Hermione Granger sat at her small desk, laden with a mountain of paperwork. She had been sorting through every law of the British magical community for nearly six months now. There were copious laws— laws which were equally old and ridiculous; written centuries before and yet, were still in effect today.
However, getting rid of these archaic laws was proving to be exceedingly difficult.
She would have to work tirelessly throughout the next few weeks, ensuring that there were no obscure loopholes for the Wizangamot to deny her appeal once again.
Every law amendment she brought before the Wizangamot, was met with a practiced dismissal from those who thought the system neither needed to be questioned nor changed. Many political departments still lived in fear of the ever imposing, pureblood familial hierarchy that had unfortunately remained intact after the war.
Money and status obviously never lost their influence.
With a quick glare towards the far corner of her office — to where the growing piles of her previously rejected appeals were stacked up mockingly high; Hermione huffed and sat up straighter.
She would just have to find a way to sway the majority seats at the next Wizangamot appeal.
After the war, despite her age and heritage; the Ministry had given her considerable merit and distinction within the department of her choice. Hermione, however, was simply not content with the pace at which progress was made within the Department of Magical law Enforcement.
At the current rate, she would be regarded as successful if merely one of her proposed law amendments was approved within the year.
With a resigned sigh, she continued to read through one of the many folders before her. This particular folder, which had first caught her attention last week; contained the aggravating and detailed account of the Muggleborn Restriction Act of 1746.
The start of a new week and the revision of another ridiculous law had begun.
Hermione was not in a cheerful mood.
The morning hours ticked by slowly as Hermione tediously made notes and referenced the various sources of evidence that she would need to support her appeal. It was already nearing noon when her concentration was disrupted by a sharp knock on her office door.
“Yes?” she called out, not bothering to look up from the page she was currently reading.
The door cracked open and Marissa, Hermione’s assistant, nervously poked her head through. “You have um... There’s a — well, Lady Malfoy is here to see you, Miss Granger.” She uttered, stumbling over the words quickly in her flustered state.
Hermione felt the colour drain from her face as she glanced up towards Marissa in shock. The Malfoy’s hadn’t interfered within the Ministry in years. Whatever the reason for Lady Malfoy’s visit, Hermione knew that it couldn’t be good.
“What?” she gaped. “Tell her — ah, no… please kindly explain to Lady Malfoy, that I have no time for complaints today. She will have to make an appointment with the Department for the Regulation of Magical Creatures. Although I helped create the House-elf Regulation Act, I no longer work there and cannot be of assistance.”
Marissa nodded before ducking back out to inform Lady Malfoy.
Barely a few moments had passed before Marissa once again knocked on the door and nervously entered Hermione’s office, looking positively more flustered than before.
“Lady Malfoy insists.” Marissa all but squeaked.
Now irritated, Hermione’s eyes narrowed perceptively. This same, pretentious behaviour — exhibited by most of the pureblood families, was precisely the reason she was having such difficulty trying to convince the magical community to change for the obvious betterment of all.
“Very well.” She answered calmly. “Send Lady Malfoy in.”
Looking relieved that she wouldn’t have to deny Lady Malfoy a second time; Marissa nodded quickly and retreated to escort Hermione’s unexpected guest to the office.
When the polite knock on her door sounded shortly after, Hermione braced herself as she called out for Lady Malfoy to enter.
The door opened slowly, revealing the very witch that she hadn’t laid eyes upon in over five years — not since the Death Eater trials, which had taken place after the war.
Now, Narcissa Malfoy stood proudly within the doorframe to Hermione’s office, her aura of superiority confidently displayed for all to see.
“Good afternoon, Miss Granger.” Narcissa Malfoy greeted evenly, her heels clicking conspicuously against the floor as she stepped into the small office.
Hermione, who had stood at Narcissa’s greeting; privately acknowledged that Lady Malfoy looked very out of place within the lower levels of the DMLE.
In fact, she couldn’t help but gape at the immaculately groomed witch before her. Narcissa’s silken black, designer robes and ornate jewellery set her apart from everyone who walked the halls of the Ministry.
Lady Malfoy’s expression briefly flickered with a look of distaste as she regarded the disarrayed state of Hermione's office; Though, In the blink of an eye, Narcissa’s expression once more resumed the carefully practiced mask of indifference which she usually wore in public.
Stepping closer, Lady Malfoy extended her long, gloved arm out towards Hermione. “Please, do sit down. I understand that my presence was not expected.” She chimed, gesturing to Hermione’s chair.
Hermione gritted her teeth, only Lady Malfoy would ask someone to take a seat in their own office.
Resuming her usual position behind her desk once more; she observed the way in which Narcissa glanced warily at the single guest chair that had been conjured for her use. Finally, being careful to sit upon only the edge of the chair, Lady Malfoy sat down and crossed her legs daintily — probably ensuring that her expensive robes didn’t crease.
“Good afternoon, Lady Malfoy.” Hermione greeted, deciding to maintain only the necessary politeness needed for this situation. However, she would not be encouraging Narcissa’s visit further.
Narcissa's smile only faltered slightly with the realisation that Hermione would say no more to her.
“You must be wondering why I have decided to visit the Ministry today?” Narcissa began evenly, fixing her gaze upon Hermione’s own indifferent stare. “I have come to ask for your help with a very delicate matter regarding my family, Miss Granger”
“The House-elf regulation laws were first enforced two years ago. I am no longer in a position to hear complaints, Lady Malfoy” Hermione admonished. “I apologise if you are here to seek immediate clarification on the matter; you’ll find that the Ministry rarely works efficiently at the best of times — for anyone.”
Narcissa narrowed her gaze at Hermione’s words; yet, without falter, replied with a politeness that Hermione could only be impressed by. “Thank you for your... concern, Miss Granger. However, I am here on a much more personal matter — I have no complaints with the Ministry, today.”
“You’re not here to contest against the House Elf regulations?” Hermione checked, taken aback by Narcissa’s admission.
“I understand you have received much animosity in the past few years from my... acquaintances.”
She barely contained her laughter at Lady Malfoy’s choice of words. After the regulation had been enforced, she had received numerous howlers and aggravated visits by many who had been deemed unfit to continue their ownership of House-elves.
Although, Narcissa was decidedly more than mere acquaintances with the majority of the elite pureblood population within the United Kingdom — and probably most of Europe too.
Refusing to comment, she simply waited for Narcissa to get to the point of her visit.
“I acknowledge that the circumstances are quite unprecedented; Though, one can hardly proceed normally with such matters, given your unfortunate lack of a magical family to represent you. Thus, I have simply come to proposition you yourself, Miss Granger.” Face devoid of emotion, Narcissa continued in a serious tone. “Speaking plainly — I intend for you to wed my son.”
Hermione spluttered in a very unladylike manner. Her thoughts had started fuming at Narcissa’s mention of her parents; however, it had been Narcissa’s unexpected revelation that had rendered her in an immediate state of shock.
Forgetting how to breathe properly, she stared in mute horror at the witch before her.
Was this a joke? One of George’s indelicate attempts at a prank once again? Maybe she should check Lady Malfoy for spell damage?
“What?” She demanded breathily, still staring at Lady Malfoy in notable disbelief.
“My son, Miss Granger.” Narcissa pressed on, seemingly ignoring Hermione’s bewildered reaction. “He needs your help — my family need your help. Of course, we shall have to discuss the details of a marriage contract accordingly — you’ll find it necessary upon the consideration of the binding ritual you will need to perform.”
Narcissa brandished her wand; and in a single, intricate movement, produced a stack of crisp, white parchment out of thin air. With another flick of her wand, the numerous folders adorning Hermione’s desk neatly stacked themselves up high before they levitated towards the ‘rejection’ corner of the office — depositing themselves on the floor with a loud huff of heavy paper and old dust.
Hermione snapped out of her stupor at the echoing sound of her work hitting the floor. Glaring momentarily at the conjured stack of white parchment — which now solely sat on the desk before her; she looked up to meet the gaze of a very confident looking Narcissa Malfoy.
“No.” She firmly replied, finding her voice at last.
Narcissa Malfoy’s smile dropped and her posture stiffened dangerously upon hearing Hermione’s cold and immediate answer.
It was becoming increasingly apparent that Lady Malfoy did not handle rejection well.
“No? don’t be absurd girl. This is a wonderful opportunity. I understand you have neither the breeding nor background for such a contract; though, that can all be amended — mostly.” She bristled, her nose turning up slightly upon the last word.
“I care nothing for your son.” She snapped, trying to remain calm.
“Naturally.” Narcissa added, levelling Hermione with another cold stare. “You will notice that this contract is a traditional Malfoy marriage proposal contract. You only need to read through it to realise that feelings hold little regard within the progression of such a noble house.”
Hermione gawked at Narcissa once more. It was a marriage proposal contract which Lady Malfoy had conjured?
Glancing back and forth between the conspicuous stack of parchment — the contract, and Narcissa’s unrevealing expression; She was about to protest against the whole ordeal once more, before she realised what Narcissa had previously said.
“You said that you needed me to help your son.”
Narcissa’s eyes were her only betrayal of emotion at Hermione’s statement.
“Yes.” Lady Malfoy replied in a clipped voice. “Though, I think the details of my son’s... condition, are hardly appropriate before the terms of marriage are discussed and signed. The personal lives of my family are a delicate matter amongst those with no care for our reputation.”
“I do not wish to marry your son, Lady Malfoy.” Hermione sighed. “However, I may still be able to help him.”
Narcissa laughed without any trace of humour. “Surely, one such as yourself should be grateful for an opportunity to marry into wealth and status? I assure you, Miss Granger; this is the only offer of this nature you’re likely to ever receive.”
“I don’t care for your money.”
Scoffing loudly, Narcissa regarded Hermione with obvious disapproval. “One would think that a mud-muggleborn like yourself would appreciate the chance to dabble in the areas of society still so distant from your — sort.”
Hermione had noticed the obvious slip in language before Narcissa had corrected herself — all traces of feigned politeness were evidently falling away.
Lady Narcissa Malfoy was not to be refused. The Malfoy’s were not to be refused... Marissa had only recently discovered that herself, but Hermione couldn’t care less.
“My sort have access to many aspects of society, revolutionary academia and sciences which many in the wizarding world wouldn’t dare to imagine were possible to exist.” She rebutted proudly.
Lady Malfoy merely smirked. “Such passion, such fight within you... Though, it would do you well to remember the world which you have chosen to be a part of — such thoughts of muggle advancements will serve you little purpose in your Ministry work, Miss Granger.”
Hermione glared at Narcissa in anger. How dare she?
“tut, tut.” Narcissa drawled sourly. “I see that I have caught a nerve. Not so fortunate within the Ministry after all... Are you, my dear?”
“Your offer means nothing to me; you and your family, you have neither that which I need nor want — least of all, your son.”
Narcissa disregarded Hermione’s words with a slight wave of her hand. “I may understand why such a dull girl would have little thought for opulence and comfort; though, I cannot fathom why a career orientated witch such as yourself, would pass the opportunity to wield such an influence over the Wizangamot and the circles in which its members move in. Surely, what I am offering has made its appeal in that regard?”
Once again, Hermione found herself at a loss for words.
It was possible that such a connection with the Malfoy family would effortlessly gain her favour with many Wizangamot representatives. Such an old pureblood name would undoubtably require even those who were still prejudiced, to consider the appeal of a muggleborn witch.
“I assure you, lady Malfoy, the political influences of your family are the only favourable qualities which your offer presents.”
Narcissa Malfoy feigned a polite smile once more. “Indeed.”
“Why not ask another witch — a more suitably bred witch?” Hermione pried, her mind now reeling with all the possibilities.
Would she be able to sacrifice her own happiness in life for the betterment of countless others? However, the actual prospect of marrying Malfoy seemed to halt all her thoughts of heroism.
“I will acknowledge that I have exhausted all possibilities available. There were… a few, whom I deemed acceptable; though, some were already attached to a partner and the others’ proved too weak in both character and magical proficiency to succeed with such a task.” Narcissa admitted solemnly.
“I fail to understand the necessity for such a prerequisite. What is it that your son needs saving from, Lady Malfoy?” She asked curiously. “Have you not sought alternate guidance? I do not believe you would actually want for me to marry the sole heir to the Malfoy line?”
“Miss Granger.”Narcissa paled, seemingly discomforted at having to repeatedly explain herself to a muggleborn. “I would not ask you unless you were the last option — the last chance that I had to get my son back. To restore the most Noble house of Malfoy and the last true male heir of the Ancient house of Black — understand that I must do anything.”
Hermione nodded, choosing to ignore Narcissa’s continuous, subtle insults. She wanted more answers.
“But saved from what?”
“That is not for me to say; I had thought that such a prestigious marriage prospect, would be enough to entice your help.”
“But, I’m a muggleborn. You must acknowledge the complications that would undoubtably arise.” Hermione challenged. “Even if I were to agree to such a ridiculous notion for my own benefit, your son would be as miserable as myself.”
“My son knows the importance of furthering the Malfoy bloodline. It is true that your blood is — unfavourable... Nevertheless, the Malfoy line has been known to discreetly mix with those of lesser blood in the past for the sake of prosperity. Do you know anything of the history of Malfoy and muggle relations before the statute of secrecy was enforced? I do believe you would find it most — interesting.” Narcissa countered with an air of nonchalance.
“Draco willingly agreed to this?” She questioned in disbelief, leaning back in her chair. This was turning out to be very complicated. “I did not realise his situation was so severe.”
“My son does not know that I’m here.” Narcissa sighed resignedly. “He has asked me to let him die.”
“He’s willingly dying!” Hermione gasped incredulously. “Does he not believe that he can be saved?”
“He understands that there are no witches with the ability to save him, Miss Granger.”
“Except me, or so you would have me believe it to be thus.”
How ironic, she thought. The same mudblood he so enjoyed to tease, supposedly held his life within her hands — and he didn’t even know...
“Your talents are not to be doubted, Miss Granger. I assure you; my proposal is not only one of great need, but is also the utmost of compliments regarding both your magical proficiency and perhaps some of your character.” Narcissa declared, drawing Hermione out of her thoughts.
“Why now?” Hermione asked sharply; noticing Narcissa’s suddenly confused expression, she pressed on. “Why go against your own beliefs at your son’s expense? Considering your family’s history — I find it questionable that you would only now put aside your prejudices when there is no other choice. This isn’t the first time your son’s life has been in danger — though I do acknowledge your part in Voldemort’s defeat — why should I help you, when you have given me no other reason to believe your family worthy of such a kindness?”
Narcissa flinched at Hermione’s blunt words. “An understandable question, Miss Granger.”
Hermione waited, interested to hear what Narcissa would say. From experience, she knew that many of Voldemort’s previous supporters held little accountability or recognition for their past actions.
“I was raised to follow orders despite my own convictions. It was only when my son was threatened during the war, that I realised how important it was to protect those you loved despite what is expected of you. You are an intelligent witch, Miss Granger; Surely, you must acknowledge the influence of one’s upbringing?”
Hermione nodded, frowning slightly.
Swallowing audibly, Narcissa continued; her voice now choked with emotion.“My son, Draco — he is my one accomplishment. As a girl, I was raised with the knowledge of my only purpose being to further the line of my noble house, and the distinguished house of my husband. I have taken pride in my family and in my house — for all of my life. I have fought for it when a dark wizard led me to believe it was threatened; I have betrayed for it against the same dark wizard who suddenly sought to harm it. Now, the family I knew as a young girl have all gone; The ancient house of Black is a distant memory and the noble house of Malfoy is doomed to follow. I cling to each final day with my son, knowing that I have failed my purpose many times; as a wife, as a follower, as a witch — but not as a mother — not yet... I beseech you, Miss Granger, spare my son — spare my only boy whom so much of wizarding culture rests upon. He does not deserve the fate his parents have bestowed upon him.”
Hermione stared at Lady Malfoy in awe.
She had not expected such a raw outburst of emotion from the previously demure witch before her. Shifting in her seat, Hermione felt her heart stutter at the thought of what she had to do.
Though, she would bet on Merlin’s beard that Lady Malfoy was not going to like what she was about to say either.
With one last glance at Lady Malfoy, who was now delicately patting her face with a silk handkerchief clutched tightly in her hand — She made her decision.
“I would like to speak to Draco.”