Astronomy Tower
Draco Malfoy/Hermione Granger
Draco Malfoy Hermione Granger
Romance Wizarding Society
Harry and Classmates Post-Hogwarts
Deadly Hallows (Through Ch. 36) Epilogue to Deathly Hallows
Published: 01/06/2008
Updated: 01/06/2008
Words: 5,335
Chapters: 1
Hits: 262



Story Summary:
Two years after the war, Hermione Granger is stuck. She is recently unemployed, broken up with Ron, and cannot seem to prevent her memories of her past from affecting her present. However, when she discovers she is a finalist for an internship with the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, things appear to be looking up for Hermione. What she does not expect are the events that follow: unlikely competition, a consequentially interesting living situation, and emotional turmoil that would put romance novels to shame. Can Hermione attain the fresh start she is seeking?

Chapter 01 - The Interview Within

Author's Note:
Thanks for reading!


Chapter One: The Interview Within

Her stilettos clicked purposefully along the cobbled street, her long robe swished gracefully around her ankles, her hand clasped confidently onto a black day planner.

And yet, as Hermione Granger continued walking briskly towards the red telephone box she knew concealed the entrance to the Ministry of Magic, she could not help but feel her outward courage waving, being replaced instead by a sense of fear.

It was not the feeling itself that scared her--on the contrary, fear was perhaps the one emotion she was most adapted to. On that fateful day, now two years earlier, Hermione had experienced more terror in one day than many people encounter in a lifetime during the (now) epic battle between Lord Voldemort and her best friend, Harry Potter. She and the others had fought valiantly, and when Harry finally delivered the spell that would prove to be Voldemort's downfall, Hermione had been mere feet away. She remembered the aftermath as if it were yesterday; the jubilant cheers of her peers, the grief upon realizing the losses of Tonks, Lupin, and (perhaps the most grieved of all) Fred, the brazen look upon Ron's face as he fought his way through the crowd to meet her. She remembered how she had choked back tears when they embraced, how he had whispered her name, how his warm hands felt on her face as he moved closer...

"Don't think about that," she reminded herself firmly for what felt like the billionth time since she and Ron had ended their relationship two months prior. Although their romance had fizzled almost as quickly as it had flourished, a certain sense of discontent still filled Hermione every time she thought of him. She tried to convince herself that these pangs of emotion were natural; Ron had, after all, been the object of her affection for the past five years. It was only to be expected that she should feel some sense of loss, totally normal, of no importance...

Pushing thoughts of Ron from her mind, Hermione began to ponder this new fear, accepting that although it was entirely different in concept, it was equally as frightening. Today, Hermione was conducting her final interview for a highly competitive internship within the Department of Magical Law Enforcement at the Ministry of Magic. It was strange to consider that even months ago Hermione would have scoffed at the idea of considering working for such a deceitful, corruption-filled place. And yet, just as she had, the Ministry had changed. With the appointment of Kingsley Shacklebolt as Minister of Magic, and Harry being the newly selected Head of the Auror office, the Ministry was hardly recognizable as the place that had once accused both Harry and Professor Dumbledore of being liars. Not only was it more respected, it also was truly making progress towards bridging the discrimination gap between wizards and magical creatures--the internship Hermione was applying for was actually for a subgroup within the Department whose main focus was increasing unity between wizards, merpeople, Centaurs, and other magical creatures. It was not only because of its content that this opportunity would truly be top notch; the winner would receive a one-year paid position as an intern for the committee and full accommodations in downtown London (room, board, and spending money ) for the duration of that year. Hermione had even heard rumors that the intern chosen had a very good chance of being offered a permanent position as head of the committee.

At that though of a successful future, she reached the telephone box with a spring in her step and pulled open the door. After checking to ensure that the street was Muggle-free, she picked up the receiver and punched the numbers 6-2-4-4-2 into the dial.

"Welcome to the Ministry of Magic. Please state your name and business," said a cool voice Hermione recognized from her fifth year.

"Hermione Granger. I'm here for an interview with Walter Popydile, Department of Magical Law Enforcement."

"Thank you. Please take the badge and attach it to the front of your robes. You are required to submit to a search and present your wand for registration at the security desk, which is located..."

But where the security desk was located, Hermione never found out, because at that exact moment, a tall, athletically figured man with a handsome face and sleek blond hair began nosily rapping against the glass with a gloved hand.

Hermione gasped sharply as she realized to whom the leather glove and blonde hair belonged.


Even as she stood there, her certainty of the visitor's identity becoming more apparent by the second, Hermione could still not believe it. Draco. Draco Malfoy. Here at the Ministry. The last time she had seen him, he had been standing in the corner of the Great Hall surveying the scene of Harry's victory with his father while being coddled by his mother. Now, as she stared into those gray, steely eyes, she recognized the same glimmer of arrogance that they had held during their school days--her final verification that it was, truly, him.

"Deaf, Granger?" Draco asked as he opened the door. "I've been knocking for over a minute. What, have you become such a know-it-all that your oversized brain impounded your eardrums?"

Draco flashed her a smirk as he reached behind him and shut the door. For a moment, neither of them said anything. Even though the Malfoy family had released a full apology and had been cleared of all charges concerning their involvement with the Death Eaters, Hermione had never fully believed that Draco was as sorry as he claimed. And from what she could tell from looking into his pompous, conceited face now, she had been right.

"So what brings you to the Ministry?" Draco asked, puncturing the silence. "I thought you and your Potter-loving friends denounced it ages ago?"

"As a matter of fact, those 'Potter-loving friends' of mine are now running the place," she replied curtly, her shock at his arrival now dispelled. "And if you must know, I am here for an interview to enter an internship with the Department of Magical Law Enforcement," she finished strongly, glancing up at Malfoy to see his eyes held a look of surprise.

"Impressive," answered Draco as he began rummaging through the pockets of his trench coat, apparently looking for something. "That is quite an internship. A year of paid work and full accommodations in downtown London--it is down to two candidates I believe?"

"Yes, that's right," Hermione answered standing up a little straighter. "And I'm one of them."

"Impressive," Draco repeated again.

Suddenly, Draco pulled a small piece of parchment victoriously from his pocket, and while unfolding it, made to reach for the receiver. To his dismay he found Hermione standing directly in front of it, her back pressed firmly against the dial.

"Do you mind?" he asked haughtily.

Hermione shot him a look of disgust as she edged around the box, allowing Draco to access to the dial. If it had not been for fear of missing her interview, Hermione would surely have put up a greater fight against Draco's snobbish remarks.

"Perhaps after..." she thought smugly as Draco reached across her to punch in 6-2-4-4-2. As he was fiddling with the dial, his neck inches from her nose, Hermione caught a sniff of something resembling a mixture of oak and peppermint, something wonderful, something she had smelled frequently before...

To her disappointment, the aroma was gone almost as quickly as it had appeared, and the cool voice filled the compartment once more.

"Welcome to the Ministry of Magic. Please state you name and business."

"Draco Malfoy," Draco started as he placed the parchment back inside his trench coat. "And I'm here to beat out Hermione Granger for the internship in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement."

Hermione's heart skipped a beat.

"What?!" she asked astounded as the cool female voice instructed Draco to pin his visitor badge to the front of his chest.

"Oh, did I forget to mention it? Yes, it seems you and I are competing for the same internship, although I would hardly call it a competition, it seems fairly obvious who will win..."

Satisfied with the look of astonishment mixed with pure revulsion on Hermione's face, Draco smirked to himself as the phone box began its descent underground.

"No, this can't be!" thought Hermione, seething with anger. "Why would the Ministry even consider giving Malfoy a job? He and his family were known Death Eaters! How can they overlook that?"

Her inner shouting match continued as a chunk of sunlight reached her feet; she looked up and was disgusted to see the same conceited expression Draco had worn above ground was still present on his face.

"After you," he sneered with a dramatic wave of his hand as the door swung open. Pulsating with fury, Hermione stomped out of the box, but not before making sure to spike a well-placed stiletto heel into the center of Draco's crocodile skin boots.

"Bloody Hell!" Malfoy swore as he stumbled out of the compartment, his face grimaced in pain. Hermione poised herself and continued walking forward, stopping only once she had reached the security desk and given the guard her wand. She shot a quick glance back at Draco who, to her extreme satisfaction, was now limping across the atrium, attempting fruitlessly to conceal his pain with a look of what he probably presumed as casual nonchalance. Smiling to herself, she accepted her wand and set off towards the lifts.


The Department of Magical Law Enforcement office looked exactly how Hermione imagined it would; wood paneled walls, shiny marble floors, and a gold plated desk where a rather unattractive witch with horn rimmed glasses was filing papers with a repeated flick of her wand.

"Good morning!" Hermione said brightly as she approached the desk.

The witch looked down and continued to file papers; apparently she was either unaware or unconcerned with Hermione's sudden presence.

"Ummm, good morning?" Hermione asked again, a bit louder.

Still, the witch said nothing.

"Excuse me, I'm here for an interview with Mr. Walter Popydile," Hermione practically shouted, pulling a piece of post verifying this fact out of her planner and handing it towards her. "I have an interview at ten o'clock for the..."

"I'm not deaf you twit," the witch retorted sharply, not changing the monotonous flick of her wand. "Can you see this clock? You have five minutes before your lovely little interview. Mr. Popydile is a very busy man and will see you at your assigned time, unless you'd like to barge into his office, demanding to be interviewed now simply because you are here early."

Confused and embarrassed, Hermione merely shook her head and hastily shoved the parchment back inside her planner. She quickly turned, eager to put as much distance between herself and the witch as possible, when she ran full bodied into the man standing directly behind her.

"I see you're making quite the first impression," Draco muttered as Hermione bent down and hastily attempted to repack her planner, whose pages had been scattered across the floor in the collision. Chuckling, he walked past her to approach the desk--disappointingly, it appeared he been able to repair his foot while in the lifts.

"Good morning," she heard Draco say. "My name is Draco Malfoy and I have an interview with Walter Popydile at ten o'clock."

To Hermione's delight, the witch said nothing and continued filing the same stack of papers which, incidentally, seemed to be growing larger instead of shrinking.

Draco cleared his throat and glanced around the room. Catching Hermione's glance, he raised his eyebrows and smirked in her direction.

"Watch and learn," he mouthed.

"If you don't mind, can I ask you something?" Draco asked, turning again to address the witch, his expression softening. "I'm sure you get this all the time, but you have an extraordinary likeness to the Parisian model, Adaliz Moniere. Do you do any modeling? I mean, of course, when you're not here, playing such a... vital role for the Ministry of Magic."

"Oh please," Hermione snorted as she took a seat. Adaliz was tall, slender, and beautiful--this witch was short, squat and had a large boil on her nose. Did Draco really think that such an obviously imagined likeness could charm her that easily?

However, the witch turned and looked eagerly up at him, finally ceasing her wand movements. "I did do some modeling for Madame Malkin's, the dress shop you know," she said excitedly. "I was the fitting model for their mannequins and I did some print work. But that was many moons ago, I was still a student at Hogwarts in fact," she added as an afterthought, her aged frame seeming to glow with reminiscence.

"Nonsense," Draco crooned, "with a face like that, you couldn't be a day older than seventeen."

The witch giggled, absentmindedly patting her hair. Draco seized the opportunity and reached out to grab her hand, causing the witch to blush so deeply it appeared as if she had come down with a very sudden, very serious case of spattergroit.

"Would you like some help with this filing?" Draco grinned, referencing the growing stack of papers on the witch's desk.

"Oh, you are a sweet boy," the witch answered, reluctantly releasing Draco and reaching for her wand again. "But no, thank you. Walter goes mental if the papers are not filed properly and I am the only one who knows where each file goes."

"Beauty and brains," Draco mused, arching his eyebrows.

The witch blushed again, deeper this time, and consequently flicked her wand a little too vigorously, sending a stream of papers shooting towards Hermione; Hermione gasped in surprise as they sharply hit her face and consequently dropped her planner again, scattering its contents for the second time that day.

Apparently, the witch was either too dim-witted or too absorbed in Draco to notice where she had just sent a stack of papers, as she made no effort to apologize or reconcile the situation. As she bent down to gather her things, Hermione silently decided that it was the latter.

"Is Mr. Popydile available?" Hermione heard Draco question, his voice etched with sweetness.

"Why of course," the witch replied. "Go ahead right through those doors, his office is the first on the left."

Hermione's ears perked at this and she felt her face flush. "What?!?!?!"

"Thanks love," said Draco and Hermione heard him approach the door. When the sound of his feet stopped, she glanced up at him--to her shock he was stationary at the threshold, gazing attentively at her.

"I think it best that I take her with me too," Draco said suddenly to the witch, motioning towards Hermione, "before she has anymore...accidents."

The witch broke out into a fit of giggles as she nodded, again sending papers ricocheting off the floor and ceiling.

Smirking, Draco opened the door and made the same sweeping motion he had in the lifts, beckoning Hermione to enter. As much as Hermione was tempted not to follow, as much as she wanted to enter into the interview on her own terms, her fear of being late or perhaps missing it altogether outweighed her hatred towards Draco at that particular moment. Grudgingly, she shoved the last bit of parchment into her planner and started towards the door.

"She was quite the doll, wasn't she?" Draco muttered as Hermione passed him.

Hermione maintained a stony silence as she stomped through the door, looking astutely to her left for an office.

"Now is that any way to treat a gentleman?" asked Draco when his gesture went un-thanked.

Hermione remained silent.

"I suppose you haven't had much experience with real gentlemen anyway, considering the crowd you hang around with..."

"Real gentlemen? I hope you aren't referring to yourself," Hermione spat, stopping suddenly, her face hot with anger. "If you're an example of a real gentleman, then I shudder to think of what the useless, selfish pricks of the world look like now that you've vacated the position."

"Useless, selfish prick? Now how could you say that--I just got us both in for the interview, despite the fact that you nearly broke my foot in the lifts, and I made that lovely old hag's day with my compliments."

"I highly doubt that charming that witch served anyone's interest but your own," Hermione replied, deciding to ignore the fact that at least the first part of his retort was truthful. "I suspect that you get some sort of twisted kick out of alluring old, lonely witches into doing your bidding; 'self-interest is the enemy of all true affection.' "

"Quite the little Muggle-quoting diplomat, now aren't we?" Draco questioned, peering curiously at her.

"I know how to spot a politician if that's what you mean," she answered, setting off again. She quickly reached door to Walter Popydile's office and proceeded to tap the frosted glass neatly with her fist.

"Just one moment!" came a scratchy voice from deep inside the room.

Hermione heard a series of scuffles followed by a small popping sound (rather like someone was Apparating) before a small, surprisingly thin man wearing large glasses opened the door.

"Ah, Miss Granger, yes, I've been expecting you. Please, come in and have a seat and ...why, who is this?" Mr. Popydile questioned, peering around Hermione.

"Draco, sir," Draco answered as he popped around her with an outstretched hand. "Draco Malfoy."

"Oh-ho both of you are here!" Mr. Popydile mused, shaking Draco's hand. "My, my, there must have been a mistake; Daisy must have scheduled both of you to interview at the same time. Well, I'll have to reschedule one of you, unless..." he paused, peering interestedly up at the pair of them. "Well...unless you'd like to interview together?"

Hermione shot a quick glance at Draco whom she realized was doing the same to her. The moment their eyes locked, Hermione understood something--she could tell now that his retort about her political awareness moments before had not been spiteful in its entirety; he had been impressed, even if reluctantly, by her knowledge and quick wit. Now, as she stared into his unyielding eyes, she recognized that he was challenging her, challenging her intellect, challenging her self-confidence, almost as if they were both back at Hogwarts competing for high marks on a Potions exam. She had no choice.

"I wouldn't mind in the slightest," Hermione answered, not breaking Draco's gaze.

"And you, Mr. Malfoy?" Mr. Popydile asked.

"I would prefer it, actually," Draco answered casually, arching his eyebrows.

"Excellent! Well if you'd both follow me please," Mr. Popydile said, moving toward his office.

Hermione brushed past Draco, but as she did so, he grabbed her lightly by the wrist, stopping her. Slightly unnerved, Hermione looked up at him. His gaze found hers' as he slowly leaned towards her, she becoming more aware of his steady breath by the second. His hand moved to rest on the small of her back as he pulled her closer, pressing his lips lightly to her ear.

" 'All is fair in love and war,' " he whispered huskily.

An electric current ran through Hermione at the sound of his voice. She felt his cheek brush hers' as he withdrew, his gray eyes retreating to meet her gaze. Hermione quickly cast her glance downward, attempting to hide her burning face, and released herself from his hold.

As she turned and stumbled into the office, Hermione felt embarrassed, ashamed, and unsettled; it was not his sudden, pompous action that shocked her (although his choice of a Muggle quotation surely did not fit the character description of the Draco she once knew) it was how he had done it, and how their contact had made her feel. The fact that her entire body was now shaking had nothing to do with Draco's warning, and everything to do with how his lips had felt on her ear.

Steadying herself, she took a seat across from Mr. Popydile's desk. She felt Draco sit down beside her.

"Now if you don't mind, Miss Granger, I'd like to start with you," Mr. Popydile began. "What specific qualities do you posses that you believe would be advantageous to this particular committee?"

Hermione merely nodded and shuffled a bit in her chair. There was nothing about how this day had played out that she could have anticipated or prepared for, and the unexpectedness of it all seemed to have finally affected her orderly mind. As she stared blankly at Mr. Popydile, a sudden realization struck her. Was this the reaction Draco had intended? Was the whole purpose of their conversation in the lifts, their encounter with the witch, his sudden action outside of the office simple plots in his dastardly plan to win the internship?

"Miss Granger?" Mr. Popydile questioned, looking expectedly at her.

"Oh yes, I'm sorry," she replied, her mind racing. If this was what Draco had anticipated, she was not going to give him the satisfaction of letting him know that he had gotten to her. She took a deep breath, and looked up to meet Mr. Popydile's gaze.

"Yes...well," she started, "I have always been passionate about inter-species unity, particularly concerning House-elves. In fact, I founded the Society for Protecting Elfish Welfare, or S.P.E.W., while I was still at Hogwarts, during my fourth year. Our main goal was to emphasize how unjustly House-elves were treated, and to inform the student population as to what they could do to help. I think we were able to make significant progress in terms of overall respect for the species and ..."

"Do you mind if I interrupt, Mr. Popydile?" Draco questioned, cutting across Hermione. "I was a student with Hermione at Hogwarts and never was made aware that such a group existed. I doubt that she was able to make any real progress outside of the Gryffindor common room."

"If you were not informed it was not because of lack of effort on my part, I assure you," Hermione interrupted. "I suspect it was your un-willingness to associate yourself with the group rather than my lack of encouragement."

"Yes, and although I'm sure you efforts were noble, Miss Granger," Draco answered, clearly enjoying himself, "I considered myself fairly well informed in those days and do not recall hearing anything about your group from anyone in any house. I suppose it would have come up at least once in casual conversation if your members had truly been as passionate as you make them seem."

"If I remember 'those days' correctly, I would suggest that you yourself were not too keen on protecting those less fortunate than you," Hermione replied coolly, her face flushing slightly. "I doubt anyone would have been willing to talk to you about Elfish Welfare without fear of being victim to a Jelly-Leg Jinx curse."

"Perhaps my own efforts were less...flashy," Draco said, placing emphasis on his last word. "Perhaps I was more concerned about reaching out to those who were not so open with their support. Many people were afraid, hesitant, reluctant to support such a group. Most had been brought up thinking house-elves were lower than dirt, and were perhaps not too keen on letting the news of their sudden involvement in an Elfish Welfare Group make its way back to their parents. Change is fearful."

"And that is precisely the reason why this committee is so important, I'm glad both of you recognize that," Mr. Popydile interrupted suddenly, staring interestedly at the two of them, his fingers laced on his desk.

"I...well...yes...yes, I agree," Hermione stammered; for a moment, she had quite forgotten she was in an interview.

The three of them sat in awkward silence as Mr. Popydile surveyed Draco and Hermione with a quizzical gaze, almost as if her were contemplating something.

"Well," Mr. Popydile began moments later, "I can see your dedication has made quite an impact, Miss Granger, if Mr. Malfoy can serve as any example. Now Mr. Malfoy, if I were to ask you the same question, how would you respond?"

"To start, I'd just like to thank you for the opportunity to interview for this position, it is quite an honor. And, if I may be so bold, I'd like to comment that I truly love your office, it's very distinguished, exactly what I would imagine for a man of your stature."

"Here we go again," Hermione thought, rolling her eyes and slouching back into her chair slightly.

"Since my school days, I have been particularly interested in Magical Law Enforcement and the idea of bringing justice to those who have brought injustice upon others. Although, like I have stated previously, my efforts during my Hogwarts years may not have been as pronounced as Miss Granger's, I firmly believed my full potential lay beyond the walls of the castle. After my seventh year, I was able to work with my close friend--Pansy Parkinson's--uncle in the forest of Bolivia. As I'm sure you know there is a large population of Centaurs in Bolivia, and during my time with Mr. Parkinson, I was able to learn much about their traditions and means of communication. I feel that my skills in this area would be a valuable asset, particularly for..."

"And was this before or after you were charged with attempting to kidnap merpeople?" Hermione said suddenly, her surprise in herself mirrored in the expression present on Draco's face.

Draco stopped and stared at her, mouth agape, his face flushing slightly. It was clear he was not expecting Hermione to interrupt him as he had done to her; perhaps he had misread her, perhaps he thought she was still the innocent, third-year Hogwarts student that could be easily taken advantage of.

He regained his composure quickly, though, and a smirk formed on his face as he opened his mouth to rebuke her claim.

"I was acquitted of all charges, Granger, I'm sure you remember. I seem to recall you writing an editorial for the Daily Prophet the day after my hearing, expressing your opinion on the matter."

"I...well...yes, yes I did," she answered, looking at him quizzically. She had denounced Magical Law Enforcement in that editorial, calling the system "nothing more than a panel of blind judiciaries leading blind judiciaries." She had almost forgotten she had written it and certainly had not thought about it for some time. Why would Draco read her editorial in the first place? Why would he remember it now, almost two years later?

"I will be the first to admit that out system was a bit corrupt at that time," Mr. Popydile interrupted again, "But the Ministry stands behind its decision, and Mr. Malfoy is correct, he was cleared of all indictments. I think it is best that we stay away from past misbehaviors or grudges against the Ministry, as they seem to have little to do with our present situation except to enflame tempers. Do you want to finish, Mr. Malfoy?"

"Oh, no thank you Mr. Popydile. I would hate to waste anymore of your precious time with such petty arguments."

"Well in that case, I'd like to thank you both for coming here today, I consider the Ministry very lucky to have such qualified and obviously passionate people interested in our internship. Now, I have speak to the board to discuss our decision, but if you two wouldn't mind waiting here a moment, I should be able to give you the verdict in a few minutes time."

"Thank you, sir," Draco said as he stood, extending a hand to Mr. Popydile.

"Yes, thank you for taking the time to meet with me," Hermione said, mimicking Draco's action.

As Mr. Popydile exited the office, Hermione returned to her seat, fidgeting nervously with the hem of her robe. Draco, however, remained standing, and began to pace the space, examining its various photos and plaques.

"Well," Draco said as he bent down to inspect large gold plate, "that was quite the interview."

Hermione remained silent. She knew what Draco was trying to do and was prepared for it this time--she would not let him succeed.

"I think I was able to portray myself positively," Draco started again, coming to stand in front of Hermione, leaning on Mr. Popydile's desk. "Although I'm not sure the same can be said for you. Kidnapping Merpeople? Come on, Hermione, how long have we know each other? Was that the best you could come up with?"

Hermione's gaze did not budge from the gold plated nametag on Mr. Popydile's desk.

"Not talking are we?" Draco asked, moving closer to her. "I would have thought our earlier...encounter would have raised all kinds of interjections from you. After all, I was following your lead in quoting a politician, though I may have done it a bit more effectively if your entrance into the office can serve as any indication...."

"You thought that affected me?" Hermione said suddenly, unable to hold her tongue any longer. "Please, was that the reason you were so eager to interrupt me during the interview? Do you honestly think that type of strategy works on people?"

The expression of glee present on Draco's face cemented Hermione's notion that she was acting exactly in the manner he wished she would. But she did not care anymore.

"Well, look at that. Hermione Granger wants my honest opinion? And here I thought the only opinions you valued were your own. And perhaps Weasley's, though I doubt he speaks of anything except his love for Potter."

Hermione tensed and turned to face Draco. He could immediately tell that he had had gone too far, crossed some invisible boundary that he had not noticed before. Although her face and posture screamed hatred, her eyes held vulnerability, a weakness he was surprised to see considering her seemingly hard exterior.

Hermione was conflicted. Rage was pulsating through every membrane of her being, and yet, she could not act on it. His verbal sting had hit far below the belt, and, realistically, she should be flinging every curse she could muster at him. Yet, when their gaze met, his expression softened, his eyes holding a flicker of almost sympathy.

"Okay lady and gentleman, we have reached a verdict, now if you would please have a seat."

Mr. Popydile had entered the room suddenly and was arranging some papers on his desk, giving Draco and Hermione enough time to snap out of their reprieve and take a seat. Their interaction today had been awkward and emotionally trying at best and, to be truthful, Hermione was simply looking forward to leaving the office and taking a long, relaxing bubble bath, regardless of the outcome.

"Are we all settled? Well then, again, I'd like to thank you both for showing such interest and dedication to this committee. I can assure you that this decision was not easy, and the board and I were conflicted on this, but I think the outcome will be one you can both appreciate and enjoy."

"Appreciate and enjoy?" Hermione thought. "What could he possibly be getting at?"

"Although our decision may seem a little unconventional, I can assure you the board and I have complete confidence in both of you and your capability to make this work."

"Both of you?"

"With that in mind, I would like to take this opportunity to welcome both of you to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement."

"What?!?!?!" Draco and Hermione said in unison.

"Yes, the board and I were very torn as you are both exemplary candidates, and after witnessing your interaction today, I felt, and the board agreed with me, that you were both equally qualified and therefore capable of excelling in this position."

The room was silent. Hermione's mind was racing, her blood pumping, vision blurring. She needed space. She stood up, and without another look at Draco or Mr. Popydile, walked directly out of the room.