Loved and Lost
Draco had been summoned to Harry Potter's office again, and this time he didn't know how pleasant he could be. Lucius had screamed and fussed all morning, and Draco had spilled his coffee onto the lap of his new white pants because of all the commotion. Ginny was flushed, running here and there, trying to cook breakfast while deciding what story to tell Lucius. As he walked into the office room, he was hit with a wave of pleasant scents – someone had baked cookies and Harry was enjoying them. It didn't take a genius to guess that Hermione had visited Harry at work today.
Harry looked up and saw Draco. Immediately, his face took on a shy, nervous coloring. "Draco." He said, standing himself up and holding his hand out to him.
Draco stared at Harry's hand, wondering what the sound of his bones breaking slowly but surely would be like. His structured fingers, slightly stubby and simple, shrank back from Draco Malfoy, realizing that there would be no friendly handshake.
" What do you want to complain about now, Potter?" Draco asked, sliding his hands into his pants pockets casually.
" Here, please sit down." Harry offered.
" I'd rather stand." Draco replied, towering in an intimidating way over Harry's desk. He kept a very casual manner in body language, not bothering to stand straight. Though Harry had an authority over him through the job position he held, Draco made it appear as if he was the boss and Harry was the servant.
" I have been meaning to talk to you about some things." Harry took out a manila folder and then opened it. Out slipped numerous files.
" More papers to sort?" Draco murmured.
" These…" Harry thumped his hand on the half-a-centimeter thick pile. "… Are all complaints filed against you in the past year." Harry's face was wringing with concern, an expression that Draco's features seemed to lack entirely.
" I don't see what you're trying to prove."
" I'm not trying to prove anything." Harry settled back in his chair, taking a deep breath. "Shall I read a few?"
" Knock yourself out." Draco fidgeted and finally lowered himself into a seat, so that he was eye level with Harry. It was the closest he'd allow them to having an open-minded, two-way conversation.
" I quote, 'I have never received a memo about an important business meeting. Later I found it in the trash in the paper sorting room. The boy there, Draco Malfoy, was incorrigible and hopelessly snide'… end quote." Harry recited, then glanced at Draco over his spectacles as if he were a kindergarten teacher trying to spook a student. Draco raised his left eyebrow.
" It must have been that madman from the second floor." Draco replied, coolly, looking down at his nails, all cut evenly and managed with care. He wouldn't stoop to appear like a slob just because he was run-down with work and stress. " He's always spilling coffee on his papers and then blaming me. It isn't my fault he's so fat he can't see the papers on his desk past his gut…"
" Ahem!" Harry cleared his throat sharply and continued: " Here is another one… ' My briefcase seemed unusually light and so I went through it and saw my Muggle Artifacts portfolio, one I had been preparing for days, was gone. I had left it in my mail slot in the paper-sorting room. It had cost me months of work. I hope to see that scoundrel in the mailroom out on his behind in the rain. I'll bash …' Well, no need to read on, I'm sure you can guess what the root of this letter is."
" Who cares about Muggle Artifacts anyway?" Draco remarked, keeping his voice steady. " All they have to do is screw your girlfriend for a while and she'll tell them everything they need to know."
Harry's face reddened horribly, but he kept his own composure. Harry was not one to verbally slap out some insults. Instead, he hid them all in his mind. He did give Draco a serious warning look, though. " These letters go on and on. I can understand your frequent tardiness and unexcused absence from work, but being irresponsible when you do work…" Harry shook his head. " I just can't understand you."
Draco's face twitched briefly into a delighted smirk before he replied: " You should have listened in Wizard Psychology, Potter, instead of staring at Mudblood."
Harry stiffened. " You're walking a very thin line." He hissed. " I have my own repercussions about firing you, because of personal reasons, and you know that. I could still easily file all these complaint files to the Head of the Ministry – my boss."
" What does he care?" Draco questioned, arrogantly.
" He does care. He told me to file a full report on all the complaints I receive. He plans to thin out the employee list a bit." Harry waggled his quill pen at Draco. " If he as much as sees one of these complaints, then you'll be fired for sure. The situation would be completely out of my hands."
" Well! That would be a relief to you, wouldn't it?" Draco had stood up, fuming. " You think you can control everyone around you because of the scar on your head. You think I don't want a better job? You're wrong…" Draco grabbed the pencil-holder tin on Harry's desk and threw it across the room. Wooden pencil splinters and quill feathers rained down to the floor.
" If you don't control yourself…!" Harry's voice was raised to a shout too. " … Then you'll be sorry! One more error, one more error, I warn you - - and this file is going to the Head of the Ministry."
Draco's eyes thinned into hateful slits. He opened the door and walked out. Once outside, with the wooden shield between him and Harry, he turned and gestured angrily at the door, making obscene hand gestures. " I despise you." He whispered, finally, feeling his heart crumple in a horrible nervous flurry. " I despise everything about you."
Ginny had started knitting a sweater, made of fleecy orange and red yearns. She looked up from the comforting clack of the needles at the fire in front of her, behind the huge metal teeth that held it back. The wooden logs inside crackled in silent misery and the flames roared and burst painfully. There was a strain in the air, and she felt it most when her gaze shifted to Draco Malfoy, just across from her on the couch.
He was lying on his side and appeared to be dozing, though his feet were still moving, his knees bending as he brought them up in a protective way and then straightening as he would lie flat and still like a corpse. Draco couldn't find a comfortable position.
She knew something had happened at work, but she couldn't piece together what it was. Draco hadn't touched the liquor at all yet, but he did seem to have a taste for it. She could see his eyes wander to the bottle of wine on the fireplace mantle, right underneath the family portrait.
Ginny decided that it was time to break the quiet. Talking would be the quickest and safest way to heal. " You really are a gifted artist."
Draco turned to look at her. He smiled and nodded. " Thank you."
" Who taught you?"
He seemed to remember something, and there was a silence. Afterwards, Draco said: " It was this nice old art tutor my father hired. All the Malfoy men had some sort of artistic talent. My father – don't laugh – he would do charcoal sketches. They're all in the attic somewhere."
Ginny smiled. " That's almost endearing." Her needles clacked as she looped over her second needle then pulled the yarn through it, making a new loop. " Tell me about your art tutor, then."
Draco gave her a wistful smile. " His name was Sir Houghton and he would tutor me three times a week, since I was twelve. Over the summers only, of course."
" That's a lot of classes. Did you like art?"
" I liked it and hated it at the same time." Draco said. " I hope that's not confusing?"
" It is." She admitted, laughing.
He sat up, dropping his feet to the floor. " I wasn't very good, so Sir Houghton had me make a sketch each month of someone from Hogwarts while I was away. I hated doing that, I only had Pansy and Crabbe and Goyle, and they're not exactly prized masterpieces of human flesh." He looked sad. " I liked my teacher though. I still remember him."
" What is he like?" Ginny asked curiously. " In your mind. Paint me a picture with words."
" You stopped knitting." Draco pointed out.
Ginny looked down at the yarns in her hand and she immediately began knitting again. The constant gentle sound of the needles rubbing together helped soothe the increasingly frequent silences, filled with unsaid words like gaps in a child's jaw, where it had lost teeth.
" He was tall, and had gray hair." Draco began, then continued after a while: " His eyes were sort of annoying. He would stare at you and lead you to believe he could read all your thoughts. Hell, he probably could read all my thoughts. He always knew what I was trying to say through my art."
" You weren't a bad artist at all, then, if you could get your art to speak messages like that." Ginny pointed out.
He rolled his eyes. " I doubt it…" Draco stood up and took the wine off the mantle. Behind it was a glass, already prepared for his dastardly drinking. " No, I think he just had something magical about him. He was pure blood, you know. Probably could trace his magical roots way back to Merlin."
" Of course he'd be pure blood. Your father hired him." Ginny chimed, shifting the sweater she was making so that the orange yarn fuzz didn't rub off on her cream-colored skirt.
" Sir Houghton would smack my hands with his stupid ruler when I got distracted or made needless errors." Draco said. He looked down at the floor, where he could see the maze of floral patterns; it was all tinted a frail gray near the fireplace, where the ashes had settled and where the embers burned away color.
" He was strict, then?"
" Strict, but a good teacher. I hated his rules, but at the same time liked them, since without them I'd probably still draw like a preschooler." Draco uncorked the wine, then suddenly stared at its label, noticing the digits of alcohol content for the first time, it seemed. Ginny watched him expectantly, crossing her fingers under the shield of the sweater that he'd put the wine down.
" Would you like some?" He asked, finally. " It's good wine. We have a lot of it. My grandfather made most of it, so it's pretty aged."
" No thank you."
" I don't drink."
" Everyone drinks." Draco twiddled the cork back and forth between his thumb and forefinger. " Everyone does." He added, to himself. This prompted him to turn the wine bottle over and fill the glass. Ginny knew better than to try to lecture him. " Tell me more about your art class."
" It's nothing important." Draco said, quickly. " Really, it's all a bunch of old memories anyway. Nothing interesting at all." He lifted the glass to his lips.
Trying to divert his attention, Ginny blurted out quickly: " Please, I'd like to hear it."
" You never give up." He said, crossly. " Shouldn't you be the one telling stories to us? Servants should amuse, not question."
" I don't think of myself as a servant." Ginny told him. " I'd rather think of myself as a friend-in-training."
Draco smiled, not able to help himself. " You're like a children's book, you know? Filled with good thoughts and morals." He tipped the glass to her. " Cheers."
Ginny nodded half-heartedly. " I guess my parents raised me that way."
" Sir Houghton was one of those rule-abiding men, too." Draco began again, leaning himself against the pillow, sipping the wine. " He hated my sense of humor. Said it was too dark, too mean."
" Did you agree with him?"
" No. You can't change a person, can you?" Draco asked. " Especially not me."
" Why not you?" She persisted.
His glass was filled halfway now. " Half empty already." He said, aloud, dodging her question. " I liked Sir Houghton a lot, though, despite what a stuffed shirt he was. I spent hours playing chess with him when I was too lazy to draw."
" Did you win?" Ginny badgered on. She wanted to chat him up. The more questions he would reply, the more she would know about him. The sooner she could try and offer some help and reform to his thoughts and ways.
" We'd tie." Draco said. " Well, that's not entirely fair to say, there really isn't a tie in chess. It was more a of a draw, then. We'd end up king to king a lot. He was always really proud of himself, and of me. He was sort of like the grandfather I never had."
" You didn't know your grandfathers?"
" My mother's father, he died when she was still little. Then my father's father, he died when I was two. Sir Houghton passed away in my sixth year."
" Oh, I'm really sorry…"
Draco finished the glass and said, woefully: " It was in the middle of summer, too. It was raining like crazy, damned British weather, and his grave had half a foot of water in it by the time they lowered him in." His lower lip trembled as he reflected on the experience. " Everyone was throwing handfuls of rose petals in, but mine washed out of my hands."
Ginny was respectfully silent.
" … So I… so I put my acrylics set in there. The entire thing, a big wooden box… I never painted in color again after that. I couldn't." Draco looked at her, glossy eyed. " You'd understand, wouldn't you? Not my mother, though, she was angry that I wouldn't paint anymore."
" You know that painting over the fireplace? I did that; I finished it the week before he died. I was going to throw it out afterwards, but Mother insisted to hang it up." Draco turned away from the painting. " I hate it. It reminds me of his face, all gray and pale, when he died. It reminds me of my father, too, before Potter had to ruin my life."
" Yes, I know. It isn't my fault, they all died or went crazy, but it wasn't my fault… but it felt like it was. I got into a big argument with Sir Houghton the same day he died. Then he had a stroke later that day…"
" It wasn't your fault, those things happen naturally…"
" I never got to tell him I loved him a lot. He really was my grandfather, in my mind." Draco said, talking rapidly so as not to allow the tears to come in. " I never got to tell my father I loved him, either."
Ginny stood and sat down beside him, leaving her knitting behind. He faced her, and continued: " I never painted again. I'd do black and white drawings, but I never painted again."
Ginny remembered how he had colored her hair in with red, though, and her hand shot up to touch her red braids. Draco realized what she was trying to say and commented: " I know what you're going to ask… why I colored your hair. Well, it was the first thing that I noticed about you that really stood out. It's really red, you know."
" Redheads are supposedly little devils inside." Ginny said. " According to old wives' tales."
" It was the first colorful thing that's been in our house for a long time."
Ginny nodded in understanding. " Draco, I have another question. Please don't answer if you don't want to."
" What is it?"
" Have you ever been in love? Have you ever felt true love?"
" I always loved my parents." Draco replied. " I guess my art teacher, too… but not a girl, if that's what you mean. I dated, but I never felt any love for them. Maybe a lust, I guess, but not love."
" What about you?" He asked.
" I have never felt love, either, for a man." She admitted, flushing. " I did feel love a lot, and I still do, to nearly everyone and everything. I never felt that kind of love, though."
Draco sighed. " I wish I could have told my father I loved him, though. I can't now – he wouldn't understand me. I don't love that ghost, that stupid shell that's left of him. I don't think he ever knew that I loved him." He had tears in his eyes again. " God, I'm drunk again, aren't I?"
Ginny smiled at him, hoping that perhaps a smile would lift his spirits. He seemed to have retreated into his own little world though. She took his hand and held it warmly between her two smaller ones, and they sat like that for a good few minutes. Draco didn't even notice she was holding his hand, he was lost in thought. He probably thought she had already left the room.
Ginny finally stood and left the room, taking the wine with her. It could stand around with such free access no longer.