Draco's Pet Peeves
It was not a very happy birthday.
He was eating dinner alone.
He was eating dinner alone while sitting in a creaky chair.
He was eating dinner alone while sitting in a creaky chair in his room at the Leaky Cauldron.
Draco Malfoy was, at this moment, probably having the most pitiful night of his life.
The Battle of Hogwarts had made sure of that. He'd come away as an outcast with a dead friend and a broken nose. His parents were serving a brief stint in Azkaban, and he was no longer living the life of a privileged pureblood. His employment prospects were dismally low. And he could forget about dating completely. No one wanted to kiss a former Death Eater.
Draco couldn't really blame them, but it didn't mean he had to be happy about it.
So now, six months after the fall of the Dark Lord, he lived alone in a mangy hotel and bar.
He stared at his meager birthday dinner of split pea soup and a crust of bread. He looked out the window and stared up at the dark sky. It was too cloudy to see stars. There was a light snow falling.
With a fluid motion, he pulled his wand out of his pocket and lit it nonverbally. He'd always liked that soft glow of light. It was bright enough to create a circular shape on the opposite wall, and when he waved the wand around, it danced.
Harry had given Draco his hawthorn wand back after the battle. That was the last time they'd seen each other. They'd shaken hands. There was no bitterness, not anymore, but that didn't mean that Draco didn't still have wounds. The regrets weighed heavy in his mind.
He saw red eyes when he went to sleep at night. He heard screams. His heart still pounded as though he was being chased. The skin on his left arm occasionally prickled. He felt guilty.
Draco sighed forcefully, wishing the horrible memories would recede like a wave pulling back from the shore. He didn't want to remember those things tonight. He was only eighteen. He deserved better.
"Happy birthday to me," he began to sing softly to himself, pretending his lit wand was a candle. "Happy birthday to me…"
He was cut off abruptly by the sound of something heavy being slammed to the ground outside his door. There was a soft grunt and then someone knocked.
Draco got up and the chair creaked loudly. Rolling his eyes disdainfully and cursing the cheap furniture, he shifted the deadbolt with a loud clunk and opened the door.
There was nothing there.
Well, that wasn't entirely true. There was no one there, but there was a large wooden crate sitting in the hallway.
Draco realized he was holding his wand and that it was still lit. He snuffed it out and inspected the crate, casting any security charm he could think of. This crate wasn't a bomb, wasn't dangerous, wasn't holding anything illegal, and wasn't from a joke shop. It was completely innocuous.
He flicked his wand casually, levitating the crate and moving it to the ottoman beside his bed. The door slammed closed and he slid the deadbolt again, checking three times to make sure it was definitely locked.
Draco turned to face the box with unease. It had small openings on each side, as if whatever was inside needed air exposure. Who could have sent it? He'd stopped writing to his Slytherin friends long ago. Anyone who liked Harry inherently hated him. And his parents were imprisoned. Who was left?
He approached tentatively, holding his wand aloft. With a small severing spell, the lid to the crate magically came off and flipped over onto the floor.
When he saw what was inside, he swore loudly, kicked the ottoman away from him as fast as he could, and uttered a mortifyingly loud yell.
The ottoman tipped onto the floor and what was in the crate came tumbling out. He pressed himself up against the nearest wall and hoped it couldn't see him.
A small, furry, white creature emerged from behind the overturned crate. It gazed around the room until its black eyes finally found Draco. It cocked its head, sat down, and stared up at him.
It was a…
"Ferret," Draco whispered angrily. "Who would dare-?"
And then it occurred to him. He swore again. "Potter," he growled. He began to inch across the room, staying as far away from the ferret as possible and avoiding sudden movements. But as he neared the other side of the bed where his owl sat sleepily in its cage, he noticed a small envelope on the floor near the door.
He sighed, and edged carefully back to pick it up. The ferret still hadn't moved. It was contemplating him with dark eyes that gave Draco flashbacks he wanted desperately to forget.
He turned his eyes back to the envelope and slid a finger along the seal. He unfolded the crisp parchment beneath, reading the words with a mixture of indignant embarrassment and disbelief.
Here's hoping your birthday is dark and brooding. We hope you like the ferret. We've been planning to give it to you for quite some time. It's April as we are writing this letter, and we've asked the kind gentleman at the Magical Beasts Emporium to deliver it (and the earmarked ferret) to you on your birthday the first December after the war ends. It's probably best if you give him a name – after all, you're the one who gave the ferret its fame.
Don't be Moody about it; we're pretty sure that if we all survive this war, you're probably going to deserve him anyway.
Fred and George Weasley
This was just one more example of why he despised the Weasleys. They were completely ridiculous. Inconsiderate. Boisterous. This whole thing had probably been George's idea. And Fred was so cunning and devious…and….dead.
How could Draco have forgotten? He'd even gone to the funeral. Somehow this changed the way the letter sounded to him. If we all survive this war…
Draco looked up at the ferret with intense dislike. It sat there, staring back defiantly. He scowled. It made a friendly squeaking noise. He wanted to vomit.
He had never forgotten the fourth year fiasco of being transfigured into a ferret by Professor Moody. Well…a Moody imposter. But it was one of his worst memories, and as someone who once was forced to plan the murder of his headmaster, that was saying something.
And now, all those years later, to drudge that memory up again…he wanted to hate the twins, but given what had happened in those months since the letter had been written….
"Don't get comfortable," he said scathingly to the ferret. "You're going back to the magical beasts shop tomorrow. As soon as they open."
It snorted at him, curled up on the threadbare red rug, and promptly fell asleep.
Draco awoke the following morning to find the ferret sitting on his chest.
He gave a shout and reflexively shoved the blankets off the bed. The ferret, taken by surprise, was swept along. After a moment, its tiny head poked out of the fluffy gray comforter that now lay in a heap on the floor.
"Stay off," he said angrily. It ignored him, and within a minute climbed upon the overturned ottoman and launched itself back onto the bed.
It just looked at him imploringly. Draco was afraid of what it would do if he didn't concede. He didn't like the look in its beady eyes.
"Fine. But just this once."
The ferret squeaked happily and burrowed into the sheets. Draco rolled his eyes, got up, and left it there to frolic idiotically on the bed.
"What do you mean, you won't take him back?"
"All sales from the shop are final, sir," simpered a pudgy wizard from behind the counter of Magical Beasts Emporium. "We hardly have room to house all the unsold animals as it is."
"But what am I supposed to do with this ridiculous thing?" Draco sputtered. He was clutching the ferret with two hands, holding his arms out so it was as far from him as possible. It was squirming and trying to get free of his grip. It had just seen two sleek black cats in the corner and was trying to get closer to them. "I don't want a ferret."
The man surveyed him carefully. "I can't help you. Perhaps you have a niece or nephew who would take him? He'd make a delightful pet."
Draco rolled his eyes.
"It's just me. And I have this…thing against ferrets." He shuddered.
"I can't help you," the man reiterated, slower this time, as if Draco was a moron. "My apologies."
"Apologies indeed," he muttered darkly, and left the shop.
"Take it, please. I don't want it." Draco held out the ferret expectantly.
He was met with a surprised bark of laughter.
George stood in his blue dressing robe, holding the letter he and Fred had written in April. He was still laughing quietly, and Draco was getting annoyed.
They were standing in Weasley's Wizard Wheezes, which was still a shell of its former self. The whizzing fireworks and raucous explosions were gone now; a fine layer of dust had collected on the fake textbooks stacked in the corner. The place still had yet to reopen after Fred's death.
Draco had never quite cared for the joke shop, himself. It was obnoxious. There was too much over-stimulation. But seeing it closed and empty made him feel guilty and oddly nostalgic for better times. Gone were the days when a lively and stupid distraction like a Decoy Detonator would have solved any problem. Things were different now.
"I'd forgotten all about that ferret prank," George sighed. "It was so long ago…but my answer is still no. Even after everything that's happened, I think you keeping it would honor Fred's wishes. But I'm not taking back the ferret."
He sounded sincere, but there was a small twinkle in his eyes.
"But…why? Do you just want to have a laugh at my expense?" Draco said, trying hard not to sound like he was whining.
"I can tell you need company. This little guy," he said, scratching the ferret's ears adoringly, "is perfect for that."
"So how do you know this is a good idea? Because where I'm standing, this is mad. And I'm personally offended. A ferret? Really?"
"I can't take him. I have a shop I'm trying to care for."
"I said trying," George said defensively. "The point is…you need an anchor. Something that keeps you going each day. Something that keeps you from pouting all alone in a dingy hotel, bemoaning your fortunes and secretly reading The Quibbler."
"How do you-"
"I know all," he smirked. "Name the ferret. Get over yourself. And get out of my shop."
Draco wanted to hex George, but was still holding that wretched ferret. So he gave the Weasley his best sneer instead and went back to the Leaky Cauldron.
That night, he gave the ferret part of his sandwich because it wouldn't stop staring at him.
"Get off my back," he snapped. It just squeaked merrily.
He sent a letter to George: Take him back, please! The owl returned with a reply that simply said No, underlined three times. He tore it up and dropped it to the floor in pieces. The ferret watched, then began to chew on one of his socks.
Draco woke the next morning to find the creature curled up on the pillow next to him. He nearly fell out of bed, but this time, he didn't mind so much. It was sort of cute…
The next night, he lit his wand and watched as the ferret danced around the room, trying to follow the spot of light and becoming dizzy. Draco had originally been annoyed at its goofy reaction. But after a while, it really was funny and he couldn't help but laugh softly to himself.
On Christmas Eve morning, George Weasley was dusting off his cauldrons and clearing away cobwebs from the doorway to his shop. He was aiming to open again in January.
He glanced up and saw Draco pass by, clutching the ferret in the crook of his arm and scolding it. "Fred, just because you have a name now does not mean I won't abandon you on the streets if you chew through another pair of my dress robes. Are we clear?"
The ferret squeaked happily. Draco's perpetual scowl melted for the briefest of moments into a smile, and then he disappeared from view.
George looked around his shop. The letter Draco had brought was still on a nearby table. He picked it up again and reread it.
…we're pretty sure that if we all survive this war, you're probably going to deserve him anyway.
Had they really written that?
The way he understood it now, the sentence had a very different meaning.
When he and Fred first planned this prank, it had been because they were sick of being in hiding from Voldemort's followers. They were bored and angry and wanted to teach pure-blood-supporting prats like Draco a lesson. The ferret was meant to be a punishment to remind the boy of what he'd done.
But the war was over now, and Draco had become so pitiful and full of regret. George somehow couldn't rekindle the vindictive anger he'd felt then. He looked at the letter again, and the word deserve struck him.
Perhaps Draco had gotten what he'd deserved, but it hadn't been a punishment. Instead, it was some small happiness. It maybe wasn't what the twins would have wished for a Death Eater six months ago, but George had learned time was the great effacer of all hatred.
Everyone deserved a little joy, thought George as he folded the parchment and tucked it into the pocket closest to his heart.
Even Draco Malfoy.