Draco was infuriated, and as far as he was concerned this whole debacle had been that inane Muggle’s fault.
Admittedly, he had received a letter of warning back in July after his first run-in with Hermione Granger, but as she had remained blissfully absent from his life until today both the letter and the warning it carried had slipped Draco’s mind. He hadn’t even thought twice about using using magic in front of Granger during the course of this extremely long and eventful day, seeing how she already appeared to have advanced knowledge of the Wizarding World and all it encompassed. There had even been moments where Draco had forgotten that he was in the presence of a Muggle; Granger’s conviction that the Mudblood had stolen her magic was so strong it had somehow rubbed off on him and made his mind wander towards things he had read about long ago, in an extravagant manor house overlooking a Muggle village...
Draco barely paid attention to the corridors he was dragged through by the two brutes on either side of him. His mind was too preoccupied, and his thoughts seemed to have a hard time wrapping themselves around the challenges ahead as it seemed they would rather revolve around the Muggle who had caused this uproar. Placing blame on anyone but himself had always been a favourite pastime of Draco’s, and no matter how he twisted the situation he couldn’t fault anyone but Hermione Granger for the situation he was now facing. It was she who had cornered him in London nine months ago; it was she who had stolen his book, and his wand, and dragged him along on this ridiculous journet that was finally at its end.
He felt a sinking sensation in his stomach as Hermione Granger’s face faded away from his memory to be replaced by a much more unnerving prospect than some Muggle losing her mind: him losing his magic. Draco inwardly shivered. He was familiar with the Wizengamot; he had attended several trials with his parents following the Great War and seen for himself just how ruthless the upholders of the Wizarding Law could be. Though they had fought valiantly and defended themselves as best as possible considering all the evidence that pointed in their direction, both his mother and his father had been sent to Azkaban for life.
Draco tried desperately to come up with a scheme that could let him off the hook this time, but he was tired, and hungry, and his brain did not appear to be as sharp as it used to. Truth be told, he was paralyzed with fear. The Wizengamot had wanted to stick him in Azkaban with his parents and everyone else who had the Dark Mark etched upon their skin, and, to Draco’s utter annoyance, it was a statement made by a certain Harry Potter who had saved him at his last hearing.
"Draco Malfoy was there with me in the Room of Requirement just before the Second Wizarding World came to an end, and without his help I would likely died in that room."
This was overstretching the truth to the limit. Draco had only yelled for Vincent not to kill Potter because he knew that the Dark Lord wanted to be the one to finish him off, and besides, Vincent had not listened to his shouts. The whole disaster in the Room of Requirement had ended with Potter saving Draco’s life, which meant that Draco owed his life to Potter twice over by this last count. If anything, this fact only made him despise the boy with the lightning-shaped scar even more.
Draco grinded his teeth together in concentration. Potter should be the last thing on his mind now, seeing how there was no chance of him stooping in to save Draco this time; especially not after what had just happened in Starbeck Road. Speaking of, Draco shuddered, recalling how he had in a moment of pure desperation appealed to the Muggle for help. There was no chance in hell that the deranged Granger-girl could make her way into the Ministry a second time that day. And even if she by some miracle managed, what could she possibly say to make the Wizengamot drop all charges against him?
Karma is a fickle thing, Draco reflected glumly, as he allowed the lumpy guards to escort him into court.
He was placed upon an uncomfortable wooden chair. There were chains coiled around the chair’s arms, which Draco had seen spring to life and pin his parents to the spot during their hearings two years previous, but today the chains remained limp and lifeless. Apperantly he wasn’t considered much of a threat, which made the fact that the Ministry had sent a squadron of Hit-Wizards to fetch him seemed rather inconsistent.
‘Stop it!’, Draco ordered his thoughts, which continued to swivel around anything but the fact that he was minutes away from watching his wand being snapped. ‘Focus, Draco.’, but, somehow, he couldn’t. Perhaps he was in denial; not an altogether uplifting idea, yet perhaps this would make the blow of having his magic taken from him seem less of a calamity than it would have if he had been in his right state of mind.
Draco glanced around. The members of the Wizengamot were sitting on benches raises high above his seat, staring calmly and unblinkingly down at him as though he was a cockroach on the floor. The highest seat in the room was located on the top of the podium directly in fron of Draco. He had to crane his neck in order to meet the cold, dark eyes of an absurdly fat man brandishing an impressive handlebar mustache. Draco felt a surge of pure loathing rush through his veins; Grant Dodderidge, the man who had mercilessly convicted his parents.
"Disciplinary hearing of the first of March," Dodderidge spoke in a pompous voice that sent echoes off the courtroom’s walls. "-into offences committed under the Statue of Secrecy by Draco Lucius Malfoy."
Draco glared up at the Chief Warlock as the man began listing off the the Ministry officials present at the hearing, his mind working feverishly behind his gray, unfazed eyes. He did, of course, have some knowledge of Wizarding Law, yet for the life of him he could not think up a single flicker of information that might defend his crimes.
Before he had the time to organize his thoughts, the Chief Warlock directed a question at him. "You are Draco Lucius Malfoy?", Dodderidge asked contemptously, the slightest inkling of a smirk on his lips as Draco’s last name escaped them. Draco made a mental note to never smirk again.
"You received an official warning from the Ministry of Magic for casting a stunning spell on a Muggle last July, correct?"
"Yes," Draco said again, striving to make his voice sound bored rather than breathless. His mind flew once more towards the Granger-woman and reflected on how, had she never entered his life, this would not have been happening.
"And yet you performed magic in front of a Muggle on several occasions throughout the course of this day, fully aware of the illegality of your actions?"
"Yes," said Draco for a third time, adding a glare at Dodderidge for good measure. The case seemed as though it was already over for his sake, and he wondered vaguely wether or not he would be facing worse punishments than losing his magic if he seized this opportunity to declare his hatred for the man in front of him.
Draco continued to stare up at the man with the handlebar mustache, waiting for his next question, but Dodderidge’s cold, black eyes were fixed on something behind Draco.
Draco shot a glance over his shoulder, and what he saw made his jaw drop.
There, in the doorway, was none other than the mad Muggle herself.
"Who are you?"
This was a question Hermione had been asked so many times over the course of the day that it was getting rather old. She shot the people on the benches surrounding Malfoy a quick glance, taking in each of their faces in quick succession in order to dechiper wether or not any of them had been present back at Ron’s house and borne witness to her explanation there. The hasty scan told her that none of them had, and it was only with an effort Hermione managed to keep a self-satisfied smirk from spreading across her face.
She turned back to the man on top of the podium, the Chief Warlock, she presumed. "Astoria Jean Greengrass," she replied, more confidently than she felt.
"And what are you doing here?" the Chief Warlock inquired sharply, his eyes almost disappearing underneath his thick, hairy eyebrows as he frowned down at her.
Hermione hesitated for the merest moment before answering, meeting Malfoy’s wide eyes. "I am here as a character witness for Draco Malfoy," she announced, looking back up at the Chief Warlock just in time to catch the disgruntled expression on his face before it disappeared without a trace.
"Very well," he said coldly, giving his wand a flick to make another hard, wooden chair appear next to the one Malfoy was occupying. Hermione sat down, wishing very much that Malfoy would stop gawking at her as though he had never seen her before. This was crucial for her plan to work.
"So, enlighten us," the Chief Warlock spoke, his voice as hard and unpleasant as its owner. "How do you know the offender?"
Malfoy had finally stopped ogling her and settled back into his chair, but Hermione’s next utterance brought his stare back with interests. "I am Draco Malfoy’s fiancée."
The courtroom became deathly silent for a few seconds following this statement. Many of the witches and wizards seated on the benches surrounding them began whispering amongst one another and the Chief Warlock started skimming through his papers at top speed. Hermione chose this moment to stamp on Malfoy’s foot, hard, in the hope that it would wipe the look of shock and outrage off his pale face.
"We have no record of anyone named ‘Astoria Greengrass’," the man with the handlebar mustache said when he resurfaced from the paperwork.
"That's because I am what you refer to as a Muggle," Hermione quipped smartly, and even though her voice was bright and conversational, the words left a bitter taste in her mouth. She would much have preferred to assume the identity of ‘Astoria Greengrass; the foreign Squib’ once more, but had concluded that the members of the Wizengamot were likely to know wether or not foreign Squibs would register as Muggles on their tracking devices. She had decided that it was not a risk worth taking, even if finally admitting to being a Muggle felt like having a dagger gauged into the core of her very being.
A few of the witches and wizards seated in the rows around them stirred uncomfortably. "Preposterous," Hermione heard a witch mutter to her neighbor. "A Muggle inside the Ministry of Magic!"
Hermione glanced sideways at Malfoy and was relieved to see that he had finally taken the hint and recomposed his face into its usual expressionlessness. She raised her gaze to the Chief Warlock again, prompting him to interrogate her further. "So, you are the - er - offended?"
"Offended?" said Hermione with a sweet smile, reflecting miserably that, had Malfoy been lying about knowing how she could get her magic back, she could always pursue a carreer in acting. "I wouldn’t say offended, sir."
An annoyed grumble issued from beneath the handlebar before the Chief Warlock turned to Malfoy instead and fixed him with an angry glower. "Is this the Muggle you have knowingly, illegaly and repeatedly performed magic in front of?"
"Yes," said Malfoy, letting out a small, dramatic sigh. "Yes, it is."
"Why, then, did you not follow protocol and send the Ministry a letter to inform them that you were in a serious relationship with a Muggle and planning on using magic in front of said Muggle?" the man with the handlebar mustache demanded.
Malfoy hesitated, and Hermione was afraid he was at a loss for words. As it turned out, however, he was merely an extremely skilled actor. He shot Hermione an apologetic look of deepest remorse before he turned back to the Chief Warlock again. "I was embarrassed," he said. "My family has always prided itself on being pure-blooded and I’ve spent most of my life believing Muggles and Muggle-borns to be second-class. When I met Astoria, however-" in a surprise move he grasped Hermione’s hand, interweaving their fingers. His hand was freezing and he squeezed Hermione’s unneccisarily hard. "-I knew that my parents were wrong because, Muggle or not, she is the loveliest woman I have ever met."
A few of the oldest witches of the Wizengamot smiled and one wizened woman even clutched at her heart as though this was the most moving display she had ever witnessed. The Chief Warlock, however, did not look impressed. He scrunched his big nose at Malfoy and Hermione's interlaced fingers before he turned back to the papers on his desk once more, flicking through the pages at an impressive speed. He appeared not to find whatever he was looking for, because there was a distinct look of disappointment on his face as he looked back up. "That still doesn’t excuse your failure to send the Ministry a letter to notify them about what was going on, Mr. Malfoy," he said, rather grumpily.
"I didn’t expect to use magic in front of her yet," Malfoy replied smoothly, giving Hermione’s fingers another tight squeeze. Hermione suppressed a wince. "I was going to send the letter this week, actually, but I managed to splinch myself when Apparating home from work because of the blizzard," he indicated the dried blood besmirching his white neck. "And, well, things got a bit out of hand," Malfoy finished in an apologetic tone Hermione had thought him incapable of procuring. Several of the wizards and witches in the rows above them smiled knowingly. Hermione gathered that the dreadful weather had caused quite a few splinchings over the course of this extremely prolonged winter.
The man with the handlebar mustache looked around at the rest of the Wizengamot and, seeing the looks on their faces, appeared to give in. "Those in favor of conviction," he barked and Hermione looked up through her lashes to see a hand or two reaching into the air.
"Those in favor of clearing the criminal of all charges?" the Chief Warlock called and, despite his obvious emphasis on the word ‘criminal’, at least forty hands rose into the air.
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