A/N: This is a Dramione work romance fic, set post-Hogwarts and ignoring the epilogue entirely. It's ended up much longer than I imagined, but it's finally complete - and I'm hopeful you'll enjoy it! Please do drop me a review to let me know if you do. Even though the story is finished, it's still hugely encouraging to know people are enjoying it.
Rating: M for language (mostly mild with a few stronger instances in later chapters) and non-explicit sexual themes (i.e there's sex but it's not explicit)
Disclaimer: Don't own HP. Do own this story. Please don't republish it anywhere without my permission. Thanks!
It was 5.52 on a Tuesday morning and Hermione Granger hadn't slept a wink.
Oh, she'd tried, of course. Desperately, and with all of the tricks she could remember without resorting to a potion – deep breathing, slow stretching, reciting Hogwarts: A History, reciting Hogwarts: A History backwards, even the clichéd counting sheep. But nothing had worked, and as the first cracks of daylight crept in under her curtains, she had eventually accepted that it was not going to happen and she might as well get up.
And now here she was, slumped at her kitchen table in her pyjamas and dressing gown, clutching her second mug of black coffee to her chest like a lifebuoy. She had, she realised, been consuming a lot of caffeine lately. Perhaps that was why she couldn't sleep.
Her gaze rested on the innocuous cream envelope sat on the table before her.
Or maybe caffeine wasn't the problem.
The letter had been delivered by owl last night. Hermione had been home waiting for it; in fact, she'd been waiting for it all weekend. She'd been told after her interview on Friday afternoon that the Ministry would be in touch with their decision shortly.
Except they hadn't. Oh, they'd gotten in touch all right, but not with a decision. The Ministry of Magic had always had a tendency to prevaricate and now, nearly eleven years after the end of the Second Wizarding War, they were no different.
Hermione wasn't even sure why she wanted to work for them again.
But she did. Badly. If only to escape Draco Malfoy, CEO of Malfoy Incorporated and Hermione's current boss.
It wasn't that Malfoy was a bad boss. He was just… demanding.
While his father had been sentenced to life in Azkaban, Draco had, as a minor during the war, escaped any sort of serious repercussions for his actions. A lot had come out during the trial about the pressure he'd been under that final year at Hogwarts, and eventually, even Ron had had to admit he felt bad for the notorious Slytherin. Malfoy himself had, along with his mother, vanished abroad for a very long time, reappearing only a few years ago as the owner of a successful international investment bank.
Hermione had been working in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures when Draco had returned to London. She had taken an apprenticeship there not long after graduating Hogwarts with starry-eyed dreams of making a real difference to misunderstood and mistreated magical creatures. Her dreams had taken a hit, however, when she was dumped straight in the Office of Misinformation, deceiving and obliviating muggles on a daily basis and never managing to get herself promoted much beyond entry level.
Malfoy had approached her soon after his return. To her surprise, he was no longer the petty, vindictive boy she remembered from Hogwarts. Arrogant, yes, but she could cope with that. He had asked her to head up his Muggle Relations office, and, after much deliberation (and numerous arguments with various Weasleys), she had accepted. And that was that.
Or so she thought.
Malfoy had developed a nasty habit of hexing the muggles that annoyed him, and with many muggle clients and investors, this happened on a tediously regular basis. Hermione had put her skills with memory charms to good use and taken to accompanying him to every meeting he attended to prevent him from casting anything too cruel. Slowly, her job had morphed into something resembling Malfoy's personal assistant – not a job for the faint-hearted.
He was a needy man. Charismatic and intelligent, yes, with an extraordinary head for business, but utterly incompetent when it came to everyday matters. Hermione was unsure how he managed to get through the day unscathed. He paid her very well, but she felt she'd sold her soul in return. She had no life outside the office, she struggled to find the time to meet with her friends, and she hadn't had a date in months.
Her job took up almost every waking moment, much of which she spent around Malfoy. Merlin, she even dreamt about him! A rather unsettling turn of events, considering Draco was not, in fact, an unattractive wizard.
It was all, quite frankly, beginning to get to her.
Which is why she was currently sat at her kitchen table, over an hour before her alarm was due to go off, agonising over the crumpled letter before her.
She hadn't told Malfoy she was looking for another job. She knew exactly how he'd react. He depended on her. She enjoyed her job – she did! – she just needed a fresh challenge, and she wasn't sure he'd understand. She had hoped she'd simply be able to get a new job and hand in her two weeks' notice. No arguments. No negotiations. Hopefully, no bad feelings between them.
But she was Hermione Granger, and her life was never that simple. The letter from the Ministry Muggle Liaison Office said the prestigious position Hermione had interviewed for was tied between two candidates.
The proposed deciding factor? They wanted a letter of recommendation from her current employer.
That would be Draco.
Hermione dropped her head to the table with a groan.
Ever practical, even when exhausted and a little cranky, Hermione decided not to waste her sleepless night and took the floo into work earlier than usual.
Malfoy's office was dark, she saw as she passed on the way to her own office. Not unusual. Although the man kept odd working hours – evidenced by the many times he'd stuck his head through her fireplace late at night, demanding her opinion on one thing or another – early mornings were never his thing.
Hermione's office was just down the hall from Malfoy's. She was sure he'd positioned her so close so she could be at his immediate beck and call, but it was an airy, south-facing office, with floor-to-ceiling windows and a beautiful view of muggle London, so she didn't mind too much. She hung her robes up as she entered, then threw herself into her morning routine.
It wasn't too long before other employees began arriving. She could hear them walking up and down the hallways, greeting each other. A few poked their head round her door to say hi or to offer her a coffee, which she gladly accepted. (What? It would only be her fourth). The familiar low thrum of activity was soothing, and, slouched in her chair, sipping from her favourite cat-lady mug, Hermione could feel herself relaxing just a little bit.
There was no need to get herself so worked up. So what if her dream job at the Ministry depended on a glowing review from one Draco Malfoy? She was a good employee, dammit; she deserved a good reference. She had seen off a number of candidates to get to this point, and she wouldn't give in.
She put her mug down and took the Ministry letter out of her jacket pocket. They wanted the reference by Friday, preferably before. That didn't give her much time to procrastinate. She needed to give Malfoy enough time to write it, especially if she wanted more than a few scrawled complaints about her frizzy hair and frumpy dress sense.
She was just pondering whether to bring it up before Malfoy's big presentation tomorrow morning, when the fireplace roared to life.
Hermione leapt out of her chair with a start, sending papers flying and unfortunately, her lovely mug. Almost every file in her immediate vicinity was instantly soaked with a tsunami of steaming coffee.
For a moment, all she could do was stare. It was just going to be that kind of day, wasn't it?
"Granger," Malfoy said from the flames, as she snapped into action, scrabbling to move everything else on her desk out of range. "Get that bushy head of yours in here." He vanished before she could reply. A second later, he reappeared. "Oh, and bring me the city report, will you?"
"Just a minute," Hermione said nervously, but he was already gone. Alone once more, she surveyed her desk with a sigh. It had to be the one document he wanted to see that had taken the brunt of her coffee spill, didn't it? A scourgify or two later and it was mostly salvaged. It took her a few further minutes to mop up the spill and make sure no other critical documents had been damaged. Then, knowing Draco wasn't a very patient wizard, she headed down the hall to his office.
"About time," he said, spinning round his dark leather chair to glare at her. His hair was damp, and there was a sleep crease across his left cheek, which ruined the effect somewhat. Hermione ignored him anyway; he was always grumpy in the morning.
"I have the report," she said, handing it to him over his desk.
"Is this… a tea stain?" he asked, blond eyebrows furrowing as he examined it.
"No," she said quite truthfully. "Was there something else I could do for you?"
The change of subject worked; Malfoy put down the report.
"I was doing some work at the Manor last night and left some important papers there this morning." He glanced at the clock on the wall. "I've got to go out soon, so I need you to go get them for me. Please," he added belatedly when he saw her expression. "You can use my floo."
Hermione nodded and headed towards his fireplace – the only floo aside from the one in the lobby that allowed people to travel in and out of the office building.
"Where are they?"
"Bedside table," he replied. She stopped, squinting at him suspiciously over her shoulder.
"I'm not going to find a witch in your bed again, am I?"
Draco flashed her a grin, leaning back in his chair and tucking his hands behind his head.
"Do you think I'd have been working in bed if there was a witch in it?"
Hermione rolled her eyes and turned back to the fireplace.
"No," she said. "I imagine you wouldn't."
He let out a short bark of laughter.
"Tell me, Granger," he said. "Do you often imagine me in bed?"
After nearly three years of borderline – and often outright – sexual harassment, Hermione knew better than to blush and stammer.
"If you mean death bed," she said sweetly. "Then every day." And with that, she grabbed a handful of floo powder and stepped into the fireplace. "Malfoy Manor!"
Finding Draco's bedroom was easier said than done. Of course, the Manor's floo didn't spit her out directly there, and the one time she'd been in it – when she'd found a nude and admittedly lovely young woman languishing in his bed – she'd been so mortified, she could barely remember what else she did that day, let alone the way to Draco's boudoir through the Manor's maze of rooms, corridors and obnoxious paintings.
Luckily, find it she did, and (even more luckily, in Hermione's opinion) it was empty, aside from the stacks of papers and empty tea cups scattered across every flat surface. Malfoy was almost as addicted to tea as she was to coffee.
"Took you long enough," he grumbled as she stepped out of the fireplace, back into his office. He was standing almost on top of the hearth, dressed in smart outdoor robes, and Hermione took a small step back, startled at his nearness.
"Your house is a labyrinth," she said, handing him the folder of papers she had swept up from his bedside table. "Also, your portraits are abhorrent. Every single painting I passed made some vulgar comment"
Malfoy's mouth quirked.
"I wouldn't take it personally," he said, tucking the file under his arm. "They bully the house elves something awful."
Hermione's lips parted in indignation, but he was already on his way out, heading, she presumed, towards the office's apparition point.
"Oh, Granger," he said, pausing at the door. "I need to go over a few things with you about tomorrow's meeting before you leave tonight. I'll drop by your office this afternoon."
Oh yes. Tomorrow's important meeting. The company had made one or two bad deals this year, losing money in the process – not a lot, but enough for Malfoy's investors to sit up and take note. They had demanded an update, an explanation and plans for recovery, which Draco had been forced to organise. Hence, tomorrow's meeting, for which a number of key investors were travelling in from all over the world, wizards and muggles alike.
Malfoy was acting rather blasé about it all, but Hermione knew he was a great deal more anxious about it than he let on, so had spent the last two months working her backside off to ensure everything would run smoothly.
"I'll be there."