The next night, Draco duly presented himself at his godfather's, supercilious sneer firmly in place. He'd arrived a little early, hoping to settle himself before the Gryffindorks arrived, but they were already there. From the looks of things, Snape had warned them ahead of time, as there were no shocked looks or loud complaints. Potter, after a glance at Snape, muttered a neutral "Malfoy" as a greeting, while The Weasel simply glared at him. The mudblood followed her usual suck-up approach and offered him a polite, "Hi, Draco." He didn't bother to look at her.
"So?" he drawled, using as contemptuous a tone as he thought he could get away with. "Now what?"
"Be seated, and get to work," Snape replied evenly, pointing to a place at the table.
"You expect me to sit next to her?" Draco figured if he were as offensive as possible, his godfather might give up, or at least permit him to serve his detention alone, in the Potions classroom.
Potter and Weasley instantly bristled, but Granger – astonishingly – laughed. "Draco, you are so predictable. Why did I know you were going to say that?"
"Because you're an insufferable know-it-all?" he snarled back, furious that she hadn't burst into tears.
"I suppose," she retorted with a maddening smirk. "That must also be why I keep getting better grades than you."
Now the other two boys were laughing with her, at him, and Draco saw red. "A lot of good those grades will do you and your family when the Dark Lord returns and extermin—"
He didn't even have to finish the sentence before all three Gryffindors were on their feet, shouting, but Draco's gratification was short lived. A hard hand clamped onto his shoulder and all but threw him into the chair. He stifled a yelp as his backside crashed down on the hard wooden seat, and then his godfather was there, leaning over and looking him straight in the eye. "You've just earned an extra week of detention, Mr Malfoy, and you will spend tonight copying lines. Do you wish to say anything else before you get started?"
Draco glared back, but he didn't quite have the nerve to try anything else. "No," he muttered sulkily. Snape narrowed his eyes, and he grudgingly added, "Sir."
A parchment appeared in front of him. The sentence, "I will keep a civil tongue in my head at all times, as befits a gentleman," ran along the top of the page, and Draco glowered. At least the Gryffindors were being relatively quiet. The Weasel was still breathing hard and looking like he'd be happy to strangle Draco, but Potter and the mudblood had returned to their schoolwork.
An hour later, Draco's hand was sore and he was seriously regretting his outburst. It hadn't achieved any of his aims, and he would much rather be writing about Grindylows than recopying that stupid sentence another hundred times.
He risked a glance up and was relieved to see that his godfather was over at his own desk, reviewing Potter's Herbology homework with him. From the amount of arguing, it was clear that the work wasn't up to Snape's standards. Draco snorted in derision. What did he expect from that spoiled idiot?
"Hey, Hermione," Ron whispered. "Hand me that book. No, the green one – by that Masheevelly guy."
"It's 'Machiavelli', moron," Draco snapped.
"Shut up, Malfoy," Ron snapped back. "I don't need your help."
"On the contrary, Weasley," Draco sneered, "you need all the help you can get. You and your pack of penniless blood traitors."
"So we're blood traitors because we don't kowtow to a crazy dead guy? How exactly do you figure that makes you a better pureblood?" Ron demanded.
Draco blinked. A coherent reply? Since when did Weasley respond to baiting comments about his family with anything other than a mindless outburst of violence? That famous Weasley temper was supposed to have short circuited all his logic several seconds ago.
"I wouldn't expect you to understand," he blustered, well aware that his rejoinder was pathetic. Unfortunately, since he secretly agreed with Weasley that Voldemort was a crazy dead guy, it was hard to argue the point.
"I'm surprised that you know who Machiavelli is, Draco," the mudblood put in unexpectedly. "I didn't think you'd be familiar with Muggle authors."
He turned to glare at her. Why wasn't she still smarting from his insults? How dare she recover so quickly and actually try to engage him in conversation. "No one was talking to you, Granger," he attacked.
"Well, I'm talking to you," she replied. "What other Muggles have you read?"
"None of your business."
"Bet your father would be interested to learn about your reading habits," Weasley commented quietly, and Draco felt himself pale.
He wouldn't, he told himself quickly, but he knew it wasn't as far fetched as it might appear. Weasley's father worked in the Ministry. Lucius often went to the Ministry, thanks to his extensive involvement in multiple projects. If Weasley asked his father to say something… "What do you want?" he hissed, practically spitting out the words.
The mudblood looked bewildered, but Weasley smirked, as if a plan of his had just worked out. "I'm sure you can guess." At Draco's angry, frustrated expression, Weasley rolled his eyes impatiently. "We're stuck with you for the next two – no, three – weeks, Malfoy. I want you to be polite during that time. No sneers, no insults, and no use of the term 'mudblood'. Think you can do that, or should I owl my father?"
"No!" Draco couldn't prevent the exclamation. If Lucius found out… Draco broke out in a cold sweat. "All right," he muttered. "Fine."
Weasley grinned in triumph and Draco felt nauseous. He'd just been bested by a Weasley! He'd never live that down if anyone in his House found out.
"So, Draco," the mudblood was amazingly persistent. "Who else have you read?"
Draco glanced over at Weasley, and the boy raised his eyebrows inquisitively. "Be polite, Malfoy. Answer Hermione's question."
Draco fumed impotently, but in the end he replied between clenched teeth, "Machiavelli and Benjamin Franklin. Sun Tzu. Churchill. Dickens. Tolkein. Payne. Homer. Shakespeare. Swift. Twain."
"Have you read any Jane Austen? I love her!" Hermione said.
"I'm not a girl, Granger," Draco snapped. "No, I haven't read her stuff."
"What did you think of Sun Tzu?" Weasley demanded. "Don't you think he might have been a wizard?"
"Ron!" Hermione sounded exasperated. "We've been over this a hundred times. He was not a wizard. Professor Snape said so!"
"He lived more than 2000 years ago, Hermione. Don't you think the records might have gotten lost?"
"Honestly, Ron! You're like a dog with a bone. Give it up!" Hermione looked over at Draco. "What do you think? I suppose you agree with Ron that anyone with half a brain must have Wizard blood?"
Draco was torn. He didn't want to agree with either one of them, but neither did he want to look ignorant and not weigh in with his opinion. He hesitated a moment, trying to decide which path would be the least aggravating.
"I bet you didn't even read it!" Ron challenged. "You just said you did to look smart."
"Some of us let our grades demonstrate that," Draco shot back. "And the mud – I mean, Granger's right. There's absolutely no evidence that Sun Tzu was a Wizard. Some people don't even think he was a real historical figure."
"Oh yeah? Then who wrote the book?" Ron demanded hotly.
Hermione and Draco both tried to answer him, and the debate was on.
Snape and Harry, distracted from their own argument by the loud voices from the table, looked up and were surprised to find the other three in a vigorous but surprisingly civil discussion. Snape in particular was amazed to hear his godson defending a point Granger had just made, while Weasley somehow managed to hold his own against the two of them. Harry tugged on his sleeve. "Did you hex Draco?" he whispered anxiously. "'Cause I don't think that's a good idea. I mean, he won't like it when he wakes up and realizes how you made him act."
Snape's lips twitched. "I assure you, Mr Potter, I did not hex him. Though I agree that this transformation appears magical."
Of course, nothing is ever that simple, and before the end of the night, Draco had managed to outrage all three Gryffindors by claiming that Godric Gryffindor was nowhere near as powerful a wizard as Salazar Slytherin. Although the other students were somewhat reticent in their arguments, not wishing to offend Snape, they still made it clear that they considered Draco's words a declaration of war. Snape barely managed to avoid open hostilities by a timely delivery of tea and biscuits.
As the students made their way back to their respective dorms, Snape called his godson back. "I see you made surprisingly little progress on your lines this evening," he observed, holding out the parchment.
Draco eyed him warily. How much trouble was he in? "I was distracted by Weasley and the mudbl – I mean, Granger," he protested. "It was your idea for me to come here in the first place. It isn't my fault that they bothered me."
"I see. Well, as your subsequent behavior embodied the spirit of the lines, I will excuse you this time," Snape told him. "If you believe you can continue to conduct yourself appropriately, you may begin the Grindylow essay tomorrow night."
Draco looked at his godfather in surprise. He had expected Snape to order him to write lines during his free period tomorrow to make up for his dismal showing tonight. Instead he was being let off entirely? That was unexpected. "I – all right." He fidgeted under Snape's scrutiny. What did the man want from him?
"Sit down," Snape said abruptly, apparently coming to a decision. Draco reluctantly complied. What now? "I wish to talk to you about your use of the term 'mudblood'." Draco tensed. He knew his godfather didn't like the word, but his father beat him bloody if he forgot and used a more polite phrase. Besides, he no longer had to care what Snape liked or disliked.
"I do not want to hear that term again in my chambers," Snape instructed sternly.
Draco shrugged. "Fine." He didn't mention that Weasley's blackmail had already forced him to abandon its use.
"It is foolish to alienate people in a haphazard manner. You should choose your words so as to keep as many options available to yourself as possible. By using terms such as mudblood, you give away a great deal about yourself while learning nothing about your audience," Snape lectured.
"I already said I wouldn't," Draco argued, doing his best to sound bored. "Can I go?"
"Yes," Snape replied, with a barely audible sigh. Draco gave him an odd look as he rose. The man had almost sounded… hurt. Unwillingly, he lingered at the doorway.
"I don't think it's fair that you make me come here and do my punishment essay in front of those Gryffindors," he burst out, surprising himself.
Snape raised an eyebrow. "What makes you think they're not here for punishment as well?"
Draco snorted. "Like you'd ever punish Perfect Potter and his pets."
"Just what is that supposed to mean, young man?" Snape demanded.
Angry with himself for revealing more than he had intended, Draco shrugged and turned to go, but Snape caught him by the back of the robes and dragged him back. "No, you will answer my question, Mr Malfoy. And not with a sullen jerk of your shoulders, either."
"Fine!" Draco exploded. "It means that you're pathetic! You're so busy kissing up to Potter and Dumbledore and the mudblood and all of them, you don't care what happens to the rest of us! You're a dirty rotten traitor! I hope the Dark Lord crucio's you to death when He comes back! I hate you! I don't care that you left me! I don't care that you like Potter now instead of me! I hate you! I hope you die! I –" Draco saw Snape's hand fly up, and he yelped and cowered back.
To his astonishment, instead of cracking sharply across his face, the hand caught him by the back of the neck, pulling him against his godfather's chest as Snape's other hand came around his shoulders.
"Ssh. It's all right," Snape soothed, holding his godson tight.
Draco found himself crying great heaving sobs against Snape's chest. His hands came up and grabbed onto his godfather as if he was a lifeline in a churning sea. "I hate you, I hate you," he wept. "You left me."
"Oh, Draco," Snape sighed. "I would never leave you. Never." As he held the weeping child, he mentally groaned. More snot. Merlin, he hated teaching. If there was one thing children had an abundance of, it was disgusting body fluids.
"You did," Draco protested tearfully. "You like Potter now."
"Draco, I can like both of you. And whatever my relationship with Potter, you will always be my godson. I've known you all your life. We will always have a different relationship than Potter and I have. I have seen you grow from babyhood. I don't have those kinds of memories of Potter." Snape couldn't quite believe that he was having this conversation. Was his godson twelve or two? But there was no denying his outburst nor the insecurities and fears it had revealed.
"You hit me," Draco accused. "You picked Potter over me."
"You broke one of my most important rules," Snape replied patiently. "You know perfectly well you are not to tease other students about my punishments."
"But it was just Potter!" Draco wailed. "I thought you hated him!"
Snape abruptly held his godson out at arm's length. "Is that why you teased him? Because you thought I would like it? That I would want you to?"
Draco nodded, tears streaming down his face. "And you hit me," he sobbed. "I did it to please you, and you hit me."
Snape sighed, pulling the boy back into a hug. Poor Draco, yet another casualty of Dumbledore's damned "no one must know" policy. "All right, Draco, all right," he soothed. "I understand now. I understand."
"It wasn't fair," Draco whined. "You changed the rules."
"I suppose that's true," Snape admitted. "And I'm sorry."
Draco's sobs stopped abruptly. "What?" Shocked, he craned his neck back to see his godfather's face.
"I'm sorry," Snape repeated, amused to see that an apology worked as well with Draco as with Harry. "You're right. I should have explained to you that things have changed between Potter and myself. I should have made you aware of the situation."
Draco sniffled, contemplating his words. "Was it a secret?" he finally hiccupped. "You know, because of the Dark Lord?"
"Did you not tell me because of my father?"
"In part," Snape allowed. "The less you know, the safer you will be. If Lucius thinks you are withholding information from him, he will undoubtedly try Legilimency. I would spare you that if I could." There was no reason to tell the boy that he still worried that Draco would join Lucius among the ranks of Death Eaters. If only he could make the boy could see the Dark Lord and his philosophy for what they truly were, and not simply accept Lucius' slanted, distorted view.
"Then you're not going to –"
"Abandon you? Certainly not."
"Oh." Draco dug out his handkerchief. Snape noted proudly that his godson not only had one, but it was freshly laundered, unlike those idiot Gryffindors who always had to use one of his.
"You're not going to tell anyone about this, right?" Draco demanded nervously, wiping his eyes.
"It depends," Snape replied, ever the Slytherin. "Is this nonsensical misbehavior going to stop?"
Draco nodded, looking as sheepish as a Malfoy could. "Yes, sir."
"Then we will keep tonight's events between ourselves."
"Uncle Sev," Draco asked hopefully, "does this mean that I'm excused from the rest of my detentions?"
"Mr Malfoy, do you seriously expect an answer to that question?"
"But, Uncle Sevvvv," Draco whined, turning his best "sad puppy dog eyes" onto his godfather, "don't you think I've been punished enough?"
Snape raised one eyebrow. "I think you have me confused with a house elf if you imagine that such tactics will work on me. It is getting late. You can either return to your dormitory now and I will see you again tomorrow evening as scheduled, or you can continue your ill-advised attempts to wheedle your way out of a well-earned punishment, and you will likely end up with more detention or a sore backside or both. Which will it be?"
Draco abandoned his efforts with a grumpy mutter that Snape, in the interests of furthering their nascent truce, pretended not to hear. "All right, fine," Draco groused as he made his way to the door, "but I'd better not have to share any more of Weasley's biscuits. I want my own plate from now on," he instructed, regaining his usual hauteur.
"I know, I know," Snape sighed. "Oatmeal raisin. I'll tell the elves."