Rated M for Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Language, and Violence.


Summary: Draco Malfoy is released from Azkaban and sent to Hogwarts for his eighth year where he has a year to show that he can be reformed. Hermione Granger, and her friends, are struggling to come to terms with what has happened to them and move on, but she has agreed to be Malfoy's Muggle Studies tutor anyway.


Disclaimer: I am not profiting from this story.

Anything you recognize belongs to the great and mighty JKR.


Chapter Thirty

Friday, February 19th, 1999

As Harry approached the front door of Narcissa Malfoy's home for the second time, he found himself wishing that Hermione had come with him again. That would have defeated the purpose of the trip of course, which was, in fact, to talk about Hermione. Her presence was always enough to shake out some of his nerves unless he was taking a test. She made tests worse. He was pretty glad he wasn't taking his N.E.W.T.s with her. He couldn't imagine the state she would be in in just a couple of short months. It probably didn't help that she didn't seem any closer to deciding what to do with her life. Harry hoped Draco knew what he was getting himself into. It would be kind of annoying to go through all of this just for the pair to break up over Hermione's extreme perfectionism and test anxiety.

Harry knocked on the door.

He waited several long minutes. No one opened the door.

It was entirely possible that Narcissa wasn't home. Possible, but not likely. According to Ginny, Narcissa Malfoy hadn't been seen in months, which seemed to indicate that she was staying home to avoid the rest of the Wizarding World.

He knocked again.

He waited several long minutes. No one opened the door.

A curtain rippled.

"Mrs. Malfoy, It's Harry Potter. I need to talk to you," he called. He knocked again.

The large door slid open a few inches, not enough to invite him to step closer to the threshold, but enough to let him see the gaunt face of Narcissa Malfoy staring out at him.

"What do you want?" she asked.

"I need to talk to you," he repeated, smiling at her in a way that he hope was non-threatening. She seemed like a shell of her former self. Every time he saw her, less and less of her seemed to be left.

She frowned at him. "We don't have a connection just because I saved your miserable life to give my family the shred of a chance to have something to survive for."

"You're very wrong there, Mrs. Malfoy," Harry said politely. "But even if that was the case, Hermione and Draco are together, and we have a connection through them."

"That is a slanderous lie by the Prophet." She hissed out the S on slanderous, reminding him so much of Nagina that a shiver ran down his spine.

"You know it isn't," he told her, his voice remaining steady. "We both knew at Christmas, and I talked to Draco myself just this weekend."

"You … you what?" The door slid open another inch.

"I talked to him. He is the reason I'm here," he said, hoping to encourage her to continue the conversation.

"You saw my son?" she asked.

"Yes. I'm going to be seeing him again on Sunday."

The door opened wider. "Will that girl be with him?"

Harry tried not to let her see how upset he was by her words. He had to try to remain calm, remain diplomatic if he wanted Hermione to be safe. "He said she probably would, but she wasn't there when I talked to him."

"Why not? Why did you see him?" Her eyes filled with suspicion.

"Can I come in?" he asked, motioning towards the house. "We can talk."

She opened the door enough to let him in. "You aren't going to convince me to accept this. Over a thousand years of-"

"Over a thousand years of bigotry. Yes. Draco told me." Harry nodded as she stared at him, her lines pursed into a flat line.

"If you're going to be rude, you can leave," she told him coldly.

"I'm not trying to be rude. I'm being factual. They are together, and they aren't going to be convinced by your stellar bloodlines to change that, so maybe we can do some good together to help them." Harry stared back, waiting for her to make her decision.

She was quiet for a long time.

Sunday, February 21st, 1999

A large book sat open in front of Harry when Draco and Hermione walked into the library room on Sunday. Harry had several pieces of parchment scattered around him. A quill rested in his hand, the end brushing against his shoulder as he waved it unconsciously.

"Harry," Hermione told him joyfully, moving into the room to have a seat near enough to look over his notes.

"Hello," he told her, not looking up until he finished the end of a paragraph.

"How's it going?" Draco asked, taking the seat across from Harry once again.

"Fine. Hard to know what is most important when 99% of it is new to me," Harry told them honestly.

"If you work on it together though and bring in books from the rest of the library for reference, I think you should be able to tell a little better," Hermione said.

"Yeah. I know. I'm just starting to see why this is going to take several years, and why McGonagall doesn't want to hire someone else to teach it after we've sussed it all out."

"Are you still thinking about taking the job then?" Draco asked.

"Aren't you?" Harry asked, raising an eyebrow. "It's not the kind of job you just say no to."

"It is if you don't want it," Hermione told him. She put a hand on his. "Don't jump from one job you don't want to do to another." She worried her bottom lip.

"I won't," Harry said softly, smiling at her. "I want to know what I'm getting myself into though, which is why I'm looking at these." He waved his hand at the small stack he had made on the table. "Even just this one is …" He shook his head.

Draco picked one of the other books up out of the stack and opened it, flipping through the pages, a guarded look on his face. Hermione watched him carefully. "What are you thinking?" she asked him.

"I don't know," he said, continuing to flip.

"I saw Narcissa," Harry said then, and Hermione turned back to face him, her mouth opening into a small o.

"You what?" Hermione asked.

At the same moment, Draco asked, "How was she?" Hermione glanced over at him, her eyebrows raised.

"Did you know about this?" She watched him closely.

"We talked about it," Draco told her, nodding. "How was she," he repeated.

Harry shrugged at them. "I don't think she's great to be honest."

"What's wrong?" Draco asked. His eyes creased with concern.

"She's not leaving the house. She doesn't really look like herself anymore. I'm sorry, Draco." Harry relayed the news softly.

"I wish I could write to her. This is so ridiculous," Draco said, wiping at his face with his hand.

"At least she let me in. She was reluctant, but she did it. We talked for quite a while. She isn't crazy about the two of you. She started out by telling me it was a slanderous lie by the Prophet, but we made some progress."

"What kind of progress?" Hermione asked. She hoped that it was good progress, but her hand was resting over Draco's now, trying to reassure him either way.

"I told her that I'm concerned about your safety, and Draco's, once you leave Hogwarts," Harry explained.

"I don't think we need-"

"Hermione," Draco cut in. "We need to worry about it." He turned his hand over to grab hers. "We can't keep pretending that we're going to be in Hogwarts forever, safe behind the castle walls."

"As far as we know, no one cares, Draco. The response has been so much better than we expected," she argued.

"Which is part of the reason I think we need to be concerned," he insisted. "These people don't work out in the open, Hermione. If someone wants to send us - send me a message about you, they aren't going to write me a letter in the Owl Post."

"I think you're overreacting."

"Hermione," Harry said, " we aren't overreacting. I know this isn't fun to think about, but I agree with Draco. We need to be prepared for the worst. Many of Voldemort's supporters are still out there. Some of them we likely don't even know about, would never imagine."

Hermione looked between the two of them as they watched her, both serious and determined. She closed her eyes, holding them shut for two, three, four breaths, and then opened them again. "Okay," she whispered, accepting her future, the thing she had wanted to push away as long as possible, the knowledge that had lingered in the back of her mind hidden in the places she never visited. "So, what did she say?"

"She was already worried about Draco. Assuming he makes it through the … trial, for lack of a better word, at the end of the year, there will be people deeply upset that he has been let off as they will see it."

Draco nodded in agreement. "True. I was going to be dealing with these things either way."

"Essentially, we just agreed that we are worried. She thinks there are some things we can look into that I didn't really know about as options. Charms and protections," Harry told them. "I'm going to see her again in a few weeks. She's agreed to present a supportive front if asked about the two of you. I'm not sure how convincing she will be when it's clear she isn't."

"She's a good actress when she needs to be," Draco assured him. "Just let us know when you see her again, and …" He trailed off, and Hermione squeezed his hand. Draco sighed deeply, his eyes closing for a long moment before he continued. "Potter, tell her … tell her I need her to take care of herself. Tell her I can't do this by myself."

Wednesday, February 24th, 1999

Ginny's first Quidditch match as a Holyhead Harpy was on a Wednesday afternoon. Rain and ice flew down in haphazard directions, soaking everyone that hadn't put a charm on their cloak. Harry, luckily, was attending with the Weasley's. Molly Weasley had charmed all of their cloaks before they left the Burrow, as well as Harry's glasses.

"Otherwise, you won't be able to see anything in this, dear," she had told him as she tapped the frames with her wand.

She had also pulled out some rather worn looking umbrellas as well, handing them out to the family. Harry had raised an eyebrow at Ron, who just laughed. "They'll help," he said simply.

And, they did. The umbrellas seemed to not only deflect the water and ice, but Harry would swear that it was radiating a gentle heat throughout his body that helped him to feel like much less of an icicle than he had been expecting to feel like. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley sat with him and Ron with George and Percy in front of them. They all cheered loudly, roaring into the ice storm as the fans around them did the same.

Ginny was marvelous. She flew beautifully, her broom seemingly a part of her body, a limb he had just now realized that she had. She had always been a stellar player, but it was clear that her training with the Harpies had taken that skill and lit it on fire, blazing it into an inferno. Ginny seemed not to even think before moving, her decisions all instinct. The part she played was just one aspect of a cleverly designed orchestra. The harpies were exquisite. Harry could see easily that she had made the right choice in leaving school for this. Her joy glowed on her face.

Harry looked over at Molly Weasley at one point, a woman he had never known to pay much attention to the sport, to see her crying as she smiled at her daughter. Harry reached his hand over to hers and gripped it firmly. She squeezed his back, laughing as she turned to him. "She's so beautiful," she told him.

"Yes," Harry said. "She really is."


A/N - Years later than I expected, I am still writing this story. There are four more chapters if things go as planned. I am trying to write them more quickly than I have been, and hope for this story to be complete in the next couple of months. I am writing a lot more now being stuck at home. All my love and appreciation for those of you who have stuck through the breaks. Wishing you all health and safety.