Disclaimer: Harry Potter belongs to JK Rowling and Warner Bros. All fics posted at this community were written entirely for fun, not for profit, and no copyright infringement is intended.Title:
Stealing TimeAuthor: hiddenhibernianRating:
Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes have figured out how to turn back time – but they're doing it wrong. Unless someone steps in before it's too late, the whole fabric of the universe might tear apart. Luckily, Draco is on the case.Warnings:
Draco occasionally has a foul mouth. That's about it.Author's Note(s):
I had so much fun writing this, I can only hope it translates to the reader. I did try to hit as many of your kinks as possible, but after a while the story took flight and wrote itself, more or less. That's why there is a short version here and a long PDF-version, which can be downloaded here
I had an absolutely fantastic beta reader, 4fanci, who did an amazing job with the draft that kept running away from me. Any remaining mistakes are my own – do please point them out if you notice any.
Draco's dragonhide boots click-click-clicked against the floor as he marched through the double doors to Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes and up to the sales counter. All eyes turned to him, as he pulled out a small parcel, carefully wrapped, and placed it on the counter.
"This," he declared, "is cursed!"
Draco felt his announcement merited a better audience than Ronald Weasley and a snot-nosed teenager stocking the shelves at the back.
"Really?" Weasley asked, carefully unwrapping the parcel, proving the last decade hadn't improved his understanding one whit. Dark Lords may rise and fall, but Weasley still remained an idiot. He finally extracted the contents, and held it up to the light. "Ah. I've tested all these myself, so I think I would know if they were. Why do you think it's cursed?" He screwed his face up in what probably was meant to be a reassuring smile.
"Whenever I try to use it, everything flickers," Draco explained sullenly. "It's like having a seizure – when it's over, things that I don't remember have happened." He was still shaky from the shock of seeing a glass of water he knew he'd spilt returned to an upright position, full of water, this morning. The little golden disc had seemed like a perfectly ordinary ornament until then, when he finally had connected it with the strange occurrences marring last week. All of them had happened when he had been wearing his new robes, with the golden disc pinned to the collar.
"It's not a curse, it's a feature. Didn't you read the manual?" Weasley asked.
With an elegant shrug Draco conveyed that he didn't read manuals; he employed people who did it for him.
"Well, if you had, you'd have known it's a Mini Time-Turner, our latest bestseller. It's supposed to turn back time." Weasley launched into what was clearly a practised speech. He probably had it tattooed on his wrist so he'd remember it. “Tired of life's little disasters mounting up, when they could be easily prevented? With a Mini Time-Turner, you can turn back time thirty seconds and save yourself hours."
"You've made Time-Turners?" Draco was reluctantly impressed.
"Yeah. Neat, isn't it?" Weasley held up the little disc to Draco. "They only work for thirty seconds, but still."
Draco had always wanted to see a Time-Turner. He hadn't expected them to be sold over the counter, however. "I still don't think it's right," he muttered.
"You can speak to our Complaints Department if you like. She's over there." Weasley pointed to a desk in the opposite corner, beneath a knitted banner saying "Complain Here". The greying witch behind the desk gave Draco a little wave and a cheery smile.
Recognising her as Weasley's mother, Draco decided he was urgently needed elsewhere. Ever since the Battle of Hogwarts, she'd given him the willies. It was the combination of badly knitted jumpers and magic powerful enough to bring down his mad aunt. Molly Weasley wasn't someone he cared to cross if he could avoid it.
Draco stopped for two takeaway coffees before Apparating to the Ministry. He made his way from the Atrium to the Department of International Magical Cooperation and Blaise's desk, where Draco amused himself going through Blaise's in-tray until he showed up.
"Morning. Sorry I'm late, someone got themselves arrested in Paris. A Frenchman will never use one word when three would suffice. How are things?"
"Passable," Draco said, lifting the warming charm on the coffee. According to Blaise, it was never quite as good as a fresh cup, but it was still better than what the Ministry provided. "I saw Weasley this morning. He's as freckled as ever."
"I always thought he forgave you on purpose after the war, so he could feel extra saintly. He doesn't even sneer at you anymore, does he?"
"No. Although his smile is hardly an improvement."
"He and Granger broke up recently, maybe that's why," Blaise suggested.
"Or maybe he was born ugly. Who knows. "
"What were you doing visiting him, anyway? Or the shop, I suppose."
Draco took the Mini Time-Turner out of his pocket and held it up to Blaise. "I'm afraid I didn't grasp the revolutionary nature of this little gadget when you gave it to me. Did you know what it was?"
"Pansy has talked about little else since they were released. I'm surprised she didn't bend your ear, too."
"She's got a new boyfriend, who apparently finds it hard to grasp that Pansy has no desire to become Mrs Malfoy." So had Draco, not that many years ago, but any awkwardness had been dispelled with time and his belated understanding that marrying your oldest friend just because you have to marry someone
isn't the best path to future happiness.
"Ah." Blaise picked it up, careful to only touch the edge of the disc. "Pretty, isn't it?"
"That's not really the point. Have you used it?"
"No. As a rule, I tend to give gifts I haven't used first.''
"Pansy might have offered you a loan of hers, or something."
"Don't make me laugh – she doesn't trust anyone with it. How would she ever fix her nails if someone broke it?"
"It doesn't matter. It's – it's not right. It's like the whole universe shudders, and then it feels like the ground is a little askew for hours afterwards. And Pansy is using it to paint her nails?!" Draco did have to admit Pansy had always had an admirably practical outlook on things.
"So you don't like it, then? I thought I'd hit on the perfect present for the man who has everything."
"I didn't come here to complain, I just wanted to find out if you've felt the same. It's eerie. And I say that as a Malfoy."
Blaise examined the Time-Turner through narrowed eyes. "I'd offer to give it a go, but you're not exactly selling it to me. Sod it, I'll always wonder if I don't try. How do you use it?"
"Since when did you become an honorary Gryffindor? Put your finger here, and tap three times – not yet!"
Draco felt like someone had beat him over the head with a hammer made of felt, and he noticed the walls seemed to be vibrating just a little. "You just used it, didn't you?"
Blaise looked at him with concern. "Yes, you told me not to just as I was doing it, remember?"
"The point is I don't, because it never happened. The last thirty seconds have been erased."
"So you never accused me of being an honorary Gryffindor?"
"Forget it, it made sense at the time." Blaise sighed. "I can see what you mean – it's like everything has been given a wobble. And you don't remember anything?"
"No. You're the only one who will ever know."
They stared at each other, horrorstruck.
"How are they allowed to sell that?!" Blaise asked.
"It was designed by a bloody Gryffindor – they've no fucking imagination," Draco said gloomily. Thank Merlin it wasn't his problem – he didn't relish being on the clean-up squad once the Ministry cottoned on to the implications of releasing Weasleys' little time machine to the general public.
"Wouldn't they have had to get it approved by the Ministry, anyway? Who's running the Improper Use of Magic Office these days?" Draco asked.
They both groaned – Bones' incompetence was legendary. He was the widower of Amelia Bones, only escaping the attack that killed her because he was with his mistress at the time. That didn't stop him from making the most of the opportunity to milk the Ministry for all it was worth after the war.
In addition to a huge compensation claim, he had got promoted several times. No one was going to sack Madam Bones' widower, so each superior ended up passing him on through a sideways promotion rather than putting up with his incompetence permanently. The last time Bones had crossed paths with Draco, he had been mucking up the record of the Accidental Magic Reversal Squad – they must finally have managed to get rid of him.
And now he was in charge of approving new products from Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes, Merlin help them.
Just as Draco left the Ministry, thoroughly depressed with the state of the Wizarding world, someone spoke, right next to his left elbow.
"Draco Malfoy, I presume?"
Once Draco got over the shock of being accosted by Granger, he started wondering what she wanted. She bundled him into the nearest Muggle cafe, owned by someone called Costa, before she deigned to explain what she wanted. The coffee wasn't very good, and Draco made a face as he took his first sip.
"It's chain coffee, Malfoy – get over it."
"Funny," he remarked. "I thought I was doing you a favour by consenting to accompanying you here, and you're already complaining. Perhaps I should leave." He pushed out his chair, and was surprised when she grabbed his hand to prevent him from rising.
She must have laced the command with magic somehow, because Draco's knees folded automatically. "Don't get your knickers in a twist, Granger," he said, to cover it up. It wouldn't do to let her think she could boss him around, like she did with everyone else.
"The future of the wizarding world is at stake. And the rest of the world, but I suppose you don't care about that." Her eyes were bloodshot and lined with fatigue, and her face was so pale the circles under her eyes shone an unhealthy purple. Whatever it was, Granger was taking it utterly seriously.
"Is the Dark Lord due another resurrection?" Draco asked flippantly, trying to hide an unwelcome twist in his stomach. If the thrice-damned tyrant was coming back again –
“Tom Riddle is dead, and he won't be coming back," Granger said confidently, and Draco released a breath he didn't realise he'd been holding. "This time, it's something else."
"What is it, then?"
"You own one. Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes' Mini Time-Turners."
"How do you know?”
"If you'd like to keep it secret, I suggest you refrain from making a scene in Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes." She took a sip of the substandard coffee. “I propose we proceed with saving the world. As you've noticed, something is very wrong with the Mini Time-Turner devices. Instead of moving the person holding them back in time, they make the whole world move instead."
Draco frowned. "That's impossible, Granger."
"So you would think. Unfortunately, that's not the case – when you use a Mini Time-Turner, the last thirty seconds never happened. Not just for you, for everyone."
His headache was getting worse just thinking about it. "But that can't be true. What happens if two people use them at the same time, for example? Do we lose a whole minute?"
"Pray that we never find out, is my advice. I think time would stop entirely, but it's impossible to be certain without testing it. Which I'm not keen on, for obvious reasons." Granger looked grim, and Draco was reluctantly beginning to believe her. It would explain the itching sensation that something was utterly wrong, and the distaste he felt at the mere thought of using the device again. As a Malfoy he had strong magical lineage, probably the best in Britain – it was only natural he would detect there was something wrong even if others didn't notice.
That didn't explain Granger's concern, though.
"Have you got one, too? Or how do you know?"
"I've got five." She opened her coat to show him five golden discs, neatly pinned in a row on the inside. "I couldn't afford any more."
"Explain to me again why you're apparently stockpiling these instruments?" Granger didn't look mad, but Draco had learnt these things weren't always obvious to the uninitiated. (Black family gatherings were always tricky).
"So I can destroy them, of course. Unfortunately, there is another 146 in circulation – 145, I suppose, excluding yours."
Not mad, then, although perhaps slightly bonkers. "Splendid. Tell me, why didn't you just tell Weasley not to sell them in the first place? It would have made things slightly easier."
Granger blushed an angry red, which granted her appearance no favours whatsoever. She still had the mad hair, but otherwise she looked just like a normal witch – albeit one that hadn't slept in the past week. "Ron refused to listen to me," she said in a tight little voice. "As did his family. And Harry. They seem to believe that just because we broke up recently, I'm trying to ruin Ron's first big invention."
"And you're not?" Draco didn't think so, but it didn't hurt to be sure.
"I'm slightly more concerned by the integrity of the time-space continuum than Ronald Weasley's feelings."
He had a flash of inspiration. "Tell me, did the fact that he suddenly developed a Time-Turner have anything to do with you? Didn't you use to have one at school?"
"Yes, I did, and yes, Ron did take my research notes and build the Mini Time-Turner from them. Adding the fatal flaw of tearing the universe to shreds in order to make it work."
"I see why you're so concerned. Not everyone fucks up so royally they actually destroy time."
"Thank you. You, on the other hand, have always been perfect in every way." She shouldn't sneer; it was like being savaged by a kitten.
"I wouldn't say that," Draco admitted modestly. "I was a bit of a twat at school."
"A bit of a –" Her chest was heaving, and her hair was starting to escape the messy bun she'd wrenched it into. She drew a long, shuddering breath that seemed to calm her somewhat. "What I need you to do is to buy all 146 – no, 145 – Mini Time-Turners, so we can destroy them. Hopefully, we'll do it before something very bad happens and time as we know it disintegrates."
Draco closed his mouth as soon as he realised it was hanging open. "We?"
"Yes. I don't notice anyone else lining up to save the world, so today is your lucky day." She smiled brightly, but it didn't reach her eyes.
"Did I miss something, or how did I suddenly get involved?"
"Because you're filthy rich, and you understand the danger. The good news is that this time, you don't need to get a tattoo."
Draco was about to walk out of the coffee shop to show Granger she couldn't boss him around the way she did with Potter, when her mask slipped a little. She wiped a tear from her eye so quickly he almost didn't notice, and he realised she was on the verge of falling apart.
"When was the last time you slept, Granger?"
"Three days ago." Unfortunately, Granger was usually right – if she was that worried, Draco probably should be, too.
Sod it – he didn't have any plans for this week. He may as well save the world before he went on holiday on the 17th.
He wasn't going to show Granger he gave in that easily, however. "If I do decide to help you, what's in it for me?"
"Other than a chance to live the rest of your life without constantly fearing time will break down?” When it became obvious Draco wasn't going to be satisfied with that, she continued with bad grace: “Fine, an Order of Merlin, once the Minister finally realises Hubert Bones doesn't have a clue what he's talking about."
"It had better be First Class," he informed her. "Malfoys don't do second class."
It turned out 150 names came to nearly four full pieces of parchment. Five of the names had already been neatly crossed out, including his own.
"How did you get this?" With the list, their task was a daunting prospect. Without it, it would have been useless to even make the attempt.
"Ginny Wea– Potter, I mean. She's the only Weasley who'll listen to me. I suggest we use some form of common approach to contact the owners start with, to keep it as simple as possible. The question is what we could do to contact them all at the same time."
Draco had spent most of the previous night turning it over in his mind, fascinated by the problem despite his attempts to convince himself he only was doing it for the potential Order of Merlin.
Well that, and the continued existence of time as he knew it.
"A product recall by owl would be the most logical method."
Granger pursed her lips. "Yes, but what if someone decides just to bring it into the shop instead? Once Ron and George find out, they'll contact all the other customers to tell them it's just a mistake – or a spoof."
"Have you got a better idea?"
"Yes, I do." She launched into the explanation before Draco could take issue with her certainty. "Offer them twice – no, three times what they paid, saying you're a collector looking for one. They don't need to know you're going to buy all of them. That way, they also have an incentive to reply to the ad as quickly as possible. Then we can chase down the ones who don't want to sell."
"How much did they cost?" Draco knew he wasn't going to like the answer, but he didn't expect it was going to be as bad as it was.
"2,500 Galleons." Granger at least had the good grace to look embarrassed.
"Multiplied by 145 – that's..." Draco pulled out his wand, but she beat him to it.
"Fucking hell, Granger. Voldemort asked for less than that."
"In this case, it will be money well spent," she said, with asperity. "You'll be buying yourself a future."
"And everyone else," Draco muttered, mentally calculating the state of his vault at Gringotts. He'd have to sell a few bonds early –
"Your family is supposed to be the wealthiest in Britain," she pointed out.
"My family, not I."
"You're their only son – I find it hard to believe they're letting you scrape by without a Knut. Besides, I don't think all 145 will reply anyway."
"What do we do then, oh wise one?"
"Depends on the person. If it's... " Granger let her finger run down the list of Mini Time-Turner purchasers, and stopped near the top. "Anthony Goldstein, say, I simply Floo him and explain that it's important, and I'm sure he'll be happy to help."
"And if they're not so obliging?" Did she think people were just going to hand over the wretched things?
"Then we have to acquire them by other means, of course. Between us, we should be able to organise a simple burglary successfully, don't you think?"
"You are mad. I wasn't quite certain before, so thanks for the confirmation." Draco was grateful they had agreed to meet at her apartment rather than in public – this way he wouldn't be associated with her. Unless they were caught in the act.
"As the last resort, obviously. Listen, if it were easy, I would have destroyed them already."
"You haven't considered other means, like –" Draco cast around for a way of convincing the recalcitrant to let go of their Time-Turners, "– pretending to be a repairman sent out to collect it, or something?"
"I did say it depends on the person. We'll simply have to place the ad and see who replies," she explained like he was six years old and a bit dim.
," Draco muttered. "What shall we put in the ad? I assume we need to place it in tomorrow's edition."
"Assuming tomorrow happens, yes."
Got a Mini Time-Turner from Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes?
YOU'RE IN LUCK!
A select collector is willing to pay THREE TIMES the original price to the first applicant. SEND YOUR OWL NOW to Fergal Hennessy, Bowling Green, Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire. DON'T LOOSE OUT!
"There is only one 'o' in lose," Granger pointed out.
"Yeah, yeah." Draco tapped the parchment with his wand, and the unwanted 'o' disappeared. "Anything else?"
"It's very – breathless."
"It looks like it's been written by Rita Skeeter when she's three sheets to the wind and has let her pet hamster loose on the formatting, you mean."
"Yes," she admitted.
"For some reason, it works better than a more formal version would. People like thinking they're cleverer than you, so they can get a bargain."
"I'll take your word for it. Who is Fergal Hennessy?"
"My antique dealer. He'll let us borrow a back room in his shop and deal with the owls." Draco didn't mention the man smoked like a chimney and kept badly trained Crups. Some things are better left as a surprise.
It wasn't Granger the Crups bit. It was Draco.
"Look – I'm bleeding!" He inspected his ankle as soon as they had escaped the barking, snapping mess of beasts greeting them at the front of the shop. Once Draco slammed the door, the back room was blessedly free from Crups.
"Here, let me fix it." Hermione pulled her wand out, and suddenly the stinging pain disappeared. Left was only a faint scar, shrinking into nothing before his eyes. She was irritatingly good at a lot of things.
"Thanks," Draco muttered.
"We couldn't have you bleeding to death now, could we?" She looked around the bright but small room Hennessy had agreed to let to them (paid for by Draco, naturally). "It's not so bad. A bit cramped, perhaps," she said as she proceeded to unload dozens of heavy-duty reference books from her deceptively small handbag.
"It will be, if you insist on bringing half the Hogwarts library with you. What do you think we're going to do, reference the Time-Turners to death?"
"It never hurts being prepared." Granger also pulled out a portable stove and a kettle from her bag, and proceeded to set them up as if she wasn't doing anything out of the ordinary.
"I didn't realise you were moving in." Draco gave up on the desk – Granger wasn't going to budge, so he pulled out a side table and set it up opposite her so they nearly filled up the room. "Isn't this cosy," he said surlily, pulling put a quill, his inkwell from home and a few pieces of parchments, which was all he had brought with him.
"Look!" Granger pointed at a brown cloud, approaching the window at alarming speed. "The owls are coming!"
"... and Laurence Bagnold can't quite remember where he put it, but he'll have a proper look as soon as he clears out the shed. He lives in Coventry, too. What a loser."
"We don't all inherit a mansion to live in, you know." Hermione scribbled furiously – Draco suspected she added some of his comments, but wasn't sure which.
"Which is why Apparition or Floo offers the witch or wizard of modest means the opportunity to live in any location of their choice, making Bagnold even more of an idiot."
"Floo powder can add up, you know."
He could tell when she was joking now – sometimes he even played along. It relieved the tedium of reading letter after letter from people who struggled to grasp there was little point in writing one unless you had something to say that would interest the recipient.
"He could make himself 7,500 Galleons if he bothered his arse clearing out his shed this week rather than putting it off. I rest my case."
"And he's sure it's in the shed?"
"As much as someone who couldn't find their own backside with both hands can be sure of anything, yes."
"Brace yourself then, Draco Malfoy – you may be going to Coventry."
"... and Loretta Scrivenshaft will send hers tomorrow. That's it." Hermione tapped her wand, and a number appeared at the bottom of each column of her list.
Draco leaned over the table to read the totals. "Received: Thirteen, In transit: Eighty-two." He couldn't help the smile spreading over his face. "Turned down: two – Ogden and who else? No reply: twenty-eight." Thirty should be manageable. How hard could it be? He was a Malfoy and she was Hermione Granger – the average wizard wouldn't stand a chance.
"Ron's Auntie Muriel wrote to tell us that we have more money than sense and that she'll be keeping her great-nephews' 'trinket'. We'll send Ginny out to talk to her. Out of the others, we should be able to talk some of them around. Let's have a look." She replicated the list, removing all names except the no-replies.
Granger ploughed her way through the list. "Septima Vector – no problem there, I'll Apparate to Hogwarts tomorrow, and talk to Minerva at the same time about that letter. Dedalus Diggle – I think you'd better leave him to me. Pansy Parkinson is all yours, though."
Draco sucked in some air between his teeth. He had forgotten about her. "That might be difficult. Apparently Pansy thinks the Time-Turner is the best thing since juiced leeches. She's unlikely to just hand it over because I ask."
"But surely she'll give it to you, if you explain that time might collapse if two of them are ever used at the same time?" Granger looked puzzled, and Draco sighed.
"It's not that she won't believe me. She'll probably just say 'fine', and demand that we destroy all the others so she can keep using hers." Pansy was eminently practical, you had to give her that.
"But that's not safe, either!"
"I know, I know, but Pansy won't care. I suggest we leave her until last, and focus on the easier ones.”
"All right. Joey Jenkins – can you talk to him? Don't you own the Falmouth Falcons, or did I get that wrong?" Trust Granger not to know her Quidditch.
"Must I?" To call Jenkins a promising Quidditch player was like accusing Weasley of having brains.
"Excellent." She made another tick on her list, and Draco groaned.
"And it was looking so well for next season! I'll probably have to take him on, he's the worst Beater since Eamon Donnelly was sent off drunk in 2010." Jenkins would stand out like a pus-filled pimple in his carefully composed team.
"At least there will be a next season." Granger briskly moved on to the next one, heedless of Draco's quashed dreams of league victory. "Heathcote Barbary, why do I recognise the name?"
"He's in The Weird Sisters. Or used to be, before they stopped playing."
"He? I thought they were women?"
"You've seen them live, Granger – did they look like women to you?"
She blushed, and Draco knew he'd struck gold. "It was a long time ago."
"Otherwise occupied, were you? What was his name again?" Draco was smiling broadly at her discomfort.
"Victor Krum, as you very well know. For the record, he was a perfect gentleman." Her mouth was as prim as if he'd brought a centaur into the drawing room.
"Always thought he was a boring fucker." Draco remembered the Yule Ball – Granger had turned heads even in Slytherin. That had been before most of them had turned into bigoted idiots who wouldn't be caught dead with Granger.
"I was fifteen!"
"So was I – I didn't let that hold me back." Draco had very
fond memories of the ball.
Granger laughed out loud, and the soft afternoon sunlight creeping through the window tinged everything about her golden. Her eyes were soft and brown with flecks of gold, and Draco realised with a start that she wasn't bad-looking now either. You could see her age in the tiny creases around her eyes, but the years sat easy on her – you could tell she had been living well.
"Kevin Entwhistle?" She was relentless, though.
That evening, they started the more unorthodox retrievals. Draco insisted they would start with Laurence Bagnold, who turned out to be as inept at warding as he was at everything else. Apparating to Coventry, locating his Time-Turner, and returning to Granger's apartment took less than twenty minutes.
"We could have this wrapped up in a few nights, Granger!" Draco was high on adrenaline and the thrill of doing something more exciting than writing bank drafts.
"Call me Hermione. Now that we've committed a crime together, I think we can use first names. Draco."
"Right. Hermione." He tried it out, trying not to sound like Weasley.
"I don't believe this – another cancelled meeting!" Granger stuck her pen into her hair with vehemence. Draco wondered what it would feel like to stick his hands into it – it looked dense but very soft, like a solid cloud. He didn't noticed he'd stretched his hand out until he almost was touching it – he snatched it back so quickly he was surprised she didn't comment on it.
"With whom?" he asked belatedly.
"Kingsley – something urgent has come up, and he can't see me today. Well, this is bloody urgent, too!"
"Won't he feel stupid if the meeting doesn't happen because time is broken?" he asked.
"Yes. Only if time breaks down he'll never know, but still."
"Yeah. Why don't you tell him in a letter?"
She glared at him. "Why do you think I haven't? Unfortunately, Kingsley's secretary screens all his letters for him."
"So?" Draco was admittedly not employed by the Ministry, but he was fairly sure the impending collapse of time fell within the Minister's responsibilities.
"His secretary is Percy Weasley." She started writing her reply, pressing down her revolting pen so hard that Draco wouldn't be at all surprised to see "Dear Kingsley..." etched into the desk afterwards.
"Oh. So we're on our own, then?" He had almost forgotten about the Order of Merlin, but it must be a sure thing now.
"I almost want to finish it all off ourselves, just to prove we can do it." She tied her response to the Ministry owl's leg and let it out through the window, slamming it shut afterwards. "Let's see who is left: Tiberius Ogden, Sachin Singahal, James M. Walden and Pansy Parkinson."
"Four." Draco was impressed, despite having been there for one hundred and forty one of them. "Why the M? Is there a James N. Walden out there who didn't get one?"
"Maybe he's American. I've never heard about him, have you?" She leafed through Notable Magical Names of Our Time
, more as a token than a real attempt to find him. Draco knew very well all remaining names on their list had been cross-referenced to kingdom come.
"I'll go and see Ogden – he must have received Minerva's letter by now. You can look for Walden – don't you have all the back issues of the Daily Prophet
at the Manor?"
Great. Now she was giving him assignments.
Working from home had its advantages, Draco decided as he devoured the cheese-and-ham toastie delivered by the house-elves. Hermione would probably rather self-combust than bring him lunch. It was very quiet here, though – no excited "Aha!"-s when she found something interesting, or badly withheld excitement with every owl arriving at the window. Several times, he read something interesting out loud, only to remember there was no one else there.
As the clock above the mantelpiece struck five, he gathered up his notes and Apparated to Bowling Green. Hermione walked through the door a few minutes later and collapsed in her chair, dropping her bag on the floor with a heavy clunk.
"Tough nut to crack?" Draco asked.
"I wouldn't say that." Hermione tried to smooth down her hair, but that ship had sailed hours ago. “He was a bit of a leech, but I did get this." The little golden disc between her thumb and index finger glowed in the sunlight.
"You got it!" They were fucking brilliant, that's what they were.
"Only three left now."
"Not for long," Draco said, his mind racing ahead to what he'd say to Sachin Singahal in the morning.
"Please take this cheque for 15,000 Galleons" turned out to be sufficient. Draco tried to beat him down to twelve thousand, but Singahal wasn't stupid. If someone was this keen on buying a Mini Time-Turner, he was going to make them pay.
"That couldn't have gone better," Hermione said once Singahal had left the pub and she could join Draco at his table.
Draco groaned when Hermione reached for her battered notebook again. "Oh, give over, Granger – it wouldn't kill you to enjoy the moment for once."
"In this salubrious location?" She looked around at the slot machines and faded curtains, wrinkling her nose delicately at the smell of beer. It was a nice nose, Draco was surprised to notice. It suited her – a dainty one wouldn't have looked right.
It was funny how you got used to seeing someone's face every day, only to realise you hadn't really looked at it properly. There were only three names left – soon he wouldn't be seeing Hermione at all. Once they'd had their heads extracted from their respective arses, she would undoubtedly be welcomed back into the fold of Weasleys and Potters and other assorted Gryffindors.
Draco's brief sense of elation evaporated completely, and he drained the bottom of his bottle before putting it back on the table with a little too much force. "You're right. Let's get back."
"James M. Walden." Mundungus Fletcher sucked on the name like it was a throat lozenge, and Draco itched to tell him to get on with it.
"Yes," Hermione said with uncharacteristic patience.
"Never 'eard of 'im. Listen, cheers for the pint and all, but I'd better be off." Before he had time to slide down from his barstool, Draco used his concealed wand to make sure he wouldn't be going anywhere soon.
"Not so quickly, Mr Fletcher." Hermione's smile was truly terrifying, in a good way. Draco decided to pick her side, should there be any future wizarding wars. “My tracking spells reveal any correspondence for the elusive Mr Walden is directed to you. Would you care to explain?"
Fletcher looked around, but none of the other patrons in the seedy pub on the wrong side of Knockturn Alley was paying any attention to the little group in the corner. "It's me, all right? Sometimes a bloke needs a bit of an alias. Especially if 'e's a bit of a known character, if you know what I mean."
"But how did you manage to confound the We – rather complex magic?"
"I've got skills, innit?" His toothy smile returned, and Hermione recoiled. "Did you think it was a coincidence the only time I was sent to Azkaban was in the war?"
"Seeing as you are in fact Mr Walden, I will cut this short. Give me your Mini Time-Turner," Hermione said.
"You know what I'm talking about. Give it to me."
"That's mine, tha' is – you can't just demand it like that, even if you are Miss Prim and Proper." Fletcher looked nettled, which was a mistake.
Mini Time-Turner," Hermione said, and it burrowed its way out of Fletcher's dirty tweed coat and zoomed into her hand. "Would you prefer to explain to the Improper Use of Magic Office what you've been doing with it?"
"Ain't no one's business but mine," Fletcher said sullenly, but his shoulders sagged in defeat.
"Tell you what," Draco said. "Here's a cheque – no, hang on..." He dug into his pocket and found one of the bags of Galleons he had got out of Gringotts weeks ago. He tossed the bag to Fletcher, who suddenly looked a lot more cheerful. "There's 7,500 Galleons in there. It's only fair that you'll get compensated for your trouble."
"Too right it is," Fletcher grumbled, but he didn't make any more complaints, and even gave them a half-hearted wave as he left.
"What did you do that for?" Hermione asked as soon as he was out of earshot. "By taking it off him, we probably cut the crime rate for petty theft by five percent!"
"It's obvious you weren't in Slytherin. Never make an enemy if you can avoid it."
"What?" Her gin and tonic threatened to come out of her nostrils. "Since when is that your motto?"
"Since I ceased being a stuck-up brat who thought the fact my ancestors were wizards outweighed any character flaws of my own. Severus Snape was a Slytherin as well the Dark Lord, you know. We're not just about blood bigotry."
"I suppose." She drank up, uncharacteristically quiet until they returned to the office to destroy Fletcher's Time-Turner.
It had taken Draco an embarrassingly long time before he'd asked Hermione what she actually did with them. As it turned out, her father's Muggle sledgehammer made a satisfying clunking noise when it obliterated them into a hundred pieces; the only difficulty was finding all the little screws and cogwheels afterwards.
It was rather satisfying to lift the sledgehammer and let it fall on Weasley's handiwork – Draco had taken over the task by now, and was secretly a little disappointed there was only one left.
Retrieving Pansy's Time-Turner would be the hardest task of them all, however.
Seeing Hermione's paraphernalia taking over both desks in their tiny room – including a blueprint of the Parkinson's residence, Merlin knew where she'd got that from – Draco felt slightly more optimistic.
"Are we absolutely sure Parkinson can't be persuaded?" she asked.
"The only person I know who's more pigheaded than Pansy is Potter."
"We've no choice then – are you busy tonight?"
"I always leave some room in my calendar for impromptu breaking and entering on Saturday nights."
Hermione turned up dressed top-to-toe in something Muggle and black, which (although fetching) would instantly tip Pansy off that something was wrong if she caught a glimpse of them. Draco was sensibly dressed in his best robes, so he could claim he'd popped by to see if Pansy was home if they got caught. It might be a bit harder to explain why he'd brought Hermione with him, however.
"Get on with it – we've been here for far too long," Draco whispered. It had taken them twenty minutes just to get up on the front steps, never mind getting into the actual house.
"You're lucky hexing you in the back would attract too much attention," Hermione muttered, and Draco reflexively looked around. The nicest street in Upper Flagley was deserted on a Saturday night – anyone who was going in or out would use the Floo or Apparate.
Which was why they were creeping around the Parkinson's garden in the first place.
Finally, the enchantments inside the ornately carved front door caved in to Hermione's sustained assault. It opened slowly, only darkness showing inside.
"Yes!" Hermione hissed.
"Famous last words, Granger." When Draco's detection spell didn't reveal cause for concern, he advanced cautiously. The only booby trap awaiting the unwary intruder was Pansy's coat, thrown on the floor rather than put away. It didn't surprise Draco – to Pansy, housework happened to other people, and tonight her house-elves were out of action.
"Can we search the room now?" Hermione lit her wand on his signal, and the soft light revealed her impatience was getting the better of her.
"Search away – I told you, she sleeps with it under her pillow."
Unsurprisingly, no Time-Turner turned up when Hermione cast her Accio. "Has it occurred to you that Zabini might have been wrong?"
"Frequently. Not in this case, however – he's known Pansy since she was five. Let's go upstairs.”
Slowly, slowly they disarmed each trap set on the stairs. Bizarrely, despite the tediousness of casting the same detection spell for each step, this was fun. Draco would almost consider doing it professionally – working for the Department of Magical Law Enforcement came with the added bonus of acting within the law for a change. It would of course be useless to attempt to join – Potter had it all sewn up. Draco's surname virtually guaranteed any application from him would go straight into the bin.
He realised he didn't know exactly what Hermione did for a living, when she wasn't on unpaid leave trying to save the world. He must remember to ask her when they weren't breaking in somewhere.
"And that's it – the last one." Draco lowered his wand with a flourish.
"Where's her bedroom?" Hermione peered around the upper landing.
"Third on the right." They advanced together.
The door swung open without a sound. Inside, they could hear Pansy snoring. No street light slipped through the heavy curtains, so they entered the room completely blind.
Hermione touched Draco's wrist – it was the agreed signal for him to stop and wait for her to approach the bed. She shuffled across the bedroom almost soundlessly, accompanied by Pansy's snores. Eventually, she came to a standstill, and the rustling of silk sheets betrayed that she was searching beneath Pansy's pillow.
It went on forever – Draco's wand arm started aching from being stretched out for so long, and he wished he dared to shift his weight to a more comfortable position. If he happened to make the floorboards creak he knew Hermione would kill him, however, so he remained as he was, hoping his left leg wouldn't give out.
There was an extra long rustling – hopefully the sound of Hermione pulling her arm out from under the pillow, and then all hell broke loose.
"Thief! Intruder!" Pansy shrieked. A curse flashed past Draco, hitting the doorpost. There was an almighty scramble, with curses flying everywhere and muffled exclamations.
“Stop that!” Hermione screamed. “It's happening again!” The whole room shuddered – Pansy must have pressed the Time-Turner again.
“Stop it!” Hermione panted from the floor. Draco tried to intervene, but was knocked down and got a kick in his stomach when he tried to get up again. He decided enough was enough.
Hermione and Pansy halted hostilities temporarily, blinking to get their vision back. Draco had closed his eyes before casting the spell, so temporarily had the advantage.
Draco finally remembered he was a wizard. "Accio
Pansy's Time-Turner!" It sailed into his hand, and Hermione looked aggrieved.
"I had that already!" She was deafened by Pansy's outrage.
"Draco! What are you doing here with – Granger
"Not so fast, Parkinson!" Hermione was quicker and had Pansy immobilised on the floor before she had time to act.
"I'm here on a mission to save all of mankind," Draco announced. "I've always wanted to say that," he defended himself to Hermione, who was raising an eyebrow rather archly. "It's true!" he told Pansy, who couldn't have looked more incredulous if he had announced his intentions to move in with the Giant Squid at Hogwarts.
"It is," Hermione said. "Unfortunately, Parkinson, your little device can cause the whole fabric of time to tear apart."
"That would be bad," Draco explained helpfully.
"So it must be destroyed," Hermione resumed, ignoring his interruption. "You will receive compensation, of course, but as you were somewhat resistant to giving it up –"
"But I need it," Pansy wailed, and Draco recognised the signs. They could explain until they were blue in the face, but Pansy wasn't at home to Mr Logic when her desires were thwarted.
"That's a shame, but we're doing it anyway," he said firmly, bringing down the sledgehammer Hermione shrunk and brought with them on the last Mini Time-Turner in existence.
"I'll get you for this, Granger!" Pansy struggled mightily, but she couldn't tear herself loose in time. "And you too, Draco," she added bitterly.
"We'll make it up to you," he said hastily, knowing only too well what Pansy was like when she was intent on revenge. " We'll –" Draco was struck by inspiration. "Hermione will make a spell for you, to guarantee your nail polish always is perfect."
"I will, will I?" Hermione asked, but she could see that Pansy had brightened up.
"In that case – I suppose I could overlook it. And you said I was going to be compensated, too?" The Parkinsons weren't wealthy, not since the crash of 1923. A very large bag of Galleons would certainly soothe Pansy's sensibilities, as long as Hermione could deliver the goods.
Draco groaned. At this rate, he'd be queuing up to buy Weasley's second-hand robes. It was only when he noticed Hermione's dazzling smile that he realised that they had finally made it – they'd achieved the impossible, without any help from the Ministry.
He wondered how he had ever thought she was average, or inferior to anyone. If you knew how to look, Hermione shone like a diamond from the inside. She would spend all her savings and leave her job to save a world full of people who would never find out what they owed her, just because someone had to.
Draco knew she would have done it all on her own. Thankfully he had been there to help her – this way, no one was going to end up in Azkaban, and there may well be Orders of Merlin at the end.
Unfortunately, by now there was something else he wanted even more than an Order of Merlin.
The cream of the Wizarding world was present at the ceremony. Draco tried not to smirk about the fact that he would imminently be awarded an Order of Merlin, First Class, for acts of outstanding distinction – he didn't want to spoil his appearance on the first page of the Prophet
with the medal pinned to his chest.
Hermione was standing next to him, occasionally smiling to an acquaintance in the crowd. That was how Draco spotted Potter, and then the Weasleys next to him. The sight of Ronald Weasley's face almost made him slip up.
"Weasley is looking like someone ate his dinner," he mumbled to Hermione.
"Well, this whole thing was his fault, after all." They both knew she'd forgive Weasley eventually, but not yet.
Weasleys' loss was Draco's gain, however.
"I don't think that's why," Draco said, seizing the opportunity. For being the smartest witch of their generation, Hermione could be remarkably dense sometimes.
"Why is it then, since you seem to know everything?" Her whisper was a bit more annoyed this time.
"It's because he doesn't like me standing so close to you."
Hermione looked at Draco like he had explained they'd better go to bed at night, on account of the sun setting. "Ron has loathed you since you were both eleven years old. Of course he doesn't like it. He may have got past what happened in the war, but it doesn't mean you'll ever be friends."
Draco shuddered. "Merlin forbid. You still don't get it, though. Weasley doesn't like it because I might do something like this." He bent his head down and kissed her cheek. Her hair smelled of flowers, parchment and something earthy and strong, just like her. Draco tried his best to look confident for Weasley's benefit, but his knees were trembling as he waited for her reaction.
"I see," Hermione said. "Or something like this, perhaps?" She reached up on her toes and kissed him on the mouth. Draco thought his heart was going to stop before it started beating at double speed. She didn't linger – Hermione Granger didn't snog in public – but she had made her intentions clear to most of the Wizarding World.
"Yes," he managed to squeeze out, just like his world hadn't been turned upside down. Again.
"Ladies and gentlemen, wizards and witches," the speaker began and Draco tried to recollect his wits. He got through the ceremony, but he was smiling like a loon on the front page of the Daily Prophet
the following day. THE END