Chapter Nine: Common Ground Softens Tensions

Buffy lessons with Snape progressed throughout the next three weeks. He worked her tirelessly but she found the time worthwhile. She picked up the concepts more quickly than she thought she would and it was nice to be proficient in something other than death. Snape had warmed to her as well as he could. He didn't scold her as often or mock her quite as strongly when she happened to make a mistake. In fact, Buffy almost allowed herself to believe that he didn't mind her presence entirely as much as the others.

The one person Snape allowed any public polite acknowledgment was Draco. He truly did seem to want to take the boy under his wing but didn't feel capable enough to know how. Buffy had no such qualms. She and Draco could often be found tucked away in a corner talking about their families and extreme adventures they had taken part in. Snape could be found close by, looming Buffy called it, listening to the tales and storing information away in his head for future reference. He was shocked to hear some of the tails Draco told about his father, a man Severus thought he knew well enough. In his mind, Severus swore that when the death-eaters were finally taken down he would make sure Lucius received the harshest punishment possible. The stories Buffy told about all the creatures and monsters she faced bought his interest in Defense of the Dark Arts back to the surface. The two platinum blondes made quite the picture of heavenly angels if not for the shadowed look in their eyes.

Dumbledore spent less time with his daughter than Buffy would have liked. She understood the pressures he was under with You-Know-Who and the various dark happenings going on near Hogwarts. If anyone understood the responsibility being the protector entailed, it was the slayer. It stung that whenever Dumbledore was around he seemed to always been accompanied by one Harry Potter. Dumbledore seemed to think that she and the-boy-who-lived would become instant companions. They were both 'chosen' in a way and literally had the weight of the world on their respective shoulders. Her father did not like the amount of time she spent with Draco Malfoy. While he believed in the ability to change and found the boy's reaction to his father's command admirable, he still felt Harry would provide better understanding and friendship. Buffy didn't see it that way at all. She felt a much stronger kinship with the Slytherin who lived and breathed darkness for several years like herself than with Harry who had come in contact with it but never absorbed it into himself.

Snape encouraged Buffy's interest in his star pupil even against Dumbledore's wishes. Harry had Mr. Weasley and Ms. Granger to stand behind him and discourage others from going after him. Draco had not had close friends, only allies among the Slytherins, and with the rebellion from his father he would no longer have those. The boy would be a sitting duck among his classmates who would know of his mutiny against Lord Voldemort. Having Buffy on his side would keep Malfoy relatively safe.

"…and there was a time where Xander was under the spell of a She-mantis…" Buffy giggled. Draco sat at her side in the kitchen. They were taking advantage of a rare break from Snape's teaching. The Potion's professor had been sent on a mission to spy on death-eater dealings.

"Buffy, dear, how are you?" Dumbledore strode into the room, Harry not far behind.

"I'm fine. I was just telling Draco about my first year in Sunnydale." Dumbledore kissed the crown of her head as he passed. He nodded to Draco in turn and asked about his health.

"I'm doing well, Professor."

"Buffy if you would accompany Harry to Diagon Alley, he needs to buy supplies and I'm afraid the others are busy with Order business." Buffy knew it was more a command than a question. Albus was nothing but polite but the expression on his face booked no argument.

"Of course," She answered. "Hello, Harry. Are you getting supplies for Hogwarts this year?"

"Yes I am. I was hoping to go early to avoid certain people," Harry smiled at her.

"Just let me grab a cloak and then we can go. Draco you should come as well. It would be silly to go twice for the same supplies." Without waiting for a response she grabbed the Slytherin by the arm and pulled him up the stairs toward the room she currently occupied.

"How has your summer been Harry?" Buffy politely asked as she shuffled the boys between stores.

"Fine," He remarked, "The Dursley's avoid me mostly. I am glad to be back though. Hogwarts is more a home to me than Privet Drive."

Draco and Buffy shared a look, speaking volumes, and both softened slightly toward the bespectacled wizard. They all had their own reasons for wanting to be as far away from their real homes as possible. Buffy danced ahead, moving in such a way that if not for her slayer reflexes she would have fallen. She had much too much energy without nightly slaying.

Harry and Draco shook their heads at her antics and followed slowly looking at store windows as they passed. The boys stared longingly at the newest brooms for sale. Buffy would never understand their love for Quidditch.

She asked for their opinion on everything at Madam Malkins, causing both boys to sigh more than once at her incessant questioning. They spent a whole day at the Alley in comfortable camaraderie, mostly due to Buffy acting up anytime gloom or animosity settled into the conversation.

That night after everyone but the blondes had fallen asleep, Buffy and Draco burrowed next to each other on the stairs to finish their conversation from earlier that day. With her head on his shoulder, Buffy recounted the complete insanity of her final months on the Hellmouth. He especially enjoyed tales of Ethan who he found interesting due to his magical influences and nature for pranks.

"You were good today with Harry," Buffy whispered into his ear.

"Yeah, well, don't expect it to happen again. I only did it because you were there." Draco's cheeks were tinged red at being found out. He tried and failed at his signature, superior attitude. Buffy scoffed but placated him by nodding none-the-less. She pulled herself up by the railing and turned to head up the stairs. At the last second she turned to him and kissed him lightly on the cheek.

"Thank you."