Chapter Eight: A Grim, Old Place
It wasn't until after he'd joked with Harry about their respective O.W.L. scores and the classes they could end up taking together it really hit Draco that he hadn't any idea what he'd do when the summer came to an end, which was now very soon. He'd started talking to Potter's cousin, and then Potter himself originally out of boredom. Well, that and the hope he could learn all kinds of embarrassing material to spread all across Hogwarts when school resumed. After all, just because he'd decided not to join the crazed loon of a Dark Lord, that didn't mean he wanted to end up acting like some sappy Gryffindor schmuck that was nice to everyone, or that he liked Potter the prat the least little bit.
But now, weeks later, Draco was horrified to realize that he didn't want this strange camaraderie he had developed with the other boy to end. He'd tried to deny to himself that he was hanging out with Potter for any reason but potential blackmail, and he'd never stopped mentally making snide comments about him. Yet it didn't change the fact that he liked spending time with Potter. All his life, Draco's "friends" had always agreed with him, let him win any competitions, and really only spent time with him at all because of his influential father. Potter didn't even know who he was and couldn't be trying to curry favor, yet he still wanted to spend time with Draco. It was a difference that Draco was surprised to realize just how much he liked, even if it did make him feel ridiculously Hufflepuffish to think it.
As for Potter's feelings on the matter, when his 'Derek' persona didn't show up for the Hogwarts Express at the beginning of September, he would feel betrayed and it'd all be over anyway. Even if the Gryffindor never found out that Derek was Draco, it would be obvious that there had been some kind of deception. Since there was no way to explain, there was probably no way to get the other boy to forgive him. He certainly couldn't tell Potter who he was, the boy already hated him and revealing the elaborate fake identity scheme would only reinforce that hatred.
When yet another companionable afternoon with Potter came and went, Draco was feeling even worse about the situation that he'd managed to get himself into. Potter was nearly brimming with anticipation since he was being picked up at the end of the week to spend the last two remaining weeks of the summer at Order Headquarters. Of course Potter was happy, he had a whole new year with his stupid friends to look forward to, but Draco's year certainly wasn't looking very promising.
After having spent the summer with Harry and Severus, it was bad enough thinking about past years where he had let himself be limited to the companionship of Parkinson and the daft duo of Crabbe & Goyle. The rest of Slytherin was at least as bad or too young to be worth notice. Draco had never really put much thought into his relationships with his Housemates before this summer, and now after the death of – after his switching sides, Draco mentally amended, it was a situation with unpleasant ramifications.
He understood now that he'd never had anything more than toady-minded sycophants to his father's power, and wouldn't even have the illusion of friends when school resumed. In Draco's mind, it was a foregone conclusion that the entire House was going to shun him for defying the Dark Lord. Even if they weren't on the crazy dark wizard's side, no one in Slytherin was going to openly declare their allegiances by spending time with Draco and risk reprisals from their housemates or worse.
In fact, Draco realized with growing dismay, even those who'd attempted to remain neutral so far were likely to take part in the hailstorm of pranks he expected to endure. Granted, with Dumbledore as Headmaster and Snape as Head of House, no one should be stupid enough to try anything seriously harmful that could get them expelled, but anything short of that was probably fair game. Wincing, Draco realized that was likely true of the other Houses to an extent, too, since he'd made it clear he was better than them all these years. Draco could see the school year laid out before him, nothing but one continuous stretch of loneliness and humiliation.
He wanted to pout and complain, but Harry couldn't find out who he was and Snape, he knew from experience, would not tolerate such behavior. It wasn't doing Draco any good to brood on the matter now, so he made a concerted effort to turn his thoughts to something else and pondered his relationship with his godfather.
Once the Professor had gotten over his anger at Draco for originally blowing their cover, he'd had a chance to become closer to his godfather than he had ever been in years previous. While his father and Severus had been close friends in their school years, after the end of the first war they'd tried to maintain their distance, and so despite being Draco's godfather, Severus' visits to Malfoy Manor had been relatively few and far between. When he'd finally started going to school at Hogwarts, Severus had favored him a little in public, but in private made it very clear that Draco only had so much leeway before he'd be serving unofficial detentions.
Sharing a house with the man day in and day out had provided an enlightening experience. Draco was surprised to find that his godfather was a lot less prickly than the man who taught potions at Hogwarts – except when Harry came over to visit. He didn't think the oblivious Gryffindor had noticed quite how cold Severus was to him, but Draco certainly had and really wanted to know why the two had such antipathy for one another if they had both been on the same side all along. However, he could hardly ask Potter about a teacher he supposedly didn't know, and the ferocity of the scowl Severus had given him when he dared to ask him made it very clear that avenue of inquiry was not only closed, but locked and barred as well.
Though his reasons for such strong dislike of Potter were off-limits, Draco found himself discussing any number of other things with Severus Snape. He'd always enjoyed potions at Hogwarts because it came so easily to him, and that was certainly a safe topic of discussion that they spent many hours on. In fact, once it became clear that Draco's long afternoons with Harry Potter weren't going to result in them having to move into Order Headquarters, they generally got on well. Talking to his godfather about some things could be as awkward as mentioning the Daily Prophet to Potter, however.
After he'd made a few choice remarks in the man's hearing, Severus had not only warned him sternly that it was not prudent to air his thoughts on blood politics, but had even been trying to convince him that pure blood wasn't everything. It was his favorite topic once the scoldings about potentially blowing their cover had finally died down. Draco wasn't even sure that Severus himself really believed it, despite harping on the subject. Yet hearing that the Dark Lord himself was no more a pureblood than Potter was, well, that'd been a real shock, and so had Severus' own admission of having a muggle father. Draco had promised to think it over, but deep down, he just couldn't believe someone like that mudblood Granger was worthy to be considered equal to a wizard of venerable heritage such as he. However, it didn't take Snape's lectures for him to realize that no matter how he really felt, saying anything of the kind now that he was firmly allied with Dumbledore and Potter who did believe such tripe would be truly stupid.
After the day that Potter found them brewing in the kitchen, he'd talked his concerns about his friendship with Potter over with his godfather. Severus was once again irritated at him, this time for saying he'd be going to Hogwarts that fall, as it "most certainly had not been any part of the plan." They, well, his godfather, anyway, had decided he would simply have to tell Harry circumstances had changed and he wouldn't be attending the school. Draco was even more put out when his godfather warned him in no uncertain terms that Potter couldn't owl him, since Potter's owl was so distinctive and even he would doubtless notice if the creature dropped his notes to Draco Malfoy.
He'd hoped at first that since Snape had suggested a plausible story for where he was going to be for the next year that Draco could at least send Potter mail, and protested that surely he could use school owls or something. When Snape glared at him (he had been on the verge of whining, after all), and said that even if Potter didn't notice that he was using school owls or that any time he sent a note off it went to Draco, eventually someone would. Draco didn't like it, but finally gave in and let the subject drop.
The professor also informed him that when Potter left for Headquarters, they would likewise move there for the remaining weeks before the term began. Since they'd supposedly been there all summer, they would be expected to accompany the others to the train, and the simulacra in their place wouldn't be able to pull that off.
Seeing Potter the next day, he didn't have to fake being dejected. He told the other boy he wouldn't be able to attend Hogwarts because his uncle had just been given an Order mission to an undisclosed location, possibly out of the country, and he didn't want to leave his nephew behind. He added that because it was so secretive, he'd be completely unable to receive any owl post for the duration, trying not to sound quite as surly as he felt Draco was perversely gratified to see this news bring down the bright mood Potter had been in ever since he'd found out he would be seeing his friends at the end of the week.
Before Draco knew it, he was saying his final goodbye of the summer to Potter. The day after, he helped Severus pack up their things to move to Order headquarters. Draco briefly wondered if other members of the Order were going to use the house during the school year, or what else might happen with it, but decided not to bother asking since most questions like that ended with Severus responding that he didn't need to know.
After just a few days there, Draco was thanking Merlin that he and Professor Snape had spent the holidays at Privet Drive. Being boarded up in a small set of rooms with his godfather, who was in an ill temper from the moment they crossed the threshold, was certainly not fun. Hearing the constant tromping of the entire Weasley tribe at all hours of the day and night was enough to drive anyone mad in short order all on its own. Adding those together with having absolutely nothing to do since he'd already finished his summer work and then some left Draco really wanting to curse something into oblivion.
True, he and his godfather had spent some evenings at the old, ramshackle dwelling, so that the Order would believe they were staying there and wouldn't question it if something went wrong and they had to move in and came out of their rooms once in a while. Yet spending an evening or two and being stuck there for the next two weeks were vastly different things, Draco discovered.
It certainly didn't help that from what he could hear, Potter was having a grand old time with the Weasel clan and the mudblood and had apparently already forgotten all about him, which made him angry. But he couldn't even work himself up into a righteous sulk, because he knew that would only make his godfather even more irritable.
Though Snape and Mrs. Weasley both assured him that they'd promised dire retribution to any of the other kids for messing with him, his godfather had also said that it would be prudent to make himself scarce. The man suggested he only roam about when the others were likely to be occupied, or at least supervised. Against this advice, Draco was sneaking down to the kitchens late in the evening to get a snack when he noticed a door to what appeared to be the library ajar. When he heard the Weasel's angry voice from inside, he paused to listen.
"I don't know what the Order's thinking, letting that stinkin' Malfoy git stay at headquarters. I'll just bet he's waiting to turn us all over to Voldemort, first chance he gets!"
"Oh Ron," he heard Granger say exasperatedly, "grow up! You've been spouting the same nonsense since they came here at the beginning of the summer. You really think you know better than Dumbledore? You don't!"
"Well, you're as bad as Hagrid! You never want to think ill of anyone, even that Ferrety little git! With as many times as he's called you nasty things, you still wanna give him a chance! Snape was bad enough, but Malfoy? Come on! I'll bet Harry agrees with me, right Harry?"
Draco was tempted to leave at that moment, because despite his annoyance with the other boy for not being sufficiently depressed by his absence, he didn't want to hear himself put down by someone he'd so recently come to think of as a friend. At the same time, however, he couldn't bring himself to walk away and not hear what Harry was going to say.
There was a silence before Harry responded, "Sorry, Ron, Hermione's right." At a sound of outrage from Weasley, Harry continued, "Look, I didn't want to tell you by owl, but I know why Malfoy's here," he paused when the other two made exclamations, then continued with, "Ow, Ron! After everything you didn't tell me last year, I don't really think you've got much room to complain, you git. Anyway, I had another vision, and saw through Voldemort again," the boy paused for his friends to get over their gasps of dismay. "He killed Lucius Malfoy right in front of his son, and was torturing Professor Snape, who's apparently his godfather. Explains why he favors the git so much."
"Well anyway, Malfoy jumps up and calls him a monster and a joke, right to his ugly snake face! Professor Snape managed to portkey them both out before he recovered from the shock. So frankly, at this point, I think Voldemort's as likely to ask to be best mates with me as Malfoy is to be working for him."
Though they continued talking, Draco heard a creaking on the stairs, and decided that he'd best get down to the kitchens and back to his rooms before he was spotted by someone like the Weasley twins, or worse, caught out eavesdropping, too.
As his second week at Grimmauld place began, Harry found himself eager to get back to Hogwarts. The first week had passed smoothly, and though being here reminded him of his godfather some, he was just so glad to see all the Weasleys and Hermione that he didn't really think about it too much. But after a week, he was having trouble remaining in a cheerful frame of mind in the oppressive atmosphere of the old house. True, after purging most of the dark magic and the euthanization of Kreacher, the house was in a much better state. But Harry had just finally managed to stop dwelling so heavily on Sirius' death, and now he was back here where his godfather had been stuck so miserably for so long, and all those feelings were shoved back to the surface. Harry didn't feel so full of blame and recriminations as he had at the beginning of the summer, but wandering the dreary house still left him feeling rather hollow if he allowed himself to dwell on it.
The one time he'd encountered Professor Snape in the hallway the week before, he had felt a wave of the old hatred returning at the sight of the greasy git sneering down at him. It only lasted as long as it took him to remember the surge of pleasure Voldemort had felt torturing the man, which made him shudder and turn away. He didn't have to like the git, but Harry refused to end up like Voldemort, stewing in hatred and thoughts of revenge all the time.
He'd seen Malfoy a couple of times, too, but after the dire warning from Mrs. Weasley, he'd gone out of his way to avoid the other boy, so that even if Malfoy wanted to start something, Harry wouldn't be the one to get in trouble for it. Maybe Malfoy had been smart enough in the end to see Voldemort for what he was, but that didn't mean the other boy was suddenly any less the sneaky, stuck-up git he'd been all his life. The best Harry figured he could hope for was mutual avoidance, now that Malfoy was on their side.
Severus had warned him that the morning the train left was always a circus for the Weasleys and that he shouldn't bother getting ready very early since the group as a whole wouldn't be ready to go until the very last minute. Draco had figured his godfather was exaggerating somewhat, and had gotten ready to go with plenty of time to spare, which left him with nothing to do but wait around. As he sat on his trunk in the entryway of Grimmauld Place, listening to the hectic sounds of the other students upstairs trying to get everything together in time to make the train, Draco Malfoy reflected on what Potter had said about him that night in the library. He realized that there was probably an opening there, if he did want to be friends with the boy. After all, it was a far shorter step from allies to friends than it was from enemies to friends. True, it would take a lot of work on his part, but wouldn't having Harry back be worth it?
Aside from their longstanding animosity, which it wouldn't behoove Draco to reignite in any case since they were on the same side now, there were other things to consider. The biggest problem, he figured, was Potter's other friends. It was obvious that barring their sudden, violent deaths, being friends with Harry meant at least tolerating them, because they were inseparable. He couldn't even count the number of times over the summer that he'd had to grit his teeth and try not to show any irritation while Potter waxed lyrical about weasel and the mudblood. Was it really worth it to associate with those types just to befriend Harry Potter all over again? There were, after all, any number of other students outside of Slytherin that he could probably cultivate with far more ease.
Then again, considering how firmly he had been entrenched on the side of the Dark Lord and how thoroughly he had burned all those bridges, Draco had left himself dangerously adrift from both sides. Yet what better way to gain a firm footing with his new allies than to befriend a figurehead like Potter? Surely that would eventually enable him to form ties with nearly anyone on this side he so chose? While Draco was fond of Severus, the two weeks at Headquarters had shown him just how isolated his godfather was from the other members of the Order, and he didn't want to end up in that position.
Besides, Draco grimaced to himself at having the traitorous Hufflepuff thought again, he liked being friends with Potter. It was going to be a lot of work, but it wasn't like Draco was going to have much to do with himself outside of school work this year anyway. Since the ruckus from upstairs had yet to show any signs of dying down, Draco got right into plotting. It was definitely going to be a long and painful year, but he was a Slytherin, damn it, and he would make it work to his advantage.
A/N: ... and that's the end of this part of the story. It felt like this chapter took obscenely long to get up, but after tweaking little bits of the last 7, this one didn't quite fit anymore and needed some extensive patching. There will be a sequel covering the following school year, but I won't begin posting until it's written through, and it's not started yet (I have another 6th year fic I started before this that I'm currently struggling through the end on, which is holding things up right now).
I do appreciate everyone who has taken the time to read and/or review this fic. Thank you.
I hope you enjoyed it.