Chapter 11 : Proof
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Her moment of satisfaction was interrupted by a knock on her door. At this hour, it could only be one person. She carefully retook her seat, fixing her posture just so. “Come in,” she said quickly, her bright tone a fine match for the light emanating from her windows.
She clasped her hands in front of her, resting them gently on the edge of her desk as she sat comfortably in her chair. It was Harry. A bit later than she’d originally thought, but then she considered, given the situation it was to be expected. The brown-haired witch watched her best friend carefully, noting his extra messy black hair and a slightly pale appearance that she was certain indicated a lack of sleep. His face however was firm.
“Morning Hermione,” he opened cautiously.
“Good morning Harry,” she replied.
“Ready for the big moment then?” he asked, a hint of bitterness entering his tone.
“Well,” she demurred, “I’m certainly hoping for a big moment.”
Harry was of course referring to the final resolution of the In re Walsham case, a policy matter that had divided people and politics of their world for far too long in her opinion. The appointment of a replacement had been a nightmarish battle with threats being thrown in both directions almost as often as the loads of galleons being used by more unsavory individuals to influence the process. In the end however, the recommendations had fallen in favor of Amos Diggory. Hughes’s influence could never be replaced, but Diggory’s long service, impeccable credentials and tragic past were impossible to overlook.
“Come off it,” he snapped. “You already know what it will be.”
Hermione inhaled deeply, raising her chin as a confident half-smirk crept onto her face. “Fine…spoil sport,” she fired back. “43 to 32 to uphold.”
“Exact numbers…” Harry said, shaking his head.
“Why are we talking about this?” Hermione asked suddenly. “We both know that’s not why you’re here.” She gestured toward one of the chairs in front of her, bidding Harry to take a seat.
Harry waved a hand dismissively, pacing the area in front of her desk.
“You shouldn’t do this to yourself…” she began, rising from her chair to go to him.
“And what am I supposed to do?” he hissed.
“Nothing,” Hermione answered, her brown eyes staring hard into his green.
The pair were mere steps away from one another now, but despite their lengthy history, the air hung heavy between them. Harry ran both hands through his hair, clasping them together behind his head as he looked down. Hermione watched his conflict for a moment, noting how tightly his fingers were meshed together and the firmness with which his jaw was set. Without speaking, she turned her back on him, casting her eyes toward her brightly shining windows.
“Merlin Hermione…” Harry muttered from behind her.
“When did you know?” she asked simply, turning her head around to face him.
Harry hesitated. “I always had doubts. About Shafiq. About how sudden it was…how perfect…”
“When did you know?” she repeated.
“When Ginny and I visited George.”
Hermione raised an eyebrow. “Oh?”
“He’s got a new product. Shifto-sticks.”
Hermione chuckled at the name. “Perfect.”
Harry glared at her darkly. “Not real wands of course…but if touched to one, they reform themselves to look like it. An precise, if useless, copy of the wand they touched. And they can do it again and again and again…but then you already knew that, seeing as you suggested it.”
The brown-haired witch shook her head and wagged a finger at him. “You know Harry, it was always you I was the most worried about. Ron was easy…after all, he does love me,” she said wistfully, looking off for a moment. “And Neville…loyal…proficient…but so tied to the hard evidence because he so lacks investigative instinct.”
“How did you do it?”
“How did I do it?” Hermione asked incredulously. “Harry, surely you don’t think I actually killed Hughes…”
“Of course you didn’t,” Harry spat. “Who did you set up?”
“Why would he even talk to you?”
“Because I convinced him I had information that he needed. Just like I convinced Neville. And just like Neville convinced you.”
“The voting…but Neville showed me the minutes in the Vault.”
“Copies,” Hermione said, scrunching her face at the obviousness of the deduction. “That was the easiest part. I already had that access and the special parchment I needed to make them undetectable.”
“So Malfoy’s father–”
“Bought that lie. And the other…that Hughes had confided his vote in me. I was quite boastful when I told him. I think it would’ve reminded you of first year.”
“And he knew Shafiq because of her friendship with Draco. He knew she would be the perfect person to pin it on.”
“Naturally. Then I gave George the idea and a short time later we had a working prototype. Lucius had the conversation with the girl to set it up for trial. Fed Draco the ideal itinerary for her little jaunt through Britain. He nicked her wand before she left and replaced it…since she was headed to Muggle London first she’d never need it.”
“And never notice it didn’t work.”
“Very good Harry,” Hermione praised.
“So he killed Hughes.”
“I think I’ve already–”
“Not him,” Harry spat. “Why did you do this?”
“I really did have the votes counted perfectly ahead of the hearing. Hughes would decide the case. And he was too unpredictable. After all we’d done, all we’d sacrificed. A failure here would kill real reform. You’ve seen it…despite the Ministry, businesses have so much control over our world. And if we aren’t all equals there then the other reforms become meaningless. The purists hiding in shame get bolder. And then it’s only a matter of time.”
Slowly, Harry drew his wand. “You know I can’t just let this go Hermione. Not even for you.”
Hermione’s deep laugh mocked him. “You’re not going to turn me in Harry.”
“I will if I have to. If you won’t do it yourself.”
“No you won’t. Destroying me doesn’t just kill the lie. It kills the reforms. Every reform I’ve been involved in. It taints everyone. Even Kingsley. And especially those closest to me. And of course it would destroy Ron.”
“Like Lucius Malfoy won’t? With what he has–”
“Lucius Malfoy doesn’t have anything. He’s a long-ago discredited coward and former Death Eater. And he doesn’t even have the memories he would need to threaten me anymore.”
“Obliviated him?” Hermione interrupted. “Of course. I wasn’t about to take the chance you’re talking about. He’ll see justice soon enough.”
“He can’t. You’ve already hung it on that innocent girl.”
“Part of the reforms. I took it from the Muggle world. Techniques advance. Evidence comes to light. Results of cases change accordingly. I’ll see that she’s exonerated when the time is right. And then I’ll see that Lucius Malfoy gets the justice he’s always managed to avoid.”
“And you go free.”
“You could never prove I did anything.”
Harry inhaled deeply.
“Don’t dwell on this Harry. Things with you and me…all of us…they’ll be just like before.”
“How can they be?” Harry barked. “This…that you’re capable of it…it changes everything.”
“No it doesn’t. You’ll see. This will be good for us. Soon there will be more reassignments and retirements. More promotions. Robards will be rewarded for all of this. So will Garrick. And it goes without saying so will we. I’ve already seen the writing on the wall Harry. You’ll be Head Auror. I’ll be Head of the Trial Division.”
Harry threw his hands in the air. “This is ridiculous Hermione. You’re mental.”
“Think about it Harry. Ginny’s what…three months along now? Even if it’s not immediate, she’ll retire soon enough. She won’t want you risking yourself doing field work for long once you’ve started a family. She’ll expect you to make sacrifices. And after everything…doesn’t she deserve them?”
“Stop it. Now,” Harry warned.
“You’re only angry because I’m right about this.”
“How can you be so…rational? Like you said, after everything how can you justify it to yourself like this?”
Hermione shook her head. “I’ve always been the rational one of us Harry.”
Harry’s expression hardened and he raised his wand, pointing it toward her. “I can’t let you do this. It…it makes us just like them.”
Hermione shook her head sadly. “You’ll see the benefits in time Harry,” she said as Harry was struck from behind by Ron’s non-verbal full-body bind. As the red-headed wizard shut the door quickly behind him, Hermione leaned down and stared into Harry’s green eyes. “You’ll see…even if you don’t remember.”
As Ron stood guard at the door, Hermione produced her wand and the length of parchment that contained her script. Light from her windows bathed her as she slowly, carefully completed the memory modification. This, she didn’t like. But it was, again, a necessary evil. Even Ron had understood after a careful explanation. Together, they placed Harry in a seated position in a chair at her desk before Ron left the room. As Harry’s mind slowly returned to normal after the change, Hermione quickly took her seat.
Harry shook his head, shaking away the cobwebs after a night full of worrying about his pregnant wife and precious child. Hermione was waiting across her desk looking expectant. Unbelievable. He had fallen asleep.
“I’m…I’m sorry Hermione. I must have dozed off…”
“It’s alright Harry,” she answered, gently touching his arm with her hand. “I understand. You must have so much on your mind now! A baby! You and Ginny must still be so thrilled!”
A genuine smile blasted across Harry’s entire face. “Absolutely!” he answered. “I mean…I know it’s been two months since we found out, but I can still hardly believe it.”
As Harry went on about his hopes and concerns, Hermione allowed herself a triumphant moment to gaze out the window. She knew, deep down, that Ron would have to be set right too. The guilt would lead him to mess things up and there were so many ways he could. She smiled widely as the light from her windows continued to grow. Hermione considered it quite the metaphor for the future. One day, thanks to the hard decisions she made now, everything would be perfect.
A/N: So there it is. The truth revealed. Were you surprised? Not surprised at all? Though I waited to write it because I wasn’t sure all along who and how the actual killing would have been accomplished, I always had in place the idea that Hermione was the mastermind. What did you think of her characterization here? Was it “a bridge too far” from her? I know it was a big risk in the end, but I wanted to be bold with my first time writing in this genre and take chances, so I definitely enjoyed it. I hope you did too!
Thank you so much for your reads and reviews along the way!
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