She hated him. Hermione hated the way Draco Malfoy would sneer at her each time he saw her. She hated that they had both survived the war only to end up working in the same research firm. She hated that Draco could be so brilliant when it came to his work—their work—and yet so prejudiced and bigoted. She hated the way his sickeningly perfect blonde hair fell into his wretchedly perfect grey eyes as he leaned over a particularly advanced text he was translating. She hated that he spoke fluent French. She hated that he was her only competition for a promotion in their department. She hated that he was standing impatiently at the door to her small office wearing a robe that cost more than she made in two weeks.
"Can I help you?"
"Stebbins wants to see you."
He rolled his eyes at her, "You're welcome, Granger."
"Thank you, Malfoy," she said through clenched teeth.
"Shrew," he tossed at her before turning toward his own office.
She had won…or so she thought. A few moments later a rolled parchment appeared in her inbox. Unrolling it, she read the one word scrawled in elegant penmanship across the page; 'Bitch.'
He hated her. Draco hated Hermione Granger's holier-than-thou persona. He hated that she assumed that the reason she was unpopular in their workplace was because of her heritage—not because she was a swot and had a dreadful temper. He hated the way she chewed on her bottom lip in concentration. Draco hated that ridiculous bush she called hair, and he hated that she wore flattering clothes with such unsightly shoes. He hated that she was stubborn as a mule. He hated that he had to work ten or twelve hour days to keep up with her. He hated that she had no life outside of work, as evidenced by her long hours. Draco hated that she stared at him sometimes; it always made him uncomfortable, as if she were sizing him up.
She was standing in his office door, staring.
"What?" he demanded impatiently.
"Stebbins would like to see you as well, immediately." She flounced off and Draco wished that, just once, she would wear ridiculously high-heeled shoes to work; he had no doubt she would fall on her face and thought the experience would be humbling—which was something he felt she needed.
Entering the large office of Edward J. Stebbins, Draco immediately scowled when he realised Granger was there as well. Telling the blonde to close the door, the pompous man launched into an explanation for their meeting—one of the witches in the department had gone on maternity leave, and a younger wizard had been sacked; the firm was behind and, apparently, it would be up to Draco and Hermione to catch them up.
Dangling promises of a promotion on the horizon, Stebbins assured their cooperation in the matter. They would begin that evening, and work late each night until they'd caught up. Once Stebbins had dismissed them, both Draco and Hermione stood in the hallway outside of his office with a slightly shocked expression. It had taken but a few minutes to manipulate them into doing his bidding; both wondered if they'd be able to survive what was sure to be an arduous task…doubly so when faced with each other's company.
"You'll have to call your boyfriend and cancel, Granger."
"So will you." She turned and headed directly to her office; she'd won that one.
He cursed her under his breath as he returned to his office. It was only Monday, but it looked as though his week would be a dreadful one.
It was nearly ten o'clock at night before he encountered Granger. He'd had dinner delivered shortly after seven and had shut himself into his office, wanting to see her as little as possible. Gritting his teeth when he'd finished the stack of assignments on his desk, he strode into the hallway and into the file room, looking to the table that normally held countless file folders. It was empty.
"Granger," he growled when he'd stalked off to her office. "Where are the rest of the files? There were at least twenty of them to go over tonight."
"I've done them," she said, not bothering to look up from the parchment she was scrawling on.
"You can't have done them," he barked.
Her head popped up and he noticed the anger and irritation in her gaze, "And why not?"
"There were too many, and not even a mudblood wonder such as yourself can work at that pace."
She stood abruptly, her desk chair rolling backward toward the wall. Hermione faced him boldly, standing much closer than she normally would. "Get out of my office, Malfoy. Go home."
"Don't tell me what to do, Granger," he spat fiercely. She was so fucking infuriating; he was half-inclined to slap her.
She crossed her arms, glaring at him defiantly, "Leave my office, or I'll make you leave."
Draco was fairly sure he would have no teeth left by the time he left her office, for he was grinding them at a furious pace. "Mudblood bitch, the high and mighty Hermione fucking Granger. You want me to go home so you can have that promotion," he said to her with a contemptuous glare.
She pulled her wand from where it was holding her hair in a secure twist; the mass of curls sprang free making her seem wild and intimidating. "Get out," she hissed as she moved closer to him, inching her wand toward his throat.
She slapped him so hard that his head jerked to the side; he felt a trickle of blood from the corner of his mouth. Trying desperately to keep his temper in check to prevent himself doing serious harm to Granger, he turned to her slowly just as she pulled back to slap him again.
He caught her arm and gripped it painfully; he saw her wince, though she did not try to remove it from his grasp. "I wouldn't do that again, if I were you," he told her in a low, dangerous tone.
She snorted at his warning and he never hated her more than in that moment. He hated Hermione Granger because she was fearless, because she was recklessly and thoughtlessly fearless. He pushed her from him, causing her to stumble and fall to the floor. Rather than squawk indignantly, she sat on the floor watching him.
Draco had delighted in pushing her, though he could not help his gaze as it raked over her body, taking in her slightly heaving chest and the glimpse of thigh revealed by the position of her right leg. After a moment, he looked at her. She looked smug, with a triumphant smirk on her face; he turned and left before doing something foolish…she had won that one.
Once safely shut into his office down the hall, Draco paced madly before his overlarge desk, tearing his hands through his hair and wondering precisely why that miserable bint infuriated him so. In all of his twenty-four years, only a handful of people had gotten strong reactions from him—and no one had ever come close to inciting the type of reactions Granger was capable of. 'Merlin,' he thought as he resisted a sharp kick to the rubbish bin, 'one haughty look from her and I'm ready to slap her senseless.' The answer came to him suddenly, in a rush of sickening awareness—Ganger was the only person that had ever been foolish enough to deliberately provoke him, and he had always risen to her baiting. Never once had he chosen to ignore her, or to quietly annihilate her as he'd done to the few that had made a fool of him. He had done nothing to Granger.
That sent him reeling, and the normally poised blonde stumbled backward and into his chair. He would have to do something about this, Draco decided. That was all there was to it; he couldn't continue to allow her this amount of power over him. It was dangerous in a professional sense, and it was entirely demeaning, personally. 'That ruddy bitch,' he thought contemptuously as he pieced together plans to deal with Granger. In the end, he decided he would make a conscious effort to ignore her taunting, and he would go out of his way to avoid provoking her—this would make him appear as the bigger, more mature person, and surely it would unnerve the former Gryffindor. Draco found this last bit to be particularly appealing, as it would likely cause problems in her work, which would lead to his promotion and her subsequent humiliation. It was a win-win really, and Draco was rather proud of himself. Looking at the clock and realizing it was half past ten, Draco stretched and yawned, deciding he'd been at work for far too long. Typically, he'd walk past Granger's office on the way to the floo, where he would stop to insult her before finally flooing home, her murmurs of indignation like music to his ears. Tonight, though, Draco chose a path that wouldn't take him anywhere near the shrew or her office, and as the smirking wizard stepped into the green flames, he couldn't help but imagine the furious look on her face when she learned of his promotion. She would be livid, and he would never forget the moment for as long as he lived.