“Miss Weasley! Would you mind explaining to me how Dra-”
“Not before coffee, Kingsley.”
Ginny had never been much of a morning person as a child, but she had never been late for her classes or her job. Now, as she began to get a little older, she found it increasingly difficult to drag herself out of bed in the mornings. She wasn’t sure what the reason for this was, but had a inkling that it had some ground in just how boring life had become since she was a child. As a teenager, every day was quite possibly the last, so she woke and lived it to its fullest. Now… well, she was safe, and it lacked any adventure.
Clutching a humorously large mug between her slim fingers, Ginny sucked the warmth from it before raising it to her mouth, her lip curling a touch at the taste. Ginny didn’t like coffee, as a matter of fact. If she drank too much of it, she would surely vomit. Unfortunately, tea didn’t have the same kick to wake her, and her boss frowned on drinking whiskey before 2p.m. So, bitter, rancid, coffee it was. She heaped two, three, four spoons of sugar into the mug and topped it up with cream, yet she still curled her lip in distaste.
“Why doesn’t coffee taste as nice as it smells?”
“I mean, it smells wonderful. I always figure that I could go into some nice little coffee shop, get a huge, steaming mug and a muffin and be perfectly content, but it has that awful aftertaste that lines your tongue for the entire day.”
“Ginny, pay attention!”
“Once, I even woke up with a coffee taste in my mouth. It didn’t matter that I had brushed my teeth five times, it was still there. Nasty stuff…”
Kingsley did not interrupt this time, but stood, towering above the young woman, his chin tilted slightly upwards. His usually kind eyes were narrowed slightly, tiny little creases around the edges giving away his age. Being as bald as the day he was born, Kingsley never had to worry about grey hairs, but by the time his 5 o’clock shadow crept around, the light managed to catch shades of silver sparkling on his chin. He had aged a lot in ten short years, the battle took so much out of him. Still, old as he was, he managed to yield a fierce power, a certain expression that insisted that fun and games were over; he meant business.
Properly chastened, Ginny promptly shut her gabby mouth, her nails making a delicate tinkling noise as they drummed against her mug. She chewed on the inside of her cheek, biting back on her distracting and pointless stories, prepared to take the brief and disciplinary lecture from her superior.
After a long silence, Kingsley spoke, but didn’t move anything other than his lips. His eyes still burned with something akin to anger, though not nearly as powerful. He wasn’t a mean man by tradition, but he was one to insist on proper procedures, that a job was to be done promptly, efficiently and effectively. Ginny was not doing her job.
“Draco Malfoy didn’t turn up for his interview yesterday evening,” he informed her, “did he know about it?”
“Yes, he definitely did,” Ginny sighed, not lowering her gaze from his, “I told him last week on inspection.”
“Did you make arrangements to take him to and from the venue?”
“Kingsley, he is not a child,” Ginny narrowed her eyes, her hands clasping the mug a bit tighter, “he’s older than I am! He’s almost thirty years old, Kingsley, he does not need a babysitter to -”
“Then why, pray tell, are you filling that position?”
Caught off guard, Ginny stumbled over her words. She frowned at Kingsley, her eyes scanning his face for some trace of a joke. None found, she shifted her weight between her feet, dropped her gaze and tried to understand his comment.
“You are his Parole Officer, Ginny,” Kingsley continued after Ginny’s prolonged silence, “what is that, if not a glorified babysitter? You are supposed to rehabilitate him, make him a fully functional member of society once more. Are you doing everything you can to help him?”
Kingsley held up a silencing hand, wordlessly insisting that she should not interrupt. Reaching behind her, he picked up a file from her desk. It was Draco’s record; all his wrongdoings and his achievements listed in a clinical manner. Of course, his term in Azkaban was a dirty blotch on an otherwise respectable record, but that aside, he showed ambition.
“His OWLs are fairly good,” he noted, “NEWTs are so-so. Of course, his final year in school was… well… questionable. Nobody really did fantastically that year. Then, of course, he was in prison for the repeat exams for his class the following year.”
Kingsley snapped the file shut, a funny sort of smirk on his lips, “did you suggest finishing his NEWTs to him?”
“Yeah, that went really well,” Ginny scoffed, “he is intelligent enough, but he’s too stubborn. Besides, it’s a bit late in life, isn’t it? He will probably have forgotten most of what he learned in school by now, and if I suggest he return to Hogwarts, he’ll pitch a fit, and, as much as I enjoy watching him squirm, it’s just not practical.”
“Well, then you’re only left with one other option,” Kingsley spoke slowly, as though relaying a message to a toddler, “you must physically bring him to his next interview. Tomorrow evening, Flourish and Blotts. They are doing us a favour, Ginny… don’t fail me this time.”
“Am I allowed to do a full body bind on him and drag him kicking and screaming?” Ginny smiled sourly, batting her eyelashes.
“Do what you will, Ginny, but if you don’t sort this soon, I’ll move his case to someone else. Two years, Ginny! He should have been on his own two feet after half a year at the most!”
Shamefaced, Ginny scowled at her coffee. Kingsley was right, of course. Draco was taking so long to ‘fix’ that it was draining time from other clients. Added to that, Draco was ruining her perfect record; Ginny was famous around the office for her skills with helping people with their second chances. She was a fighter, and a determined person who would bend over backwards to assist someone eager to change. Draco was her ‘challenge’, and the longer that Ginny worked with him, the more she was convinced that he didn’t want to change.
The following evening, Ginny marched all the way down the familiar path to Draco's house and rapped sharply on the door, the splintered paint peeling off with each loud bang. After several cold minutes, Draco's pointy face was visible from behind a thin sliver of door. Ginny hopped on the spot, eager to get some warmth against the blistering cold.
“Why aren't you dressed yet?” She screeched incredulously, pointing at what was clearly a bare chest and bare legs. “It's past lunch time! You're disgraceful, we're going to be late.”
“So sorry to burst your bubble,” Draco's lethargic tones could be heard beneath the whistling of the wind, “But I most certainly must decline to spend any time with you today.”
“Aw, but you promised to take me to the Winter Formal. I shall have to beat you with a stick.” Ginny rolled her eyes at Draco and pushed firmly on the door, which Draco did not resist against. Ginny had made sure to teach him that when she arrived at his door, there was no getting rid of her. Once, she blasted the door off of its hinges and refused to put it back up until he agreed to allow her into his home more freely.
“Tea?” He asked, the old routine settling in. Ginny removed her gloves but shook her head, pointedly looking anywhere but his partially nude form.
“We are going to be late, I really don't think you have time for tea.”
“Late? Oh, you were serious. Late for what?” He asked, no hint of interest in his voice. Ginny followed him into the kitchen where, despite her warnings, he seemed to be putting together the makings of a fry-up. He took out a frying pan, which Ginny put back in the press, followed by the eggs which she put back in the refrigerator, following him around like some pesky little elf.
“Your job interview, with Flourish and Blotts? Please don't tell me you forgot, I sent you an Owl yesterday.”
Smirking a little, Draco continued his efforts at getting sausages even though Ginny was now practically sitting in the fridge, “I got your Owl, but I'm not going.”
“Why not?” She asked, swatting away his hand from the rashers.
“I hate books?” He offered, to which Ginny scoffed, “You own more books than clean underwear, try again.”
“I hate working.”
“Tough; the Ministry is going to cut you off.”
That last part was a lie, but it was enough to stop Draco from reaching for the black pudding. His silvery hair fell to cover his narrowed eyes, obscuring his vulnerability from her direct view.
“I see. Shouldn't somebody have told me?” He queried, his voice clipped and distant. Without even a small pang of guilt, Ginny shuffled away from the fridge and closed it firmly. Kingsley had suggested to her that she get Draco to a job interview by any means, and if she had to lie to do it, so be it.
“That's what I'm doing,” She said, “and it's why you should be getting dressed rather than messing in the kitchen, or these will be the last sausages you ever see.”
Ginny shrugged, the simple gesture illustrating how little his future had to do with her in the grand scheme of things. He could starve, and her job would still be done. Ginny had almost taken his silence for an acquiesce, and was on point of reminding him that pants were a necessity for most job interviews, when Draco found his voice.
“I don't want to work at Flourish and Blotts.”
Silence fell in the dusty kitchen, a silence that was partnered with a tilt of Draco's head as he peered over his shoulder at Ginny, and she shamefully kept her eyes on his shoulder, the slightest touch of a scar visible beneath his hairline. She could not meet his eyes, not meet what she saw there. It was something close to pleading, though she knew the proud Draco Malfoy would never beg from her.
“You probably should have went to one of the other job interviews I set up for you then.” Was her reply as she strolled out of the kitchen and into the living room. It was the place she always gravitated to, despite a few undesirables found within. Amidst the books, stacked tall against the walls and scattered on table tops were only a few things that Draco managed to wheedle out of the Ministry; things that were rightfully his, and while potentially dangerous, not quite as bad as some of the confiscated artifacts. Goblin-made candelabra, a wrought-iron shield with the Malfoy coat of arms perched precariously in the corner, and the piece de resistance, an almost blank stretch of canvas which usually served as home to his parents. They had exited the frame moments prior to Ginny's arrival, and she had only seen Lucius there once, Narcissa a handful more times, both sneering all the way through her time with Draco. The real Lucius Malfoy was currently holed up in Azkaban, under quite a heavy guard, while Narcissa lived with Andromeda now and rarely saw her son.
It wasn't a lack of love that kept them apart, but more accurately, the Ministry. If they met by chance, they would be allowed nothing more than a fleeting glance before separated. It was a part of the new Utopian society in which they lived, an attempt at keeping distance between previous offenders lest they fall into their wicked ways once more. There were only a select few people on which this was kept – the inner circle of previous Death Eaters – but Ginny still believed it to be an extreme.
Mere months after Lucius's incarceration, Narcissa had made amends with Andromeda. From what Ginny had heard (and none of this from Draco) Narcissa had only ever acted on fear of Bellatrix, and with the eldest sister's death, the other two had banded together once more. It was a slow and torturous reconciliation, but a necessary one as Narcissa had nowhere else to go, with her son and husband in prison.
Needlessly cruel, that Draco's only form of contact with his mother was through this thin canvas painting, but since she had fought tooth and nail to obtain it for Draco, it was better than nothing. Ginny liked to think that this small favour was part of what kept Draco in line around her, rather than spitting at her and running the risk of losing the portrait.
As Ginny gazed upon the empty portrait, her eyes glancing over the intricate details on the golden, vacated throne, Draco breezed past her and sat in his favourite armchair in nothing but his boxers. Scowling, Ginny pointed at him, and at the stairs to emphasis her point.
“Get dressed. We're leaving in ten minutes.”
“Make me.” He said simply, putting his legs up on the coffee table and crossing his ankles. That empty threat was all Ginny needed to hear. Her expression did not change as she brandished her wand, held him in a full body bind and marched up the stairs to retrieve clean clothes. Draco made small, angry noises as she pounded on the steps, but she ignored them.
“Ugh, Draco, how can you live like this?”
Ginny had never set foot in Draco's room before, and now that she had seen it, she never wanted to enter it again. The bed was unmade, the sheets were a dingy grey colour that went along with the drabness of the rest of the room. It looked as though his wardrobe had exploded and that his clothes were the scattered debris. His bin was overflowing with parchment, broken quills and – she shuddered – condom wrappers. Quite frankly, Ginny was surprised that there wasn't some scantily clad woman lounging in Draco's bed, awaiting his return. To quell her curiosity, she peered under the bed, and on not finding a virtual brothel, she continued on her search for clothes.
Within minutes, Ginny returned to the living room with a shirt and trousers draped over her arm. Though immobilised, Draco's eyes burned with fiery hatred as she forced on his socks and tried with much difficulty to hoist his trousers up his stiff legs. She didn't even blush when she zipped them, didn't give him the satisfaction of knowing her discomfort. It took longer than she had hoped to get him dressed, what with his awkward stiffness, but after a lot of panting and pulling, he was dressed and looking slightly respectable. As she tied his shoes, she spoke to him like a child, “Do you think you can walk to the bookshop, or will I have to drag you there?”
Glancing up at his hate-filled eyes, Ginny shrugged, “Kicking and screaming it is, then.”
The Ministry had devised a certain form of Imperius that wasn't quite as vicious as the one used by Death Eaters, but used with the intentions of herding criminals from place to place. It was humiliating, and was supposed to disgrace wrong-doers into complying. It was just another method that the Ministry had taken on to keep the peace in society, which Ginny felt was a little too far. So, in order to perform this spell on Draco, she channeled the bitter feelings she had towards him as a girl, when he bullied her and her friends, and was a very different person to the one he was now. Draco walked beside her all the way to Flourish and Blotts, his movements jerky and his face reddening with growing disgust. When the time was right, Ginny lifted the spell.
“You little -”
“Shh, you don't want to make a bad impression on the prospective employer.”
Ginny probably should have been afraid. Draco was an ex-Death Eater, and though he bowed out at a crucial time, he still had a criminal record and was capable of great harm, with or without a wand. It was only pure bravado that kept her expression cool, while a vein throbbed threateningly on Draco's brow.
Ignoring this, she continued in placating tones, “Remember to be polite, but not too polite. Express an interest in books – it shouldn't be too difficult, given your collection. He knows about your stint in Azkaban, so be sure to express genuine remorse in your past dealings and a thirst to prove yourself as a valuable member of society.”
Draco looked as though he would gladly serve a life term in Azkaban just to cease Ginny from ever uttering another chastising word. His whole body seemed to twitch with agitation as they stepped into the shop, and he glared at every leather-bound book as though it had done him a personal offence. Ginny exchanged pleasantries with the shop owner, Mister Pennifold, a kind, elderly man with whispy hair, a tidy mustache and very little in the way of body weight. Ginny held his frail, bony hand as waves of upset and unease rolled off of Draco.
“Shall we get started?” Mister Pennifold asked in airy tones, glancing uncertainly at Draco. When Draco didn't answer, Ginny passed Pennifold a consenting smile and followed him up the stairs, frog-marching Draco in between them. Once in the office, Mister Pennifold shuffled awkwardly behind stacks of books and onto his chair, where he perched upon several cushions just to peer at them over the desk. Ginny and Draco sat opposite, the former upright, the latter slouched and disinterested.
“Miss Weasley has informed me that you have quite the valuable book collection, Mister Malfoy.” Mister Pennifold smiled genially, folding his gnarled hands in front of him. Draco lifted his gaze from the ground and fixed his empty eyes on Pennifold, his lips drawn in a tight line.
He said nothing.
Pennifold's smile faltered as the quiet descended, thick as molasses. Not quite disheartened, he tried again.
“Have you any previous experience in sales, Mister Malfoy?”
Draco blinked, examined his nails, and shifted in his seat. Otherwise, he was barely there. Ginny bristled, and not wanting to throw away Draco's chances, she answered for him.
“You should see his book collection, Mister Pennifold.”
“Please, call me Edward.” He gasped, glad that he wasn't going crazy and that yes, his voice could be heard.
“Edward – he has some very rare pieces, and even though he hasn't worked before, he would be quite the asset. His knowledge of books is invaluable.”
Ginny glanced at Draco, as did Edward, and he stared blankly back at them.
“He is usually quite literate.” Ginny sighed, glaring pointedly at Draco. The blonde boy yawned, stretched his arms above his head and propped his feet up on Edward's desk.
“Really, now, I must object Sir!” Edward stood as Ginny pushed Draco's feet from the desk.
The rest of the interview continued as it had started – Edward asked questions of Draco and received no answer. Though Ginny tried earnestly to interject some bit of winning information, she knew that the battle was lost the moment that she dragged Draco into the bookstore. With an increasing sense of dread, Ginny stood and shook hands with Mister Pennifold. He gave her an apologetic look – he had done his best. She waited until they were out of earshot before she rounded on Draco, this time her eyes blazing and his impassive.
“Now, now, Weaslette, don't want to go making a scene.”
Smirking, he tilted his chin to her before he walked away, whistling as he strolled back to his house. Ginny stood rooted to the spot, her cheeks flushed with anger. Sometimes it was difficult, given the reverse in power between them, to remember that Draco was an arrogant, self-righteous git. Now, she could remember clearly why she hated him for all those years, and understood just how badly she needed him to get employed so she could be done with him once and for all.