It was half past ten on a cold, wet Saturday
I was at the office, tackling a festering pile of parchment-work,
when an owl tapped on my window. I read the note and, knight in
shining armour that I am, I put on my cloak and hat and went to
the aid of a damsel in distress.
For the usual fee of fifty Galleons a day, plus expenses...
Granger's already waiting at the crime scene.
"Ah, Malfoy," she says, and holds out her hand, after
hesitating just long enough to tell me that she hasn't forgotten
what happened the last time we worked together. I grasp it firmly,
and we shake like normal business acquaintances. "I like
the hat," she adds.
It's a black Fedora. I do like to dress the part. "Where's
"In here." She leads me through a pair of tall but
flimsy-looking metal gates, toppedif I remember my Muggle
Studies correctlywith something called 'razor wire'. "I've
charmed the PIDs and the CCTV cameras to ignore us," she
I'll take her word for it.
Inside the compound, ragged piles of some unidentifiable substancesoot-black
against the dark, drizzling skyrise up around us. "What
is this place?"
"It's a waste disposal site," says Granger. "A
tip. It's where Muggles get rid of the stuff they don't want.
A lot of it actually gets recycled...." She approaches one
of the heaps. "The body's up here."
I resolve to bill the Being Division for a new pair of dragon
hide boots, and follow her onto the crud. It's wet and slippery,
and it stinks.
"One of the men who works here," Granger explains as
we climb, "a Squib, found the body and contacted the Auror
Office. A couple of Aurors came out and had a look, but there
was no sign of Dark Magic, so they handed the case over to me."
"And left the body lying here?"
"I know," she says. "It's just typical of the
way magical creatures are treated. The sooner we"
"I meant," I interrupt, "for the Muggles
"Oh. Well, the Muggles think he's a toy alien." She
stops suddenly, and crouches in the filth, andafter a moment
or two's steeling-of-the-nervesI crouch down beside her.
The victim's a house-elfa small, immature male wearing
a striped hat with a pom-pom. I take out my Deluminator and click,
and a ball of light flies upwards, and hangs above us like a tiny
sun, illuminating the corpse and the garbage around it.
"Where on earth did you get that?" asks Granger.
"I have my sources," I reply, casually. And a gallon
of Veritaserum wouldn't persuade me to reveal them.
I slip the Deluminator back into my pocket, and draw out my wand.
Contrary to rumour, I wasn't raised by house-elves. But Mother
did have help from a couple, and I was very fond of them,
andalthough I certainly don't see house-elves as my equals
like GrangerI've never really shared my father's contempt
for them either.
I cast a Gloving Charm on my hands, and close the vic's eyes
before I begin the examination.
"Broken neck," I say. But that much is obvious, and
I need to earn my fee. "The killer didn't use magic"
"So he could have been a Muggle," she says.
"Possibly..." I turn the elf's face into the light.
"Do you recognise it?"
"Him," she says. "He's a him, Draco. And,
no, I don't recognise him."
"So itheisn't on the Division's scrolls?"
"He may be." She suddenly sounds guilty. "We've
nearly eight thousand creatures registered on the scrolls, and
I can't remember all of them. The scroll system isn't like a Muggle
database, Draco. Without a name, it may be impossible for me to
find his record."
I make a mental note to look up 'database' in my Muggle encyclopaedia
and, in the meantime, I cast my Trace Revealing Spell.
"What was that?"
Granger forgets our earlier awkwardness and comes up close behind
me, watching over my shoulder as the passes of my wand reveal,
in glowing blue outline, the print of an arm across the vic's
chest, and of fingers clamped around his chin.
"The killer was magicalor I wouldn't be seeing a traceand
he was right-handed," I say, extending the search to the
area around the corpse, and trying to ignore the way Granger's
body heat's making my blood rush south.
"So the spell detects hand prints?" she says, clearly
"Hand prints; footprints; any bodily contact by a magical
being," I reply.
"I've never heard of it."
"It's something I devised myself."
"And it works?"
"Of course it...!"
For a moment we're back at Hogwartsme glaring at her, her
grinning smugly at methen, "Sorry," she says,
raising her hands in surrender. "What's it telling you now?"
"That the elf wasn't killed here," I say. "I'll
know more when I've had the body examined, but there are no footprints,
and nothing else has been disturbed. I'd say he was brought here
on a broom, and dumped from mid air."
The gold letters on my office door said, 'Malfoy & Malfoy,
Clients generally assumed that the other Malfoy was Father,
and I didn't bother to put them right. If they wanted to believe
they had a shifty, blood-obsessed madman tracking down their missing
husbands or photographing their wives in flagrante delictowellthat
was up to them.
In fact, it had been Mother who'd set me up in business, using
a small legacy from one of her Black ancestors, which the Ministry
hadn't been able to confiscate, thoughbelieve methey'd
Mother was what's known as a sleeping partner. That meant
that she invested in the business and took a cut of the profits.
A cut of nothing being more or less nothing.
Gordon Chittock's a former Healer, sacked from St Mungo's for
treating injured Death Eaters during the war. The Ministry's blocked
most of his healing magic, but the poor sod can still manage the
odd diagnostic charm, and his knowledge of anatomy's come in handy
on more than one occasion.
I clear my desk with a sweep of the wand and lay down the body,
still shrouded in the blanket that Granger had conjured at the
Chittock unwraps it. "You're right about the cause of death,"
he says, gently moving the house-elf's head back and forth. "Cervical
"Time?" I ask.
"Did you cast a cooling charm?"
"I didn't want it getting ripe."
He grunts. "Well, judging by the extent of rigor, I'd say
it died about twenty-four hours ago."
I make a quick calculation. The body had been found early on
Saturday morning, and must have been dumped some time during the
previous night. "Yes, that would fit."
"It can be hard to tell with house-elves," Chittock
continues, turning the body over, "because they're prone
to self-harming. But see this bruise, here,"he shows
me a semi-circular mark, which looks suspiciously like part of
a boot print"and this one, here,"perhaps
the imprint of a signet ring"these can't have been
"You're saying he was beaten?"
"And starved," he says, grasping a fold of rubbery
skin between his thumb and forefinger, "for several weeks."
"Weeks?" I say, incredulously. "Someone
held him prisoner for weeks?"
"Somewhere filthy." Chittock holds up one of the vic's
long, spindly hands. "When did you ever see a house-elf with
"So he tried to dig his way out..." My mind's racing
now, pulling in ideas and making connections
"Thirty Gallies," says Chittock. "Cash."
"Hmm? Oh. Yes..."
I got into this business by accident.
Pansy's husband was playing away, and she needed some dirt
to dish. I charmed a camera to fit in the palm of my hand, and
spent two weeks trailing him from sleazy nightclub to backstreet
brothel, snapping him with tarts and whores and, on one memorable
occasion, with the entire chorus line of The Phantom of the
The things a PI has to watch...
When Pans confronted him with the pictures, he bought her
silence, setting her up in a London apartment with an obscenely
large monthly allowance.
Then Pansy told her friends about me, and her friends told
their friends, andpretty soonI had a long list of
The work was all domestic at first. But who better to sniff
out scandal than an ex-aristocrat and former Death Eater? I had
the contacts, both high-life and low-life; I had the attitude;
and I had the brains, becausebelieve meit's a fine
line between devious and genius.
"Think about it," I say. "Who else could keep
him locked up for several weeks without anyone kicking up a fuss?"
Granger leans back in her chair, and I can see that she isn't
convinced. "That doesn't help us, though, Draco," she
says, at last. "We have no way of tracing the owner."
"Ah..." I take from my pocket the sample of dirt I'd
scrapedwith gritted teethfrom beneath the house-elf's
fingernails and, unfolding the parchment I'd sealed it in, I set
it on her desk and tap it with my wand. "Cresco."
A tiny shoot emerges from the scrapings, and begins to grow.
"That's clever magic, Malfoy."
"Uncle Sev..." I see her mouth twitch, and correct
myself. "Severus Snape devised it, for testing pollen before
he added it to a potion."
"I heard that you'd inherited his library," she says,
with what sounds like a touch of envy. "Did you try any other
We watch the seedling sprout leaves. "A few," I admit.
"But this is the only one that gave me positive results."
And didn't blow the drawers out of my desk. The seedling
grows a gash of tiny red flowers. "It's called bloodweed,"
I tell her, having already consulted Neville Longbottom. "And
it only grows in the Thames Valley."
That impresses her.
"Brilliant," she says, casting a summoning charm. A
big ledger rises from one of the shelves and glides into her hands.
"Right,"she leafs through the pages, scanning
the entries"there's the Quince familythey live
A couple of hours later, we have a healthy list of suspects.
"Can you come with me tomorrow?" she asks. It seems
she's planning to visit them. "For your standard fee, of
Is she kidding? "I think I can manage that..."
"Good," she says. "Be here at eight-thirty sharp,
then, and bring your little camera."
As I reach the door, she suddenly adds, very quietly, "You
know, Draco, it was only a kiss."
I freeze, like a rabbit caught in the light of a Lumos Charm.
"I mean," she ploughs on, "it's not like
it was some disastrously embarrassing one night stand or anything."
I turn; she's blushing furiously, her eyes fixed on her desktop
blotter. "It was just a kiss. And I thought it was a rather
nice kiss, actually."
I mutter something non-committal, and make my escape.
My arrangement with Granger and the Being Division began inauspiciously.
She walked into my office wearing clumsy flat shoes and a
tweed suit that, in some bygone era, had been made for a woman
at least three times her age. It took me a few moments to place
"Weasley cheating on you?" I asked.
"Ronald and I," she replied, frostily, "split
amicably, more than a year agonot that that's any business
I made a half-hearted apology: "Oh. I didn't know."
"Look, Malfoy," she said, getting right to the point,
"I'm here because the Being Division needs a Private Investigatorsomebody
reliable I can call in from time to timeand I've heard that
you do that sort of thing. But, now that I'm here, I can see it
was a stupid idea, so..."
She turned to leave.
It's an unvarying rule of the PI business that the richer
the client, the less willing he is to settle the bill. And most
of my clients were very, very rich.
"Wait!" I leaped up from my desk, and wedged myself
between her and the door. "I would appreciate the chance
to do something more than rummage around in other people's dirty
laundry, Granger," I said. "I'd like the chance to do
It was hogwash, of course, but Granger fell for it.
By lunchtime, working eastwards along the Thames Valley, we've
interviewed three suspect familiesthe Quinces, the Mordaunts,
and the Branstonesand they've all come up smelling of roses,
even under the influence of Veritaserum, whichit transpiresGranger
is licensed to administer.
"Who's next?" I ask, as we walk back, side-by-side,
down the Branstones' tree-lined driveway.
"You really enjoy the whole good cop-bad cop thing, don't
you?" says Granger, consulting her list.
"If you mean that you and I make a good team," I reply,
"No," she says, "I mean that intimidating people
floats your boat."
I'm still debating whether to ask her for a translation when
she pulls a self-inking quill from somewhere in her bushy bird's
nest, and crosses the Branstones off her list. "Sextus Crumb's
next," she says.
"What've you got on him?"
She checks her notes. "Nothing in particular. Why?"
I shrug. "His name just sounds familiar..."
We climb into the Ministry carriage and, twenty minutes later,
the thestrals set us down at Sparrow's Hill, the home of our fourth
suspect. I hammer on the door and, almost immediately, a window
flies open above us, and a grizzled head pokes out.
"I've already told you," its owner bellows, "I'm
Granger and I exchange puzzled looks.
"Good afternoon, Mr Crumb," says Granger, politely.
"We're here from the Ministry of Magic, Department for the
Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, Being Division, to
talk to you about your house-elves"
"Where are they?" he yells, peevishly. "What have
you done with them?"
"Mr Crumb," I say, with every ounce of my father's
imperiousness, "open the door and let us in."
Granger shoots me a warning scowl.
The old fart mutters a few choice words, threatening us with
some particularly nasty hexes before he closes the window but,
moments later, we're inside the house, perching on his moth-eaten
Granger shows him her Ministry ID. "We're investigating
the death of a house-elf, Mr Crumb," she says. "You
say that yours are missing, and you've accused us of taking them"
"You mean that Bubble and Squeak are dead?"
Granger responds to that with motherly kindness, sitting beside
him, and patting his hand. "I'm so sorry to have to ask you
to do this..." She waits for him to settle, then shows him
my photo of the vic. I've done a good job, propping up its head
to make it look a bit more natural, but there's no disguising
the fact that it is, as some Muggles say, brown bread
"Squeak!" cries Crumb.
"I'm so sorry," says Granger.
"His mother. What've you done with Bubble?"
"Mr Crumb," says Granger, patiently, "we are from
I get up, and leave her to it, stretching my back and loosening
my shoulders as I walk around the room examining the books, and
the framed photographs, and the parchments lying in the open bureau.
I glance surreptitiously at the contents of one of the letters,
then casually push it aside to check the one underneath, then
I pick up a handful of sheets and read them quite openly...
And then I march over to Grangerwho's still trying to calm
the old bugger downand hand her the most recent letter.
"Read it," I say.
Reluctantly, she does so.
"He needs protection," I point out.
"Yes..." Granger looks up from the parchment and smiles
reassuringly at Crumb. "Are you connected to the Floo network,
sir?" she asks.
Looking back, it had been inevitable that Granger and I would
eventually cross the line.
I mean, at Hogwarts, when Potter and Weasley is our King were
doing their manly posturing, she was always watching meeven
her taunts and insults were only ploys to get my attention.
Once we began working together, she started wearing makeupnot
trowel-loads; just a little pink gloss to emphasise her lips,
and some smoky shadow to accentuate her eyesand she started
taming her hair into a sexy chignon, and wearing heels, and cute
little suits that didn't look like hand-me-downs from Dolores
And I suppose you could say that I started looking at her.
But it would never have gone any further than lookingI
swear to Merlinif she hadn't made the first move.
It was a Friday evening, we'd just wrapped up an important
case, and Granger had suggested we celebrate with a drink in The
Leaky. One drink had led to two, two to four, someone had begun
We got up to dance and, suddenly, Granger's arms were twined
around my neck and she was coming up on tip-toe, and pressing
herself into my body, and...
Oh, Merlin, I devoured her!
"Explain it again," says Weasley is our King. "For
That last bit's meant to be ironic, I think.
Granger gives me a look that says, Your turn.
"Okay," I say, in the brisk manner I use with clients.
"About two months ago, Sextus Crumb was approached by person
or persons unknown wanting to buy his house and all of its contents."
I push one of the letters I'd found in Crumb's bureau across the
table. "He refused, and they increased the offer." I
push another letter across. "He refused again, and they started
making veiled threats,"another letter"then
open threats,"another"and, at about that
time, Crumb's house-elves disappeared"
"Kidnapped," says Potter, proving that he, at least,
can follow a chain of reasoning.
"Held prisoner, tortured, and killed," I agree. "The
child, at any rate. From all of this, Granger and I have deduced
the following." I count the points off on my fingers. "One,
there's something in Crumb's house that our person or persons
unknown wantand want badly. Two, there are wards keeping
them out. Three"
"You think that's why they took the house-elves," says
Potter. "They want the elves to Apparate them inside."
I nod. "Yes. We think they probably tortured the child to
force the mother to co-operate. But, so far, she's held out."
"Assuming she's still alive," says Granger, quietly.
"It would make no sense to kill her," I say, trying
to reassure her.
"Right," says Potter, slipping into Head Auror-in-waiting
mode, "we'll send in a team of specialists to search the
"No," I say.
Granger and Weasley gasp in unison; someone has dared to challenge
the great Harry Potter!
"I mean," I explain, "even if you find whatever
it is these people are looking for,"And, assuming
it's a Dark artefact, Potter, it's by no means certain you will;
trust a Malfoy"that won't necessarily help you
catch the perps. Better to leave it where it is, stake out the
place, and wait for them to come for it."
I see the twinkle in Potter's eyes, grotesquely magnified by
his eye glasses, and I know exactly what's coming next because,
believe me, I've heard it all before: Been watching a lot of
Muggle TeeVee recently, Malfoy
"That's a brilliant idea!" cries Granger. "As
long as we can keep Mr Crumb safe."
"It might take days, Hermione," Potter argues. "Weeks.
And I just don't have the manpower."
"Then we'll do it," she says, confidently. "Draco
and I. We'll move into the house."
The kiss seemed to last forever.
I forgot where we werein the middle of The Leaky, in
full view of half the wizarding worldbecause it didn't matter.
Granger was warm and soft, and her body fit mine perfectly
and, although my response was as urgent as any red-blooded male's
ought to be, the physical pleasure, the desire, was only a part
itthere was more, much morethere was something calm,
and reassuring, something that made me feel whole...
Until a splinter of horror pierced my brain, and I pulled
out of the kiss. "I'm sorry," I said, and backed away.
"No," she said, her hands tightening on my arms
asstill on her toesshe shuffled after me, trying to
kiss me again, "no, don't be. Draco"
"We don't want this to wreck our professional relationship,
Granger," I said, setting her feet firmly back on the floor.
And I fled.
We Floo to Sparrow's Hill, mob-handed, andtrying to keep
a lid on the commotioneventually persuade Sextus Crumb to
let Potter take him to a safe house.
Then Granger and I spend the next few hours settling in.
We've no idea what it is the perps want, nor where it might be
located; we don't know how much longer the house-elf will be able
to keep them out, nor where she'll appear, when and if she does
finally give in...
So we set up our command centre tent beside the fireplace, creating
a Bedazzled 'room within a room' where we can keep watch in relative
comfort and, in every other part of the rambling old house, we
cast Intruder Charms, and Visualisation Spells, and Anti-Disapparation
Jinxes, whichwe hopewill allow us to detect and hold
any unwanted visitors until we can get close enough to deal with
Then we sit down to wait.
"Draco," says Granger, sleepily.
We've played stone-paper-scissors to decide who'll take the first
watch. Granger's lying on the Scourgified sofa, and Ihaving
lostam scanning the array of mirrors we've set up to display
the results of our Visualisation Spells, so it takes me a moment
"Why did you run away that night?"
"I didn't," I begin, automatically.
Then, remembering that I had, in fact, run away from her, and
realising that, if I don't answer, she'll be badgering me for
the rest of the stakeout, I give in and tell her the truth. "You're
a nice girl," I say, softly.
I hear the rustle of fabric and, assuming that she's coming to
slap me round the head, I add, hurriedly, "And you're supposed
to be getting some sleep."
But nothing happens and, when I glance over my shoulder, I see
that she's turned her back on me.
Astoria Greengrass was my first real client.
She sashayed into my office, made up like a tart, wearing
a set of slinky fuchsia robes that Madam Malkin must have charmed
onto her curves.
Her case was pretty straightforward, but it involved spending
hour upon hour watching her fiance roger a very appealing and
extremely supple young witch, and I soon realised I'd need to
charge extra for the high level ofermphysical hardship
I was enduring as a result.
One night, Story turned up for her weekly report to find me
in a state of almost homicidal frustration, and kindly helped
nature take its course.
Afterwards, she sacked her boyfriend, paid me off in full,
and spent the next three years tending to my physical needs on
a purely informal basis, whilst occasionallyfor reasons
best known to herselfhinting that she would really like
to change her name to Malfoy.
Granger and I settle into a comfortable routine.
She sleeps from ten till three, I sleep from three till eight.
At nine, one-thirty, and seven we share a meal, suppliedover
the Floo networkby the Ministry Canteen. The remainder of
the time we sit companionably, before our bank of mirrors, scanning
the images that come, via our Visualisation Spells, from the empty
rooms, and passing the time telling taleshers of her Muggle
childhood, mine of my private investigations.
"You really enjoy it, don't you?" she says. "All
the cloak and dagger stuff? You like snooping on people, and finding
out their secrets; you like devising the spells and using the
gadgets. Even the hat"
"It's a nice hat."
"Oh. Well, yes, it's a very nice hat." She grins at
me. "You've found your true vocation, Draco."
"You're pretty good at it, too," I say, gesturing at
the mirrors, which are at least fifty per-cent her work. "If
I ever need an assistant, Granger, I'll know where to look."
I'm joking, of course, but she regards me thoughtfully, as though
she's taking the offer seriously. Then, after a few moments' silence,
she says, very quietly, "And what would Astoria Greengrass
say to that?"
"What d'you mean?"
"Oh, don't pretend, Draco. It's obvious, now that I think
"You've lost me," I say.
"I'd heard rumours, of course, but I thoughtI mean,
when you kissed me, I just assumed... But you're involved
with her, aren't you"
"No!" I cry. "I mean... She's interested,
I think, though Merlin only knows whyshe certainly wouldn't
get any money by it, because the Ministry's got the Malfoy vaults
shut up tighter than a skrewt's arse. But there's no way I'd"
"Does she know how you feel?"
"I can't make it any plainer."
She toys with her wand. "Do you sleep with her, Draco?"
The most I can manage is a shrug.
"Oh, Draco." She looks up at me. Her eyes are glistening.
"Why, if you don't love her?"
What the hell does she mean, why? Because I'm a man and Story's
a woman, and we both have healthy appetites
And it hits me like a Stunning Spelllike two Stunning Spells
cast in quick succession, in factGranger's in love with
She's not just attracted to my looks; she's not just dazzled
by my (former) wealth, or by my (tarnished) family name, or even
by my (now irrelevant) blood status; she's not just greedy for
my skills in bed; she's in love with me.
I think that I might be in love with her, too.
"Granger..." I reach for her hand.
And all hell breaks loose.
There is truly nothing more gratifying than the cry of a satisfied
I slid my hands up Astoria's damp body and drew her down to
me, cradling her against my chest.
"You know, darling," she sighed, "it'd be even
nicer if you'd let us do this in a bed."
The intruder alert's deafening. Granger grabs her wand, and silences
the charm, whilst I check the mirrors.
"They're in the cellar," I say, peering into the images.
"Three wizards with what looks like an untransformed werewolf,
and the house-elf." I turn to her. "You get help; I'll
keep an eye on them."
I know that she isn't happy to let me handle them alone, but
there's really no alternativeone of us has to contact Potterand,
as I prepare to Apparate to the cellar, I see her cast a handful
of Floo powder into the fire.
I emerge, already Disillusioned, just inside the cellar door.
Of the three men, I recognise only the pale, twisted face of
Antonin Dolohov; the rest are strangers. The werewolf, too, is
unknown to me, but the way he movesand the way he snarls
when the house-elf tries to wriggle from his graspreminds
me of Fenrir Greyback, and I thank Merlin I didn't allow Granger
to come down here in my stead.
Dolohov signals to his companions and they begin searching the
cellar, opening cupboards, pushing aside boxes, pulling the wine
bottles from the racks and throwing them to the floor.
I'm careful to avoid getting splashed.
I have no idea what they're looking for, and I don't care. My
only concern is to make sure that they don't leave before Potter
and his Aurors arrive, and I'm not going to intervene unless I
The werewolf suddenly sniffs the air. "We've got company,"
Dolohov freezes. "What?"
I back away.
"There's someone in here with us."
The wizard's dark eyes dart around the chamber. "Crumb?"
"No. Younger meat." The werewolf takes a step towards
me, snuffling noisily. "Perfumed."
Bollocks! Too much cologne!
I retreat towards the door, wishing I'd had a better plan and
hoping thatunder threatI can maintain my Disillusionment
"Whoever you are," says Dolohov, forcefully, "you're
dead." He raises his wand.
I lift mine, defensively.
I know Dolohov; I know his preferred MOa wicked hex that
borders on the unforgivable, a spurt of fire that burns out the
innardsand I watch him like a hawk, and"Protego!"
I yell, raising my shield the moment his hand begins to move,
before the streak of purple flame has left his wand.
I hear the werewolf howl; he's been caught by the rebound.
And I'm already moving, throwing myself to the right. I hit the
floor hard, crunching my shoulder, and I've no time to check the
damageI squirm, heart pounding, trying to get myself upright
and turn myself around, trying get my wand up
"Malfoy!" shouts Dolohov. My Disillusionment Charm
has collapsed. "Draco Malfoy, you snivelling little coward!"
"Protego!" I manage to deflect a second curse,
but Dolohov's still on his feet, and his minions are closing in
on my flanks.
Merlin, this isn't going well!
I scramble backwards, shuffling on my arse, my eyes glued to
Dolohov's wand. My right arm is almost useless but, with every
ounce of determination I possess, I tilt my wand, pointing its
tip in the general direction of Dolohov's wrist and, as his hand
begins its downward slash, I gasp the incantation, "Sectumsempra..."
They say that, when you're about to die, your entire life
flashes before you.
Fortunately, the only things that flashed before me were a
severed hand and bucketful of blood.
The door blasts open and, suddenly, the cellar's full of Aurorsthey're
shooting Stunners at Dolohov and his crew, trying to staunch Dolohov's
wound, sedating the werewolf, and Apparating them all away, whilst
Granger's still trying to pick me up off the floor...
"I'm all right," I croak, my voice betraying the pain
I'm in. "I just need to get my breath back..."
Granger prods my shoulder.
"You need a Healer," she says, and waves to one of
the Aurors. "Merlin, you were lucky, Draco."
The Auror gives me a quick once-over, then starts casting a series
of healing spells.
"I prefer to think," I say to Granger, "that
I protected myself with my own magical skill. What happened to
the house-elf, by the way?"
She shakes her head, sadly.
"Oh. Oh, I'm sorry, Granger..." The Auror asks me to
raise my hand. "The werewolf must have been holding it when
Dolohov's curse rebounded," I reason. "But at least
Dolohov won't be casting that again."
"There'll be an enquiry, Draco," says Granger, softly.
Of course there will, I think. I'm an ex-Death Eater
who's used Dark Magic. I'll be lucky to keep my Investigator's
Licence. I may even get a couple of years in Azkaban...
The Auror pronounces me finished, and advises me to see
my own Healer as soon as possible.
At Dolohov's trial it emerged that, during the war, having
taken refuge in Sextus Crumb's cellar, he'd been found by the
old man and, in the course of a frantic duelWho would
have thought that Crumb had it in him?Dolohov's wand
had shattered, and several of the fragments had been lost.
It had taken him five years to find someone capable of restoring
it, and then he'd set about retrieving the missing pieces.
All of which was very interesting, of course, but not really
the point of my story.
I was arrested, and taken to the Ministry, where I was kept
overnight in a holding cell then rushed before the Wizard High
To my surprise, the Wizengamot proved unusually sympathetic
and, after a brief hearing, in which both Potter and Granger appeared
as character witnesses for the defence, the Chief Warlock pronounced
that the curse I'd used, though Dark, had been justified, and
that I was free to go.
What was never mentioned, of course, was that the Sectumsepra
Curse had once been a favourite of Harry Potter himself, and that
I'd been the unfortunate wizard he'd practised it on.
The moment I'm back in the office, I send for Astoria Greengrass.
"Oh, darling," she murmurs, as I thrust into
her, "darling, darling..."
Afterwards, I lie in her arms, exhausted, andfor a few
blissful momentseverything seems back as it should be.
Then Astoria sighs, and utters the four most chilling words in
the English language: "I've been thinking, Draco..."
I hold my breath.
"I know that you don't love me, andif I'm honestI'm
not sure that I really love you. But we're good together,
darlingwe have the same background, and the same taste in
books and music, and... And you're so good in bed, Draco! Oh,"she
hugs me fiercely"I love your big willy, darling! Marry
me! We've been doing this dance for so long. Surely it's time
we got married?"
It's the last thing I need.
I screw up my courage, and explain, as honestly as I can, that
I'm simply not husband material
"Of course you are!"
"No," I insist, disentangling myself from her arms,
and sitting up. "For one thing, I couldn't afford to keep
you in the manner to which you're accustomed, Story. But it's
not just that... You deserve to be loved." And that isn't
"Love would come in time, Draco."
"No." I raise her hand to my lips, and kiss her palm,
tenderly. "It hasn't, Story, and it won't. We're lovers.
But we're not in love."
"It's her isn't it?" says Astoria. "It's
that Hermione Granger."
I press the heel of my hand into the bridge of my nose. My head
is throbbing; I really can't think of an answer to that.
Astoria gets dressed and, to her credit, leaves me without a
And, within a few days, I'm climbing the bloody walls.
It's true that you don't appreciate what you've got until
I should have realised how much I relied on Astoria's regular
And, with a bit of effort, I might have talked her roundI
could have agreed to marry her, and insisted on a 'long engagement'but,
for some reason, that hadn't seemed right.
For some reason, I'd kept thinking of Granger, and her soft,
pink lips, and...
It's half-past ten on a cold, wet Saturday night and I'm sitting
at my desk, brooding on the miseries of involuntary celibacy,
when a knock at the door makes me jump.
I gesture towards a chair, and she sits down.
"What can I do for you?" I ask, sounding miraculously
"I was just passing," she says, and I can tell from
her body language that that's bollocks, so I wait, though it's
torture. "Actually," she admits, at last, "um...
I need to know what you meant, Draco."
Why does a woman always think that a man can read her mind?
Even a clever woman?
"About what?" I prompt, probably sounding angry when,
really, I'm just anxious.
"About not wanting to be with me because I'm a nice
girl." She's been staring at her hands since she sat down
but now she looks up at me, and I can see how annoyed she is.
"What makes you think that I'm a nice girl, Draco?
I don't even know what it meansand, anyway, what would it
matter if I were?"
Oh, why does everything have to be so bloody complicated?
Granger fancies me, and I fancy her; I'm gagging for it, and I've
never, ever, turned down an opportunity for it beforeMerlin,
I once screwed Mrs Crabbe!so why does the thought of
sex with Granger worry me so much?
"It would be like swearing in front of my mother,"
"You marry a nice girl, Granger. You don't shag her
against a wall in some filthy alleyway and then piss off home;
you treat her like bone china until you marry her, and then you
carry her over the threshold, and you make love to her. On your
"Draco!" She laughs, and her voice has a hysterical
edge that's frankly a bit frightening. "What century are
you living in?"
"It's the way I was raised."
"So you're sayingwhat?to you I'm like some pure-blood
princess, but without the pure blood?"
How the hell did I get myself into this mess? "No,"
I say, "it's just that I... That I..." That I think
I love you, Granger, but I'm not ready to make a proper commitment
"In the twenty-first century, Draco," she says, frostily,
"a woman is responsible for her own reputation. She's perfectly
entitled to have lovers and still be considered fit to marry.
And, quite frankly, your scruples aren't chivalrous, they're oppressive.
Oh. Fuck. Now I've blown it. I know from experience that
there's no reasoning with her once she's climbed up onto her soapbox,
so I bury my head in my hands, and wait.
"I'll leave you to think about that," she says, and
I hear the chair legs scrape on the floor as she stands. "Contact
me when you've grown up." She slams the office door behind
Well, Draco, I think, you handled that brilliantly.
I lower my hands, and come out of hiding.
Without her presence, the office is unbearably empty.
It's time to go home and get some sleep, and try to forget the
disaster that's my love life, but I'm far too screwed up to Apparate,
and too exhausted to fly, and even the thought of using the Floo
makes me feel nauseous.
I decide that what I really need is some fresh air.
Outside, the rain's coming down in stair rods and, although I
could cast a shielding charm, I find that I welcome the pummelling,
so I turn up my collar and walk, down the narrow passage, towards
the lights of Diagon Alley, and
As I pass under the fire escape, someone jumps out from the shadows,
grabs my arms, and shoves me against the wall. My assailant's
caught me off guard, but he's small, and he isn't strong, and
it doesn't take much effort to get the upper hand, and wrestle
him into the light
And find out that he isn't a man.
"Granger! What the fuck are you doing?"
"Shagging you in some filthy alleyway," she says, pushing
memost enthusiasticallyback into the brickwork.
Her hands are cold and wet and, Merlin, they shouldn't feel good,
but the entire situation has made me so excited that, when she
finally gets her fingers inside my fly, and curls them around
my cock, I nearly come on them.
All my Christmases are here at once. She can have anything she
wants from me if she'll just keep stroking; I'm putty in her hands...
Which only makes my cock feel harder.
I bury my face in the crook of her neck, and grind myself in
her tight grasp. I can't get enough of her
She lets go of me. "But you don't want any of this, do you?"
she says, pulling away. "Not with a nice girl."
My answer's a roar and a desperate lunge that has her laughing
with delight. "Fuck me, Draco," she gasps. "I'm
not china! Fuck me hard!"
Oh, with pleasure, ma'am.
I turn us round so that it's her whose back's against the wall,
bring her arms round my neck, and lift her up, and she wraps her
legs around my hips, murmuring, "Evanesco," and
wandlessly vanishing her undies.
"Are you ready for me?" I ask.
I push, and she wriggles and, when I manage to get inside her,
we both gasp. "Oh, you feel good! You're perfect,"
And then we're fuckingI'm jerking upwards, and she's riding
me and, Merlin, it's paradise, though it's hard work, and the
rain's pouring down on us, freezing cold, but she's like a furnace,
burning me up wherever we touch, and I'm already on the edge,
already struggling to hold it back, and...
I need to change positionI need to make it last!
I gather her close and somehowwithout breaking her rhythmI
stumble to the fire escape, and have just enough time to wandlessly
Transfigure the metal before we crash down on the steps, laughing,
and kissing, and fucking each other and there's nothing but us,
racing together, chasing our climax, approaching the first waves
of release, and I look down at Granger, moving beneath me, and
I know that she's mine.
Once we realised just how cold and wet we were, I carried
Granger back indoors, and cast a couple of warming charms to stop
us catching our deaths.
There are women, and there are women, and women
have a way of turning a man's life upside down.
"Granger," I said, fully aware that I was taking
the biggest risk of my life, "will you marry me?"