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Straightaway Dangerous

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Much Madness is divinest Sense -
To a discerning Eye -
Much Sense - the starkest Madness -
‘Tis the Majority
In this, as All, prevail -
Assent - and you are sane -
Demur - you’re straightaway dangerous
And handled with a Chain

— Emily Dickinson

 

 

Prologue

May 2, 1998

Malfoy fell off the broom and lay face down, gasping, coughing, and retching. Harry rolled over and sat up: The door to the Room of Requirement had vanished, and Ron and Hermione sat panting on the floor beside Goyle, who was still unconscious. — Chapter 31, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

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Harry was panicking over Ginny, but Hermione was doing her best not to vomit all over herself. She didn’t like brooms, and she was shaking, though she told herself over and over that it was done with, and the fire was trapped in the Room of Requirement, and she wouldn’t be consumed by burning flames or fall to her death tonight—probably. 

All she could think about was the Fiendfyre. She’d read about it, how it burned your soul long after your body died, how you suffered for centuries before you found peace… if you ever did. Looking at Malfoy’s stunned face and singed skin, she didn’t have the heart to tell even him, evil twat that he was.

The important thing was that they had destroyed all of the horcruxes save for the snake now. The end was in sight, and by God and Merlin, they would win this fucking battle. Hermione could say such a word in her head at least, even if she never would aloud. 

Then Percy and the twins backed into view, duelling the Imperius’d Minister, Thicknesse. 

“Hello, Minister!” Percy bellowed. “Did I mention I’m resigning?”

The twins cackled and Fred was saying, “You are—” but something large and growling pounced upon him, sending him flying back. Fred collapsed under the weight of it, and then it lifted its head and evil yellow eyes stared hungrily down at him. 

Hermione screamed, shaking uncontrollably. Greyback, she thought, her body frozen in fear. Bellatrix had wanted to give her to him. 

Greyback grinned maliciously and said, “Heard your little taunts on the wireless, Weasley. Didn’t think anyone would figure out your passwords, did you? Tsk, tsk, ain’t much a good round of Crucio won’t get out of a Mudblood. You first, methinks, and then your delicious brother.” 

Then quick as a flash, he lunged forward and bit down on Fred’s shoulder. Fred screamed, his voice raw and wet, and Hermione’s brain caught up with her fear; she lifted her wand to Greyback, a Reducto on her lips, but the castle wall imploded before she could get the words out. 

Had she somehow cast wordlessly? She’d never succeeded in that before, but magic did tend to amplify with stress and emotional trauma. 

Stones and rubble and portraits flew at them. Hermione ducked and covered her head. I’ve just kissed Ron for the first time, and now I’m going to die, she thought. 

She was knocked backwards into the blank space where the door to the Room of Requirement had just been. The stone was warm to the touch and she scrambled away, coughing and choking on the dust swirling in the air. Fred had stopped screaming, but there were panicked voices and sounds clouding up the corridor. Hermione stumbled towards them to help, but then the rubble began to move and Greyback pushed himself up, unharmed, leaving Fred surrounded by a pool of blood and the remains of a castle wall. 

Please be alive, Hermione screamed in her head, crawling towards Fred. Percy and George were yelling, climbing over the stones to get to their brother, and Hermione’s mind was spinning. She was so dizzy. Please just be unconscious

Greyback shook the dust from himself and stepped out of the mess. Fred’s leg was trapped beneath the rubble and George and Percy were trying desperately to free him. Ron hit him with an Ennervate and Fred’s eyes shot open. He gasped in pain, his hand going automatically to the gaping wounds on his shoulder. 

“Thank Merlin,” Harry cried as he stumbled over to help. 

Yeah, thank Merlin Greyback was mauling you, Hermione thought dazedly. Fred was right in the middle of all the rubble, and would doubtless be dead if the Werewolf had not been covering his body and head with his own. 

There was a terrified, aborted cry behind her, and she turned dazedly. Malfoy was staring straight at something right behind her. She turned back again and there was Greyback, so close she could smell the whiskey and blood on his fetid breath, feel it hit her face as he laughed. 

Hermione screamed. 

Greyback eyed the two of them for half a second, deciding who to take first, and in the end, swiped one big arm around both her and Malfoy’s shoulders and tackled them down together. She couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think, couldn’t hear anything but Malfoy’s raw, broken screams as Greyback’s teeth ripped into him. She reached blindly out and grabbed hold of Malfoy’s hand, struggling to free them both. Greyback was too strong, too heavy. 

The metallic scent of blood rose up, so heavy she could drown in it. Malfoy’s screams were becoming hoarse and sticky-sounding. He coughed and Hermione could hear the blood in it. We’re going to die, she thought again, squeezing Malfoy’s hand harder. He squeezed it back and she began to cry, even as she continued to struggle against Greyback. 

Malfoy stopped screaming and Hermione only had a second to understand why before she felt Greyback’s teeth clamp down on her thigh, searing right through the heavy denim of her jeans like they were not even there. Hermione threw her head back and screamed and screamed and screamed. Her body shook with adrenaline and violence. She couldn’t reach her wand; it was lodged under her leg.

Hermione kicked at Greyback’s gut with her uninjured leg, and pounded his head with the hand Malfoy wasn’t holding, but it did nothing to deter him. He chewed on her flesh like a steak, lapping at the wounds and slurping up her blood, and Hermione turned away and vomited through her screams, disgusted and horrified and agonised in nearly equal measure.

Malfoy’s fingers were squeezing hers tightly and she could feel him struggling with Greyback too, despite his own injury. Over her own screams, she recognised flashes of spell-fire and voices. Suddenly, Greyback jerked away from her leg and Hermione hurriedly pulled herself and Malfoy back to the wall, putting as much distance between them and the Werewolf as she could. She was breathing so heavily she thought she’d die, and was acutely aware of the fact that she was having a severe panic attack, the likes of which she had not suffered since OWLs. How much blood had she lost? Was there enough left? Was she going into shock?

Harry and Ron were firing spell after spell at Greyback, but it was doing little beyond surface wounds. He lunged at them and Hermione’s heart dropped into her stomach as Ron went down beneath him. She pulled herself up to sitting, supporting herself as best she could against the wall, and sent the strongest spells she knew at the Werewolf. A well placed Expelliarmus sent him flying back, and he whirled around, advancing on her and Malfoy again. 

“No!” a woman cried. 

A black figure jumped between them, grunting as Greyback pounced, his mouth closing around a forearm. The pair fell backwards, landing atop Hermione and Malfoy and causing both of them to scream in agony as their wounds lit up in pain. The newcomer’s hood fell back and golden blonde hair spilled out, darkening with blood as it fell over Malfoy’s wounds.

“Mother, no!” Malfoy shrieked. 

Narcissa Malfoy struggled beneath Greyback, her teeth bared in fury and pain as his jaws clamped down on her arm. She wriggled beneath him, and then Hermione heard her speak. Her voice was as cold and contained as ice as she bit out, “Avada Kedavra.”

The green light that flared up reflected the surprise on Greyback’s bloodied face. He collapsed on top of the three of them, and all the other noises of the battle disappeared. Hermione could hear nothing but Malfoy’s panicked breaths, and Narcissa’s forcedly calm ones. 

Mrs Malfoy shuddered, and then said, her voice shaky, “Levicorpus.” 

She heaved her wand-hand outwards and Greyback’s body followed the movement, flying down the corridor and crashing into a suit of armour. 

Mrs Malfoy pulled herself up on trembling legs, then turned to help Draco. After a moment’s hesitation, she helped Hermione up, as well. Hermione favoured her good leg, feeling faint from blood loss.

“Ron,” Hermione cried, trying to stumble over to them, but not making it very far. “Harry.” 

Were they still alive? Were they bleeding to death? 

“Hermione!” Ron yelled. 

She couldn’t see him, but his voice was full of suppressed pain, and she choked back a sob as she crawled in the direction of it. George and Percy were robeless and shirtless, having shucked them to create bandages for Harry and their brothers. Fred was leaning against the wall already trussed up, looking woozy but alive and conscious. Ron was reaching for her, his face covered in tear tracks as Percy tightened a sling over his arm and shoulder. 

Harry stood by them, already wrapped up. He looked to be in shock. When he saw Hermione approaching, he shook his head and stumbled towards her, legs shaking. His eyes travelled down to her destroyed denims and then back up to her face, his expression grim. 

Harry licked his dry lips, and wordlessly held his hand out to her. The bandage over it was soaked through in blood, and the blood was black.

Hermione stopped and looked down at her leg for the first time. Blood as black as tar ran down her thigh and calf, pooling in a black puddle by her shoe. Hermione inhaled sharply — It wasn’t a full moon; how could—? 

She whirled around and saw that both Malfoys bled the same. The colour of infection, the colour of Lycanthropy, pouring from their bodies.

“We must dress these wounds properly,” Mrs Malfoy stated. “We need to retreat to a safe place for medical attention before we suffer too much blood loss to be helped.”

Percy nodded. “The Gryffindor common room isn’t far. It should be safer than out here.”

“Unless the Tower falls,” George muttered, already heaving Fred up. 

Harry looked suspiciously at the Malfoys, but seemed to think that Draco was of no threat in this state, and Narcissa less of one until Draco, at least, was saved. Goyle lay Stunned and untouched at their feet next to the broken diadem. Twice he’d been lucky tonight. 

“Good, you all go.” Harry’s mouth was set in that way Hermione hated.

“What about you? You were bitten, too,” Ron said, struggling to get up despite Percy’s hands keeping him in place. “I’m not letting you go alone!”

“Me neither!” Hermione said. 

“No, you have to get healed or you’ll bleed out,” Harry said. “Mine’s not as bad.”

Hermione nodded dazedly, thinking that she’d just Episkey the bite and be on her way, Harry’s opinion be damned. There was a bright flash that reminded her of Colin Creevey, and she giggled at how silly it would be to take a photo during battle. She aimed her wand at her thigh, but was having trouble focusing. Then a great wave of dizziness overcame her, and Hermione crumpled to the floor.

Chapter Text

November, 2005

 

Granger's hair only got worse after the bite. Unfortunately, so had his. Which begged the question why he was so interested in touching it.

She pushed her heavy fringe out of her eyes, exhaled in such a way that her whole body seemed to deflate, and stared down into the cauldron on her kitchen table.

Draco leaned over to peer in. “What are you doing? You're not even half-done stirring yet.”

“I know, Malfoy,” she said. “It's just so hot in here. I can barely breathe.”

Draco frowned. It wasn’t like Granger to be this prickly the day of the full moon. Usually, she was as bright as a fresh lemon, as if she could make being a Werewolf suck less purely with forced optimism. 

She must be up to something with his mother again, Draco surmised.

“We’ve got two cauldrons coming up in five minutes,” Draco said instead, checking is watch. He went ahead and ticked them off their list because neither of them ever made mistakes this late into a brew.  

“I know,” she muttered.

Draco scowled at the cauldrons because otherwise he’d have to scowl at Granger and then there was no telling what the animal within him would do. He couldn’t give in to any of his more primal urges this close to the moon; he was terrified of what might happen. 

This was not how he liked to spend the morning before the full moon. No rest for the Werewolf, apparently, since nearly every one of them these past seven years had been spent exactly thus. The morning of the full moon was always the busiest day of the month for him and Granger, even though it should’ve been a day to rest and prepare; they brewed from dawn until lunch most days in order to meet the nation’s demand for Wolfsbane — a demand that had unfortunately increased dramatically with the Battle of Hogwarts.

There was something off about Hermione today. It wasn’t very polite to sniff other Werewolves on purpose, but Draco was not a very polite person, and she was not just any old Werewolf—she was his Werewolf—so he’d figured out long ago her cycle coincided with the Wolf’s. Perhaps she was having a rougher month than usual.

Draco’s brain caught up with its own thoughts; he frowned. That way lie moon madness. She was not his Werewolf. She was his friend.

He didn’t like to think like a Werewolf, no matter how much his body tried to force it once a month. Sometimes he would think of Professor Lupin, who Draco had never liked, and who’d died the night they were all turned. One Wolf down, thirty-nine new ones created. 

He wondered if Lupin would’ve liked this new era for Weres—an era where they weren’t accepted, but they were acknowledged. 

They had a few hours yet to get all these Wolfsbanes distributed, but there was no sense in risking the potency by letting them oxidise. Meanwhile, Hermione was growling under her breath and rubbing her midsection with one hand while she stirred their sixth batch with the other. 

He cleared his throat and said, “You could take a potion for that.”

She growled. “I wish I could take a potion for you sometimes.”

Draco rolled his eyes. “No, you don’t.” So she was going to be in a mood.

She sighed, picked up her stirring rod. “What would it matter?” she said. “My menstrual cycle affects no one but me.”

Draco finished decanting the first cauldron and pulled another from the fire, trying to figure out why that one statement made him feel so desolate. 

Granger passed him the stirring rod without missing a beat, which was nothing unusual. She’d been his colleague for five years, since they both finished the morally questionable, likely illegal, and highly secret training program for the Unspeakables. 

While he’d never admit it to their twat boss, Graves, or certainly not Graves’s mysterious boss, Apex, the department hadn’t been wrong when they said he and Granger had compatible magic. And compatible tempers. The compatible monthly schedules went unsaid. 

They were the only two Werewolves in the department, so far as he knew, but not the only ones in the Ministry. There was Weasley, of course; Draco couldn’t ever escape him, no matter how much he tried. And then there was Weasley’s on-again-off-again something, Brown. Her Auror partner, also a Werewolf, was Draco’s cousin Nymphadora—Lupin’s widow—and if Draco wasn’t mistaken, also Weasley’s on-again-off-again something. Draco remained unsurprised that a Weasley left no opportunity to sow a wild oat unexplored.

The Ministry was willing to hire some Werewolves, for appearances’ sake, but that didn’t mean anyone liked it. The Minister, Kingsley Shacklebolt was theoretically in favour of equality, but in practice had managed to get very little through the Wizengamot or even drum up much public support. What public support they did have came largely from Granger’s and his mother’s tireless efforts. 

He was meant to help, too, as Alpha. He found it wasn’t really to his liking—the whole ‘exposing yourself to vulnerability and scorn’ thing had lost its flavour. 

Mother was still trying to get him to set up a monthly visibility luncheon with the other Ministry Weres, but he’d so far managed to skirt it. Mother had years of good social rapport to build off of before she’d been made a Werewolf; Draco had just been a ‘reformed Death Eater idiot kid who should’ve been kept on the training wand a few more years’—Rita Skeeter’s words, often quoted—and had no such luxury. He didn’t like drawing attention to himself and most normal (read: not Weasleys or Grangers) Werewolves didn’t, either.

‘If you let them see that you’re just like everyone else,’ Mum had said, and had then paused—no doubt remembering the crushed tea set she’d had to replace just that morning. ‘Perhaps not just like everyone else. A little stronger. Ah—we could add that to our talking points. Do you suppose that Werewolf-led fitness programmes would take off?’

Mother’s own fitness programme now included a morning jaunt around the perimeter of the Manor grounds and fox hunting at the full moon while his father followed sedately on Abraxan-back. Superior strength was not something Draco felt they could advertise to the general public. Not without inciting terror, anyway. 

And as much as he fantasised about inciting terror, as he used to be able to do with impunity in school, as a full-blooded, wealthy wizard, there was no way in hell he was going to draw even more attention to his blood status. Like others in the Hogwarts pack, he’d been publicly outed the morning after the Battle. And it was a trespass he would take revenge for, in time.

But he did value his mother’s and Granger’s resolves to change public opinion of Werewolves. It was good that they had something to keep them occupied, so that they didn’t dwell on how utter shit it was to be a Werewolf, as Draco did. He was at least aware of his personality flaws. 

And he could agree that not being spat on or barred from certain shops would be a nice change. He just wasn’t willing to get on stage to talk about it, to have wizards and witches show up simply to gawk at him, to be asked humiliating questions such as the one Granger had received last month, at her most recent rally:

“Ms Granger: How many nipples do you have at the full moon? Would you share photos?”

If Draco had been in Werewolf form at that moment, he would have ripped that disgusting creep limb from limb and pissed on his stinking corpse. Instead, he merely kept a list of names. No one had ever called him brave. He had, in fact, been called coward many times and it was undoubtedly true. But even cowards got revenge.

No one spoke to Granger like that. No one

While Granger and Mother worked on the PR, Draco focused on something else: a cure. Because as soon as he was cured, he wouldn’t immediately be Kissed for killing creeps who spoke that way to Granger. He’d at least get a trial, and a trial could be purchased. Just ask his father.

Draco’s mother had not asked him to be more public since then, though he knew she was still thinking of it. She was not a coward. She’d taken her own infection in stride, walking in public with her head high and her scarred arm exposed when it was warm enough. She’d suffered the taunts, spitting, and exposés with dignity and come out more respected than she’d been before. Or perhaps more feared. Their money had certainly helped soothe the way.

If Draco had been in a better mental space after the Battle, after the trials, he would’ve done the same. After all, how dare anyone look down on a Malfoy. But depression was a stronger enemy than the world, and by the time he’d conquered the Wolf inside him, inertia was stronger, too.

Granger was not faring as well, despite her war heroine status. The ‘perhaps a bit stronger’ part applied to her. She’d always been such a scrawny thing before the bite (a year on the run with very little to eat certainly hadn’t helped that) and Draco supposed she still wasn’t used to being able to unscrew jar lids on her own. 

While many people wanted to like Granger because of her connection to Potter, her forceful personality and that one time she’d accidentally crushed a podium while listening to a witch ask her if how often she went into heat had stuck in people's minds. She had never let depression take her. She’d taken it.

Now, she could dislocate Weasley’s shoulder when she was trying to mother hen him into sitting down to tea. He’d always been a burly git even before the bite, and even more so now. Still, she caught him off-guard on occasion.

Draco was their pack’s Alpha male because magic was a strange arbiter that he would never understand, despite the vastness of the Malfoy library. He was nowhere near the biggest or most physically strong. He was tall, wiry, and generally aggrieved. He’d certainly never fought for the rank, but he had it nonetheless.

The others in their pack were loners so far as Draco could tell, and really he couldn’t blame them if they wanted to hide from him and the others who’d been exposed by that photograph in the Prophet following the Battle. If he could’ve hidden his affliction, he would’ve done it in a heartbeat.

But sometimes… sometimes he wondered.

Best not to focus on it. They had work to do. Another month, another batch. 

“I’m going to drop this batch off at Slug and Jiggers,” said Draco. He paused, then carefully added, “Do you want me to take the ones down to Aberrant’s, too?”

Unfortunately, she saw right through him. “For all the fuss you make over my flat being in Knockturn Alley,” Hermione said, not looking up from her decants, “You certainly enjoy chumming it up with my landlady.”

In truth, Draco was sort of jealous of Granger’s flat. There was a nice fireplace (but it was a wizard-made building and every wizard-made building had a fireplace unless zoning ordinances were particularly contrary, so it didn't say much that there was one). It was in decent shape, had a clean loo, and was in prime location for those of abnormal circumstance, like Werewolves. No one in Knockturn Alley batted a glamoured eyelash at a Werewolf, even prior to the abolition of the Werewolf Registry. It was also not the same place her parents lived, which was more than he could say for his own apartment within Malfoy Manor. 

He sniffed. “I was only trying to be nice. You always tell me I should do that. If you don’t want my help, I’ll just go home and wait for moonrise.” 

She finally looked up at that, her mouth quirking on one side. Her pointed canine peeked out between her lips in a most becoming—and beastly—sort of way. He scowled. It wasn’t enough that he was a Werewolf. It had to also happen that he was attracted to the look of Werewolves. Or maybe it was just Granger. Fate adored him.

“As if, Malfoy. We’ve got plans tonight. You, me, and BBC Four.”

Draco narrowed his eyes. “No. I can’t sit through another documentary. Global warming depresses me, and I can’t do anything about it anyway since magic doesn’t have a carbon footprint. I want to watch EastEnders.” 

The living room Floo flared to life before she could respond, and Draco’s eyes widened at the extremely loud voice on the other end. 

“Hermione? Sweetheart? It’s Mum! Are you home? Dad’s ready to come through to check the locks.” 

“Fuck,” Draco muttered. 

Granger gave him a speaking look. It told him to behave himself around her parents or get out of her flat. The prospect of meeting Muggles was not something he stayed up late fantasising about. The prospect of meeting her Muggles the morning of the full moon was even less so. He was confronted with aggression enough already.

He chose to Disapparate.

 

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Most witches, Hermione might suppose, would have been terrified of telling their parents they were, quite suddenly, a Werewolf. 

Most witches were not Hermione Granger. 

And most witches’ parents were not Wendell and Monica Wilkins, recently of Australia, who had a magical daughter, discovered they were not, in fact, of Australia, and likewise were not actually Wendell and Monica. They handled shock well, as all Grangers should.

They’d put up with quite a bit from their daughter—from magic to memory charms to moving across the globe. Hermione was always haring off on mad adventures, like camping. All good learning experiences, according to the Granger-Wilkinses. 

If Hermione wanted to be a Werewolf, well, they would support her life choices. 

They supported her so much, in fact, that despite all of Hermione’s protestations and subtle Confundus charms, it never failed that on the morning of the full moon, Wendell Granger-Wilkins (he was not comfortable returning to Clarence) would come through her Floo, in her flat, in bloody Knockturn Alley, to do a check of her doors and windows. As if a burglar might try to break in while Hermione was indisposed.

“There you are,” said Mum, smiling through the flames. “Having a good day off work, then?” 

“Lovely, thank you,” Hermione said. 

After over seven years of this routine, she’d learned to not bother trying to correct them. Hermione was, in their eyes, a hipster, and no amount of ‘I didn’t choose this!’ would change their minds. Muggles, it seemed, were incapable of separating real Lycanthropy from Thriller music videos. 

Her ‘gardening’ hobby probably helped cement the ‘She’s just a free spirit, no idea where she gets it from’ idea in her parents’ minds. 

She didn’t tell Ron and Harry about the illegal gardening, as inviting Aurors into one’s questionable hobbies wasn’t wise, but there was truly nothing Hermione could do that would make her neighbourhood any uglier, and so, like with robbing Gringotts, she was able to justify it in her head. Even if she did feel sort of a little guilty sometimes.

“Any nice plans for the evening?” asked Mum.

Hermione struggled for something suitably mundane to answer with. Sometimes, Hermione was convinced her parents much preferred their land of make-believe where nothing had irreparably and devastatingly hurt their daughter, and she was just a big fan of shapeshifter fantasy novels. 

“I think I’ll read for a bit, catch up on laundry before moonrise, have an early night, the usual.” 

“Good for you, darling. You deserve a break. Dad’s coming through now. Love you.”

Mum leaned out of the fireplace and was soon replaced by a large hand reaching through, as if searching for something to hold onto. Hermione rolled her eyes, and grabbed hold of her dad’s arm. She tugged him through, and he stepped into her flat gracefully enough, all things considered.

“Good morning, sweetheart.” 

He ruffled her hair. Since it could not get any worse, Hermione remained unfazed. As was his pattern, Dad moved off towards the bedroom to begin his rounds, calling over his shoulder, “Are you watching EastEnders tonight? Sonia and Naomi have—”

Fortunately, her wand alarm chirruped, signalling that the last cauldron was ready for stirring and decanting. “Let me just check my potion,” she called. 

He continued his circuit apace. It was habit now. Her dad knew her flat as well as she did. By the time she’d finished stirring and begun the decants, he was finished. He met her in the kitchen, and peered into the cauldron like a first year. She was really going to have to break him of that habit. Eventually. It was mostly harmless, and he found potions so fascinating that she hated to deny him his little pleasures.

“Smells good. What is it?” 

It did not, in fact, smell good. Wolfsbane smelled too much. It was a confluence of dozens of highly odorous ingredients. They were all, according to human consensus, nice-smelling aromas, but they were the very definition of migraine to an actual Werewolf. 

To Hermione, it smelled like someone who lived off lavender and vetiver sicked up on a pollinating hydrangea bush. The ingredients smelled poisonous—and they were, to her. Magic was very strange sometimes. 

She eyed her father, trying not to smile. “Wolfsbane Potion.” 

He nodded sagely. “What would happen if I drank some?” 

Hermione paused in the middle of corking a vial. Their eyes met over the steam of the cauldron and Wendell’s mouth quirked up on one side. With him as her father, she’d never stood a chance against the appeals of science. He would’ve been a Ravenclaw, no doubt about it. With his experimental nature, he probably would have also been a dead Ravenclaw. 

“I don’t know. Probably nothing, since you’re not a Werewolf.” 

Which reminded her to take her own Wolfsbane. She did so, grimacing at the taste of flowers.  

Her father pursed his lips as if this were a great mystery to consider. He met her eyes again. Their stare held. Hermione huffed out a sigh. She always gave in, in the end. 

“Oh, fine!” She passed him the vial. “If you tell Mum I gave you this—” 

“Yes, yes,” said Dad. He uncorked it and took a small sip. His nose scrunched. She smirked. Scents could be deceiving. After a moment, he said, “I don’t feel very wolf-like.” 

“That’s the point.” 

She sent him home with the excuse that she had errands to run, and sincerely hoped that this would not be the time that his penchant for experimental potions was the time that poisoned him, as she would be unable to hold a wand after 6:08 this evening. 

Knowing her father quite well, she’d triple checked multiple sources to make sure the potions she kept to hand were not harmful to Muggles. She then re-checked those sources once a year. Hermione knew it was perfectly harmless, but it was her dad (and she still struggled with an inherent need to follow rules, despite the huge changes to her life), so she always felt a tiny bit nervous when she gave in to his scientific inquiries. 

It was for this reason that her mother had the St Mungo’s Floo address and her father had a spare bezoar. 

Downstairs, in her apothecary, Mrs Aberrant was restocking the gurdyroot while listening to Celestina Warbeck’s 2004 Christmas album. It was only November, but never let it be said that the denizens of Knockturn Alley were not a festive lot. 

While Hermione and Draco had been up since six completing the last stage of the Wolfsbane potions, the shops here in the Alley were just starting for the day, and it was already after nine. As an early riser, Hermione was unimpressed. 

“You can set them by the till, dear,” said Mrs Aberrant. 

She was a witch Hermione was certain had a degree of Centaur blood in her, however that would’ve worked. But she also charged Hermione a fair rent and didn’t complain about the late night barbecue deliveries Hermione frequently ordered.

“Abner’ll transfer the money to your account this afternoon.”

“Thanks ever so,” Hermione said, flashing her a smile and a wave.

“Just a moment, dear,” her landlady said as Hermione was reaching for the door. 

Hermione paused, looking back over her shoulder. “Yes?”

Mrs Aberrant’s already equine face took on an even longer appearance as her mouth turned down. She came over to Hermione in an awkward trot, easing into Hermione’s space in a furtive way. Hermione was accustomed to such behaviour from her community. Everything was done in secret here. 

“I was going to ask you,” said Mrs Aberrant quietly, “if you’d heard from any of yours lately?”

Hermione’s hackles rose. She pulled Mrs Aberrant away from the door and whispered, “My pack? Is something wrong? I haven’t felt anything. Have you heard something?” 

Mrs Aberrant looked concerned. “One does hear things,” she murmured, and Hermione nodded. She knew that well. “Strangeness… and a few Vampires saying they sniffed traces of you lot where you ought not be. One never knows how much of it is true.” 

Hermione knew that even better. 

Still, if the ever-steady Vampires—who were not exactly mortal enemies of the Werewolves, but did tend to find the ‘stench’ of Lycanthropy unbearable—were noticing things, then something was amiss.

“Who should I ask?” Hermione said. It was no use asking who her landlady had heard it from. No use going straight to a Vampire, either.

Mrs Aberrant pursed her lips, glancing through the dirty windows up and down the street. “I suspect you’ll want to speak to Haddie about it at the least,” she said. “Damn woman knows everything.”

Hermione nodded. “Thank you, Mrs A. I need to pick up some lamb for dinner anyway. I’ll stop ‘round and see what I can dig up.”

“Do,” Mrs Aberrant said. Then her whole face changed and a half second later the bell above the door behind Hermione chimed. “Good morning, Roger—I’ve got your gout tonic already wrapped up for you!” she called, and then she was away, as if their entire conversation had not happened.

Hermione slipped out the door, her mind working furiously. She couldn’t help getting worried whenever there were whispers on the Werewolf front. There were never whispers about nice things Werewolves were doing, after all, and it was worrying to hear some Weres were moving around without her knowing about it.

So far, all of these little tips had always turned out to be nothing.

But Hermione was waiting for the day when one of them didn’t. She’d always disdained Trelawney, but now Hermione’s stomach churned with precognitive worry, and she wondered if today would be the day a whisper was based on fact.

Chapter Text

Being partnered to an Unspeakable who also happened to have a Potions Mastery made Hermione’s life infinitely easier. Even if that Potions Master was Malfoy. 

Because of the importance and complexity of Wolfsbane, it could only be sold commercially if a licensed brewer prepared it. There weren’t many of those in the UK and even fewer who’d sell it for the price of materials, which Hermione found to be exceedingly dastardly. 

In retaliation for those beastly old wizards’ avarice, Hermione elected to spend every full moon distributing cheap Wolfsbane to partnered apothecaries around the UK. 

Naturally, Draco was indentured into helping, by way of being her friend and susceptible to her ‘determined’ look. 

Thus she spent her morning, Apparating from shop to shop and dropping off this moon’s orders, smiling pleasantly to all her retailers while her head was busy thinking of her conversation with Mrs Aberrant. 

She sold them to the shops at cost, with contracts in place that stipulated the shops could mark them up no more than five per cent, to cover administrative burden. The point was to have every Werewolf in Britain taking Wolfsbane every full moon, even the shy ones who wouldn’t reveal themselves to Hermione, much less non-Weres. 

Therefore the contracts also required that the shops not ask for a signature from Wolfsbane customers, a legality that had been rendered null and void after the abolishment of the Werewolf Registry, but which many bigoted business owners would very much like to continue enforcing. Hermione refused to partner with such shops.

She met Harry and Ron for lunch after dropping off the last of her potions at the Cardiff Werewolf Association guildhall, already feeling every minute of the full moon’s approach. 

It had been a long morning, and she found herself slumping into the seat opposite them at the new Impervious Cauldron, Hannah Abbott’s first of many planned cauldron-themed cafés. Hermione reached into her bag and fished around, withdrawing the last of her vials.

Ron took it from her with barely a glance, uncorked it between two bites of crepe, and swallowed it back. He barely grimaced, which just went to show how varied his palette was.  

“Thanks, Hermione. Your potions are always the least revolting.”

Harry snorted. He was picking at a cheese and chutney sandwich while eyeing Ron’s overflowing crepe with some concern.

Hermione’s eyes crinkled, feeling a little of the weight of the morning leave her shoulders. “Malfoy made that one.”

Ron faked a gag. He was obnoxiously photogenic even then. “Figures.” He gestured with his fork. “Want some? It’s blackberry-bacon-venison.”

She did. Hermione pulled his plate across to her, and Ron scowled. He lifted his hand for Hannah’s attention, gestured pointedly at his erstwhile crepe, and Hannah nodded, pivoting back to the ovens to find him a new one. Hermione munched on, unconcerned.

“I’ve no idea how you can eat that vile thing,” Harry muttered, watching warily for Hannah’s blonde head to reappear, which was rich coming from someone who ate just about everything. “It’s still raw. I can smell the blood from here.”

“So can I,” Ron said, delightedly.

Even now, there weren’t many places that welcomed Werewolves—much less catered to them—but Hannah did. Her full moon menus were stuffed with all sorts of different rare meats, and as Werewolf appetite rarely subsided, it turned out to be a smart business decision on her part. 

The week before and the days after a full moon always saw Hannah’s café full to bursting with tired, hungry Werewolves and their families. Not all of them were public, but Hermione knew who was in her pack and she could smell a Werewolf two blocks away on the new moon—and twelve away when it was full. 

She was also a good Alpha, and a conscientious person to begin with, so she let her pack-mates hide in their anonymity and didn’t begrudge them for it. Most of them had officially acknowledged themselves to her privately, but that was only formality—even those who hadn’t known at first that she was their Alpha knew she knew they were wolves. 

On days like this, Hermione ignored them in Hannah’s shop, and Ron, who was by far the most excellent Beta in history, followed her lead. 

If they were not ready to be public, even with the Registry gone, then Hermione would not force them to be public. The wizarding public knew 39 people had been infected the night of the Battle, thanks to a leak from St Mungo’s, but they were only certain of those unfortunate ones who’d been photographed being attacked—Hermione, Ron, Draco, and Mrs Malfoy—or had later come out publicly, like the Weasley twins, Lavender, and Tonks. 

Even now, it was better not to remind wizards of their affliction whenever possible.

“So,” said Hermione, upon finishing the last of Ron’s crepe. “Sure you don’t want to come over tonight? There’s a new documentary on the cycles of climate change over the Earth’s his—”

“Can’t,” Ron said, before she could really get going. “Harry’s having a pick-up game of humans versus Werewolves versus quaffle. I’m keeping for the Werewolf team.”

“One of my best ideas yet, and I say that as someone who frequently has great ideas,” Harry added.

Hermione scrunched her nose, looking from Ron to Harry. “Is that like football?”

“Yeah, it’s brill. We just made it up today at work. Lavender’s the best striker in Muggle football, and she wondered if she’d be any good in wolf form, and it just sort of spiralled from there.”

“Want to come?” asked Harry, eyes bright. “I suppose Malfoy’s welcome, too, if he’s not worried about getting mud in his coat.”

Hannah came over and set a fresh crepe in front of Ron, smiling fondly at him. Hannah did love a man who could put food away, and given Ron’s Lycanthropy and natural inclination to graze, he blew Neville out of the water in that regard. 

“Thanks, Hannah.”

“Thanks, Hannah,” Hermione echoed, already forking off a piece of Ron’s new crepe. “Could I get a cuppa, too?”

Ron suffered the theft of the new crepe about as well as Hermione had in school, when he’d been the one picking from her plate. Sometimes she felt guilty for how much she’d pestered him then. She knew what it was like to be constantly hungry now. Because she was. Especially during the week leading up to the moon and the couple of days after. Werewolf metabolism ran so fast, she’d probably starve in two days if she didn’t eat.

She turned back to the boys. “Is that safe? With humans around?”

“Wolfsbane,” Harry said, waving his hand dismissively. 

To Harry, Wolfsbane was the cure for all problems. Though he’d been bitten, too, and bled black, too, he’d somehow managed to escape infection, and this was both a relief to Hermione and a source of academic inquiry. 

“Hmm,” said Hermione. 

She chewed on a fat piece of blackberry-flavoured venison as she considered it. Harry’s ideas were often eyebrow-raising, but sometimes he inadvertently struck gold. It was possible this was one of those times. Maybe there was opportunity for more from life for people with their condition—maybe there was a chance they could push for equality in a different way. She’d fought hard for legal equality for years, but she’d made little headway. 

Maybe the real way forward was to start with the people.

Every now and then, Hermione threw a little ‘changing party’ for a handful of close Werewolf pack-members. Nothing extravagant, but just a few people over to hers to break up the monotony of her and Malfoy parked on the rug watching Top Gear reruns. 

Those little get-togethers were all fine and good, but she’d never considered the idea of a party with humans about, too. 

Suddenly, a whole world of new ideas opened up in Hermione’s mind. If they could do it safely, this might be a golden opportunity, a trial run for something that she and Narcissa Malfoy could add to their pro-Werewolf campaigning, which was an endless and usually fruitless endeavour.

She imagined her pack no longer having to hide, the magical world making progress. She imagined outreach programs, Werewolf pride parades, national holidays, new moon parties, and training programs. She imagined a world free of segregation and fear.

Maybe they could have that. Maybe they didn’t need the Ministry to do it.

With just this one, small step. Just this one game of Humans vs Werewolves vs Quaffle.

It just seemed so—so dangerous.

After all, it’d only been two years since they’d finally succeeded in abolishing the Werewolf Registry. She and Narcissa had worked on it for almost five years before anything came of it. 

A targeted, relentless, Malfoy-funded pro-Werewolf marketing campaign had helped, but there were still shops in Diagon Alley with crude signs declaring NO BEASTS. THAT MEANS WOLVES TOO

They were hardly the worst things Hermione heard on a typical outing to Diagon proper. It was why she’d chosen to live in Knockturn Alley to begin with. That and the fact she’d been turned away from the first five showings she turned up for.

Werewolf equality had a ways to go. And one drunk or stupid Werewolf could ruin the whole thing for all of them if he accidentally or on-purpose nipped a human. Hermione was deeply opposed to such a thing. She’d spent many years of her life fighting for equal rights for Werewolves, but they were not yet at a place where they could weather the inevitable political shitstorm if a new Werewolf was made.

On the other hand, Harry was a private person, and it was unlikely that he would have over on a full moon any humans who were the type to cause trouble. He was also Harry Potter, with enough magical power to subdue an entire pub riot.

And with Luna, Teddy, and baby Portentia about, Hermione could trust that every possible precaution would be taken. Harry wouldn’t put his family in danger.

“You trust all the humans?” she asked, just to be sure.

Harry nodded. “Yeah, we’re doing it at the Burrow, so Arthur and Molly’ll be around, too. And Andromeda’s coming over to help chaperone since Tonks won’t be able to watch Teddy. He was dead set on coming when he heard. Hey—know anyone else who could play for the human side? We’re short one.”

“Millicent, maybe,” Hermione said, barely paying attention to the conversation. Millicent had always been steady, and they had a bit of a camaraderie after somehow getting each other’s post at the Ministry so many times.

She was too busy calculating all the different ways this could go horribly, irreversibly wrong—and the few ways that it could be brilliant for their cause. If it got out that Harry Potter hosted Werewolves at the full moon—with his wife and toddler about—then people would take notice. No doubt there’d be a front page spread in the Prophet this weekend at the latest. 

“All right,” she decided. 

Ron and Harry beamed at her, as if they were wired up to the same smile switch. 

She continued: “Draco’s going to want to play centre-half. You know how he likes to stop other people from doing things they want to do.”

Harry rolled his eyes, and shared a look with Ron. “We know. Believe me.”

“Still can't believe his fantasy team’s in the lead again this season,” Ron grumbled.

The crepe had disappeared somehow, all without Hermione noticing. She frowned down at Ron’s empty plate, still hungry. Merlin, she hated moon days. It was a wonder she hadn’t gained a whole stone since her bite.

Hannah brought the bill over and Ron paid before Hermione could get out her purse. The boys stood. 

“Just noticed the time. We’ve got to run. Yaxley’s got Harry and me on a quick scouting mission this afternoon. Wants my nose.”

“And your ginger arse,” Harry added.

Ron ignored him, pointedly. “You're lucky your department considers you incapable of cognisant thought processes on moon days, Herm. Mine just capitalises on it.” He checked his watch again. “Bugger—Harry we’ve really got to go if we’re going to get done before moonrise. I don’t want you to have to Apparate me home again. You’re honestly shit at Side-Along.”

Harry stopped to give her a brief hug on the way out. “You’ll really come?” he asked, chewing on his lip. “Don’t spend another moon night watching crap documentaries. We all know there’s global warming; no sense in depressing yourself about it every month. It’s been two years since you killed the Registry; it’s okay to have fun on the full moon.”

“We’ll come,” Hermione said, suddenly feeling uncomfortable. She wasn’t like that, was she?

Harry’s eyebrows went up. He smirked. “Does Malfoy know that you’ve started making decisions for him?”

“If he hasn’t figured it out by now, he doesn’t deserve to know,” said Hermione primly.

Harry smiled at her and left. She sat at the table frowning down at the empty crepe plate for several long minutes. She had fun, didn’t she? 

Yes, she was quite sure she did. 

But—well, maybe she didn’t love watching documentary marathons once a month. And after seven years of it, it was becoming quite old. Andromeda, Mr and Mrs Weasley, Harry, and Luna at least would be human. They were all competent wizards. And Wolfsbane was ubiquitous now, thanks to her and Draco. They shouldn’t have to worry about any of the Werewolves being without it. 

It was safe. Of course, there was always the possibility something could go wrong. But then Harry would be there, and he wouldn’t let anything happen. The Weasleys had a state-of-the-art changing paddock. The pro-Werewolf movement could use the public relations. Hermione bit her lip. 

What was it that Draco was always telling her? 

“Take a break, Granger. You’re exhausting to watch.” 

Hermione sighed. She could do that. She’d learned over the years that life wasn’t safe, and there was no point in trying to force it. Her father was a key example of that. She imagined Werewolf pride parades again, and sighed in yearning. What she wouldn’t give for her pack-mates to be accepted in society again.

It’s safe enough, she decided. 

Hermione bought five more blackberry-bacon-venison crepes to take home with her. No global warming documentary tonight she supposed, but at least she didn’t have to suffer through EastEnders.

 

🌕 🌕 🌕

 

Draco was already back at her flat when Hermione Apparated into the entryway. His nose twitched in the direction of her takeaway bag as she shucked her coat and hung it behind the door. He rose from the settee and prowled closer, neatly plucking the bag of crepes from her hand. Hermione rolled her eyes and followed him back to the living room, where he resumed flicking disinterestedly through channels.

“How’re your best twats doing?” he asked during an advert. “Still irredeemable gets?”

He was definitely in a mood, most likely because he’d flounced off when her mother Floo’d and therefore wasn’t around for her to invite him to lunch. Hermione snatched her half-eaten crepe back from him and took a bite, chewing extra long to avoid responding since he hated waiting and she liked making him wait. 

“Fine and yes,” she said at last. Then, “Are you interested in doing something a little different tonight?”

Draco turned to face her rather more quickly than she’d expected. 

“What kind of something different?” he asked, his voice a low growl she rarely heard outside of the few minutes before moonrise. 

His eyes were already beginning to glow faintly yellow from the upcoming moon, and Hermione’s heart fluttered strangely. She had always liked that colour on him.

Hermione handed the crepe back to him because her hands didn’t seem to know what else to do. “Well, Harry had an idea.”

Malfoy sighed and flopped back against the couch.

“Lovely. I’ve already entertained him once this week. Isn’t that enough?”

His voice was normal again, and a strange, confusing part of Hermione regretted it.

“Humans versus Werewolves versus Quaffle,” Hermione continued, trying to buy her brain time to think through all the weirdness and be present for Draco’s words, too. She wasn’t fooled by his apathy—Draco’s bromance with Harry was deep and committed, no matter what either of them claimed.

He cracked open one yellowing eye. “I’m listening.”

“I told them you’d want to play centre-half for the Werewolf side.”

“Obviously,” said Draco. He began to smirk. “It’ll be Weasley and me against Potter?”

“Well, yes, obviously,” Hermione said. “But seven on seven, like Quidditch. And with very strict no-mouth contact rules.” 

She gave him a stern look at this to reinforce her point.

Draco was still smirking, no doubt thinking of the unceasing competition he and Harry had going with everything. They managed to compete on things that Hermione would’ve never even thought could be won, like who got out of the interdepartmental meetings quickest or who could guess which pudding Ron would order at Hannah’s. 

“Will there be food?”

“It’s at the Burrow, so of course,” Hermione said. “Molly does love a barbecue.” 

In fact, the thought of some rare pheasant with lots of sauce was making the entire evening sound rather more enticing to Hermione, too. Her stomach grumbled. They both looked towards the takeaway bag, but somehow the two extra crepes were gone. Hermione frowned.

“I’m in,” Draco decided. “Anything’s better than Channel Four again.”

Hermione really wished she could argue that, but she couldn’t. Even watching sport would be more fun than watching the Earth melt again. God, she hated global warming.

Chapter Text

Even with Wolfsbane, the change was painful, annoying, and distinctly humiliating. Hermione didn’t mind being a Werewolf so much as she minded not having any control over when it happened. 

And she hated when it fell on her birthday, which it had done twice.

The Weasleys had a dedicated changing paddock erected for their three infected sons, and blessedly, it was crawling with privacy wards. Hermione and the other wolves attending tonight’s get-together locked themselves in at a quarter to six to wait for moonrise. She felt not unlike a circus animal and gave Harry a wry little smile as he set the wards behind her. 

Outside, in the garden, the uninfected continued chattering on, setting out plates for their suppers… and bowls for Hermione and the other Werewolves. 

It was degrading to eat from a bowl on the ground, but she’d suffered worse.

Even for Hermione, the mechanics of proper table etiquette escaped her when she had paws. She watched the humans from within the confines of her warded pen. Molly and Fleur placed hovering lanterns around a makeshift football field, and Harry now had Teddy around his shoulders, running him about and roaring to Ginny, “Argh! We’re a scary mountain troll!”

Draco walked up next to her and cast his eyes briefly down to her face. He looked back out at the people gathered in the Weasleys’ back garden and then his fingers closed over her wrist in a hidden pattern: Situation Under Control

Hermione exhaled in a rush, and with it went some of her anxiety. She smiled gratefully at him. 

It was an Unspeakable gesture, used for communicating whilst among the ‘Speakables’. He always did it to her when she was on edge over something silly. Her heart clenched a little; Malfoy could be such a good friend to her sometimes. She often wished he wanted to be her Alpha, too. They could do so much for their pack if they worked together.

She repeated the gesture to him. “I know,” she said.

His mouth twitched downwards for a moment. There was anxiety in the movement, and she wondered if he was, secretly, just as worried as her. He’d always been so scared, and Hermione didn’t understand why. They were already Werewolves, already discriminated against. How could it get worse?

But then again, he’d never grown up in the spotlight of prejudice, as she had. Being hated for what he was must’ve come as a bigger shock than it had to her. And whenever she remembered that, she gave him grace for his inaction. For his inability to help lead their pack, even though magic had chosen him for it. Maybe he would come around one day.

His hand fell away from hers. 

“Have you ever changed in front of humans before?”

“Not since the early days,” she said. “Not since I was accepted.” To Unspeakable training. But she couldn’t say that aloud.

Having the legendary Unspeakable Croaker arrive on one’s doorstep with a coded letter that had to first be cracked before any job offer was valid did tend to wake one up. It gave her the motivation to pull herself up from the overwhelming depression of being a Werewolf outed before her very first change. It gave her the motivation to stand up again, fight back again. That was even before Tonks returned to the Ministry, and there was still question on whether Hermione would ever find a job, much less the job she’d secretly always wanted. 

The early days after the final battle were terrifying and confusing: with thirty-nine confirmed bites that night and several more suspected, some of which were on high-profile witches and wizards, there were some in the public sphere willing to suddenly give Werewolves a chance. There just weren’t very many.

Hermione had decided then that she would damn well control her own life. No wizard, no Muggle, would stop her again. But Draco had needed a bigger push, and she hadn’t done it. Maybe she should’ve.

Draco nodded and she knew he understood every one of those unsaid words. 

He was not six inches from her when they were both infected. They’d held hands. They’d screamed into each other’s shoulders. There would always be that one horrifying moment between them when both of their lives ended at once. Despite the hundreds of other people in the school at that moment, they had been alone together, and it wasn’t a bond easily broken. 

There was a photograph of that moment. It showed up in the Daily Prophet the next day with the headline, Chosen One to Become Werewolf? It was right beneath the feature story, Boy Who Lived Lives Again! You Know Who Defeated in Epic Battle! 

Hermione had numbly wondered who was stupid enough to take photographs during battle, and had later learned it was—of course, Colin Creevey. She hadn’t spoken to him since. Malfoy had the clipping framed on his wall—because he had a dark sense of humour. Or maybe because he hated himself sometimes and liked prodding the wound. She never asked.

She still did not fully understand how Greyback managed to infect them all that night, as it hadn’t been a full moon, but she had a nagging suspicion that it was related to however Harry had avoided developing Lycanthropy, even though his blood ran black that night, the same as theirs. 

They were getting closer to an answer with their Unspeakable research. She was sure of it. And it would be world-changing.

“I’ve changed in front of my father plenty of times. He used to brew the Wolfsbane for Mum and me,” said Draco, and Hermione blinked several times, startled by his voice.

“But never anyone who wasn’t family,” she guessed. Or me.

“No.”

She nodded, watching little Teddy tumble about with Victoire on the grass. Portentia, Harry and Luna’s daughter, desperately wanted to play, too, but could hardly keep up with the big kids. Merlin, Hermione couldn’t believe she was already four. 

“I’ve never changed in front of my parents. I always came here and changed with Ron and the twins, after Geo—” she trailed off, not wishing to get into that. Draco was her best friend, sometimes anyway, but Weasley Secrets were Weasley Secrets. She cleared her throat. “Bill chaperoned us.”

The atmosphere inside the pen was getting more restless. Hermione glanced at the sky. Draco’s fingers pressed in that pattern on her wrist again, and she tried to relax. She could tell by instinct alone that they were within two minutes of moonrise. She wasn’t afraid of the pain; after so long it was little more than an inconvenience. 

She was just nervous. She wanted—needed, really—tonight to go perfectly. Her pack needed it. They all needed to catch a break, to lighten the load of daily microaggressions and macroaggressions against Werewolves, the stress of living their lives infected.

Nothing like this had ever been attempted before. There were kids here. Intellectually, she knew everything would be fine, but she couldn’t help being anxious.

Hermione heaved a sigh and turned back to the pen. 

Ron and the twins lay back on the grass, hands behind their heads, watching the moon make its way to the top of the sky. They were easy with the change in a way that Hermione might never be. Hermione didn’t dislike being a Werewolf, but she was too organised a person to ever really be wholly satisfied with a condition that controlled three per cent of her life and made her even more of an outsider.

Fred and George thought it all a grand lark. No one could capitalise off of a blood-borne disease quite like a Weasley twin. Especially if it was a disease they shared, and frankly, thought was an asset. No one could be pleased about having a blood-borne disease quite like a Weasley twin.

Lavender and Tonks leaned back against the bars, chatting about Teddy as they watched the sky. Hermione trusted all of these people, even Lavender. Being in the same pack had brought them together in a way that six years in the same dorm couldn’t. She felt safe that they wouldn’t destroy all the work she’d done to move Werewolf rights forward.

But also in the pen were two people Hermione was less comfortable with: Ernie Macmillan, who worked with Bill at Gringotts, and Marietta Edgecombe, who did not have SNEAK written on her forehead anymore. (One night some weeks after the final battle, Hermione had felt guilty and owled her the counter-curse. They’d hadn’t spoken then or since, despite Marietta being pack.)

“Who invited her?” she asked Draco, quietly. 

He shrugged. “I thought she was dating your best twat’s brother. The one who works in the Minister’s office.”

“Percy,” Hermione corrected, absently. 

She chewed her lip. Hermione supposed she had seen Marietta standing near him before they all trooped into the warded pen for moonrise.

“She works in Transportation,” Draco added, eyeing Marietta’s tense posture. 

Hermione felt that guilt again. Marietta had never come to their Ministry lunches and Hermione had never reached out to her, either. She’d never been good at forgiving or forgetting—Colin Creevey being a prime example.

Marietta was obviously uncomfortable here, but Hermione was impressed by the guts it must’ve taken to expose oneself like this in front of a horde of ex-DA members who certainly didn’t have much cause to like her overmuch. And Draco Malfoy, who was, by all accounts, still mostly an arsehole.

Marietta had stayed under the radar for years, never exposing herself publicly as a Werewolf. Not that that hid her from Hermione, of course. But yet, here she was, changing in front of Weasleys and all Hermione’s friends.

The moon rose before she could think further on the topic, and then she was bent double with the shock of sudden, gut-wrenching pain. The first surge always caught her by surprise, even though she’d gone through ninety-two of them. Next to her, Draco staggered back to support himself against the bars, breathing through clenched teeth. Hermione fell to her hands and knees, somehow landing partially on top of Ron. 

She tried weakly to move off, and their eyes met in their shared agony. She watched, transfixed, as the blue of Ron’s irises shrank and darkened until they were glowing gold, and then she yowled as her bones began changing, lengthening and shortening to make her body into something unnatural.

Hermione mentally enumerated the 42 Rules of Runes to distract her long enough for the change to complete. When it had, she flopped to the ground, breathing raggedly. Draco lay himself gracefully down next to her, and she wagged her tail against the grass in tired welcome. She was sore. She could’ve just run a marathon for as exhausted as she felt.

Once she’d regained her breathing, she pulled herself up again and looked about for Bill’s ingenious Werewolf-proof exit charms. They were used all over the UK now and the proceeds from patenting the charms continued to bring in a tidy little sum for him each month. 

There was one hovering near the edge of the pen, glowing red and purple inside yet another set of wards. She entered the sub-pen, which snapped shut behind her, sparking in warning, and stared at the collection of pictures. 

There was a Kneazle, a Phoenix, a squid, and a broom. She pressed her paw to the broom, and the puzzle disappeared to be replaced by another.

Dreamless Sleep is to Nightmares as Pepper-Up is to ? 

She pressed her paw to the box that said Colds and the puzzle was replaced again.

(14 + 2) ÷ 4 = ? 

There was no selection here, only a blank spot for her to draw in, as best she could with huge wolf feet: 4.

Four more questions followed, including two that required she write out entire sentences to ensure that she really was of sane mind. Finally, the wards shimmered in front of her, signalling the end of the test. Hermione slipped through. The wards sizzled and crackled against her fur as they made sure no other Werewolf would try to come through with her. She hated that part, as it always left her with static.

Across the garden, Teddy saw her and cheered. He was accustomed to Tonks doing the same test once a month to prove her Wolfsbane was effective. He was also, Hermione knew, a big fan of Werewolves in general. 

Draco solved his own puzzles right after and they trotted over to the Weasleys et al, letting the delicious scent of lightly-barbecued chicken and lamb guide them. Mrs Weasley beamed at them as they approached and set down two legs of lamb in bowls before them.

“How are you both feeling?” she asked. “No lingering pain? Hermione, I recognise your coat, but who’s this with you? Is it Draco?”

Draco elegantly wagged his tail against the grass in affirmation and Mrs Weasley beamed again. “What a handsome cream coat. Ah—and there are my boys coming through now. Supper!” she called to them.

Hermione heard the sound of twelve padded feet pounding against the ground as they rushed towards them, skidding to a halt in near-identical russet-coloured bodies. Ron was bigger than the twins, and George had only one pointy ear, but all three of their coats were bright red and glossy. Hermione would not admit aloud to any jealousy. Even as a wolf, she was bushy.

“Mummm!” Teddy yelled happily. 

His hair was pink, as usual, and he laughed when Tonks bent down for him to climb on her back. Even in wolf form, she had enough control of her metamorphmagus abilities to turn her entire coat hot pink. They bounded around for a bit, and Hermione watched, content. She’d never seen Tonks around Teddy when she was transformed, but it was pleasant to watch. Lavender did not have the ability to dictate her own coat colour, but she had still managed to keep a lavender-coloured bow tied fashionably around her neck.

Luna came over then, with little Portentia, whose blue eyes were huge and curious, trailing behind. 

“Hello, Hermione,” Luna said. “It’s lovely to finally see you in your true form. I’m honoured. Portentia, say hello to Auntie Hermione.” 

“‘Lo, Auntie Herm,” Portentia dutifully recited. “You look diff’rent… but your aura feels the same.”

Hermione laughed, and it came out like a little huff. She wagged her tail and Portentia reached out and patted her roughly on the head. 

“Pretty,” Portentia decided. Her eyes then found Draco, who was gnawing at what was left of his lamb bone, and widened further. She said, “Really pretty.”

“That’s Uncle Draco,” Luna informed her. “You can pet him if he says it’s okay.”

Hermione had no idea how any of them were supposed to say it was okay, but Portentia was definitely Luna’s child, and, even at four, could apparently determine consent given in Werewolf language. She was also Harry’s child, and therefore unafraid of anything. At all. Even Werewolves glowering at her as she approached. Still, Draco bowed his head and condescended to let Portentia ruck up his fur as she petted him backwards. The whole thing reminded Hermione of third year and Buckbeak, and she wished dearly she could tease Draco about that now. They were the beasts this time—if only they’d known then. 

“This was one of Harry’s better ideas, I think,” Luna said, when it was just the two of them. She’d sat down on the grass next to Hermione, a glass of white wine in one hand, Portentia’s basket of travel toys in the other.

Hermione wasn’t sure she could agree with that, but she was hoping for the best, and if it came to the worst, well, she was a big wolf, and she would rip anyone to shreds who tried to hurt her goddaughter. Or Harry. Or Luna, or anyone here, really. Azkaban be damned. She scanned the garden, taking in all the humans and Werewolves and letting the scents of their emotions filter through her like a running commentary of goings-on.

It occurred to her then, by the distinct lack of her scent in the general area, that there was still one Werewolf missing from their little group: Marietta. 

Hermione’s heart jumped in her throat, suddenly anxious again. Had she been unable to solve the puzzles? That was hard to believe; they were meant only to prove a human mind, not require advanced intelligence. And Marietta had been a Ravenclaw besides. 

Was she up to something? Was she finally getting her revenge for Hermione’s DA jinx?

“I saw Marietta lying down by the paddock,” Luna said, as if she could read Hermione’s mind. As if she were part of the pack and shared some of their innate awareness ability.

Relief swept through her; not up to anything then, just antisocial. 

“It must be hard on her, not feeling welcome. One tries to fit in, but it isn’t always easy.”

Hermione’s brow drew down in a frown. She sighed, then heaved herself up, trotting back towards the pen. It wasn’t hard to find Marietta. She was a strawberry blonde-coloured blotch against an otherwise twilit background. She looked up as Hermione approached, no doubt smelling her long before she saw her come over the small hill. 

Hermione paused before her, and they eyed one another.

Marietta’s ears went back submissively. Hermione approached, relieved that she wouldn’t have to fight her on this. 

She circled ‘round and nudged at Marietta’s bum until she rose on her feet. Marietta turned to look back at her, and Hermione nudged her bum again. 

When Marietta refused to move, Hermione woofed lowly, and Marietta’s ears immediately went down again. Percy saw them then and waved Marietta over. Hermione smelled relief flood the air, and then Marietta headed for the gathered people and was met with cheers from the humans present, who plied her with big cuts of meat and bowls of home-made wine. Hermione, feeling uncomfortable again, returned to her spot by Luna and Draco, next to the artificially lit garden and makeshift football pitch.

Harry came over, bringing her a bottle of butterbeer and a bowl. She licked his finger when he tipped it in and he grinned down at her. “How’re my three favourite ladies?” he asked.

“We’re wonderful, Harry, thank you,” said Luna. “However, you might want to ask the same of your fantasy league partner.”

They all turned to Draco, who now had Portentia astride his back, as she urged him to ferry her about the garden. Draco had his paws over his muzzle, eyes closed, as if he could not bear the indignity of it. He probably couldn’t.

Harry snorted. “Come on, Malfoy. Be a mate. Just one ride about the pitch for my kid.”

Draco glowered at him, but to Hermione’s amusement, did stand and trot off with Portentia on his back, head high and dignified. By his gait, Hermione strongly suspected that Lucius had once subjected him to many an afternoon of dressage on the Abraxans.

“She’s going to want to play Werewolf all the time now and I won’t be able to do it for her,” Harry said, watching as Draco gained confidence with Portentia’s ability to hang on and began bounding up and down the garden. He executed a near-perfect ascending oxer with the grape vines and Hermione smirked. But then—

Oh, Harry, Hermione thought. Her ears fell a little. She looked up at him, trying to convey the weird, complex emotions of feeling sorry for someone who didn’t have Lycanthropy.

Harry frowned at the collection of scars on his wrist, where Greyback’s teeth had sunk into his skin. 

“Oh, Harry,” Luna said. She ran her fingertips over the scars and Harry’s forearm clenched at the touch. 

Hermione smelled arousal and something deeper, something wolves didn’t readily understand, but which the human part of her thought might be intense love. She felt like a voyeur, like she was missing out on something profound. It was a scent Hermione refused to dwell on.

Across the garden, Ron was play-fighting with Ernie and Hermione wondered if that brief kiss they’d shared in the Room of Requirement could’ve ever led to more, if things hadn’t turned out like this, if they hadn’t both been so screwed up for so many months after the war, if he hadn’t ended up on-and-offing with Lavender, and possibly Tonks, all the time.

C’est la vie, she supposed. There was someone out there for her. She just had to find him. Or her.

Or maybe it really would be just her and Crookshanks for the next twenty years. She was profoundly grateful he still condescended to stay with her, given her condition. He’d been deeply confused by her smell for the first few weeks, but had come around eventually, and was now just as unconcerned with her as he’d always been.

“Who’s ready for some football?” Bill yelled.

Harry gave them a wry, embarrassed grin and jumped up, grabbing his daughter off Draco’s back and swinging her around before depositing her in Mr Weasley’s lap. Draco bounded off, barrelling into Ron and knocking him sideways for no reason whatsoever. They play-fought for several minutes, but Draco won, holding Ron’s muzzle triumphantly. 

Millicent had indeed come, and was lacing up a pair of cleats while she talked goblin politics with Ginny and Bill. Dean and Theo Nott were also playing for the human side, and Hermione supposed she trusted them well enough. 

The final spot on the human team went to Teddy, who was only eight, but had all the fierce determination of any Hufflepuff at battle. Tonks bounced all around him and Hermione got the amused feeling that she was trying to psych out her own child. If the confused colouring of his hair was any indication, it was working. Tonks put her head to his belly and knocked him down on his bum, then woofed triumphantly.

“Nymphadora!” Andromeda, sitting next to Molly, called sharply. 

Tonks’ pink tail immediately went between her legs. 

“No roughhousing Teddy while you’re transformed! You know that, young lady!”

The game began. Draco was a brilliant centre-half, as Hermione knew he would be. The Quaffle flew around them all, charmed to dodge and dive like an overlarge snitch with a four-foot altitude. Harry tackled Ron to the ground when he caught it between his teeth, laughing uproariously when his glasses flew off. There hadn’t really been a great deal of thought put into strategy, Hermione suspected, but everyone seemed to be having a good time regardless. Ginny and Dean were perhaps having a little too much fun, and Tonks was more of a clumsy obstacle than any real threat, but Teddy was certainly enjoying running the Quaffle past her.

“I don’t think Harry’s had this much fun at the full moon since before you and Ron were bitten,” Luna said. She took a sip of her wine and smiled down at Hermione. 

I know, Hermione thought. 

She kept her eyes constantly moving, still a little anxious about having so many humans around changed Werewolves. If someone was bitten, it would be disastrous for her campaigns.

“He’s flooded with wrackspurts,” Luna continued, shaking her head. “Stress from work leaving him vulnerable, you know? Head Auror Yaxley has him and Ron on a new case, and they think there might be Werewolves involved.”

Hermione’s ears twitched violently. Luna smiled again as Portentia flopped in front of her and demanded her hair be braided. Luna picked up the fine, black strands and began weaving it effortlessly into an elaborate braid the likes of which even Hermione’s mother had not put her hair in when she was still too young to say she’d rather leave it loose, no matter the tangles.

“He hasn’t said, but I can tell,” said Luna. “It’s in the way he gets so defensive when you or Ron are mentioned. He’s worried that you’re open to attack. Therefore, Werewolf-related.”

Hermione desperately wished she could speak right now because she had at least a thousand urgent questions. She was going to drive herself mad with frustration, but Luna only gazed at her again and Hermione knew that, with her, there was sometimes no need for speaking. Luna could listen well enough for the both of them.

“I do think Ron’s aware,” said Luna, as if Hermione had actually asked the question. She’d wanted to, at least. Then she laughed and repeated, “Ron’s a Were… get it? But yes, this past week, they’ve been to the pub twice after work.” 

Luna blinked meaningfully at her, as if this was some great imparting of knowledge. Then, “But when Harry goes to the pub, he changes out of his work robes first, so of course they were really working late on a case that he didn’t want me to worry about. We aren’t worried about Daddy though, are we, Ten?” 

“No, Mummy,” said Portentia. “Daddy’s invisible.”

“Invincible,” Luna corrected. “He’s not really, darling. Even Daddy can die. Just like you and me.”

Portentia blinked several times, absorbing this, while Hermione, horrified, looked on. She was only four, for Merlin’s sake, there was no need to terrify her goddaughter like that— 

“Okay,” said Portentia, shrugging. “Because death is, erm, a transfligring of life.”

“Transfiguration,” said Luna, absently. She paused to sip her wine again, and then tied off Portentia’s weird braid with a tap of her wand. “And Daddy’s very smart and strong, so he probably won’t die soon.”

“Good,” said Portentia. She decided then that Victoire would be more interesting, and so ran off in that direction, leaving Hermione once again alone with Luna.

“Oh, I suppose I ought to take some photographs,” said Luna, producing a camera from somewhere in her flowy robes. “Dad was really pleased when Harry told him about this idea. He’s planning to run a feature on it this week. War Hero Werewolves at Large on Football Pitch — do you think that’s a good headline? I’m not sure it really captures the sentiment. I was thinking something more like, Pink Werewolves on Parade: the Aurors’ most fashionable Werewolves take on some of its least fashionable humans.” 

Hermione’s eyes widened in horror. She would have to catch Luna before any such headlines went to print. Luna snapped several pictures of Lavender and Tonks collaborating to tackle Ginny to the ground, then turned to get one of Hermione, lying on the grass. 

“It was good to talk to you again, Hermione. I hope this becomes a regular thing for us. Portentia does so love seeing her godmother.”

Thus alone again, Hermione settled her chin onto her front paws and let the sounds of the game wash over her. She heard Lavender yip in pain as someone trod on her toes, and smelled Malfoy’s smugness as he got the Quaffle past Dean and into the net. Cheers rose up from those not playing, even Fleur and Victoire. 

“Traitors!” Bill called to them.

Hermione had no idea what the score was when her nose alerted her to another wolf’s approach. She lifted her head, ears up. Marietta slunk down a bit, not too much, but enough. Hermione met her eyes, agreeing, and then the other wolf came forward enough to tilt her tweed-coloured head down. Everything in her posture screamed apology

Hermione sighed. She had not expected Marietta to be here tonight, but… well, she was pack. Everyone turned during the final battle was, instinctually, pack. And Hermione wouldn’t let anyone else ostracise her pack, so she couldn’t in good conscience do it herself.

If Hermione could forgive Malfoy, then she could forgive Marietta.

Marietta settled down beside her, and Hermione turned her head to give her snout a brief lick.

Acceptance, it said, to Werewolves. 

And Hermione meant it. She would not let Marietta be left behind anymore. Because she did not leave pack behind. It was something she would remind herself of when she was human again.

Chapter Text

Hermione woke up on the Weasleys’ living room floor, sprawled half-on top of Draco’s chest, with Portentia curled into her other side. Everything smelt of wet dog and grass. She pushed herself up and came face to face with Draco. The alert look of his eyes spoke volumes to how long he’d been awake.

“Morning,” she said, yawning. She scrunched her nose, tried to cover her mouth with her hand, but wasn’t entirely certain she’d done it in time. He smirked up at her, and she felt his hand move from her lower back. She hadn’t even realised it was there until it wasn’t.

“Morning,” said Draco. His voice was raspy with sleep, as it always was after he stayed the night on a full moon. And as they always did, Hermione’s insides felt warm and strange at the sound.

She peered around. Fred and George were somehow sharing a single armchair, and Ron and Lavender were spread out along the couch. They were in one of their on-again phases, Hermione supposed. It was a dance six years old by now, and Hermione dearly wished Ron would just get on with it and propose so they could all stop living this soap opera.

In the kitchen, Molly spoke quietly to someone else, and several pans clanged dully, as if muffled by a Silencing Spell that she only heard through because of her overextended post-moon senses. Hermione pulled herself to her feet and, with a tilt of her head to Draco, went into the kitchen. 

Tonks and Teddy were at the table, giggling together over a shared bowl of pink porridge, and Harry was sitting across from them, happily accepting bites of egg from Luna. Molly and Arthur, standing by the sink with matching cups of tea, saw her come in and beamed. She couldn’t smell Marietta or Ernie anywhere, but their scent was only a few hours old, so she reckoned they’d left right after changing back.

“Wasn’t it wonderful, Hermione dear?” said Arthur. “A roaring—no! A howling success! I’m chuffed, really I am.”

Hermione shot a smile at him. “It went much better than I, in the cold and distant recesses of my mind, worried it could have gone,” she agreed.

Harry opened his eyes long enough to roll them in her direction, and then gave Malfoy, who was sitting down next to her, a speaking look. No doubt there were dozens of uncomplimentary things said about her in that one brief meeting of eyes.

“Is my kid still sleeping?” Harry asked.

“Soundly,” said Hermione.

“Brill. Molly, could I convince you to mind her for the afternoon? There’re some things I wanted to run by Hermione over lunch, and Luna’s got to go into the office.”

“No headlines!” Hermione said quickly to Luna, who only sighed in a long-suffering fashion.

“Of course, Harry,” said Arthur. “She can help me in the shed. I have some new Legos that need constructing.”

“Legos!” squealed Portentia, who, as it happened, was no longer sleeping. 

Hermione winced. Sound. She hated sound the morning after the change. Any sound at all, really, but especially the high frequency sound of excited four-year-olds. Harry groaned, and she understood the feeling very well. She was already ready to return to bed.

 

 🌕 🌕 🌕

 

Narcissa called the moment Hermione stepped into her flat. She’d intended only to change into fresh clothes before Harry’s mysterious lunch, but Narcissa had an uncanny ability to know when Hermione would be walking by her fireplace and therefore unable to hide in time. 

Or perhaps it was just because Draco had Apparated home moments before.

“Hermione, darling,” said Narcissa, neutrally. Even in flames, her heavy eyelids blinked regally. 

Hermione turned, an over-bright smile pasted onto her face. “Narcissa, good morning. What brings you?”

Narcissa waved a hand, vaguely. “I called to see how you were this morning.”

It was a total lie, but Hermione’s smile didn’t falter. She wished she were doing as well as Narcissa, truth be told. That woman could spend six days straight awake (and probably did sometimes), and still glide around looking as beautiful and refreshed as a summer’s day. It was nauseating. 

Once, Hermione had thought there would be benefits to working on pro-Werewolf campaigns with Narcissa Malfoy—benefits like access to her night cream recipes, but that dream had yet to yield results. 

“Lovely, thanks ever so,” Hermione said. “It gets easier every time, doesn’t it?” She could practically feel the dark circles beneath her eyes.

She continued to smile. They chatted about the lovely November weather for a few moments, and Narcissa asked Hermione if she thought Draco were getting overly thin, and whether Hermione expected that she would go see The Poltergeist of the Opera, which was returning to the theatre in December, before she finally came to her point. 

In the background, there was a faint pop of Apparition. Hermione inhaled: it was Ron. 

“I heard whispers this morning that the Wizengamot is considering a bill that would require all Ministry employees, Ministry contractors, and businesses that receive Ministry funding or do business with it all, to document sick days taken. Healer notes would be required for continued employment if more than one day every two months is missed.”

“That’s absurd!” Hermione said. “Werewolves can’t be expected to go to a Healer every moon-morning for a stupid note! How we use our sick time is protected under patient confidentiality!” 

She dropped to her knees before the hearth, still talking as fast as she could think: “And furthermore, it’s not just Werewolves it would hurt. Goodness, how many people have come down with Niffler Flu just this month alone? It doesn’t require a healer, just a week of bedrest until you stop sneezing sparkles!”

Narcissa gave her a look. “Chief Warlock Harkiss is backing it.”

Hermione sighed. “Why is it always like this?” she said. “Why does the Wizengamot always try to sneak bigotry through on legislative riders? Why can’t we just move on?”

“Change is a long process,” said Narcissa. “In the meantime, we must adapt our campaigning to include this new information and make sure that our reputations remain as sparkling as a Niffler’s nest.”

Hermione chewed her lip. “There was something I heard last night,” she added. “Apparently there’s been some talk regarding Weres, and I meant to go talk to Haddie over at the grocery about it yesterday, but I got too busy. Now, Harry’s saying he has something he needs to tell me.”

“What do you suppose it’s about?” Narcissa asked.

Hermione hoped her constantly running brain was overreacting. “I’m worried it’s the cultists again.”

Narcissa’s lip curled. “How vulgar. It’s unfortunate that magic doesn’t come with good sense.”

She paused a moment, then asked, “Is it true that your Weasley’s been requested for cases solely for his senses recently?” 

Behind her, Ron huffed, annoyed. 

Hermione, having only just heard this information second hand the night before, didn’t bother to wonder how Narcissa found out. The woman’s connections were vast, and, frankly, terrifying. That she’d heard at all, and was giving the rumour credence, was enough to raise Hermione’s hackles. 

“Sounds like it. I’m meeting with them shortly actually. I think it may be about that.”

“Take Draco,” Narcissa instructed. 

Hermione would have rolled her eyes, but the Malfoys did bankroll all of her Werewolf-rebranding campaigns, so. 

“I’d planned to. He should be home now, changing.”

Narcissa waved a hand again, as if she had no idea where her son was and wasn’t overly concerned. A complete and utter lie, but Hermione allowed purebloods their little idiosyncrasies, especially purebloods who were Werewolves. 

“Good,” said Narcissa. Then, “Draco will be there shortly. I must meet with Lucius now, regarding the state of our winter hot house. Do keep me informed, darling.”

“Yes, Narcissa,” said Hermione, dutifully. The Floo disconnected.

“Should block your Floo from that one,” Ron advised, as Hermione straightened.

She gave him a wry look. “I’d like to see you block anything from Narcissa Malfoy.”

His nose scrunched, turning his freckles into one giant splotch on his nose. “As soon as she figures out just what you and little Malfoy do down in Level Nine, she’ll be all over you to marry the pasty git so you can join forces more thoroughly.” 

He shuddered dramatically, and Hermione made a horrified face, though likely not for the same reasons as Ron. Malfoy was her Unspeakable partner, her Wolfsbane brewing partner, and often her only dinner partner. 

They were…well, they were friends. 

And had been for seven years. Hermione didn’t mind him, even when he had his git face on. She just could not imagine the absolute nightmare of having Narcissa Malfoy as a mother-in-law. Even by Werewolf standards, she was a whirlwind. Hermione would never have another free moment to herself, would have to spend time with bigoted-against-everyone-but-purebloods-and-pureblood-Werewolves-Lucius, and—

“Calm down,” Ron said. 

He sipped his milky tea. It was from her kitchen. She couldn’t stand the smell of heavy cream even before her bite, and after a full moon, her senses were always especially out of whack. The smell was going to make her gag. 

“You smell distressed.”

“I am distressed,” she growled, only then realising how true it was. And her period was heavy this month, which was never fun.

Ron immediately put his hands up in a placating gesture. “Sorry, sorry,” he said. 

Instinctively, he tilted his head ever so slightly, baring his neck. He probably hadn’t even noticed he did it, but Hermione did, or at least the wolf in her did. She calmed down, smiled at him sheepishly.

“It’s been a rough week,” she said, in apology. “Graves has been complaining about the department budget. Kingsley cut funding again, and Werewolf-related research,” she said, with scare quotes, “is low priority right now. Narcissa’s sources think we might be in for another political firestorm. And now, you and Harry may or may not be investigating a string of Werewolf bites. This is really the last thing I need.”

Ron scrunched his face up, then, mercifully, Vanished the milky tea. “Come on then. Harry’s getting us a private table at Hannah’s.”

Hermione sighed. “Let me just change first.” 

She’d hoped for a quick shower, too, but, alas. If wishes were thestrals, and all that rot. 

 

🌕 🌕 🌕

 

The day they completed Unspeakable training and were partnered together, Draco was already well past the point of saving where Granger was concerned. And then he’d started brewing Wolfsbane with her, and eating crap takeaway curry with her, and staying late working in Mysteries with her. 

And now it happened that whenever he tried to do anything without her, he was shit at it. 

He’d never had freedom before Granger. Growing up a Malfoy, with all its privileges, had stifled him in ways he’d never even realised until she became his unexpected companion. 

The day Head Unspeakable Croaker handed him his exam results and unhooded him before his fellow Unspeakables, he hadn’t expected the next person unhooded would be Hermione Granger. Or that he wouldn’t be surprised by it as much as he should have been. At the time, he hadn’t known that he was incomplete—only that he was an outed Werewolf, and a war criminal saved only by the testimony of a man he kinda hated, and now an Unspeakable. 

An Unspeakable who was finally starting to understand what freedom meant, only to realise that it had been taken from him twice.

But that was before they became partners, and he now knew about this inability to even exist without her. 

It was sad and it was pathetic.

He suspected his mother knew.

“Do invite Hermione to our little party,” said Narcissa as she rose from the hearth, graceful as any queen. She gave no indication that she cared that he’d shamelessly listened to half of her Floo conversation.

“Not the New Year’s party?” said Draco, surprised. It was a full moon, for Merlin’s sake.

His mother quirked an eyebrow as she slid into her desk chair. A flick of her wand, and she levitated a wax-sealed envelope to Draco. He took it warily. The front read, in his Mum’s flowing calligraphic hand, Ms Hermione Granger.

Draco narrowed his eyes. “You’ve never invited Hermione before.”

Despite their years of working together, his parents’ holiday parties were intimate affairs, strictly for the most influential and wealthy witches and wizards of Europe. Hermione was well-respected by his mother, but she was not yet influential enough to warrant an invite.

“Oh, darling,” said Narcissa. “Have you forgotten? New Year’s Eve will be a moon night. It’s a wonderful opportunity for change.”

Draco’s fingers clenched around the parchment because he had not, in fact, forgotten. “I don’t like it when you sound so idealistic and cheerful. It makes me remember you were in Slytherin.”

Narcissa gave him a quick, motherly smile. “I’m afraid I’m pilfering an idea from your Potter.”

“He’s not my Potter,” Draco replied automatically. 

She waved a hand. “Do you or do you not participate in a fantasy Quidditch league with him every year?”

Draco hardly thought that was relevant. He did that because he liked to beat Potter and Weasley. It didn’t matter if it was at Quidditch, fantasy Quidditch, or fly fishing. So long as he won. Or more importantly: so long as they lost. But then, his mind let him see past his testosterone, and he finally absorbed the actual words his mother had said. “What do you mean by Potter’s idea?”

“A changing party, darling.”

Draco almost gaped. “With humans? The same humans you invite to your usual parties? Celebrities and musicians and politicians who could make all of our lives not worth living?” 

“It’s rather avant-garde, don’t you think? Your father’s always said I’m a modern witch.”

“It’s rather suicidal, I think,” he said. “It was dangerous enough last night, but at least it was all Weasleys, so no one would’ve cared if anyone was accidentally infected. They seem to be going for a full house as it is. You can’t tell me that you expect to hold a New Year’s Eve gala, with hundreds of drunken guests, many of them Werewolves, and expect nothing to go wrong. What does Dad think about this idea?” 

And further: how did she even find out about the bloody thing so quickly?

“Oh, he hates it, of course,” said Narcissa. She moved over to the settee and picked up her needlework. “He hates everything new, as you know.”

“Of course,” said Draco. Then, “Hermione will never agree to this. It’s madness.”

“She will,” Narcissa said. “Because I’m inviting the wizards who are even now writing up brand new anti-Werewolf legislation. She’ll want the opportunity to talk to them. And I’ll want the opportunity to show them my teeth.”

Draco froze. “What?”

His mother looked up from her stitches. Her smile was full of repressed fury. “Yes.”

“But we just sorted the Werewolf Registry two years ago!”

“I know, darling,” said Narcissa. 

She snapped her fingers, and a house-elf appeared with tea. Draco scrunched his nose at the smell of cream, but otherwise made no move. 

Narcissa continued: “But they seem to think that mandating the record-keeping and reporting of all employee medical leave for Ministry employees or anyone who does business with it at all, is a good idea. Alors, I rather think these are people who we want to keep an eye on. Believe me, darling, the Werewolf guest list will be very closely vetted. I don’t want an accident, either. And your father will be there, of course, to trigger the wards if the need arises. Which it won’t.”

Draco exhaled in a rush, but the frustration didn’t leave him. He stuffed the invitation in his pocket. “I have to go.”

“Give Potter my regards.”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” Draco muttered as he turned to leave. 

He knew his mother heard him—she was a Werewolf after all—but she could scent his mood well enough not to comment on it. He stalked to the Apparition anti-chamber and Disapparated with an angry twist.

He landed outside the Impervious Cauldron and prowled inside, still angry. Only Potter was there, thank Merlin, because Hermione or Weasley would surely have been able to smell his fury before he even reached the table. As it was, he got a few odd looks from other discreet Werewolves as he passed their tables, but one strong glower in their direction had them tipping their necks in submission. He ignored them all in favour of slouching down at the banquette Potter secured for them.

“Malfoy,” Potter greeted, happily. The stupid prick was always happy.

Draco sneered. “Potter.” He tapped his foot. The invitation was burning a hole in his pocket, and since he was wearing Burberry robes, it was especially distressing. “Where’s Granger?”

“Ron went to round her up,” said Potter. They stared at each other for a few minutes. Potter raised an eyebrow. “What’s up your arse?”

Draco wrinkled his nose. Then, huffing, reached into his pocket and deposited the invitation on the table between them. “You’ve created a monster, Potter. And I have a feeling I’ll mean that literally, soon enough.”

“What do you mean?” 

“Mother’s hosting a changing party. On New Year’s Eve. And inviting humans. I’m sure your invitation will be along shortly.”

“With… with people?” asked Potter. Upon seeing Draco’s narrow look, he quickly clarified, “I mean, people who aren’t Werewolves? Or your family? Like, ‘acquaintances’ people?”

“Unfortunately so,” Draco agreed. 

The door jingled, and Hermione’s scent materialised. Draco relaxed a little. Potter turned to watch their approach, but Draco didn’t need to; he could tell Hermione’s precise position by the strength of her smell alone. She slid into the banquette next to him, and he wordlessly slid the invitation to her.

She looked at him, frowned, all tan complexion, sharp chin and firm nose—features uncommon to the families Draco grew up with, but wholly mesmerising. In some ways, she reminded him of the Banshee singer, Kate Bush, before prejudice had made her leave the magical world behind for the Muggle. 

“What’s this?” Hermione asked. 

She’d set her hair in five tidy french braids that ended halfway down her head and dissolved into a tangled mess. Draco particularly loved this look on her.

Draco scowled. “My mother’s doing.”

She lifted an eyebrow in understanding, then slipped a finger beneath the seal, popping it away. Her eyes scanned the parchment, and she frowned again. “This is absurd.”

“What’s absurd?” said Weasley, pulling up a chair on the end. 

His arms were full of Yorkshire puddings and behind him, Hannah Abbott floated two plates of kippers, at least a pound of bacon, two Cornish hens, and four glasses of Sparkling Cauldron Juice, the café’s signature drink. Draco was fairly certain it was only grapefruit juice, elderberry extraction, muddled blueberries, and a bubbling charm, but he could appreciate an entrepreneurial woman, so he held his tongue. Anyway, it tasted good.

“Narcissa Malfoy,” said Hermione absently. Her eyes were now firmly fixed on the Cornish hen.

“Could’ve told you that,” said Potter.

Draco shot him a dark look. “Mind your tongue about my mother, Potter.”

Potter shrugged and reached for one of the kippers, but a growl from Weasley had him pulling his hand back with speed. Draco smirked and took some bacon. No one growled at him.

“Anything else for my favourite customers?” asked Hannah.

“I think I need a salad,” said Potter. “This lot’s unlikely to let me have anything else. Mind you don’t send out caesar dressing with it, in case they smell the anchovies.”

Probably wise. Granger was already on her second kipper as it was. 

“Have you got any more of those blackberry-bacon-venison crepes?” asked Draco. “The ones from yesterday?”

Hannah wrinkled her nose. “Yeah. Probably a bit stale by now.”

“Do I look like I care?” he asked. “We’ll take whatever’s left.”

She rolled her eyes and turned away to do as he asked. A dozen different privacy spells from four different wands sprung up around the banquette as soon as she left. The air sparked with the upsurge of magic. 

Draco slid his wand away. “What’s this about you two morons on a string of Werewolf-bite cases?”

“How did you find out so quickly?” asked Potter.

“Mother told me just now,” said Draco.

“Luna told me last night,” Hermione added.

Potter frowned. “I haven’t even told Luna yet…” He trailed off, as three heads turned to give him very pointed looks. Even Draco knew there was no point in hiding something from Lovepotter, or whatever she was calling herself these days. “Right.”

“Well, we’re not sure they’re Werewolf bites, exactly,” said Weasley, in that slow way that made Draco wonder if he wasn’t sure how to form sentences or if he was trying to be dramatic. The latter, as it turned out.

“What do you mean, not sure?” said Hermione. 

Draco, personally, had been very sure when he was bitten.

He tore off a bite of chicken thigh, but thankfully chewed and swallowed before replying. “Well, see, there aren’t any victims, are there?”

Draco exhaled in frustration, leaning back against the banquette seat. “Then how are there crimes?’

“Magical residue’s off the charts,” said Potter. “Neighbours call and report disturbances on the full moon, but by the time we get out there, no one’s around. There are Werewolf magical signatures in the area, but no Werewolves. There’s the scent of blood, but no actual blood. And the blood’s weird, Ron says.”

“Smells off,” Weasley confirmed. “Can’t really put my finger on it. Just… sorta gross-smelling.”

Potter nodded. “Right. So no blood… or anything really. Something’s going on, but no one’s missing. No one’s reporting being attacked. Like the victims don’t want to be found.”

Hermione inhaled sharply. “No. No. Not again.”

Draco frowned. He had a feeling he knew exactly what she was thinking. “Bite cults?”

“That’s what we’re thinking,” Weasley agreed soberly. “But here’s the catch: not a trace of Wolfsbane in the entire area.”

“This is the last thing we need,” Hermione fretted. “If we’ve got another bite cult on the rise, the Ministry will skewer us. They’re just looking for a reason to get the Registry back into place. And if it’s Werewolves out there, which it’s gotta be, then how are they keeping things so tidy with no Wolfsbane?”

“We’re still trying to find a link,” Potter added. “Nothing so far. Maybe it’s not a bite cult. Maybe it’s just weird magic. Ron hasn’t been able to distinguish any good scents from the crime scenes. Everything’s… how did you say it?”

“Muddled,” said Weasley. “Like if you took a dozen Werewolves, wrung ‘em out into a cauldron, added some fermented herbs, then someone puked in it and stirred it up, and then poured it on the ground.”

Draco knew exactly what he meant. He frowned. Because it was impossible. Werewolves each had their own scent, partially determined by their human lives and partially determined by their magical signatures. It was something even more distinctive than fingerprints. Even Weasley’s twin brothers had vastly different smells. 

“Mother thinks there’s anti-Werewolf legislation in the works,” said Draco. “Could there be a connection? Someone behind the scenes setting up a hoax?”

“Maybe,” said Potter. He bit his lip. “Merlin help us—a Ministry conspiracy? I don’t know if I’d put it past some of the crooks in the Wizengamot. Who knows, really?”

Not Draco, that was for sure. He ate a piece of bacon while he thought, though he didn’t really need an excuse for bacon the day after the full moon. 

“If it really is, or hell, even if it isn’t, our time of peace is running out,” Hermione said. “We’ve got to make a stand now or we may never have another chance. Werewolves still aren’t loved by the magical world, but right now, they aren’t universally despised, either, and that may be the best we can get.”

“What do you have in mind?” Weasley asked. 

Always the suck-up Beta, Draco thought with a scowl.

“I was thinking of adjusting our public relations policy,” Hermione said, biting her lip in that way that meant she was about to go full-on Gryffindor, and this was really the last thing Draco needed. “Maybe it’s time we stopped hiding and, I don’t know, flaunt our Lycanthropy.”

Weasley’s brow furrowed. “We’re already out,” he said.

Hermione chewed her lip. “Not all of us.”

Draco turned sharply to her. “You’re going to expose the others?”

He couldn’t think of anything more cruel. He wished he could crawl under a rock most days and not come out again until he was no longer a Werewolf. A shamed Malfoy name he could handle. A despised disease he couldn’t.

“Of course not!” she said, aghast. “Only if they’re willing. But even those of us who were already exposed could do a little more.” Weasley cringed and she hurried to add, “I know, I know. It utterly sucks. But we do have some good reputation left from the war. We should play that up where we can, but not let people forget that we’re Werewolves, too. We need to make them see us as people — and see us a lot — before this legislation comes up, so they remember we’re real and not just theoretical monsters.”

“I don’t like the idea of this,” Draco said. “I get spat on enough as it is.”

Hermione and Weasley’s scents changed then, but she didn’t let her disappointment through when she said, “I won’t force anyone, even you, Draco.”

Potter took this opportunity to turn the conversation back. 

“How are you going to do it?” he asked. “Show off being Werewolves in a good way, I mean.”

Hermione frowned. “I hate to say this, but Narcissa’s New Year’s Eve party would be a good start if we played it right. Plus, her sources are usually right, and that means we need to get as close as possible to the people behind this new legislative push.”

Draco grimaced. New Year, New Wolf! the invitations read: 

 

 

Mr and Mrs Lucius Malfoy request the pleasure of your company at their home on Saturday, 31 December at eight o’clock in the evening, for their annual New Year’s Eve celebration. 

As this year’s New Year’s Eve falls on a full moon, we will have the singular delight of bringing in the new year with a lively assortment of Werewolves. Join us for a night of friendship and safe adventure. Expert riders are invited to join the Midnight Hunt to start off the new year.

Heavy hors d'oeuvres, wine, champagne, and liquor will be served. 

Wolfsbane is required for all Werewolf guests. 

We look forward to another year as your friends, 

Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy 

 

Draco hated taking risks like this, but he despised the thought of someone trying to fuck with his pack’s safety. Especially when it was Granger. “If you’re set on this course of action, Granger—”

“I am.”

He sighed. “Then I guess I’ll be there to make a spectacle of myself with you.”

Weasley shrugged, and the gesture was mirrored by Potter. Merlin, it was like they were the same person sometimes. If he hadn’t married Lovegood, Draco would have been certain there was something going on there. Merlin knew Weasley was up for just about any adventure after dark.

Hermione tapped the Accept option on the invitation with her wand, and it disappeared in a puff of elegant, sparkly smoke. She grinned up at Draco, a little wryly. “Will you be my escort?”

“Obviously,” said Draco, as casually as he could. Then, “Who else would accept a date with a Werewolf?”

She laughed, but the pathetic thing was, he hadn’t been joking. Much. She bumped her shoulder against his playfully, and offered him another slice of bacon. He nipped her finger as he took it from her and her face heated in the most unexpected way. Well, he could live with this, he supposed. There were worse things after all—like Granger not being around all the time.

“We’ll make sherbet of this shit yet,” Weasley said.

Potter snickered, and Hermione gave him a smile that should have been reserved only for Draco’s jokes. “You’re right, Ron. We will. We beat the Ministry once. We can do it again.”

“I just hope it’s only the Ministry we’re fighting now,” Potter said, fiddling with his napkin. He looked up at them. “The Ministry’s an easy enemy. It’s the unknown enemies that make me nervous. Also, we’ve technically beat them twice if you count the time we Polyjuiced as Death Eaters.”

Weasley laughed. Hermione’s lips firmed. “Then we must get to know the unknown enemies. I’ll stop by Haddie’s on the way home—”

That Hag?” Weasley interrupted.

“She can’t help her affliction any more than we can, Ron. And anyway, Mrs Aberrant says she might have some information. If I learn anything useful, I’ll owl you.”

“I’m coming with you,” Draco said. 

She nodded, accepting it easily. That was one of the things Draco liked most about Granger. She actually trusted him. No one trusted him anymore. Even his own pack. But that was another story.

Chapter Text

One of the best things about living in Knockturn Alley was that shops stayed open much later than those on the main strip. It was well-past eleven when Hermione finally made it back to her neighbourhood that night, Draco in tow, and the lights were still on at Haddie’s Meat & Produce.

The door jangled as Hermione and Draco entered. Haddie looked up from her magazine, a Muggle biro in her hand hovering above the Witch Weekly crossword. She smiled toothily at Hermione, her eyes wrinkling at the edges.

“Evening, Hermione,” said Haddie. She caught sight of Draco and her scraggly eyebrows rose. “And there’s a face I haven’t seen in an age.”

“Good evening, Ms Fishrott,” said Draco, stiffly.

He paused next to the meat section, where a number of cuts sat under refrigeration charms in the open air. One package of ground meat had an unusual smell. Hermione noticed him sniffing; he was trying to be discreet, but Haddie saw it, too. 

The Hag’s lips pursed. She pointed to a sign that read: Children no longer served here; all meats from Happy Dementor Farms, Essex.

“I see what you’re thinking in that head of yours, Mr Malfoy. It ain’t children. It’s a trout and old Pegasus mix. I keep it to hand for the folks with pet Jarveys.”

She turned to Hermione, giving her a long-suffering look. “Everyone always thinks it’s children, but it ain’t. Not since I was a girl did we serve children here.”

Hermione elbowed Draco sharply, smiling at Haddie. “You know Malfoys,” she said, by way of explanation. Draco huffed, but Haddie only nodded.

“I do indeed. Posh twits, the lot of ‘em.” 

She returned to her crossword. Hermione grabbed a jar of pickled toad livers (her favourite midnight snack because they had just the right amount of pop! when one bit down on them), two packs of dormice for Crookshanks, and a pound of chicken thighs, since it was her turn to cook for her parents this week.

She grabbed some greens, beans, and cabbage, as her days before the bite had been largely vegetarian, and it galled her to never get any plant matter in her diet, even if she no longer strictly needed it.

Draco was trying very hard to keep his nose unwrinkled, Hermione could tell. She ignored him. He was used to having house-elves do the shopping (and the cooking). He did grab a bag of chipotle Jarvey jerky on their way to the register, which made Hermione have to work very hard at not smirking.

They stepped up to the register, and Haddie pushed her crossword aside, smiling down at Hermione in an unfortunately ugly, motherly fashion. 

“How have you been, love?” Haddie asked, as she started tapping Hermione’s items with her wand—a strange, rustic type that definitely hadn’t come from Ollivander’s.

“Oh, you know me,” said Hermione. “Busy, busy, busy. How about you? Any exciting news in your life?”

Haddie glanced at her, sighing. “You know my daughter, Esmerelda,” she began.

Hermione nodded.

Haddie looked to Draco, and then pointed to a picture in a frame behind the till. “My girl,” she said. “She’s just eight.”

“What a lovely daughter,” Draco said, peering at the photograph.

Both Haddie and Hermione gave him bemused looks. Esmerelda was nothing at all close to ‘lovely’ and everyone knew it. 

“Wizards,” Haddie said to Hermione, shaking her head. “They try so hard to be polite, but it just comes off as insincere, don’t it? Anyway, I’d hoped it would skip a generation, but it looks like she’s going to develop it, too.” 

Draco shifted uncomfortably. For someone raised in such a dark family, Hermione thought, he was rubbish at dealing with other dark beings. Hermione refused to use the term ‘dark creatures.’ They were all people.

Haddie sighed, shaking her head, counting out the dormice and putting it all in a bag for Hermione. 

“I thought about eating her when it first cropped up, you know?” She looked to Hermione, and Hermione nodded. “As any good mother would, I thought. But then I said to myself: No, Haddie, it’s not the same now as it used to be. There are options now.”

She finished tallying up Hermione’s things, plus the Jarvey jerky Draco had managed to slip in, and gave her the total. Hermione handed her her Gringotts bank draft token.

“Suppose I’ll have to write to that Headmistress and see if she’ll take in a Hag witch in a few years,” said Haddie as she submitted the charge to Hermione’s account. It cleared and a hovering quill wrote out a receipt. 

Haddie handed it to her, continuing, “Suppose I know just how that conversation will go. ‘Dear me, a Hag?’” she said, in a fair imitation of McGonagall’s Scottish burr when she was shocked. “‘Do you think it’s very wise to have a young, impressionable cannibal at a boarding school?’ But what else can I do, Hermione? If I’m not going to eat the girl, she needs a good education.”

“I quite agree, Haddie,” said Hermione, as she signed the receipt. “I’ll speak to the Headmistress next time I see her. Maybe we can come up with some ideas to make Hogwarts a safe place for Esmerelda.”

Haddie beamed at her. She was still young for a Hag—only in her thirties—and she still had all her teeth. But as she’d said, times were changing. And Hermione had a mind to bring dentistry to the Magical World, so she may yet keep them all. It was a terrible shame that Hagism was so hard on the body. It aged one quickly and changed their nutritional requirements dramatically—Hermione suspected that the magic behind whatever benefits it gave to the affected witch were fuelled by an incredible amount of inflammation on the body, thus the ageing, but she’d never asked.

Hermione wasn’t afraid of Haddie trying to eat her or anyone else. She knew what it was like to be a dark being. 

“I’d certainly appreciate it,” said Haddie. “I want the girl to have a better time of it than me. Find herself a nice husband, have some grand-babies one day. We’ll only eat one or two of them—but only if it’s necessary! I sure wish we could stamp this affliction out of my family.” She shook her head. 

“Times are changing,” Hermione reminded her gently. She might not be afraid of Haddie, but she certainly wasn’t going to condone the eating of grandchildren.

“You’re right, of course.” Haddie handed Hermione her bag. Draco immediately reached in and took out his jerky. “And you know what, since you’re here, there’s something I’ve been meaning to talk to you about.”

Hermione leaned in. Bingo. “Oh? What’s that?”

Haddie glanced side to side, but the three of them were the only ones in the shop. Haddie leaned in further. “Listen, there’s somethin’ I wanted to ask you about. Is it true your sort’s got Demon blood in you? I heard a couple of Vampires smelled some Werewolf blood up north, and right beneath it, there was a Demon-summoning ritual chalked in. I’ve always wondered how you had so few vulnerabilities. A deal with a Demon does make sense.”

Hermione reared back. “What?” she asked, aghast. 

She wouldn’t bother asking who told Haddie that because there was a quick lesson to learn when you lived in or hung about Knockturn Alley: Don’t ask for the source, and don’t tell your source, or you’ll never get another word of information from anyone.

Haddie raised her eyebrows. “So it’s true or it’s not true?”

“Absolutely not!” Hermione said. She hesitated. “Well, I don’t think it’s true, anyway.” She rallied: “And even if it were, I’ve certainly never consorted with a Demon, so it isn’t as if Werewolves today are Demonic.”

Haddie nodded. “Just as I figured,” she said. She leaned forward again. “But mind you be sure about that.”

“Oh, no,” Hermione whispered. “Have you heard anything else?”

Haddie almost looked sorry to be the one telling her. “Heard someone might have something they’re planning to release to the papers. I suspect they overheard the Vampires and connected some dots. A big exposé on Werewolf origins. I wish someone would tell me what my origins were.”

“Shit,” Draco breathed behind her.

Hermione echoed that feeling. “Damn.” She swallowed. “Can you tell me anything else?”

Haddie shook her head. “Wish I could, dear. You know I like you—you know I ain’t got any problem with your sort. Just don’t know anything else.”

Hermione nodded, sighed. “It’s enough to be going on with. Thanks ever so, Haddie. Take care.”

Haddie waved them out. Hermione was thinking furiously the entire walk home to her flat, and Draco, mercifully, knew when it was best to let her do so. He walked along beside her, quietly eating his Jarvey jerky and saying nothing, though she did catch his eyes flicking to her every now and again.

When they reached her flat, Draco followed her in, uninvited. He usually did that.

Hermione set her bag down, put her groceries away, and poured herself an overly large glass of red wine. At Malfoy’s eyebrow, she poured him one, too. Then Crookshanks appeared from wherever he’d been hiding and she had to pour him a small bowl and toss him the dormice. God, men were so needy.

They slumped onto the couch next to each other. It felt as if a thousand days’ worth of exhaustion drained from her at the first sip of her Pinot. What would her life have been like if she hadn’t been bitten? Would she have married Ron? Would she have made a difference in the world? 

Maybe not. Maybe she would’ve continued turning her nose up at Knockturn Alley and being nervous of folks like Haddie. Maybe she would’ve taken a mid-level Ministry job and just existed for the rest of her life. Maybe she would’ve married Ron, who she still sometimes felt wistful over, and then other times felt like she was missing something important right in front of her.

But none of that had happened. Life was shit. It was hard and painful and she spent so many nights crying and waking up from nightmares where Greyback bit her and raped her and then ate her alive. This wasn’t the life she planned. But challenges made one stronger.

If one let them. 

Keep going. She had to keep going. She’d find the clue they needed to prevail. She always did.

“Fuck,” Draco sighed.

Hermione nodded. “Fuck.”

They looked at each other. Draco was the first to smile, and then they both lost it, laughing hysterically because if they didn’t, they’d cry hysterically instead.

Hermione grabbed her hair and pulled. “Malfoy, what are we going to do?” 

“Cure this nightmare,” he said immediately. His hand went to her thigh, rubbing absently where the bite lay beneath her jeans. It was a comforting gesture she’d relaxed under for years. Now, it relaxed her enough to start thinking. Thinking always helped.

“We still don’t even know how we got infected. Or how Harry didn’t. What if our Lycanthropy is different?” What if it’s Demon blood?

He shrugged. “We’re close to a breakthrough.”

She peered at him through her hair. She didn’t really think they were, but Draco held onto his happiness by a thin, fraying thread of hope that they would find a cure and she hated that. Basing one’s happiness on that made one fragile, and that was no way for a Werewolf to be. 

Especially an Alpha.

“It could be years before we do that, if ever. What are we going to do now? How are we going to beat the Ministry? Even if we eradicate Lycanthropy, that doesn’t solve anything. There will still be bigotry. There will still be enforced poverty. There will probably even be people who don’t want to be cured. Can you imagine going back to the lives we had before? To living without our scent, our hearing, our strength? Our ability to withstand magic or go weeks without food?”

He frowned. Quietly: “I don’t know.”

She was going to teach him bravery one day. As soon as she was brave enough to try it. He deserved to know how it felt to be brave. He would be good at it, she was sure. No one ever gave him credit for what he could be, but Hermione saw it.

Hermione leaned back, half-drained her glass of wine in one long drink. “Ishtar, I needed that. It never ends, does it?”

“I wish you wouldn’t call on her.”

Hermione eyed him. “Ishtar was the first goddess to turn a man into a wolf. Our condition must stem from that one act. I have to believe there’s a purpose to it… that it continues in us must mean it’s a gift, if we can just find the value of it. I want her to remember we still exist. To not forget us. So I’ll keep praying to her.”

“You are obnoxiously sentimental sometimes,” said Draco. “Perhaps you should be praying to the Morrigan instead, for mercy from this death blow Ishtar’s inflicted on us.”

“And you are depressingly maudlin,” Hermione retorted. 

“Maybe Ishtar was a Demon.” Draco stared down into his glass with that look he got when he was focusing at work.

Hermione frowned. “She did descend into Hell…”

“Maybe we are Demons,” he said. “Too bad it doesn’t come with the ability to damn arseholes to hell.”

She laughed, then drained the rest of her glass, stretching as she stood. “I’m going to bed. I want to get into work early tomorrow so I can get to work on the new assignment from Apex. Are you staying here tonight?”

Draco gave her an inscrutable look. “I think I’ll Floo home.”

“Mind you don’t let Crookshanks follow you through this time. He was traumatised by that beastly terrier portrait in your drawing room.”

Crookshanks flicked his ear, agreeing with dignity.

“Goodnight, Granger,” Draco said as he stood.

Hermione paused in the door to her bedroom. She smiled at him. Even when he annoyed her, he was still her partner. She liked his nearness. She almost wished he’d stay. “Goodnight, Malfoy.”

She heard the Floo flare as she was undressing, and then all was quiet in her flat. Crookshanks came in and jumped on the bed, curling up on his side. She slipped on her pyjama bottoms and crawled in beside him, nearly tripping over the bags of compost and organic plant food she’d left by the window. 

There were dozens of books on her bedside table, but she wasn’t in the mood for reading. Life was shit, but there were pieces that illuminated the rest. Harry and Ron could brighten any day. And Draco… he didn’t so much light up her life as he showed her the shadows she’d neglected to notice. It hurt and it healed in equal measure.

“Night, Crooksy,” she whispered. 

He butted his head against her nose, purring. She’d got used to always going to bed alone, but it would be nice to have a romantic partner. She could agree with Draco there: If only someone would give her a chance instead of getting caught up in the fact that she had Lycanthropy. She had a lot of love to give, and only Crookshanks to give it to. 

Hermione had no idea what would have happened to her if he’d abandoned her after her infection. She would’ve given up a long time ago, probably. She wondered why she hadn’t been enough to keep him from giving up.

 

🌕 🌕 🌕

 

Demon blood!” Narcissa snarled, slamming the Aberdeen Augury onto her desk. The force of it puffed a gust of air out, sending several documents floating off the edge. “How dare they?”

Hermione rubbed her temples. It was Friday and her lunch break, for Merlin’s sake. She should be spending it having a high-protein lunch, not planning counter-attacks with the coldest woman in Britain—well, cold to everyone but her two darlings, of course. 

Hermione chanced opening her eyes, and immediately wanted to close them again. There it sat, the foremost Scottish magical paper, glaring back at her. The subtitle ran: New study into Werewolf blood suggests ties to Demons, Fiendfyre.

Well, Haddie had warned her. 

The ‘proof,’ of course, was wildly speculative and—again, of course—unsourced. Where was the supporting research? What were the study’s authors’ qualifications? It didn’t even bring in the origination of the first man-wolf, made by Ishtar.

None of that was provided. It was, in short, offensive to the academic profession.

But that wouldn’t stop the rest of the magical world from believing it. Hermione had known in her first year that wizards and witches were, on the whole, sorely lacking in logic. She had not had cause to adjust her conclusion in the years since. 

It wasn’t even that they lacked the ability to reason; it was that they saw no need for it. They actually preferred to be idiots.

Still, libel laws were rarely upheld in magical Britain. Of course they weren’t, Hermione thought in annoyance. Once the Daily Prophet got wind of it, everyone would know, true or not. Praise Merlin for the magical world’s communication channels still being so utterly Victorian. Hermione reckoned that they had twenty-four hours before it blew up in London.

She scanned the article again, scowling. Just because her blood was darker than a normal human’s—black, in fact, under most light—didn’t mean she was a Demon. 

It just meant she had an abundance of a different kind of white blood cells—obviously, since Lycanthropy was a disease—and that those white blood cells happened to be dark green and made from a combination of copper and acetic acid. When they mixed with red cells, her blood looked black. 

Children learned how colours mixed in primary school, for heaven’s sake. She had the same molecules as normal human blood, just in different arrangements.

No sulphur, no brimstone, no Demons

The change in Werewolf blood cells from leukocytes to what she and Malfoy had coined ‘chlorocytes’ was one of their foremost research efforts. They were making progress on it, and damn it all to hell if some ruddy reporter hadn’t bollixed it all up before they could publish. Now, whatever their findings, it would look defensive, as if they had an agenda.

They did have an agenda. That was beside the point.

 She couldn’t help thinking back to the case Harry and Ron were working, and the mentions of Vampires. Something was going on and Hermione had a rising suspicion it was all connected.

“Narcissa, we can’t sue them,” Hermione said, browsing her day planner. Goodness, she had so much to do this week. “Anonymous sources are beyond the reach of the court, but even if they weren’t, we can still thank our prejudiced, weakling government.”

A government your husband once took great pains to set up, so as to better serve his own agenda, Hermione thought loudly and with a polite smile on her face.

Narcissa set her planner aside. She gave Hermione a flat look, and Hermione knew Narcissa saw the unspoken words in her expression. The two of them didn’t need Legilimency to read one another’s mind.

“Which means that now is the time for a redirection,” Narcissa agreed, sighing. “I do so hate being caught off-guard.”

Hermione nodded, softening. “Yes, I think we should ask some of the Battle Pack to come forward.

Narcissa stilled. “You surprise me, Hermione.”

Hermione chewed her lip. “We would be asking them,” she said firmly. “Not exposing them. Only those who are willing. But I think it would be a good move, to show the rest of the world that we’re here, we’re numerous, and we’re normal people, on the whole.”

“Who did you intend to ask?” Narcissa replied.

This was the hard part. Did she put the pressure on a select few, those who would create the most publicity? Or did she ask all of them to share the burden, even though some of her pack were not exactly made for prime time?

But no matter what she decided, she wasn’t exposing any of her pack without their consent, not even to Narcissa, who was part of it. 

Hermione narrowed her eyes. “Who are you aware of in our pack so far?”

Narcissa rolled her eyes, ever so slightly. “I would be surprised if I didn’t know them all. Unlike my son, I use my nose—and I have many, many friends.” When Hermione didn’t relent, Narcissa, said, “Elliot Parkinson, of course. I see him frequently at social gatherings. Gregory Goyle—the senior. I saw your Astronomy teacher get bitten, so I’m certain she’s one, though I haven’t been around her since the battle to confirm. I saw one of the Macmillan boys take the bite—the elder, I believe. A number of Hogsmeade residents, including Hestia Jones who runs the Quidditch supply shop I spent many an hour at when Draco was young.”

She paused. “Shall I keep on? Of course I don’t know everyone in our pack, personally, but I’ve had correspondence with a number of them, and I think you know me to be discreet.”

“I do,” Hermione said, sighing, “but I can’t tell secrets that aren’t my own. I suppose I’ll write to everyone and see if they would agree to at least meet with you and me.”

Narcissa lifted a delicate eyebrow. “To be frank, it would only take a little concerted Nifflering and some skill with basic arithmetic to figure out the remainder. Hermione, everyone knows there were forty of us bitten that night. Potter never turned. That leaves thirty-nine Werewolves, and eight of us already known to the public. Although, I have suspicions about one of those.”

Hermione pursed her lips. “We won’t speak of it,” she said. 

Narcissa stared at her for a long moment. “As you say.”

Hermione let out a relieved breath. George. George was always their weak spot. He could do so much damage to them all.

“Someone must always stay hidden, so no one realises the numbers don’t add up.”

“I’m certain we’ll have plenty of volunteers,” Hermione said dryly.

Narcissa’s nodded. “Very well.”

She reseated herself behind her ornate desk and took up a white peacock feather quill. She dipped it in a pot of actual silver ink—ever the ironic snob, even as a Werewolf—and scrawled a long name on a crisp black envelope. 

“We must take a proactive approach before this gets beyond our control. Redirection and a direct assault. It is beyond past time to claw our way out of persecution.” She slid the envelope across the desk to Hermione, who frowned upon reading it: 

Head Auror Macha Yaxley.

“You can’t be serious,” said Hermione. 

“We need the Aurors on our side,” said Narcissa, simply.

Hermione agreed with that. “We already have Harry, Ron, Lavender, and Tonks. And Percy Weasley’s in the Minister’s office.”

Narcissa waved a delicate hand. “Darling. They’re junior Aurors, and the Minister hasn’t managed to get a bill passed since the ill-conceived tax hike on the middle-class couched as an Apparition point infrastructure improvement that I’m certain was really Harkiss’s doing. We need the woman in power. One always needs the woman in power.”

That was a sentiment Hermione could get behind, but she got a funny feeling that Narcissa was trying to tell her something else, beyond the surface words, and she hated that she didn’t immediately know what it was. Still: “We’re just asking for trouble having the law at a party with transformed Werewolves and bigots. It’s madness —Narcissa, i t’s straightaway dangerous.”

Narcissa eyed her, looking quite bored. “Darling, of course something will go wrong when a passel of ignorant and frightened humans are put into a ballroom with several dozen Werewolves, my handsome criminal husband, and twenty full cases of champagne. But it will not be on account of Werewolves, and I want the Department of Magical Law Enforcement to be there to see who starts it.”

“We can’t count on that,” Hermione said stiffly. “Which is why I must reiterate that I think this idea is madness. If you’re so sure something’s going to happen, why are you forcing the issue? We should start with something safer than a mixed party.”

“Darling Hermione,” said Narcissa, in her lovely, frigid tone. She leaned forward. “Danger is the entire point. Something will happen, and that is what’s going to save us.”

She leaned back again and twirled her hand, both dismissive and submissive, somehow at once.

There were entire paragraphs unsaid in that statement, but Hermione’s stomach turned just the same. She knew what was missing. Narcissa was planning to cause a scene.

“It’s just so Machiavellian,” Hermione said. “I’d rather just be straightforward.”

Narcissa smiled. It didn’t reach her eyes. “I know you would, but you also don’t want the hassle of me bothering to try to take Alpha from you, so you’ve learned to give in to me sometimes when my plans don’t offend you too much.”

Hermione silently conceded that. “It does offend me, though. I’m just not sure how much. What’s the end goal?”

Narcissa smiled, all sharp white teeth. “Chaos.” She turned back to her desk. “Now, you and Draco stick to your whatever it is you do, my husband will stick to writing cheques, and I will stick to planning our next campaign. The game has changed, Hermione, and we must change with it. This is a blow to our mission today, but we’re going to turn it around. I’m asking for your trust on this.”

Hermione looked back down to the blaring headline on the Augury, sighing. Narcissa was, unfortunately, right. The game had changed. The question was: Was Hermione herself brave enough to change with it? 

Was she brave enough for chaos? The Virgo in her cringed and screamed, but she did have a Gemini ascendent… probably why she got on so well with Draco.

Many Werewolves didn’t want to be ‘just human’ again. Many of them just wanted to be accepted. 

“If you surrendered to the air, you could ride it,”  she thought. Toni Morrison had said that and as a mixed girl growing up in London, Hermione had once lived by it. She could do that again. Let the chaos come and ride it to where they needed to go.

“Fine,” Hermione said. “But I will see the guest list before you finalise it. I don’t want any Werewolves here that either Draco or I can’t keep in line. No non-pack.”

“Pah,” said Narcissa. “Don’t forget the hassle it would be if I challenged you, darling. I am Beta to no wolf. I intend to send invitations to five respected Werewolves of my generation and both of the recently outed Wizengamot members.”

“Pack only,” Hermione repeated, eyes narrowed.

And the rogues,” said Narcissa, narrowing her eyes in return. “I shan’t snub Sterling or FitzGryphon. They were clever enough to sit on the Wizengamot for decades without anyone discovering their Lycanthropy and I want them on our side. They might be unpredictable, but they’re each over two hundred years old, and I hardly think up to much beyond a bawdy chorus of howls once they’re in their cups.”

Hermione growled in frustration, but nodded in the end. Working with Narcissa Malfoy was a constant struggle of give and take. She could give in on this one, with the expectation of taking a different win further down the line. “Fine, agreed.”

“Wonderful!” said Narcissa brightly. “I assume you’ll begin on those letters to the anonymous among our pack? I’m happy to adjust my schedule as necessary.”

“I’ll send them today.”

Hermione’s wand chirruped, warning her of the approaching end of her lunch break. Lovely. She stood. “A pleasure, as always, Narcissa.”

“Likewise, darling.”

The door opened as she neared it, and, to her never-ending poor luck, Lucius Malfoy entered. He sniffed haughtily. 

“Ms Granger.”

Hermione did not have time for this. She growled in his general direction; he gracefully—and quickly—stepped aside so she could pass. One of the ever-present house-elves escorted her back to the Apparition antechamber. She stepped and spun without looking back. 

Chapter Text

Back on Level Nine and girded with two chicken vindaloos, Hermione pushed open the door to her and Draco’s shared office-slash-lab. There were stacks of books pushed up against the door and she had to squeeze to get through. Draco’s eyes flicked up to follow her progress, but his stirring didn’t stop. She watched his mouth move, counting numbers under his breath, and got that strange feeling she sometimes felt when he did something noteworthy with it, like smirk or tell off someone being stupid, or say something kind. 

“Got you a vindaloo,” she said, setting it down on the worktable. 

“No naan?” 

“No naan,” she confirmed. 

Draco smiled his secret smile at her—the one most people didn’t think existed—and continued with his stirring. For a Werewolf, he had a terrible weakness for baked goods and always got in a strop when she had them to hand—something about carbs being ‘stressful to resist,’ and ‘impeccable, washboard abs.’ Hermione wasn’t sure. She usually tuned him out. 

Hermione moved to her desk and started sorting through all the paperwork she would’ve finished by now if she wasn’t obligated to a two-day forced holiday once a month. 

“I assume your mother sent you the same owl she sent me, about the Aberdeen article,” she said absently.

She heard the answering, “Mm,” as she flicked through a stack of memos they’d received while she was out. “We did know it was coming.”

She sighed. “I spent my entire lunch break there and we’re no closer to coming up with a counterattack than we were when I arrived. She wants us to play the victim. Or incite a riot—you never can tell with her.”

“We are the victim,” Draco said between stirs.

Hermione frowned. She didn’t like to think of herself that way. She was stronger as a Werewolf; her senses were crisper; her health was, on the whole, better. Yes, Lycanthropy was destructive on the body, but so was eating buns every day. It was perfectly manageable with a good, clean diet, regular light exercise, and a healthy mindset.

“I think playing the victim will separate us more. We shouldn’t draw attention to our differences. We should draw attention to our similarities. To the value we add to society, because really Draco, diversity in itself is added value. It’s easy for people to discriminate against ‘otherness.’ It’s harder when they see that the otherness is really just superficial. I want real community among the magical world and all of the magical beings in it. I don’t want to guilt people into feeling sorry for us or thinking we’re poor, inferior, mistreated souls who just need a hug and a pat on the back for our sufferings… or worse, that we just need to work harder and keep a job.”

Draco finished stirring, set his stirring rod aside, and looked at her with an inscrutable look. 

“You and Mum think so much alike, sometimes,” he said. “But then you come to such radically different conclusions.”

Hermione didn’t know how she felt about that. She cleared her throat. “We’re just trying to do the best we can for our pack. We don’t always agree on the methods.”

He checked the clock, picked his stirring rod up again, and started in on a second round of anti-clockwise stirs. She returned to her desk, trying to find some order in the disorder of memos on her desk. It was several minutes before he spoke again.

“I like your methods better.”

Hermione turned to face him. His face was flushed and shiny and the hair at the nape of his neck was curling from the steam. It suited him, she thought. She always thought that when they were brewing together. 

“Usually I hate them at first, and then you’ll rephrase something in a way that I connect with and everything will just snap into place,” said Malfoy. He came and leaned his hip against her desk, staring down at her with his arms crossed over his chest. “I hate that about you, actually. It makes it hard for me to trust myself.” 

“God and Merlin help us,” Hermione muttered, rolling her eyes. They were entirely too close suddenly, and she’d never felt that before, even waking up sprawled on top of one another. What was different?

She returned to the stack, frowning, and half-distracted by the memo reminding all Ministry employees to clean out their preservation spells before leaving for the holidays, as no one wanted to come back to an office full of rotted food. As if she and Malfoy ever had any leftover food. She flipped to the bottom where there was a tell-tale docket, doused in secret-keeping spells: their new assignment. Her fingers clenched around the parchment, her eyes widening as she read through the details. 

Above her, Draco sighed, shifted on his feet. She caught the movement of his hips from the corner of her eye, and wished that Harry and Ron would invest as much in such nice tailoring. His impatience was almost tangible. She set the docket aside; he wouldn’t let her get anything done unless she humoured him.

“I’m sorry that my thinking intimidates you,” she said patiently.

This time, he rolled his eyes. “It doesn’t intimidate me, you twat. It challenges long-held beliefs, beloved characteristics, and my own intuition. I like being challenged, but sometimes it takes me a while to realise it.”

Hermione smiled softly. “Is that so, Malfoy?”

“Oh, fuck off.” 

He pivoted and returned to his potion. She followed him over there, still smiling. She liked it when he was startlingly honest with her. It didn’t happen frequently. Even now, even with her, Draco held everything close to the chest. As it was a broad chest, there was a lot of room for holding things against.

“Have I yet challenged your thinking on taking up a more active role as Alpha male of our pack?” she asked.

Draco frowned at her. “I need to stir.”

Hermione knew when to back down with him.  

“Is that the chlorocyte genesis-detecting potion?” she asked, instead. They really should come up with an acronym or something for it. “It smells nearly done.” 

“Mhm,” Draco agreed. “Three minutes.”

They’d been working on this potion for a long time, doing trials with different blood samples, trying to tease out a recipe that would show them why their blood regenerated differently than someone uninfected, like Ginny. 

They hoped it would show what made their Werewolf blood regenerate differently than someone who’d been bitten, bled black like them, and never changed. There was only one person who’d ever done that, and it was Harry. 

Hermione was sure that was the key to the disease: Figure out how Harry was able to resist infection and they would figure out what kept it alive in their own veins.

While she really hoped this potion showed some promise because they might finally get that extra funding and Graves might stop riding their arses about results if they did, Hermione was uninspired by the work. She didn’t think this was the direction their future was meant to take. Lycanthropy was technically a disease, but it was a disease that came with some benefit. Many people wanted to remain Werewolves. And if they cured Lycanthropy, so what?

People would still discriminate against goblins, Centaurs, Hags, Veela, Vampires, House-Elves, and all the other sentient magical beings out there. 

The truth was, Hermione felt like she would be betraying her brethren if she cured Lycanthropy. It would be like saying ‘Being different is bad.’

She didn’t like to think of it that way. It wasn’t true.

On the other hand, this chlorocyte-detecting potion was quite possibly their last chance to secure continued Lycanthropy research funding. They were out of money for this particular budgetary cycle and the Department wasn’t keen on granting more.

“Graves will have Kneazles if it works,” she said, trying to lessen the tension. She elbowed Malfoy coyly. “I see a Young Magiscientists of Britain award in our futures.”

He smiled back at her. “I know.” 

There was still a minute before he needed to stir again, so she passed him the docket for their new assignment.

“Take a look at this. A new side project straight from Apex. I’ve been waiting weeks for this and it’s just as fascinating as I’d hoped! Our Lycanthropy research must be making an impression.” 

Hermione had no idea who Apex was other than the mysterious Head of the Department of Mysteries—the one who’d unhooded the both of them but never unhooded themself. She didn’t even know what Apex’s real voice sounded like or whether they were a wizard or a witch. But she did know that whoever they were, they were the most powerful person in Britain, perhaps Europe, perhaps more. They were even next in line to be Chief Witch or Wizard of the Wizengamot, if disaster struck. Hermione had heard that not even the Minister knew their real identity. 

She believed it. 

Malfoy’s eyebrows rose as he read through the new assignment. “The Killing Curse,” he said, trailing off. 

She watched his Adam’s apple bob as he swallowed, then flicked her eyes back up to his when he spoke again. 

“We’re not even Senior Unspeakables yet,” he said. “We don’t even know the identity of most of the Senior Unspeakables yet. And Apex is assigning this to us?” 

He sat down on the edge of her desk, blinking. 

He said, “This must be what Weasley feels like when the Cannons aren’t first to be eliminated in the season.”

She swatted his thigh and snatched the docket back from him, excitedly re-reading the task list, committing it to memory, and reading it again. A research grant, just for them, to study the magic behind Avada Kedavra, what made it work, and what made it so unstoppable. 

She shook her head, still a little overwhelmed. 

Absently, she chastised him, “Don’t be awful, Draco.” 

His wand buzzed, signalling that the potion was ready for decanting. They both jumped up and hurried over, nearly—but not quite—forgetting the brilliant new assignment from Apex in their excitement over the chlorocyte genesis-detecting potion. 

The potion was white, just as they’d theorised when developing it. Hermione was nearly buzzing with excitement and Draco looked as if he weren’t doing much better.

“I’ll get the blood samples,” she said.

She hurried over to the cold-spelled cabinet where they had dozens of phials of their own blood and blood from their friends, both human and Werewolf. Draco was already decanting the elixir. He poured the last of it into three glass bowls and Banished the extra phials to the cabinet for later study.

Hermione set a single phial in front of each bowl. Their labels read:

 

  • Werewolf: Lavender Brown
  • Human: Ginny Weasley
  • Unknown: Harry Potter

 

Draco picked up Lavender’s and flicked back the cork with his thumb. The scent of blood soaked the air, and Hermione was unable to hold back a little whimper. She began to salivate, even as her stomach turned. The curse of being aroused by the smell of human blood.

Wordlessly, Draco Summoned her a blood-flavoured lolly from her secret stash. She gave him a grateful glance, unwrapped it, and shoved it in her mouth before she embarrassed herself further.

He tipped Lavender’s blood into the bowl of chlorocyte genesis-detecting potion, then followed suit with Ginny’s and Harry’s samples. Draco took a stirring rod and mixed each of the bowls. They watched the red—and black, in Lavender’s case—blood swirl through the mixture before settling. 

Hermione bit her lip, waiting anxiously. Draco’s fingers clenched around the table edge and it looked like he might squeeze right through the wood. It wouldn’t be the first time.

“How long should it take?” she asked him.

This was always more Draco’s project than her own. She’d helped him with the research and development, but the Department had assigned her other, smaller tasks along the way, so she’d never been as fully invested. He was the expert on this. 

His heartbeat was faster than normal; she could hear it. He shifted on his feet. 

“The red blood cells should separate out within a minute, if it works,” he said.

Their eyes flicked to the clock on the wall opposite, listening for the tiny ticks to count them down. 

A minute went by, and Hermione looked down again. She frowned. All three of the bowls were still the same colour. There was no change in any of the three samples. They even still smelled as delicious to Hermione as they had before, which was terribly unfortunate. 

“Damn it,” said Draco savagely.

She sighed. She hated to see him disappointed. Then she noticed something wiggling in the three bowls. 

“Wait, look. It’s separating out the plasma. That’s something.”

Draco bent down to peer into the first bowl. He looked at the side, from where Hermione could see that there were now two layers to the potion—one deep black one of their red blood cells, platelets, and chlorocytes, and one snot-coloured one of elixir and plasma.

Draco frowned, bending low to inspect the samples. “Potter’s still looks the same as Brown’s and little Weasley’s. It should’ve reacted differently.”

“It did react, though,” said Hermione. “Maybe we just need to refine it. It’s only the first time you’ve used it, after all.”

Malfoy stood, sighing. “Yeah, but probably not enough for more funding and I can’t ignore orders from Apex.”

“Probably not,” Hermione agreed, biting her lip. “Well, at least the new assignment is interesting.”

He turned to her, sneering in the way he did when he felt trapped or blindsided or just really disappointed. 

“Bloody lot of good that’s going to do us,” said Draco. 

He flung his hand out angrily, and the contents of the bowls vanished, along with the bowls themselves. Lovely. That was their best set of purified mixing bowls. She eyed him fiercely, and he made another angry slash of his hand. The glass bowls reappeared, empty.

“Thank you. We’re closer than we were,” she said. “We may yet get another shot at this. There are just too many Werewolves for the Ministry to ignore it forever.”

“That’s the problem,” Draco growled. “They were happy to ignore us when they could, giving us piddly rights and privileges that any human had, so long as it didn’t interfere too much with real people’s lives.” He turned abruptly to face her, his eyes shining barely gold.

“Now, the rumours are returning, now we’re demons. And do you think they’ll ignore us for long now? Not a fucking chance. We needed to show we could cure Lycanthropy so we could stop being perceived as threats to them. Now, we’re fucked. It’s only a matter of time.”

“We aren’t fucked,” Hermione said. She actually stomped her foot. “We’re working on a counter-campaign, we’ve got new ideas, we’re taking steps forward. We’re not stopping, Draco.”

She paused, took a few slow steps towards him so as not to scare him off. “You’re Alpha Male of this pack,” she said softly. “We could use you. Our pack could use you.”

“Yeah right,” he snarled. “This pack doesn’t give a fuck about me any more than I give a fuck about them. Look at them, they hide away in safety, in anonymity, while we’re getting spat on at the shops and barred from attending Quidditch games—for teams I own!”

“We have to work with the cards laid down,” she said. “We got the Wheel of Fortune, not the Tower. Our fate isn’t already decided.”

He glared at her. “It won’t happen in our lifetimes.”

Now, she was just pissed off. “It certainly won’t if you continue hiding from it! Malfoy, you’re Alpha for a reason! Magic chose you! There are things to be done that only you can do, and things that only we can do together, as Alphas. We need you.”

Malfoy wouldn’t look at her. “I hate this disease,” he said, instead of responding to her plea.

“We’re closer than we were,” she reminded him. Closer to a cure, closer to equality, closer to revolution—it all equated to the same thing, in the end. “Don’t forget that.”

He whirled around, still glaring.

 “How could I? We’ve been doing this for years, Granger. Years. And each new combination gets us incrementally further along. But what if there’s no solution? What if we’re on some asymptotic path that gets us closer and closer and closer, but never touches on the solution? We could spend our entire furry, fucking lives doing this job, and end up with nothing to show for it.”

This wasn’t going well at all. Draco in a strop was impossible, and she knew she had to be delicate with him, but it was hard to be delicate when he was being a twat and she was on her period.

“Let’s put this aside for a couple weeks and work on the new assignment,” she suggested. “Maybe something will occur to us if we stop thinking about the potion so much.” 

“We’re out of funding,” Draco muttered. “This was it. We’ll be putting it off forever, because I failed.”

Hermione rolled her eyes. Malfoys. “How funding is even a concern for you, with all your Quidditch teams, I’m certain I’ve no idea. Or have you forgotten you’re a Malfoy, for Ishtar’s sake?”

He grunted. She thought maybe she was getting through to him. Hermione did hate it when Draco got depressed over their condition. It was so unhelpful.

Sure, she couldn’t have children, and sure, people spat on them sometimes, and sure, she had to pay higher employment taxes, and sure, life was generally more difficult, but it could’ve been worse. At least they were allowed to hold jobs now. At least they were allowed in most of the shops. Progress was happening.

She tried again: “Let’s table the chlorocyte genesis-detecting potion for a bit. Maybe we’ve been thinking about it so much that we’re overlooking something.”

“Yeah,” said Malfoy. “Like our lives.” 

He yanked off his brewing apron and threw it across the room. It landed somewhere between their two desks. He ran a hand through his hair, sending it into disarray. 

“Fuck this. I’m taking the afternoon. See you tomorrow.”

He strode out of their office, and the entire Department of Mysteries, before Hermione could even get her wits about her. She stared at the spot he’d been a long time, and then she carefully preserved the cauldron of potion, and put it at the back of their cabinet. He would want it again one day.

Chapter Text

She found him at her flat, as she’d half expected to. He was sprawled on her couch, switching angrily from BBC One to BBC Four. There was a global warming documentary on. It was late, and the only light in the flat came from the television screen. It reflected eerily from Malfoy’s eyes as he tracked her progress into the room.

She set a box of takeaway kebabs on the coffee table before him, as a peace offering.

“There’s nothing on,” he said, pausing briefly at a Top Gear rerun. 

“It’s midnight,” said Hermione, taking off her cloak and tossing it over a chair. She’d planted forty iris bulbs around Knockturn, wiping frustrated tears away with muddy hands well into the night. But these would lie dormant over the winter, and in the spring, she would have done something to make her community more beautiful. It was a lesson in delayed satisfaction that she clearly needed right now. 

Now, when everything was going wrong and she was just so tired of fighting.

Now that she was a Demon, and Draco was depressed again.

Draco grunted, stretched. His shoes were off and her green cashmere throw—a gift from Narcissa their second year working together—was tucked all around him. He slept on it sometimes during moon nights, and it would hold his smell for weeks afterwards. 

“I didn’t want to go home,” he said.

Hermione knew. She hadn’t wanted to come home either. Only an hour after Draco had left the office, the special edition Prophet had come out, the headline blaring:

New evidence brings demonic history of Lycanthropy to light

There was no doubt Draco had seen it, too. Her copy was on the coffee table; it must have been delivered while he was here watching her telly. She dropped her bag of seeds and pruning sheers on the table, effectively covering the revolting headline. 

She stretched the kinks from her neck. It was always a little sore after hours bent over the soil, but it was good for taking out frustrations, and it wasn’t as if anything Hermione did could make Knockturn Alley look worse. She’d needed the release it gave her tonight, after such a succession of rough days. 

There had been work to do—pack-mates to contact and beg favours from, flyers to draw up and send to the printers, rush plans to make… as all her plans seemed to be these days. Narcissa worked Hermione hard, but never harder than Narcissa worked herself. After that, and the disastrous afternoon with Draco, she’d needed time to regroup.

And when she’d finished planting winter geraniums by the rare dark books shop, sweat and angry tears running down her face, her hair sticking to her neck, she had realised it wasn’t enough. She still wasn’t un-tensed. She was still worried and angry and a little bit miserable because Malfoy was miserable and she hated it when he was unhappy.

Fortunately, Neville always opened his door to her, even at ten in the evening. And that’s how she’d come by her last trick for the night. She reached into her endless bag and brought it out: a small sachet of dried Lily-of-the-valley, nowadays more commonly called wolfnip. 

She placed it on the table by the kebabs, one eyebrow raised. Eight years ago, Hermione never would’ve resorted to ‘medicinal herbs.’ The Hermione of eight years ago was long dead, though, and the world wasn’t black and white. Ishtar had been associated with lilies. That was probably the true reason Hermione had first deigned to try it as an anxiety aid.

Draco snorted. “Am I that bad off?”

“You tell me,” Hermione said. 

She prodded at his feet until he lifted them long enough for her to sit down. He flexed his toes and she obliged him, absently rubbing the bottoms of his feet as she watched polar ice caps melting on the telly. Merlin, it was depressing. 

“It’s from Neville’s garden,” she tempted.

He didn’t speak for a long time, and when he finally did, it startled her.

“Fuck it,” he said, and reached for the bag of wolfnip. “I’ll embrace my misfortune.”

Hermione rolled her eyes. Only Malfoy would complain about a perfectly legal and extremely mild relaxant that only worked for him because of his Lycanthropy. Melodrama was a Malfoy speciality. She grabbed a kebab and chewed on it as he rolled up the wolfnip.

He lit it with his wand and the orange glow flared, illuminating her walls and his face. He flopped back, exhaling slowly at the ceiling. 

“Thanks,” he said, quietly.

“I figured you needed it.” She sighed, worrying her fingers against the cashmere blanket. “I suppose I needed it, too.”

She took the wolfnip from him and took a drag. Her parents would kill her for this. Smoking stained the teeth… even smoking things with documented medical uses. But it was a rare thing for her to do, so she was far from being overcome by shame. She took another drag and handed it back to him, then took up his feet again. He had big feet and long toes. It was strange to compare them to her own, which were, she thought with a rare pang of self-consciousness, a bit small and hobbit-y.

“Have you been here all night?” she asked.

“Mmhm,” he said. “I went to the Manor first, but Mum smelled me immediately and thought to recruit me for dinner with Father’s business associates.” He nodded to the paper on the coffee table. “Got here just in time to pay the owl for your Prophet.”

Hermione growled deep in her throat, realised she was doing it, and forced herself to stop. She took one more drag from the wolfnip before handing it back again. She couldn’t bear to even think about that fucking article tonight. 

Tomorrow, she’d start again. 

Tomorrow, she’d make a plan. 

But tonight—tonight, she’d like to just sit here, smoke the equivalent of Xanax for Werewolves, and watch the earth melt. It was somehow less depressing. She closed her eyes as calmness settled over her like a warm blanket. She smiled.

Merlin, what all the idiots who called her a goodie-goodie swot in school would think if they saw her now. Werewolf infection truly was a slippery slope to all kinds of deviant behaviour, wasn’t it?

She let the silence settle over them, with only the white noise of the BBC left filling it. The steady flare and fade of the cigarette against her flat’s walls as they passed it back and forth was calming—peaceful and somehow intimate. 

After many minutes, when her head was sliding into a state of pleasant fuzziness, and the sustained miseries of their lives had receded to the recesses of her mind, she said, “Are you staying?”

It took him forever to reply, or maybe that was the wolfnip buggering up her ability to sense time. It felt good to look at him. Felt good in a way that she hadn’t felt since Ron, and suddenly it hit her, in a slow wave of understanding, just why that was. 

She wanted him. 

Not in a dazed-and-horny way. In a oh-my-God-how-have-I-not-seen-this? way.

“Yeah.”

Hermione nodded. Good. She pushed his feet off, intending to get up and change into her pyjamas, but he reached up with Werewolf quickness and grabbed her arm. Not hard, but firm nonetheless. 

She paused, eyeing him. “What?”

He took one last hit of the wolfnip, his eyes glowing orange in the reflected light, before stubbing it out and Vanishing the remains. 

“Stay,” he said, tugging her back down.

She went easily, and as she tumbled sideways against his body, thought that perhaps her head was a little fuzzier than she’d realised. He wrapped his arm around her and then returned his attention to the telly. It was surprisingly comfortable. He smelled like Malfoy, a scent she’d come to associate quite firmly with life, since it was such a big part of hers. He was everywhere—at work, at home, at campaigns. She’d not spent a full moon night away from him in over five years. 

She cosied into him. Draco paused on Never Mind the Buzzcocks in time for Noel Fielding to make a particularly crass joke, and Hermione was startled into laughing, even though her mind was buzzing itself with thousands of thoughts—how had she missed this so long? What did it mean? What could it mean? Her laughter jostled them, and somehow, his hand fell to her side. His long fingers settled on her waist, stroking slowly, but his gaze was firmly locked on the television. 

She shivered, heart pounding. The light from her telly flickered against her walls, the sound a low hum of white noise to match the overwhelming white noise overtaking her brain. It felt strange and comforting and as if it would consume her entire life and she didn’t know if she should let it or not. It was a feeling she’d been feeling forever, or maybe it was just that this moment was going on forever. 

How long had that scene been on telly, she wondered? How long had Malfoy’s fingers been on her, with only the thin fabric of her shirt between them? How long had she not noticed that it was unusual?

Draco flicked back to BBC One. EastEnders was on. She didn’t mind this time. Gooseflesh spread across her skin as his fingers continued sliding over it—soft and familiar, though he’d certainly never done this before. Merlin, it felt good. It had been so long since anyone touched her with any degree of intimacy. 

At once, Hermione realised that she was, in fact, very relaxed, despite the whirlwind thoughts. Possibly too relaxed. She forced herself to focus, to think with as clear a head as she could, but even when she thought about it rationally, his touch felt good on her skin.

She squirmed against him and he noticed. For a second, his fingers paused. She felt him inhale slowly, deeply. There was a heavy pause. Then he resumed—this time more surely, his fingers dipping lower until they reached the hem of her shirt and then slipping underneath to brush against her waist. 

Hermione gasped, her back automatically arching into his touch. Do I want this? she asked her brain, and her brain wasted no time giving an answer.

He shuddered, and it was then, as a melting glacier finally broke free and fell into the Arctic Ocean on BBC, that Hermione understood that something had just changed between them. If they went forward, there was no going back from this moment.

And she was exhausted, both physically and mentally, and a bit high, and a Werewolf—which meant there weren’t many suitors lining up at her door. Ron had, in fact, been both her first and her last. And that was over six years ago. 

What was sex like with another person? Another best friend sort of person? What was a relationship like? Hermione calculated all the ways that it could go very wrong—and the few in which it could go right—with that strange, detached logic she felt even more keenly when she was buzzed. It felt like she was thinking at lightning speed, though she was most certainly thinking and reacting much more slowly. 

She rather expected Draco to be quite open to sex in general with anyone and everyone, though she couldn’t recall him going on more than one or two dates over the years. She suspected he suffered from the same stigma as she did. 

Werewolves might have gained some tolerance among the population, but that didn’t mean many people were interested in sex with them. Although there was definitely a new fetish porn market cropping up around the theme, which creeped Hermione out. They were people, not dogs. Alas, she was digressing, even within her own head. It was the wolfnip. 

We can’t go back from this.

She knew it now, and she knew he knew it. Whatever happened or didn’t happen between them, they both knew it now. 

She decided to go forward instead. After all, where else would she find someone interested in seeing her in the altogether? The way the tabloids had it, she was practically a bearded lady beneath her robes. And she was so very tired of being alone. It didn’t have to be anything magical or romantic, but Merlin what she wouldn’t do for the touch of another human just once this decade. 

Hermione pulled herself up on one hand, staring down at him. Malfoy looked tired, and sombre, and strangely intense. She didn’t need lights on to see the way his eyes focused only on her. He stared at her unguardedly, and it took her breath away. 

“Are you capable of making rational decisions?” she whispered.

He hesitated for only a moment. His eyes were clear enough that she could tell it was from thought, not wolfnip. 

“Yes,” he said.

“We can… it doesn’t have to be anything but this,” she said, swallowing her embarrassment. This was not the Hermione of eight years ago, but sometimes she didn’t know who the Hermione of today even was. “I won’t… I won’t expect anything.”

Draco froze for the briefest of seconds, and then nodded. “Just sex… as you wish.”

Hermione studied his face, looking for the truth of that. Then, she leaned down, and, quite without overthinking, slid her lips against his.

His arms came up immediately, pulling her flush against his chest, and Hermione went willingly, with only a little squeak of surprise as she fell. He laughed softly against her mouth and she felt his warm breath against her lips. She froze at the feel of his hands on her back, his fingertips ghosting along the skin of her spine before they came ‘round to grip her. 

She pressed her hips down, aching for more contact, and felt his desire for her pressing back. She gasped.

“Fuck, Hermione,” he said, arching up.

He threw back his neck and she took the opportunity to bend down and kiss the exposed skin. His shuddering convinced her to do it again, and then, perhaps, lick a trail from his jaw to his collarbone. 

This was proving to be interesting indeed. Hermione could’ve kicked herself: she’d never before realised how many opportunities sex with another Werewolf would present. The research value alone—

Draco arched into her again, his erection rubbing deliciously against her. She moaned. Perhaps there were benefits beyond having a new experience. Hermione turned her brain firmly off. She would worry about real life tomorrow.  

 

🌕 🌕 🌕

 

Draco was probably high. 

Even though Longbottom constantly assured them that there were no narcotic properties to Lily-of-the-valley, that was the only reason Draco would’ve not self-combusted by now. Or at least given himself away as being entirely more invested in this moment than he was trying to let on. Granger’s eyes were heavy-lidded, all pupil, and she was rutting against him as if she did it every day. He was probably just another research project to him, but he’d been alone long enough, wanted her long enough, that he didn’t care right now.

Tomorrow, he would.

She threw her head back, panting, and he thought, Merlin, so fucking beautiful.

Was this really happening? After seven years? He thought his heart might explode from the rush of want and feeling but he tamped it down, like he tamped down every other primal urge—to howl, to be Alpha, to give in to the Wolf… 

Draco could not restrain himself. He was only a man—usually. He slid his hand from her back around to the front, and toyed with the buttons along the front of her jeans. She didn’t seem overly concerned, so he popped the first one open. Still no refusal. Her eyes were clear and focused on him, and he knew when she ground against him that it was Hermione who wanted it—wanted him—not the wolfnip. 

It might have given him the courage to touch her, given her a way to shut her brain off, but they were coming down now, and whatever they did from here on, Draco could be sure it was really them doing it. That made it all the more daunting.

He deftly undid the other three buttons and slipped his hand inside her knickers, letting his fingers comb through the curls there until he found her folds. He hesitated, looked up, searching for her eyes.

She was fully aware of him now, no longer lost in the heat of the moment, though her eyes were indeed quite heated themselves. She stared down at him, gaze intent, confident. Slowly, purposefully, she pushed her hips forward over his lap, grazing his erection and sending a surge of pleasure through him. It made his fingers slide along the edges of her labia, and he could’ve come just from the hot slickness he found there, and the faintest smell of blood. Right, she was just coming off her cycle. God, it smelled hot. He shut his eyes tightly, unable to look at her without losing himself.

He took several rasping breaths, attempting to steady himself. At some point, he noticed that his entire body was shaking from adrenaline and seven years worth of unresolved love and desire. 

She was willing, if he could play his part. He was a professional at playing his part.

Draco looked up at Hermione, letting some of his many walls fall, exposing some of those seven years of himself to her. He had to. He could play the part, but he had to let some of himself through or he would not be able to handle this. It was too much. Tomorrow, it would be not enough.

She looked, briefly, startled, before it was replaced by thoughtfulness, a look more commonplace for her. He wasted no time pressing his fingertips against her opening, exploring her for the first time.

She gasped, threw her head back. He could see her chest moving with her breath beneath her shirt, and in that moment, nothing would suffice but her skin. He set to work on the buttons of her blouse, slipping them from their holes. When he reached the top, her hands came up to join his. They settled atop his own and slowly, together, they pushed her shirt to her shoulders and then down her arms. 

She discarded it on the floor, then reached up with one hand and unsnapped her bra. Her shoulders curled forwards as she slid the straps off and then she was bare before him, sitting astride his lap and seemingly waiting for some reaction.

“Not furry all over,” she said, wryly.

Draco smirked at her, though it wasn’t easy when all he could think was a fugue of Oh my God, oh my God.

Her flushed skin reached down her breasts, all the way to her dark nipples. They were hard and he really had no idea if it was from arousal or room temperature, but he hoped to Merlin it at least had a little to do with him. 

He could feel himself leaking through his trousers as it was, and Merlin it had been so long since a woman had even looked twice at him after learning of his disease.

Somehow, she’d managed to unbutton his shirt, and now she was sliding down his body to do the same with his trousers without him even noticing. Everything was going so quickly. He took hold of her arms, slowing her progress. She looked up at him, and he pushed himself into a sitting position. 

He just needed this to last. It might be the only time. She might get all the data she needed from just this one time.

The lights from her telly flashed across her face, but he hated the distraction, so he fumbled for the remote control and turned off. It left the room empty and hollow, with only the penetrating sounds of their pulses and heartbeats and all the people leaving the sketchy pub two streets over. 

He wanted to be human for this, so he’d only hear her, but ‘Werewolf’ was her, and it wouldn’t be real without the unrelenting noise of extrasensory hearing in the background.

He pushed her back to bend over her body, easing her trousers down her legs. Her toes curled as he slid the cloth over them. He wanted to undress her. He could at least control that, and she seemed okay with the change—somehow she could always read him. Draco slid his hands up her legs to the firm flesh of her thighs. 

There was her bite scar, savage and somehow beautiful on her thigh. A horror that brought them together. A horror they endured together, no one but each other.

She shuddered, drawing her knees up, and he fell between them, kissing the long line of her clavicle as he steadied himself with the metronome of her pulse. Every time it sped up, every time he touched her in a way she especially liked, it sent a rush of desire and pleasure through his own body. 

He kissed her all over, but kept returning to her mouth. He’d spent hours in their lab, mindlessly stirring potion after potion as he thought of what her kiss would be like, what she’d feel like beneath his hands. 

Now, he knew the rhythm of her heartbeat better than his own name. He’d never forget it from this day forward. He could count potion stirs by it; he could set his watch by it. 

He kissed down between her breasts, over the firm expanse of her stomach, to the soft lace of her knickers. Draco hooked his fingers over the edges and she lifted her hips so he could slide them down her thighs. She watched him fiercely, unblinking, drawing her knees up further so he could flick the knickers off her feet and toss them somewhere towards the kitchen.

Merlin help him—that look would stay with him forever. He bent his head, kissing along her hipbones and thighs, running his nose over the curls between them. Her legs shivered, and he knew she wanted him as much as he did in that moment. 

“Let me,” he said.

She nodded, and he needed no further encouragement. He dipped his head and licked along her slit, and she moaned so loudly it nearly blocked out the sound of the pub. Draco shuddered, and repeated the action. He propped himself up on one elbow and rubbed his fingers over her opening as he lapped at her clit. She was panting now, and so very wet. He slid one finger in, and nearly died at the feeling of her clenching around it.

“Draco,” she said around a moan.

Draco groaned, burying his face against her. 

Merlin, she tasted so good, like she was made for him. He didn’t think he’d ever get enough of this. He pushed another finger inside and fucked her slowly, searching for the spot that would make the sound of her heartbeat triple in time. When he found it, Hermione’s back arched up, and she moaned loudly. 

Draco grinned smugly against her, circling his tongue around her clit and thrusting his fingers again and again until she was a quivering and begging him. She fell apart, growling his name. Draco continued moving his fingers slowly within her until her panting evened out, and she squeezed her legs together, trying to end the overstimulation.

He crawled up her body, his face covered in the scent of her. She blinked at him several times. He couldn’t stop smiling like an idiot. With another growl, she grabbed the back of his neck and pulled him down for a searing kiss. He moaned in surprise and melted against her sweat-slick body, kissing her fiercely. She pushed her hips up, and he couldn’t help rutting up against the heated spot between her legs. 

He was so hard and aching for her, and he’d thought of this very thing every day as long as he could remember.

“Malfoy,” she panted, pulling away. “Draco. Merlin.”

He grinned lopsidedly. “I’ll respond to any of those.”

She pushed her hips up against his in retaliation and his eyes rolled back in his head. He was pretty sure he whimpered, too, but hoped that Granger would be kind enough to never mention it. 

“Do you have any other hidden talents?”

Merlin, he hoped so, but it was probably unlikely.

A few drunken tumbles with Astoria Greengrass in seventh year did not a sex-god make. Still, he’d always been a fast learner. And there was the Lycanthropy on his side—for once.

He pushed his pants down his thighs, keeping his eyes on her face, watching for any sign of disinterest or hesitance. There wasn’t any. When he had them all the way off and tossed somewhere near her own, she looked down, and he was gratified to see her eyes widen a bit—that was before the very Granger look of academic curiosity overtook, and she reached out to take hold of him without the slightest hesitation.

Draco very nearly came all over himself. 

Fortunately, he was able to bring up an image of Weasley’s face before he embarrassed himself. Then by the time he’d got himself under control, Hermione was pushing his back against the seat back and climbing into his lap. 

She kissed him ferociously and he pulled her tight against him. Her breasts pressed against his chest and he felt the heat of her as she hovered over his prick.

She positioned herself over him and slid down in one smooth motion. Draco’s fingers clenched at her waist, surely painfully given his strength, but she didn’t complain. They moaned in sync. If he was already this far gone, he had no idea how he’d make it through. She began to move. He grabbed onto her bum, not sure if he wanted to help her along or slow her down before this was all over early.

Granger’s arms came around his shoulders, using them as leverage to lift herself up. 

Fuck, he thought, very eloquently.

He couldn’t look away from her face, couldn’t stop his hands moving all over her body. Draco reached between them, rubbed his fingers over her clit, and she tossed her head back, her wild hair flying, and gasped. 

He shut his eyes tightly, knowing the view would send him over the edge. He rubbed her faster, and her hips moved erratically. She seized up, moaning, her hips bucking. Draco could feel every muscle of her clenching around him.

Hermione growled, surged forward and grabbed his face, kissing him deeply. Her tongue slid into his mouth and she moaned into the kiss, and it was more than he could take. He came hard, moaning her name muffled against her mouth. She kissed him through it, rode him slowly as he came down.

Draco pulled her against him. She fell limp against his chest, breathing hotly against his neck. With orgasm, the very last effects of the wolfnip had faded away, leaving him raw and vulnerable to rational thought. He swallowed.

Hermione sighed happily. He squeezed her tighter. Merlin help him, Draco thought. He’d never recover from this. 

Chapter Text

In the midst of a very nice dream, Hermione became conscious of an incessant vibrating sound. God, what was making that awful buzzing when she was trying to have a lie-in? It sounded like one of Luna’s Nargle detectors—

Hermione’s eyes snapped open. Oh, hell. She’d promised Harry and Luna she’d watch Portentia today. She jerked up, already half out of the bed and into the shower before she scented the extra occupant in her bedroom. Slowly, Hermione turned back to the bed.

Malfoy stared back at her, eyes alert despite the early hour and their late night. 

Their late night. 

He Finite’d her wand alarm; the buzzing stopped.

Everything came back to her in a rush, and she flushed from head to toe. Heavens, she was naked. Had they really—?

Yes, she remembered. Yes, they had. And it had been… well. Rather good, actually. Not that she had a lot to compare it to, but she came twice, and that was certainly nothing to sniff at. She bit her lip to keep from smiling, or worse—grinning—at the memory.

“Morning, Draco,” she said, with what she hoped was a steady voice. 

It was a struggle not to try to cover herself, but Malfoys were always looking for weaknesses, and he’d be more likely to tease her if she seemed uncomfortable.

Draco quirked a single blond eyebrow. His hair was so mussed and just-shagged that it destroyed the effect. The laugh Hermione had been trying to avoid came out in full force. Merlin, she’d seen his hair mussed up a hundred times before, but never after they’d shagged. She slapped a hand over her mouth, but it was no use; her wide eyes gave away her nervousness, and she’d have to admit that Draco won this round.

“Good morning, Hermione,” he said, quite gravely. There was a moment of weird silence. Draco began to look uncomfortable. “Shall I just go, then?”

He started to pull himself up from the bed, and in doing so lost the cover of her bed sheets. Hermione squeaked. He had a morning erection. 

Nocturnal penile tumescence, she thought, as academically as she could. 

He noticed her gaze and reached for the sheet again, but she really couldn’t have that at all. No, if she was going to be awkward, so was he. She came ‘round the bed and tugged at the sheet until he let it fall away.

Seeing him here in the morning light, scenting his second-day hair and their sex all over him was doing irrational things to her body. Merlin, but he was fit. How had someone who worked in a dark lab all day kept so fit? She felt hot and decidedly bothered.

Hermione had no idea how to have a one-night stand with her best friend. What if she messed this all up and he never spoke to her again? The thought left a hollow, clenched feeling in her gut.

“Let’s not be awkward,” she said suddenly. “It doesn’t have to be awkward, does it? We’ve been friends so long, you know, and we’re together all the time—Merlin I haven’t even changed without you in years—and, well, I suppose it’s only natural for sexual attraction to develop over time when two people are otherwise compatible and physically agreeable to the other party, and plenty of people have sex with their friends and don’t let it ruin things between them, like, well, like me and R—”

“I’m going to stop you there,” Draco interrupted.

She chanced a look at his face, grateful that he’d stopped her nervous babbling. He was smiling wryly. 

“I don’t want things to be awkward between us,” she said again.

He was giving her that intense look again, the one she only saw when he was working on a new Lycanthropy-related potion. 

“What do you want then?”

She bit her lip. “I don’t know how to do this.”

Malfoy smirked. “You did last night.”

Hermione gasped, caught between surprised and scandalised. Draco was still smirking, the cheeky devil. Her eyes slid downwards again, quite without her permission. Holy Ishtar. She swallowed again, feeling suddenly braver after Draco’s slaggy comment. Her academic side was returning—interest renewed at the reminder that he had something she wasn’t an expert on. 

Yet.

“I want to perform fellatio on you.”

Draco burst out laughing. Hermione went hot all over and turned to run for the bathroom. A strong hand caught her bicep and tugged her back. She fell against his chest, and his arms came around to hold her in place. She felt his erection against her bum and barely refrained from wiggling against it. 

“Let me go,” she said with dignity.

“I think not,” said Malfoy, still chuckling. “I’d like to hear more about this fellatio and you performing it.”

“You’re mocking me.”

“Yes,” he said, his hand rubbing up and down her belly. “But I like your overly-academic defence mechanisms. It’s—”

“Don’t you dare say cute,” Hermione warned.

He scoffed. “I’ve never said the word in my life. I certainly won’t start now. It’s familiar,” he decided. “Warm.”

Hermione rolled her eyes, but did turn around in his arms to look up at him. She ran her fingers over his chest, and attempted a sultry look. “Shall I, then?”

He waved a hand magnanimously. “By all means.”

Doing her best to regain her dignity, she sunk to her knees. Harry and Luna could wait. There were academic endeavours to explore—things like: What did Draco taste like? And would it still be good in the morning? 

And would it be supremely stupid to try to make this a more permanent thing, even if it was just sex? 

She could take this brief break from the real world to try something new and enjoyable. Because afterwards, she had work to do. It was a new day, and Hermione was going to seize the shit out of it in the name of Werewolves.

   

🌕 🌕 🌕

 

“Alice Dumbledore,” Harry said, exasperated. 

He lowered his voice, craning his neck to look out into the hallway of a very strangely decorated Grimmauld Place, beyond which Luna was getting Portentia ready for an outing with Auntie Hermione. 

“Alice. Fucking. Dumbledore.”

“Oh, honestly, Harry,” said Hermione. “It’s just a name. If that’s what Luna wants to name it, then let her name it that. She had your baby; you give her whatever she wants.”

“I have,” said Harry. “That’s why we have a Kneazle kitten now instead of a Crup puppy. A Kneazle kitten named Alice Dumbledore.”

The Kneazle in question hopped up onto the kitchen table, nosing at Hermione’s bacon. She batted it away, and Alice Dumbledore caught a whiff of her scent. She meowed warningly, and then used Hermione’s distraction to steal the bacon. 

Hermione, now without breakfast, was at least grateful Luna’d had the foresight to get a Kneazle instead of a normal cat. Werewolves and mundane cats didn’t mix so well.

Draco snorted. “Can you imagine having to yell for it when it gets out the house?”

Harry groaned. He levitated the skillet to the sink and set a washing spell going. “That’s my point. No self-respecting Auror has a kitten named Alice Dumbledore.”

“Self-respecting being the key word,” Draco said, sotto voce. Harry glared at him.

“She’s white,” Luna said, coming in with Portentia on her hip. “Albus means white.”

Harry threw his head back, sighing in exasperation. 

Gryffindor motto: When caught, brazen it out.

“But what does Alice mean?” he asked, with the air of a man who’d asked the same question a thousand times before. “Since she’s not, in fact, named Albus.”

“It means noble,” said Luna. “Like a Gryffindor.”

Harry narrowed his eyes, although it didn’t look nearly as fierce as Draco did when he did it. Hermione and Draco shifted uncomfortably as the smell of arousal filled the air. Harry was so weird. 

“We are not done with this conversation, dear.”

Luna pecked him on the cheek as she passed. “I know, love. I do enjoy having conversations with you about things that have already happened in the past.” 

She passed Portentia to Hermione. “Thank you so much for taking Ten today, Hermione. And you as well, Draco. I didn’t expect to get two child-minders. This is a lovely surprise.”

“Yeah, about that,” said Harry, now narrowing his eyes suspiciously in their direction. 

Hermione shrank back, attempting to melt through the floor, or, failing that, to wandlessly Disillusion herself. 

Harry was undeterred. “It’s a bit early for you, Malfoy. Rarely see you before noon at the weekend.”

Draco shrugged, sipped his tea. “I was feeling roused.”

“Roused,” Harry repeated slowly.

“It’s a Werewolf thing,” Hermione said quickly.

Harry didn’t look like he was going to let it go, but the Floo roared to life and Ron’s voice called out urgently. Harry rushed off to answer it. Portentia took that moment to spill Hermione’s tea all over her, and the Kneazle stole the last of Draco’s bacon. In the clusterfuck that followed, the two of them plus Portentia managed to escape the Potter-Lovegood household without further interrogation.

Although not without Hermione overhearing Ron say ‘Werewolf’ twice in the Floo. 

She pursed her lips and refused to worry. She had an outing with her goddaughter planned. And she’d had two rather nice shags in as many days. Werewolf or not, things were going to go great today, Ishtar as her witness. She even had some ideas on how to counter yesterday’s Demon blood article, and if the cultists really were back trying to get infected with Lycanthropy, well, she had a plan for that, too.

No one was going to destroy all the work she’d put in over the last seven years. No one. 

Luna called to them as they were stepping outside to Apparate: “I’ve just got to do a quick interview with that Vampire who’s opening the modern art gallery in Cheshire, and then pop into the office to pick up this month’s galleys. I’ll pick her up at three.”

“No problem!” Hermione called back, still escaping.

She turned to Draco and, just like that, was suddenly feeling nervous again. Which was ridiculous. Draco was one of her very best friends, right up there with Harry and Ron. So they’d had sex. So they’d had sex twice, actually. It didn’t mean she suddenly had to feel like he was undressing her with his eyes.

Although… she glanced at him again. Although, he might actually have been doing that. 

She shifted Portentia on her hip, cleared her throat. “It occurred to me I didn’t tell you what I had planned when I roped you into coming with today. I’ve got to pick up something from the printers and we’re going to go to Diagon to see the holiday lights. And other things,” she added meaningfully.

Malfoys didn’t celebrate Christmas or any other spirit-of-giving holidays. 

Hermione suspected it was because they had too much stuff to warrant buying presents for one another. It made him easy to buy for (nothing) but difficult to decide how to approach with holiday-related activities like looking at fairy lights.

He shrugged. “Alright.”

She gave him a brilliant smile, relieved. “Wonderful. Ready then?”

He took her free hand, and with a step and a twist, she Apparated them to Diagon.

 

🌕 🌕 🌕

 

Diagon Alley was lovely in December, Hermione thought. The Diagon Alley Shop Owners Association put up fairy lights, garland, and sparkling charms all over the neighbourhood. Even better, all the shops competed for the best window display, and it was always fun to see how creative they got. London didn’t get much snow, but they sometimes even came together to put up a weather charm over the main street so that snow flurries would constantly fall, but never pile up into dirty slush. 

There was one of those snow events going now. She dropped Draco’s hand to set Portentia on the ground, and looked around, taking in the idyllic scene. If only she could convince her neighbours in Knockturn Alley to come together for a neighbourhood association and do something similar. 

Portentia swiped irritably at her nose, where a number of charmed snowflakes were gathering, and turned beseeching eyes upon Hermione and Draco. “I wanna see Uncle Fred and George’s window.” 

Hermione bit her lip. The twins’ displays often featured a number of questionable accents, but Portentia was still only four, so with any luck she wouldn’t even notice them. Still, they had one errand first.

“I need to go to the printer’s first, Ten. We can go right after, okay?”

Portentia eyed her, looking very much like her mother in that moment. “Alright, Auntie Herm.”

She reached up to take Hermione’s hand, and then after careful consideration, offered her other hand to Draco. Draco raised an eyebrow at Hermione and she had to give him a warning look. 

Magnanimously, Malfoy took Portentia’s hand, and the three of them set off to the printer’s shop, where Hermione had called in an order before coming home last night. 

They headed away from the twins’ shop, towards Knockturn Alley and Mr Voclain’s—who always gave Hermione a good deal, and remained the only printer open twenty-four hours. Portentia’s eyes were wide as they passed through the alley that separated Knockturn from Diagon. They snow magic stopped abruptly as they cleared the alley. It had been nice while it lasted.

Hermione pulled Portentia close to her as they traversed Knockturn. Harry wouldn’t exactly approve of Hermione bringing Ten here (he wasn’t thrilled about Hermione watching her in her own flat even, because he was an even bigger worrywart than Hermione when it came to his kid), but Hermione knew this neighbourhood, knew the people in it. 

There were absolutely shady and sometimes even malicious characters here, but she appreciated that no one tried to hide their evil in Knockturn. If someone could be a problem, they would be menacing from the beginning. Unlike in Diagon Alley where everyone acted so nice and jovial, but could turn out to be Lucius Malfoys on the inside.

Nevertheless, Ten was her goddaughter, and Hermione was taking no chances letting her run ahead alone. Not every Hag had taken a personal vow of not eating children, after all.

“Here we are,” Hermione said, pushing open the door to Voclain’s Old World Bookbinding and Printing.

Mr Voclain looked up from his Daily Prophet as she entered, the expression on his pale face brightening. 

“Good morning, Ms Granger,” he said in faintly accented English. “Ah, and you must be the young Malfoy.”

He ducked beneath the counter and came up with a stack of flyers. “I’ve your order here. Five-hundred copies, Nevermore Everlasting Black ink on 120gsm grade ivory parchment, with Goblet Bronze and Snitch Gold spot colour accent on the illustration, as requested.”

He slid the stack of flyers across the counter and Hermione grinned. “Perfect, as usual.” 

She looked up. “Thanks so much, Mr Voclain. How much?”

“Three G, twelve S. Favourite customer discount included, of course.”

She smiled again. “You’re too kind. Charge my Gringotts?”

“Absolutely.” He spotted Portentia staring at his collection of rare books and raised an eyebrow. “And who’s this?”

“My goddaughter, Portentia,” Hermione said. “She’s a big fan of the Origins of Sortilege book I bought from you last year. We read it together during sleepovers, don’t we, Ten?”

“I love the tarot book! It’s so pretty!” she exclaimed, suddenly interested in the conversation. She stood on her toes to peer over the counter at Mr Voclain. “That was your book?”

He smiled down at her. “It was. I bound it myself in the year 412.”

Portentia was unconvinced. “That was a long time ago. Mummy says most wizards die by one hundred and fifty years old, but sometimes less because they’re silly or unlucky.”

Hermione shared a pained look with the shop owner. Luna was very honest with Portentia. 

“Mr Voclain is a Vampire, Ten,” Hermione explained. “He lives forever, unless he’s silly or unlucky.”

Draco suddenly smelled a lot more interested in the proceedings. Hermione recalled the poster of Blodwyn Blood still hanging on his childhood bedroom wall at the Manor and bit back a smirk.

“Really?” said Portentia. “Are you going to eat us? Mummy says it’s better not to get eaten, if one can help it.”

“Not today,” said Mr Voclain, chuckling. “I prefer to drink donated blood with my wine. Much more dignified than hunting.”

Portentia nodded, taking this in. “Okay, thanks.”

Hermione turned back to the shop owner. “Thanks again,” she said. “And thanks for the rush order.”

He waved her off. “It’s a worthy cause. Perhaps you can help ours once you’ve saved the world for Werewolves?” he added with a wink.

Hermione paused. He was so right. Vampires and Werewolves did not have an illustrious history of friendship, but they were both affected by the bigotry of full humans and the Ministry. She could use that. In fact, maybe there was a connection there—

“You’ve just given me an idea, Mr Voclain,” she said. “I’ll be back soon. I’m going to need more flyers!”

He beamed at her, and the first hint of two sharp teeth peaked out from behind his lips. “Delighted to hear it, Ms Granger. Please do come again, Ms Portentia. And you as well, young Malfoy. You look like you wouldn’t mind an evening with a Vampire.”

“Excuse me?” Draco said, scandalised.

Hermione ushered him out the shop before he could get started. 

“Oh hush, Malfoy,” she said. “He’s just teasing you. He could tell you were fascinated. Although, everyone knows you’re fascinated with Vampires.”

He huffed. “The French are so over-sexualised,” he said, primly.

Hermione slanted her eyes at him, smirking. “Oh? You seemed pretty—”

She remembered Portentia just in time and snapped her mouth shut. Draco smirked at her. 

“Well then!” Hermione said. “Shall we go visit Uncle Fred’s and Uncle George’s shop?”

Portentia grabbed her hand and took off, weaving expertly through the crowd with Hermione and Draco following behind. They were well-known as Werewolves, having been outed by the Daily Prophet the very morning after the final battle, and they got a few disgusted sniffs by passing wizards, but they also had seven years’ experience in ignoring that sort of thing. 

“What was all of that about?” Draco asked once they were back in Diagon.

Hermione brightened. “I was thinking about Mr Voclain and Haddie and us. We’re all former, well, for lack of better word, pure humans who developed a condition that changed us, either through infection or time.”

He tilted his head, somehow still managing to cut gracefully through the Christmas crowds. “We already know Lycanthropy affects genetics.”

“Yes, but what if it’s not just a genetic condition—what if it’s a congenital condition?”

This time, Draco stopped in the middle of the street, forcing shoppers to swerve around him. In true Malfoy fashion, he did not appear to care at all. Hermione pulled Portentia to a stop and faced him, feeling like a git for being in other people’s ways.

“What?” she said.

“You’re saying you think we were born Werewolves?” Draco whispered heatedly.

Hermione looked around, pulled the three of them over to the nook between Fortescue’s and the fortune teller’s. “Well, where did Lycanthropy originate? If Ishtar really did turn the first man into a wolf, what if she turned all men into wolves, but most don’t show it? What if all magical humans are born with a gene for it, but it’s normally turned off. A bite from an infected person somehow turns the gene on.”

“That would mean the gene is turned on by a virus,” Draco said. “But no one catches Werewolf colds.”

Hermione rolled her eyes. “Think about it, Malfoy. We know Lycanthropy is a genetic affliction, but we haven’t been able to figure out what caused it, other than a story—a myth. We haven’t noticed anything weird in our saliva when we—”

She stopped suddenly, her eyes widening. Portentia tugged on her hand, trying to get closer to George’s shop window, but Hermione pulled her back in. 

“That’s it, Malfoy,” Hermione whispered. “Remember two years ago when we collected saliva samples while in our wolf forms? We couldn’t find a single thing in it that could have accounted for our contagious nature, except—”

“Except flu,” Draco cut in, his own eyes widening. “We had evidence of an odd strain of flu, and we didn’t think anything of it because people have flu all the time and there are an infinite number of strains.”

“Exactly!” she said. “It’s a virus that’s always around; what if Werewolves are constant carriers of a particular flu virus, one that activates our genetic gene for Lycanthropy but lays dormant until the full moon?”

“Auntie Herm!” Portentia said, stomping her foot.

Hermione snapped her mouth shut and looked down at her goddaughter, who had her arms crossed over her red and pink speckled coat.

“You said we could see Uncle Fred and George’s shop window,” she reminded Hermione pointedly.

Hermione smiled. “You’re right, I was being silly. Let’s go see Uncle Fred and George’s shop.” 

Portentia beamed. Hermione let herself be led off, giving Draco a significant look. They would finish this conversation later. Meanwhile, Hermione’s brain was rushing through all the new pathways this theory opened up. Veelas, Hags, Vampires, Banshees, Werewolves—what if they were all gene activations, inherent in every magical person, but never activated unless exposed to a very rare virus? What if certain parameters had to be met for such people to contract the virus in the first place?

This changed everything.

She cleared her throat, attempting normal, non-academic conversation with Draco while they walked among the witches and wizards. 

“Are your parents going to Greece again for the twenty-fifth?” she asked. 

She was very aware that now that they couldn’t freely talk of Lycanthropy, they were also Not Talking About the night before, and she wondered how long the two of them could keep it up.  

Draco shrugged while returning a sneer to a frumpy witch giving them a rude stare. 

“Probably not after that article. She’ll be hard at work with damage control through the new year. Even the blasted New Year’s Eve party will be a job for her.”

They passed through a beautifully intricate garland arch, replete with dancing fairies and peppermint humbug-shaped decorations. 

“About that,” she said, pulling the flyers from her bag with her free hand. “I’ve got a plan.”

She passed them to Draco as Ten tugged her to a brief stop before the Fortescue window, which displayed ice cream cones falling gently to an ice cream-covered snowbank with little fairies flitting in and out of an ice cream and gingerbread house.

“Are you brave enough to hang out with a Werewolf?” Draco read from the flyer. 

 

 

Join us on Saturday, 13 February for the first annual New Moon Charity Festival, hosted by your friends from the National League of Lycanthropes. 

Music, drinks, BBQ, prizes, and games for the children. Surprise visits and autographs from unexpected Werewolves! Have your photograph taken with a Werewolf, get your blood tested for Demon blood, meet real Aurors, and learn spells for repelling Werewolves. 

Diagon Community Centre. Tickets 5S, children under 11 free. 

Proceeds to support Lycanthropy research.

 

“Hm,” Draco said. “Ballsy. Have Potter and Weasley realised you make decisions for them?”

Hermione edged innocently away. Ron had asked the same question of Draco. She wondered if any of them realised that she made decisions for all of them. 

“I don’t know what you mean.”

He scoffed. Then, “What if people don’t come?”

“They will,” she said. “Maybe not everyone, but some will be curious enough, and they’ll spread the word. I think teaching them about how to repel us will attract a lot more.”

“Do we really want to teach them how to repel us?” asked Malfoy.

“Yes, because we can also sneak in other information, such as how we aren’t dangerous most of the time and that with Wolfsbane, we aren’t dangerous the rest of the time, either. Make people feel like they can fight back and they’ll feel less scared overall.”

“I like where you’re going with this,” Draco said.

She beamed. “Fantastic! So you’ll be one of my unexpected Werewolves, then, right?”

“I—” he trailed off, looking furious. “I hate you.”

“Please,” Hermione begged. “You’re my other Alpha. I need your support.”

“Fuck it,” he said, his expression oddly intent as he looked down at her. “Fine. Although this will not interfere with my Lycanthropy cure research, nor with my fantasy Quidditch league meet-ups with Potter and Weasley.”

Hermione quirked a grin. “It’s apparent where your work ethic comes from, Malfoy.”

He glanced at her sideways. “I’ve really no idea what you mean. My mother always has a thousand different projects going at once, and I take after her.”

“And your father seems to like it.”

Draco smirked. “He hates doing the accounting for our investments; it gives her something to do when she’s bored. She hates choosing entertainment for parties; he apparently doesn’t realise he likes Muggle music. They have a symbiotic relationship.”

Hermione laughed. “Like us. I keep your mother off your back about supporting the Werewolf campaigns, and you keep Harry and Ron entertained when I’m exhausted.”

He looked at her sharply, and she realised too late what she’d implied by her statement. She opened her mouth, not sure if she wanted to say she meant nothing by it or confirm that she did. Portentia came to an abrupt stop in front of George’s shop, and Hermione was saved from doing either.

“Look!”

They did. Hermione winced. 

There were model House Elves dressed as St. Nicholas’ elves in the WWW window. And one House Elf was getting a spanking for being naughty. It had a pile of wheezes in front of it. 

The banner read: Being on the Naughty List is More Fun! Buy Wheezes for Your Loved Ones This Christmas!

“It’s not subtle,” Draco offered, head tilted sideways.

“No,” Hermione agreed, pained.

“I want to be an elf!” said Portentia. “Mummy says I can only be an elf if I’m good, but these elves have been bad, and they’re still elves.”

Hermione’s face scrunched in a universal expression of ‘What the actual fuck?’ 

She did not say this, however. 

What she said was, “That’s lovely, Ten. Do you want to look at the display at the Build-a-Bugbear Factory?”

“No, I like this one.”

“There are more to see,” Hermione said.

“This one’s best.” Portentia was firm on this. “Daddy says Mummy looks like an elf.”

Hermione wondered, not for the first time, if Harry had gone a bit mad after the final battle. He had to regularly pass a mental stability test to remain on the Auror force, and yet… 

She took a flyer from Malfoy and spelled it to the brick facade.

She was eventually able to coerce Portentia into continuing on to the other window displays, which were, fortunately, much less titillating. Draco helped her tack the flyers up around the neighbourhood, and by the time Ten was tiring out, she was nearly done. She’d pop over to the other magical communities this evening and put the rest up. 

Overall, she was feeling optimistic. She and Draco had a new theory to try and she was back at the game, working to finally get Werewolves the tolerance they deserved. At least, she did until Narcissa’s eagle owl landed on her shoulder, its talons digging into her flesh.

“Shi—zzle,” Hermione said, correcting herself before little ears could pick up a new word. Portentia was rather too canny for Hermione’s liking sometimes. “It’s from Narcissa.”

Draco frowned. “What does my mother want with you now?”

Hermione passed Ten’s hand to him to hold onto and took the letter. She skimmed it quickly, her frown growing. She paled. “That Demon blood article yesterday? It’s going to look like a love letter if this gets out.”

“Auntie Herm!” Portentia said, reaching out her hands. “Please!”

They swapped. Hermione picked Portentia up and hugged her close, feeling anxious as she hadn’t felt in years. Draco read through the letter once, twice, and folded it up with sharp, jerky movements. Wordlessly, he took Hermione’s free hand, and Apparated the three of them to the front steps of Malfoy Manor.

Hermione took a deep breath. She was going to need it after today.

Because all those victimless Werewolf crimes that Harry and Ron had been investigating?

They had a victim now. It hadn’t been cultists. There was a newly infected Werewolf, and he hadn’t consented to infection.

Chapter Text

Hermione handled his mother better than he did, Draco thought with some amount of irritation. Although, maybe the irritation stemmed from his father playing his Arctic Kneazles record too loudly only a few doors down. 

Anyway, Draco liked to watch her at it. It was easy to forget himself, to forget that whatever-last-night-was might have only been a one-night stand in Hermione’s eyes, and as long as they didn’t get awkward, they could carry on just as they had before. Which was torture for Draco, really, but he was a Werewolf, and therefore used to that sort of thing. But he didn’t like it, and what he was going to do about it was… a distressing thought. 

Did he put himself forward and go for it?

Did he act casual and let her decide?

Did he go back to not thinking about it like he’d done for years? How could he? How could he now?

There was a certain amount of give and take between his mum and Granger, but unlike his father—and, really, anyone else—Hermione exacted equal payment for every demand she gave up to Narcissa. 

Hermione was currently yelling at his mother in French, most likely because she was not using entirely child-friendly phrasing, and little Potter was in the room playing with some of Draco’s old toys. Draco shifted in his chair, attempting to subtly adjust himself before two overly observant women and a reporter. 

A reporter. And not just any reporter, but one with connections, power… one Draco never in a million years would’ve expected to turn out a Werewolf.

And as an aside: Merlin, who knew he’d one day find himself so bloody aroused by such a dominant woman? 

He’d let her be his Alpha any day.

Good heavens, that’s taking it a bit far, he thought to himself. He’d let her be Alpha with him any day. As she already was. Don’t get weird, Draco, he told himself. They can smell your arousal if they pay attention. 

He ought to focus on the problem at hand—the very real, very alarming problem that’d made them drop everything at Diagon Alley and Apparate straight to his mother. And how Draco could honestly struggle with keeping a cool head with his own mother around was really, truly unsettling. And yet, here he was: a complete and utter idiot just because Granger’d slept with him. Twice.

Granger leaned forward, eyes narrowed, as she discussed the fallout with his mother. Merlin, that fierce gaze. She was like a wolf even when she was human. Draco could smell her anger and anxiety. He adjusted himself again. Fortunately, they were too absorbed in retaining PR control to give him and his inconvenient halfie much notice, but the fourth occupant of Mother’s office gave Draco a knowing look.

He scowled at him.

Barnabas Cuffe, Editor of the Daily Prophet, and recently confirmed Werewolf, chuckled. 

Draco determined to think about their potential breakthrough today instead. As his Hogwarts years attested, he was not the one to go to for PR nightmares. So, if everyone carried the gene for Lycanthropy, but it remained deactivated until a magical person came down with a certain strain of flu, then they could —

Well, they still couldn’t do shit. Even wizards didn’t have a cure for the flu.

Draco scowled to himself. And thus he was back to Ways Draco’s Day Is Ruined: 

“How could this happen?” Hermione said, in impeccable French. “How could eight people go missing for days and no one found out about it until now, two weeks after the last full moon!”

Narcissa sipped a cup of tea recently provided by their head House Elf, Bertram. 

“Hermione, you seem to be under the misapprehension that I am your secretary.”

Hermione flopped back in her chair. “I know the Aurors knew something was up. They were putting a lot of resources into the investigation. How did they fail to find this? To find ” She broke off, flapping her hand in Cuffe’s direction. Cuffe, for his part, watched with detached interest.

“Not your secretary,” Narcissa repeated, slipping on her reading glasses and flipping through a stack of parchments. 

“If I may,” Barnabas Cuffe cut in.

Hermione and his mother looked expectantly at him. He was holding a handkerchief to his hand, where, shortly before Hermione received the note from Narcissa, he’d submitted himself to a blood test to see if he was indeed infected with Lycanthropy. 

Narcissa had not needed to test for it, but she had anyway; when cut, Cuffe’s blood had run black. Just like theirs. And now, it was not healing with a standard healing spell. Just like theirs had not for the few weeks before their first transformation, when their Werewolf healing abilities kicked in.

“Yes, Mr Cuffe,” said Narcissa. “Please continue your story.”

Cuffe cleared his throat. “As I was telling Mrs Malfoy before your arrival, Ms Granger, Mr Malfoy, I was not certain of my infection until today. I experienced several days of missing memories. I woke up in my bed Monday before last expecting it to be Saturday. Over the next week, I began experiencing unusual symptoms—fever, body aches, chills—”

“Flu symptoms,” Hermione prompted, leaning forward with the bright, Ravenclaw-eager eyes that Draco had first appreciated all those years ago. The eyes that had been able to stop empathising long enough to be intellectually stimulated.

Mr Cuffe nodded. “Yes, precisely. The symptoms continued unabated until this morning when they abruptly stopped.”

“Today’s the new moon,” Draco offered.

“Yes,” Cuffe said. 

“But that’s a big leap to suspecting Lycanthropy,” Draco continued.

Cuffe gave him an annoyed look. Draco had that effect on people sometimes. He was okay with it.

“I’m aware. And I would not have come here today had it not been for the other evidence. I was a reporter for forty years before taking over as editor, and a Slytherin for seven before that. I have an observant eye. I know when something isn’t as it should be, when something changes. Changes such as no longer needing the localised Sonorous for my left ear, having to shave twice a day instead of once, and the fact that this morning, when I was pruning my roses and stuck myself, my blood was no longer red.”

Well, those were pretty good reasons to suspect something was amiss.

“We’d still like to take that sample of your blood back to the lab for further testing, if you don’t mind, Mr Cuffe,” said Hermione.

He nodded, which went to show just how serious he was. Draco sure as Merlin wouldn’t have given his blood away to a relative stranger so quickly.

Draco asked, “What made you decide to come here?”

“Mrs Malfoy is a well-respected witch, not to mention a prominent Werewolf and advocate for Werewolf rights. I knew she’d be able to direct me to appropriate resources… and, as a former Slytherin, I knew she’d also hear a deal.”

And that explained why he didn’t owl Granger instead, who was arguably even more of an advocate for Werewolf rights, but much less likely to hear a deal. At least without Mother present.

“So we come to the objective,” Narcissa said, sliding her reading glasses up on top of her head. She smiled wolfishly at Cuffe. “I do love a good negotiation. What have you in mind, Mr Cuffe?”

“The Ministry has been frustratingly tight-lipped on the matter of Werewolf legislation. I want an exposé and inclusion in your revolution; the stories will sell papers for years.”

“An exposé on what?” asked Hermione.

“Working conditions for Werewolves, upcoming legislation, any research efforts—”

“I think you know that the Ministry doesn’t maintain any budgetary lines for Lycanthropy research, Mr Cuffe,” Hermione said.

Cuffe gave her an amused look. “Nice try.” He turned back to Narcissa. “And as for the revolution—”

“Revolution is such an inflammatory word. I prefer radical and potentially violent insurgency,” Narcissa said.

“Mother,” Draco sighed.

“We are violence-free,” Hermione interjected quickly. “Radical and non-violent insurgency.”

“Whatever your insurgency type,” Cuffe said, “I want to be part of the committee that plans and implements the revolution. I, too, would like a little footnote in history, and this seems a tidy way of going about it.”

“With all due respect, Mr Cuffe,” said Narcissa, “your publication has, in the past, been one of our most consistent foes. I can only assume that it was at your direction. Why change Selkies midstream?”

“Well, I’m one of you now, aren’t I?” he said, shrugging. “Before, it didn’t affect me. Why should I care? I signed off on whatever stories were going to bring in the most galleons, and it happens that the magical people of Britain like to be scared into stupidity. I’m seventy-three years old. I’ve got another fifty, sixty years ahead of me. I intend to live at least some of those years a free man again, so I need to make sure the job’s done proper.”

Hermione sighed. Draco could hear all of the unspoken, Gryffindor sentiment in his head. He didn’t even have to look at her to know she hated Cuffe’s explanation.

But as a Slytherin, Draco could appreciate Cuffe’s position. 

Ands so could his mother. 

“And in return?” she asked.

“I’ll give you the names of the others who were infected with me, so that you can sort them out before their first transformation at New Year’s Eve. Would be a terrible shame to disrupt such a lovely opportunity for good press with a surprise murderous rampage.”

“If that happens, you’ll be affected, too,” Hermione. “Or have you already forgotten that your blood is black?”

Cuffe shrugged. “No one knows I’m infected. I can work from home anytime I like. I can retire anytime I like. I’m unmarried, no immediate family, plenty of sketchy connections who could supply me with Wolfsbane. I reckon I could last a while before anyone figured me out.”

Hermione pursed her lips. Draco liked it when she did. It made him want to kiss her. Although, a lot of things made him want to kiss her. Especially after last night. 

“Mr Cuffe,” said Narcissa. “If you lost your memories, how do you know there are others and who they are?”

Cuffe smirked. “I did say I was a reporter. I know how to follow a lead. I know at least six. I suspect eight.”

Hermione leaned forward. “How?”

He shrugged. “Just your general detective work. A little puzzle-piecing, a little backroom bribery, the usual.”

Hermione bit her lip, glancing down at little Potterette, as if talk of bribery was just too far. Draco supposed it was probably wise to use the ear-muffs spell, considering her father was an Auror, but knew Hermione wouldn’t do it. Draco had no such hesitations.

He flicked his wand and a set of magical, noise-cancelling ear-muffs materialised over Potterette’s ears. She jumped, craned her head to stare at him with huge eyes, furrowed her brow, and then returned to stacking Draco’s childhood owl figurines atop a fortress she’d constructed with his magic blocks.

“What I’m not getting,” Draco said, crossing his arms over his chest, “is how you didn’t notice being bitten by a Werewolf two weeks ago.”

“Oh, didn’t I mention that part?” Cuffe said, much too smugly for Draco’s liking. “I wasn’t bitten. The infection was injected under my skin, directly to my bloodstream.”

Hermione stood, hand over her chest. “What?” she whispered, her voice harsh.

Cuffe nodded. “Much more interested in keeping me on your side now, aren’t you?”

“It would be difficult to weather a story like that,” Draco’s mother agreed neutrally. Even her face was apprehensive, though. 

Draco well-understood it. He’d frozen the moment the words were out of Cuffe’s mouth. To be injected with Lycanthropy was so inhuman, so cruel—it took all of the animal primacy out of the act and turned it into cold, rational, evil. Draco couldn’t even imagine his father doing it, and Draco was not naive to his father’s preference for hobbies.

There was, simply, no way Werewolves could survive that kind of accusation. If it got out, which it very well would with such a connected and credible source as Barnabas Cuffe, every last Werewolf in Britain would be hanged, Kissed, and quartered.

Their families, too, probably.

Draco loved a good political scandal as much as the next aristocrat, but the Lycanthropy fight hit too close to home for him to play the game as objectively as Hermione and his mother did. This was not a round even Narcissa could play objectively.

“A seat on the committee,” Narcissa said, pulling herself together.

Cuffe smiled. “Yes. And the exposé, of course.”

“I’ll work with you personally on it,” Hermione said.

That she hadn’t argued said more to Draco than any fit of emotion could. Granger was shocked and one more piece of bad luck could shatter her. She was full on into damage control mode, reacting to what they were dealt instead of proactively engineering everything around her, as she preferred.

“We have a deal, Mr Cuffe,” said Narcissa.

Cuffe smiled again. “Good to hear it.”

“About those names,” said Hermione. “I want to reach out immediately, try to integrate them into our pack before they go rogue.”

“Yes, of course,” said Cuffe. He pulled a folded piece of parchment from his pocket and passed it to Hermione. She studied it, then handed it to Draco’s mother.

Draco didn’t bother to ask if he could read it, too. He helped where he could, but had long since realised that it was better to leave them to it. The bite, after all, had only worsened his temper. And that was no good for their platform when he was having to field questions from discourteous, poorly-clothed, bourgeois reporters. There were some things he’d rather not know. He liked having plausible deniability.

Hermione pushed her wild hair behind her ear with one hand and turned to him, as if he had the answers to dealing with this monumental problem. He shrugged, and it seemed to calm her a little. She gave him a small, tired smile. 

“What should we do, Draco?”

“Kill them before the news gets out, and then blackmail all the Aurors into falsifying the report.”

Cuffe chuckled.

His mother gave him a look. “Draco.”

He shrugged. She acted as though she hadn’t claimed moments before to prefer radical and violent insurgency. 

“It’s what Father would’ve done.”

Hermione grimaced. Portentia looked at him solemnly. He frowned, wondering if there was something wrong with his earmuffs spell. He probably should’ve said the part about murder and blackmail in a language an Auror’s daughter didn’t understand, just in case. One could never be sure where Lovepotters were concerned.

“We aren’t interested in Lucius’ solutions at this point in time,” Narcissa said, sharply. 

“Fine,” he said. “Do the Aurors know yet?” 

“No,” said Cuffe. 

“Then I suggest we get them on our side before the Auror force does.”

Hermione bit her lip, bent to make a note in her diary. “I’m going to visit them all tomorrow,” she said. 

“You seem to know quite a lot about your infection, Mr Cuffe. Do you know the purpose of it?” Narcissa asked.

For the first time, he hesitated. “I have a suspicion.”

“Then do you know who it was?” Hermione asked quickly.

“I have a suspicion about that, too,” Cuffe affirmed.

“But you won’t tell us,” said Narcissa. 

Cuffe shook his head. He was a true reporter, holding everything close until the story was fully fleshed, ready for print.

Draco’s mother sighed, rubbing her temples, and Draco’s stomach did a little anxious flip. He’d never seen her so out of sorts. Well, not since His Lordship was in residence, anyway. 

“I must be going,” said Cuffe, standing. “I’ll be in touch regarding the committee. I have some ideas already.”

“Thank you, Mr Cuffe,” said Narcissa. 

She called for Bertram to show him out, and when he was gone, the office sat in silence for several long moments. They were all digesting this development, and likely all coming to the same conclusion: It would be an honest miracle if they lived through the next year.

Hermione stood up again to pace back and forth as she and Narcissa returned to rapid-fire French brainstorming, neatly sidestepping little Potter and her building blocks. She was calmer now, but Draco could still smell the residual anger rolling off her in waves of heady pheromones. And bugger it, but Draco wanted. He wanted her fully and wholly and without the excuse of wolfnip or a disappointment at the lab between them. 

He wanted her without the hardships of their lives, without the anxiety and stress of living with Lycanthropy, without knowing that she was probably only still available to him at all because she was a Werewolf—because some wizard surely would have snapped her up by now if she wasn’t (or the other way around). 

But then maybe some witch would’ve snapped him up, too, and he would have never felt this for her. Maybe they would have never stopped hating one another. Maybe, without Fenrir Greyback’s vicious attack, they never would have even looked at one another ever again.

Narcissa’s office door opened after a quick knock, and his father stuck his head in. He scanned the scene before him, quickly noting Hermione and Narcissa’s intense discussion, the stacks of newspapers, blackmail folders, background information on various Ministry personnel, and Potter’s daughter pushing wooden owl figurines off the top of a fortress made from Draco’s old snap-and-build blocks. He then turned to Draco and lifted one eyebrow.

Draco did not need further incentive. He stood, held out his hand for little Potter, dissolved her earmuffs spell with a quick flick.

“Come with me, Portenia,” he said. “Bring your blocks and we’ll go play somewhere more fun.”

Portentia collected her things and took his hand, and they followed Lucius out of Narcissa’s very modern office and down the hall into Lucius’s more traditional one. Neither woman noticed him leave. 

Where his mother’s office was all bright grey walls, black leather furniture, and—Draco shuddered—silver accents everywhere, his father’s was warm wood and cosy leather. And it had scotch. 

“I assume it understood that minding Potters is beneath Malfoys and that you would assure me this is not a common affair if I bothered to ask,” his father said. 

Then Lucius summoned an elf to bring Potterette a warm pumpkin juice and a plate of chocolate biscuits. The Arctic Kneazles were playing softly in the background.

“Thank you, Mr Mawfoy,” Portentia said. “Daddy doesn’t let me have choco bikkies before dinner, but Mummy says his head’s infested.” 

She then returned to ignoring them in favour of the blocks.

Lucius looked pained. He reached for the scotch and poured them both a glass.

Draco shrugged and accepted the scotch, taking a seat on the well-worn leather couch opposite the fire. His mother didn’t have a fireplace in her office. She liked to keep visitors cold and uncomfortable so they’d be more likely to acquiesce to her demands just to escape her frigid office. 

The music changed, and Draco was certain the gramophone was now playing Kate Bush. He knew her only because Granger had her albums, and her voice got just as high-pitched when she was especially hacked-off. And on the one album cover with her nipples showing through her thin top, her face had reminded him of Granger’s, and he’d always wondered if he’d ever get to see Granger’s nipples, too (he had, and they were even better). 

He was not convinced, however, that his father realised she was a Muggle from a line of Squibs. She had a very good magical agent.

“Who's that playing?” he asked, to be certain.

“Kate Banshee,” said Lucius. “A witch from Welling. Your mother bought me the record for my fiftieth. Delightful lyrical coloratura soprano. I’ve no idea why she isn’t more popular.”

Riiiight, Draco thought. 

It would be a cold day before he was the one to clue his father in on the fact that all these allegedly magical musicians’ records Narcissa bought for Lucius were actually Muggles and Squibs, or, at best, wizards who were also famous in the Muggle world, in the case of the Arctic Kneazles. 

“Yes, it’s a lovely voice,” he said instead. 

Lucius smiled and nodded. He bent forward, making a fair attempt at playing with little Potter for a moment before he straightened up again, and regarded Draco over the rim of his scotch glass. 

“You’ve heard what your mother has planned for this year’s New Year’s Eve party.”

Draco grimaced. Here we go again. “Yes, unfortunately. A disaster waiting to happen.”

His father sighed. “I am not the only sane person in this family, I see. Thank Merlin for small miracles.”

“We’re going anyway,” Draco added. “Hermione and I.”

Lucius pulled a face he certainly would not have had he been in the company of anyone but his immediate family. 

“Draco, I had hoped you would talk your mother around. I really cannot afford to have Aurors on the grounds again. I’ve only just had the parquet floors in the ballroom refinished after the last time. Do they not take their boots off for any occasion? One wonders if they’re able to even see to their wives without—” He broke off abruptly, remembering Portentia. 

Draco smirked.

Lucius changed direction.

“What exactly is going on between you and Ms Granger?” his father asked then. “I’ve long since resigned myself to having her in my home, but of late, I get the unsettling feeling that she is more than your colleague and your mother’s campaign manager.”

Draco’s stomach flipped. As of last night, he had no idea what was going on between them himself. He certainly hoped it was the beginning of something more permanent, but it was difficult to tell with Hermione. She was flighty when it came to non-academic affairs. 

He’d have to prod her along, Draco suspected.

And prod her along he would.

“She’s our Alpha,” he said.

Lucius waved a hand. “As you are.”

“She’s my friend,” Draco admitted, annoyed at his father.

Lucius sat back against the couch, elegantly crossing one ankle over his knee. 

“I imagine that both of you being Werewolves lends a certain camaraderie to a relationship that would certainly not exist otherwise.”

Well, Lucius could think that if he wanted to, but the truth was Draco had thought Granger fit ever since she slapped him in third year, and becoming friends with her after the bite had only turned his attraction into something worse—affection. 

“Whatever the reason,” said Draco, neatly sidestepping, “she’s here to stay. You might as well make friends with her now before Mother decides to adopt her.”

“Do you not see enough of her at the full moon?” Lucius asked. He waved a hand about, a vague gesture that could’ve meant anything from ‘whatever’ to ‘fuck this blasted fly.’ “And of course at work.”

Draco shrugged, sipped his scotch. “We get along well, both in and out of work.”

“I cannot imagine wanting to spend so much time with one person,” said Lucius. “I’m certain your mother would disembowel me if we had to share an office space. In fact, it occurs to me that I’m not entirely certain what you and Ms Granger do for the Ministry?” Lucius prodded.

“Consulting,” said Draco. “On potions analysis.”

“Ah,” said Lucius, but he was frowning, as if he couldn’t recall ever seeing any potions consultants at the Ministry before. 

He hadn’t. They didn’t exist. Draco went through this same conversation with his family every few years whenever they remembered that he and Hermione had jobs, but that they weren’t sure what those jobs were. 

“My daddy works for the Ministry,” Portentia offered, looking up at them with big, grey, Lovegood eyes. 

They stared down at her. She blinked, and returned the stare. Lucius looked away first. 

“How delightful, my dear,” he said. 

She nodded and returned to her blocks.

“Well, at any rate,” Lucius continued, remembering his new favourite topic, “this entire thing is madness. You must convince your mother to cancel this party, especially after the news today.”

Draco blinked at the sudden return to their old topic. That was most unlike his father; he was usually much subtler. The party must really be worrying him. 

Instead Draco said, “Have you ever known me to be able to convince Mother of anything? Anything at all?”

Lucius frowned, then stood to prod at the logs in the hearth with the poker. He regarded their family portrait above the mantelpiece, staring balefully back at Narcissa, who was smirking down at him—not yet moving or alive and wouldn’t be until all her death, but somehow painted in such a way as to always look smug whenever Lucius looked at her. 

“I suppose not,” he admitted. “And she has been less inclined to entertain my fancies after the business with our houseguest.”

By which he meant the Dark Lord, rest his seven souls (in misery).

“You did rather bugger that one up,” Draco said, eyebrows raised. 

Lucius turned to frown at him over his shoulder, poking at the fire one last time before returning to his seat. 

“When you have a wife and children, you are free to make your own mistakes, Draco,” Lucius said.

Draco smirked. Point for him. He felt a little daring now. 

“Even if they’re Half-bloods?”

His father sucked in a startled breath. “Draco, you can’t be serious.”

“And if I am?”

Lucius’ eyes narrowed. “Are we talking a half-blood wife and tolerably-pureblood children, or a mu—Muggleborn wife and Half-blood children?”

Draco shrugged. “Who knows? Could be either, really. The political climate is really very well suited for that sort of thing now. Imagine the social capital Malfoys could gain by allying with a well-liked Muggleborn.”

“Draco, if you’re suggesting an arranged marriage between yourself and Ms Granger, I really must insist that you consider Astoria Greengrass instead. Her family was distinctly neutral during the scuffle and would be social capital enough.”

“I’d rather marry for love,” Draco said.

Lucius looked relieved. Draco held back a smirk. 

“Good,” said his father. Then, again: “Good.” 

Lucius gave a little shudder. “Imagine having to adjust all the wards to make the Manor safe for Muggle in-laws at holidays. I simply could not bear it. I’m entirely too old for that kind of thing. Tolerance is something I will leave for the young. I’ve done my part by not killing them.”

Draco had never even met the Grangers, but it brought up interesting ideas. 

He wondered what they were like. He always Disapparated as soon as Hermione’s parents yelled through the Floo, having no desire whatsoever to make small talk about automobiles and electricity, or whatever it was Muggles talked about when they had nothing in common with other people. 

But for this, it might be worth it. Maybe he could ask them to recommend more Muggle musicians for his father.

“Very big of you, Father,” Draco said.

“I rather thought so,” Lucius agreed. Then, “If your mother is determined to see this ridiculous farce through to the bitter end, which it does appear she is, then it falls to you and me, my son, to ensure that none of us ends up in gaol for it.”

“How do you suggest we do such a thing?” Draco asked, one eyebrow raised. “Potter and Weasley are coming, so at least we’ll have two witnesses on our side. That’s really all we can hope for.”

Lucius grimaced, as if physically pained by the threat of having a Potter and a Weasley in the Manor again. It was, Draco suspected, more agonising than having Hermione there on a semi-regular basis.

Fortunately, there was a knock at the door before an elf led Hermione in. She had a stack of folders hovering behind her and a harassed look on her face. 

She caught sight of Portentia and sighed in relief. 

“There you are, darling,” she said, crouching down to help Portentia collect up her blocks. She was welcome to them; Draco certainly had no use for them any longer. 

Then, absently, “Hello, Mr Malfoy.”

“Ms Granger.”

“You didn’t even notice me taking her out?” Draco said.

She exhaled heavily. “Draco, must you? You knew Narcissa and I were distracted. This is serious.”

“I know,” he said. 

She looked up from little Potter and gave him a grateful smile. And maybe it was just him, but he thought there was something deeper in it this time, something secret and seductive, just for him. He couldn’t help smiling back.

She settled Portentia on her hip, even though the child was entirely too long and heavy for that now, and set her blocks hovering with the files. 

“Are we ready? Or are you staying here? We could grab lunch if you’d like. Ron said there’s a good sushi place in Hoxton, and I need to buy a new pair of shoes for your mother’s party—I’ll let you pick them out.’

Merlin, it was like she was made for him.

He was out of his chair before she could even finish the last word. 

“I’ll come,” he said. 

“Can I have shoes, too, Auntie Hermy?”

“Of course, darling,” said Hermione. “What kind of shoes does your daddy like the least?”

Portentia considered this. “The ones with sparkles ‘cos he says they’re barmy. But Mummy likes those, and me, too.”

“Then sparkle shoes we shall get for you.”

Portentia beamed. 

Draco did, too. She really was the perfect woman. 

Fuck, he was so in love. Too in love, in fact, to notice the considering look Lucius was giving him as they left.

Chapter Text

They were a bit late getting back to Hermione’s flat, and by the time they’d set her bags down, the shoes Draco’d suggested she choose spilling from their box, the Floo was flaring to life. Lovegood’s head poked through, looking as batty in flames as it did in person. 

“Hello, Hermione, Draco,” she said. “Is my monster about?”

“I’m heeeeeere,” Portentia sang, bounding in from the kitchen. She still had her winter hat on, and it was sinking down to cover her eyes. Draco adjusted it as she ran past, and then scowled at Granger when she noticed. She was already in the sparkly shoes, which really were quite atrocious and he couldn’t wait to see what Potter thought of them.

“I’m a monster!”

“A very scary one,” Luna agreed, eyeing the shoes with a bright smile. “Did you tell Auntie Hermione thank-you for the gift?” Portentia nodded, and indeed, was not lying. She’d given many a thankful hug on the way home. “Does this monster want to come home and have spaghetti frogs and marshmallows for tea?”

“Yes!”

Draco and Hermione shared a horrified look. Potterette was duly ushered through the fireplace, and Draco sank onto Hermione’s couch, sighing in relief. His relaxation didn’t last for long, though, as the Floo flared green yet again. 

Mother of Merlin, could he not get a break today? It was a Saturday, for Merlin’s sake. He should not have been required to do so much work.

A woman who looked remarkably like Hermione, only a bit darker in complexion, and with hair more tightly and tidily braided, was peering out at them, and he realised, with some horror, that it was her mother. Her Muggle mother. Who Draco had successfully avoided meeting, or even laying eyes on, for seven years.

She’d want to talk about computers and laser pointers with him, and he was really not prepared for that, even after four years of Muggle Studies. He felt like a Flobberworm caught in Lumos-light.

“Hi, darling.”

Draco could hear Muggle in every syllable, as if it was a dialect as well as a genetic condition.

“Hi Mum,” said Hermione, walking over to kneel in front of the hearth. 

She shot Draco a look over her shoulder as if she could tell what he was thinking. She probably could. 

“You’ve got a man there with you?” Granger’s mother asked, her voice arch.

Draco could imagine the grimace Hermione wore, even if he could only see the back of her head right now. 

“Yes, it’s just Draco.”

Just Draco, indeed! he thought.

“Oh, is that Draco? How interesting! You can bring him to Christmas dinner with you. I’d like to finally meet this young man.”

“I don’t think—” Hermione began.

“I’d be delighted,” Draco said, before Hermione could make his excuses for him. 

Christmas itself was a novel idea to him. Christmas with Muggles even more novel. But Christmas with Granger’s Muggles? Well, now that he and Hermione had… done what they did, and after his conversation with Lucius, which still rang in his head, it was an interesting prospect indeed. 

Meeting her parents had to be a good idea if he was going to convince her to pursue this new thing between them—which he’d only just decided he was going to do. Draco considered himself a fairly modern man; if a witch like Granger wished to have sexual relations with a wizard without attachments or betrothal, he would not turn his nose up, but the unfortunate fact of the matter was that he’d fancied Granger entirely too long to even pretend to be casual about this. 

Even seven years of Slytherin House training wasn’t going to be enough, and Draco was nothing if not pragmatic. Best to just be charming and suave and all sorts, sweep Granger off her furry feet, and be done with it. Draco was a grown man; he could acknowledge when he was beaten. Anyway, she’d slept with him now, and it was quite enjoyable indeed, so he wanted to ensure the opportunity remained.

If he made the acquaintance of her parents, then he’d be that much closer to getting them to sign a betrothal contract with him, or whatever it was Muggles did when a very eligible young wizard came to court their daughter.

Hermione turned back to him, an apologetic look on her face. “You really don’t have to.”

He scowled, feeling extremely wrong-footed all of a sudden. He might’ve been a grown man, but normally it would’ve been his parents sorting this out for him after he gave them his top three choices for wives; there was not enough gold in Gringott’s for Draco to relieve himself of this task to his father, however. 

“Maybe I want to. What else will I be doing that day? The Department stopped letting me come into work on the twenty-fifth three years ago. Now I just sit in your flat watching Love Actually.”

She rolled her eyes and returned to the Floo. “Alright, Mum. We’ll be there. What time?”

“Three. Bring a red wine, if you don’t mind.”

“Don’t forget to hide the silver before Granny can set it out,” Hermione reminded her.

“Oh, that, right. Yes, I’ll have your father put it somewhere high.”

“Thanks, Mum.”

Mrs Granger departed the grate with a cheery wave in Draco’s general direction. He would have waved back, but Hermione’s head was mostly blocking the view, and he did not wave. Hermione warded the Floo from new callers, and came to sit down next to him, and he just knew they were about to talk about it.

She eyed him. “So.”

Draco let his head fall back against the cushions. She always had to overthink things, didn’t she? “I swear to you Granger, if you’ve spent this whole day thinking of a way to politely say ‘Last night—and this morning—was a mistake,’ I will throttle you.”

She looked doubtful. Her words proved it. “I doubt you could, really.”

He glared at her from one eye. “You were going to say it, weren’t you?”

“I just don’t want to ruin our friendship,” she said quietly. “I don’t want to mess us up.”

He grimaced. What utter Gryffindorish nonsense. “You know we can’t go back to before. Neither of us have poor memories. We won’t forget. It’ll always be there, right under the surface. If we don’t try it, we’ll always wonder about it.”

She looked away, and he could hear her heartbeat speeding up again, could smell the blood pumping through her veins. “I know. That’s what worries me.”

“Then—” He paused, swallowing around the sudden lump in his throat. This could so easily go wrong, and then all this cool act he’d put on all day would be for naught. The truth was the Draco was miserably in love with Granger, and if she said no, if they fucked this up, he’d have exactly zero things left to live for. 

“Then let’s give it a try,” he said. “We’re rational, capable adults. We’re both Alphas of the same pack. It suits.”

She seemed to deflate. “Draco, we’d ruin everything. We’ve both got… very demanding personalities. Can you really see us working out?”

Yes. “…Maybe.”

“Maybe won’t help us if we begin to hate one another, but still have to share the same lab, the same friends, and your mother.” 

That was a fair point, but as Draco had said earlier: It was too late to go back. At least for him. 

“It’s already happened, Granger,” he said, turning his head to face her fully now. Her eyes had always been such a lovely shade of Dark Magic, almost black, and just as addictive. Fine; he would just have to say what they were going to otherwise dance around forever. “Whatever damage that might be done is done. Stop using your rational human side for half a second and use your irrational Werewolf side. I smell right to you. Admit it. I smell like your mate.”

Her eyes widened, and he knew he was right. He knew she’d ignored that niggling thought for as many years as he had.

He could smell her, too, after all. And all these years, she’d smelled like the only good thing in the room, no matter where they were. Their Werewolf sides had chosen one another, but that didn’t mean their human sides had to choose one another, too. And that’s what he was afraid of: that, when it came down to it, Hermione would be the one to ignore the Werewolf in her. She’d be the one to pull away, to put rationality before emotion.

And wouldn’t that be ironic? 

She was the one who was at peace with her Lycanthropy, and he was the one who rather hated it. 

Yet, now, it seemed, he would be the one embracing it, while she tried to distance herself. 

Draco would not have it. “Just—don’t say no yet. Think about it, if you have to. Just don’t say no.”

Hermione frowned. But after a moment of tense silence, she did nod, and Draco let out the breath he hadn’t realised he’d been holding. 

“Okay,” she said. “Let’s see what happens.”

That was the best he was going to get right now. And as his father would say, ‘The best one is going to get is much less than what a Malfoy will get,’ so things could only go up from here.

It was time, he supposed, to take up his own political campaign. He’d leave the Werewolf ones to Hermione; this one was a campaign for her head and heart. And Malfoys didn’t like to lose. 

Chapter Text

As tired as she was, she couldn’t help the silly smile on her face. Just once she wanted to… to maybe lie in with Draco of a morning. To make tea with him in a leisurely, afternoon sort of way, and not a gulp-it-down-so-we-can-get-going way. To figure out if it could be something other than a regular shag when they were both stressed.

She wanted to try, for once, and hope for the best. She wanted to try, more importantly, with Draco, and that was… that was not something she’d ever considered before. He was very nice looking, and incredibly smart and funny, and really just pleasant to be around and work with in general, but she’d just… never…

Why had she never considered it before? Hermione bit her lip, confused and still a little giddy from the morning’s shag.

Hermione prided herself on knowing her own mind, and yet this attraction to one of her best friends was both sudden and extreme. What had changed? Had anything at all changed or had they both just been at the right mental place at the right time to consider it simultaneously? 

There were some things in the magical world that even logic couldn’t explain, and it was possible attraction to Draco Malfoy was one of them.

But she would have to consider all this later. She had work to do. She forced the giddiness down and focused on the sombre task ahead of her. Immediately, she felt exhausted—the whole weight of the world on her, and it was so irrational and ridiculous that she could’ve been feeling this the whole time and just a stray thought of Draco sodding Malfoy was enough to perk her up.

Hermione was tired, but when had that ever made a difference? 

Bigotry, hatred, and ignorance didn’t rest. How could Hermione justify doing it? It would be a blessing to have some help Alphaing her pack, but Hermione was not one to wish on Thestrals. She knew Draco’s strengths, and she knew her own. It wasn’t fair to push him into something that distressed him, that he wasn’t even suited to. And Hermione knew all about trying to push oneself to fit where one didn’t; she wouldn’t force Draco. If he didn’t want to actively Alpha, well, she could be Alpha enough for the both of them.

And right now, she would be.

She knocked on the door of the Montgomery sisters’ shared flat. This was Hermione’s first second today, and not one she was relishing. The Montgomery twins had a long and vicious history with Werewolves. Hermione was exhausted, emotionally and physically, just thinking about how this was likely to go.

One of the girls opened the door, and Hermione regretted that she still couldn’t tell them apart, despite sharing a school with them for four years.

“…Granger?” said the woman, her brows furrowed. “Can I help you?”
“Ms Montgomery,” Hermione said hesitantly. “I wondered if I could speak to you and your sister for a few minutes.”

“I’m Merlina,” the girl said absently, still confused. She opened the door wider. “Come in.”

Hermione gave her a tight smile and stepped inside. Merlina gestured to a worn-out sofa and said, “Something’s wrong. I can tell by your face. I’ll get us some tea. My sister’s upstairs. She wasn’t feeling well. Just a minute.”

Hermione sat, feeling grateful for the momentary reprieve. Her morning should have been spent working on the new assignment from Apex with Draco, but instead, it had been a wearying slog of delivering bad news. Mr Lovegood had taken the news neutrally, as Hermione half-expected, but seeing Luna’s face go ashen before she returned to her customary apathy was enough to turn Hermione’s stomach. 

It had only been her first time, but already, Hermione hated telling someone they were infected with Lycanthropy. She hated the Oh, but I can’t be’s! She hated taking the blood, watching the confusion, shock, and then fear hit a face when they saw they bled black. She hated having to warn for the pain of the first change, and every change after that. She hated having to offer a planner so the new Werewolf could learn to track their cycle. She hated how Harry had put an arm around Mr Lovegood to comfort him while he babbled optimistically and nervously about what an adventure it would be. She hated that Luna petted Portentia’s hair endlessly while they talked, and that Hermione couldn’t tell if it was to comfort herself or the child.

She hated that she was about to do it again. And then again, thrice more.

Morgana Montgomery descended the stairs, looking curiously at Hermione. Behind her, the kitchen door swung open and Merlina stepped out with the tea tray. Hermione looked carefully: Merlina’s hair was slightly lighter, slightly more brown than black; Morgana’s right hand had a tiny white scar—most likely a cut from a slipped knife in Potions. The furrowed groove of their twin brows was equally worried, equally knowing. They smelt, to Hermione, different enough that she’d be able to tell them apart going forward.

Hermione hated that she would be confirming something terrible had happened to them when she could smell they already feared it.

“Sit down, please, ladies,” Hermione said, when they continued standing. She always felt a little uncomfortable telling people what to do in their own homes, but sometimes, people just needed an Alpha.

Merlina nodded, and Morgana followed a hair later. They sat opposite Hermione on the settee. The tea tray clinked against the wooden table between them. 

“How do you…?” asked Merlina, gesturing to the tray.

“Black, please,” said Hermione. “Thanks.”

Merlina poured their teas, passed a cup to Hermione, and sat back, clutching her own between her hands as if to warm them. “What is it?”

Hermione didn’t know where to start. Mr Lovegood had been almost family, someone Hermione knew quite well. The girls had been only fourth years when Hermione, Ron, and Harry went on the run to fight Voldemort. She’d known them only very little—they came to the Ravenclaw study groups that Hermione had often joined when she had the time.

“It’s about the missing time, isn’t it?” Morgana asked, so quickly it sounded like she couldn’t stand to have the words in her mouth anymore.

Hermione stopped short. “You remember?”

“We don’t, that’s the problem,” said Morgana. 

Merlina looked on, nodding. “There was a weekend, a couple weeks ago, that neither of us can recall. We asked around a bit, as casually as we could. We weren’t with our parents, we weren’t at our older’ brother’s house, we weren’t with friends, and we didn’t have work. It’s like we didn’t even exist for a few days.”

“I’ve reason to believe that you may have been taken,” Hermione said.

“By whom?” asked Morgana. “Why?”

“The by whom I don’t know yet,” Hermione admitted. “And the why… the why is complicated, too.”

“Complicated,” Merlina repeated slowly.

Hermione sighed. “Less complicated and more that I just don’t know what to say. So I’ll just say it: Merlina, Morgana, I believe you may have been injected with active Lycanthropy during the last full moon.”

The women recoiled, both upsetting their teacups. Hermione flicked her wand to dry them while they blinked at her, faces horror-stricken. “What?” Merlina whispered. Then louder, “What?!”

Hermione cringed in sympathy. “If you’ll let me take a small sample of your blood, I can tell you for sure right now.”

They stretched their hands across the coffee table, and Hermione tapped their index fingers with her wand. A small, bright black bead of blood bubbled up. 

“Oh my god,” Morgana said, staring at her finger. “Oh my god. Mer—”

“I know, I know,” Merlina babbled. “Oh my god, what are we going to do? How did this—?” 

They both looked up to Hermione, eyes already reddening from the stress of held-back tears. “Please, Hermione,” Morgana said. 

Please, what, Hermione had no idea. She frowned, feeling her own eyes sting with the urge to cry. She took a deep breath and tried to force a smile on her face, but it was too fake, too unrealistic, and she stopped even trying. Instead, Hermione stood and went to sit on the edge of the coffee table, taking each of their unbloodied hands in one of her own, and squeezing gently.

“I am so, so, so sorry,” Hermione whispered. 

She had to squeeze her eyes shut again to ward off the tears. They were much more insistent now, seeing how upset the girls were getting. Fuck this world, Hermione thought bitterly. They were only twenty-one. 

“But… why would someone do this?” Morgana asked.

Hermione shook her head. “I don’t know. I found out about you two from another of the infected.”

“There are more?” Merlina asked, aghast.

Hermione nodded. “There were eight of you total infected at the full moon. The information I have points to a deliberate infection by a non-Werewolf.”

“How could a non-Werewolf infect us?” 

“The injection,” said Hermione. “You have no bite marks, correct? No strange wounds?”

They shook their heads.

“Neither did my original source. He found a tiny puncture wound on his neck. I did some tests on the skin around it and found an increased concentration of Lycanthropy at the site, indicating that it was the source of his infection. Given that you were all taken at the full moon, we are left to assume that you must have been infected by someone who was human at the time.”

“That’s barbaric!” Morgana said.

“It’s cruel,” Merlina added, voice cracking.

“Yes,” Hermione agreed. “It’s both of those things, and despicable and evil, yes.” She leant forward, catching both of their eyes in turn. “But I want you to know with absolute certainty that you are not alone. I am the Alpha female of the Battle Pack and I am formally inviting you both into my pack. I will do everything I can to make this trial—this life—as easy as possible for you both, I’ll give my protection whenever I can, and I’ll introduce you to other Werewolves so that you can find some community in this affliction. Your lives are not over.”

“How about some revenge?” Merlina asked, eyes hard.

Morgana’s eyes narrowed, too. “They killed our little brother, George. He was only six.”

Hermione hesitated for the briefest of seconds. “I cannot condone murder,” she said. “And Fenrir Greyback killed George—but Greyback’s dead now. He died in 1998, shortly after infecting me.”

“Why bother with murder?” asked Merlina. “You said they were human. I think we can do better than murder.”

Hermione narrowed her eyes. “To knowingly infect another magical person is punishable by hanging, Kissing, and quartering,” she said. “You’re both smart women. We will find an appropriate justice for you. Believe me, we’re already working on it.”

“We?” asked Merlina.

Hermione sighed. She both loved and hated Ravenclaws. And Slytherins. “Narcissa Malfoy and I are heavily involved in the planning of a small… revolution for Werewolf rights. For the rights of all differently-blooded magical people.”

Both girls sat up, eyes bright. “We want in,” said Morgana.

“Yes,” said Merlina. “We will not let those beasts ruin our lives again. We will not be outcasts. And we will find justice for this.”

Hermione smiled for this first time that day. “Join my pack. We need more strong wolves in it. I’ll show you everything you need to know to make Werewolf life as painless as possible, and if Narcissa agrees, I’ll include you in our planning. Our source has already made the same demand.”

“Who was it?” asked Morgana. “Your source. Who else was infected?”

“I can’t tell you the others,” Hermione said. “Not without their permissions. But my source did agree to share his name with any who took the oath of pack.”

“Agreed,” said Morgana. “What do we need to do?”

It was just a quick magical formality. Hermione led them through it and they agreed at once to the bond—something that came naturally to all the Werewolves infected at the same time and place during the Battle of Hogwarts, but which had to be independently accepted by those who came later. The magic settled over the twins, settled into Hermione’s flesh and magic, and she knew, would be travelling down the links of magic to every other Werewolf in their pack. They would all know that two more had joined the Battle Pack.

“Barnabas Cuffe,” Hermione said, when the magic flamed out.

Merlina gasped. “Uncle Barney!”

“Oh my god, he’s in his seventies!” Morgana added.

“You know him personally?” asked Hermione.

The girls shrugged. “He’s friends with our granddad. They play poker together.”

“He didn’t mention that he knew you.”

Morgana shrugged. “He’s very good at poker. Close to the chest, you know?”

Hermione could easily see that. “I see.”

She reached into her bag and pulled out two more planners, her Floo address, a brochure she’d created on the basic facts of living with Lycanthropy, and the location of the nearest partner apothecary. 

“I’ll be in touch, but here are some resources to get you started. You may want to prepare a list of questions for me, but I can also come back with a presentation of life as a Lycanthrope if—”

“You don’t need to do that,” said Merlina, taking the proffered resources. “Ravenclaws, remember? Just let us know when the next revolution meeting is, and we’ll come prepared.”

I shouldn’t have used the word revolution, Hermione thought. She’d been trying to add a little levity, and look where it got her.

She let out a relieved breath. “You’re taking this remarkably well.”

Morgana waved her hand. “We’ll cry later. First tenet of Ravenclaw: solve the problem; cry about it afterwards… if you still need to.”

Hermione liked that very much. She suspected she might adopt it.

“I’m glad. If you… if you do need to cry about it, then you have my Floo address there. It’s open to you day or night.”

“Thank you,” the girls said. 

Hermione stood, and they showed her out with politeness and resolve. Mr Lovegood had been baffled by his infection, and then hysterically, deliriously excited. But the Montgomery sisters were easier for Hermione to connect with. They reacted as she’d reacted. 

Already, she felt a sort of kinship with them, even beyond the bond of Pack. They were strong and fierce and smart, and Hermione could desperately use people like that who were willing to fight for their pack, their cause. She just hated that they were forced into this activism; it should’ve been their free choice.

She left the sisters’ flat feeling that strange sort of exhaustion that came from weariness and careful, overdue hope. 

Now she just had to find a way to get in touch with an acclaimed WWN presenter, a musician, and two professional Quidditch players. 

Narcissa better have some connections, Hermione thought grimly. She just didn’t have the resources or the energy to find a way herself. But she did have something she needed to do.

 

🌕 🌕 🌕

 

It had taken her many, many years to come to understand the basic biological fact that her brain was constructed of physical matter, and it required timely nutrients and rest to perform at the level she demanded of it, so, despite the guilt, Hermione stopped for lunch. 

Draco was still at the lab, planning the experimental design for their new research study on the Killing Curse. A wild swing of the pendulum for them, but Hermione accepted—for now, at least—that they had to go where the funding was. And there was no more funding for Lycanthropy. But there would be. She’d raise the money, or the Malfoys would donate some, or maybe even Harry. Hermione would make sure Lycanthropy wasn’t forgotten. 

She’d never let anyone forget Lycanthropy again, after this week. 

These people—newly infected and with no discernible matching traits—hadn’t deserved this life. None of them had. But infecting a couple of world-class Quidditch players insured that the Ministry was going to have to take notice, whether they liked it or not. 

Hermione popped into Hannah’s and grabbed an isolated booth in the back to spread out her notes. Hannah brought over a tea and the daily special—meat lover’s scones with bacon jam—without delay and Hermione gave her a grateful smile.

“You are truly one of the best people in the world,” she told Hannah, already biting off a huge chunk of scone. “How do you even make food this good?”

Hannah winked at her. “I’m just good at market research. Want another?”

Hermione held up three fingers and Hannah rolled her eyes and returned to the kitchen, the door swinging behind her. 

Swallowing down the last of her first scone, Hermione magicked the crumbs from her fingers with a handy bit of wandless magic she’d studied after becoming someone with such an inconveniently fast metabolism, and tapped her biro against her well-worn notebook. 

She’d started a mind map the night before, but was finding that Draco’s presence no longer helped her concentrate. It, unfortunately, now distracted her, and she’d got hardly anything done, despite working until well after midnight. A small smile crept over her face, despite the worries of the day. She really did rather enjoy having Draco in her bed. 

She pulled her mind back to where it was supposed to be and whipped off a quick message to Narcissa about setting up the celebrity Werewolf introductions and, after some hesitation, another to Marietta Edgecombe, hoping she could convince her to assist them with publicity and if not, to at least join her for a cuppa so they could get to know one another better. With Marietta’s mother working for Transportation, her father doing something for Magical Creatures, and a grandmother with a seat on the Wizengamot, Marietta would be a strong public ally. 

Which just went to show how even Hermione could royally screw up for years and never realise it, despite her intelligence. She was, after all, still human, and humans were susceptible to ignoring inconvenient facts and maintaining petty grudges. But Marietta’d made and effort and Hermione knew when she was wrong. She could change. But she still had a quiet revolution to win, so. Two wolves, one potion. 

She wasn’t perfect.

She had learned to be okay with that.

With the letters sent, the mind map stared back at her, as helpful as a Basilisk. Hermione frowned at it. In the middle, there was ‘Lycanthropy,’ but she’d crossed through and and written ‘the Ministry’ at one point. This morning, before heading out for her meetings, she’d scratched that out and tried ‘Flu virus.’ 

The truth was that none of it made sense yet. 

Scattered around the page there was ‘Battle Pack’ and the names of all eight new Werewolves, ‘injection,’ ‘abduction,’ ‘chlorocytes,’ ‘demon summoning ritual,’ ‘Hags,’ ‘Vampires,’ ‘Veela,’ and ‘bite cults.’ And off to the side, as always, ‘Harry Potter.’ He always had to be involved, even when he wasn’t involved. But she knew Harry, and she knew not to discount him; he should’ve been a Werewolf, and he wasn’t, and there was something there. 

What connected all these things? What was the true centre from which everything else branched?

Hannah returned with three more scones, topping off her tea at the same time. Steam rose from the cup, and Hermione caught a whiff of Lily-of-the-valley. She raised her eyebrow at Hannah, but Hannah on shrugged in response. “You looked like you’d appreciate the focus.”

Hermione laughed. “When wouldn’t I?”

“I always wondered that myself,” said Hannah. “Let me know if you need anything else.”

Hermione picked up another scone, absently licking a bit of bacon jam from her thumb as she munched on it. The tea did smell rather nice. She felt herself relaxing minutely, her brain returning to a state she agreed with—that is, one that could function. She scanned her eyes over the mind map as she chewed. In her head, the words moved around the page like pieces of a magical chess set. She mentally directed them to this place and that, considering and dismissing connections. Nothing fit but—

And then she had it. She knew the centre point. It wasn’t the flu that connected everything; it was deeper than that—more primal. It was what came first: magic. Magic was the centre point, and from it, branched flu and from that branched Werewolves, Veela, Hags, and Vampires. 

And from Werewolves, branched chlorocytes. But the question now was: Were chlorocytes a branch off Lycanthropy… or were they the branch from which all magical blood afflictions came?

And if they were, how was Hag blood different from Werewolf blood?

An owl flapped through the transom window above the café door and alighted on Hermione’s table, expensive stationary tied to its leg. Hermione untied the ribbon and unrolled the parchment, not sure why she was suddenly feeling anxious again when Narcissa wrote to her all the time. 

 

Wonderful news, my dear Hermione—

Head Auror Yaxley has accepted our invitation to the New Year, New Wolf gala. I am eager to begin this new era of hospitality among Lycanthropes and non-Lycanthropes, and hopeful for allies within the Ministry soon. On that front, I have learned that some in the Wizengamot have heard whispers of an attack on non-Lycanthropes that may have resulted in infection, though they do not know the names of the potential victims or the outcome. 

There is a leak in the DMLE—beyond the one that reports to me, of course. 

Loyalty is a pseudo-magic in politics. It is in our best interests to be the more enticing side. To that end, I am now working with Cuffe on a paid sympathy campaign. It is nothing more than a bandage, but we will need that bandage on before the bleeding begins.

I have arranged for you to meet with Aladair Maddock of the Montrose Magpies at noon tomorrow; Orsinio Thruston and Meghan McCormack are cohabitating and have agreed to meet you jointly at seven in the evening, Thursday. I will handle Glenda Chittock; she is an old school friend.

Narcissa 

 

Ah, that would explain the anxiety. Hermione would never believe in Divination, but even she had noticed that there was another sense sometimes available to her as a Werewolf, and when it spoke, she needed to listen.

She added ‘Werewolf Intuition’ as a branch on her mind map, swiped her wand to gather up her things, and tossed three Galleons on the table for Hannah. She needed to talk to Harry and Ron. 

 

🌕 🌕 🌕

 

“Where’s Malfoy?” Harry asked, as he hefted the takeaway bags onto Ron’s coffee table. “Wasn’t he coming?”

Hermione glanced out the south window, frowning. She wasn’t sure she was ready to really be in front of Harry and Ron with Draco around, too. They were always too good at sniffing her out—Ron especially, these days—and she suspected she’d need a week at least to get her hormones and extraneous thoughts under control enough to be inconspicuous with Draco in the same room.

“Still at work,” she said, neglecting to tell them that she’d not sent him an owl until five minutes before she arrived. “We had a benchmark we had to hit for the first phase of our new research and he took the lead since I had to do the meetings this morning.”

“Ah, so you let him do all the work like Harry does me,” Ron said.

“Oh, fuck off,” Harry said, laughing. “You can literally stay awake for six days straight when the moon’s dark and not feel any effects.”

Ron shrugged, reaching into the bag and snagging a tandoori chicken wing. “Some of us are just naturally more capable.”

Harry rolled his eyes, and Hermione sent him a little grin so he wouldn’t end up feeling bad about it, like he often did. “Draco chooses to take the lead in the lab so he doesn’t have to help with the other stuff we work on together. Anyway, where’s Lavender?”

Lavender and Hermione weren’t the best of friends, but they certainly got on a lot better these days, and while they wouldn’t be having sleepovers any time soon, she could always depend on Lavender to do the Beta work that needed to be done.

“Stuck at work,” said Ron. “She said she’ll owl you this weekend to catch up on pack business.”

Hermione nodded and turned away from the window, shutting it with a sigh. Ron’s cottage was built at the far northern edge of the Weasleys’ acreage, but she could still smell Molly’s chicken and dumplings cooking, and it was honestly her favourite. 

Ron gave her a sympathetic look—probably the same one that convinced Lavender into his bed all the time even when Lavender swore she was done with him. “I know,” he said. “But we’re independent adults now.”

“Independent adults with takeaway,” Hermione said, mentally hyping herself up for her favourite takeaway which was a far second to her favourite soup. 

Harry gave them an odd look, and then shrugged. “Well, we have updates.”

Hermione settled into the sofa with a carton of chicken korma and raised her eyebrows at the boys. Ron flopped down next to her, his socked toes prodding at her thighs until she gave him a narrow look and scooted over. Some people just had unnecessarily long legs.

“Yaxley’s got us looking into a few Ministry people,” Ron said around a huge bite of chicken (bone included). He crunched a few times, swallowed, and then continued: “With the information you gave me about the new Weres, it’s starting to look less like cultists and more like a smear campaign.”

Hermione cringed, but couldn’t deny that she’d had the same fleeting thought. 

“With inside information,” Harry added, tearing off a piece of garlic naan. “Someone with friendly or regulatory access to a Werewolf for the saliva and the ability to pull tax records.”

Hermione frowned.

“For the addresses,” Ron said, tapping his temple. “Not like the keeper for Pride of Portree advertises where she and her boyfriend live, is it?”

“I suppose not,” Hermione said. She’d had to get Narcissa to arrange it, after all. 

“Thus, definitely Ministry.”

“And the leak in the DMLE,” Hermione added. “Are you sure Yaxley’s safe?”

Ron and Harry shrugged identically. 

“DMLE’s the biggest department in the Ministry, Hermione,” said Harry. “Like half of London works for it.”

Hyperbole was a bit Harry’s style, but she couldn’t gather the energy to contest it. A significant portion of magical Britain did work for the Ministry, and a good chunk of that was DMLE.

“But you’re being careful, anyway, right?” she said.

“As careful as always,” Ron assured her. “Don’t worry about us.”

“Who should I worry about then?” she asked.

Harry and Ron looked at one another. Ron was the first to deflate, sighing and rolling his eyes in a way that Hermione immediately knew meant he’d lost the battle.

“You know we know, right?” Ron said.

Hermione sat a bit straighter. “Know what?” 

Harry gave her the sassy, unimpressed look only he could do any justice with. “You’re shagging Malfoy.”

“I am n—” Hermione cut off, seeing their identical expressions, and sighed. “Fine. We may’ve shagged. A few times. We’re… considering things.”

“Well, you’ll want to consider it fast,” Ron said, “because the talk of reinstating the Registry is picking up and Tonks heard a whisper that this time, they’re looking to add a stipulation that known Werewolves are not allowed to maintain romantic relationships, in case the liaison results in Lycanthropic children.”

“But—but I can’t even carry!” Hermione whispered, aghast. “Are they stupid? Are they—are they actually fucking stupid?” She couldn’t help her voice rising in volume and pitch; she was just so—so angry. It just… it never ended. Every time she thought she’d emotionally healed or mentally prepared herself or whatever her therapists always said to do, something else would happen to show her just how weak and incapable she was. “The change,” she said, barely holding back furious tears. “It causes miscarriage.” 

“We know,” Harry said quietly. 

Hermione turned away, blinking. She’d always thought—before—she’d be a mother. She’d always thought she’d have a family, maybe with Ron, even, and they’d all come out ridiculously photogenic because of his Weasley genes. A daughter, maybe. Or a son; she wasn’t picky. Her parents had been wonderful to her; she’d wanted to have that experience, too. She’d always wanted—and she couldn’t—

The Floo flared to life and Draco stepped out, taking in the scene with wary consideration. “What’s going on, Weasley?”

Ron straightened without even seeming to realise it. He lifted his chin enough to bare his neck. Hermione didn’t even hear what he said in response, though. She wasn’t listening. She was just—just so, so tired. And the more she resisted crying, the more she held back the anger and frustration and exhaustion, the more Draco’s Werewolf side responded to her. His scent was uneasy… and then angry, sympathetic, sad.

And she didn’t know what to do with that. So she kept looking away, refusing to let him see her this low again. And inside her, the Werewolf howled for her mate.

Chapter Text

21 December

Dear Hermione,

Thank you for your letter. I appreciate you reaching out to me and I understand the magnanimity of your request. Unfortunately, I must beg you to let me remain hidden as an uninfected witch. I do not do well in crowds or with confrontation; the result being debilitating panic attacks that last for weeks. I don’t think I could take the notoriety my exposure would bring.

I hope that you will not take this letter to mean that I am still angry over our Hogwarts years or that I do not wish to pull my weight. I’m not and I do. I am simply not able to weather the storm of outing myself as you and others have so bravely done. My anxiety would not let me live through it. 

What other ways can I help? I would cherish the opportunity to meet for tea and talking, as you suggested. I can make myself available at your convenience the first week of the new year.

I will support our pack in any way I anonymously can. I hope you understand. 

With respect,

Your packmate,

Marietta Edgecombe

 

🌕 🌕 🌕

 

Hermione was ignoring him and he didn’t know why. Draco considered himself a modern man—more modern than his father, at any rate—but he was struggling not to go completely Gryffindor and spell down her door, demanding answers. He was sick of sharing an office with her in silence, sick of her disappearing with a couple casual words and not returning with an excited story. Sick of how they were both so alone together in their shared office.

Of all the insults and embarrassments the Ministry had foisted on Werewolves over the years, Draco was at a loss as to why this little bit of gossip from Potter and Weasley was affecting her so much. When had she ever cared about the public’s opinion before? Even when the Registry prevented them from being paid for their work she hadn’t been so upset. Did she actually care if the Ministry forbade romantic relationships? 

Why not just keep their agreement secret? She’d never hesitated to hide things from the government before.

Unless—well, Draco was hesitant to even think it, but—unless she wanted to be public with him. But that wasn’t like Hermione. It was probably closer to the truth that she felt some basic human right had been violated and was just in Granger-planning-mode to destroy the people responsible. 

Whatever the cause, she’d locked herself in the Department library for days, only giving him brief, tight smiles and small-talk-hellos when they passed. Monday, he’d gone over to her flat after work, but she hadn’t been there. When he tried again the next afternoon, it’d smelled strange, like unusual food and the stale, earthy scent of unmagical people. She’d been visiting her parents.

He didn’t go back after that. Despite the worried thump of his heartbeat each day, and the building anger that this isn’t my fault, just fucking talk to me, Draco gave her the damn space. They were approaching the second moon of the month—a ‘lucky’ blue moon to anyone not cursed with fucking Lycanthropy—and his temper was tenuous. Hers would be, too. Even affable, jolly, annoyingly attractive Weasley became rancorous near the moon, and he didn’t even have to deal with Alpha magic pressing against his temper. 

He could wait her out. It was only four days before the winter holiday thing that so many Muggles and some of magical families with modern fancies celebrated, and she’d already agreed to let him attend with her. If nothing else, he’d catch her among the Muggles and she wouldn’t be able to Apparate away or ignore him without causing a scene. 

This morning, she’d disappeared at lunch, after they’d worked on the experiment design for the Avada Kedavra research in silence all morning. He really didn’t care anymore what the history of the Killing Curse was. It was part of his own history enough as it was. Apex wanted them to determine its component parts so its method of causing death could be analysed, and—perhaps, if Draco or Hermione had a particularly lucky break—find a way to counter it. 

He would’ve been thrilled with this assignment eight years ago. The guilt it could’ve assuaged… If nothing else, it would’ve made him famous, fully redeemed the Malfoy name… He would’ve earned something in his own right.

Draco did not care now. What good was the Malfoy name if it couldn’t get him into the most basic of shops?

If it couldn’t get him a life with the witch he loved?

He would admit to no one that he was beginning to feel… dispirited. He packed up his work in anticipation of the Ministry closing for the next few days and made sure their cooling charm was cleaned of leftovers. He and Hermione were always the last ones in the Department before the holiday. This year, it was just him, turning out the lights in complete silence.

His Daily Prophet owl caught him as he was heading out of the office for his fitting. He tucked the paper into his satchel along with all the research he was bringing home as he made his way from Abbott’s Impervious Cauldron Floo to his appointment at the tailor’s. Head high, back straight, he nodded to Abbott as he passed, and the few old acquaintances and family friends who had not spurned him and sneered at any who smelled afraid. Crowds parted, and Draco strode through. 

And then he came to his appointment and blinked at the display found there. A flyer tacked to the window next to Twilfit’s door.

 

WE’RE STILL HUMAN.

 

And below that bold headline, a picture of Draco’s favourite childhood musician, Blodwyn Bludd, smiling toothily. Very toothily. Draco blinked again; he hadn’t heard from Blodwyn in years. Below the photo were a couple smaller lines of text:

 

We do ourselves a disservice by calling Vampires creatures . Like Veela, Hags, Banshees, and Werewolves, we are all born human and we all die human—yes, even Vampires. Magic chose a different path for us, but we are still your neighbours, friends, and colleagues. And we need you to be our biggest fans, and put an end to prejudice in our world.

LET’S MAKE MUSIC. TOGETHER.

Paid for by the Coalition for Werewolf Rights.

 

“Mother,” Draco muttered, yanking the door open to Twilfit’s shop. This sort of subdued emotional blackmail was entirely her style when it came to the public. And given she’d managed to hire Bludd for Draco’s eighth birthday party, she was certainly capable of getting in touch with and convincing him to commit to such a bold move.

Twilfit smiled at Draco as he entered. “Good afternoon, Mr Malfoy. Right on time. How can I help today?”

“I need another pair of jean trousers made,” he said. “I’m visiting a Muggle family.”

“Ahh,” said Twilfit. “Please sit. I just need to refresh my recollection of the current fashions. Tea? Coffee?”

“Tea,” Draco agreed. 

Twilfit whistled and the shop’s elf popped in with a tray. He summoned a stack of Muggle magazines with only the letters G and Q for a title, along with large photographs of unnecessarily handsome Muggle men.

Draco sat, accepted a cup of tea from the elf, and watched holiday shoppers rushing about through Knockturn Alley. It might be nice to celebrate a gift-giving holiday, Draco thought. He had no idea what one would buy him, but he did like shopping and finding interesting things. Mother always said he was a nightmare in an antiques shop. He could give things to other people.

Like Granger, of course. And Weasley would be easy enough to shop for—he just had to buy him something related to failure and orange, like a Chudley Cannons jersey. Pansy liked ladylike things, like painfully-cursed tea cups. And Potter liked being dominated in strange ways while complaining about it the whole time, so he could always secure him an invitation to one of Mother’s Witches Who Win lunches. Gift-giving was actually quite easy, now that Draco thought about it.

Twilfit flipped through a few issues of the G and Q magazine, humming as the pages flipped, the sound of his quill scratching against parchment a delicate white noise to Draco’s thoughts. 

Through the window, he caught sight of a second flyer tacked across the way into Diagon Alley, on the door of a broom shop—this one much larger and featuring a famous Veela swimsuit model. It occurred to Draco then that Hermione and his mother were not holding anything back this time and that he was once again the last to know. What had she been up to while avoiding him?

Draco was, surprising even himself, pissed off.

“I’m ready for you, Mr Malfoy. Right this way.”

Draco stood, following Twilfit back to the fitting rooms where he disrobed and stood atop the stool to be measured.

Twilfit set the measuring tape to measuring and went to retrieve a selection of denim washes for Draco to choose from. He returned carrying 4 bolts.

“The darker washes are in, currently,” Twilfit said as he returned, “but there looks to be some room for personal discernment among them. I brought four rolls that most closely match those I found in the last two months’ issues. Personally, I like this one,” he added, gesturing for the second-to-darkest wash to float forward. “And we can always add the fading details as they have here around the creasing areas.”

Draco studied the colour and feel, checking the weight and the weave for quality. He nodded. “Looks fine to me. Let’s do this one.”

“Excellent,” said Twilfit. He sent the other bolts flying back to their rack and snatched the measuring tape from the air while he made quick work of the cuts. The shop elf popped in to refresh Draco’s tea. In the moments following, Draco’s brain settled onto the fact that the sudden epiphany Hermione had had in Voclain’s shop earlier that month had now moved beyond idea and into tangible, conspicuous flyer.

They were moving on from fighting for Werewolves to fighting for bloody everyone

What motivation had his mother had when she’d gone along with that? Diffusion? Redirection? He thought about this as he frowned down at the new denim jean trousers Tacitus Twilfit was now fitting him into.

“Are you quite sure about these, Twilfit?” Draco asked, with some disbelief.

“All the rage, sir, according to the fashion magazines,” he said around a mouthful of pins. “Still dress to the left?”

“Yes,” said Draco. 

But how could they spend their precious resources on helping Vampires and Veela when they still hadn’t finished saving their own barely tolerated people?

Twilfit tapped his wand against Draco’s inside trouser and the fit snugged up a bit. Draco frowned as the denim trousers tightened against his bum. He turned his head to look. Not bad—if he wanted to look like a trollop, like Potter or Weasley. He hadn’t worn trousers this tight since Father put him through dressage on the Abraxans. 

And come to think of it, Granger’s jeans often left little to the imagination, too. He’d just refused to notice it before. Maybe Muggles were onto something.

“I don’t recall these being so tight last time I bought a pair,” Draco observed anyway.

“Though it pains me, sir, I assure you this is the current trend.”

Draco lifted an eyebrow, fighting a smirk. “And you’re sure they’ll be appropriate for meeting Muggles on… ah—” What was it called again? “—Christmas?”

“As sure as I am of any Muggle trend, sir.” He waved his hand and the magazine flipped a few pages forward, where another Muggle man was lounging on a sofa with a glass of white wine in one hand; around him, other smartly dressed Muggles lingered in what was clearly a party setting. “There is evidence to support the denim jean trousers are frequently worn at functions.”

He would just have to trust Twilfit, he supposed. It wasn’t like he was that familiar with Muggle fashion trends, and Twilfit had never steered his broom wrong before. They finished the fitting and Draco stepped out of the pinned jeans and back into his normal wool trousers while Twilfit sewed them together.

He was just paying for his indecent new purchase when the evening Prophet was delivered to the shop. It landed on the counter as Draco signed for the account draft. He glanced at the headline, and his fingers tightened around the quill. 

 

Wizengamot set to vote on reestablishing Werewolf Registry after spate of potential bites

 

Well. Weasley had warned him. He should’ve opened the damned paper when the owl delivered it.

He finished signing his name as calmly as possible while his blood roared through his veins, then passed the draft parchment back to Twilfit. Their eyes met and held over the newspaper. The door jangled, and Mariam Edgecombe, the snotty Floo Network regulator that Draco’s father liked to keep in his pocket, walked in, travelling cloak tossed over one arm. Draco spared her a single nod and turned back to Twilfit, one eyebrow lifted, waiting.

“A pleasure as always, Mr Malfoy. Twilfit and Tattings appreciates your continued patronage.”

It was said genuinely, and Draco knew that the recent spate of Werewolf news would not keep Twilfit from serving him. That was what Draco liked to hear. He was bloody well fed up with all of these bigoted arseholes refusing him service, and it usually got worse when Werewolves were in the news. 

Draco gave him a feral smile. “Likewise, Mr Twilfit. Do have a lovely evening. And happy Yule.”

He Disapparated as soon as he stepped outside the shop. He was going to speak to Hermione if it killed them both. 

 

🌕 🌕 🌕

 

This was the third time this week that Draco had let himself into Granger’s flat, but the first that he’d actually found her home—much less eating comfort food. That blasted half-Kneazle was curled up on her side, allowing her to feed every other bite of blood pudding to him while they apparently watched another episode of Gordon Ramsay being a first class prick—Draco was fond of him.

“Scram, cat,” said Draco. “I’m sitting there.”

Crookshanks narrowed his eyes and settled in further.

“Don’t be rude, Malfoy,” Hermione said, sighing. “I’ve had a long day.” 

She held the fork out to the cat and he grabbed the bit of blood pudding thereon, returning his gaze to the television.

Draco narrowed his eyes, snapped his wand and levitated the stupid cat to the armrest on her other side. He settled in next to her as Gordon sniffed at a row of mouldering pots. 

“As it happens, I’ve just witnessed the results of your long day. Vampires and Veela appear to be as popular as fairy lights in Diagon Alley. And then there’s the Registry, of course.”

He took the bowl of blood pudding from her and scooped a bite into his mouth, belatedly remembering that she let her cat share her silverware. Draco grimaced, tasting the residue of feline on the fork. Crookshanks seemed to be giving him a particularly smug look from her other side.

Gordon exclaimed in disgust on the television.

“Saw that, did you?” she said, taking the bowl back. Her eyes were distant, sad. “All that work we did… for years… and it’s going to come to nothing in the end. We’ll always be monsters. They’ll never just let us live.”

“So you chose to force them to remember we exist,” he prompted.

“Narcissa and I agreed it was a strategic step forward for Werewolf rights.”

“Is that so?” Draco said, tightly. “You and Mother agreed?”

“Well, Mr Cuffe and the Montgomery sisters were there, too. We had a working lunch.”

If possible, Draco felt himself become even angrier. “You, Mother, the Daily Prophet editor, and two Ravenclaws made the unilateral decision to launch a public relations campaign for disparaged beings as a whole, and not Werewolves,” he said, to clarify.

Somehow, she hadn’t yet noticed the anger in his voice, for she only nodded, eyes still glued to the nightmare kitchen on the telly. 

“It’s a distraction,” she said. “It’s easier to dismiss ‘just Werewolves,’ but when you remind people that Veela—who everybody likes, for the most part—and Vampires—who they find a bit sexy, if dangerous—are also considered by the Ministry to be ‘magical creatures,’ then it forces the population to reconsider beliefs.”

Draco considered that overly optimistic, but didn’t say so, choosing instead to voice the far more pressing point: “And why didn’t you include me? We were working together this morning, then you said you were going to get lunch and never came back! You could have taken me with you! I am the other Alpha of this pack, if you recall.”

She finally looked at him, eyes wide. They soon narrowed. “I do recall,” she bit out. “I also recall you not wanting to be Alpha of this pack for seven years, and that this sort of thing is ‘not your strength.’ I was trying to be considerate.”

“So it’s a strength of that old prick, Cuffe, who published scathing articles about us month after month for years? What a blessing for our side to have him now,” Draco bit out.

“We aren't at war,” she growled. “There shouldn’t have to be sides.”

“But there are. We are. You really think putting posters up will change people’s thoughts on that?” He laughed, his mood darkening by the minute. “Good luck.”

“I think we have a chance to make it be different now,” she said, snatching the bowl back from him once again. She took a large bite, chewing thoughtfully. The academic in her warred with the anger he could smell steaming off her. 

“The magical world’s population isn't large to begin with. In just the last decade, at least 48 new Werewolves have been made. It’s almost one-quarter of a per cent of the entire British magical population—it likely is one per cent, if we factor in all the ones we don't know about, the ones turned before the final battle who’ve never reached out. And when you add in that there are other humans with afflictions that pass through blood or birth, too, then we’re not as small of a minority as I always thought. We have magnitude. And we have nothing else to fight with anymore.”

Draco considered this. It was a fair point. And if they did add in Hags, Veela, Vampires and other such misfits, they were pushing, perhaps, up to seven or eight per cent of Britain’s magical population. With numbers came influence. Especially if those numbers were already influential, as Cuffe was, and as Hermione’s reaction seemed to indicate four of the new Werewolves were.

“Who were the others made with Cuffe and the Montgomery sisters?”

When she didn't answer, he turned to her, but found that her eyes were still glued to the television set. Whether she was actually watching or just staring, he didn’t know. Not until she said, “I’d rather not say just yet. They haven’t agreed to go public.”

Draco felt a rush of renewed anger, and she twitched, no doubt smelling the pheromones. Still, she didn't turn to him or show her neck. She never did. She was always Alpha to his Alpha and she never bowed to him. He’d always liked it before.

He pursed his lips, refusing to acknowledge it. “I’m not ‘public.’”

And now she did finally turn to him, and her eyes were narrowed. “But you're not there, Draco. You never have been. And that’s fine. That's how you deal and I can understand that. But you can't expect me to give away other people's secrets when you haven't been there. If you wanted to know, you could’ve come with me.”

“That's not fair,” he growled. “I’ve done nothing but try to find a cure for this wretched curse since the day I left St Mungo’s. I contribute.”

“Yeah, but our pack needed you to be there!” she said. “In the early years when we were all new, we needed you. And you weren’t there. You never wanted to come with me to get to know our pack-mates. You never wanted to join me on press interviews to present a united—and influential!—front. You don't even like to acknowledge that it happened. All you ever do is work on that stupid cure, and there's no point to it! Who cares if it’s activated by flu? Who really cares, in the end? We’ve all had flu, and even magicals can’t cure it.”

“How is there no point if it stops us being Werewolves?” he asked.

It should be okay to be a Werewolf!” Hermione said. She threw her empty bowl at the wall in anger. It shattered, leaving behind cracked plaster that she'd have to fix if she didn’t want the Aberrants taking it from her deposit.

“It controls our entire lives!” Draco snarled. 

“No, your research controls our lives! You’ve worked on nothing else since we were unhooded, passing up all sorts of opportunities that could’ve led to amazing magical breakthroughs and professional development. You aren’t even excited about our new assignment, and yes, I know you’re taking the lead, but it’s performative, and it makes me angry and sad because I know it would’ve interested you once—it’s the Killing Curse for Ishtar’s sake!—and yet, you’re as distracted now as you always are when we’re not actively working on Lycanthropy. Maybe if we hadn’t wasted so much time caring about a cure, we could’ve figured out there was… there was something there between us… before it was too late. Maybe we could’ve lived…”

Draco sat back, his heart skipping several beats. “Too late?”

She just looked at him, miserable. 

“Because you won’t go against the Ministry if they declare a relationship between us unlawful,” he clarified.

She leaned away from him, resting her head against Crookshanks, who was still glaring at Draco, perhaps even more fiercely than before. “I have no love for the Ministry, Draco,” she said. “But I’m tired. I can only fight on one front right now. Not every front.”

Draco swallowed.

“Once I would’ve cared about researching the Killing Curse,” he agreed quietly. “Now it’s not important. Humanity is important. Our humanity.” 

Together, he didn’t say. So we can be together, he didn’t say. None of it’s worth it without you there with me. I can’t go back. I can’t. 

“We—are—still—human,” she enunciated, refusing to look at him. Her voice sounded tight and he knew if he caught her eyes, they’d be wet. She shook her head, added, more quietly now: “But what's the point of that if you’ve got no life?” 

He had nothing to say to that. There was no point at all without her, as he was very quickly, very acutely realising. 

She continued: “What if the cure is worse than the curse?”

He shook his head, imagining a life without her. He’d taken these years for granted. “It can’t be.”

She looked pained.

“What?” he said. 

She shook her head. “Nothing, never mind.”

Draco exhaled in a rush. There was a heavy silence left over in the wake of Hermione's outburst. Two streets down, Draco heard a Hag, not Haddie, calling out shellfish for sale, and below them, Mr and Mrs Aberrant were sitting down to dinner; the apothecary on the ground floor was quiet. 

Hermione’s window was open. Her illicitly-planted Jacqueline Postills were blooming unseasonably in the alley below and he could smell them as clearly as if they were Hermione's own perfume.

Hermione turned away from him, wiping discreetly at her eyes. Draco stared at her, disoriented. What could he say? Nothing, apparently. 

His chest felt as though it would collapse and he had no idea how to fix that. He had no idea how to fix them, and that was a trouble, out of his life’s many, many troubles, that he had never had to worry about before. He had never had to feel this bone-heavy desolation, this pre-disaster grief that was fast approaching, because they were separate people after all, and maybe it was him who’d ruined things.

She un-muted the television, Gordon Ramsay’s ranting filled the flat, but the heavy silence between Hermione and Draco lingered. 

Chapter Text

He missed her uncontrollably. Wretchedly. Pathetically, really. The Ministry forcing him to take the days off leading up to the Muggle holiday didn’t help, and more than once Narcissa had come to his suite, found him lying in the near dark with a book on human genetics floating above his face while he pretended to read, and had given him a depressingly knowing look.

“Are you planning to lay here all week, Draco?”

Draco slitted his eyes towards her, squinting in the bright light coming in from the hallway. “Yes, I thought I might take a holiday.”

“Holidays are in Greece,” Mother said, unimpressed. “Not darkened bedrooms. And your Father and I are leaving for there in an hour, so I recommend you find a way to occupy yourself before this nouveau-riche-esque malaise takes hold and we’re forced to intervene.”

Draco wrinkled his nose. “I have plans for this afternoon.”

“Do you,” Mother said, and she couldn’t have even done him the courtesy of framing it as a question.

He pushed himself up on his elbows, shoving the hovering book to the side, annoyed now. “Yes.”

He hadn’t been sure until this moment, but now Draco was an immovable force. He was going to Muggle Christmas, Merlin as his witness. Granger wasn’t speaking to him much, but that couldn’t be worse than spending another dull evening at home, listening to the wireless and trying to figure out what people got out of this holiday, all the while wondering what she was doing, if she was as depressed as him. He’d make her speak to him. He was an Alpha, for pity’s sake.

“I’m going to Granger’s parents’ home for a Muggle holiday dinner.”

Mother tilted her head. “Oh? Well, do enjoy yourself, dear. We’ll be home in three days, and with any luck, your father won’t fall asleep at the plunge pool without a sun-block spell again.”

He gave her a little wave as she left, and then flopped back down on his bed. The book thumped down next to him. Draco grimaced, but could do this. There was a fair chance Hermione would tell him he was uninvited after all. Draco narrowed his eyes. Malfoys were never uninvited. Malfoys didn’t let other people have the last word.

He dressed in his Muggle clothes, combed his hair the way he did when they had a department meeting at work, and selected a red wine from the cellar, being careful to choose something with a still and un-magical looking label. Taking one last, steadying breath, Draco built up his Malfoy confidence and Slytherin surety through layers of Occlumency before stepping into the Manor’s Floo and Apparition antechamber. 

Take back your life, Draco, he thought grimly.

Hermione gave him a cynical look when he Floo’d into her flat. She was just stumbling into the living room, one shoe in her hand, the other apparently missing. 

“What are you doing here?” she asked, bending over to peer under the couch.

He could’ve guessed she was still vexed with him by the sound of her voice alone, but the scent of it was practically rolling in the room. He took a moment to compose himself. The sight of her searching for her shoe wasn’t helping. She was in very form-fitting denim trousers and it was hard not to look. Draco forced his expression neutral. He was a goddamn Malfoy.

“I’m coming with you to your parents’ for the holiday function,” said Draco, as if everything were perfect between them—and not, actually, the after-burn of three glorious shags, an awkward conversation, political upheaval, and the both of them being angry at the other. “I was personally invited, if you recall.”

She came out from the couch with the second shoe, and hopped around while she struggled to put them on. He thought she might have an easier time of it if she looked down at what she was doing instead of glaring at him. 

“It’s just Christmas dinner. A holiday your family doesn’t acknowledge. With Muggles. A version of humanity your family doesn’t acknowledge. Much as you’d prefer to not acknowledge Lycanthropy. You know, assuming you didn’t have it,” she said, coming to face him. “This won’t work, Draco. We have different priorities.”

Draco narrowed his eyes, while inside his chest his heart threatened to quit altogether. Of course she wouldn’t make it easy on him. She probably wanted an apology. Draco couldn’t really fault her for that, but it didn’t change the fact that she was unlikely to get one. Not yet, anyway.

“I want to meet your Muggles. I acknowledge them. It’s my priority today.”

“My family,” she corrected. 

She turned to go back into the bedroom, ballet flat soles tapping on the old wood floor. He followed her and stood in the doorway to watch as she selected a soft white scarf and red peacoat to put on. When she was done, she turned to him.

“I’m coming,” he said, firm. “I want to come.”

She seemed to collapse into herself a bit, the peacoat almost swallowing her whole, and he frowned as he watched it. 

“Well, I suppose it’ll be educational for you, if nothing else,” she said, and there was that sad tone again. “Ready?” 

He held out his arm for Side-Along. “I’m always ready, Granger.”

She Apparated them to some London suburb; he really had no idea which since wizards did not live in things like suburbs. They stepped out of a bus stop shelter and took up a practical pace down the pavement. She didn’t speak to him, or really even look at him, and her scent was a mess of confusing emotions that he wasn’t sure he was yet equal to deciphering. They walked right next to each other, so close he could feel the heat of her ever-warm Werewolf skin radiating through her coat… and yet, he’d not felt so alone since they were bitten… since before she grabbed his hand and screamed with him.

The houses here were all respectably sized, tidy. Middle-class, he supposed, and not derisively. They cut through a small alley behind a row of houses and Granger pushed open the gate to what was surely a back garden—a very elaborate and well-cared for garden. He could see her guerrilla touches in the afternoon blooms of the night blooming flowers, in every not-quite-Muggle herb hidden amongst the pansies, in the hibiscus open at Christmas. 

He could see her everywhere, and it made something inside him feel like shattering. He swallowed, strangely overwhelmed and out-of-place in a way he’d been raised to never feel. This well-loved house, a fifth the size of the Manor, with magical plants thriving between mundane roses and boxwood—this place where she’d grown up, before Hogwarts, before magic… this place that had created her.

She was not like him. They were different people. 

He had never needed someone not like him more. 

He’d never realised how much he needed not like him. 

And how much that made her like him because standing there, watching her as she prepared herself to go in, he knew it. Draco knew she needed not like her as much as he needed the inverse. And it was his fault that she’d not got it yet. It was his fault that after holding his hand through his bite, he’d left her alone for seven years. 

She knocked on the glass patio door before opening it and stepping inside, ignoring him. A hum of happy voices flowed out from the house, as warm and optimistic as she always was… before him. He stood frozen on the steps for only a second before following her in. He wondered, not for the first time, if this was going to end up like Quidditch on school brooms—that was to say, with a crash and him in a broken heap.

 

🌕 🌕 🌕

 

“Mum,” Hermione whispered after the first half-hour round of hello’s! and how’ve you been’s. She was already emotionally wrung-out from having to pretend like she was happy and excited to be here, to see everyone, to introduce them to the man they naturally assumed to be her boyfriend. And here was yet another hurdle to leap over. “You said you’d hide the silver from Granny.”

Her mother winced, taking her by the arm and walking her to the kitchen, away from the rest of their family. Malfoy trailed behind, looking far too interested in the conversation to miss out, or perhaps just nervous of being left alone. She needed just one moment away from him, one moment to gather herself into the Alpha strength she’d need to get through this day and… and what, she didn’t know.

She’d never considered herself to be the Harry type—to sacrifice a relationship for the other person’s happiness… and this wasn’t that… or not exactly. It was her happiness, too. Or rather, the lessening of her misery. 

But Harry was much more efficient at dumping people he loved but knew he couldn’t be with. Hermione, on the other hand, brought them to Christmas dinner. 

She had always been weak, hadn’t she?

In fairness, she’d also never been that type to let others dictate her actions, and the Ministry was certainly no exception. She just couldn’t shake the horrible feeling that there was disaster approaching, and she needed to distance herself from Draco to avoid it. To survive it. And yet, the Werewolf inside her snarled and tore at her whenever she thought it, and she was just… she was just confused. 

Was it her body that wouldn’t survive… or her heart?

Grangers didn’t take well to confusion.

If she couldn’t trust her own mind, what could she trust?

“I did try, darling,” Mum said. “She’s canny, you know how she is. I had it in Dad’s wardrobe beneath a stack of his pants and she found it within fifteen minutes. She’s been in polishing ever since.”

Hermione huffed. “Will you have Dad try the attic? It’s making my skin crawl.”

Her mum gave her an amused look and nodded. “I’ll certainly try. Much good it’s likely to do, though. Now Granny’s seen it, she’ll be suspicious. You might as well just grab some plasticware and play it off like it’s all you’re accustomed to with your work canteen and poor self-care habits.”

Hermione took a fortifying swig of her red wine, unconcerned with how uncultured that likely made her. Even in front of a Malfoy. She was going to need it tonight. 

“Granny’ll never believe I have poor self-care habits,” Hermione lamented.

Mum leant in and gave her a quick kiss on her temple before heading back into the parlour. “Power through, darling.”

Draco shifted, his bicep brushing against hers with the movement, and she wanted to shiver but refrained. She was still angry with him—still angry at herself, and not sure who to direct the brunt of it at. There was so much to untangle between them, and as she made the rounds, the back of Hermione’s mind was as loud as the stock exchange on a Monday; for all her pragmatism, she struggled to know what to do. 

Because the Ministry was coming for them.

It would start with denying them the most basic rights of emotional happiness, and then it would move onto other things. It would take their right to work, their right to rent property, their right to care for children. It was like she’d begun her life as a Werewolf at one end of the pendulum, and worked so hard to swing it the other way, but instead of breaking free of its tether, the weight was slowing now, and soon they’d drop right back to where they’d started from.

And despite all this, it was her who worried, not Draco. Not Draco who’d always been pessimistic about their odds. Maybe he’d just had longer to accustom himself to it. Maybe he’d never let himself hope, and so there was nothing to be disappointed about.

He was being so thoughtful today—for Draco, anyway—and every time he dragged his little finger against hers while her Auntie Elle talked about her new book club, or every time he fetched her a canapé and freshened up her wine, more and more of her resolve melted away.

He always knew when she was hungry. That was rather sexy. But also, it was kind and considerate. But it wasn’t any different from how he normally was with her, she realised—well, with the exception of the added touching. Of which there was a lot. He seemed to take every opportunity he could to brush against her body or inconspicuously scent her hair. There wasn’t even any motive behind it; it was simply like he couldn’t not.

She was becoming hotter by the minute and it wasn’t all because of the wine. She pulled him to the back patio for some air before Uncle George could corner them again and lead her into a conversation that she wouldn’t be able to exit.

“Well, is this how you imagined Christmas with Muggles, Malfoy?” she asked. 

He looked distinctly out of his element, as overwhelmed as her. If she’d only paused to take him in earlier… Although if being out of his element always included those heart-stoppingly tight denims, Hermione was in favour. Draco turned to take in the crowd of Hermione’s relatives through the door, and she, in turn, took in his bum again.

Ishtar save me. There had to be magic involved there. 

Why was her mind such a confusing mess?

“I don’t know what I expected,” he admitted. He both sounded and smelled tense to her, and she ached to nuzzle him and give him comfort, but they couldn’t do that here. Not in front of her parents. The confused emotions running through her were starting to piss her off again, and she had to take a deep breath. 

It wasn’t fair to take everything out on him. To take the whole world out on him. It wasn’t his fault she was tired of fighting the Ministry. Wasn’t his fault they dealt with microagressions every day.

She nudged him to take another sip of his wine, and he did. 

“Well, you can always go home,” she offered, secretly hoping he wouldn’t, because she was the weakest of all Gryffindors. For days now, she’d been replaying his words from their conversation together. She smelled like his mate, he’d said. And now that she couldn’t ignore it… he smelled like hers. She hadn’t even known ‘mate’ had a smell before—he had always just smelled like Malfoy or Draco, depending on her level of irritation with him that day.

She hadn’t thought to look for it.

“No,” said Malfoy. “I want to know what all the fuss is with this Christmas thing. I was thinking I’d buy gifts for people. Do you think it would go over well if I bought Weasley tickets to see a good Quidditch team play? I guess they could be playing against the Cannons…”

Hermione rolled her eyes. Granny caught sight of her and came slowly stomping out with a—ugh—silver platter of amuse-bouches and a look on her face that was equally amused. Hermione carefully took two, using the tips of her fingernails to grab underneath and avoid touching the silver. The last thing they needed was her skin burning in front of her overly observant grandmother. She passed one to Draco, not failing to miss the calculating look Granny was giving her.

“Trying to sneak away? You haven’t introduced me to the young man, yet,” she pointed out, dark eyes narrowed, as if Draco weren’t standing a foot from her.

“Granny, this is Draco Malfoy. We work together.”

“Mm,” Granny said, eyeing Draco distrustfully. “Blond, isn’t he?” 

“He is,” Hermione agreed.

“A real blond?” her grandmother asked.

Hermione’s face heated. “I’m sure I wouldn’t know, Granny.”

“Hmm,” Granny said again. She looked Draco up and down, frowning. “I don’t trust men who dye their hair. If they lie about that, they’ll lie about anything. Happy Christmas, love.”

Then she wandered off, passing the silver platter over to Hermione’s father, and settling down at their kitchen table with a glass of scotch and a mince pie in front of her. Good heavens, if she was getting into the scotch this early, they were definitely in for an opinionated evening.

“I don’t follow,” said Draco. “Why wouldn’t I be a real blond?” 

Hermione pressed her lips together, uncomfortable. Purebloods, she thought with exasperation. “She was asking if I’d seen your genitals.”

He looked even more confused. Hermione huffed out a sigh, and added, “You know, if the top matched the bottom. It’s a way to tell if someone colours their hair… if the bottom doesn’t match.”

Even this did not appear to clarify things for him. Slowly, he said, “If I were to spell my hair a different colour, I would also spell my pubic region to match.”

Hermione rolled her eyes. “Muggles don’t really have it that easy.”

She remembered the part where she had seen his bits, and going by the smirk that slid into place on his face, so did he. She noticed right away and smacked his arm lightly.

“Not here, Malfoy. Honestly.” 

Which only made her realise that she’d just implied elsewhere. She was trying to slow things down, for Ishtar’s sake. The last thing she needed was to get… to get attached to Draco, only for the Ministry to outlaw it. Which was looking more and more possible by the day. She flushed red. He sniffed the air, his lips twitching upwards, but didn’t look at her.

Was not sleeping with one’s friends always so difficult?

She didn’t remember it being so difficult after she and Ron split up. And months in a tent with Harry had only led to them talking about sex and masturbation, predominantly academically, but also a bit because they’d run out of other things. They’d never even made a fumbling pass at it, even with all those lonely, boring days together. 

And she’d never even thought about Draco naked before the other week, and now it was almost all she could think about, when her brain wasn’t otherwise worrying over how they’d survive this coming political storm. She’d even been fantasising about his bum while she and Narcissa hashed out details for finding the new Werewolves. Occlumency was great for segmenting one’s mind so that one could literally think about two things at once. She wasn’t sure anyone else used it for fantasising about fit Pureblood wizards, but Hermione was nothing if not efficient. 

It wasn’t long before her dad, too, found her hiding on the patio. He sidled up to them with the same little silver platter, ostensibly offering food. Both Draco and Hermione grimaced, leaning as far away from the tray as possible, and her dad gave her an apologetic look before setting it aside on the patio table.

“Well, I’ve waited long enough, I think. Have you got anything interesting for me today? It’s Christmas, you remember.”

“Hi Dad, happy Christmas,” Hermione said pointedly.

He hugged her and ruffled her hair, and again, it couldn’t make it worse so Hermione didn’t complain. Dad reached out to shake Draco’s hand, and Hermione was relieved that Draco didn’t need prodding to return it.

“Happy Christmas, sweetheart. Sorry I was busy when you arrived.” There was a pause. “Well? Inquiring minds, love.”

Hermione sighed, rummaged around in her endless handbag, and closed her fingers around a slim vial with a green and red bow on it. “It’s nutritive potion. It looks for deficiencies in essential vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, and replaces them without increasing vitamins that are already sufficient.”

He took it, holding it up to the light to peer at the little flecks of green floating amid the other substances. “We’re about to have Christmas dinner.”

Hermione shrugged. “It’s nutrients, not calories. Take it or don’t, Daddy. Up to you.” 

He knew a challenge when he heard one. With one gimlet eye, he uncapped the vial and tossed it back, grimacing. “This one’s as vile as the bok choy I see in it.”

It apparently took Draco that long to catch up. “Did you just feed your Muggle father a potion?” he whispered, but given Dad was right there, it wasn’t very effective. “That has to be against the Statute of Secrecy.”

She eyed him. “Yes and it isn’t, and my parents obviously already know.”

“But he’s a Muggle, Hermione. Who knows what a potion could do—”

“Hello. Wendell Granger-Wilkins,” her dad said, shaking Draco’s hand for a second time. “Muggle, father to the woman with whom you may or may not be engaging in sexual and romantic activity. How do you do?”

“Draco Malfoy,” said Draco (again), who was programmed to be unable to reply in any other way when introduced (again) to someone. “Very well, thank you.”

“My wife, Monica Granger-Wilkins,” said Dad, pointing over his shoulder to Hermione’s mother, visible in the kitchen through the patio door. “Mother to same. Have you had Hermione’s potions before? Some of them taste like the bottom of the Thames. That was one of them. If nothing else, it encourages me to eat my veg, so as not to ever need to take that wretched concoction again. I’d be happy to share the experience with you, if you like.”

Hermione studied an ink stain on her thumb, trying to remember where it’d come from. “Dad, if you were really concerned about taste, you would’ve stopped asking to try potions years ago.”

“I can’t argue with that,” he said to Draco. “In fact, in this household, I don’t argue with anything. If Monica or Hermione say it’s true, it’s true.”

“Clar—Wendell!” called Hermione’s uncle. “Bring that tray of nibbles back this way, won’t you?”

He left, giving Draco a raised eyebrow and Hermione two sausage rolls as he did. Hermione leaned into Draco to whisper as she led him back inside, “George is my dad’s brother. They’re only recently getting used to Mum and Dad’s decision to change their names. Everyone thinks they’ve had a mid-life crisis. They used to be called Desta and Clarence. But then they didn’t feel like Desta and Clarence any longer after coming back from Australia, so everyone just had to get over it.”

“Your family is so odd,” said Draco, who, admittedly, did not know the story behind her parents’ time down under and was unlikely to ever know.

Hermione nodded. She stuffed one of the little sausages in her mouth and handed the other to Draco.

“Did your father just threaten me?” Draco asked suddenly, his brow furrowed.

“Yes,” said Hermione.

Draco’s mouth pursed as he considered this. “I feel as though I shouldn’t be as unsettled as I am. It’s so rare that anyone threatens me without me noticing right away. He said he would throw me in the Thames, didn’t he? There has to be something Slytherin in that.”

Hermione snorted. “He leans Ravenclaw, but then he has these little moments…”

“He’s very open about your hypothetical sex life.”

“Sex is a normal and natural part of life,” said Hermione. “It’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

Draco grinned at her lasciviously.

Hermione did her best to ignore it. She returned to the previous subject. “My cousins call them ‘Uncle Wendlence’ and ‘Auntie Destica’ just to be contrary.”

She followed Draco’s gaze to the other end of the room, where said cousins were slumped on the couch, watching the Ashes on Sky Sport. Draco’s unimpressed eye said he was refusing to go along with her very obvious subject change.

“Do you care for cricket?” she asked.

“As a potions ingredient?”

Hermione smirked. “It’s the sport they’re watching on the television.”

“That’s a sport? There’s more action in gobstones.”

He was staring at her again, and Hermione understood something very different in the word ‘action.’ Malfoy bit his bottom lip, his sharp canines pressing into the supple flesh. She felt herself heat and was horrified to realise a moment later that her knickers were damp. He breathed in deeply, slowly, and she knew he could smell her arousal. Fuck it all. Fucking Occlumency always failed her when she most needed it.

“Dinner!” Hermione’s mum called.

Thank Merlin, she thought. Draco could hold his own during dinner. Etiquette was bred into him like blondness. 

 Or at least, that’s what she’d expected, but it turned out that Hermione bringing home a gentleman was an excuse for her mother and aunts to pull out every single stop—resulting in an odd and ambitious mix of their childhoods. 

Mum and Auntie Meklit pulled a huge piece of injera from the oven and Granny followed grumpily with the spiced meat. Meanwhile, Uncle George and Aunt Elle were pulling foil off the turkey while their sons, Henry and Georgie, were begrudgingly helping to bring out the cranberry sauce, mash, and peas. Auntie Meklit’s daughter—the only cousin Hermione actually liked spending any amount of time with, Adia—brought out a huge plate of wat and Hermione’s stomach growled. Merlin, she loved Christmas.

 

🌕 🌕 🌕

 

Hermione was first to the table, something that no one failed to notice, especially Draco.

“Good to see your appetite picking up again,” her Aunt Meklit said, smirking. “You never looked away from a book long enough to put a bite in during school.”

Hermione smiled. “Your cooking is impossible to resist, Auntie.”.

Meklit turned to Draco, shaking her head, and said, “She always did have a knack for saying whatever was needed to get what she wanted. I hope you’ve wizened up to that before now.”

“I have,” Draco agreed, smug. 

At Hermione’s urgent, eye, he took the chair next to her.

“And what do you do, Draco?” Meklit continued. “I haven’t had a chance to ask yet.” 

Draco hesitated for only a moment, a smooth mask of confidence slipping over his features almost imperceptibly. Hermione looked on, her scent tense.

“Recently, Hermione and I have taken on a project studying genetics of diseases,” he said, gracefully scooping lentils onto a piece of torn bread. She took a big bite, smiling at him while she chewed. “But I’m afraid we’ve come to rather an impasse and funding seems to be limited.”

“Oh, do you work for a university?” Uncle George asked.

“Yes, Cambridge,” Hermione said quickly. It was always her fall-back, being one of the only unis in England with ties to the magical community that she could use, if needed, for proof. “We met doing our postgraduate work.”

Draco nodded, smiling. “Have you ever ever considered genetics?” he asked George and the table at large.

Hermione snorted, but said nothing. Draco kicked her under the table. 

“Does taking a DNA test count?” Wendell said with a grin, leaning around Meklit. “I did 23AndMe. Turns out, I’m as English as they come—pretty sure my dad had already traced us back the the Vikings before the internet came about, though.”

“I always thought he’d made up a bunch of rubbish,” George added, laughing.

Draco pretended he knew what Twenty-Three-and-Me was, smiling encouragingly. “How fascinating. My family can trace its roots quite far, too.”

Mrs Granger refilled his wine glass, and he gave her a nod. “Our side of the family is from Ethiopia,” she said. “My sister and I were still in nappies when we came to England; Mum didn’t bring us over until after she and our dad divorced… well, separated, I believe, right Mum?”

“Good riddance,” Granger’s granny muttered under her breath, at the far end of the table, but Draco heard her quite well.

“Our half-brothers are still back in Ethiopia. They’re… quite a bit older than we are.”

“And very strange,” Meklit’s husband, Isaac, added, smirking meaningfully.

Draco tilted his head. He had an uncanny feeling that Meklit might not know of Hermione’s magic, but she knew of magic. He’d save that to ponder at a later date. 

“They’re weird,” Adia confirmed. “But so is Hermione, so I guess you can’t really ever escape the odd side of your family, can you?”

“Oh, honestly,” Hermione said, but there was a laugh in her voice. “Says the one who decided to be a mortician.”

Adia shrugged. 

“She likes dead people,” Georgie called down. “Anti-social, that one is.”

“I really can’t blame you for that,” Draco decided. “Most people are quite intolerable.”

Adia pointed her fork at Georgie as if to say, ‘See?’ “I like him, ‘Mione,” she added to Granger.

Granger rolled her eyes. “Thanks for your approval.”

“Well, I was very interested in hearing more about Hermione and Draco’s work,” Wendell said. “If genetics led to Hermione, who by all accounts is a pretty fantastic result—”

Hermione’s cousins all snorted, while Hermione put her head in her hands. 

“—then it stands to reason they’re worth studying.”

“Dad, honestly,” Hermione said, voice muffled behind her fingers. She didn’t smell embarrassed so much as exasperated. “It’s all very dull, really. We’ve hypothesised that certain viruses could activate genes within the human body and produce different diseases.”

“Well, that’s confirmed already, isn’t it?” said Monica. When everyone looked at her she said, “Cervical cancer, of course. It’s caused by HPV.”

“Oh, yes,” Uncle George’s wife, Elle, said. “HPV is dreadfully common. Normally, it clears the body within a couple of years, without any symptoms at all, but in some cases, the body can’t fight it off and it’ll linger for years. That’s when cervical cancer—and throat cancer, too,” she added with an embarrassed little smile, “can crop up.”

Draco was almost having a Lumos moment. “It doesn’t clear the body?”

“There are a number of viruses that don’t fully clear,” Elle said, looking to Monica. “Herpes Simplex, of course. Types one and two.”

“Which leads to cold sores and genital herpes,” Monica added, nodding. “Chicken pox is a form of it.”

“Chicken pox…” Draco repeated, bewildered, before he could censor himself. Did Muggles really get poxes from creatures as tiny and unassuming as chickens?

“Oh yes, a lot of people discount chicken pox, but it’ll stay dormant in the body, too, and occasional come back as Shingles. There’s a vaccine now, but they didn’t really start giving it out until a few years ago, so I’m sure you all caught it at nursery,” Elle said.

“There’s a vaccine now?” Hermione asked, her scent intrigued. 

“What fascinating dinner talk,” Henry muttered, around a mouthful of Yorkshire Pudding wrapped in injera and dipped in cranberry sauce. Draco was both horrified and fascinated. “Please, tell us more about the genital herpes.”

Elle narrowed her eyes, and said primly. “Well, I hope you girls have all got your smear test this year.”

“We have,” Adia, Hermione, Monica, and Meklit chorused.

“Aunt Elle is a GP,” Hermione muttered. “She’s very particular about making sure we keep up to date… A Healer,” she added, sotto voce, to Draco’s confusion.

“Oh, right.” Well, that certainly explained the dinner table talk. He and Mother had started having the occasional lunch with Aunt Andromeda since the war, and she always brought up all sorts of disgusting medical issues over the food, too.

Wendell and George brought the Cricket back around to the discussion and Draco did his best to sound knowledgeable and engaged while making ample use of finding the food delicious anytime someone looked like they might ask his opinion. He did a lot of nodding and apologetic smiling while chewing very slowly.

They moved on to coffees and slices of Christmas cake around an extracted fir tree, which was strung with electric fairies and dangling craft fair ornaments. All the cousins and Hermione started pulling boxes wrapped in metallic paper from beneath the extracted fir and bringing them to others sprawled on chairs and sofa. Granger’s Granny, who’d claimed the most regal looking chair for herself, had received a lovely pair of leather gloves and a cashmere scarf, but Hermione’s father had proudly presented her with a bottle of what was apparently expensive port. 

She smiled as she unwrapped it, already wearing the scarf. “My favourite son-in-law. I was right to let you marry my daughter.”

Wendell shot Isaac a smug look while the rest of them rolled their eyes. 

Draco had not brought gifts other than the wine which had already been aired and demolished, and he was starting to feel a little uncertain. He’d never seen people get together just to give one another things. Even at his birthday parties growing up, watching him unwrap gifts was not part of the proceedings. And yet, these people all seemed to enjoy it very much.

Hermione received a few small trinkets that genuinely pleased her, going by her scent, and her gifts, too, were received well. Adia, in particular, had been delighted by the silver bracelet shaped into a skeleton grabbing its own feet to make the circle. Hermione’d really gone out of her way to get something silver for her cousin. She’d cared enough to do that.

For a while, Draco had forgot he was among Muggles.

They were so normal. So like her. And at the same time, so very unlike her, because there was truly no one like Granger. The Grangers kept his wine glass full, and it didn’t take long for him, even with his Werewolf blood, to start feeling warm, loose. Hermione’s face was flushed and lovely, and he found himself, by the end of the night, unable to keep his eyes off her. 

It was nearly midnight by the time they left, with even Draco carrying home a small gift from Hermione’s parents that he certainly could’ve purchase himself, and yet… this felt so different from anything he would’ve purchased himself. They’d chosen it for him. Hermione was humming happily under her breath and he knew in that moment that he wanted to do this with her every year. 

He wanted to dodge the silverware. He wanted to make macabre jokes with Adia. He wanted to care about the Cricket with Henry and Georgie. He wanted Mrs Granger to kiss his cheek again, as she had when they left. He wanted to watch Mr Granger test potions he really shouldn’t be testing, and he wanted to pretend like he was up-to-date on all his jabs when Aunt Elle asked.

He wanted to have this with Hermione.

“I have an idea,” she said, a bit giggly.

“What is it?” He wasn’t much better, but the sharp December chill was helping him to keep focused. Should they really be Apparating tonight? Maybe they should Floo.

“We need to go to the lab.”

“We should probably get the Knight Bus…” 

“I’ve got a port-key,” she said, smug, and pulled a small figurine of a dragon from her purse, waving it before him. 

Draco narrowed his eyes. “You made a port-key to work? It’s specifically forbidden in the Ministry Employee Handbook.”

“Yes,” Hermione agreed, nodding. “It is.”

They stared at one another for a moment before Draco cracked a smile. Fuck, he loved her.

“All right.” He crowded in close to her, closer than was strictly necessary, and grabbed the dragon’s snout. She whispered the activation, and as the port-key pulled them away, he wondered why, of all the trinkets she could’ve turned into a port-key, she’d chosen to always have a small dragon with her.

Chapter Text

Hermione giggled as they landed, and immediately slapped a hand over her mouth. Honestly, Granger, she thought. Are you a witch and a Werewolf or not? She carefully made her way over to their potion storeroom and selected a Liver Speed potion. After a moment’s hesitation, she took a second.

She stubbed her toe on the spell-cooled wooden chest that served as the lab’s fridge and inhaled sharply to keep from making a pathetically loud yelp. As soon as she was back at their worktable, she threw back the potion, handing the second to Draco. The feeling of her liver exponentially increasing its speed as it metabolised the alcohol in her bloodstream was never comfortable. Usually, she let nature run its course because the body was designed to work a specific way, of course, but if they were caught drunk in the lab, then a bunch of old bigoted twats trying to reinstate the Registry would be the least of their concerns.

She conjured them both three glasses of water to chug while the potion operated. Draco made no comment as he followed suit, drinking the water even as he set the kettle boiling on one of the burners and sent the coffee beans zipping down to the lab grinder, and Hermione got the strangest suspicion that the Slytherin dorms had been a lot more exciting than the Gryffindor dorms. 

The workspace responded to her will and sterilised itself. She whipped her wand to bring the mechanical centrifuge and blood testing kits over. The chlorocyte-detecting potion duplicated itself with a quick Geminio and she added it in.

Hermione groaned as a wave of discomfort rolled over her. It was only another moment before her kidneys caught up with her liver—some sort of magical entanglement among organs that allowed potions created for just one organ to secondarily affect the rest so that nothing broke in the body—and she dashed for the loo.

The doors in the circular antechamber didn’t cooperate and there was a moment where Hermione seriously wondered if she’d wee herself before she made it to the loo, but fortunately, Lycanthropy was on her side again, and she found the willpower to hold on just a bit longer. Between the two of them, they’d probably gone through six or seven bottles of wine—the rest of the Grangers and Williamses were well drunk by the time Mum had set them up in spare rooms and called a cab to take Uncle George and Aunt Elle back to their hotel. She and Draco, on the other hand, were just a bit past tipsy.

Finally relieved, Hermione washed her hands and exited the loo, bumping into Draco on his way out of the mens room. She giggled again as their chests brushed together, Draco reaching up to steady her shoulders, but this time without the excuse of drunkenness to hide behind. Draco cleared his throat, looking down at her with very clear grey eyes. 

“I haven’t taken one of those since sixth year,” he said, wry.

“I knew it!” Hermione said. “What kinds of parties did Slytherin get up to, exactly?”

Draco’s expression immediately went foxy. “Oh, I wouldn’t know.”

She tilted her head, letting him know just exactly how much she believed that. The antechamber doors spun around them, and she focused on his face to keep from getting dizzy. Or, at least, that’s what she told herself.

“Happy Christmas, Draco,” she finally said. “I’m glad you came.”

He bit his bottom lip, studying her. “I think you may be the first person to have ever wished me a happy Christmas.”

She felt her face heat, but didn’t look away. Twenty different snappy replies came to her head but she couldn’t say any of them. The truth was that she wanted to tell him happy Christmas every year. She wanted him there with her. And she didn’t know how to ask for that.

The doors stopped spinning. Reluctantly, Hermione pulled away and headed for the one behind her. Though they were unmarked, Unspeakables always knew how to find the room they were looking for. Not knowing how she knew had always been a frustrating experience for Hermione. 

But more frustrating, she thought, as she pulled open the door to their lab, was that she didn’t know how to make them possible. In the back of her mind, Ron and Harry’s warnings rang Christmas bells and pulled Christmas crackers and blasted Love, Actually to get her attention, and she heard the warnings, but she didn’t know what to do. What good was Divination if the future was set in stone? What good was it to know if you couldn’t change anything? And when it came to the Wizengamot, which was like Parliament with only a House of Lords, no Queen, no public polling, and an ineffectual Prime Minister, Hermione never had been able to change anything.

Magical Britain was an oligarchy and she was just a little upstart Mudblood Werewolf who thought she had a right to have a say in anything. 

Draco followed her silently to their workbench, but she felt his eyes on her as clearly as if they’d been his hands instead. How could she be so mad at someone and, at the same time, still want them so much? How could she be so mad at herself and internally believe she still deserved him even a little? Occlumency was sometimes too good at helping her segregate her thoughts and feelings.

She exhaled a soft sigh as she set up the blood testing kit. 

Draco came up behind her, not touching her, and she knew he had more to say. She did, too. She just didn’t know what it was.

After a moment, he said, “What’s the plan?”

“It was something Aunt Elle said,” said Hermione, moderating her voice. “About HPV and herpes and so on staying in the body. I knew they could linger, but I forgot. And then I had a thought about the time we found flu in our blood, but neither of us had felt sick.”

“You think we were infected when Potter wasn’t because when we got flu, we didn’t clear the virus like other people?” He didn’t sound convinced, or maybe it was just hard to listen to him when his body was still so close to her back.

“I don’t know,” she shrugged. “I’d had a thought it could either be that or… that we’d never had the flu before, but Harry had, and if Lycanthropy is somehow carried in via flu, then we wouldn’t have had natural antibodies to fight it off.”

Draco’s hand came up and held her waist. She sucked in a breath. He leaned over her shoulder, his cheek grazing her hair. “And so you want to see if we still have flu.”

She nodded. The resistance of her hair catching on his fine stubble caused shivers over her scalp. She clenched her fingers around two empty vials, only belatedly remembering not to crush them. 

“But Potter’s the only person to’ve ever resisted Lycanthropy, so far as we know. Surely he can’t be the only person in the world to have also previously contracted whatever strain of flu attaches to Lycanthropy. He’s strange, but not that strange.”

Hermione bit her lip. That was a very good point. “Perhaps the other hypothesis, then. Hold out your hand.”

Draco shifted forward, his pelvis brushing against her back, and then pressing more firmly as he reached around with the hand not already touching her. He held his palm up, long fingers just slightly bent. His other hand gripped her more firmly, his fingers brushing against her hipbone. Hermione’s breath quickened. 

She forced herself to remain steady as she pricked his finger with her wand and held it over the first vial. His blood dripped into the glass and her body flushed with desire. When she had enough, she released his hand. He brought it up and sucked the finger into his mouth, and she didn’t even have to look to feel herself become wet. After a moment, he released it, and with the wound now healed from his saliva, spun her around.

“Now you,” Draco growled, low in his throat.

Hermione held out her hand. He pricked her finger without taking his eyes from her until the blood welled up on the end. Draco pressed her finger to the second vial and collected the specimen with all the professional procedure of a man who wasn’t currently pressing his erection against her and hadn’t just growled into her ear. 

When they had enough of her blood, she moved to take her finger back, but Draco held on. He brought her finger to his mouth and sucked, just as he had with her own. But this time she could see his face; she could see his eyelids flutter and watch his lips work as they sucked her finger clean, and she could feel his tongue circling her finger, spreading his healing saliva over the cut. The uncomfortable prickling of magically healing skin mixed with the unbearable arousal of watching and feeling him take some part of her body into his. 

Perhaps for the first time in her life, Hermione had the very Ron Weasley-ish thought that she was well and truly fucked.

The vials spun in the magical centrifuge, a soft whirrr as their parts separated, and in that moment, Hermione knew she would soon be separated, too. Separated from rationality. Separated from reality. Separated from good sense.

The centrifuge stopped and they both turned to look at the results hovering in glowing letters above. 

They had flu.

“I knew it,” Hermione said, triumphant. Another clue slotted into place.

Draco growled again. “I knew you’d know,” he whispered in her ear. “You always do.”

Before she could decide if that was a compliment or not he brought her face back to his, covered her mouth with his own, his tongue laving against her own. She moaned into his mouth and he spun her, and pressed against their worktable, Hermione watched the letters flicker and fade as Draco’s hands came up her side and fumbled with her fly. 

For a moment, she had a flare of hot anxiety that this was a bad idea, that she’d regret it, that there was no future in which they could hope because being a Werewolf was all they were allowed.

No rights, no privileges. Soon, no love. 

But Draco leaned in, his face scratching against her cheek, his breathing laboured, and her heart threatened to beat out of her chest and the ache was so strong, so painful, she didn’t think she’d be able to deny him anything ever again. 

She closed her eyes and tilted her head back to his teeth, as his fingers slid down the front of her knickers. 

Oh, she thought. 

I’m going to do this anyway. 

And sometime in the future, I’m going to regret it.

Separated from the world, but not from Draco. 

It would hold for a while, at least. 

Could she do the same?

 

🌕 🌕 🌕

 

Hermione was well past getting that sick feeling in her stomach whenever she went to Malfoy Manor. She was not one for holding onto irrational fears—except for flying; she’d gladly keep that—so overcoming fear of the Manor by way of constant exposure was something she took care of in the first six months after the war.

But that didn’t mean she liked the place. Truly, she only felt comfortable in Narcissa’s office. It was so very different from the rest of the Manor, what with its cold minimalism and ironic silver accents—a metal Hermione had once preferred over all others and now couldn’t touch—that she was easily able to segregate it from the rest of the place in her mind.

The ballroom, she would admit, was lovely. And Narcissa had done a beautiful job with the decorations. The entire place was silvery-white, with charmed snow falling from the ceiling and disappearing ten feet from the floor, before anyone had a chance to get cold and wet. It was a winter wonderland—though to be fair, a winter nightmare for Werewolves, with all the silver everywhere. 

A brief stab of nostalgia, a time before when her life wasn’t dictated by unwanted magic. When she could wear whatever the fuck metal she wanted and only had to worry about whether she was warm-toned or cool-toned.

But Narcissa was like that. They’d all just have to be aristocratic about everything and pretend like everything was normal and not covered in decorative accents that would burn their flesh if they touched them.

Hermione was in her spelled-white-Malfoy-approved heels and a shimmery white frock. It was fancier than she preferred, but she always made a point of dressing to the nines for events. At least a couple members of the press would be in attendance that night, and she would never again give them any excuse to call her ‘unkempt’ or ‘beastly’ or ‘raised by wolves.’ 

Draco, still her date, took her white wool cloak from her and handed it to the waiting house-elf as she scanned the room. This gala, due to time constraints around the full moon, was starting much earlier than a typical Malfoy party, but as they were Malfoys, it was already full of dozens of people too excited by their receiving an invitation to arrive fashionably late. 

They, however, were in fact late. It couldn’t be helped. They’d had to brew an entire extra cauldron of Wolfsbane for the new Werewolves and shower before getting ready.

Malfoy unbuttoned his over-cloak and she watched, a distracted frown on her face as she tried, yet again, to remember what it was like to have a best friend one did not want to fuck. Ever since Christmas, she’d felt like a different person—a third year Lavender sort of person—and she wasn’t entirely sure how to act around him without looking like an idiot.

His cloak fell from his shoulders, and she saw his stylish Pureblood-style tux—as even in this post-war ‘progressive’ era, switching full-length robes for frock-coats was as far as they’d commit—hugging his wide shoulders and trim hips, and had to turn away. Her face felt hot. Merlin, he looked good in Muggle-style clothes. Draco had been slower to embrace changing fashions, as seemed to be his modus operandi, so it was always startling when he did.

“Announcing: Mr Draco Malfoy escorting Ms Hermione Granger,” the house-elf at the door called.

“My father’s going to have Kneazles,” said Malfoy as they smiled to the other guests they passed. “He was hoping I’d sneak you in unannounced, so that he wouldn’t have to suffer the indignity of me taking you as my date.”

“Your father’s suffered many an indignity over the years,” said Hermione. “I daresay he can handle another.”

“My thoughts exactly,” Draco agreed.

He took two champagne glasses from the house-elf’s tray and led her into the ballroom with a light hand on her back. They passed three waiters with hors d'oeuvres on platinum platters and Hermione took something from each of them, nibbling on the way.

“Speaking of annoying your father,” said Hermione, continuing to allow herself to be led across the room. She could see that Draco was making a beeline for his parents, and a small, sadistic part of her enjoyed irritating Lucius Malfoy, so she was happy to oblige. She asked, “What are you doing in those modern clothes?”

“You make such a poor Slytherin,” Draco observed. He paused to trade hellos with an elderly couple before moving on again. “You know better than to feed me an excuse. Now it doesn’t matter what the real reason was because I'll just agree to the one you’ve provided.”

Hermione frowned. He was right. “I’m not a Slytherin.”

“Not yet, no,” agreed Draco, giving her another of his fox looks. “But in time I’m sure we’ll manage.”

They arrived at his parents’ side and Draco went about the chore of presenting them both to the hosts. Hermione suffered through another greeting with Lucius Malfoy and nodded politely as he made bored small talk about the midnight fox hunt he would be leading—Werewolves made fine hounds, and the humans would ride on pedigreed Abraxans.

There were more Werewolves here than she'd expected—more people who’d willingly gone public for this event. Hermione felt her heart swell as she saw Gottfried Goyle, Eli Parkinson, and Professor Sinistra among the attendees. So many of her pack taking a stand—and all it had taken was Narcissa’s manoeuvring. Hermione wondered what they’d all been offered.

And there was Marietta Edgecombe standing with Cho, who was not a Werewolf. Hermione blinked. Marietta had written her just the previous week begging off from exposing herself; what had changed? As if sensing her gaze, which she probably, Marietta turned to Hermione. Hermione tilted her head, then shook herself and gave Marietta a genuine smile. Marietta returned the gesture, if a little hesitantly.

Harry, Luna, Ron, Lavender, and Tonks ambled over to them, apparently well into their cups if the redness of their faces and giggliness of their voices was anything to go by.

“‘Lo, Hermione,” Ron said, grinning wolfishly. Lavender, Hermione’s Beta, tickled his ribs and he bent double, howling with laughter.

“Lookin’ hot, Queen,” Lavender added, leaning in for a hug, which Hermione still felt weird about, even years on. “By the way, I took care of all the newbies, like you asked. Narcissa and I managed to secure Aladair Maddock, Meghan McCormack and Glenda Chittock, but I couldn’t manage that hot lad from the Weird sisters.” She nodded over to a beautifully fit couple chatting with a witch Hermione had only known by voice until she’d had to visit her house and tell her she was a Werewolf. “Oh, and the Montgomery girls declined.”

“Thanks, Lav.”

Tonks wrapped an arm around Lavender and nuzzled her neck, then did the same to Ron. They all three laughed, looking far too drunk for this early in the evening.

Hermione stared at them, bemused and, frankly, concerned. Luna stepped forward to give her a wispy-feeling hug. Luna leaned in to whisper, “Harry’s put nargles in my wine, Hermione.”

Harry, for himself, didn’t seem nearly as drunk as the rest of them, and he confirmed this when he told them, “I’m the designated Disapparator.”

“Bad luck, Potter,” Draco said.

Harry shrugged, seemingly unconcerned. They stood there, sipping their drinks and splitting bouts of people-watching with bouts of Ron-and-Lavender watching.

Hermione glanced around and stiffened in shock. Barnabas Cuffe, standing stiffly by the doors leading to the veranda, nursing a glass of sherry and looking particularly bitter. What was he doing here? She whipped around to stare at Narcissa, but the elder Malfoys had long since wandered off to socialise.

Hermione nudged Draco with her shoulder. When he looked at her, she tipped her head towards Cuffe. “He came. Can you believe that? The story hasn’t even broken yet. Quidditch players I can accept, but he’s a… a Pureblood baby boomer.

Draco was frowning. “He’s got a press embargo in place, hasn’t he? And he’s taken care of those other little… items you had.”

Hermione worried her lip as the meaning of his words sunk in. “I imagine he must have. I’ve been waiting for someone to leak it to one of the other papers. What are we going to do when all these reporters see him disappear with the other Werewolves tonight?”

Draco didn't seem overly concerned. “He’s the Editor of the Prophet, Granger. He can set whatever tone he wants when they do and people will go for it. They can’t piss him off; he holds their jobs.”

Hermione frowned. She wasn’t so sure about that. The papers and magazines had never been kind to her, really, but they’d stopped being hateful at least. Mostly. It helped, she supposed, that she and Ron were war heroes. It helped more that Harry’d also been bitten and never developed Lycanthropy. His tolerance helped at least a few of other wizards and witches find some of their own, if only out of guilt.

Draco sighed dramatically. “And to think, all I wanted was a simple life as a landed gentry with a beautiful, docile wife and an obedient heir. Instead I get a dangerous job with no public recognition and oscillating hormones.”

“Potions consulting dangerous these days?” Harry said, grinning. He and Ron were the only two who actually knew they were Unspeakables, and even that was only due to their clearance levels and the fact that both Draco and Hermione had once worked with them on an Auror case.

“Don’t listen to Malfoy,” said Hermione, still eyeing Cuffe nervously. “He’s being dramatic.”

“A dramatic Werewolf,” said Draco. “That’s a laugh. We’re so rugged and stoic. How could we be dramatic?”

“I'll allow rugged,” Harry said, frowning. “A bit anyway. Hermione’s rugged at least. And Ron, too. Not sure about you, though, Malfoy, mate.”

Draco narrowed his eyes and put on a lofty expression. “You would call me un-rugged just because I refuse to embrace this middle-class culture of feralness? I’m beastly one night a month. The other twenty-seven to thirty I refuse to be anything less than dignified, but I can still be rugged dignified.”

“It's not so bad,” Hermione said. “The beastliness. It’s practically status quo these days. And I don’t mind it, really. Makes for an interesting change of pace.”

She heard Harry huff out a dry little laugh. “Other than my wife, Neville, and Gin, I’m pretty sure literally all of my friends are Werewolves,” he said. 

Except me, was unspoken. 

She turned to him, and found him smiling wryly back at her.

Oh, Harry. Hermione thought, forcing a return smile. Only he would be sad he couldn’t be a Werewolf like her and Ron. And Malfoy, she supposed. He and Ron hung out with Malfoy a lot for as much as they complained about him. Fantasy Quidditch leagues, eternal chess games, pub nights… she could go on. They did it all, and frequently, and complained about it every time. 

In the almost-decade since she'd become a Werewolf, Harry’s lack of infection had been a constant thought in the back of her mind—one she wanted to explore, but which she was always a little afraid of exploring because of the very theory she had on the matter.

“I know I should be grateful that I’m not infected… that I’m even alive, but… on full moons, when you and Ron change into your forms and I can see that special bond you have with one another, with your pack, I’m… outside looking in.”

She slipped an arm around his waist and laid her head on his shoulder. “You’re my pack, too, Harry. Even without fur.”

She could feel him smile against his hair. “I know—I do, really. But I can’t help it. Being a jealous wanker’s my one flaw.”

Hermione’s heart clenched. That first full moon, after the three of them were bitten, they’d all taken Wolfsbane all locked themselves up with Fred in the newly erected paddock. She’d held both Harry’s and Ron’s hands as they watched the moon rise up in the sky, terrified of what was to come. When it had, she'd been too blind with pain to notice that Harry wasn’t twisting and changing with them.

She'd only noticed when it was over, and he’d stood back, pressed against the paddock wards, eyes huge behind the glasses that had then defined him as a child. Hermione’d looked around, seen two ginger wolves and brown fur over her own paws, and become irrationally terrified that she would infect him just by being in the same pen. The Weasleys had come to let Harry out, but he’d refused, and that was the moment, Hermione figured, that George realised he could come in, too. Harry lay down between them on the grass, with Hermione and Ron’s tails curling over his legs, and they’d waited for the moon to set on the first day of their new lives.

“I noticed your installation in front of the apothecary in Knockturn Alley, Ms Granger.”

Hermione jumped, turning to find Eliot Parkinson looking back at her. He had a rangey, roguish look about him, and Hermione did not need any help understanding how someone as posh and wealthy as Arcadia Parkinson had been swayed enough by his charm to marry him, if not take his last name, which had been Kovač before the marriage. She’d had to learn things like that when she became his Alpha.

Hermione felt herself bristle. “My installation?”

“What installation?” asked Harry, and Hermione determinedly ignored him. She gave Parkinson a very direct stare, trying to impart the ideas ‘Auror’ and ‘not exactly legal’ and ‘shut the hell up’ with her glare alone.

He laughed, sipped his champagne. It was early yet. The full moon wouldn’t rise for another forty-five minutes. “Your little hobby of guerrilla gardening?” he said, smirking. She felt Harry’s eyes on her, and just knew she was in for a very long-winded speech about hypocritical actions and ‘gardening of all things’ from both him and Ron, as soon as Ron was sober and Harry’d had a chance to tell him.

“It smells just like you, of course,” Parkinson continued unabashedly. “All of Knockturn Alley does, really. I must say, you’ve improved the place.”

“What’s guerrilla gardening?” asked Harry, as though he could make a good guess, but didn’t want to jump to any conclusions.

Parkinson laughed. “Oh, hasn’t our dear Alpha told you? She’s taken it upon herself to gentrify Knockturn Alley. Self-shaping boxwood and night-blooming flowers popping up everywhere. In fact, I went to visit my daughter at work last week and found that half the east end was covered in aconite and the other half in hibiscus. I’m impressed you convinced them to grow in winter.”

“I was good at Herbology,” Hermione muttered.

Parkinson’s Werewolf hearing had no problem picking it up. He laughed heartily. He pounded her on the back but she remained steady despite the inhuman power behind the gesture. Her muscles were inhuman, too, after all. Especially the night of the full moon. His expression faltered slightly at her rigid posture and even further at her glare.

Smirking, he tilted lifted his chin a little. A sliver of neck became visible. “Perhaps you’ll give the old potions supply shop’s front door a fresh coat of paint next year?”

Hermione snapped her teeth at him but allowed herself to un-tense. He’d apologised after all, even if he was smirky about it. She could smell him though, and knew he was legitimately and affectionately teasing her, even if he sucked at it and she found it offensive. She wasn’t sure she’d ever get used to being Alpha over ex-Death Eaters. 

Harry didn’t miss the power play. He engaged Parkinson on a series of increasingly more dull subjects until he made his excuses and left for other socialising. Hermione smiled at Harry in thanks.

“So. Gardening,” Harry said. He sipped his water.

Hermione huffed. “Look, I know it’s technically trespassing and vandalism and a number of other things besides—I have looked up the relevant laws, after all—but Knockturn Alley stinks in the summer and I really can’t take the smell. Everything I plant is air- and magic-purifying. How can I be blamed when my hobby makes everyone’s life better?”

“Hermione has lots of little hobbies,” said a low voice behind her. She stiffened and felt herself heat from the seductive timbre. Draco bent down, bringing his nose close to her ear. She felt every accelerated breath he took. “She’s very good at them.”

“I”m not good at anything,” Hermione said. “I’m excellent at everything.”

Draco’s soft laughter huffed against her neck and she shuddered. She vaguely noticed Harry’s weirded-out expression before he took Luna and made for the dance floor. “That you are, Hermione. That you are.”

“Draco,” she said, refusing to tilt her neck even to give him better access. “I haven’t decided we should carry on with this, you know. You heard the warnings.”

“You haven’t decided we shouldn’t,” he said. His nose nuzzled against her skin. She could feel him inhaling against it, scenting her. His body came to press against her back and she felt the heat of his erection against her tailbone. “You’ve had plenty of time to think it over. I’m beginning to think you’re lying to yourself on purpose. Give in. Again.”

He smelled like sex. Or maybe that’s just what Mate was supposed to smell like.

Hermione growled in frustration. Malfoy was fit. And her best friend. And… she loved him a little bit, maybe. She just wasn’t sure if it was because he was her best friend or in spite of it. But, either way…

Either way, she did.

“Fine,” she said, trying—and failing—for nonchalance. “I will.”

Draco growled and wrapped his arm around her waist. She felt the startling pressure of Side-Along Apparition and then they were enclosed in a small, velvet-lined changing booth. There were clothing hooks on one wall, a gilt-framed mirror on the other, and a set of floating blue puzzles at the door. The Malfoys had installed private changing rooms for each of their Werewolf guests, Hermione realised. She wasn’t surprised, but she was exasperated at their pretension.

Malfoy wasted no time stripping her of her white dress and Banishing it to Merlin-knew where. She turned to help him with the same and found him already naked. He smirked at her, one hand running slowly up and down his cock. Hermione wanted to melt. Instead, she decided that—just this one time—she'd submit. She tipped her neck back.

Draco pounced on her, raining kisses along the exposed column of her throat, nipping and licking and rutting against her in the most delicious ways. She threaded her fingers through his hair and reached down with her free hand to encircle his cock. It was hot with blood and she felt herself slicken even more.

“Malfoy, I want you,” she growled.

He inhaled sharply. She smelled a new emotion on him and recognised it a moment later as nervousness. It made her feel wobbly in a weird, happy little way. She let go of his prick to wrap her arm around his back and pull him closer. He came willingly, and when she lifted her mouth to kiss his, he melted into it, sighing her name.

“Do you?” he asked against her lips a moment later. But then he was back to kissing her, slower this time, more sensually. He was such a confusing mix of emotions and actions. She thought she might only be realising that now.

“Yeah,” she said. He grinned against her lips and then turned her around with one smooth, strong motion. Her breasts pressed against the door of the changing room.

His erection slid against her folds, smearing the wetness back and forth, but she pressed him back with a hand on his hip. “Wait. Do the charm.”

He paused. “You can’t carry.”

“I know, Malfoy. Don’t be a prat. I’d feel guilty if I conceived when I could’ve prevented it. Just cast the bloody spell.” He did. She felt the cold tingle on her insides. And then he was pressing into her. She braced against the door and spread her legs a little wider. He pushed all the way in and she moaned.

Merlin, it was so good. She pushed back against him, meeting him thrust for thrust. His fingers found hers and interlaced them against the door. He nipped and bit at the back of her neck, murmuring alternating words of affection and claim. She was getting close. She heard herself begin to whine with need, and one of Draco’s hands left hers to reach down and rub her clit.

“Yes, please please please,” she whined. He was unpracticed at it, but if she just shifted her hips a little—and yes, Merlin, there! Hermione rocked back, feeling his cock fill her up, and forward to feel his long fingers against her clit.

“Fuck, so close,” he said, nipping at her earlobe. It was all it took to send Hermione over the edge. She came with a growl, and slumped against the door, held up by it and Draco’s arm around her waist as he continued to thrust into her.

She felt him change inside of her, like he was getting larger, and her eyes widened in realisation only a second later. And then he was biting down hard on the soft flesh between her neck and shoulder as he came, his hips stuttering against her own as he rode it out. He slumped against her back, licking at the spot where he’d marked her.

Hermione bit her lip to keep from snickering. “Malfoy, did you—”

“Yes,” he growled, before she could finish. She did laugh then, quite unable to help herself. Tentatively, she tried pulling her hips away from his, but they were stuck tight. “Stop that,” he said, pulling her back against him with the arm still around her belly. “Just wait. It’ll only be five minutes or so. I… erm, I forgot that this happens around the full moon.”

The academic side of Hermione’s brain desperately wished she could turn around and look at it. she'd heard rumours that Alpha male Werewolves knotted during orgasm around the moon, but she'd never had a chance to test the theory for herself.

It was uncomfortable and weird. And—also strangely intimate. A normal wizard would’ve pulled out by now, perhaps rolled over, maybe even fallen asleep. But Draco couldn’t do that. His cock was stuck inside her until it softened, forcing him to stay with her while they came down together.

Merlin, she was enjoying cuddling. Forced cuddling, but still. It was nice. But it was exposing… vulnerable. 

Draco’s breathing began to slow, and Hermione relaxed into the afterglow of a good shag. This was her fourth one in as many weeks, and before that, she'd been on a six year dry spell. she'd almost forgotten how nice a regular shag could be. That maybe they could make it even more regular. It took her a moment to realise that the hand around her waist was currently rubbing small, delicate circles over her abdomen. Her skin tingled in a very nice way and she sighed happily.

She could stay like this for a long time. It was nice to feel so connected to another Werewolf, especially one she was so fond of. Which was a good thing since they had another few minutes before Draco would be able to pull out. They didn’t talk after that, but the silence was comfortable and peaceful. Relaxing. And then, all too soon, she felt him softening and slipping out of her. She spared a moment of regret at the loss.

But it had happened not a moment too soon. Hermione’s skin started that familiar prickling that signalled an impending change.

The moon rose and Draco grabbed her hand as he had the night they were bitten. Their bodies contorted. They screamed.  

 

🌕 🌕 🌕

 

They took turns on the Werewolf puzzles for safety’s sake. They were still some of the first ones out of the private changing rooms. Only Narcissa and the Weasley twins had beat them.

All the humans’ eyes were on them as they slipped out of the changing room. It wasn’t Hermione’s imagination that several eyebrows went up at them coming from the same one. Lucius Malfoy was fortunately looking the other way. She would’ve blushed if she could, but she couldn’t so she held her head high and pretended that it was perfectly normal. She had a lovely curly brown coat anyway; why wouldn’t people look? 

They were a novelty to many of these humans—a terrifying one to some—and it was to be expected that they were being gawked at like circus acts.

Hermione’d expected it, but it didn’t make it any easier. She slunk around the edge of the ballroom, feeling eyes follow her, and stopped in front of the low buffet table set up with cold cuts, venison jerky, fresh rabbit, and anti-spill charmed cups of wine and champagne. She nicked a piece of jerky because she was always famished after a change, and took it over to the French doors leading out onto the veranda so she could watch the stars while she ate.

Draco had gone off to stand imperiously next to his mother and father, a row of white-blonds of descending size. Lucius was wearing a glare fit for an executioner, as if daring anyone to comment on his family. Ron and Tonks were running orange and pink circles around dizzy, laughing Luna and Lavender while Harry looked on with a fond smile.

Soon, the humans grew accustomed to having dozens of Werewolves mingling among them, and they returned to their conversations, though the stench of wariness still hung in the air. No one had noticed Barnabas Cuffe’s apparent absence yet. Through the open doors, Hermione saw him sitting over in a corner, his back protected by the wall as he looked out at the assembled people. Marietta was nearby, apparently trying to merge with the velvet drapes.

But this was Cuffe’s first change. She couldn’t leave him there. She should’ve gone in to change with him this time, instead of… messing about with Draco. Hermione sloped over to him, stopping briefly at the refreshments table to grab another few pieces of jerky. She deposited one in front of his crossed grey paws and nudged it to him with her nose. 

He looked up at her, sniffed carefully, and blinked. She nudged it again. She couldn’t imagine having to complete her first change at his age. It must have been agonising for him. She settled in next to him, gnawing on her own venison jerky, attempting to provide what comfort she could.

More wizards showed up around seven and began setting up instruments. Lucius stepped onto the dais to announce that he’d booked the Arctic Kneazles for the evening, which resulted in cheers all around. The AKs, performing as the Arctic Monkeys, were one of the foremost Muggle-born bands in Britain; Hermione was not certain that Lucius knew this.

“We will adjourn to the veranda at half-twelve for a fireworks display and a midnight toast. Afterwards, all who are interested are welcome to join my family and me on our annual New Years fox hunt. My wife will be leading the Werewolves, and I have an Abraxan for every witch or wizard who enjoys a bit of sport. The Malfoys thank you all for bringing in the New Year with us. Please enjoy the evening.”

He stepped down, and the band immediately started up. Barnabas seemed to relax after that. It was not a bad night, really. Hermione spent some time trying to teach him how to communicate with scent and body language. She thought he was getting the hang of it, if his growl of frustration and scent of determination were anything to go by.

At eleven thirty, the French doors swung open again and a chill breeze blew in from outside. She smelled Draco approaching, and shivered as he pressed his cold nose to her ears. She turned and gave him a brief nuzzle.

Marietta trotted up to them just as the fireworks were beginning. Hermione licked her once in greeting and turned back to watch the sky. It was even more beautiful seeing it from a Werewolf’s eyes; her senses were so much keener, the lights so much brighter.

All too soon, midnight approached. House-elves popped up before them and dropped off little cups of champagne. Hermione huffed in annoyance, but knew a lost cause when she saw one, and Malfoys and their house-elves were certainly a lost cause. A murmur rose up in the crowd of humans. Bright numbers were flashing in the sky, counting down the New Year.

“A toast!” Lucius called at thirty seconds. He held up his glass and the humans did the same. Hermione smelt the disingenuousness of every word, but after so many years, she supposed insincerity was part of Lucius’ charm. “To new friends, new generations, and new worlds. To tolerance!”

“To tolerance!” the humans echoed.

What utter shit, Hermione thought. If any one of them believed that, she'd eat her best witch hat. They were here for a show and a bit of a thrill and that was that.

Actually, she might do that anyway. She got the strangest urges to chew on things sometimes.

The countdown reached zero, and everyone cheered. Ron started up a happy howl and one by one, like a wave, the other Werewolves joined in. Hermione and Draco picked up, harmonising easily, and then Marietta, too, which made Hermione feel warm. Barnabas was still silent. Hermione nudged him, and, finally, he gave a hesitant little howl. Then, apparently feeling more confident, did so again, more surely.

Hermione felt free. She felt happy and lovely and at peace with the world.

She didn’t mind being a Werewolf, not really. It was a part of her now. She howled again and again, feeling the weight and stress of the world leave her shoulders as her voice melded with Draco’s and the other wolves. The humans had quieted by now, listening to the haunting, beautiful sound of their howls, and Hermione’s body was flush with endorphins. She felt sure every Werewolf there could smell her happiness.

It was more beautiful than any rendition of Auld Lang Syne, and Hermione knew it, more than Lucius’ fake toast, was helping auld acquaintance be forgot. She could stay in this moment, here howling with Draco, forever.

“I’d like to make a toast as well, if I may,” called a new voice.

Marietta stopped howling at once, and soon the other Werewolves tapered off until there was silence again. Hermione craned her neck until she could see around the round wizard in front of her. Madam Edgecombe. How strange; Hermione hadn't known that Narcissa was inviting her—but perhaps it had just been a courtesy to Marietta. 

“Tonight, I’d like to toast my wonderful daughter,” said Madam Edgecombe.

Hermione turned to Marietta and gave her a slobbery lick of pack-ish affection. How lovely of Marietta’s mum to toast them all, especially after Marietta’s nervousness over coming out. Marietta remained stiff at her side, staring at her mother and tensed like a wolf about to pounce. And then Hermione heard Marietta, her voice as clear as if she were human, say, “Mother, no!”

Hermione tensed, too shocked by this strange phenomena to process everything at once. Had Marietta come out? Or had she sneaked into a changing room and hidden from the rest of the guests in the anonymity of her wolf form?

Was her mother about to out her?

How could Hermione hear her?

Hermione rose onto all fours, her hackles rising with her anxiety.

Madam Edgecombe nodded to her daughter, smiling, and everyone in the crowd turned to look as well. Marietta, if possible, tensed even more. Her scent was overflowing with stress and Hermione knew that this wasn’t meant to happen, that Marietta hadn’t known, hadn’t consented, and in that moment, Hermione was ready to rip out Madam Edgecombe’s throat. Draco’s low growl kept her from making a huge mistake, but the waiting only made it worse, made that dreadful, helpless feeling rise up in her, demanding that she do something Alpha-like to protect her pack.

She held her breath and hoped that Marietta was just unnecessarily nervous.

Hermione didn’t think she was. 

“It’s my daughter, Marietta, who gives me hope for the future. It’s she who motivates me to never give up on life’s adversities. For Marietta has suffered many adversities in her own life—it has been nearly eight years since she defied her father and I to sneak back to Hogwarts and fight against the forces of evil, to aid those who had marked her.” Madam Edgecombe’s eyes seemed to focus on her like a Muggle laser. “And eight years since she was cursed for it. My beautiful, thoughtful daughter was made a Werewolf that night… attacked by an un-transformed Fenrir Greyback, the same Werewolf who turned many of you into the monsters you are today.”

There was a furious, tense rustle among the Werewolves. Hermione and Draco growled lowly in warning, and those who’d considered moving sat right back down. There would be no attacks by Werewolves this evening. If Marietta’s mum wanted to be hateful and publicly humiliate her daughter right along with the rest of them, well, they’d all sit through it tonight and respond in the morning, when they were human and could fight back as such.

“Madam Edgecombe,” Lucius said sternly. “I must insist that you sit down at once. This is a festive occasion.”

Hermione had never once liked Lucius, until that moment.

“Just a moment, Lucius,” she said, and Hermione had the horrifying realisation that this woman was a little drunk and Merlin only knew what rubbish she would say. “I'll bring this round to the end. The toast, then. I’d like to toast my daughter, Marietta! Who has suffered the indignity of this curse with grace and poise and humility, while those she might consider pack—” and here, Madam Edgecombe’s lips curled, “—make a mockery of her condition with celebrations and festive occasions.” Madam Edgecombe looked disdainfully around the gathered people. “People like our gracious hosts, so thoughtful to invite the both of us to this treasured event. People like Fred Weasley.”

Hermione’s stomach fell through the floor. A gasp ran through the crowd. Harry had his wand out and was pushing his way to Madam Edgecombe, but the other humans were transfixed, blocking his way and line of sight. She found the Weasley twins right away, cued into their scents through years of friendship. They were growling low in their throats, and Hermione sensed disaster approaching.

Fuck, she thought. She turned desperately to Malfoy, but found he’d already started slinking through the crowd trying to reach the twins. Hermione didn’t waste another moment. She didn’t have time for Draco’s subtlety. She bounded through the crowd, over the backs of Werewolves and between legs and robes.

She could hear Harry trying to cast Silencio on Edgecombe but people were still in his way and he couldn’t get a lock on her. She continued talking, raising her voice above the growing growls of the wolves and murmurings of the people.

“You see, George Weasley was not made a Werewolf the night of the final battle. Only his twin, Fred, was. Unable, it seems, to do anything without his brother, Mr Weasley conspired and carried out a plan to infect George Weasley of the Lycanthropy curse.”

The angry muttering of the crowd ceased at once. The silence that followed was heavy and electric.

Madam Edgecombe smiled contemptuously, though it was made all the more cruel by the glassiness of her eyes. “I have held my tongue for years. If Fred Weasley would condemn his own twin this way, what, dear humans, might he do to the rest of us? What might any Werewolf do? These people,” —she spat the word— “have irrevocably altered my daughter’s life, and it’s thanks to others like our gracious hosts and those they associate with that none of our children are safe in this world. And as usual, I’m sure that our sensible Ministry will stand by while nothing is done, for no other reason than Weasleys, and those like them, are heroes now and my daughter is a forgotten casualty. May you all rot in hell.” She spat in George’s direction.

George bent low, gathering strength in his haunches, and Hermione’s heart leapt all the way into her throat. She jumped over Gottfried Goyle and leapt in front of George. He slammed into her side mid-pounce, sending them both tumbling down the stone steps to the lawn. Hermione felt each riser slam into her as they rolled and then the soft, aching feel of cold, frozen grass at the bottom.

She pulled herself up, limping on what she was sure was a broken wrist, and when it seemed that George would bound up the steps for another go at Edgecombe, Hermione sunk her teeth into his scruff and growled.

He didn’t submit. She yanked at his scruff, pulling a yelp from him along with a chunk of fur. The pain seemed to bring him back to his senses. He noticed her jaws clamped around the fur at his neck and whined. She growled again. He rolled over and offered his soft orange belly. Hermione closed her teeth around his muzzle softly—one final warning, but forgiveness, too.

Merlin, that had almost been a disaster. 

They stood. Every face was looking down at them, mouths and eyes wide with shock.

A single witch stepped through, her mouth stretched thin, her dress beautiful. Her wand was out, the tip already glowing with the thought of a spell. Hermione tensed.

Head Auror Yaxley descended the steps. “George Weasley,” she said into the silence. “I am placing you under arrest for attempted assault of an uninfected witch while transformed as a Werewolf. Do not make me Stun you before I take you in.”

At least she looked regretful.

It was a very long time before Hermione stopped to wonder how Yaxley had known he was George Weasley when she’d never seen his wolf form before.

Chapter Text

Hermione accepted the fresh tea with a smile, one she was sure looked as haggard and forced as she felt. “Thanks, Narcissa.”

Narcissa, on the other hand, looked as perfect as always. 

She handed Draco a cup, too, and reseated herself on Hermione’s other side. They sipped tea. Time continued apace. The view of the wall opposite the visitor’s waiting area in the DMLE did not become more interesting with time. Hermione sighed and glanced again at the clock on the wall. Just past seven. 

There was nothing else to do except sit around and wait for news. They’d come down here as soon as they changed back this morning—only an hour ago, but it’d still been some time since Hermione slept. Somewhere further in the maze of Level Two, Harry and Ron were trying to get Yaxley to assign Harry or one of the Werewolves to the case.

What a great way to start the new year.

Finally, the doors leading into the Auror Department opened and Ron came out, looking about as beat up as Hermione felt. “She booked him,” he said, sighing.

Hermione’s head fell back against the wall behind her with an audible thump. “Lovely.”

Ron grimaced. She took a closer look at him and saw how purple the circles under his eyes were. There was a tightness to his mouth that he only wore when one of his family was sick, hurt, or in danger. “She won’t let Harry, Lavender, or Tonks on the case. Hermione… the Department is asking for a trial.”

Narcissa stood straight up, teacup clattering in the saucer in her hand. “Trial?”

“Yeah,” Ron said, exhaling heavily. “My fucking brother.” He laughed humourlessly, and swallowed. “Yeah, for attempted infection of a pure-blood witch. And what’s more? They just sent out two Aurors to arrest Fred. Premeditated infection of a pure-blood wizard. George could get ten years for it… Fred could get Kissed.”

“They won’t,” Draco said, voice cold.

Hermione stared at him, even as her heart slammed against her ribcage. Fred…  Kissed. She couldn’t even fathom it, and yet Draco’s voice was almost more arresting. She hadn’t heard that tone of voice from him in ages. He wasn’t looking at Ron. His gaze was fixed unblinkingly on the wall across from him, and Hermione could see his mind whirring in the harsh set of his mouth. She saw Ron nodding from the corner of her eye.

“Merlin, I—” He broke off, his mouth working soundlessly. He shook his head, eyes wide as a deer’s. “Fuck. I’ve gotta go. Mum’s waiting for news. Well, assuming they haven’t picked up Fred yet. Shit. I’ll be back.” 

He turned and rushed back into the Auror department, presumably for the floos, and Hermione and Draco stood, awkward and unsure and completely out of ideas.

Narcissa set her Ministry-issue teacup on the chipped saucer. Her voice was firm, nowhere near as unsettled as Hermione felt, when she said: “Hermione, will you please see to the papers? I must follow up with Lucius on what he’s found on Madam Edgecombe. Which bedroom did you put that daughter of hers in, Draco?”

“Third buttercream room in the East Wing,” he said, voice leaden.

Narcissa nodded. “I will see to it that she’s fed and debriefed. This is going to be quite a lot of work.”

Draco, suddenly, sneered at his mother. “Realised what a bad idea it was, have you, Mum?”

Narcissa’s eyes narrowed, and Hermione knew that she too had never—never—seen Draco give her such disrespect. “This was bound to come out sooner or later, Draco. Don’t tell me you never realised George Weasley was a late addition to your pack? It was all there if you’d have only smelled for it, but of course your father raised you too well in his image. No man is worth anything unless he’s a pure-blooded wizard, isn’t that so? Somehow that doesn’t even change when you are no longer one yourself.”

She strode to the lifts without a backwards glance. Hermione sighed, rubbing her eyes. One look at Draco had her convinced not to say a word on the matter. “I’m going to see Barnabas,” she said. “I’ll see you later. Dinner?”

“No,” Draco snarled.

Hermione blinked. “No? Okay, well—”

“I’m coming with you,” Draco said. He prowled over to the stairs, and it took Hermione a moment to process what he’d said before she stalked after him.

“For a moment,” she said, when she caught up to him in the stairwell, “I thought you said you were coming with me. To the Daily Prophet. Regarding a Werewolf crisis.” She raised her brows at him.

“I did say that, Granger.”

Hermione hesitated. “Alright then.”

He just growled again and pushed his way through the Atrium to a free floo. He held his arm out wordlessly and she took it, stepping over the hearth with him. “Daily Prophet,” he said, and they were whooshed away.

 

🌕 🌕 🌕

 

The Prophet offices were in a rush. Hermione wasn’t surprised that she was getting horrid looks from some of the staff, but it unsettled her anyway. One wizard checked her as he walked by, knocking her into Draco, who caught her before she could tumble to the floor. She growled low in her throat before she caught herself and stopped. Sometimes it was difficult to reign in impulses so close to the moon, especially when she hadn’t slept in twenty-four hours. 

She approached the front desk. The witch there was at least giving them the courtesy of a polite smile. “Hermione Granger and Draco Malfoy to see Mr Cuffe,” she said.

“Mr Cuffe’s schedule is full today,” said the witch. “If you’d like to—”

“Would you just let him know we’re here, please?” said Hermione. It wasn’t a question. “I’m quite sure he’ll want to fit us in.”

The witch pursed her lips, but seeing the glower on Malfoy’s face, did tap her wand on a memo pad and send a message zooming off. “Have a seat, and I’ll let you know if he replies,” she said.

“Thank you,” said Hermione. 

They sat together on a bench beneath the window. Draco was utterly silent, which Hermione knew to be a bad sign for her chances of avoiding a migraine. She watched the junior reporters typing away in the undesirable cubicles closest to the door, where the cold draught was likeliest to blow over them whenever someone came in. Seeing the petty wizard who’d knocked into her shivering was almost pleasing enough to soothe her anger. But not quite.

“Ms Granger?” called the witch. Hermione looked up. The witch was standing by the open door leading up to the executive offices. “Mr Cuffe will see you now. Please follow me.”

Barnabas Cuffe’s office was on the top floor of the Prophet building, with a panoramic view of upper Diagon Alley. He was behind his desk when the welcome witch escorted them in, and though he looked exhausted, he was clean, dressed, and making a valiant effort at normality.

“Thank you, Esmerelda,” said Cuffe. “Please have an elf send up some tea.’”

When she was gone, Barnabas allowed himself to slump down a little. He gestured stiffly towards the two chairs opposite his desk. Every line of his body shouted the aches Hermione knew he was feeling after his first change. She was well past her eightieth change and her body was accustomed to it, but she was a little sore, too. 

“You’re doing a remarkable job of hiding your condition,” Hermione observed. “Especially for someone who made an appearance last night.”

Cuffe grunted. “We’ll see how long it takes people at the gala to realise I wasn’t in attendance the whole night. Now, this mess your Weasleys have got us all in… how do you intend to fix it? Let’s get your idea on the table first and then I’ll tell you how it will never go over with the public, and then we can move onto a solution which might save all our sorry arses from a Dementor’s Kiss.”

An elf wearing robes fashioned from a printing press blanket popped in to deliver the tea. Barnabas didn’t bother to ask how they took theirs, he just floated the sugar and milk over to them and let them have at it. Draco’s mouth pressed in annoyance so tightly it almost disappeared, but he served himself and Hermione without a word of complaint. 

“I want to do one of the interview we set up to precede the one where you and others were taken. If we can get everyone to think about something else, maybe they won’t ask questions about Fred and George,” Hermione said. 

“It’s crap,” Cuffe said. 

“Agreed,” Draco said, speaking for the first time. “The eight new wolves, whoever they all are, will come out now. You saw the little twats down there in the press room. They’ll be looking for anything they can get on Werewolves. Someone’s going to talk to the right Auror and it’s all over from there.”

“They will if they’re any good at their jobs,” Cuffe agreed. He sipped his tea, coughed on it, and sipped again, grimacing. “We’re going to come out,” he said.

What?” Hermione said. “Right now?”

“Right now,” Cuffe agreed. 

“Everyone?” asked Hermione.

Cuffe waved his hand. “The important people already agreed to it. Glenda Chittock and I go way back and she’s always been a progressive. Aladair Maddock and Meaghan McCormack get us the support of the League—hopefully, anyway. Then with Orsinio Thruston on tour this winter with the Weird Sisters, we’ve got a platform of eager, easy-to-persuade fans who want their favourite pop band to keep making catching songs, rather than rot away drumming on Azkaban’s granite cell walls. It’s the right time.”

“Everyone impor—!” Hermione shook her head, too stunned to even finish that. “We’ve got dozens more unimportant people whose lives will be irreparably harmed if you expose them. They’re your pack now.”

“It has to be everyone,” Draco said, always the voice of ill-timed fucking unnecessary reason. “A pre-emptive attack. It won’t give the little shits time to turn it into a story of insidious subterfuge.”

Hermione did not like this idea one bit. “You don’t have their permission to release their names. They have a right to privacy.”

“Do I look like a man who gives a flobberworm’s fuck?” said Cuffe. “We’re releasing the names, and we’re going to do bios on the ones who might stand a cold fuck’s chance in hell of withstanding the fallout. I’m giving it to Skeeter.”

“You can’t be serious,” Hermione said. “She lambasts us every chance she can get. Last month she said the Ministry should hang us.”

“I know,” said Cuffe. “That’s why she’s getting the story. No chance of anyone spinning it as bias because I’m on the list. Of course, don’t mean there won’t be bias. She knows which side her bread’s buttered on. And you aren’t the only one who knows her secret.”

“This is unethical,” Hermione hissed. 

Draco ignored them both to ask, “Have you got the names of everyone who was turned alongside you?”

“I do,” said Cuffe. He flicked his eyes to Hermione, his expression smug as he added: “Got the names of everyone bitten at Hogwarts in ninety-eight, too.”

Hermione sensed Draco tensing next to her. He still wanted to know who all was in their pack, but it really wasn’t Hermione’s problem.

“I really think we should focus on finding the person who infected you and the others instead,” Hermione said. “If we can shift the people’s focus from Fred and George Weasley to the rogue, villainous non-Werewolf who ruined eight lives with an evil potion injection, then we can cultivate sympathy instead of hatred.”

“Don’t need to find the culprit,” said Cuffe. “I know exactly who it is. I confirmed it yesterday.”

Hermione stopped. She shut her mouth with an audible click. It was Malfoy who asked the question, though: “You know who infected you?”

“I was a reporter for nearly half a century. Of course I know who infected me.”

“But you said you were missing that time… I thought you were Obliviated,’ Draco said, leaning forward.

Barnabas smiled. “I was a reporter,” he repeated.

“Who?” asked Hermione. 

Cuffe smirked, and she knew exactly why it was no boon to have Cuffe a Werewolf; regardless of his status, he’d never been a true ally. “I think I’ll keep that bit of information for when we do, in fact, need the sympathy. It’s not right now, Ms Granger. Right now, we’re going to have to ride this thestral to the end and redirect as best we can.”

“Are you joking?” Hermione said, outraged. “They could be out there infecting more people as we speak! The Aurors need to know who it is now.”

“The culprit will not be infecting more wizards. This was a… politically-charged move.”

“How do you know?” asked Draco.

Cuffe’s narrow eyes slid to him. “I just know.”

“I don’t like this,” said Hermione. “I really, really don’t. And I am extremely, extremely, opposed to outing any Weres.”

Cuffe rolled his eyes. “What’s our first goal?’

“To keep Werewolves from becoming villains and the Weasleys out of Azkaban,” Hermione said at once.

“Just so,” said Cuffe. “We’ll do that best by keeping the focus off those moronic boys and onto the fact that Werewolves are not anonymous spectres but actual witches and wizards that people know and interact with on a daily basis. You’ve let your pack mates stay in the shadows while you put your neck out alone for far too long, Ms Granger, and it hasn’t helped your cause at all.’

Hermione frowned down at her lap. Not all of them had. There were a good number of wolves in her pack who’d chosen to reveal themselves after the Registry went down. 

Her tea was cold and untouched. They’d stayed this path for seven years, and in that time she’d managed to overturn the Registry, something that hung over the heads of British Werewolves for two hundred years. She’d thought they were making good progress, at a good rate. 

Had she really held them all back by letting the shy ones like Marietta—and the aloof ones like Draco—keep quiet?

No, she thought. 

She couldn’t have. It wasn’t right to force people into disclosing their personal health histories to a public who’d only revile them for it. She could see the point Cuffe was making, but she hated it. It wasn’t right.

Let those who can, do. That had been her position from the beginning. She could, so she did.

“Legally, I have no recourse if you choose to do this,” said Hermione. Because they all knew Werewolves had no true rights. None that would stand up before a full Wizengamot, anyway. “I assume you didn’t get the names legally, but when has that ever stopped the Daily Prophet?”

“That should not be your largest concern,” said Cuffe, ignoring her jab. “Rights of the press. Everything’s true, after all.”

She exhaled heavily. “People might lose their jobs, their friends. Maybe even their lives. The public could revolt.”

“Revolutions aren’t won with tea and cake, Ms Granger.”

“Don’t pretend you aren’t aware of all the kill folders my mother made when you were campaigning against the Registry,” said Draco. “You sat back and let dozens of officials be blackmailed into voting for your bill. Your ethics are on a sliding scale like the rest of ours.”

“Dozens of bigoted, corrupt officials,” Hermione insisted.

Draco’s eyebrows went up. “Absolved of all guilt, then, are you?”

No, she thought, but refused to say it. She felt guilty enough on her own. She wasn’t about to admit it to Draco. In the end, she’d chosen between two evils, and the lesser evil had been the rights of her pack.

Hermione stood. “I can’t be a party to this.”

“Just as well,” said Cuffe. “You deal with Ministry. I’ll deal with the papers.”

Hermione looked at Draco, but he was still seated. She lifted an eyebrow. His mouth tensed. “You go see if Weasley’s burnt down the Ministry yet. I’ve something I’d like to discuss with Mr Cuffe.”

Hermione could smell the slyness coming off him in waves; her eyes narrowed. She knew better than to bother when Draco was in one of his questionable morals modes, but it still infuriated her that he was going about it like this. Mr Cuffe might be one of them now, but he was still the press, for Merlin’s sake. 

Fine then, she thought and stood to leave, her head held high. 

At the door, she stopped, turned, and levelled a glare at Malfoy. “It won’t work, anyway,” she said. “It’ll just turn all the new Werewolves against us. Would you want to help us if one of your own revealed you to the public? Or would you come to hate yourself and everyone like you?”

The office was silent as she shut the door behind her.

 

🌕 🌕 🌕

 

Hermione didn’t have any better luck with the Ministry, as it happened. Ron, who was already back from informing his family of their impending criminal and judicial concerns, met her at the grates. 

He looked worse than he had the morning after their first change… worse than he’d looked wearing the locket in seventh year. He grabbed her as soon as she floo’d in. How had she ever deserved such a devoted, impactful Beta? One whose own family was in the direst of straights right now, but who was still here to help her. 

“The Wizengamot’s deciding whether or not to hear a case on the reinstatement of the Werewolf Registry,” said Ron. He glanced up and down the corridor before ushering her into Conference Room Four. “They’ve reconvened early for a special session just to talk about it. Fred and George’s story is the biggest news since Harry never turned, and it hasn’t even been a full news cycle yet. Happy fucking New Year, eh?”

Hermione erected a silencing charm over the room and screamed. When she ran out of breath, she paused, assessed her level of anxiety, inhaled, and did it again. Then, she removed her cloak and tossed it over the back of the nearest chair before rummaging in her endless handbag for a hair tie.

“Feel better?” Ron asked, the circles under his eyes as dark as a Dementor’s robes.

“No,” she said, sighing. “Where’s Lavender?”

“Yaxley’s got her running interference with the robes. I expect she might be able to sway at least a couple of the Wizengamot with her face, if nothing else.”

Lavender’s good looks came in useful more times than Hermione had wanted to admit. Ron’s, unfortunately, had, too. Just not today. She reached deeper into her bottomless bag.

“And Harry?”

“Still upstairs trying to Boy-Who-Lived his way onto the investigation team through demands, displays of power, extortion, and yelling, last I saw him. Yaxley’s letting him witness the interrogation at least.”

“Which one?” Hermione asked. “And Fred and George have the right to an attorney present! Tell me someone’s in there with them!”

“Fred’s,” said Ron. “And he’s got one. You’ll never guess who showed up with him when they dragged him in.”

“Who?”

“Acacia Parkinson,” Ron said as if this were a great revelation. It was. “Pansy’s mum.”

“Are you serious?” said Hermione. “Parkinson, really? Oh Merlin. Thank you, Narcissa and possibly Eli,” she said to the ceiling. 

If they had Parkinson, they might actually have a chance of coming out of this mess without chains on their ankles. Acacia Parkinson was a hurricane in the courtroom—a pragmatic, efficient, ruthless barrister with a very keen sense of her own self worth. She went into the courtroom like every case was a personal vendetta she was determined to settle.

Hermione just had not expected Parkinson to be willing to make her family vulnerable by representing two Werewolves. To Hermione’s knowledge, Pansy and Draco were still friends and often took trips to Paris for shopping together, but he’d never brought her out to any of their get-togethers so she was still an unknown quantity to Hermione, despite her own father being turned. A bitchy unknown quantity—but Hermione appreciated aggressive women these days. She had often felt like she and Pansy could be friends if only there weren’t the whole bigotry thing between them.

“Speaking of helpful Malfoys,” said Ron. “Where’s our dear Alpha?”

“By now I’m sure he’s just managed to convince Barnabas Cuffe to give him the names of all the Werewolves bit at Hogwarts. He asked me the other day, but I wouldn’t tell him.”

Ron did not look as though this made very much sense to him. In fact, it didn’t: “He doesn’t know who’s in our pack?”

“Not all of us, no,” said Hermione.

Ron’s forehead wrinkled dramatically. He still looked bloody attractive, the stupid wolf. How was it fair that Ron was so unreasonably handsome and yet they couldn’t have sex without bursting into giggles? This had once been something that once kept Hermione awake all night thinking about, but now life was more difficult and Ron seemed to be happy on-again-off-againing with Lavender and, occasionally, Tonks. 

“But how does he not know?” Ron asked. It was not a point he was grasping and indeed, Hermione often wondered the same thing. Yet, Malfoy was Malfoy.

She shrugged, feeling bitter. “He never paid attention. The only important thing to him has always been finding a cure for it. He never thought our community was worth anything. I think he’s purposefully not sniffed around to figure it all out.”

Ron’s forehead remained furrowed but his expression turned thoughtful. “I really don’t mind being a Werewolf, you know? It doesn’t even hurt all that much to change anymore, especially knowing how many others are going through it with me. And the enhanced senses have helped with investigations dozens of times.”

Hermione smiled at him with both her canines showing. There was still good in the world—she had to remember that. “Yeah, Ron. I know.”

“Well it’s about time Malfoy decided to be an Alpha, if you ask me. Good for him getting those names. Even if he is being slimy about how.”

Hermione didn’t really think there was much use in Draco getting the names from Cuffe today or the paper tomorrow, but she didn’t want to put any more stress on Ron’s shoulders than was already there, so she said nothing. All things considered, Lycanthropy had given Ron some perspective on when a good time to get one’s knickers in a twist was, but even Hermione was surprised to see him back here with Fred’s fate could so easily end in a nightmare.

“I need to get down to the lab,” she said. “I can’t do anything here, and I’m going to go mad if I sit around doing nothing. Send me a note when you hear anything, right?”

“Right,” Ron said, running a hand through his bright hair. He sighed heavily. “I’m on desk duty still. Reckon I’ll floo Mum and let her know they haven’t Kissed the twins yet.”

Hermione gasped, suddenly feeling all the blood drain from her limbs and face. “Don’t joke about it, Ron,” she whispered.

He rubbed a hand over his face. “I reckon if anyone would joke about it, it’d be those two. But you’re right. Go on, do your potions or whatever it is you’re calling it these days. I’ll send you a crane when I hear anything.”

Chapter Text

She still had work to do. Work she’d neglected, done the bare minimum on, for weeks. But now, it was work she needed. Researching Avada Kedavra was enough to keep Hermione’s mind spinning away from what was going on up on Level Two… for a while, at least. 

George’s belated infection was an open secret in their pack—well, among those who paid attention anyway—so, not Malfoy. But it wasn’t an open secret in the magical world, as the reaction of the Ministry proved. Thirty-nine of them were bitten that night and one more six weeks later. There were forty wolves in Hermione’s original pack, and theoretically, forty people who could’ve let slip to Madam Edgecombe that George and Fred Weasley had planned and carried out George’s infection the second moon they ever had. 

But she trusted all of them. Her whole pack. Even Marietta.

Hermione had been in the pen when it happened. It hadn’t struck her as unusual that George and Harry came in with her, Ron, and Fred. After Harry’s first night with them when they’d all thought he’d change too, the debilitating terror of the change had begun to ebb. It was nice to have company, nice to have someone stroke your coat when you were panting from the exhausting agony of shifting. Nice to have familiar scents and reminders that your body would be human again in a few more hours.

Hermione had sat in that pen the whole night and not had any idea of what the twins were planning until she smelt blood on the air. Not a lot—a half dozen drops really—but enough to send her salivating. She’d whipped her head up and stared in horror as George held his hand out for Fred to lick. There was a short slash on his palm, welling up with blood, and Fred was coating it in his infected saliva and letting it seep into George’s bloodstream on purpose. 

George didn’t change that moon, but the next one he did, and the morning after, when Mr and Mrs Weasley came to fetch them, Hermione felt equal parts anger and shame at the heartbroken looks on their faces when they realised what had happened. Three of their sons were Werewolves now. Forty-three per cent of their children. Back then, when Werewolf hysteria was at its peak, Hermione had understood their horror.

Now she was just infuriated that after seven bloody years, the fucking Weasley twins were making her life hell again. Everything she’d worked for, all of it ash now—completely undone.

She flipped angrily through the Killing Curse assignment to keep her mind off of her current troubles, mentally noting the ancient magic books she’d request from the library at Oxford and the Sorbonne. She had a few working theories on Avada Kedavra, or at least a few ideas of where to go from here. If only Draco were here to help distract her, to get lost in this assignment with her while they tried to forget the world around them.

Because there was nothing she could do.

She had to get out of the way and let the humans try to fix it.

She had to leave it to non-pack because, right now, being a Werewolf was worse than being a dark lord.

She wished she could get her heart into the research because it was a topic she found fascinating, but the truth was, she was worried about the twins. She was worried about all of them, really.

Hermione fell into a restless state of researching and making notes, desperate to keep from trying to listen through seven floors and uncountable wards. Even her Werewolf hearing couldn’t do that, but it didn’t stop her from trying. 

Apex had given her and Draco the assignment a few weeks ago—to uncover the true origin of Avada Kedavra and untangle the pieces of its magic… find out what made it unstoppable, and, because they were Unspeakables, find a way to stop it. She’d started with a history of the Unforgivables written in 1904, knowing it was full of conjecture, but other than telling her that none of them had been made unforgivable until 1717, it was generally worthless and un-cited. She’d expected as much.

She had a few other lines of inquiry into the Killing Curse and was currently sorting through all the promising texts available to her as an Unspeakable, trying to find the earliest accounts of its usage. If she knew when or where it was first invented and cast, she would be well on her way to learning how to unravel its creation, and therefore the magic that made it work. 

At half one, Harry and Luna’s old elf Kreacher popped in with a plate of cabbage, buttered bread, bacon, noodles, corned beef, an entire smoked cod, pancakes, and two boiled eggs, almost certainly from Luna’s own flock of rescue, non-lethal Basilisk hens—the females were no good for hatching real Basilisks so they were often tossed out to the elements. It was a strange collaboration of lucky New Year’s Day food from an assortment of cultures, but heartwarming to receive. 

“The Good Mistress Luna sends a lucky lunch to Miss Hermione,” Kreacher growled. It was his affectionate growl at least. He’d almost come to like her over the years.

Hermione sighed, setting her quill aside. She hadn’t even realised the time. It was a holiday for Merlin’s sake and she was sitting here doing research because she couldn’t stand to be alone in her flat wondering, or back at the Prophet with Draco, or listening to her parents yammer on so cheerfully around her. They never quite grasped the gravity of her infection and she couldn’t handle it today; Hermione suspected they didn’t want to grasp it, because it would break their hearts if they did, so they just pretended it was some bohemian lifestyle she’d chosen on purpose.

“Thank you, Kreacher. Tell Luna thank you, as well, won’t you?”

Kreacher nodded. “If that will be all?”

Hermione hated to ask, but the Ministry was technically closed today—save for everyone up on Two trying to get the Weasley twins shipped to Azkaban—and therefore the cafeteria, as well. She bit her lip. “Would you mind terribly bringing me a cup of coffee, too? Or tea? Or whatever Luna has made right now. Anything warm.”

Kreacher disappeared without a word and returned a second later with a carafe of steaming black coffee and a cup of fresh cream—which was also probably from Luna’s rescue Aurochs, which Muggles had thought extinct now for some centuries.

Hermione beamed. “Thank you, Kreacher.”

When she was alone again, she poured herself a cup of coffee and picked up a slice of bacon to munch on as she flipped through a delicate copy of L’Histoire de la Magie Verte from the fourth century. Avada Kedavra wasn’t mentioned until the penultimate chapter (of course) and even then only in very little detail: 

Avadakedavra—Proche-Orient; colour of spring grass; sound of winter wind.

“Proche-Orient, brilliant!” Hermione whispered, jumping up. 

She grabbed another piece of bacon and one of the eggs to munch on as she rushed from the lab to the Unspeakable library on the other side of the revolving antechamber. The doors circled at her command, spinning and changing directions like chambers in a vault lock. She waited impatiently for the combination to finish, and finally the door that led to the gents, the Dangerous Experimental Explosions Lab, Senior Unspeakable Croaker’s office, and the library—all depending on the combination used—clicked open.

Hermione rushed through, navigating the rows of shelves with practised ease. She found the section on Near and Middle Eastern Theories of Magic and paused, scanning the titles. The Unspeakables didn’t believe in a unified cataloguing system, believing it to stymie creative thought, and so Hermione really had no idea what all was available to her. This was not a section she’d frequented very much in the past. Many of the texts were written in Aramaic, Hebrew, Egyptian, Persian or Arabic—none of which she was even conversational in. She knew a few words and phrases in Egyptian from a project she’d worked on during her second year as an Unspeakable, but it looked like this was going to require a Translation Charm.

She hated those.

Hermione glared at the books’ spines, trying to understand the titles by sheer force of will, but no such luck. Sighing, she pulled out her wand and tapped her temple, incanting the Translation Charm and cringing at the resultant headache when her mind was forcibly rearranged to accommodate a new language. It was similar to a migraine and so frustrating to read through that it made her want to go to bed instead, which was why almost everyone found the spell to be entirely useless and chose instead to undertake the learning of whatever language they were hoping to read or speak.

The library’s low lights felt like noon in the Mediterranean without sunglasses and she winced, waving her wand at the torches to lower them even further. She moved to the beginning of the section and once again began scanning the titles. Magical Persian Cats of the 4th Century...On the value of Turkish sand versus Egyptian sand in Time-Turners… Ankhs and Other Forces of Life… Kurdish Fertility Chants… Illness… Household Spells of the Ottoman Empire… Magic in Alexander the Muggle’s Court… Aramaic to Arabic Dictionary… Middle Eastern Middle Ages Magic… Palestinian Poultices.

Well, bugger. She was surprised at how small the Unspeakables’ collection on Near Eastern magical theory was, but the Ministry was notoriously xenophobic, so perhaps she shouldn’t be. She swished her wand, collecting all of the books to take with her. Her wand buzzed ten times as she left the Library, recording that she’d checked out each of the books. She put in the combination for her office and waited, shifting the cumbersome load of books, as the doors revolved. 

It clicked open, and Hermione took a step in before whispering, ‘Damn!’ and closing it again. She’d put in the wrong combination and the door had opened to the ladies room instead. A second door opened behind her, and she huffed.

“Reading in the loo?” Draco asked.

Hermione turned, giving him a harassed look. He took five of her books with one hand and swished the combination for their lab with his wand. “Put in the wrong flick,” she admitted, looking at him with narrowed eyes. “What are you doing here?”

The foyer began spinning all around them. He lifted one white-blond eyebrow at her and she felt a little dizzy, probably from the spinning. “I could ask the same of you, but I think we both know.”

The doors stopped and he moved to open theirs for her. She stepped through, calling over her shoulder, “I needed to be distracted.”

“Exactly,” he said. They were quiet as they returned to their office. Hermione set the books on their work table, unsure what to say to him. Draco was hanging his cloak on the rack by the door; she eyed him out of the corner of her eye, biting her lip.

“Did you… learn anything? From Cuffe?” she asked.

He turned, and she noticed the look on his face then. It was the one he wore when he was brewing a new attempt at a Lycanthropy cure—the look that meant everything was serious and Malfoys don’t have time for fucking around. The same one he wore when he’d kissed her the first time. 

“I have a list,” he said quietly. It echoed in the chamber of their lab, his voice reverberating over the stones like it was magic, too.

Hermione’s lips pressed together. She nodded. He knew all of them now and there was nothing wrong with that, but she couldn’t help being a little angry, deep down, that he’d never cared until now, and that when he did care, he went for the most efficient way of getting what he wanted instead of reaching out and trying to get their pack to come to him because they trusted him. 

Because whether he admitted it or not, the magic inherent in Werewolves and packs had chosen him to be the male Alpha of their pack, and he’d never once acted to be Alpha. He’d never once stuck his neck out to protect the rest of them like he was supposed to.

“And?” Hermione asked.

Draco came to sit at the work table. He laid a folded piece of parchment between them, worrying the edges with his fingers. His fingers stopped; he unfolded the parchment and slid it across the table to her.

 

 

 

 

Glenda Chittock 

Barnabas Cuffe 

Orsinio Thruston 

Aladair Maddock 

Meaghan McCormack

Xenophilius Lovegood 

Morgana Montgomery 

Merlina Montgomery 

 

Hermione tilted her head. “This isn’t the Hogwarts list.”

“No,” Draco agreed. “I didn’t ask him for it.”

Hermione’s eyes widened. “You didn’t?”

Malfoy looked away, mouth curling irritatedly. “No. I only asked for this one. The Hogwarts names are… they’re my pack. They deserve to tell me themselves. And—the Prophet won’t be printing these names, not yet.”

Her heart stopped for the briefest of moments. “It won’t?”

“No, I… you convinced him, I think. He’s going to run an article on me instead… talk about my research, how I’ve been trying to cure Lycanthropy. They’ll only run articles on the Werewolves who’ve already come out, which will include Maddock, McCormack, and Chittock, who all made statements this morning. And if anyone else wants to reveal themselves to be interviewed, he’s putting an open call at the end of each article.”

Hermione’s heart pounded. She grabbed his hand, crushing his fingers between her own. “Thank you.”

He frowned, but didn’t pull his hand away. “Don’t thank me, I still asked him for this list. I still can’t believe—Kirly Duke’s sister and his band mate. It didn’t quite sink in last night—these are big people, Granger. Important people. You knew and you didn’t say anything until I saw them in my own ballroom. Damn it, Hermione, Potter’s father-in-law is on this list and Lovegood was at my mother’s fucking party last night like she hadn’t a care in the world!”

Hermione glanced down at the list again, feeling that familiar ache of pity at all the names there. She didn’t mind being a Werewolf, but she’d been one for so long now that it made no difference to her—these people were different. They’d had lives and families, unlike Hermione and many of the others who’d been bitten at Hogwarts while they were still students. They’d started their lives and careers dealing with Lycanthropy. But for all these new people, Lycanthropy was a complete upheaval of their lives, and Hermione felt sorry for them. 

“It’s hard to care much about the status of the new Weres when nearly a quarter of our year from Hogwarts has been turned,” she whispered. The list made her so sad, so angry.

Draco heard her, his enhanced hearing making out words from across a table that humans wouldn’t have heard from six inches. “What?” he said.

“Oh no,” Hermione said. They stared at one another. Draco’s eyes narrowed.

“We weren’t the only seventh years who were bitten that night?” He waved a hand, dismissive. “Weasley and Brown excepted, of course.”

Mutely, Hermione shook her head. 

“There were thirty-three students in our year, Hermione. With me, you, Weasley, and Brown, that’s just four. Eight or nine would make twenty-five per cent, depending on how you’re rounding. You’re saying there are at least four others from our year that I don’t know about?”

“That’s right,” Hermione whispered.

Draco stood, shoving his stool back and not caring when it clattered to the floor. He paced. 

“At least four other people,” he said, seemingly to himself. “People I went to school with for six, seven years. People I might still see for the occasional catch-up lunch. They never told me. I never knew.”

“You didn’t want to,” Hermione said. 

He whirled around. “I do now.” 

An interdepartmental crane flew in, landing on top of the cold pancakes left over from Hermione’s lunch. Hermione glared at Draco, turning to unfold the note. “Oh my god… no. No, they can’t!” 

She couldn’t move. Couldn’t react. There was nothing. Nothing.

“What?” he said, stalking over. 

She passed him the note, hands trembling. God, she could cry right now. This was entirely too much stress for a person to be expected to handle. How could they sack her, them, now? They were Unspeakables! They weren’t even under the normal domain of the rest of the Ministry. They weren’t even technically on Ministry payroll!

“They fucking didn’t,” he growled, fingers clenching on the parchment. 

Ron’s note fell to the work table. 

Draco grabbed her and pulled her to him. 

Hermione turned to him and wrapped her arms around his waist. All she could think was that she had given her life to the Werewolf Rights movement, and she’d never complained once. Not once. But right now, the injustice of the Ministry and the Wizengamot’s bigotry was just… it was just too much for her.

She squeezed Draco hard. A normal wizard would’ve bruised, but he just stood there and let her do it, absently raking his fingers through her hair as her hands clenched and unclenched rhythmically against him. Hermione took a deep, steadying breath and stepped back. She would not cry. She would not let this defeat her.

“We need to get all our research,” she said, taking another deep breath. 

Hold it together, Granger. This is your amygdala hijacking your nervous system. Your fight or flight response has been activated. Your sympathetic nervous system is sending blood to your extremities so you can run, but you don’t need to run. You need to think. You’re medically okay, and this is just your body responding to a threat. Redirect it, Granger. You are better than all of them. 

“We need to get the notes from old experiments, the ones we already filed in the administrative office. You start with our lab and I’ll start with the books.” She glanced at the clock above their shared desk. “We don’t have a lot of time. Half an hour before someone realises we’re down here.”

Malfoy nodded. “Shrink it all and we’ll take it back to your flat.”

Hermione worried her lip. “Could we maybe set up in the Manor? I’ve only got my kitchen to brew in.”

“Yeah, of course,” he said. “Yeah—that’s a better idea. Just get everything shrunk and I’ll have a house-elf find a place for it all.”

Hermione nodded. With a sigh, she turned and began, one by one, shrinking every book in their office as fast as she could. She would not cry. They could sack her, but they couldn’t silence her. She was a fucking Alpha Werewolf and she would not break.

Parasympathetic nervous system, parasympathetic nervous system, parasympathetic nervous system. You are more than your amygdala, Granger. 

She could do this.

She just didn’t want to.

Chapter Text

Narcissa was waiting for them when they arrived at the Manor, which Hermione really should’ve started expecting by now. Of course she’d be on high alert after the morning they’d shared.

“I have heard,” Narcissa said, her hands clasped behind her back, her face impassive. “One can never put one’s full trust in their government, no matter how much one pays them. You both had Basilisk eggs in other baskets, I hope?”

“You’re always so nurturing,” Draco grumbled. Clearly, he was still miffed at her. If Hermione was honest with herself, she was, too. But she also knew she needed Narcissa.

At that, Narcissa’s expression flickered and she reached out with one hand, drawing her son in. “Draco,” she murmured, though there was no pretence of it being private—they all knew what they could all hear. “You are stronger than this. Blacks always survive.”

“And Malfoys always win,” he added, voice tight, not looking at her .

Narcissa looked up at him, pleased. “We will win this fight, my love. Have faith.”

“Faith,” Draco enunciated, finally pulling away from what Hermione could  see was a much-needed hug, “is not a Malfoy trait.”

Both his and Narcissa’s mouths quirked up at that, and Hermione forced herself not to roll her eyes. She was already an emotional wreck waiting to happen; she really couldn’t be arsed to listen to Malfoys make jokes about their own surname’s infamous and likely hoaxed origins.

Narcissa sighed, finally relenting the affectionate touch. “Well, let us have an elf deposit your workstations in one of the labs in the east wing. I had Dotty clean it up last week, as it happens, so it’s ready to use.”

Hermione narrowed her eyes. “What prompted that?” She tried to keep her voice light, but she knew she didn’t stand a chance against two born-and-bred Slytherins.

“Oh, nothing really,” Narcissa said, already turning to lead them into the Manor. “I thought I might take up a little hobby experimenting this year, but I really don’t have the time for it, after all.”

“What auspicious timing for us, then,” said Hermione, following her in. 

Narcissa smiled at her over her shoulder as she led Draco in with a hand at his shoulder. “Yes, I do tend to have some lucky strikes now and again. Mother always said I had a knack for divination.”

“Couldn’t have bothered divining the Weasley twins’ arrest, I suppose,” Hermione muttered, knowing very well they could both hear her, even if they both were too well-bred to acknowledge it. She could see the side of Narcissa’s mouth curl up into a smile, though she didn’t turn to look back.

Inside, Doxxy—not Dotty, who was engaged with the garden—popped their shrunken Department of Mysteries office and lab up to Narcissa’s suspiciously-clean and empty lab space in the east wing. Narcissa accompanied them up the grand staircase, her steps graceful and at-ease, despite this first day of the year turning out to be extremely shit, if Hermione were to be asked.

“Perhaps this a blessing in disguise,” Narcissa was saying. “Why waste so much talent brewing for the Ministry when you could open your own apothecary together? I would be happy to set aside some seed funding in our annual household budget—”

“You’re very blasé about this, Mum,” Draco observed as they ascended. “Considering two of our pack are in Ministry holding cells and several more of us have just been sacked, including the daughter of the hag who got us into this mess.”

“Don’t use ‘hag’ as a slur, Draco,” Hermione said. Hattie has always been nothing but kind to her.

Narcissa paused before answering. “We always survive,” she repeated, this time a low growl in her voice.

Hermione blinked, alarm bells not exactly ringing, but definitely tickling at her ears. She felt as fragile as glass, every footfall onto the velvet carpeted grand staircase a shaky declaration of her continued effort to survive. She’d never felt her oppression so deep in her bones. Her parents had raised her with strength and she’d embraced it, but now… now she was unmoored, with only her work-required Occlumency shields keeping her together.

With each step, she slid another piece of determination into place in her mind palace, hiding strength into the shelves of her mental Hogwarts Library. She opened a book on Buddhism and added a bookmark for suffering well. She walked quietly down the aisle where the adventure fictions were kept and placed a piece of courage between two middle-grade fantasies she’d loved before Hogwarts. She moved to the empty circulation desk and placed a pamphlet on persistence. Bit by bit, as she’d done so many times this decade, Hermione faked it in her mind palace so she could make it outside of it.

By the time the three of them reached the top of the Malfoys’ main staircase, she was human again.

Human and Werewolf. And all the stronger for it.

“I’ve retained Mrs Parkinson as council, of course,” Narcissa was saying to Draco, though Hermione already knew. She guided them into the east wing, down a corridor unused since before the war, if Draco was to be believed. “She was more enthusiastic than expected.” 

“It isn’t hard to be more enthusiastic about something when her normal level of enthusiasm for anything is zero,” Draco observed.

“Perhaps,” Narcissa agreed, “but I didn’t have to pay the bribery fee, so there is that.”

“Ah.”

“Do you think… will the twins get out of this, Narcissa?” Hermione asked, suddenly unable to help herself. 

Narcissa paused in a doorway, her hand resting gracefully over a brass knob. “Hermione, my dear,” she said. “There is very little that the Malfoys’ money can’t do. But even if—when—the Weasley boys are released, this fire will not die down. The flames are soon to rage, and much like Fiendfyre, it will be a conflagration impossible to keep control of; we must flow with it rather than attempt to command it. Mark my words, things are about to change.”

And that, of course, was both what Hermione had worked for, and what she feared.

 

 

 🌕 🌕 🌕



They Apparated to Weasley’s flat after their hasty flight from the office they’d shared together for five sodding years and dropping said lab off twelve doors down from Draco’s childhood—and, unfortunately, adult—bedroom. Draco had hated a lot of people in his life to a great degree, but he’d never hated anyone as much as he did the Wizengamot in the moment he read Weasley’s note to Hermione. 

Weasley was there waiting for them, his two sometimes-girlfriends curled up together on one end of his couch, smudged mascara running down Lavender’s face and an angry, bloodless look on Nymphadora’s. Hermione went to them right away, and Draco watched as they turned to her, moving apart to let her sit between them and then curling back around her as if just being near her brought them comfort. 

That’s the purpose of an Alpha, Draco thought then, somewhat surprised with himself. She’s amazing at it.

“Beer?” Weasley asked him. Draco turned to him, nodding. Weasley’s voice was emotionless and his face was, too.

“Where’s Potter?” he asked.

Weasley shrugged, stepping around Draco to flop down in the tatty old armchair positioned in front of the Muggle telly. He Summoned a beer for Draco with unusual carelessness. “He’s not a Werewolf,” Weasley said. “He’s still got a job.”

At this, Lavender Brown burst into a fresh set of tears. Draco frowned, uncomfortable, as it turned out, with witches crying who weren’t Hermione or his own mother.

“What are they thinking?” Hermione growled. “You lot are three of their best Aurors.”

Weasley gave her a sardonic look. “And you two aren’t two of their best ‘contracted potions consultants?’” he said.

“Everyone knows they’re Unspeakables,” Draco’s cousin Nymphadora said, not looking up from the un-drunk beer in her hands. 

Were Unspeakables,” said Draco. He took a seat on the unoccupied end of the couch, his thighs pressing up against Lavender’s bare feet. “Now we’re—what was it you called it, Weasley?”

Weasley took a pull on his beer. “‘Indefinitely suspended, pending the Wizengamot’s decision on the legality of Werewolves holding employment within the Ministry.’

“Fucking crupshit,” Tonks said. “I’ve been an Auror for eleven years. Four of them before I was infected!”

Just be grateful they aren’t convening to vote on legislation on the legality of Werewolves having custody of children, Draco thought. His little cousin Teddy had had enough upheaval in his life. Draco was wise enough not to say it, given the atmosphere, and just sipped at his beer instead. 

“Up for a few moves?” Weasley asked him, head lolling against the armchair in Draco’s general direction.

“Yeah, guess so,” Draco said. Weasley summoned the chessboard, setting it floating between them. He tossed his long legs over one arm of the couch and leaned his elbows over the side closest to the chessboard. 

“Was your move when we last played,” Weasley said, eyes on the board, but still, somehow, far away.

Draco nodded. He took a few minutes to re-familiarise himself with the board. They’d been playing this same game now for two years, chasing each other around the board with a few moves here and a few moves there; neither of them were able to corner the other and it annoyed Draco to no end. This was their two-out-of-three game to see who was really the master chess player, although Draco didn’t think either of their hearts were in it today. Draco had won their first game, two years and six months after they started it, and Weasley had won the second, a year and five months after that.

Draco decided on a course of action and flicked his wand, directing his piece to move. 

Sometime later, the floo flashed to life, and Potter stepped out, looking shattered. 

“Mate,” he whispered, seeing Weasley. Weasley stared blankly back at him. Potter’s gaze travelled to Hermione, and Draco could see his throat bobbing as he swallowed. Draco followed his gaze and watched a dozen emotions flicker over Hermione’s face.

“Just say it,” Weasley said.

Potter stared. “Wizengamot’s looking to make them an example case.”

Weasley looked away. Draco didn’t think he’d ever heard the sound Hermione made before. “When’s the trial?” asked Weasley.

“Monday.”

“That’s hardly enough time for them to prepare a decent defence!” Hermione said. Even with Pansy’s mum on the case.

Potter gave her a look. “That’s the point, Hermione. You know that.”

She choked, looking away. “I know,” she said. “It’s horrid. Horrid. Are we allowed in the courtroom or are we banned from that, too?”

“No Lycanthropes allowed in Ministry buildings until ‘appropriate safety measures’ can be implemented,” Harry said, as if reciting something he’d been told a dozen times that day. 

“Fuck my mother,” Draco growled. “She insisted Yaxley come to that fucking gala.”

“Why?” Tonks asked.

Draco shrugged. He could only guess what went on in Narcissa’s head. No one told him anything. “She thought it would work to our advantage having the Head Auror there. She knew something would happen, but she thought it would be an attack against a Werewolf, not an attack against a human.”

“That was shit planning on her part,” Potter said. He sighed, slumping down on the floor before the fire. “And we knew it. Although I did agree to give Yaxley the invitation.”

“I just don’t understand how she didn’t know it,” Draco said. Narcissa never fucked it this badly. All the poor decisions in his family had always come from him or his father, with Narcissa the one fixing it all when they failed to.

Hermione gave him a sympathetic look, but she seemed just as frustrated by the strangeness of it. What were they missing? Did she have some ultimate goal that required their worlds all go up in flames first? He’d never taken his mother for a nihilist, but he was starting to reconsider.

“What are we going to do?” Lavender asked. She was still wearing her scarlet Auror robes and the scars on her cheek from her infection stood out starkly against her face, blotchy from crying. Draco had no fucking idea about that, either. He turned back to the chessboard, surveying the game.

“We need Marietta to stand with us,” Hermione said suddenly. “Narcissa said she was still resting in a guest room when we stopped over to drop off our work. Apparently, she hasn’t come out all day. If Marietta stands with us, it could sway the tide.”

Draco gave her a look. “I think I’ve had enough of Edgecombe. It was her harpy mother that started all this.”
 Hermione scowled at him. “She isn’t her mother, Draco.”

“What’s Marietta got to do with anything?” Weasley asked.

“She was well liked at the Ministry… and Percy’s long-time girlfriend,” said Hermione. “He’s got enough respect among the Wizengamot, and being his girlfriend should be helpful.”

“And her mother’s a bitch,” Weasley added, rolling his eyes. 

Hermione gave him a hard stare. He ducked his head. “Her mother’s the Floo Network Regulator,” Hermione said. “And because of her mother, Marietta’s out of a job. Madam Edgecombe might be able to help if she walks back some of what she said… and she might be willing to now she’s seen how it’s affecting Marietta, too.”

“Marietta worked in Transportation,” Tonks added. “Apparation licenser. She was nice. Quiet, though.”

“Or perhaps now Marietta’s going to have split loyalties,” Draco said, seeing Hermione’s point. “She didn’t seem to have a lot of backbone. Doesn’t take much to make someone believe they deserve to be treated horribly. I’d wager her mother’s done just that to her over the years. Maybe you just want to get to her first and use that to your advantage.” 

Hermione scowled at him. She hated when he said aloud the ethically questionable things she thought. 

“She’s our pack,” Hermione insisted.

“Yeah,” Draco said. “And who else? Don’t the rest of them matter?” 

No one answered him. Even Potter looked away. So, even the non-Werewolf knew who was in it. Draco smiled slowly. Well, they’d just see about that. They hadn’t seen anything like him when he was bored and angry, and now that he was ‘indefinitely suspended’ and just waiting for the Wizengamot to declare it illegal for him to even exist, he had nothing but time.

It was the first of January. Wasn’t even a business day, but the Wizengamot had felt it their duty to act swiftly. Didn’t even get severance. Draco looked around the room, at the assorted members of his pack, and Potter, who might as well be, and thought, ‘You know what… fuck this. I’m done with this.’ For the first time in years, he had a New Year’s resolution. Find his fucking pack, and reclaim his goddamned life.

 

🌕 🌕 🌕

 

Harry had always thought himself a man capable of making the most out of a shit hand. Sometimes, he lucked out and drew a straight, but most of the time he was bluffing through a pair of twos. 

Living through the war with Voldemort, and Ron and Hermione living through it too, was a royal flush. The two of them getting turned into Werewolves—and him not—was less so. Over the near-decade that he’d watched his two best friends suffer through a painful monthly transformation that they would never be free of, knowing there was fuck-all he could do to help them, knowing he was worse than useless… that he was the pitying extended family who didn’t quite understand what they were going through but kept trying to bring them fruit baskets and casseroles like he could fucking relate… well, it blew, frankly. 

And now his father-in-law—his father-in-law who’d started a decline when his wife died and accelerated it when Luna was kidnapped during the war, and then couldn’t quite hit the breaks on it afterwards—now his father-in-law was infected. It had taken three years for Harry to see beneath the shell of ‘batshit crazy’ in Xenophilius to understand just why Luna adored him so. But now, Harry knew him, and Harry loved him, and Harry couldn’t bear to watch him suffer, too.

There had to be something he could do.

There was nothing he could do.

And so, he returned to his roots. Harry turned over his hand, without even a high card in it, and set his face for the game he was going to have to play through. He looked out into the sea of irrational faces of his community, saw their terror and their ignorance and their, against all fucking odds, reverence of him still after all these goddamned years, and he knew exactly what to do.

He sat down at his desk in his office that afternoon and he dipped a quill in the migraine-inducing ink Luna used to send thank-you cards to people who called her loony.

He no longer had Hedwig. He’d never replace her. But Luna kept a barn owl that sometimes reminded Harry of her when he watched it wing away. He wrote out his advert, signed the Gringott’s bank draft form for the printing fee, and attached it to the owl’s leg. It took off, making straight for the Prophet’s office, and more specifically, to Barnabas Cuffe.

That evening, there was a special edition Prophet. Harry unfolded his paper with grim satisfaction. For the first time, he was grateful to see himself smiling back at him from the front page. Above the fold, even.

For the first time, Harry knew he’d used his fame to the best of his ability.

For the first time, Harry wanted the attention he was about to attract.

 

Sr Auror Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived, offers 2,000 galleon reward and judicial immunity to anyone who can successfully turn him into a Werewolf!

 

And right below it, a special interview with Malfoy, followed up with  interviews from all eight of the new Werewolves—all of whom had, apparently willingly contributed once Hermione wore Cuffe down from exposing them involuntarily. Harry smiled, though it wasn’t kind. Cuffe himself was a right prick, Werewolf or not. Outing himself to a ravenous public or not.

Luna came up behind him, her pale, long-fingered hands coming to rest on his shoulders. He let his head fall back against her stomach, closed his eyes as she began to work through the knots in his shoulders.

“Ah, a special edition,” Luna said. And a moment later. “Daddy looks handsome there, doesn’t he? Perhaps the biography will lead to more Quibbler subscriptions.”

“We can hope,” Harry said, voice gruffer than intended.

“I see you’ve put in an advert to be infected with a curse that will turn you into a mindless beast once a month,” Luna observed.

“I have,” he admitted quietly, not opening his eyes. 

“Do you think anyone will take you up on It?”

He shrugged. Though the movement was awkward, she didn’t stop massaging his shoulders. “Will you be cross with me if they do?” he asked.

She hummed, thoughtful. “Well, it will require pre-planning childcare on full moons when I need to travel, but I’m sure Molly or Andy would be willing to help.”

“I’m not even sure it’ll work,” he said. 

“If it does, we will adapt,” said Luna. 

“Speaking of childcare,” Harry said after a moment, “where’s Ten? I thought she didn’t have drum class this afternoon.”

“No, not today. I sent her over to Daddy’s when you came home with wrackspurts zipping all around you like some wizard tornado. I’m about to floo over shortly to pick her up.”

Harry hummed in response. Luna continued working her fingers into his shoulders, the silence stretching long and easy between them. It was a long time later before she spoke. 

“I’ll take them down, Werewolf or not,” Harry said. “If this doesn’t work, I’ll try the next.”

Luna’s fingers stilled on his shoulders.“Fuck them all,” she said, her voice delightfully pleasant. Her fingers moved into his hair, her nails scraping lightly at his scalp. She bent down, her breath ghosting against his ear, as she added, “And may Circe strike down every last member of that governing body.”

Harry cracked one eye open to look over at her. Her pupils were dark and wide. She could’ve been discussing nargle weather for as relaxed as she looked—all save for her eyes. She’d always been able to balance his anxieties with her own calm, and to match his anger with her own, both of them capable of funnelling it into strength. 

People had sometimes overestimated him. They always underestimated her.

He grinned, with all his teeth. “Would you like to see how beastly I can be during the rest of the month?”

Luna smiled serenely, straightened, and began towards their bedroom. Harry hurried to follow.

Fuck them all.

Chapter Text

Draco pulled the chair out, its feet dragging across the stone floor, and sat. He crossed his arms over his chest and stared at the men seated across from him. They stared back. Draco raised an eyebrow.

“Come on, Malfoy,” said Twin One. It was Fred. Draco could tell now that he thought about it. Fred’s Werewolf scent smelled...older. 

George continued, “We’re busy men. We don’t have time to waggle eyebrows at you.”

“No, I suppose not,” Draco said. He leaned forward, propping his elbows on the table. “I am, of course, at your leisure. I understand that running a business from a Ministry holding cell can be time-consuming.”

“It’s the paperwork,” George agreed.

“Takes so long to get it out the door,” Fred added. “All those signatures.”

“Mmm,” said Draco. “Yes, I imagine so. Little brother Weasley can’t help you there now, though, can he? Your stupid stunt’s got him sacked.”

The twins scowled identically. “Why are you here, Malfoy?”

Draco leaned back. “I’ve been thinking,” he said. “And it occurred to me that anything that involved the two of you is never so simple as you’d like for people to believe.”

They stared at him, saying nothing. Draco fought a smile. He’d always liked these two wankers. They were sneaky and Draco appreciated how vicious they could get with their pranks. Draco said, “I don’t think either of you are stupid enough to try to bite a Ministry worker in full view of the Head Auror. That’s not the Weasley Gits we all know and love.”

George rolled his eyes. “Get to the point, Malfoy.”

“Just doing a little Alpha-ing,” Draco said, shrugging. “Trying to get to the bottom of this little mystery so my two pack members don’t see the inside of an Azkaban cell and their wanky brother doesn’t keep drinking all my beer and cuddling with his girlfriends on Hermione’s sofa. I’ve grown tired of the scent of his arousal in my personal space.”

“Hermione’s flat’s your personal space now, is it?” Fred said, leering. 

“Thought I smelled a little fun on the two of you.”

Draco rolled his eyes. “I appreciate your attention to detail, but I’m afraid my sex life, as always, remains none of your concern.”

“So there is a sex life,” George surmised. “That’s good. For a while, you smelled like pent-up frustration and that lemon-verbena hand lotion your mum favours.”

Draco smirked, leaning forward. He knew they knew something. “Very well acquainted with my mum’s hand lotion?”

They glanced at each other. It was a very speaking look, even if he weren’t convinced that these two idiots had somehow developed some version of twin-Legilimancy. Fred looked back at Draco first. “Can we trust you?”

Draco sat back, scowling. “I’m your Alpha, of course you can.”

Both twins rolled their eyes, one after the other, like a round-robin. “Since when? You might be the strongest magical male in the pack—or really, the strongest male who gives a fuck about status—but your idea of Alpha-ing is not very… hands on.”

“It is now.”

“Wasn’t when we were trying to get the Registry abolished,” said George.

“Wasn’t when we were making rounds after the war, convincing all the other terrified, hidden Werewolves on that St Mungo’s list to trust us long enough to accept Wolfsbane,” said Fred.

“I was a new Werewolf then, too,” Draco said, eyes narrowed. “I didn’t even know what the fuck to do with myself.”

George rolled his eyes. “I was even younger than you. You have two whole moons on me.”

“And thus we come full circle,” Draco said, shifting his eyes to that twin. “I want to know why the fuck you let your idiot brother bite you.”

“He didn’t bite me,” George said. “I cut my palm and he licked it. Lycanthropy doesn’t require a bite, just saliva to the vascular system.”

“But why?” Draco asked, propping his chin on his hand.

“Because he’s my twin, Gitfoy. Why the fuck do you think?” George said.

Weasleys, Draco thought. He leaned back again, crossing his arms over his chest. “Alright then. How long have you two been working with my mother?”

He could see the exact moment when they caught on to just how far ahead of them he was. He smirked. Who was the strongest male in the pack, again? he preened to himself. It was laughable that they could even imply that he might not be best suited for Alpha. 

Their eyes narrowed identically. “We want our lawyer.”

Draco waved his hand and the door opened. Pansy’s mum came in, taking the seat next to Draco at the table. “As you wish, my dearest Weasleys,” said Draco. “Mrs Parkinson has been diligently working to repair the fuck-tonne of damage you two have caused while preventing further fuck-ups.”

“Yeah, we know,” said George. 

“Thanks, Parky,” said Fred. 

They were both eyeing her as if annoyed that Draco had managed to retrieve her so quickly, thus keeping the conversation going. He might not’ve given a fuck what happened to these particular Weasleys before—there would always be an embarrassing, uncomfortable place in his head where he allowed himself to admit that Ron was a good chess-playing, Quidditch-watching, and beer-drinking partner—but he was certainly beginning to. Especially if said Weasleys were likely to cause trouble for him again. Which, on reflection, they probably were. 

Mrs Parkinson lifted an eyebrow. She had a Quick Quotes Quill set to transcribe the conversation. Draco would, of course, have her burn it afterwards. Nothing he was planning to ask today was likely to be anything he wanted relayed to the Wizengamot. 

“Of course, darlings,” she said, voice as icy-posh as Pansy’s ever was.

“Now,” said Draco. “You’ve got your lawyer and I’ve got a dinner date with Hermione. We’ve got a lot of time on our hands these days, thanks to you morons.”

“Happy to oblige,” said Fred.

“Tell me how many people knew that George was not bitten the night of the final battle,” said Draco, before said twin could cascade a snappy comment off his brother’s.

“Probably everyone in our pack,” said George. He shrugged. “My scent’s not as strong as Fred’s. It’s two months less-smelling.”

Draco dearly despised the nonsensical and often grammatically incorrect terminology developed by the lycanthrope community. Mrs Parkinson was wrinkling her forehead, waiting for someone to define ‘less-smelling’ to her, but Draco had no intention of bothering. He knew what less-smelling meant. He understood it in that instinctual way. 

“Yeah, you do, but I didn’t notice it until I was looking for it.”

“That’s just because you’re a stuck-up prig,” said Fred. 

“And oblivious,” George added.

“Not oblivious,” said Draco. “Just didn’t give a fuck what you two got up to. Mea culpa,” he added sarcastically.

They rolled their eyes.

“All this hostility,” said Draco, studying them. “We’ve got on well enough for the past five or six years. Why now?”

“Now you’re trying to come in and bite our muzzles when you’ve not ever bothered to give a shit before. We don’t take chastisement from absent leaders.”

“I gave a shit before,” Draco said, finally starting to get angry. “Just because I wasn’t out there passing out meat pies to the fucking poor doesn’t mean I wasn’t trying to help. Who do you think’s brewed your Wolfsbane for the past five years? Me and Granger, every fucking month. And you think I just sit around in my parents’ manor and read trashy novels all day? That’s a fucking laugh. I work every day—or rather, did work, until you arseholes got me and Granger sacked. And what do I do when I’m working? Research Merlin-fucking cures for our Merlin-fucking disease.”

They looked at each other again, then back to him. “You’re an Unspeakable?”

Draco rearranged his expression to one more neutral. No one but Potter and his side-kick knew about him and Hermione. Not even his own parents, not even the Minister. He glanced side-ways at Mrs Parkinson, who was doing an excellent job of not gaping at him, though she looked very much like she wanted to.

Draco snatched the Quick Quotes Quill and snapped it. “I’ll buy you another,” he said. “Burn those notes.”

She pursed her lips, but did as he asked. 

“I require your assistance writing my will,” Draco said to her. 

“Oh, really, Draco, I’m not going to divulge—”

He interrupted Parkinson. “I demand attorney-client confidentiality. You will write my will.”

“Fine,” she said. “Attorney-client confidentiality, you have it.” There was a brief tightening around his chest as the oath went into effect.

“Who told you that?” said Draco, returning to his fucking useless packmates.

“Don’t give us that,” said George.

“We aren’t stupid,” said Fred. “Who else is going to sponsor Lycanthropy cure research?”

“No one anymore, thanks to you.”

“Fuck off, Malfoy,” said Fred. “We were doing what was best for the pack.”

Who told you that it was best for the pack?” Draco pressed.

They pressed their lips together, identically. Draco turned to Parkinson and waved his hand in a way as to suggest ‘you do something.’ She frowned at him, turned to the Weasley twins. “Gentlemen, I cannot advise you in this matter. You know better than I as to the nature of Alpha-pack bonds. There are no surveillance spells in this room, so what you divulge depends on your level of trust for your Alpha.”

They looked at one another, and Draco sat back in his chair, waiting. They weren’t stupid. He might not have always acted like one in public, but no one in their pack was under the delusion that Draco wasn’t Alpha. There was indeed an instinctive bond there. He couldn’t intentionally harm his packmates without equally harming himself. It was in their best interests to help him help them, but he would let them have a moment to suck up their Gryffindor pride and acquiesce. 

Finally, they sighed and turned back to him.

“Your mother,” they said.

Draco barely refrained from visibly reacting. “My mother,” he repeated carefully. They continued to look at him. “She told you to attack Madam Edgecombe?”

“Loki, no,” Fred said, reeling back. “I did that to protect my brother. She told us to incite a riot.”

 

🌕 🌕 🌕

 

His dinner date with Hermione was, of course, on her sofa in front of her television. 

“I picked up fish and chips,” he said when he got there.

“No peas, right?”

“No peas,” he agreed. 

She nodded and made room for him on the sofa next to her. She was already in her pyjamas, but it was the scandalously barely-there pyjamas she wore when she was over-heated from, he suspected, ovulation. It smelled like it anyway—he was getting turned on just being in the room with her. Merlin, how had he gone so long without nosing at her crotch every time she smelled like she was in heat?

Now that he’d slept with her, he was so finely attuned to her scents that he found himself getting a hard on from a single inhalation. It was debasing and aggravating and Draco didn’t care.

She noticed his pause in the doorway. Her eyes flicked down to his crotch and then back up to his face. She smirked. “Something you like?”

“Don’t,” he groaned, finally manning up enough to approach the sofa. “I’m not an animal.”

She shrugged. “Neither am I, but I still turn into one once a month. Your wolf instincts aren’t anything to be ashamed of.”

“Says you,” Draco muttered, passing her a newspaper cone of fish and chips. 

She bit into the fish right away, thumbing through channels on the television before stopping at a documentary on the Muggle Queen of England. “I’m usually right. Just ask Harry and Ron.”

He leant back on the sofa and rolled his neck to study her better. The moonlight caught off her nose, lining her profile in a white glow, and Draco thought, in that moment, that she looked like a goddess. Like Ishtar who she prayed to or screamed at when things went poorly. He thought he could watch Hermione descend into Hell, like Ishtar did, and he’d follow her willingly; he’d tear the throats from any who tried to harm her, and he’d bring her back to Life a wolf.

“How did the rest of your day go?” he asked instead.

She took a bite of fish, shrugging. Her eyes glowed blue from the telly as some old interview with the Muggle Queen was displayed and Draco struggled to understand what the Royal We was saying. “Bought the ingredients for this month’s batch of Wolfsbane and tried to talk to Marietta, but she said she wasn’t up to it. I guess I’ll try again tomorrow. If she’s still not up for it, I’ll probably have to bury my eternally burning rage and hatred for her mother and go speak to her parents. Her dad’s got some Wizengamot connection, too, so that might be useful.” 

Draco grimaced. He’d rather remain a Werewolf forever than spend a single tea time with either of Edgecombe’s bougie parents. He was no stranger to inbreeding—Merlin knew his mother’s side was ripe with it—but the Edgecombe’s were hardly better and exponentially more vocal about it. Marietta’s own parents had been second-cousins, and were now divorced, so not only were they of diminished means, they were inbred with diminished means they had to split in a divorce. Draco could find few things more appalling, and he’d once woken up to Potter drooling on his face and snoring in his ear with beer breath.

“So you took a day off,” he summarised.

She grinned at him. “Yeah, I suppose it was a bit of a light day for me.” Her smile dissolved, her eyes going troubled. “What do we do next, Draco? Should we still hold the New Moon Charity Festival? I put up all the fliers weeks ago and all the new Weres have agreed to sign autographs with paw prints for the kids. Flora Fortescue’s even donating fifty sundaes and some ice cream floats that howl when you sip them.”

Draco, had he been asked, would’ve said he hadn’t liked the idea one bit since the moment Hermione picked up the flyers from Voclain’s print shop. He had not been asked. “You know I think we should lie low,” he told her.

She studied his face, looking for some hidden meaning in his words, but she didn’t have to look. He would follow her into Hell, and he knew his expression showed it.

Hesitantly, she said, “And you know I think we shouldn’t give them the satisfaction.”

“You always were a Gryffindor,” Draco said, sliding his hand over to trace along her curled up leg. “More recklessness than sense.”

“I have plenty of sense,” Hermione said, leaning in. Her lips brushed against his as she looked up at him with her big, dark eyes. “Lots of it.”

He tilted his head, his breath coming faster. “Then let’s hope you can get us out of this disaster you’re about to drag us into.” And he pulled her in, falling back against her sofa, her hair curtaining around them as they kissed. He held tight to her waist as she undulated against him, quietly driving him insane. He dug his fingers into her back and she arched up, exposing her neck to him; he couldn’t help leaning up and nipping at it. Hermione shuddered and then dove back in to nip his own, taking it forcefully and dragging her teeth along his skin. 

Draco clenched his eyes as he rocked up against her, his breaths coming in fast, humid pants against her hair. He could spend the rest of his life like this, and he’d never complain. He could die choking on her hair and decide it a good death.

Hermione reared up to pull at his buttons, no doubt losing several in the process; no matter, they were only mother-of-pearl; he could replace them. She raked her fingernails down his chest after exposing him, her mouth turning up into a feral little grin, her canines teasing at her lower lip as she glanced up to meet his eyes. Draco couldn’t help the growl that escaped him as he rolled them over, landing with a thump atop her on her hideous shag rug. 

She let out an ‘oof’ but he knew she wasn’t hurt; Werewolves were made of tougher stuff and she wouldn’t even bruise from that small fall. Draco tossed his ruined shirt aside and bent down to lick her neck again, descending slowly until he could grab the collar of her blouse and tear it from her with his teeth alone. She mewled more like a cat than a wolf as the cold January draught ghosted over her skin. Draco continued down, popping her jeans buttons with his mouth and pulling those down as well, and when he’d undressed her, he moved upward again, slowly, his tongue marking the way like a Finding Spell. 

Her thighs quivered beneath his mouth. He gentled her with his palms, sliding them in long, slow strokes up and down her legs, as he teased at the edge of her knickers with his tongue. She was definitely in heat, but he was a gentleman and he wouldn’t comment on it. 

He’d just eat her raw until she came against his face all night. 

Draco tugged at her knickers until they ripped free, and then settled in to do just that.

 

🌕 🌕 🌕

 

Being unemployed wasn’t as bad as he’d feared. He had a lot time to catch up on reading, a lot of time to try out Brazilian steakhouses in Muggle cities, a lot of time to brew and continue testing the chlorocyte hypothesis they’d begun at the Department.

A lot of time for sex. A lot of time for that.

He and Hermione had even spent a few evenings having dinner with her Muggle parents, who appeared genuinely delighted that she finally had ‘a few days off.’ Draco’d come to enjoy watching the rugby championship matches with Wendell, truth be told. If magical people had taken the time to develop a sport of only Beaters, it would probably have been a bigger hit than Quidditch.

But one night, only a week before the full moon on the thirtieth of January, they Apparated home from dinner at Hermione’s Muggles’ to find the door broken in. They pulled their wands as they put their backs to one another, scanning for intruders with both nose and eyes. The flat was in shambles; the telly screen shattered, the windows broken, a whole flat of expensive seedlings she’d started for her guerrilla gardening upended on the sofa. Their specialist, industrial-grade copper cauldrons had been filled with chlorine and hydrochloric acid, causing devastating, irreparable damage and filling the air with dangerous fumes. They cast Bubblehead charms, but not before the overpowering smell, even stronger to their Were noses, made Hermione sag against his back and Draco clutch his head in agony.

They cleaned up, and Hermione cried, and they went to stay at the Manor for the time being, until Potter and Weasley could be convinced her flat was secure enough to re-enter, which they hadn’t yet. Draco hadn’t seen Potter so furious since the final battle at Hogwarts.

Nor had he seen her cry since the night they were bitten. 

But she persisted in the idea that the Werewolf block party, or whatever she’d called it on the flyer, would change hearts and minds. 

‘They just need to see who we are,’ Hermione would say, at any hour of the day, often seemingly to herself. And Draco could only watch as she retreated into herself at odd times, and then at others seemed to be almost forcefully optimistic. He bought them new cauldrons and her a new indoor greenhouse, and they continued to brew Wolfsbane in the suspiciously spare lab his mother prepared for them on the first of the month.

But it was only a matter of a week before Potter’s advert in The Prophet paid off, and he received an owl with a vial.

Chapter Text

“Harry, you can’t take this,” Hermione insisted for the millionth, maybe zillionth time. She turned, pacing back and forth before the Lovegood-Potters’ fireplace while Portentia played with a secondhand Peppa Pig dollhouse on the floor. Draco sat desultorily next to her, trying to fit Daddy Pig through the poorly-designed front door, as Ten wouldn’t allow him to enter through the entire open side of the house. Luna hummed while knitting a scarf in a green so neon it was giving Hermione a headache, but then again, she was having a lot of headaches these days. 

When he said nothing, Hermione narrowed her eyes at her oldest, dearest, most infuriating friend. 

Harry gave her one of his signature sheepish-yet-I’m-still-doing-it shrugs. “I’m afraid that I am, Herm.”

“Don’t Herm me, Harry Potter,” she growled, spinning back to Luna and her knitting. If possible, the yarn had become even more fluorescent. “And you’re seriously going to let him just inject an unknown substance into his body, Luna?”

“You’re welcome to test it, Hermione,” Luna said, pausing to count her stitches. “Harry’s already run it by the lab boys down at Level Two.”

“Oh, if the lab boys say it’s okay it must be fine,” Draco snarked beneath his breath, though Hermione heard him quite well as she was a Werewolf, thank you, and, frankly, fucking agreed.

She whirled around, extending an arm towards Draco and saying, “See? He agrees with me! And who’s got the Potions Mastery here? Certainly not the lab boys.”

“What did he say?” Luna asked, with unforeseen interest. 

Hermione gave her a dour look, something she’d really tried hard over the years to break herself of. She and Luna were friends these days, and she’d come to appreciate Luna’s particular personality of exceptional open-mindedness bordering on conspiracy, and yet, there were times…

“He said the Auror Department only requires an E in Potions to become a lab boy and so one can’t help but wonder, why in the ever-loving-fuck are you going to let them tell you if this vial is safe to inject?!”

“To be fair, if it is Lycanthropy,” Luna said, “it’s hardly safe to begin with.”

Harry gestured to Luna. “She’s got a point.”

“And you’re fine with Harry becoming a Werewolf just because he feels left out,” Hermione said, anger making her vicious. Harry flinched, but Hermione ignored him; sometimes he needed to have the real world shoved in front of his eyes where he couldn’t ignore it, or he’d let his emotions drive him over a ledge of rash decisions.

Luna looked up at her, her eyes clear in the way they so rarely were. “I think it would be sexy. Perhaps it will invigorate our already vigorous sex life. I’ve already sent off for some leather restraints. And anyway,” she added, picking up her knitting again, “who else is going to fight the Heliopath Revolution?”

“Next she’ll bring up chemtrails,” Draco muttered, finally getting Daddy Pig through the door.

“You’ve been watching too many documentaries with me,” Hermione said to him, unimpressed. She fell back onto her unoccupied chair, her cold, un-drunk tea still sat hovering next to her, where she’d left it when Harry brought the vial out. Then: “Have you even told Ron?”

Harry’s flat look told her everything she needed to know. She threw her hands up in the air, as if that ever helped anything. “At least let us test it, Harry,” she said. “Please. You have no idea who sent this to you. It could be anything.”

“It’s definitely got Lycanthropy virus in it,” said Harry. “The boys in the lab confirmed it.”

“But what else does it have?” Hermione asked him. 

Harry huffed, leaning back and crossing his arms over his chest. “I’ll let you take half of it,” he said. “But I’m keeping the other half just in case, and whether you owl or not, I’m going to inject it tomorrow at lunch.”

Hermione put her head in her hands, feeling suddenly too old for her body. “Even if it works, and there’s nothing else in it,” she said against her own fingers, “are you sure this is the life you want? After everything that’s happened to you, everything that’s happening to us—to me—because of Lycanthropy… this is what you want for your family? You’re going to lose your job. There will be political, social, and economic backlash against you for years. Maybe forever.”

There was a heavily silence, during which Hermione dared look up, only to find Harry and Luna engaged in a voiceless dialogue. After a moment, Harry’s eyes hardened and he nodded. He turned back to Hermione. “We’re sure. So test the damn vial and I’ll make you a full English in the morning.” 

 

🌕 🌕 🌕

“I can’t match it to anything in any reference book we’ve got in the Manor,” Draco said as he rounded the door to the east wing lab. He tossed an original, post-classical monograph on blood humours on the spare Chippendale Camelback Mother’d had Doxxy retrieve from the attics for them to use for rest during brewing. He’d never been fond of the upholstery but wasn’t fussed enough over it to do anything about it, since it was just a lab sofa. 

Hermione looked up from her stool by the middle workstation. Her eyes were lined in purple, as they usually were these days, but it was going four in the morning now and they were both running on steam, even for Werewolves. 

Mother’d been by twice already, asking if they needed help, but she never slept to begin with. He’d always suspected she had Veela blood, as they were known for needing very little sleep, but he wasn’t stupid enough to ask after it since it obviously didn’t get passed down. 

“Nothing in the books from the Department, either,” she admitted.

They stared at one another for a long time; her lower lip began to wobble a bit in that way meant she wasn’t going to cry, but she really should for her own mental health.

Draco sighed and shut the door behind him. He rounded the workstation and put an arm around her shoulder. She leant into his chest, sighing heavily. 

“He’s going to take it anyway,” she whispered. 

“Yep,” Draco said, staring at the wall in front of him. Why in Merlin’s name Mother had left an original Rembrandt in a room full of potentially toxic, and certainly abrasive, fumes, he would never understand. Was it middle-class to be concerned about interactions with hundreds-of-years-old, priceless paint? Did he care? 

He should move the painting. 

At least put up a protective barrier—it was a nice painting, really: a commissioned piece of the the-Lady Malfoy, Marie du Chaudron, who’d discovered how to brew previously impossible healing potions by coating copper cauldrons in inert silver, thereby making it possible to cure everything from heavy metal poisoning to, eventually, Dragon Pox. And, of course, she’d brought immense wealth to the Malfoy family, though they’d come close to bankruptcy while she was still perfecting the cauldrons; silver had never been cheap. 

They still had, and used, some of her own personal cauldrons at the Manor, though the Malfoys had long licensed the rights to production to distributors and manufacturers worldwide. If she were alive today, she’d be very disappointed that Draco hadn’t solved his own era’s dilemma. She’d be very disappointed Draco couldn’t even use her ingenious silver-coated cauldrons without Dragonhide gloves on, too.

“What do we do?” Hermione asked.

Draco considered his great, great, et cetera, grandmother. She’d been a Potions Mistress in her own right, and an inventor on top. Her portrait couldn’t speak—it was painted before the magic had been discovered—but she still had eyes that looked right into him. What would she’ve done when faced with a challenge like this?

She wouldn’t have let personal pain prevent her from solving a problem.

Slowly, Draco grinned.

“Transfer it to a silver flask,” he said, inspired. 

Hermione pulled away from him, and when he looked down, the look of absolute disgust she was giving him was enough to make a man never speak again. “Excuse me?”

“It’s not pure Lycanthropy, nor even Lycanthropy in a carrier liquid. Lycanthropy is the only known disease where the infected person is hurt by silver, but silver is biologically inert—it shouldn’t react to anything alive. 

“And yet, it burns us. But it won’t kill the disease; we’ve seen that in the lab. How does an inert metal burn us so badly and yet Veela are strengthened by it, everyone else ignores it, and viruses and bacteria are killed by it? It acts as a destabiliser to some magical elements while being completely neutral to others—harm to us, help to Veela, nothing to the rest of the magical world. If we transfer the contents to a silver flask, and let it steep before Potter jabs it, then it may kill any potentially infectious bacteria or other viruses in there, while ignoring the Lycanthropy. And if it doesn’t, we know it at least won’t kill Potter.” Draco finished with a shrug. “It’s all I’ve got.”

Hermione chewed her lip. “It’s all we’ve got,” she agreed, heaving herself up from the stool. She looked sad. And Draco hated that. “He’s going to do it anyway, even though we’d need weeks more to identify this mystery element in here, because Harry does what he wants.”

“At least he usually lives,” Draco offered. “He’s only died twice.”

Hermione gave him such a look of absolute loathing that he chose at that moment to leave the lab and get ready for the day. Not like they were getting any sleep tonight.  

 

🌕 🌕 🌕

Harry really hated annoying Hermione to the point where she had to go all Alpha growl-y on him, but it was hard to get one’s point across when one’s friends were mostly Werewolves who could communicate by weird smells and looks without even realising they were doing it. Did Hermione and Malfoy and Ron and them realise they communicated that way? Sometimes he wondered. It was easier to see things when you were outside looking in; that’s how he had such a good solve rate on the cold cases he’d picked up out of boredom.

The instincts helped, and he was long past distrusting his own instincts. They’d led him right more often than not, and he still atoned for the times they didn’t. He wasn’t blind to his own mistakes, his recklessness, his faults. He was just not willing to let them stop him when he knew action needed to be taken.

He had power to change minds, by force if necessary, and he wasn’t afraid of pain, disease, or death to do it. How could he not do everything—everything—to help Ron and Hermione and Xenophilius, and yes, even Gitfoy, and of course Tonks and Lav, even if it was the nuclear option? 

So that was why he was whistling as he fried the eggs. The sausages were already piled high under a heating charm—one of Luna’s, since his were rubbish—and the black pudding stood ready, too. He’d never been a fan; in fact, he hadn’t seen Hermione even look at a black pudding in school, either, but she tore into it these days whenever it was around, so he made extra. 

Luna was at the table marking up a few pieces for an upcoming Quibbler; they always did a big February issue—‘like Vogue in September,’ she’d say—which was one of the more arcane things to come from her mouth, and he would know, as he was married to her. Even though she was focused, she somehow always managed to add a little ‘Ooh, girl!’ whenever it got to that part in the song. 

“You turn me on like an electric eel,” he told her, as he flipped an egg.

“That’s not the words,” she said, turning a page, “but I’m happy to turn you on like an electric eel, anyway.”

“Daddyyyy!” 

He spun around, skillet still in hand, egg mid-air. “Morning, little monster,” Harry said, bending down to kiss Portentia’s nose as he whipped the skillet back in place just in time to catch the egg. 

“Still got it,” he smirked to himself, turning back. Then, to Ten, “Eggies and tomatoes okay?”

“Yep.” 

“Mum’s got milk out for you on the table.”

He was just getting the tomatoes sliced when the floo flared and two sets of waspish feet stomped through. He didn’t have to turn around to know neither of them had slept. He’d have felt guilty, but he was who he was, and Hermione was who she was, and sometimes they had to clash to come together. It was their way.

The chair scraped and screeched against the tile in the bitchiest way he’d heard in years, so he knew he’d be dealing with Draco’s mood later. He plated up the food, extra protein all around for their guests, before turning around, and put a plate in front of each of them. Hermione might not think so, but Harry knew damn well how to manage a Werewolf.

“All right?” he said, smiling, as he sat down across from Hermione. Sometimes it was best to just brazen it through.

She glowered at him as she forked half a sausage into her mouth. Her hair was so frizzed that Luna was having to push it away in order to continue editing. Her eye cut to the windowsill, where his half of the anonymous vial of Lycanthropy virus sat glistening in the morning sun. It was quite pretty, really. Luna’d already suggested they save their half for a sun catcher and he was inclined to agree. 

Hermione’s eyes returned to him, still annoyed. She said nothing as scooped up a bite of blood pudding.

He turned his gaze to Malfoy, still smiling. “Sleep well, mate?”

“Go fuck yourself,” Malfoy said around an entire sausage, which was what truly showed his desperate anger. Malfoys never spoke with their mouths full, so far as Harry could tell. 

“Not in front of Ten, Malfoy,” Harry snapped.

Malfoy rolled his eyes and then the silence stretched on even longer, which was just truly awkward. “Well, dig in then,” he said, though they of course already had. 

“Harry.” Hermione was not happy. 

He turned his attention to her. “Morning, mate.”

“I will ask, no, beg, one last time for you to just… you know, not take this unknown substance into your bloodstream.”

He gave her his best Michael Scott grimace. “I’m gonna do it.”

“I really think you’ve been married to Lovegood for too long.”

“Draco, really,” Luna said, marking a split infinitive. “Live a little. If Harry wants to be a Werewolf, he can be a Werewolf.”

“Daddy’s going to be a Werewolf?” asked Ten, cutting her tomatoes and eggs into triangles. “Like Auntie Hermy and Uncle Ron?”

“Maybe,” said Luna. “We’ll have to see what the gods of magic deem suitable.”

“I’m here, too, you know,” Draco said to Portentia.

She grinned at him. “But you’re not very Werewolfy.”

“Excuse—!”

Hermione pulled a new flask from her pocket and smacked it on the table, thankfully interrupting Malfoy’s offended pride at not being deemed beastly enough by a four-year-old. She was wearing a leather driving glove on one hand. Harry raised an eyebrow.

“I don’t know if this’ll do anything at all, but it was the best idea we had all night, and it was Draco’s idea. We did find a foreign biological substance in the vial, Harry,” she said, catching and holding his eyes. “We couldn’t identify it yet. So we’ve transferred the contents to a silver flask, which we hope will at least neutralise anything terrible. But here you go, Harry. Go ahead and do it. We’ve no idea what it is, but you’ll do you.”

“What was it the Strokes said a few years ago?” Harry asked. “Remember that song?”

“Don’t be an arse, Harry,” said Hermione, sighing, and she really did look absolutely wrecked. “YOLO all you want. I’ve never seen anyone with such a desire to Redshirt himself.”

“It’s rare you get arsed off enough to say things so Muggle Malfoy can’t understand you.” And indeed, Malfoy was staring at her in absolute incomprehension. Harry softened, reached out to take her gloved hand, which made so much more sense now that he knew about the silver. “I’m sorry this is stressing you out. But I’m doing this with or without your support, with or without your inspection… not for me, but for you. I know you don’t understand it, and that’s okay.” 

Hermione just looked at him, and he felt tired in that way he always had during the war, when he knew he had to do something and he was trying to keep his own spirits up (because if he didn’t, he’d probably just die) but wanted nothing more than a sandwich and a nap.

“Well, it seems as good a time as any then, doesn’t it?” Luna said.

“You literally married an enabler, Potter,” Malfoy growled under his breath, but Harry ignored him.

“Practically, is there any difference between waiting before or after our second cup of coffee?” Luna asked Malfoy, reasonably in Harry’s opinion. “What’s there to even enable?”

“No,” Hermione muttered. “Might as well Gryffindor your breakfast.”

“Cheers, then,” Harry said and popped up to grab his best Japanese knife. He might be putting an unknown substance into his bloodstream, but even he had to agree that using a syringe felt a bit gross. Better to do it the old-fashion, magical way, with a nice, sharp dagger—or Masahiro, in this case—to the palm. Ten looked on curiously as he drew the blade across his skin and he gave her a reassuring smile. Then, with a bit of an internal YOLO, he poured the contents of the silver flask onto the cut.

He didn’t immediately keel over. 

After a moment, Harry glanced up at Malfoy and Hermione. “How long before I can’t touch silver?” The flask wasn’t hurting him yet, but he almost expected it to start sizzling his hand right then.

“The first moon,” Malfoy said, voice tight. “So polish while you can.”

Hermione wouldn’t look at him; her gaze was locked on the cut along his hand. He saw the moment her eyes widened with shock and he looked back down, a cautious grin tugging at his lips. The blood had turned from red to black.

“I don’t want to get my hopes up,” Harry said, ignoring Malfoy’s disgusted snort, “but this looks promising.”

Hermione looked at him with an expression he’d never seen directed at him before, and for a moment, it startled him. She had always been more ruthless, more disposed to fury, than anyone gave her credit for. He’d just never seen Hermione look at him with such fearsome hostility before. And then she blinked, and it was… not gone, but it was buried. 

“You bled black last time, too.”

He nodded. “Maybe it’ll take two times for me.”

She nodded once, jerky, and then shoved her chair back from the kitchen table. “Floo me immediately if you notice any odd symptoms—anger; fatigue; restlessness; extreme hunger, especially for meat. I’ve got work to do. We’ll be at the Malfoys’ east wing lab. Lucius put it on the Network.”

They floo’d out without another word, and Harry watched the empty hearth for a long time. He knew he’d disappointed them—hurt them, even—but this was his role. It would always be his role, to protect Ron and Hermione however he could. Even when they’d hate him for doing it.

Luna came up behind him and set her hands on his shoulders. He leant against her wrist, breathing slowly through his nose. The clove and lavender oils she always wore on her wrists were a familiar comfort.

“And now we wait,” she said.

“And now we wait.”

Chapter Text

Then the protests started. 

At first, it was just a few Hags. It was easy to ignore protests when they came from people who were, on the whole, considered undesirable. Wizards and witches continued on with their shopping, turning their noses up at the site of twenty-eight year old Hags who looked like they should’ve died centuries ago. Looking old was so ugly.

Haddie, Hermione’s friend from the corner shop, was the first Hag to protest.

She stood out front of Weasleys’ magical Wheezes at half-eight every morning, her eight-year-old daughter solemn next to her, and just held up a sign. 

UGLY ≠ WORTHLESS

That’s all the sign said. And then beside her, Esmerelda held another sign:

I’M HUMAN, TOO

Haddie and Esmerelda stood out front the Weasleys’ shop for five days, completely silent. Haddie’s long, scraggly, grey hair tangled around her elbows, and her gnarled, arthritic fingers wrapped protectively around Esmerelda’s bony shoulder while she held her staked sign aloft with her other hand. 

If anything, Esmerelda was a curiosity. A strange, child-like being who, upon closer inspection, had crows feet at her eyes and grey at her roots. She still stood with a straight back, but a look at her mother was all it took to know that wouldn’t last long. Haddie wasn’t even thirty yet, after all.

But then, out came the Vampires—in the middle of the day!—in 500 SPF sunblock potion, long sleeves, and wide-brimmed hats. A few were even in full veils. And Vampires were scary, but scary in a ‘take me, daddy’ kind of way, and that’s when some of the witches started to take note. A few of the wizards, too. 

Draco probably would’ve taken note at this juncture if he wasn’t already a Werewolf, but as he was one, he’d noticed at the first Hag.

Mr Voclain wore full black, a head scarf and gloves, and a pair of vintage Chanel sunglasses, looking very much like a pale Karl Lagerfeld. He didn’t bother with a sign, though. It seemed being cooped up in a dark print shop for years had left him time to think many unvoiced thoughts.

“You think being normal is better?” he called to one uninterested passerby, in a surprisingly angry voice for a Vampire, if Draco was asked. “I’ll outlive all of you, and your children, too! Who’s undesirable now?!” 

And also: “I was born a wizard just like any of you!”

His friends joined that evening, when the sun was more forgiving, and the chants became a chorus of, “Born in 805 and yet I’m still alive! Vampirism is strength!” 

And that’s about when the Veela and humans joined. Three from Ireland that Draco didn’t know, and a few humans with a bone to pick. Fleur Delacour-Weasley, admittedly only a quarter Veela, was the first. Bill Weasley stood with her, which didn’t surprise Draco at all. Fleur went topless—in January!—and that got attention, and a few folks read her sign as a result.

VENUS MADE VEELA IN HER IMAGE

“She’s my sister-in-law, I can’t look,” Weasley said to him as they left another long, draining meeting with Acadia Parkinson, the Weasley twins, and the Ministry attorneys. It hadn’t been reassuring, and yet Draco’s mother still didn’t seem to want to acknowledge how royally she’d fucked it. They’d been told just after arriving at the Ministry that new legislation had been passed the night before—Werewolves would now be restricted in the spells they could use, which had set the mood for the whole morning.“Also, Bill would kill me. But tell me—how are they?”

“They?” Draco said, giving Esmerelda a small wave. Esmerelda’s nasolabial folds creased as she frowned in return.

“Y’know,” Weasley prodded. His gaze was fixed firmly on Ollivander’s shop, but he looked as if he desperately wanted to look at the protest instead. “Her… you know… How are her tits?”

Draco rolled his eyes, but he did take a quick glance, then a second glance. “Spectacular, actually,” he said. “Hasn’t she breastfed two children?” 

“Three,” Weasley said, and he sounded almost wistful. 

Draco gave him a concerned, confused, and disgusted look, all mixed into one. “You are so strange. They’re delightful, though. Of course, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pair I would’ve said no to.”

“Right you are, mate,” Ron said, grinning again. “Tonks’ are—”

“Andddd, that’ll be a ‘no thank you’ from me, Weasley,” Draco interrupted. “She’s my cousin, for fuck’s sake.”

And anyway, he really wasn’t interested in seeing another set of breasts ever again except Hermione’s. He could spend all day looking at them, licking them, burying his face between them. Merlin, he was going to get an erection if he didn’t stop this, and this close to the full moon, he would have to come or he’d be in pain for days.

“Oh, right.” Weasley sighed. “Well, humans and Veela joining has got to be a good thing. Everyone likes Veela, except the Ministry, of course.”

“And humans add credibility,” Draco murmured, thoughtful.

“It shouldn’t be that way,” Weasley growled, anger coming off him in waves of scent. Draco let it wash over him and didn’t comment. “We shouldn’t need human allies to be heard. We should be heard on our own merit, since we’re human, too.”

Sometimes they were, anyway. But Draco wouldn’t say that aloud. He was still working on being the Alpha they all needed. He checked his watch. 

“We’d better get to the Manor. Moonrise in three hours and the pack’ll be waiting.”

“I’ll meet you there,” said Weasley. 

Draco nodded. And if luck allowed, he’d have just enough time to see to Hermione before dinner.

 

🌕 🌕 🌕

Draco Apparated to his bedroom at the Manor. Hermione was already there, nose deep in a book. He stalked silently over, the frustrating day at the Ministry fading with each step closer, letting her scent calm him more and more the closer he got. Once behind her, he bent and pulled her hair to the side to lick her neck.

She jumped. “Oh my god, I didn’t smell you!” Hermione said, hand to her chest. He heard her heart thump inside her ribcage, the river of blood in her veins turning him on even more.

“Moonrise soon,” he whispered against the shell of her ear. 

She let her head fall back, moaning a little. Her arousal filled the air around him and his cock grew hard and aching in his trousers. She reached overhead to unclasp his cloak as he nibbled down her neck to her clavicle. The cloak fell to the floor.

One-handed, Draco unbuttoned his trousers and kicked off his shoes. The trousers followed the cloak to the floor as he flicked open Hermione’s blouse with his other hand. He slide a hand down the top of her bra to cup her breast and god, yes it was so good. So much better than Fleur Delacour-Weasley’s. 

Draco growled, low in his throat and hauled her out of the chair, depositing her bum on the desk.

“The book—” Hermione protested.

“Fuck the book,” Draco said against her breasts. He sucked one nipple into his mouth, kneading the warm flesh with his hand. Pulling off, he gave that nipple another lick and it hardened. “I’m going to fuck you on top of it, and then you’ll always think of me filling you up when you read it.”

“That’s… outrageous,” Hermione panted. “Completely depraved… to defile a book… like that.”

She spread her legs, and he slid between them, parting her skirt to trail a hand up her thighs. He pushed aside her knickers and slid his finger in and out of her already wet pussy.

Hermione rocked her hips forward and back against his intrusion, pulling him in for a rough kiss. He came willingly, moaning against her fevered mouth. She bit and nibbled at his lips before kissing him again and again. Her hand left his back to trail down his stomach, sending tiny shivers in its wake.

She wrapped her small hand around his cock and he pulled from the kiss, throwing his head back, struggling to breathe against the onslaught of pleasure. Hermione attacked his neck, no doubt leaving bruises in her wake.

Draco curled his fingers inside her and she arched, growling. She reached down and ripped her knickers apart, then grabbed him and guided him right to her soaked pussy. 

Draco slid in easily, sighing with relief as pleasure took away the ache of missing her body. She grabbed his hips and set a furious rhythm, not letting him slow, not letting him pause to regain his composure. 

He pressed his mouth to her neck, whining from the building pleasure, and oh, god, he was going to come soon if she didn’t let him slow down. 

“I won’t last,” he warned her, panting against her skin.

She laughed lowly and canted her hips with every thrust, bringing Draco closer and closer to the edge. Closer and closer, he squeezed his eyes shut, breathing hard through his nose as she fucked him. And then, god—Draco came, all his muscles failing until he collapsed on top of her, her back against the desk, as his cock pulsed and knotted inside her. 

Draco panted, trying to catch his breath, but then Hermione began to shift her hips again. Draco whined like a Beta. She chuckled again, sliding her hand between them to rub her clit. 

And well, he wasn’t going to have that. She had to come, too.

Draco firmed his thighs, forcing the strength back into his legs, wrapped his arms around her back, and lifted her up. He pressed her to the wall beside his desk and pushed slowly deeper into her. Every thrust was too much, too good, and his thighs trembled from the overstimulation. Draco pressed his forehead against the wall and fucked her, slowly, his knotted cock preventing too much movement, but he was damn well going to make her come.

Hermione’s hand moved furiously between them and she moved her hips in time with his every thrust. Her breathing sped as she closed in on her orgasm and every little pant, every sniff of pheromone from her neck sent new rushes of pleasure through him. 

Oh, god, was he going to come again?

“Draco, Draco, Draco,” Hermione panted against his ear. She bit down on the lobe, growling. “So close,” she whined. 

That was all it took, hearing her Beta-whine to his Alpha-ears. His sac drew up and he slammed into her, again and again. Hermione screamed out her orgasm, her walls tightening on him over and over. 

They collapsed against each other, only the wall holding them up. Draco’s breath was fast in his own ears and he imagined it must’ve been deafening to her full-moon senses.

She sighed, ending on a little laugh. “Wow, that was good.”

Draco sniffed, pulling away only enough to kiss her. “Please. It’s always fantastic.”

Hermione kissed him back, grinning against his mouth. “I suppose so.”

Her legs slid from around his waist. She steadied herself on her own feet and took a deep breath. “Well, that certainly sets a tone for the evening.”

Draco snorted, stretching out his back. What a workout. “I like that tone.”

She gave him a saucy look as she cleaned herself up with her wand and straightened her skirt out. “You? The ultimate pessimist? No!”

“Oh, fuck off, Granger.”

She laughed, delighted. “Don’t need to now, thanks. Shall we go see to our pack?”

Ah, well that might put a damper on things. He studied her face, looking for the poorly-hidden misery she’d worn since the day the breakfasted at Potter’s. “You don’t really think Potter…?”

She frowned, chewing her lip. “Honestly, I can’t even bring myself to think about it. He didn’t change the first time and I just keep hoping he’s somehow immune to Lycanthropy. Don’t laugh, but I’ve been trying to distract myself all morning with our unfinished research from the Department.”

Draco wrinkled his nose. “Avada Kedavra? You’d actually want to help the Ministry still?”

She shook her head. “No… just bored and unhappy. But I think I have found something interesting, even if it’ll be completely useless to anyone ever. Going by some of the cryptic passages in early texts—and of course they’re all early, but you know—and cross-referencing cases from different cultures, I’ve almost convinced myself Avada Kedavra doesn’t actually create a true death. Anyway, thoughts for another time. Let’s go corral our pack.”

Our pack. Somehow, the words sounded different now. They sounded good. Like home. Today was the day that those he’d never met as Alpha would finally show themselves to him. Today was the day he proved himself worthy of them.

 

🌕 🌕 🌕

Narcissa passed Harry to them when they entered the garden.

“I really must see to the pack,” Narcissa said, ever the accomplished hostess. It was, of course, code for ‘I can’t be arsed to mind this child a moment longer; he’s your problem now, Hermione.’

Hermione gave her a flat, knowing look. Narcissa smiled delicately and bid an elegant retreat.

“Hey,” Harry said. He shifted from foot to foot, looking nothing like the hardened Auror he played during the day. He gave them both a stilted smile and breathed in deeply, as if to calm himself. Harry’s expression turned to confusion and he sniffed again. “Are you—? I think you might smell weird. Do you smell weird?”

Hermione and Draco glanced at one another from the corners of their eyes. 

If Harry had enhanced scent enough to smell their sex, then that wasn’t a good sign. But, Hermione wasn’t an academic for nothing. The placebo effect was strong, and Harry loved a good placebo effect. 

“No,” Hermione said, feigning confusion. “Maybe it’s my parents’ laundry detergent. I’ve been tossing my clothes in their wash since I left the flat.”

“Right,” Harry said, his expression going dour. No one liked the thought that someone like Hermione could be vandalised. Especially in a place like Knockturn Alley, where no one dared vandalise another’s property. There were just too many dark beings living there to take such a risk.

“Alright, Potter, let’s get you fed,” Draco said, leading Harry away with a strong, Alpha hand on his bicep. “If you really do change tonight, you’re going to be famished, and I won’t have you embarrassing me or Mother with any bowl-licking.”

Hermione watched them go for a moment, frowning. She smelled Ron approach before he clapped a hand on her shoulder and brought her in for a half-hug. He stared after Harry and Draco.

“You don’t think he’s really going to, do you?” 

Even Ron sounded nervous. She hated when Ron was nervous. 

“I don’t even want to think about it,” she admitted. “Have you eaten?”

“Only once.”

Hermione nodded. Ron would need to eat at least twice more. “Let’s get some dinner. We’ll worry about Harry’s bridge when we come to it.”

Ron looked at his watch. “Which’ll be in about forty minutes.”

“Better eat fast, then.”

Hermione raised her wand to cast a warming charm over herself, but caught herself just in time. The Ministry’s latest decree had come with a list of approved spells for Werewolves and warming charms weren’t approved spells. Of course they weren’t. Because the Ministry was cruel and irrational. 

Well, she’d already decided she wasn’t going to give them the satisfaction of arresting her—regardless of how unlikely it was that they’d be able to trace her magic while under the protection of Unplottable Malfoy Manor. She just couldn’t get into the habit of it, or she’d slip and do something stupid. Better to lay low at least until they got Fred and George out and then… then she’d worry about what to do next.

So she refused to acknowledge the cold as she and Ron made their way over to the buffet tables set up by the greenhouses. A small army of house-elves provided plates and served delicious, protein-rich food from magically-heated chafing dishes. She and Ron took their plates and joined Draco and Harry at a table. 

“What does changing feel like?” Harry was asking Draco.

Draco narrowed his eyes at Harry. “It fucking hurts. I really have no idea why you want to inflict this upon yourself. You ought to pray that Ishtar’s merciful to you tonight.”

Hermione smiled at Draco’s use of Ishtar, but said nothing.

Harry waved him off. “I’m not afraid of pain.” He glanced at her and Ron, and added, a bit confrontationally, “I was more afraid of living life without being able to help Ron and Hermione.”

“Oh, Harry,” she said, for the millionth time of her life. 

Ron wasn’t much on emotional displays, even at this age, and just clapped Harry on the shoulder and shovelled another bite of brisket into his mouth. 

“Well, your wife and daughter will certainly—” Draco began.

“May I join you?” They all looked up to find Marietta, strawberry blonde curls perfectly in place but her expression wholly uncomfortable, standing before their table.

“Of course,” Hermione said right away. She waved her wand to pull out the chair beside her, and then cursed herself. Incantionless-intention-based spells were not specifically banned in the new legislation, but it was exactly the kind of ‘spirit of the law’ loophole the Ministry would argue was a no-go.

Marietta sat, carefully setting her silverware out properly. 

“How have you been?” Hermione asked, so only Marietta could hear—unless the others were purposefully listening in, which would not be beyond Draco. “Since… everything.”

Marietta looked so very sad. Hermione’s heart sank. “My parents were so disappointed. Mother said people like Fred Weasley ought not to affect the rest of us upstanding Werewolves.” She glanced up at Hermione quickly, then back down. “I mean no disrespect… although I can’t say the same for my mother. I don’t think she expected the result she got. My parents have been divorced since I was at Hogwarts and they’re always looking for a way to blame someone else for their problems. It’s toxic, but it is what it is.”

“Very Ravenclaw perspective,” Hermione observed.

Marietta gave her a small, quick smile. “They both were. They’ve never been happy with my level of Ravenclaw-ness, I suppose. Not enough drive, not enough enterprise for learning and discovering.”

Hermione shrugged. “You can only be who you are. Are you—are you happy being a Werewolf?”

Marietta tilted her head as she studied Hermione. “Is anyone?”

“I suppose not,” Hermione said. “But I do feel a sense of general contentedness with my life. Even if this disease is painful and frustrating in many, many ways—on the whole, my life is full of good people, work I enjoy—well… it used to include work I enjoyed.”

“You worked for the Ministry, too,” Marietta said, kindly allowing Hermione’s lapse to pass unremarked. “I never knew what department you were in?” 

“Draco and I did potions consulting, mostly for the DMLE.”

“Oh,” Marietta said, thoughtful. Her brow wrinkled, likely as she was trying to recall if she’d ever heard of potions consulting happening for the DMLE, especially since they already had lab boys. “Well, you can always do that on the side, at least. There are tonnes of agencies that’ll find a service like that useful. Transportation, on the other hand…” 

She didn’t need to continue. There was no use for a port-key specialist outside the Ministry, since all port-keys had to be licensed and regulated.

“Your parents are being supportive during this difficult time, though—?”

“Oh, yes,” Marietta said. “Yes, of course. Very supportive. They’ve always pushed me to do more with my affliction… research maybe, or politics.” She frowned. “Father doesn’t seem very fond of Vampires, so I doubt it’s any goodness of their hearts business—likely just because I’m affected.”

“Well, we can only change one mind at a time,” Hermione said. “Eliminating bigotry and prejudice in the magical world will take years.” She rested her hand on Marietta’s for a moment, a gesture of Alpha security, and smiled at her. “I’m grateful to have you in my pack, Marietta.”

Marietta flushed. “I appreciate that, truly.”

Hermione’s skin tingled and she sighed. Bugger. Only about half an hour before the change. She finished off her plate, no longer concerned about decorum. Around the table, everyone did the same. Everyone but Harry, anyway. He’d never changed before. He had no idea how hungry he’d be if he did actually change.

“Everyone to the paddock, please,” Narcissa called, voice Sonorus’d. She had no compunctions about flaunting the new legislation on her own property. “Moonrise in twenty minutes.”

For the first time, she joined Hermione during a change. She’d never seen Narcissa change. Had only seen her post-change a handful of times. It felt uncomfortably intimate, too familiar, wrong. A woman as strong and elegant as Narcissa couldn’t be brought down to a screaming, slobbering mess like the rest of them. 

Draco took her hand as Lucius closed and locked behind them all. This close to moonrise, her senses were at unbearable levels. She smelled every Werewolf in her pack, knew exactly where the new ones were versus the old ones. She heard Harry’s quickening breath as adrenaline began coursing through his body, and she smelled the sweat collect at his armpits and the back of his neck. He was scared.

Hermione squeezed Draco’s hand before letting it go to take Harry’s instead. Ron came, too, and they created a circle with their hands, giving Harry their steadiness and security and unconditional love.

Beyond a clear Wiltshire hill to the east, the white glow of the moon crested. Hermione took a deep breath, feeling Ron do the same. They squeezed one another’s hands and Harry’s too, and he stared straight into their eyes as the moon rose behind him. 

The change overtook them, all of them. Hermione’s body contorted and Ron’s fingers turned to claws and Harry’s ears grew long, and they never let go. She screamed and Ron screamed and through it all, watching Harry turn to a Werewolf for the first time, the moon outlining his muscled neck and flanks, he never opened his mouth, and all Hermione could think in that moment, amid the pain, was that Harry was such a fucking Gryffindor.

 

🌕 🌕 🌕

In the morning, she woke in a pile of Harry and Ron. Their bodies intermingled with her own in a way they hadn’t since that long year in the Forest of Dean. Her nose pressed into Ron’s chest, she inhaled his scent and felt calm and love and Harry overtake her so strongly she nearly cried. Their scents blended together on each other’s bodies and for the first morning after since they were turned, Hermione felt safe.

All three of them were together again.

Was this what Harry had been missing all these years?

How could she feel so elated and miserable and angry all at once? How could he have done this to himself? She wanted to cry and she didn’t know if it was agony or relief.

As if reading her thoughts, his arm came up and wrapped around the both of them, pulling them close. She heard him swallow, but he didn’t say anything. It was still twilight, the moon only having set a little while ago and their bodies still exhausted from the changes. All around them, the rest of their pack slept.

Ron turned his face to nuzzle into her hair and she knew he was feeling the same as she was, as Harry was. She didn’t want to move from this cosy spot sprawled across their two bodies. She wanted to stay here forever and forget about the rest of the world, about her duties, about the endless pile of things she had to do to save her pack. 

About how impossible it all was.

“It worked,” Ron finally whispered, quiet enough it was just for the three of them to hear. 

Harry’s arm tightened around them both and they seemed to share a collective inhale, slow exhale. The world was different now. 

Harry,” Hermione whispered, squeezing her eyes shut tight so she wouldn’t cry. She was such a mess of emotions—elation that their small, original pack was together again; misery for Harry’s life now controlled by this disease. “I’m so sorry.”

“Don’t be,” he said, his voice rough with sleep and tiredness. “It feels right to be here with you. I should’ve been with you the whole time.”

She lifted her head from Ron’s chest to stare down at them, Ron flat on his back and Harry curled around them. “How did you keep from screaming?”

Ron turned to face him, eyebrow raised. “Trying to prove a point? The hardest Gryffindor of all?”

Harry bit his lip. “It didn’t hurt.”

Hermione pushed herself all the way up. “What?” she whispered. 

“What?!” Ron whispered, not nearly as quietly. He reached between them to grab Harry’s arm. A few piles over, someone stirred, but didn’t wake.

“I saw your pain,” he said, his face contorting. “And all I could think was I couldn’t do anything about it, that this change was coming over me and it felt natural and why doesn’t it feel natural to you? Why does it hurt you?”

“Why shouldn’t it hurt?” Ron countered, swallowing. “Our bodies are being forced into strange shapes.”

“Why should it hurt?” Harry countered. “Animagi do it all the time.”

“Don’t you dare start with that mind over matter crap, Harry,” Ron warned. “I’m too tired for Luna’s Law of Attraction bullshit.”

“I don’t think it was mind over matter,” said Harry. “Even I’m not that stubborn. I think… I think something’s wrong with me.”

Like always, went unsaid.

“Harry…” Hermione said. She wouldn’t cry. There was nothing wrong with Harry. He was just… different. “Maybe it has to do with how you were infected. We didn’t use all of the vial. Maybe you only got a little dose. Maybe it was the silver flask. Or the… the stabiliser, whatever it was, that was mixed in.”

Ron shook his head, his hair sliding across the dying grass and collecting bits of leaves. “It only takes a lick, remember? It can’t be the amount.”

Right. George. “Well, then,” said Hermione. “We’re just going to have to figure out what’s in that stabiliser.”

But for now, the sun was rising and she had a new wolf to welcome into her pack. It was a new day.

 

🌕 🌕 🌕

The house-elves provided a catered breakfast from the Impervious Cauldron. Hermione fell onto her raspberry-turkey-chicken crepe with a vengeance. She was just so hungry.

Next to her, Draco smelt of exhaustion and jealousy. Because she smelt of Harry and Ron. She took his hand under the table, threading their fingers together. 

“They’re my friends,” she said, dabbing her mouth with a napkin.

He glanced at her as he forked another bite of cranberry-mince crepe into his mouth. He closed his lips over the fork, chewed, swallowed, said nothing. 

“Draco,” she said, sighing. 

Okay, she had to take another bite. Her stomach was going to eat itself if she didn’t feed it. She chewed and swallowed hastily—not her best manners by far, but Werewolves had to give one another a bit of a pass every now and then. “We just needed to be with Harry for his first change. You could’ve stayed with us.”

“No, I couldn’t have,” Draco finally said, voice quiet. It was hard to be secretive around other Werewolves, but everyone’s senses were so worn out by the day after the full-moon that no one would try to listen in. “You growled at me.”

Hermione leant back. “I what?”

Draco raised his eyebrows. “Yeah, you did. You don’t remember?”

Hermione frowned, thinking back. She remembered feeling protective of Harry, worried about him. She remembered romping around the paddock with him and Ron, and feeling light, childlike, like they were back in first year and things were good.

“But I would never growl at you,” she said. She couldn’t have…

“And Potter growled at me.”

“Draco,” Hermione whispered, hand over her chest. “Harry isn’t Alpha.”

Draco raised just one eyebrow at her this time. “Isn’t he, though?”

“He isn’t!” she insisted. She would know. She would smell it. She leaned into Draco’s neck and sniffed and yes, he still smelt like her mate, like her Alpha… but there was something wrong. Something strange. 

He was right.

It was in flux.

“He would never challenge you,” she said, pulling away, but even to her own ears it sounded weak. “Harry doesn’t want to be Alpha.”

“And I ever did?” 

She really was going to cry now. There was just so much. So much. And she couldn’t take much more of it. She was tired and she was beaten down and now she had to bring a man she loved into her pack, knowing he would challenge another man she loved for a role he should rightfully hold. A role he’d finally stepped into.

Hermione took another bite of her crepe, staring down into her plate for the rest of the meal while she willed the tears not to come. It was time to visit her parents. She could cry at home, where her mum would make her a cuppa and her dad would tell her stupid jokes. Then it would be okay. It would be fine.

Chapter Text

“I have a confession to make,” said Ron, looking more uneasy than she’d seen him since he’d had to find a Yule Ball date. He grabbed her forearm and pulled her aside in one of the unnecessarily wide hallways of Malfoy Manor. 

Outside the window, the house elves were still cleaning away the luncheon tables while Narcissa played hostess to a few of the more ‘important’ Werwolves in their pack. Harry was out there. Helping. Like he’d been pack forever, though in the ways that mattered, he had been. Where Draco had gone was anyone’s guess.

Hermione lifted her gaze from the window and stared balefully at him. “Why must you preface it that way? Don’t you realise I’m anxious enough already with Harry and… and Draco? Can’t you just blurt it out so I don’t have time to be worried before you arse me off?”

“I bit Harry.”

Hermione blinked. “What.”

“You said to blurt it out,” he grimaced. “And I didn’t exactly bite him. I licked him. Like… like Fred and George. He cut himself and he asked me to do it, and… and I did it.”

Hermione stared at him, truly unable to process what she was hearing. She swallowed painfully, her throat like sandpaper. “When?” she whispered.

Ron looked away. “Three years ago. We’d been on a long stakeout… a few weeks out in Devon in February, the afternoon before the moon, and… and he was cold. You know about his warming charms.”

And she did. If they could be called that. 

“And… and I wasn’t cold,” Ron said. “I’m never cold. We’re never cold, and he knew it, and he asked me and he had that look, you know, the look he gets when he’s feeling everything and so determined, and I couldn’t say no. It was what he needed. I couldn’t say no.”

She stared at the space behind him, seeing nothing. The words flowed over her like waves and she was drowning beneath them. She couldn’t say anything; she’d frozen. Perhaps literally, she couldn’t say for sure. Finally, she swallowed, found her voice.

“And he didn’t turn?” He looked at her and she rolled her eyes at herself. “Of course he didn’t turn,” she muttered, rubbing her eyes. “So, Harry was bitten by Greyback in ’98 and again by you in 2003, and he didn’t turn either time… but last night, he did.”

“Yeah,” Ron said, slow and disquieted. “So, what the hell was in that vial?”

She didn’t know, but it was in that moment that Hermione realised that she was playing a game entirely out of her league.

 

🌕 🌕 🌕

 

“I don’t understand,” Hermione exclaimed, yanking her two braids as if physical pain would force her to think better. “Why is Harry a Werewolf? Why doesn’t the change hurt him?

“Because he’s a twat,” Draco said, not bothering to look up from his text, his knuckles white around the edges. The same book he’d been reading since she found him hidden away in his bedroom with the curtains drawn like some Victorian widow. He still looked tense, as if he expected Harry to burst through the door right then and make him bear his neck.

Hermione frowned at him. Please, she thought. I need you right now. Be my Alpha; don’t give up when you’ve just now started. She swallowed down the words and addressed him again: 

“Let’s look at what we know.” She counted off on her fingers: “Harry was bitten when we were, and his blood turned black like ours did. Harry didn’t change at the full-moon. Three years ago, Ron bit him too, and he didn’t turn then either. Last week, he was sent a vial of injectable Lycanthropy, with some unidentified biological essence, which we’ve presumed was a stabiliser of some sort, and when he injected half the vial, he contracted Lycanthropy. When he changed, it didn’t hurt him. What are we forgetting?”

Draco tilted his head. “The Battle of Hogwarts was during a new moon.”

Hermione gasped. “You’re right! We never figured out how we were changed. I can’t believe I forgot about that. What did Greyback do to infect all of us at the new moon? He wasn’t even transformed!”

“It’s never made sense,” Draco said, stepping into his Unspeakable thought process she knew so well. It gave her a tingle of arousal when he went all academic. “We aren’t active carriers of Lycanthropy at any time except the full-moon. He shouldn’t have been able to infect us. There’s a link between Greyback and the vial Potter received. Not necessarily causation—he’s well dead, after all—but there’s some correlation. We need to look into that. I would bet that whatever was in Greyback’s blood that night is also in the vial Potter got. And in whatever was injected in the new Werewolves. It was clearly sent by the same person, or persons.”

“Right… right,” Hermione said, her mind already branching off in thousands of different directions.

“And there’s one more thing,” Draco added, snatching her attention back to him. “After we were bitten, the Dark Lord killed Potter.”

She gasped. “He died.”

Draco gave her a half smile, far too sombre for his face. “He’s always been special, hasn’t he?”

 

🌕 🌕 🌕

 

Barnabas Cuffe ran the exposé on Harry the next morning. If the headline itself weren’t inflammatory enough, then the call to action was:

If the Boy Who Lived is weak enough to succumb to Lycanthropy, then who among us isn’t? Lycanthropy is the pandemic of our age and those infected must be treated with compassion, rather than scorn. Ask yourself: Are you stronger than the Boy Who Lived?

And of course, that went over well. 

Haddie’s gentle, quiet protests grew. Witches and wizards joined, moving the protests from Diagon Alley to the Ministry atrium. They waited for Shacklebolt to come through the floo every morning, and when he did, they held up signs and chanted, ‘We’re not stronger than Harry Potter! Rescue him from Werewolf slaughter!’

And really, Hermione didn’t understand the point of that at all. Who cared if they were stronger or weaker than Harry Potter? And Harry was the one who’d done it to himself besides. The magical world was stunning sometimes—how someone like Cuffe could even sway people so much with such an infantile attempt at spin, especially after being a known Werewolf himself. He could do better than that, but that he didn’t have to was depressing. 

But then the chants changed, much to Hermione’s continued surprise, and soon even Ministry employees were chanting, ‘Werewolf Aurors worked all hours! Bring back Weasley to make life easy!’ and ‘We want a safe town! Bring back Brown!’ and so on. 

Hermione sneaked in under a glamour to watch them, her heart pounding in her chest, wondering if this was the moment the magical world would finally accept her, or if this was going to go horribly, horribly wrong instead. She felt helpless to stop the rising tide of emotion; before, they might not have had support, but they’d at least not been on top of literally everyone’s mind. 

She smelled three other members of her pack in the crowd but didn’t want to look too hard to find them, in case it drew attention. As long as they were peaceful, she would wait and watch. She’d take it all in and then retreat to her folks’ place or the Manor to try to make sense of everything… try to figure out how to use it. That’s what Narcissa would do anyway, if she weren’t already deep in discussions with Acadia Parkinson trying to get Fred and George released. They’d all put in as much work as they could—Hermione had contributed significantly to the law review to help Parkinson build the case—but none of them were feeling great about the Twins’ chances. It was all so fragile. Something hard for a Werewolf to stomach.

Until now? Maybe? Were things changing in their favour? She could hardly get a read on Shacklebolt as he entered the Ministry each day. And even if she could, he wasn’t the decision-maker; it all came down to the Wizengamot. She prayed they could stay peaceful until the boys were tried and, Ishtar willing, released.

But it didn’t.

The conservatives joined. Hundred-year-old wizards who’d never had want for anything in their entire lives and young radicals who said they were sick of being told they were part of the problem when they weren’t doing anything, just going about their lives, and their safety mattered, too. 

And a lot of them were just arseholes—selfish wizards who got angry because all this focus on Werewolves was slowing down the legislative and judicial systems and they had things waiting—things like mergers and escrows and civil suits they wanted sorted out but couldn’t because the Wizengamot was stuck on Werewolves. Werewolves were dangerous creatures, and who cared about Hags, but Veela were fine and Vampires in small measures, so could they all just get on with their lives, for Merlin’s sake?

Someone had the bright idea that if the Werewolves attacked them in the middle of the Ministry, that would speed things up. 

Non-Werewolves shot off spells in the atrium that were on the list of Forbidden Spells for Werewolves. Stupid spells like warming charms and firework spells that wouldn’t hurt anyone but which the Ministry found a spiteful reason to restrict anyway. Warming charms could overheat a normal wizard who didn’t have the body temperature regulation Werewolves did, they claimed. Fireworks spells could set a roof on fire. 

The biggest arseholes shot ‘harmless’ spells at protestors, daring them to retaliate. Hermione floo'd every single one of her pack and made them swear (not an Unbreakable Vow, of course, she wasn’t crazy, especially after the clusterfuck with Marietta) but, like, swear on their mother’s grave, that they’d not let anyone goad them into attacking. They were to protest peacefully or not at all.

She didn’t join the protests. The one time she’d come un-glamoured, six days after the January moon, the crowd had surged and threatened to riot and she was not going to be part of that, so she left just as quick as she came. She joined Draco at the Manor, holing up in his bedroom to sort through the research they had and try to find a link to the strange biological stabiliser they found in the Lycanthropy vial Harry’d given them and any connection they could find to Avada Kedavra or something that would’ve changed how the change worked.

Harry owled her every day, but she couldn’t deal with him right now. It was too raw, too heartbreaking to see him. To know that he’d willingly taken on the curse they lived with. She’d once read it was called the Curse of Life—which she’d found interesting; she would’ve expected Vampirism to have that moniker. But it had given her the inspiration and the cross-reference material to locate the early histories on Lycanthropy that detailed its creation, possibly by Ishtar, possibly by magicals, as beneficial that she’d used in anti-propaganda campaigns.

Someone had once wanted to be a Werewolf. Someone had once thought it a gift.

And it had led to this, her life, Ron’s life, Draco’s life.

And it had led to another man thinking it a gift, too. 

“Are you still working on unraveling Potter’s super human abilities?” Draco asked her. 

Hermione spun around and found him leaning in the doorframe of the east wing lab, arms crossed over his chest. She gave him a tired smile. “I’m missing something obvious,” she admitted.

He nodded, not in agreement, but an absent gesture meant only to acknowledge her speaking. He pressed off the doorframe and wandered over to the first workstation, where several new batches of an adapted chlorocyte-detecting potion were simmering away. 

“Potter sent me three vials of his blood,” Draco said, absently. “Like a complete knob.” He stirred the nearest cauldron and turned the heat down until it barely simmered. “No one but Potter would dare owl their own blood.”

“Oh,” she said. She bit her lip. “How are you… are you okay with him now?”

Draco glanced up at her. “Why wouldn’t I be? We’re friends, remember?” he said, drawing the word out like it was the dullest thing in the world.

“Right,” she said. Hermione sighed, hating all of this. Hating how protests were happening in her community and she was too much a coward to join. Hating how closed-mouthed Narcissa’d been since her royal fuck-up with the Twins… when Hermione needed her most. Hated how close Draco seemed to be to giving up. 

Had that been her fault? 

He’d always had something to fight for, even if it was an impossible cure. Had she destroyed the fight left in him by making him step into an Alpha role? Had she taken away his hope?

“Have you tested any yet?” she asked him after a long minute.

He shook his head. “No. I suspect it’ll just be more of the same.”

He didn’t turn back from the potion, but he didn’t tend to it, either. A long silence sat between them, and she struggled to fill it.

“What about the vial of Lycanthropy?” she said. “What happens if you combine that with the chlorocyte-detecting potion?”

He looked up at her. “You think the stabiliser is another creature blood?”

She shrugged. “We know it’s biological.”

“That’s a good—” Draco began, but was distracted by an owl tapping at the window. He waved his wand to let it in (he had no concerns about the Ministry monitoring his spell casting at Malfoy Manor, either). It settled on his shoulder, holding one leg out.

“Morgana Montgomery,” Hermione murmured, smelling the hand before she even saw the note. 

Draco unfolded the note and scowled. “The protests are getting worse. She thinks they’re close to truly rioting. And Marietta’s parents are there, and apparently using her as their version of a sign…”

“Shit,” Hermione said on a sigh. “Why are some parents so terrible at parenting?”

“The worst aspect of pureblood culture,” Draco murmured, reading the note again as if it held some secret. “The focus on self-reliance results in some families refusing to form emotional attachments. Fortunately, mine wasn’t like that, but I’ve heard the Edgecombes are. She comes by her social insecurities honestly.”

“Well, we’d better go be Alphas,” Hermione said, already Summoning her cloak and ignoring Draco’s twitch at the word. That, at least, was an allowable spell. Who knew why. There was no rhyme or reason to Wizengamot decisions.

They floo'd to the Ministry atrium from the Manor antechamber, and stepped out into chaos. The screaming and chanting hammered against her sensitive ears. She covered them with her hands, eyes widening as she took in the scene. 

Draco touched her wrist and the Unspeakable gesture he made against it definitely didn’t say Situation Normal. A chill ran down her spine at the warning touch. It was only used for the most dangerous of situations and experiments. 

But looking around her, she agreed with Draco’s assessment. It wasn’t a potential riot. It was an actual riot. Banshees shrieked as witches and wizards alike threw punches and spells, and people nearest them fell unconscious, hopefully not worse, at the sound. Most of the floos were destroyed—Bombardias or Reductos or something worse—and the wand checker wizards had barricaded themselves behind the desk with a weak Protego. It wasn’t going to hold up long. 

There was a crash in the middle of the mob and someone screamed. A flurry of Vampires transformed into bats and escaped to the ceiling to hang from the rafters. 

“Werewolf!” someone yelled. “She tried to bite me!”

And then, Hermione’s worst nightmare. Marietta flew up, as if thrown, her arms flailing and her skirt whipping up, exposing her. 

“Oh my god,” Hermione whispered. “Ishtar, help us.”

Draco growled and pushed through the crowd. Hermione tried to follow, but he was so much taller, so much bulkier. She lost him amid the sleeves and elbows and angry spells. She couldn’t see around the wizards and people were going to crush her. Like being caught in a riptide, she couldn’t go forward. 

“She bit me!” Another person yelled, from, inexplicably, the other end of the atrium. 

Marietta bounced up again, hands reached for her like Inferi, and even from here, even in this mix of emotions and scents, Hermione smelled Marietta’s fear and her tears, and Hermione was angry.

“No.” One word, one angry, low word. Fuck the law. Her pack-mate was in danger and it was her duty to help her. Hermione flicked her wand and Disapparated. 

Her Apparition was so strong, she displaced three other wizards and two witches when she materialised. They roared in anger, their eyes wild in a madness even Hermione never knew from her worst changes.

“They’re going to attack!” the witch closest to her yelled. “They’re multiplying!”

“Kill them!” someone else yelled. 

Hermione narrowed her eyes. She whipped her wand and pulled Marietta down to her side. They were getting the hell out of here and leaving it to the Ministry to sort out.

Where was the Wizengamot to see this? Where was the Minister? Where were the Aurors, for Ishtar’s sake? How dare they threaten her or Marietta? How dare

“Avada Kedavra.” 

She didn’t so much as hear the spell as she felt the change in magic—the way that all the untethered magic in the room listened up and coalesced to form a spell with hyper-focused intent, and it all happened so fast. Even her brain didn’t go that quick. Proche-Orient, she thought. And Harry, she thought.

Marietta stepped in front of her, Werewolf fast. 

The spell hit. 

To feel a pack-mate die was a singular agony. In the span of a second, a string of Hermione’s heart, and of her gut, ripped free, dragging like electrified barbed-wire through her veins. Her body wanted to hold on, her magic wanted to hold on, her wolf wanted to hold on, but the string pulled so fast, so sharp, slicing up everything in its path until she was a ragged, bleeding mess, a void without— 

A howl went up around the room. Inhumane and so very human at once. The pack felt, the pack felt. And all this before Marietta’s body slipped from Hermione’s grasp and crumpled to the floor. Somewhere, Marietta’s mother was screaming, her voice going raw. Too little, too late. 

Those nearest went silent, shock paralysing them. They took steps back into other people and like a wave, the silence fell over the atrium. Hermione’s eyes burned, burned, burned, as she fell to her knees, pressing her hands over Marietta’s solar plexus and pumping. She sang in her head to keep the rhythm.

The Aurors were coming. Too late.

“Stay alive, stay alive,” she chanted. She bent to give Marietta three breaths. She pressed her ear to Marietta’s chest. Nothing. Again. She did it again. Nothing. Oh god, not her pack-mate. Ishtar, help me. 

I am the goddess of lightening, a voice told her. I deem you worthy.

Hermione didn’t question the voice in her head. She ripped open Marietta’s blouse and pressed her wand to the soft skin above her heart. 

“Fulguris.”

Lightening snapped out of Hermione’s wand into Marietta’s chest. Her body arched up. 

“Use of an unauthorised spell by a known Werewolf,” a harsh voice said behind her. Two rough hands jerked her up, yanking her arms behind her, her head snapping forward. “Hermione Granger, you are under arrest for violation of Wizengamot Code WER-41792. Drop your wand.”

They pulled it from her hand before she could, and she was hit with a Body-Bind spell, her arms glued painfully behind her. They levitated her roughly, bumping her into the nearby statue of magical supremacy. But their supremacy was false. It was based in fear of what Hermione and her people could do to them, and that was weakness. They were all weak.

She was kicked and elbowed and zinged with stinging spells as the Aurors dragged her, bumping and weaving, through the crowd. Hermione paid them no attention.

She had eyes only for Marietta. 

Marietta, who breathed.

Chapter Text

“What do you mean Hermione was arrested?” Potter yelled.

“Do I look like I’m in the mood for metaphoricals, Potter?” Draco snarled. “Your fucking colleagues—or is it ex-colleagues now?—dragged her off to Level Two not half an hour ago! And where were you to help her? Indefinite leave pending Wizengamot review of the legality of—”

“Seriously, just fuck right off, Malfoy,” Potter interrupted, grabbing his hair and yanking in frustration. “No one has time for your bitching when Hermione’s in trouble and she needs—”

“She needs you both to shut the fuck up,” Weasley said, stepping between them and snarling with all his teeth. “Harry, sit down and rein it in, and Malfoy, get your Alpha trousers on or bend your neck because if you don’t, I will.”

Draco growled at him, but Weasley didn’t cower. He studied him for a moment, then nodded and stepped out from between him and Potter. Draco growled at Potter, too, just to remind him who was Alpha, and that they didn’t have time for this.

“We have no connections in the Auror Department now that Harry’s been put on leave,” Weasley continued, when he was satisfied they were both going to stay quiet. Draco only growled again at the reminder, of how utterly stupid and selfish Potter was to leave them so exposed, with no one inside to fight for them. He glared at him, and enumerated all the ways he would destroy him if Hermione was not safely released by the full-moon.

“Thanks a lot for that,” Draco sneered at Potter.

Potter looked away, scowling. 

“But we do still have Ministry connections. And public opinion was going in our favour before today. Maybe… maybe Hermione’s arrest will help us. She’s well liked. Didn’t your mum say she polled at a 65 per cent approval rating? It was nearly as high as Harry’s.”

Draco whipped his head around to stare at Weasley. “My mother did polling on our likeability?”

Weasley frowned at him. “Yes. You weren’t as likeable, unfortunately.”

As if he could possibly, possibly care about that right now. 

“What do we do, then?” Potter said, staring at the empty fireplace. 

Just then, the door swung open and Narcissa swept in, silver traveling cloak whipping behind her. 

“The Wizengamot is being unhelpful,” said Mother. She paused by her desk to drop off her handbag and gloves, tossing her cloak to Doxxy. “The Minister even less so. I have never met a man so incapable of political action, and I funded Fudge for years.”

Draco narrowed his eyes. “Hello, Mother. So good of you to join us after everything has gone to shit thanks to your ill-thought rioting plot.”

Narcissa gave him a dour look. “I hope you know me better than that, Draco.” She swung around behind her desk and sat, sighing in a way he’d never seen her do before non-family. “Hermione’s still in the Ministry. She’s being kept in a holding cell within the DMLE. They have not given her a trial date, but Acadia Parkinson is filing a demand for the date to be set. We’re hopeful we’ll have hers prior to the Weasley boys, which has been moved back yet again.”

“Why?” Weasley asked, brows furrowed. “The Wizengamot moved it back or we did?”

“The Wizengamot,” said Narcissa. “Which is a good sign for us. They’re concerned they don’t have a good enough case.”

“Not even with… not even with Head Auror Yaxley’s testimony?” Potter asked, almost hesitant. “Her testimony nearly always clenches a case for us, when we’re prosecuting.”

Narcissa gave him a level look. “Macha Yaxley has decided that she does not see fit to testify.”

Weasley sat heavily in one of the gilded Louis XIV chairs before Narcissa’s desk. “Wow. I never expected her to be corruptible. What did Parkinson have to pay her?”

Narcissa smiled flatly, and said nothing, but Draco caught Potter and Weasley sharing a look as their worldview apparently crumbled around them; who knew that the susceptibility of a salaried Ministry employee would be more shocking than their best friend’s arrest? He sent a withering glare to their backs, which went completely unappreciated.

“So, now we… wait?” Potter asked, finally, scowling once more. 

Narcissa nodded. “That is all we can do at this time.”

“She’s going to be furious,” Draco said, sitting down next to Weasley. He felt tired, all the way down into his bones. He felt like he’d never get up again from this stupid silver-upholstered chair. “The New Moon Charity Festival that she was working on… it’s in a week.”

Narcissa pursed her lips. “We must postpone it regardless. Tensions are too high to risk so many pack together in such an unprotected location. Let us allow Acadia to secure our dear Alpha and our dear Weasleys and reevaluate our next steps.”

Draco rubbed his face, feeling like he could scrub years of stress away and still drown beneath it. He looked up at his mother from behind his fingers, and said, “If you’d just let her be Alpha, this never would’ve happened. But you had to plot from the shadows and you didn’t even tell her, and now we’re all suffering for it.”

His mother said nothing, but she was the first to look away.

 

🌕 🌕 🌕

 

Four days before the February moon, Brown brought him news that his mother was wrong. Again. 

“My old partner before I was reassigned to work with Tonks, she retired a couple of years ago but she’s kept up connections. She said Hermione’s being moved to Azkaban. Tonight.”

“Without a trial?” he snarled, staring angrily at Hermione’s books, still open to the page she’d been reading when they were called to the Ministry. When she’d been arrested. “She hasn’t been tried yet!”

“They’re concerned about the full moon apparently,” Brown said, eyes hard. “They want her somewhere more secure.”

Draco sneered. He would tear them apart. He would rip the flesh and fascia from their bones and he would crunch through every knotted patella, suck the marrow from every femur while he stared into their eyes and smiled, their weak, human blood dribbling from his mouth. They were nothing. Their magic was nothing. Not to him. 

“Who authorised this?”

Brown’s mouth pressed tight, the white scar along her face shining in stark contrast to the rouge over top it. “Only the Minister can order a suspect moved from Ministry holding to Azkaban before the Wizengamot votes.”

“Shacklebolt?!” Draco whirled around, unable to hide his bafflement. “I may not be his biggest fan, but wasn’t he part of Dumbledore’s little coterie? He worked with Hermione during the war. Why in Merlin’s name would he authorise that?”

Brown shrugged. “Political pressure? Hatred for the job? Exhaustion? Who knows. He was an Auror and he sometimes takes a hard line on legal issues because, I suspect, he still feels like that’s his role.” She paused. “I also suspect he was strong-armed into the role with some dying wish of Albus Dumbledore, and has only kept it because he’s terrified if he gives it up, a blood supremist will get it and we’ll be back where we were ten years ago.”

“Well, I could hardly give a fuck about his feelings,” Draco growled, spinning back around to pace before his hearth. The fire was too low, and almost as soon as he thought it, Dotty popped in and stoked it higher. 

He would start with the one who smelled like Hermione’s arrest. Then, he would find the one whose magic smelled like the Killing Curse that had been aimed at her.

There was a special kind of focus that came with fury. It was as clear as flawless diamonds, as sharp as the electrical scent of lightning that saved Marietta, as smooth as the slide of a freshly sharpened katana piercing the gut. And there were many guts Draco would pierce… with his teeth, with his claws, with his magic and his money.

“Gather the pack,” Draco said, suddenly. “Tell them to be ready, to wait for my call. We’re going to fix this our way.” 

I am done letting humans decide my fate, he thought. I am fucking done.

It was a credit to Brown that she nodded without a second thought.

 

🌕 🌕 🌕

 

From the Manor’s garden, he turned his head to the sky and he howled—the first time he’d ever debased himself in his human form. But the magic of his Alpha howl carried over the wind, through the lines of magic that flowed beneath Britain, and shivered into his pack’s skin. They heard him, no matter the distance, and they came.

One day before the moon, when the human was weakest in all their bodies as the wolf began to stir, his fury—their fury—was strong enough that they heard him, and understood him, and he could draw them to him, through blood wards and Unplottable charms. 

Potter was the first to arrive, his Auror robes long replaced by the Muggle athletic clothes he wore on evening runs. They were as black as the circles beneath his eyes and the fury glimmering in his magic. 

Good, Draco thought. Good.

Others followed—Weasley and Brown and Tonks, then the Montgomery sisters, Cuffe, and then… others. Others Draco didn’t know. Had never known until last month. Werewolves that smelled like as many moons as he had, and therefore were bitten then same night he was. Werewolves from his pack he’d never known—never bothered to know. 

Greg’s dad, Mr Goyle. And Romilda Vane from Draco’s junior Quidditch League. And Graham Pritchard from Draco’s own house.

And the new ones—those only two moons old. And Potter, only one.

“I am done. I’ve played by the Ministry’s rules—by our pathetic society’s rules—long enough. And now they dare take my mate—our Alpha—and drop her off in some Dementor-sodden hellhole without a goddamned trial? I am your Alpha and I’m telling you this: We will not allow them to take us apart, piece by piece, us any longer.” He looked out over the faces of people he knew and should’ve known, and he seethed. In return, he smelt their anger. It calmed him, this anger; it gave a conduit to his rage and he channeled it into the cold, merciless anger his father taught him so many years ago. An anger he’d forgotten in the years since becoming an animal. Animals were not cold, calculating. Animals were heat and savagery. 

Draco was a Malfoy. He was both.

And that’s why magic made him Alpha.

“This will be a full moon unlike any we’ve done before: we’re fighting back against a government and a society that doesn’t believe we’re people anymore. We’re retrieving our packmates. We’ll wait until the moon to attack,” he said calmly, and across the sea of faceless gathered on the Manor lawn, yellow eyes nodded back. “They’ve taken all three Werewolves in custody to Azkaban to await trial—trials that have not been set, and likely never will be—instead of keeping them in Ministry holding cells as is customary for normal wizards. This is unacceptable.” 

He’d thanked his mother for that information, and he didn’t dare ask what she’d had to give up to get it. He also didn’t care to know. He could barely look at her right now. “Our first priority is retrieving our Alpha female and our Weasleys. Our second priority is vengeance.”

Even Weasley nodded, and that’s when Draco knew he’d been chosen for a reason. He still held this over Potter for a reason. 

“Wait. You want us to break into Azkaban?!” Potter said, stepping forward. Draco bared his teeth, but Potter had never had any sense, and continued: “How’s that going to help us long term? Breaking people out of gaol is hardly the way to get the Ministry off our backs, even if it is Hermione and the twins in there.”

Draco stepped forward, and Potter narrowed his eyes. “Did I stutter?”

“Malfoy, you know you’re my bro, but this is fu—“

“I am your Alpha,” Draco hissed, baring his teeth once more. Potter took a step back. “Not your bro. Not today. You will obey me. We will be rescuing our Alpha female at the full moonrise, and afterwards, we will be making it quite clear to the Ministry our position on laws and rights as they relate to magical beings with creature blood. I am a goddamned Malfoy and I am sick to my canine teeth with being subjugated. They will take my Alpha female over my fucking spell-resistant, instantly-healing dead body, and you will get in line, have I made myself clear, Potter?”

Likely without even realising it, Potter tilted his head back, bearing his neck. Draco gave him a flat smile. “Thank you.” He scanned the rest of his pack, sniffing for dissent. “Would anyone else like to challenge me for Alpha today?” 

No one moved. Draco narrowed his eyes. “Good.” 

He paused to survey them a moment longer, then said, “This is a volunteer only mission. Anyone who takes part will be under a double-strength dose of Wolfsbane. I want not only a clear mind, I want an apex-predator mind—predators unaffected by Dementors and unafraid of guards. We will use our strength and our cunning, as the wolf gives us, and we will infiltrate the prison, steal back our pack mates, and leave. We will not infect others because our Alpha female would be furious, and for no other reason.”

They all nodded, even Potter. 

Draco waved them away to prepare himself. “Those of you coming, go find a bed; the elves will sort you out. Get some rest. We’ll portkey to Sunderland twenty minutes before moonrise. The rest of you—assist my mother; she’ll have work for you.”

 

🌕 🌕 🌕

 

At moonrise, they swam. The North Sea was negative-one C but to Draco’s Were body, it felt like a dip in a cool pond. He relished the salt water slapping against his paws with every stroke. He basked in the icy spray against his muzzle, the infinite darkness of the sea beneath him. Let something try to attack him. He welcomed it.

Next to him, Weasley swam a steady, focused pace. His wolf-blue eyes focused on the black mass rising from the sea only another mile off at this point. They’d been swimming for an hour and none of them were even breathing heavy at this point. Why had he ever thought this form a disadvantage? 

On his other side, Brown paddled beautifully. Had Draco really never noticed that she was Hermione’s Beta, as Weasley was Draco’s? All this time, he’d been so tunnel-visioned, refusing to look past his own self-imposed blinders for fear of what he might see, or smell. But seeing her here, now, with her tawny coat, curly with wet, her ridiculous satin bow sagging and certainly weighing her down, Draco reassessed: A woman who could be absolutely unstoppable while also giving care to her grooming was worthy of Malfoy attention. And more importantly, she’d done her Beta work silently for years, never drawing attention to herself in that way, only in others; she’d supported Hermione without combativeness, without dissent. She did her job and didn’t complain.

Draco pulled himself up onto the rocky shore just fifteen short minutes later. Record-breaking speed if they’d been mere humans, but they weren’t. Potter clambered up behind him, shaking his coat out without discretion. Draco snarled at him until he moved to do it further away. Weasley came to his left shoulder, and Brown to his right. When he met their eyes he realised, quite suddenly, that he understood them. Not with Legilimency or the like, or with the sense of comfort he’d always been able to understand Hermione in her wolf-form, but an innate sort of understanding that didn’t require active communication.

And then he realised that it wasn’t different from the way he understood Hermione. It was the same, the exact same, and if he’d only listened before, he would’ve known his pack. He would’ve heard them and sensed them and, and—the sense of magic between them flared and Draco was staggered by the feel of it, the strange, higher power of this magic, greater than any magic he’d ever wielded as a man, greater than anything the Dark Lord could’ve cast with a wand.

He wasn’t human anymore. He was better.

Brown tilted her head, her mouth opening in a canine grin, tongue lolling just a bit. The satin bow around her neck was tied perfectly, though her coat was still curled like a poodle. 

You understand. 

It wasn’t a thought that came from her, but it was something quite like it. Draco sat back on his haunches, confronted by the weight of this realisation, of everything he avoided and ignored and refused to accept because he was not a creature.

But he was. He was a magical being of a higher evolution and wizards would be lucky to be like him. All these thoughts came at him like a Bludger to the face too quick to dodge. His magic was stronger, better, and it came with a forced transformation every twenty-eight days, which he abhorred, but what had his father always taught him in those early magic lessons?

All powerful magic has a price, Draco. You must decide if you are willing to pay it, and if you are not, you must find someone else to pay it for you.

Draco woofed once, quiet and low, but his pack didn’t need many decibels to hear him. They fell in line as he slinked up the gravelly beach, past the rotting dock, beneath the cloud of Dementors he didn’t even feel. They were nothing to him. Nothing to the wolf. The gate was locked, but Weasley made short work of it, ripping the iron and magic away like it was so much cloth. He spat it to the side and they pushed through, the gate creaking with their entry.

Human magic was nothing against a Werewolf, Draco thought. Why had he allowed it to control him so long? Why had he allowed humans to control him for seven, long years? He was stronger, faster. He was unstoppable by body and by wealth. Let them come.

They came to the doors, and somehow, Draco had not expected Azkaban to have doors, but it did. Big, black, wooden doors with runes inscribed around the edges that have sharp lines and clawing, scythe-like hooks that emanated an evil sentience Draco didn’t care for at all. And they brought Hermione here. 

The magic noticed them, took an interest. 

He heard scrabbling behind him and then Potter rushed past, throwing his shoulder into the door. The magic’s interest turned and as Potter rushed back for another run, it unlocked itself and his next barrage broke the doors open. 

Wizards in dreary robes screamed and jumped back from watch posts inside the door, wands pulled much too late. Draco stepped into the prison and stared. 

“Merlin Almighty,” the first wizard yelped. “Werewolves! Antechamber!” he called into a patch at his shoulder. He scrambled back to the gated corridor beyond, his back sliding desperately against the wall, his hand fumbling ineffectually with latches and locks while he moved his wand from one wolf to another. It didn’t matter. He might get one curse off, but he wouldn’t get a second. 

Wardens and guards came running, their yells echoing from all parts of the tower. They were much too far away. The second wizard was desperately trying to barricade himself with a dingy desk covered in soft porn magazines and a half-eaten sandwich. Chicken salad, the kind Dobby used to make when he was angry with all of them.

Draco growled, tossed his head towards the gated corridor. Open it, he thought, and to his pleasure, even the wizard seemed to understand him. He scrambled for the keys, muttering a steady, pathetic stream of Oh god, oh god, oh god over and over. Draco waited. Beside him, Weasley whipped his head around and snarled at the second wizard, who’d thought to fire a spell off from behind the safety of Naughty Nymphs; not even a recent issue—Draco’s keen eyes could make out the volume number and it was from two years ago. Pathetic.

The second wizard screamed and clambered up onto his desk, as if Werewolves were flood waters and not vicious magical creatures capable of jumping. Draco ignored him—Weasley had him well in hand.

Finally the first guard got the lock undone. Draco tossed his head, gesturing for him to go first, and again he did, as if he could understand Draco’s commands without Draco even having to command them. He’d never had so much power as a mere wizard.

They were led down a long, stone passageway, damp and frigid with the essence of the Dementors nearby. Draco didn’t care about that. He could smell her. The wild, untamed, Were of his mate, who he knew was not in her right mind for the first time in her tenure as a Werewolf. He wondered if she was enjoying it, this night of pure, wild anger and freedom. He wondered if she hated it, the loss of rationality.

He wondered if he would even be able to keep her from destroying every guard they passed and hunting down the rest. And he didn’t care. But she would, so the pack would guard her from herself. 

He put every turn and twist, every door and passageway to memory even though he knew they could all smell their way back out. He might be superior, but he didn’t want to lose sight of his rational mind, either.

Hermione’s howls were louder than her thrashing, but it was the sound, the reverberation, of her body slamming against the iron bars again and again that finally cracked the merciless, cold anger Lucius Malfoy had once trained into Draco. They came to a stop before her cell and the guard, whose piss-soaked trousers were really starting to stink, continued a stream of unintelligible begging and pleading that Draco was really not here for. 

He growled, and the guard jumped three feet. Hands shaking so badly Draco suspected he could do this better himself, even without opposable thumbs, the guard finally got the key in the lock and turned it. The cell door clicked open and Hermione snarled an inhuman, vicious snarl. She ripped the door in and pounced. Draco met her halfway, tackling her body to the ground. She snarled and bit and they tumbled around the cell. She was smaller, but wilder, angrier, more terrified—and still an Alpha. It took him several minutes to get her pinned in the corner, half beneath the piss-poor excuse for a cot in her cell. He grabbed her neck and clamped down. 

She immediately went slack with surrender. Draco met her eyes, amazed at the wildness in them. Amazed at how much he liked it. And when their gazes connected, he sensed her mind for the wild thing that it was. There was nothing of Hermione in her, and yet, everything was Hermione. Obey, he commanded, and even without Wolfsbane in her, he knew that she understood. 

He led her out of the cell to the waiting pack. Weasley, Brown, Potter, Tonks, and a couple of professional Quidditch players returned with the Weasley Twins similarly subdued. Their wildness was different from Hermione’s. Playful like imps that wanted to kill you, but were happy to chase you around a bit before committing. 

The guard had retreated to Hermione’s empty cell and was trying to lock himself in it. Draco really could not care less. He had enough to focus on keeping Hermione’s perked ears from haring off after every un-turned human in the prison. Several times he had to snatch her neck and drag her back into line, pull her down from the bars of another inmate’s cell. Another time, he nearly killed one of the twins who sniffed at her with a particular interest, but she spun around so fast to snarl at them herself that he didn’t have to. Both twins backed up with loping, unconcerned hops, but understood enough that they were not welcome to have a go at the Alpha. 

The Dementors swarmed them as they reached the Antechamber, now devoid of all human life. The pack passed through, unencumbered. Dementors couldn’t harm them. Could barely even see them. He pushed Hermione into the sea, listened as Weasley and Brown did the same with the twins. 

Swim, he commanded his pack, and all of them, Wolfsbane or not, obeyed him.

This form is a gift, he thought. But not choosing the time and place when he could use it was not. All powerful magic has a price.

He was not willing to pay this price anymore, but he was willing to give a loan. He would take this form… on his own terms.

Chapter Text

Hermione woke up with the certainty that something was very wrong. Her muscles tensed of their own volition and she consciously uncurled her fingers from the claws they wanted to be. The wolf was still hovering, just beneath the surface, like a new cold sore she couldn’t help tonguing but knew she shouldn’t.

Slowly, she sniffed. Malfoy Manor. 

Somewhere near Draco’s suite but not within it. Lucius Malfoy was on the same floor. Narcissa was below. There were three house-elves inside the house, at least another two in the gardens. She inhaled again. More scents, unusual for the location: Fred… a bit further, a bit younger: George. Harry, Ron, and Lavender in the direction of Narcissa’s solar. Draco was with them, but even as she smelled him his scent began moving. Closer and closer until he was right outside the door. 

It cracked open and Hermione dared to open her eyes. She saw him and a sudden wave of too-big emotions hit her like a Bombarda. Draco met her eyes and she burst into tears like a runty cub. Draco’s expression was as cold as she’d ever seen it, and much colder than it’d been in years. He maintained it even while he rushed forward to her. She held her arms out while tears, and probably snot, ran down her face. She didn’t know, didn’t care. 

“I’m a mess,” Hermione cried into his shirt. 

Draco hugged her tighter his nose pressed into her hair. He inhaled her scent deeply and then squeezed again, as if he was only a finger’s width away from a meltdown just like hers. “You’re fine,” Draco said, quietly. “You’re fine.” It was less a comfort, more a mantra, but it helped.

“They put me in Azkaban,” Hermione said, her voice crumbling. “It was so horrible—so cold, even for me, and the prisoners screamed and wailed and, oh my god, oh Ishtar, Draco, do you know what the worst part was?”

She pulled back enough to look at him and his gaze met hers evenly. “What?”

“The Dementors,” she said, and had never heard her voice so small. “But not because they made me miserable… because they didn’t. The Dementors didn’t affect me at all, and if Dementors aren’t interested in my soul, then maybe… maybe I don’t have one anymore. Maybe we’re really not human.”

“You’re human,” Draco growled. “Better than human. Dementors are no match for us.”

Hermione frowned, but didn’t say anything to that, too raw to respond to it. He was trying to make her feel better, in his own Draco way, and it probably wasn’t true, but maybe it wasn’t true that she didn’t have a soul, either. Her nerves were chaotic and shrieking. She wanted the comfort of a book, something she could escape into, to learn everything that’s ever been discovered about souls and what happens with them, but the longer she was awake the more that more pressing concerns rose to the surface of her mind. 

How had she got out?

How had the twins got out?

“They let me go? The twins? Is Marietta okay?”

“Marietta’s in a high-security ward at St Mungo’s,” he said. “My sources say she’s alive and fine.”

“Draco…” There was so much in those few words to tell her he’s leaving out twice as much. His sources had told him something else, too. She looked at him, waiting for it, waiting for him to tell her something she knew he didn’t want to tell her.

“She didn’t change last night.”

Hermione reared back. “What?!”

Draco gave her a flat. humourless smile. There was something in his eyes that looked like vindication and disappointment all at once. “We’ve discovered the cure for Lycanthropy after all.”

“Dying?” Hermione said, understanding his expression all too well now. He’d worked so hard, for so long, and— “That’s absurd—why would that even—oh, Ishtar, that’s… that’s—Harry, oh my god.

Draco cocked his head. And then his eyes flashed with that familiar, aching scorn she so often saw in it, only this time it was directed at himself. He hadn’t figured it out first. He’d failed in so many ways. She could read it in him, could almost hear the words unspoken, as if their shared Lycanthropy let her read his mind in a way that she’d never noticed, never focused on before. She ached so much for him, for his mission and his sense of self-worth that she knew she’d not be able to heal for him, she could barely focus as he continued speaking. “Potter died in the forest, after he was bitten. It killed the infection.”

He’d wasted so much time away from his pack, trying to solve a problem that could only be solved with… 

She swallowed. “Death is the answer then. It changes the magic. After all, Lycanthropy has always been a curse of life.”

Draco smirked, but it was rueful. Oh, Draco, she thought, miserable. “Isn’t it always?” 

She heard something else in his voice and looked up again from her own racing thoughts. “What else?”

“You weren’t released from Azkaban. You were… relieved of it.”

“You broke into Azkaban,” she repeated, flat, all other concerns immediately swept to the side. “Tell me you’re joking.”

He simply stared at her. She shook her head, disbelieving. “Who else?”

“Half our pack, I’d say. Even Cuffe swam along.”

“You swam—oh my god, I didn’t have Wolfsbane—Draco,” she said, pleading with her eyes. “Tell me—I didn’t—did I hurt anyone?”

He shook his head. “We kept you well in line. The pack was under a double-dose and we kept you and the Weasleys surrounded at all times. You tried to make a run for the guards a few times, and once another prisoner, but we were careful. The swimming tired you out, and my father was able to portkey us all back here without issue. 

She nodded, but inside her heart was hammering even faster than it normally did as a Werewolf. “How are we ever going to come back from this, politically?” she asked, desolate. “How am I ever going to… to be free again?”

All those years of work, all the campaigning, the tireless researching, the fundraising and turning the other cheek when she was targeted. All the years keeping her pack together, keeping them from losing themselves to the depression of lives without rights. Was it harder to accept it having known what it was like to have those rights, only for them to be taken away? 

Was it harder knowing she would never have any rights again, muted or not?

“We’re fucked,” she said. “You should’ve left me there. You should’ve let me face trial.”

“You wouldn’t have got one,” Draco snarled. “You were transferred illegally. Quietly. They would’ve started rounding all of us up soon enough.”

“But what do we do now?” she cried. “What can we possibly do to fix everything that’s gone wrong?!”

Draco gave her one of his cold, merciless smiles. She couldn’t help the shiver that ran down her spine at the sight of it, or the strange her to lift her neck to him. She forced herself not to. She was an Alpha. She bent to no one, not even another Alpha.

“Lycanthropy is a curse half finished,” Draco said in that same cold, merciless voice. “I only need to finish it.”

 

🌕 🌕 🌕

 

Lucius showed her through to Narcissa’s office without his usual moue of distaste, and that, more than anything else, solidified to Hermione that this was it. Things were different now. There was life before and there was their lives that had started over two nights ago, when Hermione, Fred, and George had been rescued from imprisonment—life after. Life now.

Narcissa looked up, social smile in place, as the door opened, but it was the other person in attendance that took Hermione’s attention. The morning was young, but Narcissa’s office had always had the best light, and it caught the edges of the woman’s hair like smouldering fire magic. Hermione stopped in the threshold, stunned.

“Ah, you’ve joined us. Please sit, Hermione.” Narcissa held a delicate hand out, indicating the free chair. The occupant of the next chair over turned, soft brown hair sliding against a fine neck as she looked back. Hermione inhaled slowly.

I’ve been betrayed.

She looked to Narcissa, knowing the other woman would hear, would smell, the rapid pace of her heart. The fear in it, the utter, dissolving sense of loss at knowing this woman she’d looked to for advice and assistance for years was selling her out.

“Head Auror Yaxley,” Hermione greeted, her voice rough. She moved her hand to her wand as slowly as she could, knowing there was no way she’d catch out the Head Auror, no matter how relaxed she looked. The woman hadn’t been promoted for nothing, after all. Their eyes met and held, but Yaxley made no move for her own wand, or even to stand. Heart still hammering, Hermione’s eyes settled on Narcissa, looking for an explanation. “I didn’t mean to intrude on a social call.”

“Oh, this is no social call, Unspeakable Granger,” Yaxley said, her smile sharp. “Please, join us.”

There was a fragile sort of rage building beneath her skin now. How long had they been tracking her? Had Narcissa known this whole time, nearly a decade? Had Draco told—no, it wasn’t Draco. It would never have been Draco.

Should she run? Where would she even go? She settled on a path of questioning she could manage, her hand trembling near her wand. 

“You know I’m an Unspeakable?” She was more unsettled than ever, and if Draco had been in the room with her, she knew they’d be furiously conversing with hidden hand gestures, and the situation would most certainly not be okay.

“Oh, yes, Narcissa and I go way back,” the Head Auror said, relaxing into her chair, which opened up even more questions, such as how Narcissa found out, but before Hermione could dive into that, she continued: “We were the best of friends in school, weren’t we, Cis?”

“The very best,” Narcissa replied, her grin oddly feral and wolflike. A grin Hermione had seen on her only twice before—each time foretelling a great stride forward in their campaigns. Hermione’s stomach sank. She was about to be sacrificed for their campaign, and there was nowhere she could run.

Hermione’s stomach tensed. “I don’t understand.”

“Sometimes you just meet a kindred spirit at the age of eleven,” Narcissa continued, her pleasant smile back in place, “and you know that you will do anything for that person. Anything. I’m sure you know what I speak of, darling.”

Hermione thought of cold, frightening tents; of agonising hunger and fear that set her bones shaking between her ligaments; of adrenaline pushing her to run faster than her body was built for; of wand-work she’d never been capable of before she had to be. She thought of Harry dying, of Ron dying, of her parents dying… of Draco dying, and she knew exactly what Narcissa meant. 

She nodded. “I do,” she said, her voice catching in the middle. She swallowed and tried again. “I know what you mean.”

I know why you’re giving me up. I know why you’re sacrificing me.

“Sometimes you discover something about a person you care for like that,” Narcissa continued, her eyes on Head Auror Yaxley, who was returning the look with the quiet, comfortable gaze of a witch who knew everything there was to know about the speaker. Who knew more than their own family did, and knew their place in the speaker’s life with an unshakable certainty. The look of someone who had nothing to doubt. “Something that would put that person in great danger if it were discovered,” Narcissa continued quietly, “… and you know that you will be the one to keep them safe, no matter how long it takes, no matter what it takes.”

Something’s not right. I’m not reading this correctly. What’s wrong?

Hermione turned to the Head Auror, her eyes looking over every centimetre of her face, her hands, her posture. Subtly, she sniffed the air, but there was nothing she recognised. Still—something was there. 

Hermione swallowed. Yaxley still hadn’t moved to arrest her, to call for backup or Dementors. Indeed, she was regarding Hermione with a soft, knowing smile. Her eyes flicked to Narcissa.

“Oh, really, Cissa,” the Head Auror said. “Didn’t you tell her she was quite safe?” She turned back to Hermione, and added, “I’m not here as an Auror, Unspeakable. Please, sit with us.”

Hesitantly, Hermione nodded. Her legs shook as she made her way over to the vacant chair, mere feet from Narcissa’s impressive collection of Renaissance silver plates. This close, the scent was even stronger. Hermione couldn’t ignore it if she tried. 

“You’ve… there’s something in your blood,” Hermione said, quietly. “What is it?”

Yaxley smiled a siren smile. All her teeth showed and she looked, for a moment, like a woman who’d led hundreds of bloody raids, and not a Pureblood of breeding, as she did here. 

“Banshee,” Yaxley said, softly. She leant forward. “Would you like to hear a song?”

Hermione quickly shook her head as her heartbeat continued to thump out of rhythm. Narcissa may not be giving her up to the Ministry this very moment, but there was still something very, very alarming going on. “Thank you, no.”

“And so you see,” Narcissa said to Hermione, “when I learned that the very dearest friend of my heart would be relegated to fewer rights than a house-elf… that if she were killed in the middle of Diagon Alley, it would be automatically ruled ‘euthanising a dangerous creature’ rather than murder, I knew that I would devote my life’s work to seeing that changed.”

“And when I learned that the friend who had been working behind the scenes her entire adult life to make mine better had too been made into what the Ministry would call a creature, I knew that the stakes, as it were, had risen,” Yaxley added.

The two witches shared feral, siren grins that left Hermione both hot and cold at once. 

“Nothing less than Chief Witch of the Wizengamot,” they said together, their voices both beautiful and dangerous, though only one could kill with it. The other… the other could kill in a much more violent way.

Hermione’s mouth parted much without her permission. Arguably, it was a more powerful position than the Minister’s. Albus Dumbledore had certainly got much of his way occupying the seat. “But Harkiss is the Chief Warlock,” Hermione couldn’t help protesting. “He’s not mentioned any plans to retire.” 

They weren’t suggesting they kill

“I assure you, not for much longer,” Narcissa said pleasantly. “We’ve been hard at work while you were indisposed, darling. The Weasley boys were delightfully useful, as always—”

“You put them up to that stunt?!” Hermione growled. 

Narcissa, ever so slightly, bared her neck. Not much. Not even visible, truly, but enough for the Alpha in Hermione to recognise it and accept it. “It was quite necessary.”

“Explain.”

“Happily,” said Narcissa, settling into her chair with all the grace and anti-comfort of the Queen. “Our original plan to install Lucius in the Chief Warlock’s seat after Dumbledore’s inevitable passing was, one might say, derailed by the temperature of the magical world at that time. The post remained unfilled for more than a year during the war, but afterwards Lucius was focused on Draco and me, ensuring that we were comfortable and so on, not to mention he barely missed out another stint in Azkaban,” she paused and gave Yaxley a nod here, which, really, answered a lot of questions, “and by the time we’d settled into our new lives, Harkiss had been voted in.”

“At first we tried to work with him,” Yaxley continued, turning ever-so-slightly and delicately crossing one ankle over the other. How this graceful woman had become Head Auror was beyond Hermione’s understanding. “He turned out to be… disappointing. Leaden with the weight of their own self-importance, as all old wizards inevitably are. Even if they’re thoughtful in their youth, they grow comfortable with their lives and become useless to the rest of society with age.”

Narcissa’s laugh was predatory. She steepled her fingers before her on the desk.“Macha and I have been working to unseat him through two election cycles now, but one knows how difficult it is to remove a conservative old wizard voted in by other conservative old wizards. Sometimes other… avenues must be explored.”

“Like blackmail,” Hermione surmised—hoped, really. “What have you got on him?”

“Exactly what we needed,” said Narcissa. “Pensieve recordings from five highly-placed Ministry officials documenting his delight over the loophole he’d found to give two well-respected business owners and the sons of a highly regarded pureblood family, a quick Kiss under the table. Done and over before anyone could contest it. Better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission, one has heard said.”

“Why would he want to do that?” Hermione exclaimed, leaning forward. 

The thought that the twins could’ve come so close to a fate worse than death, that Narcissa could’ve placed them there, that they could’ve agreed to play this game—! Her heart was going to beat straight out of her chest. A thousand instincts commanded her to run from the room, to find and protect the Weasley twins and every other member of their pack, but Narcissa sent a well-timed locking spell at her office door, and Hermione settled herself by sheer force of will. It wouldn’t stop her, but it was a polite reminder. 

“I don’t understand this,” she almost cried. The emotion of this was all too much, all too soon after her own ordeal. 

“Did you not know his mother is a Zonko?” Narcissa asked, tilting her head gently.

“And his father an arsehole, though that’s neither here nor there,” Yaxley added with a tinkling laugh. “I’ve never met anyone who cared less for the laughter of children.”

Hermione sat back, trembling and unsure why. “If you remove the Chief Warlock mid-cycle, the law states that the Head of the Department of Mysteries is to step in until the next election cycle. You know by now that I… that,” —well, she might as well just go for it— “that Draco and I are both Unspeakables. And even we don’t know who the Head Unspeakable is. The only other time this happened, the Head Unspeakable apparently declined the offer and it went to a Wizengamot vote, but there’s really no way to tell if that ever even happened, since no one knows who it is. Honestly, I’m not even sure there is a Head Unspeakable sometimes. Draco and I get these assignments and we don’t even know where they come from. ‘Apex’ could be anyone, anything. It could be the Minister or a decaying portrait of Helga Hufflepuff for all I know. And even if we did know who it was, there’s no way they’d reveal themself to take up politics.”

“Wouldn’t they?” Yaxley asked, with another delicate laugh, and yes, Hermione could see how these two women had been friends in school, and how they’d kept in touch despite, apparently, hiding that friendship for thirty years.

And she would never again accept the boys’ hot takes of a woman in a position of power for reality ever again. As if this woman here were lusting after Ron. He was perfectly lustable, of course, Merlin knew, but Hermione, having now met her, could tell she was unlikely to lust after anyone. She needed no one’s assistance but her own.

“You know who it is?” Hermione asked Yaxley. She supposed that made sense. Perhaps the Department Heads had meetings together off their diaries. She almost didn’t dare ask; it felt sinful to even question it, but Hermione wouldn’t be Hermione if she didn’t at least question it: “Who?”

There was a beat of silence, as if they both expected her to get it, and for a moment she thought, ’Surely not Harry…?’ before she pulled herself back to Earth and remembered Harry wouldn’t voluntarily study anything for an hour a day, much less eight, much less every day for years.

Finally, after what felt like literal years, Narcissa leant forward.

“Me, darling.”

Hermione reared back. “Excuse me?”

She’d never seen Narcissa look so delighted, truly, and the almost physical joy in Narcissa’s face, something so rarely shown, was blinding. She didn’t have to question it, didn’t need to hear Narcissa confirm it because in that moment, with every minute of training she’d received, every ounce of inherent logic in her rational brain, every spark of intuitive magic she possessed, Hermione knew it was true.

“You hired us.”

Narcissa inclined her head. “Two bright minds at a loose end, and one of them my son. It was a shame to let either of you whither away with your despair. Purpose gave you your strength back. You’ve done well for the Department. I regret that I could not prevent your sackings. Rest assure Hermione, you will have your job back soon… if you want it. But perhaps you and Draco are destined for greater, different things.”

Hermione swallowed around an impossible lump in her throat. She wanted to cry again and she was sick to the back canines with crying. 

She never betrayed me.

And yet to know she’d been saved on purpose. That her worth had been seen even when she hadn’t felt it herself. That Narcissa had led her into becoming the Alpha she was with such a delicate, subtle touch that Hermione had never even seen it. 

She considered feeling manipulated, but dismissed it. The intent was different. The intent was rescue. She’d never been betrayed… 

As they’d done so often these past few weeks, she felt her face grow hot, her eyes begin to burn with tears. “You helped us… All this time we worked together, and even still, I feel like I failed the pack. I should’ve known this… I should’ve figured this out sooner.”

Narcissa gave her a rare, true smile. “Ah, but unlike a hero, a heroine succeeds when she uses all her resources to win. And that includes help from others. Your strength was in front of the pack. Mine has always been at the back. And now, it’s time for us both to step outside our areas of comfort because for the sixteen months I’m Chief Witch, we will be putting into place the necessary laws for you to run and win against Kingsley Shacklebolt in the next election.”

“What?” Hermione whispered. She shook her head. “I can’t run for Minister—I’m not even thirty! And Kingsley’s a good man! He’s a good Minister.”

“He’s been a decent Minister for eight years,” Narcissa said. “But not a great one. And it’s time for a great Minister… one who will make the magical world safe for all magical people.”

Hermione hardened her mouth. “For all people, magical or not,” Hermione corrected.

Both Narcissa and Macha Yaxley gave sinister smiles, and Hermione, after only the briefest of moments, followed suit. “As you say, darling.”

The conversation turned, thankfully, somewhat softer after that, giving Hermione a much needed break from emotional upheaval after emotional upheaval. Lucius sent in tea and sandwiches at some point and it was well after they’d polished off the cucumber and smoked salmon finger sandwiches, the roast beef and cheddar scones, and the jerky ginger truffles that there was an urgent knock at the door, followed immediately by said door swinging open.

Draco strode in, tall and straight-backed and a little shiver of something went down Hermione’s spine as he gave her a glance then looked back to his mother. There was something almost ancient Draco in that cool look, something that returned him to the posh, self-possessed man he was in public, for everyone but her, and that she often forgot existed. He barely spared a glance for the Head Auror sitting before him.

Hermione was an unreliable narrator to even her own mind, and that was a shock.

“We found Edgecombe.”

“Marietta?!” Hermione pounced out of her chair before she even fully registered the thought. “Where is she?”

She was halfway to the door before another figure stepped into the frame behind Draco. Hermione stopped short, her heartbeat skipping as she laid eyes on the packmate she’d left on the edge of death. The Alpha in her screamed for assurance that Marietta was okay, unharmed, but the rational, human side of Hermione knew something was wrong without having to smell it.

Hermione took a step back. “You’re not…”

Marietta looked around the room, her eyes lingering on Yaxley before returning to Hermione, to Draco. “I’ve come to be the snitch.”

Chapter Text

Draco needed another cup of tea. This one had grown cold and unpalatable in his hand, and it was a wonder, truly, how the longer water sat cold in a glass, the better it tasted, but the longer tea sat, the worse. Two clear liquids so vastly different at separate temperatures. 

Much like him as a man and as a wolf.

Because he was, on the whole, a fairly temperate man. He could humour himself that, at the very least. Despite his Lycanthropy, Draco had never been the brash sort of fellow that Weasley or Potter were when they were slighted, or even felt so. Draco was the type to smile grimly at a slight, then later—much later, once chance of suspicion had passed—utterly destroy the other party.

But here… here he was like a tea gone room temp. His outside was cold, but his insides were scalding hot, like coffee burnt from a mis-applied heating charm, and he felt the change himself not at all unpalatable.

Because the tale Marietta Edgecombe was currently weaving was one that made him forget all about his patrician upbringing, and Father would hate to learn that genteel behaviour was not, as he’d always claimed, bred, but in fact, only a facade one dearly clung to and, in Draco’s case, was about to lose. 

“What do you mean it was an experiment?” he growled, and felt a moment of contrition that he’d unintentionally scared his packmate, as Marietta bent her head quite low to her knees. He wanted to tell her to sit up, to act like a goddamned witch, which she was now, and not the animal she used to become. But he didn’t, because she was still pack and he understood that now.

“They thought they had the cure this time,” Marietta said to her knees. A gentle hand from Hermione had her lifting her face again. Hermione shot Draco a look, but he ignored it, too hot-cold to worry about anything but this right now. “Mother said they’d chosen them all specifically, for insurance. If the cure didn’t work, it was a lot of high-profile people who’d be forced to do something because their jobs would eventually out them. If the cure didn’t work, Mother said, they’d at least have more money coming in for research.”

“Well, you can tell they weren’t Slytherin,” Macha Yaxley said to Mother, and really! How had those two managed to keep in touch since school without him ever realising? He’d seen Father take lunch with Yaxley before, but had always thought that was politicking, and Mother had only joined once in a blue moon. Draco narrowed his eyes—every time he thought his Father quite an old dog, incapable of new tricks, he was somehow still surprised that Lucius would’ve learned some tricks in his own youth, and not all of them had been shared with Draco, despite him being the heir. It was really frustrating. Would he have to perform this same subterfuge with his own heir? How easy it must’ve been for Father to slip these little things by Draco, with Draco having grown up being told so very much he’d naturally assumed he’d been told it all, and that was clearly not the case.

And Mother… Merlin, what a Dark Abraxan she’d turned out to be. The quiet, competent society wife secretly machinating an entire country from behind a fogged robe for over two decades.

“It’s always the Ravenclaws who do the most harm in the Department, as well,” Mother agreed, quite conversational. “The ones who think they already know the answer and it turns out their hypotheses weren’t well-formed from the beginning. You wouldn’t believe how many P-values over naught-point-naught-five they return in their write-ups. It’s truly disappointing.”

“I’ve always found Hufflepuffs paired with Slytherins to be a winning team on the force,” Yaxley said. “It’s the Ravenclaws and Gryffindors who think they know it all and miss the real clues. Although Potter and Weasley have the tenacity of a dozen Hufflepuffs and the grit of as many Slytherins. It’s been a good few years for the Auror Department since I brought them on.”

Draco would’ve been gratified to hear it if he could spare a moment to care. And yet: “You both seem largely unconfronted by this information,” he observed, eyes narrowed.

Marietta looked up as well, her eyes the clear sort of suspicious that Ravenclaws only achieved after they’d failed enough experiments to figure out life wasn’t lived all in their own heads. 

“Did you know?” she asked, her voice too quiet for Draco’s liking. No wolf should ever speak without confidence.

Mother shared a look with Yaxley. 

Yaxley said, “I put Weasley on the case, confidentially, some time ago. One hears things, as a—well, as a witch of unexpected blood. I’m sure you all understand. And more importantly, I brought this information to Chief Warlock Harkiss ten months ago, but he refused me the warrant I requested for an in-home search of the Edgecombe’s residence.”

Hermione shared a look with him, and nodded at Yaxley. “I’ve learned more about the magical world since becoming a Werewolf than I learned in all seven years of Hogwarts. Things people just don’t tell you when you’re… when you’re too normal.”

Yaxley nodded, giving Hermione a smile entirely too gentle for an Auror to give. “Yes, Knockturn is an excellent educator for the keen mind. You made a good choice taking a flat there.”

Hermione looked away briefly, and Draco knew that she was feeling some kind of something at that, a validation perhaps, or a relief because she never would’ve looked in Knockturn if she’d had better luck searching outside it. It was all too easy to have no vacancies for a Werewolf. Even easier for a Muggleborn Werewolf.

“Yes,” was all Hermione said. She cleared her throat. “So someone told you.”

“Never as simple as that,” said Yaxley, “as you well know. People like us don’t just tell one another things. There’s always someone willing to betray themself along with the rest of their kind because they hate themselves as much as other wizards hate them.” 

“There’s a term for that in the Muggle world,” Hermione said, but didn’t say more.

“I was given a tip, some months back. By… a journalist, one might say.”

Draco sat up straight. “Cuffe,” he growled.

Yaxley let her lips slide into a smirk. “He was on the case even before he was Turned.”

“They infected the Editor of the Prophet out of revenge?” Marietta gasped, as if this was somehow worse than doing it with no motive at all. “How—how stupid! He would’ve known straightaway it was them if he already suspected! It’s so dangerous! And… and stupid! Why didn’t he turn them in?”

Yaxley shrugged. “He already had, hadn’t he? I knew, and Weasley was working on lining up the evidence for a clean trial. It was taken care of.”

“But… but… now he has to live with—” Marietta cut herself off abruptly, a frown coming to her forehead. She swallowed. “Perhaps he didn’t want to be a Werewolf. No one does at first.”

Draco tilted his head, frowning. 

“And that brings us to today,” Narcissa cut in smoothly. “And the evidence Head Auror Yaxley and Auror Weasley have gathered, along with our unexpected and very well-timed information from Miss Edgecombe. We have what we need to call for a vote of No Confidence with Chief Warlock Harkiss.”

“Will it pass?” Hermione asked. Draco smelled the skepticism rolling off her and adjusted himself covertly. Her mind was always such an inconvenient turn-on.

Narcissa grinned. “I’ve no doubt it will.”

 

🌕 🌕 🌕

 

Draco returned to the solar to give Hermione time to finish up with his mother and, unexpectedly, the Head Aurot. After rising from the bed, she’d realised just how hard changing without Wolfsbane had been on her body, and Draco’d had to leave her to deal with the day’s events, or else he would’ve gone on a murderous rampage. A successful one.

The Weasley twins were here now, awake and dressed, their expressions grimmer than Draco had ever seen, not that he typically paid much attention to them. They gave him a submissive nod when he entered—the first time that had ever happened. Perhaps they’d finally realised not to take risks his mother proposed to them, then.

“Has anyone received any news?” Draco asked, resuming his chair by the window. “Any reports of the breakout?” 

He propped his elbows on the armrests and steepled his fingers together, looking from one face to another. He knew all of these people, but this was different. Here, they acknowledge him as their Alpha, as many never had before. And he recognised them as part of his pack, as he’d refused to see before. He’d spent so long closing off his extra senses as much as possible, so that he couldn’t know who was pack and who wasn’t. 

Knowledge was a danger, a risk he hadn’t been willing to take on.

“Nothing on the rescue. Marietta was released about an hour ago,” said Lavender Brown. She nodded to a folded letter on the side table, no wax seal and a hasty scrawl. “No one knows where she went. Apparently she overpowered the Healers to leave.”

Draco frowned, unready to say anything of what was going on just a few doors away. “I see. I’d hoped she’d be resting.”

“We’re tough,” Mr Goyle said, surprising Draco. He hadn’t even noticed him there, but then again, Greg had learned his silent watchfulness from someone. “I reckon she can handle a little death-an’-resurrection.”

Draco gave him a small laugh, but none of them bought it, he knew. Could she even recover that quickly if she was no longer a Werewolf? There was something… almost sad in that. He felt a severance in his body, an open slice that was still seeking a pair. Marietta’s Lycanthropy was missing from his pack, and he knew the rest of them felt it, too., however softly.

“What about the Ministry? Has there been any word?”

“Nothing,” Ron said. “Suspiciously quiet.”

Brown nodded in agreement.

“Everything the Ministry does is suspicious,” Potter muttered, surprisingly bitter for a twat who so loved Auroring. “I reckon Yaxley’s got ‘em with a confidentiality vow.”

Draco wrinkled his nose, and for a moment, caught Weasley’s eye. There was no way Weasley wasn’t aware of Yaxley’s scent… couldn’t smell her on the other side of the manor. 

Probably for the better that they were waiting to respond, actually. There was a brief tap at the door and then it swung open, Mother striding in. She gave him a small smile and stepped aside to show that Marietta was right behind her. 

Draco sat up straight. Edgecombe looked harassed, as one might—still in the clothes she’d been wearing the day she—the day she took a Killing Curse for Hermione. He should’ve fixed it for her before taking her to his mother, but he’d been so overcome, so angry.

A sudden rush of debt rose in Draco and he stood, striding forward and standing before her. She looked up at him, her blue eyes cautious but no longer the timid ones she’d worn for so many years. This was something he had to say, something that needed to be acknowledged before the entire pack. “You took a death curse for your Alpha.”

“I did,” Marietta said. She gave a half-smile. “I didn’t expect to wake up from it.”

Draco shook his head. ”We—I—owe you a debt, one I intend to repay with interest. You are a true wolf.”

Edgecombe looked away then. “Not anymore.”

“What was it like?” Tonks asked, leaning forward. “To… to not change after so long?”

Marietta didn’t speak for so long that Draco thought he might have to command it of her, but finally, she bit her lip and said, “Wretched.”

“What?” Draco said, unconsciously reeling back. 

“I could feel it everywhere around me… the magic that made me what I was… what you all… still are. It’s not just in our bites; it’s in our auras, in the wild magic of the earth. In every living thing, there’s something that pulls towards the wolf and speaks to it. You’ve felt it, haven’t you?” she asked them all. “When you’ve turned—that feeling, that connection to the world?”

Draco couldn’t stop from nodding, and when he glanced around at his pack, saw that they were nodding, too. Every one of them. 

Marietta nodded too, upon seeing them. A confirmation of her own theory. A hypothesis proven. “I felt it, still, and my body—my magic—wanted to be there, too. It was like trying to move your foot when it’s asleep. You know how to make it happen, and you want to make it happen, but you just can’t. It doesn’t obey you anymore. It felt like that, like I tried all night to change and just couldn’t. It felt… incomplete. Agonisingly unfinished.”

And in that moment, Draco knew… he would feel that same loss. That same sense of frustrated longing if he were to cure himself. He’d considered it, briefly, this morning after his mother’d shared the news of Edgecombe’s uneventful night. But then, he’d remembered swimming to Azkaban with his pack at his side, knowing he was not quite invincible, but near enough. Knowing that all magic came with a price, and he’d paid one for years, but not taken his dividends from it.

Knowing that he was a goddamned Malfoy, and he’d pay the price he chose for this. 

And he knew, he would never want to be in Marietta Edgecombe’s boots right now. Despite how long he’d fought… in vain, for a cure, he’d been wrong.

“The curse of life,” came a whisper from behind Marietta, and she whipped around. Hermione stood in the doorway, a hand to her mouth and one of Draco’s mum’s silk dressing gowns wrapped around her. “It’s in all life. It is no curse. It’s always been Ishtar’s gift, to use or to waste.”

“We knew this, darling,” Narcissa murmured, but there was no wit in it. Just a weary sort of contemplation, a thoughtful quietness. Marietta’s words were still hovering in the air. “We just never truly believed it. We never knew how.”

“Oh, Marietta,” Hermione whispered and ran forward, pulling Edgecombe up into a brutal hug—so brutal Draco began to worry if it would hurt the now-human witch, but Marietta didn’t flinch, and her own knuckles whitened as she squeezed Granger back. “I’m so glad you’re alive.”

“Thank you for saving me,” Marietta whispered into Hermione’s hair, but of course they could all hear her. 

“Thank you for saving me, you reckless, self-sacrificing, crazy—oh, I don’t know! I can’t believe you did that!” She pulled back to give Marietta a fierce look, and to Draco’s surprise, Marietta went slack and bared her neck. Draco blinked. How could she—? He sniffed, and then blinked again: Marietta still smelled like his pack.

Before he could say anything, Marietta turned to face them. “I’ve come with something that could help. I should’ve figured it out sooner, but I didn’t want to see, I—” She shook her head. “I know now. They told me. And I’ve brought you this.”

She held out a large vial of black, viscous liquid. 

“Were blood?” Hermione questioned, head cocked. But in Draco’s head, gears were beginning to spin at an alarming rate. A vial of blood. A vial of Lycanthropy. The strange Werewolf-related activity Weasley and Potter had been investigating, with seemingly no victims… the attacks on Cuffe and the new pack… Potter.

“No,” said Marietta. “Vampire blood.” 

Draco, Hermione, and their Betas gasped. Potter and Tonks caught on only a moment later. 

The missing biological stabiliser.  

Hermione’s hand flew to her mouth, her eyes going huge. Draco barely refrained from the same, his whole body freezing.

“Eternal life… after death,” Cuffe whispered, a slow smile spreading on his face, and suddenly, Draco could see the reporter he’d been. “Ahh, the story comes full circle.”

“Yes,” Edgecombe said. “The key to the transference of Lycanthropy. The key to Greyback’s infection of us all so long ago. They figured it out, and… And.” She swallowed, shaking her head, her eyes wet. “It’s the Curse of Life for a reason—it can’t live through death of the body.” She paused to nod at Potter, whose face was white. “But if a body has touched Death already, the Curse becomes even stronger… even wilder… even more full of life. And,” she said, smiling at the vial she held out to Draco, “there is very little stronger than the blood of a human who’s lived through Death.”

Hermione gasped. “Then, Greyback—when he bit us on a new moon… and Harry was infected from the vial, but not another bite… It was… It was your…?”

“Yes,” Marietta said. “My…” A wave of shame so strong it turned his stomach rolled off her. “My parents were the ones who infected you,” she said to Cuffe, the Montgomery sisters, Xenophilius Lovegood, Orsinio Thruston of the Weird Sisters, Aladair Maddock who was one of the Montrose Magpies’ chasers, Meaghan McCormack, keeper for Pride of Portree and Kirley Duke’s sister, and Glenda Chittock, who’d all been forced to join his pack only months ago. It was staggering to see them all here, all these famous people, infamous people, and regular people clustered in his mother’s favourite room. 

To even try to count the bodies in this room was a daunting task—a task that confronted him with the sudden knowledge of just how strong their pack was. Just how formidable. Draco clenched his fists. 

He’d been such a fool. 

He’d failed in so many ways. 

He wasn’t going to fail again.

Edgecombe ignored the shocked faces and sounds and continued: “I didn’t know… didn’t want to be involved in their research. They’ve always hated us, Werewolves. Not for the reason you might expect.” She took a deep breath. “My ancestors created this curse, through a ritual calling down a goddess, or a demon, or possibly both, depending on how you look at Ishtar’s legend. Hermione’s article in the Prophet last year wasn’t inaccurate: it was indeed created to boost magical power… but it was corrupted. And that corruption is what let the Were take over and require that we become it for a single night each month. The corruption is what made it transferrable without consent. 

“And for hundreds of years, since before the time of Merlin, when this mistake was made, my family has been trying to reverse it. Some more diligently than others, but it was my parents, having both grown up in distant branches of the family with these horror stories of our past mistake, who truly worked to… to fix it. It was their albatross. Their shame. My shame.” 

She glanced up at them, but her eyes were wet again, and she looked back down again before she could even read the room. “It was my parents who discovered that the Curse of Life needs only a little Death to break free. They had intended to turn you all, and then overdose you on Draught of Living Death… hopefully then resuscitating you with Muggle medicine. 

“But it doesn’t work that way. Once your body knows the wolf, it can’t let go. You can be killed and brought back to life, and you won’t change again… but you’ll be miserable for the rest of your days. And when they saw me last night, that’s when the realised it. That’s when they told me.” She looked up again, but this time her eyes were hard, vengeful. There was hatred there Draco had never seen in this timid woman before.

“The true cure for Lycanthropy isn’t never turning again,” Marietta said, voice hard. “It’s turning when you want to. And that’s what I can give you, with this blood.”

There was complete silence when she stopped speaking. Edgecombe returned to staring at the floor, as if waiting for judgement… and from a wolf pack, that judgement would be death. She’d seen death once and she’d willingly stepped into it again. Draco struggled with competing emotions—too many to count. He wanted to kill her and to protect her. To comfort her and destroy her.

“Ishtar’s tits,” Ron said, breaking the silence. “No wonder Percy likes you so much. Smart and suicidally brave.”

Marietta laughed but it turned into a small sob. She was just as confused as the rest of them, it turned out. Her face crumpled from its resolve and she began to cry. “I’m so sorry,” she sobbed, over and over. “I didn’t know they did this. I didn’t know they were capable of this. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.”

“Marietta,” Hermione snapped, striding forward. Marietta immediately straightened. Hermione paused before her, her eyes scanning Edgecombe’s. Then she leaned forward and hugged her again. Draco rolled his eyes. Classic Hermione, honestly.

“You are worthy,” Hermione told her sternly. But it only made Marietta cry more. She continued hugging her, patting her back while she met Draco’s eyes over Edgecombe’s shoulder.

“How did Greyback know to get Vampire blood?” Hermione asked. “Did Voldemort—?”

“I’m not sure he knew, darling,” Mum spoke up, drawing everyone’s attention.

And then it clicked for Draco. “Ostara break, when I was home—and you and Potter and Weasley—he killed a Vampire. He ate it. On my mother’s third dynasty rug.”

Narcissa curled her lip. “It was utterly ruined.”

Hermione grimaced, nodding, long past the delicate stomach of her full humanity. It was vile and gruesome, but they’d stomached worse. “Then it all fits.” 

It did. And this… this was a great gift. A priceless gift. Vampires did not give their own blood freely. After all, it did not regenerate and so every drop was precious. Draco rolled the vial in his palm. The liquid ebbed and flowed, so the Vampire still lived. Given with consent, then. 

He looked up at Edgecombe. “This is invaluable. What do you want for it?”

There was always a price. Here was one he was ready to pay, no matter the gold.

Marietta slowly extricated herself from Hermione’s grip. She wiped her eyes and straighten herself as best she could then turned to Draco and dropped to her knees. 

“Please,” she said to the floor, her voice shaking in time with her trembling limbs. The solar was filled with the overpowering scent of fear and sadness and grief. “Please,” she sobbed again. “I can’t live like this… Turn me back.”

Chapter Text

Hermione took a startled step back. “You want us to what?!”

How could Marietta even ask—how could she put—? 

Hermione’s mind, for one of the few times in her life, couldn’t even form full thoughts. It was a whirlwind of swearing, fear, and confusion. Had it even been half an hour since she’d cried against Draco’s shoulder terrified that she’d bitten someone last night, without Wolfsbane? And here was Marietta—her pack—asking them to change her, to hurt her… 

To make her pack again.

Hermione turned away, unwillingly trembling as she forced herself to focus on the fucking pretentious peacocks outside on the lawn that Lucius bred alongside his heritage Abraxans. She couldn’t face this. She was still too raw, too hurt from Azkaban and her own missing or hard-wearing soul.

It was too near the moon. In her veins, the wolf was still sentient, still watching through her eyes, and it wanted Marietta back. 

But to bite a human, to knowingly infect a witch or wizard was illegal. A capital offence, for which she would surely be Kissed if anyone ever found out. They would find Fred and Kiss him and then, in their frenzy, they’d take her, too. Both of them wanted criminals already and to… to re-infect Marietta when the Healers had known she didn’t change— 

“Turn me,” Marietta whispered to the floor, Hermione’s sharp ears picking up even that subtle direction of sound. “I can’t go another moon alone. I beg you, please,” she said, her voice going high and terrible at the end. “I won’t… I won’t live without my pack.”

Hermione’s magic wanted to rip her apart—the witch in her revolted by the request and the Werewolf—the Alpha—knowing it was the only way to protect her packmate. Her throat closed up and she knew that if she didn’t pull it together, she was going to cry any minute, and then she and Marietta would both be fucking wrecks on the floor of Narcissa’s impeccable solar.

“Jesus, Mary, and Merlin,” Hestia Jones swore. “I’ve never—”

“I’ll help you kill them,” Marietta continued, her voice rising, the desperation climbing with it. “I’ll avenge you. I’ll avenge all of you with my own teeth and claws, please.

“We don’t need revenge,” Merlina Montgomery said, voice hard. “We are who we are.” 

Hermione turned back to the room to find her entire pack riveted on the scene before them. Draco’s body was stiff with shock and Narcissa had a hand to her mouth. Xenophilius’s eyes were unusually clear, fixed on Marietta. Hermione knew, then, just how clear-headed Luna could be for Harry, how very aware she’d been of Harry’s decision and her own immovable decision to stand behind him with it. The Lovegoods had always been there, watching, and she’d never valued it. Never seen it.

Just as she’d never seen Marietta, until now.

“We’re better now than we were before,” Merlina finished. Her sister nodded, and slowly, the rest of the room followed suit. Hermione knew the sisters were thinking of their little brother, one of Greyback’s first victims in the war, who’d never had a chance to live with Lycanthropy… who they were going to live for now.

Marietta looked up, her eyes red and watery. Fifth year came back clearly, and for a moment Hermione resented Marietta just as much as she had then. BITCH, she’d write on her forehead this time. She’d spell it out in long, scarred slashes instead of spots. She’d let the whole world know who Marietta’d offended this time. To put her in this situation, to make Hermione do something she’d sworn she never would.

But hearing Marietta’s story… she knew she’d feel the same way. 

She’d never do it, and she didn’t even want to, no matter what the horrified witch side of her brain might think.

She’d never really thought it was possible to cure Lycanthropy. She’d never really considered it as a possibility. That had always been Draco’s goal. To be confronted it with it now, that all she’d need was a Healer’s heart-stopping spell and a quick lightning hex afterwards to be free of this slavery to wildness inside her… 

She looked to Draco and knew that he had thought the very same thing. That he could finally have what he’d spent the last seven years of his life searching for. It wasn’t so difficult as they’d always thought. After all, Harry had died twice and lived to tell about it. Draco’s mouth firmed, and she knew: he’d thought of it, and he’d chosen not to.

He’d decided to stay a Werewolf.

Her heartbeat thumped in her chest and her stomach clenched with a sudden surge of love and belonging with him, and she knew… she knew she’d never be able to live without their Alpha bond between them. She understood Marietta then, and she could never deny a packmate a gift within her power, a longed-for request.

“I’ll do it,” Draco said, but his eyes were on Hermione. “So you won’t have to.”

No,” Hermione said, too quickly for her brain to process it. That was good, for once. She couldn’t think too rationally about this or she’d realise how insane it was. “No, she lost it because of me. I will return it to her.”

Marietta sagged, the treacly-scent of relief rising from her like a heatwave. “Thank you, thank you,” Marietta whispered. Tears muffled her words. 

“You’ll need this,” Draco said, holding the vial of Vampire blood out to her. “So it’ll take again, now that she’s died.” He looked down to Marietta. “How much?”

“A drop will do it,” Marietta said, voice shaking, wiping her forearm across her eyes. “Once you’ve ingested any Vampire blood at all, it’ll… it’ll do what it did for Greyback.”

Hermione nodded, though a shudder went through her at that. She stepped forward, one hand reaching for Marietta’s bent head, gently gesturing for her to stand. Best to get this over with before she changed her mind, or her rationality did it for her. She flipped the cork from the vial and tilted it carefully over her mouth. The blood was thick as treacle and slid slow from the glass. A drop pulled from the bottle and landed on her tongue, and it tasted nothing like the blood she lusted for at the moon. There was nothing nutritious in it, nothing living. It was sour, fermented, stale, and stagnant. Blood that had not swished through a heart in centuries, but had sat, coagulated and cold instead.

She grimaced around the taste, worse than any potion. For a moment, Hermione thought she’d be sick, and wondered how Greyback had managed to eat not only a bite, but an entire Vampire full of this vile-tasting blood. 

He’d always been batshit crazy.

And then she felt—something. Something she couldn’t define. A strange sensation like dropping from the top of a roller coaster at Alton Towers or being sucked up in the air. She felt cold and electric and purple and lemony and starved and drunk and hungry. 

Marietta stood, watching her, the scent of her Ravenclaw curiosity a welcome anchor. Hermione reached out and took hold of her shoulder. There was still a rip in her robes from where the mob had thrown her around. Her parents had had time to share their awful history with her, but not cast even a basic tailoring spell for their own daughter. Her shoulder was exposed, the top of her left breast just visible through the rip. The old scar still livid on her skin. 

He has no place here, Hermione thought, anger coursing through her. Greyback did not own Marietta.

“I was never Fenrir Greyback’s,” said Marietta, as if she could hear Hermione’s thoughts, her eyes steady and brave for the first time in Hermione’s memory. “You will always be my Alpha.”

Yes, she thought. She was Marietta’s Alpha, and that meant she had to do what her pack needed of her. She owed this to Marietta. She owed her this and more… for what she’d done to Marietta in school, when Veritaserum had been the cause… for what she’d done to her after they were pack, and Marietta had spent years lonely and unvalued by her family.

Hermione bit down, her canines not quite sharp enough to puncture without force, and Marietta yelled out, her hands coming up to grip Hermione’s biceps so hard the bruises would be black by morning. Hermione bit harder and harder, and Marietta’s voice went raw until she clamped down, breathing hard through her nose as fast as a hummingbird’s heartbeat. And then, Hermione tasted blood. Not the blood of prey, but the warm and sweet flavour of family. She licked the wound and Marietta slumped forward against Hermione’s chest. 

It took her a moment to will the courage to open her eyes. When she did, she saw. 

Marietta’s blood ran black.

 

🌕 🌕 🌕

 

There was a curious sort of fascination, watching his mate turn a human woman to the wolf. Something feral. Something erotic. Draco scanned the crowd and saw others watching with the same fascination. Weasley had his hand on both his lovers’ thighs and Potter’s face had gone hot. Mr Goyle was subtly readjusting his robes and he wasn’t the only one. Draco narrowed his eyes at the pack and let out a low, throaty growl. 

Hermione was too busy comforting Marietta to notice, but the rest of them did, and that was all that mattered. After a moment, Mother stepped forward to redirect. 

“It has been an eventful morning, my dear friends. Might I invite you all to join my family for luncheon? Please avail yourselves of our home while I alert the kitchen staff. I think the full post-moon barbecue is in order.”

And with that, and a beautiful society smile, Mother left the solar. The rest of the pack followed shortly after, with only the Betas, Tonks, and Potter lingering. 

Draco helped Marietta to the sofa, half his attention still on Hermione as she retreated again to the window overlooking the peacock gardens. 

“How are you?” Draco asked Marietta. She looked fine—a bit pale, shaky, but the scent of pain was still high in the air and she hadn’t lost that much blood. “Dotty, bring some tea for Ms Edgecombe.” 

Within half a minute, there was tea, a full china service with lemon and milk and a tray of bacon and chive scones besides. Draco guessed on lemon and a heap of sugar, given the underlying scent of Marietta’s pheromones and was rewarded by her grateful smile when he pushed it into her hands. 

“Thanks,” she whispered, voice rough, and then, stronger: “Thanks.”

“You all right there, Marietta?” Weasley asked, sliding onto the sofa next to her. “Percy’s going to kill you, you know. Does he even know you’re out of hospital yet?”

Marietta shook her head. “No, I wasn’t exactly released. I—I rather convinced the staff to let me leave. After last night, well, I don’t think they were keen to keep me around if I was putting up much of a fuss. Best to get out before the Aurors decided to come ‘round for an inquiry, I thought.” 

“And you came straight here,” Draco guessed.

Marietta nodded. “I knew,” she whispered, looking up into his eyes again. 

This close, he could see it—that faint, golden glow they all got around the moon, as if it came from within them and not their irises. Hermione’s bite would not have had long enough to produce symptoms, Draco knew from his own experience those years ago. This—this had lingered. 

“I could feel pack travelling north. I could feel you communicate with one another, despite the distance. I understood anger and determination and rescue and I knew.”

“Ishtar listens,” Hermione said, turning back from the window. 

There was a smear of blood beneath her lower lip that Draco would lick from her in due course. Pack blood was sacred, not to be wasted. Almost as soon as he thought it, he jerked, minutely, before catching himself. Merlin, what the fuck is going through my head? I’ve never been so—so feral.

“How do you mean?”

“The goddess of love,” Hermione said. “And the goddess of war. The patron of prostitutes and undesirables, and of social relationships and sexual ones.” She turned back from the window and met his eyes.

“Listen to me while I tell the tale of your lovers,” Hermione recited, her voice fierce. “Gilgamesh said of her: ‘There was Tammuz, the lover of your youth, for him you decreed wailing, year after year. You loved the many-coloured Lilac-breasted Roller, but still you struck and broke his wing. You have loved the lion tremendous in strength: seven pits you dug for him, and seven. You have loved the stallion magnificent in battle, and for him you decreed the whip and spur and a thong. You have loved the shepherd of the flock; he made meal-cake for you day after day, he killed kids for your sake. You struck and turned him into a wolf; now his own herd-boys chase him away, his own hounds worry his flanks.’

“She made us,” Hermione said. “Whether the Edgecombe family called her down or not, we were her choice. A goddess does not need answer any mortal. She has kept us here for a reason. We’re her strength in the world, when those who would’ve worshipped her have all died. We’re her legacy, and she listens. How else could Marietta have heard us, without the change? Ishtar made it so.”

He’d never fallen into the whole Ishtar-worship thing others in the pack had, even, to some extent, Weasley. He’d not grown up with religion and saw no need to add it now, but something in Hermione’s words stopped him short, rooted him to the sofa as if he’d grown up through it from the ground itself. He felt it then. He’d felt it last night. The undercurrent. It had always been there, ignored.

But he couldn’t ignore it now. It was a river of energy even stronger than the magic that he used every day—deeper and wilder and crawling beneath the ground like fingers of mycelium in the loam. And then he realised that was exactly what it was—their pack, their connection—it was a colony of branching tendrils, reaching all across Britain, and though they were separate bodies, they were connected, irrevocably, even without the change. They could hide for hundreds of years beneath the ground, grow fruiting bodies in fairy rings. They could overtake this ecosystem. They were stronger.

“And then,” Marietta said, staring back at Hermione, “‘I will break in the doors of hell and smash the bolts; there will be confusion of people, those above with those from the lower depths. I shall bring up the dead to eat food like the living; and the hosts of the dead will outnumber the living.’”

“Yes,” Hermione said. “The goddess of love, but also the goddess of war. We are Ishtar’s children and we fight for our lives.” 

“Then it’s war?” Potter said, though, to Draco’s surprise, there was more curiosity to his voice than concern. “Against the Ministry? Against people who dislike us? They’ve still got more resources than we do. They could still take us all out.”

“No,” Hermione said, now smiling that beautiful, feral smile. “When Ishtar brings war, she doesn’t lose. When Ishtar comes, all men fall. It’s time to take our rights.” 

 

🌕 🌕 🌕

 

Draco slammed the door to his bedroom, and shoved Hermione against it. She yelped as her back hit the wood, her hair flying in every direction with the force. Draco crowded her body, his hand going immediately to the knot of her silk belt, fingers sliding up and around her tidy waist. Her muscles tightened beneath his touch and he moaned as he lowered his mouth to hers, finally reaching out to lick the dry blood from her lip.

“You,” he growled, unsure of what else he could say but knowing it was her. Always her. “You smell like wildness and danger. Like you’ll bring death to anyone in your path.”

“I will,” Hermione growled, tilting her head back so he could better reach her neck, and Merlin—no, Ishtar—how he wanted to bite, to taste the holy blood that ran in her veins, too. “I’ll kill anyone who threatens our pack. And so will you.”

“Yes,” Draco agreed readily. For the first time, yes, yes, she was right. He would kill for them. He would tear this whole world apart to protect his pack. It was not a hopeless fight, as he’d thought all these years. It was the most important fight in the world. 

But first, he had to tear his mother’s dressing gown off her. “This is wrong,” he said, pulling it roughly from her shoulders. “It muddles your scent. How’ve I never noticed it before? How’ve I never—I’ve never really noticed you before, I was nose-blind and I didn’t listen. Maybe I—I saw you, but I didn’t see myself, I—”

“Shut up.” Hermione arched into him her lips soft and slick, nipping at his jaw in casual dominance. Draco tilted his neck back, his cock surging at the play of domination, as much turned on by hers as when he started it. He pressed his hips into hers, the heat of her vulva making him surge. “You’ve always talked too much rubbish.”

“It’s not,” he swore, growling, and for the first time, he understood just how much it really wasn’t. “I never helped you. I never took up my role and you had to play my part as well as yours, and you never complained. You are fierce and capable and I am going to fuck you into the goddamned wall.”

“Oh my god,” she moaned, hitching a thigh up on his hips and rocking into him with increasing urgency. She rushed to undo the row of buttons on his trousers, pushing them down with greedy hands and wrapping her fingers around his shaft. “Yes, do it.” 

He slid his hands down her side, grabbing her arse and pulling her up. If he’d been a Muggle, or even a regular wizard, he wouldn’t have looked particularly strong—fit, but wiry and lean—but he wasn’t a Muggle and he was no regular wizard. She was weightless in his grip, despite her own body being heavy with muscle and strength. She gripped his waist with her thighs and slid her wet folds along him, up and down, up and down, until he couldn’t help but slide inside her. 

They both tossed their heads back, letting moans fall from exposed throats, their submissions on display only for each other, just the way it should be. He pulled back only to push into her again, and Ishtar-above, it’d never felt like this before. Never this good, never this complete as being inside his mate and not just knowing, but accepting that she was his mate only because he’d let the wolf in him exist. 

He could’ve torn Lycanthropy from his flesh with two quick spells and a bit of luck, and yet she’d always call to him beneath their magic, in their sprawling fingers of connection sprouting in fairy rings wherever she touched his skin. He had just to listen, to scent her, to breathe deeply and never be wilfully nose-blind again. 

Hermione slipped one hand between them, rubbing her clit in desperate circles and god, he knew that desperation—he’d felt it only last night, trying to rescue her and keep her alive while focusing on what she cared about more—to not be the cause of anyone’s infection.

But would she still think that? 

“Oh, oh,” Hermione moaned, her eyes screwed up tight, her teeth tight on her bottom lip. “Don’t stop, don’t stop, Draco. I’m so—oh god, yes—” She clenched all her muscles, her pussy clenching around him in endless waves and a small gush of hot slickness making his thrusts into her even faster, even deeper. 

He slammed his mouth into hers, feeling the coolness of it, the blood all elsewhere in her body and kissed her fiercely, ferally, and knew that he was both a man and a wolf and he was better for it—better for her for it. Draco slammed into Hermione again and again, his pleasure building to an almost unbearable level. He was so close, but if he went over, he didn’t know if he’d even survive it, so great was his pleasure already.

Hermione met him thrust for thrust, her breath coming fast and her cheeks flushed and damp. Her pupils were as wide as the full moon, as dark as the new, and even though she’d already come, he could sense that she was building again. Draco gave her a wolfish grin and pressed her harder into the wall, his thrusts coming hard and fast and deep and her cries grew high and whiny and she tipped her head back so far and so desperate for him to fuck her into submission that he couldn’t resist. Draco lowered his face to the soft corner where her neck met her shoulders and bit down. 

Hermione screamed, a mix of pleasure, pain, and surprise. Her hips stuttered and then drove back into his with renewed force, her fingers again circling her own clit. Draco’s balls drew tight to his body and he was right there, but it wasn’t quite—he dragged his canine along her skin and tasted the first hint of iron and copper. Draco moaned long and sucked, and Hermione screamed as her second orgasm ripped through her. Her pussy tightening around him was all it took and he pumped into her a final time, filling her up with his come, even as he sucked the spare drops of blood from her shoulder. 

Their ecosystem existed even here: where she gave, she also took.

He knew Marietta’s loneliness the night before. There was nothing here that Draco could ever bear to part with. 

Chapter Text

“Mum? Daddy?”

For all of Draco’s fierce acceptance, his newfound feral drive, for all she’d agreed with him… she’d been hit hard by a wave of sadness so strong, she’d known there was only one place she could go.

A crash echoed from the kitchen. Hermione bolted through the foyer, the sitting room, skidding onto the linoleum where her mum stood stock-still, a kettle boiling over on the cooker.

“Hermione!” Her mother practically jumped into her arms, a small moment Hermione was grateful for her preternatural strength. “Oh my god, baby,” Mum sobbed, her long fingers tangling in Hermione’s hair, squeezing her head as if she could keep her close by absorbing her back into her own body. “We were so worried, oh my god, oh my god, I thought—we thought you’d died, and then Dad had another episode where he forgot you and I knew you were real and we both thought we were going mad, and oh my god,” Mum broke off, her words choked and wet. She squeezed Hermione so hard, she might’ve wondered that her mother had once been bitten, too.

“I’m alive,” Hermione said, her throat going all tight and painful. “I’ve had—a really bad couple of weeks. More than.” 

There was a yowl and scrabbling feet against the parquet floors and then Crookshanks dashed down the stairs, one of Hermione’s old school ties tangled around him. She gave a little cry and knelt as far as her mum would let her to scoop him up, too.

“They wouldn’t tell us anything,” her mother continued into Hermione’s hair, still squeezing the life out of her. “We wrote the Ministry every day—then Harry and Ron came by, finally, and told us you’d been, and dropped off Crooks—you’d been—oh my god, Hermione…” She shook her head, wet tears sliding against Hermione’s cheek, wetting her hair. “They didn’t even know if you were getting a trial. But you must’ve—”

“Is that—oh my god!” Dad shouted, coming in from the back garden. His eyes were wild, the whites huge. “Christ Almighty, Hermione, you’re home.” She’d never seen him move quite so fast, with quite so much purpose, as he did when he wrapped himself around her other side. She’d never heard his voice crack like that. Her parents cocooned her like they would hide her from all danger if they could, never letting her go again, and she felt like a little girl as she hadn’t since she’d gone off to school alone—a Muggleborn mixed girl setting off for a life her parents couldn’t follow her to. 

She couldn’t help it. She fell apart. “I was so scared,” she whispered, blinking rapidly. Her eyes were suddenly blurry, like she was stuck in a bad storm on the A1 and the wipers were insufficient. 

They ushered her to the sitting room, pushing her onto the sofa between them. “We’re here,” Mum said. “We’re here, baby.”

“What happened?” Dad asked, leaning forward. “They let you out?”

She shook her head. “No… no, I was… rescued.” 

And she’d had to be rescued… because she was helpless. Because she’d been deemed less-than, and… and she was starting to believe it, in the dark recesses of her mind. Azkaban-sickness, one book called it. It reached long fingers into you and it didn’t matter if you felt powerful and sure of yourself one minute… the next it would get you. Had she really thought she could change the world? When she couldn’t even change herself? Had she thought she could make the world stop hating her kind when she couldn’t stop herself from turning into an animal?

But can I now? a little voice whispered in the back of her mind. Now that I’ve taken in Vampire blood?

Her parents shared a look around her. “Last night was the moon,” Dad said quietly and all Hermione could do was nod. 

“I didn’t bite anyone,” she said, feeling her throat close, her voice rise, quite without her permission. She hadn’t bitten anyone without consent, at least. “I swear I didn’t. Draco said I didn’t, anyway…”

“You didn’t bite anyone,” Mum said firmly, her long nails cutting into Hermione’s thigh. “And even if you did, I don’t care.”

“It’s not a—Mum, Lycanthropy isn’t a lifestyle choice,” Hermione choked out. “I know you and Dad always—”

“We know it isn’t,” Dad said immediately, his voice hard. “We’ve always known how serious it is. Who do you think you got your critical thinking skills from, exactly?”

Hermione gave a weak laugh. “Hard to say, really. You’re both top notch.”

“Exactly,” Mum said. She pulled Hermione’s chin up, waited until Hermione met her eyes. “We didn’t overdramatise your condition because we could tell you were afraid we would. You were alive. You’d lived through a war we couldn’t be here for. We were grateful you existed, Hermione. We were grateful we knew it.” Mum shook her head, her eyes big and glossy. “Hermione, you were so… so fragile when you came for us, and after. We wanted to give you something normal to lean into. When your life was upside-down, we wanted you to know we’d always love you the same, look at you the same, trust you the same. You never had to worry we were afraid of you.”

Hermione sniffed hard, and then again, and again, and suddenly she could barely breathe because she was crying too hard. “Mum,” she managed to get out. They closed in on her like honeybees, arms surrounding her and covering her, a swarm of love and protection, and it was just—it was too much. Too much to know they’d done that for her, that they’d put on an eight-year act, to make her feel better. “I love you both so much.”

They let her cry for a while and then Dad was back to the practical. “Are you on the run?”

She shook her head, then paused in the middle of it and shrugged. “I don’t know, exactly.” She took a shuddering breath, fingers twisting in her lap. “The Ministry’s keeping our escape quiet. I think they’re afraid of looking incompetent. I’m not sure the Aurors even know to look for me. Yet.”

Dad pursed his lips, running an agitated hand through his hair. “What’s your plan then?”

Hermione shrugged. “I…” She felt her face crumpling and she knew she was going to ugly cry even more, and maybe several more times today. She hadn’t felt this way since she was turned, and maybe not even then. She’d had forward momentum then. Now, she didn’t. Now, she was trapped and even her own work ethic couldn’t save her. “I don’t know what I can do.”

“You aren’t going back to that place,” Mum snarled. “We’ll smuggle you out of the country first.” 

Hermione gave a startled laugh. “Back to Australia?”

“We’ll learn to surf,” Dad said, giving her one of his half-smiles. Then he sobered. “Do you have any connections who can help you?” Always the social one. 

“Narcissa wants to talk to me this afternoon. She says she has a plan, but after this I’m not sure how anyone could have a plan. And she’s… she’s made some missteps recently. But really, how do you keep fighting when you’re literally an escaped criminal?”

“Innocent until proven guilty,” Dad growled. “You didn’t even get a kangaroo court—no court at all. How is this society so goddamned backwards? It’s like you cross a bridge in London and end up in North Korea. I don’t understand how this is allowed. The Queen should dissolve their goddamned government.”

“I don’t think most of them even know there is a queen,” Hermione said, fighting a smile. She sighed. “I know. I used to think I could change it. I used to think I could make it a better place—a good, decent place.” She shrugged, shoulders trembling. “Now, I don’t think anything will ever change. In ten years, we’ll probably have another dark lord rising and the cycle will repeat, ad infinitum, like we’re in some closed time-loop of misery and bigotry.”

“Hermione,” Dad said, forcing her to meet his eyes this time. When she did, she was startled by how serious they were—it was such a rare picture. “It wasn’t so long ago that your mother marrying me would’ve been out of the question. For her to marry down—”

“I didn’t marry down, I married unexpectedly,” Mum inserted.

Dad shot her a grin. “You certainly did.” He turned back to Hermione, making sure he had her full attention, which wasn’t too hard—she’d always been a good listener. One had to be in order to learn. “With your uncles’ positions so high and me coming from a long line of working class, there was always going to be some friction with outsiders who didn’t agree with us—with our lifestyle. And then of course there was always the people who thought it was the other way around, that I’d married badly, because your mother wasn’t white. Both of those groups were wrong, but that doesn’t mean they knew it—or that they cared. We had to make them care that they were wrong, or we had to live our lives ignoring them.”

“We’ve done both,” Hermione said, studying her fingers, the light brown of that other M-word she’d been called before, the one old, white grandads of her school friends would say, because it was the word they’d grown up calling those rare mixed-race children, never stopping to consider that the root of it came from the word for ‘mule.’ “We’ve ignored and we’ve educated. Not so many people are bothered by it anymore,” she said, understanding. “Some do, but Muggles have… they’ve got better.”

“And if people can evolve from that kind of thinking…” Mum prompted.

Hermione nodded, her mouth firming. “Then they can damn-well evolve from being prejudiced against Werewolves.”

“That’s my girl,” Dad said. He sat up straight, his hand coming up, out of habit, to trail down her hair, like he used to when she needed soothing. “What can Mum and I do to help? Or, hell, even Granny and your aunts and uncles. Maybe it’s time they knew.”

“It’s illegal…” Hermione whispered.

Mum lifted an eyebrow. “And breaking out of prison isn’t?” 

“In fairness,” said Hermione, “I wasn’t exactly in my right mind to protest when I was relieved of my tenure in Azkaban. They wouldn’t supply Wolfsbane potion to me, or let anyone bring me any…”

Mum growled low in her throat, as if she too were a wolf, but no, it was just the mother in her. “And you’d better have gone with them even if you were. I swear, Hermione, I don’t know how we managed to raise you with such a regard for authority when we ourselves have never paid much mind to other peoples’ opinions.”

Hermione gave her a small, sheepish smile. “Rules are easy to hang onto when you feel adrift. I’ve felt adrift… many times.” 

“Well,” said Mum, “I can certainly understand that. Your life has never been particularly mundane.” She sighed, leaning in to give Hermione’s hand a gentle squeeze. “What’s the first step, love?”

Hermione exhaled, her brain whirring with potentials and possibilities and pitfalls. “I need allies. There’s safety in numbers. And there’s movement in them, too.”

Mum and Dad both nodded, the thirty-something years of their marriage apparent in that shared moment. “And if you think about it, I bet you’ll know who to look to first.”

“Others like me,” Hermione said immediately. “But not exactly like me. People and beings with shared and similar experiences.” Haddie, she thought, right away. And then, Mr Voclain, the Vampire who’d always been kind to her, whose blood may now even be running in her veins. 

She should’ve known when Marietta brought it to her that the answer was in the collective; the answer was always in the collective. Hadn’t it always been the case with her, Harry, and Ron? Every year, she should’ve known the answer to whatever troubled them from the beginning; she’d never had all the information in September, but she’d always had enough that she should’ve been able to solve the puzzles sooner, using brainpower. 

In first year, she’d known Nicholas Flamel from even before school, but she’d been distracted and forgot—something she rarely did. In second year, who else but Voldemort could’ve been the Heir of Slytherin, really? And yet, they’d stupidly suspected Draco—and for all Draco’s value to her now, he was hardly Heir of Slytherin material as a twelve-year-old. 

Then in third year, she’d exhausted herself traveling through time, and that had let the mystery of Crookshanks’ abnormal obsession with Scabbers get the better of her. Crookshanks had never once lowered himself to chasing other peoples’ pets. Even now, with her canine Werewolf blood, he tolerated her easily, because he was smarter than most Gryffindors, and if she hadn’t been so busy and so tired, she would’ve seen that. He’d tried to tell her all year. 

In fourth year, it couldn’t have been more obvious that the point was to get Harry into the Tournament to lead him to victory, or death, and if she’d only extrapolated from that, she would’ve realised that the maze was the ideal time, and she would’ve told him to go in and break his leg immediately, then send up red sparks. They could’ve avoided it all if she’d been smarter. And then fifth and sixth year had both been so different, so out of her control. She should’ve taken control in first year—second, third, fourth. 

She should’ve snatched that control and never let it go. Here she was, again, letting someone else control her life because she was reactive instead of proactive. 

She was reacting to her imprisonment. Before that, she’d reacted to her community’s prejudice by letting a flat in Knockturn Alley instead of demanding some let to her in Diagon or Hogsmeade, or any of the other quaint little villages, some of which even had modern conveniences like women’s health clinics that provided annual checkups for magical women susceptible to magical maladies, or specialty grocers, or even restaurants with chefs who would likely be the equivalent to at least one Michelin star. 

But she was a Werewolf, an outed one, and instead of causing a fuss… even using her fame as one of the people who helped Harry save the sodding world… she’d meekly accepted every potential landlords’ excuses for not wanting to rent to her, and she’d taken the flat above Mr and Mrs Aberrant’s shop with her head high instead of letting the world know how much they hurt her.

Then again, she’d grown to love Knockturn. For all its dreariness and gloom, for all the sketchy characters peddling wares from their robe pockets and the escaped experiments running out of shadows to bite one’s legs, there was a cosiness to it. A homeliness. It was rough, but there were good people there. And she never would’ve known that if it hadn’t been her last resort.

Suddenly, Hermione had the painful urge to return home immediately. To walk in her front door and let the stale smell of her flat settle over her. To run her fingers over whatever research she’d left out on the table all those weeks ago when she’d been vandalised. What had she been reading? She couldn’t even remember now. 

“I need to go,” she said, taking a shuddering breath. Her body was wrung out like a dishcloth—something she hadn’t used in literal years, and yet she knew the feeling well. Crookshanks stood up from her lap, butting his head against her stomach. “I have a lot of work ahead of me.”

“That’s my girl,” Mum said, giving her a fierce smile. 

They kept close to her as she made her way to the door, as if afraid to let her go. But her parents, despite their fear, had always let her go. To boarding school, to a new world they couldn’t visit, to a life of her own. Her mistakes were hers to make. Despite their fears, they’d always let her be her own person.

She just had to do that for herself, now. 

She had to take what was hers. The time for playing nice was passed.

“And Hermione?” Dad said, stopping her at the door. She looked back at him over her shoulder. “Don’t ever let them change how you live your life. You don’t need to hide who you are to be accepted.” 

And in that moment, she knew: he was fucking right.

 

🌕 🌕 🌕

 

Unlocking charms were prohibited. Being an escaped criminal—not convict; they hadn’t given her the courtesy of a trial—made her wary. She shouldn’t even really be here, but she had to get her books, her things—see her life one last time before she vanished into Malfoy Manor for possibly the rest of her life.

Hermione scanned the building, Mr and Mrs Aberrant’s shop, and the florist next door, for any signs of Auror activity. They would be stupid not to post someone at her flat, and yet, she knew from Harry and Ron’s lives, that red tape and funding often made the DMLE skip important steps like that. It was a huge risk, but her father was right. She couldn’t let them control her anymore.

If she went down again, she’d go down fighting this time.

She’d borrowed a robe from Draco—something posh and secretive, something that said ‘Don’t look at me, don’t touch me, don’t speak to me’—to blend in better than her usual open robes over jeans and a blouse would do. She pulled the hood low over her face and pressed her mouth into a hard, un-Hermione line. Back straight, she strode past the used bookstore, a whiff of new hyacinths catching her nose from the plot out front, and Hermione had a moment to be startled that, even without her care, her illegal gardening was hanging on, making Knockturn that little bit more beautiful.

She was small; her flowers continued without her care… but she was also infinite, because they continued without her care. It hardened her resolve and strengthened her flagging self-worth.

She gave a covert turn down the alley leading behind the Aberrants’ shop and climbed the iron stairs up to her flat, her feet silent on the treads. At the door, Hermione gave another inspection, closing her eyes and reaching out to feel for maliciousness or malfeasance with her magic. In her robe, Crookshanks stirred, sticking a pink nose out to sniff. He humphed and tucked himself back into the large inner pocket. That was the best assurance she was going to get.

Hermione pulled the rarely used brass key from her pocket and slid it into the lock. It gave a quiet click as the latch came loose. She held the knob to keep it from swinging open—it had always been creaky and she’d never bothered to oil it since she usually Floo'd home. Gently, her heart hammering, Hermione allowed the door to open, tiny centimetre by tiny centimetre. 

A quiet voice stopped her cold. 

“Well, I wouldn’t know, really. I just do the numbers and—oh my, I smell her.”

“Oh!” came another, gentler voice. “What lovely timing. We’re in here, Hermione!”

“Luna,” Hermione whispered, tears coming to her eyes. It was like splinching, that vicious fear followed so quickly by relief that it was only an eyebrow. She felt like she’d left her heart behind at the door as she rushed into her flat to find Luna sitting at her kitchen table with, goodness, with Haddie right across from her. 

“I thought you might come by today,” Luna said, ever so docile.

“What are you doing here?” Hermione managed to get out. 

Haddie’s grey hair caught the sunlight from the window, and for the briefest of moments, she looked as young as she really was, but then she spoke, and the age in her voice ended the illusion. “I’ve been coming by to water your plants, haven’t I? And then a couple weeks back I ran into this one,” she said, nodding to Luna, “doing the same. Wondered why that ficus was doing so poorly—turns out it was getting a double watering, can you believe it?”

“No,” Hermione said, voice as faint as her heartbeat. She couldn’t tell if she wanted to cry or laugh or go to bed—it was just all too much, too many emotions, too close to the moon, when her hands still shook from the leftover adrenaline and the unexpected flashes of growing pains as her bones settled back into place. All that time she’d been locked away, thrown away like a monster, in Azkaban, thinking she’d be there forever… and she’d had two friends who’d known with such surety that she’d return that they kept her plants alive.

“Well, we couldn’t let them die,” Luna said, as if it were the most natural thing in the world. “I knew you’d be terribly upset if you came home and the aconite in the silver pot had gone to seed.”

“You’re a funny one, Hermione,” Haddie said. “Imagine keeping your own personal poison in an even more poisonous pot on your bedroom window sill. I don’t think I’d ever go near an old woman; even if I didn’t touch her, I’d be too scared of accidentally tripping into her and knocking myself dead! Even me mum’s not allowed to visit anymore, and she’s only forty-eight.”

“Won’t you sit down?” said Luna, pushing out one of Hermione’s own chairs with her foot. She set the teapot to pouring another cup and swished her wand, sending the sugar and cream down the table. 

“Yes, thank you.” Hermione sat, still feeling a bit worn. To Haddie, she said, “It’s a memento mori. I took the idea from Mrs Malfoy.”

“Ahh, now that I can understand,” Haddie said, taking another sip. “Esmerelda’s mine, I reckon.” She nodded to the sitting room and Hermione was startled to realise she hadn’t even noticed Portentia and Esmerelda curled up together on the sofa, eyes glued to the telly. “She likes that telly of yours. I told her we might look into one if she keeps her marks up and gets into that alternative school the Muggles have. Won’t be any Hogwarts for her,” she said, trailing off with a sigh. 

“We have one at home,” said Luna. “Harry couldn’t live without the footie games with Ron, as I understand it. I think he might literally die, which would be terribly unfortunate and a great deal of trouble. I’ve come to enjoy the cooking shows. Did you know Muggles have multiple ways of lighting a cooking fire?”

“What, you mean like with flints or grinding bones together?” Haddie asked, eyebrows scrunched. 

“Not at all,” Luna said pleasantly. “They turn knobs. And one kind of knob makes fire, and the other kind of knob makes it really quite hot but without fire at all!”

“Fascinating,” Haddie breathed.

“Gas cookers are fairly standard,” Hermione said, still feeling as though she were floating, “but electric is becoming more common. It’s the electric that burns without fire.”

“And they didn’t even have to curse a Muggle for it?!”

“No, none,” Luna said, her eyes going just as wide. “Isn’t that fantastical?”

“I’ll say,” Haddie said, gulping back another sip of tea. Hermione followed suit, her own tea strangely hot against her tongue, as if it were something foreign. Perhaps it was, after all this time. It tasted like that time she’d given up gluten for six weeks thinking it might help with post-Change pain. It hadn’t. But Hannah’s crepes afterwards had been better than anything on Bake Off.

“Have you two just been… coming to my flat every day to water my plants and chat?”

“Oh no,” Luna said. “Daily watering would have killed the aconite.”

“We do stop by twice a week for the yellow hibiscus—noticed a few of those blooming over by the funeral parlour, by the way, don’t think I don’t know from whence they came, Hermione.”

Hermione was startled into a laugh. “The hibiscus is quite tricky indoors but I’ve found that with a well-placed eternal warmth charm, it does exceedingly well in the British climate. It propagates well, too.”

“I imagine it does,” Haddie said, croaky voice very knowing.

“I was feeding Crookshanks for a few days,” Luna continued, “but then Harry and Ron believed he’d be more comfortable with your parents and I supposed they would be more comfortable with him around, too, so we sent him over. 

“Oh, Luna,” Hermione said. She was going to break down again, she just knew it. It wouldn’t be the first time she’d done so in the past few months. The first night in Azkaban, she’d refused to cry. Gryffindor stubbornness had got her through. But then—then she’d decided her mental health was the least of her worries. She’d cried through her second night in Azkaban, and her third, and the night she changed, too. And then she’d woken up in a lush bed off Draco’s suite at the Manor, and she’d cried again. It was all she seemed to do now. “Oh, Haddie—I can’t believe you both. You’ve been so very kind—”

“Nonsense,” Haddie said, waving a hand.

“You’re my friend,” Luna said fiercely, leaning forward. Her eyes were no longer that deceptive glaze she wore for the world. “If I didn’t know for certain that Draco had everything in hand, I would’ve got you out myself. You didn’t belong in there. None of you do,” she added, giving Haddie a fierce look, too. “Your differences are what make your magic unique.”

Haddie chuckled. “Unique is one way to put it. I think we folks with unusual blood—I won’t say creature blood because we’re just as human as the rest of ‘em—well, they think we’re all poor, evil wretches, cursed by the dark magic that runs in our blood, but I don’t think that at all. I reckon our magic’s the way it is for a reason, and while we may’ve shortcomings we need to work through, those are just the… the premium for having access to it all. 

“Hags for example, well, I don’t get many suitors, but we’re nigh on immortal without an old woman around to suck the life force from us, and while we might prefer the taste of children, we’re a bit like moss: we can survive in just about any climate, with or without food, for absolute years. I’ve not had anything but tea and scones since ’93 and I’ve raised Esmerelda on a balanced diet of pork and legumes and you’d never know she didn’t start out eating children.”

“One might go so far as to think that your unusual blood is a boon, rather than a curse,” Luna observed. “I for one have always wanted to know what it was like to be a Banshee. I’ve heard there are several working in the Ministry—wasted talent, if you ask me. They should be in operas.”

“It’d be the last opera you ever heard,” Hermione said, lip curling up in an unexpected smile. 

“But wouldn’t it be a lovely way to go?” Luna returned, eyes bright.

“They’re a bit like mandrakes,” said Haddie. “I had a Banshee neighbour for a few years and she liked singing in the shower. Gave me a migraine if it went on too long, but it was nice in small amounts. Lovely voice.”

“I don’t think Banshees should have to register, either,” said Luna on a sigh. “Mummy always said that magic doesn’t make mistakes, people do. And she would know, as she made a very grave one and it killed her. I don’t think she divined that prior to her death, but she was very wise just the same.”

Hermione softened. “How are you holding up with Harry…?”

“Oh, fine,” said Luna, bright again. “He’s dearly wanted to be a Werewolf for as long as we’ve been together. It’s lovely when one’s partner finally achieves a life goal, isn’t it? You just can’t help but be happy for them.”

“Even with the extra strain? It’s not an easy disease to handle, and you’ve no help with childcare now that both your father and Harry are out of commission several days a month—”

“Oh, not at all!” said Luna. “He’s more vigorous than ever! Lycanthropy isn’t a disease to Harry; it’s a gift. He doesn’t even feel pain when he Changes, as you surely remember. And the day before the full moon he has so much energy that he can’t sit still. It’s really just the time when the moon’s up and he’s a wolf that he’s unavailable. This past week, he was so energetic that he scrubbed all our baseboards to literal sparkles, and got years of tarnish off my dear granny’s silver. I think it’s how he’s been coping with your incarceration, you see.”

“Her silver—!” Hermione exclaimed. “But it’s toxic!”

“I did worry it might be,” Luna agreed, “but you know Harry. He’d hardly let a little poison stop him. He decided he wanted my heirloom silver to shine like the day it was forged and so he made it happen, and not a single singe on his fingers.”

Hermione sat back, blinking rapidly. She’d been imprisoned for most of Harry’s tenure as a Werewolf. That had been one of the many regrets she’d cried over while in Azkaban—failing not only her packmate as his Alpha, but also her best friend. 

But he’d settled in just fine. Without her, snarled a mean, little voice in her head. She pushed it aside for now. 

But then she thought about it a little more, and a long forgotten wheel in her head slowly began to turn. A wheel she’d cut the power to, because pointless paths weren’t worth dredging. But perhaps… perhaps it wasn’t pointless after all. A wheel Marietta had reminded her of, only yesterday.

“Have we all just accepted the lot of being a Werewolf because it’s what we expect being a Werewolf to be like?” she whispered.

The girls looked at her, each with their own quiet responses to the query. Haddie’s a sort of conscious pity, while Luna’s… Luna’s was always outside the standard deviation. 

Luna said, “Did you know there are no cases of Lycanthropy in South America? Or Egypt? The magic doesn’t take hold there because there are no native wolves. You could bite everyone in Sao Paolo at the exact moment of the full moon, and not one of them would suffer any lasting effect, once the bite had healed. And it would heal, without a scar at all.”

Hermione stared at her.

“And did you know,” Luna continued on, “that Lycanthropy in Siberia presents uniquely to that of Lycanthropy in Great Britain? Werewolves there don’t change by the full moon. They’re fully human from March to December, but at the winter Solstice, they Change, and they don’t change back until Ostara. It’s better for hibernation, you see.”

Hermione swallowed, that disused wheel whirring rapidly now. “If I were to holiday in Brazil… would I Change at the full moon?”

Luna tilted her head. “There’s never been a published study, as far as I know, but if I were to extrapolate from the data available, I would say… no. And you’d sleep as a wolf all winter in Siberia.”

“Magic is place-bound, then,” Hermione surmised, but Luna shook her head, and Haddie did, too.

“No, love,” said Haddie. “Magic’s intent-bound. And we’ve always known it’s stronger in a collective. Why do you reckon the Ministry outlawed ritual-work so long ago? Magical beings are exponentially more powerful when we put our magic together. And those of us with unusual blood even more so. Why do you reckon they make us register? Because it’ll send most of us into hiding, terrified of connecting with another like ourselves.”

“Oh my god,” Hermione said, her voice an unfamiliar croak. “Oh my god. I understand now.”

Luna tilted her head, a soft smile on her pale lips. “I knew you’d get there eventually, Hermione. Even if it did take you nearly eight years.”

“Our power is in the pack. It’s not a platitude, it’s the magic. In our intents and focuses.”

“Or, as Mummy used to say: What you believe, you receive.

Harry believed being a Werewolf was the way to stay connected to his two best friends. Draco believed it was a curse. Hermione believed it was an obstacle. 

Or… she had, anyway.

Now she knew it wasn’t the obstacle. It was the shortcut. 

The shortcut to equality for everyone… including herself. Her eyes cut away to watch the girls, eyes glued to the telly like it was magic instead of everything else around them, a beautiful, bright, hopeful future in her mind. She was going to take the Ministry by storm. 

Or by force, if she had to.

Chapter Text

On the third Friday in March, the Wizengamot came to session. Like all Wizengamot sessions, there were various orders of business put forward by the members, attorneys, officials, and the Minister’s office. Like most sessions, the Head Auror, on behalf of the Aurors, Hit Wizards, and Obliviators, brought forward special cases needing review by the body. Like some sessions, some of these requests were listed on the agenda as simply ‘Auror Department investigatory business,’ due to their confidential nature, which, per the magic of the chambers, could not be spoken of by anyone, to anyone, who’d not been present.

Unlike any sessions in living memory, the only investigatory business the Head Auror would be bringing forward was a call of no-confidence for the Chief of the Wizengamot, Roland Harkiss.

Draco came, as an acknowledged heir was expected to do, though Hermione, still ‘at large’ and back at the Manor, was likely pacing anxiously in front of the floo instead of working on the recipe for the Vampire blood potion for their pack, which she’d claimed she would be doing. Lucius put a firm hand on Draco’s shoulder and guided him as he used to do when he was twelve, as if Draco hadn’t grown two inches taller than him by now. 

“Just through here, Draco,” said Lucius, and Draco realised then that Lucius was putting on a show for the rest of the Wizengamot, and had not, in actuality, forgot that Draco knew the way to the Malfoy seats. Guiding Draco, leading him, made him look more childlike, more docile. Less threatening.

There were so many times when Draco dismissed Lucius because he’d been so utterly, terrifically stupid as to get their family entangled so deeply with the Dark Lord… so many times he looked at his father and had to fight down contempt for a man who’d let another take his wand. What kind of wizard rolled over and gave up his wand?

And then there were always times when Lucius quietly exhibited the traits needed to claw their family back to the top. He’d made so many mistakes, and yet here he stood, a free man with a vote. There was something to be admired in that. 

Despite his father’s innumerable flaws, there was still the man who’d taught Draco everything he knew—both his successes and his failures. 

They took their seats, the Malfoy crest displayed proudly in carved mahogany before their desk and bench. Two known Werewolves and a man twice a Death Eater, and here the Malfoys stood, still deciding laws, still among the Sacred Twenty-Eight. But not for long—not when Draco had designs on bringing a Muggleborn into the line. 

The lower chamber trickled in and Draco watched with an absent eye. Ministry officials, various low- and mid-level bureaucrats, a few witches and wizards with their attorneys bringing civil complaints and referendums, and… Draco blinked. 

A black, empty space filling one of the chairs along the side wall, this one with an unadorned desk before it. He’d seen it before, in the odd Wizengamot meeting, but never paid it much attention. In theory, the Unspeakables were apolitical, preferring to focus on their research rather than the petty squabbles of the public, and if Draco hadn’t been a Werewolf, he would’ve been the same.

Then again, if Draco hadn’t been a Werewolf, he probably would’ve been a bored wizard of leisure and would’ve gone into politics just to have something to occupy his time. That’s what Father had always done, anyway, and look what good it’d done him.

But he digressed, and yet there still sat the gaping black hole of a person down in the lower chamber. A person—or at least, the shape of a person—he knew quite well, but had never fully comprehended. How many assignments had Apex personally delivered to him? How many times had he conversed with that faceless, nameless void of an Unspeakable… someone so shapeless, toneless, and genderless as to be unrecognisable. Even Apex’s disguises were hard to remember. 

How had Draco gone seven years without noticing anything of his own mother in Apex?

And now he knew, and as he watched Narcissa Malfoy, completely hidden behind Apex’s blur, he still couldn’t make out anything of the woman who’d brought him into the world and kept him alive through a war. She was completely unrecognisable. Completely forgettable. Perhaps that’s how she’d survived the war. Perhaps that’s how their entire family had.

She’d come to only a handful of Wizengamot meetings in her capacity as an Unspeakable, and it was only now that Draco realised every one of them had been about the rights granted or denied magical people with unexpected blood.

But Lucius knew. Lucius had always known.

In that moment, Draco felt he’d finally understood some great mystery of adulthood. 

It didn’t matter what he knew. There was always someone who knew more. It didn’t matter that Draco was the Alpha of his pack. There was always someone who could help him.

He’d never wanted to ask for help.

Now, he realised he’d never needed to. His parents had worked tirelessly for him anyway. But he should’ve asked anyway. He should’ve asked.

Next time, he’d ask for help. Next time, he’d understand that there was strength even in weakness—and especially strength in Lycanthropy. He thought, briefly, of the possibility of Potter trying to take Alpha from him and clenched his fists in his lap. He would never allow that. 

But he’d allow Potter to help them.

As he planned to do today.

Harkiss called the session to order. The attorneys went first, with their various civil disputes, most of which would be decided in separate sessions, but which had to first be drawn to the attention of the body, for Merlin knew what reason. Draco tapped his fingers against the mahogany desk and wondered how many Malfoy heirs of time gone by had done the same. Had Lucius? Had Abraxas? 

Would Draco’s one-day heir do the same? Surely she or he would get bored, too. He took a few moments to mentally review the literature on cauldron babies as Mrs Parkinson requested another client’s case be dismissed due to the Auror Department not following procedure during the arrest. It was granted, which brought Draco out of his daydreaming long enough to be annoyed that she hadn’t won the same privileges for Hermione or the twice-damned Weasley twins. Why couldn’t the Aurors have fucked up on their arrests?

But then… his mother had planned the Weasley twins’ arrests, or at least one of them. And they’d gone along with it because they were complete idio—

No. Because they were pack, Draco realised quite abruptly. Because they felt that same innate need to protect the others in their pack, just as Draco did. Just as Hermione did when she saved Marietta Edgecombe.

“Will the Head Auror bring forward the Department’s business?” called Harkiss, and Draco would later swear that the man had actually been doodling on his agenda. One could not have looked less attentive, more bored, if one tried.

A slow, feral smile began to creep across Draco’s face. He leant back, crossing his arms to get more comfortable for the upcoming show. They were going to rip this man apart, and he had no idea it was coming.

“A little decorum, please, Draco,” Lucius murmured beside him, his own face a stoic mask of indifference. “You are not meant to be excited by the goings-on of the criminal underworld.”

“You’re right, of course, Father,” Draco replied. “My apologies.”

“I do understand your enthusiasm,” Lucius continued, even as he tapped out a subtle silencing ward around their box with his cane. “Your mother has been working to this day for as long as we’ve been married. She, too, has been… animated.”

“She at least gets to hide her expression behind Unspeakable spells,” Draco added, glancing again down to the plain desk against the side wall where a person-or-something-like-it sat behind overwhelming obscuring spells.

“She never needed them,” Lucius added. “Discretion has always been one of her strengths… certainly more so than I have ever accomplished,” he added, in a rare show of humility. 

Draco glanced at him, admittedly stunned by this confession. His father gave him a small, true smile and turned back to face the proceedings as Yaxley droned on about a number of potions abuse cases they were seeking special jurisdiction on, but Draco couldn’t look away from Lucius’ profile.

“Of course, she has many qualities,” Lucius continued, still looking down at the proceedings instead of Draco. “Not least among them her ability to both protect and guide, as she has done so well with you as you grew. Your grandfather preferred Bellatrix for my wife, you know, but I’d spent five years in school with your mother, and I knew she was the only woman worthy of the Malfoy name and estate… Convincing her I, however, was worthy of a Black woman was a different matter.”

Draco swallowed carefully, not daring to break this strange moment Lucius was sharing with him. He’d never heard any of this. He’d never known anything, and that, again, was such a stark reminder for him. 

I will do better, he vowed. I’ll never be caught out again, not where my pack and my family are concerned.

“It was her friendship with Macha Yaxley,” Lucius continued, his voice uncommonly soft, “that convinced me she would be the only wife for me. We dated for my last two years at Hogwarts, and I was already ready to propose by my sixth year, but she wouldn’t have me then. I’d seen what the two of them could do together, what she could be led to do for Macha, the lengths she was willing to go to for an ambition, the cunning she would use to get it, the patience she would exhibit for the long game. That, I told myself, was the witch I wanted as my wife… as my future heir’s mother.” He laughed, his eyes softening as he remembered some untold memory.

“And it was indeed that same friend,” Lucius added, “that convinced her to accept me. The Blacks were a formidable family in those years… not yet made defunct by Andromeda’s choices, or Bellatrix’s and Sirius’ imprisonment, or your grandfather’s death before resolving his will. Then, the power in your mother’s name alone stopped the arrows from Centaurs and opened back doors in Gringotts. Then, Andromeda… made her escape…”

Here, he paused and gave a wry look, not entirely directed at Draco. “A true Malfoy acknowledges truths, regardless of their palatability, and so I must acknowledge that it was not the choice of whom she married that affected the Black name, rather the choice of how her family responded.” He shook his head, mouth a moue of distaste. “The newspapers that summer were… enlightening. I think it would be fair to say the entirety of the wizarding world learned a great deal of the inner workings of the Black family that summer. And it was the summer after your mother finished school. She’d been accepted for a double Charms and Potions Mastery abroad. When she returned, she accepted me.”

Draco waited a moment, and then finally dared to speak. He knew exactly how long it took to receive a mastery, and indeed how long it took for a double. “You waited six years for her to accept?”

Lucius looked down to the empty space where they both knew Narcissa Malfoy sat. “It only took her five. I would’ve waited longer,” he said.

Draco nodded, scanning the chamber to give himself something solid to focus on. “And… how do you know it was Head Auror Yaxley that made her accept you?”

Lucius actually laughed at that. “My dear son,” he said, still chuckling. “There was nothing on Ishtar’s green earth that would’ve convinced your mother to marry anyone if she hadn’t assessed the situation and decided she needed Malfoy gold and Malfoy reach to achieve her aims. Your mother has always been a paragon of discretion, but she knows when to lay her cards out. That day that she came to me, after returning from her Masteries, she told me exactly what she wanted of me, and I have devoted myself to it ever since. It is a fraction of her worth, if I am asked.”

“Then,” Draco began, feeling his body go hot with a sudden rage. “Then… the Dark Lord? What of your devotion to him?”

Lucius frowned. “I was already Marked. Your grandfather was a school friend of his. Like… as I did to you, your grandfather made it impossible for me to avoid getting involved. And you know as well as I, once you are within the Dark Lord’s sight, he does not soon forget your existence.”

“No,” Draco agreed, his anger spreading through his voice. He clenched his left fist, feeling his forearm contract around the hated tattoo. He’d been lucky Hermione refused to comment on it. He’d been lucky she’d already known of it, seen it many times during brewing, before anything ever began between them.

“I hate you for that,” Draco whispered. “For bringing him into our home. For surrendering your wand to him. Tell me—was it Mother who kept us alive then?”

“Almost certainly,” Lucius said, ignoring Draco’s declaration. “She put in place many protections, many safe houses… many contingencies during both wars. And she was always strong enough—unafraid enough—not to trigger them unless she was certain. We lived, and we are all free, and we have her to thank.”

“And now,” Draco finished for him, feeling both sapped of all emotion and furious, “we watch her finale.”

Lucius nodded. “We watch, and we vote.”

There was a disturbance down on the floor as the scribe accidentally scattered his documents. Head Auror Yaxley paused in her boring recitation to allow him time to recover his materials. When he had, he gave her a nod and she returned her gaze to the assembly, saying:

“Finally, the Auror Department asks the assembled Wizengamot for a vote of No Confidence in Chief Warlock, Roland Harkiss, on the grounds of failure to follow judicial procedure in regards to criminal cases under the purview of the Auror Department, accepting bribes, and evidence of acting in the disinterest of the people of Magical Britain, in particular wizards and witches with an ancestry or evidence of what is so-called ‘magical creatures,’ such as Banshees, Centaurs, Giants, Goblins, Hags, Mers, Vampires, Veela, and Werewolves, whose legally declared rights to vote, use their own magic, and live unencumbered, have been violated under his direction.”

The silence was deafening. 

And then, the roar that followed even more so.

What?!” Harkiss snarled, finally paying attention to the proceedings.

Yaxley ignored him, staring placidly out at the sea of Wizengamot members. She 

After a stunned moment, Minister Shacklebolt cleared his throat and said, “Let the… let the record show that Head Auror Yaxley has called for a vote of No Confidence against Chief Warlock Roland Harkiss. The Chief Warlock clearly… does not agree. We shall open the floor to discussion, and—”

“No,” called a voice from their right. 

Draco glanced over and saw the hard, unnaturally lined face of Pansy’s father leaning over the railing, staring at the Minister and Chief Warlock. He was one of the lucky—or clever—ones who’d avoided the Dark Lord’s notice, and thus none of his family were Marked. 

“We need no discussion to know the truth of this. The House of Parkinson… and Werewolves votes No Confidence in Chief Warlock Harkiss.”

A moment of silence, and then another voice called, “The House of Flitwick and Goblins votes No Confidence in Chief Warlock Harkiss.”

“The House of Gallant and Veela votes No Confidence in Chief Warlock Harkiss.”

“The House of Zephyr and Vampires votes No Confidence in Chief Warlock Harkiss.”

Voices were raising all over the chamber, both major and minor houses calling out their votes. There were so many, Draco thought, with no small amount of surprise. So many families with creature blood. So many families revealing it. He could almost feel the magic, almost hear their murmuring agreements in the air around him, as if they were all so angry, had all waited so long to say these things, that their thoughts were spreading through the room like fog.

And then came one strong, clear voice among the lower houses. A voice Draco had never heard in this chamber, in all the years he’d accompanied his father here.

“The House of Potter and Werewolves votes No Confidence in Chief Warlock Harkiss.”

As one, the Wizengamot quieted, turning and looking to the seat that had always remained empty, as if shunning his duty to hear and vote was a personally enjoyable rebellion. Fucking Potter, Draco thought, and leant over their desk to get a better view. There was Potter, in all his heroic glory, wearing actual Wizengamot robes but looking much fitter in them than Draco feared he would once his own father passed the mantle. Next to him, Lady Potter sat knitting a horrific lime green kaftan while Portentia perched on the desk wearing a headband with what looked to be Werewolf ears on top.

“Harry?” Shacklebolt said, blinking. “I thought that was the Prophet’s nonsense again. Tell me you didn’t actually—”

“Hadn’t you noticed I was on leave, Minister?” Potter replied, tilting his head as if this were all a minor curiosity. “Been over a month now. I’ve got to say, I miss the work, but I’ve never had so much free time in my life. I just finished building a rooftop deck at home.”

“You’re really a Werewolf now?” yelled one man from the House of Anvers (no claimed creature blood). “Harry Potter?”

Potter smiled what Draco would one day in the distant future, over many drinks and Draco’s hard-earned win against Weasley in their seven-year chess game, tell him was the smile of a predator advancing on wounded prey. “Yes. And it’s fantastic.”

Draco flopped back against his leather chair with a sigh of disgust. Sometimes, he fucking hated Potter. In the administrative box, Shacklebolt, seemingly unprepared for today, directed the secretary to retrieve a vote from the remaining families, upon which directive he began to call them out in order. 

Abbott (and Banshees). Brown (and Werewolves). Bulstrode. Burgundy. Childs (and Hags). Crouch. Fawley. Flint (and Hags). Goyle (and Werewolves). Greengrass. Lloyd. Longbottom. Macmillan… Almost to a letter, they voted with Parkinson. And he would swear he heard them before they spoke.

“Mother did this, didn’t she?” he asked Lucius. “I have never seen a vote go so quickly, without even a discussion. More than half the families have voted and overwhelmingly in favour of Harkiss’ removal.”

“No,” Lucius said quietly, as he stood to call out their vote. “The House of Malfoy and Werewolves votes No Confidence in Chief Warlock Harkiss.”

Something in Draco shattered then, with those words. Something that had been looking for his father’s approval since he was old enough to walk, and yet hated that he desired it. He’d… he’d thought he’d failed so many ways. As a Quidditch player, as a student, as a Death Eater… He’d always been working to overcome his own innate sense of failure, and when he’d failed to even remain human, he’d devoted himself to finally fixing something. Finally doing something right, something his father would be proud of. But then, he’d focused so much on finding a cure to his and Mother’s disease that he’d failed (another failure) to notice he was failing in a worse way with his pack, and his father accepted him anyway.

Lucius had always accepted him and Mother. 

He’d done nothing but support them since the war.

But Draco hadn’t seen that. He hadn’t let himself see it.

“Your mother… and you… secured the vote of the House of Malfoy,” Lucius said quietly as he returned to his seat. “But this,” he continued, gesturing to the Wizengamot members still yelling out their votes, some sounding as if they’d been waiting generations to share this anger, to share their history. “This is all your Ms Granger’s doing. She is worth more than potions brewing and research, you know. She has a way of inspiring bravery… and change… in others.”

Draco whipped his head around so fast his neck twinged. “What?” he breathed.

“I am no fool, Draco,” Lucius said, his eyes steady on him for perhaps the first time all day. “She inspired change and bravery in you, as well. Perhaps she will do the same for me one day. Perhaps we can argue these things over family dinners.”

Draco inhaled sharply, turning away so that Lucius couldn’t see his face. It was a gesture in vain; Lucius had always been able to read him… to read anyone. It was how he’d done so well moving the Ministry to his liking. 

He’d read Draco all these years and said nothing. He’d seen and he’d known and he had not even tried to warn Draco off her.

“Family dinners?” Draco couldn’t help questioning.

“It is customary to dine with one’s daughter-in-law when she lives in one’s home. I presume you do not plan to take up residence at one of our other properties? Your mother would be disappointed, of course, but I could engage our contractor for the paddock installation if you prefer to live in France—”

“Ishtar, no,” Draco said. “She’d never allow it.”

Lucius gave him a smirk. “In my years, I have learnt that it is wise to take the counsel of one’s wife.”

“Dad—” Draco began, only to be cut off as the magic of the Wizengamot rung out with the bell noting the concluding of votes.

“As Head Auror,” Yaxley called out in the remaining void, “and the one who brought this to vote, I have the right of final vote. The House of Yaxley… and Banshees votes No Confidence in Chief Warlock Harkiss.”

The administrative section of the Wizengamot gasped, even Shacklebolt, whose uncle had voted abstain (and no creatures) only moments before. 

“Please read the tally of votes,” Shacklebolt said.

The secretary stood, eyes glancing warily around. “Sixty-six votes were cast. There were four abstentions. With forty-seven votes in favour, the vote of No Confidence passes. The Chief Warlock is removed.”

And with those words, the magic of the chamber was enacted. Harkiss’ Wizengamot robes lost their colour and decoration and he was left standing in the administrative box wearing the same plain black robes that Hogwarts students take their first trip in. He gaped around the room, silent, for once. Draco could understand that—he’d never known, never even suspected that so many families had creature blood. No one would have claimed it just ten years ago. He certainly wouldn’t have. To be thought of as less than pure would have been a dangerous place among the Dark Lord’s circle.

Shacklebolt looked to the secretary, who again rose and read from the Wizengamot  procedures. “If a Chief Witch or Warlock is removed during a Wizengamontorial cycle, the Head of the Department of Mysteries, as the highest ranking non-Ministerial public servant, shall head the Wizengamot until such time as an official vote can be taken to replace the removed Chief.”

Shacklebolt snorted. “I can’t even get them to attend Department Heads meetings. So what’s the next opt—”

“Excuse me.”

Draco would know that voice anywhere, but not because it was his mother’s. Because it was his boss’ voice, a voice memorable in how unmemorable it was. The voice that had unhooded him as a new Unspeakable. The voice that gave him free reign to spend countless Department galleons on a hopeless cause.

Everyone looked to the void space behind the plain desk on the side of the chamber. It seemed as though some of the obscuring charms had been removed, as it was now possible to make out the figure of a person now standing from behind the desk. Apex seemed to glide across the floor of the Wizengamot, ascending the steps up to the administrative box less with grace than with magic.

Apex came to a stop next to Yaxley and by then, every single eye in the Wizengamot was on them, on Narcissa, without evening knowing it was her. Draco fought back the smug smile that wanted to burst free from his mouth, knowing that despite his forebearance, his father would be doing the same. Draco couldn’t help peering down into the lower floor to watch Potter’s face. This was something even he didn’t know.

After a moment, Apex spoke in their strange, non-voice voice. “As Apex of the Department of Mysteries, having served in this capacity for the last fourteen years, and being regardful of the desiderata of my service, I accept this duty. I present my Department brooch as proof to this body, and to the magic of the Wizengamot, that I am who I claim to be, and that this is my rightful claim. May magic strike me down if what I say is false.”

There was a collective gasp, even from Lucius, and Draco would have to admit under duress that even he wasn’t exactly copacetic with his mother taking up ancient vows, especially knowing how wily she could be.

There was a golden flash, and then the magic settled, seeming to linger on Apex’s shoulders.

“The… the magic of the Wizengamot accepts this claim,” Shacklebolt whispered, his eyes as round as galleons. “The Wizengamot recognises the laws and procedures of this body and declares the Head of the Department of Mysteries acting Chief Warlock.”

Apex turned and nodded to him, a fuzzy black shape, like an obscurus contained, bending from the neck. “I thank you, Minister Shacklebolt.” 

Though he couldn’t see her face, Draco could make out the essence of Mum underneath the facade now. He could see how she observed the gathered faces, how she was enjoying this moment. It could’ve been a single minute or ten before Apex spoke again. 

“You may actually refer to me as Chief Witch.” She removed the last of the obscuring spells with a confident sliding of her hand, as if wiping away a spill, and, for the first time, smiled at the Wizengamot, with all of her teeth showing. No one even had time to be stunned as she continued speaking. “Chief Witch Black-Malfoy, of the House of Black and Veela, and the House of Malfoy and Werewolves. Let us continue with our business. 

“I bring to the attention of the Wizengamot the wrongful incarcerations of our fellow citizens, business owners, and members of the Sacred Twenty-Eight, Alfred and George Weasley, and of heroine of the Battle of Hogwarts and upstanding Ministry employee, Hermione Granger, all held without trial and removed to Azkaban prison at the private directive of former-Chief Harkiss in January of this year.”

Gasps went around the room. “They took Granger to Azkaban?!” someone yelled. “Just for saving the life of Edgecombe’s daughter?! Who the fu—n Weasley Wheezes signed off on that? She’s practically the Werewolf Merlin!”

“Well, that’s taking it a bit far,” Lucius murmured, and Draco agreed. If people really thought so highly of her, they wouldn’t have vandalised her motherfucking flat.

“Not to mention the Weasley boys,” someone else said. “Imagine confining two lads who brought nothing but joy to everyone—”

“And a fair bit of headache to us mums!” 

“Yes, yes, their prank products can be a nuisance, Lady Macmillan, but my point stands: I read the article about the boys, and even then I really couldn’t have given half a Snidget’s arsehole that the one had infected the other. A victimless crime, if you ask me, and to remove them to Azkaban without even a trial! We had the right as members of this governing body to hear their defence!”

“Hear, hear!”

“Yes,” Mother agreed, smiling like a cat. “I should like to move us to a vote: To pardon Alfred Weasley, George Weasley, and Hermione Granger of all charges, and to release them immediately from Azkaban prison.”

So they really had kept the breakout quiet. Draco couldn’t help studying Macha Yaxley, sitting complacently, if politely interestedly, behind Mother as she commanded the podium and everyone’s attention. They had done this, together. 

What could he and Hermione do together, if they worked as cleverly, as diligently, as tirelessly, as these two women had? 

More to the point: What couldn’t they do?

“And,” Mother continued, “given Head Auror Yaxley’s accounting, I move that former-Chief Harkiss’ alleged crimes be taken up immediately by this body for investigation. After all, no citizen of magical Britain should ever be condemned… without a fair trial.

“Let the voting commence. On the matter of declaring Hermione Granger innocent of all charges and released from Azkaban, what does the Wizengamot say?”

Draco reached over, quite without his own volition, and grabbed his father’s leg, suddenly terrified. He barely heard the As start off the voting, his heart was hammering so loudly in his chest. It felt as if no time at all had passed before Lucius, too, spoke. 

“The House of Malfoy votes Aye.”

Draco closed his eyes, his hand relaxing against his father’s trousers. But as he moved to retract it, Lucius grabbed his hand, his own warm fingers squeezing Draco’s. He looked up, and he knew—to be an Alpha meant doing the work… and letting others work, too. But to be a Malfoy meant always standing with your family, even when your son made choices you wouldn’t have made for him. In that moment, no one could’ve said anything to lessen the joy of Draco’s day.

Chapter Text

“And now, the salt,” said Hermione. 

Lavender took the carved marble bowl from her and made graceful steps around the circumference of their circle, her bare feet light as a predator against the bare ground. She had long fingers; they’d always looked nice with pink polish. The red Lavender now wore contrasted sharply against the white crystals of salt she carefully spread, those same long fingers dangling, salt falling gracefully from her fingertips, the glitter polish flashing in the light of the growing moon.

She could rip a man in half with those fingers. 

Hermione stood in the centre of their circle, going over their ritual for the dozenth time today alone. This night would decide the rest of their lives. She’d made many mistakes over the past decade. This wouldn’t be one of them.

“Confirm the runes once more,” Draco commanded, bent low next to her. 

He’d made it back to the centre now, the last of his chalk markings coming to connect with the first one he’d laid down. The circle was precisely eight metres in diameter. The star he’d drawn within was eight-pointed. The runes they’d used to mark the cardinals were in sets of eight, and there were eight more filling the remaining fractions. Ishtar had always loved eights.

“In Taurus,” Hermione began, as Ishtar was associated with the planet Venus, whose rulership was in Taurus, and thus all rituals dedicated to Ishtar must align with Venus’ rulership in the sky, “Hagalaz, Nauthiz, Mannaz, Eihwaz-overturned. Hagalaz, Nauthiz Leguz-upward, Inguz-aside.”

We exist in chaos and confinement, we humans under your protection.

We are your chaos in this confinement of life, and we ask you to mother us in a new beginning.

Ishtar was a goddess of the Underworld, and would not respond if they began their ritual aligned to Venus’ current placement in the sky—it was too obvious. Too like the living to be so bold, when Death hid around every corner, in every secret shadow.

“Keep going,” Draco said, his fingers carefully tracing his rune markings as she called them out. “Next eighth.”

Hermione nodded, listening to the susurration of her pack’s light voices as they worked around them—Lavender painstakingly circling the salt, Ron, Tonks, and Harry erecting concealment wards to hide the magic they hoped to unleash, Marietta cross-checking Draco’s chalk-work as Narcissa led many others in a pre-ritual centring exercise. 

“Berkana-upwards, Berkana-fess, Raido, Degaz. Repeating.”

Our future towards the sun, our future divided from our past, we move onwards with your grace.

Draco nodded as he carefully moved through the circle, stepping between runes and other markings of magic as he checked them off, one-by-one. She could smell the determination in his sweat as he focused single-mindedly on this task. They would have never considered something like this before. They would’ve never thought it even possible. “Degas-ordinary, correct?”

Hermione checked her notes. “Yes. Next eighth?”

“I’m ready,” Draco said. 

“Sowelu-pile-Tyr,” she read, ignoring the glare of her wand light against her eyes out here, so far away from the lights of civilisation. “Sowelu-cross, Sowelu. Repeating-overturned.”

Our completion is your victory. Our Perfection is your perfection. 

Your completion is our victory. We are perfect how you designed us. Complete us.

The pack’s steady breathing filtered through her ears like the hum of a familiar radiator. She could fall asleep to the rhythm of their thoughts, as steady as heartbeats. They’d planned this for so long. This was their moment to reclaim their beginnings, to be at peace with themselves, if not the world.

Either Ishtar would hear them… or she wouldn’t.

“Wards up!” Ron called and a weight she hadn’t known she was carrying seemed to slip from her shoulders like a silk robe. They were safe here. Safe from other magicals, at least. They’d be alone tonight, just the pack and their god.

Hermione and Draco continued around the circle, checking each point of the star within for correct runes, with Marietta a few spokes ahead of them checking that each non-rune symbol was correctly formed and each slash of cuneiform was beautifully etched and worthy of the eyes of Ishtar.

Hermione called out the final rune-set, her eyes wandering to the line of Draco’s back as he bent low to inspect each one. Her eyes did that a lot these days, perhaps more so even than when they’d first entered into this relationship together, this undefined thing that she’d never wanted to define until the Christmas he came to her parents’ house. They had a kinship beyond their Alphahoods, and more and more, she was convinced it was beyond sex, too. 

What that meant, she didn’t know. She hadn’t had time to know, to discover. She would carve time for thinking of that soon. But first, she would meet her goddess.

“Complete,” Draco said, standing and dusting chalk from his fingers. They looked to Marietta, patiently waiting for them outside the circle, just by the Taurus spoke. 

“Flawless,” she said, and Hermione couldn’t help the flush of pride she felt at that announcement. She was by no means a scholar of Sumerian script or ancient and mythological symbology, but she’d studied hard for this day. Marietta, however, had always excelled in the forgotten languages of magic, and her judgement mattered.

“We shall take our places then,” Draco said, craning his head back to watch the sky. The moon was fattening up. He checked his watch. “Twenty-eight minutes to full.”

They were none of them on Wolfsbane tonight. To adulterate their bodies with a potion designed to numb their gift as they called down the god who created it would be an insult, and they could not afford an insult against Ishtar. The wards would hold, Hermione told herself. 

They will hold.

She wouldn’t accept anything else.

“Pack!” she called, and then, feeling it coming to the surface of her, she howled for them, hearing their heartbeats and their breaths and their thoughts all give notice and sync. “It’s time to begin.”

They all came, all forty-six of them, gathering around their Alphas. Even those she’d never expected would ever truly want to be pack together—Hestia Jones and Professor Sinistra, Demelza Robins, Su Li, and Laura Madley… Glenda Chittock, who’d hosted a radio show just that afternoon, and Meaghan McCormack who was somehow expected to play a match in the morning—but at least Pride of Portree hadn’t benched her when she came out. 

They were all there. All here, for this.

Draco retrieved the tincture they’d finally perfected—the chlorocyte-detecting potion had only been the base, it was a genius thought that came to Draco years too soon. Hermione thought briefly of the still-portrait of Marie du Chaudron, a Malfoy ancestor, who’d discovered how to brew previously impossible healing potions by coating copper cauldrons in inert silver. As she held their silver-lined glass bottle of chlorocytic Vampire blood up to the growing moonlight, she saw the thick, black mass of potion roll within, only a little diffused by the interior coating of silver. He’d been right all along—there was a difference in their blood that could be measured; there was a difference that they could exploit. It had never been flu that they were looking for.

The virus associated with Lycanthropy was a Herpes Simplex virus—just like a cold sore, being a werewolf cropped up intermittently. A virus that was killed, in vitro, by silver nanoparticles . Marie du Chaudron had figured it out, and generations later, so had Draco.

For some of those unlucky enough, their cold sores came back like clockwork, while others got one once in a decade. Just like people with Lycanthropic infections never turned in Brazil, because there were no wolves there, and Werewolves in Siberia only changed to hibernate in the winter months, the expression of Lycanthropy could be altered.

With Vampire blood acting not only like a stabiliser, but also like an anti-viral, because it was of Death, they could change their expressions of Lycanthropy. They could change when they became wolves, what harmed them.

If Ishtar allowed it.

“Find your places,” Draco commanded, as he took his place next to her in the center of the eight-pointed star. Her eyes skittered back to his face again and again, her heartbeat rising at the look of determination on his face. She pulled away, finally, and found the eyes of Mr Goyle, a man she’d despised, a man who’d likely killed people like her in a different life. Here, under the light of the filling moon, she couldn’t find the hatred he deserved; she only felt that connection of her packmate, of a man who shared her experiences. 

Hermione stepped forward and lifted the vial to Mr Goyle’s mouth. His heavy brows drew down, so like his son, who’d been spared the bite, and for a moment, she thought he would say something to her. But in the end, he only reached out, laying a hand on her bicep and squeezing, just a little. He closed his eyes and parted his lips, and Hermione took the silver-coated dropper and put one drop on his tongue. He swallowed, exhaling heavily. Draco followed her with a knife, drawing a long, shallow cut over his chest. A strike the the heart—a blood sacrifice for Ishtar, the goddess of both love and war. 

They moved to the right. Hermione dropped one drop of the tincture onto Romilda Vane’s tongue. Romilda gave her a deep love of such satisfaction that Hermione shuddered, and a shadow of Romilda’s excitement and proud expectation filtered in her mind between them. They were doing this together. Draco cut her heart, and they moved on. Wayne Hopkins, Ernie Macmillan. Fred and George. Rose Zeller and Laura Madley—Hufflepuffs two years below them that she’d never spoken to at school. Then a whole rash of Slytherins who were closer to her now than many Gryffindors: Eliot Parkinson, Professor Sinistra, Malcolm Baddock, and Hestia Jones, who still lived in Hogsmeade and helped out Professor Sprout on occasion. 

Xenophilius Lovegood and Harry.

She couldn’t help pausing, her eyes still going a bit wet whenever she thought of him as a Werewolf, as someone who’d willingly given their life to this disease. But not tonight—tonight she forced back silly tears because he was with her… with them. As he was always meant to be. She looked behind her, in the last spot, across from where Draco would stand, as Draco’s Beta, right next to Mr Goyle, and met Ron’s eyes. He gave her a warm smile, and she felt her heart lift.

They wound around the circle, their steps even, their hands steady. The scent of blood was rising in the air, and with it a palpable hunger among the pack. The smell of each other’s life forces brought the Were to the surface, and with only minutes left before the full moon, they would soon frenzy.

Next came Stewart Ackerley, Su Li, and Morag McDougal. Demelza Robins and Emrys Cadwallader, both the year below her. Emyrs’ eyes fluttered shut as Draco cut his heart, and Hermione felt a distinctly Hufflpuffian single-mindedness, a readiness to fight that Hermione resonated with. 

Barnabas Cuffe was next. He was not a young man, and Lycanthropy was not an easy illness, especially to contract so late in life. But tonight, he looked invigorated—he looked ready. She hoped tonight would make the difference.

And then there was Marietta. A girl Hermione had hated with everything in her, a girl she’d left marked for years before releasing her from the curse. Hermione profoundly understood her own ruthlessness, and the lengths of brutality she would go to, thanks to Marietta… and she understood her own capacity for empathy because of Marietta, too. A girl who’d betrayed them because of her parents and Veritaserum. 

A woman who’d betrayed her parents for them, without need of any potion.

In Marietta, Hermione saw the woman she might’ve become if she’d been allowed to remain a wallflower. And in Marietta, Hermione saw the future of their pack—strength of will against insurmountable odds, the making of choices one would never be able to un-make. If Hermione died tonight, she felt certain Marietta would fight to take her place.

“I still don’t understand how you were bitten,” Hermione whispered to her. “You shouldn’t have been there.”

Marietta looked up from the cut across her breast and said, “The DA coin. I came back… I had to fix things.”

Hermione’s heart clenched, and for a moment, she saw every possible path this woman’s life could’ve taken, but knew this was what had needed to happen. Their lives would be intertwined until their deaths, and it was what was always supposed to be.

Then came Orsinio Thruston, whose famous blue eyes now turned green at the moon. And his bandmate’s sister and Pride of Portree’s celebrated keeper, Meaghan McCormack. Her rival, Aladair Maddock, from Montrose, next.

Victoria Frobisher, a Gryffindor who’d come to Hermione for homework help when she’d been a prefect, and who now gave her a brilliant smile as she drank from the silver-coated dropper. Glenda Chittock, still with her WWN badge affixed to her royal blue robes. She was a woman Hermione never would’ve got the chance to meet if this had not happened to the both of them. 

“Did you record early today?”

Glenda smiled, her white barely a contrast against her pale Nordic skin. “Perhaps, after tonight, I will not have to, and Witching Hour will also be the Wolf’s Hour.”

Hermione smiled at her, with all her teeth. “Ishtar willing.”

“Ishtar willing,” Glenda repeated, her smile just as feral.

Then Euan Abercrombie, the Montgomery sisters, and Kenneth Towler. She’d not known any of them before they became pack, despite both men having lived in the Tower with her for some years. Tonks was next, as cheery as ever, her eyes already glowing amber, though from the moon or her Metamorphmagus skills, it was impossible to tell. 

And finally… finally her Betas, and her all-but-Beta, Narcissa. Narcissa took the dropper from her and deposited the potion on her own tongue before handing it back to her. She refused Draco the opportunity to make her slash, too, and that was certainly on brand for Narcissa. “Our time comes,” she murmured. 

“It’s here,” Hermione corrected, instinctively looking up to the moon to check its progress.

“Only five more minutes,” Draco said, checking his watch. Hermione grasped his hand once before moving to Lavender.

“We were never friends,” Hermione told her, as Lavender gazed patiently back. “And yet, you’ve been the most outstanding Beta I could’ve ever asked for. You do everything I ask for, and everything I need but don’t ask for, and you never complain, you never ask for help. You are quietly competent, and I was a fool to have never seen that in you before we were turned.”

Lavender gave her a soft smile, the movement tugging awkwardly at the scar across her cheek. She’d had a dimple on that cheek when they were girls. Her lipstick was vibrant plum and her mascara was clearly waterproof, if the shine of her eyes was any judge. She reached for Hermione’s hands, and they felt so warm, and so intimate to hold. “We all have our own catalysts. Now, give me that potion. I’m ready to take back our lives.”

Hermione did so, inhaling deeply to re-centre herself as Draco made the cut across Lavender’s breast. There was only one packmate left. The one who’d been there with always, who’d pulled her away from Greyback even as he bled out on the floor from his own bite. 

“Ron,” she said. “I could’ve never lived this long without you as my friend, and my pack, and our Beta. There is truly no one I’d rather have in your place.”

“Oh fuck off, Hermione,” he said, going red. 

“I quite agree,” Draco muttered.

She swatted them both. “Allow me a moment of sentimentality,” she said, dropping the tincture onto Ron’s tongue. He swallowed it down and then grinned at her, annoyingly and ridiculously photogenic even making a stupid face. “I love you,” she said, forcing Ron to accept it despite how small his spoon-of-allowable-emotions was. He grimaced and looked away before sighing and leaning in lighting-fast for a crushing hug.

“I love you, too, but for the love of Ishtar, stop.”

Hermione laughed, and moved to the centre of the star, Draco following as soon as he’d made Ron’s slash. She purposefully didn’t listen to the murmuring between the two men, allowing them the semblance of privacy for their Alpha-Beta moment.

Draco exhaled heavily as he took his place next to her. “Twelve minutes.”

Hermione turned to him, uncaring of their audience of packmates, and buried her face against his chest, her hands squeezing his sides as if she could pull him into her body if she tried hard enough. 

It was time. Once they were overcome by the transformation, they wouldn’t be able to speak, and without Wolfsbane, they would go entirely to the wild, so they had to give Ishtar their words now.

“Holy mother,” Hermione began, and gasped when she felt the magic of their circle surge up around them, with only those two words. She swallowed, her fingers clenching Draco’s. “Be with us, your Wolves, this moon. We ask for your attention.”

She felt Draco shift next to her before he, too, began to speak. “We ask for your boon. You created us in perfect form, but time has eroded our edges, and we are now corrupted. We ask for you to make us perfect once again.”

The magic around them coalesced, attentive and watchful. Was it Ishtar or magic itself? Hermione couldn’t say, but her heart tripled in time just the same. She watched a golden plasma of magic swirl behind Ron and Lavender, tendrils licking out to touch them and others in the pack. Her Betas had their eyes closed, and the entire pack was quietly chanting the words to awaken her: 

“Goddess of the Wolves, Goddess of Akkadia, Goddess of Hell, Goddess of Arcadia.”

“Hear us,” Hermione said, reaching out to cut a slash across Draco’s breast. She took her fingers and swiped across the wound, drawing a rune of Tyr on his forehead. 

She passed the knife back to him, and he repeated the cut on her own chest, chanting, “Hear us,” as he did. His fingers were steady as he drew Tyr across her brow. 

She met his eyes, watching how deeply he focused, how oddly silver his eyes always became right before the moon. Once he’d finished, he glanced down, and their eyes met. The look of determination in his gaze didn’t soften, but he did reach out and cup her cheek with his hand. She felt the sticky grip of drying blood against her face, but she leant into his touch anyway. The moon was too near for her to go squeamish over a little blood. If anything, it would only frenzy her.

Inside her body, inside every member of her pack, she felt the rising wildness of the Wolf, clawing its way to the surface. Soon, it would be here. Soon, it would take over, and it would be up to Ishtar to decide whether or not they were worthy of regaining control again. 

“Goddess of the Wolves, Goddess of Akkadia, Goddess of Hell, Goddess of Arcadia.”

Across the pack, her packmates were crossing arms to draw runes upon one another’s foreheads, their chanting never stopping. She saw Ron lick Lavender’s blood from his fingers and felt an uncomfortable surge of feral-lust rise up in her, and then it was as if she could not have stopped herself from doing the same with Draco’s if she’d tried.

His eyes darkened as she sucked his blood from her finger tips, and his other hand came up to grip her waist tightly. He pulled her in, chanting with the group, their mouths a breath apart as they called Ishtar down.

And with only minutes before the moon became full, she knew Ishtar was there. That sense of being watched was nothing compared to the near-tangible certainty that arose once she arrived—a dark, curious presence within their magic… within all of them. She felt Ishtar in her, in Draco, in the pack, and in the moor around them. And Ishtar let them. As one, the pack stopped chanting, and she knew they felt it, too. Their thoughts were like bees, excited and murmuring, and a little bit afraid.

But a Wolf who let fear win was nothing.

“Ishtar, we relinquish our human bodies to you,” Hermione and Draco chanted together, and the pack repeated. “Ishtar, give us the power you had when you revenged Enkidu’s insult. Give us the power you needed when you descended to Hell. Mend the corruption in our gift, and we shall be both Love and War for you.”

And there was an interest there. An intrigued inquisitiveness. The magic was still around them, and then all of the sudden, it slammed into her—a whirlwind of spinning darkness and wildness and light, both a war spear and a sexual touch. She was the goddess of whores, after all. Of prostitutes and love of every type, of war and destruction, of divine justice and not taking fucking anything lying down.

But most importantly, she was the goddess of Werewolves.

The goddess who looked at their pack and saw her.

Ishtar’s magic surged through Hermione, and if it hadn’t have kept her standing itself, she would’ve fallen. She was rooted to the ground, part of the ground, part of the sky and of magic itself. She felt everything on the moor, and when she looked back into the back, she saw God.

Ishtar gazed back at her with dark, slow eyes and her smile when she gave it was both great and terrible at once. Hermione sank to her knees, fingers clutching the grass as she fought against weeping. Ishtar’s attention had left her, but it was not wholly gone. For the rest of her life, Hermione knew she’d be within Ishtar’s sights. She might’ve felt cold, crumpled there on the cold, early spring grass, but she felt only satisfaction. And it kept her warm.

There was a moment of thoughtfulness in the magic around them and Hermione looked up at Draco, grinning and breathless, only to see that his focus was elsewhere, across the circle behind her. Hermione craned her neck to look, and inhaled sharply at the dark, curious tendrils of magic encircling Harry, who looked as he always had when facing the unknown: terrified and fucking ready.

“No,” Draco growled, not a plea, but a statement. “You will no—”

But his words were cut off by a howl of pain as the bones in his body began to transform, to shift and reform. The moon rose fully above them and Hermione felt the change come over her.

For a moment, she panicked, remembering her stint in Azkaban, and the horrifying lack of Wolfsbane—the almost terminal fear of being without her own mind. But as her nose lengthened, as her teeth sharpened and her ears grew, as her fingers curled and her back arched, as every other thought of humanity fled from her, Hermione heard a voice.

Will you go?

Hermione screamed through the pain of the transformation. Her toenails turning to claws, her spine creating a tail.

Will you go? it asked again.

Where? she thought, through the pain, but even the concept of ‘where’ was beginning to fade. What was a ‘where’? What was this concept of—?

Have we actually summoned a demon? she wondered. Were they right?

And the voice returned, this time lilting, chanting, not quite melodic enough for song:

 

 

To Kurnugi, land of no return,

To the dark house, dwelling of Erkalla's God,

To the house which those who enter cannot leave,

On the road where travelling is one-way only,

To the house where those who enter are deprived of light,

Where dust is their food, clay their bread.

They see no light, they dwell in darkness,

They are clothed like birds, with feathers.

Over the door and the bolt, dust has settled.

 

To hell, Hermione realised, as her ribs rearranged themselves. To Death. Then, as her pelvis twisted and her knees turned, she knew with certainty: Yes.

Lightning struck her, her response still a whisper on the breath of her mind, and she shrieked in pain as her insides burned and her brain short-circuited, and then she—

There was blackness all around. 

The pain had stopped, and perhaps time itself. Hermione was nothing, inside of nothingness. She didn’t breathe. She didn’t move. She didn’t think, but she floated.

What will you do? asked a voice.

Hermione was nothing. She would not do anything. 

What will you do? it asked again. Will you venture into Kurnugi and let Ereshkigal steal from you your power? Will you fight or will you die? 

No, Hermione thought, for she was capable of thought, wasn’t she? The Queen of the Night has no power over me. And then, she realised: The moon has no power over me.

She heard a voice laughing all around her, both dark and inviting. Then leave through the gates.

Hermione screamed into the void, clawing and scratching and howling, and though she was nothing, in nothing, she began to feel resistance. She dug and lashed, and little by little, she climbed, up, up, up. She gnashed her teeth against the sweet, rotting taste of nothingness and spat it behind her, slashing with teeth and claw as she ascended. And all along, Ishtar laughed—

Hermione opened her eyes. Above her was the full moon, a bright orb against a pitch-black sky. She blinked against the painful brightness. Slowly, and then all at once, her hearing returned to her. She sat up on shaking hands and looked around, her pack in varying states of pain and transformation, howls of agony rising up against the warded ritual circle.

Next to her, Draco was shaking violently, half-transformed, but snarling all-too humanly. There was a black tendril of magic teasing him—a match to the one she’d seen circling Harry, and she knew with a horrifying sense of understanding, that Ishtar was not convinced he was worthy. 

She saw the resistance in him and reached out a trembling hand to his bared shoulder. “Let go,” she said, feeling her eyes burn. “This will kill you, just let go. Let him have it,” she cried. 

Draco’s transformation completed and he stared up at her with eyes all too aware, all too human, and growled. She jerked her hands back from his violent shaking and scrambled to her feet. The ground beneath her was scorched black. Ishtar’s magic still touched him, but it was touching Harry, too, and Harry looked far less agitated… far more Alpha-like.

And then, he howled, a raw, blistered sound she’d never heard from him before, even in his worst transformations. It didn’t stop—a hellish scream seeming without end. 

Until, suddenly, it did. And in the echoing silence and ringing of her ears, she heard him snarl like a rabid dog. And then—then it wasn’t a Wolf trembling on the ground, but Draco, naked and bloody and bruised. He pulled himself up on hands and knees, his elbows shaking until he snarled again and locked them, pushing himself to his feet. 

“‘Here, gatekeeper, open your gate for me,’” Draco snarled to the sky. 

“‘Open your gate for me to come in! If you do not open the gate for me to come in, I shall smash the door and shatter the bolt, I shall smash the doorpost and overturn the doors, I shall raise up the dead and they shall eat the living: The dead shall outnumber the living!’ Take me, you bitch!” Draco yelled, spittle flying from his lips. 

She’d never seen Draco like this, and she could admit she was afraid. Of him or for him she didn’t know, but she covered her mouth with her hand and sucked in air through her nose, hyperventilating and unsure if she would ever breathe normally again. 

“I don’t fear Death. He has been there,” Draco snarled, flinging a bloodied arm out towards Harry’s Wolf form. “It’s nothing for him, for one who knows what’s there, to go back, but I have not, and I will go in unknowing. I will be ruthless for you. Accept me or kill me. I will not back down. This is my duty to my pack. Do it!”

There was a moment of consideration, and then a great blue-white flash came down from the heavens and struck him. Hermione shrieked, jumping back as Draco crumpled to the ground, his eyes lifeless.

“No!” she cried, falling forward again. “Draco! No, you can’t—you can’t—oh my god,” she sobbed ineffectually. She shook him but his body resisted nothing. And where was her wand, where—she looked down, only now realising she, too, had lost her clothes in this transformation back. A strangeness for another time. She pawed at the cold ground, searching for her wand, and—there!—some feet away, at the northern point of the star, where her Betas watched her with curious, inhuman eyes, somehow not frenzied like a Werewolf usually would be, but still not of their own minds. 

She ran over, grabbed the wand and skidded back down next to Draco. His lips were blue, his eyes unseeing. She could do this; she’d done it for Marietta. She could resurrect him.

Will you let Ereshkigal steal from you your power? Will you fight or will you die? 

It was a memory and a liturgy. 

Her fingers shook as she pressed the wand to Draco’s bear chest, the blood from his slash smeared all down his abdomen. Her throat burned, her voice refusing to work. She pushed through the rawness, and said, “Ful—”

Draco opened his eyes. He stared up at the moon, still heavy in the sky, and then glancing briefly at her, he lifted his hands and stared. There was a thick, rotting blackness beneath his fingernails, black lines of it running in the delicate veins of his wrists, visible beyond the tremor. He swallowed visibly, and Hermione had a feeling in her gut that told her look, look, look. 

So, she looked, and her own hands were the same—the nothingness of Death clung to her fingernails, where she’d clawed her way up from the Underworld, and ran through her veins. The Curse of the Living… and the Gift of the Dead. It was in them now; it would always be in them.

This was not at all how Hermione had expected this ritual to go. She’d thought Ishtar would either accept the entire pack or kill the two Alphas for impudence. A risk they’d both known going into this tonight, though they’d not shared it with the others, not even Ron and Lav. But this… this was unexpected.

And yet, as Hermione pulled herself to her feet, and reached out a weak hand to help Draco rise, she knew exactly what was needed to complete this ritual, to finalise their deal with Ishtar, and gain what they seemed. It was as if her thoughts and Draco’s thoughts merged into one.

And as one, she and Draco spoke: “Goddess of the Wolves, Goddess of Akkadia, Goddess of Hell, Goddess of Arcadia: Our sacrifices for our pack’s wholeness. Lift them up from servitude to the corruption and make them whole, as we have given ourselves to your service in their place. We will be ruthless for you. We will never back down.”

She clenched his hands between her own, felt her body shivering against his as they spoke and as the magic settled around them in their docile, feral packmates. Ishtar considered them…

And she found them worthy.

There was a flash of darkness, inverted lightning, and all around the circle, her packmates dissolved back into their human forms, panting and staring up at the sky just as she and Draco had. She knew what they were looking at: the full moon. She’d forgot how beautiful it could be with human vision.

But there they were, all forty-nine of them: human under the light of the full moon. For some of them, for the first time in nearly eight, long years. 

Hermione nodded to Lavender to break the circle and she did, sweeping a graceful foot through the salt and closing out the magic. It fell back into the ground as if it was never there, but still, they remained human.

No one spoke, and even Hermione had no idea what to say. She looked around at them, all naked like her, which she was certainly going to have to look into because that had never happened before, and could manage little more than simultaneous breathing and eye-contact. More than that was beyond her.

She was human… but she felt an urge. Not an un-ignorable urge, but an itch beneath her skin. She was human, and she wasn’t sure she wanted to be. The moon was when her power was strongest, when the wildness in her was most creative, most destructive, most connected.

She looked to Draco and saw him grimacing with discomfort, and knew he was feeling it, too. And then, he furrowed his brows and transformed. She gasped, watching him shift and shrink gracefully down into the shape of a mundane wolf—beautiful, silver coat and reflective, silver eyes, but still just a wolf. She reached out to touch him and he nosed her hand, his eyes intelligent and alert.

We can do this whenever we want, she realised.

All she had to do was focus, and Hermione was nothing if not an expert at focusing. She closed her eyes and tried to call on the feeling of being a Werewolf, and there was something there—not quite a tug, but a lead she could hold onto and pull, and when she did, magic reformed around her and she shrunk down, painlessly, into a brown-coated wolf.

She couldn’t help herself: she grinned at Draco, knowing it was dog-like and slobbery and her tongue was lolling out. She didn’t even care. She jumped up, yipping with excitement, and bounded around the circle, weaving in and out of the legs of her packmates, free of the moon, free of Wolfsbane.

One by one, the others in her pack figured out how to transform, and soon they were all running around inside the wards, chasing tails and barking and other ridiculous things they’d usually been too tired from the change to do before. 

This, thought Hermione, already making plans in her head, changes everything.

I will be ruthless for you.

Chapter Text

 

“Of course, now Lucius is interested in becoming one of us.”

“You’d never allow it,” Hermione replied, not looking away from her wand directing streamers and bunting from  shop fronts and gas lights of Diagon Alley. “You like your alone time.”

“I do,” Narcissa, who was not helping but instead observing with a pleased smile, agreed. “But I also enjoy life when Lucius believes he owes me something. He’s begun to feel his duty is fulfilled now I’m Chief Witch.”

Hermione laughed. “I’m sure he’s bored.”

She caught Narcissa shrugging from the corner of her eye. She would never be Beta—if only because she didn’t desire it—but Hermione felt connected to her as if she were. “He’s taking up ritual-design again. A man must have his hobbies, I suppose.”

“What is he trying to create?” she couldn’t help asking.

“Oh, this and that,” said Narcissa, waving her off. “Something about how much money there was to be made in anti-aging rituals, and that he had a willing selection of Hags who’d happily agree to testing.”

Hermione tilted her head. Since the night they met God, she’d often wondered what the trick would be to take the curse out of all the gifts of magic that had been given to other people—Hags, Veela, Vampires, Banshees, and the like. Mr Voclain, in fact, was experimenting with Werewolf blood to see if it could be used to augment Vampirism, but so far, they’d not figured it out. 

“Is he having any luck?”

“Perhaps,” Narcissa allowed. “Your friend Haddie appears to be in her forties this week, though time will only tell if it lasts, or if it’s just a glamour.”

“Really!” Hermione said, turning to look at Narcissa. “What was the key in the ritual design? Did he tell you?”

Maybe Lucius was onto something. And if he wasn’t, at least he was staying out of trouble, which was really all she could ask for from the man. Maybe she’d invite him to work with the society.

“He’s taking a parchment from your and Draco’s books, I believe. Quite literally in fact—I understand he stole from the notes you and Draco left in the lab when you both moved back into your flat.”

Hermione laughed, her cheeks going red. One did not speaking of shacking up with one’s boyfriend’s mother.

Narcissa continued, undaunted, “His working hypothesis being that Vampires, Veela, Hags, and Banshees are all born human but develop changes over time or by infection. He’s using rune alignments to control gene activations and immune responses to whichever viral infection has caused each of them to activate. If certain parameters must be met for the genes to activate, then, in theory, runic rituals, which can control processes in the magical human body, are a likely candidate for exploration.”

Hermione stared at Narcissa. Just as before in her flat, with Luna and Haddie’s gentle, unforgiving observations, puzzle pieces were slowly, carefully, sliding into place in Hermione’s brain. “That’s… that’s so smart.”

“He does have moments,” Narcissa agreed.

They settled into a comfortable silence, Hermione working and Narcissa observing. Finally, Hermione finished the last of her bunting and surveyed the Alley with a satisfied smile. It was months late, but it was going to be fantastic anyway. The first annual New Moon Charity Festival was due to begin in an hour, but this time, proceeds would be going to support The Disruptive Occult Gifts Society—DOGS—which still tickled Hermione, even months after filling for the non-profit tax-exemption from the Ministry.

“Mother—there you are.” 

They turned as one to find Draco striding towards them. He had a confidence in his gait that she hadn’t seen since before the war. And she hadn’t even noticed it was missing until she saw it again, after that fateful night with Ishtar. But now that it was back, it was clear why Draco was always meant to be Alpha.

He’d just needed to be reminded of his own worth first.

So had she.

She watched his approach with a side glance, pretending to straighten a line of multi-colour bunting along the front of the Diagon Community Centre, where their festival would be held. From Draco’s smirk as he glanced at her, she was unsuccessful.

“Father’s looking for you,” Draco told Narcissa. “The Parkinsons are asking for insider knowledge on next month’s Wizengamot session.”

“Really? They know I’m not going to give them more than my secretary’s printed on the agenda,” Narcissa said, eyes narrowed. “Why can’t your father answer that?”

Draco only shrugged. “You know Dad. He likes to keep things close to the chest. He’s in the Community Centre, by the dunking booth.”

Narcissa sighed. “All right.” She looked over her shoulder as she was leaving, and told Hermione, “See that Ms Lovegood-Potter has enough small coins to make change at the entrance booth.”

“Already did,” Hermione said, because really, who did they take her for? She turned back to Draco with an appraising smile. “Well? What are you scheming?”

His smile turned feral. “It so happens that I do know what’s unprinted on next month’s Wizengamot agenda.”

She cocked her head. “Your father, I assume?”

He only smiled and tapped the side of his nose. “Weasley and I completed our evidence file and Yaxley issued a warrant for Miriam and Edgar Edgecombe. Their initial hearing will be on the docket.”

Hermione shuddered. She’d not wanted to think of the elder Edgecombes. It was a problem Draco had taken to with relish, though. Hermione was finding that he was more inclined towards Ishtar’s tradition of demanding divine justice, while she, oddly and uncomfortably, was more inclined towards ruthless and total destruction of enemies. She’d had to completely ignore the Edgecombe problem to avoid Apparating over to their house, transforming, and ripping them to shreds for what they’d done to Marietta.

“Thanks for sorting that. Have you… have you spoken to Marietta about it?”

Draco tilted his head. “Who do you think provided most of the missing evidence?”

“Of course,” Hermione said, nodding. “’Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.’”

Draco laughed. “Ravenclaws are merciless. They should’ve known better. A wolf can only be hit so many times before it bites.”

She couldn’t help asking, “What clenched it for the warrant?”

Marietta’s testimony alone wouldn’t have cut it, since she was still a Werewolf and not legally considered a credible witness, even now. Narcissa was working through all the rubbish laws against creatures on the Wizengamot books, but there were many to go, and this one was yet on the list. They would get there. Hermione was confident in this.

“Weasley realised it had to be someone with access to high security floo addresses, because Glenda, Barnabas, Aladair, Meaghan, and Orsinio all had private floos, given their statuses in the community. Each of them was infected within their own homes and, when we pulled the logs, the floo records for the night they were infected were missing across the entire Network. Marietta’s mother was one of the only people with access to addresses at that level of floo security. We got Edgar Edgecombe when I tied him to an old performance warning for unauthorised use of experimental potions with similar properties in his work at the Department of Magical Creatures.”

“Clever,” Hermione said, though she had no desire whatsoever to know what kind of experimental potions he’d used.

“I know,” he said, grinning.

“Is that the only reason you sent your mother off?” she asked, putting a hand on her hip. “Because I do have more to do before the event kicks off.”

“There’s just one more thing,” Draco said. “It’s over here.” He looped his arm into hers and led her down the Alley towards the mouth of Knockturn. It was dark and gloomy as it always was, but there was a shade-loving violet clematis crawling up the brickwork between Knockturn and the Prophet offices. She smiled at her handiwork, which seemed to get better by the day. In another year or two, she figured, Knockturn would be hard to hate, even by those who shunned it. Night-blooming flowers thrived in the gloom and their fragrance drifted out into the Alley, drawing attention from shoppers.

She looked up and found that the people in the flats nearest the mouth of the Alley all had their windows open, and a few had even added flower boxes. Knockturn was still full of shady businesses and dilapidated buildings, but it was becoming beautiful in its own way. Perhaps it always had been.

Draco stopped in front of the door for a set of old limestone-covered flats across from her latest installation of evening primrose. They did smell lovely. But Draco was apparently not here for her gardening. He pulled a bright blue key from his pocket and tapped it against the door. She lifted her eyebrows as the door swung inwards. 

“Breaking and entering on today of all days?” she asked.

“Hardly,” he said. “The estate agent gave me this.”

“Oh, you’re buying a flat in Knockturn?” She couldn’t help a little thrill of excitement to have him closer to her… but then again, she’d grown used to him sleeping in her cramped bed each night. 

“Come see,” he said, and led her up the narrow stairs to the first storey, where he again tapped the blue key against the brass lock plate on the door. It, too, swung open, and Hermione was hit with an odour of abandonment. She wrinkled her nose. Their Lycanthropy had changed, but their noses were as strong as ever. She had, however, been able to reintroduce cruciferous vegetables to her diet, which could only be a good thing. 

“The light’s very good,” she said, neutrally, but secretly she was jealous. The lighting in her flat above Aberrants’ Apothecary wasn’t nearly as good, but then again, she hadn’t had Malfoy money when she was shopping for a flat. She hadn’t even had a job yet. “Oh, you can see both Diagon and Knockturn from the sitting room. The location can’t be beat.”

Draco smiled smugly from the middle of the empty flat. “My thoughts exactly.” The floor creaked as he moved to join her at the window. He pointed down to the right. “I quite like that from this corner you can see the old Knockturn Square, and from the other corner, you’ve got Gringotts. A Malfoy always likes to have his money within view,” he added.

She laughed and smacked his arm. “You are such a twat sometimes.”

“I am,” he agreed, his voice quite happy. “Come take a look at the bedrooms.”

“Plural?” she said, becoming more and more envious by the moment. Even unloved for quite some time as this flat clearly was, who could afford two bedrooms in London?!

“Two bedrooms, two baths,” he said, and she almost gasped with shock. 

“I didn’t even know there were flats in London with two loos!” she said, scandalised. “Magical London, at least!”

“Well, I don’t think it was original to the flat, but the expansion charms have been inspected by a Charms Master and are perfectly safe and up-to-code.” He opened the door to the hallway bathroom—a vintage thing with black-check penny tile and exposed brass pipes beneath the console sink. The bathtub was pink, but she didn’t even have a tub in her flat, so who cared?

“Very Art Deco,” she observed.

“I always liked that era,” said Draco, moving on to the next door. “A linen cupboard,” he said, briefly opening it for her. The scent of moth-spells wafted out, making her wrinkle her nose. Still, that was easily remedied. Ugh, why did Malfoys always find the best flats? “And now the first bedroom.”

It wasn’t huge, but it was certainly a workable room, large enough for a full-sized bed and a wardrobe. She tried not to imagine all she would’ve done with a second bedroom in her own flat.

“I was thinking of making it into a potions lab,” said Draco. “But that can be decided later.”

She hummed noncommittally. “The floors are still in great condition.”

He gave her a quick smile, and she knew he could tell that she was a lot more enthusiastic about this flat than she was letting on. Their thoughts were not available to one another as packmates, or even as paired Alphas, but much of the time, their emotions were. And if she focused really hard, she could grasp a stray thought from him here and there. The magic of Lycanthropy was still something they didn’t fully understand. Perhaps something Ishtar would never let them fully understand.

“And the main bedroom,” Draco said, opening the last door with a creaking groan. It was much larger and had another door leading off it that she presumed went to an en suite. “I think it’ll fit a king,” he said, head cocked, thoughtful. “Perhaps two wardrobes.”

She snorted. “You really need to downsize your closet, Malfoy. You’re not going to be able to bring everything from Malfoy Manor.”

“Oh, it’s not for me,” he said lightly. “I’ve already packed up my extra wardrobes. The second one’s for you.”

She whipped her head to look at him. 

“And if your stupid cat can keep his mouth shut at night, there’s room for a cat bed beneath the window.”

“Crookshanks isn’t stupid,” she growled automatically, and then her brain, which was typically quite fast, caught up to her. “Wait, you want me to move in with you?”

“Ah!” he said, with that same lightness, as if he’d forgot something, but she knew he hadn’t. She narrowed her eyes as he started looking around. “Now, where—ah, yes,” and he reached into his cloak pocket and pulled out a box. He flipped the top open and Hermione stared down at… a ring. 

She blinked. 

It was blue. She’d always liked blue. 

“Lapis Lazuli,” he said, as if he could read her thoughts, and maybe he had picked up on that one. “For Ishtar.” He pulled it out and held the ring up to her eye level, still as calm and collected as a man out golfing, while she was still waiting for her brain to resume functioning. “But the inscription… that is for you.

“You’re my Alpha-pair and my bondmate,” he said, “and I will not kneel. But I will bear my neck to you, today and always. I would like it very much if you would do me the honour of marrying me. Will you?”

She looked back at him, her eyes wide. “Does Lucius know about this?”

He burst out laughing, and Hermione felt her face go red, but she couldn’t help smiling, too. What a fucking dumb response to such a question.

“He gave me his blessing at the Wizengamot,” Draco said. “In March.”

Hermione’s eyes widened even further. “He did not.”

“He did,” Draco said, still smiling, though it had softened considerably. “But even if he hadn’t, I would’ve asked you anyway. Fuck him. Fuck all of them, if they don’t want me to be happy. And you make me happy. You always do. But not only that, you make me better. I would not be Alpha without you. I wouldn’t want to me. Now, answer the question and help me pick paint colours for our new flat.”

Hermione couldn’t help laughing, though her eyes were suspiciously sting-y. “Yes, all right. Of course, I will. You know I will.” She held out her hand, but paused his movements as he began to slide the ring on her finger. 

She read the inscription, and her heart seized up—with love, and with war.

If you do not open the gate for me to come in, I shall smash the door and shatter the bolt.

They would, she knew. If doors shut before them, they would tear them down, together.