WARNING: This chapter contains spoilers for the 7th book...
“You didn’t ask him anything?” Patrick growled at me.
“I told you! He was busy in the shower with a woman. You think I’d wanna stay there any longer?” I asked him through gritted teeth.
“I don’t care if he was in the shower with an ogre. You should’ve at least asked him a few questions, let alone take part of the tour!”
“He had wasted my time, so I left. I have a busy schedule, you know,” I replied. “If it’s anyone’s fault, it’s his. He was the one who hadn’t been ready at the scheduled time. He should be the one sulking around in his office, not you. He’s the one who wanted this story in the paper, right?”
“No…” moaned Patrick, leaning back in his desk chair and placing his hands to his temples, rotating his fingers feverishly. “I owled him and asked him if I could have one of my journalists interview him. It didn’t even seem like he was interested. He just said yes and told me to set up a time that was right for us… I felt so insignificant.”
“Trust me. I know the feeling,” I replied with sympathy.
“Another reason as to why you need to get that story done soon, Naomi,” barked Patrick, pointing a beefy finger in my direction, the sadness which had crept through him now gone, “is that people have gone mad reading the tabloids, lapping up anything about Draco Malfoy, and if you write a story on him, we’ll be selling out! Think about that! Maybe a… bonus to your salary, eh?”
“The only reason people buy the tabloids on Draco Malfoy is so they have something to gossip about!” I explained, rolling my eyes. “They just want to hear about all the trauma and drama in his life. No one’s gunna care to read about the business that Malfoy is running.”
“Oh, yes they will!” Patrick nearly shouted, the vein in his temple throbbing abnormally as he pounded his fist on his desk. “Tomorrow morning, I want you to owl Malfoy ahead of time and tell him that you’re heading over. That way he’ll be ready to go once you arrive, and then you can get your story straight.”
“What if it takes more than two days to get the whole story?” I whined, not wanting to go back to Malfoy’s office.
“Then it’ll take more than two days!” Patrick eyed me, as if he was trying to see through me. “Why does it bother you so much to meet with Malfoy? It seems like you… know him already or something.”
“I told you. We went to Hogwarts together,” I snapped. “And our past is not a pleasant one.”
“Oooo… bad boyfriend and girlfriend relationship?” chuckled Patrick, shaking his head. “Kids these days.”
“No. Absolutely not! Malfoy was a very unpleasant bully during my time at Hogwarts. He seemed to torment almost every student in the school, me included.”
“Then be a man when you see him next time.”
“Patrick, I don’t enjoy seeing Malfoy or talking to him,” I clarified. “Just switch me with someone else, alright? They’ll do a lot better than me.”
“Naomi, you are one of my best writers. How could anyone ever do better than you?” Patrick asked as he began to lead me out of his office. “Just make sure to be polite, and to grab all the details.”
His office door slammed in my face. I walked away in anger, my fists clenched, my feet pounding on the ground like an ill-tempered child.
I returned to my desk fuming.
“Jeez, Naomi. What’s wrong with you?” asked Monica, taking in my furious face.
“Oh… I have to interview Draco Malfoy,” I hissed, rolling my eyes. “He is cocky and rude.”
“Draco Malfoy? The multi-billionaire? Awww, that’s right. You get to interview him for the paper. I really wanted to, too!” Monica sighed with jealousy. “I’ve seen him in the tabloids and, dear Merlin, he is so bloody gorgeous.”
“Yeah?” I mumbled.
“And you got to meet him… ahhh, I wish I could meet Draco,” she cooed, in her own world.
I was in my own world too, and didn’t listen to a single word that was coming out of her mouth. Instead I was thinking about the horrible meeting that I would have to go through tomorrow morning. A feeling of dread was sitting in the pit of my stomach, and I sighed out loud.
“…and did you know that he owns two sky-yachts? Two! Isn’t that amazing?” Monica asked me, totally zoned out as she leaned on her fists dreamily.
“Hey, Monica? I don’t feel all that… confident when it’s just Malfoy and I. Would you mind coming with me tomorrow morning for the interview?” I asked, totally unaware of how in love she actually was with Malfoy.
“Are you kidding? Of course I’d go!” she exclaimed with a smile.
I nodded, not knowing that she wasn’t going because of me, but because of Malfoy.
“His office is way up here?” asked Monica as I hopped into Malfoy’s office from the fireplace.
She had insisted on entering first and was already poking around the office with a huge smirk on her face.
“Of course,” I answered with an eye roll. “Why wouldn’t it be?”
“And he has the entire floor to himself?”
“Uh…” I was spaced out, falling back into reality. “Um, yeah, I guess so.”
“I wonder what he does with all the space,” Monica speculated.
I shrugged my shoulders.
I wasn’t surprised to find that the office was empty yet again. The floor to ceiling windows behind his desk allowed the dull, gray clouds from the rainy weather outside to cascade along the manticore-skin rug.
But instead of having a seat and waiting patiently like a normal person, Monica quickly started to freak out.
“Well? Where is he?” she barked, her head turning round in circles as she looked in the corners of the room.
“He’s probably still pampering up that cocky face of his, Monica. Just relax,” I told her. “Here, have a seat, alright?” I planted her down in one of the dragon hide chairs facing Malfoy’s desk. “He’ll be here.”
I took a seat beside Monica, removing my cloak and crossing my legs. Monica on the other hand seemed as if she had begun to hyperventilate.
“Dear Merlin! I can’t believe that I’m going to meet Draco Malfoy,” she exclaimed, her cheeks turning pink. “Do I look okay? I tried to wear something nice. Did I put too much makeup on? Because I read in a magazine that guys don’t exactly like it when girls plaster a whole bunch of makeup on their faces, and I hope that I didn’t put too much on. Does my breath smell? I don’t look cheap or anything like that, do I? Do I have anything in my teeth?”
“Monica, will you please shut up? You look fine,” I growled, crossing my arms and regretting bringing Monica at all.
“Hello ladies.” The familiar voice wafted into the room. I turned to find Malfoy standing in the corridor, a sneer on his face. “And who do we have here?” He walked towards Monica, and to my utmost surprise, took her hand and kissed it. Monica turned a dark shade of red, and I thought I could hear her heart beating a million beats per second.
“This is my friend, Monica Stone,” I answered, noticing that Monica could no longer speak. “She’s also one of the writers for the Daily Prophet, and actually is a… fan of yours. Monica wanted to meet you, so I thought it’d be all right if I brought her along.”
“It’s perfectly fine,” Malfoy explained. His eyes turned away from Monica to me, smiling. I could feel the heat growing on my cheeks, and couldn’t help but feel the edges of my mouth curl upward. “So, shall we get started?”
“Absolutely,” squeaked Monica, managing to find her voice.
I nodded in reply and quickly searched in my bag for my quick-quotes-quill and pulled it out, allowing it to start to do its thing.
“So, Draco, are you a single man at the moment?” Monica asked in a seductive tone. I gawked at her, wondering if she were serious.
“Yes, actually,” Malfoy explained, looking completely content. “I don’t exactly have time for women.” Liar. He turned to smirk at me and I wanted to punch him in the nose, and sadly, stroke his cheek at the same time.
“So, you’re on the market then?” Monica purred. I noticed that my quill was writing everything down and I quickly looked at it, sliding my finger at my throat, giving it a stop-writing-right-now-Monica’s-gone-psycho look. The quill looked at me, then quickly stopped writing, ripping the pieces of paper out of the notepad.
“Well, yes,” he answered. He pulled a bottle of a golden colored liquor out of his desk and poured himself a drink. I just stared, shaking my head, wondering how he could drink so early in the morning. “Care for a drink, either of you?”
I shook my head again, and at the same moment a “Yes” popped out of Monica’s mouth.
Malfoy smiled as he poured himself a drink, then poured Monica one too. He handed it to her, and she took the glass from him in a way which would cause their fingers to “accidentally” touch as they exchanged the glass. I knew Monica all too well.
I had also noticed that Monica was about to drink it dry. I immediately groped for my wand in my pocket, then pointed it at Monica’s glass. “Aguamenti.” The glass filled up with water, mixing with the brandy, making it far less stronger.
Monica glared at me, and I simply answered, “Patrick would want you sober, you know.”
She made a conceited “hmph,” then turned back to Malfoy. “Draco, what’s it like being a successful businessman?” Monica asked as she swirled the brandy in her glass.
I quickly nodded at my quill, which rapidly began taking notes.
“Well, the salary is good and the feeling of helping others is quite nice. The fact that I am making high-quality wands--for a cheap price--to continue to help children become intelligent and successful wizards and witches, has made me very happy,” he explained thoughtfully.
I rolled my eyes when he wasn’t looking. This corny speech was coming from Malfoy? As if! He was just acting nice. There’s no way that Draco Malfoy could act like… this. Nice and caring and thoughtful. Dear Merlin, I wondered what his father--Lucius Malfoy, the most vile man that I have heard of--would think of this. He knew of course, didn’t he? He droned on about how much he enjoyed his job, and my quill began to look tired, almost bored.
“Next question,” I interrupted before he could start his next sentence. Perhaps I’d ask him something that would bring back that old Malfoy I knew--this new one was just too weird. “How do you feel about the fact that you’ll be forcing Bert Bussel to resign from his job at his own shop, Bussel’s Wands, in Diagon Alley, where you’ll destroy his building, and install a new one?” I hoped this would set off his temper, but I myself was angered to find that he still looked at ease.
“Considering that there was no other place to have my new wand shop, I was very sad to find that Bussel’s was the only choice,” he explained, “and I couldn’t bear to watch it fall to the ground. But to my surprise, Bussel explained that he was ready for retirement, as it is. So it didn’t really affect him at all that my shop was replacing his.”
“Oh, thank goodness,” Monica added in with a laugh.
“But what about Bussel’s children and grandchildren? Surely they’ll want to take over the family business someday, won’t they?”
“Unfortunately, Bussel’s Wands would have gone out of business anyways. Business is not well, and Bert would’ve had to have sold the shop, poor fellow.”
“But they could’ve gained more money until they lost business, couldn’t they have?” The questions that were now popping out of my mouth started to become stupid and unrealistic.
Monica was looking back and forth at us, noticing that our conversation was more like some sort of trial rather than a pleasant interview.
“Which means they could’ve gained a few more Galleons, couldn’t they?” I replied, continuing. “But of course, you just had to take over right away, causing--unfortunately--the family to go out of business with as little money as possible.”
“Actually, I felt the need to help out Bert. He accepted a check of ten thousand Galleons to start off on his new life of retirement, and to help his children’s children start a new and happy life as well.”
Donation?! Draco Malfoy made a donation?! Impossible! He would never do that! I gawked at him, trying to think of another question that would backfire at him.
“Call me Draco, please,” he reminded me again.
I huffed. “Draco, have you been involved with any charities or donations?”
“As a matter of fact, I have. I have donated money to the Oberon Orphanage for Wizards & Witches at the edge of London to allow them to afford more clothes, food, and other essentials, and I have also donated money to the Magical Menagerie in Diagon Alley to allow them to be able to afford just the same. I have also donated to other places, ones that aren’t at the top of my head at the moment.”
“Did you donate a fortune of a lifetime?” I asked wondering if he had just kept his “donation” at only one hundred bloody Galleons.
“I’m afraid that that is a private matter that I cannot discuss,” Malfoy sneered.
My face turned crimson as I felt defeated. The smug look of victory on Malfoy’s face caused the urge to want to punch him yet again. I glanced at my quill which was writing away, its feather a blur.
“What are you trying to prove, Naomi?” Malfoy asked me. I looked back at him, finding a look of curiosity on his face. I glimpsed at Monica who was on the edge of her seat, looking from Malfoy to me. I didn’t feel at all comfortable discussing what I really wanted to discuss with Malfoy in front of Monica, and turned my eyes back to him, trying to show a look of plead on my face.
I hoped he read me.
Malfoy stood up, adjusting his jacket. “Actually, I wanted to speak to you, Naomi.”
I stood, nodding, finding Monica right beside me.
“Privately,” Malfoy pointed out. Monica shrank back into her seat, disappointed, and I followed Malfoy down the corridor where he led me.
My quill wanted to follow me, but I gave it a look to stay put. It obeyed.
We entered the rec room, and he shut the door behind him. I walked over towards the wizard-billiards table, running my finger over the green felt.
“What did you want to ask me, Naomi?” Malfoy asked, keeping me on track.
I turned back to him, finding him with his arms crossed and his look bored. “Well… I…” It was now hard to talk when we were alone. I had felt more comfortable with Monica by my side. “Mr. Malfoy-”
“How many times do I have to ask you?” Malfoy seemed to have hissed, irritation in his tone. “Call me Draco.”
I cringed where I stood. “Draco, I’m not use to the… new you.”
“What do you mean?” he asked me, confused.
“Do I really have to explain it to you?” I asked him with a cocked eyebrow. “Back at Hogwarts, your were mean, vile, and nasty. And now here you are, so polite that I can hardly believe what I’m seeing. You’re just so… different, and I’m not exactly use to it…”
“Well you’d better get used to it,” he told me. “Because this is me, and this is going to be me for quite some time. People do change you know.”
“Yes, I know. And that’s what I’m trying to figure out. Did you change for a reason, or did you just… change? Like that?” I snapped my fingers in demonstration.
Malfoy was silent for a second, then sighed. “The War… that’s what changed me the most. Being too involved with, um, You-Know-Who, and having my life and my family’s within his hands was just too much for me.”
“Okay,” I said a bit skeptically. I actually wanted to hear more.
“I’m not sure how many people actually knew about this, but to test my father, the Dark Lord assigned the task of killing Professor Dumbledore to me. I was to commit murder to prove myself.”
My eyes went wider than before. I had heard a few rumors, but I would never have expected to witness the truth coming from Malfoy himself.
“Over our whole sixth year at Hogwarts, I goaded myself into believing that when the time came I would be able to cast the killing curse on one of the most respected wizards in the magical world. But, when I was standing in front of him… I faltered… and then it became utterly impossible. I knew I could not commit murder. From that point on I became so afraid of the Dark Lord. I think possibly even his enemies did not ever experience the fear that I knew after I had failed.”
Memories of the devastating news of Professor Dumbledore’s death flooded back, and I took a deep breath to try to push the sadness away.
“But your family was still considered to be devoted followers of You-Know-Who after that. They were going to kill Harry Potter and his friends! They tortured Hermione, and your aunt killed Dobby!”
“Yes, that old, stinky house elf. I still miss the way he shined my trophies.”
“I don’t believe that was enough to change someone like you.”
“I continued to get into trouble after that. The night of the battle when the Dark Lord was defeated, my parents were more than willing to sever their alliance with You-Know-Who. We were all afraid. Anything that my family had done upon His return was more out of fear than devotion to the Dark Lord. By the end of the night, my parents were grateful that I was alive and were more than pleased about the outcome of the battle.”
“You were pleased about the outcome?” I ground my teeth, more anger and grief surfacing. “All those deaths! Professor Lupin, Tonks, Fred Weasley-”
“What I meant was that my family was glad to be rid of the Dark Lord once and for all. Before his return, my father often used his Death Eater status for gain or to frighten people into doing things for him. But after the Dark Lord returned he had no choice but to resume his following and try to convince You-Know-Who of our family’s loyalty. It was about survival and protection of our family. After the Dark Lord was destroyed, Father never boasted about being a Death Eater again.”
“He didn’t exactly become the most respectable and caring individual though, did he?”
“He keeps his opinions to himself now, and he keeps out of trouble. We Malfoys still like to keep our business to ourselves. Well, most of the time.”
“Yes, you would keep quiet without the backing of You-Know-Who.”
“Naomi, I won’t try to convince you anymore about the status of my family. I can only try to make you understand why I have changed. I still have not told you about my experience facing death.”
Only once before had I heard the story of Harry’s selfless act of saving Draco’s life. I could feel my face melting from disgust into a look of interest when he began to speak of his brush with death.
“If I was not by then convinced that the attitude and path my family had taken was wrong, the close call in the Room of Requirement forced me to rethink my ways. That feeling that overcomes you when you know that your life is about to be crushed, that you are plunging into the unknown, that at last you might be forced to pay for all the pain and terror that you have inflicted on the living world… Naomi…”
At that moment, Draco’s eyes widened into a frightened, childlike expression. In his stormy gray eyes was a whole twisted fabric of deep emotion, sadness, regret, gratitude…
“I will never forget that moment, that second of being sure of nothing. And then, we were safe. I was alive. I asked about Crabbe. He was not. Crabbe no longer existed. But I did. I was given… a second chance,” Draco finished quietly. His face had softened to a light look of thoughtfulness, his eyes down.
I took a moment to let his explanation sink in. The anger I had conjured up from before had greatly subsided.
“So, that old Malfoy that I use to know won’t ever resurface again?”
Malfoy sighed, as if impatient. “No, Naomi. Is that what’s bothering you? That I might come back from Hogwarts and bully you like I use to?”
I was taken off guard. “No. No, of course not.” I shook my head, smiling.
“Then, Naomi, what is bothering you?” He took a few steps towards me. I didn’t move, and actually went into thought with the question he had asked me.
“I… I don’t really know actually,” I exclaimed, feeling quite stupid. “I guess… I guess I’m just still not use to the… new you.”
He smirked at me again, taking more steps closer towards me. I took a step back, feeling that my personal body space was being invaded, and felt that of my backside bump into the billiards table. Malfoy continued to take a few steps closer to me, and I felt trapped. He was now six inches away from me, a smirk on his charming face. He looked just as handsome close up, too.
“W-what?” I asked him, wondering if my mascara was smudged or something like that.
“You have an eyelash on your cheek.”
“What? I do?” I asked in surprise, wondering if that was the only thing he wanted to tell me. I reached up to remove the eyelash myself, but he was quicker than me, and brought his hand up to my cheek.
His fingers brushed my cheekbone, then touched a spot just below my eye softly. His fingers slowly seemed to trace along my cheek as he dragged the eyelash along, making his way down to my jaw line and my chin. He flicked the eyelash away, and I realized that I had stiffened where I stood.
“I-is it gone?” I asked, bringing my own hand up to my face.
Malfoy nodded. “So, have we got that all cleared up then?”
I was wondering what he was talking about, considering that my focus was set on his handsome face rather than what was coming out of his mouth. “Huh? Oh, yeah. Definitely.” I nodded.
Malfoy smiled, then turned and headed for the door. “Right--on with the interview then?”
I nodded. He opened the door for me, and we stepped out.
Author’s Note: Special thanks to my big sista (the other weird sister… get it???) for this chapter. It wouldn’t be possible without her. Please review and tell me what you thought! :D
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