Travel Companions (9/?)
Disclaimers: Draco and Hermione and all their lot belong to J.K. The Sunnyville crew belong to Joss. I've got nothing. This is simply for fun, not profit.
Thanks to: Stacy - whose reviews make me as happy as she claims this fic does her ( probably more :) I decided to post this update now, instead of vindictively waiting until more people had reviewed the last one, in appreciation of her not having forgotten me :p As always, I hope this part doesn't disappoint.
Hermione took the news of their assignment even better than Draco had expected.
Which is to say, she spit orange juice all over him, as they sat in the horrifyingly Muggle diner where they were forced to breakfast before heading on to LA.
"Charming," he drolled, grimacing, as he wiped at his face with a napkin.
Hermione was too preoccupied to apologize, as - certainly? - she would have done had he not just informed her that their employers were absolutely daft.
"The spitting, Granger. I appreciate a good aim as well as the next wizard, but-"
"No." Hermione looked like she was going to start stuttering. Draco put a protective hand over the top of her juice glass and slowly drew it away from her. Despite her momentary panic, Hermione noticed the gesture, and a corner of her lip quirked. She took a deep breath, and then another.
"I'm sorry," she said, reaching out suddenly, and wiping away the drop of orange juice Draco had missed on his cheek. Draco blinked at the urge to lean into her touch.
"Why do they want us to do this?"
Draco poked at the bacon left on his plate. Eating hadn't been such a chore that morning. He'd been tired enough and hungry enough not to care what he ate. Plus, he'd spent quite a few summers in the Orient. The Wizarding food over there tasted just the same as the Muggle. Not that some Californian, 24-hour buffet could match the culinary offerings of the restaurants he'd frequented, but…
Nevertheless, eating was an entirely different experience with a few hours of sleep behind him. And the food sitting in front of Draco was not only undeniably Muggle, it was American. And probably not a shining example of that, either.
"Last night," Draco explained, "a clerk from the Department of Fiscal Grievances contacted the Aurory. Gringotts's filed a suit against a sect of demons who've fallen behind on repaying a loan they took out with the bank in London."
Hermione nodded her head, listening.
"The sect has relocated in Los Angeles," Draco continued. "The loan furnished the lavish preparations the sect has made for a human child."
Here Draco was getting to the good part. Hermione blinked.
"The demon sect wants to raise a human child?" she asked.
Draco raised a brow. "They want to ritually sacrifice a human child. But they have to raise it first. The ritual requires thirteen years of precise preparation."
Hermione's face contorted cutely. "Ew. My God, the Ministry isn't going to let them, are they?"
"No. Not that the Fell Brethren know this." On Hermione's lack of recognition at the name, Draco supplied: "That's what the sect members call themselves." Draco shook his head. He would never understand the compulsion of evil organizations to give themselves names - even after having belonged to one. To Draco's way of thinking, if you were truly evil, you shouldn't care what the newspapers called you when they reported the atrocities you'd committed. "The Ministry's intercepted the suit," he went on. "They want more information on the firm that will be providing the Fell Brethren their sacrifice, before they move on the Brethren themselves."
"Wolfram and Hart," Hermione guessed.
Draco smiled mirthlessly. "Yes. And when the Ministry looked into who's running the firm these days, guess what they found."
Hermione leaned back in her seat. Her expression was becoming less anxious, and more grim.
"He or she has a connection to Sunnydale," she guessed right again.
Draco slid Hermione's juice glass back beside her plate. She looked like she might need a drink very soon, and that was the only drink available.
"He lived there for a time. Tried to end the world there once. And he has a…personal…connection to the Slayer Mr. Giles is responsible for." Draco shrugged. "Or at least he had. Smith said he'd need more time to get anything more current on him." Draco rolled his eyes. As Hermione seemed to consider the prat a friend, Draco would refrain from commenting on what he thought about Smith's "needs".
Hermione was frowning, her mind no doubt taking the same turns Draco's had as Smith had given him this news - although Hermione's seemed to be taking them faster.
"A personal connection to the Slayer, Buffy Summers. And Rupert Giles…"
"Her Watcher," Draco finished the sentence for her. "Who is, reportedly, in charge of the new Watcher's Council, knew all about it."
Hermione looked pale. Draco cast a glance around the diner. There was only one other customer - a sleepy-looking truck driver, who was very nearly lying in the bowl of oatmeal sitting in front of him at the counter. And a bored-looking waitress, chewing gum and reading a magazine. The cook Draco had seen working in the kitchen wasn't in view from Draco and Hermione's table. Still, Draco thought he'd better wait until he and Hermione were alone before he told her the worst of what he had to say. The second-worst, perhaps she could handle.
"And?" Hermione repeated, unhappily.
Draco pulled a Muggle bill out of his pocket, trying and failing - again - to remember whether the amount was appropriate in this instance. But not caring. Hermione, likewise, paid the bill no mind.
"Wolfram and Heart has an ex-Watcher working for them," Draco said. "Their CEO knew him before either of them were offered positions. Seems he was involved in the incident that lost the man his job with the Council. Need I prompt you to guess where the Watcher was stationed at the time?"
Hermione sighed, standing when Draco stood, and following him out of the diner. Neither glanced in the waitress's direction when she called out a goodbye.
"Sunnydale," Hermione answered. "And why do I get the feelings there's more?"
Draco steered Hermione towards the rental car still in their possession. They'd patched it up with enough magic to get them to the motel after their accident, and to get them to the bus station now. After that, they'd leave the car in a parking lot and let the Ministry send someone to deal with it, and their hastily Reparo-ed motel room.
As no one seemed to be standing around to see, Draco opened Hermione's door for her, but simply slipped into the driver's seat himself. Rather than taking the time to conjure another driver's side door, Hermione had just cast a glamour on the car to make it look as though it had one. And so that it didn't look as though it had spent some time, recently, sitting in a ditch.
Draco put the car's key in its ignition, hoping he could fake having more experience with driving than he actually had. That Hermione was sitting in the passenger's seat right now, having let Draco take the Volvo's keys from her without objection, was a testament to her state of mind. Draco didn't want her driving, and he didn't want his driving to upset her any further.
"Did Wood ever tell you which vampire Quirrell used to make his students write a parchment on as part of their DADA finals?" Draco asked, figuring that was as good a way to start the second half of this bad-news-breaking as any.
Even after the "why" of what they'd been asked to do had been settled, there was still the "what" to consider.
Half way to Los Angeles, Hermione had begun to calm down about the fact that the single most evil institution with ties in both the human and the demon worlds seemed to have some connection to the new Watcher's Council - and, possibly, to the destruction of the old. And that the single most evil vampire in history was now, apparently, running said evil institution.
Then Draco had had to address, again, how they were supposed to infiltrate the firm, to confirm all of this for themselves.
Luckily there had been no bus passengers or bus drivers around to witness the ensuing debacle. Draco had taken one look at the bus they were to board that morning, and had refused to set one foot on it. Riding in an airplane had been bad enough, for all that Draco was impressed with the Muggles for having found a way to get themselves off the ground. Draco absolutely drew the line at submitting himself to the indignities of public transport.
Draco had driven himself and Hermione to the nearest car dealership, instead, and purchased the most expensive vehicle on the lot. Which, seeing as Sunnydale didn't seem to be attracting the rich and powerful like magnets, meant something only slightly more stylish than the Volvo they'd gotten from the car rental. Draco decided it would do, and decided also that he was going to upgrade just as soon as they got to Los Angeles. When he'd told Smith that the Director would owe him for this jaunt, he'd meant it.
Hermione hadn't seemed to mind. At the car dealership, she hadn't tried to talk Draco out of his purchase. Not because she was too dazed to think clearly, as she had been when she and Draco had left the diner, but - presumably - because she was as willing to drown her sorrows in a shopping spree as he. Hermione didn't much strike Draco as the shopping kind, but as she couldn't fit enough books into the interior of a car to research her cares away, Draco'd figured she was making do.
"I don't think we can do this," Hermione said, after Draco had brought up some of the technical details of the plan the Ministry had given them.
Draco shrugged, aiming at appearing more casual than he actually felt. "Of course we can. New car; new wardrobe. Smith said he'd be sending a little care package to a Magic shop that's on our way. We'll pick it up; purchase a few other necessities while we're at it, and get a decent room to stay in this time. Then we'll do our jobs."
Because, of course, it would be that simple.
"It's not like we'll be meeting another Dark Lord, Granger," Draco told her.
No, they'd just be scheduling an appointment to see the former Scourge of Europe. Then they'd risk their lives on Hermione's ability to lie in a vampire's face, and Draco's ability to keep the both of them from getting drained (or worse) should the ruse fall through. All so they could snoop around one of the most secure buildings, according to Smith, in America, to see if the vampire had any connection to what was going on with the Council and the Hellmouth. If there was a connection, then what Draco and Hermione found to report might very well start another war. If there wasn't, then the both of them would be back at square one. With no leads as to what was going on across the Atlantic, or what they could do about it.
Hermione was sighing, deeply.
"Okay. So we're going to pretend to be a couple of potential clients. If we're going to hire an evil law firm for some purpose, then we must be evil ourselves. Are we going to-"
Draco went from smiling, slightly, at Hermione's tone of voice - as she recovered her equilibrium at last and went into "Hermione-mode" (as Draco had heard Weasley refer to it several times) - to trying not to glance in the same direction as Hermione had, for the second the glance had lasted before Hermione had caught herself giving it.
"Keep this as true-to-life as possible? Yes," Draco said, sparing a look at Hermione's face when she'd finished fidgeting and being unnecessarily contrite. He drummed the fingers of his left hand against the steering wheel, then stopped as he took the exit they needed.
"Never say my family's reputation never did anything for you, Granger. There are advantages to be had in ruling by fear and mistrust." The way that Draco's father had done - if one could call Lucius's position in the various dealings he'd done on the side of his job with the Ministry "ruling". Regardless, Draco knew Lucius had built quite a name for himself in the Dark - both within the Wizarding world and without. His dealings with demons had been kept as secret as all his crimes, save his involvement with Voldemort, but Draco knew he'd had them. For the most part, Draco didn't think of them. Not even when he'd gotten in from Jerusalem and found a ticket to Sunnydale sitting on his desk. The sorts of demons Lucius had dealt with weren't the kind legitimate Magical entities took interest in. They were the kind Aurors and Warlocks and Watchers tended to kill on sight. Wolfram & Hart no doubt kept a slew of them either on their payroll, or on a watch list related to their demonic clients.
So Draco should be able to call on the Malfoy infamy in playing off the (only partially) doctored identification documentations Smith had arranged for himself and Hermione.
"And we have to pretend to be married to do that?" Hermione asked. Her tone had more to do with uncertainty and awkwardness, than with that aspect of the plan itself. Draco thought.
"It gives us a reason to be seeking the firm's services together," Draco reasoned. And he tried not to take too much relish in adding: "And I suppose we don't have to be married, to be pursuing the contract negotiations we're going to be pursuing. But after the potion, I thought you might appreciate it if I made you an honest woman."
Hermione's eyes narrowed.
"What potion?" she asked, slowly.
Draco lost his reservations and misgivings, for a moment, in a grin.
"The Fell Brethren want a baby," he said. "So we're going to let them think we're giving them one. Ours."
"Pregnant. You had to get me pregnant."
Draco sighed, crossing his arms as he leaned back against the bathroom door. At least here in LA, Hermione had found them a hotel room, in which there was a bathroom door. Even if Hermione had locked herself on the other side of it about as soon as they'd come in.
They'd been having this conversation since before they'd reached Mazonn's Magicks.
"Pregnant! You want to get me pregnant?" Hermione had shrieked.
Actually, the Director had wanted Draco to get Hermione pregnant. Albeit not pregnant. As Draco had been trying to explain for some time. And Draco doubted the man so much "wanted" this, as considered it a most clever and convenient method of getting them into Wolfram and Hart's offices.
"You aren't actually pregnant, Granger. You'll only appear to be pregnant to anyone who hasn't charmed themselves to see through the potion's magics."
Assuming the potion worked correctly. Draco was confident of his abilities as a potions maker, but he doubted Hermione's having locked herself in a room before taking this potion had anything to do with her faith in his skills.
Hermione didn't say anything.
Draco knew of all the things that could go wrong when introducing a rarely used potion to a new test subject. What was worse - Hermione knew them, too. Which made her having locked herself in a room, alone, all the more frustrating. Not that a simple locked door could keep Draco away, should Hermione develop the need for assistance.
The frustration came in waiting to see if Hermione needed assisting. And not hexing the bathroom door down the second time Hermione ignored Draco's calling her name.
"I am not going out there like this," Hermione said, at last, just as Draco was becoming edgy.
Draco released the breath he realized, with some discomfort, he'd been holding.
If Hermione could speak, she hadn't lost her tongue. And her esophagus hadn't swelled terribly. There were two concerns Draco could cross off his list.
"Obviously you are. Even if we had enough ingredients to mix a second batch of the faux conceptus, I could hardly play the part of the expectant mother."
Draco didn't have to hear Hermione taking a breath in plans of responding to that to know she was about to say something he wouldn't like, so:
"I did say that we don't have enough ingredients for a second batch, Hermione. So don't get any clever ideas."
"If this is your idea of clever, I should think not," Hermione said, her voice sounding muffled through the bathroom door.
And then the door opened.
Draco lost the words he'd been about to speak. Hermione was wrapped in the maternity robes Smith had helpfully included with the other items he'd had sent over for them. The robes swallowed most of Hermione's figure, but couldn't hide the more-than-noticeable swell of her now seemingly pregnant stomach.
Hermione had lain both hands, gently, on her distended middle. She looked up at Draco with a decidedly un-motherly look in her eyes.
"This has got to be some sick prank, Malfoy. I knew I should have taken that callback myself! Not actually pregnant… Am I not actually pregnant with twins, then? This is ridiculous!"
Hermione looked back down at her magically altered body. She turned again to the bathroom mirror she'd most likely been staring into since she'd gulped down Draco's potion.
"I suppose I would have to be some months along into the pregnancy. We don't want to make a career out of this, but honestly."
There was obviously nothing wrong with Hermione, or the effects the potion had had on her.
Draco did, however, wonder if there was something wrong with him, as he watched the awkward way Hermione moved; the hesitant way she touched her rounded stomach.
When he looked up at Hermione's face in the bathroom mirror, he caught sight of himself standing behind her, and quickly looked away again.
He'd missed whatever Hermione had been saying. And, judging by the disapproving glare he was getting, Draco figured Hermione had been saying quite a lot.
Draco caught just the tail end of it.
"-who we are? They might already be expecting us. Do you think I can duel my way out of there like this? I'm as big as a tree trunk."
"You won't have to," Draco said without thinking, although it was no less what he'd already planned. "I'm going to go in tomorrow alone, and see what happens. Tonight we'll get you something a bit more Muggle to wear, and if all goes well, I'll schedule a time for the two of us to meet with Wolfram and Hart's people together."
And then, partly because he was curious, partly because he'd known Hermione would object to this, he asked: "Besides, we're going to have to pretend to be Muggles to meet the Fell Brethren's criterion for potential donors. Don't Muggle women have to spend a lot of time of time off their feet while they're pregnant? Wouldn't want the mother of our little sacrifice overtaxing herself by trying to keep up with the men."
Draco knew it was a very good thing that Hermione wasn't really pregnant. Pregnant witches sometimes lost control of their powers, the way that young wizards and witches do, and Draco doubted he had enough restorative potion left in his potions kit to heal the damage a pregnant Hermione might have done to him at that moment.
The next day found Draco making an early morning call to confirm his ten o'clock appointment to speak with Wolfram and Hart's CEO.
Of course, Draco didn't have a ten o'clock appointment with the CEO before he called to confirm it. Then the receptionist who answered the phone politely informed Draco of this. Seeing as this was an evil receptionist Draco was talking to, "politely" meant that she laughed at him, without laughing, then attempted to send him on his way.
How easy some old skills came back to Draco. Making "little people" rue not showing him the reverence he rightly deserved was one of them. Draco slipped into a Malfoy-voice that would have done his father proud, and informed the receptionist as to just why he didn't need to have an appointment with her CEO to come in and see him whenever Draco damn well pleased. This involved tossing about a few of the credentials Smith had fabricated for him, and a couple he hadn't needed to, and sounding alternately pissed-off and dispassionately disdaining.
The next person Draco talked to was the CEO's personal secretary, and she just wanted to ask if there were any special arrangements that needed to be made before Draco's arrival.
There were some aspects of being evil that Draco, frankly, rather missed.
Draco arrived at Wolfram and Hart at 9:55. On one hand, he wouldn't have minded being fashionably late. On the other, if the firm really was onto them - as Hermione had suggested - Draco decided he'd rather not put off finding out.
Draco had dressed in one of the designer suits he'd picked up as he and Hermione had shopped the night before, and had beat down all of his instincts as he'd left his wand, his potions, and every other magical item in his possession in the hotel room with Hermione. Then he'd slipped into the dark coat he'd also purchased the night before, and had headed out to see what the day held in store for him.
So far as Draco could tell, once he was actually in the executive conference room, having announced his intentions when it didn't seem as though the CEO's secretary was going to announce them for him, the day had started out like shite.
There were Muggles who'd paid less on their homes than Draco had on the ensemble he was wearing. And still he felt underdressed. He was bloody well meeting with the former Scourge of Europe to discuss the sale of an unborn child. He'd never so much as gone on a study date before, without donning some of Madam Malkin's finest. He hadn't gotten to eat breakfast, as the serum he'd taken to protect himself from Legilimancy always made him nauseous. And as soon as Draco walked into the conference room, he realized there were other things he should probably be nauseous about, besides that serum.
The broad-shouldered, dark-haired man at the end of the table had to be Angelus. Or Angel, or whatever they called him now. The vampire Wolfram and Hart had hired as their CEO. Besides the fact that he was sitting at the head of the conference table, he was also one of the youngest-looking executives in the room. Two-hundred and fifty years old and counting, Hermione had said as she and Draco had researched early that morning, and he didn't look a day over twenty-four.
On Angel's left sat a dark-skinned man in a suit that just screamed "lawyer". Next to him to sat a thin young woman with long, brown hair, wearing a lab coat. She looked a bit like Luna Lovegood, actually, Draco found himself thinking, and that's when Draco knew he was getting upset.
Next to the Lovegood knockoff sat a green-skinned demon Draco couldn't identify, wearing the most garish purple outfit Draco could imagine. And at Angel's right hand, sat a human who tugged at Draco's sensitivity towards Dark things a lot more than a human really should have. He was most likely the ex-Watcher then, Draco supposed.
Between the Watcher and Angel, sat a slender man with pale hair that might have matched Draco's own, if it had been natural. The man wore a black trench coat over black clothing.
Draco knew who he was. He just hadn't known he would be here.
Draco had read a little something about him, as he and Hermione had searched her texts for more on Angel.
This was Spike. The vampire once known as "William the Bloody" - sired by the vampire Drusilla, whom Angelus had, likewise, sired.
As soon as Draco had walked into the room he had sensed him, as he had sensed Angel. The Darkness in them both, combined with the Dark in the ex-Watcher - on top of the Dark that was all around them, in this building - was sending all of Draco's senses into a state of alarmed paranoia. It took everything in Draco's willpower not to give in to it - to control the jitters of his nerves even more than usual; to keep his breathing even and his heartbeat from speeding up. His experiences as a Death Eater had taught Draco, long before his training as an Auror, that the invisible signs of nervousness and fear in humans were more than just visible to those beings capable of detecting them.
Draco did not let the smirk he'd carried into the room with him falter.
He smoothly took the seat at the opposite end of the table from Angelus - slow enough that his pace seemed relaxed and not contrived; quick enough that he didn't appear uncertain of his actions. He leaned back in his seat as if making himself perfectly comfortable, and hid his hands in his pants pockets.
"I've a mutual acquaintance of one of your clients," he said, just as he'd rehearsed. Speaking gave him a focus, and that focus gave Draco back a sense of himself. His cocky front was less of a front than before as he continued, "I hear they're looking to buy a baby. And that your firm has agreed to broker the deal. As it just so happens, I have exactly what you're looking for."
A number of thoughts and faces went through Draco's head as he awaited Angelus' response, and he wondered - for not the first time - how in the bloody fucking hell he'd ever figured that being a good guy was going to save him from an ugly fate.