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A/N: Just a quick note concerning Asteria's name; yes, it's Asteria with an "e" and not an "o" according to my story - Rowling's own vision of her name is disputed, and I personally prefer Asteria, so I'm keeping it that way!

I have also had some qualms about Hermione's characterization. A lot of this story was focused on the aftermath of the war - not the immediate aftermath, but the years after - and I drew inspiration from both the First and the Second World War, and the notion of collective guilt that the German population felt during those troublesome periods. I think Malfoy fits perfectly in that scenario, and I also think that Hermione, along with a great deal of others, could easily fall into the trap of looking for a scapegoat to use as a means of letting out their frustration. So is Hermione judgmental and prejudiced? Yes. Does she have a right to be?

Again, I stress that this story is about guilt, both individual and collective, infidelity and anger, all very unpleasant experiences. This is not supposed to be fluff!

Also, I have discovered (thanks to a very kind reviewer) that there is a minor plothole in the ages of Scorpius & Rose. Pay no attention to it. I have little to no experience with babies so I have no idea how they should behaviour at their different ages. If Scorpius & Rose act a little mature for their age, please just blame my ignorance of children!

Thanks for your continued support and attention.



You frustrate me,
I know you're mine
But you look so good it hurts sometimes

John Mayer, Your Body Is A Wonderland

February 2008

Draco had been in a rather upsetting argument with Asteria the other night. Mr Greengrass had heard of Theodore Nott’s upcoming appeal, and, being close friends to Nott Senior, had promised to show his support by assisting the trial. This would not have bothered Draco more than usual, were it not for the fact that Asteria insisted that he go too.

It was an ideal occasion to prove to her father that Draco was supportive of him, that he took an interest in preserving the shatters of a broken alliance. The truth was that Draco didn’t. He hated the idea of showing up to a courtroom full of people, all leering at him and despising him. It was almost downright provocation – representatives of every Pureblood, pro-Voldemort family left grouped together in support of one stupid criminal.

But Asteria had had her little tantrum, of course, waking up the boy and refusing to eat. He had said yes just to have peace. She changed her demeanour, back to her usual feminine, sweet self. Draco was silent.

He tried looking at the good side of things as he sat in the depressing courtroom, eyeing his surroundings. He had had an errand at the Ministry anyway, and chances were that he might catch a glimpse of Hermione. His heart skipped a beat as he thought of her curls, her restful smile, her tender caresses… The way she would brush her lips against his neck and run gentle fingers through his hair.

It only made him feel slightly guilty thinking this way with Asteria’s father sitting right next to him. Hyperion had thrown out his chest, looking at the room proudly with a ‘You see? I am not afraid’ look on his face. Draco edged a little away from him, toward the man who sat on his left, Blaise Zabini.

Out of everyone he knew, Blaise was probably the person who had changed least since the war, both in manner and in appearance. Still as strikingly handsome as ever, and as ice cold and quiet, he was looking almost bored as he watched Theodore enter the room and sit down in the defendant’s chair. Merlin knew why Blaise was here. If anyone had evaded conflict successfully, it had been him.

A sign of disapproving surprise escaped Blaise’s otherwise neutral exterior, and Draco look at the prosecution for change. Change there was indeed. Instead of reliable Themis Finley, Hermione was approaching the Wizengamot bench, dressed in a prosecutor’s formal plum-coloured robes. He noticed worriedly how pale and shaky she looked. What was she doing?

‘How appropriate,’ Hyperion sneered, ‘it’ll be scum attacking a Pureblood son.’

Draco balled his fists and clenched his teeth, resisting the urge to throw the man a punch. He felt Blaise’s gaze on him and quickly re-asserted his facial expression.

‘This’ll be interesting,’ Blaise murmured, his eyes now on Hermione. Draco did not know how to interpret his words.

The trial began. It was a lengthy and tedious process. The charges were read out loud by a member of the Wizengamot; then the defence led his reasons for the appeal. Hermione finally stood up, smoothing her robes in a way Draco knew she did when she was nervous. His heart ached for her. She looked terrible.

Her prosecution was followed by many sarcastic grunts by Nott Senior, sitting to Hyperion’s right. Draco wanted Hermione to turn, to find the source of these disrespectful sounds, just so she could catch his eye and know that there was someone there who supported her. But she didn’t turn.

When she finished, the Wizengamot started murmuring. They would need a half-hour’s audience. Draco watched Hermione carefully as she took her seat, closing her eyes in what was surely a grimace of discomfort.

‘Granger doesn’t look too good,’ Blaise said in a low voice. So Draco wasn’t the only one who had noticed. He wanted to ask Blaise if he thought she’d be all right, but he knew it was madness.

Thirty minutes passed quickly, and eventually the Wizengamot re-took their seats. The Chief Warlock rose to his feet, a long piece of parchment in his hand, and started reading the decision they had reached.

‘We, the Wizengamot gathering for trial 2-22, in the trying in the appeal of Theodore Malvolio Nott, sentenced for knowingly, deliberately and perseveringly cursing three unsuspecting Muggles, with no regard to surrounding circumstances, and in violation of the Wizarding Decree 861 that no magic be used against, or in the knowing presence of, persons with no magical ability, find the accused guilty on all charges.’

Nott Senior let out a roar of outrage. Draco watched as all the blood vanished from Theodore’s face. Hermione’s eyes twinkled in triumph, but there was no smile on her pale exterior.

Unbelievable,’ Hyperion hissed, ‘a bloody Mudblood got him sentenced.’

Fifteen minutes later, once the sentence had been read out loud (two years’ imprisonment), once Nott and Hyperion had disappeared in fumes of rage, and once the Elders of the Wizengamot had ceased to congratulate Hermione, Draco snuck out into the corridor and waited for her there.

He had been so captivated by how uncomfortable and ill she looked that he had not paid attention to the brilliance of her prosecution. It really was almost genius, a witch as young and inexperienced as she, to lead a prosecution in a criminal trial, and on top of that, win it. This would most definitely further her career.

The Wizengamot emerged from behind the door one by one. He counted them in his eagerness to see Hermione, to touch her, most of all, to feel her against him. She finally walked out of the courtroom. Draco touched her arm and she jumped.

‘Draco!’ she said breathlessly, her face extraordinarily pale. ‘What are you doing here?’

‘I was forced to come see the trial,’ he said, smiling, ‘I didn’t know you’d be doing the lead job.’ Her mouth twitched, but her expression remained as subdued. ‘You don’t look like someone who’s just won a major criminal trial against a renown Muggle-torturer.’

Hermione forced a wider smile, swallowing.

‘I’m sorry, I’m just tired. The Wizengamot only gave me two hours to prepare. You can’t imagine the stress of it…’

‘I can imagine it was a handful,’ Draco said in a quiet voice, putting a hand on her arm as he eyed her worriedly. ‘You look really unwell, Hermione.’

‘No, I’m all right, really – I have to go see how Lisa is doing –‘

‘Don’t be ridiculous, you’ve just been through a major trial, you need a break for a bit; come have lunch with me.’

‘I’m not hungry, I don’t want anything to eat,’ Hermione muttered confusedly, ‘and anyway I can’t – no, I can’t - what if someone sees us?’

Draco could see her blinking the tears away. His throat was dry and he felt like something was clawing its way out of his heart.

‘Hermione,’ he said very simply, as she shook her head, ‘Hermione…’

He pulled her into his arms and put his nose in her hair. She took a step away from him, and he look at her, surprised.

Don’t,’ she said in a strangled voice, ‘someone could see us. If Ron ever found out…’

He wanted to tell her, as he had for several months now, that he couldn’t care less about Ron, to hell with him, to hell with Asteria, to hell with everyone who didn’t wish them to be together – but he couldn’t. She was trying to shake his hands off her arms.

‘You don’t understand,’ she struggled to say, her breathing shallow and uneven. Draco’s concern intensified as he heard the rattling sound her lungs were making. ‘I feel so guilty - it’s all my fault, all my fault, for not loving him – for not loving him enough - and seeing you – oh, I can’t, I can’t anymore, I’ll kill myself if I do, I’ll –‘
Hermione’s eyes rolled into the back of her head and she took a great, shuddering breath as she keeled over into his arms.

‘Hermione!’ he gasped urgently, shaking her awake. The weight of her collapsed on to him and he sunk to the floor with her in his arms. The folder she had been carrying had fallen to his feet, and he picked it up and fanned it over her. The cool air seemed to revive her, and she opened her eyes.

‘God, you scared me,’ Draco said, keeping his grasp on her very firm, ‘come on, you need some water and some sugar.’

He helped her up and supported her weight as he guided her to the nearest bathroom, miraculously empty. Hermione’s breathing, very irregular, slowed as he sat her down next to the sink and pushed her head down to her knees.

‘I don’t know what happened,’ she muttered, ‘I just got all dizzy…’

Draco wettened a paper towel and placed it on the back of Hermione’s hot neck. She gave a sigh as the cool water mingled with her perspiration. She smelled sweetly of a fragrance he loved.

‘You should see a Healer,’ he said, trailing the paper towel lower down her back. He threw it in the bin as she pulled her head back up again, drying her face. She shook her head.

‘I just need some sleep,’ she answered. Draco moved forward to stand right in front of her. He began unbuttoning her formal robes, aware that they must be overheating her. He felt her breathing become irregular again as his finger grazed her throat in an effort to reach the top button. His own pulse had quickened considerably.

‘And then this morning…’ she said, though she sounded a far way off. Draco had reached the buttons near her stomach. ‘I met your wife.’
The words were shocking, of course they were, and they would sink in eventually, but now all that mattered was the discarding of these robes. He reached the last button. It seemed miraculous that unbuttoning was all that needed doing to remove her clothes. There should be some greater test, some problematic obstacle – she was that worthy a prize. His eyes met hers as he slid the robes off her shoulders. They fell to the floor. She was wearing a simple white blouse and a pencil skirt underneath them.

‘She’s very pretty and very sweet,’ she said, her eyes never leaving his. There was excruciating guilt in them. It matched the desirous challenge in his. ‘Draco.’

‘Yes, she is,’ he whispered.

He threw his lips against her neck and she let out a sound – a sound he had come to love, one which had surprised him so much the first time he had heard it, when he had never believed that Hermione Granger could ever let herself go in a moment of passion. But the sound died. She had placed her hands on his shoulders and pushed him gently away.

‘I can’t, I can’t,’ she cried, tears forming in her eyes again. Draco sighed, removing his lips from her neck and entwining his fingers with hers. ‘They don’t deserve this, any of them.’

‘I want you so badly,’ he murmured, laying his head against her chest and taking deep breaths. He squeezed her hand. ‘Every part of me is screaming in protest in the time when I’m not with you.’

‘I don’t know anything anymore,’ she murmured, shaking, ‘I’m all in pieces, I never asked for this.’

They heard footsteps outside. A new trial was beginning. Hermione quickly dried her tears and jumped off the counter. She did not even say goodbye as she vanished behind the door, leaving Draco heavy-hearted and uncertain.


June 2007

Draco was summoned to Terry Boot the moment he arrived at the Ministry. Upon hearing the news, he grimaced, his teeth clenched, and made his way to his former classmate’s office.

It had always been a source of amusement to Terry Boot that Draco should now work for him – unofficially, of course. There could be no official position for the scum who did the nasty business of the Ministry.

Terry Boot had become the Head of the Department of Mysteries at a remarkably early age – so remarkable that several people had whispered tales of his father pulling strings. Draco did not know whether this was true, and did not take it upon himself to investigate further – all he knew was that Terry was doing a crap job. His mess-ups left Draco with plenty to clean up.

By ‘cleaning up’, Terry implied keeping bad news away from the press, polishing the Minister of Magic’s image, sometimes even corrupting stubborn Ministry personnel who weren’t doing things the Minister’s way. Few people were aware of what Draco did – Asteria knew to a lesser extent, and Narcissa had surely guessed about it, but most people despised Draco too much to make inquiries. That was the beauty of it.

He had taken the job in the hopes of eventually rising, securing a more adequate and official position and finally, once more, re-taking his place in decent society. After a year in Terry Boot’s grasp, he had still not achieved this.

For four years, Draco had been travelling, exploring the world in a desperate attempt to forget his past sins. He had finally realized that no matter where he travelled, no matter the beauty of the sights he saw, nothing could block out Dumbledore’s face at the top of that tower, Hermione Granger’s tortured expression as Bellatrix broke her, Goyle’s wretched shriek as Crabbe released the Fiendfyre in that damned Room of Requirement…

He returned to his birthplace soon after, back to the welcoming arms of Narcissa, who had not changed, and Lucius, who had anything but. It was then that Narcissa had prodded Draco into attending Daphne’s wedding, then that he had met Asteria… The rest had fallen into place naturally.

‘Malfoy,’ Terry welcomed him customarily, as Draco closed the door behind him and stood by the chair. Boot, as every time Draco was in his presence, was smirking, so clearly in ecstasy of bossing about a man who had caused so much pain. ‘I’ve got a job for you.’

‘I surmised that much,’ Draco said, folding his arms and raising his eyebrows. He tried his best to keep his expression neutral.

‘I’m afraid we’ve got a bit of a situation with the Magical Law Enforcement Department,’ continued Terry, rubbing a hand over his unshaved chin. ‘Themis Finley – damn nuisance of a woman, if you ask me – managed to get hold of some files we weren’t too keen on releasing.’

‘I wonder you did release them.’

‘Well, she needed some background information on Theodore Nott – he’s in a bit of a sticky spot, something to do with Muggle artefacts – and we somehow slipped in Nott Sr’s file along with it. We need to retrieve it.’

Draco frowned. Terry’s poorly concealed eagerness at getting back a former Death Eater file clearly proved that Theodore’s father was prone to bribery.

‘Surely you don’t need me for that. Just send some staff flunky to Finley and ask for it back.’

‘Ah, yes,’ Terry answered, ‘that’s the problem. We’d rather not draw attention to the fact that Nott even has a file here.’
Draco rolled his eyes.

‘Fine. I’ll get it back for you.’


An hour later, Draco was riding up to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, going over his manoeuvre one more time. His plan wasn’t perfect, but at least he was aware of it: he knew that arrogance was the best way to fail.

Terry had explained to him where Themis’ office was located, and it was a tricky thing getting there without being noticed. Being seen and being noticed were two things that Draco easily managed to distinguish – the first was not nearly as problematic as the second. He had waited for an hour for Themis to take her lunch break. Figuring that her two assistants would take it with her, he had not been proven wrong when he saw cheerful-looking Lisa Turpin (another old Hogwarts classmate) and Hermione Granger-Weasley enter the canteen. He had not allowed himself to linger – he had known Granger well enough at Hogwarts to observe that she would rather spend a lunch break in the library than at a table.

Because of the lunch hour, the floor was not as crowded as usual. He paraded past what he was sure must be Lisa Turpin’s desk, then Hermione Granger’s, a sickeningly neat show, her in tray obviously empty. Themis’ office was located directly behind her desk, the blinds of the windows drawn. Draco took a quick look around him and entered when he was sure no one was looking, closing the door behind him.

The first place to search was the desk, and he turned on the lamp and dove at the papers. His instincts were refined, and searching the piles was quick and easy – he skimmed the lines for the name ‘Nott’, resting only when he reached it accompanied by ‘Senior’.

He did not even relish at his success. There was little to be proud of. He was nothing more than a common thief, really, working for an even greater corrupt government. His eyes were suddenly drawn to a neat pile of papers he had not shuffled through. A post-it was stuck to the top, covered in a neat scrawl: ‘Summaries of Death Eater cases, 2002-2007. – Hermione

Draco scowled. Of course the bookworm was sorting through his past crimes. Oh, how that job fitted her well. Judging others, showing how right she was, how brave she had been. God, he despised her.
His dislike for the woman quickly turned to shock as he heard footsteps outside the door. Panic was not exactly what he felt – he was too accustomed to sticky situations to feel that – but he did search the room frantically for a place to hide. All he came up with were the curtains at the far end of the office. He stuffed the file into his shirt and dove into them.

The door opened. He knew before she came in that it would be Granger. Only she could possibly ruin this.

She looked around the room confusingly. Granger had obviously noticed the lamp. She gave up and shrugged, walking over to the desk and placing a bundle of files she had been lugging in the centre. Then she let out a great sigh.

To Draco’s surprise, Granger slouched and supported herself to the desk as she raised a hand to her forehead and wiped the sweat off her face. The heat had not diminished since Hyperion’s trial. His own shirt was damp.

His view of her was perfect from behind the curtains – exactly as he preferred to examine the woman, to watch her while being unseen. He knew that whenever her eyes would be on him, she would be judging. And while she was judging, he could never properly observe her. Here was an opportunity to take all of her in.

And what an opportunity. Her legs were long and naked and tanned, partially concealed by a boring pencil skirt that reached her knees. He had never really evaluated her curves before – never even been able to because of the Hogwarts robes – so he did not know if having a baby had changed them. Her hand trailed down from her sweaty forehead to her sweaty neck. Her fingers massaged the dent between neck and shoulder, her palm pressing itself accidentally against her breast. What little of it was uncovered was glowing with her perspiration.

Draco was suddenly aware that he was not breathing. A sharp pain in his palms told him that he had dug his nails into his skin. His whole body was screaming in protest at his tense position, his thighs clenched and jaw square. He threw his shoulders back slowly in an attempt to soothe himself.

When he looked at Granger again, she was straightening her shirt and correcting her posture. Following her with his eyes, she left the room.

Fuck, thought Draco, breathing freely.


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