written for the tgs "through the universe" challenge and the "japanese tea ceremony."

prompts: Absolute Zero — (color) white; Chakin (茶巾) (hemp cloth): Write about a character cleansing themselves of a problem.

wc: 600

school, house: hogwarts, slytherin

points: 5

a/n: you're going down, shay. i'm plotting your downfall right now i have a doc and everything my meticulous plans will CRUMBLE YOU; but jk i still love you

excuse the competitiveness i have no chill aha

. . .

It is a hard thing, indeed, to do something when no one else wants you to do it. It is like this for Draco.

Draco is going to be a Healer. He needs it. He needs to be able to be something more than the Mark on his arm, a stain marring his smooth skin. He needs to help people and the best way to do that is to cure them.

But it is a hard thing to do, because no one else wants him to do it. It's not the Healing part itself. That is easy. It takes fervent studying and a lot of sleepless nights, but it is easy.

Becoming a Healer is the hard part. Getting hired is the hard part, because who would hire the tainted Malfoy name when there are so many more fresh faces? Who'd take the risk on him?

No one, he answers himself.

Perhaps that is why it is a surprise when his St. Mungo's application is not rejected. Draco is taken for an interview, and everyone knows he is a Malfoy and unwelcome. But because he is a Malfoy, his back is perfectly straight and his head is held high because they will not get to him. No one can touch him because he is Draco Malfoy, and he was a Death Eater, and he does not hide.

The woman interviewing him looks at first glance callous: blond hair pulled back in an austere bun, face devoid of any expression, with analytical, beady black eyes scanning Draco the moment he walks in.

Then she flashes blindingly white teeth at him; the gesture is obviously fake but it is a gesture, so Draco will take it.

"Draco...Malfoy?" She pauses upon his last name, and her voice is not grating — smooth, really — but still, it is frigid, unmoving. He should be used to it by now. Still, it stings a bit, as this woman has tried to be unbiased.

Draco smiles back, the almost-grin just as phony as hers, although he does not show her his teeth. It feels, somehow, like if he did he'd be breaching his own privacy. Like he'd be hitting rock bottom, absolute zero on the temperature scale.

Perhaps he is already there. Perhaps he is not. Perhaps it does not matter.

Draco nods at the woman. He does not know her name. He does not want to know it.

"Why do you wish to join St. Mungo's?" she asks him. Draco thinks the wondering tone in her voice is genuine.

"I have an interest in Healing," Draco replies. "It has always been a bit of a fascination of mine, and now that I am free to pursue it, it's what I want to do."

He does not add that he owes it to everyone. Draco is not taking sympathy points — because he does not want them.

The rest of the interview is standard knowledge, unimportant.

Draco knows he will not be accepted.

Draco knows this rejection will probably spiral him into a depression, a funk, into absolute zero. But the family money is his cushion, so he realizes he does not have it all that bad.

He remembers Potter and his friends, in Malfoy Manor, and that is what he thinks is an absolute zero. The heroes make all the sacrifices, and that leads them to lows.

Perhaps it is only the heroes who reach the lowest point, absolute zero. Perhaps Draco is lucky, then, because he is not a hero.

. . .

Perhaps that is why it is a surprise when Draco gets the job.