A/N: Disclaimer - I am not JK Rowling in disguise and I make no claim to own any of her amazing characters and am doing this purely for fun, not profit.
Many thanks to my wonderful beta, WingedWolf121.
Prologue, or The Very Bad No Good Morning (That Turned Into a Wonderful Day)
"Blast and Bloody Hell!" shouted the voice of the newest Junior Financier. The echoes down the corridor told him that at least he was alone with his predicament, which was the only solace he had at that point.
It was Draco Malfoy's first day on the job.
And he was having a Very Bad Day.
It had all started with his growing need to work for a living.
The Malfoys had always been old money: tenant rents (their mansion was called 'Malfoy Manor' for good cause), investments (Draco's Great-Grandfather had cornered the market on quills – for the longest time not a goose was plucked in England without 'Malfoy' stamped on its rear), 'brokering influence' (Draco's Great-Great-Great-Grandfather had called it "granting Indulgences", even wore a funny headpiece while doing it too), had built and maintained the family fortune, but the War had changed all that.
Or more accurately, Creevey the Muggle Milk Man had. Demanding his 'rights as an Englishman' for the death of both his sons, he had marched at the head of all the other Muggle parents (and quite a few Wizard parents) at Hogwarts to the Wizengamot and demanded a wrongful death class action against all the ringleaders of the Dark Lord's government:
"You say that after a fair trial, they'll all be in Azkaban for life. I say, from what I hear, they were all in Azkaban for life. They got out didn't they? They took over by law, bad law, but law. And they attacked us regular folk. You can make us forget why it happened. You can make us forget how it happened. You can't make us forget that the bridge collapsed, that the houses blew up and burned, that the children died. No money, no Magic, can fix that. I know, I asked. My missus is walking dead. Know what your Healers said? Make her forget, they said. Well guess what? We don't want to forget! We LOVE our children! Our children died heroes! Never in a million years do we want to forget our boys and girls! And I wouldn't think much of any parent that would.
They still go to Azkaban, you say. So what? What happened when it becomes 'good politics' to let them go? Eh? What then? They go back to their soft, respectable lives is what! Why should they get back all they lost, while we can never be whole again? They were all rich. The best way to hurt the rich is in their pocketbooks. Make them pay! Make them restore the bridge, rebuild the houses...and bury our dead. Make it not so respectable, not so smart to hurt them what can't defend themselves."
In the end, Creevey and the rest were awarded full 'restitution and punitive damages', and the guilty parties' vaults at Gringotts were emptied, all hexes and curses removed, and the money divided between the British Government for repairs and civilian restitution, and the Hogwarts parents. Creevey gave most of his family's share to charity, as did most of the other families. There were now extra scholarships for poor students, Muggle-Wizard cooperation societies, and an endowment to the Great Ormand Street Children's Hospital in London, among others.
In a way, his family had been lucky; consideration was given for Narcissa's timely lie, and his own failure to identify The Boy Who Lived when he had the chance... Potter even spoke on their behalf at their trial. Draco couldn't help but grin to himself at the memory of those stodgy-dodgy elders' faces when the Hero of Hogwarts rose up to the Malfoys' defense; he could still hear Potter's voice ringing through the chamber:
"I see that things haven't changed all that much from when I was last here...except for the chains, of course." (Draco remembers the uneasy muttering from the judges, and thinking to himself 'Home-shot'). Potter continued: "I still see that the chances are stacked against whomever sits in that chair. Whether they are guilty or not."
"Potter! I cannot believe that you of all people would deny that the Malfoys are traitors of the highest order!" shrieked the lead prosecutor, Cornelius Fudge (with so many dead or disgraced, he was making a comeback).
"Oh no, of course they are traitors. Only question is, traitors to whom?" He looked daggers at Draco's father and continued: "Lucius Malfoy, well, I won't, I can't, defend him, except to say that he loves his family. But you might want to show him a bit of mercy, since he only did the damage that he was allowed to do by all of you."
"Draco did wrong, but he was coerced, his father's life threatened if he didn't join the Death-Eaters, his own death guaranteed by a suicide mission; to kill Albus Dumbledore. But did you know, that despite everything, Draco Malfoy refused to kill Professor Dumbledore? That even with other Death-Eaters egging him on, he still failed to carry out his mission? Who was he betraying then? Dumbledore or Voldemort?" (Draco had heard a hiss rise up from the audience; too many still worried over using the Dark Lord's name). "Then, when my friends and I were caught, and it only needed a word from Draco to bring Voldemort upon our heads? I could see he knew me, but he refused to give me up. I'm not really sure why he kept fighting me afterwards, but we didn't save him twice during the battle for you to kill him now, and sending him to Azkaban will do just that."
Then, Potter smiled gently at his mother and publicly thanked her for saving his life: "Mrs. Malfoy, I know you had your reasons, and they were mostly to keep Draco safe, but it doesn't change the facts. You risked everything to lie to the most famous Legitimens in the world. You had almost no chance of succeeding, and your 'side' was winning, but still, you were brave enough to try, and your courage saved us all. I guess, no matter what, I will always owe my life to a good mother. Thank you."
"Oh, and by the way," added Potter as he turned to leave, "The Daily Prophet and the Weasleys' Wireless have full LIVE coverage of this trial. Which means that Every. Single. Word. Is being reported world-wide, right now. You're playing to History...and the Voters...so deliberate carefully."
The result? His father was allowed to return home, (the phrase Fudge used was 'time-served'), but his wand was ceremoniously snapped to 'insure good behavior'. Then he and his mother were set free, and allowed to keep a third of their fortune.
A third was fairly good, they were still well off. But now, more money was being used than replaced. Tenants left and no successors came forward; investments went badly; they no longer had influence among their peers (those still secretly believing in the Dark Lord's rule hated them for turning coat at the last minute – those who dealt with them only because they were rich and powerful now shunned them). Without his wand, Lucius Malfoy became a recluse, refusing to leave the manor grounds. Narcissa had never worked outside her home in her life, (and there, she always had servants to help), but even if she had, with her husband wandless and vulnerable, she was afraid to leave the house for any real length of time. That left Draco to get a job before the family became bankrupt.
And so here he was, first day as a Junior at the Ministry, and it was not going well.
Draco had always believed that Ministry jobs were cinctures, easy careers with the 'little people' to do all the work.
It never occurred to him that as of right now, HE was one of the 'little people'. The Finance Department had grown from a small Dickensian* counting house to an ever expanding warren of number-crunchers that needed to be supplied with endless quivers of quills and reams of parchment and oceans of ink. Never mind the fires to be tended and mended, since the heart of the Wizarding Government was deemed too sensitive to have even the legendarily discrete House-Elves acting as maintenance and cleaning crew.
So Draco, as the newest member of the Department, was 'it'. Like a later-day Sara Crewe**, he was to go from room to room, setting up new fires each day, airing out rooms, filling the wells with ink and the ink with spells to prevent caking, clumping and word changes once written; the quill cups with sharpened quills; the supply baskets with fresh scrolls.
And that was just for starters.
Then, once the rooms were sorted, the real work began. Or so claimed Fudge, who, as his official minder, had been in charge of his orientation the day before.
Tiny messages flew by themselves to their intended targets; not so for the extensive financial reports that each Senior Financier had to review first thing every morning in order to allot the work for the day. Those must be picked up from the Mail Room and delivered to each of 20 different Heads, with the appropriate amount of copies for each Head's staff. Altogether, that meant that he'd have to make 222 copies every single morning.
Next, he'd have to run out to get 21 copies of the Muggle paper, the famous Times, delivering 20 copies to the Department Heads, and keeping the last for himself. He wasn't told what the Heads did with their newspapers, but he was supposed to read the daily values of the pound/euro, and calculate the conversion to galleons, then supply the equation to all 222 members.
So before another soul would enter that section of the Ministry, Draco would have been working for 3 hours.
"Best get an early start, Malfoy. The Heads arrive at 9 am...sharp!" said Fudge smugly as he nodded and walked away, deliberately leaving the rest of the next day's itinerary a mystery.
And so here he was, 6 am and not another being in the wing, standing with his grate brushes, coal scuttle and box in one hand and a satchel of office supplies clutched under his other arm...as he slowly realized that he'd never swept a hearth, laid a fire, cleaned a room, never mind made a copy or bought a newspaper.
In short, he hadn't the foggiest notion on how to go about doing his job.
Draco almost called his parents for help (not thinking that he wouldn't be able to get a message to them). But the memory of Fudge's condescending ways stiffened his resolve; surely, it couldn't be that hard to start a fire, or fill an ink stand?
Twenty minutes later, hands covered in ink and ash, charcoal and indigo smeared across his face and robes, quills new and used littering the floor, coal dust everywhere (including a pile down his back, from his ill-fated attempt to sweep the chimney) but not even a wisp of a flame, and Draco was convinced that not only was cleaning hard, it was impossible.
The soot down his back was the worst. He couldn't move without leaving a trail of dirt behind, yet the ash was so itchy! No matter how he twisted, the grit on his back was just out of reach. Draco, at his wits end, began scratching his back against the door molding. Which promptly resulted in an almighty ripping sound; his new robes caught a nail and were now sporting a large tear right in the middle of his back.
And that was when he lost it - "Blast and Bloody Hell!"
The echoes told him he was alone...alone in his predicament, (which was his only solace) but he wondered if the echoes would mock him if he broke down and cried. He moved away from the door, bending over to try and salvage a few of the quills, when a warm and soothing hand began to scratch just where it itched most fiercely.
Draco froze under that touch.
He was certain he'd felt that hand before, with its promise of help and safety. Still he couldn't be sure, not until he turned and looked.
He was afraid to look.
"Come on, Draco, don't be proud, I'm here to lend a hand. Really. Honest."
That voice. He knew it, would know anywhere. He turned his head, the beginnings of the old sneer in his tone: "So, Potter, come to see how the mighty have..." when his eyes locked on the green, bespectacled, compassionate gaze of the Boy Who Lived.
And Time stood still.
Time stood still; cliché, but true. Everything stopped: his snarky speech, his breathing, his thoughts. Truly struck dumb with wonder, he could only gape as Potter (no, Harry, it was Harry) hauled him upright by the shoulders and immediately began putting him to rights.
"Come on then, let's get you cleaned up. I know Cutler Beckett has an en-suite bath...yes! Here, strip off those robes and start washing off, I'll loan you some of my Muggle things, you'll need them to buy the papers anyway." Draco, still in shock, could only nod, as his shaking fingers pulled off his ruined robe and stepped out of his ash-caked shoes.
"Kreacher! Please come I need you" called Harry, and thin air was no longer empty, but full of House-Elf. The last time Draco had glimpsed the mad (in both senses of the word) servitor, he'd been at the head of a small army of blood-thirsty rebels. Now, Kreacher was every inch the competent butler:
"Master Harry, what do you require? You have only to ask."
"Kreacher, I need you to clean and repair these robes and to bring them back with some of my Muggle clothes; the khakis look nicer, but I think the jeans will be a better fit on my friend here. Then if you would, help us clean this room and get the fire going, and I'll teach Draco how to spell the ink."
"Do you wish me to clean and prepare the remaining rooms as well?"
"No, Draco and I will get those, we just need a hand to catch up on time."
"Then permit me to suggest that Kreacher cleans the Heads' rooms? It will take you time to teach Master Draco the art, and those rooms done will gain you the time you need."
"You're a God-send, Kreacher. Thank you."
Kreacher bowed himself away, and apparated back in less time than it takes to tell with the required items. By the time Draco was clean, so was everything else.
Harry walked him through everything he needed to know for his morning chores; he even taught his old nemesis how to build a fire using various Muggle techniques: "Never know when you have to build one from scratch, without magic. Trust me on this one."
They had finished delivering the last of the copies when Harry glanced at his watch and said, "My time's nearly up, I have a meeting at 9:30 with the Muggle Prime Minister, and I have to meet Kingsley beforehand since we're going together, but I have time enough to introduce you at my favorite newsstand, and we can get a coffee too. Did they tell you to bring Muggle money?" When Draco shook his head, Harry snorted. "Figures. Old Fudge couldn't be bothered to do anything to make you look good on the job. No matter, you can pay me back when you get the weekly allotment. Now where's your office? I need to drop off my robe too before we go out."
"No, um I mean yes, of course. Um, it's, um, not much," and they walked to a narrow door...and in a heartbeat, Harry was transported back to his childhood; Draco's 'office' was a converted broom cupboard. Not knowing whether to laugh or cry, Harry just nodded and pulled off his robe, revealing a light, slate gray, three piece woolen suit, powder blue button down shirt, and dark gray and blue striped tie. It was all Draco could do to not gape like a fish.
"You look shocked. So, do I look like a Muggle?" Harry grinned.
"You look fantastic!" leapt out of Draco's mouth before he could stop himself from gushing. To hide the blush that was rising over his face, he pulled his robe over his head and busily hung it on a peg behind the door.
"Oookay, then alright then. Off we go," said Harry, a bit bemused.
For all that Draco had always projected a sort of 'worldliness' to all and sundry, he was really very provincial; that is, he had never ventured out of the confines of the Wizarding World before. Before this day, all his travels in London had been only to wizard homes in the company of his parents, or to places like Knockturn Alley (and even in those he'd always had some adult with him). Yesterday and this morning, an aide from Fudge's office had picked him up and dropped him off via the Floo Network directly to the main hall of the Ministry. Leaving the building with Harry out of a side door was the first time he had ever been in Muggle London.
It was all he could do not to grab Harry's hand in fear.
Sensing his companion's mood, Harry clapped him on the near shoulder. Pitching his voice low yet strong enough to carry to his listener, he asked: "First time in the big city?" When Draco nodded in panic, Harry added: "I'll guide you, just follow my lead."
So Harry kept hold of his shoulder and walked him the two blocks to the newsstand, teaching him the route by pointing out landmarks, treating him for all the world like a country cousin out to see the sights (and an observer would not be far wrong in that assumption). Then Harry introduced him to the newsstand proprietor, quietly whispering in his ear that this man was the chief person in the neighborhood and knew all the gossip in the area, and if Draco stayed on the man's good side, Muggle or not, he'd always learn something to his advantage. The 21 copies of the Times were purchased by Harry, and Mr. Jones asked them to pass on his congratulations to Ms. Brown on her promotion: "And let 'er know, the Great Lady will be a-wearin that fancy silver shawl, and many thanks for it."
When they had gotten their coffees at another street vendor, as they were walking back, Draco asked about the Muggle's strange remark.
"You'll be training with Bronwyn Brown for the foreseeable future. She had your job for five years, and was passed over for promotion twice before you came along, and if you hadn't been on the Ministry's watch list, she'd still be mucking about with coal scuttles. So she's on your side, and will help you as best she can. She also works with us, Hermione, Ron, me, a few others, to try to change things around here, try to make what happened under Voldemort something that will never be repeated. For now, we're trying to protect the Royal Family from those Death-Eaters still at large; so the Queen was given an enchanted shawl. Won't stop a bullet, but it will make any curse or hex fail and rebound on the sender. Most won't even see it, so it will never arouse suspicion. Jonsey knows, because he's more than just a Muggle; I can't say any more, but again, keep on his good side, and he won't steer you wrong. And here we are!" Harry produced a curiously shaped key, and unlocked a small door marked, 'deliveries' on the side of the building that looked like the defunct department store. Once inside, Harry handed him the key: "It's yours now. Keep it safe."
The newspapers then shot off in every direction, heading for their intended owners.
They walked until they reached a door marked "Bronwyn Brown, Junior Finance Department". "She'll be here any minute, and I'm sure you'll get on. If you're not in too much of a hurry to leave for home tonight, we can meet up and get supper, Ginny won't be put out."
Harry paused, thinking that Draco had perhaps some prior plans, but when he said nothing more, Harry began to flush, and his eyes hardened. "Right, I'll be..."
"NO!" Draco grabbed Harry's arm in despair. "Please! I – I'm...Look, I know what you're doing. It's good of you. Couldn't have gotten on today without you. But you can't. We can't..."
"We can't what?"
Draco stared at the young man that had saved him from death and the proverbial 'worse-than' and he knew, finally, where his allegiance lay:
"We can't be friends, but not because we aren't. Fudge is our enemy. Yours and mine. You didn't see the look on his face when you left the trial; I did. If he ever liked you, he hates you with a passion now. And he blames my family for his faults, his failures. Together, we're a menace and a threat; we're too big a target."
"But we can fight him."
"And we will, just not that it looks like we're together. I'm new at this 'working to make the Wizarding World better' stuff. What I'm not new at is laying low. If you leave me alone, so long as I act the House-Elf, Fudge'll sneer in my direction once in a while, and mostly leave me to fail. But if you become social with me, Fudge will find out and try to hurt us both. I'm not from Slytherin for nothing."
Before either could say another word they heard the sound of a Floo arrival on the other side of the closed door and two voices:
"Fudge!" whispered Harry.
"Here to gloat!" cursed Draco as he dropped Harry's arm to give them more spell room.
Sure enough, they could hear a loud conversation: "Look here Fudge, I don't think Malfoy is as dangerous as all that, and I've no quarrel with him except on principal."
"Miss Brown, I assure you that Malfoy is a dangerous individual, and were it up to me he'd have no livelihood at all, and certainly not here at the Ministry."
"Well, so far this room is perfectly clean and no booby traps."
"Well, not today, perhaps tomorrow! 'Never trust a Malfoy' is my right rule..." and the door opened to reveal the former Minister of Magic and a sweet-looking young woman who was as brown as her name.
While Draco seemed surprised to see them, he was even more surprised when he realized that he was alone: Harry had disapparated so quietly, it was as if he was never there. So Draco dredged a smile from the Slytherin cubby of his soul, and "Hullo, Mr. Fudge, Miss Brown. I'm here for the rest of my duties."
As he cleaned up to go home, at the end of that first day, Draco found a small parcel on his desk...the attached note said simply: For When I'm Not Around. And wrapped in parchment, was a very Muggle, very practical item: a shiny metal telescoping backscratcher.
*What? Even Wizards read Dickens and Shakespeare.
**Ok, only young witches (and a few young wizards with good taste) read Frances Hodgson Burnett, but there's a reason that her books have never been out of print since they were written at the turn of the last century.