There are no words or excuses I can offer other than sorry, thank you for sticking with this story and I hope you can forgive me.
Chapter Thirty Five Plan
A regal black owl began its decent from the heavens as it passed through the wards of the imposing manor. As the bird got closer it noticed an unusual amount of activity from the opposite side of the house it would normally deliver its post to. Deciding that the urgency of its missive warranted the unusual, the owl followed the steady stream of birds swopping through two large widows and into a crowded chaotic room. The owl had to dodge a tall dark haired man who had been staring out the window, causing it to circle the room before it located its recipient.
Two blonde haired males stood over piles of parchment on a wide desk at the centre of the room as the various owls coming into the office added more for them to review and consider. At one end of the room two small children were laughing with a house elf that was making their toys fly, while at the other an entire wall had been transformed into a board more fitting a war room. The mixed group of adults standing before the wall were speaking over each other as they moved bits of information from one side to another.
The regal owl gracefully landed before the two blonde males and hooted to get their attention. When the older of the two looked up the owl held out its leg and the man removed the note. As Lucius reviewed the missive, Draco waved the owl to the bowl of treats that had been left at one end of the table before it took off.
"She can't just be a model. No offense Hermione, you know I would love to see you promote my designs but we know what the Ministry is like. They will argue that such a lifestyle is unsuitable for a young mother and use it against her." Sirius walked over to the group as Astoria explained her reasoning for removing model from the 'possibility' column of the board.
The 'possibility' list had originally looked endless when they first started the board in the early hours of the morning but as the day went on and the more information they gathered, the options began to dwindle.
Sirius was exhausted but wouldn't dare to suggest they take a break as everyone, including himself, were desperate to ensure they come up with a plan to keep Hermione and Ted together. As Sirius thought over the last number of hours, he was reminded just how loved Hermione and Ted are.
After Hermione exhausted herself crying over the Ministry's notice for her hearing, Sirius carried the young woman to her bed. Making sure she was as comfortable as she could be, Sirius placed an alarm over Hermione and Ted's rooms before he duplicated the Ministry's note and jumped into the floo. Uncaring of the hour, Sirius quickly summoned Lucius and Draco to show them the note. The look of anger that both Malfoy's shared would have made even the Dark Lord himself pause. Almost immediately both men were moving as Sirius tried to keep up.
Draco called for Missy and instructed her to let both Astoria and Narcissa know what was happening before he followed his father into a large study. Lucius had already commandeered the largest table in the room and was pulling out pieces of parchment as he began to draft various letters. Draco walked over to the furthest wall while waving his wand The wall was instantly cleared before being split into various columns that read 'possibility', 'witnesses', 'requirements' and 'challenges'.
As Sirius slowly walked over to the wall, Draco was mumbling to himself as he continued to wave his wand. 'Writer, journalist, Gringotts, professor, model, photographer and sales' soon appeared under 'possibility' while all their names were added under 'witnesses'.
Under the 'requirements' section 'job, martial status, home, clothes, education, food and protection' appeared. Draco had explained that under the War Adoption regulation certain requirements and targets had to be continuously met. The fact Hermione had lost her job, the main source of her income, automatically put her adoption at risk no matter how many years later it was as she could arguably no longer properly care for Ted. An idea that simply made Draco scoff.
Under 'challenges', 'reputation, Chosen One, Ministry influence, single, support network and unemployed' slowly appeared. Before Sirius could comment, Lucius summoned Missy to deliver a number of letters.
"Who are you writing to at this hour?" Sirius had asked, unable to stay quiet any longer.
"Everyone" had been Lucius simple reply.
It certainly had seemed like everyone by the time Sirius had returned to the manor later with an awake Hermione and Ted. Astoria and Narcissa had been joining the men when Sirius had felt the alarm he had placed over Ted's room go off and when they returned the room was full of both people and owls coming and going. Bill Weasley stood in a corner with Draco, Hannah and a dark skinned man. Fleur, despite being heavily pregnant, was carrying Victorie as she spoke with Astoria and another heavily pregnant woman who could only be Astoria's older sister Daphne.
When Hermione and Ted arrived the conversation paused before everyone swarmed them. The women all exchanged words of comfort and promise as they hugged Hermione as Missy was instructed to entertain Ted and Victorie. Sirius was then officially introduced to Blaise and Daphne Zabini before Lucius explained to Hermione what was going on.
As Lucius explained the various contacts he had reached out to and what everyone had done so far, Hermione was deeply touched but terrified at the uphill battle they had before them. Draco explained that they were just going to take it one step at a time and focus on what they knew so far.
"We can officially include the full Hogwarts staff to the list of 'witnesses', including old Slughorn" Draco called out as he read the various letters of outrage and support from Headmistress McGonagall, Professors Longbottom, Flitwick, Hagrid and others. Astoria smiled at her fiancee as she placed the names on the board.
"With all the staff, this witness list is looking pretty impressive." Astoria said proudly as she looked over to Hermione with a confident smile. Hermione tried to return the smile but it was shaky.
"It still has an alarming number of Slytherin's though, not sure how the Ministry will feel about that." Blaise pointed out as he waved his wand to highlight the individuals in their house colors.
"Ze Ministry needs to grow up, a number of their Heads are Slytherin as they are so ambitious. Ze main issue is ze employment non?" Fleur asked as she sat down in a cushioned chair near the wall. "Draco you said 'ermione has enough money to keep er and Ted comfortable for months but ze Ministry will not care, why?"
Sirius looked over at the young Malfoy too at this. From his years in the Magical Law Enforcement he had the best insight into how the Ministry was likely to build and present their case for removing Ted. Draco still couldn't believe this was happening and had been trying to get in touch with Kingsley for the last number of hours.
"The Ministry will likely argue that Hermione can't rely on her savings forever as they would eventually run out. They may even try to take back her Order of Merlin money though the bad press and impact on that would likely not be worth the headache. The other argument that could be made is that by not having a job she is setting an unreliable and bad image for Ted." At this Fleur said something sharp in French before shaking her head. Bill winced at his wife's words though perfectly understood her frustration. When they joined the 'war room' earlier they had noted that Gringotts had been listed under the 'possibility' coloum. As much as they would happily have Hermione work with them at Gringotts both knew it would be impossible after the war. The Goblins were just about letting Hermione enter the bank to handle her vault so there was no way they would ever allow her to work there.
"There are her lotions and creams that she sells at the boutique, though part of their appeal and charm is that no one knows who the creator is." Astoria pointed out to the others. Apparently the white jars that were very popular with the witches in Astoria's shop the other day were massive sellers and mainly Hermione's creation. Hermione had noted though that sales were likely to take a hit once it came out that she made them. Astoria and Daphne had tried to reassure her that the dip would be small and temporary as too many witches relied on the products.
"We will definitely include it but its an easy enough argument for them to make that it is an unreliable source of income." Draco pointed out as Lucius handed him the note he had received from the regal looking owl.
"Hogwarts is still going to use the books Hermione helped co-author so there will continue to be income from them. You can also be a freelance journalist with me or the Quibbler if it came to it?" Daphne asked as the list of possibilities continued to get smaller. "Or maybe just marry rich?"
At the throw away suggestion the room went silent, so silent even the children looked over. Hermione waved over to the kids before swiftly placing a muffliato over the children.
"That's not funny Daphne. This is not the time for making jokes." Astoria shushed her sister.
"I wasn't really joking, having a rich husband would certainly help with nearly all the requirements. Hermione and Ted would have their home, protection, income and, depending on who the lucky man was, reputation." Daphne pointed out as she too sat down in a cushioned chair, gently rubbing her expanding bump. The others all carefully thought over her words, the crazy idea looking less and less crazy the more they thought of it.
"Hmm if reputation wasn't an issue I would say she could marry Draco, the wedding is already all planned and we could lie and say they had been in love with each other for years to make it seem more natural rather than a way to keep Ted." Astoria said as she thought over what her older sister had suggested. Draco and Hermione both looked over at Astoria in shock and horror.
"Oh Hermione, Draco love I know thats no true, as does everyone in this room but we have to do something. We can't allow that wonderful precious boy be taken from our family." Astora said softly as she walked over to Hermione and squeezed her hand. Narcissa and Lucius were looking at their future daughter in law with respect and awe, while Draco and Hermione shared a look.
Hermione swallowed the lump in her throat as she squeezed Astoria's hand.
"As much as you may want me to take the ferret off your hands I think the story of us lying and cheating behind your back for so many years would automatically ruin any good standing having a rich husband would have." Hermione said softly as she pushed Astoria towards her best friend who was deeply torn over the suggestion.
"Well thankfully, Draco is not the only rich batchelor we know. As of yesterday morning, Sirius inherited a sizable portion of the Black family estate and will soon be reappointed Head of the Black family house." Narcissa said proudly as everyone turned to Sirius. Different voices were instandly speaking over the other with words Sirius couldn't hear or understand. From the moment Narcissa began speaking the only thing Sirius could see and focus on was Hermione. Hermione, who like him, appeared both terrified and hopeful of the suggested plan.