A/N: Hello readers! This was supposed to be a story doodle, a oneshot. Obviously I have a problem with that, since it's approaching 20 000 words and not quite finished. I'm thinking it's going to be five chapters. I wanted to write something really fluffy and this is the result. Enjoy!
As always, thanks so much to Irianaceleste for betaing!
Draco had no idea the trouble that was waiting for him when he returned home that night. Sure, he'd made a habit of drinking more than most would perhaps consider healthy, and he chose to associate with a less than savory crowd, but he didn't see any problem with his behaviour.
His father disagreed. Vehemently.
"You're a disgrace," Lucius greeted him as soon as Draco stumbled out of the fireplace. The Floo network was bad enough sober, but when the room was already spinning, it was downright hell. If Draco was in hell, that made his father Lucifer, coldly observing and enjoying the suffering he saw.
Lucius looked twice as disapproving as usual, a problem Draco remedied by closing one of his eyes. Ah, that was better. Two of his father was two Lucius Malfoys too many.
"What part of my life is disgraceful this time?" Draco asked. His words didn't slur at all, a talent of Draco's. No matter how drunk he was, his words came out perfectly clear. It was his sluggish thinking and lack of filters that were the problem.
"Your continued association with the Zabini boy is unacceptable. He's a criminal."
Draco looked pointedly at the magical monitoring anklet that would alert the Aurors if Lucius stepped off of the Manor property.
The Ministry had been willing to pardon Draco for his involvement in Voldemort's reign of terror since he was a minor and there were extenuating circumstances, but Lucius hadn't been so lucky. He was under house arrest for the next two decades, and this was after the hefty fines (read: bribes) he'd paid.
"Don't give me that look, boy. Zabini's a common thief."
They'd had this conversation before. Blaise wasn't a "common thief," he was an art thief. Magical artifacts were as protected as Muggle ones, with the added difficulty of the subjects of the portraits objecting to being stolen. The trick, Blaise had told him, was to sneak up on the painting and silence and bind the subject within the frame before it had a chance to run elsewhere. It actually took a high degree of skill and a little luck, but this wasn't something that Lucius was willing to hear. Draco was just supposed to end his friendship with Blaise, no questions asked.
Knowing that this was going to take a while, Draco wove his way over to a chair and collapsed into it.
"I never liked that boy," Lucius continued. "His mother is no good and neither is he. I'm not sure he's even a Pureblood what with all the husbands his mother had. She preferred money over good breeding, one of them was even a Muggleborn."
Draco had heard all of this before. Alcohol improved many things, but it definitely didn't make a lecture from his father any better. While Lucius went on about Blaise's questionable heritage, Draco tried opening both of his eyes and then immediately closed one again, this time the right eye instead of the left.
"Are you listening to me?" Lucius accompanied the question with his best condescending look, but Draco was immune to it. He'd been subjected to that expression since before he could remember. In fact, it was strange when Lucius wasn't wearing that expression.
"Not really." Draco stood, taking a minute to wait for the room to settle before making his way towards his bedroom.
Even drunk he understood that his father was going to make him pay, but he couldn't seem to force himself to care.
Draco woke up to a pounding headache and a tongue mysteriously replaced with sandpaper. He vaguely recalled something about his father from the night before, but it was lost under a deluge of blurry memories. Something about Blaise. Blaise...
Was sitting on the edge of his bed watching him.
"I've talked to you about how bloody creepy it is when you break into my bedroom and watch me sleep."
Grinning, Blaise patted Draco's jaw then jumped out of striking distance. "Don't worry your pretty little head. You're not my type."
"Not my point."
Blaise handed him a glass of water and a hangover potion, so the creepy moment was forgiven. Having learned way back at Hogwarts that yelling wasn't going to stop the strange behaviour, Draco attributed it to a strange upbringing and just accepted his friend's eccentricities.
"What are you doing here?" he asked once he had somewhat recovered from his hangover. Even magic was incapable of completely curing the evils of alcohol consumption.
"I thought it only fitting that your rest be disturbed since mine was so rudely interrupted due to your stupidity."
"What'd I do?" Draco grumbled, still not fully awake.
"My guess would be that you stumbled home drunk and said something offensive to your father."
"It's possible. I vaguely recall a lecture. I think he was forbidding me to associate with you. Just his usual reasons, you're a common criminal, your parentage is questionable, etcetera."
"Did it occur to you that perhaps it was a bad idea to anger one of the few people who know that I'm the Fox?"
"Of course it occurred to me – not at the time, since I was more concerned with keeping down my liquor, but it has occurred to me. He wouldn't risk turning you in. I know too many family secrets for Father to feel comfortable trying to manipulate me like he does with normal people. Why are you asking?"
Blaise seated himself beside the small table that the House Elves used in the morning to serve Draco's breakfast. His mother required proper clothing and insisted that breakfast be served at seven on the dot if he was going to eat in the formal dining room with his parents. In his room though, Draco ate whenever he wanted wearing nothing if he so chose. Plus there was the added bonus that his parents weren't there.
Blaise pulled the bell cover off of the plate and started to pick through the fruit salad.
"I'm asking," he said once he'd meticulously selected a melon chunk and popped it into his mouth, "Because I woke up to Hermione Granger knocking on my door demanding to know if I had any information on the Fox. Apparently, she'd received a tip from a reliable source that I knew something."
Rubbing a hand through his hair, Draco sat up. "What did you tell her?"
Blaise, the sadistic bastard, didn't answer until Draco hauled himself out of bed and took the other chair at the small table. He snatched some of his breakfast from his friend and waited while Blaise finished the fruit salad. Once the food was gone and Blaise felt like he'd made him wait long enough, he would answer.
"Now, before I answer, remember that I have plans to be in Italy this week for that rare painting I've been coveting and can't afford the delays that Granger and her investigation would bring."
This wasn't good. Blaise only prefaced things when he'd done something really horrible. In fourth year, Blaise had accidentally lit Draco's potions essay on fire and didn't tell Draco about it until only an hour before it was due. He's used a similar preface back then. It hadn't made Draco any less furious then and he really doubted anything had changed.
"What did you do?" Draco was only in his boxers, so he didn't have a wand on him. It was probably a good thing that the temptation wasn't within reach.
Leaning back, Blaise folded his arms behind his head. The gesture looked relaxed, but Draco knew that Blaise was putting as much distance between then as possible without getting out of his seat.
"Granger wasn't going to leave me alone until I gave her something, so I told her that you're the Fox." He was up and out of his chair before Draco could launch himself over the table.
The perimeter alarm bells rang throughout the house, signifying a guest at the front gate.
"That would be her," Blaise said, looking out the window. "You may want to put on some pants."
Draco did try to lunge for his friend this time, but Blaise anticipated the move and was already out the door, headed for the nearest fireplace.
With a dark glare in the direction Blaise had disappeared, Draco went to hunt for some clothing.
"What is the Mudblood doing here?" Lucius hissed to Draco. Narcissa was serving the former Gryffindor tea in one of the formal sitting rooms while Draco and Lucius peeked around the doorway, trying to be inconspicuous.
"You sent her after Blaise in what I can only assume to be some clumsy attempt to keep me from being friends with him. It seems you forgot that Blaise can take care of himself. He told Granger that I'm the Fox and went on his way. Now she's our problem."
Lucius' eyes narrowed before he turned and stormed off down the corridor. It was as close as he would ever get to admitting that he'd been outmaneuvered.
"Draco's not a thief," Narcissa gasped, drawing Draco's attention back inside the sitting room.
Ever since the war, his mother had lived in this strange fantasy world of hers where he and his father could do no wrong. As far as Narcissa was concerned, Draco and Lucius spent their time volunteering in soup kitchens and healing injured children. She became quite distressed whenever someone implied that her son and husband were anything less than angelic.
"Mother, I think Father needs you." Draco stepped around the doorframe and strode into the room as if he hadn't been lurking just outside for some time.
When Narcissa reached him, he leaned down to whisper, "He's sulking in his office because he didn't get his way again."
Narcissa chuckled affectionately. It was half true, Lucius was almost certainly sulking about his failed sabotage attempt, and he would pretend that his sulking had a perfectly innocent root when Narcissa came to cheer him up. He may be rotten to the core, but Lucius didn't like upsetting his wife.
"Excuse me, Miss Granger," Narcissa said, going in search of her husband.
"Whatever you're here for, you leave my mother out of it," Draco snapped as soon as Narcissa was out of hearing range. "She's done nothing wrong and isn't well."
For once, Granger's intelligence worked to his advantage and she understood immediately. He was sure that she had noticed the distant look Narcissa had in her eyes and the slight dreamy quality to her speech.
"I'll do everything I can to keep your mother out of this."
He strode into the room, putting on his usual mantle of cocky confidence to hide his residual hangover. Granger was like a shark, liable to strike if she sensed any weakness.
"So what brings you so far from your comfort zone, Granger?" he asked, nodding towards her legs as she crossed and then re-crossed them nervously to show that he'd noticed.
She frowned at him and forced herself to stay still. It was only then that Draco realized the significance of this particular sitting room. Shit. He'd meant to be a prick, not mock her over the torture his aunt had put her through within these very walls.
He was fighting his sluggish brain, trying to think of something to say when she spoke instead.
"I've acquired a warrant to search your vault." Her voice was crisp. She was clearly much more comfortable talking about her work than exchanging pleasantries.
Draco raised his eyebrows. Despite their involvement in the war, the Malfoy family still had high standing in the magical community. Centuries of tradition didn't go down the toilet so easily. For the Minister to give permission for his vault to be searched so quickly, he must have been certain the Granger would catch the Fox, and he must want the capture to happen as soon as possible.
"I can see you're wondering how I obtained the warrant so quickly," Granger said. She wasn't gloating; she just couldn't resist sharing information when she knew something that others didn't. "One of the paintings you stole was of the Minister's great-great grandmother done by an old master."
"As I recall, the woman was hideous. Really, whoever took the thing was doing the man a service."
Her eyebrows rose. "Are you admitting guilt?"
No, he was implicating himself so that Blaise would have time to initiate his heist uninterrupted by nosey Aurors. He owed his friend that much for the trouble his father had caused.
"I was doing no such thing. Let me see that warrant."
Granger watched him closely as he carefully read over the fine print. She had permission to go through his Gringott's vault, just as she'd claimed.
"Let's get this over with, then," Draco said. He didn't miss the almost imperceptible flash of disappointment that flickered over Granger's face. It was clear that she'd hoped he'd show more reluctance.
The goblins were their usual hospitable selves. Draco was sure that the one who escorted him and Granger into one of the little carts to take them into the bowels of the bank was extra unpleasant. He suspected that this was due to a lasting grudge the goblins had towards Granger for breaking out of the bank. Agreed.
Draco, not finding it necessary to be a gentleman considering Granger was there to invade his privacy, took the seat at the back of the cart, farthest away from the surly goblin and leaving her to sit between them. Despite the uncomfortable position, she still looked more in her element in the cart than she had in the Manor's sitting room.
Several times along the ride, Draco's knees bumped against Granger, but she seemed determined to ignore him.
They waited off to the side as the goblin opened the vault. Granger's eyes widened slightly at the sight of everything inside the large space. In addition to the small fortune that was his by right as the Malfoy heir, Draco had received a number of heirlooms upon the death of his aunt. The woman was crazy, but she'd seen something she liked in Draco and left him a good portion of her own fortune, something that was awarded to him upon her death in Azkaban.
"Search away, Granger," he said with a wide sweep of his arm. "As you can see, the only artwork in here are Black family heirlooms, something I didn't have to steal."
Her eyes narrowed at him. Draco liked to think she was annoyed because she knew that he was right. Despite the evidence to the contrary, Granger seemed sure that Draco was the art thief and insisted on going through the entire contents of his vault.
"This can't be everything," she said when she'd finished her search over an hour later. "You have more than one vault, don't you?" It was really more of an accusation than a question.
He did. His parents had a number of vaults on varying security levels of the bank. The most secure, on the very bottom level, weren't even in their name.
"I read the warrant, Granger. You have permission to search any vaults in my name and the Manor. I'm not letting you invade my privacy further."
"If you're hiding something, Malfoy, I'm going to find it." Chin up, she stormed past him and climbed back into the cart.
For the first time that day, Draco grinned. Frustrating Granger was rapidly becoming one of his very favourite things. Maybe he would even thank his father for sending her his way. He'd forgotten how much fun Granger could be once she got good and riled.
Draco made a mental note to make sure he didn't go too far though. He had a feeling she wouldn't settle for just slapping him like she had in their third year. This older, more experienced Granger would probably hex him within an inch of his life if she snapped.
As entertaining as Granger was, she was best in moderation.
Really, Draco should have known better than to just give her free reign over the search. If there was anything he had learned while in school with her, it was that she was nothing if not thorough.
Draco stood back and watched as she emptied out the cupboards in the kitchen. The House Elves had tried to fight her off until Draco ordered them to allow the search, earning himself a nasty glare from Miss liberate-the-elves-whether-they-liked-it-or-not.
He perched himself on the counter, well out of her reach just in case she tried to vent her frustration and lash out at him.
"Do you really think I have stolen artwork stashed in the cupboards?"
She turned briefly to glare at him over her shoulder before going back to her rifling.
"It's almost dinnertime. Are you going to be finished in the near future? I'm sure the elves are anxious to start the meal." He looked towards the elves, where they were huddled in the corner of the room, watching Granger with big, frightened eyes. They were probably terrified that she was going to try and free them.
It was the wrong thing to say. Granger, already frustrated with him and her fruitless search reached the end of her tether. She grabbed a handful of flour while his attention was on the elves and threw it at him.
Draco's only indication that something was not as it should be was the widened eyes of the elves. He whipped around just in time to catch the flour with his face.
There was the briefest moment where Draco considered his options. He could retaliate, something that would probably quickly degrade to a food fight, or he could make her feel childish and come across as the bigger person.
He chose the option that wouldn't bring his parents running, disapproval at the ready.
"This is hardly professional behaviour." He took out his wand, pretending he didn't notice the way she flinched and reached for her own before realizing that he was only cleaning the flour from his face.
Draco had the pleasure of watching her blush. It wasn't one of those shy, darkening of cheeks that some girls managed. Granger's entire face and neck turned a bright, blotchy red that was somehow more interesting than anything he'd seen in a while. It softened her eyes and made her seem less proper.
"I'm sorry, Malfoy. You're right, that was incredibly unprofessional of me."
Her pained expression made the apology that much more pleasurable for Draco. He knew he made the right choice in withholding his retaliation.
"Are you finished with the kitchen now, or would you like to check the ovens?"
Defeated, Granger nodded. Over the course of the day, she'd turned the entire first floor upside down in an effort to find the stolen artwork. She'd been more thorough than the Aurors had after the war when they'd been trying to find any dangerous dark artifacts that the Dark Lord may have hidden somewhere in the Manor.
"I'm done here for today, but I'll be back tomorrow bright and early. Don't think you can move anything either. I'll know if you try to transfer anything from your home or your bank vault."
Draco waved her off, complexly uninterested in her threats. He wasn't the art thief and didn't have anything to worry about. Of course, his lack of concern seemed to disconcert Granger, who probably expected him to be shaking in his boots.
Smiling just to unnerve her further, Draco walked her to the door to see her out and then went to find his father.
Lucius was still in his study, thankfully without Narcissa.
After knocking once, Draco entered without waiting for an invitation.
Lucius was seated in the cushy leather chair behind a desk built to dominate a room and intimidate visitors. Ten years ago, visiting his father in the study was one of the most terrifying things in the world to Draco. He'd since dealt with Voldemort and a hoard of Death Eaters living in the house with him. Lucius, especially this cowed and sulky version of his father, was no longer the imposing figure he had once been.
He was no longer consumed with terror to be facing down his father over the mammoth desk, but he definitely didn't feel welcome, a feeling helped along by Lucius' glare.
"Is that horrible woman gone?" Lucius asked.
"For the moment. She's coming back tomorrow to do the upper floors. If you have anything you don't want her to find, I suggest you conceal it before she returns."
Lucius drew himself up and looked down his nose at Draco, something he had done on numerous occasions when Draco was a child. Like the study, the look's effect on him was lessened to almost nothing. "This is your fault. If you didn't spend so much of your time associating with –"
"None of this is my fault. You sent Granger after Blaise and he retaliated. What were you expecting to accomplish? You know Blaise is too careful to be caught with anything."
"I wanted an existing record of his name tied with the Fox so that, in the future, he's the one they go to first. Eventually he'll slip and get caught."
"Where does that leave me now?" Draco demanded. "Granger thinks I'm the Fox and is determined to stop me from breaking the law. It's my name tied with the case, and I know enough about Blaise's work that I could be convicted if they ask the proper questions while I'm under Veritaserum."
"I still have contacts at the Ministry," Lucius conceded after a long pause. "I'll see what I can do to make this go away."
Draco woke to a strange knocking sound. Thinking it was Blaise there to once more wake him with unpleasant news, he threw a pillow towards the sound and buried his head.
When the sound didn't stop, he opened his eyes, only to discover that his bed wasn't where it was supposed to be. It was hovering several feet off of the ground. On top of this, his room looked like it had been hit by a tropical storm, with his clothing and possessions scattered across the floor.
Draco crawled to the edge and peeked under his bed. Granger was there on her hands and knees, tapping at the wood, presumably in search of a hiding spot.
He flopped back down, wondering how long she'd been in there while he slept. A while, judging from the mess she'd managed to make.
For a few moments, he lay there, coming to terms with the fact that Granger had torn apart his room while he slept. Once he was done indulging himself, he rolled from the bed and landed on his feet with a grace that was completely missed by Granger, who was entirely absorbed in her tapping.
"Who let you in here?" he asked, despite already knowing the answer.
Granger looked at him, startled. When she saw that he was only wearing his sleep pants she looked away quickly, but not before he saw her blush.
"Your mother did." She hesitated and deliberately looked him in the eye. "Malfoy, she doesn't remember my visit yesterday."
"We all carry our war wounds differently," he dismissed. His mother's mental stability was the last thing he wanted to discuss with Granger.
Granger had never known when to close her mouth in the classroom, but unlike her idiot friends, she did possess some tact. She kept silent and went back to her knocking while Draco poked through the clothes scattered across his floor in search of a shirt. As much fun as it was to make Granger squirm, he had a feeling she'd be more efficient if she wasn't distracted.
"I'm going to brush my teeth, Granger. Would you like to search the bathroom now or risk me hiding the store of priceless artifacts I keep in the toilet tank?"
"Very funny, Malfoy."
It was good that Granger hadn't taken him up on his offer. Now that Draco was thinking about it, he was pretty sure Blaise had hidden a priceless statue, shrunken down to hand-sized, in the tank of his toilet. Draco's resolve to strangle his friend for siccing Granger on him doubled.
He brushed his teeth, hid the statue in his pocket, and then went back out to face the Gryffindor in his bedroom.
Since she had already seen him shirtless and sleep-rumpled, Draco saw no rush in getting dressed for Granger. He ambled over to the breakfast waiting for him, thankful that it seemed to be the one thing in the room that Granger hadn't touched.
Scrambled eggs, toast, fruit salad, and sausages were waiting for him under the bell cover. He glanced up just in time to see Granger staring covetously at his food. When she caught him looking, she quickly looked away again.
Draco rolled his eyes and kicked out the chair opposite him at the small table.
"Come on then." As always, there was a spare plate underneath Draco's since Blaise so frequently stole large portions of his breakfast. "The elves always double my breakfast since Blaise is always popping over and stealing mine before I wake up." She still hesitated. "I'm not going to beg you to steal my food, Granger. Either get over here or stop making those starving puppy eyes."
Her hesitation was brief, but her hunger eventually won. Granger watched him suspiciously as she approached. Resisting the temptation to roll his eyes, Draco ignored her and pushed half his breakfast onto the spare plate.
She sat down, nudging her chair a little farther away from him. When she started to poke at her food distrustfully, Draco couldn't keep silent any longer.
"Don't flatter yourself, Granger. You're not worth the effort of some elaborate poisoning scheme. If I wanted you gone, I'd be more straightforward about it."
"Is that a threat against an Auror?" Despite her question, she actually seemed reassured by his response and started eating her food with enthusiasm.
"Merely a statement of fact."
He tried to enjoy the rest of his breakfast, but it was difficult with Granger staring at him. How she managed to eat without ever glancing towards her plate, he wasn't sure. It must have been a skill developed after years of reading while trying to nourish herself.
"Spit it out," he finally snapped. Granger looked bewildered for a moment, obviously thinking he meant the bite of sausage she'd just taken. "Not the food, whatever's making you stare. Spit it out so I can enjoy my meal."
She chewed as slowly as possible, contemplating him the entire time and then swallowing. "You've complained about Aurors and the Ministry invading your privacy, you've even called me a know-it-all and a Gryffindor, but not once have you so much as referenced the fact that I'm Muggleborn."
"Is that all? I only ever bought into those beliefs to please my father. In case you haven't noticed, I couldn't care less what he thinks. In fact, I consciously set out to anger him with worrying frequency. One might even say that I didn't get to challenge his authority as a teenager and am doing it now."
Wonderful, his little monologue had stunned her speechless. While she was mulling over the new information, Granger looked away from him, leaving Draco to enjoy the remains of his breakfast in peace.
"Were you so eager to get here before I had a chance to hide the artwork that you rushed over here without eating anything?" Draco made sure his voice was appropriately scornful even though his feelings were leaning closer to amusement.
"If you're stealing priceless artwork from all over the world, I'm going to catch you, Malfoy."
"If I'd actually stolen said artwork, I might be concerned."
They went back to eating in silence.
"Are you satisfied that I have nothing hidden under my bed, or should I make myself comfortable here?" Draco asked when they were both finished.
His answer was a glare.
"Malfoy?" Granger asked him hours later as she rifled through the library. This room was taking longer than all the rest, not only because it was one of the largest in the house, but because Granger kept getting sidetracked by books she wanted to read. The starving puppy look was back, this time directed at books.
"What?" Draco was lounging in a chair and reading by the fire. He hadn't seen the point of getting dressed when all he was going to do was lounge around the house all day, so he was still wearing his pyjamas.
"Why did you share your breakfast with me even though I've been nothing but unpleasant to you?" She blurted the words out so quickly that Draco knew it had been weighing on her mind for a while. He hid his amused expression and pretended to be irritated with her for interrupting his boring book.
"You're annoying enough on a normal day. I can only imagine how much worse you'd be when you're hungry and irritable."
She frowned at him and then went back to patting around the fireplace, presumably in search of a catch to a secret passageway. It was unfortunate for her that she didn't think to poke around inside said fireplace. The fire gave off enough heat to be uncomfortable, but wouldn't burn if one put their hand in the fire, something one needed to do if they wanted to find the latch for the secret passage. Draco didn't share this information. It was much more fun to watch her try to outsmart generations of Malfoy cunning.
Even on the off chance that she found the well-hidden latch, Draco doubted that Granger would be very interested in his mother's secret shrine to the Weird Sisters. There was nothing illegal in there, but it was a closely guarded secret all the same. The Malfoy name had suffered enough, it didn't need that shame added on to everything else.
"You really don't have to accompany me the entire time," Granger said once she'd poked at almost every part of the fireplace.
Draco didn't look up from his book. "I'm not leaving you to wander around the house unattended, I've seen the trouble unsupervised Gryffindors can get into and don't want that unleashed in my home. If you want to sit down and read, stop trying to get rid of me and just join me. You can search the rest of the house tomorrow."
"You just don't want me to search the rest of the house," she said with a longing look at the pile of books she'd set aside while searching the shelves. "I can't sit down and read on the job."
He let her deliberate for a while, watching her out of the corners of his eyes as he pretended to read. Granger was reduced to chewing her lip and repeated glances towards the one empty chair in front of the fire. It really was entertaining to watch her wants battle with her sense of propriety.
Ten minutes later she was curled up in the armchair with a book. "Not a word," she said to Draco when she saw that he was watching her and fighting to hide his amusement.
"Of course not."
"I'm only doing this because I'm almost positive that there's nothing incriminating in the Manor."
"I'm going to be back tomorrow and go over the rest of the rooms with a fine tooth comb."
"I wouldn't expect any less."
"You're going to slip up eventually and-"
"I can't believe I have to say this; shut up and read your book."