A/N: Hello readers! Last chapter! I hope you like the ending, I actually fiddled with it for quite a while.
*sigh* I just love meddling Blaise in this story. I don't have any friends like that though, which I think is a good thing. I probably would have stabbed him.
Now that I'm thinking about it, I believe I may BE a friend like Blaise. You know, with more respect for privacy and zero desire to know the details of sex lives.
Anyway, thanks to everyone who reviewed and to irianaceleste for betaing.
Narcissa Malfoy was admittedly a little unstable after the war, but she was still a former Slytherin. While Draco wasn't really positive how she'd done it, one minute he was refusing to go on a blind date with a daughter of one of her friends and the next she was beaming at him and running off to owl the girl.
Now he was seated across a table from said girl. Draco was sure that she was lovely, but he just couldn't see it. Sure, she was nice to look at with her long, shiny hair and legs that went on forever, but she agreed with everything he said and giggled almost constantly.
Draco poured himself another glass of wine while she droned on about her brother or her cat or something. Whatever it was, he didn't care.
That was one thing he had to give to Granger; she was obsessed with the law and morals, but she never bored him half to death.
He got to the bottom of his glass of wine just as she finished her excruciatingly long story. For the first time since he'd met her at the restaurant, Draco smiled, an expression of pure relief that lasted right up until the giggling started. Who laughed so much at their own story? From what little he'd listened to her say, he seriously doubted that her anecdote had been moderately amusing, much less as hilarious as she seemed to think.
"Would you pour me another glass of wine?" she asked, batting her eyelashes at him.
Merlin, no. That would only make her giggling worse and Draco wasn't sure he'd be able to endure the rest of the date if that happened. His mother would never forgive him if he made her look bad by sending the girl home to her own mother in tears.
Draco poured the last of their bottle into his own empty glass. "I would, but it looks like we're out of wine." He couldn't muster even false regret, so he just took another big gulp of the alcohol.
"Getting drunk, are we?" asked a voice Draco hadn't expected to hear on his date. He shouldn't have been surprised though, the git made it a habit of disrespecting boundaries.
"Can we help you with something?" his date asked snootily. For the first time that evening, her voice didn't sound like she was on the verge of breaking out with giggles.
He looked up to see that Blaise had just turned around to grab a chair from a nearby table. Straddling the chair, Blaise folded his arms along the back and rested his chin on them.
"You two are clearly having all kinds of fun here and I hate to interrupt your date, but Draco needs to get home."
Tipping back his head, Draco finished his drink. Normally, he would have been annoyed with his friend for interrupting a date, but in this case he was grateful. He didn't tell this to Blaise though; the nuisance didn't need any encouragement.
"Why exactly am I needed back home?"
Blaise looked down at his watch. "Because you're going to have an angry Auror there any minute now."
"What have you done?"
"Something you should have done as soon as you came back from your vacation instead of avoiding the problem and letting your mother send you out with vapid, irritating women."
They both ignored his date's offended gasp. "I'm not going to sit here and take this abuse," she hissed. Ever the proper Pureblood, her voice didn't raise enough for the people at their neighboring tables to hear.
Draco and Blaise ignored her.
"If you're implying that Granger is the problem, then doing my job and going to Australia to take pictures for the two weeks after my vacation wasn't avoiding anything. She didn't want anything to do with me and I'm moving on with my life. it's perfectly healthy."
"It's not healthy; it's turned you all boring. You haven't even yelled at me for three days."
"I've barely seen you in three days. It's not my problem that you're a masochist and you need your fix."
Across the table, Draco's no longer giggling date stood. "I didn't agree to this date to be ignored and insulted." She turned on her heel and flounced from the room.
Draco raised his empty glass to her retreating figure.
"This is what happens when you let your mum set you up on blind dates with daughters of her friends," Blaise said.
Not for the first time, Draco wondered where Blaise got his information. He knew better than to pry though, Blaise would never reveal his sources. Draco did have some theories, topping the list were the supposedly loyal Malfoy House Elves, but he didn't have anything concrete.
"Speaking from experience?"
"No. Mother prefers to pretend I don't exist while plotting ways to take what little money I've managed to amass. Besides, she's always pretended that my preferences lean towards the female."
Draco tipped his empty glass towards himself, hoping that somehow it would have mysteriously filled itself with wine once more. No such luck.
"Any chance we can get another bottle of wine before I go face the dragon?"
"No time, mate."
"At least tell me what you did."
Blaise's eyes sparkled with a little too much amusement for his regretful look to be genuine. "Cats dropped from really high floors sustain less injuries than those dropped from lower floors because they're no longer tensed for the landing, they relax."
"What does that have to do with anything?"
"It's best to be loose but ready when the dragon strikes. Take this time to limber up."
"You just don't want me to hex you."
Standing, Blaise returned the chair to the table he borrowed it from. "That too."
Draco arrived back at the Manor before Granger, but he didn't beat her by much. He had just stumbled out of the Floo Network and righted himself when there was a massive bang out on the grounds.
"The Granger woman just blew out a good portion of our perimeter wall," Lucius said from his position at the window. "I'm going to assume this is somehow your fault."
"It's Blaise's actually."
Lucius frowned, clearly disappointed in his son. "I've told you time and again that associating with him will only cause problems."
"This wouldn't be a problem at all if you hadn't tipped off Granger."
"Lucius," Narcissa called, hurrying into the room. "I think we're under attack."
"No we're not, darling. It's just Draco that's under attack." He took his wife's arm and started to lead her out of the room. "Let's go upstairs and leave him to it. If we're lucky, she may knock some sense into him."
Narcissa let herself be led, but started at her husband shrewdly. "You're hiding something from me, Lucius Malfoy."
Their argument faded as they disappeared up the stairs.
Turning his attention back to the window, Draco saw that Granger was approaching the Manor with murder in her eyes so obvious that he saw it even from a moderate distance. He had no idea what Blaise had done, but Draco swore then and there that he was going to make sure Blaise didn't get away without some sort of consequences for his actions.
Casting a quick sobriety charm on himself so that he would be facing a raging Granger with a clear head, Draco headed for the door. He wanted to be the one to answer it. The House Elves didn't deserve to have to face her just so Draco could have a few more minutes to come up with a plan.
As it turned out though, the elves probably would have fared better than him. The moment Draco opened the door, he had to duck a spell aimed at his head.
"Where is it?" Granger screeched.
"You're going to have to be more specific."
He had to duck once more as she tried to hex him again. The wall started melting where the spell had hit, making Draco very glad that he'd been able to dodge. Granger was playing with him, whatever Blaise had taken must have been very important to her.
"You know exactly what I'm talking about!" The statement was followed by another barrage of spells that he narrowly managed to dodge. The wall was never going to be the same again.
"Let's just pretend for a moment-" he dove behind a chair as yet another spell only missed him by a fraction of an inch "- that I have no idea what you're looking for."
She reached into her pocket and threw something at him. It was a crumpled up piece of parchment with the words: You know where to find it.
The barrage of spells ruining the sofa Draco was hiding behind slowed as he read the paper, confusion and then irritated understanding clear on his face.
"So you see why I'm here."
"What I see is proof that I need new friends," he muttered. Then, louder, "What is it that I've allegedly stolen?"
She looked ready to hex him again. "The little painting from my bedroom of the bunch of sunflowers, Malfoy. I know you saw it when you were delivering those cases of healing potions. That painting is the only thing I have to remember my grandmother by, but its only value is sentimental. I want it back."
Of course. Of course Blaise stole something that was clearly precious to her. Not only did Draco look like a wanker, but he made Granger as angry as possible before sending her after him.
Knowing Blaise, the painting was hidden somewhere in the Manor. Draco wasn't sure where it would be, though he did have some ideas.
"I know you don't believe me, but I didn't take the painting." She definitely looked skeptical; however, the hexing didn't start again. He took this as a positive sign and continued. "I think it's somewhere in the Manor though."
"I've searched your house before, Malfoy. Don't think I won't do it again." She strode towards the stairs, apparently deciding that the second floor was where to start the search. Come to think of it, Draco realized that she was probably on to something.
"You're welcome to. I recommend that you start with the bedroom." Blaise had a sadistic sense of humour like that; steal Granger's painting and hide it in Draco's bedroom.
Misunderstanding Draco's willingness to help, Granger whirled on him and jabbed him with her wand. She was so angry that it was throwing off sparks that were hot enough to singe his shirt where she had it pressed over his heart.
"If this is some kind of sick game designed to get me into your bedroom, Malfoy, I'm going to make sure to shrink your penis so small that you won't be able to find it with a magnifying glass and a map."
"That's... worryingly thought out." Her glare sharpened. "But I assure you that I had nothing to do with this theft."
When she still didn't look convinced, he sighed, raised a hand in the air and said solemnly, "It's not a game; I swear on my genitals."
Watching him, Granger frowned, her eyebrows furrowing and her lips pursing as she tried to figure out the puzzle. What she thought she knew and the truth she could see he was telling were probably warring in that large mind of hers.
"I almost believe you," she finally said. The woman seemed to say that a lot in his presence. It was a shame she couldn't seem to be rid of the "almost."
Draco led the way to his bedroom and, after a minute of surveying the seemingly undisturbed space, kneeled down beside the bed and peeked under it. While Blaise was really good at finding and stealing things, he wasn't the best at hiding them. Granger's painting was there, resting unharmed against the hardwood.
Pulling it out, Draco handed it to her. "There you go. Have a good night, Granger."
She accepted it suspiciously and then watched him in confusion, hugging the small painting to her chest all the while. Did she think he was going to take it from her?
"What now?" he groaned.
"Why steal my painting, nearly get your head hexed off, then just give it back to me and send me on my way?"
"I'm a mystery even to me."
He could try telling her the truth again, but Draco just didn't feel like wasting his breath. Besides, he was going to have to go out and fix the damage once she left. So far, she hadn't wrecked anything in his bedroom, adding more work to his lengthening list of repairs that needed to be done before he could go to bed just wasn't appealing to him. If he opened his mouth though, there was a good chance that his list of repairs would only lengthen.
Granger was giving him an expression that said if there was a book on him, she would have read it just to figure him out. "None of this makes sense unless you're not really the Fox." The furrow between her brows deepened. "You're not the Fox, but you know him. I wouldn't be surprised if you lent him your skills with protection spells from time to time."
"I've been telling you I'm not the Fox all along." He wasn't even going to touch her suspicion about him helping Blaise. As long as Granger didn't have any proof, she wasn't going to turn him in.
"Yes, but no I'm starting to believe you might have been telling the truth."
"Glad we're finally on the same page." Draco was a little tempted to see if she would be willing to explore whatever was developing between them, but he wasn't about to be turned down a third time. "Now if you don't mind, I have a lot of damage to repair before I go to bed and I'd like to get started."
Sighing, Granger sat her painting on top of his bureau. "I'm the one who caused all the damage. The least I can do is stay to help fix it."
Repairing charms, while highly effective on small tears and holes, just wasn't sufficient for melted walls. Those took much more time, magic, and skill. Draco and Granger had skill in spades, but not even they could do such a large job quickly.
It was almost four in the morning by the time they finished, all of the damage Granger had caused in her rage completely repaired. While going as far as to say the Manor looked good as new would be a bit of an exaggeration, the repaired portions of the wall were certainly passable.
Draco looked at Granger, her usually robust hair hanging limp and her eyes drooping. They were both exhausted.
"I'd thank you for the help, but it feels wrong since you were the one to cause the damage."
"Don't worry, Malfoy, I didn't expect any gratitude from you."
"I'm glad. I'd hate to for you to get your hopes up only to be disappointed."
He walked with her to the main door, both of them pausing and standing there staring into each other's eyes a little too long. For a fraction of a second, Draco entertained the thought of kissing her, but then he shoved it away. He wasn't going to give her another opening to dent his pride. Any more rejection and it might sustain permanent damage.
"Goodbye, Granger," he said, opening the door for her. She blinked, probably surprised that he hadn't tried something, maybe even a touch disappointed.
He was prepared to turn and leave her there when she spoke.
"I forgot my painting in your bedroom."
Of course. Draco was just going to be given temptation after temptation until he couldn't resist going after Granger. The universe was against him. He was too tired to stifle the audible sigh that escaped him.
Wait, maybe he could cheat!
"You run up and get it; I need to grab something before bed."
His plan was to wait in the shadows until she came back down the stairs, thereby bypassing an uncomfortable confrontation in his room. It was unimaginative and juvenile, but he was tired, and it was the best he could do.
Unfortunately, Granger ruined his plan when she didn't come back down the stairs. He'd been to the kitchen, fetched a glass of water and then paced at the bottom of the stairs until he was bored and completely out of excuses. Still no sign of Granger.
Draco stalked up the stairs, mentally venting the entire way. If he found her asleep in his bed, he wasn't going to be held responsible for his actions.
"Granger, what's taking you so long to find your paint- you're naked."
Standing in the middle of his bedroom without a stitch on her, Granger didn't seem the least ashamed or embarrassed. She kept her arms at her sides, not trying to shield herself at all. He looked her up and down, all the while staying on the alert for an attack. This had to be some kind of trick.
He tried to meet her eyes, really he did, but he's spent so long picturing her like this that he wanted to see if the reality lived up to his fantasies. It did; surpassed them, even.
"I hate to ask this and risk you getting dressed once more, but why?"
"I have a question first."
That had him meeting her eyes. "You took you clothes off to ask me a question?"
"No! I took my clothes off so we could have sex. I just have a question first."
Draco was tired, exhausted even, and his brain didn't exactly have the blood flow it needed to properly function when Granger was standing in front of him naked.
"Okay, what's this question?" If she kept her clothes off, he was willing to answer all the questions she wanted.
"Were you trying to sleep with me to distract me from my hunt for the Fox?"
At first, he was surprised. She hadn't been able to tell that he was genuine in his attentions?
Draco shook his head and reminded himself that Granger was a logical being, willing to ignore her gut feelings in favour of hard evidence. Without proof of his innocence and motives for his attentions, she couldn't possibly be with him.
"That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. Besides, after the stunt with your painting today, I'm not entirely sure the Fox deserves to be free."
She nodded, accepting his answer. Up until that point, they'd been remarkably free of awkwardness considering one of them was completely naked and the other was fully clothed. Granger seemed to be waiting for something though, and the discomfort descended into the silence left by her waiting.
"Is this where I'm supposed to launch myself at you now that you're finally going to allow it?"
Granger said nothing, but her eyes darted down to the carpet and her cheeks darkened. That really had been her plan.
"What makes you think I'm just going to just drop my pants and pounce on you?"
"History? You've taken advantage of less blatant opportunities to touch me in the past." Her eyes wandered down him, stopping just south of his belt buckle. "And your... body language betrays your interest."
"I'm not doing this again, Granger. If you want something to happen here, you're going to have to make the first move."
While Granger was perfectly confident standing starkers in the middle of his bedroom, she didn't look comfortable at all with his suggestion that she was going to have to do a little more than that if she wanted to seduce him.
Draco chose not to tell her that, if she stood there long enough, he'd probably give in to temptation and pounce on her just like she'd anticipated. It would completely ruin the point he was trying to make.
Thankfully, Granger pulled herself together before he had to do something. She took a hesitant step towards him, her eyes straight ahead, resting somewhere near his chin. For someone normally so forceful, Granger was oddly hesitant at initiating anything sexually. Did she expect him to bite? If he did, she'd probably enjoy it.
"Granger, if you're scared of me, I really don't think this is going to be enjoyable for either of us."
Ah, there it was. Her eyes finally met his, and they were filled with fire. He'd probably pay for that statement.
He was looking forward to it.
"You're wearing too much clothing," she said, pointing her wand at him. The tip was glowing.
Despite knowing that she probably wasn't going to hurt him, Draco flinched just the tiniest little bit, making her grin widen. Suddenly the tentative Granger was long gone and the woman in her place was someone completely in control.
"I'm not the one who's scared, Malfoy."
"To be fair, you're pointing your wand at me after using it to melt the walls while trying to remove my head not so long ago."
She ignored him, running the tip of her wand down the front of his shirt. Whatever spell she was using left a hole burned down the front of his shirt, separating it into halves.
Draco stayed still while she stuck her wand between her teeth, freeing her hands so that she could run them along his shoulders, pushing his torn shirt off as she dragged her hands down to his.
When her wand was back in her hand and moving toward his pants, Draco grabbed her wrist. "Careful there, Granger. One little slip and our night ends with an unfortunate accident."
Granger knelt down in front of him to better keep an eye on what she was doing. He tried to relax, but every muscle in Draco's body was tensed as he braced for a burn. While he trusted her, Draco didn't think any man would be comfortable with someone burning off clothing right over his favourite bit, especially while said bit was doing everything it could to be noticed.
"You're the one who wanted me to take the initiative." She pressed her wand to Draco's stomach, just above the button of his trousers. Expecting to be burned, he jumped back, only then realizing that her wand had only felt warm, but not unpleasantly so.
Granger, still kneeling, was laughing at him. "It burns fabric, not skin."
The whole incident seemed to have relaxed Granger considerably. She threw her wand to the side and pushed Draco's shoulders. His flight had brought him up against his bed, so the little shove had him falling onto his back.
From there, Draco watched while she unbuttoned his trousers and pulled them off. When she reached for the band of his underwear, he stopped her.
"I swear to Merlin, if you try to let me down easy or disappear in the morning, I'm not going to be pleased with you – and you want to stay in my good graces. I know people."
"People who can break through the protection wards on my home and steal something from my bedroom undetected?"
"Fine. Now can I continue or do you have more to say?"
He thought about saying something else, just to annoy her a little, but Granger read his intent and placed a hand on the front of his underwear. His words came out as a hiss and Draco reluctantly gave her that round.
Soon, Granger had him too distracted to continue keeping score.
Draco woke up with Granger wrapped around him wearing only one of his shirts and her panties. She'd insisted that they both get dressed again the previous night, worried that, for some strange reason, one of his parents might come into his room and catch them naked.
He hadn't been pleased at the time, but as he watched Blaise picking through a breakfast meant for him, while reading the paper, Draco was thankful for Granger's concern.
"You're in so much trouble, Zabini," he growled.
Blaise just grinned and popped a slice of apple in his mouth. "Don't worry, mate. I had the House Elves bring up a spare chair and some extra food. There's enough for everyone." He ruffled the paper loudly as he turned the page. "Have you read this yet? It seems it was a Healer intern that stole the potions from the hospital. They caught him when he tried to steal more potions. Somehow he got himself trapped in there."
Draco was sure that was exactly what had happened. Of course, this was probably after Blaise had lured and then trapped the man in there.
"For some reason, he was shaking and terrified," Blaise continued, not the slightest bit of guilt on his face. "He was sure that the Fox was going to get him for some reason. I have no idea why."
Keeping his voice low so he didn't disturb the woman on his chest, Draco growled at his friend. "This habit of yours is disturbing enough when it's just the two of us, but I have company."
"I know. I would have thought you'd be in a better mood after finally having sex. Was it no good?"
"We are not discussing this! Get the hell out of my room!" he hissed with great vehemence. Granger stirred a little, but didn't open her eyes.
"If I thought you meant that, my feelings might be hurt."
"You two have the strangest relationship," Granger said, her eyes still closed and her voice heavy with sleep.
Draco had been hoping to sleep late after the long, exhausting night they'd had. Granger, it seemed, had other ideas. She untangled herself from his arms and joined Blaise at the breakfast table.
"Zabini, I have a few follow-up questions for you on the Fox case."
"Is this official Ministry business?" Blaise asked, completely unworried. "If so, I think you should probably leave it out of the report that you're not wearing trousers."
Knowing his friend's ability to incite wrath in even the most level-headed soul, Draco dragged himself from bed and took the remaining chair. He piled food on his plate as Granger started pelting Blaise with questions that the thief dodged skillfully.
Eventually, Granger was frustrated and Blaise was just getting started. "How about this, Granger, I'll answer one of your questions truthfully if you tell me all about last night. I want to know how it happened, everything. Draco's always stingy with details."
Draco aimed his wand at Blaise's chair under the cover of the table and watched as both Blaise and his chair went crashing to the floor, one of the chair legs blackened and bent at a strange angle. After what Blaise had done to Granger's painting, Draco felt absolutely no remorse as Blaise rolled around on the floor in pain.
"That wasn't necessary," Blaise groaned, getting to his feet and repairing his chair.
"You deserved it and you know it."
Granger had been watching the whole scene unfold. "Zabini, are you the Fox?" she asked, taking them both by surprise.
The smile Blaise directed towards her was dazzling. Lesser women – and men – had crumbled under its power. Granger though, she just continued looking at him, waiting for her answer.
"Don't be silly, Granger. I'm not the Fox." Blaise said it with such guilelessness that even Draco almost believed him for a moment.
Eyes narrowed, Granger didn't look convinced. "Since I'm not on the case anymore, I can't legally question you any further. However, I am going to advise the Auror in charge of the investigation about my suspicions."
"Don't worry, Granger. Were I the Fox – and I'm not admitting to anything – there wouldn't be any evidence." Blaise looked towards Draco, who was still glaring at him. "It's looking like I've worn out my welcome. I'll leave you two and your post-coital glow to your breakfast."
"There was no welcome for you to wear out!" Draco called after him as he fled the room.
"Zabini's the Fox and you help him get to the more heavily protected objects," Granger said, rounding on Draco.
"Blaise was right; the interrogation loses something when the interrogating Auror isn't wearing trousers."
"I'm going to find proof one day, Malfoy."
"Will we still sleep together in the meantime?"
"Then go ahead and try."