Two years later.
The shock wave that abruptly emerged from deep within the Wiltshire countryside one sunny Saturday was powerful enough to be detected by the British Geological Survey's seismology department. It resulted in the dispatch of two BGS fieldworkers, who returned to London late in the evening in a state of bewilderment regarding the general geography of Wiltshire and excitement over the anomalous data readings they had.
It might have resulted in the publication of a highly controversial scientific paper, but before too many reports managed to be filed, the British Prime Minister's office unexpectedly sent some mysteriously credentialed and strangely attired operatives from an undisclosed agency to conduct private interviews with the BGS fieldworkers and demanded a seizure and scrub of all the data. The fieldworkers both became quite vague about Wiltshire after emerging from their interviews. Within a few weeks the event was largely forgotten by almost all but the higher ups, who shook their heads and muttered for months about big government overreach. The office's resident tin-foil hat conspiracy theorist took it as confirmation that the British government was indeed concealing the existence of Martians.
In reality an explosion had emanated from the ancient, warded estate of Malfoy Manor. A blast which roared through the walls of the house causing the portraits to shout loudly in complaint; in the kitchen the Malfoys' priceless crystalware nearly shattered against each other before being frozen in place by the house elves; Narcissa's rose garden vibrated from the shock wave and several petals fell off of her Scarlet Pixie; in the unplottable drawing room, the shaking caused a beloved, long lost pipe to fall off the mantle and break upon the hearth; and it made the Chippendale furniture in the tea room shudder and the Lucius's favorite Wedgwood cup to clatter on its saucer, spilling tea onto the copy of an Advanced Alchemy journal he'd just received.
As the manor ceased shuddering, down in the dungeons Hermione Granger-Malfoy sat up, spitting magical feathers from her mouth, as she popped through Draco's wings.
"Oh, bollocks!" she fumed. "I was so sure we'd gotten it right."
She looked around the Potion lab in despair.
The power of the explosion had cracked the heavy stone walls in several places, the damage showing starkly against the whitewash. The wards protecting the wall of ingredients had been annihilated and the bottles were shattered, their contents oozing over the floor and reacting unpleasantly with each other. The cauldrons that hung along the wall had fallen to the ground, with the more fragile varieties cracked or dented. The bookshelf and other shelves had fallen over and there was shattered glass everywhere. The tables, scales, and knives that had been near the explosion were twisted and warped irreparably. In the center of the room an enormous cast-iron cauldron that looked as though a bomb had gone off inside it; the iron was both shattered and melted in places, and its contents were dripping down from the ceiling and splattered across all the walls.
As Hermione glanced about mournfully a hand snaked up under her shirt to caress her. She smacked it.
"Really, Draco," she huffed, "only you would use the destruction of several thousand galleons worth of lab materials as an opportunity to grope me."
"I'd better be the only one," he snarked, sliding his hand up again undeterred.
"I don't understand what went wrong," she said plaintively as she stared at the wreckage before them.
"I don't understand why we need to make Wolfsbane Potion in batches that large. The arithmancy formula we found for making a hundred doses at a time has already reduced the failure rate to the point that Prima Verde is recovering. Trying to double it again was always overly ambitious," Draco replied, sitting up and looking around at the destruction wrought upon the historically immaculate potion lab.
"It's just—it would be nice to have it. To know what it was," Hermione sulked.
Draco chuckled and stood up. Casting a charm to clear the air, he picked his way across the floor to look at the enormous shattered cauldron.
"I don't think your formula was the problem," he said.
"Really?" Hermione asked, coming inquisitively over to join him.
"Your numerical predictions all seemed right. And at this point I could probably brew Wolfsbane in my sleep. I think it was the cauldron. It's almost impossible make cast-iron cauldrons with absolutely perfect consistency in this size. Look at the way it exploded. The melting along the lower third is uneven. It probably wasn't able to conduct evenly enough for Wolfsbane Potion."
Hermione sighed and then turned to survey the room.
"Well, that's—inconvenient. An absolutely perfect, size eighty-five, cast-iron cauldron must cost—I don't even know. They're so rare, they're practically priceless," she mumbled, looking dejected.
Draco wrapped a consoling arm around her waist and dropped a kiss on the top of her head.
"Hypothetically speaking," he murmured in her ear. "If I were to buy you a size eighty-five cauldron made by Oskar Rupelsteiner... would you finally agree to quit your job at the Ministry?"
Hermione turned, her eyes bright for a moment before suddenly narrowing.
"Draco Malfoy, did you... plan for this to happen?" she asked suspiciously.
He stared at her angelically.
She continued to glare at him and he deflated slightly.
"I—may have, suspected it," he muttered.
"You—sneaky—snake," she seethed. "You wrecked my lab!"
"Our lab!" he interjected.
"I can't believe you tried to manipulate me like that!" she fumed. "You dolt! Did it never occur to you to just ask me?"
Draco's eyes lit up hopefully.
"Will you?" he said as he pulled her into his arms. "Please? I hate it when you're there and I can't come see you. Your hours are still ridiculous. And I'm always worried that something will happen."
Hermione reached out through their bond and sensed the compressed knot of harsh anxiety that he tried to keep to himself but couldn't manage to entirely contain.
"You prat," she mumbled, subsiding somewhat from her indignation. "I didn't realise it still worried you so much."
"I can't help it. It's all I do when you're there," he admitted gruffly.
She sighed and rested her head against his chest, listening to his heart.
"It's just—" she started, "there's so much left to do there. I know I said that I thought I could stop now, after the wand ban, but—working in the Magical Creatures Department right now, when there is so much opportunity for reform—I'll feel so guilty if I just left. Even though there's public support, there isn't anyone in the Ministry who would be willing to actually take over what I do. And—there's still so much discrimination. I don't want to abandon all the magical beings who have been ostracised for so long. Things are finally improving for so many of them. If I leave—I'm afraid no one will care anymore."
Draco was silent for a moment before he slid a hand up her neck and tangled his fingers in her hair possessively.
"Emeliory Bogfeld is planning to rejoin the Ministry now that the interminable ethics inquiry into her has finally been completed," he said slowly. "Due to some technicality she's been restricted from returning to Bonding, so she's thinking of joining the legal branch of the magical creatures department. I spoke to her earlier this week. If you left... she'd like to take over your post. And—you could work with her as a lobbyist, the way I did with you."
Hermione's head popped up and she stared at him.
"She is? I—could do that?" Her eyes were wide and hopeful.
"You'd have to get a job with Malfoy Holdings and register with the Ministry." He told her with a wry smile. "But, I might know a few people who can pull strings there. The heir to the conglomerate is a pointy faced git, but he could probably be brought around with some persuasion."
"Really now?" Hermione pulling him down to press their lips together.
"What—" she kissed him lightly on the face.
"kind of—" another kiss.
"Persuasion do you think he'd require?" she asked in a sultry voice.
Before Draco could answer there was a sharp knock on the door.
"Come in!" Hermione called, stepping back while Draco sulked.
Narcissa surveyed the ruined Potions lab.
"Well. Not as bad as I thought it might be. I was worried it might have collapsed part of the dungeons," she observed.
"Apparently there was some inconsistency in the cauldron thickness," Hermione admitted.
"You didn't use the new Rupelsteiner?" Narcissa asked.
Hermione whirled toward Draco.
"You already had it?" she shrieked in outrage.
Draco shot an irritated glance toward his mother.
"I told you it was a surprise. You weren't supposed to tell her about it," he whined.
Narcissa looked unapologetic.
"You ruined the Scarlet Pixie I was planning to submit for the rose competition this week," she sniffed.
"You're going to get me killed because of a bloody flower," he grumbled.
"Anyway. I came down because this just arrived." She pulled out a long narrow box and held it toward them.
Hermione's spine tingled with anticipation as she accepted it. Lifting off the lid she gazed down at the long hawthorne and vine wood wands that lay inside.
She was almost trembling with excitement as she held the box out toward Draco.
The wood of each was intricately carved with tiny feathers all the way to the tip. Reaching out hesitantly she touched the shorter, vine wood wand lightly. A whisper of magic stirred in the air around her, shifting her hair.
Picking it up she swished it. The magic flowed into it perfectly, as effortlessly as water. The air was filled with tiny shooting stars.
"The first Veela feather wands in the world," Narcissa noted, watching.
"Took long enough," Draco grumbled, but Hermione could sense his elation through their bond.
"It's perfect," Hermione murmured. "I wasn't sure if it was even going to be possible. Trying to keep the feathers from vanishing was so tricky once the stasis charms were removed."
Narcissa pulled out a note.
"The wandmaker says they only managed it after they wrapped them in a strand of your hair. Apparently your signature is the only thing that keeps Draco's feathers corporeal."
"Interesting," Hermione said, examining it carefully. "They've got a bit of both of us. Do you want to try first?"
She held the box still containing the hawthorn wand out toward Draco.
After staring at it for a moment he plucked it from her fingers and picked up the wand.
"Scourgify." He drawled with a swish, pointing toward the potion smeared walls of the lab. A bright, white light shot from the tip and struck the wall and then exploded over all the surfaces. A second later it faded, the broken glass and wrecked ingredients had disappeared. The lab was again spotless. Dreadfully damaged. But spotless.
He glanced around and then down at the wand again.
"That was different," he noted.
Hermione gripped her own wand tightly. It was such a relief to have a wand that she felt she could control. It had taken almost a year before her magic had fully recovered, and during that time she'd been working with a Veela hair core. But even when it was Draco's hair, the core was temperamental in the manner Veela hair was notorious for. One minute it would cooperate beautifully and then quite suddenly seem disinclined about functioning at all. While her own levels of Veela magic made many wandless spells easier, anything complex was difficult for her to cast without a conduit; unlike Draco, who had yet to encounter a spell he couldn't eventually manage to cast wandless and oftentimes nonverbally.
"Reparo!" She cast powerfully toward a crack in the wall, mostly out of curiosity. To her elation the white light that bathed the walls mostly sealed a crack that should have required months of work by a specialist.
She bounced delightedly on her toes and turned to fix the bookshelf.
"Well, I'll let you experiment," Narcissa said, slipping away.
Draco immediately put his wand away and moved toward Hermione, who was charming the potion books to fly around like a flock of birds.
"Will you really leave the Ministry?" he asked quietly.
She froze and, with a flick of her wand, sent the flock of books to reshelve themselves on the repaired bookshelf.
"I've always hated working there," she said quietly.
"And it's worse now. Without you there—it's so lonely, it hurts. Even with the bond—it's not the same. And having a security detail on me constantly makes everyone paranoid and eager to get away. But—" she hesitated, "I didn't know how to leave without feeling like I was abandoning everyone who is still stigmatised by the wizarding world... If Emeliory really can take over for me, and I could still help with the legislation I care about—that would change things."
"I just—I don't want to realise that there was something I could have done, that I didn't. I'm always worried about that."
She turned toward him, her eyes large and serious. He pulled her toward himself and tucked one of her curls behind her ear.
"How you manage to fit the whole world inside your conscience I'll never understand," he murmured. "I wouldn't ask you to if I thought it meant you had to abandon any of your causes. But I think there are ways you could do it from outside of the Ministry now. And I think there's even more you could accomplish if you didn't have to spend most of your time composing interdepartmental memos and reviewing DMLE cases in order to pass the legislation you want during your overtime."
As he spoke his fingers slid back to the nape of her neck and started massaging away the knot of tension that always resided there. With a soft moan Hermione arched her neck to the side, giving him better access. He pulled her closer.
"Let me help you. I want to work with you again," he said as he lowered his head and began kissing along her neck while his fingers continued to massage her.
"I think you are manipulating me." She keened breathily as she arched her head even further back.
"I am," he murmured against her throat, making her shiver against him. "Do you want me to stop?"
"No—" she stammered. "I just wanted it to be noted, for—posterity's sake."
"How definite of a posterity are we talking about?" he inquired slowly.
She glanced up at him with a cat smile.
"About six weeks."
He let go of her to stare wide eyed and she straighten and continued,
"I just found out. I was going to tell you tonight. I was thinking I should quit my job. It's not as if very many of the officials want me there anyway. And I imagine they'll feel that way even more strongly now, what with my magic levels and the typical rate of accidental magic during pregnancy. And—I don't want to endanger another person by being there. It—was hard enough—knowing that being there was risking you. I just—I didn't know how I should do it, when I had so much work that still depended on me."
"You dolt," he grumbled, pulling her back into his arms. "Did it never occur to you to just ask me?"
She laughed upon hearing him quote her own recent reproach.
"I was going to. I'd just intended to do it somewhere slightly more romantic than a potion lab. I had a whole plan for tonight," she shot him a sultry smirk, "it involved a bit less clothing than I wear in here."
"Did you now?" he smirked back. "I'm having trouble imagining it. Maybe you should show me."
"I might be convinced to," she purred. "Maybe, if you promise to buy a whole set of Rupelsteiner cauldrons for the lab as my push present."
He stared at her for a moment.
"You... are such a ridiculous, little swot boffin." He sighed, cradling her face in his hands and kissing her. "It's terrifying how much it attracts me."