|The Scent of Parchment
Author: Indygodusk PM
For 8 years, Draco has kept his thoughts hidden behind a polite mask to regain his family's place at the top of society. Will a chance meeting at a New Year's Eve masquerade prompt him to finally reveal his true face, or will the mask become permanent?Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Drama - Draco M. & Hermione G. - Chapters: 5 - Words: 17,169 - Reviews: 42 - Favs: 27 - Follows: 57 - Updated: 01-12-12 - Published: 12-27-11 - id: 7680024
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: The Harry Potter world does not belong to me.
AN: This should only be around 4-5 chapters long. Hopefully I'll get it all out in the next two weeks, and then I'll start updating my Ranma fic again. Please enjoy!
The Scent of Parchment: A Harry Potter fanfic
Chapter 1: Becoming respectable
The ink glittered like carved emeralds as Draco signed the bottom of the parchment. Blowing softly on the ink to dry it, he felt a warm glow of satisfaction. Schooling his features, Draco then passed the contract across the table to the Director of the British Museum of Magic, Iravan Banerjee. Chortling to himself, Mr. Banerjee added his own signature in a deep blue that rippled with foamy whitecaps.
Opening the lacquered box by his elbow, the Director next removed a small square stamp. With a muttered charm, he affixed the wax seal of the British Museum of Magic to the bottom of the document. The click of a padlock closing echoed out from the parchment. A second later, the contract finalized with a flare of golden sparks and registered itself with the Ministry of Magic.
"Once again, Mr. Malfoy," the spritely Indian man said as he carefully packed away his seal, quills, and extra parchment, "from start to finish it has been a pleasure working with you! I'm glad you decided to finally formally join the museum board, instead of just continuing on as an outside consultant. Your work on the current exhibit has once again established our museum as the finest in the United Kingdom!"
Beaming at Draco, he continued, "The head archivist hasn't been this excited in years, though we can't tell if it's due to the rare items you acquired from your Malfoy family contacts across Europe or," Mr. Banerjee paused and sent Draco a wink, "the way you get her all flustered and blushing with your flirting."
Laughing cockily, Draco tossed his braid of pale blond hair over his shoulder and replied, "Good for me either way. It gives me hope that she'll take me up on my offer. She may be older than my mother, happily married, and head of her own department, but a woman can get bored with the status quo. Perhaps she'll finally give in and allow me to steal her away to manage the Malfoy collection full time."
"Why, Mr. Malfoy! As a member of the museum board, you couldn't possibly advocate the loss of such a key staff member?" the director teased back with a hand held theatrically to his chest.
In the midst of composing a witty riposte, Draco stuttered to a pause when the contract on the table gave a little cough and spit out a smaller document.
"Oh dear, did we forget a permit?" asked Mr. Banerjee as he picked up the new parchment. Skimming it quickly, he huffed in annoyance and tugged on his goatee in agitation. "Blast, new import regulations require us to file a form 260-c5x before bringing those illustrated Scandinavian grimoires and the Czechoslovakian relics into the country, or 'else face consequences,' whatever that means." Passing over the newly birthed permit to Draco, he pulled his quill and ink back out from his bag.
"Will they hold them at the border or try to seize them as contraband?" asked Draco. "A few years ago I had recurrent problems with international packages becoming broken or lost through Ministry Customs." Draco frowned as he skimmed the legalese. "The artifacts are already in transit and I've promised the owners that they'd be returned undamaged."
Draco handed back the permit as Mr. Banerjee soothed, "Considering our museum's relationship with the government inspectors, I'd wager a delay at the worst." He quickly filled in all of the blanks and then tapped the edge of the parchment to seal the ink. "Don't forget that the influence of your family's reputation has elevated over the last few years as well, due mostly to your own hard work. Such pettiness belongs to the past. You have nothing to fear from Customs nowadays."
Draco grunted noncommittally. It was nice to know that someone had noticed his over eight years of painstaking effort to recover from the bad reputation his family had acquired from both sides of the recent war. Draco took his duty to his family very seriously. Becoming a prominent member of the museum board and co-sponsoring the next exhibit were all part of his plan to continually increase public opinion of the Malfoy family. However, that didn't mean that he now trusted all ministry employees.
After repacking his writing supplies, Mr. Banerjee checked his pocket watch with a frown. "I'm booked solid for the rest of the afternoon," he said. "Do you think you could run the permit over to the ministry today to officially file it for a rush before Christmas hits and everyone takes a vacation?"
"Of course," Draco replied as he slipped the document into his bag. "I have one more meeting after this, but then I'm free." Bidding the director farewell, Draco left the Museum office with flourishing bow. The hallways of the building radiated heat against the winter chill outside. The caster had gone a bit overboard though, and Draco found himself perspiring lightly by the time he left the building.
Walking briskly down the street, Draco allowed his robes to flap open slightly in the chill breeze. The crispness of the winter air felt refreshing, not to mention that it gave his cheeks good color. Hopping over a small mound of snow on the corner, Draco turned at the next intersection and spotted the sign he was looking for. He sped up at the thought of a hot cup of tea, as the cold quickly became more pressing than pink cheeks to brighten his eyes.
A few seconds later, Draco reached his destination. Bypassing the members-only club entrance with a silent promise to visit later that week for the apricot scones, Draco continued walking until he reached the window display for the public tearoom. There he paused to check out his reflection. Happy with what he found, Draco nevertheless took a moment to pull his robes straighter on his shoulders and twirl a loose strand of hair between his fingers with a muttered charm so that it fell just so in front of his ear. Then he swept into the café with a confident strut.
Gliding to rest at an empty booth equipped with controllable privacy charms, he removed his outer cloak and settled back into the heat with a sigh. When the waitress appeared by his side, he informed her that he had a guest coming. Then he ordered a cup of house tea.
"Anything else I can help you with?" she asked with a leer as her eyes blatantly flickered up and down his body. Obviously she was new here, as such behavior from the staff wouldn't be long tolerated.
"If I didn't have a business meeting…" he let his voice trail off regretfully, though he would have turned her down even if he had been free. She didn't stir him at all. Responding to flirting with more flirting had simply become second nature in the last few years. Besides which, Draco didn't make out with strangers or have tacky sex in storage closets. A Malfoy had standards, which her too-tight polyester robes and overdone makeup failed to meet.
Fingering the cool jade clip adorning the base of his braid, Draco glanced outside the window for sight of his contact. Today was the first time he'd worn the carved jade and gold clasp, but from the appreciative glances of the waitress, and the envious glares of the balding man at the next table, Draco knew it looked stunning against his sleek, white-blond hair.
A former girlfriend had called him vain for refusing to leave the house without at least a ring or ear stud, but Draco knew she just felt jealous that he could pull off both silver and gold with his coloring. She was allergic to everything but copper, which turned her skin green. Her favorite piece of jewelry was a bracelet made of rainbow-colored plastic hearts. Draco should have taken that information as a sign and broken up with her when he first noticed it, instead of letting the relationship limp along for another month. He'd thought the solution might be to introduce her to pearls… but then she'd worn pearls to the opera, and it had somehow just made her look jaundiced in comparison.
If she couldn't wear the Malfoy jewels for entertaining, or use the Malfoy silverware for formal dining, there was no way she could take up her proper position in society as Malfoy Matriarch one day. After all, what would she have worn for the wedding photos, hemp? But he'd ignored his instincts.
Of course, at the time he'd been more interested in the way she somehow turned his business competitor into a babbling idiot during contract negotiations, how she was the exact opposite of his ex-wife, and her zeal to hold long meetings in his office (across his desk or on his couch), to look too closely at her flaws. But then the novelty had worn off. His business deal had closed, and he'd realized that getting to regularly touch nice cleavage didn't make up for a basic lack of wit and fashion sense. Plus, she'd tried to call him Drakkie-poo. She'd had to go.
After his divorce, he'd gone through an endless string of girlfriends, but no one had managed to keep his interest for long. No woman had been able to handle the combination of his high intelligence, handsome face, and diverse interests. It probably didn't help that he lied and hid most of those interests. Or that he was high maintenance, refused to uncover his forearms in bed, and had issues with both the light and dark factions during the last war that he refused to discuss.
To date, no woman had yet tempted Draco to openly reveal himself. He'd yet to find a woman beautiful enough, witty enough, or compassionate enough to make exposing himself worth the risk. Not even his ex-wife during their short-lived marriage had enticed him to discuss his innermost feelings. It might have helped if he'd actually loved his wife.
Of course, Astoria hadn't been in love with Draco himself either. She was a dutiful daughter giving in to her parent's pressure to secure his blood lineage and money. Their marriage had elevated his family's status back to respectable and paid off her parent's debts. They'd been young, Astoria especially, but not naïve. For several years they enjoyed a comfortable if distant marriage.
Then she had gone and fallen crazily in love with some foreigner. It hurt, but he'd put up with it stoically for almost a year. Draco had kept his vows even when she didn't as a matter of personal honor. Nonetheless, they finally agreed to separate before she bore Draco a bastard. He could swallow adultery in private if he had to, but his heir must hold Malfoy blood for the sake of his family's ancestral magic and honor. So they'd made a deal.
Despite his fears, their separation ended up serving them both quite well. Still fond of Astoria as a person, despite their marriage ending, Draco gave her enough money to relocate in style to her lover's estate overseas. In fact, when word got out about Astoria's affair and the settlement, it increased his reputation instead of staining it. Her departure from the country made Draco a tragic figure doted upon by society matrons. Draco let people assume what they would, and milked the situation for every advantage he could get.
So life continued much as it had before, and in public he continued to wear a mask over his true feelings. When people looked at Draco Malfoy, they needed to see someone trust-worthy. Important people needed to like him. He'd learned the hard way after the war just how few real friends his family had, how few friends he really had. The disdain and contempt shown to his family had been brutal.
Draco had learned to bite his tongue and weigh his words more carefully before speaking. He'd also learned the power of a handsome face. By emphasizing his striking looks with stylish jewelry and clothing, he'd noticed women becoming more indulgent and men more susceptible to flattery. Presenting himself as a shallow, handsome young businessman had slowly regained him a place in society and restored his family name. But it had been hard. Playing that role was still hard.
In fact, more and more, it felt like he was slowly withering away inside. Like a mangy animal trapped in a too small cage, Draco felt his soul becoming twisted and bruised against the rusty iron bars. At seventeen, he'd drawn a two-dimensional image of a tame Draco Malfoy onto the parchment of wizarding society. In the eight years since, that image had stayed static. But the person Draco had become inside no longer fit within those hastily sketched lines.
To be honest, Draco didn't really like his public persona. Although he enjoyed flirting with people he liked, he didn't really like most of his acquaintances. But it had become automatic. Sometimes it made him sick to flirt and compliment the stuck-up cows that bad-mouthed their family and friends the minute someone stepped out of earshot. Or to drink to the health of a man who would serve the world better if he fell off of a broom over the ocean. He knew that many of those people who claimed his friendship now had taken glee in gossiping about his family's disgrace just a few years before.
But it wasn't necessarily lying and manipulating other people to do what he wanted that really bothered Draco. He'd always liked manipulating people. What bothered Draco about it all was the fact that he still lived in fear eight years after the war had ended. He'd thought about speaking his mind to Belinda Boggs or telling off Astin Meerson III. But the fear of how society would react always kept him silent and his true thoughts hidden. What if they once again ostracized his mother, snubbed his father, and reduced Draco to begging for favors in the streets?
The first few years after the war had been hellish. Even relatives as far removed as third cousins had felt the brunt of the Malfoy's fall from grace. Societal disdain had gotten so bad that they'd made his mother lock herself in her room and cry. Until that time period, Draco had never even seen evidence of, much less heard, his mother crying. He couldn't take that again. He wouldn't make her take that again.
However, he didn't know how much longer he could maintain his mask without something inside dying permanently. Draco didn't know how to get out of the trap he had set for himself. Joining the museum board was one of the few things he'd done that aided both his true self and his quest to cement the safety of his family. He could explore his love of history and esoteric magical tomes while serving the community and making good contacts at the same time.
Lately he'd wondered if maybe he'd come far enough. That maybe his family's reputation could weather the bumps of letting a bit more of his true self shine forth. Perhaps he could say his true thoughts, or talk to someone in public that the rest of high society currently snubbed. Yet each time he tried to open his lips and be honest, fear gagged his good intentions and inserted a lie into his mouth instead.
Nevertheless, Draco knew that something had to change soon or he was going to crack.
Shaking himself from his introspection, he realized that the waitress was still leering at him. "Just tea for now," he told her in a brisk, dismissive tone.
There was something he was supposed to add next, some little courtesy that he'd been working on adding for people so he didn't seem too arrogant and autocratic. An ex-girlfriend several exes ago had always nagged him about it, and it was the only thing from that relationship that he'd decided to keep. Ah yes, now he remembered. "Thank you," he drawled.
Sighing regretfully, the waitress finally left.
To be continued…
Author Notes: This starts out slow, but I promise more meat next chapter. Let me know what you think so far. I'd appreciate your encouragement. Thanks!