A Week in the Life
Chapter 1: Day One Friday
Week one, Day one -
Friday Afternoon -
Grey walls. Grey walls and grey floors. Were the floors even grey, or were they merely a forgotten by-product of an infrequent cleaning? No matter. They might as well be grey. Her whole life felt grey.
She sat at her desk in her little grey office in sub-level four of the Ministry of Magic and pondered such things, such as her grey life. She did not even have a title. She did not even work in any specific department. What she did was research for any other department that was in need. The smartest witch of her age stuck in an office the size of a broom closet, with grey floors and walls, doing research for other employees in important departments, who actually had jobs that made a difference. What joy.
What led her to this place? During school, a war was going on, but her and her friends tried their best to go on with normal lives. Harry needed her help with his fight against Voldemort. When the light side won the war, she finally felt as if she could go back to school. Her friends got through the war, mostly unharmed, most of them alive.
It had been three years since the end of the war and five years since she finally graduated from Hogwarts. She graduated at the top of her class. She went on to University. She intended to become a teacher. She had hoped she could teach at her old school. Well, fate had other plans. Her father died one year after her graduation from Hogwarts of a heart attack. He was only 45 years old. She had to leave University to be with her mother. After a few years, her mother went back to her dental practice. Therefore, Hermione went back to University.
Six months after she went back, she got a call from her mother. Her mum had pancreatic cancer. Hermione went home to take care of her mum. Two short months later, her mother was dead. Hermione never went back to school. So there she was, five years after graduation, four years after her father's death, and six months after her mother's death, without a formal education and in a dead-end boring job. No family, no boyfriend, no significant other. Her life was just so grey.
Sure, she had great friends who loved her. Harry married Ginny seven months ago, after both finished Auror training. Ronald married Lavender Brown just three months ago and was a manager of one of the shops owned by his brother George. They had grown up lives and grown up jobs and were moving on. She had no one, a boring job, and a life that just stayed still. There was a time, not so long ago, where she felt like her life had purpose; a meaning. Now she was just a visitor in her own life, just passing through. She was sure if she should ever feel happiness again, something cruel would come along and take it from her. Wake her up. Tell her she just was not worthy. Tell her she only deserved the grey life in front of her.
George Weasley rented her a tiny apartment over one of his shops. Well, she was not really renting the flat. She tried to pay rent, but every time she paid the rent he would sneak the money back into her flat somehow, so she just gave up. Harry helped her find a job at the Ministry, where she had now worked for four months. Percy Weasley was the Minister of Magic, and he told Harry that it was a waste of Hermione's talent and brains to give her some meager position, but since she had no formal training and no degree, he really did not have anything for her at that moment. Harry pleaded with Percy, and since most people don't say "no" to the man who saved the whole Wizarding world, Percy agreed to take pity on the poor girl and make a position for her somewhere. Yes, he made up a job just for Hermione Jean Granger. She went to work doing research for other people and reporting directly to a wizard named Quinn O'Brien.
O'Brien was not too happy that the Minister insisted that he take on another employee, just because she was best friends with the "Boy who lived". He didn't care if she grew up like one of the Minister's own family, or that her best friend was Harry "bloody" Potter, or even if she helped take down the Lord of Darkness. No, he resented it like hell, and everyday he made Hermione regret the day she came to work at the Ministry. If he could make her resent being born, that was even better. He treated her worse than if she was a house elf. He gave her thankless jobs, like colour coding files, or cross-referencing counter jinx and their causes. Occasionally she did do some interesting research for some other department, and they always thanked her, praised her, and told her boss what a great employee she was, which only served to make him hate her more. Today, he got a third memo from Draco Malfoy about her, and he was so angry that he made her alphabetize the files on all the known Death Eaters who used spells against non-magical creatures. Her life was indeed grey.
So there she was on a Friday afternoon in her little broom cupboard/office, alphabetizing files and listening to all her co-workers talk about their exciting plans for the weekend. That was when Miss Hermione Jean Granger the Grey cracked! She literally and physically cracked. She started crying and just could not stop. She cried all over the blasted files. She didn't even get up to shut her door. She didn't care anymore. At that moment, she felt the whole world was going to swallow her whole and she did not care, because she did not want to be grey anymore.
Draco Malfoy was walking down the corridor of sub-level four, to find Quinn O'Brien. He had talked to the Minister of Magic about transferring Hermione Granger to his department. She helped his staff out tremendously one month ago. They needed some research done on a potion for a counter curse for an ancient hex that no one had seen in over 100 years. They had been working on this potion, for this counter curse, for months, when someone suggested they talk to Granger. Granger came up with the proper counter curse in only two days. Therefore, he went to Percy and demanded that Granger come work for his department. After all, didn't the Minister state that her talents and brains where being wasted in her present position?
Malfoy did all the proper transfer paperwork, and sent an inter-departmental memo to her boss, this O'Brien fellow, to inform him of her transfer and to see when he might release her to her new job. After one week with no word from her boss, Malfoy sent another memo. Now it had been two weeks and still no word. This was bloody unacceptable. He sent a third message and still had not received a response. No response at all. He was going to find this O'Brien fellow and give him a piece of his mind.
Draco joined the Order of the Phoenix after he went on the run after Dumbledore's murder. He became a spy. He actually got to work closely to the "golden trio" during the second war. He could not say that he became close to them. No, Potter and Weasley always kept him at arm's length. Granger was even more guarded with him. He would sometimes catch her looking at him during meetings and he went on more than one mission with her. However, they never really became friends. She never fully trusted him. No matter how many times he proved himself.
Now that the war was over, Draco was working at the Ministry as the Head of the Potions Department. He really didn't need to work. His parents left him a lot of money when they died. Nevertheless, he did go back to school and obtain his Potions Master's License, so he decided that he might as well do something with his life. In addition, if he was perfectly honest with himself, for which he very rarely ever was, he wanted to work at the Ministry to be close to Hermione Granger, and to prove to her that his life mattered.
He knew she was still hurting from the death of her mother. She was probably still hurting from the death of her father. While the deaths of his own parents were merely a minor footnote in his life, he realized that the deaths of her parents had drastically changed her. He heard from mutual acquaintances that she had indeed become quite unhinged as of late. Here was the brightest witch of their generation, it hurt him to admit as much, and she was wasting her life, her career, and her future.
Well, no matter. He hated the way the rest of the former Order members would talk about her in hushed tones. "Oh, poor Hermione this, and poor Hermione that." Come on, girl, pull up your bootstraps and get back on the bloody broom already. He wanted to tell her "Life's before you, not behind you." If he had his say, everyone would stop coddling her and slap her right on her 'Know-it-All' face and say "WAKE UP"!
He remembered actually having somewhat of a crush on her in school. She was smart, (better grades than his grades), pretty, and a loyal friend. Of course, she was also a "Mudblood". To be honest, that shite didn't concern him anymore. It used to, it really did. Not anymore.
He remembered how small and weak she appeared at her mother's funeral. He hadn't gone to her father's funeral, since it was right after the war, and he was not yet friends with her (for lack of a better word), but when her mum died, he went to the funeral. She probably didn't even know he was there. She probably didn't even know SHE was there. She had her face in Potter or Weasley's shoulders during the whole funeral.
Shortly after that, she went to work at the Ministry, and Draco went to work there as well. When he talked to Percy Weasley about bringing her on board with his staff, Percy thought it was a brilliant idea. In fact, Percy told Harry, Ron, his family, and just about everyone else that they knew that it was his plan all along that she work in the Potions Department. Yes, Percy took credit for the whole idea. Draco didn't care whose idea it was. He just wanted that bastard O'Brien to give Hermione a release date, so she could start her new position. Since Draco gave the son of a bitch two weeks to contact him, he decided to wait no longer and to find this man and demand that he release Hermione now. Surely, this little "made up job" for this inconsequential O'Brien fellow was not that important. Certainly, Hermione was anxious to start her new position in an important department like the Potions Department.
Just as Draco was rounding the corner on sub-level four, he heard what sounded like a muted sob. Someone was definitely crying. Not loudly. There were no wails, just small, sad inconceivable sob. He looked for the cause of the crying, even though he was already sure he knew the source. He stopped in front of a door that looked like an opening to a broom closet, except it must be an office because it had a desk and a chair. Grey walls, dirty grey floors, and definitely a desk and chair. Behind said desk was the source of the crying. With her head on her arms, and her arms on the top of her desk, was Hermione Granger. He knew it was she before he saw her. Now that he saw her, he thought his heart might break.
"Granger?" he asked.
"Granger!" he demanded again.
She looked up at him. Oh no, she thought. This was not what she needed today of all days. Her life just kept getting greyer and greyer all the time. There was Draco Malfoy, standing in the doorway of her little office, in all his beautiful glory, and he was witnessing her emotional and mental breakdown. She put her head back down on her desk and continued to cry.
"Granger? What the hell's going on here? Tell me why you're crying," Draco demanded again, as he knelt down beside her desk.
"Go away, Malfoy. Please. Leave me alone. I just want to be left alone," she said between sobs.
"No, Granger, I won't go away. I came down here looking for O'Brien, but then I heard you crying. Now for goodness sakes woman, tell me what happened."
"Really, Malfoy," Hermione answered, "Nothing's happened," she continued, while wiping her eyes on her sleeve. "Just go find O'Brien. He should be in his office."
"Listen, I really do need to talk to him, but after I'm finished with him I'm coming back in here and you will tell me what's wrong. We may not be the best of friends, Granger, but you really can talk to me, okay?" At this, Draco turned to leave Hermione's office, took one last backwards glance at the pretty witch with the red eyes, and he wondered what in the world could have happened to make her so upset.
She nodded 'okay' to his last statement, to signify acceptance to his offer. All the while thinking, what a handsome and kind man he had become. He started back down the corridor and he heard her head hit the desk once again and she started to cry even more.
He stormed back into her office, again knelt down next to her desk, took a hold of her two small hands in his large hands, and he said, "I know we haven't always been close. Hell, we're not even really friends, but we're not exactly mortal enemies anymore, either. I would like to think that you could count on me if something's so wrong in your life that you can't even go one minute without crying. Tell me, Hermione; tell me right this instant, what in the blazes is wrong with you?"
She looked down at her hands in his and looked back up into his grey eyes. Grey. He had grey eyes. Once they were as cold and grey as her life presently felt, but now they seemed warm and inviting. She wondered…could she really confide in this man? This man that was a first class, pureblood bully in school, and who became a Death Eater, and tried to kill their Headmaster. True, he had changed. He did many good things for the Order during the war. Still, could she confide in him? Would he really want her to do so? She pondered these things, looked once more at their entwined hands, and in a very quiet voice, said one sentence: "My life is so grey, Malfoy."
Later Friday Afternoon-
'What?' Draco thought. He frowned at that statement. Before he could ask her what in the world she meant, her boss walked through her door.
"Granger! Aren't you through with those files yet? I could have had a trained monkey finish this in the time it's taken your sorry arse to complete," O'Brien yelled. At that moment, he finally looked up from the paper he was reading and saw that Hermione wasn't alone, not by a long shot. Draco Malfoy was there. "What are you doing here, Malfoy?" he asked, just as Draco stood from his position beside Hermione's desk.
He turned and looked the older man directly in the eyes. "Actually, O'Brien, I came down here to talk to you personally about Hermione's transfer to my department, since you've seemed to have been ignoring my memos for the past two weeks," Draco stated.
Hermione looked at Draco's face to O'Brien's face. To what was he referring? What transfer?
"Draco, my good man," O'Brien spat, trying to lighten the mood, seeing that he was actually a bit intimidated by the younger man, "Come to my office, and we can have a talk. I guarantee I was not ignoring your memos. I would like to talk to you about this privately."
"Wait!" Hermione interjected, now no longer sobbing. "What's going on here? What transfer? Transfer where? Who's being transferred? What's going on here?"
"Never mind, Granger, just get back to work. I want this finished before you leave tonight, and for goodness sakes, stop that infernal crying. This is a place of business, not a damn therapist office!" O'Brien yelled at her.
Draco took a long look at Hermione. He could tell that she really didn't know about her new job. That damn bastard hadn't even told her about the transfer. He looked back at the stupid wanker and bellowed, "You didn't even tell her, did you, O'Brien? Well, no matter, it's happening whether you want it to or not. The transfer was approved by the Minister himself, so you can ignore all the bloody memos you want – but this transfer is happening!"
"FINE!" yelled O'Brien. "I didn't tell her, are you happy now? I didn't intend to tell her, because I intended to make sure this transfer didn't happen. There's no way this bloody little bint is going to get a promotion with more money, a bigger office, and a bloody title, if I can stop it in anyway. This is not fair! I've worked here for ten long years. If anyone gets this promotion, it should be me! Why should she get this promotion? Just because of whom she knows, or should I say whom she sleeps with? No way!"
Well, 'ouch' thought Hermione, that one hurt, but before Hermione could say as much, she saw Draco pull his arm back, about to hit the man. 'No!' she thought, please allow me.
SLAP! Her hand flew up and she slapped her boss squarely on the left cheek. Draco turned to look at her in complete shock. Wasn't that something? Now there was the Hermione Jean Granger he knew and loved. He quickly turned to O'Brien, and saw a red handprint already embedded on his cheek.
"How dare you!" her boss howled.
"No, how dare you!" she yelled back, all previous traces of tears now completed vanished. "How dare you insinuate that I got my job by sleeping with somebody? First, I'd like to think that if I did sleep with someone to get a job, it would be a better job than this one!" (Draco had trouble containing his smirk at that sentiment), "Second, how dare you not tell me about this transfer! How dare you interfere with my life! Third, I don't need this bloody job. You're correct, sir, a trained monkey could colour-code files and alphabetize hexes, so why don't you find one, because I quit!"
'Bravo', thought Draco. He turned to look at the older man with a lopsided grin and a raised eyebrow and said, "Yeah, what she said."
When the shock subsided from O'Brien's face, he finally spoke, "You can't quit, because I'm firing your arse. Furthermore, I fully intend to prosecute. You assaulted me. There's a witness!"
Hermione huffed in anger, grabbed her purse from her desk drawer and her jumper off the hook on the wall, pushed Draco to the side, shouldered O'Brien out of the way, and without a word to either man she ran down the hallway and didn't look back. Draco leaned out of the door to see her retreating figure, but instead of following her, which he knew he should do, he turned to the man in front of him and spoke.
"Listen here you fat, ugly stupid, poor excuse for a wizard! You actually cannot fire Miss Granger, because she works for me now. In addition, there were no witnesses to any crime, not as far as I see. You WILL NOT file charges against Miss Granger, because if you do, you'll answer to me, and believe me, I've taken down stronger men than you, and have come up smelling like roses. Furthermore, you pompous, overgrown troll, if you so much as speak to Miss Granger again, or even look her way, I'll see to it that you don't live to see another day. Don't forget, you're dealing with a former Death Eater here. I still have plenty of friends in low places."
"I'm not afraid of a little, reformed Death Eater!" O'Brien stuttered, although he looked quite scared indeed.
Draco leaned into the older man, laughed one little laugh, and with a voice so low it was almost a whisper said, "Who said I was reformed?"
The man now looked terrified, and with Draco's threat still hanging quite large in the room, he leaned onto the desk behind him, for his knees were shaking, and said, "Fine."
"Well, isn't that just grand, then. So nice doing business with you, O'Brien, old man. I knew if I came down here and talked to you personally, you'd be reasonable." And with that, Draco slapped the man on the shoulder, perhaps a little harder than he should have, and left the room.
The first order of business was to find Granger. He had absolutely no idea where she might have gone. He would have to go find Potter and see if he knew where she might have gone. Draco didn't even know where she lived. Deciding the lift was too slow, Draco flew up the four flights of stairs to level two, ran down the hallway to the Auror Department to Harry's door, and stormed right in. "Potter, we may have a problem!"
Friday evening -
She didn't know where to go. She didn't want to go back to her flat. Surely, by now, word had gotten to Harry about everything that had happened, and while she loved him, and he was her best friend in the world, she didn't think she could face him right now. She couldn't go see Ginny, because, well, the whole Harry thing again. There was no way she could deal with Ron right now. Therefore, she decided just to walk, but frankly, she was tired. She didn't really want to walk anymore. She didn't want to run away anymore. She didn't want to do anything anymore. She didn't think she could take even one more step. She could go one place. However, with the terrible mood she was in, wouldn't going there just make her mood even worse? 'No matter', she thought, as she took her wand and just disappeared.
Two seconds later, she appeared in front of her parents' graves. Her mum and dad were buried in a Wizard graveyard. When her dad died, her mum figured that Hermione would probably one day marry a wizard, and her grandchildren would probably be magical as well, so it made more sense for her husband and her to be buried in a Wizard graveyard. Her mum even bought ten plots, for the big family Hermione would have someday. 'Yeah, right,' Hermione thought. Who would have known that just four years after lowering her husband in the grave, Hermione's mum would soon follow.
Hermione sat on the ground in front of her parents' headstone and began to cry again. She thought of the day they buried her father, and then she thought of the day they placed her mother next to him. She looked at the names and dates of births and deaths on the smooth black granite. "Beloved parents of HermioneJean Granger", it said directly below their names.
"Mum, Dad," Hermione started speaking; "I miss you both so much, and I love you both so much. I feel so lost and alone. How did my life get so off track? I was always so independent when you were alive, and now that you're both gone, I truly don't know what to do. I lost my job today. I'm so ashamed. I'm sorry. I know you had so many hopes and dreams for me. I must be a terrible disappointment. The thing is, and it's so shallow to say this, but sometimes I feel like if I just had one person who deeply loved me and whom I could love in return, so many of the wrong things would turn right again, you know?" Hermione stopped talking, started crying again, and slowly lowered herself further to lie on the ground.
Draco didn't know where to look for her. Potter, Weasley, and the Little She-Weasel, turned Mrs. Potter, were looking all over for her. 'Leave it to them to find her', he thought. After all, they are her friends, right? She probably didn't regard him as anything more than a person she merely knew. What would he say if he did find her anyway? "Way to go, Granger. I forgot how good you were at slapping people." Surely, she wouldn't want to see him. He just would stay where he was. Then again, he actually had a hunch were she might have gone and he highly doubted that "Scar boy" and "Weasel bee" would even think of this place. Maybe he would just go check it out.
He arrived just as she first sank to the ground in front of the grave. He heard every single word she cried to them. She looked so sad and pathetic on the ground, in front of their graves, crying her eyes out. If Draco Malfoy had a heart, which according to most debates he did not, but if he did, it was at that moment breaking, for her.
It took him another five minutes to decide if he should let his presence be known. He felt like he was witnessing her deepest and darkest moment. Almost like the baring of her soul. Should he go get Potter? Potter was good at all of this "emotional crap". Draco was not. What could HE say to her? At that moment, Hermione made up Draco's mind for him, when she sat back up and without even turning around to face him, said, "What, Malfoy? No jokes about the Mudblood down in the mud? Oh, wait; maybe you didn't come to make jokes. Maybe you came to make fun of me, or to kick me when I'm down. That's what you've done our entire life. Go on now. Get it over with."
Draco started walking the small distance he stood from her and began slowly to clap his hands together, as if in applause. "Bravo, Granger! Well done in deed. Not even sure I would have come up with such a knife welding remark to someone when they were standing at the mouth of utter despair." He stopped applauding, and she turned to face her audience. "I mean really, Granger, I'm so surprise you think so little of me, that you think even I would kick you when you're down. After all, I might be a ruddy bastard, but at least I'm not a pathetic emotional wreck, like you, and might I add, I didn't assault anyone today; you did. However, if you want to take out all of your pain and anger on me, go on, girl. I've gotten worse. I'm a big boy, and I can certainly take it, especially from someone like you."
She rushed up to him and pushed him. Pushed him with all of her might. He hardly moved. Then she slapped him. Slapped him harder than she had ever slapped anyone before. He just stared at her. Then with one last cry, she took both her fists and started to hit him in the chest. She screamed, "Go to hell! Go away from me. Far away. I hate you! I don't want you here! Go away!" She hit him one last time and he still didn't move. He had absolutely no expression on his face. She could not take it anymore. She was so tired. She put both her hands down to her sides, and just leaned into him, with her head against his chest. She started to cry again. "Help me, Malfoy."
"Hermione," he said softly, thinking all the while that her name sounded strange coming from his mouth, "just cry. I don't care. I'll not judge you. Hit me and I'll not hit back. Things just look bad right now, but they're not as bad as they seem. Believe me, it'll get better."
She looked up to him, and said, "Nothing can make it better. You have no clue about my life. Please, go away. I'm not up to a verbal duel with you right now. In case you've not notice, I'm having a terrible day. Go away."
"Granger," Draco began, "you just asked me for help, and then you tell me to go away. Which is it?" She started to walk away from him, when he grabbed her wrist to make her stay. "Okay, listen, you might be having a bad day, I mean, I don't even know why you were crying when I first came into your office, but to tell you the truth, you really should have felt a lot better after you slapped that bastard O'Brien. Also, you should have felt a hundred times better after you found out about your new job. If you're worried about him firing you, I'll tell you what I told him, you work for me now, not him, and if I'm not going to fire you for just hitting me, I'm certainly not going to fire you for hitting him. Additionally, if you're worried about being prosecuted for assault, I think I can promise you that will not happen."
She sighed and looked at his hand, which still held her wrist. "Please, let go of my wrist, Malfoy," she said in a steady voice. He promptly let her go and watched her walk over to a stone bench and sit down. He walked over and joined her. They were sitting so close, that they were almost touching. She said, "So, I work for you now?"
"Well, yes, I guess you do," he told her.
"What are you playing at, Malfoy?" she asked. "I don't have my potions degree. I didn't even finish University. Why would you want me to work for you? What do you really want?"
"Again, I congratulate you, Granger. You figured me out. I went out of my way to get you a job in my department, approved by the Minister of Magic himself, and it certainly has nothing to do with your brains, or your talent. No, I did it just to mess with your mind." He poked her forehead with his index finger. "That's the type of bloke I am."
"Seriously, what could I do for your department?" she asked, as she peered up at his face.
"Well, I do have a lot of files that need to be colour-coded, and I hear you're better than a trained monkey at alphabetizing things." He looked at her with all seriousness, at this last remark.
"Go to hell, Malfoy!" she barked and pushed him off the bench.
"No thanks, Granger, already been there, too hot for my taste," he stated, as he got up from the ground. "Oh, and by the way, these are new trousers, and I'll be sending my cleaning bill to you." He sat back beside her and turned halfway to look at her. "I really don't think you should tell your new boss to go to hell. I know you have a history of assaulting your previous supervisors, but there'll be none of that with me, so please no more pushing me to the ground."
"Malfoy, I'm serious! Why do you want me in your department? Cut the crap, and just tell me out right," she pleaded.
"Right, well, remember a month or so back when you came up with that counter curse for that hex, for my staff? We worked on that for two whole months, and couldn't come up with anything. We asked you to work on it, and in two days time you figured the whole thing out. Hell, you spent most of our years in school being the brains of the 'golden trio'. There's no telling what your intelligence and magical talents could bring to my department. Not to mention, you were no slouch with potions and healing spells in school, and during the war. I'd be stupid if I didn't offer you a job, and believe me, no matter what you think of me, I AM NOT STUPID!" He yelled that last part, while pointing at her.
She paused for a second, looked at Draco, then the ground, then at Draco, and finally she said, "No, you're not stupid, but you are an egotistical, arrogant, spoiled brat who made my school years utter hell. You always considered me lower than the dirt on your shoes. You called me 'Mudblood' more times than I can count. Even during the war, when you were supposed to be on our side, you barely regarded me with even a word or recognition. Work for you? I would no sooner work for you than I would go back and work for O'Brien."
She stood to leave, but Malfoy stood just as quick. He grabbed her shoulders and turned her back to face him, and yelled, "How sad, Granger! BOO Fucking HOO. You hate my guts. Like that's a big surprise to me. Do you really think that your stupid, petty, little words have any affect on me at all?"
"Listen to me, and listen well, because I'll just say this once. I'm not proud of what I did to you in school, but you know what, Granger, I was a kid. That was a long time ago. I'm no longer that person. I've not called you 'Mudblood' in probably five or six years."
"I tried to be cordial and even friendly toward you while we served in the Order together, but you could never get past my past. That's your problem, not mine. I didn't offer you this job out of charity. It'll benefit me. That's right, I'm still selfish. So take the job, or don't take it, but get out of the past and grow up for goodness sakes! You used to be smart. You used to be attractive and intelligent and, and, well, I don't know what else, but this poor me act has got to go!" While he was yelling at her, he was shaking her shoulders.
"Where's the girl I used to know and hate? Why have you given up on life, Granger? It's not given up on you. Stop all the self-pity rubbish and just be thankful for what you have. Grow up!"
"Oh no! " Hermione screamed, as she brought her hands up to knock his off her shoulders, "You will never manhandle me again, Malfoy, and do you really want to know where the girl you used to hate is? I will tell you! No! I'll show you."
She walked up to parents' grave and pointed. "There, Malfoy! That's where she is, dead and buried in the ground along with her dead parents, and along with them is buried her hopes and dreams and her future. This person in front of you, right now, I don't even know who she is. She's just an empty pathetic shell. She's inconsequential!" she yelled as she poked him in the chest.
She continued. "You, you're still alive! You're just the same. She's dead. What you see in front of you is NOTHING! While we're at it, Malfoy, where the hell did the old Malfoy go? You claim you're no longer that person, but prove it to me. I don't see proof that the pompous, mean, pureblood that I hated all my life is gone. I think he's still here, right in front of me!"
"And who the hell are you anyway, Malfoy?" she went further. "Why do you care? You're not obligated to me. My happiness doesn't depend on you. Please, please, just go away!"
"Okay," he said, very slowly and deliberately, "okay, listen to me, because I'll only say this once, and I'll try to use very small words so you can understand. You want to know where the old Malfoy went, right? Well, he's in the exact same spot that you claim the old Granger is. He's dead and buried in his parents' grave. He died with them and all the old pureblood garbage that was ingrained in his head for the first seventeen years of his life."
"You want me call you Mudblood now? Well, I can't do it. I just can't. You want to believe I don't care. Well, I do, so help me, I do. How do you think I even knew you were here, Granger? Because, I came to your mother's funeral. I was there when they buried her in the ground. I saw you, and so help me, all I thought was 'if only I could help her'. I didn't think 'oh goody, the Mudblood bitch's mum died.' And when I saw you crying in your office today, I didn't think 'oh joy, the Mudblood is miserable!' All I could think was, 'what can I do to help her?' The thought of you being sad and miserable, made me sad and miserable. Why? I don't even know, but if you want the old Malfoy back, then that's too bad. He's long gone. This is the Malfoy you get now. This is the real me, but I know for certain, Hermione, that what I see in front of me right now is not the real Hermione. And I know it is not too late for her. She can come back. I want her back and I think you do, too."
SLAP! She pulled back her hand again and it connected soundly with his cheek.
Well, that was unexpected. What did this woman have with slapping people? It was certainly a bad habit that she needed to break.
Later Friday Evening -
She didn't mean to slap him again. She just didn't know what else to do. She just wanted to shut him up. His words were too truthful, to bold, to revealing, and that scared her. She looked at his cheek, which was starting to get red, after all, it was slapped twice in one day, then she looked at her hand, and for the first time in her whole life, she really was without words.
He looked shocked. Shocked and surprised. His mouth was actually opened, as if he wanted to say something more, but he was afraid she might slap him again. What should he do now?
What should she do now? She walked back over to the bench and sat down. He walked back over to the bench and sat next to her. She felt more sad and alone than she had all day, and that was saying something. She also felt incredible guilt. He was actually being kind to her and she said all those horrible things to him and slapped him (more than once). What was worse was that he was right about every bloody thing. She couldn't cry anymore. There were no more tears to be had.
She looked up at his face, he met her eyes, and she said, in the smallest of voices, that he almost couldn't hear what she was saying, one little word, and it was, "Sorry".
He stood up. He contemplated what do to next. He thought she actually apologized to him, but he wasn't completely certain. His ears were ringing from being slapped twice, so he might have misunderstood her, also, she spoke so softly. He turned to look back at her, sat down next to her, and then uttered one little word back to her…"pardon?"
Did he seriously not hear her, or was he being a prat? No worries. Either way, she deserved this. She should have to say this again. He was so close to her that they were almost touching. She looked at his hands, and placed her left hand on top of his right one, looked him straight in the eyes and said, "I said I was sorry. I am, too. I am so very, sincerely sorry."
What was he supposed to do with that? That was more unexpected than the second slap. He contemplated what he should do. He turned his hand over, and grasped her small hand in his large one, and said, "Yeah, me too, Granger, me too." She didn't pull her hand away. That surprised him. That was a good sign.
She let him keep her hand in his. Truth known, she really needed some human compassion right now, even if it was from him. Anyway, he had changed. She really did know that to be the truth, whether she acknowledged it or not. "So…apology accepted by both of us, huh, Malfoy?"
"Excuse me, Granger; I seem to be partially deaf in this ear. I was just socked a good one a few moments ago, and I think there's some permanent damage. Could you repeat that just a little louder and maybe with more meaning?" He smirked at her.
"Prat!" she said with a smile as she pushed him off the bench again.
"Well now THAT one I heard." He laughed as he got up off the ground. "Seriously, Granger, for a little thing, you're quite strong. Oh, and expect my cleaning bill in the morning." He offered her his arm, and she stood and accepted his offer.
As they started walking, arm in arm, she looked up at him and said, "I really am sorry, Malfoy. Thanks for being my whipping boy today. Thanks for the job as well. If the offer still stands, I'd like to take the position. I promise you no more bodily injury."
"I'm going to hold you to that one, Granger. Hold on now; let's get out of here. We should go find your friends. They're all out looking for you, and are probably worried," Draco told her.
"Hey, Malfoy," she began, "how did you know to find me here?"
"I guess I know you better than you think, Miss Granger," he said as he looked down at her.
"Oh," she said softly. With that, he took her hand, tucked it into his arm, and together they apparated back to the outside entrance of the Ministry of Magic building, entered arm in arm through the atrium, and headed toward the lifts.
Draco and Hermione walked off the lifts on sub-level six. They walked down the corridor to the Potions Department. Right before they reached the main doors, Draco turned toward Hermione, and said, "I just realized, you probably need to go back down to your old office and collect all of your personal effects; photos, and things. It's pretty late, so I doubt any of your co-workers are there."
"No, there's nothing there. I don't want to ever go there again, okay?" she responded. She looked up at him; he smiled back at her, and winked. "Also, I wouldn't want to risk seeing O'Brien. I'm still not convinced he's not going to prosecute me for slapping him."
"You mean the 'slap heard around the world'? No, he'll not prosecute. I already told you that," he reiterated.
"How can you be so sure?" she inquired.
"Let's just say that I alluded to the fact that I may still be a Death Eater, and if he so much as looked at you funny, he would have to answer to me and all of my little Death Eater friends." Draco smiled.
"You brainless idiot!" Both hands came up to her mouth in shock. "Now he'll probably have both of us arrested!" she exclaimed as she punched him in the arm.
Draco feigned pain, as he brought his hand up to rub his arm, and then laughed and said, "What happened to your promise of no more bodily injury? Anyway, if we're both arrested, we can share a cell in Azkaban. With you by my side in prison, Granger, I won't have to worry about being picked on by the bullies, and I'm certain I would never be bored. Now then, shall we?" He gestured toward the doors and again offered her his arm.
She looked at his arm, looked at his face, and then said, "Yes, we shall," as she once more accepted his pre-offered arm and they walked through the doors.
The Potions Department, Friday evening-
They walked side by side, in silence, through a set of wooden double doors. Malfoy used his wand and the whole place became illuminated with light. There was a very large open area with many desks, all facing different directions. There were file cabinets, bookshelves, and a large table toward the back with perhaps chairs around it, next to the wall. Directly to the left was a conference room with another large table and chairs. Draco escorted her through the large open area to a long hallway. On one side of the hallway was another set of double doors that said, "Laboratory".
He opened these doors and said, "This is the actual lab. The storerooms are directly at the end of this room. A bloke by the name of Scott Cohn is the head Potions Master. You'll meet him on Monday. You have a lot in common with him."
"Oh, why is that?" Hermione inquired.
"Well, he's Muggle-born, too," Draco replied.
"Of course," Hermione feigned with fake sweetness, "all of us Muggle-borns are so much alike. It's almost hard to tell us apart. Seriously, Malfoy, could you make a more ignorant statement?"
"Ha! Granger, I was actually trying to be funny. It's called sarcasm, but alas and alac, I forgot that you have absolutely no sense of humour at all, so I'll try to refrain from saying anything humorous in the future," Draco labored with a roll of his eyes. "Oh, and on a more serious note, since you're always so serious, I'm the boss around here, so try to be a bit more professional and maybe a little less, shall I say, hateful toward me in front of the rest of the staff, okay?"
"Of course, Malfoy, I'll only act hateful and heinous toward you in private. Will that make you happy?" she responded sweetly.
"Incredibly happy, thanks. Now on with the tour. Directly across from the Lab is the research department. That's your new area. You can peek in there if you'd like and then go on down this hallway to the end, and you'll find my office. I actually need to go floo your friends and tell them you're safe, and then I'll meet you in my office. Go on, shoo." He pushed her in the direction of the research department.
She watched him retreat toward the area they had just left before she walked into the research area. She was amazed at what she saw. The room was every bit as large as the laboratory they were just in, except instead of tables, cauldrons, beakers and vials, it had four small desks with chairs, and wall-to-wall book shelves on all four walls. At the end of the research room was another set of double doors.
She crept closer to those doors, opened them, and looked around. She spied a nice size office, with warm red walls (NOT GREY), in-laid tile floors, and a large cherry desk, a small round table in the corner with two chairs, and a marble fireplace and two large bookshelves on either side. There was a cream colour sofa on the wall opposite the fireplace. It even had a private bathroom. It was certainly a beautiful office. She stepped back out of this office and walked back to the hall, down to where Draco said his office was located.
At the end of the long hallway was a massive set of doors. She timidly pushed the doors open and gasped at what she saw. This office was bigger than her entire flat! Painted green, 'how cliché,' she thought, (Slytherin green), it had an expansive oak desk directly in the middle of the opposite wall. There was a black granite fireplace at the end of the room, and at the other end were windows that went from the ceiling to floor. Since they were underground, she assumed they were enchanted, because it appeared to be late evening outside the windows.
There was a large black sofa on the wall with the windows, and a conference table on the wall opposite the desk. This office also had a private bath, and there were several large bookcases in there, with hundreds of books. She walked over to closest shelf, saw a book that looked interesting, and took it over to the couch and sat down to read.
Draco came in his office to find Granger on his couch with a book in her hand. Instead of reading the book however, she was holding the book precariously in her hand, with her head on the armrest, fast asleep. "Funny little Gryffindor," he murmured softly.
She looked very pretty while she was sleeping. Somehow, he thought, she looked prettier asleep than she did when she was awake, but that was probably because she wasn't talking. That observation almost made Draco laugh aloud. He walked over to the couch, leaned down, put one hand on her arm and said, "Um, Granger, do you want to see where you'll be working now, or would you rather continue your nap?"
"What?" she asked with surprise. "I was reading. I wasn't asleep."
"Sure you weren't," he laughed. She stood up and went over to the shelf to return the book, when he said, "You know you can take that book home if you want to finish reading. It's from my own personal collection; it doesn't belong to the Ministry."
"No, that's fine. I can finish it some other time. I know where to find it if I want," she answered. The thought that she might come back to find the book another day made him somewhat happy inside. Why? He wasn't sure.
"Well, let's go back to the research area," he stated as he led her out of his office. He placed his right hand on the small of her back, to escort her down the hall. It was such a little gesture, but to her it seemed so intimate, and for some reason it made her heart flutter. "This is where you'll be working," he stated as they re-entered the room they were in previously.
"Which is my desk?" she wondered aloud.
"Your desk?" he inquired.
"Yes, well, I mean, I assume I'll have one of these desk. I can work out in the main area if you'd rather. I don't need much space, as you could tell from my last position," she stammered.
Draco had a confused look on his face, and then all of the sudden he realized what she thought and he smiled widely. "You are truly one of the silliest little things I have ever met. I really don't see how you function in everyday life. You won't be working at one of the desks out here. You'll be working in here." And with that said, he motioned toward the office where she had previously been.
'No way' she thought. "No," she said, "I can't work in here. I saw this office. It's too nice, too big. It can't be my office. No." She was shaking her head as he was physically pulling her into the office.
"You're so funny, Granger. Of course, this is your office. Your staff will be working out here."
"MY STAFF?" Hermione felt nausea. "No, Malfoy, my goodness, if people thought I had to sleep my way into my previous job, what will they think now?"
"Listen, Granger, if it'll make you feel better to sleep with me, I mean, make you feel more deserving, I'm certainly up for that, but in all honesty, who gives a hoot what people think. You're a smart and hardworking witch, and you deserve this job, end of discussion," Draco finished. "Now then, Granger, if you don't mind, it's very late, probably past your little bedtime and I have dinner plans tonight, so if you don't mind, could we leave now and continue this discussion Monday at work, at 8:00 am sharp?"
"Oh, yes, sure, sorry, Malfoy. You have plans, and I've been such bloody pain this afternoon. I'm sorry, and yet, I'm also grateful. I just can't believe that a day that started out so, for lack of a better word, so grey, would end up so…oh…I don't know, just so, great, you know?" She looked down at the floor the entire time she said this, but Draco knew that she was truly grateful.
"How very articulate," he joked. "I'm happy that you're happy," Draco said sincerely. On a lighter note, he added, "Oh, and by the way, if you could have seen your face when I suggested that we sleep together, well, let's just say; priceless, Granger, absolutely priceless." He laughed and she looked over at him, raised both her eyebrows, and smiled a genuine smile for the first time all day.
How could a day take such a drastic turn, from horrible to wonderful? It didn't make any sense that in just a few hours her life turned completely upside down. She had a new office, a new job, and not a stitch of grey in sight! Even if her new job meant she had to deal with Malfoy, somehow, that thought didn't seem as horrible as she thought it would.
Draco turned to leave, and Hermione took one last look at her new office and turned to face him. He smiled the sweetest smile at her, she leaned closer to him, stood on her tiptoes, supporting her weight with one hand, and while leaning on his arm she reached up and kissed him on the cheek. The same cheek she had twice slapped, just that day. She leaned back away from him, just as quickly as she leaned into him, and smiled the sweetest smile that HE had ever seen.
He put his hand up to his cheek, and said, "Let's go, Hermione." With that, they walked arm in arm again, back to the entry foyer of the Ministry and then they went on their separate ways.
End of Day One