A/N: I forgot to slap this on. Oops. Firstly, you can thank the lovely ladies of the DEE and their many rat races. I wasn't sure about doing them at first, but they really do help. Secondly, Auntie_L is amazing and lovely and wonderful. She puts up with all of my crap and hasn't tried to throttle me through the interwebz yet.
In the short life of Hermione's marriage, Adrian had appeared to be a self-possessed wizard. He had charmed and flirted his way into Hermione's apartment and into her life. Adrian had never appeared to be anything other than confident.
Watching Adrian fidget and wriggle about in his seat was an odd sight, and it bothered Hermione. She frowned at Adrian's antics and then turned to Marcus with a raised brow.
"What is he trying to avoid telling me?" Hermione asked Marcus.
"The Malfoys sent us a congratulatory note," Marcus rumbled without meeting her eyes.
"And?" There had to be more. Hermione was certain that Adrian wasn't discomfited because the Malfoys had recognized their marriage. Wasn't the whole point of this whole thing to have their marriage recognized as legitimate?
"They've invited us to dinner," Adrian admitted. He looked at a point above Hermione's shoulder. "Tonight."
"Where?" Hermione asked faintly.
While she had learned to tolerate Daphne, and by extension Astoria, for Ginny's sake, the very last thing she wanted to do was slog through another painfully public dinner where she was on display for the entire wizarding public to gawk at.
Unlike Harry, who was—for the most part—adored by wizarding Britain, Hermione didn't have the status of "Chosen One" to fall back on. From the time she was an insecure teenager to now, rags like the Daily Prophet had seemed to positively gloat over every imagined shortcoming in excruciating detail.
No matter what Hermione did, no matter how hard she worked to prove – or improve – herself, it never seemed to be enough for the wizarding media. On occasion, Hermione marveled over the fact that she hadn't become a recluse.
"Malfoy's been living in one of their French properties," Marcus replied.
"Some apartment in Paris," Adrian added.
"So we're going back to Paris," Hermione said slowly.
An apartment in Paris would presumably not have paparazzi dangling over the balcony. Was Adrian bothered by that? Surely not, as both Adrian and Marcus had presumably been invited to the younger Malfoy's apartment before now.
What was she missing? Did Adrian assume that she wouldn't want to Floo internationally two days in a row? Perhaps he didn't realize that her job at the Ministry often required Flooing and Portkeying internationally on a regular basis? Once she'd had a case with illegal poachers that had had her Flooing back and forth for a month straight.
"You're willing to go?" Adrian asked with a hesitant air that made Hermione frown in confusion.
"Astoria or Narcissa is going to have to sit on the Wizengamot," Hermione reminded them. "If we're going to accomplish what we planned, I'm going to have to sit down with them at some point. To be perfectly honest, I would much rather meet with Astoria than Narcissa Malfoy."
Marcus snorted. "Don't underestimate Astoria because she's younger," he warned her.
"I won't," Hermione promised.
"If you… if we are able to… you'll have to deal with Narcissa Malfoy at some point," Adrian cautioned.
"I know," Hermione said. She frowned at Adrian. "What are you concerned about, exactly?"
"You were tortured at Malfoy Manor," Marcus said bluntly. Hermione flinched and Adrian's and Marcus' faces went blank.
"Would you rather not discuss it?" Adrian asked.
"It's–," Hermione began only for both wizards to glare at her.
"You being tortured is not fucking fine," Marcus snarled.
"Are you telling me that you didn't torture anyone?" Hermione demanded indignantly.
"No, I can't," Adrian muttered. He scowled at his plate and then he looked up at her with a stormy expression. "But none of them were…"
"We mostly dealt with people at the Ministry," Marcus explained in a subdued voice. He stared at his lap and avoided eye contact with both Hermione and Adrian. "It was… adults. Not…"
"You," Adrian finished with a huff. "It wasn't you, alright?" He threw his napkin on the table and ran a frustrated hand through his hair. "I know it's been less than a week, but you're ours, damn it. We're responsible for your health and safety. We'll probably never be happy about having any of the Malfoys anywhere near you."
Hermione sat for a moment in stunned silence.
The idea that these two Death Eaters were morally outraged on her behalf was incredible. Both Marcus and Adrian had just admitted to torturing, and most likely killing, other people. Admittedly, it had apparently been people at the Ministry; during the War they had been collaborators with Voldemort at best and enthusiastic participants at worst.
"You do remember that Daphne Greengrass is dating Ginny Weasley, do you not?" Hermione looked from Marcus to Adrian and back again. "I've gone out on girls' nights with Astoria Malfoy. We've had tea together. I expect that—when and if Daphne and Ginny decide they want some kind of bonding ceremony—that Astoria and I will be in charge of their joint Hen Night."
Adrian flushed and looked away.
"Maybe so," Marcus grunted. He rubbed one hand over his jaw. "It's still unsettling to think that you… that Malfoy…"
"He didn't." Hermione found herself in the odd position of defending Draco Malfoy. "He couldn't even watch."
"You don't blame him?" Adrian asked with a frown.
Hermione shrugged. "I'm not saying we're bosom friends, or anything. It isn't as though we gossip over drinks, and I've certainly never been invited to their home before." She sighed and rubbed at her forehead. "We've all… done things we aren't proud of… things we regret. None of us is untarnished in some way."
"But… you're Hermione Granger," Marcus protested.
Hermione squinted at him and huffed. "I'm hardly innocent."
Marcus put his forearms on the table and leaned toward her. There was a cough and a mutter from Adrian's seat that sounded like "Edgecombe," which Hermione chose to ignore, but which made Marcus sit back up.
"So that would be a yes to dinner with the Malfoys tonight?" Adrian asked politely.
"Yes," Hermione agreed. She frowned at the pile of letters on the table. "Was there anything else?"
"We should probably schedule a meeting with, erm, everyone else," Adrian suggested.
"Luna calls us the Death Eater brides," Hermione offered with a smirk. Adrian rolled his eyes at that and Marcus snorted.
"Charming," Adrian muttered.
"We need to make sure that all of the wives are willing to sit on the Wizengamot," Marcus said.
"And that they're willing to stop the Ministry," Hermione added.
"We'll pull out our schedules later and look them over," Adrian said. He pushed his eggs around with his fork. "Quidditch will be starting up soon and Marcus and I won't even be available then."
"You had mentioned that." Hermione shifted in her chair. "You also said something about taking me to exhibition matches?"
"It's before the actual season," Marcus explained. "We don't usually play each other, so we'll each be able to escort you to the other's match."
"When do they take place?" Hermione asked with a worried frown. "I can't miss too much work."
"Usually they're on the weekend, so hopefully they won't go too long," Marcus explained. He leaned back in his chair. "If they stretch out over days, you can go to work when you're scheduled. As long as you pop in for a few minutes here and there, no one will say anything."
"There are some spouses who never come to the games," Adrian said. "Unfortunately, we're trying to convince everyone that our marriage has a solid foundation, so you'll need to come to ours."
"I would come to your games regardless," Hermione protested. "You're my husbands."
"You probably won't be able to attend all of them," Marcus warned her. "While Ade and I don't usually play each other, we often play on the same days. Or the matches will overlap. As long as you manage to make some of them, no one will be any the wiser."
"I can do that," Hermione replied.
"We'll try to make it up to you the rest of the year," Adrian added. "The ballet, the opera, whatever you want."
"You don't have to do that," Hermione protested.
"We're basically going to abandon you for the entire season," Adrian pointed out.
"That's fine, I can go by myself," Hermione said with a shrug.
Both Adrian and Marcus looked at one another and then turned to Hermione.
"You can't attend public events without an escort," Marcus told her.
Hermione scowled at the two of them. "What do you mean, I can't attend events without an escort? I've been doing it for years!"
"In Muggle London, or in the wizarding world?" Adrian asked shrewdly.
Hermione huffed and grumbled and finally threw up her hands. "Muggle London," she admitted.
"You're the Lady Granger," Marcus reminded her. "You can't just wander around by yourself."
"Why the hell not?" Hermione demanded.
"Why didn't you go about unescorted when you were single?" Adrian asked in a quiet voice.
"After the war, I… I assumed that things would be different," Hermione muttered. Her shoulders hunched and she ducked her head. "We won."
"What happened?" Adrian prompted her in a gentle voice.
"Nothing I couldn't handle," Hermione muttered. She took a deep breath and let it out before she looked up and met Adrian's and Marcus' gazes. "Nothing that hadn't already happened at Hogwarts."
Both wizards winced.
"Hermione." Marcus' voice was a soft rumble.
"It was… nothing over the top," Hermione rushed to explain. "I was shoved once or twice. A few people muttered things under their breath. It was never anything that I could point to and complain to anyone about, but it was just enough to make me wary about going out without support."
A low growl came from Marcus and Adrian automatically put his hand on Marcus' knee, his tanned fingers flexing. Hermione could feel her face heat up and she tried to focus on Adrian who cleared his throat.
"Did anyone threaten you?" He asked.
"Not directly," Hermione hedged.
"Indirectly?" Marcus guessed.
"It takes time for things to change," Adrian offered quietly. "You being on the Wizengamot will help make those changes happen faster."
"We'll do whatever we can to help," Marcus added.
"I know," Hermione muttered.
"You are an amazing witch," Adrian said. He grinned at Hermione when she looked up at him in surprise. "What? Everyone knows it's true. You are the brightest witch of our age."
"And?" Hermione prompted him with a raised eyebrow.
"You may have to use the system against itself," Marcus explained. He smirked at her. "And you, Lady Granger, are part of that system."
"Ugh." Hermione threw her napkin on the table, leaned back in her chair, and put her hands over her face.
"You knew this wasn't going to be easy," Adrian reminded her.
"I know." Hermione's reply was slightly muffled through her hands. She removed them from her face and looked over at them. "I just thought that I would be… me. Not a member of a House. Not bound by all the stupid, ridiculous rules. Just me."
"You work with the tools you have," Marcus noted. "Don't spend your time worrying about the tools you wish you had."
Hermione smiled and shook her head. "I'll do my best."
"It will be enough," Marcus said. Hermione flushed.
"You have too much confidence in me," Hermione muttered.
"Perhaps it's just enough," Adrian countered. "You have an impressive track record, Hermione. We merely believe that you will continue on as you have done."
"Thank you all the same." Hermione looked from one to the other. "It's… it's nice."
"What did you do?" Pansy demanded.
"I ordered an orange squash," Hermione replied with a confused frown. "Is that not the done thing? What ought I to have ordered? Gillywater? Elderflower cordial?"
"Don't be a bitch, that's my job," Pansy retorted.
"I believe Pansy is referring to your husbands," Luna observed with a slight smile for the waiter. "They gave Blaise a huge lecture about how you were not to be left alone during Quidditch season. They told him that if anything happened to you while they were gone, they would take a page out of your book, whatever that means."
"A bottle of champagne," Pansy ordered.
"And a lemonade," Luna added.
"Peasants," Pansy sneered at them from across the table.
"What's got your knickers in a twist?" Hermione demanded.
"Marcus threatened Harry," Pansy hissed once the waiter had left. She took a brief glance around the Muggle café before turning back to Hermione with a glare. "Where the hell does he get off?"
"Why on earth would Marcus threaten Harry?" Hermione asked in surprise. She frowned at Pansy. "What did Harry do?"
"What did Harry do?" Pansy repeated. She rolled her eyes and turned to glare at Luna. "Is she serious?"
Luna turned to look at Hermione. She tilted her head to one side, her dirty blonde hair spilling in a tangled waterfall of curls over her shoulder. Luna twisted her humongous radish ring around her finger several times before she turned to Pansy and spoke.
"Hermione is always serious. It is both her greatest strength and her greatest weakness," Luna said at last.
Hermione flushed. "Thank you, Luna," she muttered.
"Harry didn't do anything," Pansy snapped. "Your husbands marched into the Auror office and insisted that he use his influence to assign an Auror to watch over you during the Quidditch season."
"Why would that bother you?" Hermione asked. She paused and frowned at the both of them. "I mean, I know why it bothers me, and Marcus and Adrian and I will be sitting down for a nice long chat about why it isn't okay for them to treat me like a child—"
"Yes, yes, you're a thoroughly modern witch," Pansy interrupted her rudely. "We're all very proud of you. What bothers me, darling, is that your wayward husbands threatened Harry."
"And only you are allowed to threaten Harry?" Hermione asked with an arched eyebrow.
Pansy sighed heavily and turned to Luna again. "There are times that I feel that someone in Slytherin should have stepped forward during your years at Hogwarts. That this," and here she gestured at Hermione, "was all that you had hurts my very soul."
Luna smiled brightly at Pansy and patted her on the hand. "To each season a different harvest."
"I suppose," Pansy muttered casting a critical eye in Hermione's direction.
"Obviously I'm not thrilled that Adrian and Marcus tried to threaten Harry," Hermione offered.
"They didn't try to do anything," Pansy retorted. "They threatened him."
"Is this what Harry told you, or did you witness it yourself?" Hermione countered.
Pansy frowned at that and glared at the surrounding restaurant.
"You know that I adore Harry," Hermione continued. "I'm not going to let anyone hurt him. Ever."
"It's possible that Marcus and Adrian didn't take that into account," Luna suggested.
The three witches paused and smiled polite smiles at the server who chose that moment to arrive with their drinks. Pansy insisted that he go and grab two more glasses, and then when he returned, that he pour out three glasses of champagne. Hermione defiantly drank her orange squash and reveled in her peasant status.
"You are going to speak to them." Pansy took a sip of her champagne.
"Of course I am," Hermione said with a roll of her eyes.
"It is an old custom, when a wizard went on a quest or a long journey, to ask others to look in on his family and make sure that they were safe," Luna observed. "To be asked was considered to be a great honour."
"No one has done anything like that for centuries," Pansy scoffed. "That's practically out of the tales of Merlin."
Luna shrugged. "The protocols for the pace nuptias haven't been used in centuries either."
"There are protocols for the pace nuptias?" Curiosity and excitement shone in Hermione's eyes.
"It was used to unify feuding nations," Pansy reminded her with a roll of her eyes. "Of course there are protocols." She paused and smirked at Hermione. "Lady Granger."
Hermione threw her napkin at Pansy. "Oh, shut up."