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Hermione was in her office filling out paperwork for the case she'd closed that morning. She rubbed her eyes wearily. As stressful as her morning in court had been, it was nothing compared to the afternoon she had.

 

What was she thinking? That she could actually represent Draco Malfoy? And defend him, no less? It was ridiculous.

 

She could just imagine Harry's and Ron's reactions.

 

Ron already hated the fact that Hermione now defended Death Eaters for a living. Usually when Hermione's work came up in a conversation, she and Ron had fierce fights. It was one of the reasons their romantic relationship fizzled out shortly after it began, and their friendship, although still intact, was a bit rocky.

 

Although Harry was usually more understanding about her job, Hermione knew even he would have a hard time swallowing the thought of her defending their old enemy.

 

Sure, she'd represented more despicable clients before—although she did think Malfoy was pretty despicable—but that wasn't the problem.

 

The problem was that she and Draco Malfoy couldn't stand to be in the same room as each other for more than thirty seconds.

 

He hates me just as much as I hate him.

 

The venom of her thought surprised her. Did she really hate him? For many years, she'd never allowed herself to. But now?

 

She recalled their last encounter at school. It had been several hours before Dumbledore was killed. Hermione was feverishly searching through old copies of The Daily Prophet in the Hogwarts library, looking for any snippets of information she could find to solve who the "Prince" was in Harry's Potions book that had caused so much trouble.

 

The spot where she was working was highly secluded—not many students had reason to be looking through decades-old copies of the Prophet. She returned another stack to its rightful spot, sighing because they had given her no leads.

 

She moved into the next aisle but stopped and gasped loudly upon seeing a lone figure sitting on the ground against the wall, head in his hands, elbows propped up on his knees.

 

Immediately, the boy's head shot up, his bloodshot gaze meeting her own.

 

"Malfoy," Hermione said, recognizing his pale face and blond head even in the shadows. "You scared me."

 

"Good," he jeered. "I should."

 

Ignoring his usual bad manners, she carefully analyzed his face. His cheeks were sallow, and his eyes looked haunted and tired with dark smudges beneath them.

 

"Are you all right?" she asked carefully. Although he'd only recently been released from the hospital ward after his duel with Harry, she had a feeling that wasn't the reason he looked so terrible.

 

Draco swore loudly and glared at her, rising to his feet. "I'm not one of your pathetic sob cases, Granger! Can't you ever mind your own business?!"

 

"It's just . . ." She swallowed, then thought better of pressing him about what was troubling him. "I'm glad you're okay after what happened with Harry. He shouldn't have—"

 

"Please! As if you care . . ." His voice was laced with bitterness. "You hate me."

 

"I don't hate you, Malfoy."

 

Surprise flashed in Draco's eyes, followed by a trace of sadness, but both were quickly masked by ice.

 

"You will," he said and pushed past her, knocking her shoulder with his arm before disappearing in the dark stacks.

 

Hermione banished the troubling memory from her mind. She'd already spent many hours after Dumbledore's death wondering if she could have said or done something to change Malfoy's mind about what he'd been about to do. There was no use torturing herself over it anymore.

 

She glanced at the clock on the wall and saw it was almost five o'clock. She began cleaning up her files.

 

By the time Hermione had returned from meeting Malfoy today, Minister Shacklebolt had already left his office. Begrudgingly, she'd resigned herself to waiting until tomorrow to tell him Draco Malfoy would need a new Inquisitor. She wanted to be rid of this situation as quickly as possible.

 

Hermione was preparing to go home, when a loud knock sounded on the door.

 

"Come in," she said, turning from her filing cabinet. She hoped it was Shacklebolt stopping back in to check how her meeting with Malfoy had gone.

 

The door opened and Narcissa Malfoy entered. She surveyed the room with cool eyes before her gaze settled on Hermione herself. "Hello, Miss Granger, may I have a word with you?"

 

Hermione was shocked to see the stately woman. She had only seen Narcissa Malfoy a handful of times, but she looked just like Hermione remembered. Her streaked platinum-and-black hair was perfectly in place, and her dark eyes showed little emotion. She stood tall and proud, certainly a Malfoy.

 

"I suppose . . . for a moment," Hermione said reluctantly. "I was just about to leave for the day."

 

Narcissa sank stiffly into a chair and nodded. "I won't keep you long."

 

"What can I help you with, Mrs. Malfoy?" Hermione sat across from her, knowing far too well that Narcissa's visit had something to do with Hermione's meeting with Draco earlier. Hermione had half a mind to tell the prim woman off for raising such a horrible son.

 

"I understand you've been selected to represent Draco in court."

 

Here it comesDisparaging remarks about my heritage and how I'm not fit to breathe the same air as the precious Malfoys.

 

"That was the case," Hermione said, smoothing her skirt. "However, due to my recent conversation with your son, we've both agreed it would be better if someone else were to represent him."

 

"I see . . . Well, I'd like to ask you to reconsider."

 

"Really?" That was not the response Hermione expected. "And why is that?"

 

"Miss Granger, as I'm sure you're well aware, the Ministry's pool of Inquisitors is . . . unethical, to say the least."

 

Hermione grimaced at her words, knowing they were true. Changes had been made at the Ministry, yes, but they certainly weren't changes that would favor the Malfoy family.

 

Narcissa continued. "As you can imagine, my husband's . . . history . . . left us with many enemies. There isn't one Inquisitor that I trust to justly defend my son . . . besides you."

 

Hermione regarded the stoic woman carefully. She knew what Narcissa Malfoy was saying was likely accurate. After all, it mirrored what Shacklebolt had told her earlier that day. Hermione felt her conscience tug at her and mentally cursed, ultimately feeling like she had somehow drawn the short straw by being a decent person compared to her coworkers.

 

"While that may be true, Mrs. Malfoy—"

 

"Please, call me Narcissa."

 

Hermione paused. "While that may be true . . . Narcissa. I still don't think I'm the right person to defend your son. We have our own history that is less than pleasant. I'm sure another Inquisitor could be found to plead his case. Perhaps the one who represented you?"

 

"My case was unique, Miss Granger. I was fortunate enough to have Harry Potter himself as a witness. Even a poor defense couldn't keep me from being pardoned. Draco will not have it so easy, I fear."

 

Narcissa took a deep breath and spoke a little louder. "All I ask is that you consider representing Draco. I have lost my husband and most of my friends. I don't want to lose my son too."

 

"With all due respect, Mrs. Mal—Narcissa, I don't think your son wants me to represent him. He told me so himself today—not too kindly, I might add."

 

Narcissa shook her head. "I have since spoken with Draco, and he understands the circumstances better now. He will cooperate."

 

Hermione stood up, taking everything in. She had been so close to washing her hands of the situation—of the Malfoy family—did she really want to put herself through this?

 

Hermione brought a weary hand to her temple and rubbed it. "Even if I agree to do this, I can't guarantee Mal—Draco, won't be sentenced to Azkaban. You know as well as I, the things he's done . . . they don't exactly bode well for him."

 

Narcissa stood up too, eyeing her coldly. "I'm aware of his situation. However, I think, should you choose to take his case on, you will find things are not so black and white." She pulled her wand out. "I will ask one more thing of you."

 

Before Hermione had a chance to question what that might be, Narcissa Malfoy raised her wand to her temple and extracted a few silvery wisps, placing them into a small flask. She held it out to Hermione. "Look at these—they're my memories. Please don't make your decision until you've seen them."

 

With a hesitant hand, Hermione took the flask from the woman's pale fingers. "All right . . ." She was not at all eager to look inside the mind of Narcissa Malfoy.

 

"Thank you." Narcissa swept from the room, leaving a very perplexed Hermione behind.


A/N: Hope you all enjoyed the two most important women in Draco's life (he just doesn't know it yet) meeting again. The dorky part of me (which let's face it, is the biggest part of me) is incredibly pleased that I got this chapter up in time for Mother's Day because of the chapter title. Anyway, I will update again next week. The next chapter is a longer one, and we are going to get to see those memories Narcissa shared.

 

As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this chapter! :)

 

In the world of Cece Louise, I got my author website up this week! You can check it out at CeceLouise.com.

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