Darth Vader: Role Model
Jonathan wasn’t one to be seen outside all that often. It might have seemed strange to some people, but he much preferred staying indoors and occupying his mind in various ways than dying from skin cancer and exhaustion playing sports in the Californian sun.
Today, however, his mother had put her foot down and shoved him out the door with a fistful of money and a cheery: “Have a nice time!” Money was good, but sunlight? … Okay, he had to grudgingly admit the day was a rather nice one, not as hot as summer could get in Sunnydale sometimes.
Still, there was never much to do around Sunnydale in the day, and risking fun after dark wasn’t something Jonathan did much. He could come across one of those PCP gangs or something. The something
was far more likely than the gangs. Not that the police usually believed in horror stories.
Though he knew his thoughts would be very different when it started, Jonathan longed for school to begin again. At least there was something to do there. What did the main streets of Sunnydale have? A coffee house, a number of women’s boutiques, a flower shop or two, designer coffin-makers and a couple of bakeries and health food stores. And just a little further one … well, that was new … or sort of anyway.
The Magic Box had been reopened again. It was probably the only vaguely interesting store in town, but it kept getting closed down for periods when the many different owners were killed off. Most of those deaths were PCP related too. Or so the police mentioned. He didn’t like to say it aloud, but Jonathan thought the police here were rather pathetic.
Staring at the open sign on the freshly painted door, Jonathan wondered if the new owners knew about the cursed store. Of course, there was always a chance they could be the ones to finally break the deadly tradition and stay alive long enough to leave town. He decided to go in and check the place out while he still could.
The lighting was a bit dimmer than the last few owners liked and a lot more chaotic. Or so it looked at first glance. As Jonathan perused the various shelves and tables set up he noticed an odd order to it, a slightly asymmetrical pattern to the layout that was fascinating enough on its own. There seemed to be a lot more stock — and quite a few more interesting items for sale than last time. And some of those books … he was sure Mr. Giles would be very interested in these. If he didn’t have them already.
“Can I help you with anything?”
Jonathan started at the accented voice coming from behind him and whirled around quickly, barely managing not to knock over a stand full of tiny vials. A pale teenager stood just past the back doorway dressed in black. Usually such a severe shade would have made someone with the boy’s silvery colouring look sickly, but the way the boy held himself as he glided over towards Jonathan punctured that instinctive impression.
Jonathan stuttered nervously under the cool gaze directed at him. “I, uh, was just looking around right now. It’s been a while since the store’s been open.”
“So I’ve heard.” The boy’s smile softened his expression, even if the motion was obviously forced. Jonathan relaxed anyway, recognising that the boy was attempting to be civil to his customer. “Well, is there anything in particular you’re interested in that I could help you with?”
“I just dabble a bit,” Jonathan admitted quietly. The boy was English, that was really the only thing that reminded him of Mr. Giles, but the slight comparison with an authority figure eased him a little.
The boy’s eyes seemed to light up at that and the smile became more genuine. “Really? At least there’s someone semi-serious about magic in this town. The others who’ve shown up have all been those new-age incense-burning yuppies looking for instant love.”
Jonathan rolled his eyes, knowing exactly what he was talking about. “Yeah, there are a lot of them here. But there are quite a few I know who are actually serious. They probably don’t know you’re open again. We’re all kind of used to the Magic Box being rather unreliable in that regard.”
“Oh? How so?” Did the boy truly not know?
“Well there’s a rumour that this shop’s cursed. None of the previous owners have ever lived to get out of town.”
This piece of information stunned the other boy and he gaped before asking, “Are you serious?” Jonathan nodded. “Oh that’s just great,” he slumped and ran his fingers through his hair. “I’m never going to finish my schooling at this rate.”
Jonathan squirmed awkwardly. “Well, if it’s any consolation,” he said slowly, “The mortality rate for everyone
here isn’t all that great.”
“Doesn’t help that much. Excuse me.” Jonathan watched, bemused as the boy stalked over to the back rooms. “Severus,” he called out sharply.
Jonathan took a step back as an older man emerged from the back rooms. He was dressed in black too, but the air he gave off wasn’t as charming as the teenager’s. In fact, he reminded Jonathan of a vampire — which was never a good comparison to make in this town. Long greasy black hair and pallid features indicated he spent a lot of time indoors and avoiding the sun. If he wasn’t of the undead, Jonathan had to wonder just why he’d moved to California of all places.
Severus regarded the customer warily, thinking this was the reason Draco had called him out. He turned to his ward. “What is it Draco?”
“Severus, did you know there was a curse on this place when you bought it?”
The older man rolled his eyes at the panicked expression on the boy’s face. “Draco, you are far too superstitious,” he said, exasperated. “I know you have good reason to be, and in this town prudence is strongly advised, but do you really think I would be foolish enough not to investigate such absurd claims?”
Draco floundered, still rather worked up over the idea, but the other man’s logic seemed to be getting through to him. “I guess not,” he mumbled.
Severus regarded him sharply. “Draco, when was the last time you had a break?”
Draco frowned. “What’s that got to do with anything?”
“I don’t think I’ve had one yet.”
“What?” Severus looked furious for a moment before the expression faded into concern. “Draco, you cannot continue to push yourself this way.” When Draco only shrugged at that, he glared. “I don’t want to see you back here until sunset.”
It was Draco’s turn to look startled. “What?”
“You need a break. And sunlight. Go out and see the town. I’m more than capable of handling the store alone for a few hours.” He made a ‘shooing’ gesture with his hands.
Jonathan thought it was best he let his presence be known again. “I could show you around if you wanted,” he offered timidly. He shrank back under Severus’ gaze and let out a relieved breath when the intimidating man nodded curtly.
“That would be quite acceptable, wouldn’t it, Draco?”
Draco stared at Severus a moment longer before acquiescing. “Fine,” he muttered darkly. Severus looked thoroughly satisfied as Draco made his way out of the shop with Jonathan.
The two teenagers walked down the street a ways in silence — mostly in silence. Draco was muttering things under his breath that Jonathan was sure he didn’t want to hear. Instead of opting for Draco to fall into an even darker mood, Jonathan cleared his throat nervously, shrinking back a little as Draco regarded him through narrowed grey eyes.
“You ever been to California before?” he asked after a few failed attempts.
Draco shook his head. “I’ve lived in England my whole life.”
Jonathan was surprised he answered — and in such a calm manner as well. Draco seemed the type to turn his nose up at the slightest thing. He walked straight and confident with his head held high and a sneer on his perfect face. He’d probably be one of Cordelia’s friends at school. If he went to school that was.
“What brings you out here then?” he asked, not thinking it such an unusual question.
Unfortunately he seemed to hit a nerve with that one and Draco seemed to freeze up before replying. “It was Severus’ decision to come here. He’s still my guardian for another year.” He was using a very familiar tone of voice now, the one the Cordettes always used, the one that said, ‘I’m so superior, I don’t have to acknowledge you exist.’
Jonathan nodded, desperately thinking of a way to change the subject. “It’s a little odd,” he rambled on, “Not many people come to Sunnydale, you know? It’s a strange town.” He just hoped Draco wasn’t going to react the same way everyone else did when he took the initiative to converse with them.
“I got that impression already.” Draco looked over him with cool eyes. “What’s your name anyhow?”
“Jonathan,” he replied, mentally kicking himself for being so stupid. “Jonathan Levinson.”
“Draco Black. Why don’t you tell me a little about Sunnydale? I haven’t gotten out much over the past few weeks I’ve been here. I haven’t even seen the high school yet, though Severus has already arranged my classes.”
Jonathan tried not to show his relief that Draco didn’t immediately hate him for living. “You’re going to Sunnydale high?” he asked instead of revealing his thought process to the other boy. “What year?”
“Seventh … er, you’d call it senior year?”
“Yeah. You might be in some of my classes.”
“Hopefully.” Jonathan seemed a little surprised by the comment. “It’d be nice to have a friendly face around.” Draco seemed to grow uncomfortable at the direction of conversation and asked, “So, what is there to do for fun around here?”
As the two headed into the main shopping district of Sunnydale, Jonathan elaborated on the few entertaining elements of the small Californian town, none of which really appealed to either of them. As they passed by the movies, something caught Jonathan’s interest. Not exactly knowing what a ‘movie marathon’ was, Draco shrugged when Jonathan asked if he minded watching it with him. It sounded more interesting than most of what Jonathan had talked about earlier. Draco only had one question.
“What is the ‘Star Wars Trilogy’?”
Jonathan barely hid his horror at the question and dragged Draco into the darkened movie theatre without another word.
“… And then, he picked up the idiotic pseudo-Dark Lord and threw him into a metal pit all to save his idiot son — a Gryffindor if ever there was one, rushing in blindly like that to save the galaxy. To add insult to injury, the man dies in the Gryffindor’s arms just before the giant ball blows up and the heroes save the day.”
Draco was pacing around the kitchen as he cooked; ranting at Severus about the ‘movies’ he’d seen with Jonathan. In between sentences praising Darth Vader — “Now there is a name to be feared!” — and complaining about the “obvious Gryffindor bias”, he chopped and stirred and bounced excitedly as he regaled the adventures of the Rebel Alliance and their thwarting of the evil Galactic Empire. Severus just watched on from the kitchen table, a faint smile of amusement shadowing his features.
As Draco finished retelling the final story and put the finishing touches on their dinner, Severus asked, “I take it you enjoyed your first real foray into the muggle world.” As Draco stilled, Severus knew he hit the real reason as to why Draco had barely stepped outside in the weeks they’d been here. “Not quite what you expected, was it?”
Draco shrugged, and tried to look like he was busy with the sauce. “It was fine,” he mumbled.
“Just ‘fine’?” Draco shrugged again. “And young Jonathan? Was he ‘fine’ for a simple muggle?”
“You’ve made your point Severus,” Draco snapped, turning around with a glare. “Yes, I had fun this afternoon. I enjoyed muggle entertainments and I enjoyed the company of a muggle while doing so. Is that what you wanted to hear?”
Severus closed the book he’d been pretending to browse while Draco had been rambling earlier. “Draco, all I want to hear is that you are doing well. I know this is hard for you, having your world ripped apart and then just as suddenly having the remnants of it turned completely upside down. Had you not been so resistant to accept living in such a situation I would be truly worried.”
Draco was quiet for a moment and Severus let him collect his thoughts.
“I didn’t hate this afternoon,” Draco finally said, once again busying himself with the almost-ready food so he did not have to look Severus in the eye. “And a part of me despises that I could enjoy an afternoon with a muggle doing muggle things. I’m still not entirely sure I want that part of me to go away.”
“Whether we want to admit it or not, we cannot go back to the way we were before, Draco. We had best get used to making changes if we want to continue to live.”
“This isn’t life,” Draco snarled, serving their dinner up with far more force than necessary. He stared at the stain of red sauce on the countertop by the stove. “This is punishment for being on the wrong side in a war.”
“Perhaps,” Severus stayed calm, which infuriated his ward even more. “But if you continue to see this second chance as a negative thing, then you will never truly live. I have received many chances in my life, but I have never truly enjoyed any but this one.”
“Why is that?”
“Because this time, no one knows me. I have a true chance to start anew and live how I want to with no pressures from anyone else.”
“But I’m here.”
“And why should that be such a terrible thing? I will admit that looking after a child is not my most fond wish, however, you can hardly be called a child any more Draco, and I rather enjoy your companionship.” Severus leaned forward on the table as Draco moved slowly over to serve their food. “What exactly do you want, Draco?”
Draco froze as he was pulling out a chair. “I … I don’t know.”
“Don’t you think this is a good chance to find out then?”
It was two days before Draco saw Jonathan again. He’d been working with Severus in the interim, but he was often quite distracted. Upon selling a rather rare item at a severely discounted price for no reason, Severus sent him away on a walk to clear his head.
With a list of books to buy. Muggle books.
Okay, so Draco was slowly getting used to the idea of living among Muggles: it was for his own safety. But this step was quite a large one to take. Did he really want to learn about Muggle culture — or lack thereof?
There was a contemporary bookstore near the Magic Box. It was nothing like what Draco was used to. There was a faint hint of mustiness to the store, but not the overwhelming blanket like in Flourish and Blotts. The light was bright, it seemed like every wall was made of glass and the shelves weren’t packed tight with odd shapes and sizes. It was … utilitarian. There was no mystery, no chilling thrill lacing your stomach walls as you walked in to tell you that you were in a sacred place filled with the wisdom of everyone who came before you. The silence wasn’t filled with whispering secrets, instead a jarring song played that Draco recognised from hearing it in the shop next door.
Draco was severely disappointed. Walking into this shop, it felt as though something had been stripped away. Were all Muggle shops so boring and lifeless?
The other patrons didn’t seem to mind so much, a few talking enthusiastically under their breath as they browsed the overly-neat and ordered shelves.
Sighing, Draco looked up to see a sign telling him exactly where he needed to go to find his books. It just wasn’t the same.
Hearing his name, he turned to find the short young man from two days ago hailing him. “Jonathan. It’s a pleasure to see you again.” Indeed, Draco was quite startled to realise he was definitely not displeased
to see Jonathan.
“Really?” Should the boy have been so surprised at such a statement? “It’s great seeing you too.” There was a slight pause where Jonathan looked nervous. “Are you looking for anything in particular?” he blurted out.
Draco shrugged, wondering what caused such a nervous reaction in the boy. “Something to occupy me I suppose. Severus did give me a list. He said it would help with understanding the classes here, but I’d rather not die of total boredom before the term begins.” Draco eyed the boy speculatively, recalling the ‘movies’ he’d attended with him. He’d actually had a rather good time. “What would you suggest?”
Again, Jonathan looked startled. “Uh,” he said, “Well, what are you interested in?”
“Anything, I suppose,” Draco said, peering at the books on display. “I haven’t had much of an opportunity to read for pleasure in recent times. I did quite enjoy that movie the other day though, so maybe something like that.”
“Oh, in that case I know tons of things to read.” Jonathan had apparently lost all his nervousness at Draco’s admission about Star Wars. Grabbing Draco’s hand, he pulled him towards the back corner of the store where the book covers looked more interesting and the lighting was a little dimmer.
“Sci-fi, Fantasy and Horror?” Draco questioned.
“Yeah, you really haven’t read any of this?” Jonathan asked, as he pulled books from the shelves. “I mean, I know people look down on them, but there’s some really good writing in the genres.”
“I wouldn’t know. My family was always interested in older books and authors.” Draco glanced curiously at some of the books. Some of the titles made no sense and others he didn’t know how to interpret properly. “Jonathan, I think this should suffice as an introduction.”
Jonathan looked torn. There were quite a few more books piled up in his arms. He glanced at the titles in Draco’s hands and nodded. “All right, I guess they are a pretty good introduction. But we haven’t even gotten to the other movies or TV series. Or comics.”
“Don’t worry,” Draco said, a little concerned by the expression on Jonathan’s face. He looked like he was about to rip into three parts. That was never fun to watch. “There should be plenty of time to show me everything else you want to.”
“Really?” Jonathan looked relieved and enthusiastic again — an expression Draco quite liked seeing on the other boy’s face — but it soon faded. “You’ll probably feel differently when school starts.”
“Why would that be?” Draco asked.
Jonathan looked away. “I’m not exactly the most popular or fun guy to be around.”
“Popularity’s quite overrated in my opinion,” Draco sneered. “I mean, who really cares what some idiot with a pretty face and a good publicist is doing in his spare time? It’s hardly like they deserve the fame anyway. They do maybe one thing — or two, or who cares how many — and all of a sudden it’s like no one else matters, like we’re all expected to bow down before them for no reason. It’s like we cease to exist as individuals and become mere tools for their whim.”
Draco flushed as he realised he’d been ranting at Jonathan. “Well, that’s just my opinion,” he said.
“I know how you feel.”
Draco nodded, not trusting his mouth while that topic was still so near the surface. He looked down at the books in his hands and immediately went with the diversion. “I should go pay for these. No, I should go find the books Severus wanted then pay for them.”
“Okay.” Jonathan shifted: the nervousness back in his posture. “I should get going anyway.”
Draco frowned. “You don’t want to help explain these to me? I think I’d be a little lost reading them with no context to apply to them.”
“Oh.” Jonathan blinked, looking a little startled. “Sure I could do that.”
“Wonderful.” And Draco stalked down the neat and straight aisles in search of books on Muggle culture, somehow less apprehensive about the idea than earlier that hour.
Draco had been in regular contact with Jonathan over the past few weeks and the club had come up in idle conversation last time they talked. Jonathan didn’t seem too keen on the place, but Draco was curious. It would never be said aloud — by him or Severus, who had begun to pick up on things — but Draco was quickly warming to his new situation. Muggles were actually quite fascinating.
Plus, he was starting too feel quite homesick. The only person his age he had any contact with was Jonathan, and as much as he didn’t dislike the boy’s company, Draco wanted to not dislike the company of other teenagers as well.
When he suggested going to the club to Severus, the man had raised an eyebrow in a way that told Draco the man wasn’t fooled by his protests that it was mere idle curiosity. Still, his guardian hadn’t said ‘no’.
Jonathan had agreed to meet him there after much cajoling. Draco gave passing thought to the idea he was being a bit of a bother to the boy, but didn’t dwell on it, turning his attentions to his wardrobe instead. What would be deemed as acceptable for a club? Casual, but not too casual, definitely not formal, but something to add effect. An edge to get him noticed, because Draco Malfoy never went anywhere without being recognised — at least on some level.
Draco frowned as he went through his clothes. Draco Black
. He had to get used to calling himself that. He was Draco Black now: a young, normal, man with a past involving bad family troubles — hence the reason for a guardian. Nothing too out of the ordinary, any strangeness could be attributed to his and Severus’ ‘alternative lifestyle choices’.
Stripping out of his shirt, the Mark on his arm caught his eye.
And there was, of course, nothing too sinister that could be linked back to Draco Black
Draco grabbed the first thing he could see to cover up his forearm.
The music deafening the air wasn’t as terrible as some of the things Draco had heard while out and about. There was a sense of rhythm and melody that was catching, if still a little foreign to his ears.
The Bronze was dark, the lights flashing at random moments of different colours. The bar and the stage were brighter, but not as interesting as the dance floor. So many twisting bodies swaying along with the music. It was hypnotic. Draco was fascinated.
“I like your coat.” The voice at his ear brought Draco back to himself. There was a girl standing next to him, her lips red and shiny, blond hair falling in thick curls over her shoulders.
“Thank you.” Draco was taken aback. The girl was smiling secretively and there was a hint of sharpness to that smile that reminded him far too much of Pansy. Distracting himself from that train of thought, Draco looked down at his outfit. The high-collared sleeveless coat was
nice; it was his most favoured item of clothing. Of course he didn’t get to wear it in public that often due to the tattoo on his left forearm, but Draco — ever conscious of his appearance — had pulled on matching black wrist braces to hide the disfigurement.
“I’m Harmony. Wanna dance?”
With the abrupt question thrown at him, all resemblance to Pansy had been thrown aside. No Slytherin would have been so blunt, nor would they assume anything without a concrete answer. Harmony was dragging him towards the dance floor without care of Draco’s thoughts on the matter.
Draco pulled his arm from her grasp and glared as she turned around, startled. “I’m waiting for a friend,” he said, coldly, before turning his back on her and walking away. She huffed loudly and shouted something about his attitude that he could barely hear over the music — not that he cared what she thought of him anyway.
“You know, it was worth it to come tonight just to see that.”
Draco turned to face the teenager who’d commented on his actions while clapping him on the shoulder. The dark-haired boy was with another shorter boy with … green?!
hair and two girls — a redhead and a brunette. The redhead was grinning while the other boy smiled faintly and the brunette’s expression crossed between a smirk and a frown. It seemed Harmony wasn’t all that liked by these four.
“Would you mind letting go?” Draco still hadn’t gotten used to the complete lack of respect these teens had for personal space.
“Sorry, man,” the taller teen let go with a placating grin.
Draco nodded and surveyed the room for Jonathan.
“Are you looking for someone?” The redhead reminded him far too much of the Weasley girl and Draco had to stop his instinctive sneer from appearing as he heard her soft-spoken question directed at him.
“Yes, a … friend of mine was supposed to meet me here.” Draco admitted aloud what he was slowly starting to feel about the boy who’d kept him company over the lonely weeks in Sunnydale.
“You’re not talking about Giles, are you?” The gorgeous brunette sipping at a fake-cocktail eyed him as she asked. “’Cause you’re probably not going to find him here.”
“I’ve heard references to Mr. Giles before,” Draco didn’t bother trying to hide his irritation. “Is he the only other Englishman in this town?”
“It’s very likely,” the formerly silent green-haired boy spoke up.
“Of course it is,” Draco muttered. “Tiny town like this …”
“It’s not so bad,” the redhead protested. “Sunnydale kinda grows on you, just give it time.”
“Will, I hope you didn’t mean that literally,” the dark-haired boy cut in. “’Cause, we’ve got enough on our plate without town-parts growing on people.”
“Xander.” The redhead scowled, hitting him lightly on the arm. She turned back to Draco. “So, who are you waiting for? We might know your friend from school or something.” She seemed eager to help.
Draco figured it wouldn’t do any harm. “His name’s Jonathan.”
“Jonathan?” The redhead looked surprised. “As in, Jonathan
Draco frowned. “I’m unaware of how many Jonathans you have made acquaintance with, but I am waiting for Jonathan Levinson.”
“Huh. Well, Jonathan doesn’t usually come here often.”
“Yes, he mentioned that, however I was curious about the place and wondered if we could make a night of it. Seeing as next week school begins, I thought tonight would be a good opportunity.”
“You and everyone else in town,” the brunette commented with a glance around the packed club. “So you’re new here, and you’re going to Sunnydale High on Monday?”
“Yes. Senior class. I’m Draco Black.” There wasn’t even a hint of hesitation on the name this time around.
“Cool name. I’m Cordelia Chase.”
“Willow Rosenberg.” The redhead waved.
“Oz.” The green-haired boy almost grunted quietly.
“Xander Harris. Guess we’ll be seeing you around the halls and in classes, huh.”
“Very likely. It was a pleasure making your acquaintance, however I have spotted my friend and it would be rude to ignore him. Perhaps we’ll talk some more later.”
“Definitely.” Willow seemed almost too enthusiastic to meet him again, but this didn’t seem like an unusual reaction judging by the looks on her friends’ faces. “Have fun and welcome to Sunnydale.”
“Thanks.” Draco walked away, waving to Jonathan looking uncomfortable by himself on the other side of the room. He tried not to overhear the four at the table as they continued speaking after his departure, but their conversation was so strange that it was unavoidable.
“’Welcome to Sunnydale’
, Will? Do you want to get the poor guy killed or something.”
“I was just being nice, and there’s nothing wrong with allowing him to hold onto a few delusions that this town is a nice regular suburban town rather than a vamp-infested cesspool.”
“Odds are he’s probably figured out the second part by now. People here aren’t stupid; they just like pretending to be.”
“I like him. Very polite.”
“The thing with Harmony was pretty awesome.”
Draco was right on his first assumption: Harmony really wasn’t very well liked.
Jonathan smiled as Draco arrived, though he was still looking around uncomfortably. His friend really wasn’t very good in social situations. Draco decided to take pity on them both (he’d had enough socialising and being polite to last him for at least a month) and said, “Let’s grab a drink and just watch the band.”
All in all, the Bronze wasn’t a terrible place to be and he’d found Jonathan to be a rather entertaining companion. It was strange. The other boy reminded him a lot of Neville Longbottom. Maybe it was that sense of familiarity that made him cling to the other boy. But there were also startling differences. Where Neville was quiet, even among friends — Draco had noticed when spying on the Gryffindors — Jonathan was always talking and it was usually about something different and fascinating. Just listening to the way he jumped from topic to topic was engaging. Jonathan was also far more confident than Neville had ever been. Jonathan just seemed afraid to show that he had such confidence in himself.
Honestly though, thrust into a world-bending situation like this, Draco could do a lot worse than having a Neville Longbottom clone as a friend. So long as there weren’t clones of the Gryffindor Golden Trio lying in wait somewhere, Draco could probably get used to this sort of life.
Maybe he would take advantage of this second chance.