The Ruse

Second year, Hogwarts.

"Mr. Potter! We meet at last. Forgive me, your scar is legend. As, of course, is the wizard who gave it to you." Said the tall man with platinum hair.

Harry looked at his cane; it was sending him on edge.
"Voldemort killed my parents. He was nothing more than a murderer." Harry responded petulantly.
The mention of the dark lords' name took Lucius Malfoy by surprise, "You must be very brave to mention his name; or very foolish..." he said quietly staring at the scar that made the boy famous.
Hermione couldn't believe Harry wasn't saying anything. After a short silence she spoke, "Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself."
Lucius Malfoy looked up sharply and focused his piercing grey eyes on her, "And you must be Miss. Granger. Yes, Draco's told me all about you and your parents. Muggles, aren't they?"

Hermione turned around to look at her parents; she was worried for them, but narrowed her eyes instead sending an unspoken threat to the senior Malfoy.

He dismissed her 'threat' and focused on Ron. "Let me see. Red hair... vacant expressions... tatty second hand books... you must be the Weasleys". Of course he knew who they were already; he and Arthur were …acquainted.

With shoulders slumped the young group walked away feeling a bit slighted and a very angry Hermione silently ranted about growing up and becoming a certain unnamed blondes worst nightmare.

***

A few hours later the Malfoys returned to the Manor and sat down for dinner, "What's on your mind, Draco?" Lucius asked having some idea of what was bothering his only son.

Draco shrugged, "Why does it matter if Granger's muggle born? …and the Weasleys are pretty smart…at least the twins are, they sell fireworks and pranks and stuff to the students! …though that Ron is a git; he eats like a pig." The young boy finished with an expression resembling one who smelled rotting eggs.

Lucius watched with a smirk as the comical expressions crossed Draco's features. He sighed and then said, "We must keep up appearances. The Dark Lord watches, he has spies everywhere and we wouldn't be able to help if we didn't know what he was planning, now would we? As for your other questions, Hermione Granger is a smart witch and certainly brave considering how spoke out today, she will be a force once she reaches adulthood." He paused for a moment before continuing, "The Weasleys, well I know that Bill and Percy are quite bright, and the twins are very clever, but undisciplined. I don't know Ron or the youngest girl, but time will tell whether or not they will be useful."

Draco nodded, but still looked a bit confused.

Lucius sighed, "Son, you are very smart and have the leadership skills and cunning befitting both a Slytherin and a Malfoy, so understand when I say this, you must keep up appearances. Be disparaging, but don't hurt them physically. The Dark Lord cannot know our true loyalties."

"I know, dad…it's just…" he whispered and looked at his plate.

"Draco, it's time for bed." his mother interrupted; feeling this was all a bit too overwhelming for a 12 year old boy.

***

Slytherin Quidditch practice interrupts Gryffindor practice after Draco's father buys the team new brooms.

"You see, Weasley, unlike some, my father can afford the best." Draco bragged to the Gryffindor team.
"At least no one on the Gryffindor team had to buy their way in; they got in on pure talent." Hermione snapped back sick and tired of the young Malfoys arrogance.
"No one asked your opinion you filthy little Mudblood!" Draco yelled back.

Hermione left in tears with Harry and Ron trailing to comfort her.

Draco's team laughed and slapped him on the back, "Good one, Draco."

He smiles, but he doesn't feel like smiling as his eyes follow the trio's quick departure; one of them in tears.

Sighing he snaps out of it and promises himself he will apologize to her ...later, until then, "Are we playing or what?" he asks his team assertively.

***

Hermione is walking alone back to her common room from the library. On her way she hears footsteps behind her…then nothing. She stops and pulls her wand ready for anything, but then after a few seconds of silence she huffs, "Probably just my imagination working overtime. Jeez Granger, wizard up for Merlins sake!" she berates herself.

Just then a hooded figure steps out from one of the many nooks and crannies Hogwarts holds inside of its ancient hallways.

Hermione gasps and steps backwards holding her wand directly at the figure… a figure that is strangely only slightly taller than she, "Who are you?" she barks, sounding more confident than she feels.
He removes the hood revealing his signature platinum locks, "It's me." he says quietly. He has a strange look on his face, "Come to call me names again, Malfoy?" she snapped.

Draco shook his head, "I came to apologize. It was a horrible thing to say to you and I'm sorry." He said putting his head down and shifting from one foot to another.

Hermione's curious nature wouldn't allow her to just drop it and walk away, "Draco, what's going on? You…" she sighed not knowing how to proceed.

Then she saw it.

His shoulders were shaking almost imperceptibly, Was he crying, Oh Merlin! She stepped to him quickly, "Oh Draco!" She hugged him "It's ok" she whispered tenderly and patted his back in comfort.

He just sobbed on her shoulder and hugged her back.

She didn't speak or pull away, she just let him cry.

When he stopped, he righted himself and said …a little harsher than intended, "I'm sorry. I have to go." He was embarrassed.

When he turned to leave, "Draco wait!" she called quickly. He stopped, but didn't face her, "If… If you need to talk or … just want to walk with someone…I'm here." She said softly, now feeling embarrassed herself for not knowing the right thing to say.

He turned a little so she saw his profile, his eye red from the tears; he nodded curtly and walked away.

***

An owl was pecking at the window of the Slytherin common room. Draco recognized the owl immediately, his fathers.

He opened the window for the bird and took the parchment. The bird did not wait for a response.

Draco,

Professor Snape will be taking you away; you can't come home. Something has happened and we must hide you for fear of what the dark lord may want of you. He has cursed your mother and she has fallen ill; I am hopeful for her complete recovery, but…

I love you and your mother loves you. Should anything happen to us, please know that when you come of age Professor Snape will help you with assuming your inheritance from the Malfoy Estate.

Love always,

LM

Professor Snape entered the common room just as Draco looked up. He felt compassion for the young man.

"We must go now. Take only what you can carry." He replied tersely and walked out of the room. A few moments later Draco was beside him almost in a jog to keep up, "Wh..Where are we going?" the young platinum haired boy asked with fear lacing his tone.

Snape stopped walking and looked down at Draco's puffy red rimmed eyes, the boy had been crying, Snape thought sadly.

He finally answered, "Northern Scandinavia; The Durmstrang Institute."

Draco remembered hearing the name, but couldn't recall in what context.

Interrupting his thoughts Snape said, "The head master is named Karkaroff; he is an old friend and will take care of you while you are under his tutelage."

As they rounded the outside of the castle, Draco paused to take one last look at Hogwarts and the life he was leaving behind. He sighed as if the world's burden were on his shoulders. But I just made a friend ...a real one he thought fleetingly, and envisioned the brown haired brown eyed girl who let him cry without judging him.

"Draco! Quickly!"

"Yes sir."

***

The years floated by, Draco owled his father at least once per week. Lucius even visited after Narcissa died during the fifth year shortly before the war. He remembered feeling very alone once his father left and yearned to return to Hogwarts.

During the years at Durmstrang, Draco had become quite a valued Quidditch seeker and played as often as he could.

After the fourth year, when Viktor Krum returned from competing in the Tri-wizard Tournament Draco had inquired as to his brown eyed friend.

Viktor Krum had smiled and showed Draco a picture of himself and Hermione attending the Yule ball together. She was tilting her head back laughing at something Viktor said while touching his shoulder.

She looked beautiful. Draco wanted so much to be the one she was laughing with….and oh yeah, Viktor was smiling too. Draco noted with a pout. He had handed the picture back to Viktor hesitantly and that was when Viktor had told him that Hermo-ninny agreed to correspond with him regularly. Viktor said this last bit quite smugly.

Draco didn't know if that were true; what he did know was that Viktor was claiming ownership and since Draco was a lower classman he couldn't openly challenge or disrespect the older boy, but knowing the Hermione he remembered, he conceded that she was kind and probably didn't want to put a damper on the good time, so she probably did agree to write.

When the war started Lucius Malfoy and Severus Snape were unsung heroes. They had assisted in locating the horcruxes and keeping the Order in the loop of impending attacks and other harmful events.

Draco helped with messages to Karkaoff and even fought death eaters at Durmstrong. He was captured at one point along with Karkaoff and ended up being tortured by his aunt Bellatrix; of all the witches to be tortured by, she was the worst – aunt or not.

"We thought you were dead my dear nephew!" She said slowly. "Have you been here the whole time, then?"

Draco didn't answer.

"I was with your poor mother when she moved on. She was crying like a little baby about her only son." Bellatrix cackled.

"DON'T YOU SPEAK ABOUT MY MOTHER YOU SLAG!" Draco bellowed trying to break from his bonds.

"No? So disrespectful for a well-educated pureblood. As your aunt I feel I should teach you a valuable lesson: Never, never disrespect your elders, boy. Crucio."

He screamed in pain and was sure he would lose his mind any moment. Fortunately, she was called back to the dark lord and was not able to finish the job.

Draco escaped shortly after and ran to find a severely tortured and almost dead Karkaoff.

Months later, Draco was called to meet with his headmaster, "You wanted to speak to me sir?" Draco asked registering Karkaroffs pensive state. Draco knew this meeting would not end well.

Karkaroff sighed a tired, sad sigh, "Your father was killed by the dark lord, Draco. Lucius, Severus and other …friends did not survive." He did not mince words; he respected this boy enough to lay it all out, but was leery of the boys' reaction.

"…and Voldemort?" Draco asked hesitantly thinking if he were still alive, he would never lead a normal life.

Karkaroff twitched at 'his' name being mentioned, "Potter was able to defeat him. They are rounding up the remaining death eaters as we speak."

Draco nodded, "Sir?" Karkaroff looked up, "I had a friend…Hermione Granger, Is she…?" he let the question fade.

Karkaroff smiled, he knew that Krum was smitten with the girl as well. She had made quite a name for herself with her vast knowledge of magic and spells, but also with her loyalty to Potter and the cause as well as with her bravery during the actual battle. Karkaroff smiled, his friend Severus complained about the girl constantly. Karkaroff knew Severus liked her by his incessant raving. "Gryffindor's Princess? Yes, she lives."

This relieved Draco immensely, but he still felt such a loss at hearing that his father, his hero, would not be with him into adulthood.

Over the summer months, Draco spent his time playing Quidditch and fixing up the castle, which had sustained some damage during smaller battles with deatheaters.

At the start of the seventh year Karkaroff made an announcement,
"Students and faculty. We are honored to participate in a foreign student exchange with the Hogwarts School of magic. We have sent 12 of our students to Hogwarts and there are 12 Hogwarts students coming here. They will arrive tonight. I urge you to be respectful and represent Durmstrang with pride. I would also like to explain that although Durmstrong has historically been a pure-blood and all male institution for education, in the aftermath of the war and the idea of wiping the slate clean, we are opening our doors this year, for the exchange, to one muggle-born female. You may have heard of her, she is an exceptional student, she was instrumental in the defeat of the dark lord and is quite clever…some say the cleverist witch of her age, Hermione Granger." He waited for the gasps of surprise and slow rumble of chatter among his students to quiet and then continued, "She is to be treated with the utmost respect and courtesy. Consequences for those who defy this…request will be delivered by me personally. Do I make myself clear?" The auditorium erupted in: "DA! SIR KARKAROFF!" from his students in unison.

Draco had been in a daze for weeks. He missed his father more than ever and longed for this year to be over, though it had just begun.

At breakfast the first day of school, Karkaroff stood up to make his usual student announcements; they were meant to inform and scare the first and second year students and it worked, many of the younger students were too afraid to cause any commotion.

He had decided to stay at Durmstrang for this year and return to Malfoy Manor as an adult. It was still too soon to be reminded of his family.

He was barely paying attention during the announcements until he heard Hermione Granger. He was immediately alert. A slow smile spread on his face and he felt Karkaroff eyes on him. He thought he saw the former death eater's face soften minutely, but it happened so fast he wasn't sure. This day just got a hundred times better!