Authors Note: Big huge wet sloppy thank you to LightofEvolution. This chapter was almost unreadable before she got her mitts on it and deciphered the dialog and commas and made it legible.


Identic

The vibe between them was nice and relaxed and struck Draco hard in the chest like a bludger. It was reminiscent of times they'd gone out for a bite when he was a boy, and the nostalgia had him feeling vulnerable.

He and his dad used to be so close. Conspiring against his mother to sneak sweets in the house, playing pick-up games of Quidditch, rough-housing. Back when he'd been the favored son and heir and could do no wrong. Back before he'd gone to Hogwarts and become a constant source of disappointment. Back before this Dark Lord business had soured the way he viewed his father.

They were silent as they made their way back to the apparition point and absconded to a tiny bistro in France that had absolutely the best pie and private rooms so drenched in cloaking spells that the lighting was dim. Finally, warm mug in hand, desert ordered, his father broke the silence. "The Granger girl, I don't recall her being so pretty."

Draco nodded and sipped silently. His father would hardly care how pretty his un-approved girlfriend was. A few more seconds stretched out before he went on, "I also don't remember her being quite so impertinent."

Draco let a smile curve his lips a little before he forced his face back into impassiveness. People always said he looked and sounded just like his father. He usually didn't see it. But that slight irritation was so reminiscent of his own frustration just a few days ago that Draco was amused.

"She's always been impertinent," he agreed cordially. He took another sip of his drink and was pleased when the waitress promptly brought the pie he had requested before leaving them alone again. He had barely finished lunch, but this particular pie was too good to bypass. He'd have to throw in an additional 45 minutes of cardio to justify it, but it was so worth it.

"How long have you been going around with her?" His father's voice was deceptively casual. As if they were discussing the weather instead of Draco's deliberate rebellion with a muggle-born. It made Draco want to be cheeky despite knowing that this whole getting along thing was likely to be a casualty of his mouthiness. Oh well, nothing to be done about that, it wasn't likely to last anyhow.

"Nine glorious days." Draco couldn't keep the smug satisfaction from his voice and didn't even try. His father had never struck him before, but he certainly struggled with the impulse now, judging by his pinched lips and white knuckled grasp on his mug. Well, good. He could be the one frustrated by seemingly stupid rash decisions for a change.

"Damn it, Draco," Lucius snapped and punctuated his sharp hiss with a slap to the table that made everything on its surface jump an inch. "This is serious! If the Dark Lord were to learn about this, we would all be in grave danger!"

Draco threw his fork down on the table, pie forgotten, as the warm feelings between them went up like so much smoke. "Exactly! What the hell are you doing? You are putting the family in danger. Can you even protect Mother? What is your backup plan here? He's on the losing side. You've already avoided prison once by the skin of your teeth. Is our position in this brave new world you are fighting for so precarious that I can't date someone without all of us dying?"

"That's enough!" Lucius threw his napkin on the table and gave his 'father knows best' sneer that made everything inside Draco shake with fury. "You have no idea what you are dallying with here. You are a child, barely 17, you can't possibly comprehend the reasons behind the decisions I've made. You just have to trust that I know what I'm doing and fall in line."

"Not going to happen," Draco sneered. Even if his father had told him the sky was blue and water was wet, he wouldn't have agreed to that condescending, angry tone. "You want my compliance? Make me understand. Because right now, what you are doing makes no sense. It goes against everything you have ever taught me about what is important to this family."

That apparently was enough for Lucius to lose his ever-present cool and resort to shouting. "Don't talk about what's important to this family while you cat around with some mudblood trollop all over town!"

"Damn it! Hermione is not the issue!" Draco shouted back and stood so quickly that his chair was knocked back, throwing his own hands on the table, leaning forward, furious that his father wanted to compartmentalize this huge topic down to who he wanted to shag. Like that even mattered in the grand scheme of things.

His father stood as well, stooping to get down low in his face, hands also braced on the table. "The hell she isn't! You want me to toss our entire way of life out the window over some chit you barely know!"

"Forget the girl." Draco snarled, "The decisions you make affect all of us. Mother has that Rodolphus showing up at the house, among others. These people want to brand me! For life! Tell me I'm missing something," he pleaded. "Tell me there is some grand design and plan in place that I don't know about. Tell me that this benefits us in some way. I see nothing good."

His father stood up fully, angry and pale faced and trembling. After a long stretched out moment, Draco stood too and crossed his arms defensively.

"If you had concerns of this nature you should have brought them up sooner," his father bit out, obviously trying to reign in his temper and speak in a more normal tone of voice. It was too late for civility, and Draco didn't cave.

"Like you would have listened." He didn't care that he sounded like his 11 year old self, petulant and whiny. It was true. His father never listened to anyone. There was no point in having this argument now. He wouldn't listen. It was better for Draco to go his own way, set his own path, like he had with the whole Hermione plot.

His father stooped, righted his chair, and calmly sat as if they hadn't just been shouting at each other at the top of their lungs. "I'm listening now."

Draco gaped at him like an idiot before scrambling for his own chair, trying to process that statement, deciding how to respond.

"You've always told me that Malfoys are pragmatic. We are the best because we strive to be. We have power because we command it. We have knowledge because we demand it. This business with the Death Eaters is beneath our dignity," Draco said calmly. He paused, and his father made a 'continue on' gesture rather than respond. Draco took a gulping breath to give himself a second to gather his thoughts.

"You have us backing the wrong horse. I don't think that the Dark Lord can win. And if he does win? That is even worse. What do we even benefit if they win this war? A couple of muggle slaves? We can afford serving girls and painted ladies."

"We don't need him in charge. We should be in charge. Look at what he expects of us! Unwavering devotion and loyalty. I don't want a life of servitude bowing and scraping to some psychotic master. I am not a servant. You are not a servant. What is best for the Malfoys, that's what ought to be driving us."

"So you want to switch sides." Lucius voice was low with shocked disbelief.

"Yes! To our side. The Malfoy side. To hell with dark and light! What is good for us?" Draco demanded more than asked, and his father gave him a look.

"It does bear some consideration. Perhaps we should move the family interests up the hierarchy. Perhaps I have been neglecting the long game." Lucius was fairly serious and Draco knew his mouth was hanging open.

Perhaps if he had been less shocked to hear this, his father's voice wouldn't have changed to a condescending hiss. "We already are aligned pretty firmly with the dark side. Just what would you suggest we do to distance ourselves? What grand plan do you have to solve this problem? How would you possibly extract yourself from a mess that has been brewing since before you were born?"

All excellent questions and Draco was ashamed to admit to himself he had no true answers. But they needed to do something!

"You want to just put an announcement in the Daily Prophet? 'Malfoys defect - you can like them now'," his father sneered hatefully, and again Draco was surprised to see himself in the expression. When someone pointed out his flaws, he tended to get hostile and defensive too. So how would he deal with himself?

Draco drew his composure around himself and tried something that had always worked for him: Entitlement. "Why are we telling anyone anything? We've got enough dirt on everyone to bury anyone who fucks with us. Just say, 'Piss off! We are Malfoys, and we do what we want.'"

His father barked a laugh, startled enough to wipe the sneer from his face, and Draco smiled back. For once in his life he felt like a co-conspirator with his father instead of a useless subordinate, and it felt good. It felt right.

"I suppose whatever we want includes you dating that insufferable Granger girl."

"Better than Pansy," Draco scoffed, letting incredibility color his tone. "How can you expect me to settle for someone so mundane? Maybe before, but now I know she is nothing but a washed out pale imitation of what I could have."

"Look, Draco, I get it. You are right. Let's stop and think and plan a little better. Pansy isn't going to do it for you. Okay. We will work together and find someone else. Anyone but Potter's little mudblood friend." His voice dripped with disapproval, and Draco sighed. He would have given anything to have his father agree with him, tell them they would work it out, before Hermione. Now, it didn't matter. Things had gone too far for him not to fight for her. He wouldn't settle, not now.

"You don't understand, Father. This girl is different. She's special. She's bold, and beautiful, and brilliant. The whole fucking package. You know, she took on her friends for me, the whole of Gryffindor house? Faced them down like a lion. And she could care less about the name Malfoy. She likes me, Draco, not the heir to a wizarding legacy, me, the slightly manic manipulative prat you raised. You want me to give her up? Why? Because some guy we aren't even related to might disapprove. I don't think so."

His father leaned in, his expression earnest, his tone passive. A tone Draco had never had directed at him. A tone that he used sometimes to convince his mother when demanding didn't work. "There are lots of lovely girls out there, Draco. The Greengrass sisters for instance, you could have your pick between them."

"It's too late, father," he shook his head, honestly regretful to be disagreeing with his agreeable father.

"I don't know what to tell you, but I think I might be in love with her." He declared it out loud, defiance stamped on his face. Maybe he wasn't in love, but it was certainly as close as he'd ever come. It was special, and powerful, and real. He wouldn't let his father take this from him. He wouldn't.

"You can't be in love. You're just a boy." His father scoffed, and Draco was sad to see that the condescension was back. He'd overplayed his hand and tossed out that rare opportunity for his father to see him as an equal rather than a subordinate. Oh well, it wouldn't have lasted anyway. Arrogance was an enduring Malfoy trait.

"Are you going to go home and tell my mother that a boy can't be in love at 17? Isn't that how old you were when you married her?" Draco crossed his arms defiantly and leaned back in his chair, quirking an eyebrow. Even if he had lost the high ground, he'd still go down swinging.

"That was different. Narcissa hailed from The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. We had the blessings of our families. Marrying her was not some insane plot to piss off my father." Lucius was beginning to sound exasperated. Business as usual then. It was strangely comforting.

"And if she hadn't been? If Sirius had been the Lord of Black? Or better yet, Potter? If Potter had been Lord Black. Would you have married her? Or would you have let her go to marry some pre-approved simpleton your father picked out."

"That is an outrageous scenario. Potter the Head of Black?" Lucius snorted, leaning back in his own chair and crossing his arms.

"Potter is the Head of Black! He inherited the title last year when his godfather bit it," Draco forced his point; it was true.

"This is not the same. You barely know the girl. I courted your mother, formally, for a year before we were wed!" Lucius almost shouted, throwing up his hands, and Draco put an imaginary point on his side of the board.

"I guess we'll talk in a year and see where things stand then." He smirked at his father with more cheer than he had felt in a long time and was relieved to see that his father was fighting a smirk of his own.

"And her blood status?" Lucius asked, sounding almost resigned to the fact that Draco didn't seem to even care about something that had once been so important.

"A perk if we are extracting ourselves from the Death Eater mess." Draco said with a sly smile, inviting his father to see the advantages that could be gained by aligning themselves with Hermione Granger.