Draco couldn't sleep, which was hardly unusual. Tonight he was glad for the calm, the stillness that came with his house in the middle of the night. So he sat at the table in his kitchen, with all the lights out, looking through the huge windows and into the starry night.
The house was modest by Malfoy standards, and not of traditional wizarding archetecture by any stretch of the imagination. Draco had to admit that his first reaction to the building had been his very best imitation of his father. It had not been pretty.
It was proof of how much he had changed over the years, that he had kept the house, even though he didn't need to hide from the wizarding world anymore. Lucius Malfoy was dead, and Draco didn't need to hide from anything anymore.
With a flick of his wand he summoned a huge mug of hot chocolate. Even Draco Malfoy, Pureblood, had to admit that the Muggle world could do some things right. He continued looking out the window at the stars, feeling the calm wash over him as his muscles relaxed and he sank into the chair, his hands around the warm ceramic. Maybe after this he'd be able to sleep at least a few hours before going to work at the Ministry. After all, there was still a lot of cleaning up left to do.
The Ministry offices were caught in a whirlwind of activity. A recruiting drive had gone into effect nearly as soon as Voldemort was confirmed dead. Really dead this time. Draco felt an involuntary shudder run through him as a flash of memory flitted though his mind and was gone.
"Bad day," he muttered under his breath as he unlocked his office door and walked in. He was quickly walking back out, his first task of the day firmly in hand. While his constant admonishment of "bad day" was usually a reference to that one specific day, today it proved to be for the general as well.
It was going to indeed be a very bad day.
Standing in the lobby of Gringotts, waiting, was not something that Draco was accustomed to. Although it was common enough at the Muggle bank, where they had never heard of the Malfoys. Not that he'd been allowed to use his own name anyway.
Finally a young wizard walked up to Draco, holding out his hand. "Good morning Mr. Malfoy, it's good to see you. I understand that one of our projects is of interest to you. Though, I'm afraid that my secretary did not relay which project." Draco could see that his presence was not welcome, and that this man would be as little help as was possible if not handled quickly.
"Actually, my department has more of an interest in finding one of your project heads. She went to school with me, and one of our field agents needs her specialties." He could practically see the wheels in the other man's head turning, trying to figure out how best to thwart Draco Malfoy.
"I will check with our planning department and get back to you, Mr. Malfoy." Draco let a sneering smile cross his face, not really caring enough to stop it. Bad Day. He wasn't going to let this burocratic nonsence stop him from finishing this damned assignment as quickly as possible.
"Just point me in the direction of the department, sir. I wouldn't want to take up any more of your time." The man plastered a fake smile onto his face and a goblin came forward to escourt Draco to the planning department. Draco heaved a silent sigh of relief. At least he could take comfort in the fact that the goblins were equally nasty to everyone.
Once he was in the department, everything went smoothly, and he had the address and an owl on its way before lunch. "I don't understand how the Ministers could think that Hermione Granger would be receptive to a letter from me. Even if it was offical business." Draco muttered to himself as he went through the mindless task of double-checking the lists of Dark artifacts that were coming in from the field agents.
He was relieved when he could leave for home. His Muggle house.
The stars were beautiful at midnight, twinkling as if they could go on forever. Hot chocolate in hand, Draco listened to the silence, the sound of absolutely nothing sharing his house with him. It was alternately comforting and frightening to think that there wasn't another living thing in his house. Not even one of those stupid Muggle plants that everyone had given him for "house warming" gifts. The people had been just Muggles though, so he hadn't cared about keeping the gifts.
It had been so strange, coming back to the world he had grown up in, after spending so many years hiding among the Muggles. His only comfort was that Potter and Co. had had to do the same thing. Dumbledore had been determined to keep the four of them safe until the Master Plan was in place.
"Bad Day," Draco muttered, leaving the kitchen to try and sleep.
Since returning to his world, Draco had added "improvements" to his home. A Hogwart's dorm-style bed was one of them, since no other bed had been as comfortable to Draco, even the ones at Malfoy Manor. The heavy wood and dark green velvet curtains, isolating him from the rest of the universe gave him a sense of safety that he lacked at every other time. This fact was not helping him tonight.
His room was stifling, all the windows covered by thick velvet drapes, rugs covering the floor, the walls cluttered with paintings, tapestries and memorbilia. All the things that he'd had to leave behind four years ago, and had only regained in the last few months.
Draco tossed aside all the bed cloths except the light top sheet, scrunching pillows around in an effort to get comfortable. He resisted the urge to go lay in the cool grass in his back garden and stare up at the stars some more.
"I need to sleep!" Draco said to the empty room in frustration. Only a heavy silence, thick with accusations, answered him.
Draco walked into the office the next morning, his head held high, even though his entire body wanted to droop from fatigue. Nobody wished him good morning, and he didn't trust any of the office-made refreshments, carrying his Muggle coffee in a heat mug instead. In a moment of extreem self-pity he thought that he was turning into as much of a wreck as Mad-Eye Moody.
With the door to his office blessedly shut, it took Draco a moment to realize that he wasn't alone in the room. He clenched his jaw to keep it from dropping at the sight of Hermione Granger sitting in his office. His very small office. He flushed, feeling self-conscious about his decision for the first time. Not even Potter could make him feel like that these days. Yet here was little, brilliant, Muggle-born Hermione Granger and he suddenly felt fifteen and inferior again.
"I see you received my message." He breathed a silent sigh of relief at his even, unemotional tone. She was the last person he wanted to be vulnerable to.
"Yes. I figured that the Ministry put you up to it, I've been avoiding them, you know. I have to admit, having your name as the signature did make me curious, so here I am." She was looking at the blank wall over his left shoulder. He nearly smiled, at least she was uncomfortable too.
"They were hoping for that effect. I'm involved by name only though," that hurt to admit, "you need to go talk to Fudge if you want to know what this is all about." He found himself moving behind his desk and then rearranging the things on the desktop. he didn't look at her, and there was a tense silence for a few moments.
"Actually, I don't care what the Ministry wants me for. I was more curious about what they wanted you for." She settled back into the chair opposite his desk as Draco slumped down into his. He did not want to talk to this woman. Not about this, not now, not ever.
"I'm here on my own merits Granger. That's all there is to it." he settled back in his chair and steepled his fingers, trying to summon the confident mask that had been his shield in school.
"Mm hmm," she nodded, then turned that piercing, absorbing gaze on him, "but why did you end up here instead of where you would be allowed to do some good?"
Draco felt his chest seize up and he couldn't breathe for a few awful seconds. Hermione leaned forward, and Draco was suddenly reminded of the cat that Pansy had had in school. The thing had been an awkward animal, but vicious once it had sighted prey.
"I'm sure that Mr. Fudge is anxious to see you."
"I'm sure he is. Answer the question Malfoy." Draco closed his eyes. He felt like laughing bitterly and crying in despair at the same time. It must have shown on his face, when he opened his eyes Hermione was looking at him in shock and concern.
"I think you should leave now Granger." His voice was still level, if a little hoarse. He was proud of himself. Hermione nodded, opened her mouth as if to say something, but didn't. Instead, she stood and left his office without another word.
Draco sighed, slumping in his chair, feeling the aching wave of confused emotion wash over him, drowning him in the past few years. It passed relatively quickly and he got to work. Drowning his sorrows could wait for the evening.
This was starting to be a bad habit, sitting in his kitchen with a mug of cocoa, stargazing through the big windows. The stars never provided any answers, but they gave him some peace. They didn't judge any more than they advised, and he was glad for that.
It had been difficult, after school. Between his growing horror with his family's activity and his inability to just go to Dumbledore and ask for help, he had gotten himself into a very dangerous situation.
He didn't know how involved Hermione had been in the battle, especially in those days. He would bet that she had been part of the think-tank though. His escape from his father and the Dark Lord smacked of her influence.
Draco had to smile at the thought of little Hermione Granger sitting in a room with Dumbledore, Fudge and the Aurors, suggesting that Harry Potter kidnap Draco Malfoy. It was almost funny, especially imagining the look on Potter's face.
Draco could only imagine though. When he had actually seen Potter's face, it had been grim and determined. Of course they had been in the middle of out-witting a full group of Death Eaters with only two brooms and a wand. Fortunately it had been Draco's wand, Potter still couldn't aim worth anything while he was flying. Unless he was aiming the broom, Draco thought bitterly.
He shook himself, pulling away from the memory and the past rivalry. He had been able to "bury the hatchet" as the saying went, he owed Potter his life, his sanity. It was a debt that he would never be able to repay, not even with his involvement in that last battle. They had won, the world was once again safe for little wizards, especially now, with all the Death Eaters finally rounded up or confirmed dead.
Draco felt tears sting his eyes, remembering being summoned to the wizarding world for the first time if four years, only to positively identify his mother's remains. Dumbledore and Potter had been there, which had been strangely comforting. Potter was the only person in the world that Draco knew understood what this lost feeling was like. The tears that day had washed away what was left of their animosity, leaving only two young men in the various stages of being alone in the world.
He smiled around the memory, forcing his mind to the present again. Potter's last letter had been hopeful, they had both been given Muggle lives, in order to stay out of reach. Potter had returned to his as a way to get away from all the attention that he inevitably got as, well, Harry Potter. Draco no longer envied him that attention, and even now envied him the anonymity of the Muggle world. He would have stayed as a Muggle, if he didn't have a need to repay the world for the actions of his father.
It was going to be a long, hard road, but he was going to do it. He was going to prove that at least one Malfoy could do the right thing.
Disclaimer: Harry Potter and Co. do not belong to me, they belong to J.K. Rowling. I'm just speculating the "Happily Ever After", and not making any money off of it.
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