Continuing Tales

Leverage: A Christmas Tale

A Harry Potter Story
by Fragilereality

Part 1 of 4

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"Mistletoe was a plant of peace in antiquity. If enemies met by chance beneath it in a forest, they laid down their arms and maintained a truce until the next day."

~ Mistletoe and the Druids from the White Goddess ~

Hermione jumped in her seat and smeared ink all over the ledger she had been poring over for the previous two hours.

"Shit!" She turned to glare accusingly at the stag patronus which had erupted through the wall of her office and startled her half to death.

"Hermione" Harry's voice burst forth from the stag's mouth. "You're late...don't tell us you're still in the office...get yourself down to The Leaky. It's Christmas."

"It's not bloody Christmas," she muttered in the direction of the stag's fading ectoplasm, although admittedly the huge tree gracing Trafalgar Square suggested otherwise. Not that she could really see Trafalgar Square from her ministry cupboard. Her lowly position as junior under minister in the Department for the Regulation and Control for Magical Creatures didn't merit a window at all, let alone one with a view of prominent city landmarks. In a fit of pique over her less than salubrious accommodation, Hermione had charmed the window to show the busy square. It really was spectacular at this time of year, decorated as it was with an enormous Norway Spruce and thousands of twinkling lights.

It was ten-thirty in the evening on the last Friday before Christmas and the square was filled with revellers heading to and from their Christmas parties. Hermione watched for a brief moment before she returned to the ledger with a sigh. She had already missed her own office party in favour of finishing a fascinating report on unusual narwhal migration activity in the North Sea. Now she was at risk of missing drinks with her school friends, too. She glanced back at the ledger. She would just finish the departmental accounts, she thought. Then she would definitely leave. She'd make it to the Leaky in time for last orders…

Two hours later she hurried along the quiet corridors of the ministry. They would still be there she told herself. The Leaky stayed open late at this time of year. She'd definitely be in time for a quick glass of wine before she sloped off home to bed.

The building appeared deserted, and no wonder; everybody had better places to be and Hermione tried not to dwell on what an indictment of her social life it was that she was here at work again when no one else was.

She was just congratulating herself on her obvious commitment to the cause when she spotted a figure standing smack bang in the middle of the corridor ahead of her. She ground to a halt, a churning feeling of dismay making her feel rather sick.

Lucius Malfoy's blond head was bent studiously over the contents of the manila folder he was perusing. To her relief he appeared not to have noticed Hermione yet. She stood fidgeting for several moments, uncertain of her course of action. She was afraid of Malfoy senior. Those cold grey eyes had a way of piercing her soul, a feat his son had certainly never achieved. Ever since Lucius had been appointed as Minister for Finance (a completely inappropriate and nepotistic appointment if ever there was one) he and Hermione had been at loggerheads and he got the better of her every time.

If he wasn't refusing her expenses claims he was slashing her departmental budget or denying her acquisitions. Only the previous week he had personally rejected her order for a new box of quills. The requisition form had come back with a large denied stamped in red and a personal note in ostentatiously beautiful green copperplate suggesting that she went through far too many quills and ought to consider shortening her reports.

It was all a thinly veiled attack on her blood status and her achievements in house elf rights, she was sure if it. Some days she suspected he had only taken the job to wind her up. He was loaded; he didn't need to work. And he certainly didn't need to work late in order to get ahead. So what was he doing here at this ungodly hour stopping honest hard working drones such as herself from getting to the lifts?

She didn't care. And, deciding that on this particular occasion, discretion was by far the better part of valour, she began to back away silently down the hallway, much as one might retreat from a quietly grazing bull in a clover field.

Sadly, it had long been Hermione's opinion that Lucius was in possession of a supernatural instinct which informed him not only of her proximity, but how best to torment her and that instinct appeared to kick in at the precise moment of her retreat. He raised his head and looked straight at her.

"Ah, Miss Granger." He sounded his usual patronising aristocratic self, but Hermione thought she detected a hint of relief in his voice. "You are better than nothing, I suppose. A moment of your time, please." He gestured at something over his head.

Hermione stopped frozen in the twin headlights of his imperious grey gaze. The urge to simply ignore him and run away down the corridor was almost unbearably strong. On the other hand there was Lucius' position as an authority figure. He was considerably more senior in the ministry than she and, whilst she was not his direct report, if he had a job for her she was obliged to carry it out. Reluctantly, she moved a little closer. He had said please.

"What do you need, Mr Malfoy?"

He rolled his eyes. "I would have thought that obvious."

Hermione frowned and took another reluctant step. He didn't appear to be injured. She scanned his appearance. He wore his usual black robes, although to call them black seemed rather an insult to the symphony of fabric, texture and embellishment crammed into the garments. Even the austere row of buttons on his elegant waistcoat which kept him firmly covered from waist to throat were engraved with the Malfoy crest. It occurred to Hermione that Lucius' robes probably cost more than her entire monthly stipend and, considering he was now forcing her to cover her own stationary costs, she was not inclined to be generous when it came to him.

She was about to tell him that she was not assisting him with whatever menial task he had been about to palm off on her when she caught sight of something sparkling over his head. The ceiling of this particular corridor was lined with pipes, presumably part of the archaic heating system. They were liberally bedecked with Christmas decorations, wreathed in holly and tinsel in a festive extravaganza Dumbledore himself would have admired and which Hermione was surprised Lucius has sanctioned given his budget slashing ways. It was not the holly nor the tinsel which had caught her eye though. It was the small sprig half hidden behind a particularly garish bauble. An innocuous looking green plant with red berries and white flowers and a suspicious sparkle to the leaves. Mistletoe. And judging from the fact that Malfoy had not moved during their encounter so far Hermione guessed it was of the enchanted variety. Before she quite knew what was happening a snigger escaped her.

"How long have you been standing there for, Mr Malfoy?" She enquired politely, making no attempt to hide her amusement at his predicament.

He sighed loudly and consulted a diamond studded pocket watch.

"Almost two hours; I'm late, so if you would be so kind as to release me-"

"Oh." Hermione's lips formed the soundless syllable as she grasped his meaning. It was well known throughout the Wizarding world that enchanted mistletoe would trap its victims until such time as they were released by a kiss. Lucius was unfortunate to have been caught so late in the day when there was nobody around to release him.

Months of budget cuts and simmering resentment bubbled in Hermione's frontal lobe.

"I'm sorry, Mr Malfoy. I hadn't realised your predicament until now." She moved again, but came to a halt about a foot away, well beyond grabbing distance. "What dreadful timing." She made a show of looking around the deserted hallways. "I'm sure there are lots of women working here who would be foolish enough to want to kiss you. Unfortunately, I'm not one of them." She made as if to leave. "I'd sooner kiss a basilisk."

"Miss Granger!" His cold voice cut off the beginnings of her flounce. "Might I remind you that as a mere under minister you are in every way my subordinate?"

"All the more reason for me not to kiss you then. It would be a dreadful conflict of interest, don't you think?. Besides," she opened her eyes wide feigning innocence, "you wouldn't want someone like me, a filthy mudblood, anywhere near you, would you, Mr Malfoy?"

He clenched his teeth and she wondered if he were counting to ten internally as she often had to do in his presence.

"I do apologise for any prior offence my words may have caused you, Miss Granger. You must believe that I hold you in the highest regard."

"Must I?" She was rather enjoying herself now. "In such high regard that you have halved my budget for the next quarter?"

"What can I say? We live in austere times." He spread his hands expansively. "Are you really so petty as to refuse to assist me over something so trivial as a minor budget cut?"

"It's not minor to me." She hadn't meant to sound so passionate and immediately wished she could bite back her words. "Although of course it's nothing I can't handle." He had no right to hear how distressed his actions had actually made her.

"Then come here and kiss me."

That phrase coming from the lips of this man was so wholly unexpected that Hermione couldn't help herself. She let forth a peal of laughter.

Lucius' fingers clenched convulsively around the head of his cane. A cane which once contained his wand, but which Hermione has on good authority was currently empty. She was not quite sure how a convicted felon who was currently denied a wand by the terms of his probation had come to hold such an exalted ministerial position. Corruption might be rife elsewhere in the ministry, but she absolutely refused to show him any respect.

"Miss Granger, I don't think you understand the precarious nature of your position."

"Oh I think I understand quite well." She made a show of examining the carved handle of her own wand. "I'm just heading down to the Leaky Cauldron now to meet my friends. And you? Well, you'll just have to stay here. I suppose one of the cleaning crew might happen upon you," she paused for dramatic effect "but I had heard that you'd slashed the janitorial budget as well as mine, so I'm not sure anyone else will come down here until Monday morning. I hope you've got plenty of reading material in that briefcase; it's going to be a long weekend." She tucked her wand back into her sleeve and made to step around him.

"What do you want?" Lucius' voice was harsh.

"I beg your pardon?"

He spread his hands. "You've won, Miss Granger. You have me at a disadvantage. What exactly will it take to convince you to help me?"

Hermione stared at him in surprise. She hadn't expected him to cave so easily; she's almost disappointed.

"I want my budget reinstated."

"That's not possible. I didn't cut it out of mere spite. The ministry is vastly overstretched."

Hermione hid her surprise at this. She had assumed that Lucius' cuts were due to a personal vendetta rather than genuine political need.

"Not my problem, Malfoy. I'm not the one stuck in a corridor for the foreseeable future."

He sighed heavily. "I can increase it by one third."

"Deal." Hermione couldn't hide her smirk. "And I'll need you to authorise my requisition request."

"Which one?"

"This one." She scrabbled in her own briefcase and pulled out her defaced order.

A ghost of a smile flickered over Lucius' face before it was quickly banished.

"You are not willing to consider my suggestion?" He arched a well shaped eyebrow.

"I don't really think you're in a position to make suggestions at present, do you?" She attempted to imitate the brow arch although she was aware that she was considerably less adept at facial gymnastics than he, and that her brow was probably much less well groomed.

He sighed. "Consider your request fulfilled, Miss Granger. Anything else?"

Hermione pressed a finger to her lips. "You won't call me mudblood anymore."

Lucius looks horrified. "I object to such slander. I wouldn't dream of casting such a slur." He placed an elegant hand on his chest his expression one of sincere shock.

"You cast such a slur three times last week," Hermione pointed out.

"Well, I can assure you no offence was intended." Lucius' tone is as smooth as silk. No wonder he's so good at getting what he wants.

"Nonetheless it was taken." She scowled at him. "You won't call me that again."

"Tell me, Miss Granger," he looked very much as if he would like to move toward her, but the mistletoe prevented him from doing so, "Why is it so important to you what I call you?"

"It's a matter of common decency." Hermione forced herself not to scream at him like a fishwife.

"Common decency," he repeated. She did not like the way he said common.

"Very well," he said after a moment's contemplation. "A one third increase in your departmental budget, the fulfilment of your request for yet more quills and my abstention from besmirching the noble house of Granger in exchange for one kiss. I must say you value yourself highly. Do we have a deal?" He extended his hand for her to shake.

"Wait a minute." Hermione's hand stopped on its journey toward his. "Bearing in mind your complete lack of moral compass, what's to stop you from going back on our deal as soon as I've kissed you?"

"I'm a gentleman." Lucius looked aggrieved. "My handshake is my bond."

Hermione thought for a moment, or at least gave the appearance of doing so. She already knew she was going to take the deal. What was the worst that could happen? Even if he reneged on their agreement all she had to lose was her pride.

"Fine." She extended her hand to take his.

Her breath left her in a strangled whoosh as Lucius grabbed her and pulled her body up hard against his. She was struck by the realisation that, under those flowing robes, Lucius Malfoy was seriously ripped. The arm holding hers was like a steel bar and there was absolutely no give in the chest her nose was pressed against. She pushed these inappropriate and unwelcome thoughts aside as she struggled against him, sudden panic lending her additional strength. It was futile. Lucius' fingers travelled up her arm and she felt her wand sliding out of her sleeve. Her indignation at seeing this man touch her wand was short lived as he flung it down the corridor, well out of both of their reaches.

"So gullible," Lucius muttered in her ear before he released her. Hermione struggled to put as much space between them as possible. She managed six inches before the enchantment took hold and she realised that she was now trapped under the mistletoe along with Lucius.

"You snake!" She slapped his chest. "What on earth do you think you're doing?"

"Exactly what it looks like." He brushed imaginary specks of dust off his lapels after their brief tussle. "I'm incentivising you. Now we are both trapped it really makes sense for you to give me what I want, doesn't it?"

"What? No! But I was already going to give you what you wanted."

"At a ridiculously high price," he countered. "Come now, did you really think I was going to pay over a million Galleons just for one kiss? I think you overvalue yourself, Miss Granger. They may refer to you as the Princess of Gryffindor, but you must know you are not an actual princess." Hermione could only gape at him.

"Now now, my dear." Lucius smirked down at her and gently pressed a finger against her chin in order to close her mouth. "I realise you must be grateful for this valuable life lesson. You may thank me later, now shall we?" He began to lower his head towards hers.

"Absolutely not." Hermione spun around and presented him with her back. "I've told you before I'd sooner kiss a basilisk."

"Were that could be arranged," Lucius said through gritted teeth. "So what are you proposing? We spend the weekend here together?"

"I'm not proposing anything." Hermione gave an angry shrug. "Our current predicament is entirely down to you. Now, since I'm obviously not going to make last orders I have some work to do." She dug in her briefcase and removed a wad of documents which she pretended to study in detail.

Lucius was close enough that she actually felt his sigh against the back of her neck.

"You are a stubborn little thing, aren't you?" If she didn't know better she would have said he sounded almost impressed. "Very well then, Miss Granger, we shall play this your way." She felt his large body moving behind her as he dug in his own briefcase. Silence reigned between them with only the occasional page turn to indicate that they were not alone in the corridor.

Hermione's back began to ache. She tried to lower herself to the floor only to be prevented from doing so by the enchantment. Clearly the mistletoe considered sitting down too comfortable for its victims.

"Ah, yes, I tried that some four hours ago." Lucius shifted his weight slightly so his hip brushed against Hermione's back. "It's amazing what torture protracted standing becomes, is it not?" Hermione elected not to answer and want back to correcting the report on working standards for immigrant goblins in the banking industry.

Lucius shifted again and his scent washed over her. Hermione held her breath, trying not to do anything so intimate as to breathe in the admittedly slightly heady aroma of his cologne.

"Bridie," he said.

Hermione stiffened. The man had clearly gone mad. Perhaps his time in Azkaban had given him a propensity for insanity.

"Yes, Master."

She jumped as a tiny house elf appeared with a crack.

"Would you be so good as to fetch me a cup of tea?"

"Of course, Master." The elf disappeared with another crack.

Hermione ignored the exchange even though the mere mention of tea had left her mouth dry.

"Why don't you just have the elf Apparate you out of here?" she asked, her own teeth gritted this time.

Lucius gave a low chuckle. "You disappoint me, my dear. I would have thought you would have been the first to remind me that human apparition is not permitted even for house elves within the ministry."

Hermione felt a blush colour her cheeks; she had not actually known that.

The elf reappeared and furnished Lucius with his cup of tea in an ornate china cup complete with saucer. Hermione pointedly turned a page of her report.

"Delicious." Lucius took an appreciative sip. Hermione ignored the tantalising aroma of bergamot. "Would you care for a biscuit, Miss Granger?"


"Not hungry, I suppose. You can have your own elf deliver something when you are...oh wait, I don't suppose you have access to an elf do you? My my, it is going to be a long weekend for you, isn't it?"

She refused to dignify him with a response.

He finished his tea and the elf returned to clear away the cup and saucer. Hermione stifled a yawn. It had grown very late. She wondered if her friends had enjoyed their night out. She would have liked to think they might search for her, but the sad truth was that she was rather unreliable these days. Too many weekends and evenings had been spent with her at work and plans cancelled without notice for them to be surprised that she hadn't shown up tonight.

She rubbed at her aching back and suppressed a shiver. Was it just her or was the building getting colder?

"The heating goes off after midnight." Lucius answered her unspoken question.

"Let me guess, another budget cut?" She couldn't really criticise that particular economy. She hadn't seen anyone else in the building so late, except Lucius. She failed to suppress the shiver this time.


"Yes, Master."

"Fetch me a cloak, the black one with the green trim." Hermione ignored the series of pops that followed and was therefore taken unawares when something warm and heavy dropped over her shoulders.

"Your shivering was putting me off my reading," he explained when she looked inquiringly up at him.

"Thank you," she muttered after a few minutes. The cloak was very warm and she couldn't help but rub her fingers against the luxurious silk lining. The spicy scent of Lucius which she had been trying very hard to ignore clung to the fabric. Merlin, she thought. I'll be smelling like him for the next week.

Another aeon passed and Hermione finished the report on goblins and replaced it in her briefcase. A brief glance over her shoulder indicated that Lucius was still engrossed in his own work; either that or he was asleep on his feet.

"Won't your wife be worried about you?"

She felt his elegant shrug. "My ex-wife is unlikely to notice my absence and if she were to she would undoubtedly hope that it signified my demise. I'm sure Draco would provide a much more generous allowance than I."

"Oh." Hermione didn't know what else to say. He hadn't sounded angry. More resigned if anything.

"And you? Won't your friends be wondering why you eschewed your night at Leaky Cauldron in order to spend the evening with me in a draughty corridor?"

Hermione felt herself bristle, but she refused to rise to his bait. Instead she elected for honesty. "Unfortunately, I've worked late one time too many already; my friends won't even think to look for me," she admitted.

"I've noticed you work extremely long hours."

She shot a look at Lucius, but his attention remained on his paperwork, his quill poised over a row of figures. He spoke almost absentmindedly, "You never bill for any overtime. Why is that?"

"Would you authorise it if I did?" Hermione glared over her shoulder at him. Lucius looked up and caught her staring. She was momentarily ensnared by his arresting grey gaze.

"Possibly," he said after a moment of consideration. "Your work is worthwhile, but that doesn't change the fact that the ministry is near bankrupt."

"Is it really that bad?" Hermione turned to face him, interested in spite of himself.

"I'm afraid so." Lucius lowered his paperwork to return her gaze. "Did you really think I was making all those cuts just to spite you, Miss Granger? My, my, you do have an overdeveloped sense of your own import."

Hermione ignored the casually slung barb.

"Why did you take the job?" she asked. "You certainly don't need the money."

The corner of Lucius' mouth twitched up infinitesimally. "No, I do not." He looked back down at his papers. "Let's just say I enjoy a challenge."

Hermione stared at him for a few minutes longer. She really had thought that Lucius was targeting her out of spite. With retrospect she felt a little embarrassed. The cuts he was making were nothing to do with her. She was nothing to him, nothing important anyway. She tried to make herself look away, but her eyes kept being drawn back to his stern countenance as he concentrated on his reading. He really was an attractive man if one were willing to overlook his rather shady past, she thought. There was not a hint of grey in his blond hair and the years had been exceptionally kind, with only a handful of fine lines around the corners of his eyes and mouth. She was surprised to note that their distribution indicated they had been formed by smiling rather than frowning. She supposed if she had given it any thought before she would have expected him to be flabby beneath those elaborate robes and embroidered waistcoats, but their earlier clinch suggested otherwise. She was surprised and horrified to feel a curl of heat in her belly as she stared at him. She closed her eyes and blinked several times. This was not supposed to happen. Extended exposure to Lucius should increase her hatred of him not incite this subtle liking. She bit her lip nervously. She needed to get out of here as soon as possible.

"Fine." She was embarrassed at the way her voice shook. "Just get on with it."

"I beg your pardon?" Lucius looked up again from his paperwork.

"You can kiss me."

He closed the folder and slowly returned it to his briefcase which he placed at his feet. "You understand there will be no financial recompense?"

"I do."

He turned himself fully so they were toe to toe. "Might I ask what has prompted this sudden about face?" His warm breath washed over her face.

"No," she snapped. "Just get on with it."

He stared down at her for a long long moment before his grey eyes flickered to her lips and he lowered his head, his hand coming up to cup her cheek.

Hermione's own eyes drifted shut as she awaited his kiss. All she had to do was endure it for a few moments, she reassured herself. Afterwards she would be free to go and pretend that it had never happened. Then his lips were on hers and the most horrific of realisations swept over her. Kissing Lucius Malfoy was everything. It was pounding waves on a deserted beach. It was rockets launching in the desert and mushroom clouds blooming over the Pacific Ocean. It was subway doors closing at just the wrong moment. It was corks flying from champagne bottles and fireworks exploding and buildings collapsing. He kissed with the same meticulous attention to detail with which he had conducted his financial audit earlier that year, but Hermione found this process infinitely more satisfying. It was achingly brief and disturbingly thorough. The entire experience was over in less than a minute. It was so fleeting as to almost have not happened at all, but Hermione's entire world has been rocked irrefutably on its axis.

"Thank you, Miss Granger. Your assistance is much appreciated." He stooped to retrieve his briefcase before he hesitated for a split second."This has been a most...enlightening interlude." Then he turned on his heel and disappeared down the corridor in the direction of the lifts.

Hermione could only stare after him her fingers pressed against her lips where his mouth had so briefly rested. That had not just happened. It could not have happened. Whatever that had been she had clearly imagined it. She gathered her things together and made off down the hallway as fast as her legs could carry her. She firmly vowed never to think of the incident again.

By Monday morning it was almost entirely forgotten. She had packaged up his cloak and sent it back to him via an extremely disgruntled post owl. She had caught up with her friends on Saturday night and apologised profusely for missing the pre-Christmas party. She had refrained from doing any work and thrown herself into socialising. She had absolutely not thought about Lucius Malfoy and his cold eyes and surprisingly warm lips.

She was so busy not thinking about him that it took her several moments to spot the green and silver wrapped package on her desk when she entered the office on Monday morning.

"Where did this come from?" she asked her secretary who shrugged expansively.

"I don't know, it was there when I got in."

Hermione gingerly picked up the box. It was light and rattled a little when she shook it. After casting a number of detection charms which indicated that the item contained within was entirely benign, she examined it for any sort of label. There was none. Finally, she carefully undid the elaborate silver bow on top and lifted off the lid.

Inside were ten peacock feather quills.

Leverage: A Christmas Tale

A Harry Potter Story
by Fragilereality

Part 1 of 4

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