Fucking hell! The pile of blankets on the chaise
longue stirs, and a blond head emerges. Wheres that
Shut up! (The bastard-things giving him a headache).
With an exasperated sigh, Draco swings his feet down to the floor,
encounters a pile of empty cans, curses his ex-Father-in-Law for
introducing him to the miracle of Red Bull and spirits, kicks
himself some space, and stands up.
Stop that bloody noise!
He pads over to the window and draws back the curtain.
The post office owls sitting impatiently on the sill, but
Dracos momentarily distracted by the raddled individual
standing beside it. Hes tallabout the same height
as Draco himselfand thin, wearing a frayed dressing robe
that must once have been black, and grubby pyjamas; his pale,
startled eyes look unnaturally bright against the dark circles
that surround them; and his platinum blond hairs sticking
out in clumps.
Its his own reflection.
He pats down the worst of the cowlicks, and opens the window.
The owl sticks out its leg, disdainfully.
Draco removes the letter, digs into his dressing robe pocket,
finds a bit of crackerHow longs that been there?and
offers it to the bird. S all I have. Take it or leave
The owl leaves it.
Suit yourself. Draco puts the cracker back in his
pocket, closes the window, and turns his attention to the letter.
The handwritings masculine but careless, and clearly belongs
to a wizard of no breeding, which gives Draco pause...
He breaks the seal. Folded inside the sheet of parchment theres
a photograph torn from Witch Weekly. Its caption reads,
Whirlwind romance, and it shows the former Quidditch
all-star, Cormac McLaggen attempting to trigger Hermione
Grangers gag reflex by sticking his tongue down her throat.
Again... And again... And again...
Draco sits down heavily.
The letter itself is short, and to the point: Stop being such
a bloody pussy Malfoy.
Later the same day...
Hermione runs between the puddles in Diagon Alleyducking
past the shoppers with their umbrellas and dodging the children
in their Wellington bootssheltering from the rain under
her fiancé's jacket, which hes insisted on taking
off and holding over her head.
They reach the door of Puceys Wine Bar, where Hermiones
arranged to meet Ginny Potter for lunch, and dash under the portico.
Okay? Cormac is, as always, smiling.
Mmm. Thanks. Hermione comes up on tiptoe,
and kisses his cheek, which she almost regrets, because it gives
him the chance to get his hands around her waist and pull her
in for a long and rather sloppy kiss.
Then he releases her, and gives her another of his famous smiles.
Got to go. See ya later.
Hermione watches him run down the street, drawing admiring glances
and ripples of recognition from men and women alike. Shes
no stranger to fame herself, of course, but Cormacs a sporting
legend, a real celebrity, likeWell, like David Beckham,
in the Muggle World, she thinks. And, though she sometimes
wishes he had fewer hands, she knows that, with his glamorous
past, his charity work, and his political ambitions, hes
a fabulous catch.
She checks her own reflection in the window glassCormacs
enthusiasm sometimes leaves her embarrassingly dishevelledand,
once shes sure shes decent, she opens the door, and
enters the wine bar.
Ginnys already there, sitting at their favourite table
with a glass of white wine in hand, studying the menu. As Hermione
approaches, she looks up. Hows things?
Busy. Hermione sits down, and pulls her notebook
from her bag. Ive briefed the caterers, she
says, checking her list, finalised the flowers, and hired
the band, but I still have to choose the music, and work out a
seating plan, and... She looks up at her friend.
Ginnys not joining in the fun like she usually does. In
fact, she seems worried. Whats wrong?
Ginny sighs. I know Ive said this before, she
says. We all have, especially Ron, but... Are you sure,
Hermione? I mean, absolutely sure? Only... If anyone had
asked me to list the top ten men that Hermione Granger would never,
ever, agree to marry, Cormac McLaggen would have been at number
Hermione bites her lip. And who would have been at number
Ginny shakes her head. You know who. And just look what
happened with himeighteen months
Nineteen then. Not exactly what youd call a success.
And heI cant believe Im saying thishe
made you happy!
Cormac makes me happy.
Not in the way Malfoy did. It was embarrassing, actually.
Like being with one of those animals that always has,she
brings her finger to her mouth, and draws a big semi-circlea
smile on its face.
A Cheshire Cat?
A rabbit. She waggles her eyebrows.
Ginny! Hermione closes her notepad and slips it back
into her bag. People attach far too much importance to...
that sort of thing.
Merlin, McLaggen must be bad in bed!
Ginnyyy! Hermione glances around, making sure that
nobodys listening, before she leans closer, and continues,
quietly, As it happens, Cormac and I have agreed to wait
until our wedding night,she leans even closerbecause
Im sure that thats were it all went wrong with Draco.
If he hadnt been such ayou know
A sex-u-al ath-lete, says Ginny, letting the syllables
pleasure her tongue like one of Honeydukess Chocolate Cauldrons.
Not that Im complaining about Harry in that department,
you understand, she adds, quickly, but, just once
in a while, it would be lovely to have a bit of
It soon palls, believe me.
Hermione bushes. No, actually... No, that was a lie.
Her gaze turns inward, as she savours... certain memories.
But theres so much more to life than that, Ginny.
I want to settle down, and have children; and I want the opportunity
to do some good in the world.
Three days, three bottles of Firewhiskey, and three bottles
of Bordeaux later...
Will you stop that!
Draco takes a swig of wine.
His ex-wifeblast herignores him, as usual, and continues
to allow Cormac-the-Sieve McLaggen to probe her tonsils.
Draco turns the picture face down.
Quidditch all-star, my arse! If ever a man rode on the back
of his team mates...
He looks about the room, dispassionately surveying the pyramids
of empty bottles, the piles of soiled clothing, and the general
Hes at a loose end.
For the first time since She walked out on himfollowed,
with indecent haste, by his parents, though, to be fair to his
mother, shed been dragged from his bedside, sobbinghes
actually feeling restless.
That bloody wizardthe one who sent him the press cuttinghas
completely destroyed his equilibrium, totally pierced his cocoon
Can you pierce a cocoon?
He supposes you can, if you have something small enough.
Her engagement isnt a small thing, though.
No, her engagements a great, big acromantula egg sac, seething
with newly hatched offspring tearing their way out with huge mandibles,
Draco shivers, and rubs his face.
No wonder he cant settle!
He considers his options.
One: more wine.
Two: more Firewiskeymuch more Firewhiskey.
Hes sure there must be a third option somewhere but, what
with missing Her, and missing his motherand even missing
his father, a bithes not really on form this morning.
He decides on option number two, the Firewhiskey, and reaches
for the bottleand something strange catches his eye...
The fire, which hes charmed to crackle away soothingly,
suddenly turns emerald green, and from its silenced flames a disembodied
hand emergesa big, square, and thoroughly uncouth-looking
handwhich deposits an envelope in the hearth.
Draco closes his eyesclearly that Firewhiskeys more
necessary than hed realised.
He picks up the bottle, takes a couple of swallows, and looks
The hands disappeared, but the letters still there,
lyingall crisp and whiteupon the dusty marble. Draco
dumps the Firewhiskey back on the table, slides off the chaise
longue and with surprising ease, all things considered, crawls
over to the fireplace, and retrieves it.
Its addressed, in the same handwriting as before, to D
Draco breaks the seal, pulls out a rectangle of deckle-edged
pasteboard, and reads the invitation thats printed in silver
In Celebration of the Engagement of
Hermione Jean Granger
You are cordially invited to
a Dinner Dance
On Saturday 25th October 2013
The Dancing Centaur Hotel, Little Abbey, Norfolk, at 8 pm
Draco sits back on his heels, frowning.
Its not from Her.
For all her kindnfor all her bloody, stupid soft heart,
which will, he knows, be nagging her to invite him because it
cant bear to see even him alone and friendless, her
head knows better than to let a loose cannon roll around
So the invitation must have come from the unknown wizard.
But who is he? And whats he playing at?
Could it be Cormac-the-Tosser himself, hoping that his predecessor
will cause such an unholy riot, hell be able to call off
That hand did look like a Keepers...
Wait a minute!
What day is it today?
Draco scrambles to his feet, finds his wand, and aims it at the
clock, barking, Date!.
A little door, just above the clock face, flies open and a tiny
woman, looking very nervousbut he really cant blame
her for thatshoots out, squeaks, Saturday the twenty-fifth
of October, two thousand and thirteen, and dashes back inside.
FUCK, he thinks. Fuck, fuck, fuck!
Hes got less than eight hours to get ready, and his last
remaining house-elf seems to have buggered off and left him.
Probably, he reflects bitterly, because She gave
the little sod some bloody clothes.
Eight hours, one Sober-Me-Up® potion, one small hair of
the dog, and not one but two Vitamix potions (just to be
on the safe side), later...
Crashing the partys easy; the squibs on the door have been
hired for the night, and dont recognise the bride-to-bes
Draco glances at his reflection as he strides through the mirrored
In point of fact, hes cleaned up quite nicelythe
weight hes lost gives him an additional grace; his longer
hair, which hes wearing tied back but with jaw-length strands
falling about his face, makes him look Byronic (had Byron been
blond); and the Vitamix potion has done what it says on the vial,
and made his eyes all bright and his tail all bushy.
He finds his place (the odd man out in a party of strangers),
and sits down. And things are going surprisingly well until the
happy couple make their grand entrance, and he sees Her, in her
flame red robes and matching lip-gloss.
The pain in his chests so intense he thinks, for a moment,
that a freak combination of alcohol and potions has knackered
But he doesnt die.
Instead, he refuses his food, and spends the entire dinner wondering
what hes done to that unknown wizard for the bastard to
hate him so much hes putting him through this agony. After
that, it doesnt take him long to find the punch bowl and,
once hes started on the punch, it doesnt take him
long to attract attention.
She gives him one of her patented Oh, Draco, what are
you doing? looks, but doesnt come anywhere near him.
McLaggenstill wearing that stupid fucking smilehas
a quick word with one of the squib bouncers and, moments later,
Draco feels a hand on his collar.
I need a pee before I set off, he insists, and
I dont suppose you want me to do it in here...
He reaches for his fly with a theatrical flourish.
The idiot panics. All right, he hisses. The
toilets are through there. He nods towards a curtained doorway.
But Ill be watching. And, when youve done, I
want you out.
Besides a palatial Gents (and, presumably, a similarly well-appointed
Ladies) the corridor beyond the doorway leads to various other
rooms, including a small dining room.
Dark and empty, a metaphor for bloody life...
Draco slips inside and closes the door behind him.
He doesnt want to go home.
He doesnt particularly want to stay, either, but having
seen Her, in flame-red satin that celebrates her every curve,
especially the curves of that delicious little bum she was always
so worried about, he doesnt want to go home.
He sits down on one of the chairs and, elbows on the table, he
leans forward and buries his face in his hands. What possessed
him to come to this fiasco? What the fuck did he think
was going to happen? That She would catch sight of him and suddenly
see the light?
Oh, Draco, why did I ever leave you?
The truth is, he hadnt been thinking.
The truth is, hed let that bloody unknown wizard lead him
here by the balls.
He hears something small and hard hit the table top, and feels
it bounce off his leg and, when he lifts his head, he realises
hes lost a cuff linkone of the emerald-eyed dragons
She gave him for his thirtieth birthday.
He flops down to the floor and crawls under the table and, whilst
hes patting about in the gloom, he hears the door open,
and someone enter the room, andassuming its a canoodling
couplehes just about to roll out from his hiding place
and make an apologetic exit, when he recognises a voice.
Well? says McLaggen.
Its early days, says his companion, but,
so far, the results are positive; youre eight per cent up
on your pre-announcement peak.
And old Wimple?
Obviously, the eight per cent has come from him.
So Im ahead?
If the vote had been taken today, you would have won. Just.
The election for Minister of Magic! For a terrifying moment,
Draco had thought that She might be pregnant. He would breathe
a deep sigh of relief were he not in such a compromising position.
AndSpeaking of positionshe eases himself down
onto his arse and gets more comfortable. His Slytherin instincts
are telling him theres dirt to be heard, and that its
likely to be useful dirt.
So, all because, McLaggens saying, the
fools think Im poking Hermione Granger.
Because, corrects the other man, they think
youre marrying Hermione Granger. They think theyre
getting two for the price of onea world-class sportsman
from a respectable family, with a brilliant Muggle-born wife who
has poise, and charm, and some very influential friends.
Poise and charm? McLaggen sighs. The worlds
most frigid woman?
Draco has to hold himself back. Fucking TOSSER!
Shes vital to your campaign, McLaggen. You cant
risk losing her. That slip earlier
You mean about the dogs dinner?
If she were to find out
She wont. And, once Im Minister, Ill
get rid of it. McLaggen opens the door, letting the din
of the ballroom flood in. Come on, Burke. Lets get
back to the party.
Draco leans back against the table leg, wishing his head were
Hes just heard McLaggen admit to using Her to gain votes;
hes heard him call her frigidWhat the
fucks that about?and he thinks hes
heard him boast about hiding something from hersomething
that might, were she to know about it, turn her against himsomething
Draco pushes his hair back from his face.
But how in Merlins names he going to warn her that
somethings going on, without... telling her?
Because he knows she wont bloody-well believe him if he
He reaches into the magically extended breast pocket of his dress
robes, pulls out a flask of FirewhiskeyNever go anywhere
without your travel insuranceunscrews the cap, and takes
a good, long swig.
The dining room door opens again.
Fucking Ada, its like Kings Cross bloody station
The voice is disguised; its owners speaking through one
of those things from Weasleys Wizarding Wheezes that
makes a person sound like a talking clock having a panic attack.
Stay where you are, it warns, I dont want
you to see me. Here,a big, square hand appears
under the table, proffering a potionsort yourself
out. Hermiones in the Conservatory. Go and talk to her before
its too late.
Draco takes the bottle.
Its another Sober-Me-Up® potion andalthough he
resents the implication that he needs ithe knocks
it back and, as it floods his system, making his flesh crawl and
his heart flutter up into his throat, he vaguely registers that
the unknown wizards already left the room.
He rubs his chest to ease the pain.
If substance abuse is going to do for him, hes already
a dead man walking.
The moment sobriety kicks in, Draco remembers he has a wand.
He summons the missing cuff link with a quick Accio and
then, realising that the bouncer might still be watching for him,
he shrouds himself in a Disillusionment Charm, rejoins the party,
andwith a bit of bobbing and weavingmakes his way
across the dance floor and through to the Conservatory.
The place is impressive, easily comparable in size to the Tropical
House at Malfoy Manor and crammed with equally rare specimens,
and Dracos reminded that the ancestral hot house has been
shamefully neglected of late...
Another bloody thing thatll break Mothers heart.
He finds Her sitting beneath a banana tree, an exuberant splash
of red against a harmony of greens.
Merlin, shes beautiful!
He drops the Disillusionment Charm.
Draco? Her head jerks up. Oh, Draco!
Hes amazed by the expression of joy on her face, and doubly
amazed when she leaps to her feet and throws her arms around him.
I knew youd come, she sobs, I just knew
it! She hugs him fiercely. But you shouldnt
have, Draco. Really. You shouldnt have. I mean it,hugging
him more fiercelyyou shouldnt,even
more fiercelyyou shouldnt; you shouldnt;
oh, you shouldnt...
No, its more than bliss, its...
Its how things are supposed to be.
Somehow, without breaking her hold on him, he manoeuvres her
backwards, and sits her down, and then he slides to his knees,
and lays his head in her lap.
Its always been their shared secret, this most intimate
of embraces, and she gathers him closer, and whispers, Baby...
And for one single, perfectly happy moment, everything seems
And then that fucking bastard destroys it. Hermione!
Are you in there?
She gasps: Its Cormac!
And, at that moment, Draco sees The Truth, written on her facethat
she still loves him, that shell always love him, but that
she doesnt want to be with him. She doesnt want the
notoriety, the social pressure, the constant drama of life with
She wants Cormac See-me-Smile McLaggensportsman, politician,
and founder of a fucking Magical Creature Sanctuary somewhere
Draco squeezes her handtrying to tell her that he really
doesnt blame herbefore he backs away from her, and
disappears behind a clump of tree ferns.
McLaggen rounds the corner. What on earth are you doing
in here, Hermione?
Come on, love; Burke wants to talk to you.
Peering through the ferns, Draco watches them goa slender,
flame-red flower in the grasp of a big, black-robed spider. He
waits until hes sure hes alone, then he steps out
into the open, and sits down.
Faint traces of Her perfume linger in the air.
The time, he thinks, for hiding inside a bottle of
Firewhiskey has passed.
Shes admitted that she still loves him.
He has to win her back.
Later that night...
Sitting at her dressing table, Hermione opens the jewel case
and fingers the ruby necklaceher thirtieth birthday present
from Dracothat she hadnt worn earlier that night,
because it would have brought back too many memories.
Reds your colour, hed always said.
She lifts it out, and holds it against her throat.
Hed been right, of course.
Dracos always right in matters of taste.
She fastens the clasp.
How can it be so different? she wonders. One man touches
you, and its magicMuggle magic; another
man touches you, and... and you have to learn to bear it.
But it will get better, wont it? With time? Even arranged
marriages can be happy, cant they?
She admires the necklace, and the way its warm glow complements
her own colouring.
Sex with Draco had always been wonderful, not because of his
experience, but because, once hed taken that momentous step
and let her in, hed never been afraid to show her
how much he needed her.
And, for a woman like Hermione, so much need had been intoxicating.
She takes off the necklace, and lays it carefully in its case.
But, in the end, for her own sanitys sake, shed
had to kick the habit.
Two days, no Firewhiskey (because hes really
trying), but a half-dozen or so bottles of Bordeaux (just to take
the edge off), later...
Hes spent two days, lying on the chaise longue, trying
to devise a foolproof scheme to win Her back.
Hes dismissed the idea of kidnapping her (because its
too risky), of bribing her (because it hasnt worked in past),
and of getting down on his knees and begging her (though hes
keeping that one in reserve); hes even rejected the idea
of pretending to have the Dragon Pox (because its far too
easy to disprove and, besideseven he has to admitits
a little bit shady).
In the process of scheming, however, hes become intimately
acquainted with the ceiling of his study.
In fact, he can name every crackYes, they all have namespoint
to every flaking bit of paint, and describe every suspended dust
bunny in the room. If he ever sees that bloody house-elf again,
hell be giving her some detailed instructions...
And, fuck, he needs a decent drink!
He drags himself into a sitting position, prepares to standand
Theres another letter in the hearth!
Part irritated, part diverted by the idea of having correspondence,
Draco retrieves it, breaks the seal, and unfolds the sheet of
Its notice of a job interview at the Ministry of Magic.
A job interview?
No Malfoys ever had a job!
But the unknown wizard has already anticipated that objection.
Across the bottom of the letter, in the scrawl thats now
become familiar, hes written: I know you dont
need the money Malfoy, but if you get this job, youll be
working with Hermione.
Hmm, thinks Draco.
Two days, two bottles of Firewhiskey (purely for medicinal
purposes), one Sober-Me-Up® potion, and a quick swig of Dutch
courage (to steady the nerves), later...
Well, Mr Malfoy, says the Head of the Department
for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, youre
certainly well-qualified for a clerical post, and you have have
some very impressive references...
Draco leans forward slightly, wondering whether the unknown wizards
name is lying somewhere amongst the papers strewn across the Heads
...so the only thing that remains, the Head continues,
is for you to meet the Director of the Being Division.
He picks up an Extendable Ear, and speaks into it: Miss
Granger, will you join us, please?
One month of (comparative) sobriety later...
Draco leans his broom against the wall, takes off his cloak and
hangs it up behind the door.
Morning! The Office Junior arrives with his floating
trolley, and makes the morning delivery: a glass of pumpkin juice,
a plate of chocolate biscuits, and the days pile of paperwork.
Draco sets the food on his desk, dumps the papers in his In
tray, closes the office door, and settles down to work.
His month in the Being Division has proved surprisingly interesting.
Theres been the Cronk case, which hed had to read
and review as part of his orientation; then the Furmage case,
in which hed played a small part, interviewing witnesses
and transcribing statements; and, most recently, the Sloper case,
in which it had been his meticulous analysis of the bills
of lading that had cracked everything wide open.
Today, hes so preoccupied with plotting werewolf sightings
on a map of Muggle London, he doesnt hear the door open.
Draco looks up. Its Her. And, framed in the doorway with
the candlelight making her hair shine like spun gold, she could
be a bloody Veela.
Hello, he replies, wittily.
Can I come in?
She shuts the door behind her, and sits down. I just wanted
to tell youI wanted you to hear it from methat Cormac
and I have set a wedding date.
The earth stops spinning. When?
June the twenty-fifth.
Only seven months! And hes been so bloody wrapped
up in his work, hes not made any use of his opportunities!
Merlin, he needs a drink!
They stare at each other, an uneasy silence hanging between them,
then Hermione says, Were going to Paris for a long
weekend, to celebrate.
His misery must show upon his face.
Draco, I wantI needto explain. That
night, in the Conservatory
You dont have to
Yes I do. Its not that I dont care, Draco,
its really not. Its thatwhen I look at you,
when I see you in painit hurts. I want to shield
you, Dracowhen youre disappointed, I want to make
the sun shine for you. And I cant bear it! Not any
more. Im too tired. I need... I need a normal life. Do you
But hes lying.
One sleepless night, two bottles of Firewhiskey, and two
Sober-Me-Up® potions, later...
Whats all this?
The Office Junior shrugs.
Draco dumps three times the usual amount of paperwork
into his In tray, and sits down heavily.
Hes had a rough night, but hes sober now.
Ah, Draco, says Harold Smethley, Her second-in-command,
poking his head around the door, I see youve got the
What is it?
Just routine end-of-year stufflicence renewals, applications
for grants and subsidies, that sort of thingyoull
be getting a lot of it over the next month. Give everything a
quick once-over and, if its straightforward, stamp it and
sign it off; if youve got any doubts, set it aside for the
Monday morning case conference.
Draco unwraps a Strawberry Chocoball, and pops it in his mouth.
Hes found that staying off the booze requires a surprising
amount of chocolate, and he suspects that the next few days are
going to require considerably more than than a surprising
The first and second files concern licence renewals, and everythings
in order. He applies the Departmental stamp to them, and signs
them with a flourish, Draco Abraxas Malfoy.
The third files a thick tome, labelled Victor Ludorum
Magical Creature Sanctuary, Norfolk.
Cormac Come-Save-the-World-with-me McLaggens bloody
With a heart-felt sigh, Draco flicks through the multi-part form,
looking for any obvious omissions. Its an application for
the renewal of a Ministry subsidy. The forms complete, and
the supporting evidence is all there, so hes just about
to stamp the coversheet, when something occurs to him.
He takes up his pen, and a blank piece of parchment, and jots
down a few figures; then he multiplies the number of creatures
rescued by the subsidy per creature, and...
Its an astronomical sum, even by Malfoy standards!
Draco speaks into his Extendable Ear. Ursula, do we have
a map of Norfolk?
Minutes later, hes drawing his wand along the bank of a
river, along a Muggle road, through a pine forest, across a lake,
tracing the perimeter of the sanctuary, and transferring its area
to his parchment.
Then he performs another calculation, dividing number of creatures
by acres, and...
He picks up the Extendable Ear. Ursula, do we have last
years figures for the Victor Ludorum Magical Creature Sanctuary?
Strictly speaking, thinks Draco, assuitably Disillusionedhe
flies along the Muggle A11, I should probably have taken this
to the Monday morning case conference. But his job description
does permit him a certain amount of initiative when it comes to
investigating possible fraud.
He lands in front of the sanctuarys ostentatious main entrance,
reads the sign above it,
VICTOR LUDORUM MAGICAL CREATURE SANCTUARY
ALL BEINGS ARE OUR EQUALS
and raps on the little door to the right of the massive gates.
The custodians polite but tight-lipped, taking Draco up
one of the observation towers, handing him a pair of omnioculars,
and pointing out a row of specially constructed replica manor
houses, from the windows of which entire families of house-elves
wave at him, enthusiastically.
Back outside, Draco thanks the man, summons his broom, and flies
back to London.
Somethings wrong, he thinks.
For one thing, if McLaggen were housing even half the number
of creatures he claims, those bloody house-elves would have been
stacked five high.
Several hours, one half bottle of Firewhiskey, and one Dreamless
Draco sits bolt upright on the chaise longue.
What the fucks McLaggen doing with them?
No Sober-Me-Up® potion (because he can hardly be
considered drunk) but one Pick-me-Up Max Strength® potion
For the second time that day, Draco flies to Norwich, veers off
towards the south east, and follows The Broads until he reaches
the Victor Ludorum Magical Creature Sanctuary, Middle of Nowhere,
Still Disillusioned, he travels along the perimeter, calmly assessing
McLaggens security arrangements.
He finds the usual Muggle-repelling Charms, of course, but there
are other wards, tooa Cave Inimicum, specifically
designed to deter wizards, a Caterwauling Charm to ensure that
those who arent deterred dont hang around too
long, and an Intruder Charm, which no doubt sounds an alarm in
the gatehouse and alerts the custodian, should any trespasser
prove particularly hard-of-hearing.
The tossers definitely up to something, thinks Draco.
Fortunately, hes no match for a Malfoy whos also an
He hovers above the fence, pointing his wand into the compound.
He cant dismantle McLaggens magic, but he can
cast a modified Gouging Spell, and cut a safe tunnel through it.
A tiny speck of darkness appears, just below his feet,
and begins to rotate, sending out a long, thin arm of nothingness,
which sweeps around, slowly descending...
And Draco follows.
Moments later, hes standing safely on the ground, and a
few passes of his wand confirm that its safe to proceedMcLaggens
clearly so confident in his perimeter defences, he hasnt
even bothered to secure the sanctuary itself!
Draco tucks his broom under his arm, ready for a quick getaway,
and jogs in the general direction of the house-elves hed
seen earlier in the day.
When he gets there, hes almost impressed.
The row of manor houses is no more than a façadea
single wall, with glazed windows and wooden doors, and nothing
behindcunningly designed to look real when seen from the
No retirement home for waving house-elves here, he thinks.
So where are they?
He turns back, and heads deeper into the sanctuary, casting a
Muffliato Charm to hide the sound of his breathing, becauseMerlin!hes
really getting out of shape.
At the top of a small rise, his outstretched wand detects a strong
He casts another Gouging Spell and passes through the charm,
and then through the metal wall behind it...
And finds himself deep in the bowels of Lucifer.
The first thing he notices is the smella combined
stench of raw meat, stewed meat, and burnt meatand
his stomachs heaving before he even notices the cage, packed
with house-elves, gnomes, thestrals, and elderly centaurs, and
the chute that brings them down past a line of wizards casting
killing curses, and carries theirin most caseslifeless
bodies away to be butchered.
Still Disillusioned, Draco follows the meat, watching other wizards
skin it, slice it, and dice it with Diffindo Spells; watching
them levitate it into cauldrons, and add fucking herbs and spices
to it; watching them stir it with Locomotor Spells, bring the
spoons to their mouths to fucking-well taste it, and then
ladle it into metal cylinders...
And he realises hes seen cylinders like these before, in
his own study.
Theyre called cans.
Are they making this stuff for Muggles?
He inches closer, quietly lifts a can, slips it into his magically
extended breast pocket and retreats to comparative safety, behind
an empty workbench.
He needs to think...
Obviously, he must tell the Ministry what hes found.
And Potter! He must alert Potter, and...
Oh, bugger bollocks! He must tell Her.
Draco shuts his eyes, imagining how shell react when she
finds out what her fiancés been doing to the creatures
shes made it her lifes work to protect, and he realises
he cant allow it to go on a second longer.
He pokes his head over the bench, and looks around the manufactory.
Its a single, windowless space with no source of lightbesides
the cooking firesother than the candles sitting in the rough
metal sconces that hang from the beams holding up the roof.
Draco backs away until hes at the mouth of his Effodiod
spell-tunnel; then, moving his wand in a long, sinuous motion
that takes in every candle, every flame, and every wand in the
building, he whispers, Nox totalum, extinguishing
the light forever.
The effect is instantaneous, and the the howl of surprise from
the wizards is expected but, unfortunately, the bellowing of the
incarcerated creatures, terrified by the sudden black-out, takes
Draco by surprise, and he swears, realising that too much alcohol
must have rotted his brainhes forgotten the most important
He quickly points his wand towards the noise, and shouts, Alohomora!
And, as he backs out through the spell-tunnel, he hears the crash
and thunder of a herd of frightened beasts stampeding round the
darkened manufactory, and the shrieks of the wizards trapped inside
Bugger bollocks, booze and Dark Magic really dont mix!
He blows out the side of the building, releasing the creatures
into the compound, then leaps astride his broom and rises, smashing
through McLaggens wards and enduring an ear-splitting burst
of caterwauling before hes free, and powering away.
A few miles later, he has just enough time to land, and drop
to his knees, before he throws up.
Messing about with too many potions, he thinks, wiping
his mouth and shivering, will do that to you.
One extremely difficult night, three bottles of Firewhiskey,
two Sober-Me-Up® potions, one Pick-me-Up Max Strength®
potion, and one entire packet of Honeydukes Mint Imperials,
Head Auror Potter doesnt usually work on Saturdays,
The Auror Office is practically empty. For some reason, thats
the last straw: I DONT FUCKING CARE WHAT HE
The young mans hand moves, and Draco has just enough sense
left to recognise that hes about to be caught with a Body-Bind
Curse. Im sorry, he pleads, holding out his
hands in a gesture of surrender, really, Im sorry.
Butpleasecontact Potter. Tell him that its
regarding my wife, Hermione Granger. The boy looks him up
and down, dubiously. Please. Tell Potter. And tell
the Weastell Auror Weasley, too. Theyll both thank
you, I swear it. Draco squeezes his eyes shut, and tries
to will his heart to slow down, and his hands to stop shaking.
All right, sir, says the lad, at last. Wait
here. He crosses to a fireplace, and Draco hears him talking
over the Floo connection.
Come on, Potter!
Fortunately, his old antagonist doesnt keep him waiting
long. Malfoy... Potter emerges, wearing a worried
scowl. Whats happened to Hermione?
We need to talk in private.
My office. Potter waves Draco through a door and,
once theyre inside, indicates that he should take a seat.
He himself perches on the desk. Now whats this about
Yeah,Weasley joins themwhats
going on, Malfoy?
Its McLaggen, says Draco, breathlessly. I
was processing his application, andwell, that doesnt
matterthe thing is, I went there, to his creature
sanctuary,he pulls out the stolen canand
hes making this. He hands it to Potter.
Potter reads aloud:
Chicken Chasseur with real red wine flavour
a specially balanced complete meal
for the dog you love!
Muggle dog food, he says. So?
Its made from house-elves! Its... Its...
Oh, fuck,despite all the potions propping him up,
hes shaking like a jellyI need a drink.
He holds his head in his hands. I saw them, Potter, cooking
bloody house-elves, and thestrals, and... He can hardly
bring himself to describe the horrors hes witnessed.
Whilst hes talking, Weasley leans over Potters desk,
picks up sheet of parchment, and scribbles a note; he touches
his wand to it, murmuring, Advolo Peakes, and
the note folds itself into a dart and shoots away.
It looks like you were right, Ron, says Potter to
Weasley shrugs. I never thought itd be anything as
bad as this.
She, says Draco, Hermioneshes
in Paris with him. Theyve set a wedding date, andand...
Merlins balls, this is going to kill her, Potter!
Theres a knock at the door. Weasley opens it, quietly thanks
someone, and returns with a bottle, which he hands to Draco. Here,
he says, get this down you. Youll think youre
dying at first but, once your guts settle, youll be glad
Draco looks up at him. Thanks, he says.
And thats when a ludicrous idea pops into his head.
Potter decides that the sanctuary must be shut down immediately
and, whilst hes calling in his Aurors, and preparing to
brief them, Draco seizes the opportunity to accuse Weasley.
It was you, wasnt it? he says. You
sent me that clipping, and the invitation to her party; you got
me the job interview in the Being Division, and sorted out the
referencesIll bet one was from Potter, wasnt
Weasley shrugs, whichin Dracos bookis as good
as a confession.
Why the fuck did you do it?
Why do you think? Weasleys face is even
redder than his hair. Dont go thinking I like you,
Malfoy. Youre a cowardly shit who got away with murder,
and Hermiones little fingers worth more than ten of
you. But she still loves you, and, andI cant believe
Im saying thisyoure better for her than McLaggen.
Even before all this, you were better than McLaggen. So, just,his
face contorts in a sneer thats almost worthy of a Malfoyclean
yourself up. Youve shown you can hold down a job. If you
clean yourself up, and tell her youre sorry
Tell her youre sorry, Malfoy, Weasley
growls. And then thank Merlin, and make sure you look after
her better in future.
Potter refuses to let Draco join them on the raid and, with nothing
else to keep him focussed, his nerve crumbles. When McLaggens
wizards are brought in and charged, hes back home, hiding
under his blankets. And when the Aurors arrest McLaggen himself,
on his return from Paris, and Potter takes Hermione aside and
explains what hes being charged with, Dracos drowning
his sorrows in yet another bottle of Firewhiskey
Three weeks of sick leave, and one shed-load of
Draco wakes, stares up at the filthy ceiling, curses the absconded
house-elf, wrestles with the blankets until he manages to get
himself upright, and reaches for a bottle.
This mornings the same as any other.
Theres another fucking letter in the buggering hearth.
Draco abandons the Firewhiskey, crawls over to the fireplace,
picks up the letter, and hurls it on the fire, but Weasleys
one step ahead of himAn almost sobering thoughtand,
as the parchment touches the flames, it bursts open and the Weasels
undisguised voice yells: Didnt you hear me, you tosser?
Clean yourself up and bloody-well make Hermione happy!
Draco falls onto his back, and lies there, exhausted. Easy
for you to say, Weasley, he thinks.
Sometime later, he awakes with a start.
She seems to be standing in the hearth.
Draco tilts his head one way, and then the other, but it makes
Shes almost certainly there.
Can I come in? she asks.
He sits up. Of course.
You havent altered the wards. She brushes a
little soot from her sleeve.
Draco shrugs. Why would I want to keep you out? he
asks, though he can see, now that shes pointed it out, how
her bloody friend, Weasley, has been able to deliver all those
Can I sit down?
Draco swings his feet to the floor, and pulls the pile of blankets
aside, and she joins him on the chaise longue. They dont
speak but, gradually, she leans closer, and he puts his arm around
her, and she lays her head on his shoulder.
Im so sorry, he says, softly.
It wasnt your fault. Her head moves, and Draco
knows that shes looking at the piles of empty bottles, and
the dirty clothes, and the chocolate wrappers. Are you living
in just this one room?
Its got everything I need.
Chocolate and whiskey?
She shakes her head. You havent been eating, have
you? Or washing?
It wastes my drinking time.
Im so lonely, Granger.
Thats the wrong thing to say. Oh, God, she
moans, and starts crying.
And hes always been crap with tears but, this time, he
gives in to them, pulling her closer, and crying with her. Come
back. Please. You can have your own roomyour own
wing, if you want, and never see mejust... Just be
Shhhhhh. She clamps her hand over his mouth.
Youve got to eat, she sobs, as though
that will solve everything. Wheres Binky? She promised
me shed look after you.
Binky... Draco feels a deep swell of almost suicidal despair.
Hed thought the bloody house-elf had abandoned him, but
it had been his own mistakehed been shouting
the wrong fucking nameand, sure enough, when Granger calls
her, Binky appears, overjoyed to see her former mistress
Hello, Binky. Granger wipes her eyes. Can we
have some soup, please, for Mr Draco; something nourishing?
The little creature disappears with a pop.
Draco pulls Granger back into his arms, and lets her warmth and
softness ease his misery a little. Will you stay?
She sniffs. Ill make a deal with you, Draco,
she says, and he recognises the steel thats creeping back
into her voice. Youve been brilliant in the Being
Division, do you know that? Brilliant. Smethley cant
stop talking about how you thought to make all those extra checks
on the figures, and then had the sense to investigate... And the
work you did on the Sloper case... That was solid... So
come back to the Department. Stop wallowing in self-pity, and
start doing something worthwhile, something goodcome back
to work, Draco, and Ill come back here.
He cant believe hes heard her right, and hes
about to ask her to say it all again, when Binky returns and,
shoving some bottles aside, sets a tray of soup on the side table,
and leaves with a little curtsey.
Granger takes up the spoon, dips it in the bowl, and raises it
to Dracos mouth.
I love you, he says, and drinks.
Will you make an effort, Draco? Will you? For me?
She gives him another spoonful.
Yes. He leans in to give her a soupy kiss.
No, she says, pulling back. Nofirst,
youve got to eat, and then youve got to have a bath
and a shave, and then,she smilesthen,
youve got to come to work with me. She offers him
And, after that, will you come home with me?
Yes. (Another spoonful).
And to bed with me?
Her smile turns wicked. (Another spoonful). If you really
think youre up to it, Draco.
One afternoon of work, followed by one more bowl of nourishing
soup, one Alco-stop potion, and a lot of exercise later...
He lets out a long, grateful sigh and sinks into that complete
satisfaction, that calm sense that everythings well with
the world that, for him, always follows an orgasm, when all his
pent-up sexual energy, held back whilst hes made Her
come again and again, has finally been released.
His boneless limbs are still entwined with hers, and he lies
with his head upon her bosom, feeling her fingers, gently combing
through his hair.
No wonder hed gone crazy when hed lost her.
Lost this bliss...
Beneath him, Granger sighs. You know, she murmurs,
that ceiling really needs cleaning.
His fingers move, and she shrieksNo, no, no!and,
suddenly, theyre both strugglinghim tickling, her
wriggling and squealingand, as she tries to escape his hands...