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Part 1: Training Wheels
Hermione was pissed. Her colleagues swerved to avoid the angry witch, muttering furiously to herself as the stalked to the lifts. Her meeting had been a complete and utter disaster, everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong and it was all Draco Malfoy's fault. Not only had he arrived nearly half an hour late without so much as an excuses, but when the meeting finally got on, he interrupted her speech several times, he made fun of her charts and lists, he viciously criticized her every point and the worst part was he nothing but professional and so bloody polite. Draco Malfoy had singlehandedly ruined her presentation, he made her look like a fool in front of several department Heads and the Properties and Assets Bureau representative at a meeting that took months to coordinate. It had taken her nearly three months for the Ministry to grant her the time and an audience with whom to plead her case and another two weeks to get them to actually meet.
When the lifts arrived, with the exception of the attendant, they were empty and for that she was grateful. She stepped in and gruffly requested to be taken down to the basement level.
He was an ungrateful, conniving, sarcastic bastard. After everything they had been through, he turned around stabbed her in the back. She chastised herself for not seeing it. Stupid her for thinking him anything but a slimy, little ferret. She was going to give Draco Malfoy a piece of her mind.
Nearly four years ago, she had hesitantly extended an olive branch to Draco Malfoy when he had come to work at the Ministry with the suspicious title of Deputy Head of the Department of Mysteries. At first, when she spoke to him, she only received curt nods, blank stares and - on good days - one word answers. For the first six months, he spoke to no one - not that anyone tried - but his superiors and his secretary, and even then, it was only when addressed, directly. It wasn't until half-way through his second year when the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures was alerted to rapid disappearance of Unicorns and rumours of an underground centre where they were being kept captive for breeding and the exploitation of their hair, skin, horns and blood, that they were thrown together.
Their success on that one case caused their paths to cross a lot more often. Unless he was presenting proposals and arguments, he still didn't talk much, he preferred to 'stand back and observe'. That's what he said, but that didn't stop Hermione from talking to him. Most of the time, she preferred it that way, she could go to him to rant, rave, complain and vent, and he'd let her. He wouldn't utter a single word until she 'calmed enough to see reason' as he put.
They weren't friends per se, but they had lunch together at least once a week. They'd often call on each other when they needed back up in the bigger, more daunting, make or break meetings; the ones with all the board members, chairmen, international representatives and even the Minster himself. When they talked about things that were unrelated to work, the topics were superficial, neither wanting to delve too deep.
Due to their individual workloads, often times they would be the last ones to leave the Ministry. He would come up to her department when he was on his way out to insult and annoy her until she got too frustrated to work and was forced to pack up for the night. They would silently make their way down the atrium and through the doors where he would turn and say 'Goodnight, Granger' and disapparate. And even though he wasn't there to hear, she'd reply with an even 'You, too, Malfoy.'
They had developed a decent work relationship, she thought.
Until he went and turned against her.
When the lifts opened she was greeted by the dark, empty halls of the Department of Mysteries and the click of her heels echoed as she made her way through the maze of corridors. After heading straight down the main corridor, taking one left, two rights and another left, she found her destination. She stepped into the waiting room and was about to make a beeline for the large, dark door with gold plate that read 'Deputy Head of the Department of Mysteries - Draco L. Malfoy' at the end when a woman - his secretary- cleared her throat.
"Where is he?"
She took a calming breath before speaking, "Malfoy. Where is he? I'd like to see him. Now."
"I'm sure you would, but you have to make an appointment, Miss Granger," she snipped, " just like every one else."
"Why? I know for a fact that he's free right now."
"That's not the poi-"
"Granger," his stern voice cut in, " I thought I heard you out here. Antagonising my secretary, again, I see."
She spun on her toes to face him. "You! You little-"
"Maybe," he said stepping aside, "we should take this inside." She glared at the secretary before stormed past, making sure to shove her shoulder into him.
He barely had time to put um privacy charms before she rounded on him.
"I can't believe you," she roared," you practically threw me under the bus!"
"I did no su-"
"Yes, you did! Cut the bull, Malfoy!"
"If you would si-"
"No, I will not sit! You probably poisoned the chair so I'd -"
"Poisoned the chair?" he repeated, clearly amused, "Granger that's ridiculous, how would I even go about doi-?"
"I don't know, but you would figure it out! A poisoned chair, it would be perfect! No one would suspect that!"
"No, you listen here, Malfoy."
He gave up, then, deciding to let her get all out before he put in his piece. He'd never get a word in, not with her in this state. He sat back in his high-backed leather chair, which was far more comfortable that it looked, and watched and listened. She was in full rant mode now, talking about things of which he knew nothing, talking about loyalty and trust and all that tripe; switching from insulting him to cursing the Bureau rep who was half asleep the whole time to complaining about her un-supportive boss. He was sure she'd mumbled 'ferret' under her breath on more than one occasion as she went on and on and on, but he let it go.
"ONE vote, Malfoy," she sighed, finally before she collapsed into the allegedly poisoned chair, "that's all I needed!"
"I know," he acknowledged quietly.
"Then why didn't you give me?"
"It was 7-7, if you had voted for me, it would have gone through, but now it has to go through a deliberator! Do have any idea how long that will take?" She sank further into the chair.
After a few moments of silence, when he was sure she wasn't going to interrupted, he said, "I did vote for you."
"What?" she sat straight up and glowered at him, "No, you didn't!"
"Yes, I did."
"No. You didn't"
"Yes, I did. I wasn't the one who balanced the scales."
"Well, if you really did voted for me, then why were you antagonising me the entire time?!"
"I wasn't antag-"
"Really? Are you sure about that? Because you didn't miss any opportunity to point out every single supposed flaw in my proposal!"
"I only pointed out what was there, Granger."
"Fine, let's assume there were discrepancies," she acquiesced, "you made fun of my charts, Malfoy. My bloody charts! Was that necessary?"
"Okay, well, maybe not," he said, slowly, eyeing her slumped form, "but you have to admit, red against an orange background is not fun to look at."
She let out a shriek, sprang from her seat and lunged for his desk, but Draco was closer and faster. He managed to swipe the parchment-weight and quill tray before she got a hold of either of them.
It wouldn't be the first time she tried to bludgeon him to death.
Author's Note: Thank you for reading! Reviews are much appreciated!