Draco rolled away from the bright sunlight spilling into his window and across his bed to look at his clock: Five minutes before his alarm was due to ring. He quickly flipped the switch in the back to prevent it from going off, swung his legs around the side of the bed, and then stood to stretch. He always felt better rested when he woke on his own, and sleeping soundly through the night had been happening more and more for him lately. Jerking awake drenched in a cold sweat or lying in his bed alert with anxiety for hours before falling asleep had become something he could put behind him, along with his colourful past.
After a shower and shave – though not much of a shave as his facial hair continued to grow stubbornly fine – he slipped his nice work robes over his head before assessing his appearance in the mirror. He still liked the way he looked in green, a habit long since attained sporting green and silver ties, scarves, even socks all his life, though the camaraderie and superiority he once associated with the colour had long since died. Now he simply liked the contrast of his pale eyes and further paler hair against the forest green fabric. Placing a stray lock of hair securely with his comb, he straightened the tie peeping above the neck of his robes, grabbed a bit of toast smeared with marmalade, and left for work.
Draco thoroughly despised travelling to the Ministry by toilet, so he had secured a Floo passage for himself well before his first day. A slightly costlier mode of transport – the rate of Floo powder had skyrocketed when the Death Eaters within the Ministry had been surveying for Potter last year, and had yet to return to a normal rate – though dipping into his inheritance was worth the extra bit of dignity. Sauntering confidently from his appointed fireplace was an act he put up on a daily basis, mainly for those who still stared.
There was some gawking and glaring by those who did not see him day after day in his own office, by those he occasionally passed on his way to work. Eight months had passed since the fall the Tom Riddle, and two months had passed since his official induction into the honest and hardworking Wizarding workforce. He had hoped in this time his association with the Dark movement had died down, and for the most part it had. Alas, there were always a few that would never forgive him for his name, and they were the ones he kept face for. If only he were willing to share his part in Riddle’s defeat, then maybe they would stop him to shake his hand rather than shoot him with invisible daggers.
When Harry had finally been persuaded into doing an interview for the Daily Prophet, Draco had asked him quite civilly not to say anything about his presence on the cliff that day in December, and had even begged Ginny to ask him as well for good measure. If being a Malfoy had taught him anything, it was to watch his back. ‘Take care of you and yours’ was the way his family slogan had once been described to him with heavy disdain and hatred, and it wasn’t far off. Remaining Death Eaters were sure to be sore about their loss, and putting himself in their cross-fire for more than what he could deny was not something he was willing to commit to. Harry could have all the glory as Draco wanted no part in it, and so he remained silent regarding his contribution to the peace of the Wizarding community.
As he passed the Fountain of Magical Brethren, caught a lift just before the grates closed, then travelled down to level two, Department of Magical Law Enforcement, he focused solely on getting from A to B without so much as making eye contact. If he hadn’t been so absorbed in making it to his destination unnoticed and without ruffling any feathers, he’d have realized that every witch and wizard surrounding him was deeply immersed in a certain front page article of the Daily Prophet, or discussing said article with their companion, and not with the son the a deceased Death Eater standing just beside them.
Once the grates opened he slipped out quickly, his eyes on the fourth door on the left: Wizengamot Administration Services. He entered the large office littered with dozens of cubicles organised into sections, folded bits of paper zipping this way and that above the noisy morning activity. His own section, in the back left corner, was made up of the smallest cubes; more like four desks shoved together and facing each other with a flimsy two-foot high wall separating each one on either side. Draco slowed once his desk was in sight, consciously breathing a sigh to loosen the small knot of anxiety that built in his chest whenever he knew for sure that today was not the day he’d be challenged to a duel. Anonymity was his sport, and he was winning at the moment.
Before he had time to sit, a head clad in dark brown hair neatly parted on one side poked out from behind the make-shift divider between his and Draco’s desk.
“Dodge them bullies again, mate?” Theodore Nott asked with an impish grin pulling the corner of his mouth up high on one side.
Nott’s father had worked alongside Draco’s at the height of Voldemort’s power. Once Theodore Nott Senior had been captured and imprisoned by the Order during their fifth year, Nott Junior had seized his golden opportunity. Having had the brains to make himself seem as useless as possible to the Death Eaters so as to not give himself any appeal when fellow Slytherins were asked to join Voldemort’s ranks, he made himself easily forgettable. Having no desire to choose a side, just to live in peace, Nott quietly uprooted himself from any association with known Death Eater children at school, becoming branded as a loaner and kind of an oddball. To Draco, Nott was a genius.
Draco scowled. “Stuff it, Nott,” he grumbled as he flung his briefcase onto his desk. He greatly detested that Nott seemed to notice that the purpose of Draco’s direct path to his desk every morning was to avoid confrontation.
“Now that’s not the attitude to start your day with,” Nott lectured mock-sternly as he stood to join Draco, leaning against his low desk with his twig-thin arms folded across his chest, a Daily Prophet gripped in one hand. “At least you’re having a better day than our dear Professor Snape.”
Draco’s ears perked. “Snape?”
Nott’s eyebrows rose in mild surprise. “It’s all over the Prophet. Try picking it up once in awhile.”
With that, Nott dropped his paper onto the desk, the front page headline practically blinking red with the way it capture Draco’s attention:
FORMER HOGWARTS PROFESSOR FOUND BRUTALIZED IN DIAGON ALLEY
At half past four this morning, a dead body on the steps of Gringott’s Wizarding Bank was reported to Magical Law Enforcement. A mask known only to be worn by the followers of the late Tom Riddle Jr. hid the identity of the corpse to passersby, but an early morning shopper was able to describe a tall man with shoulder length black hair wearing a long black cloak. It was also reported that the skin covering the left forearm had been removed.
Once authorities arrived on the scene, the mask was removed to reveal a face so maimed Ministry officials were almost unable to identify the deceased as Severus Tobias Snape, former professor of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and local hero to the Wizarding community. The cause of death appears to be by the unforgiveable death curse, but not before torture by several different methods over an undetermined amount of time. Authorities are confident that this brutal crime was the work of the organization known as the Death Eaters due to the ceremonial removal of Snape’s Dark Mark and the mask left on his face.
As previously reported in an interview with Harry James Potter, Snape had been working with Albus Dumbledore as an independent agent with intentions loyal to the defeat of Tom Riddle Jr...
The article continued with a brief recount of Snape’s history with the Death Eaters, his involvement with Dumbledore, and the likelihood that Snape’s betrayal had triggered his violent death. The photograph accenting the blunt words was a portrait of Snape taken during his years of teaching, his hooked nose scrunching every so often with irritation and his eyes looking around his square of parchment with boredom, unbeknownst of his terrible fate.
Draco’s hands began to shake, causing the thin parchment that he was holding to tremble noisily.
“All right, Malfoy?” Nott asked carefully, his right eyebrow arched high on his forehead.
Forcing his hands to still, Draco took a deep breath.
“Fine, just need to stop by the loo.” He hardly heard his quiet words through the blood pumping in his ears.
A bewildered Nott staring after him, Draco took swift strides to the back of the office, avoiding eye contact with anyone else. Once safely locked into the private room, he allowed his panic to overtake him completely. He slid down the tiled wall to sit on the cold floor, his arms wrapped around his knees.
The Death Eaters had reorganized, and they were riled. They were furious. Would they be furious with him? Was he next? No, they didn’t know that he had helped kill Voldemort, that his own death curse had assisted Harry’s in destroying Voldemort’s body. But there had been dozens of Slytherin students with Death Eater parents attending Hogwarts last year, which had seen him there hiding from their kind, making nice with students from other houses. Would that matter? He had gotten Crabbe and Goyle expelled for attacking Ginny; that was sure to matter. Snape never had a chance once Harry had named him town hero, but he had kept himself hidden so well for so long. How did they find him after all this time? They tortured him for who knows how long. Had he said anything about Draco that would send them after him? As far as they knew, he had fled to live with blood traitors, but what choice did he have? Voldemort was set on seeing him dead, what else could he have done? Maybe there were some that would believe he would still help them if given the chance. Would they try and find out? Who was leading them now? What if they try to finish what Voldemort started? Would the first order of business be to kill him? Kill Harry? When would it end? If their new leader was overthrown, another would rise in their place. It would never end.
As these thoughts raced through his mind in a matter of moments, his breaths came and went rapidly with the terror that filled his chest. But as fast as he let himself fully succumb to fear, he forced himself to rid of it. That was his one moment to lose control. He stood from the floor, smoothing his robes and checked that his hair was perfectly in place. It was nothing but solemn dignity from here on out.
Having to pass Nott’s cubicle to get to his own, he couldn’t help but draw his attention as he returned to his desk. He sat down silently, grabbed the top folder from the two foot high stack in his inbox, and opened it. He could feel the curious stare boring into his back, so he turned to deal with it.
“What?” he asked, attempting to mask his desperate irritation with nonchalant interest.
“What was that about? You and Snape used to shag or something?” Nott said, grinning.
Draco rolled his eyes and plastered his trademark smirk across his face. “Well, you know, it’s not like he gave ‘Outstandings’ to every bloke in class.”
Nott’s grin wavered, and Draco laughed.
“Merlin, you’re an idiot,” he said as he forced another laugh. “Too much Firewhiskey last night and it’s just now hitting me. Now leave me alone, I have loads of work to do.”
Shaking his head with mock disapproval, Nott’s grin was back in place. “Bad luck to speak ill of the dead, mate.”
Draco turned back to his work after Nott had gone back to his desk. He stared down at the thick folder labelled “Gibbon”. With a sigh, he began to read through the information on the dead Death Eater, correcting and adding where he was able to. All of the ministry’s information on known dark wizards and witches went through him, Nott, and three others. Between the five of them, they were able to fill in gaping holes of information, as well as clear loads of soiled names, mainly for historical purposes seeing as how most of their files were on dead or imprisoned wizards and witches. He had agreed with himself that he wouldn’t offer any new names when he took the job, another measure he had decided to take in the interest of self-preservation. It wasn’t the way he imagined making a living, but it got his foot in the door for something he anticipated he would earn with his hard work rather than his skills in keeping his eyes and ears open as he grew up. He wasn’t sure what he was hoping for, but he was confident that he would recognize it when it crossed his path.
Four hours, a lunch break, another four hours, and a Floo ride later, he was back in his flat, his senses heightened in anticipation. Spending the entire day convincing himself that he wasn’t important enough to be worried had made his work excruciatingly slow, and sent his heart racing as he called his address to the surrounding green flames. As he stepped from his fireplace, stillness and quiet met his ears. Drawing his wand instinctively, he peeked into the back rooms before walking back through the living room on his way to the kitchen. Before he had reached the corner, he noticed something odd. The mantle above the fireplace was missing something. Not one for decorations, he had a few knick knacks surrounding a centre theme atop the red brick, but it wasn’t there anymore. He didn’t remember moving it. As he made this realization, the fine hairs on the back of his neck began to stand on end like he was being watched.
“My, she is lovely for a Muggle lover,” a deep female voice said softly, making Draco’s skin prickle.
Calming his erratic heart and lowering his wand, he turned to face her. Here was the opportunity he needed to find out where he stood.
“Hello, Aunt,” he said soberly, turning to find her in the sitting chair behind him that had been empty before he was distracted by the missing framed picture now lying in Bellatrix’s hands.
She looked up from the image of a smiling Ginny, a manic smile playing on her lips and very apparent fury in her eyes.
“I remember this one,” she whispered, her fingers tightening around the frame. “She fought alongside Harry Potter the day your father failed, the day that his actions sentenced you to death. I have to admit, I was a little relieved when you had escaped, that you had survived, but I’d never dream that you’d crawl into bed with one of them.”
With the last word, her tight grip cracked the pane of glass covering the image, and Ginny disappeared into the corner to hide. Bellatrix threw the frame to the floor, shattering the damaged glass, and then stood slowly from her seat. Draco stood his ground and kept his wand down but tightened his grip as she took a step towards him.
“My dear baby sister, my Cissy, died for you, you ungrateful, selfish boy!” she screeched, sending red sparks from the end of the wand in her own hand.
Draco finally spoke up, needing to send this confrontation into a direction more in his favour.
“When I tell you why I chose her, I promise you’ll feel differently,” he said quietly, a hint of a smirk pulling at the left side of his mouth.
His response caught her so off guard that she stood for a moment, apparently attempting to decipher his words for herself. When she found no answers, she composed her features to show her expectance of a very good excuse, crossing her arms in front of her.
“Ginny Weasley was Harry Potter’s girlfriend. While I was... staying at Hogwarts, I convinced her that I was worth leaving him and stole her right out from under him, even made her love me,” he said more loudly now that he had her full attention, not even having to fake the arrogant smirk widening across his face. “You should see him now, he’s entirely broken. It’s worth sticking around to watch.”
Amusement began to flicker within Bellatrix’s dark eyes and the sides of her lips started to turn upward slightly.
“A spectacle I wish I could see for myself. You say you made her love you; and what of you for her?”
Draco shrugged, rolling his eyes slightly to mask the lie. “She’s amusing enough. She takes care of my needs when I tell her to, leaves when I don’t want her around.”
A giggle escaped Bellatrix’s lips as she clapped her hands together in delight.
“I always had high hopes for you! I knew you had the best of both your parents. It was such a shame that your father spoilt all of your potential.”
His heart skipping a beat, an understanding dawned upon Draco. This opportunity wasn’t just about him finding out how to save his own skin. He was in a position to do a great thing. If only he could find out how deep the Death Eater corruption ran, he could prevent them from rising further. Her reaction to his next words could mean the end of it, and so he forced them out of his mouth before he could think too much.
“What do I have to do to come back?”
The silence ringing in his ears as he watched her turn his words over in her mind seemed to last hours. He held her curious stare without blinking, and his eyes were soon blurring his sight of her. She clasped her pale hands together around her wand in front of her chest, tapping her pointer fingers together. Pursing her lips, she replied in a deadly tone.
“Come back? Come back to us? From what I hear, you’re quite comfortable with your new friends, my darling nephew. And after that stunt you pulled, telling the Order we were meeting at your Father’s house. Very few were allowed within the presence of the Dark Lord without a Dark Mark. He didn’t anticipate that you would take advantage of not having one in the way that you did. One of the many curses imbedded within his Mark is being unable to tell anyone without one where we are, but you already knew that, didn’t you.”
Struggling to control his breathing to appear calm and confident, he rolled his eyes.
“I had to make it look good, so I could stay at Hogwarts. As you said, I was as good as dead. I couldn’t stay with my true family, with you. I wanted the chance to prove myself properly, so I waited until–”
“Until he was dead!” she suddenly shrieked, “And where were you? Shagging your dirty bit of fluff!”
Beginning to panic, Draco tried again, straining with the effort of not sounding anxious.
“I’ll prove it to you now! Just tell me what to do!”
She cocked her head to the side, her eyes narrowing and an evil smile widening across her face.
“I want you to kill you blood traitor pet.”
Time stopped as his heart began to crack, but his response had been formed in his mind before she had even asked.
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