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Disclaimer: Anything you recognise belongs to JK Rowling or Warner Bros or whoever, not me.

















Have you ever been inside a lawyer’s office? It is a strange thing, but however anxious you are on arrival, within five minutes of entering, the sense of reasoned tranquility that is common to all these places seeps through you, and suddenly your problems are much less acute. You know that whatever difficulties you are experiencing will be untangled and put in perspective with the greatest of ease.

That was how Hermione Granger always felt anyway. But then again, she herself was a lawyer of three year’s experience in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. And she loved it. Her tiny office on Level Two of the Ministry of Magic was filled from top to bottom with records of successful prosecutions, brilliant defences and many knots untied. Even if, looking around, it appeared to be nothing more than mounds of dusty paper that had overflowed from the filing cabinets and colonized the room.

It had been a long week, and it was still only Thursday, Hermione remembered glumly. Her fingers were sore from writing all day – a report about a tedious dispute over a fire-breathing chicken between two elaborately mustachioed warlocks, neither of whom, as it turned out, had owned the chicken in the first place. Some days, in between filing wills and unearthing ancient court documents, Hermione wished for a proper challenge. A case she could use all of her brains on, really sink her teeth into. There was only so much tranquility one person could take, after all.

Sighing, she reloaded her quill with purple ink and set it to the parchment once more. Just at that instant, a powder-blue paper dart fluttered onto her desk, landing on the freshly written sentences, and creating an inky smear through the word “incorrigible”. Hermione groaned – now she would have to start all over again. This had better be important. Unfolding the memo, she read the scrawled words:

My office. Right away. P.H. Crosby

Patrick Horatio Crosby was the Head of Department, famously impatient but prone to long-windedness. She wouldn’t be finishing the report any time soon. She pushed back her chair, replacing the quill on its stand and flexing her stiff fingers experimentally, wincing when they twinged in protest.

Her boss’ office was a grand affair compared to her own – purple carpeted, with large arched windows through which artificial sunlight streamed, and silver-framed photographs of his large family arrayed throughout the room. If you were especially unlucky, Crosby would treat you to a lecture recounting the names and habits of every one of his many cousins, children, aunts, uncles, great-nephews, great-great grandmothers and various other obscure relations.

“Ah, Granger. I was wondering what had taken you so long,”

Crosby was a tall, lean, balding man with pink-rimmed eyes and a voice like the rattle of a badly oiled engine. “Sit down.”

He waved her to the high-backed leather chair on the opposite side of the desk he lounged behind. Hermione sat, choosing not to mention that it had taken her less than a minute to cross the corridor to his office.

“You’ve been working here, what, two years now?” he began airily.

“Three, sir.”

“Right, of course. Only three years, and you're already one of our most respected employees. In fact, I’ve heard rumours that you are tipped for Head of Department when I retire – which won’t be for some time, I assure you!” He let out a bellowing laugh, which descended into a wheezing coughing fit. “But that’s neither here nor there,” he continued once he had found his breath. “I am saying this only to let you know that I trust you, Granger, and I know you will do your best at anything that comes your way.”

“Er, thank you,” Hermione said, wondering what on earth he was talking about.

“Well, the real reason I called you in here is to ask you about this new case that’s come up. I think you’ll find it to your liking, and I certainly wouldn’t entrust it to any of the other buffoons in this department!” Hermione shifted awkwardly, knowing that this was Crosby’s shorthand for “nobody else is stupid enough”.

Crosby cleared his throat, and Hermione could almost feel him gearing up for a speech.

“It’s this new murder investigation we’ve been landed with, very unusual – have you read today’s Prophet?”

“I don’t buy the Prophet, sir. They print more fiction than fact.”

“Really?” Crosby said indifferently. “My wife loves the cooking section…. Where was I? Oh yes. Well, the Aurors brought in a suspect this morning, had terrible trouble too, had to knock the chap unconscious, he tried to bite one or two of the poor buggers.”

Hermione’s thoughts leapt to Ron, in his last year of Auror training. Hopefully he had had nothing to do with arresting a madman.

“We’d have just put him in front of the Wizengamot straight away,” Crosby went on. “The evidence really is against him, and we’d like to keep this as quiet as possible, but unfortunately a journalist took an interest, says she’ll be following the case. Goodness knows how she found out about it so fast, but it is awfully inconvenient. She insisted on getting him ‘proper legal aid’. And that’s where you come in.”

He looked at Hermione expectantly, and she quickly tried to conceal her frown at the disdainful tone Crosby had used while saying “proper legal aid”

“Me, sir? I specialise in non-human magical beings, not murder.”

Crosby arranged his pale lips in a smile. “I know that.”

“I don’t understand – “

“Have a look at this.” He pushed a thick wad of beige files held together with a rubber band across the desk to her. Dubiously, Hermione put out her hand and pulled off the band. The top file was stamped “Confidential” in a way that reminded her of the Muggle crime movies her father loved. Feeling Crosby’s now intent gaze on her made her uncomfortable, but she peeled back the first page.

At first glance, it was a run-of-the-mill case file – photograph, name, address, criminal record, but on closer examination, it proved to be quite different.

The photograph was simply of a bare wall with a card bearing a serial number suspended in mid-air before it. Hermione squinted, but the image didn’t change, except for a slight shifting of the card as it floated. She read on perplexedly; but there was little else to read.

Name: unknown. Address: unknown. Date Of Birth: unknown.

“Don’t you know anything about this person at all?”

“That is everything there is to know,” Crosby replied defensively. “The murderer himself –“

“The accused-”

“The accused, then, doesn’t even know himself.”

“Not even his name? What does he have, amnesia?”

Crosby leaned forward, placing his elbows on the table and lacing his stubby fingers together. His wedding ring gleamed on his left hand as if he polished it twice a day.

“I said it was unusual, didn’t I? Look at the next page.”

Hermione dutifully turned the page over. There was a slight ‘ping’ as the paper clip that held the two pages together popped off. She could only stare at the words, printed stark black on white at the top of paragraphs of dense text.

“Vampires?” she gasped. “A vampire? Oh, of course, the photograph…. But…” She looked up at Crosby in horror, speechless for a moment.

He nodded assent. “Yes, I must admit I was rather taken aback myself. You can see why the Minister doesn’t want a fuss made – imagine, a vampire in London in this day and age!” He shuddered, eyes moving around the photos of his family as if checking they were all still there. Hermione couldn’t entirely blame him.

“I thought,” she managed at last, “I thought that they were all regulated in Britain, kept away from humans, fed on animal blood… “

Crosby nodded convulsively once more. “Yes, in theory at least. However it is very tricky to convince vampires to register with the Ministry – almost impossible, in fact, and then twice as difficult to keep tabs on them once they’ve done so.”

“Then why aren’t there more deaths? More vampires?”

“Most of them keep a low profile – don’t want to draw attention to themselves, I suppose. They have ways of feeding without killing, or, well, turning. The victim wakes up in the morning a pint of blood less well off and two puncture wounds in his neck, but they’re gone by afternoon and nobody thinks anymore of it. I had as much information as possible assembled in these documents. I’m sure they’ll be more than adequate to answer all your questions.”

Hermione pressed a hand to her neck instinctively, unsure whether Crosby was deliberately trying to frighten her. No, she decided, glancing at his pale face, he didn’t have the imagination. Still, allowing herself to be afraid was no help. She forced her face into a neutral expression and folded her hands in her lap.

“So you want me to defend this vampire?”

“Well, not so much defend as appear to defend. We want to put on a good show for the journalist, but there’s no way even you could worm him out of this one. What’s one less blood-sucker in the world, anyway?”

Hermione instantly bristled. It was house-elves all over again. And it was then that she made up her mind.

“I shall have to think about it,” she said frostily. Crosby looked slightly bewildered by the sudden change in tone, and then recovered.

“Oh, good. It’s an excellent opportunity, you know – not every day you get an interview with a vampire!” He laughed loudly at his own joke. “I’ll let you take those,” he gestured at the files, “And you’ll tell me your decision in the morning.”

An interview…. Hermione’s blood ran cold. She hadn’t considered that.

“I will, sir,” she replied blandly, trying to stop her hands shaking by taking the large binder.

“Take care,” Crosby called after her as she left, pulling his handkerchief out of his pocket and mopping his brow only when he was sure she was gone.

*







Night had fallen over the London suburb of Greenwich, and streetlights were casting their orange glow over the cramped blocks of flats in converted Georgian townhouses. An occasional car swept past number 26 A, West Abbey Road, and a stray cat poked through bins, but the street was for the most part silent and dim.

A tramp sat cross-legged, leaning against the railings in his ragged hoodie and obviously stolen Nike trainers. He too was still, eyes almost closed, appearing to all to be just another smelly homeless man in a drug-induced stupor. It was a good act, but if you stooped to peer under the hood and look closely, you could see the powerful muscles beneath his tattered jeans and observe the rounded face, clearly never underfed.

But nobody did, or would have done. He was part of the scenery to the few passers-by, an integral part of life in London. It was his spot to sit, and had been for the past two weeks. Ever since then, he hadn’t moved from the wet pavement, except during the day, when he would slink away unobserved to God-knows-where.

He stayed motionless, until a young woman with a shock of bushy hair and a Muggle coat zipped over long, deep green robes hurried past him and up the steps to 26 A’s front door. She closed the door firmly behind him, not sparing a glance. She had offered him a blanket and a mug of tea on the first day, but he had stared at her so disdainfully she’d blushed and kept walking. Since then she’d ignored him.

The man hissed in irritation. He was hungry, and right now he did not want to pretend to be human while his legs cramped and stomach grumbled. However, he had excellent self-discipline, born of years of waiting, and resigned himself to another long night of watching.

*







Ginny unlocked the door of the flat she and Hermione shared with fingers that fumbled from the cold. November was such a horrible month, bleak and grim, Christmas seeming far-off and exotic when two months of dreary winter lay between you and it. Even her captain had had to agree that nobody could fly in the gathering darkness and biting breeze.

Stepping inside, she shut the door with an audible bang. Wincing, she awaited Hermione’s reproving voice to snap at her for disturbing the work she was, no doubt, completing in the dining room-cum-kitchen. Living with Hermione was very like living at the Burrow – wipe your feet, tidy your room, help with the dinner. Still, Ginny consoled herself; once Harry finished his Auror training she’d be able to move in with him. It was an exciting prospect, and only six weeks away now.

She suddenly noticed the strange silence of the flat; the absence of the music Hermione usually played while working, and the steady drip of the broken tap in the bath. A rustle of paper, and Ginny breathed again. Walking into the kitchen to find Hermione, hair in disarray and still dressed in her emerald work robes, bent over several large books, she reminded herself not to be paranoid.

“Hello,” she said cheerily, but Hermione made no sign that she had heard. Ginny shook her head and went to the fridge to find dinner. She poked around for a moment with no success before turning back to Hermione, frowning.

“Hermione, where’s dinner?”

At last Hermione looked up, mild surprise written on her face. “Oh, hello, Ginny,” she said vaguely, and returned to her ferocious reading.

“Hermione!” Ginny snapped. “What happened to dinner?”

“Dinner?”

“Yes! It was your turn to cook, I told you I’d be late back, and you were to leave me some in the fridge.”

Hermione jumped to her feet, closing her book and looking panicked. “Ginny, I’m so sorry! I forgot all about it – and there’s no food in the house!”

“Relax, it’s ok. Order a takeaway.” Ginny had recently discovered that Muggles would deliver food to your house in small plastic tubs, and had rather taken to the idea.

Hermione nodded, reaching for the phone and dialling. While she ordered something complex and Chinese sounding, Ginny absent-mindedly leafed through the topmost book of the pile. By the time Hermione had replaced the phone on its cradle, she had flicked through every one, and was staring at her in shock.

“Vampires? Why are you researching vampires?”

Hermione blushed slightly, and rearranged the books into a neat pile. “It’s this new case…” she began.

“Involving vampires?”

“Well, yes… “

“Involving vampires how?”

“One’s been accused of murdering five Muggles.”

Ginny gasped involuntarily.

“I’m defending him,” Hermione continued. “Or at least, I might be.”

“But, Hermione, how can you even consider – vampires! They have all these complicated rules and feuds – you can’t get into the middle of all that!”

“I know, but I’ve looked through the files, and there’s not one shred of concrete evidence that he even came within a mile of these Muggles – but the Ministry’s decided he’s guilty anyway. I can’t let them convict an innocent man on this evidence, Ginny, I just can’t. Its prejudice that’s leading the Ministry on this, and-"

Ginny interrupted her. “ Look, Hermione, vampires can look after themselves. They don’t need an S.P.E.W. Does it really matter, anyway? They’re immortal, right? A few years in Azkaban won’t make any difference.”

“They won’t imprison him. They’ll kill him.”

Kill him? How?”

“Sunlight. It’s the only way, according to the books.”

Ginny sat down quickly. “Oh.”

“You see? It’s a once-in-a-lifetime case, Ginny, I have to do it.”

“Only once in a lifetime ‘cause of the high risk of being eaten, it seems to me.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. I doubt he’s stupid enough to attack a Ministry official.”

Ginny shuddered. “And you won’t let me talk you out of it?”

“No.”

There was silence for a long moment, a heavy, considering silence. It was broken only when the doorbell rang with a harsh buzzing sound, and Hermione jumped up to pay the take-away delivery man. When she returned with cartons of steaming rice, nothing more was said on the subject. Neither wanted to dwell on the frightening possibilities a vampire threw up.

*







The tramp, leaning on the outside wall, had heard every word through the open window. He smiled lazily to himself and closed his eyes in a semblance of sleep. Waiting had its occasional benefits.












A/N: It is possibly too late now, but this is AU. I screwed with JK Rowling’s slightly boring vampires, and made the Ministry more evil. Just a warning.

Thanks go out to Feanaro on the forums, for his help with vampires. And to all the other people who suggested titles, all of whom I ignored in the end. Title credits go to the Rolling Stones.
Oh, and I know they are generally called "solicitors" in the UK. They are also called lawyers sometimes, and "lawyer" is easier to spell. Please forgive me :D

Hope you liked it, reviews are always appreciated anyway!

20 Aug: beta-ed by curiosity is not a sin





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