"So, how did it go?"
At the sound of a familiar voice, Hermione raised her head which had been resting on her forearms since she had stormed into her office and fell into her chair, not quite a quarter of an hour ago. Her visit to Malfoy manner had left her flustered and frustrated and she was attempting to comb through her muddled thoughts when the welcome tones of her best friends voice came to her.
Looking up to find Harry leaning against her doorframe, Hermione mustered a smile on her face which turned into a grimace as she considered his question.
"It was ok and not so ok" she said with a sigh.
"What happened?" Harry asked, dropping ungracefully into the chair in front of her.
"Well he listened until I explained without saying anything although I could practically hear the laughter in his head" she said rubbing a hand over her tired eyes. "Probably thinks I'm barking mad" she muttered more to herself than to Harry. "He did agree to come to the meeting although, I'm quite sure that had more to do with Shaklebolt's letter than my explanation". "He probably feels that since Shaklebolt asked him to come, that there must be something to my rambling". "I guess I should be thankful to our understanding minister" she finished in a rush.
"Shaklebolt trusts you 'mione". Harry paused to narrow his eyes at her "but you should know that he supports this because he feels that your theories are linked in some way to the string of attack's that have been happening in the muggle world for the past few months; he's desperate for answers".
"And because you nagged him about it, don't think I don't know about your discussions with him" Hermione finished with an accusing glare.
Harry sighed "I trust you Hermione, and I know that your theories always lead somewhere". "Merlin knows we've all seen that time and time again". "You're the best at what you do, I would have been dead several times over if it wasn't for you" Harry finished with an affectionate smile.
"Well…" Hermione bent her slightly colored face to shuffle papers on her desk. After a few minutes of silence she suddenly looked up.
"Does Malfoy intimidate you?" The words were out of her mouth before she even realized she said it.
"Malfoy?" "No". "Why, did he say something to you?" Harry's brow had furrowed at the thought of Malfoy insulting Hermione as if he had forgotten that the witch in front of him was quite capable of holding her own.
"No of course not" Hermione replied pensively. "He just has this way about him you know, it's impressive but intimidating. He wasn't like that at school".
"He's a pretentious git" Harry conceded. "But he's been useful and no one has anything too bad to say about him". "You sure you're ok?" He asked after a slight pause.
Hermione shook herself out of her thoughts and focused on her friend again. "Yes of course Harry". "It would take more than a meeting with Malfoy to bring me down" she smirked.
"Don't I know it" Harry laughed. "Robertson is still a sniveling mess by the way". "Couldn't even finish giving his confession".
While Harry laughed to himself, Hermione felt her frustration slipping away. Robertson was an alleged Voldemort sympathizer who had taken it upon himself to teach his children and their friends about the wonders of pure blood supremacy. He had however, taken it a step too far by 'demonstrating' a few unforgivables on his unsuspecting protégés. It had taken Hermione one visit to the Robertson household to assess the situation and bring the man in, as Harry said, very much in a state of sniveling mess.
Many people had been surprised at the change in the witch since her departure from Hogwarts. Following the war, Hermione had joined as an auror trainee. Despite her earlier inhibitions, Hermione had quickly come into her own without the constant presence of her two best friends. Her due diligence to training procedures and sharp intellect had made her one of the best the department had ever seen. In recent years however, Hermione had eased herself more into research and investigative work rather than field missions. She loved uncovering mysteries and piecing things together and had used her vast knowledge and unforgiving curiosity on more than one occasion to help teams of aurors capture criminals from all over the world. She was also well versed in ancient artifacts and their magical properties and had done much to preserve and study such objects.
Shaking her head at the still laughing form of her best friend, Hermione began arranging her files for her next meeting; a consult with a team of aurors handling a spat of break ins some distance away from central London. She usually hated consults where she just had to give her opinion on another aurors case, but she was definitely looking forward to this one. It just so happened that this particular team was headed by Ronald Weasley whom she hadn't seen in almost a month.
"Have you seen Ron?" She asked Harry shaking him from his reverie.
"No not yet, is he in?" Harry asked sitting up a little straighter.
"Should be. I have a meeting with him in about five minutes". Hermione wondered briefly why Harry hadn't known Ron was back but let it go as she knew Harry was one of the busiest aurors of the lot.
"I'll see him today after work anyway, we're supposed to be getting drinks with the boys". "Are you sure you don't want to come?" Harry asked, rising from his seat.
"Yes I'm sure" Hermione replied getting to her feet, a bundle of files in her arms. "I have to get my notes and things in order if I want this meeting to work so I'm going to go home and get started on it".
"Don't worry 'mione it'll be fine. And if this Pandora thing is as serious as you say it is, then you can be sure me and Ron won't let the ministry be until it's put to rest". Harry put his hands on Hermione's shoulders and steered her out of the office, waiting patiently til she had locked up and warded the entrance.
"Pandora is a person actually not a thing" Hermione muttered as she set up the usual wards barring entrance to her office.
"Tell Ron I'll be at the apparition point will you?" Harry called over his shoulder as he walked off down the corridor, strength and confidence emanating from his long stride. Hermione smiled tiredly at her friends retreating form and turned to walk in the opposite direction.
When she reached the conference room where she was to meet Ron and his team however, she was asked to remain a minute as Ron was in conversation with Shaklebolt. Peering in through the glass windows, Hermione's lips curled up into another fond smile as she took in the tall and lanky Ronald Weasley.
Leaning back casually in a large arm chair at the head of the conference table with his long legs stretched out in front of him, Ron looked completely at ease as he spoke with the minister. Hermione took a minute to marvel for what felt like the millionth time at the changes she saw in Ron since they had left school. Out of the three of them, Hermione felt like Ron had matured the most. Gone was the gluttonous boy prone to slapstick and quick to anger and in his place was a quieter man full of dry wit and quiet ability. Ron had become quite the auror over the past few years, mostly due to his amazing powers of observation and ability to strategize. Most people tended to overlook and thus underestimate the youngest of the Weasley boys and Ron used this to his advantage ; blending into the background when he needed to.
However, like Hermione, he too was slowly easing out of the field and into mission control. He quite preferred to plan and strategize attacks and captures, moving aurors around the field much like he moved his beloved chess pieces. The mission he had just gotten back from was supposed to be his last field job before he began to focus solely on mission control.
Hermione was shaken from her thoughts as minister Shaklebolt walked out of the conference room. "Granger, good to see you" he called over his shoulder as he swept down the corridor and out of sight.
"Ron!" Hermione squealed as she launched herself into a bone crushing hug. She hadn't seen him in over a month and had missed him terribly. Ron returned her hug enthusiastically and then settled back into his chair.
"So, another mystery".
Hermione sighed. "Yes but don't get ahead of yourself, you haven't been briefed. And unlike Harry, you haven't heard parts of my wild theories either".
"Shaklebolt was just telling me about it. No details though. Do we really need Malfoy?" Ron asked wearily after a slight pause, a grimace scrunching up his face.
"Unfortunately Yes. But you've worked with him right? You said he was ok". She asked, worried now that somehow she had jeopardized everything by inviting Malfoy to join them.
"He's ok on the field I just haven't met him outside of it. For all I know he might be the same arse he was in school" Ron shrugged. "Do you really believe that Ron?" She asked quietly. Ron took the space of about a minute to reply. "No. I don't" he said with a sigh. "He doesn't talk and you can never tell what he's thinking but" …
"But what Ron?" Hermione asked leaning forward slightly.
"Well I trust him you know. Out there on the field you never know what's going to happen so you need trust. I don't like him to be honest, but I trust him". Ron stretched his arms up over his head as he spoke, tiredness written all over his face.
"Poor you. Shall we get started so that you can go meet Harry and then get to bed?" Hermione asked.
"No actually that's why Shaklebolt was here. He wants to reschedule. Something about the minister of France demanding a meeting". "There's nothing urgent anyway, the break ins were the work of a bunch of muggle boys and one underage wizard who had joined them for kicks. That's why we kept getting traces of magic. His parents will be in tomorrow and that's that". Ron yawned and rolled his head back. "You coming with us tonight 'mione?"
"No I have stuff to do" Hermione muttered already lost in thought. "But you boys have fun" she said gathering her files, her mind already planning a dozen things. Ron trailed behind her out of the conference room
"Oh and Ron" Hermione called as she headed for the apparition point, "yeah" he asked looking up from the reports in his hands.
"It's good to have you back".