A/N I am tempted to preface this with "Long long ago, in a galaxy far far away" to make it clear that this piece bears no relation to anything I have written before or am likely to write in the future.
It was written for respitechristopher's "I never" challenge at the Sober Universe Forum, the idea being to write something way out of your comfort zone. So if you are expecting one of my usual angsty or fluffy Weasley stories, there's nothing to see here - move along please. Rated M for good reason, so bear that in mind!
Having said all that, I had fun writing this, and I hope you like it!
A Strictly Legal Matter
Draco Malfoy blinked, and with an effort, dragged his mind back to what he was supposed to be thinking about.
"I'm sorry. Could you repeat that last part, Miss-Miss Weasley?" He resisted the urge to call her "my dear". He didn't want to sound like a creepy old man or an uncle. Definitely not like her uncle…
Rose Weasley suppressed a sigh, shuffled her papers and repeated: "The 1897 purchasers were related to the Crump family through the marriage of their youngest daughter Elsa Witchlow to the Crumps' fourth cousin Bernard Otley. If the Crumps pick up on that, it could be a problem, although the distance of the relationship and the length of time that has elapsed does give us some grounds to contest that advantage."
"I see." Draco was struggling to keep his mind on the legal business at hand, to sound vaguely as if he had registered what the frighteningly self-assured young woman in front of him was talking about. Really, what he wanted to do was to reach across the too-wide desk that separated them, and run his hands through her hair (not the brazen Weasley red, Salazar be praised, but a warm coppery brown), and then maybe take those hands lower… He cleared his throat, and shifted the front of his robe slightly – and he hoped unobtrusively – so that she should not see the giveaway bulge in the front of his trousers.
If she did, she gave no sign of it. "So, do you want me to chase up the marriage certificates and genealogy in case?" she asked. "It would cost, of course, but it's as well to be prepared in case the Crumps' legal team are ahead of us here."
Malfoy nodded. "Yes, do it. We don't want to be beaten on this, so whatever it takes." The suppression of his physical urges was getting harder, making his voice slightly hoarser than usual. He could feel sweat starting along his receding hairline, and wondered if the room had been this hot when he came in. He glanced at the clock. Surely the appointment should be nearly over?
Rose Weasley smiled at him, slightly distantly, and gathered her papers together in a definite "that concludes the meeting then" manner.
"Same time next week?" she enquired, quill hovering over her appointment calendar.
He nodded, made what he hoped was some sort of coherent farewell and made his escape as rapidly as he decently could. In the privacy of his own office, with the door securely locked and a soundproofing charm in place, he dealt with his most pressing problem, before sitting at his desk and reviewing the meeting in his mind.
Usually he had no problem with such things. After nearly thirty years it still surprised him that he actually enjoyed the business he had fallen into more or less by accident when the necessity of making a living had finally overcome the family pride that said "Malfoys do not work for their money". An old acquaintance – although when Malfoy had been a second year and Ringlann Hunford had been a Slytherin prefect they had been so much more than acquaintances – had returned to England from a long sojourn on the Continent to set up a branch of his property business in London. Meeting by chance in a bar one evening, the two men had renewed their relationship in a room above The Rainbow and Snitch in Slapper Alley (Lapton Alley in reality, but no one called it that). And in the hazy post-coital relaxation Hunford had offered his young friend a job, and Malfoy had never regretted it.
It was ten years now since he had bought out Hunford's share of the business, allowing his ailing former lover to return to his vineyard and his paramour in Italy, and it had flourished under his direction, so that the Malfoy fortune – though never reaching the heights of the pre-war years – was perfectly respectable, and the maintenance of Malfoy Manor for the sake of appearances was no longer a burden.
In the early days, as a lowly employee, Malfoy had spent days – and sometimes nights – in the legwork of wizarding property transfer. The laws meant that every previous owner must be identified; every possible link between potential purchaser and previous owner clarified, and every curse, jinx or ghost related to it identified. Only then, would a purchase be allowed, and if there were several potential buyers, the law was on the side of the one with the best claim of blood and history, regardless of the gold on offer. The Muggle way of sale to the highest bidder had astonished Malfoy, when a Muggle-born client had told him of it.
These days, Malfoy could afford for someone else to do the donkey work for him, and he had calculated that contracting it out to a legal firm made more economic sense than having employees of his own to do it. Hence his meeting with Miss Rose Weasley, junior legal adviser at Longhorn and Blipp, and – Malfoy remembered with a sinking heart – his appointment tomorrow regarding another case with Roger Fundon of the same firm, who had none of his colleague's intelligence or quickness of mind. Or none of her other agreeable qualities either. But Malfoy could not transfer the case to Rose Weasley, much as he would like to, as his rivals for the parcel of land outside Hogsmeade he was bidding for were her father and uncle.
Malfoy came out of his meeting with Fundon the following day seething with frustration at the young man's slowness and need to be told what to do, rather than taking the initiative as Rose did. Not concentrating on where he was going, he collided headlong with someone coming the other way along the narrow corridor, sending her flying. Biting back an angry expletive, he began to apologise, before realising that the young woman on the floor in front of him was Rose herself. He stuttered and stopped in the middle of his apology, and shamefully felt himself blushing like a fourteen year old confronted unexpectedly with his first crush.
Rose smiled up at him from her undignified position on the floor, and it might be Malfoy's overactive imagination, but he fancied there was a definite spark of mischief in her smile that he had never seen before.
"I'm fine," she assured him cheerfully. "Give me a hand up?" She extended a hand to him, and he had no choice but to take it and pull her to her feet. Once upright, she did not pull away from him at once, but took a step closer to him and put out her free hand to smooth the ruffled collar of his robe.
"Thanks," she said; and her voice had a husky quality that surely had never been there before. She released his hand, gave him a smile that was half friendly and half (could it be?) alluring, and went on her way, leaving Malfoy gasping.
The half an hour he spent alone in his sound-proofed office was not enough for him that day, and he made a detour to Slapper Alley before returning home to his perfect but cold wife and the eight-year-old twin daughters whose late and unexpected addition to their family was the major reason that Astoria was even less accepting of his advances than she had been in the early days of their marriage.
The following Tuesday, Malfoy was early for his appointment, despite all his good intentions. Rose gave him that same smile as he entered her office, and this time he had no doubt at all that it was alluring, and that she meant it to be. She had rearranged her office too, so that her chair and his were both placed in front of the desk.
"I thought it would be easier like this," she informed him airily, and with no trace of artifice. "There's rather a lot of paperwork I need you to look at, I'm afraid." She set out the first sheaf of parchment in front of him, leaning over to point out various passages in the document, so that he could see rather more than was comfortable for him of her firm and perfect breasts (surely her blouse had not been buttoned so low on previous meetings?), and letting her hand brush his now and again as he leant forward to read. For the hour of their meeting, Rose gave no sign at all that she was aware of Malfoy's increasing discomfort, keeping the conversation strictly businesslike, and maybe even a little more formal than usual. But there was that husky sensuous note in her voice, even when she was discussing the driest of legal details, and Malfoy could not believe that it was accidental.
His, "Oh, yes!" in response to her question about scheduling their next meeting for Friday rather than waiting until the next week, was far too shrill and far too eager, but she gave no sign of having noticed. She merely smiled that smile at him as he got up to leave, and extended a hand to brush an invisible piece of fluff from the front of his robes.
This time, Malfoy barely made it back to his office in time to do what he had to do.
On Friday, Malfoy thought he must have read the signs wrong. Rose was back in her accustomed place behind the desk, her neat blouse chastely fastened to her neck, her smile businesslike and in no way alluring. And a large diamond glittering on her left hand.
He frankly goggled when he saw it, but managed to recover and give his congratulations quite properly.
"Young Mr. Corner, I assume?" he enquired, wondering hopelessly if he sounded fatherly.
She blushed and nodded. "We're getting married next summer," she told him composedly, before turning to the papers in front of her and beginning to talk about the Craxis Curse that had been put on the land Malfoy was aiming to buy in 1789, and whether the records showed that it had been adequately extinguished by the curse breakers sent to deal with it a century and a half later.
That night, Malfoy did not go home. He chose the youngest and prettiest of Madame LaChatte's girls, but her hair was too blonde, her legs too long, her laugh too strident. She was not the girl he wanted.
Astoria looked coldly at him when he returned home, and the girls – trained already by their mother in disdain for their father – sniffed pointedly. But Astoria said nothing directly. His absences were too frequent, too much a routine part of their marriage to merit comment. One day either he or Astoria would finally conclude that the shame that legal separation would bring to their family names was a lesser evil than the state of civilised stand-off that they lived with daily, and make the first move to leave. That day had not yet come.
Malfoy counted the hours miserably until his meeting with Rose – his last on this case – on Tuesday, knowing that it would be torture for him, but a strange sort of torture that would bring him at least some sort of temporary relief. Rose Flooed him on Monday afternoon to suggest bringing their meeting forward an hour "to give them more time together", and he agreed with an eagerness that shamed him but he could not help. He could not face going home to his wife and daughters, and spent the night in a room in Slapper Alley – alone for once – in a state of fevered anticipation tempered by the sensible part of his brain telling him firmly that she only wanted more time to ensure the legal business was finished, and that he had no reason – no right – to think of her as he was doing.
All the same, he spent extra time on his appearance the next morning, combing his hair forward carefully, with a charm that would prevent it from flipping back to reveal his extending forehead. Rose welcomed him with that smile as he entered her office, and a look in her eyes that had no place in the eyes of a well-bought up, recently-engaged young lady conducting a business meeting with a man the same age as her father. A quick glance at her left hand showed Malfoy that the diamond was absent. Rose followed his gaze to where the ring lay on top of the parchments on her desk. With something that may have been a wink, she picked it up, slid it into a drawer and closed the drawer with a bang. A flick of her wand locked the office door, and another put a soundproofing charm around the room, tempered with an artificial murmuring of businesslike voices that her colleagues would find perfectly normal. She was a clever girl.
Malfoy was still standing just inside the door, the familiar stirrings within him, and his trousers tightening already. He realised he was gaping, unable to believe that he had read the signs right, and he shut his mouth with a snap. Rose smiled at him, and slid some parchments across the desk, handing him a quill and resting her hand on his as she did so.
"I just need you to sign these two, Mister Malfoy, and then the boring part of the meeting is over," she whispered, her voice sultry and full of a meaning he knew he had not misconstrued. He scribbled something illegible on the two documents, and dropped the quill onto the desk, splattering ink.
At the same time, Rose came round the desk, shedding her legal robe as she came and put her hands on his shoulders, tipping her head back to look up into his face with a smile. His mouth went down over hers, hard and urgent, and for a split second, he thought she would resist him; then she deepened the kiss, moving closer, moulding her body to his and tugging at the front of his robes, even as his hands moved up under her blouse to the lace of her bra.
Afterwards, they lay in a heap of discarded clothing on the floor of the office, Malfoy still panting slightly, Rose with a slow contented smile on her face. Malfoy would have been happy to stay there, to keep this moment in some sort of preservation charm that would go on forever in a state of perfect and satisfying bliss, but Rose rolled over, picked up her discarded watch, and frowned.
"I have another client in twenty minutes."
Malfoy groaned, but pulled himself into a sitting position, and started to dress. Rose was doing the same. They dressed in an odd sort of silence that was almost shy, and then Rose retrieved her wand from her desk and performed the neatening and cleaning charms both were in need of, before getting out a tiny mirror and compact from her desk drawer – together with the engagement ring, which she slipped back on – and powdering her nose. She still said nothing.
Malfoy cleared his throat. "Rose – thank you – I-I…" He stuttered to a stop, seeing the look on the young woman's face, which was now as cold and distant as any he had ever seen on his wife's.
"We shouldn't have done that Mister Malfoy." Her voice was cold as ice.
He reddened, stuttered something incomprehensible, stammered to a stop, started again.
"I thought – I thought you wanted…"
She looked at him coldly. "Mr. Malfoy, you're the same age as my father. I used to go out with your son, for Godric's sake. I'm engaged to the most wonderful man in the world. How could you believe I wanted that?"
"But- but you wanted, you came to me, you started…" Malfoy was lost, panicking, unsure of what was happening.
Rose's voice was silk-smooth. "Who would believe that Mr. Malfoy? A young girl like me, and an – " she hesitated just long enough "- experienced man such as yourself. Who would believe I led you on? My father? Your wife? My uncle the Minister?"
He gaped at her, suddenly realising what she had done. He felt ice-cold; there was a tightness in his chest that made his breath short. "Is this blackmail?" he demanded, his voice hoarse. "What do you want?"
She perched on the edge of her desk, not smiling now. "A business deal, Mr Malfoy. Just an agreement that will make me forget this ever happened." She paused, and nodded towards a chair, picking up a parchment from the desk. "Won't you sit down?"
She was the efficient legal assistant once more. It might have been their first meeting. "I was talking to Roger Fundon, Mr Malfoy. It appears that your claim to that land outside Hogsmeade is so much better than my father's and Uncle George's." She gave a girlish giggle. "Some second cousin of yours that owned it in the forties, plus a boring legal agreement about not selling to tradesmen, that might be got round easily enough if there was no rival for the sale. That land is just what they need for the Wheeze expansion." Suddenly her voice was steel. "I do like to see those I care about get what they want, don't you Mr. Malfoy?"
He gaped at her. "And that document?" he asked, knowing the answer already.
She nodded briskly. "Relinquishes any claim you have to the land," she confirmed. "And guarantees that I don't run to my father – or maybe to Uncle Percy – and tell them that you raped me."
"How can I trust you to keep to that?" Malfoy snarled.
She smiled sweetly. "Unfortunately, I don't think you can, Draco dear, but it's the best I can offer. Refuse and I go straight home to Daddy."
He glared at her, calculating rapidly if there was any way out of this and realising rapidly enough that there wasn't. Scowling blackly, he scrawled his name on the document she held out to him.
"Thank you, Mr Malfoy." She flicked her wand to open the door for him, and he stalked out without a backward glance. As the door closed behind him, he heard her laughing.