Author's Note: This story has been in the works for 3 or 4 years now. It is currently over 100 pages but incomplete. This is DM/HG, canon compatible with Deathly Hallows but very EWE. I have decided to test the waters. If you enjoy, please review and there will be more!
Disclaimer: I do not own any part of the Harry Potter franchise.
Draco tossed back a celebratory glass of Firewhisky, his boss, the thoroughly sloshed Bernard Bullham – "Hambone" – shouting obnoxiously in his ear. He couldn't help the grin that spread over his features.
Starting Monday morning, he would have his very own window. Admittedly, there wasn't much of a view, as the building was surrounded by other office buildings, but it sure as hell beat the closet-sized work spaces Junior Execs at Bullham and Miner were afforded. And to one who had been trapped in a closet with artificial lighting for the past six years, a window was a big deal.
In all honesty, Draco was surprised he had been given the promotion over other, at least equally qualified, candidates. His eyes flickered across the rented hall, landing on a curly-haired brunette witch, presently drowning herself in elf-made wine and attempting to spurn the advances of Peter McKenzie, the greasy new Junior Copy-editor. He would have laughed if he didn't feel the slightest twinge of pity.
Granger had wanted the promotion almost as much as he had, if not more. She had been stretching herself thin and bending over backwards doing extra work to make herself noticed after the retirement of Jim Miner, one of the founding marketing moguls, had been announced.
Draco, on the other hand, had scoffed loudly that the company was bound to promote some stuffy out-dated thinker with more of a mind for the Wednesday night Bridge game than innovative marketing, unaware that Miner had been just outside the door.
Expecting to clear out his desk, he was surprised to instead see a memo fly up to his office the next day, stating that they would be reaching into the pit of Juniors to promote a fresh marketing mind as a new Senior Executive, rather than trying to fill Miner's position at the very top.
"Did I say you'll have a staff of five!" Hambone roared and Draco blinked, pulled from his thoughts.
"I thought it was three, sir," he murmured, helping himself to another glass of whisky.
"Five! Seven if you can handle it!" The older man laughed jovially and clapped Draco fairly hard on the shoulder, making the whisky toss dangerously around in the glass.
"I'm thrilled, sir," Draco replied. And he was. Self-accomplishment was a relatively new feeling to him.
"Congratulations, Draco!" He glanced to his other side to see Lila Campbell, Miner's most recent promotion, and Draco personally thought one of his best. Lila was only 19, having joined the company a year out of Hogwarts and quickly becoming a Junior Executive. Draco frequently had to remind himself of the five year age gap each time he saw her and her long blonde hair.
"Thanks, Lil," he murmured, grinning. "You look stunning."
"As do you," she returned, flushing light pink. "I would've been over earlier but I've been avoiding Peter. He's been after me for a dance, but at least now he's gone for Hermione Granger instead."
Draco laughed, again looking to Granger, who was swatting McKenzie's hands away from her hair.
"I was actually considering heading over to rescue her," he stated, though the thought had not crossed his mind.
"I'll leave you to that, I don't want to get too near him again," Lila teased.
"Oh, wait," Draco paused as he began to walk through the crowd. "Are you on my team?"
"I think so," she replied, biting her lip. "Well, it hasn't officially been announced yet, has it? But Hambone said something about it earlier."
"Ah." He finished the rest of the glass. "It would be an honour to have a brain like yours." Lila smiled brilliantly, and Draco tore himself away, crossing the room.
"Pete," he began, looking down on the rather unhygienic wizard seated next to Granger, "a moment if you will?"
The copy-editor threw him a disgruntled look before vacating the seat. It was nothing to match the look of contempt he was gifted by Granger.
"What do you want? Here to rub some salt in my wounds? By all means, go for it," she said miserably, taking a deep drink of her wine.
"I came to talk, Granger," Draco said, unamused. "If you'd like, I'll go and let Pete have at you again. I hear he's single." He waggled his eyebrows, smirking.
"No!" Granger proclaimed, a bit too fast. "Er, rather, you can stay."
A waiter walked by and refilled Draco's Firewhisky, twice, as he downed the first one, unsure of what to say to Granger.
"You don't seem to be enjoying yourself," he began conversationally. He nearly winced at the look Granger gave him.
"Oh, don't I? I don't like staff parties to begin with, and the promotion I've been working my arse off for months went to youof all people."
"Though it may surprise you, I didn't want the promotion just to spite you," against his will, Draco felt himself become frustrated. "I've been at Bullham and Miner six years, you know."
"I know." She frowned. "It's just irritating to be passed over, since I know Bernard favours you as it is."
"You and I were nearly tied the whole way through, according to Hambone," he pointed out. "Told me earlier." He shook his head; Granger was the only one who refused to call Bullham by his nickname. Even Miner was known to refer to his business partner as The Ham.
"That's a real comfort," she murmured. "That'll make me feel loads better when you're suddenly bossing me around."
"Are you on my staff?" he asked, jolted.
"Oh probably," Granger raised her eyebrows. "Jim said something about putting the best minds together on your team. One of which he inferred to be me."
"It's true," Draco replied dismissively. "As you're aware, the firm is trying to land that new Diagon Alley account, and it'll be less difficult with strong teams in place."
"Must we talk work right now, Malfoy?" She groaned, tossing back another glass of wine.
"Of course not," Draco bit out shortly. No one could say he wasn't making an effort. All the elation – albeit, slightly drunken – he had been feeling earlier had drained away in Granger's presence. She had a funny way of doing that to a person.
"I won't keep you from your party," Granger muttered, glancing briefly at him. He took the hint, standing up.
"Right." Finishing his drink, though it now left a rather bitter taste in his mouth, he pushed in his chair and walked off without another word. He felt the last of his excitement ooze away with each step, fully of a mind to leave.
"Draco," Lila cooed, coming up to him again. Draco noticed she looked a bit more unsteady on her feet than she had the last time they'd spoken. "Wanna dance?"
"I was just about to go home, actually," he murmured, inwardly cursing himself and whatever was shoved up Granger's arse.
"I see," Lila replied, leaning in. "With me?"
Draco nearly groaned aloud at the thought.
"Alone, I'm afraid. I've got a lot of work to do tomorrow." It wasn't a lie; Draco had been working overtime more than anyone lately, trying to meet a deadline for Gladrags.
"On a Saturday?" Lila laughed, but let it drop. "Well, don't work too hard, see you on Monday!"
Draco paused, about to say something but instead he nodded, turned and left.
Monday morning came swift and early. Draco nearly forgot about the promotion until he walked in the glass front doors. Somehow, the air felt a bit less stifling today. There was already a lift waiting on the ground floor; typically there was so much going on he had to wait several minutes for one.
Making his way to his old desk to gather his things, Draco was swept in a different direction by Bullham, sober and down to business once more.
"This way, Malfoy." He straightened his tie. "Your things have already been transported." Surprised, Draco followed, anxious to see the office he'd worked toward for what felt like ages.
It was moderately larger than his last space, he supposed. There was a coat rack by the door. His desk looked new, with more drawers. And there was a window. Sauntering over to it so as not to look too interested, Draco gazed down at the street below. They were in the heart of London, camouflaged between Muggle buildings, with the usual Muggle-repellent charms.
"Excellent," he grinned, running a hand over his new leather chair.
Hambone grunted in response, nodded and vacated the office. Draco softly closed the door behind him.
Glancing around surreptitiously, as though he expected to find someone hiding in the corner, he sat down. He lounged backward, resting his feet momentarily on his desk.
"Excellent," he repeated to himself softly. He jumped at a loud knock on the door, hastily replacing his feet to the floor. Storming to the door, he yanked it open.
It was Lila. She stood, staring at him for a moment with an odd expression on her face. Draco raised an eyebrow, acting upon an urge to smirk.
"What is it?" he asked, stepping into the doorway.
"I've brought you some paperwork," she murmured, and it was then that Draco noticed she was holding a large stack of paper. He groaned, taking the stack from her and placing it on his desk.
"That will take all day in itself," he stated, eyeing the paperwork with a look of disgust. Lila laughed, stepping into the office.
"This is nice," she spoke, walking to the window. "Wish I had one of these."
Draco shrugged. "The view isn't anything spectacular." Indifference had always been a skill of his.
"But still," she returned, staring out. "It turns out I might be on your team. Well, Miner included a list, it's just on top of the stack. But he says you have final say on who to take. I know there are a lot of more experienced Execs on there..." She trailed off, looking away from him.
"I'd love to have you on my staff, Lil," he assured her, then paused. She snickered, but turned red at the double entendre behind his words. "Well, not on my– not that I wouldn't– you know what I... oh, bugger."
Now Lila was laughing at him. Draco Malfoy did notstumble over words. What was the matter with him?
"I'll see you later, Draco," Lila walked out, shaking her head. He quickly closed the door again, furious with himself. Giving the stack of parchment a cold look, he settled down to begin.
The top sheet, as Lila had said, was a note from Miner. It was a list of eight Junior Executives, from which he was to choose five. Having expected to just be told who comprised his team, Draco had to pause to think.
He instantly circled Lila, followed closely by Thomas Baxter, his former desk neighbour. Baxter had all but completed his training at the Culinary Institute of Magical America when he realized that his calling was not food, but in fact, marketing. When Draco had once asked him why he didn't finish his certification, he had shrugged and said, "sometimes you just gotta go with your gut, mate."
The rest of the list were witches and wizards with whom Draco had never had anything but a working relationship with. But at the bottom of the list was a name which left an unsettled feeling in the pit of his stomach; Hermione Granger.
He could select her to be on his team. If he wanted a heart attack by thirty. He knew that they would positively drive one another up the wall.
But Granger was the best, pained though he was to admit it to himself. Draco did not do sub-standard, and wouldn't stand for second best, especially for something like this. And while Granger had bested him for years back at Hogwarts, this was a situation where he had come out on top. And did he want a chance to rub that in, just a little?
Maybe. But more so, he wanted a chance to prove himself to her. After the war, Draco hadn't seen Hermione Granger for nearly a year, until one day she was sitting at a desk in Bullham and Miner, oblivious to the fact that he had been working there since he had left Hogwarts. The look on her face when she'd seen him had been priceless. He hadn't hesitated to show her whose turf she was on.
But it had been five years. Five long, personal, difficult years, and Draco had trouble remembering why he had hated her to begin with, developing a sort of respect for her. The problem with that was that Granger still had crystal clear memory. And she was stubborn. His acceptance of her by no means belittled the fact that they still clashed heads like nothing else he had ever seen.
Torn by his thoughts, Draco jumped at a tap on his window. Raising an eyebrow as he observed the owl outside of it, he opened the window. It was Blaise's owl, clutching a rather large item, which Draco untied before the owl turned on him.
The owl began flapping at his face, and Draco realized he had no idea where his owl treats were. Digging through his new desk, with Blaise's insane owl attacking him, was not an easy task.
Finally he found them, threw the entire pack at the owl, and the bird flew off with them, leaving Draco feeling much worse for the wear.
"Bloody owl..." Draco muttered to himself, finally sitting down to inspect the package. It was a rolled up copy of Witch Weekly, a photograph of his own face staring back at him. He sighed, resisting an urge to crumple the magazine instantly. Would they never cease being interested in his life?
The headline read "Draco Malfoy takes new title at wizarding London's biggest marketing firm. Witch Weekly Eligibility Rating: 9/10"; despite himself, Draco flipped to the article and read with mild interest. Blaise would find it funny to send him this.
It spoke about the usual nonsense; far-fetched accusations about his father, his ring-less ring finger. Apparently he'd been seen with Daphne Greengrass, with Astoria Greengrass, hell, even with Millicent Bulstrode. Draco was fairly certain he hadn't even seen Millicent in over a year. Thankfully most people he knew thought this magazine was little more than trash.
There was a short note attached to the inside cover of the magazine.
Drinks tonight at eight. There will be no need to be fashionably late.
Draco rolled his eyes, folding the note into a small square and lighting it on fire. He turned back to his list of possible executives, when there was another light tap on the door.
Cursing his sudden popularity, Draco strode to the door once more and swung it open. It was Hermione Granger.
She stepped past him into the office uninvited, walking directly to his desk and perusing the sheets on top.
"I thought so," she murmured, turning to meet his bewildered expression.
"You thought what, Granger? I'm sure you're aware this is my office." The brunette witch snorted.
"Sure it is," she replied briskly, scanning the list of executives he had just been looking at. "I thought you would have chosen Adrian."
"Considering him," Draco replied, eyeing Granger cautiously. Adrian Pucey had been two years ahead of Draco at Hogwarts, and also worked for the company. "He and I were never that close at Hogwarts. But I suppose I probably will, he's a strong asset."
"Is that what you're going by, then?" she asked softly, taking a seat in the guest chair. Feeling awkward, Draco sat back in his leather chair. "Whoever is the strongest, you will choose? Not compatibility?"
"I suppose that isn't my top concern," Draco shrugged. "I have fairly neutral relationships with even those I would rather not work with. Besides, there isn't anyone in the company I can't tolerate."
Hermione raised her eyebrows but said nothing, instead scanning through the list once more. Finally Draco grew frustrated with her calculated silence.
"Look, did you need something? I've got a lot of work to get through." He ran a hand through his carefully sculpted hair, frowning.
"Don't put me on your team," she suddenly said, her tone bordering desperation. "It will be no good for either of us, and maybe you can get away with being neutral with your co-workers, but honestly, Malfoy, you know we would never get along well enough to make any progress."
Draco blinked, taking in her explosion of anxious words.
"I don't know that I know that for certain," he finally said, defensively. "I don't know whether this is about you not wanting to work under me, or if you have some left over discontent for me, but I am a professional and if I decide that I would like you on my team, I would appreciate if you could try to be amiable, if for no reason other than your job."
Her eyes narrowed at his concealed blow, and the even more concealed threat.
"You have never liked me, Malfoy," she spoke again, softer this time. "And I cannot help but think that any motivation you have for putting me on your team would be antagonistic in some way. I will do what my job requires, but you must know I will not know what to think if I am forced to work for you. That was never in my job description."
"Thank you for your opinion," he said after a moment of deliberation. He knew better than to get into the argument she was presenting to him. He turned back to his list, pondering the merits of two other possible candidates.
Taking the hint, Hermione gave him a short, icy nod and left the office, closing the door rather hard on her way out.
Draco sighed, circling first Adrian Pucey, and then a man by the name of Sol Keats, who had only been working there for a short while but showed significant promise. Draco thought the two might get along well if they were to get to know one another.
Then he paused, setting his quill down and rubbing his already tired eyes. The morning had hardly begun.
How much would Granger hate him for blatantly ignoring her words? How much did he care either way?
Granger was the best. He wasn't the same arrogant prat he had been at Hogwarts. He had to take this chance to prove it to her. Making up his mind, he finally circled her name.
Oh, who was he kidding. She was the first one he had decided on. If anything, her visit only made him want her on his team more. And she was wrong, it wasn't antagonistic, it was simply time she move on. He had.
He crossed the floor to deliver his finished list to Hambone, ignoring the interested faces that turned his way. Especially the suspicious face of Hermione Granger.
Hambone appraised his selections with a curious look, then nodded.
"You will gather with your team first thing tomorrow. I'll need all of that paperwork filled out by then," the older man informed Draco, and inside he groaned. He would be here well into the evening.
"Yes sir," he muttered, quickly turning around to walk back to his office. He threw a hit to Baxter's shoulder as he walked by.
"You don't want to be starting anything, Malfoy," the other man warned, laughing. "Seniority or not, I won't hesitate to sock you in the jaw."
"Good to know," Draco murmured to himself, grinning back as he walked away. He proceeded to lock himself in his office, ignoring the ruckus outside as a finalized draft of his new team was posted on the wall. He did not want to see the look on Granger's face when she learned he had gone against her wishes and selected her.
By the time Draco finished with his paperwork he was already late to Blaise's. He apparated straight there, not bothering to go home and change out of his collared shirt and slacks. Blaise would give him enough shit for being late as he was.
"Did I not explicitly mention there would be no need to be late?" Blaise murmured as he entered the room, smirking.
"This time it was legit, just got out of the office," he grumbled in reply, helping himself to some of Blaise's liquor. He greeted the rest of his friends, mostly from his Hogwarts days, and took a seat next to Astoria Greengrass.
His relationship with Astoria was complicated. He had gone to Hogwarts with her older sister, Daphne, and hadn't got to know her until after they were both out of school. She was a good friend to Draco. On nights like this, however, neither of them put up much pretense about the blurred lines between them. Everyone else already expected they would leave together.
Draco snaked an arm around her back, trailing his fingers down her side, giving her hip a light squeeze. In return she placed a hand on his thigh, leaning into him.
"And how is the new job treating you?" Blaise asked, grinning. Draco knew he was still remembering the Witch Weekly article.
"Like shite already," Draco admitted, running a hand through his hair. "Spent all day doing paperwork, and I've got to meet with my new team in the morning. I'm sure I'll get an earful from Granger for choosing her."
"You chose Granger?" Daphne snorted, taking a sip of her wine. "Since when are you a masochist, Draco?" Everyone laughed and even Draco felt compelled.
"She needs to get over her issues with me," he shrugged. "And she has a hell of a brain for marketing."
"By issues, you mean the fact that you treated her like pond scum for seven years of school," Blaise inferred, grinning.
Draco paused, taking a deep swig of his drink. Then he smiled.
"Something like that, yeah."
From there the conversation proceeded to more trivial things; a bloke Daphne had been seeing, Theo's problems with his boss, the recent rise in price of potions ingredients.
Draco was content to relax, drowning his fatigue in whisky. Astoria was resting her head on his chest, her fingers absently tracing the muscles of his abdomen through his shirt. He couldn't quite tell if she was drunk or not, but felt his body responding to her touch.
Glancing at the late hour on his watch, Draco took his leave, Astoria along with him.
Despite his exhaustion, Astoria was a beautiful girl, and Draco had no problems summoning a last wave of energy to get him through the night.