Thanks again to Krystle Lynne who waved her magic wand over this - any remaining mistakes are my own. The chapter title is from the poem 'To His Coy Mistress' by Andrew Marvell who wrote it in the mid-17th century.


Chapter 4

Had We But World Enough, And Time

-oOo-


If Hermione hadn't known better, she would have thought Malfoy was trying to read the headlines on her scuffed copy of Le Monde sideways. He'd been tilting his head at a funny angle ever since they both had entered the lift in the Atrium, eyes stuck in the direction of the crinkly newspaper stuffed under her elbow.

"I didn't realise the Malfoy fortune had been reduced to a point where you can't afford your own newspapers."

"I didn't realise you spoke French, Granger. Is there a particular reason you haven't been shouting it from the rooftops, the way you'd normally announce your achievements?"

"Sod off, Malfoy." She folded both arms across her chest, hiding her newspaper behind them so he couldn't peek at it.

"Is that any way to speak to your colleagues? Not exactly embracing the core values of the Ministry, are we?"

"What, like you're the poster boy for 'Collaboration, Cooperation and Integrity' all of a sudden?"

"You wound me, Granger. Unlike you I'm entirely committed to the great new dawn of this institution, as outlined by our dear Minister."

"So shoot me. You know as well as I do that none of this is Kingsley's fault – it's those bloody management consultants Percy brought in."

"Naturally, the Minister for Magic has no say in what goes on in his department once the bureaucratic powerhouse that is Percy Weasley gets his oar stuck in," Malfoy said with that supercilious sneer of his, and Hermione had to smother a snort. "Did you forget about 'Excellence', by the way? I think you had collaboration in there twice. Maybe that's something you feel you should improve upon."

How on earth could he be this waspish at a quarter to nine in the morning, Hermione wondered. Malfoy must be spending his evenings thinking out retorts to use on his unsuspecting co-workers the next day. He had never been much of a morning person at Hogwarts as far as she could remember. Maybe he had discovered coffee after twenty-five years on pumpkin juice; caffeine could do that to a person.

"Oh, I think I manage to muddle through," she replied with as much false sweetness as she could muster as they both exited the lift at the ninth level. The revolving foyer with its faceless twelve black doors no longer caused Hermione's heart to beat a little faster. After the first few weeks of the trainee program, the Department of Mysteries had ceased being an old battlefield and become her thoroughly undramatic place of work – apart from the occasional explosion, of course.

It was simply unfortunate that it came with a Malfoy.

The doors started spinning, faster and faster until they became a blurred circle. As they slowly wound down again and came to a stop, Hermione wondered idly what her new assignment would be. She had finished her project on alchemy before her impromptu holiday to Tunisia. It had been... interesting.

She tried hard not to dwell on what had happened; the smudged letter from a future that hopefully wouldn't occur now, the exquisite Time-Turner now hidden in the secret compartment at the back of her sock drawer, and the frustration of knowing just enough to be able to act but not nearly enough to understand what was going on. A new assignation at work would be perfect to take her mind off it– the more complex, the better.

Both Hermione and Malfoy muttered the spell to tell them which door they should pass through this morning; trying to find the right door by trial and error got old very fast. To their mutual surprise, both golden markers glowed briefly above the same door.

"After you, Granger."

"You're only saying that so you won't have to push the door open yourself," Hermione grumbled, but led the way.

"Miss Granger and Mr Malfoy. Excellent," Mr Minshaw from the Division of Heuristics and Experimental Spells greeted them from behind his impressive desk, which looked like it had been carved from a single piece of wood. Mr Minshaw himself, reedy and prone to sniffles, was less imposing but he did have a first-rate brain. Hermione perked up.

"Do sit down," Minshaw bid them and they scrambled for the best chair. Hermione was quicker, so Malfoy had to turn his undignified grab into a little display of pulling the heavy armchair out for her. He ended up stuck on an ominously creaking Chippendale chair, which appeared to have spent the last two centuries being mishandled by visitors.

Malfoy angled his seat away from hers so he was looking straight at Minshaw, pretending Hermione wasn't even in the room. Well, two could play that game.

"You know each other already, don't you?" Minshaw asked and Hermione nodded curtly; she wasn't expecting Malfoy to do any cartwheels over the fact that they were previously acquainted either. "I'm glad, that should make your stay more pleasant."

Hermione surly reflected that for a bunch of very intelligent people, the employees of the Department of Mysteries could be incredibly detached from what was happening in the rest of the wizarding world. Their mutual antipathy was well known to most people, but apparently it had escaped Minshaw completely that Hermione Granger and Draco Malfoy didn't exactly see eye to eye.

Wait, what was that about a 'stay'?

"You have both been assigned to a project in Edinburgh," Minshaw blathered on. "Due to the nature of the samples you'll be working on, you'll be required to reside there for the duration of the assignment – I trust this will not pose a problem for either of you?" He inspected them sternly over his half-moon glasses. When you signed up for the trainee program you also agreed to go anywhere in the UK the Ministry decided to send you, so they could hardly start quibbling now. Malfoy looked slightly discomfited though; didn't like the thought of slumming it outside his manor, did he?

Hermione took extra pleasure in sounding as chirpy as possible as she replied: "Not at all, sir."

"No, sir," Malfoy replied more sedately.

"Capital. Bradshaw – Eunice Bradshaw, you know – will go over the details with you. Best of luck to you."

It could have been worse, Hermione thought. It could have been Bangor.

"Cheer up Malfoy, it might never happen," she told him, not unkindly, as they walked down the hall towards Bradshaw's office.

"It already has, Granger."

"With any luck it'll be such a disaster that they'll never put us on the same assignment again."

"I can only hope you'll be proven right."

"Don't worry, I usually am," she told him as she knocked on the ornate oak door with Bradshaw's name on a brass plate. It was a curiously Muggle touch down here.

The door swung open immediately and Hermione relished getting the last word; she had a feeling it wouldn't happen too often over the coming months. At least she wouldn't have to spend any of her spare time with Malfoy; it wasn't like they were going to be stuck in the Outer Hebrides, desperate for company. All she needed to do was to remain reasonably civil with him at work, and they'd survive the next few months somehow.

What could possibly go wrong?

-oO THE END Oo-


I hope you enjoyed reading this story as much as I did writing it! This story started out when MysticDew said she'd like to read something with Hermione and Time-Turners... the rest just grew from there.

Reviews are most appreciated and any constructive criticism is very welcome. If there is anything you want to share that helps me improve the next story I'd be very grateful for your help.