Author's Note: Just a fluffy little piece inspired by a misinterpretation of the song 11 Blocks by Wrabel, specifically these lines out of context from the rest of the lyrics:
But my mind won't stop; it's just 11 blocks / I know that you're home
I got somebody / Waiting for me at home
I don't know. Can I still say this is inspired by the song? Is this considered a songfic? I'll leave that up to you. I hope you enjoyed it! Reviews appreciated. n_n
Draco should not have been surprised when Justin Finch-Fletchley opened his mouth, but as his coworker directed a smug smile at him, all Draco could do was stare ahead, his body frozen in shock.
"This is fine work, Justin," said Amphelice Goode, Head of the International Trading Standards Body. "How did you possibly manage to convince the Grecian assembly to trade wool for ten Sickles cheaper?"
Finch-Fletchley, the smarmy git, shrugged as if the task had been effortless. "What can I say? I've got a way with people."
He had a way with people. As if he'd spoken to Greece's wizarding assembly for weeks on end, trying to negotiate the best deal for both the British and Grecian governments. As if he'd been the one to secure the deal. As if he'd done any of the work involved at all.
He hadn't. Draco had done all the grunt work while Finch-Fletchley had taken notes Draco had never read and made contacts with people Draco was sure didn't exist. From the beginning, Justin had tried to sabotage Draco's assignment, and in the end, he'd stolen all of Draco's work.
Goode turned her critical eye to Draco, her tone flattening as she addressed her least appreciated and least liked employee. "And what about you, Malfoy? What have you got to show for me this month?"
Unfortunately, his month-long effort was already sitting in Goode's hands, rolled into a scroll with Justin Finch-Fletchley's name and fingerprints forged all over it.
There was no use getting angry about it, even though Draco was. So angry his hands shook, the tremors forcing him to ball his hands into fists. So angry he couldn't form words. It wouldn't matter. Since his first day as a Ministry employee, no one had ever been on Draco's side. No one believed him or wanted him to succeed. After three years of roadblock after roadblock, he wasn't sure why he stayed. He had more than enough funds to live out the rest of his life, but he supposed he'd become stubborn since the war.
Or maybe he had masochistic tendencies. Maybe he felt he deserved to be treated like shit. He hadn't looked at the issue closely enough to work it out.
He put a smirk on his face because he still had pride, and if everyone, including his supervisor, was going to look at him and see the entitled elitist he'd been as a boy, then he was going to play the part. Why disappoint the masses if none of his effort mattered?
"Oh, you know how it is, Amphelice." She hated it when he called her by her first name. "I was just too busy counting my gold to finish my assignment. I'll get it to you next month."
Goode smiled at Justin and said, "I'm going to let the Minister know what a good job you've done with this trade agreement. Now, would you mind giving Malfoy and I a moment alone?"
Finch-Fletchley sneered his way out of the room, and as soon as the door closed behind him, Goode's expression soured. The look on her face made Draco's heart race with dread. Something in her eyes suggested she'd given up on him.
"You're firing me, aren't you?" he said, his smirk failing in light of the severity of the witch in front of him.
"It's clear to me that you don't take this work seriously. I've kept you on these last three years hoping something would change, but your cavalier attitude suggests you have no intention of working hard for yourself or anyone else. I won't let you get by on reputation alone any longer."
"Nothing I say will make a difference will it?"
Goode shook her head.
An explanation was on the tip of his tongue despite her answer, the desperate urge to refute her opinion of him, to exonerate himself, drying his mouth and boiling his blood.
It wouldn't matter though. She would never believe him. Draco had been born into a power-hungry, manipulative family, with more wealth than the bottom twelve percent of the population combined. He'd taken a job at the Ministry because he'd wanted to prove everyone wrong and change society's perception of him, and, instead, he'd been distrusted and treated like garbage since day one.
Justin Finch-Fletchley was a Muggleborn from a well-to-do but unfortunately non-magical family. He was everything the Malfoys had stood against during the war, so of course Draco would try to ruin Justin's reputation in a last-ditch effort before being fired from his job. That's exactly what Goode would say if Draco attempted to expose his coworker's fraud.
"I'd like you to pack up your desk and leave before the end of the day," Goode said. And then she put on her reading glasses and unfurled a scroll, wiping her hands of Draco as if he had sullied her department long enough.
He clenched his hands tighter as he left her office, his fingernails breaking the skin of his palm.
Back at the workstation where Draco and Finch-Fletchley's desks were located, Justin sat with his arms crossed over his chest, his feet propped up on his desk as he awaited Draco's return.
"Congratulations," Draco said.
Justin looked momentarily startled by the well wishes. "What for?"
"I've just been let go, so all the glory you've been collecting on my behalf will now automatically go to you."
As Draco opened a desk drawer and began to compile his personal effects, he heard the sound of feet slamming onto the ground and the creak of a chair as Justin sat up. He knew without looking at his coworker that Justin's mouth was hanging open, at a loss for words.
"You were fired? But you can't go!"
"I know," Draco said as he rifled through a stack of scrolls, "who's going to do your work for you if I'm gone?"
Justin came to the end of Draco's desk, his knuckles glowing white from gripping the edges of the wood so tightly. Desperation laced his voice. "I'll talk to her. I'll ask her to give you another chance. She likes me; she'll certainly listen to me."
The offer was so tempting, and the fact that he even considered it convinced Draco that he was, indeed, a masochist. But ultimately his pride won out.
"No, thank you. Perhaps employment is not for me. I'll just go back to the flat that I share with my gorgeous girlfriend and live out the rest of my days off the money I inherited from my grandparents. When my parents die, I'll inherit even more money, so I think I'm pretty much set as far as housing and food goes. I wish I could say I'll miss the daily grind of arguing with foreign trade partners over the price of sheep wool." He turned around, stabbing Justin with his hard gaze. "But I won't."
Finch-Fletchley's breathing became shallower in his despair. "But—you can't—I need—What if—?"
"Sorry, Jeff. You'll have to navigate your way on your own. Retirement is calling my name."
Jeff—as in Justin Eustace Finch-Fletchley. He hated it when Draco called him Jeff.
As it turned out, Draco hadn't brought very many belongings with him to work. He separated the contents of his desk into three piles: important, non-essential, and personal.
The important items were related to current assignments that Finch-Fletchley would need to complete on Draco's behalf. The non-essential items Draco threw in the rubbish bin. Using his wand, he set the lot on fire, and sitting behind his desk again, Justin made a high-pitched sound of alarm as the scrolls burned. Contact information for trade representatives from foreign ministries with whom Draco had collaborated over the years, notes on prices of imports and exports, shipping regulations, dates of upcoming committee meetings—everything Justin would need to do his job with Draco's efficiency disintegrated into ash within seconds. The git didn't deserve to keep the notes Draco had painstakingly kept for three years, and the sound of Justin's whimpering coming from the other desk was deeply, immeasurably satisfying.
"Good luck," Draco said as he stuffed his meager personal belongings into his pockets and exited the office for the last time. And he meant it. Justin would need all the luck he could get.
Usually Draco took the Floo home, but when he reached the Atrium, he decided to walk. The flat he shared with Ginny was a mere eleven blocks from the visitor's entrance. If he walked slowly enough, he'd get a good half-hour to figure out what to tell her when he arrived home two hours after leaving for work.
As he set out in the brisk November day, Draco considered the ramifications of losing his job.
His parents would be relieved. They had never understood his desire for employment, which was fine. It wasn't possible for them to understand that, unlike them, in the aftermath of the war, Draco had realized that something had had to change. He had had to change. He never wanted to be put in the situation he'd found himself in, serving the Dark Lord in fear of his and his parents' lives. He never wanted to be manipulated or used or threatened or blackmailed again.
"Son, that's what money is for," Lucius had said once when Draco had tried to explain. "As long as you have money, you have power."
The Malfoy wealth had not stopped Voldemort from using all of them for his purposes, though.
Draco didn't anticipate the rise of another Dark Lord anytime soon, but he'd realized that he didn't want to manipulate, use, threaten, or blackmail people the same way the Dark Lord had used him. After the war, it had dawned on Draco that his father had been guilty of doing the exact same thing prior to the war, to Ministry officials and school board members, whoever it was necessary to manipulate to get what Lucius Malfoy wanted.
The idea of continuing the tradition had not sat well with him, so he'd sought employment, hoping to become known as an honest Malfoy. Possibly the first. Since he was now unemployed, it was clear to him that that idea had not played out the way he had expected it to.
So, yes, his parents would be quite pleased that Draco would no longer waste his time trying to make an unnecessary but honest living.
His girlfriend, however, might be a different story.
Not to sound morose, but Ginny Weasley was the only good thing in his life. Literally. Ginny was everything that Draco wasn't: kind where he was cold, friendly where he was aloof, thoughtful where he was selfish.
Good where he was bad.
Everyone who spoke to Ginny loved her, and everyone who spoke to Draco hated him.
Perhaps he had kept his job for as long as he had because he'd wanted to prove himself to Ginny more than anyone. He honestly didn't know how she would react to Draco getting fired, but he knew one thing.
She supported him more than anyone else on the planet. More, even, than his parents did.
There had been days at work when Draco had considered quitting, had considered jeopardizing his position by outing Justin as an unindustrious fraud, but the thought of Ginny waiting for him to come home each evening buoyed him, lifting him out of his most despairing moments until he could float on by himself.
He hoped this failure would not remind her that she was dating a former Death Eater, a school bully, an elitist of blood status and class. He hoped after three years together, that boy had been sufficiently suffocated and buried in their memories.
He'd spent the years since the war explaining and justifying his actions. Over and over again retelling the story of the Dark Lord appealing to Draco's yearning for glory in order to brand him with the Dark Mark and use him to murder Albus Dumbledore—or witness his parents' executions if he refused or failed. Over and over again, he had to recount the fear and uncertainty he felt over Easter weekend 1998, when Potter, Weasley, and Granger were delivered to his doorstep, and clarify his inability to articulate a verification of their identity. Over and over again, he was forced to rehash his actions at the Battle of Hogwarts, including his attempts to recapture Potter, which led to the death of Vincent Crabbe.
He'd explained at his trial, when he'd applied for his job at the Ministry, and he had been expected to justify himself every time someone asked him about the war, because to refuse to explain was tantamount to a confession of guilt.
In a turn of events that had confused Draco more than he could say, Ginny had never demanded an explanation from him. She had always made herself available to listen, but she had never held the reward of her company and her conversation ransom in exchange for a confession.
And that was why he loved her. That was why he feared losing her. No one had ever made Draco feel more secure than she had. No one had ever made Draco feel safe existing and being himself than Ginny Weasley.
After eleven blocks, Draco still didn't know what to say.
He unlocked and opened the door to their shared flat as quietly as he could and squeezed himself inside. The television set blared Muggle news into an empty living room. A mug of steaming tea sat on the coffee table as if just left there moments ago.
A sound on the other side of the room drew Draco's gaze, and there Ginny stood in the doorway leading into the hall, her hair piled on top of her head in a haphazard knot, a bathrobe thrown over the cotton nightgown she wore to bed. She held a book in her hand and confusion on her face, though the confusion only lasted a moment.
Merlin, he loved her. His heart pounded against his ribcage as he opened his mouth, searching for something to say.
Honest work is for honest men, and clearly I'm not one.
Looks like you were wrong about me all along.
It took three years, but I finally realized Malfoys are not meant for the workforce.
Before he could say any of the self-deprecating things running through his head, Ginny threw the book down on the sofa and crossed the room to wrap her arms around his torso. Her head settled just under his chin, her ear pressed against his diaphragm, behind which his heart beat in a staccato rhythm.
His throat thick with emotion, all Draco could do was lift his arms and wrap them around her, too. It did not surprise him that she had sussed out the situation instantly. She was the only person who could read him so well.
"You were too good for Justin and Amphelice. You know that, right?"
He shook his head in disagreement, his chin knocking against her top knot with the motion.
Ginny leaned back just enough to meet his eyes, incredulity shining in her own. Draco's heart sank when she pulled her arms away, and then fluttered when she reached up to place her hands on either side of his face, forcing him to look down at her.
"You were. Draco, I don't know why you stayed there for so long. If you want to work, you should work for someone who appreciates you."
An indelicate snort punctuated her statement. "There are a grand total of four people who appreciate me. Makes it difficult to find satisfying work."
She patted his cheeks and stepped away. "Don't work. You don't need to. Wait until something better comes along."
He wanted to argue that nothing better would come along, that he would be waiting until he died, but that sounded a bit dramatic, even for him, and Ginny had that fierce look in her eye, the one that said arguing with her was a futile endeavor. She was in her righteousness mode, and nothing Draco could say would convince her that Draco wasn't worth defending.
She dropped onto the sofa and picked up her tea as if the conversation was over, but Draco continued to stand at the door, watching her take a careful sip as she tuned into whatever news story the TV was broadcasting.
"What have I ever done to make you believe in me?" he asked. The question had been bugging him for years, but he'd been too afraid to ask it in fear that Ginny would reevaluate her opinion of him and leave. Not that he'd blame her.
The sadness and the anger in the expression she directed at him had Draco taking a step backwards, his heels banging against the closed door. He refrained from pressing himself against the wood as Ginny abandoned her tea and advanced on him, but he cringed at her determination.
"Four years ago you stood trial for the things you did during the war, and I sat through every hearing and deposition because I wanted justice for the people who were harmed and killed because of your family's choices. By the time the verdict came through, I no longer thirsted for blood, because I saw what the war had done to you, and I saw that you had learned a lesson.
"My family thought I was a fool for believing your act, but Harry understood better than anyone why I sympathized with you. Harry, your nemesis of seven years. Harry, who sees the world in black and white, sees people as merely good or evil. Harry, who had every reason to condemn you and wouldn't do it. Harry, who, after seven years of animosity, is now one of your closest friends. Have you ever asked him why he believes in you?"
Her brown eyes blazed, mesmerizing Draco with her passion, every word she spoke etching itself on the inside of his ribcage and surrounding his heart. As the silence stretched, one of her eyebrows arched.
He shook his head, because she was waiting for an answer and because it was the truth. But he didn't think her question was fair; just because he'd never confronted Harry about their unusual friendship didn't mean Draco didn't question it.
"No," Ginny said, her voice growing softer but her eyes burning more, as if that shake of Draco's head had added fuel to her fire. "You question my faith in you because you believe you're not deserving of it. But you are, Draco Malfoy. You are. For three years I've watched you try to rise above who you were and what you've done. I've seen you reach roadblock after roadblock and then power through them. I've watched justifiably angry people hold you back with their prejudice, and instead of confronting their hatred, you've taken it from them and worked even harder. I've known weaker men to bend under the pressure you brush off your shoulders, and if I didn't live with you and share your bed, I never would have known how much it bothers you to be treated the way you are. You are an astonishing man. How could I love you and not believe in you?"
The warmth in Draco's body could only be attributed to the glow in Draco's heart, kindled by Ginny's kindness and stubbornness. A part of him still didn't believe her, still felt he didn't deserve her, but the fact that she did was more than enough. She had enough faith for both of them. It might take more time, but Draco knew she would convince him to her way of thinking one of these days if he let her.
Unable to articulate a response, Draco just opened his arms, and Ginny stepped into his embrace, her arms tight as iron bands around his chest. His cheek rest against the top of her head, and they stood there together, breathing, feeling each other's heartbeats, until Ginny reached for his hands and tugged him toward the bedroom.
He let her lead him, because she was a force to be reckoned with and he couldn't say no.
"Aren't you supposed to be working on an article?"
She waved a hand in dismissal. "The deadline isn't until tomorrow. Right now my boyfriend needs me."
"What about your fiance?"
"I wasn't aware I had one of those."
"If you wanted one, I might be able to procure one."
Draco's tongue felt too big for his mouth as Ginny stopped in the middle of the hall and turned around, her eyes sparkling and her lips twitching.
"Are you asking me to marry you?"
"Only if you say yes. If you say no, then, no, I am not."
"Oh, of course." Her mouth stretched upwards into a genuine grin. "It's a good thing I'm going to say yes, isn't it?"
"I'm also going to say 'What took so long?' I might even throw in a 'Finally!'"
Draco pulled on Ginny's hand until she fell into his arms, and with an exasperated smile, he said, "You are a cheeky wench, you know that?"
"And you love me for it," she said with a shrug, just before Draco's head dropped down to plant an earth-shattering kiss on her lips.
Draco pushed her bathrobe to the floor, yanked her nightgown over her head, and proceeded to show her exactly how much he loved her.
Draco's eyes wrenched open, and he twisted in the bedsheets as the disorientation of waking up suddenly mired him in confusion as to his whereabouts. No, he was definitely in his own flat, in his own bed, with Ginny curled up next to him.
Why, then, had he heard Amphelice Goode's voice as if he was back at the office?
"Malfoy! I need a word with you!"
Oh, because he had.
Throwing on his bathrobe to cover his blatant nudity, Draco followed the sound of Amphelice's voice to the living room, where the fireplace had flared to life, green flames licking at his former boss's disembodied head.
The angle and color of the sunlight shining through the sliding glass door suggested it was well into the afternoon and the sun was beginning to set. Draco rubbed his eyes as he collapsed onto the sofa and lifted Ginny's hours-cold tea to his mouth. He cringed and swallowed and smacked his lips, all while Amphelice stared at him with a brow creased in annoyance.
"Good afternoon. How nice of you to call. However, I'm not really in the mood for visitors right now."
Amphelice cleared her throat and looked away. "Yes, I can see you're, er, busy."
Draco was well aware of his gaping bathrobe revealing his bare chest and legs, but he liked the discomfort on Amphelice's face too much to make himself more presentable.
She shook her head and looked Draco in the eye again. "You see, I'm calling because I want to offer you your job back."
The mug paused on its way back up to Draco's mouth, but only for the barest of moments. He took another rancid sip before setting the tea on the far end of the coffee table and sitting up, his attention captured.
"What could possibly make you want to do that?"
"Justin told me what he did, and, well, everything you've done. I had no idea it was happening, had I known—"
"Don't spew lies now, Ampehlice. You would have known if you'd only paid attention. You believed Justin because you didn't want to believe anything good of me, and to try to suggest you would have acted differently if you'd known sooner would be disingenuous of you."
Amphelice's lips tightened into a straight line at being read so clearly. "You did not make it easy to like you, you know."
"I did try in the beginning. When it became too obvious that you would never give me a chance, I began to behave exactly the way you expected me to. I didn't go to work to be liked, though. I went to work to make a difference."
She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Draco could just see her trying to find some patience, even as the green flames distorted her expression.
"I let Justin go. We could really use you, if you'll come back."
Draco didn't even have to think about the offer. "I thank you for finally realizing your mistake and taking steps to correct it. Honestly, you can't know how much I appreciate the gesture. But I think I need some time off before I can consider returning."
"Will you consider returning?"
Amphelice's resolve in the face of Draco's sarcasm made Draco pause. He had been ready to throw the job offer back in her face, to spitefully teach her a lesson about dismissing him for so many years. But there was a seriousness in her question that Draco had not expected. She was desperate, but not because she'd just lost two employees in the same day.
"Yes," he said, surprising himself. "I will consider it."
"Thank you. I will hold the position for you until the end of next week. Do you think that will be enough time?"
Draco lifted his nose in an imperious tilt. "It will be sufficient. Thank you, Amphelice."
She nodded and ended the Floo connection, the grate empty and cold once more.
A throat clearing alerted Draco to Ginny's presence. She came to sit next to Draco, her hands grasping his, their knees knocking together.
"You don't have to go back there if you don't want to. Just know that I don't care what you do with your life as long as you are satisfied and happy."
H er statement wasn't completely correct, but her eyes were trusting and filled with love. She had absolute faith that Draco would not turn to the Dark Arts, that he would not use his position or his wealth to bully others. So there had been no need for her to say, "Just know that I don't care what you do with your life as long as you are satisfied and happy and don't torment people."
Draco knew that qualifying statement was there even if she never considered it, because he worked hard everyday to make sure he lived up to a life worthy of her—and himself. And he loved her because she didn't have to say it, that's how much she believed in him.
An honest Malfoy. Possibly the first.
He kissed her temple. "I'm satisfied with you. You make me happy."
And that was enough.