Chapter 1 : Volume I
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The story is finished so you don't have to lament my terribly lax updating with regards to this! It's a little bit silly and whimsical, but was a lot of fun to write. And a final note, the title comes courtesy of the poem "The Captive's Dream" by Anne Bronte.
This was a recurring situation as Hermione was rather prone to throwing herself into work to the detriment of any social life. Her friends rolled their eyes at such unhealthy dedication, but she couldn’t help herself. Not only was her job serving a greater purpose, but she really didn’t enjoy the solitary nights at home when all was quiet. Perhaps it was a hangover from the war, and the demise of her relationship with Ron, but she never quite got used to sleeping on her own in an empty house with no one around. She would never tell anyone that of course; she rather hated the thought of pitying stares and people thinking her less than able. But she was only human.
In any case, there was something about this small space, her office, which imbued her with comfort. It was her domain, not dictated by other people or other things. Everything else she had ever achieved had somehow not been her own. Sure, she’d been lauded at school but she had always been that Muggle-born girl that was smart, or Harry Potter’s friend. Here, however, she was just Hermione Granger, and she was making a difference.
Although her circumstances were unusual, and certainly not what she would have forecast when she was younger, she enjoyed the working environment even in spite of one colleague in particular. Or perhaps—and this thought only ever occurred to her in fleeting moments that she later put down to a combination of insomnia and momentary derangement—he contributed somewhat to the aforementioned enjoyment. That said, she would rather face a Blast-Ended Skrewt head on than ever confess such a thing to him. The backlash would be intolerable. Draco Malfoy would hold that kind of information over her forever.
Hermione leaned back in her stiff chair, glancing at the ceiling cornices as she thought of her ever vexing colleague. Malfoy was a student at Hogwarts in the same year as her. In fact, he was someone about whom she had been wholly aware during her entire schooling education. It was funny, if one stopped to reflect, how that had been the case ... for there were so many other students who could have come across her path and yet it was always him. His incessant need to make her, Harry and Ron as miserable as possible saw to this fact. She had only known him as the vile, purist he purported to be. She knew now that there was somewhat more to him than that, though he tried his very best to conceal this fact.
In his own way, slow and unassured, he had taken steps during the war and since which had shown a certain reluctance to follow the path laid out for him. He hadn't been brave the way Harry was, but she had come to realise over time that his questions and his doubts meant something also. It meant a possibility of change. It meant hope, for him at least. Of course, she hadn't really given any of this, or him, much consideration until he was thrust more permanently into her line of sight.
Malfoy had joined the Department of Magical Law Enforcement alongside Hermione as part of restitution for the crimes he was involved in. Placing someone with a known criminal past in such a role might have seemed an absurd decision at the time, but there was a method in the madness. Although it was known that he was very young when he joined the Death Eaters, and that he had not physically carried out the unsavoury task with which he was burdened, it was agreed that some punishment for wrong decisions and the repercussions had been important. Kingsley Shacklebolt had personally seen to it that Draco was placed with Hermione, upon her transfer to this department, so that he could have a hand in undoing the wrongs of himself and his forebears. He had, shockingly, taken it in his stride. Or at least, she reflected, far better than one would have expected. But then it was easy to make that assessment now: two years down the track when most of the horrid discomfort had faded.
The job involved the rewriting of old pro pure-blood laws. Since wizarding law was bound by magic, it was not necessarily up to the Wizengamot to pass all judgement. There were still some early dated laws that existed to this day and they had consequences of which most people were wholly unaware. It involved a lot of research, hours poring over books and debating issues. Hours for which they were cooped up together. That kind of close contact had an effect on a relationship, even if the two parties involved were disinclined to admit as much.
Although she would never profess that he was anything other than extraordinarily stubborn, prone to unnecessary rudeness and unutterably arrogant, she found he had a few redeeming qualities. His unexpectedly droll sense of humour never failed to catch her unawares, though she tried her very best not to laugh as it still seemed a sort of concession that she wasn't sure she ought to make. Her surprise at him engaging her in any kind of banter was understandable because, frankly, as a child his idea of humour had been entirely without wit.
He was intelligent, though she had never really thought of him as especially academic. More than that though, it was his sharpness and the fact that he was so well read which amazed her. Having been surrounded by boys who considered watching the numbers change on a Quidditch scoreboard as reading, she would never have guessed Malfoy to be anything different.
She supposed that was in part due to the fact that he always called her a know-it-all or bookworm at school ... and to think he had harboured similar—although perhaps with less vigour—tendencies all along. When she asked him about it one late night at the office, he had glanced at her without responding for a moment, as he was wont to do, before deigning to indulge her curiosity. He didn’t always though. Indeed, much of the time he ignored her entirely. She suspected this was because he knew that nothing vexed her more. In any case, he told her that though she liked to broadcast her knowledge as a way of proving a point she was unaware she was trying to prove, it was simply an expectation of him that he be well read. She had never viewed it that way.
Those moments and throw away comments gave her an unhindered glimpse into what it must have been like to be raised a Malfoy, a pure-blood in a world increasingly unconcerned about that fact.
He intrigued her, even when she knew that no good could come from such a fascination. It was just that he was so strange: in his mannerisms, the things he said, the way he looked. Indeed, she had become increasingly conscious of the latter, and of her own awareness of that fact.
She couldn't be blamed though; she put it down to that strangeness. After all, Hermione Granger had always been one to study what she couldn't fully comprehend.
He wasn’t like other men, handsome and regular. There was nothing regular about the man. He had a cool refinement and aristocratic hauteur in his carriage which both fascinated and incensed her all at once. It was the unusually seraphic quality to his features that made her glance when he wasn't looking. The fair colouring and piercing ash-like gaze in a face that was all lines and harsh angles made him look like one of the painted angels she had seen in church when she was little. He looked unearthly. There were times when she would get distracted by this fact, and an almost imperceptible curve would form upon his lips and his unwavering gaze would meet her own for a split second longer than necessary. She wondered, in those moments, at his thoughts beyond the carefully concealed expression.
She never knew of course. Usually he would break the moment with an insulting or sarcastic comment about her or some aspect of her life. He held the curious belief that he was entitled to run commentary on her but that she could not reciprocate.
Hermione closed her eyes and blew the curls off her forehead. She knew why she had waited back tonight; she wanted to spend some time in his company. She wasn’t sure why that was exactly. After all he wasn’t really very likable, but there was something about the way her spine tingled and the confusion of his words that always made her feel at her most alert around him. Even when this was accompanied by an almost irrepressible urge to clobber him with a nearby blunt object. The air became suffocating and every uttered syllable was part of a convoluted and compelling word game between the two.
It was only two nights earlier though, as they argued over one of the intricacies in an Act they were looking to overturn, when the dynamic had changed. He had called her stupid and ignorant, and she suggested that perhaps he didn’t want the laws overturned, that he might still be the prejudiced git he had ever been and that he was just a very good actor.
He’d reached over and pulled her up out of her seat, a cool hand gripping her chin and tilting her upwards as he leaned his head down to look at her. His grip on her wrist was firm and his thumb brushed over her pulse point.
“You think I’d touch you at all if that was the case?”
The fierceness in his expression, and the clenching of his jaw as he spoke had shocked her. And despite what he said, it was strange, because he never touched her in even the most fleeting accidental way. She was alarmed that he would do or say anything to change the status quo. They never went that personal; they were always too scared to. Or at least she was. She couldn’t quite say what the reasoning was for him. They stuck to the bickering, the biting remarks and the competitiveness because it was what they knew ... it was safe in a situation that somehow was not.
He had watched the bobbing of her throat as she swallowed, before releasing her to recollect his previously unrattled composure. He’d excused himself then, and she was left with the searing feeling of his skin against her wrist and a whole lot of uncertainty. She hadn’t been quite sure how she would handle their next encounter, as something had seemed to shift that night. Yet her concern proved unfounded. He acted as though nothing had changed, and showed no acknowledgement of the discomfort she felt at his behaviour. But he hadn’t stayed back late the night before. She had, there was much to do and she would rather be there than at her house.
It would seem he wasn’t staying back tonight either.
Turning her attention back to her desk, Hermione shuffled some of the paperwork before her when a loudly coloured package came loose. Brow furrowed in curiosity, she unwrapped it quickly and a wry smile curved upon her lips as she realised what it was.
Hermione had made a promise to Fred and George only days before, at the Weasley Sunday dinner, that she would take a look at their latest invention. It wasn’t so much a new product as it was a revamped one. They had released the original edition of the Patented Daydream Charms while she was still at Hogwarts. She had been impressed by their ingenuity at the time as well as the magical prowess the item had required to create. The original charm, however, had been a generic one. It made the person transport into a lifelike dream sequence which had in reality only lasted half an hour or so.
The new version, however, was apparently tailor-made to the individual. When she had quizzed them on how it was possible to do so when they were mass produced, Hermione had received the typical Weasley twin grin. According to them the magic lay in its ability to access the landscape of one’s mind. The charm drew on people and experiences and inferred the information, applying it to the dream. That way it would feel as though it really was real.
Hermione had been utterly fascinated at their ability to do this and had readily agreed to try it out. She knew it had been through all its testing phases, but the twins liked to bounce things off her when they could because of her refreshingly frank opinion. They had told her, quite cheekily, that if she enjoyed it she could consider it an early birthday present. Hermione twisted the small box in her hand, and grinned rather mischievously.
“Whatever that look is about, it can’t be anything good.” She jumped at the low voice which interrupted her thoughts, and then cursed the combination of relief and eagerness at seeing him.
Draco Malfoy stood against the door frame, his tall and lithe form taking up much of the space there. There was something about his ability to dwarf a room, particularly one as small as this, with his presence that always caught her off guard.
“Uh,” she said, flustered because he had startled her, but he took it to mean she was up to something shifty. “Nothing really ... just something from a friend.”
Her vagueness had clearly piqued his curiosity for he uttered a swift Accio and then held the small box firmly in his grip. “Playing around with Weasley merchandise, I see. Never took you for someone who enjoyed fun, Granger.” He quirked a brow at her.
She quelled the urge to huff at his baiting and the fact that he used underhand trickery to take the object from her. “What I do for fun is none of your business.” She tried to ignore the amused look on his face, which suggested he had taken her comment exactly the way a male would. “I promised the twins I would try it out for them.”
“Granger,” he said in the condescending tone of one addressing a delinquent child, “this is an old product. Have you been hallucinating that people need you again?”
She chose to ignore the temptation to throw something at him. “It’s an old concept, but actually this one here is a new version ... they’ve spruced it up a bit. They said it’s much more advanced magic now … it’s supposed to have added features …”
He lifted a brow, which seemed to suggest his renewed interest. “What kind of … features?”
He was looking at her rather intently and she found it entirely too distracting. “They’re … uh … more personalised, I think. Fred said that they draw on your own memories and so on … so they include places and people that—‘
He cut her off. ‘They really were the only useful ones of the Weasley brood.’
She rolled her eyes in response to that. Malfoy liked to make digs at her friends whenever possible, with a particular enjoyment derived from those directed at Ron.
‘So,’ he continued before looking up from the small box, ‘do they actually work?’
‘Well if you’d give it back to me I could find out, couldn’t I?’ Her arms were crossed indignantly before her.
She watched him peer inside the small box and pull out two slips of parchment. ‘Two per box.’ He grinned. ‘Shall we?’
She flushed just a little bit because it seemed a rather intimate thing to sit there with him and be caught up in a daydream. ‘I don’t think—’
‘Actually,’ he interrupted, ‘your problem is that you do, prodigiously and to the great detriment of any fun. What are you afraid of, Granger? I won’t see what naughtiness goes on in your head.’ The grin which unfurled across his features was distinctly indecent, and she was so caught in the blinding whiteness of it that she quite forgot to respond. His grin grew wider still.
She coughed. ‘Don’t be a prat, Malfoy. I’m afraid of nothing … and anyway these things are designed for children … so there’ll be no …’
‘Naughtiness?’ he supplied quite unhelpfully.
He handed her one slip of parchment and leaned back in his chair, tugging the collar of his robes loose. She eyed him uncomfortably.
‘Uh, what are you doing?’
He looked up at her and continued the removal of his robe. ‘What ... Merlin, don’t get your knickers in a twist!’ He watched her narrow eyed expression. ‘I’m not planning to strip down in your bloody office, Granger … it’s just quite warm—that’s all.’ He folded the robe over the back of his chair and sat down again, his crisp pants pristine. She found the way he pushed the soft fabric of his jumper up his forearms distracting.
She declined following suit, and sat straighter than she had a minute before. He seemed to notice this and a trace of his trademark smirk quirked his lips. The way he constantly made assumptions about what she was thinking irked her to no end. The fact that he was so frequently correct in his assumptions was even worse.
Hermione glanced at him to find his eyes on her once more. She inclined her head toward the slip of paper, muttering the incantation under her breath as she did so.
As the last syllable was uttered, Hermione glanced around the small office watching the fibres of space start to shimmer and dissolve into darkness. Warmth and quiet wrapped around her like a cocoon, and it wasn’t until the silence was rent by a loud roar of malicious laughter that she opened her eyes.
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