Written for the awesome Delphipsmith at LM/HG fic exchange on LJ. Which, is ironic, since she is my beta. ;) Many thanks go to Toblass and Unseen1969 for their mad beta skills! Her Prompt: Several years post-DH, Lucius is released from Azkaban and needs a job. No one will hire an ex-con. Hermione has her own business that specializes in placing former house elves and former prisoners (yes, there are some similarities!) in jobs, so Lucius is directed to her. What job does she find for him? Does he love it or hate it? Does it bring them closer or exacerbate his dislike for "the Mudblood" ? Usual disclaimer - Isn't mine, never was. I only dream about it.
Lucius Malfoy considered himself a patient wizard.
After all, he had survived three separate rounds of incarceration in Azkaban, and no other wizard or witch could have said the same. Granted, the first round—a few days in the more habitable cells of the dank prison during his questioning after the Dark Lord fell the first time—might not have counted for much, but even an hour within the fortress' walls was enough to test the sanest of men. Therefore, he added it to his tally of time served. It was with an odd sort of pride that he could say he weathered the rough seas and made it to shore with his mind still intact. He credited his aforementioned patience for allowing him to retain his mental faculties, even while he was a virtual prisoner in his own home during that dark time before Voldemort's final downfall.
But the situation presented to him now tested that hard-won patience.
"Is the high wizard, Lord Lucius Abraxas Malfoy, Earl of Worchester, Viscount of Vichy, Duke of Luxembourg, Baron of Travin, and the Worshipful Master of the United Grand Lodge of England, ready to be seen?"
Lucius rolled his eyes. Leave it to a house-elf with no rightful master to address him according to his litany of titles, earned and otherwise. "It is the reason I'm here, is it not?"
Did that gnarled, crusty, disease-ridden, bat-wing-eared rodent just isneer/i at him? Lucius arched a brow and stared at the homely creature, trying to intimidate it. No such luck. What was this world coming to if a Malfoy couldn't out-sneer a house-elf?
"Are you going to sit there all day and make kissy-faces with Grimly?" came a familiar voice from across the hall.
"I do not make 'kissy-faces' with anyone, let alone a servant," Lucius huffed as he stood and straightened his robes. "You should know that, Miss Granger." He walked past her smirking self and sat on an uncomfortable chair in front of her cluttered desk.
"I seem to recall you kissing Voldemort's arse on a consistent basis, so I just assumed you were revisiting old habits," she quipped as she sat across from him. "And Grimly is not a servant. He is a freed house-elf, educated by myself and receives a wage."
Lucius, aware that he needed the services the Granger witch provided—it was the only way he could earn money until his assets were unfrozen in three months time—crossed his right leg over his left and counted to ten before answering her. "Tell me, Miss Granger, how you would have handled my singular predicament, hmm? Imagine it, if you will; The Dark Lord, gracing your dinner table with his presence every morning and evening. You are constantly aware that at any moment, on the off-chance you happened to chew your food in a manner not to his liking, in an instant, your life might be extinguished in a jolt of green light. Or worse, a beloved member of your family is dispatched before your very eyes. So yes, I kissed that unmitigated bastard's arse for as long as it took for me and my family to stay alive."
Granger gave him a sardonic look. "Are you finished?" At his silence, she continued. "I have no pity for you, Lucius. You chose your path at an early age. Unfortunately, you didn't learn the error of your ways and dragged Draco down with you. It took me five attempts to find a job that was suitable for him because of all that he had suffered at Voldemort's hand. You should be proud of the progress he's made, despite your twisted parenting."
How dare the Mudblood! It wasn't as if he'd had a choice, had he? He wasn't alone in the farce of Draco's upbringing. Narcissa had indulged the boy overmuch. Yes, that was the crux of the problem. Too much coddling from his mother had made Draco weak. "I hear the boy wipes drool from the mouths' of Muggles. Yes, we are so proud."
Ire flashed in her eyes, and for a moment, Lucius could see what had made her such a formidable witch during the war. Then her look cooled to one of confusion. "You really don't know what Draco does, do you?"
"How would I?" Lucius scoffed. "His mother divorced me while I was incarcerated and refused to let me see him after I was released. There is a Restrainment Charm surrounding both of them, keyed to my person. If I try to get within a hundred feet of either one, I'll be remanded to the Aurors, no questions asked. I've been residing at my villa with no word on either of them, except for what I can glean from the Daily Prophet."
Her gaze softened. "Draco is an invaluable resource at the local Muggle hospital for children. He works with those that have been victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. Most of the children are frightened of their own shadow by the time they reach Draco, but you'd be amazed at the tremendous progress he makes with them in such short time." She laughed to herself. "I once offered to place him in a wizarding establishment about six months after he was hired at the children's hospital, but he wouldn't hear of it. Said he liked it there, that it was quiet."
"I see." Lucius swallowed heavily. "I suppose I cannot begrudge the boy a bit of peace."
Granger smirked. "That's very big of you, Lucius. Now. Let's see what we can do for you." She turned to her computer and began tapping on a keyboard, chewing on her bottom lip as she did so. Lucius had an insane urge to tell her to stop worrying the piece of flesh to death. "Hmm, do you like animals?"
Lucius blinked. "It depends. What kind?"
"The non-magical variety. You know: cats, dogs, birds, reptiles."
"Are all your placements with Muggle employers?"
She shrugged. "Not all of them, but a majority are run by Squibs. It's… difficult to convince those in the wizarding world to hire ex-Death Eaters. That's why I placed Draco with the Muggle establishment first. When St. Mungo's heard how well he was doing, they offered him a trainee position in the Janice Thickey ward."
"Which, according to you, he declined," Lucius said. What witch or wizard would chose a Muggle occupation over a Wizarding one? He shook his head and gave up on trying to understand his son. "This animal… thing. What is it?"
"It's a veterinary assistant. You'll help with grooming, cleaning cages, feeding—"
"Absolutely not!" he growled. "I'm not some lowly gutter tramp that goes about mucking out stalls!"
She rolled her eyes at his outburst. "A hard day's work never killed anyone, Lucius. Are you afraid you'll break a sweat?"
"Yes!" He sniffed in disdain. "I had to clean out the Thestral pen at Hogwarts once. It was very traumatising."
"Big baby," she muttered under her breath. "It's only for a week. You can come back and try something else if you don't like it." Granger handed him the card with an address and some numbers on it. "Do you know how to use a telephone?"
He thinned his lips in annoyance. "Yes, Miss Granger. You do realise one of the entrances to the Ministry of Magic is a telephone box, correct?"
She sighed in exasperation. "Draco never gave me this much trouble."
"That's because the boy was probably flirting with you." Lucius stuffed the card into his breast pocket.
"Oh, I know he was. We went out to dinner a few times."
Lucius' jaw dropped slightly. "I don't know whether to be appalled in his tastes or applaud his clever tactics."
She glared at him. "Neither. And before you think to flirt with me, you might want to ask your son why his pinky fingers are permanently crooked."
"I can't," Lucius gritted out.
"Can't what? Flirt with me or ask him… oh." Granger blushed profusely. "I see. Well, erm. Ah, let's see. Do you know where the clinic is located?"
Dear gods, the witch changed subjects fast enough to give him a crick in his neck. He looked at the card again: Penstone Veterinary Group, 26 London Road, Slough, Berks. "This Penstone Group. They're Squibs?"
Granger nodded while placing several pieces of parchment in a folder. "Marcus Penstone owns the practice and I'll tell him to expect you tomorrow morning at eight." She handed Lucius five tokens. "These are your designated Portkeys. Each is good for one trip to London Road and a return trip to your point of origin, one for each day of the week. I know you have the monitoring bracelet on, but the Ministry also has tracking charms on the tokens, so don't think you can just Portkey out of England." She studied him for a moment. "Where is your villa?"
"In Abington, near Cambridge," he said quietly, rubbing his right wrist where the invisible bracelet lay. It dampened his magic, even though he had no wand with which to cast spells.
Her brows rose. "Cambridge. I'm impressed."
He waved dismissively at her regard. "Don't be—there are only ten bedrooms. It's very cramped."
She stared at him. "How can you stand to look at yourself in the mirror every day?"
"Quite easily. I have one that is enchanted and assures me that I'm the fairest in all the land."
"Merlin, save me," she muttered low and rubbed her temples.
There was a knock on the door before it opened to reveal the dour-looking house-elf. "Miss Granger? Mister Thorfinn Rowle is here for his job assignment."
Lucius' eyes widened. He had been incarcerated the same time as Rowle, yet the taller, more muscular, and definitely more dangerous blond Death Eater had been a ruthless adversary. Lucius wasn't even sure Rowle should have been released from Azkaban. He spared Granger a glance and noted that she had paled somewhat upon hearing who her next client would be.
"Thank you, Grimly. Tell him to wait in the outer office until I am done here."
The creature nodded solemnly and closed the door.
"Should I stay?" Lucius asked hesitantly, not really believing the words that were coming out of his mouth. If Rowle could get away with killing Granger, he probably would. It could possibly affect Lucius' freedom as well, since the witch's work program allowed former Death Eaters to reduce their sentence if they agreed to work in Muggle society for six months to a year. Take Granger away, and it was back to Azkaban to finish his sentence. "Rowle is quite callous on the best of days."
"And you weren't?" Granger shot back. Immediately after the words left her mouth, she closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "I'm sorry. That was uncalled-for."
"No, Miss Granger. It was the truth. However, I did not approve of Rowle's more brutal methods. I did so hate getting blood on the carpet."
She gave a snort of laughter, followed by a shake of her head. "Lucius, you are a perplexing wizard. Thank you, but no, you needn't stay on my account." She opened a drawer and pulled out her wand, tapping it against her palm. "I'm very familiar with Rowle's tactics."
Lucius nodded and rose from his seat. "So be it. I shall call on you at the end of the week to discuss my next assignment."
Granger stood and followed him to the door. "Remember, your pay packet will be sent directly to me. We can discuss where you'd like me to deposit the money on Friday."
As the door opened and Lucius caught sight of Rowle, he cringed inside. The man had changed little, though he was not as bulky as before. The diet at Azkaban was sorely lacking, and even the heartiest of men seemed prone to waste away. But what relieved Lucius and worried him in turn was the blank look in Thorfinn's eyes; apparently the man had been pushed beyond his breaking point and there was no hint of spirit left within the wizard.
Lucius studied his former comrade with no answering spark of recognition from the other man. No, Thorfinn Rowle would not be attacking Miss Granger any time soon. The man was probably more afraid of his shadow than anything else.
Lucius hoped that was not what Fate had in store for him for the rest of his life.
"Thanks, Harry. I'll see you—"
Hermione sat at her desk, phone in hand, eyes wide and desperately trying not to laugh at the sight before her.
Lucius stood there, dripping wet, covered in matted fur, and smelling like… like, well, it wasn't pleasant.
He pointed his finger at her, shaking. "You! You did this to me! I thought you were beyond petty revenge, but I see it all now. Does the Ministry know you do this to your clients?"
She blinked. "Do what?" Harry was still on the other end of the phone yelling for her, asking if she needed him to come down to the office in Muggle London. She hung up without telling him good-bye. "Why are you here? Your shift doesn't end until five."
"Why am I here?" Lucius asked incredulously. "Why am I here? That travesty you call employment is nothing but demeaning slave labour!" He pointed to his shirt. "Look!" The entire front was covered in a brownish-yellow substance. "I have canine faeces all over me!"
She couldn't help it. Hermione burst out laughing, covering her mouth to stifle the guffaws at the murderous look on Lucius' face. Tears were seeping from the corner of her eyes before she could control herself. She fanned her face and took deep gulping breaths.
"Lucius," she managed, though her voice was garbled. "Haven't you ever had a dog?"
He moved forward and leaned in close, her nose filling with his pungent scent. "I dislike pets. I do not trust anything that loves unconditionally."
Her smile faded. "That's just sad. Have you never had—"
"Do not say another word." He sat in the still-uncomfortable chair. "Find me another position."
"A bit tetchy, are we?" she grumbled and turned to the computer.
"Tetchy is not the word I would use, Miss Granger. Murder most foul comes to mind, however."
"Exactly what happened that you are now covered in—"
"I was at the wrong end of a dog's arse. That fool, Penstone, suggested I empty a St. Bernard's anal sacs."
She snorted, but said nothing. It seemed safer that way. Instead, she began scrolling through her list of possible placements, disregarding any that brought Lucius into contact with animals. "You said you know how to use a Muggle telephone, correct?"
Lucius removed a sizable clump of wet fur and flung it on her desk. "Yes," he said hesitantly.
Using her wand, she pushed the hairy mess off the edge and let it fall to the floor. She then quickly cast a Scourgify on Lucius just to get rid of the smell, if nothing else. "There is a position answering phones that starts tomorrow. It's relatively stress-free."
"Relatively?" Lucius looked very dubious. "Why is there a need to 'answer phones'?"
Hermione wrote the address and name of the manager on the card and handed it to him. "It's a new business and she wants a person with impeccable manners to greet clients when they call."
Lucius read the card. "Willow Lemongrass?" He looked at Hermione sceptically. "What sort of woman—"
"Witch, actually. Well, she's Wiccan."
"Fraud," Lucius muttered under his breath. "As I was saying, what sort of wo… Wiccan goes about with the name of Lemongrass?"
"She's very earthy. It's a place that sells herbal remedies to Muggles. And, there's the added bonus of not having any animals in sight." Hermione gave him a mischievous grin as she handed him the folder of information.
He took the material and stood. "Let us hope that it's a far sight better than Beauregard's backside."
Hermione watched Lucius leave, noting that she wouldn't have a hard time staring at said blond's backside for hours on end.
"You must be Lucy!"
Lucius sneered at the woman who looked like the offspring of Sibyll Trelawney and Xenophilius Lovegood. "No, madam. Lucius. Lucius Malfoy, if you please," he said, gritting his teeth.
The woman wearing more beads than clothing grasped his right hand and shook vigorously. "Oh, you're so very posh! The voices said Miss Granger would send me the perfect person!"
An odd scent hung in the air, and Lucius thought it best not to inhale too deeply. "Yes, well, Joan of Arc heard voices as well, and you know what happened to her."
"You're funny too! Splendid!" Willow Lemongrass' smiled dimmed a bit. "My word, you have a bit of negative energy surrounding you, don't you? You should really let go of your feelings of guilt."
Lucius gave her a dry look. "If I let go of my feelings of guilt, I can then get in touch with my Inner Sociopath. How does that sound?"
She laughed nervously and let go of his hand quickly. "Let me show you to where you'll be working."
They strolled through a corridor that had a work area visible through a glass window on one side. There were several different varieties of plants, vegetables and flowers in various states of growth scattered throughout the room.
"That's where our production starts," Lemongrass told him as they bypassed the entrance to the room. "All our ingredients are fresh and grown on site."
"Fascinating," Lucius said, clearly uninterested.
She glanced over her shoulder at him, frowning. "I think you could use a nice cuppa."
He nodded then followed her into a small office, furnished with nothing more than a chair, a desk and a telephone. He was expected to work here? The veterinary assistant position was looking much better by the minute. At least there Lucius could move around. As it was, if he swivelled in the chair, he was sure to knock his knees against something.
"Now, just acquaint yourself with the phone system, and remember, Mr Mayfly: the only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary." She toddled off.
"It's Malfoy," Lucius muttered. "Platitude-quoting idiot."
He was studying the multitude of buttons when one of them lit up, along with an obnoxious tone that made him wince. Was he supposed to answer it? What was the name of the company again? The noise wouldn't stop and the red light refused to stop blinking at him. Realising no one was going to answer the call, he picked up the receiver and held it near his ear, though a few inches away from his head.
"Allo, mate! Is this Daisy, Daisy Hydrogarden Grow?"
Lucius truly couldn't remember. "Yes?" he hazarded a guess.
"Brill! I need to order the Bubblegum buds and some of the Northern Lights."
Bubble gum? Northern Lights? What sort of product was this gypsy fraud selling? "I'll relay the message to Miss Lemongrass."
"Thanks, mate! Tell her to send it to Clayton. She'll know who it is. Cheers!"
The line disconnected by the time Lemongrass returned with a steaming cup of very fragrant tea. "Here we go. Just what the doctor ordered."
Lucius accepted the tea and took a tentative sip. The spices burst upon his tongue and he could honestly say he had never had tea this good in his life. Normally he savoured his tea, sipping it slowly. But this? This was so delicious he drank it down and asked for another.
Willow smiled at him in a motherly way and patted his cheek affectionately. "See? You just need to cleanse your Heart Chakra—it's completely out of balance." She took the cup and left.
Feeling unbelievably relaxed, Lucius sat in the swivel chair and leaned his head back to stare at the ceiling. He hoped Pillow Demongrass returned soon, as he was particularly parched. The patterns in the ceiling tiles were an improvement over the craggy rocks in his cell in Azkatan.
When he was presented with another steaming cup, he drank it in a more leisurely fashion. Lucius also informed Billow Bulgurwheat that some man named Payton wanted Baked Alaska and peppermint schnapps. Why was Birch Lemonjuice staring at him like that? Never mind. He drained his cup and placed it… somewhere. He would find it eventually. Maybe. Tomorrow?
Circe's tits, he was starving!
"Are you Harmony Deranger?"
Hermione stared at the two uniformed police officers standing in her office, a bleary-eyed Lucius barely standing between them. "That's Hermione Granger."
"Are you responsible for Luscious May's-Pin-Up-For-The-Month Molloy?" one of the officers asked, reading from an index card.
Letting her face drop into her hands, Hermione groaned. "If you're referring to 'Lucius Malfoy', the blond man there, then yes, I am."
"Oh, Hestia, I've missed you so!" Lucius cooed… and then giggled.
It was unnerving.
The officers brought Lucius into Hermione's office and plopped him down on a chair. "We received a call from the McDonald's on Oxford Street, saying there was a man screaming into their drive-through intercom demanding, and I quote, 'that Ronald fucking McDonald better super-size his Happy Meal or he was going to Abracadabra the entire place, and that they had better give him the Timon and Pumbaa finger puppets as his prize'."
"I'm so hungry," Lucius pleaded with Hermione. "Please, I'll even eat a flying burrito, whatever that is!"
"You should also know," continued the shorter of the two officers, "that Mr. Malfoy here was instrumental in apprehending a wanted felon that was operating under an assumed name. Elle Bridgewater, better known as Dixie Huntermoon, Laurie Dorfman, Tess Flower and now Willow Lemongrass, had been wanted for the cultivation, distribution and possession of marijuana, among other things. Before Mr. Malfoy showed up at the McDonald's, it seems he had been dosed with a rather potent concoction that is a trademark of Bridgewater's. When we questioned him about where he had received the drink, he led us back to Miss Bridgewater's business front. Needless to say, we caught her unawares."
Hermione just sat there, hand over her mouth in shock, eyes wide. This type of situation had never, never happened to her or her clients. Ever. She was at a loss for words.
"There was a substantial reward for information leading to Elle Bridgewater's capture. Is there an address or phone number we can contact Mr. Malfoy at for further questioning and awarding the monies owed?"
"Ah, yes," she said, still trying to process all that had occurred. "You can contact Lucius at this address and phone number." She handed the officer her card with all the pertinent information on it.
"Thank you, ma'am," the taller officer said and tipped his hat at her. He then turned and patted Lucius on the shoulder. "A couple more hours and you'll be right as rain, Malfoy."
"Judy, you have the most beautiful eyes I've ever seen," Lucius purred. He tugged on the man's yellow safety jacket, bringing him down to his face, and pressed his lips against the officer's.
Hermione cleared her throat. "Lucius, let the police officer go."
Lucius broke the kiss, shoved the other man back, and stood. "I smell chocolate!" He turned to the man he had just pushed and pointed his finger. "You promised me ice cream if I were to come with you."
"I'll take you, Lucius," Hermione placated as she moved around her desk to put a restraining hand on Lucius' arm. "Now, say goody bye to the nice men and then we can go."
Lucius turned to Hermione, his bottom lip quivering. "She said I had no soul!" he wailed. "So, I went to get a Happy Meal. They serve happiness in those red and gold Gryffindor boxes, right? Ninety billion served, the sign said. If they can give happiness to that many Muggles, why can't I have just one bloody chance?"
Hermione thanked whoever was listening that the officers had slipped out the door before Lucius began his rant. Hesitantly, unsure of why she was really contemplating doing such a thing, she pulled him into a hug. The moment she did though, Lucius wrapped his arms around her tightly and began sobbing into the crook of her neck.
"I had the perfect life! I had a son and wife that were perfect!" He sniffed indelicately. "And it was all taken from me because I have no soul!"
"Shhh," Hermione cooed and rubbed her hand up and down Lucius' back. "You have a soul, Lucius. It may be a bit damaged at the moment, but you have one." She laid her cheek against his bowed head. "And maybe we can work on getting that Restraining Charm lifted, at least in Draco's case, so you can have your Happy Meal, erm, happy life with him."
Lucius raised his head and looked at Hermione. Just as expected, his eyes were red, swollen and bloodshot—a combination of his crying jag and the drugs he had inadvertently ingested. What she hadn't expected, however, was Lucius cupping her cheeks with both hands and kissing her firmly on the lips.
She meant to protest, she really did. But the words never came. Instead, she opened her mouth to his insistent tongue, delighting in the absolute control and mastery he had, even though he was nearly out of his mind.
When he pulled back and slowly opened his eyes, she avoided his gaze. She shouldn't have done that. She shouldn't have let him do that.
"You'll help me with Draco?" he asked, such furtive hope lacing his words.
Oh, she really shouldn't have let Lucius kiss her. Now she was feeling an odd flutter in her chest whenever he looked at her that way. "I'll see what I can do," she promised. She couldn't offer anything more until she looked at the legal documents surrounding Draco's case.
Apparently, that was enough for Lucius. He smiled tentatively and then picked her up in his arms to swing her around. Though she screamed and protested loudly, he swung them both until they landed on the floor in a heap. Groaning, he rolled over and clutched at his middle.
"I'm going to be sick!"
Before Lucius could think to empty his stomach, Hermione extracted herself and rifled through her work satchel, finding the vial of potion towards the bottom. "Here, Lucius. You need to drink this. You'll feel much better afterwards."
He had flopped onto his back to stare at the ceiling, his nausea apparently gone. "You have the same tiles that Weeping Honeybritches had in her office."
Hermione rolled her eyes and bent low to place the vial in his hands. "Well, you won't ever have to see them again. Drink up."
Lucius smiled at her and Hermione's breath caught in her throat. She had never seen a genuine smile that reached Lucius' eyes before. It was disconcerting. He uncorked the vial and downed the contents while still flat on his back, causing him to splutter. The majority of the potion must have made into his system, however, for in the next moment, he blinked several times and groaned.
"What in the nine Hells happened to me?"
"Willow Lemongrass happened to you. Or should I say, Elle Bridgewater?" Hermione offered him a hand up. "You unwittingly led the authorities to a wanted felon."
After sitting in the chair, Lucius rubbed his temples. "I did?"
"Yes. You can now add 'caped crusader' to your CV."
He glared at Hermione. "I am not amused." He smacked his lips a couple times followed by a moue of disgust. "What have I eaten?"
She stood in front of him, arms crossed, leaning against her desk. "I'm not sure. The officers seem to think you were given something by Miss Lemongrass that caused you to suffer certain… side-effects."
"The last thing I remember with any clarity is having a cup of tea. After that, things get a bit muzzy." Lucius pinched the bridge of his nose and exhaled noisily. "Please tell me I haven't disgraced myself?"
Hermione thought back to the McDonald's incident. "Not that I can recall," she said evasively.
He gave her a suspicious look. "I don't quite believe you."
She patted down her hair, sure that it was a fright from when they had toppled to the floor. "I can't help what you believe."
"Then why are your cheeks flushed?"
"Don't you remember…" She trailed off at his confusion. Figures. One of the best kisses she'd ever received and the man didn't remember a thing about it. "Never mind."
"Indeed." Lucius' gaze roamed about the room, conspicuously avoiding her. "So. My next assignment?"
She nodded. Of course he would want to get on with finding another placement, and she refused to show how disappointed she was that Lucius would rather discuss work than that searing kiss. After scrolling through a few offerings, she came across one that was odd, but just might appeal to Lucius' healthy ego, and was virtually impossible for him to cause a disaster. She hoped. "How about a model for menswear?"
Both eyebrows arched into his hairline. "Pardon? Do Muggles do such things?"
"All the time." Hermione handed him a Muggle magazine. "See? Men and women are paid to be spokesperson for certain companies. The agency that I would send your portfolio to is called Evoque."
"Portfolio? Pictures, yes?" At her nod, he flipped through another few pages, gazing at the images. "I have only posed for wizard paintings, Miss Granger. I don't have a…"
She held up a newspaper clipping from just before Draco's sixth year, the photo showcasing Lucius in all his Azkaban glory. "The scruffy and dangerous look is in right now. They would love this."
Lucius' expression wavered between astonishment, fury and calculation. He finally settled on avarice. "Menswear, you say?" He tapped his perfectly-shaped lips with his index finger. "By all means then, send them a portfolio."
Lucius did not like the look of…
"Carl von Gloeden." The tall, dark-haired man held out his hand.
Shaking Carl's hand—which was extremely limp-wristed—Lucius decided he also didn't want to know the last time the man's overly-bushy beard was trimmed. He withdrew his hand and surreptitiously wiped the palm on his trouser leg. "Lucius Malfoy."
Von Gloeden gave him a lengthy perusal. "Mmm, yes, you are luscious." He fiddled with what looked like an old-fashioned Muggle camera. "The changing rooms are over there," he said, pointing with his chin.
Lucius waited for further instructions, but the man was already lost in preparing some metal plates, so he made his way to a cramped closet, entered and shut the door. At times like these, he wished he had his wand back—he would've done more than lock the door.
Searching the room, he found nothing to change into. Didn't Miss Granger say this was a model shoot for menswear? All he found were scraps of cloth in assorted colours in a box shoved against the corner. Hesitantly, he picked one up and immediately dropped it.
"Mr. Von Gloeden?" Lucius called out, hoping the odd character would answer him. "There seems to be a mistake."
"Let's try the black mesh one first," Von Gloeden returned.
Lucius cleared his throat and hoped his voice didn't crack. "There's nothing in here to change into, Von Gloeden."
"In the box. The black mesh should be on top. Hurry up."
Swallowing, Lucius peered into the box once more and spied the dark fabric. He pulled it out. He saw spots before his eyes. "I… I don't think this is considered menswear."
"It's swimwear, Luscious. The light is changing. Chop chop!"
Oh, he was going to 'chop chop' something on that Muggle's anatomy, all right. Then he was going to give Granger the scolding of a lifetime for this debacle. After shedding his clothes, he angled the garment this way and that, trying to figure out how to wear it. When he finally did, his agitation at the witch grew to a murderous rage.
"I'll stab her with her letter opener," Lucius groused as he put one leg through a designated hole. "I'll plead self-defence by reason of insanity." Another leg, another hole. "A total of four years in Azkaban never gave me this much grief!" He looked down at his groin, sighed heavily and spread his legs apart.
When the 'swimwear' was in place, it felt like someone was cupping his cock and balls in the front while a string ran up the crack of his arse. Add to that the fabric covering the front was nothing more than netting, and his mortification was complete.
Lucius was sure his face was flaming red. Yes, he was going to stab her hands and pin them to the desk. Then, he was going to stab… oh, dear Merlin. He was thinking of stabbing her, all right, right between her plump lips. That made him think of that kiss he and Granger had shared in her office yesterday. He had tried to play it off like he didn't remember, but he wasn't that far gone. He recalled how her lips were so soft, her skin like silk, the way she responded to his caresses.
The way Lucius was responding…
"Damn!" he whispered heatedly. He palmed his more than interested cock, wishing it would abate, but that just made it worse.
"I'm paying you by the hour. Get your cute arse out here!"
Hesitantly, Lucius opened the closet door, bits covered with one hand, and edged out into the studio.
"You're even more delectable than I imagined," Carl purred and winked at Lucius. He raised his camera and took aim. "Move your hands."
Carl lowered the camera. "This is a photo shoot for Vizeau swimwear. I need to actually feature the product. Now, move your hands."
Lucius closed his eyes in embarrassment and dropped his hands to the side.
"Well, someone's happy."
There were several clicks and flashes, but Lucius didn't open his eyes. He was just trying to survive the prerequisite two hours and then leave, never to show his face in Muggle London again. And despite his best efforts to the contrary, his mind—and other parts of his anatomy—were focused on the delicate curve of Hermione's jaw.
"Whoever you're thinking about must be one lucky bloke," Carl observed after more flashes.
"Woman," Lucius gritted out and finally opened his eyes. "Her name is Miss Granger."
Carl curled his lip in a sneer. "Figures. All the good ones are straight or married."
Lucius crossed his arms over his chest and glared at Von Gloeden. "Even if I were bent, I would not be for you."
"Bitch," Carl muttered. "Since you're so hung up on this Miss Granger, show me how you would strut around in front of her."
Smiling lasciviously, Lucius indulged in Von Gloeden's request.
A stack of glossy black and white photos landed in a pile on Hermione's desk the next day.
"That, Miss Granger, is what your client had me do." Lucius sat in that same uncomfortable chair, waiting on a response from her.
Hermione picked up the photos and her jaw dropped. There was Lucius in all his semi-naked glory, leaving nothing to the imagination. She flipped to another photo and her eyes grew wide. He was certainly happy in that one. Another photo—a profile shot—and she was treated to just how happy he was. The next showed him kneeling, legs spread far apart, the tip of his cock grazing the floor. Was it getting hot in here?
She tried to speak, but the words were stuck in her throat. So she fanned herself with the photos.
"It's not a particularly warm day, Miss Granger," Lucius commented, looking at his nails. "What has you so flushed?"
"I'm sorry, Lucius. I had no idea. The modelling agency said it was menswear!"
Hermione looked at the photos again—this time, one where Lucius was thrusting his pelvis out. "You wouldn't be able to wear this in public, let alone swim in it! Well, maybe in Plage de Pampelonne in Ramatuelle near Saint-Tropez. But definitely not here!"
"I've been there, and I think it may actually be a crime to wear even that much clothing."
"That isn't clothing, that's… that's…"
"Me thinking about you."
Hermione closed her mouth so fast her jaw snapped. "Me?" Her heart rate increased threefold. He was staring at her as if she was the cream and he was the very large predatory cat.
Lucius rose and leaned over her desk, his nose almost touching hers. "You." He gave her a sweet peck on the tip and resumed his seat. "In fact, I was accosted by Mr. Von Gloeden until I told him where my thoughts were centred."
"And then what?" she asked. Was that a rasp in her voice?
He gave her a wicked smile. "He asked me to pose as if I were seducing you. Those photos are the end result."
Yes, it was definitely getting hot in the cramped office. She coughed discreetly and tried to act professional. "I'm glad you were able to fulfil this assignment, Mr. Malfoy. Let's see what's next, shall we?"
"No. You will not shunt me off on another feeble excuse for an employer."
"There are very few in the wizarding world who are willing to work with a former Death Eater," Hermione explained. "I always have positions for the emancipated house-elves, but very limited resources when it comes to ex-convicts."
Lucius nodded as if he expected this argument. "I propose a different strategy. In three months' time, my assets will not be frozen, thus allowing me to invest once more. I recommend that we become business partners."
She snorted. "And let you take over the business? I think not. I'm here to help those who are struggling to get back on their feet and live a productive life, not start a new club for reformed Death Eaters."
He gave her a hard look. "Is that how you truly see me?"
She was being unfair, and she knew it. In her book, everyone deserved a chance, even Lucius Malfoy. As it stood now, she felt she owed Lucius for all the hell she'd put him through with the last three jobs she had offered him. She groaned and buried her head in her hands, realising that she had been doing that a lot lately.
"No," she murmured. "To be honest, I'm surprised you haven't reported me to the Ministry for all the misery of the past few days."
"It has been a learning experience, I'll give you that. One I do not wish to repeat."
Head raised, she noticed the expectant look he gave her. "How involved would you be with the day-to-day operations?" she asked tentatively.
A genuine smile graced his handsome face. "Every day, as any investor worth his salt would do."
"And until your money is released? What then?"
"My villa is in dire need of expansion if I am to entertain company. There is a small personal fund that was set aside that the Ministry doesn't know about. As I understand it, you secure positions of employment for house-elves. I thought perhaps I might hire a few to make improvements? Provided, of course, they are properly supervised by you."
It was a blatant attempt to get her to agree to his wishes, but Hermione didn't care. He had offered to pay the house-elves. That made him gold in her book. Or silver, as the case may be. "When would you like them to start?"
Lucius rose from his chair, manoeuvred around her desk, and tugged her up to stand next to him. "As soon as possible." He cupped her cheek, his thumb softly stroking. "Very soon."
"I don't imagine that will be a problem." She shivered from the heated look he was giving her.
He nuzzled his nose with hers. "Perfect."