"Look," Hermione whispered. "Just leave him alone for a little bit. Treat him normally."
"Treat Malfoy normally?" Ron said loudly.
"Shut up!" hissed Hermione. "Honestly, Ron. You have the tact of a wombat."
"Wombats have tact?" Ron scratched his head.
"No," continued Hermione briskly. "My point exactly."
"What's the plan, Hermione?" Harry asked slowly. She had to be cooking something up – she was just letting the situation stew for some time.
"Make him trust us. Make him defect. Then he'll tell us all he knows," Hermione said, brushing her hair out of her face.
"It's not that simple," Harry began.
"Yeah, it's Malfoy we're talking about!" Ron cut in. "I mean, come on. Trust us? Make him trust us? You've got to be joking!"
"No wonder he's on the other side, with people like you!" Hermione snapped viscously. "Everyone just assumes he's evil, but he could convert."
"You're making it sound like some sort of religion," Ron snorted.
"Well being a Death Eater is a bit of a cult," Hermione said reasonably.
"I agree," Harry said quickly. "I mean, not with the cult bit, with the whole making him trust us thing. If he defects, imagine how much information we could get from him!" He wasn't just thinking of that, though. A certain fair – haired teenagers face on a warm summer's eve was also telling him that Malfoy could change. "I want to help him," Harry added quietly. "Look at him." They did. Malfoy was sitting at the table, looking out the window again. His expression was lost, pained and analytical, like some sort of prey planning a futile escape.
Ron shrugged. "Okay, but it's your funeral," he said. They re – entered the room.
"Decided my verdict yet?" Malfoy's head whirled around, and his eyes met Harry's.
"Yes," Hermione said. "We're going to cut off your limbs and nose and leave you outside until you go into sepsis and catch pneumonia."
Malfoy's expression was slightly horrified until he realised she was joking, then he scowled. "Very funny, Granger," he snarled.
"And you've got to stop calling me that," she continued lightly. "Draco." She added for emphasis. The boy choked on his own spit.
"What?" he coughed.
"I'm Hermione to you. This is Ron, and…Harry." She gestured respectively to each.
"I know what their first names are," Malfoy growled.
"Then why don't you use them?" Hermione asked cheerily, opening the curtains. "Right. Harry, please show Draco the room where he can sleep. I'm going to go take a shower."
"We needed to know, Granger," Malfoy sneered at Hermione's retreating figure.
"Shut up!" Ron yelled.
"Make me," Malfoy retorted.
"All right," Harry said loudly. "Break it up. Malf – er, I mean. Draco. Please follow me." To his surprise, Malfoy got up and followed him. Harry led him to the first floor bedroom, where no one had slept. They needed to get him a bed or something.
"For now, I guess you can sleep in a sleeping bag," Harry said, opening the door to the room.
"I won't be staying here long, Potter." Malfoy brushed past him.
"I think you will, Draco," Harry countered. He walked in after Malfoy. "Here's the bathroom…you can take a shower if you like. I'll get you a towel. And soap. And a flannel, if you'd like one."
Malfoy rolled his eyes. "Please stop babying me, Potter. It's demeaning."
"Do you want soap?" Harry said, oblivious to the last comment. Malfoy also ignored him. Harry spun around and grabbed Malfoy's shoulders, fed up. "Malfoy. Draco. I'm not talking to who I thought I knew, OK?"
Malfoy looked puzzled, frowning and pulling away from Harry's touch.
Harry rushed on. "I want to talk to the boy that one summer's night, that boy who needed to murder but couldn't, the boy who needed his family, even though he felt like they didn't need him, that boy who couldn't point his wand at his victim. That who I want, OK? I don't need any of the pieces of your arrogant mask! That's all gone now, Draco!" The first name came more easily now. "I want to give you…a second chance," he finished, realising he sounded really corny.
Malfoy looked at him indifferently, but only after soothing his face, which had been racked with emotion, into a porcelain veil. "Did the Mudblood put you up to this?" he asked, crossing his arms.
"Don't call her that!" Harry shouted, turned on his heel, and slammed the door. He had a last glimpse of Malfoy smirking, which only served to infuriate him more.
Of all the nerve! Draco Malfoy was the must frustrating, annoying, hateful brat he knew. And having known Dudley Dursley, that was saying a lot.