All the wrong choices. (Ch4 – The Ministry)

Sunday had passed in a blur of activity, but his bags still remained unpacked at the foot of the stairs. He had however opened up the shopping bags with his new work clothes and had draped or hung them from every available surface ready to wear. Living in the wilderness had completely ruined Draco’s love of fine things.  There was something very fascinating and satisfying about a well put together ensemble. It was like a secret; non-verbal language spoke subtly to the eyes.

On his travels, he had discovered the joy that was Muggle shopping centres and Muggle clothes. He had to really clamp down on his frivolous side as he purchased only a handful of items, exercising every ounce of self-control to not buy everything in sight.  He studied one of the newly acquired outfits hanging from a nearby bookshelf. The pale blue shirt complimented the navy blue trousers and looked great with the new brown shoes he had purchased, but the more he looked the more he knew that his missing green blazer would’ve set it off beautifully.

He struggled to feel sorry for the absence, knowing fully where it was.  He sighed as he looked back at the open daily prophet sitting on the chaise lounge. Several columns had been marked for further attention. He had managed to arrange a couple of flat viewings for Monday evening but thought it best he sees as many as possible. He was slightly disappointed that there wasn’t more available in the budget he had set himself, within walking distance of the Ministry but he was also aware that it was central London so beggars couldn’t be choosers. The sooner he could get out of the Manor the better.

Monday morning had finally arrived with heavy clouds and a light drizzle wetting the windows and Draco could help feeling an overwhelming wave of unease at the omen. He could feel his nerves squirming in his stomach as he stared hard at the fireplace. The last time he had been to the ministry had been the last day of his trials. He shivered at the thought of that dark and isolated hall where the shackles had cut into his arms.  Where only a doorway stood before him and the dementors of Azkaban. He’d remembered looking up into the gallery within the Wizengamot court where lots of stern and hostile faces glared down at him. He took a deep breath as he tried to remove himself from the memory. As he studied the pale marble fireplace he realised that it held more fear for him than staring down that Romanian Longhorn. With that thought he took a deep breath and swallowed.  Taking a handful of Floo powder her threw it into the fire and called clearly

“Ministry of Magic.”

He stepped into the green blaze and felt whipped away passed fireplace after fireplace, the air around him sucked away. Finally, he stepped out and into the atrium of the ministry amongst the other wizards and witches. The black and green tiles giving the hall a dark and oppressive feeling. His sense of the place may have been down to his apprehension. He tried to remember a muggle story he’d read when he was younger about an emerald city. He stepped off to one side when he was bumped from behind by someone else emerging from the fire. He took another deep and steadying breath as he looked at the faces surrounding him.  He knew he’d find no friendly faces here.

There were a few glances in his directions but so far nothing too monstrous. He stepped into the flow of people and followed them towards the lifts. He began to hear mutterings and bitten off curses as they all neared the golden cages. He felt his anxiety rise but kept his head high and pretended not to hear. He kept his gaze forward as though the lifts were his lifeline. Eventually one arrived, and he stepped on, he turned around waiting for the people around him to clamber on and press in around him. He looked up to see a group of them glaring hostilely at him. He felt his heart in his chest as he waited for the lift to close. Slowly the golden gate pulled close and the disembodied voice of a woman began to speak.  Draco suddenly jumped as a hand pushed through the lift doors, holding it open and stopping Draco’s escape.  He looked at the face and wished that he hadn’t taken the job as this lift ride was probably going to be the worst of his life.

Ron and Hermione Weasley stepped onto the lift and faced the grumbling throngs of people in front of them.

“It’s been fifteen years! Get over it” Commented Ron as the gates closed and they began their descent.

Draco raised an eyebrow and smiled slightly at this unexpected turn of events. The lift suddenly juddered to a halt and Draco felt panicked. The feelings increased when he noticed Hermione with her wand out.

“Don’t look so worried Malfoy, we’re not going to hurt you, we just want to talk” Ron smiled and Draco immediately distrusted him.

“What do you want?” Draco asked, his brow furrowed.

“Information,” said Hermione

“What information?” Draco asked suspiciously. “I don’t hang around with death eaters anymore, I don’t know anything.”

“Oh, not that! What we need to talk about is much more important” Ron smiled and waved his hand dismissively.

“What then?” Asked Draco

“It’s about Harry,” Hermione said finally “What are you plotting?” Draco studied her face trying to see if there were any hidden meanings but could find none.

“Potter? Nothing, why?”

“We know about the jacket” Said Ron as he leant against the wooden panelling within the small space.

Draco swallowed and fought to keep his voice level.

“What are you on about Weasley?”

“Nice try Malfoy, the one you gave Harry at the reunion,” Said Hermione, her wand twitching in her hand.

“Oh,” Draco replied not knowing what to say and hoping silence saved him.

“What are you plotting?” She asked again.

“Nothing,” Draco said, putting his hands up in a gesture of surrender.

“Then why the jacket?  What did you do to it?”

“What? Nothing! He looked cold, that’s all,” Draco blurted “I didn’t do anything to the jacket, its mine.” He didn’t add that it was probably his favourite jacket, that would be digging the hole deeper than necessary.

“And that’s it?” Hermione asked.

“Pretty much, Why the interest in my clothes Granger?” Draco retorted as he tried not to fall into the same old sneer. He knew they were being protective.

Hermione snorted derisively “Why are you being nice to Harry? That’s out of character for you”

“You’ve not seen me in fifteen years, Granger, I’m not sure you would know much about my character these days” He replied coldly.

“But you hate Harry, you always have” She began

“Have I?” Draco knew his eyes were level and cold at this as he retreated back behind his mask of indifference.

“Whatever you have planned, If you hurt him-” She began but Ron interrupted.

“If you hurt him, You’ll pay and between us, we can make it look like an accident!” He smiled as though he hadn’t just uttered a threat.

“Aww Weasley, is this you, giving me your blessing?” He asked sarcastically.

“Might be” Ron laughed. Draco coughed not expecting that answer. He looked at Ron wide-eyed. “ Don’t look so shocked Malfoy, Charlie didn’t just write about Dragons in his letters home” Ron winked and Draco found his mask slipping as he gaped at Ron in horror. He felt the Lift jolt back to life as they descended down to level two.

Ron and Hermione smirked as the lift stopped on the floor. They got off, wished him a pleasant first day and disappeared from view.

The golden gates slid closed again leaving him alone with his thoughts. Firstly he wondered what exactly Charlie had said in his letters which made Weasley think he had any leverage over him, he could take a wild guess and it probably wouldn’t be too far from the mark.  He felt a cold chill of fear wash over him. Did Harry know? What was he thinking? If Ron knew, of course, Harry did too. But would that work in his favour? He couldn’t work out whether it was a good thing or a bad thing. He tried to be comforted by Ron’s words about having his blessing, whether he knew what he was giving his blessing to or not. He took a few more steadying breaths as the lift came to a stop at level four.  As the gates opened his thoughts turned back to work as the sounds of exotic creatures filled the air. He took a single sigh and decided that today was going to be a good day. With that determination, he stepped off the lift and towards the beast’s division.

~~~~~~~~~~

So far, the morning hadn’t gone too badly, He had a desk to himself right next to one of the enchanted windows and could see that the weather outside had turned into a glorious afternoon. It felt odd sitting at a desk after so many years of being in the field. He rearranged his inkwell and quills and fidgeted with the piles of paperwork already on his desk. He tried to concentrate on the formed he needed to fill in for Wizard Resources, but his eyes kept drifting towards the window again. Weasley’s words seemed to reverberate around his skull as he thought of Harry smiling beneath the ragged mop of greying hair.

He cursed under his breath as he knocked over his inkwell, causing black ink to cover his desk. He pulled out his wand and cleaned it up and looked back at the blank form again. He was just about to put quill to paper when a paper aeroplane skidded onto his desk.  He looked around the office but there didn’t seem to be anyone around.  He opened it carefully and read the scruffy script within.

“Malfoy, I still have your jacket, I’d like to return it to you. When are you free? Is after work today alright? Harry”

Draco couldn’t breathe for a second as he read and reread the words on the page. He smiled briefly as he reached for a piece of paper. He pondered what to write at first, having never been in this position before he didn’t want to seem too eager but at the same time, didn’t want to seem uninterested either.

He smiled and began to pen his reply. Just as he was about to, he cursed again.  He wasn’t able to meet up after work as he had to go and view some flats. He sighed heavily.

“Potter, I’m busy tonight so not able to meet, Draco”

He folded it back up and sent it back to him.  He pondered how quickly it would reach him being in a different building. He looked down at the forms again struggling to concentrate. Time seemed to drag as he filled in the forms. He sighed frequently as he reread questions over and over again in an effort to answer everything correctly.

Eventually, another paper plane landed on his desk and he opened it eagerly.

“I’m only returning your jacket not asking for a lifelong commitment, it won’t take long. where is the fire? Harry”

Draco found his smile returning with force as he read it over and over. He took no time this time returning his reply.

“No fire Potter, In desperate need for a new address and have flat viewings so must dash straight from work. And no can do on the lifelong commitment, you haven’t bought me a ring. Draco” He folded it and sent it.  Within seconds he was worrying whether he had worded it correctly or whether Harry would take offence. He looked at the pages facing him, and they may as well have been in a different language. As he tried to corral his mind back to the task. It was longer this time before the plane skidded onto his desk and Draco rushed to open it again.

“Do you need a second pair of eyes on these viewings? I finish work at 5, meet you in the atrium by the reception desk? Harry”

Draco smiled again but it was cut short.

“Mr Malfoy, how are you?” Draco looked up to see a man a bit older than himself with Dark hair and eyes and skin the colour of coffee. The man smiled at him and he returned it.

“Mr Scamander, I’m am well, and you?” He replied.

“Not too bad, just came to see how you’re doing with those forms.  W.R will want them back before the dark is through. And believe you me, the boring little flobberworms turn into nasty, vicious blast-ended skrewts if you don’t do as they say.” Draco grimaced at the mention of the skrewts, memories of his fourth year. “And please, call me Rolf.” He smiled kindly as he studied Draco.

“Then call me Draco” He replied with a smile.

“So Draco, I believe you were at school with my wife Luna, Lovegood was her name back then, remember her?” He asked eyes raised slightly in interest “She asked after you, told me to wish you good luck on your first day” Draco smiled a genuine smile at the kindness.

“I do remember her sir-Rolf, lovely girl, I hope she is well?” He asked, surprised to be genuinely interested.

“Oh yes, she’s fine, She’s at home looking after the twins at the moment,”

“Twins?  That sounds… busy” He laughed.

“Indeed, they are a handful those little tykes.” Rolf laughed in response. He patted Draco on the back suddenly “Well I’ll let you crack on and finish those forms.  Remember Blast-ended skrewts!” He laughed as he walked away leaving Draco feeling an emotion he hadn’t felt for some time.  It was a gratitude and appreciation, a type of smugness. He sat back down in his chair and managed to concentrate on the forms the plane message forgotten for now.

~~~~~~~~~~

It wasn’t until he was handing the forms into the witch at the WR department on minute to five that he realised that he hadn’t responded to Harry’s message. He felt the anxiety build up as he walked towards the lift, wondering whether Harry would be waiting there anyway, or whether he wouldn’t, thinking that he had snubbed him. As he climbed in with the others from the office, his stomach churned, not knowing which he’d prefer at this moment in time. He was so consumed with this train of thought, he didn’t notice the others in the lift backing away from him. He bit his nails as he waited to see the atrium and know for sure. The lift stopped a couple more times and Draco did wonder absently whether Weasley and Granger would climb on, but they were nowhere to be seen.

As the lift climbed, so did his anxiety until finally the golden gates creaked open, flooding the floor with another wave of wizards. He stood motionless for a moment as he tried to peer over the heads of the sea of people. He saw no sign of him and felt his stomach drop in disappointment.  As his nerves dwindled away he took a deep breath and plunged into the crowd, determined to get to his flat viewings on time. He strolled out onto the floor, ignoring the mutters and glares. He was almost to one of the fireplaces when a hand grabbed his shoulder.

“Malfoy!” He was spun around to face the greenest of eyes and felt his nerves shudder.

“Potter? What are you doing here?” He said, he knew the answer before he uttered the words, but his brain was working hard to adjust. Harry laughed and pushed his hand through his peppered hair.

“Didn’t you get my note?” He asked with a slight smile, Draco could see that he seemed just as nervous.

“I did, sorry, you just caught me off guard, I got bogged down with work and didn’t get chance to reply and then I didn’t see you…” He trailed off aware he was babbling.

“So? Do you need a second set of eyes for your flat viewings? Things tend to get overlooked the first time around” Harry offered as he leant back against the side of the floo wall.  Draco could see the people’s glances at them and felt his face blush.

“You really want to come? It will probably be dull” Asked Draco nervously.

“Well I’ve got nothing else going on at the moment, and the longer I’m out the better” He smiled a sad smile at that, and Draco made a note that he would have to ask more at a later time.

“Alright,” Draco smiled as he began to hear mutterings around him “The first viewing is at the South end of Diagon Alley.” Harry nodded

“That’s not too far away from Madam Melchett’s tea rooms if you wanted to grab a coffee afterwards?” Draco felt his heart leap, but stifled it quickly. Harry was just being nice.

“Could do,” Draco smiled trying to hide his excitement. Harry looked around briefly, as if noticing the accumulating stares for the first time. He rolled his eyes as her turned

“Shall we go?” He asked unhappily. Draco nodded as they walked through the nearest floo.

Accio Next Chapter

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