They all blinked still staring at the doorway Malfoy had pretty much bolted out of.
"Why on earth would Malfoy do that…?"
Harry frowned, mulling over the question that had just been posed. "Erm…I think that may have been…pay back…"
Ron and Hermione each raised an eyebrow and looked at Harry curiously. "For what?"
"We've been having a…err, stare-off competition."
"A stare-off competition. You know like, I stare at him – he stares at me…the first one to flinch - or something equally as bad – umm…loses."
Hermione and Ron looked oddly at Harry for what felt like ten hours but was probably more like ten seconds. Under their disturbed gaze, Harry suddenly had an overwhelming desire to giggle nervously and then run away. Until he remembered that someone had already covered that today and that someone was the very reason why his two friends were currently looking so gobsmacked.
Ron suddenly snorted. "A staring competition?! Wow Harry. No wonder you were the one destined to kill Voldemort -Ouch!" said Ron now rubbing his freshly poked arm. "Harry…"
Ron raised an annoyed but cocky eyebrow at Harry, pointing at his affected arm. "So Harry, is that how you killed Voldemort too-Ooopf!"
"No – it was more like that," Harry smiled innocently. Ron scowled, now rubbing the back of his freshly whacked head.
"So…just for staring at Malfoy," Hermione began, "he's tried to... sort of…cackle out loud at you –and then he's, what? Just darted away?"
"Err. Yeah. Kind of looks that way."
"Well," said Ron sarcastically. "He sure showed you." Ron laughed gleefully to himself, clearly delighted by the whole event.
Hermione's brain however, was still ticking over as she munched on her beef and vegetable stew. She drew her eyebrows together, "But this is just so odd. Malfoy is a very calculating guy. I'm surprised he'd do something…like that. He's always in control and so…composed."
Harry nodded. "I think he must have gotten…desperate."
Hermione and Ron looked at Harry with interest.
"…I may have…burped at him yesterday."
Ron's chair fell over and a pea, that Harry could have sworn shot out of Hermione's nose - and not her mouth, bounced across the table in front of him.
Their laughter did not die down for at least ten minutes.
Okay, it was more like fifteen.
Hee heheeeeee! Haaa hheeee heee! Hiiieeeee heeee!
The laughter in Draco's mind continued for about just as long too (although, it was strangely more high-pitched and somewhat more delirious sounding than that of Ron and Hermione's).
His heart was racing. His breathing was shallow and quick.
The enormous rush of adrenalin he had felt when Potter's eyes fixed on him had taken him by surprise, sure, but – who cares?!
Draco had done it! He had just claimed VICTORY against Potter!
And he was ecstatic. Ec-static!
Harry Potter – the stupid man who walked away had just been beaten at his own game – at his own walking away game!
Draco bolted up the stairwell with such fervour and elation he almost sprouted wings and flew the rest of the way up. And then he ran down the hallway like he had just ingested a whole bottle of eye-popping liquid energy. He didn't notice the odd stares on the faces of his co-workers as he whisked on by at the speed of light.
One thing was for certain…a naked little dance of victory was soon required in the privacy of his own office. As soon as he got the chance!
In case scientists thought Manic episodes were not likely to present in people with Narcissistic Personality Disorders, here's proof to the contrary.
"Malfoy's a turd," Ron said proudly, rocking back on his chair with a smirk.
"…Yeah…" Harry said absent-mindedly as he toyed with his napkin, barely listening to his friend. His mind was now on the strange behaviour of a certain strange blonde.
"An utter moron."
"I mean, how clever is that?! Laughing and then running off?"
"Not very creative is he?" Ron said, leaning back in his chair and crossing his arms across his chest with great satisfaction.
Ron shook his head. "He's such a git."
"A conceited prat."
Harry nodded vacantly.
"What an arse."
Harry nodded vacantly again.
Harry cleared his throat, "…Well….once again….I'm glad we had this…enlightening chat."
Ron nodded a very pleased thank you for the 'compliment'.
"-Yeah but, damn…" Hermione sighed, "he's downright dreamy looking these days."
Ron's chair fell again to the floor with a bang!
And, as for Harry…should he have been attempting to swallow a pea at that point in time himself? It would surely have come up and out of Harry's nose too - with such incredible velocity… it would have taken someone's eye out…
Draco was still high on the elated feeling of winning when he barked at Higgins to get him a coffee.
Draco was still delirious that he had just laughed at Potter - in public, too - when the annoying shit Mary Bobbins came to him with some more forms to sign.
Draco was still giddy at snatching victory from Potter ten minutes later when he heard that Scrimgeour and Delta Pennyworth were on their way up to see him.
Draco was still thrilled by thoughts of what Potter might do next when Scrimgeour began to ramble on about how great-something-blah blah-report-something was; for Draco was not paying attention, instead heavily distracted and nodding at random intervals.
Draco was still barely able to contain his excitement over thoughts of when he'd next see Potter and what his reaction to Draco would be when words like 'promising future' and 'possible promotion' passed over Scrimgeour's lips, not at all sinking into Draco's ears.
Draco was suddenly not so high and whiter than white in the middle of the meeting when he cast his mind back to just how he claimed his 'victory'...step-by-step…and it suddenly occurred to him….
Did - Did he just giggle at Potter…and then run away…?
Oh lord no.
No way. That's not at all how it happened. Of course not!
He smiled to himself. He was DRACO MALFOY. There was NO WAY he did something like that. Instead, he was certain it was more of a sinister laugh – well-contained, deep and definitively arrogant – and the running away was more like a slow and confident swagger.
"And that's why we wouldn't be surprised to see where you are in a few years from now Mr Malfoy…"
Yeah. It was definitely a swagger and an arrogant laugh. No doubt about it. He smiled again to himself.
And, thought...as soon as the annoying noise-makers in his office, who were distracting him from all his Harry-thoughts (e.g. Scrimgeour and Pennyworth), bleeding-well left his office, he knew…It was time to shut the door and nude up!
"What?!" Hermione merely shrugged. "It's true. He's gorgeous…"
She rolled her eyes. "He is…"
Ron, now upright again, pulled his chair out and took a seat. Fury was just radiating from his eyes.
Suddenly Harry knew that should he ever say he saw the spawn of Satan again to Ron, Ron would now – and only now - have no problem offering up Draco Malfoy's name, straight away, as the possible 'spawn' in question.
As if to confirm Harry's thoughts, the next words out of Ron's mouth were: "Hermione. Malfoy's the spawn of Satan. The spawn. Of Satan."
Harry's timing may have been off, way off, but it suddenly occurred to him that, years ago, he should have told Ron that Voldemort hit on Hermione (or stole the best scones from the tea trolley). Then…maybe…just maybe, Ron would have killed the old bastard himself…
….and saved Harry all the trouble.
Realisation finally hit Draco and it hit him hard. Very hard.
His legs were suddenly unsteady and he felt incredibly faint and sickly.
He sank into his office chair. His hands shook as he raised his fingertips to rub his temples.
No…it couldn't be…
He trembled at the thought.
"Deidre?" his voice wavered, as he pressed the intercom button. "Get Higgins in here…Now…"
Harry was alone once more in the staff cafeteria. He frowned to himself, his mind clouded by certain thoughts…
Hermione was crazy.
One minute later:
Hermione was bonkers.
One minute later:
Hermione was an utter loony.
One minute later:
Hermione was plain barmy.
Well, his job didn't exactly provide much distraction…
"Mr Malfoy, Deidre said you wanted to see me –Yeewurrghghh!!"
Draco was lying naked on the couch in his office, clutching a small pillow to his chest and staring up at the ceiling with a positively grief-stricken look on his face.
"Err…Mr Malfoy…? You're – you're naked…" Higgins hyperventilated.
Draco sighed wearily. "Higgins…oh…Higgins…" he groaned. A deep, intensely-worried frown darkened his usually light face. "What's wrong with me…? Something is very, very wrong with me…"
Higgins took a few tentative steps forward. "Mr…Mr Malfoy…? Is everything…alright…?"
"I don't get it Higgins!" Draco suddenly blurted out angrily. "He's just stupid Potter! Stupid Potter! The stupid specky idiot I used to tease at school with no problem whatsoever! I'm the one who's supposed to do the intimidating! Me! ME!!!"
"What…? Potter…?" Comprehension of what was going on came to Higgins at that point in time. "Oh. Mr Malfoy," he sighed. "What happened…?" he said in what he hoped sounded like a warm and concerned voice – attempting to hide all trace of he's fucking naked! from his voice. Well, he was seeing more of Draco Malfoy than he ever wanted to at any point in his life. More than he would in even an amphetamine drug-induced 'lets get back to the free-loving 60s' state. "Tell me what happened…" he continued carefully.
Draco breathed out a ragged breath and hugged the pillow into his chest, looking forlorn. "Where do I start…?"
"Just start at the beginning Mr Malfoy…" Higgins said absently, trying to spot the blonde man's clothing around the room but he couldn't find a single item. Malfoy must have cast a spell to make them disappear completely from his body.
Draco nodded sadly to Higgin's gentle urging and rested his chin on the pillow. He began to retell the 'horrors' of his recent encounters with Potter in all their 'horrific' glory.
Higgins nodded and added the occasional, "Oh no!", "Really?", "He did what?!" – partly to give a show of support to the upset man, but mostly to distract him while he hunted around for things to levitate over and drop onto the naked man's exposed lap. It needed all the covering it could get.
Luckily, the shattered man was so severely shattered that he didn't notice the folder, ten sheets of parchment, and waste paper bin that ALL eventually ended up on his naked lower half as he continued to share his Potter-woes with Higgins…
Harry spun around. "John! Wow. Long time no see. How are you doing mate?"
"It is you! I'm pretty good. Hey, I heard that you'd returned to England and taken a job here." John elevated an eyebrow. "That's quite a turn of events." Harry nodded. "So, how's it all going then?"
Harry shrugged. "Not bad. I haven't come across Scrimgeour yet, so – heh, heh - so far, so good."
John laughed and nodded. He knew all about Potter's need to keep away from that man. "How long do you think you'll be able to avoid him?"
"As long as possible." He grinned. "Hey, how are you these days?" Harry asked.
John rolled his eyes. "Well. I'm still in an uninspiring, dead end job, surrounded by uninspiring people, and, I've got no desire to climb the corporate ladder. Plus, I can't retire for at least another decade. So, it's all a blissful existence really. Hey, we should do lunch one day!"
Harry smiled. "I'm sure I'll find a way to squeeze it into my really, really busy schedule."
"Oh. Not much happening then?" John asked with a smirk in his eye.
"No. I'm in a fake role at the moment."
"Oh right. They're not bad. Was in one of those myself a few years back."
Harry nodded. "Well, how about next week some time? Maybe Friday or something?"
"Yeah. Sounds good. I've got to head off…I have an errand to run but good to see you and I'll owl you about that lunch!"
"Higgins…? I'm a scary man, aren't I? Intimidating…and all of that…?" Draco's face was squished against the couch arm. His legs were still splayed out across the couch pillows and he was cradling a newly acquired bowl of fruit topped with whipped cream and caramel sauce in his hands.
A mountain of stationery items was precariously covering his manhood.
"Oh yes Mr Malfoy…you're very scary…" Higgins said, pouring Malfoy another a cup of tea. "The mere mention of your name and I often develop a serious case of hives…"
Draco nodded, taking a large quantity of cream and caramel sauce, with just a hint of fruit, into his mouth. "That's what I thought too," he said nodding and then licked the spoon vacantly. "And…I'm cold and calculating too…aren't I…?"
"Absolutely Mr Malfoy. The coldest and most calculating I know." Higgins dolloped some more cream into Draco's bowl for him. "Like a…frozen snowman...in an advanced maths class..."
Draco drew in a deep breath and exhaled longingly, nodding sadly. "Yes. That's what I think as well. And…I'm brilliant…I have a very sharp mind, don't I?" he said, waving his spoon firmly in his hand, hoping to emphasise his point.
"So sharp you almost poke my eye out with it some days," Higgins said, casting a quick spell to stop some stationery items from tumbling off the other man's lap. "At least it often feels like I'm at risk of eye-poking some days…" he muttered under his breath.
"Good. And, I'm stunning too…Aren't I? -Aren't I?" Draco asked with an almost childlike, need to be affirmed, look on his face.
Higgins poured some more caramel sauce over the mass of cream in Draco's bowl. "Were I not heterosexual…married with three children…grappling with a serious sexual dysfunction - of the erectile persuasion…and treated like a subordinate of yours on a day-to-day basis, even though we earn the same amount of money…Well…I would most certainly make a play for you."
Draco nodded. "That's what I thought too." And then he sighed and took another large mouthful of cream and caramel sauce into his mouth...
Harry had just entered the stairwell when he heard a rough yet familiar voice wander through a doorway two floors above him.
"Yes Delta, I'm taking the stairs! Merlin Delta - I've told you this all before! There's no way I'm getting in the lifts in this forsaken place when the likes of Hennie Horvarth keeps trying to turn that place into her own little love nest - with me in it!"
"Don't scoff Delta! That woman is always one step away from ruddy-well leaping on me! What…?! She is! I'm very rugged…"
Delta laughed. "She's blind Rufus!"
"So?! Doesn't seem to stop her from wanting to get a taste of the old Rufus here though, does it?! I'm a very innocent and, well…not often touched man…"
Author: (shudders and whispers to the readers) Oh no way…I'm not touching that one…
"I feel like my poor manly body is about to get wildly violated whenever I am in her presence…like she can't wait to rip my clothes off and…"
Author: (blocks ears and starts humming 'a happy song' to self)
Harry: Can you please write me out of this scene?
Harry: (frowns) Why not?!
Author: I didn't just introduce this whole Scrimgeour thing out of the blue for nothing!
"Anyway, the point is - the minister really needs their own elevator…"
"Yes well, you used to have one Rufus."
"Don't remind me Delta. The things Arthur Weasley changed around here while I was in that coma for two years after the war. From Muggle coffee machines to damn Muggle intercoms…honestly…do you know what those rubber chickens - the ones that are in every supply cabinet - are supposed to be for?!"
"No. No one does. But, I really think you should have taken retirement…you deserved the break…"
"Thankyou Delta. But, you know as well as I do that no one wanted this job – not even Arthur…"
Harry slipped into the first door he came across, breathing an enormous sigh of relief. And cursing the author's name under his breath...
"Mr Malfoy. You look exhausted. And I don't think a third bowl of whipped cream, caramel sauce and next-to-no-fruit is going to help matters much either."
Higgins took the bowl from Draco's almost limp hands and placed it on his desk.
"You know what I think? If you have a good sleep tonight - I'm sure you'll wake up feeling fresh and new again. Just like your old self. And, besides, there'll be other opportunities to feel...inappropriately powerful again…you know, by stooping to...outright…psychological 'violence'…and Wizengamot deemed 'illegal in the workplace'...bullying tactics…"
Draco sighed. "You're right." He nodded. "You're right…and, I could do with some rest. In fact…that's probably the problem here. Lack of sleep. Of course…I haven't slept well since I first saw Potter!"
"Really…?" Higgin's eyes grew large with interest.
"Oh my…" Draco suddenly sat upright. "My goodness! Why…that's IT! My uncharacteristic behaviour has nothing to do with Potter at all! It's just due to completely unrelated sleep deprivation that coincidentally began when I first saw Potter!"
One of Higgin's eyebrows quirked at Malfoy's interesting brand of logic, but he decided to let it slide. "See Mr Malfoy…? Just get some sleep, and you'll be right as rain."
"I will!" Draco said, suddenly standing to his feet dramatically while all manner of office items, including what appeared to be a rubber chicken, fell from his lap and met the floor. "Some good sleep! And I'll be on top of the world again! Intimidating whom ever I see fit!"
"Speaking of intimidating…Mr Malfoy? Erm. You're still…naked…"
But Draco didn't hear a word the annoying noise-maker in his office was making…Draco was back to being the centre of the universe…and that's just where he belonged.
A/N: No peas were harmed in the making of this story. However, rubber chickens did not get off so lightly...