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Chapter 1: For What It's Worth - Prologue
A/N: This is AU and it is assumed in this version that the epilogue of Deathly Hallows never took place and Hermione is the one who killed Bellatrix Lestrange.
Henry Skeid sat amidst a huge stack of papers and quickly filed through a set of documents that lay right in front of him. There was nothing in the pile today that he hadn’t seen before: warrants, arrests, decrees and many other boring jobs that the Head of Magical Law Enforcement was forced to do.
Though a very tall man, Henry’s aging features gave him a very feeble appearance that was only enhanced by his square spectacles and receding hairline. A few grey hairs were visible on in his dark hair and his pale skin had developed white blotches and dark circles under his dark eyes. Despite his failing appearance, Henry always managed to pull of a very powerful look with his navy blue robes with gold buttons.
His thoughts were distracted for a brief second when a loud buzzing sound erupted in his room. He looked up immediately and removed his spectacles, placing two fingers between his eyes, on his temple. His next appointment had arrived and it would not be an easy one.
He took a deep breath and quickly looked at himself in the mirror, smoothing down some untameable hairs on his head. He wiped the sweat off of his forehead and adjusted his collar. “Show time,” he said to himself as the green emerald flames erupted in his office and a young girl fell out into the ashes.
Immediately Skeid rushed over to help her up and smiled warmly. “Hello Ms. Granger,” he said gently as the young woman got up on her feet. She dusted herself off and Skeid was able to get a good look at her appearance. She looked different than in most of the photos in the Daily Prophet. Her dark hair was bushy and messily tied up into a ponytail which seemed to compliment her brown eyes.
She looked up and smiled briefly too. “It’s a pleasure to meet you Mr. Skeid,” she said, holding out her hand.
“The pleasure is all mine,” Skeid said as he took her hand and ushered her over to his dark oak desk where he seated her on a cushioned brown chair.
“Thank you,” Hermione replied.
Skeid took a seat on the other side of the desk and took a deep breath before beginning. “Would you like something to drink?” he asked her patiently.
“Water will be great,” she said quickly. Skeid had the feeling that she wasn’t in the mood for casual chivalry and wanted to get down to business. He took out his wand from his robe’s pocket and waved it, causing a pitcher of water and a glass to appear on the desk. Hermione filled it with water and took a quick sip before looking back at Skeid.
“I was very curious to know why you requested to see me,” she began. “Your…your assistant didn’t really mention the reason for this appointment.”
“Yes, I’m afraid I have to keep her in the dark about certain situations,” Skeid replied. “Such as this.”
“And what kind of situation is this?” Hermione asked.
“One of great importance and great danger,” he said with a tone of weariness. “Ms. Granger, I will need you to listen carefully while I explain this to you.”
Hermione sat up in her seat with a concerned expression on her face. “Alright.”
“It’s been quite a while since You Know Who was defeated and, to be frankly honest, things are not as organized or proper as we would have hoped.”
“I’m…I’m afraid I don’t understand,” Hermione said.
“Do you know of a Rodolphus Lestrange?”
“Bellatrix Lestrange’s husband?” Hermione asked. “Well, yes I’ve heard of him and I think he was there at the Final Battle but…but I’ve never actually seen him.”
“After he was apprehended and sent to Azkaban, the recent damage done to the prison resulted in a few prisoners escaping – he was one of them.”
“Recent?” Hermione said. “You mean the escape a year ago?”
“Precisely,” Skeid said. “Our sources tell us that he left the country after his escape.”
“Where did he go?”
Hermione’s eyes blanked in fear. “Australia?” she repeated. “Did…d…did he hurt anyone there?”
“Miss Granger, he murdered a muggle couple. We found their bodies and it seemed that they had had their memories modified.”
Hermione’s eyes were very watery. “What…who…who were they?”
“We don’t know their real names but their neighbours said that they were Wendell and Monica Wilkins.”
“NO!” Hermione got up from the chair and buried her face in her hands. “NO!” she yelled.
“Miss Granger…” Skeid began but decided not to continue. He thought it would be best to give her a few minutes to release whatever she felt inside.
“My…my parents!” she cried. She hit her fist hard against the walls and wept her heart out.
“Miss Granger, I am deeply sorry for your loss,” Skeid began. He had never been good with consolations or condolences. He offered her a box of tissues and refilled her glass of water.
Hermione took a few more minutes to collect herself and reached for a tissue, with which she wiped her eyes. She took a sip of the water and took a few deep breaths before looking back at Skeid. “How…how long ago did this happen?” she asked amidst sobs.
“Three months ago,” Skeid replied sombrely. “We didn’t know who they were until I heard that you were looking for your parents whom you’d sent there. I am terribly sorry for your loss.”
Hermione nodded but didn’t say anything. “May I go now?” she asked.
Skeid shifted uncomfortably in his chair and then looked back up at the young woman who seemed to have aged so much in these past few minutes. “Unfortunately Miss Granger, your parents death is not the reason I called you in here.”
“I…I beg your pardon?”
“In light of your parents’ death, I am worried for your security,” Skeid said. His tone had taken on a very paternal character that he wished it hadn’t.
“Though you are of age, as I understand it, you have no longer any living relatives…blood relatives.”
Hermione shook her head. “No, I don’t,” she replied.
“Miss Granger, you are a muggle born,” Skeid said firmly. “And you now have no living blood relatives. With this ongoing surge of killings of your lineage, I do not think you’re in a safe position.”
“What?” Hermione said. “I’m…I’m living with the Weasleys currently and I d-”
“I understand that,” Skeid said patiently. “However, Arthur and Molly Weasley’s house is not safely out of the way. Your reputation in helping Mr. Potter has earned you a very prominent position on the top of the list of muggle borns that need to be killed.”
“Are you saying that I’m in danger?”
“Yes,” Skeid said matter-of-factly. “And we need to take all precautions to ensure that you remain safe.”
“What kind of precautions?”
“The Ministry can offer you housing, in a very special location that is definitely hard to locate.”
“I…I can’t believe this!” Hermione shrieked. “I am very well able to defend myself, thank you!”
“I understand that, Miss Granger,” Skeid said. Hermione was begging to turn red and Skeid was worried she wouldn’t listen to him. “But Rodolphus Lestrange is heading this killing spree and he is, if I may so, a very expertly trained killer.”
“I don’t care if it was Voldemort himself coming for me!” Hermione said, getting out of her seat.
“He’s targeted you!” Skeid said. “You were the one that killed his wife.”
“I don’t…I don’t believe this! So he murdered my parents?”
“I’m almost positive that he didn’t know they were your parents,” Skeid said. “But he has targeted you.”
“This is absolute madness!”
“Miss Granger, please calm down!” Skeid insisted. “It’s not only for your safety but for the safety of the Weasleys and Mr. Potter!”
“What do you mean?” Hermione asked.
“These are ruthless, cold blooded killers,” Skeid urged. “They won’t care who they kill and if you’re living with the Weasleys, you’re making them a target!”
Hermione sat back down and wiped her eyes. Skeid looked into those dark, sad eyes and couldn’t help but feel completely helpless. “I know this is hard,” he said after a while, “but please try and understand.”
“If, hypothetically, I was to say yes,” Hermione said slowly. “What…what would happen?”
“Well,” Skeid said calmly, relief sweeping over him. “We’d send you to this location where you would be cared for by an auror at all times. It won’t be like babysitting, you will be free to do whatever you wish but an auror will keep an eye out for you.”
“Will I be able to see my friends?”
“Absolutely!” Skeid said. “They may visit you whenever they like. However, we ask that you not leave the premises unescorted until we find Lestrange and detain him.”
Hermione buried her face in her hands. “I promise you we are trying to apprehend him with our best possible resources,” Skeid assured her.
Hermione looked back up at the old man and sat up straight in her chair. “Alright,” she said after a few minutes of silent contemplation. “I…I will accept your offer.”
“You’re doing the right thing,” Skeid said.
“Wh…where is this new place that I’m going to be living in?”
“It belongs to a very experienced and very talented auror,” Skeid assured her.
“Yes alright, but where is it?”
Skeid had been dreading this moment during the entire conversation. He took a deep breath and looked into the young woman’s eyes. “Miss Granger, what do you know about Malfoy Manor?”
A/N (again :P): Hope you enjoyed it! Please leave me a review to let me know what you think! Reviews are really encouraging especially for a new fic! :D