Snowden-esque scandals at the Ministry of Magic (and Ron and Hermione got a divorce).
Editor's Note: After this weekend's shocking news that J.K. Rowling thought it was a mistake to have Hermione end up with Ron in the Harry Potter books, Dan Drezner begged us to publish this excerpt from his forthcoming fanfic novel, Eat, Cast, Love. We have reluctantly acceded to his request.
It was in the middle of the "Why Women Wizards Can't Have It All" seminar that Hermione Granger (it had been Hermione Weasley for nearly 20 years, but she'd opted for her maiden name after the divorce) felt a strong hankering for the libations at The Three Broomsticks. Six months ago, when she'd signed up, the idea of attending these seminars at her 25th Hogwarts reunion sounded wonderful. They certainly seemed like they would come as a welcome respite from her day job at a "special unit" of the Ministry of Magic.
That was the old Hermione, though... the one who believed she'd married the right man. The past six months had been more disorienting than a portkey trip. Ron had been talking about "finding himself" for a while. When Weasley's Wizard Wheezes had their IPO and George's bank accounts at Gringotts swelled, Ron went into a tailspin. He started talking more about his glory days playing Quidditch and trying on his old Gryffindor uniform. One day he just disapparated without a word, without a note. He'd now been gone for longer than when they were searching for the Hallows. Hermione had gone ahead and filed for divorce, but she felt just as uncertain about the future now as she had then.
In those moments when she did not want to curse Ron into a stint at Azkaban, Hermione acknowledged that Ron was only partly responsible for their drifting apart. The kids had been a typical stressor, but it was her Auror job at the Ministry of Magic that had become a very atypical source of strain. When Hermione took her Unbreakable Vow to join the new MAGICOM unit, she thought it would be an opportunity to do well and to do good. Foiling threats and plots to the world of wizards was exactly what she wanted to do after all of her kids started Hogwarts. Only after she realized MAGICOM's true goals did the Unbreakable Vow feel like a straightjacket. Ron would ask her to talk about it, and she literally could not.
Losing Ron was bad enough... but coping with the media firestorm that followed their split was worse than the Cruciatus curse. Of course Rita Skeeter published a tawdry story in the Daily Prophet about their separation. The only fact Skeeter got right in that story was Ron's disapparation. The rest of it was filled out with baseless speculation that Ron had run away with Gabrielle Delacour and that, absurdly, Hermione was seeking comfort in the arms of Harry Potter. That sort of tripe she could deal with. After all, she'd been dealing with it since their fourth year at Hogwarts when the school famously hosted the Triwizard Tournament. But, it was when Luna Lovegood published the "Weasley Letters" in the Quibbler that things got really bad. Someone on Lovegood's staff had gotten a hold of the letters Ron had written to his family over the years, and published them on the online version of the Quibbler (now called thelovegoodletters.com). Luna pulled them once she heard about it, and blamed the mess on an intern, but the damage was done. Ron's misspelled, grammatically foul prose nevertheless painted an unflattering picture of Hermione: always harping on him to take a more active role in the children's lives, long nights she had to spend at work, etc. After a decade of striving, of "leaning in" with her wand at the Ministry of Magic, Hermione found herself treated as a cliché by friends and enemies alike in the mainstream wizard media.
The reunion itself proved to be as painful as she'd feared. Out of loyalty to Ginny, Harry had decided not to come. Around every corner of Hogwarts, she could hear the whisperings: "Did you hear about them?" and "Who has custody of the children?" and "No, I hear the Potters went to America for the year to get away from the mess." Indeed, while most classmates at least feigned sympathy, quite a few blamed her for Harry Potter's absence. The only people being nice to her were her old classmates who had been Slytherins. Draco Malfoy, clearly overjoyed at not having to deal with either Harry or Ron, had even put his arm around Hermione and suggested she be granted honorary Slytherin House membership. When Dolores Umbridge started explaining that women simply couldn't attain both high rank and happiness at home that Hermione knew she had to make a beeline for Hogsmeade.
By her fifth butterbeer, Hermione had lapsed into total self-pity. How did the valedictorian of her Hogwarts class wind up a separated mother of two, stuck in a horrible, officious job, with nary a fun spell cast in nearly a year? As much as she wished otherwise, the answer was not to be found at the bottom of her frosted butterbeer mug. Clearly, she'd made some wrong choices in her life. Worse, the wrong choices at home were causing her to procrastinate the hard choices she was putting off at work.
"Hermione? Is that you? You haven't aged a day!"
She looked up to see Neville Longbottom, now Professor of Herbology at Hogwarts, gazing down at her with a kindly face.
"Neville! How are you doing?! Can I buy you a drink?" she blurted out before realizing that he already had a glass of pumpkin juice.
"How about I buy you a drink instead?" He said. "Perhaps some tea?"
Within minutes, they had moved past the awkward pleasantries to some actual conversation. Actually, Hermione did most of the talking.
"What did I ever see in him? Sure, he could be decent at times, but we're not exactly talking about a real go-getter, you know what I mean? He would be happy about every promotion I got at work, or any prize the kids won, but he was still so detached. The only time he got really animated was talking about Quidditch... or Harry. Seriously, I felt like I was married to a Judd Apatow character."
Neville spit out his pumpkin juice, and Hermione laughed for the first time in weeks. But her smile quickly faded. The catharsis of talking about her personal life had merely exposed the other problems that had weighed on her for months.
She looked at Neville intently, feeling as sober as she had ever felt in her life. "I'm an Auror, Neville, but at this point, I feel like my full-time job is being a keeper of secrets, Neville. You have no idea what the Ministry of Magic's surveillance capabilities really are. I can't tell you the really bad stuff -- Unbreakable Vow and all -- but even the minor stuff is bad. Do you know they're spying on Muggles?!"
"But that's not allowed!" Neville said, looking aghast. "We have to do something!!"
Hermione hadn't seen him that passionate since the Battle of Hogwarts. She'd never realized how tall Neville was before....
TO BE CONTINUED.....
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