It was Scorpius' third year at Hogwarts School of witchcraft and wizardry. With that in mind, it was understandable that Draco Malfoy was a little stressed with life. Between that and what he'd been asked to do... but it's better to start at the beginning, isn't it?
Draco Malfoy had gotten his teacher's license last year, when there was a shortage of teaching staff for young witches and wizards. He'd become the selfless type after the war, and decided that if the school needed help, he'd be happy to offer his services. His job in the ministry was hardly anything exciting anyways, and if the head master needed someone to teach, he knew the school and the lessons, and would be perfect for the school.
As it was, this year his services were needed. So, as well as helping Scorpius pack, he too had stuffed his life into a suitcase to bring with him to Hogwarts. The only thing that really upset him was who he was teaching.
He was going to be teaching Harry's boys, Albus Severus and James Sirius Potter.
Draco had no problem with Harry or his kin. The boys got on well with the other students, (especially Ron and Hermione's child, whose father would see him cursed,) but there was just the bit about the part Draco had played in the war, and how Harry must have seen him. It made him a little self-conscious to imagine what Albus or James might say to their father. "Dad, I learned the Patronis Charm today." "Oh, that's interesting. Who taught you?" "Mr. Malfoy." "Oh, him? You don't want to learn from him. He's a coward. Fought beside Voldemort, you know. Racist and snooty. What was his Patronis? An ostrich with its head in the sand?" What followed was a back and forth of how idiotic he was, blah blah blah.
All the teachers who didn't live on the grounds travelled by broom to Hogwarts. There were faster ways, of course, but the freedom of broom riding was comforting to the men and women who would have next to no free time for the next ten months. Draco took this time to imagine all the ways he could screw up his first day. He thought of all the stupid things he might let slip, or how to act. How should he act? Like Snape? No, that wasn't quite his style. Perhaps more like Professor McGonagall? What would he say to his students? Did he remember what he'd studied?
Tonight is supper, he reminded himself, which calmed his frazzled nerves. Of course. Supper came before the first day of classes. He'd have a night to himself to think.
A night to himself to freak out and panic and forget everything he'd planned for the next morning.
When he arrived at the castle, (a mere hour before the students arrived,) he ran into a familiar face: Neville Longbottom. The tall brunette man caught sight of him as he disembarked his broom and headed over. Draco's mind was screaming at his legs to go the other way, but when the thought finally connected and he turned on his heel, Longbottom had already slung an arm around his shoulder. The blond stiffened uncomfortably.
"You're looking a little pale, newbie. Scared of the children, Malfoy?" He was mocking him. No, not mocking. Teasing. Light hearted teasing between colleagues. Draco released a breath he hadn't known he'd been holding.
"That's funny Longbottom. Remind me to find the store where you buy your jokes and burn it down."
The brunette frowned, and Draco tensed again, wondering if he'd crossed the line.
"I got my favourite sweater from that store," Longbottom told him with a pout.
Draco relaxed again and, with a slow once over and a wicked sneer, he said, "all the more reason."
Laughing, Neville pulled him into a hug. What he got in return was a surprised gasp and an awkward pat on the back.
"Good to see you, you spoiled prat. I see the ministry job wasn't for you?"
"How could I turn down a request to return to the school where I was turned into a ferret?"
"I missed that."
"Good. Don't ever bring it up again." The two men laughed.
"Good to see you cut your hair and shaved off that hideous beard. What were you thinking?" the brunette inquired.
"I was thinking that no one sees me behind a desk. It's like as soon as you're at work, you've donned an invisibility cloak." The blond shook his head. "I feel much better without all the... erm, hair now."
"It was quite terrible. But now all the girls will have little crushes on you."
"Hmm?" Draco asked absentmindedly.
Neville rolled his eyes. "As long as there's nothing about you that is absurdly unattractive, there are usually a few girls that have crushes on their teachers. You're not a bad looking man, Draco."
The blond gave the brunette a suspicious look. "Erm... thank you?"
Neville stared back blankly, a question in his eyes. Then the notion seemed to strike him like a bolt of lightning, and he was all awkward Longbottom again. "Oh, not that I... that is to say if I was, you know, but I'm not..."
Draco laughed. "You're not gay. I get it."
Professor McGonagall called down to the teachers. Momentarily forgetting the awkward moment, the two looked up to her. "As your headmistress, it is my great honour to meet you, and to see some familiar faces." She winked happily at Neville and Draco. "I look forward to working with you all for the next year. All the old teachers, you know where your rooms are. If you would be so kind as to direct your new colleagues to their chambers, I would greatly appreciate it. We all have forty-five minutes until the students arrive and are expected to already be in the Great Hall when they do join us for dinner. Please do not be late. Until then." The tall woman then turned into a cat and wandered away.
"Well that was... inspirational," Draco commented dryly.
"The Professor never was one for emotional speeches," Neville reminded him. Draco nodded.
"So, where am I?"
"Er, Hogwarts?" Neville guessed.
"No, you dolt," Draco said, the insult empty. "Where am I staying?"
"Oh," Neville answered, drawing out the word. "Um... Hogwarts." This earned him a sharp elbow to the ribs. "In the teacher's quarters above the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom," he amended, rubbing his side. Draco nodded, and began to walk towards his quarters.
"And Draco," Neville called. The blonde turned and raised an eyebrow. "Watch out for Harry's kid, James. He can be a bit of a prat."
"Not unlike his father," Draco replied with a shrug and a light, teasing smile. Neville laughed full out. "Same old Malfoy," he muttered.
Draco entered the castle and speed walked down the stairs to the correct floor, arriving there after several detours when the staircases decided to change in the middle of walking along them. His trunk was about the size of a briefcase, but it had a charm on it to make it bottomless. He got into the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom and ascended the staircase, unlocking the door and closing it behind him once he got inside. He performed a quick locking spell on the door, which would prevent anyone from opening it, regardless of a quick charm. Someone could, of course, simply break down the door or use the key in his pocket, but he doubted anyone would go to such lengths. In case anyone did, however, he added an alarm spell. He added a noise spell as well, because if he was in his room and the kids were making a raucous in or around his classroom, he didn't want to hear it. This spell worked both ways, although what noises he wouldn't want escaping from his room was a mystery.
As it turned out, Draco was in the office. At the far end was a small spiral staircase to his more personal quarters, which he also charmed to not allow anyone to enter or any noise to go in or out. Satisfied, he opened the briefcase and waved his wand over it, producing his notes and quill and ink and – well, everything that was to be expected of an office to contain. He added a picture of Astoria, him and Scorpius to his desk, which made him smile sadly. Astoria... she'd left him in the middle of Scorpius' second year for some Quidditch player. Sighing, he turned from the picture and went upstairs. He turned on the first step to set the alarm. Again, just in case.
In his room, he checked his watch. Though it told the time, it also told him in his own voice of any dates he had to keep. For instance, in ten minutes it would warn him that he'd better make his way to the Great Hall and settle in. This alarm would sound approximately five minutes before time was up and the students arrived.
Waving his wand over his briefcase once again, he dragged out his robes and set them in the closet, his books on the shelves, and any knickknacks, (of which there was only one, and it was a scarf,) on the bedside table. Thinking better of it, he moved the scarf into the closet, and took out a pair of soft dragon hide gloves, which he placed on the bedside table instead. Lastly, he opened his window and let in his owl, to whom he passed on a letter which would inform his mother that he'd arrived safely. Petting the owl and handing it a sugar cube, (he hadn't any mice handy,) he let the owl go and scratched his head briefly. He was missing something... right. He set his broom against the wall and went into the bathroom.
Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss and all the other toiletries he would need were already there, as they'd left his bag at the same time as his clothes. There was a claw foot tub and a large shower, a marble countertop with a wide sink, and a house-elf scrubbing dutifully at his toilet.
Raising his eyebrows in surprise, he asked, "Can I help you, Mister...?"
"Nuttle, Master," the house-elf told him, turning and holding the toilet brush away from himself as if it were... well, as if it were a toilet brush.
"Nuttle. What are you doing?" Draco asked.
"Just finishing up, Master," Nuttle replied. Rolling his eyes, Draco walked over and waved his wand over the toilet bowl. The lid slammed closed, the toilet flushed, and the inside, he knew, would be clean. The toilet then let out a comical burp, which raised the lid a few inches.
"There, finished. Now wash up for supper, Nuttle, before all the fresh leftovers are eaten," the blonde ordered. Nuttle beamed at him, which made him feel quite good about himself.
"Thank you, Master," the house-elf said, bowing. Just before he disapparated, Draco called out.
"Sir will do fine."
"Yes, Mas – Sir. Yes Sir." The house-elf then disappeared.
Maybe I'm getting soft, Draco thought to himself. He was. This fact, however, was not something that anyone regretted. Especially not Nuttle, who got a whole smoked turkey-leg for himself. House-elves, in case you didn't know, could out-eat Hagrid, despite their size.
Nervously checking his watch again, Draco decided that he'd make his way down. He still had ten minutes, but it didn't hurt to be early, and taking into account the stairs and their penchant for making everyone late, he wondered briefly if he'd left himself enough time. He glanced at the wide banister on the staircase and made the decision to live a little. He hopped onto it, finding he had plenty of room, and slid down, barely resisting the urge to scream "Wee!" He did, however, land at the bottom with a large grin on his face.
Dusting himself off and straightening his black robes, he sauntered out the door and looked at the stairs in front of him. Oh, why not? he thought to himself, and jumped onto the banister and slid down, landing with another large grin right at the feet of a small red-headed girl with large blue eyes.
Draco blanched, staring at the mysterious child. She was most definitely a first year. The bone structure of her face reminded him of someone, and the splash of freckles across her nose gave him an odd sense of déjà vu. As it was, she looked up at him with an open, airy look, as though what she'd caught him doing was mildly amusing and quite interesting.
"Sliding down the banister? Aren't you a little old for that?" she asked, and her voice was what tipped him off.
She was the Weasley girl's daughter. Harry's daughter.
Feeling as if her eyes were scrutinizing him, he replied, "You're never too old. It's great fun."
"Can I try, then?" she asked politely, smiling hopefully. He relaxed, and gestured up the stairs.
"Just be careful. No cracking your skull open." She hopped up the stairs, calling down in a very sarcastic tone, "Yes, dad," which made Draco realize just how father-like his warning had been.
She slid down and let out a loud "Wee!" on the way. Just as she landed, the alarm on Draco's watch told him it was time to go. Silencing it with a touch of wand-less magic, he gestured at the girl as he left, and she fell into step beside him easily.
"What are you doing wandering around, you?" he asked.
"I like exploring," she told him, running ahead a little and jumping onto the staircase just as it moved away. Draco stood at the edge and shook his fist at her, which earned him a delighted laugh in return. Backing up and taking a running jump, he just made the banister, and hopped onto the stairs. "Wow," the girl gasped.
"Don't ever duplicate that if you'll get caught, and only do it if you know you can make the jump," he warned her.
"You're a terrible influence, Mister," she told him. He grinned wickedly.
"Professor Malfoy, if you don't mind," he warned her.
"Lily Potter." He knew it.
"Well, Lily, I think it's time you rejoined your classmates. Wouldn't want to miss getting Sorted."
Lily bit her lip and paused in the middle of the hallway. Draco turned a moment after she stopped. "What is it?" he asked, raising an eyebrow.
"I'm worried about... I'm worried about where I'll get sorted," she admitted. Draco sighed, and walked back. He crouched down so that he was about eye-level with the girl.
"Where do you think you'll end up? Hufflepuff?" he asked. She shook her head. "No? Ravenclaw, then? The place for all the smart kids?" She shook her head again. He stopped to think, and then asked quietly, "Slytherin?" She glanced up at him, her eyes filling with tears, and nodded.
"My dad was in Gryffindor, my mom was in Gryffindor, my aunt and uncle and cousins and brothers are all in Gryffindor." The tears spilled over, and she pressed the sleeve of her robe to her cheek.
"Oh, come now," Draco said soothingly, holding her face in his hands in an incredibly father-like gesture, and thumbing her tears away. "I knew both your parents. Gryffindor is for the loyal and the brave. If you're anything like your parents, that's exactly where you'll go. Besides, the Sorting Hat does take into account your wishes. Now stop crying. It's all going to be alright. Alright?"
Lily nodded and smiled at him. Draco drew his wand from his pocket and waved it over her head. The quick spell got rid of her watery red eyes and tear stained cheeks.
"Now you've gone and made me late," he said, standing and scowling at her. She giggled. He pointed down the hallway and told her, "Your classmates are just through there. Better hurry and catch up." She smiled and waved, and then ran away. Shaking his head, Draco made his way to the Great Hall and rushed to his spot, which was saved by Neville. He'd never quite understand the forgiving power of the man, and, shaking his head, sat down beside him.
"Why were you so late?" he asked, leaning back in his chair and crossing his arms. Draco laughed nervously.
"The youngest Potter child got loose and was using the banister in the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom as her own personal playground slide." Neville raised his eyebrows, sitting forward. Draco could detect the unasked question in his expression, chuckled, and explained. "She was exploring and caught me sliding down the banister. She ran ahead and I was forced to jump onto a moving staircase to catch up to her, and then she got a little upset at the prospect of getting sorted into Slytherin, which I assured her was about as likely as getting a Dementor to sing Muggle music." The blonde shrugged. Neville was staring openly at him now. Uncomfortable, he finally asked, "What?"
"Did she seem happy?" the brunette asked.
Startled, Draco asked, "What?" again, unable to come up with anything else to say.
"Did she seem happy?" Neville demanded. Draco blinked, opened his mouth, closed it again, and then rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly.
"Well, yes, I suppose. Why? What's wrong?"
"Ginny passed away this summer past. The two were really close. Harry hasn't quite known how to deal with Lily, her being a girl and all. His boys have been pretty good with it. They're still uncomfortable with the topic, but Lily has been crying at the drop of a hat for the past two months, as far as I hear." Neville shifted a little uncomfortably. "She was a bit of a crier to begin with, but now..."
"She seemed perfectly alright to me," Draco muttered.
"Maybe she likes you. You're a lot different from... what is it now, twenty-one years ago?"
"Nineteen years to work out the kinks set in by my father," Draco announced, glad for the topic change. "Two to become... well," he shrugged, aware of the other's eyes on him, "To become a bit more of a tolerant man."
"I was surprised when you let me hug you," Neville admitted. "Seeing a familiar face, I guess I just kind of reacted like you were an old friend."
"I like to think that I didn't raise Scorpius to be as much of a prat as I was. I was quite spoiled."
"Spoiled, rude, racist, full of yourself, a total baby when it came to getting hurt –"
"I'm aware," Draco growled. Neville laughed. Taking a calming breath, he murmured, "I am sorry about how I treated you and your friends."
"Apology accepted," Neville said, grinning. He lifted his goblet and held it up. Draco wrapped his fingers around his own goblet and lifted it to meet Neville's, and the two said cheers and chugged a few gulps of pumpkin juice.
Just then, the doors burst open, and McGonagall led the first years in two by two. Draco noticed Lily walking beside Hugo, Weasley and Granger's boy, and she noticed him looking. She waved enthusiastically, and he waved back, as did Neville. She shifted her gaze to the brunette and smiled at him.
"I don't get it," Longbottom muttered, still smiling gamely.
McGonagall gestured for the students to stop at the bottom of the stairs and walked on ahead of them, stepping up the stairs. "When I call your name," she told them, lifting the Sorting Hat from the stool, "you will step forward and be Sorted into your houses."
Draco and Neville waited through about eight students before a recognizable name was called. "Hugo Weasley," McGonagall called. The red-head boy bounded up the stairs gamely, sat on the stool, and waited quite impatiently with a large grin on his face. McGonagall sat the Hat on the boy's head and the Hat cried, "Slytherin!"
You could have heard a pin drop in the Great Hall.
Hugo's face went from stunned to about to cry. "You're kidding," Draco said, his eyes wide. He looked at Neville. "He's kidding, right?" Knowing Weasley, the boy was doomed.
"I'm kidding, of course!" the Sorting Hat cried, laughing loudly. "Gryffindor. You're in Gryffindor, boy. Tough crowd." The Great Hall erupted in applause. Draco slumped in his chair.
"What?" Neville asked him, chuckling. "What is it?"
Draco laid a hand on his chest. "I think my heart stopped. That wasn't funny."
"That was a good laugh!" Neville disagreed, still giggling.
"That would almost be as bad as me being Sorted into Gryffindor." He straightened. "My father would have made boots and gloves from my hide."
"No he wouldn't. It would look tacky if they matched." Draco shot him a dark look. Neville continued to laugh.
"Lily Potter." There was some whispering this time. Lily stepped forward, settling on the chair, but not before shooting Neville and Draco a worried look. Draco nodded. Neville gave her an encouraging thumbs-up.
The Sorting Hat barely grazed the air above her head before it cried "Gryffindor!" Lily's whole posture changed. She sat up straighter, her shoulders rolled back, and her chin tilted upwards. The cheering in the Great Hall was deafening, and many of the teachers were standing to clap, including Draco and Neville. McGonagall waited patiently until everyone quieted down, and then finished the list. She then said a quick welcome, warned everyone about the third floor and the forbidden forest, and said with a large grin, "Let dinner begin!"
Food suddenly appeared in front of everyone, and conversations erupted immediately. Hugo and Lily were talking animatedly within seconds, and Draco filled his plate.
"That's pathetic, Malfoy," Neville chastised, glancing down at the blonde's plate. "There's nothing on your plate besides salad!"
"Astoria was on a health kick before she left me this summer. It's habit." Neville sat dumbstruck until he noticed Draco's blasé attitude.
"For that Quidditch player, um, what's-his-name. John? Jack? Jare – Gerald! Gerald Balmswood."
"You remembered his name? I would have accidentally-on-purpose forgotten it."
"I just hope she treats the poor prat better than me."
Neville clasped his shoulder. "You've done a complete one-eighty, Malfoy. You're a good person."
"Who'd have thought?" Draco replied, grinning.
He suddenly caught sight of Scorpius and a gaggle of his friends making their way over to the Gryffindor table. His fork stilled.
"What? What is it?" Neville asked, looking around. He obviously saw what Draco saw and grinned. "Going to see his rival, I suppose," Neville told him in a stage-whisper. Draco shot him a confused look. "Your son didn't tell you? He and Rose Weasley hit it off the first day of first year. They compete against each other in everything. They feed off of each other. It's amazing. They make classes interesting for the other. If Rose gets a hundred percent, Scorpius will get a hundred and one, and Rose will study her hardest and beat him next time. If one of them misses a class, the other gets bored. They're a joy to teach."
Draco was stunned. "Why did he not tell me?"
"The same reason Rose didn't tell her father. They were afraid you wouldn't approve."
Draco frowned. "That's terrible," he said, and meant it. He slumped slightly in his chair. "I can't believe I would make him feel that way."
"Not so much you. I've heard Rose tell Scorpius not to tell. Ron is a nice enough man, but... he doesn't like you. The old you," he amended, when the blonde shot him a wounded look. "I'm sure he'd like you now."
Draco watched his son slip in beside Rose. They greeted each other with a hug, and from the gestures that Scorpius made, the blonde knew he was talking about the books he'd read and the spells he'd learned. He watched him become totally engrossed in what Rose told him, and he watched the Slytherins and Gryffindors chat like they were the best of friends.
"You've got a daughter in-law," Neville murmured. Draco choked on his pumpkin juice.
"What?" Malfoy demanded.
"The joke among the teachers is that one of the biggest competitions between the two will be who will propose first," Neville replied.
Draco muttered something along the lines of, "They'd better finish school first," which made Neville laugh.
A small blonde woman snuck into the half-spot between Draco and another teacher, and said in an airy voice, "Hello, Draco. Hello Neville."
"Hello, Luna," Neville replied without hardly looking up.
"Lovegood?" Draco asked, blinking dazedly. "Hello." He felt her slip her arms around his waist. What was with people and hugging him? Cursing, slapping, punching, poisoning, yes, but for these people to hug him? He was going into shock. He wrapped his arms around her slim shoulders, giving her a light squeeze.
"Were you always this thin?" she asked.
"Yes, I believe so."
"I never noticed. Then again, I've spent the summer with Hagrid."
Draco paled. "H-Hagrid?" he asked.
"Luna has been training to take over the Magical Creatures class. Hagrid will still be gamekeeper, but we also need him as a substitute teacher every now and then," Neville informed him.
Draco felt sick. Hagrid. He'd almost forgotten. He'd spent just as much of his time making his life a living hell as he had ruining Harry's. He stared down at his food miserably. Soon he'd have to face the giant. He didn't know what he'd say to him. How could he ever apologize for some of the things he'd said?
"We should go see him now," Luna suggested, glancing upwards. Draco raised his eyes, looking for all the world like a dead man looking at a guillotine. He could just see the hulking form of Hagrid walking out the door. Luna and Neville were already standing, and Neville was hauling Draco upwards and leading him away.
The air outside was chilly, and Draco was quiet on the way to Hagrid's hut while Neville and Luna chatted amicably. He wondered vaguely how many bones would break when Hagrid smacked him. When they reached the hut and knocked on the door, he resisted the urge to close his eyes.
"Well, ain' yeh three a sigh' fer sore eyes?" Hagrid bellowed when he opened the door. He hugged Neville and Luna, and Draco was interrupted in the middle of a prayer when Hagrid lifted him off the step and gave him a bone-crushing bear hug. He left out a soft grunt in surprise, and heard his back crack a few times. When he was set back down, he felt like he'd cast a couple of chiropractic spells on himself.
"Come in, wha' 'er yeh waitin' fer?" Hagrid asked in a jolly tone, stepping away from the door. The three shuffled into the warm hut. "I'll make yeh some hot chocolate. It'll help prepare yeh fer the walk back ter the castle. It'll be a cold one tonigh'."
Watching the big man shuffle around the hut calmed the blonde man's frazzled nerves. Actually, by now he was so stunned he wouldn't have been surprised if he walked outside and the wind blew him over.
"So, Draco, still as much of an animal charmer as before?" Hagrid asked, pouring the hot chocolate into mugs on the table. The three took the mugs and blew on the creamy brown liquid, warming their hands.
"Not so much, I'm afraid," Malfoy replied, daring a glance up. The giant smiled at him warmly.
"It's been wha', twenty years or so? Twenty-one since I saw you last?" Hagrid asked.
"Yes, I suppose it has."
"Draco here's a new man. Much less of a prat that before," Neville supplied, clapping Malfoy's shoulder and giving it a squeeze.
"I could tell. Before he would'a said somethin' like... er... 'get your hands off me, you smelly oaf!'" Hagrid beamed proudly at his impression. Draco shrunk into his chair.
"You should have seen the look on his face when we suggested seeing you. He looked like we'd just sentenced him to death." Neville was beaming.
"I'm the forgiving sort," Hagrid said in a jolly tone.
"I'm sorry, Hagrid. Truly, I am."
"Oh, don' you worry yer little head about it, Draco," Hagrid said warmly, slapping him on the back and nearly winding him. "It's all in the past. I forgave you long ago." Satisfied, Draco straightened and sipped the hot chocolate.
"Say, do you wan' ter see Buckbeak? I managed ter convince the ministry ter allow him back onto the grounds," Hagrid said after a few minutes of light conversation. "I don' even try ter hide 'im anymore. He's Buckbeak, an' Harry an' Hermione pulled a fast one on someone."
Draco paled again.
"He looked like that," Neville told Hagrid.
"What this day must be doing to his stress levels. I'll make you something to stop ulcers and have it ready for tomorrow, Draco," Luna told him. Draco nodded and thanked her.
"C'mon, Buckbeak's no' so bad. Just don' be rude," Hagrid told the blonde man, standing and patting his pockets. "I could have sworn I... ah." He opened a sealed wooden crate and took out a raw steak.
"He'll be wantin' a treat," he explained, leading the three outside.
The cold hit Draco like a bludger, making him stumble on the first step. Hagrid whistled loudly, and after a few moments the group could hear the sound of wings churning the air. Buckbeak landed in front of them and eyed Draco suspiciously. The scrutinized human gulped audibly.
"Bow nice and low," Hagrid told him in a tone that was gentle yet commanding. Draco did as he was told. Buckbeak bowed as well, and then stepped towards Draco. He could see the nostrils on the beak flare as the animal caught his sent. Draco tried not to move, but he cringed involuntarily as the beak grazed his cheek and the warm breath mussed his hair. He then felt a large claw prod his chest gently. He absently heard Hagrid say in a warning tone, "Buckbeak," just before the animal pushed Draco over.
The group gasped and Neville and Luna stepped forward, but Hagrid gestured for them to remain still. Draco rose up onto his elbows as Buckbeak circled him, making the odd "squawk", prodding the back of his head with his beak, before finally stopping in front of him. The animal grabbed the front of Draco's robes with a front claw, pulling him upwards. Tension radiated from the other humans, but Draco was trying his best to remain calm. The fact that Buckbeak hadn't actually scratched him, just caught his clothes gently, helped him.
Draco ended up kneeling in front of the beast, who then slowly lowered himself to the ground. His head dipped slightly and then rose again. The look in his eyes was calculating, but not of Draco. More like he was trying to figure something out. He shuffled forward in the most adorable way, staring into Draco's eyes the whole time. Settling again, Buckbeak unfolded his wings and brought them forward, making a barrier between Draco's back and the rest of the world. Finally, he laid his head in Draco's lap, adjusted his wings so that they were comfortable, and stilled.
Hagrid was beside himself with worry, but when Buckbeak stopped moving, he seemed delighted. "Draco, do you know wha' this means?"
"No," Draco admitted, petting the soft down on the creature's crown gently.
"Hippogriffs only wrap their wings protectively around one thing. That's usually their children," Luna told him.
"Buckbeak wants ter protect yeh, and yet trusts yeh enough to let his guard down around yeh," Hagrid said.
"He probably thinks you're weak enough to need protecting," Neville told him, chuckling. "That means you're too skinny!" He said this with a hoot. Draco glared at him.
Draco was enjoying himself, to be honest. His legs were falling asleep, but he was having the most extraordinary day. Everyone he'd met that he'd thought would hate him or spite him were treating him as a friend. Yes, it had been years since he'd seen any of them. He'd never met Lily. But still, the way they acted around him was as if he'd been nothing but kind to them. He wondered again at the ability to forgive that they all possessed. Hagrid had said it was that, as had Neville. Luna was obviously the same.
Buckbeak raised his head and stood, leaving his wings around Draco. Draco stood and pet his neck. Satisfied, Buckbeak squawked at him again, walked a short distance away, and took off.
"I think it's time we went to bed," Luna said, smiling dreamily.
"Yes, yeh bes' be gettin' in," Hagrid agreed. "First day o' school tomorrow."
The three said goodbye to Hagrid, who gave them each another life-threatening hug. The walk back to the castle was cold, but the air was filled with light conversation and the occasional burst of laughter, and Draco didn't once feel anything but warmth until he went to his chambers, got ready for bed, and his head hit the pillow.