AN: Added several paragraphs for clarity and extra details, reworded a few things throughout.
- Chapter 1 -
Hermione Granger hurried down the busy hall to the conference room. She didn’t want to be late; Hermione Granger was never late, and she didn’t intend to start being so now.
It was five years after the downfall of Voldemort, four years since she had graduated from Hogwarts. Hermione Granger was working for the Ministry of Magic, as were most of her friends, as an Auror. She had dreamed of working in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures (still intent on pressing forward with S.P.E.W.), but after a very convincing argument with Harry, she had decided the Aurors did indeed need her.
She had insisted that she finish her secondary training and education before she signed on. Consequently, she was the junior member of the team, having only been a part of it for about four months. At that moment, she was running to an Auror meeting, an emergency meeting. The memo had landed on her desk not two minutes earlier.
She made it to the room and took a seat at the long table. She checked the clock; she was ten minutes early. She looked around at the few people that had arrived already.
"Hey, Harry," Hermione said upon seeing her longtime friend. He looked up from the documents he was reviewing and smiled at her. Of course Harry would be on time, he was the assistant head of the Auror Department.
"Morning, Hermione," Lupin greeted her. Remus was the Deparment leader. He shifted about at the head of the table nervously. He checked his watch and the clock above the door every couple of minutes.
Susan Bones was early as well; she sat staring at the ceiling looking very bored.
"Where's everyone at?" Hermione asked when she grew tired of the clock's monotonous ticking and the quiet shuffle of Harry's pages.
"Tonks, Ron, Neville, and Boot are still in the field, they should be back soon though," Harry said, as he too checked the clock on the wall.
“I saw Mad Eye outside the training room earlier, he's probably still there harassing the recruits," Susan added. "No clue where Michael is though."
Michael Corner. Probably off flirting with the new receptionist, Hermione thought to herself with a smirk.
Hermione was fairly certain she knew what the meeting was about.
Recently, Kingsley Shacklebolt had been pushing through various wizarding laws and acts that he hoped would help ease the continued tension between Purebloods and Muggleborns. Most of those were intended to encourage the Pureblood families to allow their children to marry whomever they wanted. No doubt, some of those families would arrange marriages with Muggleborns for the many benefits associated with doing so.
After the war, all of the captured Death Eaters were tried; most were sent to Azkaban for life, some eluded the Ministry all together, and others bargained and bought their freedom. Those who had supported the Dark Lord and those who were pardoned were labeled as War Criminals. This ostracized them from society. They were looked down upon by the entire wizarding world.
As almost all of the Pureblood families were accustomed to being treated with respect, they now found themselves as the new pariahs. No longer were Muggleborns at the bottom of the social ladder. Most were desperate to rid themselves of the label and would go to great lengths to do so. They had found being the outsiders, the ones looked down upon, the victims of prejudice, was not a very pleasant existence.
The lack of reverence was not the only thing that came with the War Criminal charge. It also brought hefty taxes down upon the families it had been bestowed upon. This had even brought about the poverty of some of the wealthier Pureblood families. They may have escaped Azkaban, but they had found equally harsh punishments in their freedom
Ten minutes after the meeting should have begun all but Mad Eye had arrived and were waiting quietly for the meeting to begin. Lupin slowly stood to start the meeting.
“Well, since only Mad Eye is missing, I’ll go ahead and start,” he said. “As you all know, Kingsley has been working hard on the new Muggleborn Equal Rights Act and I’m happy to say it has finally been accepted and went into effect this morning.”
This received grins and whoops of joy from all of the Aurors. Lupin smiled and waited on the boys to quiet down, the girls sat waiting patiently.
“Right, well, I’m not sure you all know the full details of the Act as it’s quiet lengthy,” he coughed lightly, “Hermione would you mind a quick explanation, err… just over the part concerning marriages?”
“Sure,” she looked at the faces around her; all were now turned to her eagerly. “A section of the M.E.R.A. pertains to Pureblood and Muggleborn marriages. It states that any Pureblood that marries a Muggleborn witch or wizard will receive significant taxation cuts for the duration of the marriage. This obviously is aimed at the Pureblood-superiority families that were labeled as War Criminals and have since been heavily taxed. This should help them try to associate with Muggleborns and progress wizarding society and relations between all. There are other benefits and there is always room for adjustment. The main idea is to force the Purebloods out of their self-imposed isolation, of sorts.”
She paused and took another breath. “Of course, there is a clause stating that any harm befalling the Muggleborn witch or wizard partaking in the union will cause the marriage to be nullified as well as retroactive taxation. Depending on the severity of harm, obviously, the family may be relabeled or labeled as War Criminals or even sent to Azkaban.”
“Precisely,” Lupin added as she finished. “It obviously isn’t everything we’ve hoped for, but it’s a step in the right direction. After all, they will never get over their prejudices if they don’t know and associate with Muggleborns. A great deal of those families are suffering from the high taxes that have been imposed upon them and money has always been important to those types of people…” he trailed off sounding disappointed. His eyes flicked to Hermione, and for a moment she thought she saw something there. Pity, remorse, dread, fear, guilt, she couldn’t tell. His sad eyes only looked sadder.
“Well, that was only a part of this meeting, and it is not the reason it was an emergency.” He looked at her again, only briefly. She was beginning to worry about what was to come.
“Uhm…Well…I…uh…” Remus spluttered ineloquently.
“Just out with it, Remus,” Harry said with a chuckle after several moments of the babbling.
“We’ve been approached by one of those Pureblood families. Well, the Ministry- Kingsley actually- was approached but anyway, they are looking for… immediate arrangements.”
Harry’s brow creased in concern and he asked the question on everyone’s mind, “Who is it?”
“We want to put an Auror in,” his eyes were on Hermione again.
It finally hit her. There were only three female Aurors currently: Tonks, who was married; Susan, who was a Pureblood; and Hermione, the only single, Muggleborn witch with the Aurors. She felt her stomach drop to the floor, her jaw sagged open, and her heart skipped a beat as the realization sunk in.
“Who is it, Remus?” she asked quietly, wide eyed.
“Considering who it is and their history,” he continued on, ignoring both her and Harry’s question, “we want someone on the inside. I know they’re up to something. The Death Eaters may not have an official leader anymore but they haven’t disbanded and we know they’ve been recruiting again. The whole situation concerns me. We need someone in there. We need to know what’s going on.”
“Remus, who is it?” Harry repeated as he stood up.
Remus swallowed deeply and met Hermione's gaze. His eyes plead for her forgiveness.