushed after Ron as the healers came to take him to St. Mungo’s. A few other students were wounded. Professors herded the rest out of the hall while the Aurors swarmed. “Did you see what kind of spell hit him?” Hermione asked.

“No,” Harry said. “A lot was happening at once. They weren’t sure what it was. At first a few people thought it was part of the ceremony.”

“I can’t believe I wasn’t there.”

“Don’t do that. It was mad. You think if you were there you would have been able to fix it?”

She wiped quickly at her face. “I had a fight with him recently,” Hermione said quietly to her hands.

“Where are you going tonight?” Harry said gently.

“No visitors after eight,” she said. “I suppose I’ll try Flooing back to Hogwarts.”

“Why don’t you come stay the night at mine? It’s closer,” he said.

Hermione nodded. “Alright,” she said.


Grimmauld Place was simply out in the open now, no longer magicked away into hiding. She saw a woman take out the trash at the end of the block. A man came out of 10 Grimmauld Place and lit a cigarette, a dog on a leash accompanying him.

“Evening,” Harry nodded at the man, who nodded back. The terrier at his neighbor’s feet wagged its tail. As the man receded into view, Harry turned back to mutter at Hermione, “Had to do a bit of a memory spell on that one after he saw me watering the roses out front with my wand one night. But it’s fine,” he added hastily upon seeing Hermione’s look of horror.

Out of sight, Harry slipped his wand out from under his sleeve and unlocked the front door.

Grimmauld Place no longer looked like the dark, abandoned hovel she had once known. The musty smell was all gone, and Harry had replaced most of the furniture. And after several months and a rather dangerous and unsuccessful Unsticking Charm, he had hired a muggle contractor to knock out the wall on which Walburga Black’s portrait hung. It had come down at long last, all while screaming bloody murder. Harry had explained this anomaly away by saying the portrait was a defective television screen.

Harry gestured up the staircase. “You can stay in the master. I sleep in Sirius’s old bedroom.”

Hermione looked up the stairs and felt her body grow heavy. “Do you have anything to drink, actually?”

At the kitchen table, Hermione lowered herself onto the chair nearest to the door, her bags falling to the floor with a thump. It was late now, but there was no chance of her falling asleep. There were still so many things to do. She had to write to the Ministry first thing in the morning to ask about the rest of her exams. She would need to write to McGonagall too. She had been planning to leave Hogwarts quietly after her N.E.W.T.s, but she imagined that it would be impossible to finish the tests now.

The kitchen had new lacquered countertops and last summer Harry had sheepishly admitted to her that he had consulted with a muggle interior designer, but he hadn’t needed much help. Much to everyone’s surprise, he had a knack for decorating. The sitting room had changed the most, with bright blue curtains, a new paint job, and rich oak floors. The row of mounted house elf heads in the hall was replaced by elaborate paintings Luna had made. All of them were images of rare magical creatures that she insisted she had seen with her own two eyes.

Harry was still wearing his dress robes. He shouldered off his cloak and placed his wand on the table, rolling it against the wood with one hand. It sputtered a few yellow sparks and he stopped, his posture hunching forward. “Accio firewhiskey,” a hollow clunk of glass against wood, then a bottle of amber liquid floated out from a shelf. He offered it to Hermione. She twisted the cap open and took a searing sip. “Merlin. I don’t have many chances to drink at Hogwarts,” she coughed.

“I found this bottle in Sirius’s room under the floorboards, so it’s probably older than we are,” he said, giving her a wry grin.

Normally, a stack of dirty dishes in the sink and a disorganized pile of opened letters on the window ledge would bother her clean sensibilities, but here, it gave Grimmauld Place a human touch. It was no longer a hiding spot or a headquarters, though there were traces of that in the half-empty boxes left behind by various Order members that she, Harry, and Ron had attempted to sort through last summer but hadn’t ever completed. They had thrown away what they could (maps detailing the paths of giants in Russia, yellowed files on now dead Death Eaters, scribbles in what looked like Dumbledore’s own hand of a sweet-laden grocery list) and didn’t know what to do with the rest (a banged-up flask with Moody’s initials on it and a Quidditch trophy from twenty years ago).

Otherwise, it was a rather large, quiet house, one that her friend happened to live in. She was envious, imagining Harry walking through the muggle streets, able to pass in and out of the wizarding world as he pleased.

“Do you like London? I never asked you.”

“I do,” he said quietly. “I’ve never lived on my own before. There’s so much space.”

She sighed. “It seems so normal.”

“I’m hardly ever here.”

It was true that Harry looked like he could use some rest. He needed a shave, his glasses were foggy with fingerprints, and his hair slightly was longer than usual, unruly as ever. He even looked as though he had grown another inch. “It’s a lot of work,” he paused. “Er, Ron must have told you about his plans. Has he told you—”

She nodded. “We fought about it,” she said. “Not about how he wants to leave,” she added quickly. “He wanted to live together and I said no,” she said, realizing how awful she sounded now. “I haven’t spoken to him since.”

Harry took a swig of the firewhiskey. “I’m sure he didn’t mean anything by it.”

“H-he was a-angry with me,” she said, wiping at her eyes. “I disappointed him. I’m sure he thought—he thought, maybe, that it meant that I didn’t love him as much as he loves me.”

Harry put his hand on hers, and they sat like that for a while, not saying anything.

A grey owl tapped on the window, its wings wet with rain.

Hermione sighed, walking over to open the window while wiping at her face. She let the owl in, taking the envelope from its beak. The paper was gray with a dark Ministry seal. She turned it over.

Hermione Granger

#12 Grimmauld Place, the kitchen

London

"It's for me," she said, putting a finger under the seal and ripping open the letter.

Dear Ms. Granger,

You have been summoned for the trial of Lucius Malfoy (Number 29345851). Your witness testimony and memories are required. Please await instructions for scheduling. If you do not appear, you will be charged with contempt for the court.

Best Regards,

Elena Doge

She folded the letter up again. This was the second letter from the Ministry in only a few weeks, she realized. What different circumstances she was receiving them in.

"What is it?" Harry said.

She closed her eyes and rubbed at her temples. "I'm being summoned for witness testimony. Fuck."

"Well, alright," Harry said. "That's standard, isn't it?”

"Yes, but I don't think I can help with the trial anymore if I'm a key witness," she sighed. "There's no way they'll let me sit in on the entire thing. They wouldn't want my testimony to be influenced by anything."

"How can you be sure?" he said, running a hand through his hair.

"I'm sure the Malfoys have hired an expensive defense team. I've been reading about wizarding law, and they're perfectly allowed to keep me out of the courtroom. Maybe I can ask Kingsley..." Hermione trailed off.

"Maybe," he replied unsteadily. There was nothing more to say. She drained the remains of her drink and stood.

"I suppose I'll go to bed."

As she rose, she saw the corner of an old Prophet on the table. Her face blinked back at her, Harry and Ron on either side, a photo taken from the day after the war. She stood, eyes darting, in the Great Hall in nearly the same spot she had been that day. She wished she could climb into it and stay forever, get stuck in it like a bug in gold amber.

Chapter Text

For the past few weeks, Draco had gotten little sleep. The small amount of rest he did get was interrupted by bouts of sleepwalking, and the awakening charm he had cast on himself today was making him jittery. His hand bounced on his knee, one eye trained on the snowy hair of his father in his drab grey prison clothes, a thumbprint of white in a room furnished entirely in warm wood.

He had barely spoken to his mother since the night of his father’s attack. Today, she sat to his right, wearing simple blue robes and a dash of pale lipstick on her otherwise bare face. She looked ahead, her posture straight. They were a study in contrasts, Draco slumped in his chair, his black robes slightly oversized due to his nonexistent appetite, all made no better by the past week, full of meetings with DuBose wherein she would detail each day of jury selection to the minute.

Though his father was no longer at Malfoy Manor, nothing had changed. Draco still took his meals alone and rarely saw his mother, and the Aurors who kept guard over their house looked the same as they ever had.

The jury ambled in, and then the judge. He was a tall, middle-aged man with good posture and the longest wig Draco had ever seen. A name placard that said JUSTICE SINGH glowed blue. The gavel sounded, causing a hush to come over the room.

“The court calls Harry James Potter to the stand.”

He thought Potter was looking straight at him. But if such a thing happened, it was only briefly. Potter placidly surveyed the crowd, his glasses obscuring his eyes as he rose up the steps that led to the elevated platform of the witness stand.

The year since defeating the Dark Lord had done something for Potter’s demeanor—where Draco had lost weight, Potter looked healthier, and the rough beginnings of a goatee were beginning to form on his face, making him look older. His clothes, too, seemed as though they had some more deliberate thought behind them. The details caught his eye. A flash of color over there, a slight detour in the curve of his glasses here. Errantly, he wondered if Potter was still with Ginny Weasley. He didn’t quite trust the Boy Who Lived to also have developed taste in the year that Draco had been under house arrest.

Jonathan Coracks, the Malfoys’ counsel, was a skinny man with long black robes (and a far more demure wig than the judge’s) rose to his feet and walked over to Potter. They both acknowledged each other wordlessly.

“Mr. Potter,” he began, “Where were you on the first of May between 5:30 in the evening and six o’clock?”

“I was attending the Memorial Feast in the Great Hall of Hogwarts.”

“And can you describe what happened while you were in attendance?”

“I heard an explosion—”

“Find the beginning, Mr. Potter.”

“I-I walked in and spoke to a few students. I said hello to some of the professors.”

“Who were you talking to at the time?”

“Neville Longbottom,” Potter said, causing Draco to tense up once more. Was everyone in Gryffindor going to come out of the woodwork now?

“How did the attacker make his way into the Great Hall?”

“An explosion. It sent glass everywhere and exposed the ceiling of the Great Hall. Some people were hit by the impact alone. I could see someone descend into the room. I then saw that Lucius Malfoy had broken into the castle. He pointed his wand at me and threatened me.”

“Threatened you? Were you the primary target of the attack?”

“I seem to have a knack for getting myself into trouble.”

The judge cleared his throat. “Please answer the question, Mr. Potter.”

Potter sighed. “I couldn’t tell you. Malfoy looked like he was angry, not just at me. He hurt a lot of other people that night too.”

“Did he carry out the threats against you?

Potter shook his head.

“Please note that the witness answered in the negative. And were the injuries from the impact of the explosion or from any spellwork Mr. Malfoy carried out?”

“Both. I wouldn’t be surprised if we looked at it and nonverbal spells—”

“Alright. Why don’t we surrender the court to the memory for now? We can continue with follow up questions after that.”

The barrister looked back at Lucius and then nodded at the judge. “Perhaps that would be most wise.”

Potter raised his wand and a silvery memory fluttered out of his temple.

The judge turned towards the jury. “We’ll now be seeing what Mr. Potter saw on the evening of the attack on Hogwarts. If you could please deposit your memory.”

A slender tube slid its way to where Potter was standing. On closer inspection, this tube was connected to a great many slimmer tubes that fanned out from the center of the room, lining the floor where the walls connected to the floors and then slithering up towards the ceiling, meeting in the middle of the ceiling as a starburst. It was almost like being in a strange, giant bird cage. Potter dropped the memory into the tube, and the entire contraption glowed white, brighter and brighter until the courtroom was replaced by something more familiar.

To his left, as though the room had extended upward and outward, the Great Hall was draped in a luxurious purple paired with a rich, somber black, the Hogwarts crest emblazoning them both. The long tables they were used to seeing had been replaced with small circular tables that each had ten chairs around them, and tall, skinny tables were dotted around the room holding a constantly replenishing supply of food and drink. A luminescent string quartet made up of ghosts played in the background, giving off a surprisingly robust sound despite their their translucent instruments.

From his seated position in the corner of the room, Draco could see everything. He watched the professors who were standing near the memorial plaque that was to be unveiled. He could see a group of Ministry officials reminiscing about Hogwarts, looking up every so often at the enchanted ceiling as he had done eight years before.

The entire courtroom craned their necks too, searching for Potter in the midst of the crowd. Draco scanned the room, stopping when he caught a glimpse of a mess of black hair near the nearest end of the hall. Potter was being mobbed by younger students.

“Neville!” It was eerie to glance back at the real Potter, who looked nearly the same. The Potter in the memory jumped up, apologetically pointing at his old classmate before excusing himself from the crowd of children. Longbottom stood and hugged him. “How are you?”

“Alright, considering the occasion,” he eyed the black and purple tapestries. “Thanks for pulling me out of that,” Potter said, jerking his head in the direction of a group of fawning fourth year girls who were now enviously watching them speak. “Maybe they’ll leave me alone if they see me snogging Ginny, what do you reckon?” Potter scanned the crowd.

The courtroom tittered. Draco glanced over at the real Potter, who was looking pointedly at his hands.

“She was with her parents last time I checked, so maybe refrain from that.”

Upwards, what sounded like a thunderclap shook the floating candles. A murmur ran through the crowd. They watched the ceiling for a few more moments until people returned to their conversations.

“How’s Iceland?” Potter asked. He gave the ceiling a final look of puzzlement before looking at Neville.

“Er,” Neville said, his eyes still trained upwards. “It’s cool, they have me researching moss samples, and there’s an entire industry in the potions ingredients unique to their land — I won’t bore you with the details,” he blushed. Even from a few paces away, he could see that the undersides of Longbottom’s fingernails were blackened with dirt. The telltale, striped burn of a Venomous Tentacula scarred scarlet on his neck. Draco considered the newfound knot of hair he noticed at the nape of Longbottom’s neck that was tied with a piece of thin leather string. Longbottom looked more like a wayward, muggle bohemian than a wizard doing herbology research.

I’m jealous of you. I’ve never even left the country,” Potter said.

“You should visit me! I’m in Iceland until the end of the year.” Longbottom said.

Maybe sometime soon. Work is taking up most of my time.”

“How are you liking training?”

“A nice cover for the fact that I’m technically a drop out,” he laughed. “I’m alright. Just finished training, actually.”

“Excuse me, but I find the niceties Mr. Potter and his friends exchanged during the feast hardly evidence for this case,” the barrister sighed over the conversation.

“I’m sorry, your honor, but I don’t want to leave anything out,” Potter said, reddening.

“And when, exactly—”

The strange rumble repeated, this time louder than before. From the center of the ceiling, a few candles went out, their smoke trailing upwards, then the rest followed, the room darkening. Beads of light appeared throughout the crowd as people whispered Lumos.

Something came crashing through the glass of the enchanted ceiling. McGonagall whipped her wand out and in the din of the screaming students, she pointed her wand upwards and shouted, “Protego maxima!” The shards of glass disintegrated some fifty feet above the crowd. Where there was once music, screaming filled the air.

The hood came off of the man and a gaunt Lucius Malfoy stepped into the light. A collective gasp ran through the crowd, both real and from the memory. His eyes were wide and sleepless, and he was almost unrecognizable without his long hair. Draco stirred. When had his father done that to his hair? Lucius raised his right hand and everyone could see the remainder of his Dark Mark.

Mr. Malfoy?” McGonagall sputtered, her wand still aloft. Behind her, professors and Ministry officials sprung into action, the Great Hall doors shifting open as students ran towards the exit.

THE DARK LORD WILL BE AVENGED!

A gasp went through the crowd. “Not today!” Potter yelled, a spell missing Lucius by inches.

Lucius shot a spell back, and it grazed Harry’s head. A look of pain crossed his face as a trickle of blood flitted down over his nose and across his cheek.

Morsmo—” Lucius pointed his wand upwards, and tufts of glowing smoke billowed out from the tip of his wand, swirling up to conjure an image Draco knew well. Instinctively, he ran his fingers over his right wrist, where he could feel the end of his own Dark Mark.

—NO!” a blur of red hair darted by and ran up to him, knocking Lucius Malfoy over and causing someone’s wand—he wasn’t sure which, in the commotion—to arc upwards and clatter to the stone floor. The Dark Mark, still in its amorphous beginnings, dissipated.

Ron!” a voice came from behind the viewing gallery. It was the real Mrs. Weasley, who Draco hadn’t noticed until then. She was sitting near the front of the room, tears coming down her face.

Draco resisted the urge to stand and run as Weasley and Lucius were entangled in a mess of limbs. He glanced at his mother, whose eyes had glazed over. She could have simply been looking out the window, her face was so serene.

On one end of the memory, a crowd of students were being shepherded out of the Great Hall by Professor Flitwick. Draco found his eyes lingering on these children. He stared at a student making his way through the crowd, a boy with a look of sheer terror on his face.

A rainbow of spells whizzed past in a wild attempt to attack Lucius. Longbottom had a welt over his eye from a stray spell, pus dripping down over his shirt. Potter was running over to Weasley when a bright purple blast filled the hall—it had been Weasley’s wand that had fallen earlier.

A body flew across the room and hit one of the little tables, a tray of champagne flutes crashing to the floor. A loud, sickening crack rang through the room. Narcissa winced. It was the first sign of movement she had made since they sat down.

Lucius steadied himself, triumphant, his wand up and pointed at Weasley’s still form. A hush fell over the crowd as Lucius threw his head back and laughed. A wall of Aurors were crushing in now, just as Draco’s vision blurred. He closed his eyes at long last. He already knew how it ended.


After the jury had been ushered out of the courtroom through a separate door, Draco followed the crowd out into the hallway, dodging a few reporters who were hounding Potter.

“Draco, Draco! Have a minute to comment?” a man waved a notebook at him, a levitating quill following him. Someone from the Prophet, no doubt. He avoided eye contact and looked for an exit in the dense crowd. DuBose strode up to him, beckoning at both Draco and his mother. He mumbled something about finding a restroom. He ducked behind a corner, then another corner. He leaned against the wall and slid to the floor, relishing the feeling of the cold floor against his hot palms. He clenched his fingers together, the trembling of his hands only worsening. The quiet would do him good.

But someone was coming down the hall.

He scrambled off the floor. “Granger,” he said.

Hermione pursed her lips, her pace not slowing down in the slightest.

“Hold on,” he pressed on.

She made a very big show of looking around for other people he could be speaking to before looking meeting his gaze. “No thank you,” she made a move to pass his left side and turn into the hall he had just escaped.

“I wouldn’t go that way if I were you,” he held out his hand. “Reporters are hounding everyone with a pulse.”

“I advise you to move,” she said, her voice low and threatening. He eyed her wand handle, which was poking out of her front pocket of her robes. This was a different Hermione Granger than the one he had known at Hogwarts, or even during her brief foray into Malfoy Manor on that fateful day last year. Outside of the walls of their school, he could see what had changed. Her hair was less wild, a middle length now above her shoulders that framed her face. It brought her features into focus, no longer were they obscured by hair. Out of her school uniform, she looked as though she could be a Ministry employee with her dark, simple robes apparel with muggle clothes—mixing and matching was all the rage now as young people spent more and more of their time in muggle London instead of Diagon Alley. Another effect of the war. Some wizarding locales still had a hush over them, a remnant from when being out in public could cost you your life or blood status depending on the Death Eater you ran into. In the muggle shops and bars, nobody was any the wiser.

Or, at least, that was what Draco had heard. He wouldn’t know firsthand.

He raised his hands, palms facing her. “Thank you for telling the Ministry that I was with you during the attack,” he said in a rush. “It was the only thing that kept me from rotting in solitary confinement.”

She paused. She clearly hadn’t been expecting this. “I’m not a liar, Malfoy. No need to grovel.”

“I’m not groveling,” Draco said. He was thankful that the hall was empty. “I repay my debts, no matter who they’re owed to.”

She closed her eyes, and he could see a muscle twitch in her neck. It looked as though she was concentrating very hard on breathing evenly. “I don’t want anything you could offer me.”

It was the first time she had shown anything but contempt for him. But before he could say anything more, she had already turned the corner.