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The Solicitor

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Over time and her political rise, Hermione Granger had learned to both judge people, and to observe how others judged people. She could tell how most noteworthy figures in the Wizarding World were regarded, based on the tone and the choices in words, the facial expressions that people made when they were discussed, and depending on whether or not they were important enough to feature in the press, the words the press chose to describe them as well.

Few people garnered the kinds of reactions that Andromeda Tonks did. More than twenty years after the murder of her wife by Voldemort's forces, and her daughter, the Tonks Hermione still fondly remembered, people still muttered about her. Some even still muttered about her marriage. Wizarding Common Law had always provided that any fruitful union could be consummated, and two witches together could use magic to be 'fruitful', i.e., to have children. Edwina 'Ted' Tonks had taken a kind of particular gleeful working class labourite pleasure in shoving that loophole into a 1970s lesbian marriage that even Dumbledore--as it turned out, bitterly repressed and trapped in the closet--had disapproved of.

But in fact, the mutters about Andromeda Tonks were rarely about her marriage. After the second wizarding war, society had started to move on (though not soon enough for Hermione to avoid her own messed up marriage with Ron Weasley). Rather, it was about Andromeda's position on politics and her activities during the war.

It was not like Andromeda had, at least since her coming out and marriage, ever expressed a Pureblood sentiment... In the conventional sense of bigotry. She had staunchly opposed her sister and Voldemort. She had been a member of the Order.

But she had never fought. Not even during the Battle of Hogwarts, when everyone left in the Order except for her had joined them in fighting Voldemort in the decisive battle. Not even then.

Legal services--she was a Magical Solicitor--absolutely. Financial aid? Within the limits of her middle class means, since reduced from her family and disowned, she was forced to work for a living. Shelter? Yes, always, to anyone who needed it. She endured some torture, and some real hardship. And she had given up her wife and her daughter to the war, ground up in the butchery at its terrible culmination.

But never battle.

Over time, Harry, Hermione and Ron had been greatly involved in Teddy Lupin's life. He had been raised from a very young age by Andromeda, such that his gran was really his mum in most respects. A casual observer, seeing Andromeda, healthy and youthful as a witch with her long lifespan, might well assume Teddy Lupin was her son, and Delphini Black was her daughter. Over time, in those meetings, Hermione and Andromeda had become friends.

She had begun to understand Andromeda's view. In fact, the woman passionately loved her people, the old wizarding culture of Britain, of Brythonic Britain, the culture and civilisation from which all the oldest Pureblood families descended. But she had been blessed--or from the perspective of her peers, cursed--with a ruthless sense of right and wrong, fairness and compassion. She had that kind of inquisitive mind that refused to give up asking questions, and the attitude of someone who needed to make sure that the truth won, no matter the course.

So, Andromeda Black had found the holes in the Pureblood logic early on. She'd acknowledged her own homosexuality, early on. And she'd stood up for both, pushed both as hard as she could, and her entire world had crashed down as a result. Others would break under that pressure, but Andromeda Tonks simply hardened into an acerbic, brilliant contrarian who was deeply compassionate to friends and family, and absolutely unwilling to back down when she was convinced she was right.

She had been in the Order, but unlike the rest of the order, she had asked questions, called Dumbledore wrong when she felt he was wrong, and refused to back down unless someone convinced her she was wrong. Her sidelining in the order had been as much by the fact that Andromeda refused to stop pressing Dumbledore about Sirius, or Harry, or using children as soldiers, as it was about her own lack of comfort with fighting her own family.

And that lack of comfort was real. She had pushed Dumbledore hard, and as a result, Dumbledore had sidelined her more and more, and marginalised an intelligent, independent woman into a mere helpmate for the Order, despite her prodigious talent, drive, and even international connections.

After all that, of course, she had lost her wife and her daughter. She was left with her grandson and the total ruination of her family and her future. She faced her older witchhood alone, with responsibility for a child.

She did it with the same composure and fortitude by which she had faced every question of right and wrong in the past, always refusing to be deterred from standing up for the course she had judged best. As the ashes of the war had settled and they'd all tried to move on with their lives, Hermione, frequently filling in for Harry in his duties as godparent when he was on investigations, as a favour to a friend, had grown closer and closer to Andromeda.

Then had come Delphini. Andromeda's ferocious court battle for custody of the girl, officially the child of Bellatrix Lestrange and her husband Rodolphus, had stretched for more than a year. The first step had been to convince a mildly horrified Harry Potter to formally, legally reinstate her as a Black, under his authority as Sirius' legally designated heir. Harry, mildly horrified...

...Because he and Hermione had figured out the actual truth about the girl. Not Rodolphus' child, even if that legal fiction had to be maintained despite the fact that, with Rodolphus alive in Azkaban, it enormously complicated the custody battle.

Riddle's child.

That had not stopped Andromeda. She carried the day with both of them, getting them to agree to secrecy and hewing to the power of the argument that no child, no matter who their parents were, deserved to be judged by their sins. That the freedom of a child from a judgement laid against their family, that the refusal to indulge in the supposition of taints of blood, was fundamental to their entire conception of the modern world and the law and goodness, and that to take the Wizarding world beyond Dumbledore to some place better still, they had to make a stand, even one in secret, in their hearts.

It was easier for Hermione, though. She still smiled about that. She smiled about it a little even now, even on this Christmas, proud that she had accepted Delphini first. The girl saw Andromeda as her mother now, and showed not the slightest sign of any inclination toward Darkness, though she had the same acerbic, contrarian wit as her adoptive mother and biological aunt.

Honestly, it was during that entire fracas that Hermione had started to really appreciate and rather like that wit. It was biting, it took on all comers, and yet for all that, in its way it was as funny or perhaps funnier than anything Ron in his slapdash innocence had ever come up with. It was the humour of maturity.

Maybe that was why, when she had won reelection as the Minister of Magic, she had finally decided to unchain herself from Ron. To grasp what freedom she could. It would kill her chances for a third term... But it would free her to seek out triumphs in her second, unconcerned with standing for election again. It was time to drop the anchor, and ride free on the currents of life. They'd had children, but their children were old enough to understand that Mother had to walk a different course.

It had still been a bitter divorce, and the loss of most of her friends. Even Harry hadn't really understood it. He wanted everyone to have a happy ending, and he did not understand that in the end, Hermione had come to realise that happiness for her was simply something different than she had convinced herself it was when she was young and thought she had to play the game a certain way.

She was hardly the only person in this room to have suffered and wasted years, after all. The woman with the wise grey eyes across from her had suffered infinitely worse. It was Christmas, but this wasn't a holiday Andromeda celebrated; she would have spent the Solstice, Alban Arthan, with Delphi and Teddy instead.

Hermione had spent the morning with her children, in the awkwardest Christmas imaginable with her parents, now getting on in years. Then, she had slipped away, and the two women had found each other here, a mutual appreciation having well-begun to form. Hermione was still convinced, after all the pain and suffering, that the first time she'd truly gotten Andromeda to smile about something other than the children, was when she had rammed through the bills providing for teaching in the Celtic languages at Hogwarts, a shocking example of a muggleborn championing one of the genuine and legitimate Pureblood demands, after two centuries of the Light side somewhat self-consciously confounding Christianity and English with Goodness.

It had begun to change things from the start. Purebloods, getting over their shock, began to appreciate that Hermione's policy of Cultural Autonomy might actually help them in what mattered. The Old Families might have a future. They might be able to extend some of their culture to the halfbloods and to the new lines, the muggleborns. Maybe there was a chance for wizarding society to not be based on caste.

Maybe.

It was still a work in progress. It might be long after Hermione was dead, let alone after she was done in office. Others would have to carry it on. The struggles in the muggle world that her father had known had not ended in a year, a decade, or a lifetime, either.

And, though her companion's acerbic humour and contrarian ways meant that Hermione kept it private, she had spent more and more of the first half of her second term, all through the divorce which had dominated the headlines for paper after paper, talking to Andromeda, spending time in private with Andromeda, gaming political scenarios off of Andromeda, working through policy proposals with Andromeda, drinking tea with Andromeda, asking for advice on how to be an adult single parent from Andromeda, surviving Andromeda's manic driving...

At some point, it just seemed so completely natural to spend afternoon on Christmas Day with Andromeda, tea as proof against the cold. "So, they'll be with Ron and the rest of the Weasleys on Boxing Day," she was saying somewhat automatically...

"Oh." Andromeda sat her cuppa down. "So you'll be alone on Boxing Day, I see. It's not exactly a ... Traditional holiday, but I understand it's especially important in modern muggle Britain, of course. It was for Ted, and we kept it for Dora, but really, well, you know. With both of them gone, I didn't celebrate it with Teddy. Too many memories that were contrary to the aim of a happy child."

"And Delphi too, I suppose?" Hermione prompted.

The older witch shrugged, and smiled softly. "Well, you know. We are so few, and our culture so close to death. I'm not sure I could have brought myself to actually introduce her to a modern muggle holiday like that. I wanted her to be of broad and liberal education and sentiments, but the traditions and rituals in her heart? She is a Black, Hermione. Perhaps the last one, unless she wants to work with Harry to make that different."

"I think I understand." A soft laugh. "I had better, anyhow. So that's all Christmas is, isn't it?"

"Uncomfortable memories?" Andromeda laughed darkly. "As if Alban Arthan isn't? On Christmas I remember Ted and Dora. On Alban Arthan, I remember Bellatrix. All of these memories we get tangled up in, and you have to move on with them..." She trailed off, and looked down at her tea, smoothing out her skirt, leaning back on the couch. "Ted always told me that if she died, I needed to find someone else. But I don't listen to people unless I have a very good reason. Ted included. She never tried to force me to. She just forced me to get better about my logic, and forgave my mistakes. So I listened to her about those things? But -- I think sometimes in the night, I should have listened to her advice, that it was probably as good as the advice she gave all the times she won, when we were alive."

"But you haven't." Hermione shook her head. "Because you are, in fact, very stubborn, Andy."

"Thank you, 'Mione. I take it as a compliment."

"As always."

"As always..." Andromeda trailed off, staring into space for a moment, and then shook her head. "Ah, sorry. Senior moment, you know."

Hermione snorted. Andromeda was definitely going to make it to 150 years old; she still had a full head of chestnut curls. "Fat chance of that. You're thinking of something else."

"No I'm not. I'm thinking that Ted might be right," Andy flipped back immediately. "Here I am, in this world where anyone, man or woman, gay or straight, can get married in both Muggle and Wizarding Britain, and I'm... I'm bloody well getting old, and an empty nest, too. So it seems like, seeing as Ted is surely right just one more time in our relationship, I better bloody well do something about it."

"Oh." Some words, some envy, some lust, some jealousy, rose and died in her throat. "...Did you start a relationship?"

"Certainly not." A brief vague smile, and she raised her cup. "It takes two to start a relationship. Well, at least if you're not a cad, anyhow."

"Someone in mind, then...?" Always too repressed. Always too late.

Hermione, for all her brains, didn't really think of anything at all, when Andromeda got up from her couch, took a step forward, and kissed her lightly on the forehead, a very bemused grin on her face. "Of course there is. I did figure out why you left Ron. Hillary Clinton of the wizarding world, my dear, though alas, I'm no Huma Abedin. Much too old."

Hermione stared, gaped... Fumbled with her hands against Andromeda's witch's robes, and tugged down, gently pushing her down. Andy offered absolutely no resistance.

Not even when she kissed the older woman, lip to lip. They lingered together for a minute, perhaps two, and Hermione at last sank back into her chair, her brown eyes shining, brown hands over white ones. "I can't believe it."

"What? Isn't there at least some naughty little part of you that wants to create the biggest scandal in the Wizarding political world in the past two hundred years?"

"I, uhm..." Hermione froze, transfixed by the mental image of the tabloid headlines. For a moment that old repressed self--you've got to be better than the purebloods, better than the white boys... Lunged up and tried to stop her.

Internalised self-hate was so the province of her seventeen year old self. It fell back, spent itself, and slipped away like a wave breaking on a concrete breakwater in a storm, forgotten, to leave her unflinching in its wake. She'd gotten over it.

And she therefore most definitely gave absolutely no resistance, and every encouragement, when Andromeda kissed her once again. "Happy Christmas," the diffident contrarian, the aristocrat who had told all of her people they were wrong, offered her with a kind of lazy ease, a Black sister's grin on her lips, eyes eager, declared without missing a beat.

Hermione finally collected half a wit, and laughed. "I take it this means we're going to spend Boxing Day alone?"

"Well, of course. All the reporters will be with their families. We'll get a head start."

The sauciness was infectious. "Is that all we'll get?"

"Well, rather not, I suppose." Perfect aristocratic diffidence.

The twinkle in Andromeda's eye suggested something else, indeed.

They'd stay in, for Boxing Day.