Disclaimer:- I neither earn nor own Harry Potter. Even the plot-line is only partially mine.
A/N:- This fic is a birthday present for JennyBean23, happy birthday, JB. I promised to post the first chapter by the 23rd (today for me, tomorrow for her), however, this fic will not be updated frequently until I finish some of the other stories on my plate. Nevertheless I hope you enjoy this taster.In this chapter, Hermione's assistant uses the acronym M.O.M. in this case I mean it to stand for Minister of Magic (ie the person of Kingsley Shacklebolt), I know it normally means Ministry of Magic. The title of the story is a quote by Robert Frost, and the picture of the book cover isn't mine, but I really love it, I think it's by 17tvfreek and I hope no one is upset that I've used it.
Chapter One – I Wasn't Staring, Really
Harry Potter and Hermione Granger both worked at the Ministry of Magic, they were happy with their lives, to a point. Neither had settled down like the other third of the so called Golden Trio, Ron Weasley, who these days only invited Harry on birthdays and Christmases, with the occasional Sunday lunch. Not that he went; Harry really didn't have the time for him since the incident with Hermione.
Ron and his wife Lavender managed the Hogsmeade branch of Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes. They had gone forth and multiplied in typical Weasley tradition, and were blissfully happy with four children. Their eldest, Fred was in first year at Hogwarts, the twins Marigold and Rose were nine, and little Hugo was five.
Hermione and Harry had not been so lucky in the love stakes, but they always had each other, and were the next best thing to brother and sister. Harry and Ginny's romance had never made it past Hogwarts. She had gone off seeking Quidditch fame and glory as a chaser for the Hollyhead Harpies.
Hermione had had a string of short relationships, strangely enough, mainly with Slytherins. Harry often ribbed her that she would run out of Slytherins soon and would have to start on Ravenclaw. Her current beau was Theodore Nott, they had lasted six months. This was something of a record for Hermione, although she wondered if it was on shaky ground now he was working in France three out of five days a week.
It was Harry and Hermione's habit to have breakfast together each morning before work. There was a café around the corner from Harry's house that made amazing coffee, so every morning he would stop by and get two lattés. One double shot with skim milk, and his personal addiction, a large caramel with full cream milk. Then he would arrive at work and head for Hermione's office.
She on the other hand, had a bakery next to her apartment building, and she collected two Danish pastries on her way. They both aimed to be there half an hour early so they could have breakfast together and catch up on what needed to be sorted for the day, and it was much nicer than eating alone in your own apartment.
They had often thought about sharing an apartment, but had never done anything about it. Something had always come up to prevent it, and they decided that having some alone time was probably an advantage anyway.
Hermione Granger was head of the Muggle Liaison Office, and Harry Potter had worked his way up to Chief Auror in the fifteen years since the war. Today was the second of May, a day to remember things best left forgotten, but what was about to ensue would dredge up memories neither of them wished to relive.
Our friends were just finishing up their breakfast when there was an ominous rumbling from deep within the bowels of the building. The sound built to a crescendo and was accompanied by a noticeable tremor. The ferocity of the tremor increased with the rumbling, until finally there was a sickening crack somewhere below them.
It was second nature for both of them; they were instantly on their feet, in a defensive position with their wands drawn. "What the hell was that?" Hermione hissed, to her companion.
"Not sure, better get to my office. See you later," and with a quick kiss on her forehead, Harry was gone.
On another floor of the building, deeper down, further away from where Hermione's office was situated, overlooking the Atrium. Unbeknown to our two Gryffindor friends, two Slytherins had a similar before work custom. Draco Malfoy arrived in his godfather's lab every morning with the same pastries from the same bakery Hermione Granger frequented. Not a month ago the blond Slytherin had moved into the penthouse apartment of the same building Hermione lived in. He had already known about the bakery though, and frequented it regularly. His decision to move into a Muggle apartment block had been spurred on by his need to find some time to himself, away from the Wizarding world. The Manor in Wiltshire had all but been destroyed by his demented Aunt the day of the final battle.
You may ask, gentle reader, why our intrepid Gryffindor princess has never met the Prince of Slytherin in the lift, or for that matter in the bakery, if they indeed resided in the same building. Well the answer is simple; they were never there at the same times, and of course the penthouse had a private lift and a separate entrance. Also, being the sneaky Slytherins that they were, Draco Malfoy and Severus Snape arrived for work fifteen minutes after the conscientious Miss Granger. Neither man had any qualms about indulging in their breakfast on company time, should their time together leak over into work-time.
Draco had lost both his parents during the course of the second Voldemort war, and Severus never really had anyone to begin with. So they were like family to each other, and jealously guarded their breakfasts as the most convenient way to keep in touch in their busy lives. The one difference between the little meals of the Gryffindors and the equivalent repast of the Slytherins was that Severus—being Britain's leading Potions master—always brewed the coffee. The fragrance of which, made for legend wafting from his lab. It smelt like ambrosia, and had more than one person salivating as they passed his door.
The aristocratic blond wizard, like his father before him, not only managed the still considerable Malfoy Holdings, but also held a job with the Ministry. He was the senior member in charge of the Wizarding Legal Branch of the Ministry of Magic, a convoluted and delicate position. He was often called on at odd hours by the Minister to perform all manner of tasks. In effect he was actually higher up than Percy Weasley, the under secretary to the Minister, and this pleased the Slytherin no end, especially when he got the chance to sit the pompous redhead on his snooty backside.
Severus on the other hand was the Aurory's consultant on dark magic. However, his official title was Head of Crime Investigations and Analysis. He didn't like the job much, but anything was better than teaching dunderheads and dodging exploding cauldrons as he had in his former employment.
His position was so close to an Unspeakable that the difference was negligible, but he had refused to join the elite department and be delegated to dungeon dweller once more. He told them in no uncertain terms, that he had spent enough years in a dungeon during his tenure at Hogwarts—thank Merlin and any other receptive deity that I'm no longer there—School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Once the treat of Death Eaters had finally dissolved into the past, the Aurory had wished to keep him on staff, so they created a whole department for him. Of course a further blight to his happiness was that he had to contend with an assistant who arrived twice a week, to do the jobs he used to assign as detentions at Hogwarts. It went without saying that Master Snape's exacting manner and acerbic character saw this assistant's identity change frequently.
The ominous noises that rattled all the Pyrex in the drying racks above the lab sink, and emanating from the very department Snape had refuse to join, signalled the end of breakfast for the two Slytherin wizards as well.
"What the fuck was that?" Draco yelped, startled, jumping away from the coffee he had just knocked over in his shock. He was tense enough today, the fifteenth anniversary of his mother's death, without more to contend with.
"Settle down, Draco, whatever it was is going to require you in your office, so our repast is at an end." Snape's eyebrow rose. He was already calmly collecting things into a bag from around his lab, while muttering under his breath.
"Oh right…err, yes, okay. I'll see you later, Severus. Um, bye."
Snape heard the door snap shut and kept organising himself to leave at a moment's notice. It wasn't long and a message tapped insistently on his door. The dour man didn't keep a secretary anymore; that had ended in disaster more than once, so he hadn't bothered with another one after the fifteenth witch who could do nothing more than swoon in his presence. He had landed her on her prissy arse outside his office door on the point of his wand and said enough was enough.
After the war, when Severus Snape's story came out, he was embraced into society as something of a misunderstood brooding romantic hero. This initially had witches flocking to him, most to care for what they saw as an unloved wizard, others wanted the notoriety of being seen on his arm. However, once they found out exactly what brooding meant, most had fled.
Not that he'd cared, he thought as he reefed the door open and snatched the note from mid air. He hadn't felt even mildly attracted to any of them, throwing the note on his desk, he collected his equipment and headed for the lower levels.
There was one witch who worked in the building whom he found mildly fascinating–just mildly, mind—but he was certain she would never look his way, and it didn't bother him one way or another anyway, really it didn't. When he needed relief, whores were convenient and discrete, and his right hand even more so, and neither of those options had any strings attached.
Ten tortuous minutes passed, Hermione couldn't stand not doing anything. She was a witch of action, not used to sitting back and waiting. The building had given several further worrying groans since the horrible sounding crack, but nothing further had happened.
Finally, Hermione's secretary put her obviously flushed head around the door. "M.O.M wants you, A.S.A.P. in the Department of Mysteries. There's been a cave-in down on the lower levels," and her personal assistant was off and running. "Apparently, there was an explosion in the Department Of Mysteries, I don't trust any of that lot. Billy Barnes told me you can see right into Westminster Tube Station. Hundreds of people have been injured and…"
"Right Gladys, on my way," Hermione said, pushing past her. Geez, I wish these idiots would stop spreading rumours and lies about everything that happens. Like I want to listen to what Billy Barnes told her. What would he know, he's the bloody janitor, like they'd let him down there.
Hermione stalked into the lift, and nodded to the one occupant. "Malfoy."
Draco returned the greeting. "Granger."
Over the years their animosity towards one another had ebbed slowly away. If they both tried now they could have a half decent conversation. The lift zoomed into action. "So, why are the Legal Department involved?"
"Ay?" replied Draco, vaguely.
Hermione examined him, if it was possible; he was paler than usual this morning. "Are you okay, Malfoy?"
"Yeh, why shouldn't I be?" he snapped.
Hermione threw her hands up in surrender. "Sorry, I asked," she replied defensively. "Geez, there's no need to bite my head off."
They continued the trip down with her glowering at him. After a while she noticed he really looked just like a lost little boy, and for some reason she had the urge to cuddle him. She mentally put a question mark on that thought, but decided to keep her ears open and see if she could find out what had happened to him. The lift jerked to a stop and they got out.
The lower levels of the Ministry were always cold, but today there was a cruel wind blowing through the corridors, it had a plaintive howl to it that sent shivers up and down your spine. In fact she saw her companion visibly shiver in response.
Damn, what possessed me to wear a flouncy bloody skirt to work today, she thought, holding said skirt down as the wind whistled around her legs.
They entered the site of the disaster and Draco shot off towards Kingsley, Hermione on his tail. She spared a wave and a kind grin for Arthur Weasley. His team were busy Obliviating the Muggles who had been waiting for the train. There was also a team from St. Mungos, treating the injured. Thankfully no one had been killed, but several Muggles had been badly injured.
The idea was to stabilize the area, then seal off the Ministry from view and give the Muggle public a plausible explanation for their inconvenience. It was not feasible to make it too elaborate, and speed was of the essence.
Hermione found Harry beside her as they spoke to Kingsley. This development seemed to make Draco Malfoy even more jumpy. This made her wonder about something she'd thought about before when these two were together. Harry's cheeks were pink and Draco was definitely more edgy than he'd been in the life. She cheekily looked at them both and thought to herself, in her best sing-song voice. I know a secret.
Once all department heads had seen the damage and a meeting had been arranged the Ministry employees started clearing the area, she saw Harry wave his wand and cloth himself in Muggle attire. A Muggle sitting dazed on the platform said, "Wow, mate how'd you do that?"
Hermione approached him, "It's okay, sir. Sit still, you have a head injury. Sit quietly and emergency services will get to you shortly."
"Oh, all right, cutie," and he had the unmitigated cheek to wink at her.
Huffing, Hermione straightened. "Just wait quietly, sir," and the Gryffindor witch moved herself to the edge of the scene and out of everyone's way.
From her new vantage point near the edge of the platform, her gaze took in the great cavernous fracture in the outer hull of the Department of Mysteries. This is what had activated the failsafe spells designed to hide the Ministry from accidental exposure. It had also activated the Muggle repelling charms at the stations entrances. Telling prospective commuters that they needed to go and check whether they'd left a tap running, or the iron on or some such little thing.
The automatic charms had failed the Ministry on a number of occasions. When Hermione had first arrived in the Department of Muggle Liaisons, the repelling charms had told the Muggles to check if the kneazle was out, or whether their cauldron was about to boil over. Hermione had patiently explained to her superior at the time, that Muggles neither had kneazles nor cauldrons and this was why the charms were failing.
Here before her was another example of failure. Didn't they realise this might happen, did no one make calculations to predict the outcome here. Surely if they had they would have tested whatever it was, somewhere more secure.
Her ponderings were unexpectedly interrupted by a familiar voice, the timbre of which always made her shiver deliciously without reason. It was at this moment she realised she'd been so distracted by her thoughts, she'd forgotten to hold her skirt and it was billowing out around her legs. "Haven't you got something better to do than stand there gaping like a fish, Granger?" Severus snipped at her.
Turning sharply, she saw no one. Then she heard his throat clear. Looking down and battling her skirt into submission, she saw her former Potions professor appear, standing on the actual tracks below her. Oh my god, was he looking up my skirt? Hermione wondered. Then she realised that not only would he have seen up the back of her skirt, but she had obligingly turned around, so he could see up the front as well. She groaned internally, but was surprised that her immediate thought was not, how dare he!
No, her strange little brain was wandering a completely different path with this piece of information. She was wondering what knickers she'd worn this morning, and was relieved when she realised that they were pale green French cut lacy ones. Why was this important? Then further on that train of thought, she noticed a distinctive moist heat in the crotch of said pale green underwear.
However, forcing her mind to focus, she wondered what he wanted. He'd said something to her, hadn't he? Damn, what had it been? She looked back down at his face, and of course his expression was an inscrutable as always. "Err… hello, sir, what are you doing down there?"
"My job, silly girl. Now be so kind as to get out of my way," and he stood there so far below her, just expecting that she would move.
Hermione had already taken a step back when she realised what she was doing. Casting a quick glance up and down the platform edge she realised he could have come up anywhere. "Why do you need to come up just here, there's a whole vacant platform?"
He didn't answer, merely smoothly levitated himself up to her level. When he landed she abruptly found him in her personal space. Standing in front of her with one delicious raven eyebrow cocked. "Is it your mission today to impede my progress?" he smoothed.
Despite herself she was impressed, he was so powerful. Hermione found a moan building in her throat, she was so turned on it was embarrassing. Swallowed resolutely, she squeaked, "No, sir," but she couldn't move.
He remained where he was standing, and tilted his head slightly. "And to answer your question, the view was much better from that particular section of the track."
Still standing like a dummy, Hermione found herself affronted and gasping. "So you were looking up my skirt?"
He chuckled softly. "Well I am a man, Miss Granger. If you're going to put on a display that resembles Marilyn Monroe in the Seven Year Itch, then I'd be a bloody fool not to take advantage of such loveliness, would I?" Drawing his wand, he stepped around her, before she'd had a chance to process just what he'd said. "Good day, Miss Granger." He levitated his box of the various jars and vials up from the track and departed.
As soon as he was gone, she missed his fathomless eyes on her, and the warmth from his body so close to her. She span around to watch him leave, his cat like grace even more evident in the muggle clothes he wore at the moment. Her eyes were drawn past the parade of bags and boxes obediently following him back into the Ministry building, to his tight backside in his black dress trousers.
Even when he Transfigured the Muggle jumper back into his patent many buttoned frock coat, she shivered watching him. Her eyes followed his progress until he was a mere speck in the distance, smiling at the people parting around him as he moved in an unerring path down the middle of the hallway. It was like watching Moses parting the Red Sea; he commanded respect, or was that fear, where ever he went.
Her eyes were still transfixed when she suddenly realised she'd been watching all this in her peripheral vision, and her eyes were still trained on the Potions master's tight bum moving gracefully under his frock coat. Shit! She found herself blushing and her hands went to her cheeks. I'm ogling Snape's arse. When did he get so sexy? Then her mind hurtled back to what he'd just said to her. Oh my god, he actually complimented my backside before, as well. Am I missing something here? She gasped. Hermione Jean Granger, you stop those thoughts this instant. There is no way in hell you are going to pursue the ultimate Slytherin.
She was shaken from her thoughts by Harry. "Are you thinking what I think you're thinking, baby doll?" His tone was mischievous.
"No… uh-uh, never. I most definitely was not ogling Snape's bum."
Harry slung an arm over her shoulder. "Yes you were, but I didn't say anything about Snape." He leant in closer, "Way to give yourself away, 'Mione."
"Arrh," she shrugged him off with a glare. "What do you want anyway?"
"We're just about finished down here, and the Unspeakables are just about to seal the building again, so we need to report to Kingsley."
Hermione's eyes still hadn't left the last spot she'd seen Snape. Then she heard Harry talking again.
"Come on Dorothy, we're off to see the wizard," and he took her arm.
"Oh, ha bloody ha," she glared at him. I just need a decent shag. Theo's been gone longer than usual this time. Her brow furrowed further at her still chuckling companion. Checking out Snape's arse indeed, she scoffed silently.
Her thoughts continued as they made their way back into the building and up to the lifts. What is today, anyway? she wondered, before thinking, Oh shite, he's been gone an extra week and I never even noticed. No wonder I'm so tightly wound. She offered a distracted wave to Susan Bones, as they passed her office. Well that's the end of that I guess, I'll just wait for the bunch of roses and the 'Dear Hermione' note. What a fabulous day this is turning out to be, she thought sarcastically. Oh great, and now I'm going to be stuck in a meeting with Malfoy for the rest of the morning.