“On this day, five years ago, we the people of Magical Britain cried into that dark night with one voice, one mind; one spirit. That this air is too pure for tyrants to breathe. As we wait for the dawn, on this day, we remember,” Hermione took a breath and paused, before continuing. “And we will never forget.”
The sun had advanced throughout Hermione’s speech. The peoples of Magical Britain -- only distinguishable by their places in the crowds -- were illuminated by a grey dawn light that stole their individuality.
The sun peeked above the mountains surrounding Hogwarts as Hermoine dropped the sonorus charm, stepping down from the lectern and taking her notes with her. She walked back to the ministry lines, while the minister moved forward to make his speech.
There would be a lot of speeches today. Each as forgettable and meaningless as the one before. Another day in the life of Hermione Granger -- politician, war hero, and reformist.
“The snorkaks in the ministry are having a parade today,” said Luna.
Neville sighed before half heartedly making way at his bacon and eggs.
Besides their group -- a gathering of those from the days of the DA -- The Three Broomsticks was emptier than it should have been even at this early hour of the morning. In fact, there were no other patrons of the pub. A testament to the destroyed human capital of Magical Britain.
Ron said, “This day of all days, they pretend that they are in the right, that they weren’t the two-faced bastards that played both sides and won Bloody ‘neutrals’ and the damned corrupt ministry.”
Up and down the table there were murmurs of assent.
“Could be worse. We could have had Draco Malfoy speak on the horrors of war. Maybe we should have him decry tyranny next? Make him a paragon of egalitarian justice?” Neville asked.
“And that is the day the blood supremacists will have a ball,” Ron replied
“All we ever do is dance to their orchestrated litany of lies. The Prophet is the same as ever, and all we can do is watch, really,” Neville said
“If it was meant to be a revolution, why don’t we act as revolutionaries?” Ron asked
“Or maybe just have The Quibbler spit straight facts,” Neville said.
There was a murmur of assent. It was one of the rare moments that she had with Ron that wasn’t overrun with childcare. Though none enjoyed it because of for the bad taste the ministry left in everyone's mouths.
“Mrs Granger-Weasley, if I could have a private word?”
The Order Charity Ball. Equally a measure of a victor's love for glory, the socialites’ love for socialising, and the neutrals’ attempt to gain reflected glory of war-hero’s. None present were there for any reason to do with charity. It was glorious, in a way that was faintly sickening to those with morals. Like all times in the ministry, today was a good day to be amoral.
“Of course, Mr Malfoy.”
They moved together to the dance floor as the band played slightly too loud for easy conversation but not loud enough for easy dancing. Mr Malfoy’s wand weaved a confidentiality ward around them. Out of the corner of her eye, Hermione saw Mrs Blishwick in a gaudy pink outfit doing the same on the other side of the room.
“May I congratulate you on that frankly brilliant speech this morning, Mrs Granger-Weasley.”
“You could be great, you know.”
“I am happy where I am now, thank you.”
“You know, when the Slytherin’s were thrown wholesale out of the castle and the entire world seemed hell bent on a final battle, I thought you were mad.”
“I imagine many people have thought that for a long time Mr Malfoy.” Hermione smiled.
He smiled back. “I had to fight of course. I don’t regret that. At the same time I wonder… what could have been, you know?” He asked with the air of a politician daring someone to walk into their trap.
“The truth about greatness, Mr Malfoy, is that you do not choose it for its own sake. It comes from seeing the world as it truly is, and not shying away from it. Having a vision and pursuing it. Taking responsibility and holding it… not because you want it necessarily, but because you looked behind you, to the left of you, and realised no-one was there to do it but yourself. Ultimately, being great is about having a backbone.”
“You have quite the speech prepared on this don’t you.”
“What do you want, Mr Malfoy?”
“Oh, the typical pureblood things. Money, power. Maybe eating babies.”
Hermione smiled at the taunt. “Charming.”
“That said, I think I can help you in the ministry. You, Potter, and the Weasley clan all want to change Britain don’t you?”
“Certain aspects yes, but on the most part no -”
“So yes.” He said that with a smile on his mouth and a twinkle in his eyes. Hermione unconsciously checked her occlumency shields.
“You are going to need money, and lots of it.”
“I don’t think I can be bought, Mr Malfoy.”
“I don’t need anything Mrs Granger-Weasley. Just, I will be donating to your fund for the support of those affected by the war.”
“That will not sway me in my politics.”
“Of course it wouldn’t. Not even Voldemort himself could make you bend a knee. Fifteen thousand galleons is nothing but a drop in the bucket.” A reminder that at the end of the day, money talked, and old money talked too, even after the war. That was more than double what was already in the fund, and a lot more than the ball itself could ever hope to raise.
The song ended.
“See you soon, Mrs Granger-Weasley.”
Another ball. For another charity, the money raised would be less than the cost of the ball. Unlike the vast majority of the ministry, the inefficiency in this was not caused by incompetence, but sheer arrogance.
“Your voting reform bill, Mrs Granger-Weasley.”
“Yes Mr Malfoy?”
“It will never pass.”
“Is that so?”
They talked and danced again, not so dissimilar to duelists trying to kill each other. Grace, yes. Deadly intent to kill, yes. It wasn’t a conflict of curse and maneuver, but argument and counterargument. Although they were opposites, and one was a despicable human being (but depending on who one asked, the despicable one changed), it was enjoyable. “Or, I shall reframe my statement. It will not pass any time in the next decade.”
“I can play the long game, Mr Malfoy.” He could not buy her, the Order Charity Ball had seen to that. Two months ago and it seemed like a year.
“If you say so.”
“I feel that you have something more to discuss on the matter.”
“I would allow it to pass in the next wizengamot session.”
“What do you want?”
“Sleep with me.”
The music stopped and they moved away from each other.
Books were transportation. A floo for the flooless. They took her to a world of her own. Yes, many others had been to the same place as her, but none had perceived it exactly the same way as her. That was the joy of fiction -- even the archaic (though beautiful) prose of wizarding fiction.
Literature was the joy of the fantastic and the hypothetical. Moral quandaries that could never exist. A field of honour where justice fought with fairness and black and white turned into grey flanders mud. Until they became real. Genocide, adultry, murder, and the ever presence boundry of right and wrong being replaced by the cold law of necessity. Of course, in the books where the hero went down that path, they inevitably failed.
Unfortunately, the world was not nearly as idealistic as fiction.
In the library-office that she kept at home, the same home that she kept with one Ronald Weasley, the question was asked. Did she have morals? If she did, could she allow them to be bent, for the greater good?
At her desk, she raised her eyes in supplication to the bookshelves that stretched above it to the ceiling. A reminder of her parents that didn’t exist anymore, their memories a casualty of cold pragmatism. A set of hardback books by Dickens that were above her head were signed by her parents as a birthday gift. They seemed to look back at her. Seemingly understanding her supplication. They looked back with no comfort, but the spite of betrayal.
Her moral compass was in ruin, she knew that. One more crack in the foundations would hurt. The foundations of her marriage couldn’t be hurt anymore in anycase. Ron was never home, climbing the ladder of the auror corps.
She was Hermione Weasley nee Granger. She would fall to pieces so no one else would have to. She dipped a silver pen into black gall ink, and wrote:
Dear Draco Malfoy,
I am willing to take you up on your offer.
Sincerity was as much of a lie as it was true. She would take him up on that offer. In that she was sincere. The willingness was a lie.
“Gin is a sin, Malfoy,” Hermione said, distaste evident on her voice.
“So that’s what’s going through your mind.” Draco poured the liquid into his own glass. “I never knew you were religious.”
“Oh, I’m not. It’s just something that my Mother said.”
“She tried to give me the lecture on safe drinking in the summer before sixth year. I’m not sure what she thought I was doing, but to hear it, she must have thought I didn’t spend a day sober.”
“Sobriety is overrated in any case.”
“There are some that take took it to extremes.” Hermione conjured some ice and added it to her tumbler. A slight dilution was probably in order. “I don’t think that Hepsibah Arrow spent a day sober from when she was a fourth year onwards.”
“She lived fast and died young that one.”
“That’s because you killed her.”
“It was a war, Hermione. I didn’t have much choice.” Draco smirked as he said that.
Hermione sighed. Then she said, “You had more choice than most.”
“Our country was on a railway to hell, with the devil himself as the conductor and you and your ilk as engineers! We survived, and that might just be all that matters,” Draco finished the rest of his gin, “Let us go to bed now.”
Outside the window the birds were singing for the dawn, as the sun rose unseen. The earth was crying under a bulwark of cloud hiding from the sun. Rain was promised in the sky.
Hermione was awake. Her eyes were open. Her body ached. Although she was relatively clean after a 3am shower, she felt off. A heavy sadness, a weight that threatened to crush her soul to the ground. A filthy sickness that felt like grime and caked mud coated her soul in a way that she doubted that she could ever be clean again.
Draco stirred. “You awake?”
“Aye.” Tears pooled in Hermione’s eyes.
“So, I’ll get that bill passed for you -”
“Draco, did you really want to sleep with me that much?”
“No. Bodies can be bought easily. Blackmail however…” Draco trailed off, and smiled.
Hermione felt her insides freeze.