Upshot, Part 1
Draco Malfoy believed that one of key elements separating wizards from the common muggle was the use of utensils, or rather the use of the wand, to settle a dispute, instead of the more primitive and utterly plebeian use of fist and brawn. After all, any garden variety primate could throw a punch, but only a wizard-- or witch-- could throw a hex.
He knew that explaining this phenomenon to Ronald Weasley, however, would be an entirely wasted effort. One, because such concepts were undoubtedly above his mental capability of understanding, and two because the red-haired Neanderthal was currently content with throwing a slew of blows his way. Besides, Draco could take anything the Weasel dished out, physical or no, and more.
Especially with Harry Potter watching.
If there was one thing that lowered him to the use of baser instincts it was the sight of Potter. After all, his policy of never allowing Potter to witness any sign of weakness on his part surely overrode that of wizarding behavioral standards?
He'd shown weakness to Potter once, and only once; he never would again.
In retrospect perhaps it had been a bad idea to ruthlessly taunt the Weasel about his older brother-- Peter? Paddy?-- defecting to Voldemort's side. It seemed particularly miscalculated considering that Draco's mother had insisted quite adamantly when she had dropped him off at the Hogwarts Express at the start of the school year that he keep a low profile. The wizarding society was turned against his family and their now obvious ties to Voldemort as it was, further attention would only add fuel to the fire.
But the sight of Potter and Weasley, walking down the hall, smiling and chatting as if they didn't have a care in the world, had caused Draco's blood to boil; he found that he couldn't not intervene, couldn't not make an effort to wipe the smiles off of their faces.
How dare they be happy while Draco's own world was turned upside-down? Worse yet, how dare the Weasel for enjoying something that should have, by rights, been his from the get-go… Potter.
So yes, giving into his rage and running off at the mouth hadn't been one of Draco's better ideas, but that didn't give Weasley the right to be so barbaric about the whole thing. It certainly didn't give the student population as a whole the right to stand around watching the altercation as if it were the most amusing spectacle since last year's 'Weasley vs. Umbridge' swamp debacle.
The sound of a shocked and frazzled Transfiguration Professor's voice calling out, "Mr. Weasley, Mr. Malfoy, what on earth…," interrupted Draco's 'knee-to-groin' defense tactic midair, and he could only sigh as the inevitable "Dumbledore's office, NOW!" followed that first startling exclamation shortly thereafter.
His mother was not going to be pleased. Truth be told, he wasn't too pleased himself… he hadn't had the opportunity to hurt Weasley nearly enough before McGonagall had interrupted.
Headmaster Albus Dumbledore was the oddest person Draco Malfoy had ever met.
By all rights the man should be yelling, or at the very least exhibiting some form of blatantly obvious anger. It would have been expected, had Snape been in Dumbledore's place. Instead the old man had called Draco in and offered him tea and candy in a congenial, hospitable manner, as if Draco had been invited into the headmaster's office for a social visit instead of admittedly deserved punishment.
To make matters worse, the obviously senile old man was eyeing Draco knowingly over crescent moon shaped glasses as if he had the power to look into Draco's very soul.
And secretly, Draco wondered if the headmaster did, in fact, possess that capability. It would certainly explain a few things…like how nothing ever seemed to get past the man.
As it was they were at a stand off, each gazing at the other quietly, neither looking away. Draco wondered if this was meant to be a staring contest of some sort, and if so if there was any chance in hell of winning. He figured it wasn't likely, but just as he had decided to give it his Slytherin best, the headmaster sat back and spoke, breaking the unnerving silence.
"I'm sure that I don't have to inform you, Mr. Malfoy, that these are perilous times. And loathe as I feel towards the necessity of calling certain situations to your attention, you are now of a certain age. The choices you make could affect the rest of your life, rather adversely at times, particularly in regards to certain alliances," the Headmaster started diplomatically, while continuing to eye Draco in that all-knowing manner.
And at the Headmaster's tentative words Draco could only roll his eyes… he should have known. In fact, a part of Draco couldn't help but wonder if Dumbledore had been sitting around since the start of the term waiting for Draco to resume his habit of Gryffindor pestering in order to get the younger Malfoy into his office to discuss Voldemort of all things.
Merlin but he was sick of that name. He was sick of everyone talking about it, of facing a society that had once eaten out of the palm of his hand, but now only looked at him with disdain and suspicion. He was even more sick of his father being in prison while the aforementioned, supposedly 'all-powerful' Dark Lord – whom his father and his father's friends were only now starting to realize hadn't come back entirely in his right mind - did nothing to rectify the situation.
They knew that the once great name of Malfoy would undoubtedly never get it's unblemished reputation back once the war was over, especially since it looked more and more like Potter was going to win this particular campaign. After all, Voldemort hadn't managed to kill him yet - despite having ample opportunity to do so - and Potter only got more and more powerful, in his own right, with age.
Damn him for that.
"If you're referring to the possibility of my joining Voldemort's delegation, don't bother. I have discussed the situation with my father via post and he has agreed that it is in my best interest to stay as far away from the conflict as remotely possible," Draco announced sourly, already composing a letter in his head to his father, highlighting the inquisition he was currently enduring. Lucius would probably gather some amusement from it; he always did say that Dumbledore was completely around the bend… he would have to be, particularly to ask questions of this sort without the Malfoy family lawyer present.
"Then am I to assume that your recent resumption of tormenting certain students has nothing to do with political affiliation?" Dumbledore inquired. His eyes, for some odd reason unbeknownst to Draco, twinkled with entertainment at this question.
Draco certainly did not see anything humorous about the situation at all.
"Oh no, my fight with Weasley was entirely personal," Draco announced before he could censor himself, pondering, shortly thereafter, if there was some type of airborne veritaserum in Dumbledore's office that tricked students into admitting things they otherwise wouldn't have.
"Well, would you care to enlighten me as to the source of this conflict so that we may find a viable solution to random acts of violence?" the Headmaster asked reasonably, decisively backing Draco into a corner.
He really, really, didn't want to answer that question. The answer opened too many wounds; conjured a rather hurtful memory. And besides - the old man's position as headmaster notwithstanding - it really wasn't any of his business just why Draco hated the Weasel with a fiery passion that rivaled Voldemort's hatred of, well, everybody…
"He laughed at my name," Draco answered instead, cringing at the petulance evident in his tone, yet suddenly cowed by the realization of exactly who it was he was talking to... the only wizard alive that Voldemort feared. And for good reason, apparently - Draco briefly wondered if Dumbledore had tried to psychoanalyze Tom Riddle to death when he had been a student at this school… that prospect would make anyone afraid of the old man.
Yet with his first admittance out in the open, Draco saw no reason to hold in the rest. Maybe it was long past time that previous grievances and rights of possession were addressed, if not for any other reason than to make certain facts known. "And if it weren't for your precious Weasley, Potter and I could have very well been friends. After all, I had met him first, prior to boarding the train to Hogwarts. It was Weasley who intervened before we could speak again, and Weasley who prevented the aforementioned alliance from occurring."
Clear comprehension spread across the headmaster's countenance. Draco didn't quite understand how Dumbledore could work out the significance of a situation that happened years ago so readily when it still, to this very day, confounded Draco as to why he was so hurt by said incident… why he continued to be hurt by it.
The thing was that Potter was an amazing person; everyone knew it. He made people happy. He gave pieces of himself to everyone around him daily, offering them protection, offering to take responsibility for them, all without batting an eye or even being cognizant of his actions. And he proved all the more amazing by the fact that he was utterly naive to his own charisma. Harry, it seemed, was the only one who didn't know that he was quite extraordinary.
Powerful, humble little Harry Potter – the boy all claimed to know and the boy all Slytherins wanted to fuck...
And Draco had met him first.
It really galled at him that he recognized Potter's appeal. He wanted to despise him. He had worked really, really hard for the past five years to do just that. The thing was that, on his days of blatant self-honesty, he admitted that he couldn't. It was far easier to hate the best friend… The one who had stolen Harry away from him. The fact that this person was a Weasley just made the whole hatred process that much less complicated. The Malfoys and the Weasleys had never, throughout both families lengthy history in Wizarding Britain, gotten along - the unspoken tug-of-war for the affections of Harry Potter was just another log on an already raging fire.
"I see," the Headmaster responded calmly, leaning back into his chair. His finger tips touched as he eyed Draco in a distinctly calculative manner – one that had Draco instantly on edge.
"Do you feel, Mr. Malfoy, that given an opportunity, - outside of extenuating circumstances, of course – that you and Mr. Potter might come to an understanding? One that would end the rivalry between you and might result in both you and Mr. Weasley acting a little more amenable to each other? Perhaps it is time that you and our young Harry spoke, just the two of you, to discuss the incident to which you're referring? I could certainly arrange something."
The request, while reasonable enough, left Draco torn between wounded pride and seething anger.
Dumbledore had obviously missed the point.
That he and Harry Potter had unresolved issues that needed to be addressed was no simple matter. In fact, none of the animosity that existed between them could ever be cured with a simple handshake, proffered cigar and pat on the back 'I'm glad we sorted this out, jolly ol' chum' let's send owls at Christmas' - any fool could see that. It was that Potter had turned down his original offer of friendship, shredding his dignity in the process, and then had the nerve to go on and be fascinating. And that was just unforgivable.
However, the opportunity to tell Potter all of that - preferably in as demeaning a manner as possible, and without anyone watching them - did seem rather appealing. That Draco could do. And if it would appease Dumbledore in the process, all the better. Wizened eyes, he knew, would be watching him closely all year long as it were - no need to add anarchy to the foray so early in the school term.
He'd save that for when his father got out of prison.
"Sure, whatever, tell the Boy Wonder I'd like to talk things over with him," Draco agreed with an exaggerated sigh, congratulating himself on getting out of any sort of harsher punishment.
An evening with Potter he could manage… somehow.