A/N: Hey all, this was originally written for the 1st Annual Fic War at Granger Enchanted's Malfoy Manor. The prompt word was "mundane".
Disclaimer: As always, the Harry Potter universe is property of J.K. Rowling and company, not me.
"Hermione? Hey, 'Mione!"
"Hmm?" Hermione replied, not even bothering to look up from her files at the tall redhead leaning against the edge of her desk.
"Mum wanted to know if you'll be at the Burrow on Sunday for dinner."
"I'm there every weekend, Ron," she replied distractedly, flipping a page to continue reading.
"Oh, well, alright then," he said, sounding a bit put out, just as he did every week. "I'll see you then, I guess. Bye 'Mione." He pushed off her desk, knocking over the picture of her with her two best friends, but she reached out and caught it before it even hit the desk, just as she did every week, never even looking up from her papers. She was vaguely aware that the man had left her office, somewhat sullenly, but the thought vanished from her mind moments later as she re-submerged herself into her case file.
The rest of Hermione's day passed much in the same manner, as it always did. She had a sandwich and pumpkin juice, purchased from the Ministry kiosk, at her desk for lunch; had her weekly meeting with her supervisor Mr. Whitsand at half past one, took a quick trip to the loo at three. Then at precisely six o' clock, Hermione stood, smoothed her robes, snapped the clasps on her briefcase, and left the office, making sure to lock the door embossed with Hermione Granger, Order of Merlin, First Class, Advocate firmly behind her. She joined the mass of Ministry employees in line for the Floo and minutes later stepped through the grate onto the beige carpet of her flat. She set her briefcase down neatly on a side table before bending to scratch her cat where he rested in his customary spot in her chair. As was her custom, she made her way to her bedroom, removing her shoes and her robes and placing them neatly in her closet, then unpinning her hair from the tight knot that kept it tamed during the day. She ran her fingers through her curls and sighed in relief before heading to her tiny kitchen, but not before checking to ensure she hadn't left anything out of place, a habit deeply ingrained during the course of her childhood.
She flicked her wand at the Muggle stereo in the corner and slow, soft classical music filled her flat. Quickly preparing a simple dinner of pasta and canned food for her aging cat, who still came running with surprising speed at the sound of the can opener, Hermione sat at her table with a sigh, slowly enjoying her solitary dinner and mentally reviewing her plans for the next day, a Tuesday. She had meetings with clients from eight to ten, she needed to focus on the Wentworth case for the rest of her morning, proving that they had been tampering with their financial records was proving more difficult than she had originally thought. Directly after her lunch, which she always took promptly at noon, she had been tasked with showing the newest batch of Wizarding Law interns about the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. And then after that, a department meeting and she had promised her supervisor that should would help with Amelia Cook's cases, she was expecting and had had been put on bed rest at St. Mungo's.
A small frown graced Hermione's face as she realized how closely her planned schedule matched nearly exactly what she had done earlier in the day, not the mention the week before. She had been thrilled when, upon her completion of her schooling, the Minister of magic himself, Kingsley Shacklebolt, had offered her an advocate's position at the Ministry. She had accepted the job with the grandiose vision of instituting change in the Wizarding World. Nevertheless, here she sat three years later, with no one but her cat for company, much to the chagrin of the collective Weasleys. The bill that she had spent nearly a year carefully crafting in her spare time regarding the rights of half-breeds, stalled in the Wizengamot. Despite all she had thought while at Hogwarts, it took more than one witch to institute change on the scale she had imagined. And so she sat in her comfy office every day, her prestigious title on the door, knowing that it didn't really mean a thing, the feeling of being insignificant seeping into every aspect of her life. With a scowl and a harshly delivered mental reprimand, Hermione banished her self-imposed melancholy and stood, carefully cleaning her dishes the Muggle way before retreating to her room and comfort of a good book for the evening.
Her alarm went off far too early the next morning. She rolled out of bed with a groan, earning a disgusted look from her cat, and scrubbed her face hard with her hands. She hadn't slept well, one of the recurring nightmares that still occasionally plagued her sleep made another appearance and it showed in the dark rings under her eyes. She stumbled sleepily into the bathroom, going through her morning ablutions with ease bred by habit, including casting a quick Glamour Charm to hide the signs of her recent unrest. Minutes later, she had donned a conservative grey suit, her Ministry robes and stepped through the Floo into the Atrium. She smiled and nodded politely at the greetings she received from people who were only visiting the Ministry and therefore didn't have the opportunity to see "The Brains Behind the Boy-Who-Lived-Again" every day. She had nearly made it to her office without being stopped when a loud, shrill voice rang out in the hallway behind her. She froze and winced internally before pasting a smile and her face and turning. "Good morning Lavender," she greeted pleasantly as her former schoolmate hurried up to her.
Hermione!" she exclaimed, her voice just a breathy and grating as it had been in school. "I'm so glad I caught you, I could have sent a memo, but this is just so much nicer, don't you think?" She continued on rapidly without waiting for a reply, "Harry, oops, Mr. Potter," she giggled, "needs to see you this morning. He said to tell you he needs your help with something important." Hermione sighed, mentally rolling her eyes. Everything that everyone ever needed help with always seemed to be terribly important. The last time she had changed her schedule to accommodate something "important" she had showed up in the Department for the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts to see Arthur Weasley. He had pointed excitedly to a large box adorned with a variety of pipes and nozzles and had asked if she knew how to diffuse a Muggle bomb. At which point she had to explain that no, she did not know how to diffuse a bomb, but that was rather irrelevant considering the fact that the device on the desk was in fact an espresso machine. A fact that Dean Thomas had apparently already tried to explain to the man before Hermione was summoned. She gave Lavender an exasperated look, although to be fair a healthy dose of her exasperation was directed toward her best friend.
"Please inform Mr. Potter I won't be free until much later this afternoon, he'll have to wait. Mathilda will be glad to schedule an appointment for him." With that she turned and unlocked her office door, stepping inside quickly and shutting the door firmly in the face of Lavender's "But Hermione-" She didn't have time for Harry's problems this morning, whether he was the new head of the Aurors office or not. And she certainly wasn't going to make time if he was going to set his obnoxious twit of a secretary on her instead of finding her himself. She scowled as she sat down at her desk and pulled out the case file for her first client meeting. That was most definitely not the way she had wanted to start her day.
Hermione's morning had gone smoothly once she got past her run-in with Lavender. She hadn't heard another peep from Harry, so she could only imagine his problem couldn't have been that important. She sighed quietly as she sat in her last meeting with a client for the morning, making somewhat vague notes as the elderly witch sitting across her desk rambled on and on. Miss Whiteley's case wasn't at all a difficult one; it was really just a scuffle over a law governing pureblood inheritance, which unfortunately fell under Magical Law jurisdiction, just like the hundreds of others she had prosecuted in the past. So, as Lady Aridne Josling prattled on about how her daughter should inherit as opposed to the infant son from her former ex-husband's second marriage, Hermione's thoughts wandered. Thankfully though, her pureblood client finally slowed down enough for Hermione to get a word in and usher her to a close, and then out of the office, sending an apologetic glance toward Mathilda Beck, the department secretary as the other witch made a beeline for her. Retreating back to her office, Hermione checked the clock on the wall with a small smile. For once she had a few free, completely unscheduled minutes in her usually busy (although still terribly monotonous) day. She closed her door and cast a Muffliato Charm on it so that she could only barley hear the noise from outside, and leaned back slightly in her chair; intent on ignoring the demands of what some days seemed to be the entire Ministry for just five minutes Her relaxed state had lasted all of thirty seconds when her door flew open, banging against the wall.
Hermione sat up with a rather undignified screech, glaring daggers at the tall, dark haired man standing in the doorway. "Harry James Potter!" she shrieked, "did you ever once, in the twelve years I've known you, consider leaning how to knock?" Her volume rose toward the end of her reprimand but Harry just grinned at her unabashedly. He was familiar with each of the emotions of his best friend and knew that if she was truly angry, there would have already been hexes flying. Just to be certain though, he cast a silent Protego, certain that what he had come to her office for could start the hexes.
"Hey Hermione," he said, still smiling but not moving from the doorway. "I need a-" he stopped short at the quick "No." that came from Hermione, who from all outside appearances had calmed. "But Hermione, it's imp-"
"It can't have been that important or you would have been here earlier," she said as she picked up a file and began to read, Harry's cue that he should leave.
"Seriously, Hermione, would you please just listen-"
"No Harry," she replied quickly, looking back up at him, "I won't listen right now, I'm rather confident in your ability to solve your own problems. I didn't take this miserably stuffy job just to spend the rest of my life running all over the Ministry solving other people's problems! Everyone is so set in their ways, expecting me to be bookish, brilliant Hermione Granger who can solve any problem, make sure everyone dots their i's and crosses their t's, and still work as one of the youngest Ministry advocates in history! So no, today I will not be listening to or solving anyone else's problems, I will be sitting at my desk, working on my files, and trying to figure out when exactly my life became so damned predictable!"
Realizing that it was wiser not to say anything to the woman who had at some point in her rather emotional speech come around her desk to stand in front of him, hands on her hips, Harry simply stepped out of the doorway and to the side, revealing a figure standing behind him.
"Who knew the Princess of Gryffindor's life would turn out to be so…mundane?" Draco Malfoy said with a smirk, leaning casually against the doorframe.
Hermione stared at him for a moment, stunned into silence before whirling to face Harry. "I don't care what he did; Merlin's balls will freeze in Hell before I defend that man," she hissed angrily, and apparently just a bit too loudly.
"Tsk,tsk, Granger, manners," Malfoy drawled, pushing off the doorframe and sauntering further into the room. He moved casually across the office and toed one of the chairs in front of her desk to an angle, sitting, and after a moment gesturing for the other occupants of the room to do the same. Hermione stood in the middle of her office, sputtering angrily while Harry studiously avoided looking at her, silently strengthening his shield charm before taking the chair to the right of the blond man. Hermione stared at the back of the men's heads, her hand in her pocket fiddling with her wand as she debated exactly how much trouble she would be in should she give both the Head of the Aurors Office and the CEO of Malfoy Enterprises festering boils. After a moment of intense temptation, she released her wand; it wasn't likely that anyone would bother to care for Crookshanks if she ended up in Azkaban after all.
She took a deep, calming breath, allowing her face to fall into the fake, pleasantly calm mask she had been using on clients all morning before rounding her desk and sitting in front of the two men. "I'm sorry for snapping, Mr. Potter," she said, her tone deceptively sweet. "How may I help you and Mr. Malfoy today?" Harry fidgeted nervously, eying the wand she had set neatly within reach on her desk before answering in a rush.
"Malfoy is pressing charges against Blaise Zabini for embezzlement and said he wanted the best lawyer he could get and I told him that was you and I owe him for that time last year with Ginny and so I told him I'd convince you to do it and so will you please take the case, Hermione?" Hermione raised one thin brow, her gaze moving from Harry to Malfoy and then back to Harry.
"Harry, would you mind if I spoke to Mister Malfoy alone for a moment?" Her tone was still saccharine sweet but left no room for argument. Harry hesitated for a moment, taking note of the spark in Hermione's eye and standing slowly, sincerely hoping he would not have to arrest the woman before the day was over. He made his way slowly out the door, giving Malfoy a warning glare before shutting it behind him. The pair sat in silence for a moment, amber eyes locked with steel.
Finally, Hermione broke the silence. "What do you want Malfoy?" her voice sounded tired and Malfoy regarded her steadily for a moment before replying.
"I want to see Blaise Zabini in Azkaban and I was told you're the best person to make that happen," he said evenly with a small shrug of his shoulders. Hermione scoffed.
"You can't actually expect me to believe that you would work with a Mudblood." The last word was scathing and brought back a flood of emotions she thought she had buried. She hadn't seen Draco Malfoy in nearly seven years, not since the memorial service at Hogwarts just after the Final Battle, but having him sitting so calmly in her office was bringing back vivid memories of the torment he had wrought her over the years.
The man in question scowled, a deep furrow appearing between his brows. "It's been seven years Granger, things change. I'm sorry I ever called you," he hesitated, "that word, but I would not think that Hermione Granger, champion of fair play, would jump to conclusions."
Hermione gave him a disbelieving look. If she didn't know better, she would have said the blond man was being sincere. She leaned back in her chair and gave him a challenging glare. "How did you really get Harry to agree to help you with this?" she asked, accusation clear in her tone.
Malfoy sighed and rolled his eyes. "Remember last year when Weaselette's baby tried to come early in the middle of Diagon Alley?" Hermione nodded, she remembered vividly Harry's frantic Floo call telling her that she should be at St. Mungo's just in case. They had almost lost both Ginny and her baby that night. The healers had said that if she hadn't made it here so quickly it would have been a sure thing. "Well who do you think not only convinced her to go Mungo's right away but also paid a significant amount of money to get her to the front of the line for the public Floo?"
Hermione stared. "That was you?" she asked incredulously. Malfoy smirked and nodded. "But you hate Ginny!" she blurted.
Malfoy rolled his eyes yet again. "Merlin, Granger, you haven't changed a bit. I'll bet you're still with Weasely planning to start popping out ginger brats any day now, aren't you?" Hermione flushed. She wasn't, the result of a clash of personalities and an overly controlling potential mother-in-law, but that wasn't any of his business. She scowled as his smirk widened, no doubt taking her blush as confirmation.
"Get out Malfoy," she said calmly, seething inwardly.
He didn't move. "You haven't asked me about my case yet," he returned pleasantly.
"Because I'm not taking the damned case," she hissed angrily. Malfoy snorted and stood, placing both his hands on her desk, leaning close and smirking when she unconsciously leaned back in her chair.
"Granger," he said in a low, smooth tone, "Do you realize who I am?" She arched one vaguely condescending brow but remained silent. He continued, "I didn't increase the holding of Malfoy Enterprises by nearly 100% in two years by accepting no for an answer."
It was Hermione's turn to snort. "Get used to it Malfoy," she retorted. He straightened and looked down at her, then around at her tastefully Ministry-decorated office, and then back at her, a wide smirk spreading on his face.
He reached into his robes and pulled out a thick folder, dropping it with a smack on her desk. "Might as well start reading Granger," he said matter-of-factly. "I'll be in touch." With that, he strode to the door, shutting it firmly behind him and smirking just as he heard, "Malfoy, I'm not going to…"
Hermione slumped, staring at the door that had just closed behind her childhood tormentor. She had honestly never expected to see the man at anything more than a polite distance for the rest of their lives, and she liked it that way. It had been a shock to see how much he had changed since she had last spoken to him, a few cold, polite words at the memorial service. He had grown taller, likely taller than Ron, his shoulders had widened just enough to make it clear he was a man, not still a boy. Even his trademark Malfoy blond hair had changed, hanging loosely around his face instead of slicked back, although she still hadn't spotted a single strand out of place. The only thing about him that had remained unchanged was that damn smirk.
For the briefest of moments though when he had first entered her office, she had been able to see exactly what it was that had drawn girls to him in droves. Blinking hard at the thought that had just crossed her mind, she shook her head, clearing it of thoughts involving Malfoy. "I'm going to kill Harry," she muttered to herself as she picked up the file Malfoy had left, preparing to toss it in the bin next to her desk, but something held her back. For reasons she wasn't sure she could explain, she opened one of her desk drawers and dropped it in there instead, pulling out the Wentworth case she had originally planned to spend her morning working on.
Twenty-four hours later, Hermione had managed to push all thought of Draco Malfoy out of her head. Having successfully avoided anyone seeking her help that morning on the way to her office, she sat at her desk studying a case file for a meeting scheduled later in the day and munching on a breakfast bar. She heard a soft knock on her doorframe and looked up to see Mathilda peeking her head through the already open door. Hermione smiled at the older woman, beckoning her into the room. "I've got your memos, Miss Granger," she announced in a cheerful voice, holding up a sheaf of colorful paper. It had only taken a few months of Hermione working at the Ministry for her to become so fed up with the constant stream of interoffice memos into her office that she had warded her doorway to direct them all to the secretary, a much better system in her opinion.
She thanked the other woman warmly, waiting for her to leave before pulling the stack of memos to her and beginning to read. It was all pretty standard fare, several requests for assistance , legal or otherwise, and no fewer than six reminders about the quickly approaching Ministry Halloween party, which she had no intention of attending. The pile of colored paper in her bin grew steadily until she came to one that gave her pause. There was something incredibly familiar about the neat, sharp script that had printed Hermione Granger on the front, but she couldn't quite place it. That was, at least until she unfolded it and read the address. Granger- she winced and debated just tossing the note in the trash without reading it, but her innate sense of responsibility wouldn't allow it. And so, she read.
I have a proposition for you. Since your ridiculous Gryffindor stubbornness won't allow you to accept a case we all know would do good things for your career, let's make a bet. No, we'll call it a challenge, that's another of those obnoxious Gryffindor traits right? Rising to challenge? We'll just put it like this: You have a problem that your life is one of the more pathetically mundane things I've ever come across. Don't look so offended, Granger, you know it's true. So here's the proposition. You give me a week, during which I'll do everything in my power to liven up your life a bit, which Merlin only knows will be difficult. If after that week I'm successful, and don't even think about lying because you're pants at it, you'll take my case. If I'm not, I'll have Potter take me elsewhere. If I don't receive a Howler by noon, I'm going to assume you agree.
Hermione's jaw dropped, stunned, and then snapped shut angrily. The absolute nerve of that man! Offering to just show up and fix her life as if his was any better? She hesitated on that thought, to be fair, she actually had no idea what Malfoy's life was like, just that he was a very powerful man in both Muggle and Wizarding financial circles. She scowled and picked up her wand, intending to first Incendio the note and then dictate a scathing howler to the blond git. But she hesitated, her mind unwillingly flashing back to when she had snapped irrationally at Harry the day before. Could she honestly fault Malfoy, even if he was a slimy, horrible person, for calling out thoughts she herself had on a near daily basis? Very slowly she placed her wand back on her desk, staring at the seemingly innocuous slip of paper sitting right in the middle of her desk. Moving slowly and deliberately she opened her desk drawer and selected a fresh piece of parchment, laid it carefully on her desk picked up her favorite quill, and wrote one word, the ink dark against the pale parchment.
Hermione had sent her reply off by owl nearly an hour earlier after realizing that, despite the original communication having arrived as a Ministry memo, Draco Malfoy was not to her knowledge a Ministry employee and therefore unreachable via memo. She was incredibly disconcerted to realize, after Mathilda asked exactly what she was expecting to warrant checking for it every ten minutes, that she was a most eagerly awaiting Malfoy's reply. Unfortunately for her, and anyone who happened to encounter her rapidly growing irritation, a reply didn't come for another two hours, this time delivered by one of the tiniest owls Hermione had ever seen, which came barreling straight into her office right as she stood to go purchase her standard lunch at the kiosk. The little bird skidded to a stop on Hermione's perfectly polished desk and presented its leg with a cheerful hoot. There was a small frown on Hermione's face, all owls were to be directed to the Ministry Owlery, but she untied the message. She unfolded it and scanned it eagerly, recognizing the script immediately.
Go somewhere new for lunch today.
Hermione scowled, the note wasn't at all what she had suspected. Feeling somewhat disappointed and not at all confident in Malfoy's plan, Hermione shed her robes and quickly transfigured her cloak into a coat before making her way to the exit that led to Muggle London. Once outside she set off in search of the café she had only been to once before that she was fairly certain was nearby. It had been some time since she had spent time in the Muggle side of London, a fact she reminded herself to remedy, and it wasn't long before she found herself completely turned around. Giving up on finding the café and becoming more interested with finding somewhere warm, she ducked into the first place that looked as if it might serve food, a small, warmly lit pub. Hermione stood just inside the doorway for a minute, shifting uncomfortably as several pairs of eyes turned toward her when she shut the door. She smiled weakly and made her way to a large, empty booth in the corner. A few moments later a waitress showed up, pulling a pencil from behind her ear with a pleasant "What can I get you miss?"
"Umm…" Hermione said uncertainly, glancing about the room. "Could I please see a menu?"
The waitress looked put out. "We don't have one. Everyone that comes to eat at Willie's just knows what we got."
"Oh." Hermione said, a soft blush rising in her cheeks. "I don't-"
"She'll have the fish and chips, Lucy, I'll have another pint." The waitress nodded and scribbled something on her pad and Draco Malfoy slid into the booth opposite Hermione, trademark smirk on his face.
She stiffened, reaching for her wand until she remembered where she was and then glaring at him, hissing, "You followed me? Of all the sneaky, low-down things to do-"
He cut her off with a raise of his brow and cleared his throat. "I've been here for an hour, my mates and I like the lunch." He gestured to the bar, where two men sat, both staring at them rather intently. Hermione blushed and opened her mouth to retort but found herself at a loss for words.
"What if I don't like fish and chips?" she snapped mutinously.
A scoff that sounding suspiciously like a laugh came from the man's throat and a challenge shone in his eyes. "Do you?" he asked.
Hermione hesitated before rolling her eyes."Yes," she muttered.
"Right then," he said, before turning and gesturing to his friends, the dark haired one was still watching the pair in the booth while the blonde one reached over the counter to top off his own beer. He turned back to Hermione. "We're having lunch with you Granger," he announced confidently, right as her food and his drink arrived.
Hermione just stared at him before turning to her food and muttering something that sounded suspiciously like, "So much for pureblood manners." She looked up startled a moment later by a thud and the bench shifting beneath her to see one of Malfoy's friends sitting next to her.
She smiled weakly and then frowned at the blond man across the table. "You know Theo Nott, of course," Malfoy said conversationally, ignoring the woman's obvious displeasure. Hermione nodded slowly, the tall handsome man with the dark hair and cheerful eyes didn't at all match her memories of the skinny, quiet boy from their double Potions classes. "And this is Liam Collings," Malfoy finished, gesturing to the smiling man now seated next to him. Hermione studied the man, searching her memories of their time at Hogwarts to place him with no success. Realization dawned a moment later when her gaze flicked back to Malfoy just in time to see him mouth the word "Muggle". Her brows flew up, surprise written all over her face before she quickly masked her features, smiling politely at the Muggle man.
"Nice to meet you," he said, his voice open and friendly. "Harmony, was it?"
"Hermione," she corrected softly.
He grinned. "Sorry, so what do you do, Hermione?"
To Hermione's surprise, the hours she spent at lunch with the men passed quickly in a flurry of conversation and even laughter. Before long, the group was leaving, with Theo and Liam bidding the others goodbye at the door, leaving Hermione and Malfoy standing just outside the pub in the cool autumn air. "Well…" Hermione said, her gaze landing everywhere but on the tall blond man in front her.
"Well?" he replied mockingly, a hint of humor in his tone.
Hermione blushed, "Well… thanks for lunch Malfoy." Before he could say another word, she turned and hurried away, eager to get back to the normalcy of the Ministry.
The next two days of Hermione's life passed as they habitually did, with no interruption from a certain platinum blond pureblood. She was beginning to wonder if he had simply decided his silly little game wasn't worth is time. That was, at least what she was thinking until she returned from buying lunch to find a note posted on her door.
If Potter is right, and I suspect he is, you've been wearing your hair in that same horrendous bun every day for years. Really Granger? How am I supposed to call you a bushy haired know-it-all if no one can see it? I'll look ridiculous. So you're going to change things. Wear it down tomorrow
Hermione frowned and stomped into her office, pulling out a parchment and quill and writing a missive in return before she even sat down.
If you think I'm going through the absolute nightmare of wearing my hair down just so you can come around and insult me, you've lost your mind.
This time when she sent her note, the reply was almost instantaneous, arriving via the same little owl, this time carrying a note and a vial of potion. Choosing the note first, she read.
Honestly Granger -
She could nearly hear him rolling his eyes.
It's not as if I'm asking you to go after the Dark Lord again, just fix the damn hair. I won't even be at the Ministry tomorrow to see the shrubbery on your head.
P.S. Use the potion, if anything can help that monstrosity, that will do it.
Curious, Hermione picked up the small blue vial, reading Tillywack's Self Modifying Hair Serum off the label. She raised her brow; Tillywacks' products didn't come cheap. Setting the vial carefully in her briefcase, she cast one last look at the note and returned to work, determined to forget about Malfoy and his silly orders for a while.
The next morning, Hermione was dressed and in the midst of twisting her hair into its usual strict bun when she paused, remembering Dra-, Malfoy's, orders from the day before. Hesitantly she let her hair fall back around her shoulders, retrieving the vial the owl had delivered. She poured a dollop of the potion into her hand, staring at herself in the mirror. "I swear, if this turns my hair blue, I'm going to Azkaban for murder," she muttered to her reflection before raising her hands and coaxing the potion through her hair. For a moment there was no discernible difference and then right before her eyes, her frizz smoothed and her curls slowly transformed into a mass of chestnut ringlets. Hermione blinked in shock, studying her reflection for a few moments and then finishing getting ready for work.
All day long, Hermione couldn't step out of her office without receiving double-takes from her coworkers, usually followed by either a compliment or a jealous look. It was rather disconcerting for the girl who had tried to maintain a certain level of anonymity after the war. For the first time in years, Hermione Granger was being noticed for something other than her impressive brain, and she wasn't quite sure how to handle it. By mid afternoon, she had taken to hiding in her office with the door closed. It was while she was closeted away that she heard a knock at the door and she invited them in without a thought, not looking up from her work until she heard a "Well, well, well," in an unmistakable voice.
Her head snapped up and met the steel eyes of none other than Draco Malfoy. "Dr- Malfoy!" she shrieked, cursing inwardly. "I could have sworn you said you wouldn't be at the Ministry today," she said, her voice tight.
The man grinned, Draco Malfoy actually grinned, and wandered into the room. "I lied," he said with a casual shrug.
Hermione frowned, turning her attention back to her work. "What do you want?" she asked. He shrugged again, an action she noticed didn't leave a single wrinkle in his tailor-made suit coat.
"I want you to take the case," he said. "Other than that, I'm Draco Malfoy, what else could I need?"
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Let me rephrase, Malfoy, whey are you here?"
He moved closer, standing in front of her desk. "I wanted to see if you'd do it," he said, gesturing vaguely in the direction of her head. Without warning, he reached across the desk and grabbed the end of one of her new ringlets, pulling it straight then releasing it and watching it spring back into place. Hermione slapped his hand away with an incredulous look. "It looks nice," he said simply before turning and leaving without another word, Hermione gaping at his retreating back. Malfoy had lost his mind.
Hermione received her next communication from Draco, not at work as she had expected, but at home the next morning, minutes after her alarm went off. Still not completely awake, it took her several moments to find the source of the rapid tapping noise, finally realizing it was the tiny owl at her bathroom window.
Are you going to the Halloween Ball at the Ministry Saturday evening?
Moving into the bedroom, the little owl following with a happy hoot, she picked up a quill and wrote on the bottom of the parchment.
Then she sent the owl on its way, missive in tow. She didn't receive a reply until she made it to the Ministry. Mathilda flagged her down as soon as she stepped off the lift in order to hand her a folded slip of paper. She unfolded it as she walked to her office.
with a roll of her eyes. She sat at her desk and wrote
I don't go to parties, especially not Ministry ones. I'd rather stay home with a book.
She shrieked in surprise when, not a half an hour later, while she was completely absorbed in the notes she was taking, she caught a glimpse of silver out of the corner of her eye and looked up to see a small dragon perched on its haunches on the corner of her desk. It cocked its head and looked at her and then Malfoy's voice came from the Patronus. "Mundane, it's an adjective," the voice mocked. "It's defined as describing something common, ordinary, banal, or unimaginative. Your cozy little life in a nutshell. So change your mind Granger, you're going. I'll see you there." With that, the Patronus dissolved and Hermione groaned, her forehead thudding against her desk. She hated that man, she really did.
She was preparing to leave the office for the day when Malfoy's tiny owl came barreling into the office. She picked him up from where he stopped on her desk. "I wish I knew you name." she mused aloud as she retrieved his message and fed him one of the owl treats she had taken to keeping in her desk drawer.
Since I'd be willing to bet the family estate on the fact that you wore your hair in that atrocious mess again today –
She reached up and self-consciously patted the bun twisted high on her head,
– do the world a favor and take it down before I have to be seen in public with you. Meet us at the Leaky at seven.
Hermione glanced at her watch and frowned, grabbing her briefcase and heading for the Atrium and the Floo home. Seven was less than an hour away.
Hermione arrived at the Leaky Cauldron precisely at seven, having changed her suit for a favorite pair of jeans and a heather grey jumper, her hair once again tumbling down her back, courtesy of Tillywack's. She ducked through the door out of the cold and sent a smile in Tom's direction, casing her gaze around the room and searching for a platinum head of hair to no avail. She scowled and chose a seat in the corner, folding her arms and waiting for Malfoy's arrival. When he finally walked through the door nearly 15 minutes later with Theo Nott in tow, there was a fierce scowl on her face and her fingers were beating a rapid tattoo on the table. "You're late!" she accused as soon as he was in range.
The blonde's hands flew up in defense and he jerked a thumb in Theo's direction. "Blame that git," he said, his voice terse. "Bloody ponce had to stop for a mochaccino on the way." Theo raised the white and green cup in his hand with a sheepish grin Hermione couldn't help but return, gesturing for the two men to join her at the table. Malfoy quickly shook his head.
"No time, we have an appointment to keep. Let's go Granger." Confused, Hermione stood slowly, watching Draco set off quickly toward the Diagon Alley exit.
She leaned closer to Theo, asking in a quiet voice, "Where are we going?"
He just grinned and grabbed her arm, tucking it through his and towing her along after his friend. "You'll see."
The trio made their way quickly through Diagon Alley, soon entering the more high-end shopping area, where Malfoy finally stopped in front of a shop with luxurious dress robes clothing the mannequins in the windows. Hermione gave the two men a confused look. "Why are we here?"
"Well, judging from your current attire, I can't imagine you have anything suitable to wear to Saturday's event," Draco sneered. Hermione opened her mouth to protest the insult, and then shut it, realizing that, unfortunately, he was right. She hadn't purchased new dress robes in years.
"They're closed," she pointed out finally. Theo snorted and Draco actually let out a bark of laughter.
"Malfoy," He reminded her, pointing at his chest and rapping at the store door. Seconds later, before Hermione could even finish rolling her eyes, the door was opened by a small man who then bowed obsequiously.
"Mr. Malfoy, always a pleasure," he said as he opened the door wide. "And this must be the lady we're dressing this evening?" he asked, eyeing Hermione as she looked around the shop wide-eyed. At Malfoy's nod, an unsuspecting Hermione was whisked away into a whirl of fabric. Nearly two hours later, a very uncomfortable Hermione was standing in front of Draco and Theo, who both reclined on a couch with glasses of wine in hand, clad in dress robes unlike anything she had ever worn before. The gown reached the floor, clinging to the curves of her body. The entire thing was overlaid by delicate lace, including that which formed the long, fitted sleeves. The garment was modest in the front, a shallow scooped neck cut across her collarbone, but the back dipped low, nearly to the base of her spine.
Both the men stared and Theo let out a low whistle. "Perfect!" Malfoy declared to the man hovering anxiously behind Hermione. "Have it made in crimson and delivered to Miss Granger by Saturday morning and charge it to my account." The man bowed and backed out of the room while the other two occupants stared at the blond man.
"Your account?" Hermione asked.
"Crimson?" Theo exclaimed.
Draco shrugged and sipped his wine. "I will have you both know that my mother shops here frequently, we have an account already established, and I happen to enjoy crimson."
Hermione cursed and slammed the book on her desk shut. Her supervisor had pointed out a rather large hole in one of her cases early in the day and, much to her budding irritation, he had been correct. She scowled and made a few notes in the case file before shutting it as well. She glanced at her watch and frowned when she saw that there were still twenty minutes before she was supposed to be off for the day. Making a split second decision since her Friday had been incredibly stressful; Hermione Granger skived off earlier for quite possibly the first time ever. So absorbed was she in the facts that could cause her to lose the Strummons case, she didn't even realize where her feet had unconsciously taken her until the guard at the Muggle exit coughed discreetly and gestured to the robes she still wore.
Hermione blushed and flashed the man an apologetic smile before turning to head back to the Atrium and home. At the last minute though, she hesitated and instead shrugged out of her robes, shrinking them and tucking them into her briefcase and changing direction to head out into Muggle London. She soon found herself ducking through the door of the pub she had lunched at with Malfoy and his friends earlier in the week and taking a seat at the rough bar. "Ale," she said quietly to the bartender when he asked what she wanted, her gaze focused on the scratches in the wood in front of her and her thoughts miles away.
She wrapped her hand absentmindedly around the cold glass placed in front of her and then looked up with a start when she heard, "Hermione?"
"Liam!" she exclaimed when she finally looked up at the bartender, meeting the smiling blue eyes of Malfoy's friend. "You work here?" she asked, confused and looking around the room for any sign of a pale blonde wizard.
He shrugged, picking up a rag and drying his hands. "Just part-time while I'm in town," he explained. Hermione nodded, she remembered him mentioning something at lunch about being a journalist. He leaned casually against his side of the bar and regarded her steadily before speaking, "You look like you've had a rough day, want to talk about it with a near-stranger?" A grin crossed his face and Hermione laughed.
"Just work things," she explained, a touch of bitterness in her tone. He raised a skeptical brow and Hermione's lips twisted in a wry smile. "Okay, it's more than that," she admitted. "I had such grand ideas about what life would be once-" she started to say "the War", but quickly substituted it, "-school was done with. I was going to change people's lives, and then hopefully settle down with a family of my own." She looked at the tall glass of ale in front of her ruefully. "And now here I am in a pub by myself, no one's life but my own changed, and not for the better. I seemed to be the only one really interested in seeing a real difference being made, and there's no sign of that changing anytime soon." She sighed and cast Liam a glance, embarrassed at having shared so much.
He gave her a sympathetic look, reaching for her glass and topping it off. "Believe me Hermione, I know how you feel." She didn't leave the pub, or the listening ear, until much later that evening.
Much to Hermione's surprise on Saturday morning, and concern if she was willing to admit it, her new dress robes had just been delivered, and she hadn't heard a thing out of Draco since their shopping excursion Thursday evening. Choosing to ignore the fact, Hermione set out to run her errands for the day. When Ginny had discovered that Hermione was actually attending a party for once, she had been ecstatic, making a valiant effort to convince the older woman that a day at the spa in preparation had been in order. Hermione had declined since she had things to do with her Saturday and wasn't about to let them fall to the wayside because of a silly party. She returned home nearly three hours before she was due to leave for the event, stepping through her Floo and hearing a loud squeal coming from about knee height. She started in surprise when she looked down to meet the gaze of a very anxious house-elf who stood in the middle of her living room, wringing her hands.
"Can I help you?" Hermione asked warily.
"Mister Malfoy is sending Wimbly to be helping the miss with the getting ready."
Hermione sighed. "Of course he did," she muttered under her breath, trying to find a way to politely dismiss the elf, all the while knowing she was likely stuck with the help. It didn't take long after she finally allowed the elf to help, to realize that she should thank Malfoy for the assistance. In the next two hours, she was buffed and polished in more directions than she had known was possible. The she found herself sitting in front of the mirror as the elf stood behind her with a formidable array of pins, combs, and potions. Hermione watched in awe of the transformation that occurred in front of her, the elf somehow coaxing her hair into a sultry mass of curls piled atop her head and trailing down her neck. Then, the house-elf laced her into the dress and Hermione tied on the stunning half-mask that had been delivered with the dress robes that bore a resemblance to a phoenix. She had just finished adding a few pins to keep the mask secure when a knock sounded at her door.
Unsure who it was, as she wasn't expecting anyone and old habits form the war died hard, she slipped her wand from the sheath strapped to her calf and threw the door open. "Theo!" she exclaimed when the tall, handsome man clothed in impeccable black dress robes with a simple white mask was revealed. "You look just like the Phantom!" He smiled a clearly puzzled smile and Hermione laughed as she opened the door to allow him into the flat. "It's a Muggle opera," she explained.
He nodded with a grin. "I've come to escort the lady for the evening," the man announced as he sketched a formal bow. Hermione smiled as Theo fetched her cloak, dropping it over her shoulders as he continued to explain. "Draco was going to be here, but he got stuck helping his mother with a project, we'll see him at the party." With that, the pair left the flat, Hermione locked and warded the door, and they Disapparated to the Ministry.
Hermione stood against the wall, a glass of champagne in hand, watching the party in full swing around her. As much as she loathed admitting it, as it meant Draco Malfoy had had another decent idea, she was enjoying herself. This was the first song she had not had a dance partner for, and that happened only after begging Seamus Finnegan to allow her to sit this one out. He had finally agreed and the pair had retreated from the dance floor to strike up a lively conversation about travel. He had excused himself a moment earlier to fetch another glass of champagne, and so Hermione watched the revelers, her eyes unconsciously searching for the one person she had yet to see, the man who was responsible for her being there in the first place.
The music of the song was just dying down when she heard a low, familiar voice at her side."You know Granger, one is usually expected to actually dance and enjoy themselves at this sort of thing," he said, gesturing around the room with his champagne flute.
"You're not dancing either." Hermione pointed logically as she turned to face her new companion. The she stared. The man was simply resplendent in dress robs of dark blue velvet, a silver half mask on his face.
A wry grin twisted his lips and he spoke. "If you're done staring Granger, would you like to dance?" She blushed and hesitated, looking at his outstretched had before carefully placing her hand in his. To her surprise, and perhaps his, he flashed her a genuine smile before tugging her out on the dance floor just in time for the band to start another song, this one unexpectedly slow. A rueful smile crossed her lips as, without a word, Malfoy pulled her body closer to his as they began to dance. The pair danced in silence, not unaware of the questioning looks they were receiving from several of the dancing couples around them.
Hermione was carefully avoiding looking up to meet the eyes of her dance partner until her spoke her name. "Hey Granger." She looked up expectantly, wondering if he was going to try to make polite conversation. "I have one more challenge to try to fix your little boredom issue."
"What is it?" she responded.
He leaned closer, his breath ghosting over her ear as he nearly whispered, "Do something to surprise everyone in the room, even me." She frowned, not certain if there was anything she could do that would surprise the former King of Slytherin. Then her eyes widened. There was only one thing she could think of that could truly shock Draco Malfoy. But she couldn't do it. Could she? She would, if that's what it took for her to win their little bet. And so, she stiffened her shoulders, took a deep breath, tilted her head up, and kissed him.
Her lips met his gently, and she felt he gasp rush past her lips. Satisfied that she had succeeded in her task, she started to pull way, only to feel his hand leave her waist and move to the back of her head, staying her and he pressed his lips harder against hers. His grip on the back of her head tightened and it was her turn to gasp as she felt the tip of his tongue ghost over the seam of her lips.
With a concentrated effort, Hermione moved her hands to his shoulders, pushing him away slightly. His dark, stormy eyes met hers and she whispered, "What are you doing?"
His eyes shifted to her lips as she spoke and he replied in a whispered voice, "This," as he bent to ghost his lips over hers again. Her eyes drifted shut only to fly wide open again when she heard an older witch dancing behind them coughing pointedly.
She blushed furiously and a low chuckle sounded in Draco's throat. "We can't do this!" Hermione whispered frantically.
Draco's hand tightened in her curls for a moment before shifting it back to her waist, leaning down to place his mouth next to her ear. "No, Granger, we can't do that here." He straightened with a wicked grin, and spun them in a circle as they danced. As soon as the song ended, Draco was tugging Hermione back off the dance floor, nearly before the last musical tones died.
"Draco!" she protested quietly.
He glanced back at her, a small grin on his face. "Hermione!" he mocked gently.
"What are we doing?" she asked.
He stopped and turned back to her, keeping her hand tight in his grasp. "Granger, do I honestly have to explain it to you?" he asked patiently. She flushed and scowled at him, which elicited a chuckle from him as he leaned forward to peck lightly at her lips. "You always were a fierce little lioness," he said quietly before beginning to walk again, this time clearly heading for an exit and towing Hermione with him. Much to her surprise, very few people seemed to notice that either of them were leaving, let alone together, but then again the night was no longer young and champagne had been flowing freely for quite some time.
The second the pair was out the door, out of the Atrium where the Ball was being held and into the now-empty Apparition Chamber, Draco pulled Hermione close to him again, wrapping one arm snugly around her waist and sliding the other into her hair again. She looked up at him, wide-eyed, not sure what to expect from this new version of Draco Malfoy she had spent the week with. Before she could open her mouth to ask, he had swooped down to press his lips hard against hers again, then pulling back to ghost them up her jaw to reach her ear, kissing it gently before whispering, "Do you trust me Granger?"
It surprised them both when she answered without hesitation, "Yes." He smiled and kissed her again, wrapping both his arms tight around her and spinning them on the spot. She felt the squeeze of Apparition and opened her eyes again as they landed in a bedroom she didn't recognize, decorated in rich blue tones.
She looked around and then back up at Draco. "What a lovely room," she said in a soft, matter of fact tone. The man holding her just chuckled and tightened his arms, kissing her neck gently. Stifling a soft noise of surprise, Hermione caught the man's lips with her own for another slow kiss. He pulled away and looked down at her for a moment before reaching behind her head to untie the ribbons securing her mask. She smiled shyly, sliding her fingers up the back of his neck to do the same for him.
"Circe, you're beautiful Granger," he whispered. "You always have been."
Shock crossed her features and skepticism laced her tone when she spoke, "I'm assuming you mean since I've started at the Ministry?"
He shook his head slowly, looking somewhat guilty. "No, even at Hogwarts I thought you were a fascinating creature, but no one could have ever known." He brushed his lips against her forehead, avoiding meeting her eyes. "I'm sorry," he whispered, pain in his voice. Hermione placed her hands on his cheeks, directing his gaze down toward her. She studied him intensely for a moment and then stood on tiptoe, planting a firm kiss against his lips, and gently nipping his bottom lip before pulling away, kicking off her heels, and sinking her toes into the thick carpet with a delighted smile. Malfoy smiled in return, amused by her simple joy and pulled her to the settee, sitting and pulling her next to him before wrapping his arms around her and giving her a deep kiss. Hermione moaned as the man left her lips and trailed his own down her neck, nipping and sucking as he went.
Their passions intensified, her writhing in his lap, his arms tight around her, until they came together with a clash. Soon after, collapsed on top of her, breathing hard, rolling to her side a moment later to keep from crushing her. Neither said a word for long minutes, until their breathing finally evened out and Draco summoned a blanket to cover them. He kissed Hermione's temple and she made a content noise before the pair felt silent again.
Sometime later, Hermione spoke. "Malfoy?" she whispered, not sure he was still awake.
"Hmm?" he hummed drowsily.
"I'll take the Zabini case." She felt him shake slightly with silent laughter and she smiled against his chest.
His arm tightened around her and he murmured softly, "Go to sleep Granger."
A/N: I hope you all enjoyed, the full lemony version of this one-shot can be found at the Manor at Granger Enchanted, where you can also go vote for my one-shot for the war this week (hint hint) or at an awesome new site, The Maple Bookshelf . Don't forget to review and let me know what you thought!