Pairings: Draco/Astoria, Lucius/Narcissa, assorted Greengrasses
Summary: Through hardship to the stars. The months and years post-Aftermath.
“Well then,” the Muggle said, extending a hand across his yard-wide oak desk, “Welcome to C Hoare and Company, Mr Nott.”
“Delightful,” Draco said when Theodore Nott merely stared in abject horror. “My father will be pleased to have a personal liaison here in the future.”
The man graciously withdrew his hand when it became apparent that Nott was frozen in shock. As Muggles went, this one wasn’t too bad, Draco thought. He wore a hideous suit, of course, but at least he treated wizards with all due deference. It probably helped that the Malfoy gold had paved the road of interaction.
“Will we have the pleasure of meeting Mr Malfoy Senior in person?” the Muggle asked.
If only. “My father is too busy to concern himself with small investments like this. All your dealings will be with me.”
The Muggle’s eyebrows twitched upwards slightly at the notion of this being a small investment, but otherwise he remained impassive. “I understand. Please assure him that we are here to serve.”
Draco nodded. “Diverse investments, low risk to start. I expect frequent reports.”
“Of course,” the Muggle said. “If you need anything at all, here is my card--, oh, excuse me.” He took back the card that contained the long rows of numbers that Draco had been told the Muggles used to arrange their te-le-phone conversations, then handed him a different one, creamy cardstock embossed with gold. It simply said ‘C Hoare & Co, now connected to the Floo Network’ along with a discreet London address. “We are still smoothing out some of the new arrangements that will make our dealings more convenient for the, ah, wizarding community. We will be all set up shortly. Our arrangement with Gringotts will be mutually beneficial, I’m sure, and Mr Nott here will be an asset in the transition.”
Their business concluded, Draco rose. “I will be in touch.”
“Very well, Sir. Good day.”
In the lift, Draco and Nott engaged in a match of baleful glaring. “Look, I don’t like this any better than you do,” Draco said while Nott’s face grew darker and darker. “But the women think it’s a great idea, and I’m not stupid enough to refuse them all. If you want to fight them, fine, but leave me out of it.”
“Of all the places you could’ve put me,” Nott huffed, “Why do I have to work with Muggles?”
“Because no one wants you at Firebolt. I need you here.” Draco tapped the blinking buttons on the lift wall again, wishing the bloody thing would go faster. As if it wasn’t bad enough that he was being forced to mingle with the plebs, he would now have to deal with Nott moaning all day, every day. He was less a personal assistant than a personal nightmare.
“I don’t want to be your assistant,” Nott said sullenly. “And I don’t want to go into banking!”
“Well, what is it you would like to do? Please enlighten me, Nott, I’m desperate to find out.” Both of them had tried to wiggle out of this bind until the last minute, but Daphne had become overwhelmed enough with her family’s financial situation to start crying to Draco whenever she saw him, and that was a horror scenario he didn’t particularly want to experience again. Together with Eleanor Greengrass’s earnest pleas and Astoria trying to reason that it would be ‘neat to have a friend working with you’, Draco had had little choice. He was beginning to rethink his kindness now, though. It might have been less exhausting and far more amusing in the long run to let the Notts go down in self-inflicted misery. “It’s your own fault, anyway. What did you get Daphne pregnant again for? You were happy enough lazing about all day while she went to work, now she can’t.”
Nott’s face turned a splotchy red. “These things just happen sometimes.”
“Twice?” Draco scoffed. If the Notts had been in a more favourable position, he would’ve thought Nott was impregnating his wife on purpose to trap her. It was a good idea in theory, but who would want to be trapped with Daphne?
“Some people actually care for their family, you know,” Nott said heatedly.
“Really?” Draco didn’t know why he had to be told this; he knew what it was like to care about stupid family way more than he should, thank you very much. “Look, you’re lucky I’m helping you get on your feet. You’re getting training at not one, but two of Britain’s oldest banks--”
“Muggle training!” Nott’s cheeks were burning now; if Draco enjoyed one thing about the whole situation, it was the other man’s embarrassment. “You could just tell Daphne you gave me the job and I’ll go sit in the pub. Spare us both the bother.”
“Of course you’d expect me to pay you to sit in the pub, too?” Draco rolled his eyes. “Why should you have it better than I?”
Why indeed. The lift doors opened and the two men stepped out into a quiet marble entrance hall. A liveried concierge bowed and held the door for them. At least the upper echelons of Muggle businessmen had the good sense to know who they were dealing with, Draco thought, or else it was just that money literally opened the right doors everywhere. Perhaps his father had been right: pecunia non olet, even if it was Muggle.
Stepping out into the street, Muggle traffic roared all around them. Nott sort of shrunk back against the wall. Draco, who’d been through the same startling experience a few weeks before, rolled his eyes. “You’re pathetic. Are you scared of a bunch of sheep, too?”
Nott’s head snapped around left, right, left, right as he tried to take in the sights all at once. “Your father can’t be serious. He’s having a laugh.”
Draco wouldn’t put it past his father to derive some amusement from this situation, but Lucius didn’t play around where money was concerned, and Draco sort of saw the merit to his ideas. “The Ministry isn’t making it easy for us to make a living these days, are they. We have to branch out. If you want to get at Muggle money, you have to know how to do Muggle business.”
“It’s not me who’s going to get at the money though, is it. You just want me to do your dirty Muggle work,” Nott snapped. He patted the front of the strange suit they had been outfitted with for their undercover work in Muggle London, and Draco knew he was feeling for his wand, hidden inside a secret pocket. The last thing they needed was a scene in the streets and the Ministry intervening because the Statute of Secrecy was broken, so he reached out to grab Nott by the collar and marched him around the next corner into a dank alleyway from where they could disapparate unobserved.
“Someone has to liaise with the Muggles, and it’s not going to be me. I’m busy.”
“Busy fiddling around with broomsticks!” Nott scoffed.
“No, I’m busy launching Firebolt in the international market.” Draco took offence to his pet project being ridiculed; he didn’t even get to spend much time in the broom workshop these days, and impossible though it might have seemed, he actually missed it. Now he spent every waking moment in the office, squinting over his ledgers until his eyes bled, and no one seemed to appreciate his hard work. Well, no one except Astoria, but she was an oddity who found accounting sexy somehow. Draco didn’t understand why or how, but she popped by the study to seduce him at his desk with such regularity that there was no other conclusion.
Cheered by this pleasant mental image, he clapped Nott’s back. “Here’s a real opportunity for you, you pillock. My father can’t leave the house, he needs an errand boy. If you play this right, he’ll make it worth your while.”
“Yeah, that’s just what I’ve always wanted! Being ordered around by your father when I’m just well rid of mine!” Nott’s mouth wobbled strangely. He crossed his arms over his chest, drawing in on himself, and suddenly looked small in spite of his hostility.
“What do you mean?” Draco asked, sobering.
Nott wiped the back of his hand over his face, trying to look like he was chasing away an annoying insect. “I had word this morning. My father died in Azkaban last night.” Nott pushed out his chin, scowling determinedly. “It’s just as well, really, he was as good as dead in there anyway. The fool, what did he get himself in trouble for, he was too old to fight in a war! He could barely move on good days, what with his gout! Azkaban wasn’t good days, I’m sure. They probably didn’t even give him his potions--” He broke off, biting down hard on his lip, and Draco felt a shiver race down his spine and linger, raising goosebumps on his skin.
“Would you stop moaning,” he said, though it came out sort of quietly. “Come on, let’s go to the pub.”
A steak and kidney pie as well as a glass of ale restored some fortitude in Nott. They sat in a quiet corner of the Leaky Cauldron, out of sight of the other patrons, and shoveled down their food in silence. Nott scowled determinedly at his pie, but finished it regardless.
“It’s not fair,” he said eventually, sullenly pushing crumbs of pasty crust back and forth with his fork. “Your father, I mean. Why did they spare him and not my dad, or Crabbe’s or Goyle’s?”
“They didn’t, he’s imprisoned too,” Draco said, but he knew it was hardly the same thing. He sighed. “It’s because of my mother. She helped Potter somehow there, at the end.” Lucius had also provided detailed testimony on the crimes of the Death Eaters in general and some of his associated in particular. Draco wondered if Nott knew that. Overall, he preferred that Theo believed the shameful association with Potter had saved the Malfoys.
“Good for him,” Nott said bitterly. “Good for you.”
“You have a wife and son, and another on the way. You’re not doing so badly for yourself,” Draco said before the moping could get to be too much. “I mean, it’s Daphne, but still.”
The other man huffed out a laugh. “Daphne. Yeah. I haven’t told her too much about the, the Muggle aspect of the job.” He chanced a look at Draco. “She’s been so happy that I’ll be working at Gringotts. Told everyone we know, she even wrote to Pansy in France.” He heaved a sigh. “I can’t muck this up. We need it. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it!”
Draco nodded. “We all just need to…get on with it, I suppose. I mean, we’ve had worse, haven’t we.” He thought back to the last days of the war, the chaos, the destruction, the constant fear; having the Dark Lord as a house guest. Overall, he did prefer dealing with Muggles.
“It’s not all bad,” Nott ventured. “The new baby – it’s another boy. Another Nott. I went to see my father just last week to tell him. I think he was pleased. At least he knew the family would go on before he... You know. I like that.”
It was a nice thought, although Draco wasn’t sure how Nott Senior would have liked the way his grandsons were parented. Nott’s father had been an old man, dour and irritable when his gout flared up. His wife had died when Theodore was only a little boy, and there’d been no one to make the Nott home comfortable and pleasant. Draco had been to visit a few times as a boy and hadn’t liked it very much in the large, dark house, which seemed strangely lonely even with all the amenities one could want. With two children soon wreaking havoc there, at least it wouldn’t be so quiet anymore.
“You’ll have your inheritance now, too,” he said, trying to come up with something cheerful.
Nott shrugged. “Normal people don’t inherit the kind of wealth you’re imagining, mate. There’s the house. A little gold, a few trinkets of my mother’s. Daphne will like those.” His expression softened slightly at that. “I should go to the vault and get them for her.”
“I’ll come with. See that you get settled in so you can start bright and early tomorrow.” Draco raised his glass to toast Nott with the last sip of his ale, suddenly overcome with a mood to be generous. “Now cheer up. Here’s to our partnership. You’ll be all right, Nott. Stop making a fuss.”
Nott regarded him with some suspicion, but raised his glass too. Here was one more person looking to him to make things right, Draco thought; it was all becoming a bit of a burden, but it was like he’d said. They’d all have to get on with it.