When it rains, it pours.
Hermione should have been aware that things almost always never go the way she plans them to, what with all she’d been through in her teenage years. She’d finally started to believe that the post-war life she had carved out for herself might be different. A nice boyfriend, even nicer friends and a job at the Department for Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures straight out of Hogwarts.
It was perfect. Too perfect.
She’d been waiting for the other shoe to drop for years now. And it had. Her long-time boyfriend and life-long friend had broken up with her in a spectacularly humiliating and public manner. Ron’s tongue down Astoria Greengrass’s throat at a ministry gala last weekend celebrating the expansion of the DRCMC - Hermione’s department! - had been plastered over the gossip pages of all newspapers and society magazines. She’d thought nothing could be worse than enduring the pitying glances and whispered words wherever she went. Silly her, she thought public humiliation, her boyfriend’s betrayal and everyone being privy to her carefully constructed life imploding in her face would be all she would have to go through.
Of course not.
Hermione glared at two matronly witches whispering behind their hands as they surreptitiously eyed her. When they noticed her scowl they scampered down the corridor, their old-fashioned robes swishing behind them. It had been close to two months and it seemed like Britain’s wizarding society was still not over the entertainment Hermione’s situation provided them.
She wondered what they would think if they knew what she had learned from Healer Abbott five minutes ago while expecting nothing more than a diagnosis of the common stomach bug. If they could only read the rolled up scroll she was gripping so tightly her knuckles had turned white.
This was different than the other hundred problems currently plaguing her. This was personal. Something that all the others witches and wizards, healers and staff currently milling about all around her in the lobby of St Mungo’s second floor would not have dared to imagine could happen to Hermione Granger, Brightest Witch of Her Age, one-third of the Golden Trio, about to become head of Department for Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, essentially the most driven and ambitious witch in all of Britain.
No, nobody would imagine that she was capable of jeopardising her entire career and future goals in such a clichéd manner, all by herself.
Wait, that wasn’t true. She scowled as memories of gossamer soft hair beneath her fingers, an icy grey gaze trained on her lips and a chiseled pale torso languidly moving above her assaulted her mind, crumbling her resolve to not think about a certain platinum blond who had tipped Hermione’s world on its axis that fateful night.
In more ways than one, she thought as blood rushed to her cheeks.
Not wanting to spend one minute more in the place which had delivered the news of her doom, she steadily moved towards the fire-places lined for floo-travel from St. Mungo’s, dreading going back to her corner office at the Ministry.
How was she supposed to meet the eyes of all her colleagues and friends knowing what she knew? How was she supposed to carry on like nothing had changed when her whole life had?
Green flames died down behind her as she stepped into the Ministry’s main atrium, keeping her head down and hoping no one would stop her. Quickly snagging a relatively empty lift, she almost breathed a sigh of relief as she arrived at her level without incident.
She just needed time to herself. Time to regroup and compartmentalise her thoughts, come up with the best solution to this new problem which eclipsed everything that had transpired with Ron a few months back.
With renewed resolve she stepped out of the lift and looked up.
Her heart seized in her chest, missing a very telling beat at the sight of the tall, platinum blond wizard silently nodding at whatever her mentor and DRCMC head Helena Hornby was enthusiastically gesticulating about.
His face was blank and impassive and if she didn’t know better she’d think he wasn’t paying a lick of attention to whatever Hornby was so excited about. But she knew better.
Nothing slipped his notice. He was the bane of the senior members of the Ministry and the Wizengamot. She’d seen him throw their own words - said during tipsy socialising at various Ministry events - back at their faces with a barely suppressed air of haughtiness at various meetings and conferences where he lobbied for the Malfoy Estate and Holdings. He was a clever conversationalist. If he was listening to someone speak with a vacant expression, he was either cataloguing every word to memory or they were boring him to death. There was really no way to tell.
Hermione almost stumbled as she hurriedly hid behind a potted Flutterby Bush beside the lifts. Fortunately, it wasn’t in bloom, she didn’t need her newly sensitive nose assaulted with heady scents, no matter how pleasant.
She held her breath as Malfoy’s head briefly turned in her general direction as the plant shook and quivered at Hermione’s close proximity. Hornby clutched his forearm to get his attention back.
Malfoy stiffened and deftly shook off the tall woman’s hand with pursed lips. Hermione almost sniggered as he tried to suppress his annoyance. She would have rolled her eyes, but she had become entirely too familiar with the peacock dancing and preening many witches (and some wizards) attempted in Malfoy’s presence, trying to get his attention or start awkward conversation that always led to them asking him out and him turning them down.
Her mouth twisted in a grimace. Her Department head, who was happily married, was no exception to the charm of the deceptively pleasant and attractive persona her school bully now went about wearing. After the war, he had turned his public image around 180 degrees and many contributed it to his parents looming influence and legacy no longer shadowing him. Lucius Malfoy was serving life in Azkaban and Narcissa Malfoy had decided to shift to the Malfoy estate in France to get away from the shunning glances and vitriolic words of the rest of the Wizarding society.
Everyone had thought that the Malfoy heir would follow after his mother, but he hadn’t. He had defied everyone’s expectations with his actions.
Thoughts of Malfoy’s miraculous redemption fled her mind as she noticed a branch of the Flutterby nearing her stealthily. She shuffled back, inwardly cursing whoever thought putting a pot of the most unsuitable plant in the Ministry’s cold interiors would be a good idea.
Fortunately, it looked like Malfoy had finally had enough of whatever Hornby was talking about as he started to turn towards the row of lifts, probably making some excuse to leave. Hermione couldn’t hear much from her crouched position.
Let it be said that Hermione was afraid of no-one, she just did not want to deal with what she had learned that morning without forming a plan of action first.
She felt a slight tickle under her nose and she hastily slapped at the branch which had sneaked under face, but not before her nose twitched and a loud sneeze resounded throughout the lobby. She froze, her hands snapping up to cover her mouth.
She looked up, her eyes widening
Malfoy was watching her with bemusement, his head tilted to the side. “What are you doing, Granger?”
Hermione scrambled to stand up with as much dignity she could muster after getting caught hiding behind a plant. She brushed off her sensible black skirt, her nose rising in the air as if nothing out of ordinary had happened.
She sniffed. “I was just checking if the Flutterby was in bloom.”
“Right," drawled Malfoy, eyes glinting with amusement as he watched her stiffly walk towards Hornby. Her department head gave her a confused look.
“You were eavesdropping. Clearly something you’re not good at.” His tone turned mocking. “Who would’ve thought.”
Hermione whirled around to glare at him. “I wasn’t—“
Her words died in her throat. Malfoy was eyeing the scroll of parchment in her right hand which she hadn’t even realised she was crumpling under her tight grip.
The scroll bound by a lime green ribbon signature of all paperwork from St Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries.
Hermione reflexively moved both her hands behind her back, her left hand clutching her right wrist in her best appropriation of a casual stance.
He glanced up impassively, giving her a terse nod before striding towards an open lift, not waiting to hear whatever explanation she might have come up with for eavesdropping on him and Hornby.
“What was that all about?” Hornby muttered, frowning at Hermione.
Her mentor was a tall woman in her mid-thirties with auburn hair and kind brown eyes. Hermione liked her. Most of the time.
She shrugged, changing the subject smoothly. “What were you and Malfoy discussing? Anything important that I need to know about?”
Hornby smiled, her eyes lighting up. “I was just reminding him about the meeting scheduled before lunch today. His presence at a HEPA meeting is going to send a strong message to all the other departments. They’re going to take our draft legislation seriously or risk getting on Malfoy’s bad side.”
Hermione’s jaw clenched as Hornby talked about her most ambitious project as some sort of joke which could only be legitimised through a rich lobbyist’s sponsorship. House Elves (Protection and Advocacy) Bill or HEPA for short was the defining idea of Hermione’s short career, conceived when she was just a school girl shaking donation boxes under other students’ noses for S.P.E.W. After five years working at the ministry, her idea for Elfish reform was finally getting somewhere.
“Why do we need his sponsorship again?” she asked curtly. “It’s not like the bill is envisaging House Elf freedom. It’s simply outlawing Elf abuse and allowing them a chance to be represented by the ministry in legal disputes.”
Hornby gave her that patient look which always gave Hermione the impression that even though her mentor clearly admired her intellect, she thought Hermione was still a little wet behind the ears.
Usually Hermione didn’t mind it, always eager to learn more about the psyche of the upper echelons of the Wizarding society, but in this context, where her school nemesis was involved, it rankled.
“We are essentially asking for house elves to be categorised as legal entities capable of taking their masters to the Wizengamot through a Ministry representative in extreme cases. That is bound to cause an uproar, Miss Granger.” Her lips twisted in a grimace. “Never mind the fact that we have had to limit this option to a few exceptional situations and House Elves are not likely to come forward and demand justice anyway, most witches and wizards will not see eye to eye with the DRCMC on this.”
Hermione sighed, reminded of the uphill battle in front of her. She had gotten a bit distracted with the recent developments in her personal life. Her desk was piling up with statistical reports and legal research she had to review and proposals she had to draft for the exact purpose of making witches and wizards see eye to eye with them on this bill.
Hornby continued. “Wealth matters, Miss Granger. No matter how much we want the system to work purely on the basis of good morals and righteousness, if people don’t see their own advantage in these kind of things, they don’t care much for it.”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “And that’s where Malfoy comes in.”
They were familiar enough with each other that Hornby didn’t mind Hermione’s cheek. “He has the galleons.” She shrugged, folding her arms. “And the connections.”
Hermione scowled. “That itself is a travesty.” She shuffled her medical report from one hand to the other. “I have to get back to work. I’ll see you at the meeting before lunch.”
With a nod of farewell, Hermione entered the archway that led to her department. The main hall contained the small cubicles for entry level workers and beyond that a series of equally sized boxed walls comprised the individual offices.
Hermione dodged interdepartmental memos as she made her way to the one north-east corner of the building. She loved her office. She only had one office neighbour directly to her left. An aged man who worked for the Office of Misinformation. She’d learned that he was long past his retirement age but still refused to actually retire. Hermione appreciated his hard work, as well as his penchant for being quiet and un-obtrusive.
As soon as Hermione entered she set about making some tea to calm her stomach. Waving her wand to start on boiling some water in the kettle kept on the side table, she took out her favourite green tea and a chipped mug Ginny had gifted her for Christmas two years ago which she only ever took out of its hiding place in the drawer when she was alone. The mug was a rather unfortunate consequence of Ginny’s lewd sense of humour and her awareness of Hermione’s aversion to Quidditch.
Hermione rolled her eyes at the looping picture of a broomstick flying on the porcelain surface before the spell “Reducio!” flashes in bold black letters and the broomstick shrinks, flying straight beneath the long skirts of an unsuspecting witch who widens her eyes.
If anyone other than Ginny had given it to Hermione, she would have clobbered them over the head with it.
Tea in hand she sat down behind her desk with a sigh, going over the disastrous morning in her head like a movie reel.
Waking up tired and annoyed after a day of meetings and draft revisions of HEPA while avoiding inquisitive glances and words in the cafeteria and the corridors, finding out that Witch Weekly had published another piece about her and Ron in their “Trouble in Paradise” section of their society pages. Which also happened to have a picture of Draco Malfoy leaving an Opera House in Paris with a long legged blonde on his arm.
That had been enough to put Hermione in a foul mood but then her stomach had decided to act up again for the fifth time that week and because her own remedies had failed her she’d finally scheduled an appointment at St Mungo’s.
Then everything had crashed and burned around her.
Hermione burned holes in the crumpled parchment on her desk with her eyes.
She was pregnant. And she knew for a fact that it wasn’t Ron’s child, not that would have been any consolation. Her relationship with her school friend was also currently on the way down the drain if she didn’t do anything about it soon.
Her priorities had shifted though, and as her mind so helpfully supplied the image of Malfoy’s cold eyes just a few minutes ago, she began to comprehend the daunting task ahead of her.
That night had meant nothing, just a way to get back at Ron for kissing the younger Greengrass girl in front of half the British wizarding society. Malfoy had been the only one who had followed her after she left the ballroom with deadened eyes and her cheeks on fire, Harry had pulled Ron away to no doubt give him a piece of his mind and Ginny hadn’t been in attendance that night.
Afterwards she had wondered if Malfoy had only followed her because he didn’t trust her wandering by herself in his manor. He hadn’t been sympathetic or pitying when he found her in an empty study, just asked her if she’d like something stronger than the glass of champagne she’d been clutching in her hand. She’d agreed and as they shared a bottle of the finest firewhiskey in front of the fireplace in silence, something reckless took over her. She’d reached across the couch and grabbed his shirt to pull his mouth down to hers.
Later she’d convince herself that it had been the firewhiskey, but she knew better, she’d been entirely too sober when she kissed him. Too sober to blame it on anything else but her need to feel those full lips on hers, to run her fingers through silver strands that created a halo around his head in the moonlight filtering in from the tall window, and to finally satisfy a forbidden curiosity that she’d kept close to her heart since fourth year at Hogwarts.
A curiosity that had strayed too far from innocent teenage musings over the years.
But the worst part was, even now that she was facing the consequences of acting on her forbidden desires, she knew that that one night had done nothing to douse the fire of the depraved thoughts that came to her deep in the night, when she was all alone.
No, that one night had only served to add fuel to the flame.
Putting her mug down with a thunk on the desk, she reached up to massage her temples as she felt the familiar pressure of a stress headache beginning to form.
When she had rejected Ron’s marriage proposal at their favourite restaurant close to three months ago, she hadn’t known that one refusal would snowball into events that would forever change her life. She berated herself for telling him no in front of the whole restaurant, she should have accepted and then gently let him down in private. Then Ron wouldn’t have felt vindictive enough to return the favour and she wouldn’t have ended up in Draco Malfoy’s arms of all people.
Then she wouldn’t be carrying the baby of her school bully.
She didn’t know where it had all gone wrong. She vaguely remembered casting a contraceptive charm after they’d hurriedly divested their clothes just enough to allow him to thrust into her and erase all thoughts of precautions from her mind. Maybe she hadn’t been precise enough. Contraceptive charms weren’t always foolproof anyway.
She’d been uncharacteristically careless and now she was paying the price.
A thought popped into her head, replacing despair with anger.
She wasn’t the only person responsible for this, Malfoy could also have been more careful that night.
He could have refused her advances.
For all that he went about displaying his superiority and for all his vows in school that she was filthy, he hadn’t objected once to sex with her. Where was all his pure-blood nonsense when it was needed. Short term embarrassment at his rejection would have been better than this.
Apart from her, Harry and Ron, everyone else believed that he had changed for the better. His countless charity drives, reparation efforts and ministry donations, as well as his tendency to be behind all the post-war reconstruction efforts as a sponsor aided that public perception. He made frequent appearances at society events and funnelled galleons where they were required in the Ministry to clear the negative reputation his father had acquired for the Malfoy name.
She didn’t buy that he had genuinely changed. Even though she had testified for him, believing that he didn’t deserve an Azkaban sentence was different from believing that he would shed his blood supremacist prejudices that easily.
Malfoys gravitated towards power, they didn’t rest until they got what they wanted. She wouldn’t put it past him to adopt a pleasant, progressive veneer to do exactly that.
Hermione got up as her stomach twisted for the second time that day. She didn’t have any of the nausea calming potions listed in the parchment atop her desk so she settled for taking deep breaths till the sensation passed.
No matter what she thought about Malfoy, she needed to tell him. Although her Gryffindor morals and passionate self-righteousness had evened out as she’d aged, she still had some tenets she stuck by. The thought of keeping the information that she was pregnant with his child from Malfoy didn’t sit right with her. No matter what she decided in the end, as the father he deserved to know about it.
As she took another deep breath her resolve hardened. She would tell him. Today. After the meeting. She would ask him to lunch and she would tell him.