Toxic @rubberduckiez
Declaring War

I’m falling...

Draco held his breath as he gave the liquid in his cauldron one, two, three counter-clockwise stirs and then stepped back slightly, waiting anxiously. The last time he had gotten this far in the concoction, it had chosen to explode and it took him hours to get the sticky remnants out of everything and nearly ruined all his notes. There were still residual mud green stains on most of them.

For the last few years he had devoted himself to working on potions that affected the mind. Namely, that when taken would protect the user from magic aimed at controlling the mind. While ultimately he hoped to develop it to protect against dark magic such as the Imperius Curse, for the time being he hoped to find a way to block the most basic of memory charms, figuring that was as good as any place to start.

The liquid continued swirling, slowly changing from forest green to a light, mint color. Happy that it hadn’t exploded this time, he breathed a sigh of relief and walked over to his notebook, bending over to write his observations down, though he kept a steady eye on the simmering potion.

When he was locked up in his lab, it was almost as though nothing had changed. He could pretend that Watkins was in his office and he had never been looked over for a promotion that clearly should have been his. It had been a few days since Liv, er, Olivia - no, De Loughrey - started but Draco had rarely seen her. She seemed to be taking her vow seriously and spent most of her day going to every lab on the floor and getting briefings of each and every project that was underway.

She was diving into a hands on approach, it seemed, and thankfully had yet to make it to his office.

There had been whispers going around. Some thought she was absolutely lovely, though rather serious. Others thought she was an arrogant know-it-all who rattled off every minute imperfection. Susan Bones had gone on about her for a good 20 minutes before Draco had to walk away because he was annoyed. Draco wasn’t sure which to believe, though it wasn’t as though he had any clue as to who Olivia actually was, despite their intimate encounter.

She hadn’t shared anything about herself that night and neither had he, though since she started at the Ministry, he had taken a bit of time to look into her. The eldest child of Oliver De Loughrey seemed to be a mystery, with not much out there in the New York society pages on her - all references were in journals in regards to her work which he found odd considering there was an abundance of photos and articles on her younger sister and brother. Maybe she was more private than they were? Though Draco knew hiding away from the wizarding media was no small undertaking when one had a powerful last name. Or infamous.

Perhaps he should ask his mother next time he saw her. Narcissa Malfoy had a near perfect recollection of just about every pureblood family both in the United Kingdom and New York, where the De Loughreys hailed from. But then he remembered her slight Southern accent from that night.

People in New York didn’t speak like that, did they?

Draco stopped writing, frowning as he looked at the potion. He had done it again. Allowed himself to get off wondering about his new boss rather than focus on his work. Though, thankfully it wasn’t one of the more sordid fantasies that had passed through his mind this time.

“Bloody focus,” he muttered to himself. “Doesn’t matter.”

“What doesn’t matter?”

Thankful that he hadn’t jumped or started at the sound of her voice, he collected himself before turning around and seeing De Loughrey standing in the doorway to his office, a clipboard held tight to her chest and a friendly smile on her face.

She had shed her outer robe and had the sleeves to her green blouse rolled up to her elbows. While her hair was pulled back in a low pony-tail and there were flecks of some sort of substance still stuck in the strands that framed her face (probably made someone nervous and they did a potion wrong), she still managed to look fashionable and put together.

Just like every other pureblood witch, he couldn’t help but think ruefully.

“Just something with my work,” he said lightly. De Loughrey nodded and looked at his notebook and other parchments spread out on the table and then over at the cauldron.

“May I?” she asked, remaining in the doorway, though she pointed towards the cauldron.

“By all means,” Draco said, stepping aside and sweeping his arm out. He was determined to prove that he could be professional around her. Draco Malfoy did not lose his head. Not for a woman. Even one was vexing as Olivia De Loughrey.

De Loughrey walked in and peered down at the contents, saying nothing and betraying nothing. She sniffed it a bit and then walked over to the notes strewn about the counters of his workspace.

“What are you working on?” she asked.

“Potion to protect the mind,” he replied, feeling rather proud of himself. He had been working up to this over the last year or so, with various other potions. De Loughrey glanced at him over her shoulder and then looked back at the notes.

“You are very detailed,” she said, starting to flip through them. “Though… your methods are a bit all over the place…” Draco frowned. Sure they weren’t absolutely perfect, but that was the point of research, was it not? Keep trying until something worked? “What in particular are you attempting to protect the mind from?”

“Magic,” Draco said, as though it was obvious. De Loughrey turned around and leaned back against the table, fixing him in a calculating stare, her smile long gone. “At the moment, memory charms. Though I’m hoping to make variants that protect from various spells. Including ultimately the Imperius Curse.”

“How long have you been working on this?” she asked.

“This one in particular, several months,” he replied. “Though I’ve been focusing on this sort of thing for a few years now.”

“And you’ve yet to get a viable potion?” she then asked. Draco felt his annoyance start to grow. Things like this took time and patience. He thought he was rather ahead of schedule. And Watkins never used to grill him on his work, trusting that he knew what he was doing. Which he did.

“Still working on it,” he said. “Been having some issues with explosions.” De Loughrey nodded slowly and turned back around to look at his notes.

“Probably because you’re mixing in too much Abraxon hair, which can be explosive with some of your other ingredients,” she said, picking up a sheet. “And it might be more useful to dry and then grind up the Adder’s tongue rather than put it in whole.”

Draco remained silent, starting to seethe as she methodically went through his work, pointing out everything - in her opinion - that he was doing wrong. How would she know? This was an all-new, experimental potion. He hadn’t even gotten to the testing stage yet, well, on humans anyway. There was no way this infuriating woman would have a clue as to what he was doing wrong when he himself had yet to figure it out.

“But these are just some tips. Feel free to disregard them,” she said with an easy smile as she put the page down. She then turned and started towards the doorway.

Draco narrowed his eyes at her back, not wanting to let her have the last word. First, she had taken his job and now she was going to rip his life’s work apart? But at the same time, for one of the only times in his life, Draco was at a loss as to what to say. He had nothing.

That’s when he realized that he could still put in play his plan. He could get to know her and find something - anything - that he could use to take her down. Just needed to find the right approach.

“Thank you for your considerate feedback,” he said smoothly. De Loughrey stopped and looked back at him, her expression clearing saying that she didn’t for one second believe him. “I will take it into advisement.”

“Just don’t blow up my lab,” she said dryly before turning and walking out. Draco narrowed his eyes.

Huffing, he turned, eager to get back to work and show her that she was wrong.

~~~

By Friday, Draco was ready to completely annihilate De Loughrey. How could he have ever found her attractive and addicting that night? All feelings of desire for her had quickly faded away, though they were now replaced with the desire to get her out of the Ministry.

But the only problem with that was that he had yet to find anything useful. All her work that he had looked over was nearly flawless. But he knew that there must be something. Everyone had skeletons in their closet, surely. Perhaps he would visit his mother this weekend.

“Draco, seriously? Is the new boss that bad?” Theo asked, getting his attention. He looked up from the glass of firewhiskey he had been nursing for the last half hour - or rather glaring at - to see his friend chuckling at him.

“Trust me, she’s a bitch,” Blaise said. “She spent nearly an hour in my office today, ‘walking me through’ a better way to dry out Asphodel. I’ve passed Snape’s potions class and been working in this field for nearly 10 years. I do not need patronizing.”

Draco glanced over at Blaise as he took a sip of his drink.

“But even that’s not nearly as hard as she’s been riding Draco,” Blaise continued. Draco started for a moment, worried that Blaise knew. But then he gathered himself. Of course Blaise didn’t know. Couldn’t know. “Heard she made Fox cry.”

“Fox is a blubbering git,” Draco sneered, back to glaring at his drink.

“Not to mention, apparently she told Bones to abandon her project completely. I told you she was going to be making cuts,” Blaise continued.

“That’s just a smart decision. Bones wasn’t working on anything revolutionary,” Draco said dryly, though he wasn’t sure why he was defending De Loughrey. “I’m not even sure how she got on the team in the first place.”

“What exactly has De Loughrey done do you?” Theo asked. Though he worked in the auror department, it was rather far removed from their floor and he was often out of the loop with things. Outside of what Draco and Blaise shared.

“Thought Draco was going to lose it today. Ripped apart his entire formula and told him to start over,” Blaise said. Nott’s eyes widened as he looked back at Draco.

“Says it’s for the good of the department. She only wants all of us to succeed,” Draco griped. “And that starting over would help me find a breakthrough. I’ve been bloody working on that particular formula for several months.”

“Surely it’s not that bad,” Theo said. Both Draco and Blaise scowled at him. “Sorry I asked…”

“Mate, we’ve got to get rid of her,” Blaise said, looking to Draco.

“You think I haven’t already been thinking about it,” Draco said. “But her work is ironclad - so far as I’ve found.” He then sat up as an idea occurred to him. He looked over at Theo, a smile spreading across his face.

“What?” Theo asked. He looked from Draco over to Blaise, seeing a similar smile appear on his face. “No, I’m not going to do it.”

“You’re a brilliant auror, Theo,” Blaise said. “Surely you can find something we can use.”

“I’m not investigating some poor woman because you two can’t get over yourselves,” Theo replied sternly.

“Not even to help your two best mates?” Blaise continued. Theo narrowed his eyes at them.

“No,” he said flatly. “She’s obviously brilliant and you two are behaving like children.”

“She’s a fucking nightmare,” Blaise retorted on the verge of whining. Draco looked over at him and then back at Theo, remaining calm. Blaise’s approach was not going to work, this he knew.

“This was meant to be my position,” he said vehemently. “Watkins promised.”

“Yea, well, we don’t always get what we want, do we?” Theo said. “I’m not going to do it.”

“Shame… if you don’t want to help us out of the goodness of your heart, don’t be surprised if a certain photo makes its way to the Prophet,” Blaise said casually, changing tactics. Draco glanced at him, slightly impressed. He wasn’t sure if he were willing to stoop that low to convince Theo.

Theo’s eyes widened a moment before they narrowed.

“You wouldn’t. Margot would kill me,” he said. Blaise just shrugged.

“I wouldn’t - what kind of mate would I be? However, I do not currently know the whereabouts of said photograph,” he continued nonchalantly. “Would be rather unfortunate if it’s fallen into the wrong hands.” Theo glared at him a few moments.

“Fine,” he said. “I’ll help. But I’m not doing anything illegal. And if I find nothing, you’ve got to let it go.” He looked back and forth between the two.

“Promise,” Blaise said, grinning.

“Same,” Draco echoed. Theo sighed and shook his head before dropping it into his hands.

“Why am I still friends with you two?” he moaned.

“Because you’d be lost without us,” Blaise said happily. “Now, we should figure a plan…”

~~~

Draco couldn’t help but whistle to himself as he strolled through the Alley towards his townhouse. He could have easily apparated, but wanted to enjoy the weather. They had come up with the basics of a plot and he felt better knowing they at least had a direction to head in.

He wouldn’t have to deal with De Loughrey much longer if things worked out. And finally he’d get the recognition he deserved.

Something out of the corner of his eye caught his attention and he stopped, looking over into a quaint little pub. Frowning, he recognized the group of annoying Gryffindors - the one Weasel twin left alive had his arm slung around some bird. Just next to them, the ruddy keeper that graduated their third year grinned at whoever Weasel was pawing. He then recognized the other older members of the old Gryffindor team.

Weasel then leaned back, providing him a view of the woman. Draco’s eyes widened in surprise as De Loughrey leaned into him, laughing loudly. Her hair was down, while her blouse was undone a bit at the top. Wood was staring at her like she was a bloody goddess.

Something began burning in Draco’s stomach as he continued watching the scene. De Loughrey seemed completely relaxed and open as she turned back to Oliver and said something that had him chuckling as he reached for his beer, leaning closer to her, his lips moving.

Bloody hell, was she seducing the both of them at the same time? But wasn’t Weasel with what’s her face? He thought they got married a few years ago and had kids. Ah, there she was on the other side of Weasel Twin, laughing.

What was her game? And could he use it against her? Maybe she was just another slag. He wasn’t sure if it would be useful, but perhaps...

De Loughrey continued grinning as she reached for her glass and held it up. The entire group brought their own glasses in for the toast.

Draco turned away, his good mood now soured. Though he wasn’t sure why he was so angry about De Loughrey out having a good time. Seemed fitting that she had fallen into a group of Gryffindors - there was nothing that annoyed him more than a bloody Gryffindor save her - and he wondered if they had been the friends she abandoned that night to go off with him.

Fucking, bloody De Loughrey , he seethed to himself.

He had to find a way to take her down and get her out of his job and mind.

1. Meet Cute 2808 0 0 2. Just One Night 3493 0 0 3. Decidedly Not a Meet Cute 3406 0 0 4. Declaring War 2787 0 0 5. Mother Dearest 3286 0 0 6. Fighting 3545 0 0 7. Deep Dive 2944 0 0 8. Jealousy 3143 0 0 9. A (Not So) Good Day 3897 0 0 10. Hot & Cold 2670 0 0 11. The Other Side 2206 0 0 12. Coming Clean 3275 0 0 13. Changes 2572 0 0 14. Floodgates 3591 0 0 15. Awkward Mistakes 3425 0 0 16. Making Decisions 3628 0 0 17. Falling For You 3194 0 0 18. And It All Goes to Hell 3039 0 0 19. To Find a Rat 3312 0 0 20. From Here on Out 4379 0 0