Chapter 7 : Wishful Thinking
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She had finally come to her senses and made her sorry way to his office. It had taken her long enough, he thought. Had she no sense? She could've saved herself a lot of time, effort, and worry if she had just swallowed her pride and accepted his help the first time hours ago. Not that he hadn't already planned to help her. It was Granger, after all. How could he pass up an opportunity to save her life and rub it all in her face?
No, that just wouldn't do at all.
So he had been helping her, of course. Been searching and building up the case as fast as he could possibly manage. Hell, he hadn't worked this hard since he and his bitch wife had been trying to conceive Scorpius! And that had truly been a difficult task, indeed.
It was a lovely and altogether gratifying sight to see Hermione Granger's bushy little head bowed down in front of him. He was going to memorize the perfection and store it in a Pensieve so that he would never forget this lovely moment – so that the memory would never, ever fade. It was a bit scary how quickly he had become obsessed with the idea of besting her.
It wasn't like a crime, or anything. He WAS diligently working on her case, after all... He was just having a little fun along the way at her expense. It's not like it was WRONG or anything...
Alright, it was a little wrong, but she deserved it for slapping him like they were still in third year.
Finally, he cleared his throat to break the silence that had fallen over them. She looked up hesitantly, as if she'd rather be anywhere than here, which for some reason hurt his feelings. Why? He had no idea and wasn't about to go soul searching to find out. So instead, he put on his best smarmy smirk to dissolve the awkward situation he had put himself in. Well, dissolve it for himself that is. He really wanted her to feel as awkward as possible.
"So, to what do I owe the pleasure, Granger?" he asked sweetly. She mumbled something incoherent and his grin only widened at the prospect of Hermione Granger not answering a question with an eager air of bookwormish knowledge. "What was that? I couldn't quite catch it."
This time she glared before schooling her features into a very poorly constructed mask of humility. He had to stop himself from laughing out loud at her poor acting. "I need your help, Malfoy."
"Oh, you can call me Draco, sweetheart!" he replied cheerily. This time she did glare and didn't bother to remove it off her pretty face. And she did have a pretty face, he realized. Perfectly sculpted and framed by her messy curls. It was strange. He had always despised her head, what with all that trouble it had put him through! But now that he paused and reconsidered – well, Granger wasn't all that bad looking. To stop the direction his thoughts were taking him, he shook his head slightly and continued. "What do you need my help with?"
"My son is-"
"Missing?" he filled in. "I'm aware, yes. What do you want me to do about it?"
"I..." She looked stumped and he secretly rejoiced.
So he wasn't going to tell her that he had already began the search in an impressive few hours and that he had already found leads. No, this was much too fun. Progress could always be made on the side.
"Yes?" he prompted.
"I want you to help me find him," she said with conviction this time.
Ah, he so loved when they started showing backbone! That was the best part, of course. He could always appreciate people who knew how to navigate difficult situations skilfully. He wondered if Granger would pass his test with flying colours. He secretly wished she wouldn't. He wanted her to break down. She deserved it after all the trouble she was putting him through! This was supposed to be his goddamn vacation time and he was now working harder than he had ever worked on any case – ever.
"Was that before or after you so rudely slapped me?" He smiled politely at her as she cringed where she stood and waited politely for her answer. When none came, he crossed his ankle over his knee, resting his chin onto the heel of his hand. His elbow rested deliciously on the arm of his brilliant leather chair. This was fun. He could wait this out all bloody day.
Well, actually, he did have a case to work on, so she had better start begging soon.
He laughed with more humour colouring his voice than he had in years. "Is that so?" She nodded quickly. "I'm afraid sorry isn't good enough, Ms. Granger."
She cringed again. His smile widened a fraction of an inch once more. She made to step forward, but hesitated, conflicted at how to approach her long time enemy. Though why she considered him an enemy still was well beyond him. Oh, was it perhaps he was being an arse and was fantastic at everything he did? Yeah, that would have to be it, he decided.
Making up her mind for her, he got up and slowly made his way to his fire. When she noticed that he was making to leave, she visibly began to panic at the prospect. It filled him with crazy joy – so she did need him after all! "Please, Malfoy-"
"I'm sorry, I've got things to attend to. You see, this is my vacation time and I've got a very expectant son waiting at home for me." And with that, he took a pinch of floo powder and threw it into his already lit fireplace. The flames began to glow a bright, unhealthy green. But before he could even take a step further, she stopped him. More accurately, she had dropped to her knees on the floor and had grabbed his leg in a death clutch. The action surprised him. It was deeply uncharacteristic of Granger.
"Please save my son, Malfoy. Please!" Hermione wept from her place on the floor near his feet. She clutched his robes. "I'll do anything," she sobbed.
This was certainly a turn of events, one that he hadn't even been expecting.
"Anything?" He arched his brow, his trademark smirk plastered on his face. "Anything at all?"
"It's all yours. My house, my Gringotts vaults, all the sway I have at the ministry, you can have anything I own. Just please, please save my son. You're the only one and I'd die if anything happened to him! Please!" She began to sob in earnest now and buried her face into her arms. Something just didn't sit right with him at watching Granger lose it. This hadn't been the reaction that he was looking for but it would have to do for now.
"Get up," he said, a cold tinge marring his voice. She immediately obeyed, her eyes wide. He decided he liked that look on her, liked the fact that she was listening to him. He began to advance forward. She had no choice but to move back until her back collided against his desk. He continued until he was almost pressed against her, resting his hands on either side of her on the desk, leaning forward until she shivered at his proximity. "I don't want any of that. I have it all."
Another tear fell from her pretty, long lashed eyes, but this time she wiped it hurriedly away. That was the Granger he knew! "What do you want, then?" she asked in a low voice.
"You. Just you."
She gasped quietly and that made his blood pump a little faster, a feeling he could definitely get used to if given the chance. He leaned forward, pressing his lips against hers and –
Draco startled awake and nearly fell out of his office chair.
Righting himself, he went to work at controlling his breathing and trying to cleanse himself of what his mind had just put him through. But he knew immediately that it was a failed attempt and it would take him a lot more than just a few deep, calming breaths to solve the issues that were no doubt plaguing his mind like a freaking... disease!
Immediately, he apparated home and hurried himself into the loo to take an extremely cold shower. Although, that didn't last very long because Draco had never enjoyed cold showers. So, he found himself staring at his own reflection in the mirror. It was something that he had found himself doing quite frequently in times of... stress, he supposed. There was nothing quite like staring at oneself, being one's own critic, calling out one's own bullshit.
But the only thought that was going through his head was: What the fuck?
Sure, it was true that he was working extremely bloody hard on this particular case, harder than he'd ever worked on anything (maybe except letting the Dementors into Hogwarts – that had been a hell of a challenge). It was also true that Granger had grown up and wasn't a pain to look at. But that didn't bloody mean that he wanted to shag her!
If there was one thing Hugo didn't appreciate, it was not being able to complete something he had set his mind to. In other words, if Hugo set his mind on something, everyone could be sure that Hugo would finish it no matter what it took or how long he had to work on it to get it done. It was truly a rare occasion that he failed at his acquired tasks and those days were very sad days for Hugo.
But reality is a harsh critic, unfortunately. The fact of the matter was that Hugo was only eight years old and he had never really set his mind to anything that big over his very few, very short years. It was no shock that he couldn't come up with a master plan quick enough to escape his predicament and save his new friends in the process.
He was just too young to manage, that was all.
But it wasn't that Hugo was disappointed in himself, or depressed in the least. No, not at all! Hugo was just very, very afraid. Because although this task was nothing like the tasks he had taken on in the past to fill up his spare time, this task was very important to him. Finishing the task on time had been essential.
Hugo was young, be he wasn't exactly stupid. He knew that if he didn't finish on time, he and his friends would probably be killed or something.
The man upstairs was crazy after all and it was rather unfortunate then that Hugo did fail.
He knew he had failed when the scary man had come downstairs with their daily portion of food and a body of a little girl dragged in behind him. Hugo knew that their time was up and if they were to have escaped, that opportunity had slipped them now.
Because he had heard the scary man's conversation, and the loopy girl had been right all along. They needed eight children and this girl was the eighth. There was no saving them now and the man had all that he needed to do what he had brought them here for. Hugo just hoped that some stroke of genius would hit him before that time came.
He wished something would hit him now so that he could just open the door and make a run for it.
But he had learned early that wishful think was just that – wishful.
"You really think this is a good idea, Potter?"
But Harry was too busy reading a letter an owl had given him a mere moment ago to answer his question. Draco sighed. If the man had such a short attention span, how was it that he could run an entire department at the Ministry on a daily basis? Or was the prat ignoring him on purpose? Was that it? He was no longer good enough to be paid attention to?
"I can hear your thoughts all the way from over here, Malfoy. Have some bloody patience," Potter muttered, almost to himself. Draco rolled his eyes but he knew that Harry hadn't seen the action because the boy-who-was-too-annoying-to-die was still busy pursuing his mail. What could honestly be more important than attending to his concerns? Wasn't that Potter's job, anyways, to work with his concerns?
They were on a job, after all.
Well, more accurately, he was on his way to prove to a bunch of silly Gryffindors that he was worthy of this job. As if he needed to do such a thing! Of course he was worthy. He had pretty much done everything there was to prove himself in the wizarding world! He solved cases, he put bad guys behind bars, he helped Potter get promoted, and he even fucking donated to charities! What reason was there not to trust him?
Well, besides the fact that he had let Death Eaters into Hogwarts, was an ex-Death Eater himself, had supported Voldemort, and was the son of the most bigoted, psychotic man next to snake face... And that was all after bullying the people for seven years...
Well, alright, he supposed they had a point. But who needed to make a point in these kinds of circumstances anyways? He had just broken into Granger's house (hey, he had told Potter he was doing it and had even been under an invisibility cloak!) and had seen the residue magic himself. It wasn't a pretty picture. They were dealing with a seriously powerful dark wizard.
As if a wizard could leave that kind of trace without the Dark Arts!
He hadn't been happy when Potter had told him he was to be at The Burrow 8 PM sharp. As if he ever wanted to step inside such a distasteful... house? Hovel? But it seemed this was something Potter was not budging on.
"Ginny says there's been quite a turn out," Harry finally addressed him. "You're going to have your hands full, mate."
Draco nearly gaped, and Draco never gaped – the action was unseemly and he had been raised better than that, obviously. But the news was just so... unpleasant, that he had almost slipped up. He didn't care though; it was only Potter after all. Potter wouldn't know the difference between bad manners and acceptable social standards if Draco gave him a course in it. The man was hopeless.
"How bad are we talking here?"
"Nothing like your war trial," Harry responded, grinning. Draco cringed. "But I'd say roughly the size of the inner circle of the Order." And Draco couldn't help but groan.
Why the fuck had he agreed to this?
"Do they at least know that I'm coming?" he asked, trying not to strangle himself. Or better yet, strangle Potter where he stood.
Harry only paused for a second before exclaiming a happy, "Nope!" and then running his annoying self off into what appeared the back entrance of The Burrow. Draco was only exaggerating the actions of Boy Wonder a little.
There was nothing he could do but rush in behind him shouting, "I'm going to kill you for this, Potter!"
But it had obviously been the wrong thing to say.
Draco cursed himself for cursing Potter so recklessly in what was basically his arch-nemeses' territory. So, alright. Running into a kitchen full of Order members and their little devil spawn, whilst threatening to kill their Golden Boy wasn't the best thing he'd ever done... Alright, he knew it was pretty stupid if he had wanted to make a good impression on them. That was the thing, though. He didn't really care at this point. It was going to be a doomed evening anyways, might as well roll with it.
But that didn't make the silence any less awkward.
Thank Merlin for the She-Weasel! She had always had the most sense (and good looks) in the family, Draco thought. He could understand why Potter had decided to marry himself off to the monster who looked like she was about to pop out triplets. "When you're killing my dearest husband off, would you mind disposing of the body? I hate messes."
Draco couldn't help but laugh at her comment. She always had made ministry functions more interesting to attend, after all, whenever he was stuck at a table with the Potters. Or maybe he just liked hearing her tell Potter off. "Will do, Mrs. Potter." He bowed his head slightly in her direction.
The rest of them just stared. So he stared back. Surprisingly, a large number of people were present even down to the Minister of Magic himself. Some of them just politely nodded back to him, only those that he worked with on a daily (or semi-daily) basis. Some just stared at him confusedly as if asking what the hell he was doing in the Weasley's hovel. He wanted to tell them he had no fucking clue.
Some just glared. He just smirked back.
"Why don't you have a seat, Malfoy," Harry finally offered. The man didn't have manners, obviously, so that was expected behaviour.
Unfortunately, the only free seat was next to Granger and he wasn't so keen on sitting so close to her after his disturbing dream. But some things just couldn't be helped. At the very least, she seemed to be repulsed by his presence! Some things never changed. He was glad. They sat as far away from each other as they could.
Only those that worked at the Ministry were in the loop of how awkward the tension was between the two of them.
"So, Malfoy," the earless ginger said. "Here to be a useless ferret, again?"
"George!" the mother snapped. "Be polite!"
"What? It's not like he's solving anything! Making things worse, if you ask me-" Oh, that was right. The lost twin was working with his father at the Ministry, wasn't he? That would explain it.
"Good thing's no one's asking you, Weasley," Draco smirked back.
"Listen here, Death Eater! I'm not standing for this –"
"Death Eater! You've got to be kidding-"
"Watch your mouths!"
"-would rather not get involved in this-"
"EXCUSE ME!" Everyone stopped talking all at once, turning in their seats to look at Ginny Potter who was a little red in the face. "You lot can argueafter dinner! I'm bloody starved, and if I don't get to eat right now, I'm going to bat bogey your faces off!"
"Ginny!" her mother breathed, appalled at her daughter (and the general company's) behaviour.
"What?" the redhead shrugged. "I'm pregnant. It happens."
And then the entire table burst out into laughter. Unfortunately, just because dinner was served, it didn't mean the arguing had ended. Silly insults and reprimands were passed back and forth until Mrs. Weasley had gotten so fed up that she had put a silencing charm on everyone.
Draco felt that it was an immensely good thing that he had kept his wand drawn and at the ready from the moment he had stepped into the house, because he'd had enough of being bashed. He had no idea why he'd endured it for so long, anyhow. Perhaps it was the way Potter had kept sending him warning signals or the way Granger had sat stiffly and quietly next to him the entire time – as if she wasn't even there.
He stood up from his seat, noticing in his peripheral vision at how Granger stiffened even further, but that only helped his resolve. "Thank you, Mrs. Weasley, for a lovely dinner." He inclined his head at her shocked expression. "Clearly, I'm not welcome here –"
But by then the earless mongrel had managed to remove the spell off of himself. "Welcome? You'd never be welcome here!"
But Draco only shrugged. "I'm not trying to be your friend, I'm doing my job. Apparently, Potter thought I needed to prove myself to you! The audacity."
"Audacity? You let the likes of Bellatrix Lestrange into Hogwarts and you think it's audacity?" By that time Weasley had gotten out of his seat as well, his chair falling noisily behind him.
Draco sighed and rolled his eyes. "Not sure if losing your ear gave you brain damage, Weasel, but your mum here killed off that particular vermin, thank Merlin. Now have some manners and sit down." Everyone seemed stunned at his harsh command. Unsurprisingly, the man-child did not sit down. "I don't need to prove myself to anyone," he finally snapped. He'd had enough of these ungrateful people. After all the work he was doing, they were going to treat him like this?
It wasn't even his fucking kid!
Luckily for Granger, he wasn't the type to give up so easily. "I'm a goddamn wizarding criminologist for Merlin's sake! The best in Britain, if you'd done your goddamn research." He shrugged on his outer robes and prepared to take his leave of the dumpster they called a home. "Besides, you lot aren't my client. Let's go, Granger."
She seemed a bit surprised – alright, very surprised, that he was helping her. Damn, that put a setback in his plans, didn't it? He'd have to play it cool later, but for now he was far too angry to deal with anything but managing to get out of here.
She got up from her seat reluctantly, staring at him. "I-" But he didn't give her enough time to finish her sentence. Well, he didn't give her enough time to do anything really, but try her best to hold on to him tightly enough. The second he had a firm grasp on her, he apparated them right out of the Burrow and back to his rightful place at the Manor.
Hermione nearly collapsed against him and he was almost too reluctant to push her away. "Try not to destroy anything, Granger."
"It's Weasley," she muttered, sullenly.
He paused as if regarding her shrewdly. "Yeah, well, I like Granger better."
And after that fiasco he had just been a part of? Yeah, anything was better than a Weasley. Fucking bastards.
A/N: Aha. I tricked you all! Or did I? You'll just have to wait and see. Let me know what you thought. Here is another spoiler:
"Oh for God's sake!" he exclaimed before pulling her roughly up off the floor. Her eyes widened and she was barely able to utter a word before her world started to turn black and she began to fall back down again. "Hell – oh, what the hell, Granger?" he exclaimed once more, catching her in his arms.