The book was about wizarding investing techniques, and how to implement them with other people's money.
The book was the first book he'd owned in seven years, four months and thirteen days.
The book was the first thing anybody had given him in a little over six years.
The last "gift" had been from his mother as she was dying in Azkaban. In his arms.
Accidental or not, this was a better gift. Draco read it from cover to cover. It was dry and a little too basic--Father had taught him quite a bit about how to water, feed and grow the money trees, after all--and he loved every second of it.
When he was done, he read it a second time.
His meeting with Granger was on Monday, every Monday at nine in the morning. Granger didn't like tardiness, but neither did Draco, really, so it all worked out.
At first they hadn't liked each other much, either. Perhaps even more than the tardiness. But Draco knew how to play the game. Granger had started this program of "rehabilitation rather than incarceration," meant to filter those Death Eaters whom the Wizengamot deemed "salvageable" into useful positions in the community. Or, translated, positions where they couldn't cause any trouble, but where people who considered Azkaban to be a morally troubling punishment could see them and feel better about themselves.
Draco would have been bitter, but it was too nice being free.
Since Granger had pushed for the change in policy, she'd been the one to set up The Agency. It had a real name, but nobody called it by that. It was The Agency, and when somebody said those words, everyone knew of which agency they were speaking.
The Agency helped ex-inmates find a place in society, one that was sufficiently non-threatening. Hence the book. Granger was convinced that financial consulting was the job for Draco.
Draco, for his part, didn't so much care, so long as he found a job and nobody had a reason to put him back in that place with its damp chill that stole his breath and heightened all of his worst memories.
Granger said, "Draco," impatiently, and Draco pulled his thoughts away from his mum. No good could come of that.
"Yes, yes, I got the book." Draco didn't say "thank you," or ask, "did you know it was my birthday?"
"And you read it?"
"Was I supposed to do something else?"
Granger ignored this bit of pique. She was actually quite good at doing that. He wondered how the others treated her. He wondered if they called her names. If they were still good little Death Eaters.
Draco was too tired for that sort of thing. If she wanted to help him. . . Well, nobody else in the bloody world seemed to want that.
She asked, "What did you think?"
"You were right, it's a good idea."
She smiled at this. It wasn't the bright, overeager smile Draco remembered. It was tempered, deeply glad but not quite so enthusiastic. Before he could stop himself, Draco asked, "Are you tired?"
Unsurprisingly, she gave him an odd look. "Sorry, what?"
Draco shook his head. "Nevermind."
The third week after he started the job, she smiled again and there was something in the smile--relief maybe. "If Goblins were the loquacious sort, I would say they were petitioning for your adoption."
Draco said simply, but not without pride, "I'm good at what I do."
"Obviously," she said. She didn't sound surprised.
It was a short meeting. Draco got up to leave and she caught his arm. She kept his eyes as she said softly, "Look this is unprofessional, and if you said anything I'd probably lose my job, so there's that, but if you wanted, some friends and I meet up on Saturdays. For drinks and whatever."
Draco looked to where her fingers curled lightly around his arm. It would be so easy to shrug it free. "Some friends."
"You know who my friends are, Draco."
Draco did know. "It wasn't beyond the realm of possibility that you'd come to your senses."
Her look was rueful, but unoffended.
Draco asked, "Do they even know you're inviting me?"
"I don't sneak around behind their backs."
"Maybe," Draco told her. "If I'm not busy."
She let his arm go.
Draco was never busy when he wasn't working. He tried to come up with alternative plans so as to skip out without having to mope around his flat, but moping around somewhere else by himself seemed even more pathetic, so Draco found the pub that Granger had told him about, asked the barkeep for the stiffest drink he kept on hand, and took it in one go before sitting down at a table full of people who really didn't like him.
Granger said, "You came."
The Weasel said, "Oh, hey."
Potter said, "I don't supposed you’d be willing to talk to me about some of the things I've been thinking about doing with my money?"
Little Weasel said, "Harry, geez."
Neville said, "What in the bloody hell are you drinking?"
And that was how Draco became part of the Saturday Team.
He became part of a very different team the day the Weasel--whom Draco had secretly, naughtily begun to think of as Ron--ordered him a drink and said quietly, "Hermione and I thought you might come over for dinner."
Draco drank his and Ron's drinks, coughed until tears poured out of his eyes, and said, "I could get her fired."
"We've decided it's worth the risk."
While that was utterly charming and the sort of thing Draco really would have gone for back in the day when his ego was the way to his heart, now he had to ask, "Why?"
Ron looked sad for a moment. "Er, because."
"Does either of you cook well?"
"We have a paid house elf."
"Of course you do."
Draco surprised himself with his willingness to be Hermione's dirty little secret, and Ron's dirty little inside joke. Neither of those things seemed to matter much when Ron would press his chest, wide and lean and just hard enough, to Draco's back. When Hermione would kiss him on the lips, run her fingers through his hair. A million small, completely mundane gestures that Draco could never figure out how to turn down.
On his birthday, Hermione gave him a book. Ron looked apologetic. "I told her there were better gifts, 'specially now as you're making us so much money, but-"
The book was on Goblin history, something Draco had taken a perverse interest in since his employment by the bank had begun. He looked at her suspiciously. "You know when my birthday is."
She smiled. "It's in your file, sweet."
Draco frowned. "Then-"
She raised an eyebrow. He shook his head. "Thanks for the book."
Ron asked impatiently, "Yes, yes, could we move onto our other birthday celebration plans now?"
Draco put the book safely aside. "If we must."