Tap, tap, tap.
The offending noise came from the window and vibrated throughout the entire room.
“Bugger off,” growled a muffled voice.
Draco Malfoy was buried under a mound of sheets on his large four poster bed and the loud tapping had shaken him from his exceptionally comfortable sleep. He growled again as he reached for a pillow, covered the back of head and ears, and tried to settle into his slumber again.
About five minutes later…
Tap, tap, tap.
“I said fuck off!” he yelled tiredly, taking the pillow that had enclosed his head and threw it at the window, hoping the intruder would finally obey his command. Draco grabbed another pillow from the other side of his bed, giving in to another attempt at finding sleep.
Tap, tap, tap.
He pushed up against the mattress, finally sliding out of his man-made hideaway. Trying his best to hide the tired look on his face and replacing it with a scowl, he stamped to the window. Sitting on the ledge outside, was an elegant eagle owl.
This particle owl, Draco Malfoy had not seen in a handful of years. However, he quickly opened the window, letting the owl and a strong cold breeze slide in. After shutting the window, he pulled out a treat from his desk for the owl and rubbed his finger against her dark wavy feathers on her head as she ate.
Quick enough, he released the scowl from his face as he took the small letter that had been freed from the owl’s leg.
“What’d you bring me, girl?” he asked the owl, who only gave a small hoot in response.
Draco barely noticed the small green wax seal with the Malfoy crest that held the envelope closed, but he certainly recognised the letterhead that belonged to his mother. All that was written on the parchment was a short sentence in the woman’s elegant handwriting.
I need to see you, immediately!
The blond wasn’t quite sure how to feel about the sudden correspondence from his mother, but one thing was certain: he would be making a trip to his childhood home.
When his mother had given him the news over afternoon tea, he asked her to repeat her statement, quite unkindly, in fact.
“Draco, your father is dead.” All the pleasantries had left her that moment.
Despite not having spoken to the man in almost seven years, Draco was still surprised and his gray eyes stayed in their closed state for a few moments. He had always thought that his father would live to be old enough to require anti-aging potions and dark magic. Obviously, that was not the case.
Over the seven years of distancing himself from almost everything with the Malfoy name, he still encountered his mother every so often, but especially once over the holidays. He would give her a small gift (one that he could afford with the menial job he had), made sure she was doing alright, and always assure her that, yes, he was doing just fine.
Now without his father in the picture, Draco made a silent promise to himself to be there even more for his mother. For that reason, he didn’t dare decline when she had asked him to stay in the Manor with her.
Without a second thought to it, he sent all of his belongings through the Floo, back to the manor and relinquished the keys to his old place.
There was one day, before the funeral, that his mother had been absent since they had shared breakfast together. Draco decided to take a trip to Diagon Alley to grab a cup of hot tea and pick up his new robes that would be appropriate for the next day.
He was heading towards the entrance back into the Leaky Cauldron, when he stopped in his tracks and turned around. He felt as though someone had been following him, but all he saw was a woman with bushy brown hair turn away into Flourish and Blotts. He ignored it and went back to the manor.
Despite having just bought new robes, Draco almost had the gall to skip his father’s funeral. However, he knew it would break his mother’s heart even more if he were not there to hold her hand.
It had been even colder that day, when the body of his adversary, yet his own blood, was finally put under the earth. His cloak refused to stay put in the wind and his hair became unkempt no matter which half-arsed spell he’d put on it. However, the blustery weather was not what had bothered him that morning, it had been that there were more people there than what he had expected.
Especially Hermione Granger.
“’The Last Will and Testament of Lucius Abraxas Malfoy’,” read the Ministry official.
Draco couldn’t sit still and kept running his fidgeting hand through his hair, rousing it a bit too much. His other hand was enclosed in both his mother’s hands under the long table that they were sitting at.
It also didn’t help his nerves much knowing that two other officials from the Department of Magical Law Enforcement were also there. One of them he did not recognise, but the other just happened to be Hermione Granger. He kept avoiding her gaze, but when he had first seen her walk in, he couldn’t help but wonder why she would be there.
“‘To my wife Narcissa, I leave the grounds and estate of Malfoy Manor in which you will...’”
Draco was shocked, but didn’t dare show it on his face. The only thing he realised was that upon his father’s death, he would not become the head of the Malfoy estate.
“‘To Draco Lucius Malfoy, my only son, I leave you the entirety of Group M, the Malfoy business, all entrepreneurship aside from the estate. Also, upon my death, I finally leave you with your inheritance due to you by your Malfoy name.’”
The Ministry official read off a few more items that Lucius Malfoy had left, but Draco tuned it out, wondering how in the bloody hell he would run a company. And how dare his father make it seem that the only reason he was receiving his inheritance (seven years late, by the way) was because he was still a Malfoy. He was still Lucius’ son and upon his death he could no longer withhold Draco’s rightful inheritance.
Disturbing his thoughts were the pitiful eyes of his former Gryffindor classmate. He couldn’t stand the way that she kept looking at him.
He couldn’t take all of it anymore. He couldn’t take the stares of someone who shouldn’t have cared about him; the fact that his father had forced him into dark acts; finally feeling the weight of the man’s death; the notion that his inheritance was just a small clause brushed to the side; the plain fact that this dead man could never apologise, even in his death.
Draco’s head was spinning and everything in front of him was moving in slow circles, images began to double, and he just couldn’t take it anymore!
He jumped out of his seat, letting go of his mother’s hand, not even caring that he just interrupted an important conversation between the Ministry official and the new widow.
”I must leave,” he whispered to her when he noticed her ashen face.
Narcissa nodded once, understanding his need for space, and watched him stomp towards the room’s only exit.
His wand had just finished its movement and the door had just swung wide open, when he heard that hauntingly familiar voice.
The sound had piqued his curiosity enough to keep him from stepping through the doorway.
“There’s something else here for you.”
Curiosity grew even more as he turned around and watched Hermione Granger bound towards him with something in her hands.
“What is it, Granger?” he snapped before she had even stopped in front of him.
“It’s just...” she fumbled with the edges of an envelope before handing it to him. “This was left with your father’s will.”
Draco took the extended packet and noticed the letters on the front that spelled out his name.
“Is there anything else you wish to torture me with today?” he snapped, slipping the ‘gift’ Hermione had given him into his cloak pocket.
She simply shook her head roughly, causing her mess of curls to bounce around.
He mumbled, “good,” before finally walking out.
With a refilling glass of Ogden’s Old Firewhiskey, Draco Malfoy paced around his reclaimed room at the manor for hours. He had gotten close to opening the letter several times, but instead he preferred to shout profanities and throw things about in the room.
It was just past midnight before he had finally found the courage to open what had been left to him. Obviously it had been from his father and that made him question whether it would even matter to open it or if it would be best to throw it into the fireplace. His father’s words would probably burn for hours, the only warmth he would have ever felt from the man in his entire life.
Instead of throwing it into the dying flames, he decided to give into his curiosities.
It is evident as to why you are reading this letter from me. I am no longer living for some reason and you have just found out that you are now the owner of Group M. You must have also become aware of the fact that Malfoy Manor and estates have not been left to you.
Son, you have disappointed me in many ways, but yet you are my only child and have on many occasions made me proud. You broke your mother’s heart the day you decided to never come back to Malfoy Manor after the dreaded War ended. That was the biggest disappointment.
Take care of the company well, and one day you will have all of Malfoy Manor.
The key to getting into my personal office, which is now yours, is with whoever gave you this letter.
He crumpled up the parchment forcefully into a ball, threw it into the fire, and downed the rest of the Firewhiskey.
He tried Alohomora three times, melting the doorknob, breaking the wooden door and all of it to no avail. He asked his mother how to get in, but she offered no response. He wondered if he would really go through with sending an owl to the Ministry official that had read his father’s will, but then remembered that he didn’t remember the man’s name.
Lucky for him, he did remember Hermione Granger’s name.
Draco plopped down into the armchair in his room and huffed in the fashion of a young school boy. He had been rude to her at the Ministry, how was he supposed to ask her for a favour, or for her help? On the other hand, if he didn’t go to her, how was he supposed to keep his promise to take care of his mother?
He wrote out a quick straightforward note and sent it off with his personal owl. It didn’t surprise him when he received a response within an hour. Her note back was also to the point.
Meet me tomorrow. Half past two. My office.
Draco wondered why she needed to be so direct, but sure enough, he showed up in front of her office just in time.
She had been distracted with writing and the door had been wide open, so instead of greeting Hermione, he sat down in the armchair across from her. After a few minutes of her not noticing him, he cleared his throat, resulting in her jumping in fright.
“Oh, Merlin!” she yelped.
“No, even better, it’s Draco.”
Hermione glared at him before she looked at her watch, “I got distracted with finishing this report.” She gathered all of the parchment and files she had been working on and piled them neatly off to the side.
“Do you have what I came here for?”
“Before I can give it you, Malfoy, I need—”
“Draco,” he interrupted. “Don’t ever call me Malfoy again.” He gave her a pointed look with his eyebrows furrowed, as if in contempt. After she mirrored his look, he said, “please,” under his breath. However, she accepted it.
“Draco, I need you to sign this for me,” she said, pushing a single piece of parchment and a quill towards him. “It basically states that you did in fact pick up an item from the Ministry.” He blinked at her, not making a move, making her sigh in frustration. “Just sign the damn form.”
“A bit hasty, aren’t we, Granger?” he asked, but still went forward and signed his name where it was necessary.
“Only because you believe it essential to become infuriating,” she replied, snatching the signed form from him.
“Would you rather have me be offensive like the other day?”
“As though you aren’t already,” Hermione replied, shaking her head slightly. She stood up, grabbed her wand, and motioned for him to move towards the door as well. “Follow me.”
Draco followed Hermione in silence as they made their way through a maze of corridors and doorways until they finally reached an incredibly long and rectangular room, locked safes all along the back wall. Without pausing, she made her way up to a specific safe. Lucius Malfoy’s name was crossed out and directly below it was Draco Malfoy’s.
“Only you can be the one to open it,” she stated, tapping her wand against the letters.
“Simply point your wand straight at the safe and—” she paused and pulled out a ripped piece of parchment from her pocket and handed it to him, “—say this incantation.”
He took the written spell, glanced at it, and just stared at Hermione.
“I’m not supposed to say it... I could trigger an alarm.” Bothered by his behavior, she pinched his arm. “Just do it!”
“Alright, stop getting your knickers in a bunch,” he rolled his eyes, but turned and pointed his wand at the safe that now belonged to him. “Reserandaperi!”
They instantly heard a deep click coming from the safe and it slowly swung open. Deciding to not wait for any further instructions, Draco closed the short distance between his body and the item he had been waiting for. He reached into the box and pulled out more than what he was expecting.
“Granger, what is all this in here?” he asked, shuffling through a ton of parchment, all with the Group M letterhead and emblem.
She grabbed a few of the sheets from his hand and looked through them.
“Umm... You probably don’t want me looking through these, Draco.” She handed them back to him. “They seem to be pretty confidential, full of important information on the company. Looks like, umm, some legal matters, possibly.”
“What am I supposed to do with all this?” he asked to no one in particular, but the frustration was incredibly evident in his voice.
“I don’t know,” she shrugged, making her way to close the safe. Hermione started walking out of the room with Draco following right behind her. “Maybe you can talk to some of the members of the council in the company. Or you could just find a consultant.”
“Obviously, I knew that, Granger,” he huffed. However, he continued to follow her.
“Well, then you don’t need my help then, do you?”
They both finally made it back into Hermione’s office and instead of making his way out of the Ministry, Draco sat right back down into the armchair he had been sitting in earlier.
“Granger, what do you know about running a business?” He decided that moment, it would be a perfect opportunity to flash that famous smirk of his that always resulted in obtaining exactly what he wanted.
“In fact, I ran my own business for quite a while,” she gloated, sitting up just a smidge more in her chair. “I started S.P.E.W. back in Hogwarts and continued it when I was offered a job in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures.” Her smile widened at the thought of all the house-elves she had helped. Even the ones she forced her help upon.
“Yes,” he nodded, rubbing his chin, pretending to be in deep thought. “I remember hearing about Spew.”
“Not Spew; S.P.E.W: Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare.”
“Whatever you want to call it.”
“I’ll have you know that I was the founder and president of S.P.E.W. and I even had a few Ministry employees who worked for me. Make fun of it all you want, but I did extraordinary work for the betterment of house-elves.”
Draco laughed at her extra enthusiasm when it came down to her defending her work. Maybe he did need her help.
“How would you like a better job, Granger; one with superior benefits and a better decorated office?” He flashed his charming grin again.
“There’s nothing wrong with my office!” she defended.
“A bigger office, then?”
“What are you playing at, Draco?”
“You’re going to be my new consultant.”
“Going to be? You’re not even thinking about considering the fact that I don’t want to work for you?”
“Come on; don’t tell me you are not sick of those men down the hall mocking your authority around here?” He cocked an eyebrow to see if she would retort. “Not even an hour in this department and I can already analyse their judging stares and pick up on their whispers.”
“That obvious?” she asked, sulking a tad.
“It’s also obvious that you are trying very hard to ignore it.”
“How do you know that it won’t be the same working at Group M?” She wasn’t quite sure if the whispering would ever stop, no matter where she worked. However, she didn’t doubt that she would love more benefits, better options, and surely a change of scenery.
“Trust me; I will make sure you are taken care of when you are working with me.”
His word choice had been what had sold her.
“Fine. However, if we are to be working together, you’re going to have to call me Hermione. No more Granger,” she said with a pointed look.
“Only fair,” he agreed after remembering he asked the similar thing from her earlier.
“I guess you do need my help after all.” It was finally her turn to smirk.