Hermione pulled her hand away quicker than a snitch. Her index finger was sliced through. Through, that was hardly accurate, it still felt like it. She hissed in pain at the sight of blood spilling out of her poor little finger from cut no bigger than a couple of centimeters. She rushed to the bathroom as the blood became a dark red.
After wrapping her finger in a bandage, Hermione came back to the kitchen to glare at the shiny knife still covered in her blood. Seeing as her blood spilled onto the tomatoes, she had no choice but to throw them out. When the poor vegetables clump together in the bottom of the bin, Hermione heard the door open and shut. Knowing by the heavy footsteps pouncing on her floors, Hermione knew exactly who it was.
“Good evening, Ron,” she greeted her fiancé as she began to cut up a fresh tomato.
Ron grunted his reply, his voice sounded tired when he did speak. “I thought dinner would be ready by now.”
Hermione looked over her shoulder to see Ron plopping himself into her couch and began to take off his boots. “It was…but, I had a mishap,” she wiggled her hand to show off her injury. “I cut myself cutting the tomatoes.” She had to repeat herself when Ron wasn’t looking as he was busy with the muggle television.
“Need to be more careful, ‘Mione.”
Hermione huffed, jamming the knife into the plum red skin harder than she meant to. A normal fiancé would be running to her side to sooth her wounds in a flash. At least, that is she dreamt of. “I got distracted.”
It took him a moment to respond as his eyes were trained on a cartoon dog skipping about. “By what?”
Hermione looked over at a letter tossed in the rubbish bin, now covered in tomato juice. It only had her name and six simple words that left her shaken to the core. In the neatest and well-practiced cursive was “I need your response by tomorrow.”
She shook her head, “Just…work.” She lied through her teeth.
Ron took the lie like the last piece of cake. “Alright. When will dinner be ready?”
“In ten minutes.” Hermione said simply, throwing her tomatoes into the salad bowl.
Hermione stared at the night sky through her window, blocking off the sound of Ron’s snoring behind her. The witch yanked the covers over to her but when his large arms pulled back, leaving Hermione bare to the world. Shivering from lack of protective clothing, Hermione wrapped a robe around her and moved up from the bed. Under the moonlight, she could see Ron’s pale ass bare to the world. She sighed and pulled the covers to cover him, even if he had more covers than he needed.
Hermione pulled the robe tight around her and exited the bedroom when Ron’s night grunts grew agitating. The muggleborn witch entered the dead quiet living room and made her way to the window that overlooked the small park nearby. Sitting on the small window seat, Hermione looked out to the vast world below her. It was dead outside, no sign of life for miles. Of course, no one in their right mind would be outside at this hour. And Hermione hardly fit in that category.
This week seemed like it had been carried over months or even years. All because of one man. Lucius Malfoy. Maybe since he didn’t want to see her naked and ass in the air, Hermione was less giving him the blame. Rationally, it was unlikely everything fell apart because of one man. There were other people involved but, none of them stuck around her mind like that man. Never mind the strange dreams and drifting thoughts, the letters from him were a simple reminder of his presence.
He had given her three days to take up his offer to be his apprentice and he was truly not patient. He kept his distance from her but still manage to appear everywhere she was in the Ministry. Lucius didn’t speak to her about his offer; or rather, hardly spoke to her other than simple pleasantries. If she didn’t know better, his act of (putting it mildly) kindness that day in the bathroom was just a dream. Until the letters started to appear, counting down the days and even hours until Hermione’s deadline was up.
Hermione sighed, snuggled her body against the cool glass. She was nearing twenty-four years old, a witch in her prime, with a fiancé and impeding marriage around the corner. Why was it then that her mind was wrapped around a pureblood wizard that wasn’t Ron?
Hermione sat at her desk, looking at potential projects. Many of them sounded good, some even brilliant but, as much it pained her, she had to be strict with the projects. The one thing that took her mind off Lucius Malfoy was the fact that her Department life was like a sword held above her, held up by a thin strand of thread. She needed five projects that could keep them afloat and keep the sword from slicing her through.
There were other smaller departments that have already been given the boot. As much as the truth hurt, her Department could be next. They even took down the Department of Magical Weaponry Research and Development. She already lost five good employees a couple of days ago but, the rest were already murmuring about fleeing.
She glanced at the clock; it was nearing three in the afternoon which meant two more hours until she had to give Lucius her final answer. His offer was too good, too good without having something else behind it. All he wanted was a date to functions while she got the mother-load of opportunities? The man she knew, with the Slytherin pride, wouldn’t do something so simple and almost kind without expecting something in return that was equal to his offer. Hermione was starting to miss thinking he wanted sex. At least that she could understand as payment.
The chair creaked in strain when Hermione leaned against it. Why couldn’t her blasted mind push Lucius out her mind like a stray animal without finding out it snuck it again? She needed to focus on her Department’s future. She needed to be strong. She needed tea.
“Susan!” Hermione called out through the open door to her secretary. “Could you get me some tea?”
There was no response from her secretary. “Susan?” she called again, hoping that simply Susan was away or couldn’t hear her.
When there was dead silence, which was when Hermione grew concern. She walked out of her small office, expecting to see her ten remaining employees busy with work at their desks. But everyone was missing from their desk. Every desk was as clean as the day it arrived to the room. Hermione felt her jaw drop, looking at this in total disbelief. Where could they have gone to?
There was a rustle to her left; Hermione saw the back of her secretary’s behind, bent over to pick something up. “Susan?”
Her name yanked the young woman up, her ginger hair swishing in the air. The much more buxom gifted woman looked startled, surprised to see Hermione. “M-Miss Granger!”
Hermione looked at the whole empty room once again, “Where is everyone? Where is Mark? Helen? Troy?”
Susan worried her plump lip between her teeth; she began to dance on the ball of her feet. “They…they all left. They quit.”
Hermione eyes bloom to the size of the moon. “What?! When! Why? How?!”
Susan face flinched, either from her voice or the guilty expression on her face. “They all left during lunch…Well, one by one. They…we all agreed that while you are a fabulous Head, Miss Granger and we have enjoyed working with you, we can’t wind up on the streets like the other Departments.”
Hermione could feel her legs beginning to give out. It was even a miracle that she was still standing. Her secretary, who helped her through the short years the Department has been up, holding a box filled with her personal effects staring at her like she was waiting for Hermione to leave so she could as well.
Susan gestured to a stack of folders and loose papers. “There is their resignation letters. And mine.”
“I…I don’t understand…”Hermione voice was crackling and falling apart like everything around her. “We could have made this Department strong and changed everything! Doesn’t anyone care about the people we help?”
Susan sighed, “We do, Miss Granger. But, we couldn’t do it this time. The world isn’t ready for another big leap of change. They might have won for now but….we can still triumph.”
Her words of encouragement did little to ease Hermione. Hermione grabbed the edge of the desk, her body craving the comfort of the floor. “Just….just leave.…”
Susan squeaked and scampered away like the rat she was, leaving the sinking boat. Left alone, Hermione stumbled her way to her office where somehow she miraculously landed on the couch rather the floor.
Everything was crashing around her and she didn’t have time to even salvage any of the pieces. How was she supposed to save her Department when it was just her left? She didn’t doubt her abilities but she knew she couldn’t run and work the Department by herself. It was near to impossible.
Hermione was alone. And soon, she would be out of a job and her bright path that was her future was becoming duller by the second. The silence was heavy around her, tied around her like a concrete block, pulling her further into the dark pools of depression. There was nothing she could grab onto to pull her out.
“Damn it! God fucking damn it!” Hermione cursed loudly, cutting through the silence.
There was one way to pull her up and onto dry land. It would be against her convictions but, right now, not doing it could leave her on the bottom of the ocean.
She would need to sell her soul to the Devil.
The clock hit five dongs, the end of a work day when Hermione stood out the door, her knocks echoing with the dongs. She wasn’t sure if she was too late and cursed to float or if he didn’t hear her. When seconds ticked by with no word or response, Hermione let her hand drop to her side in defeat. Maybe she was doomed to be like this.
She was a second away from walking away when the door opened up and looked up to see the cool face of the man who had been haunting her every thought. A look of surprise and perhaps, a hint of hopefulness appeared on the marble chisel face.
“Miss Granger?” his voice was cool as ever.
Hermione took in a deep breath, letting it out once it got too heavy to hold in any longer. “I will do it.”
A slow, sly, smug smirk drew over his lips. Lucius outstretched his snake like arm, and like a predator, pulled her close to the doorframe and to his office. “Then, let us begin.”