Draco Malfoy stood outside the Headmistress’s office, lightly banging his head on the stone wall behind him. This was it. The last place he could crawl to in the hopes of finding a decent paying job that was still in Wizarding Britain. Not that he needed the funds as of now, but one could never be too careful when it came to affording a living. In truth though, this wasn’t really about the money; it was more a matter of pride. It had been six years since the war, five of which were uneventful, or as uneventful as an ex-Death Eater could hope for.
The first year had been a bit rough. He stood trial for his crimes, and then had to endure his mother undergoing the same treatment. It was only in thanks to Potter and Granger that they had both escaped a stint in Azkaban. His father however, hadn’t been quite so lucky; and Draco was forced to watch with equal parts horror and relief as his father, a man he once admired so very much, was sentenced to ten years in that dungeon they dressed up as a prison. He had been angry and resentful at first, not that he hadn’t agreed with the sentencing per se, but it was still his father and as much as he had become ashamed of the man, he still loved him.
By the end of August, as Draco prepared himself to go back to Hogwarts and finish up his education, his anger had dissolved into a calm sort of reflective acceptance of the whole situation. He was honestly just grateful to be given the chance to sit for his N.E.W.Ts and finish his schooling. Hogwarts itself was almost exactly as he expected when he returned. Despite the massive renovations the castle had undergone, and aside from the first years, the students who had returned were all who he expected to see. The loathing and suspicion on their faces was also nothing new to him.
What was new however, were the two people who made it clear to the other students that Draco was off limits. The first of them being Blaise Zabini. He was shocked, yet pleasantly surprised, when Zabini had sat next to him in the Great Hall that first day. They were never very close in school, at least not the way he had been with Crabbe and Goyle. Draco also always suspected that Zabini was a half-blood and secretly despised Voldemort and Draco’s allegiance to him. Not that Draco blamed him. As someone who had witnessed the psychotic wizard in the flesh, and experienced his wrath first-hand, he really couldn’t judge anyone who despised him. It wasn’t as if he didn’t already hate himself for the part he played in the war.
Draco, however, began to realize rather quickly that Zabini never actually hated him at all. In fact, the closer they got the more Draco realized Zabini always pitied him. It made him furious at first, even though he never asked the Slytherin about it. After a while Draco decided to not broach the subject with his friend for fear of losing the small bit of company he provided, and for the protection his friendship allotted. He was a Slytherin after all, and he knew how to hedge his bets.
The other, and more surprising of the two, was Granger. They hadn’t become close or even friends that year, but his first day after classes he was doing his homework in the library when two Ravenclaw students approached him with a look he saw many times reflected in his own features. Draco had looked up at them with a bored expression on his face, even when all he wanted to do was flinch at the malicious intent he saw shining in the two students’ eyes. He tried to remember who they were, if he had been involved with a raid in which one of them had lost a family member, or if perhaps he had tortured one of them at the insistence of the Carrows last year.
Try as he might, he couldn’t place them. So instead, he began to slowly lock away his emotions, mentally preparing himself before he became too volatile to handle. These past few years he had been anything but the picture of mental health, and the last thing he wanted was to hurt someone and get expelled from school.
They only got as far as opening their mouths before a book bag was unceremoniously dropped on his table. Draco turned, startled, and met a pair of light brown eyes with that self-righteous indignation he recognized so well. She didn’t look at the Ravenclaw students, didn’t even acknowledge that they were there. She just raised an eyebrow and gestured at the empty seat. He gave her a small nod and she sat without breaking eye contact.
They stared at each other for a long time, Draco’s shields slowly disintegrating under her scrutiny, until he knew the full effect of his pain and guilt was laid bare. He sighed sadly and looked away. It remained quiet for a few moments longer and he heard the two Ravenclaws shuffle away before a small delicate hand reached out and grasped the top of his. His eyes shot up in surprise, but she was already pulling away and looking through her bag.
They never spoke that year, not once. However, she did spend the rest of the year studying with him in the library, a silent sentinel protecting him from others who wanted to do to him what he had done to her so many times. That’s when whatever pieces that were left of his blood prejudices shattered like brittle glass.
He began to resent his parents after that. Not so much his mother at first, because even though she still held that pureblood ideology, she never spoke of it, or at least not after the first time he snapped at her when she used the word Mudblood. He knew, however, that she would never change her views. As time went on, he found that as much as he loved her, he couldn’t stand her for that.
After Hogwarts, his slow rebellion began. A quiet stroll down the streets of Muggle London, a class on Muggle currency and their banking system, a request to the Ministry for Muggle identification. They were skeptical about that one, but his claim of wanting to learn more about Muggles and their culture managed to work, and as long as he never broke the Statute of Secrecy, they couldn’t find a problem with him having one.
He would never forget the day he received his documents. He happened to be walking by Granger as he headed towards the Atrium. He’d almost forgotten she worked there and he probably wouldn’t even have remembered had she not been given praise recently in the Daily Prophet for being the youngest witch to become head of her department. When she finally noticed him she nearly tripped as she gave him the most curious look he had ever seen on her face. She looked as if she knew about his application and wasn’t sure whether to be suspicious of his motives or annoyed he hadn’t asked her about the subject of Muggles.
He smirked at her and winked as he passed, knowing it would only confuse her further. He silently cheered when he heard her bristle, and began to chuckle aloud as she made a show of stomping away. He may never want to be the one to make her cry again, but it had always been fun to take the piss out of her.
A few weeks later he moved his share of his inheritance out of the family vault and into his own, striking both his father and mothers names from access to the account. It felt good, like he was cutting himself off from their bigotry one small step at a time. When the goblin asked Draco if he would like to add anyone in case of death, a slow smirk drew across his face and on a whim he told them to add Hermione Granger’s name and give her full access to the vault, effective immediately. The goblin actually managed to look surprised, but quickly drew up the notification letter and walked away.
He knew she would never touch the money. In fact, he was pretty sure she would blow her top once she received the paperwork validating her as beneficiary, but he honestly didn’t give a fig. If something did happen to him, he felt she deserved the money. Not just because of what happened to her in his home during the war, or the way he treated her when they were young, but also for her support in his last year of Hogwarts. He knew some might get the wrong impression if they found out, but it truly was not about any untoward romantic notions. He was simply thanking her in the best way he knew how. It also helped that if dear old dad found out he wouldn’t be able to kill Draco for fear of his share of the Malfoy inheritance going to the Muggle-born witch. That in itself was reason enough to add her to the account.
He left Gringotts that day with a grin on his face and a skip in his step. Sure enough, when he arrived home that evening there was a Howler waiting for him in the foyer. That’s how his mother found him, laying on the polished floor as he cackled like a madman while the bright red missive tried to do bodily harm to him, screeching what a stupid bloody git he was the whole time. He never laughed so hard in his life. It had been worth every Knut.
The next two years passed by and Draco became more and more obsessed with the Muggle world. He began to spend hours walking the streets of London. He learned to use the Bus system, which hadn’t been an easy feat. He shopped, bought books of all sorts and trinkets he had no use for. He dined at several different restaurants, all of which had foods he never tasted before. Some things he understood and other things he didn’t. Which in turn just made him go out and get even more books. He visited museums and parks, watched massive boats pull in and out of London’s port, and even visited Buckingham Palace once. It seemed the more time he spent in this motorized world of noise and flashing lights, the harder it was for him to leave.
He thought about buying a flat in the city but decided against it. Worry for his mother staying his hand. If Draco had only known how quickly this bubble of happiness he wrapped around himself could pop, he might have chosen differently that day.
The bubble burst shortly before the beginning of the fifth year mark since Voldemort’s destruction. It came in the form of an Official Ministry letter. He should have known something was wrong when he walked through the door, but he had just gotten home from watching his first movie and was too busy trying to figure out what house Captain Sparrow would have been sorted into to notice his mother’s joyous state. She greeted him with a hug, which was so unlike her he did take notice then, and his world suddenly stopped. He took in her crying eyes and beatific smile and just knew. They were letting his father out. His father, who he had come to despise, was coming home.
He remembered having the first wave of panic hit him and pushing his mother away. He remembered clawing at his tie to try to get more air. His feet were moving before he even realized it, and he was out of the house and apparating away. He landed in Primrose Park coughing and choking. Thanking Merlin he hadn’t splinched himself. He finally managed to yank his tie free and fell clumsily to his knees. The tears came next, hot and wet as they ran down his face. It been so long since he needed to occlude, so long since he felt the need to hide himself that the emotions, once triggered, didn’t seem to stop.
He wasn’t worried about what he had done with his inheritance. His father may try to punish him for it, but he was no longer afraid of him. No, what scared Draco was being stuck in a life of mediocrity. It was being the perfect pureblood heir with the perfect pureblood wife and the perfect pureblood son; ‘because Malfoys didn’t spawn females, their bloodline was too strong.’ What a complete crock of shit. He wanted to be sick. All the rhetoric his father spat, all the lies. He’d have to start blocking it all again, all the emotions he gave free rein to these past years. All that soul searching and healing he had done would be for not. His father would demand a proper son, not some Muggle-loving sap who liked spending more time in their world than his own. He might become just like Snape if that happened, a hollow lonely shell of himself who bitterly regretted his life.
He hated it; he hated all of it, the whole pureblood bloody diatribe. He wanted adventure, he wanted spontaneity, and Merlin, he truly just wanted to be himself. He finally realized what it was he was feeling these last years. It hadn’t just been happiness, it was freedom. He hadn’t been limited to the petty limitations of pureblood society. He had been allowed to embrace his individuality. He closed his eyes as he forced his breathing to slow, trying to remember a passage from a book he just started reading. It was by an author named John Stuart Mill called On Liberty. He hadn’t gotten very far, maybe to chapter five, but the third chapter was about individuality and how it pertains to wellbeing.
“Human nature is not a machine to be built after a model, and set to do exactly the work prescribed for it, but a tree, which requires to grow and develop itself on all sides, according to the tendency of the inward forces which make it a living thing.”
He kept repeating those lines in his head as his breathing evened out, over and over until a calm sort of peace settled over him. He wasn’t a machine. He wasn’t like Lucius, cold and hard. He was a tree, malleable, capable of change and growth. As he slowly began to pull himself back together, he kept repeating the phrase. He could do this, he could insist this was his life and, no matter whom his father was, he would live it how he wanted to.
Later that night when he got home, him and his mother got into a row, a big one. She had found his Muggle collections while he was gone and been waiting for him in his room. Suffice to stay that hadn’t gone over well. She accused Muggles of seducing her son, and he accused her of being a brainwashed foolish woman who was incapable of thinking for herself. The night ended with a handprint painted on his cheek and a sobbing mother.
He felt guilt for what he said, and it took everything in him not to go to her and apologize. He wanted to be happy for her, he wanted to be glad his father was coming home, but he just couldn’t do it. It wasn’t just the Muggle world either; it was everything. From Voldemort and the war, to his ostracism from Wizarding society. All of those things contributed to what his feelings were now. He wanted to leave, pack his things that very night and disappear to a place unknown.
He remembered looking around his room sadly, his shoulder slumping in defeat, and picking up the book he hadn’t finished reading. He fingered the spine and pages delicately, before pulling out his wand and shrinking it. He found an empty box under his bed and placed the miniaturized book gently at the bottom, then began to gather the rest of the things he accumulated over the past couple years and did the same to them. Maybe he wasn’t giving his father a chance; maybe Lucius wouldn’t be so bad.
It only took him six months to realize he should have left, three of which preceded his father’s release. Lucius wasn’t just bad, he was worse. His paranoia was worse than when the Dark Lord was alive; his temper was violent and unpredictable and his bigotry wasn’t just the snide comment here or there, it was the all-out ravings of a lunatic fanatic. He stayed as long as he could for his mother’s sake.
Then one day, out of nowhere, Lucius came storming into the library where Draco was reading, screaming that he was a blood traitor and smacking him in the face with his cane. Pain exploded in his nose and through his cheek, and he didn’t have time to recover before the familiar sensation of the Cruciatus hit him. He screamed, he remembered screaming and blood, the taste of it running down his throat and making him choke and gag. He didn’t know how long it lasted, didn’t even know when it ended. All he knew is that the next day he woke up in St Mungo’s with a fractured nose, cheekbone, and three broken ribs. His mother had been there, crying and fussing over him, but he wouldn’t allow her tears to persuade him this time. He told her he was leaving the Manor. She didn’t argue, though her tears did get worse, and when he promised to set up an in-home healer for his father, she became almost inconsolable. He tried to comfort her as best he could, but he would not be swayed from his decision. The next day, after they released him he didn’t so much as look at his muttering father as he entered the family home. He went straight to his room packed his things into his old Hogwarts trunk, put a feather-light charm on it, and left.
So now here he was, three months later, about to throw himself at the mercy of Headmistress McGonagall and beg for a job because no one else in Wizarding Britain would hire him. The Muggle phrase “How the mighty have fallen” ran through his head, and he smirked thinking this was more like a crash than a fall. He heard the gargoyle shift suddenly and he quickly straightened, smoothing back the hair that had become ruffled in his nervousness. He quickly followed the winding staircase up, and there she was: one of the most intimidating women he had ever known.
She studied him for a long time with that stern look he remembered so well, before she nodded at the empty chair in front of her desk. “Please Mr. Malfoy, take a seat.”
He quickly fumbled into the chair, and he thought he might have seen the corners of her lips twitch in amusement. He wanted to scowl at her, but refrained. It wouldn’t do to make her mad before he got a chance to ask her about the potions position.
“Would you care for some tea?” She asked politely.
“That would be lovely Headmistress.” He saw her lips twitch again. Shit, she knew he was desperate.
“How do you take it Mr. Malfoy?” She asked as she magically set the pot to boil.
“One sugar, black.” He said quickly, gaining a bit of confidence when he didn’t fumble the words, or sound like he was trying to sweet talk her. McGonagall poured their cups of tea, added his sugar and sent the cup floating to him. He thanked her and took a sip, the warm liquid calming his nerves.
She took a sip of her own tea, watching him thoughtfully. “I know why you’re here Mr. Malfoy, and unfortunately, as much as I would like to, I can’t have you working for this school.”
He opened his mouth to plead his case but she cut him off before he could say anything. “It’s not personal Mr. Malfoy, at least not from my end. Hogwarts is finally starting to reach full attendance again, and as much as I am in need of a Potions Professor at the moment, many parents would react unfavorably if I hired a known Death Eater.”
He sighed sadly and flinched at the familiar moniker. His eyes closed, and his shoulders slumped in defeat. He knew where this was going. It had been the same in all his interviews. Once his past as a Death Eater was mentioned, he knew he didn’t stand a chance.
“I personally believe you would make an excellent Professor given the chance Draco.” She continued, “I know you’ve taken great strides to distance yourself from the blood prejudices that plague your family name. For that alone, you have earned my respect.” She sat forward, a slow smile gracing her lips, “that is why I have decided to offer you a different proposal.”
Draco straightened at her words, his head shooting up and eyes opening in time to catch the grandmotherly smile that graced her lips. His heart began to pound. He had been so sure she was going to turn him away.
Her smile widened further at his reaction, and she sat forward even more, her arms coming to rest on her desk. “Tell me Mr. Malfoy, what do you know about the Slayer?”