Chapter 1 : Mistake
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(Some of the genetic stuff in this story are actually anachronisms. The field of genetics has really boomed in the last decade, and some of the things I mention don't exist yet in the year 2000/2001. I'm making it clear now that I know about these anarchromisms, and don't really care too much. For the sake of this story, just go with it.)
It was unusually hot for the early morning hour. Muggle Londoners rushed down the sidewalk, barely taking notice of the thin, unsteady woman who watched them with undisguised longing.
Hermione Granger stood in front of the glass doors of her best friend's flat building. Her bushy brows were furrowed, her eyes circled by dark, heavy rings, and her lips drawn and pale. She held a small purse in one hand, and her wand in the other.
She had made a terrible mistake.
Her eyes watered as that thought snuck past her carefully guarded denial. She blinked away her tears, turning her attention back towards the rushing Muggles.
They didn't look particularly happy. They weren't smiling, and they didn't seem to know each other. They were each on their own in a sea of black business wear, but some part of Hermione wanted to be one of those bodies.
Being a Muggle all of a sudden seemed so much better than being a Muggleborn. Their world made sense. Muggles had democracy and laws that fought for basic civil rights. Their society wasn't run by an irrational pureblood government.
Purebloods were so disturbed by their dwindling numbers and magic that they were ready to panic at any signs of Muggleborns creeping into politics or sacred bloodlines. They seemed to think that letting Muggleborns have any sort of ministry position would jeopordize their standing.
They were probably right about that - Hermione would have done everything she could to climb her way to the top and wipe out their ridiculous power.
She had been so surprised after the war to find that society hadn't changed. The Purebloods only tightened their grip, and all Hermione's lofty ambitions had been wiped away with such a smooth hand that she'd been more than a little spooked. Even the Daily Prophet didn't spare her more than a passing glance these days.
She had left Hogwarts with plans to someday become Minister of Magic. Now, she could barely get a ministry job working at positions that didn't even require NEWTs. When she'd owled Minister Kingsley Shaklebolt about it, she'd only recieved a cryptic reply on his expensive stationary: You don't want a job in the Ministry, Miss Granger. Don't pursue this.
Wizarding society was broken. With her credentials, she'd never have the same problems finding the government job she wanted in the Muggle world.
Maybe she just didn't belong in the Wizarding world, she thought, a dismayed shudder running through her. It wasn't right. Someone like her, with perfect NEWTs and the whole 'saving the world' bit on her resume shouldn't be denied a ministry position! Someone like her shouldn't be dumped by... Hermione's thoughts scattered, as her mind helplessly tried to derail from that train of thought.
It was difficult for Hermione to admit that she'd made a mistake - that, perhaps, something in this low point was actually her fault.
She took a slow, controlled breath of air, ignoring the skeptical look she recieved from one passerby.
She should be running home to her parents now, but they were still stranded in Australia without their memories. There was no reversing Obliviates. It was difficult to do with wizards, but Muggles were nearly impossible. They were safe though - they had, at least, survived the war.
The Magical world had taken so much from her, and she'd given so much of herself to it, Hermione thought with scorn. But what had it ever done for her?
Today, Hermione didn't just wish that she could walk away from the wizarding world, she wished she'd never went to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
If she hadn't said yes when McGongall had paid her family a visit all those years ago, she'd never have met Ronald Weasley. She'd never have dated him, and he would have never broken her heart.
Hermione shut her eyes for a moment, and then opened them again to observe the grim-faced Muggles. It would still be possible to slip off into that mass of bodies and find her way to a new life. It would be difficult to leave behind the Wizarding world - a place she loved and had always wanted to change - but she could do it. It might even be a less pathetic alternative to what she was doing now.
Instead of going to her parents' house, she was going to the only place she had left: Harry's flat, the exact place where Ron had found her last night. Harry's tiny, two-bedroom flat in Muggle London was as yet undiscovered by the press, so not having to deal with the likes of Rita Skeeter and her ilk was also a positive.
Remembering everything that had happened the day before was difficult for Hermione. It hadn't been a very good one. Yesterday morning she’d had a fight with Ron over making breakfast.
She could barely remember how it had started, or rather, she could barely believe how innocently this mess had begun. It was a simple question:
"Hermione, don't you think it'd be nice if we could have breakfast together in the mornings?"
"Yes, sure," Hermione had said as she hurriedly packed herself a small lunch for after her interview at the ministry. She had been running late.
"You know, my mum used to cook everyone breakfast - "
"Ron! I don't have time for this. I'm going to be late. Spit it out."
Ron had become angry then, his lips turning into a scowl. "I don't think it's too much to ask! I just want you to cook breakfast sometimes! You're always rushing around everywhere. Don't you ever just want to slow down and, I don't know, spend time with me, your fiance?"
Hermione had lost it. "I don't have time for this right now. Maybe I'll cook breakfast when one of us has a job to pay for it! Until then, you can do it, since you are clearly not trying as hard as I am to get hired!"
She’d stormed out, arrived at the interview two minutes late anyway, and then been told that she was interviewing to be a simple spell caster in the mailroom of the ministry (not a worker in the Owl Post Center in charge of all mail in Britain).
Fed up with the circus act that was the ministry, she had decided to visit the Harry. He was the perfect man for the job of putting up with her ceaseless rant.
"... and do you know what they said to me? They said, 'You should look at the private sector. You'll have better luck finding a job there. Better pay, too.' Can you believe the nerve of those ministry goons? All I want is to make the ministry a better place! I'm not doing it for money! Why won't they hire me, Harry?"
"Hermione," he had said after the first opening, which had been five minutes into her sudden arrival. "They are bloody ridiculous."
Hermione smiled when she remembered how Harry had supported her. He'd always done that, even when he probably wasn't in the mood for it. Ginny Weasley had just broken up with him after his nineteenth birthday a few weeks ago, and he'd just had a whole day of Auror training, but Harry was always there for her ranting.
"In fact," he'd continued, "I think you need some firewhiskey."
"Alcohol doesn't solve problems, Harry," Hermione had told him. She had taken a seat in his small sofa by then.
"No, it doesn't. But it so happens that I have more than one human can consume in ten years. Some of this is pretty top notch, too." Harry opened a cabinet that had been enlarged inside to fit all of the alcohol.
"Ah, yes," Hermione had said with a bitter grin. "The spoils of our boy hero."
"I haven't a clue why everyone thinks it makes such a great gift. But they do, apparently. Now if you don't mind, I'd like to become very drunk."
Though Hermione had instantly thought of all the reasons why Harry was being illogical, they'd quickly flown away from her. For the first time since she could remember, she gave into her irrational emotions, letting them rule her before she could second-guess them. This was her first mistake of the night.
She had followed Harry's lead, taking a glass and downing it in one painful gulp. Harry hadn't said anything about it. Instead he'd taken another drink of his own. And soon, they were babbling to each other, sharing their innermost angst in short, nonsensical declarations that, at the time, had sounded so perfectly insightful.
"Ginnnnnnny wassssnn't perfect, you know," Harry had said with a gasp after a large gulp. "She's a bit unpredicatible. I worry all the time 'bout her. I still don' know why she broke up with me..." Harry let his head fall back against the edge of the couch as he smiled a bit wildly. "She was always moaning on about me not doing enough for her."
"You never went on dates," Hermione said, as if it explained everything.
"Rita Skeet-skeet-skeeter's fault."
Hermione giggled. "Skeeter. What a weird name!"
"Everythin's her fault. Stupid bug. Bet the purebloods wouldn't be so powerf'l without 'er support!"
Hermione had nodded gravely, eyes wide at the sudden revelation. "I bet there're spells on that paper, to make people believe what-evers written!"
They fell into a grave silence, broken only by Harry's heavy breathing.
"I don't want to be alone again," he'd said in a small voice.
"You don't have to be alone," Hermione had answered. And then, Hermione had made the second mistake of the night.
Harry had turned and looked at her. She couldn't really see him that well. Her world was spinning just from moving her gaze a few inches.
She couldn't remember who had initiated it. The whole night after Harry's initial suggestion had been a foggy mess, disjointed like scenes from a horror movie. But she remembered the feeling of wrongness that started as soon as their lips met. It was wet, and sour from the alcohol. Neither enjoyed the kiss, but they kept going, afraid that if they stopped they’d somehow lose all connections to the world.
When Ron had opened the door to the sight of his best friend kissing his fiancé, he’d lost it. Hermione couldn’t remember everything, just flashes here and there, and the feeling of Ron Apparating her home, taking off her shoes, tucking her into bed. What she did remember was this morning, when grim-faced Ron had told her to move out, even though the apartment belonged to her also.
Not knowing where to go, Hermione found herself in front of Harry’s flat building in Muggle London, deciding whether or not this was a good idea after all. Did she really want to stay with Harry, after everything that happened? Did she have any other choice? It was scary for Hermione, feeling so completely alone in the world.
She entered the building, casting a brief charm on the bellhop so that she could access the lift. After she'd reached his flat on the fifth floor and knocked, it took a full minute for him to answer.
When he opened the door, she was greeted with the ghastly sight of his face. It was horrific. A black eye, a puffed up lip, lacerations on his cheeks from the ferocity of Ron’s punches… And his eyes were red-rimmed, like he’d been crying. Hermione had never seen Harry cry before.
“Harry, you look terrible,” Hermione said after a deep, shuddering breath. “Why haven’t you healed any of it?” She pushed past him into his apartment, even though his hand was still on the door, seemingly in an attempt to keep her out. But Hermione just ducked under his arm and walked into his small kitchenette. She grabbed a few first aid supplies and turned back to Harry.
He had moved to the couch, and despite the pain the pressure probably caused, his hands were pressed against his face, with his eyes squeezed shut.
She looked at her friend for moments, unsure of what to say. I’m sorry, seemed appropriate at first, but then she realized that whatever had happened hadn’t been her fault, per say. It hadn’t been Harry’s either.
“Do you have Auror training today?” Hermione finally asked.
Harry looked up at her, his eyes tired and sad. “I’m so sorry, Hermione,” he told her earnestly. “Did Ron break up with you?”
Hermione stiffened. She pierced her lips. “This isn’t your fault, Harry!” It came out a bit too quickly for her liking, but, refusing to be embarassed, she continued, “Ron and I were fighting a lot, and I wasn’t happy. I think a part of me knew that. We would have ended sooner or later." But Hermione couldn’t last long under Harry’s unwavering gaze. She cracked.
“I love him,” she admitted, voice wavering. She swallowed back her pride, and kept talking, “I didn’t want to lose him, but we weren’t going to make it, Harry. I’m the one who should be apologizing! The second we started drifting apart, I should have confronted him about it. And then maybe I wouldn’t have even been here last night. And you wouldn’t have lost your best friend.”
Hermione sat beside him on the sofa, and they both stared forlornly at the coffee table. “We’d make a lousy couple,” she said abruptly.
“The worst,” Harry agreed. “Which makes this situation all the more pathetic. What was I thinking?”
“We were drunk.”
“I’ve never been that drunk,” Harry said. “Have you?”
“No, never. I barely remember what happened. Just bits and pieces.”
“My mouth tastes like cotton balls and battery acid,” he said.
“How would you know what battery acid tastes like?”
“Oh, shut it. Unless you want to kiss me again and find out?”
Hermione felt her voice get caught in her throat, and she couldn't even muster a negative response.
“Too soon to joke about. Got it. I’ll go make a pot of tea. Feel free to take the guest room until you can find a better place.”
The next few days passed by slowly for both of them and Hermione, never one to give up without a sound fight, had owled Ron several times, explaining what had happened between her and Harry. She’d been tempted to scold him for punching Harry, but thought better of it. She’d received no response yet.
Hermione's life had never been so directionless. She had no job, hardly any money, no boyfriend, and nowhere to call home. To distract herself from her misery, Hermione paid a visit to a Muggle bookstore a few blocks from where Harry lived.
Right when she walked in, a large, hard-backed book caught her eye. A DNA helix ecompassed the whole front cover, and she found herself inexplicably drawn to it. She grabbed it from the shelf and read the back cover, brow raising at the sort of advancements the Muggle world had made in the past decade. While she'd had her head stuffed in books from Hogwarts, Muggle scientists had sequenced the human genome!
She couldn't even hardly remember paying for the book or walking home. She read straight through lunch, and she was still bent over her book when Harry returned from his Auror training.
“Are you reading?” he asked. When Hermione was too absorbed by her book to give more than a grunt in reply, he continued, "I've told you before, Hermione. Books are not therapeutic."
Hermione really wasn't in the mood for Harry's jokes, and she'd reached a particularly interesting chapter on a technique for determining a person's polymorphisms on Microarrays.
Harry grabbed the book from her, and said, “You do realize that it’s Friday evening right?”
Hermione scowled, blinking for a few seconds until Harry came into focus. “So?”
“So, if we’re to be a proper couple, we need to go out on the town.”
“Yes, that would go wonderfully at persuading Ron we’re not dating. When the hoards of press you draw follow us into a restaurant, Ron will be pleased to know from Rita Skeeter that we’re now officially a couple,” Hermione replied acidly, snatching back her book. “Harry, I’m not ready to joke about this. Please.”
“That didn’t stop you from telling me this morning as you cooked breakfast for me that it was your duty as my girlfriend.”
“I’m trying to read.” Hermione didn’t care that she was a hypocrite. Harry was being far too light about this. Unless they could repair the damage, they’d likely lost a member of their legendary golden trio. Harry was never all that great with dealing with these sorts of things. He’d become used to brushing them away during the war, and old habits die hard.
“I can see that. What is this gibberish?” Harry was trying to read the cover. “Genetics? Huh.”
“What’s that mean?” Hermione asked.
“What’s what mean?”
“You can’t just go ‘huh’ and not qualify it. It’s rude.”
“I was just thinking that Muggle genetics seem like something that might apply to magic.”
“What?” Hermione felt her mind whirling at the implications. Her grip tightened on the book.
“The purebloods seem very serious about the importance of saving their dwindling population. Fewer babies are being born, there is less power among purebloods, and there are more squibs. What if genetics have something to do with it?"
The room was literally spinning as Hermione considered the possibilities. Harry kept talking, his excitement building, but Hermione found that as long as her brain was still calculating, she couldn't tell him to stop.
"Just today I was talking with this stuffy pureblood Auror about the ‘crisis’ of magical decline. I was telling him it’s all these senseless wars we’re having that are just killing everyone off, but he was making the argument that it was actually Muggleborns integrating into society and somehow disrupting magical cores.”
Hermione hadn’t really been listening to anything Harry had been saying. She’d known straight off the bat what he’d meant. It had just taken her this long to understand the full implications.
“It’s their narrow gene pool,” Hermione said.
Harry raised a brow. “Their what?”
“Muggleborns are essential to the survival of the Wizarding kind! Purebloods will keep losing their magic, unless they integrate Muggleborns into their society.” In spite of the graveness of what she'd said, she couldn't help smiling. "Do you know what this means? Purebloods should be doing everything they can to welcome Muggleborns, to even marry Muggleborns. It's the only thing that will save them. This - this could completely transform Wizarding Society, Harry!"
"But this is magic, Hermione, not some Muggle science. There'e no way science can explain magic. They don't mix."
"Maybe they shouldn't," she replied, "but they do. The inheritance of magic follows the laws of genetics. Every Squib, Muggleborn, or powerful wizard can be explained by the Muggle laws of genetics! Don't you realize? The gene that makes purebloods magical is exactly the same as the one that makes muggleborns magical! It's an autosomal recessive gene! We're the same! Blood isn't pure. The whole notion of it is ridiculous.
"And the emergence of Squibs four hundred years ago? I'll bet anything it's something to do with genetics. Purebloods aren't very genetically diverse, so they probably share what would otherwise to rare mutations that affect magical power. When people with the same faulty part marry each other and have children, there is always going to be about a twenty-five percent chance that their children will be Squibs! What if Purebloods have become too genetically similar? This could change everything, Harry. Purebloods will no longer run society."
"No one will listen."
Hermione shook her head. "It won't stop it from being true! What if there are more than one mutation that causes this, too? What if magical decline has to do with that? Harry, we need to talk to an expert - a Muggle."
Harry frowned. "I'll head over to the Ministry later and see what I can find. Maybe there's a Squib that can help us. Hermione, are you sure you want to do this? I've been working at the ministry for a while now, and I've always had an uneasy feeling about some of the things that go on there. I think they have a lot more power than you're giving them credit for."
"Harry, I don't think that's right at all! There's no way their influence could stand up to the truth! I'll do everything I can to fully prove, beyond any shadow of doubt, that Muggleborns are essential. Those bigots won't let me in their governments? I'll force my changes through other channels. If they're desperate enough, they'll listen."
Harry didn't dare argue. Hermione hadn't felt so determined since the Final Battle. She was on a warpath, and woe to anyone who stepped in her way.
This story is not primarly a romance story. It's more action/adventure and mystery. Romance will come later, but for dramione haters, I really don't think you should give up on this fic for that ship. For dramione lovers, there will be a Draco/Hermione pairing eventually if you don't mind waiting. :)
These characters probably aren't usual Post-Hogwarts fanon, but I'm hoping they make sense based on what's happened since the last book and that they are consistent. :)
Do not worry if you didn't understand the genetics bit. It will be explained in detail in a later chapter. I don't want to overwhelm you with information just yet, especially since I think only the significance of her argument is important for the plot.
On another note, please leave a review!!! I cannot tell you how encouraging it is to get a review. It really makes my day. I love all kinds of reviews, even if you're just stopping in to say you're reading. :)
Okay, I promise no more long author's notes after this one.
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