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A Thing With[out] Feathers

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Hermione had lived her life intent on achieving all of her ambitions, great and small.

Gryffindor. Obviously.

Top of her class? Always.

Prefect? Of course.

Head girl? Shoe in.

Not to mention achieving the best collective NEWT scores seen in five years, despite of the year long break necessitated by the Wizarding War. The Order of Merlin that she got after the war was a bonus.

Admittedly, Hermione’s ambitions occasionally made it necessary for her to abuse the nature of time or exploit physics in ways that were — technically illegal, but it wasn’t Hermione’s fault that the universe had tried to get in her way.

If she could find a solution, and her motives were good, true, and just, she was right to use it.

Hermione made goals, got to work, and reached them. It was, and always had been, as simple as that.

Except when it came to Draco Malfoy, who seemed intent upon violating every tenet Hermione held for herself and aggravating her to death.

Draco was her on-again off-again semi-fake boyfriend.

Sort of.

Currently off-again — and good riddance, she kept reminding herself firmly. He’d most certainly deserved to be broken up with. After all, she was extremely busy and had no time to deal with recalcitrant semi-fake boyfriends.

Hermione’s adulthood was as ambition ladened as her time at Hogwarts, and similarly successful. Undersecretary in the Department of Magical Creatures. Done. House-elf Rights? Passed by a landslide. Werewolf reform? Making excellent progress.

There were already whispers about Hermione Granger as Minister of Magic in fifteen or twenty years.

The Wizarding world was her oyster and Hermione Granger was shucking it with the sword of equality.

She was on her way to the top with a meticulously plotted out ten, fifteen and twenty year plan, and anything that tried to get in her way would be met with the full force of her personality and the business end of her wand.

Hermione had yet to meet a problem that could not eventually be researched into submission.

Except Draco.

Yet again.

The man defied reason and behaved like an invasive species of decorative vine. He was wrapped up around Hermione's life in a way that felt impossible to get rid of. No matter how many times she broke up with him, he always managed to slither his way back into her life, and Hermione found herself letting him.

The trouble was that he was an almost perfect partner. Smart, charming, useful, capable of tying his shoes and never needing her to fix his mistakes or bail him out (even if his methods were occasionally questionable,) clever enough to keep her on her toes in the good ways...

Unfortunately, all the ways in which he was not perfect were the ways in which he was positively dreadful, not to mention definitively unsuitable as a husband for an aspiring Minister of Magic.

Even though he was the Slytherin, Hermione was convinced that she had more ambition in her little toe than he possessed within his entire body. He was the laziest excuse for a human she had ever laid eyes on.

His Slytherin characteristics seemed largely limited to being sly and manipulative with that sinfully talented tongue of his. A tongue was as silver as the spoon he’d been raised with. It dripped with mockery, pretty lies, and flattering compliments he didn’t mean.

Which would be useful for a politician if he’d exert himself to be one.

Alas, Draco did not believe in exerting himself for anything that did not promise sex with Hermione in the near to immediate future. He had “future scandal-maker” practically stamped across his pointy face.

The only ambition Draco Malfoy had, beyond having frequent sex with Hermione in spite of the not-real status of their relationship, was enraging his father who was “languishing” under strict, lifelong house-arrest at one of the family’s minor properties in Wales.

Over the years, Draco’s relationship with his parents had gone from strained to incendiary. With Lucius stripped of the main estate and all titles, there was nothing he could do to control his son but pen epistolary disapproval. Draco, in response, refused to do anything that might have the unintended consequence of making Lucius proud of him.

He could not be prevailed upon to do anything but function as Hermione’s arm candy, because being associated with her made Lucius froth at the mouth.

It was why he’d wanted to start “dating” in the first place. Lucius hated Hermione, Draco hated Lucius. It seemed natural that she and Draco would pretend to date each other out of mutual spite for the Malfoy patriarch.

Hermione signed onto the arrangement because Draco’s name beside hers was excellent political capital. Attending an event with Draco brought more attention than Hermione could attract on her own. The press was fascinated with them as a couple, which kept Hermione’s political agenda topfold and centre page. By appearing on Draco’s arm to a fundraiser, freeing house-elves became not only moral but fashionable.

There had never been any illusions that it was a real relationship. Mutual benefit and mutual spite were the agreed upon terms. The first time they had sex had been a result of too much alcohol one evening and a fight about — unicorns for some reason.

Once they started, they hadn't been able to stop.

Hermione kept intending for them to stop. She knew she needed to stop. It was ridiculous to be in a fake relationship for so long. She couldn’t very well maintain it for her entire Ministry career.

In a very short amount of time, she resolved, she was going to stop fake-dating Draco. Maybe in autumn. Or next spring. She’d even put it on the calendar…

Later.

It wasn’t urgent. There were plenty of other things that needed Hermione’s immediate attention. She had three pieces of legislation to review, a stack of case files to review from the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, and a separation which was currently lying open in front of her.

Separations were hardly anything unusual; couples filed them in the Magical Bonding Department every day. Wizards and witches realised marriage wasn’t all the sunshine and roses they’d expected and discovered that the bonds of matrimony chafed. There was nothing shocking about it, especially not to someone as reasonable and realistic as Hermione.

However, those kinds of separations were not sent to the Magical Creatures Department.

This separation involved a wizard married to a Magical Being, which meant that the Magical Bonding Department lacked jurisdiction over half the equation involved in said separation.

Separations in circumstances involving Magical Beings were irregular. In fact, Hermione had checked exhaustively and hadn’t been able to find any on record in the MoM.

The Bonding Department insisted it had happened nonetheless. A wizard had arrived at the Ministry and demanded a separation be filed. It had been signed, enchanted, and sealed, and now someone had to deliver the notice to the spouse. However, “someone” refused to be anyone in the Bonding Department.

Somehow the entire Magical Creature Department had also managed to squirm and excuse their way out of that particular house call right up to Hermione’s desk.

Undersecretary Hermione Granger was not one to neglect the call of duty, even if she happened to be in a terrible mood due to thoughts involving certain invasive species of Slytherin, and suffering from a touch of the flu. She gathered all the potentially relevant forms, rolled up the separation, and apparated to the address provided.

A dainty little cottage surrounded by a white fence sat at the end of the lane. Hermione marched up in a most businesslike manner and rapped smartly on the front door three times.

There was a quiet shuffling sound and then the door swung open to reveal the most attractive woman Hermione had ever laid eyes on.

Hermione wasn’t even sure if it was a woman or perhaps a vision or an illusion that projected the most unnatural level of beauty possible. Hermione stumbled back and clutched instinctively for her trusty briefcase full of reassuring files and protocols.

“Silvaya Parchev?” Hermione asked.

“Yes…” the Veela said slowly.

For Silvaya Parchev was indeed a Veela. Indeed, she was the most Veela-y Veela Hermione had ever laid eyes upon. Her eyes were a startling, soul-searing blue, her skin was pale as milk and flawless, and her platinum blonde hair cascaded down to her feet, shimmering like a veil around her.

Hermione swallowed. “I’m Hermione Granger, Undersecretary of the Department of Magical Creatures in the Ministry of Magic. I’m here to speak to you about your husband.”

“My — husband?”

“Stefan.”

Silvaya’s eyes widened, and she quickly stepped back to allow Hermione to enter the cottage, turning so that her hair swirled around her feet as she proceeded to practically float over towards the sofa in the sitting room.

“He — he has filed for separation.” Hermione’s fingers were toying with the handle of the aforementioned trusty briefcase.

Normally Hermione wasn’t the sort of person who was nervous around attractive people, however Silvaya was literally ethereal.

Hermione, on the other hand, was experiencing a renewed sense of awareness that there were dark circles under her eyes and that she’d found her first white hairs just that morning.

She wasn’t even thirty yet; the idea that she already had white hair was mortifying.

However, appearances aside, Silvaya also possessed the ability to grow a beak and fling fireballs if Hermione irritated her.

At Hermione’s words, Silvaya had frozen and then swivelled to stare at her. “He what?”

Hermione gripped the briefcase more tightly. “He came to the Ministry and filed for separation this week.”

“He did?”

Silvaya’s features lengthened.

Hermione swallowed, her mouth growing dry. “Y-yes.” She popped the clasp on the briefcase and withdrew the scroll.

Silvaya snatched it away from Hermione, her blue eyes barely skimming the words before the entire scroll burst into flames.

Hermione’s hand instinctively moved for her wand.

“Oh dear,” said Silvaya in a heavily accented tone of false dismay, watching the scroll as it was merrily consumed by flames. “Now it’s all gone. We cannot be separate.”

Hermione drew a deep sigh. Clearly this separation was not destined to go smoothly. “That was a copy. The original remains in the Ministry.” She reached into her briefcase and pulled out a new copy that had been instantly conjured. “This is a very unusual case; the British Ministry has never been involved in a separation involving full Magical Beings. I’m — I’m going to be your advocate throughout this process to ensure that your rights aren’t ignored.”

“You?” Silvaya was eyeing both Hermione and the new scroll with intense suspicion, eyes glittering brightly.

“Yes.” Hermione tried to smile in a way that was encouraging as she extended the new scroll.

“You?” The Veela said again with a scoff, and her ethereal nose seemed to grow thinner in a very threatening way. “You think I would trust a little human?” Her chin jerked up, and she seemed to grow. “What do you know of Veela?”

“Well...” Hermione hedged down the sofa. “You’re rather — reclusive as a species and — to be honest, it wasn’t specified on the separation what kind of Magical Being I’d be representing. However, I’m ready to learn so that I can do everything in my power to uphold your rights.”

“So, you even admit you know nothing of Veela.” Silvaya’s voice was both musing and vicious as she plucked the new scroll from Hermione’s hand and it instantly followed its brethren to an ashy grave.

“I assure you, I will do everything in my power to support and protect you as your advocate,” Hermione said, keeping her voice steady but surreptitiously finding the handle of her wand.

Silvaya rose to her feet, a scarlet flush rising in her cheeks as she loomed over Hermione.

“You?” Silvaya’s face had narrowed into truly terrifying thinness as she grew more visibly enraged. “You who let my mate sign a separation, and come here, smiling, to tell me of it.”

“No! No. I’m sorry. You misunderstand — I wasn’t — “ Hermione said quickly.

“Do you know what a mate is to a Veela?” Silvaya’s voice was vibrating at a low, ringing intensity that threatened to shatter Hermione’s eardrums. “Do you think that because we are beautiful that we feel nothing? That I would not care to lose my mate?”

“No — no, I don’t — “

Silvaya didn’t seem to hear Hermione. She was growing visibly distraught. “A mate is — a mate is a soul! He is — why I breathe!“ She waved her hands. “Inside my heart — he is my — What is the word? Only mate. You cannot separate a mate from a Veela! Stefan — he would not — ”

“I’m so sorry. I really am,” Hermione said, trying to sound as calming and sympathetic as she could. “If there are biological factors impeding a separation, that’s a vital piece in my case as your advocate. Veela are very secretive about bonding, and I’m afraid in Britain we don’t have laws specific to Veela bonds but—“

Before Hermione could finish speaking, Silvaya gave a small cry and transformed in full.

Her features elongated impossibly until her mouth, jaw and nose all melded into a razor-sharp beak longer than Hermione’s forearm. A pair of pale, silver-scaled, featherless wings burst from her back, swallowing the room.

Silvaya screamed and bright balls of pure searing-white flames the size of bludgers appeared in each hand, the heat scorching across Hermione’s face as Silvaya whirled on her.

Hermione flung herself back, casting a shield so forcefully that it flung Silvaya across the room. Silvaya gave a rasping screech as her wings caught the air and she stumbled into the wall.

“Oh,” Hermione instantly dropped the shield and hurried forward. “I’m so sorry. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to—“

She leaned down to pull Silvaya up. The Veela hissed furiously through her beak, waving at Hermione as her head jerked forward. The sharp tip of her beak flashed and the tip sliced painfully across Hermione’s right shoulder.

Hermione fell back with a pained gasp as Silvaya lunged towards her.

Hermione pressed her hand against her shoulder to staunch the bleeding and held her wand out in warning as she fell back. Silvaya slowed but didn’t stop approaching.

Hermione’s heart was pounding.

It had been more than a few years since she had duelled. Passing legislation in the Ministry did not generally require much defensive magic. She tried to breathe calmly as she entered a rusty combat stance.

“I need you to stand down,” she said, her voice crisp and authoritative, not betraying any of the rush of fear she was experiencing. Her heart was pounding so hard it made her head spin.

She hadn’t even thought to inform anyone in the office about where she was going.

Her voice softened. “I’m not trying to hurt you. I don’t think you want to hurt — “

Her voice trailed off as the room abruptly shifted before her eyes, growing blindingly colourful.

Hermione started, turning and looking wildly around. Everything in the room was suddenly bursting in a spectrum of colours Hermione had never seen before. It was a nauseating cacophony of brightness.

“What's happening?” she tried to say, but her voice came out a vibrating scream.

She started with surprise as she felt something heavy on her back.

She turned quickly and was met with empty air. A sharp Veela beak appeared in the periphery of her vision and she whirled on Silvaya. As she tried to turn, she was suddenly grabbed by her robes and jerked violently backwards.

She gave another distorted scream as she crashed back against a wall. She slumped, panting and squinting, trying to see through the jumble of colours distorting the room. She couldn’t seem to properly breathe, as though her airway was blocked. There was a sharp pain in her back, but she was too dazed to place where.

Silvaya was on the far side of the room, frozen, still transformed. Her blue and now iridescent eyes were wide and terrifying. Her wings shifted, shimmering like a butterfly’s wings as she moved towards Hermione again.

Hermione levelled her wand.

“Stay back!” The words came out garbled.

Veela venom must contain hallucinogenic properties. The floor seemed to be tilting sideways.

God, why did Veela have to be so damn secretive? She hadn’t even known they had venom. Beaks and fireballs she could handle, but Hermione had not been prepared for a drug trip.

She rubbed her eyes and looked around again, everything was still shimmering and the wrong colour, some objects more brightly than others. She kept trying and not being able to breathe, each breath was a tiny spasming gasp. Her head was growing light.

The room was beginning to spin.

Silvaya was resplendent and terrifying and kept moving closer.

Hermione gasped as she felt something press against her back. She whirled and saw a dark shape swooping towards her. She cast a nonverbal protego and it struck the dark blur. Hermione went flying across the room in the opposite direction. She was somersaulted backwards and found herself near the front door. There was another sharp pain somewhere in her back.

Everything was too colourful. Jarring. Painful to look at.

Hermione’s every movement felt stilted and weighed down, as though she were going into shock. There was pressure on her shoulders again.

She had to get away.

She pushed herself up, wrenched open the door, and apparated.

She reappeared in the office of her own house, several feet in the air, and fell crashing to the ground. She lay panting unsteadily for a moment before glancing around.

Her own cheerful home was also shimmering and malevolently hued. She tried to push herself up.

She needed to get to the hospital.

Then she’d file a report and visit the library for more research on Veela. Perhaps an Auror should accompany her when she went back.

She was halfway to her feet when everything wobbled, and she dropped in a dead faint.


When Hermione’s eyes opened again, her office had returned to the normal colour spectrum.

She pushed herself up from the rug where she’d collapsed, and her arms nearly gave out due to a weight bearing down on her shoulders. She glanced back, craning her neck, and shrieked with surprise.

She had wings!

Enormous, brown wings were arched around her and attached to her shoulders.

The wings flapped wildly as she crawled up from the floor, craning her neck and trying to get a better look at them.

Huge. Featherless. They looked like bat wings.

Oh god!

The knickknacks she kept on the mantel went flying as the left-wing extended and crashed into the far wall. She jumped and the wing instantly recoiled, knocking her onto her back.

Hermione proceeded to flop helplessly on the floor for several minutes while the wings kept fluttering and preventing her from rolling over.

She couldn’t figure out how she was making them move. After several minutes of pointless flailing, she managed to force herself to go still. She was, according to many people, an exceptional witch. An exceptional witch would most certainly be able to figure out how to control a pair of wings that were attached to her.

She made herself lie still and breathe slowly and, to her relief, the wings gradually ceased fluttering and folded themselves tightly around her.

Very slowly and cautiously, Hermione found her wand and performed a rudimentary healing charm on the still bleeding cut on her shoulder along with a quick tergeo to get rid of the blood everywhere.

Then she carefully stood and remained frozen in the centre of the room.

She twitched her right shoulder and winced as the right-wing unfurled and rammed into the wall, knocking several books onto the floor. As she winced, both wings extended and flapped once, catching the air and dragging her backwards.

The room became filled with flying parchment.

She ran into a wall and gasped as the wind was knocked out of her, collapsing while her wings fluttered unhelpfully and she landed on her knees.

“Bugger. Bugger. Bugger,” she said, punching the floor. “This is just so BLOODY unbelievable!”

Hermione was not generally the cursing type. When she was, she preferred nice impactful words like “fuck.” However, when she was overwhelmed her language tended to imitate Ron’s, to her eternal chagrin.

She dropped her head onto the floor and wailed. Having wings was going to ruin her entire calendar month. She probably looked ridiculous. This was, possibly, even more embarrassing than polyjuicing herself into a cat in Second Year.

If anyone saw there would undoubtedly be pictures, and they’d haunt her for the rest of her life. Who would elect a Minister of Magic who was photographed flapping about with harpy wings?

One thing was for certain, no matter what, she couldn’t be seen.

“Granger?”

Draco’s questioning drawl floated up the hallway from downstairs.

Hermione froze. Oh god, why on earth was Draco there? Hadn’t she broken up with him?

Yes, she was certain she’d broken up with him after the last Ministry Ball. She’d been slightly tipsy at the time, but she definitely remembered arguing with him in the coatroom which had inevitably devolved into having sex. It had been a rather lovely interlude from the tedious Ministry event until he’d decided to jokingly propose to her for the umpteenth time.

It had killed the afterglow dead, and after she told him no, she broke up with him on the spot. As much as it had ever been possible to break up with a man she wasn’t in a relationship with.

He’d accepted the verdict without so much as blinking.
He took her all attempts to break up with him about as seriously as she took his regular proposals.

Hermione choked and sat back, staring at the doorway in horror. Her wings rustled and fluttered nervously around her, nearly knocking her flat again.

“Don’t — don’t come in!” she said.

“Granger, are you alright?” Draco’s voice was closer and broke her from her reverie.

“I’m fine. Go away!” She waved an arm furiously which had the unintended side-effect of making her wings flap. She proceeded to cartwheel into another wall with a loud crash, more papers flying.

“What—?” Draco rounded the corner and froze, staring at Hermione where she was endeavouring to get untangled from her wings and several scrolls of legislation.

“Go away, Malfoy,” she said when she finally managed to wriggle off one wing and unsteadily push herself up from the floor. “I’m having a personal crisis right now, and I don’t need you getting in the way.”

When she managed to look up, she found Draco gripping the doorframe, turning grey and looking ready to faint.

He made a choking sound and, to her surprise, nodded obediently, turned on his heel, and disappeared back the way he had come.

Hermione stared in surprise at the empty doorway, experiencing a sharp stab of hurt. She forced herself to dismiss it with a scoff under her breath.

“Oh god!” she heard Draco say.

Then there was an extremely loud thud in the hallway as though Draco had run headlong into the wall, fainted, or possibly fallen down the stairs.