Personal Note: There's really no easy way to say this... my grams (grandpop's widow) passed away the last week of October. The hospital allowed us in, under strict protocols, to say good-bye to her. For whatever reason, my grandmother's death hit me harder than Grandpop's. Maybe because we actually got to see her? Maybe because our relationship had been strained, prior to COVID? So... yeah.

Authorial Note: Auntie_L, who is an utter and complete angel, beta'd this chapter for me. Any mistakes are, of course, my fault because she is all that is perfection.

Chapter 10- In Which Draco and Hermione Strike an Accord

When Hermione stumbled down to the kitchen the next morning, Draco was already sitting at the kitchen table, poking morosely at the plate of food in front of him. He looked up as Hermione entered the room and his shoulders slumped.

"So," he began slowly, drawing the word out. "You met with Father." His lips pressed together tightly. "It did not go well."

"Harry told you," Hermione sighed. A delicate flush spread over Draco's pale cheeks. "It's fine, Draco. I rather expected he would. You two are as thick as thieves lately. No, it did not go well."

The flush grew darker.

"You're my sister," Draco said flatly. "I'm not… I want to get to know you. I want this to work." He poked at his eggs with his fork. "If our parents can manage not to fuck it all up."

Carefully, Hermione sat down next to Draco. She watched him tear a slice of toast into small pieces and reached out to put her hand on his. He stilled completely, and she stared at her lap.

"Whatever my relationship is with… with them, has no bearing on my relationship with you," Hermione said quietly. "We will make our mistakes and have our own fights, I'm sure. I suppose I could have kept my temper better."

"Maybe," Draco muttered and rolled his eyes. "But you forget that I grew up with him, and I went to school with you. I know exactly what Father is like and I know exactly what you are like. I knew this would be… how is this going to work, Hermione? How can you promise that our relationship won't be strained because Father is… Father?"

"Harry's family is utterly wretched. We just avoid them at all costs," Hermione said with a little shrug.

"Dudley's not bad," Harry offered as he walked into the kitchen. He dropped a kiss on the top of Hermione's head and moved to the cooling cabinet. "You want anything, love?"

"Just tea and toast," Hermione muttered. Harry turned to frown at her and she frowned back at him. "I didn't sleep well," she admitted reluctantly.

"Because of Father," Draco guessed.

"Because of everything, really," Hermione countered. She turned her seat to face Draco and gave him a falsely bright smile. "What was your education like before you went to Hogwarts?"

"Private tutors," Draco replied automatically, blinking at the sudden change in Hermione's temperament. "Grandmother Black taught me to play the violin and the piano passably. Grandfather Malfoy allowed Father to give me lessons in estate management. Mother taught me German and Italian."

"Sounds swell," Harry muttered from inside the cooling cabinet.

"I suppose it's to be expected," Hermione murmured. She chewed on her lower lip for a moment. "Your lot don't really have anything like Hogwarts for younger children?"

"No one would be willing to let their child leave home that early," Draco said with a shake of his head.

"I meant more of a day school that children might attend to prepare them for Hogwarts," Hermione explained. Draco stared at her for a long moment.

"No, we have nothing like that," he replied.

"Interesting," Hermione murmured. She glanced at Harry. "I'm going to assume that you did not attend a pre-preparatory school before Hogwarts."

Harry snorted and put the kettle on. "Merlin, no. Can you imagine the Dursleys forking it over for me to attend Ludgrove?"

A flush spread over Hermione's cheeks. Draco turned to look at Harry, who was smirking at Hermione.

"What is it?" Draco asked.

"Go on then," Harry said and crossed his arms over his chest. "Where did you go?"

"Godstowe," Hermione muttered. Harry's eyebrows flew up.

"I was joking," he sputtered.

"What does that mean?" Draco demanded impatiently.

"Godstowe is a school that prepares students to attend some of the finest public schools in the UK," Hermione explained.

"It's one of the best," Harry added, eyeing Hermione thoughtfully. "Hideously expensive. Very posh. You never mentioned it."

"No one at Hogwarts would have known what it was," Hermione huffed at him.

"Finch-Fletchley would have known," Harry retorted. "That's an Eton sort of name if ever there was one."

"His father went," Hermione agreed. "They weren't well-pleased to have Justin be the first Finch-Fletchley in five hundred years not to attend."

"Speak to Justin often, do you?" Harry teased Hermione.

"I reached out to as many Muggleborn students as I could, after the war," Hermione said quietly. "I wanted to know how many of us… I needed to know."

The smile slipped from Harry's face. "Hermione," he whispered.

"Later, when I knew what I wanted to do, I asked them what their pre-Hogwarts education had been like," Hermione continued, avoiding eye contact with both Draco and Harry. "I've asked as many people as I could, actually. Did you know that the Weasley family's situation was fairly unusual, even for poorer pureblood families?"

"Unusual in what way?" Harry asked curiously.

"Mrs. Weasley taught all of her children by herself," Hermione reminded him. Draco's mouth dropped open in surprise.

"Truly?" Draco asked. Hermione nodded.

"How is that unusual?" Harry looked from Draco to Hermione.

"Most wizarding families are like the Malfoy family, even if they are poor or without influence, they are related to a number of other families. Many parents will ask an aunt, an uncle, or a grandparent to help tutor in their specific field," Hermione explained. "They're all so intertwined that even half-blood families can ask for help among their extended relatives."

"I took lessons from my grandmother Black with Vince when we were small," Draco offered. When Hermione and Harry both looked at him, he elaborated, "Her maiden name was Crabbe."

"That was my understanding as well," Hermione said with a nod. "There will be one relative giving specific lessons to a number of children."

"What is it that you want to do, Hermione?" Harry asked bluntly.

"I'm going to convince Draco to help me find the largest, most ridiculous piece of property we own, and we're going to turn it into a day school that will prepare children for Hogwarts," Hermione explained. She frowned at Draco. "I would have thought that was obvious."

"Hermione," Draco said slowly. He paused and stared at her with an unreadable expression.

"Draco?" She prompted him.

"You do realize that it will be impossible to convince purebloods to allow their children to go this day school," Draco pointed out. "Change moves slowly in the wizarding world and even slower in pureblood circles."

"We won't be targeting pureblood students," Hermione said with a slight smirk. She glanced at Harry. "We're going to recruit heavily among Muggleborn and half-blood families."

"Because they'll understand what a pre-preparatory school is," Harry murmured, nodding to himself.

"I know that the Obliviation Squads work mostly with small children and accidental magic," Hermione stated.

"And the occasional issue when there's a large-scale event like the World Cup," Draco added. Hermione shrugged.

"True, but I'm focusing on the accidental magic. What if we didn't Obliviate the parents or the child? What if we brought them in to the magical world early?" Hermione suggested, her eyes shining with excitement. "What if we taught them basic wizarding culture and got them started on Latin, in addition to their primary classes?"

"You'll need to offer dancing and music if you want them to fit in," Draco offered.

"Intra-mural Quidditch," Harry said with a grin at Draco.

"Yes, yes, all of that can be figured out once we have a plan and a building," Hermione huffed, waving her hands at both wizards. She turned her attention to Draco. "Do the magical children and the parents have to be Obliviated? Is it wizarding law?"

"Not exactly," Draco said thoughtfully. He sucked on his lower lip for a moment while he thought. "The Statute of Secrecy merely says that we need to keep the secret of magic. The Obliviation Squads were the Ministry of Magic's answer to that."

"So it might be possible to have the Obliviation Squads give them a little speech and hand out pamphlets for our school rather than Obliviate everyone?" Hermione pressed eagerly.

"I… yeah," Draco agreed after a moment. He glanced at Harry and frowned. "You'd have to get them to agree to it. Who's the director of the Obliviator Headquarters right now?"

"One of yours," Harry replied. He rubbed at his chin. "Pucey, I think?"

"Oh for the love of… it's Terrence Higgs, Draco," Hermione huffed.

"Higgs was alright," Draco allowed. He sat back in his chair and stared at the pile of toast pieces on his plate. "He wasn't… I think he'd work with you."

"But would he work with you?" Hermione asked carefully. She tilted her head, considering Draco for a moment. "Are you willing to help me this much?"

"What… backdoor dealings and handshake agreements and whatnot?" Draco countered, raising one pale blond brow. Hermione nodded and he smirked at her. "You are such a Malfoy."

Hermione wrinkled her nose in displeasure. "It isn't as though there is anyway to do what we need to do through proper channels of government," she scoffed. "There are no proper channels for what we're trying to accomplish. There are no laws governing what happens to Muggleborn witches or wizards until they enter Hogwarts, let alone any kind of infrastructure to support their transition into wizarding society."

"No, there really aren't," Draco agreed reluctantly. "The only laws that we did have were associated with the Muggleborn Registry and your lot made sure that those were all completely dismantled."

"So there's nothing stopping us from trying to help Muggleborn and half-blood witches and wizards," Harry mused aloud. He sat down across from Hermione and Draco and held a mug of tea between his hands. He sipped at his tea thoughtfully. "This is… this is big, Hermione. It's going to take a lot to pull off."

"I know," Hermione agreed. "Which is why I am asking the two of you for help."

"I can see how Draco could help you," Harry said slowly. He lifted a hand and gestured in Draco's direction. "He knows how everything works and he's got the name and the money, but how can I help you do anything?"

"You are right that Draco's got the name," Hermione replied. She grimaced and shrugged. "So have I, for that matter, but I don't want 'Malfoy' plastered all over this project. I don't even want to rely on the name of 'Black' even though Great-grandfather Marius and Grandmère have both offered."

"Why not?" Harry asked with a frown.

"Harry, darling," Hermione sighed at him with a fond smile.

"You don't want to give the Malfoy family credit," Draco guessed.

"I don't want it to appear to be an act of noblesse oblige on the part of pureblood families. It will only perpetuate the system that we're trying to dismantle," Hermione amended and quirked an eyebrow at her brother. She turned to Harry. "That's why I'd like to use your family's name, if you'll allow it."

"Potter? His name is just as well known as ours, if not more so, and that was before Voldemort," Draco scoffed incredulously.

"Not Potter," Hermione countered with a roll of her eyes. She looked at Harry and bit her lip. "What about the 'Lily Evans School for the Gifted'?"

Harry blinked at her. "You want to name it after my mum?"

"I want to name it after an incredible Muggleborn witch who fought valiantly in the first Wizarding War," Hermione said gently. "I think it's important that the contributions of our Muggleborn witches and wizards are remembered."

"Hermione," Harry breathed out her name.

"Is that okay?" Hermione pressed cautiously. "If you'd rather that I not, then I'm sure I could think of something—"

Whatever compromise Hermione might have offered was cut off when Harry wrapped an arm around her neck and pulled her against his chest.

"That sounds good," Harry muttered into her shoulder. "I—the Lily Evans School for the Gifted—" He gave a watery chuckle. "Yeah, okay."

"Isn't that dangerous?" Draco asked worriedly. "Calling it a school for the gifted? The Statute of Secrecy…" he trailed off into silence.

She cleared her throat and glanced at Draco. "Gifted is a term that Muggles use to describe particularly clever children. Among Muggles it would have no connection to magic, witches, or wizards. It would not seem odd to the parents of Muggleborn witches and wizards, and it's something they could actually tell other parents about."

Harry snorted and shook his head. "It sure beats St. Brutus'." Hermione's nose wrinkled in confusion and Harry frowned at her. "Where did your parents tell people you were going?"

"A boarding school in France," Hermione replied drily.

"Wait." Harry sat up straight and stared at Hermione. "What if you expanded to squib children? I mean, what if you created a presence for this school in the Muggle world."

"We wouldn't be able to accept regular Muggle students," Hermione protested. She paused and bit her lip thoughtfully. "Well, maybe the siblings of Muggleborn students… like your Aunt Petunia. Do you think it would have helped?"

"I don't know," Harry replied honestly. "It's possible, I suppose?"

"If you opened a school and only accepted a very small number of students, it would create a sense of exclusivity that might help the squib children and the siblings of the Muggleborn as they made their way in the Muggle world," Draco pointed out.

"It could," Hermione agreed. "I suppose we could organize a magical side and a Muggle side with support and counseling for both sides. We could explain career tracks and find a way to arrange for internships."

"Let's pull the property deeds," Draco sighed. "We can look through them and find you something useful, but… Hermione. You're going to need help."

"I know," Hermione agreed. A sharp smile showing far too many teeth spread over her face. "That's why I have you, brother dear."