When she heard Ginny had made the Holyhead Harpies' Reserve, Hermione sent a congratulatory bouquet. She tried not to mind when it came back with every flower carefully beheaded, and did not mention it to Ron. But she was upset enough that when Marcus came over for dinner he took her out to eat in wizarding London to cheer her up.
They had a nice night and ended up dancing at the Prismatic Dragon, something they had missed on their first visit. Hermione showed off the ballroom lessons her mother had insisted she take as a child, laughing when Marcus confessed much the same ordeal. They waltzed to Muggle jazz and stumbled home tipsy in the early hours.
Hermione woke late, rushing breakfast and downing an energy drink to clear her head for a planning meeting. She Apparated directly to the Flint Rooms, courtesy of the signet ring, managing to beat Alun Rosier to the table and avoid a charge of tardiness.
The Strategy Committee was upbeat. Harry Potter was taking his Seat today and they had a perfectly crafted rebuttal to defuse an objection to rescinding the Nuptial Clause. They were still arguing technicalities but they had the Wizengamot on the ropes. In a month or two, they would have the numbers to call for a vote on the modified Reconstruction Bill.
Harry winked at her as they went into the Chamber. Hermione smiled but the Flint and Potter Seats were far enough apart she could not easily talk to him. She did cheer when he was confirmed as his family's sitting Member and applauded when he stood to make his inaugural speech, expecting it to be short and to the point.
Her best friend Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, the Chosen One, hated public speaking. He wanted to do as little of it as possible. He had talked with Kingsley Shacklebolt the night before to get the Minister's advice on how to do as little oration as possible.
Harry didn't much care about the Marriage Law. Hermione did have a point that it was unfair but it was optional. And it taught the purest of the pure-bloods a valuable lesson on karma. However, Hermione was on the warpath about it being a matter of principle. She wouldn't ditch Flint until the legislation was overturned. Harry wanted the Slytherin gone from his friend's life, so he did the obvious thing.
He simply asked the Wizengamot to strike down the clause.
"And they did." Hermione sat in the Flint Rooms thirty minutes later still stunned. "A conscience vote. Just like that."
"All that work." Leota Yaxley poured herself a drink then stared at the Fire Whiskey. Theodore Nott took the bottle from her, poured for himself and a mute Alun Rosier then passed the drink to Marcus Flint.
"Must be nice to be Gryffindor." Theo said bitterly, tossing back the contents of his glass.
"This isn't Gryffindor!" The Muggle-born witch protested. "This is fucking wizarding nepotism at its worst! A bloody magic wand to make everything just like you want it! For the select few." She gestured at her husband, who poured her a shot. Hermione sipped, gasped and continued to rant. "This is not how it should be! I don't care if we got our way, this isn't right!"
"I thought it's what you wanted." Harry stuck his head around the door, taking in the unhappy expressions on the people he most expected to be rejoicing. He hadn't told Hermione his plan in case it didn't work. But it had and now she was free to get back together with Ron. "Everyone you packed off to that island can come home and you can get a divorce."
"Harry, do you realise what sort of message this sends?" Hermione thumped her glass down before she was tempted to throw it in frustration. "You can't trade on your reputation. You can't be seen to be able to be bought. It's corrupt. It makes you look as much a crony as the rest of the Wizengamot!"
"Don't get your wand in a knot. With all the bad press and complaints, and all your arguing, Kingsley said the Members were hanging out for an excuse to axe the law." He had been happy to provide, though he had expected a little more thanks than this.
"An excuse that didn't come from Mudbloods and Death Eaters." Theo sneered, refilling glasses and handing Hermione hers but not offering Harry a drink. He indicated with the snub exactly who was in his social circle and who was not.
"You'll still accept it, though, won't you, Nott?" Harry sneered right back. He would not take that tone of voice from someone who only missed out on the Dark Mark by accident of timing.
"Of course, we'll accept it. We're hardly going to petition the Wizengamot to reinstate the legislation just so we can continue to appeal against it." Hermione reined in her frustration to attempt to head off an argument. "Thank you, Harry. You've helped hundreds of people by resolving this quickly."
"I didn't do it for them." Nearly Auror Potter looked at Flint pointedly. "It was a stupid law and it deserved to be got rid of. I'm sure you'd have got it done, 'Mione. I just did it faster. Seeker, remember?"
"We appreciate your help." She offered Harry her glass so he could join them in a toast but with a smirk at Theo, Harry refused.
"We can celebrate properly later. I've got to get back to work. Training's nearly done. I'll be on fieldwork soon." He grinned at his best friend and strutted out not quite sticking up two fingers at the pure-bloods.
Hermione crossed the room and shut the door quietly. She put a hand to her mouth, noticing in an abstract way that it was shaking. Marcus noticed too, moving to put an arm around her. She rested her head against his chest trying to find a way not to feel a failure.
"Well, I will say it if no one else will." Alun raised his glass. "To the defeat of the Bill." The Strategy Committee joined in only a desolutory toast. "To us, then. Slayers of paperwork."
"Vanquishers of bureaucracy." Leota lifted her Fire Whiskey. "A partial victory, at least."
"You get used to it." Theo, remembering the House Cup loss of his first year, took the toast too. "Hermione, I know your principles are smarting right now but no one outside this room will care how we did it. Finch-Fletchley would have ridden through London as naked as Godiva if it had helped. So, we grit our teeth and get on with our lives."
"You care, though." Hermione took a deep, steadying breath.
"I care deeply." The Nott heir confirmed. "Which is why I am going to stay in politics and reform where I can. I hope once you have your advocate qualification, you will help me, Leota. We make a good team."
"I will give it serious consideration. I am not going to stay with my pupilmaster any longer than I must." She had previously anticipated joining her mentor's firm but his heavy-handed attitude to marriage altered that plan. "I will introduce him to my girlfriend before I leave, though."
"I have had enough of paper." Alun gestured at the drifts of parchment blanketing the Rooms. "I am going back to France, back to my expensive mistress and my wine. I think I will go to Marseilles and be indolent. You are all welcome to join me."
"With your mistress?" Hermione teased and Alun gave her a Gallic shrug that diffused the tension. "I'll go to Palau, spread the news and help everyone return to England. Then I think I will sit on the beach staring at the sea for a while. At least until it all makes sense and I can come home a better person." She looked up at the wizard holding her. "What about you?"
"I will play Quidditch." Marcus smirked. "The game's not won, yet."