Chapter 1: Unexpected Events

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4 MONTHS EARLIER

Hermione Granger entered her gloomy office and sat at her desk with a sigh. Her head throbbed and she felt drained from her extensive morning trial.

As a Ministry-appointed Defense Inquisitor, she was no stranger to long, stressful days in court. Having been a Defense Inquisitor for the Wizengamot for almost a year now, she'd seen her share of taxing trials. They always took a lot out of her, and today's had been no exception.

Hermione had accepted her job with the Department of Magical Law Enforcement straight out of Hogwarts, hoping it would allow her to give a voice to the unheard and mistreated, especially house-elves. However, the influx of dark wizards being arrested and prosecuted after the downfall of Voldemort meant she actually spent most of her time defending Death Eaters. The irony of the situation was not lost upon her.

Hermione freed her hair from the large clip that had held it hostage all morning. Her long chestnut mane fell down her back in smooth strands. She always took the time to tame her disobedient hair with lots of Sleekeazy when she appeared in court. Although Hermione had come to appreciate her unruly curls, she'd discovered that some Prosecuting Inquisitors wouldn't fail to stoop so low as to attack her appearance to, in turn, attack her credibility.

The tight updo she'd worn, as well as her morning court case, had caused a dull throbbing to form at the base of her skull. Hermione ran her hands through her now-freed hair and massaged the back of her neck to help ease the tension. The painful ache lessened but did not subside completely.

Hermione sighed again and pulled her lunch from her desk drawer. After unwrapping her sandwich, she grabbed a large gray folder from her desk. Her next assignment. It was no doubt placed there by the Minister of Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt, himself.

As she took a bite of food, she hoped her next case would be less trying than her last, or at least less hostile.

Opening the folder, she froze when she read the name and saw the picture of her assigned client.

Draco Lucius Malfoy.

She blinked a few times. Surely, her mind was playing tricks on her.

But no, what the words suggested, the picture confirmed. In the moving photograph, a very disgruntled Draco Malfoy glared back at her, dressed in a gray Azkaban uniform, holding a placard with his name and prisoner identification number on it. Picture Draco turned to each side, then the front again, on a horrible unending loop.

Hermione slammed the folder shut and leaned back in her chair, placing a hand over her eyes.

This must be a mistake. I couldn't possibly be representing him.

Hermione had never represented anyone she'd known personally before. A few parents of classmates from Hogwarts, but never anyone she knew directly.

Draco Malfoy was an entirely different story. Not only did she know him, but they also had a very tumultuous history. He had bullied her and her friends most of her time in school, and played an instrumental role in the death of Albus Dumbledore, Hogwarts's headmaster.

As if those weren't enough for Hermione to loath the thought of seeing Draco Malfoy again, there was also the fact that he had identified her, albeit somewhat begrudgingly, to his family a few years ago when she, Harry, and Ron had been taken to Malfoy Manor by Snatchers.

Draco's insane aunt, Bellatrix Lestrange, had tortured Hermione right there on the drawing room floor while Draco and his parents stood by and watched. And now she was supposed to defend the man? The thought made her blood boil.

Hermione opened the folder again, then examined the picture of her old nemesis. She took a small delight in the fact that he was finally being held accountable for his misdeeds.

The last time Hermione had laid eyes on Draco Malfoy was after the Battle of Hogwarts. She'd seen him and his parents huddled together in the school after Voldemort's demise, looking fearful and out of place amidst the celebration and mourning.

Where they had gone after that, Hermione had no idea. Days later, warrants were issued for Lucius, Narcissa, and Draco Malfoy's arrests and the entire family had vanished. No doubt they had used their wealth and what was left of their influence to flee and hide like the cowards they were.

They remained hidden for three years, and Hermione rarely thought of the horrible family, until a few months ago, when The Daily Prophet reported they'd all been arrested in France.

Lucius Malfoy had been swiftly tried for his crimes, earning a life sentence in Azkaban. A few days ago, Narcissa Malfoy's trial had begun, but Hermione had yet to learn the outcome.

Draco Malfoy was being held in Azkaban since the family's arrests and now, apparently, was about to begin his trial process. Hermione looked at his picture again. He looked eerily similar to the vile boy she'd known at Hogwarts, with a few key differences.

The first was that he no longer looked like a boy but more of a man. His cheekbones and jaw were more defined, and the pointed angles of his face looked less ferrety and more masculine.

Second, his hair was not slicked back in the insufferable fashion it had been through most of their school years. Instead, it hung pale and straight across his forehead, just above his cold gray eyes.

And finally, the third distinction was in those eyes themselves. They still looked angry and hateful like she remembered, but the familiar condescension was gone. Instead, it was replaced with fear.

Good. He knows he's about to get life in Azkaban and he's terrified.

Hermione tore her gaze from the picture to take in the other key details of the lengthy file.

Draco Malfoy . . . age twenty . . . former student of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry . . . never graduated. Charged with three counts of conspiracy to murder . . . two counts of the use of the Cruciatus Curse . . . two counts of the use of the Imperius Curse . . . three counts of aiding and abetting kidnapping . . . one count of reckless endangerment.

They forgot a thousand counts of being an obnoxious git, Hermione thought, continuing to read the details.

Although the accused was a minor at the time of these infractions, due to their serious nature, and the years the defendant spent evading the law, the defendant will be charged as an adult.

Hermione felt a strange sense of satisfaction. Draco Malfoy wasn't going to be getting special treatment, that was certain. Even if some of his charges were reduced, his future would still be bleak. He couldn't use his family name to get him out of this mess.

He did always want to be like his father, she thought bitterly. Now he can share his fate.

Hermione continued rifling through the file for a few more minutes, then shut it. On the front, she saw a note attached in Shacklebolt's handwriting.

Preliminary meeting with defendant set for 3 PM this afternoon.

Like most of her cases, she was to begin by meeting her client to get a better understanding of the case and establish a professional relationship.

Hermione picked the file up and left the room, making her way down the hall to Kingsley's office. She'd never refused to take on a case before, but there was a first time for everything.

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