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Detox by CambAngst
Chapter 10 : Future Imperfect
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 13


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As always, that which you recognize from the books belongs to JK Rowling.





“So I’m supposed to just touch him down there when he kisses me?”

 
“Not that instant, no! My goodness, Astoria, you have to make him wait a bit, let his anticipation build. According to this article, wizards appreciate a witch who’s willing to take control in the bedroom sometimes. A wealthy, powerful man like Draco must get tired of being in charge all the time. If you show him that you’re a strong, confident woman who knows how to take care of his needs, he’ll be able to relax and you two will totally connect.”

 
Astoria felt cold fingers of panic creeping up her spine. Maybe coming to Isadore for advice wasn’t such a good idea after all. The two teenagers had sequestered themselves in her aunt’s parlor after the elderly witch retired to her bedroom for an afternoon nap that Isadore assured her would last until dinnertime. They’d pulled the curtains, dimmed the lanterns and Astoria found herself whispering a great deal even though there wasn’t another conscious soul in the large house to overhear their conversation. Unless you counted the cats, of course, but Astoria wasn’t especially worried about them grassing her up. It felt strange to have such an important, personal conversation in an unfamiliar place.

 
“Isadore, I have no idea what his needs even are, let alone how to take care of them!”

 
Isadore rolled her eyes indulgently and gestured toward the issue of Sorcière lying on the chaise lounge next to Astoria’s knee.

 
“You haven’t forgotten the Ten Sex Moves That Will Set His Wand on Fire already, have you? Pick any one of the top five on that list and he’ll never know what hit him. Personally, I would go with number three, followed by a strong dose of number four. By the time you’re done, he will be begging you to marry him.”

 
Even as the image of Draco begging for her hand in marriage made Astora’s heart flutter, the reality of her dilemma kept her brain buzzing with anxiety. She and Draco had come so close on the final day of the term, and she wanted to take things even farther the next time they were able to be alone together. But most of the suggestions in Isadore’s magazines seemed more like carnival acts than intimate experiences.

 
“Number three, Isadore? Seriously? Where am I going to get Dizziness Draught and an ostrich feather? And as far as number four goes... Well, it isn’t that I wouldn’t do that for him, if he really wanted me to. It’s just that... what if I mess it up somehow?”

 
Isadore grinned conspiratorially and lowered her voice to a whisper.

 
“Well, if you’re really that worried, you can always just skip the preliminaries and go straight to the big finale. If you told him that you wanted him to be your first, I’m sure he wouldn’t object.”

 
A cold, prickling sensation settled into Astoria’s stomach as she considered the possibility. She was almost certain that Isadore was wrong about Draco’s reaction. After all, he had been the one to call a halt to their passionate interlude in the hidden room at Hogwarts. For reasons she couldn’t quite explain, she was pretty sure that his reluctance made her more nervous than she would have felt if he’d pressured her to have sex with him. It seemed so much easier to say no than to wonder why he hadn’t even asked the question.

 
“I just don’t think we’re ready for that yet. It’s a big step, after all. I need to find some things to try that are a bit less... drastic.”

 
“Astoria, you’re almost seventeen. I was only fifteen when Richard and I did it for the first time.”

 
Astoria rolled her eyes.

 
“How could I forget? You didn’t take any potions beforehand and you spent the next ten days keeping me up half the night, fretting about how you were going to look in maternity robes.”

 
Isadore shivered slightly as the memory passed through her, and quickly changed the subject.

 
“Alright, back to number four, then. I think you’re worrying too much, Astoria. Don’t think so much about it, just do it, alright? He’s a man. Even if you aren’t very good at it, he’ll probably think it’s amazing anyway.”

 
Astoria was far from convinced. Lingering uncertainty tugged at the edges of Isadore’s smile, which was entirely too large. Astoria was starting to suspect that more of Isadore’s advice came from the pages of a magazine than from her own, personal experience, and it annoyed her. Didn’t she understand? This was far too important to guess at the details and hope that things worked out alright.

 
“So you’ve actually... done that before? With Richard or Bertrand or...”

 
Astoria let the question trail off. She didn’t even want to imagine Isadore doing such things with one of her boyfriends from before their fifth year.

 
“Yes! I mean, mostly, anyway. Richard was a bit too squeamish, actually. He was so sensitive and ticklish and I think the boy has some sort of phobia about teeth. With Bertrand, I was just getting started and he got a little too excited and, well... Oh, don’t make such a face, Astoria! It happens to thirty-four percent of wizards according to an article I saw in Witch’s Wiles. Don’t you read at all?”

 
A loud moan of frustration escaped Astoria’s lips as she buried her face in her hands.

 
“This isn’t helping. I’m even more confused than when we started. I don’t want to disappoint him. Isn’t there anything in these magazines that just tells me what to do? Surely you know more than you’re telling me, Isadore. Just spill it or draw a diagram for me or something. Please?”

 
Isadore shifted her weight uncomfortably and shrugged helplessly as her smile gradually turned to a sympathetic frown.

 
“I’m sorry, Astoria, these things are hard to put into words without being, you know, vulgar. That’s why they can’t put that in a magazine, either. Unless they want to sell it from behind the counter, anyway. I think there might be some of those kind of magazines in the back of Theo’s closet at home if you’re really interested.”

 
Astoria pulled a face of pure disgust while making a mental note that she could ask Isadore to borrow Theo’s girly magazines if worst came to worst. Why did this have to be so complicated? Madam Pomfrey had spent over an hour explaining the ins and outs of pregnancy, diseases and the potions created to prevent them. Couldn’t she have spared ten minutes to explain what you were supposed to do after you took the potions?

 
Isadore flipped through the magazine in her lap, scanning the text for something helpful.

 
“You’re overthinking things. All the articles I’ve read say that there’s no right way or wrong way to please your man. You just need to be creative. It’s is supposed to be fun, you know, like an adventure.”

 
"Draco used to date Pansy Parkinson, Isadore! I'm sure his little wizard has had adventures that Great Merlin himself only dreamed of."

 
Isadore cocked her head to the side, giving Astoria a knowing look and crossing her arms.

 
“Is that what you’re worried about? You’re so much prettier than her, Astoria! If Draco really wanted her, he’d just start dating her again. She’s single and she’s not likely to do any better. Besides, everyone knows she’s a slag. She’s been on more little wizards than the Sorting Hat.”

 
Isadore covered her mouth with her hands, looking scandalized by her own words. Astoria tried to hold it in, but a snort escaped her lips and soon both girls erupted into giggles. Astoria’s were driven as much by nerves as amusement, however. She thought that Draco was falling in love with her the same way she was falling for him, but he never really talked about his feelings, so there was no way to be certain. Had he felt the same way about Pansy once? He didn’t seem to be interested in her any longer, but would he change his mind if Astoria turned out to be hopeless in bed? He was bound to notice her lack of experience, wasn’t he? Even if it was only in the back of his mind, Astoria didn’t want to be on the losing side of that comparison. This was a big step for their relationship. She didn’t want to mess it up.

 
When she caught her breath, Isadore reached out and laid her hands on top of Astoria’s.

 
“You’re making too big of a deal out of this. It’s just sex. Use your imagination. You have imagined the two of you doing... stuff, haven’t you?”

 
Astoria felt the heat seeping into her cheeks. She had indulged herself on a number of occasions, recalling the way that Draco touched her and imagining his caresses wandering into new and exhilarating places. Those thoughts fueled unfamiliar urges, very different from the ones she recalled from her past boyfriends and crushes. She was still trying to make sense of it all. But no matter how she allowed her imagination to wander -- and she had let it wander so far the night before last, tucked into the privacy of her own bed, that even thinking about her actions made her blush furiously -- it stubbornly refused to show her taking a more active role in the encounter. Whether that was because her imagination didn’t want to go to that place or because it just didn’t know the way, she had no idea.

 
Isadore’s face split into a wide grin in response to the blush searing Astoria’s pale cheeks.

 
“I knew it. You’re a naughty little witch on the inside, Astoria. You just need to let her come out and play. Several of these articles say that you have to try different things until you find something that he really likes. Then you just keep doing it, only faster. Not too fast, though, unless you want Draco to end up like poor Bertrand.”

 
“Fast, but not too fast? This is impossible! How am I supposed to know when he likes something? I mean, I can’t even see his face if my head is down there.”

 
Isadore tutted indulgently, giving Astoria’s hands a gentle squeeze.

 
“Do I need to draw you a picture? Get him to lie on his back, Astoria. It should be pretty easy to see whether he’s enjoying himself. Maybe... have him lie face down and give him a massage or something. That should help to set the mood. And once he’s all relaxed, you just start crawling around on top of him, rubbing up against him and see how long it takes before, ah, necessity forces him to roll over.”

 
Astoria nodded slowly as she processed what Isadore was saying. It just might work. There were plenty of books on massage. If she could learn how to give Draco a proper one, maybe it wouldn’t matter that every other aspect of sex was a mystery to her. Oddly, the fact that Isadore had been so unhelpful was making her feel a bit better. Maybe every girl her age who was an “expert” on sex just read lots of magazines and made up the rest. She reached out and threw her arms around Isadore’s neck, pulling her best friend into a hug. In a couple weeks time, she’d turn seventeen and then she would be free to pursue her relationship with Draco on her own terms. If her parents couldn’t handle that, it was their problem, not hers.






Four damselfly wings, sliced lengthwise, added one at a time with half of a clockwise stir following each. After a few seconds, the potion turned a shimmering azure. Draco reduced the flame burning below the cauldron and impaled a wriggling scarab beetle from the dish on the bench with a surgical jab of his knife. The beetle needed to be dissected and added to the potion very soon after the color change. Inexperienced potioneers tended to dissect the beetles in advance, so that they were ready when needed. Draco knew better than to take that shortcut. Too much of the beetle’s precious hemolymph would ooze out of its body, reducing the potency of the final product. He deftly sliced the beetle into four quadrants on the surface of a mirror and slid the first two into the potion. A puff of sulfurous, yellow smoke arose from the cauldron and Draco nodded approvingly. As soon as the potion attained a slight aquamarine hue, the remainder of the beetle...

 
Draco felt a sudden, insistent pull at his arm and nearly dropped the second half of his beetle as he yanked his arm free. The ugly, climbing plant that sat on the end of the bench was once again attempting to latch onto him. He swatted at the infuriating thing, pushing back its clinging tendrils without taking his eyes off of the cauldron. Just as the potion turned the proper color, the plant managed to land a vine on the edge of the cauldron and Draco cursed out loud as the entire apparatus tipped dangerously to one side. He dropped the remaining beetle parts into the potion as he righted the cauldron, burning his fingertips on the process.

 
The small laboratory where Madam Blishwick’s assistant had left him was extremely spartan. The plant was the only item in the windowless room that might qualify as decoration. The assistant, a short wizard with greying tufts of hair separating his ears from his shiny, bald pate, had directed Draco to brew a series of complicated potions and then left him to his own devices. The plant immediately became a nuisance. Its long vines seemed almost prehensile, sliding silently across the bench to meddle in Draco’s ingredients, his equipment and occasionally the cauldron itself.

 
Once the potion reached a point where he could leave it unattended for a few moments, Draco pushed all of the plant’s crawlers over the side of the bench for the third time. He had a good mind to take his potion knife to it, trimming it down to the bare roots, but that didn’t seem like a wise thing to do in the middle of a job interview. Madam Blishwick must have had a reason for allowing the plant to remain in the laboratory. Perhaps it was placed there as a test of Draco’s patience or his ability to overcome distractions and maintain his concentration. If so, the test was giving him at least as much trouble as the potions he had been asked to brew. With four more remaining on the list, Draco’s patience was stretched to the breaking point.

 
He quickly mopped his damp brow with the back of his sleeve before uncorking a phial of Bulbadox juice and preparing to add three drams to the softly bubbling cauldron. Draco really, really hoped that he hadn’t come so far only to mess up the one part of the interview he felt most confident about. From the moment he arrived at the Ministry, it was obvious he was fighting an uphill battle. The security officer responsible for weighing Draco’s wand and issuing him a guest badge had taken one look at him and called for backup. When the supervisor on duty eventually determined that Draco had a legitimate reason for being there, he looked disappointed. It was abundantly clear that the man would have liked nothing more than to hex Draco and toss him out on his ear.

 
After the security officers finished with their little inquisition, Madam Blishwich’s assistant took his sweet time arriving in the lobby to collect Draco for the interview. The man stared at him with thinly veiled disdain, even going so far as to ask why Draco had any interest in helping to heal the injuries that his kind inflicted in the first place. Draco did his best to stick to his carefully rehearsed speech about his passion to working as a potioneer and his determination to make amends for his role in the war, but he was pretty sure that it sounded trite, terse and every bit as fake as Draco was feeling. It wasn’t the first or the last time he wondered whether he could function among the judgmental sheep who clung unquestioningly to whatever orthodoxy the Ministry served up.

 
Draco increased the flames beneath the cauldron again and began pulverizing dried Hellebore blossoms with a mortar and pestle. As he watched the greenish liquid come back to a boil, he mentally went over the potions he had left to brew, looking for opportunities to make the work go faster or more efficiently. For all he knew, Madam Blishwick was monitoring his progress somehow, and he wanted to appear competent and thoughtful. Draco also knew that the sooner he finished with his appointed tasks, the sooner he would be able to speak with her directly. Don’t waste your time with underlings, Draco. Always deal with the wizard in charge. It bothered Draco how readily his father’s words came to him, even as he was doing everything possible to distance himself from the old man.

 
The potion fizzled vigorously and changed to a warm shade of ochre as the hellebore dissolved into its depths. Draco studied the color and carefully drew his ladle across the surface, noting the consistency. A perfect Fire Protection Potion. Drawing a phial out of the rack provided by Madam Blishwick’s assistant, he duplicated it with his wand and ladled a sample of the potion into each. Stoppering the phials, he returned the original to the rack and slipped the duplicate into the pocket of his robes. It was a trick he learned from watching Potter contend with Professor Snape and the “unfortunate accidents” that often occurred when his favorite teacher was evaluating the potions brewed by the Gryffindors. Draco still wasn’t sure whether he believed the official story about Snape being a double agent. It seemed entirely too convenient, like a ruse calculated to spread uncertainty and mistrust among the surviving Death Eaters. If it was true and Snape was working for Dumbledore all along then Draco had to hand it to the greasy, old bat, he played his role with impressive pettiness and panache.

 
Draco vanished the remaining contents of the cauldron and started to assemble the ingredients to brew Wolfsbane Potion. Of all the potions on the list, he considered this to be the trickiest and he was glad that it wasn’t left for last. Better to take up the challenge while his wits were sharp and his mind was thoroughly immersed in potion-making than to wait until he was mentally and physically worn down. As he started to carefully separate aconite blossoms from their poisonous stems, he caught a twitch of movement in his peripheral vision. Across the bench, one of the plant’s tendrils had managed to climb back up and wrap itself around a flask of salamander blood. Draco watched in impotent horror as the flask tipped over the side of the bench and crashed to the floor.

 
“Of all the bloody- Ahh!”

 
Another vine latched on to the rack of completed potions sitting on the bench. Draco managed to grab it a fraction of an inch before it joined the salamander blood staining the floor tiles. His heart was pounding in his ears and he could feel the heat rising from underneath his collar. A third vine pulled its way onto the bench and began to slither toward his ingredients. The light in the room seemed to take on a crimson hue that had nothing to do with the lingering vapors in the air. Draco seized his wand from the bench and unleashed his frustration.

 
Incendio!

 
The plant burst into flames, emitting a high-pitched squeal as its vines were quickly reduced to ashes. When the last of the flames died away, Draco stood, panting, still clutching the rack of completed potions in his hand. It gradually dawned on him what he had done, and he listlessly dropped the rack back onto the bench, barely flinching as three of the phials bounced out and clattered across the stone surface. His temper had once again gotten the best of him and his new career was over before it had even begun. He felt hollow, leaden and... thirsty. Maybe the Ragged Fang opened early on Tuesdays...

 
“That was an impressive spell, for someone who didn’t sit their Defense N.E.W.T.”

 
Draco spun around to find a middle-aged witch standing in the doorway. Her sharp, angular face was set in an appraising stare and her dark hair was gathered into a tight bun on the back of her head. She wore a set of loose-fitting laboratory robes that appeared to be reinforced with dragonhide and her pockets bulged with glass phials, scrolls of parchment and potion-making utensils. A collection of colored lenses was attached to either side of her oval-shaped eyeglasses on hinged arms. If this was Madam Blishwick standing before him, Draco surmised that McGonagall was correct about her preference for function over form.

 
“I would have liked to sit that exam, but the Ministry wouldn’t allow it.”

 
“That’s a shame. It seems that you would have scored well.”

 
The woman entered the room and looked at the glass phials scattered across the bench. She picked up the Memory Potion that Draco had brewed and swung an emerald green filter over her left eye, studying it in the warm light of the room’s oil lamps. With a flick of her wand, she righted the rack of phials and returned the Memory Potion to its place before continuing.

 
“Why did you wait so long?”

 
Draco stared back at her dumbly. She couldn’t possibly mean what it sounded like she meant, could she? After he’d gone several seconds without answering, she stared at him impatiently.

 
“Did you not understand the question? Why did you wait so long to do something about Edgar?”

 
“Edgar?”

 
Draco’s brain was spinning and he didn’t feel at all qualified to speak. Fortunately, Madam Blishwick seemed to have no problems carrying the conversation on her own.

 
“Yes, Edgar. You’ll recall that you incinerated him? Granted, you could have simply banished him to the corner of the room and warded him in, but I understand that you were probably a bit nervous about the interview. Why did you allow him to interfere with your work for so long before doing something about it?”

 
“I... I... You mean I was supposed to get rid of the bloody plant?”

 
The dark-haired witch regarded him gravely, adding heavy emphasis to her words.

 
“Mr. Malfoy, if you’re going to work for me, there’s one thing I need for you to understand. The research my department is conducting is unprecedented in the history of magic. We’re in completely uncharted territory and there are no textbooks to follow or experts to rely on. Our ability to get results is dependent on our willingness to embrace new ideas and our ability to explore them thoroughly and document the results exhaustively. We cannot allow hesitation and doubt to interfere. If you were to see a potential solution to a problem, I would expect you to follow up on it, no matter how unorthodox it might seem. Is that clear?”

 
Draco nodded in response, trying to collect his thoughts into some sort of intelligent-sounding sentence. Madam Blishwick wasn’t anything like what he’d expected and unorthodox was not his strong suit. In spite of his uneasiness, he realized that he wanted the job more than ever. Aside from the opportunity to rebuild his reputation in the magical community, any superior who condoned the destruction of irritating flora and fauna couldn’t be all bad.

 
Madam Blishwick studied Draco’s remaining potions, testing their hues and exposing them to small amounts of other ingredients to see how they reacted. She seemed satisfied with his work and turned back to face him.

 
“I noticed that you placed a second sample of each potion in your robe pocket. Why?”

 
Draco was impressed by her thoroughness, even if he was annoyed by the fact that she’d been spying on him.

 
“It’s a habit I developed at school. In a Potions classroom full of rude, clumsy, inattentive students, accidents happen. It’s better to take precautions.”

 
Madam Blishwick nodded approvingly.

 
“In our department, we collect no less than eight samples of every new potion that we brew, in case we ever need to backtrack and retest an idea. Part of the job of our new potioneers will be to organize and catalog all of those samples.”

 
Clerical work. Draco suppressed a sigh and kept his expression neutral. If he was able to land the job, he was going to be the new hire, the wizard at the bottom of the seniority ladder. It made sense that he’d be expected to do a certain amount of grunt work. He wasn’t at all happy about it, but it made sense.

 
Madam Blishwick stared at him for a moment, looking expectant then confused.

 
“Well, aren’t you going to ask about the pay or the benefits or the holiday time allotment?”

 
Draco was surprised by the question, but it was the first one she’d asked where he felt confident that he knew the correct answer.

 
“The salary and benefits aren’t the primary reasons I’m interested in this position. If you’re familiar with my family, I’m sure you’re aware that our financial resources are more than adequate. As far as the holiday time, I expect that I’ll be working a great deal at the beginning, until I learn everything that I need to know. Once I’m performing up to your expectations, I’ll worry about holiday time.”

 
The tiniest hint of amusement crept into Madam Blishwick’s flinty eyes.

 
“Mr. Malfoy, I appreciate your eagerness, but let’s not let it turn into overzealousness at such an early point in your career. If I had any concerns about your ability to meet my expectations, I wouldn’t be offering you the position. And as far as your holiday time, which happens to be four weeks, by the way, I’m afraid I must insist that you take it. You’re of no use to me if you’re too fatigued to think creatively.”

 
Draco wasn’t sure that he’d understood her correctly. Tentatively, he met her stare.

 
“So you’re offering me the job?”

 
“That’s correct.”

 
“Even though I only finished six of the potions and killed your plant?”

 
“Oh, you’ve not killed Edgar, although I think you have given him quite a scare.”

 
Madam Blishwick waved her wand over the flowerpot on the end of the bench, clearing away the ashes of the plant’s creeping vines. A pair of pale, green buds peeked out from beneath the soil, cautiously probing the air.

 
“You see, Mr. Malfoy, Edgar will be just fine in a few days. His species is native to Jiangxi province in China, and they’re quite resilient. Their blossoms are actually a key ingredient in a very promising new restorative draught that we’re working on. For the record, you were the only interview candidate who managed to completely subdue him. I only interrupted your work because I’d already seen everything that I needed to see.”

 
Slowly, Draco felt like his brain was catching up to the conversation. What he was hearing was certainly pleasing. But the year that had passed since the end of the war had taught him to be wary of any situation that looked too promising. He carefully formulated a question to try to tease out any hidden agendas.

 
“It sounds almost as though your mind was made up before the interview?”

 
For the first time since she entered the room, Madam Blishwick seemed pleased with Draco’s understanding of his situation.

 
“Let’s just say that I had a strong feeling about you. Ever since Horace contacted me, I’ve been hoping that your practical skills were as strong as he indicated. I’m sure you realize that isn’t always a given with one of his favorites. What I’m most excited about, however, is your experience. I believe you’re going to bring a totally new perspective to my department.”

 
Uneasiness crept into Draco’s stomach. The eagerness in her eyes was unnerving.

 
“You mean my experiences during the war?”

 
“Exactly. My current staff is rather one-dimensional, I’m afraid. Don’t get me wrong, they’re all brilliant researchers, talented and very driven. But they’re academics. They could go on for hours about the magical theory behind the Unforgivable Curses, but they’ve only seen them used on laboratory animals. You, Mr. Malfoy, have seen these curses used in real life situations. While I’m sure those experiences were not pleasant or easy, the fact remains that you’ve seen things that we will never be able to replicate in a laboratory setting. I want you to bring that knowledge to my department.”

 
The walls of the small laboratory felt as though they were closing in on Draco and he fought to keep his breathing even. Memories that he’d struggled for months to bury in the depths of his mind were bubbling toward the surface, filled with screams of agony and cold, lifeless eyes staring up at him. He felt his pulse quickening as he tried to blink away the horrifying images. He forced himself to smile and met Madam Blishwick’s eyes.

 
“I’d be happy to try and contribute in any way that I can.”

 
The middle-aged witch was practically beaming in response. She extended her hand and Draco desperately hoped that she didn’t notice how clammy his palms suddenly felt.

 
“Wonderful, Mr. Malfoy. You have no idea how excited I am to begin introducing you to our work. In fact, if you’d be available to start this week, you could attend a Friday afternoon presentation by one of your new coworkers, Reginald Penhallow. He’s been conducting some fascinating research on the effects of the Cruciatus Curse on doxies. Their higher brain functions are far less advanced than our own, of course, and I’m certain that we would all be fascinated to hear any insights you could offer on how their physiological reactions compare to those of humans.”

 
Draco closed his eyes for a moment, trying to focus on his breathing. He could feel tiny rivulets of sweat running down the small of his back and the air in the room had grown uncomfortably thin.

 
“That sounds... fascinating. You know, I was told that your department was trying to help reverse memory loss induced by the Imperius Curse. I had no idea that you were also researching... um... why, exactly are you torturing doxies?”

 
Madam Blishwick clasped her hands together and smiled, seemingly oblivious to the difficulties Draco was having.

 
“You’re commendably well-informed, Mr. Malfoy. Imperius Curse damage is our primary project at the moment, of course, but we’re preparing several additional research proposals for the Minister’s consideration. Reginald is trying to develop a better model of how the torture curse attacks the human nervous system. His experiments with doxies are only a first step. We’re already in contact with the families of several patients who’ve been admitted to St. Mungos after being subjected to the curse, seeking permission to study their injuries.”

 
Draco silently wondered why they couldn’t just get permission from the victims themselves. Then the answer dawned on him and the knot in his stomach twisted tighter. The air in the room was getting thinner and thinner. He needed to get out.

 
“It sounds like I have a great deal to look forward to. Friday works well for me. I don’t want to keep you from your work, so if there’s nothing else you need-”

 
“That’s wonderful, Mr. Malfoy. I was so in hopes that things would work out for you that I’ve already started to make preparations. You’ll need to visit the Ministry’s Office of Records on Thursday so you can complete all of the necessary forms. They’ll issue your identification badge and get you set up with payroll, benefits, security, clearance to view classified information, limited authorization to use Unforgivable Curses, waivers related to dangerous magical plants and animals, authorization to handle hazardous substances... There’s oh so much paperwork involved. I suggest you arrive bright and early.”

 
... limited authorization to use Unforgivable Curses... Draco tugged at his shirt collar and resisted the urge to back away from his new boss. There was no reason to panic. Working in a laboratory wouldn’t be anything like forcing Madam Rosmerta to assist in his plot to kill Dumbledore. Doxy screams didn’t sound like human screams, which were echoing through the depths of his mind at that moment.

 
“I‘m grateful for the opportunity, Madam Blishwick. I’ve kept you long enough. If you’ll excuse me-”

 
“Oh, my, look at the time. Well, I should be getting back to my office. Thank you so much for coming in today, Mr. Malfoy. I am ever so excited to have you join my department, and your timing simply couldn’t be more opportune. Our research is going to change people’s lives, I’m certain of it. Once you’re settled, I’d like you to begin reviewing the case files of the curse victims we’ve selected for our initial trial of an experimental memory-reinforcing potion we’ve been working on. Several of them claim that they were placed under the Imperius Curse by You Know Who himself, and if you see any names that are familiar to you, well, let’s just say that I wouldn’t be above tweaking the distribution between the experimental group and the control group so we have a chance to study-”

 
“Sorry, I don’t mean to interrupt, but could you direct me to the nearest gents? Too much tea this morning, you know. Trying to settle my nerves before the interview.”

 
Madam Blishwick looked slightly bemused as she directed Draco out of the small laboratory and around the corner. As soon as he was out of her sight, he broke into a jog. The loo was blessedly empty, and he fell to his knees in front of the toilet and surrendered the contents of his stomach. Once he caught his breath, he couldn’t help but chuckle bitterly. The harder he tried to put the past behind him, the more insidiously it managed to torment him.





 
Hello, dear readers. I hope I didn't ruin anyone's impression of Astoria too much with this chapter, but she is a teenager, after all. And even when poor Draco manages to catch a break, there seems to be a cloud around his silver lining. I owe a lot of credit to Jami and sophie for how the "girl talk" section of the chapter shaped up. Without their help, it wouldn't have turned out nearly so well.

Thoughts? Suggestions? Anything you feel like you need to get off of your chest? You know where to put it!


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What is the name of the Harry Potter character seen in the image on the left?


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