It started in an office, like most of these things did. Being here again brought on an onslaught of uncomfortable memories of sixth year, and Draco did his best not to fidget. The portrait of Severus behind the desk helped. The portrait of Dumbledore twinkling at him, damn him, did not, and Draco did his best to ignore it. Thankfully, Minerva McGonagall was not a woman one ignored. She had already seemed ancient when they were at school, but now she seemed ageless; wise and strong and steely-eyed. That iron gaze was currently turned on the young man.
"You want me," he emphazised, "To be a teacher? I'm flattered, but I'm not quite sure the parents would want a war criminal teaching their precious little ones."
"I had thought that you would jump on the offer, Mister Malfoy." McGonagall's voice was sharp as ever as she looked down at him over her eyeglasses. "After all, Mr Potter may have vouched for you at your trial but I understand that work offers haven't been very frequent."
And that stung, because it was true – Potter had inexplicably taken the stand to defend him, leading to high fines but no time in Azkaban, but few wanted to work with a known death eater, even one with the golden boy behind him. As a result, Draco had stayed in education for the past few years, jumping from degree to degree and small job to small job. It was a fate that most of them shared, the fallen children of a lost war, scorned and rejected for making mistakes in their youth. It left a bitter taste in his mouth.
"You're more than qualified for the job," and oh, the headmisstress was still speaking to him, "In fact, I'd even go so far as to say that you're overqualified for any other offers you will receive. Unless, of course, you'd prefer to turn your eyes to the muggle sphere, like Mr Goyle?"
"I think not," Draco replied tightly, gripping the armrests of his chair a little harder. They had all called him mad, when Greg came out and told them he was taking a course in muggle electronics, said that they really must have hit rock bottom. And yet, six months later, he was already starting a small company on combining magic and muggle technology. And it was working. To think that Goyle would be the one of them who was the most put-together in his life at 24.
"Then I don't quite see what the problem is," McGonagall finished frostily, spreading her hands over her desk. It was a different one than Dumbledore's, he remarked, and meticulously organized.
Draco took a few seconds to sort through his thoughts, scrubbed a hand over his clean-shaven jaw. "You can understand that I hardly have happy memories of my last years at Hogwarts."
A tense moment of eye-contact, and then the professor sighed and took her spectacles off, setting them aside and clasping her hands together. "Mr Malfoy," she said plainly, "Let me be honest with you. Of all the houses, Slytherin always knew the most that this is a school. I shudder now to think that a battle took place inside these walls, that -"
"Funny, that wasn't quite the song you were singing during the actual battle." Draco had to cut in, couldn't listen to yet another hypocritical speech. The headmistress quieted, looking at him pointedly. He didn't budge, merely added a "Ma'am." The portrait of Severus looked approving.
She sighed again, and that was really starting to get on his nerves – "Allow me to be blunt, then. As things are right now, Slytherin house has very little on their side. In the past seven years we have tried to smooth things over so that the new generations would learn to look past their elders' mistakes, but it simply is not working. The children need someone to look up to. And Horace is quite simply not that person."
"I see," is all Draco said as he mulled this over. He was much more comfortable having her ulterior motives out in the open, but still aprehensive. He clapped his hands together once, discretely checking the watch that peeked out of the sleeve of his blazer. "I'll have to think it over. Shall I send you my resume and a response before the week is out?"
"That would be much appreciated," McGonagall replied, and her tone was now droll, a smile playing around her eyes. It was nostalgic, in a way. "I hope I'll be seeing you in September, then."
They both rose from their chairs, shook hands. Draco disappeared into the fireplace with a flash of green fire, landing in his flat with a shudder. The green light – it didn't bother him. He just prefered apparating, is all.
The young man carefully took off his blazer and hung it up in the coat closet with something near reverence, before dropping onto the couch in an ungraceful slump and groaning into his hands. Him, a bloody professor of bloody potions at bloody Hogwarts! The world had gone fucking mad, it had. He snorted at the stupidity of the notion, hearing it echo throughout the empty living room, and did it once again because he could.
A bachelor's life suited him well.
In all honesty, though, even as he mocked the mere idea of it, he couldn't help but think of the positive points, and really, who was he to turn down a job offer?
He twisted around so he could bury his face into the leather couch cushion and groan again, before pulling himself up and fetching his journal and a quill. He would make a list. Things were always better with lists. The journal he had bought on a whim, a leather-bound paperblank he had found in muggle bookshop in London on his break a few jobs ago. It supported quill-writing marvelously well, which in his mind made up for its unfortunate targeted customers, and so it had become his list-book.
Mighty useful things they were, lists. As he flipped through to a new blank page, he was reminded by his own spiky handwriting that he was meeting Pansy for drinks that night. She might be receptive to hearing him bounce ideas about the job offer off her, he realized, and decided that he would be paying for her drinks that night.
Balancing the journal on the armrest of the couch, he set the quill against the page and started thinking. Pros: teacher's salary is better than a shop-boy's one. Free rooming and food. Acces to the Hogwarts potions lab. My own office. Hogwarts on my resume. Cons: going back to school. Calling teachers by their first names. Dealing with children every day.
He sucked the tip of the quill into his mouth, and then added in the pros column, helping those poor brats with actual career advice rather than the rubbish we got. It was, oddly enough, the most compelling argument he had written down. Perhaps he had gone soft. Or perhaps we was just still angry (furious) about the short stick in life they had all gotten.
Draco set the quill aside and snapped the journal shut, tucking it into his back pocket for safe keeping. He'd go over it again with Pansy, see what she had to say. It was a safe bet to assume there would be a lot.
. . .
The bar wasn't exactly chic – not with them juggling rent and small jobs as they were – but it was hardly shabby. They still had standards, after all, although Draco would admit that it was closer to a dive bar than his younger self would have admitted. Still, though, it was a slightly gentrified dive bar, so he was able to forgive himself in the safety of his own head. The reason for its popularity, he assumed, was that it was one of the few places where the Slytherins of his generation and the previous ones could drink and eat in relative peace; that, and they made their fish and chips with a beer batter that was to die for.
It was hardly dignified, to say the least, but somehow Pansy still managed to look glamorous even as she licked salt off her black-varnished fingertips. The metallic green blazer she wore was a gift from a few years ago, and had been mended meticulously to hold up this long, and although the sheer had started to fade in some places it still looked smart. Gone were the gold rings with the heavy jet settings, sold to an antique store a couple months back, replaced by a bronze serpent brooch from a basket near the till in a department store.
(Draco still remembered the bender that had followed that particular trip to Diagon Alley.)
In other words, she had fallen low compared to their silly childhood aspirations. They all had. She looked slightly tired but refreshed by the alcohol and the conversation, wearing old clothes, albeit ones that could pass for new in the bad pub lighting, yet still seeming herself.
She looked human. More than they ever had during school, during the war.
"I thought you didn't want to go into politics," Pansy said, dragging her finger through the grease on her plate again, a smirk dancing around the corners of her lips.
"Don't do that again, it's disgusting," Draco said, picking up a chip primly. "And it's not politics, it's a school teaching job."
"Like I said," she looked him straight in the eyes and sucked her finger in her mouth a second time before pulling it out with both eyebrows raised. "Politics." She cast around for a paper napkin, wiping off saliva and vestigal lipstick absent-mindedly, "Surely you're not dumb enough to think this will be just a potions job. You'd be head of house. That means picking all those brats up by their britches and telling them, 'hey, everyone probably fucking hates you because our parents cocked things up, good luck mate, don't get caught after curfew.' It won't be easy, Draco."
Draco rubbed the back of his neck and took another swig of his rum and coke. "Well, somebody has to do it," he reckoned, "And I could continue my current course by correspondance, what with having access to the potions lab. Besides, someone needs to give them a refresher course on how to fucking give career advice." He snorted, leaning back in the plastic chair.
"Oh, god, now you have to accept the job just for that!" Pansy shuddered, a momentary illusion of fragility. "All we got in terms of advice was 'Banker, Auror, Healer. Otherwise, figure things out yourself.' I mean, we're 24 and I'm still a bloody intern, and you're a damn shop boy. Things could have worked out better."
"Cheers," Draco said, clinking his glass against hers and knocking it back. They'd had this conversation about a thousand times before, he didn't need to go over it again and go home bitter. Instead, he listened as his friend talked about her day at Witch Weekly, quietly mulling over her words. Of the many things he loved about Pansy, the most important was her blunt, brutal honestly, and she had given him things to think about.
"Oh, and Draco?" He looked up again, to see her eyes glinting with a mischievous smile. "If you do move to Hogwarts for the school year, I want your bloody flat."
He threw his head back and laughed at that, perhaps louder than he had all night. He would think about them later; now, she grabbed his hand and dragged him to dance, and all he could do was follow, complaining for propriety and just as thrilled as she was.
. . .
In the end, Draco wrote up a letter saying that he would be honored to accept the role of potions master at Hogwarts, dragged out the certificates for his various courses in potions, made a copy of his resume – which so far included four different apothecaries, a bar, a café, and a bookshop – and sent it all away by owl before he could convince himself not to. He then went to take tea with his mother and explain the situation to her.
The Manor had been requisitioned by the Ministry to cover the fines, and Father had pleaded insanity in his trial. He got away with it, if only because he had been a touch too desperate and crucioed one too many times, and came out of it with a lifetime in Saint Mungo's for his efforts. Draco was quite frankly of the opinion that he could rot there most days, while others he was glad that he wasn't in Azkaban. He still remembered that final battle, walking away from the victory cries, the celebrations, his parents at his back for what had seemed like the first time in over a year.
(Draco himself had been recommended a mind healer post-trial, but he had neither the money nor patience to sit around talking about his feelings to a total stranger. He could get drunk with Goyle for that.)
Mother had come out of the war worse for wear, but well enough. Losing the Manor hadn't phased her much, not after it had been used as a base for the Dark Lord's troops, not after her sister had used it as a psychotic playground. It turned out that she had been putting money aside for years in a bank account in France, a habit engrained in the Black sisters by their mother, and she had used those savings to buy a townhouse to share with her remaining sister. From what Draco understood, things had been tense between Mother and Aunt Andromeda at the beginning, but they were both in mourning at the time, and now seven years later it felt strange to imagine things had never been like this. If Draco was still uncomfortable around his little shapeshifter cousin, however, that was his own business – the fact that he had never met his cousin, Theodore's mother, rubbed him wrong. Sometimes he would go over for tea and Potter would be there, chasing the toddler in the garden, and those days Draco would often stick to the indoors, if not leave early all together.
Today, however, it was just the two of them; Andromeda had taken Teddy to the aquarium or some rubbish, and Draco could take tea in the small, bright garden with Mother. The sight of her wearing cotton trousers with slightly grass-stained knees with gardening gloves tucked into her back pocket had grown familiar in the recent years, and he took comfort from it now. Around them, the sun was shining in the first rays of summer and the bees were starting to buzz around the meticulously trimmed rose bushes.
"The garden looks wonderful," he commented, dropping another heaping spoonful of sugar into his cup while his mother looked on disapprovingly.
"Better than your teeth will in five years," she said, delicately squeezing a lemon wedge into her own with a silver spoon. "Darling, of all the careers I imagined you going into as a child, teaching was not one of them."
"Why not?" he asked, affronted. Of course, he had thought the same thing not even two days ago, but he was still offended.
Narcissa gave him a long, flat look, and didn't deign to answer his question, instead continuing as if he had never spoken. "I always thought you'd be a Healer, dear. Or perhaps work with the Ministry."
Draco pulled a face. "I think I'd rather work in apothecaries for the rest of my life than become a Healer, and the Ministry hardly appeals to me. Honestly, teaching didn't at first either, but." He fidgeted. "I feel like I could make a difference," came out all in a rush, and it was embarassing to still confide in his mother like this.
Mother, bless her, took his childish behaviour in stride, setting down her teacup and saucer to fold her hands on the table. They kept eye contact for a few long moments, a staring contest of sorts that Draco refused to forfeit. A bee flew past his face and he jumped backwards, scrunching up his features in disgust.
His mother chuckled, a polite huff of a laugh. "I'm happy for you, for getting your life in order," she said quietly but firmly. "It's been a rough couple of years for you, but things are starting to work out for the better. Stay strong, darling."
Sitting in a garden, his mother holding his hand in both of hers, Draco Malfoy felt like he could be the best teacher in the world.
. . .
"I'm the worst teacher in the world," Draco moaned, leaning against the concrete pillar of the department store despairingly. The stationary aisle was mocking him, with its numerous types of pens, notebooks, pencils, parchments, and folders. There were so many options.
"There there," Gregory said mildly, patting him on the shoulder with one enormous hand. "It's your first year. No one expects you to be perfect." He regarded the rack of colorfully wrapped quills, and dropped a few in his shopping trolley.
"How can you be so calm!" exclaimed Draco, gesturing with his hands wildly. "I spent two days writing up a list of supplies I'd need for teaching, forgot my list at home, the store is full of people and I am sweating!" He was nearly shouting at the end of the sentence, and Gregory sighed before taking his shoulders in both hands and giving Draco a little shake.
"Get yourself together, mate, this is pathetic," he said, solemn and low, "You're scaring the children."
Draco looked up and, oh, yes, indeed, a middle-aged woman was glaring daggers at him as she dragged her teary-eyed son away. Good riddance. He cleared his throat and backed away from the invasive hands, smoothing the lines of his shirt.
"Thank you, Goyle. I don't know quite what got into me."
"You were having a proper bloody fit, that's what was happening." Goyle said, not willing to let it slide. He leaned against the bars of his shopping trolley, arms crossed easily as he smirked. He still looked just as stupid and huge as they had in school, Draco thought spitefully, never mind that he was starting a company.
"I don't quite know what got into me," Draco repeated louder, speaking over his friend. Gregory shook his head and laughed as Draco turned back to the loot before him, intent on conquering the stationary aisle.
After long minutes of consideration, he dropped seven spiral notebooks into his basket, having checked that the springs wouldn't break and that the parchment was smooth and lined with proper margins. That way he could prepare his coursework for each year seperately, without having to worry about losing papers along the way. Even in school, Draco had never done well with loose-leaf parchment, always loosing it in the bottom of his bag or under the four-poster. One memorable time in fifth year Blaise Zabini had found Draco's Charms essay spellotaped to the wall of the shower. It was like his lists, he had a thing with unorganized papers.
Goyle rolled his eyes at him as Draco turned around, smirking victoriously. "Now, was that so hard? Come on then, I do need to stop by the hardware and pick up some things for work."
Draco, while hardly short, was nowhere near as tall as Goyle and had to practically run to catch up with the other man, his basket skidding across the linoleum floors behind him in an unattractive screeching noise. (Draco didn't like trolleys, they were hard to steer and he didn't trust them.) "How is work, anyway?" he asked, most definitely not winded, nor panting.
Work was good. Goyle had met some French half-blood chap whose name Draco couldn't be bothered to remember at a convention in London last month who was interested in working with him. They were working out of Goyle's flat, but were thinking of renting an office space soon. They were going to do an interview sometime in July on their idea. If the idea got enough publicity, they would be able to start the first trials. Work was going fabulously.
(Draco wasn't sulking. He wasn't.)
The fact was, none of the rest of their group of friends was as organized as he was, nor as succesful, which was downright ironic in Draco's opinion considering that Goyle had redoubled his sixth year. But, as they had all learned at the tender age of fourteen, life was not fair, and fate had a shit sense of humor. So Draco sucked it up and watched as Greg threw screwdrivers and bolts into his trolley, and went home proud of himself for not flushing as he handed over a coupon.
Home. That was a thought.
At eleven, bright-eyed and smirking, he never could have imagined home being anything but the Manor. But after having aunt Bella – Bellatrix – use it as a torture chamber, have werewolves prowling the grounds and leering at him through windows, hearing the screams of his old classmates coming up from the cellar and casting soundproofing charm after useless soundproofing charm at his door, well – Draco would have moved out even if it were still theirs.
The flat was new, or as new as something could be for a young adult, his for about a year and a half. In muggle London, in a neighbourhood that was neither trendy nor shabby, about a forty-five minute tube ride away Diagon. The floors were dark wood, and the walls were white, and it had been entirely impersonal before he had moved in. Now, it had some personality, gained piece by piece over the months: a wall of the living room covered in postcards, some moving, some not, stuck on with blutack and spellotape; a bright potted daffodil on the coffee table, a house-warming gift from Theo with a playful warning not to kill it; a poster of a painting of Circe from a museum gift shop next to the kitchen window. Leather-bound potion journals and worn paperbacks from muggle dime-stores on the side tables, the kitchen counter, the nightstand.
A home that Draco had spent a year and a half to build. He was loath to pack it up into boxes and banish it to a storage container, separating what would go to Hogwarts and what would gather dust in his mother's basement. He had to inform his landlady that he would be moving out come September, and remembered Pansy's joke about taking his flat. She was currently living in an old hotel refurbished into a boarding house for young witches in their studies, paying seventeen sickles per month rent. Most of the other boarders were foreigners, girls from Beauxbatons or Durmstrang or some other magic school who wanted to study abroad, and it suited Pansy just fine to have nobody recognize her. Draco pulled out his list book and jotted down a note to write her a recommendation for his landlady in his to-do list.
For dinner he had boxed soup and a glass of wine, eating perched against his kitchen counter, and he spent the evening listening to the wireless and drafting lesson plans. He wondered vaguely if this counted as finally becoming a responsible adult.