Shaming the Ancestors
"I don't imagine this was an easy decision for you," Mr. Weasley said sympathetically, wringing his hands as the two men walked.
Draco nodded as his finished stuffing the rest of his new paper Muggle money into his new 'wallet'. He had completely emptied his personal account and had all the Galleons freshly changed into 'pounds'. He wasn't entirely sure that his parents would cut him off from the account once they found out about what they had done, but then, he had never though he would have to choose between his status and a life in Azkaban. And he was not about to take any chances out in this brave new world. If being a Malfoy had taught him anything, it was that money could get a person through just about anything.
"Alright!" Mr. Weasley clapped his hands together. "Well, before we actually release you out into Muggle society, we have to have a game plan; a basic idea of what you're going to have to do to keep from starving to death your first week out there."
Draco allowed the older man to rattle on about the trials and tribulations of his new position while he pretended to be somewhat interested. This had to be the most fascinating thing to happen in Mr. Weasley's career in decades. Draco's father had told him all about Mr. Weasley's work in the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Department, and Draco could only imagine what a terribly occupation that had to have been. Let the Muggle-lover have his moment, Draco might as well finish his last few moments in the wizarding world on a good deed.
The conversation and the leading eventually brought the two men into the back offices of Gringotts that Draco had never known existed. Of course, he had never thought about what was in the interiors of the bank or what employees other than the goblins needed them for. When the Slytherins had been given their career counseling, he had barely even looked at the banking pamphlets. It had never been something of an interest to him. Maybe he should have done more reading up on it. Aside from a different currency and notably fewer Egyptian curses on gold to worry about, how different could Wizarding and Muggle banking really be?
"I just need to finish setting up your financial support from the Administration account, and then I suppose you'll want to be provided with a list of Muggle banks where you can set up a new account."
Draco didn't tell Mr. Weasley that whatever temporary support the Ministry had to offer would be miniscule in comparison to his own limited Gringotts account. He somehow had a feeling the time would soon come when he would be eternally grateful just to have that small bit of gold hidden away.
"Is there anything else I can get for you before you set out?"
Draco considered the question thoughtfully. This might very well be the last favor he would be granted by the wizarding world.
"An owl," Draco told him, "and a quill and some parchment."
From what Draco could see, there was only one thing he could really do after coming so far.
Mr. Weasley nodded in a way that attempted to be professional and devoid of any emotion. "Just give me one moment." And with that, Draco was alone in that tiny, hidden office.
All by himself, Draco felt his eyes shift from side to side, scaling over the blank walls. He couldn't help but be reminded of the small, boxy room within the Ministry where he had actually been given the Minuo Potion. Most of the initial side effects he had suffered from the administration were long since gone. He was no longer feeling weak or unbalanced on his feet, but that was not to say he felt completely back to normal. His limbs felt oddly looser than he remembered them before; he was almost afraid that his new lack in coordination might lead him to accidentally smack himself in the face. Wouldn't that be a wonderfully dignified way to introduce himself to the Muggle world?
In the end, Draco wasn't left very much time alone with his thoughts, because Mr. Weasley emerged back through the door after only a few minutes. In one hand, he held a roll of parchment and a quill set, and in the other, there was a large birdcage containing a tawny owl ruffling its feathers. It was almost as though the Ministry had the little creatures waiting on reserve.
"You do understand you will have to be extremely careful about keeping an owl from now on," Mr. Weasley said as he handed the owl over. "Most Muggle cities have strict regulations on what can and cannot be kept as pets. If the wrong person sees it, it will be gone before you can say, 'Special Delivery'."
Keeping the owl had not even come to Draco's mind. He couldn't even think of anyone he would want to use an owl to talk to now that he had taken the Minuo potion. Draco wondered if this was a courtesy extended to all who took the Minuo Potion or if Mr. Weasley was doing this out of some strange obligation he felt to the younger boy. "I'm going to be allowed to keep it?"
"Of course," Mr. Weasley answered. "This program is new, so we do not have a lot to offer in terms of services. But we can at least provide the Minuo recipients with a means of communicating with their friends and family."
There was a hint of pity in Mr. Weasley's voice that told Draco that even Arthur Weasley knew that Draco didn't have anyone in the Wizarding community who would speak with him now.
"I'll let you have a moment," Mr. Weasley said as he left. "If you would like to write a letter right now, that is."
Draco offered a curt nod, telling Mr. Wealsey that yes, that was indeed what he wanted right now. With the door clicked shut and Draco left alone in the tiny box room once again, he dipped the quill into the ink well and began what would likely be one of his very last communications with the Wizarding world.
Dear Mother and Father, Even as I write this letter, it is already too late for anything to be done, at least by magical means. You have already heard about the Minuo Act that the Ministry has put forth, so I will not waste your time by explaining it. I will also not waste any ink in telling you the thinking that went into doing what I have done. I was given the option of taking the Minuo Potion instead of going to Azkaban, and I took it. It is as simple as that. I am now very much a Squib. You should also know that you will more than likely not be seeing me for a long time. I know how much value you both place on the Malfoy family name, so I will not further disgrace it by forcing you to tell the world that your son is a blood traitor. You can tell you friends whatever you like; that I am abroad or I am dead. I will do nothing to make them suspect otherwise. I cannot tell you how you can reach me, for I don't even know where I will be staying immediately. My life will probably be quite chaotic for some time. If, however, you find yourselves needing to reach me for some reason, there is an official at the Ministry who is in charge of overseeing my case. Her name is Clemence Vaughan, and she will be meeting with me once a week, so she will surely have a good idea of where I am. If you need to know anything, you can contact her. I just want you both to know that I never meant to shame you, and I hope against hope that I will have the opportunity to see you again one day. Your son,
Even as I write this letter, it is already too late for anything to be done, at least by magical means. You have already heard about the Minuo Act that the Ministry has put forth, so I will not waste your time by explaining it. I will also not waste any ink in telling you the thinking that went into doing what I have done. I was given the option of taking the Minuo Potion instead of going to Azkaban, and I took it. It is as simple as that. I am now very much a Squib.
You should also know that you will more than likely not be seeing me for a long time. I know how much value you both place on the Malfoy family name, so I will not further disgrace it by forcing you to tell the world that your son is a blood traitor. You can tell you friends whatever you like; that I am abroad or I am dead. I will do nothing to make them suspect otherwise.
I cannot tell you how you can reach me, for I don't even know where I will be staying immediately. My life will probably be quite chaotic for some time. If, however, you find yourselves needing to reach me for some reason, there is an official at the Ministry who is in charge of overseeing my case. Her name is Clemence Vaughan, and she will be meeting with me once a week, so she will surely have a good idea of where I am. If you need to know anything, you can contact her.
I just want you both to know that I never meant to shame you, and I hope against hope that I will have the opportunity to see you again one day.
A soft knock at the door begged permission to reenter, and Draco noncommittal grunt was taken as a grant in permission. Mr. Weasley peaked his head inside slowly, almost as though he feared being attacked.
"Are you finished, Mr. Malfoy?"
Draco nodded, but didn't look up to make eye contact. He didn't trust himself to keep the well-known Malfoy demeanor, and he was not about to let a Weasley bear witness to its breakage.
"There is an owl landing just outside the corridor," Mr. Weasley told him, not showing any reaction to Draco's own emotions. "If you're ready to send it off, I can take you there."
Draco stood to his feet without a word, keeping his eyes on the floor as he made his way to the doorway. He followed Mr. Weasley down the bank corridor, which was more or less empty, save for the occasional black-clad goblin; and they certainly did not care who Draco was or how he had come to be here. The orangish glow of the torches soon gave way to white as they approached the owl landing, where a few idle owls waited, nearly on the verge of sleep.
Mr. Weasley opened the door to the bird cage and allowed the tawny owl inside to climb out onto his sleeve. With his free hand, the man reached out to take Draco's letter, which he still held clenched tightly in his fingers. He was almost reluctant to hand it over, yet it somehow ended up in Mr. Weasley's hand, then handing it over to the perched owl. The little creature took it up obediently and took off suddenly, startling the lazy owls on the landing into alertness. As the owl became smaller and smaller in the distance, Draco felt that previous lump in his throat return and his eyes begin to sting in a way that could not be blamed on dust or any other external source.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Malfoy," he suddenly heard Mr. Weasley say. "I don't believe I've said that yet, but I truly am."
Draco kept his back to the man as he spoke. He didn't trust what his own reaction would be if he were forced to stand face to face with another human being right now.
"But dwelling isn't going to help us any now, is it?" Mr. Weasley clapped his hands together. "We have a lot of planning to do."
Once the owl had flown completely from his sight, Draco left the window to return to stand beside Mr. Weasley. He might have been a blood traitor, but as of this moment, he was the only wizard Draco had at his side. Letting his pride dictate is decisions was simply not an option anymore.
"The first thing you are going to need is a place to live," Mr. Weasley continued on. "That, you should most definitely take care of today. Otherwise, you'll end up spending your first night in London in a bus shelter, and that would not be a pleasant experience."
Draco didn't suppose Mr. Weasley had a list or a map for him to go off of. Draco certainly had no way of knowing where to go, but then he supposed no self-respecting wizard would know either.
Draco did have to give Mr. Weasley a bit of credit; Draco was not thrown out onto the Muggle streets the moment the owl took off. In a way, though, it seemed somewhat harder to do it that way. Still, his fingers clenched tightly to the handle of the cage and the tawny bird inside tucked its head underneath its wing. Draco began subconsciously seeing it as one of his few remaining links to the Wizarding world.
"Once you have an actual address, you can start looking for work. It's good that you have some money of your own to help you get by, but believe me, it won't last you for very long, especially after you start paying rent…"
Mr. Weasley spoke of Muggle matters in a very high energy manner. He was almost euphoric. Were Draco in a more cynical mood, he might have wondered—and possibly even said aloud—why didn't Mr. Weasley just chug down the potion himself and go off and join the Muggles himself. But given his current condition, it just wasn't in him to even mutter the word Minuo.
"One last farewell drink before you leave us, Draco?" Mr. Weasley asked, gesturing towards the bar.
Draco eyes darted all around the interior of the pub while he procrastinated with his response. The two of them had been dawdling inside The Leaky Cauldron for nearly an hour now, as the Mr. Weasley himself were trying to build up the nerve to actually throw a boy like Draco out into the world.
Draco might have resisted the notion months ago, but the sense of resignation that was just taking hold did wonders to change that behavior. "Sure…Arthur. Why not?"
Mr. Weasley smiled at him and took a seat at one of the bar stools. He raised his hand to the pub owner to get his attention. The man brought two tankards of ale and left the two men alone to their conversation. Mr. Weasley was well known enough, but Draco wondered to himself it the pub owner would recognize him, even though Draco had never been inside the Leaky Cauldron himself more than a handful of times in his life. And if the pub owner did recognize him, what sorts of rumors and stories would he start spreading as to why the two men were drinking together.
"What am I supposed to do with my wand, exactly?" Draco asked suddenly, his first real question since requesting an owl.
"Oh, you can keep it if you wish," Mr. Weasley told him. "It's not as though there is much use in snapping it when you can't even use it."
Draco nodded thoughtfully, his hand reaching for his concealed wand still resting in his pocket. Mr. Weasley tattered on with all he knew about the Muggle world, but Draco was not paying enough attention to learn anything of use. Instead, he stared at the tankards, watching the ale inside go lower and lower until the glasses were completely empty.
"Ready to depart from us then, Mr. Malfoy?" Mr. Weasley finally asked. "Draco?"
Of course Draco wasn't ready. He would never really be ready. If it were up to him, he probably would have elected to live out the rest of his life in that pub. But somehow, that didn't stop him from standing to his feet and following Mr. Weasley in that same automatic sort of way he had been doing all day.
Soon enough, Draco was led through the tiny pub door out into the cluttered alley. He couldn't even clearly recall walking through the door himself. When he found himself truly alert, he saw Mr. Weasley still standing inside the pub, taking great care not to have his feet cross over the line between the Wizarding world and the Muggle one, as though the man finally did seem to notice the great barrier that existed between the two worlds.
"Alright, Draco," Mr. Weasley said, stepping back towards the pub door. "Best of luck to you then."
Draco nodded in reply, and with that, Mr. Weasley disappeared back into the Leaky Cauldron, leaving Draco alone on the sidewalk.
Blinking his eyes and turning his head to the side, Draco tried to see what it was that kept Muggles from stumbling through the pub door. Some sort of spell or charm was supposedly in place to protect it, but it just looked like any other storefront in the alleyway. Maybe even though he didn't technically have magic anymore, he still wasn't a Muggle, so he could still see the way in. Maybe Muggles couldn't even see the door.
Draco considered trying to open the door again himself, and, in fact, almost did. But then he considered that Arthur Weasley might still be there. That he might believe Draco had changed his mind and make a big scene about taking him back to the Ministry. And even if Mr. Weasley had left, a good number of people who saw him walk in and out of the pub, and who knew what they would believe. So Draco thought the better of it and took his hand off the doorknob, turning instead to the city at his back.
It was official; Draco Malfoy had been shut out of the Wizarding world for good.
Draco had only been to the part of London outside of Diagon Alley a handful of times, and never for any extended period. His parents were always too disgusted at the notion of being surrounded by Muggles to ever stay for very long. As a consequence, Draco never got to know the city very well, and certainly didn't know it well enough to go wandering off on a whim.
He did, however, start in the most logical, most familiar form of Muggle transportation he knew: the train.
Then, Muggles demonstrated their first bit of usefulness or even intelligence. Draco saw a sign; a large, bright green, idiot-proof sign pointing his way to the train station. It appeared to be pointing toward a flight of stairs actually going under the pavement. Odd, but Draco was not about to doubt such a glaring form of directions, lest the Muggle population be led to believe he was truly that dim. So Draco made his way down the stairs while people stared at his caged owl and his robes.
The underground station was crowded; Draco knew it would be. He had been to Kings Cross dozens of times, so of course he knew that train stations were full of people. Maybe it was the fact that it was underground or that he was likely the only wizard there that made it feel so confining.
Muggles can't even build a substandard train station, Draco thought silently before remembering he was now one of these people. I can't believe I'm really one of them.
But Muggle now or not, he still could not help but feel dirty from just coming in contact with the underground train station. Ash, garbage, and bits of food were smeared over the floor in a grimy layer, and Draco could faintly make out the footprints of the people just ahead of him.
Maps and signs were hanging everywhere, but they were of absolutely no use to Draco, who had no idea of where he was or where he was going. Chances were that the crowd as a whole knew what they were doing, so Draco simply followed with the current. It was going well enough until he came upon some odd metal-spoaked wheel resting between silvery columns. Everyone else seemed to be able to pass through with no trouble, and it only seemed suitable that Draco would be the one who was stopped.
"Whoa, there, boy!" a man in a blue uniform held his arm out in front of Draco. "Where do you think you're going?"
"On the train." Draco thought that much was obvious.
The uniformed man stared down from his superior height, and Draco couldn't help but feel a bit intimidated, especially now that his wand was of no use to him.
"Not without a ticket, boy," the man told him. "This isn't a free ride."
Draco nearly found himself reaching for his wand out of reflex, but he stopped himself soon enough.
"Alright," Draco finally relented. "Where do I get a ticket then?"
The uniformed man groaned as though he himself were annoyed by Draco. "You can get one either from the booth," he pointed to a horrendously long line of people, "or from one of the automated ticket machines."
There were at least seven machines, and a few of them didn't even have people waiting in front of them. The small amount of people who were gathered around them appeared able to get their tickets with no fuss and without having to deal with of the train station's highly rude personnel. Any idiot off the street could have seen what the logical choice would have been.
It couldn't be that difficult to figure out the Muggle contraption. There were so many idiotic people he had seen so far today, and they seemed able to use them. It was a large, silvery 'window' covered with colorful 'buttons'. Suddenly, it dawned on Draco that this was the first real Muggle device that he had ever seen up close.
Draco straightened his spine and looked the window straight in the…straight on. "Ticket, please."
Nothing. The paper bill was still in Draco's hand and there was no sign that it was going to be traded for a train ticket.
"Didn't you hear me?" Draco asked the machine. "I need a train ticket!"
Still nothing. Apparently, the machine was not threatened by intimidation either. Finally, Draco took slightly more drastic measures and began slamming his fists against the silver window, hoping at the very least, it would respond to pain.
"Give me a bloody ticket, you damned contraption!"
People were surely staring at him, but at the moment, Draco didn't care. If the Muggles had a problem with the way he treated their devices, they shouldn't have made them so difficult for newcomers to use.
Suddenly, Draco felt a tug at his sleeve. "Mister," he heard someone say. "You need to push the buttons."
Draco looked around for the source of the voice, but he found himself alone. At least until he finally looked down. Standing beside him was a little girl, couldn't have been more than eight, with a yellow balloon tied to her wrist and no parents in sight.
"Here." The little girl took the bill and stepped in front of the machine. "Let me."
The girl pushed Draco aside so she could have full view of the window. After a series of quickly typed buttons, the window chimed mechanically, as though it were trying to speak to her. And the little girl seemed to understand it.
"Where is it you need to go?" she asked him, glancing over her shoulder to look Draco in the eye.
Draco shrugged his shoulders and rolled his eyes. "Why don't you surprise me?" Dirty little Muggle whelp…
He was going to have to stop thinking that about every person he came in contact with.
In an almost lax manner, the little girl allowed the machine to consume the bill and began to push a series of buttons in a way that was so practiced, she didn't even have to look at the 'window'. A high-pitched mechanical sound dinged and a white slip of paper popped out of the window from yet another slit in the metal.
"Here you go," she said, handing Draco the piece of paper. "You should come in here and practice when you don't need to catch a train. Then you can get really good at buying tickets, and it won't take you so long to get on the train."
"I'll keep that in mind," Draco told her, snatching the ticket away from her and shuffling away as fast as he could.
This time when he tried to pass through the metal wheel, the uniformed man gave him no attitude. In fact, he even pretended not to recognize Draco, so as not to humiliate himself when Draco flashed his train ticket. And Draco couldn't help but feel a smug sense of satisfaction as he moved along with the crowd which eventually led him to the door of the silvery train, which was right where the sense of satisfaction ended.
People were crammed into the car like rats, packed shoulder to shoulder. There weren't even enough seats for everyone, but Draco was fairly certain he didn't want one. Everyone who did have a seat was either old or sickly-looking, and there was no telling what sorts of terrible Muggle diseases he could get from sitting down beside them. Better to just ride standing with all the healthy people.
Draco, however, was not allowed a great amount in where he would be standing. The moment he tried to move forward, he found himself caught. His first instinct told him that someone was grabbing the back of his jacket, but he was standing right up against the wall, so there was absolutely no room for anyone to be standing behind him. Draco tried to glance over his shoulder, but it was a futile effort, as whatever it was that was stopping him from moving forward was also stopping him from side to side; at least in any way that was remotely useful. The only thing he did succeed in was getting a good portion of the passangers to stare at him and a few schoolchildren to point and snicker as he flailed about like a turtle on its back.
Finally, a frail old man with hair growing out of his ears leaned over and informed Draco that the back of his robes had been caught in the automatic doors and Draco would not be able to get free until the next stop. Draco was thoroughly annoyed, but he had already learned from experience that it was pointless to try and argue with any sort of Muggle contraption, so he simply hung by his jacket with as much dignity as humanly possible. As though he weren't attracting enough attention with the caged owl dangling from his left hand.
Actually, the 'hanging' part had probably been a bad idea, for as soon as the train came to its next stop, the doors promptly opened without warning, causing Draco to fall hard against the filthy train floor. Now, some of the slightly older passengers on the train joined in the laughing as well. So once again, with as much dignity as possible, Draco scrabbled to his feet and grabbed hold of one of the poles that kept the other passengers from falling flat on their faces. With his head held high, the former wizard did his best to ignore the few people who continued to snicker behind their fisted hands.
At the very least, the people who had all seen him fall eventually cleared out of the train, giving way to a brand new crowd of people crammed in shoulder to shoulder.