A New Life

The walk back to 12 Grimmauld Place took even longer the second time; all five were silent, as if lost in their own thoughts. Hermione had to use her wand to direct Draco, but every so often she would forget her task and he'd end up stopping. She always smiled when she did that. She had no idea what she was getting herself into, but she knew she was far too deep to stop now.

"How far is this place?" Draco suddenly asked angrily.

Hermione knew that he knew the answer since he had been following them all summer, but answered calmly anyway. "A block more." Hearing the words of their close proximity actually helped her feel calmer and safer. He hadn't made the slightest bit of threatening movement, yet she was still felt the air of impending doom surrounding the group.

When 12 Grimmauld Place came into view for the girls, Draco saw nothing. The feelings changed around him, and he knew why, but he still saw nothing. He almost asked who the Secret Keeper was until he realized it would definitely be out of line, so he was silent instead. It almost killed him.

Hermione reached into her pocket and took out the note Lupin had sent with them to give to him. Lupin had been made the new Secret Keeper since he was still relatively young and had an active role in the Order, but not too much of a dangerous one since he was and had to be considered a werewolf, although he was undoubtedly harmless.

Suddenly, Ginny's hand sprung out and grabbed the note, stopping Hermione from offering it silently to Draco. "Do we really want to do this?" she whispered with a nervous glance at the others.

Hermione pulled her hand away gently, speaking without realizing she was, "yes."

Draco felt his breath catch in his throat when the young Weasley reached for the note. He had no other salvation. It was in that note, in the Mudblood's hand. He watched with bated breath as Hermione extended the note to him. With as much calmness and slowness as he dared he took the note, trying not to rip it from her hand.

The note was in simple writing that would only be defined as scrawl.

In a mere moment, 11 and 13 Grimmauld Place got smaller as 12 Grimmauld Place appeared before him. Seeing the house the Golden Trio must have been going into all summer left Draco speechless. He honestly didn't know what to make of this turn of events.

Without a word, Hermione jabbed her wand again, she noticed she was shaking slightly, and directed the bound and wandless Draco toward the door. Someone behind her, she wasn't sure who, opened the door for them so that she could guide him in.

The second the door opened and the girls and Draco emerged a loud yelling erupted from Mrs. Black's portrait. She screamed about Mudbloods, filth, and the purification of the bloodline or lack thereof. Draco was shocked and alarmed by the screaming at first then started to pay attention to what the portrait was actually saying and found he actually agreed. He didn't ask, but he was more than curious why a portrait in the Order of the Phoenix safe house was screaming such things that were far more in tune with Death Eater beliefs.

Hermione shot an annoyed look at the portrait but decided, as the others must have too, that there wasn't the time to shut it up. She directed Draco into the dining room where everyone else present for the first meeting waited. When she went through the door she felt all the eyes on her. They seemed like so many she felt a shiver go down her spine and her wand shook more. She allowed Draco to sit down in a chair without saying a word and stood by him. Ginny walked over and stood behind Harry, laying a hand gently on his shoulder. Bill stood up and allowed Fleur to take his chair and stood behind her as he had been the first meeting. Tonks walked over and sat in a vacant chair between Fleur and Lupin.

"So he's really here," Ron observed first. Hermione saw Ginny roll her eyes, but no one else responded to his words.

Draco felt like giving him a smart comeback, but knew it was in his best interests to keep silent.

"Where is the Veritaserum potion?" Hermione asked in a quiet voice. Draco suddenly felt nervous, but didn't know why.

Lupin stood up, without saying a word, and pulled a vial from a shelf. "Here." He laid the vial on the table in front of Draco.

Hermione had thought someone else would administer the potion to Draco, but suddenly felt foolish in thinking so. Obviously she was the one who would give him the potion. With an uncharacteristically hard stare and unkind motion, she dropped the potion into Draco's willing and already opened mouth. "Am I to question him?" she asked in a soft voice, praying the answer was no.

"No," Lupin answered her prayers. "Minerva will."

Professor McGonagall cleared her throat and asked, "What is your name?" directly to Draco.

Draco felt a powerful surge to tell only the truth. He wasn't sure if he was even able to lie. So he answered truthfully, "Draco Malfoy."

As if it wasn't an easy question to start with, everyone let out a collective sigh. The potion seemed to be working. She continued her questioning after the first question to the point.

Hermione felt her heart go out of Draco as she watched him answer the questions. The answers followed exactly the same story as he had told her in the park earlier that night, but hearing them again in total truth, made her feel differently. She suddenly felt compassion for the man and felt bad for binding him and leaving him uncertain and wandless in the park. His voice was laced with fear, grief, and honesty that was so freely displayed. He was normally so guarded; it was almost hard to see him so truthful and vulnerable. He had no control over what emotions were in his voice and she knew if he did, he would have tried to still sound as arrogant and smug as he did in the park to her. She even heard a heavy guilt and grief in his voice when he spoke of Dumbledore which was quite the opposite of the emotions he displayed at the name of Dumbledore in the park.

After two hours, everyone seemed satisfied that he was telling the truth. Hermione had to administer two more servings of the potion before they were finished though and she hoped there would be no ill effects. She hated herself for worrying about him, but allowed herself to do so anyway.

"We believe you." Professor Lupin said the words that cut through the truthful haze that still filled Draco's mind. He couldn't help it, relief and even happiness showed on his face. "Thank you," he managed to say. He looked around the room, the haze lifting slightly, and looked for the Mudblood. He had to see if she believed him. When he saw her, he made eye contact and what he saw lifted his spirits even more. Compassion and relief filled her face.

"So where is he sleeping?" Ron Weasley's voice said harshly. Hermione jumped, having forgotten he was in the room too, since he hadn't spoken for so long.

The adults exchanged uneasy looks. Hermione didn't know weather they were unsure and hadn't thought of that, or whether they had already decided but didn't think anyone would like it. Finally, Lupin spoke, "He is Hermione's responsibility. He's staying in the room next to her."

Ron looked disbelieving and almost angry at this. "My room?" he asked.

"Well, the room you share with Harry," Lupin qualified.

The haze had finally lifted and Draco was no longer under the potions power. "I have to share room with Weasley and Potter?" he asked with disgust.

"If you want to stay here," Bill interjected in a hard voice.

Knowing he had no choice, Draco said, "Fine," grudgingly.

"What if we don't want to share a room with him?" Ron asked, not giving in as easily.

"You'll deal," Mrs. Weasley said, giving him a look that told him not to argue.

Ron didn't argue, but crossed his arms around his chest and glared, reminding Hermione of a child. She knew she probably would feel the same way if she had to stay in a room with someone she hated, so she tried to not let it affect her.

"Can I unbind him?" She asked in a small voice before she could stop herself.

Lupin and McGonagall nodded. Raising her wand, she muttered the spell to unbind him.

With the binds gone, Draco felt a sense of freedom, but also, knowing he was to stay here, he felt a sense of new imprisonment. He knew his life depended on staying here, but he didn't have to like it. He felt trapped, hated, and weak.

"No wand, though," Bill said suddenly.

"I knew that," Hermione assured him, "but where will we keep his wand?"

"Keep it, but keep it safe and away from him," Lupin instructed.

Hermione kept the wand in her pocket, wondering how she could keep it safe.

"Take him to his room, please, boys. And Hermione you'll want to go too," Mrs. Weasley said in the first kind voice of the night. When everyone had risen and was almost through the door, she called out, "and Mr. Malfoy, welcome to 12 Grimmauld Place and your new life."

Draco felt a sense of impending doom and helplessness as he followed the Golden Trio to his new room.