The Blue Room
Hermione was late. She was about done with her quick shower and only had enough time to brush her teeth and put on clean clothes if she wanted to get to work on time. And being late was not acceptable. "Looks like I'm not wearing makeup... or eating breakfast," she grumpily muttered. "Stupid good dreams and comfy sheets." Hermione Granger was not a morning person.
She barely said "Goodmorning, thanks for the room" to her hosts before she dashed through the floo. She barely made it to Kingsley's office by 8:00 where he was waiting for his report.
"Rough night?" the Minister questioned. A concerned frown on his face.
Do I really look that awful? Hermione put on her happy face despite her glum thoughts and replied, "Sadly. But I'm good now. Malfoy knew so much-"
The minister interjected, "before we get into that, I want you to know that Mr. Malfoy has been officially hired by your department. He is now assigned to this case. You will be his supervisor." Kingsley let out a breath after this. He knew of the rivalry the Golden Trio had with the Malfoy family, and he was prepared to calm Hermione down if need be. He hoped she knew that he would not send her back to a place where she was once tortured for something trivial. This was bigger than she knew, and urgent.
Her emotions were reeling from a rollercoaster ride. Hearing that Malfoy was in her department pissed her off, then him being on the case had her annoyed- she rather liked him as just a resource, but knowing that she was technically above Malfoy in rank had her skipping with childish joy. She shouldn't be so petty, she's an adult, but all she could think was finally.
"Okay. How shall we precede from here?" Hermione asked in a professional manner. She was all too used to seeing Kingsley, the person she fought in a war with, not Kingsley, her boss and the Minister of Magic.
"I'm sorry for interrupting. Please brief me on your findings." Kingsley prompted, surprised with Hermione's passive attitude.
That was all Hermione needed to go into a long monologue about the new information she collected yesterday. She was very anxious to hear someone else's thoughts on their progress, but Kingsley's comment was not what she was expecting.
"I think you need to spend the day researching at the Malfoy library. There are too many questions and holes to start and real work," he declared as he stood up. "Good work Hermione. We will talk again Monday with Mr. Malfoy. I'm sorry to cut the meeting short, but the last Deatheater trial is today and I need to open Wizemgot. I'll see you Monday," Kingsley said as he walked out the door, nodding goodbye.
Hermione let out a deep, frustrated breath and put her head down on the table. Great. Just. Great. After letting out another breath, she stood up and dragged herself back to her office to collect more files for reference today. Joseph caught her on her way out of the office. "Hey Hermione. How was the research yesterday?" he said with a grimace.
She chuckled, "Oh, it doesn't end. I'll be at the Manor until I can solve this."
This deepened the frown he already wore. "Why can't Malfoy bring the books here?" Joseph half whined.
"Because there are more books in his library than in the Ministry's."
His face lit up. He, like Hermione, had an immense love for literature, and if she didn't get out of there soon, he would beg her to join. Malfoy wouldn't like that. "Since when do you think about Malfoy's feelings?" her mind reprimanded. "I have to get going. So much work to do. Have a great day!" Hermione shouted as she walked toward the lifts. The desperation on Joesph's face pulled at her heartstrings, but she couldn't let him come. He would piss off Malfoy more than her. Plus, he technically isn't on the case, and therefore is only allowed to deal with paperwork.
Draco was flipping through hundreds of books. He needed an example of just one law being broken. His nerves were growing, but he kept his face devoid of emotion. If Granger saw any trace of what he was feeling, she would question him. She couldn't question him, if what he was thinking was actually true, he needed her completely blind to it. She would probably tell Potty and Weasebee if she found out.
He shook his head to clear his worry filled thoughts. One of the only good things that came from being around the Dark Lord was learning to shut down his emotions. "They will use your emotions against you. Keep them hidden." His mother used to say. Maybe she knew how much he despised the death eaters once they invaded his life. Surely they would have tortured and killed him if they knew his feelings on the Dark Lord at the time.
A pop drew him out of his thoughts. "Ms. Granger is at the wards, Master," Dinky bowed.
"Thank you. I will fetch her. Will you please bring some earl grey and fruit to the library?" Draco asked the little elf.
"Of course, Master," Dinky replied before he popped back to his duties.
With a long sigh, Draco got up from his desk and strode down the long hall. He began to straighten his posture, tilt his head up, and made his face blank, but something stopped his routine when she saw Granger through the front windows.
She was leaned against the stone wall crying her eyes out. Rather like Draco, Granger was not one to show emotions in front of others, so it was obviously something that crushed her to have this happen.
When this ran through Draco's mind his immediate response was to walk away and give her a few minutes before he would walk out as his normal cold self, but for the life of him, he couldn't seem to walk away. He was a very intelligent man and knew that she would not take well to his presence if he walked over. So he stood, looking out one of his massive windows, and watched one of the strongest women he knew break down.
Should I owl someone? Is she fit to work? What could have caused this? Why here? Who did this to her?... Weasley. The last thought had enough poison in it to kill an adult bear. Somehow, this disgust for the probable culprit drove Draco to walk out to Hermione.
He walked slowly, so she could detect his presence (she would probably kill him if he snuck up on her. He valued his life highly- he was the last Malfoy heir).
She immediately fixed her appearance and tried to rub the red out of her eyes. She looks dreadful. He merely held out his hand to her, so that she could walk through the wards (women should not have to cry outside- that much his mother taught him). He was surprised that she took it quickly, and her hand was very soft. "No. There is nothing attractive about Granger. She's a bushy haired know-it-all," he reprimanded himself and pretended to ignore the thoughts that followed, "but she does look adorable and her hand feels so nice." I need a good lay- Draco internally groaned.
Hermione was not happy. Last nights events finally hit her. Ron wasn't contacting her to apologize (and she sure as hell wasn't going to say sorry), and he was telling Harry this morning that he thought she was cheating on him. How dare he accuse me cheating! she thought. But, the melancholy set in when she remembered that she loved him, and he didn't trust her. How could he not trust me? Her emotions returned to anger.
"Ow," Malfoy yelped, pulling his hand from hers.
"I'm so sorry!" Hermione put her hands out in defense. "I was thinking and I got a bit carried away," she apologized.
"Bloody hell Granger! I try to be nice for less than a minute and there you go assaulting me!" Draco ranted. And you people wonder why I'm so cold! I don't get harmed when I avoid feelings!
Hermione was at a bit of a stalemate. She wanted to apologize further because it was her fault. But Malfoy always knew how to put a rude spin on everything and it infuriated her further. However, she decided that the logical option was neither an argument nor another apology. She already apologized nicely and starting an argument with him would not be a good idea. She wanted as nice of a work relationship she could get, since her personal one wasn't going so well. So, she carried on walking in silence, trying hard not to give in to her raging emotions. Today was not going to be a good day.
Draco was suddenly faced with a quiet Granger. Carrying on beside her, he internally fumed, "why wasn't she yelling back?" This felt like Hogwarts all over again, trying to get a rise out of the Gryffindor Princess. It does get rather lonely at the manor, and, although he would never admit it, he secretly enjoyed his witty arguments with Granger. She was the only person in school that pushed him intellectually. Pansy wasn't known for her brain, and Crabbe and Goyle might not even have had one. For now, he would act as if she hadn't strangled his hand, but he would bide his time. The best revenge is unexpected.
Hermione looked up at Malfoy to gauge his reaction. Why was he smiling? Nothing good ever comes out of that smile. She would have to be on her guard for the near future.
Upon entering the library, Hermione began setting her notes and supplies on an empty desk. She did not notice Malfoy stiffen behind her. As she continued to set up her work space, his fury grew.
"Why the hell is she touching my desk?" he glared. "I'll show her where she belongs."
Hermione felt a presence behind her a whipped around to find a glaring Malfoy. What does he want? "Yes?" She said with a good amount of sass to show he was interrupting her.
"I didn't think you were blind and dumb," Malfoy drawled. Now towering over her, his pointed features only served to accentuate his pompous attitude.
"I am neither of those things!" Hermione growled back.
"Oh but you are. This desk is clearly mine," he raised an eyebrow at her challengingly.
"I'm sure your name is written on half of the contents of this mansion. Why does it matter?" She replied haughtily, placing a hand on her hip.
"Because in this manor, I am your boss and it is my desk," he pointed at the gold engraved DLM on the top drawer.
"Really? Because when you were hired onto my case, below me, I was imagining you telling me what to do," sarcasm dripping from her pursed mouth.
"Oh and you believe you can even access your research without my library, in the house that you cannot get into without my explicit permission?" he said, knowing he now had the leg up.
"And you act as if there aren't twenty seven other families just like yours with libraries filled with the same books! You're merely closer!" She expressed incredulously.
"Such a small mind to believe any of them would let you in to their home! Oh and let's not forget the families like the Longbottom's and Abbott's that would be so much better if only they kept their libraries of dark magic," Draco stepped forward, letting his height intimidate her.
"And because of that I should worship the ground you walk on? Malfoy kept evil books and has pure blood thanks to years of inbreeding," she mocked. "Oh how I wish I was him. I should let him get away with anything and everything." The whiny sarcasm was a bit childish, but he really did bring out the worst in her.
"Oh, unlike you? I'm a know-it-all that feels a need to be dominant in everything I do, even if it means pushing other people down," he mimicked her voice. Draco had no problem being childish if it meant he won an argument against Granger. He's a Slytherin after all, they would do anything to reach their ends.
"I do not! I am fair, it's not my fault that you insist on always flaunting your dominance and superiority!" Hermione was on the edge of really blowing up.
"Did you ever think for two seconds that maybe someone could be better than you at something? That maybe you have to rely on others occasionally, instead of insisting that you can do it better without anyone's help?" Malfoy practically screamed in her face.
This broke Hermione, but instead of bringing her to anger, it brought her to immense sadness. She quickly pushed past Malfoy and ran out of the library. She dashed into a room next to a spiral staircase at the end of the corridor and locked the door behind her. This is when she finally crumpled to the floor in sobs. Why did Malfoy see her every flaw? Why did he have to point them out every time they were together? Why hasn't Ron contacted her? On the cold floor, Hermione lay, thinking of every flaw she possessed, every doubt she had, and reliving every fear she ever felt. She didn't even know where she was, but she didn't care. At the moment she was just a woman who had fallen apart.
Draco, on the other hand, had taken immense joy in removing Hermione's items from his desk after a battle won. He sat down and propped his feet up on his desk in triumph, thinking that he deserved a reward for his efforts. He conjured a glass of firewhiskey from his personal cabinet and grinned as he poured himself a half glass. Swirling the brown liquid around in the glass, he thought to himself, "the only thing that could make this moment better would be seeing Granger's face right now. And maybe her shining my shoes in a frilly maid's costume.." He shut down that thought quickly. But seeing her miserably accepting the truth did sound awfully fun, so Draco downed his drink in one, burning gulp, and set off to find the witch.
Quietly creeping down the hall, he listened for noise coming from any room. He was about to turn around and head towards the third floor when a muffled sob came from one of the many guest rooms. Ah, she picked the Blue Room. Fitting. He was about to open the door, but stopped himself. He muttered an incantation and with a wave of his wand, the door was invisible. Instead of seeing a worn down Granger, he saw an entirely different woman. This woman was in a pile on the floor, crying as if she lost everything. Even Draco couldn't help but feel guilty.
"Okay, that couldn't just be because of our fight," he thought, trying to validate himself. Still feeling a twinge of regret, he strode down to the library, intent on getting at least a little work done to distract himself from what he just saw. When he plopped down in his favorite comfy chair, he took in his surroundings. Hermione's stationery was laying haphazardly on a chair to his left, all the books he thought they needed were stacked on the table in front of him, with a tray of tea and fruit next to it on top of his personal notes on the case. Just in case Hermione decided to join him soon, he snatched his own notes and hid them in his desk. With that done, he sat back down to read an interesting journal he found earlier that morning.
After two pages of progress, Dinky popped beside him, "Does Master enjoy tea?"
"I haven't gotten around to trying it, but thank you, Dinky," Draco mumbled, engrossed in the article. Then a thought hit him, it was an odd thought, not many times in his life did he have thoughts like this. But, Draco (despite many other's apprehension) was trying to change.
"Oh, Dinky, can you please reheat the tea and take it to Granger in the Blue Room?" He requested, still not looking up from his occupation.
"Yes, Master," Dinky took the tray, bowed, and disappeared with a crack.
Draco ran a hand roughly through his hair, and attempted to refocus his mind on the task at hand. He still hasn't been able to figure out the process of reversing the spells. He knew the order of making them, but each law had a different combination of pure families attached to it. How was he suppose to figure out who put their blood into each one?
Hermione, on the other hand, was focusing on something entirely different. She needed to shut off her emotions. She should be working right now, not holing herself in a room to cry about her pitiable problems. She was the logical one, so she needed to focus solely on facts. Ron doesn't trust her? Then why trust him? Malfoy pointed out some of her biggest flaws. So, she will work on them; become a better team player and ask for help a bit more. This mansion brought back horrible nightmares, and she was seeing Bellatrix around every corner. This predicament had her a bit stumped. They couldn't up and take the 100 something books they've compiled to a café, but she couldn't focus properly on her work when she was on edge. Maybe put an extension charm on Malfoy's brief case and work at the Ministry?
This forward thought motivated Hermione to get up, fix her appearance a bit in the mirror, and head back to the library. Before she turned the knob to leave the room, Dinky popped in with a tray of tea.
"Is Miss leaving?" the little elf asked with a hint of worry.
"I was about to go back to the library. Would you mind bringing the tea in there?"
Dinky nodded quickly, his potholder almost falling off of his head, and replied, "Yes, Miss," before disappearing.
Draco was getting no where. He was frustrated to no end. He needed to undo this law. Just then, his house elf appeared in front of him with the tea tray, cutting off his grumbling.
"Miss says to bring tea back here," Dinky bowed to his Master.
Draco was about to ask why, when none other than the devil herself, walked into the room. Looking much better than earlier.