By Rurouni Star
For any that don't know – this is a continuation on Lost and Found. You should probably read that first, if you want to know about Malfoy's past, profession, and current state of finances… I'm sure if you read, though, you could pick it up (if you very much wanted to). For age references – Malfoy's generation is in their thirties. Sirius is right there with them, having been returned at the age he left. The war is over, and casualties were bad. Most of the war generation is scarred in some way.
There is a state of mind.
It is formed by taking part of your humanity, part of your concern for others and your belief that everything will – must – turn out in the end and hiding it away in the deepest, darkest corner of your being.
He didn't lose it voluntarily.
But, by some curious paradox, he was already halfway there when it started.
Staring eyes, curved lips, sneering at death he never saw…
Belief in the good of mankind. What utter bullshit.
Dead. He'd never been there, but he saw it in his dreams every night… their bodies strewn, they were staring at him, asking him for help he couldn't give…
He'd visited the graveyard. He'd seen it. He'd talked to the cold stones, engraved with the meaningless names of people he'd once despised. A few times, the vivid thought had hit him that the exact same bodies, the living beings he'd once spoken to and spat at, were lying beneath his feet. Rotting, exactly like in his visions…
He couldn't have been there. It hadn't been his problem anyway.
There is a state of mind – one where you push all what-if's and tortured half-wishes into a place they can't reach you.
Draco Malfoy still could not attain it.
"And so it is with great regret that I must retire from my teaching and return to the forests…"
Malfoy rolled his eyes and shook his head at the dignified horse-man, whose mane had begun to tint grey in the past few years. "You're barely middle-aged," the Potions teacher drawled. "You're not old enough to retire."
Firenze looked over at him with the same piercing look he reserved for unruly students. Malfoy, as usual, ignored it, and remained casually slumped backward in his chair in the Great Hall.
"I miss my home, as you would miss Hogwarts should you ever leave it," the centaur stated stiffly.
"And who're we supposed to get to replace you?" Draco said idly, picking at a chicken wing. "You're the only Divination teacher in years that's taught anything useful at all."
McGonnagal scowled at him from over the table. "We shall make do, Mr. Malfoy," she admonished. "If our Divination teacher wishes to return to the forest, we will not hinder him." The woman's own severe stare had long since lost its effect on him, though, and she turned her face exasperatedly to the rest of the staff table, who was discussing this latest development in hushed voices.
"Come now," Lupin said from his place across from the platinum haired man. "I'm sure we'll find someone suitable. Firenze has already taught for a good nineteen years – if he wishes to retire, it is surely within his rights."
Malfoy glanced toward Professor Snape's chair instinctively, looking for his former head of house's support, but the man wasn't there. Not that he usually was – the man lived in his dungeons.
"There are a few candidates on file," Dumbledore told the centaur kindly, his blue eyes twinkling. "I can have one in place in as little as a week, though I highly suggest you finish your term."
Firenze nodded, grateful. "I will do so."
Malfoy frowned, and looked down to his meal in distaste. It wasn't that he was particularly fond of the centaur – he very rarely saw the Divination teacher, in any case – but he definitely was not looking forward to another hack like Trelawny…
"I just hope Dumbledore's judgment's gotten keener since he hired her," Draco murmured grumpily, and shoved a spoonful of salted potatoes unceremoniously into his mouth.
Oh how he regretted not putting up more of a fight.
"You can't be serious," Malfoy stated flatly, glaring at Lupin over Dumbledore's shoulder, since it was an unspoken rule that one never glared at the Headmaster. "We are talking about the same woman? The one that thought I was some muggle political figure in disguised exile from Lebanon?"
Lupin merely looked amused – he took a sip of his tea while Dumbledore responded cheerfully. "Yes, that was an interesting article, wasn't it? You must admit, the evidence was strong-" At Malfoy's unhappy look, he shrugged and relented, for once. "Yes, we are talking about the same woman, Mr. Malfoy. I do hope everyone here will be treating her with some measure of civility."
And with that, the horrid man disappeared from the staff meeting, leaving them to talk among themselves like good little sheep.
Malfoy scowled, and wondered for the moment whether that wasn't what they all were. Whether Dumbledore weren't really some evil, all-powerful deity in disguise, shaping their lives for his own amusement.
The evidence, as he'd said, was certainly strong.
Sighing in disgust, he left the room for his own chambers, wishing this had not been the first news he'd received on his return to Hogwarts. It was customary that they have their re-introduction staff meeting the day before the beginning of school.
That meant the horrible woman would be arriving tomorrow, with the students. Damn it.
The man waved at his candles as he entered the room, and they lit obligingly, casting dancing shadows about it. It seemed the house elves had done a good job in keeping it as he'd left it before. A spot of luck in a luckless day.
"What qualifications does the awful woman have, anyway?" he demanded of his bed, kicking at the oak frame – and recoiling in pain as his foot hit it.
"Damn it," Malfoy hissed, sitting down on the edge of the bed to rub at his abused toes. "Well if she's expecting some sort of welcoming party, she's going to be sorely disappointed. Maybe…"
His lips curled upward maliciously.
"Maybe I can get that idiot's help, down at Hogsmeade. He still owes me one for that bit of covering up last year…"
Yes. Yes, this year might not be nearly as bad as he'd thought. And if he had his way (which he usually did, despite his now much-lowered position in society) Luna Lovegood would not remain as Divination teacher for very long at all.