Draco woke up with a headache that could rival any pain he’d ever experienced. Groaning, he attempted to roll over and shove his head in his pillow, only that seemed to make his head feel worse, and so he reluctantly opened his eyes.
‘Fuck, Harry!’ he cried, attempting to jerk backwards as he saw green eyes a mere foot or so from his face. ‘Merlin’s bloody pants, get the hell away from me.’
Harry grinned, and stood up and away from Draco. ‘Just trying to wake you up. Why are you always so sweary in the mornings?’
Draco glared at him. ‘Because I’m fucking annoyed when I get woken up by twats who can’t even comb their hair.’
‘Well if you got up on your own, I wouldn’t need to wake you.’
‘Fuck off. I’m asleep.’ Draco shut his eyes again, though he gave up on burying his face in his pillow part.
‘You are the worst lightweight I’ve ever seen,’ Harry said with a laugh. ‘Even if you’re hungover, you still need to get up.’
Draco opened one eye again, to glare balefully at Harry. ‘I’m not hungover. I’m just asleep. Leave me alone.’
‘When you were living at Hogwarts, did you get alcohol often?’ Harry asked curiously.
‘This is bloody Scotland. There aren’t exactly many vineyards, and you may have noticed that the Dark Lord’s international relations policies aren’t the best. And apparently other alcohol is déclassé.’ He snorted. ‘Didn’t stop most of the Death Eaters.’
Harry shifted his weight uncomfortably from foot to foot. He was always unsure of how to respond when Draco talked about the Death Eaters. ‘Oh,’ he said lamely.
Draco sighed, and finally opened his eyes properly. ‘Fine, I’m getting up now. But seriously, do you have a headache potion?’
‘I’ll go and ask Sirius,’ Harry said with a smirk. ‘If you siriusly want one.’
Draco raised one eyebrow, then winced at the renewed headache pain it caused. ‘Your puns are terrible.’
‘I know,’ Harry replied.
Banging on Sirius’ door was, while the easiest way to get him up, also a sure-fire way to make him really pissed off. So Harry wasn’t surprised when he was greeted with a dark scowl.
‘Morning, Sirius,’ he said, as chirpily as possible. ‘How are you today?’
‘What do you want now?’ Sirius grumbled.
‘Do you have a headache potion? I think Draco’s a bit hungover.’
Sirius sighed, then went back into his darkened room. Harry leaned on the doorframe as he began to rummage through a drawer in the bedside table. Like all the furniture in the city, it was battered and poor quality, but Lily had painted most of their furniture with bright patterns by getting almost empty paint cans off people who worked in construction.
‘How did Ron even manage to get enough alcohol to get four people drunk?’ Sirius asked. Living in Hogsmeade, luxuries were hard to come by, and even the pub mostly only sold Butterbeer, and anything stronger was expensive in the extreme.
Harry shrugged. ‘I think he got Charlie and Dora to help. We had to do something to celebrate the end of our school careers. And anyway, Hermione hardly drinks anything.’
Sirius straightened up, holding a small vial which he handed to Harry. ‘Here you go. And now that you have officially left school, you still need to find something to do with yourself.’
‘I know,’ Harry sighed. ‘It’s just a bit frustrating. I mean, Hermione’s had to work as a cleaner for her entire time at school, and now she probably isn’t going to be able to find anything better she’s allowed to do, even though she’s so bloody smart. And Ron and Draco can do better than me, but even so they can’t really get anywhere. But I’ll probably end up working in a shop, or behind a desk in some petty civil service position, and it just feels so fucking futile.’ By now, his expression of grumpy discontent had turned into full on anger.
Sirius wrapped one arm round his shoulders and steered them both back into the passageway. ‘This is how we have to live. I know it’s unfair, believe me. But I can no longer see any way out of it.’
‘You’re meant to be the rebellious one, the one who goes against what the people in power say.’
Sirius barked a hollow laugh. ‘I know. But what else can I do?’
Harry looked up at him. ‘Rebel. Fight. Just do something about it.’
‘I’ve been trying, believe me. But in seventeen years, I still haven’t got anywhere.’
Harry sighed and shrugged Sirius’ arm off. ‘Yeah. Well, I’d better give this to Draco.’ He gave Sirius a faint smile, and went back into Draco’s room.
The Hogsmeade Employment Centre was possibly the most depressing place in the entire city, and that was saying something. It had walls that were a faded grey, and a carpet that was a very strange shade of brown. The waiting room was filled with battered chairs that looked as though they had been horribly uncomfortable even when new. It was filled, even at this early hour of the morning, with most of that year’s graduating class, including Ron, Harry, and Draco. They waited to be called into one of three drab interview rooms, where a tired-looking official would recite in a flat voice the jobs that were available according to their blood status. Some limited choice was given to people, but mostly you were assigned a job on leaving school, and you pretty much stayed there for the rest of your life.
As purebloods who did not support Voldemort, Ron and Draco were in an odd position. Voldemort’s governing system ought to give purebloods the best jobs, yet he could not afford to place those who were not loyal to him in positions of power, however slight that power might be. So these grey-robed dissenters were mostly given middle management status jobs, with large workloads for relatively little pay. The high status government jobs were in theory given to loyal Death Eaters, though in reality they did incredibly little of the work that these positions ought to entail.
Looking across the waiting room at Draco and Harry, who were sitting silently with worried faces, Ron let out a small huff of irritation. Harry, as a half-blood, could only really expect low paid jobs, but Draco’s position was even more vexed than most. As the son of Voldemort’s right-hand man, he would be expected to be given a well-paid and fairly important position, despite having turned away from Voldemort. But as all his friends now knew, the last thing that he wanted was to come back into contact with the family whom he had left behind, which was an inevitability in most government positions.
And his situation didn’t even get close to Hermione’s. She had already been here, as soon as the centre opened, and had presumably gone home now. As a Muggleborn, her chances of a satisfying position were next to none, but Ron was sure that she would want to find some way round the edicts forbidding her from most things. He smiled slightly at the thought of her, feeling slightly more cheerful for the first time that day. He looked around the room once again, this time giving people he knew a grin, until he caught Harry’s eye. He gave Ron a bemused look, and mouthed, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ at him, unwilling to break the tense silence.
Ron gave him a shrug, and the most ridiculous beaming smile he could muster. Harry let out a snort of laughter, shook his head, and they shared one moment of mirth across the bleak room, until Ron heard a woman’s voice lifelessly reading his name. The smile was wiped off his face, and Draco’s head jerked up so he caught Ron’s eyes. He mouthed ‘Good luck,’ with a tense face, but all Ron could manage to give was a curt nod as he followed the woman back into the smaller room.
That evening, the four of them met at the dingy bar. Dark though it was, it was always full of people, and generally surprisingly cheerful. Hermione, arriving promptly as usual, sat waiting for the other three, tapping her fingers restlessly on the table. Nymphadora Tonks came over to her with a bright smile that Hermione returned only a little bleakly.
‘Evening, Hermione,’ she said. ‘Still waiting for the others?’
‘Hello, Dora. Yes, they’re rather late.’
She grinned. ‘No change from usual. How did today go?’
Hermione shrugged. ‘All right. As well as can be expected, but I don’t know about anyone else yet.’
Dora nodded, but turned away with a smile to go back to her bar work. Hermione, when in an uncommunicative mood, was known by all her friends to be hard to get on with.
When the other three arrived, they were a strangely silent group for quite a while, each sipping their drinks slowly and only exchanging vague greetings and pleasantries.
Eventually Ron seemed to grow tired of the awkward anticipation surrounding them. ‘So what did they say to all of you?’ he asked.
Harry gave a small frown and shifted slightly in his seat. Hermione shot him a curious look. He hadn’t seemed too dissatisfied the day before when they’d been discussing what they might end up doing. ‘Looks like I’m going to be working in a shop.’
Hermione gave him a tentative smile. ‘Well, that’s not too bad.’
Harry gave a weak smile, and shrugged. ‘Yeah. No worse than anything I was expecting, though.’
‘Where exactly?’ Ron asked.
‘Well, Quality Quidditch. Which has its ups and downs.’ Quality Quidditch supplies had moved to Hogsmeade after the war, along with almost everything else. It was a sad relic of its former bustling glory, though, since most of the town’s inhabitants didn’t exactly have money to spare, and now mostly functioned as a repair shop.
‘That’s great though!’ Ron exclaimed. ‘You’ll get to work with brooms, and maybe fly them more.’
‘Not really. They want me to basically load and unload boxes, and occasionally stand behind a counter. I don’t even see how there’s any point employing me. It’s not as though they ever even have much to sell, or much that people can afford.’
Draco snorted. ‘You’ll get more Death Eaters with too much money than you’d expect in there. And they all expect to be pandered to every time they fly badly and want to blame it on their broom.’
‘So you think it might not be too badly paid?’ said Hermione curiously.
‘Merlin no,’ Draco replied with a laugh. ‘They have money, but they won’t spend it here. Obviously it’s not worth much, touched by these commoners,’ he drawled sarcastically.
‘Well, you were doing that too, not too long ago.’
Draco’s face immediately shuttered. ‘Thank you, Ron, I am quite aware.’
Ron tried to resist the temptation to roll his eyes. ‘That’s not what I meant. You turned out all right in the end.’
Harry glanced nervously between the two of them. Things hadn’t necessarily been incredibly smooth in Draco’s introduction to life in Hogsmeade. People still had a tendency to regard him as an entitled twat (which he admittedly could be at times), and Draco had a natural distaste of one brought up in luxury for the squalor of the town.
Draco held Ron’s gaze for a moment, then his shoulders dropped and he looked down at the table with a mumble that might have been, ‘Sorry.’
‘Er, Hermione, what did they say to you then?’ Harry said, just to break the atmosphere.
Hermione gave an odd smile. ‘I’m going to be a teaching assistant.’
The others looked at her incredulously. Teaching jobs, while in some ways not too bad, were hard to come by, and incredibly restrictive. Teachers had to follow the strict plans approved by Voldemort, and it was generally seen as a thankless task.
‘Not just any teaching assistant, though,’ she added. ‘I’m going to be helping with the new Mudblood Induction Programme.’
‘What?’ Ron burst out. ‘Hermione, why would you do that?’
She shrugged. ‘It seemed better than the other options. Anyway, Ron, what did you get?’
Harry felt sure that there was something she wasn’t telling them about, and that was occupying her considerable mental powers, but he put it to the side to listen to Ron.
‘I’m going to be a file clerk. What joy is mine,’ he said.
‘Which department?’ Hermione asked.
‘Law Enforcement,’ said Ron with disgust. ‘I’m starting right at the bottom, but they had a big spiel about how there were opportunities for promotion, and I could easily become a Patrolman, or a Senior Administrator. I don’t want to be a bloody administrator, let alone a nasty Patrolman.’
‘Do you all dislike the Law Enforcement that much?’ Draco asked. Some parts of the community of Hogsmeade were still unfamiliar to him, since he hadn’t grown up with all its little habits and prejudices like the others.
‘They’re not exactly the nicest of people,’ said Harry grimly. ‘The Patrolmen at the edges of the wards will use any excuse to get you punished for supposedly trying to escape, and even the ordinary Auror squad are pretty horrible. When Sirius got arrested for making those posters last year – when Pettigrew told on him,’ he spat. ‘And he came back from one night in the cells with a limp that lasted a week, and the whole of one side of his face so swollen from bruising that he could hardly see.’
Draco winced. ‘Thank fuck I’m not there. Rejoice, all ye people, for I am destined to become a librarian.’
Harry hit his shoulder lightly. ‘Stop being so fucking pompous. That’s good though.’
‘Yes. I had to stick out quite hard for anything not in the government, but I persuaded them in the end. Should be quite peaceful, too.’
‘Deadly boring, you mean,’ said Ron. ‘You’ll be half insensible within a week.’
Harry didn’t have a chance to speak properly to Hermione until nearly a week later. She seemed to bustle around with an even busier air than usual, and exuded an aura that plainly said that she had no time for anyone’s shit. Eventually, he caught her just as she was walking near his street, and could hardly refuse a cup of tea.
‘Look, Hermione, I still don’t understand why you’re signed up for that atrocious job,’ he said to her, as he began to make the tea. ‘Surely there were some better ones going?’
‘Oh no, as far as they were concerned, I was lucky to get a job as good as teaching.’
‘But why would you want to spend your time telling poor little eleven year olds about how their true place in society is right at the bottom, and they ought to be fucking happy about it?’ Muggleborn children still had to be removed from the Muggle world, lest their magic be discovered, but they were brought in to live in soulless care homes, and made to work for their education, just as Hermione had.
She shrugged. ‘I don’t know. It seemed better than the alternatives.’
Harry plonked a mug of tea down in front of her. ‘Come on,’ he said. ‘What are you actually doing? We both know the last thing you actually want to do is spout propaganda at children.’
Hermione finally met his eyes, and sighed. ‘Because if I can do anything to make their lives better, I will. And better I tell them that stuff than someone who actually believes it. They’re more likely to retain a tiny bit of self-esteem at the end if they realise I don’t actually believe it.’
‘Is it really that bad there?’ Harry asked. In all their years of friendship, Hermione had always avoided talking about that side of her life, working constantly at the most menial of cleaning jobs, and living with huge numbers of other people in blank, comfortless dormitories.
‘Yes,’ she said frankly. ‘And I think those children could do with some support.’
Harry gave her the most genuine smile he could muster. ‘And you can also train them up to be a Voldemort-defying army of terrifying small children.’
‘That is patently ridiculous,’ said Hermione with an entirely straight face. ‘But I might just try.’
Draco seemed somehow a bit off. Harry wasn’t quite sure how to define it. But he had spent the last few weeks, up to and since the end of school and job assignments, seeming distant, hidden in a haze of meaningless platitudes whenever he was asked what was wrong. Sitting now with Harry, Ron, and Hermione, on the floor of the living room of the Potters’ house, he seemed much quieter and less at ease than he usually did.
‘To getting through my first week in the bloody government, then,’ said Ron, raising his glass of whiskey.
‘Cheers,’ Harry said. ‘Have you managed to somehow acquire a mysterious gift for obtaining alcohol, Ron? This is the second time in the last month.’
Ron grinned and tapped the side of his nose clumsily. ‘I have my ways. And I thought we could all do with cheering up.’
Hermione grinned slightly, and took a large gulp from her glass. Harry shot her an enquiring look – she was normally very restrained in her drinking – but she just raised her eyebrows slightly and smirked.
The conversation seemed livelier than usual from Ron and Hermione, and they soon broke off into their own good-natured bickering that formed most of their interaction, leaving Harry with a rather silent Draco.
‘Draco, seriously,’ he asked in a low voice, ‘What’s wrong? You’ve hardly said anything this evening. Hell, you’ve hardly said anything this whole week.’
Draco glanced at him, then downed the rest of his glass. ‘Maybe I just don’t feel like it.’
Harry raised one eyebrow. ‘You’re normally the person who can never refrain from making a sarcastic comment. You always have to have the last word. If you don’t feel like it, I think something’s wrong. Please just tell me.’
Draco sighed. ‘I don’t really know what it is. I just…’ he trailed off for a moment. ‘I just feel, and the last few weeks more than ever, how little I fit in here. How little I belong.’
‘Oh,’ said Harry. ‘I’m… I’m sorry.’
Draco gave him an exasperated look. ‘I don’t mean I wish I hadn’t stayed here. I just wish I could fit in more. You all seem to fit together. I’m the Death Eater who doesn’t belong, who is vile, who mistreated everyone here.’
‘You’re not-’ Harry began.
‘No, I am,’ said Draco. ‘Whether I like or not, whether I’ve changed or not, I was that person. And I can accept that. But I wish that I didn’t have to be. Even the bloody man assigning me a job had a sneer on his face when he looked at me. He was fucking exultant to be able to give me a job far below the level my blood status usually gets. It took me far less prodding than it should have done to get him to make me a menial librarian. And that’s nothing on the people who see me on the street and openly pull faces. Someone even spat once. And in the library, even in just the week I’ve been there, people turn away when they see me, and avoid talking to me. They think I’m repulsive.’
Harry was at a loss for words. ‘I’m sorry,’ he said lamely.
Draco forced a smile. ‘You don’t have to be sorry,’ he said.
‘You’ve got us, you know,’ Harry added. ‘Ron, Hermione, my family, me. We all want you here.’
The smile was more genuine this time. ‘I know. I probably wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think so.’
Harry glanced over at Ron and Hermione, who were deep in conversation, and reached over to grab the whiskey bottle from the centre of the floor. He took a large mouthful straight from it, then passed it to Draco. ‘You know, I have a feeling Hermione was planning to do something about the horrific state of the sexual tension between those two,’ he said, gesturing vaguely at the two on the other side of the room.
A slow smile began to spread over Draco’s face. ‘Do you think we should maybe leave them to it?’ he suggested.
‘It would only be kind,’ Harry replied with a grin, getting to his feet. ‘Come on.’
He climbed the rickety stairs as quickly as he could without stumbling, especially with the amount of alcohol he’d already drunk. He heard Draco tripping over a couple of things behind him, accompanied by a litany of low voiced grumblings. Harry paused in the doorway of the room that had been his and Draco’s since Pettigrew had gone, and Draco had come to live with them. As Draco reached the top, he gave Harry a smirk full of promise. He sauntered over, as elegantly as one can when half drunk, and wrapped one arm round Harry’s waist, the other braced against the doorway.
‘How successful do you think them downstairs are going to be at finally relieving their… yearnings,’ Draco whispered, his face inches away from Harry’s.
‘I don’t know,’ Harry whispered back. ‘But I don’t particularly want to think about them right now.’ He leaned forward, his lips meeting Draco’s gently.
‘No,’ Draco muttered against his mouth. ‘I suppose not.’ Harry took advantage of his opened mouth to deepen the kiss, and pull Draco into the bedroom fully. He pushed the door shut behind them, and shoved Draco lightly towards one of the single beds. Draco went willingly, pulling Harry down on top of him and pressing the length of their bodies together.
‘It’s been far too long,’ Harry said, beginning to undo the buttons of Draco’s shirt.
‘Too long,’ Draco agreed breathlessly, as he attempted to get his fingers around the fastenings of Harry’s jeans.
The rest of the evening passed in a stream of eager fingers, searching mouths, and slick bodies, and when they finally lay silently, curled together on the small bed, Harry pressed a kiss to Draco’s cheek.
‘It really will be all right, you know,’ he said. ‘It sounds a bit feeble, but we’ll get by. We’ve all got each other.’
Draco gave a slow, contented smile. ‘All will be well,’ he said.