a/n: My entry to the DramioneLove Mini Fest 2017 on LiveJournal. Word limit was 2500 words—a challenge, certainly, but I'm really pleased with how this turned out and I hope you'll enjoy it too!
The theme this year was 'Love to Hate, Hate to Love' and I chose prompt #94 from LJ user stgulik: Auror Granger and Ministry Official Malfoy are thrown together to solve a case. "You know more than you're letting on." I've had this particular plot bunny racing around my head for a while, and this prompt suited it perfectly!
Disclaimer: Harry Potter is the property of J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros. This fan fiction was written entirely for fun, not for profit, and no copyright infringement is intended
"This," Hermione said, scowling, "is all your fault."
It was, of course—it had been Draco after all who'd triggered the alarm and brought the smugglers running—but he certainly wasn't about to admit it.
"You're the Auror," he said blandly from his spot on the straw-covered floor. "What was it Potter said again?" He feigned deep thought. "Oh, yes. No field work."
His cellmate turned a rather delicious shade of pink. Harry had been explicitly clear about that, and she knew it.
"You didn't exactly leave me much choice," she snapped. "You and your stupid elf."
Draco's stomach twisted—and it wasn't because of the terrible smell in this godforsaken crate.
"Your stupid elf," Hermione went on crossly, "who is probably halfway across the world by now, never to be seen again!"
"Gimble can take care of himself," he said stiffly, although in hindsight, it perhaps hadn't been the best idea to send an elf right into the middle of an international creature-smuggling ring.
He'd thought he could handle it—he wasn't just a quill-pusher, dammit!—but three days into his covert investigation, the elves had been moved, his trace charm broken, and Gimble lost.
He couldn't go to his own boss. The paper trail he'd uncovered as (alright, he could admit it) a quill-pushing Ministry lackey had revealed an alarming link between his office and the smugglers. Call him paranoid, but Draco wasn't about to risk his life and career involving anybody possibly in on it.
So, he'd gone to Potter. War hero, star Auror and now head of his very own department.
It was enough to make a former school rival sick.
Unfortunately, in the face of such nausea, Draco may or may not have omitted one or two crucial details. The missing elf, for instance. His possibly slanderous suspicions about his boss for another.
Even without those details, Harry had insisted he be put into protective custody. Half an hour of vigorous yet ineffectual protests later, Draco was squashed on a couch with one Hermione Granger, her back prefect straight, bushy hair threatening to suffocate him as she asked question, after question, after question.
By the time they'd returned to her office, and she'd fired off a million more, then glared at him for leaving a coffee ring on her desk, he was seriously beginning to wonder why he'd ever asked for her in the first place.
And so, it seemed, was she.
"Why me?" she asked, eyes narrowed in suspicion.
Because you're the best, was the obvious answer, he supposed, but not one he'd deign to give.
"I trust you," he'd said instead. She'd looked surprised and rather pleased, until he'd added: "You've got a stick shoved so far up that arse of yours, you couldn't be crooked if you tried."
It was at that first meeting Harry banned him, and ergo Granger, from any sort of field work. Their role was to follow the money trail—a task that filled Draco with unbridled tedium, but one Hermione, of course, set about with utmost diligence.
Entirely in vain.
"We are making no progress," he snapped a few days later, banging his mug on the counter. He thought of Gimble alone and no doubt terrified, and raked a hand through his hair. "No one is."
"We will," Hermione said mildly, rummaging in a cupboard. "Eventually."
"Eventually isn't good enough," he snarled. "Not when I have an-"
He cut himself off just in time.
Or perhaps not, from the way she was looking at him now.
"Not when you have a what?" she demanded.
He shrugged, silent, and comprehension dawned on her face.
"You know more than you're letting on, don't you?" she asked.
When he shrugged again, she advanced on him dangerously.
People were beginning to look at them, standing there nose-to-nose in the open office kitchen, so Draco grabbed her arm and tugged her down the hall. She objected loudly, so the first door he came to he opened and shoved her inside.
Fortunately, it was empty.
Unfortunately, it was a storage closet, and a poky one at that.
"Shush," he ordered when she drew breath, enraged, "and budge over. I've got a mop digging into my back."
She stood her ground. "Serves you right. You can't just go hauling people into cupboards."
"You can when they won't shut up."
"You are withholding vital information," she began, furious, and he rolled his eyes.
"Oh, save me the self-righteous claptrap, Granger. I didn't tell Potter everything because I don't want to accuse my boss of magical-creature smuggling without concrete evidence to back me up."
She blinked, surprised.
Her expression grew grim as he explained everything. His clandestine investigation. How he'd learnt enough to locate the ring and send an elf inside. Everything Gimble had reported since.
"Wait a minute." She held up her hand. "You sent an elf into a smuggling ring? Where did you even get an elf?"
"I have several working for me at the Manor." He gave her a bemused look. "I thought you knew that."
Hermione's lips parted in shock, and he was so distracted by their pretty pinkness, he completely missed the warning signs. The hard throb of her jaw. The outraged fire in her eyes. The crackle of her mad hair.
"You sent one of your own elves," she asked in a low, dangerous voice, "an untrained, defenceless elf, into the middle of an international smuggling ring?"
Draco paused. It did sound bad when you put it that way.
"We had a plan," he began defensively, but she cut him off.
"Oh, a plan! Well, why didn't you say so? …What the hell is wrong with you?!" she burst out in a furious whisper. "Where is the elf now?"
He had to admit he didn't know.
"And you didn't think to tell Harry?" She glanced heavenwards. "Merlin, help me. I'm going to murder him!"
Draco got the distinct feeling she wasn't talking about Potter.
She really was quite spectacular when she was angry though, he decided. He wondered why he'd never noticed it before.
"You know," he said, nodding towards the door, "they probably think we're snogging in here."
Her gaze snapped to his, startled.
He moved towards her, and she took a few steps back, until he had her pressed up against the wall.
"Snogging." He lifted a teasing brow. "You do know what snogging is, don't you, Granger?"
She floundered, throat working uselessly. But then her eyes flickered to his mouth, and victory surged through his veins.
"Yes," she said breathlessly.
He wanted to kiss her. He almost leant in. But, he decided, the first time he kissed Hermione Granger would not be in a cramped storage cupboard, a broom handle poking into his ribs.
"I'm just saying," he said, drawing back. "There'll be rumours. If we're going after Gimble, then perhaps we should encourage it." He couldn't help a waggle of his brows. "It could be our cover for disappearing together."
He fancied he saw disappointment in her eyes, but then her mind clearly caught up with his words.
"Encourage it?" she echoed in disbelief.
He flashed her a grin. "So much for no field work, eh?"
Her jaw dropped open.
"You…ugh!" She flung up her hands and pushed past him. "We are not going after that elf!"
In the end, of course, it hadn't been too hard to convince her otherwise. An elf was in danger—the woman's Achilles' heel if he remembered correctly—and here was a chance to not only save him, but take down a crooked Ministry official too.
How could Miss Gryffindor Do-Gooder resist?
The almost-kiss hung between them, though, like air on a sticky summery evening, as they worked to locate the elves. They argued—Merlin did they argue—but sometimes he would catch her watching him, the way he surreptitiously watched her, only for her eyes to veer sharply away.
He had, though, been right about the rumours.
"Did you tell someone we were dating?" she demanded one morning, slamming her office door shut and shaking the rain from her hair.
"No," he said mildly, looking up from where he sat, coffee in hand, feet on her desk. "Why?"
She scowled and tossed her apparently useless brolly to the floor. "I got a howler from Ron."
Ah. He smothered a smirk.
"Don't laugh," she snapped, "and get your feet off my desk."
He obeyed, but only the latter.
"It's not funny," she added grumpily, but the squelch as she sat ruined the effect somewhat. "Ron should know better," she muttered darkly. "You're such an insufferable arsehole. And"—she shot him a malevolent glare—"you hand your elves over to criminals."
"One," he corrected, "I've handed one elf over to criminals."
Then he scarpered as she looked for something to throw at him.
Mercifully, they worked together just as brilliantly as they argued, and it didn't take long to uncover the elves' location: an abandoned Muggle warehouse in Southeast London.
Neither of them suggested taking this information to Potter. Draco realised he felt oddly possessive over their investigation; he wanted to be the one to see it through, and so, it seemed, did Hermione.
So much so, she was quite happy to kick her way in.
"First disobeying a direct order, now breaking and entering," he teased as she put her boot through the door. "Wherever will the rule-breaking end?"
It had ended, unfortunately, in Draco accidentally triggering an alarm, and getting them both disarmed, captured and shackled, like animals, in this foul, wooden crate.
In other words, not very well.
"I cannot believe I was stupid enough to go along with this." She was pacing up and down the crate, chains clanking, hands in her hair. "I'm going to lose my job. Harry's going to kill me!"
Draco felt she should probably be more concerned with the hardened criminals who were going to kill them, but when he told her so, he thought for a second she might actually strangle him.
"What the hell is wrong with you?!" she cried, and his mind snapped, unbidden, to the cupboard, where she'd burst out with those words, and they'd ended up against the wall, bodies a bare inch from touching. "Is everything a joke to you?" she blazed on. "Were you so bored in your stupid dead-end job that you had to risk Gimble's life, risk our lives…"
He was on his feet in an instant and towering over her.
"What's wrong with me?!" he repeated incredulously. "You, Granger! You are what's wrong with me! You snap, you scowl, you drive me mad, but I still can't get you out of my head!"
Her eyes were wide, her lips parted in astonishment—speechless for once in her entire life.
"I'm sorry," he said more gently, then gestured around them. "I promise you I never meant for any of this to happen. I just"—he swallowed, suddenly unsure—"I just wanted to do something good."
For a moment, all was silent. He wondered whether she'd laugh. Scoff at his stupid, amateurish attempt at good. But then she released a soft breath and reached out to take his hand.
"You do know," she murmured, "if we get out of this, Harry's going to kill us both. Ron, too."
Warmth flooded his chest, and he gave her fingers a squeeze.
"I think"—he ducked his head until their noses almost brushed—"that it might just be worth it."
She bit back a smile, then suddenly, wonderfully, her mouth was on his. And now it didn't matter where the hell they were—a storage closet, a damp crate—all he could feel, all he could taste, was Hermione.
He'd just deepened the kiss, drawn her soft, curvy body into his, when an enormous crash startled them apart.
"Wha—" Hermione's head jerked. "What was that?"
"ELVES!" a thin reedy voice roared. "ATTAAAACK!"
Draco blinked. It couldn't be…
Another crash, several yelps and at least four explosions rocked the warehouse. Draco managed to thrust Hermione behind him as, with a deafening crack, their wooden prison split down the middle and fell open like a clam.
"Gimble?" Draco asked dazedly.
The elf was standing amid a vast crowd of his brethren, a tartan scarf wrapped around his body like an ancient warrior. He even had a wooden sword.
"Gimble is here to save Master Malfoy!" he cried, holding the weapon aloft.
"How—" Draco stared. "How did—"
"Free them and return their wands," the elf ordered grandly, and his comrades hastened to obey.
"I thought you were gone," Draco said as he stepped from the crate, Hermione's hand laced in his.
"Gimble was undercover, sir," the elf explained eagerly, "but Gimble only pretends to be frightened. All along, Gimble is planning his great escape."
"And you couldn't…" Draco rubbed his forehead, thinking wearily of all those hours they'd worked to find him. "You couldn't tell me this?"
The elf's ears quivered.
"Gimble wants to surprise Master Malfoy," he said pitifully, and guilt made said Master wince. "But now Gimble can come home with Master Malfoy and"—he peered at their linked hands, then looked up, eyes bright—"Miss Granger?"
Draco glanced quickly at Hermione, who hid a smile.
"Only if I'm invited," she said, and Draco sighed as the elf clapped in glee and darted over to take her hand.
"Fine," he said resignedly. "Let's go home."
"To Malfoy Manor!" Gimble cried.
"To Malfoy Manor!" echoed every single elf in the damn warehouse.
"We're all going?" Draco asked faintly.
"Oh, yes," said Gimble earnestly. "Gimble has been telling of Master's most wonderful kindness. Sir pays seventeen Knuts an hour," he explained dreamily to Hermione, "and gives Gimble everything an elf can wish for!"
"It's not a lot," Draco said uncomfortably as Hermione glanced at him sideways.
"It's more than the law says you have to," she countered, eyes sparkling a little.
"Gimble knows we will all be most happy together," the tartan-clad elf was telling his fellow warriors. "Master even gives Gimble a stocking for Christmas!"
Draco covered his face in his hand as Hermione rounded on him with a gasp of delight. He'd wanted her to think him a good man—as someone who deserved her—but Merlin this was taking it too far.
"You don't," she said.
"I do," he admitted. "Salazar, I'm never going to live this down, am I?"
"No," she agreed, wrapping her arm around his middle and tilting her face up to his. "Lucky for you, I like a man who loves his elves."
Draco rolled his eyes—love was a strong word—but then she was kissing him again, and suddenly he found he didn't mind.
Not even when, while she distracted him with kisses, his madcap elf Apparated all three of them and what he'd later discover to be exactly two-hundred and ninety-nine new elf employees back to Malfoy Manor.
a/n: Thanks for reading! Please do remember to drop me a review to let me know what you thought.