Disclaimer: This universe and the characters within it are not my own. They belong to Warner Bros. Entertainment, J.K. Rowling, RDR Books, Scholastic Books, and whoever else. This is a work of FanFiction that no one will be profiting off of. Honestly, no copyright infringement is intended in the slightest.

Author's Note: This is my first Fanfiction ever, please forgive any short comings. I hope that you enjoy it, and if you don't, then I hope you find something that you do enjoy and read that. Reviews are, of course, appreciated. Even crazy spammish/flaming ones are fun. I'd like to take this opportunity to apologize beforehand for my inability to spell names, I think I have a complex because my entire name is extraordinarily difficult to spell. Thanks for reading :)

Chapter One

Most people would wager that Draco Malfoy did not tan easily. Looking in the mirror that morning, though, he was met with an unusual sight. His skin was actually darker than usual. It did not, though, have a visually pleasing effect on Draco's overall appearance, in fact, it didn't even pertain to all of his skin. Just the areas right under his eyes. This was due to Vincent Crabbe, and his inconsiderately loud and incessant snoring, and for that he would pay.

Draco was about to leave the bathroom when he looked at himself again in the mirror. Merlin's best Sunday jumper-- he was handsome. He shot a satisfied at his reflection, which, of course, lovingly returned it. Unfortunately for Crabbe, he noted, closing the door behind him, Crabbe was not as hauntingly gorgeous as he was. The real misfortune, though, was that Crabbe was about to become a lot less pretty.

~o~

On Draco's left sat Gregory Goyle, which was nothing unusual. And, on his right, Blaise Zabini. Blaise had been kind enough to take Crabbe's place before Pansy Parkinson had noticed it was open. She wasn't the fastest snitch on the pitch. Hell, she'd even seen Crabbe dragged out of the common room by two students from the year below, she'd probably even made plans to visit him in Madame Pomfrey's (no doubt hoping to bump into Draco). And yet, she neither expected nor noticed Vincent Crabbe's absence from the Slytherin table until Blaise sat down. Funny, sometimes Draco even considered her witty, but those times when she'd exhibited quick thinking all had been times when she was insulting others. Perhaps the nastiness in her heart occasionally took over for the simpler things that filled her mind.

"...and you wouldn't believe what Terry Boot said to Regina then," Draco looked up from his plate. Apparently Pansy was under the impression that they were having a conversation. He looked at her questioningly, and saw that her eyes were trained not on him, but on Blaise, who was glaring lazily at her, bored.

And then, Draco noticed, that although Pansy wasn't looking at him, someone else was. Well, glaring would have been a more accurate term. Precious Harry Potter was glaring at him across the Hall at him, as though he'd personally offended him. And, he had, on several occasions. That he prided himself in accomplishing. However, all Draco had done in his presence that morning was eat his breakfast. He looked down at his plate, wondering whether he should do just that. Then his eyes strayed to the brute next to him.

"Goyle," he said, sneering, "Bored?" On any other face, the look that Goyle had on would probably suggest boredom, if not comatose. On Goyle, however, it just looked particularly thoughtful.

"Yeah. Lunch is better," Goyle said, frowning. He smiled shortly after, though, his thoughts drifting to lunch. Lunch was better. And snacks were too. Once, Crabbe had showed him this magazine he'd nicked off of a muggle for fun, and it was filled with all sorts of decorative cakes...

Draco had learned to accept the poor conversation that was Gregory Goyle long ago. So, getting out of his seat and ignoring the affronted look he received from Pansy Parkinson, he didn't say anything back, and merely nodded for Goyle to get up too.

"Harry Potter is a great oaf," Goyle said, getting up off the bench. "He is not very smart—or good-looking-- and he is a Gryfindor."

"That's more than you've said all week," Draco noted in a tone of disgust, sauntering over to the Gryfindor table. Goyle merely shrugged, and followed, apparently flattered. He'd tried to make up for Crabbe's absence and Draco had praised him. He'd make a great death eater, he thought, touching his blank forearm absent-mindedly, just like his Pa.

~o~

"Why're you here, Malfoy?" Harry asked, turning around to face the Slytherin.

"What's wrong, Potter? Flattered?" Malfoy replied, smirking.

"How 'bout you shove off, Malfoy?" Ron suggested, making to stand up. Hermione grabbed his arm firmly.

"Clever retort as always. Though, I guess if I spent as much time devoted to riding on my best mate's coat-tails, I'd get a little stupider every day too. Just--" he stopped abruptly as Ron rose from the bench. He sneered. "Pathetic; just pathetic."

"Just ignore him," Hermione pleaded calmly, her voice firm, looking from Harry to Ron, her hand clasped around Ron's forearm. It was easier said than done, obviously, or Malfoy wouldn't go out of his way to annoy them so often.

"Yeah, Weasel, your girlfriend's right, just ignore me, you can't afford to get into a fight with me," he taunted, watching with pleasure as color crept from Ronald's face only to return tenfold.

Harry, too, had risen to his feet, wand out.

"Now, now, Potter," Malfoy said, his own wand drawn, "Put your wand away. In case you've already forgotten," he glanced at another of the table's occupants as he said this, and Neville Longbottom turned pink, "we happen to be in the Great Hall," he paused, as if waiting for Harry to catch up, "Which means there are teachers," he said, his words dripping with as much condescending as he could muster, "Which means trouble."

He smirked at each of the three in turn, addressing them good-bye, "Potty, Weasel," he nodded, "Granger." He walked away contently. Goyle looked like he was about to follow him, when he thought the better and nodded to Harry, "Potter," he said, trying very hard to sound as sly as Malfoy. Pleased with himself, he caught up to Malfoy and followed behind him.

~o~

"One day, I swear," Ron said, shaking his head, once Malfoy was out of hearing range, "I swear."

"Yeah," Harry added, smiling and exchanging a glance with Hermione.

"Somebody out to do something about him," Neville chimed in from across the table, to the surprise of the other three. He looked rather surprised himself, and once again he turned pink, "Gran says you have to deal with that sort of person head on, or they'll never leave you alone."

"The problem is," Hermione explained with a frown, picking at her food but looking at the others, "He hates us."

"Perceptive, you are," Ron commented, looking at her pointedly.

"What I mean, Ron, is that that sort of thing doesn't go away so easily," she paused, "I mean, no one can blindly hate without being ignorant, right?" the looks on their faces expressed that none of them would really venture to confirm, 'right,' she went on, "That's where the whole 'blindly' bit comes in. If they knew enough to understand--Anyway, some people are just ignorant, and usually people deny anything that would suggest that they're wrong, much less that they're..." she lost her train of thought, though it was just as well, because Harry didn't seem to be paying attention, and neither Ron nor Neville were boasting looks of understanding. Smiling weakly at Neville, she finished, "Though, I'm sure your Grandmother knows what she's talking about."

~o~

"At least we have double potions first," Ron said, looking woefully from Harry to Hermione. "I can't imagine having it at the end, I mean."

"Yeah," Harry said, "Now we have all day to forget about Snape."

Hermione had not really been listening, as they walked side by side down the corridor, but she knew to pay attention for key phrases. "He's really not fair to you, you should tell Professor McGonagall," she said automatically, and Harry began going off about Snape's satisfaction.

Ignorance. Knowledge. If you really understood something, you weren't ignorant when it cam to that thing. If you really understood a person, and knew all there was to know about them... how would you feel about that person? You'd probably... well, you wouldn't necessarily like them. But maybe you wouldn't dislike them any-more. Perhaps you would love, appreciate those who were good, and those that were bad... you would pity. They would make you not hateful, but sad. Behind the cause of one sad story was another sad story.

Malfoy hated her. How would he feel about her if he understood, and was rid of the ignorance that no doubt clouded his mind? That would depend on whether or not Hermione was good, or, well, someone who did bad things.

"I can hardly decide that objectively," she murmured, smiling to herself. She hadn't realised her thoughts had carried over to words until Ron asked, "What?"

"Hmm?" she replied, pulled from her thoughts.

"Decide what?"Harry asked her.

"Oh," she said, "Oh, sorry, nothing."

They had arrived at potions, finally. She was saved. Well, saved from an awkward explanation, at least, not from the class, which was inherently worse.

~o~

"...Granger, Patil. Goyle, Brown. Longbottom, Zabini. Potter, Finnegan. Weasely, Crabbe--" Snape droned on, listing off pairs, until he was interrupted.

"Excuse me, Professor?" Draco knew he could easily get away with interrupting the teacher, in fact he'd made a bet with Blaise before class, and now he was going to get an easy five galleons. Not that money was an issue. It was the victory that would satisfy him.

"Yes, Mr. Malfoy?" Snape said asked, looking up.

"Crabbe isn't in today," he informed him. He had to suppress a smirk, and a few of the knowing Slytherin's around him snickered.

Snape, irritated that he'd been interruped, said, "Thank you, Mr. Malfoy. In which case," he resumed the bored tone he's been using before, assigning partnerships, "Weasely," he looked down at his list, "Malfoy."

Draco looked around the room, frowning. Dean Thomas of Gryfindor wasn't there today either. He regretted saying anything, but you couldn't tell from the look on his face. Zabini was grinning at him. Malfoy smirked, and mouthed, 'You owe me five galleons.' Zabini nodded, and mouthed back, 'I know; It was worth it.'

~o~

"Turn to page three hundred and twenty seven," Snape instructed, "There you will find a list of ingredients. Now, who can tell me what a Sleeping Draught does?"

Granger's hand was not the only one to raise into the air, for once, though it was still thoroughly the most enthusiastic. Draco had even raised his hand.

"Miss Parkinson?"

"It makes the drinker fall asleep?"

"Correct. Five points to Slytherin."

Probably the first Slytherin points Pansy had ever earned her house. She seemed to be thinking something along those lines, anyway, as she glanced over at Draco, grinning hopefully, aching for his approval. He ignored her. There had to be other interested PureBlooded girls out there. There had to.

To be really honest, he wouldn't even mind ending up with a girl who wasn't of pure blood. Of course, she couldn't be a muggle, or a Mudblood, but most wizards were HalfBloods anyways, so it would be likely that the girl perfect for Draco would end up being one of those. As long as she was classy in all other respects, he could probably overlook it. It didn't matter anyway, what he could overlook, the final decision would be made, of course, by his father. Draco didn't always agree with his decisions, but it was fair to say that he usually did. And, naturally, his father was usually right. How else would he end up so successful? Rich like you read about, happily married to a PureBlooded witch, influential as could be, and with a son as perfectly amazing, and, of course, as handsome, as Draco Malfoy. He had to be doing something right, and something, in his case, meant almost everything. What he did wrong was obvious. For all his pride, he bowed down to someone else. To the dark lord. And then he went and tortured people, taking pleasure from their pain. Draco kept making excuses to delay becoming a death eater. He didn't want to hurt his father, anger him, tell him that it wasn't what he wanted, but what his father wanted. There had been a time when he had thought that was one in the same, but Draco was tired of seeing his fathers usually warm gray eyes, not unlike his own, reflect revolting cruelty and indifference. He supposed that how he liked to bother first years, and Gryfindors, was not entirely unlike how his father ripped muggles limb from limb, but he would never be that awful, no matter how much the muggles deserved to be beaten into place by someone, he didn't want to be the one to...

"Draco!" Zabini nudged him for what was, apparently, not the first time, gesturing to the instructions written on the board. Draco looked around, noticing that everyone else was with their partner, and Weasley stood, clearly annoyed, beside his desk.

"I know, I was just trying to see how long it would take Weasley to figure out I wasn't already there," he lied, glaring up at Zabini. "And don't touch me," he added. Zabini, looking affronted, walked off to work with Longbottom.

Draco finally got up to move over where Weasley was waiting.

"Don't feel too bad," he told him in mock reassurance, "it's entirely possible that some great witch or wizard owned that potions book fifty years ago. In fact, maybe you can even sell it and buy a nicer house." And then it began.

"You know what? You have it. So you can take it, and shove--"

"You don't want to say that, Weasel."

"Don't I?"

"I've drawn my wand, but you're too thick to notice. Don't make me--"

This time it was Malfoy who was interrupted. "Mr. Weasley?" came a tone of mock surprise. It belonged to neither bickering student, but to the Potions Master standing beside them. "Think you're too good to work for Mr. Malfoy, because you're best friends with The Boy Who Lived?" there was clear venom seeping from his words as he pronounced Potter's title. "Since this is no fault of Mr. Malfoy's, I will ask that you work with Miss Patil for the remainder of this lesson. Switch with Miss Granger."

The triumphant smile that had been playing across Draco's face faltered. The Weasel was taken, and he was raised one Beaver. He quickly forced a smirk, though. This could work out well. She would ignore his taunts, yes, but she would probably do all the work for him, and with Snape as a professor, he'd get all the credit. Granger wasn't exactly predictable, though, and this had always irritated Malfoy. He could always count on a reaction from Weasley or Potter, but it was harder to get a rise out of Granger. He'd called her a Mudblood in second year, and all she didn't seem to have even understood what it had meant. Just before that, while he had intimidated everyone else with the brooms his father had bought, she'd been the only one to put two and two together, and accuse him of buying his way onto the team. She consistently had better come-backs than the other two, but then at the same time, she ignored his clever insults. But then, she also exploded at him sometimes. And even then she bested him. It was sickening. He, a Malfoy, was born to be in control. In a position of power. Always. And yet she, a Mudblood, born to forever be inferior, never gave him that power. It caused him to feel passionately for her, for while such a thing would evoke respect in some people, he was positive that he loathed her.

~o~

Hermione had worked with Malfoy in silence at first. She figured that he didn't want to push his luck with Snape, and that was fine by her. Then she made the mistake of asking a favor of him. Well, no, perhaps not a favor, as he was supposed to be doing at least half the work anyway, instead of tossing in one of the ingredients whenever he saw Snape walk by, but it still remained that she had asked something of him.

"Hey, Malfoy, could you please put the newt's eyes in?" She didn't like looking at them, much less touching them.

"Thought you were a beaver, not a chicken, Granger, now I'll have to think of an animal with buckteeth and wings. I'll admit you're brave to go about looking like that all day, but honestly."

"You're the coward here, Malfoy, you always have been." She wasn't sure what had made her say it, but somehow her response had made perfect sense.

"And why, pray tell, and I the coward, Granger?"

Hermione considered this for a moment, and decided to give Malfoy an honest answer. He wouldn't listen, but it would feel good to say it.

"Because, you lead a life of ignorance. And why would anyone choose a life of ignorance? To avoid the pain that comes with accepting reality. Lying to yourself and struggling to believe it. Not brave enough to face the truth. Cowardice. That's all it is, cowardice." Malfoy was glaring at her, waiting for her to elaborate.

"There is a longing inside everyone, a desire if you will, to be flawless. Perfect. Magnificent. Most people realize that they aren't flawless early on in life. So, for the rest of their lives, they try and rid themselves of flaws, change themselves to become better. Others shy away from the challenge. Rather than altering themselves to change how they're seen, they try instead to change the way that they see others. Rather than fighting to win, they delude themselves into thinking that others have lost, that they're the only ones who can win.

"To accept that you aren't the best, that you have flaws, and to try and better yourself takes courage. It takes strength of character and heart. It takes, really, integrity.

"If you ask me-" she was interrupted.

"Funny, Granger, I don't recall--" but she ignored him, and continued, her voice rising over his, he stopped speaking and listened impatiently.

"If you ask me, the soul quality of a Slytherin is not cunning, but cowardice. Perhaps it takes cunning to pass off a lie as the truth, but to lie at all requires cowardice in one form or another."

"My father--" he began, again her voice drowning his out.

"Your father is a coward in all respects."

"He happens to be one of the most respected--" he tried again, his voice rising along with the color in his usually pale cheeks.

"And that is where you're wrong, Malfoy. He had power over others, yes, but not because they respect him. Respect is something you earn. People give it to you willingly. Fear is something different. It is inflicted, and not as easily maintained as respect. Lies are often needed to be aided to maintain people's belief in them, so from one lie come many to support that lie. Fear works in a similar way. Often, people have to be given more and more reasons to fear something, otherwise they are given time to conquer that fear. You can commit one fearsome act, but, usually, to maintain that reputation, you must commit more. You do not create 'a rain of terror' with but one raindrop.

"Your father, like you, will never be respected, because of the coward he is. Cowards do not command respect. They can, on occasion, command fear from those who give it. But from the brave they only receive pity. And so, I pity you, Malfoy. There is a reason why the lion hunts in a pack while the snake slithers alone."

Malfoy was about to respond with his own clever animal-metaphor, but Snape dismissed class, ordering them to save their potions for next time. Hermione left that for Malfoy to do, not particularly caring whether or not he did. She was just pleased to have given the last word. A smile creeping across her face, replacing the look of fierce, passionate dislike she had shown moments before, as she put her book away and left the room.

~x~