HP fic: Admittance, ch. 11: Job Interviews [Harry/Draco/Severus, general]
Title: Admittance Chapter 11, "Job Interviews" Authors: celandineb and cruisedirector Fandom: HP Pairing: Harry/Draco/Severus Rating: general for this chapter (!) Warnings: none Summary: Harry, Draco and Snape make plans to change their lives.
Professor McGonagall was already waiting when Harry and Draco came through the door of the Three Broomsticks, sitting in the far corner, away from any other patrons. She had a cup of tea and a plate of biscuits in front of her, though her hands were folded primly in her lap as if she intended to wait even until the tea grew cold. But the restrained smile of her greeting turned into a frown of puzzlement as she looked past them: "Where is Severus?"
Draco exchanged a glance with Harry before speaking. "He said he had to make a delivery to a client and might be a bit delayed." Privately, Harry had his doubts about whether Snape would turn up at all, but one bridge at a time; they might as well find out whether what they were proposing was even a possibility before pressuring him to discuss it. "We didn't want to keep you waiting, so... here we are."
"Yes, I can see that, Mister Malfoy. Please sit down." Meekly Harry and Draco sank into chairs on either side of her. "I had the impression from your letter that this would not be merely a social call. If Severus agreed to set foot in Hogsmeade, it must be of some importance. What precisely did you wish to discuss?"
"I heard a rumor that Madam Hooch might be leaving Hogwarts to coach the Harpies." McGonagall's lips pressed tightly together, but she did not attempt to refute the statement. "You may consider this rather forward of me, but if you're going to be looking for a new flying instructor, I'd like to apply for the position. I know my background is a bit unconventional, but you know I can coach Quidditch and I think I did a pretty good job teaching my friends while I was a student. I haven't been happy working at the Ministry, and Hermione Granger made me realize that the things I enjoy more than anything are teaching and flying... and those also might be what I'm best at."
McGonagall stared at Harry as he spoke. When he fell silent, she lifted her teacup and took a sip before replying, giving Madam Rosmerta time to swoop in and ask what she could get for Harry; she pointedly ignored Draco, who shuffled his feet and looked at the floor. Draco might have been legally exonerated for having put her under the Imperius Curse during his sixth year at Hogwarts, but Rosmerta hadn't forgiven him and Draco remained ashamed of himself.
"There are a few staff members and members of the Board of Governors to whom I will need to speak, as a formality," McGonagall said when they were alone again. "Though I daresay, Potter, that the job is yours if you want it. I'd have asked you myself if I thought there was any likelihood that you would say yes. I assume that there is more, however, since you specifically mentioned that you were bringing Mister Malfoy and Professor Snape with you to speak to me."
"Yes, Headmistress." Harry added the title automatically, as he had never done even for Dumbledore. "I was wondering... hoping actually..." He cleared his throat as she raised a grey eyebrow. "I've heard that your present Defense Against the Dark Arts and Potions instructors might not be ideal choices for their positions, that Mister Fitzsimmons for instance had only intended to hold the post on a temporary basis anyway. So I thought that perhaps you might be interested in having Draco take on Defense. And I know that you wanted to rehire Professor Snape. I think that if you tried again, he might be more persuadable."
"Mister Malfoy?" McGonagall cocked her head at Draco. "Are you genuinely interested in teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts? I seem to recall that you once thought it would be more useful to study the Dark Arts themselves."
That was a bit of a foul blow, thought Harry, given what Draco had done to prove himself in the last months before Voldemort's fall, but Draco rose to the challenge. "I've been working as a cursebreaker at Gringotts for the last several years alongside Bill Weasley. It's been all right, but some of what we do, people ought to be able to manage for themselves. I'd like to teach young wizards and witches to be more independent, trained to handle their own magical problems most of the time -- and that means Defense Against the Dark Arts. It was always one of my best subjects, and I had a good deal of experience in it during the war. For that matter, I wouldn't be averse to teaching Potions, either; I earned an O on my N.E.W.T.s in both of those subjects, as you may remember." Draco paused when Rosmerta came back with Harry's tea.
"Another cup, please, Rosmerta," Harry asked firmly, pushing his own over to Draco. She glared, but nodded a grudging agreement. As the proprietor walked away, he added, "In some ways Draco's the perfect person to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts. He'll have credibility with students -- none of us really believed that Quirrell or Umbridge knew what they were talking about, but Draco's role in the war was written up in the Daily Prophet. He knows how Dark wizards recruit better than anyone, too. He'll be able to get through to Slytherins whose relatives have been telling them that they have a right to pretend the laws don't apply to them. There'll be another like Voldemort sooner or later if we can't teach young wizards how to recognize that sort of abuse of power when they see it."
McGonagall was nodding; Harry knew that she had made some of these very arguments to the Ministry after the war. "If I hire a Malfoy, there may be trouble with some of the parents. Although that has been true of nearly everyone to hold that position, save Gilderoy Lockhart," she said wryly, glancing from Harry to Draco and back. "I assume you are suggesting that the two of you come as a package. There are parents who would object as well to having two male professors known to be intimately involved with one another living in the castle. If there is any hint of indiscretion..."
"We're used to being extremely discreet. If anyone had ever seen the two of us doing anything at all improper, don't you think there would have been a photo in the Prophet?" asked Draco.
"No matter what has or has not been printed in the papers, your relationship is an open secret in much of the wizarding world," McGonagall pointed out. "I'm afraid that your father's efforts to keep it hidden have backfired, Malfoy. I will not be bullied into sharing the prejudices against wizards or witches who couple with others of the same gender, but your public behavior will need to be irreproachable or that may become a bigger problem than your actions during your student years at Hogwarts."
"I know that." Harry had thought Draco might argue or protest that it was an unfair standard, but he was nodding. "We won't let you down, Professor. We both want these positions very much."
"Well, then. What about Severus? As you are apparently aware, I asked him to return to Hogwarts as an instructor shortly after the war and he refused point blank. But your letter suggested that he has changed his mind. For what reason?"
"He hasn't exactly changed his mind," Harry said slowly. McGonagall might be willing to accept himself and Draco as a couple -- as long as they were a very discreet one -- but he was doubtful that she would be as tolerant of the idea that Snape made three in their relationship. "Draco asked him over for drinks a little while back, and so he was there when we were discussing the possibility of both of us taking positions at Hogwarts. He gave a strong impression that he missed teaching. I'm not sure he'd be keen to admit it, and I know that he also has good reasons to be reluctant to return."
McGonagall was nodding, her mouth set grimly, and Harry went on, "If you asked him, though, perhaps as a favor, I think he would at least consider teaching the N.E.W.T.-level classes. He's wasted, working as an independent potion-maker. He's making a living at it, but..."
There was an odd expression on McGonagall's face. "You never got on with Severus when he was your teacher, Mister Potter. Why do you now think that I should endeavor to convince him to become one again?"
"I don't know why it would surprise you that Harry would want him teaching again." Draco shot Harry a look telling him to keep quiet and let him talk. "He saved both our lives. We owe him, and we can see that he isn't happy doing what he's doing. He is being wasted making potions for people like my father who can afford it -- can you imagine some of the things he probably gets asked to do?"
"I know he was pretty awful as a teacher to me," Harry cut in, disregarding Draco. "I think he had some notion that I had to be tough to face Voldemort. All the Gryffindors...Neville Longbottom, too." He shrugged. "Maybe Snape overdid the animosity, and it would be easy to second-guess him now, but... it worked, and in the end I've been grateful for it."
Tapping one finger on her teacup, McGonagall pushed the plate of biscuits across the table with the other just as Rosmerta finally returned with the second cup of tea for Harry. "Take one," the Headmistress directed. Harry picked out a biscuit with chocolate, and Draco reached for one with candied ginger. "I would very much like to have Severus teaching at Hogwarts again," she continued as they each bit down. "The last several years' showing for both O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s has not been up to our expected standard at all. If you genuinely believe that he might be willing to take up a position, then it is worth my while to ask. Mister Malfoy, if he prefers to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts, would you be willing to teach Potions?"
Draco nodded. "I'd be happy to teach either. I'd even be willing to take on both through fourth year, if Professor Snape were only interested in teaching the advanced students."
McGonagall looked surprised. "Traditionally staff at Hogwarts have always taught a single subject, from first years through seventh. Severus knows this. I doubt he would ask for any alteration."
"I know, but I'm hardly a traditional teaching appointment." Draco grinned a little. "I do understand what I'm asking of you. I think we can all see the Prophet headline: 'Hogwarts Staff To Include Two Ex-Death Eaters.'"
McGonagall waved her hand dismissively. "It isn't as if it's the first time the newspaper would have tried to sensationalize a story about Hogwarts. The school has survived such scandals before. I am more concerned about your commitment. You've led a public social life -- that much has also appeared on occasion in the Prophet. As a member of the staff, it will not be possible for you to attend fundraisers with your parents or appear at the opening of this new shop or that new club."
"I promise you, Professor, I have no intention or interest in doing anything of that sort." The grin had vanished; Draco looked as serious as Harry had ever seen him. "I've been playing a role for my family for a long time. I don't want to do that any more. When I was a student, there was never anyone I felt like I could talk to about what it meant to be a Slytherin, or a pureblood... all these things that are maybe too political to teach, but that doesn't mean students don't have questions outside what their parents tell them. We all know that the world is changing... Slytherin House is going to have to change as well, and the students coming out of it. Not the things they learn in class, but the things they learn in the common room and the Quidditch locker rooms and the dormitories. The things that probably make me look like a bad risk are also the things that make me uniquely valuable."
"You're right." McGonagall was nodding, looking as impressed with Draco as Harry had ever seen her. "I will tell you, then, that I would prefer that you teach Defense if Professor Snape can be convinced to teach Potions; he has few peers when it comes to that subject, and I believe you are correct that the Defense curriculum should be revamped at the school if not the Ministry itself." Her head tilted, and Harry followed her gaze toward the door. Snape had come in.
Harry stood up and waved to catch his eye, and Snape strode over to the table, sitting down in a swirl of dark robes. "You are looking well, Minerva."
"Severus." Was that a catch in McGonagall's voice? "It's been far too long since you've been here."
Madam Rosmerta appeared quickly, bringing a cup of tea for Snape. However long it had been since he had been in Hogsmeade, evidently once he had been enough of a regular customer that she knew exactly what he would want. "Thank you, Rosmerta," he acknowledged, and took a sip.
"Have you been well?" McGonagall leaned forward slightly.
"Well enough." Snape set down his teacup with a rattle and crossed his arms. "Business has been fair, and I have had the opportunity to develop some variations on older potions. Wolfsbane, for one. I believe Remus Lupin's efforts to fund distribution of my formula have been relatively successful." He waved away the plate she offered. "No biscuits for me, thank you."
"Are you enjoying the work of an independent contractor, then?" McGonagall's eyes were shrewd. "No trouble with clients asking you for potions that might be frowned upon by the Ministry, or failing to pay their bills?"
"As you know very well, there are always clients seeking illicit potions and trying to weasel out of paying. And as you should also realize, I am quite adept at dealing with both sorts. It isn't as if I'm working in some Nocturne Alley apothecary," Snape said haughtily. When Harry had last seen him, he had had the impression that that was exactly what Snape was doing, but he kept his mouth shut.
"Well. I expect you know why Potter and Malfoy requested that you be included in this meeting," nodded McGonagall, pausing to take another sip of tea.
"They have told me of their plans." Shifting, Snape reached into a pocket and pulled out two small rolled parchments sealed with wax. "Here are letters of reference for each of them, though I hardly imagine that you need my recommendation where Potter is concerned -- he was a student in your House and an asset to your Quidditch team, as I recall." Harry smiled a little, blushing; McGonagall had once told him that Snape had lost many Galleons to her, betting against Gryffindor. "As for Malfoy, I don't believe that his record as a student accurately reflects either his abilities or his loyalties. I imagine you still have the reference I sent when he applied for reinstatement as a student; I said very much the same here, pointing out that he did, in fact, graduate with outstanding marks and has been respected by his colleagues since."
"I am familiar with his work as a cursebreaker." Draco flashed a glance at Harry, who shrugged very slightly; it did not surprise him that the Headmistress had kept up with her more notorious students. "But Severus... what about you? Would you consider returning to Hogwarts as well?"
Harry half-expected to see Snape choke on his tea, but instead he simply sipped, very deliberately, and then said, "What would it profit me to return? I do not mean monetary arrangements, as you well know." With an effort Harry kept his mouth shut, and kicked Draco under the table when it looked as if he would say something. Snape knew perfectly well that both of them wanted him, if that was "profit" in the sense he intended.
"You would be able to hold your head up, Severus," snapped McGonagall, her voice a muted whiplash. "You were the finest Potions instructor Hogwarts has ever had. You should not have let shame become cowardice."
Snape's knuckles whitened around the handle of the cup. "You would have had me put the school at risk? Even after my exoneration, do you know how many threats I received? I doubt that the parents of most present students will have forgotten." He spoke equally low. Harry, next to him, could see that he was trembling very slightly. But not with rage. Harry was almost certain that it was with anguish so deep that Snape had never acknowledged it.
"You have never been afraid of those people." To Harry's surprise, McGonagall appeared not sympathetic but angry. "Yes, I would have had you return! Do you really believe your absence is in the best interest of Hogwarts or its students? With Slughorn retired and Fitzsimmons leaving, the staff is spread far too thin. Don't you think I've received threats myself, not to mention questions about my competence, hiring such teachers as stopgaps because there was no one else? Is this what you think Albus would have wanted? For you to..."
"The Headmaster never gave me any hint of what he wanted beyond Potter's victory and the Dark Lord's defeat," Snape replied just as bitterly, setting the cup down so firmly that Harry half-expected it to shatter. "I did everything that he asked, achieved the results he wanted, and now I am free to make my own choices."
"So you are choosing to hide, rather than returning to a position for which you are uniquely qualified. This isn't about what anyone else might say about you, Severus."
"No, Minerva, it is about wishing to live on my own terms after living most of it on the terms of others." Snape was breathing rapidly and his eyes glittered. "I am uniquely disqualified from returning to Hogwarts, regardless of anyone else's opinion on the matter."
"No, you're not," Draco broke in. "Any more than I am." There were spots of red on his cheeks. "After the war was over, you told me that I had to go back to Hogwarts. My parents insisted on it too, but their concern was that I take my N.E.W.T.s and pass them so I could sustain the family honor and tradition. You said that I needed to go back and face my past before I could go on. Don't you think the same applies to you?"
"Mister Malfoy..." McGonagall began, but Snape cut across her.
"What you needed to do in your teens is not necessarily what I require for myself at my age." He and Draco stared at one another. Harry wondered if they were using Legilimency; he knew that he would have wanted to try to remind Snape of all the advantages that being back at Hogwarts would have.
"I disagree," McGonagall said icily. "And under any circumstances, you will not know unless you try."
Were it anyone but McGonagall speaking, Harry would have expected Snape to get up and leave; he took it as a sign of Snape's esteem for the Headmistress that he bothered to reply at all. "Whatever you may think, this is not about Albus. I suffered through a great many years of unpleasantness at Hogwarts, beginning as a student, then with Quirrell, Lockhart, Karkaroff..."
"We've all lost people, Severus. Every one of us here at this table -- likely everyone in this building. And we've all made choices we are not proud of. If I had known that Rubeus Hagrid would..." McGonagall fell silent abruptly, her mouth twisting. "I sent him back to the giants. You might as well blame me for his death as you blame yourself for Dumbledore's. Every one of us sitting here has been responsible for the death of another, directly or indirectly."
"I was pretty angry with him when I realized," Harry said quietly. All the others turned to look at him. "Dumbledore, I mean. After I understood he planned for you to kill him. He could have warned me -- not that you were working for him, I know he couldn't have risked that, but that he knew he was going to die. He was already dead by the time I saw the whole picture. It wasn't fair, what he did, to any of us."
Snape's glance grazed over Harry's, dark eyes dully opaque. If he had let Draco see into his thoughts, he was blocking them again now. "Albus was not known for being fair. You had every right to be angry with him."
"The same goes for you," said McGonagall. "Be as angry with him as you like. Do you want to come up to my office and yell at his portrait? You are welcome to, if it would make a difference. Don't subject yourself to a dead man. Hogwarts needs you far more than any of your present clients -- and I think you might not find it so unpleasant as memory suggests."
"What is it you want from me, Minerva?" Snape's voice was weary.
"I want you teaching Potions again. As I have said." She signaled to Rosmerta to bring a fresh pot of tea. "And I want you to be at peace."
"Is it not apparent that peace is more elusive than a change in scenery?" Snape sounded more bored than irritated. "Do you think Malfoy would wish to return to Hogwarts if he did not find himself trapped by exactly the same constraints that have kept our world at the mercy of wizards like Voldemort since before he was born? How lovely if my life could be transformed by a change of venue."
"Sir," Harry said. Snape looked up sharply. Harry had almost never called him that willingly outside of the bedroom. "If things are going to change, it has to start with people who saw the war -- your generation, and Draco's and mine. Those kids at Hogwarts now will be graduating and getting jobs at the Ministry and running St. Mungo's and all that in a few years. If we want to change things, isn't it with them where it has to start? Didn't you say that yourself?"
"C'mon, Snape -- you're a better person to personify Slytherin House than I am, anyway." Draco forced a weak grin. "And no matter how impartial Potter promises to be, you know he'll favor Gryffindor in Quidditch. Just like certain other people sitting at this table. There has to be some balance."
"Balance." Snape seemed to be mulling over the word as he poured himself another cup of tea and blew on the steaming surface. "Would you want me to become head of Slytherin House again?" he suddenly shot at McGonagall, who spread her hands.
"Someone would need to take it over with Mister Fitzsimmons departing. Either you or Mister Malfoy. Gryffindor, however, is in the capable hands of Aurora Sinistra at this time, so Mister Potter is out of luck -- or perhaps off the hook."
Draco's face was pleading, and Harry knew his own expression to be similar. He didn't care if Snape was head of Slytherin or not, as long as he would take up the post of Potions instructor. The corners of Snape's mouth twitched. " Give me a few days to think this over," he growled. "I shall owl you." He shot a withering look at each of the younger men in turn, then pushed back his chair, abandoning his undrunk tea. "I have another appointment to keep. Headmistress. Malfoy. Potter."
Yes. It looked as if they might have succeeded.
"Well." McGonagall seemed slightly stunned as she watched Snape leave. "You were apparently correct, Mister Potter."
Harry felt himself blushing. He felt quite sure that, if Snape agreed to return to Hogwarts, it would have at least as much to do with the things they weren't telling McGonagall as with the things they were. The Headmistress was looking at him quizzically and he glanced away; so far as he knew, McGonagall was not a Legilimens, but she was awfully shrewd and if she guessed what was going on, Harry didn't even want to think about what she might say.
"I knew we could bring him around." Draco, who had no such inhibitions, was smiling broadly and grabbed another biscuit.
"He hasn't said yes yet." McGonagall smiled more circumspectly. "I know that you and he were close, Mister Malfoy. If you believe that you can persuade him..."
"I'll do what I can. I will not disappoint you, Professor. In anything." Again Draco looked very earnest, and older than he was. "I really appreciate this. Thank you."
"The Board of Governors will have to approve, remember," warned McGonagall. She didn't say it, but Harry was certain that she was thinking of the fact that Lucius Malfoy was no longer on the Board. "I do assume that although you feel that Severus would make a fine addition to staff, your own interests in the posts are not contingent upon his acceptance."
It would be stupid to say yes. Even if Snape decided in the end to decline -- and Harry still wasn't quite sure whether he might choose to do that -- they could perhaps still persuade him to come to Hogsmeade. "No," he said, and Draco chimed in, "Of course not."
"Very well. I shall owl the Board this evening, and be in touch with you once they have given formal permission for your appointments." Rising from the table, she looked as pleased as Harry had ever seen her, including when Gryffindor had won the Quidditch Cup. "But for now, I, like Severus, have other matters to which I must attend. Thank you, gentlemen."
Harry leaned across the table and discreetly gave Draco's hand a squeeze as McGonagall left. "I think this just might work out."
Draco nodded, but his forehead was slightly wrinkled as if he were worried about something. "As soon as she brings our names up to the Board of Governors, you realize that someone will tell my father. He's still pulling strings at Hogwarts even if he's no longer on the board. He'll know what we're trying to do."
"I don't see how he can get them to stop the appointments. From what I understand, the Board of Governors put Lupin and then Moody on the faculty because Dumbledore told them to -- nobody found out that Lupin was a werewolf or complained that an ex-Auror wasn't necessarily qualified to be a teacher."
"I'm not worried about being stopped that way. I just think, once he knows I'm planning to do this, and without telling him I was thinking about it or anything..." Draco sighed, rubbing his forehead. "He's going to consider it running away, for one. He wants a son who wants to be Minister of Magic or pulling the Muggle Prime Minister's strings -- not a professor."
At least Draco was taking seriously the idea that his father represented a real threat. Harry squeezed his hand again. "We're going to have to move quickly, and get some friends to help. Even the ones you don't like very much like the Weasleys," he added as Draco made a face. "Listen, maybe there's a way to work around your parents for the time being. If this goes through, we'll have to give up the flat, I suppose -- maybe you could stay with Severus, and Hermione and Ron would let me stay with them, and if your parents thought we were thinking about separating, they'd back off a bit."
"They'll know we both applied to teach." But Draco looked like he was considering the idea. "Sooner or later my father is going to figure out that Severus is never going to do what he wants. And things might get ugly."
"Severus is used to taking care of himself," said Harry, although with more hope than confidence.
"Not going against my father," Draco pointed out. "Even when he was really working for Dumbledore and the Order, he stayed on good terms with my father. And afterward, it was largely because of Severus that my parents didn't lose everything. Now..." He bit his lip, looking around, and spoke in a low voice. "If you're right about what happened to my grandfather, who knows what Father might do?" Draco blinked rapidly. "I'd prefer to think that he would have some loyalty to Severus after all these years, but I just don't know."
"I think Lucius might not feel much loyalty because to him, Severus supporting you is a betrayal. Your father has never been exactly good about seeing anyone's perspective but his own, has he?" Harry sighed. "This isn't the best place to have a conversation about your father. Shall we go home?"
"Mm." Draco was fidgeting with his teacup. "You suggested that we could stay with other people, make it look like we might be thinking about separating."
"Yes... but we don't have to do it if you don't want to. We can just hang onto our flat until and unless we actually do both come up to live at the school."
"Why did you say I should stay with Severus?" Draco's expression was troubled.
"Two reasons. For one, he can protect you. He's not going to let your father come barging in uninvited, under the circumstances. And for another, if you stayed with Theo or someone like that whose parents are friendly with yours, you know your father would try to use them to get at you and it would be bad for everyone involved. Besides, if you were staying with Severus I could come see you whenever I wanted. It wouldn't be like if you were at Blaise's and he was looking down his nose at me all the time." Harry almost said he didn't think he could spank Draco at Blaise's, or at Ron's for that matter, but Madam Rosmerta was standing at the next table over and he decided this wasn't the best place for that conversation either.
"Maybe McGonagall will let us move in before term starts, you think? We'll have to get ready... lessons to prepare, we could use the library, and I imagine you'd need to inventory all the brooms and Quidditch equipment and replace whatever's falling apart." Draco's fingers were still tracing the rim of his cup. "You really think my father might... I don't know, try to lock me away and force me to change my mind?"
"Can you really say that you're certain he won't?" Draco did not answer, but his nostrils flared and he glared at the teacup. "You don't want to take that chance. Listen, I do think he'll come round eventually. I think he cares about you too much not to." At least, Harry fervently hoped that was the case. "But until we're sure... the safest thing to do, I think, is to play at avoidance."
"I guess you're right." In a sudden shift of mood, Draco grinned at Harry. "Should we tell Severus tonight about your little idea? Surprise him?"
"I think we should leave him be, tonight... we pushed him pretty hard. Maybe it would be better to let him think things over alone. Miss us." Harry winked back. "Besides, I wouldn't mind being alone with you for a change."
"We were alone last night," Draco objected.
"But we were both exhausted by then. All we did was go to sleep." Nudging his foot against Draco's, Harry added, "Besides, we might lose this kind of opportunity for a while, if we 'split up' and I'm at Ron and Hermione's and you're with Severus. I don't fancy never having you to myself."
"And here I thought I was being replaced in your affections." Harry started to protest, but realized that Draco was joking. "Tell you what. I know we don't have these positions yet, but we can celebrate that it looks probable. Let's go have a really smashing meal and then go home," Draco lowered his voice, "and fuck each other's brains out."
"You get it," muttered Harry the next morning, when an insistent tapping on the window at what seemed far too early an hour roused them both. "'m too sleepy."
"And I'm too sore," Draco groaned, but he stretched, grinning, then got up and tugged the curtain back. A moment later a small brown owl had flown inside and settled next to Hedwig on the perch where she sat puffed and sleepy-looking after what Harry presumed was a successful night of hunting. The brown owl had a message tied to its leg, and Draco fumbled with the cord before he successfully untied it.
"That from McGonagall?" Harry asked hopefully, sitting up.
"Who else would be up so early?" grumbled Draco, but he was smiling. "Apparently Hogwarts will be delighted to have you as its new flying instructor. She doesn't say 'delighted' about me -- sounds like she had to do some maneuvering -- but she does say the post is open. We have to submit formal credentials and all that. No letters; she has Snape's and says she'll provide the others herself."
"YES!" Harry had leapt out of bed and now he hugged Draco exuberantly. "Though even if it hadn't happened, I'm not sorry we had that victory party."
Draco was grinning widely. "Do you know, this is the first job I've ever had where I felt like my name was working against me. It's kind of nice to get one which I'm sure was on my own merits. Should we owl Severus and tell him?"
Harry kept his arms around Draco. "We could just go over there."
"Not this morning... you know we'd be late for work. And I don't especially want to get fired before I resign even if I have another job lined up already, do you? But we could meet at five and surprise Severus then."
"All right," agreed Harry with a touch of regret. He hoped that McGonagall wouldn't have let Snape know anything in the meantime. Although if she did owl him, she probably would have done it at the same time as she sent the letter to Draco and Harry so it would already be too late. "Guess we'll have to put in our resignations, huh?"
"Soon, if not today." Draco moved over to the wardrobe and started pulling out clothes. "Fall term doesn't start for over a month."
They went through their usual morning routines, a bit more leisurely than most days since they'd been awakened early. Harry had to leave first, and kissed Draco goodbye. "I'll stop by Gringotts this afternoon, shall I?"
"I'll duck out at lunchtime and get champagne." Draco grinned at him, and Harry smiled back -- a smile that stayed with him as he ducked through hidden alleys on his walk to work. He was composing his letter of resignation in his head when he was surprised by a hooting noise from above. An unfamiliar owl was approaching with a note tied to its leg.
Must meet with you as soon as possible. I have something for you. The handwriting was familiar even if the owl was not. Maybe Hermione had found something out about Abraxas Malfoy's will, Harry thought excitedly, wondering what pretext he could possibly use to walk into the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures and ask to speak to her during work hours. The Ministry of Magic probably wasn't the safest place for such a conversation, anyway.
Turning the note over, he wrote on the back, Hope it's an overdue party invitation, in case the owl should be intercepted. Lunch? Will stop by at noon. The owl flew off ahead of him, and by the time Harry reached the Ministry, his heart was pounding. If Hermione had found Abraxas' will, maybe Harry and Draco could use it finally to make Draco's parents leave them alone...
"Good morning, Potter." Harry jumped. Had he somehow conjured Lucius Malfoy out of thin air just by thinking about him? Not that Lucius wasn't often in the Ministry, though he never seemed to be working, exactly. "You're running late this morning. Is Draco not well? Or have you been visiting Severus again?"
"Draco is fine, thank you," Harry replied, as calmly as he could. "We went out to dinner last night and got home late. In fact, I really need to get up to my office now."
"I'll walk there with you." Lucius fell into step beside him. "I hear that you spoke to Minerva McGonagall yesterday."
Harry swallowed. Just how much did Lucius know? He decided to say as little as possible. "Yes, I did."
"About a job, I understand. Coaching Quidditch?" Lucius smiled unpleasantly. "Not a very ambitious position for someone of your reputed talents."
Shrugging, Harry waited for the elevator doors to open. A hand fell on his arm and he turned to see Arthur Weasley. "Harry. Mafalda Hopkirk wants to see you straightaway. She's left a message at your desk, but since I've run into you here..."
"Thanks, Arthur," said Harry, grateful for the excuse to get away. He wasn't to manage it so easily, though.
"Keep a place open in your schedule today, Potter. I'll be in to see you later," Lucius told him as Harry stepped into the elevator.
"I hope we'll be seeing you at the meeting this morning, Lucius," he heard Arthur say as the doors closed.
The morning dragged interminably, as Harry found himself shuffling old notes and rethinking the wording of his resignation letter at least a dozen times. Finally it was nearly noon. He took the elevator to the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures to find Hermione, who had an office filled with house elves in hideous oversized jumpers all trying to speak at once. By the time she had them all sorted out, Harry was as interested in actually getting food as he was in hearing what she had to say.
"Let's go out. I don't want to speak in this building," she said in a low voice, grabbing Harry's arm and pulling him toward the elevator to the street. Hermione had regular access to one of the Ministry cars, and she took him to a Muggle fast food restaurant in a part of London where Harry seriously doubted any respectable Ministry employee would be seen. While Harry picked up a handful of chips so greasy they left oil streaks on his fingers, she pulled out a document from her case.
"This is Abraxas Malfoy's will. I left a false copy in the records office but I need to return this as soon as possible. Look, here and here... you can see that it's been altered. Snape might be able to tell you how to date the ink. It's perfectly clear, however: the Malfoy heir must produce a legitimate pureblood offspring within five years of marrying, or the estate reverts to the nearest pureblood relative. The family tree is somewhat convoluted -- lots of only children -- but as near as I can tell, the two best claimants would have been descendants of Sirius' mother or Arthur's father."
"You're kidding me." Harry's jaw dropped. "You mean that if Draco doesn't have a child, the entire Malfoy estate could go to..."
"The Weasleys," she nodded. "Though if you were a pureblood, it might well have been you. I don't know very much about inheritance law, but since your father and Sirius were distant cousins, and Sirius left his estate to you... but it doesn't matter. The Weasleys may be considered blood traitors but they are technically purebloods." She smiled grimly. "Fleur's a pureblood, isn't she? If Draco does not have a child according to the terms of this will, it's possible that the Malfoy estate could go to Arthur, and then Bill and his children after him."
"I don't think Fleur counts as a pureblood, actually. Her grandmother was a veela, and people like Umbridge would say that makes her part-chimera," said Harry absently. "But Charlie's wife is, isn't she? The Malfoy estate could end up going to their daughter! No wonder Lucius is so insistent that Draco marry a pureblood girl and have a child." He looked up from the parchment. "Do you have to return this today? Could I take it to Snape tonight, see if the ink is dateable?"
Hermione looked nervous. "If you're sure that you can keep it safe and get it back to me first thing tomorrow morning."
"Absolutely," Harry promised. "I'll come early if you like. Or I could even bring it by your place tonight, perhaps."
"Tomorrow morning will do." She frowned thoughtfully and nibbled on her sandwich. "Assuming that Abraxas altered it before his death -- and I can't see why Lucius would have done it afterward -- presumably Lucius could change the terms as well, if he wanted. So he doesn't have to make Draco get married. It seems like he's doing it almost just because that's what he had to do, which is petty in the last degree."
"No kidding." Harry licked the grease off his fingers and rolled up the parchment, stashing it carefully in an inner pocket. "If we can date those alterations and connect them with the time of Abraxas Malfoy's death... Oh, I hope. Draco will be so in your debt. We both will."
"Again." Hermione smiled at him. "I hope that you can. Glad to have brought some good news."
"There's other good news too," Harry told her. If he was going to put in his resignation letter sometime this week, he could tell Hermione today. It was her idea to begin with anyhow. "We talked to McGonagall yesterday, and it looks as if both Draco and I will be teaching at Hogwarts beginning this fall."
"Oh, Harry! That's wonderful!" She jumped up and came around the table to hug him.
"Yeah," he said, hugging her back. "So thank you for that as well. I never thought I'd say this, but I can't wait to be back at Hogwarts," he continued. "I keep running into Lucius Malfoy and it's hard for me even to look at him. I'm just afraid he's going to try something before Draco and I can get away. And he's causing trouble with Snape too. Listen, Draco and I had an idea -- we thought that maybe, if you were willing, I could stay with you for a few days. If his father thought he and I were thinking about separating, maybe he'd leave Draco alone long enough for us to get things organized..."
Hermione was shaking her head. "You know you're welcome to stay with us, but don't you think Draco's parents will swoop in the moment he's alone and try to drag him home? A farewell visit, they'll say, or something like that."
"And then he'd never leave again," Harry agreed glumly. "We were talking about having him stay with Severus. If Severus agrees. It's all such a mess... I can't wait to be rid of it."
"Is Snape definitely going back to Hogwarts, then?" she asked.
"Not 'definitely' at all. McGonagall asked him to return to teach Potions, and we were going to go see him tonight to try to persuade him. I know he wants to, but I think he feels like he doesn't deserve to after what he had to do. The thing is, I know how he feels. I put a lot of people in danger just by being at Hogwarts. I only wish I knew what to say to persuade him."
"What have you said so far that he's even thinking about it?"
"That Hogwarts needs him, the students need him -- they've not done well in Potions ever since he left, and that's a real disadvantage to them. McGonagall implied that he was afraid to return... so did I, actually. And, well," Harry's face went hot, "having Draco and me there ought to be an incentive too."
"Snape's done an awful lot for the wizarding world already, though. He taught at Hogwarts all those years, he endured a lot of suspicion as an ex-Death Eater but fought in the war anyhow, risked his life, risked his freedom when he used an Unforgivable -- yes, I know you did the same, but you were both lucky to have been exonerated. I'm not sure you can appeal to him that way. If I were Snape I'd feel I'd done enough. The way to spin that might be to remind him that he enjoyed teaching. I assume he did." Hermione frowned a little. "He certainly loved his subject, even if not always his students."
"That's probably a good idea," nodded Harry.
"I wouldn't say anything else about him being afraid to return, though. He won't forget you did. Let it sit in the back of his mind. As for the last..." now it was Hermione's turn to blush, "I can't help you there. Maybe if Draco does go to stay with him he can be convincing."
"Hope so." Harry glanced at the time. "We'd better be getting back. I hope Lucius doesn't show up at my office... I ran into him this morning and he said he was going to stop by, but he hadn't yet when I left to meet you. Maybe he won't, maybe he just wanted to make me nervous."
"Keep that will hidden," Hermione warned.
"I know." Harry patted the pocket he had put it in.