TITLE: Uncommon Ground
INSTALLMENT: 1 of 2
WHEN: Post-HBP, Pre-DH
CHARACTERS: Draco Malfoy, Susan Bones
GENRE: General
RATING: PG-13 for mild swearing and descriptions of mild violence
SUMMARY: When curiosity leads Susan Bones to investigate Knockturn Alley, an unexpected bond forms.

To the completely aware, such a quiet and calm August evening would have been eerie. Unfortunately for Susan Bones – or perhaps it was for the best --, she didn't fit into that category. In fact, ever since the death of Aunt Amelia, Susan had been nothing but numb. It was hard for her to have conversations with people because she'd often zone out, unintentionally ignoring their voices. Daily tasks went undone due to a recently developed absent mind. Loud noises failed to startle her. Susan had become, in her depression, extremely emotionally and physically drained.

This very fact was exhibited while the young girl was trying to do her holiday homework. In one month's short time, Susan would be back at Hogwarts, yet she'd failed to do the required summer assignment. In fact, this was the first time that she'd even really looked at it. She had forced herself to set the materials onto her desk and sit down, but all the girl could manage to do was fiddle with the quill and stare out of the window in front of her.

Rain violently splattered against her window. She could see that, even in the darkness. Yet it made no noise as it should have. It simply just threw itself against the glass and streaked downward, creating a shimmering, gloomy reflection for her to stare at. No longer able to resist the temptation of her bed, Susan gave up trying to write her essay and simply climbed in, wrapping the blankets around her and closing her eyes.

When morning came, light poured into Susan's room. She stirred in her sleep, attempting to fight off her body's desire to wake. In the end, though, it wasn't her body that she had to give in to. "Poppet, it's time to wake up," called a soft voice. When Susan opened her eyes, her mother stood over her, petting her forehead with her thin fingers. Mrs. Bones looked almost as hopeless as her daughter, though she tried to display a smile. "Come eat breakfast. Then it's off to Diagon Alley." After another smile and a pat on where she'd correctly assumed Susan's legs were, Mrs. Bones walked out of the room, leaving the door open just a bit.

Susan did not want to get up. Being awake meant facing the day, and the days had become so gloomy lately. Even the sun that brightly shone through her window into her room reminded her of Aunt Amelia's tragedy. She would have been up by now, already entering the Ministry of Magic and receiving the latest paperwork. Instead, she was dead. She couldn't even enjoy the morning like she always had.

Susan Bones sighed and softly pushed the covers aside. That's when her morning routine started, though a lot less enthusiastic than it had ever been. Susan had always been a girl who saw hope and meaning in everything. Now, she was just going through the motions. Without any interest, she changed clothes, then proceeded to the bathroom to brush her teeth and hair. Today was just going to be another lonely, drabby day.

It took her about twice as long to get ready before she finally entered the dining room. Susan took a seat, noticing that not even her father was his old self. Usually, she would hear his voice welcoming her from behind the Daily Prophet. Today, though, he just sat eating his food. It seemed as if the death had affected everybody.

"Mum," Susan chimed in softly, "I think I'm going to go to Diagon Alley by myself today." She wasn't really hungry, so her fork just poked at the food. Her eggs squirmed and the orange juice's pulp rose to the surface of her glass. She hadn't been happy. She hadn't been hungry. Frankly, she hadn't even cared. Susan had become such a shell of herself.

Mrs. Bones looked up as she closed her lips over her fork, chewing on some sausage. In all honesty, the idea wasn't pleasing to her. "I don't think that's wise, Susan. You know about the attacks." Just as calmly, she went back to grab some more food.

The attacks… Things had become so hectic in the Wizarding World lately. "I know, but I can take care of myself. I'll floo there, grab my things, and come back. It'll take me barely an hour." Her father casually told her to eat something, so she took a sip of her orange juice before going back to her statement. "It's early, so it won't be crowded. In and out."

As the family ate, her mother thought. Silence had overtaken the table. Mrs. Bones was usually a very easy going woman, but she was equally as protective. Susan had almost been sure that she'd say no until she actually spoke. "Alright. If anything goes wrong, though, I want you to come back home. We'll go shopping together then." Susan would have smiled, but that took too much effort. Instead she nodded, cleaned her spot, and went straight to the fireplace.

In all honesty, Susan Bones couldn't wait until she could legally Apparate. The floo network was so bothersome; so dirty. She coughed as she walked out of the fireplace she'd arrived in, dusting herself off. Until then, though, this would just have to do.

Susan roamed Diagon Alley for a little while. It was just as she'd predicted: the place was almost empty. A few people could be seen gazing into windows or walking into the stores. A mother guided a young boy through the alley, scolding him, it seemed.

A half-hour later, not one thing had been bought. She'd actually forgotten her money. So really, this was just used as time to be free from the house. Though she'd visited Hannah and Ernie on a couple of occasions, Susan had really just holed herself up. This was the first time in about a month that she'd been outside. It felt…a bit nice, really.

During most of the walk, Susan hadn't been paying much attention. When she turned the corner, though, she noticed a darker pathway. The sign next to her read Knockturn Alley, another area of shops mostly reserved for those with darker intentions. Susan had never been down this way, and really hadn't had any desire to until now. After all, she didn't have to be home just yet, and curiosity was getting the better of her.

Still, she didn't go inside without being warey. She'd heard of the dark wizards and witches that littered the paths of Knockturn Alley, and the further she ventured, the more she realized the truth in this. Grungy figures sneered at her and voices hissed as she passed. It really wasn't a pleasant place.

Most of the inhabitants of the shady, dark alley didn't feel the need to be discrete. That's why one figure caught her attention. Tall and cloaked, it looked around and opened to the door, stepping carefully inside. "Strange," Susan whispered, following its path to the front of the store. She didn't step inside but instead peeked in through the window. The figure was talking to a man behind the counter. He then pulled something from his robe and set it between them, the conversation now very clear on what it was about. What was inside of the box? But just as her curiosity peeked, her attention was brought to something else: the figure removed the hood of his robe and revealed bright blond hair. Susan looked shocked. "No… It can't be. Malfoy?" She couldn't see his face, but he was one of the few people that were associated with such a distinctive feature.

And then his head turned toward the window. Susan gasped and ducked down, turning her body so that her back rested against the building. She hadn't seen his face. Hopefully, he hadn't seen hers, either. Window shopping probably wasn't as welcomed around here.

Her eyes had instinctively closed to help calm her beating heart. When she opened them, she noticed a gathering of hag-like witches and wizards. They seemed very interested in her behavior. "Has the little poppet seen something frightening?" one cooed, reaching out to touch her.

"Little girls shouldn't venture into such dangerous places."

"That's okay. We'll show her the way out. Won't we, Edna?" A very scraggly, knobby man looked at her as he spoke. When he smiled (so twistedly), he revealed several missing and decaying teeth.

"That's right. Come on, deary. We'll take you home." At that, the witch and another grabbed onto Susan's arms. It must have been the dirt and tattered clothing that made them look old, because both captors were extremely strong. Susan, in her panic, couldn't fight them off.

Her mother had been right in wanting to come along. She wasn't good at physically defending herself, and Susan couldn't very well use magic. One, it was against the rules. Two, she didn't even have her wand. Never in her life had she been so unprepared. "No," she protested, forcing her body to resist. "Get OFF me!" But the more she fought, the more they cackled. Her fear delighted them, and she was terrified.

Then a deep voice caught the small crowd off guard. "Let her go. Now." They had all stopped cheering, and the witches had stopped tugging. Susan looked up, trying to make out the face that was shadowed by the hood. Was it the same figure from the store? "I thought I said to let her go."

The knobby man looked up and grinned, chuckling just a bit. "Oi. And what makes you think that we're going to listen to you?" At his words, the congregation of filthy witches and wizards joined in on the laughter. They stopped at once, though, when he removed the hood. "Master Malfoy," the man whispered, obviously stunned. At that, Susan was released.

Apparently, that was good enough for Draco Malfoy. He barely gave Susan any other acknowledgement as he put his hood back on and turned around, walking away. "You shouldn't be here. They're still looking for you," somebody from the crowd called. He didn't turn around.

Anger boiled through Susan's veins. She should have been grateful, for it was very probable that he had saved her. Instead, the opposite was true. A part of her was extremely disgusted, and she honestly couldn't believe that he'd had the nerve to show his face. Literally.

Most of the witches and wizards that had stuck around to gawk after Draco had left. Susan should have just left the confrontation at what it had been, but she didn't. "What makes me any different then Dumbledore, Malfoy?" When she spoke his name, Susan sneered.

Draco stopped in his tracks. For a moment, he simply stood there. It wasn't worth getting into an argument over. He'd had an errand to run, and he'd done his job. He wasn't supposed to be out any longer than he needed to be. That ran an unneeded risk. After the moment was up, he began to walk again, ignoring her.

Susan didn't like that. "Don't you DARE walk away from me! Why save me and kill Dumbledore?" She didn't know if the squeak in her voice was because she was severely angry or sad, but some sort of emotion shone through.

Once more, Draco stopped. He didn't continue to ignore her, though. He turned around and began to stomp back toward her. When he was centimeters from her face, that's when he began to talk. "First of all, it's amusing how you've presumed that you're even important enough for me to kill. Secondly, I. Didn't. Kill. Dumbledore." As he spoke, his voice had been low. Susan absently compared it to the growl of an animal.

His grey eyes were piercing enough to waver Susan's confidence, even if only just a bit. She stared into them, not saying anything for a brief minute until she regained her courage. "That's not what people are saying." Which was true. Students had a way of piecing together what had happened, even if incorrectly.

"And you believe everything that you hear? Stupid bint." His eyes squinted, his voice clearly showing disgust at her behavior. The longer he stared, though – Which really did seem like forever. – the more his face changed. After a silent interrogation, he pulled back. "I know you, don't I?" Though his words were still laced with anger, he seemed more curious now.

Susan nodded, not breaking his gaze. "Susan Bones. Your father might have known my aunt, Amelia Bo—" But before she could finish her sentence, she was interrupted. "Don't you EVER talk about my father, you filthy hag! If you so much as mutter his name again, I'll rip that tongue right out of your mouth. Do you understand me?

"But yes. He was familiar with that mudblood lover." In Susan's opinion, though his face seemed more haunted and hollow, Draco Malfoy hadn't changed one bit. He was still an arrogant, insulting jerk. If she'd had her wand on her, she would have tried to hex him. She didn't have such luck, though, so she settled for trying to punch him. Trying, because her attempt was thwarted by the thin, pointed wand that jabbed at her throat. "Play nice, Bones, or I'll leave you to rest unconsciously on the ground. The freaks here do rather like a struggle, but they get what they get."

Her jaw clenched at his words. Logically, she knew that it was best to hold her tongue, for despite Draco's claims of his innocence, she wouldn't put it past him to do what he'd promised. It was too bad that she'd rather test the waters right now, though. "Oh, did you finally grow a backbone, Malfoy? You were never much of a threat at Hogwarts. I suppose working for Him changes a person, though." Him… Voldemort… Susan had never had the courage to say his name, but she didn't think that Draco was daft enough to misunderstand who she was talking about.

He snarled, grabbing her by her shirt to drag her away. "Let go of me, you git! I'll scream. I SWEAR I'LL SCREAM!" He seemed unphased. "You don't believe me!?" Oh, she would. That was a promise.

"Oh, I believe you. It's just that nobody will care if you scream. So go ahead, if you'd like." When he heard no more protest out of her, he nodded to himself. "That's what I thought.

"Now shut up and listen to me, Bones." They had stopped at an entranceway now. Draco had shoved her into it, Susan landing onto hard steps. It was one of the few places that wasn't occupied by strange and troublesome witches looking to frighten you. When Susan looked around, she noticed that the general area they were in was abandoned. Even the shops were closed in what looked like for good. "I don't care what you've heard – It means nothing to me. – but it pisses me off that you even think you KNOW me when I've never even given you the time of day. So before you say anything, shut your trap. It'll only make you look even more ridiculous."

In the time that Susan had known him – known OF him, really –, she'd never seen him so concerned with what people had thought of him. In fact, the attention had always seemed to please him. Why did he really care what she that? Her opinion shouldn't have made a difference. Still, that didn't stop her. "It's not like you've given me any reason to believe that you're any different than what they say." Susan got to her feet, dusting herself off. Her voice was softer now, less accusing, but still defensive. "You've never been anything but rude, pompous, arrogant, and—"

"But that does NOT make me a killer." His tone hadn't changed at all. Yes it has, Susan thought. It's become more desperate. The anger hadn't quite been drained out of his voice, but it was true: he seemed desperate to prove a point.

Draco let out an indistinguishable sound and plopped onto the stairs, running his fingers through his hair. He stared at the ground, not making any sound for a moment. "I don't know how I'm going to get myself out of this mess," he said softly. When Susan decided to sit beside him, he looked up at her. "Leave." He obviously didn't want company.

For some odd reason, though, she refused. Susan recognized that the reason was because of the desperation. She knew that emotion so well right now. So with a silent protest, she shook her head.

He glared at her, not pleased with her decision. There wasn't anything left in him to protest, though, so he simply scowled and looked back at the ground. Susan took that as an opportunity. "So, you really didn't kill him?" Her voice had softened quite a bit now. Maybe she was tired. Maybe she was sympathetic. Perhaps it was a mixture of both.

Draco folded his hands into his lap, not disrupting his gaze. "No. I was supposed to, but I just couldn't do it." He took a deep breath. It appeared that they were both rather calm right now. Susan didn't know which she preferred: bickering with Draco Malfoy or trying to console him.

Her own eyes averted to the ground. She kicked a pebble, not quite sure what to say. All she knew was that she didn't want to leave, even though she didn't have the slightest clue as to why. "Maybe you just aren't Death Eater material."

That was supposed to have been an effort to make him feel better. She didn't realize just how hard that hurt him. Anger and sadness mixed together in his chest, boiling to the surface. Instantly, his head shot up to look at her. "Don't you ever say that. This is my destiny. It's what I'm meant to be. I'm a MALFOY. I failed once. It will NOT happen again." He seemed rather determined at that.

Susan was taken aback slightly. "I just meant that…" How did she put this? She thought for a moment, rolling over in her mind what words to say. When they came, she spoke them slowly. "What's in a name?"

That caught his attention. Draco looked at her, thinking about the words. Then he sighed. "That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, Bones." So he'd caught on to her slightly vague "Romeo and Juliet" reference. It didn't matter what world you lived in – wizarding or muggle. People KNEW Shakespeare. "It doesn't matter what I do. I'm still a Malfoy. It's who I am, and it runs through my veins."

"But it's not right." It was her turn to be desperate. "What you're doing… What you think you need to do… It's just wrong."

"How is it WRONG? I'm saving us. Bones, think about it… Your blood is pure. It has been for ages. You're on the top, and yet you want to protect those that'll bring you down?" His head shook. He was trying to get this all through her thick skull. "The longer that we let them into our world, the more danger we're in. We're going to become extinct at this rate. And not just our blood will be tainted, but our magic will be, as well." It was all so plain and clear to him.

"We're not a different species, Malfoy. Anybody with magic is a witch or a wizard. It doesn't just change because they don't have a family history. That's ridiculous. And how will our magic be tainted?"

Draco had his theories. Most of them were handed down to him through his parents, for they'd been sure to instill it into his brain that muggles and mudbloods would be their downfall. Some, though, he'd formulated based off of what he'd been taught. Now it was time to exercise his opinion. "It'll be weakened. The less pure the blood, the weaker the magic."

Susan had never heard such a thing. She actually had to do a double take, though her expression of astonishment never changed. "That's just bullocks. There's no proof behind that. Magical ability is just left up to…genes and chance. Some muggleborns are born EXTREMELY magically gifted, while some purebloods are absolutely horrible at the stuff. I'm a prime example of that. I was born into a very old wizarding family, but it still takes me twice as long as most to master spells." That was the horrible truth. She was a disappointment to her family, though they'd never tell her so.

He shook his head, looking away for a moment before turning back. "You're thick, Bones. You're practically just handing over our world to them. Because of people like you, we'll be left with NOTHING. We're just protecting what's ours. If a few muggles have to die, then—"

"She wasn't a muggle." Susan's face had hardened. She wasn't angry (at least not at him), but her tone was very firm. Draco stopped talking, staring at her. There were actually tears in her eyes. "She was a full-blooded witch, and they murdered her." She sniffed and bat her eyes, catching the tears on her fingers. Unable to look at him, she stared at the wall to her left.

Draco hadn't meant to make her cry. It's not that he really cared, but he'd gone through somewhat of a transformation these last couple of months. Being on the run had worn him down and forced him to grow up. It had weakened him. "But she supported them, Bones."

"You don't GET it!" Her head snapped up as she yelled at him. It seemed that she hadn't been too successful at keeping the tears at bay because her eyes began to water. Large, clear globs formed, but she paid no attention to them. "Everyone in my family is DYING. THEY'RE KILLING THEM! MY GRANDPARENTS! MY UNCLE AND AUNT AND COUSINS! AND NOW AUNT AMELIA! Who's next, Draco!? MUM? DAD!? ME!? Draco… I don't want to die." The anger had given away, and now Susan just seemed despondent.

She sniffed, wiping her face onto the sleeve of her shirt. She didn't know why she'd just admitted that all to him; it's not like he'd understand. He thought of it as just purifying the system. Just purge it of a few mudbloods and blood traitors and it was better. So it surprised her when he spoke so softly. "I don't want to die either, Bones, but if I don't do this, I will. If I turn my back on him, I've got nothing left.

"It's not that I don't want to do this because I do. It's just…" His head had previously been downcast. Now he looked at her, his eyes so full of honesty like she'd never seen before. "I'm seventeen. I was supposed to be finishing school this year. Then my father was going to train me, but it's all screwed up now. He's in Azkaban, and I'm…" Draco took a breath. "He screwed up and now I'M paying for it, and there's nowhere for me to go. I have nobody." He wasn't crying as Susan had, but she could see so much pain in his eyes.

Was it possible that she was actually feeling sorry for him? For Draco Malfoy, who'd always been known to torment anybody that he hadn't deemed worthy. It was even harder to understand why she would be feeling this way with the realization that Draco wasn't a good guy. Yet he was still scared, and perhaps that's what gave her enough reason.

The two young adults sat on the steps, Draco's head hung while Susan looked at him. Though completely different and thus enemies by default, they'd found some common ground: anger, betrayal, fear, and despair. Perhaps that made them similar enough.