A/N: Hello! So there have been a couple of concerns raised about this story going in the Percy/Hermione direction. Never fear, my Dramione-loving friends, that story arc ended with the last Hermione chapter. I would like to point out that I did not mark this story as a Dramione in any way-the genre is listed as friendship & hurt/comfort, and I did not use a Draco M., Hermione G. relationship tag. Before you start throwing rotten fruit my way, let me assure you that this story IS heading that direction, but will pick up in the sequel, The Breaking of Hermione Granger. I'm about 22k words into that one and it makes my Dramione-loving heart happy. For this first installation, I felt it was more important to focus on Draco & Hermione's development as people after the war-specifically, creating a relationship between Draco & the Wilkinses, and getting Hermione on good terms with the Slytherins while getting over any 'what-ifs' she might have about the Weasley boys. I despise love triangles, so my apologies if you were looking forward to seeing Hermione struggle between feelings for Ron and Draco. That's not my style.
This installation only has 24 chapters, so we are nearing the end of what is essentially Act I. I will be posting the first two chapters of the next installation on the same day I finish this story, so hopefully you won't feel I've teased you too much. Just remember the dear old adage, good things come to those who wait.
A stack of books hovered three feet above the ground while Hermione manipulated another stack in a vertical figure-eight pattern. Her wand laid on a table next to her beaded bag.
The moving books began to tilt to the right and she cursed as the top one slid off and hit the floor. She lowered the rest of the books to the stone and sank onto her chair. She and George had finally figured out the charm Lupin used to create the Marauder's Map and the subsequent Tracking Parchments a month before Easter, which left her more time to practice wandless magic. After hitting brick wall after brick wall with the Memory Charms and cutting off communication with Percy, she allowed the new challenge to consume her when she wasn't studying for N.E.W.T.s or going over other peoples' work.
Her studying became fanatic as Easter approached and she advanced to doing the simple spells non-verbally within two weeks. The trickiest part of the endeavour was coming to terms with the limitations of wandless magic. Most of the spells taught at Hogwarts were created for use with a wand; a swish-and-flick! of the hand did not a wandless Levitation Charm make. Wandless magic was older, and required the caster to focus her energy, whereas a wand usually did that piece. The learning process was frustrating, but the payoff was worthwhile.
Hermione ran through the spells she could do perfectly: a basic Levitation Charm, which differed slightly from the traditional Wingardium Leviosa; a Shield Charm, which she found was easier to perform without a wand; conjuring her favourite little bluebell flames, which again she found easier without a wand; in fact, Hermione found that a considerable amount of Transfiguration and defensive magic were simpler without her wand. The wand required specific and complex movements. The focused mind did not.
"I thought I'd find you here," came Ginny's voice from the doorway of the empty classroom. The young woman perched herself on a desk and watched as Hermione extinguished the bluebell flames.
"Duel me," Hermione said.
Ginny's feet kicked against the legs of the desk. "Duel? Here?"
"Unless you want to go to the Room of Requirement."
The other woman jumped down and pulled out her wand. "Here's fine. Why do you want to duel?"
Hermione sighed and opened the cover of Wandless, the book she'd seen at Flourish and Blotts at the beginning of the year. The action was more out of habit than to serve a purpose. "I need to practice offensive magic. I can throw up shields, but I can't seem to do anything else."
Ginny nodded. "Fair. But if you set me on fire with your little blue flames, I reserve the right to use that weird hex that sent Terry to the Hospital Wing on Thursday."
Hermione grinned at the challenge. "You'd better use your shields, then."
The women faced off and bowed. Hermione flexed her hands, prepared for Ginny's first attack. A yellow light flew at Hermione's face and she raised both hands, creating a shield that caused the light to ricochet back down the same trajectory it came from. Ginny's eyes grew wide before she ducked to the side to avoid her own spell. It hit the wall with a crack and a fissure opened in the stone.
"How did you do that?" she asked.
"The normal Shield Charm is concave around the caster, which causes the spells to ricochet in unpredictable directions. A wandless shield can be shaped, so I made mine slightly convex and sent the spell back to you."
"That's impressive," Ginny breathed. "Harry would kill to be able to do that."
Hermione shook her head. "A wand is still better in battle, and casting a shield like that would leave you open in the event of multiple attackers."
"Still, your left hand isn't doing anything when you're using a wand."
"My shield required both hands. I can't do any offensive magic and sustain a convex shield."
"I'm sure you'll find out a way. You're Hermione Granger, and your badass level just got a little higher." Ginny raised her wand again. "Ready?"
Blue light shot from the end of Ginny's wand while Hermione held up a simpler shield with her left hand and sent a jinx at her opponent. The magic flowed from the tips of her fingers in a transparent form that tapered into a rope-like entity. It stayed connected to her hand as it hit Ginny's shield.
Hermione released the spell after a couple of seconds and took a deep breath. "That was exhausting."
"You need to figure out a way to cut it off so your energy isn't sustaining it," Ginny said. "I mean, it was cool. Bloody brilliant, really. But it's inefficient if it's going to wipe you out."
"I never realized how much we rely on wand cores to give our spells power. I mean, I knew it on a theoretical level, but doing this drives the point home." Hermione looked longingly at her wand before she took another stabilizing breath. Her resolve doubled and she rolled her shoulders back. "Again."
It took three tries before Hermione was able to send a jinx that sustained itself after she cut if off from her own energy. As she celebrated in her success, her opponent landed a jinx that caused her arms to wobble uncontrollably. Ginny whooped. After gloating rather noisily, she lifted the jinx and assumed a true battle stance. "Ready? First one to need the Hospital Wing loses."
Hermione couldn't resist. After shaking the last of the jinx from her arms, she conjured her little bluebell flames in both hands and raised her eyebrows with a wry smile. "Agreed."
At first, Hermione needed both hands to block the flurry of spells from Ginny's wand. As her determination grew, she threw her concentration into creating a one-way shield that surrounded her entire person using only one hand. The challenge came when she had to divide her mind in two, allowing her to focus the shield and simultaneously return fire from inside the barrier.
She took a breath and prayed that the shield was truly one-way and would allow spells to pass from inside.
She threw the first jinx that came to mind, which Ginny easily deflected. She threw a second jinx, again deflected, before she conjured a ball of flame nearly the size of a Bludger. Ginny's jaw dropped as the fireball flew across the room. She managed to block it, but her shield shattered. Hermione threw a second fireball, just larger than the first, and caught Ginny's leg.
As the younger woman howled, more from surprise than pain, Hermione dropped her shield, picked up her wand and raced to her friend. "Aguamenti," she muttered, and put out the flames.
"Holy hell, are you okay?" a new voice said, and the women looked up to see Justin, Daphne, and Neville walking toward them.
Ginny peeled back the leg of her Muggle trousers and hissed as she looked at the burn. "Round one to Hermione," she said with a quiet chuckle. "Next time we duel, I'm wearing robes."
"Let's get to Madam Pomfrey. Can you walk?" Hermione offered her arm to Ginny.
The redhead gingerly put weight on the leg and winced. "I'll be fine."
"Liar." Hermione threw Ginny's arm over her shoulders and the party of five hobbled from the classroom.
"That was wicked," Neville said with a half-contained grin.
Justin nodded. "Bloody amazing, more like. You fight dirty, Granger." Daphne, Neville, and Ginny hummed their agreement.
"When did you start learning wandless magic?"
Hermione flushed at the compliments. "I started practicing in August, but only really started focusing on it a few weeks ago."
"Leave it to you to be able to duel a N.E.W.T.-level student after a few weeks." Neville shook his head in awe. "You're going to be a legend, Hermione."
"What kind of stuff can you do?" Justin asked eagerly. "Other than throw fireballs at Weasleys from behind a goddamn shield?"
"I—well," she stumbled, her face burning brighter. "Just, you know, the basic stuff. I can levitate things and conjure a couple of things. I was able to transfigure a mouse into a snuffbox like we did in first year—"
"You did actual transfiguration?" Justin marvelled.
"Of course she did," Ginny scoffed before wincing again. "She's Hermione."
"It was just a first-year spell," Hermione mumbled. She wondered if her cheeks would ever go back to their natural colour.
"Promise me that once the Aurors catch Malfoy, you'll transfigure him back into a ferret for old times' sake."
Everyone but Daphne laughed at the memory. The Slytherin glared at Ginny and shook her head. "Don't you dare. That was horrible."
"He deserved it," Ginny shot back.
"He deserved being thrown in the air twenty feet and then slammed to the floor in a form that naturally would have been killed by such a thing? He was fourteen and stupid. He deserved detention, not death."
"He didn't die."
"He broke two ribs and had a hairline fracture in his right femur. He was lucky."
Hermione, ever a stickler for the rules, had been horrified when the fake-Moody used transfiguration on Malfoy after the initial humour wore off. She hadn't known about his injuries, and learning about them now made her slightly nauseous. "We didn't know," she said to Daphne.
"That's because he was too embarrassed by the situation to even tell his father, and you know Hogwarts. If an injury isn't bad enough for a student to die, they don't notify the parents." Daphne glowered at the ground.
Justin pulled his girlfriend's hand into his own. "We really didn't know. We won't bring it up again." He gave significant look to Ginny, who rolled her eyes.
"Fine. I won't make fun of Draco Malfoy, the amazing bouncing ferret."
Daphne growled and snatched her hand back from Justin. "I think I'll be taking my leave. I hope that burn scars, Weasley." The woman turned on her heel and marched away from the group, leaving Hermione, Neville, and Justin in well-chastened silence. Ginny was mimicking Daphne's departing words.
"I should go after her," Justin said with an apologetic look to Hermione.
She jutted her chin in the direction of Daphne. "Go."
Justin's cane clicked against the floor as he walked away. The remaining three were quiet the rest of the way to the Hospital Wing. Hermione's brain was in overdrive as she thought about Malfoy, Barty Crouch Jr., the rise of Voldemort, the death of Dumbledore, the hunt for the Horcruxes, her torture in Malfoy Manor, and the end of the war. Daphne's words rang in her mind through it all. "He was fourteen and stupid. He deserved detention, not death."
Malfoy was fourteen when a Death Eater turned him into a ferret and punished him. His transgressions didn't warrant the punishment, but Crouch had a vendetta against Lucius Malfoy. "I know your father of old, boy. You tell him Moody's keeping a close eye on his son..."
Her breath caught as her mind puzzled through the last four years. Malfoy paid for his father's sins at the hand of Crouch and then Voldemort and who knew who else. He still wasn't innocent, but suddenly she had a hard time finding him guilty.
"Hermione?" Neville's voice vaguely registered at the edge of her consciousness.
"'The sins of the father,'" she said absently.
Ginny elbowed her in the ribs. "Do you need to see Pomfrey, too? The wandless magic took a lot out of you."
Hermione frowned at her companions as Ginny sat down on the nearest bed. "I was just thinking about Malfoy. Everything that happened to him was because they were upset with his father." The other two looked at her with blank surprise. "He still should have gone to Dumbledore or Snape for protection instead of letting Death Eaters into the school, but he was only given the task to kill Dumbledore to atone for his father's weakness."
"He's still a prejudiced git who tormented you and Harry and Ron and Neville every time he got a chance."
"I'm not saying he's innocent, but...the Ministry needs to try him as a minor." She nodded, lost in her own thoughts again. "The Ministry has to try him as a minor. It wasn't his fault."
Neville looked concerned as he reached out to Hermione and rubbed her shoulder. "He's on the run, Hermione. It makes him look guilty."
"It makes him look scared." She brushed back her hair and caught her fingers in the curls. "Of course he's scared. He's always been a bit of a coward, but now he's being hunted."
Ginny examined Hermione's torn expression. "Do you actually feel bad for him?"
"I don't know. Maybe? I mean, if I saw him, I'd still notify the Aurors to bring him in. He's still a Death Eater. He still fought for Voldemort, and he still has horrendous views on blood purity. But I'd petition the Wizengamot to try him as a minor even though he's over seventeen now."
Ginny laid back on the bed, grinding her teeth as she lifted her injured leg. "You're a more forgiving person than me, Hermione."
"Let's get Madam Pomfrey," Hermione said, changing the subject.
As the matron fussed over Ginny's leg, Hermione sank into a nearby chair. Her thoughts swirled, but one stayed clear, forming the eye of her mental storm: 'The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children.' And Draco Malfoy was just a child.
A/N: "I know your father" quote from Goblet of Fire. "Sins of the father" quote from The Merchant of Venice, by Wm. Shakespeare