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"'Mione, come on! All the best tables will be gone if we wait any longer."

"I'm coming!" Hermione called out as she rushed down the stairs from the girls' dormitories.

Harry and Ron waited for her at the base of the stairs so they could all walk to the Three Broomsticks together.

"Finally!" Harry whooped. "Let's go. I've been craving a butterbeer all week, and mum forbade Polly from sneaking me any."

Hermione fixed him with a grim look. "She's right to. Polly is not a servant!"

Ron rolled his eyes. Not this again. "She technically kind of is," he mumbled before shutting his mouth at the scathing glare from Hermione.

"Don't start that now," Harry told her, unfazed. "Polly's practically my nanny. She helped raise me and Neville during the war and when mum and dad eventually came out of hiding and went back to work."

"Can we please not do this today?" Ron groaned. "All the good tables will be gone!"

"Fine," Hermione grumbled reluctantly, appeased by the sheepish grin on Harry's face. "Where are the others?"

"Neville walked Bryony down earlier," Ron told her. "And Ginny's joining us later with her newest boyfriend," he said with a fake gagging voice.

Hermione chuckled as they headed through the long, winding corridors of the castle. When she stopped to think about the past few years, the drastic change halfway through her Hogwarts years left her reeling sometimes. While she'd had her reservations about her uncomfortable week with the Black family back in her third year, that experience had been pivotal.

For every break thereafter, she always received beautifully ornate letters of invitation to the Black family home from Hermione Black herself. At first, Hermione felt uncomfortable accepting them and had opted to skip out on their spring family events. But then Nova had cornered her in her own home, demanding to know why Hermione didn't come. Hermione sputtered in surprise, asking how she knew where she lived. Nova looked at her like she was stupid. Of course! Her mother knew where Hermione lived in her childhood.

After that, Hermione started accepting the invitations. Partly, she didn't want to offend their generous offers. But partly, she was also curious about the magical world. Despite being at Hogwarts, she'd always felt like she was on the outskirts of some big club, and no one was willing to show her the entrance.

Hermione Black confirmed as much during her fourth year at Hogwarts.

"I was fortunate enough to have the Weasleys when I was trying to figure this all out. And I want to make sure you have every opportunity I did, if not more."

Despite her initial wariness of her past self, she quickly realized that Hermione Black, much like herself, was stubborn to boot and would simply nag you into agreeing with her. Mini-Mione had tamped down her bossy tendencies since the first year when the boys in her house called her a nightmare for it. But as she spent more time with her older self, she realized she didn't need to hide.

As the months passed by, Hermione could feel herself be enveloped into their world. She and Neville had always been friends, but their quiet camaraderie during the epic quidditch matches everyone seemed to take part in helped them bond. She found herself seeking him out whenever she wanted a moment of peace. He liked to work with the plants in the greenhouses in his spare time, and she found it was a very serene way to pass the time and give her eyes a rest from her books.

Harry and Ron ultimately benefitted from her bossiness, which she eventually learned to stop hiding. As much as they whined and complained, they came to her begging nearly every month for help studying for an exam. In turn, Ron would force her out of the library when she got lost in there for over five hours. His contagious enthusiasm and dry humor made it difficult for her to be mad at him. After years of feeling like a wandering nomad, it felt nice to have friends who checked in on her. Harry tried to convince her to get on a broom, but that was still a hopeless cause. But the three of them often snuck down to the kitchens under Harry's invisibility cloak. It was a running joke for them whenever the boys would come to her for personal advice, beginning every request with, "Hermione, you're a girl..."

The past year had been drastically different, but Hermione knew instinctively that this was more the life she was meant to have.

Granted, she might have more friends now because of her older self's meddling. Nova's curious interest in her never faded, not even after finding out the truth. Though, during the school year, she stuck mostly to Draco's side. Despite their semi-reconciliation in her third year, she and Malfoy continued to have a bizarre dynamic. Nova wasn't kidding when she said the house dynamics at Hogwarts got to all of them. For all her Gryffindor bravery, she never felt comfortable approaching the Slytherin table despite knowing she had friends there.

Not to mention, Hermione somehow gained the unfailing loyalty of all the Black boys. The twins had arrived at Hogwarts last year, just a year after Nova's first year. Leo was quickly sorted into Gryffindor, and of all his family friends, he'd clung to Hermione like a scared child that first week. Granted, his boisterous enthusiasm chased away his nervousness within a week, but she was still flattered. His twin, Caelum, had been a hat-stall. He sat there patiently for nearly ten minutes before the hat put him in Hufflepuff. The puffs had roared with enthusiasm, and she couldn't help but think they'd gained a gem of a housemate. At the beginning of this year, the youngest of them arrived at Hogwarts. Regulus Black was, to no one's surprise, sorted into Ravenclaw. The astute and intelligent child had a sharp way of assessing the world that was truly rare for his age.

The Black children seemed ecstatic they'd been separated into different houses. Divide and conquer, Nova had said devilishly during a train ride home once. None of her siblings seem to disagree.

"Damn!" Ron groaned as they slid into a completely packed Three Broomsticks. "We'll never get drinks in this chaos!"

They'd just about been desperate enough to wait in the line when Nova weaved her way out of the crowd.

"I was just headed to Hog's Head if you three wanted to come!" Nova yelled over the buzz of the pub.

"What's that?" Harry asked in confusion.

"It's another pub! Mum's dad owns it," she told them, her eyes twinkling when she met Hermione's gaze.

"The elusive Dumbledore?" Ron cried. "Blimey, I thought he was a myth!"

"Where do you think my mum came from then?" Nova smirked with amusement. "She is a Dumbledore, you know."

"Honestly, I suspected Professor Dumbledore might be her dad..." He recoiled defensively at everyone's incredulous faces. "What? Don't pretend you all didn't think it! We've never met any other Dumbledore. I didn't even know he had siblings!"

"Guess you'll get to meet him finally!" Nova said excitedly, leading them to a remote end of Hogsmeade.

When they finally pushed their way into the otherwise empty pub, Nova winked at the old, bearded man behind the counter.

"Hey, grandad!" She greeted cheekily.

Hermione could see the slight roll of the man's eyes before a smile crept upon his otherwise stern face. Harry and Ron merely stared in awe, struck by his resemblance to their headmaster. Nova watched their reactions with absolute glee. Apparently, her mother and Albus Dumbledore had never filled in her supposed cover-father about his having a daughter until the chaos of the war died down. According to the Black matriarch, Aberforth thought they were all crazy and demanded they stay out of his life, and in return, he wouldn't go around contradicting their story. When Nova heard the truth of her mother's past, it all suddenly made sense. It made sense that her own grandfather wanted nothing to do with their family when their great uncle was such a pleasant presence in their lives. However, Nova had changed that. Since the beginning of this year, she'd been using her Hogsmeade visits to visit Aberforth and wear him down. Eventually, even he succumbed to the charms of the adorable and persistent girl.

They all sank into an empty table as Aberforth levitated over butterbeers for all of them. Nova had to admit, she was glad she could convince her Gryffindor friends to join her here. Sitting together in the Three Broomsticks would've been awkward with the rest of the school looking on. When they were by themselves, it was easier to forget the centuries of inter-house animosity.

They'd just started to relax when the door to the pub opened again. Everyone, including Aberforth himself, seemed surprised to have more customers in one day. When a head of bright blonde hair poked into the room, Hermione sat up straighter.

Malfoy walked in as if he owned the place, greeting Aberforth with an easy demeanor that indicated he'd been here before. Nova's relaxed stature told Hermione she wasn't surprised to see him here. Perhaps it was Nova who showed him this pub. Hermione, however, was as stiff as a board as Malfoy walked over to their table flanked by Theo Nott and Blaise Zabini.

"Abandoning us for the lions?" Malfoy asked Nova with a mock chiding voice.

"How do you stand them?" Blaise rolled his eyes dramatically, though his smile indicated he was joking.

"Draco," Harry smiled, slightly befuddled. The Slytherins never typically approached the Gryffindors under friendly pretenses. "Would you all like to join us?"

No, no, no, no- Hermione chanted internally.

"Yes, I think we will," Malfoy smirked.

"Helloooo Granger," Theo drawled, pulling up a chair right next to her.

The dark-haired boy with sharp features grinned at her smugly. She felt more than heard someone hit the leg of Nott's chair and saw the warning glare Malfoy aimed at him.

"Nott," Hermione nodded cordially.

"I'm surprised they managed to drag you out here, Granger," Blaise spoke up. "We all thought you'd lock yourself in the library until OWLs were over."

Hermione blushed, though she tilted her head with pride. "I would have, but someone dragged me out against my will," she glanced pointedly at Ron. He merely shrugged as if to say, it was for your own good!

"Good thing too," Nott said seriously. "Draco here has been losing sleep to the books trying to beat your scores."

"In your dreams, Malfoy."

Blaise snickered. "As if you're not already in them."

Nova laughed aloud, finally unable to restrain the chuckles she'd been holding back since they first arrived. Zabini let out a loud yelp, clutching his foot in pain as he glared at Malfoy. The blonde wizard stared sat there calmly with a disinterested mask on his face.

Oh, dear.

Things always got interesting when the Slytherins and Gryffindors were thrown in each other's paths. The first and last time it had happened was last year during the Yule Ball. Hermione had attended with one of the Triwizard Champions, Victor Krum. The entire night Ron and Harry practically drooled in jealousy, with Ron reminding her numerous times to get him an autograph from Victor.

Things hadn't gotten weird until halfway through the ball when Victor went to get them drinks. When Hermione waited along the edges of the Great Hall for her date to return, she noticed the same group of Slytherins all staring at her. Nova sat at the table a few tables down from her, and Malfoy leaned against the table. She looked bored yet slightly amused, glancing at Hermione periodically. Malfoy has his hands buried in his pockets as he stared in her direction. She hadn't even noticed them until she noticed Zabini and Nott pushing Malfoy off the table and towards her. When the group realized Hermione had noticed their stares, Zabini and Nott immediately withdrew their hands innocently. Nova rolled her eyes, jerking her head towards Hermione. Malfoy finally seemed to let out a deep sigh before pushing himself off the table, approaching her.

"Granger," he bowed at a shallow angle with the utmost etiquette. "May I have this dance?"

Hermione could only stare, absolutely dumbfounded. When he quirked an eyebrow in question yet again, she hastened to answer, "Yes, sure."

They hadn't talked the entire dance, despite the plethora of questions swimming through Hermione's mind. The moment they stepped on the dance floor, he'd took control and led her across the floor as if he'd been born to dance. Then again, knowing the reputation of the Malfoys, he probably had been doing this since birth. He didn't look down at their feet like Ron had. He didn't stumble over the steps like Harry occasionally did. And while Victor had been a lovely date, Malfoy didn't tug her around as he led, unlike Victor. Instead, he pulled her close with quiet confidence, guiding her through the motions of the waltz with ease and precision. There was enough space between them to be completely appropriate. But his eyes had locked onto hers the moment she placed her hand on his shoulder, and she'd been ensnared by the mesmerizing grey orbs until the very end of the dance.

She'd been grateful that Victor had found her right as the dance ended, unable to comprehend how to even begin a conversation with Malfoy. They hadn't spoken, but so much was said that she had no idea how to interpret.

The next day, it was as if nothing happened. She'd glance at the Slytherin table occasionally, and even less occasionally, she'd see either Zabini or Nott glance away quickly. But Malfoy was remarkably efficient at feigning ignorance.

"So boys," Nova chirped up with amusement, finally deigning to help Draco out. "What's everyone's plans for the summer?"

The Weasleys were planning to visit Charlie out in Romania. Zabini was headed to his family home in Italy. Nott and Harry both indicated they'd still be in the country. Nova had indicated her parents were too busy to travel this summer as well, though she hoped to barter permission to visit friends often. Malfoy mentioned that his family would be staying in Paris for a while because Fabian received a temporary diplomatic mission in France.

"My family travels to France every year," Hermione spoke up quietly. "But I think we're doing Nantes this year."

"My family has a chateau near there," Malfoy responded with a slow smile. "In Loire Valley."

"You should definitely show Hermione your family estate," Nova interrupted enthusiastically. "She loves the history behind the old towns and estates. Honestly. She'd probably kiss you if you took her around the area."

Hermione glared at Nova, blood rushing to her cheeks.

"Yeah, I could do that, Granger," Malfoy smirked. "Show you the chateau, that is."

Hermione cleared her throat firmly. "I might take you up on that, Malfoy."

"Well, boys," Nova clapped her hands, looking between Harry and Theo. "Looks like we'll have to find something to keep us busy this summer."

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"How did this happen?" Sirius asked incredulously.

"We don't know," Gideon shook his head, the exhaustion apparent on his face.

"They weren't up for parole for at least another decade, but the hearings were moved up without warning." Fabian supplied. "For all intents and purposes, they are technically, legally free men."

"How many?"

"Five," Gideon said grimly. "Rossier, the Lestrange brothers, Karkaroff, and Dolohov."

"Is this just a glitch? Or is there something more insidious happening here?" Sirius paced in sheer frustration.

Fabian fixed him with a steely stare. "I don't believe in coincidences anymore."

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