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A Deliberate Deception

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 A Deliberate Deception


 

“This will be a good change for you, Hermione, from your regular grind.”

“How can you even suggest that?”  Hermione was truly mystified by this assessment of her predicament.

“And it will be good for you to have a challenge.  You’ve always risen to the occasion when challenged.”  Ginny Weasley-Potter was trying to be as optimistic as possible about her friend’s current dilemma.

“A good challenge?  That’s what you call being assigned to work with Draco ‘the snake’ Malfoy? Ha!”  She tossed her profuse mane of curls and barked out a snide laugh.

Ginny swallowed her own laugh.  “Whatever the case may be, there’s nothing to be done about it.  You’ll just have to get it over with.”

Hermione snorted.  “I suppose.  But I’m irritated that I had no idea Malfoy was even working for the Magical Law Enforcement Squad, let alone as a Hit Wizard!”

Ginny’s pretty green eyes snapped with mirth.  “Um, isn’t that exactly the point of an elite squad member with a secret identity?”

“Well, yes, of course, you ninny, but as an Investigator for the Auror Office, I thought I knew most all of those blokes, and surely I would have remembered if Draco Malfoy was among the ranks.”

Ginny arched a brow at her.

Hermione grumbled on.  “OHH!  I could just kill Harry!  He did this to me on purpose you know.”

“Oh, did he now?” Ginny couldn’t help but crack a smile at Hermione’s over the top reaction.

“That’s right.  Ever since Ron and I broke it off six months ago, for good this time, I might add, Harry has been trying to fix me up with every wizard within 50 miles.  This is just his idea of a joke.”

Ginny tried to hold back a laugh.

Hermione glared.  “I’m right, aren’t I?  You tell him just because he and Draco have buried the hatchet, and are… fast friends,” she made a face; “it doesn’t mean I’m going to make nice with that evil, loathsome, snake.”

“Hermione.  That’s all in the past.  Draco has proven himself, obviously, or he wouldn’t work for the Ministry and he wouldn’t have Harry’s confidence.  I trust Harry’s judgment and you should, too.”  She added, almost as an afterthought, “As Head Auror, he is your boss, after all.

“Yes, well, I’ll do my job and that’s it.  Harry can forget about any double-dates!”

This time Ginny did laugh.  “Really, do try to settle down.  Harry has no such designs.  You’re exaggerating.  Truly, Harry wants you working with Draco because you’re the best at your job.  Draco is the best at his.  End of story.”

“Well, that had better be all.  And I’m just glad Harry consented to my meeting with Malfoy in his office and not mine.  I don’t want the snake embarrassing me in front of my immediate colleagues.”

“Yes, well, you two always were good friends.  I’m sure Harry will do everything he can to support you in this endeavor.”

Hermione looked appeased for the moment.  “I guess I had better get home and start looking over these files on the case.  I’ll call you later.  You remember how to use the mobile, right?”

“Yes, yes.  And thanks for that.  I really do love it.  I’ve been in touch with some Muggleborn friends from school.  Great fun.”

“Alright then, goodbye.”  She kissed Ginny’s cheek, and Apparated to her London flat from the Potter’s country home.

 

000

Draco Malfoy sipped his coffee as he glanced over the files strewn across his desk.  This case was giving him a headache.  Nearly every department head in the Magical Law Office was involved in some way or other, yet they’d had no crack in the case.  The Muggle police in London were likening it to a Jack-the-Ripper-style serial killer.  Those chaps had no leads, and wouldn’t, for this madman was a wizard.  The slashes and slices he’d used on five unfortunate young women were definitely magical wounds.  And he’d taken most of his victim’s blood.  Dark magical uses were plentiful for the blood of a murdered victim.  The suspect had sexually assaulted the victims and slashed each of them up to excess. In that order.  The Imperious curse was suspected.

Draco poured over the crime scene photos, a grisly sight indeed.  Crime tape waved and danced in the London night breeze. Female victim number three, like all the rest, lay on her back in a dirty ally, with her knees up and legs spread.  Wide staring eyes glistened in a sallow street lamp glow.  Her hands rested behind her head, usually a sensual position.  The only thing denoting the terror of her demise was her pale stricken face. The gashes on her naked body oozed, but she had bled out, the blood collected.  No gruesome pools surrounded her.  He briefly wondered what the Muggle Bobbies and Detectives thought of that fact.

Draco tossed down the file and leaned back in his chair.  He propped his big black boots on his desk and stared up at the ceiling.  Then Draco closed his eyes, and began to think, began to piece together the information, tried to put himself in the murderer’s shoes.  Why would he need the blood?  Was the rape about control, or part of a Dark Magic ritual?  Was there a connection with the five vics?  Where would he strike next?

Just then, Head Auror Harry Potter, entered Draco’s office unannounced and with no pretense. “Don’t let me interrupt your beauty sleep.  If it’s a bad time I can come back later?”

Draco remained still, but opened one eye. “So, you bastard, what have you got for me?  Something I can work with I hope?”

Harry sat on the edge of Draco’s desk.  “Oh, I don’t know, you daft tosser.  If you’d catch me a suspect or two, I wouldn’t have to chuff my arse down to your sorry office half the week to nurse you through this case.”

Draco sat up straight and grinned at his friend.  Hard to believe that once, they’d been bitter enemies. “Is that right?”

“Seems it would be.  But it’s not a what that I have for you.  It’s a who.”

Draco scowled.  “How’s that?  You know I don’t like to work with your pansy-arsed Auror’s.  They really are dimwitted.”

Harry shot him a brilliant smile.  “Well, consider that your first favor.  She’s not an Auror.”

“Ah, a female?  Sending a woman to do a man’s job now? You Auror lot sure are a bunch of jumped-up wankers.”

“Piss off.  She’s the best in the Investigator Department, and she’s been assigned exclusively to this bleeding case until it’s solved.”

Draco stared.  “Oh no.  You can’t mean—“

“Hermione.  Yes, I do.  You knew it was only a matter of time that I could keep you two from working together.  Sorry, mate.”

“Sweet Merlin, she’s like a damn rabid Kneazle.  How am I supposed to work with her?  Not to mention she hates me.”

Harry laughed.  “That’s putting it mildly, but I assure you, we’ve discussed it and she’s a professional first and foremost.  I have every confidence you can handle her.”  Harry picked up a polished red apple out of a bowl on Draco’s desk and took a bite. “Your mum, still sending you treats, is she?  A bit healthier fare these days…”

Draco shoved Harry off his desk.  “Get off my desk, you smeg-sucker.  When is she coming to meet with me?”

“Oh, you’ve got to meet with her.  In her office.”

“Bollocks! I’m the one with the highest security clearance level.  She can prance her fine little tush down to my office, and that’s final!”

Harry nearly choked on the apple.  “Aye, see you noticed her fine arse, have you?  I know she’s looking fit these days.  Too bad Ron fucked his chances.  She’s a free agent now, you know.  And she’s been partaking in something Muggles called kickboxing.  Damn fine results on a woman’s physique.”

Draco slugged Harry in the arm.

“Ouch! You bastard!”

Draco sneered.  “I don’t care about her physique.  You had better not expect me to date your loser friend.  I might fuck her, but I won’t date her.”

This time Harry walloped Draco’s arm.  “Shut your filthy mouth.  I told you ‘bout the kickboxing so you can protect yourself, dick.  And just so we’re clear, she’s none too happy about working with you either, so be nice.” 

Harry retreated out the door, but at the last second stuck his head back in.  “Oh, and she wouldn’t fuck you with a ten foot pole, so keep your sick mind on your work.”

Draco grabbed another apple and sent it flying at Harry, who shut the door just in time. 

“Thanks, you naff bastard!!” he shouted.  Draco slammed himself down into his chair.  “Hermione fucking Granger.  Great.”

It wasn’t like he didn’t know this day was coming.  When she had been promoted from the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures to the Investigation Department of the Auror Office, he knew it was only a matter of time before their paths crossed. 

“Shit.” 

To be honest, he had noticed her.  And she was sporting a fine physique.  Most all of the Ministry blokes with eyes, and a heartbeat, had noticed.  She was prime goods.  Her lean, fit body was graceful and athletic.  Not too skinny.  Draco hated skinny birds.  He liked something to hold onto, and Hermione had that, to be sure.  Nice curves, good tits with a smallish but firm, plump arse… But she was a real pain in the arse!  Bossy and mouthy, and too smart for her own good.  Most of the women he’d dated were compliant, and genteel, and not too bright.  He hadn’t cared, as he mostly only wanted to fuck them, but Merlin were they boring. 

Hermione was anything but boring.  She was like a Dementis bug.  Once in your brain, it needled around in there until you went insane.  One thing for sure, this would be interesting.

000

Hermione was not looking forward to her meeting with Draco Malfoy.  She had insisted that she meet with him in his office, as she didn’t want him insulting her around her colleagues in the Investigation Department.  True she’d be on his turf, but that didn’t bother her.  She felt sure she could handle him better this way.

So it was that she headed down to the lower level, her smart heels clicking with echoing authority down the deserted corridor to the secret lair of the Hit Wizard Squad.  Personally, she felt Draco fit in well with the lot of brutish Hit Wizards.  He was cruel, egotistical, and a bully.  He also thought much too highly of his own abilities, which she supposed was part of the qualifications for any Hit Wizard, for whom being an arrogant asshole without conscience or ethics would probably serve one well.

Once in front of his office door, she briefly considered not knocking, but thought it too rude.  She smoothed down her nicely fitting trouser slacks and rapped on the frosted glass with her knuckles.  When she got no answer, she turned the knob.  Popping in, she realized no one was there.

“Hullo, Malfoy?”  Shutting the door behind her, she stood just within the threshold, her eyes darting here and there.  The office was sparse and modern in décor, nothing like the plush, ornate and heavily ornamented Malfoy Manor.  The large stainless steel desk, which was in the center of the room, was piled with files, and an assortment of paperwork.  There was a magical bulletin board on the wall directly behind the desk with various images and time lines, labels and information, hovering on the screen.

Hermione moved closer to the desk, her eyes scanning the contents of the top open file. Moving her fitted blazer aside, she took her wand from its waist holster and pointed it at the board.  “Animacio!”

The images and content immediately vanished.  “Oh, shite!  No, no, no… Returnero!”

Words began to form in the midst of the screen.  Hermione squinted at the letters:

You are in big trouble now, Missy. 

“What the hell?” Hermione said under her breath.

A bark of laughter caused her to jump, and she whipped round to see Draco, wand out, standing just behind her.

“That’s not funny, Malfoy!”

“Sure it is,” he quipped.  She was flustered and he loved it.

“Well, it’s very rude, in any case.”

He folded his arms in front of his chest. “And so is snooping in my office.”

Hermione looked indignant.  He seemed to be scolding her and it was infuriating. “I wasn’t snooping!  I’m here for our appointment, so I’ve every right to be here.  It’s not like out of the blue I came down here to rummage through your soddy office.”

“Touchy, touchy,” he smirked.  “Relax, Granger.  It’s a joke.  Are you always getting your knickers in a knot?”  He chuckled again, and sauntered past her to his desk chair. 

She decided to ignore his silly comment and move on.  “Well, shall we get started?  Let’s see what you’ve got.  Harry’s expecting some progress on this case you’re fumbling with, so you need to make use of me to get somewhere.”  Urgh, poor choice of words.  Of course he seized the opportunity to malign her.

“I get to make use of you, eh?  Hmm, sounds promising.  You are talking about your brain, right, Granger?  I mean, I wouldn’t want things between us to be misconstrued.”

She decided to take a direct approach.  No sense in playing his little games.  “Look, let’s get something straight.  I’m here because my job demands it.  Not because I’m some tittering little floozy throwing myself at your feet—”

Draco raised his eyebrows in amusement. “Oh, really?  Thanks for clearing that up.”

“And furthermore, I will not be subjected to your abuse, verbal or otherwise.”

“Truthfully, Harry warned me about your physical prowess.  He told me to watch my arse around you, lest you kick it for me.  So if anyone’s worried about getting abused it should be me, yeah?”  Draco replied.

“From here on out, I will ignore your asinine commentary and you can be assured I will remain nothing but professional,” she said stiffly.

“Professional, you say?”  He smirked, suppressing laughter.

“Yes. Professional.  Maybe, Malfoy, you could learn a thing or two about the concept.” Now she was very nearly gritting her teeth.

He nodded, mocking her.  “You think you can inspire me to greatness, do you Granger?  Is that your aim?”

“Yes, I think so.  I think I can I can inspire you to greatness, you stupid, idiotic… dolt! When you’re ready to get serious about this case, let me know!”  She spat the words, turned on her spiked heel, and slammed the door behind her. 

Draco stood, staring at the door for a beat.  “Right.  That went well…” he chuckled, surprisingly pleased with himself.  He had decided to keep Granger on the defensive.  Otherwise he might not be able to handle her.  Maybe he just wanted to keep her riled up because she rose so willingly to his bait.  Always had.  No matter.  He had to work with her, might as well have some fun with it.  He’d send her a memo in a bit apologizing and asking her to please come back.  That would throw her for a loop.

000

Hermione sat down primly at her office desk.  Getting in an argument and flinging cross words was not how she wanted her first meeting with Malfoy to go.  She was disappointed in herself—that she let him get to her, yet again.  She would just have to try harder to keep her anger under control. 

Later in the morning, having received his apology, she returned, acting as if nothing had happened.  She discussed her first impressions of the case.  They went over Draco’s information, including the fact that in each victims mouth had been found a magical herb, along with potion residue.  It seemed to be some kind of hybrid plant, so Hermione had suggested they visit Professor Neville Longbottom at Hogwarts, to see if he could help them out.  They planned an afternoon trip the following day. 

Hermione also suggested that the killer was scoping out his vics at the nightclubs, waiting for an opportunity and then striking.  She offered that the crimes were premeditated acts of violence toward random victims.  Draco, on the other hand, had a strong suspicion that the victims must be connected somehow, and were marked for death.

“Where’s the proof of that?” Hermione was asking.

“I don’t have proof, it’s just a feeling I have.” 

“Oh, well, there’s that,” she chided.  “Malfoy’s got a feeling!  Alert the presses.”

“Now, that was neither a professional comment, nor very nice.”

She nodded.  “Right. Sorry.”  She laughed.

He shot her a snide grin. “Kidding.  Go ahead; take the piss out of me.  I can take it, Granger.”

She studied him, trying to decide if he was serious.  “Alright, then.” She cautiously returned the grin.

Draco abruptly switched gears.  “So you set up a meeting with Longbottom and we’ll take it from there.”

“Yes, I’ll take care of that.  But I do have to get out of here, I have a dinner tonight.”

“A dinner date?”

“I… it’s a… Harry and Ginny are taking me out.”

“Oh.  Where to?”

“Balthazar.”

“Nice place.”  Draco’s face remained unreadable, but mischief danced behind his eyes.  The lag in conversation, and his searching gaze, made Hermione uncomfortable. 

“Okay, I’ll set up a meeting tomorrow with Neville, yeah?” she offered.

“Sounds good.”

She left his office and Apparated home.

000

Once back at her flat she’d started to get ready and decided to ring up Ginny on her mobile.  Ginny loved getting mobile calls.  She laughed at sending owl’s, patronesses and that creepy fire talking thing through the floo network. 

They were discussing typical girl stuff.  Work, men, and what to wear to dinner.

“I think you should wear the red one,” Ginny was saying.  “The one-shouldered short one.”

“Really?” Hermione replied.  “I’m not looking for anything serious, and I don’t want to come off as desperate.” She chuckled lightly.

“NO! You’ll come off as sexy, and confident!”

Hermione laughed out loud.  “Confidence I have. Sexy?  I don’t know, Gin… I don’t really fancy Dean. He’s nice and all, but there’s no real attraction for me.”

Ginny laughed.  “Yes, you—sexy.  And you don’t have to marry the guy!  It’s just one dinner.  Speaking of attraction how’s your business relationship—with Draco—going?”

“Uh.  After a tense start, it seems to be fine.  Oh, we’ve got an interview with Neville set up tomorrow; will you be at the Hogwarts infirmary?  Maybe we could grab a quick lunch in Hogsmeade.”

Ginny was quiet for a beat.  “Oh, no, sorry.  I’m only there on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.  Why are you meeting with Neville?”

“Oh, just a possible lead.  So I’d better start getting ready. See you later.”

Hermione clicked off and decided to wear the red dress.

000

The brasserie was located in the Old Theatre Museum in Convent Garden.  The food was in the French bistro style, Hermione’s favorite.  The atmosphere was warm, and comforting.  Dark red leather booths and sofas lent an air of sophistication and comfort, set against flashes of dark wood and gold railings between seating areas.  Dean was an old school chum, so the evening would be fun and conversation stimulating. 

Dean was on the Wizengamont at the Ministry. He, Hermione, and Harry were talking about the Slasher Case and Ginny seemed thoroughly irritated. Even so, they were all enjoying the delicious hors d'oeuvres and a second bottle of red wine.

“Well,” Dean was saying, “I’m waiting to prosecute this monster.  Are you and your new partner any closer to solving the crime?” He teased Hermione for the tenth time that night about Draco being her partner.

“We’ve got some good leads.  And we’ll be interviewing a resource tomorrow.  Hopefully we’ll get some pertinent info,” said Hermione.

“Uh, who cares right now?” Ginny moaned.  “Can’t I have one evening out without hearing about dark wizard murders?  Maybe if I was one of Harry’s crime victims, he’d pay more attention to me.”  She took a hearty swig from her wine glass.  “Or better yet one of his suspects!  Then I’d really get his attention!”  She broke out in a raucous laugh, but somehow the others didn’t find it as funny.

“Alright, my dear.  No more shop talk for the rest of the night.”  Harry gave her a little squeeze round the shoulders.

“Thanks for that!” Ginny replied drolly.

Just then, none other than Draco Malfoy approached their table with a beautiful young woman trailing close behind. 

“Hello, all,” he said jovially.  “Hermione.”  His twinkling grey eyes danced about her face, and then to her bare shoulder, and on down to her plunging neckline. 

She felt exposed.  It was quite stimulating how his stare fell upon her skin, almost as if his fingers were touching her instead of his wanton gaze.

“Oh, Draco.  What a surprise to see you,” she sputtered, her hand self-consciously went to her poker-straight hair.

His countenance showed a mild amusement.  “No, not really.  After you mentioned the Balthazar I really had a hankering for it.  Your hair.  It’s different.”

She tittered nervously, feeling the others’ curious eyes on her.  “Oh, yes, I sometimes change it.”

“It’s nice,” he commented, “but curls are more you.”

“Hmm. Really, and how’s that?” she heard herself ask. 

“They’re unruly, have a tendency to be unmanageable…”

“That’s not too flattering.” she interrupted, beginning to blush.

“I wasn’t finished: And they’re spirited, wild and lovely.”

“Oh…”  The flush on her cheek deepened.

Ginny gave a low chuckle.  “Oh my indeed.  So, Draco, who’s your friend?”

“How rude of me.  Harry, Ginny, Hermione, Dean, this is Tabitha.”

“Oi,” said Tabitha, looking put out, and annoyed.   She seemed to be dressed a bit too immodestly for the decorum required.

“Right, well we’ve got to get going.  I must get home and into bed, as Hermione and I have an early day tomorrow.  Don’t keep her up too late, Dean.”  He winked and slapped Dean on the shoulder, and then he and Tabitha made an exit.

“Wow,” slurred Ginny.  “That was friendly, Hermione.  Does the old boy fancy you?”

“Oh, that’s absurd!”  She sniggered uncertainly.

Harry changed the subject having seen Hermione’s discomfort.  “Well, shall we order?” 

Hermione nodded quickly, and Dean acquiesced.   The rest of the evening went well, but Hermione could not help being intrigued by Draco’s words, and they came back to her again and again, even as she closed her eyes and tried to sleep that night.

000

It was mid-morning when she and Draco Apparated to Hogsmeade from the Ministry, and walked the rest of the way to Hogwarts.  Draco was asking her if she was serious about Dean.

She was telling him it really was none of his business.

“Just trying to make conversation,” he mumbled irritably.

Hermione scowled.  “You’ve never been one for small talk, Malfoy.”

“Do you fancy him?”

She sighed.  “I like his company, he’s a good friend.”  She couldn’t help feeling a bit flattered by Draco’s apparent dislike of herself with another bloke.  Crazy, she thought.

“So he’s just a friend?”  Draco was trying to sound disinterested, and it made Hermione laugh.  “What’s so funny?” he asked.

“Nothing.”  She held back another giggle. “What about you and Tabitha?”

“Just a dinner companion.”

“Is that what they’re calling it, now?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“She looked like a, um… a professional.”

“Oh, please, as if I’d have to pay for dates.”

“Hey, not judging.”  She burst out laughing.

“I’ll have you know it was research.  For the bloody case.  I do not pay for feminine companionship!”  He stopped and drilled her with a glare.

“Fine, all right, I believe you!  Why didn’t you tell me you thought the victims were hookers?”

“It’s just a hunch, and I wanted proof positive before I brought it to you, since you’re all about the proof.  Didn’t want you to take the piss out of me again for acting on a feeling…”  He stalked off ahead of her.

“Malfoy wait!”  She caught up to him and touched his sleeve.  “I’m sorry. Listen, don’t keep anything from me.  This case is too important.”

“Yeah, fine.  Here we are.” 

She stopped outside the gates.

Draco barged in, seemingly in a right foul mood.

000

Professor Neville Longbottom’s office was chock full of plants and herbs of every variety, both living and dried.  There was an odd, earthy smell, not unpleasant, but very abrupt.  Hermione leaned against Neville’s desk, while Draco perused the counters and shelves.

“Neville, we’re here to get some information on that magical herb.”  Hermione had given the sample to Neville, and he was intermittently inspecting it and monitoring Draco’s movements among his things.

 “Well, I’ll be happy to help, if I can…”  Neville nodded absently, as he eyed Draco, nervously.  “Hey, don’t touch that!”  Neville shouted, meekly. 

“Easy, now, Longbottom,” Draco drawled with humor.  “Just doing my job, here.”

“It looks to be some sort of hybrid,” Hermione continued.  “I’ve not come across it before, and we were wondering if you could give us any insight?”

“I see…” Neville murmured, distracted, now and again glancing nervously at Draco.  “I can take a look, maybe next week…”

“That’s great, and thank you Neville, but could you take a quick look now?”

“At the very least it will take me a day or two, but I’ll be able to tell you its derivatives and properties.”

 “I said, don’t touch my things!” Neville jumped up, and rushed to where Draco was toying with his plants inside a large terrarium.

Hermione went to Draco’s side, hoping to buffer any unpleasant interaction between the two men.

Neville snatched away a heavy glass lid Draco was holding.  He addressed Hermione. “I’ll need some time to replicate this plant and do some experiments.  Like I said, at least a few days.  I’ll contact you Hermione, as soon as I find anything.”

“Thank you, Neville, so much,” said Hermione.  “It will help us immensely if you could also let us know where one might obtain this herb's base plants.”

Draco sneered.  “You’re a bit of a cock, aren’t you Snivel?”

“Piss off, Malfoy,” Neville spat.

Hermione elbowed Draco in the ribs. Hard.  “Be nice. For once in your life?” she hissed under her breath.

“I’m sorry, Granger.  I didn’t take the Law Enforcement class on kissing people’s asses when we go on our investigative interviews.  Please, enlighten me on your technique.”

She rolled her eyes, sighing heavily.

Neville interrupted.  “I have a class in ten minutes and I need to make some preparations.  You could come back after…”

“No, Neville, I think we’re good,” Hermione said.  “Did you have anything more to add, Draco?”

He had turned his back on the two of them, and was fingering some of the botanist equipment, flower presses and jars of specimens.  “Are you dating anyone, Neville?” he asked, not bothering to turn and face the professor.

“What? Why should you ask?” Neville seemed insulted.

“A simple yes or no would suffice.”  Draco’s tone was discourteous, almost offensive.

“Yes.” Neville glared at Draco’s back.

“Her name?” Draco spun on his heel, frowning at Neville.

 “It’s not… common knowledge, but his name is Arto. Arto Bellomy ”

Draco continued.  “Ah.  So you don’t fancy women?”

“Seems to me you knew that to be true already, but what's it got to do with your investigation?”  He was obviously indignant.

Draco turned.  His face was cold and hard.  “Do you dislike women, Neville?  After all, your experiences with them have been… somewhat traumatic.”

“I resent your question.”  Neville’s eye twitched.  “I don’t hate women.  I visit my mother weekly.  You’re out of line.”

“Yes, Draco,” Hermione said sharply.  “Thank you, Neville.  That’s all.” 

“For now.”  Draco strolled to the exit of the classroom.

Hermione gave Neville a weary smile and followed Draco out.  

She caught up to him in the hallway “Gosh, why do you have to be so hostile all the time?”

Draco looked mildly surprised.  “I’m just being myself.”

“You’re pathetic.  What was that crap back there with Neville?  I’m beginning to think you are seriously compromising my work”

“I want to understand Neville.  I’m not saying he’s a suspect, but I’m not saying he isn’t.  He has unsurpassed knowledge of plants, he’s magical, and he doesn’t dig women.  He’s not off my list.”

“Neville?  The murderer?  Really.  Malfoy, he’s a war hero.”

Draco raised his eyebrows, shooting her a sidelong glance.  “And what am I? A war villain?”

Hermione cringed inwardly.

“People can change, Hermione.  Look, I’m not ready to throw him to the Wizengamont, but we’ve got to cover all the angles.”

They turned a corner and nearly ran smack into Minerva McGonagall.  “Oh, Miss Granger!  I’m so glad I caught you.  Mr. Malfoy.”  She curtly acknowledged Draco.  “It’s imperative that I meet with you both.  I have some information I’d like to share; it may be important for your investigation.”

Draco and Hermione exchanged looks.  Hermione said, “We have some time now, Professor.  Can we go to your office?”

“No, no.  It wouldn’t do.”  Minerva’s speech was rushed, and she was looking round nervously.  It wasn’t like her at all.  “I’d rather come to your Ministry office.  On Monday, as I’ll be away from Hogwarts for the weekend.”

“All right.  Anytime on Monday is fine.  We’ll clear our schedule for you,” Hermione replied.

“Thank you, dear.  You two must be very careful, now.”  She blinked her eyes at them and then rushed away down the darkened hallway. 

“I swear, that one has gone batshit crazy,” Draco joked.  “She’s probably going senile.  How the hell old is she now, anyway? 200?”

Hermione scowled.  “She wasn’t herself that’s for sure.  It was as if she was… frightened or something.”

“C’mon, let’s go.  All in all this has been a colossal waste of my time.  Now we’re going to get ready for my plan,” he said.

“What plan?” Hermione crossed her arms and stared at Draco.

His usual sneer curled up at the corners of his mouth.  “Oh, you’ll find out.”

Just down around the corner, Neville Longbottom turned and went slinking back to his office.

000

 “I can’t believe I’m doing this.  It’s not my style.”  Hermione was twirling in front of her bedroom mirror. 

Ginny asked, “What? The outfit?  Isn’t that the point of going undercover?”

“No, I mean this isn’t my usual work style.  I’ve not really done much undercover work.” She fussed with her hair, which she had painstakingly smoothed out to long pin-straight locks.  She had also charmed it to an auburn hue.

Ginny snorted. “At least you get to go out and do something.  Harry’s going into the office and I’m home alone with the kids.  Again.” 

“Ginny, it’s not like it’s a real date!  It’s for work.  And it’s not like it will be fun.  We’re going undercover.”

“Still you get to go out to a dance club and that’s more than I can say.  Let me see you.” 

Hermione turned round for her friend’s inspection.  The tight skinny jeans and tiered ruffle top with spaghetti straps looked good on her.  Ginny nodded her approval. 

Hermione felt bad for Ginny.  Harry did always seem to be working.  “Why don’t you get Harry to take you out, and have Molly watch the boys?  She loves having them.”

“Oh, I know.  It’s just that I can’t get Harry’s attention for anything these days.  He’ll probably be at the office again all weekend.”

Hermione sighed.  “It is demanding work.  After we close this case, you and Harry should take some time to get away together.”

Ginny nodded, but looked doubtful.

000

The music pumped out a rhythmic beat and coloured lights strobed in double time.  Hermione was at the bar, sipping a plain club soda and lemon, swaying to the music.  Draco was across the bar, swigging from a bottle of beer.  He had pieced together a loosely held pattern of night clubs frequented by high class working girls, which all five victims had frequented.  It was apparent that the girls were at least part-time escorts.

The plan was for Hermione to act the part of an available escort with Draco nearby to scope out any probable suspects.  It didn’t take long for a few blokes to hit on her.  The first was a businessman, practically too drunk to stand.  He was ushered out by a bouncer before he fell down.  The next was an underage college student, obviously chatting her up on the dare of his booth full of idiot mates.  And then there was bloke number three.  He was of average build, black hair. Somewhat handsome.  He had eyed Hermione from across the bar and bought her a drink.  She took a few sips, gave him a come-hither look and shimmied to the crowded dance floor.  This black-haired bloke nearly tripped over himself to get to her. 

Hermione caught Draco’s eye and he nodded, moving in close, as well.  Draco had placed a wand whisperer inconspicuously behind Hermione’s left ear; he was wearing the counterpart.  They each had their wands on them, of course, and this tool was similar to Muggle-type listening devices.  “I’ve got my eye on you, you’re safe.  Keep up the ruse.  I won’t let anything happen to you.”  He saw her nod.  She looked apprehensive.

Just as the bloke was within two metres of her, he stopped, turned, and looked at Draco.  Within seconds, he disappeared into the crowd.

“Something spooked him,” Draco said.  “This could be our man.”

Hermione spun wildly looking for which way to go.  She decided to stay dancing and in character in case the man returned.  Several moments later, Draco was by her, behind her, gyrating in time to the music.  He leaned over her and whispered, “He’s gone.  No sign of him.  Damn.  It was as if he recognized you.  How could he have known?”

She shook her head, and then tried to turn to face Draco, but he held her in place.  His hands were on her hips, swinging them in time with his own.  Then his hands took hers, raised them up above her head, and those same hands slid lightly down her bare arms.  She shivered, instinctively bringing her hands down to encircle his neck.  It was then that he twirled her to face him, their bodies still flush.  He moved in, and she knew he was about to kiss her.

Quickly escaping his arms, she fled the club and walked out into the cool night air.  She jogged down the sidewalk and into an alley past a dumpster.  Draco followed her.

“Hermione, what is it?”

“I can’t do this. We’re supposed to be working… I think I had better just get home.”

“Is that what you want?”  He came very near to her.

She stared at him for a beat, and then asked, “What do you want?”

Draco blinked, flinching at her directness.  Then he chuckled.  “Why do you think so much?”

“I don’t know—I have a brain and I use it.  Is that a new concept for you?  I could tell from your date the other night that you don’t have much interest in brainy girls.”

“You know that’s not what I mean.  I mean, this. Us— in this moment.  Why can’t you just kiss me and not think about it?”

“I could.”

“No, you couldn’t.”

She took a predatory stance.  “I could to, if I wanted.”

“Prove it.”

“You’re such an ass,” she mumbled, and lunged at him.

He caught her up in his arms, fully surprised that she took him up on his challenge.  Her lips took his, possessed them.  He lifted her feet off the ground, deepened their kiss, spun round, and leaned her back up against the cool bricks of the alley wall.   His hands had sailed over her bottom and to the backs of her thighs, hoisting her up so she had no choice but to wrap her legs about his waist.  He pressed his hips against her, helping pin her to the wall. 

She slowed the kiss.  After the initial surprise of his lips mingling with hers, she wanted to explore this utterly foreign and completely exciting circumstance.  She was, after all, cerebral in nature, and she began to study the softness of the recesses of his mouth, the small, teasing movements of his tongue.  He was a perfect kisser, and his gentle, yet forceful way, thrilled her.  It was at this realization that she became aware of his full erection pressed against her own excited sex.

“Malfoy? Wait.” she whispered, turning her head slightly to get the words out.

He stopped, panting faintly, his heavy gaze as probing as his hard length between her legs.

“Yeah.  Let’s take this back to your place.”  He set her to her feet, but wrapped his lean, but well-muscled arms tightly around her.  “Dissaperate us… side-along.”

She pushed against his chest.  In was firm and rippled.  She wanted to touch it under his shirt; explore the rises and falls of his frame.  “Wait.” 

“Wait for what?  I want you so bad.”  He kissed her temple, her check, and nudged her face to turn once again so his mouth and hers collided. 

She succumbed for a moment, her palms resting still on his chest, the warm taste of him enticing her to an almost unbearable state of surrender.

“No.”  She said it so quietly he didn’t hear.  “No, we can’t.  I can’t,” she said, louder, now, pushing him away.

He let her go. Disappointment and confusion etched on his brow.  “Why not?” he offered, hopeful.

She was embarrassed.  Embarrassed because this was the very last thing she wanted to happen, but now that it had, she wanted him, too. Badly.  She gave him a shy, teasing smile.  “Malfoy.  It was only a kiss.”  She broke into a full smile, and turned, Dissaperatting away.

000

The next morning Hermione sat at her kitchen table inwardly berating herself for letting things get personal with Draco.  She tried to tell herself they could ignore the blatant attraction she and Draco shared, and continue to work the case.  As she reasoned all this, Harry’s stag patroness galloped into her sunny kitchen.

“Oh for goodness, sake Harry!” she said aloud, “it’s Sunday!”  He wanted her to come into work.  She readied herself and flooed to the Ministry.

Meanwhile, Draco was already at the Ministry, at his desk, lost in thought.  Not of the case, but of Hermione.  He was conflicted.  After all, they were work associates, and he had known her since he was eleven.  It wasn’t like he could have a fling with her and forget it.  Besides, Hermione Granger wasn’t the fling type.  If he were to be completely honest, he might even admit he was smitten, but he held that feeling in check. 

Truthfully, she was the perfect woman for him.  Smart, bold, and her body…he could feel a twinge in his loins.  She was attractive, handsome.  Not in the way some women were pretty. No, Hermione had a wholesome, fresh-scrubbed kind of loveliness that appealed to him more than any beauty-queen could.  He should be very careful.  Actually he should stay away—not touch her again.  He sensed a danger to his carefully guarded heart.  She was everything he wanted, and nothing he needed.  Or perhaps everything he needed and nothing he wanted.  Who was he kidding?  He wanted her and needed her, and he doubted very much that he could resist falling if she ever let him touch her again.

Just then, she walked in, followed by Harry.

“Early for a Sunday morning, Boss.  Must be important,” Draco said.

“Yeah, you could say that,” said Harry.

“Harry, you do realize it’s still the weekend?” asked Hermione

“I didn’t think that would concern you while you’re working a case, Hermione.”

Hermione scowled.  “You’re right, but what about you?  You have a family.  What does Ginny think of this?”

“She understands the nature of my work.”  He said it with authority and then added, “There was another murder last night.”

“Shit,” said Draco.

Hermione looked stricken.

“I hope you two had fun,” Harry pinned them both with a disdainful glance.  He tossed a piece of parchment down on Draco’s desk.  “Go ahead, read it.”

They looked at one another, guiltily, and finally, Hermione picked up the parchment and began to read: 

I saw the two of you, going through the motions.  But then things got real, yeah?  I have to laugh, thinking of you both, trying to catch me… you’ve no idea.  But then again you didn’t really care.  You just wanted to paw at one another.  How did she feel Draco?  Did you like pressing yourself against her, fondling her….

Hermione tossed the parchment down.  “Oh Gods….”

Draco picked it up, and continued reading:

It was amusing to watch you.  I was right there under your noses, but you were so into one another, you couldn’t see the forest for the trees.  I found my victim and watched her awhile.  I watched you too, Hermione.  You think it’s not in your nature to be a provocateur, but you had Draco hot and bothered. Didn’t you?  I think you want to fuck him--- “

“Stop!” Hermione shouted. 

There was silence in the office for several moments.  Then Draco asked, “The victim?  Do you know anything?”

Harry paled.   He swallowed.  “No.  No ID, no inquiries so far, just like the others.”  He turned away.  “Forensics is sending a report soon.  I’ll forward it to you two.”  He opened the door and left them alone in the silence.

000

More determined then ever, Draco and Hermione stayed at work all day, into the evening.  They used her office, as she was more comfortable working there.  It was getting late and they hadn’t made much progress at all.

“I have my appointment with Minerva tomorrow.  Will you be available?”

“If you’d like.  But I could go to Hogwarts instead and speak with Neville instead.  Maybe he has something for us on the plants.”

“All right, good idea.”  She sighed heavily.  “Merlin, why can’t we get a break on this case?!” 

“Aren’t you going to tell me to be nice to him?”

“Who, Neville? No.  What good would that do? I’ve given up telling you what not to do.”  She narrowed her eyes at him sulkily.

He shot her a quizzical look. “You’re getting grumpy.”  He glanced round her orderly and comfortable office space.  “You have a couch in your office?”

“Sometimes I stay the night to work on a case… It’s more comfortable than my desk chair.” 

“Gods you’re such a slacker, could you please be more dedicated to the job?” He grinned at her, trying to lighten her mood.

She rolled her eyes, and it irritated him.

“But seriously, why do you find the need to be such an overachiever?”

“I just like a job well done.”

“No. Really.”

“Yes, really.  Why do you find the need to be such an ass?”

He smirked.  “Why are you avoiding my question?”

“I’m not—I already told you. I like to do my work well.”

“There’s a job well done, and then there’s overboard.  I think you have an inferiority complex.”

“Who do you think you are saying that to me?” she jumped up, clearly upset by his mockery.

“Calm down, Granger.  You take everything so damn seriously.”

“You know, Malfoy, to be honest, I would suggest you have a superiority complex, and I’m sick and tired of your shit!”

“Is that right?!” He stood as well, tipping his chair back with a bang.

“Yes.  You ridicule me; you act like a total jerk.  And you’re impeding the investigation!!”

Draco charged her, grabbed her by the arms, and pinned her against the wall, lifting her off the floor.  He glared at her, breathing hard.

“What!?” she yelled.  “What are you going to do?”  His eyes were aflame.  She wasn’t entirely sure if he was going to hurt her or not. He seemed to be wrestling with some inner struggle.  A storm crashed in a tumult behind his steel-grey eyes.

“Do you accuse me of hindering our work?”

“Yes!”

His fingers dug deeper into her upper arms.  “You’re right!” he said, without malice.  He leaned in, and buried his nose in the curls at her temple, whispering violently in her ear, “Because when I’m around you, I can hardly think of anything other than what it would be like to touch you- when I want—where I want—and how I want.”  He let her go, as if dropping a hot coal, and turned away.

She found her feet, but felt her stomach tumble.  “Draco, I… I think—”

He turned back and in one stride had her face in his hands, pulling her mouth to his. She wrapped her arms round his waist, hanging on for dear life.  She opened to his kiss instantly, giving back as much as he took. 

Just as abruptly as he began, he broke the kiss, holding her head inches from his own, and drilled her with a steely gaze.  “If you kiss me again, Granger, I can’t stop what I’m about to do to you…tell me to fuck off now so I can walk out of here.”

She was gulping deep, slow breaths, the seconds unwinding like small eternities.  Her stare did not falter as she slowly shook her head no.  Then she slowly, deliberately, rose on tip-toe to capture his lips. 

A low groan came from deep in his throat, and his hands seemed to be everywhere at once, popping the dainty buttons on her blouse, unbuckling her wand holster, fumbling with the hook on her brassier and the zip on her slacks.  She in turn was yanking his shirt from his waistband, her fingertips lightly teasing the hot skin of his stomach, his hips, and then deftly divesting his belt, and opening his button fly. 

Just like his hands, Draco’s mouth was everywhere at once, wet and hot at her neck, her lips, her eyelids.  He had her slacks at her ankles and was drawing her back with him, until his calves hit the couch.  He fell into the seat, dragging her down onto his lap.  She stepped out of her slacks, her legs straddling him, his warm strong thighs beneath hers.  Their kisses were wild and insistent, bruising.   He laid kisses down her throat to the swell of her breasts, which were cupped in his hands. 

Hermione could feel the hard, hot, silky smoothness of his cock brushing against her inner thigh. She couldn’t stand not having him inside her one moment longer.  She raised herself up slightly, and yanking aside the crotch of her knickers, maneuvered her opening over his erection.  His hands gripped her hips and he helped her efforts by thrusting up as she plunged down. 

Their frenzied movements halted and they froze, each caught in the others gaze, each one realizing the enormity of the moment. The only sound was that of their mingled panting.

“Granger…” Draco’s ragged whisper broke the silence.

“Shhh,” she breathed. She steadied her hands on his shoulders, never dropping his gaze, and moved against his cock, tilting her hips to rub up and down his throbbing shaft.

Draco eyes nearly rolled back in his head, and he couldn’t help but match her movements with his own unrestrained thrusting. Slowly, their frantic pace returned. They were sweating now, and striving for a pinnacle to this immense pleasure they took from one another.

Hermione started first, with a keening sigh, which erupted like a siren’s song.  Draco disparately tried to slow himself, in order for her to finish.  When she cried out his name he could wait no longer. Hot, and profuse, he exploded, and together they rode out the final waves of bliss.

She collapsed against him, her head on his shoulder, her arms draped loosely about him.  He inhaled her delicately scented skin and the warm muskiness of their coupling.

“That was… really good.”  For a moment, Draco wasn’t entirely sure he’d spoken the words aloud.

She nodded, her body still heavily settling against him. He gathered her, and laid her back, lengthwise on the couch, and rested beside her until they both fell asleep. 

000

Hermione woke alone in her office the next morning.  At least she was covered with a blanket. Her knickers were damp and uncomfortable, and it was the only stitch of clothing she was wearing.

She sighed into her hands.  “What now?” she muttered aloud.  It was very early, and only the most zealous employees would be arriving.  Hermione took a chance by dressing quickly and darting to the atrium to floo home.  She would bathe, and dress and be back at her office in no time.  The worst part was going to be facing Draco.  Draco.  Not Malfoy, but Draco.  When one became intimately acquainted with a man’s private bits, it was time to start thinking of him by his first name.  She groaned. 

How would she know how to act?  What would her friends think if they knew?  Why had she been so week willed?

All these questions flooded her mind as she enjoyed a hot, albeit short, soak in the tub.  She had to get moving.  Draco and she had an appointment with Minerva that very afternoon.

000

It wasn’t like Hermione to behave in a sheepish manor, nor to be reticent, but that afternoon at work with Draco she was just that.  She was reserved and restrained, both in speech and in conduct.

“You’re unusually quiet?  What’s wrong, Kneazle got your tongue?”  He grinned.

“No.  Just going over these notes before I meet with Minerva.  I want to be sure I make the most of my time with her, while you check with Neville on the plant and potion residue.”  Hermione was bent over, keeping her nose in her notebook, not looking up at him even once.

In fact, he had now realized she hadn’t looked him in the eye once that day.  They were in a large conference room just off of Harry’s office.  It seemed expansive and empty compared to where they usually worked- either his office of hers.  He got up and moved into the chair next to her.  He could sense a tension run through her and it irked him.  It irked him that she was acting so strange. 

He began in a soft voice, “Listen, about last night—“

“Don’t.”  She straightened up, apprehension rippling through her.  “Don’t do that.  Please.” She stared directly ahead.

“Do what, exactly?”  He knew she wouldn’t answer.  “I think we should talk about it.”  He tentatively placed his hand on her arm.

Then she turned to him, her eyes meeting his.  “There’s nothing to say.”

“Oh, I beg to differ.”

It was then that Harry came in.  The look on his face had them both up and out of there seats. 

“Gods, what is it, man?  You look as if someone’s die—”  Draco trailed off, knowing just how many people Harry had lost.

“It’s Minerva.”

“What about her?” Hermione asked, sharply.  “I’m supposed to meet with her.  Here, in my office.  Is she here already?”

Harry shot a weary glance at Draco, then back to Hermione.  “I’m sorry to have to say this.  She was found dead in her private room this morning.”

Hermione began to shake her head.  Her face crumpled in confusion and grief.  “No.  How…? She wasn’t even ill.”  Then she dropped her face in her hands and began to cry.

“I’m so sorry, Hermione,” Harry said.

“How did you find out?” she croaked

“Ginny told me.  You know she works at the Hogwarts infirmary on Mondays.  Student’s were worried when Minerva didn’t show up for her eight o’clock morning class, so a few went to the infirmary to see if she was ill.  Ginny found her.”  Harry patted Hermione's shoulder lightly, looking to Draco for help. 

Draco moved toward her, silently wrapping an arm around her shoulder.  She shrugged off Harry and turned into Draco.  He drew her closer, into both arms.  She sobbed quietly on his shoulder.

Harry spoke.  “Why don’t you take her home, mate.  Stay there, keep an eye on her.  I knew this would rattle her.”

Draco nodded.  In moments, he had Apparated them both to her flat.

000

Hermione had slept for a few hours after he’d gotten her home and made her some tea.  When she woke, it was to find Draco in her kitchen making a light meal of baked chicken and snap peas.  As she came padding in he handed her a glass of white wine. 

“Here you go.  Dinner’s almost ready.”  He closed the oven door.  “Only a few more minutes under the broiler to brown it up.”

She took a small sip of wine and smiled. “I had no idea you could cook.”

“It’s a good skill for a bachelor.”  He smiled back.  “Do you want to talk about it?  Minerva?”

Hermione’s expression darkened.  “Yes.  I don’t think it was an accident.  In fact, I’m very suspicious.  That day we saw her at Hogwarts, she obviously wanted to tell us something important, but she was afraid of something or someone.  Maybe that someone is who killed her.”

“Do you think it could be Neville?”

“I hate like hell to think that, but we’d better take a closer, more thorough look at him.”  She frowned.  “Do you think that we would be able to have forensics autopsy Minerva’s body?”

Draco nodded.  “Already on it.  I thought you might agree with my hunch on foul play so I contacted Harry while you slept.  He’s having Luna do the autopsy as she’s the best in forensics.  She’s probably getting started as we speak.  Tomorrow morning we can meet with her if you like.”

Hermione remained solemnly quite, but nodded vigorously in agreement.  She went to the cupboard to pull out some dishes for the meal.  In her head, she was thinking about how close her proximity was to Draco, and how it made her feel warm inside.  Her eyes roved his body as he went about taking the dish from her oven.  She admired his lean, muscled arms, and his nicely tight thighs. She was wondering what he had wanted to talk about in regards to their sleeping together.  It seemed foolish to bring it up now, considering the circumstances. Yet, here he was.  In her flat.  Cooking her dinner.  And she couldn’t help, all circumstances aside, wanting him.  She forced her gaze away and set the small kitchen table.

Draco served the meal and as they ate, they talked about the case, and how Minerva may have had pertinent information.

“Minerva knew something and it got her killed.  She wanted to tell you; she knew you’d be able to figure it out.”  Draco commented, helping himself to more chicken.

“Yes, but why didn’t she just tell us, right then and there?  It doesn’t make sense.”

“It does if she was afraid of Neville,”  said Draco.

 Hermione looked thoughtful.  “True, but I’m still not convinced on Neville.  I mean, Professor McGonagall?  Afraid of Neville, or anyone for that matter?”

 “I know,” replied Draco.  “Neville seems to be a total puss.  But she had something on someone and maybe that person knew they where about to be exposed.  She knew you had the instincts to take the info and run with it.”

 “Oh, no.  I’m not instinctive.  I’m more methodical.”

 “I disagree, Granger.  You’re shrewd.  Not to mention, perceptive.”

 Hermione wrinkled her nose.  “I’m logic and reasoning, you’re the instincts and gut feelings. I’m too heady to be intuitive.”

 “Maybe so,” he prodded, “but I also know that you took Ancient Runes at Hogwarts, and rune casting is not for novice students, nor ones who have no perceptiveness.  McGonagall tutored you individually, as well, it if I’m not mistaken?”

 She leveled him with a hard stare.  “Yes.  I’ll not ask how you know that. What’s your point?” 

 “She taught you the art of Runic Divination?”

 “Yes.  You’re point?”

 Draco smirked with satisfaction.  “My point, dear Granger, is that you have more mysticality in you than you’d have one think.  You’re more than books, and logic, and reciting spells.  McGonagall wanted to speak to you for a purpose.  Only you can figure out what that is.”

 “You think whatever she wanted to talk about had something to do with the murders?”

 “It may.”

 She nodded.  Hermione had always preferred the more practical side of magic.  The side with more precision, more exactitude.  Seers, prophecies, and rune casting were not her favorite.  Not because she couldn’t do it, but because she felt she couldn’t trust it.  

 They took their dishes to the sink, poured the last of the wine and turned toward one another, each at opposite ends of the small kitchen.

 Draco began softly,  “Listen, about what happened between us …I”

Hermione shook her head.  “You don’t have to say anything…”

“I want to talk about it…”

“Really, Draco I’m a big girl.  You don’t have to apologize for using me or whatever, I was a consenting adult.  I guess I used you, too. It didn’t mean anything, just sex, you know, we were both stressed out from this case and—“.

“Hermione…”

“…and we needed some kind of release…”

“Hermione, listen to me, would you?”

“…I was there, you were there…”

“Granger!  Will you shut your damn mouth for one second?!”

“It could happen to any two people, overworked and overstress—,”

Draco was across the kitchen in two strides.  He grabbed her face and kissed her open mouth in mid-sentence. 

She pushed lightly on his chest, struggling briefly before relaxing into him.  He slid his one hand to the back of her neck, the other down her back to cup her arse, and pull her firmly against his growing erection.  He ended the kiss with a light nip to her lip.

“That’s for not shutting up and listening to me.”

“But I just—“

“Ah!”

“I only-“

“AH!”  He captured her mouth again, this time softer, deeper, sweeping her mouth with his tongue, teasingly drawing back and advancing, until she was purring in his arms.

“Now,” Draco whispered against her silent lips, “you will be quite, until I am finished with you.”  He drilled her eyes with a commanding gaze.  “No speaking.  Nod if you understand, Granger.”

She nodded.

“Not one little word from your lips, until I am finished, do you understand?”  He smirked at her.  She was all big wide eyes, and trembling.  He swore he could feel her heart thumping out of her chest.

“Now,” he continued, “I was going to tell you, it wasn’t a mistake.  It wasn’t just sex.  It was me, wanting you.  And, you, wanting me.”  He paused as if in question.

She nodded slowly.

“What it was...” He closed his eyes as if savoring a fine vintage, “…was hot, and warm. It was delicious love making that was sexy as hell, and I think I’d like some more of it.” 

He didn’t think her eyes could get any wider. 

“So, Hermione, would you like some more?”

A small noise escaped her and she froze.  He grinned. 

“It’s okay, if you shake your head no, I’ll understand.  But let me know either way, Hermione.  Do you want me?”

She nodded slowly, a pretty blush spreading across her freckled cheeks.  Her wide, whiskey colored eyes lowered to his mouth and it made him want to take her right there on the floor.  His cock was straining within his tight-fitting black denim jeans, but this was too good to rush, and he planned on taking his time.

“Good. Because I want you, too.  That’s what I was trying to tell you, big mouth, but you never shut up.”

She scowled with amusement and he chuckled.  “Oh, Granger, dear, you can take that as a compliment.”  He brushed the tip of her nose with his own.  She rose on tip-toe, and tried to kiss him, but he drew back.  “Now, here are the rules, because I know how much you like rules, Granger.  You cannot speak until I’m done with you.  You can, of course vocalize your pleasure in other ways—moaning, screaming, etc….”

She rolled her eyes.

“Oh, you don’t think you’ll be screaming?”

Hermione bit her lower lip and arched a brow in mock doubt.

Draco pouted.  “Not even a little hum?”

She silently laughed, then shook her head.

Draco narrowed his eyes, and in a husky voice, drawled, “Well, I guess I’m just going to have to try harder.”  With that he kissed her, demanding entrance to her mouth, and scooped her up into his arms. 

She broke the kissed and stared deep into his eyes.  This time it was he who was silent.

She brushed her lips against his, her small pink tongue darting out to taste him, as she threaded her fingers in his silky hair.

“You can’t imagine how much I want you right now, Hermione.”  He took her to her bed and laid her down in the darkness.  With his wand he set to dancing a small illumination of softly glowing orbs.  They dipped and swirled above the bed giving a dim pinkish blush of radiance to the room. 

He crawled above her, laid his hand against her check and dipped to kiss her.  He smoothed that hand down past her chin to her throat, and then to the buttons of her blouse.  Ending the kiss, Draco gazed at her, a cock-eyed gin on his face.  He whispered, “I think I like this new, quieter you.”

Hermione gave him a soft smile and lent him a hand with her buttons.  When his fingers brushed her tummy, he was pleased with how it shied away from his teasing touch.  He opened her shirt and took in the sight before him—her trim waist and her blush colored brassier holding her breasts which softly rose above the pretty lace fabric.  He lowered his face to that sweetly scented valley, inhaling the fragrance of her skin.  She gasped when his hot tongue flicked at the flesh peeking above the undergarment.

“Time to get rid of this,” he growled, and lifting her slightly, he unhooked her bra from the back, tossing it behind him.  At once, he took her in his mouth, his tongue flicking and teasing her hardened nipples. 

Her breath quickened, became audible, but still she remained quite.  She held his head in her hands, encouraging him as he feasted at her breasts.

“You are lush,” he murmured.  Cupping her firmly, he pressed her bosom together, burying his face in the soft mounding.  “You smell like a wildflower garden drenched in sunlight.”

Rising up, he ran a hand down the side of her waist, and across her waistband to the snap and zip of her slacks. Sitting fully back on his heels, he dragged them, along with her knickers, down her legs and tossed them to the floor.  “Beautiful,” he breathed, his expression almost painful.  Draco took her leg, resting her heel on his shoulder, and laid warm wet kisses to her ankle, her calf, her knee.

Hermione bit down hard on her lip, seemly determined not to make a peep.  Draco chuckled, and took her other leg, giving it the same attention as the first.

“You are something special, Granger.”  He removed his own shirt, and standing to the side of the bed, he divested his trousers.  He liked it when her eyes fell to his groin, his ample erection quite visible through his tight boxer briefs.  He moved closer to the head of the bed, and she reached out to caress him through the cotton fabric, before pulling him free.

Draco moaned heartily at her erotic touches.  She turned towards him then, pulled down the briefs and he kicked them away.  She curled on her side, and faced him, her touching turning to strokes.  Now on her hands and knees on the bed, she took him into her mouth.

He hissed his approval, and succumbed to the warm, wet softness.  She swirled her tongue round the head of his cock, lapping at his shaft, until he knew he had to stop her.  He wanted to pleasure her first, before he came.  He drew back from her eager mouth, gently pushing her shoulders, pressed her back down on the sheets.  He crawled over her, settling himself between her thighs.  He leaned in, near to her core and tenderly parted her with his fingers.  He swiped the tip of his tongue along the seam of her, and paused, hoping for a tiny sigh, a groan, any little noise.  Nothing.  He glanced up and saw her head tossed back, the quick rise and fall of her chest, and her fists knotted in the sheets.  He smirked, and went back to work on her.

This time he didn’t hesitate.  Draco alternatingly lapped lightly at her, and delved deep.

Hermione, though much determined not to make any noise, couldn’t help it. A low, throaty sound came from her and it broke the floodgate of humming, whining pants.

Her sighs and hums let Draco know he’d succeeded in her utmost pleasure, which, of course, was his goal.  The eroticism of seeing her in such a state was almost too much for him, so he rose above her, and positioned himself at her entrance.  She squirmed and writhed, trying to encourage him inside.  She needn’t have worried.  He could wait no longer.  Draco thrust upon her, into her, and out again.  He repeated these strokes with intense and quivering movements, all the while gazing at her, taking in every detail.  She was matching his cadence with verve, her own eyes, dashing about, from his face to his mouth to his working abdominals. 

He enjoyed it when a woman kept her eyes on him, and he appreciated Hermione’s hungry perusal.  He watched her little mouth work, opening and closing with her efforts to keep quite.  At times her tongue would dart out to wet her lips, and then she would bite down on that poor battered lower one, until it was nearly bloodied.  His eyes settled there on her mouth momentarily, and his rate quickened; he was nearly there.  He felt her tightening around him,  countering his pace. As she began to come, he marveled at the crimson flush that crept round her stomach and up to her breasts, chest and neck.  Deep in her core, the rush of her orgasm flooded over his cock like molten, wet velvet, and he came on the crest of her wave.  They paused in heightened silence and slowed together, riding out the last of their mutual satisfaction.

After the last ounce of pleasure rippled down his shaft, he fell half against her, panting.  She turned to face him.  They were eye level, and in those few moments more was spoken in silent gazes than ever could have been said aloud with words. 

Draco spoke first, “Holy gods, Hermione.”

She smiled and nodded.

“You, know,” he quipped, “we’re finished.  Or at least I am for the time being.  You’ve drained me, woman.”

“That means I can speak?”

Draco grinned and nodded.

She closed her eyes and nuzzled against him.

A few moments passed before Draco nudged her.  “Well?”

Hermione opened wide, innocent eyes to him.  “Well, what?”

He laughed out loud.  “You little snit.  I expected some kind of commentary—that was one of the bloody best shags of my life, I’ll have you know, and I expect you to give me some kind of statement to the level of your satisfaction.”

It was Hermione’s turn to laugh.  “Oh, you pompous arse!” she teased, smacking at his chest.  “Do you really get showered with accolades after performing intercourse?  I’m not one of your silly bints, I’ll thank you to remember.  And what do you mean, 'one of the best shags’?”

Draco loved to bait her.  He looked round as if searching his memory.  “It was in the top two.”

She balked, “And number one?”

He slid his hand up her bare thigh (which rested leisurely over his hip) to her waist, his eyes trailing its path.  “The other night, in your office.  Number one. Very hot.”

She wrapped her arms round his neck, “Right answer, Malfoy. One hundred points to Slytherin.”

“Ah, but it’s the truth.”  His lips brushed her jaw bone, and he pressed her back against the pillow.  “And I have one very big point, I’d like to give back to Gryffindor.” He prodded her inner thigh with his erection which was growing by the second.”

Hermione giggled, “I though we were finished for a bit?”

“I guess you just inspire me to greatness, Granger.”

000

Early the next morning they were back at the Law Enforcement offices, sitting with Harry in his office.  They had all just left Luna’s mortuary examination room.  She had informed Draco, Hermione, and Harry that Minerva had the same herb and potion residue as the murder victims. 

Harry looked to Draco.  “I want you to go to Hogwarts and bring in Neville for questioning here.  Hermione, I want you to be ready to begin the questioning.  Draco will be hostile to Neville, you’ll be his friend.  Comfort him.  See if we can get him to incriminate himself.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Draco said as he stood up.  “I’ll get on it right now.  I should be back with him in an hour.”

Harry nodded.  “Good.  Hermione, let’s you and I go over some protocol while we wait.”

She nodded and Draco left.

“Are you okay,” Harry asked when they were alone.

“Oh sure, I’m okay.  It was a shock about Minerva, but I’m holding up.”

Harry grinned.  “Does Draco have anything to do with that?”

Hermione blushed.  “What do you mean?”

“I mean I see a change in you two.  A level of comfort that wasn’t there…dare I say a level of intimacy?”

“Of course,” she said, slightly flustered.  “We’ve been working nonstop together on this case.  Of course we’re a bit more used to one another.”

“Good.  Good to know.”  Harry got up, took her hands and pulled her into a friendly embrace.  “I want my best friend to be happy. In her work and in her personal life.” 

Harry kissed her cheek caringly, and then looked her deep in the eyes.  “Hermione, if Draco makes you happy, it’s okay to enjoy it.  No one, least of all me, holds Draco responsible any longer for the sins of his father.”

Hermione grinned a huge grin.  “Draco and me, well, we’re….Is it that obvious?”

“It is that obvious!” He laughed and they hugged again.

 

000

Ginny stood outside, gazing in through the glass.  She couldn’t believe what she was seeing.  Harry was giving more time and attention to Hermione than he’d given to her in weeks—holding her hands, hugging her, kissing her, caressing her. 

That stupid bitch! Ginny thought, savagely. She barged in.   “Oh, please, don’t let me interrupt.  You two always did have a close, personal relationship.”  She plopped down in the seat Draco had sat in only moments before and glared at them.  “Carry on.”

“Gin?  What’s gotten into you?”  Hermione asked as she sat next to her friend.

Ginny continued to glare at Harry as she spoke to Hermione.  “Draco’s dick not enough for you, Hermione?  You have to have my man’s, as well?”

“Ginny!” Harry said, sharply.

Hermione scowled.  “What the hell Ginny?  You can’t be serious.”  She caught a whiff of Ginny’s breath.  She’d been drinking. 

Ginny turned to Hermione.  “Good thing I decided to stop by before going in to Hogwarts this morning.  You two might have been on the floor.”

Hermione nearly laughed out loud.  “Ginny, you should know, without a doubt, there is nothing going on between Harry and me.” She stood.  “I think I’ll leave you talk things out with Harry.”  She shot Harry a sympathetic glance and left to go to her own office. 

Moments later, Hermione had barely seated herself at her desk when Draco’s ferret patroness glided through the keyhole in a silvery mist.  Draco’s alert voice echoed hauntingly within the office walls: ‘Neville’s not at Hogwarts, Hermione.  Be very careful.  I think he’s onto us, and who knows what he’ll do, or what he has planned.’  After a few hops, the twitchy, silver ferret vanished.

“Shit.  What now?”  Hermione pushed her fingertips to her temples, turning to gaze at her enchanted wall picture behind her desk.  Today it was a field of lavender rippling in a mild breeze.  She spoke out loud to herself, “I’ll do a locator spell on Neville, and if it works, when Draco returns we’ll apprehend him.”

“Fat chance.”

Hermione spun to face Ginny, who was shutting the door behind her.  “You won’t find Neville.  Not with a locator spell.”

Hermione was puzzled.  “What do you mean?  Why not?”

Ginny smirked, “Because one has to be alive for a locator spell to work.”  She laughed darkly.

Hermione’s brow creased in further confusion and then realization hit her with such velocity her mind was reeling.  “Ginny.  Why?  How could you?”  Her fingers inched toward her wand in its forearm holster.

“You’ve no idea what I’m capable of.”  Ginny’s eyes narrowed, moving swiftly to Hermione’s wand hand.

Hermione quickly drew her wand, but not before Ginny yelled, “Expelliarmus!”   Hermione’s wand flew from her near grip to Ginny’s waiting hand.

Hermione stood still, her heart racing.  “Ginny, I know what you’re capable of.  I’ve seen what you’re capable of.”  Her mind flashed back to the gruesome crime scene pictures of the victims.  “But why?”

Ginny chuckled.  “Harry was fucking those bitches.  Can you believe it?  And he thought I’d never find out.  He wore a Glamour, of course, so no one would recognize him, but I knew.  I followed him after I got suspicious when he began spending so much time at the office.  Every weekend. He left me alone to go fuck those whores!”

“Harry?  It was Harry in the bar, not Neville.”  Hermione said it more to herself than to Ginny.

“Yes, that’s right, you idiot.  He recognized you before you recognized him.  Fine police detective you are,”  Ginny snorted.

“You were there? You wrote that derogatory note to Draco and me?”  Hermione was astonished at the bizarre turn of events.

“Yes, and yes.”  Ginny pointed her wand at Hermione.  “You are quite the little slag aren’t you?  First, there you are, grinding with Draco, leading him on.  Then you try your wiles on my husband.  Tsk, tsk.”  Ginny clucked her tongue.

Hermione knew she had to keep Ginny talking until Draco arrived.  She knew Draco was worried that Neville was coming after her.  Little did he know, poor Neville was dead.  “Ginny, please,” Hermione begged, “you have to know—I’ve no designs on Harry.  I have never felt anything more that friendship for him.”

“You lying bitch!” Ginny screamed.  As she took a step toward a terrified Hermione, her extended arm beginning to shake. 

“I swear!” Hermione cried.  “Harry’s like a brother to me!”

“Do you think I’m stupid?!”

Hermione cringed.  “No, no!  Not at all.  But you must believe me, Ginny, I swear.”  Tears pricked her eyes.

Ginny seemed to think this over.

Hermione asked, “Ginny, tell me one thing.  Where did you get the herb potion?”

“I stole it from Neville.  He went to Minerva, of course.  He didn’t suspect me, but she did.  She had no proof, but I knew she would tell you.  After Minerva, I think Neville figured it out so I had to take care of him.”

Hermione began to cry.  “Ginny, why?  You should have talked to me.”

“And what would you have done?”  Ginny rushed her and grabbed her by the hair.  “I’m not enough for him.  What could you have done!?  They had to die.  And now, so do you.”

Hermione whimpered. 

At once, a blast of light came through the door.  Draco had kicked the door in, shouting his spell as he did so.  “Incarceratus!”  Ropes flew from his wand and wrapped round Ginny too quickly for her to retaliate.

Hermione retrieved her wand and held it on Ginny.  “Harry?  Is Harry okay?”

“Yes,” Draco replied.  “He was bound in his office.  Dean is with him. He’s fine.”  Draco kept his wand trained on Ginny as she struggled in vain against her binds.

“Thanks the Gods,” breathed Hermione, "but Neville's dead."

"No," Draco panted.  "After I sent you my patronus, I found him bound and gagged in his office cupboard.  He filled me in on the particulars."

Hermione was flooded with relief.

Soon after, officers took Ginny away, to receive legal counsel.  She would answer for her crimes.

000


 

Six months later…

Hermione had moved the last of her personal items from her flat to Draco’s manor.  She preferred to think of it as Draco’s manor.  They had become a team at work and worked all of their cases together. 

Since Harry had taken an indefinite leave of absence, Hermione had taken over as Head Auror.  She enjoyed holding this over Draco’s head occasionally. 

Ginny had been sentenced to time in Azkaban.  It was traumatic for her family and all involved, but they had no choice but to accept it and live with the consequences of Ginny's actions.

Hermione had taken well to her new position of authority, and Draco had taken direction well. 

“So Boss,” Draco quipped one night at home, “What’s on the docket for this evening?”

“Well,” Hermione drawled, “I think I’d like you to cook me dinner, and then order me into silence while you make crazy love to me.”

Draco smirked, “That was pretty spectacular, wasn’t it?”

“Ingenious,” Hermione replied.  “With me being all 'talk, talk, talk,' and you making me shut up.   Yeah, loved it.  Come here.”

He complied.  He was inclined to always listen to his new boss.

 


 

The End