AN: This was originally written and posted at the Luciusbigbang fest on LJ. Many thanks to my beta's Softobsidian who beta'd it for the fest and Clairvoyant who is polishing up the rough edges.
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter. I make no money here.
Lucius stood on a tiny out-of-the-way side street in central London, several blocks from the Ministry offices. He held a slip of paper with an address, but it did not seem to match the numbers on the buildings in front of him. He had walked up and down the block twice already. He'd just decided that he shouldn't draw attention to himself by wandering aimlessly back and forth when he noticed what he had assumed was a gate for deliveries in precisely the spot where 110 Hydrangea Court should be. Approaching the gate, he now saw the numbers buried amongst the intricate scroll work of leaves and vines that embellished the iron gate.
Pushing it open, he discovered a long narrow alleyway between buildings 108 and 112. It was so narrow that were he to hold his arms straight sideways, he could very nearly touch the buildings on either side. The gate closed behind him, and the busy sounds of London faded to nothing. As he walked the length of the alley, the heels of his dragonhide boots clicked loudly on the cobbled path and echoed against the brick walls. He didn't want to be here. He felt like a man walking to his own execution.
Oh, things could be much worse, and he knew that. But still, it was a long way for a Malfoy to fall. After the war, he'd lost everything. Narcissa divorced him, his son disowned him, his fortunes were confiscated, and his family estate was appropriated by the Ministry for some, as yet unnamed, god awful post-war project.
He'd thankfully escaped incarceration in Azkaban. He didn't think he would have been able to survive another stint in that hellhole, even minus the Dementors. For nearly a year, Lucius had been placed in a holding cell in the bowels of the Ministry where he'd been interrogated over and over, and had given endless testimony. The results had been that, for his cooperation, he was not sent to the wizard prison, but he did have to serve a minimum of five additional years. He had been sent off to an isolated, heavily warded jail cell. Until his release, he hadn't even known the location where he'd been held for the past five years; all he knew is that it wasn't Azkaban. He'd been isolated there, somewhere in the Outer Hebrides. But he'd not been mistreated, too much, and except for the lack of companionship and the curse of utter boredom, he had managed fairly well.
His freedom had not come without a cost—there were several stipulations. He was not allowed to leave the UK, and there was a tracking spell placed on him to make sure he did not simply move out of the country. He'd been forced to petition a sponsor, someone willing to vouch for him. He'd asked Severus, who'd miraculously survived Nagini's attack, and he'd been willing to do it. But apparently the powers that be decided allowing one former Death Eater, war hero status aside, to supervise another former Death Eater was just not what they had in mind.
Surprisingly, Harry Potter himself had volunteered for the role. Lucius had no idea why the Boy Wonder had stepped forward, but in this case, he was not going to let his pride stand in the way of his liberty. He had to check in with Potter weekly and with some flunky at the Ministry monthly. He'd been assigned a tiny flat, little more than a closet, really, and also given a small stipend to tide him over until he found gainful employment. And he was required to attain said employment within one year of his release or accept a job the Ministry would assign him. If he refused, he would be in violation of the terms of his probation and would be sent to Azkaban.
The lead for this job had come from Potter at their last weekly meeting. Although Lucius usually avoided talking much about his problems with Potter, he'd been primed by a couple of glasses of some very fine Firewhisky after the dinner that Potter insisted on offering him. The boy was always sitting down to eat just as Lucius arrived. He would declare that there was just too much food for him to eat by himself, so Lucius invariably got a free meal. He never objected too strenuously, as the Ministry stipend he received was rather small, and making ends meet meant skimping on things like three meals a day.
"So, Lucius, how is the job hunting going? Not to pressure you or anything, but the deadline is only a few months away," said Harry, clearly worried.
"I thought that finding gainful employment would be the least of my worries," Lucius lamented. "I have skills; I excelled academically at Hogwarts. I took over the management of the Malfoy family estates and businesses when I was younger than you, due to my father's failing health. I can keep books, delegate authority, have a good grasp of business strategy, and I'm a whiz at finance. But none of these skills have garnered me a job. It seemed former associates want no part of me, and strangers are afraid of me or of my reputation, at least."
"So, you have actually been trying to find something? Because they are quite serious about it, you know. If you don't find something by the time the year is up, they will assign you something. I am quite sure you won't like what they choose."
Lucius listed the many wizarding businesses he'd applied to and been rejected from. As Harry refilled his glass, he continued, "So, then I decided to think of other areas I might be able to work in. I've tried everywhere I can think of. I applied at Gringotts, but the bloody Goblins merely looked down their sanctimonious noses at me. I applied at the Daily Prophet, thinking perhaps I could write a finance column or something along those lines. While there, I had a run in with Rita Skeeter, who made it quite clear she'd put in a good word for me if I were willing to accommodate her privately." Lucius shuddered visibly at the thought. "That witch is a piranha, and at this point I'd almost rather consider Azkaban."
"The Prophet, huh? You like things like that... reading and writing and organizing stuff, I mean?" asked Harry, sounding excited.
Lucius thought that a strange question, but continued with his tirade about job hunting. "I tried to get a job at both the wizard publishing houses of Obscurus Books and WhizzHard Books, but neither establishment was hiring, or at least not hiring me. I even tried to apply for jobs well below my comfort zone, such as a clerk at Flourish and Blotts or Quality Quidditch Supplies. All to no avail."
"But you do like books, right?" asked Harry pointedly. "You tried to get a job at a newspaper and at two publishers and at a book store."
"Of course I like books. What kind of question is that? Everyone likes books."
"Well, some of us more than others, obviously," muttered Harry. Then he continued, "And you had a really big library at the Manor, and it was famous; even I know that. So, you must like books a lot, right? And you probably know a lot about them."
"What are you getting at, Pott—Harry?" Potter had insisted that Lucius start using his first name. He tried to remember, although he found it difficult. Still grudgingly, he had to admit that he owed the young man for volunteering to be his sponsor, so if using Potter's given name appeased him, so be it.
"Well, I know someone who's started this project. It's a historical research library for wizards. The project is to research and restore very old historically important documents, books, letters, parchments, family histories and such... well, you get the idea. The problem is there's way too much for this one person to handle alone, and although there's funding for an assistant, a suitable candidate hasn't been located yet. At least no one to meet the high standards required; all the applicants so far have been dunderheads, or so I've been told. But I'll bet you'd be perfect for the job."
Lucius flicked an imaginary piece of lint from his sleeve, not wanting to look too interested too soon. "Hmmm... It does sound like something I would be qualified for. The library at Malfoy Manor was legendary, and there were many priceless historical documents stored there." Lucius became a bit melancholy just thinking of the family history that had been lost; he didn't even know what had happened to it all. For all he knew, the Ministry may have burned it out of spite.
With eyes narrowed, he turned and asked, "Why are you helping me like this, Potter?"
Harry took a sip of his Firewhisky before he answered, "I have my reasons, as I'm sure you know. And if you haven't figured it out yet, I'm sure you will someday. Someday soon, most likely." He reached behind him and pulled open a drawer, and taking out a Muggle ink pen and paper, he wrote something down on it. "Here's the address, go and apply tomorrow." He handed over the slip of paper and added, "Don't say I sent you. Say you heard about it down at the Leaky Cauldron, or something."
"Why don't you want your name used?" asked Lucius suspiciously. "I would think that a reference from the great Harry Potter would make me a shoe in for the position."
"The head of this particular project made it quite clear that my help was not wanted. So, if you say I sent you, it would be more of a detriment than a help. Take my word for it, Lucius. You didn't hear about this job from me."
That meeting with Potter had been just two days past, and although he had acted unconcerned, he'd tucked away the precious scrap of paper for safe keeping.
And so here he was, standing at the door of the Cedric Diggory Memorial Historical Research Library. He hesitated briefly, then pushed the door open and walked in. The foyer was small and somewhat dark, and while perhaps dingy was not the correct word to describe it, he decided it was not exactly appealing either. The chair behind the desk sat empty, and there were brochures sitting in several racks on the desk, for potential patrons, he supposed.
Wandering into the first room to the right, he saw that there were indeed shelves full of books and parchments, as well as boxes and boxes full of who knew what, piled up in the corners of the room. He walked along one wall and noted that everything seemed to be filed in no logical order and was shoved onto the shelves with no rhyme or reason. Walking across the hall, he finally found an actual person. A woman, a witch he assumed, four steps up a ladder, one foot balanced on the fifth step while she examined a large book. She supported it with a hand under the front cover, and the other cover rested on the next rung up. Her perch looked like a recipe for disaster to him, but he couldn't help but admire the curve of her backside, which was emphasized by her foot propped up on the next higher rung. He also noted that she had very shapely legs as well.
Engrossed in what she was reading, she didn't hear his approach. She muttered to herself, "Who would believe tripe like this? Stupid, buggering, butt-fuckers..."
"Hmmm...That's somewhat redundant, don't you think?" he asked.
"Eeeek!" she screeched. The book shifted, and rather than drop the ancient tome, she clutched it to her chest which caused her to lose her grip on the ladder. Without even thinking, he lunged forward to steady her, but instead ended up with the nicely curved backside hitting him square in the face before striking his shoulder and knocking him arse over teakettle. He grabbed her legs as she fell against him in an attempt to to control her descent, and they both landed hard on the floor with her on top of him.
"Unnnhhh!' he groaned.
She rolled off of him, setting the book down carefully on the floor next to him. "Oh my god, are you all right?" she gasped while turning toward him to check his well-being. Seeing his face, she jerked back suddenly. "You! What are you doing here, Mr. Malfoy?"
"I was trying to keep you from hitting the floor, Miss Granger," he responded. He clutched his nose. "Damnation, I think you broke by dose."
"Well, you succeeded. I hit you instead of the floor. Thanks for softening the blow. Here, let me help you with that," she said, pulling out her wand.
He reacted badly to having a wand pointed at his face and threw his other arm up in defense and tried to roll to the side.
"Mr. Malfoy, wait. I'm not going to hurt you, I swear. I was only going to heal your nose. I'm sorry you got hurt in the first place." She laid her hand on his shoulder to draw him back towards her. "Now put your hands down please, and I'll fix it for you," she said as she pulled his hands away from his face.
"Are you sure you know what you're doing?" he asked doubtfully.
"Believe me, growing up having to take care of Ron and Harry, I learned quickly how to fix bumps and bruises and minor broken bones," she answered with a smile. "Just stay still for a minute." She flicked her wand at him. "Episkey."
With a slight crunching sound Lucius' nose straightened, and he yelped in pain. Hermione summoned a ratty-looking beaded bag from behind the desk, and reaching in past her elbow, she finally pulled out a small vial of potion. "Here, take this. It will take the pain away."
Lucius examined the label before he uncorked the vial; he wasn't that trusting after all, and swallowed the pain potion down in one gulp.
She fumbled around inside the bag for a moment, and not finding what she wanted, finally pointed her wand into the bag and said, "Accio bruise-healing paste." A small tin flew into her hand; she really was prepared for practically any emergency.
"Sit up here," she ordered, practically dragging him up to sit in the chair behind the desk. Stooping before him, she opened the tin and gently dabbed the unguent across the bridge of his nose and across his cheekbones, spreading it carefully with the tips of her fingers.
As she was concentrating on her task, Lucius was able to study Miss Granger at close range, much closer than he'd ever been to the witch. Her eyes, which he'd considered a flat muddy brown, were actually a lovely walnut color with gold flecks, and there was a dark nearly black ring around the iris. Her hair was still wild and curly but less bushy than in her youth, and here too, he noted golden highlights in the strands of brown. There was a smattering of sun-kissed freckles across the bridge of her nose and a rosy glow to her cheeks. Her lips were full, and she worried at her bottom lip with straight white teeth as she carefully but gently massaged the ointment into his skin. The tip of her tongue slipped out and licked across her lip, and he felt an involuntary tightening in his groin.
Good Lord, this girl... errr... young woman was the same age as his son! He should not be reacting to her like this. It was clear that he'd been without a woman for far too long. He jerked back a bit and thumped his head against the back of the chair with a sharp grunt and a wince.
"Oh, no!" she exclaimed as she leaned forward further to thread her fingers through his hair and feel the back of his head. "Did you bump your head when you fell? We both came down pretty hard; you might have a concussion. I didn't even consider that."
While she was examining the back of his head for bumps, his eyes gravitated downward of their own accord to a mesmerizing view straight down the front of Miss Granger's blouse. If there was any doubt in his mind before, that she was no longer the little girl he remembered, it was banished at the sight of her breasts dangling before him. And if he wasn't mistaken, he could almost see the edges of her rosy nipples nearly falling out of the cups of her lacy demi bra. Getting even closer, she stepped between his knees to pull his head farther forward in her quest to find any bumps on his head, practically shoving his face into her cleavage as her knee inadvertently brushed lightly against his groin. The tingle he'd felt earlier became a shock wave of lust.
Raising his hands to her shoulders, he gently but firmly pushed her away. "Miss Granger, take your hands off me, please! I am fine, really. You must desist at once."
Hermione jumped back as if burned, her cheeks stained crimson with embarrassment. "I am very sorry, Mr. Malfoy. I should have realized you wouldn't want any assistance from someone like me," she declared sarcastically. She turned away sharply and he saw her swipe angrily at her cheek.
Oh, fuck, Malfoy, you arse! Now you've upset the girl, and she really was just trying to help, he thought. He felt like he'd just stepped on a kitten or crushed a butterfly. Pinching the bridge of his now healed nose, he turned to her with a sigh. "Miss Granger, please forgive my rudeness. I do know you were trying to help and I do appreciate it. And truly, I no longer adhere to the same leanings I had prior to the end of the war. Six years of incarceration gave me plenty of time to ruminate upon my past and to see the error of my ways."
Hermione didn't answer for a moment, but then she squared her shoulders and wiping her thumb beneath her eyes, she turned to face him. Pasting a bright expression on her face, she said, "I hope what you say is true, Mr. Malfoy. I suppose time will tell. Now, what can I help you find?"
He was confused. "I beg your pardon?"
"What can I help you find? I assume, since you are here at a historical research library, that there is some information you seek? As you can clearly see, we are not organized yet, but if you tell me what it is you're looking for, I may be able to find the resources for you."
He felt a stab of disappointment. Granger had obviously already got the job he'd come to apply for, damn it all. "Actually, Miss Granger, I did not come here to do research; I came to apply for a job, but I can see that it has already been taken. I will trouble you no further." He stood from the chair and headed for the door.
She slipped into the chair he had vacated and called to him before he left the room. "What job was it you came here to apply for, Mr. Malfoy?"
He turned, "Obviously, the job you have already taken, Miss Granger, the assistant to the librarian."
She twirled her quill as one corner of her mouth lifted in a small smirk. "You misunderstand, sir. I am not the assistant; that position is still open. Perhaps the time has come for you to prove the truth of your words."
Lucius eyed her speculatively. "If you are not the assistant, what is your position here, Miss Granger?" he asked with a sinking suspicion that he already knew the answer.
"I am the Head Librarian and, thus far, the sole employee of this newly formed establishment: The Cedric Diggory Memorial Historical Research Library. Cedric's family donated a small fortune to fund this project, and I have been trying my best to get it up and running, a daunting task to say the least. So far, I have been unable to find a suitable assistant. What makes you think that you are qualified for this position?" She was now all business as she scooted the chair forward and clasped her hands on the desk in front of her.
He strode back across the room and produced a folder from his pocket, enlarging it before he handed it to her. "My CV, Miss Granger."
Glancing at the folder, she looked back up at him. "Before I review this, I have one question for you, Mr. Malfoy."
He nodded. "And that is?"
"You do realize that if I offer you this position and you accept it, you will be working directly under me."
Her words immediately brought forth, unbidden, a most lascivious image to his mind. It was of him under her, and they were doing anything but working, as she rode him wildly to completion.
"Mr. Malfoy... Mr. Malfoy..."
"Oh, I am most sorry, Miss Granger. You were saying?" Dear Merlin, he needed to find a woman to release all this sexual tension he hadn't even known existed until this very afternoon.
"I was asking you if you would willingly accept me as your boss if you were to be offered this job. In other words, would you work for a Mudblood?" she asked bluntly, her eyes turning cold and hard.
"Please, Miss Granger, such crudity is unnecessary. I have said it already, my mind set has changed. My world—our world—has changed from what it was in my youth and even from five years past. One must change with the times, and so I have. If you see fit to offer me this job, I will do my best to fulfill your requirements. And I would be delighted to work under you." He swallowed as he said the final words, fighting to eradicate the image from his brain.
"Very well, please have a seat, and let me look this over for a few minutes. If you don't mind waiting, and if I find your CV acceptable, I would like to do an interview."
"Right now? I mean here? Today?"
"Is that a problem? I have been trying to fill this position for months and have had nothing but a bunch of dunderheads." She paused suddenly at that statement and eyed him suspiciously. "Did Severus send you over here?"
"Severus? Severus Snape?"
"Yes, of course, Severus Snape. Do you know anyone else named Severus?"
His brow wrinkled, and he replied, "No, I don't, and no, he didn't send me here."
She looked for a moment as if she were going to question him further, but then she just shook her head and Summoned a chair to the front of her desk, indicating that he should have a seat. Pulling a pair of reading glasses from the pocket of her robes, she sat back to look over his CV.
While she was reading, Lucius had time to wonder what that had all been about. She'd referred to his old friend by name, not as Professor Snape, or Mr. Snape, or even just Snape, but as Severus, as if she knew him quite well. She'd also used one of his favorite terms for bumbling idiots, 'dunderheads.' Just how well acquainted with Severus was Miss Granger, and why had he not heard anything of it? Of course he'd not been by to visit Severus since his release. Being rather embarrassed by his circumstances, he'd been putting off a visit to his old friend, but maybe he should see what exactly the old boy had been up to of late.
Lucius sat back in his chair to wait for Miss Granger to finish and couldn't help but notice that she was actually quite sexy in that prim and proper librarian fantasy kind of way. He continued to daydream about nibbling on various parts of Miss Granger's anatomy when he realized that she had finished and was studying him as well. He doubted that she had been thinking along the same lines as he, though.
"I'm sorry, I was wool gathering. Did you ask me something?"
"Why are you here, Mr. Malfoy? Why are you applying for this job? You are so overqualified for this position that it's ridiculous. Severus did send you here, didn't he?"
"I swear to you, Miss Granger, I have not seen or contacted Severus since the Ministry refused him as my sponsor."
A look of enlightenment came across her face as she declared, "Your sponsor. That's it then, isn't it? Harry sent you here; I should have known. You owe him a debt." She handed his folder back to him. "Tell him I said thanks but no thanks. I don't need this kind of favor."
Lucius was puzzled. "I don't know what you mean; this is no favor to Potter. I need this job."
"Oh, really, Mr. Malfoy. So you aren't doing this as way to pay Harry back for offering to be your sponsor?"
"No, Miss Granger, I am not. I am here because I need this job, plain and simple."
Now Hermione looked puzzled. "Surely, with your connections you must have other options. Why would you take a job here if it weren't to repay a debt?"
"I am both pleased and surprised to find that Mr. Potter is capable of being discreet. He has apparently not revealed the terms of my release. As a potential employer, Miss Granger, I willingly divulge them to you. I have nothing. The Ministry has confiscated all of my funds in Gringotts-UK branches, and I am forbidden to leave the country, tied here by a tracking spell. My family estate, Malfoy Manor, has been likewise appropriated by the Ministry. Narcisssa has divorced me, and my son has disowned me."
"Draco? Draco never..."
"Oh I don't blame him. He needed to make his own way after the war, and distancing himself from me was probably a very wise move. I do not hold it against him and truly hope we may be able to reconcile in the future. In addition to these terms, I have also been bidden to obtain employment within a time span of twelve months. I thought this would be the easiest of the terms to meet, but alas, I was quite wrong. As you can see from reading my file," he waved his hand over the folder lying open on her desk, "I have a great deal of experience in many areas, aside from being a former Death Eater, but every job I have applied for has been denied me. Former business associates want nothing to do with me, strangers want nothing to do with me. I can't even get hired for a menial job as a clerk at Flourish and Blotts. If I don't find something within the next four months, I will be forced to make a choice between having the Ministry assign me a job, which I have no doubt will be something intended to humiliate me—it has been hinted that Argus Filtch will be retiring soon—or I will face being taken back into custody and most likely interred in Azkaban."
Lucius sank back into his chair. "In fact, the more I consider it, I now truly believe the Ministry has set me up. They wanted me to fail from the very moment they released me. So, you see, Miss Granger, I did not lie. And it is not to repay a debt. Indeed, I am indebted to Potter for pointing me in this direction. The simple truth is I need this job."
Hermione was silent for several moments. Just when Lucius decided he may as well leave, she opened a drawer and pulled out several forms. Without a word, she began filling them out.
"What are you doing?" he asked.
"This is a form for a trial position. It is what all the dunderheads... err... that is, the other job candidates were offered to start. Sixty days trial, and if at the end of that time I am happy with your work and you wish to continue, then we will renegotiate the terms. If that is agreeable to you, please sign and date here at the bottom." She handed him her quill.
Lucius pulled the papers over to him, bent to sign, but then hesitated. He cleared his throat. "In all likelihood, you may be risking your own position if your funding is in anyway related to the Ministry, so perhaps it is not even fair for me to ask this of you."
Hermione smiled. "All of my funding comes from a private trust set up by the Diggory family. I don't give a flying fuck about the Ministry, and they have no influence here. They are all a bunch of bloody bastards as far as I'm concerned, and if hiring you pisses them off then so much the better for me. Sign the papers, Lucius."
He was surprised by her use of his given name until she added, "If we are to work together, the first rule is: you will be Lucius and I will be Hermione. We will not stand on formality here. Sign the papers, Lucius."
"Gladly, Hermione," he replied as he signed with a flourish. "Gladly."