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Never Grow A Wishbone

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It’s early summer when Draco returns from an extended business trip to Germany. So when there’s a guest at the manor door, he’s expecting it to be any number of acquaintances wanting a piece of his time now that he’s back in Britain. Someone who wants his money, who think he owes him money, someone under his family branch needing his help, or maybe even just one of his friends. But instead one of his house elves, Milly, pops into his rooms and says, “Headmistress Minerva McGonagall to see you, Master Draco.”

He stares at her for a moment, hoping that maybe she’ll say she misspoke, but she doesn’t. McGonagall in his house can’t be anything good. At least his parents are in France. “Show her to the sitting room,” he orders, and Milly disappears with a pop. He’s twenty four years old and it’s absolutely ridiculous of him, but he still checks his hair and appearance before going out to meet her. He’s stopped wearing black robes since the war, so the dark green will have to do, regardless of the pointed comments it always gets about his house allegiance. McGonagall wore green robes throughout most of his schoolyears, so hopefully she won’t have anything to say about it.

He adjusts his cufflinks as he steps into the sitting room. She looks the same as ever – all thirteen years he’s known her, and she hasn’t changed at all. “Mr. Malfoy,” she greets, inclining her head.

“Headmistress,” he returns, crossing the room to stand in front of her. Neither of them move to sit, and he doesn’t suggest it. “To what do I owe the pleasure? I usually just get an owl when it’s time for alumni donations.” 

She almost smiles, and true alarm starts to build in his chest. “I’m afraid I’m not here for something so small. Professor Roberts has resigned.”

A no name halfblood who had been five years ahead of Draco in school. He can’t say he’s surprised – the curse on the Defense Against the Dark Arts position may have died along with Voldemort, but ever since keeping the potions position filled has been almost as difficult.

“Good,” he says honestly, “he was hardly qualified, either as a Potions master or as head of house. I’m not sure what exactly that has to do with me.” She just stares at him. He raises an eyebrow. “Would you like a list of suitable alternatives? I know a number of competent potions masters abroad, but you’re going to have to hire another professor to act as the Slytherin head. I’m afraid you’ve dried up all the half decent Slytherin potions masters.”

“Not all of them,” she says quietly.

He blinks. She can’t be serious. “You can’t be serious.”

“Gravely,” she says, “Mr. Malfoy, I am not above begging.”

What the bloody fuck. “I don’t even like potions!” If he was going to take any position, he’d much prefer it be Flitwick’s.

“That didn’t stop you from getting formally recognized as a Potions master,” she says, “nor listing it on your letter head.”

“My family deals with plant trading,” he snarls, hating how quickly she’s managed to rid him of his calm façade, but unable to do anything about it. “Since I wasn’t about to start giving a fuck about herbology, I needed to be a potions master! Look, Headmistress, I’ll be lucky if I get a seat in government by the time I’m forty, and the war did a nice job of putting a significant dent in the fortune my family has been building for hundreds of years. Not to mention half the morons supervising our stocks and business trades got themselves killed in the war, so I’ve spent the past seven years managing the Malfoy estates on my own.” He glares and crosses his arms, “So I really, truly don’t have time to play teacher at Hogwarts.”

She hasn’t looked away this whole time, still with that same unnervingly even gaze that he remembers from school. “This past year we only had four first year Slytherins. If something is not done soon, I’m afraid that number will go down to zero. I don’t just need a Potions master, Mr. Malfoy. I need a Slytherin. A real Slytherin.”

“There hasn’t been a Slytherin head of house born from a Slytherin family in over fifty years,” he tosses back, even though his heart is thudding in his chest. Only four first years? “Slughorn was fine, but he didn’t come from an old family. He faked it well enough, he did his job, but he wasn’t one of us. Snape wasn’t either, of course, and he was only barely serviceable. Nothing need to be said of the string of disasters you’ve hired since. You lot have done this to yourselves.”

“I know,” she says, and for the first time since he’s known her she looks older, “I know. Draco, you were a leader at school and a leader during the war,” that’s a generous description for what he was during the war, “and I need you to be a leader with this. They need you. Don’t abandon them now.”

“I fought on the other side of the war in case you’ve forgotten,” he says acidly. He doesn’t appreciate poor attempts at emotional manipulation, and frankly he expected better from her. “I’ve spent the years since the war returning my family’s reputation to what it once was, and while abroad the Malfoys are what they’ve always been, I don’t think anyone in Britain will be thrilled with my appointment.”

“I don’t care,” she says, and it’s a struggle to keep the surprise off his face. “I do not care. No one else can do this, and it needs to be done. Please.”

Draco only barely keeps himself from sneering. “Headmistress, the war may be over, but if something isn’t done there will be another one. When this war ended it was about torture and power and killing one annoyingly unkillable boy. But that’s not how it began.”

“The Blood Laws,” she says, and surprise colors her voice. “You support them?”

“Don’t you?” he throws back, “If they’d been passed, Voldemort not only wouldn’t have come to power, he wouldn’t even exist. But thanks to this war, no one can touch the Blood Laws without getting the accusation of Death Eater hurled at them. It will do what it always does, building and getting worse until someone snaps, and then we’ll have another war.”

“And you think you can stop it?” she asks, and she’s looking at him differently, like he’s not what she expected. Which is her own fault, really – Draco’s always considered himself to be rather transparent. Unfortunately.

He shrugs, “I think I’m the only one who can. Old blood will follow old blood, and who else is going to do it? Those of us who survived the war are still hurting, and aren’t exactly eager to fight again. And those of us on your side won’t risk their position by trying to reintroduce the legislation in an environment where they know it won’t pass. I’m going to spend the rest of my bloody life trying to get a seat in government that without the war I would already have. So, once again, I really do not have the time to play teacher at Hogwarts.”

He expects that to be the end of it, that McGonagall will write him off for a lost cause like she always has and Draco can go back to the exhausting work of trying to singlehandedly restore his family’s position.

Instead, she nods in that sharp, exact manner she has, and says, “Very well, Mr. Malfoy. If you accept my offer and become head of Slytherin house and our potions master, I will personally recommend you for a seat at the Wizengamot this time next year.”

Draco’s eyes widen. If she supports him, if the purebloods in power and the moderates who stand with him know that they won’t be demonized for confirming his seat, then it’s almost certain he will get it. “You – you’re serious?”

“I’ll take an Unbreakable Vow,” she says, and this is possibly the strangest day of Draco’s life. “Accept my offer, Mr. Malfoy.”

He runs a hand through his hair, messing it up thoroughly. Being a professor at Hogwarts is a prestigious, sought after position, and it will do more to repair his reputation than all the last seven years combined. But it’s also going to be difficult and miserable, and he doesn’t actually like children. “Fine,” he bites out, “on one condition.”

“I’ve already talked to Filius,” she says promptly. “He’ll be delighted to take you on as an apprentice.”

He blinks. “Is the all knowing thing something that gets passed on when you become head of Hogwarts?”

She smiles, and he hadn’t noticed the tension she was carrying until it was gone. “It’s always been your favorite subject, and you’ve registered over a dozen new charms with the patent office since graduating.” She hesitates, but says, “During the Triwizard Tournament, those dreadful buttons you made had Filius nearly floating he was so excited. He said it was the best charms work he’d seen from a fourteen year old since he himself was that age. When I say that he’ll be delighted to take you on, that is in fact a direct quote.”

Draco resists the urge to rub at his temples. At least it won’t be a total loss. He really does love charms. Besides, he would endure much worse for a Wizengamot seat. “Very well, Headmistress. Consider me hired.”

“Please,” she says, “call me Minerva. We are colleagues after all.”

~

Because McGonagall is far more cunning than she seems, the very next day the Prophet runs a story about his upcoming appointment as Potions master and the head of Slytherin house. If he truly is to do this properly, he’s going to have to thoroughly attend the party circuit this summer, and not just hit the usual ones. At least Pansy will be happy.

“HAVE YOU LOST YOUR BLOODY MIND?” Pansy screeches.

Pippy discreetly appears at his elbow and hands him four fingers of Scotch. Maybe all these blasted house elves are good for something. “Not exactly, no.”

Blaise is standing at the other end of the room because he’s a coward. “She’s got a point.”

“I thought you liked our arrangement,” he complains. “Twice the parties and dinners means twice the amount of stupidly expensive dresses I pay for.”

Pansy crosses her arms and scowls, “Being your marriage deterrent is in fact one of the highlights of my social career. That doesn’t mean I’m willing to send you off to Hogwarts like a lamb to the slaughter.”

“Don’t you think you’re being a touch dramatic?” he asks, “Just a smidge?”

“No,” she answers. “I’m really, really not. You’ll be the only Slytherin professor, and everyone knows what you did during the last war. You won’t have your business contacts, your international friends, even your damn money won’t do you any good in those halls. They’ll tear you apart.”

“Well, I can’t have that.” He downs half his glass in one go. “There were only four Slytherin first years last year.”

“Total?” Blaise says, incredulous. Pansy’s mouth is parted in surprise.

“Total,” he confirms, and the weight of the mess he’s agreed to clean up makes him want to say fuck it and hide in France with his parents. “I’m a Malfoy and a Black, and I have a duty to fulfill to my blood. I will fulfill it. The only question here is,” he turns to address the both of them, “Are you going to help me or not?”

Blaise rolls his eyes. “Of course we are, don’t be daft. Are you sure you want the goblins running your businesses and stocks again? There’s a reason your grandfather took over the account from them. They’ll take a fortune in fees.”

“I can afford it,” he says dryly. When he’d found out he’d been named the heir to a half dozen dark families, it had surprised him, but it shouldn’t have. They’re all related somehow, and leaving everything to the Malfoys, a family that has weathered the brunt of over a dozen wars, must have made sense to them. “Besides, it’s worth it to know my business isn’t being mishandled in my absence.”

Pansy runs a hand through her hair, forgetting she’s braided it and having to yank it out halfway down. “Fine. You’ve clearly already made up your mind.”

Blaise smiles the beautiful, empty smile that he learned from his mother.  Draco hates that smile. “Let’s go to the ball.”

~

Draco attends every dinner and dance he’s invited to, either Pansy or Blaise on his arm. If he’d had any doubts about his decision before, he doesn’t now. Families who’d been downtrodden by the war speak to him with a gleam in their eyes and a centuries old confidence falling over their shoulders once more. He’s introduced to a number of his future students, and they’re all wary of him. For some, he’s the third head of house they’ve been introduced to.

What sticks out to him, what really sticks out to him, is meeting young Raina Lestrange. He’d inherited a Lestrange manor from Bellatrix and a couple of house elves, and he’d offered the lot back to the head of the family, the ancient Lady Rosamond, but she’d refused.

She hadn’t been the only one. Smart families didn’t want properties that had belonged to infamous death eaters. If they’d been ancestral homes that would have been different, but no one was foolish enough to leave Draco any of those properties, thank merlin.

He’s at a garden party taking place at the Lestange Castle, old and well maintained. War or no war, the Malfoys and Letranges had been allies since before their families moved to Britain, and Draco always accepts any invitation from them if he’s in the country. It wouldn’t do any good to allow the war to break family ties that have been in place for over a dozen generations. Pansy is busy so Blaise is his date to this event, wearing pale lilac robes that are a stark contrast to his dark skin. Draco cannot pull off pastels with his complexion, so he he’s in navy robes that offset the light purple perfectly. Every eye in the room is drawn to them, Blaise especially, and Draco can’t blame them.

He mixes and mingles, and these sorts of parties are casual and exclusive enough that he doesn’t have to always be on his guard, that he can actually enjoy the good food and wine and conversation. “Draco,” a smoke rattled voice says from behind him, and his smile is entirely genuine when he turns to face Rosamond Lestrange. There’s a girl hiding behind the older woman, and all he can see of her is one dark eye and black hair.

“My lady,” he greets, inclining his head. “A delight, as always. I trust you know my companion, Blaise Zabini?”

Blaise, the dramatic flirt, beams and kisses the back of Rosamund’s hand. She’s too smart for that to work, but she is amused by him, so Draco supposed she’s charmed either way. This is why he brings Blaise places.

“Of course,” she says. She’s older than Dumbledore, but there’s nothing but razor sharp intelligence in her eyes. “I just wanted to say how absolutely delighted we all are with your recent career move, Draco.” Before he has the chance to thank her, she pushes the small, pale girl with inky black hair in front of him. “This is my grand nephew’s daughter, Raina. She’ll be a third year.”

Draco is not good with children, but he’s not a barbarian, so he smiles and drops on a bended knee so he can look up into the girl’s in the eyes. The least he can do is give her the height advantage since she’s clearly nervous. But when he gets a good look at her, she seems afraid of all things, and he’s so taken aback by it that he forgets to say anything. But she swallows and says, “Hello Lord Malfoy. It’s very nice to meet you.”

“You as well,” he says, recovering and making his smile gentle. He leaves his hands crossed over his knee where she can keep an easy eye on them. “There’s no need to call me Lord Malfoy, however, I must insist on Draco. Although I suppose once the school year starts it’ll have to be Professor.” He winks at her and her lips turn up into something that’s almost a smile.

“It’s really true then?” She takes a step closer to him, “You really are coming back to Hogwarts? Even though – with – with everyone else that’s there?”

He knows who she’s referring to. “It’s hard to fear someone when you’ve seen them at eleven falling off their broom,” he says dryly, and it’s a lie, but it’s an important one. “Yes, of course I’m returning to Hogwarts. It’s time someone of merit was in the position, don’t you think?”

“Yes!” she says, so excitedly he’s surprised by it. She’s beaming at him, a very different girl than the one he met a few moments ago. “I’ll study very hard for the rest of the summer, and I’ll be your best Potions student,” she promises, and something hard settles at the base of his throat.

“I’m looking forward to it,” he says, and he knew what he was, a direct line from Black and Malfoy, old blood, Slytherins for generations on both sides. He’d known what that would mean to everyone else, but he hadn’t considered what it would mean to the children.

She curtsies to him and her aunt, and then scampers away back over to her parents, talking quickly and pointing over to him. “You understand?” Rosamond asks, looking at him intently.

“Yes,” he answers, and he doesn’t resent her for this. It was a necessary lesson, delivered in the kindest and most effective way she could. “Thank you.”

The rest of party moves quickly after that, adults and cautious children alike coming up to congratulate him on his appointment. Blaise remains a charming and supportive presence at his elbow.

At the end of the night, he walks Blaise back to their carriage, a proprietary hand on the small of his back. “I can’t just quit after a year or two,” he says grimly. “If I’m going to actually make real change, I’m going to have stick around. Damnit.”

There are still people watching them, so Blaise leans against his side and kisses his cheek before allowing Draco to help him into the carriage, using their closeness to say quietly enough that no one else can hear him, “Looks like you’re fucked, mate.”

Draco restrains himself from laughing until he follows Blaise into the carriage, but only barely.

~

Draco has spent most of his day arranging his accounts and signing them over to the goblins, and this morning he’d finally popped over to France to inform his parents of what was happening. His father was doing better, but hadn’t really understood.

His mother hadn’t said anything. The war had stolen something from all of them, but sometimes Draco feels like it’s his mother who lost more than his father. Narcissa had been the youngest of the indomitable Black sisters, gorgeous and educated, and she’d married the heir to the Malfoy family, a man who’d been handsome and powerful and had treated her with a kindness that their marriage had not required he provide. She’d been a society queen, every bit as cunning and intelligent as Lucius, and ferociously in love with her life, a perfect wife and doting mother. With Bellatrix in Azkaban and Andromeda married to a muggle, she must have felt like she’d escaped some terrible fate.

Narcissa had done everything right and fought to keep her family safe throughout it all, and she wasn’t unhappy in France with his father, but she wasn’t happy either. But she refused to return to Britain, refused to run the Malfoy Manor as would be her right until he married.

Between that visit and negotiating with the goblins, he’s beyond exhausted and just wants to collapse into bed. So, of course, that’s when Milly appears besides him and says, “Excusing me, Master Draco, but you have a visitor.”

“It’s nearly midnight!” he snaps. Milly’s ears droop, and he takes a deep breath before asking, “Who is it?”

“It is Mistress Lovegood, Master Draco,” she says quietly.

Of course it’s Loony. Who else would come knocking at his door in the middle of the night without a care in the world? “Let her in,” he says wearily. He’s not going to bother making himself presentable for her. She had attended family dinners until her mother died, after all. It’s not like she’s going to care if his robes are ruffled or his hair mussed.

By the time he walks into the sitting room, Luna is sitting upside-down on the couch with her legs thrown over the back and her long blonde hair piled on the floor. A cup of tea floats besides her, still faintly sparking with elf magic. “Cousin!” she greets, beaming at him.

She’d stopped calling him that before their Hogwarts years, and had only started again after the war. He wishes she’d stop. “Sit like an adult,” he says, too tired to sound more than vaguely disapproving. “What are you doing here?” He asks hopefully, “Do you want your mother’s house back? The house elves have been taking care of it but, I must reiterate, I truly have no use for a house in Japan.” He doesn’t even do business there.

“Oh, no, you can keep it. Sell it if you don’t want it,” she somersaults over the edge of the couch so she’s standing in front of him. “McGonagall told me that you’re going to be the Potions professor! Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I can’t sell the house,” he says, offended on behalf of Pandora, a woman he honestly hadn’t even liked all that much while she was alive, and he’s pretty sure the feeling was mutual. He has no idea why she’d left it to the Malfoy family and not – well no, he doesn’t suppose he’d trust Xeno with a family home either. “Four generations of your mother’s family lived in that house, don’t be ridiculous.”

“Fine, keep the house,” she shrugs. “Cousin, you’re coming to Hogwarts! We’ll be able to see each other every day!”

Merlin, he regrets this decision already. “I suppose,” he says. “Also, McGonagall released an official notice of my appointment to The Daily Prophet over a month ago. It hasn’t exactly been a secret.”

“You know I don’t read the Prophet,” she says reproachfully. “You should have sent me an owl!”

“Luna.” He can already feel a headache building behind his eyes. She has, for the record, always been this exasperating. “Is there a reason you came here in the middle of the night? I can’t imagine any of your friends are happy that you’re here. Is there some duty as head of the family you need me to perform? Would you like a house in Britain? I have enough of them.”

She quiets, her dark blue eyes going soft with hurt. Talking to her has always been a minefield – she hadn’t been hurt when he’d teased her all through Hogwarts, not really, but here they are having a perfectly normal adult conversation, and now she’s upset. Honestly. “We are family, aren’t we?” she asks quietly. “It shouldn’t matter what my friends think.”

“Your father can’t like it either,” he says, feeling quite out of his depth. He really doesn’t understand why she bothers talking to him. Her father has always been happy to pretend his mother hadn’t been born a Malfoy. She keeps staring at him, air tinged with sadness, and he rolls his eyes. “Yes, Luna, we’re family. I’d hardly let anyone else into the manor uninvited and unexpected, now would I?”

She smiles at him, too large and ridiculous, and he quirks his lips back in return. She may be ridiculous and crazy, but she’s also his cousin, and in between all the crazy she’s almost nice to be around. “Do you want to hear about the interesting students?” she offers. “Since they’ll be your students too.”

He is exhausted and he’s sure all of Luna’s information will be spectacularly unhelpful, like what their favorite colors are and which ones are being stalked by creatures he doesn’t believe exist. “I’d be delighted,” he says, snapping his fingers. In the next moment there’s a cup of steaming tea in his hands, and he kicks off his shoes to curl up at the end of the couch. Luna follows suit, tea still floating and growing cold beside her while she gesticulated wildly and begins a story about what sounds like a very strange Hufflepuff fifth year.

~

It’s two weeks before the start of the school year. He’s ordered the elves to pack up and deliver his belongings to his rooms, which he thinks is rather straightforward, but there’s a hesitant tugging on his pant leg. “Excuse me, Master,” Bip says, ears and eyes downcast. These are good elves, they never speak without being spoke to. Especially Bip – he was one of the Lestrange elves Draco had inherited.

“Yes?” He looks down at the elf, “What is it?”

“We was just wondering,” he keeps his eyes lowered, “if there will be anything you’ll be needing us elves to be doing while you’re gone? Anything at all?”

Fuck. He hadn’t thought about the elves. The Malfoys have always employed about a dozen elves to manage their properties, but after the war he’d inherited about fifty more. Granted they also came with numerous properties, but one elf per property was more than enough if it wasn’t being used. To be honest, it was overkill. One skilled elf could easily maintain five out of use properties with time to spare. There was enough latent magic around the manor and some of the other homes he’d inherited that they weren’t in any danger of starving, but they’d need something to do. Something around people –

Or children. Messy, demanding, hungry children.

“Bip, gather all the elves that can be spared from general duties,” he commands, “You’re all coming with me to Hogwarts.”

The poor thing looks so excited Draco’s almost worried he’s going faint. “Yes, Master Draco! Right away, Master Draco!”

He rubs the back of his neck, then goes to go draft a letter to Minerva. He’s sure there’s going to be plenty of parents pissed about this latest decision, but he really can’t find it in himself to care. The only thing worse than a happy house elf is a morose one – he had met Kreacher, after all, and that was the saddest excuse for a house elf he’d seen since they’d employed Dobby.

~

He trusts the elves to make his rooms livable, but Draco’s going through the potions classroom. He’s sure there are a few of them familiar enough with the art that they could clean it without killing themselves, but he’s not willing to risk it. It’s one thing to hit an elf for failing its duty, and quite another for one to die for following orders while under his employ.

If he wasn’t convinced that the previous potions professors had been worthless before, trying to get the classroom in order would have done it. The ingredients are stored in completely the wrong sequence. What moron kept lion’s mane next to murtlap essence? If something spilled, then the whole thing would explode. Before he can even begin to deal with that mess, he has to clean the whole classroom. There are numerous potions stains, and if he knew what they were then he could use magic to get rid of them, but he doesn’t. It’s not like he can just leave them there – all it takes is another potion spilling on the stains, and the wrong combination will end in an explosion. People truly underestimate how often potions end in explosions. So, unless he wants to risk blowing himself up, he’s going to have to do it by hand like a peasant. He snaps his fingers, and Milly appears in front of him. “A pail of water, boiling hot. Another pail, and at least three dozen rags.” She nods and his requested items appear besides him. “Very good. Dismissed.” She disappears, leaving him alone to his work.

He rolls up his sleeves and resigns himself to burning these trousers. With a swish and a flick, all the desks and chairs in the room rise to the ceiling. The water’s temperature never falls below steaming. Hours later, he’s completed about two thirds of the classroom, his hands have turned some horrid yellow color, and he’s identified at least seven of the failed potions on the ground. Lovely.

“Draco,” an amused voice says behind him, “I hope we’re not interrupting.”

He doesn’t look up from his scrubbing, “You are, actually, Minerva. What kind of morons did you have in here? Or are all the students as competent as Longbottom? It’s the only explanation for how the floor is this much of disaster.” He pauses. She’d said ‘I hope we’re not interrupting.’

He looks up, hoping it’ll be Flitwick. He’s not nearly so lucky. “Harry was quite insistent he greet you as soon as you arrived,” McGonagall says dryly. She hadn’t told Draco about the meltdown Potter had on hearing of his appointment, but Draco is confident he had one.

Harry is staring at him like he’s never seen him before. He looks good, the bastard. His gorgeous copper skin is the darkest it’s ever been, and it’s a lovely contrast to his bright green eyes. His stupid muggle clothes doing nothing to hide he’s just as fit as back when they were on the quidditch pitch during school. Not that Draco isn’t, but he’s also on his hands and knees scrubbing the floor like a servant and absolutely filthy. “Potter,” he says, raising an eyebrow. “While I’m touched that your heart’s all aflutter over my presence, I am quite busy at the moment.”

“Uh,” he coughs, then flushes. “I – yes, I – sorry,” he finishes with before turning on his heel and – Draco cannot believe this – running away.

He stares and then slides his gaze over to Minerva. “What the hell?”

 “That went quite well, I think,” she says.

He points an accusing finger at her, filthy rag still clenched in his fist. “Don’t you start scheming too. If that’s a tradition, it’s one you should break.”

She just smiles at him. It’s a new expression, and he’s still getting used to it. Draco doesn’t think she’d ever smiled at him before this whole mess began. “You know, heavier objects are harder to levitate, especially over time.”

He crosses his arms, and his crisp white shirt is covered with stains. It’s getting burned along with the trousers. “Yes, Minerva, I did pass my first year charms class, thank you for asking. There’s a reason children start out with a feather.”

She looks up at the ceiling, “How long have those been up there?”

He follows her gaze. All of the room’s furniture is still hovering toward the ten feet in the air. “I don’t know, however long I’ve been imitating a house elf. A couple of hours?” He scowls, “I am actually an accomplished wizard, in case you’ve forgotten.”

Draco expects her to snap at him for his attitude, but she just keeps smiling. “I haven’t forgotten,” she promises, then leaves him to his classroom.

What the fuck.

It takes him another hour to finish cleaning the floor and walls of suspicious stains. He lowers the furniture and intends to get started on it, but after a thorough once over he’s not sure it’s worth it. The tables are stained and scratched, with burn marks and strange splotches. The chairs aren’t in much better condition.

He taps his wand against his chin. He’s a fair hand at transfiguration, although it’s not his specialty. He could always call Pansy, who does rather have knack for it. But he’s also one of the richest wizards in the world, and half the reason he’s in this dreadful place is to make a statement. So he’ll make a statement. He snaps twice and two of his house elves appear before him. “Get rid of it,” he says, pointing to the furniture that his magic has neatly stacked against the wall. “Burn it, give it away, dump it in the ocean for all I care. But get it out of here.”

“Yes, Master,” they say as one, and in the next instant his classroom is bare. He’ll deal with that tomorrow. For now, he tackles the storage cupboard, which is going to take up nearly as much time as cleaning the bloody floor did. He has to entirely reorganize it, and half the ingredients are expired. No wonder there were so many potions stains. It’s a miracle any of them managed to make a complete potion with this to work with. At the end of it, his classroom is clean and the potions ingredients that are worth keeping are organized in a way that won’t kill anyone. It’s also nearly dinner time, so he goes to his own rooms next to the Slytherin dorms.

He steps inside and can feel the tension that had built up in his back loosening. It’s decked out just like home with smooth, ancient lines and a surprisingly pleasing palate of silver and deep purple. A house elf appears at his side, and he looks down and realized it’s Bip. “Very good,” he says, and the little thing puffs up in pride. “The potions classroom should be safe now. Give it a thorough cleaning, but if you see anything unusual, get me immediately.”

“Yes, Master Draco,” he squeaks before disappearing. The hearth is crackling pleasantly, casting a warm, cheery glow over the rooms. It’s not his country manor or his townhouse in France, but it’s not a bad place to call home.

The shower feels luxurious after the day cleaning. He steps out from under the warm spray of water and dries himself with a flick of his wand. He stands in front of the wardrobe, tapping his wand against his arm. Well, the elves did decorate his quarters in purple. Might as well keep with the theme. He slashes his wand forward, then pulls it quickly back. His wardrobe opens, revolving sets of clothes twirling past. He chooses what he wants with quick flicks of his wand, and when he leaves for the great hall he’s in a purple robe so dark it almost looks black and soft grey trousers.

He takes a deep breath before entering the great hall. Into the lion’s den he goes.

“Draco,” McGonagall says as soon as he enters, like she was waiting for it. “You’re looking much better.”

“Well it would be difficult for me to look worse,” he answers, wry. “By the way, I got rid of all the furniture from the Potions room, I couldn’t possibly work with something that outdated. I’ll arrange for replacements tomorrow.”

She raises an eyebrow. “Very well. It is your classroom.”

Draco feels like that was too easy, but it’s not like he wants to argue with her either, so he just nods his thanks and lets his eyes glide over the table. Potter, Granger, and Luna he expected, but not the man avoiding his eyes next to Pomona. “Longbottom,” he greets, gracefully taking his seat next to Filius, who winks at him. He hates himself for finding it comforting. “I didn’t expect to see you here.”

“He’s my apprentice!” Sprout says cheerfully, “He’s just finished his studies with the McCains, and came seeking an apprenticeship. How could I refuse?”

Draco wrinkles his nose, unable to stop himself. Granger pounces on him instantly, all bushy brown hair and dark brown skin and flashing brown eyes. “Something to say, Malfoy?”

“The McCains are morons,” he answers readily, addressing Longbottom instead of Granger. The other man won’t meet his gaze. It’s like he’s talking to a house elf. “I’d do my best to forget whatever they taught you and just go by Sprout’s word.”

“They were a great help during the war,” Granger says archly, like that has any bearing on the conversation.

“That’s nice,” he says blandly. “Their gardens refuse to be tended by them anymore, so it’s only a matter of time before they go out of business. If they’re smart they’ll sell to someone who can salvage it before they become destitute.” He pauses, thinking for a moment, and then addresses Longbottom again. “Given your well known proclivity for the subject I assume they were all too eager to throw you at the problem. Much like smacking a bandaid on a stab wound.”

Granger’s red in the face, all ready to defend a family he’s sure she’s never had more than a quick conversation with. He fatalistically braces himself for impact, but instead of Granger’s yelling, Longbottom finally deigns to speak. “Well,” he says, almost smiling, “I did learn a lot.”

"That’s a fair point,” Draco says after a moment's consideration, “Did you end up setting the singing tulips on fire? That’s what I recommended when they came to me.”

“Why would the McCains go to you?” Granger asks. On one hand, he appreciates the older professors letting them have their little dick measuring contest without interfering, but on the other hand, he’s hungry and this is boring.

“They tried to sell their estate to me,” he answers. “Unfortunately, I mostly deal abroad and have neither the time nor the inclination to maintain a greenhouse domestically. Too much fussy temperature work when you can just grow the stuff locally and smack a preservation charm on it.”

“Preservation charms aren’t as good as fresh product,” Longbottom says, and at least now he’s looking at him.

“No, of course not, but the difference is negligible most of the time. When it isn’t, people can always pay for a portkey transfer.” Longbottom winces. Portkey shipments don’t come cheap since the charm is such a pain to apply.

Granger inserts herself in the conversation. Again. “What about people that can’t afford the portkey fee?”

He raises an eyebrow and drawls, “Well, if they can’t afford the portkey transfer, then they certainly wouldn’t be able to afford the giant markup on product I’d have to make to maintain profits if I was also staffing enough herbologists to keep a tropical greenhouse in the middle of winter.” She opens her mouth to say something else irrelevant to the conversation, he’s sure, so he doesn’t give her the chance. “I don’t know about the rest of you, but I for one am starving.” He snaps his fingers rapidly, five times a row, and by the time he’s done the food is set out and steaming in front of them.

Minerva takes a quick sip from her goblet to hide her laughter. Draco pointedly ignores everyone but Flitwick for the remainder of the meal. Luckily for Draco, he’s more than willing to be dragged into a conversation about the minutia and limitations of the portkey charm.

He feels the weight of someone’s gaze on him throughout the whole meal. He assumes it’s Granger, but when he looks up she’s deep in conversation with Longbottom.

However, out of the corner of his eye, he does see Potter jerk his head down so he’s staring at his plate.

Interesting.