The One With Technical Difficulties
Prompt:"Looks like we're gonna be stuck here for a while."
picspam by me.
for la_topolina's Fluff Challenge @ hpft archives.
As always, it's all Mel's (RonsGirlFriday) fault. Actual legal arguments in front of the Wizengamot written with Mel in connection with a scene for her story Irrational, edited and updated to fit this story by me.
Hermione let a soft sigh out as her eyes absently looked at the pages scattered across the table in front of her. She had been preparing for this hearing for the last seven months - seven months since she had submitted her legislation to the Wizengamot and had countered various updates to wording and consideration through-out, before they finally deemed the legislation to be in a place that was reasonable to have a hearing. Not to mention the other projects she had to focus and work on, she had been obsessive in getting this legislation pushed forward, even with changes. And most of those changes had been nits proposed by Malfoy, who continued to always find a way to get under her skin years later. The only comfort was that he hadn’t been in the room when she did her scan of the present members earlier, barely feeling the need to undertake his duty as the Black designated council member.
She also knew that Harry and Ron were tired of hearing about it - how the changes that were being pushed were utterly ridiculous and how she just knew Malfoy was doing it to spite her. With Harry and Ginny’s wedding coming up, there were so many other things that she knew she should be focused on. But it had seemed to haunt her day and night.
Because in her nearly five years with the Ministry, the only substantial legislation she had been able to pass was minimal laws protecting house elves from being downright abused by their owners. Nothing else. Everything was shot down as being too aggressive or extreme and not worth the fight.
But this - this was something that she could push through. Something she had to - for Lupin and Tonks. For Teddy, who still didn’t quite appreciate the legacy his parents left behind. Something to atone for the life of someone who gave everything to the Wizarding world, but had received nothing in return.
People shuffled around the stands of the courtroom and Hermione tried to not focus on the muttered whisperings, knowing that most of them would be complaining about the fact that the room had been booked for six hours, though she hoped they wouldn’t spend that much time in there.
The banging of a gavel at the front of the room pulled Hermione’s attention and she looked up to see Chief Warlock Broadmoor looking across the gathered individuals. “It seems we have a quorum to begin this hearing. Miss Granger, are you prepared to begin today’s hearing?”
Hermione stood quickly and nodded, her fingers splayed out on the desk in front of her. “Yes, Chief Warlock Broadmoor. I am ready to begin.”
“Very good, Miss Granger. We have reviewed your ….” Chief Warlock Broadmoor looked down at the document in front of him before raising his eyes again, boring into Hermione. “376 page legislation with respect to Werewolves. Would you like to give your opening statements?”
Hermione’s fingers tapped a quick absent pattern on the table in front of her before she pushed away, shuffling the papers around her as she found the ones she had wanted and stepped back, looking around the room, the faces around her blurring out as they usually did when she found herself in these hearings.
“Thank you, Chief Warlock Broadmoor. I’ve come before you today to ask you to right a terrible injustice that has been put forth in our Wizarding society for the last century.” Hermione noted that the papers she was holding in front of her shook slightly, and she found her eyes moving away from the papers and to the members of the Wizengamot in front of her. “We have continued to treat a group of people that have no position in deciding their affliction as if they are the lowest rung of our Wizarding society, because once a month they find themselves shifting to be something not quite human. Despite this affliction, many wizards and witches that suffer from a werewolf bite have gone on to be prod-”
“Miss Granger,” Hermione’s eyes stuttered across the crowd and halted on the blonde woman who had spoken and had her arms crossed on the table in front of her, a quill held loosely in one hand. “We are well aware of the contributions that Remus Lupin has made in our society, and we can largely admit that many of us owe our lives to that man. In the interest of time, perhaps it’s helpful to move onto the actual contents and arguments for passing the bill rather than rehashing other matters.”
“Council Member Haywood, despite the manifold contributions that were made by the late Mr. Lupin to the Wizarding world, including incredible efforts in both the First and Second Wizarding Wars, as you have acknowledged - Mr. Lupin did incredible feats for our society that have allowed us to move forward in many ways. Despite this, Mr. Lupin was treated his entire life as a second class citizen in this society, and still would be so if he were alive today despite his actions during the wars. It is precisely for that reason that I have proposed the legislation you have been provided, and it is for that reason that I began my statement as I did.”
Hermione paused, allowing the members of the Wizengamot to process her words, noticing that several of those that were holding inherited seats seemed to be squirming slightly at the context of the conversion, and she wondered how many had been part of the mandated sessions with Healer’s after the war or how many had managed to talk their way out of those sessions.
“But just how will your law against discriminations actually impact how the Wizarding world views those that are afflicted with a werewolf bite?” Theo Nott gazed down at Hermione, his chin tucked into the palm of his hand as he gestured absently with the other at whatever was written on his notes. “How will passing additional legislation on the books do anything to change the perception that wizards have of werewolves?”
“While it may be true that we cannot legislate an individual’s thoughts, it is precisely for that reason that we need this legislation. We may not be able to tell wizards and witches, ” Hermione emphasized the words as she maintained eye contact with him, noting his eyebrows lift and the corner of his lip turn up in a smirk that she just knew he had learned from his association with a certain thorn in her side, “what to think about werewolves, we can address how they are treated by society in a broader manner. As evident by the legislation after the Second Wizarding War, passing legislation obviously does not require wizards and witches to take tea with those that have been oppressed, but it does at minimum - and I mean minimum - demand that the oppressed individual is respected in terms of their employment and housing. We can require that society treat them as equals in the eyes of the law, regardless of their personal perceptions, which will help to integrate them into a society that otherwise is determined to keep them ostracized.”
Theo gave Hermione a slight nod before placing his quill to paper, but Hermione didn’t get to think about the action for long before another voice drawled from the corner of the room and Hermione resisted the temptation to close her eyes, though she let out a soft huff of breath.
“While you make a valid point, Miss Granger.” Hermione pivoted on her heel to catch Malfoy in the corner of the stands, his legs crossed insolently as he leaned back on the back legs of the chair. “Pray tell, how is it that you anticipate providing these individuals with equal rights will do anything to improve their lives when they have never shown the initiative to leave the pack lives that they have lived in for well over 100 years?”
Hermione felt her eyes narrow and she tapped her fingers on her thighs absently, noting that Malfoy had eschewed his Wizangamot robes and was wearing a charcoal suit, his pale skin and hair seeming to glow in the lights of the room.
Because of course - Malfoy would be here today, sneaking in after she had looked around. The wizard may only show up to the bare minimum of his required hearings, but he made a point to ensure those were always her hearings to make life miserable.
The worst part was that his points weren’t always bad, though his current line of questioning made Hermione see red. His points were often well thought out and poked holes in parts of the legislation that Hermione had never considered.
And that - that made her want to slap the insolent look off his face as he dropped his chair back down, grey eyes staring down at her.
“My legislation has never purported to tell individual witches or wizards how to live their lives, or with whom to live it, Council Member Malfoy. This legislation merely ensures that these individuals can find employment and have a roof over their head. It is not for this council, or me, to concern ourselves with how isolated or integrated an individual chooses to be, so long as they have that equal opportunity.” Malfoy opened his mouth, but before he could say anything, Hermione plowed on. “Individuals not afflicted with lycanthropy make poor decisions every day of their life, whether it be sending their children to the elitepreparatory school for Hogwarts,” the sneer that came across Hermione’s face resulted in Malfoy smirking further, “or choosing to align themselves with Lord Voldemort,” gasps could be heard through-out the room, but Hermione only noted the pinching expression around Malfoy’s eyes and she felt a flush work its way up her neck. “The point is those wizards are still given a starting point on the pitch, to put it in Quidditch terms. So we should give those with lycanthropy the same option, should they choose - and the research done by the special council called for by this very Wizengamot council noted that a majority of those afflicted with lycanthropy were choosing to eschew pack life and were living largely quiet, unnoticed lives in society, though often far below the poverty line.”
Malfoy’s arms were now balanced on the table in front of him, his hands clasped and chin resting on his knuckles, his grey eyes glittering at her agitation and Hermione felt the flush work its way across her cheeks as she focused on her breathing.
Merlin, she hated him. Hated how he always riled her up, even though she knew he did it to mess with her. Just like he had in their eighth year at Hogwarts, always needing to counter her points in every single class, almost as if he had to make up for lost time in agitating her.
“Then how do you purport to enforce such legislation?”
“The same way the Ministry enforces any of its laws. No system is perfect, we’ve seen that time and time again, but if the council is concerned about how to enforce breaches of the law, then I ask that it be an ever-growing response. Enforcing equality is not easy, but there’s no reason to not make the proclamation of equality in the first place, when it can prevent the suffering of so many.”
Malfoy’s mouth opened and Hermione wished she could close her eyes and tune him out, because she just knew that he had studied all 367 pages and likely had meticulous notes as to where she contradicted herself or had failed to think of the result to providing Wolfsbane, and she knew she should have thought further about the costs of the potion.
Because at this rate, they were going to spend all six hours in the courtroom as Malfoy picked apart every single line she had submitted to the council.
Hermione’s finger jabbed at the call button for the lift three times in quick succession as she cursed the slowness of the lifts. During the lunch recess of the hearing, she’d gotten a note from Shacklebolt on the other matter she had spent the last several weeks on, while also preparing for this trial. At least some good news, though she wouldn’t be the one sending the notices related to that. She had also gotten a note from Harry asking her to stop by his office once the hearing concluded so that she could assist on some new case - though he hadn’t given any details.
And just like she thought, they had ended up using the entire allotted six hours … and then some as her and Malfoy had gone back and forth on the legislation. The legislation was tentatively passed, pending a number of rather insignificant changes she was to make based largely on Malfoy’s questions and comments, but it was something that she would have to begin work on tomorrow. Because now - now it was almost dinner and she still needed to meet with Harry, and she was agitated from defending every single little item that Malfoy had decided to obsess over and the tweaks she would be making the next few days, and why was the lift taking forever .
Jabbing the call button several more times, Hermione shifted on her feet as she juggled the files that were in her arms.
“No matter how many times you push the call button, it won’t speed up the lift, Granger.”
Hermione turned on her heel to see Malfoy leaning against the wall, ankles crossed as he looked at his fingernails as if he had nothing better to do. While Hermione felt as if her hair was about to explode from the bun at the back of her head and her clothes felt rumpled from the time she had spent in the hearing, Malfoy looked as put together as he did that morning - the cultivated messy hair, that he likely spent all morning on, and the clothes without a single wrinkle, that Hermione would bet a year’s salary was worth more than a year of her salary.
And oh, how she loathed to admit that the charcoal suit was entirely suited to him, causing his grey eyes to pop - grey eyes which … were staring straight at her now as she had studied him.
Turning quickly back to the lift, Hermione pushed the call button again as a flush overtook her cheeks.
Curse Ginny and her offhanded comments in that final year at Hogwarts about oh, wasn’t Malfoy looking awful fit as he picks on you, Hermione .
A chuckle floated from behind her and Hermione closed her eyes. “Again, Granger. The lifts don’t-”
“I am aware, Malfoy . Don’t you have somewhere to be - someone else’s legislation that needs to be torn to shreds and have every single piece scrutinized for the slightest error.”
The lift doors dinged as they opened and Hermione muttered “ finally ” as she stepped into the lift.
Hermione stabbed the floor for the Auror department, repetitively, the doors beginning to close before she heard Malfoy’s steps and his hand darted in to catch the door. He stepped into the lift with a raised eyebrow and Hermione scowled as he stood in the open door.
“Oh, thanks for holding the lift, Granger.”
“Well, maybe if you could stand to move faster than a snail that’s taken a relaxation potion, Malfoy, I wouldn’t need to hold the lift for you.” Hermione stepped back as Malfoy took a step forward, crowding her, his hand hitting a button too quickly for Hermione to see where he was going. Shuffling into the corner of the lift, she shuffled the files in her hands and frowned at them. “But we’re all just here to serve your whims and fancies, aren’t we?”
“Just what do you mean by that, Granger.” Hermione’s head snapped up and she found Malfoy facing her, his own eyes narrowed. “Come on, spit it out. Where’s that Gryffindor courage.”
Hermione squared her shoulders and narrowed her eyes, gathering the files to her chest. “Just that some people have a modicum to do more than the bare minimumof what is required for them to maintain a position.”
The corner of his lip sneaked up as he reached up to grab the strap above his head. “Granger, I didn’t know you cared. Considering I only show up for your hearings, that means someone has been keeping tabs on me.” Hermione felt the flush creep up her cheeks as the lift dropped, as if it was chasing her stomach. “If I made a complaint of stalking, do you think Potter would have a conflict of interest?”
Hermione huffed, a piece of hair that had fallen in front of her face floating forward. “Someone’s awful full of themselves, don’t you think?” She sniffed, eyeing him from the corner of her eye. Because no, she had not been keeping record of when Malfoy showed up to court and most certainly not made a point to bring it up to Ginny that the only time he seemed to be bothered to aggravate everyone on site was when she would be in the room. “You are remarkably easy to spot with that pointy face of yours and people have happened to notice your lack of appearance and talk about it.”
Sure, talk about it with Ginny obsessively.
She shook her head slightly, adjusting the hold on the files in her hand and frowning as she felt the lift stutter in its descent, the motion suddenly seeming sluggish. Before she could give it further thought, the blonde in the lift grabbed her attention again.
“Contrary to what you may think, Granger, most people won’t give me the time of day.” Hermione looked up from her files, her head tilting to the side as she observed Malfoy had abandoned his hold on the strap and had his arms crossed as he leaned against the wall of the lift. “Besides, don’t tell me having to defend your own legislation puts your teeth on edge. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you rather enjoy it. Always been awful feisty in the courtroom, haven’t we?” Malfoy’s eyes glittered as they connected with Hermione’s and the flush quickly took over her face again as she coughed and looked away. “Besides, it's not like attending any other hearings would give me anything intelligent to debate. Your colleagues are all rather dull in the work they put forth before the council. It’s easier to just feed it through Theo.”
“You may raise good points from time to time, Malfoy, but don’t lie - you were just being obstreperous. You just - you always -” Hermione cut off, looking back at Malfoy. “Wait - you actually read the other legislation?”
“Well, of course. Someone has to make sure that the Wizengamot doesn’t -”
Malfoy’s voice cut out as the lift slammed to a stop, bouncing slightly, and Hermione found herself pitching forward as her files flew everywhere as she braced her arms for the impact on the floor.
Only rather than face planting on the floor, she found her back settled against Malfoy as he arms snaked around her as the lift continued to bounce. The lights flickered in the lift before settling and neither of them moved as the lift stilled.
Hermione cleared her throat and awkwardly patted at Malfoy’s hands until he let go and she stepped out of his hold, refusing to look back at him as she surveyed the papers on the ground. “Um, thanks.”
His voice was strangled and Hermione rather decided that the flush had decided to take permanent residence on her cheeks as they burned, knowing she would have to go see Ginny after today to just talk about how weird this day had been. Crouching down, she began gathering the files that had fluttered everywhere, noting that Malfoy followed her a moment later and began gathering the papers that had flown out on his side of the lift.
“You can just - I’ll sort them later. They can just go in the folders,” she mumbled, eyes glazing over as she gathered papers, not wanting to look anywhere else.
Picking up the last paper from her side, Hermione was tucking it into the folder when Malfoy’s voice lashed through the small space.
“Why do you have my file?”
Hermione looked up to see Malfoy looking at a handful of papers in front of him and she blanched as she realized what papers had been tucked into the folders. “I - it’s not what it looks like, Malfoy.”
“ Why do you have my file, Granger?” Malfoy dropped the paper he was studying, his fingers stuttering across the other pieces of his file on the floor.
“It’s not just - I have Pansy and Theo’s in there too.” Hermione shuffled forward on her knees, pushing the papers around as she tried to find the other two files. She paused in her actions as Malfoy’s long fingers wrapped around her wrist, barely daring to breathe as she looked up to see his mercury eyes pinning her to the spot.
“I’m not going to ask again, Granger.” His voice was soft and Hermione felt her throat constrict. “I understand you are part of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, but why do you have my file?”
She pulled to get him to release her wrist, but he kept firm and she closed her eyes with a deep breath.
Because of course, just of course .
“Harry had mentioned - a few months ago, I think you were helping him with something.” She kept her eyes closed, his fingers shifting on her wrist infinitesimally. “He was complaining about how onerous it was to get approval for you to apparate to places last minute, and I - those restrictions were supposed to lapse after five years.”
A nerve in Hermione’s right leg was pinched from how she was sitting, but she didn’t shift even as she opened her eyes to see that Malfoy’s eyes were still intense on her own. “I - those restrictions came across my desk. I signed the release three years ago,” Hermione felt the same anger rising in her body. “Someone decided that their judgment was a better substitute for mine even though all of the conditions had been met. They hid the paper trail - I never knew. The - all the appeals, they never came back across my desk, they were redirected and they knew that what they were doing was wrong and that if I found out -”
Malfoy’s eyes flitted across her face and Hermione worked to control her breathing. After what felt like several minutes, his hand dropped her wrist and started gathering the papers that made up his, Theo’s, and Pany’s files from the lift floor. He didn’t look at her, but Hermione eyed the stiff set of his shoulders.
“They were fired.” Her voice was soft and Malfoy’s eyes darted up to her briefly before he continued gathering the papers. “I went - I went to Shacklebolt, last week. Made my case - he’s been periodically sending me follow-ups, so I’ve just been carrying the files with me. I - we’re doing a full review of all those restrictions, to see if anyone else - if it …” Hermione trailed off, eyes dropping to Malfoy’s hands as they shuffled the papers into the folders, her eyes fixating on the barest tremble that seemed to be present in his fingers and she came to a decision as she looked back up to his face. “I got the confirmation during the break. You’ll get official notices on the matter tomorrow, to make an appointment and remove the restriction spells.”
Malfoy’s eyes flitted to her face again, studying for something. He nodded briefly before pulling the folders Hermione had loosely gripped in her hands and he stood, lightly brushing at his knees before he held his hand down for her. Hermione hesitated only a moment before she put her hand in his and let him pull her up, his hand hesitating on hers for a second before he released it and pushed the folders back into her hands.
“Thank you.” His voice was soft, his eyes staring absently at a point over her shoulder. Hermione opened her mouth, but was interrupted by the speaker above her.
“Thank you for your patience. We have identified the source of the problem and should have the lift running momentarily. As we anticipate the matter to be fixed within 30 minutes, we will not be lifting the apparition wards at this time. Should you need help, please use the call box in the lift.”
The speaker went silent and Hermione watched as a slight frown overtook Malfoy’s features. “Looks like we're gonna be stuck here for a while." He sighed and ran his right hand through his hair before looking at the watch on his wrist, before tucking his right hand back into his pocket. “I - Granger, I just -”
“You’re left handed.”
Hermione coughed, ducking her head down to avoid the look he was shooting her.
“Ah, yes.” Hermione cringed at the laughter she could hear in his voice. “I’m surprised you didn’t catalogue that in your stalking.”
Eyes snapping up, she opened her mouth to respond but paused as she realized the corners of Malfoy’s eyes were crinkled in laughter as he teased her, though the same smirk that aggravated her to no end graced his features. Hermione rolled her eyes before looking at the floor, her fingers tapping an anxious rhythm on the files in her hand.
“You - you didn’t think I was intentionally withholding the release, did you?” Her own voice was soft and she cringed slightly at the slightly pathetic sound to it.
She heard Malfoy take a step towards her, the tips of his dragonhide shoes entering her vision, but she refused to look up.
“Granger, I didn’t even know you were on the case.”
“So - you just, what? Have antagonized me the last few years in my Wizengamot cases for the hell of it?” Hermione frowned and looked up to see that Malfoy was barely an arm’s length away from her. “There … you didn’t think I was keeping your freedom, and just retaliating at me?”
Malfoy stared at her for a second before running his hand through his hair again.
“Granger, has it ever occurred to you that there’s maybe a reason why I choose to show up to your Wizengamot hearings?” Hermione opened her mouth to protest, but Malfoy plowed on. “Your colleagues are a bunch of self-important imbeciles who wouldn’t notice a bludger if it was flying right at their face - don’t make that face, even Potter admits it’s true. You’re the only one that ever brings anything of importance to the Wizengamot.”
“Even if that was true, when I’ve only managed to push through two monumental proposals, then why do you pull apart everything I submit? Also, why are you talking about this with Harry?”
“Not everything has to be monumental to be important, Granger. The little things are just as important.” An emotion flickered across Malfoy’s face, but she couldn’t read what it was before his face smoothed out. “Because you’re the only mutual ground he and I have when -”
“Mutual ground? What on earth does that mean?”
“Merlin, Granger. You’re smart and I maybe mentioned to Harry that arguing with you was the only reason I hadn’t actually given up my seat and-”
“Oh, so arguing over legislation that could change someone’s life is a game to you -”
“That’s not what I said, don’t put words in my mouth. Salazar, you can’t even take a bloody compliment.”
Hermione snorted and narrowed her eyes at Malfoy. “Because somehow, your compliment feels very backhanded. Can’t you just argue with Theo.”
“I do, but Theo will stop arguing back.” Malfoy looked up to the ceiling of the lift, as if he could convince the gods to fix the lift and get them out of there. “You never back down and for once I want to argue with someone who can beat me.”
“Aren’t you conceited, I’m sure Theo could beat you -”
“Granger, I’ve told you that you’re smart at least three times in the last five minutes and you just keep focusing-”
“Because do you know how much time I’ve spent making the edits you send me!” Hermione threw the files on the ground, the thump echoing through the car and a few papers fluttering out of the files. She put her hands on her hip as she tapped her toe. “I have spent weeks making every asinine change you gave me -”
“And those changes got the legislation through today-”
“No, I got it through today!”
Hermione’s voice screeched and both of them paused, her chest expanding as she took in angry breaths. Malfoy’s cheeks were tinted pink, but his grey eyes glittered as they looked her over.
“You did, Granger. But Bellesky would have stopped the legislation in its tracks without some of those edits. You think I don’t know what they think? For Merlin’s sake, I’m not taking the win away from you. I’m bloody - the Wizengamot doesn’t even know I sent you those changes.”
Hermione gaped at him, her brain stuttering to a stop. “What?” She could feel a trickle of sweat down her back and she would swear the temperature had gone up ten degrees.
Malfoy’s eyes closed and he ran both hands through his hair, though it remained perfectly disheveled. Hermione took the moment to study him, the faint crinkles at the corner of his eyes she hadn’t noticed before - because she had never stood this close to him before. How one piece of hair seemed to have a cowlick and was fighting whatever hold he had put on it. A faint scar on his left cheek, that she couldn’t help but wonder what it was from.
Dropping her eyes, Hermione found herself looking at the slightly puckered scar at the base of his neck, and she wondered if all of the Sectumsempra scars looked as agitated.
Not that different from her own scar, as her hand unconsciously drifted to grip her left forearm.
“I didn’t intend to mention it.” Malfoy’s voice was soft and Hermione looked back up to his face. “I - we had our committee meetings to discuss the legislation, and Bellesky was being so obvious that he didn’t plan to let the legislation through.” He studied the floor beneath his feet, hands stuffed deep into his pockets again. “It was good legislation, Granger. It didn’t deserve to be ramrodded by some self-absorbed toad who still thinks things will go back to how they were.”
“So you just, what. Sent me changes on your council letterhead to trick me?”
“Granger, I’m a Slytherin. When have I ever been direct.” He leveled a look at her as she made a noise of protest and she closed her mouth with disgruntled noise. “Even if I had showed up to your office with these changes you would have had me thrown on my arse within five minutes. Merlin, even if Theo had brought them to you, you would have realized eventually they weren’t all his edits.”
“You don’t know I wouldn’t have listened, you just -”
Malfoy let out a laugh, causing Hermione to startle.
“We’ve barely spoken since our eight year in Hogwarts unless it’s been at a Wizengamot hearing. What would you have had me said?”
Hermione ran her own fingers through the hair that had fallen out of the bun before letting them fall to her side. “I don’t know, Malfoy. But maybe if you hadn’t written every suggestion so hostile I would have listened.”
“You would have been suspicious the minute I wasn’t arguing with you.”
Huffing out a breath, Hermione rubbed her face. “More like you get off on it.”
He stilled at her comment and as Hermione looked at her eyes, she noticed that his pupils were blown and she felt a flush come back to her cheeks, even as her eyes dropped to his lips which were parted slightly. Really, all she had to do was lean up on her tip-toes and she would be able to-
Hermione’s brain screeched to a halt and when had Malfoy stepped so close to her that she could feel the heat from his body .
Taking half a step back, she opened her mouth to say something but before she could, the lights in the lift flickered and it dropped suddenly, a scream leaving Hermione’s mouth as she careened backwards into the corner behind her and squeezed her eyes shut. She felt the warmth of Malfoy’s body collide into her, his breath ghosting over his face as he grunted from his shoulder slamming into the wall beside her. She felt his arms wrap behind her as he grabbed at the handrail that was digging into her hip.
With a bounce that jostled him forward again, the lift came again to a screeching halt and Hermione’s head bounced off the wall. Groaning softly, she stilled as she realized Malfoy wasn’t taking a step back from her. His scent clogged her senses, bringing to mind the musty smell of old books and off ink of the highest quality. Hermione resisted the urge to take a deep breath, instead opening her eyes to see Malfoy’s own staring straight at her, emotion after emotion darting across the surface and she watched, fascinated, but unable to identify any of them.
“Granger,” Malfoy’s voice was rough, the air flitting across her face and as she took a breath, she smelled spearmint from his toothpaste and green apples, left over from the ones he had snacked on during the entire hearing, and Hermione felt warmth rush along her veins as he crowded closer, his nose almost touching hers as he ducked down. “I’m going to kiss you unless you tell me not to.”
The warmth rushed to Hermione’s abdomen and she took a deep breath, Malfoy’s scent crowding her nose again. Logically, she knew this didn’t make sense because it was Malfoy but if she didn’t kiss him, she felt like she was going to implode.
Hermione brought her hands up from his hips - when had they settled there - and smoothed her trembling fingers across his suit jacket, before clutching the fabric. “ Ok ,” she breathed.
Malfoy’s sharp inhale was the only warning she had before his lips captured hers in a soft kiss, his lips hesitant on her own. Every nerve ending in Hermione sparked and she could feel her magic sparking from her fingers into his chest where she was clutching his jacket. With a soft groan, Hermione pulled on him until he stepped forward, pushing her against the wall and his knee slipped between her thighs, causing her skirt to ride up.
Hermione moaned and some part of Malfoy seemed to snap as the kiss roughened. He buried one hand in her hair, fingers sliding beneath the bun, and let the other slide up the side of her thigh, pausing ever so slightly where her skirt had ridden up, his fingers ghosting on the edge. Hermione wrapped one of her hands around his neck, sliding her own fingers up into his hair, which was so silky- but before her brain could process that further, Malfoy’s lips left her own and started a slow path down her jaw, pausing at a point just under her ear. His lips hovered there and Hermione squirmed against the wall before Malfoy closed what little space was left and pinned her there.
“You’re going to need to stop moving,” his breath ghosted across her skin and Hermione stuffed a whine back in her throat, though she felt him smile against her neck as he pressed his lips there. “Or we’re going to need to figure out how to remove the anti-apparition words very quickly.” He thrust his hips against her thigh and Hermione moaned, her second hand darting up to his face to guide his mouth back to hers.
After what could have been a few minutes or hours, Malfoy pulled back slightly, peppering soft kisses at each corner of Hermione’s mouth before he rested his forehead against hers. The only sound was their heavy breaths, and Hermione absently noted how it felt like all the air had been sucked from the room, and yet she had never felt more aware of every feeling. Malfoy’s hand slowly drifted from her thigh and up her side, and she opened her eyes as she shivered, seeing a roguish smile on Malfoy’s face, his pupils blown wide.
“Well. Maybe you were kind of right,” his voice was husky and rough, and Hermione felt her lower abdomen tighten again. “Maybe I do get off on the arguing.”
A laugh burst out of Hermione, her hands sliding to Malfoy’s shoulders. Malfoy pressed a chaste kiss on her lips and she smiled against their softness before he pulled back. Hermione opened her mouth as Malfoy pulled on one of the loose curls hanging around her face, but before she could say anything the lift suddenly lurched forward, causing Malfoy to stumble and she slid down the wall as he squared his feet.
“Bloody lift,” he muttered, squeezing his hands around her waist. Before either could say anything else, the lift dinged - signaling the doors were about to open - and the two sprung apart and to their knees, collecting Hermione’s papers and files from where they had fluttered around the car during the abrupt movements.
As the doors opened, Hermione chanced a look up through her lashes only to see Harry standing there, one hand braced against the side of the car.
“Well, no one told me that it was the two of you stuck together.” He pushed his glasses back up his nose and looked down. “What on earth are you both doing on the floor though?”
“Granger has the elegance of a blast-ended skrewt and dropped her files every time the lift lurched.” Malfoy’s voice was back to its regular drawl and Hermione’s eyes snapped to him. His back was to Harry, his eyes trained on her face and a mischievous glint in his eyes. As she opened her mouth to retort, he shot her a wink before standing with his papers and files in hand.
Hermione finished collecting her files with a grumbled “ bloody Slytherins ” under her breath, starting only slightly when a pale hand was thrust in front of her. Taking his hand, she allowed Malfoy to pull her back to a standing position, his thumb rubbing a circle on the back of her hand before he dropped it, pushing the rest of the files into her arms and turning to Harry.
Hermione took a step to the side and looked at Harry, who had crossed his arms across his chest and was staring at her with a raised eyebrow.
“There’s only so much of Malfoy’s wit you can handle in a day before it’s just noise in the wind, and you wonder if a hot air balloon is deflating nearby.”
Malfoy narrowed his eyes at her and Hermione smirked at him before she turned back to where Harry was staring at the two of them.
“Right, well. I guess I should be glad the two of you didn’t kill each other after an hour.” Hermione heard what sounded like a soft snort from Malfoy and she made a conscious effort to keep her face blank. “It’ll make the next few months easier.”
“What do you mean the next few months, Potter.”
Harry’s eyebrows crossed as he looked between them. “What did you two do for the last hour, stare at each other in stony silence?” Hermione opened her mouth to respond but Harry waved a hand at her. “You can tell me later, I just figured that you’d both realized I’d asked for both of you to help me on a case.” Harry took a step back and gestured for them both to exit the car. Malfoy quickly stepped out and Hermione followed slower, the files clutched to her chest as Harry smiled at her. “Guess the broken lift saved me some time in getting you two acclimated to each other again.”
Harry quickly stepped down the hall with a whistle as the Ministry maintenance team swarmed into the lift and Hermione gaped like a fish at his back. She was still processing this news when Malfoy stepped into her line of vision, the corner of his mouth turned up in a smirk.
He got the last word that day, his voice a smooth whisper, turning and following after Harry before Hermione could summon a response.
“Guess we’ll have a chance to argue again, Granger.”
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