The headlines make it sound worse than it is. Not that it isn’t bad, Draco knows it’s bad, it’s just that if anyone bothered to listen to him for once, they would know that he had no idea there was a veritable treasure trove of dark items in the basement of Malfoy Manor.
Yes, it is technically his house, but it’s not like he lives there. He hasn’t lived there since the war. Both of his parents are spending their life in Azkaban, and he’s held onto the property at his mother’s insistence, consoling himself with the knowledge that he can do this for her, and that he can always sell the bloody thing when she dies.
Or burn it.
He cannot, however, bring himself to scour the place. The ministry descends on the manor before the trials even begin, and Draco figures that is that. Let them take whatever they want, he couldn’t care less.
He has gold in the bank, although considerably less after the trials end, and although he could make enough to live off of forever with the sale of the house—he holds off. He rents a flat between Diagon Alley and Nocturn Alley, and for a year— he just sort of lies low. He isn't depressed , he’s despondent . Draco isn’t sure what used to fuel him, a desire for his father’s approval, desperately not wanting to let his mother down, pure, unfettered spite? Now— well, he can’t really see the point. He sleeps, and he reads a lot, and— because the court has mandated it— he has daily therapy sessions. After a year, they go down to three times a week, and Draco decides it’s time to do literally anything.
He starts working for the Ministry of Magic doing curse breaking work from an office deep in the bowles of a dungeon. He’s mostly un-charming objects, forcing dark items to reveal their secrets, that sort of thing. It’s boring work, but that’s fine. After another year, he only does therapy once a week. When, a year after that, he tries to stop going for good, his therpaist just laughs at him snd says, “Same time next week?”
To which Draco says, “See you then.”
All in all, his life is pretty boring. But Draco doesn’t mind boring; Draco minds headlines.
MALFOY MANOR RAID REVEALS A VERITABLE TREASURE TROVE OF DARK ITEMS.
It isn’t untrue, but also—it’s not like Draco knew they were there. This makes it seem like he’s been—been— collecting , or something. It’s not his fault that The Department of Dart Artifacts somehow missed a veritable treasure trove of dark items , is it?
At first, he thinks his boss will understand. Dawkins has always been an amiable fellow, even if he is about as interesting as nail clippings.
“It’s not that I don’t believe you, Draco, I do,” Dawkins blubbers, wiping sweat from his brow with a stained handkerchief. “I know firsthand that you haven’t set foot in that manor in years—it’s just— the publicity you know? Plus with this line of work, well, the implications…”
The implications. That Draco is a thief, stealing cursed items from the ministry, or perhaps he’s an evil mastermind, creating them himself, or, or—Draco isn’t even sure, exactly. That he’s bad. Dark. A Malfoy.
He packs up his desk for good at the end of the day.
When you apparate, there’s a pressure change—things get strangely quiet for a moment. When Draco gets home after work, the silence doesn’t fade. It’s too quiet. He tries not to feel hopeless, but he isn’t sure what he’s going to do. He could defy his mother and put the manor on the market, but part of waiting to sell was waiting for the connotations to fade away. These headlines set that back by… well, six years, he supposes. Eight years since the war ended. Eight years since the trials. Six years since his fall from wizarding grace. Eight years of therapy, and laying low, and making a name for himself as something other than the Malfoy : Death Eater. Even, Malfoy: The Paper Pusher, would be preferable.
Draco looks around his flat, trying to push down a sense of panic. He has no idea what to do now, and he’s pretty sure his options are dwindling by the minute as the headlines rage on.
Suddenly, there is a sharp tapping at the window. It’s a brown barn owl, its beak fluttering against the glass. Draco wonders if it’s a severance package, and he’s hoping for gold or maybe a fruit cake, but there’s only a letter.
It is not, however, a Ministry of Magic letter. It’s clearly stamped with another, equally familiar symbol. The Hogwarts Crest.
Curious, Draco opens it, wandering into the kitchen. He leans against the kitchen island as he unfolds the paper.
I am reaching out to you regarding an open teaching position at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Hogwarts is in desperate need of a History if Magic teacher, and your name came up in recent discussion. If you’re interested, please respond as quickly as possible. Term starts on September1st, and it would be incumbent for us to meet at your earliest conscience.
Minerva McGonagall, Headmistress of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Draco stares at the piece of parchment, questions bubbling up quicker than he can keep track of. He is certain that he never applied to work at Hogwarts. He also knows, firsthand, that History of Magic is taught by Professor Binns, the oldest staff member at Hogwarts—and only ghost teacher. Where, exactly, would a ghost go? The timing is, clearly, not a coincidence, and he can’t help feeling a bit coddled before ever even thinking about being grateful. Someone had to know, which meant everyone knew.
Seething, he sneers at the letter until a sharp prick on his arm brings him back to reality. The owl is pecking at him, and Draco softens a bit as he puts out a small tin of water and gives the bird a cracker.
He wants to burn the parchment and forget about it. However, the last decade has taught him a lot about impulsivity, and so he takes as many deep breaths as it takes for his rage to subside, and then he sends the owl off without an answer.
He pours himself a glass of wine and then scrawls a small note and tosses it into the fire with a bit of floo powder. He sips and he waits. Thankfully, he doesn’t have to wait long.
“Draco.” The voice coming from his fireplace is smoky and pleasant.
“Virginia,” Draco replies, feeling relief move through him at the sight of his therapist. “Sorry for the unscheduled request.”
“Don’t be, I had a feeling you might be calling.”
“Saw the papers then, did you?”
She doesn’t deny it, just smiles at him. It isn’t a pitying smile, exactly. Or, if it is, he’s learned to trust her enough that he knows it comes from a place beyond pity, even if it also has a little bit of that in it too. She reminds him just enough of his mother that he can take it. Of course, she is nothing like his mother where it counts.
Virginia Wormth is about the same age as Narcissa Malfoy, and they have the same, caring eyes, but the resemblance stops there. Virginia’s skin is darker, and she listens too well to be a Malfoy, and she’s muggleborn. That was part of the original conditions, to help instill empathy.
“Tell me what’s going on,” Virginia says.
“Well, I lost my job, which I suppose was to be expected— I always knew I’d have to keep my head down, it’s just—well I did keep my head down.” Draco knows he’s whining a bit. He doesn’t care. “I did everything I was supposed to do, and now I’m screwed.”
“I’m sorry,” she says, “I don’t think it’s fair, for the record, and if you want me to, I would be happy to appeal on your behalf.”
Draco huffs out a humorless laugh, shaking his head. “Thank you, maybe. I don’t know. I also—got a letter.”
“Yeah, a job offer.”
Virginia’s eyebrows creep up to her hairline.
“Yeah, I know. It was weird. I don’t know how anyone could even know I’d been sacked yet, but it was from Hogwarts, and it was— uh— offering me a teaching position.”
Virginia laughs, gently but with a small amount of scorn. “You, working with children?”
“Right? I mean, that’s ridiculous, isn’t it? I mean, I didn’t even like children when I was a child. And teenagers, teenagers are the worst .”
“Totally,” Virginia agrees, “But just for the sake of argument, what would be the pros here?”
Draco sighs, long and hard, and runs a hand through his pale hair. He doesn’t want to admit there are any. He wants to chuck the letter into the fire. He answers instead.
“Well it’s a job offer, which is likely to be difficult to come by in light of recent events. Money, which I still, unfortunately, need. It would be—secluded, in its own way. I wouldn’t have to deal with the real world while I’m there, and that, maybe more than anything, is a bit tempting. But still, children—and it isn’t like my time there was sunshine and rainbows I—I haven’t been back there since—and even before that—” Draco stops talking, and looks away.
“Personally,” Virginia says, “if I were a child, I think I’d be a bit fond of you.”
Draco snorts, giving her a side eye.
She’s smiling when she says, “Truly, it might not be as bad as you think. And I mean, there is something to be said for facing these feelings head on. Making new memories there. Getting to walk the halls of Hogwarts castle as the truest Draco Malfoy. Besides, it could be good for your resume, and a change of scenery is always beneficial, in its own way.”
“You think I should take it?”
“No, not necessarily, but I think you should at least think about taking it. Don’t rule it out. I think, if you stay open to new things, this could potentially solve a lot of your problems.”
There’s no way that Draco could know, in this moment, that while returning to Hogwarts may potentially solve some of his problems, it will create new problems he could never have anticipated.
Draco thinks about it for two days, mostly trying to talk himself out of it. It’s just that he has no other options to speak of, and the letter was very clear that he needs to answer quickly. So, when the following morning rolls around, he pens his response and sends it off with his owl, Helios. Once he’s disappeared into the clouds, Draco panics. He consoles himself with the knowledge that this is as good a way to disappear as any, and that it’s not like he’s going back to school. It’s not like he has to deal with classes, and OWLs and—and, Potter .
Hogwarts and Potter are so tied together in his mind, that he has to finally admit that some of his reticence comes from that connection, that misplaced feeling that he will somehow have to compete with Potter again. It’s ridiculous.
In reality, Draco knows he will go, teach History of Magic, live in the castle, face his own demons lurking in the halls, and decide in nine months if he wants to split forever, become a farmer, or maybe a pirate, or maybe end it all.
While he waits, he packs. He still has his school trunk, and packing feels odd— not quite nostalgic, but anachronistic. Misplaced in time and utterly out of place. He could be fifteen instead of twenty six. He cleans the entire flat by hand, because he’s stressed. He cancels his monthly subscriptions, makes sure every light is off and, and then he pulls his trunk into the living room and waits. He should sleep, but he doesn’t think he can. He waits all night, and just as the sky is starting to lighten, Helios returns with a letter. There’s an address, and an interview time on it. Draco gathers his things and apperates without a second thought.
The northern sky is darker, washed out in the first pink of dawn when the world shifts back into focus. It’s surpassingly cool for late August.
He’s standing in front of The Three Broomsticks, blinking away the last of his vertigo. He can’t bring himself to go in. He has no idea if Madame Rosmerta still works here, or if she ever knew it was he who cursed her all those years ago. He can’t bring himself to find out. So, like a coward, he drags his trunk further down the road, until he reaches an Inn he’s never seen, called The Copper Dog. It’s not as clean, and his room isn’t paid for, but he’ll take it. After all, he’s only here for one night. Later today he has his interview, and then he either moves into the castle or goes home.
He has time to nap, but he doesn’t. Instead, he sits by the window as the sun comes all the way up and contemplates all of his life choices. Then, he writes a letter to his mother. He’ll send it later, probably, but it takes his mind off of things for now. He paces, then showers and gets dressed in a suit, and then paces a little more. At half past nine, he leaves his trunk and begins the familiar walk up to Hogwarts castle.
There’s a new caretaker, a man with black eyes and black hair, who looks easily as old as the earth. He introduces himself as Creighton Wormstaff, and then doesn’t say anything else as he leads Draco through the main entrance, and up to the headmistresses office.
Draco swallows hard as the stairs descend. He can’t forget what happened the last time he was here, the last time he climbed these stairs. He swallows thickly as he ascends.
Minerva McGonagall is older than she was the last time he saw her, but her eyes are sharp and clear as ever.
“Draco,” she says, “please, sit.”
“Thank you professor,” he says, sitting down across from her.
“Call me Minerva,” she says, surprising him. “I’m very glad you decided to come, Draco. I have to be blunt, if you’ll allow,” she doesn’t wait for a response however, before barreling on. “When I heard about you losing your job well— you'd think after everything, the ministry would be bending over backward to do better.”
“I think they think they are,” Draco says.
Minerva’s eyes are sharp when they look into his. “They’re doing a poor job of it.”
Draco feels strangely warm. He looks down at his hands.
“I suppose you’re wondering what’s happened to Professor Binns?”
Draco looks up, brushing his hair out of his eyes.
“Yes, actually, I was wondering.”
“Well I have no idea.” Professor McGonogall throws her hands up in the air. “He has simply vanished. It’s unheard of. However, it’s a bit of blessing. The students' marks in History of Magic have always been below average, for the most part, and I think some fresh blood will make a big difference. Your marks, of course, were always excellent.”
“I have always personally believed that if those lessons had been taught by literally anyone else, they might have been actually interesting.”
Minerva’s eyes sparkle. “Excellent. I trust you will have no issues with the students themselves, no more than usual, I suppose. Do you have any concerns? All the pay and legalities are in the paperwork, and you can take your time to read over before signing it, if you wish, we’d just like a tentative answer today if you want to move forward.”
“I do,” Draco says, surprising himself. “I’ll sign it tonight, but I’m sure it’s satisfactory. I just want— I just want to work, and keep my head down.”
Minerva’s eyes soften a bit as she says, “Hogwarts will always be your home, if you want it.”
Draco is given a few options for lodging. In an effort to shake a lingering sense of time slipping, he picks the room farthest from the dungeons. It’s a small tower that he’s never noticed, maybe because it’s charmed to be ignored by students. It’s a better way to hide something in a school than a DO NOT OPEN sign.
The room is bright and airy. It’s a studio with an in suite bathroom, furnished with a large four poster bed and a plain brown couch that looks as if it were purchased in 1867. It does have a nice view of the lake, however. With a sigh, Draco pulls out his wand and begins to transform the space.
He transforms the bed into a sleek, platform bed of green metal, so dark it’s nearly black. The couch becomes dark green leather, the wooden coffee table turns to tarnished silver, along with the wardrobe. The paisley pink curtains turn the same green as the couch, but a soft fabric shot through with silver threads as well.
When he’s done, it’s a subtle nod to Slytherin. It feels almost obligatory, being in the castle. But it’s dark and muted enough that it just looks modern and clean, and not like he’s some kind of Slytherin-Super-Fan. He’s not, he just likes green.
It’s midday, and he has the weekend to explore the castle and grounds before it’s swarming with children. He wants to enjoy it while he can. He pulls a few books from his truck, along with the paperwork he got from Minerva earlier, and makes his way down to the kitchens. He used to come down here a lot as a kid. The house elves had fawned over him, which he’d gravitated toward without question. He knows it’s their code that keeps them kind, but he’s still surprised to revieve a warm welcome.
“Master Malfoy has returned to hogwarts!” squeaks a high voice, and before he can even speak he’s being handed a bag of hot cinnamon rolls, and a travel mug full of strong dark coffee. He thanks them, and with his bag and hands full, he makes his way out onto the grounds.
It’s a warm sunny day, with just enough of a breeze to make sitting in the sun pleasant. Draco busies himself with reading over his teaching contract, which offers him slightly more than he made at the ministry, to his surprise. He signs the parchment and then begins flipping through Professor Binn’s lesson plans. They’re droll, and Draco rolls his eyes at the banal nature of Binns and begins to make notes. The lessons themselves are pretty straight forward, and he is relatively sure he can make them at least slightly more interesting.
It’s early evening when he heads back to the castle. He’s sleep deprived, and looking forward to a few more days of peace and quiet before students arrive.
Everything smells the same inside, wood and sage and the ozone smell of magic. Draco feels such an odd resurgence of emotions, things linked to sight and smell that he had forgotten.
It’s almost impossible to be here and not think about him— Harry Potter. So much of Draco’s youthful energy had been consumed by Potter. Trying to beat him in class and on the quidditch pitch, laughing at him with his friends, making sure he got points taken from Gryffindor. It had been his best distraction, the only thing that was enjoyable to focus on. He can see the ghost of Potter everywhere here. He’s worked hard to forget the dark haired boy, with good reason. He has nothing but anger and shame where Potter is concerned— the epitome of his least favorite feelings, the ones he’s worked so hard to overcome.
Draco makes his way back up to the south tower, winding up alongside windows looking out over the lake. He’s still thinking about Potter, which is why he’s so thrown off when he actually sees him, standing at the top of the landing, his mouth full of papers and his hands full of bags.
It‘s like Draco imagined him into existence— it just doesn’t make any sense.
Both boys stand there, staring at each other. Potter opens his mouth and loose pieces of parchment fall to the floor.
He’s about to speak when Draco decides he actually can’t handle it. He’s so tired, this doesn’t even feel real. Like the last few days could be a memory.
Draco feels his face twist into a nasty sneer. He laughs humorlessly, and then pushes open his own door, slamming it behind him like the beacon of maturity that he is.
A minute later, he hears the door next to his open, and then gently close. It’s all he can do to stand there with his back against the wall, breathing fast.
Potter is here. At Hogwarts.
Draco is screwed.