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"What are you doing with my son, Miss Granger?"
Hermione dropped the whale blubber she had been holding between the tips of her tweezers forceps into the cauldron, and rolled her eyes. "Hello to you too, Lucius."
She continued working, ignoring the slow but determined footsteps coming from behind her. Three stirs clockwise and a stroke directly through the middle. The pink potion turned turquoise and she smiled.
"He came back from that Magadan mission and he wouldn't stop going on about you. Draco never talks about women." His voice held a surly quality that belied the true nature of his visit.
"I can't see why your mind boggles at the idea that we might actually converse occasionally. Surely when you ask him how he is, you expect to hear about work from time to time. Especially considering you are one of the few privy to the same information we are."
"Might I remind you, Miss Granger, that I am your superior, and as such am required to investigate anything that may affect the efficiency of my agents." He picked up a jar of Cornish Pixie ears and held them up to the light. "These are past their used-by date."
"And might I remind you, Mister Malfoy, that my name is no longer Miss Granger. Nor has it been for some time now, and I suggest that you remember that, if you are so concerned with your agents' personal lives." She held her hand out and he placed the jar in her palm. She reached into it and pulled out two of the ears. Placing them onto the bench she neatly sliced them into pieces exactly one millimeter thick and tossed them up in the air over the cauldron. They eventually settled on the top of the rich blue green liquid and she stepped back. "I suggest you move behind the line."
Lucius took her advice and moved back two steps, to the white line Hermione had drawn on the floor. Around twenty seconds later a glow the same color as the contents of the pot quickly spread, expanding to barely an inch from their noses. A gentle pop sounded and the bubble-like vision burst, causing thousands of tiny orange stars to twinkle in front of their eyes.
"Impressive. I only hope you take as much care with Draco." He turned on his heel and walked back the way he had come, the same measured footsteps echoing in the cavernous room.
Draco leaned against the door frame, watching her work on, oblivious to his presence. She was standing in front of two large cages which looked to contain a dozen or so pygmy puffs, each one of them squeaking and vibrating in either excitement or terror. The puffs were separated into two groups, one group all orange, and the other various colors. Hermione picked up a rifle from the large stainless steel bench and stepped back, He heard her cast a muffling spell on her head and raised his eyebrows sharply as she leveled the gun at the cage.
A moment, and his own hastily cast Muffliato, later, there was a sharp pop and all six orange pygmy puffs stilled. This was quickly followed by the same result for the other cluster of creatures. Hermione removed the charm from her ears and put the weapon down. After a moment of stillness she did a funny little dance and yelped in obvious triumph.
"Even I wouldn't celebrate at the death of twelve fluffy little balls." Hermione jumped and spun around at his voice
"Merlin, Malfoy. You need to get out of this habit of sneaking up on me!" Her voice was barely audible and he muttered a quick Finite Incantatem, scolding himself for being so distracted by her bouncing body parts during her happy dance. He ignored her grouching and chose to focus more on her chest, but her next sentence snapped him to attention.
"Your father seems to think you've developed some kind of unhealthy obsession with me. I had him in here this morning telling me not to break your heart."
She was smirking and he could tell she was desperately trying not to giggle. He made a face and walked toward the cage filled with the now dead pygmy puffs. "Well, as we all know, my father can be rather misguided at times."
She laughed, "Yes, well I wouldn't want his precious department to be given a bad name. Filled with adultery and debauchery." She paused and turned to face Draco, a look of mock indignation set on her features. "I mean, really. He's in charge of a bunch of people trained in deception and manipulation. What in Merlin's name does he expect?"
Draco grunted in answer and stepped closer to the bench, peering into the cauldron of bright teal liquid. "So this is the magic stuff, huh?"
"Yep. Lucius nearly got a face full of it too. I was just putting the finishing touches on it when he rudely interrupted." She picked up a pipette and slowly dunked it into the potion, eventually filling a test tube with the extraction, and followed it up by dropping a bullet in and casting a quick Incendio. The liquid burned for a few moments, eventually leaving nothing save the now bright blue green .338 round in the base of the tube. Hermione tipped it out into a kidney dish and repeated the process.
Draco hopped up onto the bench and watched her methodically create bullet after bullet, content with just sitting in companionable silence. The precision with which she worked fascinated him. Even though there had been little to split them when it came to Potions in school, he couldn't help but wish he had kept up with the game following his years at Hogwarts. He always gave her a hard time about doing all the tedious work herself, but it was a thin disguise for the small amount of jealousy he felt at her being better than him.
Eventually he broke the silence. "I'm going for lunch, do you want to join me?"
She glared at him pointedly and gestured to the rather large box that sat to the right of the cauldron. "I have to finish these before the potion goes off."
"And how long might that be?"
"An hour or so."
"If you help me finish them off we'll be done in twenty minutes." Her disdainful look softened and she smiled.
"Are you sure you trust me with your precious experiment?"
She busied herself with showing him the amount to put into the test tubes, and the exact wand movements and volume to use with the spell. Before long they were both creating enchanted bullets with ease and efficiency, and fifteen minutes later the box was empty.
Draco put the last bullet into the dish to cure and turned to Hermione expectantly.
"Lunch then?" He offered her his arm and she grinned, instead looping her own around his back.
"So Finch-Fletchley then had the nerve to offer me a bed for the night, can you believe it?" Draco gestured wildly, his features contorted in a strange mixture of horror and mirth. He had been regaling Hermione with stories of his current secretary's attempts to manipulate him into spending the night in his flat. In his bed. With both him and his girlfriend.
"So let me get this straight: Justin broke into your apartment and set fire to your rubbish bin, thus causing the sprinklers to activate and soak everything on the floor? Sounds a bit farfetched to me." She raised her brows over the rim of her flat white and took a sip. It was starting to go cold and she gestured for the waitress, who immediately started in their direction. Sometimes she liked taking advantage of her position. She smiled politely, "Another please."
"Me too," Draco piped up. He turned his eyes back to hers and grinned, "Come on, Granger. Do you really think that the lone takeaway container from Thai Tom and an empty bottle of Heineken spontaneously combusted? Finch-Fletchley's the only other person with access to my apartment!" Hermione rolled her eyes.
"Come on, it could have been anyone! If I were you I would report it to your father just in case it's something more serious than your secretary trying to get you to have a threesome."
Draco shuddered and leaned back as the waitress came back with their drinks. "Now if it was a threesome involving his girlfriend and another chick..."
"You are revolting sometimes, you know that?" Her words were acid but her eyes twinkled in jest.
"You love me for it."
She poked her tongue out and took a bite of her sandwich.
"Come on Granger, join us. You, me and Megan from the Tax Department... could be fun," he winked and she feigned gagging.
"Megan I could handle. You however? It would be like being in bed with a greasy silver birch branch. All prodding and uncomfortable angles and sleazy come ons."
"Oh, so you've thought about it then," he sniggered.
She felt her cheeks heating up a little and reached over the table, smacking him across the head to hide her discomfort. Sometimes they took their banter a little too far. He rubbed his temple and glowered at her, taking a large gulp of his drink and making a face. He swallowed and opened his mouth, flapping his tongue around and fanning with his left hand.
"Hot?" She took a sip of her own and smirked.
"Just because you have asbestos mouth. And hands. And feet." He cocked his head and stared into the distance for a moment. "Come to think of it, heat doesn't seem to affect you at all. I find that suspicious."
As he turned his head back in the direction of his companion, he jumped, yelping loudly and pushing his chair back a little. A loud clatter came from the table and Hermione looked down at his plate, a bright orange ball of fluff resting where his scone had been. To be fair, the scone was still there, just covered by the dead pygmy puff.
Draco reached toward the plate, hesitance in his movements, and lifted the puff up by a tiny piece of fur.
"Damn, it bled on my scone."
Hermione was still staring blankly at the plate. She had been looking directly at Draco when the fluffball had appeared directly in her line of vision, hovered for a moment, and then dropped to the table. It hadn't come from anywhere, it had just appeared.
"Err... Do we ask the waitress to take it away?"
Hermione was already reaching into her purse, pulling out a small plastic evidence bag. She turned it inside out and stuck her hand to the bottom, used it to pick up the puff, and pulled it back through. Zipping the plastic bag up she stuffed it back into her tiny black clutch.
"How many magical expansion charms to you have on that thing?"
"Just the one."
"Come off it, I've seen you pull very big guns from that same purse."
"More than big enough for one little pygmy puff then, eh?"
Draco frowned. "Why is it in your purse?"
"Because it's one of mine," she hissed, leaning across the table.
"Oh yeah, gunshot wound. Not particularly common in Pygmy Puffs." He went back to the far away expression again and Hermione tossed back the rest of her coffee. Pushing her chair back she stood abruptly.
"Come on Malfoy, lunchtime's over." He snapped back to attention and reached for the black billing folder in the center of the table. Pressing his thumb to the small space provided he muttered an incantation and stood to leave. He may have only been able to eat half his lunch, but at least he didn't have to deal with the confusion of his Muggle credit card.
"Let me guess, we are going to spend this afternoon trying to figure out how your puff ended up on my scone?"
She was already heading for the door.
"Yep, it's one of mine, alright." Hermione and Draco stared at the cage that had contained the orange puffs. They were all gone bar one, that one being in Hermione's purse.
"That's all you have to say, hmmmm?"
"Well..." he began, "I don't see how it can have anything to do with the bullets. There's no way that potion you made up can combine teleportation with genetic identification."
"It might be some side effect of the multiple genomes I fused with the bullets. That's why it killed both groups of puffs."
"No, I don't think your experiment had anything to do with it. Someone's been in here." He cast a revealing spell on the concrete floor but the only sets of footprints were their own, and those he assumed to be of his father. "Hmmm."
"What about the trajectory charm?"
"Well, I guess they're in the same ballpark but I don't think so. Come on, you're the most brilliant witch alive, stop trying to find fault in your methods!" He ruffled her hair and she made a face.
"Don't let Ron hear you say that; he'll start on his bloody inferiority complex ramblings again."
Draco wrapped an arm around her shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze. "Well, Granger, I'm sure I can more than help out if he's inferior in more ways than just intellectually." He laughed as she shoved him away roughly and went back to staring at the empty cage. After a few moments she pulled the evidence bag from her purse and shook the dead orange Puff from it, onto the cold stainless steel. She pointed her wand at it determinedly.
"Venio Stipes Letalis," she clearly enunciated and, closing her eyes, took a deep breath as a green mist traveled toward her and into her nasal passage. The spell was used to determine how mysterious appearances had come to be at their resting place, and usually sent the concept of Apparition or Portkey for your brain to process.
Draco could tell that this wasn't a run of the mill Apparition accident. He watched her intently as her brow furrowed in confusion, and a few moments later her eyes snapped back open.
"This puff has been somewhere very strange indeed." She picked it up and examined the bullet wound. "It appears to have been in Limbo."
"Limbo?" He paused. "How could it have been in Limbo, it's not even sentient."
"Well, that's not exactly correct. It is conscious, it's just not intelligent enough to commit the kind of sins that theoretically get your soul sent to Limbo."
Draco frowned, "But we're wizards. We know better than to follow Muggle religion. After all, generally it's derived from Wizarding history."
"I have to admit, I don't think there has ever been evidence of anything passing through Limbo. This would be the first time we have ever had grounds to believe its existence."
"This is huge." He looked at her wide eyed and grinned. She looked away from the orange ball of fuzz dangling in front of her and beamed back at him. "Imagine if we had gone down to Enigma instead of eating in the cafeteria," he continued, referring to the cafe they usually frequented when they had the luxury of more time.
"Just for your information, this is entirely my discovery. All you did was sacrifice your lunch. Completely by accident, by the way." She placed the puff back down on the bench gently and reached underneath to a small compartment, pulling out a tiny pewter jar.
"Okay, fine, but give me one of those too. I need to get my side of the whole thing on the register; I'm not going to miss out on at least some of the glory." Hermione rolled her eyes and reached for another of her special creations. The miniature Pensieves had proven immensely popular with the middle class Wizarding population, and also to be a useful tool at the Ministry. As they both held their wands to their temples and extracted their memories of the last few hours, Draco found himself disappointed that he wouldn't be able to recall seeing her flush at the mention of her husband's shortcomings in bed. He had almost thought he might be in with a chance this time.
As the last of their memories disappeared into the small vials Hermione turned to him, smiling brightly. "What were we doing?"
It was his undoing, her happy, carefree expression. She appeared even more beautiful than she ever looked in her tight catsuits, and that was saying something because when she was in those he had trouble controlling what was in his pants. Before his thoughts could catch up with his actions, he had pounced, hands snaking up her neck and tangling in her hair, lips seeking her plump soft mouth.
He felt her pull away gently and he stared at her, wide eyed. Her tongue darted out to lick her lower lip and she followed it up with a gentle tug of her teeth.
He wasn't sure how it had happened, but moments later he had her pressed up against the cold stainless steel, lips desperately crushing hers, hands tugging at the black blouse she had worn that day. He cursed the pencil skirt she had chosen and grabbed at the waistband, tugging it around so that the zipper sat at the front. She gasped into his mouth and he took the opportunity to tease her tongue, distracting her from his impatience with her skirt. In the end he tore it; it was nothing a mending charm couldn't fix later.
He felt hands on his chest pushing him away, and he paused, having forced her skirt half way down her hips.
"Malfoy, stop. We can't do this." She was breathing heavily and as she ran her hand through her hair his eyes settled on hers. The charged stare did nothing to calm him down and he pushed the skirt the rest of the way over her buttocks, pushing her up to a sitting position on the bench when he heard the soft swish of the fabric hitting the ground. "Malfoy, seriously," she muttered, eyes closing as he ran his hand up her thigh.
He ran his tongue up her neck, finishing at her earlobe he sucked on it briefly and she sighed. Running her hands up his chest she tugged his vest over his head, and he reluctantly broke away. Licking his lips he shifted his hand from her thigh to the edge of her panties and roughly shoved them aside. Her eyes widened as he pushed two fingers into her and she bit her bottom lip again, arching her back. Watching her shamelessly, he wondered how he would ever let her go, give her back to Weasley who would continue to treat her like a Weasley wife. He shook his head gently and pushed the thought to the back of his mind.
"Merlin, whatever we talked about over lunch made you wet." He smirked and tugged the cup of her bra down with his free hand, latching onto a nipple and biting down. She shivered and grunted loudly.
"Fuck." He grinned against her chest and repeated the action, causing her to jerk sharply and curse again.
Draco pulled his fingers from her abruptly and tugged her from the bench. Spinning her around he pushed her up against the edge, trapping her with his arms, his hands clutching the edge of the counter.
"This is all kinds of wrong, isn't it?" He asked, as he tugged the zipper of his trousers down.
"That's the understatement of the century," she gasped out between ragged breaths. "I never thought you -"
She was interrupted as he shoved her underwear aside again and slid into her roughly, stopping for a moment as he settled inside her. She whimpered and pressed back into him, scrabbling at the smooth surface of the bench, attempting to find any sort of grip possible. Eventually he grabbed her hands, pulling them behind her back and holding them there as he thrust into her desperately. It was rough, hard and fast, but more satisfying than any sex he had experienced. Her rasping pants, the sound of her hips knocking into the edge of the bench, the willingness with which she let him control her, all served to heighten his pleasure.
"Oh Merlin, Malfoy. That's it, right... oooohhh." She ripped a hand away from his and slammed it down, scratching at the steel as she clenched around him. He allowed himself to follow her lead, feeling the need to possess every part of her, even if only for a moment. As he let himself go, he gripped her hip harshly and she twitched again.
"Fuck me," She gasped as she laid her torso against the counter. "Why didn't you tell me you were so good at that?"
He leaned over against her back and pressed his cheek to her shoulder, struggling to catch his breath. "I did."
She giggled. "No you didn't, you just kept offering."
"Touche," he smiled against her skin as he ran his hands up her sides. She shivered.
"Well," she started, glancing across the bench where the two pewter vessels sat. "I suppose we should have a look at these memories." She turned her head as far around as she could and raised an eyebrow.
Draco smirked. "With how wet you were I wouldn't be surprised if it's something similar to what we just did."
She reached around and smacked the only part of his anatomy she could reach at the awkward angle.
"Ow! Careful with the ass."
"Well sometimes I think it's the only part of you that's smart."