Chapter 1: Priori Occuro

            "Get out of my way, Granger," he growled, as he headed towards the portrait hole that led to their Head Boy and Girl's dormitories.

            "I was here first, Malfoy," she snarled as she came out of the portrait hole.

            "Shove off, I don't want to stain my beautiful, expensive cloak with your disgusting touch, mudblood."

            By now, Hermione was more than used to his rudeness. She had endured it for six years and now gave as good as she got. In her second year, she had cried when he called her that for the first time, but Hermione Granger had toughened up.

            "Do all Purebloods have your charming manners? My my, I can see what a civilized tribe you all are."

            "We keep our manners for those who matter, mudblood."

            "And your brains too, it would appear."

            He stormed past her as she moved aside to let him pass, but not enough so that he couldn't help but have to have his cloak touch her arm. She couldn't believe she would have to tolerate another nine months of his Malfoy crap. When Dumbledore had taken them into his office for the Head Boy and Girl talk, he had very tactfully said that they should put aside all differences and try to work for the good of the school. After all, they were the two brightest students in the school and those that showed the most leadership qualities so it was up to them to set an example to the younger students.

            And, good god, she had tried to! She was actually civil to Malfoy for the first month of school even though she met with constant rudeness. Despite all the rudeness e had hurled at her, she had pursed her lips and said nothing. But after a month, her patience was wearing thin, if anything- he seemed to be getting worse.

            Even though she shared a common room with him, she much preferred to spend her time studying in the Gryffindor common room. His presence in their common room was too depressing for her. He seemed to want to spend a lot more time there than in the Slytherin common room. Hermione suspected why: since Draco had grown taller and muscled up after the Tri Wizard tournament two years ago, the Slytherin girls had been after him like a pack of dogs in heat.

Younger female students from other houses were regularly seen hanging around his classes and running errands for him even though the other prefects told them *not* to do that. The girls in other houses from his *own* year knew Draco Malfoy too well to fall for his silvery-blonde good looks. The past is not erased that easily. He got no peace from girls in his own house, though. Since he was at heart a very intelligent boy constantly competing with Hermione Granger for the best grades in the school, he really needed somewhere to study quietly. So he used their common room.

Head Boy and Girl developed a professional, if somewhat cold, routine that minimized their contact together. They hardly saw each other except in classes and when they were getting ready for school in the morning. Sometimes, when Draco went out for early quidditch practice or Hermione went to the library early, they would not see each other the whole day. Of course, when summoned by the Professors or Prefects to do "Head" stuff, they would co-operate, but only in a very perfunctory way. Dumbledore noticed this of course, but he could only hope that they would work out their differences. It would not be the first time that two students who hated each other became the best of friends.

Their routine seemed to be working fine, contact was minimized and nothing unpleasant happened at all aside from the usual rude comments from Malfoy. But this was to end. Hermione was shocked when one night, after playing gobstones in the Gryffindor common room with Ginny and Lavender, she came back to their suite of rooms to find Draco lying on the floor, groaning in what appeared to be mortal agony.

By instinct, stronger than prejudice against the Slytherin, she ran to him and knelt on the floor beside him.

"Malfoy. Malfoy, wake up! Are you all right?"

His groans continued but at last he opened his eyes. Then abruptly he stopped as Hermione's face swam into focus.

"Granger…" he tried to speak but couldn't.

"Malfoy, you're hurt or something. I'll go get Madam Pomfrey."

She got up to go but felt a weak hand grasp her own desperately.

"No!" Malfoy croaked. "I'll-be-okay"

The boy really seemed desperate so she got back down on the carpet next to him and held his hand. It's not that she wanted to. It was more that he was still holding on to hers so she didn't have a choice. He winced and she noticed a flash of pain cross his pale face as he gripped her hand harder. After about a minute, it seemed to pass and he tried to lift himself off the floor and sit up. He managed it but it was clear that it was a huge effort.

"What's wrong, Malfoy. What happened?" Hermione asked, eyes dark with worry.

Draco looked at her. It seemed that a great struggle was going on inside him. His blue-gray eyes were dark and stormy, a muscle twitched in his jaw as he clenched it. Finally, he pushed her aside- not roughly, he was still too weak for that.

"N-nothing. Had some bad reaction to the food at dinner that's all." He tried to stand but collapsed.

"Yeah right Malfoy. You look like you've drunk a Curse Potion, not eaten a bit of fish that was off."

"I don't need …your help…Granger. Give me a few minutes, I'll… be… fine." He tried to stand up again but failed. Hermione Granger stared at him like he was crazy. He was obviously hurt and in pain but refusing medical attention! What was up with him? He had nearly told her what happened, she saw it in his eyes just now when he seemed to be struggling with himself. She had never really been so close to the Slytherin Head Boy before in her entire life. He was practically lying in her lap. Other girls might have killed for this moment, but not Hermione Granger.

Calmly, she lifted him under the shoulders and propped him up against the sofa. He was very heavy for her. She noticed then his muscles through his shirt. He winced as she let him go and his hand flew to his side.

"What?...Oh my god!" Hermione inhaled sharply when she saw the bruise through his white school shirt which had at least three buttons undone. Not only one bruise, but many. And his whole upper torse was crossed with scars- some red and angry, some healing, some very old and healed.

"Get away from me, Granger." He hissed weakly.

"Malfoy…who did this to you?"

He closed his eyes.

"I said, get away from me. Are you deaf or something?"

Just his luck to be found out by Hermione Granger, the stubbornest witch in Hogwarts, he cursed silently to himself.

"No, I am *not* leaving you unless you tell me who did this to you. If you don't tell me I shall go for Dumbldore."

"You're a stubborn witch you know."

She pouted as she handed him a glass of water from the table. "Drink this. I've charmed it to take away some of the pain."

He was too tired to question her so he drank it and instantly felt some f the pain ebb away. For all her stubbornness and faults, she was one hell of a smart witch.

"Who did this, Malfoy?" She re-postioned herself next to him on the carpet in front of the fireplace and stared into his blue-gray eyes. Damnit! Was she using a charm on him? He really felt like telling her what had happened! It was like he was taking Veritaserum or something!

"Malfoy…" she reached out and put her hand over his own. It was the first loving touch anyone had given him for a long, long time. He broke down.

"Damn you, Granger. You want to know who did this to me? It was my FATHER. Get that? Yes, my own father! Happy now?"

"Lucius?" Hermione whispered. "B-but how did he get to you? Is he here?"

"I went to meet him at Hogsmeade earlier. Don't worry, he can't come in here. Daddy and I had a little…talk. Then I somehow managed to walk back to Hogwarts since I used a Suspendio Charm on myself for a while but I couldn't keep it up. Then I collapsed. Then you were here."

"Oh Dra-Malfoy! We should tell Dumbledore! This is…"

"NO! I already told you we can't tell him. Anyway, it's not the first time as I'm sure you noticed. Promise me. Promise me!" He looked like the strain was going to do him more injury so Hermione hastily promised. She realized they were still holding hands.

"You're a damn good witch I'll give you that, Granger. The Painless Charm seems to be doing me good. If you would kindly help me to my bed, I'd really appreciate it."